Saturday, August 22, 2015

Men Are Witches Too

There’s a saying or meme making the rounds this year that has me a touch annoyed:

“We are the granddaughters of all the witches you weren't able to burn.”

Perhaps you’ve run across this when the Wiccans in your midst posted them. I have quite a few such online friends and people I follow on Tumblr and Twitter who have posted this saying, typically as a graphic meme.

Why would I have a problem with this saying? Well, let me first tell you what I appreciate about it. I like that it reflects empowerment. I appreciate that it says that you can’t kill off witches, we’ll always survive one way or another and that our ancestors shall live on. These are powerful messages and ones I can stand behind. Given this, how can this saying possibly annoy me?

Men were burned at the stake for Witchcraft, too.
Yes. Many, many men were burned at the stake for witchcraft, as well. Certainly, women were burned at a higher rate. But remember, most who were burned at the stake were done so because of petty rivalries and dissidence, not due to witchcraft. Also, the type of burning that was done was justified because of a fictional version of witchcraft, i.e. the Dark Mass, an invention of the Catholic church and detailed in such insidious texts written by Francesco Maria Guazzo and Heinrich Kramer. Certainly such burnings were a way to keep down “uppity” or rivalrous women in the villages. But history rarely recounts the number of men that were burned for similar reasons.

Men are witches, too.
The most obvious reason this saying annoys me is that it excludes men. Ever since the 1970s, when the Neo-Pagan and Wiccan movements started to sprout up around the globe, men have been practicing witchcraft right alongside women. In fact, a great, GREAT many covens are headed by a head priestess and head priest who work magick together, as a team, as two sides of the same coin. In many to most Wiccan practices, the minimum number of people to perform rites is two: one female and one male. There are exceptions, of course, as Neo-Pagan and Wiccan practices vary greatly depending on the region and the coven.

The message equates witches to female feminists.
It’s not surprising that connections exist between feminism and Neo-Paganism and Wicca. The media depicts witches as out-of-control women, typically as lesbians who believe that all men are evil creatures and that Earth would be better without them. Sound familiar? It should, because that’s exactly the same way that feminists are portrayed in the media, too. Going Wiccan is, in the view of the media representation, the same as going Feminist. But there’s the problem. There are many forms of both Wiccan and Feminism. Much to the the dismay of the various practitioners of these ideologies, there is no unified thought or practice. There are many and often opposing forms of both Wicca and Feminism. Also, once again, one need not be female to be a feminist. Remember, the core belief of Feminism, the original message is this: “Feminism is the radical belief that women are people,” i.e. Feminism is a commitment to achieving the equality of the sexes. Which brings me to the next reason that this saying annoys me.

It emasculates those men who practice Wicca.
Most men that I’ve met tend to have an aversion to witches. This coworker of mine has said that American Horror Story: Coven (season 3) is his least favorite. He said that he doesn’t like witches. They creep him out and they are too over-the-top with woman power. (There’s that feminism slant again.)

Most men tend to keep their witchy ways quiet for two reasons: dislike of being labeled a devil worshipper (a common dislike of witches and pagans the world round) and being viewed as a homosexual or sissy. There are a great many Neo-Pagan and Wiccan men who stand up against this form of societally based humility, but most continue to hide the fact of their religious and spiritual beliefs. If a female witch creeps out most guys, a male witch doubly does so. Like the social attitudes towards nurses or pre-school teachers who are male. This saying actually reinforces this negative stereotype and further emasculates those men who practice Wicca by stating that only “granddaughters” are descendants of witches.

Witchcraft, like nature, is well-balanced.
The beauty of most forms of Neo-Paganism and Wicca is that they are rooted in the notion of balance. Being a form of Nature\Earth worship, Neo-Paganism and Wicca understands that it is important for the magick to be in balance with the elements. Just as you cannot have only flowers and no bees, you cannot practice magick at any depth without including both the feminine and the masculine. Magick is very yin-yang in practice.

Does this mean you need a male to practice magick? No, but you do require the masculine. Women can fill that role, but it isn’t the optimal approach. In making witchcraft exclusively about women and excluding men from the practice an imbalance is created. In ancient forms of Celtic Paganism and Wicca, aka Druidism, men were schooled by women and the women by the men. This was true throughout most aspects of the entire society, not just the religious/spiritual, extending even to the soldiery.

Please revise the saying.
I propose that the saying being changed to reflect the wholeness that is Neo-Paganism and Wicca. Simply change “granddaughters” to “grandchildren” and all will be right with the world.

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