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

 

 

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