Being Jewish And Wiccan { One Women's View }

Anahita Gula

"Now I pray to darker Goddesses -- Asherah, Mahalath, Amaterasu whose names fill my mouth with joy. I invoke their power at Pesach and when I read the Tarot. "

These words, written by a Lesbian Jewish Witch named Sapphire, hit me close to home. For I too am Jewish and a Witch duly consecrated and initiated, skyclad, on the eve of an Autumn Equinox which was the first night of Rosh Hashanah.

As I stood there nude and bound, Jews around the world celebrated their Jewishness by praying to God. I also celebrated my Jewishness by praying to, and invoking, Asherah of the Sea and the Virgin Anat.

Goddess, give me strength and stand by me, " I prayed. And She did.

My statements in the Craft community as a Jew and Witch have caused some of my friends immeasurable concern. One wrote... " This whole question has become my philosophical quandary for the month, possibly for the year.. We have spent the past 30 odd years trying to convince the world that Witchcraft is a religion.

So, if we aren't Pagan, then just what the hell are we ? { The question of being a Priest or Priestess of Wicca if one is a believer in another religion as well, also came up }

The commandment, 'You shall not tolerate a sorceress' {Ex. 22:17 } is apparently aimed against women who engage specifically in black magic, as the severity of the penalty attests. Page 706 Encyclopedia Judaica, 1971 edition.

Only a select group of my friends really understand my belief system. I'm a very private Wiccan in part because of my employment at a Jewish Community Centre! My family probably would not understand, either.

And, many of my old friends flirted with the Craft and then returned to their religion of birth. But, my co-coveners { yes, I work with an Alexandrian coven } they seem to understand from whence I come and why. My magick DOES work, and my Inner Workings are solid.

I have a fairly good reputation as a healer in the hands on and energy channeling realms, plus I do some prognostication with Tarot, Norse Runesticks, and playing cards. I have read Auras since I was 14; my cord and candle magick is solid.

I teach various subjects and am somewhat of an expert in the Near Eastern religions prior to, and concurrent with, Ancient Israel. And I know that I have been a witch before, and was a High Priestess of Ishtar . I am a Semite, but my Jewishness is of a very primitive sort.

It saddens me to see the number of Jewish born Pagans who have "chucked the baby out with the bath water ", as it were. I'll be the first one to admit that Talmudic Judaism has much to apologize for.

Many Orthodox men still pray every day to thank God they were not born a woman. But don't some Dianics thank the Goddess they were not born a man ? You can hardly judge either group on one item { and one which is not even universal }.

Judaism has much to offer us in the Craft, if { like fleece for spinning } it is carefully picked through. Social responsibility, charity, and a just society all run strong in Judaism. The great Sage Hillel said " Whoever saves one life, it is as if he has saved the world ".

The Near East was a place where the upper and or warrior classes dominated all other people. The Israelites forced responsibility on their own for ALL peoples; the rich were forced to make charitable donations to help those less fortunate. Not a quality the Babylonians, or Assyrains, were known for.

I also strongly reject the premise that " the Jews killed the Mother ". That is the same specious argument redressed as " the Jews killed Christ ". We are now virtually positive that ancient Israel was a people of duality, and worshipped a God { El, Yahweh, YHWH, Elohim, etc .} and Goddess { Anat, Asherah, Ashtaroth, Qudsu, Athtart }.

It is simple to see: archaeologists keep finding Goddess figurines and or moulds in digs around Temples and in homes, and the injunctions against worshipping " Ashtaroths " is clear. One need not tell someone to cease from doing something he or she DOES NOT DO in the first place.

We know Rosh Chodesh, the New Moon festival, was sacrosanct to Jewish women for centuries { and is being reclaimed }. Indeed, some experts seem to indicate, that the New Moon had been as important once as the Sabbath, the holiest days of the Jewish year. Modern Jewish Feminists are de-sexing the language of prayer and even of the Tanach { " Old Testament " } itself. Women's conferences keep trying to return the equilibrium of Judaism, while keeping the unique flavor of the religion of the Chosen People.

BUT -- Modern Judaism is a fractured and timeworn institution. I doubt it will fail, but it must take time and look inward. Some branches accept a Supreme Deity { " God " } in its mystical One- ness, while others view the Tanach as allegory, not fact.

Because I believe in supernatural power, I cannot view religiomythic writings as mere allegory. But because I crave balance and equality, I cannot accept the scriptures forced on man and women alike by the Rabbinic philosophers. So, my search for religious validity turned me to Wicca a religion of respect and balance.

{ This is actually a return for me 16 years after my first workings in a coven setting. } But, it doesn't end there for me.

Even my deep ancestral calendar is " off " often. I practice my rites here in Canada, in a framework which is deeply Nordic/Celtic/Seax due to the climate and roots of most Pagans of my acquaintance. At Summer Solstice we celebrate the growth of the year and its fruitfulness. But my roots scream at me that this falls during the month of Tammuz, when the daughters of Zion mourn for the death of Innanna's/Ishtar's Consort.

The land is not fruitful; rather, the summer heat scorches the earth relentlessly, and everything dies. How do we balance the calendar of our faith and of our land ? I often feel that I am like a " Jew for Jesus " neither fish nor fowl { or neither milk nor meat, as we would say }. No Jew of traditional faith would ever credit me as a practicing Jew, although I am in many ways. And many Wiccans, Pagans view me as a heresy, as well. { SIGH }

Am I a Pagan ? This is a good question to ponder deeply. You decide. I believe in the Ayn Sof, a Hebrew description for a non gender specific Supreme Force. I still can't shake off all the Hebrew school classes on how evil Ba' Al was, and so He doesn't serve me in the God role. But -- I do use A Goddess { often under the vague name of " Shekhina } ", and I Am I " as a God form { YHWH in English transliteration }.

I also use El, and the numerous specific Goddess I mentioned earlier. Modern Hassids { Ultra Orthodox Hassidic Jews, often Kabbalists } refer to " God's Bride ", the " Matronit ", " Shekhina", and Goddess are ASPECTS of the Ayn Sof.

" Thou shalt have no other Gods before me ". does NOT proscribe belief in other Gods lesser importance. { It acknowledges, by inference, that there ARE other Gods... Otherwise why tell the populace to have no others ? ! } So, I use God forms as a path towards a greater understanding of, and affinity to, the Ayn Sof.

I cannot cry out loudly enough to my fellow Wiccans who grew up of Jewish parentage. There is so much beauty and wisdom in Judaism that it would be a shame to reject it all. The Havdala ceremony, where a multi-wick braided candle is burnt to wish the Shekhina thanks for Her presence, is deeply mystical and worthy of retention.

The beauty of the fires of Chanukah, the abundance of Succot crops, the awe-fullness of the ram's horn blast on Yom Kippur; all these and more can be successfully integrated into Wicccan framework.

I use a Shofar { ritual ram's horn } instead of a bell on my altar, and a switch of grasses rather than a scourge { the tool of the Egyptian pharaohs }.

I knew beyond doubt recently that my decision to follow the Goddess was the right one. A synagogue Sisterhood Gift Shop in a New England City had an unusual necklace on its window, which I snapped up immediately. What a FIVE-POINTED star with { Chi=Life } in Hebrew on it what it was doing there, I'll never know } ! BUT I never argue with my " inner bell ", or with She Who Provides.

I have enclosed a sample or two of Hebrew Goddess rituals from modern sources. May the Goddess guide your head, your heart, and your hand in all things.

Blessed Be

1 Written in Ladino, the Sephardic Jewish tongue. I use this as part of an invocation.

" Quarto cantonadas ay en esta casa, quatro malakhim que mos accompanian y mos guadrin ."

{ Four corners are in this house; four angels who accompany us and guard us. }

2. Baruch She-Amar { Blessed is She Who Speaks }. I use this as a response, part of the Drawing Down the Moon."

Blessed is She who spoke and the world became.
Blessed is She.
Blessed is She who in the beginning, gave birth.
Blessed is She.
Blessed is She who says and performs.
Blessed is She.
Blessed is She who declares and fulfills.
Blessed is She.
Blessed is She whose womb covers the earth.
Blessed is She.
Blessed is She whose womb protects all creatures.
Blessed is She.
Blessed is She who nourishes those who love her.
Blessed is She.
Blessed is She who lives forever, and exists eternally.
Blessed is She.
Blessed is She who redeems and saves.
Blessed is Her name.

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