I am a witch. No, not the fairy-tale type with green skin and a huge crooked nose or the sexy, raven-haired teenager with dark make-up from the latest thriller.
I am the real deal.
Undoubtedly, my definition of "witch" is something quite different from yours. If you are Christian, or if you believe that witches are real, then "witch" may evoke a deeply visceral response of disdain, fear and skepticism. This is not the fault of anyone in particular. These prejudices result from centuries of misinformation and media sensationalism.
Ultimately, it is intolerance of belief systems different from our own and a profound lack of love and respect for others that stunt our path to peace and the spiritual evolution of the human race. In spite of supposed beliefs for tolerance and acceptance, Christians see non-Christians as heretics, Muslims see Christians as infidels, and the pagan sees those intolerant of other beliefs, whatever their religious path, as deserving of the fates that await them.
Historically, the word "witch" comes from the Old English word "wicce" which means "bender" or "wise one." In pre-Christian societies, these wicce were the healers and wise women or men of their day. They were revered and considered invaluable contributors to their communities. Their laws were the laws of nature. Witches understood the cycles of the year, moon phases and herbal medicine. They understood nature's signs, and advised their communities in matters ranging from planting crops to finding a life partner.
Witches also believed that God was in every created thing, and every created thing was in God. They believed that every word, every thought, and every deed had an impact on self and others, and that whatever you say, think, or do will come back to you three times stronger than you sent it out.
Today, true "wicce" accept roles of great responsibility through the Wiccan Rede: "An ye harm none, do as ye will." The belief places responsibility for one's behaviors directly on the shoulders of the appropriate party: the self. No excuses. No exceptions.
For some, these ways have been quietly passed down through generations of their family; for others, it is a calling. Serious students of the craft, or paganism, have a deep and abiding love and respect for all of creation. They would no sooner harm another than they would themselves.
As you may have guessed, my legal name is not Elaanie Stormbender. Like many pagans, I use a pen name to protect me and my family from gossip and possible social persecution. But my name is inconsequential; we have many names, but most of us are not "weirdos." Most of us have never painted our eyes or nails black.
Many pagans, like many people everywhere, are college educated. We live in your neighborhood; we shop at your grocery store to feed our families. Our children attend school with your kids. We shop at your Walmart, when we must, for school supplies for our children. We sit next to you in the movie theaters.
Unlike Christians, most of us do not wear our beloved symbols in ways that you will ever notice them. We do not eat children, slaughter (or revere) black cats on Halloween, and we do not believe nor worship Satan.
The next time you see someone wearing a pentacle, don't assume it means the wearer is a satanist. Instead, consider asking him or her what it stands for. A quick Internet search will show that the pentacle has been an important symbol to many religions, including Christianity.
In the Bible belt, pagans are silent, but we are many. It is not our way to proselytize, and you have nothing to fear from your pagan neighbor. We ask that you open your heart to us as members of the human race, and ask that you respect your pagan neighbor as you would your Baptist neighbor. Humanity has no greater enemy than irrational fear driven by ignorance. We ask you to look for the good in all people.
I believe society can overcome its prejudiced attitudes. The Jew, the African American, the gay, the female, the Muslim: These are a few who have endured injustice and discrimination at the hands of their communities. Fortunately, because of the bravery of a few, many of these groups now have a voice. Unfortunately, the pagan communities, especially in the South, do not.
I offer my voice to inform, to reach out in perfect love and, maybe one day, in perfect trust. I want you to know who I am and a little of what I believe and don't believe. I want to open the door to my own freedom and that of others like me. I seek freedom to practice my faith openly for my highest good. I offer my voice even if, for now, it must come to you "from the broom closet."
well said! I wish that people of all faiths could live openly but sadly that's not the world we live in. I keep my pagan beliefs & my practices to those that are closest to me but for career reasons I need to live in the broom closet in public. If my clients knew I've no doubt I have to find a new career. it shouldn't be that way but I thank the Goddess everyday for my path & live my life as openly as I dare.
Way to go Elaanie! There are many of us, but because of prejudice and social pressure, it is impossible for us to live openly what we believe. While most of us don't aspire to place a pentacle on the lawn of the capitol building (beside the nativity display), it would just be nice not to be viewed as "cultists" or "devil worshipers" because we have a different spiritual path from the mainstream. Thank you for your voice!