Wicca Series: What makes someone Wiccan?

Every Monday and Friday in January we will be asking people questions about Wicca. Want to weigh in? Find the next question at the bottom of this post!

What makes someone Wiccan? Dedication? Initiation? Practice? Belief?

(Any responses should be assumed to be individual opinions and not representative of traditions or covens unless otherwise stated.)

Joseph D. Carriker, Jr. (Alexandrian trad.) responds:

It is initiation that makes one of the Wica, immersion in the occult current of our Craft and introduction into the spiritual lineage which we continue. The Wica are a tribe, with our own culture, and that culture has requirements for what makes one of us. But this is a gift, an introduction not just to worldly members of the Tradition, but also to the otherworldly contacts that we have built up over decades of practice using the same praxis.

What makes someone one of the Wica is also a practice of our praxis, and holding it in regard. The Wica may add elements, but are cautious to differentiate them from the core praxis that is to be carried on by their students. We have all discovered some elements which resonate well with us in the core, and some that do not, but it is arrogant to discard elements that do not just because they don’t work for us individually. Those we teach may find resonance in those elements, and we owe both our students and the Tradition the dignity of maintaining those parts.

Being one of us requires belief, but it is not revealed belief. It is experiential belief – we all participate in the rituals and traditions of our praxis, experience which informs our belief. We have connections with the Goddess and God of our Craft, but our understanding of them is not informed by information from someone else. It comes of our own experiences. We learn the ritual forms, symbolism and names to contact the Goddess and God of the Wica – after that, all we learn is first-hand.

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Lady Moonshadow Xian (Ravenwood trad.) responds:

First I would like to establish who I am and what my background is. I am Lady Moonshadow Xian currently an active member of RavenStone Church and Seminary. I began my study of Traditional Witchcraft in 1992 at Ravenwood Church and Seminary of the Old Religion. I was initiated by Lady Sintana with Lord Starhawk as High Priest to the First Degree at Ravenwood, to the Second Degree by Lady Deveyana Augusta Acting High Priestess with Lord Michiel as Priest of the Ravenwood Council of Elders and to the Third Degree by Lady Larina and Lord Gaelin High Priestess and High Priest of Ravenwood 2000 to 2009 with the assistance of Lady Sintana and Lord Merlin as Elder High Priestess and High Priest.

The opinions I express here are my own and are not given to be representative of any group I have previously or am currently a member of.

What makes someone Wiccan? Basically, Belief and Practice.

If you believe in the Creative Life Force working through the polarities of Goddess and God; in working with the energies of the Universe; and adhere as closely as possible to the Wiccan Rede in your daily life – Then you are Wiccan.

It is not as simple as it sounds. To actually live by the Wiccan Rede of “An It Harm None, Do What You Will” means living a very considered life. It means that you weigh each of your actions against their consequences and take responsibility for the results.

To live by your beliefs takes practice everyday. It does become second nature after a while. However it will remain a daily challenge no mater how long you have been on the path.

In the Tradition I personally follow: It Takes a Witch to Make a Witch. This means Initiation.

You can be Wiccan by belief and practice. You can only be a Priestess or Priest/Witch through Initiation by an Initiated Priestess or Priest of the Craft. It requires study and hard work to reach that point. You cannot simply read a book and do the self dedication rite at the end and suddenly you are a Witch.

It is not that the self dedications rites cannot be a powerful rite and important to you personally. They can be powerful and very meaningful. It is not Initiation.

Initiation requires study, learning, practice and understanding of the energies of the Universe. It is your formally introduction to the Elder Gods. It is not something done lightly without proper guidance.

I personally have a difficulty with the term “dedication”. It brings images of all the horrific things done in the “Name of God”. The most recent thing that struck me was seeing young Shiite boys cutting themselves with machete and knives in “dedication” to some dead cleric. People have done and will continue to do incredibly stupid and horrific things to show their “dedication” to their Gods.

It brings to mind the people I call the pseudo-Christians. We all know them. The people who carry around a bible and start every sentence they speak with “I’m a good Christian.” They have to make this statement and show because you could never tell their beliefs by their actions everyday.

As I was taught, “Keep the Secrets. Reveal them always.” Or as Lord Starhawk stated, “Them that know don’t say and them that don’t can’t shut up.”

You demonstrate your beliefs by how you live your life everyday. “By your deeds you will be known.”

Next question:

Should Wicca be classified as a new religion?

If you’d like to weigh in just e-mail me your short response (250-500 words) before Jan 5th. It’s sfoster at patheos.com.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

    I’m a little fascinated that I didn’t receive a response from staunch solitaries. Perhaps they feel the question isn’t worth debating. As a former solitary I can understand that feeling.

    A friend of mine seeking a Christian ordination was asked once what she would do if at the end of her preparation and studying she was denied ordination? Her response was that she would preach the gospel anyway!

    To some degree I feel the same way about initiation. As a Pagan woman I am a Witch and Priestess alone, and a Wiccan. I am not a traditional Witch nor a Trad Craft priestess. I can claim no lineage, no community, no title, and no authority.

    So even though my feelings about whether or not I am a Wiccan, Witch or Priestess may be a bit at odds with my coven’s teachings, it is very important to me to be a part of this coven and to seek initiation in the traditional way. I actually complete my “year and a day” classes today and that is an important milestone for me.

    For practical purposes anyone can claim Wicca, just as anyone can claim Christianity or Islam, but being a member of the Wiccan community requires commitment beyond adopting the name. I think that’s what initiation is: commitment to the community. It’s a powerful thing to enter in bonds of love and trust with other people to build something greater than we could accomplish as individuals.

    So, no, I don’t think initiation is necessary to identify as Wiccan, but it’s vital if community is important to your path. Joining a community isn’t to be taken lightly, and neither is initiation.

  • http://FernsFronds.blogspot.com FernWise

    Now we’ll have to look into what ‘ordination’ means to your friend. Seems to me that any Christian can (and, given the Great Commission is supposed to) preach the gospel, so I don’t see what that aspect had to do with her getting ordination or not!

    I guess I’m getting all Druid on y’all here, but defining terms is important to me.

  • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

    For her ordination meant preaching from her church’s pulpit and representing her church as official clergy. Of receiving confirmation from her church elders that she truly understood and was committed to the doctrine and mission of her church. It was accepting her into a position of authority and responsibility in the church and ensuring that authority would be recognized by her mother and sister churches.

    None of which prevented her from her private practice or preaching.

    • Elyod Huimaegas

      I happen to love my Solitary status. I am more free, in my opinion, than any that I have personally ever met in a Coven, but I agree on the part whole on title etc.
      But I have nothing to prove as to whether or not I am or not.

  • Peter Dybing

    “Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong” Winston Churchill

    I have found wonderful teachers in my community. Participation in circle with a strong Coven is an amazing experience. Yet, the struggles as a Solitary, the relentless pursuit of knowledge and daily practice is something I would never surrender. I am a Wiccan, I participate in community because it has great meaning, yet it is my personal solitary relationship with the Goddess that I cherish most.

    The path of a Solitary is a hard one. Would I recommend it? Probably not, but I do cherish what it has taught me.

    • Elyod Huimaegas

      I agree 100%
      I would never give up my Solitary status for anything…anything.
      The knowledge I have I have EARNED and I guard it zealously,

  • Kenneth

    The only initiation which holds any meaning for me is that between myself and the gods. My formal beginnings on the path started via initiation into a traditional coven which claimed a (somewhat dubious) connection to a “real” Gardnerial lineage. I spent a couple of years there and learned some valuable basics. I moved on after it got stagnant and creepy and cultish as so many first covens do. The initiation was a starting point and a rite of passage for THAT group, but it in no way “made” me a witch. Living and practicing and studying a lifelong curriculum makes me a witch.

    I did some of my best work as a solitary and now work in a wonderful partnership with a priestess in a group which might, or might not, be called a “coven.” We do ritual together, we do our workings, we have a cogent philosophy and the framework of a “trad.” But we don’t care a whit about degrees or formal initiations or titles.

    I get the point of traditionalists to this extent: If someone wants to claim they’re a witch in the such-and-such Alexandrian order, they ought to have gotten initiated there formally, just as a matter of accuracy. But I reject the idea that it makes one more of a “real” witch or for that matter, the whole concept of “High” priest and priestess as a separate clergy caste. That, to my mind, is an unfortunate bit of baggage carried over from Christianity. Why do we need a separate clergy caste in a religion with no laity?

    Why should I care about “apostolic succession” ie lineage in a religion which considers my own link to the divine to be clearer than any offered by the “prophets of old”? Our best formal lineages are half a century old, give or take a decade. When I do a full moon or Samhain, I’m tapping into forces and a legacy as old as humanity’s self awareness. With all due respect to Gardner and Sanders for blazing a difficult trail, ordination to their line, at best, grants me a link to the “elder days” of the 1960s! versus the god’s own access time before memory.

    What does it mean if someone holds the title of “HP”? It probably means they know the lore of their own tradition. It might mean they possess the training and spiritual readiness to serve in a higher capacity of ministry, but more often than not, it simply means they’re shrewd politicians. They knew how to stroke the right egos, stab the right back etc. I have personal knowledge of high priestesses who got ordination via blackmail or bribery. The area where I live (Chicago region), is full to the brim of high priestesses who in their mid or even early 20s. “Craft of the wise,” indeed!

    I don’t claim the title of High Priest. Does that mean I’m not a “real” priest? I’ll leave that one to the gods. I write and conduct rituals that are reasonably effective. I teach where I can and I take part in ministry to the broader community as my time and skills allow.

  • Steve

    I am a solitary witch looking at 7yrs. I don’t claim Wicca but I am a Witch. Is this wrong? I’ve yet to find a community and don’t have a car if I did. I study and do rituals and that’s all I can do. Correct me if I am wrong please.

    • Elyod Huimaegas

      You’re doing fine in my humble opinion.

  • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

    All that makes someone Muslim or Christian is confession of faith. Judaism has a much stricter definition over who is and is not Jewish. I get the feeling that traditional Wicca has more in common with Jewish self-identity, and popular Wicca has more in common with Christian and Muslim self-identity.

  • lynn

    @Kenneth: Wonderful response!

  • Mel

    I am not in a Wicca coven, but have used the term in an umbrella sense with others when explaining my path to people. For some reason in my community in the Southwest it is less scary to people than saying witch or pagan. When using the other two most people automatically think of the bad ones who curse for crossing paths, or Just attack for fun,(there are some here like that.), even though I’m a solitary witch whom likes to learn about every path. So other than that I follow my intuition and inner strength,and strive to be true to myself and those I commune with, and that makes me feel great even with out major titles.

  • http://pagancollegestudent.blogspot.com WarriorPrincessDanu

    Just a thought from a non-Wiccan… You have the right to call yourself whatever you want. However, that does not obligate anyone else to validate your claim.

  • Rhiannon Rose

    I am a solitary witch, mostly because I did not know any witches when I began this path. At one time I called myself wiccan, because of the fear and misunderstanding associated with the word witch. Wicca was not known then and most had curiosity instead of fear. But like most solitaries, I practice a combination of the traditional and wiccan practices. I performed a self-initiation ritual when I stared, mostly as a formal acknowledgement of my new path. 20 years later, I felt I had done all I could on my own and asked for a teacher. I was sent a student and the means to start hosting holiday rituals. So I became the teacher to others. Shorty thereafter, I met a traditional witch (coming from generations of witches). We had many conversations about witchcraft and I had many questions. I had read that some say “only a witch can make a witch” , she did not believe this, and told me I was just as much a witch as any who was initiated into a coven. She offered to perform a ritual that acknowledged me as a High Priestess. I was honored and we did just that.

    I believe that one is a witch if they practice witchcraft, whether there is formal acknowledgement /initiation or not. But to be recognized as a wiccan by other wiccans, you must have an initiation. I have not been initiated by a wiccan, but no one is going to tell me I am not a witch!

    By the way, to me the title High Priestess is an acknowledgement of achievement. I agree that someone in their twenties is not ready to receive this title, no matter how special they think they are. To earn this title, one must acquire not only knowledge but wisdom, which only comes with experience. It is an honorary title, but does not make one better than anyone else. I took on the title once I invited others into my circle. It was up to me to be sure the circle was safe and protected, I would personally take on any negative energy/being that dared to enter. My years of experience gave me the wisdom to handle it and this wisdom and responsibility has earned me the right to be called High Priestess.

  • Dayelizabeth16

    I believe a salutary can dedicate their Owen self if what they connect with what ever God or Goddess they connect with will except it. They do not need to make any cuttings on one self just grow to connect and love then go to and prepare for dedication every week asking for help bringing to light what you need and to prepare ones inner self for it. I also believe that the Gods them self will test you after wards with distractions . But it can be done I believe it can. No matter what I also believe it is a personal thing that a power is passed from who ever . I do believe it can be done by connecting with your deity way before hand and preparing for it . No cutting of any kind is needed just love for your deities.

  • Dayelizabeth16

    I believe a salutary can dedicate their Owen self if what they connect with what ever God or Goddess they connect with will except it. They do not need to make any cuttings on one self just grow to connect and love then go to and prepare for dedication every week asking for help bringing to light what you need and to prepare ones inner self for it. I also believe that the Gods them self will test you after wards with distractions . But it can be done I believe it can. No matter what I also believe it is a personal thing that a power is passed from who ever . I do believe it can be done by connecting with your deity way before hand and preparing for it . No cutting of any kind is needed just love for your deities.

  • Tyraewhitehawk

    yes i thank wiccan should be classified religion cuz then people wont know about it and the government wont count us in how meny wiccan or pagan there are in the us

  • Tyraewhitehawk

    yes i thank wiccan should be classified religion cuz then people wont know about it and the government wont count us in how meny wiccan or pagan there are in the us

  • Elyod Huimagas

    I am and have been a Solitary Witch for the better part of seven-teen years. I was not initiated into a coven or any of the traditional methods. After a time of study and dedicated work, my SELF DEDICATION was written by an ancient and wise; true and just Eldress on Her deathbed. As there are no coincedences, on the last night of the new moon I performed the Sacred Rite of Elderwynn, as she had named it. I returned to Her bedside and described the ritual, what I did, what I said after the written part was done, the sensations, the calm, all of it. I held Her hand and when the sun began to set, She gave me Her blessing, and with a smile, she crossed the River.  Therefore I do not need validation as to whether or not I am or am not a Witch or a Wiccan, or a Pagan. I know what I am.

  • Elyod Huimagas

    I am and have been a Solitary Witch for the better part of seven-teen years. I was not initiated into a coven or any of the traditional methods. After a time of study and dedicated work, my SELF DEDICATION was written by an ancient and wise; true and just Eldress on Her deathbed. As there are no coincedences, on the last night of the new moon I performed the Sacred Rite of Elderwynn, as she had named it. I returned to Her bedside and described the ritual, what I did, what I said after the written part was done, the sensations, the calm, all of it. I held Her hand and when the sun began to set, She gave me Her blessing, and with a smile, she crossed the River.  Therefore I do not need validation as to whether or not I am or am not a Witch or a Wiccan, or a Pagan. I know what I am.

  • Elyod Huimaegas

    I happen to love my Solitary status. I am more free, in my opinion, than any that I have personally ever met in a Coven, but I agree on the part whole on title etc.
    But I have nothing to prove as to whether or not I am or not.

  • Elyod Huimaegas

    I agree 100%
    I would never give up my Solitary status for anything…anything.
    The knowledge I have I have EARNED and I guard it zealously,

  • Elyod Huimaegas

    You’re doing fine in my humble opinion.


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