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Witchcraft vs. Religion
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
In Defense of Blended Tradition Witches
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Posted: August 20th. 2006
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There’s been some heated debate lately about the validity of certain types of blended Pagan traditions, Christian-Wicca in particular. By blended traditions, I’m referring to people that deliberately mix Pagan beliefs and practices with non-Pagan religions. In an effort to solidify Wiccan beliefs, to keep us from falling into a weak coalition of various beliefs and/or to get rid of the idea that “anything can be Wiccan”, many Wiccans have been making much press about how incompatible Pagan and non-Pagan religions are, how you can’t be one if you’re the other.
Now, just to clear up any misconceptions, I myself am a Wiccan, eclectic only in the fact that I revere certain Egyptian deities as well as the Lord and Lady. I have not mixed my religious beliefs with non-Pagan ones. Though I come from a Catholic childhood, I no longer claim any parts of the Catholic faith as my own, and though I sometimes study other religions in what spare time I have, I have not incorporated their religious practices into my own.
Yet I also find it a bit disturbing that we Pagans are so willing to “kick out” (for lack of a better phrase) those who would be of blended traditions. I guess we’re getting a little defensive as we become more and more mainstream. As we become more recognized as a real group of religions, we want to be able to explain our beliefs concisely, and as with other religions, be able to show how we differ from other religions. I would also find it rather unnerving if someone wrote a book saying something like certain Christian beliefs and practices are really/also Wiccan.
We need these divisions, obviously. We are a group of religions, not philosophies. If we start saying anything is Wiccan, then we would backslide from an established religion into something completely different than what we started with. I realize some Wiccan/Pagan beliefs have changed over the decades, but we’ve always stayed true to the core of our religions.
But when it comes to the idea of mixed religions, several things come to mind for me. Though I cannot remember the article I read this from (it had something to do with mixed pantheons), I remember a statement that goes along this line: “To say that all ancient Pagan religions were clearly divided is to suggest that their believers never bumped into one another.” There is clear evidence that in ancient times, it wasn’t uncommon for an empire to incorporate the gods of a conquered land into their own pantheon – that’s how some pantheons came to be to begin with. Ancient Egypt is a perfect example of this, as many of the worshipped gods were centered in single cities or came from completely different regions. Okay, maybe that’s not the same as mixing established religions, but the idea that we are vessels for different religions and that we never interact with non-Pagan believers is ludicrous. And truthfully, we are all influenced by other religions, however slight that influence may be.
The next thing that comes to mind, and this is my personal biggie, is a story I read many years ago. Back in the eleventh grade or so, I had to read The Life of Pi (1) for English. This is fiction, yes, but the main character is very real. Pi is a young man from India who, during his childhood, commits himself to three religions – Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. You think Christianity and Wicca are incompatible, just try fitting those three together and see what happens! In the twenty-third chapter, the local priest, pandit, and imam approach Pi and his parents, whereupon Pi’s religious endeavors are exposed. The three holy men get into a heated argument much like a fundamentalist clash over one man, and by chapter twenty-five, all three refuse to allow him into their temples or give him a harsh time whenever he shows up, making it so Pi had to sneak in and out in order to worship.
Yes, I realize this is a work of fiction, but it’s a fitting description of what we Pagans sometimes do when someone claims to be of both Pagan and non-Pagan religions. Here we are, Witches vs. Priests/Imams/Rabbis/Pandits etc., arguing semantics and trying to make these people choose one religion over another, and when they can’t choose, we reject them as heretics, blasphemers, fluffy bunnies etc.
Now, you and I who have chosen one path may at first not understand the why behind the religious choices of these Witches. But maybe, by blending different religions, these Witches have found a spiritual comfort that one religion alone couldn’t do. They have found solace in embracing the Goddess as well as Jesus. They find peace with Hindu practices as well as with Norse Gods. They enjoy contemplating and incorporating Taoist practices into their beliefs while still practicing magic. Even Gardner said, “I can see no real reason why one cannot be a good enough though unorthodox Christian and a witch at the same time.” (2) They are a living paradox, and like many natural paradoxes, they have their niche in the Pagan community.
What I am personally displeased with is how quick we are to condemn these Witches. Yes, they are unorthodox, but they are nonetheless Pagan. We need not make them victims of our Witch Wars. We need not hang our own. No good comes out of maligning our brethren.
Trying to give those of mixed religious beliefs a name for their practices is also a stretch. For starters, many would object to you forcing a label onto their beliefs. Secondly, changing their faith’s name won’t change their practices. I’m sure many of you will want to argue semantics with me, but ultimately it’s neither of our businesses, for neither of us will know of the spiritual peace that a blended Witch feels with their mixed practices. On a side note, if you’re going to throw the “Come up with a name for your faith” argument at blended Witches, then how about helping to come up with a name, working with them instead of dominating them.
As I’ve already said, we need the established boundaries of what is and is not a part of the Pagan religions. How are we going to call ourselves a real religion if we can’t even answer what our beliefs are, after all? However, it is folly to put down our brothers and sisters who mix different religions. We should embrace our Christopagans, our Jewitches, our Hindu-Wiccans, our Muslim-Heathens, our Taoist-Druids, our Celtic-Buddhists, and all our blended Pagans. Regardless of semantics, the gods and goddesses will recognize their own, and I’m betting they’re willing to share. And regardless of what we say to the contrary, it will never change the solace that mixing traditions gives to these Witches.
1Martel, Yann. The Life of Pi. Orlando: Harcourt. 2001
2 Gardner, Gerald. Witchcraft Today. New York: Citadel Press. 2004. pg. 121
Copyright: © 2006 Shadow
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