I’ve gotten some good ones in my day. When you say you’re Wiccan, people’s reactions range from dismissive to insulted, from “Are you nuts?” to “You realize you’re letting the devil into your soul, right?”
I’ve heard a number of good (and some not-so-good) questions over the years; some said in insult, others only out of confusion. Here are a few I’ve been asked. If you walk a pagan path, feel free to chime in with your take. What are the craziest questions you’ve been asked? What’s the worst reaction you’ve ever gotten? Is there any time you’ve been open about your faith and then wished you hadn’t been?
And for those of you who aren’t Wiccan, what questions do you have? I won’t get offended, unless you purposefully insult me or accuse me of being evil. Then, I’ll be offended. Who wouldn’t? If you have an honest question, feel free to ask!
Disclaimer: There are many different traditions within Wicca. It’s a very personal religion, and everyone has his or her own view. Still, my response to the answers below should give you a better understanding.
Do Wiccans worship Satan?
No. Wiccans don’t actually believe in Satan. We worship some incarnation of the goddess/god. It’s a very personal faith, so how you see the divine and which incarnation of the goddess or god you worship is up to you.
You might be thinking of Satanists. I don’t know any Satanists. Satanism and Wicca are not related.
Do Wiccans sacrifice animals?
No! Wicca is a nature-based faith, meaning we see the human connection to nature and follow the cycles of the moon and the seasons. We have respect for nature; many of us are environmentalists. Some of us are activists, like Starhawk, who now teaches permaculture. And a lot of us are vegetarians. Our rituals are 100 percent animal-blood free.
What is magic?
Ummm. Well, there are entire books—no, entire series of books—devoted to answering that very question. It’s sort of like asking, “What is love?” It’s highly individualized and very abstract.
The common definition we work with is that magic is “the ability to change consciousness at will.”
That works for many members of the craft, but it might not be much of an explanation for anyone else. So I’m going to try this. Like explaining what it’s like to fall in love or how we were moved by Mozart’s fifth symphony, it won’t be easy. It will be incomplete.
In Wicca, we see the divine as in everything, all around us. And so it’s in us, too. It doesn’t make us deities, mind you, anymore than it makes trees or dogs or cabbages deities. *pauses to picture a divine cabbage*
But what we can do is channel our energy. Magic is working on a deeper level, a higher level, a spiritual level. It’s not the same as stage magic. That’s illusion, brilliant, clever illusion: smoke and mirrors.
Real magic isn’t done to impress or enthrall. We do it to improve our lives. We seek guidance. We seek courage. We seek motivation. We seek healing.
So I would say that, on the most basic level, magic is a form of prayer. A Christian might pray for guidance. A Wiccan would do a spell. That’s all. Simple as that.
Now, that’s my definition, and it’s not even my whole definition because that would be a several-volume set of books on the subject. But I hope it gives you some insight. Much of Wicca is about symbolism; it’s about harnessing our own energy and improving our lives. Which leads me to my next question:
Are witches evil?
No. As different as Wiccans are, as many diverse paths that we walk, one phrase holds us together: An it harm none, do what ye will. It’s the Wiccan Rede, our version of the Golden Rule or karma. Practice your faith, but never, never use it to harm anyone. Don’t interfere with others’ free will. Are there love spells? Sure. Occasionally a loving, healthy relationship needs a bit of romantic energy, and magic can do that. (So can massage oils, classical music, and scented candles, which, if you think about it, is all very magical anyway.) But using your magic for revenge or to control others? That’s bad mojo. I wouldn’t go near it. All magic has consequences. All actions have consequences. People from any faith can be good or bad. Not everyone who calls himself or herself Wiccan is representative of the religion as a whole. So please, don’t judge the many by the one.
Are male practitioners of the craft called warlocks or sorcerers or wizards?
No. They’re just witches. We’re egalitarian. “Warlock” is a Scottish word for oath-breaker or traitor. Sorcerer means “poisoner.” I don’t know why someone would want to call themselves either of those things. As for wizard? The dictionary tells me this term has its roots in the Middle English word for “wise.” However, I don’t know anyone who has actually called himself a wizard—unless he was a character in a book. So a witch is a witch, male or female.
I saw on Charmed, or Angel, or this movie, or this TV show that witches…
Let me stop you there. There is a 99.999 percent chance that what you saw is not true. I often joke that the reason screenwriters dress Wicca and magic up so much is that in daily practice, it’s actually quite boring. Now, it’s my faith, and it’s not any more boring to me than Christianity is to Christians. It strongly resonates for me. I see beauty in it. But what you see on TV or read in a lot of books just isn’t the real deal.
I love the aforementioned works. Huge Angel and Buffy fan. Love Charmed and the Halliwell sisters. But that ain’t how it works.
So, no, I can’t freeze time. No, I can’t move objects with my mind. Telekinesis would be handy, though. I wonder if I would be more productive. No more walking across the room to grab that book I need.
Yes, actually, I can light fires with my hands. If I’m holding a lit match. You can learn this magical ability to, if you only procure a box of matches.
I can’t change the color of my eyes. This would come in handy for Halloween, though. No more splurging on colored contacts. If I could, I think I would go with an amethyst hue…
And, no, Harry Potter won’t turn children into witches. Again, I love Harry Potter, but there isn’t a drop of truth about Wicca in those books. Not saying I don’t love them. But if you want a primer on Wicca, do not pick up The Prisoner of Azkaban. That’s simply not what J.K. Rowling was trying to do.
You know all of those car-chase scenes in movies? You know how a car in a movie can be traveling fifteen miles an hour, hit a fence, and explode? That’s Hollywood for you. But remember, not real life. It’s just cheesy good fun.
What about your stories? Is the magic in those real?
My work is dark fantasy, so I take plenty of liberties with how I weave myth and magic into my stories. What I write in my books usually isn’t how the craft actually works. But my stories are fiction and fantasy. I love the fantastic, always have. But when writing fantasy, the worlds we build for our characters are not the world we live in. So most of the time, the magic in my stories is its own creature, part of my characters’ world, not mine.
Nevertheless, Wicca, magic, and mythology do inform my writing. Having those shelves full of books about magic and the gods and goddesses certainly comes in handy.
Maybe one day I’ll write a piece of contemporary realistic fiction in which a character or two is Wiccan. Or maybe I’ll dive into magical realism and blur the lines.
Your turn! What’s the most far-out question you’ve ever been asked? The most insulting? The funniest?
And go ahead; ask me. What do you want to know about Wicca?