Witches, Wicca and popular understanding

COMICS, OCCULT, WITCHCRAFT 12 Comments »

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In the past, whenever Batman was mentioned in the media, it was usually accompanied by such verbal cleverness as…Wham! Bam! Pow!  Holy Batman!  This was inspired by the silly TV show from the 1960s, which was the popular cultural view of Batman.  It was obligatory for any news story about the comic book character to start off with a recognized cliche. Back when the first Michael Keaton Batman movie came out, this was common.  And today?   When Batman is mentioned now, the box office success or the acting of Health Ledger is discussed with no “Holy Cow Batman” in sight.  What happened?  The popular cultural view of Batman has changed, evolved. 

Occult hit: Witches bucking religion trend

http://www.suntimes.com/lifestyles/religion/1501781,CST-NWS-witch30.article

A couple days ago as I was reading the newspaper during lunch, I came across an article on page 10 of the Chicago Sun-Times.   It was a story about witches.  I was sort of taken aback, since I can’t recall when I saw an article with the word “Occult” in the headline. 

The article is a fair story concerning Wicca and “new” religions.  As a page 10 story it wasn’t hidden away in the depths of the newspaper.  Does this mean that Wicca has been accepted in our mainstream culture?  Not really.  While the article is nice, it has the same “gee whiz Batman” condescending air that shows Wicca has a long way to go in the popular imagination.  For instance, the first two lines of the article, ”They don’t toil over bubbling caldrons or cook lost kids. They have no use for flying monkeys.”  Oh please!  Cauldrons and cooked kids.  Sigh.  Wiccans are still thought to be caricatures from Halloween and the Grim Fairy tales.  When will Wicca be mainstream?   When news stories don’t begin with brooms, pointy hats and references to the Wizard of Oz. 

Another misconception is using the words “occult” and Wicca in the same breath.  They are not the same thing.  Wicca is a religion.  “Occult” is mostly a philosophical approach that touches on religion, but is really not religious.  An occultist may seek to understand and interact with a hidden reality and aspire to higher consciousness, but it does not offer information about the nature of God.  Mysticism is religious, concerning man’s attempt to have direct knowledge of God.  The witch, the mystic and the occultist are not exactly the same thing, even if one person could be all three at the same time.

On the bright side, it is nice to see alternative spirituality recognized in the media, so bravo to the Sun-Times.  On an unhappy note, the Chicago Sun-Times filed for bankruptcy this week.  The Chicago Tribune already filed for bankruptcy earlier.  What is going on with our newspapers?  I love newspapers, I am a daily reader, and I enjoy the feel of newspaper, the way the ink darkens my fingers.  It is one of life’s great simple joys, like having a cup of coffee in the morning.  Reading the news online is not the same relaxing, tactile experience as reading a newspaper.  Lets support our local newspapers!

article-about-wicca

Modern witches and witchcraft

LAW OF ATTRACTION, WITCHCRAFT 15 Comments »

 witch1

When we think about witches and witchcraft, people often think in stereotypes.  The most iconic image of a witch is the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz.  Many children have been frightened by this “evil mother” figure and had this image forever impressed in their consciousness.   Something about this character has a big impact  (I was scared of this Wicked Witch  as a little boy).  Now this image has been recreated into a heroic figure in a very popular musical.  That’s progress!

classic-witchThinking about witches, others may consider the poor souls who perished during the inquisition, burned at the stake, or who were hanged in Salem.  The Satan worshipping witch of the inquisition never existed.  It was all the imagination of the horrible treatise Malleus Maleficarum  “The Hammer Against Witches” which stands besides Hitler’s Mein Kampf as a bad idea for a book.

Some of us think of witches as those among us today who follow Wicca.  It is unfortunate that the old inquisition era prejudices still persist even today with some attitudes towards this religion.  Pagans and Wiccans are the most gentle and harmless people I have known.  The really scary people are those who wield majority political and religious power…and demand others bow to their viewpoint.   Yet I think there has been progress with people’s attitudes towards Wiccans.  

Most  people think of witches as simply Halloween characters, a superstition of the past with no relevance today.  The witch is a fictional character on decorations, flying on a broom through the moonlit sky wearing a funny pointy hat.   What is up with that hat anyway?  Anyone know where THAT came from? 

gypsy-fortune-tellerI have my own ideas about witches and witchcraft.   If devil-worshipping broom flying witches were fantasy, the reality were the Cunning Folk.  These were the actual practitioners of folk medicine and magic.  In their time they were well regarded in their communities.  Some had minor skills, others a lot more.  But they did exist.  Some adhered to pagan practices, others mixed Christianity with paganism, and others disowned anything pagan and used prayers as others would use spells.  We could say the Cunning Folk were the genuine witches.

Do the Cunning Folk exist today?  They certainly do.  The “white magic” of the Cunning Folk, or the Wise People would fit in nicely with some New Age beliefs.  Go to a psychic fair, and you’ll see the modern equivalent of the Cunning Folk.  Psychics and tarot card readers are today’s Cunning Folk.    Like in the past,  some are the real deal, others are pretenders.

I would go even further.  Witchcraft is the craft of manifestation.  It is about turning desire into reality through ritual and visualization, with the power of the unseen.  That is magic…using an unseen power to manifest using our will to influence events.   There are modern Cunning Folk who are teachers of these methods…wise men and women such as Dr. Wayne Dyer and Esther Hicks who teach how to manifest our destinies and master the law of attraction.  They would never consider themselves to be a witch, but in a way they are.  Strip away all the mumbo jumbo and distill the essence of what is manifestation, and we have a sophisticated 21st century version of the craft.

This modern witchcraft is not a fantasy.  The power of manifestation is very real.  I have seen it work.  In my next post, I will tell the story of someone who is a serious student of the law of attraction and some of the results of this power of manifestation.