A Letter to Non-Pagans
Greetings, my name is Ginger Strivelli, I am the Leading Priestess of the Appalachaian Pagan Alliance. As, I try to teach with my frequent comments to the media, the classes I teach and the other work I do, Witches are members of a religion. We are not evil, or immoral, we deserve and demand respect for ourselves and our ancient faith. The APA strives to introduce religious tolerance in western North Carolina with truths and factual information about Paganism.
My religion is important to me; as is my constitutional right to worship as I please without fear of persecution. Everyone has that right.
I wanted to address several issues brought out by 1999's proclamation, the resulting controversy, and the ongoing misinformation about Witches and Pagans:
First, it's appreciated that another group's High Priestess, Byron Ballard, asked for and the Mayor signed 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.
Of course, I am raising my children to be Witches. Parents of all faiths have the right to teach their children as they believe; Christian, Pagan, Jew, Muslim, Hindu... whatever the belief system. I am proud to call myself a Witch, and proud that Mother Nature has blessed me with children to raise, and I shall of course, teach them to worship Her and all the Gods...when they are grown they will choose which faith to follow, until then, I shall guide them in the way of the ancient Gods who were here long before your single God.
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. Just as you would not lump together Catholics, Mormons, Baptists, and Jehovah's Witnesses...you should not lump together Witches, Neo-Pagans, Gardenarians, Dianics, and all the various denominations of Witchcraft. Do not assume all Pagans have the same beliefs or practices.
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 or controlling others. 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.
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, 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. 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. 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, no matter what denomination of Witchcraft we follow, we are not evil. Nor are we deceived, mistaken, or misled. We made the choice to follow a Pagan Path, as is our right. We do not believe in your Devil; we have thousands of Gods of our own, and not a single devil, so why would we believe in your devil, much less worship him, as you have been told that we do, by the propaganda the Christian church has been using against us since the Inquistion?
In Paganism there are "bad" people --- just as in any group of human beings. 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). There are people who call themselves Witches, Pagans or Wiccans and are immoral persons, but that is their personal flaw, not a reflection of every other member of our ancient and honorable faith. Do not judge us all by actions of but a few.
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.
So stop and think before you show prejudice against us, or anyone else. Imagine how you'd feel if we 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 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 and cast spells for you to change your wicked ways?
We realize that these statements may not change some long clung-to misconceptions about our ancient and honorable religion, but we also believe, that the work the APA has done and will continue to do, will, in time, and by the blessings of the Gods, banish those slanderous misconceptions, for good!
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