This article is dedicated to the victims of the Nashville shooting and of all the mass shootings that have happened so far this year.

Like everyone, I am horrified at yet another mass shooting in the United States- this newest one being three children and three adults at a private Christian school in Nashville.

Horrified, but not surprised.

I’m also furious. How many more people have to die before our country is going to do something? As of March 27th, there are 96 mass shootings that have happened, with 141 dead. It infuriates me that even after these latest rounds of deaths, most likely there will be no steps taken to prevent it from happening in the future. The point of this post is not to go off on a rant about the Republican party, so I will stop at that.

As a Christian, I would have said that this kind of event was the unfortunate result of original sin. We are all corrupted, we all do evil, and this is just an extreme version of that. It’s an easy answer: too easy. It accepts violence and evil as a given and puts the solution to it off in some other time and world.

As a Wiccan, I don’t believe in original sin. But what about the problem of evil? How does evil come into existence, if our nature is inherently good? How does the shadow become a horrifying darkness?

Wicca believes in immanent divinity- we are of the Divine. We are not the Divine, not the God and Goddess, but we are of them. Therefore, our intrinsic nature is good. We are not born corrupted. So, if that’s the case, where does the evil come from? And why do the God and the Goddess allow evil to exist?

There isn’t evil in nature. Nature simply is. If a shark attacks you, it is not out of some kind of anger or spite but because you happen to look like food. Natural disasters don’t deliberately seek us out; they are a product of natural processes. Good and evil are uniquely human possibilities. This is an amazing ability and a sobering responsibility.

What causes a person to be willing to kill another person, or harm them in any way? One of the reasons is that we’ve lost our sense of connectedness to each other and to the world. If we truly saw ourselves as connected to every other being on earth, we wouldn’t harm each other, if, for no other reason, it would be like harming ourselves.* If we saw the whole world as sacred, we would not feel the isolation from the Divine that so many feel. This disconnection leaves room for emotions like anger, loneliness, and greed to take over. If it’s just us, why shouldn’t we act for our interests alone?

Another factor is our shadow self.

If we deny the darkness, if we don’t face it, and healthfully integrate it into our total selves, we lose our ability to deal with it. But it is still there, and it will come out in some way or another. That is why shadow work is so important- that work where we go deep within ourselves and face what is really there.

If we deny its existence, we succumb to our own weaknesses, or more dangerous still, we risk projecting them onto others, which can lead to the unspeakable brutality with which people have treated each other for far too long. Though it often comes to us in the shape of another human being, the Shadow is part of ourselves. And no attempt to bury it within our unconscious, or rationalize its dominance of our culture, will free us from the terrors of its presence.

Book of Shadows, Phyllis Currot

Then there is the element of choice. I firmly believe we always have a choice, even if that choice is to ask for help and say “I can’t make a good choice right now.”* As someone who has made a remarkably bad choice because I didn’t ask for that help, because I let the shadow take over, and even now, many years later, suffers from the consequences- I realize that the one choice was not an isolated incident. It was made up of many tiny choices that I had made for a long time before I was faced with that one life-changing choice.

So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All that for us to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R Tolkien

Wicca doesn’t believe in fate. We aren’t assigned a path, and we don’t have a destiny that we should or should not live up to. In Wicca, it is truly the journey that matters, not the destination. This is where divination is a great tool for the Wiccan. Divination is kind of like a “spiritual GPS”. GPS tells you the destination you will end up if you keep going a certain way. It doesn’t stop you from turning around and choosing a different route or a different destination. If you’re going a way you don’t want to go- divination can show you how and why you’re on that route and give you the information you need to decide if you want to keep going that way or not.

Why do the God and the Goddess allow evil to happen? To answer that requires a lot more wisdom than I happen to possess; I have just enough wisdom to admit I don’t have enough. The thoughts that comfort me aren’t going to comfort someone else. I think this is something we all need to find our individual answers to. Some say it is because their power is limited. I don’t believe that- but I do believe that they may have chosen not to intervene, that what we make out of this world is truly what we make out of it. And that’s a good thing because then we don’t have to wait for some far-off force to intervene- we can start making different choices from this moment on. As I said, though, this belief is just as likely to tick someone off as to comfort them. And I don’t pretend that’s the whole picture, even for myself. There are factors I am sure I have never even thought of. And to some degree, it’s mystery.

I may have been over-bold even touching on this topic, but it’s been troubling me and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I am certain I didn’t even touch on all the possibilities with this issue. In the end, let’s grieve the victims, but then let’s do what is necessary to change things, because we create our own fate.

*I am aware that severe mental illness throws a wrench into things. A person who is truly psychotic, for example, isn’t capable of thinking on this level. But for the vast majority of us, the above applies.