Freedom of religion includes all religon, not only Abrahamic ones.
By Savannah Lewis
The first time I told my friend I was Pagan and studying witchcraft, I remember hearing her breath catch. This was followed by a laugh and a half serious “You aren’t worshiping the devil right?” This was the first, but certainly not the last, time I had to explain that my practice was not devil worship and, in fact, could not be devil worship because it is a separate religion from Christianity. I do not believe in the Christian god, and therefore do not believe in the devil that is acquainted with this religion.
I am going to start off by saying that there is a difference between Paganism, witchcraft and Wicca. You can be Pagan but not a witch; you can be a witch and not practice Wicca. What drew me to this area of religion is the fluidity of it. By saying I am Pagan, I am only saying that I am under an umbrella term that encapsulates so many types of religions. My practice is different from everyone else’s. It has its own finger print, slightly unique from everyone else who identifies in this way. I have gathered my ideas from different beliefs and made my own experience that works for me. Everyone I know who practices under Paganism does things differently. Explaining my religion would require more page space than I have, but if you have questions, I am easy to contact and would love to hear from you.
Like I said, other than being Pagan, I study witchcraft. Witchcraft is exactly what it sounds like — a craft. It is not a religion and can be practiced by anyone with any religious background. I have met Christian witches, atheist witches and Pagan witches. I’m sure there is a person who considers themselves a witch in every religion.
Witchcraft itself has been associated with the devil and negative energy because of the spread of Christianity. It has had a link to Paganism for a very long time. When Christianity became prominent, it was important for their religion to demonize other practices in order to dehumanize the people who practiced them and give them the choice of either being persecuted or transition to Christianity. Missionaries worked hard to destroy different religions that were polytheists and to create a stigma surrounding it.
As you may know, the label ‘witch’ was something that caused mass hysteria throughout history, here in the United States and in Europe. People were murdered for having a mole, being old, knowing how to use plants to cure others or just because someone didn’t like them. This label gave people the opportunity to kill mostly women for seeming a little different.
For me, using this label is like taking back something that others had used to dehumanize generations before me. I practice my craft through respecting nature, understanding wildlife around me and realizing that the universe has different energies that can work to manifest different things. I joke that people are scared of the term witch, even though me casting a ‘spell’ is just carrying a crystal in my pocket while I drink green tea and listen to the birds outside my window. I have a great respect for the history of the craft and am still learning myself. It’s important for others to understand that being a witch can mean different things to everyone who falls under it, and just because I view it one way does not mean someone else won’t have a different but equally valid perspective.
The only invalid viewpoint is that we are inherently evil. That we are not real and do not deserve the right to be understood and respected as anyone else. Being both Pagan and a practicing witch, I have faced concern and rude comments for my beliefs. People do not take the time to ask me about my practice, and they judge me without understanding my view points. I have had people scoff and tell me my practice is invalid more often than not. It has gotten to the point where, when the topic of religion comes up, I have avoided it as much as possible.
I no longer want to evade this topic; however, I want to open it up for discussion and be treated with respect. There needs to be a space for everyone to explore their religion and beliefs safely and make their own judgments. We are all valid in our beliefs because it helps us understand who we are.