The Politics and Lessons of a Witch War|
Posted: January 4th. 1998
Times Viewed: 13,906
There was honestly a time when I was naive enough to believe that the Wiccan community was perfect. No, really, I did. I thought if you had been initiated and called yourself a Wiccan, the Gods had smiled upon you and you were automatically a nice person. I thought we all lived together in perfect harmony and were the type of people that wanted to buy the world a Coke. Power mongering was unthinkable, egotism was something that was a problem in other religions, and all clergy had an abundant amount of energy ready to guide every seeker exactly where they were suppose to be. I had some kind of weird idea that Wicca was a religious Utopia. I trusted no one that wasn't Wiccan, and everyone who was.
No one person could have lived up to the kind of superhuman expectations I had, and a community as diverse as ours is certainly couldn't. Call me a naive fluffy bunny. I deserve it.
I had no idea when I wandered in off the turnip truck that the politics could get so fierce, so cruel, and so judgmental. I had lived quite happily on the fringes of the New York City Pagan community for years, not really aware of what exactly people were talking about when they said "Witch Wars". I was kept insulated from that, which is fairly easy for a teacher to do in a community as big as New York's. I thought a Witch War was what happened when two covens started binding each other continuously until one gave up. Call me a naive fluffy bunny. I deserve it.
I got a wake up call in Witch Wars when a variety of factors, one of which being my inability to shut up when angry, almost started a Witch War. I was by no means totally to blame, but I certainly didn't help the situation any and actually got quite caught up in the intrigue. That's when I realized politics lead to Witch Wars. Personal disagreements lead to Witch Wars. Not knowing exactly who you can trust and running your mouth anyway leads to Witch Wars. I learned another thing, too. People fighting Witch Wars will rarely, if ever, realize that they are wrong while they are still angry about the Witch War. I would have started a Witch War with anyone who claimed I was responsible for the Witch War I didn't realize I had helped start.
It wasn't until months later I got the clarity that 20/20 hindsight and a dose of self-honesty can bring, and then I felt like a total idiot. While my Capricorn Moon started in on me, I took total responsibility for everything that happened. I berated myself, I beat myself up, I cursed myself for what a fool I was. I hid my head and wouldn't come out. I was eventually able to work through it, and I was able to see the lessons of my Witch War. What it taught me has changed how I view everything with regard to my religion and community.
Witch Wars are insidious things. They are an energy unto themselves, and the more people that get involved in it, the more it feeds on itself. Two people in the community can rarely each tell two other people in the community about a heated, emotional, and volatile disagreement without it becoming a Witch War. There are always people to take sides and get caught up in the drama, and it may be a minor Witch War, but it's still a Witch War. There are always allies who will take one side or the other in a War, always minor disagreements that are smoldering, just waiting for the winds of a Witch War to stoke the warm ashes back intoa fire.
Of the two sides in a Witch War, one side is rarely ever wholly at fault. It takes two to fight a war. In the beginning, maybe one was offensive and one was defensive, but once the verbal attacks start flying, who started it becomes a mute point because both are now equally responsible for continuing the fight. Both sides become caught up in what is going on, and for one to pull back and say "no more!" becomes unthinkable, as it seems like a admittance of failure. Both sides must prove they are right - sometimes, no matter what the cost.
When you places too high a regard on other people's personal opinions of your religious path, or when you are determined to make sure that there is no one anywhere that has a negative thing to say about you, the likelihood that you will be drawn into a Witch War is heightened dramatically. The fact is that we are a diverse community, and not everyone is going to like you, your coven, the fact that you are a solitary, the fact that you insert anything here. If you get into verbal boxing matches via the community grapevine with those who don't like you and those you don't like, be prepared for a Witch War. If you don't like them , why should their opinion of YOUR path bother you so much, anyway?
No one ever wins a Witch War. It's a pointless fight. Everyone sustains hits of damage because no one is perfect, and everyone has probably done something or said something that was inappropriate or wrong or blasphemous or out and out bull. Everyone has people in the community that don't care for them for one reason or another, and if a dividing line is drawn in the sand, there are always enough people willing to support the antagonists on both sides of the battle line.
Know who your real friends are. If you need to vent about something, choose your friend very, very wisely. I say "friend" because the old adage "3 people can keep a secret if 2 are in the ground" is a very wise thing to think about before gathering 5 of your closest Wiccan community friends in your living room and going on an hour long tirade. Someone will always tell someone else, and eventually it will hit someone that is playing both sides of the fence or has decided, in their "neutrality" to take the tale to the other side just to be "fair". You never know - that person that you think is your best friend can be that double- agent. You may have been just venting anger, but the context of what you said will never be what you said by the time it returns to the person you were talking about, and will probably have been added to, amended, and exaggerated when it finally gets there.
Know the difference between "for the good of all" and being really pissed off. From time to time, serious questions may come up in which you are actually legitimately concerned for the safety of your friends because of any number of rare situations. If this concern stems from a situation in which you were angry, take some time to cool down and make sure you are not justifying your allegation as "for the good of all" just because you are really angry, or really hurt.
Don't believe everything you hear. Once rumors start flying back and forth and people begin to get really angry, it will cease to be negotiable. There is a point of no return, and you never know when you have crossed it until it's too late. If at all possible, try to contact the person or people that you are having the disagreement with and mediate it. If you don't feel you can do that, try with all your will and heart to ignore what you hear. There's a good chance it bears no resemblance to what is actually being said about you.
The enemy of your enemy is not your friend. Once a war begins heating up, all those that have opposed the person you are fighting with will crawl out of the woodwork and rally around you. Never make the mistake of thinking it's because they think you are right in your dispute. More often then not, they see a chance to stand against someone that they already have a dislike for. These people probably don't care about you, and they certainly don't have your best interests at heart. They care about aligning with you against a common enemy. Don't get sweet-talked into believing you found a new friend.
Above all, if you find yourself embroiled in a Witch War - STOP. Stop and think about what you are doing, even if you feel you are in the right. Once it goes too far and rumor cannot be separated from fact, relationships can become damaged and broken permanently, and trust is gone forever. Friends are lost, reputations damaged, and everyone in the parts of the community that know better will think all of you fools. The community will forget, but chances are if it's gone far enough, you and your adversaries never will.
Last of all, never be afraid to admit you were wrong. Once you know you are wrong, and once you realize the part you have played in the escalation of the war, take responsibility for yourself. Sometimes, it will be too late for you to undo the damage you've caused, and sometimes the other people in the war will refuse your apology and take it as a victory. Let them.
You are the one who wins. You saw your mistake, you owned up to it, and you tried to make amends. It's the hardest thing anyone do, and shows a real spiritual maturity. If they can't do that, light a candle and pray that someday they will be able to, because they have to deal with the negative energy of a grudge, and will face the situation again and again and again until they learn. You, hopefully, just learned. It's a hard lesson, and one that will stay with you, I promise.
You'll still struggle with it from time to time, especially if you watch the person you warred with doing the same hurtful things to others that you perceive they did to you. You may even slip once in a while and snap off a sarcastic comment or two that you really probably shouldn't have said. Don't justify it - remember the lessons that a Witch War teaches, and learn them well.
Don't forget to learn the lessons behind the lessons. In our small, new, still struggling communities, we are all trying to find our place. We'll probably step all over each other before it's all said and done. Hold fast to your faith and your relationship with the Divine Ones, because it will give you all the shield you need to let things like this roll off your back. Remember that there are real "enemies" that want us off the face of the earth, there is real politics to get involved in. Divided we will fall, but if we stand united no one will be able to shake us. And that, truly, is for the good of all.
Call me a naive fluffy bunny. That's ok. It doesn't bother me anymore.
Photo Credits The photo above of Lhiannon and her husband Jim was taken in Oct. 97 at the CMA gathering, just outside of Austin, Texas by Fritz Jung.
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