Since I started writing this blog, I have known I would need to address the issue of my religious and spiritual beliefs, because the wide array of topics I will delve into in this blog may attract readers from all faiths, backgrounds, and physical locations. And I don’t want to catch anyone off guard when I write a crafting post that details how to make some item that is useful or relevant to Pagans and/or Wiccans. My intention is truly not to offend anyone, just to put out some information to educate you on what my religious beliefs are, how they are similar to ideas in other common faiths of the world, and why they are important to me.
I ask that you take a moment to read this post. If you decide after reading that you cannot follow or be friends with someone with pagan beliefs, I will understand. But at least give me this one chance to try to separate the vast amounts of scary misinformation out there from the truth of my faith and practices. Thank you.
Paganism, like the term Christianity, is a catch-all umbrella term used to describe many specific religions that are similar. In Christianity, all the specific faiths believe that there is one Father God and that he had a son named Jesus who died for the sins of humanity that we might be forgiven and enter the Kingdom of Heaven despite being flawed and imperfect. In Paganism, religions are polytheistic, meaning that we believe in more than one god and/or goddess, and generally we believe that people have the ability to make change by the power of one’s will and the energies we may receive through prayer to our god(s). Pagan religions also are nature-based, giving reverence to the Earth and Nature as powerful spiritual entities, and our rites and practices tend to follow the seasons and the cycle of hunt and harvest.
Wicca is a specific Pagan religion, much like Catholicism is a type of Christianity. In Wicca, we believe in a sort of Divine Trinity – The One is a vast and intensely powerful creative force that permeates the Universe. All things are created through the One. However, the One is incomprehensible to mortals, and so It chose to create gods and goddesses that could interact more meaningfully with the creatures and worlds It created. The One made God and the Goddess, the Divine Masculine and Feminine personalities that we as Wiccans pray to and honor in our rites, in order for us to have a more personal embodiment of the Divine to work with. The God is the master of animals and the hunt, and He is the Sun rising in the East. The Goddess is Mother of all, the fertile earth and all its green growing things. She is also seen as the soft light of the moon and of mysterious darkness. As Wiccans we believe that Magick (change empowered through will) is created from power inherent in ourselves, inherent in nature, and granted to us through prayer to our gods. One of the main tenets of Wicca is that whatever you do, whatever energy you put out, will come back on you in three times the amount. So if I did good things for others, or did positive Magick, I will benefit from 3 times the positive energy from someone or something else in the near future. But if I do harmful things, or practice harmful Magick, I should expect to be repaid in kind, threefold. This is like instant Karma. So we believe that we are rewarded or punished by Nature Herself for what we do in this lifetime. Usually that’s enough to keep Wiccans conscious of their choices and leaning more towards positive actions and energies when possible. We also have just one “commandment” that is pretty much universally recognized among Wiccans – “An it harm none, do what thou will.”
I want to pick apart that rule, referred to as “The Wiccan Rede” among us. Firstly, “an” is old english for “if” and “thou” is “you”. Beyond that there are two key ideas. First, there is “harm none”. What does that mean? Generally, Wiccans interpret this as to literally hurt no one or no things, not even ourselves. Before we take any action, we should consider how it will affect the world around us, our neighbors, strangers, and ourselves. This is akin to the last 6 of the Ten Commandments of Christianity, where followers are told not to do harmful things to others and to respect them. The final word, which seems cut-and-dried when you first read the Rede, is “will”. Many people, upon first encountering The Wiccan Rede, see will as a synonym for want. “If it doesn’t hurt anyone, do what you want.” But I believe that’s untrue, because that implies any whim or fancy someone might have. I think that the Rede goes further than that, and asks us to be willful in our actions, to do only the things that our minds and hearts are fully behind. The Rede challenges us to live our lives with conscience and consideration. That is what I think word “will” means in this context.
You will notice that our greatest law is only equitable to the last 6 Commandments in Christian theology. We have no analogous rules that match up with the first 4 Commandments, because those Commandments deal with the relationship between Christians and their God. The first 4 Commandments tell Christians to put no other gods before God the Father (note, however, that this statement recognizes that there are other gods in the world but that Yahweh is the most important), and that people should not worship images of God but rather God Himself, and that the Sabbath day should be kept as a day for worship not work. Wicca in general does not have specific rules like this, and so you may ask 10 different Wiccans about their gods and goddesses and get completely different answers about the identities of each. Wicca has within it many Traditions, or informal churches (I mean the individual congregations at specific churches here) and each has its own specific rules that members should follow, so there may be other ways that some Wiccans believe adherents should behave in relationship to the gods, but these may vary from Tradition to Tradition.
If you are a Christian who has never learned much about Wicca or Paganism in the past, or has heard unkind and vastly untrue tales of “Satanism” and the nature of “witchcraft” among Pagans, you might be wondering why someone would choose the Wiccan faith over Christianity, which offers salvation through Jesus and an eternity in Heaven for the repentant faithful. Wicca and other forms of Paganism also deal with the afterlife. Many Wiccans and Pagans believe in Reincarnation. This is the idea that, after death in this life, we are reborn to another life on earth, with different parents, perhaps in a different country, and a different set of life circumstances to learn from. The point of this is that the human soul exists in eternity and, though we generally cannot remember specifics of previous lives during the current one, the soul learns from each lifetime it spends on earth in a body. Mistakes and successes we make in our lives not only help us change our ways in each life, but also help our souls grow and learn over lifetimes. Eventually, through a varying amount of reincarnations (because some may learn faster or slower than others) we learn all that we can learn and become complete. At this time, after death, Wiccans enter into the Summerlands, a place like Christian Heaven to an extent, where we may dwell eternally with the Goddess and the God.
I believe that no one religion is 100 percent right or wrong. Humans are mortal creatures that have a limited perception of the Universe and thus are quite capable of incorrect ideas and assumptions of how things work. There are so many religions across the world, all of them seeking to answer the big questions – Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What happens after death? And all of them have different answers. Perhaps there are actually individual answers for individual people – rather, perhaps the truth is different for each person according to their beliefs. I am not sure. I choose to have an open mind about such things.
Whether you agree with my ideas about religion or not, I appreciate you sitting through this discussion. I’d like to hear your respectful thoughts, one way or another, so feel free to comment and ask questions. I’ll answer as best I can according to my beliefs and understanding. Just understand that because Pagan beliefs are much more personal that Christian ideals, my answer is probably not true for every Pagan, nor even another Wiccan.
I will probably not bring up my religious beliefs in such dense conversation very often on this blog. I bring them up now to show you why, in the future, a blog post of mine may refer to something about Wicca or Paganism, or may have to do with a craft project that is of interest to Wiccans or Pagans. As I said, it’s not my intention to offend or exclude anyone, so I hope I have not offended anyone or pushed them away.
Please do let me know, in a respectful manner, your thoughts in the comments.
Thank you, and Blessed Be.