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Witchcraft Should be
Recognized as a Valid Religion

The decision by the U. S. Army in 1999 to recognize Wicca as a religion and permit the practice of Wiccan services on military bases was about 200 years overdue.

While I am not a practitioner of this ancient pagan belief, I know people who are, and I believe it to be as valid a "religion" in the United States as any of the others.

That the Christians cried foul in this matter is not surprising. The Christian religion has consistently proclaimed itself the "one true religion" and condemned anyone who dares to follow another faith as a lost and condemned soul bound for an eternity of fire and brimstone. The Christians identify any group that prays to another god a "cult." There has been a disturbing movement afoot in recent years to have our government identify cults as dangerous organizations.

Ironically, a close examination of some of the strange practices of the Christians, such as the celebrations of both Christmas and Easter at certain times of the year, imply a closer link between the Christians and the Wicca than either group would probably like to admit.

Most Wiccans celebrate eight sabbats in the wheel of the year, falling on the solstices, equinoxes and the four cross-quarter days. Also celebrated are the 13 days of the Full Moon.

Among the holiest of days for the Wicca is Yule, on the winter equinox, which is Dec. 21. On this, the shortest day of the year, the morning sunrise is celebrated as the birth of the son of the goddess. Candles and fires are lit to celebrate the sun's return. Notice the similarities with the Christian Christmas celebration, in recognition of the birth of Jesus, which is held four days later. People commonly use the word Yule to describe the holiday period.

The Wicca celebration of the spring solstice on March 21 is called Ostra. This is the day the Goddess blankets the earth with fertility, promising a new growing season. The Christian celebration of Easter, the death and resurrection of Jesus, also occurs at about this time of the year although the date for Easter is always set by the time of the full moon.

A sacred symbol to the Wicca is a statue of a pregnant goddess who symbolizes fertility. That the Roman Catholic church is adorned by statues of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, to whom parishioners pray, may be no coincidence.

It seems quite clear that the Christians, who would be the Wicca's worst critics, have stolen many of the pagan practices for their own holy days.

If there is a wickedness to be found in all of this, it has been the Christian's pretentious stance which has, throughout history, led to the persecution and murders of thousands, if not millions of people who dared to worship a different god.

I will only briefly mention the
inquisition, one of the most evil and bloody periods of open murder ever brought by the church against the European people.

The destruction of the American Indian way of life, which included a belief somewhat similar to that of the Wicca, is among the more
contemporary cases in point. In a move that was carefully orchestrated by the church, the U. S. government first forced all Indians to live in concentration camps located on the most worthless land that could be found. Then, to wreck the Indian's "heathen" cultural system, the U. S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) created government run schools with dormitories.

Armed with legislative rules forcing all children to attend public school, BIA agents in the 1920s and 30s raided the reservations, stealing all of the children. The children were forced to live on campus, abandon their native culture and language, and learn to be "Americans." They also were prompted to become Christians, although few of them accepted it.

We heard some horror stories, however, of Hopi who were openly tortured, murdered, and sometimes burned alive by priests who invaded their area in the 1800s and attempted to force Catholicism down their throats. Rather than submit, the gentle Hopi rose up in rebellion. It was perhaps one of the few times these people have ever gone to war. They fought and drove the Catholics off their land. There is little tolerance for Christianity even today on the Hopi reservation.

The Indians were treated well if you compare what happened to them with what we did to the Wiccans, Mormons and other "cults" since the founding of this nation. Remember the
Salem witch-hunt, when anyone even accused of behaving strangely was arrested, tried, and then burned alive at a stake. This is not fiction. It really happened. And the Christian church was behind it all.

We lived with some fine Mormon families in Arizona and heard some horror stories from their past as well. The persecution suffered by Joseph Smith and his followers drove this group from their roots in New England. They moved westward until founding their great religion in Salt Lake City. Mormonism has since spread throughout the United States, and is especially strong in the west. Those people are devout believers with one very nice exception. They reach out to help everyone around them, protect their own with great fervor, and never force their faith on anyone who doesn't want to hear it.

The Wiccans have always been here, but because of the constant persecution by not only the Christians, but also the Christian-influenced government that operates this country, they meet in secrecy and consequently, remain under a cloak of mystery.

I recall working as a bureau reporter in a rural Michigan area one Halloween when the police got a tip that a coven of Detroit witches planned to hold a worship service in our county. Halloween is among the most sacred days of the year for people who practice witchcraft. It is a time of celebration, not only for the Wiccans, but for most humans.

I remember that the police in our area put on extra patrols that night. They also brought in aircraft to search for large bonfires that might signal the location of the coven's whereabouts. People were warned to watch their children closely because witches were in the area. Nothing was found. Nothing happened. I suspect the Wicca spread the rumor themselves to divert police attention in the wrong area. The coven meeting was held at some other obscure location nowhere near us.

I wonder what the police would have done if they had found the coven members gathered in black robes around a large fire. Would anybody have been arrested? If so, what would have been the charge? Where is the law that prohibits the freedom to practice the religion of our choice? But then I suspect that the Branch Davidians were asking the same question when federal officers and the U. S. Military recently attacked their compound and burned them alive in Waco, Texas.

Like all other things associated with Christianity, the possibility of a Wiccan coven gathering in our area generated a great and unnecessary fear. Christianity, I find, feeds on fear. The Wiccans, by contrast, use the forces of nature to meet their needs.

The witches, much like the old American Indians, profess a respect for the Mother Earth, and find power in the Earth, in the trees, and in all of nature. Through various rituals they harness some of this power to heal, and to bring about necessary changes in their lives.
It is true that some people practice the dark "voodoo magic" side of witchcraft, and attempt to misuse this natural power to bring harm to others. I have seen this form of magic practiced, and find that it seems to work, especially if the "victim" believes in this power and submits to it. But this does not appear to be the Wiccan way of doing things. They often call themselves the white witches, as opposed to practitioners of black magic.

Whether white or black witches, I do not follow the Wiccan belief system. Their error is that they draw their energy from the Earth rather than finding it within themselves. Like so many others in our society, they take from the Mother without giving anything back.

I personally believe that all religion is intrinsically evil in that it restricts freedom and prohibits the evolution of human consciousness. The U. S. Constitution, however, guarantees all Americans the right to practice the religion of their choice. Thus I believe the Wicca have the legal right to practice their faith openly and without fear in the U. S. Military or anywhere else on American soil.