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Late Night and a Little Isis Confession: StarHawk Wants an Apology from the Pope

Well, I figure you all know me well enough. And I suppose , seeing as how you all love me so, it won’t make you love me any less. But really! I thought it was fairly obvious! So here goes. I am coming out of the Broom Closet today: I am a Wiccan.

Yes. For those of you who don’t know what that is, I will explain, because I love you so.

Wicca is an Earth based Religion. It is unorganized… we have no doctrine or Clergy. It was founded in the nineteen forties by a man named Gerald Gardner. Wicca has become much more Eclectic since then, but he gave it it’s name, which means “To bend” or “To shape.” If you want to get technical, it is actually the oldest religion in the world. Wicca is New Age. It’s really a very romantic religion. Obviously, I love being  Wiccan. Just don’t ask my Fundie/Evangelical mother about it. She’ll cry. She often wonders where she went wrong with me. * Sorry, mom*

I am mostly too lazy to get very deep into what Wicca is and isn’t (Google it you lazy minxes!), but I will give you all a basic overview.

I am an Eclectic Wiccan. That means I don’t stick to a Tradition. There are a number of Traditions, but again, I am too lazy to name them all. But Wicca is a form of Modern Paganism that borrows from a number of Pre Christian Pagan Traditions. A few misconceptions I want to get out of the way right now:

1. For the Love of all that is Holy (That would be Nature, the God, and the Goddess), I do not worship Satan! Satan is a Christain Deity that is modeled after the Celtic Horned God. (ever wonder why he has goat horns?). If I had a dime for every time some fool asked me if I worshiped Satan, I’d be friggen rich. For one thing, Wiccans don’t believe in Hell OR Satan. Wiccans believe that if you give evil a name, you give it power. And we are real sticklers about personal responsibility. There is no “The Devil Made Me Do it” mentality with us Witchy folk. Human beings are responsible for our own “sins”.    Asking a Wiccan whether he/she worships Satan is like asking a Christian if they worship a Golden Calf. Don’t do it. It is offensive.

2. I know some fool is going to ask, so I will get it out of the way now. I am not going to cast spells on any of you. A good Witch has a strong understanding of the Universe and it’s Laws. So we know all about Karma. Casting a spell on someone for any purpose other than healing (and even then, only with permission), is an interference of Free Will. I wouldn’t do it even if it wasn’t the equivalent of shooting myself in the foot. It is immoral and unethical for one thing, and it would only come back to bite me in the Ass. Whenever I do a Spell, or anything really, I always keep in mind that all my actions come back to me times three. That is just how it works. It’s like water running or flowers blooming in the Spring. That old adage “Treat people how you want to be treated”- in other words, with kindness, respect and love- resonates strongly with me.

3. While we’re on the subject of spells: Movies like The Craft and Five Girls and Practical Magic are cute and all, but they’re just Hollywood. I cannot shoot lightning bolts out of my palms or make creepy crawlers swirl around potted plants. Sadly, I cannot fly a broom (but wouldn’t that be fun? Isis the kitty could take a ride on the back and we could cruise the stars together over NorthEast Ohio at night) and I do not deflate Male Erections for fun (regardless of how useful it would be against Sex Offenders). Have you ever heard someone say that they believe in the power of prayer? Well, Wiccans do their share of regular praying, but a spell is really just like a prayer in action. And what do people usually pray for? Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t know of many folks who pray for people they don’t like to get boils and chicken pox and so on. That’s not how prayer works, and it’s not how love works either. So again, do not ask a Wiccan if they are going to cast spells on you. They will likely reply, “Even if I could, you aren’t worth the effort.” And besides that, it is offensive.

4. I. DO. NOT. SACRIFICE. ANIMALS. Wiccans cherish life. We’re big Tree Huggers. I cry when I see a dead bug, let alone a dead animal! Please! I’m a Pescitarian! Do not ask a Wiccan if they sacrifice animals. It is EXTREMELY offensive.

5. If you do not believe in this sort of thing, that is perfectly okay. Wiccans are not Evangelists. Goddess, no. I still love you desperately even if you think I am off my rocker (well, not that you all ready didn’t).

6. Wiccans are Polytheists. We beleive God is both Male and Female, but we believe “All Gods are one God.” Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, is just another Run-of-the-Mill, into-himself God to me, for the most part. Albeit a jealous one. Geez, can someone get him to lighten up? But I only say that because as a rule, we have no chip in our shoulders about Monotheists. Particularly the Big Ones (Jews, Christains, Muslims). Religious Tolerance is Coexistence. I was raised by Fundies. I love religion in General, and I believe all Faiths have a certain amount of truth to them in their core principles.

Now that that’s all cleared up, Wiccans, as I explained, don’t really have a doctrine, except for the Wiccan Rede,  and the full version goes like this:

The Wiccan Rede
(Full Version)

Bide within the Law you must, in perfect Love and perfect Trust.
Live you must and let to live, fairly take and fairly give.

For tread the Circle thrice about to keep unwelcome spirits out.
To bind the spell well every time, let the spell be said in rhyme.

Light of eye and soft of touch, speak you little, listen much.
Honor the Old Ones in deed and name,
let love and light be our guides again.

Deosil go by the waxing moon, chanting out the joyful tune.
Widdershins go when the moon doth wane,
and the werewolf howls by the dread wolfsbane.

When the Lady’s moon is new, kiss the hand to Her times two.
When the moon rides at Her peak then your heart’s desire seek.

Heed the North winds mighty gale, lock the door and trim the sail.
When the Wind blows from the East, expect the new and set the feast.

When the wind comes from the South, love will kiss you on the mouth.
When the wind whispers from the West, all hearts will find peace and rest.

Nine woods in the Cauldron go, burn them fast and burn them slow.
Birch in the fire goes to represent what the Lady knows.

Oak in the forest towers with might, in the fire it brings the God’s
insight.   Rowan is a tree of power causing life and magick to flower.

Willows at the waterside stand ready to help us to the Summerland.
Hawthorn is burned to purify and to draw faerie to your eye.

Hazel-the tree of wisdom and learning adds its strength to the bright fire burning.
White are the flowers of Apple tree that brings us fruits of fertility.

Grapes grow upon the vine giving us both joy and wine.
Fir does mark the evergreen to represent immortality seen.

Elder is the Lady’s tree burn it not or cursed you’ll be.
Four times the Major Sabbats mark in the light and in the dark.

As the old year starts to wane the new begins, it’s now Samhain.
When the time for Imbolc shows watch for flowers through the snows.

When the wheel begins to turn soon the Beltane fires will burn.
As the wheel turns to Lamas night power is brought to magick rite.

Four times the Minor Sabbats fall use the Sun to mark them all.
When the wheel has turned to Yule light the log the Horned One rules.

In the spring, when night equals day time for Ostara to come our way.
When the Sun has reached it’s height time for Oak and Holly to fight.

Harvesting comes to one and all when the Autumn Equinox does fall.
Heed the flower, bush, and tree by the Lady blessed you’ll be.

Where the rippling waters go cast a stone, the truth you’ll know.
When you have and hold a need, harken not to others greed.

With a fool no season spend or be counted as his friend.
Merry Meet and Merry Part bright the cheeks and warm the heart.

Mind the Three-fold Laws you should three times bad and three times good.
When misfortune is enow wear the star upon your brow.

Be true in love this you must do unless your love is false to you.

These Eight words the Rede fulfill:

“An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will”

My birthday,  May 1st (next Friday) is the Druid Fertility Holiday of Beltane. It is a very important Holiday and is also the Day of Mary Magdalen. It is the most important holiday of the year, save for Sahmain(Halloween). So next Friday, be sure to wish me  Happy Birthday and a happy Beltane.

But that is basically what Wicca is. As I explained, I love being  a Wiccan. I wouldn’t be the way I am without it. I have been through a lot of things in my (so far) short life. Having something to believe in that actually makes my heart feel light isn’t a bad thing. Ever wonder why I am called Little Isis? It is because my Matron Goddess is Isis, the Egyptian Goddess of Heaven and Earth.

But while I am using this post to come out of the Broom Closet, so to speak, it is not about my coming out party. (Aside: I know you might have a stigma about the Da Vinci Code, but if you haven’t read it, you should. Only because of all the facts it has in it about female divinity and the Pentacle.)

StarHawk is one of the most well known Wiccan Activists. She has an “On Faith” column in WaPo, and it came to my attention recently that she is trying to get the Pope’s attention and force him, and by extension, the Catholic Church, to apologize for the “Burning Times.”

I have said this before. The “Burning Times” are what Wiccans call the Dark Ages. Nobility and the Elite in Europe were Christians. But most of the common folk (today we would call them the Middle Class) still practiced Paganism. The Catholic Church was dividing and a lot of people were breaking off to be Protestants. I don’t know what it was. Every Conflicted Era needs a Scapegoat. Let’s just say that Pagan Women-in general healers, herbalists, midwives, that sort of thing- became Ye Olde England’s Welfare Queens. Actually, it was much worse than that.

Women who thought for themselves. The Hillary Clintons, Sarah Palins, Riverdaughters, BostonBoomers, Little Isis’s, KatieBirds, Dakinikat’s, ect of the world. They were tortured, burned at the stake, killed, thrown into iron maidens, raped, beaten, publicly hanged…. it goes on. The most unspeakable horror. There are books about it. I’m sure most of you are aware of it.

Starhawk believes that around nine million men, women and children were killed during that period. More than the Holocaust! Well, I’ll admit even I think that’s a stretch. But at the very least, around 500,000. There is no way to really know the number. But it doesn’t matter. We say, “Never again, the burning times.”

They were my ancestors and I mourn and honor them. What kills me the most is the lack of acknowledgement in history. But after all, they were just women. Who cares, right?

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

A woman who thinks for herself- a strong woman- is always a threat. She threatens something deep inside powerful, privileged men. It can be traced back in their Ancestry. It is in their make up.

I remember during the primaries how all Hillary Voters were “Uneducated Racists.” That meant something to me other than the simple fact that it wasn’t true. She was sticking up for the country folk, the “Pagans” against the privileged Nobility.

That is a metaphor, fyi.

What I want to know is what Confluceans, particularly Catholic Confluceans, think of this. Should the Pope apologize? Or should Starhawk just forgive and forget?

Opinions, please!

       This Be StarHawk

This Be StarHawk

67 Responses

  1. Hey littleisis, nice to see you out of the broom closet.

    From what I’ve read of the witchcraft executions (burning, hanging, drowning), most of them seemed to have happened in two waves. The first was during the middle 1500’s to early 1600’s in Denmark, Germany, and England. Then the second wave in the 1700’s which included in the Americas. From what I’ve seen, most all of these were done by Protestants. In fact as you hinted, some of the first ones in Denmark came about precisely after the reformation. So I think the Pope is exactly the wrong target for an apology. Just my humble opinion.

    And just think, when that first wave of witch burnings was happening in the early to mid 1500’s, the humble beginnings of mathematics that was practiced is as advanced as we teach in our high schools in this country right now. OK, I couldn’t resist… I’ll get off my soap box now…

    • LOL, it’s okay. I asked for opinions. Yours is important.

      • Hee hee. I couldn’t resist. As I was thinking about witch burnings in the early 1500’s, it reminded me of that hot button issue of mine, our pathetically lame math education in this country. And seriously, we actually don’t teach anything past the 1500’s. Well, enough of that. Back to your regularly schedule program… 🙂

    • Isn’t that a little different, though? Most of the women burned as witches here weren’t pagan or wicca were they? They were thought to be possessed or evil? Maybe I’m offbase, but that seems different than a church sanctioned policy targeting members of your particular religion

      • During the Salem Witch Trials, no. The American Witch Trials burned people accused of Witchcraft, but they were not Witches or Pagans in most cases.
        During the Witch Burnings in the Inquisition, some of them were probably witches or pagans, and some of them probably weren’t.
        But back then, when Religious leaders tried women for Witchcraft, they were accused of cursing and hexing and eating children and so on. Macbeth style, you know.
        Actually, some of the women were just village healers. Most of the Villagers would go to them to get herbal remedies for their illnesses, and it actually worked, but it decreased revenue for the Church, I think.
        If you want more information on the subject, there are lots of books you can read.

        • Only three people were ever burned in Massachusetts and they were two women and one man, all black people and enslaved, for murder. There were burnings in New York in 1741 in a so-called slave uprising. No witches were burned at Salem or elsewhere in British North America, and I don’t know of any elsewhere.

      • Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending what happened in America, obviously. I’m just saying that if I were pagan, my main focus would be on specific persecution of paganism.

      • I thought the desire for the Pope’s apology was about the witch burnings of the middle ages and not about any issues since the founding of Wicca religion in the 1940s. Correct me if I’m wrong.

        • Yes. That is true. Thank you. The Middle Ages were the ones that occurred in Europe.

        • From my reading of this, starhawk is talking about the persecution of pagans by the catholic church.

          • Yeah, she is. All though Protestants are also responsible. I’m not StarHawk so I’m not sure what her over all strategy is, but in any case, they were terrible events and they deserve to be acknowledged and atoned for.

          • Oh sorry for my confusion and denseness, dandy tiger, you are totally right and I am totally wrong. After reading the whole article, she seems to be saying that the Papal Bull of 1484 and the Malleus Maleficarum of 1486 mean that the Catholic Church is to blame for creating an ideology of persecution of all kinds of forms of heresy and perceived heresy. It seems like that’s why protestants are let off the hook, because she feels this document creates a theological framework that underpins everything that followed. I was confused and thought starHawk was focusing only on the persecution of pagans.

  2. I don’t believe in sweeping things under the rug. He should apologize and make restitution–but he won’t.

    • As a RC Irish citizen, I am still waiting for my apology and restitution from the Church of England.

  3. Here’s a nice Wikipedia article on witch hunting:

    Here’s an interesting quote from it:

    “Some sociologists have attributed the occurrence of witchhunts to the prevalent human tendency to blame unexplainable occurrences on someone or something familiar. For example, Europe relied heavily upon agriculture during the period of the witch hunts; if there were large scale crop failures, the consequences would very likely be disastrous. Crop failures often correlated with the occurrence of witchhunts, leading some sociologists to suggest that communities often took out their anger about a lack of food on community members (witches) who were unpopular. This can be paralleled in more recent examples such as the Nazi use of anti-semitism to apportion blame for economic problems. A perception of moral righteousness, by the community, is a necessary element that enables rationalization. This, however, is only one element in a complex tapestry of factors leading to the events in question.”

    There’s also a discussion of Protestant vs. Catholic issues and blame. From this article, it seems there’s a bit more of a Catholic hand in things than I thought. So after apologies from the main Protestant groups, I’d go for the Pope too.

  4. Oh geez, it’s much too late for me to ponder this now.

  5. Now for an actual opinion about trying to get an apology from the Pope or from Protestant leaders, I wouldn’t. First remember this is my opinion from a non Wicca point of view. So no I/P like battle is intended. But it seems like Wicca wants to come from a place of love and healing and helping others. Bringing up and battling about things from the distant past might do the opposite of that. That’s not meant to minimize the torture and horrible abuse and death inflicted on great numbers of women, and the horrible oppression that must have been felt by most women even not accused. But I think this is a general woman’s issue (and human rights issue) as much as a Wicca issue, so I might keep it in that context instead of tie it to my religion and potentially get lost in the injustice of it.

    • Having said that. The issue should be brought up, acknowledged, apologized for, and what happened should never be forgotten. Or repeated. There are certainly books about it, and many scholars theorize about it, etc. But where are the memorials and museums. So more needs to happen.

      Maybe I’m wrong here and the Wicca community is the right group to push this. What do I know…

      • I believe the Pagan Community is the right community, yes. And I agree with you that people shouldn’t try to forget this ever happened. It happened. And it hurt.
        I remember listening to my Jewish friends relate how they felt when they went to the NHM and they broke down and started to cry and sob.
        It is no different for me. I ache all over when I think of how those women died. You should read some of the ways they were tortured. You will have nightmares for weeks.

    • That is a good point. I guess StarHawk just demanded the apology because of the fact that the women were accused of Witchcraft. She probably thought that the Pagan Community could have some veneer in giving the cause some momentum.
      I have a neutral opinion on StarHawk and her Political Activities, but I wasn’t sure what I thought about this recent dust up of hers, so I thought I would ask you lot.
      After all, in the Holocaust it wasn’t just Jews that were killed, but Gypsies, Gays, Blacks, people with Mental Illnesses, ect.
      It is probably oppression and persecution in General that we have to fight. And we have to understand that it is all tied to Human Rights.

  6. Yes, that is correct Seriously. Thanks for helping me clear that up, DandyTiger. 🙂

  7. And as I explained, Wicca is a modern form of Paganism. When Gerald Gardner founded it he meant for it to be a modern form of Pre Christian practices.

  8. Scotland also had a history of witch trials and executions.

    I read one case in the original handwriting of that era — the document was online and I was searching for handwriting of that era in order to practice reading the old script.

    It was sad to read the handwriting of the scribe as he recorded to proceedings of this “trial”. The women weren’t witches — just two women who were different.

    It seems probable that the number of women murdered as “witches” was several million — over a number of years. In one town in Belgium nearly all the women were exterminated.

    That was a clear message to women to bow down to the patriarchy.

    In the last election we say a symbolic lynching and burning at the stake of two very strong and accomplished women — and we cannot let that crime of sexism and bigotry be forgotten — EVER!

    I don’t belong to any organized religion — nor party.

    Oh — thanks for the information about the devil. He is clearly an invention of the Christian Church. Non Christian cultures (so call primitive cultures) don’t have the concept of the devil — they do recognize evil and have different names for evil. Navajo and the Pueblo cultures do have the concept of “witch” — but I think that has more of a translation issue then the same meaning.

    Shamans/Kahunas/Medicine men/Healers use magic — but again it is a cultural custom and concept of disease.

    Will Pope Rat acknowledge the killing frenzy and sexism of that era (and this one as well?)

    • I’d like to remind everyone that “magic” is a culturally biased term, which has acquired a taint of negative judgement. It is actually, within its proper context, no different than what we call “medicine” and the “medical profession” these days.
      It is also akin to what we call “religious rituals” and “prayer”.

  9. My comment was eaten by Spammy — apparently he thinks I’m too long winded!!!!

    • MEH! I’m not a moderator, so I don’t know if I can get it out!

    • I approved your comment but spammy says he is “pending”

    • I’ll repost the comment in little pieces: for littleisis!!

      Scotland also had a history of witch trials and executions.

      I read one case in the original handwriting of that era — the document was online and I was searching for handwriting of that era in order to practice reading the old script.

      It was sad to read the handwriting of the scribe as he recorded to proceedings of this “trial”. The women weren’t witches — just two women who were different.

      It seems probable that the number of women murdered as “witches” was several million — over a number of years. In one town in Belgium nearly all the women were exterminated.

      That was a clear message to women to bow down to the patriarchy.

      • I read your entire comment NW, and it was fabby. Here is an interesting bit of info for you: The word “Witch” actually means “wise woman”.
        I always used to love when Hillary’s opponents called her a “Witch”. They thought it was an insult! If you think about it, both Clinton and Palin are Witches in every sense of the word 🙂

        • Yes I do agree that both Clinton and Palin are witches — wise women.

          here’s the rest of what I wrote.

          In the last election we say a symbolic lynching and burning at the stake of two very strong and accomplished women — and we cannot let that crime of sexism and bigotry be forgotten — EVER!

          I don’t belong to any organized religion — nor party.

          Oh — thanks for the information about the devil. He is clearly an invention of the Christian Church. Non Christian cultures (so call primitive cultures) don’t have the concept of the devil — they do recognize evil and have different names for evil. Navajo and the Pueblo cultures do have the concept of “witch” — but I think that has more of a translation issue then the same meaning.

          Shamans/Kahunas/Medicine men/Healers use magic — but again it is a cultural custom and concept of disease.

          Will Pope Rat acknowledge the killing frenzy and sexism of that era (and this one as well?)

        • The second part is what spammy doesn’t like — it is now in moderation along with the rest. Spammy is so moody — perhaps it’s just that time of the month — for HIM!

  10. Apologies if this is OT — Some of you expressed concerns about my taking off to extract my sister from her violent husband. We drove to Birmingham and scooped her up from her workplace this morning, and we’re safe and out of state now. And now on topic — beautiful post, LittleIsis!

  11. Anywho, I am off to bed folks. Carry on without me! 😀

  12. Beautiful essay! Blessed be!

    As for Starhawk and the Pope … with all these other apologies going around, maybe she should demand some reparations too. What good is an apology that is ‘just words’?

    Seriously (hi, Seriously), imo demanding apologies for things that happened that long ago (slavery, witch hunts, whatever) seems silly, symbolic, grandstanding. Why should THIS generation be the one to apologize for something a previous generation did? Why should THIS generation get the reparations rather than some future generation? In the case of slavery, demanding apologies and reparations is racist — identifying today’s Blacks and Whites with those of over 100 years ago. Why should a person pay or receive reparations now — according to the color of their skin?

    As for making sure this witch persecution history is known and remembered — imo thinking about it now is just depressing, frightening. When persecution is no longer happening to our Sarahs and Hillarys, when we are no longer frightened of public position — then will be the time to dip into that trauma.

    • Hi fsteele! I understand how you feel, but I feel like there is a lot of deep denial going on out there. We can’t change the course we’re on until we come to grips with the past. Why shouldn’t this generation apologize, somebody has to is I guess the way I feel about it. We have a history, we have a national (or in this case religious) identity that includes a somewhat airbrushed, sanitized version of history, and the inaccuracies cause a lot of people pain. And it’s not even just airbrushing out the bad parts, often it’s actively creating an alternate narrative to justify and minimize the bad behavior. We as a religious group claim all the good things as our own but the bad parts we reject as nothing to do with us, sometimes. I’m catholic and I’d much rather see the records opened up and an honest accounting and acknowledgement. Yes, it sucks for past generations who missed out on having their pain acknowledged, but all future generations will benefit. (I have to disagree, I don’t think apologizing/making reparations for slavery is remotely ra cist.)

      • But, don’t mind me, I wouldn’t have replied except I thought you were talking to me, which you weren’t. My to do list–1) pick moniker that isn’t a common word. 2) quit drinking, it affects reading comprehension. Yikes!

    • Seriously (hi, Seriously), imo demanding apologies for things that happened that long ago (slavery, witch hunts, whatever) seems silly, symbolic, grandstanding.

      I do not see anything silly in demanding aplologies. If we start to pretend that nothing happened then history will get rewritten. There are moments in human history that should NEVER NEVER NEVER be forgotten. These are moments when humanity as a whole failed. Asking for apologies is asking people to acknowledge that what happened was wrong. Their ancestors failed as human beings and why should we forget that. These apologies are for the people that suffered during those times. They never knew what the future would bring. They never got any apologies.

      • “These are moments when humanity as a whole failed”. Do you mean moments like during the democratic primaries last august?

    • I can think of why we should dip into the trauma of the Burning Times now. There were several posts by Hillary haters on democratic underground depicting Hillary Clinton being burned at the stake. And no, the posters weren’t banned and the posts were allowed to stand. And we all remember the hanging Sarah Palin effigy. The same hate that fueled the witchcraze in
      Europe and America is alive and well today. And the catholics were the originators of the witchcraze. The witchhunters handbook, the Malleus Maleficarum was authored by two dominican priests, Kramer and Sprenger, and they were given the blessing of the pope to go forth and do their woman killing/ witch killing persecutions. The protestants, when they came along, were every bit as bad. They should all apologize, the pope, protestant leaders, the whole bunch of them.

  13. Personally I feel that monotheism has a lot to blame for the evils of the world.

    I much prefer Greek and Roman deities-or even the Vikings…

    • The Vikings did travel throughout northern Europe destroying all the cultures that were in place, but I guess it is ok if they gods are cool. I think all of this is crazy. Historical people used their power to do really crappy things to each other . They may have cited religion, but it was usually just a power grab. I am not sure that there are any groups that are ‘blame’ free.

  14. Thanks for your post, it was really informative.

    Now, I haven’t read the other comments yet, so I may be very much in the minority in this but….I am a Catholic and personally, I’m not a big fan of expecting an apology for something that happened that long ago. It’s not like our current Pope had anything to do with what had happened in the past. I don’t mean this to be rude, I just think that it’s time to move on. If, for some reason, the Pope made a derogatory remark about Wiccan’s recently or in his lifetime…or anytime that he was a member of the hierarchy of the church, yes…he should apologize. But this…I think it’s time to forgive and forget and move on.

    I hear a lot of really nasty things being said about the Catholic Church, and Christians in general on the blogs and that is such a shame because some of the sweeping statements made just show how intolerant people can be and that type of intolerance leads up to the history that you just wrote about. I don’t expect an apology from anyone, though, I just let it roll off my back and move on. It’s easier that way.

    • Interestingly, Mary Ellen, some of the most derogatory things said of the Roman Catholic Church are said by ex-Catholics. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am an ex-Roman Catholic who grew disgusted with the actions taken by or in the name of this institution and I am saying some of those derogatory things.)

      Though you are “not a big fan of expecting an apology for something that happened that long ago,” it is RC dogma itself that demands that The Church apologize! As any Priest will tell you on any given Saturday at 4 PM, there is no statute of limitation on mortal sin and you can’t get forgiveness if you don’t confess and do your penance. Similarly, you may think that the Pope isn’t “personally” responsible, but by claiming Apostolic Succession, he is professionally responsible.

      I am tired of this institution playing word games to have it both ways. I am happy for you if you are able to find spiritual comfort in that institution.

      • I agree, there is no statute of limitations on mortal sin. However, those who committed those sins are long gone. I’m sorry that you feel that you had to walk away from the Church, but when those who walk away and feel the need to constantly condemn it, it sounds like you haven’t fully “walked away”…you’re still sticking around.

        Apostolic Succession does not mean that the Pope is “professionally responsible”. Do some research, you’re off base on that one. Maybe that’s why you left…you were unaware of what the tenets of the Catholic Church are.

        I hope you find some peace with your decision and truly walk away, once and for all.

        • I wish you had left this about the church and not tried to make it about me.

          I can both walk away from an institution and yet still retain the right to call them out for their abuse of power, manipulation of world affairs, and other crimes against humanity.

  15. From one witch to another… welcome to the other side!

    Long time follower of Starhawk here. (Though I will say I was disappointed to see her pushing Obama during the election season.)

    Her contemporary Z. Budapest, in fact, forbade me from joining one of her circles… because I supported Palin.

    I guess there is intolerance everywhere. On both sides…..

  16. Merry meet! I have little use for apologies – from the Pope or B0bots or anyone else. Although acknowledging out the truth is always welcome.
    And because I wanted a karmic post today, I put together a few bits of news, from horrible to laugh out loud

  17. Perhaps a public acknowledgment that witches were persecuted and that it was wrong is what would be healing.

    LI, this could be a nice primer: “What not to say to a witch (Wiccan) and why.”

    Halloween is my favorite holiday followed by Groundhog Day. I want Phil to be freed, however.

    Thanks for a delightful post. I could tell before you said it that “Having something to believe in that actually makes my heart feel light isn’t a bad thing.”

  18. Just as a matter of historical accuracy, no one was burned at the stake in Salem, Mass. All but one of the Salem victims were hanged, and one, who refused to enter a plea to the charges, was pressed to death.

  19. li & dakinikat,

    In the spirit of this post and earlier ones, please enjoy this link.


    PS Increase was against witch hunts and saw them for the political events they are. Curiously, Cotton saw differently (or did he?).

  20. Happy birthday, littleisis!

    I got married on May 1, may day, to honor all that Pagan energy. Every year we celebrate by going and seeing something wonderful that nature has provided, the ocean, the mountains.

    It’s a shame that traditional religion has been so hostile towards Earth based beliefs, because there is so much to be gained . It doesn’t much matter what your religious beliefs are, the planet is such an amazing thing, there are forces at work that we don’t even comprehend, things we need to understand that we haven’t even begun to see.

    • I was married on May first, too, because it was the anniversary of our meeting, and I liked all the various symbolism as well. It’s a fantastic day, and happy birthday in advance to littleisis!

      I’m not one for big after the fact apologies, though I think remembrance and renewing our commitments to fairness, truth, and justice is important. To me, all of the various witch hunts and executions were on a very basic level about power, patriarchy, and the denigration of women, and often served to consolidate power for those in authority.

      The political slap downs of Clinton and Palin served a similar goal, and I think were intended to send a strong message to all individuals interested in fighting for the common person.

      It’s really depressing to hear that StarHawk and Z were pro-0 and anti-Palin (respectively).

  21. Good piece, Isis! I don’t see any harm in pressing for an apology, but must admit that I’m not sure how much good it will do.

    I have a good friend who is Wiccan, and have learned much from her, so I get pissed off when people think you are evil satanists, etc. What a crock. She and I have great conversations. I’m a Christian, and we have long discussions about her paganism, my deism, and Redemptive Myth (capital m, please, since myth can be an untruth but Myth is a deeper truth) as perceived by various cultures. (No, redemption traditions did not start with Jesus, nor did incarnation traditions. Lots of cultures have them, they are ancient, which is why they resonate so well with so many.)

    I love her to bits, because neither of us assaults the faith of the other. We sit around examining how little either of us actually understand, how we all “see through a glass darkly” and how no God/Gods//Goddess worth his/her/their salt is the least bit threatened by questions. Trying to understand is not the same thing as assuming he/she/they neatly fit within the box of one’s understanding.

    We have a great time, because what we both have is faith, not dogmatism We both shake our heads at the idea of desperately trying to “prove” one’s faith, or make it an empirical thing, because it’s not – it’s FAITH, and those always trying to somehow prove it have missed the whole point, in our opinion.

    Anyway, I say all that not to get off on a tangent about me, but to illustrate that Wiccans are cool, Christians are cool, and there is only conflict if the people involved create it.

  22. Wonderful post, little isis. During the dirty primaries I kept thinking of the the witch hunts, really through the ages. I’ve always loved Wicca, paganism. Both seem so humanistic because they’re woman/goddess based, and nature based. I’ve read that one of the reasons for the witch hunts was because men wanted to take over the practice of medicine, which before that was the province of women, using herbs, sacred touch, natural childbirth. Then men discovered it was a good way to make money, by mystifying people instead of including them in the healing process. But first they had to discredit and get rid of the pesky women who already had the job. Most women healers weren’t trying to rip people off, but really to heal.

    I also love the idea that Mary Magdalene (Miriam), and the other women were really the revered teachers, using both mystical sexual techniques, intuition and women’s esoteric teachings, “anointing” Jesus in the true mystical teachings. Also, that he was married, a sexual being, instead of celibate. All that sexual fear and repression taught in some religions seems so anti-woman. I also love the books about early goddess religions by Riannne Eisler and others.

    This all seems a natural fit for Pumas. In the nineties (Clinton years) I belonged to a few groups where we studied these principals, did healings. Under Bush most of it disappeared. It’s time for a return of those ideas. Hope you write about it more.

    I don’t know that apologies are that important, can serve to anger people. But I think discussions and awareness of what happened, and of the leadership of women, of goddess religions, “herstory” is what’s really needed. Good that Starhawk has a forum, though.

  23. Sounds like great discussions, wmcb. I’ve always thought that the truth of any religion is what is found at the base of all religions. Ie. Love, Golden Rule, mystery, finding truth through trance, meditation, quieting the mind.

    Not through dogma.

  24. You aren’t the only Wiccan here littleisis. I’m one as well, and became one right around the age you are now. I’m 42 now. I’ve been Wiccan for far more of my life than I was a liberal southern Baptist (daughter of a liberal southern Baptist mother, and a vaguely Christian leaning agnostic liberal father, son of a liberal Methodist mother, my mother’s mother was a moderate southern Baptist). In moderate southern Baptist practice one finds their own spiritual path- you are taught to listen for that quiet voice within to tell you your spiritual path. (and no baptisms are allowed before 13 years old- considered the age of reason in the moderate southern Baptist faith.) At 12 I began to know Baptist wasn’t my path, I began to look at a more liberal and private Christainity, reading Pagel’s the Gnostic Gospels, etc.. At 14 I realized that Christinaity itself was not my path. From 14-6 I went through a sort of intellectual independent private driven New Agish phase. Then at 17 I discovered Paganism and that quiet voice finally said- “this is home” At 19 I found my path within Paganism Solitary Eclectic Wicca.. An older Wiccan (and midwife 🙂 friend of mine in college introduced me to Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance and I knew as I read Starhawk’s book that feminist Wicca was my path.

    My mother reacted better than your mom did but she didn’t know what to think at first, but fairly quickly she accepted it, being a liberal Christian she believed no one religious belief was more superior to another- a Buddhist is equal to a Christian, etc… She believed as well religion was a deeply personal thing and no one should have the right to impose their religious faith on another.

  25. I don’t think it’s historically accurate that the women who were burned in Europe or hanged in England as witches in the 16th and 17th centuries (long after the so-called Dark Ages) were pagans. There is a lot of historical mix-up in this version. Persecutions of female heretics in the 14th century (again, still MUCH later than the Dark Ages, a term historians no longer use) applied mainly to Jews and Waldensians. While as a Catholic I would really like the Pope to issue an apology for the deaths of accused witches and for all those who suffered under the Inquisition in the 15th and 16th centuries, I think the request is going to have to come from Catholics if it’s going to get anywhere. That doesn’t mean Starhawk shouldn’t try, but as a legal history professor, I wish people would get chronologies and particular details correct. I always think it hurts a case to have the facts wrong, because then institutions can come back with an argument that one doesn’t know what one is talking about, when in fact bad things actually did happen to women. And I will add that many witch burnings and hangings were by Protestants. The Catholics were hardly alone. The largest number of cases of witchcraft prosecution in England came in Essex County in the early 17th century when the Puritans were thriving, even though they disliked the death penalty by and large.

  26. I very much enjoyed your posts and the subsequent comments, Little Isis. I am not Wiccan, but I am very interested in and love to learn about women’s spirituality. Speaking of which, the Women’s Spirituality film trilogy (film 1 on ancient women’s religion, film 2 on the burning times, and film 3 on modern women’s spirituality) is now available on DVD’s at a modest price. It’s a good source of education. Looking forward to more from you, LI!

  27. Hi Isis,

    Love your post! I am a solitary pagan meaning I am not involved formally with any organization. I steer very clear of dogmatic types. IMHO most of the horrors of the world have been carried out under the guise of spirituality/religiosity. Don’t get me started on “divinely inspired” leaders, holy wars, good books, or the “word of god” 😉

    I offer these must reads by Carlo Ginzburg:

    The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1983, ISBN 0-8018-4386-3.

    Ecstasies. Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath, New York, 1991, ISBN 0-226-29693-8.


  28. One of my fire and brimstone (no puns intended) lecture revolves around “The Burning Years” and how woefully stupid people were misled to participate in what was essentially a power and economic play to break the backs of the only truly effective physicians of the Middle Ages– the Wiccans (with the boiled willow bark) were far more effective than the leech and cut people.

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