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Wicca: Ivory or Horn,
by Alexa Rostokovitch.
I recently had a discussion with a friend about the nature of religion, and the subject of Wicca came up. My friend was interested in the concept of a Goddess-oriented religion, but doubted that Wicca qualified as one. When I asked her why not, she said that in her experience Wicca ( or Paganism ) was more concerned with generating benefits and good feelings for its practitioners than working in a meaningful way for a larger cause. "A vaguely intellectualized spiritual hedonism", were her words. The conversation degenerated rather badly after that, but her words left me with some thoughts that refused to go away.
What is Wicca anyway? What claims does it have as a religion, besides my personal decision to call it one? Is there anything unique about it besides a slightly raffish sensibility? The answers probably vary from person to person, but I discovered while trying to find my own that basically I did regard Wicca as a religion -- at the very least, a coherent philosophy that offers a choice about the roots of one's personal religion.
Starhawk has described Pagans as people with their feet on earth and their eyes on the stars -- people based in not one, but two realities. This attitude is fundamentally different from Christianity which has always stressed the spiritual superiority over the physical order. Stones and bones, trees, stars and seas exist only as part of a divinely sanctioned sign language. They have no independent value and offer no nourishment to the Christian beholder.
The Pagan world is a much richer place. All things exist in relationship to others; each component is both truly alive and truly itself. All creatures ( including humans ) are seen to be a blend of physical and spiritual elements, rather than spirits trapped in physical cages. By recognizing this unity man frees himself from the alienation and from the personality malfunctions caused by the suppression of the "animal self".
This seems to me to be a much healthier basis for a personality and a religion than one that deliberately neglects or re-interprets any part of creation that conflicts with its own conclusions or programs. The world has been steadily dying under the weight of the latter system -- perhaps the former is the key to establishing a better relationship between humans and the world around us.
The ties that bind us to our world run in more than one direction, however. As we draw comfort and stability from the world around us, so we are obliged to serve the natural world as it needs us. This, I think, is the second leg that any conception of Wicca as a religion must stand on: Service to a course that transcends one’s own personal interests. The connection between Paganism and environmental concern, in this case, is not a coincidence it is a necessity. Our moral imperative (if we have one at all) is to heal the Earth. As we are both flesh and spirit, our service must be the same. Circle working, "sending energy , seems to be the most common express ion of a Pagan desire to serve, but by itself it is insufficient- The Craft needs hands to wield pens and shovels, as well as athames. In this system, writing to your Congressman or cleaning a littered beach is every bit as much an act of worship as (is) constructing a beautiful ritual.
Unlike the Christians, however, we haven't got the luxury of time to perfect our worship. Our reality is not somewhere else, or sometime else -- it is here and now. And it is fading fast. Our survival (and our salvation) depends on mobilizing ourselves to protect our world, and on educating other people to want to do the same. If we can do this, all gripes about New Age fluffiness and quaint irrelevance can be persistently laid to rest. Passion and commitment can redeem a religion of ivory, and turn it into a religion of horn -- supple, wise and strong. It only remains for us to make the effort.
Iluustration, "Yamaya", Copyright © 1990 by D. Murray.
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