a comparison of Wicca with popular Christianity

a comparison of Wicca with popular Christianity October 4, 2013
the good witch cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
“The Good Witch” (by nakedpastor David Hayward)

*** No this is not Gandalf the Grey. Nor do everyday witches dress like this. But you get my point. You can order a fine reproduction of “The Good Witch” cartoon HERE.

In the summer of ’99 I went to see The Blair Witch Project. I have this interesting ability to sink right into a movie, and it terrified me. When I left the theater I had a curiosity about witchcraft. So I went to our local bookstore and a new release by Silver Ravenwolf, “Teen WItch: Wicca for a New Generation”, was on the shelves. She wrote the book intentionally to appeal to curious young readers and their parents who might be bewildered by their child’s choice to follow Wicca.

The overwhelming similarities between what I read about Wicca and popular Christianity were impressive. So I decided to preach a sermon on it. That was in August of 1999. My thesis was that much of popular Christianity is practicing witchcraft. Or, in other words, they share beliefs and practices. It didn’t go over well.

A lot of time was not spent dissecting and analyzing Wicca and drawing philosophical and theological parallels between the two. What I did was simply read quotes from the book. We are smart enough to recognize parallels. So that’s what I’m going to do here. I will give some of my own ideas, but I mostly just want to expose the overwhelming similarities between the two and let you draw your own conclusions.

I will make this assertion however: Wicca, like all religions, is one attempt to understand and explain the intersection of the immaterial with the material. This is not just a religious endeavor, but a human one in which religion is involved. Like the Z-Theory tries to articulate, there is the immaterial (some call “spiritual”), and then there is the material (physical). How these two relate is the preoccupation of religion. Every religion has its own story explaining the association of these two realms or realities and their engagement. Even atheism, with the use of the sciences and their never-ending pursuit of discoveries, and even though it might reject the concept of spiritual or immaterial, endeavors to unite the undiscovered with the rational and practical.

Wicca, in its own way that is both unique and comparative, endeavors to understand, enjoy and use the merger of the immaterial with the material. In keeping with the 3-fold structure of the z-theory, it has an understanding of the Source or the Divine (“God”). It also has its own ideas on how this has been manifested or made known (nature). Finally, from this it has its own idea how this should be applied to the world and to people. That is, it has its own ideas of ethics and community.

How it compares to popular Christianity is that there is an attempt to understand and articulate the Divine. It uses what revelations have been supplied to assist in this attempt. Whereas Christianity uses Jesus and the bible, Wicca uses nature, its own various texts, and personal revelation (while not dismissing Christ). Finally, like much of popular Christianity, Wicca intentionally searches for ways to direct this power to receive and to accomplish good in the world.

Ravenwolf is clear right from the beginning. Like any introductory book on Christianity or a primer on Christian apologetics, she states the purpose of her book:

  1. to demythologize the rumors and to give a candid picture of Wicca;
  2. to syncretize, assimilate and compromise Wicca so that it will fit anyone;
  3. to calm fears about Wicca and to remove the offense surrounding it.

So let me proceed to give you some interesting quotes. I will make some minor observations along the way.

Ravenwolf is gracious and patient. She does not want to force her opinions on anybody: “You cannot force any human being to believe in God; they must come to God on their own terms.” So the whole book is read like a gentle invitation.

What I see happening in popular Christianity is that it has become a means to an end. Its greatest selling point now is what it can do for you and how it can improve your life. Wicca is no different:

Teens also want to know what Witchcraft really involves, and how the religion of the Craft can help them attain their dreams… Witchcraft depends on your positive self-growth. The religion concentrates on making you a better person so that you, in turn, can help others… Witchcraft is an earth-centered religion focused on raising an individual’s spirituality.

Here is Ravenwolf’s one-sentence “theology” statement that she claims could apply to any positive religion such as Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism:

Witchcraft is a nature-based, life-affirming religion that follows a moral code and seeks to build harmony among people, and to empower the self and others.

She says that “we see everything on our planet as a manifestation of the Divine.” She uses an analogy that I’ve heard in many churches and that I might have used myself. God is a “big, beautiful diamond with many facets. Each facet of God… manifests as a positive religious belief. Witches see themselves as one of those facets on that diamond.”

Did you know that the witch’s hat symbolizes the “cone of power”? The base is “love”. One side is “Creativity” and the other side is “Spirit”.

They also pray: “We pray all the time. Prayer helps people. We know that focused prayer represents great power.”

They also believe in a kind of karma. The Christian version is sowing and reaping. They have a chant: “Ever mind the rule of three, what you give out comes back to thee.”

Generally Wiccans, like many Christians, believe that the human being is made up of three parts: physical, mental and spiritual.

Many witches practice daily devotions where they take at least 5-10 minutes each day to reaffirm their faith and talk to Spirit. Here is one of their prayers (remember that Wicca emphasizes both the male and female aspects of the Divine):

Blessed are my fee which walk the party of the Lord and Lady.
Blessed be my knees at the sacred altar.
Blessed be my heart that beats the drum of compassion.
Blessed be my lips that they may speak the truth.
Blessed be my eyes, so that they may see the wisdom of Spirit.
May the love of the Lord and Lady be within and around me
as I begin my journey through life this day.
So mote is be!

I said this prayer in the service (minus “Lady”) and asked people who they thought created that prayer. They guessed St. Fransic of Assisi and St. John of the Cross and Mother Teresa, etcetera. Some turned red and nearly fell out of their chair when I said it was a prayer from Witchcraft.

Wicca has its own clergy. High priests and priestesses counsel, train and teach “like ministers and priests in other religious structures.” They even have liturgical aspects such as lighting candles and receiving communion of bread and juice at their meetings. They believe these “aide us in manifesting our petitions.”

The primary goal of Wicca is this:

Our prime directive involves making ourselves better people, enabling us to throw off the chains of past difficulties, unhappy circumstances, and unfortunate situations and… to rise and blossom into spiritual people who gently persevere, rather than wanting the power of others.

A huge part of Christian culture believes that if our faith in God is strong and that we truly believe, that this combination makes prayer effective and miracles possible. Wicca shares this theology. Ravenwolf claims that “magick”, which is simply Witchcraft’s spiritual practice, “requires belief in a higher power, and faith in yourself.”

The similarities are unmistakable with some forms of Christianity that casts out evil spirits or just evil and resists the flesh, and invites and welcomes the Holy Spirit and encourages all things spiritual:

Magick represents your efforts of pushing energies or pulling energies. You push negative energies away from you. You pull positive energies toward you. Therefore witches work two kinds of positive magick- manifesting or banishing. To manifest something is to make something happen. To banish something is to make that something go away.

In a way that resembles some Christian pastoral care, Ravenwolf says,

All things happen to us because a) we created the problem in the first place, and now we are dealing with the consequences; or b) there is a special lesson that Spirit wants us to learn.

She also explains why some prayers aren’t answered, again sounding like a caring Christian pastor:

Sometimes Spirit does this to protect us, and other times Spirit knows that we have bigger missions, larger goals, and more important activities that we should be doing.

That’s it for the quotes.

So you can see the undeniable similarities. Yes, theologically, there are differences. But simply replace some of the words and tweak some of the style and you’ve pretty much got identical twins.

The z-theory from a Christian perspective asks the question: “How is Wicca like Christ?” In other words, how is Wicca an incarnation of the Divine? Then it embraces the similarities and rejects the differences.

But I claim the deepest similarity is the belief that we can manipulate God’s power to benefit ourselves and change the world. And this, I claim, is the philosophical crisis facing both Wicca and popular Christianity. It has a supernatural belief in magic and that we can get what we what through the rightly divined means. There is this fundamental belief that if we can possess a pure, strong, selfless faith and believe in God enough, then we can somehow marshal God’s will to achieve his and therefore our godly desires.

Even though Wicca and popular Christianity undeniably carry incarnational aspects of Christlikeness, this idea that we can exploit divine power to our own end, no matter how lofty, is where Witchcraft shares the same bed with all other religions, including popular Christianity.

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  • klhayes

    Excellent post! Another that is important to note is that while people may be shocked the two are similar, it actually makes sense. When a new religion is spreading, those in charge of spreading realize that they cannot just strip away old traditions. So they incorporate the old traditions into the new religion and create new holidays that are around the same time as the old ones. Just look at winter solstice/Christmas and Passover/Spring Solstice/Easter.

  • Well done. A few years ago, I was invited to join in with the interfaith council in the area. When I asked them who participated, I noticed something was lacking. I specifically asked who represented the Wiccans (I knew some, so I knew they had a sizable, albeit underground, following here). The response was something like, “Well, not everyone is ready for that.” So, I affirmed my distinct interest in interfaith conversations, and then declined letting the nice Christian know that he could get in touch when they decided to become an interfaith council.

  • Elizabeth Keith

    i wasn’t healed because i didn’t have enough faith, etc. or we are not IN the will of God or we have SOME hidden sin, so go examine my navel until i get enlightened.. i am so choked up reading this. its amen and amen pastor h.

    “There is this
    fundamental belief that if we can possess a pure, strong, selfless faith
    and believe in God enough, then we can somehow marshal God’s will to
    achieve his and therefore our godly desires”

  • Gary

    Fascinating post today David. I have never investigated Wicca at all so much of what you shared is new to me. Your final sentence…”this idea that we can exploit divine power to our own end, no matter how lofty, is where Witchcraft shares the same bed with all other religions, including popular Christianity.” is frankly…spot on.

  • David, I have been following your blog for a few months, and I think this is among the best posts I have read! It resonates with me at three points:
    1. As a Christian believer in the 1970s and 80s, I did a lot of reading on pagan religions like Wicca and Druidism, so this was not unfamiliar.
    2. I believe that all truth is God’s truth, so to whatever extent something in another tradition is true, it is God’s truth.
    3. I have long said that the way many believers try to use God to their advantage in daily life is little different than the manipulation of spirits, or nature, in the pagan religions.
    Thank you for this post. I can see how you would not get on well with traditional congregations.

  • Thanks so much. I like your 3 points.

  • Thanks Gary.

  • “pastor h” haha. thanks 🙂

  • Ya there’s a lot of hokus pokus around witchcraft 😉

  • That and like Dave says, religions all strive to answer the same basic inner questions. They differ in all the other extraneous (and often distracting) stuff like the particular details and anthropologic ways the underlying inner striving is communicated. There then becomes this outer shell that defines the religion. People then get all focused on the outer layer and often don’t see the inner layer. The literal fundamentalists of any religion are typically the ones that ONLY see the outer layer and total miss the inner layer.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    It’s really sad that so many people treat non-Christian religions as things of the devil because they’re so set on Jesus somehow being the way, when Christianity borrows from other realms rather heavily.

    There’s the Jewish seder and the reading of the Scriptures.
    There’s the common idea that gods can die and be resurrected.
    There’s the previously foreign notion that could have been from Zoroastrianism that we will rise to heaven on the last day.
    Heck, Jesus had his birthday shifted to the Saturnalia.

  • Silver Ravenwolf writes for beginners and she does it well – it’s the primary reason her books are so successful. You made a good choice for your own introduction. You also made a good choice for comparison to popular Christianity.

    Both the Wicca of Silver Ravenwolf and popular Christianity draw from contemporary American culture – both make people try to feel good about themselves and treat others decently. Neither challenge people to step out of their comfort zones and make the world a better place. Neither facilitate transformative religious experiences. Neither tell their followers there’s something more important and more meaningful than themselves.

    Beginning Wicca and popular Christianity are both good places to start. Neither is a good place to spend your whole life.

    If you’re interested in what Wicca, Druidry, Heathenry and other Pagan traditions look like beyond the Silver Ravenwolf level, stop by the Patheos Pagan channel some time.

  • Fun essay, David. One of your longest, I think. I enjoyed it.
    The undoing of my Christianity was seeing the similar struggles of Christianity and Hinduism. But then I saw the struggles as “immaterial” or “spiritual” but “psychological” and “social” — I saw us all wrestling with the same issues.


    You said,

    “I claim the deepest similarity is the belief that we can manipulate God’s power to benefit ourselves and change the world. And this, I claim, is the philosophical crisis facing both Wicca and popular Christianity.”

    What makes you feel this is a crisis?

    I wrote a post here called “Good Luck Religion” where I say much of common, everyday Christianity is must magic for Good Luck — as are other religions. That isn’t a crisis, it is why religions survives — esp. in unstable worlds.

    I agree that such magic manipulation is delusional and mistaken and sometimes harmful, but it is largely how stuff sells and I don’t see it as a new crisis — it has always been the case.

  • Curtis Wilson

    As a long time follower of Pagan beliefs, I congratulate you on this well written piece. It’s good to see when a person of different faith can look for the similarities of another path and remain respectful throughout. 🙂

  • Hello David.

    I made a similar experience several weeks ago.

    I went to a German satanist forum, and discussed there with people who told me that the devil they worship is not identical with the devil of the Christian tradition who is a fiend and an egregious monster but does possess attributes such as compassion and love.

    I now believe that, in (at least) some respects, such Satanists are much closer to the real God than are genocide-endorsing Evangelicals:


    The good Samaritan can definitely be a satanist?

    Now I have more philosophical questions.

    You believe in an immaterial realm. How would you define that and what does it contain? Do you also believe in the existence of personal immaterial beings?

    Lovely greetings from Lorraine (my homeland in France).

  • Thanks so much Curtis. Honored.

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Even Satanists have a code of conduct and morality (after all, most Satanists are atheists who have a darker sense of humor).

  • That’s a matter of definition, I would not call atheists Satanists.

    2013/10/5 Disqus

  • Cecilia Davidson

    Pluralism is, for reasons alien to me, seen as evil by so many on the more hardline side of things, who may remember Saul’s trying to contact a seeress instead of the prophets of the Twelve Tribes, and having things end badly for it.
    Granted, Wicca is far more recent a religion, but it takes kindly from folk religions of the past and tries to make a new thing for the present.

    Even then, the outside perspective scares people. Some will try to speak for their god (as a certain, regular troll does here), and they have the right to, but the moment that something outside of their understanding tries to offer a more correct viewpoint, or at least far less inaccurate, they flip and decide that it’s evil. They think that this outside view must be of some malicious intent, whereas their own blindness is the very devil they fear.

    No matter what the religion, one’s fruit can tell of the health of the tree (Matthew 7:17). If one’s fruit is the spouting of another’s going into hellfire, then the fruit is bitter and undesirable. If another’s fruit speaks of hating others, the fruit and tree are rotten and must be burned. However, if the fruit being shown is that of generosity, love, and health, then who are we to judge the tree?

  • Cecilia Davidson

    No, but Satanists are more often atheists. The reverse does not necessarily have to be true for one to be correct on some level.

    However, your original point that the power they “worship” is closer to the God of your beliefs than that of many a hardline fundamentalist is quite true. Even one who prefers to worship a devil rather than a god who they find to be hateful and genocidal can still be capable of good will and love.

  • “Even one who prefers to worship a devil rather than a god who they find to be hateful and genocidal can still be capable of good will and love.”

    I just posted something elated about Thom Stark’s view on Blasphemy for God’s Sake. https://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/thom-stark-on-blasphemy-for-gods-sake/
    This could be of interest to you.

    Lovely greetings.

    2013/10/5 Disqus

  • Cecilia Davidson

    poe-tay-toe, toe-mah-toe.
    Either way, we both agree that there are some VERY wrong depictions of God being made by Christians on the more “we hate you more than we love god” side.

  • kenofken

    Most Satanists I’ve met are really just humanists who want a bad-ass narrative and some occult flavoring around their philosophy.

    Even though they are sometimes lumped together with Wiccans and the rest of us on the neopagan spectrum, their cosmology is really just an inversion of Christianity. The late Druid and pagan author Isaac Bonewits had some choice things to say about Satanism and his initial involvement with it early in his occult career. He said..”Most people who practice Satanism are Christian fundamentalists in drag.”

    I’ve found that most Satanists have a code of conduct that boils down to ultimate libertarianism and ritualized sociopathy. Many are actually nice enough folks, but they’ve rejected the idea that they owe anyone else any consideration and look to themselves as their own gods and goddesses. One thing I will say in their favor is that you always know where you stand with a Satanist.

  • Brigitte

    The Nazi’s tried this kind of shift away from Judeo–Christianity into paganism and nature worship. It is a matter of getting rid of the suffering God and Nietzsche’s concepts of “slave morality” with a move toward the will to power. http://ww2db.com/image.php?image_id=14197

    Read Karla Poewe on the Nazis and the new Religions to see how these views were propagated and how there are still powerful organizations promoting them. We must be very careful. Nothing new happens under the sun. There maybe lovely people who are Wicca involved, and I have reason to believe that I have one in the extended family, but we still must critically examine the system and the history and the dangers. “Popular” Christianity may be about getting your way and your goodies, but real Christianity is very familiar with the cross and suffering, as we see nowadays, again, worldwide, and as is its God. Assertiveness-trained people don’t like it.

    Everyone can make a nice prayer–but who is your God? It matters.

  • kenofken

    The Nazis appropriated some themes and imagery from a romanticized version of old Nordic paganism, but there were no temples to these gods. Nazi Germany was a Christian country, through and through. The regime encouraged its citizens and its military to attend Catholic and Protestant Christian Churches. The anti-semitism which was the centerpiece of Nazi ideology derived entirely from Christianity.

  • Brigitte

    The Nazis had a huge propaganda machine and said all sorts of things. However, if you read about the Hitler youth and the way they wanted to shape the new society, you will easily see that there was nothing Judeo-Christian about what they wanted and how they trained people. To the contrary, they hated it. There was a wing of “German-Christians”, but this was not Christianity. It was an altered and manipulated thing. Also read about “Gleichschaltung”.

  • kenofken

    “National Socialism neither opposes the Church nor is it anti-religious, but on the contrary it stands on the ground of a real Christianity…. For their interests cannot fail to coincide with ours alike in our fight against the symptoms of degeneracy in the world of to-day, in our fight against a Bolshevist culture, against atheistic movement, against criminality, and in our struggle for a consciousness of a community in our national life… These are not anti-Christian, these are Christian principles! And I believe that if we should fail to follow these principles then we should to be able to point to our successes, for the result of our political battle is surely not unblest by God.”

    -Adolf Hitler, in his speech at Koblenz, to the Germans of the Saar, 26 Aug. 1934

    It certainly wasn’t Christlike Christianity, but there’s no realistic way to transfer ownership of the Nazi regime from the Christian culture of the time to the modern neopagan movement which largely arose out of England post WW II. As I said, there was NO tradition of anti-Semitism to draw upon in Germany’s pre-Christian past. It was entirely drawn from Christian mythology and resentments of Jews as “Christ killers” going back to the middle ages.

  • Brigitte

    Hitler deceives then and now. It is so obvious, Kenofken. Why would we trust a word he says?

  • kenofken

    It’s not a matter of taking Hitler at his word. History as a discipline is about examining all parts of the record, looking at the patterns and consistency among them, and then drawing a picture, in this case, that depicts how the Nazis saw their movement in religious terms.

    When we look at the entire collection of speeches, correspondence, propaganda writings like Mein Kampf, and the laws and actions of the Nazi regime, that picture comes into focus. What it depicts is that the only true Nazi religion was power and a self-serving extreme nationalism. It was advanced and understood primarily in a Christian context, although clearly a warped and perverted form of Christianity. Hitler and others in the movement believed “true” or “positive” Christianity would be formed by purging the religion of Jewish influences and returning it to the masculine and racially aware virtues of some glorious (and fictionalized) pagan past.

    The pagan/occult elements of Nazi ideology ultimately arose from Theosophy, which was an early 20th Century fusion of Gnostic Christian mysticism, Eastern religious concepts, crypto-history (ie Atlantis legend) and some wacky theories about “race types” and their various levels of spiritual attainment, with Aryans of course being at the top. ALL of the esoteric/occult influences of Nazi ideology were offshoots or derivatives of Theosophy – Antroposophy, Ariosophy/Armanism, the Thule Society etc. So there were neopagan philosophies at play in National Socialism, although they were hybrids of pre-Christian recreations and Christian mysticism, what has been termed “mesopagan”.

    Despite that, the Nazis can hardly be said to have embraced paganism. Hitler specifically rejected the idea of a revived operative pagan religion in 1941. The Nazis also closed down and suppressed all of the esoteric/occult lodges (the very ones whose ideas they borrowed) as soon as they came to power.

    As a pagan myself, I accept that the Nazis adopted some of the same influences that modern neopaganism draws upon. The overwhelming majority of us today vigorously denounce and reject racialism and hate ideologies of any kind. Your version of viewing the history however, just posits a “no true Scotsman” argument which says the Nazis, being un-Christlike, could not have been Christian and were therefore pagan, because you suppose pagans are inherently amoral and vicious.

  • Brigitte

    Thank you for trying to be reasonable, kenofken. I appreciate it a lot. I am not trying to show that “pagans” are “vicious”. I have no doubt, at all, that many of them are virtuous. What does worry me is that some people try to show that Nazism was Christian, which it definitely was not, though we have something of the “German Christianity” which was not Christianity, plus so much of German State church has become liberal, that one wonders if it should be called Christian… AND–this get get from Karla Poewe’s book– that some of the old Nazis are still at it, that they have power and organizations to spread the same kind of non-Christianity, and actual hatred of the Judeo-Christian tradition, while elevating “myth”, any kind of “myth” and any kind of “prayer”.

    In terms of the Nazis, I do not need to read a lot of material, though I am known to have such thoroughness and have read about the ideological background, because I am only one half generation removed from the war. My parents were children during this time and I spent much time with older aunts and grandparents, and individuals from church, having access to many first-hand accounts. We can go into that somewhere.

    For example, my former pastor’s wife was a child in Swabia. Her father was a farmer and refused to join the Party going to church on Sundays, which customarily conflicted with mandatory Nazi involvement. He was one of the first to be sent to the front even though he had many children and a farm to look after and this was out of order. It was simply a punishment for sticking with church. One can also look up the account of Catholic priests and others who opposed the regime and see what happened to them. This is all well documented.

    I do worry about the spirit of the movement and how it may manifest nowadays.

  • kenofken

    Nazism was Nazism, and religions were just set of tools and contributing factors in a problem which had much bigger dimensions to it. The movement was really just the spark that happened to land in a forest full of dry tinder. The tinder being wounded nationalism combined with weak national institutions, 19th Century notions of statecraft, severe economic hardship and opportunists with an unusual set of political skills and brutality.

    The Nazis weren’t pagan, but they had a pagan’s understanding of the power of myth. They weren’t Christian, but they were able to play upon anti-Semitic memes which had been deeply embedded in Christianity for many centuries. The Catholic Church did not officially repudiate the concept of collective guilt of the Jews until 1965, and a good many protestant Christians were in broad agreement on that point. The notions of Jews as a sinister race and a threat to decent society was very old and very normative when Nazis were just young pikers dabbling in local politics and street violence. They just ran with the idea further than most and brought a hideous mechanized efficiency to it.

    I share your concerns about modern extremism. I don’t know that many of the original Nazis are involved. Even those who were youth corps members are now quite elderly, and those who were active in the “final solution” are still quite vulnerable to arrest and prosecution. Modern paganism is a movement of hundreds of varied and very different religions, including Wicca but also more historical reconstructions of European and Mediterranean and Baltic ancient religions, Afro-Caribbean practices etc. There are, unfortunately, a small minority of folks who go in for racialism/white supremacy or extreme ethnic nationalism of one sort or another. They are very much the exception and their ideas are rejected by the vast majority of us.

    I think some of what you touch on goes more to secularization of Western societies than anti-Christian hatred or extremism. A lot of us, myself included, have nothing against Christians and don’t want to see any harm come to them, but reject the idea that Christianity, or any religion, should have a privileged place in governance or that government should have the power to enforce religious doctrine on its citizens. Most of the people with true grudges against Christianity are not pagans or Nazis of any kind. They are, outside of Muslim extremists, mostly atheist.

  • Brigitte

    I don’t have time to write anything today. But at the moment I am just curious why you, personally, kenofken, would chose to be Pagan rather than Christian? Without resorting to the standard kinds of things we read here. The Greeks and Romans were a kind of pagan with their pantheons, but Paul said to them that they were “religious”, which is good, but God, capital G, does not need to have anything given to him to bribe him. He is the one who is good, not we, and he gives to us. He is also the one who is in control. We do not control him.

  • kenofken

    The easiest way to explain it is that I was called to be pagan, and to the deities I honor. I was raised the son of somewhat devout Catholics and nominal Lutherans. I was raised Catholic as part of the bargain to allow a Catholic to marry a non-Catholic. Went through 12 years of Catholic schools and had a reasonably positive experience of it.

    I had a better than average grasp of theology and philosophy and lived my religion as a altar server and through volunteer work in nursing homes etc. There was even a priest or two who encouraged me to consider seminary.

    Deep down, however, I simply didn’t believe the core claims of Christianity, the need for salvation etc. I spent my 20s as a secular humanist of sorts, but also a seeker, studying other branches of Christianity, Buddhism, the Baha’i faith, even Islam. I didn’t convert to each of these in turn, but I did read up on them and when possible, spent time with people in these communities. I had also met a few pagans – Wiccans and Baltic folks. They were some of the warmest and most genuine people I had ever met, and I liked their general worldview, but their religions seemed a bit esoteric and, well, hokey for an educated skeptical man like myself.

    I moved on, resigning myself to live as an agnostic of sorts. I failed to grasp that my soul itself had been pagan since at least the time of my birth in this world. I had a pagans understanding of the living and conscious and sacred nature of every last thing in the world, the interconnectedness of it all and the ways in which a person could communicate with nature and learn from it. For years I was setting rudimentary altars and celebrating the turn of seasons etc. I didn’t see it as particularly pagan, just what a man ought to be doing.

    By my early 30s, the call I had tried so long to ignore was returning in force. I would know no peace until I at least investigated this branch of religion and made a final decision about it. After some months of just meeting people at casual meetup type events, I dedicated to a Wiccan coven for two and a half years, where I became a First Degree (maybe an elder or deacon in Christian terms, not full clergy).

    I also became involved in Circle Sanctuary and Pagan Spirit Gathering, which are regional/national events and organizations and do my regular ritual work with a woman I consider to be the finest and most noble spirit I have ever known. Along the way, I also had a personal encounter with a goddess which was too powerful and personal to really give voice to here.

    The long and short of it is that I’m pagan because I was called to it, and because I am home in it. I have a peace and joy and sense of purpose that I expect and hope you find within Christianity. It also challenges me to become a better man, to reach for new accomplishments, to live with honor and temperance and service to something bigger than my own ego. We, most of us, don’t propose to either control or bribe the gods. We have an ancient occult term for such people: “fools”. Offerings to the gods are done purely out of respect and gratitude. They are not so different in principle from the gifts one might offer a favorite teacher or the hospitality you offer to visitors in your own home.

  • Brigitte

    I believe in Jesus. He has told me the truth about myself and he forgives my sins. He has the words of eternal life, even when life is crashing all around me. He loves me and I love him. He is my God, though I have never seen him, yet.

  • kenofken

    I wish you well on your spiritual path, and if we have no other common ground, I think we can share a stand against Nazism! 🙂

  • Brigitte

    kenofken, you are an intelligent person. But you know we well differ in that Jesus is not just any spiritual path, that through forgiveness is the only way we can have any contact with the holy.

    On what grounds would a pagan resist Nazism? I mean do you have commandments or scriptures or standard confessions? Why would the hero-worship of mythologies not serve again to bring in a might-makes-right ideology? What would you go by?

  • kenofken

    Many Christians seem to have this idea that their own religious values are all that stands between humanity and utter chaos and that anyone outside of their system must be nihilists (or one mishap away from it). There are many systems of ethics and virtues outside of Christianity, many of which predate it and some of which were adapted by Christianity as its own foundation of values.

    What do modern pagans believe? That’s a big subject, and the answer will vary among various traditions like Wicca, Heathenry, Hellenic or Roman reconstruction religions etc. The one I can speak most directly to is the Wiccan Rede. “An it harm none, do what ye will” or variations thereof.

    Not much of a commandment at first glance, and sounds positively libertine. And it is, but its part of a much deeper world view that sees all living things, and in fact the Earth itself, as being imbued with the same divine spark as each of us, and therefore worthy of respect.

    We also, as I touched on earlier, see an inter-connectedness among all people and all things. Someone in a forum much like this once posed the question “what’s to stop you from burning down your neighbor’s house?” My answer was that I happen to know my neighbor and I live in a duplex with a shared wall, regardless of what it may look like from the outside. Harming him will ultimately profit me nothing. Incidentally, that’s also the primary reason why so many of us are hardcore environmentalists.

    We Wiccans, and a good many other pagans, also have a belief very similar to Karma. Often it is called the Threefold Law on the idea that all you do, for good or ill, comes back to you with three times the magnitude. Early Wiccan authors said two-fold. My former teacher said 10! Me, I’m a believer in conservation of energy and relativity, so I think it’s 1:1, or possibly a function of the base of the natural logarithm, but the point is, we believe what goes around comes around. Many of us, myself included, believe this plays out even beyond one lifetime.

    The culture and ethics that tend to flow out of these values values life, freedom and pluralism, diversity, the rights of minority groups etc. Pagans also tend to be well educated, either in the formal or larger sense of the term, or both. We’re very often students of history, and we see the patterns that repeat themselves and the dynamics that drive events. We have a deep mistrust of men who ask for unlimited and unaccountable power “for the good of the nation.” We’re an anti-authoritarian lot in general. We don’t even take marching orders from our own leaders! Would-be cult leaders find the pagan community a wretched and unprofitable hunting ground.

    Our own country even now flirts with some the very same justifications and methods employed by the Nazi movement – arbitrary arrest (and execution), torture, extreme militarism and a surveillance state that monitors supposedly free citizens to a degree the Gestapo never dared dream. Our entire foreign policy is premised on the idea that might makes right. Our power is its own justification. The pagan community has been among the most vocal (if not numerous) opponents to this madness since it began.

    Finally, the hero myths of which you speak do in fact inform our moral and ethical consciences. Read properly, in full and in context, they don’t encourage or justify the sort of social Darwinism employed by the Nazis. They are violent tales to be sure, and the heroes themselves full of flaws and moral complexities (as we all are). At the same time, these stories aren’t about lording power over lesser men. They are lessons about living and dying well, perseverance in the face of absurd odds (even certain death), the consequences of dishonor or broken vows, and often redemption. Nor can they be seen as inherently anti-Christian. The only reason we still know some of these myths, ie the old Irish ones, is because early Christian monks took great care to document them and preserve them in written form.

    So we have profoundly different and irreconcilable beliefs about divinity and human interaction with it, but pagans are not morally or ethically adrift.

  • Brigitte

    Thank you for your well written reply. I don’t have time to respond right now. Are you Sam S. friend, per chance?

  • kenofken

    Can’t say I know Sam, although with the anonymity and sometimes changing nature of screen names, anything is possible. The pagan community isn’t as small as it used to be, but if its someone that has circulated in the scene, especially in the Midwest, chances are we’re only a few degrees separated through some acquaintance or another.