I will be writing more extensively on each of these areas in future blogs. The following is a brief overview of each area to introduce the reader to some definitions and facts on each term and how they are used.
“Pagan!” “Heathen!” These terms have been spewed in a derogatory manner for hundreds of years by people who are members of the majority religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Exactly who is a pagan or heathen?
A pagan is someone who worships many gods/goddesses, the earth, or nature. Heathen is another derogatory term to refer to any people or nation who do not practice the three major religions and has been used to describe people who are different or uncivilized as well. Pagan can apply to atheists who will be the first to tell you they don’t necessarily call themselves atheists.
Atheist is a description religious people have labeled nonbelievers. Some do use other terms such as Secularist, Humanist, and Freethinker. The protagonist in my Paranormal Women’s Fiction Series is an atheist, but you’ll notice she never calls herself an atheist. She just refers to her belief system of being kind and caring to others.
The idea that the three major religions are the end all be all has been shoved down the throats of thousands of people for thousands of years. Religions other than Christianity, Judaism, and Islam fall under the pagan moniker and include a wide range of beliefs that will be discussed in more detail in a future blog on Paganism.
The definitions of a witch include a person who is considered to have magical powers, a person who practices magic as part of a religion like Wicca, or as a derogatory description for an unpleasant woman.
The first definition refers to many of the historical references and literature of women who professed to have magical powers. You know the caricature: old women with long noses, warts, and knobby fingers who wear black pointy hats and labor over their black cauldrons stewing potions. They have an evil cackle and fly on broomsticks. In reality, most of the women who called themselves witches were actually “wise women” or “cunning folk” who were healers of the community. They were also called Sorcerers.
Wicca is a modern pagan religion developed in England in the first half of the 20th Century, and Gerald Gardner introduced it to the mainstream public in 1954. It draws on multiple ancient pagan beliefs systems, and they practice magic as part of their faith. Many misconceptions exist about Wiccans. The spells they cast are more likely to be herbal homeopathic remedies to help you when you’re sick. They aren’t evil, don’t worship the devil, and don’t sacrifice animals. They are a recognized religion in the United States and other countries that oppose the use of magic for harm and are taught to respect all living things. The idea that witches worship the devil is a Christian construct as the devil and hell are Christian beliefs. Christians were responsible for mislabeling and accusing these women of devil worship and witchcraft.
The third definition is the use of the term witch as a derogatory reference for a woman. SHOCKER. Many terms with derogatory connotations have been used for years to refer to independent, strong-minded women like bossy, bitchy, feisty, hysterical, and more.
There are other practicing witches of different flavors. You can be part of a coven or a solo witch. Green Witch, Ancestral Witch, and Hedge Witch are just a few examples of practicing witches today. Pagans can also be witches, but witches are not necessarily pagans. I know it’s a lot to process. The practice of witchcraft has evolved to include many different types of practices. And believe it or not, people are still being put on trial for witchcraft in some countries today. I’ll delve into all of this in a future blog post.
“I’m Not a Witch.”
Lastly, I want to be clear: “I’m not a witch.” It’s true, but I jest for a reason. Anyone who lives in Delaware knows what I’m talking about. Back in 2010, we had a political candidate named Christine O’Donnell who ran against incumbent Mike Castle in the Republican primary and won. The comedian Bill Maher of the series “Real Time with Bill Maher” played a video clip of his former show “Politically Incorrect” where Christine O’Donnell said she had dabbled in witchcraft, and she mentions there was a Satanic altar. No, just no. I already wrote that witches are NOT Satanists. I knew this back in high school when I wrote a term paper on Satanism. Yes, I had progressive English teachers.
The playing of that “Politically Incorrect” video clip caused a huge backlash on Christine O’Donnell. Rather than let it blow over she addressed the backlash with this political ad. Then she received more backlash for the ad, and Bill Maher apologized to her on “Real Time.” Of course, she lost in the general election, but not because she was a witch.
Satanism is defined as innate wickedness or the worship of Satan.
We could chat all day about innate wickedness. Everyone has a little wickedness lurking inside. Am I right? We aren’t perfect beings. It’s the second definition I’m going to address. Anton Lavey established the official Church of Satan in the United States in 1966. He believed Satanists should be individualistic and praise the ego and satisfy the ego’s desires. Since the Church of Satan’s creation, other belief systems have emerged. Other belief systems of Satan include Luciferianism, the Order of Nine Angles, the Temple of Set, and Joy of Satan Ministries.
Take note that none of these Satanic beliefs systems have any connection to paganism or witchcraft. This article on Learn Religions has a wonderful explanation of why they are NOT.