Swimming Upstream

Written by Kathryn A. Graham

Swimming Upstream

"I am alone and I am searching Hungering for answers in my time I am balanced atrepparttar 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 torepparttar 127014 other side . . ."

From "Swimming torepparttar 127015 Other Side" by Pat Humphries, © 1992 Moving Forward Music

May be heard onrepparttar 127016 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 ofrepparttar 127017 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 ofrepparttar 127018 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 aroundrepparttar 127019 changing seasons,repparttar 127020 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 recreaterepparttar 127021 ancient religion of northern European tribes, a religion which was practiced for something onrepparttar 127022 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 acrossrepparttar 127023 world.

My fellow witches will probably want to burn me atrepparttar 127024 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 revererepparttar 127025 Goddess. The treatment ofrepparttar 127026 God, however, can vary allrepparttar 127027 way from equality withrepparttar 127028 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 behindrepparttar 127029 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 Ofrepparttar 127030 common people By demanding allegiance Torepparttar 127031 Church of Rome

"Andrepparttar 127032 Pope he commenced The Inquisition It was a war againstrepparttar 127033 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 onrepparttar 127034 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 onrepparttar 127035 "Wheel ofrepparttar 127036 Year," with four major festivals on fixed dates, four lesser festivals atrepparttar 127037 solstices and equinoxes, and sometimes minor festivals centering around phases ofrepparttar 127038 moon. During this spiritual year,repparttar 127039 Goddess changes but does not die. Our God wedsrepparttar 127040 Goddess at Litha (summer solstice, on or about June 21st), then casts Himself intorepparttar 127041 fire at Lugnasagh (August 1st) to ensurerepparttar 127042 fruitfulness ofrepparttar 127043 land for his pregnant wife. He is crowned King ofrepparttar 127044 Dead at Samhain (October 31st) and is born again intorepparttar 127045 world asrepparttar 127046 infant Sun God born torepparttar 127047 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 forrepparttar 127048 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 thatrepparttar 127049 rebirth ofrepparttar 127050 God takes place atrepparttar 127051 winter solstice.

With time, intermarriage, and cultural exchanges – not to mentionrepparttar 127052 constant and often bloody Christian efforts to convert and "save"repparttar 127053 "heathen" (heathen means person ofrepparttar 127054 heath, or country person) –repparttar 127055 lines between a great many religions have become increasingly blurred. Trying to learnrepparttar 127056 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 ofrepparttar 127057 sources of Christian discomfort with us.

For Wiccans,repparttar 127058 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 inrepparttar 127059 knowledge that we have however long it takes for us to achieve spiritual enlightenment. We are not limited to one lifetime, which is whyrepparttar 127060 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 ofrepparttar 127061 backlash against patriarchy, much ofrepparttar 127062 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, andrepparttar 127063 sect I found my way into atrepparttar 127064 time was ofrepparttar 127065 "cosmic sperm donor" variety. All ofrepparttar 127066 emphasis was onrepparttar 127067 feminine. In all honesty, it was what I needed atrepparttar 127068 time, and it helped me to heal. It didn't take long, however, for me to realize that my rejection ofrepparttar 127069 masculine was just as wrong and unfair as Christianity's rejection ofrepparttar 127070 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 torepparttar 127071 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 torepparttar 127072 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 isrepparttar 127073 feminine aspect of my deity, and I am proud and delighted to be a woman right down to my toenails.

Witchcraft & Christianity

Written by Kathryn A. Graham

Why Do Some Christians Fear Witches?

During my 28 years as a practicing Wiccan, or "witch" if you prefer, I have had occasion to ask myself this difficult question many, many times. Withrepparttar recent political controversy overrepparttar 127013 United States Army permitting pagan services to be held on military bases in Texas and aroundrepparttar 127014 world,repparttar 127015 question suddenly has more than its usual immediacy for me and for my brothers and sisters in Wicca.

First, let me getrepparttar 127016 usual questions out ofrepparttar 127017 way. Wicca is a real religion, born inrepparttar 127018 1950s as a recreation ofrepparttar 127019 Old Religion of Northern Europe, which some believe dates back about 25,000 years. Inrepparttar 127020 mid-1980s,repparttar 127021 U.S. Courts accepted Wicca as a legitimate religion and granted us 1st Amendment rights and freedom from taxation. Sorepparttar 127022 point is moot, really. The same U.S. Constitution that protects Christianity protects our religious freedom – and a good thing, too. We arerepparttar 127023 fastest growing religion ofrepparttar 127024 20th Century.

We do not believe in an evil deity, and would not worship one if we did. We do not practice human or animal sacrifice. The most sacred commandment our religion demands of us is to harm no one. If you think about that last statement carefully, it pretty well covers most ofrepparttar 127025 Biblical Ten Commandments -repparttar 127026 important parts, anyway. Even more important, we do not attempt to convert our friends and neighbors to Wicca. Our faith teaches us that when they are ready for what we have to teach, they will seek us out.

What about me, personally? Am I a New Age nut? Well, that depends on what you mean. I'm an environmentalist, certainly. I am also a feminist. Onrepparttar 127027 other hand, I do not do illegal drugs of any kind. I am a computer technician working for one ofrepparttar 127028 largest employers inrepparttar 127029 United States. I am a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. I am an aspiring science-fiction writer and screenwriter, actively peddling stories and novels torepparttar 127030 publishing industry in New York and motion picture scripts to Hollywood. I am a licensed pilot and a licensed aircraft mechanic. I am a licensed private investigator. My favorite hobby is reading physics textbooks, and I apply such knowledge to my science fiction. I am a veteran ofrepparttar 127031 United States Air Force,repparttar 127032 United States Air Force Reserve, andrepparttar 127033 Texas Army National Guard, and duringrepparttar 127034 time I served, I held a top-secret security clearance. I served my country well and was honorably discharged. I've been arrested only once in my entire life, as a 17-year-old runaway, and I've had a grand total of three traffic tickets in almost thirty years of driving. In what way am I such an evil and dangerous neighbor?

Why have I been forced to practice my religion in secret for most of my life? Why, during my active duty years (early to mid 1970s), was I forced to record "No Pref" on my dog tags? Am I a pacifist? Hardly! Women have never been drafted inrepparttar 127035 United States, so why would I have enlisted voluntarily (and duringrepparttar 127036 Viet Nam war!) if I were a pacifist?

Why does publishing my real name on this article cause me to riskrepparttar 127037 loss of my job, vandalism to my home and my car, harm to my animals (and children if I had any)? Does this make any sense to a rational human being?

Where doesrepparttar 127038 knee-jerk hostility torepparttar 127039 word "witch" come from?

Not fromrepparttar 127040 word, certainly. "Witch" is a corruption of "witcraft," or "craft ofrepparttar 127041 wise." In fact, my religion is sometimes called "The Craft ofrepparttar 127042 Wise," or just "The Craft." There is nothing sinister there. Do we practice magic? Yes, most of us do. Do we have supernatural powers? Of course not. Oddly enough, those who believerepparttar 127043 practice of magic is so evil are often those who most sincerely believe in faith healing. Just think about that honestly for a moment, and try to explainrepparttar 127044 difference to me. I'm waiting . . .

Let’s get back torepparttar 127045 Craft ofrepparttar 127046 Wise. Duringrepparttar 127047 Christian Inquisition, nobody really knows how many accused witches were burned atrepparttar 127048 stake. It is known, however, that a number of village wise women were accused of witchcraft and burned for curing fevers with nasty stuff like moldy bread. Were they followers ofrepparttar 127049 Old Religion? Probably - although I wasn’t there, and I honestly have no idea. Were they wise? You bet they were! Did you ever hear of penicillin? How many centuries of medical knowledge were lost because of a bunch of frightened priests?

So where didrepparttar 127050 idea come from that we were (and are) Satanists?

The most obvious answer is thatrepparttar 127051 moldy bread cure worked, and was unexplainable. A number of other herbal and common sense remedies were surprisingly effective, as "alternative" medicine is re-discovering today. The only wayrepparttar 127052 church could admit these cures worked (and it was a little too obvious to deny) without admitting this was a really good thing was to makerepparttar 127053 claim thatrepparttar 127054 women practicing these cures had made a pact withrepparttar 127055 Devil. Heavens, they couldn't be physicians! Medicine was firmly inrepparttar 127056 hands ofrepparttar 127057 priests, andrepparttar 127058 practice of medicine was expressly forbidden to women. Atrepparttar 127059 time I write of, formal medicine consisted mostly of applying leeches torepparttar 127060 sick.

Wererepparttar 127061 village wise womenrepparttar 127062 only problem? No. During this early medieval period, whenrepparttar 127063 Christians were converting Northern Europe at sword point, a lot of dirty tricks were played. The country folk, whom we believe to berepparttar 127064 ancestors of modern Wicca, worshiped a Goddess we considerrepparttar 127065 Mother of Life, and a God we callrepparttar 127066 Horned Hunter, or God of Death. For us, death is merely a door to rebirth, so there is nothing at all fearful for us in a God of Death. In an effort to make non-Christianity something horrible,repparttar 127067 monks who drewrepparttar 127068 medieval Biblical illustrations "borrowed" our Horned Hunter when they drew depictions ofrepparttar 127069 Christian Devil. You needn't take my word for this. Any educated person knows thatrepparttar 127070 Greek Pan predates Christianity by some considerable period of time. Take a good look at a drawing of Pan in your nearest encyclopedia. Look familiar? He should. You've been looking at him in biblical illustrations dating back to your first Sunday school. Pan isrepparttar 127071 Greek form of our Horned Hunter. They are one andrepparttar 127072 same god. Read your mythology. Pan was never evil, just playful.

If all that weren't enough, Exodus 22:18 was horribly mistranslated inrepparttar 127073 King James Version ofrepparttar 127074 Christian Bible. The original "Suffer not a poisoner to live among you" became "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Some pretty bloodthirsty fundamentalist preachers want to enforce that mistranslation literally, even today. In August of 1999, Rev. Jack Harvey of Killeen, Texas, was quoted as stating publicly that all witches should be killed. He organized a “March Against Wickedness” for that Labor Day Monday in Killeen (which flopped pitifully), and I believe he was hoping and praying it would erupt into real violence, because he advised members of his congregation to carry guns, in case some of us witches decided to snatch his kids.

Can you spell “bizarre?” We would never, of course, kidnap children, but could someone please explain to me why we are supposed to want them? And, in particular, why we would want his offspring? I thoughtrepparttar 127075 idea of sacrificing Christian babies was discarded whenrepparttar 127076 Nazis falsely accusedrepparttar 127077 Jews of it. This is more ofrepparttar 127078 same bigoted excrement.

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