Even Witches Have Names is a short fictional work based on facts. It tells the story of a Christian minister who was also a witch and the work that he and his wife did in building a bridge between witchcraft and Christianity. It tells the story of Gabriel Seminger's life and work and in the process teaches the reader many of the rituals of witchcraft, or Wicca, as it is called today. This book is a good read and a good teaching aid as well.
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EVEN WITCHES HAVE NAMES
By Richard E. Kuykendall
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2012 Rev. Dr. Richard E. Kuykendall
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIN THE BEGINNING
The spiritual adventure I call my life began in a dysfunctional, nominal Christian home in Southern, California. Until I was about ten years old, I attended a Christian church on a fairly regular basis. When, however, my family moved out of our church's area, we never went to church again.
For the next few years, all I could think about was music and girls, and then one summer in the late sixties, everything changed. My world was transformed with the smell of incense, the sound of tambourines and sitars, and a blaze of psychedelic colors. The Hippy Movement was in full swing, and I was swept off of my feet by its magical mystery.
Along with many other young people of my generation, I began to explore my inner world with the use of "mind-expanding drugs," and I also began to consider the wisdom of non-Christian spiritual traditions—the wisdom of the East, as well as Native American spirituality.
And in the midst of all this, I remember a dream I had one night of three witches—young women who stunned me with their eyes. It was as if beams of light shot out of their eyes and into mine, and the light was blinding. I remember trying to deflect the beams of light with the palms of my hands. This was my first brush with witchcraft.
But then, as it turned out, I became a Christian as result of a strange brew of different factors. On the one hand, there were a number of personal crises. My parents divorced, I was expelled from school, and I was involved in a very sick, drug-laden relationship. And then on the other hand, there came the sound of music—it was Jesus Christ Superstar. This rock opera reintroduced me to Jesus, but this time not as the second person of the trinity—the divine being who had been set before me as a child. This time, I met Jesus of Nazareth, a long-haired spiritual rebel who suffered and died for what he believed in—a man who had doubts and questions but who nevertheless kept going. This Jesus I could relate to, and I saw him as the answer to my problems.
With my conversion also came a call. I felt called to be a minister. I really didn't know how I would fulfill this calling; I wasn't even a member of a church.
At first, I planned to start a commune—a religious community where we would all live according to the Bible, apart from the world of the flesh. This, however, was only a dream without much substance or support. And so I ended up joining a church and going to college to be a minister.
At this time in my life, in the early years of my Christian experience, I was very zealous for the truth, to the point that some of my friends called me Gabe the Ripper because of the way I could rip into a person with "the sword of the Spirit." I practiced apologetics in a very unapologetic manner—quoting scripture and verse to back up any point I was attempting to shove down an unbeliever's throat. I would even take my college professors to task if they showed their soft underbellies during a lecture.
The one person in my life, however, who was impenetrable was my mother. At this time, she was attending a spiritualistic church called Tzadi; Tzadi was a Hebrew letter and had meaning in the Jewish mysticism of Kabbalah. Every time I went to see her, there were different colored candles burning in her home that were supposed to help create certain affects. And she told me stories of reading auras and of divine healings and even claimed that her psychic gifts had been in our family for generations and that it would continue to be passed down. A number of years later, after my daughter was born, my mother said that she too had the gift.
And where was I in all this? I saw it all as the workings of the devil intended to persuade the unwary off the path. For hadn't Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).
I believed that my mother was "giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils" (1 Timothy 4:1). But no matter what I said, she would not be persuaded of the evil of her ways. Eventually, I gave up on trying to convince her, and I agreed to let her live with her own choices.
By the time I finished my undergraduate work, I was married to a nurse (who, of course, was a committed Christian), and I received a call to serve as associate pastor of a church in Lynwood, California. I served a year's internship there and then went on to seminary as was customary in my particular denomination. And so my wife and I, together with our newborn son, packed up our things and moved to Michigan where the seminary was located.
Probably because of influences that went back to my hippy days, I focused my studies on philosophy and world religions; I took literally everything I could take in these areas, and as result, I found that by the time I graduated from seminary, I could no longer believe that Christianity was the way, the truth, and the life. And so when after seminary I was assigned to a church near Pasadena, California, I ended up resigning within a year.
In the two years that followed, I did a number of jobs unrelated to my "calling," and then because of financial problems due mainly to my being unemployed, my family—I, my wife, son and daughter (who was born just before I graduated from seminary)—ended up having to move in with my wife's father; and all four of us slept in one bedroom on two single beds. While we were living with him, I found in his library a number of books on the occult and witchcraft—books like Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft Today, Margaret Murray's The Witch Cult in Western Europe, and many others. As I read these books, I became fascinated with witchcraft; I saw that it had been greatly misunderstood, that it wasn't the sinister thing that most people made it out to be. To me, it seemed to be a spiritual path that consciously attempted to put itself into harmony with the earth and the divine feminine, as well as with one's own psychic energies. Beyond this, despite people's misconceptions, it seemed to be a very ethical religion with its law summed up with the words "And it harm none, do what you will." And beyond this, there was the Law of Threefold Return, which simply meant that whatever one does to another will return threefold upon oneself. It was thus an intensification of Christ's Golden Rule: "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you."
Out of the church now, and with no spiritual or intellectual chains to bind me, I felt open-minded enough to give witchcraft a chance. And so at night, when my wife was at work and when my children were asleep, I would go outside and try to duplicate the rituals that were described in these books. And you know what? I never did find out why my father-in-law had these books in his library. My wife insisted that they had to have belonged to someone else, one of his girlfriends or something.
Times were tough for us, and so after stumbling around in the job market for over four years, I finally decided to go back into the ministry where our family could have some degree of security and stability. As it turned out, I got a call from a small church in San Francisco.
The truth of the matter was that I still didn't believe what my denomination taught, but I felt that I could sidestep doctrinal issues and instead preach on human values that all could agree on—values like love, acceptance, tolerance, forgiveness, and what I called intellectual humility, that is, admitting that you don't have all the answers. This was the way that I wanted to minister to and inspire my people in order to empower them for their daily lives.
Unfortunately, less than a year back into the ministry, my wife left me and took our two children back to Southern California. So I was alone with just my small struggling church in San Francisco. And because my denomination did not believe in divorce, I felt that it was only a matter of time, and I would lose my job too. Life had become a nightmare from which I could not awake. But then two things happened, which saved me.
The first was Ava. She had been brought up in the same denomination in which I was a minister, but she had long since cast it aside in exchange for Wicca. Ava had grown up in the church where I was now pastor in its heyday, from her birth in 1953 until she graduated from high school in 1971. All the while she lived with her father, mother, and two older sisters. Her father was Wilburt Hugo Reich who was the vice president of Grace Line, a steamship company with his office in San Francisco. They were quite well-to-do and had planned to pay for Ava to go to the best university. But when Ava finished high school, she decided instead to leave her family and church behind. It was then that she got involved with Wicca, living in a small apartment in San Francisco with her gay friend, Michael (who later became the most tattooed man in the world), and her lesbian friend, Dee Dee.
Later, without the help of her parents, she studied comparative religion and psychology at Sonoma State but ended up getting her bachelor's degree in child development. Ava had traveled to many places in the world on her father's ships, but she ended up living in the city she was born in, where she worked as a counselor for at-risk children.
I had heard the stories that long-time members told me about her—about how she had turned her back on the church and was now a witch. In their eyes, she was dancing with the devil, but for me, being a closet witch myself, she was just what I was looking for. I had been a "solitary" for a few years. A solitary is a witch that practices alone rather than in a coven. I was a solitary only because I didn't know any other witches. I had read a number of books on witchcraft, and I did rituals by myself, but I just hadn't connected with anyone else that was a witch. Being a Christian minister in a fairly conservative denomination just didn't give me the opportunities to meet other witches. Now that I knew about Ava, I thought that I might have a chance to do ritual with someone else and to learn more about the craft.
And so it was in the course of my pastoral visitations—which was the part of my job that I liked the most—I decided to visit Ava, who was a former member of the church that I was now pastoring. Visiting backsliders was one of the things ministers in my denomination were expected to do. So I paid Ava a visit to unmask myself and reveal the secret that I had not let anyone else know. At first I could see that Ava was a bit put off at having the new minister of the church she had grown up in call on her. After all, that had been years ago. But as I told her about my interest in Wicca and about the fact that I had been practicing it as a solitary for a few years, I sensed a shift in her demeanor. I felt that I had won her trust to open up to me and tell me her story too. As it turned out, I found out that she had begun to read books on the craft after becoming disillusioned by traditional Christianity in her late teens. And she too was a solitary by choice, though she knew many other witches in the city. Now I hoped I might have someone "to play with." By the end of our visit, we decided to get together sometime soon to share what each of us had learned on our own separate paths.
We began to meet regularly, once a week. And when members of the church came to know about my visits with Ava, they only thought I was laboring for the lost. They could not have imagined what was really happening. Not only was I practicing Wicca with Ava, I was also falling in love with her. It was as if she had put a spell on me—a love spell. And when a year later church members found out that I was going to marry Ava, all hell broke loose! And this is where the second thing that saved me comes in.
I know that at first this won't seem like a good thing, something that would save me, but read on.
As it turned out, members of my church reported me to the president of our conference. They said that not only was I marrying an unbeliever, I was actually marrying a self-proclaimed witch! Then things really started moving fast. First, I was called in to meet with the conference president to explain what was going on. Then when I told him and ended by saying that I would never give Ava up, I was immediately fired. I know that at first glance, this doesn't seem like a good thing—something that would save me, but it really did. Now that everything was out in the open, I would no longer be living a lie; instead, I would be living with the woman I loved. But the second thing that saved me was switching denominations.
The denomination to which I switched was the United Church of Christ. This denomination is in no way to be confused with the Church of Christ. The Church of Christ is a very conservative Christian denomination, whereas the United Church of Christ is considered to be the most liberal Christian denomination. Formed in 1957 as a result of a merger between the Evangelical and Reformed Church and many of the congregational Christian churches, it agreed to have a bare bones statement of faith—leaving to its members the right to flesh out their faiths according to the dictates of their own consciences. This allowed me to be a Christian minister the way that I saw fit, rather than according to the external standards of denominational dogma.
And so it was that I made a successful transition into a new denomination and was now able to practice my calling without having to compromise my faith. The first church I was called to was another small church also in San Francisco.
Chapter TwoSPIRITWIND AND WITCHCRAFT
After two years of work at my new church, Ava and I decided to start a second worship service—an experimental one geared to those of New Age thought.
I called the service Spiritwind and advertised it as "A Worship Experience for the Spiritually Adventurous." Here at Spiritwind, we had a Buddhist who taught a class in Kundalini Yoga, we had psychics and channelers, people from what was then called the Church of Religious Science, Unity, Unitarian Universalists, and a variety of other free spirits. It was truly a magical, eclectic religious experience. We tried to be open to those of all faiths and to be nonjudgmental of those whose views and practices differed from our own. And it worked!
Parallel to my work at the church and with Spiritwind, I was studying feminist theology and the idea of the goddess, and Ava and I even became members of the Covenant of the Goddess. We were also reading a lot of books on environmental issues. And it was from these studies that I was led even deeper into Wicca.
The two books that inspired me the most as to the whole idea of witchcraft were Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon and Starhawk's The Spiral Dance. In these books that Ava and I read together at the end of each day as we sat on our front porch and drank champagne, we saw that modern witchcraft is a spiritual path that focuses on the divine feminine (the goddess) and which attempts to align itself in harmony with the earth through various rituals that are keyed to the earth's changing seasons and the cycles of the moon. And since I was looking for a spirituality that was more sensitive environmentally, and which emphasized the long-neglected divine feminine, this spiritual path was to be Ava and my path for the rest of our lives.
As I continued to research the subject of witchcraft, I found that almost all the holy days celebrated by witches in their holy year had their parallels in the Christian holy year. But this "coincidence" was not the result of witches copying Christians, but rather it was due to the fact that Christians early on copied pagan traditions.
What we discovered in our studies was that during the first few centuries after Christianity became a recognized religion, the church began to take pagan holy days and recast them in a Christian framework so that they became, at least on the surface, Christian holy days. This they did in an attempt to evangelize non-Christian Europe. Thus, for example, the celebration of the winter solstice became Christmas, and the celebration of the spring equinox became Easter (which by the way is the name of a pagan goddess).
With this in mind, I decided to try an experiment. And it was simply this: as I would go about my normal routine of celebrating the Christian holy days, I would celebrate their pre-Christian counterparts in my Spiritwind services. And while Christians speak of the holy year, witches speak of, the Wheel of the Year, which includes the solstices and equinoxes and the quarter days that fall between them. The quarter days are February 1 (Imbolc), May 1 (Beltane), August 1 (Lughnasa), and the eve of November 1 (Samhain or what we call Halloween). I presented my idea to our church council and they gave me the okay. Not only this, when a publisher got wind of what I was doing, he said he was interested in me writing a book of alternative liturgies, the only catch was that he would only publish the book after we had done all the rituals for the year. This he felt was important in order to "work all the bugs out" so that the finished product would be something that would work in local churches.
Excerpted from EVEN WITCHES HAVE NAMES by Richard E. Kuykendall Copyright © 2012 by Rev. Dr. Richard E. Kuykendall. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
In the Beginning....................1
Spiritwind and Witchcraft....................11
Family and Witchcraft....................22
Creation Spirituality, Not Creationism....................38
Witchcraft in the Gold Country....................46
Retirement and Witchcraft....................75
The Death of a Witch....................102