By Joe Perez
Christopher Penczak's path led him from Christianity to agnosticism. But it was through witchcraft that he found a spiritual home. Christopher is a witch.
In Gay Witchcraft: Empowering the Tribe (Red Wheel/Weiser, 2003), Penczak tells why he practices Wicca, the modern religion of witchcraft. Wicca is the largest tradition among pagan religions. Paganism has roots that are thousands of years old, but today it is considered a new religious movement.
There are many pagan traditions including Wicca, shamanism, Asatru, druidism, and Santeria. In the early 1990s, religious academics estimated the number of pagans in the United States to be approximately 300,000. Some experts estimate there may be more than a million American pagans today.
An old friend of Christopher's family introduced him to Wiccan rituals, the cycles of nature, Goddess worship, and personal growth. As he learned more about the religion, he discovered that he already held many of its beliefs.
like most Wiccans, Christopher held a belief in self-responsibility. He believed that there's nothing wrong gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people. And he certainly didn't believe in the devil, the source of evil in the Christian religion.
It was difficult for Christopher to embrace Wicca after his troublesome religious upbringing. His Catholic religion class in high school had demolished his faith in Spirit. He writes: "I intensely believed in something, but it no longer believed in me, or so I was told."
Fortunately, Christopher didn't dismiss Wicca despite his reluctance to trust Spirit again. His first experiences as he studied witchcraft were amazing. With his very first spell, he began to see remarkable results. To Christopher spells aren't the same thing as wish fulfillment, they're a form of prayer. Love spells, for instance, won't make Mr. Right or Ms. Perfect appear before your eyes.
As he continued his growth, he says that he experienced psychic abilities and dramatic personal growth. He writes: "I feel witchcraft saved me years of traditional psychotherapy. I still went to healers and therapists, but owning the paradigm of magick, change, and self-responsibility has allowed me to go further than many of my friends and peers. I didn't just discuss my problems with someone. I changed the energy."
Christopher didn't get involved in witchcraft because it was cool or hip to be a witch. He felt on a deep level that there was something wrong with him because he was gay, and he needed to adopt a persona of being uncaring, aloof, and self-involved. He tried to keep others from getting too close.
He didn't just scratch the surface of Wicca. He went deep into its spiritual concepts and ritual practices. As he explored the religion, he came to a surprising revelation: people like himself were honored in the past by pagan religions. Wicca brought the truth that our culture denies into the light.
For Christopher, as for most pagans, there is one spirit running through all of life. Some call that spirit God and others Goddess. Christopher often speaks of the God and the Goddess, because he believes that Spirit embodies both genders.
Gay Witchcraft examines nearly 50 distinct gods or goddess that he considers "queer-positive deities." These are deities worshipped by ancient cultures that embody queer attributes. For Christopher, these deities are relevant today because they exist as archetypes in the collective unconscious of human consciousness. Sometimes he invokes certain queer deities in his own religious rituals.
One of the mythic stories that Christopher shares is that of Horus and Set from ancient Egypt. Horus is a falcon-headed god with the sun for one eye and the moon for the other. He revenges himself against his father's murderer, his uncle Set. They were said to have participated in oral intercourse, and Set consequently gave birth to Horus's child.
As Christopher's study of Wicca progressed, he came to understand that spiritual practice would require inner harmony. He worked hard to shed fear, anger, guilt, and hate. In their place, he gathered love, self-esteem, and acceptance.
Letting go of anger was difficult. But eventually he did. He writes: "When you honor the sacred within you, when you find the witch's Perfect Love and Perfect Trust, what others do does not matter... All things are Spirit."
The path of witchcraft gave a focus to Christopher's spiritual path, and introduced him to practices for his growth. The key to learning to be a witch is not spells, ritual, or astral travel, but meditation. Meditation is Christopher's preferred method for cultivating the high degree of concentration necessary for effective spells.
Witches believe in the divine within, says Christopher. Goddess and God are not outside, but inside and all around you. Deities are in the trees and land, sky and earth. The divine feminine is revealed in our inner feminine traits, and the divine masculine is revealed in our divine masculine traits. We all contain God and Goddess within ourselves.
Just because there are many things about paganism that are queer-positive doesn't mean that homophobia is absent from the pagan community. Christopher says that he hasn't personally encountered homophobia among pagans. However, others have got stuck on homophobia ideas. For instance, they may falsely believe the Goddess and God must be embodied in a woman and a man.
Christopher's life experience is an inspiring tale of courage and glory. The path of witchcraft has brought him to an awareness that we are all Spirit. He has come far out of anger and shame into a path of healing and hope. His story of growing self-acceptance and love is magical.