Witchcraft: Some Answers For The Curious
Ka'l El of the Grove of the Unicorn
What is a witch?
Contrary to many widely-held myths, witches are quite normal, engaged in the sorts of activities that are common to people in any culture or civilization. We work in a variety of professions, we live in all climates, we drive cars, raise families, tell jokes, and in most ways come across as perfectly normal people. This, however, doesn't answer the question, so let's approach it from a different angle:
Technically, witches are initiated members of a Celtic-style nature religion. In this sense (which is, strictly speaking, the proper one), a witch is a person who has demonstrated a firm understanding of the principles of the Craft, has been trained in the meaning and purpose of ritual and the performance of ritual, and in all ways seeks to live a life that is in harmony with Nature and the cycles of the universe.
What are warlocks, then?
The term 'warlock' specifically means 'oath-breaker'; it is used to describe one whose word cannot be safely trusted. To call someone a warlock is a serious matter in Pagan circles, as we hold integrity and trustworthiness in very high regard. Warlocks are generally outcasts, and may be either male or female. Just so, the term 'witch' is correctly applied to both male and female.
You've mentioned paganism twice; I thought pagans were godless heathens!
'Pagan' comes from the Latin pagani, which means 'country-dweller'. During the Middle Ages, when the Roman church began to consolidate its influence in northern Europe (and specifically in the British Isles), they concentrated their efforts around the noble courts, which were generally centers of population. As members of the court began to accept the new Way of Christianity, others began to see advantage in being on the new team, and followed those with money and power into the fold.
The new religion was not so popular among the common people, who were more inclined to tend their flocks and crops than to curry favor with the nobility in town. The courtiers, educated by Latin-speaking clergymen, referred to these un-Converted masses as pagans, or 'hicks', as might be said today.
'Heathen', that all-purpose accusation, is just the old English translation of 'pagan'; both terms simply mean that the fashionable people of the Dark Ages didn't think much of the arrogant rubes who wanted to hang on to their own ways rather than disbelieve the evidence of their lives and experiences.
As far as 'godlessness' is concerned, only repetition has given these words that connotation.
That doesn't tell me much about paganism.
Paganism is a broad group of traditions that share a more-or-less common world-view, and in that way is similar to Christianity. This world-view is marked by several elements:
- Creation as an on-going process (as distinct from an event);
- Time as an ever-repeating cycle or spiral (no start or finish);
- Universe as an organism becoming conscious (as distinct from a machine produced by a celestial engineer);
- Love as the essential nature of the Universal organism;
- Experience as the means by which the Universe becomes conscious;
- Incarnation as the means by which experience is forged into wisdom;
- 'God' as a description (as distinct from a name or title).
Although there are differences between them, Wicca, Shintoism, Hinduism, Polynesian Kahuna, Taoism and American Indians are among those groups who substantially share this world-view. Many of these concepts are espoused as well by some 'New Age' groups. In essence, Pagans hold that spirituality and divinity are inherent in the Universe, that we live to experience, and through that experience we gain wisdom and increased awareness.
Do witches believe in Jesus?
Some witches believe in a historical Jesus while others believe in the symbolic or mythic Jesus; others believe in neither, and for many, the question of Jesus is irrelevant. I have heard many of my brothers and sisters voice the opinion that Jesus was a genuine Divine Being who taught a path of love and service, and who in his role as the Sacred King gave his life that the lives of the people would be renewed. For these things we honor him, yet we do not believe in messiahs, and I know of no Witch who worships him as the 'only son of god'.
Then how do witches propose to escape hell and attain salvation?
This dual question has no real meaning for us; we see life as a school, not a lottery. In this school, we learn from the mistakes we make as we thread our ways through the world, and the lessons we learn are of love, tolerance, humility, understanding and joy. We believe that we learn these lessons, in common with all life every-where, through face-to-face interaction with the 'way things are'; and we believe that, though these lessons are often accompanied by feelings of sorrow or loss, they are worth the learning. On the subject of salvation, we believe that Hell (so-called) is the result of becoming attached to things and people (being 'of the world', as Christians might say), taking the lessons of life personally and perceiving them as troubles and blaming ourselves and others for the problems in our lives. On the same note, the closest we get to an idea of Heaven is through accepting the pains and frustrations of day-to-day life as lessons, and learning how we have caused ourselves and others pain through our errors, thereby freeing us to go on with our lives stronger, wiser, and more balanced.
Where do you think you go when you die, then?
We tell stories of a place we call Summerland, which we think of as a place of welcome rest after the rigors of life on Earth. We expect to be rejoined with friends and loved ones who went before us, to digest and understand the lessons we have learned during our time 'incarnate'. From there, we will return to life on Earth after a time, to learn and teach until we achieve perfect knowledge and understanding of this cycle of existence. Honestly, we don't much occupy ourselves with thoughts about afterlife, as we believe there is nothing to fear.
I guess you don't believe the bible is the 'word of god'
No we don't; the ways it teaches are not our ways, although we respect them as we respect all the many ways that people use to 'touch the heart of God'.
What do you use, then, for a bible?
The world is our 'bible' (Latin for 'book'), and all that is on it, in it, and around it. For us, the Earth is our mother, our teacher and our provider. From her, we learn to survive, to sing, to create, to rest and to believe. The Sun for us is a symbol of the father, from whom we learn to dare, to question, to heal, to dance and to dream. The seasons teach about birth, death and rebirth, and about the need to live in harmony and balance with the rest of creation. For us, the Divine is all about us, befriending us, teaching and guiding us.
Are witches pantheistic or polytheistic?
Both. Yet the truth is not reached by so simple an answer. We are pantheist in the sense that, for us, the gods are everywhere. This is essentially what Judeo-Christianity refers to in speaking of God as omnipresent. The gods are also within us (the Kingdom of God within, as Christians would say), because we contain the Divine Spark ('Holy Spirit') in common with all that exists. Because we perceive this ever-present spiritual manifestation around us, we are also polytheistic, meaning that the attributes or characteristics of perfection and divinity take on many forms; therefore, they can be understood in many different senses and deepen our comprehension of the Truth that is behind and beyond all Ways and all religions. To put it another way, we are Polytheist because (for us) the Absolute (which roughly equates to the Christian concept of 'God') manifests as male and female, and so we worship both God and Goddess. We are Pantheist because this primary dual manifestation is reflected throughout creation and so, everything that is tells us about some aspect of the Absolute (and is therefore holy). Tell me something about the Gods you worship.
Please bear with me on this, as the question requires some groundwork. In common with the monotheistic religions, we believe that there is a single Source of all things, beyond our observation and comprehension. In our conception, the Source is neither a thing nor a Being, but instead transcends such limited human concepts. It serves the same role, conceptually, as that of a 'Supreme Being'. We do not worship the Source (also referred to as 'the All' and as 'the Absolute'), as such, because in our view, one can only approach a relationship with the Source by becoming mindful of its characteristics and qualities as they manifest themselves in the world in which we live. These characteristics and qualities, over the years, have become personified as 'gods'. In such forms, they appear in the myths and teachings of many cultures, including the antique world of Greece, Rome, Egypt, etc.
The names of these gods are not of particular importance, because the gods themselves are only important as symbols of various aspects of existence. Through them, we are able to see ourselves as part of the universe, as manifestations of the Source in our own rights. We believe it is the destiny of all things to return to the Source through true understanding. Having said all this, let me now show you how it all comes about for us.
We believe that the Source is made manifest in the Creation that surrounds us; and we see this manifestation as being made up of dualities, which are linked in a meaningful way. The most obvious of these polar pairs are male/female, heat/cold, light/dark, sky/earth, and sun/moon; there are, literally, thousands of such pairs of complementary opposites, and each plays its own role, but for our purposes here, these are enough.
This profusion of paired opposites suggests to us that duality is the essential character of creation, and to humans, the most significant of these pairings is that of male and female. From this primal pair emerges the concept of god and goddess. In this light, the pairs we listed just now are categorized by their apparent natures:
- God - male, light, heat, sky, sun;
- Goddess - female, dark, cold, earth, moon;
and from these categories, it is derived that the overall character of god is active, and that of goddess is passive. At the risk of oversimplifying, I will leave this part of the discussion, with a word that these qualities of god and goddess are archetypal, rather than literal absolutes.
We refer to god and goddess, generally, as the Lord and the Lady. The Lord is the Father of all, and his qualities of light, warmth, and energy are most often symbolized by the sun, and whose nature is most often represented by the sky. The Lady is the Mother of all, whose patience and receptivity is symbolized by the earth, and whose adaptability and steadfastness is represented by the moon. Our bodies are the sign of her love and creativity.
We see this endless chain of dualities reflected in our interactions with the world in which we live, and with our fellow creatures, who are also the children of the Lord and Lady. We see this chain in the eternal cycles which move the universe around its unknown center. There is more to male and female than mother and father: the Lord also represents our Brother, our Friend; and likewise is the Lady Sister and Friend to us. Like each of us, they have many names, many faces, many roles, yet they remain themselves. Our gods have grown, in a sense, as our understanding of ourselves and the creation around us has grown; and yet they are just as they have always been. "As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be" is true to us, as well.
As we learn more about the divine creation around us, we learn to move in harmony with it and with the creatures that share it with us, just as sailors learn to work in accord with the winds, the currents and the tides in order to reach their destination. As we learn about ourselves, we learn to rise above the fear and frustration that can accompany life, and learn to accept ourselves and others as we are, to experience joy and love in our lives. As we learn about the gods, we draw closer to them and learn under-standing, tolerance, humor, and thankfulness. And, for us, doing any one of these is doing all of these.
Do witches worship the devil?
NO! In fact, for many centuries, Wicca (as we call the indigenous paganism of northern Europe) and Christianity co-existed peacefully: the Christians did not claim to be the sole access to God, and the Wicca offered sincere reverence to Jesus as a great Sacred King whose sacrifice touched everyone. However, as the Roman church grew in power and influence, it became jealous of the very large number of Wiccans who - though acknowledging the divine role of Jesus and respectful of the Path walked by those devoted exclusively to his message - still steadfastly refused to render obedience, wealth and land to Rome (and its emissaries); for northern Europe was almost entirely inhabited by those who held to the 'Old Religion'. This jealousy was the beginning of the Roman church's deliberate attempts to discredit the old ways. These attempts included the creation of a 'devil' that was deliberately designed as a caricature of the Horned God worshipped (though not exclusively) by the Old Religion; the attribution of any and all natural calamities, and any source of distress, to the practices of the Wicca, which, it was claimed, invoked this 'Power of Evil' the church had created; and by accusing women (who lacked sufficient maleness to have been created in 'God's' image) of being inherently demonic temptations, drawing men away from the church and into the natural world of life and death.
In this light, it is hardly accidental that the whole-sale persecution of the Old Religion began during the time of the Black Death. This plague did much of the church's work for it: by killing off one fourth to one third of the population, the black death eliminated an enormous number of adherents to the Old Religion. That done, and the Wiccan civilization still disorganized from the imperial Roman extermination of the Druids years before (the Druids were masters of history, ritual, poetry and law), it became a simple matter to convince the survivors that the natural world was their enemy, and women the wanton agents of the 'Enemy'. The stage had been set for the Inquisitions, whose victims were overwhelmingly women and persons of wealth and influence in the lives of the decimated pagan community.
Since those times, the Roman church and it's successors (such as the 'PTL' and '700' clubs) have used this manufactured association with an artificial Arch-Bad Guy as a means of justifying the CONTINUED persecution and murder of those who still follow the Wiccan Way.
In "the satanic bible", it says that witches are devil-worshippers but are ignorant of the fact.
The Satanic Bible was written by a man who worships 'Satan', who is supposed to be the 'father of lies'. This suggests to me that his commitment to the truth may not be trustworthy. Essentially, by declaring his belief in the church's own image of their created Enemy, he has declared his acceptance of the medieval Christian character of the game they play; he has chosen the 'Party Line', and his place of the side of the imagined Adversary. We do not define the world in Christian terms, for we have essentially nothing to do with Christian beliefs and practices. (This is not to say that these is no common ground between Christianity and the Craft, for there is much that we share.) Not so the Satanists, whose every practice is either a perversion or a violation of some Christian form (e.g., the 'Black Mass', which Witches would still consider a foolish and irreverent waste of time and energy, even if it were otherwise harmless), or the more-or-less self-conscious pursuit of evil, which cannot be seriously defended.
Though we are not believers in 'Satan', we do have a concept of evil, which I will attempt to delineate: most of the problems we experience in life can be thought of as arising from the four qualities of attachment, greed, fear, and ignorance. These "qualities" cause us all great pain in life as they warp our under-standing of events and cause us to respond in ways that hurt and confuse. This is 'sin' in it's original meaning of error and mistake, and often it is quite innocent of any desire or intent to hurt, mislead or abuse. Evil is the result of adding a fifth quality to the others, that of self-centeredness. When self-centeredness enters the picture, then the seeds of evil truly exist. Self-centeredness allows the self-centered one to discount, or even ignore, the feelings, the rights, and even the humanity of anyone outside that narrow focus. It is just such 'object'-ifcation that allows truly horrendous crimes to be committed, that creates characters such as Jim Jones, Idi Amin, Josef Stalin, Torquemada, Cromwell, and Hitler. The same self-centeredness, moved from the individual self to the group self, allows war, slavery, torture, terrorism, profiteering, persecution and genocide. I ask you to remember that this is my formulation of a Pagan concept of evil, and may not be agreed to by others. Regarding the idea that Witches are ignorant of the focus of their spirituality, I can only say that this is both false and flatly insulting, much as it would be to state that Christians do not worship Jesus, but a shoe salesman from New Jersey who they think is Jesus.
What about these reports of ritual murder, sacrifices, and cannibalism?
These things have nothing to do with us, and we have nothing to do with such practices. We find the reports of such things disgusting and horrifying, for we have and maintain a deep respect and reverence for all life; the suggestion that we are involved in such things causes us great pain, for to be so involved would run counter to everything we hold sacred. It would be, quite literally, "against our religion".
Episodes of such anti-human, anti-life behavior are attributable to derangement and insanity, or to Satanists, who make no pretense of their worship of Christianity's manufactured 'prince of darkness'.
So much the worse for us: because of the original program of opposition against Wiccan (and by that extension, all) Paganism, all Satanists are assumed to be Witches by definition.
It is interesting to note that, in the days when Christianity was new, the Romans accused them of many of the same vileness: blasphemy, killing and eating of children, trafficking with demonic spirits, ritual sacrifice. It is also interesting that in the hey-day of the Roman church, Jews were subjected to these appalling charges, which fueled anti-Semitism right up to the Nazi exterminations. Indeed, such accusations seem almost to be a 'traditional' means of discrediting and destroying political/economic enemies (witness the naming of the USSR as "an evil empire"). Perhaps the day will come when peoples of different ways can live together without accusing each other of abominations.
Why do you call Wicca a religion, rather than a cult?
Religions arise from principles and understanding and teach a way of life; cults are based upon charisma and fascination, and are motivated by profit and ascendancy. Religions thrive on independent conscious participation; cults thrive on manipulation and obedience.
Wicca teaches a way of life based upon the perfection and perfectibility of the spirit, closeness to the gods, right action, the gaining of wisdom, and the Oneness of all life. In token and celebration of this, we come together at our appointed times to worship and to share the love, joy and 'fellowship' that life holds for us, and to take note of the lessons that the events of the seasons, and of our lives, have to teach us.
Our religion is the wellspring of our joy; it is the sharing of the knowledge that we are endlessly in the radiant presence of all that is holy, all that is sweet and uplifting. It warms us and fills us and makes us whole, strengthens our minds and clears our spirits. It is the knowledge of the love of our Mother the Earth, who provides for us even in our thoughtless and destructive ecological folly, and who is more beautiful and more patient than praise can express. It is the knowledge of the guidance of our Father the Hunter, who quickens us, who teaches us love and laughter, wisdom and prudence. It is the awareness that we share this world, this life with countless others; that each of us both deserves the respect of, and owes respect to, the other children of the Lord and the Lady.
Why does this religion seem so strange to us?
It has been suggested that there are two kinds of religion: Type One, which has been called 'primitive', believes in a cyclic, ever-renewing concept of time, and a belief in reincarnation frequently accompanies this view. This type encourages a sense of appreciation and oneness with Nature, and of personal responsibility both practical and spiritual. Typically, a Type One religion will have a dualistic and complementary images of Godhead, representing polar aspects of Creation as male and female. The Pagan religions are Type One.
Type Two, which has been called 'revealed', believes in a literal beginning and ending of Creation- a linear concept of time, with life considered as a one-shot ordeal. Type two religions encourage a detachment from the world of Nature and a reliance on authority (beyond the initial choice of whether or not to follow orders); they will have a dualistic and antagonistic images of Godhead, representing polar aspects of Creation as good and evil. Monotheistic religions such as Christianity are Type Two religions. Type One and Type Two are so called because they are the first and second types, respectively and sequentially, to show themselves in human affairs.
The typical American is raised Christian, has virtually no contact with members of Type One religions, and little meaningful inter-action with members of the other monotheisms (Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism). As a result, most opinions are formed based on the images that are provided by the culture, and today this means the images provided by movies and television. From the beginning, these images have been selected to amuse and shock, rather than to enlighten or inform. Truly, after nearly 2,000 years of exceptionally bad press, Pagans of any sort from the 'superstitious' Hindu to the 'savage' native American to the 'wicked' Witch, are notoriously easy targets for caricature. One can only say, 'Please don't believe everything you see and hear!'
Why do witches go off into the woods at night to worship?
First, we prefer to worship out-of-doors; as we are a nature religion, we believe that no building can give us the sense of contact we feel when our bare feet rest upon the Mother Earth, or the sense of blessing we feel when a breeze caresses our skin. To worship is to enter the presence of God or the Gods or Universe; so for us, worshipping inside a building is more like leaving the Divine Presence.
Given that, the best place to do this would be in a quiet spot, not frequented by picnickers, traffic, or smog; a place remote enough to minimize the distractions of the man-made world. These days, there are few areas that offer much along these lines, but there are still woods to be found, and when we can, we worship there. The fact that trees are important symbols for us only enhances the appeal of the woods.
So, why at night? There are several reasons: after dark, people go indoors & get quiet - this enhances the peacefulness (as almost everyone knows) and the serenity of our outdoor communion, which is important to us; also, the moon for us is a symbol of the Goddess, and our rituals are synchronized with the lunar phases - this makes nighttime appropriate to us, for night is when the moon is most prominent.
There is one more reason we hold Circle (our worship) in the woods at night - in practice, the more isolated we are, the safer we are. In our Circle site in Lithonia, we were too close to go unheard, and too far to be understood; the sad result of that incident was that we were driven away by wild rumors and fears of the unknown.
If witches are all the good things you say, what are you afraid of?
We are afraid of ignorance and of the violence that too often accompanies it. To draw an example from history, the church-inspired inquisitions caused the murder of 9,000,000 people. These people met their ends through torture, starvation, burning, drowning and hanging; their property was seized by the church, and their families were scattered. Many of them were forced to watch loved ones suffer agonies while they awaited their turns. The only accused who survived were those who 'confessed' to the most loathsome crimes and outrageous - even nonsensical - acts, and recanted their 'heresies'. All who protested their innocence died.
Today in the 20th Century, members of the Craft have been fired from their jobs, have been beaten, harassed, and sometimes murdered. Some have lost their children in ugly legal battles, homes have been looted and burned, and perfectly wholesome people have been declared anti-social and a menace to the community. Yes, all these things do go on now, today, often perpetrated by "well-intentioned" Christians in a state of great fear and utter ignorance.
This is the reason for this pamphlet: to bear a lamp in the darkness so that this holocaust may finally come to an end, and innocent people may go about their lives unafraid.
As an example of why we're afraid, the next question is pretty good:
The bible says, "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"; why should we?
The 'King James Version', on which virtually all English-language translations are based, was begun and completed during the Burning Times (our term for the anti-Pagan holocaust in Europe). Several terms were rendered as "witch" in the final version. These terms were, roughly, "evil-doer", "poisoner", "one who works harm in secret". We shall probably never know whether this substitution was a matter of political calculation or honest error. I think it likely that there was a healthy portion of each at work. Further, the context of this passage is significant. At the time, the Israelites were preparing to invade and conquer the land of Canaan. In this light, it is highly possible that the original warning was against Canaanite saboteurs and/or infiltrators, partisans working against the Israeli occupation. It would take a deliberate decision to apply such a stricture against a different people of another time in another land. It may be interesting to note, in this context, that the warning (often quoted) against soothsayers, magicians, etc. was specifically aimed at foreign practitioners. Jewish soothsayers, etc. were not mentioned.
Are there any guidelines a Witch might be expected to live by? There are many precepts that help us learn how to live in harmony. One of the most important of these is personal responsibility. We hold that each of us is responsible for choosing any and all words, deeds, opinions, thoughts, feelings and responses. Another is called the Law of Three-fold Return. This teaches us that we directly experience the results of our choices, deeds and behavior. It works much like the 'golden rule'.
From these two, arises one that almost might be called 'the Witch's Motto': An it harm none, do what ye will. This one carries much of the weight that the Ten Commandments carries for Christians. It means that we are free to act as we see fit, providing that no other person suffers injury, pain, anguish, loss, or corruption, as a result of our actions.
Also, there are the 13 Wiccan Virtues, which also guide us in our growth and spiritual development. These virtues are Tolerance, Charity, Humility, Devotion, Patience, Kindliness, Forbearance, Sincerity, Courage, Precision, Efficiency, Discrimination, and Wisdom. These are taken to a rather highly developed point in application, but not changed from the qualities one would assume. I would like to point out that 'discrimination' refers to the skill of recognizing the fine points that make one person/place/situation/ moment different and unique from any other. It has nothing to do with segregation, or with injustice.
What does the number 13 mean to witches?
Simply, it represents the 13 lunar months in a year; we celebrate the passage of these months, or 'moons' in our rituals.
What are Wiccan rituals like?
In substance, they are no different from any other religion's observances, though they do look different.
We begin by preparing ourselves with prayer and meditation; we then 'cast the circle'. The Circle is our temple, and it is built and purified for each ritual; it usually has no overt form or structure, not even a chalk boundary, but is always circular in shape. Every participant must declare themselves free of malice, and ready to celebrate in a spirit of harmony and good-will before they can be allowed to enter the Circle. Once all have gathered, we use a group prayer (chanted by all, usually) to further unite us and elevate our hearts, and to turn our minds toward the gods.
The priest and priestess (our clergy) then call upon the Lord and the Lady, asking them to be with us - to receive our love and blessings, and to share their love and blessings with us. We share lessons and moral exercises at this time, which serve to emphasize the spiritual focus and the significance of the occasion. Through chanting and exaltation, we internalize these lessons and this significance so that we may be in harmony with the unfolding of the Divine Purpose.
We then share bread and wine as a sign that, as children of the Gods, we share in the bounty of nature and receive our nourishment from them. Thanksgiving is then offered to the Lord and Lady, and to the Creation in which we take part, and we receive their benediction. A ritual is frequently followed by food and fellowship. Most of our rituals are for worship, for spiritual focus and development, and to harmonize with the Divine Purpose ("the Path"). We also perform rites of passage and sanctification: namings (christening/baptism), handfastings (marriage), and memorials (funeral rites), among others.
What about magic?
We do use magick for a variety of purposes (we spell 'magick' with a 'k' to distinguish what we do from stage magic, with its connotations of illusion and trickery): healing, behavior change (a witch only works on his or her own behavior), and general self-improvement. These are the primary aims of magick, as practiced by a witch who knows what she's doing! It is sometimes true that someone will say, "I am a witch", and then do things that no witch would do, just as some have claimed to follow Jesus, yet have done things in his name that would never have gained his approval.
In this context, let me share something with you: no true witch will employ magick to harm another; or to manipulate or influence another without the knowledge and permission of the person to be affected. It is standard to get a person's permission even before attempting to heal that person. This means that love spells, hexes, curses, and "the evil eye", whatever that is, are specifically out of line and out of the question for a true witch.
Other uses of magick include seeking guidance, protection, finding lost persons or articles, to harmonize with the gods and with the natural life and cycles of the planet Earth.
Magick is a way of approaching situations that allows one to bring all one's abilities and internal resources into play. It is similar to Positive Thinking, combined with self-awareness and a clear understanding of exactly what one hopes to achieve. All this is done from within a focused, prayerful attitude to ensure that the effort is in harmony with the Divine Purpose.
Magick, done properly, does work; and harmlessness is a major part of doing it properly. It can be powerful, which is why no true witch will attempt to teach magick to a person who is unstable or immature (remember, we consider ourselves responsible for our acts and choices!); nor will any true witch use magick to impress others, nor to enrich herself or himself at another's expense.
How can I recognize a true witch?
Witches are human, like anyone else; therefore, they are not perfect. A true witch, however, will be actively involved in becoming the best, most complete and well-balanced person that she or he can become. As a result, you should be able to see all 13 of the Wiccan Virtues active in the person, though you may not see them all at once, and perhaps not in their perfect expression. A true witch tends to be active, good-humored, perceptive of her own faults, and tolerant of faults in others. There may in fact be no clear way of recognizing a witch as a witch; but if you know a witch, or someone who claims to be a witch, my advice would be "By their fruits shall ye know them; for an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit, neither can a good tree bear evil fruit."
On the off chance that I wanted to know more, where could I look?
Larger cities sometime have a group or two that are more or less "public". This may give you a starting point if you actually want to talk to someone. Try meeting with current and former members, if possible. For those with a more academic interest, there are several books one can read:
Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler
This book is available at B. Dalton Booksellers, Waldenbooks and others. A national journalist, Ms Adler has done a commendable job of sampling the diversity of Wiccan/Pagan activity in the U.S. today.
Witches by T.C. Lethbridge
An older book, it provides some good historical data, along with some fascinating speculations.
Witchcraft from the Inside by Raymond Buckland
This was the first book I read, and I still think it gives a good picture of the roots and history of Wicca as a religion.
The ABCs of Witchcraft by Doreen Valiente
This book comes highly recommended by my friend and priestess, Lady Galadriel, who suggests that I read it.
For a general understanding of non-monotheistic religions:
The Masks of God, in 4 volumes by Joseph Campbell
When Mr. Campbell died earlier this year, he left behind a treasure-house of researches and reflections on the nature and essence of religion on planet Earth. This massive work is well worth the time taken to read it, as there is brilliance on nearly every page. While he does not deal with the Craft as such, he provides superb insight into the world-view we share with other pagan and monotheistic religions.
I have tried in this article to give respect to religious faiths other than my own. Some of the historical facts regarding the relationship between the Craft and Christianity are not pleasant to relate, and they may not be flattering to hear; yet these things are matters of record, and they are crucial to an understanding of a Wiccan position, so I have included them. I have also, at times, used a 'voice' that is basic and direct, at the expense of formal correctness, in an effort to give as clear and unambiguous a picture of the Wiccan 'side' as possible. I have done so without malice, and I intend only real communication; if you find some of this offensive, therefore, I ask you to consider the 'gentleness' with which we have been treated over the centuries, and find it in your heart to forgive me.
I speak for no-one but myself; however many witches might agree with me, I assume no right to speak for any others;
I am the sole author of this work, relying on my training and experience and the reading and research of a lifetime in writing this work;
I am under no influence, nor working at the request of any other person; therefore I am responsible for the contents;
I am indebted to the Grove of the Unicorn for my long and rich association with the Craft, and for the training and practical experience I have received; they share what virtue is here - any mistakes are my own.If you feel moved to respond to this effort in some way, please contact me in writing at: PO Box 13384, Atlanta, GA 30324.