In just about every other organized religion there are organized sects of that religion, like Catholicism, or Baptists, different types of Islam, different branches of Buddhism and Hinduism. But in Wicca, it’s harder to say what “type” you practice, because even though there are lots of different specific forms of Wicca, Gardenarian for instance, or Dianic, there are more people out there who just simply pull whatever speaks to them from various types of Wiccan and Paganism and slap their own personal stamp on everything. Even “Eclectic” Wiccans are completely different from each other.
So its easy to understand the confusion that a lot of people have when they first learn about our religion. With no pre-set guidelines of what Wiccans and Pagans believe or even how they practice, who can really blame them? Yes, we have the Wiccan Rede, but if you check out YouTube anytime soon, you’ll notice that a lot of people say they don’t follow the Rede, or they only believe a part of it, and some follow it to the letter.
Recently I have begun to talk with a local Ecletic Wiccan whose attitude I greatly admire. We share the same opinion about a lot of things – and not just about our religion. But recently we have talked about 2 very important topics – how to interact with people of other religions and how to be a Wicca in society. Normally, I wouldn’t group those topics into a post about what my religion is to me, but after talking to her about them, I realized this is exactly where these topics belong, because they are just as much a part of how I practice as which God and Goddess I pray to, etc.
Now, like many Wiccans I was raised Catholic and did not connect with it at all. Some people really love the service, and how there is structure to it, how consistent the teachings of the church are, but for myself I found them rigid, closed and unperceptive, and I found that most people within the church did not leave the judgements up to God, but took them into their own hands, and if you fell outside of what the church believed and taught you were hounded for it. I disliked the attitude towards people of other religion especially, and I hated that the attitude was “let’s change them, since they’re heathens!” instead of “let’s try to understand their religion and beliefs and work with them!” I will never be the person to say that I think Wicca is for everyone. I don’t believe it is. So don’t do it to me. I have just as much right to practice my religion as you do, but you will never see us going door to door or handing out flyers or preaching the teachings of Wicca to people on street corners. You will never see us on the news because we attacked a gay person, and if anything we’ll be on the news because we were the ones attacked. For myself, I am not a “flag-waver” Wiccan. At the moment, I don’t own a pentacle, and even if I did, you would find mine tastefully small, and possibly hidden. I abhor hanging out with people who as my friend Birch says, wear “dinner-plate sized” pentacles and speak far too loudly, and get in other’s faces about it, and intimidate them. Since when was that kind of attitude a Wiccan thing? It’s not. If we want politeness and respect from other religions, we need to model it. It is a very Wiccan thing to put out the energy you are trying to get back, so I think we should do well to remember that before we walk out the door ready to throw the first punch if we feel even a tiny bit attacked.
Birch and I also discussed whether or not having Wiccan “churches” and being so open to the public was such a good idea, and whether or not our own community was taking on the proper role of a church and clergy in society. I am of the opinion that it’s a good thing to be open to teaching the Craft to new people, and the best way to ensure we have responsible people practicing is to try to teach them how to be responsible, teach them values and ethics of Wiccans, and again, model the behavior we want to see. But far too often we forget what the real purpose of our religion is in between reading the stacks of Pagan books one can find and doing ritual in the moonlight and collecting our herbs. Our religion is about being a better person, being a good citizen, and trying to help make our world a better place. It’s all fine to set up a Wiccan church, but there needs to be community support in place too, donations to charity, or volunteering time if money is not to be had to help out some kind of cause. There needs to be giving back. It’s so easy to remember the divine is in everything when we’re out in the quiet of the woods or by the ocean, when we’re feeling Mother Nature’s sizzling energy through everything, and it’s just as easy to forget it when you’re back in the city sharing that energy with thousands of maybe not-so-nice people around you. But the divine is in them too, and it’s just as important to send that good energy out to them as it is to send a prayer of thanks to earth, the trees, or the sun or moon.
I myself was bad this, we all have been guilty I’m sure, of putting our faith ahead of our fellow man, and there is certainly a time and a place where taking time for ourselves to connect with the divine is appropriate. But to absolve yourself of all responsibility to being a good citizen? Certainly not. At the moment I have not been blessed with an over-abundance of income. I have enough to pay my bills, pay down my debts, a bit for pleasure, and the rest goes into savings for the new future I am trying to build for myself and my son. But I do have time, and I do have energy. My job is working in a pharmacy, and I come across people everyday who need a little time, a little energy sent their way. Some are just dealing with everyday illnesses such as strep throat or other infections, others are dealing with cancer, or addictions. My way of giving back is everytime one of our patients comes in who looks like they could use a little moral support, I try to give them a few extra smiles, and I take a moment and silently pour a little of my own strength, a little of my own energy into them. Perhaps if I do it enough it really will help them. One patient in particular is a methadone patient, and we suspect that he has recently begun using heroin again. I know he has a wife and children, and that his job could be at stake. Whenever he comes in I send some strength to him, and I hope that it helps him to overcome his troubles, and make a good life for himself and his family. I used to avoid people like that, but then I realized that avoiding them will not help the situation, but I perhaps can with that simple little act.
That’s what religion, my religion, is to me. Seeing the divine in everything, not just nature, and giving back when and where I can, as well as taking time for myself and for my family. The God and Goddess don’t just want us to honor them, they also want us to honor each other, and to try to strive towards that world peace that we all hope for. Well, world peace starts with you, in your own backyard, in your own neighborhood, and it moves out from there. Imagine how much of an impact we can have if we, who are spread all over the world, start in our own neighborhood, and it moves out. Well, we really could cover the whole globe with peace, happiness, and religious tolerance and understanding.