Monday, June 12, 2006

Wiccan Beliefs in Witchcraft Today

The third chapter of WT mentions the beliefs of the Witches. By no means did Gardner actually list out the beliefs of a Witch but here are the six that I noticed in the short chapter:

1. Reincarnation
2. Initiation
3. Women as leaders
4. The God gave his power over magic to the Goddess
5. The Goddess has an infinity with the moon
6. Goddess as the Great Mother

1. Men were afraid to be born outside of their own tribe (p 42). The God figure in Wicca is thought to be tied to reincarnation. Rites and prayers were directed towards the God to ensure that the individual and their loved ones would return to the world to dwell together (p 40).

2. Initiation rites are a way to ensure membership and to be able to recognize each other. This was done in time of persecution to ensure the protection of the member who were now sworn to secrecy. During times of persecution, it was difficult to join or be initiated into the “cult” (as Gardner called it), but their children were initiated as they could be trusted. Rites of initiation were kept secret, even from the initiate, as this made them more meaningful and more powerful.

3. Women had a leadership role within the religion. Although there are rites that are performed by men in a leadership role, men cannot take over for women. Women however can take the place of a man when the need arises.

4. “The Myth of the Goddess” (pg 41) is offered up as proof that the God gives his power over magic to the Goddess. Gardner says that the myth is the main belief of the religion. He also mentions some similarities that might be noticed between this and myths of other religions such as those of Istar and Siva.

5. and 6. The Goddess is identified with the moon as well as spring, pleasure and feasting (p. 42). She is called The Great Mother.

Gardner doesn't really spend much time explaining each of these beliefs. The above is just what I have pieced together from what he talks about in the chapter. One thing that I have noticed is that while WT is easy to read, Gardner tends to jump around to different subjects very quickly which sometimes makes it difficult to follow his train of thought. I haven't yet decided whether this is just his writing style or if he has another goal in mind.

Another thing that I have noticed is that he mentions something and then says something to the effect of "I can't give any more details because of my oaths." This seems silly to me, kind of akin to why a sororities' "secrets" are kept secret. (A secret handshake, secret words, oath of silence, etc). I guess that knowing that something can't be told to an "outsider" makes that secret just that much more meaningful to the group. In other words, something that draws or brings everyone closer together. While it is difficult to have information seemingly dangled out in front of you like a carrot and then retracted, I understand why it is being done.

Within Gardner's writing, it lends a sense that there is more to the "Witches' cult" then what a curious person will ever know. A sense of mystery. And something that is common knowledge to everyone loses its sense of mystery. This feeling lends itself to the fact that even in times of more religious tolerance, Witches keep silent about their beliefs.


soleclaw said...

Very interesting, indeed. I haven't gotten this book to read yet, but I intend to buy it on pay day.

In my own opinion I think it defeats the purpose of writing a book about a secret subject if half of the secret will remain a secret. But I understand why Gardner would omit certain subjects. However, if the things he's omitting would lend to better understanding of the subject at hand, why leave it out? Oh well.

As far as the part about witches keeping parts of their beliefs secret for the sake of mystery, I'm not sure I buy that. I know it probably differs from witch to witch, but I personally don't offer up my spiritual status to any Tom Dick or Harry simply because I don't want to have to explain myself in great detail or in a worst case scenario defend myself.

Keep these entries coming! Reading them has helped me better shape my definition of me, and I've begun writing an essay of sorts about me and my beliefs!

Sojourner said...

"As far as the part about witches keeping parts of their beliefs secret for the sake of mystery, I'm not sure I buy that."

In this case the word "mystery" wasn't refering to keeping something secret, it was relating to the mystical aspect of religion.

For example - Many people keep the subject of their prayers to themselves, which in some cases may help to lend to the air of mystery surrounding the whole process. Some feel that if they talk about there prayers, they have less impact. A parellel to this can be seen in the belief that if you tell people your birthday wishes as you blow out your candles, your wishes won't come true. :)

Wanderer said...

Having not read the book myself, (due in part to longstanding issues from other research sources with Gardner) I must state that when the references to "I can't talk about it due to secrecy" get too frequent, an intelligent reader must beging to wonder why you wrote the book.

While the secrecy element may raise the interest of a few teenagers, the serious practitioners are bound to wonder how much is bound by secrecy, and how much is merely unsupportable. Regardless of which, we must also wonder why we bother reading a book that flaunts that there are secrets that we don't get to know about.

Sojourner said...

Wanderer - you state something that has been in the back of my mind but I just couldn't articulate. I also wonder about his intentions behind writing the book. Was he looking to get attention, get some info to the readers, or did he have another motive? We will never truely know.

As for why we might read the book - just from reading the first few chapters I have begun to recognize where some of the beliefs came from, but more importantly some of the myths, too. It's good to know past ideas regarding a religion as well as current.