On more than one occasion, I have been asked if I’m in some sort of cult. More often than not, it is no surprise as this usually occurs while I’m with a group of people sat around a stone circle or found in a wood.
My answer to this question is “No” but was I giving that answer without understanding what the word cult really means and saying “No” to avoid anyone thinking I was in some brainwashed death cult ready for suicide on the next full moon or hell bent on opening a portal to another dimension with a plan to take control of the world.
So what does the word Cult mean?
The word cult is a controversial one due to the fact it is usually used as an attack against certain groups. The word cult was given the characteristic of a small religious group that carried beliefs or customs that operated outside the main religion of an area or countries society. It was then magnified as a negative word when cult was classed as a small deviant religious group. It did not take long for anti-cult movements to take hold. After looking at the original usage of the word that dates back to the 17thcentury I found the word was introduced from the French adaptation (Culte) of the Latin word Cultus. Cultus simply means worship. The Latin word Cultus is also linked to other words like cultivated and culture referring to social and religious groups with particular beliefs, forms and material identity.
My conclusion is that the word cult means a group of people that do their own thing in a way that may differ to the norm.
Examples of Cults
Some of the most well known religions of today started out as a cult. Christianity started as a small cult with followers facing death for simply following. While mentioning Christianity there is and as been many cults setup as a branch of Christianity for instance the Unity Church is a Christian movement where some will choose to call them a cult, it does not mean that they have a negative effect on their followers or anyone at all but their called a cult and some may call them a sect or church.
Some cults do have a disastrous ending with a negative outcome. David Koresh was booted out from his Church of the Seventh Day Adventist for been radical. A self proclaimed messiah telling his followers the end is neigh under the cult name Branch Davidians, he brought about the death of around 75 of his followers after a 51 day siege in Waco.
In 1997 39 members of Heaven’s Gate killed themselves so they could reach a spaceship that was following a comet.
In whole the nature of most cults can have a varied effect with some emerging and becoming an established cult or religion while others will fade away never to be heard of again with all traces lost to the sands of time.
I remember as a child been fascinated with the Knights Templar a major order within the Christian religion which then became reduced to a cult like status that lead to a witch hunt resulting in many Templar deaths. Some groups today are still in operation with a long reaching history and sometimes confused with the Templar’s for instance there is the Knights of St John/Knights of Malta. I have done my own research into the history of the Knights of St John even taking a trip to Malta a place of immense history with regards to the Knights and discovering there are other smaller groups that gather in their name.
I am very interested in what particular groups are active in England and our local area and I can say with confidence as it surprised me that there are more groups of a varied scope active up and down the country. In my local area, I have come across an amazing diversity and I can safely say I have enjoyed the company of them all and at the same time have learnt so much from them.
As I mentioned above I have come across various groups from Buddhism to Voodoo. One group I spent a lot of time with was a coven. A coven is a gathering of witches and the word itself was not used much in English until the 20th century. The best part of 20 years ago I started becoming very interested in alternative faiths and came across people practicing Wicca and Witchcraft after attending a pagan moot (a meeting of like minded people discussing various paths and more often than not in a pub) I soon found there was a few moots in the area held mostly once a month and included a wide variety of people from different professions and backgrounds. The variety of opinions ,theories and styles of rituals and practice was amazing and I naturally wanted this experience more than once a month so a group of us formed a closed circle for spiritual development which carried on for a year or so, in this time we were introduced to the use of tarot cards, pendulum, Ouija board and many other divination techniques. Besides the divination they also explained ideas of karma and the cycles of nature that they recognize and implement in their rituals. After sticking with this for a while myself, brother and a couple of others were invited into a practicing coven that we stayed with for a few years. While in this coven we witnessed how they embedded many rituals into their everyday life and how they viewed particular aspects of nature. While in the coven we completed our 3 degrees of Wicca initiation and developed our own coven name, but we are not making it public until we have found what we are looking for. For Wicca and Witchcraft an article can never be enough as there is many forms and paths of the craft and personalized by each coven. A lot of covens do write down their ways of thinking, rituals and other details in books that are sometimes called a Book of Shadows.
So looking back through what I wrote about myself in this article you could say after looking at the original usages of the word;cult, you could say yes I have been in a few cults in my time and a coven. I hope this article also provides the idea that cults are not bad or evil and that like most things in life it’s merely down to people’s intentions.