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Being Pagan | Kaylara's Senior
Kaylara's Senior Thesis Paper
This paper was Titled:
A Study into the Misconceptions Surrounding Paganism
"We gaze up at the same stars, the sky covers us all, the same universe encompasses us. What does it matter what practical system we adopt in our search for the truth? Not by one avenue only can we arrive at so tremendous a secret."
- Symmachus, 384 C.E.
Religious persecution is nothing new. It has been almost a policy throughout history. Every religious group has practiced it; an din doing so, caused many wars and increased prejudice. By showing one groups' problems with persecution, one may be able to see past the myths. Witchcraft will be the religion discussed here. By studying this religion's past problems and myths, their true practices, and present problems we may be able to disregard such myths. Peace may lie in the understanding and tolerance of other people's belief systems.
When one thinks of a witch, usually, an image of a dirty, evil hag stirring a cauldron comes to mind. This picture is a direct result of a period of time that can be linked the the Holocaust of the Jewish peopl during the 1930's and 1940's. This was the time of the "Holy Inquisition" which lasted from the 15th to the 18th century. (Ellerbe, et al. 114) During this time, the Christian church tried to subdue the populace of Europe from Pagan religious practices through fear. (Ellerbe, 76) "The Church created the Elaborate concept of Devil Worship and then, used the persecution of it to wipe out dissent, subordinate the individual to authoritarian control, and openly denigrate women." (Ellerbe, 114)
Thousands of people, mostly women, were killed. (Bethancourt, 1-5)(Witchcraft Archives, 1-5) Midwives were targeted because the Church thought that "The act of giving birth defiled the mother and child." (Ellerbe, 135.) Midwives knew how to make labor easier on the mother, and so were thought to have power. Healing women were targeted because they used magick and medicine to help heal and the Church wanted a monopoly in that area. ( Ellerbe, 134-135.) Unfortunately, the Church's remedies did more help than help because the used, "Purgings, bleedings, fumigations, leeches, lancets, and toxic chemicals such as mercury." In one case, "the ailing Archbishop of St. Andrews called upon Alison Perisoun of Byrehill and then, after she had successfully healed him, not only refused to pay her but had her arrested for witchcraft and burned to death." (Ellerbe, 134-135.)
Because of this time period, Christianity gained control of the populace. (Ellerbe, 137.) Witchcraft went underground. (Adler, et al. 9) Witchcraft was "reborn in the mid 20th century" because of the writings of people like Godfrey Leland, Margaret Murry, Dion Fortune, and Gerald Gardner. (Clifton, 22-27.) And is this religion large, one may ask. It is large enough to be legally recognized in America, but because of the "decentralism of the craft" there is no way to make an accurate estimate. (Adler, 107.) Modern witches, for the most part, follow the "Principles of Wiccan Belief" as stated by the council of American Witches who met April 11-14, 1974. (Adler, 101) Some of these principles include tolerance for all religions, beliefs in polarity within the divine. (ie. feminine and masculine divinity.), connection and respect of nature, and the rejection of "absolute evil" as personified by "Satan". (Adler, 102-103.)
(To be completed...)