Saturday, May 26, 2012

Aine O'Brien

Hello and Happy Saturday!

I wish to thank Kallista Silverheart for her very interesting and enjoyable interview of last week. Thank you so much for sharing your faith journey with us Kallista!

Today we have a new interview so please welcome Aine O'Brien. Aine is a Witch and I know you'll enjoy her interview as well!

Here Is Aine O'Brien's Introduction:

Aine O'Brien is a fifty-something Witch/writer living with her husband in Canada. She has been a practicing solitary Witchcraft for about 20 years. She is also a Reiki Master and loves to read and collect tarot cards. Aine currently has a book in the works and a blog called The Deepest Well.

1) What religion do you practice?
I practice Witchcraft.

2) Are you a convert/revert or were you raised within this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
I was born and raised in a Catholic household. For a few years during my 20’s I didn’t practice any religion. I found Paganism in my early 30’s. I did not belong to a coven, therefore I wasn’t “initiated” into Witchcraft, but I turned my back on Christianity and dedicated myself the The Craft.

3) Within your religion are there degrees of observance (ie. Orthodox,conservative, moderate, liberal)? What are the defining differences between the degrees of observance?
There are, what are referred to as “traditions” in Witchcraft, and then there are “styles” (such as green witch, kitchen witch, etc.) The differences usually just apply to the way in which the Witch practices. Some people mix paths and call themselves eclectic witches. Since as a solitary Witch I adopt my own way of practicing based on traditional ways, I simply refer to myself as “Witch.” In some covens there are three degrees of Witchcraft, based on knowledge and practice.

4) What is the Afterlife within your religion? For example: what happens when a person dies? Are there places for reward/punishment? (such as a Heaven/Hell concept)
Witches do not adhere to the idea of heaven/hell. We are, however, very moral and ethical in our lives, without the ever-present threat of eternal damnation. Witches are comfortable with the idea of a world where things are black, white, and grey and do not see one better than the other, just different. Most of us believe in reincarnation of some sort. Some believe in a resting place in between lifetimes. I do believe in reincarnation, however I am unsure of the particulars, such as how much choice we have in the matter, etc.

5) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
 I am a witch. It is who I am. When looking back at my younger self, I can see that this is not a new interest by any stretch of the imagination, and perhaps if I could remember other lifetimes I would discover that I have always been a witch. People on other paths will tell you what they believe, but witches will tell you who they are.

Witchcraft is a good fit for me because it is empowering and life affirming. It has taught me to take responsibility for myself and my actions, without the use of threats or fear; instead, it simply reminds me of the natural consequences of every action and then leaves me to make my own decisions.

In Witchcraft, God can be a man or a woman, or both, or neither. There is no hierarchy - even God is not “above” everything else. I love that this path helps me keep my feet on the earth, and my consciousness in each moment. Whereas other religions tend to place emphasis on the afterlife - a “better” place that we will experience if we play by the rules, Witchcraft encourages us to be present in our lives on Earth, to pay attention, to rethink priorities and to make and adhere to our own rules. And most of all, Witchcraft discourages fear as fear is the energy surrounding what others call evil.

6) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
 Most witches recognize eight seasonal celebrations called “Sabbats” which occur during the changing of the seasons, the equinoxes, and the solstices. While some Witches use mythology to explain the seasonal changes, I focus mainly on nature. We usually create and perform a ritual to honor the Sabbat, whether we do this alone or in a group. There are customs associated with each holiday and most witches will adopt at least some of these. I refer to witches as the “keepers of the seasons” and believe that the energy created through observance of these days encourages the natural “turning of the wheel.” Ancient/Aboriginal/Pagan peoples have held similar seasonal ceremonies and these continue to this day - and interestingly enough, the seasonal cycles continue.

7) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
Yes I do. Spirituality is a very personal thing and I wouldn’t base a friendship on someone’s choice of religion. Having said that, I wouldn’t be comfortable around someone who tried to push his/her religion on me - that behavior is not something I expect in a friend.

8) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
 Sure. I’m actually quite interested in the practices/beliefs of others and often see so many similarities, despite some people’s claims that our beliefs are very different. I have to say honestly, though, that I often hesitate to join others in their practices, because sadly, an invitation of this sort is often just a way some people use to “recruit” others into their belief systems.

9) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
 I am a woman and I abhor any violence and abuse towards women, whether you use God as the scapegoat or not.

10) Are women allowed to hold religious office (priest, minister, rabbi, iman etc) in your religion and how do you feel about it?
Witchcraft allows both men and women to hold “religious office.” In most covens there is both a high priest and a high priestess, and in solitary practice, the Witch works “alone.” In fact, during a witch’s “Work” (magic) she/he is the “boss” (organizer), while employing the help of those in the spirit world.

11) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
Nature/home is my personal place of worship, and it does not segregate. Some covens are female oriented, which not always, but sometimes means that only women are allowed to join. I understand the reasons for this and for the most part, I think it’s ok. So by the same token I am ok with an all-male coven as well. By it’s very nature, however, Witchcraft is androgynous, in the sense that it embraces the characteristics of both male and female, so personally I prefer non-segregation. But as covens are usually privately run groups they have a right to make these types of group-specific rules.

12) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
A witch’s life and her practice are intertwined so in that way our path is involved in everything we do. However, we answer only to ourselves, and so our decisions are our own - and we completely understand and accept the natural consequences of our actions. There are many considerations attached to any decision. Everything we do effects something/someone else. We know this and we act accordingly, but our personal decisions are just that - ours.

13) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
Everyone must find their own paths, and live their own lives. I wouldn’t be upset by this at all, as long as my child was doing what he/she believed was the right thing to do.

14) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
 I do not believe in hell. I don’t believe in an all-good God and an all-evil God. Even if I did, I do not believe in “one true faith” and so I certainly wouldn’t believe that those who practiced differently would go there. I once questioned my Evangelical Christian mother-in-law about this belief asking “Do you mean to tell me that you believe that a large population of the world is going to hell?” and she said “Yes, because they are wrong - sincerely wrong perhaps - but wrong.” If this is truly her God’s teachings, then, needless to say, this would not be a God I would put my faith in.

15) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
 Well, I don’t know of anyone in particular in the public domain that I would discredit, (besides those who already do a good enough job of it themselves!) and I don’t really like to engage in religious arguments of this type, simply due to the personal nature of religion. However, I do have a view about some “Witches” who mix obviously opposing religions and claim to practice both just fine thank you very much. (side note: talking about this usually gets me into trouble, but here goes.) For instance, there is a relatively new group of “witches” who call themselves Christian Witches. Now, I shouldn’t have to say another word about this, should I? And yet. Here’s what I will say. I do not believe that Christianity and Witchcraft can be combined - not if the person trying to combine them is practicing either one according to its own rules. If you are making up the beliefs/rules as you go, well then, may the force be with you, but then you are practicing another religion altogether, one you have created. Not that there is anything wrong with that - it’s just not Witchcraft (nor is it Christianity.) Enough said on that.

Now for the positive part. I have always admired Laurie Cabot, the “Official Witch of Salem.” She walks her talk, is educated and articulate and explains Witchcraft to any and all that are interested. She has done so much to educate the public about the Craft. She is a bit of a celebrity, and yet never puts herself on a pedestal. She was instrumental in the resurgence of The Craft and she worked hard to debunk the misconceptions. She is one of the reasons Witchcraft is considered (by most) a legitimate belief system and not a term given only to those who practice “sorcery.”

16) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
No. Having said that, I am very secretive/private about my beliefs and my path. I would love to believe that we are all free to practice our beliefs without discrimination or without fear, but I don’t.

17) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
Never. It has done nothing but empower me. It gave me the strength and self worth to leave an abusive situation that I don’t know I could have left had I not found this path.

18) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
Very much so, but perhaps in a different way than other religions do. Life is what it is, sometimes wonderful, sometimes very challenging, but when one is empowered there is a sense that anything can happen and by the same token, anything can be changed. In Witchcraft we are not taught to wrap ourselves in a blanket of false security. We do not believe that God will take care of us, but that, by working with the Gods, Ancestors, Spirits, Nature, - whatever energy we work with - together we can conjure the power to create/control/change anything.

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