Out of the Shadows: Wicca Grows in Austin and Beyond
#1

From reportingtexas:




Out of the Shadows: Wicca Grows in Austin and Beyond
ByQiling Wang
For Reporting Texas


Mary Caldwell has spiky pink hair, tattooed arms and works in customer service for a software company. She’s also the leader of a Wicca meet-up that gathers every other Monday at Monkey Nest Coffee on Burnet Road.

On a recent Monday evening, she led the group in a discussion of numerology – the belief that numbers have mystical meanings – as well as rituals and personal experiences with spirits. Recently, some members of the group had visited a local cemetery to commune with spirits.

“Some of the people in the group just see them, some just hear them and some of them just smell them,” said Caldwell, 44.  “It was great fun.”

Wicca is a modern version of ancient pagan religions, created in England and brought to the United States in the 1960s. Its followers worship a goddess and a god, honor the Earth and practice ritual magic. They follow the Wiccan Rede, a statement of principles that stresses the importance of doing no harm.

“We believe that everything is part of the One,” said Ed Fitch, 80, a Wiccan senior high priest and a member of Caldwell’s meet-up group, one of several Wiccan or witches’ groups in Austin. “Everything in the universe is linked to everything else in the universe.”

Vox Wrote:
Everything in the universe is linked to everything else. That's just nature, how God designed things.

Because Wicca is a highly decentralized religion with no central authority, it’s hard to get a tally of its members. The American Religious Identification Survey, which periodically surveys 50,000 Americans, said the number of self-identified Wiccans increased to 342,000 in 2008, up from 134,000 in 2001. The 2008 figures are the most recent available.

Wicca’s growth tracks the changing religious landscape in the U.S., as a growing number of people leave established religions and become either unaffiliated or switch to alternative religions. About 5.9 percent of Americans followed a non-Christian faith in 2014, up from 4.7 percent in 2007, according to the Pew Research Center,

“The number of people who have institutional affiliation are declining in general, so [Wicca] is part of a larger trend,” said Jennifer Graber, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Texas at Austin. “People are not aligning themselves in traditional religious ways.”

Wiccans come from all walks of life, including in the military. Fitch is a former Air Force officer and a retired technical writer and engineer. There are Wiccan covens on military bases, including at Fort Hood. The Pagan Student Alliance at UT includes Wiccans and followers of Paganism and other nontraditional faiths.

Philip Elmore, 22, an alliance member, said he was attracted to Wicca because of the equality in its theology.

“Traditional religion is very hierarchical, or even patriarchal at times, while paganism has always been focusing on everyone is equal,” Elmore said. “We don’t just have god, who in Christian values is a white male. We’ve got a goddess. They are equal to each other.”

Fitch said he’d been interested in alternative religions for many years, and was initiated into Wicca in 1967. He’s part of the Gardnerian Wicca tradition, one of the earliest branches, created by Gerald Gardner in England in the 1950s.

“There is not a fixed order of authority in Gardnerian Wicca,” Fitch said. “Anyone who gets trained can become a high priest.”

Unlike other versions of Wicca, the Gardnerian tradition requires that people be formally initiated by a high priest. Initiation separates “plastic Wiccas,” or people who claim to be Wiccan but aren’t serious about it, from true believers, Caldwell said.

“If I run into a person who claims to be a Gardnerian Wiccan on the street, I will ask him ‘Who’s your high priest?’” Caldwell said.

Vox Wrote:
I thought there was no hierarchy. So which is it?

“We like to know who initiated who,” Fitch added.

Caldwell dabbled in Wicca when she was a teenager, but said her interest faded as she grew up and had children. It was not until eight years ago that she became fully devoted the religion.

“My kids were a little bit older and I could actually get more time for myself,” said Caldwell. “So I got back to my spirituality.”

Both she and her husband, Joe, are third-degree Gardnerians, meaning they are serious students of Wiccan theology and have the ability to lead a coven.

Vox Wrote:
Again, they have "the ability to lead a coven," which intimates rules and hierarachy. I guess some people's hierarchies and rules are better than others.

With Wiccan signs hanging on her office wall, she said her coworkers know and accept the fact that she’s Wiccan.

“It’s funny, because I’ve got people who are devoted Catholics coming to me and saying, ‘I’ve got a problem, and can you do a spell for me?’ ” she said.

Vox Wrote:
Of course you've got Catholics going to you to cast spells. The post-conciliar hiearchy doesn't catechize, and those Catholics are playing with fire. See http://www.fisheaters.com/praeternaturalworld1.html
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#2
For a brief spell in high school I was devoted to Wicca. What attracted me to it was the ritual,the symbolism, the almost sacramental worldview and the idea that I could belong to something that gave me power and a sense of purpose and connection. Wicca is tied to a calendar,seasons and various holidays. It's almost a liturgical religion.

I think many people want something that connects them to the seasons, that connects them to something, and that provides ritual.

The liturgical year,the divine office and the folk customs of the Church are what keep me going these days. People forget that we want to be connected to something.

  We don't just want barren apologetics tracts,empty modern liturgy and abstract theology divorced from praxis. It's got to be a whole connected worldview.  Wicca will provide this (albeit in contradictory and bizarre ways) when the modern churches will not. 

I'm convinced that many Wiccans,should they actually find a full stop traditional parish in either East or West that truly fosters within its parishioners a love of the cycle of feasts in the liturgical year,a love of blessings and folk customs and a real life of faith that goes to the heart and not just to the head, would take to it like fish to water.

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#3
Wicca. It is devil worship pure and simple. Never, EVER forget that.  :(
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#4
Vox already caught it but---

Quote:“Traditional religion is very hierarchical, or even patriarchal at times, while paganism has always been focusing on everyone is equal,” Elmore said.

Really now?
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#5
(05-08-2016, 02:36 PM)GrottoAl Wrote: Wicca. It is devil worship pure and simple. Never, EVER forget that.  :(
Yep, many exorcists have stated this as well.
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#6
(05-08-2016, 06:27 AM)formerbuddhist Wrote: The liturgical year,the divine office and the folk customs of the Church are what keep me going these days. People forget that we want to be connected to something.

We don't just want barren apologetics tracts,empty modern liturgy and abstract theology divorced from praxis. It's got to be a whole connected worldview.  Wicca will provide this (albeit in contradictory and bizarre ways) when the modern churches will not. 

I'm convinced that many Wiccans,should they actually find a full stop traditional parish in either East or West that truly fosters within its parishioners a love of the cycle of feasts in the liturgical year,a love of blessings and folk customs and a real life of faith that goes to the heart and not just to the head, would take to it like fish to water.

The seasonal cycles, folk traditions, traditional devotions, medieval symbolism, ancient ways of celebrating feasts -- those are things I love to focus on at FE. What we have in that regard is so much richer than the bogus Wicca stuff. 

I'm not sure I agree with you that many Wiccans would take to traditional Catholicism like fish to water; there are still teachings about sex, and the impossibility of women becoming priestesses that would turn most of them off. I do think they'd like a lot of our customs, but that's not nearly enough (as you know).

Isn't it just brutal how the human element of the Church in the post-conciliar era has stripped away most of those things -- maybe just when we need them the most?
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#7
(05-08-2016, 07:22 PM)richgr Wrote: Vox already caught it but---

Quote:“Traditional religion is very hierarchical, or even patriarchal at times, while paganism has always been focusing on everyone is equal,” Elmore said.

Really now?

Y'all both beat me to pointing that out. It's hippie logic at its finest.
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#8
(05-08-2016, 07:52 PM)Vox Clamantis Wrote:
(05-08-2016, 06:27 AM)formerbuddhist Wrote: The liturgical year,the divine office and the folk customs of the Church are what keep me going these days. People forget that we want to be connected to something.

We don't just want barren apologetics tracts,empty modern liturgy and abstract theology divorced from praxis. It's got to be a whole connected worldview.  Wicca will provide this (albeit in contradictory and bizarre ways) when the modern churches will not. 

I'm convinced that many Wiccans,should they actually find a full stop traditional parish in either East or West that truly fosters within its parishioners a love of the cycle of feasts in the liturgical year,a love of blessings and folk customs and a real life of faith that goes to the heart and not just to the head, would take to it like fish to water.

The seasonal cycles, folk traditions, traditional devotions, medieval symbolism, ancient ways of celebrating feasts -- those are things I love to focus on at FE. What we have in that regard is so much richer than the bogus Wicca stuff. 

I'm not sure I agree with you that many Wiccans would take to traditional Catholicism like fish to water; there are still teachings about sex, and the impossibility of women becoming priestesses that would turn most of them off. I do think they'd like a lot of our customs, but that's not nearly enough (as you know).

Isn't it just brutal how the human element of the Church in the post-conciliar era has stripped away most of those things -- maybe just when we need them the most?

You've done a phenomenal job at collecting as many seasonal and folk customs as possible on Fisheaters. In my opinion at least, FishEaters has the best of selection of these anywhere on the web. Stuff like that is extremely important for certain types of people who want and/or need to make the Faith a flesh and blood worldview where nearly every day or season has its mysteries that are celebrated through stories, recipes, crafts, prayers, myth and blessings.

I would not argue with you that many of the hard teachings would turn people off, but you have to start somewhere. I'm very much on board with the who,e conversion of the heart stuff, and with using beautiful chants, incense, the hagiographies,blessings etc. to get people thinking about some form of traditional sacramental Christianity. I think sometimes people might grow into the various teachings that are hard, but they must start somewhere. At least in speaking for myself something like Gregorian chant and the Divine Office and the various hagiographies touched me on a level that barren apologetics, abstract theology or pulpit pounding moralism about sex, abortion and mortal sin never did. You have to reach people where they are and draw them in gently.

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