CultWatch Response Volume I, Issue 1 Samhain, 1988 WHY CULTWATCH RESPONSE? It seems like a
Volume I, Issue 1
WHY CULTWATCH RESPONSE?
It seems like anyone can get away with saying anything these days, so long
as they hate something enough. We at CultWatch Response have seen article
after article hating paganism and witchcraft, with no facts and not even
very good fantasies, merely because pagans are a convenient group to hate.
Many of these articles were directed straight at police, others were for
various fundamentalist groups.
Why? Because hate is an offspring of fear, and people always fear what
they do not know -- and they do not usually know much about paganism.
Further, their hatred drives pagans into hiding, for fear of a return of the
Burning Times of the Inquisition.
It is the primary goal of CultWatch Response to supply at least one
reasonable, well-thought-out, and FULLY RESEARCHED article per issue, in
order to promote understanding, because we do not believe that the followers
of a God of Love should spend so much time hating something that they know
nothing about. This first issue includes an excellent article on Samhain
(Halloween) by Rowan Moonstone, and a set of "the laws of the Craft" that
show how much different we pagans are than most Christians believe us to be.
WE ARE NOT SATANISTS!
Basically, Satan did not reach Europe until the coming of Christianity in
the 3rd to 5th Centuries C.E. Paganism is a wide group of religions that
existed in Europe prior to the Christianization of Europe; the fact that it
was an extremely viable religion caused the Church to decide it needed to
be eliminated, and so one major deity was singled out as being the
equivalent of Satan and the persecutions went forth. This is not an act of
God, but rather one of very greedy men who were pursuing temporal power in
the guise of ecclesiastical power.
There ARE Satanists in the world. Most of them are harmless, and most of
them do NOT consider themselves pagans. As pagans, we abhor criminal acts
such as murder, child abuse, and the torturing or slaughtering of animals
(not including feedlots, of course, although many of us are vegetarians and
others have worked for more humane treatment of animals AT feedlots). We
regard people who do these types of things as sick. Prosecute them, get them
help, do something to stop "ritual crime". Most of us are willing to do our
part to help find and prosecute these people, and it is evident to most
police officers around the country that ritual crime does not involve
pagans. It is usually found in gangs of children, led by other children or
by sick adults.
WHAT DOES "GOD" MEAN TO WITCHES?
Nearly all Witches and pagans in America believe in one God. However, that
God is usually felt to be totally beyond our understanding, and can only be
understood by humans by looking at "parts" of God that we CAN understand.
The first division is obvious; Masculine and Feminine. We call these God
and Goddess, and sometimes attach names from our heritage or from mythology
to these aspects. (Indeed, most pagans prefer the Mother aspect of God to
that of the Father, and use the term Goddess for the highest understandable
form of God.)
We also look at what the highest attributes of ourselves are, and
sometimes separate these into masculine and feminine (Hunter Aspect might be
Herne for the masculine or Diana for the feminine). While we call these
aspects and attributes "gods", most of us never lose sight of the fact that
they are merely small parts of the one God. (C.G. Jung called these aspects
"archetypes", and his theories have blazed new territory in understanding
what it means to be human.)
We also consider everybody (not just witches) to be a part of God. Our
God is not merely everywhere, but even everyTHING. A common greeting in one
branch of paganism is "Thou art God". This does not mean that we believe
that every person is a god, but rather that all things are a part of God.
We even have our trinities. The Triple Goddess consists of Maiden,
Mother, and Crone aspects; the Triple God might consist of Lover, Hunter,
and Grandfather. Each group or individual might use different names for
these individual aspects of God.
WITCHRAFT IS NOT AN ORGANIZED RELIGION.
Each individual is trained in the "Tradition" he or she finds access to,
and upon completion of training is usually initiated into that "Tradition".
Once that process is complete, it is expected of each person to think for
and be responsible for themselves. There are no mind control games, no
brainwashing techniques, no death threats, and, in most cases, no authority
figures. There is usually a couple named High Priest and High Priestess
for a ritual, but in MOST groups, this function is rotated among the members
of the group.
American paganism has its roots mainly in English and Welsh forms of
paganism, but we seem to have picked up extra material from a variety of
sources (including American Indians), as well as pruning some of the things
we found to be unnecessary and adding new material as it strikes us. Some
American traditions sprang from the imaginations of people from seemingly
nowhere, and other follow the "Old Ways" fairly strictly.
WE ARE NOT AFTER YOUR CHILDREN...
It is against our religion to proseletize (recruit). We do have bookstores
open to the public, and we may be involved in open religious debates, but
our gods do not need your souls.
BUT PAGANS ARE DANGEROUS, AREN'T THEY?
No. We believe different things than most Christians, but the differences
are not great enough to cause the misunderstandings that exist. In fact, we
are not very much different from the Unitarian Universalist Church or the
Society of Friends (Quakers). We believe in going where our own conscience
takes us, and each Tradition teaches ethics at a level not usually found in
We hope that you enjoy CultWatch Response. Please let us know how you
feel; you may wish to fill out and return the questionnaire in this issue.
Please also read the Editorial Policy listed elsewhere in this issue.
Subscriptions are free to police departments and organizations; this will
make for limited free distribution in some areas. Others are welcome to
write for the current subscription price or to make arrangements to help
Gerald Bliss, Editor and Co-Founder
The Origins of Halloween
In recent years, there have been a number of pamphlets put out by various
Christian organizations dealing with the origins of modern day Halloween
customs. Being a Witch myself, and a student of the ancient Celts, from
whom we get this holiday, I have found these pamphlets woefully inaccurate
and poorly researched. In an effort to correct some of this erroneous
information, I have spent several months researching the religious life of
the ancient Celtic peoples and the survivals of that religious life in
modern day times. Listed below are some of the most commonly asked
questions concerning the origins and customs of Halloween. Following the
questions is a lengthy bibliography where the curious reader can go to
learn more about this holiday than space in this small pamphlet permits.
1. Where does Halloween come from?
Our modern celebration of Halloween is a descendant of the ancient
Celtic fire festival called "Samhain". The word is pronounced "sow-
in", with "sow" rhyming with cow.
2. What does "Samhain" mean?
The Irish English dictionary published by the Irish Texts Society
defines the word as follows: "Samhain, All Hallowtide, the feast of
the dead in Pagan and Christian times, signalizing the close of
harvest and the initiation of the winter season, lasting till May,
during which troops (esp. the Fiann) were quartered. Faeries were
imagined as particularly active at this season. From it the half year
is reckoned. also called Feile Moingfinne (Snow Goddess).(1) The
Scottish Gaelic Dictionary defines it as "Hallowtide. The Feast of All
Souls. Sam + Fuin = end of summer."(2) Contrary to the information
published by many organizations, there is no archaeological or
literary evidence to indicate that Samhain was a deity. The Celtic
Gods of the dead were Gwynn ap Nudd for the British, and Arawn for the
Welsh. The Irish did not have a "lord of death" as such.
3. Why was the end of summer of significance to the Celts?
The Celts were a pastoral people as opposed to an agricultural people.
The end of summer was significant to them because it meant the time of
year when the structure of their lives changed radically. The cattle
were brought down from the summer pastures in the hills and the people
were gathered into the houses for the long winter nights of story-
telling and handicrafts.
4. What does it have to do with a festival of the dead?
The Celts believed that when people died, they went to a land of
eternal youth and happiness called Tir nan Og. They did not have the
concept of heaven and hell that the Christian church later brought
into the land. The dead were sometimes believed to be dwelling with
the Fairy Folk, who lived in the numerous mounds or sidhe (pron.
"shee") that dotted the Irish and Scottish countryside. Samhain was
the new year to the Celts. In the Celtic belief system, turning
points, such as the time between one day and the next, the meeting of
sea and shore, or the turning of one year into the next were seen as
magickal times. The turning of the year was the most potent of these
times. This was the time when the "veil between the worlds" was at its
thinnest, and the living could communicate with their beloved dead in
Tir nan Og.
5. What about the aspects of "evil" that we associate with the night today?
The Celts did not have demons and devils in their belief system. The
fairies, however, were often considered hostile and dangerous to
humans because they were seen as being resentful of men taking over
their lands. On this night, they would sometimes trick humans into
becoming lost in the fairy mounds, where they would be trapped
forever. After the coming of the Christians to the Celtic lands,
certain of the folk saw the fairies as those angels who had sided
neither with God nor with Lucifer in their dispute, and thus, were
condemned to walk the earth until judgment day.(3) In addition to the
fairies, many humans were abroad on this night, causing mischief.
since this night belonged neither to one year or the other, Celtic
folk believed that chaos reigned and the people would engage in
"horseplay and practical jokes".(4) This served also as a final outlet
for high spirits before the gloom of winter set in.
6. What about "trick or treat"?
During the course of these hijinks, many of the people would imitate
the fairies and go from house to house begging for treats. Failure to
supply the treats would usually result in practical jokes being
visited on the owner of the house. Since the fairies were abroad on
this night, an offering of food or milk was frequently left for them
on the steps of the house, so the homeowner could gain the blessings
of the "good folk" for the coming year. Many of the households would
also leave out a "dumb supper" for the spirits of the departed.(5) The
folks who were abroad in the night imitating the fairies would some-
times carry turnips carved to represent faces. This is the origin of
our modern Jack-o-lantern.
7. Was this also a religious festival?
Yes. Celtic religion was very closely tied to the Earth. Their great
legends are concerned with momentous happenings which took place
around the time of Samhain. Many of the great battles and legends of
kings and heroes center on this night. Many of the legends concern the
promotion of fertility of the earth and the insurance of the contin-
uance of the lives of the people through the dark winter season.
8. How was the religious festival observed?
Unfortunately, we know very little about that. W.G. Wood-Martin, in
his book, "Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland" states, "There is
comparitively little trace of the religion of the Druids now discov-
erable , save in the folklore of the peasantry, and the references
relative to it that occur in ancient and authentic Irish manuscripts
are, as far as present appearances go, meager and insufficient to
support anything like a sound theory for full development of the
ancient religion."(6) The Druids were the priests of the Celtic
peoples. They passed on their teachings by oral tradition instead of
committing them to writing, so when they perished, most of their
religious teachings were lost. We DO know that this festival was
characterized as one of the four great "Fire Festivals" of the Celts.
Legends tell us that on this night, all the hearth fires in Ireland
were extinguished, and then re-lit from the central fire of the Druids
at Tlachtga, 12 miles from the royal hill of Tara. This fire was
kindled from "need fire" which had been generated by the friction of
rubbing two sticks together as opposed to more conventional methods
common in those days.(7) The extinguishing of the fires symbolized the
"dark half" of the year, and the re-kindling from the Druidic fires
was symbolic of the returning life hoped for, and brought about
through the ministrations of the priesthood.
9. What about sacrifices?
Animals were certainly killed at this time of year. This was the time
to "cull" from the herds those animals which were not desired for
breeding purposes for the next year. Most certainly, some of these
would have been done in a ritualistic manner for the use of the
10. Were humans sacrificed?
Scholars are sharply divided on this account, with about half
believing that it took place and half doubting its veracity. Caesar
and Tacitus certainly tell tales of the human sacrifices of the Celts,
but Nora Chadwick points out in her book "The Celts" that "it is not
without interest that the Romans themselves had abolished human
sacrifices not long before Caesar's time, and references to the
practice among various barbarian peoples have certain overtones of
self-righteousness. There is little direct archaeological evidence
relevant to Celtic sacrifice."(8) Indeed, there is little reference to
this practice in Celtic literature either. The only surviving story
echoes the story of the Minotaur in Greek legend. The Fomorians, a
race of evil giants said to inhabit portions of Ireland before the
coming of the Tuatha de Danaan, or "people of the Goddess Danu",
demanded the sacrifice of 2/3 of the corn, milk, and first born chil-
dren of the Fir Bolg, or human inhabitants of Ireland. The De Danaan
ended this practice in the second battle of Moy Tura, which
incidentally took place on Samhain.
11. What other practices were associated with this season?
Folk tradition tells us of many divination practices associated with
Samhain. Among the most common were divinations dealing with marriage,
weather, and the coming fortunes for the year. These were performed
via such methods as ducking for apples and apple peeling. Ducking for
apples was a marriage divination. The first person to bite an apple
would be the first to marry in the coming year. Apple peeling was a
divination to see how long your life would be. The longer the umbroken
apple peel, the longer your life was destined to be.(9) In Scotland,
people would place stones in the ashes of the hearth before retiring
for the night. Anyone whose stone had been disturbed during the night
was said to be destined to die during the coming year.
12. How did these ancient Celtic practices come to America?
When the potato crop in Ireland failed, many of the Irish people,
modern day descendents of the Celts, immigrated to America, bringing
with them their folk practices, which are the remnants of the Celtic
13. We in America view this as a harvest festival. Did the Celts also
view it as such?
Yes. The Celts had 3 harvests: Aug 1, or Lammas, was the first
harvest, when the first fruits were offered to the Gods in thanks. The
Fall Equinox was the "true harvest". This was when the bulk of the
crops would be brought in. Samhain was the final harvest of the year.
Anything left on the vines or in the fields after this date was
considered blasted by the fairies, or "pu'ka", and unfit for human
14. Does anyone today celebrate Samhain as a religious observance?
Yes. many followers of various pagan religions, such as Druids and
Wiccans, observe this day as a religious festival. They view it as a
memorial day for their dead friends, similar to the national holiday
of Memorial Day in May. It is still a night to practice various forms
of divination concerning future events. Also, it is considered a time
to wrap up old projects, take stock of ones life, and initiate new
projects for the coming year. As the winter season is approaching, it
is a good time to do studying on research projects and also a good
time to begin hand work such as sewing, leather working, woodworking,
etc. for Yule gifts later in the year.
15. Does this involve human or animal sacrifice?
Absolutely NOT! Hollywood to the contrary, blood sacrifice is not
practiced by modern day followers of Wicca or Druidism. There may be
some people who THINK they are practicing Wicca by performing blood
sacrifices, but this is NOT condoned by reputable practitioners of the
modern day NeoPagan religions.
(1) Rev. Patrick Dineen, "An Irish English Dictionary" (Dublin, 1927),
(2) Malcolm MacLennan, "A Pronouncing and Etymological Dictionary of
the Gaelic Language" (Aberdeen, 1979), p. 279
(3) W.G. Wood-Martin,"Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland" (Port
Washington, 1902), p. 5.
(4) Kevin Danaher,"The Year in Ireland", (Cork,1972), p. 214
(5) Alwyn & Brinley Rees,"Celtic Heritage" (New York,1961), p. 90
(6) Wood-Martin, p. 249
(7) Rees & Rees, p. 90
(8) Nora Chadwick, "The Celts" (Harmondsworth,1982), p. 151
(9) Madeleine Pelner Cosman, "Medieval Holidays and Festivals,"
(New York, 1981), p. 81
Bord, Janet & Colin, "The Secret Country", London: Paladin Books, 1978
Chadwick, Nora, "The Celts", Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1982
Coglan, Ronan, "A Dictionary of Irish Myth and Legend", Dublin,1979
Cosman, Madeleine Pelner, "Medieval Holidays and Festivals",
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981
Danaher, Kevin, "The Year in Ireland", Cork: The Mercier Press, 1972
Dineen, Rev. Patrick S.,M.A, "An Irish English Dictionary", Dublin:
The Irish Texts Society, 1927
MacCana, Proinsias, "Celtic Mythology", London: The Hamlyn Publishing
Group Limited, 1970
MacLennan, Malcolm, "A Pronouncing and Etymological Dictionary of the
Gaelic Language", Aberdeen: Acair and Aberdeen University Press, 1979
MacNeill, Maire', "The Festival of Lughnasa", Dublin: Comhairle
Powell, T.G.E., "The Celts", New York: Thanes & Hudson,1980
Rees, Alwyn and Brinley, "Celtic Heritage, Ancient Traditions in Ireland
and Wales", New York: Thanes & Hudson, 1961
Sharkey, John, "Celtic Mysteries", New York: Thanes and Hudson, 1975
Spence, Lewis, "British Fairy Origins", Wellingborough: Aquarian Press,
Squire, Charles, "Celtic Myth & Legend, Poetry & Romance", New York:
Newcastle Publishing Co, Inc. 1975
Toulson, Shirley, "The Winter Solstice", London: Jill Norman & Hobhouse,
Wood-Martin, W.G., "Traces of the Elder Faiths of Ireland, Vols I & II,
Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1902 ALTERNATIVE CRAFT LAWS
1. These laws are guides and aides to a better understanding of
ourselves and the Craft.
2. The Craft is made of the interaction of people and divinity.
3. This interaction must be in perfect love and perfect trust.
4. The foundation of perfect love and perfect trust is found in
5. Balance is achieved through understanding of the cycles of life
6. A coven is a group of two or more people who have joined together for
the purpose of interacting with one another and divinity.
7. There shall be no limit to the number of members a coven has, but
balance becomes more difficult to achieve as the number of
8. The final arbitrator of the membership of a coven is the
9. The authroity of a coven comes from the interaction of its
membership with one another and divinity.
10. Authority must be balanced by the total membership of the coven.
11. Imbalance of authority will corrupt individuals and destroy the
effectiveness of the coven.
12. Balance is achieved through taking responsibility for your
actions and the actions of the coven.
13. Because each member of a coven is responsible for self and coven,
the only authority the coven can exercize is authoritative
14. No one can assume the leadership of a coven without the approval
of the membership.
15. The membership is the final authority of a coven.
16. A coven which is in balance has little need of perpetual
leadership from one person or couple.
17. Each full member of a coven must facilitate some aspect of the
18. If only a small percentage of a coven's membership is actively
responsible and facilitating within the coven, there is little
chance of balance. (NOTE: A coven may choose to maintain a
hierarchy, priesthood, system of initiation grades or other
similar devices to encourage individual development. These
trappings often cause imbalance in a coven through the
combination of unnecessary authoritarianism and the relinquishing
of personal responsibility.)
19. A coven has need of only two ranks: Probationer, a member who is
still in training, and Initiate, a member whose training is
complete. (NOTE: This should not be construed as having ended
studies, but rather as having begun them by virtue of having
gained basic information.) Each issue of CultWatch Response is published by Witches Against Terrorism
in Cultic Harassment, a non-profit Corporation, under a Public Domain
Copyright, which entitles any person or group of persons to reproduce, in
any form whatsoever, any material contained therein, so long as articles are
not condensed, abbreviated, nor excerpted in any fashion and credit is given
the original author.
In addition to these provisions, we encourage groups to republish each
issue for the purpose of distribution to police and community organizations
and the media, but would ask that you coordinate with us before doing so to
prevent over-saturation of an area.
We welcome articles, reviews, etc. We reserve the right to correct
obvious mistakes in spelling, syntax, and grammar, and to edit where
necessary to fit available space; any edited material will be returned for
the author's approval prior to publication. We do ask that you not UNFAIRLY
promote any race, cultural group, either sex, or any magickal group or
tradition above another. Articles with careful research and a positive
emphasis will be considered ahead of all others. We would prefer that you
use your real name if you feel comfortable doing so, but this preference
will never be a major factor in deciding whether or not to publish your
The above policies have been agreed to by the current staff of CultWatch
Response, although much of the wording was borrowed from Rocky Mountain
Pagan Journal. We are not affiliated with either the Rocky Mountain Pagan
Journal nor its parent corporation, High Plains Arts and Sciences, but we
are grateful for whatever groundwork they have provided us in the fields of
Public Domain Copyright and editorial policies.
The staff at CultWatch Response would like to know what we can do to help
you in dealing with the issues we are faced with; if you would please fill
out the following questionnaire and return it to us, it will be a great
help. You need not include your name or address; of course we would like to
have it if you feel comfortable giving it to us.
1. Did you find this material informative?
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6. Who (speaker, minister, colleague, etc.) or what (book, movie, article,
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7. Do you believe that Witchcraft encourages or incorporates unlawful
activities in its belief structure? If yes, please specify
which types of problems you have in this area.
8. Do you feel that "occult-influenced" crimes should be of major concern
in law enforcement?
9. Has there been evidence of "occult-influenced" crime in your area?
10. Have you personally been involved in the investigation of an "occult-
11. Does your agency sponsor, or encourage attendance of, "occult crime"
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feel comfortable, please list which seminars you have attended.
12. Does your agency receive assistance in "occult-influenced" crime
investigations from Witches in your area?
13. Would your agency welcome contact and/or assistance from legitimate
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E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank