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

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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.

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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’,

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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

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

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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:

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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

 

 

Another ignorant comment from the media… or was it?

On the 4th of April this year the website Newshub released a story titled

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Paedophile ‘witch’ released from jail, moves in next to school

This article describes the granting of convicted pedophile Robin Angus Fletcher to live within close proximity to a school. I was made aware of the article through the Austrailan Pagan Awareness Network  (PAN) Facebook site. The article describes Robin as using ‘witch’ techniques such as hypnotism to lure girls and commit his crimes. The PAN president, David Garland, contacted Newshub and requested a modification of the article stating that hypnotism is NOT part of the accepted practices of a witch (read the PAN response here).  I applaud David in contacting Newshub and writing a clear and objective letter stating that hypnotism is not an recognized accepted practice by witches in their magical work, particularly if it is not consented by both parties.

Wanting to research the article further I found the original news story The Age posted an article on Mr. Fletcher in 2006 where he claims to be a Wiccan and associated his Wiccan practice to justify his behavior. In that article Marion Dalton from PAN was mentioned distancing Wiccans and their values from Mr. Fletcher and his actions. An article in March of this year via News.com detailed Mr. Fletcher’s release into the community. In February of this year the Herald Sun described Mr. Fletcher as a ‘sex witch’.

So I ask the community: does this reporting by the media hurt Pagans by portraying them as using sex (and hypnotism) in their magic? Or does it simply show a very disturbed man using a religious belief to justify morally- inhumane actions?

I would like to hear your thoughts,

Blessed Be.

Are animal familiars important to a Pagan home?

RecenIMG_1731tly my partner and I brought home an 11 week old Tabby kitten. While I have had several cats in my life I have been mostly a dog-person (so to speak). In my travels as a Wiccan I do see regular references to cats being an important part of a Wiccan household, so I decided to do a bit of digging to see where this comes from. At the outset I will say that there is not a lot of helpful objective information, but I will share what I have.

With regards to cats as Pagan pets this belief seems to centre around the Egyptian god Bastet who was worshiped for magical powers. Bastet appears to have been revered for her female magical energy, and was first recorded in Egyptian history in 2890 BCE. Bastet was originally depicted as a lion and was associated with the power of the sun. Later that depiction changed into what we more commonly associate with a cat. Her power remained that of protection, particularly in cat form for the pharaoh Ra.

The association between cats and witches in the US and Europe

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In more contemporary times witches have been associated with cats. Every year in America news reporters across the country warn that owners of black cats keep them inside on Halloween for fear of pranksters causing harm. The association with ‘witches’ and cats in the United States stems back to the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts during the 17th century. Christian persecutors felt that cats were somehow spiritual extensions of witches, and therefore could walk relatively unnoticed amongst the population doing the witch’s deeds. Dogs were also represented in the massacre, as they were also said to do the evil bidding of witches, however It is my opinion that based on the cat’s ability to climb and move quietly through spaces they would cause more concern.

In Europe the association with cats and evil-doing started long before. In the 12th century cats were scene as both an aid to society and an animal to be feared. An article during by Irina Metzler described how cats were recognized as valuable in controlling the rat population (known for spreading disease), however they were seen as stealthy hunters who could not be domesticated as dogs can. This lack of domestication (obedience) I believe caused the distrust and  eventual fear.

Modern cats in Pagan homes

A search of today’s modern information stream (the internet) reveals that many modern-day Witches and broader Pagans believe in utilizing the magical power of cats (and other domestic animals) in their spells. Often these are in regards to harnessing the collective power of the animal’s spirit with your own to create a broader and stronger magical connection. Others are about protection and security. In any form Cats and other domestic animals seem to have a strong place within a modern magical home.

So what’s my take?

Any animal member of a family plays an important role in the magic of that household, just as any human members would. I believe that cats share an air of mystery and magic over dogs due to their inquisitive nature, ability to climb and jump, and their inherent lack of domestication (we all know that cats want to do their own thing!). Are cats particularly magical as opposed to other animals, I am not convinced. There is no doubt that having a pet within a household, magical or not, brings a new added facet to the spiritual crystal within. We love our Max, and he will be welcomed for years to come.

I hope you have found this article as interesting as I have. I would be interested in your feelings on the subject of animals and Witches.

Until next time,

Blessed Be

References:

Cats in Ancient Egypt

Wikipedia- Bastet

Wikipedia- Familiar spirit

What is a Animal Familiar?

Why are cats associated with Witches?

Animals in the Salem Witch Trials

Why were cats hated in Medieval Europe

Cat Magick

Animal spells- Witches of the Craft

Easter- a Christian holiday with Pagan roots?

Another Easter has passed. Filled with bunnies, eggs (both chocolate and decorated hard-boiled) and baskets. As we well know that according to Christian tradition Easter is known as the day of Resurrection for Jesus Christ. However, Pagans can rejoice in the knowledge that the foundations of this Christian holiday have very Pagan roots.

1. The day Easter falls

As we know Easter falls on different Sunday’s each year, sometime from late March to late April. Why a different date? Wouldn’t the date remain static each year, the same as Christmas? According to a news report by ABC news the method of determining Easter Sunday began according to the first Council of Nicea in 325AD. The council determined that Easter Sunday was the first Sunday after the full moon following the Spring Equinox. This places the Sunday anywhere between March 25th and April 25th each year.

Pagans everywhere can associate the wheel of the year and the equinoxes with harvests and our spiritual growth, death, and re-birth. Additionally, the moon cycles resonate with us around our beliefs of the goddess. However, neither of these important Pagan principles are mentioned in the Bible.

2. The origin of the Easter bunny

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That all to recognizable fabled animal who defies logic in producing eggs (either golden, decorated or chocolate). A popular theory in history is that the Easter bunny originated from Germany where it was known as the osterhase. The original mention of the Easter bunny comes from Georg Franck von Franckenau’s De ovis paschalibus in 1682. The Easter bunny was similar to Santa Claus in that he brought eggs to the children. The Easter bunny was seen as representing fertility and life as bunnies are known to have multiple liters of offspring.

 

 

 

 

3. The famous Easter egg

Originally having eggs was seen as a treat after Lent. The eggs needed to be hard-boiled to keep in the time before refrigeration, and the decorations were seen as a way of making them special for the holidays. Again the history points to this being a German tra

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dition where the decorated hard-boiled eggs were a treat after Lent, and it appears that the Easter bunny would leave the eggs out in his pre-Easter delivery.

In fact the belief is that the origins of the famous chocolate Easter eggs comes originally from the German immigrants who brought the Easter bunny tradition to the US via Pennsylvania in the 1700s. The Cadburry company took the idea (originally the eggs were hard-boiled and decorated) and turned the Easter egg into today’s delicious treat.

4. The name Easter

In fact the name of the holiday, Easter, has been associated with Pagan links. Nowhere in the bible is the name of this holiday listed. However, history has shown some association with the greek god Eostre. Again a Germanic link Eostre was seen as a Saxon god of questionable origin, however it was suggestive of the Equinox and celebrations of new life. Most likely Eostre was celebrated as a time when winter was ending signalling the growth of crops and increasing activity of livestock meaning food would be available soon. Eostre also has links to the Pagan spring equinox hoiday of Ostara.

So while Easter in today’s times is associated strongly with the different Christian faiths, never forget that like all similar celebrations this holiday firmly has roots planted in Wiccan traditions. Again I must re-state that I have no issue or complaint with Christians celebrating this holiday as their own, it just gives me a grin knowing that our two differing faiths have more in common than they would like to believe.

Blessed be,

Garrettlonewolfe

For your reading here are the articles used for this post:

Origins of Easter from the ABC News

The Easter Bunny- Wikipedia

The Easter holiday from History.com

The Easter holiday from Heavy.com

Easter symbols and traditions from History.com

Eostre- Wikipedia

Contemporary Paganism turns the big 50!

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John Halsteed, writing in the Huffington Post, comments on the modern Pagan movement which started in the 1960’s both in the US and in the UK. Three organizations pioneered the modern pagan movement, with the Church of All Worlds the most significant- gaining government-recognized status in 1968.

Modern paganism, unlike previous revivals, served to take the best components of previously known pagan religions and incorporate them into practice. This forms the basis of neo-paganism. The issue, I think, in relation to the Christian world’s acceptance of paganism as a viable and true alternate faith is the lack of accepted practices. Modern pagans do not have a codified structure with which to hang their beliefs. Therefore, it would seem that it is every man/woman for themselves.

Further complicating the issue is that there are few statistics regarding the total number of pagans in the world currently. John’s article states that through approximation there are 1 million pagans in the U.S. However, this is difficult to verify as there is no formal census procedure which asks for religious affiliation. In Canada and Australia, where religious affiliation is part of the census, growth of non-traditional religions such as paganism is growing. However, again here the ability to accurately determine statistics are difficult.

I believe there are several reasons for this. The first, and most prominent, reason is the secrecy that most Pagan practitioners show. We have a modern world society that values individuals being able to (within reason) do what they wish. Homosexual marriage (previously outlawed and frowned upon) is being seen as a future possibility. Stem cell research is pushing head-long to providing new medical breakthroughs. But tell someone that you worship the moon and believe in reincarnation their judgmental walls erect quickly.

I don’t practice spell-craft. I don’t use voodoo dolls, nor do I attempt to mess with the laws of nature. My belief, and I feel the common belief amongst modern pagans, is to co-exist and work with the existing natural energies found on this planet. I don’t believe that a conscious human-like spirit rules all. Instead I feel that we are all connected by our common energies, and therefore what I do affects every other living organism on our planet.

Here is the link to the article by John Halsteed.

Pagans seventh largest religion in the UK

Beltane celebration            Pagan pride picnic

Credit: Pagan Nature Celebrations               Credit: Pagan Pride Picnic 2009: Nottingham

According to the 2011 UK census Pagans represented the seventh most popular religious faith according to a report in an article in the Chronicle live. While total numbers of respondents were not stated in the article it did report that 1802 people did identify themselves as Pagan in the North East.

The trouble with this story is the difficulty of identifying what constitutes a ‘Pagan’. Of the 1802 people in the North East who stated they were Pagan 456 ( 26%) identified themselves as Wiccan. However, the actual paths of other Pagan faiths was not identified. The report described Paganism as ” according to the Pagan Federation, the term covers a vast number of traditions or “paths” whose central idea is that there is a divine force inherent in nature. Pagans celebrate events such as the summer and winter solstice by gathering before sunrise in gardens, forests, hilltops or beaches for organized rituals or their own personal reflection.” While giving a very nebulous idea that we are somehow in-tune with nature the description fails to identify any true religious principles other than our belief in a divine connection with nature.

From my standpoint one of our great assets as a set of religious beliefs is also our downfall. There are quite a few spiritual sects which serve to fall under the Pagan definition, but that variability leads to confusion when interacting with non-Pagans. To their credit the Pagan Federation of the UK does try to define and explain Pagans and Paganism on their webpage. The one sentence statement is: “A follower of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion.” Further on the same page it states that Paganism is “the ancestral religion of the whole of humanity. This ancient  religious outlook remains active throughout much of the world today, both  in complex civilisations such as Japan and India, and in less complex  tribal societies world-wide. It was the outlook of the European religions  of classical antiquity – Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome – as well as of their “barbarian” neighbours on the northern fringes, and its European form is re-emerging into explicit awareness in the modern West  as the articulation of urgent contemporary religious priorities.”

The issue with these types of depictions are that they do not address the areas of concern for those who are concerned about our beliefs. Questions like: do you have a moral code of non-violence and piety, why is nature so important within your religion, and how does your religious beliefs teach regarding interaction with other non-Pagan faiths? Could it be that a general discussion of Paganism cannot formulate such central answers to these questions, as has been accomplished for other mainstream religions?

Simply a question, however is Paganism too inclusive? Could it be that our quest to encompass those religions who are nature-centric and do not fall under the umbrella of the major faiths causing isolation and removal from acceptance? Especially in this day and age of sound bytes and definitive statements to explain somewhat complex ideas is Paganism serving to be one of its worst enemies?

Link to the Chronicle live story: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/pagans-demand-greater-respect-revealed-3658870

Link to the Pagan federation page on introduction to Paganism: http://paganfed.org/paganism.shtml

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

Monotheism, Polythesim, or other? The existence and belief in gods

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Wiccan five elements 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The definition of theism, according to Oxford online dictionary, is ” belief in the existence of a god or gods, specifically of a creator who intervenes in the universe: there are many different forms of theism” http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/theism

That started me thinking, am I a polytheist, as some may suggest (believing in multiple gods). As to the idea of a creator I must admit I take a more Darwinian approach- a belief in the Big Bang and subsequent genetic mutation and improvement based on survival of the fittest. This is in line with the Wiccan connection with nature and the natural process of life. So I do not believe that there is some ‘master plan’ with a conscious entity at the helm.

Another question exists in the term ‘god (God)’. I don’t think this fits either. I believe that there is a spiritual energy which surrounds and is included within all things- but this spiritual energy does not have a mind of its own, and does not have any purposeful control. Often it is talked about as Wiccans and other faiths celebrating the God and Goddess- this I do not question. However, to me this is the human mind trying to describe and comprehend the infinite. The God and Goddess are simply differing vibrations in the spiritual energy- not specific entities in their own right. They represent the qualities spiritual energy in relation to gender  and personality traits.

As to the intervening portion, I think this is rather obvious. You reap what you sow- as the Wiccan Rede describes. Therefore, we intervene in our own future with every action we take.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

Update on Summer Solstice Pagan festival in Pahokee Florida

In reviewing the recent news feeds regarding the Christian opposition to the Pagan festival I am pleased to report that the opposition seems to be subsiding. If you can recall one of the points I made was that no representative from the Pagan community had been interviewed, or was apparently available during the meeting (that was reported).

Peter Dybing Reverend Peter Dybing

Reverend (Pagan) Peter Dybing met with opposing members of the community to discuss and interject balance to the discussion around the Pagan festival. Dybing stated “I am a fire chief. We have fire chiefs, nurses, doctors, and people who deliver your mail. We’re just like any other community… We’re peaceful people. We’re just like any other religion. We don’t want to be molested… we just want to hold our events without any problem.”

Peter Dybing is the task force coordinator of the Lady Liberty League. In a statement made to another report Dybing stated “Lady Liberty League has established a task force with the specific objective of providing education and insight to residents and clergy in the local Pahokee community about Paganism. It is our approach to utilize education and information first in order to avoid escalation of this situation.”

It appears from both reports that public opposition to the event is lessening with the public statements of Peter and the Lady Liberty League. This reinforces the need for valuable organizations like Lady Liberty, and for those who head them, to provide truth and understanding. Through this measured and rational debate we can strive to reach the minds and hearts of moderate Christians in accepting our religion as peaceful, caring, and appropriate for today’s society.

Article from WPTV news: http://www.wptv.com/dpp/news/region_the_glades/pahokee/pahokee-pagan-summer-solstice-festival-pastors-in-pahokee-worried-organizers-say-they-are-peaceful#ixzz2VIb3EON5

Article from Pagan News Collective, Florida: http://florida.pagannewswirecollective.com/2013/05/30/lady-liberty-league-task-force-to-engage-pahokee-community/

Lady Liberty League logo

Facebook page for Lady Liberty organization: https://www.facebook.com/LadyLibertyLeague

Personal blog for Peter Dybing: http://paganinparadise.blogspot.com.au/

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe