"I am alone and I am searching Hungering for answers in my time I am balanced at brink of wisdom I'm impatient to receive a sign I move forward with my senses open Imperfection it be my crime In humility I will listen We're all swimming to other side . . ."
From "Swimming to Other Side" by Pat Humphries, © 1992 Moving Forward Music
May be heard on Faerie Goddess CD, Elaine Silver vocals Used with permission.
I have been a practicing witch for more than thirty years, and up until very recently, I had believed that I had a fair understanding of my religion.
I was wrong.
Most of world's religions today are "faith-based," meaning that they require a belief in an intangible deity or principle from their adherents. In contrast, most Pagan religions tend to be experiential in nature. As a wonderful acquaintance of mine likes to say, "'Works for me' has a rather special meaning for witches." He's right.
My own particular Pagan faith (and there are many), which happens to be Wicca, relies very heavily on observation of world we live in. Our deities are male and female because we observe that it takes male and female to create life in nature. Most of our practices center around changing seasons, waxing and waning moon, changes in our own consciousness – all things we can see and taste and feel around us.
That being said, it is truly amazing how easily we can ignore what we see and know.
Wicca was at one time an honest attempt to recreate ancient religion of northern European tribes, a religion which was practiced for something on order of 25,000 years. It isn't a perfect reconstruction, of course. Too much has been lost. But what we do know has astonishing similarities to other faiths all across world.
My fellow witches will probably want to burn me at stake for saying this, but we have strong similarities even to Christianity.
Like Christianity, Wiccans are splintered into many sects. All Wiccan sects acknowledge a Goddess and a God. All Wiccan sects revere Goddess. The treatment of God, however, can vary all way from equality with Goddess to little more than a cosmic sperm donor. The latter sort of sect often appeals to women who have been bruised by a society shaped by 5,000 years of brutal patriarchy and patriarchal religions that only permit female spirituality behind walls of a convent. Feminine sexuality and motherhood are not permitted to those with a Christian spiritual calling.
"There were those who came to power Through domination They were bonded in their worship Of a dead man on a cross They sought control Of common people By demanding allegiance To Church of Rome
"And Pope he commenced The Inquisition It was a war against women Whose power he feared In this holocaust In this age of evil Nine million European women they died . . ."
From "The Burning Times" by Charlie Murphey © 1991 Bal Music, LTD May be heard on Faerie Goddess CD, Elaine Silver vocals Used with permission.
Small wonder that many women can find no spiritual home in Christianity!
Wiccan practices are based on "Wheel of Year," with four major festivals on fixed dates, four lesser festivals at solstices and equinoxes, and sometimes minor festivals centering around phases of moon. During this spiritual year, Goddess changes but does not die. Our God weds Goddess at Litha (summer solstice, on or about June 21st), then casts Himself into fire at Lugnasagh (August 1st) to ensure fruitfulness of land for his pregnant wife. He is crowned King of Dead at Samhain (October 31st) and is born again into world as infant Sun God born to Goddess at Yule (the winter solstice – on or about December 21st).
Sounds similar to Christianity, doesn't it? The concept of a God who sacrifices Himself for world He loves and is born again? The concept is also common to Persian Mithras and to many other faiths. This is not coincidence. Nor is it coincidence that rebirth of God takes place at winter solstice.
With time, intermarriage, and cultural exchanges – not to mention constant and often bloody Christian efforts to convert and "save" "heathen" (heathen means person of heath, or country person) – lines between a great many religions have become increasingly blurred. Trying to learn truth can become a puzzle of sorts, searching for points in common. Of course, historical "TRUTH" in capital letters doesn't mean a great deal to Wiccans, which is one of sources of Christian discomfort with us.
For Wiccans, only meaningful cosmic truth is one which works. Anything which makes us better human beings is "truth." The rest is meaningless. We don't have to believe. We aren't about faith. We seek out spiritual practices which help us to grow and develop, and we tend to experiment spiritually and ritually far more than our Christian brothers and sisters. Most Christian sects actually discourage such experimentation, and some even forbid it, which is another reason why we are shunned and feared.
Wiccans are secure in knowledge that we have however long it takes for us to achieve spiritual enlightenment. We are not limited to one lifetime, which is why word "salvation" has a tendency to make a Wiccan chuckle. We have no need of it, nor ever will, as we are not now and never were lost. Our view of time is quite different.
But as a result of backlash against patriarchy, much of best of our religion is often forgotten or ignored. I propose that this has been a mistake.
I initially found my way into Wicca as a teenaged rape survivor, and sect I found my way into at time was of "cosmic sperm donor" variety. All of emphasis was on feminine. In all honesty, it was what I needed at time, and it helped me to heal. It didn't take long, however, for me to realize that my rejection of masculine was just as wrong and unfair as Christianity's rejection of feminine.
So I "converted" to another sect, as it were, and I remain there to this day. It is a sect in which men and women celebrate side by side. and physical sex has been restored to joyful activity it should always have been.
"Balance" is a basic tenet of wisdom.
Nevertheless, I was fooling myself. All of these years, I feared masculinity, or ignored it, or detested it, or enjoyed it on a purely physical level – but I never honestly tried to understand it or to cherish it in myself. We are all of us part male and part female, and we need to understand both sides of our natures to achieve our fullest potential.
The popular image (if your name isn't Bob Barr) of a practicing witch is that of a tree hugger. We tend to be conservationists, even to point of being more than a bit impractical about it, and we are almost invariably animal lovers. We are nurturers. We cherish all life. I'm up to my backside in spoiled animals myself, having four cats and a four-month old German Shepherd pup that have my heart firmly in thrall. I couldn't change that if I wanted to, and I certainly don't want to. That is feminine aspect of my deity, and I am proud and delighted to be a woman right down to my toenails.