Thursday, April 03, 2008

Wicca on the Down Low

I'd like to dissect an introductory paragraph that's growing in popularity throughout the Pagan realms of Teh Interwebs. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least seven times I've seen it used in the last few months, each by a different NeoPagan, and it never fails to make my brain hurt.

Invariably, it begins with the following:

"Hello! My name's [insert Pagan name here], and I'm a Witch!"

So far, so good. Lots of us be Witches. However, the Pagan in question goes on to clarify:

"I'm a Witch, but I'm not Wiccan."

No problem here, either. The qualifier isn't necessary, but hey, whatever. Witchcraft takes any number of forms across the planet, and only a few of them fall under the umbrella of Wicca. As for the overall introduction, though, this is where things get Seinfeldian:

"Not that there's anything wrong with Wicca. It's just not for me."

And if they'd stop here, I'd raise an eyebrow or three, but it would be fine. Really, it would be fine. I'll happily agree that Wicca is not for everyone, and that people need to find their own individual paths in the Big Ol' Grand Scheme of Things.

But they never stop here. This is the absolution statement, which allows them to release the flaming projectiles towards Wicca without being perceived as (gasp)judgemental:

"If people want to be fluffy, that's fine. But I'm not fluffy. So I'm not Wiccan."


"Wicca is an invented religion. But I practice an ancient tradition of Witchcraft that pre-dates Wicca by several centuries."


"Wicca is too much like Christianity. Set rules, telling me what I can and can't do or believe. I'd rather think for myself."

I've blogged about this before: the odd compulsion that infects some NeoPagans, causing them to cast Wicca as superficial and misguided when compared to their own "authentic" traditions. But scratching the surface of these trads almost always reveals a heaping helping of good old fashioned Wicca, repurposed as flashy, often Celtic-sounding denominations.

And for the record, I'm not referring to Feri, or Cultus Sabbati, or Stregheria, or any of the of flavors of Witchcraft that originated and evolved outside of the New Forest region of England. I'm talking about Wiccans who, in their never-ending quest for validity, refuse to apply the word "Wicca" to their activities, even when it's exactly what they're practicing. It reminds me of a couple of paramours from my checkered past--men who chanted clever rationalizations like, "I'm not gay. I just prefer to have copious amounts of sex with other guys. But that doesn't make me gay." Physically well-put-together though they may have been, it was ultimately impossible to take them seriously.

If this phenomenon was confined to the Net, I think it would be palatable. In the real world, though, it's too odious to swallow. My first encounter with it left me feeling queasy and kind of sad, which allowed me to focus on my acid reflux and emotional issues, thus dismissing the more insulting aspects of the situation without acknowledgement.

I'd been invited to a pub moot [Paganspeak for "let's go drink"], and, early on in the evening, I found myself being presented to one of our local scene queens. Names were traded and hands dutifully shook, and then--she'd never seen me before, so she assumed I was a newbie--she smiled benevolently and asked, "What questions can I answer for you?"

"Well, I don't really have any questions," I responded, trying to sound professional yet friendly. "I've been doing stuff for awhile, so... um, yeah, you know?" (So much for professional.)

"Ah!" She said. "Do you practice a particular tradition?"

"Yes!" I said brightly, offering a winning smile and hoping that we could talk about anything else.

"Well, which one?" she asked.

So I told her. And without so much as batting a false eyelash, she replied, "My tradition is older than yours."

"Great!" I said, because really, what else can you say to a statement like that? I mean, I guess I could have replied with something along the lines of, "You are obviously so full of shit that you're going to sprout magic mushrooms," but that would have been declassé.

"Yes, ours is a very old tradition," she continued. "It's not Wiccan at all."

"Cool," I said, glancing out of the corners of my eyes for anyone who might come save me.

"Why don't I explain it to you? It makes so much more sense than Wicca."

"Okay. But I'm going to need another cocktail first."

I fled to the bar, returning with the world's dryest Manhattan ("Could you just sort of clink the bottle of vermouth against the side of the glass? Thanks."), and she told me all about it. And... it was Wicca. Circles and the Four Elements and the Triple Goddess and the Horned God and Merry Meet and So Mote It Be, as described in every book on the subject since Lid Off The Cauldron. But she kept saying, "Doesn't this make more sense than Wicca? Doesn't this make more sense than your modern tradition?"

I told her that I could certainly see how it made sense, because I really, really didn't want to get into an occult pissing contest without anyone around who would take my side. And there actually were some mild differences here and there, but they were surface differences, designed to create an illusion of separation: "We call the Element of Air in the West instead of the East, and our athames have burgundy handles instead of black. Doesn't that make more sense?"

The night eventually came to a close, and I was able to extricate myself from the conversation without any permanent scars to my psyche. I figured this was pretty much the end of the whole debacle, so imagine my surprise when I received an e-mail from the sense fairy the next morning, in which she said she really enjoyed meeting me, and how I was much nicer than those other Wiccans. Maybe we could get together some time, and I could give her some of that secret, traditional, oathbound Wiccan material to look through. Not that she needed it, mind you, but wouldn't it be fun to compare notes?

I thanked her for her kind words and suggested she read Lid Off The Cauldron.

And I left it at that.


Thalia said...

Wow, you are polite.

I don't think I would have been able to resist answering her "What questions can I answer for you?" with, "Just one. Why are you so f*ing arrogant you think you have all the answers?"

I do tell people I'm Pagan, not Wiccan, but that's only because I don't consider myself nearly organized enough to qualify, not because I have some super-secret 10,000 year old ancient knowledge of the Mysteries of the Universe or whatever.

Evn said...

The "What questions can I answer for you?" thing caught me completely offguard, so I didn't have a snappy comeback ready. And I just hate bursting bubbles in person. Too much mess to clean up.

Diana Luciano Grayfox said...

Wow. I can't believe someone could be pretentious enough to actually say, "My tradition is older than yours." Obviously we're talking about a highly evolved individual with a strong emotional intelligence.

As a mental note for future reference, a snappy comeback to "Do you have any questions" could be, "Yes! What is the square root of pi?"

Evn said...

Diana, that's brilliant.

And when they say, "1.77!" I can reply with, "Really? Because my tradition has calculated the square root of pi to 1.77245..."

Anonymous said...

OMG I just can't stop laughing. Tis so true... *sigh*

We are our own worst enemy I think sometimes.


Evn said...

We are our own worst enemy

'Tis true indeed.

Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Ooooo. Where have you been all my life? I have seriously needed this blog.

Very funny. Delicious, in fact.

Evn said...

Why, I've been right here this whole time, adding you to my blogroll.


Cat Chapin-Bishop said...

Adding _me_ to the blogroll? Well! Clearly, then, as Titania said when she first saw Nick Bottom, you are as wise as you are beautiful...

*big grin*

Seriously, I'm looking forward to more of your sense of humor. Great blog!

Evn said...

How odd! Because as it turns out, I'm both wise and beautiful!


Okay, so I'm pretty much just wise. But I sincerely appreciate the compliments.

Yvonne said...

If I had a pound for every time I've met someone who said they were traditional or hereditary witches, who then turned out to be practicing something much younger than Gardnerian Wicca, I'd be rich. If I had another pound for the number of stories I've heard where people have been seriously screwed over by people like that, I'd be twice as rich.

There are only 2 people I have ever met who I felt genuinely did come from an older tradition. One had material that was significantly different from Wiccan stuff; the other joined Wicca because his tradition had lost most of its material and wasn't workable any more (and what he did have was also significantly different). Neither of them looked down on me for being Wiccan.

Evn said...

If I had another pound for the number of stories I've heard where people have been seriously screwed over by people like that, I'd be twice as rich.

I'm lucky, in that I haven’t had to see people get screwed over firsthand, or to see a group implode when they find out they’re not the ancient tradition they were told they were. What I have seen, though, is newcomers to Paganism be casually informed “Wicca’s made up, Wicca’s not real,” by people whose only reason for saying so is to push focus away from their own dubious claims.

We’ve got our share of NeoPagan bullies around here. Part of my job is clearing up their misconceptions.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you ever take pictures?!

Evn said...


I do still owe you a picture of the Swooner...

Grian/Lee said...

Seriously funny. I have this whole long diatribe in my head now about why I'm not Wiccan. Problem is I'm afraid I'll just end up being Wiccan. LOL. Bloggrolling you asap.

Evn said...

You can be Wiccan if you want to. I promise I won't tell anyone.

Anonymous said...

You know, since so many Neo-Pagans seem to be afraid of all things "FLUFFY," there must be a great pool of power in the big, ever-so-cute eyes of the "BUNNY!"

Dangerous magical power...

Evn said...

"Once More With Feeling" lyrics running through my head now.

Sia said...


Points for being such a class act.


Grian/Lee said...

"And what's with all the carrots? What do they need such good eyesight for anyway? Bunnies! Bunnies! It must be bunnies!"

Evn said...

Points for being such a class act.

Thanks! I'll have the help send over a muffin basket immediately. ;) (But seriously, thanks.)

Evn said...

Bunnies! Bunnies! It must be bunnies!

Or maybe midgets...

BearTM said...

Ummm... I've never met a fluffy Wiccan, at least none from an established tradition... Now, my definition of fluffy may be off since it's the crystal waving, positive-energy-will-solve-everything, hippy-uber-peacenik types that I consider to be the fluffy bunnies rather than the hard core Gardnerian witch who is teaching me herbology and other fun lore(nothing from the tradition, just the common lore).

I had such a person tell me that Wicca is full of dogma. It isn't. The rules in Wicca aren't dogma, they're OSHA safety regs, that if not followed can result in serious harm when you don't follow the rules, let something nasty get into your work, and suddenly find yourself suffering from psychosis or schizophrenia.