Shema- One God or Many?

Shema Israel Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad.

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is one.

This prayer is the cornerstone of Judaism. It sums up the faith in the belief of one G-d. I’ve been asked how I can call myself a witch and a Jew at the same time. How can I claim to be a witch and believe in only one God? Well, that’s easy. Judaism is a religion (and an ethnicity), and witchcraft is a practice. I wrote a blog post here that explains how witchcraft is not a religion but can be used to practice religion if you choose to do so.

But, specifically, I’ve been asked how I can believe in the one G-d of Judaism and claim to be a witch. Isn’t witchcraft incompatible with Judaism? I don’t think so. There are Jewitches who believe in multiple gods or even no god at all. I am not one of them. I do believe in one G-d. But, my idea/understanding of G-d is not what typical Jews (or non-Jews) hold as their idea/understanding. I believe that G-d is a force, a force of nature, that G-d is everything. G-d is the All. I don’t believe that G-d is a person or like a person, but I do believe that G-d is gendered. But, unlike most humans, I think G-d is both masculine and feminine. Note, I didn’t say male and female. I specifically said masculine and feminine. I think G-d has masculine qualities as well as feminine qualities. And I think that is the reason that we humans are both male and female, yet we all have both masculine and feminine qualities. If we are made in G-d’s image, then we would have to all have both qualities. At the same time, if we are parts of a whole and that two people joining together make one whole person, then we mostly have to be dominated by one gender over the other. That way, when we match with our partner, we each bring a dominate gender to create a G-dlike union.

Like most people, I find it easier to relate to G-d in the form of a human because I am human. So, while I don’t believe G-d is a person, it’s easiest for me to pray and relate to G-d as a person. Most of the time I visualize G-d as a woman. That’s not to say that a female G-d is a separate G-d from a male G-d. It’s just easier for me to see G-d as a woman because of the need to overcome overbearing masculinity from my past.

Anyway, I’m going to stop now because I have no idea if this blog has even made any sense. I hope you understand what I’m saying, but if not, maybe I can explain it better at a later date. It’s just difficult to explain the All. But, yes, I do believe in only one G-d. If G-d is All, then G-d is everything, and you can only have one everything.

~Chaya Levana

The Miracle of Being Yourself

Chanukah is a Jewish celebration that commemorates the rededication of the Temple and the miracle of the oil burning 8 days when it was only enough to last one night. For those of you who may not be familiar with the story I will give a brief overview.

Anyone familiar with the Christian Bible knows that there is a span of time between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. Most people are not familiar with anything that took place during that span of time. There are Bibles that have various books in them that are not part of the current Christian biblical cannon. Two of those books are those of the Maccabees. In the tale of the Maccabees, the Jews were living in part of the Greek empire. The Greeks outlawed Judaism and all forms of Jewish practice and belief were not acceptable. Instead of studying Torah, celebrating Shabbat, worshipping the one God, and anything else to do with being a Jew, they were expected to fully assimilate and focus on the physical aspects of self that were prized by Greek culture. Some Jews did just that. But one family, the Hasmoneans, did not want to assimilate. They did not mind being in Greece so much, but they did mind having to give up Judaism. And, they minded it a lot. One of the sons, Judah, the Maccabee (the hammer) gathered up supporters. Though they were few in number they defeated the Greek army. When they went to rededicate the Temple they found it in ruins. Everything was broken and smashed, and the Greeks had even slaughtered pigs on the altar. They cleansed the temple and when they did they found one small container of oil- just enough to light the menorah for one night. It would take 8 days to get more oil and consecrate it for temple use. But, that did not deter the Hasmoneans et al. They lit the menorah, and they went to get more oil to consecrate it. Miraculously, that one small container of oil, enough for one night, remained burning for all 8 nights until the new oil could be consecrated.

That is the story that is told at Chanukah. Parts of it may not be true, although we don’t really know. The Hellenization of the Jews and the Maccabean Revolt are definitely true. The part about the oil burning for 8 days? We don’t really know. The Temple was rededicated on the 25th of Kislev, and they did celebrate for 8 days, but whether or not the little bit of oil lasted, we don’t really know.  If you want to read more about what really happened during the Maccabean revolt, you can read it here.

The Chanukah story has real life meaning despite the authenticity of some aspects. The Hasmonean family and their supporters fought for what they believed in. They were willing to die to be true to their Jewish identity, and many of them did die.

Many of us as metaphysical practitioners, witches, mystics, whatever you want to call yourself, face judgement and persecution from family and other loved ones. Many of us hide our beliefs and stay in the broom closet so to speak. Many of us tried to change ourselves for so long.

When I was growing up, all the way into my mid thirties, I tried to change who I was. I remember as child I was very empathetic. I could feel the pain of other people. When I saw someone who was experiencing emotional pain it would cause me to hurt in my heart. I was laughed at for that and after awhile I began to shut off that empathy. In my teens I began exploring these mystical beliefs but was chastised because good Christian girls don’t get involved in new age witchcraft. So, after awhile I pushed down my interest in these things. I was also very interested in Judaism in my teens and what little bit of empathy I did still have was felt for the Jewish people. I was told that was all well and good but that it couldn’t mean anything other than I felt bad for all the persecution Jews have faced though the millennia of history. I learned to deny myself and change who I was. I became a very dedicated Christian, moving from the Baptist side of things to extremely Pentecostal. But, while I was a “good Christian”, I was miserable.

In 2011 my then husband died. When that happened I began truly questioning who I was and what I believed. I wasn’t ready to leave Christianity, but I started embracing Judaism more and more. I began studying Judaism and attending a Messianic congregation that blended aspects of Christianity with aspects of Judaism. There are many different types of Messianic beliefs that range from Christianity with a flavoring of Judaism all the way up to full on Judaism but believe that Jesus is Messiah. The congregation I attended for 3 and half years was somewhere in the middle. Then, I started attending a Reform Jewish temple and I felt at home for the first time in my life. I pursued formal conversion and became a Jew in 2016. One thing I love about Judaism is the ability to question. I was never encouraged to question religion or faith until I became a Jew. Since that time I have embraced my mystical leanings to the point that I now refer to myself as Jewitch. You can read about that here.

Becoming my authentic and true self has been a miracle. It has transformed me. Not overnight, mind you. And I still have more growth to come. We all do. But I am a very different person than I was in the past. I am more loving and more accepting of others. I know that there is a light inside of me- a Divine spark- that lights up the world. And every day, as I say yes to being me and not someone else’s idea of me, that spark grows. It sheds even more light into the dark world we live in.

At Chanukah we light the menorah. We start on the first night by lighting one candle. We add a candle each night until on the last night, all eight candles are lit. Every day the light grows a little brighter and sheds more light on the darkness around it. The same is true for me as I become myself. And the same is true for you. If you have been hiding who you are I encourage you to take an honest evaluation of yourself. If it’s not safe to be your authentic self then do what you can. Only you know what you can and can’t do in that regard. I can’t tell you what is safe for you. But, I can tell you, that as you take steps toward becoming your authentic self you will be a more free and kind person. Your light will shine brighter around you. And that is a miracle .

What’s A Jewitch?

Earlier this week I posted a blog entitled A Jewitch Samhain. So, what exactly is a Jewitch? Basically it’s exactly what it sounds like: a Jewish witch. Yes, it’s possible to be a Jew and a witch. It’s possible to be a Christian and a witch. It’s possible to be a Buddhist and a witch. It’s possible to be any religion and a witch. This is where people ask but aren’t witches Wiccan? Some are. Wicca is a religion, witchcraft isn’t. Witchcraft is a path. It’s how you walk out and practice your religion- if you have a religion. Not all witches have a religion. Because witchcraft is a craft- a path- it can be practiced and followed right along with any religion, or no religion at all. There is not god or goddess of witchcraft. Those are aspects of religions. Some witches devote themselves to following a god or goddess, but that is part of their religion and they use witchcraft to help them in their religious devotion. So, all Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccan. I know. Mind blown for a lot of people.

Let me start by explaining what a witch is not. It’s 2018 and there is still a lot of stigma around the word witch. Witches don’t sell their souls to Satan and dance around naked in fields baying at the full moon. For the most part witches don’t even believe in Satan. Witches aren’t evil. Most witches aren’t out to get you, although there are some witches who practice dark magic and use it for the wrong reasons. That isn’t most witches, though.  Witchcraft isn’t Satanism although I suppose there are some Satanic witches. Again, it boils down to most witches don’t even believe in Satan. 

Before I go into what a witch is, let me tell you if I think of myself as one. Yes, I do. For a long time I was afraid to embrace the word because of the very connotations I mentioned above. I was afraid to say it for fear that someone would tell me I’m going to hell. I’m not afraid of someone telling me that in and of itself. I don’t believe in Satan, and I don’t believe in hell. But, I don’t like confrontation and I hate feeling like I have to explain myself. But, this world loves labels, and if I embrace the Judaism label, I need to embrace the witchcraft label as well.

Now, let me tell you what a witch is. I’m not going to use my own words, because I have come across a beautiful explanation that I feel is worthy of sharing. Several of my spiritual sisters have been sharing this on Facebook. I am not giving credit here (yet) because I’m not 100% positive which one wrote it. Once I confirm I will certainly give her credit. The remainder of this blog are her words. 

A witch is a wise woman, a healer, a wortcunner (herbalist), a grandmother, a bonesetter, a mid-wife. She is a cunning woman — one who knows. She is a woman who understands the powers of the changing seasons and the phases of celestial bodies. She is the woman in your village who will come to your home when you are ailing with a cauldron of herbal tea and sit with her loving and healing hand on your back while you drink it.

A witch is part shaman, part psychologist. She understands not only how to choose the right root for the cure, but what must be healed at the root to make a person whole: a broken heart; an angry liver; lungs full of grief; etc.

These women honed their wisdom and craft not through some dark sorcery, but through quiet lives filled with careful study and communion with the natural world, and they passed down their wisdom in lineages that spanned millennia.

Witches not only facilitated wellness and healing, they advised and assisted in all aspects of life effected by the Turning of the Seasonal Wheel. They knew the right time to plant a seed and the particular moment to cut a leaf or harvest a root for optimum potency. They were effective, humble, and dedicated servants of their communities.

And what did they receive for this service? Gratitude? Accolades? Tragically, no.

For their service to humanity these wise healing women were killed by the millions. (Please read that word again: millions.)

They were tortured on racks, eviscerated, drawn and quartered, burned at the stake, boiled alive in pots, and drowned in rivers and in barrels. They were raped and defiled in ways no one should ever have to think about never mind experience. When they hung these poor women, they did so with a short rope because it was not enough just to kill them, they had to torture them first, and a short rope does not snap the neck, it strangles.

This is patriarchy; this is femicide; this is the destruction of the living legacy of the power of women at its most diabolical.

And the more powerful these women were, the more successful their healing graces, the better they served their communities, the greater the chance that they would be taken to the slaughter because success was seen as proof that they must have powers that “come from the devil.”

When things went wrong, they were also blamed. When a child failed to thrive, a cow quit giving milk, or when a person died despite the best efforts of a healing woman, people in their grief (and need for a scapegoat), and powerful men looking for an excuse to take them down, went after these women often burning their homes and taking their lives.

And that, is true evil, to use superstition and fear to crush powerful women to dust. Because, even to this day, a powerful woman, standing in her wisdom and strength is something that many will simply not abide.

As religions grew in power and as a male-only chemical based medical system came into dominance, the demonization and slaughter of these wortcunners, midwives and village healers became a genocide. So many died we will never know the full numbers. Because of their “evil” most were dumped in pauper’s graves and their families were left to mourn in isolation.

But today the goddess is rising and we witches are rising strong with her. Today women are beginning to come back to their rightful places of power and with them they bring circles instead of hierarchies. They bring not only cures, but deep healing. For in our creative and generative power, women stand in symbol and purpose as Mother Nature to all living things on our planet. I pray each day that together we guide a better world into being.

Today herbal medicine, methods of hands-on healing, biodynamic and organic farming —all the realms of witches— are becoming widespread again and women are leading the way.

But, you may ask, What of magick? Aren’t witches magick? And the answer is, Yes! Yes we are. Because magick is just another form of mindfulness. To know how to be still, to meditate, to listen to messages spoken by the wind, to hear the voice of a tender spring shoot, to feel the pulse and rhythm of life at its deepest levels: this is the magick of the witch. This is my magick and I feel it running deep in my courage bones every moment of my life.