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The Scholars and the Godess
March 30, 2001 5:32 AM   Subscribe

The Scholars and the Godess In "The scholars and the Godess" Charlotte Allen writes of the now debunked history of Wicca.

"Diotima Mantineia," age forty-eight, is the associate editor of The Witches' Voice summed up her feelings on the debunking of the official Wiccan narrative this way: "It doesn't matter to me how old Wicca is, because when I connect with Deity as Lady and Lord, I know that I am connecting with something much larger and vaster than I can fully comprehend. The Creator of this universe has been manifesting to us for all time, in the forms of gods and goddesses that we can relate to. This personal connection with Deity is what is meaningful. For me, Wicca works to facilitate that connection, and that is what really matters."

I agree. Simply that it works for the individual is all that matters. What works for you?
posted by revbrian (38 comments total)

 
Beer's quite good.
posted by Mocata at 5:33 AM on March 30, 2001


[Beer's quite good.]

Especially when mixed with large quantities of jagermeister. I've come to some amazing revelations with that combination.
posted by revbrian at 5:49 AM on March 30, 2001


Had a friend, female, who for a few years claimed to be a real witch. Then she finished law school and decided to put her withcraft aside. Found a different path to the Sublime, I guess.
posted by Postroad at 6:05 AM on March 30, 2001


It doesn't matter what you believe in or do, as long as it doesn't effect other people (especially me) in a negative way.
posted by quirked at 6:08 AM on March 30, 2001


Any sort of belief or belief system is immediately open to ridicule.

These days, I have a hard time believing my watch
posted by Dagobert at 6:14 AM on March 30, 2001


Simply that it works for the individual is all that matters.

Well, some of us don't like to be fooled, you know. Living a lie, even though it "works" for you, seems rather worthless to me. Then again, I might not be the right person to speak, as I don't subscribe to any belief in the supernatural myself.

It doesn't matter what you believe in or do, as long as it doesn't effect other people (especially me) in a negative way.

It perhaps doesn't matter for other people (especially you), but it sure does matter for the individual concerned. One's philosophy, after all, is reflected in one's daily life. So it's pretty smart to pick a good one, once you're at it.
posted by frednorman at 6:18 AM on March 30, 2001


Oh, and if we're discussing booze, put me down for cognac, please. Jon Bertelsen's Symphonie XO, to be exact. Mmm.
posted by frednorman at 6:20 AM on March 30, 2001


I've been looking into various Pagan religions now for about 10 years. Like many, I was raised Methodist and dealt with a father that left my mother to marry a Southern Baptist at which point they both seemed to merge into the "born-again Christian" lifestyle - a complete and utter turnoff to me.

So I tried Judaism, Catholicism, and even started reading the Book of Mormon. Then one summer in high school I discovered my first Scott Cunningham book. And it all blossomed from there....

Enter my move to Salem, MA in 1999 where Pagans and Witches were everywhere. So, naturally, I have the perfect place to restart my disjointed efforts from the past decade. Being a researcher by trade, I always like to go to the source of things and I was interested in a sect that was based on my Celtic heritage, specifically Scottish/Irish. So I began reading books and doing research on the Web (which anyone knows is a pain in the ass...since there is very little way to validate certain findings) and finally stumbled across this article titled "Why Wicca is Not Celtic". I was appalled and not just because one of the names of the authors was a derivation of my clan (McIntyre - his name was MacAnTsaoir).

Here I had been lead to believe the Wicca was an ancient Pagan religion that came long before the Christians did. In a sense, it was. It was based on the Pagan religion of the Celts that was very earth and nature-centric. As a matter of fact, bits and pieces of Neopagan practice are drawn from all sorts of religions and ritual. After reading that article and coming to terms that without years of research, I would never find the religion of my ancient ancestors, I read my books a little more closely finding author after author (at least the good ones) state that Wicca is a very new religion that more or less tailored by the individual who practices it.

See, according to my readings, magic and witchcraft are all about the energies and vibrations found in nature and in all of us. You can use a spell passed down through the generations, secretly taught to you by a Witch trained by Gerald Gardner who he learned from an old crone who was an Nth generation Pagan and, frankly, it will have the same effect if you jot down a quick poem-spell that meets your current needs. It's all about the energy you put into it, the existance of a need, and your ability to visualize that need. I'm oversimplifying a lot of this but that's the jist and as long as you follow the Wiccan Rede (And ye harm none, do what ye will) and are aware of the Three-Fold Law (whatever you do will return 3 fold - negative and positive) you're all set.

While I don't call myself a Pagan or practioner of Wicca, (lots more reading and researching to do) I am drawn to the religion because of it's centricity to nature, it's sense of personal responsibility and accountability through the Rede and Three-Fold, the ability to be an active participant through use of magic, and in all honesty, it's customizability to my beliefs and moral system. Not because it is an ancient religion practiced by my ancestors.
posted by bkdelong at 6:26 AM on March 30, 2001


Reason is quite good
posted by lagado at 6:32 AM on March 30, 2001


Yeah, but reason can get a little dull. I prefer Carl Jung's idea of the collective unconscious.
It's definitely not hurting anyone, my first requirement for a belief system.
posted by u.n. owen at 6:40 AM on March 30, 2001


I can thoroughly recommend one of the books they mention: 'The Chalice and the Blade' by Riane Eisler, along with Terence McKenna's 'Food of the Gods'. Some very good rewriting of a lot of history.
posted by southisup at 6:53 AM on March 30, 2001


bkdelong: I appreciate your thoughtful reasoning on your choice of religion. Frankly, I don't think that the historic revisionism of Wicca is materially different from the historic revisionism that's inherent in most religions. Explore the Christian Bible, for instance, and you come across versions of history that are awfully neat and tidy for the Christian point of view, even though they aren't completely historically accurate. Some of us Christians are able to accept that fudging and move on, while others cling to the illusion of absolute historicity with amazing tenacity. Whatever works, as long as you're not hurting others.
posted by ChrisTN at 7:05 AM on March 30, 2001


DoublePostGuy is my co-pilot.
posted by snarkout at 7:15 AM on March 30, 2001


Every religion is bulldada, so why not pick a religion that admits it's a load of bulldada? About 15 years ago, a friend started The Church of the Magic Monster, which has filled my spiritual needs ever since. (The Church of the Subgenius will also do nicely. )

Why does everyone seem to really really need some form of bulldada? That's the real question.
posted by whuppy at 7:20 AM on March 30, 2001


I worship science, for the gods will make me immortal with computers and test tubes. Bow to the giant golden beaker!
posted by tiaka at 7:24 AM on March 30, 2001


I worship my wife. She is a goddess. She made me post this.
posted by Postroad at 7:31 AM on March 30, 2001


I prefer Carl Jung's idea of the collective unconscious.
It's definitely not hurting anyone, my first requirement for a belief system.


jung is ok, but i'm partial to miller's more sublime cosmic unconsciousness theory.

shrimp. plate of shrimp.
posted by lescour at 7:31 AM on March 30, 2001


To say that "it really doesn't matter" after your religion's hoaxiness is revealed is a little disingenuous, no?

This reminds me a little of the ex-premie.org site, where Guru Maharaji's true nature is revealed. (Remember the infamous 13-year old guru? He's grown up and still has a few followers.)

When premies (followers) are apprised of the guru's history of abusing alcohol, drugs and of abusing his own toe-kissing followers, they invariably reply, "Well, what matters is my own experience. This Knowledge is real, I know it."

Mixing plumped-up make-believe into your reality-viewing filters is hardly a recipe for enlightenment, in my book.
posted by kozad at 7:32 AM on March 30, 2001


Has anybody looked into the credentials and history of our wiccan debunking schollars? (Note: I'm not wiccan, but I play one on TV). Wiccan friends say this is the work of upset fundamentalists... it doesn't look like it to me, but anybody know?
posted by daver at 8:24 AM on March 30, 2001


Oh and how about those scholars too? (Only excuse: too early to operate spell checker window. Corollary: it's always too early. )
posted by daver at 8:29 AM on March 30, 2001


Unfortunately, although this particular instance of Wicca-debunking may (or may not) be due to an upset fundamentalist, large chunks of Wiccan "history" are based on remarkably poor archaeology. The Chalice and The Blade, for example, is about as close to real archaeological study as Von Daniken.


...which doesn't really have much to do with Wicca as a belief structure. But it's just that: a modern belief structure, not an ancient heritage.
posted by aramaic at 8:38 AM on March 30, 2001


[Wiccan friends say this is the work of upset fundamentalists... it doesn't look like it to me, but anybody know?]

It doesn't particularly look like it to me either. In my book the validity of the belief structure is it's results in the individual.

P.S. I like the fact that this is thread # 6661.
posted by revbrian at 8:58 AM on March 30, 2001


if religion (or metanarrative or spirituality or whatever) is simply what works for you, then it's essentially not true. it's a psychological crutch. it's a headtrip.

quirked's axiom (not affecting in a negative way) is pretty tough to pin down. does it affect you in a negative way if someone proselytizes?

again, what good is a religion that doesn't proselytize? if you don't think your worldview is the best one, why hold it? of course many of us believe there is no 'best one'. then again, that constitutes a worldview in itself. it doesn't get pride of place just because it undermines all of the rest.

Dagobert's right: all beliefs these days are subject to ridiclue. it's a shame though, especially when the ridiculers aren't proposing a viable alternative. they're just advocating nihilism with a veneer of 'whatever-works-for-you'.

i agree with frednorman. i don't want to live a lie.

whuppy (all religion is bullsh**) is wrong. those are his presuppositions.

and yes, kozad, to practice it and then say the veracity doesn't matter is disingenous.
posted by Sean Meade at 9:23 AM on March 30, 2001


Yep, I see it as a rather affirming thing, actually. But I can see how it might be threatening to some... There's a surprising current of 'It's good because it's really old' sentiment floating around in the last 5-10 years. Maybe it's just that I wasn't aware of it before and it's always been there...
posted by daver at 9:23 AM on March 30, 2001


Yep, I see it as a rather affirming thing, actually. But I can see how it might be threatening to some... There's a surprising current of 'It's good because it's really old' sentiment floating around in the last 5-10 years. Maybe it's just that I wasn't aware of it before and it's always been there...
posted by daver at 9:24 AM on March 30, 2001


I don't think that you can treat Wicca/Witchcraft as a monolithic entity. Yes, if you're a strict Gardnerian, and if you believe that your rites are ancient and that they carry power because of their authenticity, then you lose credibility if they're shown to be inauthentic.

However, if you read Scott Cunningham's Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, you'll see that he (among others) doesn't think much of so-called authentic practices and advises practitioners to develop their own rituals and methods (much like the Unitarian Universalists do). The particular method is not the point.

A former minister of mine said that all religions are basically different wells to the same water. I take this to mean that I accept as a matter of faith that there is something out there beyond human comprehension and that each of us can use his or her own metaphor to best get at whatever truth there is. (Obviously, there are many people who believe that there is only one right path to the truth.)

Fundamental to Wicca and to most earth-based religions is the belief in the God and the Goddess, both of whom are represented in many different forms. Everything else is window dressing. Whatever helps me to get in touch with the holy is what I'll retain.

again, what good is a religion that doesn't proselytize? if you don't think your worldview is the best one, why hold it? of course many of us believe there is no 'best one'. then again, that constitutes a worldview in itself.

Rubbish. These statements don't make sense together. I believe my worldview is the best one for me. Why does that imply that I should want to proselytize? I would say what good is a religion that doesn't provide insight and comfort to its follower(s). Yes, the belief that there is no best one is its own worldview, but it's a worldview that precludes proselytizing. If a person is following a practice that works for him, it's a terrible thing to try to convince him that mine is better.

I'm perfectly to content to dig my own well, and to do so in the company of others who are doing the same.
posted by anapestic at 10:47 AM on March 30, 2001


Ahem. I said bulldada. And I hereby challenge you, Mr. Meade, to identify a religion that is not, at heart, based on some sort of magic monster.


And while I'm at it, my "presuppositions" are based on looking into the fundamental beliefs of several major world religions, (Xianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, Scientology, and others) so I'd prefer to call them "studied opinions," if you please.
posted by whuppy at 11:45 AM on March 30, 2001


anapestic: these statements can make sense together.

If a person is following a practice that works for him, it's a terrible thing to try to convince him that mine is better.

i disagree. much of modern psych-ology/iatry operates on this very premise. indeed, if my practice works for me but is false, it is a terrible thing to not try to convince me that it is wrong.

'where ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise.'

give me wisdom, even if it means ~bliss.

whuppy: presuppositions need not be unexamined. i'll happily grant you studied opinions.

just because your 'magic monster' broadly defined can take in all religion doesn't mean all of those religions are summarily invalidated. in fact, one may be true that transcends your trite generalization in the most profound ways.
posted by Sean Meade at 12:10 PM on March 30, 2001


Sean, I see your point, and I'll agree with you if you can prove to me that one religion is true and the others are false.

Where faith is involved, there's no way to be certain of what you call wisdom. Of course, there are many people who think that a religion is more valid if it lowers their level of bliss. No pain, no gain.

Granted, if you believe that everyone who doesn't follow your religion is going to hell, you ought to try to stop that from happening.

But if you only know that your religion is right because of the way it makes you feel or because of some personal revelation, then you should recognize that other people's religions make them feel the same way and give them their own epiphanies.
posted by anapestic at 12:48 PM on March 30, 2001


"Mixing plumped-up make-believe into your reality-viewing filters is hardly a recipe for enlightenment, in my book."

"To say that "it really doesn't matter" after your religion's hoaxiness is revealed is a little disingenuous, no?"


It is true that belief in a structure such as religion makes it difficult to acknowledge basic problems within the structure, in this case, that Wicca lacks the historical validity it claims. An interesting book that addresses the actual history of paganism is "Pagan Europe" by Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick. It's an excellent read, and I highly recommend it.

My point is that first of all, this is hardly the first clue that people have had that there is no direct passed down verbal tradition of Wicca, paganism, etc, at least not involving the western european brands thereof. Much of paganism was extirpated by the christian church and was absorbed into mainstream conciousness, if at all, in the forms of fairy tales, herb lore, and the like. Obviously, much of this kind of information was lost.

What is important about Wicca, Witchcraft, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and any other religion in the world is not their histories. The important thing about a religion, to me, is to help a person with spiritual growth. If a religion or spiritual faith tells you a story, such as the story of the Good Samaritan, or the stories of Demeter and Persephone, it is not important wether or not the people or beings in those stories actually existed. . . the essential value of these stories is the perspective it lends... whatever a religion provides for a person, it's history is not one of the more important benefits. To me, when I say that I don't think it matters WHERE Wicca came from, it is because I think that the important thing is thaat it is here.. it speaks to me on a level that is more importnt to me than it's actual history. That it's historical roots came from 50 years ago, instead of from pre-history, is true. It is a more important truth that it works for me as a spiritual path. And that is, I think, the only truth that matters.
posted by baubo at 1:34 PM on March 30, 2001


"I don't believe anything I write or say. I regard belief as a form of brain damage, the death of intelligence, the fracture of creativity, the atrophy of imagination. I have opinions but no Belief System (B.S.)"

-Robert Anton Wilson


Strange thing is that someone recently contacted me about my Temple of Pong idea. He just started the Temple of Pong ministry. Pixeltarians anyone?
posted by john at 1:57 PM on March 30, 2001



I'll try to not offend anybody here but the origin story of orthodox paganism never seemed very believable to me. The pagans I know probably never believed it and certainly don't care. Also, Chalice and the Blade was interesting to me not because it was convincing but because it proved that anyone can imagine pre-history however they wanted because (being pre-history) we know so little about it.
posted by rdr at 6:01 PM on March 30, 2001


John, that Wilson quote is great. Source?
posted by rodii at 4:07 PM on March 31, 2001


It's from an interview.

I'll try and dig it up for ya, but I'm out the door right now. Maybe tomorrow.
posted by john at 4:26 PM on March 31, 2001


As far as I know, Wicca was made kind of like a Martan Luther thing. See, true Wiccans are largely based in Pagan beilfs, but they also take from other religions as well.

Besides, every religion has a belief in spells and rituals. I mean, what is comunion all about?? DUH! All of our religions (maybe aside from atheism) say and beileve the same things, they just say it differently.

I have been a practicing Wiccan for about seven years. I have been researching Wicca for about 10 years. My point is, I can cast a spell that blesses me for the day, or say a chant when I walk to my car in a dark parking lot, but I will also drop to my knees and say a Hail Mary when things get bad, or I may chant, or light a candle, or meditate. If you believe, isn't that all that should matter??
posted by listless at 6:38 PM on March 31, 2001


See, true Wiccans are largely based in Pagan beliefs, but they also take from other religions as well.

Yeah, what s/he said.

I've been Wiccan for a few years and maybe I just haven't been exposed to the "die-hard" stuff because I don't recall any other Wiccan (either in print, on the web or in person) claiming it is an "ancient" religion. On the contrary, I've always understood it to be rather modern, but with some ancient roots. So I don't feel duped or disillusioned that someone "debunked" something I never believed in the first place.

As for why we don't proselytize -- what on earth for? My belief system works for me. Religions aren't a matter of "right" or "wrong" as far as I'm concerned. Many Christian religions work on the premise that if you don't share their beliefs, you're going to spend eternity in a fiery pit -- hence, they feel obligated to keep you outta there, just as they would yell to wake you up if your house was on fire. Wiccans don't believe that's how it works. We believe a spiritual belief system is a highly personal thing, and what works for us may not work for you. Far be it for me to preach at anyone. I don't get points for recruitment.

Has anybody looked into the credentials and history of our wiccan debunking scholars?

The author of the article that started this thread, Charlotte Allen, is the editor of Crisis Magazine, a Catholic publication. I'm not saying that automatically makes her a liar where issues of Paganism are concerned, but she doesn't seem to be coming at this from a place of complete objectivity either. I'll let you do the math and draw your own conclusions.
posted by shauna at 9:40 AM on April 1, 2001


I think the interview was from omnimag here, but the link is not working right now.
posted by john at 1:39 PM on April 1, 2001


I think I'd be less cynical towards Wicca if it didn't form the basis of hundreds of idiotic books playing into the hands of people who've been watching too much Charmed. Meaning that my girlfriend's local Borders devotes twice as much space to "New Age" or "Mind, Body and Spirit" as to philosophy and theology combined.
posted by holgate at 7:09 PM on April 1, 2001


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