Friday, July 13, 2012

Folly with Explaining

On occasion someone I work with, professionally that is, will ask me to explain the basic beliefs of Witchcraft, specifically Wicca. I must confess, however, that I have a horribly hard time doing so. It is not because I lack an understanding of my praxis, Tradition, or the spirituality of Contemporary Paganism. I think the problem I run into is two-fold. Firstly, I don’t understand their religious views. I will not lie and say I find the major spiritual paths of the Western World to be anything other than baffling. Secondly, just that they asked me what beliefs are a part of Wicca tells me from the beginning that just to get them onto enough common ground wherefrom I could begin to explain things would take several hours.

They want a brief list of ‘Wicca teaches belief and doctrine of’ but I can’t give it to them. Traditional Wicca is orthopraxis in nature and listing beliefs just isn’t really possible. Nor do I blame them, the religious rhetoric of the West has been dominated by the monotheistic religions for thousands of years. So there is the initial dilemma. Do I right off the bat try and correct their assumption that all religions are belief based or just give them a few arbitrary statements to satisfy their interest?

Generally, I’ve just given up. If they are only making polite conversation, I steer things another way all the while ensuring them I’ll answer any questions they may have but still offering up little more than that. If they truly are interested though, I will make an attempt to explain the basis of being an experience and practice based religion whereby belief is derived individually therefrom without having actual mandated doctrine of belief. This is not something I bother with for most. Honestly, it is just not worth the effort.

This then brings me to the second difficulty, trying to relay experience verbally without breaking any oaths. Quick, try and explain sex to someone that has never done so and see if you can truly have them understand the experience of it, oh and you are not allowed to say what you did, how you did it, or use any terms that might give away the fact you are talking about sex. The closest I get to explaining what Witchcraft is about is through a combined approach of explaining my personal work within the greater framework of Contemporary Paganism. For example, I might say, “Samhain is usually the time when Contemporary Pagans honor the dead. I do this by having a silent meal where I reflect upon those I have lost and my ancestors.”

Perhaps, others have better luck than me. I try and be honest, polite, and accurate in any explanations I give. Mostly though, I turn the conversation to something else. If for whatever reason the converstaion becomes lengthy, I usually feel like I am teaching; which I am, but not in a way I believe would encourage further enquiry, too techinical or academic. Anyone else have a difficult time explaining the beliefs of their religion when so asked?

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."


Lee Shawnus said...

I have a simple explanation - I just say that Wicca (and that is the only time i will use that word) believes that God is male and female, and that we try to live in harmony with nature and celebrate the changing seasons. Simple.

GreenFlame said...

I have never been able to give the 25-cent explanation without it sounding hopelessly shallow. Even given a 2 or 3 hour class on it to a "world religions" class is difficult because so many core assumptions have to be unpacked and dealt with before we can really discuss what Wicca is about.