Friday, June 10, 2005

Reclaiming the word "reclaiming"

Pagans are a lot like Labradors. One or two are fun to be around, but with 20 or more, your chances of getting knocked down and slobbered on increase exponentially. Therefore, I tend to avoid local Pagan get-togethers, although I subscribe to bucket loads of Houston-area Pagan listservs. Just because I don't want to go doesn't mean I don't want to know what I missed.

A woman recently popped up on one of these listservs, announcing herself as a Satanic witch ("Hail Lucifer" and such). This caused quite a commotion. As one member wrote, "Isn't this the kind of stereotype we're trying to fight?"

It always surprises me when people think the words Wicca and witch are mutually exclusive; like every practitioner of some occult discipline or other is Wiccan, whether they want to be or not. I was shocked when I read some reviews of books by Paul Huson and Ana Riva: "Don't buy this book! It says it's about witchcraft, but it's not Wiccan at all!" Apparently, it doesn't matter that Huson comes from a Scottish family tradition and makes a distinction between his own practices and those of Wicca, or that Riva's brujeria is a blend of indigenous Central American tradition and Catholicism, similar to Voudon or Santeria. Their books don't read like Scott Cunningham's, so they're automatically suspect.


A number of pop-Wicca authors have made a big fuss about redefining the word witch to mean "strong, powerful woman" as opposed to... um, well, "witch." The problem with that, of course, is that it's hard to reclaim a word that people are already using for self-identification. For every womynist who calls herself a witch out of political outrage and rails against the Patriarchy, there's a shriveled old lady in a backwoods shack collecting toadstools and overseeing the local birthings.

As for our little Satanic witch friend, everyone seems to have gotten over her, although why she would want to pal around with a bunch of treehugging Goddess-worshippers is beyond me. Maybe she's one of those "I don't really worship Satan, I'm just selfish" Satanists, or perhaps she's a standard-issue shockmonger a la Anton LaVey. Honestly, I'm fine with her as long as she's not into the whole Temple of Set thing, because I hear those guys are pretty intense. If you ever meet someone from the Temple of Set, seriously, don't drink the Kool-Aid.


00goddess said...

I landed here because you joined one of my occult listservs :)

I much prefer Setians to Laveyan Satanists. They are interested in self-improvement and evolution of self, rather than simply in shocking people or in egotism. I'm not Setian, but I can see a lot of sense in their philosophy.

You speak as though you've never actually met any Setians, yet you feel qualified to warn people away from them. Why is that? Aren't you mimicing the people who warn others away from queers or pagans without actualyl knowing any?

Evn said...

Huh? Oh, SETian! I totally misread that as SEItan. I kept thinking, "Well, who doesn't prefer seitan? It's the main ingredient of my vegetarian chicken salad!"

In general, I try not to stick dire warnings in my blog, but it's sweet of you to ask for clarification. I'm sure some Setians are lovely, and others are not. Just like queers and Pagans.

00goddess said...

I still don't understand, though- what, exactly, was your motivation in saying:

"I'm fine with her as long as she's not into the whole Temple of Set thing, because I hear those guys are pretty intense. If you ever meet someone from the Temple of Set, seriously, don't drink the Kool-Aid."

You did stick a dire warning in your blog this time- why?

Evn said...

It's just a personal opinion, dear, to be accepted or disregarded according to the whims of the reader. Not everything on the Internet is meant to be taken seriously.

masque said...

I know you were kidding, Evn, nor do I take offense, but just in case you were interested, Don Webb, a rather prominent member of the Temple (former High Priest and all that) recently posted a rather eloquent (to my mind) answer as part of a larger interview that goes into great detail as to just how the Temple is different from the Church of Satan. I'll repost it here, having gotten permission to do so:

1)What are your beliefs, how do they differ from the Church of Satan?

The Church of Satan sees "Satan" as a useful umbrella metaphor against the hypocrisy of the world. The Satanist sees most conventional religions as forms of social control powered by a sort of cheap magic show. "Hmm I can't figure out this stuff so it must be real!" combined with guilt inducing sermons to deprive money from guilty, sad or desperate people. Satan has no real existence, there is no Sugar Candy Mountain Afterlife, and the most important thing is to be happy and non-fearful here. The later is a tough job as US media is based on fear.

Whereas the Setian would agree 100% as regards conventional religion, she has come to certain other conclusions. Since she has been able to alter seeming chance by the application of the spiritual technology commonly known as magic, she has evidence for her own psyche. She can through certain disciplines become aware of the Form of all Psyches, which we call by the ancient Egyptian name of Set. Set does not require worship, but is engaged in the same struggle that we are. He seeks to refine and expand his personal might, pleasure and wonder against the galling rules of space and time. Set does not choose to merge with the universe -- you wouldn't enjoy the sights and sounds of your life if they were merely you. We do not seek to merge with the universe, Set or any other cosmic Ponzi scheme. Unlike the religions that see God in everything, we seek to see the wonder and joy of as many things as we can by increasing the god-like facilities that are part of the body-soul complex. Since a true appreciation of the universe is tied with the appreciator, we idolize individuality. This is not (hopefully) expressed as eccentricity and weirdness for weirdness sake, but a thoroughly examined life. Since we believes that spiritual power is useful as much here as in the next life, we study magic. It would be difficult to describe a standard Setian ritual. I have seen chamber music quartets playing publicly, who were carrying out a ritual written by one of the members, a student of mine in nuclear submarine did dream work while the sub crossed under the North Pole, another pair did work in India at a large ghat in Benares, others have magical chambers that resemble Dr. Frankenstein's lab complete with Tesla coils and bubbling vats of something.

Magic is the art of changing the Subjective Universe so that the Objective Universe is changed in proportion to the passion and precision of the magician.

For example. You want to quit smoking, so I hypnotize you and convince you that cigarettes smell like burning cow shit. This is magic. "Mere" psychology you might say, who cares? Let's take the need up a notch. You want your dad to quit smoking, and he is not about to be hypnotized. You perform a ritual so that he will think that he should quit. Now if your passion, your desire for him to stop sucking cancer sticks, is as great or greater -- and your precision (For example you used things that would have a great effect on him like a pack of his stolen cigarettes and some earth where his cancer-dead daddy lays -- you could change him. Without telling him you did it.

It will change you utterly when you discover that some things are subject to change that your host culture will tell you can't change. The first time you make absolutely the wrong person fall in love with you will teach you volumes.

Sadly Magicians tend to have very interesting lives because as soon as we have achieved some part of our dreams, we can't resist playing around. This is one reason that all the deities who are the great patrons of magicians have either evil or at least mixed reputations: Set, Tezcatlipoca, Odhinn . . .
6)Is the devil real or just a symbol?

If I tell you Set is real, what is gained? I have shared my observation with you. If you asked me "Do you think Set is real?" I would say "I have perceived Him. He is not a shadow of mind. It has taken 19 years of work to do so." If you believe me, how is it better than believing that Bible the Gideons left for you and Rocky Raccoon? Instead why don't you meet Him?

For nine nights stand in front of a mirror.
Light two black candles.
Draw a two points up Pentagram on the mirror in red.
Look at your face framed by the pentagram.
Say. "Prince of Darkness, I am a responsible human being that is working to be more happy, more healthy, and more wise. I do not seek to worship you, but could let me know what you are and where you? I have evolved and as I evolved, evolution evolved. I think of you, think of me, oh great giver of Doubt!"
Drink a big glass of pomegranate-blueberry juice
Blow out the candles

If you don't meet the Devil in nine nights, then don't worry He doesn't exist for you:)

Evn said...

Very interesting, indeed! I appreciate you sharing this.