The Wiccan Deity

It’s Eric Steinhart here again.

I’m going to begin my critical philosophical posts on Wicca by dealing with the Wiccan ultimate deity.  First, I’ll present some quotes from Wiccans describing this deity.  Next (in a separate post), I’ll do some analysis and compare and contrast this deity with some other deities in the Western religious traditions.  One thing should be clear right away: the Wiccan ultimate deity is not the Abrahamic God.  And it is not a theistic deity.  The concept of the ultimate deity in Wicca is non-theistic.  Of course, some of these quotes also talk about the male God and female Goddess.  These deities will be dealt with in later posts.  Right now, our focus should be on “Ultimate Source”.

The quotes are taken from the books listed at the end of this post.  I’ve chosen these books because they are highly recommended both by writers in print and on the web.  However,  since I’m an outsider to Wicca, and I’m not an expert, it will probably be easy to object that I’ve missed some essential data.  Fair enough.  If anyone knows of any serious discussions of the Wiccan deity that I should look at, I’d love to learn about them.

 

Here are the quotes:

“Wicca is both a religion and a craft . . . As a religion . . . its purpose is to put the individual and the group in harmony with the Divine creative principle of the Cosmos” (Farrar & Farrar, 1981: 12)

“the God and Goddess [are] aspects of the Ultimate Source” (Farrar & Farrar, 1981: 49)

The Farrars say that the “Seventh Plane” of reality is the “Upper Spiritual” plane and consists of “Pure or Abstract Spirit.  The ‘Divine Spark’.  Substance and energy direct from the Great Unmanifest.” (Farrar & Farrar, 1981: 117)

“To the witch, the Divine Principle of the Cosmos is real, conscious and eternally creative, manifesting through Its creations, including ourselves” (Farrar & Farrar, 1981: 154)

“This higher power – the “Ultimate Deity” – is some genderless force that is so far beyond our comprehension that we can have only the vaguest understanding of its being.  Yet we know it is there and, frequently, we wish to communicate with it.  As individuals we wish to thank it for what we have and to ask it for what we need.  How do we do this with such an incomprehensible power?” (Buckland, 1986: 19)

“The Wicca acknowledge  a supreme divine power, unknowable, ultimate, from which the entire universe sprang.  The concept of this power, far beyond our comprehension, has nearly been lost in Wicca because of our difficulty in relating to it.  Wiccans, however, link with this force through their deities.  In accordance with the principles of nature, the supreme power was personified into two basic beings: the Goddess and the God” (Cunningham, 1988: 9)

“All is therefore sacred and bears the blueprint of the Divine Source manifest as a binary force of male and female which we call the God and Goddess, complementing one another to form the Whole, The All.  We are an integral part of the All, having been created by the Divine Source of All, and therefore bear the blueprint of the Divine Source, giving us potential for a direct connection with the All, and the Divine, which are One.  The concept of Deity and the sacred in Paganism and therefore, also in Wicca, is not transcendent, but immanent and indwelling in all.  The divine is therefore integral with ourselves; we are inherently divine.  We respect Nature as all is alive and divine for we are a part of that All.” (Silver Elder, 2011: 9)

“We conceive of the Creative Power of the Universe as manifesting through polarity – as masculine and feminine – and that this same Creative Power lives in all people, and functions through the interaction of masculine and feminine.” (Thesis 4 in the Principles of Wiccan Belief, from the Council of American Witches, 11-14 April 1974; taken from Cuhulain, 2011: 28)

“The Wiccan concept of the Divine is shaped by what we see around us in the natural world. . . . We believe that the Divine is immanent in everything around us.  We do not separate the Divine from the everyday world . . . Everything around us is divine.” (Cuhulain, 2011: 14)

References:

Buckland, R. (1986) Complete Book of Witch Craft.  Second Edition Revised and Expanded.  St. Paul, MI: Llewellyn Publications.

Cuhulain, K. (2011) Pagan Religions: A Handbook for Diversity Training.  Portland, OR: Acorn Guild Press.

Cunningham, S. (1988) Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.  St. Paul, MI: Llewellyn Publications.

Farrar, J. & Farrar, S. (1981) A Witches Bible.  Blaine, WA: Phoenix Publishing.

Silver Elder (2011) Wiccan Celebrations: Inspiration for Living by Nature’s Cycle.  Winchester, UK: Moon Books.

Other posts in the series so far:

Atheism and Wicca

The Theistic Deity and Atheism Defined

The Wiccan Deity: An Initial Philosophical Analysis

The Wiccan Deity: Related Concepts in Philosophy

On Atheistic Religion

Nine Theses on Wicca and Atheism

Atheistic Holidays

Criticizing Wicca: Energy

Atheism and Beauty

Do Atheists Worship Truth?

Some Naturalistic Ontology

Criticizing Wicca: Levels

Atheism and the Sacred: Natural Creative Power

Atheist Ceremonies: De-Baptism and the Cosmic Walk

Atheism and Possibility

The Impossible God of Paul Tillich

Atheism and the Sacred: Being-Itself

Pure Objective Reason

Criticizing Wicca: Rationality

The God and the Goddess

Wicca and the Problem of Evil

The Wiccan God and Goddess: Reality and Mythology

On Participation in Being-Itself

Criticizing Wicca: God and Goddess

The Increasing Prevalence of Woo

Wiccan Theology and Sexual Equality

Revelation versus Manifestation

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • felicis

    ‘Drawing Down the Moon’ by Margot Adler is one you missed. It was my (and many others’) introduction to Wicca, and is a pretty good rundown of what many Wiccans believe (at least in part).

  • raymoscow

    I was a practising pagan for some years between leaving Christianity and becoming atheist.

    The primordial ‘male/female’ thing becomes unworkable when one realises that sexual reproduction is a relatively new innovation in the history of life. The universe, and even life itself, got along fine without the male/female thing for billions of years. As such, sexuality or gender polarity can hardly be a primary principle of the universe.

    Most of the other pagan religious principles are the same: they become unworkable or are shown to be false when one understands how the universe actually works. This is not very surprising in retrospect, because prescientific ideas are often shown to be wrong once the issue can be addressed by science.

  • F

    And it is not a theistic deity.

    This looks like an oxymoron by definition, but workable, as long as values for theistic, theism, deism, deity, etc., are clearly defined. Could be fun!

  • Robert B.

    Could you define your terms, please, if you’re going to use phrases like “not a theistic deity”? It really looks like a contradiction in terms to me, which sharply lowers my confidence that I have any idea what you’re talking about.

    • John Morales

      See my #5 below (use the internet as a resource, if the terms are unfamiliar to you).

  • John Morales

    Hm.

    Sounds like Deism dressed-up as Panentheism.

    (Odd, I had thought it more as dressed-up Animism, with the deities being no more than symbolic)

  • Gregory

    Wicca, like any other neo-pagan religion, is very difficult to pin down. There is a saying that if you ask the same question of five rabbis you will get six anwers; if ask the same question of five Wiccans, you will get at least a dozen answers, not counting the “In this other coven I was in, though….” responses.

    That said, when I was involved with Wicca, the concept of deity that was part of my circle’s teachings was that deity is monistic (one deity, many manifestations) and transcendent, and ultimately unknowable. Labels like God, Goddess, Freyr, Aphrodite or Amaterasu were nothing more than boxes into which we put arbitrary manifestations that we felt should go together: no box was better or more “correct” than any other box. Deity was coexistant with and found within the universe (panentheism) but the universe was not, itself, a manifestation of deith (pantheism.)

    The Farrars took this utilitarian view to the logical extreme: anything could be used as one of your arbitrary manifestations. If you find it meaningful to pray to your Volkswagon Bug, then by all means pray. I get the impression that this is what you mean when you say that the Wiccan deity is not theistic: it is so big and so… well, cosmic that we humans cannot really relate to it except through our very provincial and extremely limited perceptions. Only imperfect, incomplete and arbitrarily defined labels are understandable enough to be called gods.

    • http://wp.wiccanweb.ca Makarios

      I’m not Wiccan myself, but from what I’ve read and heard, your analysis appears correct–for British Traditional Wiccans, at least. It is expressed in the “Dryghtn Prayer,” which is attributed to Patricial Crowther:

      “In the name of Dryghtyn, the Ancient Providence,
      Who was from the beginning and is for eternity,
      Male and Female, the Original Source of all things;
      all-knowing, all-pervading, all-powerful;
      changeless, eternal.

      “In the name of the Lady of the Moon,
      and the Lord of Death and Resurrection.

      “In the name of the Mighty Ones of the Four Quarters,
      the Kings of the Elements.

      “Blessed be this place, and this time,
      and they who are now with us.”

      Dryghtn being the unknowable Ultimate, with the Lady and the Lord being manifestations thereof.

  • sunnydale75

    I’m sorry, but I fail to see much fundamental difference between Christians and Wiccans. The way their beliefs are expressed are certainly different, but both involve a supernatural creator that is unknowable to all. Whether it is God or the Divine Principle of the Cosmos, we’re still in the realm of the not real. Wicca may not be as harmful to human progress as Christianity, but in the end they are both philosophical ideas about the universe that aren’t based in reality.

    • http://slatslatslats.blogspot.com Erika

      Wicca does not necessarily teach that the God and Goddess are creators, Wicca does not necessarily teach that the God and Goddess are supernatural in any shape or form. (although some may perceive them as such) the problem with argumenting against Wicca, is that Wicca is not a belief system that has specific teachings but rather leaves an open book for the practitioner to write herself. and this in turn, makes many arguments simply irrelevant to many practitioners. rather than argumenting against Wicca, it would be more giving to argument against a certain idea that a certain wiccan has. (example: i’m a wiccan, and a future astrophycisist.)

    • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

      It’s fascinating that there’s so much room for variation in Wicca. I recognize your point, and I’m trying to tie my arguments closely to a set of primary texts (the Farrars, Buckland, Cunningham, Cuhulain, Sabin, Silver Elder) and some secondary texts as well.

      My next series of posts will be dealing with the god and goddess, so I’ll be interested in your comments.

      I’d be especially interested in hearing about how you understand the relations between Wicca and science.

  • rey

    They freaking ripped off the Kabbalah.


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