I was going through some old emails today, and found one that I though might be worth sharing. Last year, one of my customers told me about a book that had “changed her life” and recommended that I read it as well. This was right after she had found out I was Wiccan, so I imagined it was a book about how Christianity was the best/only religion worth having. I was not disappointed, at least in that regard. However, there were so many strange and inaccurate “facts” that I felt compelled to write a letter to the author. The book was Let Our Children Go by Rebecca Greenwood, and this is a shortened version of my letter to her…
Dear Mrs. Greenwood, I have just read your newest book, Let Our Children Go. While I certainly agree with some of what you say, and rejoice at what wonderful acts you have done (such as your work with disadvantaged children and victims of abuse) I am afraid that certain parts left me bewildered. You see, I am a 28 year old Wiccan woman, practicing since I was 13.
Now, I will admit that I am a Solitary Pagan, and that I do not belong to a coven. However I have attended gatherings to see how they progressed and simply enjoy practicing at my own time rather than with a group.
My personal work/life is busy right now, and I feel it would be a disservice to a coven to have a member who can only be relied on to show up once a month. However, I love theology, and in addition to having taken many college classes on differing religious philosophies, I also enjoy speaking to people about their personal beliefs. For this reason, I also have a decent-sized collection of various religious texts (the Koran, Bible and Torah) as well as numerous books by Judeo/Christian speakers like you.
I realize that you quite obviously wrote this novel for a Christian audience. Thus, I was certainly not expecting you to proclaim anything but the goodness of your own religion, but was unprepared for just how vehemently you would speak against other religions, and (it seemed) mine in particular. Let me go through each of these examples separately, to highlight exactly what I find distasteful or wrong. Please bear with me, in the spirit of learning, so as to further your education about a topic you may wish to write more about in the future. I do not wish to cause any large disturbance in your personal beliefs, or be rude in letting you know where your book went wrong, but I do wish to clear up these stereotypes and half-truths before any are hurt by them. Some troubling passages include;
1. “Many choose pagan demonic names that represent darkness and magic.” Page 30.
To be completely honest, I have never attended a naming ceremony, though I do know people who have, or have helped perform them. As I do not know what sect of Paganism you chose for this passage, I cannot say that you are wrong. However, the two coven-going Wiccans I have asked each said that while there is a ceremony involving the introduction of the baby to the rest of the coven, the actual name choosing is only meant to be done as the child reaches an age (usually around puberty) where the name is chosen by the child. This way, the significance of what they are given the right to pick is understood, rather than simply going through life with a ‘pretend name’. That is not to say you didn’t research a sect that includes a name for the baby. Be aware though, that the names would almost certainly NOT represent anything demonic. If such a ceremony were to include baby naming, I doubt ANY parent (Pagan or otherwise) would want their child to be introduced to their religious group with a dark and foreboding title. Why would Christians automatically believe that parents of any other religion would have anything but their child’s best interests at heart?
2. “Making our way to the exit, we noticed the last table was being manned by a young woman dressed in black, with black painted fingernails, black lipstick, and white makeup. The banner draped above the table read, ‘Wicca-pagan religion’…What a profound difference a few minutes made in our visit. In the entrance, a student sharing the gospel; in the exit, Wiccans spreading their deception.” Page 53. Never mind that the representative for the college Pagan council would choose to made herself so dark, gothic and somewhat unapproachable, which is very strange in itself, but your next few words are deliberately offensive, as I read and understand them. To state that there is a ‘profound difference’ in two students sharing their religions is rather intolerant of you. Now, I do not wish to be rude, but it appears that in writing to your Christian audience you’ve made the classic mistake of using a nicely balanced situation (two different religions sharing their words) and turned it into an “Us vs. Them” situation. If I was to personally write a book such as yours, or even a magazine article, wouldn’t you also be offended if I switched the language? “What a profound difference a few minutes made in our visit. In the entrance, a young Christian attempting yet again to push their religious beliefs on anyone who walks through the door; in the exit, a Wiccan lady waits patiently to tell passerby of the Goddess and God’s eternal love.” Obviously, I do not believe this above passage I’ve written, as Pagans as a whole are very accepting of other beliefs. I am simply re-writing the situation as to show how offensive it could be taken to be about your religion. By reading the example I’ve made up, do you understand how your words may come off as being rude to someone of the Pagan faith?
3. “The Lady was created first, so when she needed a companion, the Spirit created for her a half-man/ half-animal creature called the Lord…Casting of spells makes up their religious practices…They have purposefully placed themselves on college campuses in order to ensnare the youth of our nation in their beliefs… Children who have embraced this or some other form of Paganism will become distant, isolated, and begin wearing dark clothes, black lipstick, and black nail polish. They might even have jewelry with witchcraft symbolism. Books concerning witchcraft might be hidden in their bedrooms.” Page 54.
These are very strange things to say, in my opinion. It would seem that you only obtained the absolute base ideas of Wicca, and not from a very reliable source! Let me tell you what I have learned in my years of practicing and listening;
A) There is not a ‘spirit’ that is above the Lady or the Lord. To say such a thing is akin to saying that God was created by a higher spirit, and He then created the angels, world, etc. Surely you see how borderline blasphemous this sounds. No, the Lady and Lord have always existed; side by side and in perfect balance. Perhaps you got your ideas confused by hearing Pagans talking about the Supreme Being or One Deity? Seen by some as fully united in their love for one another and their creations, many Pagans will make reference to the united Goddess and God, or to a certain pantheon. I’m guessing this is what you mean.
B) The casting of spells is a bit trickier to explain, and I receive little help (if any) from the propaganda of Hollywood and children’s authors. To claim that ‘casting spells’ makes up one’s religious practice would be like saying Christianity is only about praying. Never mind the charity work, the giving of alms, the betterment of families, the aid given to abuse victims, the Bible readings, the counseling, etc. Many Pagans do this and more, just the same as their Christian sisters and brothers. If you’ve ever been to a Catholic church, you will find that they have just as much of the ‘pomp and ceremony’ that many Christians make fun of Paganism for. The incense, chanting, ritual with the Eucharist…I can go on and on about how Catholics depend on these little rituals in their churches. Why then is it not acceptable for a Priestess or Priest to call upon the four corners to create a safe circle of prayer for their followers?
C) I actually laughed out loud when I read this next part. “Placed ourselves on college campuses to ensnare the youth of the nation”? I beg your pardon Mrs. Greenwood, but honestly, this is one of the most paranoid things I’ve read to date! If we are on college campuses to ‘ensnare’ people, we are probably not doing a very good job, as we are there to learn, not ensnare. I graduated with my degree when I was 23. I belonged to my school’s Pagan Association for two years before my workload became too much between my job and schoolwork to attend anymore. I learned many great things, was able to interact with others of my religion, have discussions, etc. We invited anyone who wished, from any background, to attend and become educated. We certainly did not walk around ‘ensnaring’ anybody, and were always very honest with people who had questions. Sometimes, we even had people leave our meetings after being there for less than 10 minutes. I suppose it just wasn’t for them, but they left without complaint from the rest of us, as was their right. It was a wonderful time, except for when the Christians United Association started with their hateful signs, placed ‘conveniently’ at the same time as the Parent’s Nights. How would you feel, as a young Pagan, if you came in the night after all the parents of prospective students had been there, and discovered that the Christians had put up posters alluding to the idea that students should join their club rather than the Pagan club because we did animal sacrifices, ate children and spoke to the devil every meeting? When we confronted the secretary and leader of the Christian club, she laughed and said it was all meant in fun…let me tell you, we did not think it was funny at all. So, given my personal experiences in college, it is Christians who attempt to ‘ensnare’ the youth, not by force, but by absolute lies and blatant, disgusting disinformation. If students must resort to such under-handed means of making your opponent look so unworthy, what does that say about the very beliefs you are trying to get people to follow?
D) I am unsure of what you are talking about in this last passage. As I’ve said, I began practicing when I was 13, when I was introduced to Paganism by my friend. Neither us, nor other friends I’ve known who were Pagan ever dressed as you described. I did have two friends who did indeed wear the black clothing/lipstick/polish…but one was Lutheran and one was Catholic. As of this time in my life, I’ve never dyed my blonde hair any color or worn black nail-polish. I don’t wear makeup as it is, and I don’t have ANY tattoos or piercings (not even my ears!) To think that all Pagans are part of the “emo/goth” subculture is a very big stereotype here in America. I personally don’t know why it happens but I do have a theory; there are those (usually teens and young adults) who crave attention from their peers. Despite the fact it gives them bad attention, they claim to be Pagan, and proceed to make themselves into outcasts by adopting a very dark and ‘mysterious’ persona. This occurrence has exploded due to that disturbing movie and book craze, Twilight. We now have teens that are going through a rough patch in their lives, if not from abuse or low self-esteem, then from the typical hormones that many young adults go through. Thankfully, I am pleased to say that the love of the Lady and Lord was a beacon in darkness, and helped me through a very difficult, depressing time in my life with me coming out the better for it. I’ve never used drugs, alcohol, cutting, or food disorders to ‘help’ me, but it seems so many from my generation have. I believe this is because churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and yes, even covens have such a difficult time with our media and culture. How does a spiritual leader like yourself attempt to let future generations know that having religion can be good?
I do hope you have read my entire letter, long though it is. Again, I fully respect you, your religion, and all the good you have done in the name of it. We certainly need more people in this world who are willing to care for our future generations, for they are the greatest gift any of us can have. However, it is my belief that by using your novels to spread deceptions about other religious beliefs is not a credit to Christianity.
Indeed, it is extremely hurtful to have one’s religion spoken of as not only a blatant lie, but as an organized ‘attack’ on another! I am willing to entertain the thought that perhaps you did not know any Wiccans that could tell you what is truth or fiction, and I understand that our modern times have much conflicting information that is constantly being leaked out to mislead the masses. It is my personal hope that in your future endeavors you will be able to find more information with which to back up your claims, both to those who are new to the topic (so as to avoid bad information) and those who are well-acquainted with it (so as to avoid offensive language). As the (admittedly comic-based) saying goes; With great power comes great responsibility. You, Mrs. Greenwood, have a lot of power in your community. Between your teaching, healing, book tours, and presence in both internet and printed media, you do have a responsibility to make sure your followers do not grow biased or completely intolerant of other religions, like has happened to me.
I am, at this time in my life, used to the idea that Christians will try to ‘save’ me. Not only at past college gatherings, but at bookstores and coffee-houses, I am/was approached by those of your religion, and I smile and listen to what they have to say, even taking pamphlets to read later. Sometimes they are pleasant to speak with, and seem to actually be intelligent people concerned for another’s spiritual well-being. Many more times, however, they are overtly hostile or rude. For every time I’ve walked away thinking how nice a Christian speaker was, there have been three more who have shouted at or humiliated me in public. All this because I wear a delicate silver pentacle instead of a cross.
Again, thank you for taking the time to read my letter. It is my hope that you will respond to what I’ve taken the time to outline, and let me know your thoughts on this. I realize that you are a very busy woman though, so f it takes some time to respond, I will most certainly understand.
God and Goddess Bless,
Unlike other authors I have written to, Mrs. Greenwood actually wrote back. I will post her response next Monday.
As always, have fun discussing or asking questions.