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9/11 One Witch Won’t Forget!

September 11, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m not really that excited about America. That is, I’m not particularly patriotic. I think most demonstrations of patriotism are closer to fascism. I’m the kind of person who quit saying the pledge of allegiance everyday because it has “Under God” in it…you know who else did stuff like that? The Romans. And Nazi Germany. But there’s something about 9/11 that makes me feel grateful and happy to be in America and to be an American.

My experience of September 11, 2001 was quite different from many peoples. I was 18, and had graduated high school in June. For the previous three years, I’d been saving money for a trip to the United Kingdom, and through a very odd series of coincidences, I was saved from a mess of trouble. My trip was to be 15 days, and I was scheduled to fly from Seattle to New York, and then on to London. A week or two before the trip, I had the travel agent (we had those back then) change it to a direct flight from Seattle to London. When I arrived at the airport with my parents in tow, the plane was grounded due to mechanical failures, and my travel agent pushed the entire venture back one day.

As a result, I was not on an airplane on Sept 11th flying to New York. I was still in Ireland, with a ticket home while everyone else was freaking out. Absolutely, the Gods were looking out for me then.

Because I was on vacation, the company I was touring with didn’t want to ruin our experience by telling us of the horrors at home. I had been in a bus most of the day, stopping and shopping at little towns. I should explain that, over there, by simply opening your mouth and speaking, people know exactly where you are from. So every time I asked a shop keeper where the restroom was, or the time, or where the bus would come from, they would apologize and treat me extremely politely, but with a grave solemnity. It was only at the third or fourth person that I stopped to ask what was going on. They showed me to the TV, and I could see these buildings and it looked like they were on fire. Everyone was speculating–an accident? an explosion? No one thought terrorism. I watched the second plane hit the towers. People in the shop gasped. Someone from my tour group was crying. All the Aussies and Kiwi’s kept asking me how I was going to get home. That was my thought too.

As a result, I barely knew what happened. By the time I returned home, everyone was burned out and grief-stricken from talking about the details. It was all about what to do. There was a cry against terrorism, and I watched my country unite against hatred and desperate to do something and not knowing what they could do.

Over the next couple of years, it was only with the specials on TV coming out that gave me the details. I think because it was so abstract for me when it actually happened, that I didn’t really deal with the emotions of it. It’s been almost a decade, and I still can’t stand to see the footage of the towers falling. 9/11 is more real for me than Veterans day or even Independence day. The emotion is really present for me. I feel for those families that lost someone, I grieve for the people who felt like this was their only option. My heart aches for soldiers and their families who are fighting to keep us safe–my heart even goes out to those families whose soldiers are fighting for our stupid excuses. I hate war, but Athena has taught me that it is sometimes necessary, if done with thought and care. This was wasn’t, or we’d be done by now and Osama Bin Laden would be charged for crimes against humanity.

9/11 is still real for many people, but there is a difference between being angry and scared at being attacked and in taking it out on people. Muslims did not do 9/11 to us FUNDAMENTALIST CRAZY PEOPLE did! That is something I’ll never forget. Muslims died in 9/11 because our country honors the fundamental right that people have a right to their religion. America welcomed them with open arms as immigrants and the children of immigrants. Just like they did with my ancestors coming from Germany, Ireland and England. The only difference is about 150 years, but we are all still here together as Americans, and every one of us was attacked that day.

So when I hear about FUNDAMENTALIST CRAZY PEOPLE burning Qur’ans, it, no offense, gets my panties in a wad. I’m pissed about it! How absolutely un-American (but I’ll support your right to do it, so how American is that??). When I hear about FUNDAMENTALIST CRAZY PEOPLE booing and hissing at a fellow who wants to build a Muslim community center near Ground Zero, I’m embarrassed at the reaction of my people. Clearly they didn’t learn what I learned from 9/11. What happened to that Unity? What happened to people being open and accepting and tolerant of other religions? Why does our unification have to be at the expense of someone else? Why does the spread of Democracy have to be so…undemocratic. WTF?

Have you read the Qur’an? Did you know it has many of the same books as the Bible? It has a lot of beautiful poetry. I keep a translated copy next to my Book of Mormon, the Tao Te Ching, and a book about Hinduism. Because being American is about letting every voice have a say, and every person have an equal opportunity for happiness, and it is up to me to learn what these voices are saying and where they are coming from. I protect their right to speak because I know if we can silence one group, we can silence another. Pagans are all about polytheistic plurality. We see diversity as a good thing because diversity in nature makes a healthy ecosystem for everybody. My magic is to stand up and speak. Yes. It is that important.

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Read Periodically

September 2, 2010 Leave a comment

A great way to get to know the Pagan and Wiccan culture is to subscribe to magazines and periodicals that cater to those of us who fancy the magical. They can help you learn the “who’s who” of the Wiccan world, and you’ll pick up customs and etiquette (not to mention find out where to get some sweet stuff!).

In the Witchful Thinking Store, I’ve added a section for magazines and periodicals such as calendars. There are some great ‘zines for organic gardening, green living, homesteading and, of course, tattooing. But there were some great magazines out there that (for some inexplicable reason) I can’t seem to get into my store. But I’m excited about them and want you to know about them anyway!

One of my favorites is Witches and Pagans, the magazine for, well, just what it says. It used to be PanGaia, the magazine for thinking Pagans, but they merged it with one focused on natural magic. The result is a great publication with articles on spellcraft, astrology, Wiccan lore, ethics, theology and the occasional archaeology report. Plus issues focused on magic, music and much much more.

SageWoman is focused on celebrating the journey of women and finding your inner goddess. It is full of rituals and wonderful writing. Some of your favorite female authors have probably written for this publication.

These are all published by the same company, BBI Media, which means you can totally subscribe to them all and save some cash. Some even come electronically so you can save paper (or if you just prefer to archive your magazines on your hard drive). They also have a magazine dedicated to older women and mothers called Crone. So there is really something for everyone. I was able to get that one in the store, so check it out there!

If you know of any magazines or periodicals that Witchful Thinking readers might be interested in, send them to me! I’ll add them to the store or at least share.

Magical and Romantic Partners

April 30, 2010 2 comments

As you know, our boundaries about relationships is different from other peoples. In honor of Beltain I wanted to talk about a specific one.

Very likely, if you are just beginning your magical practice, this won’t be a problem for you, but as your practice grows and your magical identity deepens, you may want to consider choosing a magical partner.

A magical partner is a person with whom you do magical work with. This work could be spellcraft (like a two person coven), service to the community (such as leading a group), doing a Great Work, or a mature teacher/student relationship. A magical partner is someone you work closely with as you grow in the Craft. In Wiccan communities, your partner is typically the opposite gender. It is an unusual relationship when looked at from outside the community.

A magical partnership is not inherently a romantic or sexual relationship, although it can take on the characteristics. A magical partnership is based upon the work you do together, but the nature of the work can be very intimate and emotional, with or without sexual activity. The relationship is very much like professional dance partners.

Some things to consider when choosing a magical partner:

  • Magical practice: choose someone who has the same style that you do, or who magically thinks like you do, or is of the same tradition. Your styles need to mesh and come to some agreement about how you will go about your practice.
  • Your romantic partner: what would your spouse or significant other think about this magical relationship? What are the boundaries? At what point does it become emotional cheating? Think about what energy and parts of yourself you would be keeping away from your partner. Come up with some rules to avoid jealousy–remember that in a serious relationship, your partner comes first. Obviously if your magical partner is your romantic partner, then this is not a problem.
  • Focus and intent: what will be the nature of your work? Will you be working on a project? Leading and teaching the community? Worshiping a particular deity? Working on a particularly difficult psychological problem? Exploring other realms together? You and your partner should be on the same page.
  • On the Outside: how does this relationship look to outsiders? Not that it matters, on one hand, but you had best be prepared for rumors if you aren’t willing to explain yourself. If you are leading a Beltain ritual and one of you invokes the Goddess and the other invokes the God and you spend half the ritual flirting and making out with each other, people are going to wonder if there is anything between you and what your significant other thinks about it. You may tell yourself that it is just ritual and, like actors on stage, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but for the observers, the energy is there and it looks very real.
  • In the Pagan community: while those not in the know about your relationship may be whispering to each other, those in the know in the community may treat you like a couple. For example, they may invite you and your magical partner to a ritual or gathering, and neglect to extend the invitation to your significant other.
  • A magical partnership is very serious: the Karma and energy accumulated in a magical partnership is amplified, just like in Circle. Personality differences, psychological scars and spiritual crisis are more likely to come to the surface quickly in this kind of relationship. Luckily, you have this partner to work through it with! You will experience a deep sense of loyalty, almost like family, that comes from being emotionally intimate with someone else. This relationship is a chance to experiment, and the work you do here is likely to influence how you are in other relationships. In order to experience the best of the other, you will have to give them your best. It is a serious commitment.
  • This relationship has cycles: it begins with a lot of energy, experiences growing pains and conflict, and may eventually end or change form, just like any other relationship. It may not go in the direction you expect, but you will certainly grow and learn from it. Be prepared to commit to it as long as it is productive, and be ready to release it when it is time to move on.

Having a magical partner is a beautiful and intimate way to experience Divinity and do the work of the Gods. But it is a very mature relationship, both personally and magically, and must be thought through just like any other magical endeavor. Rather than searching one out, I think you’ll find that you’ll fall into one naturally as you grow in the community and in your Craft. You will end up working with people on rituals and may find a powerful energetic chemistry between you. You will likely end up partnering with someone you already know–partnering with a stranger is unwise when you consider the possible ramifications.

What is a Witch?

March 13, 2010 3 comments

I am often asked if I identify myself as a Witch, and I always say that I do. I’ve always wanted to have a shirt that said “This is what a Witch looks like” and I have a great idea for a children’s story on that very subject. Recently, a colleague of mine started to deconstruct the identity with me, which left me confounded and puzzled by my self-chosen label of Witch.

A Witch, he said, is a label given to somebody else–a way of identifying those on the fringe of the community. Witches are magic users who defy the church’s (read: Medieval Catholic) definition of reality, in favor of a more natural view of the world which may or may not include the Old Gods. Witches are said to be adept in herbal magic, but can harm as easily as they can heal, and be midwives, usurping the role of the church/science sanctioned doctors.

The church had created a doctrinal paradigm, and taught its followers to see the world in a certain way. It utilized the creation story from Genesis, and incorporated a whole host of angels and saints from local understanding of them, but Christianized it all. You had Christian monks going into local areas and building churches on pagan worship sites and Christianizing the Gods there. A quick way of discovering a pagan site is to look for churches to St. Michael, the archangel said to have brought Christianity to the pagans (I saw that on Rick Steves, so it must be true!). Christianity of medieval times was hierarchical, with everything existing on a vertical continuum with God at the top, and Satan on the bottom. Everything good was near the top, and bad near the bottom. The Earth was seen as a sinful place, where people’s basest instincts went wild, so any uncultivated place was seen as dangerous.

Witches had a place in that continuum as someplace between normal Christian society and those wild fringes, but were closer to the Devil than church officials would have liked. Anyone who spent time in those woods, moors or swamps were venturing into the uncontrolled and the unknown–a place without God. So Witches were understood, and had a place, within that paradigm. They were people worthy of saving if they weren’t too dangerous for the community. Anyone deemed too dangerous had to, for the sake of their soul, be sent to God for judgment and removed from a goodly ordered society.

So who the hell would want to identify with those people?

Old-school feminists see the European Witch Craze as being a Woman’s Holocaust. They aren’t wrong, but they aren’t all correct either. The death toll, record-keeping, and political climate varied drastically by region: where some areas killed exclusively women, others had more of a balance, and still other countries targeted more men–or at least, that is what their records show. It is hard to say how many Jim Crow-style vendettas were carried out during that time under the protection (even sanction) of the church.

At any rate, lots and lots of women were definitely killed, and some feminists attached to the word Witch to reclaim it. They re-imagined the medieval Witch under a modern paradigm. A Witch was powerful, self-supportive, a powerful judge of people and a compassionate healer–an early psychologist. People came to her for magic spells to control their own lives when the church offered no answer or solution to their desires. Witches knew the wild ways of the woods and the meaning of each plant in the garden. She held old customs for the village like a matriarch of the family, just out of reach of the church.

Did medieval women accused of being Witches feel this kind of feminist power? Very unlikely. People were generally poorly (if at all) educated beyond the church back then, and it is hard to tell where a woman might have gotten this knowledge of these big ideas.

Still, it is that feminist re-imagining that I identify with. The trappings of the medieval witch are absurd and funny to me, and by calling myself a Witch, I point that out to them. In my own community, we ironically both embrace the medieval identity and push it away. How many times have we said “we don’t ride on brooms”? Yet I keep at least two besom in the house, and have ridden the broom in ritual and in meditation. I have a pointy hat because it is fabulous, and striped socks to match the ribbons on it. I even have a black cat, but that was an accident.

If you came to my house, you would know I was a Witch because I announce it in my decoration, in the magic that protects my property, and in the cutesy Halloween signs I enjoy year-round. What must the neighbors think!

For me, being a Witch can be separate from being Wiccan. Witchcraft is the stuff I do in my practical life to align it with my magical intent. Wicca is the ritual and relationship with Spirit that I work with to make that happen. A Witch might never do a ritual of worship, or never contact the Gods for anything, but for a Wiccan it is almost essential.

My identity as a Witch is political. My identity as a Wiccan is spiritual. A Witch’s job is to challenge the status quo, whether it is the church, societal mores, patriarchy, or the government. As a woman, I challenge men who are afraid of strong women. I challenge women to make their own boundaries and not be stopped by limitations. I work on my Witchcraft to build my self-esteem, my own power as a human being. My worldview comes, not from a church dogma, but from the world around me, as I see it. I am empowered to see the world directly, not through another’s filter.

I think men can be Witches as much as men can be feminists. Feminism is really about equality of choice and opportunity for all genders. But Witches do it through magic and personal power. I think that is something a man can get behind and find empowering.

I don’t really know why Gerald Gardner chose to call what he and his friends were doing “Witchcraft” and later “Wicca”. Perhaps he too enjoyed the trappings of the medieval Witch but wanted to see it evolve. He could have easily made up another word to describe what he was doing. I suspect that he wanted to hearken back to that time and show how old what he was doing might have been. And indeed, Wicca as he conceived of it looked much more like a Witches Sabbat out of The Hammer Against Witches. Perhaps it is we who have changed the definition of the word as we continue to weave Witchcraft into our modern lives.

What does Witch mean to you?

Needed: Good Volunteers

February 27, 2010 Leave a comment

I’m currently at the Wiccan church in which I am a 1st degree. The Archpriest¬† needs help with office work, and working on the dining hall, a large-scale construction our church attendees have needed for years. So with a happy heart and a cooler full of food, my sweetheart and I made the two-hour journey to church with no promise of ritual, simply for the sake of helping out (so that’s why the post has no pictures or links–spotty internet will do that! I’ll likely fix it when I get home).

I was thinking about a recent post I made about our clergy needing money, and I think I failed to mention that they also need help. Just regular help around the office, in the kitchen, answering mail, mowing the lawn. What our Pagan groups are in desperate need of is good volunteers.

Their are many advantages to volunteering:

  • Promote an organization or community you love. The great part is that the organization of community will love you back. There is nothing so satisfying as looking around some place you care about and be able to say “I did that. I made this place better.”
  • Volunteering is a tangible gift you can give that doesn’t involve money. So if you are feeling broke, you can give in a different way.
  • Volunteering allows you to not only do what you excel at, but to try your hand at things you would like to improve. For example, I excel at organizing information and answering questions, but suck at yardwork. I think I suck because I haven’t done much of it living in apartments and rentals the last few years. Yet I can volunteer to do yardwork, and know that someone is going to appreciate my effort, and won’t yell at me for taking all day.
  • It can be a fun, social activity. You want to be on the ‘in-crowd’? Spend time making friends at work parties and doing simple chores.
  • Volunteering is really really appreciated. Sure, it’s not out there for everyone to see, but someone will sincerely be grateful for your work. If nothing else, you’ve crossed something off their to-do list, or completed something they didn’t even know needed done. It is a humble gift. If nothing else, the Gods will see your good work.
  • Studies show that it feels good to volunteer, and can bring a sense of community, happiness, and calmness. Studies even show that it feels good to see someone else volunteer. So just being around do-gooders can up our feel-good hormones. Really, volunteering is in your own best interest. Remember the rule of Three applies here too!

The best way to volunteer is to call up the folks in charge and recommend your skills to them. Call ahead, unless the rules are “just show up”. If you have an idea for a project, propose it. Consider if there are any materials or information that you need. Folks who are caretakers will have the big picture in mind, so if they can’t use your services, or don’t readily agree to your project, it is likely there is some barrier that you don’t know about, so please don’t take it personally. Ask them what they need doing, and consider if can do the job. If you do certain work professionally, suggest yourself to the Powers that Be at your local organization. Who knows, you might have a skill that the group desperately needs. I know on our church building, we desperately need plumbers, electritions, framers, clean-up and landscape crew. Most groups could certainly use the skills of a good web designer. What do you have to offer?

What is Wicca II: Praxis in the Body

February 11, 2010 6 comments

I realize I wrote on this topic already, about how all Wiccans are Pagans but not all Pagans are Wiccans. This whole “What is Wicca” question has been really gnawing at me lately. I occasionally get letters from people who find me on Witchvox or through Witchful Thinking and want to know about Wicca. I’m working with a gentleman right now who is writing a book about how we come to our spirituality, and is devoting a whole chapter to Wicca. I realized that, as I’d been practicing for awhile now, I couldn’t adequately explain which part of my activities were Wiccan and which were simply Pagan. A lot of practitioners who are Wiccan use the words interchangeably, while Pagans of other denominations get offended if you call their activities Wiccan.

I just finished the book Coming to the Edge of the Circle: A Wiccan Initiation Ritual by Nikki Bado-Fralick. She’s a professor of Religious Studies, and examines her own initiation into a decidedly Wiccan coven as a scholar and a practitioner. The first part of her book is an academic criticism about the way that religious scholars examine religion. She argues that the kind of objectivity they have doesn’t really allow them to understand the people they are studying, and is ethnocentric to say the least. It’s an interesting topic if you are in the field of religion, or want to know what’s going on there, but the real meat was in the later chapters.

In one section she says:

The immediate (but controlled) exposure to the sensual, tactile dimension of Wiccan religious experiences begins to counteract the idea that religion is only–or even primarily–about belief systems, sets of abstract concepts, or texts. It marks the beginning of a kind of paradigm shift, moving the student into a frame within which practice (i.e., practice that centrally includes the physical body as the doer of the learning) emerges as equally important to belief or intellectual knowledge. In this respect, learning how to drive a car has one immediate and useful advantage over learning how to be a Witch. Driving a car is easily identified as a practice that engages both body and mind. Generally speaking, you don’t believe in cars, you drive them. Thus is counterintuitive to an understanding of religions in which belief is primary and practices are secondary, if noticed at all….The idea that religion might be rooted in somatic experiences, that it might be about practices, about things done with the body as well as the mind, is often a difficult and apparently troubleing concept for my students. For most of them, religion clearly functions as an identifying label rather than as a doing. (78-79)

So what Bado-Fralick is saying is that Wicca isn’t a label or an idea, but a collection of practices and things you do with the body. If that’s the case, then I should amend my previous statement in this post a few months ago. Perhaps Wicca is not believing in a Goddess and God, but in doing ritual for a Goddess and God. They say that Wiccans don’t believe in the Gods because they’ve experienced them (It’s like saying you don’t believe in cars, or you don’t believe in table.). It’s not believing in the Wiccan Rede, but in acting on it.

This is a huge paradigm shift. Most of our culture is based on monotheistic and reductionist ideas (looking for the one best, making the most money, go to a general practitioner etc). Your school system, for example, has decided that the one best way for students to learn is audio/visual. The idea is that if you hear and see something, you’ll remember it. So perhaps the teacher will show you on the board how to do a math problem, and talk about how to do it, and then the student is supposed to remember from there on out. Yet studies show that about 75% of us are kinesthetic learners. That is, we learn through the body. As a tentative and ill-supported connection, I think that the reason the school/authority chose audio/visual styles as their basis of teaching is because the education system comes out of Christian theology, which has historically been uncomfortable with the human body.

Descartes said "I think, therefore I am" because he couldn't trust his sensual experiences in his own body, couldn't tell if he was asleep or awake, and we've been split from our bodies ever since.

I think the reason Paganism and Wicca in particular are among the fastest growing world religions is because they are comfortable with the body, indeed revel in it. The body learns by doing, just ask a dancer or an athlete to tell you about muscle memory. Like our ancestors before the mind/body split of Descartes, instead of asking “what should we believe?” we ask “what should we do?”. Spellwork and ritual are an answer to that question that don’t necessarily require an answer to the first question. That’s why we can get together to do ritual, but we don’t have to understand the Gods in the same way. And if you find you don’t believe as the ritualists do, you simply don’t do the ritual. Just like how I don’t believe in the philosophies of the Pledge of Allegiance, so I don’t stand or put my hand over my heart–that is, I don’t participate in the ritual.

In my own tradition, there are ritual acts done with the body that didn’t make sense to me when I read them, yet when I saw them performed and participated, they became full of meaning. Suddenly there was context, inflection and energy behind the actions. But I couldn’t explain to you what those actions actually mean–it takes so much verbiage that it sort of ruins the affect. Better to just perform the action in the right context and have another gather their own meaning and belief from it. That’s part of the Mystery.

If praxis is the difference between Wicca and other religions, then what’s the difference between Wicca and Paganism? Is that where differing beliefs lie? Pagans do believe certain things, but their practices vary wildly to reflect the different nuances of ideas. As a point of unification, if we can understand the practices we share, maybe we can find some more ways to get along, rather than argue about what is some label and what isn’t.

What do you think?

What it Means to be a Church

February 8, 2010 Leave a comment

I realize the word “chuch” in a Pagan context gives folks an almost knee-jerk nauseated reaction. The vast majority of Pagan and Wiccan practitioners are converts from monotheistic religions, mainly Christian denominations (I think I’ll leave the discussion of conversion for another day). When we trade in the previous religion for the Old Religion, we naturally expect to leave certain ideas behind, and are eager to embrace and try out the ideas that are new to us. Some people have experienced a kind of spiritual abuse from their former institution, and will require some healing as they make their spiritual escape.

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater! It is one thing to reject an idea because it doesn’t work for you, and another to shut down and never give the idea a chance.¬† The first time I heard of the ATC, a Wiccan church, I too had a knee-jerk reaction. As a newbie know-it-all, I’d never read about Wicca having churches, and wasn’t about to investigate a horrible institution like the ones my friends and I “escaped” from. I met a priest there, who I hit it off with, and we’ve had a wonderful friendship that began almost ten years ago. He told me about his experiences with the church, and what the church was about. I invited myself along to the next ritual, and the rest is history. I’m really glad I gave the idea of a church a chance.

The Parthenon was a Pagan church. Should we tear it down because Pagans don't go to church?

Typically, Wiccans practice in small covens, as solitary practitioners, or at public festivals and rituals. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. For many finding a coven is difficult, and finding one that you want to learn from and dedicate yourself to is even harder. As a solitary practitioner, you have the mobility to learn and practice whatever you please, yet you don’t get the opportunity to bounce ideas around and ones practice can get stale. Public festivals are big and fun, but they are also rather expensive, and the price of admission doesn’t guarantee the quality of the ritual experience, or that you’ll agree with the ideas presented, or that you can learn with 1,000 other people present. Networking is obviously a big concern for Pagans as demonstrated by the large amount of networking sites for different areas. I know whenever I go to a new place, I want to know what groups are there and what activities are going on!

A Wiccan or Pagan church is a place to do that networking. It provides a different kind of group experience. Psychologists generally define two types of group cohesion: intimacy and integrity.

Intimacy is more like what you would experience in a coven setting–the group bonds emotionally, and creates group-mind through a common feeling of belonging and friendship. Decisions are made democratically or, most often, through consensus. Groups that follow Dianic Wiccan and Fairy paths tend to prefer this kind of arrangement. It seems to me a very feminine form of leadership and group cohesion.

Integrity is what you are likely to experience if you come to the ATC–the group bonds over a common purpose. Who “belongs” is based on rank, with higher ranking members expected to contribute more time and energy to the group. Hierarchy is valued, and decisions are made by members of sufficient rank with the group’s best interest in mind. Gardnerian and Alexandrian derived traditions, as well as those with Masonic roots, arrange themselves this way. This group cohesion style suggests masculine virtues.

Academically, I don’t see how one could be better than the other, although individuals may place greater value on one style at certain parts of their life. Both are perfectly valid ways to run a community, and both have their downsides too: intimacy could violate confidentiality for a group member or never achieve anything because of personal problems, and integrity might be run by power-hungry dictators.

At the church I go to, both are present, but integrity is the most obvious to visitors. Rank is given to those who have demonstrated hard work and dedication, and who choose to become a part of the tradition. Intimacy comes only through time, and is based in personal relationships, which no amount of rank can force to blossom.

Why a Wiccan Church is Valuable

  • Rituals are open to anyone. No one has to vouch for you. You can show up as a complete stranger and be perfectly welcome.
  • You do not have to believe the same thing to attend ritual. Many who come faithfully practice other religions and are educating themselves about Wicca.
  • There is no commitment, unless you want to. Even tithing (another dirty word!) is of your own free will, although we do bless it for Threefold return, so tithing is in your best interest.
  • The church supports the community through programs, festivals, education, and counseling.
  • The church can be a political force, representing lots of people for a single cause, such as getting the Military to provide headstones for fallen Pagan soldiers.
  • The church is a place to meet like-minded people, network, and form intimate bonds. Many tradition members work with covens that are not affiliated with the church.
  • Donations are tax-deductible. If you’re going to give your money to a charity, give it to one that supports your people!
  • The church provides clergy, often ordained, who can offer spiritual counsel and perform ritual services for the community–in no way are they attempting to force dogma, but rather help individuals who ask.

A Pagan church isn’t about belief or dogma, it is about praxis (that is, what one does). We gather at church to support the same causes, to worship the Gods, to participate in self-changing magic, and to learn from each other. The church is a tool for those who are sincerely growing into better human beings, and offers a kind of community unique in the world of religion in general and Paganism in particular.

Pft! I had WAY more badges than this lady did!

While coven work is focused personal growth, a church is focused on service to the community, an element I believe is crucial to personal growth and often overlooked. Working on projects with others and holding positions of responsibility gives you a chance to grow into it in a safe place, where people will support you and encourage you to succeed. The rank system is a way of easily identifying those with certain skills, which is important in a big organization, and is a tangible visual for personal growth. If you want to know what it is like to display your personal growth, ask a Girl Scout to show you her badge sash–it is the same general principal.

I occasionally will hear snippy comments about the validity of churches in Paganism and Wicca, but I honestly recognize it as that newbie know-it-all knee-jerk–very different from constructive criticism, which has actually interacted with the ideas. As a new religious movement, we are in the process of creating our religion, so the discussion of what is and isn’t Paganism is not a closed subject, but one that is evolving as we explore different ideas.

Here are a few Pagan churches: