Do You Really Believe This Stuff?
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Article ID: 14877
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 692
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Author: Kalynn Osburn
Posted: May 27th. 2012
Times Viewed: 3,292
Sometimes, when making new friends or going into a new job, you get asked questions. Most of them are simple enough to answer. How old are you? Where are you from? Do you like in town? All very mundane things that help people get to know you and help develop friendships and lines of communication between the people you will now be with on a frequent basis.
For pagans, witches and the like, this line up often includes some variation of the question: What is that star for? It can take many forms. My favorite is “Are you Jewish?” My least preferred is “Are you like, a devil worshipper?” I am thankful to say that this second one has only cropped up once or twice. I’ve found that for my little area of Ohio most people are fairly willing to, if not accept, at least listen and consider what I am saying when I tell them I am a witch. It’s kind of funny to see the surprised double take when a person hears that word used without irony or sarcasm. They often don’t know what to make of it and frankly, wonder if you are serious. Let’s be honest, can you blame them? But after a brief explanation I usually get asked the following:
Do you really believe this stuff?
For some of us, the simplest answer is yes. After all, what else can you say after proudly proclaiming partnership with the polytheistic peoples? But what I often end up saying is; “It’s a bit more complicated than that.” I don’t often have the time it takes to really get down to it and explain everything to someone, so I feel bad leaving them with possible misconceptions about what it means to be pagan /wiccan/heathen/etc.
The truth of the matter is, ask five pagans what it means to be pagan and you will get twenty answers (at least) . I’d assume it’s the same for most religions, but pagans in particular are quite proud of their eclectic and broad individualism. I explain that, while I can describe what I believe, people should by no means take this as a general statement as to what pagans believe as a whole. We have just as many, if not more, sects as Christianity does and so it all needs to be taken on a person-by-person basis. I try to narrow them down to the important questions, the ones I know they really want to ask but, (for risk of offending me) are hesitant to ask.
1) Do you believe there is more than one god?
a. Yes and no. I believe there is a conscious, contentious Source of all things that is translatable into any religious path. It is neither male nor female at its core, and yet can easily be seen either or none at all for their qualifications are within its prime make up. As humans, we are simply unable to understand the enormity of the Source and all its power; it is too far above us. It is however a part of us, as it is a part of all things, and we can connect with it because of this. Through socio-cultural conditioning, psychological and philosophical perceptions, we visualize the Source in images which are translatable to us, things which are familiar. Thus, all religions have some validation in that we create the Gods, which we follow to meet our needs. To me, the names of the Gods are representative of aspects of the Source that reflect our needs, wants, desires and the world around us.
2) Do you practice witchcraft? Like do you cast spells and everything?
a. On occasion yes, I have been known to cast a spell or two. But I view spells the same way I view asking any god for a favor. The gods won’t do for you what you won’t do for yourself. I do rituals and make offerings to increase my connection with the Source, to recognize it better and to open myself up to its presence in all things. I don’t do love spells or money spells; both are the product of greed and desperation. I do practice witchcraft in that I endeavor to learn more about the gifts of the world around me... herbalism and healing arts, necromancy and meditation, that sort of thing. I will occasionally do magic for a friend, if I can, but more often than not, I simply give them the tools and know-how to do it for themselves. My request could never be as strong as their own will be.
3) Offerings? Do you sacrifice cats and stuff?
a. Some branches, like Santeria, Vodou and Hedgecraft do practice animal sacrifice, but cats are not recommended or ever used for this. Mostly it’s livestock animals like chickens or goats. I personally have never made an animal sacrifice either from live or already butchered meat, though I know some who have. With this it is more important to understand what the animal represents to the people who sacrifice it. I don’t raise chickens, so if I went a bought a live chicken and then killed it, it doesn’t mean as much as someone who got the chicken as a chick, fed it, raised it, took care of it, and kept it safe only to give it to the gods as an offering. I garden. My herbs take time, care and concentration to grow and be fertile. So a handful of fresh green onions, the fattest tomatoes and carrots mean more because I have worked to make them good. An offering is not simply throwing something into a fire. You offer something because it is your best and the best goes to the gods. This shows both sincerity and a willingness to give up something in order to achieve something.
4) Do you worship the devil?
a. I do not give recognition to the Christian concept of the devil nor to any other god meant to represent ‘evil’. Obviously as there is light and dark in the world, there is also light and dark inherent in the Source. But the idea of ‘evil’ is more of a human invention to explain an event or to give someone blame when bad things happen. I believe we create most of the evil in our world both on a personal and large scale. If you take an objective look you will realize that we facilitate our own fates either be taking control or by allowing someone else control over us by either taking good advice or by ignoring it out of pride or ignorance. I try to recognize the darkness in the world as simply part of the natural balance. Would the colors of a sunset be so brilliant if not for the contrasting shadows? Would the full moon shine as brightly in the daylight? Would the deep void of space not leave of us wonder of limitless possibility if we could knew just how far the blackness went? No, no the only evils that exist are of human invention, the Source is amoral, and acts out of nature and necessity for everything in the cosmos, not just for the outcome of one planet, much less one species.
5) Do you worship nature?
a. As much as I worship anything else. Much like Shinto beliefs, I think everything has a spirit; this includes the earth itself. Both as individual elements, like trees, rocks, rivers and plants, and as a whole, the earth represents a microcosm example of the order of the universe. Everything is connected to the earth, much like everything is connected to the Source. Though I can’t claim to have seen these spirits, I think they exist and like to be appreciated for their efforts. Once again you are going back to the idea that the Source is inherent within all things, so whatever form you view it as is legitimate.
6) So what does the star mean?
a. I explain that most pagans give a great deal of significance to the five elements and their place in both ancient witchcraft and alchemy. The circle confining the star represents one’s desire to control these elements and to find the harmony of using them in both their mundane and witchy workings. For my part, I personally prefer the aesthetic, introspective and historic nature of the triquetra. It is more simplistic and rooted in a practical mindset. Three was considered a sacred number to the Celts and could take on many interpretations, both in ancient and modern thought. (Earth, Sky, Sea/ Mind, Body, Soul/Maiden, Mother, Crone/Youth, Father, Sage/Male, Female, Androgynous/ Gay, Straight, Bi/)
I am not saying that these are the ‘correct’ answers for anything. They aren’t. They are simply my thought process and often it goes a long way to easing people’s concerns when they first meet me. It is not, by any extent, the end of what I believe in, and I would greatly appreciate comments and conversation as to your own thoughts and beliefs! But hopefully this gives other people a chance to really gather their minds and give good answers when someone comes to you with legitimate curiosity.
Location: Springfild, Ohio
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