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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Nov. 17, 2002   This Page Viewed: 12,351,411  

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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 Don't See Witchvox As A Totally Wiccan Site. There Are Many... Oct 30th. at 7:26:07 pm EST

Chip Johnson (Roosevelt, Arizona US) Age: 44 - Email

I don't see Witchvox as a totally Wiccan site. There are many informative articles about other paths as well. I am a Asatruar. I don't mind being called a pagan or a heathen. (except when used by the xians as a derogatory term). I belong to two different Kindreds and a national Asatru organization, The Asatru Alliance, and have also been affiliated with the Asatru Free Assembly and Odinist Fellowship. I say this to emphasize that of all the different folk I have known, few things are constant. ..But we are moving away from the "reconstructionalist" idea, toward a new folk identity. We are a living religion, , -With the added bonus of historical lore and society, something Wicca seems to lack. Asatru encompasses magikal as well as mundane life. We ARE a nature-based religion, too. Our Gods and Goddesses are celebrated with the changing of the seasons and life in all it's forms are revered as well.

Frankly, there is much emphasis on being an individual, along with being a member of a Folk.. The Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru cause one to become self-reliant, honorable, and think as a free man or woman. This is why you have so many opinions on the subject.

I would hope Asatru/Odinisim will always have a place at Witchvox. I follow the Witch Ways in the framework of my religion, using seith and rune magick, strenghtening my hugr and hamingja as well as exploring the nine Worlds. There are many Asatruar who don't consider themselves witches, but many of us are.

I agree that there should be a distinction between Asatru and the New Age paths. But we do not live in the past, even as we do have one.

Greetings. In Response To MandrakeÕs Post X I Invite Everyoneto Visit The... Oct 30th. at 1:16:28 pm EST

Calico (Madison, Wisconsin US) Age: 31

Greetings. In response to MandrakeÕs post x I invite everyoneto visit the Reconstructionist Religions boards on

Those boards were created specifically because there were enough people who felt very strongly that they were not Pagan and certainly not neo-Pagan and who insisted that they be given a separate and distinct area.

Ah Yes: The Name-game. It's Bothersome To Me Because I Think That... Oct 30th. at 12:20:15 pm EST

John ("New Naumkeag", Ohio US) Age: 34 - Email

Ah yes: the name-game. It's bothersome to me because I think that we (the community, not TWV) often emphasize too much what we call ourselves and we don't emphasize enough what we are making of ourselves. But, names are important, so here's my 2 cents' worth of opinion.

Start your FAQ as you do: An FAQ about Witches, Wiccans and Pagans. Most people who need the FAQ will likely be looking for more information about one of those three terms - hence, the title would remain useful for finding information, which can quickly thereafter make important distinctions.

Next, I suggest that you commence the FAQ with the question of "What is paganism?" Note the small "p." This would be the place to say that the word "pagan" (in the general usage of the English language) refers to people who are not Jewish or Christian or Muslim. It could even be a good place to note that paganism has been the *norm* for the world and its religions, in the past and now: perhaps 3.5 billion of the world's 6 billion people are pagan (Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, Shinto, tribal religions and so on); the remainder of the world's people are, roughly, about 1 billion Christian, about 1 billion Muslim, a few millions Jewish and the rest not being religious. And it might also be worthy of note that the approximately 1 / 2 to 3 / 4 billion or so people who are not religious mostly live in China, where any religion was and sometimes still is a prosecutable offence and where most of the people are likely to (sooner or later) revert to their native *pagan* religions: Confucianism, Taoism, Chinese forms of Buddhism and so on. In short, this would be a very good place to note that it's a pagan *world* in most places, today and in most times of human history, and thus there has also been enormous variety within paganism as a result.

That would be a nice segue into the next question I would suggest: "What is Neo-Paganism ('Paganism')?" Note the uppercase "P." Here, you could say that there is in the West (Europe, the Americas, Australia, etc.) a new form of paganism arising: new because sometimes it is totally new and new because other times it is new forms of the pre-Christian religions of the West. And the catch-all word for these many and varied religions is (for lack of anything better) "Neo-Paganism" -- which is often shortened to Paganism (with an uppercase "P"). And that is because there are several forms of Neo-Paganism, and that these are variously thought of as paths, traditions or fully separate religions, and that there is little they have in common except that they are the new pagans of the West: they are new (brand new or new forms of what was ancient), they are "pagan" (with the little "p": not Jewish, Christian or Muslim) and they are Western (and not Eastern, such as Hinduism, nor Native American, and so on)

The third question I would suggest would be, "What are the principal forms of Neo-Paganism?" Here you could note the principal forms of Neo-Paganism, and (so no one gets bothered more than is inevitable) list them alphabetically (as one previous poster suggested): Asatru, Druidism, Wicca and Witchcraft. This would also be the place to note that some members of some forms of Neo-Paganism dislike being referred to as "Pagan" and prefer others terms (such as Heathen or Reconstructionist) but that you are using the term "Neo-Pagan" not out of disrespect but because you need to refer to these various religions somehow. As part of this answer, you could have a brief description of each one of those principal Neo-Pagan religions, noting that these are just general descriptions and that many variations (and debate) exists about and within each of them. There could thus be a brief description for Asatru, a brief description for Druidism, a brief description for Wicca (good luck!) and a brief description for Witchcraft (even more good luck!). And, you could also note that there are many (many) other forms of Neo-Paganism besides those four.

The fourth general question I would suggest is "What are the basics of Asatru, Druidism, Wicca and Witchcraft?" Then, you could have separate FAQs for each of them, perhaps on separate pages or perhaps on the same page but clearly separate for each one. Also, under each FAQ, you might have a "myth" question as part of the Frequently Asked Questions, and here it would be appropriate to list that, for example, Asatru are not Nazis and Witches are not Satanists and so on. And, you might also want to have a few references (book and online) to fuller discussion for those who are interested.

And so on. These are just suggestions, and I'm sure I probably left something out. But, the general idea is this: it seems that the basic things of your FAQs are good; it's just their packaging and their arrangement "on the shelf" which needs to be changed.

(As an aside, here is my little personal wish. Take it only as that: personal, and perhaps not reflective of what to do overall with your FAQ. My personal wish is for Nature-based or Nature-oriented religions to be described as such: by the word "Nature" -- and not as "earth-based." To me, the word "Nature" is accurate, evocative but also usefully vague enough to encompass the full variety of what's going on with most of Neo-Pagan religion; the term "earth-based, " though, always makes it seem like I am worshipping a dirt-clod, which I don't.)

Good luck with updating your FAQs; you have your work cut for you!

Blessed Samhain and Blessed Be.


Can We Have A Seperate Faq For Each Pagan Tradition? Or, Perhaps... Oct 30th. at 12:12:20 pm EST

Q (Cumming, Georgia US) Age: 25 - Email

Can we have a seperate FAQ for each pagan tradition? Or, perhaps, seperate sub-sites for other paths that do not consider themselves Witches? After all, this particular site IS called "The Witches Voice". Please do not think I am slighting other traditions. I most certainly respect them. In fact, I think non-Witch traditions deserve enough respect to have their own site or at least their own section.

I think people come to "The Witches Voice" to learn about Witches. Perhaps it is stretching everything too thin to try to encompass (and do proper justice to) all of Paganism in this site. All paths may start to seem watered down. Break it up a little to maintain simplicity and the integrity of the seperate paths.

I Have Been Online Now For A While And I Have Visited... Oct 30th. at 6:46:04 am EST

S. John Browne (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa) Age: 28

I have been online now for a while and I have visited a number of sites and I've never come across Druids whether they call themselves reconstructualist or not denying their links to "paganism". I have also spoken to what few pagans are outspoken in this "city" and the same thing. Some don't feel the word fits and maybe a new word can be found to describe the whole movement and it's different beliefs and religions but from what I gather that is not the point. Witchvox is trying to limit the definition of Pagan to Wiccans and to be honest I am not surprised at this. Witchvox is a Wiccan site and it is especially a one sided Wiccan site (aimed more towards "White Lighters" -hate that expression, makes people sound like walking Bic's but that seems to be the least offensive word used). If Witchvox wants to further develop towards a Wiccan site (hey everybody else is doing it why not you), then I really don't have a problem with that. I would just like to Witchvox to be honest and not claim on it's pages to be a neutral pagan website.
S. John Browne

Normally, I Would Not Re-post On A Subject, But There Have Been... Oct 29th. at 6:29:24 pm EST

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

Normally, I would not re-post on a subject, but there have been enough posts of somewhat confusing content that I feel the need to speak up again. Specifically, I need a few questions answered with regards to this issue.

I've noted several people, Fritz in particular, making a distinction between the terms "Neo-pagan" and "reconstructionist". You seem to be implying that these terms, at least in the minds of some people, are mutually exclusive. In addition, several people have actually stated that there exist Druid groups who identify themselves as "reconstructionist", but also identify themselves as "not Pagan" or "not Neo-pagan". This makes no sense to me, and in fact, this is the first I've heard of it. For a start, I'd appreciate someone e-mailing me with the web addresses or book references of anyone who does this.

I myself have applied the term "reconstructionist" to my bio at the end of my essays on this site, but I think I may mean something different that what you are thinking. I mean to make the point that I am not inventing my beliefs or plucking them from a book, but that I am actively attempting, through historical and archaeological research, to gather all the reliable information that exists on what my religious forebearers practiced, then fill in the blanks with modern takes on these practices. It is nothing more than religious evolution. I suspect that anyone else using the term to describe themselves means the same thing.

So, let me make my opinion on this discussion perfectly clear. All of us, whether Wiccan, Druid, Asatru, whatever, are Pagans. We follow the old paths, or adaptions of them, so we are all Pagans. All of us are Neo-pagans. Our paths are not precisely the same as our ancestors, either because the loss of information, or because the path is recently begun, so we are also all Neo, or "new", Pagans. This business of trying to make a distinction between some of us being Pagan and some not is pointless, and I feel it is also woefully mistaken. We are all Pagans, no matter the precise details of our path.

I still feel that the FAQ should reflect this. It need not go into any details, but it should reflect our diversity, and not set some apart. This diversity has always been our hallmark as Pagans, as well as our greatest strength. Whatever our particular tradition, we are all still Pagans...all still family.

May the gods help us with the wisdom to stick together...especially since I don't want any heated arguments to screw up my birthday. ;)

PS: I can't think of ANY tradition that is more "earth-based" than Druids.

Greetings. I Read WrenÕs Post On And I Would Like To... Oct 29th. at 12:34:17 pm EST

Calico (Madison, Wisconsin US) Age: 31

Greetings. I read WrenÕs post on and I would like to commend her for taking this question to the Asatru community. She always lives up to her own high standards.

I myself proudly identify as Neo-Pagan (CAW) but I have come to understand that many people practicing Reconstructionist religions have a very different self-identification, and it certainly behooves witchvox to respect and represent that to the best of the siteÕs ability. I think one way of doing so would be to add another section to the FAQ under ÒPagansÓ tilted ÒReconstructionistsÓ and explain the common goals that Asatru, Senistrognata and the various other Recosntructionists (Baltic, Greek, Roman, Kemetic etc) have of reconstructing culturally-specific religions as accurately as possible. In the ÒPaganÓ section you take the space to point out that Neo-Pagan does not equal New Age, and the distinction between Neo-Pagan and Recosntructionist needs to be made as well.

Thanks for being here; I appreciate all the hard work that goes into this site!

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.]

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 :).

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.

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'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.

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