Wiccans, Heathens and Idiots

Generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of Wiccan theology, and I don't really go in for the whole "all us neo-pagans are in this together" scene. There are a lot of very major differences between reconstructionist Heathen paths and Wicca, not to mention the New Agey fluff bunny tripe that often passes for "pagan" in the society at large.

Now, all that being said, I found myself truly aghast at an article from Catholic Exchange, which was graciously directed my way by Prophet or Madman. This not only conflates Wiccans, Heathens and New Agers into one unpalatable theological stew, it gets so many facts wrong that it deserves a serious fisking. So here goes... paragraph by paragraph across The Witch Next Door:

“Your son and daughter might be the next Hansel and Gretel,” should have been the warning label on the Guide to Paganism supplied to British prison governors by the Pagan Federation. Michael Spurr, director of operations of the Prison Service, approved the new norms, which allow pagan British inmates possession of incenses and an amulet, the services of pagan “chaplains,” and the practice of rites and chants in their cells, London’s Times reported on October 17th of last year.

So your kids are in prison, eh, since that's where the particular piece under discussion was distributed. As I recall, in the tale of Hansel and Gretel, the two child heroes were about to be cooked by a witch, when clever Gretel managed to cook the witch instead. So is Stein suggesting that modern witches eat children, or that our children may be about to take up cooking witches? Rather ironic, isn't it, that one of the accusations against early Christians was that of cannibalism?

Note also the enclosure of "chaplains" in double quotations: this implies that pagan clergy are not real clergy at all, but have somehow appropriated the title. Perhaps it's because we lack military orgainzations, unlike Br. Stein, who is a member of the Legionaries of Christ. Onward Heathen Soliders, indeed!

Pretence of Antiquity
Witchcraft and paganism have been growing worldwide, especially the practice of Wicca, for which courses one can now get a tax write-off in the Netherlands, according to the Associated Press. Although Wiccans profess no hard-and-fast doctrine and practices vary, the main beliefs, as stated in Catherine Edwards Sanders’s Wicca’s Charm, are as follows: all things are equal and humans have no special place in the world; humans possess divine powers unlimited by any deity, and they are gods or goddesses who can and should change their consciousness by rites, including spells and herbal magic; Mother Earth is a “goddess” called Gaia. Somehow for Wiccans the inner contradictions in all this don’t matter or don’t register.

Wiccans (and other heathen/pagan groups) can attain the same "tax writeoff" that Christians enjoy in the United States, too. In fact, so can any religion. Which I'm certain is what really rankles Br. Stein. And there's nothing like going to a real expert for an overview of Wiccan theology: a prominent Wiccan of my acquaintance had this to say about Ms. Sanders book: Compassionate triumphalism is little better than overt hatred. While the first is prettier, they both branch from the same plant. If you prefer the rose to the thorn, this book might please you, but it isn't a dialogue. "Wicca's Charm" is a tool to win souls for Christ. Catherine Sanders has cast quite a spell, but I can spot a charm of concealment a mile away. I don't think I've ever met a Wiccan who'd adhere to the outline of Wiccan theology that's represented here, but at least Br. Sanders admits that practices vary...

Then he notes the contradictions of his pastiche of Wiccan theology. Wasn't there a famous religious leader once who said something like "And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

Isn’t paganism a historical relic? Not quite. The group “Covenant of the Goddess” claims to count 800,000 Wiccans in America alone, whereas Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance estimates their numbers in the United States to range from 2,000 to 5 million. The Los Angeles Times stated that a survey funded by the Lilly Endowment in 2002-2003 found that almost one-third of one percent of teenagers admitted being in an “alternative” religion.

Wait a second - I though we were talking about Wiccans? Suddenly Wiccans and "pagans" are the same thing! Not! Heathenry is a reconstruction of historical practice, Wicca is not. But one-third of one percent of teenagers being involved in an "alternative" religion is certainly cause for alarm! I wonder if Baptists were considered by this good Catholic as "alternative"? Or Mormons?

Neither is Wicca a historical expression of paganism. It was started by Aleister Crowley and Gerald Gardner sometime after 1900 and given the name Wicca from the Old English word “wicċa” for “witch,” probably to lend it some authenticity and roots.

Well now we're back to "Wicca" and "paganism" being different things! Maybe he recognizes the historicity of heathen religions after all! And while I'm sure Uncle Aleister would appreciate the credit (Hel, he'd probably claim it all for himself, given the chance), in point of fact he had nothing whatsoever to do with the founding of modern wicca. He and Gardner never met until shortly before his death in 1947, and at most he could claim some serious influence on Gardner, who is in fact the acknowledged founder of modern Wicca. And "sometime after 1900"? Get real and do some lookups on the web! Gardner claimed to have founded his original coven in the 1940's (he was initiated in 1939), and the Witchcraft Laws were repealed in Britain in 1951.

Some Wiccans claim that their religion is a return to the religious origins of man. That’s not true. Even though the US Supreme Court accepted Wicca as an official religion in 1986, its main “theistic” elements are a far cry from the genesis of man’s religious experience. The god of Wicca is a “hungry, easy-going, ghost-god who cares for [a Wiccan´s] family,” according to Andrew Long’s The Making of Religion; such a deity is more likely to be a degenerate of the demanding, transcendent, omnipotent God that every primitive people believed in than vice versa. Common sense.

I wasn't aware that the Supreme Court of the United States was the designator of "official religion". As for the quote provided from the book The Making of Religion, you'd think Br. Stein could at least get the author's name right: it's Andrew Lang. And it was published at least two years before Br. Stein claims Wiccan was founded (1898)! Such scholarship! Such research abilities!

Br. Stein might also try doing a bit of research on the nature of primitive religion: no culture that I'm aware of of ever believed in a single, transcendent, omnipotent God - that's pretty much an invention of Christianity. Even Yahwah described himself as the God of the Jews throughout the Old Testament, and didn't seem to give a real hoot about the rest of us Gentiles until Paul came along.

Empty Rites
Part of its popularity is its adaptability: with no dogmatic demands or stone-carved commandments, it fits almost any cultural situation. Gene Chambers, owner of an “alternative spirituality” store, stated in an interview with the Boston Globe, "People are seeking less formal spirituality without the tenets and without the dogmas of organized religion.... The uniqueness of being a pagan is the ability to incorporate other ideologies in your belief system." The witch who works in a beauty salon can use her herbal spells to improve the shine of her clients’ hair, while the warlock who sells his self-made computers on the Web can perform his rites as he waits for his programs to download. It works just as well for the chainsaw-murderer as for the philanthropist.

Gosh, not a lot to take apart in this paragraph - what happened? Although I must say that this is certainly a strong line of demarcation between Wiccan and reconstructionist heathen way - mixing and matching deities and "smorgasbord religion" is one of the main criticisms that we heathens level at our Wiccan friends ... but maybe Wicca and paganism have become different things again!

More than two-thirds of Wiccans are women, and the movement is dominated by strong feminist tendencies (paradoxically, Wicca was founded by two men, one of whom was a misogynist). It presents an escape for many women who feel their Christian churches have nothing to offer them in the way of active participation. This particular outlook stems from a misunderstanding of religion, which cannot be reduced to attendance at Sunday Mass or worship. The loss of observance leaves many wanting more ceremonies and ritual in their lives, something which kids easily pick up from their parents. Perhaps as well there has been a loss of fervor in the ministers who preside at their religious community's functions or they sense no real, internal participation by the community itself.

Back to the old Al and Jerry founding Wicca routine: but which one was the misogynist? And may I be so bold as to suggest that Holy Mother Church might have a bit more luck with the female half of humanity if it recognized women as human beings: "To embrace a woman," wrote Odo of Cluny in the twelfth century, "is to embrace a sack of manure". This "sack of shit" metaphor for women was seemingly an obsession with the early church: "If a woman's bowels were cut open," stated Roger de Caen, a medieval monk, "you would see what filth is covered by her white skin. If a fine crimson cloth covered a pile of foul dung, would anyone be foolish enough to love the dung because of it?"

No wonder most Wiccans are women!

Catholics Have a Real Priesthood
What does the Catholic Church have to say about it? Simply that a Catholic can’t supplement his or her Catholic faith with Wicca, or any other magic or spirit cult: It has no real belief in God, and it neglects the reality of the human soul and man as made in God’s image. Man indeed has a special place in the world, which was given to him to be its steward. Moreover, a personal relationship with God is not only possible, but necessary.

Well, I guess all us Wiccans and pagans are really atheists after all. Although many of my Baptist friends still insist I'm a Satanist... never mind. We'll just follow our fake priests to perdition of some sort or another, I'm sure. But I do have to wonder how exactly we neglect the reality of the soul? This is the first time Br. Stein has mentioned the soul in this piece, and as far as I can tell, not even his bastardized Wiccan theology would discount it's existence. Nor would it preclude a personal relationship with the gods (although the plural would make Br. Stein spastic, I'm sure).

The Catholic Church even goes one better on the issue of women’s participation in religion. The Second Vatican Council stressed the point of the universal priesthood in which all Catholics share: it is active participation in the life of the Church, not by taking the place of the ordained priest, but by bringing the Church into one’s daily life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The entire community of believers is, as such, priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each one according to his own vocation, in the mission of Christ, Priest, Prophet, and King” (no. 1546). If that is not involvement, what is?

Wow - I wonder what happens when one of their "women priests" gets a revelation that contradicts something issued from Rome? I wonder when we'll see our first female Pope? Or when the first woman will serve Mass? Betcha I'll be waiting for a while...

Nevertheless, Wicca remains enchanting to adolescents. The occult, the secret, the darker elements that Wiccans claim exist, and the out-of-the-closet things like Ouija boards intrigue the teenage mind. Without a firm religiosity America’s adolescents are easy prey, contemporary Hansels and Gretels seduced by the subtle lies of the occult.

Whomp your kids with Catholicism and they won't be eaten!

In conclusion, I would like to observe that somehow the obsession with steaming piles seems to have seeped into writing... and if you seek an example look no further than 'The Witch Next Door'.

23:00 /Asatru | 3 comments | permanent link

Senators: Give everyone $100 for gas

This from the party of fiscal responsibility... they need to remember something:

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. (attributed to Alexander Tytler)

I'm ashamed to think I ever voted for this party of fools - the only consolation I have is that their opposition is virtually indistinguishable in stupidity.

Would $100 help you cope with rising gas prices? Senate Republicans think so. Under an amendment they hope to bring to a vote today, every U.S. taxpayer would get a $100 rebate check to offset the pain of higher pump prices for gasoline.

(link) [CNN.com]

23:00 /Politics | 0 comments | permanent link

Senate Bill May Ban Streaming MP3s

Isn't it grand to have our technologies micromanaged by Congresscritters who couldn't tell a BitTorrent from a fire hydrant? I'm just glad the current legislature wasn't seated a century and a half ago, or they might have taken this petition quite seriously...

According to the EFF, a new Senate bill (S. 2644) sponsored by Senators Feinstein (D-CA) and Graham (R-SC) would effectively ban streaming MP3 for licensed music by requireing 'casters to use the most restrictive streaming format available (e.g., Windows Media or Real) rather than simply the most restrictive features of a chosen streaming format (e.g., Shoutcast or streaming MP3). From the article: "The PERFORM Act would ... requir[e] webcasters to use DRM that restricts the recording of webcasts. That means no more MP3 streams if you rely on the statutory license. Under the bill, the statutory license would only be available to a webcaster if: [114(d)(2)(C)(vi)] the transmitting entity takes no affirmative steps to authorize, enable, cause or induce the making of a copy or phonorecord by or for the transmission recipient and uses technology that is reasonably available, technologically feasible, and economically reasonable to prevent the making of copies or phonorecords embodying the transmission in whole or in part, except for reasonable recording as defined in this subsection."

(link) [Slashdot]

23:00 /Copywrongs | 0 comments | permanent link


I don't think I've ever posted their pictures here (although there are more than a few posted here and here), so let me introduce two of my five grandchildren: Damien and Anastasia Williams, aged 5 and 3, currently of Eagan Minnesota.

Damien and Anastasia
Damien and Anastasia

23:00 /Home | 0 comments | permanent link