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Monday, 28 February 2011

Anti-witchcraft propaganda: Wicca & Witchcraft: Understanding the dangers, by Elizabeth Dodd

On the 18th of January 2011, The Catholic Truth Society published a book by Elizabeth Dodd entitled “Wicca & Witchcraft: Understanding the dangers.” It’s lack of research and outright inaccuracy caused no surprise amongst the magical community. Nor did the lazy, bigoted, band wagon jumping article it inspired from journalist, (and I use the word ‘journalist’ as a job title rather then any kind of accurate description), Damian Thompson of The Telegraph. The booklet was also mentioned in The Daily Mail, though in this case I’m please to report Simon Cauldwell provided a ‘to the point’ non-bias piece.

Now it’s fair to say that most people are well aware that the catholic church is not the greatest fan of witchcraft. It’s also fair to say that most people would expect them to try and bring those of other faiths over to Catholicism. The pagan and wiccan community have come to accept a certain level of lazy journalistic endeavours over the years. And, expect anything published by The Catholic Truth Society to be preach Catholicism as the only true path to happiness. But, there’s a few things about this publication that have really caused stirrings of outrage.

Firstly there are claims within the book that are just outright incorrect. Such as, Wicca is mainly practiced by young girls. A ridiculous claim with no evidence, (probably because none exists), to back it up. There are also some of the fantastically ludicrous statements that have been made by Dodd since the publication began getting attention and criticism. Statements such as;

“I can understand why a discussion of ‘the dangers’ of Wicca might seem persecutory. But Wicca is a potentially dangerous religion – I’m sure many Wiccans would agree. The threefold law implies danger – cast a negative spell and three times’ the negativity comes back to you.”

Yeah, almost as dangerous as eternal torture in a fiery pit for breaking the rules.

Though Dodd does let slip the true point of this exercise eventually;

“From my research, Wiccans are frequently young people. Sometimes it feels like that’s a demographic the Church is missing.”

So the fact the whole congregation only have their pensions to live on is starting to hit the collection plates is it? I’m guessing younger people are also more likely to click the ‘donate’ button on The Catholic Truth Society’s website.

I also think it’s fair to say that catholic organisations are probably amongst the least qualified people in the world to be handing out advice on ensuring young impressionable people are protected, and not led into dangerous situations.

Of course The Catholic Truth Society have been trying to ride the wave of attention to their advantage. Dismissing any protests and criticism they say;

“What began as a small document to inform Catholics about the realities of Wicca … appears to have re-ignited the persecution complex among Wiccans that I was hoping to diffuse.”

What they don’t seem to realise is when people ask you to justify something you’ve stated as fact, telling them they have a complex is not going to stop them asking the questions. And the more of them you can’t come up with an answer to, the less credibility you have.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Plants and Magic

Plants form an integral part of magic, as they have throughout history. The use of herbal medicines go back thousands of years, and over those thousands of years the way herbs and plants are used and the people with access to them has grown and diversified.
Within witchcraft they are commonly used by being turned into incense or burnt as smudge sticks, to decorate places and altars and as ingredients within potions or meals to celebrate Sabbats and Esbats.

As the demand for plants with magical associations grows, so does the number of retailers that stock them. It is important to check that wherever you purchase any magical items, you ensure they have been grown or manufactured in a sustainable, organic way.

Of course, in an ideal world everyone would all grow and harvest their own herbs, or forage for wild ones. If you do decide to go down the route of growing your own, it is recommended that you use a book or calendar that details key dates in the lunar cycle, in order to gain maximum magical energy. Many practitioners have found that gardening is a magical ritual in itself. If it’s not something you have done before it is certainly worth trying.

If you decide to collect plants and herbs from the wild please be respectful of where you collect them from and give something back; collect seed pods from that area and scatter them to help the area grow. It goes without saying that rare or protected plants should never be removed from their habitats.

There are many sources of information available for the different ways in which you can use plants and herbs in spells and rituals. ‘The Book of Magical Herbs: Herbal History, Mystery, & Folklore’ by Margaret Picton and Michelle Pickering is a popular choice. It is a beautiful book that provides information on the history and folklore surrounding the everyday plants and herbs found in kitchens and gardens.

If you want a big no-nonsense sourcebook to look up the properties of a wide range of different herbs, you would be hard pushed to find a better book than ‘The Herb Book: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to More Than 500 Herbs’ by John B Lust. Another good book, and firm favourite amongst the magical community is ‘Cunningham's Encyclopaedia of Magical Herbs’ by Scott Cunningham.

There are also countless websites that provide information on this subject matter. An important point to remember is that whenever you read about magical correspondences associated with plants, that they will be slightly different for everyone. The more you work with plants, the more your instincts for what will work where, will grow.

For an article about specific magical plant correspondences click here.