Paganism — Not What You Heard

by V

Comic by Roxy!

 

Paganism is often depicted as evil and Satanic, despite the prevalence of peace and equality throughout the majority of Pagan religions.

(A giant programming note: pagan religions are generally very peaceful. That’s not to say that there aren’t people who engage in “Devil worship” but these are usually not people who honestly believe in what they’re doing. They think they’re being rebels, they’re doing it to go against the grain, to shock people, and to rebel against their parents, society, their church, their school, whatever it is that they feel needs to be taken down a peg. They get their information from Hollywood and myths perpetrated by Christians. And the only way you can consider them to really be pagans is to use the broadest sense of the word “pagan” which is anything other than Christianity. Which also includes Hindus, Jews, and Buddhists among other non-Christian faiths.)

As far as magic itself goes, there is no such thing as black or white magic. Most pagans who believe in magic and magical use will readily tell you that there is just magic. You can use what is there for good or for bad, but it doesn’t suddenly become something new. But, I’m not even here to get into that. It was something that would inevitably come up, however, so I felt it was important to mention this.

Paganism is egalitarian, feminine, and natural. It’s also generally polytheistic. And it advocates peace. Paganism is not what Hollywood and Christianity would have us believe. Paganism encompasses many, many different religions. Each with its own set of beliefs and rules, many of which are shared by other similar religions that fall under that term.

Wicca is the best recognized pagan religion.

Many hear Wicca and think, “Witches!”

Many Wiccans use and embrace the term “Witch” and make it their own. They are not ashamed of it and nor should they be. That is just simply how they identify and there is nothing sinister about it.

Wicca, however, is a very peaceful religion. It isn’t about skinning animals to use for sacrifices. Just do a tiny bit of research into Wicca and you will find the Wiccan Rede* (via Wikipedia):

“An it harm none, do as ye will.”

The meaning for this is obvious. You aren’t supposed to deliberately hurt anyone or anything if you can help it. Don’t get hung-up on that, “harm none” idea, though. A Wiccan is definitely within their right to defend himself or herself if someone or something is attacking them.

Wiccans also do not go around cursing people! There is a Rule of Three to worry about (if common sense itself doesn’t intervene fist). The Rule of Three states (from Wikipedia):

“…that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it positive or negative, will be returned to that person three times.”

This can be good or bad, depending on what you have done. Have you done something bad? Well, then you’ll get it back three fold. Did you do something good? Then you’ll get it back three fold. It’s a way of saying, “what goes around, comes around.”

Now I want to get into the reason why I wrote this post.

Apparently, there are still people who are prominent or at least in the limelight who like to insist that Wiccans are Satanists. I recently read an article** where a woman was running for office solely so that she could get the word out against abortion. She even stated she did not care if she won. You see, before she ran for office she’d been trying to get ads against abortion aired on television. But, nobody would do it! They were deemed too graphic. However, when she ran for office in DC, they had to allow her ads because of the rules on equal time. She was entitled to it and being anti-choice was a big part of her campaign.

**[Before actually clicking on that link, however, I want to caution everyone. There are graphic images in the videos included in the article that will be disturbing to some people. If you don't want to risk it, don't click on the videos. Perhaps don't even click on the link at all. If it doesn't bother you, go ahead, but proceed with caution. Its difficult to describe them without seeing them.]

This woman, Missy Reilly Smith, is definitely not happy with Planned Parenthood and while telling us exactly why (abortion), she goes on to mention that Wiccans are proof that abortion is wrong and evil (and so is Planned Parenthood), because Satan is pleased when people sacrifice innocent babies to him.

“The more that you’re involved in this organization [Planned Parenthood] the more demonic you realize it is,” Smith said. “Many of the employees of Planned Parenthood and abortion mills, the actual killing centers, the employees are actual witches. They belong to Wiccan and there’s nothing more valuable to Satan than the blood of innocent babies.”

[Emphasis mine.]

I want to take this moment to say that that is the most ridiculous thing she could’ve said. Wiccans do not believe in Satan. Why would they sacrifice anything to a being that they do not believe exists?

This shouldn’t surprise me too much, though. This woman’s videos give a good deal of information. Misinformation, that is. Partial information. For example, she mentions that at a certain point in pregnancy (around 20 weeks?) that a fetus begins to suck its thumb. She uses this as a way to make you feel attached to the hypothetical fetus. But, she doesn’t mention that this is an involuntary reflex that has nothing to do with conscious thought or consciousness in general. The fetus’ body does this involuntarily as practice for sucking, so that it can suck when it is born, and thus get nourishment. But, this doesn’t mean that the fetus has any sort of conscious thought going on whatsoever. It is evidence of nothing. But, the graphic ads are used as shock value and while our psyches are still raw she is hoping to use this little tidbit of partial information in order to tug at our heart-strings and sway us to her side of things. Which is to agree that abortion should be made illegal.

This woman claims that she had two abortions and feels duped by the people who advised her and who performed the abortion. I am very sad for her if that is true. But, that is no reason to try to take away the rights of others, and it is definitely no reason to slander an entire group of people and give false or misleading information in hopes of advancing her goal.

Wiccans are just as divided about abortion as non-Wiccans. There are many that are in favor of keeping abortion legal, there are those that are opposed. The Wiccans who are employed at Planned Parenthood are not employed there so that they can deliver innocent blood to Satan. They are there because they believe that abortion should be legal and that its an important part of women’s reproductive rights. Among whatever other personal reasons or beliefs they likely have. Just like anyone of any other religion (or those who don’t have a religion at all) are there for.

I want to address something else, before someone else does, because of my talk about Wiccans not believing in Satan. Many Wiccans worship a specific God and Goddess. The God is the one I want to talk about at the moment. He is one aspect of Wicca that people point to and say that he is proof that Wiccans believe in Satan. That is the Horned God. He is not Satan. I’m sorry, but not every being that is worshiped which has horns is Satan or a demon. He is the God of the Hunt, the male aspect that complements the female aspect***. He is half of a whole.  He is the aggressive and wild aspect.

“In common Wiccan belief, he is associated with nature, wilderness, sexuality, hunting and the life cycle.”

The Wikipedia article goes on to mention:

“In traditional and mainstream Wicca, the Horned God is viewed as the masculine side of divinity, being both equal and opposite to the Goddess.”

This is not Satan. Wiccans do not believe in Satan, and I promise Wiccans (and pagans in general) do not eat babies or sacrifice them to imaginary demons that they don’t even believe in.

When you are examining another religion, one that you do not believe in yourself for whatever reason, you need to make an attempt to look at the religion objectively. If you are Christian, and you genuinely want to examine the Wiccan religion, you cannot put everything in a Christian perspective. You must step outside of your comfort zone and look at it from the eyes of a Wiccan, or from the eyes of a casual, impartial observer. Many Christians, for example, feel that the Bible says witches are bad, and any reference to a being with horns is really a reference to Satan, and that is true…in Christianity. But, it is not true of other religions. Many Christians get caught up in looking at other religions from their own religion’s viewpoint. Looking at it another way is not blasphemy or sacrilegious and does not denote that you are attempting to convert to another religion. When exploring another religion, you cannot let your own get in the way, or you are missing everything about the religion you are attempting to learn about.

*The Wiccan Rede – There is a much longer version of the Rede, but generally speaking the sentence I provided is the important part. The one part that all Wiccans tend to agree on. I should also mention that there is a more modern version,

“An it harm none, do as ye will. An it cause harm, do as ye must.”

This is not telling Wiccans that they are free to do whatever they want. It is adapted this way, because too many people were getting hung up on, “harm none” and it was getting to be ridiculous. Is it harming someone if I stop them from harming someone else? Is it harming someone if I don’t? Is it harming someone if I defend myself from a physical attack? Is it bad to kill a spider?! And other like things were getting ridiculous. Thus, came the add-on. [Wicca For Beginners -- Thea Sabin]

***I mentioned earlier that equality is important in Wicca. This is very true. Wicca places much importance on balance and harmony. In many covens (yes, you read that right), you will find that there are equal numbers of women and men. This is balance. Men are no more or less important than women, and vice versa. But, both are halves of one whole. That’s the easiest way I can think of to put it. Naturally if there is a goddess, there must also be a god. There are some Wiccan sects that break from this, like the Dianic Wicca, and others like it, which mainly or only worship a goddess or a set of goddesses, but no gods. There will always be exceptions to rules, but the Dianic path is not the norm for worship as far as the majority of Wiccan covens and sects go. At least, not that I know of.

3 Comments to “Paganism — Not What You Heard”

  1. You did a great job of explaining some of the basic misconceptions about Paganism and Wicca, from how the misconceptions have come about to untangling them.
    I’d also like to mention that the Wicca religion, unlike many others (namely Christianity and its many sects), does not promote missionary work. That is, they do not *seek out* converts. They don’t travel the world telling other people that their religion is “wrong” or “misguided” or (in cases) downright “unholy”. Wicca generally “preaches” that it, like other religions, is a path rather than a destination. I have great respect for Wicca because of the importance this principle holds in the religion. I would never identify as Wicca, that is, convert to it; but that is because of identity issues, and has very little to do with my personal opinion or judgment of Wicca.

    • This is true! There are many facets to Wicca and other pagan religions that differ from religions such as Christianity in major ways, such as the fact that you mentioned up there, Wiccans are not evangelical. Many find this makes it harder for people who are seeking to learn more about and eventually become Wiccan themselves, but this is not necessarily so. It just takes a little bit of research and learning which information is ridiculous (there are a lot of websites, for example, which are bogus), which can be learned just by getting in there and looking around. Trial and error. There are classes for Wicca, as well, if you choose to go that route. Most of them are free. If they make you pay, its generally not a lot; just enough to cover your materials. However, that’s where you also need to be careful. A lot of people are just waiting to take advantage of someone who wants to learn and will charge high rates and (most likely) you will never even see one class or book.

      My route is simply to devour books written by Wiccans or other pagans in general, who are recommended (and those lists are ridiculously easy to find) by people in the community who actually know what they’re talking about and who are reputable. Finding lists of books to read from the people whom you know are legit is often easier than wading through the zillions of books on Wicca and paganism that are out there, many of which are completely bogus.

      With the wealth of knowledge that is actually out there, I don’t think there is any reason for too many people to say its too hard to find information on. Its just that we’ve gotten used to the way Christianity does things, by evangelism. It isn’t hard to find a Christian place of worship, either. So, if you’re used to not having to drive very far to see a religious building, or if you’re used to having religious people come to YOU to tell you how awesome their religion is, it might after a while seem like its just too difficult to go out into the world and find the information you want on a specific religion yourself. :p But, that’s just laziness, if you ask me. –;

  2. A great overview. I’ve always respected Wicca for its emphasis on duality, earthiness, the feminine, and taking responsibility for your own actions. I’m not keen on any sort of deity-worship, but if I were forced to pick something Wicca would certainly be on my list of possibilities.

    It should be noted that Satanism is its own religion/movement, and it’s more about hedonism than spreading evil.

    When I was in college I did a project on Druids, and found that they’re also very egalitarian. Several of the women I spoke to were unhappy with other faiths because of how they were treated, but they had no similar difficulties with Druidism. There are classes for Druids as well.

    It would be great if you could highlight some more specifics of Wicca and other Neo-Pagan faiths (Neo because everything we have currently is a reconstruction of fragments from the past). I’ve always been curious about the Wiccans who choose a sort of personal goddess from among all the goddesses of the world, as their primary mentor/guide.

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