At some point, you may have heard the term “Witch Wars.” While it sounds a bit silly (and really, in practice, it IS silly), it’s a very real problem within some parts of the Pagan community. The term is typically applied when you’ve got division within local groups, and more often than not, battles stem from one individual or group making accusations about another, and then things simply escalate.
Here’s an example of a typical witch war. Let’s take HPs Storm. She’s the leader of a group of eclectic Wiccans, and they get together casually to celebrate the Sabbats, but not much beyond that. Then we’ve got HP Raven. He runs a local Pagan shop, which is often filled with new Seekers who are trying to learn more about Paganism. Finally, there’s Silverlight. She’s a solitary practitioner, but knows a lot of members of the community, and wants to be active in local events. She hopes to organize a public activity that includes members of all the local Pagan paths.
- HPs Storm: I’m not sure about that Raven guy. There’s always a bunch of weird guys hanging out in his shop, and I get some bad vibes from him. I’m pretty sure he follows a left-hand path.
- Silverlight: Really? I don’t know, he’s always pretty nice to me.
- HPs Storm: Watch out. He’s a Scary Dark Mage.
- HP Raven: Hey, I heard that!
- HPs Storm: Silverlight, stay away from him.
- Silverlight: Can’t we all just get along? I just want to ---
- HP Raven: She’s lying. Besides, even if I am a Scary Dark Mage, it’s no one’s business but mine.
- HPs Storm: Silverlight, I don’t think you should be around him. And if you do hang out with him, you’ll pick up negative energy.
- HP Raven: Stop saying stuff like that!
- Silverlight: Can’t I be friends with both of you?
- HPs Storm: No. He’s evil. Look, he’s wearing a Devil necklace.
- HP Raven: That’s Cernunnos!
- HPs Storm: Whatever.
- Silverlight: I just wanted to plan a picnic for Beltane.
- HPs Storm: I’m not going if he’s going to be there.
- HP Raven: Likewise. She’s a liar and spreads rumors.
- Silverlight: I’ll just go have a ritual by myself. Bye.
Obviously, this is a simplified version of the typical witch war, but in real life, they’re often just as ridiculous. Sometimes they begin as a disagreement between two shop owners, or leaders of two different paths that can’t find a common ground. They nearly always involve asking other members of the community to take sides, either by actively choosing to support one of them (“You agree with me, right?”) or by implication of agreement (“Well, if you agree with me you won’t go to any event where that guy is going to be!”). They get worse as time goes on, thanks to gossip, unfounded rumors, and inflated egos.
Finally, it’s important to note that a simple disagreement between Pagans is not the same thing as a witch war. A true witch war involves egos, rivalries, and sometimes even public shenanigans between the opposing factions, such as one leader going to the media to discuss how awful the other group is.
Battles like this are often damaging to a Pagan community. While sometimes there are valid reasons behind these disagreements at the beginning, often things escalate into so much drama that a wedge can be driven between the different factions and their supporters. Your best bet – if you find yourself asked to take sides in a witch war – is to stay out of matters on which you have no opinion. If it’s a matter that you do feel strongly about, speak your piece, but don’t participate in baiting, gossip, fearmongering, or accelerating unnecessary drama.