Thursday, May 10, 2012

You, Me & Religion

Last week Debra of You, Me & Religion contacted me to see whether I was interested to participate in her blog by answering some questions about religion. I didn't know her blog, so I first went over there to read. It explores different religions and belief systems, in an effort to promote understanding between faiths and to learn from one another. To that end, people with different religious backgrounds answer a list of questions. Very interesting!

My interview will be posted on You, Me & Religion at the end of June. I'll give you my answers here, but don't forget to visit the original blog to see the other interviews!


1) What religion do you practice? 
I’m an eclectic witch. I practice witchcraft, also called The Old Religion or The Craft, a pagan religion. There is not one true definition of a witch. There are different ways and traditions within witchcraft, with a lot of similarities but also a lot of differences. The things I tell you in this post are MY answers and not in any way valid for every witch, although a lot is common among witches.

2) Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting? 
I was raised a roman catholic, but I always felt some things differently and missed certain aspects. I found them when I encountered witchcraft. Witches don’t convert anyone, most of us are either raised within paganism or discovered it ourselves. If someone is really interested in my path I’ll always try to answer their questions to the best of my ability.

3) Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox, conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance? 
Difficult to say… I don’t feel this really applies to witchcraft. There are people that call themselves witches although they rarely do something ‘active’ with it (celebrate festivals, do magic,, etc.). Some groups or solitary witches never miss a sabbat and/or full moon, others celebrate only a few. All good imho.

4) Within your religion what degree of observance are you? Why did you choose this degree of observance?
I didn’t choose a certain degree. Witchcraft has a place in my life, is part of my life. I always pay attention to the sabbats, the moon, etc. but the degree of activity varies. During my time in a traditional coven we celebrated almost every sabbat, had lessons, workshops, meetings, etc. Now I’m free to do what I want. Sometimes I do things on my own, sometimes with a group of people. I do workshops, study, meditate, read, do practical things (like divination, working with herbs) and so much more. There isn’t a day in my life that goes by without something ‘witchy’.

5) What is the Afterlife within your religion? For example: what happens when a person dies? Are there places for reward/punishment? (such as a Heaven/Hell concept) 
Most witches call the afterlife the Summerland. Hell is an invention of christianity, I don’t believe in that concept of punishment.

6) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why? 
Everyone goes to the Summerland. In my opinion that isn’t ‘heaven for pagans’ or something. By everyone I mean everyone: people of all religions but also all other living beings. We just give our afterlife different names. Otherwise we would never see our christian, jewish, etc. family and friends ever again!

7) What makes your religion a good fit for you? 
When I found witchcraft, it felt like coming home. I believe in a Goddess and a God, both equally important. Balance is necessary, or at the least it’s a personal goal. Witchcraft is a nature-based religion. It makes me feel good and matches my general ideas and views. There’s always more to learn. Sometimes it can be a challenge, but I happily accept that. I truly believe this is the right path for me.

8) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them? 
I celebrate 8 sabbats or solar festivals, that are closely connected to nature. They are called Yule (Winter solstice), Imbolc, Ostara (Spring equinox), Beltane. Litha (Summer solstice), Lughnasadh, Mabon (Autumn equinox) and Samhain. All have their own celebrations, symbols, etc. I celebrate lunar festivals too: full moon, dark moon, etc. The phases of the moon have influence on all of us. Some things are better done at the waxing moon, other things need a waning moon.

9) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends? 
Of course! Why not? As long as there is mutual respect regarding faith I see no problem with that.

10) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why? 
Yes, I like to learn about other faiths and have respect for them. If someone wants to share their celebration with me, I’m honoured. It has to be clear though that I don’t have to be ‘saved’ and I’m not there to be converted. I think some people should be more open-minded, a lot of misconceptions and judgments about other religions are based on ignorance and lack of education about them. I have read bibles, koran, tora and other holy books / texts to educate myself. It’s okay to agree to disagree, respect and be respected…

11) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law? 
When a muslim woman has freely chosen to wear the burka I have no problem with it, but if she is forced or obliged to wear it I see it as a symbol of oppression and to me that is never good. Regarding shariah law… Well, unfortunately every faith has its extremists and fundamentalists that abuse it and (mis)interpret holy texts for their own good. In my opinion state and religion should be strictly separated.

12) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, imam etc.) in your religion and how do you feel about it? 
Yes, both men and women are allowed to do that. It’s one of the things that appealed to me in witchcraft. In some ways the HPs (High Priestess) is considered more important than the HP (High Priest), but men are not discriminated in the way women are in certain other religions. To me men and women are equal though not the same. I like a mixed group. There are also groups of only men or only women though.

13) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel? 
Do you mean whether men and women are kept separate in worship? No, and I’m glad they are not! My place of worship is preferably outdoors in nature but a circle can be cast anywhere, inside or out.

14) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc? 
Witchcraft is a way of life. I’m always a witch like I’m always a woman. I can’t switch it off. It is part of my daily life including my decisions.

15) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion? 
I wouldn’t mind as long as he/she is happy with it. Everyone has a right to choose their own path.

16) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell? 
Hell and satan are christian concepts I don’t believe in.

17) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not? 
People in the public domain are not too keen to ‘get out of the broom closet’. Unfortunately there are still a lot of misconceptions about witches.

18) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain. 
No. I’ve always been open about what I do and believe in. Sometimes people don’t (want to) understand it, and/or make fun of it, but hate… luckily not!

19) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you? 
Perhaps it does to others, but that’s their problem, their ignorance. I don’t value people according to their path/faith. If a person feels less because of his/her religion it’s probably not the right path for them, but I believe in free will so it’s their mistake to make…

20) Does your religion give you peace of mind? 
Yes, it certainly does.

21) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
Yes, I believe in an afterlife and reincarnation. Why? Good question… I just do! I have seen past lives in regression, but I don’t need proof.


You, Me & Religion links:
Blog YM&R

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