Monday, August 14, 2006

Morwics?: Religious Synthesis in Utah

When I heard the term “Morwics” in one of the Yahoo groups on alternative religions that I am part of I first thought of an alien race from a science fiction novel. But apparently the term refers to something very real in Utah, and perhaps beyond this state.

After relocating to Utah for seminary studies last year I learned about the small Pagan community in the state that lives among the dominant Mormon population. It seems that ex-Mormons not only gravitate toward evangelicalism and atheism as their religious choice options, but also toward Paganism. This makes sense in terms of a religious logic in that a rejection of what is considered a strict form of Christianity might lend itself toward identification with a variety of nature-based spiritualities such as Wicca.

What came as a surprise to me was to discover the existence of practicing Mormons who also practice forms of Paganism, resulting in the religious synthesis labeled “Morwics” by a Salt Lake City area practitioner of this spirituality. The claim is made that Morwics are a large and growing group whose interest in esotericism and magick has as its foundation early Mormonism’s interest in these areas as documented by researchers such as D. Michael Quinn in his book Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (Signature Books, 1998). I am working through my contact in a Yahoo group to talk to a leading Morwic in the near future to learn more about these folks.

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Al said...

My mother is a well know Wiccan in the Salt Lake area. She runs the Order of Our Lady of Salt (OOLS), which has held monthly public Goddess worship services for, I dunno, five years or so. I could put you in contact with her but I would have to say, up front, that while she's a wonderful and level human being, she's going to show anyone evangelizing her or others the door. She grew up in a Nazerene household and two of her brothers are preachers (as was her grandmother).

Contact me through my blog if you'd like to talk.

Anthony said...

a couple of thots about growing up lds and magick

1) there was some really close ties between ancient practices. the dowsing and treasure seeking of the lds, the similar use of drudic symbols (cf the hive), herbalists, and the like. i remember having a thread put over my hand, waiting for it to circle, and then, when it did circle, that was as many vitamins that i needed. in fact their relationship to Shakley has a weird triple meaning, the herbalism, the protecting of the self, and their love of multi levl marketing.
2) the triangulation b/w the rites of the temple, the rites and language of the masons, and the mystical implications of early American rites has been written about extensively, and i think that the history of the lds and the masons have a lot more to tell us about magick then the pagans in salt lake.
(the problem with this research is that it is usually used by people who think the mormons and the masons are evil)
3) i have always found the mother/father god to have eerie parallels to the Celtic male/female gods, and to lose the mother god to protestant mainstreaming kind of breaks my heart.
4) i wonder how young this morwick is, and if their are any intersections b/w it and the youngsters doing the punk scene in provo.

Some useful sources:
On Divining:
The best one is the quinn book you qoute, of course, but also some history on the Campbellites,

On Heavenly Mother:
Margaret and Paul Toscana. Strangers in Paradox: Explorations in Mormon Theology
Maxine Hanks: Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism
Lavina Anderson Sisters in Spirit: Mormon Women in Historical and Cultural Perspective

On Masons:
Matthew B. Brown. The Gate of Heaven. (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, 1999)

Nick Literski's book on Masonry and Mormonism will be well worth picking up.