neopagan

American Council of Witches 2015

We have recently been alerted to what is potentially one of the funniest witchcraft events of 2015: a little Facebook group entitled American Council of Witches 2015, which can be found at this URL and at this Facebook address.  Upon initial observation, one might wonder, “Who are these people who deign to ordain themselves “The American Council of Witches”? One might also question these things on that Facebook page, which quite a few other people have also done (scroll down and read the “Posts to page” section on the left. It’s brilliant).

The original American Council of Witches, according to the arbiter of all things (Wikipedia), “was an independent group founded in 1974 consisting of approximately seventy-three members who followed Pagan, Neopagan, or Witchcraft traditions; the group convened and disbanded in 1974 after drafting a set of common principles.” They literally, in 1974, in 4 DAYS, attempted to unify and define all of Neo-paganism. That’s like .0001% of Haitian Vodouisants meeting in Canada to attempt to define all of Vodou, for everyone, everywhere. In case that doesn’t make sense to you, it’s also like 74 members of various Christian denominations attempting to hammer out a statement of 13 beliefs for ALL CHRISTIANS IN NORTH AMERICA, and BFF-ing CHICK PUBLICATIONS (read: Llewellyn) to spread that silly shit both far and near before the internet could show up and donkey punch an ignorant bitch for being, well,  just silly.

This shit showed up yesterday on the pagan blogosphere (and by that we mean they have posts from a month ago, but no one paid attention till yesterday because everyone was too busy with logic.)  Luckily, some witchcraft good Samaritan (you know it was the Wiccans) has decided to spoof make the website more truthful, and created a Facebook page for it, so that everyone could see exactly what’s going on. And by that we mean a whole bunch of (hilarious) nothing.

But, in the interest of the ancient Greek god Momus, you should go like the much more legit Council of American Witches.org 2015’s Facebook page, and leave comments on their “Posts to Page” because LOGIC.

 

Flagellation

Flagellation is a term that we used to constantly confuse with another term for something that occurs almost as regularly in Wiccan circles: flatulence. But now that we’re passed that (get it?), we’d like to explore this practice and its place in human spirituality over the last several centuries and how it may be used to enhance one’s practice of witchcraft.

When you use the arbiter of all things (Google) to define the word flagellation, you get a very interesting definition:
noun: flogging or beating, either as a religious discipline or for sexual gratification.

It’s important to note here that flagellation is being described as being used for either religious discipline OR sexual gratification. It doesn’t say “AND.” It says “OR.” Can it be both? Well, maybe, if you happen to have some sort of awesome religion involving BDSM or whatever the term for that is. But in pretty much all cases of historically recorded use of religious flagellation we’ve come across, its purpose is purely religious.

Instances of flagellation, specifically self-flagellation that have been widely documented in the West, occur within the two Abrahamic faiths of Christianity and Islam.  The flagellation of Christ in christian mythology is an important part of the Passion of Christ, the name given to the suffering of Jesus which occurred in the days leading up to his crucifixion.  In ritualized practices meant to align devout Christians with Christ’s experiences of suffering, especially in the Middle Ages, many Catholic monks, nuns and other lay and ordained orders practiced self-flagellation as a spiritual discipline. The mortification of the flesh is a well-documented practice undertaken by many Catholics throughout history, including such notable people such as Saint Therese of Lisieux and Pope John Paul II.  Flagellation is only one type of mortification of the flesh that can be practiced in Catholicism. In the modern day world, self-flagellation is still practiced, especially around Easter time, in Catholic countries like the Phillipines, Mexico and Peru. (Thanks Wikipedia!)

Another well-documented instance of religious self-flagellation occurs in the Muslim world during the Shia festival of Muharram, which commemorates the death of Shia imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet, Mohammed. In Shia communities in countries including Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Lebanon and India, Shi’ites still march in massive parades today while flogging themselves on the back with a variety of instruments involving knifes, whips, and chains as an expression of grief associated with mourning the loss of the imam.

Flagellation and the Scourge in Witchcraft

Flagellation, among other religious practices such as sleep deprivation, meditation and fasting, is known to produce altered states of consciousness. As the focus of this article is to explore the potential use and effect of flagellation within modern day Wicca or witchcraft, it is important to focus on its use in ritual to achieve trance states and the resulting change in consciousness.  As one of the main goals within witchcraft is to produce an altered state of consciousness, the use of flagellation within a witchcraft would ritual makes perfect sense.

Gardner, during his life, was aware of the use of flagellation for religious purposes in Christian history, as he mentions the practice in his fictional book, High magic’s Aid (1949). You can read one such passage on page 63 in the previous link. The fictitious witch in this book, Morven, says that the scourge purifies the soul, adding a potential aspect of purification to the already long-established use of flagellation toward producing altered states of consciousness. This use is presented with an emphasis on a much more gentle use than that found in Catholicism or Shia Islam, as Morven also says that the witches prefer not to bring blood.

Many people like to accuse Gerald Gardner of proposing the use of the scourge in this fictional novel because he preferred it for the latter half of the above definition: sexual gratification.  But such ad hominem accusations do a disservice to the simple fact that flagellation has been used in acts of religious and spiritual exploration for centuries in multiple religions. Gardner was a nudist, certainly, but over the last decade of exploring Wicca, we have found no indication that he practiced BDSM or any type of flagellation outside of the practice of witchcraft. He certainly spent plenty of time at naturist camps and retreats outside of Wicca.

The popular concept of the 8 Paths to Power or ways of magick magic within Wicca can be found in A Witches’ Bible by Stewart and Janet Farrar. The scourge itself is listed as one method, for obvious reasons all described above, and although a rare occurrence within the entirety of witchcraft, when utilized it would ideally be practiced in combination with meditation and breath work. The blending of different practices in complementary ways is a practice essential to working witchcraft and growing within our religion.  When the use of flagellation and self-flagellation so historically documented and at times wide-spread within religious history, it should be of no surprise to anyone paying attention that this tool can also be utilized toward achieving altered states of consciousness with great effect in modern day witchcraft as well.

Shocker: There Is No Universal Threefold Law in Wicca

The popular misconception that there is a Wiccan Rule or Law of Three or Threefold Return comes from a misinterpretation of a passage in a work of fiction written by Gerald Gardner, the grandfather of modern Wicca. The book was called High Magic’s Aid, and he wrote it with the permission of his High Priestess. It had to be fiction because at that point, witchcraft was still illegal in Britain. In that book and its fictional story, the protagonist undergoes a sort of initiation rite in which he is taught “mark well when thou receivest good, so equally art bound to return good threefold.”

This means that when someone does good by a witch, according to the witchcraft teaching in this *very* fictional novel, the witch is bound to return that good threefold. This is a far cry from “anything at all that you send out into the world will return to you threefold.” It actually means that what you do to a witch should be returned by her threefold, and specifically good acts. Which means it’s really, really good for you to bless, help or aid a witch. The idea is that the witch returns things triple, not the universe. The witch is herself the agent of a threefold response, not the universe. So if I, as a witch, do good work for a friend who is not a witch, there is no threefold return in that, because the non-Wiccan person was never taught to return good acts threefold. If I, as a witch, do a good work for my non-witch neighbor, there is no threefold return in that. But if I, as a witch, do a good work for my coven mate or my witch friend, then that friend or coven mate should return that good work threefold. if I, as a witch, do some nasty shit to my asshole neighbor, said neighbor will not return it to me, and even if she were a witch, she would only return it to me threefold if she somehow found out that something had been done to her, and who did it, which means that I did it poorly, and deserve the retribution.

You can find a copy of High Magic’s Aid, which is fiction meant to teach a few very broad witchcraft principles in a fictional way, here.

The part we are quoting is found on page 188. We recommend anyone who is familiar with the term Rule of Three to give it a read and think about what it really says and what it does not say. Keep in mind that this is a work of fiction which Gerald Gardner wrote to share some very generalized principles of the witchcraft he was taught at a time when witchcraft was still illegal in Britain (1949).

The insanely high number of uneducated voices on the internet that cry out “The Rule of Three!” whenever anyone even mentions negative magick tends to obscure the actual source into oblivion in favor of some fake, fluffy version of this principle which has been applied across the board to all magical undertakings in a rather ignorant and totalitarian manner. So the next time someone yells that phony baloney shit at you, politely inform them to eat a bag of scholarly dicks and drop them the link to this blog.

Blessed Be,

A Gardnerian

Our Three-fold Response

(If you haven’t read the Shove Your Three-fold Somewhere Else post, read it here first.)

Today, I learned that someone I’ve never met (or even heard of) had “a serious bone” to pick with me.  Apparently, she thinks that the members of my religion give out verbal lashings about some cockamamie (sp?) rule that originated at some point when a bunch of uninitiated witches half-assedly (is that a word? No? Well, I’m coining it.) attempted to culturally appropriate something from my cult and warped it into some nonsense about anything you send out being returned to you three-fold.

Without getting into the lunacy of that logic causing endless spiraling fractals of chain events to run amok through our world and the universe, let’s get back to this witch’s beef with me. She says that when we get called out on precisely what I just described above and how impolite it would be for me to jump down another witch’s throat for daring to practice witchcraft, we hide behind “karma.”

Girl, let me tell you something you already know about karma, because it will sound almost as condescendingly pedantic as most of your poorly researched rantings: karma is not a part of Wicca.  Karma has never been a part of Wicca. Karma belongs to Hinduism. While we mostly love Hinduism, being the good pagans that we are, most of us aren’t Hindu. The vast majority, even. Karma implies that Samsara exists.  Samsara implies that we are trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of reincarnation that we are attempting to free ourselves from by pursuing Samadhi, and let me tell you, as fucking fabulous and high on the hog I frequently feel because of how great it is to be one of the Wica, moksha is certainly not on the horizon for me. I love Brahma and all, but I feel no overwhelming desire to reunite my atman with Godhead, because I don’t think it was ever really severed from it.

Witches aren’t trying to escape rebirth; we embrace it. It’s one of our very few tenets. We want to come back again and again and party like rockstars with all of our loved ones as we attempt to be good shepherds of the Earth our dear Gods granted us for that very occasion.  So drop the karma thing already, k?

If you think that part of your purpose here on Earth is to scold people you’ve never met over some bullshit some other people are falsely applying to their religion, then you need to go back to high school and retake whatever classes on critical thinking they offered. You are doing to others what you are protesting having done to yourself. I dunno what your witchcraft has taught you, but mine has shown that to certainly not be the way to break a cycle.

I love your definition of traditional witchcraft. Mostly because it sounds exactly like everyone’s definition of Wicca from the 70s. Let’s see how that changes over the next few decades, shall we? You want to call yourselves pre-Christian? You go right ahead. You want to call yourselves traditional without any semblance of any unbroken line of praxis coming down through the centuries? You go right ahead.  The earliest “Trad Witch” I’ve heard of in my extremely limited and uneducated on who holds that title currently was Robert Cochrane. And wasn’t he, gasp, a Wiccan? (This may not be true. Look at us, learning things!)

Your explanation of what you do with your dead and the bumps in the night etc applies to any witch, and is something that we figured out before your first contact was made with each other. Hell, most of your first contact with each other was likely facilitated by us, because we came out of the broom closet first. So yes, please show us how great and smart you are by stating common sense, since everyone likes to accuse us of failing on that front because we’re way easier for the non-magical public to identify. Did I leave a ‘k’ out of that word there? Well shit, there goes that stereotype.

Now, to the Rede. I really like what you wrote here. Doreen may have been the first Wiccan to publicly utter the Rede, but she certainly didn’t invent it. I don’t care if it’s ascribed to Gardner, Dafo, Crowley, King Pausol or or a 4th century Christian saint (thanks, Wikipedia!). It’s good advice, and it prohibits nothing. The fun part is where you bring up cultural appropriation when someone tries to fling the Rede into someone else’s face. That’s not appropriation, yo. That’s proselytization, and das est verboten in Wicca. Cultural appropriation is when I decide that Yemaya is a Goddess of the Ocean and decide that she is a Wiccan goddess, and so I have circle around my toilet bowl (BECAUSE WATER) to venerate her and then design ads featuring cute white girls wearing her accoutrements in an attempt to sell fashion.

You’re also completely disallowing for the inevitable development of syncretization, but let’s not go there just yet, because it’s way more fun to have outsiders finger-pointing over disagreements between Yemaya’s depiction among Yoruban, Cuban and Brazilian cultures. There’s your hot topic right now. Cause Wicca has been culturally appropriated into oblivion, but people are hot as shit about fending off the same inevitable fate from the ATRs.  We Wiccans will be sitting up in the nosebleed section cheering our ATR brethren on to success where there were far too few of us to compete.

The fact that you state, full blanket statement here, that hexes, curses, jinxes, etc are shunned in Wicca pretty much sets you up for failure. That statement right there shows that you are not a Wiccan and do not have a copy of the BoS. I don’t even need to go any further here, but good for you for thinking you know it all girl. That’s a winning attitude. One day I hope I feel that way about ‘trad craft,’ because then I’ll remember to kick myself in the balls and get real.

Allow me to impart unto you the words of a witch named Terry, of Artemesia Botanicals in Salem, MA, who is not (as far as we know) a Traditional Wiccan in the BTW sense but who, as an ex-Cabot , is psychic enough to just flat out intuit something very, very obvious: “I’m not a Christian, honey. The only cheek I turn is this one!” She then slaps her ass. That woman is frequently brilliant, and that’s probably the most Wiccan thing she’s ever said.

So now that we’ve reached the point of terminal verbosity in this morning interlude of ecumenical lambasting, allow me to impart some knowledge about my cult, Wicca, to you, dear outsider. Wiccans can and do curse. We have lots of very, very detailed and specific ones that are nasty as shit and would be super, SUPER fun to share with witches we like. But we can’t because we swore not to.  Wiccans have ways of killing people. Wiccans have ways of killing other Wiccans. Wiccans have ways of causing your crops to blight and your cows to dry and all of the hilariously old school shit you would expect but never really see. Because we also have that fun little fourth part of that oddly named pyramid to adhere to. We keep silent about it. We don’t post altar pics of the nasty shit we do and then put up more pictures in an etsy shop and start selling that shit to the highest bidder.  That shit is between us and our spirits and our Gods.

And then, oh sweet culturally appropriated baby Jebus, you go ahead and admit that the majority of the idiots you are railing against under our name aren’t actually Wiccans! Why the huge diatribe then? And then you ask why we’re treating each other like the Christians! Well, it’s about perpetuating that cycle I mentioned above.  But please know; we love a good fight.  We’re kind of like the Irish in that regard (ps, I don’t care what the other half of us say, Wicca is fucking ridiculously Celtic). We have a shit ton of fun fighting with each other all the time until an outsider becomes an enemy, and then all of us bandy together despite years of feuding and have a very, very good time with our mutual efforts.

I’m not about to put you to the torch for being a protestant and failing to drink good Catholic whisky, so please don’t lend credence to a bunch of awful cultural appropriation of my religion by accepting it as fact, whole hog, railing against it to me and my cult by name, and in the same breath denounce exactly what you are doing. It kind of reeks of the hypocrisy that comes from a simple lack of awareness, and when someone comes at us, we prefer them to do it with something significant.

In love and light (lol),

A Gardnerian