I originally wrote this article in 1983 and it first appeared in a booklet we compiled of essays called ‘The Tapestry of Wicca – A collage of articles about Witchcraft’, Yule 1983 (Dutch version: ‘Heksenkring – 13 visies op de wicca’ / ‘Wicca de religie van zelfexpressie’, Mei 1983).
Here is the English version of ‘Wicca the religion of Self-expression’. I haven’t revised it so there is no mention of internet, or emails – they didn’t exist then 🙂 On re-reading it I realised that my basic approach to the Craft hasn’t changed. I still believe that as a Mystery Religion we have to discover our own path, our own talents, our own mystery. Only then can we be true to ourselves.
One of the most positive aspects of publishing a pagan magazine is the contact we make with the many people who approach us. Much of this contact is via letters and invariably concerns practical, concrete questions but occasionally a veritable conversation arises from this frail line of communication. Apart from the correspondence we have also met people personally. It is often surprising to see how many different people, from different backgrounds and ages come along: some of whom are actively involved in the Craft, others who are completely newcomers to it.
Quite frequently we are asked how we first became involved in the Craft, and we of course are always interested to hear how other people were attracted to a pagan lifestyle. It is noticeable that most people do not know precisely when they became interested, more often they have felt pagan for most of their lives. The actual historical date of becoming aware of Wicca as a modern-day pagan religion is usually much easier to remember. In my case this was particularly so. I remember quite clearly being very surprised when I heard that a modern form of Witchcraft existed, more familiarly known as the Craft. At that time there was virtually nothing known about Wicca in Holland. This situation gave rise to the idea of launching a pagan magazine to try and contact like-minded people. The most important aim of ‘Wiccan Rede’ was, and still is, to create a focus and link between pagans and people interested in Wicca.
The publication of the magazine has increasingly influenced our personal development within the Craft and probably this development is very different to the one most people experience. But rather than discuss how the magazine has influenced my views on the Craft I hope to try and use this opportunity to present my personal views on the Craft.
How has Wicca changed my life? What do I experience as the essence of Wicca? One of the first things that I noticed when I became aware of a modern pagan movement was the general confirmation I felt in respect to many of the things I believed in; often in secret because until that moment I had rarely been able to find like-minded souls with whom I could really share my beliefs. So often people thought I was slightly crazy, a freak, a hippie or they just didn’t agree with me. This attitude frequently left me feeling very alone and frustrated. To find like-minded souls was truly a homecoming for me as I began to find my family, my spiritual brothers and sisters.
During my spiritual search I had of course recognised many of the things I believed in in other spiritual streams, but more often than not I found myself stumbling over dogma and terminology, which I felt to be very limiting.
The first thing I noticed about Wicca was the lack of dogma and high blown philosophy. When I became aware of the Wiccan Rede. ‘An it harm none, do what ye will’ my first reaction was, “It is so simple, but true”. What more do you want?’
Wicca is a simple religion. It is direct. There is little elaboration and above all it is what you make of it. We frequently call it a ‘do-it-yourself’ religion and that really describes the Craft in a nutshell.
In the series of articles ‘Beyond the Broomstick’ which I wrote for ‘Wiccan Rede’ I described Wicca as the ‘Religion of (Self) Expression’. What did I mean by that?
I wanted to convey the idea that the essence of Wicca lies in the possibility of being able to express oneself in a way, which feels right. In our modern society we are often reduced to a number or the proverbial cog in the machine of modern technology and bureaucracy. We feel that our contribution is minimal. There is little appreciation for our work and effort. We then conclude that we are worthless and that frequently leads to a general feeling of cynicism and apathy.
In the Craft everyone is worthwhile; we are encouraged to search for our talents and gifts however futile and unimportant they may seem in the eyes of the larger public.
My activities within the Craft have given my life new dimensions. In place of feeling powerless I have discovered new ways of expressing myself and so doing feel that much more positive towards life.
It is clear that a positive attitude can influence one’s life in many ways; even dull boring routine work can become interesting if one is willing to look for a challenge and use some imagination. One is also motivated to become involved, to see the worldly side of life as worthwhile and not as a drag or something beyond us. In my case a positive attitude has helped to increase my self-confidence and belief in myself. Even when everything seems to go wrong, I know deep in my heart that there must be a reason and that it is not for nothing that we experience the down periods. This certainty has also helped me to confirm the knowledge that there is a divine force present and above all the contact that we can make with these forces.
In the Craft we believe that the Gods need us as much as we need the Gods. We are not servants of the Gods but their- earthly representatives. Every woman is the Goddess and every man is the God. Our aim is to live as Gods, to use our creative talents and wisdom to the full. We are in many respects still children, but as long as we do not have the insight to see who we are and our worth in this earthly life then there is little hope for a positive development and evolution of Humankind.
The principle of male and female energy is a vital part of Wiccan philosophy. This principle can be found in virtually all aspects of life. It is a principle that is based on polarity where balance and harmony can be realised. In every human being this polarity can be found. Every man has something feminine whilst every woman has something masculine. Wicca is concerned with finding this balance, just as Nature also strives towards balance.
How does this work in practice? In my case the Craft lead me to question particular aspects of our society. I was never very convinced that the traditional male and female roles were natural. Then I really became aware of the principle of polarity I realised even more how absurd this division is. Both poles have a particular quality whose energies are more suitable for particular situations. This however does not imply that one pole is superior or inferior to the other. In other words, the feminine side of nature can be far more suitable in some situations where a masculine approach may be far from ideal and vice versa. We must never forget however that both male and female qualities exist in every person; a woman is just as capable of using her masculine insight as any man and vice versa. This does not mean that a man or woman should step into the roles of the opposite sex to prove their point – it is a question of balance and the recognition of the two poles in one’s self, the male and female polarity in oneself, and the insight of knowing when each is appropriate.
This point is dramatically emphasised in the Craft when we realise that the God and Goddess are seen to be equal and that neither is superior nor inferior to the other. As a woman this aspect certainly attracted me to the Craft. I am not treated as a second-class citizen – a woman is respected and receives the honour she deserves. Men and women can work together as priest and priestess and in so doing can create harmony. Above all respect can grow out of such a relationship.
As a result of this interchange of energy there is also the possibility that a third aspect will appear, balance; something totally new which did not exist beforehand. This balance is one of the fundamentals of magical work and has very much to do with the balance between intellect, feeling, emotions and willpower, which should be developed if true harmony is to be achieved.
Whenever one of the poles becomes overemphasised balance is lost. Willpower is for example an important quality in magic but if there is little feeling or compassion present then results can be very egocentric. If feeling takes the upper hand, such as revenge, then the subsequent results can also be unbalanced.
I have found that the principle of polarity can be applied to all aspects of life especially in the realms of ethics. It has occurred to me that many people never really bother to question the morality of society. Whenever someone else does something, however asocial or barbaric it may be, it is often accepted with the consequence that it becomes a ‘normal’ way of life. As soon as one consciously begins to work magically one is often confronted with ethical questions. I have become much more aware of the fact that I can influence people and situations. Of course I was able to do that before I had even heard of the Craft but gradually my consciousness has become attuned to this aspect of life and as a result has altered my way of looking at things. This awareness has made me re-look at things, which previously I had never thought about twice. Questions about our daily life such as gossip, judging other people, things that we know little about and yet pretend we are experts and have readymade conclusions!
Being involved in magic means working from within – uniting feeling with intellect and then transforming this into deeds. The channel for this is one’s personality. Within the personality is a sense of morality and above all responsibility. Working positively means in essence learning to recognise one’s limits, to learn for one’s self what is right and wrong with regards to Humankind. We have become so conditioned that we have become lazy or even worse, we don’t even realise that we can determine our own future. It needs a strong willpower not to be seduced by the easy way out of letting other people run our lives. We even run the risk of losing friends because we don’t conform but, in the end, we can hope that our lives have not been wasted through blindly following the mass and living a relatively colourless, uninteresting life.
Working magically also means being outwardly active. There is a two-way communication (again polarity) between our inner and outer world. In the Craft it is Nature who is our guide. A close relationship with the natural forces and cycles can form the basis from which we work. So often we can find answers to our problems by looking at the natural world – if we take the trouble to look. Nature is our source of inspiration and it can provide the backbone for our sense of survival and existence. This knowledge has given me the faith and trust that nothing happens without a reason or meaning. I have come to realise that although I may not know all the answers, the potential exists to solve the riddles. Perhaps (probably) I will not find all the answers in this lifetime, or in many lifetimes to come, but one day all will be revealed. A certain amount of patience is clearly necessary but I will not accept the apathetic attitude of ‘why should I?’ or ‘what is the point anyway’. Life is too interesting and worthwhile to have a negative attitude and above all negativity can be destructive. How many people really realise that all negative (and positive) thoughts are projected into the earth-aura? No wonder that there is suffering and pain on our planet when there is so much negative energy around us!
In the rituals of the Craft and in the work in the Circle we try to counteract this situation. The rituals are based on a joyful, loving atmosphere ‘- the Circle is a generator for this atmosphere. Everyone who works in the Circle is aware of this fact. We consciously try to transform the negative vibrations into positive energy, which is then projected back into the earth-aura. It is also possible to carry the Circle with you, in your own aura. In this way it is literally possible to radiate positive energy 24 hours a day, although in practice there do tend to be ups and downs in the energy level. But we do have the potential to permeate positive energy
Whenever we are threatened by negative influences this ‘radiation’ can be translated into more familiar terms such as ‘being optimistic’, ‘having a sunny personality’ etc.
Negative influences have the destructive tendency to fragment or splinter our lives. Fragmentation, and all the consequences of it, is a growing phenomenon especially in the West. The number of groups and fractions is continuing to grow and the ideal of world unity seems further away than ever. Naturally the ‘group phenomena’ is not altogether new but nowadays there is a far more aggressive and destructive tendency. There is little tolerance between the groups; there is an extreme individualistic spirit evident which tends to negate the existence of other groups who think and act differently.
Although the Craft recognises small autonomous groups (the coven) there is a basic foundation of philosophy, which links the groups. Perhaps this is one of the most interesting and at the same time the most difficult aspects to understand of the Craft. On the one hand I can develop as an individual, whilst still being aware of the fact that I belong to the whole of Humankind. To be able to develop fully as an individual I should have the opportunity to discover my own talents however different and diverse they may be with regards to my fellow friends. The small autonomous Craft groups allow for this diversity of individual development whilst not losing sight of the greater role of the evolution of Humankind.
Whenever I meet people from other covens or people who work alone, I feel completely free to exchange ideas even if we are not always in agreement. This is possible because we know that we are working towards the same end, however different our methods may be. This tolerant attitude can be extremely positive and creates space for a dynamic development and unfolding. It also means that the whole network of groups retains a truly living progressive evolution. We are all learning and that learning process will continue. Only then are we really living.
This diversity has another positive point. Since there is no dogma there is less chance that ideas will stagnate or become petrified, or even worse, that people become too lazy to think for himself or herself and soak up everything they hear as sponges without living the knowledge personally.
There is a very definite chance to become active in respect of personal development. For me this independent development has been very important. I am able to discover my own creative talents, in thoughts and feelings, without feeling limited. Sometimes I have discovered something only to find out later that someone else discovered the same thing (even centuries ago) but this does not diminish the feeling that I have been original. When I find out that someone else has come to the same conclusions as I have, I feel as though this is a confirmation.
One of the maxims in the Craft is ‘if it feels good to you then it is right’. This attitude allows for the possibility to choose which course is personally right instead of hearing ‘you must do this or that’. Of course advice from someone who is more experienced can be extremely useful and I have always been very grateful for this advice, but I have never felt forced to follow such advice. Ultimately, we have to make our own choices and decisions.
If you have read this far it will probably have occurred to you that even without the Craft I could have come to these conclusions. Everyone who has a bit of willpower and commonsense can recognise their own intrinsic worth and develop a particular attitude towards life. That is undoubtedly true. So why is the Craft such a worthwhile religion to me?
The essence lies in my link with the God and Goddess and my realisation that I as a human being am a child of the Gods.
The God is my hunting spirit, my fighting spirit, my willpower, my perseverance and determination, whilst the Goddess is my soul, my intuition and passion. Together they have formed me and created me and I as a child of their union am able to give their creative powers form on earth. I am their manifestation on earth.
The Craft is an Earth-religion – it has the rawness of Nature herself. There are few compromises possible. The laws by which we live should be natural laws not man-made. The kingdom of the human being has a specific role to play in the Earth evolution but so too do the plants, animals and minerals. The ancient pagans knew this – as modern pagans it is our task to revive this knowledge and to integrate it with the intellect, which has made a tremendous impact on our modern consciousness.
Wicca is a fertility religion – not only of the land but of the mind also. It is also the Old Religion of the Hunter – the Horned God. Today we are hunters of Truth, and we must relearn how to use our horns, our spiritual antennae, if we want to discover the (ancient) mysteries of our existence and our cosmic origins. The ancient pagan Gods were often depicted as warriors – so too are we warriors, courageous and without fear. It is not for nothing that the Witches weapons are so called and that the Circle is cast to form a barrier against the powers of darkness. My link with the God and Goddess strengthens this conviction, this desire to overcome the forces of darkness and although I may be tempted to wander towards the left-hand path, I know that they will protect me and guide me back whenever it is necessary. It is this belief which guides me in my darkest moments and gives me the courage and determination to go on.
It is this belief on which I can build and above all that very certainty which I can fall back onto. In concrete terms it is a mental and spiritual stability, which, whatever happens, will never let me down.