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From 1997... The cry for Unity has been building strongly over the past 13 months in the Witch/Pagan community. This section celebrates our efforts and dreams in this area. Is it possible? Will it be difficult? Do we have some common ground? There is lots of hard work ahead and the Witches' Voice will do its part to both support and evolve this issue. United we stand - So Mote it Be!

Survey Results: Witch, Wiccan or Pagan? ... How Good is YOUR Teacher ... Working with Groups ... A Religion or a Personal Belief ... Out of the Broom Closet ... Witchcraft in the Public Eye

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Initial Thoughts from the Community (Day One)
How would you explain your religion and/or
personal belief system?

(as of Monday 8/4/97 8:07 pm)

Survey Sez...

"My belief system is composed of many different faiths- what some may call eclectic. I believe since so many religions exist, none of them can be the only one. I view spirituality like the rivers and the ocean. All rivers flow to the ocean and I believe that it is the same way with spirituality. I would compare all of the religions to rivers as they would flow to the ocean. -Bear"

"My PERSONAL BELIEF SYSTEM is about defining my personal relationship with the divine whether it be within me or in the animate/ inanimate around me. It means finding enlightenment in myself, my family and my environment. That all things exist in their own place; that my responsibility is merely to strive for balance in my life - between myself and all else. That I should merely accept that things simply are and if amongst it all, I can improve upon myself within that frame work, then my own magic has taken place. As for the mystical side of things.... I believe in an inner soul. This consciousness is infinite- merely going through a continual cycle of change. As the moon and sun are concrete non-imaginary objects which so obviously affect all of natures creatures, including myself, it is obvious that I look to them as SYMBOLS of whatever the Divine is that exists. I think that at one time Christianity and other prominent religions were similar- only somewhere along the line- a fundamental belief in their religious mythology took over. I don't have a literal belief in the deities or folklore as such. The symbols and stories that I use only reinforce the idea that we are only but minuscule parts of a bigger part - what matters most to me is leading a balanced life, NOT whether or not I understand it all. And finally when trying to put MAGICK into context for a non-pagan, I point out that magick occurs everyday- it is in the smiles on the faces of my children, the food I create in the kitchen, the artwork and poetry that flows from my hands, and the fire in the bedroom between me and my husband. My own belief in ritual is not that its a ceremony of worship, rather an aid in meditation and centering oneself...simply a tool in the quest for positive thinking and affirmation."

"My personal belief system/path, Dianic Wicca is based on the religion of Witchcraft with its Rede. "An it harm none, do what thou wilt" as well as its Law of Return which says "that what I put out into the Universe good or evil will return to me threefold."

"My relationship to the universe."

"My religion is centered around the cycles of nature and recognizes the duality of the human species and thusly honors both Goddess and God."

"My religion is one in which the Goddess is celebrated and worshipped. One in which sexuality is viewed as sacred not shameful. One in which women are honored as equals to men not subjugated. One in which magic is a key component to getting the results that we want out of life. One that celebrates and protects the earth. A religion that values study and learning. One that I feel a part of not a subject of."

"My religion is that which I have in common with other Witches, most notably following the Witches Rede the Three Fold Law and celebrating the events on the pagan calendar. These similarities define my religious practices. My personal belief system is made up of knowledge and experiences imprinted on me since birth my Gnostic self. I am a solitary Witch and worship in accordance with the voice of the God and Goddess within myself. The particulars of my spiritual life are particular to me which makes them part of my personal belief system."

"My religion is Wicca. A reverence for the earth and the divine forces that flow through it. It makes me feel more at peace with myself and it does not harm others. My personal belief system, I tend to define as rules governing how I live have parts of my religion in them but generally come from before I had a religion. This system comes from reading many Doctor Who books- please don't think I'm a nut and I try to live in the same sort of guidelines that the Doctor does always trying to do the right thing et cetera. So I believe that the two are different entities. I hope this helps."

"My religion, Wicca, is a ritualistic ecocentric Pantheon based religious path. As a Wiccan. I believe that there is an intelligent entity which created the universe and the natural laws that govern it. I worship this entity through ritual and personal meditation. I call on male and female aspects of this entity for guidance and assistance with my spiritual growth and day to day challenges. My personal belief system is that magick is real and involves the conscious ability to control ones reality."

"My religious beliefs ... that we are all created by The Spirit regardless of what you call it. That the earth people and all living creatures plants etc.. are connected through life and we must all understand this in order to survive. This brings us the foundation for do unto others-the three fold rule etc....Though my religious path belief calls our maker "The Spirit- the Lady and the Lord..", I feel we all must remember that we each have a path to take in our lives and what I find is my path may not be the path for someone else. Tolerance of all religious beliefs is the key to the unity I spoke of previously. If we can truly take this to heart, and have the understanding and acceptance that each of us has a path to follow that is as individual as we ourselves are, then we will be very much closer to becoming one with our creator.-Sarah the *witchy* cowgirl"

"My religious beliefs center around the acknowledgment and worship of the creative forces of the Earth as represented by a Goddess and a God. In answer to the inevitable next question- WHICH ONES?- all I can tell them is that I believe that all gods and goddesses are aspects of the Lady and Lord. If asked, I tell them of the seasonal holidays and esbats though I do not go into detail as to how these are observed. Often the question is asked about putting spells on someone... To answer that I attempt to explain the Rede to them."

"My religious system is not only a way of worship, but also a way of life. In my quest to understand the divine, many paths can be and are taken. An example of this is- if I want to understand the divine I must go into the wilderness or a forest. There I can experience the world created by the divine with little of man's interference. There I can learn how all parts of the world interact and see the meaning and glory of everything. The true whole can therefore be experienced. Another path that is taken is the path within. In order to understand the Divine, one must first understand themselves. By truly knowing yourself you can find your place in the whole. From that point on you can truly fulfill your duties and begin to find peace within yourself. This will allow you to be able to interact with others in a divine manner. This is done through medit. Beyond yourself the divine lies in others. In talking with others, we can see a spark of the divine that is different from our own. For example, my search has lead me into nursing. I have learned much in dealing with terminal clients. The insights into life are great for those who will listen to them. Lastly, one can commune with the Creator. Talking with your creator gives you insights into the vastness of the Whole. In interacting with the Creator, you find clues in giving reason for your existence. Communion can be done through magick or prayer. Neither one method is better than the other. The Creator created us because it needs us. We can turn our back on it, but the Creator cannot turn its back on us. We are a part of the Creator and are therefore Divine ourselves. That is why we are here. All and all, your life experiences and interaction with the divine are worship in and of themselves. Ultimately by interpreting the essence of all you are and what made you can you find the Divine within yourself that you are comfortable worshipping. Life is a great lesson to improve yourself. It is just as important as the other side. Otherwise we would not have come here. All we do, positive or negative, is an act to be shared with the world. While the Whole is neutral in naming our creator we chose how we wish to worship. In my religious system, there is a system of clergy and ritual. That however is the least important part of the religion. The individual is what is important. One can chose to worship on their own or in a group. Who is anyone to tell another that the way they discovered to worship is wrong? I am proud of my religion and do not mind my name going with it. For me to not put my name with it would be to go against all that I am and what I believe. My name is Christopher M. Cadeau."

"One of the lawyers, who was working with the Iron Oak case, said that we as Neo-Pagans were on a whole too nice. Most other religions would have banded together by now formed a strong lobby and fought tooth and nail for their rights. That is exactly what we must do. We must put aside our differences and join together to fight the common enemy of ignorance and bigotry."

"Personally my religion is not JUST a religion or JUST a personal belief is both. I do not think one can exist without the other. My personal beliefs help choose which religious path to go and if I do not feel 100 percent comfortable with the religion, I then allow my beliefs to shape it into the form perfect for ME. Not anyone else. If more people believe the same way I do...fine. If only allows my mind-heart-soul to be more open to learn. When people ask me my beliefs, I try to keep it simple. I believe in the Goddess and all things connected to, woman, plant, animals, sun, moon, rocks, and stars. I believe in the universal fundamentals of the Threefold Law and the Rede. If the person wants more detail, I give it to them. But not so much to where their brain goes into overload. Just enough to where they ask intelligent questions and do not batter me with judgments. For when they have seen how I live and how I treat people, and that I do walk my talk, they are a bit more understanding. Walk in the Flame of the Goddess....Ravynne SilverChief."

"The Deity exists. We can for the purposes of better understanding of what is ultimately incomprehensible divide this into three parts Male, Female and Other- Lord, Lady and Holy Fool. We find this division in just about every religious system in one form or another. In Paganism, we tend to sharpen these categories/ Aspects and some emphasize one or two over the others. There are certain Lessons that constantly appear in religious belief. Love the Deity. Love your neighbor. These can be worded in many different ways and applied in even more ways but the recurring message is the same."

"The first part of my response is off topic, but nonetheless something I want to express. In the questionnaire .I responded No to the question "Do you think we can incorporate both Earth Based religions and personal belief systems under one set of guidelines for the general public or ourselves?" It is ironic that one of our greatest strengths may also be what most hampers us- and that is the individualism that is such a hallmark of contemporary Paganism. So many of us are so deeply entrenched in the stance of not allowing anyone to form or direct our religion or personal belief system, that I think it is going to be extremely difficult to unite in order to become stronger. My idealism wishes this were not so. My pragmatism sees it as truth. I fear there are many within our community who will refuse to sacrifice what they perceive as their right to worship and do as they please- regardless of the impact on the greater community. Frankly, I fear for the future of the right of all of us to assemble and practice our religions or belief systems in peace if this relatively small percent of our population cannot bring themselves to practice a bit of self restraint and prudence."

"There is no difference between science and religion under my theoretical framework. Science is the study of the universe... one grain of debated sand at a time. Religion is simply an exploration of the universe as a whole. We all try our best to experience the universe. This process is on going on many levels of the mind. The sciences help our conscious minds grasp and control the world that it may be the way we want it. In the Art which is religion, we have a choice. We can try to effect the world around us through prayer and ritual or we can simply try to feel the life that is the universe. This fundamental difference is called thaumaturgy in the former case and theurgy in the other. Anyone involved with a set of sequential religious practices- from a tradition new or old- that try to effect the universe are priests/priestesses. If on the other hand, one's beliefs involve listening to the universe and learning its secrets through passive observation, they are theurgists. Mystics are those that try to live the wisdom of their beliefs in their everyday lives. Pagans tend to be all three because there are not restrained by tradition. This multiple approach gives all levels of the mind the freedom and incentive to work in harmony."

"This is a really tough question as I have been trying without great success to explain just that to some of my non-pagan friends. I tell them that I believe there are many Gods and Goddesses, but that I do not really worship them so much as pay my respects to them. I believe there is a Universal Life Force and that all the Gods and Goddesses are just aspects that we as humans can fit into our limited understanding. Calling on our personal deities is just the same as calling on the Xtian deity, but we as pagans understand that there are more aspects/avatars if you will than such a strictly limited system such as the Xtian one. We acknowledge the spirit world, but we do not live this life in preparation for the next. Instead, we enjoy without the guilt. There are many paths and this is the One I have chosen. Do not judge me for I will not judge you. I would say that about sums it up. Love and Light-Brian W."

"This is a tough one. My religion is based around many books on the topic of Wicca/ Witchcraft/ Norse Paganism and other assorted things. Essentially I believe in the divine as manifesting itself in two parts that create a whole. I feel that as people, it is easier for lack of a better word, for us to comprehend this in the fashion that we do. I.E. names genders etc.. I worship the Gods not out of fear, but out of a respect for Their divine wisdom and to help me feel more in touch with myself and the rest of the universe."

"To me the line between a religion and a personal belief system is very fine. Does Christianity differentiate between a religion or a personal belief system? If my religion isn't in synch with my personal beliefs, then to me I'm a hypocrite or worse. A religion must be a living and breathing entity that fits the individual like a favorite pair of shoes- and the personal belief system that goes along with it should too. Witchcraft is my religion and, as a result, my belief system goes in line with the Witches Rede. Otherwise, why have a religion OR a personal belief system?"

"To me, religion defines an organized belief that has laws rules and people governing what you can and can not do. My personal belief system is simple- Respect Mother Earth and all that is within Her. Love everything, even down to a little ugly rock, because we are all interconnected with one another. And with everything in nature, there is a female and male version. So I choose to look to the Goddess because She is the one of fertility and life and we are all Her children. But I never forget the male side- because He too is important in the life of everything. We could not have light without darkness and darkness without light. So you should never try to harm anything or anyone because if you do you will be harming yourself. Blessings.- Crystal"

"Typically, I just tell them that I look to the Earth for guidance. That's about it."

"Whew...this is tough...I believe all things are part of a whole greater system...and the symbols that I choose to represent that system are the Goddess AND the God. Balance in my life represented by the balance in the universe is what I strive for. I believe that magick is simply a different way of looking at everyday life. Whether I believe that magick is ...real...or a creation of my mind is not the point. Magick is what I choose to call my ability to alter my consciousness and make changes in my life. I still do not know whether magick is something that is physical or mental, but I do believe that by working in my mind with ...focal points...such as candles athames wands stones herbs become easier for me to manifest in the physical what I conceive in my mind."

"Wicca and WitchCraft ARE my life. They define WHO and WHAT I AM. They give me boundaries, "Harm None", and insights, "For the Good of All." My lighting candles and incense in my office is declaring my love to the Gods and is a gift of thanks which I openly and publicly do."

"Earth-based religion to me is a belief system in which the whole of creation is the center of existence and the sum of all aspects of creation is greater than any of its parts. Humanity is only one small portion of creation. Being one with the universe is the most important aspect of the earth-based religion. The sacredness of all life animate and inanimate is the basic tenet. Magick is the ebb and flow of energy throughout creation. Creation is the deity rather than a separate god figure. On the other hand, my personal belief system involves the form in which I conceive of the source of creation--Goddess God/Goddess, multiple Gods, Goddesses and so on. The manner in which I interact with the Magick of creation and life is my personal belief system. My pla, ce in the universe is my personal belief system. The days and nights of celebration, the names I choose to call them the names and personal concepts with which my mind clothes my Goddess/God is my personal belief system. What works for me in ritual is my personal belief system. There can be many personal belief systems in the all-inclusive concept of earth-based religion. The sacredness and interaction of all existence. My Book of Shadows contains much of my personal belief system, but it takes the universe to contain my religion. "

"Without a personal belief system, there would be no religion to me. Actually, I am not sure if I would call it a religion, but a spiritual quest to know the divine....I do not need a name. I use the guidance of what that one intuitively tells me is right by whatever form it chooses to present itself to me. There are many angles of which to look at something. I want to see them all...To know them all."

"I have been faced with this question a few times when asked to help explain Wicca to someone's fiancee or relative or friend. I begin by speaking of pantheism as a whole and examining the differences between pantheism and monotheism. Often the person with whom I'm speaking discovers that they are actually very comfortable with the concepts of pantheism. When they are comfortable with these concepts, I move on to some that are inevitable extensions thereof. I speak of the inherent divinity of all things, both living and non. I speak of the old adage, "As above So Below" and I speak of the desire to draw closer to Divinity by exploring personal divinity. I explain that magick is not some awful unnatural twisting of reality and rather that it is an active extension of that very natural desire to identify with the Gods. Then I speak of the strong sense of community and love that arises from being part of a small congregation no larger than a large family. By starting with a concept that is fairly familiar and easy to appreciate and working towards the more alien and difficult concepts, I find that the people I talk to rarely get panicked or uneasy. They don't very often jump up and start talking about becoming Wiccan, but they do stop and think for a few minutes and then decide that it isn't in any really fundamental way anathema to what they believe. They decide that it is something they can appreciate and respect without needing to embrace it themselves."

"I would explain my religion as one based on balance. The"all", a formless genderless being of both good and bad being God. From that being comes the goddess and the god whom are representations of the feminine and masculine aspects. They allow me to better understand the all. The rituals that I conduct are like church services. They are simply ways to celebrate my god- and the only difference between my services and those that a church would hold- is that I am my own priest. My personal belief is that all the gods are the same god. The different paths, faiths, religions etc.just have different names to call that god and different ways of celebrating him/her/it."

"My belief system and my religious practices are greatly intertwined, but not identical. This was true for me when I was being brought up in the Lutheran church, throughout my long personal search, and in my current practices. I am unsure if the two will ever be the same, but they are currently as parallel as they have ever truly been in my life."

"Wicca/Witchcraft is most definitely my religion. While this is true, Wicca also leaves to my discretion many issues which most religions address. Whereas Christianity, Judaism, and other mainstream religions have firm guidelines for how to behave, what is good and bad etc., Wicca allows us to make those decision based on our knowledge and what is in our hearts. Therefore, the religion and belief system overlap in many ways. At the same time, there is a definite religion because I worship the Goddess. I hold certain rituals alone and with my coven. We also share many values that are part of the religion. We share the concept of tools such as wand, Athame, besom, etc. and symbols such as pentacle and Ankh. To me, the personal belief system and religion overlap in paganism more often than in other religions. Yet there is still a definite delineation."

"My Religion is Paganism and I am denominationally an Eclectic Wiccan. My faith is the acceptance of Life and all that it may bring. By my acceptance of Life as it is lived and understanding that Life has its own logic... then the basic mysteries are revealed. My belief is that all Life is interconnected at a deep level as well as the obvious physical ones. The spirit of life is like the water of the world. It exists everywhere can be invisible can be visible and needed by all life. Water touches us all. Water changes as it passes through us and then touches another. Spirit touches us and passes through us and changes all it touches. God, or the Divine Deity, is in fact our own cumulative experience and the Life-force around us. We define God only in the terms we can understand and yet when we feel Deity we cannot explain it. But we know.... Even if there is no life after death, it is important to understand Life begets life and we are part of a timeless and continuous cycle. This unity can give us strength and power beyond our current understanding. Once we understand, we learn to accept life and once we accept life we can learn to love. Once we love, then we understand what Deity has been trying to say. Remember Life does not play favorites, but teaches and offers itself to those who accept its most sacred truths. This is why I am a Pagan and why I believe."

"To me, not only is Wicca a religion, but it is also a way of life. Wicca influences much more in my life than just who I will worship. It also affects how I treat other people. Even with all of the bigotry demonstrated by so many Christians, Witchcraft has taught me how to remain calm and not become aggressive or bigoted myself. I have been able to not bring myself down to their intellectual level. "

"I believe that a person picks a religion based on his/her personal belief system. I believe in my connection to the divine, the powers the elements the powers I get from nature, and from with in my self. I use that everyday in my mundane life. I don't leave magick at the coven door. I believe in"harm none" and that I do not need a priest in the Christian sense to connect me to the divine. I believe in a personal right to connect to that divine in whatever way suits that person be it Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, or other earth religions, like American Indian Aboriginal or African tribal. I do not connect to the traditional anglo-saxon god and, because I do not have a heritage of an earth religion, I picked Wicca. I am a witch because of my personal belief system. The two are halves of the some whole."

"I guess what attracts me to Wicca is that, even before I learned of it, it already WAS my personal belief system. It became my religion when I began to research it express it and ultimately live it. When I not only acknowledged the SACRED in all things and sought to live in harmony with the sacred actively, including the practice of magickal work, this moved me from simply having a personal belief system to what you might call practice of a religion. This is not an important distinction to me, however. For me, the important distinction is between Wicca as a spiritual path and Wicca as a pass time which I feel it is for some. Without access to responsible and enlightened clergy many people view Wicca as a thing to do, like dungeons and dragons, rebellious and naughty with cool clothes and tools. Spiritual path? Religion? Personal Belief system? All the same to me in the end. As long as one lives what one believes, actively and sincerely. I'm more concerned with those who talk the talk without walking the walk... sorry."

"Simply, I am a kitchen witch. That is the short version. I am an eclectic pagan with a base in Celtic pre-Christian religion with Native American and Taoist influences. To an outsider, I would explain it as an earth based religion revering all of nature and seeing the concept of god as having male and female aspects which I worship. Day to day, it means that I help others and try to live up to my potential as a human being. This is a really tough question, ya know If I may comment on the unity issue.... I have long believed that the best way to approach this would be in a Unitarian Universalist framework- where all paths are acceptable and appreciated and with minimal common guidelines or beliefs necessary. It would give us a central church where we would be able to learn more about each others paths. And I know I'm not alone in this idea. I only hope it can one day be realized."

"That is a very hard one. My religion and personal system go hand in hand."

"My religion and personal belief system are so closely linked that it is difficult to draw a definite line where one would end and the other begin. I feel religion should be this way, because to truly feel and believe in something your heart body and mind would all need to strongly support the issue. How can you practice a religion that you were not willing to stand up and openly speak about with heart and knowledge if ever needed? I am, and have always been, a solitary, but have shared my beliefs with my family and had no rejections. They knew me well enough not to be surprised. I was always so close to nature but also have shared my views with my in-laws a few years back. They are very much part of an organized religion and after having had a few years to get to know me I just brought it up. They feel very comfortable with it and even tend to a bit of rib tickling jokes around the Samhain season. So I understand the issu, e and can see where the good would come in trying to define the two, but I see more confusion than open awareness. It seems the teens that are trying to find themselves today are dealt with enough labels to identify themselves with without adding two more heavy choices. Blessed Be"

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