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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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112. Elders: Who Are They and Do We Really Need Them? - [74]

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 28,392,956  

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Question of the Week: 65 - 11/5/2001

What ARE the most "Frequently Asked Questions' About Witches?

What ARE the most "Frequently Asked Questions' About Witches? More importantly, what are the answers? Samhain is the 'out with the old, in with the new' season and so TWV is planning to revamp the FAQ's once again.

As the Pagan communities continue to evolve, so does public perception. We already have some changes in mind: Eliminate the references to Druids and Asatru (THEY self-identify as 'reconstructionist religions' and not as earth-based or Pagan), perhaps remove the 'blood sacrifice and 'wearing black' questions and we will add a 'for more information' link to the Traditions section. NEED FOR FURTHER CLARIFICATION NOTED: We do not necessarily intend to remove any and all references to Druids or Asatru. We have, in fact, asked those who post on the Asatru board at how we can better clarify their religion and whether they even wanted to be included on the site listings. (See: Beliefnet Boards) We may provide either a separate listing for each category or include the 'some of (fill in blank) believe this and some of (fill in blank) believe this'. Thus, while Asatru (if we can up with an FAQ that meets with their general approval) will almost certainly have a separate category listing, Druids might be listed as 'some' in the Pagan category and 'some' in the 'Reconstructionist Religions' category. We are simply trying to treat all Paths, Belief Systems and Religions with equal respect. We knew that this was going to be a difficult undertaking, but are willing to try to address the issue because it is an important one.

Which questions do YOU think should stay and which ones are no longer needed? What changes would you like us to consider in the 'definitions' department? Note: Please bear in mind, that a FAQ is designed to be a very short, concise and GENERAL answer to questions that most people who are unfamiliar with Paganism might ask. We could write books (and many have or will) about the nuances contained within the various Pagans Paths, but FAQs- constructed mainly to bullet point information- are necessarily restricted to a few paragraphs on each question.

 Reponses:   There are 31 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

I Believe It Is Important That A Lot Of People Speak Up... Oct 29th. at 12:24:32 am EST

Mandrake .....the Bard (Tucson, Arizona US) Age: 31 - Email

I believe it is important that a lot of people speak up on this subject. There's a lot to be said. Let me also point out that I am a Druid, so if you consider my opinions on this subject to be influenced by something, this is probably it.

First, about your thought of eliminating references to Druids in the FAQ. This is, without a doubt, one of the worst things you could do. The FAQ is already extremely biased towards a single pagan faith, that of Wicca. If you remove such references, you might as well change the name of this site to "The Wiccans' Voice." We are a diverse community, Pagans, and while the FAQ must be kept concise, it must also reflect our common ground, not just the Wiccan viewpoint.

Second, along the lines of my previous statement, I might suggest a small alteration. I was responsible for writing the informational flyers for two student groups, and in both cases we chose to define "Pagan" first, then "Witch" and "Wiccan" second. Your FAQ's definition of "Witch" is a quite servicable definition of "Pagan", and I think a slightly different emphasis than what has gone before might be appropriate. As you say yourself, Wiccans are Pagans, but not all Pagans are Wiccans, and I think the emphasis in the FAQ should be here, not on mentioning that there are multiple Pagan faiths as an afterthought.

It is our duty as fellow Pagans to stick together, not drive ourselves apart.

Oh, and one other thought. While we druids are attempting to "re-construct" our faith as you stated, we are just as "earth-based" (perhaps moreso, in many cases) as other Pagans, including Wiccans...and we are all Pagans by definition.

The gods go with you.

First, I Would Like To State That The Faq Is Very Good... Oct 29th. at 12:54:28 am EST

Kiiri Duabhar (Tucson, Arizona US) Age: 24 - Email

First, I would like to state that the FAQ is very good. However, as a practitioner of a pagan path other than Wicca, I once more find that most publishings on the net are highly biased. Wiccans tend to outnumber the other practitioners of the more esoteric paths. I see nothing wrong with the things stated in this FAQ, but I find that your ideas to eliminate references to the Druids and other paths somewhat offensive. The Druids are regarded by many to be one of the oldest and best known of the pagan religions. I do not believe that classifying them as "reconstructionist" in any way negates their pagan value. A lot of us who follow other paths based off of historical records would quite possibly classify ourselves as reconstructionists, however, with so little historical record to work with there is no way to recreate the ways of worship of our ancestors. We all consider ourselves to be pagan. We all follow the cycles of the Earth, and the moon and stars. That makes us no less pagan than anyone else simply because we feel drawn to pantheon that was worshiped long ago. I must state that when writing a general FAQ about paganism in general that one must write about ALL pagans. After devoting a large paragraph specifically to Wicca, I hardly feel that you can be justified in glossing over all other paths. Since the word Druid is only mentioned twice in the entire FAQ, I think cutting it out is somewhat premature. I would suggest at least one small paragraph explaining that there are other paths other than Wicca. Including shamanism, the Norse pantheon, the Greek pantheon, and a score of others. I do not feel that a brief overview or listing of some of the other paths would be amiss. Mnay who read these FAQ's get the mistaken impression that only Wicca is actually pagan. If you wish to cut down on the length of the FAQ, cutting out some of the questions such as those on wearing black and blood sacrifices are a good start. I would like to say that I have always enjoyed the Witch's Voice, and I think that all of you do a great job.

I Would Just Like To Say That I Agree With Those Few... Oct 29th. at 5:29:34 am EST

Bronze Serpent (Manchester, UK., England UK) Age: 19 - Email

I would just like to say that I agree with those few who have already posted their thoughts on this week's question.

I am not a Druid, I follow the largest of the Neo-Pagan paths: Wicca. However, I do agree that Pagan writing and articles these days do seem to be devoted to Wicca and Witchcraft, rather than spread out across the large spectrum that is the Pagan community.

This is great for a would-be Wiccan - but what if Wiccans want to learn about the other Pagan paths? I feel that seeking knowledge is a fundemental tenent for Pagans these days, but having to limit yourself to a section of that knowledge does seem to get aggrivating, especially when you want to burst out and learn more!

I just want to make it clear to all Pagans that this overly biased swing into Wiccandom affects more that just non-Wiccan Pagans. Wiccans themselves want to reach beyond the realms of their own faith, and gain knowledge of other faiths too.

I also belive that Druids are Asatru are as Pagan as any other path which we put into this umbrella we term 'Paganism'. They celebrate the ebb and flow of the seasonal changes, and they do teach reverence for the Earth - how much more Earth based can one get? Tearing precious crystals from the Earth (which are better left where they are found - in the Earth) and dancing with them around your neck does not make one 'Earth based'. Druids are Asatru are aware of the seasonal flow. They embrace and celebrate it. That, in my book, is as Pagan as you can get.

Paganism and Wicca are not synonomous, but Paganism and "a myriad of earth based faiths" are. Lets bring back that meaning.

To you and yours,

Bronze Serpent.

Important Clarification: >i See Nothing Wrong With The Things Stated In This... Oct 29th. at 6:43:00 am EST

Fritz Jung - Webcrafter TWV (Clearwater, Florida US) Age: 49

Important Clarification:

>I see nothing wrong with the things stated in this FAQ,
>but I find that your ideas to eliminate references to
>the Druids and other paths somewhat offensive.

We don't label them as "reconstructionist religions and not as earth-based or Pagan"

THEY do!

We feature and list the Asatru and Druid paths/groups in a big way here at TWV and will continue to do ... The question is whether listing them under the Pagan umbrella is relevant to our FAQ about Paganism.

Good responses so far... Keep them coming.

Ok, Bear In Mind This Is A Uk Viewpoint. Us Milages May... Oct 29th. at 8:46:11 am EST

Skye (Edinburgh, Scotland UK) Age: 28

Ok, bear in mind this is a UK viewpoint. US milages may vary, I guess.

Certainly I know more than a few folk who self identify as Asatru or Druid AND Pagan. If you want to make the question about paganism more general, how about citing the Pagan Federation's definition of Paganism, rather than citing particular paths? I'm sure they'd be delighted to have it more widely publicised, and it does seem to be a reasonable catch all. A link to the Traditions pages could then give a taste of the diversity of the paths within Paganism.

The principles are cited on the PF home page: I've quoted them directly here:

"Love for and Kinship with Nature. Reverence for the life force and its ever-renewing cycles of life and death.

A Positive Morality, in which the individual is responsible for the discovery and development of their true nature in harmony with the outer world and community. This is often expressed as: Do what you will, as long as it harms none .

Recognition of the Divine, which transcends gender, acknowledging both the female and male aspect of Deity. "

I think these principles are a good general statement of what Paganism is about, rather than getting into potentially confusing explanations of X path is Pagan, but Y path isn't.

I Could Use Some Clarity Re: "defining Paganism." Terminology Know That The... Oct 29th. at 9:34:44 am EST

Ciarrai (Somewhere In Middlesex County, New Jersey US) Age: 34 - Email

I could use some clarity re: "Defining Paganism."

Terminology know that the term Paganism encompasses all of the traditions discussed in this forum as compared with Christianity (Roman Catholics, Methodist, etc. are all Christians) as compared with Paganism (Witches, Wiccans, Druids, etc. are all Pagans).

What I don't understand is why are Wiccans Witches but Witches are necessary Wiccans? All the books I've read about 'Witchcraft' start referring to Wicca, but then some people say that they are not Wiccan but they are Witches.


Some Of Us Druids Do Identify As Pagan. Very Pagan. I Don't... Oct 29th. at 10:46:12 am EST

Lasairochroide (Cedar Rapids, Iowa US) Age: 36

Some of us Druids DO identify as Pagan. Very Pagan. I don't ever think of myself as "reconstructionist."

I believe that Druids are born into this world as Druids, and that we are living an evolving religion, performing the same duties our ancestors performed for their communities, but we are also very much present in the 21st century and have to deal with THAT reality. What my ancestors did thousands of years ago informs all that I do, but I have to "make a lot of it up as I go along" because we live in a very different world.

So please don't remove references to Druidism.

I'm A Bit Confused About The Druids And Asatru Not Considering Themselves... Oct 29th. at 10:58:27 am EST

Meg M. (Arlington, Texas US) Age: 32 - Email

I'm a bit confused about the Druids and Asatru not considering themselves Pagan. I understand that they're trying to differentiate themselves from the "recent" religions such as Wicca, but the religions they're "reconstructing" are Pagan religions. Therefore, I'd think they still need to fall under the Pagan umbrella.

Also, I think it would be a disservice to their traditions and also the seekers looking for information to shunt them to another area. I think more information about the different traditions and practices would be better than trying to segregate them.

I think the stuff about blood sacrifice and other myths should be moved to a page called just that... MYTHS, perhaps linked off of the FAQ. I think these questions should be addressed, but I think the FAQs should focus more on educating people about the many varied paths and practices, and less on the "are you a good witch or a bad witch" questions. They need to still be addressed, but like I said, I think it's a different topic altogether.

Please Realize The Following Is Not A Bash At The Witches' Voice... Oct 29th. at 11:24:47 am EST

Heather (Austin, Texas US) Age: 37

Please realize the following is not a bash at The Witches' Voice or any pagan religion. I have agonized over this little piece so that I can say what I feel without trampling over everyone's toes.

I feel that rather than deleting references to other paths, you should expand on them, even if these are only passing references. I realize this section requires concise answers to general questions. However, sometimes concise answers can gloss over too much and run the risk of being glib.

When I first started out on my "pagan path ramble", I turned to your website often. I was presented with a lot of Wiccan information, articles, links, etc. And the more I read, the more I felt that what was being presented as a different type of religion was only more of the same: heirarchy, strict ritual, "thou shalt only do things this way". It was a real turn off, and I nearly lost faith in the entire idea of "paganism".

Understand that I was a complete "newbie" (for lack of a better term). Understand that a newbie of any age is usually a little frightened, a little confused, a lot brainwashed, and feeling guilty on top of it all.

Newbies need to have their fears laid to rest. They need to hear something that will take that big ol' brick of guilt out of their tummy. They need a smattering of information about all this world of paganism has to offer, so they can see that above all else, we are about the freedom to choose.

And me? I survived my transition just fine. My path? I'm a "Goddess lovin', wink at the Horned One from the corner of my eye, roll in the fall leaves, smell the spring breeze, hug all the trees" plain old pagan. Clear enough?

I Would Really Suggest That You Not, As Suggested Above, Remove All... Oct 29th. at 11:42:14 am EST

Hepzibah (Pelkie, Michigan US) Age: 39

I would really suggest that you not, as suggested above, remove all reference to non-Wiccan/Witch forms of Paganism from the FAQ section on "Paganism".

For one thing, Pagans who are not Wiccans or Witches are no more prone to agreement than are Wiccans and Witches, and there are certainly reconstructionists who *do* consider themselves to be part of the Pagan community (they may not consider themselves to be NEOpagan--although some may!--but many do think of themselves as Pagan--while others, of course, do not). My own view is that reconstructionist Pagans are still Pagans and share enough points in common with the wider Neopagan community that it is useful to include at least a brief reference to these alternatives, although certainly you may want to cut back on the amount of detail if you are including a link to your Traditions page.

Incidentally, many Druids do indeed consider themselves to be Pagan, even Neopagan (for example, ADF is a specifically Neopagan Druidic tradition and I would certainly call them earth-based).

For another thing, people come to all branches of Paganism via different paths. Many people first learn of eclectic Wicca and begin their travels there, eventually turning off onto different paths more appropriate for them, including Asatru and heathenry and other reconstructionist paths as well as other non-Wiccan but still Neopagan ones. It can go the other way as well--people finding Wicca or Witchcraft after starting with a different Pagan path.

I guess what I'm saying is that while I can understand why you want to trim the text, I also know that this may be the first (or only!) exposure to Witchcraft and Paganism that some people have and would hate to see references removed that might be the very thing to lead someone to the path that is right for them.

Speaking As One Who Self-identifies As Druid... I'd Like To See Witchvox... Oct 29th. at 12:12:20 pm EST

Jonobie (Austin, Texas US) Age: 25 - Email

Speaking as one who self-identifies as Druid...

I'd like to see Witchvox keep expanding to include non-Wiccan Pagan paths, and applaud the rewriting of the FAQ to do so. There seems to be a fair amount of division within those identifying as Druid whether we should abandon the Neopagan label to the Wiccans, or keep trying to remind people that we're here too. Personally, I think Witchvox, regardless of thoughts to the contrary in the matter, will continue to be a "first-point" of contact for newcomers, reporters, and the curious. As such, I'm pleased to see a revamped FAQ in the works.

Some comments (Druid-specific):
1. To say that Druids self-identify as Reconstructionist is too simplistic. Some identify as Celtic Reconstructionist (CR) and not as Neopagan. Others identify as CR or Druid and may or may not be Neopagan. Still others identify strictly as Druid and consider themselves Neopagan.

It's a confusing world out there for labels. Finding descriptions of the last two categories is somewhat easier (they are the ones most likely to post here) -- for information about CR folks, I'd recommend asking Imbas to provide a short blurb. Imbas would probably be the best place to go for decisions about whether to include CR in the FAQ, too.

2. I think removing Druidry from the Paganism FAQ would be unfortunate. It would, however, be reasonable to have a blurb indicating that not *all* who identify as Druids fall under the Neopagan umbrella. This is probably best fixed by using the word "Neopagan" in prefence to "Pagan" for the FAQ title -- most Druids would identify as Pagan, but not all of them identify as *Neo*pagan. That would mean that you would be able to limit any discussion of Druidry to Neopagan Druids and avoid the CR-non-Neopagan stickiness.

3. Regardless, avoid blanket "Neopagan" statements. Where I've most seen them is on the following points:

a. Not all Neopagans do magic. In Druidry, magic is often not a part of the religion (unlike Wicca). Some people do divination and/or magic as a part of their practice, and some don't.

b. Not all Neopagans follow the Rede or Threefold Law. Saying that we do is about as accurate as saying that Wiccans "follow Christ's example" -- you're applying a religious sentiment to a religion where it doesn't make sense.

c. Not all Neopagans believe in "The Goddess" and/or "The God". Some Druids (most notably, CRs) are strict polytheists.

Some comments (more general):
Get rid of any Satanism, wearing black, and sacrifice questions and choose to define what Neopagans *are*, instead of what we are not. Frankly, harping on Satanism and sacrifice in FAQs does more to link the two together in someone's mind than anything else. Further, it looks somewhat childish to always be pointing at this "other" group, and saying that we're better than them. Finally, you're not going to change anyone's mind by saying that Neopaganism has nothing to do with Satanism. Those with open minds will read the FAQ and come to that conclusion themselves. Those without open minds won't be dissuaded by a statement to the contrary (and may, in fact, take it to be "proof" that we know what we're about and still hiding it).

Definitely feature the traditions page of the FAQ. It's a great page - no reason not to showcase it!

Please don't list Pagans always as "Witches, Wiccans, Druids, and Asatru". Put them in alphabetical order! This ordering often seems like everyone who's not Wiccan or a Witch is an afterthought. Similarly for "Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans" -- either spell out your whole list, or just use the term, "Neopagan" or "Pagan".

Consider having individual FAQs. I know there are Druidry and Asatru FAQs out there. Why not have a "Neopagan FAQ" main page, and branch off into religion-specific FAQs under it? That way, those who want the most high level view could just read the Neopagan FAQ, and those who wanted to learn about religions under that umbrella could read about specific groups.

Anyhow - good question. Let me know if I can help in any way (since it's rude to complain and not offer to help fix :).

Final Thoughts: Title The Faq "neopagan Faq" And Include Non-wiccan Paths, *or... Oct 29th. at 12:20:36 pm EST

Jonobie (Austin, Texas US) Age: 25 - Email

Final thoughts:

Title the FAQ "Neopagan FAQ" and include non-Wiccan paths, *or* title the FAQ "Witchcraft FAQ" and don't include them. Obviously, I'd prefer you title the FAQ "Neopagan FAQ" and include us. :-)

Assuming that the page becomes a Neopagan FAQ, change the header to read:

Introduction to Neo-paganism:
Basic Tenants of Neopagans of Planet Earth [or somesuch].
A path of personal responsibility, an ancient religion for modern times.
[Remove the Rede underneath.]

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