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Tony Grist

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A Brief (A Very Brief) History Of Wicca [Feb. 2nd, 2005|11:27 am]
Tony Grist
Religious movements swiftly go out of date. They begin by challenging the status quo, then, once society has caught up with them, slip into conservatism as they defend their aging insights against the onrush of the new.

Wicca began as a challenge to the mores of the 1950s. It was always a little old-fashioned- with a whiff of geriatric naughtiness- and was soon overtaken by the sexual revolution of the 1960s. It was reinvented in the 70s, by Starhawk and others, as a vehicle for left-wing protest and feminist assertion. Now, unless I'm missing something, there's nothing much left in it except a nostalgia for ye olden dayes.

Charmed is the monument erected over its grave. If the US entertainment industry thinks something is safe for the mainstream, you can be pretty certain it's no longer prancing and kicking.

[User Picture]From: arielstarshadow
2005-02-02 05:30 am (UTC)
Don't forget - Wicca (in a very strange and completely inaccurate form...not that it's any more accurate on "Charmed") showed up on Buffy the Vampire Slayer before Charmed was around, unless I am getting my timeline confused.

I'm not sure I agree with you about Wicca no longer being prancing and kicking because it's on mainstream TV. If you think about it, it could be called progress. After all, is it really that much fun to be persecuted?? At least pagan religions are becoming somewhat more acceptable; no more burning people at the stake, or automatically assuming that they are worshipping Satan. Sure, there are still Christian fundamentalists out there who haven't a clue, but I think that more and more people are at least becoming knowledgeable enough to know that pagans aren't immediately equal to "evil."
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-02 06:19 am (UTC)
I was one of the guys who worked to get paganism accepted as a "mainstream" religion. And now that it's respectable I no longer want to know. What a contrary old cuss I am!

That's not entirely true. I still subscribe to a spirituality that is part Pagan, part Christian, part Zen- I just don't belong to any organization these days.
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[User Picture]From: catvalente
2005-02-02 05:54 am (UTC)
Wicca began in the late 19th century, invented by a fellow by the name of Gardner.

And Wicca may be fairly lame and have devolved into a bunch of heirarchical, dogmatic, organized folks with high self esteem issues, but the calm, quiet, unassuming pagan--even one who knows the root of the word and uses it with a rueful smile--does exist. Maybe that's the revolution--we don't have to wear our religion around our neck, studded with magic crystals.

And that young lady will never be on TV.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-02-02 06:15 am (UTC)
but the calm, quiet, unassuming pagan--even one who knows the root of the word and uses it with a rueful smile--does exist. Maybe that's the revolution--we don't have to wear our religion around our neck, studded with magic crystals.

I like this.

I was young in the middle of the time of hippies, and for a while I wore long peasant dresses and paper necklaces--even went barefoot off to have my first child.

Having children made me settle down a bit, become much more conventional if not conservative. I'm still a hippie in many ways, even though I'm now a little old grandmother. But it's on the inside, simmering.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-02 06:26 am (UTC)
Gardner came out of the broom cupboard c. 1950. He was in his 70s by then. All the evidence suggests that he (and a few mates) concocted Wicca over the previous decade.

I'm an unassuming (quasi)-pagan these days. But I was waving my staff and swinging my pentacle all over the media throughout the 90s.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-02-02 06:25 am (UTC)
When we experience an overwhelming spiritual moment, we never want it to end.

There's a great example, in the New Testament, when Peter (I think) wanted to erect tents at the spot where he'd seen a vision of the Elders.

"The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai."

"Lord, it is good to be here."


I guess what I want to say and am meandering away from is that all religious movements have their start with a moment of miracle that we want to keep. Maybe it's not a miracle, just a wave of joy, or a changed life. But something major happens, and we want to be able to reopen that door.

Sadly, most miracles take us by surprise.

As you once wisely said (I hope I paraphrase correctly): Ritual's purpose is to set up the atmosphere to open the door to miracle again.

But mostly we can't do it. The door may open, but we don't see it. We're fixated on the candles.

For example

I think a wonderful image, very apt, that explains the reason spiritual moments get instantly crystallized into religious doctrine
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-02 06:42 am (UTC)
I love the tents.

Yes, you can't institutionalize vision or joy or any spiritual thing.

Wicca was a great event in the history of the 20th century, just as Methodism was a great event in the history of the 18th. Of course the movement will continue- just as Methodism has done- but (barring a new miracle) it no longer has the capacity to challenge and surprise.
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[User Picture]From: barbarakitten_t
2005-02-02 07:28 am (UTC)
damn and blast...this is a wonderful conversation and i want to spend more time here (unfortunately i am at work and need to quit screwing around

jackiejj says Sadly, most miracles take us by surprise.

i have to disagree with that. it's true that miracles often take us by surprise, but i don't think it's sad.

when i was a senior in high school i had to come up with a motto for my yearbook was "expect a miracle."

miracles happen all around us every day...and if we are lucky we can have a hand in helping a miracle happen.

i too am a zen pagan. i lit candles for brigid this morning before work...i have a go with the flow life (although occasionally the river gets dammed...)

poliphilo i think you are maybe a little cynical...charmed is a more sophisticated version of bewitched...

bright blessings and i will try to come back to this discussion later when i have time to think...
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-02-02 08:05 am (UTC)

[info]poliphilo i think you are maybe a little cynical...charmed is a more sophisticated version of bewitched...

no, it is not. Or, I respectfully choose to disagree with that statement.

I have read this discussion with great interest, but I find there are words I want to add and can't quite come up with them. I think that one thing demonstrated here is that religion is a personal thing, and we need to be comfortable with the way we believe.

I'm still unable to breathe, perhaps my thoughts show that.

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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-02-02 09:52 am (UTC)
Sorry you can't breathe yet! (Neither can the Pope, this morning.)

Okay, you've given me something here: "religion is a personal thing."

Yes. Absolutely.

When people go into bars, there are usually no windows. It's usually dark inside.

The world is shut out so that the mind can loosen itself from the everyday.

Same for going into church: regular glass that looks out onto a parking lot is exchanged for stained glass with pictures of saints. The world is shut out.

There's a difference in bars and churches--there's no ritual in a bar--but, still, we're trying in both to be liberated from everyday thinking. In bars we do this chemically to the brain, and smooth the way to freedom with darkness and atmosphere.

When we go to church, surely we must take some hope for a surprise, for a miracle, in the door with us ("Lord, it is good to be here.")

In short, it's easier to be taken by a miracle in a place that is charged with energy and hope, perhaps, than, say, in the shower at home.

And there is group energy. I have felt it. It is extemely potent. It's partly emotion. It's partly expectation.

Expectation: that's the word. That's what the structure and the words provide. You can go to the Faith Promise Freeway Primitive Baptist Church and experience a miracle. Your life can be changed.

Not because they all handle snakes with reverence, but because YOU "expect a miracle."

Which makes me wonder, all over again: what is a miracle?
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[User Picture]From: barbarakitten_t
2005-02-02 10:22 am (UTC)
like i said, i was talking out my ass, so disagree away and i will bow to someone with superior knowledge ;)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-02 08:39 am (UTC)
I'll admit I haven't watched much of Charmed. I see it as a cheaper version of Buffy (which I loved.)
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[User Picture]From: barbarakitten_t
2005-02-02 09:10 am (UTC)
as i don't watch charmed and didn't watch buffy, i am talking out my ass regarding tv shows...

however, i think that you should know that, whatever you are doing faithwise now, as an activist you have done great good for the "pagan community," whatever you perceive that to be ;)

i have trouble codifying my rituals, because i am not wiccan and i don't really follow a particular goddesses are as varied as brigid, kwan yin, spider woman and eris.... (i still think eris gets shafted) and while i don't have the discipline to be a solitary anything, i don't want to really share my feelings and beliefs with anyone who might make fun....

at least when i was a methodist, nobody made fun of me....
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-02-02 09:38 am (UTC)
I realized after I hit the "submit" button that my sentence came out wrong. What I meant was, it's too bad ("sadly...") that we can't simply arrange for miracles--miracles are surprises.
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