Author Archives: Irreverend Hugh
All about irreverand-hugh - who has written 21 posts on Erin's Journal.
Posts by irreverand-hugh:
One thing that bothers me is the fact that Neo-Pagans, and those who call themselves Wiccan in particular, are virulently anti-Christian. Even the supposedly more moderate Neo-Pagan elders (who should know better) have made statements to the effect that Neo-Paganism is going to replace Christianity. (Not a very diplomatic expression. Not even an expression that shows any of Neo-Paganism’s supposed open-mindedness.) I must confess that such an event, if not coerced, would be fine by me. But frankly, despite the wishful thinking of many people who have probably themselves escaped or left the Christianity of their parents, I find no evidence that Christianity is going to be replaced by anything closely resembling Neo-Paganism. Christianity is not even disappearing, though its influence on several Western European nations has waned considerably in the last hundred years. Within American society, Christianity is stronger now than it has ever been since the founding of the nation.
An Irreverent Look at Ourselves and Our Supposed “Movement”
Which Degenerates into a Discussion of Theology.
The first rule is that you must bash the threefold rule and the Wiccan rede. This is essential in proving your anti-fluffy status. Once you can learn to parrot the correct words and cliches regarding the fluffiness of these two Wiccan concepts, you have proven to yourself and to others what a real serious Pagan you are, especially if you are an Asatruar or a Celtic Reconstructionist, but really especially if you consider yourself a Witch but not a Wiccan.
Secondly, you must, no matter how many times you have heard, seen, or read it before, believe that you are really the first person to point out that the word “witch” is not the exclusive monopoly of Wiccans. (Despite the fact that it seems that they are the majority of people who use the word as a title for themselves.) And then you must laugh at all those sorry souls who ignorantly protest the yearly Halloween imagery of green-skinned black hat wearing witches because it causes prejudice. (I must admit I find those people pretty funny too, but I listen to what they have to say anyway.)
It is unfortunate that some people have mixed Neo-Pagan Witchcraft and Shamanism, because as much as shamanism can elucidate what Wicca was aiming for, it can deceive.
Shamanism, contrary to the market values of the New Age, is culturally specific and in order for one to receive shamanic training one must become adopted into a cultural group
which has shamanic roles. I know that “shamanism” is also the latest buzzword for those instinctual magical/spiritual practices that are in evidence around the world, but using the word in this way is very deceptive.
The word refers to practices of certain people in mostly hunter-gatherer cultures who went through ritual/psychic dismemberment and rebirth. This experience gave such people the ability to leave their bodies and travel to
other worlds and planes, commune with spirits and ancestors, and heal those who were sick, or find lost souls and bring them home. Some East Asian societies still have surviving forms of this sort of spiritual specialist, but the word shaman should not be used
as the blanket term for all sorts of these specialists.
Neo-Pagan Witchcraft, and Pagan religions in general have undergone some startling changes and growth in the past few years. I used to laugh about the idea that Neo-Pagan expressions of
spirituality would become the dominant set of religious practices in any society. Now, due to the rapid growth in the number of people involved in Neo-Pagan religions, led by the popularity of Wicca, I still laugh but only
because such an impossible idea is being realized before my very eyes. Due to the rapid influx of newly identified Pagans, usually of Wiccan or (Neo-Pagan) Witchcraft traditions, many of us who can write have started doing so with an aim to share our spirituality with others who may need an introduction of sorts.
The following is such a work. There is a key difference however. In this work
I am attempting to clear up a lot of preconceptions and oft repeated stereotypes that even people in “the Craft” have. I also
wish to demolish some of the stereotypes and unfounded assertions that many so-called occult writers have about Neo-Pagan Witchcraft; Wicca in particular.
To start with I will list a glossary of sorts dealing with the most common terms. It is important that such common terms be defined
as clearly as possible. Remember that not all will agree with everything I have to say, but I will present explanations that are generally
agreed upon with the caveat that sometimes there is an exception or two.
Breaking Craft Stereotypes:
I recently overheard a bit of conversation that was surprising in its ignorance. It made me think “has it gotten this bad?”
I heard a couple of people talking about a mutual acquaintance or friend. One person said this mutual acquaintance had gotten in trouble with the law. Some sort of felony. We’ll leave off the details of the alleged offense as that is not here the issue. The issue is what came out of the other person’s mouth upon hearing of the crime allegedly committed.
“That’s impossible. He is Wiccan. They don’t do things like that.”
I shit you not. That’s what I heard and it made me sort of do a double take and start to really concentrate on my eavesdropping. It was easy enough to do, since I was sitting in a coffee shop with the conversation taking place at a table right next to me at my left. I merely kept staring into the book I was reading and pretended to concentrate while listening to them.
High and Low Magic
High magic refers to much of what the Ceremonial Magic traditions and orders, such as the Golden Dawn or the O.T.O., were doing at the time Gerald Gardner founded Wicca in the 1950’s.
Practices and traditions associated with high magic include the Kabbalah, Alchemy, some of Astrology, Enochian Magic, and the various practices of illuminism. Much of what Aleister Crowley did could be considered
Today, Ceremonial Magic is alive and well. It is worth one’s while to at least read up on some of the various groups practicing it.
The terms “Left Hand Path” and “Right Hand Path” incidentally come from Ceremonial Magicians who borrowed the concepts from Indian Tantra. It is commonly thought that the
Left Hand Path refers to selfish or worldly magical practices whereas the Right Hand Path refers to enlightened or healing magical practices. Neither of these descriptions are correct, however.
Left and Right Hand refer simply to one’s focus in practice. Left is more inner-focused and self-oriented whereas Right is more world-oriented and other-focused. The practices of the movement known as Chaos Magic
utilizes elements of both.
Some Thoughts and Ideas
Scientists, Philosophers, and Theologians from the Abrahamic Faiths1 all tend to agree on one thing: Polytheism is an earlier, less advanced conception of religion. The idea has been and is so popular that today many people agree without reasoning why. From the theological perspective it goes something like this: Human beings began to engage with forces they did not understand and conceived of a world in which everything was alive with spirit (animism), then since human societies grew more complex people took animism to its logical extreme and posited a world inhabited by spiritual beings which were aspects of various life-forms and personalities (polytheism), then as people continued to search for ways to relate to the divine they discovered that there was one divine force underlying everything (pantheism), eventually leading humanity to discover the nature and reality of the God who created everything (monotheism). Unfortunately, this idea, and ideas like it are both false and ignore the fruits of recent research.
Much of the Neopagan community is woefully ignorant about magic and its terminology. I should point out the many in the occult or magical community also fall under this ignorance, but I haven’t run into many occultists who necessarily have problems with “black magic” unless they are pulling legs, or pretending to be infamous. This would normally not present any problem, since Neopagan religions are not necessarily magical systems, though they may use magical elements in ritual much as the majority of world religions do. The problem is that Wicca, and other Pagan religious variants under the Witchcraft rubric, consciously uses magical elements and practices and names them as such. This has led to the curious situation today where many Wiccans, self-professed Witches, and Wicca-influenced people will claim they do not practice “black magic.” Many older or more experienced people will often respond with the seemingly intelligent phrase “magic has no color.” But such a statement really says nothing new.
We know that magic has no color anymore than poetry or music has any color. So what? Many people, in using the terms “black” or “white” in reference to types of magic, are making a conscious value statement in clear lack of understanding where the terms come from and to what they really refer.
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Breaking Craft Stereotypes:
“Just because my religion gives me a cyclical view of life, doesn’t mean I’ll let you run me around in circles.”
The Wiccan “cosmology,” if you will, describing a twin axis between a double-aspected God and triple-aspected Goddess, and a deep yet seldom explored (at least by hordes of new and increasingly vocal Wiccans) four element schema cross-referenced by a yearly cyclical calendar based off of a creative interpretation of observable natural events is all a modern collective vision. Many of the things that make up this cosmology can be said to stretch back towards humanity’s self-consciously accepted “pre-history.” But this is nothing new in the history of religions. New religions often take up strands of older practices or viewpoints and synthesize them into new practices and meanings relevant for those doing task of weaving them together. Many of Wicca’s practices and certainly most of its belief structure can be correctly said to be modern developments. This is, in and of itself, the way things have always been with human spirituality and religion.