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What I Learned From Not Becoming a Wiccan
The Wiccan Rede: An ye harm none, do what ye will.
I read that about ten years ago and I was intrigued, maybe even hooked.
I was researching religions. Having been raised without religion or spirituality, I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. I grew up in a community with a strong religious influence. Mostly, it didn’t affect me, but every now and then it would intrude in my world: the boy I was interested in couldn’t take me out because I wasn’t a member of the church, or the unfairness of classmates who were members taking seminary and basically having a free period while I was taking calculus. Things like that made me glad I didn’t have to go to church.
Later in life, I developed a strong friendship with a woman who was raised in a religious household. It was a strong influence on her life growing up and continued to give her a source of personal strength. I had just experienced an extended period of depression and was questioning my life. I recovered through the use of antidepressants, but it did leave me looking for deeper meaning in my life. While I didn’t understand how religion could make you healthier or stronger, I decided to start researching.
Mostly, I discovered that I had strong feelings against most of the teachings of the different religions. Common sense and science did not figure into any of them. While I accept that some things you just do because it is expected - like being respectful to an authority figure even when they don’t deserve it, I couldn’t fathom choosing to believe in a religion that says I am a second-class citizen because I am female. Even worse, I couldn’t believe in a religion that says my pets would not be in Heaven because only humans have souls and are allowed into Heaven. Honestly, if I didn’t envy my friend for her strength of character, I would not have gone any further.
Then I started reading about Wicca. As mentioned, the Wiccan Rede intrigued me. Even more, I liked the sense of personal accountability it promised. I had to read more. I proceeded to get a couple books from the library, and then I purchased a couple more from the bookstore.
I was raised on Tolkien, Zelazny's Amber series, Heinlein, and Star Trek. My favorite reading has always been a mix of science fiction and fantasy. I love the thought of magic but also crave proof. The first fueled my interest in Wicca; the latter was the cause of its demise in my life.
I knew that with a religion, I would need to have some faith. Science has not advanced enough to understand everything about how the universe works, so leaps of faith would be needed. However, with Wicca, it had one major positive: it is a very fluid belief. As long as you are not harming anyone, yourself included, it encourages you to believe what you want. I loved this idea. I did not want anyone telling me that what I believe was wrong. While there are several books considered to be invaluable in a study of Wicca, there is not a bible. There is nothing written down, professing to be the word of God and thus written in stone. Most materials I read encouraged new initiates to start creating their own bible, a Book of Shadows, that would document their thoughts, beliefs, and practices.
There were three other aspects that appealed to me. First, it is a religion that reveres nature. It encourages you to be in touch with the cycles of nature and the aspects of animals. I identify more closely with animals than with most people, so reverence of animals and nature must be considered in any belief system I follow. Second, while it can be practiced in conjunction with others such as a coven, it is quite often a solo endeavor. Third, and I have to be honest here, I also loved the idea of witchcraft and spells. It definitely appealed to my fantasy-reading inner child.
After quite a bit of research and a few simple forays into writing down my thoughts and beliefs, I decide to become a practicing Wiccan. For me, that meant creating and performing rituals to celebrate natural events, such as the spring equinox, or even just completion of a week. I also started creating or purchasing the tools needed for rituals: a wand, an altar, a pentagram cloth, a chalice. Throughout this process, I felt less sure about my decision. My husband’s attitude certainly didn’t help. He was worried someone would find out I was “dabbling in witchcraft.” It embarrassed him. His attitude led me to realize that it could affect my job if anyone at work learned of my explorations. The Civil Rights Act would protect me from getting fired, and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act protected me from not getting financing because of my religion, but how I was treated could radically change. At that point, I worked for a pretty conservative group of people, and I didn’t even discuss my more liberal political views with anyone at work. I was also positive none of my relatives would understand.
After about a year of research and then attempting to practice on my own, I gave up. At the time, I didn’t think of it as giving up. I just made excuses, and the lack of any support or even sympathetic family around me took its toll. Looking back now, I realize that for multiple reasons it was not a religion that I was meant to follow.
Here is the main reason Wicca didn’t work for me: it is still a religion and the purpose is to use rituals to worship gods. The choice of rituals and gods is left up to the individual, but that is still the founding principle. I realized I did not believe in worshipping Mother Nature or gods. I am uncomfortable with the idea of worship of any kind.
Another problem I had were the spells. Yes, I know I said that was one of the things that attracted me to it. The other point to remember is that you don’t have to do spells to be Wiccan. Many Wiccans do not practice spellcasting. However, it was a positive for me and yet when my logical side kicked in, it became a negative. I could not perform these elaborate rituals and honestly expect results. I just couldn’t make that leap of faith.
Finally, I realized that I did not identify with any of the people I had met who were practicing Wiccans. There was no call in my soul to connect with them. Actually, I did not feel an internal pull to any of the aspects of Wicca. That was really the deciding factor for me. Religion provides its practitioners with a set of rules to live by and I did not feel connection with any of these rules.
Since that time, I have come to realize that I do not want to join or identify with a religion. However, I do have a need to develop a spiritual practice. I desire a connection with the Universe. I believe there is an energy to the world around us; it is actually something science can prove and I feel it. With spirituality, I don’t feel the clash between science and belief that occurs so often with religion. I still don’t believe in another human telling me how I can and cannot connect to this Universal power. Because we are all different and different expressions of this Universal power, everyone will connect differently. This is my new belief.
I still occasionally review some of my books on Wicca. There are valid thoughts in the writings, and I still believe very strongly in the Wiccan Rede. I believe everyone should feel free to worship or be spiritual in any way that works for them, as long as they are not hurting any human, animal or the planet. I am grateful that I took the time to explore the world of Wicca. It started me thinking about the inner world of spirit and I gave me something to contrast other experiences. I am now on a path that feels right for me, but which I might have rejected without my Wiccan explorations.