Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Word Witch

Why definition is important.

An interesting thing happened on Youtube. My video on the word Witch caused all sorts of controversy and some Christians saw it as a way to create a wedge between what I was saying and the Pagans’ view or the Gardenarians’, while others perceived it as an attack on their Wiccan ways. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is for this very reason that I go out of my way in the first class of the Cabot tradition to explain what we are and where we come from.

Let us put the etymology of the word aside as even the experts cannot agree fully on the word Witch, or Wicca, Wicce, much less Wiccan and it really no longer matters very much anyway. Some people credit Dr. Gardner for term Wican, but the foundations of what he practiced is a form of Witchcraft to which he added naturism.

To have a meaningful exchange however we should agree to a couple of things. One, that the term Witchcraft is not an umbrella term that covers all those people that do Magick. Secondly Witchcraft has its roots in the Indo European migration of people who became known as the Celts and Anglo Saxons. It may have much older roots than that starting in Egypt and beyond, but to be a Witch, no matter the specific tradition, means you recognize the roots as coming from there in some way. The Shamanistic traditions, Pagans, Neo Pagans, the Voudons all have their own name, we have many things in common, but they are not Witches nor would they want to be.

Scientology is a new religion, until L Ron Hubbard came along there was no such thing. While some may argue that there are a lot of echoes from many philosophies, the core of that federally recognized religion and how they practice it, is historically new. If you speak to Wiccans however it does not take long to realize that much of what they believe has ancient roots. Mind you there is a new generation of people who call themselves Wiccan and are also Vampires, Satanists and all sorts of other things. Let us leave them out of this for now.

Many Wiccans point to the 13 principles of Wiccan belief as their definition of Wicca as a religion. These 13 principles were written and debated over in 1974 and the process, with the resulting document, was a historic, bold and courageous step to try and define for all, the general spiritual truths that many of us share in varying degrees, but it was never intended to be the basis of a new religion or a substitute for the fundamental teachings of all the groups that came forth to write, in committee, the 13 principles. It was as someone on a blog put it, a “position paper” and it was meant to ease the pressure on Witches in North America and because of the broad language, it could easily cover many other groups as well. Each group represented got their bit of language in there and had to compromise on others. The council could not be kept together long because of the many differences inherent between them.

I was there and I lived those times, and let me caution you, those times are not over. Prejudice against ALL non Christians is still here and specifically Witches and you can see it the workplace, in communities and even in the courts where you can lose your children in custody battles for being a Witch. Remember Reverend White and all the others who used the elections as a way to get their messages of hate out there? Witches, Buddhists, Hindus,Satanists and even the Jews were all thrown together. Yoga was attacked and taken out of school activities because it corrupted minds indoctrinating children into Hinduism.

So “Wiccans” are under fire make no mistake. To be fair, pressure on all non Muslims is also present in other parts of the world with deadly consequences. Those not of either faith are essentially being squeezed on both sides by long standing enemies who have been warring with each other for centuries. Hindus and Buddhists have greater numbers than we do which gives them some advantage. We must remember that we are older than both Christianity and Islam and there has never been a Witch war, though we do seem to bicker an awful lot.

So to be a Wiccan is now a legally accepted term. Army Chaplains who are to render aid and comfort on the field of battle were issued the 13 principles for fallen troops and used for Witches and Pagans alike. It was a significant step forward, but it still does not define what one believes or provides for an easy path to follow. When Martin Luther broke from the Catholic church he felt he had good reason, he was hunted down and almost killed, and he went back to his core beliefs which were clearly defined in liturgy and practice.

The Wiccan umbrella is so large, it is akin to saying one is from the Americas or from the continent of Asia. There are so many countries there, it is hard to know to whom you are speaking. I personally find the etymology of words interesting and welcome any opportunity to be educated, but the meaning associated with a word is as much a product of history as it is of the cultural frame in which it is used. Witches are now Wiccans, but I will resist the “Wicca as a religion” banner since I see the religion and practices of many Wiccans as coming from Witchcraft which is an ancient and fully working system and needs no new name. Some Wiccans I speak with, seem drawn to the Pagans more than to Witchraft and I would urge them to delve into those practices fully and call them by their rightful and traditional names, which they all have. There are also the Eclectics which find their path from the many, which is fine as long as it works for them but even they, will be looking for the roots of things.

To those that thought I was attacking Wicca, I am not. I am a firm believer however in fundamentals and Wicca is too broad a term for me to use in actual application. The Cabot Tradition teaches the fundamentals and organizes them into a working system that is not based on belief but on experience. I did not invent a religion here, the things I teach are not mine, they are ancient, the small contribution I have made is to develop a teaching mechanism that gives students a way to learn that is compatible with these busy times while focusing on the core which is Science, philosophy, art and lastly religion. I place religion last because I have grown to dislike what that word means to so many. I see it used as a weapon more often than not, which is very unfortunate.

Answers about Witchcraft part 1

Laurie Cabot is often contacted by students doing college papers and a few months ago Trish Causey asked some great questions about a paper she was writing. We wanted to share Laurie's answers with you as well as some other questions which have been asked in the past.

1. As a respected authority in the Pagan community, how do you define New Age Religion or the New Age Movement? What does it mean to you as a person, as a woman, as a participant?

The "New Age" movement is a testament to a general but unfocused thirst that a growing segment of the population has for spirituality and substantive personal experience. It is not in itself a solution to that thirst.

2. What is your perspective on the New Age Movement from the beginnings of your participation in it and now in the 21st century?

I have never participated in what you call a new age movement, the path I follow is several thousand years old and has survived two thousand years of active persecution and a very well crafted and financed propaganda campaign which continues to this day.

The constitutional guarantees of free speech and basic civil rights has made extreme cases of discrimination illegal, but the daily attacks continue. Not much has changed at all. What has changed is that people are leaving religions and political systems that have failed them and are starting to ask questions.

I am encouraged that a growing percentage of those people are actually investing time in seeking out answers, asking is not enough, but it is a start.

3. In your opinion, was the New Age Movement influenced by other movements, such as Civil Rights, Women's Movement, anti-war/hippie movement, or the American Indian Movement?

The thirst that I define as the prime motivator in the New Age movement was certainly awakened in many by all of those movements and by all who questioned established beliefs without being killed or otherwise silenced. Science has also contributed much to this awakening as have un earthed historical documents and the access to more and more information.

People can stop believing revisionist history and start verifying things on their own.

4. American Indian activists often name spirituality theft by New Agers as a main concern in their pursuit of the re-establishment of their indigenous religious ways. What do you think of the "cafeteria" style of "eclectic" Wicca/Paganism, mixing customs, rituals, tools, and deities from different countries and traditions?

I could not speak to the American Indian activists' positions, but the cafeteria style quest for meaning is a sad side effect of a society that wants its answers in pill form without work. Just like miracle diets fail and the 'too good to be true' ads often are, the path of spirit must be anchored in a working system.

The magick practiced by the American Indians is different from that practiced by the Celts. There might be some superficial similarities but they are each a system. Assembling disparate spare parts will yield nothing of consequence much less a working whole. We can certainly borrow certain things from each other but only when we understand our own system well enough to make the correct determination. Think of it this way; a power lifter will train his body in a very specific manner, but it would not be the same training for him to engage in ballet or long distance running, the same is true for life's other disciplines, and like sports, the Druid's path or Witchcraft is specifically demonstrable and not based on belief. Let us not forget that the Christians took on all of the Celtic religious holidays and many of their practices, yet they do not understand them and pageantry will not create understanding.

There is some confusion added to this by the term Wicca and Wiccan, which have been used differently over time and are now recognized words which now seem to encompass a lot of differing beliefs. This leads to uncertainty as to what path one is on exactly. The 13 principles of Wicca was a position document to reassure Americans and the government as to what Witches and others were not while providing some well worded generalities about Witches' commitments to doing right by the Earth and everyone on it. You must understand that Witches and many Pagan groups were coming under attack. So legally, Wiccan has become a useful umbrella term, but one that does not describe its members or their beliefs accurately. Which is why on one hand I accept the fact that we are now Wiccan, but I stress that we are really Witches and that Wiccan is not descriptive enough for me know the beliefs of one when I meet them.

5. Do you think more Pagans are interested in going back to earth by reconnecting with and/or recreating the past, or are they looking toward a spirituality that is backed by science, particularly in mind/body work and energy fields' research?

I do not see a return to Earth or keeping the values of our ancestors and embracing science as being contradictory. Our ancestors were the first scientists and healers, and they would welcome the work done today while being indulgent with the limitation imposed by empirical practices. It is important to remember that absence of proof is not proof of absence, love cannot be measured in a machine, yet it does exist. Our ancestors knew this, it has taken science a little while to catch up, but they are doing a fine job.

The era of blind belief is coming to a close and people will want proof and systems that work. Thankfully, there are systems that do just that and they are waiting to be re-discovered, the Druidic path of Witchcraft is one.

6. Do you think modern Witchcraft has gone too mainstream with the success of "Sabrina the Teenage Witch", "Charmed", and "Harry Potter" or too subculture since it is now popular with Goths, Vampirists, and teens who may only be interested in Wicca to scare their parents?

Mainstream media is very much tainted with Judeo Christian propaganda and the word Witch is a good example. Even the seemingly politically correct Good Witch vs bad Witch or white Witch vs dark or black Witch are incorrect. In truth anyone that does harm is not a Witch, we do not smite our enemies or wage wars against those that insult our gods and goddesses, there is no legitimizing of violence for any reason, the Universal mind is not vengeful or filled with pride and so there might be individuals that do harm and use the pageantry of pagan practices or claim to be doing black Witchcraft, but they are not real Pagans or Witches, no more than a criminal who dons a police uniform to kill someone is a policeman.

As far as the teens, they will rebel using any means at their disposal, it is not always a bad thing and becoming "Wiccan" should scare no one.

7. After a brief time in being openly "out of the broom closet", many modern Wiccans, Witches, and Pagans are turning away from using these words to describe themselves because of negative associations due to the fundamentalist Christian backlash post-Harry Potter, the lingering bad P. R. from the movie "The Craft", the mainstreaming of Wicca, and supposed Satanists who call themselves "witches". Do you think there is a word that better describes what a Wiccan/Witch/Pagan is in the 21st century?

All depictions of evil Witches are insulting to us but popular media is responding to two thousand years of propaganda. Authors publish fiction books as non-fiction, politicians see the truth as a liability while corporations lie to make more money and people go around with resumes that are mostly fiction, we are accustomed to being misled.

If we lie to ourselves by pretending to be something other than what we are because of popularized media pressures, then that is a serious mistake. We must stand up and correct the lies starting with the whole demon nonsense.

Satanists (and there are several groups some worshiping the demon, others the concept) but they are in actuality more connected to Christians or Jews as only those religions have that deity (the Jews have Lucifer). It is not surprising that belief systems with good gods and evil ones fighting amongst themselves, condoning violence and wholesale destruction, would create cults in their wake. Evil deities are nothing more than fear mongering designed to keep people under control. Fear is a powerful weapon as we can see in our headlines. But none of that has anything to do with Celtic Magick or Witchcraft. We do not have any evil deities.

Witchcraft is the common everyday practice of people who follow the druidic path of Celtic magick. It is not an umbrella term that covers all peoples who are magickal. The words and titles are meaningless and in the long run, the actualization of the self is all that matters. I hope that the true seekers will find their path. The others can watch movies and play make believe and be spooky, just like the in the movies, it is no concern of mine.

8. What are your hopes for the New Age Movement and/or New Age Religions? Where do you see it all going?

My hope for the thirst that people increasingly feel is that those that want to quench it, will seek the education and integrate what they learn into their everyday life. It takes an investment of time and focus of mind to walk any path whether being great in school, sports, art and so too in matters of spirit. All of us are capable of doing great things spiritually and changing our lives for the better and in so doing, we can change the world. The good news is there are some great Pagan groups online and the various Witchcraft traditions are now more accessible, so a seeker can find great information and find a path that works for them.

Other questions:

Do you consider yourself at war with other faiths that condemn you and your practices?

Witches do not now or have ever waged wars, still if there is an enemy, it is ignorance, what others may think in that ignorance is of no consequence to the truth of things or to me. Pretending that there was no global warming or environmental crisis, which for decades was the policy of the United States for example, did not mean it was not happening. Thankfully, those who knew never gave up and our new awareness is built on their long years of hard work. Those who follow the Celtic path and Witchcraft strive to be harmonious with the universal principles in full awareness of the natural, social, political and geographic environments in which we live. We are to harm none and live as we must to follow these principles no matter where we are.

What is black magic?

It is neither magick nor black; it is merely people acting against the universal laws as criminals. They are harming themselves more than anyone, but they are no different than your typical street thug. The good news is that this magic as you put it, is very easily neutralized by anyone in the craft.

You say you are healers, are you acting like doctors or Christian Scientists?

There are many Witches who are MDs actually, none are Christian Scientists. We will not work with anyone who is not under a doctor's care,our work is parallel and works differently than western medicine. It also has the advantage of not having side effects. The Christian Scientist assertions that through prayer God or as we call it "The All" can heal is certainly true. Where we differ is that the ability for that process to happen is within us, it does not come from the outside or by invocation. We merely need to get out of its way and that is more difficult than people think. When we 'heal' we use our training and focused intent to help those that have less of the energy and help it flow within them. We do not actually heal, we merely assist another in healing themselves but we have very specific training and it is not based on belief.

You are against horror films, why?

Scary stories have an educational purpose. Many of these myths serve to teach children about the harsh realities of life like not trusting strangers or not lying etc. Stories and dramatizations used in therapy can also make a child (or adult) who has been hurt feel less alone. We live in troubled times and having myths guide us is important but when it passes from educational to gratuitous in nature, then it no longer works as a warning and instead becomes an attractor field. The more violence we see the less appalled we are and the more we are tolerant of it and the more there is of it. This is not a good slope to be on. © Laurie Cabot 2009 all rights reserved.