Why We Despise Silver
Until now I have refrained from targeting any person specifically, and I thought long and hard about posting this article. Yet the simple fact is that I, and others, do actively warn people against Silver Ravenwolf's books, and repeatedly I am asked: can't you simply agree to disagree?
With most authors, the answer is "yes". Differing theology is a matter of opinion. Ravenwolf's theology is not, however, what I object to. What I object to is her lousy history, lack of morality, and rampant religious bigotry.
I cannot think of any religion that would describe its practices as "sniveling," and portrayal of another religion as such without so much as a reference is...unprofessional to say the least. "The common act" indicates that she thinks this sort of behavior is widespread - while she doesn't actually name Christianity as the offender here, I don't think I'm out of line inferring that's who she meant, although maybe there are other religions she's also attempting to slam.
Heaven forbid that outside concepts and ideas ever make their way inside a Wiccan's head. There is a lot to learn from religions outside of our own. And this one-upmanship about where Wiccans tend to come from is nothing short of childishness. Of course most of us are former Christians. We live in a country that is mostly Christian to begin with. It's a simple case of percentages.
Personally, I believe one of the biggest problems we face today is Silver Ravenwolf. Particularly ironic is the fact that the "Craft Code of Honor" that she displays on her own website includes "Respect the religion of others." 1 So she's a bigot and a hypocrite.
Just in case you non-Christians thought you would be spared Ravenwolf's diatribe, don't fear, she hasn't forgotten you. Apparently all non-Pagans are so incredibly simple that they must be given special tarot readings (or other divining method) because they just can't handle a full-blown one. The arrogance is absolutely astounding.
There is a particularly offensive story on pages 49-50 describing how new people came with their one male God and forced the European medieval pagans through war to worship Him.
I particularly like how the Christians "rubbed their hands excitedly together" like the bad guy in old movies just after he ties the heroine to the train tracks. Sorry, there is no one "old God" of the pagans. This is classic Murrayism, disproved 20 years before the publication of this book.
She finishes the section by saying: "I wrote this story to sound rather trite on purpose It is a good story, though, for children, and an interesting one to tell around the fireplace." (Page 50) Good story for children? What sort of values are you preaching here?
Ravenwolf is also a very public sufferer of the More Persecuted than Thou Syndrome, and is dedicated to infecting every reader she can. Discussing her storybook version of the Charge of the Goddess, she says "it depicts the Goddess and God in the manner in which we believe in them, not in the negative light in which our general society has often put them." (Page xiii)
And what light, exactly, is that, Ms. Ravenwolf? When someone wishes to put us down, their comments usually revolve around Wicca and Wiccans, not the God and Goddess, and it's highly inventive to describe even this behavior as coming from "our general society". News flash, Ms. Ravenwolf: while there will always be outspoken Fundies, society in general really doesn't give a rat's ass about us.
And, of course, no More Persecuted than Thou Syndrome would be complete without mention of the Burning Times:
While she doesn't flat out say it was "we" who were persecuted, why would she include this in her book if it had nothing to do with us? And try 40,000 to 100,000, not over nine million. As far as the women and children bit goes, that is historical fact (although the reasons were more complicated than that they were women and children), but what the hell does this have to do with the topic at hand? Oh, wait, I forgot, another chance to dis Christianity.
OK, now for the really good stuff.
First comes the presumption that non-Pagans are stupid enough to fall for this, followed by a pat on the back for deliberately misleading people.
And why exactly are you being asked these questions in the first place? If you are not familiar enough with the questioner to be talking about such things, why did you let this person know you were a Witch to begin with?
And speaking of telling the world about your witchiness...
There is zero reason to tell a prospective employer what your religion is - by law he can't even ask. There's only two reasons you would behave like this - you're looking for attention, or you're looking for trouble, knowing that eventually you'll come across someone who will make an issue of it, at which point you can scream persecution at the top of your lungs.
Excuse me? What sort of cult propaganda is this? News flash #2: non-magical people succeed at their dreams too. And anyone who thinks that Wicca or any other religion or organization will protect them from the tragedies of the world needs a serious and immediate wake-up call. Wicca doesn't make you anything. You are what you make of yourself, and you can do that equally well as a Wiccan, Christian, atheist, or anything else.
There goes the cult talk again. New reality? What reality were you living in before? And don't you just love the paranoia? They won't understand you, so you must hide from them until your powers have grown strong enough to start avoiding tragedies and other perks that will prove your new reality to others.
Directed specifically at teens is the following advice about explaining Wicca to parents:
I don't know what they call this approach in Ravenwolf's world, but where I come from this is called lying. Angels have little to nothing to do with Wicca. Oh, and another clue: if "sneak-attack" is an apt description for a plan to deal with parents, the ethics of such a plan should be seriously questioned.
And finally there is the issue of the simple lack of credible information in her writing. Below are just a few of her gems:
Disregarding her painful lack of rudimentary capitalization skills, this sentence is so absolutely typical of Fluffy Bunnies. When the hell were we awarded the copyright on the word "witch"? Satanists have as much claim (if not more) to the term as we do. Just because Wiccans and other Pagans using the term "Witch" do not worship Satan does not mean Satanic Witches suddenly do not exist.
Where she got this idea is beyond me. The concept of "Natural Witches" describes one predisposed toward Witchcraft from birth. Most Pagans don't even believe in such things. A Solitary Witch is simply one that practices (wait for it)...in solitary, as opposed to practicing with a coven.
First of all, let me make clear that she is not specifying Wicca as merely one form of Witchcraft. She uses the terms interchangeably, as is evident by other such entries as Gardnerian Witchcraft and Alexandrian Witchcraft. Wicca doesn't mean "front", and I can't imagine why she would say that. She may think of it as a front, but that's an opinion, not a meaning. People who get published should have a basic grasp on the English vocabulary. Why she associates the word Wicca with church is likewise beyond my comprehension.
I imagine she likes the word "Witch" exactly because of those "preconceived ideas" people have about it - such as the very acceptable, historical associations with Satanism. That way she can self-righteously protest that she's being persecuted by the once-borns.
Has she never read Gardner's The Meaning of Witchcraft? Or his Old Laws? Gardner himself introduced us to the term "Wica". The second C was added later (admittedly, I don't know by whom), presumably to reflect the Anglo-Saxon word wicca which is the root for the modern word "witch". And, incidentally, the name is Occam, not Occum.
Considering that there has never in history been a worshipped entity known simply as the Goddess, I have serious difficulty believing in the credibility of any portion of this statement. Furthermore, just a little further down on the page Ravenwolf refers readers to Barbara Walker's Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets for more fascinating revelations. Yet Walker herself describes her repeatedly as Mary the Whore and cites "Magdelene" to mean merely "she of the temple-tower".5
Worse, this passage is a part of the section on telling your parents that you're Wiccan. Clearly, the statement has nothing to do with Wicca or why one should be dedicated to it. Instead, it's another of Ravenwolf's pot-shots at Christianity.
Ravenwolf's bizarre world-view is not, however, confined to the religious realms:
Actually, we tend to feel weak, tired, and disoriented because of pain and blood loss. I'm pretty sure that even if I had been raised by wolves my cycle would still be a pain in the ass.
First of all, divinations reveal possibilities, not concrete outcomes. Anyone who becomes this dependent on divinations is a fool. Second, people do not drop over dead because you didn't correctly chant over a green candle (which is her standard money making spell). Can you fling fireballs from your fingertips as well, Ms. Ravenwolf?
Other amusing moments come from her definition of "Ceremonial Witchcraft" in a painful attempt to lump all workers of magic under the term Witchcraft, when in fact Ceremonial Magicians rarely if ever use that term to describe themselves. Then there's the moment when she traces the Dianic Tradition back to Margaret Murray. This book was written in 1993, more than 20 years after Murray had been totally discredited!
And a final quote
of just true bizarreness:
If you are attracted to a religion for reasons other than its religious content, you are a poser. It's like saying you're a Christian because you like communion wine.
All quotes, unless otherwise noted, come from Silver Ravenwolf, To Ride a Silver Broomstick: New Generation Witchcraft (Llewellyn Publications, 1993).
1 http://www.silverravenwolf.com/craft_code_of_honor.htm (no longer online)
2 Silver Ravenwolf, Teen Witch, (Llewellyn Publications) page 232.
3 http://www.silverravenwolf.com/Magickal%20Glossary.htm (no longer online)
4 Silver Ravenwolf, Teen Witch, (Llewellyn Publications) page 233.
5 Walker, Barbara G. The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, (HarperCollins Publishers, 1983), page 614.