To mainstream Xtian Americans, the title of this essay is blatantly radical. After all, how can Witches benefit society? Our values (yes, we have some) and morals (yes, we have morals, too) mandate that we do no less than our best to freely help anyone in need. Put simply, we fill many gaps the government and well-meaning social programs refuse to acknowledge exist.
Witches serve as unpaid counselors. Filled with empathy, devoted to ancient "common sense", we don't sit idly by when people are drowning in modern, technological despair. We are sounding boards for people from all walks of life. We spend hours helping people to honestly evaluate their inner motives and traumatic life experiences, and arrive at a comfortable synthesis. We offer practical advice, usable techniques and a non-judgmental shoulder to lean on. Nor do we cultivate neediness. Rather, we encourage people to grow emotionally -- to mature, season, and learn to appreciate the vicissitudes of Nature and the God/desses' ways. Because we are open and neutral, and our advice is based on core Pagan values which emphasize the sanctity of diversity and flow, we are appreciated for our reasonableness (as opposed to fundamentalist counselors who apply inexplicable Bible verses to people's distress).
Witches serve as unpaid herbalists. Knowledgeable about ancient recipes, we know how to safely quick-mix the perfect salve, poultice, inhalant or brew, to soothe and cure -- promoting people's self-reliance and independence from costly and quixotic medical professionals. We answer questions and research answers we don't know (without making the person feel ridiculous for asking, as doctors often do). We are not bound by dollars to coddle hypochondriacs, and call 'em as we see 'em. We are precise about the freshness of our ingredients, scrupulous with our advice, and available to answer questions about our potions' application and effectiveness.
Witches serve as healers. We perform healing spells, midwive babies, comfort, console and improve the health of those who heed our advice. We write Family Herbal articles, harvest medicinal plants (often at our own legal risk) and encourage folks to responsibly use substances to achieve spiritual ecstasy. We discourage excessive use or dependence on mind or mood altering chemicals. We listen to all of a person's physical complaints, take into account their upbringing, life challenges and daily circumstances. We discourage the Xtian stance of "grin and bear" the pain, suffering through or rising above it. Rather, we see pain as unnecessary and strive to prevent or stop it with the right herbal application.
Witches serve as unpaid clergy. We legally marry and bury, going out of our way to ensure people are satisfied with our personal treatment of their unique situations and desires. We conduct Wiccan Handfastings, good for a year and a day, complete with flowers, Maypole and color-coordinated Quarters. We do Handpartings for those who wish to separate and go their separate ways in peaceful friendship. We perform Rites of Passage for adolescents -- Moon Time for young women beginning menstruation, and Greenmanning for young men in the nebulous phase between teen and adult. We do Cronings for mature, wise women who need validation at the sometimes distressing time of menopause. We initiate Witches and elevate Witches to higher rank and responsibilities. We bless new babies, haunted houses, livestock and orchards. We lift curses, dispel fear and console shattered lives. We practice openly when we can, conduct large public rituals and support our local Pagan community. We give articulate media interviews and visit prisoners. And we do all this without charging because our Law forbids it, and to present an unmistakable alternative to dominant Xtianity's money-hungry methods.
Witches serve as the last repository of arcane knowledge -- knowledge ordinary people deride as absent in the modern day. We know or strive to learn how to build things to last, how to make do -- create something out of nothing, cook and eat little more than nutritional weeds, start fires by hand, catch game with string, make our own shelters with deadfall and use all our wits to tend our own. We learn to brain- and urine-tan roadkill and shear, card, spin and dye wool. We camp primitively and often, seeking out trails that have been long forgotten.
Witches serve as unpaid teachers. We educate people about their rights, global trends and problems, Pagan persecution history, and the truth about Witchcraft, past and present. We show that people have choices to make, and a mandate, as humans, to do so. We present alternatives, encourage action as opposed to apathy, and freedom as opposed to 9 to 5 slavery. We relate our successes and failures, and offer people the benefit of our experiences. We teach Wiccan classes, passing on all we've been taught, so the future of the Craft is assured. We answer anonymous, phoned-in questions, e-mail and letters. We teach survival skills, how to play musical instruments, astrology, dowsing and all but lost divination methods like casting bones or fire-gazing future events.
Witches serve as good examples -- people who value the best of humanity, while discouraging that which spawns ill: we prefer to barter for goods of equal value rather than default to exchanging money, which we see as fraught with the perils of greed. We make many of our own tools and give handmade gifts at Yule. We are recyclers and protestors of rampant development and waste. We petition legislators to rescind antiquated and persecutory laws, and get involved with neighborhood issues that trouble us in their long-term implications. We are pro-diversity, and fight prejudices that impinge on our sense of fair play. We view litigation as a court of last resort. We question our own motives as often as we suspect those of others. And we raise our children to express themselves thoughtfully and freely.
Witches serve as watchdogs of social, economic, ecological and political events. We distribute Conscientious Objector material as an alternative for vulnerable young people, prone to becoming casualties in the latest war. We fight discriminatory city ordinances and codes. We spread the word about bad pending legislation or the Supreme Court's recent overturning of religious freedoms. We read history and give lectures on the cyclicity of persecution. We practice civil disobedience. We discourage everyone we know from becoming overwhelmed and inactive against today's legal and technological complexities. We believe, and enthusiastically imbue our friends with the will to fight things they disagree with or find appalling.
Witches serve as vocal opposers of the status quo -- the "givens" in life that most people assume, even as they grumble for being forced to. We don't believe money's a good thing, that "progress" is best, or that the US will always be run by an arbitrary electoral college and two-party system. We live by and promote higher, more ancient values: community, honesty, self-reliance and selflessness. We vote with our feet and appear before City Councils to contest bad zoning variances and corporate development and pollution. We plant trees, heirloom seeds and wildflowers. We trim, but don't mow. We see the beauty of curves and defy the inevitability of yet another linear highway. We thwart conventions and decry the stupidity and waste of the Powers That Be. We cultivate our souls carefully.
Such service benefits society in countless, unsung ways. Witches have survived throughout the centuries because we are utilized and trusted for our perspective and expertise. In this day of spiraling medical costs, we are, in fact, more indispensible than ever. We are diligent, persistent, wholistic and care deeply about each individual's fate, as well as that of our planet. This, and the innate lure of magic itself, are the reasons we have survived, and will continue to do so.
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