What Pagans Are NOT!

Okay, it’s time to banish a few common misunderstandings and misconceptions about the pagan path. Yeah, I’ve probably got this same information on other pages, but there are certain things I like to repeat to stress, to make sure that the message is clear.

What Devil?

First and foremost, pagans are not devil worshipers. They never were. They never will be. Why would members of one belief system worship the bad guy of another belief system? Anthropologists have seen how the Gods (and Goddesses) of the old religion comes to be regarded as the evil ones or devils in the new faith when a culture changes religions.

Modern pagans try to take on a balanced view of history. They reject the propaganda that seeks to link the old Gods with the Christian devil, and in doing so, pagans are free to accept, learn about, and revere the old Gods on their own terms.

No Blood Sacrifices, Please…

Modern pagans renounce the practice of human and animal sacrifices. They reject the notion that their Gods require blood sacrifices. That is not to say pagans do not make sacrifices.  There are appropriate ways, which are defined as “offerings to the Gods.” These are usually in the form of prayer, song, flowers, oil, a token of food, or even pouring wine on sacred ground or leaving a small meal for wild animals, instead of shedding blood. Even giving up a bad habit can be a sacrifice if done in a spiritually intentional manor.

Pagans and Sex

It is very commonly thought –wrongly I might add– that pagan worship always involves a hot, sweaty orgy. If all you are interested in is group sex, you would have better luck at a swingers club! While pagan beliefs about sex are a bit more liberal than most people’s, their sexual behavior is pretty much the same. Pagans are just like everyone else in their opposition to adultery, rape and child molestation.

When it comes to such things as homosexuality, bisexuality, and sex between unmarried couples, pagans are probably more liberal than most, but that is because for pagans sex is natural and therefore good.

Some pagans, especially those who practice Wicca, sometimes perform rituals in the nude, also known as “skyclad”. This is not true of all Wiccans, and certainly not all pagans, but it does seem to get a lot of press. But even those Wiccans who do practice skyclad rituals tend to be as middle-of-the-road in their sexuality as most pagans. In other words: They think sex is great, but an orgy?  No thanks!!

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Wiccan Ethics

As Scott Cunningham says in Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs:

Magic is love. All magic should be performed out of love. The moment anger or hatred tinges your magic you have crossed the border into a dangerous world, one that will ultimately consume you.

Biding the Rede is the only thing you have to do to be Wiccan. Do no harm. That is the essence of the Wiccan faith, our one law. No one imposes this on us. A Wiccan is a witch who chooses of his or her own free will to be bound by this law. We see life as magickal and magick as sacred, so Wiccans are white witches who do not hex or harm.

To assume that white magick is less powerful than black magick would be to mistake kindness for weakness. Certainly we defend ourselves, but we generally do so by deflecting attacks rather than by attacking

Magick itself is neutral, a tool. Like a hammer, it can be used to smash or to build. It is colored by your intent. White magick is a term used to describe that which is positive, constructive, or helpful. Black magick is that which is negative, destructive, or harmful. If you have a business and you work spells to make it prosper, that’s white magick. Casting spells to destroy your competition would be black magick. These are not racial terms. The terms good and evil, or dark and light, are often used to express this same concept.

Why black and white, and not some other colors? To answer this question you have to go back into prehistory and imagine how terrifying the night was for humans before we learned to use fire. The black of night was full of unseen threats, a dangerous time that you might not survive. The white light of day brought illumination and safety, welcome relief.

White magick is the right-hand path, black magick the left. The symbolism of right and left is also very ancient. The right hand was used for eating, the left hand for bathroom functions. Imagine life without toilet paper and you’ll understand why it’s customary to shake hands with your right hand! This has nothing to do with being right- or left-handed. It does, however, explain why, in the past, left-handed people were often forced to learn to write with their right hands.

The term green witchcraft is sometimes used to describe Celtic magick, fairy magick, Earth magick, or any combination of these. There are several theories of “gray magic,” but I think gray magic is what Hindus call maya illusion.

Do murderers balance nice people? Do child abusers balance loving parents? If they create balance, does this excuse their crimes? Try telling that to a judge! “Well your honor, I only stole that car to create balance in the universe.”

There is another polarity theory, which states that if you do two hexes and two healings, they balance one another or cancel each other out. Although there may be some logic to this, it’s still just a self-serving excuse, a way to delude yourself that you are a white witch when you practice black magick.

Some traditions hold that those spells you cast on yourself constitute white magick, while those you cast on others constitutes gray magick. I think a spell that harms you or anyone else is black magick; one that helps or heals anyone, including yourself, is white magick. There is no gray in this area as far as I am concerned. Being of service to people in need or distress is one of the things witches do best. I therefore see nothing wrong in casting spells that help others, with their permission, of course.

Some witches argue that there are evils too great, situations too grave, to be handled with white magick. The end justifies the means, they say, making black magick necessary for the greater good. Although there is some merit to this argument, I have never encountered a situation I couldn’t handle with white magick. Binding, banishing, and transformation are the powerful tools of a white witch.

There are excellent moral and ethical arguments against practicing black magick. If you are not convinced by those, however, here is a practical one:

What goes around comes around.

Everything we put forth is eventually returned to us. Moreover, Wicca recognizes the Law of Three, which states that this return is triple. Black magick may provide instant gratification, but it ultimately does you more harm than anyone else. Many white witches have learned this lesson the hard way.

Carefully examine any spell or magickal working before you perform it to be sure that it is in accord with Wiccan law. Ask yourself if you are casting the spell for the person, or on the person. If you do harm inadvertently, try to right it. Many witches work a phrase into their spells that prevents accidental harm, something like, “And let no harm be done by this.”

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