I’ve started picking up some followers here, so I feel as if I need to make myself fairly clear on a few subjects.
1) I am a Wiccan.
I practice British Traditional Wicca. And I see a very sharp divide on tumblr that I stand in the middle of. I am not impressed with the ‘Wicca’ I see here. Most of what people call Wicca isn’t. But on the other hand there’s a reactionary movement that says ‘I am not Wiccan”, in such a way that makes clear a feeling of disdain and dismissal.
Doesn’t leave me too comfortable.
I do not understand or consider Wicca a ‘do what feels right’, whatever-you-want-it-to be, eclectic nature religion. It cannot be practice solitary, you cannot self-initiate, and it’s not an orthodoxy. There is no belief or beliefs that can make you Wiccan - only initiation does this. I do not consider 99% of what’s floating around online to be Wicca. It is eclectic neo-pagan witchcraft, mislabeled Wicca out of misinformation and greed.
I understand Wicca as an Orthopraxic, Oathbound, Initiatory, Mystery-based, Experiential, Coven-based, Fertility-focused, Ditheistic Witch-cult whose members are all Clergy within a Lineaged Tradition.
On the flipside - please don’t dismiss me out-of-hand because I am Wiccan…or because I’m BTW. I’m neither a fluff, a flake, or an elitist, and you do both me and yourself a disservice if you categorize me as such.
2) I am an eclectic Neo-Pagan witch.
This contrasts with my above statement - but contrast doesn’t mean diametrically opposed. I don’t live at my covenstead. Wicca’s practice is meant to happen in proper places at proper times, and only those places and times - it’s not a lifestyle, but rather a pretty specific practice. When those things are done, they’re done. Wicca isn’t meant to be displayed to those who are not initiated members of the religion.
Initiates share the ways and means of performing Wicca’s rites, but when it comes to their individual beliefs, they can diverge wildly from one another. And that individual spirituality is what ‘personal practice’ is all about. It might belong to a Wiccan, but that doesn’t make it Wiccan in and of itself. And I don’t call it Wicca, because it isn’t.
I don’t hate solitary witches. I don’t hate eclectic neo-pagans. Those paths are perfectly valid paths. But I DO hate seeing people mislabel their path with a word that doesn’t describe it properly or accurately, at the expense of the path for which the label is accurate. Wicca is not a catch-all term.
When I’m home on my own, I’m just that - on my own. What I practice is my own path, which works for me. It’s still powerful, fulfilling, and totally valid as a religious and spiritual expression - and it’s what I’ve done for 20 years now.
3) Wicca =/= witchcraft.
Seen lots of people mixing the two terms up on tumblr. Witchcraft is simply the practice of magic. You can be any religion, or none, and be a witch.
The word itself should be your big clue - ‘craft’ indicates skill in doing or making something. That’s all it is. The skill of doing or making the things witches do or use. It doesn’t require faith or belief.
Practicing magic alone does not make a person Wiccan, and Wicca is not a synonym for witchcraft. You don’t have to be Wiccan to be a witch. You don’t have to be Pagan to be a witch. And you don’t have to be a witch if you’re Pagan.
I have already been given out to here, because of this stance. I am not unaware of people who follow family traditions of paganism that are well-mixed with witchcraft. I am also not unaware of ‘traditional witches’, who are not nescessarily neo-pagan. I understand that there are religious Witches who choose not to identify the particular pagan (or other) religion they’re mixing with their craft, deeming the craft aspect to be the more important focus.
In my mind, that still does not make Witchcraft a religion. It just means they’ve chosen a confusing and sometimes misleading title for their personal religious practice - which is their choice. Just as it’s my choice not to agree.
Just because there are forms of religious witchcraft out there, doesn’t make ALL witchcraft religious. They exist because someone has added an extant religion to their form of witchcraft - not because witchcraft is inherently religious on its’ own. It’s like saying that woodcraft is Christian because someone uses it to make pews, or crosses. Yes, that is religious woodcraft - but not because woodcraft is a religion in and of itself.
4) Be respectfully eclectic.
There’s a really unfortunate entitlement complex that runs deep in North America. People think they should be able to have whatever they want, whenever they want, simply because they want it. And some people just won’t take ‘No’ for an answer - claiming that it’s unfair, exclusionary, or racist.
Not all paths or cultures are open to outsiders. Many paths are completely closed to people from outside that culture - the Gods may be sworn to a particular land, or place, or to specific bloodlines. Others are semi-closed; there are ways to become a member of the culture, but the religion may require a person be an active member within the culture, living within it. Outsiders may not understand the nuances of these faith, or be able to express the religious or spiritual activities properly.
In some cases, their spirituality may be the very last thing they have that’s uniquely theirs - don’t be a complete ass, and misappropriate it.
Some groups and cultures maintain standards for membership or entry. Don’t be discouraged if you are not a good fit or do not qualify for them. It doesn’t mean you are bad or wrong somehow. What it means is there are probably other paths more suited to your needs, that you are free to find. Similar to how some writers get hundreds of rejection letters before being published, you may have to keep seeking the right path, trying out things as you go. One rejection doesn’t mean you should stop writing - or seeking.
You can’t know and do everything. The jack of all trades is the master of none. Avoid the temptation to try to do too much, or be all-inclusive in your path. Some things just don’t work well together. No matter how you try to reason or rationalize it, if two cultures or pantheons or practices are too far apart, you can’t make them play nice - and you are being disrespectful if you try.
5) Don’t rush.
I admit - this is mostly aimed at the newer neo-pagans, those just starting to seek their paths out.
I remember how exciting and interesting discovering something new and wonderful feels. I remember wanting to consume all I could, and the joy of having those ‘Eureka’ moments, where all the pieces fell into place and I suddenly comprehended a concept or idea. Even now, 20 years later, I still have those moments. And that’s my point. The path goes ever onward. Even teachers are also still students - you can and should always still be learning.
If you’re still a teenager struggling to establish your adult identity and your own authority, it can really feel vital that you get to express yourself freely - you really aren’t alone in that. Everyone goes through it - and everyone grows past it. If you’re really serious about pagan religions, and witchcraft, be willing to give it the thought, study, and time it deserves to be approached with.
Instant gratification is nice - but I guarantee you farther down that road you will come to a point where you’ll come to realize that the quick and easy answers aren’t nescessarily the right ones, and you’re back at square one.
There’s time. Your whole life is ahead of you. You will get to where you’re going, even if you have to wait a few years. Patience is as vital a skill down these roads as any other. It may be frustrating when things don’t happen when you think they should, or as fast as you’d like. But some things only happen when the time is right - and not a moment before.
Aging in and of itself is a Mystery to be experienced. I don’t see the world now as I did when I was 15. Or 25. I won’t see the world ten years from now as I do today. My understanding of certain things has become clearer, and deeper, for the experience of them through different ages and stages of life. I am willing to bet that yours will be, as well.
6) Get off the internet.
Seriously. Seems like an odd comment from a blogger, but really… Books and the web will only get you so far. Sometimes they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on - Neo-Pagan books are rife with misinformation, poor research, revisionist history, and plenty of author bias.
One of the reasons books and websites tend to drop off sharply once you’re past the ‘101’ stage of learning is because ‘201’ and beyond are things you need to physically do or experience. Once you begin to get more specific in your interests or direction, you start needing more specified teachers and materials.
And it’s well and good to know things - but there’s more to these paths than simply acquiring knowledge. You have to balance the work of your head, your heart, and your hands. Witchcraft and paganism are best taught, and learned, in person. Mysteries exist all around us, every day - and they’re not found in pages or pixels.
Finding offline groups or teachers is hard. I understand that. But things worth doing are seldom easy. The universe is not likely to drop everything you need or want right at your feet. Accept that you’re gonna have to make some sacrifices, and get on with it.
Right then. I’ve said enough. Hopefully that’s all as clear as mud.
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