What is a Witch War?
Article ID: 2093
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 5,947
Times Read: 53,901
Posted: January 4th. 1998
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Witch Wars... an Overview.
Are they about athames at 20 paces? Mercifully not! Typically they are wars involving ego and deception. In a traditional sense, Witch Wars are about rivalry groups taking up sides based on what "they" deem as THE valid path for the modern Witch. They are just about always fueled by someone's need for Power, Money, Sex or some combination thereof. I call these people 'takers'. Feel free to make up your own "colorful" label for them.
How Do Witch Wars Start? They usually start off small via local gossip and swiftly become what is commonly labelled Bitchcraft or bicca. If the battle moves into the public arena-Stand Back! Like all humans, the modern Witch is a different creature when they are on the phone, behind someone's back or on the Internet via a "screen name". In these forums speech becomes less guarded, more personal and often quite "catty." It also can be brutally honest!
What Fuels Witch Wars? Witches are anything but shy! Most have an opinion on just about everything from athames to Xena. A simple unwillingness to accept another's point of view, "cult like" activities, concerns over proper "credentials" or the latest public antics of the coven down the block may start a Witch War in your neighborhood.
What Sustains Witch Wars? None other than the big three! We offer the following breakdown of the typical "inspirations" for a Witch War based on years of observations of the Wiccan/Pagan community. From information that we have received via phone calls, festival chatter and thousands of pieces email from all over the world, The Witches' Voice has become aware of at least a couple of dozen Witch Wars that are in progress. Based on this data, we offer you the following observations. Most often, it really comes down to someone's desperate need for one, more-or maybe even all!- of the following:
Why Is This A Big Deal NOW?
The Timing Is Correct Make no doubt about it, Witch Wars are driving a wedge into the heart of the community and are causing divisions based on issues of ethics, honor and integrity. Does the "right" to be different also include the "right" to attack and to abuse? Are we to look the other way at unethical behavior within our midst? Do even Pagans -open-minded individualists that we are!- have boundaries that we feel should just not be crossed?
We are so diverse as a community that we have no clear universally accepted definitions to help steer our course. However, History has taught us that out of chaos, comes order. We are in a period of transition. The Internet has fueled this anything goes "new standard," but it is also one of the tools that may help to awaken us to some of our problems-and hopefully clarify many of our future opportunities.
How The Net Has Blown Things Wide Open:
- The Pagan Zine To our knowledge, the Witch community has never had a daily, weekly or monthly national publication. Usually a Pagan publication or 'zine comes out only on the quarters and the cross quarters (8 times a year). This is fine when they present timeless editorials/articles or future events. There's nothing quite like curling up with your cat, your coffee mug and a good Pagan article on a rainy afternoon! The Pagan Zines have their loyal fans and, at upwards to 300 d.p.i., they are still a superior viewing format.
However, this is not the most effective medium when it comes to dealing with current events. Thanks to the Net, we now have almost instant access to the latest "witchy news." Pagan Zines DO reach out to those myriad of Pagans that are NOT online, thank the Goddess, but this number is changing rapidly. And guess where the only place you can typically find a Pagan Zine is? Your local Witch shop! Sure, subscriptions are available, but FIRST you must know about the Zine. and who is carrying it on their bookshelf!
In the last 10 months, TWV has received thousands of pieces of email that asks the simple question... "Is there a Witch shop in my area?" (We have addressed this issue in a big way via our Witch directories.) Witches and Pagans want to meet and talk with others of like mind. They want to exchange ideas and discuss issues. They want to worship together. They want to interact.
- The Net Way The Internet has dramatically changed the way that we can communicate with one another. It has also forced out into the open many of our problems We hope it will also offer a forum for our opportunities.
Less than two years ago, Wren and I had never even heard of the Internet. Today, we can put up articles and news information "on site" and know that the pages at TWV will be viewed some 4-5,000 times on any given day! Everything that we publish is immediately available to anyone with Net access in the World. The Pagan community is on the net in a big way. and this immediate access to information-and to each other-is a very powerful kind of "magick" indeed!
In lectures that Wren and I have given over the last couple of years, we always did a quick poll to see which percentage of the group was "on line". Last year, it was in the 60-70% range and of those that didn't have Internet access, 90% of them DID know someone who was and so they were still aware of the hotter issues. This year the response has been even more dramatic... In a workshop on "Pagan Unity" at C.M.A. in Texas this past October, we asked this same question to the close to 100 Pagans who were in attendance. The response? 95% were ON LINE.!!
Elders and Leaders:
There are Elders/Leaders that undoubtedly DO deserve our respect. They have given us years of community service and they have done this while expecting and taking nothing in return. The pioneers of the modern Craft have given us much to work with and it's critical that this information is not lost. We thank them again, here and now. We are truly in their debt.
However, since the terms "elder" and "leader" are so loosely defined in our community, there are many famous and not so famous figureheads that have used the community for their own agendas of power and control. Numerous individuals and groups in the Craft have preyed on the wide-eyed spiritually innocent. These folks WANT to be famous and they WANT to be leaders. Oh, no one in the community has actually asked them to DO any leading? No Problem! They simply appoint themselves to the position. No need to register to vote with these folks because they never hold an election.
Make no doubt about it, there ARE cults in modern Witchcraft. But the fact that these cults may expect YOU to support them 'no matter what' is just plain incredible!
Self-Appointed or Community Appointed: 'nuff said?
Armchair Quarterback? This is an American phrase that refers to an individual that validates their entire life based on one great moment from deep in the past. If you've ever met one, then you have undoubtedly heard their "glory-story". If you get to talk with them more than once, you get to hear their "glory-story" again with embellishments! (NOTE: This type of 'quarterback" is not a team player. You won't find a single 'we' phrase anywhere in the story.)
Wren and I believe that you are held accountable for your actions, EVERY day in every way. If you succeed in producing something useful, you then receive the proper self-satisfaction and "kudos" from your peers. You have their respect. You are doing the Work. You are still an active and valuable example of true Pagan values.
But if you cross a certain line, then you will pay the same social, legal and ethical consequences just like anyone else- plain and simple. How can we defend a leader or any Pagan who has discarded ethics or morals "just cuz"? If we don't hold them accountable, the media and the courts will anyway. We don't need this sort of extreme intervention by those outside the community. But if we can't handle the situation internally, these venues are where they often end up.
There is a difference between looking out for one another and covering up for someone. Where that difference is can often be unclear. The Catholic Church came under fire not so much for the fact that some priests were using their station to prey on young people as for the revelation that it chose to cover up that behavior. Hypocrisy is unbecoming in a religon where the love of truth is supposed to be celebrated..
A Matter of Convenience:
P.S.T. Many Witches, Wiccans and Pagans have a cute little phrase that they like to banter about called P.S.T. (Pagan Standard Time). Basically this means that they show up to whatever, whenever they please and completely oblivious to the time that they have "committed" to. Personally, I loathe this convenient little phrase.
There are many reasons why someone might be late, many of them good reasons. Everyone is late from time to time. Using PST as your standard excuse however may lead others to believe that you don't really care about their feelings or needs. They say "actions speak louder than words." If YOU are hosting a circle at 8:00 and don't show up until 9:30 , then don't expect others to be happy about it. In many cases, folks coped with this the first couple of times. But if you show an ongoing trend of lateness, it's only human nature that others will start showing up an hour later themselves-if they decide to show up at all. If you don't really mean to carry through with something or show up at a certain time, then don't say that you will! It is considered by some folks to be the same thing as breaking a promise or not honoring a committment. It destroys your credibility and erodes trust. P.S.T. is rude plain and simple! I for one would like to see this phrase banished from the vocabulary of the Witch.
The bottom line....
Whom Do YOU Serve? This can be a very difficult question. If some cause OTHER than writing a personal glory-story IS what drives you, there is a very good chance that you are an entity that many of us call a "Witch" or "Wiccan". There really is an ethical basis beneath all this. Witches and Wiccans care from their hearts and feel it in their spirits. Many agree that it does have to be "correct and for the good of all" or it doesn't work. Most of our local Wiccan/Witch friends actually do this. We call them Givers!
Many Witches believe that learning is a multi-life process (reincarnation). Simply stated, you keep coming back until you "buy a clue". Every move that you make is a lesson. Observe and take notes. There is always a test...
What can we do? What can you do?
How Might We Stop Witch Wars? Witch Wars need to be dealt with head on. Through the use of neutral arbitration or mediators and by adopting a willingness on all sides to open their minds, each participant may actually come to understand the other sides point of view. Witch Wars can't be ignored, this is for sure. They do not just go away-and they are certainly not without casualties. For a list of things you can do, surf to our collection of possible solutions at...
Witch Wars: A Community Working on a Vaccine!
In Conclusion... It always seems to come back to ethics, honor, integrity and, of course, accountability. Treat others as you would like to be treated.
The Witches that we love and respect don't abuse their well earned positions in the community and do know that every day is a new day with new lessons. You will almost never see them involved in a Witch War. Why? Because they have better things to do. Witch Wars are part of our learning and growth process and are bound to be around for a while. If you'd like to see them end, don't fuel them with your time, your emotions or your money. Without your support they will burn themselves out and die a natural death. From those ashes, a better future will arise - one that is wiser, much wiser... So it goes and So must it be!
In Her Service and Yours,
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
January, 4th, 1998
Important Note: This article is presented by the author as a starting point for discussion on the issue. Each author has submitted his/her article independently and may or may not agree with all the viewpoints in the entire series.
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