Although I have been in the Pagan community for the past ten years (and more of a lurker prior to that) I’ve never seen such a huge level of hostility in regards to (edit) ‘Ecclectic’ Wiccans.
Wicca became a recognized religion in the states. There are some ‘legal’ Wiccan churches in Canada. Wicca as first brought forward by Gerald Gardner, has found its way to North America and taken on a new life. Albeit many strains that have sprung up are Wiccan by name only, resembling little the practice of the Traditional Wiccan groups that got this all started.
Understandably, those who have learned and been initiated from a verifiable lineage find it irritating that anyone can grab a book, read about Wicca and say ‘Hey, yeah, I’m Wiccan’.
However it is was only a matter of time before that happened. When something so beautiful and appealing and new catches the eye of one who has ever really had exposure to the Abrahamic faiths or a new non-dogmatic esoteric approach makes itself known to someone who has always pulled away from religion due to the hypocrisy –it is only natural that it will catch on and bloom. Taking on a life of it’s own.
When Christianity first came on the scene it wasn’t Christianity. It was mainly Jews following the teachings of Jesus. This changed and became a religion, once Rome got involved. ‘What makes a Christian’ was a point of contention in the early church also. Did it require circumcision? Was it based on Good Work? Or was it based on Faith Alone?
There was only one official Christian Church. The Church of Rome. The Universal (Catholic) Church.
Since that time things have changed. Many people broke away and began their own churches. The Catholic church only recognizes those churches (for the most part) with direct lineage to the Apostles. Apostolic Succession. However this has not stopped many backyard churches from popping up, many evangelical, proselytizing, billboard churches, online churches, —– many of them with not only a completely different doctorine, but different praxis as well. However, they are still Christian. If someone says to a Baptist – “What religion are you?” that baptist is most likely to say Christian. Likewise a Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc. If asked ‘What KIND of Christian? What Tradition? THEN of course it gets broken down to it’s particular path.
Religion is like that. It spreads. Not always in the way originally intended by the originators. But the Gods don’t sit well in little neat, stagnant containers. Fluid, moving, ever present…. they find their way into and activate the hearts of humankind.
Wicca as a religion is subject to this same process.
“What religion are you?”- “Wiccan”
“ahhh… what kind?”
It’s not that awful to share the denominator of Wicca with those who have broken away from the initial tradition.
It is frustrating if those people do not educate themselves on the history and original correct practices or ideas yes…. just as it is frustrating for someone to claim that they are Christian without having some basic History of the Bible, and History of Christianity by an academically accepted source (Yale Open University as an example) — sure the desire is there, the romanticised idea of what they think it is… but without solid founding, these people go on to further alter and change what is all means… but sadly this IS the way it goes. In any religion.
One can call themselves a variety of religions without needing lineage. All that is required is a form of dedication, and sometimes not even that.
So while I see that there is good reason to distinguish between the varieties of Wicca, I feel that going backwards and trying to strip self proclaimed Wiccans of their self identification is un-called for.
Life is full of natural consequences. If Susan declares to everyone she is Wiccan, but knows little- what harm does it really cause? Will she successfully lead a teaching coven and ‘pollute’ the minds of the non-initiated? Probably not. In this wide age of Information, anyone would soon find out she knows little. It is why each seeker needs to prepare themselves for the journey.
Instead of telling self identified Wiccans that they are NOT Wiccan, encourage them to learn more about their newfound professed religion. Suggest the books that initiates would be required to read. Let them know they will be considered Eclectic and/or Solitary unless they find a working coven. Let them know that although Self-Dedication is fine and right and good (Just like self dedication to Christianity) that self-Initiation is not acknowledged. Let them know the find points without steam rolling them, without crushing their new found love of the Gods. If Wicca is not for them they will learn that in good time and it does NOTHING to harm the relationship between anyone else and their own Gods.
This is an elitist attitude that does nothing but serve to show Wicca as an Elitist Religion for Snobs. And THAT is not what it is. It also is an attitude that seems to be more pronounced in North American, especially the US, than anywhere else.
A heated debate transpired that left a sour taste in the mouth of a few.(I had taken a snippet from it for my blog, assuming that because it was a public debate that involved me I could share it here. This was apparently seen as calling someone out and I was accused of trolling, so I’ve removed the snippet.)
We were advised to get back on topic with the thread so I opted to leave but wanted to share my final opinions in my blog. The last few pages of that thread are a bit of a train wreck, but one thing it shows for sure, emotions run high when it comes to this topic.
Wicca is an amazing path and thank the Gods that Gardner brought it out of the broomcloset and into the light.
The flavours and directions it is taking will not always be liked by many or accepted by any, but like any religion, the Seekers need to sift through the rubbish and find their way.
It is not always possible to find a teaching ‘Gard or Lexie’ tradition nearby. They aren’t often in the habit of advertising. So this makes Wicca, as a religion, VERY inaccessible if that is the ONLY way to be considered Wiccan. So yes, offshoots have shot off – some very valid and meaningful, holding some of the core praxis and ideals at heart, and some have quite missed the mark.
This is why guidance and support is mandated for these new Eclectics and Solitaries, rather than trying to eradicate the emerging forms.
(the above post was placed in my blog at wiccantogether.com but due to the fact I will be leaving that site I wanted to repost on my personal blog.)