I've been reading the number of threads being spun today on the subject of real/fake wicca/witchcraft, and while the discussions have been lively and entertaining, they all boil down to one basic exchange:
"You can't tell me I'm not a real witch/wiccan!"
"Well, sure, you're a witch/wiccan if you say you are, because we can't judge, but the people who OBVIOUSLY don't know what they're talking about . . ."
. . . and then the conversation enters a death spiral as people assure each other that it's no one's business anyway, that labels don't mean anything, and why can't we just all accept each other blah blah blah. It's all a lot of fun and makes us feel better about how tolerant we are.
But there is a point where the rubber meats the road. There are the HyperFlaky in the world, and while I would never dream of trying to diminish the number of HyperFlaky Pagans (because we obviously need more, bless their hearts), at the same time when a Creepy Dude claims to be a witch (yes, I said claims) and then tries to convince you how powerful he is by bragging about all the girls he's seduced/ghosts he's banished/demons he's vanquished etc., I reserve the right to call Bullshit. And I stand behind that.
Oh, Arion, I can hear you say (OK, maybe not you, per se, but someone's bound to say it), it's not very tolerant to deny someone's spiritual path to their face! Everyone is walking their own individual path, and by the Rede, you must not interfere.
Well, maybe. But words mean things. And one thing that I cannot stand about Christianity is how every time you point out some horror from Christian history that was justified by Christians through scripture, the Christians you're talking with are always the first to say "Well, those weren't real Christians" or "There are sinners even in the Church" or "well, you can't judge us all by what a few flawed individuals might do in the name of Jesus". It's the boldest, lamest attempt to wiggle out of responsibility that I've seen. We've all seen it, from our friends and relatives, when some whacko decides burning Korans or protesting funerals or blowing up abortion clinics is a good idea. "Those are the real Christians. You can't judge us all based on a few bad apples". You see, it's only the 'nice' Christians we're supposed to see.
I usually tell them that if a guy quoting apocalyptic pasages from the Bible, wearing a cross and talking about sin, then I don't care about doctrinal nuances: Dude's a Christian.
So if some lame, disaffected person decides that they're a witch and starts sacrificing babies, what are you going to say? Or even the teenager who "converts" to Wicca in search of black magick and then is "born again" into a fundamentalist sect, preaching about the evils of Wicca from her first-hand experience as she leads a crusade agains us? Are either of those people "witches" in any meaningful sense of the word? Are you going to stand by their right to call themselves by the same name you use for your beliefs when they go and do something criminally or morally stupid?
It's not a pleasant thought. But as a community, we have a responsibility to each other to ensure that people who claim to be witches and wiccans and other neo-Pagan paths don't do harm to the rest of us. Now in some religions they use doctrines and creeds and statements of belief and ordinations and stuff, but I think we've long established that we're not going to agree on pretty much anything of a doctrinal nature -- it's just not who we are. But without some idea of legitimacy in our community, then we lose the ability to take responsibility for the members of our community.
So how do we do it?
I suggest you consider the legal and moral principal that I do when I'm faced with someone I'd really rather not call a Witch, Wiccan, Neo-Pagan, etc. It's an ancient Chinese legal principal, as enshrined in Chinese culture as the Right Against Self-Incrimination is in our own. It's called the Rectification of Names.
The roots and history of this principal are fascinating, and I encourge further study. But at its essence the Rectification of Names means that if someone is acting like something -- in China it was usually a bueracratic post they referred to -- then that person was that thing. For example, if the inspector from the Censorate did an undercover investigation of your provincial government and discovered that a young clerk was actually doing all the serious administrative heavy-lifting, then the Censor could, by the principal of Rectification of Names, promote the clerk to the position which he was already doing the work for, with attendent pay and benefits.
It seems obscure, but the Rectification of Names has been used as a justyfying principal for legal action in China for nearly two-thousand years. And one billion people can't be wrong, can they?
While I respect anyone's right to call themselves anything they wish, if they call themselves a Wiccan, a Witch, or a Druid, I'm going to expect them to act like one. If they don't, I'm not going to call them out automatically and needlessly -- that's rude. But if they start displaying un-Witch-like behavior, in my opinion, and it starts to be a problem, I'll say something. Gently, at first, but firmly if I have to. And by the principal of the Rectification of Names, in my opinion that person is not a Witch or a Wiccan or a Druid. And I will offer that opinion to all who ask and all who respect my opinion. You're free to agree or disagree with me, but in a case like that I'm willing to stake what reputation I have on my opinion.
And why am I so adamant about this subject? There are a number of reasons, but the big one is that I have kids, and I'm raising them Pagan. And I don't want them to get beat up at school some day because we let a looney in and something tragic happens.
So if you walk the walk, then you are what you say you are. But it's up to you to prove it to the rest of the world.
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