Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Defining My Use of the Term, "Fluffy Bunny"

I wrote as an addition to my post on intolerance the following:

"Note: My definition of a 'fluffy bunny' is one who only reads one author, or books from one publishing house, or one internet site and sets it up as the one and only authority, refusing to be challenged on fact or experience, and informing all others they are wrong to call themselves pagan/witch/druid/heathen/whatever if they don't follow the guidelines as defined by them. These are the people who scream louder when challenged, drowning out any reasonable discussion with cries of 'persecution'."

There are a few things I should add to the definition, as I read the comments left on the post about my intolerance of bicce and bitchcraft.

I would like to include those people who shove love and light down everyone's throats, or "blessed be", without realising this is used by Wica in address to or from the priest/ess. It is not a general greeting to be plastered at the end of every post and used in real life - something I have grown to despise. Same goes for "merry meet" and "merry part", which also have specific uses, but seem to have become a general greeting for all pagans.

Anyone who talks about the triple moon, or wears that symbol, or uses it in a post, also comes under the term fluffy bunny - it has four phases, not three. Full, waning, dark, and waxing. Of course, this might be because most people have no undergone second degree initiation in Wica and learned about dark aspects. They see the lovely Wica crowns for sale in shops or on the internet, adopt the symbol and have no idea what it means, they just copy it out.

Anyone who refers to casting a circle and then calling the four corners. Basic mathematics should help you figure out that there aren't four corners in a circle. People who believe you need 13 people to form a coven, or four (one from each element of the eastern astrological system), or any other tripe borrowed from the cinema, including those elusive eye/hair colour changing spells.

Anyone who bangs on about millions of witches being burned, also known as "The Burning Times" is definitely a fluffy bunny. In UK history, most convictions were not for witchcraft itself; witchcraft was the means to an end, such as theft, assault and murder. So, people would be convicted for murder (by witchcraft) and, usually, sentenced to hanging. In Europe, there were some burnings, I believe, but not in the numbers often spouted about on pagan sites.

There is a project underway where court records are to be examined and numbers collated, but estimates are in the region of 30,000 not millions. What's more, if you read some of the original documents in some of these cases, people were convicted and sentenced, but for various reasons, the sentence was never carried out. Some died awaiting their fate, some escaped and others just seem to fade out of history.

Fluffy Bunnies are those that insist that wicca is an ancient religion; its not. The term wicce/wicca was use in Old English to refer to a witch, but it was out of common useage (apart from Tolkien's use in the fictional Lord of the Rings series wherein he resurrected a lot of terms long out of use in common English) when Mr. Gerald Gardner adopted it for his faith. There is only the remotest chance that any ancient magical practices have survived the onslaught of the christian faith in the English-speaking world. Written records of the same are likely to be scarcer then hen's teeth.

Anyone referring to Wica as a nature-based religion. Its not. Its a fertility religion. Oh, and while we are on the subject, modern druids say their religion is nature-based, but it was not exactly so for the historical druids. Their role was less religious and more about upholding the lore/law of their people; even the kings were answerable to them.

I don't do crystals, but I can understand some people's attraction to them. Yes, I wear them in jewellery, because I wear silver, not gold and semi-precious stones are routinely used by silversmiths when crafting jewellery, the more expensive stones being reserved for gold. I am fully aware most of these will have been blasted out of the earth's crust in a rather violent manner. That's why I don't consider crystals good for magic and/or healing; they are part of the earth's destruction. However, anyone that says they left a crystal as an offering, either at a megalith or other sacred site, or as payment for some gift, also gets termed a "fluffy bunny". Think about it? Leaving a crystal that has been blasted out of the earth in South America is not, I repeat not a suitable offering for a local diety or spirit.

And, while we are on the subject, neither are those tealights. The aluminium is rubbish and should be taken away with you, in case it causes harm to local wildlife and, quite apart from taking millenia to break down, the wax can cause damage if it melts and hits the grass below; in some instances, can damage stones, too. Flowers, not picked locally aren't suitable either. Actually, forget flowers as the chemicals they release upon breaking down can also be damaging to historical sites. Its always best to observe the maxim: "Leave it as you found it", i.e. take away everything you brought with you.

Actually, even some thoughts and energies are unwelcome. The number of times I've heard of outsiders infringing on local areas thinking they have a right to them. Then begins the warden wars - arguments as to who are the true protectors of a particular site or area.

Have to say, too, that those that wear those lovely velvet, fairy tale dresses for ritual, as opposed to living history displays, etc. mostly fall into the "fluffy bunny" category. Look, I don't mind if you enjoy wearing that style of clothing - I would if it suited me and I was going to a fancy dress party - but its hardly suitable for ritual, certainly the kind of ritual a velvet-clad group are likely to perform using candles, cauldrons, incense, etc., as all those long sleeves are likely to catch fire (and, I've certainly heard of this happening to the odd HPS and HP at public rituals). [See "Coarse Witchcraft: Craft Working" and "Coarse Witchcraft: Carry on Crafting" for accounts of mishaps in rituals.] While we are on the subject of dress, wearing a pentacle the size of a saucepan will get you labelled "fluffy". I do have a small, silver, pentacle charm that sits amongst many other charms on a bracelet, which generally goes unnoticed. Its only meaning for me is that it is associated with witchcraft through the ages, as are all the charms on that particular bracelet, but may soon be removed in favour of charms with a more personal connection to my personal beliefs.

Dressing in black does not make you a dark pagan, either. It makes you a goth and, in some instances, a "fluffy black bunny", especially if you follow one particular author on night magic(k), whom shall remain nameless.

This bring me to my next point. Using the spelling magick, as opposed to magic, whilst neither a follower of Crowley or numerology, but rather to distinguish the term from sleight of hand magic, would render you a "fluffy bunny", too. Actually, spelling in general can be a problem. The use of fae and/or faerie when referring to fairies or the sidhe is also rather odd, as are misspellings like wytchcrafte. Fake olde worlde spelling does not make you any more of a witch or pagan, it does make you more of a prat. If it's a question of a user name on a message board or url address, I can understand it as names are quickly snapped up - I've had to resort to it in the past - but misspelling in posts, emails and/or general text is just ridiculous.

In my opinion, so is anyone who believes that fairies are those elegant, sweet, small, winged creatures of Victorian or Lady Cottington's storybooks. Think of the fairies in Episode 5, Series 1 of Torchwood ("Small Worlds") and you getting closer to the truth, those the design was a bit crass.

Those that say they are a witch, but don't practice magic, or those who state witchcraft is a religion (it's not) I also consider fluff bunnies . Witchcraft is just that, a craft, a practice. Wicca is a religion and, even if you are American, do not use the terms witchcraft and Wicca interchangeably; it confuses everyone. Anyone who says they are Wica, Wicca, or Wiccan without being an initiate of a valid, lineaged (Gardnerian/Alexandrian) coven is also a fluffy bunny. Fact: unless you are an initiate of such a coven, you are merely a follower of practices derived from published materials on Wic(c)a, you are not a Wiccan yourself.

Referring to yourself as a vegetarian Norse Wiccan will also get you lumped into the fluffy bunny league. Why? Because Wica is separate from Norse Heathenism and I don't know many heathen vegetarians myself; it appears to go agains the historical grain (if you'll pardon the pun). Same goes for things like Celtic Reiki and/or Celtic Shamanism. Professor Ronald Hutton has done a rather nice book on what shamanism is and isn't. Oh, and otherkin and their ilk are also quite fluffy, not to mention delusional.

Just to be clear: I do not refer to newcomers to witchcraft, Wic(c)a, druidry, heathenism or other paths that fall under the umbrella of paganism as fluffies. When first starting out along a pagan path, there is an array of misinformation in various forms of media that is hard to bypass. However, during interactions with the general pagan community, people will inform a newcomer that the path they are on is usally based on facts (historical and scientific) and substantiated personal gnosis ("SPG") and offer a critical assessment of the newcomers's beliefs and/or practices, challenging the newcomer to learn and grow. If said newcomer then proceeds to ignore the valid information offered to them, choosing instead to spout the inaccurate statements they've read or the unsubstantiated personal gnosis they've adopted, then, to my mind, they are also fluffy. If someone cannot accept reasoned, factual arguments, choosing instead to opt for misinformation and delusions, then so be it.

I don't believe pagans have to be tolerant. Albeit the Romans adopted local gods, so as not upset them when travelling in their territory, and heathens and celts often traded alongside one another, not every pagan was tolerant of every other pagan's views, practices or gods. For instance, the path I have chosen holds truth above all else. So if I encounter people who are not willing to accept a proven historical fact in place of some pseudo-feminist BS, then I'm not going to waste my time on them. I'll argue to a point, and then give up and leave them to their own stupidity and me to mine (I'm not perfect and make no pretence of it, either; I'm as ignorant as anyone else).

Things I don't consider fluffy:

  1. being eclectic;
  2. mixing pantheons;
  3. observing a goddess only;
  4. all newcomers to witchcraft, Wic(c)a, druidry, heathenism or other paths that fall under the umbrella of paganism; and
  5. tree hugging;
  6. a belief in sidhe;
  7. New Age enthusiasts;
  8. vegetarians and/or vegans;
  9. any of the exceptions of mentioned in my text above; and
  10. [anything I might like to add at a later date].
I am quite aware that many people will be upset by this post. Remember, though, its only an opinion - my opinion. I do not delude myself that the opinion I offer on the definition of fluffy bunny is anything other than prejudicial and based on my own assumptions and experience. I am open to criticism about facts (provided sources are cited), and open to rebuttals.

[Note: Any initiated, lineaged (Gardnerian/Alexandrian) Wic(c)a are welcome to comment on the correct use of words and/or symbols as I am no expert.]


Anonymous said...

A lot to digest in this post! Respectfully, and simply IMHO, a few points:

The triple moon symbol can be interpreted as a symbol of the Goddess, Maiden-Mother-Crone. I think most witches recognise the four phases of the moon. I myself wouldn't get much done without the dark of the moon.

Blessed Be and Merry Meet may indeed have begun as Wiccan phrases with specific meaning, but like everything else, they are just normal words with a normal application too. 'Bless you' can equally be used in church or after you've sneezed.

The Burning Times, so called is an obvious chestnut and trap for the new or credulous. From my studies I believe that the vast majority of those killed, whatever their number, were seen as heretics to the Christian church and certianly nothing whatsoever to do with witchcraft as we know it today. It was an internal pogrom of the type seen now in Anglicanism - the 'We're more Anglican than you' mentality.

I am with you on the 'Wicca as an ancient religion' riff; there's no evidence. However, semantics comes into play again; Wicca (capital W) refers to Garnerian practice; wicca (small w) refers to witchcraft or to the old English word. I believe it to be perfectly valid to use the word wicca to refer to witchcraft or similar practise if one is not attempting to claim Wiccan heritage or learning.

Agreed on the environmental aspects of ceremonial workings.

Theatricality in ritual has a long precendent - robes and so forth are certainly not my brand of vodka but I can see the point. I'm not going to wear them down the shops, though.

Yes, yes, yes on the 'magick' thing. How the hell would you pronounce 'magickian' anyway!!

Fairies - look no further than Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

Wicca is a religion, and magic is not. Witchcraft can contain elements of religious practice and magic both - after all, witches of my particular stripe worship a Goddess and God. Fluffy? I am not a Wiccan, as I'm not in a Wiccan coven. This seems clear enough to me.

I think it's unfortunate that, at times, we all feel the need to state our premises in such an unequivocal way. But then, perhaps its necessary.

Ancestral Gael said...

Firstly, the maiden, mother, crone also has a fourth stage.

Secondly, "Bless you" is rather different from "Blessed Be", which has specific connotations and is not in common use, remaning solely in the wikkan wannabe community.

Thank you for reminding me of the other reason for the witch hunts. I knew I'd left something imporant out, such as the clash between different factions of the xian church.

I've not read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell, as I am too busy reading celtic myths, history and legends and trying to learn Gaelic.

If you are a witch who worships a goddess and a god, then you are probably a pagan witch - pagan being the religion, witchcraft being the practice. Witchcraft is not a religion - and I maintain that stance. The fact is "craft" is just that, a skill. Who, what or when you worship should have nothing to do with your ability to work with magical energy. If you can't work magic, you're no witch.

I felt the need to be clear on my definition, so that no-one automatically assumed I was referring to them. The fact is having any of the beliefs I mentioned does not mean you aren't a worthwhile person with whom to engage in conversation, etc. What it does mean is I am not going to engage said person in debate on the matters mentioned above and I am not sure I can take such people seriously.

But, that's just me. I don't tend to take things all that personally, anyways. I have opinions, strong opinions and I've been called arrogant. I don't mind; its who I am.

I am still open to any comments or discussions on my post, especially since I have edited it since I first published it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comments, Ancestral Celt, I was interested to read them!

Ancestral Gael said...

And, I yours, Wiccanwanderings. Thank you for taking the time to write out such a response. Its appreciated.

hen said...

Happily, I agree with your entire post. There was a time when I would have put it so strongly myself.

These days though I have resigned myself to the fact that I will always find it hard to meet, in person, anything other than the 'fluffy bunny' as it seems the art of individual deep thought has been lost, by many.

Most people are afraid of solitude and are looking for an alternative to the mundane and to reality. Two very different things. All the different fluffy bunny factions are very attractive as a step out of reality.

Without an historical record of the craft of being a 'witch' (whatever that means), it's not surprising fluffy bunnies exist.

People spend their life distracting themselves from the reality of living, it's a constant occupation. My interpretation of what it means to be a witch, shaman, pagan, whatever, is having the skill to open up to the reality of life and use that for the well-being of all life. That is all. (like that's an easy thing!). Anything on top of that is a human technique of distraction.

Thank you so much for putting into words my deep rage at the world of crystals, rare wood wands and leaving tat in beautiful places and not having the skills to have a fire out doors and leave no trace of it. It makes my blood boil. A thoughtless, selfish act. I have spent hours untying elastic, leather and ribbon from the branches of throttled trees.

The first thing to do when deciding to become a pagan should be to go out into a wood, alone, for just 3 days. Spending that time in silence and with no distractions. Remembering your place in the world.

Right, I've rambled now.

I haven't done a point to point critique of what you have written as I don't feel it necessary. Well written and to the point. Refreshing and sorely needed.


Ancestral Gael said...

Oh hen; I hear and understand your frustration and removing those awful bits of tat from trees near wells, etc. There is a precedent for it, true, but it was once a natural material that would break down, not some red nylon knickers, which I have seen strangling a small branch before.

As to your suggestion to go out and spend time in nature, I agree. I am reading a book at the moment, which looks like its a good addition to my defintive book list: "The Art of Conversation with the Genius Loci" by Barry Patterson. In it, he makes all the points you do about being in nature, respectfully leaving it as you found it, but still making those all important connections.

If only everyone took the advice ...

Miss Robyn said...

ahh well, I don't know where this leaves me but I do know what I love and I do call myself a hedgewitch and I also say magick cause I like it. I know that faeries are not like the Victorian type as I have seen tree spirits in the bush and also around my apple tree. I say blessings and bliss at the end of some emails as that is what one circle that I attended did and I like it.
I hate getting caught up in what is right and what is wrong in any path of belief... cause in the end, no-one knows really. I just follow what my heart loves.

Ancestral Gael said...

miss*R - in my opinion you are firmly in the warm, earthy camp.

Anonymous said...

I like that, miss*R. Good on you!

Fog Patches. said...

With regard to people executed as witches in Europe and the estimation of their numbers it has been stated that around 25% of these people were men.

It’s unlikely that there will ever be unqualified agreement upon a single figure. Meanwhile, the anonymous numbers of this crowd are less interesting than the stories of the individuals involved.