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A Witch examines the unique intersections between her Witchcraft spirituality and Twelve Step teachings.

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"Love and Tolerance of Others is our Code"

There has been a lot of very heated discussion lately about Paganism and Polytheism, with some people suggestion that there are certain practices or beliefs that one should hold in order to be able to call themselves a polytheist or pagan. Modern paganism being as diverse as it is, this has taken a lot of people by surprise, and accusations and name calling is happening from all corners.

I know this, and this only: I am a member of an organization that acknowledges "We are people who normally would not mix." (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 17) But here we are--representing all sections of this country, all political, economic, and social backgrounds.  And-here's where I want you to pay attention--all religious backgrounds.

Twelve Step Programs are  spiritual programs.  It is demanded of us that we live a spiritual way of life.  It is also a WE program.  If you look at the Twelve Steps, you will see that "I" do not do the steps.  "We" do the steps.  So here we are, people of all religious backgrounds, beliefs and practices, being told we are meant to live a spiritual way of life, and that we are supposed to do it together, and that "love and tolerance of others is our code"? (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 84)

And it works?

Friends, if a bunch of drunks and drug addicts can do this, I know we can manage to treat each other's spiritual and religious decisions with respect and dignity. A.A. and N.A. do not divide into Christian groups and Jewish groups and Pagan groups.  We do it together. If a group of people whose continued sobriety and oftentimes their lives hangs in the balance of whether or not they can manage to learn from and with people who might have vastly different spiritual concepts and ideas, I know we can manage to not call each others religions or beliefs garbage. Alcoholics and Addicts are some of the most selfish and self-centered people with poor impulse control you'll ever meet in your lives (they'll tell you that themselves). And even though their life LITERALLY depends on their spiritual fitness, it makes no difference to them that the person next to them might worship totally different than they do.

If I, a practicing Witch and Goddess worshipper for almost two decades, can stand in a circle and recite the Lord's Prayer and feel God(s) Damned honored to do it because holy crap, I'm alive and sober with the help of these crazy people, I know we can manage to not rip each other to shreds on the internet. For the most part, we are taking part in this online Pagan community by choice.  This is a privileged activity. While our worship might be dead serious, our time here together could come with a bit of gratitude that even if we share NO theology in common, we are all helping normalize fringe religious practices in this country. Many of us are seeking inspiration from the past, to varying degrees.

Someone snorted derisively at me last week after I made a plea for kindness that "This isn't Kindergarten."  Well, I think we should all go back there, take some naps, and re-learn our lessons about sharing. I can share the word Pagan.  I can share the word Witch. I know others may do things with them that might not be what I do with them.  Such is the nature of life. We will all somehow manage to carry on despite our disappointment.

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Hope M. celebrated her seventh anniversary of being clean & sober in January. She has a sponsor and has the privilege of sponsoring other women, and has worked the Twelve Steps. She also has a homegroup and holds a job there. She has been a practicing witch since she was 12 years old.  After many years as a solitary witch, she recently began learning in the Reclaiming tradition. She writes this blog anonymously out of respect for the anonymity tradition of Twelve Step recovery groups.


  • Stephanie Rodriguez
    Stephanie Rodriguez Monday, 10 June 2013

    Fantastic!! I could not have said this better myself-though it's exactly what I've been thinking through all the drama: how can we a 'pagans' ever expect to be accepted and respected by the culture at large if we can't even grant each other those common decencies? Bravo!

  • Hope M.
    Hope M. Wednesday, 12 June 2013

    There have definitely been times in this discussion where I've wanted to be snarkier than I was, and probably times where I was pointier than I should have been, but overall I am thankful for the restraint of pen, tongue, and keyboard that the steps have given me! Many people have them without the benefit of the steps, but this alcoholic definitely needs 12 whole steps and an entire fellowship to manage LOL

  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys Monday, 10 June 2013

    I couldn't agree more. And perhaps the rest of us could learn a little humility from "a bunch of drunks and drug addicts." Namaste. :)

  • Hope M.
    Hope M. Wednesday, 12 June 2013

    Thanks! Humility is the state of being teachable and we drunks and drug addicts have a lot to learn about how to manage in this world. We often forget this but like the practice of mindfulness, the real magic happens in the constant returning to the state of humility.

  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Thursday, 13 June 2013

    I've been told that in my attempts to restore civility and reason to PSQ I'm being a "Kindergarten Cop." Well, I'll be happy to take that label and wear it with pride if it results in a greater appreciation for each other's opinions. Two thumbs straight up on this post, Hope.

  • Hope M.
    Hope M. Thursday, 13 June 2013

    Thank you Anne. I know you pour enormous amounts of work into this space and we appreciate it.

  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys Thursday, 13 June 2013

    This space is something you set up and maintain. As such, I think it's important to accord you extra respect. It's easy to take the work of an online administrator for granted, and I believe that all should remember and honor the service and forum you provide. It's your space, and you call the shots. ... And even if that weren't true, the civility, reason and greater appreciation are goals I wholeheartedly support.

  • Apuleius Platonicus
    Apuleius Platonicus Thursday, 13 June 2013

    I think it's important for people to know that there are 12-step groups where you don't have to recite the Lord's Prayer or in any other way conform to Christian religious beliefs and practices. And even at AA meetings where the Lord's Prayer is recited is perfectly acceptable for those attending to remain seated and silent and to not participate.

    The Lord's Prayer has been a bone of contention in AA from the beginning, and passively accepting the imposition of this Christian practice is not a good model to hold up for other people to follow.

  • Hope M.
    Hope M. Thursday, 13 June 2013

    No 12 Step program requires you to conform to Christian religious beliefs and practices. Even groups that make us of Christian prayers will not ask or require it. I know because I am a homegroup member of two of them. And yes, there are many groups that do not use the Lords Prayer, but instead stick to the Serenity Prayer (which was written as a Christian prayer, btw).

    Are you suggesting that I am passively accepting the imposition of this Christian practice?
    I am not passively accepting it. if I am taking part in it, I am taking part in it with love and gratitude to the community. It is an active acceptance and I do not view the invitation to take part in prayer as an imposition, no matter "who" the prayer belongs to.

    My heart leaps out to share a moment in prayer with other people. Whether we use my language or their language is of no great import to me.

    When i chose to abstain from speaking the prayer, which I have been doing lately, I hold hands with my fellow drunks and I remain silent and become aware of the energy in the room and try and add my own sense of gratitude towards it. Others abstain by not taking part at all, and that is fine as well.

    It is not my job to hold up a model for other people to follow, so please do not project that onto me. All I can do is share my experience, strength and hope and others can take from it what they will.

    Thank you for sharing!

  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys Thursday, 13 June 2013

    It has never been my impression that serving as a role model had anything to do with 12-step programs. My understanding is that you are there to work on yourself in a safe atmosphere with mutual support. Adding "role model" pressure to would seem to, at least potentially, work against that purpose. But my exposure to the programs is limited, so I could be wrong.

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