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Author Topic: Secrecy  (Read 2543 times)
Letheus
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« Topic Start: October 14, 2010, 10:04:18 pm »

Well I was reading an article in the Pagan Primer here http://www.ecauldron.net/secretwicca.php about Witches and how they dont like to keep secrets and I was cur4ious about something.

Does this apply to a Witch's Book of Shadows as well? I always thought BoS's were private to a Witch and that they shouldn't have to show them to other Witches if they so chose not to.

Am I correct or incorrect in my thinking? Please give me some advice! Tongue
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« Reply #1: October 14, 2010, 10:18:18 pm »

Well I was reading an article in the Pagan Primer here http://www.ecauldron.net/secretwicca.php about Witches and how they dont like to keep secrets and I was cur4ious about something.

That's an opinion piece by one person.  A person many think highly of (including yours truly), but still just one man...who isn't Wiccan himself.  It doesn't reflect all witches or pagans.

Brina
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« Reply #2: October 14, 2010, 10:42:54 pm »

Well I was reading an article in the Pagan Primer here http://www.ecauldron.net/secretwicca.php about Witches and how they dont like to keep secrets and I was cur4ious about something.

Does this apply to a Witch's Book of Shadows as well? I always thought BoS's were private to a Witch and that they shouldn't have to show them to other Witches if they so chose not to.

Am I correct or incorrect in my thinking? Please give me some advice! Tongue

I don't think you would "have" to tell anyone anything you don't feel comfortable sharing, but the option to choose the things that are 'just yours' to share and to what level you share your deeper intimacies is a matter of case by case and place by place.

I mention things on some forums that I wouldn't on say facebook or Deviant Art.  All matter that is fit for consumption. 

I tend to share more than I intend to in some places because there are so few places where I can effectively communicate what something means to me, in an environment where there is a social contract that creates a structure in which others know how to contribute rather than project or just react.

I think if you find a culture in which you can share without significantly negative consequences, and without feeling you've compromised your solidarity, it is an allowable indulgence, especially if it is the only place in your life where you indulge in that way.  If it is habitual, then I might say that it was more about needing to talk about yourself than needing a peer group who was geared to understand spiritual discussion but if it were also something you could reciprocate for others, then there are places where sharing what you don't wear on your sleeve are acceptable.
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« Reply #3: October 14, 2010, 11:10:35 pm »

Well I was reading an article in the Pagan Primer here http://www.ecauldron.net/secretwicca.php about Witches and how they dont like to keep secrets and I was cur4ious about something.

Does this apply to a Witch's Book of Shadows as well? I always thought BoS's were private to a Witch and that they shouldn't have to show them to other Witches if they so chose not to.

Am I correct or incorrect in my thinking? Please give me some advice! Tongue


I think that a witch can be as open about their craft as they wish, including their BoS.  I personally would not share that, since it would feel like someone is reading my diary.
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Letheus
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« Reply #4: October 14, 2010, 11:31:18 pm »

I mention things on some forums that I wouldn't on say facebook or Deviant Art.  All matter that is fit for consumption.

I know what you mean. I think I am more open about a lot of things on here then I would anywhere else, just because I am among people that I feel wouldn't judge me and would give me the advice that I would need without bringing a bunch of bullshit into it, that would otherwise be brought in, in real life.

I think that a witch can be as open about their craft as they wish, including their BoS.  I personally would not share that, since it would feel like someone is reading my diary.

I know what you mean. I write a lot of things in my BoS that not only deal with my walk with the Goddess, but also my day-to-day activities. Smiley
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« Reply #5: October 15, 2010, 12:40:52 am »

Does this apply to a Witch's Book of Shadows as well? I always thought BoS's were private to a Witch and that they shouldn't have to show them to other Witches if they so chose not to.

Am I correct or incorrect in my thinking? Please give me some advice! Tongue

There's different views on this - so here's mine:

I am in general in favor of freedom of access to information (I'm a librarian. It's actually in my professional code of ethics.)

That said, for me, witchcraft, and religious witchcraft in particular - comes down to relationships. In order to have trust in a relationship, we as human beings tend to need to have agreements about what we do and don't share (and how), in order to feel like we can share our vulnerabilities and worries and concerns.

So, to me:
- Deity names are still names. My family calls my sister a particular nickname, because when I was little, I couldn't pronounce her name. Does that make it okay for her students to use it to her? (Even though she's on a first name basis with many of them: she teaches graduate students). Nope, because that's a specific relationship. Some deities are fine sharing their names broadly. Some are less so. Politeness suggests following the preference of the person (or deity) whose name it is.

- My training - and my group work - included some agreements about what we share and how we shared it (and why). Those *are* formal oaths in my case, but I'd take them just as seriously if they weren't made formally in circle before the Gods, because holding someone's trust is important to me.

That said, I also think there are some good reasons for oaths: in my tradition, we have a focus on self-transformation, and any time we're playing with and stretching someone's core view of themselves, I think it's appropriate to be really clear about how, why, and when we're doing that, and make sure we're all on the same page.

You can see a lot more of my thoughts on this on a blog post I made last May: http://gleewood.org/threshold/2010/05/12/the-question-of-oaths/

(Also, in terms of a group: simply removing the oath is problematic, because it breaks faith with previous people in the tradition who have gone their separate ways for whatever reason. We're still a small tradition, with probably under 30 initiates in the group's history, but I'm pretty sure we don't have contact info for at least a third of them, due to the training focus of the tradition. I'm not comfortable changing the rules on them in hindsight. I am comfortable doing other things to make it as clear as I can be why we continue the oath, and what it means - which for me means focusing on the benefits I outline in that blog post.)

- There are parts of my practice that have some risk. While I agree with Randall that the basic religious practice isn't risky, there *are* parts of my practice that have some risks. Drawing Down. Fetch work with particular focus. Use of particular herbs, oils, etc. (Many of which are not generally risky, but have some situations when they are: it's my job as priestess to make sure I share them with appropriate safety warnings.)

Plus, there's some stuff where if someone got themselves into trouble on my watch (by following advice I gave), I'd feel obligated to try and help fix it. This mostly applies to direct students (not random conversation online), but it's still a consideration. I am not up for 3am phone calls generally. In general, the stuff that's oathbound for me is mostly the stuff that gets into territory where additional caution in how it's shared is appropriate.

- Some material is personal to me, or to the group or tradition:
In this case, we want to honor the work of the people who created it by making sure it's shared in a way they're comfortable with. (And in general, defer to "We don't share specifics in public.")

Someone who cares enough to come to one of our rituals will see a bunch. Someone who knows me in person and asks me can have a demo of our circle cast for the asking. But - in part for the reasons below - I'm not going to wave it around randomly, even if I wrote it (as I've done with about a quarter of my current group circle practice: the rest is from the tradition.) But in those cases, there's a great relationship than sheer curiosity - someone's taken the time to share space with us, or has an existing relationship with me.

- Silence can be protective.
This is one of the keys to the Witch's Pyramid ("to keep silent") There can be a possibility, whenever we share something, that someone will make fun of it, or somehow twist it in a way that affects how we interact with that thing in the future. (This is one of the reasons for not talking about current magical workings: if someone says "Oh, you didn't X? It won't work." or "What'd you do that for, that's silly!", it can affect the continuing energy you're sending towards that goal. This matters more in some magical practices than others, but once the info is out there, you can't take it back.)

- There's a lot of stuff the oath doesn't cover Over the last 9 years, I have written at least a hundred thousand words - and actually, it might be approaching half a million - about my religious practice in one way or another. Some of those are in somewhat protected spaces (LiveJournal, Dreamwidth). Some of them are here, or other public Pagan discussions. Most of the time, the specifics of the oathed stuff just aren't very relevant. What I really want to talk about is the ideas behind it, or my personal feelings on it, or whatever else.

- In terms of sharing my BOS: I believe that BOS is something like the script of a play: it's an outline of what happens, but it's only one layer of it. It doesn't lay out the emotion, the theory, the background knowledge you need to make the deus ex machina work. So, while I wouldn't share it (because there is oathed stuff in it), sharing it wouldn't actually be very helpful. The map is not the destination, the text of our circle cast is only the text - not the visuals and energetic shifts and relocations we use in actually creating a repeated and consistent  working space.
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« Reply #6: October 15, 2010, 08:20:56 am »

Well I was reading an article in the Pagan Primer here http://www.ecauldron.net/secretwicca.php about Witches and how they dont like to keep secrets and I was cur4ious about something.

Does this apply to a Witch's Book of Shadows as well? I always thought BoS's were private to a Witch and that they shouldn't have to show them to other Witches if they so chose not to.

Am I correct or incorrect in my thinking? Please give me some advice! Tongue

Well, I only skimmed the article but three quick comments.

First a mystery religion is both experiential (obviously) AND preparatory. One is prepared through cumulative layers of training to be able to experience 'that' mystery. There is utterly no point (and often a degree of harm) in sharing that training out of context to those who are not being prepared. Also, anyone who has experienced the mystery at the core of a faith knows that one cannot articulate one's experience afterwards. Aside from sharing with others so not being the point of that experience, one simply can't come even close to wrapping words around this. One subsequent actions will speak to the experience, words never will.

Second, Pagan Witchcraft began in the 20th century after the witchcraft laws (in the West) were repealed. So trotting out the witch-hunt rationale for slience in order to throw it out as no longer grounds for keeping silence just tells me the author is mired into mythological history and hasn't done their homework.

And third, To Keep Silent is not about Witches being elitest or shutting out of the 'witch-club' those who are not in on the same 'secrets'.  It is about being responsible about how, when and why you share what you know. Think of knowledge, skills, experience as tools. Are you going to hand a band-saw to a child to use? Are you going to post instructions on how to use that band-saw online so any child capable of using a computer can read them? I could also add that information shared out of a meaningful context (like one paragraph of those instructions) isn't going to do anyone much good other than misguide that child's ego into thinking that they know 'know' how to use a band-saw. If you are the Witch who has learned or experienced how to use that metaphorical band-saw, you have a responsiblity to decide how, when or even if you share that knowledge.

Traditionally (as of since the 20th century) the BOS of a coven is hand-copied by new students and no one outside of that coven or tradition will see any copy of that coven's BOS. Even the primer texts published by the Farrars, Gardner, Valiente etc circa the 60's did not replicate the BOS of those Traditions due to oathbound materials. As Pagan Witchcraft consists of more self-trained and solitary practitioners than covens, personal BOS became the norm of all Pagan Witches regardless of Tradition. The diversity of which (both traditions and types of BOS) is immense. Any Witch who has practiced for a while will have multiple BOS for different reasons. If it isn't a coven BOS, then there is no tradition that says you have to share it with other Witches. Not on demand, not an obiligation. Anyone who makes that claim has an agenda or is a blind participant in the information age's mantra to share-share-share and who cares about the consequences.

The 'tradition' cobbled together from folklore, the lore of grimoires and the mythos of the witch-hunts is that one's BOS is destroyed unread when one dies and not shared while one lives. Common sense however should have some elbow room here. If your BOS is really personal (lilfe-transformational stuff), treat it as you would anything else in your life like that. If it is just filled with generic stuff that you copied from various accessible sources, you may see no reason not to share. If it has magical componments, there may be more cause for concern about something being taken out of context.

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« Reply #7: October 15, 2010, 08:29:16 am »

Does this apply to a Witch's Book of Shadows as well? I always thought BoS's were private to a Witch and that they shouldn't have to show them to other Witches if they so chose not to.

The article wasn't really about personal stuff which should be as private as the person wants it to be. It was about keeping knowledge of a religion secret. It's also important to remember that this article is in our "editorials" section. It's my opinion -- and while I think it is well-reasoned, it is still just my opinion.
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« Reply #8: October 15, 2010, 09:38:22 am »

That's an opinion piece by one person.  A person many think highly of (including yours truly), but still just one man...who isn't Wiccan himself.  It doesn't reflect all witches or pagans.

Brina

I've been a Wiccan for 20 years (or is it 21 now?) and I very much agree with what Randall wrote. In fact, I'd go a step further in the idea that some coven have that the names of the dieties must be kept secret. We keep member names secret because we can face difficulties in our public lives when it's known we're Wiccans or Witches, but I don't think the dieties have that problem. I think they can take care of themselves as a matter of fact. And if they're not happy about having their names revealed in connection to a particular coven, I believe they are quite capable of making that displeasure felt.

But no, his opinion doesn't match that of all Wiccans. I left a traditional Wiccan group because my opinion was like Randall's rather than like the "oathbound rules" that the others preferred. The only oath I ever agreed to with my whole heart was not revealing the names of my coven members to anyone else without their permission. One of our number did that in seeking comfort and advice from another Wiccan (not a member of any coven), who then told the entire Pagan community about the private problems between members of our group. He broke the oath he made and he was banished from the group. He's still my friend, but I know how far I can trust him, and it isn't far enough to ever work with him in a coven again without a lot of dialogue between us first.
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