Our Experiment in Religious Engineering

Our Experiment in Religious Engineering August 5, 2017

That’s what Geoff Baldwin called it, as our

Neighborhood annual picnic evolved into

A Pagan Occult Study and Dancing Society,

Then into our Full Moon Coven. No one

Could create our coven again unless

They loved each other as we did, sometimes

Physically—we hoped for sanity

about sex—but especially because

we cared about each other’s lives

and intervened if that seemed needful.

We were diverse: a Red-diaper baby,

Recovering Catholics, several nonobservent,

Jews—though Carol knew the Hebrew prayers.

It wasn’t that we believed in witchcraft.

We didn’t have to—though it was optional—

we were just openminded about

whether it might work for us.

Besides, it looked like a lot more fun

Than New Thought or diluted Hinduism.


On a few nights, all of the half dozen

Women in circle (with a wife or two)

Had been my lovers.  We believed in love.

Forty years later, we still believe in love.

Some of us still email each other

About love and Witchcraft and poetry.


Can religion be a search for truth

As science is, as poetry is for me?

Not if you believe in it and stop the search.

All religions are human creations.

Some Higher Power may give us words,

But it’s always some human who writes them down.

So use your First Amendment right:

Gather a circle of friends and decide

What you want a religion to do for you.

Keep the instruction to be compassionate.

Any belief’s a nondisprovable hypothesis.

Play with hypotheses to see how they work.

Test them to see, not if they’re true,

but if they’re good. Be open to learning

how it feels to work a circle, read the cards,

raise the power, embody the Gods,

and listen to the still, small voice without

assuming you know Who is speaking.

You do not need beliefs to have

All that work for you, so our path allowed

A devout ex-Quaker atheist like Geoff

To take on our Red Cord of empowerment.


Eight years later, at a meeting where some youth

Was saying, “We all believe,” Geoff thought,

“What is this shit? I was there when we

Made this all up!” and he walked away.

That’s what Toynbee called the problem

Of Orpheus versus the Drill Sergeant:

What the minority has created,

The majority freeze into dogma.

The third generation thought they were

Doing what we’d done, but never grasped that,

Though we had fragments we wove into

Tapestry, we weren’t imitating anyone.

To do what we did, invent something new.


I will not here rant against the heresy

Of believing sex is evil, but that’s

What you must face, whatever you create.

Pagan festivals are not enough,

Too much like what Blake called the same dull round.

A true coven’s more subversive than any

Communist cell. A young Witch, like a Gnostic,

Must be a heretic against all religions,

Even the religion called Witchcraft.


Aradia’s the archetype for Seekers,

Rebelling against corruption, sword in hand,

Skyclad, facing the Grand Inquisitor,

Rejecting excuses, pursuing wisdom,

Freedom, gnosis, and, above all, ecstasy. Young,

We loved each other and were innocent.









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