Sunday, June 30, 2013

Wiccans, It Is Time To Stop Splaining

“Thou does protest to much”, is an old saying that goes directly to the heart of the traditional discourse between mainstream Wiccans and our dominant culture. Time and again we, as a community, witness the same conversation.  It goes something like this:

“Do Wiccans and Witches worship the devil? “

“No we don’t worship the devil. The devil is a Christian construct that has no place in Wiccan theology”

End of story, individuals and readers are presented with a denial that essentially becomes the centerpiece of the conversation. The opportunity to educate, inform and create areas of mutual interest with other beliefs systems is ceded too the need to deny the outrageous.  This situation is compounded by the fact that any attempt to explain what Wiccans do believe is wrapped in disclaimers for fear of being perceived as speaking for all “Wiccans” What we are left with is a distinct lack of credibility with those we encounter.

The time has come for our community to engage an alternative approach to these conversations. Answering the “devil” question should be viewed as a catastrophic way forward.  Alternative responses include, “Let me explain what the Wiccans I know believe” or even better “ Let me tell you a little about what Wiccans do”.  We must as a religious community cease to respond to the outlandish if we are to be viewed as a credible religious movement by wider society.  Such responses just feed the idea that Wiccans are the “other” and not engaged in a theology that has depth and meaning.

If we expect acceptance or even tolerance in the wider community we need to stop responding to the absurd and start letting the world see the divinely inspired actions of our community in service to humanity.

Fancy memes splaining what “a Witch is” are not helpful if they are not accompanied by example. It is time to be known for the positive actions we take in the world, our ability to clearly enunciate our theology and not our prattling of denials.     


Apuleius Platonicus said...

One alternative is to follow the example set by Gerald Gardner in his book "The Meaning of Witchcraft", where he took the accusation of Satanism and used it as an opportunity to explain a basic difference between Pagan and Christian theology. But he did this not in terms of our attitude toward "the Devil", but rather he framed his response in terms of the Pagan attitude toward "evil" itself.

From the Pagan standpoint (and Gardner naturally first clarifies that "This of course depends upon what one means by 'Pagan'"), "evil" is not a fundamental quality of the Cosmos, because the Pagan attitude toward Nature, and even to matter itself, is a positive one. In contrast, Christian theology views the physical universe as "fallen", and also views the various spirits and Gods traditionally worshipped by Pagans as "demons".

Gardner makes a point of contrasting Pagan and Christian views, but his emphasis is on a positive presentation of Pagan ideas. One of the most brilliant things about the way that Gardner handles all of this, is that he relies heavily on the classical Pagan religious treatise known as "On the Gods and the Cosmos" by Sallustius (who as a close associate of the Emperor Julian).

Yewtree said...

I don't actually recall having been asked this question recently, but nevertheless, the point is well made.

The thing that really bugs me is when people try to explain Pagan and/or Wiccan theology with reference to a very distorted understanding of Christian theology. We need to explain Pagan traditions on their own terms, not in terms of another world-view that is incompatible with ours.

Anonymous said...

I've never bothered addressing Satan beyond "Nope", as in "Nope. I'm Pagan, i worship all of life, because the Divine is made of everything. You, me, that flower, the ducks over there, the bacterium in our guts and the redwoods and then some. :-) "

thalassa said...

YES!! Thank you! This has been said a few times, but it needs to be repeated more often (because it seems like a lot of people don't know better)...

Have you read HecateDemeter's posts about framing? They are quite excellent, and I completely recommend them!

In fact, when I wrote my own post about creating a personal "Pagan elevator speech", I used her posts on the subject as some of my inspiration.

Pagan In Paradise said...

I have, most of the information out there about framing is available in any 'Public Information officer" class. I just keep seeing the same situation every year during the Pagan Pride season and in October, so I thought it was worth a post..

thalassa said...

I concur...Honestly, I think it could stand to be re-posted annually at this time of year!

Stifyn Emrys said...

Thank you! I'd been noticing a lot of the "we don't worship the devil" talk lately, and I've had some of the same reactions. I've personally been focusing on promoting the positive more and defending against the negative less. This goes well with that life lesson. :-)

Lydia Marcassa NettlesCrabtree said...

I wanted to thank you! I often teach in my classes about what Christian's teach. They teach that the things you hide in the closet, those things you will not shine a light about are wrong, bad, sinful. In hiding in the broom closet I think we are doing ourselves a disservice. Especially in the South. When my son was in Boy Scouts and others asked about my religion I would say, "Boy Scouts is not a religious institution and discussion of our individual spiritual paths is inappropriate." By saying this I deflected the question and kept the focus on my son in Scouts - not my spiritual beliefs. Oddly enough, a secret meeting was later held to see if my family would be allowed to continue to attend that troop. I was later told the we won an overwhelming majority and the reason sighted was that I refused to make anyone's religious affiliation part of Boy Scouts - I bowed my head when others prayed, I showed up to the church for work days and Scout Sundays and I refused to proselytize or even explain my beliefs. Of course, at the time my old site explained my beliefs perfectly (which is why the secret meeting was held in the first place). However, ultimately what won over my son's friends parents was that I refused to bow to the assumption that I was evil or wrong anymore than any other person with spiritual beliefs.

Matt Benson-Parry said...

@Lydia Marcassa NettlesCrabtree
It is sad that there was a clandestine meeting held to decide your fate and that you weren't called into it to explain or defend your actions. It is somewhat ironic that modern boyscouts grew out of German Volkisch Movement (later hijacked by the Nazis along with a lot of other stuff) which was in itself a celebration of folkish beliefs, celebration of natural beauty and about spreading folklore, which in a nutshell is the basis of modern Paganism. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir with that point anyway.
I once joined the local Welsh community to learn Cymraeg, both to be a better Pagan and to be a better Cymrudorian (Welshman born/raised outside of Wales). In the learning group was several middle aged Cymry and a Cymru Priest (Anglican Church). The priest and I engaged in lively discussions about the nature of gods and he never had a problem with my views or I with his. It was a couple of the middle aged supposedly nonreligious (as they described themselves) who had a problem with my views and subsequently they had me ostracised from the community. It retrospect, I was younger and more fiery than I am now, but I should have been shown decency and asked to refrain from discussing religion in their hearing/at their house. Instead they wouldn't discuss it with me and just made sure I wouldn't be invited back for the next or any subsequent meetings.

Rev. Christa Landon, D.Min. said...

Thank you so much for bringing classical Paganism into the discussion. Without a knowledge of the surviving thought of our ancient spiritual ancestors, we deprive ourselves of our heritage and cripple ourselves in theological discussions. Early Christianity adopted a great deal of Pagan ethics, including the very concept of philanthropia (imaged as a shepherd carrying a lamb).
Christa Landon

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