Author Archives: Irreverend Hugh
All about irreverand-hugh - who has written 21 posts on Erin's Journal.
Posts by irreverand-hugh:
Breaking Craft Stereotypes:
To start with, I practice Wicca. I am a modern Pagan. (Or Neo-Pagan, as I prefer.) This means you can consider me Wiccan. You can most definitely consider me Pagan. But why would you assume that I have no spiritual life outside of the religion known as Wicca? Why would you assume that because I am a Pagan that I cannot be into any other practices? What part of “poly” in the word “polytheism” do you not understand? The last couple of years, I went through a period of not wanting to use the “Wicca” moniker on account of all the bullshit and fluffy nonsense that I saw among people who call themselves Wicca. Then recently, the thought occurred to me: Why should I let all of those suckers take away what I (and others) tend to call my religion?
There are some Wiccans who have no problem with some of us practicing other elements of Neo-Paganism. But there is something wrong with many others. I could go on about the problems that my membership in the Discordian Society has caused among some Wiccans who should know better. I could go on about the time one of my Wiccan friends decided to no longer talk to me because of my Chaos Magic practices. But I will keep it simple enough by discussing two of my religious affiliations which many would assume can never be practiced by the same person.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Keep in mind as well that a society that has been dominated by monotheism for centuries is going to come up with ideas to justify that dominance which make it seem logical, or a natural evolution of spiritual conceptions. Monotheism is often thought of as the triumph of the quest for unity or as humankind’s ultimate realization of God’s oneness. Monotheistic religions tend to be viewed as more true than polytheist or animist religions. People assume that faiths like Islam and Christianity are dominant worldwide because of their inherent validity over other faiths. But these smug notions are still wrong. They make the error of thinking that the dominance of monotheistic faiths means that monotheism is a superior spirituality. Monotheist faiths, like Christianity and Islam, have historically gained their dominance through militant evangelism and colonialism. Their dominance is frankly due to the superiority of certain armies and economic controls, not due to any superiority in their divine conceptions.
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.
Breaking Craft Stereotypes:
I know you. Bunny.
You wear a bright new shiny silver pentacle proudly. You challenge anyone who even looks at you without smiling and tell them to stop persecuting you. You like donning all sorts of spooky and occult-looking accoutrements and talismans and then spit and cuss up a storm when the evil patriarchal bastards on the street look at you and ask you where the Halloween party is. You buy all sorts of books with crescent moons on the spine and pictures of scantily clad ‘witches’ on the covers and read them in public places just hoping someone will come up to you and ask you if you are Satanic so you can shoot them down with your “Bunny Witchcraft Catechism.” (You know the one. It goes “Wicca is not Satanic. Witches are good people. Our religion is older than yours.”) You go through extreme lengths to stage your proper “Coming out of the Broom Closet” event so that the maximum amount of people will now know that you are one of “those people.” And then when they dislike you for being one of those people, you rant and rave about tolerance and acceptance and how much their evil Xtianity has destroyed your people.
Granted there are a lot of fluffy writings published by writers trying to cash in on the rapid growth in numbers of people interested in Wicca. But have you ever stopped to look at some of the so-called druidic writings out there? (21 lessons of Merlin and books of that ilk, anyone? There are some more recent offending books, but I will leave those off for that supposed future time when I do book reviews, if I get around to it.) I have read a lot of spurious history, fanciful accounts of imaginary Celts, and gross mis-readings of surviving native Celtic cultural evidence, and a misunderstanding of the professional institutions that the Celts once included in the druidic rubric. How come only Celtic scholars and members of the native cultures ever seem to have anything to say about the fluffiness of many Neo-Pagan druids?
Wicca itself is not responsible for the rise of fluff bunnies and despite the fact that many self-identified Wiccans exhibit fluffy traits does not mean that Wicca itself is fluffy. Many of you seem to have forgotten this salient fact and it’s high time you all divorce yourself from your prejudices for at least enough time to look at what it is you criticize.