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GOD AND ME (A Pagan's Personal Reply to the New Atheists)
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Thoughts on Cultural and Spiritual Appropriation
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NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Why We Do Need Wicca
Article ID: 15215
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Sage Runepaw
Posted: January 27th. 2013
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Wicca is one of the more flexible religions I've ever seen. As I've written before, it branches out and grows deeper as we continue its practice. A big part of that practice is ‘self’ and ‘community’ and how these concepts relate to one another, like an infinity loop. It is intimately personal yet binds us together with its practice and our reverence for it.
"Wicca is also a mystery religion--meaning that there are some things that cannot be spoken, can only be experienced, as one becomes aware of, sensitive to, and works with the ebb and flow of nature, energies, and life."**
Do we need Wicca?
I've done a lot of thinking. It is my life's dream to be able to serve the witch and the Wiccan community and I have worked long and hard and will continue to do so. As a practitioner of Egyptian Wicca -- and at a point where I have examined all of the world's religions and seen underlying common threads -- I have come to recognize the idea that all religions have a 'purpose' of sorts.
A few years ago, I picked up a book called "The End of Faith". I highly recommend that any high priest/ess pick this book up and use it to challenge his/her own practice and see what you think of his ideas. Personally, I've come to think the author still hits too hard but I do agree with him on a few points. This article isn’t a book review, so I'm going to move on to my main point now.
Many people say that we don't need Wicca, or any religion for that matter, to live a good life. So why do it? Let me elaborate:
My fiancé is an atheist, or, "a moderately nihilistic existential atheist". The general point we've agreed upon together in our conversations and in circle is that we, as people, don't need to revere the gods or put ourselves subservient to one another. We can acknowledge the gods as existent despite the acknowledgement that once we die we keep on going. All that we need in life is to live ethically and help our fellows to be the best people and to make life a little better for each other. We often joke about how funny it is that an atheist is engaged to clergy! (Especially when family members or friends realize it. That just makes it more of a hoot.)
We often like to use the computer analogy in our discussions, too: each person is hardwired for spirituality and energy runs through us and everything around us. What religion (or software) we choose to use -- as conscious users of our vessels while we're incarnated here for our span of roughly 100 years -- is up to us, but everything reaches back to the Source. This gives us a moral/ethical framework as well. We grow with it just as it grows with us.
Not all religions do this. Some are more rigid. Ours can be as flexible or rigid as people prefer in personal practice. I have been in covens where there has been a set ritual format, and I've been in one where the ritual format could change drastically, depending on who was doing it and what was going on. It was very fluid. We have variety in life and in practices, just as we have choices and free will/higher will.
We don't need ‘religion’ to be good people or to live better lives. We don't need any of the religions in the world. We simply need to honor and be more aware of our fellow people and surroundings, and to live through respect, love, compassion, strength of personal honor and forgiveness, knowing when to call out against injustices and find objective justice and truths, among other things. All of these things are cornerstones of a healthy foundation of ethics by which to live. They don't get much emphasis outside of a religious context today.
I, for one, grew up with very little emphasis on these things. When introduced to them as a youth, I laughed at every one of them and only saw them in the context of religion. I mocked them and didn't develop appreciation for them until I grew substantially enough to embrace and honor them. There are many people out there who shun religion, yet struggle to live well and to find ethics that mean something to them. I often wonder as to whether or not this lack of ethics leads to increased violence and breach of trust in today's society.
Religion makes it easier to appreciate and understand ethical self-growth and ethical behavior. It gives us a context to help us out. Then we can do the rest.
I contemplate that the number of people out there who can live an ethically sound life without religion are likely very few. Thus religion is still needed: it provides a framework for spiritual growth. Its most obvious importance, which often gets overlooked, is the ethical/moral codes often embedded within. For us, these are the Wiccan Rede, Charges of the God/dess and the Thirteen Goals of a Witch.
Why Practice Wicca?
The Gods and Goddesses have bestowed upon us gifts, talents and skills. We experience love in life for Them, for our family and for the friends. Most importantly, the ethical 'harm none' and the sacred charges we live by serve as our spiritual framework. And when you strip Wicca of its tools, what do you have? The reverence. The devotion and love. The world around you. Society and its many mixed blessings. Your role in things, because you are alive, and able to contribute however you choose. Your very self, your intent therein- and the ethical guidelines by which you grew as part of your foundation.
We as a species have a natural desire to protect that which is precious to us. This is also echoed in nature. We know what is important to us and step forward with it. The ferocity of a lion protecting her cub is unmatched: the cub is her perpetuation of the species, something to treasure, her way of giving to the world in exchanging for the lives she takes in order to survive. There is balance. Her religion is that of survival.
We as a human species rely on each other to survive. We just happen to have an ability to interact with the world to a greater extent, and religion is something that only we have come up with in our desire to know, learn and grow. We are still human animals but conscience is a unique thing to our species (though other species have degrees of empathy and will help each other in unique circumstances) . All life is intelligent, even on a subatomic level. Religion helps us feed our spiritual selves. Without feeding our spiritual selves, we wither and living becomes more difficult, or even unfulfilling to one extent or another. Life seeks to know itself. Science helps us explain the how. Spirituality helps us understand whys, in various ways. It's been said over and over, but how each of us interprets that will be different.
Richard Reidy of "Eternal Egypt" says on page 155: "Much like a Chinese take-away meal, some will pick and choose what suits their fancy or a makeshift spirituality- a little of this, a bit of that. But experience shows that spiritual patchworks eventually fail to sustain a compelling interest- and a lasting dedication in the hearts and minds of spiritual seekers."
This statement captured my attention as I once did claim a patchwork spirituality for myself before Wicca found me/I found it/whatever you want to call that magickal moment of "finding home". And true to its patchwork nature, it fell apart. There was no room for growth as it was indeed a bit of this and a bit of that, lacking an ethical/moral code and simply stating what I believed at the time. It was like making a quilt with no stitching, no prior planning, and no pattern.
That quote above also reflects on how Wicca branched out after the Gardnerian/Alexandrian beginnings. We experienced a beautiful bouquet of "themes and flavors"- Thelemic, Dianic Wicca, British Traditional Wicca, to dragon Wicca, 'nocturnal Wicca' and more. We even saw a hotbed of activity as Christian Wicca started synthesizing and harmonizing two seemingly oppositional (at face value) religions. However, unlike the Chinese buffet where we took what we wanted with the idea of simply feeding ourselves, Wicca had an underlying agreement: to live well, to help one another, and to connect with each other. The message is relayed through different religions, and yet due to the strict dogma, I perceive that they failed often at the harmony-with-one's-fellows part.
Now there is a new branch of Wicca which has gradually formed out there for those who work with the Egyptian deities, but don't have much more to guide them than their Wiccan practice: Tameran Wicca (coined by Ellen Cannon Reed, meaning "Ta Mery", or Beloved Land, a name the ancient Egyptians used for themselves, also, "Land of two riverbanks") . And I count myself among them.
The Egyptian peoples all had varying personal practices and different practices per nome (or town/district/what-not) , but they were all in harmony with one another. Their religion had various flavors -- and while they politely but firmly expressed disinterest with most other deities introduced to them during periods of conquest -- it was very similar to Wicca in these aspects: variety and harmony. This is vastly different from other religions, where ideas and differences divided.
The purpose of the religion as practiced by the ancient Egyptians was to become a being of light, exalted upon death and becoming an actual deity should one pass through the Hall of Judgment. In their rites, they had an advanced understanding of the divine, echoing many of the Hermetic Principles we know today.
Exalted divinity, to become a fellow deity with the Sacred Ones, the Neteru, the Egyptian deities, on the Divine Barque "Millions of Years" crossing the celestial realm, to live a good life with each other in an otherwise hostile environment, banding together and living with zest, for each day was a new beginning, a new first time, a new Zep Tepi… All of this was their purpose. I am sharing this with you as my journey along the Egyptian path is as teacher, guide and fellow student; a Tameran Wiccan recognizing that there is almost no decent material available for us.
However, once I discovered the ancient Egyptians' understanding of ‘purpose’, I began thinking further about Wicca's purpose, particularly when I 'came back to it' with newfound appreciation. Everything once taken for granted made perfect sense again. New times, new practice. Same love, same devotion. Since Tameran Wicca is not the scope of this article, here's the 'take-out' message:
What is Wicca's purpose?
"The Craft is an exercise of personal empowerment. And what plagues us, our society, and our planet is the absence of true personal power."***
It is my thought and opinion that Wicca's ultimate purpose is that of transformation. Helping each other and living well with the earth- and having the gift (as well as privilege/skill) of knowing how to work magick and be an energetic conduit for such- is what we do. It builds these aforementioned cornerstones of respect, love, and good ethics. Yes, there will always be a couple bad apples making the rest look bad, but that's a given, isn't it? In the meantime, we must continue onward, outward and inward.
We don't need any religion to live a good life and support our fellow people, as I said at the beginning of this article. However, it's always a good idea to explore, choose what works for us. If you're reading this, you might have settled in with witchcraft or Wicca, as I have. You've chosen it or it's chosen you. Either way, you're here, reading this.
Choosing religion and being Wiccan gives us a more in-depth appreciation for it. Our purpose could be said to be that of transformation. Rather than walk a narrow path, we walk all over. We come back with a myriad of colors to weave into our personal tapestry. We use our ethical stance to shape who we are and who we wish to become. Many of us, myself included, have become better people due to Wicca.
Part of any religion is to help shape an individual, but perspective lenses wind up getting 'stuck' now and then- i.e., people sometimes go from "I am a good person and I follow this religious path and agree with its ethical/moral guideline" to "I am a good person because I am of ___ religion". There is a marked difference. I consider a major measure of a religion not to be ‘what's most fulfilling to the practitioner/individual’ but rather how well do practitioners choose to grow with what they've taken in for themselves and how they then reach back outward to reciprocate.
We walk the path of transformation together. We transform ourselves, and by knowing each other and interacting with others. They are never the same as they were beforehand.
"One of the main premises of this religion is that you must think for yourself. No one has the authority to tell you that you are worshipping the 'wrong.' Way. Your conscience is always your guide; it is a gift we each have and we are impelled in Wicca to call upon it constantly. There is no doctrine or literary work that is our Bible. We are all different and we revel in and respect our differences with ferocity! Every Wiccan is almost always totally different than the next. We have no leader and we never will." ~Thysta**
"I guess basically the point is: Wicca, to me, is a religion of love and healing, and I try to live that daily."** Anon.
We do need Wicca, as it is a valid, very beautiful religion that promotes personal self-growth and a wonderful ethical/moral guide. It works for each being that comes to it seeking such. It transforms us for the better; it calls to those meant to walk the path. And as it is for all the above reasons, it is definitely something desirable, helpful, useful, and wonderful.
After high priest/esshood, it continues onward. We continually dedicate ourselves and initiate ourselves through every moment: devoted to our God/dess/es, becoming reborn with every breath we take into ourselves, and we transform according to our highest will and our desires. We begin and end, continue and evolve continually, enriching our practice and reciprocating as an open conduit to Deity, especially where it is one-on-one later on in our practices. It is good to sporadically challenge ourselves as well, and think not on just the things we have already learned and what interests us, but upon more abstract topics, such as where we have been, where we might be going, our role in things, our purpose, how to reach out to others, and more.
To those of you who are also high priest/esses of the Craft: I hope that I've given you something interesting and always appreciate hearing your thoughts. I have certainly tooted the horn of "Wicca is awesome because" a couple times, and I hope that I do not do so too often! (I don't proselytize, but I'm all for spouting my enjoyment of Wicca. And by 'enjoyment' I mean, "really appreciate positively various points". If we didn't 'enjoy' our work to one extent or another, I'd say we're being -too- serious. Part of our craft is to enjoy life!)
To those of you just beginning your Wiccan journey: every moment is a gift. Never be afraid to challenge yourself once in a while. It's good for you. There will be times that will challenge you; accept the challenge by the horns and if you need to, hang on tight. Keep your eyes, heart and mind open and study not just this religion, but others as well.
**= - http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Pagan-and-Earth-Based/2000/11/Why-Wicca.aspx
Richard Reidy, Eternal Egypt
Location: Nashua, New Hampshire
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