Wiccans in military service, is it “against our religion”

Anzac-Day-logo
Image Source

Yesterday in Australia we celebrated ANZAC day, a commemoration of the service men and women of Australia and New Zealand who fought and gave their lives to allow the peace and freedom that we enjoy in this country to be a reality. As I am an American by birth I also identify with the American holiday of a similar theme, Memorial Day. Both are great examples of citizens giving thanks for those who have done what many of us would not be able to do- serve under life-threatening circumstances where lives could, and were, easily lost.

As a Wiccan I wonder how my religion justifies war? Arguably the purpose of an army (or navy or air force) is to provide a violent and overwhelming force capable of delivering death and destruction onto any forces who threaten it. But this flies in the face of the Wiccan code which states “…and it harm none, do what ‘ye will”. Yes, the ultimate purpose of a military force in a country is to be a deterrent for other countries to attempt attacks. But to be an effective deterrent you must be willing to sacrifice lives and assets to destroy other lives and assets.

tunic_t
Image Source

Looking at Pagan societies and their history of war and armies the most prolific and most noted would have to be the Romans. Well known for their Pagan beliefs the Romans systematically used well-trained armies to attack and secure land from many other countries.  The Vikings, who were Pagans from Scandinavian countries, again utilized armies and navies in organized attacks on weaker forces. The early German Pagans also were involved in many wars, some as the aggressors.  While this list includes several Pagan-based cultures, Wicca is not amongst them.

That is because Wicca, as we know it, did not come into popular being until the 1950s; with it’s origins dating back to the 1800’s with Gerald Gardner. (I am looking to do at least one blog posting on the origins of modern Wicca at a later date.) Additionally Wicca is a mixture of British and American influences where both countries were almost entirely Christianized prior to the development of Wicca and both were secularized with the government separated from the church. Alas the Wiccan rede by which most practitioners follow did not appear until at least the 1960’s.

So Wiccan’s are left to their own beliefs to justify military service. As Wicca is a ‘natural religion’ as some would say we could by-rights look to nature to see if military-type action is accepted. Arguably we see many examples of animals using violence both to defend and attack to gain reputation, land and status. So even the animal world has groups within it whom utilize many traits found in modern forces. And the threat of violence and possibility of death does not deter animals from using their ‘instinct’ as it has been described.

In the end I give credit to all servicemen and servicewomen, no matter their religious heritage. Should a Wiccan feel that they are best suited to put their life on the line to defend a nation of which I occupy I have only respect for them. The rede does say ‘harm none’, however the spirit of that law applies to magical workings. One could argue that the use of weapons and military tactics is not magical, and therefore falls into the mundane existence- outside of the rede.

Unfortunately my adopted home is not as progressive towards Pagans (specifically Wiccans) as my birth-country. The Guide to Religion and Beliefs in the Australian Defense Force  (ADFA) does have a passing mention of Wicca as a ‘nature-based religion’,

0620-Willis-PaganHeadstone-550x358
Image Source

however that is where the effort ends. The U.S. Army Chaplain’s handbook has an entire section devoted to Wicca. Wicca is also recognized as a religion in relation to burial headstones and on dog tags in the U.S. I have not found any mention of this within ADFA.

In fact looking at the guide from ADFA several religions are included, however as stated earlier Wicca is not. I am wondering if this is because Wicca does not have a hierarchy, and therefore no governing body to drive its inclusion in the defense force. Or, conversely there are no firm numbers of Wiccans, let alone Pagans, within the Australian military. Either way it would be good of the Australian government to be inclusive of Pagans as they are of other religions.

Despite the lack of federal recognition of Wiccans and Pagans more broadly within the Australian military I, for one, am proud of every serviceman and servicewoman despite their faith. I can see how Wiccans could have an internal conflict justifying the use of violent force on others while defending its use to defend the freedom and protection of Australia and its interests.

I would be interested in the thoughts of others on this topic.

Until next time, Blessed Be.

Garrettlonewolfe

References:

U.S. Army Chaplains handbook: Wiccan

Guide to Religion and Beliefs in the Australian Defense Force 

Encyclopedia Britannica (online)- Wicca

Thoughtco- Gods and Goddesses of war and battle

Thoughtco- Pagans in the Military- U.S. based information

Excerpt from U.S. Army’s Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains

Wikipedia- Wiccans and Pagans in the U.S. Military

The Wiccan Rede, a Historical Journey

Wikipedia- Germanic Paganism

Roman history timeline- detail of Roman wars

Wikipedia- Viking age

Advertisements

Scott Cunnigham, was he a benefit or hindrance to modern Wicca?

quote-read-as-much-as-you-can-discarding-negative-or-disturbing-information-learn-by-doing-scott-cunningham-100-36-84
Image Source

I feel that I must dedicate at least one post on this blog to Scott Cunningham. He is the author who introduced me, and I am sure thousands if not millions, of men and women to Wicca. Before his book Wicca: the Solitary Guide for the Practitioner I was merely lost as to my religious identity. The information on Scott is somewhat muddled, but here is an account of who he was and how he became the influential author within the Pagan community.

At the outset I must give special thanks George Knowles of Controversical.com from whose page much of the detail of Scott’s life has been documented. 

Scott was born in Royal Oak, Michigan in 1965. Scott’s father was a professional writer, which may explain how Scott was able to so prolifically document on the subject of Wicca. Any one who knows Michigan can attest that it can become very cold and harsh at times of the year. Scott’s mother, Rose, was ill and was advised by doctors that a more milder climate would be beneficial for her health. Due to this the Cunningham family moved from Michigan to sunny San Diego, California.

San Diego, for those who have not been there, is an amazing city bordered by Mexico to the south and known for its military bases and beach-side activities. It can be a progressive and at times ‘alternative’. In San Diego Scott met Raymond Buckland, who was a very active member of the American Wiccan community. Scott became involved in the Serpent Stone Family. Scott also enrolled in a creative writing degree at San Diego State University, however within two years of the course had produced so much published work he left the university to continue is writing career.

Scott’s transition from coven Wiccan to solitary practitioner is somewhat unclear. However, the reason behind his popularity is unmistakable. He has an amazing list of books to his name. A good list of those works can be found here. He had an amazing way of writing that took complex and intricate concepts and made them easy to understand and follow. Patti Wigington in an article published in Thoughtco.com I think best describes Scott’s style:

180930
Image Source

While Cunningham often comes under fire from lineaged Wiccans, who point out that his books are in fact about NeoWicca, rather than traditional Wicca, his works typically offer a lot of good advice for people who practice as solitaries. He frequently points out in his writings that religion is a deeply personal thing, and it’s not up to other people to tell you if you’re doing it right or wrong. He also argued that it was time for Wicca to stop being a secretive, mystery religion, and that Wiccans should welcome interested newcomers with open arms.

Interestingly, Scott was able to take his knowledge of natural magic and translate it into language that beginners to Wicca could easily understand. He shared his belief of the Divine, and of symbolism, and although he never dumbed it down, he managed to take complex information and explain it in a way that someone who had no prior understanding of Wicca could still absorb. (https://www.thoughtco.com/about-scott-cunningham-2562615)

Scott unfortunately was not with us for very long. Originally contracting and overcoming Lymphoma he contracted cryptococcal menigitis of which he succomed to in 1993 at the age of 36. His legacy lives on as his writings are continued to be sold globally and I would imagine occupy the shelves of many practicing Wiccans.

There are some who feel that Scott’s teachings have not helped the proliferation of traditional Wiccan teachings, and in fact may have caused some set-backs due to their simplistic and otherwise one-sided disposition. I would agree that Scott’s books are simplistic, at least to some extent, and a practitioner may use his teachings as a jumping-off platform to expand their knowledge. But without his kindhearted introduction to Wicca many teenagers like myself at that time would not have had the courage to embark on the discovery of such an amazing spiritual experience.

Let’s face it, being within a minority population can be daunting. Mainstream society approaches minorities with an array of concern, disapproval or even fear. My hope is that through writers like Scott, bloggers like myself and the general shift of a more accepting society we can come to a place where the minority may not be celebrated but at least welcomed and moves made by the majority to understand.

Until next time, blessed be.

Garrettlonewolfe

Articles

Controversial.com- Scott Cunningham

Wikipedia- Scott Cunningham

Thoughtco.com- Author Profile: Scott Cunningham

Wild Ideas- The Temple Library: Why I don’t like Scott Cunningham

Wikipedia- Raymond Buckland

Biblio.com- A list of books written by Scott Cunningham

 

 

Earth day- secular call-to-action or Pagan holiday?

Quick points on Earth Day

  • Started on the 22nd of April, 1970
  • Date was chosen around American college schedules, NOT Pagan holidays
  • Was founded by two United States federal politicians: Gaylord Nelson and Pete Mc Closkey
  • Was founded in reaction to the amount of pollution and industrial waste causing health and safety concerns in the US
  • The Name Earth Day was created by an advertising executive as it rhymed with ‘birthday’
logo17.2
Image source

Happy Earth Day 2017 (or for those not yet into the 22nd of April Earth Day-eve). For myself, and I would imagine many of those within the Pagan-based faiths, the concept of Earth Day is welcomed and cherished. We believe that there is a direct connection between ourselves and nature at-large. Our faith ties us with nature, and harming the environment is like harming ourselves. But, just because Pagans relate to, and welcome, Earth Day does it mean that this global call-to-arms was a Pagan-inspired creation? On my look around the web I found a few links to some who would say yes, Earth Day is a means to force Paganism onto well-abiding Christians. Honestly, before researching this blog I had no idea of the foundations of Earth Day; so for the benefit of myself and the greater community I will give an account of Earth Day’s beginnings, the background behind the event, and current beliefs around the day.

History of Earth Day

GaylordNelson
Gaylord Nelson

Earth Day was founded on the 22nd of April, 1970 by a United States senator from Wisconsin named Gaylord Nelson. A self-proclaimed environmental activist Gaylord felt that America was destroying its environment through industrialization and current societal practices. Two events in particular led to his decision to move forward: an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California and a river which caught on fire due to oil in Cleveland.

Gaylord teamed up with Denis Hayes, the organization’s founder, and Pete McCloskey who was a congressman from California. The original idea for Earth Day was to be a one-time call-to-arms situated across college campuses in the US to highlight the need for environmental protection and working towards sustainability. The actual day, April 22nd, was chosen by Gaylord as it fell between the typical final exam week in American universities and the spring break festivities. The actual name ‘Earth Day’ was created by Julian Koenig, an advertising executive who stated that the name sounded like ‘birthday’ and the name stuck.

Since it’s inception Earth Day has become a global effort. Celebrated across the world it’s efforts have brought about many changes in how America and the world approach the environment and relevant issues of renewable energy, recycling, sustainable growth and waste/garbage disposal. According to the Earth Day Network site:

Earth Day Network is the world’s largest recruiter to the environmental movement, working with more than 50,000 partners in nearly 195 countries to build environmental democracy. More than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world. We work through a combination of education, public policy, and consumer campaigns.”

Religious ties to the foundation of Earth Day?

So through all of my research not once has the concept of religion, any religion, entered into either the foundations of Earth Day, nor it’s current form. Yes, there are some Pagan organizations who relate to Earth Day in relation to their Pagan beliefs or simply use the day as a way of bringing to their conscious a connection with nature. In his book Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Pagansism in America Chas Clifton made reference to the fact that modern Wicca transformed from a magical-based religion to more nature-based in reaction to

220px-Her_Hidden_Children
Image Source

Earth Day. But these are anecdotal connections, just as the Easter bunny is now associated with the holiday it shares a name with. The concept of the Easter bunny was created to serve a purpose from the holiday, not define it.

The idea of Earth Day being considered a Pagan holiday was challenged in New York on March 29th 2001 when a group of parents described as of Christian faith brought a suit against the Fox Lane High School stating that their Earth Day activities were promoting Pagan and earth-based religions. Justice Kearse compared Earth Day festivites to that of displaying and paying respect to the American flag:

“An objective observer would not view these detailed prescriptions for honoring the American flag … as an indication that Congress … has established flag worship as a religion,” Judge Kearse wrote. “We conclude that an objective observer similarly would not view the School District’s Earth Day ceremonies as endorsing Gaia or Earth worship as a religion.”

http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/pagan-and-earth-based/2001/04/court-earth-day-not-pagan-public-schools-may-celebrate.aspx

The court found also found that the use of the term ‘mother nature’ was not a reference to a goddess or other diety, but a phrase similar to ‘father time’ used to describe a concept. Here we find objective heads prevailing to prevent a rather narrow-minded group of individuals from ruining what is a good public service in the form of Earth Day activities.

My take on Earth Day

I could also present here the critics. To be fair most have Christian backgrounds (at least according to the publicly stated information). But I do not feel such ignorant musings need a forum. As you can see even the Pagan faiths have looked to tie-in with Earth Day, however it was NOT founded on Pagan beliefs nor by any person who has ties to the Pagan community. Earth Day was a reaction by a well-meaning group of politicians and activists to raise awareness of industrial practices which could ruin our only true home- the planet.

Because of their efforts we have seen an amazing transformation of our planet since the 1970s. I was born in 1972 (shhh, makes me old), and can remember the days of smog alerts and oil spills. We live on a better planet because of the efforts of Gaylord Nelson, Denis Hayes, Pete McClosky and all of the other men and women who have taken their time and efforts to focus the world’s attention to the environment. Let us not ruin their efforts by putting religion squarely in an area where it is not relevant.

If religious faiths choose to use Earth Day as a reminder of their connection with Mother Earth great. We also have several other holidays that are similar. Likewise even Christians can, should they choose, use the day to strengthen their belief in god. But let us keep the focus of Earth Day on it’s original purpose.

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

Articles for reference

Earth Day Network

Wikipedia- Earth Day

Envirolink site with commentary from Gaylord Nelson regarding the foundations of Earth Day

Livescience: Earth Day Facts and History

Vision.org- Gaylord Nelson: Founder of Earth Day

Uppity Wisconsin: The First Earth Day and Gaylord Nelson’s Environmental Legacy

Wikipedia- Gaylord Nelson

Huffington Post: Eight Ways Pagans Celebrate Earth Day

The Wild Hunt- Happy (Pagan) Earth Day to you!

Beliefnet- Court: Earth Day Not Pagan Holiday, Public Schools May Celebrate