Thesis: Due to the increasing prejudice associated with New Generation Witchcraft, the religion known as Wicca, people in the American society should relinquish their misconceptions through educating themselves on the truth about Wicca, and thus, creating a more open and honest American society.
As the United States prepares to enter the 21st century, it is surprising to some that there is still some much prejudice among Americans when it comes to Witchcraft. Whether or not this prejudice is unfounded is not the issue. The issue is prejudice and the discrimination that occurs as a result. The United States has always been a pioneer to end discrimination but has been slow to accept Wicca as a religion. The only way past this is for the people of the American society to relinquish their misconceptions and to educate themselves on what Wicca is and is not. Only through this education can America become a more trusting, open and honest society.
The misconceptions about Wicca are the things that adding to the prejudice that surrounds it. The Bible plays perhaps the biggest part in adding to the misconceptions. In Exodus 22:18, it says: “Thou shalt not suffer a Witch to live” (Exodus 22:18 KJV) In 1611, when King James I of England ordered that the Holy Bible be translated from Greek and Hebrew into English, he also ordered that the hebrew word chasaph be translated into the word “witch.” Hebrew scholars of the time were perplexed because the word chasaph did not mean “witch” but “poisoner” which was a person who sabotaged village wells by poisoning them (Vogel 3). Rev. Norm Vogel states: “King James had a paraniod fear of Witches . . . and dilerately had his translators alter the text of the Bible to provide grounds for extermination of Witches” (Vogel 3). Another misconception is that Wicca is a cult. In his textbook Society: The Basics, John Maconis defines a cult as a fraction religious group lead by a central charimatic leader in which the members not only have to embrace the cults doctorine but “embrace a radically new lifestyle” (Maconis 323). Wicca does not fit these characteristics. Wicca has no central leadership (US Army Chaplian’s Handbook 1). The practioners do not give up their lifestyle to completely embrace a doctorine. Most Wiccans are Solitaires who put into the religion whatever is comforting to them. Another of the biggest misconceptions is that Wiccans worship Satan. This is also false. According to Amber K, Wicca is “not based on a pact with the Devil” (K 2). Satan worshipers, or Satanists, are said to worship the Judo-Christian concept of Satan. They believe that they worship the fallen angel, Lucifer, who is the master of all evil. Amber K states: “Most magickians, including Wiccan priest/priestesse, so not believe in Satan and would certianly have no dealings with such an entity if he existed” (K 2). Wiccans states that they do not believe in a single figure that encompasses all that is evil. A recently interviewed Wiccan, who asked to be refered to as Clio, said that she believes that there is evil in every person and it is how they overcome that evil that makes them who they are. “Christians call it sin. Buddhists call it bad karma. Almost every religion sees it the same way but with a different name. It is how you feel comfortable with dealing with personal evil that makes up your religion.” Most Wiccans state simply that Satan just does not fit into their religion. Clio states that Wicca is a positive religion and the “Devil” figure “is just not positive.” Misconceptions are the major part of what adds to the prejudice around Wicca.
The most basic way of understanding Wiccans is to understand their beliefs, views of other religions and the history of Wicca. The most basic concept of Wicca is that it is the “continuation of the practice of the native american religions and cultural beliefs of Europe” (Miller 3) . The names “witch” and “witchcraft” were given to the practice by the Christian church (Miller 3). Wiccans believe that there is a universal power that all people can draw upon that is often personified as the Goddess and the God. Some Wiccan worship both the Goddess and the God or only the Goddess or the Goddess, God and The One. The One is considered to be the creator. The One is everything and cannot be personified. According to The Wiccan Creation Story by Scott Cunningham, The One created, from itself, the Goddess and the God, who then created the planets and life (Cunningham 5). Wiccans do not have a set doctorine that all Wiccans go by but there are principles that are generally accepted by most Wiccans. The Wiccan Rede is an example. The Rede, written in 1953 by Doreen Vaiente states: “Bide the Wiccan Laws we must,/In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust . . . Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill/ An Ye Harm None, do as Ye will!” ( qtd. by Holland 3) Another example would be “The Principles of Wiccan Belief” set up by the Council of American Witches in 1974. The Council later disbanded but the principles were kept and are still used by many covens, small groups of Wiccans. The Principles represented an overview of the laws of the Craft and theology, but none of the Principles completely defined Wicca. They allowed room for people to grow and put what they needed into the religion (Ravenwolf 1-3). Wiccans believe in having a reverence for nature. Most Wiccans believe that the Goddess is personified as Mother Nature and deserves respect. Many people are of the opinion that Wiccans believe themselves superior to other religions. According to Clio, this is not true. “We believe that each person has the right to reach the Divine in their own way. For some, it’s through ‘Christ.’ For others, it’s through nirvana. For us, its through love. Love of the Goddess. Love of everyone. For Wiccans, love is the key.” Wiccans view every positive religion on its own merit. Some Wiccans incorporate parts of other religions into Wicca and use them. There are Wiccans that study the Christian Bible and believe in angels. Other Wiccans might study the teachings of Islam. Wiccans are usually open minded about other religions and their own. Education is the key to people understanding Wicca.
After people realize and correct their misconceptions through education, American society can be more open, more honest and generally a better place for people to live. In American society today, there are thousands of Wiccans in hiding. They are in what is called “the Broomcloset.” This means that they are hiding the fact that they are Wiccan. Wiccans are often very hard to identify by non-Wiccans. Some Wiccans may stand out because they have bumper stickers plastered to their cars or they wear pentagrams, which are five pointed stars with the top point up surrounded by circle to represent the four elements with the Spirit on top. Others may be more subtle and wear pentacles, either a five-pointed star or a pentagram pressed into a piece of wood or metal, on necklaces so that only another Wiccan would know that they are Wiccan. Some Wiccans may make no show at all that they are Wiccan. The ones that try to hide that they are Wiccan usually do it because they are afraid of persecution or discrimination. Though there are laws against religious discrimination, there have been many people discriminated against because of their faith. According to Burningtimes 1999, there were over 5,000 people who reported discrimination against themselves on the basis of their belief in Wicca (Burning Times 1). This has got to stop. People must be educated on what Wicca is so that the United States can have a bit more peace. When the United States has been educated on the truth about Wicca, it can then live up to its promise of no discrimination. America has always been the land of the free and that will only continue when people realize and release their prejudice. Once this happens, it will truly be “One nation under love, with liberty and justice for all.”
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