I am extremely proud to share with you an interview I conducted with a Wiccan friend of mine. I mentioned in previous posts that I had a passing interest in Wicca, but decided it was too much general outdoor work for me at that time in my life (the lazy, teenager, "hey there is a Homicide: Life on the Street marathon on", time in my life. Homicide: Life on the Street was my favorite show when I was a teenager. Don't hate.) My interest has re-newed with the birth of my daughter, which has also turned me into a raging liberal feminist, and a project I am working on with my interview subject.
I think it is important for us Halloween enthusiast to have somewhat of a grip on Wicca. Our holiday is made up of a smorgasbord of various other traditions and festivals. Such as Samhain, the Gaelic harvest festival which marks the end of the harvest. It is one of the Sabbats, or celebrations, in the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. Samhain, along with several other festivals such as Day of the Dead, All Saint's Day and Bonfire Night make up (here in North America) our beloved Halloween.
Derek (that's right, a dude Wiccan) was raised in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis with his parents and two younger brothers. He currently works as a mechanical engineer, has been married for three years and welcomed his first child, a daughter, last year.
(Please forgive the weird text colors and backgrounds. I...don't know.)
What drew you to Wicca?
Long story short, when I was young (8th or 9th grade I think), I got into Astrology and the Tarot, etc. After getting more and more into it, and noticing that a lot of the books alluded to (or just straight up laid- out) a different pantheon of sorts for the Higher Powers. After a few years of kind of reading between the lines I got more into the philosophies of other religions, taking some classes of such in the last two years of high school, and doing my own reading out of school. When I started college I went right into the IT side, and going for my Mechanical Engineering degree didn’t give me a lot of free credits to do with as I pleased, so I continued my own private study.
After picking up and dropping other various religions (I touched on a lot of the Eastern religions during this time, but never really found my niche) I came across some books on Wicca in which something clicked, especially with the ones by Christopher Penczak, and as I read them, I found my true calling of a sort. I enjoyed that it was, in a way, a piecemeal religion. You could worship what aspects spoke to you and do it how felt best. I had noticed over the years that all religions in way were aspects of a few central themes (the concept of a dying and resurrected god was not started with Jesus, nearly all religions have some figure in them that goes through that same ‘transformation’ some way,) so finding one that actually called that out was really interesting to me.
As I kept looking into it more and more I found that, while a Celtic/Nordic feel was kind of the ‘default’ there was really no right pantheon nor right way to worship, and as I had always been drawn to the Egyptian pantheon myself, and one of the Tarot decks I had the best results with was an Egyptian deck, I gravitated towards those aspects of the Higher Powers, and have stayed there since, it has probably been about 8 or so years since I have made that conscious decision to focus on those aspects.
What religion were you raised in?
I was raised Lutheran, but not very strictly (if Lutherans can ever be strict about it, that is.) I was confirmed and whatnot, but getting to church was never a big priority in my family, especially as we got older.
Did you find yourself trying to combine the two ever?
Absolutely, during my searching period I came into a lot of info about the Gnostics (and that is how I still describe my religion to those that I feel don’t deserve or wouldn’t understand a more comprehensive description). The Gnostics saw the Bible, and its books which weren’t included, as more like lessons to be learned, where the truth or falseness of them isn’t the important part, but the grand path they show to become Awakened was. They even talk about the Holy Sophia (now the Holy Ghost, and genderless, sadly) in the old Triad of the Father, Son, and Holy Sophia, which translates very nicely into most other religions. It was after these kind of revelations that when I listen to old stories from Christian canon I can see the ties. For example, in some translations (and by some I mean older, so arguably more ‘correct’, maybe), we (people) are made in their image, which would imply a God and a Goddess. And since most holidays are all patterned off each other, and nearly all of those are patterned off the cycle of the moon and/or season, it is not a big leap to tie those together either (Christmas = Yule, Beltane = May Day, Ostara = Easter, etc). Also, usually the holidays have the same sort of reason for the season, Christmas is the birth of Christ, while Yule is celebrating the Birth of the Sun, since that is the start of longer days. Easter and Ostara both celebrate rebirth, the former in the form of Christ again, and the latter in respect to nature itself.
Do you completely denounce Christianity or do you just see it as another religion you respect but don't practice/believe?
I don’t denounce it, I just don’t see it as my path of worship, especially since I has become less balanced over the centuries. It is hard to respect some practitioners of Christianity who use the Bible as written (and their particular translation) as a means to spout the hate and intolerance they have for others, just as it is hard to listen to those that use some portions of the Bible for their outlook on life, but not the spirit (like those that claim the Bible condemns all homosexuals, but seem to have no crisis of faith that they have had piles of premarital sex, which the Bible is even more adamant against.) However, it is hard to denounce the religion on the whole for the actions of an extremely loud minority within it.
Do you find portrayals of Wiccans and witches in the media as annoying or dangerously inaccurate or just silly since its just entertainment anyway?
This is actually a pretty interesting question, I have no problem with ‘witches’ in entertainment, when they are just that. I am thinking things like the Harry Potter books/movies, and those in Disney movies and stuff. When someone flicks her fingers and a house collapses, everything is fine by me, when it starts to irk me a bit more is when it is a Wiccan or Pagan in a movie and it immediately goes to them being ‘that girl’ or ‘that guy’ in the school. The proverbial loner that is clinging to their ‘silly’ religion that does nothing to save them in the end, or the power hungry kid who is going to use it to get super awesome powers to get the girl / teach the jerk a lesson. That is the trope I have an issue with, but it is really no different than blondes hating ditzy blonde stereotypes or the like, and anyway, anyone who would have their view tainted and skewed by such a portrayal is probably not someone I would associate with before they saw said movie or show.
Do you like the fact that Halloween has become such a wide-spread and celebrated festival or do you feel one of your religious holidays has been co-opted and made into something completely different? Or are you able to just separate the two (Halloween and Samhain)?
I don’t mind and actually kind of like it. It is the one time of year that most people can at least flirt with these kind of ideas (spirits, the Other Side, and so on) and they can blame it on the season. Of course it is more commercial now, but I don’t see it every becoming like Christmas or something, since there isn’t the gift or the ‘what do I get’ part of the holiday. As long as people are looking a little quicker away from a mirror, or hurrying a bit faster as they pass a graveyard, or daring each other to spend a handful of minutes in the entryway of the local haunted house, then that does more to foster the idea that the veil is thin that night than any amount of festivities, no matter how mundane, can undo.
Do you believe that it is possible to "raise" your children as Wiccans like how children are raised to be Christian or Jewish, or do you believe it is a personal choice the child has to make when they're old enough to understand it?
I do, as a new father and as a solo practitioner, I am still a bit unsure how much direct guiding I will do, or how much I am going to let her find and figure out on her own. I still have all of my books out, and my tools of the trade are not that hidden (enough to be baby safe, but no retinal scanners), so I only imagine it is a matter of time before I get a few questions. By that point she will be old enough to hear what I think and at least start her path. Also, just as being ‘raised Christian’ can mean a wide variety of things, from ‘my parents are Christian, but we never went to church’ all the way to ‘we were at church four times a week’, being raised Wiccan can mean a lot, and of that I will probably be on the softer end. I am sure my bias will show, but I won’t make her participate until she asks or would be in the mindset to get something from the experience. One’s spiritual path is a very individual expression, and that is more so when it is involving a child, when they are at their most malleable. As I think about this, I think the more important part for me will be to instill her with the right outlook. There is no ‘them’ and ‘us’, only ‘the whole lot of we’, and that what goes around comes around (a common enough saying which reflects nicely the Three-Fold Law, that what you do comes back three times as strong, or as some people like to say, ‘Karma is a Bitch’). With those thoughts in mind, no matter what her religion of choice is, she will at least be the type of person I can be proud of raising.
And there you have it, folks! My first ever interview on The Halloween Honey, first of many I hope. Big thank you to Derek for your insights and information!