For the last few months I've been plodding along through Starhawk's The Spiral Dance, reading about Witchcraft and the ancient religion of the Goddess. My Christian background has whispered in the back of my mind, telling me that something is wrong with Witchcraft (and something is wrong with me for reading about it)--it's amazing how well ingrained old prejudices cling to a person, despite one's efforts to shake them firmly off.
Despite that, I've continued to read, and I've discovered that Witchcraft (of which Wicca is one branch) is a tradition (or, I should say, a collection of traditions) that affirms in the strongest possible way the power of women, both individually and collectively. It is feminist and egalitarian, and it identifies the immanence of the divine in all the cosmos. Transcendence seems to be less a quality of Goddess than something for human beings to achieve. Goddess is all around us, and we are Goddess, according to Starhawk, who is an internationally known and respected witch.
I've been leading a house church in my home since the beginning of this year, and in that time I've constructed an ordo (a written ritual) for our liturgy. For this week's liturgy, having just finished reading The Spiral Dance, I set aside the ordo and approached our Eucharist with just a loaf of bread and a glass of wine. I wanted to see what would unfold in the absence of a script, now that the principles and practices of Witchcraft were on my mind.
I began by gathering us around the table. Normally we gather on one side the living room table where we sit together on the couch, but this time we gathered on three sides of our dining room table, each of us in her own chair. My older daughter began reciting a litany filled with giggles. "I am the table," she said. "I am the chair. I am the bread. I am the wine. I am the wall." And on and on. As I listened, I recognized Thea (our name for Goddess) on her lips. Thea was speaking through my daughter--she was my daughter. And she was everything that my daughter mentioned. My awareness of the holiness of all things, animate and inanimate, charged the space. When my daughter was finished, I asked her if Thea was in all the things that she mentioned. "Yes," she nodded, smiling.
We continued with our breaking of the bread and sharing of the cup. My older daughter broke the bread and shared it with her sister and me, saying, "Body of Christ" as she handed each of us a piece. As I ate, I pondered Christianity and Witchcraft and where the sacred is said to be located in each tradition. Several Christian denominations locate the presence of God in the consecrated bread of Eucharist--and so has my family, over these last months of celebrating together as a house church. Today, however, the everywhere nature of Goddess struck me. The bread of Eucharist is sacred--and so is the plate that holds it, the hands that distribute it, and the mouths that eat it. According to Witchcraft, the universe is inherently sacred, because all the universe is Goddess.
For my whole life, I've been taught that God is apart from creation and holier than it. I'm not sure I buy that anymore. And if I don't view God as the Sacred Other, the other pillars of my Christian understanding begin to collapse as well. How can I believe that I hold the power and presence of the Goddess within me and still hold on to the Christian story? What wisdom does the intersection between Christianity and Witchcraft hold?
I suppose I'm going to find out. (And I'm beginning to wonder if I'm not a witch in Christian clothing.)