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Wicca in Context - by a non-Wiccan

Wicca seems to be viewed by many people as something "way out" or which can not be construed as a religion. In fact, when looked at from a purely objective point of view, religions have a great deal in common and Wicca is really not so unusual.

Perhaps the best place to start is at the beginning. Religion almost certainly started as a way to explain the world. Primitive people had no understanding of science, and so had no rational means of explaining their observations of the world around them. They could observe phenomena such as thunder, lightning, flood, draught, disease and death, and the changing of the seasons. They also learned the curative powers of certain plants. An intelligent being will try to make sense of its world, but without any scientific knowledge, none of these observations can be explained rationally. Therefore it was necessary to invent a scenario which fitted the facts, and the easiest way to do this is to develop the concepts of deities. By inventing Gods which have control over otherwise inexplicable events, our intelligent but primitive being has model of his world so his mind is no longer troubled by the unknown. Or is it?

The next though in the head of our primitive man is naturally that if his world is being manipulated by powerful gods, it would be a good idea to appease these gods and seek their favour whilst avoiding their displeasure at all costs. Hence it was natural that our creature should develop rituals around his concept of what the gods would want to see. Hence practices such as worship and sacrifices came into being.

So far, so good. Around the world, the small isolated communities of primitive beings are developing in parallel. They develop in the same basic way but with local variations. Primitive cultures all over the world have been found top have a lot in common with regard to their religious beliefs, such as the worship of a sun god.

Our primitive people are quite happy in their isolated worlds. They can explain their world in ways which they are comfortable with, and if something happens which they can't explain, they just invent a new god or some other extension to their existing beliefs which completes their theology.

The trouble is that along with religion comes politics. The interaction of religion and politics manifests itself in two different ways. These manifestations can be regarded as being internal and external to the community.

Imagine a situation where two neighbouring communities come into contact. Each has its own beliefs which are unlikely to be completely compatible with the other's. Each community is going top take offence if the activities of the neighbouring community are interpreted as being displeasing to its gods. Even if there is no obvious offence, once some disaster has befallen a community and it is clear that the gods have been offended, the obvious scapegoat is a neighbouring community. Hence neighbouring communities had a new cause for war as well as the traditional disputes over land and resources.

The other interaction of politics with religion is more insidious. People living in awe, even fear, of powerful gods are people in a perfect state for manipulation. A political leader who persuades a community that a certain course of action is required in order to avoid the wrath of some vengeful super-being has a very powerful position. As communities became larger and religion became more complex, the scope for political manipulation via religion became ever greater. Any ideas which challenged the accepted religious beliefs would be perceived as a direct threat to those in power. Thus came about the doctrine of intolerance, and extremes such as the Spanish Inquisition.

With the development of science, education and the media, the citizens of a modern community can explain the world around them in terms which do not require a religious context. Consequently, the influence of religion on society has declined dramatically and the world of politics has gained the upper hand in controlling the way we live. However, the process is far from complete, and the entanglement of politics and religion can still be identified as a factor in many trouble spots around the world. However, the secular democracy is now the norm in advanced societies.

The decline of the artificially developed religions, those which were developed to become tools for the control of entire populations, has left a gap in the market for spiritual beliefs. There a large numbers of people who are sceptical of the highly developed religions but who still feel that there must be something more to the universe than the laws of physics. The requirements of these people are not disimilar to those of the primitive creature we came across at the start of this dissertation. We now have intelligent and educated people who have a grasp of the laws of physics and who can see through the smokescreen surrounding politics. All they are seeking is a closer connection with the world around them, something to believe in which constitutes religion in its purest terms, devoid of politics.

It seems to me, as someone on the outside of the Wiccan movement, that Wicca is the predictable resurgence of "primitive" religion. Most people don't need to explain the natural phenomena in the world around them and even fewer people want to become part of a group ripe for manipulation, although a number of cults have shown that manipulation in the name of religion is far from over. These people seem to seek a sense of belonging and an escape from the world where science rules. There are still enough questions which science can not answer to leave room for spirituality. Wicca seems to be a no-frills type of belief which is broad enough to be adapted to suit a range of individual needs.

It seems that Wicca is widely misunderstood. Perhaps this is a legacy of the days when persecution of pagans was institutionalised by the established churches. Perhaps it is also down to the fact that no being an organised religion, it has no publicity machine of its own through which to put its case. However, Wicca is clearly not devil worship. The role of magick in Wicca seems to be not so dissimilar to the belief of Christians in the power of prayer, or in miracles. The "pure" nature of the religion, without political connotations, means that Wiccans are unlikely to pose any threat to a secular society as a whole. The days of burning "witches" at the stake are over. Secular tolerance is the order of the day, so if anyone wants to practice their beliefs without detriment to others, then frankly it is not the business of anyone else to interfere.

None of us has to agree with the beliefs of another. History has even showed us that even being in the overwhelming majority is no guarantee of being in the right. Just look at the belief of a flat earth in the centre of the universe a few hundred years ago. Wicca may look like "mumbo jumbo" to many, but then so would the religious services of many other creeds. If you want to know where YOU stand on Wicca, just ask yourself this: who is likely to do the most harm to the world, a Wiccan or a politician?

ORIGINALLY FROM www.crosswinds.net/~darklands

Copyright remains with the original author of the work.

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