The basis of Thelema is the Will (which is Thelema itself in Greek). The command “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” (Liber AL I:40) and “There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt” (Liber AL I:60) is often distinguished from the often misunderstood and mistranslated statement of “Do what you want.” Why is “Do what thou wilt” different from “Do what you want?” and is it similar in some respects? On this point, we may examine the positive and negative aspects of Thelema/Will insofar as positive means affirming and negative means denying. Continue reading
Far too long has the subject of Satanic magic and philosophy been written down by wild-eyed journalists of the right-hand path.
–Anton Szandor LaVey, The Satanic Bible.
While not a “wild-eyed journalist of the right-hand path” (whether defined in Tantric, Blavatskian or newage terms), I have, over the past few months, shared some rather amusing sensationalist news stories written by those who are. I thought it only fair to take the time to write a short piece on “real” Satanism and go beyond highlighting some of the more absurd stories that rise up out of the deep.
This is a little tricky as Satanism is a broad term these days encompassing a variety of religions. There’s “traditional” Satanism which does involve devil-worship and Luciferianism which (sometimes) runs along similar veins. However, there’s also “modern” and LaVeyan Satanism which does not, as these Satanists are atheistic, holding the self in the highest position of reverence.
For years I managed the website for the Satanic Continue reading
Ye Olde Morality
Most Westerns are familiar with the Ten Commandments that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai – the ten “thou shalt not”s. This system of ethics as set forth literally in stone by God and delivered through Moses is practically the perfect symbol of what I propose to call “old morality.” Old morality consists essentially in the belief that there is an absolute law of conduct, often rewarded with promises of heaven or some kind of pleasure and punished with verdicts of various types of suffering, even eternal suffering in a fiery “Hell.” This notion of absolute morality is most apparent in the Jewish religion, with its ten commandments (Judaism actually has 613 commandments in total), but it also appears in both Christianity and Islam (the “five pillars of Islam”). Both of these religions are characterized by their insistence on sin and the punishment of hell following sinful actions. These types of absolute morality are also apparent in many forms of Buddhism where they have “sila,” which consists usually of five “thou shalt not”s. In some forms of yoga, there are what is called “yama” and “niyama” which are essentially five “thou shalt”s and five “thou shalt not”s.
Now, this old morality being by definition founded on a notion of “absolute moral conduct,” is also necessarily quite inflexible. Not only did Moses invoke God as the source and authority of his commandments, but they were set in two gigantic tablets of stone.
In the course of history, one might say that these commandments, Jewish and otherwise, were necessary for that particular time. It can be agreed that many of these guidelines were (and still can be) effective if employed in the right circumstances, in the right cultures. For example, Continue reading
In sharing one’s Wiccan faith with another, one takes the very real risk that the other person will react to the negative stereotypes surrounding witchcraft.
Deciding to share one’s ideas of spirituality with another, especially an alternative religion, can be a difficult decision to make, and should be well thought out. In sharing one’s Wiccan faith with another, one takes the very real risk that the other person will react to the negative propaganda and stereotypes which has surrounded witchcraft for centuries.
The unfortunate truth is that those in minority religions, such as Wicca, are often discriminated against for various reasons, the most common being lack of information, misinformation or propaganda and surrounding the tenants and practices of the religion.
When you’re close to someone, it’s natural to want to share the things that are important, and when one’s religion is kept a secret, it effectively severs a part of yourself from them, and that can seem very lonely with someone you’re otherwise quite open with.
If you do come to the decision that being open about your faith is right for you, consider first opening up to someone whom you trust and who is unlikely to ridicule or criticize.
Try to think ahead to some of the questions the person is likely to ask, and prepare responses, either mentally or on paper. Consider bringing a few reference books, if you have them (see next week’s review of Bryan Lankford’s Wicca Demystified as one possibility.)
Wicca is not evangelical, and attempts to recruit others are ill-advised. Be honest and open, and choose a time and a place that is appropriate, where there will be few distractions, and where you are on equal terms.
You may decide to try a more passive approach, but outward religious symbols can be misinterpreted, standing alone. I’ve had several people surprised to discover I was Jewish. I was surprised too, until I realized they’d caught sight of my pentagram and confused it with the Star of David.
Others have confused it with a Satanic pentagram, or Anton LaVey’s Satanic symbol for Baphomet, which is easy enough to do at a distance, as the second degree symbol in some Wiccan traditions also feature inverted pentagrams.
While religious symbols can be misread, they can provide great conversation starters for those wanting to know more, or for spotting other Pagans more easily.
Lankford, in Wicca Demystified, states that “[w]hen minorities no longer fear discrimination and people with different views are perceived as individuals rather than dangerous, when people no longer have to fear for their life, livelihood, or happiness because their view of Deity is different, then all people can share their religions openly.” It’s a nice ideal to try and live up to.
Best of luck!
- Lankford, Bryan. Wicca Demystified. New York: Marlow & Company, 2005.
First published on Suite101.com on 10 July 2006. (Unfortunately.)
Should you “stay in the broom closet”; or share your newfound spirituality of Wicca or Paganism with others?
Sometimes deciding what to tell others about one’s religion can be a difficult thing. Unfortunately not all societies are equally open minded regarding matters of faith.
To “come out of the closet” is to acknowledge one’s homosexuality openly, and similarly, the phrase “in the broom closet” refers to Pagans who not only keep their spirituality to themselves, but actively avoid mentioning it or acknowledging their spirituality publicly, often even one’s family and close friends are unaware.
Religious and spiritual belief is a very personal subject, it can be very private. Yet, at the same time, often our beliefs permeate the whole of who we are, how we express ourselves, from what foods we buy for our families to what we do on Saturdays to who we pray to on December 25th (Mithras? Jesus?). It can even dictate how we interact with others, whether we turn the other cheek, practice ahimsa, or harm none.
Unfortunately, religious persecution still exists, and it can be a difficult decision for some people to decide whether or not to tell their friends, or even their families about the path they have chosen.
I’m of the belief that it is always best to be honest and upfront with family and close friends, for those are the people are supposed to know you best, though not everyone may have the same relationships with their loved ones. However, not everyone may have the same support options available to them.
Religious discussion is rarely appropriate on the job, but if you have co-workers you are close to, and the subject arises, what you say and how you present it may affect work relations: not everyone may understand what it means to have a witch in the office. ‘Witch’ is still commonly used as a derogatory term, and even when it’s not, it’s often misunderstood in terms of storybook hags or Hollywood lightshows, and lengthy explanations of religious and spiritual beliefs are not often office cooler talk.
If you do decide to be open about your spirituality, you may want to consider who you want to “come out of the closet” to, and what their response may be. Some questions to mull over may include:
- Who do I want to tell?
- Why haven’t I told … previously?
- What will …’s reaction be?
- Am I prepared to accommodate possible changes in our relationship, at least at first?
- Is it appropriate for … to understand my spirituality?
Next week we’ll explore methods of opening up to friends and family.
First published on Suite101.com on 03 July 2006. (Unfortunately.)