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                    (What Christians Don't Understand about Neopaganism)

                                      by J. Brad Hicks

          Q:   Are you a witch?
          A:   That's actually a  tricky question to  answer, so let me  g
          about it in a round-about way.  What I am is a Neopagan.
          Neopaganism is a beautiful, complex religion that is not in
          opposition  to Christianity in any way - just different.  Howeve
          some of the people that the Catholic church  burned  as  "witche
          were people who practiced the same things that I do.  In
          identification with them and the suffering that they went throug
          some  of us (Neopagans) call ourselves witches.    One expert,
          Bonewits,  says  that there are  actually several  kinds of grou
ps who
          call  themselves "witches." Some  are people whose  ancestors we
re the
          village   healers,   herbalists, midwives, and such,  many of wh
om had
          (or were ascribed to  have) mental, psychic, or magical  powers,
          were passed  down through the  family in the  form of oral  trad
          and  Bonewits calls them "Traditional   Witches." Some  are peop
le who
          have deliberately used the term to oppose themselves to  Christi
          are  practicing  "Satanists," and practice (deliberately)  most
of the
          practices invented by the  Inquisitors.  Bonewits calls  them "G
          or "Neo-Gothic Witches."  Of a different kind are some radical
          feminist groups, who call themselves witches because they believ
          that the original Inquisition was primarily anti-female;  some o
          these also practice magic,  many of them do not -  Bonewits  cal
          them "Feminist Witches." But the vast majority of modern witches

          are harmless people who worship God in many forms, including the

          Lord of the Dance, the Lady, and the Mother Earth.  These are th
          people that Bonewits (and I) call"Neopagan Witches" - and this
          what I am.  I hope that this helps more than it confuses.

          Q:   Are you a devil worshipper?
          A:   I'm tempted to just say, "No!" and leave it at that, but th
          probably isn't  enough.   Devil   worship  (including   Satanism
)   is
          really a Christian heresy.  (If you don't believe me,  ask an ex
pert -
          say,  any well-read pastor or theology professor.) In order to w
          Satan, you  have to believe  in him - and  there are no  referen
ces to
          Satan  outside of the  Christian Bible.   So to be  a Satanist
 or  a
          devil worshipper, you have to believe in the accuracy of the Chr
          Bible, then identify yourself with God's Enemy, proclaim that yo
          are "evil," and then try to "fight against Jesus" or similar
          nonsense.  Neopagans do not accept the Christian Bible as  a sou
rce of
          truth.  As a source of some beautiful poetry,  sometimes, or as
          source of myth, but not as a source of truth.  Emphatically, we
          not believe that God has an Opposite, an evil being  trying to d
          God,  the world,  man, or whatever.  So it is non-sensical to sa
y that
          Neopagans worship Satan.   Of course, many people insist  that a
ny god
          other than JHVH/Jesus (and his other Biblical names) is a  demon
 or an
          illusion created by  Satan.  Well,  you're welcome to believe  t
hat if
          you like - but over half of the world's population is going to
          be unhappy at you.  Jews and followers of Islam are just  as con
          that  they worship  the True God as  you are, and resent being
          devil worshippers.  So do I.

                         Last amended June 11, 1989  --  Page NEXTRECORD


          Q:   What do Neopagans believe about God?
          A:   Neopaganism is a new religion with very, very old roots.  I
          harks back to the first religions that man ever practiced (based

          on the physical evidence).  Neopagans worship a variety of symbo
          from the Old Religions - the practices of the ancient  Celts,  t
          Greeks, the  Egyptians, the Romans -  and differ with each  othe
r over
          what those  symbols  really represent.    What I  (and   many  o
          believe is that they are all aspects of  God (or maybe, the  God
s)   -
          some  kind of beautiful, powerful, and loving being or force tha
t ties
          all of life  together and is the origin of all  miracles  -  inc
          miracles such as written language,  poetry, music, art ...

          Q:   Do Neopagans have a Bible?
          A:   Not most of us.  The closest analogue would be a witch's Bo
          of Shadows, which is a  sort of notebook of legends,  poetry, hi
          and magic ritual which is copied by every newly-initiated witch,
          added  to.   But on  the whole,   even  a Book  of Shadows  isn'
t what
          Christians think of  as a  Bible.  It's  not  infallible (couldn
't be,
          they've  been brought  to  us via  hastily-copied  texts under
          circumstances),   it  doesn't prescribe  a specific  code of  mo
          (except for a  few general guidelines),   and it  doesn't claim
to  be
          dictated by God -  except for a  few, debatable parts.    Those
of  us
          who   aren't  witches don't  even have  that much.   Neopaganism
  is a
          religious  system  that  relies   more  on  the individual than
on the
          Book or  the Priest.  One  of the principal beliefs  of Neopagan
ism is
          that no  one,   not Pope   nor  Priest   nor  Elder, has the  ri
ght to
          interfere  with your  relationship to  God.   Learn from  whomev
er you
          want, and pray to whatever name means the most to you.

          Q:   Did you say magic?  Do Neopagans believe in the occult?
          A:   Cringe.  What a badly worded question - but I hear it all t
          time.  Neopagans as a rule don't "believe in the occult" - we
          practice magic.  Magic is simply a way to focus the   mental abi
          that   you   were  born  with,  and  use them  to change the  wo
rld in
          positive ways.  Magic can also be mixed with worship; in which c
ase it
          differs very little from Christian prayer.

          Q:   But I thought that you said that  you weren't a demon-worsh
          A:   That's right.  Magic and demonology are two different thing
          Magic you also know as "psychic powers" or "mentallics" or even
          "the power of positive thinking" - in essence,  the magical worl
          view holds that "reality" is mostly a construct of the human min

          and as such, can be altered by the human mind.  That's all  ther
          is to it.

                         Last amended June 11, 1989  --  Page NEXTRECORD


          Q:   How do you become a Neopagan?
          A:   In  a  very  real  sense,  nobody every "becomes" a Neopaga
          There are no converts, as no conversion is necessary.  Neopagani
          is  an attitude towards worship, and either you have it or you d
          My case  is not atypical.  All  of my life, I  have been fascina
ted by
          the  old mythologies.   I have always found  descriptions of the
          Gods fascinating.  If I had  any religious beliefs as a child, i
t  was
          that somewhere,  there was a God,  and many people worship  Him,
 but I
          had no idea what His name was.   I set out to find Him, and thro
ugh an
          odd  combination  of circumstances,  I because convinced that hi
s Name
          was Jesus.   But   seven years  later, I had  to admit to  mysel
f that
          Whoever  God  is, he answers  non-Christians' prayers as well as
          in the name of  Jesus.  In  either  case, true miracles are rare
.   In
          both  cases, the one praying has a  devout experience with God.
          searching my soul, I  admitted that I could not tell that I was
          off than when I believed in the Old Gods.  And in the mean time,
 I had
          found out that other people also loved the Old Gods -  and  that
          call  themselves  Neopagans.  When I realized that what I believ
ed was
          little  or no  different that  what they believed,  I called  my
self a
          Neopagan, too.  The common element for nearly all of us is that
          all of  us already believed  these things,   before we found  ou
t that
          anyone else  did.  "Becoming"  a pagan  is never a  conversion.
          usually  a   home-coming.  No  one ever  "brainwashed" me.   I f
          relaxed, and stopped struggling against my own self.

          Q:   I've heard about witches holding orgies and such.  Do you?
          A:   No, that sort of thing doesn't appeal to  me.  Most  of  th
          crap that you've heard about "witch orgies" is nonsense made up
          the National Enquirer to sell magazines.  But I shouldn't  be fl
          about this,   because it underlies  a serious question -  what k
ind of
          morality do Neopagans hold to?

                           "Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill:
                            An it harm none, do what thou will!"
                                        from an old Book of Shadows

          That about sums it all up.  Neopaganism teaches that it is
          harmful  to  yourself  (and  dangerous)  to  harm others.  It al
          teaches that trying to impose your  moral  standards  on  somebo
          else's behavior is (at least) foolish - and probably dangerous,

          as you run some serious chance of hurting that person.  Perhaps
          a sense Neopagans don't have morality, for as R.  A.  Wilson sai
          "There   are   no  commandments  because  there  is  no  Command
          anywhere," but Neopagans do have ethics - standards for  behavio
          based on honor and mutual benefit.

                         Last amended June 11, 1989  --  Page NEXTRECORD


          Q:   I saw on the news that Neopagans use a star in a circle as
              emblem.  Isn't that a Satanic symbol?
          A:   A pentacle (that's what it's called) is a Satanic symbol in

          precisely same sense that the cross is a Nazi symbol.  The Germa
          National Socialist Party used an equal-armed cross with four fla
          attached to it as their emblem.  (Yes, I know - that's a swastik
          Well, before the Nazis made the word common knowledge, people ju
          called  it  a  "bent cross" - it's an old heraldic symbol,  and
          means the same thing that a normal cross does).  That doesn't ma
          the Nazis good Christians, and it doesn't  make  Christians  int
          Nazis.  In the same sense, Satanists (and some rock groups) use
          type  of pentacle as their emblem.   That doesn't make them Neop
          nor   does   it  mean   that   Neopagans   are  Satanists   (or

          Q:   Are Neopagans opposed to Christianity?
          A:   Some Neopagans are ex-Christians, and I'm not going to deny

          that some of them have a grudge against the Church because of wh
          they perceived as attempts to control their minds.  Further,  ma
          Neopagans are suspicious of the Church, because it was in the na
          of Jesus Christ that nine million of our kind were murdered.
          Neopagans are opposed to anyone who uses force to control the
          minds of others.  Does that include you?  If not,  then  it  mea
          that Neopagans as  such are not opposed to  you.  Do you work  f
or the
          benefit of mankind, are you  respectful to the  Earth?  Then  it
          us allies,  whether or not either of us wants to admit it.

                                    - - - - - - - - - -

                    There  are manyother misconceptions in the popularmind
          the Neopagan religion.  Unless  you've   studied  it,  read  abo
ut  it
          from sympathetic sources,  then you really  don't know anything
          Neopagan history,  beliefs, practices, customs, art, science, cu
          or  magic.  But it would take several entire books to teach you,
 and I
          already  fear  that I  will  be accused  of  trying to  win   co
          (despite   what I've said  above).  If you  are curious and will
ing to
          learn,  try some of the following books:

                            Margot Adler, _Drawing Down the Moon_
                                 Starhawk, _The Spiral Dance_
                                P.E.I. Bonewits, _Real Magic_
                              Stewart Farrar, _What Witches Do_.

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