Project Conversion

Project Conversion


Helping People Calm Down About Wiccans

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Today should be interesting.

We have some family friends–we’ll call them the Smiths–who have looked forward to this month for a long time. You see, Mr. Smith has a sister who’s getting married in December…to a self-proclaimed Wiccan!

Scary stuff, I know. The interesting part is that once the Smiths found out what I was doing and that I would practice Wicca in October, that maybe–just maybe–they’d get a chance to understand what this faith is really all about.

You see, the Smiths are Christians, ones who happen to be involved in the leadership of their church. They don’t have the luxury of seeking out a Mentor or attracting an online community of nearly 100 Pagans to help them navigate the details and side streets of the faith. For them to independently learn about Wicca is like asking someone to start a journey without giving them point A or B. All they have to go on is a fragmented mosaic of information off the Internet, and we all know where that can get us sometimes.

The Smiths are genuinely worried, because they acknowledge that all they know are the stereotypes. Trouble is, how do you distinguish between truth and cultural hype?

Here’s what they’ve told me about the brother-in-law to be:

    1. He dresses in all black, all the time (yes, yes, trench coat included).
    2. Appearantly, he brags about using animal sacrifice.
    3. The Smith’s kids are terrified of this dude.

That’s what I’m working with and this is where Project Conversion becomes really important. All of a sudden, I just became a liaison between two faith systems. The Smiths don’t want to be judgemental Christians who jump to unsubstantiated conclusions (though they have a genuine concern), and at the same time, I want to make sure they have the best information possible so that regardless of what they come away with, at least it wasn’t based on cultural fluff.

Now I’ll tell you what I told them from my limited experience with Wicca. Your job today is two-fold. 1) To edit any information I have already told them before we meet tonight to talk it out in more detail. 2) Provide any additional information/resources the Smiths could use.

First, wearing all black with the trench coat. As far as I know, the color black is a powerful symbol in Wicca and other faiths based on spell work because of its energy absorption properties. This notion isn’t foreign to science because we know that black attracts and absorbs solar energy while white or lighter colored material reflects light. Thus, we often have black cloaks in ceremonies, a black-handled athame, and other such tools.

Seems pretty inocuous, right? I mean, there is a great deal of utility there. My impression? The guy wants to look strange. I don’t think he’s wearing all black to attract the energies of the universe…I think he’s wearing all black to attract the attention of bystanders and family members. He’s a post-pubescent goth kid. Just my take.

Animal sacrifice. Here’s where the basics of Wicca comes in. The Wiccan Rede states at the end, “An ye harm none, do as ye will.” Now I know that “harm” is very subjective, however a faith that is built around the divinity of nature conflicts with any notion of killing animals for sacrificial use. I was told on several occasions that anything on my altar or used for practice this month that was found outdoors could not be taken, but found. That means I don’t saw off tree branches, I picked them up off the ground. I don’t shoot a bird for the feathers, I find them on the ground as well. Want to use bones for a ritual? Get them from an animal corpse–but clean them first for Goddess sake!

The point is that animal sacrifice–killing an innocent creature of the Goddess’s creation–for one’s selfish, malicious use, is sick and just wrong. Period.

So what’s my take on this guy given the information I have? He’s showing off. He’s doing his own thing for shock value and in the process he’s propagating age-old stereotypes and misinformation Wiccans and Pagans have worked against for years. Sans any inaccuracies on my part, I will inform the Smiths as such. They follow this blog, so I hope that the information they glean here (it’s only the tip of the iceberg!) is enough to set them straight about the Pagan and Wiccan paths. As Margot Alder said, “We’re just like you.”

What do you think of this so-called Wiccan? Is this a common behavior? As a Wiccan or Pagan, how do you react to such portrayals? If there is any additional information you could provide or any edits to what I’ve told the Smiths so far, please let me know in the comments section. Blessed be!



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Mdawn

posted November 25, 2011 at 2:58 am


This sounds like a classic ‘dabbler’ to me (someone who does things for the shock and awe and is not into for the religion and for the right reasons) though I do agree with helen/hawk, I have been known to throw a joke out there about a stereotype, to diffuse tension, but that was just the wrong one to throw out.



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Nicholas Farrell

posted November 2, 2011 at 5:50 am


Speak for yourself, Debby. I’ve known some Wiccans to do blood magick and sacrifice. Keep in mind that blood sacrifice does not always involve killing the animal or person whose blood you are using. Some even use their own blood or bodily fluids to work magick. As to this guy, he sounds like he’s doing it more for shock value than anything else. I agree that he sounds like a creep though.



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DB

posted October 26, 2011 at 2:20 pm


Another book recommendation, Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions by River and Joyce Higginbotham.



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abowen

posted October 26, 2011 at 1:40 pm


aka Cookie,

Where did I lose you?



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aka Cookie

posted October 26, 2011 at 5:41 am


Well you’ve lost me this month…see you in November…Aloha



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abowen

posted October 25, 2011 at 11:39 am


Emily,

Your point about giving thanks to the divine and thereafter eating the meat as sacrifice is eye-opening. I think many folks who offering a “blessing” before meals often oversee this aspect of their practice. Thanks for the reminder!



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abowen

posted October 25, 2011 at 11:21 am


Helen/Hawk,

Good point. I found out later that this dude is 45 and still lives with his mother. Oh well…



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Helen/Hawk

posted October 24, 2011 at 4:57 am


It’s occured to me that his animal sacrifice may well have been humor. Throwing a negative stereotype out in defense. Depending on how the original conversation went….if it felt like an inquisition, sarcasm may well have been the response, kwim?

The part about the kids being scared of him may well be all about Their ideas of what witches are. I mean when you’re 1st introduced to witches by Hansel & Gretal, kinda hard to have an open mind, ya know?



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Debby

posted October 24, 2011 at 2:22 am


This fellow is in no way what would be agreed upon as a Wiccan. He may be some sort of Pagan, but few Neo-pagans that I know of practice any sort of blood sacrifice, and a Wiccan most definitely would NOT. He sounds like a creep; I’d advise the girl to run as far and as fast away from this guy as she can! It sounds like he is using the label Wiccan to justify animal cruelty and bullying. As an initiate of a Traditional Wiccan coven, and a survivor of an abusive relationship, I think I know what I’m talking about.



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Emily

posted October 23, 2011 at 10:02 pm


What bothers me more about the animal sacrifice is that he’s bragging about it. Animal sacrifice itself can mean many things, and there are Pagans, and possibly Wiccans, who do perform a kind of animal sacrifice, but not in a form that most of us would recognize as sacrifice. To some, animal sacrifice can mean killing the animal in the name of the gods and then eating its meat. The idea is to give thanks to the gods and to the animal for sacrificing its life for the lives of others. Wiccans who do this do not see it as unnecessary harm, and judge it to be a part of the natural cycle (after all, humans are naturally predators). However, to brag about it would be highly disrespectful of the animal and it sounds more like he’s doing it for shock value.

As for the color, it could have nothing to do with his professed beliefs in Wicca at all. Plenty of people wear black that aren’t Wiccan, and plenty of Wiccans don’t wear black (as a general statement, I don’t…not even in ritual). Of course, based on his bragging about animal sacrifice, it may too be to fit the stereotype and be for shock value.

I agree that it’s too bad that you couldn’t talk to the brother-in-law in question because it is difficult to be sure that the Smith family’s statements don’t come to you with some bias (unintentional though it may be). If you are able to talk with him, I think it would be interesting to hear his side of the story.



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abowen

posted October 23, 2011 at 8:56 pm


Joy,

No, I haven’t met this fellow–and it’s a shame that I’m asked to form an opinion based on such limited information. At the heart of this though, is an opportunity to dispell myths about Wicca to this couple.



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abowen

posted October 23, 2011 at 8:50 pm


Iris,

Perfect. Thanks!



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Iris

posted October 23, 2011 at 6:52 pm


I am not going into the thirdhand information on this gent, but I will make a couple of suggestions for reading by the Smiths.

1)The Truth About Witchcraft Today – Cunningham
2) When Someone You Love is Pagan. (I cannot remember the authors name)
3) Idiot’s Guide to Wicca & Witchcraft *or* Idiots Guide to Paganism.

These books do give a great overview of Wicca or Paganism that can hopefully place the Smiths at ease.



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Joy R

posted October 23, 2011 at 6:13 pm


Add my voice to the several here. There are indeed other faiths that still use animal sacrifice, but they do so with respect, and a true Wiccan would not use animal sacrifice and brag about it. This guy actually sounds like he’s not part of any actual faith, spirituality, or religion at all (not even Satanism). He seems as if he’s trying to shock.
I do have a question for you, though, Andrew…. have you actually met and talked to this person? Is he really actually saying these things, or is it hearsay based on someones assumption and fear? I don’t know any of the people involved, and I’m sure you care for this family a great deal, but this person sounds an awful lot like a construct of fears.
But then again, I did once meet someone who was arrested at a later date for animal sacrifice… and I believed the charges as well. He was a scary person, though, and I couldn’t imagine anyone actually choosing to marry him or anyone like him. Every instinct told me to run far away from this person. And he certainly wasn’t Wiccan by any means.

I hope that this helps & that you are able to assuage some fears at the very least.

Blessed Be.



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abowen

posted October 23, 2011 at 4:24 pm


Niki,

I think the points you bring up are exactly why this is an important post. The “Smiths” came to me, I didn’t go looking to represent the Wiccan faith, so by making this post, I want to bring to bear everyone involved, that way I can give the Smiths the best info I can. I don’t mean to judge this guy, I’m just expressing my impression of the description the Smiths gave me. The issue here is that they are basing their notions of Wicca on what this guy told them, which I knew from the start was wrong. Now we have a dialog going on here, one that the Smiths read, and for sure they will have a better understanding of the path because of the involvement of the faith community.



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abowen

posted October 23, 2011 at 4:19 pm


Zia,

Kinda what I’m thinking too. I don’t know what the bride-to-be thinks about all of this but she must be okay to some degree. Maybe he isn’t as “flashy” about it in private and just wants to creep out the in-laws?



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Niki Whiting

posted October 23, 2011 at 3:51 pm


It is not the wisest of ideas to judge some one based on third hand information, and I don’t think this was the best idea for a post. But for the sake of this post…. well, the man doesn’t sound like the most mature of people. All black and trench coats mean nothing to me – he could be quite stylish for all I know! But plenty of witches and Wiccans wear loads of other colors and eschew black, so a color does not a Wiccan make.

The animal sacrifice is the most disturbing. There are some very legitimate religions that do use ritual animal sacrifices. But no practitioner of those religions is going to brag about it. Santeria, Voudoun, Palo Mayombe…. followers of these faiths get in a LOT of trouble over their practices. And besides, what mature practitioner is going to brag about holy rites?

As far as Wicca goes, I believe that you are right – Wiccans wouldn’t use animal sacrifice.

The really important part here is that the children are terrified of him. If this man is joining the family it’s too bad he is not easing their fears.



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Zia

posted October 23, 2011 at 3:40 pm


You’re right: he’s not Wiccan. Wiccans are not into animal sacrifice, by definition. I’m thinking “shock value” also.

NOT what you asked for, but IMO, if the kids are scared of him, she really needs to rethink this.



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onewitch

posted October 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm


Wiccans are more Earth practitioners so animal scarifies are taboo but older Witches and Shaman used them for their energy and it was and is accepted in Santaria which has become mixed with some Witchcraft spells of new. but anyone who flaunts it is in it for the SHOCK value and then definitely not a true Witch and most definitely not Wiccan…



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