Real witchcraft deserves respect –not O’Donnell’s dabbling

Whatever Christine O’Donnell may have dabbled in, it wasn’t Witchcraft. As someone who is openly and publicly a Witch myself … Continued

Whatever Christine O’Donnell may have dabbled in, it wasn’t Witchcraft. As someone who is openly and publicly a Witch myself and the only Witch who is a columnist for On Faith, I find myself in a dilemma. On the one hand, I feel a natural urge to respond to this issue–on the other hand, the fact that we’re focusing on O’Donnell’s bad date instead of the multiple urgent crises that beset us is a measure of just how low the level of political discourse has sunk. I’d really prefer not to contribute to it.

But hey, Sally Quinn asked me, personally–how can I say ‘no’?

So let me just say this–had O’Donnell really ‘dabbled’ in Witchcraft, she might have learned that the Craft, as we call it, or Wicca as some prefer, is a remnant of the pre-Christian indigenous traditions of Europe and the Middle East. Witches do not worship Satan–we consider the Devil to be a purely Christian construct. We see nature as sacred, and human beings as part of nature. Our spirituality does not require belief in things we can’t see–but rather an attitude of respect, awe and wonder at the everyday miracles we can see, the great and common mysteries of birth, growth, death and regeneration in the fall of a leaf or the phases of the moon, in the cycles of our lives and the turning of the seasons.

O’Donnell might have learned that Witches see all of life as interconnected, that we are taught to respect other people, to treat one another with compassion, generosity and honor, to protect the earth and to live in balance with nature. We can only imagine how her life, her crusades and her politics might have been shaped by an early encounter with the Goddess, for whom the body is a temple, sexuality is a path of deep and sacred communion, and who tells us “all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.”

Witchcraft deserves the same respect accorded to any other spiritual tradition. And O’Donnell deserves the same respect as any other politician: that we judge them by their record, their abilities and their policies, not by stupid, offhand remarks they made decades ago.

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  • robinlandseadel

    Dear, dear, dear Starhawk, I feel your pain.On the one hand, I just wish “Hands-off-O’Donnell” would just go away, she somehow manages be exist in some substratum below politicians, if you can imagine such a thing. At the same time, as a target representing all that is awful and moronic in American politics, she’s practically an archetype, the Erisian Goddess of Bad political posturing. How can I help but throw spitballs at such an inviting target?I can’t help but think of you being the Lisa Simpson of this little comedy, doing everything in your mortal power to fend off the feckless immorality of the hoi polloi and watching your best efforts spin off all sorts of unintended consequences, much like the taoist moral that runs through Ursula K. LeGuin’s “Lathe of Heaven” —”We get by with a little help from our friends.”

  • NotHannah


  • druidlogan

    Why has my comment disappeared (deleted)?I verified it was listed and it was not offensive in any way.

  • MikeThornton

    I hate to disagree, but there are plenty of satanists who refer to themselves as witches, and there are also plenty of creepy people out there who know just enough witchcraft and satanism lore to be dangerous; and use their knowledge to bait the gullible and the naive. Playgans. People looking to exploit the beauty of the path of the Lord and Lady to prey on their followers. This happened back in whatever era O’Donnell was dabbling, and it happens today, because Paganism is largely unpoliced.I don’t think anything is gained by glossing over truths of what happens in our own backyard.

  • GreenLady

    Great Art6icle Starhawk! And just because there are *Playgans* who play at being Pagan because they want to shock their parents doesn’t invalid what Starhawk said. There are nuts and fruitcakes in any religion, they make the news all the time, just think about the nut job who wanted to burn the Q’uran recently… Our religion isn’t about rebelling against our parents, or anyone for that matter, or taking a totally selfish stance, as is the case stated by most Satanists. Our religion is alive and growing love and worship of the old Goddesses and Gods and Earth, our home with all it’s life.

  • druidlogan

    To MikeThornton:What religion IS policed? Look at the cover ups of abuse by the catholic church, look at the extremists following islam.No religion is policed and I find that analogy that MY faith needs to be so extremely offensive. I will not report it as I want people to see how ignorant you sound.

  • MikeThornton

    @DruidLoganSo, you don’t mind when people do awful, horrifying things in the name of our religion? Like Eric Christensen, who killed his girlfriend as part of a “Wiccan Pact?” We shouldn’t stand up and decry him as a demented individual who knows nothing about Wicca? Or Angela Sanford, who killed a man in a park as a “sacrifice?” We shouldn’t speak out against them? Perhaps we should adopt the same sort of lack of responsibility that other faiths adopt when one of theirs goes awry, like the ones you mention in your post?What would you do if you found out that someone making their way around your local pagan community was a level 3 sex offender? Would you silently hope that they wouldn’t do any harm and let them be on their way? Or would you notify the people in your community to beware of them?There _are_ people out there looking to abuse would-be or inexperienced pagans, and if you want to turn a blind eye to it, then you’re condoning it. We pagans have to police ourselves, lest someone else decides to do so for us.

  • druidlogan

    I love how you put words in my mouth with that assumption.Maybe, I can put some in yours. Maybe you should have said that “WE” should police “OUR OWN” faith in your original comment. You sounded like you were saying we need the government to police us which I and probably every other pagan out there would disagree with.There are sickos in every faith and they should all be in prison.

  • nanakoosa

    sigh, sometimes I wonder why I ever read comments. First and foremost I agree with Starhawk that we need to focus on what O’Donnell (and other fanatics) are doing NOW to threaten our freedoms. I also understand her need to address the statement O’Donnell made only because it is getting so much public attention. I think her response is more about setting straight public misconceptions about Wicca than O’Donnell herself. This is something Starhawk has committed her life to and has done a fabulous job.

  • tiredoflies

    MikeThornton you want to police religion, in a freedom of religion country? Should we police your religion?Also show proofs of what you state. Where is Satanism a problem? Proof, not prejudice.First all you need to learn about both accurately from adults really practising, then comment. Most Satanist are not Witches. Most Witches are not Satanist. Wicca has nothing to do with Satanism at all. Satan is a deity in the Christian pantheon. Wicca does not worship or follow the Christian pantheon of gods.Find the definition of words before using them. Pagan is not a religion, it is an umbrella term for religions not under Abrahamic umbrella of religions.

  • APaganplace

    I think the biggest problem here is that some in the media and commentary have leapt to the notion that this story is ‘juicier’ than it really is: Some do want to take her remarks about some date with someone she said called himself a ‘witch’ that may or may not have happened at all, and she spun a story about some ‘satanic altar with blood.’It seems to me she, according to a common pattern in fundamentalist groups she seems to represent, embroidered some tale from high school into ‘dabbling into witchcraft’ so that she could claim that ‘Satanic Panic’ thing of the times was real. She didn’t sound like even she believed it.So far, it seems, no one’s drawn any particular connections to Wicca or Paganism that doesn’t usually do so all the time, with the intention of selling *their* beliefs in a Satanic conspiracy in one form or another. The fact is, of course, there’s as much disinformation out there about Pagan paths in general as there are decent facts about Wicca and ‘Witchcraft,’ and a *lot* of things, whether they’re someone’s religion, notions taken out of Hollywood, or practices from other cultures entirely, have also been labeled with the word ‘witch’ all over the world, regardless of whether they’re benevolent practices or malevolent ones. (And furthermore, Christianity often claims it’s *all* witchcraft and all by definition ‘evil.) It’s one of the problematic things about reclaiming the term ‘Witch,’ since to a lot of people around the world, the word may *mean* ‘The English word for those doing bad magic.’ There are, of course, a lot of people who might use the term for themselves and have nothing to do with Pagan religion or Wicca, …whether by way of messing around, part of some metal or Goth scene, or for more nefarious purposes still. Like imitating the *defamations* of Wicca for predatory purposes, or just to rebel against repressive churches that in effect ‘teach’ that that’s what rebellion or witchcraft would have to be, usually spinning tales of orgies and easy power: a bargain some kids seem to be willing to take, or pretend to. (After all, if kids go to a fire-and brimstone church, are perhaps given reason to be angry, and the adults supply this ready-made ‘Here’s how to freak me out,’ then of course some kids’ll imitate. A problem is that predators will use these defamations, too. While to a good extent, Pagan communities can ‘self-police,’ the people who want to take the name or trappings and abuse them will tend to want to stay far away from those who know better and can see through them. Whenever ‘witchcraft’ makes the news, (or commentary) it seems people lose all sense of journalism or facts. There’s still, of course, trouble with otherwise-sensible people wanting to jump right on the bandwagon of mockery, heedless of what the real story is.She’s got a history of thinking masturbation is a national problem. What else do you need to know about her ‘Occult dabbling?’

  • APaganplace

    Anyway, the long and short of it is, O’Donnell has no idea what she’s talking about, if she didn’t have it all made up for her in the first place, And therefore most commentators have even *less* idea what *she’s* talking about. Dig?

  • MikeThornton

    Honestly, DruidLogan, if you had not been so quick to fly off the handle at me, maybe you would have found my response to be more measured.I’ve been a pagan for 13 years. In that time, I have seen a whole lot of gross abuse of our community and its members by unscrupulous people, who take full advantage of the pagan tendencies to not judge, to not come forward and say something’s wrong, and to not want to make waves. Although I believe O’Donnell is full of it, I have seen some people navigate our community with little more than a passing knowledge of pagan jargon, and use our religion to scam, seduce, control and otherwise abuse the trust of people who are actually here for legitimate reasons. As for the need for paganism to be policed, yes, I do think it does need people of good conscience to stand up to the creeps and tell them they’re not welcome here.

  • spirituallife

    As a practicing witch, I see too many of these young people who come to me wanting me to teach them Wicca or just want to know how to be a witch. Most of these kids are what I call “shock and awe” wiccans or have just seen too many Harry Po…tter movies, or watched Charmed for too many seasons. (nothing bad about Charmed – I personally love it, but then again I can put it in its proper perspective) They haven’t and won’t take the time to do the research into what Wicca REALLY is – all they want is to wear the label or know how to do spells. What they don’t know is the deeply reverent spirituality that it is. They have never learned discipline or accountability in their mundane lives so do not have the proper tools to open themselves to the true gift that any type of paganism offers. Yet these same kids will go off and tell anyone who will listen that they are “witches”. Mainly for the reaction they will get from their peers, but most of all as a way of getting the attention of their parents or other family. These self proclaimed “witches” have no true connection to who Wiccans/Witches/Pagans actually are. Starhawk made that distinction perfectly clear in her statements. Perhaps if the fundamental teachings of paganism were taught in the schools we would be producing children who are environmentally aware, self governing, open, loving and generous to their families and community. Instead what has been created-albeit not the majority-are kids with no respect for life (their own or others), no environmental consciousness, with disdain for any type of authority, willful disregard for anything but their own needs and wants. I see at every pagan festival I attend children who are self aware, confident, respectful, outspoken, conscious of community and the environment. Sadly, Ms.O’Donnell most likely never associated with these true witches, as she obviously never learned the four tenets we try to live by, “To Dare, To Know, To Will and To Be Silent”.

  • MikeThornton

    @Tiredoflies”MikeThornton you want to police religion, in a freedom of religion country? Should we police your religion?”You didn’t read closely enough. I am a pagan. I call myself a pagan because I don’t have the inclination nor the initiatory lineage to be a Wiccan.I believe that Pagans, Wiccans and other related religions _should_police_our_own_ranks_. Paganism is becoming more public. Meetups, coffee clatches, pagan pride days… And what do you see at these events? People who take advantage of the accepting, trusting nature of pagans to prey on people who thought they were in a place of safety.Do I have any proof other than the personal experiences of being an active member of the pagan community for the past 13 years? No. I suggest you go read Witchvox’s page on Witch Wars and acquaint yourself with the sort of demented garbage that happens in the pagan community when unscrupulous people come into the picture seeking to get money, power or sex. Maybe you’re a solitary and have never seen it, but creepy stuff does go on in the fringes of the Pagan community where nobody expects the rest of us to look or speak out about.

  • APaganplace

    Mike, maybe I should add that we *do* in many ways ‘police our own,’ …usually right up to the point where police can and should be called. I’ve personally spent a *lot* of time among the ‘fringes,’ and seen about every ‘occult scam’ in the book. The fact is, that few people doing the really bad stuff are ever actually known to or literate about us. In fact, they often believe Jack Chick’s version of Pagan ways over our own.Really, most abusers run to the antisocial and narcissist: they won’t, for the most part, make themselves known to the community at large: that’s not where they feel powerful and in control: *they* want to run the show. At most they may hope to ‘cut someone from the herd’ like any evangelist. Even with that profile in mind, they may pass for individual occultists with wild theories and systems, …who’d never actually hurt a fly. I *was* the cops, for a long time, Mike. In places we *were* the only ‘police,’ where victims and witnesses both were all runaways and the cops bashers: Most of what I dealt with had Godsforsaken little to do with Pagan religion. Where we have overlapped the general world of ‘the occult,’ nine times out of ten you’re dealing with an ignoramus who plays on the Christian ‘War In Heaven’ and messes with someone who’s been traumatized by same… Half of the rest of the time it’s a high-concept scam for someone to get laid. Also not something they want yer local priestess or tribe to see. Cause it *is* shallow. Transparent.The rest of that sliver of a little percentage, that may actually take the Gods or ‘magick’ seriously, well, nhow we’re in what would be ‘Witch War’ territory a long while ago. These types who actually get any influence would represent a particularly-bright and particularly-sociopathic individual who’s representing a tiny percentage of a tiny percentage of a tiny percentage. Bear in mind that in any of these places, police involvement wherever they won’t call us all criminals ourselves, and won’t start cracking the crowns of the innocent and proclaiming Satanic Panics or other backlashes against good citizenship… Is *always* an option. Baddies play the margins, wherever the wider community finds them to be. It’s in those slim little margins of the slim little fringes where, yeah. We’ll be the cops. Those who are arrogant enough to be where we can, must, and do get at em, skirt the boundaries have a tendency to forget they’re dealing with ‘witches.’ I speak here usually as a Pagan of reason, and a person of Pagan faith. ‘Witch,’ is a can some baddies have regretted to see me open. Easy as 911, and at need I’m willing to do either. The best protection for *everyone* Is knowing. Not fear and ignorance. The *best* protections for the innocent are for everyone to *know* that we’re not the underside of messed-up Christian sins, sex or death. Kids should know of our Lady: If it feels wrong, it is.

  • APaganplace

    So, basically, Mike: There are certainly a lot of Christianists out there who want to tell everyone that our entire religion is kissing their Devil’s wee-wee. As for our ‘policing,’ anyone who tries to *be* that ‘Devil’ better run. 😉