Religion is an intensely personal thing. It’s probably the most personal view an individual can hold. Because of this, even among those who follow the same religion, there may be differences.
Sometimes the differences are large and quite noticeable. Other times they are small and barely significant. My own views on religion have changed through the years and I do not doubt that they will continue to do so as my view of the world, deity, cosmos, and everything else changes. I am not afraid of that. No one should be. It is the fear of change, fear that something so solidly clung to might shift beneath us, that leads to fundamentalism and rigidly rejecting new truths as they are discovered.
This is a personal blog, therefore, the views I give are my own. No one single view on the Divine can be given for all Witches and we don’t really expect or desire that. We understand that there’s no such thing as only one way to understand God. Some Witches will see things the way I do, others won’t. Neither of us are incorrect. “God”, however a person relates to it, is big enough to go with the flow and allow changes in perception and relationship. If it isn’t, then it’s not as big, understanding, or omnipotent/omnipresent/omniscient as its followers claim to believe.
The word religion comes from two word parts. The prefix re- meaning “again” and ligio, the Latin word for “bind or join”. Religion is our way of relinking or rebinding to the divine. We do this through established practices, rituals, belief, and experiences. Our religion is our way of connecting to God, however we perceive it. To the Witch, there are different views found on this, but the interesting thing is that most Witches will tell you that it’s okay for you to believe differently than they do — myself included. No single individual, religion, people, creed, or faith has the monopoly on God, no matter what its followers may tell you. Religion is only as real as it is to you and God is bigger than a single religion. My favorite way of explaining this point is through the story of the five blind men and the elephant. I’m not sure where I heard this, but it was a long time ago. And it wasn’t told to me or I didn’t read it in any sort of a religious context. It was one of those wonderful cosmic ‘slap-upside-the-head’ sort of things that happens every now and again when we’re willing to open ourselves up to divine knowledge.
A friend’s child once asked me about God. The child was about ten years old and quite bright for his age. I knew that there wouldn’t be a problem with me answering this, because I knew how his parents felt about God and they knew my beliefs. So this is the best explanation that came to mind and I’ve stuck with it since.
Once there were five blind men and they had never had the chance to see an elephant. So, one day, another man who owned an elephant heard about their wish and he brought his elephant over to where the five blind men lived. The men were overjoyed at the chance to actually touch this elephant. For their entire lives, they had heard about how magnificent a creature it was and now, they were finally going to get to experience it for themselves. The first blind man went up while his companions waited patiently for their turn to come. They each agreed that they would say nothing of their time with the elephant until all had a turn. This first man approached the elephant and touched its leg.
“Oh, how straight and thick and strong!” His hand passed over the rough skin and he wrapped his arms around it. “It’s like a great tree!” The fellow exclaimed. Very happy, he walked back over to where his companions stood.
The second man approached and found the elephant’s ear. He felt how large and flexible and smooth it was. This is what an elephant is… Quite grand. He went back to the group.
The next man approached and found the elephant’s trunk.
The next found its tusk.
Finally, the last man found its tail. When all had their turn with the elephant, they decided to share what they’d learned. The first said that an elephant was just like a strong, tall tree. The others quickly jumped in with their disagreements.
“No, it’s like a palm leaf.”
“A snake! A great serpent!”
“A smooth bone, long and sharp at the end.”
“All of you are wrong. An elephant is small and has a bit of hair on its end.”
And on and on they argued. Each one swore that the others were false. How could an elephant be like a snake to the one who had touched its ear? How could the elephant be like a tree to the one who touched its tail? Each man touched the same elephant, but instead of realizing this, they could only see the truth of what their own experience led them to believe. None of them were wrong. They had touched the elephant, but each had touched it differently.
The elephant is God and we are all blind men trying to connect with it, to touch it. Christians may touch its leg, Muslims may touch its trunk, Hindus may touch its ear. We are all touching the same elephant with our practices, our faith. It is only our blindness that will not let us see that we are only touching a part of it and that another person is merely touching a different part. This is why Pagans see that all religions are equally valid. We don’t see the importance in how you touch God. The importance is that you do and and how that touch changes or manifests within your life.
The Witch’s view of the divine is seen as both masculine and feminine. The word “God” carries so much Judeo-Christian connotation to it in our culture and society that many Witches aren’t comfortable with using the term outside of that context. In some books and writings, the term Spirit/The All/Dryghton is used to describe this all-powerful creative force so as not to confuse it with the Judeo-Christian term “God”. Witches conceive of this force as a God and Goddess, singularly; or as multiple gods and goddesses all with different names. The term “All gods are one God and all goddesses are one Goddess” comes into play here.
This does not mean that all gods/goddesses are simply ‘other names’ for the each other.
The God and Goddess (or Lord and Lady as they are sometimes called) are usually nameless in this level of the cosmology. They are the ultimate representation of the divine masculine and feminine creative force or power. Spirit/Dryghton, being the Divine Source, is everything that is ‘behind’ and it is what ‘gives rise’ to God/Goddess. It is the unified origin of all divine energy. (For more on the Goddess and God in detail)
Spirit/Dryghton is larger than anything we can conceive. Our universe is larger and goes on for what may well be an infinite eternity in all directions. But every god or goddess that we know of, every name of a divine being that has existed throughout the history of mankind, has only existed in relation to our small world: Earth.
Earth is only a very small speck in a very vast universe. It is inconceivable to believe that the gods and goddesses of our various cultures are ‘all there is’. However, it is understandable and possible to conceptualize that Dryghton is ‘all there is’. God and Goddess are the terms we use to conceptualize Dryghton into masculine and feminine, the balance of polarities. They are the unnamed and unlimited ‘halves’, male and female, active and passive, giving and receiving, balance of the Divine.
Witches do not believe that the creators are separate from the creation. Whatever is true for the microcosm (what is within) is true for the macrocosm (what is outside) and vice versa. We humans, along with all other things, are examples of the Divine’s work in this world. When two parents come together and create a child, the child is separate from them. It is its own being and yet it is also the parents, combined, into one flesh. The child has the mother’s and father’s DNA, the lineage of their parents and on back throughout their ancestry. The parents and child are separate, and yet still forever one-in-the-same. This is the view of Spirit. Everything that Spirit created is still a part of Spirit, like the parents and child. The earth, the people, the animals, the sky, everything is divine because there is no separation.
There is Yin and Yang, negative and positive, feminine and masculine. Everything has its opposite and its compliment. This is the natural order of things. Animals are masculine or feminine. Plants have masculine or feminine parts. Even minerals have protons (positively charged) and electrons (negatively charged) particles within them. Everything that exists was created in some way and everything exists in balance of positive/negative and masculine/feminine. Therefore, what created it, what sourced it —Spirit/Dryghton— is also masculine and feminine. Summarize it into an algebraic equation, if you wish:
A = Everything in existence
B = Masculine and Feminine
C = The Divine
If A = B
and A = C
then B = C
If everything that exists is masculine/feminine
and everything that exists is part of the Divine
then the Divine is also masculine and feminine
The various gods and goddesses of all cultures and history are born from this divine essence the Dryghton, and in this way, are part of Dryghton. But they are all still separate. The names given to them are not simply ‘other names’ for the same being.
Ishtar is not Isis, Demeter is not Frigga. Odin is not Zeus, Lugh is not Apollo. You are not your sister or brother simply because you come from the same parent.
Each god or goddess is his or her own self, complete with their own aspects or attributes, personality, powers, history, preferences, and everything else that can create an individual identity.
Though when you call god Jove, Jupiter, Zeus, Thor, Pan, Cernunnos, Hades, Allah, Brahma, Jehovah, Ahura Mazda, etc. you are still talking to or reaching the “God” side, the masculine side, of Spirit/Dryghton. You simply choose which deity or deities to have a relationship with. All gods come from the Dryghton, but all gods are not the same god.
Pagans choose specific gods or goddesses to work with and worship based on different reasons. Sometimes it is as simple as which deities you have a personal affinity towards. It could be because of your bloodlines or heritage that you are drawn to a specific pantheon. Other times, the choices come after much seeking and meditation or when the gods themselves choose you, evidenced by a dream or sign. This too is intensely personal.
At no time is it appropriate to disdain or disparage how anyone else comes to their personal understanding of the Divine, be they another Witch, another Pagan, or someone of another faith. We all have our own thoughts and beliefs and we are all seeking understanding. Comment on the differences, explain your point of view, stress how you cannot understand such-and-such, even laugh good-naturedly at similiarities if you wish. But never attempt to hold the position of being the only one with the correct view, because no one is and none can be.
4 thoughts on “What do Witches believe?”
I really like this…very interesting. I’m sure if Joey or any other “Christian” reads this they will not agree with any of it. 😦
Great writting as always 🙂
Thank you for commenting and for the compliment.
I wouldn’t expect anyone of a non-Wiccan faith to agree with the religious beliefs. It’s a Wiccan cosmology. Not all Wiccans necessarily agree with it either, and that’s fine. 🙂
The story of the blind men and the elephant is actually six men and is an Indian (Asian, of course) fable made more famous by a poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887).
By the way, as a Christian I may not agree with all you wrote, but I certainly agree that no one knows the whole “elephant”!!
Thank you for letting me know that 🙂 I’d heard it years ago and could never get where from or where it originated!