Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wicca: Everyone's Favorite Whipping Boy

Sometimes when interacting with Neo-Pagans you'll hear a lot of talk about community, plurality, and the need for tolerance amongst the various sects of Paganism.

And I agree with that statement.

But sometimes you'll also notice a bit of condescension whenever the subject of Wicca comes up.  Which is oddly amusing, since most modern Pagan paths wouldn't be alive and kicking today if Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner didn't have the testicular fortitude to write a couple of controversial books way back there in the dark ages of the early 20th century.

Sometimes practitioners of Asatru, for example, will poke fun at NeoWiccans for being fluffy. And you know, sometimes the things people do in the name of Wicca are incredibly ridiculous.  Sometimes a harmless joke about tye-dye and crystals is just that: a joke that anyone with the maturity of an adult can laugh at. 

But the most venomous attacks directed at Wicca is often from people who claim to be Witches of the NeoPagan variety themselves.

And before we go further, I would like to make it clear that I don't think every form of Witchcraft or Paganism is Wicca.  Because it isn't.  I have said so here and in everyday conversations more times than I can count.   That firmly held belief of mine is often a source of strife when it comes to dealing with NeoEclecticPagans.  Feri is not Wicca.  CultusSabbati is not Wicca.  Michael W. Ford's Luciferian Witchcraft is not Wicca.  Religious NeoPagan Witchcraft is not Wicca.  A person practicing magic of various forms is not practicing Wicca, but might very well be practicing Witchcraft. 

A lot of times people will say that they "tried Wicca" while they were starting out on their path, as if it was an illicit drug at a frat party their freshmen year of college.  And a great many people do begin with one of Scott Cunningham's books or maybe Raymond Bucklands Big Blue Book, and then find that their own path lies elsewhere.  Nothing wrong with that at all.

But when you engage these persons in conversation about their own practices, which they will tell you is the Most Authentic, Great Tasting, Less Filling, NonFat, EcoFriendly, New and Improved Tradition of Witchcraft Ever:  it's all the same public Wicca material that has been written about since the 1950's. 

Circle casting? check.  God/Goddess/Polytheism?  check.  Magic? check.  Full Moon Esbats?  check.  Quartered elemental placing?  check.  Eight Sabbats?  check. 

So you begin to wonder:  What about this is so damn new, special, or nonWiccan enough that these nonWiccans can get all morally superior about it.

They haven't created something new.  They are following a path based on the hard work and trail-blazing of a lot of wonderful Elders who made it possible for them to follow the path that they do, while simultaneously turning around and pissing on their work.

Not that our Elders need or require blind devotion.  (Although, ya know, maybe.  Some folks are nuts.)

I would advise anyone to be skeptical of dubious history and inflated life-stories.  Gods know, we have had some characters in the Occult scene.  And a lot of them have said and written things that weren't exactly truthful. 

We should never accept anyone's claims at face value, nor dismiss questionable behavior out of some sense of community loyalty, but MOST of the more outrageous and colorful characters that have influenced Modern Paganism and Modern Witchcraft paved the way for our various religions to have legal recognition and varying degrees of mainstream approval and tolerance. 

Raised by an old world family in an old school part of the South, manners and respect for one's elders was firmly ingrained into my worldview.  I'm of the mind that this is a good thing, a thing severely lacking in our current over-culture.  I am only in my mid-twenties, but I am already experiencing great shock and disgust when I see how the current youth culture behaves.

So when I, as a youngish Witch with a few years of experience under my belt, see younger and new Pagans treating our various traditions as if it were a buffet at Golden Corral, and our Elders as if they were some oppressive Mom and Dad who yells at them to do their homework and won't let them have the car keys; I get a bit miffed. 

Because I am embarrased for them, and I am embarrased by association.

I'm not interested in dictating how other peple label and define themselves, because such an endeavor is boring and fruitless.  But in the interest of fostering real respect within the Pagan community, it would be refreshing if rather than dismissing the work of our elders and trailblazers, we could give them the respect and honor they are due.

And when 98% of your personal practice is based on watered down versions of Wicca that you have pulled from published sources, I would advise you not to turn around and bite the Cauldron that feeds you.

9 comments:

  1. Though I'm not a witch, I definitely respect their art and traditions.

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  2. True enough. I think the major problem is exactly that. So many a pagan labels him/herself as something wicca-like... and the view of Wiccans is greatly affected by what you can find out there in the wyrd wide web. Most humans never met a BTW Wiccan but already made up their mind about everything concerning Wicca. But in the end, that's the same as with every other path, be it Asatru, shamanic or one of the manyfold magic(k)al ones there are...

    ...people simply like being judgemental above all else... even if they claim to be on a spiritual journey to the old Gods. Quiet contradictory in my eyes... but hey... the Romans already knew that errare humanum est.
    ;-)

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  3. Great post. Especially the 'cauldron that feeds you' bit.

    It's all label stuff though, isn't it?

    You'll notice that there have been some startling/bizarre comments on Jason's post about chaos magic.

    The most flexible traditions seem to have the most detractors.

    Wicca -when done right- is the business. It shouldn't be summarily dismissed just because (for instance) some of the core books start to look a little weird when viewed with modern eyes... Again I see another chaos magic parallel.

    If you view the books/predecessor's work in their proper context as trailblazing products of their time then you can still extract value from them today without the need to be negative.

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  4. @Devlin - Thanks! I'll put in good word for good booksales.

    @Israfel - Definitely. I also think living in a culture that glorifies instant gratification and laziness has something to do with it. It's much easier to play Witch or whatever online than it is to actually walk one's Path.

    @Gordon - I'm glad you liked it. Labels can be problematic. They can get in the way of what could otherwise be some very fruitful dialogue.

    As my own study progresses and I interact with practitioners of various trads, I find that the more *traditional* folk are much more relaxed, and the more *eclectic* folk are the ones who insist on adherance to all kindsa rules and dogma.

    Discuss ethics and cursing with a Gardnerian versus your average crystal enthusiast NeoWiccan, and you'll see what I mean.

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  5. As far as Craft goes, I think that the touchstone is magic and how its done. Witches do magic. Witches who may not be Wiccan do magic. Witches who are Wiccan do magic. All the rest is about other things.

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  6. THANK YOU.

    "when I, as a youngish Witch with a few years of experience under my belt, see younger and new Pagans treating our various traditions as if it were a buffet at Golden Corral, and our Elders as if they were some oppressive Mom and Dad who yells at them to do their homework and won't let them have the car keys; I get a bit miffed."

    Oh, baby. SPEAK that truth! Amen! (You should pardon the expression.)

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  7. I'm glad you enjoyed it! And I think the word Amen is a beautiful word.

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  8. Indeed! Some of us spend so much time trying to prove that our spirituality is so polished, and so original that it goes back to the witchy-great-great-great-great-grandmother of the Gods themselves, that we fail to show who we are spiritually. Or that our eclectic nature makes us stronger and beautiful; even if that comes with a bit of fluff.

    Thanks for sharing such and insightful post. I'm still laughing about "don't bite that cauldron that feeds you". I just can't get rid of the image of a bunch of toothless self-righteous Pagans spinning around in circles wondering what happened to their teeth!

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  9. Ha! I'm really glad you liked it. And I'm really loving your blog too.

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