Response from Edain McCoy with inline notes

Hello, Eamonn[1],

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[2]. 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[3]. I could have remained a Christian if I wanted someone to dictate my beliefs and practices without question[4]. No demands from anyone will change my spirituality, but I am open to learning new things.

Let’s talk logic[5]. All those words Wicce, Wicce, Wita, etc., and Witta as I was taught it, was a ~specific trad~ codified in the late 20th century[6]. Witta was never presented as THE Irish trad, but AN Irish trad, or “Irish-based” is you prefer[7]. It was not taught as the pre-Celtic Tuatha or faery faith[8], but it incorporated the Nordic influence such as the new year being Yule and not Samhain[9]. This is a sharp departure from older Irish trads[10]. 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[10], 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[11]. 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[12].

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[13]. 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[14]. 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[15], probably not much differently than the way you put out information as it was taught to you[16]. When it comes to specific ethnic trads it seems that way too many people get defensive[17]. Raven Grimassi has been bashed for his interpretation of Strega[18]. 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[19]. Yet, you are reacting to it the way any reader should. You are reading it critically and thinking for yourself[20]. The only way you could upset me would be to tell me I was some infallible guru[21]. 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[22]. As we have all been taught in the Craft, “Take what works for you and leave the rest behind.”[23] 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[24].

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[25].. Spiritual freedom was at the center of our move for independence from Britain[26], 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[27], and nearly half of the people in the Americas blend traditions[28]. In the United States, this is deeply-rooted part of our national character, one that has spread into South America[29], 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[30]. This correction of our words and practices goes against the ingrained spirit of freedom of religion in the Americas, and it always will[31]. 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[32]. 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[33]. 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[34]. 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[35].

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.[36] 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.”[37]

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.[38] 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.[39] 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.[40] I will not allow your imperious demands to ruin this day for me.[41] 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[42] to others rather than making demands you have no authority to make.[43] If some group in Ireland is allowing you this authority[44], 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.[45]

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.[46] It has never been my way to do anything else. If you feel moved to respond to this, please do.[47] 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[48]. 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.[49] In North American Witta and Wita are commonly used terms for Irish and Scottish based trads.[50] The key word here is “based.” No one here claims to represent an entire culture. The transliteration of WEED-uh is unacceptable to Americans.[51] 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.[52] 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.[53] You have no authority over ANYONE when it comes to religion[54]. 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[55].

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.[56]

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.[57]

We have to agree to disagree[58]. 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.

Before reading my list of responses, there’re a few things I’d like to say. Ms. McCoy talks frequently about the rights of the Americans. I would like to know what she thinks of the rights of the Irish to have their culture and religions not misrepresented by someone. Unlike her rights, my rights are accorded by the UN.

Let us imagine, for a second, that there is someone who says they are a Catholic but claims that Transubstantiation means that the Eucharist represents the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, that Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdelene, that the Apostles and Jesus held frequent orgies and that they wore denim jeans. These are all patently ridiculous claims. Let us, furthermore, suppose that this person has a degree in history which they mention on their website. To bring this analogy into line with Ms. McCoy, let us finally suppose that this person has written a book claiming all of these things.

Does any Catholic person who reads this book not have the right to tell this supposed author that they are wrong? Do they not have the right to ask for a public retraction and that the money they made be donated to a Catholic charity? I understand the First Amendment and the effect that it has had upon the American sense of entitlement, despite Ms. McCoy’s claims that it is impossible.

Bearing all this in mind, I leave you to peruse my responses.

[1] My name is √Čamonn. The little line above the E is incredibly important. If it were Eamonn, it would sound (approximately) like yahmun, where in fact my name sounds closer to aymun. If Ms. McCoy knew anything about Irish, she’d know how important our fadas are to us and she’d have done me the cursory respect of spelling my name correctly.

[2] I have repeatedly re-read my email. I can’t see how she’s getting from it that I am attempting to tell her how to worship. I am telling her that how she worships is not Irish.

[3] Everyone Irish has the right to question her spiritual choices. She is calling them Irish. As an Irish person, along with any of the Irish people, have the right to say “how is that Irish when it doesn’t resemble anything any of my ancestors practiced”.

[4] This really pissed me off. She pulled the “eebil oppressive xian” line. I hate that line. I don’t know a single Christian who accepts everything their Church teaches without questioning. Referring to all Christians as mindless automatons is nothing short of bigotry. I know the woman is a racist, from her books, so I should add bigotry to the list of wrong-doings.

[5] I highlighted this single sentence for a reason. Her position is based upon the rights of entitlement, wherein anyone is entitled to do whatever they want and nobody can tell them no. I, as an Irish person, am entitled to my country’s heritage. I am entitled to its history. I am entitled to its religion. When someone claims that their religion is Irish, and it is demonstrably not, am I not entitled to one answers?

[6] “Here, You will find a comprehensive framework for practicing and understanding the Old Relgion of Ireland” Page 1 of Witta. The woman has lied to me or has lied to her readers.

[7] “Witta is more than an obscure religion buried in Ireland’s past; it represents a way of life, [the way every Irish clan and community once viewed their world and the forces that shaped it...]” Again, either this is a lie or her book is a lie.

[8] The word faery does not relate to anything that exists in Irish culture. Tuatha means “people, tribe or nation”. There was no people, tribe or nation religion in pre-Celtic or Celtic Ireland.

[9] I would like Ms. McCoy to provide some support for the claim that the Celtic new year was Samhain. I have seen no conclusive evidence to that end. Samhain started as a story telling event, as per the Ulster Cycle

[10] Here, I’m just drawing attention to the fact that she keeps calling it an Irish trad. It’s not. It’s american.

[11] That, in no way shape or form, ameliorates her responsibilities.

[12] If someone models their practices on lies, the person who lied to them is, ultimately, responsible.

[13] I disagree with her strongly here. When rational people are presented with first hand sources which contradict their new-age religion, they generally tend to agree and change their practices.

[14] Her God is a God of the Gael, yet she practices nothing Irish or Celtic? I do not believe it is appropriate to claim to worship a God if you do not adhere to the practices and worship methods of the God. To make up a tradition and place your chosen God at the centre of it is offensive to the God and offensive to the people the God comes from.

[15] I would, once more, like to make a request that the people responsible for teaching this woman Witta make themselves publicly accountable. I believe that, since they are propagating a faith under false pretense that they are accountable to the anyone of people from whom they claim their tradition comes.

[16] I will leave it up to you, reader, to decide if Ms. McCoy and I adopt a similar approach in our means of putting forth our beliefs.

[17] I love the way she makes being defensive sound like a bad thing. I am proud to defend my culture from the misappropriation of liars and bigots. I am proud to honour my gods and the oaths that I have made to them. Of course I defend my culture and I weep for someone thinking that defending your culture is something to be ashamed of.

[18] I’ll leave this open to the Strega to answer. If there’re and Strega out there who want to post a response to this, feel free to email me.

[19] I choose very carefully how to spend my energy. I was hoping to get an apology from Ms. McCoy for lying about her tradition’s origin, as has been proven one way or the other by points 6 and 7, and for using the Irish-American people’s love for their ancestor’s culture to sell her book. In her book she appeals to stereotypes of Ireland, such as the potato, to attempt to assert the validity of her faith. That is racism. I am proud to fight racism in all its forms.

[20] It is important to note that Ms McCoy is being patronising here. It comes into play at a later footnote.

[21] There are people out there who see Ms. McCoy as an infallible Guru, including herself. If she is fallible, then she has to admit that I have the right to question her.

[22] Within Irish culture, if someone is thought to be lying the standard course of action for anyone present is to call them upon it, generally through private means, though in a bar by merely screaming aloud “bullshit”. I have tried the private conversation method. Now I am trying the bar method. This is how a great many Irish people behave. This quality is something you have repeatedly expressed anger and repulsion over.

[23] We have not all been taught this. In fact, some of us abhor this. Some of us have the cultural honesty to say “you know, this part of my religion really sucks, I wish I didn’t have to do it”. It’s not a case of take what works for you. It’s a case of take it all or leave it alone. When you put that into the context of a woman, if you take what you want and leave the rest, we call that rape.

[24] Ms. McCoy perceives me to be threatened by her. I resent Ms. McCoy attempting to interpret my psyche from a single email. It is offensive. I am, like most people, an incredibly complex person. Perhaps it speaks more for her views on herself than her views on me, but either is incredibly offensive. She is not a God, she does not have the ability to glean, from a single email, a deep psychological understanding of a person.

[25] Here, we have more racism. American culture is not that hard to understand. If she has trouble communicating it to foreigners, that speaks only for her inability to articulate, not for the difficulty of foreigners to understand. What’s particularly galling on this is that she, someone who doesn’t even begin to understand Irish culture, is lecturing me on the difficulties of understanding another country’s culture. I’ve been to america repeatedly. I know, all too well, the American sense of entitlement.

[26] Actually, religion had very little to do with the American war for independence. Among the very many causes of the war for independence: America was being taxed by the English parliament, a government in which they had no say. “No taxation without representation” is a famous line from that. Americans felt no reason to swear loyalty to the English King. I suggest Ms. McCoy read this document

[27] Every right comes coupled with a responsibility. When you shirk the responsibilities, you lose the right. It is that simple. Ms. McCoy has not been responsible. She has not done a whit of research into Irish culture.

[28] Citation Needed

[29] Here we have more racism again. The USA is the cause of South Americans blending their cultures. They weren’t doing that with the First Nation peoples at all, before the Americans showed them how to do it?

[30] Let us suppose there is a person A who does not speak, let us for example use, French. They go to the internet, a dictionary or some friend with a cursory understanding of French and seek a translation.

Let us then suppose there is a person B who speaks French fluently.

Person A, who has no understanding of French, apparantly has the right to not be corrected by person B, if I follow Ms Mc.Coy’s reasoning.

[31] Yet again, more racism. How dare this woman claim that the American’s rights to do something outweighs the rights of the Irish people to have their own language? How dare she claim that the freedom of religion in America is more important than adhering to the rules of a language you’re butchering?

[32] Citation needed

[33] Neither of these practitioners are Irish nor are their practices. They practice a tradition they call Progressive Witchcraft.

[34] No. It’s actually not.

[35] Tell that to all of the Jews, Catholics, Muslims and other dogmatic faiths in America. Dogma isn’t evil and, as someone who practices a dogmatic faith, I detest her claims that it is. Yet again more bigotry.

[36] Anyone cannot achieve anything. An American cannot become an Irishman. A white American cannot become Black. A White American Protestant cannot become an Orthodox Jew.

[37] Before I read her response, I did not hate Ms. McCoy. Even now, I am struggling to not hate Ms. McCoy. Hatred is a waste of energy. And so, rather than hating her, I figure it would be more productive a use of my energy to show that what Ms. McCoy writes is false, racist, abusive and offensive.

[38] This is the same as point 24. She clearly doesn’t understand my goal. My goal is that she publicly apologise for claiming Witta has, or ever had, anything to do with this country

[39] I worry about people who use terms like this. More so when they separate out the religious and pragmatic aspects of their lives into separate worlds.

[40] Brigid isn’t a protector of presidents. Why would she make an exception for President Obama? He’s not a blacksmith is he?

[41] Please tell me everyone sees the irony in this. I have been called imperious. By someone who’s claiming that

their country is responsible for syncretism in South America,

I could not possibly understand American culture,

Americans have the right to call something Irish when it’s not

Irish people don’t have the right to correct American people on their use of our language

the rights of an American to believe what they want outweigh the rights of a country to have a history, etc.

[42] I am an incredibly open minded person. I have dear loved friends from many different countries, of many different skin tone, of many different religions. Never be so open minded that your brain falls out, Ms. McCoy

[43] She, herself, has accorded everyone the rights to challenge her. “Nobody can tell you no” . “Anyone can achieve anything” remember?

[44] It is my being Irish that, in reality, accords me the right to make these demands of her. I am an Irishman and she lies about the history of my people, its religion and its relationships with its oppressive invaders. I, like any Irishman or Irishwoman, am entitled to answers for these lies.

[45] In America, the Catholic Church has authority over what the Catholics believe. The Nicean creed grants them that. In orthodox Judaism, Islam, and any other orthodox religion, there are figures of authority. I hate that she makes orthodoxy out to be evil. It’s bigotry and it’s hypocritical. “you have to be an eclectic”… well what if I don’t want eclecticism. What if I don’t want the easy “answers”. What if I have faith that the parts of my religion that don’t seem to make sense to me now will be explained to me when I’m ready to understand? This woman’s bigotry is boundless.

[46] This woman has been ignorant, rude, arrogant in the extreme, racist, bigoted, lied and insulted me repeatedly. If that is her definition of loving energy, then I will kindly shield my house with lead. I don’t want “positive and loving” energy from someone who’s concept of love allows for this kind of behaviour.

[47] I have had to respond to this publicly and openly as she has refused to accept further emails from me. There was no further email from me, the one that I sent was the only email that I attempted to send her.

[48] I never asked her if she got rich from the book. Just thought I’d point that out. I know how little people make from writing books. How much she made is irrelevant. It was money she was not entitled to. Furthermore, for someone (with a history degree) who has such little understanding of history to tell me I need to be educated on anything is patently ridiculous.

[49] I have not read Witta, at this point in time, I have had people quote it at me. I have not bought Witta. I am asking a friend of mine for his copy such that I can argue conclusively against it. I resent having to read the book to do this, but it must be done or I am little better than she is.

[50] Citation needed

[51] WEED-uh, for those of us who haven’t read Ms. McCoy’s books, is her acclaimed pronunciation of the word Witta. Witta is not pronouncable in Irish, there is no W in Irish and tt does not phonetically make sense. I’ll let those who speak a Nordic language comment on how it would be pronounced in the various Nordic languages.

[52] Rational people will then have to admit, upon reading my responses to her email, that she’s a liar.

[53] I am surprised that she’s sorry to have sent the first one, yet continues to send the second.

[54] Actually, I have authority over quite a few people when it comes to religion. I am a priest to many people. Furthermore, when it comes to people who are lying about Irish traditions and practices, I have the right to call them liars.

[55] This woman is actually advocating lying. She’s not just a liar, she thinks that lying is a right.

[56] Firstly, until now, I haven’t “bashed” her and secondly I have several hobbies. One of them, and one that I find deeply spiritually rewarding, is protecting my culture from attack.

[57] She’s entitled to believe this. We Gael, of course, are entitled to believe she’s wrong and entitled to tell her that her beliefs are incompatible with the beliefs of the Gael and are offensive to the Gods of the Gael.

[58] Actually, and I love this part, I don’t have to agree to disagree. I can set up a website with the intention of getting people to join me in boycotting Edain McCoy.

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