Her telephone voice is a bit gravely. About what I expected. Probably was up all night with her candles and covens and brewing cauldrons. It is, after all, nearly Halloween, and she is, after all, a Witch. A famous one at that, as a best-selling author with Llewellyn on the subject of Witchcraft.
My call practically wakes her up. But it turns out she hadn’t been up all night casting spells and chasing her black cat out of magic potions. Silver RavenWolf is a mother of four teenagers, and who wouldn’t be sleeping in as long as possible on a school day with that challenge?
While I wait for her to fix her stubborn answering machine, I think of noses, of all things. Big ones with ugly warts on trick-or-treating masks, and twitching ones on “Bewitched!” And I sense the truth of what I would hear today. I have an inkling that the Craft is hardly what Hollywood, or centuries of legend, have made it out to be. And I am aware that Wiccans and others who practice Witchcraft almost always are falsely linked with worshippers of Satan. But then again, aren’t all metaphysicians?
She returns to the phone, and her voice is warming up. She reminisces about a daylong taping of ritual with a PBS television crew. A lot of work for a five-minute segment. She practically forgot her lines by the end of the afternoon. But today, in a revealing interview with The EDGE, Silver RavenWolf is as genuine as supermoms get.
How would you define Witchcraft, as a belief system or a faith?
Silver RavenWolf: To me, it’s a religion. It is my faith. It is my belief system. To the general magickal community, or Wiccan community, it’s usually explained as a nature-based religion that focuses on deity, or God, or spirit, in everything.
So do you view God differently than I do, that it is the essential energy that connects All That Is?
RavenWolf: No, I don’t view it differently. Like any religion, you will find different sects. Christianity has Catholics and Protestants, and you can break Protestantism down into many denominations. Wicca, in its own way, is like that. In my travels during the past two years, I roughly estimate that I have met 25,000 Wiccans and Pagans. And I’ve discovered that approximately 70 percent of Wiccans are monotheistic, believing in a greater Spirit over all. And about 1 5 percent of the rest are hedonistic, believing there is no overriding Spirit over the balanced masculine and feminine deity system.
Though we believe in the God and the Goddess — the equally balanced male and female sides of Spirit — we also believe this equality brings wholeness and creates the One.
We often hear the term Wicca, and also Witchcraft, or the Craft. Are these terms interchangeable?
RavenWolf: Generally, it is all the same. But like those in other religions, those who are in different sects or groups or areas may define the buzzwords differently.
And gravitate toward one or the other.
RavenWolf: Yes. Some people are very uncomfortable with the term Witchcraft, simply because they’re treated so badly when they use it, as people have been historically. Others feel Witchcraft is what we are, so why should we be ashamed of what we are?
There has been a large argument in the past within the community that perhaps we should stop using the word Witchcraft. No offense to any other religion, but the Jewish people went through a horrendous persecution in the United States, especially during the second World War. My father was in the service, and he had a Jewish fellow in his company. My dad was the only one who would talk with him. The rest of the company treated him horribly Jews have done a lot of work to overcome that persecution, and there’s still some of it.
They didn’t give up the name Jew, so why should we give up the name Witch?
How were you introduced to Witchcraft?
RavenWolf: My mother died when I was 17. I am 41 now. And I was a Baptist. No one was fulfilling my needs. No one could answer my questions. My mother was a very nice person and she died at the age of 42 of cancer. It was a painful death, and it just didn’t make any sense to me. I didn’t believe what they were pushing down my throat. So I started searching. That’s how I found Witchcraft. It answered my questions.
One of the primary beliefs of Witchcraft is the belief in reincarnation. We’re not alone. A very large portion of the planet believes in reincarnation. It made sense to me. It was logical. It did not make sense to me that my mother could be born one time only, go through hardships in life and have a terrible death. To me, that wasn’t fair. When I started studying the Craft, and learning that we keep coming back over and over again when we make really grave errors, that made a lot more sense to me than a one-shot deal at life.
It is clear, by looking through your books, that there are aspects within the Craft that people who study metaphysics would easily relate to, such as visualization, affirmation, the use of stones for healing, and the study of dreams.
RavenWolf: Exactly. But there also are aspects of metaphysics in Christianity, if you look to find it, and it is easy to see in Judaism.
What is the major misconception people have about Witchcraft today?
RavenWolf: The major misconception about Witchcraft today is that Witches worship Satan, which is just not so. We do not believe in Satan. That is a Christian creation. We don’t worship evil. Indeed, to give evil a name is not a real intelligent thing to do, because then you give it power.
I think the second misconception, and I know Witches have had trouble with this one, is people believing what the see in Hollywood horror movies. They are for your entertainment They are not for your religious edification. People are thinking we are going to sacrifice something, but Witches and Wiccans do not believe in bloodletting whatsoever. It is not going to happen with the Witch living next door to you. Most people are quite disappointed when they get to meet Witches, because they’re not anything like they perceive them to be.
They’re more like Samantha on “Bewitched,” right?
RavenWolf: [laughing] I want to be able to twitch my nose like that so I can clean my house! I have four children. I have been praying for that gift, but I haven’t gotten it yet.
Do you find it is difficult for teen-agers to separate the truth from the fiction in Witchcraft?
Ravenwolf: Teen-agers are looking for a couple things. They’re looking for a fair world, and the world is not a fair place. The Craft promises fairness on many levels, the most important of which is your spiritual well-being. The one thing I like about the religion is, I’m never at a loss to do something. No matter what happens in my life, there is something for me to do so I don’t feel as though I have lost control.
And teens are looking to be different. They’re looking to rebel. And because of the unfortunate propaganda we have had from the Christian community for thousands of years, we are therefore appealing to teen-agers. This is a general statement. I also have met hundreds and hundreds of teens who are in exactly the same place I was when I was 17. They are looking because what they have is not answering their questions. They’re looking for a belief system that is logical. People are looking for belief systems that are evolving over time.
To me, the Craft is what Christianity was 2,000 years ago. It was a religion that was not corrupted. I personally think Jesus was a Crafter. We believe in all the things that he spoke of. The early Christians believed in reincarnation, and that was later removed from the belief system. Early Christians had a female Divinity, and that was taken out of their belief system, or as with Catholicism, replaced with Mary. Look at how incredible the growth in devotion of Mary is. It’s amazing. The desire for a female Divinity is not just Wiccan. It speaks of a global need.
What has been a highlight for you In your writing career?
RavenWolf: It was when I wrote the book on angels (Angels: Companions in Magick, 1996, Llewellyn). I realize that angels are a hot topic, and people said I was just cashing in on the subject. However, the research for the book really changed my life in many ways. I was able to step beyond the bounds of this religion, or that religion, and I was able to understand that all religions are a part of Divinity. And if we didn’t have one of those religions, then Divinity would not be what it is. It would be something else.
We create our concept of Divinity through our religions.
And to be a Witch and to stand in a superstore and talk to 95 people who are white and black who are Native American, who are young, Mexican, old Catholic, Jewish, Wiccan, to be a Witch and talk about angels was one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done. Those people were there to hear me because they were seeking spirituality. They want something in their life. They want support. And the nice thing about the angel belief is that you are never alone. You always have someone to talk to and someone to listen to.
I don’t just talk at my presentation. It is very interactive, To see these people working together, doing magick — prayer magick holding hands, that was very exciting to me. Very exciting.
You mention the value of religions that evolve over time. How has the Craft evolved?
RavenWolf: It has evolved greatly since its inception. First of all, we don’t know when the Craft began. We know that the first religious systems were matriarchal and matrifocal, We know that during the course of history, people have tried to change it through Christianity, which didn’t work, because the people of the old faith went underground. How many went underground, we don’t know. How they did it, we don’t know. How many were really left in 1954 when Gerald Gardner came out of the closet in England is debatable. There are still a lot of tribes who are underground, and they are not going to come out. They will not join the current Craft community.
The Craft has changed in the past 50 years. It was extraordinarily secretive and now it is very much open. Many of us are dealing with the public in a different way. We have lots of educational organizations out there that are striving to take a lot of the mystique out of it, enough so that our children can survive but still leave enough so we can enjoy the mystery of the religion itself.
All religions are studies of mystery. We’re trying to maintain that, but it is not particularly easy I have 11 covens in eight states, but my Heartstone Coven here in Pennsylvania, my largest, meets here in my house every week I keep all the doors and window shades open. In the summer time, we are outside on the patio. I used to have shades, but I took them all down. That takes the fear out of it. When your neighbors see you sitting around a table, laughing and singing and banging on drums, what we’re really doing is a healing circle for people who are sick. Onlookers have no idea what you are doing, but because they can see that you’re not hurting anyone, and nobody is screaming, it removes a lot of the fear people have of Witchcraft.
It’s not to say I have not had any difficulties, but I have minimized a lot of problems by doing it that way. And it’s kind of sad. Because you know when you are doing your own religious service that you are on parade. I live next to a lovely church and you would never see people standing around gawking and trying to find out what was going on during a Sunday service. But that’s society. They fear what they don’t understand, so you must remove the fear.
Is there a general message you are trying to give your readers in the books you have written?
RavenWolf: My books began for practical and spiritual reasons. I was studying the Craft myself and had to buy a ton of books to get the information that I felt I needed. This was expensive and I was raising four children. At first, it was very irritating to me. I thought there ought to be one book that says, “If you want to start in the Craft, this is what it’s about, this is a general idea of its concepts and this is how you can get started.” So I sat down and started to write it.
The practical reason for writing it was my passion for writing. I had four children, had been married for 17 years and had no money and couldn’t go do anything. I couldn’t get a babysitter for all four children, and if you go to a movie, you have to drop $70. For relief, for respite, I would go to the attic and I would write. I wrote a couple of short stories and got them published right away. Then I wanted to write a book. So I picked an area in which there was competition, but it was not too heavy.
I never asked to become a Pagan leader. I have never told people I am a Pagan leader. The people who read my books created that. Basically my books are, “Gee, this is a subject, I’m researching it and this is what I have discovered personally. This is what I got out of it.”
Silver RavenWolf is author of To Ride a Silver Broomstick, HexCraft, To Stir a Magick Cauldron, Angels: Companions in Magick, and the fiction Beneath a Mountain Moon.