INTERVIEW WITH A WITCH

8 Oct

INTERVIEW WITH A WITCH: THE BEAR INTERVIEW Parts One and Two

BY: Bob Gersztyn
(October 1999)

KBOO FM0002 Joe on Dock The Bear0001

Part One:
My interview with the Bear, alias Marcus Tempe took place 15 years ago this month. It was for the Wittenburg Door and the reason why I thought that the Door would be interested in it was because Mr. Tempe was a witch that had a radio talk show, in Portland, Oregon on KBOO, their community supported radio station. He had an ax to grind with Christianity and I gave him a platform to vent for “the world’s pretty much only religious satire magazine.”
His show was on during the witching hour, a 3 hour period between 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM, every other Sunday morning. It was a strange time to be up listening to the radio, but at the time I had a very normal job at the main post office in Salem, Oregon. At that hour we would be unloading semi trailers full of 3 class mail sacks and 4th class parcels and sorting them according to destination in a maze of containers on the truck dock.
My friend Joe Brandner was the one who always played KBOO, while we worked and it was more interesting than the radio stations that kept playing the same songs over and over. How many thousand times did we hear “Freebird” and “Stairway to Heaven.” So, after listening to him for about 6 months, I called the radio station and left my contact information and interview request. The Bear called me a couple of days later and I set up the interview for a Friday afternoon at 4:00 PM at the KBOO radio station. It was their fundraising weekend so the place was hopping with DJ’s, guest’s and journalist’s like me.
We talked about witchcraft and its persecution by Christianity, along with many other subjects all from a Wiccan perspective. The interview was never published by the Door, so after 15 years of anticipation here is my interview with Marcus Tempe. It is presented in 2 parts because it’s long, nearly 10,000 words. At the same time it’s a very timely interview because it’s October once more, and “The Day of the Dead” and Halloween are rapidly approaching.

Part One:

THE DOOR: Your actual name is Marcus Tempe, why do you go by the Bear?

THE BEAR: I feel a great deal of affinity with bear type creatures. In that we are both large, warm, round, furry, appreciative of good food and I like to go mrph a lot.

THE DOOR: Go what?

THE BEAR: Mrph.

THE DOOR: What is that?

THE BEAR: Mrph. It is the sound of a disgruntled grizzly bear when he is awakened from a sound sleep. Since, I like to sleep in and real life demands that I be up and around a lot. Mrph is sort of my expression with which I begin to regard the day.

THE DOOR: Disgruntled like a postal worker or you’re just not in a good mood?

THE BEAR: I wake up very slowly. I’m usually very reluctant.

THE DOOR: You call yourself a witch yet you are a male. I thought that male witches were Warlocks?

THE BEAR: No Warlock is derived from an ancient Anglo-Saxon or Northern European Germanic language root, which means oath breaker. If you talk to modern day Asatru people, who follow a Northern European ancient religion, like the Nordic peoples, the Vikings
THE DOOR: Odin, Valhalla, etc.. Didn’t Hitler want to re-establish the Nordic gods?

THE BEAR: That’s kind of like saying that the Roman Catholic Church had a relationship with Mussolini in 1922, therefore the Roman Catholic Church is Fascist. Guilt by association is a very tricky thing. Actually Hitler stole a lot of occult practices and symbolism, and slapped a Germanic political agenda on it, for the purpose of getting the German people thinking that they were the latter day equivalent of God’s chosen people and were destined to kill and conquer and rule the world. Well that kind of backfired.

THE DOOR: You make it sound like a negative version of the Biblical Exodus and conquest of Palestine.

THE BEAR: Surprise, surprise. Looking at it from the Canaanites point of view how do you think they regarded the whole invasion and conquest by the Hebrews. For more information just do a word search on Asatru on the internet; there is abundant information available. Anyway, they are Reconstructionist Asatru and have gone through a major meeting between North American and English Asatru movements. These were specifically designed to remove any taint of skin heads, racists, neo-nazis or any other attempt to retake the Asatru movement by the racist right wing political element. They are attempting to reclaim for themselves the Pantheon of the traditions of Northern European witchcraft. Steve McMallen is one of the leading founders of the Asatru free assemblies.

THE DOOR: That’s very interesting. Please continue on your explanation of the term Warlock.

THE BEAR: If you talk to Asatruar’s or anybody else who is a practicing pagan from most traditions they do not use the word Warlock, because in ancient times a person who broke their oath was considered to have virtually incurred the wrath of the gods. In other words it was like the modern day equivalent of selling your soul to the devil for a brief temporary advantage. You condemned yourself to basically eternal bad Karma. You would be digging your way out for a lot of lifetimes.

THE DOOR: That is a very negative connotation.

THE BEAR: Highly negative. Not only in intent but in act as well.

THE DOOR: Perhaps the reason why Warlock came to be used by non Wiccan’s so much was to give the entire belief system a negative spin.

THE BEAR: Especially in preliterate times in Europe. You have to understand that a man’s word was his bond, literally. If you broke your word, you were literally breaking your bond, your oath, your reliability, your standing in the community. You were effectively announcing yourself to be criminal in intent and action.
THE DOOR: It looks like the campaign was effective because most people I know think a warlock is a male witch. They also think of witches as having sold their souls to the devil. If your word is no good what good are you, that’s true in any society.

THE BEAR: In verbal or preliterate societies this becomes crucial, because your spoken word is the only recourse that you have. You don’t have a written contract to fall back on.

THE DOOR: It’s the same Biblically with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., they would make deals with the local inhabitants. Sometimes they would get broken and you’d have negative repercussions.

THE BEAR: There are parallels today in Saudi Arabia. One of the things I found, when I was there for two years, was that this idea of the sanctity of the oath and the spoken word, and the power of the oath is still held to be very important, in Muslim cultures. You do not use swear words against somebody. You do not cast oaths upon somebody, because that is regarded in Saudi law as well as religious usage the same as cursing them before God, or calling down injury upon them, or actively wishing them harm. It’s almost the equivalent of a physical attack on them as well. In other words if you’re using oaths or curses against somebody you can be hauled into court and imprisoned.

THE DOOR: Another area that is sometimes confusing relates to identification labels. Are the terms Witchcraft, Wiccan and Pagan interchangeable?

THE BEAR: No. There is a lot of variation in that. Usually what I do for people asking about basic information is refer them to volumes which have already been written by people, who have done an excellent job of covering this basic information. One of the beginning reference works that I know of is titled “Drawing On The Moon”, by Margot Adler. The first edition was published in 1977 and has gone through several editions since then. Margo Alder has a reputation of giving, probably the best single overview, if you will, about paganism, witchcraft, etc.. Another reference for witchcraft 101 so to speak is “To Ride A Silver Broomstick” By Silver Ravenwolf. It’s put out by Luelen publications. For the basics, this is one of the best books that I know of. It’s a very safe non-judgemental book, that is user friendly to anyone coming from any other religious or spiritual tradition. It shows you how to get started in witchcraft safely, without signing your soul to the devil, or blood sacrifice or any other of the hollywood stereotypical nonsense that people normally approach witchcraft with.

THE DOOR: Would you also recommend some of the earlier scholarly works on pagan roots like the “Golden Bough” and “The White Goddess”?

THE BEAR: Oh yes. I would certainly include those in my basic overview. The books I mentioned were an attempt to distill down to, what I would consider to be a bare minimum. That which you would need to have to become at least noddingly familiar with modern day neo-paganism practices.
THE DOOR: Throughout history the only references that we see towards witchcraft in the context of society is negative, usually a trial or and execution. Now it was co-existing with Christianity and the other religions since antiquity. Where are the historical writings?

THE BEAR: The history is important to note and it can be partially derived from the syntax of the word witch, which derives from the old Anglo-Saxon word WICCA. Which means “wise one”. That in turn derives from the ancient WICE (WEE-KAY), which is the old German for to shape or to bend. Basically the people who practice witchcraft or the craft are people who were the village apothecaries, the village midwives, healers, herbalists, etc.. These were the people who were the conservators of the survival lore that a village needs to survive from year to year and from generation to generation. The Roman Catholic Church signed a deal with Constantine to become the official state religion of the Roman empire in the 4th century AD. Then it began its missionary expansion and it began a process of first discrediting the opposition and second moving into the power vacuum that it created through fear and intimidation.

THE DOOR: So then the Roman Catholic Church didn’t set an example of religious tolerance your saying?

THE BEAR: The Roman Catholic Church signed a deal with the emperor Constantine circa. 318 AD, in which they became the official state religion of Rome. Immediately they went from being the persecuted victims being fed to the lions to the people who were feeding other people to the lions, so to speak. They began a series of what would eventually become Holy Crusades wiping out not only non-Christian religions, but all other competing forms of Christianity. Such as Nestorians, Manichaeists, Pelagianists, Gnostics and anybody else that got in their way. They tried to do it with the Greek Orthodox Church , but it had at that point moved to Byzantium and was militarily, economically and politically too powerful for them to knock off.

THE DOOR: I guess the Inquisition began earlier than we thought, but then again Spain was a Roman colony.

THE BEAR: When the church’s missionaries went north and west they found an existing religious structure, which varied from locality to locality but had several things in common. First of all was the worship of a goddess and a god. The goddess figure often times being given first pre-eminence of place.

THE DOOR: Why is that?
THE BEAR: Because the goddess was the giver of life. She was the force that allowed life to regenerate after the death of the winter. She was the one women turned to for questions of childbirth. To guarantee fertility of the crops. To assure the survival of the next generation. The names of the God and Goddess vary from culture to culture; In the matrifocal religions, not patrifocal ones, they recognize both a Male and female deity or divine principle of some sort, but hold that the Mother-goddess is the more important of the two, as it is She who gave birth to the Universe. Wicca is one such. On the other hand, some Pagan religions such as Asatru simply refer to “the Gods,” and give pre-eminence of place to the God (i.e. Odin Allfather). One of the determining factors in an individuals choice of pantheons and religions is whether you lean primarily toward the Goddess, the God or some balance between them.

That being said, here are some of the names of the Goddess and Her Consort God, respectively (see Silver RavenWolf’s book, To Ride A Silver Broomstick). Cerridwen (pronounced “KAIR-ih-dwen”) and Cernunnos (“ker-NOON-ose”). Welsh goddess and god, often worshipped in Wicca. Isis and Osiris, worshipped and invoked by practitioners of Qabbalistic magick, including Thelema and Ceremonial Witchcraft.
Odin (a.k.a. the Allfather) and Freya, His Wife/lover and commander of the Valkyries. Two of the chief gods of the Aesir, or Norse pantheon, worshipped by followers of the Asatru (“AH-sa-tru”) religion. Kali (a.k.a. Kali-Ma), Creative/destructive Goddess, and Shiva Her Consort, God of the universal birth-life-death-rebirth cycle. Hindu pantheon.

Some Neo-Pagans worship a Goddess or a God exclusively, or nearly so; e.g. Stregha (“STRAY-ga”) Withches are women who worship Aradia, Queen of Witches, and daughter of the goddess Diana. Their tradition dates back to 14th cent. Italy. Dianic or “Feminist” Witches, such a Z Budapest, work entirely with other women; they worship Diana, Roman goddess of the Moon and the hunt. There are “Eclectic Pagans,” who borrow gods and/or goddesses from a number of different traditions, e.g. Native American, Celtic, and Egyptian deities, and mix them up with rituals borrowed from as many different sources.

THE DOOR: Is there a Holy Book, Scripture type document common to all practitioners within the craft?

THE BEAR: This is a difference in structure that has to be addressed. First of all Christianity is based on orthodoxy. It has a text. It has a very rigid set of laws. It has a lineal decent from Jesus through St. Peter the first Bishop of Rome, etc. etc..

THE DOOR: I take it you think this is bad.
THE BEAR: Witchcraft and Wicca follow a very different approach. They do not believe in an orthodox structure from without, i.e. by not sitting and paying your dues and all the rest of this external stuff you will buy your way into heaven. It is very much an individual approach. Very much like Gnostic Christianity was. In other words, your inner knowledge of the truth and your faithfulness to adhere to what you know on a spiritual level to be true is the guiding factor of how well you will succeed in life. Witchcraft, then isn’t a matter of “scripture”-based “orthodoxy”; it has none. It is, to the contrary, quite heavily based on personal experience, choice, responsibility, intuition, “feeling,” and personal “revelation,” if any. Some of us have seen the Gods and/or Goddesses we worship, and have personal relationships with them; others of us can spend a whole lifetime looking, researching, exploring—and this pursuit, itself, becomes our “Tao” or “way” of approaching the Infinite and the Divine. Still others use ritual not so much for “worship,” but to invoke deities, spirits, sprites, fairies, elementals, etc. to raise, shape and direct Power to accomplish certain goals—i.e., their Witchcraft is more “craft” than religion. Thelemic and Qabbalistic Magickians are such. Also there is no dividing line between mortal life as we know it and the trans-mortal experience that most Christians wait until they die to experience. As above so below, that’s one of the tenets.

THE DOOR: Okay, so the answer to the original question concerning the existence of a written history or scriptural documentation of your roots is that it doesn’t exist except in oral traditions. You did raise another question you could elaborate on. How do you experience the trans-mortal experience before you die?

THE BEAR: By a variety of working of spirituality through ritual, which is effectively a form of guided visualization to tap the energies which logical, empirical, scientific thought denies the existence of. In order to help tap the energy to make changes in real world here and now, which we can experience and appreciate. For example, if you have a problem regarding a relationship with somebody: the typical hollywood approach would be to cast a curse on them. The proper witchcraft approach would not be to inflict harm on somebody else, but to properly to defend yourself in accordance with the threefold law. Which states basically that what you put out will rebound upon you threefold. If you put out harm to somebody else you will suffer three times that harm yourself. If you put out good to somebody else, you will enjoy three times that good yourself.

THE DOOR: A Witches golden rule.

THE BEAR: In order to defend yourself ethically and Karmicly however, you have to have a way to neutralize the damage being done to you. One of those ways is by what is called a mirroring spell. You visualize the energy that is being sent directly against you by somebody else as striking a mirror and rebounding upon the person who is doing the sending. I have found this to be a very potent tool. I was under attack here at KBOO as a matter of fact by a volunteer, who engineered the removal of my program, “The Witching Hour” from the air for a while. Then last spring I simply began a series of meditations where I visualized this person’s energy.

THE DOOR: How did you know this person was attacking you?

THE BEAR: Because he was vocal and very public about it. He actually used his official position on the KBOO board of directors and the program committee. Suffice it to say that the guy was very vocal and very public about his opposition to me and to the “Witching Hour”. As soon as it became apparent that this person was not going to be
reasonable, but simply reduce this to a level of personal attack I began a series of visualizations in which I visualized the energy coming from him to me and then rebounding from me unto him.

THE DOOR: Deflection, sounds like a happy medium between martyrdom and murder.
THE BEAR: Like his hatred and negativity striking a glass mirror and reflecting right back on him.

THE DOOR: What if you put a bad curse on somebody? Can you then put up a mirror spell to deflect the rebound from the three-fold law’s reciprocation?

THE BEAR: Magick is governed as much or more by intent as it is by sheer mechanics. If you intend to do some harm to somebody, you are in that active intent creating a negative thought form, which will already start to do harm to somebody else and correspondingly rebound upon you. If you try to play lawyer by doing an active curse spell on somebody and then whipping up a mirror spell in order to try and deflect it, you cannot move fast enough to step out of your own footprint. You cannot move fast enough to get out of your own shadow. You are going to create the reality that you experience.

THE DOOR: Let’s backtrack a little. When you make reference to time periods in history you use the terms BC and AD rather than BCE and CE. This seems unusual in light of your negative views on Christianity.

THE BEAR: I am not a politically correct type person. I’m the product of a culture that speaks English that uses the standardized Gregorian reformed calendar as its benchmark. I could use the term CE and BCE, which I recognize. I simply, however, have for most of my life been using BC and AD as a shorthand convention, because that’s what most people use.

THE DOOR: When you are speaking of gods and goddesses are you capitalizing or using lower case?

THE BEAR: There’s an interesting approach to that. In the pagan community you’ll find that some people believe in a unified god force that transcends any ability to personify it or personalize it. Other people believe in a personalized divinity that is a super conscious being but transcends gender. Other people believe in a pantheon of gods and goddesses. So it really depends upon your viewpoint and approach.

THE DOOR: When I type this out on the word processor should I use an initial uncial or minuscule for Ggod and Ggoddess?

THE BEAR: I would think the general rule would be leave it lower case, because I refer to gods and goddesses usually in the generic sense unless I am specifically creating a ritual where I am invoking the Goddess or God. At which point I’ll capitalize, because I believe that all these different religions and approaches are dealing with essentially the same quality, the same energy, the same being if you will. Simply by different names, however.

THE DOOR: You mentioned the word karmic, is that the same as the karma concept in Buddhism? If so did you borrow it from them?

THE BEAR: Hinduism also generated a lot of concepts, such as karma, which is also found in Buddhism. See there is a great deal of syncretism among pagans, in that we don’t believe that you should be bound by an orthodox text. You have to rather test it according to your own internal chime, or bell. If it rings true for you on a spiritual level you will know that on a spiritual level. It will feel like the right thing to do and it will test out because it will in fact be the right thing to do.

THE DOOR: So then when you read the sacred writings of any religion from the Bible to the Bagavad Gita you’re testing what rings true to you in them?

THE BEAR: Actually you’re exploring them.

THE DOOR: So if you read the Bible and there are parts of it that you feel are relevant to you, you keep them. Such as say the 23rd Psalm?

THE BEAR: There are people who count themselves as Christian witches, because they came from a Christian background and tradition.

THE DOOR: Let’s back up a bit. I thought I heard you say there are Christian witches.

THE BEAR: Um huh.

THE DOOR: That should send our letters to the editor through the roof.

THE BEAR: It’s very unusual, in that a lot of people who are practicing witches, including a lot of ex-Christians like myself, take a look at this and say, given the bloody history of Christianity and the burning times, how do you do this?

THE DOOR: You make it sound as if Christianity is the bad guy. What denomination did you belong to?

THE BEAR: I’m a recovering Catholic as are most of the witches I know in fact.

THE DOOR: Surprise, surprise. I think you mean ex-Catholic. When was the last time that you went to confession?

THE BEAR: I gave up going to confession and church entirely before I was 17 I believe.

THE DOOR: That would be in the mid 1960’s?

THE BEAR: Yes, about 35 years ago

THE DOOR: Do you run into many other Witches who are from a Christian background, and what denominations are they?
THE BEAR: I would say that most witches come from either Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon background.

THE DOOR: That’s interesting. What is the greatest percentage of the three?

THE BEAR: It would be hard to do demographics on that. I would say from personal experience, perhaps anywhere from 2/3 to 4/5 of the witches that I know come from a Catholic background.

THE DOOR: Why do you suppose that is?

THE BEAR: Catholicism #1 has been around longer internationally that virtually any other form of Christianity practiced in the west. It has also a very strong pagan appeal in itself, in that Catholicism borrowed much of its rituals, much of its holidays and much of its holy places from pre-existing pagan religions. For example December 25. Historically the Catholic Church ripped off the Saturnalia in order to have a competing holiday to offer the peasantry, in order to lure them away from the practice of the ancient Roman pagan midwinter holiday.

THE DOOR: Right, in fact some Christians won’t celebrate Christmas and Easter for that very reason, but why is the percentage of Catholic converts to witchcraft so high?

THE BEAR: I think it’s because Catholicism is very external driven, it is very external oriented, it is very much a religion that looks like it was put together by a bunch of politicians who said if we keep the sheep terrorized, submissive and paying their tithes we’ve got ourselves a nice little empire. It’s not any accident that the Roman Catholic Church has an organizational structure that is modeled directly after the ancient Roman civil administration.

THE DOOR: Right, like the Diocese, its administrator the bishop (procurator), College of Cardinals (Senators), Pope (Emperor). However, again, why are so many Witches ex-Catholics?

THE BEAR: The point being that if Roman Catholicism is that much external structure imposed, you must obey or you’re going to be punished. Not you must obey because you understand. Then a lot of us are left with a spiritual hunger going well wait a minute, what happens when the house of cards is revealed for what it is? When you see that the emperor has no clothes.

THE DOOR: So you’re saying that the Roman Catholic Church was devoid of any spiritual substance for you and other witches. Why do you suppose that you only encounter former Roman Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons as Wiccan converts? Why not mainline Protestant denominations like: Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist etc.?
Do you think that they are more fulfilled in their faith?
THE BEAR: I’ve known relatively fewer mainline Protestant converts to Wicca than I have met Roman Catholic ones. I think that without doing an accurate diagnosis it would be hard to say whether they are more fear based, and just fearful of making the step out of Christianity into what might actually be a more simpatico religion for them.

THE DOOR: A more what?

THE BEAR: A more sympathetic religion, which they might find to be actually more fulfilling of their needs. The massive crush of negative propaganda that you can find on any televangelist show on any Sunday sermon, from any mainstream pulpit against pagans, Wiccans, Witchcraft and all the rest of it. Especially during the Halloween season. The fear alone might be a major hold up for anybody even remotely considering this. As a matter of fact the one segment in the Christian population I have found to be most sympathetic and open minded toward us would probably be the Universalist Unitarians, who are often times described as not even being Christian by Fundamentalists.

THE DOOR: That’s what Dr. Walter Martin said in Kingdom Of The Cults. Since you mentioned Halloween, explain what is the significance of it to a Witch?

THE BEAR: Halloween or All Hallows Eve is the Christian co-opting of the ancient holiday of Samhain, which is pronounce saw-when. In the Celtic languages when you have an mh put together it’s pronounced as a “W”. Samhain is the time of year when the veil between the mortal world and the life and the world hereafter is at its thinnest. In Celtic tradition the dead, the ancestors were not entities to be feared i.e. ghosts, hauntings and all the Christian claptrap. They were an actual part of the community if you will. They were ancestors to be consulted, to be revered, to be communicated with, especially at this time of year, when it became psychically easiest to do so. The Christians moved in and took it over and established the holiday of All Saints Day, on November 1, Hallowmass and All Hallows Eve. Isaac Bonewits does a wonderful write up on the origins of Halloween. It was essentially an attempt to take over and Christianize a holiday, which the church could not browbeat its new converts into giving up entirely.

THE DOOR: Another popularly referred to pagan religion that usually comes up during Halloween is that of the Druids. It is especially villanized because of its use of human sacrifice, even though many ancient religions practiced it. Is human sacrifice or any type of sacrifice in any way a part of any Witchcraft movements at this particular point in history?

THE BEAR: No. As a matter of fact, for more information about Druidry or Druidism you can check out the web site I just mentioned that is posted by Isaac Bonewits.

 

To Be Continued.

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