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Ethics in the craft....


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#1 Guest_CelticMagnolia_*

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 01:05 AM

So, I've been reading book reviews on Amazon, because sometimes people can get into some pretty interesting debates. This particular reviewer was a long-time practitioner of Hoodoo and didn't really care for Dorothy Morrisson's "Wiccanization" of Hoodoo in her book Utterly Wicked. Another reviewer commented that they enjoyed her book, because they personally find the Christian elements of Hoodoo distasteful.

Now, the argument was "Is the cannibalization of traditions - essentially taking the parts you like, discarding the parts you don't - ethical or respectful, etc.?"

I find this pretty fascinating due to my religious beliefs. I practice Celtic Reconstructionism and dislike the appropriation of the Irish gods and goddesses that I see in Wicca and Neopaganism. I don't care for the "all goddesses are one goddess" viewpoint, and I would never "use" whichever deity I felt had the power I needed without knowing something about them deeper than a simple correspondence.

My witchcraft is quite separate from my religious views in that it does borrow from many traditions and places, and I don't see crafting as necessarily religious in nature. It's a manifestation of the powers available to all, not just those of a specific path. That said, I do tend to avoid any spells that have a religious flavor that is not my own (e.g. Hoodoo, Santeria, Yoruba), however, folk magic - the elements - earth spirits and the like I view as universal. That doesn't mean you should dabble into magic uneducated, obvs, but I don't see it as nearly disrespectful as "Oooh, I like this spell from Hoodoo, et. al, except I'm going to strip out the saints, lua, orisha....and do it however I feel...." If there was a particular Hoodoo or Native American ritual that I thought would be useful, I would do my best to research and pay respect to the powers specific to the belief, not simply grab bag what I liked and discard what didn't seem to suit.

I feel like I have rambled, but do you see what I'm getting at? Any thoughts?


#2 Michele

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 02:00 AM

If I am understanding your question correctly you are asking for thoughts re is eclecticism of the use of divinity not of one's tradition in ritual ethical?

There is traditional witchcraft and there is withchcraft that follows a specific tradition. I would thinnk that one that follows a specific tradition would work with the divinities of their tradition, and not do rituals of another tradition. The question wouldn't necessarily come up unles one had a specific divinity-related spiritualism to their craft,a nd if they did I would think they would stick with the divinities with whom they have a relationship. In general rule I do not use divinities in my spell work, but my spell work i usually pretty simple although well thought-out. It can take me ages to thinnk-out a spell, but only 5 or 10 minutes to do it depending on the nature of the work. I do work with divinities but that is another side of my craft and is for a relationship with the divinity so I would only work with that specific divinity. For someone who doesn't believe in the divine (and many don't) I suppose they may invoke the energy of a divinity into their work for the association of it but they wouldn't have a relationship with that divinity or any other divinity so they probably wouldn't consider it unethical as the divinity to them would only be energy, not a personification of a specific deity.

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#3 Stacey

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 02:34 AM

Now, the argument was "Is the cannibalization of traditions - essentially taking the parts you like, discarding the parts you don't - ethical or respectful, etc.?"

I find this pretty fascinating due to my religious beliefs. I practice Celtic Reconstructionism and dislike the appropriation of the Irish gods and goddesses that I see in Wicca and Neopaganism. I don't care for the "all goddesses are one goddess" viewpoint, and I would never "use" whichever deity I felt had the power I needed without knowing something about them deeper than a simple correspondence.


I imagine those who consider themselves 'eclectic' might disagree with you. I don't think there is a problem with taking parts of traditions and working them into your own as long as there is a level of respect. If all of us practiced the same thing and did the same thing witchcraft (and all of the other branches or practices that come under the Pagan umbrella) would become stagnant. A true spiritual path will grow and change because as we learn new things and embrace new ideas we grow and change.

I think for some people the correspondence of the Deity is what matters more so than the history of that Deity. There are some who work with Deity as aspects, forms of energy and not as actual Goddesses or Gods so I imagine they would see the energy (correspondence) of the Deity as something they need and work with it but may not go much deeper than that.

There is diversity within the Craft and everyone approaches it differently and truthfully, you could ask 10 different witches about their practices and I can guarantee you, none of them would give you the same answer.

"The mind is not a book, to be opened at will and examined at leisure. Thoughts are not etched on the inside of skulls, to be perused by an invader. The mind is a complex and many-layered thing." Severus Snape - HP and the Order of the Phoenix

#4 Guest_CelticMagnolia_*

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 03:09 AM

As with so much of the craft there is not absolute right or wrong stance on this. I simply thought it was a very interesting debate, and many people jumped all over the reviewer who saw what they interpreted at "disrespect" for their practices.

My personal stance would simply be that if there was a specific deity that I felt would be helpful to call on, I would find it remiss to not do my research before asking them for help. I see a sense of entitlement in some practitioners (no one on the board, just in life in general) that seems to tell them that if the power is there they are entitled to use it any way they see fit.

After my original post, I found a thread titled "Traditional vs. Eclectic" that touched on this topic. There was a used named Blacksmith that shared his experience with the African diaspora practices that I found particularly salient. I am paraphrasing, but what I took away from it was that practices that are not your own (be it hereditary or otherwise) deserve some study before use. This is what I most agree with. I see this a lot lately with the Morrigan. She has become quite a popular goddess in Neopagan circles, but I see so much misinformation about her. It's as though people dig her image and powers, so they adopt her without actually studying what she is. She is NOT a triple goddess (maiden, mother, crone), though she does appear in a trio of goddesses. However, people want her to fit their idea of goddess and so force her into their mold no matter what her source material says about her.

This going back to the Hoodoo example in the book review, the reviewer discussed how Hoodoo cannot simple be divorced from Christianity because it is a practice that grew out of a Christianized people. So, saying, "I enjoy Hoodoo, but I need to strip it of all the Christian iconography" is taking a tradition and stripping it of something essential to its power. Coming myself from a Christian background, I am rather uncomfortable using Christian imagery in magic, but if I was serious about adopting Hoodoo practices into my witchcraft, I'm not sure I would feel right about putting Hoodoo into a box that made me comfortable. It part of the essential mystery of the craft to retain those things IMHO.

I understand that this is not everyone's opinion, and I love that there is diversity in our community. I just thought it was a fascinating debate, and I wondered if mindfulness and responsibility in calling on certain powers might be the better part of wisdom in this matter. I'm very familiar with the Hermetic principles though I'm not a Ceremonial Magician, and I've always enjoyed their principles of To Know, To Dare, To Will, and To Keep Silent. And that first principle rings true for me, not just in know your intent in magic, but also in knowing the powers you are calling on and how to do so respectfully. Just as I practice yoga, but am mindful to the history of why and how and what powers are utilized in doing so. I feel that some people, especially Wiccans and New Agers simply see these things as some sort of magical smorgasbord that they may pick and choose from, throw into a pot, and voila have magic!

I feel like I'm rambling now, but these ideas have been running through my head all evening, and it's a great relief to get them out.


#5 GardeningMommy

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 04:38 AM

Interesting post, especially since I was just reading some stuff written by a Hoodoo practitioner today. Like you, he also says that it is in your best interest to study-up and accept the philosophy behind any magic when religion has been intertwined with the Craft. To do otherwise I don't necessarily see as disrespectful, but just pointless. I mean, Hoodoo is what it is *because* of Christianity. To separate the two would leave a rather empty shell of Hoodoo, imo. I was reading a thread on here, and I can't remember what it was called (if I find it, I'll post a link), but the jist of it was a discussion about whether or not the Bible should be used as a tool in witchcraft. Some people were saying only if you believe, and others were saying that the book has so many believers that it wields power of its own so go ahead and use it. I found that last idea rather intriguing, and it seems to fit here. If you were to strip Hoodoo of it's Christian ideas, what happens to the power that is behind it? If the Psalms are so important to Hoodoo, and you take out that power source, what's left?

I don't know. I totally get the idea that ideas need to be borrowed and incorporated in order for the Craft to grow and change, but I tend to get uncomfortable when it comes to separating religion from magic. To me it feels like trying to untangle a piece of wire... try as you might, you'll never get the kinks out completely, and what's left is never as sturdy as the original.


#6 Jevne

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 05:00 AM

I don't know. I totally get the idea that ideas need to be borrowed and incorporated in order for the Craft to grow and change, but I tend to get uncomfortable when it comes to separating religion from magic. To me it feels like trying to untangle a piece of wire... try as you might, you'll never get the kinks out completely, and what's left is never as sturdy as the original.


I will respectfully disagree, as I suspect would any individual who was not raised under the umbrella of any judeo-christian religion. Such religious connections are a matter of personal choice, of course, especially for those new to the Path, but my magic; my Craft is not impacted by my lack of 'religion' at all.

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#7 GardeningMommy

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 05:10 AM

Agh... I totally didn't make myself clear there. It's not that I think that religion *has* to be intertwined with magic, it that when it comes to using magic that is already steeped in religion, I greatly hesitate at unwinding the two. Does that make more sense? I personally don't incorporate religion into my magic, but I do stay away from magic that is specific to paths that rely on religious beliefs.

But you do make me laugh, Jevne :)


#8 Jevne

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 05:11 AM

But you do make me laugh, Jevne :)


:)


#9 sarasuperid

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 05:21 AM

In the cow raid of Cooley, the Morrigan appear to Cuchullain in many guises, as a heifer, an eel, a crow, and a wolf--as a girl washing at the ford, as a warrior queen with a chariot, and as a hag milking a cow. She dances on the swords of his enemies to rally the battle as a grey haired woman and before it all begins she lays the way for the men of ulster to be too I'll to fight when she curses them (as Nemain Macha, one of the Morrigan) as a mother who has still born babes. In still other stories she couples with the Dagda. I could go on, but as you can see the Morrigan goddesses are fertile ground for the triple goddess concept appearing the different ages all in one story. And being listed in glosses as being three with Macha and Danu. Yet she is also more complex then that because just as one can see three phase or four or even more in the moon one can see a multitude of phases in the Morrigan. But the three can clearly be picked out among the many guises of the Morrigan because she shape shifts and age shifts and glamours her hair colors like a proper changeling really.

Now Brigid she actually is harder to fit In The mother maiden crone mold unless you conflate her Scottish, Christian and pagan Irish forms. The Scottish Bride becomes the Calliach hag in one version of the story. And the Saint Brigid is clearly a maiden, and the Irish Brigid is a mother and wife. The Irish Brighid is also a sister of two other Brighid and they are each muses of different crafts. There you have the three sisters in one culture and the various ages among three cultures, a squared peg in a round pole but you can do it and if you don't mind swimming the channel quite handily too.

Anyways, I think the Celt Recon going on about how neopagans see the gods is rather dull and over nitpicky. It comes down to world view, most neopagans are pantheists and most Recons are polytheists. We have enough in common to annoy each other, but is it really worth the accusations of disrespect? Do you really think the Morrigan is offended? The Morrigan is very clear about what offends her, denying her a good lay when she offers to give you the win, forcing her to race when she is pregnant, and other downright unrelated things to whether she is a triple goddess or not.

For what it's worth I am a Celtic Polytheist myself, but I don't see the point in putting down other people who love the old gods and accusing them of disrespecting the gods by their manner of tribute or other minor points. It just smacks of elitism and exclusionism. Now obviouslydifferent groups are entitled to have their standards, don't join Celtic Recon if you aren't polytheist, etc. But really it's okay to leave well enough alone for the other factions to do their thing their own way.

"A Craft, a calling, a set of Keys to unlock a particular cosmology that is borne, and born, in the blood of the practitioner, and sets the Work to be done with which one may commune with those who hold the patterns and keys of the life of the practitioner and hir stream. The Work is to be done, and we are to do it." --Aiseling the Bard

#10 Abhainn

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 05:35 AM

I'm eclectic, but I agree with you that working with deities and particular traditions/cultural expressions need to be researched and respected instead of picked apart and used as desired (reminds me of the term "cafeteria Catholicism"). I'm eclectic in the sense that I'm not working specifically with only a specific tradition, but have created relationships with a small group of Celtic and Greek goddesses.

The history of religions and deities shows that religions shared and modified deities along cultural/religious borders and as cultures were spread through trade/diaspora/immigration/slave trade. So "borrowing" another culture's deities isn't new. Christianity did it, turning local pagan deities into saints (like St. Brigid). The trouble with "borrowing" from another culture like that is when you essentially "steal" the deity and appropriate it without consideration of the cultural basis of that deity, or making a deity into something entirely different based on your cultural views. Is Brigid a Christian saint, or a Celtic goddess? What's the difference, and how might that difference affect those who associate with Brigid or St. Brigid?

But while I'm not averse to choosing deities from different cultures (the ones I work with are Greek and Celtic), I have researched the deities I work with, and after a great amount of introspection and interaction, began working with those specifically. I don't jump around looking for a new deity for every issue. Though, when I was working on my thesis about South Asian immigrant literature, I worked with the Hindu goddess Sarasvati because it felt more authentic. I did the same thing with Annapurna when I was learning to make Indian food. In those cases, I was working with deities specific to the culture that I was studying. Otherwise, I stick to my Patronesses.

I find I've grown much less eclectic as I've progressed along my path because the first couple of years were pretty much exploration. And that doesn't seem unethical to me, so long as the intention is to learn about the different deities and cultures that you're borrowing from. I completely agree with you that choosing a deity based only on correspondence is short-sighted, especially since correspondences are sometimes overly generalized. It's also dangerous because it you don't know that Kali is likely to be a demanding goddess to work with, not to mention a little creepy if you're used to the sweetness-and-light idea of goddess, you might get in over your head, or worse, trip off to another goddess and piss off Kali.

The "all goddesses are one goddess" idea is simple, but not very realistic. I used to have that idea, until I started forming relationships with my Patronesses, and realized that they're not facets of one goddess at all, but separate individual entities. Saying they're all facets of one goddess makes picking and choosing easier, and takes away the need for forming relationships, since "they're all the same person" so to speak. To me, denying their individuality and cultural specificity/connection is unethical. Saying "it's OK, Kali and Athena and the Morrigan are all really the same goddess, so I can call on all three of them, even if I've never worked with them before, and I don't know much about them besides they are all associated with war in some way." Yeah, but not in the same way, and I've read that Kali and the Morrigan are rather demanding to work with.

On the other hand, this is a spirituality issue more than a specifically craft-related issue, since there are many here on this forum who don't work with deities in their craft. They work with spirits or personal power, etc. My spirituality and craft are pretty much interrelated. For some, they are completely separate. Is it unethical to create relationships with multiple deities in a spiritual sense? Depends. Is it unethical to "god hop" based on needs for a spell? I think it's dangerous, ungracious. It would be more effective, I think, to work with the same deities for everything because deities are not limited to only their human-designated correspondences. The relationship is already in place.

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#11 Guest_CelticMagnolia_*

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 08:04 AM

Sarasuperid,
I think you are right, and I apologize if my CRness is "nitpicky and dull." Perhaps the Morrigan as an example is a poor one. She is a shapeshifter, and you're correct that this lends itself to a triple-goddess frame. I don't intend to be elitist and exclusionist, I certainly don't "own" the Celtic pantheon. I think my issue is with the MMC construct altogether, which is a modern idea posited by Graves in The White Goddess. A better example of forcing a goddess into the MMC mold would be Brigid, or I've even seen it with Hecate. My issue with the MMC is that I think it negates the darkness of a goddess by saying, "Yes, she might be about destruction/revenge/darkness (which in the Neopagan/Wiccan mindset can be called "evil"..ooooh....) but LOOK OVER HERE! She's ALSO a loving mother/beautiful maiden full of love and light and fluffy-bunniness." That seems disrespectful to me simply because it's not accepting the goddess for who she is and labeling parts of her as undesirable.

I honestly didn't post this to put anyone down; I just thought it was an interesting thing to talk about. I don't think we offend divinity by making them fit what we want, but I believe that it diminishes or misuses the power of the craft associated with them. And that can be dangerous. If you don't understand the power or use it correctly, you can get unintended results. Does that make sense?


#12 Guest_CelticMagnolia_*

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 09:09 AM

Also, I think that craft and religion are separate unless the individual wants them to be entwined. Religiously, I am CR, but craftwise I am more open to other paths. However, I wouldn't take another path without educating myself on the systems behind the path nor would I attempt to cherry pick the path and make it fit my worldview. I find many paths utterly fascinating and a few of them I am comfortable enough in to use in my work, but I make sure to use proper respect and due diligence in performing the rituals of that path in the way that they are laid out.

I think that anyone can use whatever path they want in whatever style they want and achieve some level of success because they are drawing up a power greater than themselves or their own personal power, but I would never advise them to work this way. Other paths are legitimate and deserving of respect. The responsibility of the practitioner is to understand and know the power that they work with. For example, I have a friend who is Asatru and I understand that Thor's hammer is a powerful symbol in that system, but I wouldn't be comfortable using it without properly educating myself on it.

Blending of systems or borrowing from other paths is a beautiful thing, but it behooves the witch in question to educate themselves and respect the power they are calling on.


#13 Hannah

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 12:22 PM

My Craft relates much more to animism than polytheism.

Jevne bumped a thread essentially exploring the difference between eclecticism and traditional craft recently. In the thread Blacksmith illustrates for me some crucial distinctions that I would really recommend you read and consider some of the ideas. Blacksmith explains it so well, that i wouldn't want to paraphrase or repeat with my own distinction here, so i'll just direct you to that thread. It's called "Difference between Traditional and Eclectic Witchcraft?"

I believe that the herbs, oils, objects, tools, wax, places, trees, ingredients etc etc that i sometimes work with in my craft have a "spirit". Not a spirit in the sense of a ghost or anything relating to a specific religion but an inherent energy and nature that i am negotiating with to craft magic. I believe that there is also an interactive relationship between myself (as the witch) and the object, herbs, places (etc etc) and its "spirit", a symbiotic relationship that can change, evolve and even devolve. I could replace the word "spirit" with a term less loaded, like "metaphysical quality" or "energy" but i'd rather not get into semantics and hope that whoever reads this can relate to whatever the quality is that we interact with when we work magic and know that i'm referring to that?

Anyway, for me working with a deity is not necessarily Craft, it's more a theurgy, worship or devotion. Not that there isn't magic in it, but it's not what Traditional Craft is for me. I do loosely fall under the umbrella term of pagan and my Craft and religion do over lap like a Venn Diagram. But they are not one and the same.

However, i am extremely irritated by the disrespectful and ignorant misappropriation of any sacred practice, whether it be of a mainstream monotheistic practice or a tribal or native culture (past or present). I hold disdain for this even more acutely when the misappropriation has been conducted with a financial agenda and some arsehole in the western world is busy selling books on some native practice and making money from there sacred traditions. That peeves me no end.

As for using Wicca as an example this? From my perspective, originally Wicca worked with the secret Gods of the Craft, who are not misappropriated from anywhere, they were unique to Wicca. With the spread of the tradition and lots of leaked material that found itself popularised, the tradition of Wicca itself was further misappropriated. But none of that has much bearing on my Trad Craft so I won't say any more on the matter.


#14 Tana

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 12:53 PM

Can I just clarify that on this forum we are concerned with the Craft of Witchcraft and not any religious paths, goddesses, gods etc. Obviously at times when religion and craft are intertwined for members then reference will be made as part of a discussion. However it isn't appropriate for religion to become the sole or prominent part of the discussion. I feel that this is becoming the case here so am locking the thread.

Celtic Magnolia, please read the rules threads in the Forum Rules section at the top of the forum page.

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