Celtic Witch

May 12, 2009
I really enjoyed the Point of View column by Wood Stone in the current issue of PanGaia on being a Christian Witch. I know such a combination is less unusual in my corner of the blogosphere than it apparently is in other places, but it was a nice, well-articulated explanation of how the two fit together. She talks about wandering around in "the truth outside the walls" of sect and religion, a liminal place that's very near and dear to my heart as well.

I wouldn't call myself a Christian Witch, but I wouldn't call myself a Recovering Christian either. I gave up on Christianity when I graduated to the Bible Study classes that actually taught you what the Church believed -- when it started being obvious that "love thy neighbor" wasn't really the central point here. I dropped it all and I dropped it hard, and I found Wicca a much better fit for my beliefs, so I've never really looked back and I wouldn't feel comfortable identifying myself as any kind of a Christian today, or probably ever again. But I've found myself reading more and more about Christianity, its history and its variations, its sources in Judaism and Hellenicism, and finding it fascinating.

It was getting deeply into Celtic Reconstructionism at last that really pushed me in this direction. It seemed paradoxical at first, because Reconstructionism so often seems like "hardcore Paganism," but the more I poke at it the more I find I can't separate the Christianity out of it. Ireland was Christianized by the time we get any written records (including the still cryptic ogam stones), and even throughout most of the rest of the Celtic world, well, I'm a little skeptical about the accuracy of Greeks writing about barbarians. But in Ireland especially, Christianity and the existing paganism merged fairly smoothly, leaving us with no real way to disentangle them now.

And besides, what good does it do to ignore fifteen hundred years of history? Christian mystics shaped our understanding of the esoteric, and for most of us, our understanding of the universe is filtered through a hugely Christianized culture. While it's sometimes interesting to see if you can pick the Christian bits out of everything else...well, culture doesn't really work that way, and I don't think it's very helpful.

...sorry, let me restate that, slightly more emphatically. Culture really doesn't work that way. Christianity -- and everything that comes with it, binary dualism, strict concepts of fault and evil, organizational hierarchy, in addition to all the obvious bits -- has been a part of the way we think and live for a millennium and a half. Capitalism developed out of the interactions of state and Church. Heck, the whole pattern of the week and weekend has a connection. Obviously all of these things are tempered by other factors, but that's part of my point; you can't unpick it and expect it to make any sense.

(Halfway through writing this post I went back to reading the magazine, though, and ran into the Satanism feature. There are a million things I could say about that piece, but most of them come down to ur doin it rong. Maybe in another post.)

All of which is, of course, easier said than done, and easily confused by the fact that it's impossible to tell if two people mean the same thing when they say "modern Paganism" without a half-hour conversation on nuances. What it comes down to for me is that I want my Paganism to be part of my life, all the time, which includes the parts of my life that I can't bend into a shape more amenable to Paganism. It takes effort to understand my whole life as one entity instead of dividing it off into little compartments, but I do think it's worth it in the end, even if it means looking at some things bleeding together where I'd rather there was a line.

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