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My thoughts about Traditional Witchcraft, Wicca, cooking, gardening, and anything else that catches my fancy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Witchcraft And The Gods: My Personal Views

Most modern Witches I know take a polytheistic view; that is, they believe in multiple different Gods. I am no exception. Most, as well, would refer to their beliefs as a form of Paganism. However, whereas in most religions the entire focal point of their practices is worship of a God or Gods, and performing various rituals to either beg their favour, or appease their wrath, I would take the stand that such is NOT the goal of Witchcraft. Indeed, I question whether we "worship" our Gods at all. In some cases, yes: there are definitely Pagan paths which are religions, and which devote themselves entirely to religious pursuits. However, in Traditional Witchcraft and other such magical traditions, I think there is a difference in how the Gods are approached (if they are approached at all; there are some Trad Crafters who do not believe in, or actively work with, Deities.)

In my personal view, a Witch is a magic worker, someone who can harness the forces of Nature, spirits, the Gods, and their own Will and utilize these forces for their own ends. While Witches may have a strong respect and even love for their patron Deities, many seem to feel that their relationship is a "working" one, and not a master/servant dynamic. Certainly, almost none of the Trad Crafters I know consider their Deities to be "all powerful" or "all knowing" in the way the Islamic or Judeo-Christian God is meant to be, nor would they consider it their life's work to grovel in obsequious piety before said Gods. As an animist and pantheist myself, I see a spark of the Divine in everything, and to debase yourself in servitude as though we were lowly creatures, barely worthy to speak to the Divine at all, is to me the height of folly and smacks of Christian masochism. I also remain deeply suspicious of anyone who claims to know the "Will of God" whether that God is Jehovah, or the Lord and Lady. History (and today) is rife with barbaric atrocities committed by people who have claimed such knowledge, and it becomes possible to justify any act of violence or genocide if you can believe that the Gods have commanded it.

What, then ARE the Gods, if not all powerful beings we must bow before? The truth is, I don't know....and I don't think anybody does. My own feelings on the matter change over time; at some times, I feel that they are actual distinct, personal beings that exist quite independently of ourselves. At other times, they seem to me to be a kind of archetype, "real" in the sense that they exist in the fabric of human experience, but not as literal, physical beings. Having had what I would consider Divine experiences myself, I tend to lean towards the former, but I maintain a healthy skepticism and questioning attitude, for the reasons I mention above. I should also add here that I do not believe that "All Gods are one God" as I think that this is patently untrue, and demeans and cheapens the very concept. I've seen such claims made, largely by people from a Judeo-Christian background who are frightened to entirely leave behind their old religion, but clearly to equate vastly different beings from vastly different cultures and claim they are the same being is a folly, if for no other reason except that it smacks of cultural appropriation. The idea, for example, that Pan and Jehovah are really "the same God" is laughable, considering their historical context and legendary attributes. Even if they are but human projections, they project completely different and contradictory things.

I consider it a large part of my path as a Witch to ask these kinds of questions, and view myself not as a worshiper dedicated to "truth," but as an explorer trying to FIND truth. I'm primarily a magic worker, not a priest, and am dedicated to using my skills to help myself and humanity....and not in service of a God. Despite my occult leanings, I base most of my social agendas on Humanism, and the betterment of people, which is something I wish ALL people of ALL faiths would do. Religious differences come and go, but human needs and suffering are very real and, unfortunately, eternal and these are the things that I think deserve our full attention and agreement.

So, is my path a religion, or a trade or skill? I would say somewhere in the middle. Perhaps a "spirituality" would be the proper term. "Religion" to me implies a set of beliefs which one must adhere to, and a rigid set of rules to follow in service of something. This is not my path. However, neither do I view magic as a purely mechanical power, harnessing nameless "energy" in a manner rather like baking a cake ("Light candle A, say B, and C will happen.") I don't pretend to have all the answers, and indeed don't think I (or anybody) ever will have the answers. Our best option, then, is to keep an open mind, and to continue asking these kinds of questions and questing to get a better understanding of the world around us, both in the physical AND the occult realms.

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