Looking through the topic suggestions on the Witch’s Voice, I came across this topic and felt that I must speak out.
(I am probably going to step on a few toes here. If it offends, maybe you need to take a hard look at yourself. This is an editorial, and the opinions expressed within are just that, my opinions.)
Tolerance is a sticky subject, and one not necessarily that cut and dried. The problem that I see most of the Pagan/Wiccan/Druidic community is more along the lines of ACCEPTANCE. We wish to accepted by society at large and we try to give that acceptance to others, not always successfully.
Let’s break this down into some more definitive areas for a closer look at the distinctions.
- Acceptance of outsiders. This area includes accepting another mindset, philosophy or religion. In here we find such groups as the Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and other well known religions.
- Acceptance of contemporaries. This is one of the fine distinctions, and one that keeps getting trampled by many I have the pleasure of knowing. In this category, we will find other Pagan paths, such as Astaru, Voodoun, Santeria, Satanism, Druidry, and a whole slew of others.
- Acceptance of Insiders. And this category is probably the saddest of all. Here we find the Wiccans, from the Eclectic, to the Gardnerinian, to the home brewed philosophy of the solitaries.
And we have all seen these. But one wonders if anyone has really thought about what all this acceptance means to us.
Acceptance, can we do it?
Let’s take the first category and look at it. Acceptance of outsiders. Christians and Muslims and others such as they are. Truly outside of our beliefs and hopes and wants. Persecutors of our ancestors and of us. Actively hating us and all we stand for, trying to take our children and our jobs while we have to let them, since most of our laws put them in the driver’s seat.
Is this an accurate portrayal of this group? It can be. But remember something, if one stereotypes a person into a group, then whatever the person is that is not OF that group gets lost as well. In other words, they lose their humanity, and it becomes easy to hate.
This is what Hitler did when the Death Camps were opened. He lumped all Jews into one group, stuck a label of “Bad” upon them, as a group, and the German people responded by hating them. It is what the Ku Klux Klan does now, and tries to convince you of in their speeches, lumping all Blacks into the same stereotype of “Lazy, welfare-sucking, baby-factories”. It’s easy to respond to that kind of pressure by despising what an stereotype represents, rather than what it is.
And we are doing it too. Daily I find myself looking at the people around me, thinking about what the Christians have done to me, with their hate, and their terror thrust upon my child, and their persecution of US, and I catch myself hating all of them.
And then I stop and think a bit. I know one lady who is Christian and Mormon as the day is long, who is the kindest person I know, who at age 85, with arthritis so bad that sitting still hurt her badly, knit a blanket for my newborn daughter, simply because it was a good thing to do. And I can’t reconcile seeing her as one of the haters, who terrorize me and fire me from my job. That vision is incompatible with the knowledge that I have of her spirit.
Some will say “Well, she didn’t know you are a Witch” to which I respond, “Oh yes she did. And she loved me anyhow.”
And there are more like her out there. She is not the exception, rather she is what ALL religious ways are trying to become. Good people, reconciled with herself and her morals, and trying to teach others how to do the same through her example.
Now I have no doubt that she hated at one point or another, because she was human. But she did not let that dark part consume her, and she did not let it define her. Instead she overcame it, and reached out for others, trying to bring them up to her level, instead of sinking to theirs. I have no doubt in my mind that she went to her God’s arms when she passed. And that blanket is a treasured possession.
One example out of millions, and it’s encouraging to see it. And I see, everyday, more and more of those who should hate me, accepting me and cherishing me because of who I am, not what I am.
So, can I accept Christianity and all those who might hate and despise me? Yes, I can. I can honor them for their commitment to, not only peace, but to destruction as well.
What did he just say?
Here’s the rub: those who do hate and persecute us are living what they believe. Their texts tell them that I am a threat to them and their way of life, and their God has commanded that I must convert or die. And thus they try to convert me (boy do they try) and failing that, they try to bring me down. I know they would kill me if they could, since their God has commanded it, only the laws of a moral society prevent that.
So I can love them for that commitment to what they hold as true. And I can love those who can reach past that to see me as a person to be loved and accepted, and not as an stereotype to be hated.
And this goes for all those in the first category. I think that there is no group who has been in existence for more than 50 years that has not had hate touch their core beliefs. I know there are many different religious ways out there that call for Holy Wars on each other with regularity, since their God has commanded them to cleanse the Earth of all who do not believe the way they do.
And I wonder, once everyone who is different believing is gone, who do they turn on next? Then little differences become apparent, and those are eliminated, and so on until there are only two people left, at which point one must kill the other. And we all die.
And not all of the Group 1 people are like that. The Buddhists, for example are some of the nicest people I know, and they only want to be left in peace to improve their mind. And I can get behind that. But remember that the Shaolin were Buddhists too. Just as the Samurai were.
But can we tolerate ourselves?
Now, next we look at those in Group 2, the Pagans. And here I start tap dancing.
The “Pagans” are in this group mainly because we have all been lumped together under this heading by others. It means, in effect if not actual definition, “You are not of our way”. Since we are all in the same group, we should all get along, right?
Wrong. There are many in this group of Pagans who make my blood boil, but not for reasons one may think of. I understand and accept the use of ecstatic experience in their religious ways, and I can understand sacrifice of animals in their rites, and I can even support it to a point (and that point is as long as it is a purchased animal for that purpose only, and not someone’s pet). No, the group that I have the most problem with in this lump of Pagan is the one group we have been confused with for far too long.
I have no problem with the fact that they think they are worshiping Satan. I have no problem with the belief they espouse about being totally self-centered as part of their worship, but I encourage you all to think this through.
Satanism espouses selfishness as opposed to selflessness. In that I can admire them for being brave enough to say what we all ultimately are anyhow. However, I can deplore the methods that are used to achieve their ends. Such as, in selfishness, murder could become acceptable as a means to an end, so long as the end is met, it’s no-holds-barred. It’s more of the “Do as you will shall be the whole of the law.”
I have not the time nor the inclination to reproduce Isaac Bonewits’ work on this subject, but I advise everyone to please look at it. His article can be found at http://www.neopagan.net/Enemies.HTML. His well thought out article from his own experience is very insightful and a really good read.
But this is the only group that I really have a problem with. And it’s not even one that I will get up in arms about. I despise their lack of morals, I despise the egocentric world view, but I intellectually understand what they are looking for, and can accept that this is the correct spiritual path FOR THEM. I still won’t let them anywhere near my daughter, but they have the right to yell about it all they want.
And so long as they are over there, I have no problem with the Satan Worshipers, it’s only when they try to throw about the “We are all pagans together” mind set that I start getting the creeps.
(Update 5-30-03: This section of this article has been bothering me for some time. I have thought about it and realized that I’m being just as intolerant as I’m accusing others of being. I looked at my prejudices in this matter, and now I see that ONE incident in my past from an asshole who claimed to be a Satanist, and a LOT of propaganda from the Mormon church, shaped my attitudes in this matter. I have since seen, spoken and worked with those who claim to be Satanists, and my opinion in this matter has been modified somewhat. I still have a prejudice in this arena, but I am working on it.
I have found that the “Shadow” side of magick and belief is just as powerful as the “Light” side, and a lot less likely to be gullible and taken advantage of. Cynicism and pragmatism seem to be the tone for most “shadow workers”. NOT paranoia, but an understanding that people are people and sometimes it’s okay to do what you want. Crowley espoused this belief, and so too have many others over time.
When I talked to my wife once about this, she got confused. Why would I want to be identified as a “Dark magick” user? She and I went around and around for several hours and her concern came out. She associates “dark” and “shadow” with a lack of morals or ethics, as I did. When it came out that shadow practitioiners still HAVE morals, they are not the fluffy morals that don’t allow any kind of retribution or defense of self. It’s a fundamental understanding that life is not all wonderful and good, and operating with the knowledge that the universe tends toward Chaos, not toward order, and that sometimes you have to make your own Justice.)
Looking in the mirror
Now we come to the third group I spoke of, the rest of the Wiccans. This is one of the biggest downfalls of the Wiccan religion as I see it.
Too many times, I have seen this following scenario: I am a member of Coven A. We get together and have Circle, speak on rites of Wiccans, talk about issues relevant to the Craft, and put down other Covens. We sit and talk about how they don’t know the truth of the Goddess, and how this person in there is an ass, or how the High Priestess in there snubbed our HPS. And on and on and on…
Or we talk about how their rites are different and not what the Goddess decreed, and how they let this Priest, who is openly Gay, participate in the Rites just like everyone else. Or we call them names.
Make no mistake about it, flaming is one of the biggest faults that we as a religion have to come to terms with. Yes, we should take a stance about things like politics, drugs, and other issues that affect our community, but we should not start belittling others simply because they are not us.
I was participating in the Texas Pagan Community, and there was three covens of Sumarians, who mostly followed the Rede and had a good solid membership. Of those three covens, not one of them would have anything to do with any of the others. Why? Well, in one case, there was personality problems, in another case, the entire coven was using drugs to make up for lack of willpower (or so rumor had it), and in the last, there was a truly bad split. Ultimately, my High Priestess at the time went down to a bookstore because she had heard that another HPS was spreading rumors about her, and neither of them were even connected with the first three Sumarian Covens.
Let me ask something here, don’t we have enough problems with those who are trying to pull us down, to keep us from attacking each other like this? The smartest thing the Christian Coalition could do at this point, is tell their membership to leave us alone, and we would tear our own community apart by the seams.
So where do we go from here?
Well, I could say here that we are as guilty of doing things that we accuse others of doing, but I think I made that point already.
What we need to do, I see as being manyfold.
We need to get a central organization that allows for autonomy amongst the different Covens, who is a central authority for us all to look to when matters get tough. Not a group that comes down with Dogma and Cant, but someone whom the Press can go to to get statements, and issue press releases on behalf of the Wiccan Community, and who can moderate disputes within our own garden.
We need to acknowledge the fact that in spiritual matters, everyone is right. Christians are just as right about their truth as we are, and the Hindus are as right as both of us. A Spiritual path is only correct for ONE PERSON ONLY, and it must be customized for the individual in question until what they believe is concurrent with their morals and their experience.
We need to ignore the negative coming in at us, and we need to accentuate the positive that we have and get. We need to respond kindly to those who ask us questions, and answer those questions, while at the same time ignoring the tomato that has just been lobbed at us.
We need to pull together as a group, rather than fraction due to differences.
In dealing with everyone else, we need to look for ways we are similar to them, and focus on that, instead of dwelling on how we are different.
And finally, we need to acknowledge that Wiccans and Christians and every other path out there are made up of Human Beings. Not perfect, and sometimes reveling in ignorance, but working on it. With the same needs and goals as we have.
Sounds hard, I know. Having been part of this way for most of my life now, I looked around and saw how I had been changed and I thought that everyone in Wicca was just as changed as I had been. Then I got involved with some communities, and learned that the people that made up that community were just that, people. Imperfect and lacking in some qualities that I had found, and having other qualities that I admired. Ones who wanted to make it an Us/Them attitude with everyone else on the outside, with the 20 of us taking all of Them on.
Them is a faceless mass, and probably the worst kind of stereotyping that I can think of. It reduces thinking feeling humans to a gelatinous mass whom no one can understand or empathize with, and who are invisible, so one can’t fight back.
Let’s change that before WWIII, also known as the Intolerance Wars, come to pass.