One thing that I have noticed over the course of my life is that as society goes through changes, so does its perceptions of concepts such as religion. I use the term “concept” because in all reality, religions are based upon human perception. I seriously doubt that Deity in whatever form laid out how humans were going to pay homage to Deity. Let’s face it, we can’t even agree on what Deity is or what form it should take.
Yes, there will be those who will say “what about the Ten Commandments that the Christians claim to follow. Well did you know that originally there were over 300 such commandments? Did Deity come along and whittle them down to just ten? No, that was done by the hand of man.
Even the Christian bibles are at odds with each other. Some of them such as the King James Version have left out certain books which they call apocrypha. Certain human censors decided that these books did not fit in with the context of their particular bibles. The Catholics and the Jewish folks on the other hand have included some of these books within their respective bibles.
Moving on, if we take a look at witchcraft, well did you know that prior to the 15th century, that the Christians and in particular the Catholics refused to acknowledge that witches even existed? In 1484 CE when they did finally acknowledge witches it was with a “Papal Bull” that derided such folks as being delusional. Even though witchcraft and shamanism have been around since the beginning of time as we know it. In 1486 the Malleus Maleficarum was written by two Catholic monks who forged the signatures of every member of the College of Cologne which served as the papal censor bureau of the time. This document on torture and murder led to what is infamously known as the Burning Times. Many folks, primarily women, lost their lives in horrible conditions under the sanction of the Catholic Church. And yet prior to this outrage witches were known as “Cunning folk”, who basically were caregivers, having knowledge of medicinal herbs, serving as counselors and midwives.
How could a group of religious followers perceive such gentle folks as a threat?
Why has an apology never been proffered by the institution that was responsible for such unwarranted deaths?
At any rate we move forward.
Here in the United States we had the infamous Salem witch trials. This was where a religion created by man imposed its power over those who chose to walk the path of the Craft. Over a dozen folks were murdered by various means by these “God fearing” folks and more would have followed except for one little snag. The wife of the then governor was herself accused of witchcraft as if this was a terrible belief to be following. At that point the governor halted all of the trials and resulting deaths. Divine intervention or was it once again the hand of man that determined the outcome of people’s beliefs and indeed their very lives?
And so we move forward again.
In 1948 CE, England repealed the last of their laws against witchcraft. Divine intervention or did the human power brokers at the time finally come to their collective senses?
And then in the early 1950’s a man by the name of Gardner took bits and pieces of pagan beliefs that have been around for eons and created a religion called Wicca.
Which is fine except “today” we have Wicca’s who like their Christian counterparts look down their noses at Solitaires, Traditional witches and so forth. In effect, claiming that they are the only true followers of witchcraft. Sound familiar?
And so my question is where does human perception which for the most part is driven by individual ego, end, and real spirituality begin?
When are we going to learn from the many mistakes of the past and realize that Deity could care less about human intervention when it comes to how one approaches the Deity of their choice?
We currently live in a liberal atmosphere where the stranglehold of the not so distant past has been loosened just a bit.
How we utilize that opening is up to each and every one of us. For the Pagan community is the “sum” of its members. So what shall it be?
More of the same bias and ignorance or shall we seize the moment and set an example of how not to be?
Many of us are now openly raising our children as pagans. Fortunately the Supreme Court ruled that what is known as Wicca will be one of the religions recognized by the armed forces of the US. This was done over the objections of then Governor Bush. The same Bush which now has our children fighting his wars around the globe.
But as history has shown many times, such laws can be overturned with a stroke of the legal pen.
To prevent this we as pagans need to start looking beyond just our own narrow objectives and start setting an example within our diverse beliefs of not only how to co-exist with the established religions, but how to co-exist with each other within the pagan community.
No one belief is superior to another for we are all children of Deity. As such, attempts at elitism and the massive egos that always surface in the form of so-called witch wars will be the undoing of the tiny bit of religious freedom that we are currently enjoying.
It took over 2000 years for an environment to surface where we could practice the Craft openly and without fear of persecution by those in authority. Do we wish to wait another 2000 years for such an opportunity to come along?
This question may sound facetious but rest assured there are those outside of the pagan community who would like to see just that very occurrence take place.
With a bit of community maturity we can establish our roots within society once and for all. Otherwise we just become a minor footnote in the annals of religious history.
The choice is ours to make or break…