â€œHarry â€“ yer a wizardâ€ (Rowling, 1997, p. 50).Â Fantasy has long-held beliefs in witchcraft and wizardry.Â Children flock to the magic that runs through the pages of a favorite book, and faerie tales of witches that eat little children and dance naked in the woods were written to keep children safe in bed at night.Â Within the fantasy, however, is a true religion older than Christianity that is hidden from most because of the centuries of negative publicity and campaigning by Catholics and Christians around the globe.Â The faith comes in different forms; Druid, Shaman, and Wicca are dominant names.Â Is it the work of the Devil, or celebration of the Earth and what she provides?Â Which is the truth?Â Addressing the religious faith that is witchcraft is to understand the ideals and beliefs of these religious groups.Â Rarely do they dance naked in the woods and never do they harm the head of children, or even the surface of the ground.Â The religion is about peace, harmony, and understanding.
Religion is the work of man through the centuries.Â Before recognized and established religions of today, there were nomadic groups of humans attempting to survive through the rough terrain and dangerous elements.Â In order to explain their personal existence and ability to continue to live through this adversity they created higher powers to look upon.Â They had no single God, but instead these nomadic prehistoric men and women found each facet of their life was wondrous and so was worthy of their respect and reverence.Â The beginning of Pagan worship, or worship of nature, was started during this time before History and continues even through its attempted destruction by newer religions of Christianity and Catholicism.
The Craft by Dorothy Morrison is a book that is dedicated to teaching those who wish to learn about the religion of Witchcraft.Â She acknowledges that there are different views based on media and movie depictions of the religion as well as centuries of demonizing the faith as though it were the work of the Devil.Â She patiently discusses the differences between those glamorized miraculous feats of magic that are conducted on the big screen and the subtle yet overpowering magick (using the *k* differentiates magic that is sleight of hand from magick of witchcraft) of her faith.Â The book shelves are full of novels, books of shadows, and other such manuscripts that provide a myriad of resource to the religion of witchcraft.Â Each has a single commandment, however, that no one be harmed in the practice of the religion.Â Nature is the deity of choice and sensible and responsible behavior is the mantra that each coven and solitary practitioner Witch is expected to abide by (Morrison, 2001; West, 2001).
There is a great deal of contrast between Pagan religious faiths and those of Christianity.Â Christians have held a centuryâ€™s long belief that Pagans are evil and worship Satan (West, 2001).Â The demonization of witches through the centuries has helped to make it a very misunderstood religion, the thing of scary movies and Halloween costumes (Morrison, 2001). Â Helping others to understand the faith-based religion that includes witchcraft will help Christians, and non-secular groups to be less afraid of this harmless worship of nature.Â
History of Pagan Religions
The birth of paganism.Â Before Jesus, before organized religion, and before established human communities, pagan beliefs began to culminate in Europe (Blain, & Wallis, 2010; Cockburn, King, & McDonnell, 1969).Â Men began to view deities as the providers of food, women were considered the givers of life, and each learned through the passage of the seasons and the cycles of the moon that different natural phenomenon were co-existing with them (Bluemoon, 2008; Cockburn, et al., 1969).Â Their faith was based on the belief that the Earth was providing them with sustenance, and their life.Â Early mankind began to try to rationalize their environment and their survival so they started to personify the natural processes.Â Women were empowered as goddesses and priestesses because of their ability to give life (Bluemoon, 2008; West, 2001).Â When men became aware of their personal contribution to life they took on separate roles.Â Paganism in its earliest forms was split between Druids, the male strength, and Wice, the female power of life and nurturing (Blain, & Wallis, 2010; Bluemoon, 2008).Â
Christianity takes control.Â Christianity is a new religion when compared with Neo-Pagan religions.Â Â When Christianity began to take hold after the death of Jesus Christ the Pagans were forced to convert to Christianity or be literally burned at the stake if they confessed or were found guilty by witness (Bradbury, 1995, Gibbon, 1845).Â Millions of men and women were killed in centuries of inquisition by the Roman Catholics and other Christian rulers (Halsall, 1997).Â The stigmatization that Pagan religions began to face, after several centuries of living in peaceful existence, sent them into hiding for several more centuries (Bluemoon, 2008).Â The manuscript, Malleus Malleficarnum (witches hammer), written by two monks in 1494, was the rule dictating the search for witches who consorted with the Devil and therefore should be imprisoned and put to death for their sins (Bluemoon, 2008; Bradbury, 1995).Â Even as the manuscript was originally discounted as overly biased, it was still forged and printed, then put into use (Bluemoon, 2008).Â
Witch trials.Â Because of the patriarchal ruling class provided by Christianity most women were considered inconsequential, more property than human.Â Men found that strong women were contentious and difficult to manage (Blumberg, 2007).Â The women who had the bravery to stand up to men and demand that their voice be heard were decried as witches, or bewitched in some manner.Â Women, however, were not the only victims of Christianityâ€™s embrace.Â Under the rules of the manuscript, Malleus Malleficarnum, there were an estimated nine million men, women and children tortured, stripped, searched, and put to death based on the text during three hundred years of inquisition (Bluemoon, 2008; Blumberg, 2007).Â The hysteria surrounding the word â€˜witchâ€™ came to America in the later 1600â€™s when powerful Christian leaders in the new world would kill men, women, and children based on the word of a single person, or on an unusual birthmark (Blumberg, 2007).Â Men and women could rid their communities of those they considered dangerous by calling forth witness that they saw some ungodly behavior by their neighbor (Blumberg, 2007).Â This was convenient when the neighbor had a prolific well or prime real estate for planting, or to hide the indiscretions of the religious community leadership (Blumberg, 2007). The last man killed for being a witch occurred in 1747 Australia (Bluemoon, 2008).Â
Paganism in the 20th and 21st Century
The practice.Â Paganism was still against the law in some European countries until 1951, when the last law against the practice was stricken from law books (Blain, & Wallis, 2010; Bluemoon, 2008).Â Now pagans are free to practice their faith in any way that they choose to as long as they harm no one else in the process, much like any organized group (Blain, & Wallis, 2010).Â The â€œthree-foldâ€ law of the pagan religions keeps most modern day witches from even wishing harm upon others.Â The â€œthree-foldâ€ law states that if one does something against their fellow man, the harm, or the benefit, will be returned to the initiator, three-fold (West, 2001).Â Because most Pagans believe in magick powers bestowed for the proper asking, this rule makes sense to ensure that no one is harmed during the process of casting a spell for personal benefit.
The Pagan religions are broken down much like Christian religious groups; based on their core beliefs.Â Christians can be Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Methodist; each with their own belief systems.Â The same holds true for Pagans.Â The practicing Witch may take their athame (religious dagger) and dig a hole in their back yard to extract an herb, talking to the ground and thank â€œMother Earthâ€ and the â€œGoddessâ€ for the fruits given, or they may grow herbs to sell in a local herbarium (Morrison, 2001).Â A Shaman may pray to the Gods to help a sick child or an unfruitful garden or barren womb (Cicchelli, 2000).Â Druids may wish to conduct a sacrifice of some form to improve planting or hunting prospects (Blain, & Wallis, 2010).
Wicca religion empowers women, worships the Goddess and the God, with the Goddess being the more powerful (Morrison, 2001).Â Druid concentrates on the strength of the men in the religion, and is better suited to the hunter-gatherer of todayâ€™s society (Blain, & Wallis, 2010).Â Shamans are more healers and teachers (Chiccelli, 2000).Â Each group has learned to co-exist on a level that is stronger than that of other established religious groups (Morrison, 2001; West, 2001).Â The marginalization of the Pagan religions may be the why the different Pagan groups have learned to work well together and more peacefully than other better established religions.Â It becomes a matter of survival in order to keep Paganism viable (Courtenay, Merriam, & Baumgartner, 2003).
Christianity is primarily a patriarchal faith (Strauss, 2011).Â Women are not to teach men through the rules of the Bible (1982).Â Men are the owners of property and of their women.Â There is no equalization of males and females in Christianity as there are in Pagan faiths.Â Each person within a Pagan group has an important task to do and no task is more important than any other as each benefits the coven equally (Morrison, 2001).
The Psychology of Pagan Religions
Â Â Â Â Â Emotion.Â There are strong emotions availed to each religion.Â Some feel the need to kill their enemies as in some of the more radical Islam religions, while others find their ability to sway the behaviors of anyone who may have a differing opinion through fear of fire and damnation as Christians do.Â These strong emotional threats are not in Pagan based religions.Â The peace that comes from belief in nature and in the coexistence of every living plant and animal gives Pagans an advantage (Cicchelli, 2000; Morrison, 2001; West, 2001).Â They practice in silence in their home or they find like-minded others to worship with but Pagans do not instill any form of fear within their ranks.Â Like any other religion, there is typically a leader and a group of officers who help to guide the flocks of Pagan covens (Cicchelli, 2000; Morrison, 2001).Â Anything that Pagans do is done for the sole purpose of surviving in the world, in harmony with everything whether it is flora or fauna (Taylor, 2010).Â
Pagans use their harmony with the planet to help balance them (Morrison, 2001).Â A religion of harmony is many times misunderstood by the more established religions that have a repercussion or punishment style of teaching (Taylor, 2010).Â The Pagan religion is oftentimes discounted as a serious religion because there does not seem to be any afterlife concerns (Courtenay, et al., 2003).Â Better established Christian religions are ready to force their will upon others by threatening their members with eternal damnation in the fires of Hell (Bible, 1982).Â Pagans just do not believe that nature would be that cruel.Â They believe that once they pass on their bodies become part of the whole of nature and does not divide between spirit and corporeal existence (West, 2001).
Morality.Â The Pagan religion is a very moral faith.Â They do not take that which they cannot use (Morrison, 2001; West, 2001).Â Pagans do not kill an animal for sport, but only for food.Â Those in the Pagan faiths do not even uproot a plant without first asking permission from Mother Earth and then replacing that which they too by planting a seedling, or other replacement (West, 2001).Â The commandment that they follow, harm no one, is the primary moral code of humanity (Cicchelli, 2000; Courtenay, et al., 2003; Morrison, 2001; Taylor, 2010; West, 2001).Â Witches, Druids, and Shamans do not seek out humans for sacrifice and even let go of anyone who is not committed to the practice (Blumberg, 2007; West, 2001).Â The past stigmatization during the Dark Ages has left scars on the religion that are difficult to escape from (Bluemoon, 2008).Â Movies show that witchcraft can be depicted as a dangerous and deadly practice, but the serious Pagan does not seek out to destroy, or to take control over others (West, 2001).Â
The moral code that is placed over Christians is much more binding than that of Pagans.Â The Christian Bible discusses ten deadly sins, and Ten Commandments which are to be followed in order for the follower to make it to Christian Heaven.Â Pagans have no such rule of ten.Â They have three guidelines for their practitioners; â€œperfect love, perfect trust, and harm noneâ€ (Morrison, 2001, p.11).Â Ultimately, Christianityâ€™s code of conduct attempts to discuss morality but the text is wrought with the words of man who chose which words to print and which to alter to suit their own personal beliefs.Â They choose control by fear more than by acceptance for everyone.
Gender roles.Â Within Pagan religions women are given higher power roles over the men.Â The High Priestess is usually the one to preside over covens of Wiccans.Â She is also given a higher power when compared to men in Druid and Shaman sects of Pagan faith (Cicchelli, 2000).Â Women are revered as the givers of life and the one who gives health to the masses.Â Because of this women are treated well within the Pagan faiths (Cicchelli, 2000; Morrison, 2001).
In Christianity women are subservient to men and are expected to obey their husbands in Ephesians 5:22-24 (Bible, 1982; Brown, 2005; Strauss, 2011).Â The submission to the male partner is complete, expressing that in all things the wife should be obedient to her husband (Bible, 1982; Brown, 2005; Strauss, 2011).Â Whether he chooses to life a Christian life or not, his wife is expected to follow his every command with the expectation that her Godly behavior will then bring him into the flock (Strauss, 2011).Â There are clear responsibilities that women are to submit totally to their husbands within the Bible (1982; Strauss, 2011).Â Great weight is placed on the head of Christian women that is not equaled by men within Christianity (Brown, 2010; Strauss, 2011)
Aggression.Â There is very little aggression displayed by Pagan followers (Morrison, 2001; Taylor, 2010).Â This comes from their desire to feel harmony with all other things that surround them.Â When there is harmony there is little room for aggression.Â Pagans are unlikely to wish to harm someone else on their journey to personal fulfillment because of the basic humanitarian rule of harming no one (Morrison, 2001; West, 2001).Â When one wishes to live in harmony as Pagans do then there is very little need to behave aggressively.Â The modern witch is more likely to walk away from an altercation in order to further present their faith in its more humane role of harmonious existence.
Within the Christian faith are those more radical and less tolerant groups who are in need of more harmony.Â Certain Christian groups, for example the Westboro Baptist Church, or Chicagoâ€™s Trinity United Church that the now infamous Reverend Wright presided over, choose the opposite of harmonious renditions to preach the words of the Bible that they choose to follow (GodHatesFags, 2011; Stein, 2008).Â In both these instances hate and intolerance are preached, leading their parishioners to the belief that anyone who does not conform completely to the teachings of their leaders are unworthy of love and tolerance.Â Christianity in whole has contended that they are the â€œone true faithâ€ and in such the word of their Bible and their leadersâ€™ interpretation of the Word is above reproach and without contestation (Morrison, 2001).Â
Identity.Â Within Wicca, Druid, Shaman and other Pagan religions the self is part of a bigger entity (Courtenay, et al., 2003).Â Each person is connected to each other person and if one is harmed then the wound is to the whole and not the individual.Â There is no physical assimilation between parts of the Pagan faith but a standing belief that any harm that befalls another entity can become a wound that, without proper attention, can cause a rift in balance and harmony (Cicchelli, 2000; Courtenay, et al., 2003).Â Each person who feels ties to the Earth can begin to feel unrest if there is a rift in the continuum that Pagan faiths bestow upon their members (Cicchelli, 2000).Â Each Pagan, whether a solitary practitioners (they worship silently and in private with no support base) or coven members (groups of like-minded pagans who choose to gather and worship together) feel as though their temporary existence on the physical plane should not interfere with the existence of anyone else (Cicchelli , 2000; Morrison, 2001; West, 2001).Â They believe that whether they are living or not the world will continue and thrive based on the time that they spent taking proper care of their environment.
Christians identify themselves by the works they do for or against others (Brown, 2005; Strauss, 2011).Â Their good deeds are expected to buy them a place at Heavenâ€™s gate.Â If they do not have the faith of Jesus and God to guide them then they do not have direction.Â Within the Christian faith the rules are spelled out quite succinctly and any infraction of a rule can cause condemnation (Bible, 1982).Â Of course there are conditions to the rules.Â Children younger than the age of understanding and those who suffer from mental handicaps that obscure their judgment are not considered knowing (Bible, 1982).Â Children are promised a place in Heaven without living up to the rules given in the Bible (1982).Â The Bible addresses obedience as the primary rite of passage for each Christian to be received into Heaven.Â Pagans do not hold these same beliefs, they trust that if they treat others well then they have served their purpose. The promise of golden passages and Heavenâ€™s Gates is Christian, not Pagan (Morrison, 2001).
The Ethics of Pagans
Witches do not sacrifice animals in the practice of their religion (West, 2001).Â Witches do not dance naked in the woods and they do not steal the first born children of those who would consider them evil (West, 2001).Â Pagans hold higher ethical standards than most established and serious religions across the globe (Cicchelli, 2000).Â The age of the Pagan religion is overcast by the demonization from other well-established religions (Bluemoon, 2008; Blumberg, 2007; Taylor, 2010).Â This marginalization of Pagan religions has created a new ethical behavior within the rank and file of most Pagan sects (Courtenay, et al., 2003).Â Their desire to be seen as a kind and harmonious force for good has compelled them to feel the need to defend their practices and their spells.Â They discuss magick as a force, neither good nor bad, which is directed based on the desires and functions of the spell (Morrison, 2001).Â They wish to be successful in life and love, and they desire to be left to practice their religion.
The ethics of Christians contrasts that of Pagans because there are prejudices against non-Christians in many different regions of the globe (GodHatesFags, 2011).Â The Bible (1982) teaches that one should love their fellow man, treat the lowest creature as though they were the most precious thing, however the leadership within some Christian churches do not teach this tolerance and love and instead use their faith to wreck havoc across the rest of civilization.Â Reverend Wright is likely to insist that America is destined to ruin because of their behavior, as is the leadership and parishioners of the Westboro Baptist Church (GodHatesFags, 2011; Strauss, 2008).Â
Pagans do not worship the Devil but there are still Christians who hold onto this belief.Â 1st Samuel, 15:23 says â€œâ€¦the sin of witchcraftâ€¦â€ to indicate evil within witchcraft (Bible, 1982).Â They take Pagan behavior out of context and use their misdirected beliefs to preach intolerance toward the Pagans.Â There is no such behavior within the Pagan religions.Â Pagansâ€™ primary exception to Christianity is that Christians speak as though their faith is the only â€œtrue faithâ€ (Morrison, 2001).Â Pagans find that the limits of Christianity do not provide the informative, faith-based experience that harmonious existence with nature give them.Â Christians do not show ethical behavior in their discussion of Pagan faiths, but this intolerance is not returned from the Pagans toward Christian faiths (Morrison, 2001).Â Ethically, the Christians who demonize the Pagan faith can potentially cause harm to the followers of Pagan religions by those who believe they are doing good deeds as instructed by their Christian faith (Bible, 1982; Blumberg, 2007).
Pagan faith is older than recorded history.Â The fear that came from Christianity at its inception has demonized the religion.Â For centuries, Pagans were forced to hide their religious actions or face torture and murder in the name of Christianity.Â Modern Pagans still live within a stigmatized globe.Â The Holy Bible (1982) is being used as a crutch by Christians and as a tool to hinder other religious orders from becoming prolific.Â The fear, hate, and marginalization of Pagan faith does not provide the harmony that Pagans wish to live in (Courtenay, et al., 2003).Â Their worship of Nature in its purest form is innocent and clean but there are those within Christian faiths who will not look past the words of Man in the Bible (1982) to understand that Nature is of God, and so Pagans who worship nature are doing nothing more than thanking the very same deities but within a different viewpoint to faith.Â There is no one true religion however each religion wishes to dictate that theirs is the truth and the only answer to everlasting life.Â Pagans believe that life changes forms, from breath to death they exist in order to live among the animals and plants that have been given to sustain their lives. When they die they become one with the land once more, to provide nutrients to feed future generations of people (Cicchelli, 2000; Courtenay, et al., 2003).Â There is nothing demonic about Pagan faiths or followers (Morrison, 2001; West, 2001).Â It should be easy to see that Pagans are not evil people but are tolerant and harmonious in the world we all live in.
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