Over the holidays I had the interesting experience of discussing what I believe with someone I’d previously never met.
You know how it goes- a friend’s new romantic partner, a carefully arranged dinner to introduce said new romantic partner to other friends… and a bit of social lubricant, and whammo. We begin the “but what are you?” game.
It goes like this.
New Romantic Partner (nrp) : “So, what do you believe in?”
you: “Good tea, proper grammar, and electricity.”
nrp: “Ha. Ahem. What I meant was, like, spiritually.” (some sort of vocal or physical indication of whoo-whoo weird shit is usually used here. This is the moment you can be sure your friend shared that you’re into “weird stuff”).
you: “Ah. Well, as it happens, I’m pagan.”
nrp: “So, like, Wiccan, right?”
you: “Nope, but many people think of ‘pagan’ as a big umbrella term for non-Christian/Islamic/Hindu/etc, and as such, it works for me.”
nrp: “So, you’re not a witch? What are you?”
you: “Actually, I’m pretty comfortable with the term witch.”
nrp: “But not Wiccan.”
you: “That’s right.”
nrp: “Huh. I thought witch was just the not-nice word for Wiccan.”
you: (inwardly sighing) “Wicca is a religious practice. I also have a religious practice, which I classify generally as pagan. But many people use the word witch to discuss a craft… Like being a hooker.”
nrp: (eyes bulging) “A what?!”
you: “Bad choice. A quilter, then.” (This is when you start to wonder where your friend picked up this npr, and also where you write off any future jokes that may relate to computer history, weaving, and fanfic).
nrp: “So… you don’t have gods?”
you: “well, I do, but I happen to be a witch who is also Pagan. To me, they aren’t necessarily the same thing. But many people use the terms interchangeably. They… tend to be Wiccan, since the two are so closely linked for them.”
nrp: “But… doesn’t a witch do spells?”
you: “Sure, among other things.”
nrp: “I thought Wiccans do spells.”
nrp: “But, I thought you did spells in a big circle naked with other people… and that you called your gods. If you can do spells without gods, what do you do them with?” (admittedly, this question showed some very loose understanding of Wicca, anyway, which possibly puts Buffy fanfic back on the table for future discussions).
you: (vaguely). “those are usually rituals, and we’d do spells with… other shit.”
nrp: “Uh, okay. So, what are you?”
I know I’ve discussed it before, and I still believe that coming out of the broom closet *just because* isn’t really the best idea, especially if you aren’t really considering the headspace (and heartspace) of those you want to inform. I also, however, don’t believe in hiding away… especially from people I may need to encounter socially on a regular basis. My friends know I’m cis-gendered, pagan and bi, just like they know I bellydance and design data experiments for a living. A handful care to dig into the ‘pagan’ bit, and a select few beyond that want to understand why I differentiate between Pagan and Witch. Of course, they’re usually either practicing or also following some breed of Pagan or Heathenism or Witchcraft, but that’s no different than the fact that usually only those in related fields ask for anything beyond ‘algorithms and experiment design’.
When asked, even by someone whose knowledge is clearly derived from the Craft (the movie), Buffy, or maybe Charmed, I try to be clear about the distinction, because I think it’s important.
I’ve never discussed the ‘entities’ that I work with, because for the most part I don’t believe it’s anyone’s business. But the honest truth is that I do believe that religious devotion and craft practice are two different things.
I think conflating the two is what leads to gaps in knowledge and training, and, for the most part, all of the fluffy-bunny-newbie ridiculousness that floats around the interwebs and eats up a whack of our forums.
It’s the same reason that eCauldron.com is a religious forum (and discusses, in large part, theology, mythology, and religious devotion), and traditionalwitchcraft.net is a craft forum (**I lurk on both, but am not a member of either (actually, any) forum. They illustrate my point**). Mixing the two foci together simply muddies the waters, even if some of the people in the mix (like me) belong to both groups.
… I’m aware this is a pretty contentious subject… but I think it speaks to the point that both of those forums are still going strong. Of course, strong moderation and leadership probably helps, but it weakens my point, so… 😛
Holla, 2015. And the next time someone mentions they’re “pagan and a witch”, you’ll know why there’s an “and” there.
**Update: I’ve joined eCauldron.com as I realised after posting this that it’s a bit quirky to have a blog to get my thoughts “out there”, and to mention forums on my blog… but to avoid those forums. traditionalwitchcraft.net is not currently accepting applications for membership. **