Archive

Posts Tagged ‘theology’

Witch vs. Witch

September 2, 2010 1 comment

Dear Witchful Thinking,

I found your site in a search for ways to protect my home from a guest who I am going to have to invite into my home, but this woman, who is also a Witch, does not not like me and I do not trust her. I am Wiccan also, my distrust isn’t due to her beliefs. I need some advice on ways to protect my home when inviting an unfriendly guest who could cause harm into it. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Blessed Be,

Kelly

Dear Kelly,

There’s an old saying that goes “guests are like fish, they stink after three days”. Ok, it’s not a very nice thing to say, but there is something to it. Back in the day, maybe our parents generation, folks knew what it meant to be a guest. This included cleaning up after yourself, offering to cook one night, and generally not trying to be much of a burden on the host. Now-a-days, guests expect it to be like at a hotel, where they are waited on hand and foot. Some open communication with your guest could really help–especially establish when she will be leaving.

I assume that since you have to invite this guest into your home, that you are either 1) related, 2) working on a business deal, 3) trying to please your partner who wants them to visit, or 4) taking a charity case and you are the nicest person ever.

In Wicca, we recognize that sometimes people we don’t like are actually very like us. It is what we see in them that we don’t like about ourselves. So what is it about this woman that you dislike so much? Is it her manners? Her attitude? Or just the fact that she doesn’t like you? And does she really not like you? Or do you just think that she doesn’t like you?

I don’t know what kind of harm this woman can do to you that you would allow. If she breaks something like a vase, that harm can often be mended. Even if it is irreplaceable–it’s just stuff. If she leaves “bad vibes”, you can clean them up when she’s not looking, and recognize that it’s probably only upsetting you anyway (you’re the sensitive Witch, after all!). Will she physically hurt your animals or children? That’s unacceptable for anyone, Witch or no, and she should know better (after all, who needs that kind of 3-fold return Karma??). So what kind of harm are we talking about?

Not everyone will like you. Sometimes they are projecting their own past on you. Perhaps you symbolize something distasteful to them. Sometimes they just have the wrong impression. Often their values are different than yours. It doesn’t make sense, but I think you know it is true. Something about you scares them–and that there is valuable information that you should try to find out! With that info, you can work on it and learn to help them have some compassion for you. Here’s the thing: it goes the other way, too: As Above, So Below, right?

Remember that Wiccans work for the highest good for all involved, especially because we reap our own Karma. Is starting a Witch War going to help you do that? Your guest may not have the same values that you do, even if you are both Witches, but hold true to YOUR highest ideals and strive ever toward them (Thanks Uncle Al!).

So, it sounds like you can’t change the situation. But you can change your mind. Imagine this woman is, well, a Witch–she challenges you and rubs you the wrong way and might cast a spell on you. You can’t fight her with sword and shield, so you must defeat her in less obvious ways. You are the hero in the journey and story of self-awareness and personal growth. You will defeat her because you know the ways of magic. You know that you are powerful, and nothing she can do will truly harm you (after all, a curse only works if you believe in it). You listen to her and are kind to her because you know that she can teach you something about yourself and about the world.

My advice in real life? Kill her with kindness. Make food she’ll enjoy. Make her comfortable. If she gets petty, take the highest road. If you think she’s casting spells on you, utterly ignore them. If her vibes are trashing your house, cover them with your light vibes of peace and tranquility (and a little sage or cedar never hurt either). Do not sink to her level and engage in a Witch War. I promise you will both lose.

Perhaps this isn’t the advice you wanted. But I honestly believe that when you cast spells on people, your Karma gets tangled with theirs. And I know I don’t want to be tangled with someone I don’t actually like. I trust that the Gods and the Laws of Karma will even things out in the long run. Until then, I’m free to change myself–and so are you. You have a valuable opportunity for learning here. I suggest you take it and run with it!

Otherwise, check out this article on clearing spaces and keeping magically safe.

Tangled Karmic Yarn.

Advertisements

Eat Me

August 3, 2010 3 comments

I watched Food, Inc. While eating dinner. Then I stopped eating dinner and started crying.

Ya’all may not know this, but I have an aversion bordering on phobia of animal carcass. This includes chicken, beef, pork, etc. that you would get in the grocery store. I know that meat contains many bacteria that can harm me, and am extremely careful of cross contamination. I don’t like to eat meat off the bone and prefer to see it ready to cook and eat. I do eat sushi and rare meat only because I know it has been handled well and am educated in food safety practices.

So watching animals get slaughtered was a bit much for me. Knowing where the meat came from, and how it got there, and how awful it is –it made me sick. The worst was the pigs. And the screaming. I honestly couldn’t tell if they were screaming or if I was.

There is absolutely nothing humane or honorable in our production of meat. That animal is not a creature of the Gods, but a product–nothing more than an arrangement of biology. That’s what a factory system believes.

Our food is being genetically modified and patented. Big corporations are suing farmers out of business or keeping them like slaves, always owing the company to keep up with upgrades. It is inhumane to people as wages are minuscule and people are taken advantage of until they are useless, then thrown away. Upton Sinclair is still relevant in the way we process foods.

I want to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. So how does a small person take on a giant corporation? We vote. With money. I will no longer spend my money to support this disgusting system. I will vote for representatives and legislation which shares my values. I’m going to do my best to eat local, whole food–food that was treated with honor–food that is nutritious, not technological.

If you’ll excuse me, culture, I’ve got a planet to save.

Does your religious beliefs influence the way you think about these topics?

Sacred Images?

July 8, 2010 2 comments

I’m always looking for creative ways to celebrate the Gods. In particular, I have altars around my home to invite that energy in, so there is an altar to Demeter, Hestia is in the kitchen, and Aphrodite at the door so naught but love shall enter in. Athena, of course, is next to me at the computer. You get the idea. But the other day, I ran across these: Aphrodite Barbie and Athena Barbie.

And I thought to myself…are these sacred images? Or are these images profaned by becoming so commercialized? I mean, BARBIE of all toys!

I can imagine myself, as a little girl, absolutely LOVING these toys. I wasn’t big on dolls to begin with (I think I had one Skipper doll and a New Kid on the Block as the entirety of my personal collection). But I loved stories, and Greek mythology, and would have enjoyed playing with these dolls. It is only as an adult that I came to believe in the sacredness and truth that the Gods bring to our lives. As a kid, I would have kept my dolls in my toy box, amongst the lost marbles (ha!), Jurassic Park toys and stuffed animals. Only as an adult would I consider putting a toy on a shelf and never playing with it.

And these aren’t exactly toys. You see, they cost upwards of $300, as highly desired collectibles.

Here is the artistic conundrum, then: if pop art is profane, then putting sacred images into pop art should thus profane the sacredness, right?

I dunno. I’m sort of intrigued by this idea of using a toy on the altar. Maybe we’ve gotten too serious about this whole sacred image idea anyway. Who better to loosen it up but Barbie, the fun-loving spoiled perfect beauty. When it comes down to it, isn’t Barbie really Aphrodite anyway? Isn’t the act of playing with a beautiful woman, dressing and undressing her, doing her hair and picking out her shoes just worship of Aphrodite?

And then we have Athena. Isn’t Athena what Barbie isn’t? Athena, like all Goddesses, is beautiful, but she doesn’t use it, even as a tactical advantage. Athena is what Barbie wishes she could be, but can’t. I mean, Barbie can be a Vet or a Pediatrician, but she’s not President, or a Tenured Professor. But the act of playing with Athena Barbie to solve problems and outwit your opponents (that Ken! Always wanting a date! Whatever will I do?!) could potentially be a worship of Athena. I dunno. I’m troubled by it.

Still, I want it for my altar, or for when I have children (let them be girls!) I would let them play with these sacred images instead of the pop culture perfection that is Barbie. They’re a little out of my price range, so I might have to settle for this instead:

From "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Theif" Toy Zeus

What Would Zeus Do, indeed. I bet he’d have a go at Barbie Aphrodite. And I guess I don’t have a hard time believing that a hot Goddess Athena would pop out of his head…

What do you think? Does having the Gods as action figures intrigue or disgust you? Is it sacred or profane? Can you mix the pop culture with sacred culture? Would you put toys on your altars or use them in magical work?

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?

Various Names and Guises of Witchcraft

January 26, 2010 2 comments

Dear Witchful Thinking

Greetings, I have been exploring Paganism and Wicca for a few years now and am still searching for the path that feels right. One of the reasons I was drawn to Wicca is that there are no hard and fast rules other than, of course, the Wiccan Rede which I follow carefully.  About Nocturnal Witchcraft. I have read about it a bit an it seems to be another form of Wicca, simply practiced at night, with night Gods and Goddesses. Am I right? I am most definitely a night person, always have been. I find the night to be more gentle, I feel a great sense of freedom at night, and also one cannot see all the “cracks in the pavement” if you will at night. The negativity in this world is all too visible in the light of day.  Anyway, what are your thoughts on this? I know that Wiccans do NOT worship Satan, do not even recognize his existence so I don’t believe that this type of Witchcraft has anything to do with Satanism.  I would very much like to explore Nocturnal Witchcraft and the only author that I seem to find is Konstantinos. I will understand if you aren’t comfortable recommending a particular author but any input would be most helpful. Also, thank you for your piece on Magickal names. I am searching for one that feels right to me, but don’t find having one necessary. I would use it for identity protection. I find that many folks who are new to Wicca and Paganism get caught up in the trappings.  Look forward to hearing from you.  Blessed Be

Emi M.

Dear Emi,

From "The Goddess Oracle" by Amy Marashinsky. Art by Hrana Janto. This is one of my favorite decks.

Welcome to Wicca! May the Gods bless your path and may you find what you seek.  The world of Witchcraft is a wild one, and it is very much like a landscape. There are many paths already made through lots of terrain, but one could easily create one’s own path. In the end, it’s a question of “where are you going” and your own choices that will dictate the direction you travel.

I dare say I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to some definitions. Please do not think I am chiding you, for I’m not, and respect what you’ve already come to know. I only want to be clear in our definitions. I know I am going to get flaming hate mail for saying this (please be aware that I’m coming from an academic background as much as a spiritual one)–but there are certain things you MINIMALLY ought to practice and believe if you are to call yourself Wiccan:

  • Work with a God (often horned) and Goddess (often triple).
  • See all of nature and the cosmos as alive.
  • Include the use of ritual magic or spellcasting.
  • Follow the Wiccan Rede.
  • Celebrate the eight Sabbats on the Wheel of the Year.
  • Celebrate the Esbat rituals which often includes Drawing Down the Moon.

There are, of course, many variations and manifestations of these beliefs. For example, many Dianic Wiccans only worship a Goddess, although they acknowledge the God, and are still considered Wiccan. I don’t think it is right for folks to cherry-pick the parts of the religion they like and call themselves Wiccan–they should call themselves something else, because there is already a definition of Wicca. It’d be like someone going to a Buddhist temple, but never meditating or following the Eight Fold Path and calling themselves Buddhist–it just isn’t accurate, and it is rude to those who actually follow the tenants of Buddhism. If you only like some aspects of Wicca, but don’t follow the others, and do not belong to an established tradition, then please label yourself accurately as a Pagan, or whatever is more accurate for you.

I think some folks feel their path won’t be taken seriously if they simply go by the term “Pagan”, so they use the safety of the word “Wicca” to validate their path to outsiders. “Pagan” is the catch-all word for what we believe, not “Wiccan”. Wiccans do not believe whatever they want and call it Wicca, rather, they worship in however way they want, based on the list mentioned above. The idea is to create your own unique and individual relationship with the Gods. No one can dictate that relationship to you. The ritual trappings, the tools, hierarchy and liturgy are designed to help you cultivate that relationship, grow as a person, and manifest the good from it in the real world. But Wiccans follow a similar path to do that, and end up with similar theology and ideas about the world and the Gods. Their beliefs are based out of experience which is based out of religious practices–not the other way around. Paganism requires no such beliefs short of being one who worships nature–with no dictation about how that should happen, nor does it require or nessicarily believe in a relationship with the Gods. Pagans may focus on nature spirits, the Fey, or work with specific pantheons, but if they aren’t following a Wiccan path they are not Wiccan. Many writers who are not in the community confuse the two terms, so start reading folks who are in the movement to help clear up any misconceptions.

Of course, no one should tell you what religion you are–that is your right to make that declaration. Soap box rant over. Let’s move on.

The author of "Nocturnal Witchcraft", Konstantinos. Cute, yes?

I haven’t read the book you mentioned by Konstantinos, so I couldn’t give it a hearty recommendation (but on your suggestion, it is now on my ever-expanding “to read” list!), but I did do some research about it. It looks like you are correct in your assessment that it is a Wiccan primer that focuses more on the “dark” aspects (literally, in the dark, not evil–which he makes a big deal about not being). In a sense, it gives a guide to those who are more attracted to the moon and stars and the cover of darkness. When you think about Wicca 101 books, they always talk about Lunar Esbats being at the Full Moon, but as you expand your practice, you might choose to do Dark or New Moon Esbats, and you may come across Deity that prefers to be underground or only comes out at night.

Although it is true that you can’t see the “cracks in the pavement” and the negativity that exists during the day, different dangers appear in the night which, to me, are much scarier. The darkness is where monsters live. Not only the literal crime and seedy underbelly of the city, but our own nightmares and fears. The challenge of working Witchcraft at night is to face those fears. I believe it is a much harder path, but one that well-rounded witches will come to at some time or another, whether they want to or not! So really, Nocturnal Witchcraft is….. (drum roll) Witchcraft!

Two things are happening here: 1) because we don’t have established rules or doctrines beyond the basics I mentioned above, our religious vocabulary lacks descriptions of specific kinds of paths. 2) because we do not have a class of those who are religiously trained in said non-existent doctrines, there are very few ways for those talented in the ways of the Craft to make money except for writing and selling books, which, as you know, are marketed by people who want to make money.

A gifted Craft teacher may have a path that they have well-traveled that is different from other peoples, and want to write about it and share it with others who might travel behind them. So they write a book, knowing the information will reach a great many people, and allow them a paycheck so that they might continue on with their service to the community (yay!). Then the editors look at the book and talk about how to sell it. They have to create a brand and protect the intellectual property of the author, whom they hope to make more money on in the future, so they give it a fancy name, without considering if there is already a path like it. Sometimes the name sticks, and sometimes it doesn’t.

But all religions have movements and denominations that come and go, or go by different names and actually believe the same thing. If you don’t believe me, check out the book Which Witch is Witch. I found a pattern when I plotted the regions the different denominations of Paganism did their work: in the Pacific Northwest, for example, there is a big Druid group, a hearty Heathen population, a Scottish family trad, reconstructionists, Dianic wyminns circles, Fairie trad, Wicca and Gardnerian covens, traditions started by solitaries, and a few off-branches of Gardnerians that go by various names–you will find this exact same list of types in each area of the country, but they go by different names and are run by different people. Of course, none of them would dream of conglomerating under one name! The groups have their own names, though they often have the same beliefs and similar paths–but they all have different histories and members, which vary by region.

Getting back to your question: Nocturnal Witchcraft is just one of many paths you can take. Personally, I don’t think you need to specify if you are practicing light/white or dark/black witchcraft, as it just confuses people, and a well-rounded witch works with both. If you like the phrase of it, you can choose to call your practice that. But I suspect the author has the name branded, so unless someone has read his book, they may not understand what you practice, so be ready to explain! I can definitely recommend the book The Dark Archetype for delving into ritual for “darker” gods. This book will guide you in where to get started for a handful of deities like Hekate, Anubis, the Grim Reaper, Baba Yaga and Lillith, among others. What I think you’ll find in your practice, however, is that most Godforms have a light and a dark side, but I suspect they start us out easy, and only show us their darker nature when we are ready to see it.

Hail, Diana!

Want an example? Pick any Greek God or Goddess and you’ll soon see their wrathful side. Zeus has more lovers than he can count, much to his wife’s chagrin, even solemn Athena once punished a girl who was raped in her temple. These Gods aren’t here for us to imitate–they absolutely do not model perfect behavior, especially not for mortals. But they do show us the whole spectrum of human relating, emotion and depth.

Most often, Wicca 101 books start with the easy light stuff, just like the Godforms do, to ease us into a new religion and not scare our parents. If you are already interested in finding out what goes on in the darkness, perhaps you are ready for the challenge of this kind of Craft. But remember to come into the light, too. Wicca is about balance, after all.

You are dead-on in your assessment about Satan’s place here–he has none! He is part of Christian (and a little bit Muslim) theology, of which we are outside. His terrain is not on our map, if you will. Satanism as a movement, too, belongs on the Christian map, and not lumped with us…no matter how hard some Christians try!

I think of all these names and traditions as places on a map. For those at home in one area might share a deep affinity with a place, even as they explore different locales, yet others might know it by a different name. Of course, there is night and day in all places. As Pagans and Wiccans, we are all sharing the same map, but we aren’t all going to the same place, and we definitely don’t take the same path to get there. That’s what makes it so different, so individual and wonderful.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

(and then check out this interesting interpretation)

No. The Gods Are Not Punishing Haiti.

January 21, 2010 1 comment

One face of many, this boy already lived in slums, but now he doesn't even have that.

The earthquake in Haiti was a horrible tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people were lost as their buildings fell down upon them or the earth swollowed them up. The recent aftershock compounded the problems, as aid workers had only just begun to give the Haitians the help they so desperately need. You would have to have a heart made of stone not to feel compassion for these people. They’ve been reduced to a first world country.

What stings me the most is the reaction that some people have had. As usual, I’m disgusted by Pat Robertson’s take on the whole thing. He said a whole nation of people made a pact with the devil to get the French occupation out of their country. Umm wtf, Pat? Can you maybe cite your source? Thank goodness we Pagans don’t have that kind of shortsightedness, right?

In one of the message board forums I follow, a colleague was lamenting that she heard some folks saying that the earthquake was Gaia “shrugging off some fleas”. (I apologize for not being able to provide a more direct citation. If you find one in the wilds of the internet, please feel free to post it here.) There are two major problems I see with this statement: 1) that all human beings are a plague on this planet and are as insignificant and bothersome as insects, and 2) Haitians (read: black people) are as insignificant as insects.

Can this statement be interpreted other ways? Perhaps, but I don’t think any of them are positive or good. I have a big problem with the “humans are a virus” theory. It suggests that the Gods do not love us, when obviously that is not true. I believe they would not interact with us, talk to us, help us on our paths etc if they did not love us. Gaia is the spirit of the earth, and she loves all human beings, and all other beings on this planet–even fleas. The consciousness of our home planet is bit enough to encompass us all in her cycles of life and death. In Wiccan theology, the Goddess stands eternal while the Horned one gives of himself yearly so that others may live. Yet he is conceived in love and reborn. This love and generosity is not limited to people of one belief, race or nation, no matter how Pat Robertson tries to spin it. The Earth supplies bounty or starvation for every single creature. Even rocks have a life-cycle.

We don’t know why some places or people seem to suffer more than others. I’m reminded of the tower card in the tarot. Some folks think the worst card is the Death card, but I think it is the Tower (and so do these folks). It is fire, sudden and instant destruction, but the good news is that it allows you to rebuild. It forces you to take stock of what you have, and see what is still valuable in the new world. This earthquake asks the rest of the world how they will respond to those less fortunate than they are, and we are responding in spades. Like the Tower, what seems catastrophic can have some good effects, and we humans should not be so short-sighted as to see only the destruction. Gaia and the Gods see the whole spectrum of possibility and being, even if we can’t. Look at the way, even now, the tragedy is being transformed into good for the most amount of people.

So let’s stop with that kind of anti-human negativity, and stop trying to interpret the will of the Gods. Magically, like attracts like, and isn’t there enough tragedy and suffering in the world? Witches transform. So let’s get to work. Please consider donating money to help.

O Gods of all nations and all peoples, unite!

Show your people that the essence of

all that is truly spiritual is to live life to its fullest;

that what is true for one people is true for all;

that it is our duty as spiritual people

to encourage peace for all;

that to live between the fullness of love

and the emptiness of contentment is to live in peace.

For only in peace can we praise and worship.

God of light reveal to us this truth within us.

Goddess of love, show us how to live together.

Child of life, give us the courage to live in peace

Now and forever.

(pg 73. “Dewdrops in the Moonlight: A Book of Pagan Prayer” by Shanddaramon.)

Existentialism

January 3, 2010 1 comment

Abstract

This form of counseling is based on German existential philosophy and adapted for therapy in the 1960’s. Rather than focusing on the scientific aspects of psychology, therapists and psychologists began asking different questions. When they realized that human beings are essentially alone in the world and finite, they began to deal with the anxiety of such a tense state. The result is Existential Therapy, which requires a great deal of courage, but also offers many rewards.

What is illusion? What is truth?!

The Historical Context

These streams of ideas coalesced over time from several different thinkers, especially Nietzshe, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Sartre. The philosophy was combined with therapy as a structural framework for work for therapy, but is open to other schools of thought as well. Existentialists reacted to Adler’s “feel good” social determinism by changing the orientation of the counseling philosophy: what if we are alone in the world? This individual determinism comes out of Western notions of individualism, freedom, and subjectivity to answer big questions about what it means to be human. The theory developed enough to be applied to therapy in the 1960’s, a time when society was radically altering its view of itself with the reality of an immoral war in Korea and Vietnam, the introductions of hallucinogenic drugs, and the questioning of traditional social norms. As psychology gained ground in the public eye as something not just for sick crazy people, clients came in not with easily diagnosable mental illnesses, but with anxieties about everyday life and living in the shadow of death.

The Major Contributors

  • Rollo May: (April 21, 1909 – October 22, 1994) was an American existential psychologist. He authored several influential books about humanistic psychology. May earned his B.A., a B.D. in 1938, and a PhD in clinical psychology in 1949 from Columbia University. He is an American Psychological Society Gold Medal winner. In the years before his death in 1994, Rollo May set about to write his final thoughts on life, death, mythology and psychoanalysis. As a result, the world gets an unparalleled book, The Cry for Myth. Dr. May, a student of literature, theology and clinical psychology, explains his ideas in extremely accessible ways, allowing the reader to ponder their own lives in the grand scheme of things as he comes to the end of his (May).
  • Erich Fromm: (March 23, 1900–March 18, 1980) was an Orthodox Jew whose studies of the Talmud and Freud led him to re-examine the story of Adam and Eve as their existential moment of self-awareness and the guilt and shame that followed. He used this as a base for articulating existentialism. A strange result from someone who immersed himself in social-psychology. He was strongly influenced by religion, especially Jewish law, and later, Buddhism. Funk sees that Fromm “focused on two problems, one of which is the historically decisive question of whether man will once again become the master of his creations, or whether he will perish in an overly technological industrial world” (Funk)
  • Viktor Frankl: (March 27, 1905 – September 2, 1997) was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. Influenced by Freud, but later became a student of Adler, developed logotherapy by combining existential philosophy and therapy (Corey).

Key Concepts

  • Existential therapy focuses on the individual’s experience of being in the world alone and identifies the basic dimensions of the human condition:

o   Capacity for self-awareness

§  The greater our awareness, the greater our capacity for freedom.

o   Freedom and its corresponding responsibilities

§  We choose the manner in which we interact/react with the world: our reality is the result of our choices.

o   Creating identity and establishing meaningful relationships with others

§  Discover or create substantial core identity and then merge with others in a mutually healthy way.

o   Search for meaning, purpose, value and goals

§  Identify, evaluate and—if necessary—discard old values and replace them to fill the void. If one finds meaninglessness: create meaning.

o   Anxiety as a condition of living

§  It is a normal part of living, but it can get out of hand and become neurotic. The client must recognize that in order to open up to life and find meaning, we have to have courage to face our fears about change.

o   Awareness of death and non-being

§  Death gives significance to life because it makes our short time here substantial. (Corey)

  • Rollo May offers this response to the existential questions: “Every individual seeks—indeed must seek if he or she is to remain sane—to bring some order and or without. Each one of us is forced to do deliberately for oneself what in previous ages was done by family, custom, church, and state, namely, form the myths in terms of which we can make some sense of experience” (May 29).

•         Those in existential crisis see fairy tales and lies around them, but must work towards finding the myth beyond it by following the Greek idea of “know thyself”. “Fairy tales are our myths before we become conscious of ourselves” (May 196).

Evaluation of the Theory from My Religious Perspective

I view existentialism as Scorpio therapy, for it tackles the great questions that the astrological sign wrestles with: death, the nature of life, sex and love. Existentialism asks what it means to be human, which is a question we all come to sooner or later, and the resulting crisis dictates the direction of our lives, if we let it. These are the great questions that religion and myth answer, and which Wicca addresses in a contemporary way that pays homage to where we have come from through tradition and ritual.

Philosophically, Wicca seems to accept and enfold existential ideas within it, and offers ways to create meaning, know thyself, and develop personality substance. But I think the idea of isolationism and alienation does not hold well under Wiccan theology. We learn the axiom “As Above, So Below” which means that everything that happens inside us, also happens in the broader world. While we are unique individuals following our own life path, our experiences have happened to other people before, and will happen again. Facets of life are shown to us in mythology as we become the hero of our own story, which is acted out in ritual theatre. We aren’t alone because facets of ourselves are mirrored in the sky (via astrology), in nature, by the Gods which we know through mythology, and by other beings.

Sometimes I do feel lonely, but I think it is because I am disconnected. When I reach out to the world, the world reaches out to me. I perform rituals to get me back in rhythm. Wicca offers answers through participation in the Wheel of the Year, the eight seasonal festivals. We learn that in the height of summer is the shadow of death, but that in the dead of winter there is a glimmer of hope, and these cycles and anxieties are faced yearly through the seasons, but also within ourselves. Existentialism assumes that the angst of the client is caused by a fear of death, but as you progress through Wicca, you face death every year. Many times have I traveled to the Underworld to face my demons, confront the Gods, or leave things behind. I have no fear of death because I know what comes after…because I’ve seen it. In a great many ways does Wicca address these concerns.

Bibliography

Corey, G; Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy. 8th edition. Thompson Books. 2009.

Funk, R; “Life and Work of Erich Fromm” © Logosonline 2007 <http://www.logosjournal.com/issue_6.3/funk.htm&gt;

May, R,; The Cry for Myth. W. W. Norton and Company. NY, NY. 1992.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,