Monday, March 22, 2010
Wiccan Studies Essay
Rev. Robert Heyer
The Wiccan Studies Course was interesting and informative. I think it is important for every Christian to have an understanding of all religions and religious practices. Many Christian's speak out against Wicca from a preconceived notion of its beliefs and practices. Others refuse to accept Wicca as a religion and refuse to accept its tenants as conforming to an organized system of beliefs. This course, though very elementary, gives a good basic understanding of the core of syncretism practices that come under the heading of Wicca.
One important false premise I held, was that Wicca was an ancient religion. This is not the case at all and is traced only back as far as the Middle of the last Century. The belief in an earlier date is attributed to the, now debunked, work of folklorist Margret Murray. Her publications that traced a European "Witch Cult" were interesting, but found to be incorrect by mainstream anthropologists. Modern Wicca is traced back to the work of one man Gerald Gardner. Much of his claims for contact with hereditary witch covens were later found to be invented. In fact most of the religion he created was borrowed or invented. As a supplement to the course I read Fifty Years of Wicca by Frederick Lamond. The books paints are rather unflattering picture of Gerald Gardner and his problems with the truth. It was interesting to see that the majority of Wiccan practices are taken directly from rituals but the old hermetic groups of the Nineteenth Century. In fact at the Museum of Witchcraft located at Gardner's old residence drawings have been found from manuals of Alaster Crowley's group called the Argentum Astrum (silver star) that show every tool and practice used in Gardner's Wicca. It is obvious he borrowed heavily from Crowley's works in his more sanitized form of occult practice he named Wicca. Of great interest was to read of Gardner's fetish for self flagellation that led him to add scourging to ritual practice of Wicca.
Wicca uses Old English in many of its important religious documents such as the Wiccan Rede and rituals that lend to the atmosphere of an ancient origin, but no Book of Shadows has been found that dates further back than the 1950's. Many practitioners claim ancient hereditary roots in the "old religion", but can offer little proof of the claim other than the occasional folk magic practices with some member of the family.
Modern Wiccans are often falsely accused of being in league with the devil. This is not true as there is no devil in the Wiccan pantheon. Instead they worship a variety of dualistic gods and goddesses tied to ancient religions past, again attempting to give a ancient history to their practices. Most are unaware of the writings of Gardner, Farrar, and Cunningham and accept teachings from modern books are being ancient.
Many Wiccan's claim to have no connection to any bad practice commonly assessed to witchcraft such as human sacrifice or animal abuse. The sad fact is most are unaware of the history of their religion and its origins. They have no problem chanting goddess chants calling ancient goddesses to come, yet are oblivious that many of these goddesses and gods required animal and even human sacrifice. They blindly deny that they would condone such behavior yet will sing songs to Iananna, Ashara, Ishtar, or Astarte all of which at some point were sacrificial deities.
In its defense modern Wiccans practice an earth friendly religions that has no connections to the ancient religions of the gods and goddesses they invoke. There are two main type of Wiccan believer the first being the young teen that finds dabbling in witchcraft exciting and titillating. It is their attempt to control their fate and have power over others in a very confusing and difficult time of life. Few of these go on to become adult practitioners. The adults that practice are for the most part like any other new age followers looking for control in a life that not always been kind. Some are very sincere and pursue their religion in earnest.
From the course it is clear that the practices of Wicca are not harmful to anyone, but are totally unacceptable for Christians. The practice of spell craft and divination are important parts of Wicca. Also the worship of other gods and goddesses is expressly forbidden for Christians. It was amusing to see that one of the many branches of this eclectic religion call themselves Christian Wiccans. As many of the practices of Wicca are clearly forbidden by the Bible, I am not sure how they reconcile their beliefs.
I recommend this course to others studding to become Christian Clergy. Knowledge is a wonderful thing and as Christians we should seek an understanding of other religions. A knowledge of Wicca is necessary for every Christian counselor as they will almost all encounter teen dabblers and adult practitioners in their pastoral care work. It is much better to council with knowledge then to just accept all that is commonly said about this small, but well known religion.
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