Thursday, February 16, 2012

God is Magical: Wicca Part 1

Prior to Weiner's trip to Israel, he spends time with modern witches in Washington state. He appears to be somewhat sceptical about Wiccans:

"That default question when investigating a new faith - What do you believe? -was of little help with the Buddhists and Taoists. It gets me absolutely nowhere with witches. They're hard to pin down. 'I dare you to find out what Wiccans believe', my friend Alan Cooperman, a former religion reporter for a major newspaper, told me over a  sushi lunch in Washington D.C. "I dare you. It can't be done,' he said, practically spitting raw fish at me, so adament was he." (p. 239).

This is an interesting statement, since it pre-supposes that non-Wiccans can tell you exactly what they believe in. In my experience, many people (Wiccan or non-Wiccan) do not think about about their religious beliefs on a daily basis and even if they did would have a difficult time articulating their beliefs in a coherent fashion. I know that I refuse to discuss religion with people who are not close friends and I do not discuss it at work. I would NEVER discuss religion with someone whom I knew was a reporter. Why would I want to see myself misquoted in an article?

Weiner also appears to lump anyone of pagan persuasion into the Wiccan category. There are people who are pagan who are not Wiccans, and who do not practice witchcraft. There are also pagans who have clearly articulated belief systems, which they do not hesitate to share. Raven Grimassi, for example, has emphasized the difference between Italian witchcraft and northern European Wicca movement. His book on Italian witchcraft states that the modern Wicca movement was drawn from traditional Italian practices. He provides online classes for people who wish to learn Wicca since the Italian practices are mainly hereditary (he ha swritten two books on Italian witchcraft).

 Weiner decides to meet with Wiccan who is also a practicing witch. He first meets with Jamie, who writes a witch advice blog called Witchful Thinking where she describes herself as "Dear Abby with a pointed hat."  In her youth, Jamie studied and experimented with several religions before deciding on Wicca. Its initial appeal is that God can be woman, and it is possible to be a solitary practitioner; the gods don't need you to worship in a crowd. Jamie also likes what she sees as the ability to change the gods you worship if you don't feel that they are helping you.

During the two years that I lived in Seattle, I became friends with a witch. He had learned his herbal knowledge from his grandmother, and was one of the most genuine, natural pagans that I have met. My witch friend always told me to be careful for asking for help from the gods because they will give you the help that they think that you need, not necessarily what you ask for, and will expect something in return for the help. Asking a god for help was not something to be done lightly. I've met other pagans who've felt that way, and would not agree with Jamie's light-hearted comment "if a god isn't working for you, you can fire him or her." (p.244).

Do you feel that most people can clearly articulate their religious beliefs?

Can you articulate your religious beliefs? If so, when do you do so?

Have you ever "fired" a god?

Please post!


rowan2911 said...

I had no trouble articulating my Wiccan beliefs when my two co-authors and I wrote "Wicca, What's the Real Deal; Breaking Through the Misconceptions".
Check it out and let me know if it helps.
Also, as a substance abuse counselor, I conduct assessments on a weekly basis during which time I ask clients as part of the assessment to tell me their concept of spirituality and describe their faiths etc. A majority of them can not regardless of what religion- mainstream or otherwise- they identify with.
Can't find serious Wiccans who can articulate their beliefs and make their beliefs and practices part of their daily life? I wonder how hard you have been looking.

Angela Kaufman

rowan2911 said...

I had no problem articulating my Wiccan beliefs in a book my co-authors and I wrote entitled "Wicca, What's the Real Deal? Breaking Through the Misconceptions". It is widely available and I would be curious to know after you have read it if it answers your questions.
On a side note, as a social worker I ask clients at time of intake to explain to me how they identify religious and spiritually and to describe what that means to them, many including various denominations of Christians, are unable to. I don't think spiritual inarticulation is a Wiccan or Pagan problem, I think it is a modern human problem. I also wonder if it has been so difficult to find Wiccans who reflect on their beliefs daily and articulate them well, perhaps you have not looked closely enough.