Regarding: Concerned Christians proclaim faith, pray for Asheville
This letter is in response to the above article from today's Citizen-Times.
I am proud to call myself a pagan; and I am also proud to say that I have never attempted to force my beliefs upon others. I am thoroughly sick of sanctimonious, patronizing, holier-than-thou Christians and their unwelcome attempts to "enlighten" me.
My background was the Southern Baptist church; my parents forced me to attend services until I was 18, even though I never believed in this religion. Let me say now that I am not anti-Christian....The tenets of Christianity are admirable. However, it is not the right choice for me.(and I am the ONLY person qualified to make that decision!)
No one "converted" or manipulated me into witchcraft. On the other hand, dozens of Christians have attempted to cajole, bribe, manipulate, and frighten me from my chosen path. I spent too many years spiritually unsatisfied; if Christianity were right for me, that space would have been filled long ago. My path as a pagan is ever more precious to me because I researched, learned, and discovered it for myself.
I also wanted to correct a common misconception------witchcraft/wicca/paganism HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH SATANISM! I cannot say this emphatically enough! We are all aware that there is evil in the world: sociopathic or imbalanced persons who use manipulation to selfishly and thoughtlessly achieve their own desires. A total lack of restraint and consideration for consequences of their actions make such people dangerous.
Satanism, is NOT a pagan or earth religion; rather it is a Christian heresy. One must accept the christian gods/saints/spirit in order to believe that Satan exists. Again, I am not denying that evil and those who use it are real------I know they are out there. What I am saying, is that paganism is much different.
In Wicca, there is a
"golden rule" that states we must not harm anyone, including ourselves. We believe it is wrong to manipulate others in any way; and if we purposely harm another, we are punished threefold. Many pagans are vegetarians due to this rule; they feel that animals should not be killed for their sustenance.
Pagans believe in a number of Gods/Goddesses/goddess; many also believe in a "one spirit" that is often female: a mother figure. Many present-day pagans are returning to religions that began many millennia ago, all over the earth. With historical research, one can see how pagan beliefs began: man had a short and often brutal existence, where survival depended on a good growing season, fertility of animals, successful hunts. Early man asked the forces of nature----the most powerful thing they knew and saw evidence of----for health, safe childbirth, food, shelter,,,,,,,,,the same things people pray for today.
My faith is important to me; as is my constitutional right to worship as I please without fear of persecution. Perhaps I am mistaken........I don't agree, but everyone has a right to their opinion. I'm harming no one........so in the event that I am, then I will pay the price.
So to all Christians, let me say this: I have never harmed anyone, and the thought of performing some bloodthirsty sacrifice is just as horrible an idea to me as it is for you. I'm kind to animals and people too....... I am not stupid or simple-minded----thanks for your concern, but I can decide what is right for me. I'll leave you alone to worship as you see fit: please return the favor. I don't want anyone believing as I do unless it is their choice, so stop worrying that we pagans have a secret agenda a la "the X Files." We don't-----all we want is freedom from persecution, and for those who want to point fingers and make accusations, at least get the facts before you speak and protest.
And one other thing.........please don't insult me by praying for me. If that bothers you, walk a mile in my shoes and imagine how you'd feel if I picketed your services, accused you of criminal behavior with no basis in fact(in America we call that "slander"), hated you only for your differences from us, came knocking on your front door with wiccan pamphlets and a burning desire to "share" our religion so you'd have the benefit of knowing "the truth", and finally, when all those things failed to sway your opinion, we informed you that this very evening we were planning a ritual so we could pray for you to change your wicked ways?
Appalachian Pagan Alliance
re: Earth Religions protest
Greetings Mr. Alexander---
As Co-founding priestess of Appalachian Pagan Alliance, I have been following these stories with interest. I know Ginger Strivelli has made several comments; I live further away so decided to comment via email.
I wanted to address several issues brought out by this proclamation. First, it's appreciated that the Mayor made a proclamation for recognition of the most ancient belief system on the planet, but the very fact of having to issue such a statement illustrates how few rights pagans have. The message of religious freedom too often translates into: "freedom to be whatever kind of CHRISTIAN one desires to be", rather than a true recognition of rights and equality for every human being. Many Modern-day Christians have forgotten a primary reason for their ancestors moving to this country----to escape religious persecution.
Another issue is personal responsibility. As adults we are held accountable for our actions and beliefs; certainly I am the ONLY one to take this responsibility! I'm not a mindless Pollyanna with no concept of what goes on in the world; nor do I have the hubris to think everyone else should believe as I do. I have never proselytized or promoted my belief system, not even to my children. Though as a parent I have that right........after all, if I were taking my kids to church and not giving them any choice in the matter----this would be viewed as my right, correct? Parents of all faiths have the right to teach their children as they believe----Christian, Pagan, Jew, Muslim, Hindu........whatever the belief system.
I wanted to answer the misconception that all "occult" groups/activities are the same. Obviously, this is not so! After all, not all Christians share exactly the same doctrine; there are many divisions within Christianity.
Nor is "witchcraft" anything like the common portrayals on TV and in movies.....those are fictional stories made up of many elements of varying degrees of accuracy-----for entertainment, not as a primer of how things truly are! Wicca, witchcraft, and paganism are NOT synonymous with Satanism, Voodoo, Santeria, or other belief systems that promote/allow harming others.
Paganism is based on earth/elemental forces; with both goddesses and gods to represent various attributes of nature; usually the primary deity is a mother figure. Since these beliefs are very ancient, it is clear how they evolved. In a cold and cruel world, where lifespans were short and man was often helpless against weather and predators, naturally anything that aided survival had value. For example, a shorter-than-usual summer season might mean starvation for members of a community; therefore rituals to appease and coax the sun's return at midwinter solstice would be very important. Fertility of people, crops, and the animals they depended on for food and assistance in farming was equally important, leading to springtime celebrations of budding new life. Early man wanted what we still request of deities today-----provision for our needs, healing for the sick, safe childbirth, support and assistance in troubled times, to name a few.
Whether called wiccan, witch, or pagan, we are not evil. Nor are we deceived, mistaken, or misled. We do not believe in Satan as an entity...... Satanism is a Christian heresy, NOT a pagan belief system. Pagans believe that one must accept the Christian beliefs as true in order to accept Satan as an evil deity. The APA was founded with the most basic law of Witchcraft----the Wiccan Rede: And it harm none, do as ye will. This means that harming anyone---including one's self-----is prohibited. To many pagans, that includes manipulation of others, interfering with another's free will, and proselytizing or attempting to force our beliefs on others.
In paganism there are "bad" people-----just as in any group. There will always be a few who misuse their belief systems for personal gain or to control/harm others. This is just as prevalent among Christians and other faiths as well.( One example would be evangelists who use donated monies for personal reasons; another, cults such as Heaven's Gate). Some persons have little or no conscience and these individuals can do damage in the world; however, such sociopaths are distributed throughout the world's population, not exclusively in the pagan community.
Satanism and ritual abuse does occur, unfortunately. There are persons who believe this behavior is acceptable; however, pagans(and especially the APA) are not in agreement with it. Satanism in general promotes personal gain/gratification, no matter who gets hurt and regardless of the consequences. No soul---human or animal----- should ever suffer at the hands of these egomaniacal sociopaths. In this opinion, it appears, we agree with Christianity that Satanism is a negative and destructive force which is to be battled.
I realize that none of my statements will change attitudes; in fact, that's OK, as we all have to find our own paths........but I did want to address some of the current issues and put forth my opinion as a Co-founding member of the Appalachian Pagan Alliance.
You are welcome to visit our website: Appalachian Pagan Alliance