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Revisiting The Spiral
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Introduction to Tarot For the Novice
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Seeker Advice From a Coven Leader
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Manipulation of the Concept of Witchcraft
Publicly Other: Witchcraft in the Suburbs
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Thoughts on Conjuring Spirits
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The History of the Sacred Circle
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Thoughts on Cultural and Spiritual Appropriation
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Article ID: 15319
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,212
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Author: The Redneck Pagan
Posted: May 5th. 2013
Times Viewed: 2,147
I’m sure that I am writing on a topic covered by many Pagans, Witches, Heathens, Druids and others whose names I have not yet learned. We’ve all seen it: the pagan (or any other term under the pagan umbrella) who is special, and has no problem telling the world how special he/she is!
Maybe he/she is descended from a victim of the Salem Witch Trials, so being a witch is in their blood, which always cracks me up since if you read history the “Salem Witches” were actually all Puritans. Some were known as very good Christians, such as Rebecca Nurse. Now if you tell this same wonderful descendant about these facts, he/she might then claim that there really were Witches in Salem and that they even had a full-blown coven working at the time. Well, that I cannot verify. I know far more about general history than I do specifics, and my knowledge of Salem is limited to Internet searches and the odd book here and there. However, I do have a good dose of curiosity, common sense and a hunger for knowledge. So I have to say my BS detector does tend to spark up at that one!
Then there is the “my mother and her mother and her mother were all Witches” claim. Again, I am hesitant to believe them. Granted we are now well past 50 years since Gardner, Alexander Saunders, Doreen Valiente and others whose names have escaped me first began publishing on the subject of Witchcraft, so there is a possibility this person is telling the truth. My personal experience has taught me those who are desperate to convince you they come from a long line of Witches tend to be trying to convince themselves. I’m not saying people in their families did not practice Witchcraft; I’m just not sure they would have called it that.
My own Grandmother does things that some might consider Witchcraft. For example, she talks to her plants and prays when she knits. Well, I talk to my plants and, when creating gifts for others, I pray over them to infuse them with positive energy… but I can promise you my Grandmother would not call herself a Witch! There are hundreds of things woven into our culture that have their roots in ancient Pagan practices, but doing some of them, such as throwing salt over your shoulder, do not automatically make you a Witch. I know many people with elders in their families who are very wise, have interesting practices, are great at whipping up an herbal tea that their Grandmother used when they were sick and are the perfect example of the old wise woman we all seem to dream of. But they do not consider themselves Witches.
So perhaps our claimant then descended from one of the nine million lost during the “burning times” when “all our ancient covens and knowledge was ruthlessly stamped out by the Catholic Church”? Okay…. now my blood is boiling! The nine million count is a HUGE overestimation and I am still amazed at how many people quote it and use it as though it was fact! The highest number I have seen put forth by scholars who have examined the records is around 100 000. Now I am not saying this is not an appalling figure and an atrocity we should ignore. It is part of our history and it is something we must strive against happening again.
However, many of those accused and put to death were not witches. Most (if not all) were Christians. There is a whole host of reasons why these people were accused but my research indicates to me there are three main reasons: greed, fear and torture. Either the person had land or valuable property, or the person was accused because people had bad things happening around them and needed to blame somebody/were afraid of the person they accused or they were denounced by another who, under torture, named them.
Now this is obviously a very condensed explanation of a topic about which entire books can be written and I have neither the space here nor the educational credentials to argue any further. I direct your attention to the end of this post for more information resources. I will simply sum up by saying that many of us probably have blood/genetic ties of one form or another to witch hunt victims. That, in it of itself, does not mean you are a witch.
My own family has some entanglements with that time. Up until the early 1500’s, our family was located in Germany. We had some land we farmed, and were actually very devout Catholics. Then this guy called Martin Luther came along 1517 and nailed some Theses on the door of a Catholic Church. These ideas caught on like wildfire and this “Reformation” came about, causing a split between Catholicism and Protestantism. By the 1550’s, Germany was becoming a rather volatile place and my Family, who had remained Catholic, figured it was safer to find a more socially hospitable place. They packed their belongings up and over 25 years much of the family made their way to England. Some of them disappear from the records at this time, many of them women. I attribute this to the fact that all of them were younger women, who were in their childbearing years, at a time when maternal survival rates were not as high as we enjoy today.
The family began to settle in England when some dude called Henry decided he wanted to divorce this Lady called Katherine, and marry a girl named Anne! (Henry VIII would split from the Catholic Church in order to divorce his catholic wife Queen Katherine and marry Anne Boleyn) . Over the next 30-40 years, there was a huge upheaval around the rise of the Anglican Church, then came the time of Bloody Queen Mary, followed by the reign of the Anglican Queen Elizabeth I. Having seen the trouble in Germany, a few of my ancestors felt it would be safer not to stick around, so they tiptoed over to Ireland, where they stayed until my Grandfather came to Canada. This history of my family is fascinating, and I love going through some of the genealogy records my Grandmother collected, but this history does not make me more entitled to be High Priestess than anyone else. All it does is give me some ancestral insights into a time of social upheaval.
I have run across people desperate to prove how special they are by confiding that they are the reincarnation of Cleopatra, Morgan Le Fay, Merlin, etc. (An old web comic called Oh My Gods, created by Shivian Balaris, touched on this once and the main character Stan commented that there was no use fighting over who was Cleopatra in a past life as she “obviously reincarnated as Cher”. The comic is not in webprint anymore but you can still get copies of the books) . These people talk on and on about how powerful they were in a past life. People dare not mess with them and they are seeking to teach others the wonders of their ancient lore. Those people I tend to give a wide berth to and check when they open their bags for their antipsychotic medication.
Now don’t get me wrong; as a Pagan I believe in reincarnation. I am positive I have been incarnated more than once. I have a very strange aversion to chamber pots. I’m not kidding; the blasted things always send me into a rage and make me want to vomit. I think I probably spent a lifetime or ten cleaning them (and now thank the Goddess daily for the invention of indoor plumbing) . I believe I have dealt with many things in past lives, but I don’t think I was anybody big or famous. Chances are I was another “everyday Jane” just living my life, learning what I could along the way. So yes, the “look at how famous I was” people tend to make me roll my eyes.
Many people actually DO want to be considered “special”, “powerful”, “mysterious” and admired. Well, I hate to point this out… but suck it up Princesses; you’re not. But take heart, neither am I.
(To be continued...)
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The Redneck Pagan
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