Replies from Edain McCoy, unedited and uncommented upon

Hello, Eamonn,

I have no trouble answering questions, but I do have a problem with someone telling me how I must worship and what I may call my rituals.  I do have a huge problem with anyone who thinks they have the spiritual authority to question my spiritual choices and if, when, and how I make them public.  I could have remained a Christian if I wanted someone to dictate my beliefs and practices without question.  No demands from anyone will change my spirituality, but I am open to learning new things.

Let’s talk logic.  All those words Wicce, Wicce, Wita, etc., and Witta as I was taught it, was a ~specific trad~ codified in the late 20th century.  Witta was never presented as THE Irish trad, but AN Irish trad, or “Irish-based” is you prefer.  It was not taught as the pre-Celtic Tuatha or faery faith, but it incorporated the Nordic influence such as the new year being Yule and not Samhain.  This is a sharp departure from older Irish trads.  Witta has undergone many changes since I left Texas.  I was in contact for a while with a third degree priestess of Witta from Texas for a while.  Degree systems in themselves tell me the trad has evolved, split, and grown in new directions.  Whatever they do differently from me is not my business so long as they feel fulfilled by it, and I so not feel threatened by it.
Like any Pagan trad, some practices and beliefs have ancient threads, others are 20th century in origin.  This is true of all religious practices.  All religions evolve to suit their followers, which is why there are so many different methods of practice.
I wrote the book Witta in 1992, just after leaving Texas.  My views on Pagan practice, trads, and other spiritual things have undergone many changes in that time.  I have grown and learned, and I hope my later books reflect this growth.  Witta is no longer in print.  It served me and those who enjoyed it at the time, but as with all spiritual practices, it’s time has largely passed.  I have no control over where out of print copies of my old books end up, and if someone decided they want to model their practices after that book, it is their right to make that choice.
Isaac Bonewitz had this same problem with his classic, “Real Magic.”  In the preface to the second edition he mentioned that no matter how much he’d grown, learned, and changed, there are those words in print following him around “like a troublesome puppy.”
Those interested in Irish trads have many, many, many expressions to choose from, and I doubt you will get many of them to change on demand.  I have wonderful memories of the Wittan coven I was part of, but I no longer practice in anything I consider Irish or even Celtic.  Nor do I ask, advocate, or proselytize the Wittan trad as I learned it, and I no longer teach it a specific trad because I have moved on to other interests.  I often hear from people who love the simplicity and Irish-based of Witta.
Eamonn, in the book Witta I simply put out the information as it was taught to me, probably not much differently than the way you put out information as it was taught to you.  When it comes to specific ethnic trads it seems that way too many people get defensive.  Raven Grimassi has been bashed for his interpretation of Strega.  I know Raven and his wife and they also do not advocate their way as the only way.
I’m sorry you feel anger over a book that is no longer in print.  That seems to be a grand waste of time and energy.  Yet, you are reacting to it the way any reader should.  You are reading it critically and thinking for yourself.  The only way you could upset me would be to tell me I was some infallible guru.  THAT is something I would find soul-shattering scary.
I feel no anger toward you or the Pagans who practice in your trad, nor do I have any personal stake in the way you interpret Irish practice.  As we have all been taught in the Craft, “Take what works for you and leave the rest behind.”  At least that is what we say in the Americas.  In my travels I have met dozens of Witches involved in various Irish and/or Celtic trads, and all of them are different.  I find this fascinating, not threatening.
In the Americas we have a very different mindset about religion that is difficult to communicate to those who are not steeped in our political culture..  Spiritual freedom was at the center of our move for independence from Britain, and it is a battle many of us still fight, and because we are who we are as American, we usually win the battles and celebrate the victories together.  We cherish our freedom to practice faith as we please, and nearly half of the people in the Americas blend traditions.  In the United States, this is deeply-rooted part of our national character, one that has spread into South America, and continues to grow there, combining with Catholicism and the syncretistic faiths brought here from Africa and the Caribbean.
American Pagan speakers who have gone to Ireland and Great Britain have met with hostile audiences and constant “correction” of our syntax.  This correction of our words and practices goes against the ingrained spirit of freedom of religion in the Americas, and it always will.  My ancestor, Sir Roger Williams, was an Englishman who came to the Americas and ended up being the religious disenters’ desinter.  In the United States we take a great pride in our diversity, and most Pagans I meet do not think of themselves as part of a specific trad, sometimes not even as having any one ethnic leaning..  I am well aware how vastly different this is from Paganism as practiced in Europe.
As to your question about me being in Ireland, the last time was when I was a child.  My father, a liberal protestant minister, was participating in an interfaith peace process.  Do I have any Pagan friends in Ireland I communicate with?  No.  I never implied differently.  Other than Gavin Bone and Janet Farrar who live and teach in Ireland I am not on a one on one friendship with any other Irish Pagans.  Gavin and Janet are wonderful people, and they have blended their Alexandrian roots with their Irish beliefs.  My co-religionists in South America are those to whom I am closest, and their jumble of spiritual paths is exciting to me.
I do not say this next to inflame, but to help you understand what spirituality is like in my country.  It is very difficult to find the right words to tell Europeans just how different everything in North American culture is from that of western Europe.  We are more eclectic in religion, and we have more religions to chose from due to our frontier churches which sprang up in the 19th century.  We use that pattern of thinking as we come to Paganism.  We are more open to new spiritual ideas, more inclined to blend spiritual paths, more likely to create new ones to suit ourselves, more likely to stand up and fight for the right to speak and worship as we please, and we simply turn a deaf ear to Europeans who demand we conform to their standards.  Strict adherence to religious dogma is not something we ask of our own countrymen, much less would we ask it of someone living in another country.
As I write this we have a new President taking office, an African-American man, a departure from history so unique that many of us feel this could not happen anywhere but here.  He was taught many religions as a child, then was allowed to select his own path.  We Americans ~love~ this idea that anyone can achieve anything.  Even when many examples can prove it untrue we still cling to this core belief and seek to forward it.  It confirms our belief in the basic tenants upon which our country was founded.  No matter how far we sometimes divert from that, it is always there at our backs lifting us up when we fall.  We love individuality, we love our being unique, and we are proud of our diversity and how that diversity blends with and enhances the whole.  The buzz word here is “hope” not “hate.”
Because learning never ceases, and I am always open to the ideas and spiritual outlook of others, I look forward to visiting the URL you provided me.  If something there gives me pause to think about, you site will have fulfilled it’s goal.  When someone stops learning in spirit I believe the body prepares it to die, and one of the most wonderful things about being Pagan in the Americas is meeting with others at festivals and gatherings and sharing our trads, practices, and ideas with others.  It gives many of us a high that makes transition back to “mundania” difficult.  Every Pagan I’ve communicated with has given me new things to think about, and sometimes that thinking has gone on to change a belief or practice I’ve held.  This is usually because it was talked about, not demanded.
I hope I’ve answered your questions.  If not, I’m sorry, but today I am celebrating my country’s specialness and praying to my patron Goddess Brighid to protect and guide our new President.  I will not allow your imperious demands to ruin this day for me.  My ancestry is from all over Ireland and Britain, but I am an American and my religion is American, though it has roots in the deep past of Europe.
You time would be better spent showing kindness and open mindedness to others rather than making demands you have no authority to make.  If some group in Ireland is allowing you this authority, it is your business and theirs.  Do what you will.  In my country NO ONE has the authority over any aspect of any faith, and that is the way we like it.

I am going to my television to watch President Obama take office now, and cherish the freedoms that this country is proud of.
I wish you and yours all the best, and I send you nothing but positive and loving energy.  It has never been my way to do anything else.  If you feel moved to respond to this, please do.  As I stated, I welcome the opinions and ways of others, and I’m always interested in learning new thing, old things, and different things.

End of email one.

P.S. You need an education is the economics of publishing if you think this is a get rich way of life.  Less than 500 Americans make their livings as full time writers, according to our internal revenue services stats.  What little I made from the .35 a book royalties on Witta before it went out of print many years ago went into keeping myself alive.
Like many other Americans I am struggling to keep my home and keep food on the table for my family.  I drive a 13 year old car and don’t see any way it will soon be replaced.  I used to be a licensed stockbroker.  If making money were my primary goal in life then I would not have left that profession.
No one asked you to read Witta, purchase Witta, practice Witta, or perpetuate Witta.  In North American Witta and Wita are commonly used terms for Irish and Scottish based trads.  The key word here is “based.”  No one here claims to represent an entire culture.  The transliteration of WEED-uh is unacceptable to Americans.  It is just too damn hard.
No one has harmed your country, but we do have different ways in the Americas.  Rational people who may have read Witta know that this is not THE one and only Irish trad.  You may have your mind set stuck in one, but here, we have hundreds and we are proud of them all.
On rereading your e-mail to me, I am sorry I bothered to send a reply at all.  You have no authority over ANYONE when it comes to religion.  My former trad was loved by its followers, most of us have Irish ancestry.  In either case, we are free here to make our own spiritual rules and to call them whatever we like.
I’m sorry you feel offended.  I also suggest that if you had nothing better to do today than to bash me, you need a hobby.
By the way, my Irish grandfather used the old spellings for words such as ceilidh and lunassadh.  I am aware that the dh endings are not Irish in origin.  I spell Brighid the way my Irish teacher–a daughter of immigrants–spelled it.  I will continue to spell it however I chose, for I believe a deity’s energy is not reserved for a select few.
We have to agree to disagree.  I’m sorry your views are so narrow.  It must be very hard to function in the world when you cannot control everyone and everything in it.
Still wishing you well, but letting you know I will no longer take your e-mails because I have the right not to be talked down to by anyone.

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