I read you column in this week's PACIFIC SUN in Marin County,
Calif. I have been active in the Covenant of the Goddess, the oldest and
largest organization of Witches in the U.S., since 1981, and have served as
National First Officer, as well as in other capacities. I’m also
co-creator, with Starhawk, of THE PAGAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING
(HarperSanFrancisco, 1997). I mention this information to offer some
credibility to my comments. I know you’ll probably get tons of response to
your recent column.
First, who can judge another's spirituality? By whose criteria is someone else's spirituality "fraudulent"?
FWIW, I found it essentially accurate, if cynical. Craft is
primarily experiential so it can’t be well described in a narrative medium
– or any medium, for that matter. I offer below a definition of
Witchcraft that I wrote for the forthcoming ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FEMINIST THEORY
(Routledge, London). I was, unfortunately, limited to 400 words and book
titles and authors counted in the total word count.
And yes, I have a perfectly good mundane name. NightMare refers to Macha's legendary shapeshifting ability, in my case, the mare who rides through your dreams.
M. Macha NightMare ©1998
Witchcraft is a nature-based religion whose practitioners worship
goddess, the immanent life force within and connecting all, manifest in
both female and male images of the divine, most especially Goddess, and who
is monist, henotheist, polytheist and/or panentheistic in concept. To
Witches, the Earth is alive and all life is sacred and interconnected.
Witchcraft is the largest of many contemporary religions which fit
under the broader term Pagan in the sense of being Earth-based and
distinct from predominant Judeo-Christian thought. Certain 'traditions'
(similar to a denomination) of Witchcraft have existed in Europe, North
America and Australia, since the early twentieth century, and some claim
lineage of hundreds of years and more.
A revival of interest in 'the Craft' occurred in the late 1960s and
early 1970s, with the weaving of many threads: interest in Western
ceremonial magic; exploration of intuitive, non-linear modes of perception;
seeking meaning and spirit in a materially oriented culture; awakened
respect for folk tradition; honor for our direct experience of Nature and
of our bodies; concern for the survival of Earth and the quality of life on
the planet; women's sense of oppression, anger, and the profound need to
honor their life experiences with ritual.
Witchcraft respects both rational, scientific pursuit of knowledge
and emotional, intuitive, experiential perceptions. It is practiced by
women and men in small, intimate, groups commonly called covens, and in
larger gatherings, sometimes open to the public. Rituals celebrate the
seasons on the solar solstices and equinoxes and agricultural/deity-related
cross quarters and lunations. They may honor life passages or be done for
healing of an individual or the Earth herself. Important religious symbols
are spirals, pentacles, circles, sun and moon, natural objects, and
Use of the term 'Witch' reclaims individual 'power from within',
affirms collective power to effect change in the world, and identifies with
people of independent spirit, personal power, and special skills who were
persecuted and martyred as witches during the fourteenth through sixteenth
Historical roots are perceived in the image of the sacred female in
the art and culture of ancient Europe and the Middle East, and in the
writings of archeologist Marija Gimbutas, anthropologist Margaret Murray,
and the teachings of Gerald B. Gardner,
Early thealogians include Morgan McFarland, Robin Morgan, and most
significantly, Starhawk (Miriam Simos).
Starhawk (1979, 1989, 1999) The Spiral Dance, San Francisco: Harper Collins
Adler, Margot (1979, 1986), Drawing Down the Moon, Boston: Beacon Press
Thank you for your attention.
M. Macha NightMare
Covenant of the Goddess [http://www.cog.org](http://www.cog.org)
Northern California Local Council