The Old Religion
Questions and Answers About the Crafte of the Wise
What the heck is a not-so-pagan witch?
I can offer a few thoughts on this one, although I'm not sure what spawned the question.
Witches who do not work skyclad (nude) are "not-so Pagan."
Witches who do not hold their esbats at Midnight are "not-so Pagan."
Witches who do not include some form of sexuality (at least symbolically) in their esbats are "not-so Pagan."
Witches who incorporate Buddhism and other traditions into their Work are "not-so Pagan."
Witches who do not utilize the principles of gender-polarity are "not-so Pagan."
Witches who deem "child appropriate" rites to be fundamentally different from other rites are "not-so Pagan" (since one of the main things that led to the death of the Old Religion is that they stopped initiating their children into the Old Ways, they began hiding their practices from them. Sexuality is not viewed as shameful or "adult" to the Old Ways. Rather it is the stream of all life. Of course, the anceints had little choice about hiding these aspects of their practices considering the moralizing of the period and the harsh penalities for observing the Old Ways. A misspoken word by a children often had deadly consequences, but it was this concealment, more than the burnings, dunkings, etc. that lead to the death of the Old Ways).
It is course debated what is and is not "traditional Witchrafte" and "Paganism." But I think these points are certain. Traditional WitchCrafte and Paganism stressed the importance of gender polarity, harmony with nature, and the various nature spirits. They worked in accordance with their own cultural traditions (for instance, historically Welsh Witches would not include German traditions in their rites, etc.) and yet there were many similaries between the different branches of the Old Religion.
The traditional Crafte was a passionate, lusty, energetic way of life. The Ancients entered into the mysteries held by their elders with zeal and a sense of cultural abandon. This is one of the big things the uptight Christian Church objected to. They preferred more staid and controlled lifestyles whereas the Pagans actively rejected the "morality" of the imposed culture; they wildly danced and celebrated in the nude, they practiced sex magic and rites, they boldly controlled and/or manipulated the spirits. Some worshiped gods and goddesses, some honored or opposed various nature spirits, but they all lived on the cusp between the so-called "real world" and the "spirit world." This was the source of their power, their mystery and their Way.
The Crafte was a highly spiritual, nature-based way of life that terrified the early Church when they came upon them. With few exceptions, the modern Crafte has very few of the traditional Pagan traits that once so typified the Old Religion.
It is very difficult to find truly Pagan groups today.
My Grandmother is a Catholic Witch. She makes offerings to the saints, special gifts to specific saints for different issues. Healing animals, finding lost objects, mesenges to the dead and such. Folk magic does not necesarily have to be Pagan, as in earth worship/celebrating based.
I do not consider ceremonial magic to be Pagan, as it often relies a biblical base. What do you think? Can Kabbalahh and other biblically based pratices be considered Pagan?
Pagan means nature-based. Kabbalah and similar practices are not in the least Pagan (although Paganism may inspire portions of their practices). It is the exact opposite, transcending even nominal Judaism; it rises into the realm of supernal monotheism.
Christianity, including Catholicism, is the blending of Pagan and Jewish beliefs and practices. Many Christian rites etc. are Pagan-based (including all of its holidays, especially Christimas and Easter), if not technically Pagan, however because of the biblical foundations it is not, for our purposes here, properly classified as Paganism.
Sorry for any confusion. I have a degree in Religious Studies and forget that I'm talking to regular people sometimes (not meaning anything derogitory).
A Pagan is pretty similar to a Witch in most areas, but a Witch can be from ANY religion, as other members have stated. Pagans tend to come from religions which are earth-based and tend to have more than one deity. In general usuage, this also applies to most Witches.
Witches study the Majick of the Spoken Word with Intention specifically, versus worship and mythology which is included in Paganism (although these are also present in most forms of Witchcrafte as well).
Does this make sense? Let me know and I can get really specific, just might have to do some citations is all.
"F" replies, begining by quoting Jagannatha:
"Christianity, including Catholicism, is the blending of Pagan and Jewish beliefs and practices. Many Christian rites etc. are Pagan-based, if not technically Pagan."
["F"]: This is true in that Christianity is a blending of MANY faiths; not just Judaism. They borrowed a lot from the state religions of Rome at the genesis of this religion, the "mystery" cults as they called them. The Christians got their themes of the "dying and resurrecting God" from some of these cults.
Yah... there's a lot of everything in every religion.
I also have an MA in Religious Studies, an Interfaith ordination as well as three Christians ordinations, a Welsh Pagan initiation, etc. (just mentioning it because you did).
Christianity certainly has elements of many religious traditions, but mainly, it was formed upon Emperor Constantine's order by the admixture of the worship of Sol Invictus (a form of Mithraic Roman Paganism) and Judaism (based on the teachings of Y'shua and Paul). The state religion of Rome was Paganism in various forms; Constantine worshiped Sol Invictus, the Sun God. Many of the Mystery Schools, were not technically Pagan, some were, but the Paganism that was merged into the New Religion was the public form favored by Roman citizenry and Constantine, not the Mystery Traditions which were held by the upper classes for the most part.
The origins of "Satan" stems from the Pagan god of crops, Cernunos, etc. and was blended with the Greek Hades. The Catholic Co-Redemptress Mary hails mainly from the Pagan goddesses, and so on. The non-Pagan and non-Jewish aspects of the Universal Church (i.e. Catholicism) were added later and do little more than flavour what was already there. Christianity is primarily a mixture of Paganism and Judaism, much more Pagan than Jewish other than the foundational myth.
As for "Witches," there are the stregge, brujo, etc. but the word "witch" usually refers to Western European seers, healers, etc. Not all Pagans are Witches, but all Witches are Pagans. One might read about witches in India etc., but this is someone using the word incorrectly. In order to translate whatever word into English, many people use this one. For instance, English translations of the Jewish Torah condemn "witches," but the word really means "poisoners" and has nothing to do with "Witches."
If you study Kabbalah, you will find that "Keter is in Malkut as Malkut is in Keter" In other words, the Divine is in All of Nature.
How is that different from the gnosis in paganism? Kabbalah provides a mechanism for many things. A monkey wrench doesn't need to have a religion. ;->
For more info, you may wish to read Aryeh Kaplan, Art Waskow, and Elie Sheva to name a few. Further, if you read Hebrew, you know that it is a Talmudic Rabbinical conceit which refers to YHVH as masculine. It is historically known from antiquity that a vowel point existed which made YHVH both masculine and feminine and, is in fact, merely a different way of expressing the Wiccan Great Rite and Crowley's sex magick formula.
Lest I mislead you and others, Kabbalah *was* traditionally very chauvinistic. Kabbalah as taught by the Jewish Orthodoxy is *still* very chauvinistic. But Judaism is vast and Orthodox Jews are a minority, however politically dominant.
This may be viewed as a question of semantics I suppose, but "witch doctors" are usually better referred to as shaman etc. "Witch doctor" is a pejorative term meaning ignorant or superstitious medical hacks. Its a Christian slang. Most Witches are highly educated in their Crafte.
The brujos are largely the spiritual descendants of traditional European (Spanish etc.) WitchCrafte, coupled with traditional indigenous beliefs and practices. I suppose they could be considered Witches, but the names they use, Brujos etc. seem better and more respectful of their traditions to me. The more traditions are blended into common terminology the less the terminolgy conveys.
Catholics who embrace various nature-based occult practices are often termed Voodun or Santeria: "The way of the saints." This is a form of Yoruban tribal religion brought to the Caribbean by African slaves, combined with elements of their Christian slave owners. Practitioners prefer the title "Lukumi" (friends) or "Regla de Ocha" (Rule of the Orisha) over Santeria, in various forms, and Regla de Ocha is its own tradition based on traditional African religion coupled with Catholicism; i.e. they are not "Witches" bu standard definition.
I'd certainly never tell anyone they cannot call themselves whatever they wish, but WitchCrafte, properly speaking, is a primarily Western European spiritual Crafte practiced by certain non-Roman, non-Greek Pagan Traditions. Maybe its just semantics, but I see several differences between Western European WitchCrafte and Shamanism , Santaria, etc. Celebrating the uniqueness of the Western Crafte is, in my opinion, a good thing. It bespeaks an established pre-Christian Western European tradition of religion, healing and culture that is currently struggling to make a comeback. "Taking back" the word Witch is an empowering thing and one of the things people like Gardner was trying to achieve in order to restore honor to this lost tradition.
As for Constantine and Christianity, Y'shua or Jesus of Nazareth established a Jewish Movement (like Reform Judaism etc.), Paul of Tarsus reinterpreted his teachings according to more Hellenistic concepts and established the sect as an Hellenistic Jewish Movement that accepted Noahides (Gentiles who devoted themselves to the God of Israel). For the first 300 years, this is what "Christianity" was. It was mainly referred to as the Nazarene Way or simply as the Way.
Constantine was looking for a way to bring unity to the Roman Empire. He realized that religion (Roman Paganism) was the heart of his "divine rule," but it was having problems, hypocrisy, infighting, etc. Constantine's mother told him that she had converted to the Jewish sect of the Nazarene and was impressed by what she was learning from them.
Constantine called for various Nazarene leaders to come to Rome and explain their faith. He then claimed to have had a vision of Y'shua [similar to Paul's) appearing on the clouds with a Chi-ro (A Roman Pagan Solar Cross) and ordered him, "Under this emblem establish My kingdom." He then called for counsels of Roman Pagans, Jews and Nazarene Jews. The Nazarenes were willing to play ball, if it would stop the persecutions they faced. The Jews insulted Constantine however, demanding there was only one God, the God of Israel, and that their God would have no share with Pagans. These Jews were chased away (many were killed etc.).
The official Roman councils continued to meet and the theologians developed a new religion called Universalism that would unite all of Rome into a single neo-Pagan control system, better known to us as "Catholicism." The New Religion was based in Rome and the new bishops and priests hailed the new Roman Universal Church as the Kingdom of God on earth, hence, Roman Catholicism. All Jewish aspects of the Nazarene Way were condemned as "Judaizing" and bit by bit the new Pagan/Nazarene religion was established as Roman Catholicism and the modern Christian religion was born.
Later, following the rise of Islam, the "One True Apostolic Catholic Church" split into eastern and western Christendom (Roman and Eastern Orthodoxy). Later still the Church of England rebelled over marriage issues (Anglicanism) and shortly after that, Martin Luther did his thing and the Protestant Reformation happened, (Lutheranism, Calvinism, Baptists, etc. etc.). Every Christian awakening intended to restore the "First Century Church," but none could because they always accepted the essential Roman counsels (Nicea etc.) where the Paganized Christian teachings were first formulated and adopted.
This is why Christianity bears almost no doctrinal similarities with Judaism and is so very similar to Paganism.
Constantine didn't even convert to the New Religion himself until he was on his deathbed. The last thing he did before dying was order the striking of a new coin of himself on one side and Sol Invictus, his Pagan God, on the other.
Shortly before his death he was seen bowing before an image of Sol Invictus. A servant saw him and assuming he was getting senile, the servant said, "Your lordship, that is the image of Sol, not Jesus." The emperor finished his prayers, stood up and said, "What does it matter? Sol Invictus is the Sun God, Jesus is the Sun's son."
"Wicca" and "Wicci" are recently coined terms meaning "Wise ones" but essentially a Wicci is a female Witch and a Wicca is a male Witch. A Witch or Wic (wise one) being the source of Gardner's idea. A "warlock" is a "loch" or lake of pestilence by the way. I agree that WitchCrafte is not a religion perse; Witches are healers and elders or certain European Pagan communities. Witches were a sort of a specially trained and gifted guild. There were Religious schools like the Druids etc. however the "common people" are better thought of as simple Pagans or heathens ("people of the heath" or rural country folk). Witches were among the leaders of their communities. This is how I would explain it at least.
Jagannatha: Hi "F,">
You wrote: If you study Kabbalah, you will find that "Keter is in Malkut as Malkut is in Keter" In other words, the Divine is in All of Nature. How is that different from the gnosis in paganism?
Not really. Its different because above Sephirah Kether is En-Soph. All forms of Adam Kadmon are but dim reflections of that Higher Reality. Malkuth is Kether "of a different order" because with each ascention the Tree flips and one continues on the lower rung of that order. Both are subservient reflections of En-Soph. All 10 Sephirah have En-Soph as their ultimate source and destination. Paganism, as existing in traditional Western WitchCrafte, does not have this supernal concept/aspect. Unlike Kabbalah, Paganism is a nature-based tradition. This in no way means it is any less... or whatever... only different. Kabbalah is absolutely not a form of Pagan knowledge (or gnosis), even though many Pagans seek to usurp, redifine and study it. Outside the confines of the Zohar etc., Kabbalah cannot rightly be understood as intended by DeLeon and his comprehension was lacking. To properly understand Kabbalah one must look to the Ari and the BESHT. Its real intent is manifested by Nachman of Breslov most fully.
"F": Kabbalah provides a mechanism for many things. A monkey wrench doesn't need to have a religion. ;->
But Kabbalah does. Without the Sinai Covenant it is largely meaningless. The purpose and purport of Kabbalah is not as a "monkey wrench" to manipulate the material world, but as a supernal Key to unlock the Higher Realizations of the utterly transcendent En-Soph, Jewish Transcendance. It is, by definition, a chief tool of religious (Jewish) thought and its mysticism. Certainly, those of other disciplines can learn and grow through it, but Kabbalah is what it is: Jewish mysticism and it seeks to connect its masters with its God.
"F": For more info, you may wish to read Aryeh Kaplan, Art Waskow, and Elie Sheva to name a few.
Thanks, I have studied them in some depth and I could add many others as well. I'd suggest beginning with the Zohar, the Tanya, and the Sefer Yetzirah under the direction of an accomplished Jewish master.
"F": Further, if you read Hebrew, you know that it is a Talmudic Rabbinical conceit which refers to YHVH as masculine. It is historically known from antiquity that a vowel point existed which made YHVH both masculine and feminine and, is in fact, merely a different way of expressing the Wiccan Great Rite and Crowley's sex magick formula.
Again, not quite. I believe you are referring to the Sacred Name Elohiym not the Tetragrammaton, which has no vowel points. The vowel points are of much later origin and no one with knowledge ever claims to know the proper vowel points for the Ha-Shem [the Sacred Four Letter Name]), which is neither male nor female yet contains both and more, being the clearest reflection of En-Soph possible in the material manifestion, which is neither. Again, this transcendence does not exist within Paganism which is nature based. If you will refer to the Sefer Yetzirah, I believe this become will be clear, and Kaplin, Luzzato and most other Jewish authorities say the same. Crowley's ideas are fascinating, I also have some experience with the OTO, but these are alternative or at the least heterodox understandings usurped from the original insights of Rashbi, the Ari, and the BESHT.
It is certainly true that Ha-Shem is never found without Shekinah. I certainly did not in any case intend to suggest that the Holy One is exclusively male. Such a thought runs completely counter to Paganism and the Crafte, as well as Judaism. Paganism is based squarely on gender polarity. Kabbalah is based on complete transcendance of all polarity. Hence, properly understood, it is not "chavanitic" as you allege. The difference is that in Kabbalah even this "monkeywrench" polarity is transcended (as in Taoism at the 'point' where Yin and Yang merge as one in Tao). In traditional Paganism, gender polarity is never transcended; such is unthinkable there. This is essentially, what makes Paganism "pagan" and why Catholicism etc. is not actually Pagan, despite it Pagan additions.
I am in no way opposed to either Paganism nor the Crafte, nor am I qualifying them. My point here was with the description of the historic Crafte, not its authenticity. The term "Witch" has certain essential meanings. To stretch its usage too far is disempowering to it and makes it meaningless. This was the successful strategy of the Christian Church, and today practically no one knows what a "Witch" is nor historically was.
"F": Lest I mislead you and others, Kabbalah *was* traditionally very chauvinistic. Kabbalah as taught by the Jewish Orthodoxy is *still* very chauvinistic.
Kabbalah *IS* the Torah-based tradition of Orthodox Judaism, based squarely on the Zohar, other key texts, and continuing oral traditions. By modern sensibilities, it is sexist, but from a deeper understanding, it is not as it tends toward unity and then transcendance.
"F": But Judaism is vast and Orthodox Jews are a minority, however politically dominant.
Orthodox Judaism is only a minority movement within Judaism. Rabbinic Orthodox Judaism howeevr is THE historic and oldest extant form of Judaism by far. It is the Pharisee Party of ancient Israel, the Sadducees, Essenes, etc. all died out around 70 CE but may be limitedly present still in Kairism. Reform Judaism, Conservative and Reconstructionism are all new Western born forms among liberal Jews. I'm not knocking them, but Orthodox Judaism is certainly NOT the minority view historically. It is Judaism.
Another member write:
This is all so interesting! ! It's making me want to go back to school!! I miss intellectual stimulas!! Doubt if I'll finish my PhD, but maybe I'll get a minor in religious studies!!
Peace, Love, and Light!