In a recent conversation, a new acquaintance of mine said something to the affect of, “Religion only divides the spiritual, but it is all the same essence.” She meant that whether you call yourself a Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan, etc, we’re all talking about the same essence.
Personally, I call that essence “God” and believe with every fiber of my being that he is Love.
So what do you think? Is a Wiccan’s spell and a Christian’s prayer really the same thing? Why or why not?
I’m going to take a crack at this and answer no. A Wiccan’s spell and a Christian’s prayer are not the same thing. For starters, we can know this based just on how offensive Wiccans find it to be prayed for and how shocked an appalled most Christians would find it to have a spell cast on them, even if it were for their own good.
Christians pray to God for a lot of reasons, but let’s say that we have a friend who is sick.
Christians pray to God for healing for that sick friend. But it is God who must do the healing, if that is in accordance to His will.
A polytheist such as myself might pray to some other god, but again on the belief that the god is the one with the power to do what ordinary humans cannot.
A spell doesn’t need divine interference. I could right now cast a spell on my sick friend and, if my will was strong enough and my power strong enough, I could, presumably, heal her. No god needs to be involved in that. Now, I could involve a god, asking that god to strengthen my spell with his or her power, but that’s not necessary.
I think what’s going on here is a two-fold problem. One is that Wicca is, for all practical purposes two religions. There’s the folks who follow a specific path that can be traced back to Gardner, who, though not traditional Witches, seem to have a spark of the ancient and dangerous about them. Perhaps it comes from standing too close to Crowley at parties, I don’t know*. And then you have the “Wicca” as put forth by authors like Silver RavenWolf, popularized by “Charmed” and “The Craft” and practiced by, primarily, young women who eventually grow out of it and either return to Christianity or move on to more hardcore paganism.
The only people who could, in good conscious, call a spell something akin to a prayer are either folks who are trying to simplify matters in order to keep Christians from freaking out, or folks who really don’t understand yet what a spell is or how to works. So, when I read a self-proclaimed Wiccan describing a spell as, in part, “a set of prayers,” I assume she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
Again, a prayer is asking for the intercession of the Divine to do something you can’t do. A spell is a means by which you can do something that, obviously, you can do.
But let’s take a close look at the second assumption there: “She meant that whether you call yourself a Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan, etc, we’re all talking about the same essence.”
Is this true? I guess it would be nice if we could boil all spirituality down to being basically the same thing, but again, when folk say that, I assume they either are trying to make life easier for themselves or that they just don’t know a whole lot about other religions.
Again, to go back to what I know, I’m a polytheist. I believe that there are a lot of gods and that, though some of them are clearly just different names for the same gods–Goden, Wotan, Odhinn, etc.–Odin is not Zeus, even if they both have bushy white beards and sit at the heads of their pantheons. And neither of them is Ganesh. What is the common essence they could be reduced to?
In order to find some commonality between the three, you have to stretch the notion of who they are so thin as to practically lose it. It’d only be worse one you started adding other gods in.
I think that’s my problem with these kinds of discussions. The people involved mean well and wanting to find some way for us all to feel ecumenical and good about how we’re all just putting different wrapping paper on the same spiritual present is sweet, but it’s just not possible.
All spirituality doesn’t fit in the same framework. More specifically, it’s not all Christianity in disguise and I guess that that’s my main problem. To say “Personally, I call that essence ‘God’ and believe with every fiber of my being that he is Love“sounds to me like saying “at heart, you all believe like I do, you just don’t know it.”
But I do know what I believe and I have, in the past, believed something else, and I can tell you they’re very different and not really compatible. That doesn’t prevent me from getting along with others, but I think saying they’re all the same at heart is simplistic to the point of being insulting**.
Anyway, it’s an interesting question. And my answer probably points to my impatience with a certain strain of Wicca. Hmm. I’ll have to think on that some. I don’t think of myself as having some kind of anti-Wiccan bias around here, but maybe I do.
*Joking! Just joking.
**Even though I hope it’s clear that I don’t believe anyone’s being deliberately insulting.