Is Wicca a Christian Heresy?

Lud's Church, used by Lollard heretics. Oliver Dixon CC

Yesterday I gave a grumpy rant over the Watchtowers and LBRP being included in some strains of Wicca. The responses surprised me and set me to thinking.

If you begin with the premise that everything in Wicca came from a Christianized society, that Wicca was founded by people raised and well-versed in Christianity, that elements of some strains of Wicca represent entirely Abrahamic, Copernican earth- and human-centric worldviews, does it then follow that Wicca is a Christian heresy?

If Wicca is drawn from Christianity, a reworking of the Christian mythos with the ever-present celestial mother and ever-dying, ever-resurrecting God, then does it fall squarely in the tradition of Christian heresies such as the Cathars, the Amor heresy and the Lollards?

Many of the holidays on the Wiccan calendar are Christian holidays, give or take a day. Yule is Christmas, Ostara is Easter, Lughnasadh is Lammas, Imbolc is Candlemas, Mabon is Michaelmas, Beltane is Pentecost and Samhain is All Souls.

It seems to me a good case could be made that Wicca is a Christian heresy, salvation being attained by right action resulting in reunion with loved ones through reincarnation. In the Kabbalistic Cross humanity is placed at the center of the Universe, in the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram humanity exerts it’s will over the elements of the universe, and in the ultimate act of Dominionism the Gods themselves are summoned by the Wiccan into an energetic circle in which they are confined until being released.

Looking at Wicca in this light is quite a trip. It makes me reconsider my ideas regarding the rise of popular Wicca and the Reconstructionist religions. There seems to be a general feeling that traditional Wicca is rejected because it’s either hard to find, too hard or in some cases, abusive. I’m not saying that those aren’t still reasons traditional Wicca is rejected, but with the rise of Reconstructionism, I have to wonder if traditional Wicca is rejected in favor of popular Wicca or Reconstructionism because it’s not Pagan enough?

People who have studied Wicca as a solitary work hard to change their worldviews, to shed old conceptions of religion and take on new visions of what spirituality can be. I spent about 9 years studying on my own before seeking out traditional Craft. I was disturbed by my first encounter with trad Craft finding I was expected to learn and practice exercises full of Judeo-Christian concepts and language. I wasn’t disturbed because “I hatez the Xtians” but because if I wanted Jewish or Christian mysticism there are better resources out there than Wicca. I wanted Pagan Witchcraft: deep, thoughtful, potent practice to align myself with nature and the Old Gods.

If everything in Wicca comes to us via Christianity, have we combined the Virgin and the Magdalen and set her among the stars? Have we given the Devil pipes and let him loose in the wild? Is Wicca essentially a gentler, kinder, more fanciful Satanism?

Or is Wicca Pagan? Is it the staunch survival of polytheism tempered by oppression, deepened by hiding and re-interpreted for a new age?

Or is Wicca an invention of the Atomic Age, a hobo’s stew of spirituality that somehow strikes all the right notes? And is the rise of popular Wicca because those who founded and maintain the original form of the religion don’t understand what they have? Is the largely Pagan popular Wicca “right” when it rejects the Abrahamic elements?

I don’t have any answers but for the moment I’m mesmerized by the questions.

About Star Foster

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

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1634361388 Celestial Elf

    Great Post, you might like my review of Joanne Pearsons’s Wicca and The Christian Heritage too
    http://celestialelfdanceoflife.blogspot.com/2011/07/on-wicca-and-christian-heritage-ritual.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1634361388 Celestial Elf

    Great Post, you might like my review of Joanne Pearsons’s Wicca and The Christian Heritage too
    http://celestialelfdanceoflife.blogspot.com/2011/07/on-wicca-and-christian-heritage-ritual.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/paposehn Philip Posehn

    It seems to me that Wicca is an attempt to revive a tradition that had nearly, if not completely, died out using the tools that were available at the time: the Golden Dawn system of Hermetic Magic…which itself was drawn from other sources ranging from John Dee to H.P. Blavatsky and covering a wide spectrum between the two.
    There is an old Buddhist parable to the effect that Buddhism is a stick that the traveler uses to remove mud from the soles of his feet. It seems to me we are becoming overly concerned with the names of the tools. They are all metaphors anyway.

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

      Names aren’t the issue. Intent is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/paposehn Philip Posehn

    It seems to me that Wicca is an attempt to revive a tradition that had nearly, if not completely, died out using the tools that were available at the time: the Golden Dawn system of Hermetic Magic…which itself was drawn from other sources ranging from John Dee to H.P. Blavatsky and covering a wide spectrum between the two.
    There is an old Buddhist parable to the effect that Buddhism is a stick that the traveler uses to remove mud from the soles of his feet. It seems to me we are becoming overly concerned with the names of the tools. They are all metaphors anyway.

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

      Names aren’t the issue. Intent is.

  • sunfell

    Interesting- I thought that Wicca had its roots in the Woodcraft movement, which Gerald Gardner happily and extensively borrowed from. If that’s the case, it’s more Native American than Christian -or European.

    http://www.utne.com/archives/the-wicca-that-never-was.aspx

    Wicca is a genuine 20th Century syncretic religion. It is both very old, and very new, a marvelous, eclectic blend of ritual, history, and imagination. All religions start out that way- including Christianity.

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

      In the interest of being a Devil’s Advocate:

      Is Wicca just another form of scouting?

      Wait, doesn’t Corellian Wicca have merit badges of some kind? We may be on to something…

      • sunfell

        Take it back even more:

        Is Scouting actually a Pagan activity? :-)

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

          In my experience scouting was about makeovers and boring meetings…

          • fffh_moderator

            Less makeovers for boy scouts, but still boring meetings. Well, I guess that depends on the boy ….

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1678081929 Bill Wheaton

            Boy Scouts was what turned me into a Pagan ;)

          • http://www.facebook.com/fernwise Fern Bernstein-Miller

            Star, don’t you remember the ritual when leaving Brownies (and how Pagan is THAT name?) for beginning Girl Scouts?  “Twist me and turn me and show me the elf.  I looked in the water and I saw … myself.”

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

            Oh Gods, I hadn’t thought of that in ages… It was very Pagan in Brownies…

          • http://www.facebook.com/patti.wigington Patti Wigington

            I was a Brownie and Girl Scout during the 1970s, and most of my adult leaders were women who had embraced the feminist ERA movement of the time, as well as being at the forefront of environmental awareness. I distinctly remember going on hikes where we would all stop and pick a tree and just wrap our arms around it to *listen* to what the trees told us. Later on, when I became a troop leader myself, I figured out that how a troop is run is entirely up to the leaders — and that I had indeed been very fortunate as a tree-huggin’ girl-powerin’ Brownie ;)

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1066316113 Jocelyne Berengaria Houghton

            Yes, yes, and YES!

          • The_L1985

            I got the watered-down Brownies of the 1990′s South.  You were SO lucky…

          • Dana Corby

            I was in the Girl Scouts in the 6th grade, which would have been 1957. Yeah, mostly boring. I mean, would _you_ actually give your mother a Xmas present that was a ‘cookie jar’ make of a coffee can with cotton balls glued all over it? Gaaah!

            But once we spent a weekend up in the mountains, and the troop leaders woke us up at midnight to take a hike along a ridge under a blazing full moon. Perhaps the most beautiful and numinous things in my young life, and still in the top 10.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1678081929 Bill Wheaton

      Thank you sunfell.  You have no idea how long I have been trying to re-find that article.  Literally years.  I promise not to lose it again :)  You have sent me on a great adventure today.

      • sunfell

        You’re welcome. I have the issue of “Gnosis” magazine that the article originally appeared in. I sure wish someone would digitize that whole series- “Gnosis” was full of wonderful, thoughtful articles like that.

    • http://erynn999.livejournal.com/ Erynn

      I am amused by the smallness of the world. Gordon Cooper’s one of my ex-husbands. He was doing that research while we were still married. I heard way more about the whole thing than anyone should have to. ;) I do think he and John Michael had some very valid points.

      • Aidan Kelly

        Erynn, if you are still communicating with him, I’d love to be in touch with Gordon. Could you maybe pass him a message to find me on FB? Thanks. Aidan Kelly

    • Don Frew

      The Utne article is a slanted, inaccurate summary of the original article by John Michael Greer and Gordon Cooper.  Greer’s & Cooper’s article arguing that Gardnerian Craft was descended from the Woodcraft movement was titled “The Red God: Woodcraft and the Origins of Wicca” and was in the Summer 1998 issue of Gnosis Magazine (#48).  Frew & Korn’s rebuttal to this thesis was titled “Into the Woodwork” and was in the Fall 1998 issue of Gnosis Magazine (#49).  This issue also included a letter from Ronald Hutton, withdrawing his support for the Woodcraft / Kibbo Kift hypothesis.I, of course, recommend reading both the pro & con arguments before making up your own mind.Blessed Be,Don Frew

      • sunfell

        Sadly, I could not find the original article online- that was the closest I got.

        We may never know the real roots of Wicca. Like Christianity itself, its origins are a mixture of myth, editing, politics and plain dumb luck.

    • http://www.groveofthelion.com/ Adrian Hawkins

      Sunfell,

      Do you have any more resources on the Woodcraft Movement and Wicca? I’d be curious to learn more.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting- I thought that Wicca had its roots in the Woodcraft movement, which Gerald Gardner happily and extensively borrowed from. If that’s the case, it’s more Native American than Christian -or European.

    http://www.utne.com/archives/the-wicca-that-never-was.aspx

    Wicca is a genuine 20th Century syncretic religion. It is both very old, and very new, a marvelous, eclectic blend of ritual, history, and imagination. All religions start out that way- including Christianity.

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

      In the interest of being a Devil’s Advocate:

      Is Wicca just another form of scouting?

      Wait, doesn’t Corellian Wicca have merit badges of some kind? We may be on to something…

      • Anonymous

        Take it back even more:

        Is Scouting actually a Pagan activity? :-)

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

          In my experience scouting was about makeovers and boring meetings…

          • http://www.facebook.com/dashifen David Dashifen Kees

            Less makeovers for boy scouts, but still boring meetings. Well, I guess that depends on the boy ….

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1678081929 Bill Wheaton

            Boy Scouts was what turned me into a Pagan ;)

          • http://www.facebook.com/fernwise Fern Bernstein-Miller

            Star, don’t you remember the ritual when leaving Brownies (and how Pagan is THAT name?) for beginning Girl Scouts?  “Twist me and turn me and show me the elf.  I looked in the water and I saw … myself.”

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

            Oh Gods, I hadn’t thought of that in ages… It was very Pagan in Brownies…

          • http://www.facebook.com/patti.wigington Patti Wigington

            I was a Brownie and Girl Scout during the 1970s, and most of my adult leaders were women who had embraced the feminist ERA movement of the time, as well as being at the forefront of environmental awareness. I distinctly remember going on hikes where we would all stop and pick a tree and just wrap our arms around it to *listen* to what the trees told us. Later on, when I became a troop leader myself, I figured out that how a troop is run is entirely up to the leaders — and that I had indeed been very fortunate as a tree-huggin’ girl-powerin’ Brownie ;)

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1066316113 Jocelyne Berengaria Houghton

            Yes, yes, and YES!

          • Anonymous

            I got the watered-down Brownies of the 1990′s South.  You were SO lucky…

          • Anonymous

            I got the watered-down Brownies of the 1990′s South.  You were SO lucky…

          • Dana Corby

            I was in the Girl Scouts in the 6th grade, which would have been 1957. Yeah, mostly boring. I mean, would _you_ actually give your mother a Xmas present that was a ‘cookie jar’ make of a coffee can with cotton balls glued all over it? Gaaah!

            But once we spent a weekend up in the mountains, and the troop leaders woke us up at midnight to take a hike along a ridge under a blazing full moon. Perhaps the most beautiful and numinous things in my young life, and still in the top 10.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1678081929 Bill Wheaton

      Thank you sunfell.  You have no idea how long I have been trying to re-find that article.  Literally years.  I promise not to lose it again :)  You have sent me on a great adventure today.

      • Anonymous

        You’re welcome. I have the issue of “Gnosis” magazine that the article originally appeared in. I sure wish someone would digitize that whole series- “Gnosis” was full of wonderful, thoughtful articles like that.

    • http://erynn999.livejournal.com/ Erynn

      I am amused by the smallness of the world. Gordon Cooper’s one of my ex-husbands. He was doing that research while we were still married. I heard way more about the whole thing than anyone should have to. ;) I do think he and John Michael had some very valid points.

      • Aidan Kelly

        Erynn, if you are still communicating with him, I’d love to be in touch with Gordon. Could you maybe pass him a message to find me on FB? Thanks. Aidan Kelly

    • Don Frew

      The Utne article is a slanted, inaccurate summary of the original article by John Michael Greer and Gordon Cooper.  Greer’s & Cooper’s article arguing that Gardnerian Craft was descended from the Woodcraft movement was titled “The Red God: Woodcraft and the Origins of Wicca” and was in the Summer 1998 issue of Gnosis Magazine (#48).  Frew & Korn’s rebuttal to this thesis was titled “Into the Woodwork” and was in the Fall 1998 issue of Gnosis Magazine (#49).  This issue also included a letter from Ronald Hutton, withdrawing his support for the Woodcraft / Kibbo Kift hypothesis.I, of course, recommend reading both the pro & con arguments before making up your own mind.Blessed Be,Don Frew

    • Don Frew

      The Utne article is a slanted, inaccurate summary of the original article by John Michael Greer and Gordon Cooper.  Greer’s & Cooper’s article arguing that Gardnerian Craft was descended from the Woodcraft movement was titled “The Red God: Woodcraft and the Origins of Wicca” and was in the Summer 1998 issue of Gnosis Magazine (#48).  Frew & Korn’s rebuttal to this thesis was titled “Into the Woodwork” and was in the Fall 1998 issue of Gnosis Magazine (#49).  This issue also included a letter from Ronald Hutton, withdrawing his support for the Woodcraft / Kibbo Kift hypothesis.I, of course, recommend reading both the pro & con arguments before making up your own mind.Blessed Be,Don Frew

      • Anonymous

        Sadly, I could not find the original article online- that was the closest I got.

        We may never know the real roots of Wicca. Like Christianity itself, its origins are a mixture of myth, editing, politics and plain dumb luck.

    • http://www.elementforge.com Adrian Hawkins

      Sunfell,

      Do you have any more resources on the Woodcraft Movement and Wicca? I’d be curious to learn more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1004555757 Mary Mueller

    Are Wicca and Paganism synonymous? Because I feel more like a pagan than a Wiccan. I am not really interested in adopting any religion other than to find fellowship among other nature mystics and magical practitioners of any tradition or non-tradition. For me nature, creativity, mysticism and magic are the threads in my magical cape. Call it any name you like – it derives from all the places I’ve been from Catholic to Rosicrucian to BOTA to Jung to art classes… perhaps I am as happy as a hobo eating hobo stew on a nice little stump in the woods by a fire.

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

      I think that’s the question: is Wicca Pagan? Not is Wicca part of the social-political-spiritual movement known as Paganism, but is Wicca a non-Abrahamic tradition in and of itself?

      • The_L1985

        Isn’t it?  Hel, we’ve got POCM arguing that Christianity is Pagan, because of its similarity to a lot of the ancient sources that Wicca drew from.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1004555757 Mary Mueller

    Are Wicca and Paganism synonymous? Because I feel more like a pagan than a Wiccan. I am not really interested in adopting any religion other than to find fellowship among other nature mystics and magical practitioners of any tradition or non-tradition. For me nature, creativity, mysticism and magic are the threads in my magical cape. Call it any name you like – it derives from all the places I’ve been from Catholic to Rosicrucian to BOTA to Jung to art classes… perhaps I am as happy as a hobo eating hobo stew on a nice little stump in the woods by a fire.

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

      I think that’s the question: is Wicca Pagan? Not is Wicca part of the social-political-spiritual movement known as Paganism, but is Wicca a non-Abrahamic tradition in and of itself?

      • Anonymous

        Isn’t it?  Hel, we’ve got POCM arguing that Christianity is Pagan, because of its similarity to a lot of the ancient sources that Wicca drew from.

  • Silverrosemoon

    May I recomend “Pagans & Christains” The Personal Spritual Experience by: Gus DiZerega. PH.D…..Actually it is reverse, all of the Christian holidays were taken from the pagans, this was done to try to make it easier to convert the pagans to Christianity, also a lot of the really old first churchs were built on top of Pagan temples

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

      I think you’re missing the point of the post. Try reading the previous post and comments.

  • Silverrosemoon

    May I recomend “Pagans & Christains” The Personal Spritual Experience by: Gus DiZerega. PH.D…..Actually it is reverse, all of the Christian holidays were taken from the pagans, this was done to try to make it easier to convert the pagans to Christianity, also a lot of the really old first churchs were built on top of Pagan temples

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

      I think you’re missing the point of the post. Try reading the previous post and comments.

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

      I think you’re missing the point of the post. Try reading the previous post and comments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.e.hawk Robert E. Hawk

    Thank you for the questions. Now I have more answers to seek. I could be years with this set also……;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.e.hawk Robert E. Hawk

    Thank you for the questions. Now I have more answers to seek. I could be years with this set also……;)

  • PhaedraHPS

    I don’t think it’s possible to separate Wicca or any form of contemporary Paganism (Reconstructionism included) from the thousands of years of European history that preceded it. Nothing comes out of nothing, as one of my old teachers used to observe. Christianity wouldn’t look the way it did if it wasn’t for ancient Paganism and Judaism, and modern Wicca wouldn’t look the way it does if Gardner hadn’t been raised Anglican and wasn’t a Mason. (Which is why Thelema looks different; Crowley wasn’t Anglican.)

    If we look at these religions less as mutually exclusive categories and more as different expressions within the Western cultural experience, it may make more sense.

    That is not to say that they are alike or in any sense interchangeable. Hinduism and Buddhism both sprang from the same soil, but even if one  pointed to things they share, one would not confuse the two, nor would any Indian be uncertain as to which he or she belonged.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think it’s possible to separate Wicca or any form of contemporary Paganism (Reconstructionism included) from the thousands of years of European history that preceded it. Nothing comes out of nothing, as one of my old teachers used to observe. Christianity wouldn’t look the way it did if it wasn’t for ancient Paganism and Judaism, and modern Wicca wouldn’t look the way it does if Gardner hadn’t been raised Anglican and wasn’t a Mason. (Which is why Thelema looks different; Crowley wasn’t Anglican.)

    If we look at these religions less as mutually exclusive categories and more as different expressions within the Western cultural experience, it may make more sense.

    That is not to say that they are alike or in any sense interchangeable. Hinduism and Buddhism both sprang from the same soil, but even if one  pointed to things they share, one would not confuse the two, nor would any Indian be uncertain as to which he or she belonged.

  • LupaSacra

    While I appreciate the debate on Wicca’s heavy reliance on Ceremonial Magic (which is the basis of Christian Occult studies), as a Pagan I am a little irritated that the holidays, which were stolen by old Christian church to force “en masse” conversion, are erroneously being called Christian. If you do a little research you’ll find those HALLOW days (of the Christian Calendar) are all direct correlations with Pagan festivals and harvest days. In fact protestants here in the US and Britain tried to divest these “church” holy days of the “godliness” as they felt they were mere Catholic trickery and true believers need not celebrate those “heathen” affairs. So please, let’s not bash the old ways. When in doubt please double check your info with a good bit of historical research :) 

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

      My point is that if you say Wicca is drawn from Christian sources you can make that argument for the holidays as well. You’ve completely missed the point of the post with an unnecessary debunking. It’s not necessary to assume someone is ignorant because you don’t like what they say.

    • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

      I think this is overstated by both Puritan Protestants (other Protestants cared a lot less, indeed Luther undid bans on “pagan” practices – bringing greenery into Church – as he felt the ban was no longer relevant now that paganism was safely dead) and Pagans.
      Christmas is not the solstice, All Souls is not Halloween, and Easter certainly is neither Pesach nor the equinox. (And nor, to take a more recent example is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker the same as the Marxist Labour Day) The timings do owe something to previous holy days, but they are far from the same.

  • LupaSacra

    While I appreciate the debate on Wicca’s heavy reliance on Ceremonial Magic (which is the basis of Christian Occult studies), as a Pagan I am a little irritated that the holidays, which were stolen by old Christian church to force “en masse” conversion, are erroneously being called Christian. If you do a little research you’ll find those HALLOW days (of the Christian Calendar) are all direct correlations with Pagan festivals and harvest days. In fact protestants here in the US and Britain tried to divest these “church” holy days of the “godliness” as they felt they were mere Catholic trickery and true believers need not celebrate those “heathen” affairs. So please, let’s not bash the old ways. When in doubt please double check your info with a good bit of historical research :) 

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

      My point is that if you say Wicca is drawn from Christian sources you can make that argument for the holidays as well. You’ve completely missed the point of the post with an unnecessary debunking. It’s not necessary to assume someone is ignorant because you don’t like what they say.

    • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

      I think this is overstated by both Puritan Protestants (other Protestants cared a lot less, indeed Luther undid bans on “pagan” practices – bringing greenery into Church – as he felt the ban was no longer relevant now that paganism was safely dead) and Pagans.
      Christmas is not the solstice, All Souls is not Halloween, and Easter certainly is neither Pesach nor the equinox. (And nor, to take a more recent example is the feast of St. Joseph the Worker the same as the Marxist Labour Day) The timings do owe something to previous holy days, but they are far from the same.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Literata-Hurley/100002634654698 Literata Hurley

    BTW may have been a Christian heresy in a sense analogous to the way it is possible to describe early Christianity as a Jewish heresy. Currently, Wicca is growing and developing into its own path, so I think that approach may be interesting historically or for looking at BTW vs. other kinds of Wicca, but it’s not a valid overall characterization right now.

  • LupaSacra

    I was not assuming you were ignorant. I was merely addressing a point that is often subsumed in most conversations. I apologize if I offended you. I think you made a good argument, I was merely pointing out that  I disagreed with the holiday correlation you made and frankly it was merely my perspective as a Medievalist. But again I apologize if you felt my comment was rude or belittling in any way. 

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

      So are you arguing that what is true for the holidays is true for other elements of Wicca?

      • LupaSacra

        Nope. You can quote me that the Holidays were my only sticking point :) The other elements I feel have been syncretized a little haphazardly, but those holidays are truly Pagan from inception to even the modern incarnations whether the respective religions care or not to acknowledge this. 

    • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

      It sounds like you are arguing that *all* the major Christian holidays are derived from pagan holidays.  However, it is absolutely clear that the single most important Christian holiday, Easter, derives both symbolism and timing from the Jewish Pesach.  And Pentecost derives its timing from Shavuot.  This is why both of them follow a lunar calendar.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Literata-Hurley/100002634654698 Literata Hurley

    BTW may have been a Christian heresy in a sense analogous to the way it is possible to describe early Christianity as a Jewish heresy. Currently, Wicca is growing and developing into its own path, so I think that approach may be interesting historically or for looking at BTW vs. other kinds of Wicca, but it’s not a valid overall characterization right now.

  • LupaSacra

    I was not assuming you were ignorant. I was merely addressing a point that is often subsumed in most conversations. I apologize if I offended you. I think you made a good argument, I was merely pointing out that  I disagreed with the holiday correlation you made and frankly it was merely my perspective as a Medievalist. But again I apologize if you felt my comment was rude or belittling in any way. 

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

      So are you arguing that what is true for the holidays is true for other elements of Wicca?

      • LupaSacra

        Nope. You can quote me that the Holidays were my only sticking point :) The other elements I feel have been syncretized a little haphazardly, but those holidays are truly Pagan from inception to even the modern incarnations whether the respective religions care or not to acknowledge this. 

    • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

      It sounds like you are arguing that *all* the major Christian holidays are derived from pagan holidays.  However, it is absolutely clear that the single most important Christian holiday, Easter, derives both symbolism and timing from the Jewish Pesach.  And Pentecost derives its timing from Shavuot.  This is why both of them follow a lunar calendar.

  • Vickikellett

    Read Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton.
    It explores the social attitudes from which sprang Neo Paganism and modern Witchcraft. A movement started by the middle class amongst  writers and artists during the industrial revolution and the depopulation of rural England. Neo Paganism, Free Masonry, Theosophical movement and Witchcraft are all related. Most of these maintain Christian references or a desire to incorporate Christian and Pagan ideas. 

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

      Invoking Hutton doesn’t answer any of the questions I’ve proposed.

  • Vickikellett

    Read Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton.
    It explores the social attitudes from which sprang Neo Paganism and modern Witchcraft. A movement started by the middle class amongst  writers and artists during the industrial revolution and the depopulation of rural England. Neo Paganism, Free Masonry, Theosophical movement and Witchcraft are all related. Most of these maintain Christian references or a desire to incorporate Christian and Pagan ideas. 

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

      Invoking Hutton doesn’t answer any of the questions I’ve proposed.

  • http://profiles.google.com/cosettefromjupiter Cosette Paneque

    Contemporary Wicca has many sources. I would say that Christianity is one of many sources, not the origins.

    In “The Triump of the Moon”, Ronald Hutton explores the sources of modern Pagan Witchcraft: Romanticism and Victorian admiration for classical antiquity; Freemasonry and the general atmosphere of Britain regarding secret societies; high magic (i.e. Golden Dawn, Enochian magic); low magic (i.e. wise women, cunning men, folk magic) and academic interest in folklore; woodcraft and the Industrial Revolution. 

    Many of the people involved with these various movements, most actually, if not all, people such as John Dee, Dion Fortune, Rudyard Kipling, and George Russell, were Christian, but they had varied ideas that were clearly unorthodox. They were remarkable by the standards of their day.

    And that’s just Gardner’s Wicca. When looking at contemporary Wicca in America, I think we need to consider the influence of feminism, GLBT people, New Age, and the green movements. I feel that my Wiccan practice is more informed by feminism and a desire to connect to the natural world more than by its Judeo-Christian sources.

    • The_L1985

      This.  Wicca may have drawn bits from Christianity, but it drew from a lot of other sources as well, and what it took from Christianity has nothing to do with Christianity’s core doctrines, and isn’t enough to make Wicca a form of Christianity in any case.

  • http://profiles.google.com/cosettefromjupiter Cosette Paneque

    Contemporary Wicca has many sources. I would say that Christianity is one of many sources, not the origins.

    In “The Triump of the Moon”, Ronald Hutton explores the sources of modern Pagan Witchcraft: Romanticism and Victorian admiration for classical antiquity; Freemasonry and the general atmosphere of Britain regarding secret societies; high magic (i.e. Golden Dawn, Enochian magic); low magic (i.e. wise women, cunning men, folk magic) and academic interest in folklore; woodcraft and the Industrial Revolution. 

    Many of the people involved with these various movements, most actually, if not all, people such as John Dee, Dion Fortune, Rudyard Kipling, and George Russell, were Christian, but they had varied ideas that were clearly unorthodox. They were remarkable by the standards of their day.

    And that’s just Gardner’s Wicca. When looking at contemporary Wicca in America, I think we need to consider the influence of feminism, GLBT people, New Age, and the green movements. I feel that my Wiccan practice is more informed by feminism and a desire to connect to the natural world more than by its Judeo-Christian sources.

    • Anonymous

      This.  Wicca may have drawn bits from Christianity, but it drew from a lot of other sources as well, and what it took from Christianity has nothing to do with Christianity’s core doctrines, and isn’t enough to make Wicca a form of Christianity in any case.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lamyka-L/649965363 Lamyka L.

    Here’s a comment just for Star: If you look at the creators of Wicca, low/high ceremonial magicians, Wicca is at best a heretical sect of Judaism–O.T.O. all up in your biznezz.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lamyka-L/649965363 Lamyka L.

    Here’s a comment just for Star: If you look at the creators of Wicca, low/high ceremonial magicians, Wicca is at best a heretical sect of Judaism–O.T.O. all up in your biznezz.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1678081929 Bill Wheaton

    Wicca doesn’t pretend to be Christian.  It’s not like we are re-writing the dogma of “The Church” and saying “we believe this is what Christianity is, what say you Rome?”  No one inside the catholic church is saying that we are doing that either.  So I really don’t see how Wicca can technically be an heresy.  Anathema, maybe.  Annoying, yes.  A threat, certainly.  But not  heresy.  A lot of our holidays are shared by Muslims and other non-Abrahamic religions too, and they aren’t considered heretics, but outsiders.

    According to St. Thomas, heresy is “a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas”.  Wicca isn’t corrupting Christian dogma, it is throwing it out the window and actively denying it, including the concept of the Trinity, Scripture, Apostolic Succession, Catechism, Tradition and the modern Protestant version of Sola Scriptura.

    Valentineus, Marcion, and Montanus each were considered to be heretics because of their teaching by Irenaeus, but they, themselves considered themselves to be followers of Christ.  Likewise the much later Cathars thought they were right in their belief and interpretation of Christianity.  Being excommunicated was not their choice.

    About the only group that actually did choose to leave the Church were the great schisms.  Oriental Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic.  They all see each other as legitimate if misguided, but at least at the same level.  Eastern Orthodox sees Protestants as “The Catholic Problem”, and simply sit back and smirk and go “tsk tsk tsk” at their Roman brethren.  Lutherans and Calvanists are probably heretics.  Episcopalians though left of their own accord, pre-empting  excommunication, so even though they fit St. Thomas’ definition, it might be said they are in a separate class…  As Wicca is, though they still consider themselves to be Christian.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      I think we may be missing the point and over emphasizing the word “heresy”.  The question is whether the influence of Christianity on Wicca is much greater than we had supposed.  I’ve written an essay about this over at AmericanNeopaganism.com if anyone is interested.  http://www.americanneopaganism.com/christianreformation.htm

      • The_L1985

        But that’s the thing. If you use the phrase “Christian heresy,” you are implying that the religion under discussion is considered Christianity by its followers, but not by mainstream Christians.  That’s what the phrase MEANS.

        I’m certainly willing to concede a Christian influence in Wicca, but to use the phrase “Christian heresy” in the article is to insinuate a particular form of connection that is not there.  Placing it at the very beginning of the article, in turn, implies that this phrase and the attitudes associated therewith are important to the article.

        The title of this article isn’t “Is Wicca More Christian Than We Think?” or something like it, but “Is Wicca a Christian Heresy?”  These are two very different questions.  By making the title “Is Wicca A Christian Heresy?,” Star has implied that this particular question is what the article is about.  Titles can be tricky things, and this one may not have been the wisest choice.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          I agree.  Star admits below that she “overemphasized on purpose to spur discussion. :)”

    • http://omo.peacockfairy.com/ Ruadhán J McElroy

      Wicca doesn’t pretend to be Christian.  It’s not like we are re-writing
      the dogma of “The Church” and saying “we believe this is what
      Christianity is, what say you Rome?”  No one inside the catholic church
      is saying that we are doing that either.  So I really don’t see how
      Wicca can technically be an heresy.  Anathema, maybe.  Annoying, yes.  A
      threat, certainly.  But not  heresy.  A lot of our holidays are shared
      by Muslims and other non-Abrahamic religions too, and they aren’t
      considered heretics, but outsiders.

      This, yes.  I grew up in a Catholic household, and heresy has a very specific definition.  “Witches” during the inquisition (whatever few may have actually been the victims of said; it’s easy for modern pagans and polytheists to forget that this was mostly a Christian-on-Christian injustice) were not persecuted as heretics, as I’ve seen plenty of pagans allege; they were persecuted as witches.  Same for homosexuality (again, something I’ve seen some pagans erroneously define as “heresy”).

      Wicca, or any modern pagan and/or polytheist coming from a Christian background, would be an apostasy, with its practitioners apostates, not heretics.

      I mean, linguistic drift is cool and all, but there’s a point where it’s not necessary because a perfectly good word already exists to describe the concept, in this case apostasy, so it’s not like “heresy” needs to be re-defined as something broader than it is.

    • http://godisinthewind.com/ TerraSpiritus

      I wouldnt say that all those concepts are thrown out by Wiccan. There is a trinity evident in many forms of Wicca which consider the Lord and Lady to be two aspects of the Godhead. 
      (sidenote:Valentinian Gnostics were quite an esoteric and mystical bunch and were considered heretics because they understood scripture in a way not accepted by the ruling church at the time.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1678081929 Bill Wheaton

    Wicca doesn’t pretend to be Christian.  It’s not like we are re-writing the dogma of “The Church” and saying “we believe this is what Christianity is, what say you Rome?”  No one inside the catholic church is saying that we are doing that either.  So I really don’t see how Wicca can technically be an heresy.  Anathema, maybe.  Annoying, yes.  A threat, certainly.  But not  heresy.  A lot of our holidays are shared by Muslims and other non-Abrahamic religions too, and they aren’t considered heretics, but outsiders.

    According to St. Thomas, heresy is “a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas”.  Wicca isn’t corrupting Christian dogma, it is throwing it out the window and actively denying it, including the concept of the Trinity, Scripture, Apostolic Succession, Catechism, Tradition and the modern Protestant version of Sola Scriptura.

    Valentineus, Marcion, and Montanus each were considered to be heretics because of their teaching by Irenaeus, but they, themselves considered themselves to be followers of Christ.  Likewise the much later Cathars thought they were right in their belief and interpretation of Christianity.  Being excommunicated was not their choice.

    About the only group that actually did choose to leave the Church were the great schisms.  Oriental Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholic.  They all see each other as legitimate if misguided, but at least at the same level.  Eastern Orthodox sees Protestants as “The Catholic Problem”, and simply sit back and smirk and go “tsk tsk tsk” at their Roman brethren.  Lutherans and Calvanists are probably heretics.  Episcopalians though left of their own accord, pre-empting  excommunication, so even though they fit St. Thomas’ definition, it might be said they are in a separate class…  As Wicca is, though they still consider themselves to be Christian.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      I think we may be missing the point and over emphasizing the word “heresy”.  The question is whether the influence of Christianity on Wicca is much greater than we had supposed.  I’ve written an essay about this over at AmericanNeopaganism.com if anyone is interested.  http://www.americanneopaganism.com/christianreformation.htm

      • Anonymous

        But that’s the thing. If you use the phrase “Christian heresy,” you are implying that the religion under discussion is considered Christianity by its followers, but not by mainstream Christians.  That’s what the phrase MEANS.

        I’m certainly willing to concede a Christian influence in Wicca, but to use the phrase “Christian heresy” in the article is to insinuate a particular form of connection that is not there.  Placing it at the very beginning of the article, in turn, implies that this phrase and the attitudes associated therewith are important to the article.

        The title of this article isn’t “Is Wicca More Christian Than We Think?” or something like it, but “Is Wicca a Christian Heresy?”  These are two very different questions.  By making the title “Is Wicca A Christian Heresy?,” Star has implied that this particular question is what the article is about.  Titles can be tricky things, and this one may not have been the wisest choice.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          I agree.  Star admits below that she “overemphasized on purpose to spur discussion. :)”

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      I think we may be missing the point and over emphasizing the word “heresy”.  The question is whether the influence of Christianity on Wicca is much greater than we had supposed.  I’ve written an essay about this over at AmericanNeopaganism.com if anyone is interested.  http://www.americanneopaganism.com/christianreformation.htm

    • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

      Wicca doesn’t pretend to be Christian.  It’s not like we are re-writing
      the dogma of “The Church” and saying “we believe this is what
      Christianity is, what say you Rome?”  No one inside the catholic church
      is saying that we are doing that either.  So I really don’t see how
      Wicca can technically be an heresy.  Anathema, maybe.  Annoying, yes.  A
      threat, certainly.  But not  heresy.  A lot of our holidays are shared
      by Muslims and other non-Abrahamic religions too, and they aren’t
      considered heretics, but outsiders.

      This, yes.  I grew up in a Catholic household, and heresy has a very specific definition.  “Witches” during the inquisition (whatever few may have actually been the victims of said; it’s easy for modern pagans and polytheists to forget that this was mostly a Christian-on-Christian injustice) were not persecuted as heretics, as I’ve seen plenty of pagans allege; they were persecuted as witches.  Same for homosexuality (again, something I’ve seen some pagans erroneously define as “heresy”).

      Wicca, or any modern pagan and/or polytheist coming from a Christian background, would be an apostasy, with its practitioners apostates, not heretics.

      I mean, linguistic drift is cool and all, but there’s a point where it’s not necessary because a perfectly good word already exists to describe the concept, in this case apostasy, so it’s not like “heresy” needs to be re-defined as something broader than it is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1004555757 Mary Mueller

    Those holidays are as old as the first astronomical observers because they are directly related to astronomy and the seasons. They were probably first kept track of out of survival and then were probably used as a good excuse for a party. I will let someone else tell me when they were first seen as a religious occasion by ancient pre-Christian pagans. I agree that the early Christians in order to convert indigenous tribes adapted their mythos to the pagan celebrations. Those of us who grew up with the Christian traditions aren’t adapting those traditions to our practice, we’re just pleased that we can have twice the party a couple times a year – Christmas with the Catholic relatives and Solstice with the modern Pagan community. If the archetypes are similar, I believe it is because the numinous transcends all of our attempts to define it’s presence in our lives and not necessarily because one is an influence on the other even if that was once true in the early days of Xtianity. 

    • Magic Mary

      And I wonder if they were ever really seen as “religious” by ancient tribes. The need to turn modern paganism into a religion may be a carry over from having been raised Christian. I personally do not need for my paganism to be religionized. 

      • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman

        Exactly. The monotheisms made “religion” into a recipe of “believe this, do that, or be out of the fold,” and it’s hard for us today to strip that away from the word.

        Also, heresy, from the Greek Haeresis, was an integral part of the spiritual scene in the Hellenic world; it refers to the act of choosing to which Deities to give cultus. Those who tried to exercise this right and choose among beliefs became heretics in the modern sense of “unwilling invitees to a barbeque.”

        That has, of course, softened a lot; I heard a Catholic friend relating that his priest had used the term “cafeteria Catholics” in a homily. I bit my tongue rather than ask why he might have used that image when the religion had a perfectly good term of art for it already.

        • WhiteBirch

          “Cafeteria Catholic” in my experience meant those Catholics who showed up at a mass right before the eucharist, went up the “cafeteria line,” received communion, and went right straight out the back door without stopping. We also called it the “Judas Shuffle.”

          Odd how the same terms are used differently in different places. 

        • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

          I’ve always heard “cafeteria Catholic” used to refer to those modern American Catholics who identify as Roman Catholic and accept the creeds, yet pick and choose what other aspects of the tradition they will accept, though the rules of the Roman Church forbid this.

          Heretics, on the other hand, have an alternate theology, usually concerning Christology or Trinitarianism.

          A baptized Roman Catholic who believes on the basis of scripture that Jesus was a demigod and thus rejects Trinitarianism is a heretic.  A baptized Roman Catholic who believes that abortion should be legal, and that it is an individual moral decision, is a cafeteria Catholic.

          The Roman Church is very aware of the difference between those two categories, which is why that priest used the term he did.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1004555757 Mary Mueller

    Those holidays are as old as the first astronomical observers because they are directly related to astronomy and the seasons. They were probably first kept track of out of survival and then were probably used as a good excuse for a party. I will let someone else tell me when they were first seen as a religious occasion by ancient pre-Christian pagans. I agree that the early Christians in order to convert indigenous tribes adapted their mythos to the pagan celebrations. Those of us who grew up with the Christian traditions aren’t adapting those traditions to our practice, we’re just pleased that we can have twice the party a couple times a year – Christmas with the Catholic relatives and Solstice with the modern Pagan community. If the archetypes are similar, I believe it is because the numinous transcends all of our attempts to define it’s presence in our lives and not necessarily because one is an influence on the other even if that was once true in the early days of Xtianity. 

    • Magic Mary

      And I wonder if they were ever really seen as “religious” by ancient tribes. The need to turn modern paganism into a religion may be a carry over from having been raised Christian. I personally do not need for my paganism to be religionized. 

      • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman Presson

        Exactly. The monotheisms made “religion” into a recipe of “believe this, do that, or be out of the fold,” and it’s hard for us today to strip that away from the word.

        Also, heresy, from the Greek Haeresis, was an integral part of the spiritual scene in the Hellenic world; it refers to the act of choosing to which Deities to give cultus. Those who tried to exercise this right and choose among beliefs became heretics in the modern sense of “unwilling invitees to a barbeque.”

        That has, of course, softened a lot; I heard a Catholic friend relating that his priest had used the term “cafeteria Catholics” in a homily. I bit my tongue rather than ask why he might have used that image when the religion had a perfectly good term of art for it already.

        • WhiteBirch

          “Cafeteria Catholic” in my experience meant those Catholics who showed up at a mass right before the eucharist, went up the “cafeteria line,” received communion, and went right straight out the back door without stopping. We also called it the “Judas Shuffle.”

          Odd how the same terms are used differently in different places. 

        • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

          I’ve always heard “cafeteria Catholic” used to refer to those modern American Catholics who identify as Roman Catholic and accept the creeds, yet pick and choose what other aspects of the tradition they will accept, though the rules of the Roman Church forbid this.

          Heretics, on the other hand, have an alternate theology, usually concerning Christology or Trinitarianism.

          A baptized Roman Catholic who believes on the basis of scripture that Jesus was a demigod and thus rejects Trinitarianism is a heretic.  A baptized Roman Catholic who believes that abortion should be legal, and that it is an individual moral decision, is a cafeteria Catholic.

          The Roman Church is very aware of the difference between those two categories, which is why that priest used the term he did.

  • Robert Mathiesen

    Wicca is not one single thing, but its various “flavors” have somewhat different historical origins. 

    For instance, Wicca was originally conceptualized (By Gardner and his generation) as the remnant of an archaic fertility religion.  In most of the USA, it is now more of a nature religion.  But there was informal (rarely, even overtly Pagan) nature religion in the USA, at least on the West Coast, long before British Wicca was transplanted across the Atlantic in the 1960s.  British Wicca easily adapted itself to its new environment, and for many of its adherents it became a nature religion.

    Gardner and his generation, in England, did not “ground and center.”  So far as I have been able to determine, centering arose in the USA within the New Thought movement in the early 20th century, and it was taken up by Wicca on the West Coast.  Starhawk’s _The Spiral Dance_ spread the practice more widely.

    Both of these antecedents of American Wicca and Paganism — that is, nature religion and the New Thought movement — began as distinctly Christian “heresies,” as did Spiritualism.  By now, the old currents of nature religion have become much less Christian than they were in the 1800s, even when they have not been swept up into the modern Pagan movement.  New Thought, like Unitarianism, is still recognizable as a Christian “heresy” in many of its forms, but just barely so.  (I am using “heresy” here roughly as a Trinitarian Christian might use it, for historical reasons only.)

    Spiritualism, though an American product, spread to England in the 1850s, and soon became very popular.  In its 19th-century forms, its chief activity — summoning the spirits — took place in small circles.  Some Spiritualists paid considerable attention to earlier practices of ceremonial magic, and drew on (pseudo-)Agrippa’s _Fourth Book_ and (pseudo-)Peter of Abano’s similar grimoire, using editions printed in the 1600s.  Though Hutton leaves Spiritualism out of his investigation in _Triumph of the Moon_, he does acknowledge in his preface — apparently written after he had finished the book — that he suspects it may have played a greater role that he had realized when he was writing it.  Of course,both grimoire magic and Spiritualism began as unauthorized (“heretical”) practices within Christianity.

    I could multiply examples at greater length, but at least in the USA one could make a case that modern Paganism in many of its forms is greatly indebted to earlier American varieties of “heretical” Christianity.  (America, of course, has always been a land of extreme religious creativity, and much of it has taken the form of what orthodox Trinitarians would historically call “heresies.”

    So you are onto something very important here, Star.  The history of various forms of Paganism (other than Witchcraft) in America before the 1960s is hardly understood by any scholar, but it is rich and deep.

    Robert Mathiesen

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      Robert:

      I am very interested in the development of Wicca/Paganism in the 60′s.  Can you tell me your source for the origin of centering in New Thought and the influence of New Thought on West Coast Paganism?

      • Robert Mathiesen

        Hi John,

        The earliest mention of centering that I have found so far in a New Thought publication is in “The Magic Seven” by Lida A. Churchill (New York: The Alliance Publishing Co., 1901).  Her seven steps are: (1) centering, (2) going into the silence, (3) concentrating the mind, (4) commanding opulence, (5) using the will, (6) insuring perfect health, and (7) asking and receiving.  You will probably recognize some of these as techniques of the recent “prosperity gospel” movement, but those folks took it from New Thought. 

        For New Thought in general, see J. Stillson Judah, _The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America_ (1967), and Charles Braden, _Spirits in Rebellion: The Rise and Development of New Thought_ (1963).  There was a “magical wing” within New Thought, most prominently represented by the prolific author William Walker Atkinson (also with many pseudonyms), for instance his _The Secret of Mental Magic_ and _Mental Fascination_, both published by the author in Chicago in 1907.  They were later combined and lightly revised to yield his _Mind Power_ (1908, with further revisions, 1912).

        As for West Coast nature religion (sometimes with a Pagan flavor), which often spoke of itself as Pantheism, see William Everson (Brother Antoninus), _Archetype West_ (Berkeley: Oyez, 1976), and the earlier works that he cites.  It goes back to the poet Joaquin Miller and the naturalist John Muir (better known now as the founder of the Sierra Club — but there is much more to him than the Sierra Club).   Gary Snyder and the magnificent, magical, now forgotten Lew Welch are poets who reflect this tradition, but they have melded it with Zen Buddhism. 

        Spiritualism also had a magical wing, exemplified most strongly in the two books _Art Magic; or Mundane, Sub-Mundane and Super-Mundane Spiritism_ and _Ghost Land; or Researches into the Mysteries of Occultism_, both edited and published by Emma Hardinge Britten in 1876 for a person known only as Chevalier Louis de B—-.  (_Art Magic_ includes detailed instructions on casting a circle; _Ghost Land_ describes something of the same sort inside a “lodge room” with summonings at the four quarters.)  The 1876 editions were always rare books, but both books were reissued in large, cheap editions in the 1890s and again in the early 1900s.

        Britten was also a very prolific writer and lecturer on Spiritualism, who later made a point of saying that she was not a Christin.  On occasion she also publicly identified herself as a Witch, which she insisted was much the same thing as a magician or a medium.

        Later women from California who later publicly called themselves Witches and openly practiced Witchcraft included R. A. Heinlein’s second wife, Leslyn MacDonald, and the well-known author Shirley Jackson.

        Some of my own California ancestors had lived in that world of Magical Pantheism (as I call it) since they came to California in the 1880s, so a lot of what I know comes from growing up in the middle of all this stuff. 

        There were also at least a small handful of Gardner-style Witches in Berkeley by the very early 1960s, a few years before the Bucklands came to the East Coast.  What I am writing about, however, was something other than Gardner’s Wicca.

        Does this help enough?  If not, I’ll write more.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          Other than Starhawk, how did New Thought and West Coast nature religion enter California Neopaganism in the 60s?

          And the Gardner-style witches in Berkeley, is that the same as Central Valley Wicca?

          And do you know anything about the influence of Alan Watts or the Esalen Institute on 60s Neopaganism?

          • Robert Mathiesen

            New Thought and West Coast nature religion are not at all incompatible, and I suppose many people followed both at once.  Certainly my own ancestors did.  All this happened long before Starhawk ever met Z Budapest or Victor Anderson, indeed long before 1951, the year in which she was born.

            In the San Francisco Bay Area, following the Asian pattern, people often feel (felt?) comfortable practicing more than one religion at the same time.  (In Asia, a person can put in a year or so as a Buddhist monk and continue to sit for Buddhist meditation, but also honor his ancestors in a Confucian temple, and also seek out Taoist treatments for various personal problems, without sensing any conflict between the three, or feeling that he has compromised himself religiously.)  To adhere to only one religion at a time looks to me, personally, like a very odd, European sort of thing for anyone to do.

            So when Wicca and Green-Egg style Paganism reached the West Coast in the 1960s, they
            were just two more ingredients tossed into the old Bay-Area soup-pot that had already
            been simmering over the fire for quite some time.

            I don’t know for sure whether the few Gardner-style Witches in Berkeley before 1964 are the sources of Central Valley Wicca.  Here is the very little that I know about them. 

            First, sometime around 1960 or 1961 Berkeley High School had a visiting English teacher, a red-haired young woman, who came from England for a year and freely told all her students that she was a Witch.  One of her students was a younger sister of a school friend of mine, and it was she who told me — very many years later — about this teacher of hers, but she had forgotten the woman’s name.  (I have recently reconnected with her.  Eventually I will get around to seeing whether a list of the English teachers in these years that Anna Korn compiled for me long ago from the BHS yearbooks may jog her memory.) 

            During the same year, a woman — she might have been this visiting teacher, or she might not — was offering lessons in Witchcraft somewhere in the Berkeley Hills, but only to people over 21.  Two of my women schoolmates heard of these lessons, and were disappointed that they were not old enough to take them.  By the time they were old enough, the lessons were no longer being offered, or the teacher had left Berkeley — they weren’t quite sure which.

            And second, there were Margaret St. Clair and her husband (Eric?), also in Berkeley.  Margaret put a line in her _Sign of the Labrys_ (“Power flashed forth from freshly shed blood”) that shows she had access to at least one part of Gardner’s Book of Shadows by about 1962.  (That novel was copyrighted in 1963, but you can only copyright a novel once you have got it written, and writing it takes a while.)  This was a little before the Bucklands came across the Atlantic.  I have read somewhere that the St. Clairs eventually took initiation into a lineage coming from the Bucklands, but also that this initiation was after-the-fact, to give them a clear position among American Gardnerians.  I don’t have any independent knowledge of anything about the St. Clairs except for what I read in _The Sign of the Labrys_, but Chas Clifton has done a lot of work on them.  If I am not mistaken, even he does not know the source from whom the St. Clairs took whatever they knew of Gardner’s Wicca before they connected with the Bucklands.  That source must have been a person, not just Gardner’s books, since the line in question isn’t in any of Garnder’s published books (so far as I know).

            If I has to guess, I would conjecture that the Central Valley lines go back to the visiting teacher at Berkeley High School.  Whoever the person was from whom these lines descend, her name was not passed on to succeeding generations of initiates.  If it was that visiting teacher, then her name would have meant nothing to anyone who had not known her during the nine months or so that she spent in Berkeley.  Meaning nothing to anyone in California, it could easily have been forgotten, or garbled and then forgotten.  But that is just a conjecture.

            As for Alan Watts, my family’s orbit and his did not intersect.  He wasn’t even a Californian, but had come there from elsewhere — maybe Chicago, maybe even from the opposite coast.  He got lumped in with Kerouac at first, not with the “real” Beats of San Francisco.  Of course, he stayed and made friends, and finally felt more like a Californian by the time he died.  I certainly knew who he was, but not much else about him. 

            Essalen was talked about by my schoolmates and friends, but usually as a toxic crowd of people, well worth staying far away from.  They were said to exploit people enormously in all possible ways, doing so under a hypocritical banner of freedom and liberation.  (I have no idea whether we were right about Essalen, or perhaps we judged them unfairly.  All we knew was that some people seemed to us to come back from there very badly damaged.)

            I should add that I and my friends were all born while WW II was going on, and we were all part of the Silent Generation.  We were about 5 years too old to be part of psychedelic California.  It was our much younger siblings who got to enjoy all that.  So all this history that I am relating here belongs to the pre-hippie, pre-psychedelic era of California.  That era is all gone now, forgotten and almost invisible in the bright glare shed by the end of the ’60s and most of the ’70s.

          • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman

            Wow, that’s a nice bunch of stuff to know. There was also Feraferia, and a 1734-based group that was reputedly pretty wild (good wild). Feraferia had roots in the 1950s, but wasn’t fully organized in its present form until 1967.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            Thank you so much for the firsthand account!  You have given me lots of trails to follow.

          • Robert Mathiesen

            You are very welcome.  I look forward to seeing what you find as you follow up on these leads.  I myself left California in 1964, so I don;t know a whole lot about what developed there afterward.

          • Don Frew

            As a Berkeley Gardnerian let me clear up that there is both a thriving Gardnerian community in the SF Bay Area (some 15 covens) AND the Central Valley Wicca covens (sometimes with overlap in membership).  I was aware of your mention of the Berkeley High teacher, but it is great to hear the story in greater detail.  We definitely want to try and track her down and see if she might be the CVW progenetrix.
            I am confused by your comment that <>  How does this line show that she had access to a Gardnerian Book of Shadows?  It appears in a quote on page 138 of Gardner’s _Witchcraft Today_ (1954) and is attributed to the Witches Gardner knew, but I don’t recognize it as being from one of Gardner’s “Books of Shadows” or from any BoS descending from them.  It seems more likely that St. Clair read a copy of _Witchcraft Today_ and this line stuck in her memory, resurfacing when she wrote _Sign of the Labrys_.
            Blessed Be,
            Don Frew
            HP, Coven Trismegiston

          • Robert Mathiesen

            Don, you are quite right!  Somehow I had overlooked that line in _Witchcraft Today_ all these years, or rather my memory had played me false.  I have just gone back to my very first copy of _WT_, and I see I had marked it with a cross-reference to one of the Farrars’ texts. 

            I am very much in your debt for the indication.  Thank you!

            Now I will have to read through _Sign of the Labrys_ again and see whether there might have been any other reason why I thought St Clair was already privy to BoS material when she wrote it.  That one line was the thing that had gotten stuck in my memory, and it certainly doesn’t show what I had thought it showed.

            At least now it will be easier to find sources for such things, thanks to google books and such search engines.

            I will try to write to the sister of my old school friend within the month, to send her the lists Anna compiled for me.  If they jog her memory at all, I will certainly let you and Anna know right away.  With a name to go on, maybe the few real old-timers from England will be able to remember her.  I really should have tried harder to track my source down many years ago, when more of those old-timers were still alive.

            Warm best wishes,
            Robert

          • Dana Corby

            Ed Fitch knew the St. Clairs and confirms in his Amazon.com review of “Sign of the Labrys” that Margaret’s apparent insider information into Witchcraft was entirely from books and damn good intuition. He also says that in later years they were initiated.

          • Dana Corby

            The origins of nature religion in California are far older than the 1960′s, Robert. I refer you to “Children of the Sun,” edited by Gordon Kennedy, which traces the origins of what became California nature religion and hippiedom to various movements in 1810′s Germany — liebensreform, naturmenchen, and wandervogeln. There are photos in it that look like they could have been taken in 1969, artworks that look exactly like psychedelic rock-concert posters, and philosophies that we’re very familiar with today — and that are still considered ‘alternative.’ One of the original ‘Nature Boys,’ Gypsy Boots, was still around in the late 60′s when I met him, as was ‘the Mighty Samson,’ a

            Also in the mix was the surfer culture of the postwar through early 60′s era, which (though you’d never know it from listening to Dick Dale or the Beachboys) included a powerful element of nature spirituality, specifically the transformative interplay of sea and sun on the inner life of the surfer. Sorry I can’t refer you to a book on that, but I was there & it was there. At the time, this aspect of surfer culture was discussed in the pages of “Surfer” and other surfing magazines.

            And finally, the beatnik movement, as it expressed itself in California, often included the desire for simple, natural living away from towns. The spirituality was most often thought of as Buddhist, but it was a personal, not Temple, Buddhism, rather gnostic in tone. For that thread of the weave, see “The Dharma Bums,” Jack Keroac.

            It’s all there, as is the thread that leads back to the Woodcrafters. I was one of the people Gordon Cooper bounced his original ideas off of as he created his thesis, and I still think there’s something to it, at least in the U.S., because the Woodcrafters, morphed into the Woodcraft Rangers, still had their meetings at school as late as the mid-60′s. Whether Gardner was at all influenced by it we’ll never know for sure, but whether the California proto-hippies who helped form the American expression of the Craft were is a good bet.

          • Dana Corby

            Hmmmm… somethjing got lost in the editing, ” ‘the Mighty Samson,’ a…” should have been finished with “a former circus strongman who credited his amazing strength (he once pulled a locomotive with his teeth) to his spiritual practices, which included yoga, meditation, vegetarianism, and celibacy.

          • Robert Mathiesen

            Many thanks, Dana!  I had not known about Kennedy’s “Children of the Sun.”   And I think I actually remember reading about The Mighty Samson in some newspaper or popular magazine back in the late ’50s.

            If I gave the impression that I thought nature religion arose only as late as the 1960s, then my long paragraphs are to blame. 

            From my own family’s stories of ancestors who first came to California in the 1880s, as well as from William Everson’s book, I knew that it was much older than the 1960s.  Joaquin Miller and John Muir were important influences on its development, and they died in 1913 and 1914, respectively. 

            I think another thread was Delsarte-method gymnastics, which had an esoteric component in some schools.  My great-grandfather, who died in 1930, practiced that, but I don’t happen to know whether the school he attended was one of the ones with an esoteric program.

            You might enjoy reading Sũlgwynn Boynton Quitzow’s oral history interviews, _Dance at the Temple of the Wings_, 2 vols., which are now on-line as two PDFs.  There is a lot of background in them on the back-to-nature movement in early Berkeley.  (My father’s mother sewed the Greek tunics that Mrs. Boynton wore, back when the Temple had no walls, but only canvas roll-downs to keep out the heaviest rain.  I met Sũlgwynn a few times when I was in high school (in the very late 1950s) and she was a very old, and very wonderful, woman.

            The minor (and younger) California beatniks whom I knew back in the late 1950s and early 1960s didn’t seem to think of Kerouac or Cassidy as “real” beatniks, but regarded them as interlopers from the East Coast, as wanna-be beats without cred.  Now, of course, in academic circles they define “beatnik” rather more than any of the West Coast beats.  Oh, the consequences of literary fame on perceptions of a lost era . . .

            As I said in another post, I left California in 1964, and had pretty much lost touch with most things Californian by about 1967, so I have no first-hand knowledge of the later ’60s and the ’70s there.  Everything shifted massively almost as soon as I left.

            Also, the California I knew was exclusively that of the San Francisco Bay and northwards, so I was only dimly aware that people surfed down in Southern California.  At least in the circles I and my family and friends frequented, there were two separate Californias, Northern and Southern, and each of them had about as much to do the other as, say, Texas and Louisiana have to do with one another.

  • Robert Mathiesen

    Wicca is not one single thing, but its various “flavors” have somewhat different historical origins. 

    For instance, Wicca was originally conceptualized (By Gardner and his generation) as the remnant of an archaic fertility religion.  In most of the USA, it is now more of a nature religion.  But there was informal (rarely, even overtly Pagan) nature religion in the USA, at least on the West Coast, long before British Wicca was transplanted across the Atlantic in the 1960s.  British Wicca easily adapted itself to its new environment, and for many of its adherents it became a nature religion.

    Gardner and his generation, in England, did not “ground and center.”  So far as I have been able to determine, centering arose in the USA within the New Thought movement in the early 20th century, and it was taken up by Wicca on the West Coast.  Starhawk’s _The Spiral Dance_ spread the practice more widely.

    Both of these antecedents of American Wicca and Paganism — that is, nature religion and the New Thought movement — began as distinctly Christian “heresies,” as did Spiritualism.  By now, the old currents of nature religion have become much less Christian than they were in the 1800s, even when they have not been swept up into the modern Pagan movement.  New Thought, like Unitarianism, is still recognizable as a Christian “heresy” in many of its forms, but just barely so.  (I am using “heresy” here roughly as a Trinitarian Christian might use it, for historical reasons only.)

    Spiritualism, though an American product, spread to England in the 1850s, and soon became very popular.  In its 19th-century forms, its chief activity — summoning the spirits — took place in small circles.  Some Spiritualists paid considerable attention to earlier practices of ceremonial magic, and drew on (pseudo-)Agrippa’s _Fourth Book_ and (pseudo-)Peter of Abano’s similar grimoire, using editions printed in the 1600s.  Though Hutton leaves Spiritualism out of his investigation in _Triumph of the Moon_, he does acknowledge in his preface — apparently written after he had finished the book — that he suspects it may have played a greater role that he had realized when he was writing it.  Of course,both grimoire magic and Spiritualism began as unauthorized (“heretical”) practices within Christianity.

    I could multiply examples at greater length, but at least in the USA one could make a case that modern Paganism in many of its forms is greatly indebted to earlier American varieties of “heretical” Christianity.  (America, of course, has always been a land of extreme religious creativity, and much of it has taken the form of what orthodox Trinitarians would historically call “heresies.”

    So you are onto something very important here, Star.  The history of various forms of Paganism (other than Witchcraft) in America before the 1960s is hardly understood by any scholar, but it is rich and deep.

    Robert Mathiesen

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      Robert:

      I am very interested in the development of Wicca/Paganism in the 60′s.  Can you tell me your source for the origin of centering in New Thought and the influence of New Thought on West Coast Paganism?

      • Robert Mathiesen

        Hi John,

        The earliest mention of centering that I have found so far in a New Thought publication is in “The Magic Seven” by Lida A. Churchill (New York: The Alliance Publishing Co., 1901).  Her seven steps are: (1) centering, (2) going into the silence, (3) concentrating the mind, (4) commanding opulence, (5) using the will, (6) insuring perfect health, and (7) asking and receiving.  You will probably recognize some of these as techniques of the recent “prosperity gospel” movement, but those folks took it from New Thought. 

        For New Thought in general, see J. Stillson Judah, _The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America_ (1967), and Charles Braden, _Spirits in Rebellion: The Rise and Development of New Thought_ (1963).  There was a “magical wing” within New Thought, most prominently represented by the prolific author William Walker Atkinson (also with many pseudonyms), for instance his _The Secret of Mental Magic_ and _Mental Fascination_, both published by the author in Chicago in 1907.  They were later combined and lightly revised to yield his _Mind Power_ (1908, with further revisions, 1912).

        As for West Coast nature religion (sometimes with a Pagan flavor), which often spoke of itself as Pantheism, see William Everson (Brother Antoninus), _Archetype West_ (Berkeley: Oyez, 1976), and the earlier works that he cites.  It goes back to the poet Joaquin Miller and the naturalist John Muir (better known now as the founder of the Sierra Club — but there is much more to him than the Sierra Club).   Gary Snyder and the magnificent, magical, now forgotten Lew Welch are poets who reflect this tradition, but they have melded it with Zen Buddhism. 

        Spiritualism also had a magical wing, exemplified most strongly in the two books _Art Magic; or Mundane, Sub-Mundane and Super-Mundane Spiritism_ and _Ghost Land; or Researches into the Mysteries of Occultism_, both edited and published by Emma Hardinge Britten in 1876 for a person known only as Chevalier Louis de B—-.  (_Art Magic_ includes detailed instructions on casting a circle; _Ghost Land_ describes something of the same sort inside a “lodge room” with summonings at the four quarters.)  The 1876 editions were always rare books, but both books were reissued in large, cheap editions in the 1890s and again in the early 1900s.

        Britten was also a very prolific writer and lecturer on Spiritualism, who later made a point of saying that she was not a Christin.  On occasion she also publicly identified herself as a Witch, which she insisted was much the same thing as a magician or a medium.

        Later women from California who later publicly called themselves Witches and openly practiced Witchcraft included R. A. Heinlein’s second wife, Leslyn MacDonald, and the well-known author Shirley Jackson.

        Some of my own California ancestors had lived in that world of Magical Pantheism (as I call it) since they came to California in the 1880s, so a lot of what I know comes from growing up in the middle of all this stuff. 

        There were also at least a small handful of Gardner-style Witches in Berkeley by the very early 1960s, a few years before the Bucklands came to the East Coast.  What I am writing about, however, was something other than Gardner’s Wicca.

        Does this help enough?  If not, I’ll write more.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          Other than Starhawk, how did New Thought and West Coast nature religion enter California Neopaganism in the 60s?

          And the Gardner-style witches in Berkeley, is that the same as Central Valley Wicca?

          And do you know anything about the influence of Alan Watts or the Esalen Institute on 60s Neopaganism?

          • Robert Mathiesen

            New Thought and West Coast nature religion are not at all incompatible, and I suppose many people followed both at once.  Certainly my own ancestors did.  All this happened long before Starhawk ever met Z Budapest or Victor Anderson, indeed long before 1951, the year in which she was born.

            In the San Francisco Bay Area, following the Asian pattern, people often feel (felt?) comfortable practicing more than one religion at the same time.  (In Asia, a person can put in a year or so as a Buddhist monk and continue to sit for Buddhist meditation, but also honor his ancestors in a Confucian temple, and also seek out Taoist treatments for various personal problems, without sensing any conflict between the three, or feeling that he has compromised himself religiously.)  To adhere to only one religion at a time looks to me, personally, like a very odd, European sort of thing for anyone to do.

            So when Wicca and Green-Egg style Paganism reached the West Coast in the 1960s, they
            were just two more ingredients tossed into the old Bay-Area soup-pot that had already
            been simmering over the fire for quite some time.

            I don’t know for sure whether the few Gardner-style Witches in Berkeley before 1964 are the sources of Central Valley Wicca.  Here is the very little that I know about them. 

            First, sometime around 1960 or 1961 Berkeley High School had a visiting English teacher, a red-haired young woman, who came from England for a year and freely told all her students that she was a Witch.  One of her students was a younger sister of a school friend of mine, and it was she who told me — very many years later — about this teacher of hers, but she had forgotten the woman’s name.  (I have recently reconnected with her.  Eventually I will get around to seeing whether a list of the English teachers in these years that Anna Korn compiled for me long ago from the BHS yearbooks may jog her memory.) 

            During the same year, a woman — she might have been this visiting teacher, or she might not — was offering lessons in Witchcraft somewhere in the Berkeley Hills, but only to people over 21.  Two of my women schoolmates heard of these lessons, and were disappointed that they were not old enough to take them.  By the time they were old enough, the lessons were no longer being offered, or the teacher had left Berkeley — they weren’t quite sure which.

            And second, there were Margaret St. Clair and her husband (Eric?), also in Berkeley.  Margaret put a line in her _Sign of the Labrys_ (“Power flashed forth from freshly shed blood”) that shows she had access to at least one part of Gardner’s Book of Shadows by about 1962.  (That novel was copyrighted in 1963, but you can only copyright a novel once you have got it written, and writing it takes a while.)  This was a little before the Bucklands came across the Atlantic.  I have read somewhere that the St. Clairs eventually took initiation into a lineage coming from the Bucklands, but also that this initiation was after-the-fact, to give them a clear position among American Gardnerians.  I don’t have any independent knowledge of anything about the St. Clairs except for what I read in _The Sign of the Labrys_, but Chas Clifton has done a lot of work on them.  If I am not mistaken, even he does not know the source from whom the St. Clairs took whatever they knew of Gardner’s Wicca before they connected with the Bucklands.  That source must have been a person, not just Gardner’s books, since the line in question isn’t in any of Garnder’s published books (so far as I know).

            If I has to guess, I would conjecture that the Central Valley lines go back to the visiting teacher at Berkeley High School.  Whoever the person was from whom these lines descend, her name was not passed on to succeeding generations of initiates.  If it was that visiting teacher, then her name would have meant nothing to anyone who had not known her during the nine months or so that she spent in Berkeley.  Meaning nothing to anyone in California, it could easily have been forgotten, or garbled and then forgotten.  But that is just a conjecture.

            As for Alan Watts, my family’s orbit and his did not intersect.  He wasn’t even a Californian, but had come there from elsewhere — maybe Chicago, maybe even from the opposite coast.  He got lumped in with Kerouac at first, not with the “real” Beats of San Francisco.  Of course, he stayed and made friends, and finally felt more like a Californian by the time he died.  I certainly knew who he was, but not much else about him. 

            Essalen was talked about by my schoolmates and friends, but usually as a toxic crowd of people, well worth staying far away from.  They were said to exploit people enormously in all possible ways, doing so under a hypocritical banner of freedom and liberation.  (I have no idea whether we were right about Essalen, or perhaps we judged them unfairly.  All we knew was that some people seemed to us to come back from there very badly damaged.)

            I should add that I and my friends were all born while WW II was going on, and we were all part of the Silent Generation.  We were about 5 years too old to be part of psychedelic California.  It was our much younger siblings who got to enjoy all that.  So all this history that I am relating here belongs to the pre-hippie, pre-psychedelic era of California.  That era is all gone now, forgotten and almost invisible in the bright glare shed by the end of the ’60s and most of the ’70s.

          • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman Presson

            Wow, that’s a nice bunch of stuff to know. There was also Feraferia, and a 1734-based group that was reputedly pretty wild (good wild). Feraferia had roots in the 1950s, but wasn’t fully organized in its present form until 1967.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            Thank you so much for the firsthand account!  You have given me lots of trails to follow.

          • Robert Mathiesen

            You are very welcome.  I look forward to seeing what you find as you follow up on these leads.  I myself left California in 1964, so I don;t know a whole lot about what developed there afterward.

          • Don Frew

            As a Berkeley Gardnerian let me clear up that there is both a thriving Gardnerian community in the SF Bay Area (some 15 covens) AND the Central Valley Wicca covens (sometimes with overlap in membership).  I was aware of your mention of the Berkeley High teacher, but it is great to hear the story in greater detail.  We definitely want to try and track her down and see if she might be the CVW progenetrix.
            I am confused by your comment that <>  How does this line show that she had access to a Gardnerian Book of Shadows?  It appears in a quote on page 138 of Gardner’s _Witchcraft Today_ (1954) and is attributed to the Witches Gardner knew, but I don’t recognize it as being from one of Gardner’s “Books of Shadows” or from any BoS descending from them.  It seems more likely that St. Clair read a copy of _Witchcraft Today_ and this line stuck in her memory, resurfacing when she wrote _Sign of the Labrys_.
            Blessed Be,
            Don Frew
            HP, Coven Trismegiston

          • Robert Mathiesen

            Don, you are quite right!  Somehow I had overlooked that line in _Witchcraft Today_ all these years, or rather my memory had played me false.  I have just gone back to my very first copy of _WT_, and I see I had marked it with a cross-reference to one of the Farrars’ texts. 

            I am very much in your debt for the indication.  Thank you!

            Now I will have to read through _Sign of the Labrys_ again and see whether there might have been any other reason why I thought St Clair was already privy to BoS material when she wrote it.  That one line was the thing that had gotten stuck in my memory, and it certainly doesn’t show what I had thought it showed.

            At least now it will be easier to find sources for such things, thanks to google books and such search engines.

            I will try to write to the sister of my old school friend within the month, to send her the lists Anna compiled for me.  If they jog her memory at all, I will certainly let you and Anna know right away.  With a name to go on, maybe the few real old-timers from England will be able to remember her.  I really should have tried harder to track my source down many years ago, when more of those old-timers were still alive.

            Warm best wishes,
            Robert

          • Dana Corby

            Ed Fitch knew the St. Clairs and confirms in his Amazon.com review of “Sign of the Labrys” that Margaret’s apparent insider information into Witchcraft was entirely from books and damn good intuition. He also says that in later years they were initiated.

          • Dana Corby

            The origins of nature religion in California are far older than the 1960′s, Robert. I refer you to “Children of the Sun,” edited by Gordon Kennedy, which traces the origins of what became California nature religion and hippiedom to various movements in 1810′s Germany — liebensreform, naturmenchen, and wandervogeln. There are photos in it that look like they could have been taken in 1969, artworks that look exactly like psychedelic rock-concert posters, and philosophies that we’re very familiar with today — and that are still considered ‘alternative.’ One of the original ‘Nature Boys,’ Gypsy Boots, was still around in the late 60′s when I met him, as was ‘the Mighty Samson,’ a

            Also in the mix was the surfer culture of the postwar through early 60′s era, which (though you’d never know it from listening to Dick Dale or the Beachboys) included a powerful element of nature spirituality, specifically the transformative interplay of sea and sun on the inner life of the surfer. Sorry I can’t refer you to a book on that, but I was there & it was there. At the time, this aspect of surfer culture was discussed in the pages of “Surfer” and other surfing magazines.

            And finally, the beatnik movement, as it expressed itself in California, often included the desire for simple, natural living away from towns. The spirituality was most often thought of as Buddhist, but it was a personal, not Temple, Buddhism, rather gnostic in tone. For that thread of the weave, see “The Dharma Bums,” Jack Keroac.

            It’s all there, as is the thread that leads back to the Woodcrafters. I was one of the people Gordon Cooper bounced his original ideas off of as he created his thesis, and I still think there’s something to it, at least in the U.S., because the Woodcrafters, morphed into the Woodcraft Rangers, still had their meetings at school as late as the mid-60′s. Whether Gardner was at all influenced by it we’ll never know for sure, but whether the California proto-hippies who helped form the American expression of the Craft were is a good bet.

          • Dana Corby

            Hmmmm… somethjing got lost in the editing, ” ‘the Mighty Samson,’ a…” should have been finished with “a former circus strongman who credited his amazing strength (he once pulled a locomotive with his teeth) to his spiritual practices, which included yoga, meditation, vegetarianism, and celibacy.

          • Robert Mathiesen

            Many thanks, Dana!  I had not known about Kennedy’s “Children of the Sun.”   And I think I actually remember reading about The Mighty Samson in some newspaper or popular magazine back in the late ’50s.

            If I gave the impression that I thought nature religion arose only as late as the 1960s, then my long paragraphs are to blame. 

            From my own family’s stories of ancestors who first came to California in the 1880s, as well as from William Everson’s book, I knew that it was much older than the 1960s.  Joaquin Miller and John Muir were important influences on its development, and they died in 1913 and 1914, respectively. 

            I think another thread was Delsarte-method gymnastics, which had an esoteric component in some schools.  My great-grandfather, who died in 1930, practiced that, but I don’t happen to know whether the school he attended was one of the ones with an esoteric program.

            You might enjoy reading Sũlgwynn Boynton Quitzow’s oral history interviews, _Dance at the Temple of the Wings_, 2 vols., which are now on-line as two PDFs.  There is a lot of background in them on the back-to-nature movement in early Berkeley.  (My father’s mother sewed the Greek tunics that Mrs. Boynton wore, back when the Temple had no walls, but only canvas roll-downs to keep out the heaviest rain.  I met Sũlgwynn a few times when I was in high school (in the very late 1950s) and she was a very old, and very wonderful, woman.

            The minor (and younger) California beatniks whom I knew back in the late 1950s and early 1960s didn’t seem to think of Kerouac or Cassidy as “real” beatniks, but regarded them as interlopers from the East Coast, as wanna-be beats without cred.  Now, of course, in academic circles they define “beatnik” rather more than any of the West Coast beats.  Oh, the consequences of literary fame on perceptions of a lost era . . .

            As I said in another post, I left California in 1964, and had pretty much lost touch with most things Californian by about 1967, so I have no first-hand knowledge of the later ’60s and the ’70s there.  Everything shifted massively almost as soon as I left.

            Also, the California I knew was exclusively that of the San Francisco Bay and northwards, so I was only dimly aware that people surfed down in Southern California.  At least in the circles I and my family and friends frequented, there were two separate Californias, Northern and Southern, and each of them had about as much to do the other as, say, Texas and Louisiana have to do with one another.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      Robert:

      I am very interested in the development of Wicca/Paganism in the 60′s.  Can you tell me your source for the origin of centering in New Thought and the influence of New Thought on West Coast Paganism?

  • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

    Jone Salomonsen makes a similar argument about Reclaiming witchcraft in _Enchanted Feminism_ — that Reclaiming witchcraft can be considered an offshoot of a certain type of radical, communitarian Protestantism. Of course, she was studying Reclaiming from a background as a Lutheran theologian, so in some ways I think she was predisposed to make those comparisons and gloss over contradictory evidence.

    For myself, I think saying that Wicca is an offshoot of Christianity is a bit silly. Yes, Wicca emerged in a culture that’s soaked in Christian tradition, so of course it retains threads of Christianity, but Christianity is hardly its only source. It’s also no small thing that witches’ *experience* of their religion is often in deliberate contrast to the conservative Christianity many of them were raised in. That experience is more important than superficial similarities in beliefs or practice — because the characteristics that Wicca and Christianity share also pop up in other religions. To an extent, there are just a limited number of religious things that human beings generally do. Finding overlap between two religions doesn’t mean one is a meaningful offshoot of the other.

    I would say, though, that Wiccans could do a better job of acknowledging their debt to Christian ceremonial magick. It’s an important influence, just not the only one.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      As you noted, this is not a new argument.  Going back to 1986, Margot Adler interviewed Aidan Kelly, founder of the NROOGD and a father of the Neopagan movement, for her updated volume of Drawing Down the Moon.  Adler reported that Kelly had returned to Catholicism and that he believed
      “that all visions of a universal Goddess come from the influence of Christianity—not the reverse.  The Goddess movement is not Pagan he says, but a radically dissenting type of Christian sect.  It is not Mary who is a pale reflection of the Great Goddess, he argues, it is the idea of a Great Goddess that is dependent on ideas about the Virgin Mary.  The Goddess, he says, is merely a ‘de-Christianized and backdated’ version of Mary.  Even the vision of Isis in The Golden Ass by Apuleius is, he believes, a creation influenced by Christianity.”
      (By 2006, Lisa Harris reported that Kelly had returned to Neopaganism.  Kelly attributed his return to Catholicism to the need for counseling for an alcohol addiction.)
      In 1996, British religious studies scholar, Linda Woodhead presented a paper at the Nature Religions Today conference in England.  The outcome of that conference was the publication of Nature Religion Today: Paganism in the Modern World (1998), by Joanne Pearson et al.  The collection did not contain Woodhead’s essay.  However, Jone Salomonsen reported on the essay in her Enchanted Feminism: The Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco (2002).  According to the Salomonsen, Woodhead had suggested:
      “that the ‘new spirituality’ that today flourishes in contemporary western societies represents a single form of religiosity, and that pagan Witchcraft is merely one of its expressions.  This ‘new spirituality’ is deeply rooted in European Protestantism and has arisen as a response to an increasing dissatisfaction with Christianity (and Judaism) [emphasis original] […] Although the self-understanding of Witchcraft is to reject this whole tradition, not to revitalize it, nor purify it from within, Woodhead argues that the most important context in which to understand pagan Witchcraft is a Christian Context: Witchcraft is not a new religion, but a reformation.”
      Salomonsen, for her part, appears to agree that Witchcraft is not post-Christian, but only post-church or post-synagogue, a “subcultural branch of Jewish and Christian traditions.”
      In 2007, Pearson took up this claim in her Wicca and the Christian Heritage: Ritual, Sex and Magic.  Pearson argued that Christianity is the “real invisible player” in the history of Wicca and then sought to attempt uncover this Christian Heritage of Wicca, giving special attention to the heterodox Christian movements of nineteenth century Britain and France.   Although she stops short of Woodhead’s claim that Wicca is a “new reformation” or a “bastardized version of Christianity”, she nevertheless concludes that “if heresy and witchcraft are constructs of the Christian imagination [as Wiccans claim], then a Christianity that has been constructed as ‘other’ by some Wiccans is also a product of imagination.”

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1678081929 Bill Wheaton

        It’s been said that Episcopalians are really no longer Christian.  They are something else now.  They are a sort of “Post-Christian” religion.  Quakers, Unitarians, possibly even some Congregationalists (UCC) could fall into the same description.  Certainly most of Europe.

        John Spong, Episcopalians Bishop (Emeritus) wrote a very interesting book in the late 1990s – “Why Christianity Must Change or Die”.  He goes into a lot of that, and it is very interesting to read.

        I would concede that Wicca is “Post-Christian”, because it takes part in the phenomena.  Though, like other religions it pre-dates the downfall of Christianity and was never a part of it to begin with.

        And really, that is what we are talking about here, the downfall of Christianity.  Modern communication, science, the the new inter-relations of our planetary culture due to the internet have seen to it.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          Interesting comparison.  I think there may be a lot of Pagans out there who feel they are “post-Wiccan”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

    Jone Salomonsen makes a similar argument about Reclaiming witchcraft in _Enchanted Feminism_ — that Reclaiming witchcraft can be considered an offshoot of a certain type of radical, communitarian Protestantism. Of course, she was studying Reclaiming from a background as a Lutheran theologian, so in some ways I think she was predisposed to make those comparisons and gloss over contradictory evidence.

    For myself, I think saying that Wicca is an offshoot of Christianity is a bit silly. Yes, Wicca emerged in a culture that’s soaked in Christian tradition, so of course it retains threads of Christianity, but Christianity is hardly its only source. It’s also no small thing that witches’ *experience* of their religion is often in deliberate contrast to the conservative Christianity many of them were raised in. That experience is more important than superficial similarities in beliefs or practice — because the characteristics that Wicca and Christianity share also pop up in other religions. To an extent, there are just a limited number of religious things that human beings generally do. Finding overlap between two religions doesn’t mean one is a meaningful offshoot of the other.

    I would say, though, that Wiccans could do a better job of acknowledging their debt to Christian ceremonial magick. It’s an important influence, just not the only one.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      As you noted, this is not a new argument.  Going back to 1986, Margot Adler interviewed Aidan Kelly, founder of the NROOGD and a father of the Neopagan movement, for her updated volume of Drawing Down the Moon.  Adler reported that Kelly had returned to Catholicism and that he believed
      “that all visions of a universal Goddess come from the influence of Christianity—not the reverse.  The Goddess movement is not Pagan he says, but a radically dissenting type of Christian sect.  It is not Mary who is a pale reflection of the Great Goddess, he argues, it is the idea of a Great Goddess that is dependent on ideas about the Virgin Mary.  The Goddess, he says, is merely a ‘de-Christianized and backdated’ version of Mary.  Even the vision of Isis in The Golden Ass by Apuleius is, he believes, a creation influenced by Christianity.”
      (By 2006, Lisa Harris reported that Kelly had returned to Neopaganism.  Kelly attributed his return to Catholicism to the need for counseling for an alcohol addiction.)
      In 1996, British religious studies scholar, Linda Woodhead presented a paper at the Nature Religions Today conference in England.  The outcome of that conference was the publication of Nature Religion Today: Paganism in the Modern World (1998), by Joanne Pearson et al.  The collection did not contain Woodhead’s essay.  However, Jone Salomonsen reported on the essay in her Enchanted Feminism: The Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco (2002).  According to the Salomonsen, Woodhead had suggested:
      “that the ‘new spirituality’ that today flourishes in contemporary western societies represents a single form of religiosity, and that pagan Witchcraft is merely one of its expressions.  This ‘new spirituality’ is deeply rooted in European Protestantism and has arisen as a response to an increasing dissatisfaction with Christianity (and Judaism) [emphasis original] […] Although the self-understanding of Witchcraft is to reject this whole tradition, not to revitalize it, nor purify it from within, Woodhead argues that the most important context in which to understand pagan Witchcraft is a Christian Context: Witchcraft is not a new religion, but a reformation.”
      Salomonsen, for her part, appears to agree that Witchcraft is not post-Christian, but only post-church or post-synagogue, a “subcultural branch of Jewish and Christian traditions.”
      In 2007, Pearson took up this claim in her Wicca and the Christian Heritage: Ritual, Sex and Magic.  Pearson argued that Christianity is the “real invisible player” in the history of Wicca and then sought to attempt uncover this Christian Heritage of Wicca, giving special attention to the heterodox Christian movements of nineteenth century Britain and France.   Although she stops short of Woodhead’s claim that Wicca is a “new reformation” or a “bastardized version of Christianity”, she nevertheless concludes that “if heresy and witchcraft are constructs of the Christian imagination [as Wiccans claim], then a Christianity that has been constructed as ‘other’ by some Wiccans is also a product of imagination.”

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1678081929 Bill Wheaton

        It’s been said that Episcopalians are really no longer Christian.  They are something else now.  They are a sort of “Post-Christian” religion.  Quakers, Unitarians, possibly even some Congregationalists (UCC) could fall into the same description.  Certainly most of Europe.

        John Spong, Episcopalians Bishop (Emeritus) wrote a very interesting book in the late 1990s – “Why Christianity Must Change or Die”.  He goes into a lot of that, and it is very interesting to read.

        I would concede that Wicca is “Post-Christian”, because it takes part in the phenomena.  Though, like other religions it pre-dates the downfall of Christianity and was never a part of it to begin with.

        And really, that is what we are talking about here, the downfall of Christianity.  Modern communication, science, the the new inter-relations of our planetary culture due to the internet have seen to it.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          Interesting comparison.  I think there may be a lot of Pagans out there who feel they are “post-Wiccan”.

  • Sweetsummerwine

    I’d make a comment but I’m afraid that Star will jump all over me for it.

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

      If I can take it, so can you. Give it a shot.

      • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman

        Some people take summary rejection of a point as “jumping all over them.” #justsayin

    • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

      This comment comes across as manipulative. 

      When I read it, I hear: “Oh, look at special me.  I have something deeply insightful to share, but I won’t because Star is such a meany.”

      Say what you want to say, or don’t.  Please don’t waste my time.

  • Sweetsummerwine

    I’d make a comment but I’m afraid that Star will jump all over me for it.

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

      If I can take it, so can you. Give it a shot.

      • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman Presson

        Some people take summary rejection of a point as “jumping all over them.” #justsayin

    • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

      This comment comes across as manipulative. 

      When I read it, I hear: “Oh, look at special me.  I have something deeply insightful to share, but I won’t because Star is such a meany.”

      Say what you want to say, or don’t.  Please don’t waste my time.

  • http://thepaperwitch.blogspot.com/ Bekah

    “If Wicca is drawn from Christianity, a reworking of the Christian mythos with the ever-present celestial mother and ever-dying, ever-resurrecting God, then does it fall squarely in the tradition of Christian heresies such as the Cathars, the Amor heresy and the Lollards?”
    This is just my personal opinion here, but that was the main reason I moved away from Wicca and into my current path. Wicca seemed a little too Christian to me. Too many specifics in ritual, hierarchy/positions of power, too many very close similarities in the mythos. It all felt a little too stiff for me just like when I was in Sunday school. I read your article on the things you enjoy about being in a coven, and I would agree that those seem very beautiful and connecting and appealing, but for me, the foundation is a little too close to Christianity for comfort. 

    • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

      All the things you’ve mentioned are things that some Protestants found in Catholicism and the more ritualist Protestant Churches to be too close to paganism for comfort.

  • http://thepaperwitch.blogspot.com/ Bekah

    “If Wicca is drawn from Christianity, a reworking of the Christian mythos with the ever-present celestial mother and ever-dying, ever-resurrecting God, then does it fall squarely in the tradition of Christian heresies such as the Cathars, the Amor heresy and the Lollards?”
    This is just my personal opinion here, but that was the main reason I moved away from Wicca and into my current path. Wicca seemed a little too Christian to me. Too many specifics in ritual, hierarchy/positions of power, too many very close similarities in the mythos. It all felt a little too stiff for me just like when I was in Sunday school. I read your article on the things you enjoy about being in a coven, and I would agree that those seem very beautiful and connecting and appealing, but for me, the foundation is a little too close to Christianity for comfort. 

    • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

      All the things you’ve mentioned are things that some Protestants found in Catholicism and the more ritualist Protestant Churches to be too close to paganism for comfort.

  • http://blog.dianarajchel.com Diana Rajchel

    My thoughts/explorations on it are this: Wicca is most definitely Wicca. Christianity has decidedly Judaic roots, but it is in no way Jewish. Or, to put it in terms of my own experience: when I was on track to be a Christian Pastor in the mid 90s, my college and church were fine with my heretical feminism. When I converted to Wicca, I wasn’t a heretic anymore – I was a heathen, in the non-Norse sense. I was no longer Christian by their definition, and after some self-reflection, felt just fine not being Christian.

    One of the reasons I was so attracted to Wicca in the first place was that the initial books I read (Paul Beyerl, yes, Laurie Cabot, and Scott Cunningham) were honest about where they came from (or at least seemed so to my 19 year old self), the idea of appealing to someone besides Yahweh and the concept of reincarnation – possibly the biggest defining aspect of Wicca as a religion unto itself – appealed to me and made sense in a sort of “and gravity works too” way to me – and Beyerl and Cunningham both acknowledged “hey, we might be wrong about this whole thing, so tolerance  is good within and without the faith.” These views carried me when I did the trad-Wicca initiation thing, and carry me now as a conscious solitary. For me, the core tenet of Wicca that brought me to it was the honesty with myself about origin. I often consider these “and this came from Christianity,” outlooks as opportunities to self-check my tolerance. Then again, I also think that archangels are quite Pagan in origin, but we no longer have a context for that particular branch of Paganism – the epic of Gilgamesh is quite… scattered.

  • http://dianarajchel.com Diana Rajchel

    My thoughts/explorations on it are this: Wicca is most definitely Wicca. Christianity has decidedly Judaic roots, but it is in no way Jewish. Or, to put it in terms of my own experience: when I was on track to be a Christian Pastor in the mid 90s, my college and church were fine with my heretical feminism. When I converted to Wicca, I wasn’t a heretic anymore – I was a heathen, in the non-Norse sense. I was no longer Christian by their definition, and after some self-reflection, felt just fine not being Christian.

    One of the reasons I was so attracted to Wicca in the first place was that the initial books I read (Paul Beyerl, yes, Laurie Cabot, and Scott Cunningham) were honest about where they came from (or at least seemed so to my 19 year old self), the idea of appealing to someone besides Yahweh and the concept of reincarnation – possibly the biggest defining aspect of Wicca as a religion unto itself – appealed to me and made sense in a sort of “and gravity works too” way to me – and Beyerl and Cunningham both acknowledged “hey, we might be wrong about this whole thing, so tolerance  is good within and without the faith.” These views carried me when I did the trad-Wicca initiation thing, and carry me now as a conscious solitary. For me, the core tenet of Wicca that brought me to it was the honesty with myself about origin. I often consider these “and this came from Christianity,” outlooks as opportunities to self-check my tolerance. Then again, I also think that archangels are quite Pagan in origin, but we no longer have a context for that particular branch of Paganism – the epic of Gilgamesh is quite… scattered.

  • Cassie Beyer

    I have strongly disagree with the suggestions of this article.  First, Christian heretics considered themselves Christians.  Wiccans most certainly do not. Second, the central characters of Christianity are missing from Wicca.  Third, Wiccan holidays are based on Celtic fire festivals, solstices and equinoxes.  The fact that Christians might also have holidays on those days is irrelevant…particularly when you start counting saint feasts, since EVERY day is a feast day for at least one saint.  Of COURSE there is overlap.

    I completely fail to see how something being “Copernican earth- and human-centric worldviews” is by definition Christian.  I also fail to see how the fact that we live in a Christian-based society would turn our religion into a Christian heresy.  We still have the capacity to be interested in other religions.

    Quite frankly, this is largely a reverse of the argument that Christians stole everything from the pagans..pointing to certain similarities of appearance (such as similar dates) and confusing them for being central issues.

    Finally, the Watchtowers and the LBRP are not Christian.  They are based in a Judeo-Christian context…which by definition is more than Christian.  So why call Wicca a Christian heresy rather than, say, a Jewish heresy?

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

      The idea that the earth and humanity are at the center of the universe is a Christian one from the Copernican era. Most forms of Paganism take a different perspective on humanity’s place in the cosmos. I personally find the LBRP a little too hubristic.

      • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman

        A geocentric viewpoint is completely natural, even now, on a subjective level. Astrology, or its antecedents, is the best repository we have for how the ancients saw themselves and their world, and it is so geocentric that it doesn’t even mention the earth (considered as a planet). Consider, also, the image of the Omphalos and the World Tree. Among other things, the World Tree is a shamanic bridge between the worlds, and it is older than what we now call Paganism.

        Some of the more regimented ancient Paganisms put the Gods at the center and convinced humans that they existed only to serve the Gods … but how many Neopagans are willing to “reconstruct” that part? I think, for good or ill, we’re all “human potentialists” on this bus.

        We can make an effort to see ourselves as part of a giant web of causation and essence, but I don’t know where to find the origin of that idea other than in Hinduism (Indra’s Net) and some strains of animism. It certainly didn’t figure greatly in the classical Hellenic worldview.

        Another thing that Christianity had to borrow was philosophy; it came into the world without any, and spent its early years de-Paganizing Hellenic philosophy (not to mention flirting, or even heavy-petting, with Hermeticism until around 1600.

      • Annamkorn

        Copernicus posited a heliocentric view of the Cosmos.

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

          I knew I lost something in exchange for no typos… :(

          • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman

            I translated that to Copernican-era, or pre-Copernican on the fly. No biggie.

  • Cassie Beyer

    I have strongly disagree with the suggestions of this article.  First, Christian heretics considered themselves Christians.  Wiccans most certainly do not. Second, the central characters of Christianity are missing from Wicca.  Third, Wiccan holidays are based on Celtic fire festivals, solstices and equinoxes.  The fact that Christians might also have holidays on those days is irrelevant…particularly when you start counting saint feasts, since EVERY day is a feast day for at least one saint.  Of COURSE there is overlap.

    I completely fail to see how something being “Copernican earth- and human-centric worldviews” is by definition Christian.  I also fail to see how the fact that we live in a Christian-based society would turn our religion into a Christian heresy.  We still have the capacity to be interested in other religions.

    Quite frankly, this is largely a reverse of the argument that Christians stole everything from the pagans..pointing to certain similarities of appearance (such as similar dates) and confusing them for being central issues.

    Finally, the Watchtowers and the LBRP are not Christian.  They are based in a Judeo-Christian context…which by definition is more than Christian.  So why call Wicca a Christian heresy rather than, say, a Jewish heresy?

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

      The idea that the earth and humanity are at the center of the universe is a Christian one from the Copernican era. Most forms of Paganism take a different perspective on humanity’s place in the cosmos. I personally find the LBRP a little too hubristic.

      • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman Presson

        A geocentric viewpoint is completely natural, even now, on a subjective level. Astrology, or its antecedents, is the best repository we have for how the ancients saw themselves and their world, and it is so geocentric that it doesn’t even mention the earth (considered as a planet). Consider, also, the image of the Omphalos and the World Tree. Among other things, the World Tree is a shamanic bridge between the worlds, and it is older than what we now call Paganism.

        Some of the more regimented ancient Paganisms put the Gods at the center and convinced humans that they existed only to serve the Gods … but how many Neopagans are willing to “reconstruct” that part? I think, for good or ill, we’re all “human potentialists” on this bus.

        We can make an effort to see ourselves as part of a giant web of causation and essence, but I don’t know where to find the origin of that idea other than in Hinduism (Indra’s Net) and some strains of animism. It certainly didn’t figure greatly in the classical Hellenic worldview.

      • Annamkorn

        Copernicus posited a heliocentric view of the Cosmos.

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

          I knew I lost something in exchange for no typos… :(

          • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman Presson

            I translated that to Copernican-era, or pre-Copernican on the fly. No biggie.

  • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

    The way I was taught Wicca, the aspects of the practice that are derived or borrowed wholesale from Ceremonial Magic, were simply a framework to more easily learn the Craft, itself… like training wheels, if you will.  Those trappings are not necessary, they are simply tools some find particularly resonant and thereby helpful for getting the brain out of the way in order to work magic.  Personally, I’ve never found them particularly resonant, nor do I teach them.  They seem to me to be no more central to the cosmology or theology of Wicca than the Great Green Arkleseizure is.  

    I find it particularly telling to read the current body of work being produced by the remaining “old guard” of Wicca (I’m thinking, in particular, of recent work by Starhawk and Janet Ferrar), as it all strikes me very much of coming away from the trappings of Ceremonial Magic and getting to what I consider to be the core of Wicca… something that looks much more like an indigenous European practise.

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

      It’s an interesting idea to speculate whether Janet is becoming more or less Wiccan, or simply different? I haven’t read her newer works but they are on my list…

      • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

        I’ve been finding _Progressive Witchcraft_ a very interesting read.  Also, Janet and Gavin’s rituals these days, I must say, resonate with me far more than what I read in _The Witches Bible_ way back when.  Interestingly enough, the last ritual of theirs I attended, they didn’t call on the Watchtowers at all.

  • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

    The way I was taught Wicca, the aspects of the practice that are derived or borrowed wholesale from Ceremonial Magic, were simply a framework to more easily learn the Craft, itself… like training wheels, if you will.  Those trappings are not necessary, they are simply tools some find particularly resonant and thereby helpful for getting the brain out of the way in order to work magic.  Personally, I’ve never found them particularly resonant, nor do I teach them.  They seem to me to be no more central to the cosmology or theology of Wicca than the Great Green Arkleseizure is.  

    I find it particularly telling to read the current body of work being produced by the remaining “old guard” of Wicca (I’m thinking, in particular, of recent work by Starhawk and Janet Ferrar), as it all strikes me very much of coming away from the trappings of Ceremonial Magic and getting to what I consider to be the core of Wicca… something that looks much more like an indigenous European practise.

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

      It’s an interesting idea to speculate whether Janet is becoming more or less Wiccan, or simply different? I haven’t read her newer works but they are on my list…

      • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

        I’ve been finding _Progressive Witchcraft_ a very interesting read.  Also, Janet and Gavin’s rituals these days, I must say, resonate with me far more than what I read in _The Witches Bible_ way back when.  Interestingly enough, the last ritual of theirs I attended, they didn’t call on the Watchtowers at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fernwise Fern Bernstein-Miller

    At 70 or so years old, Christianity’s ‘basic books of the Bible’ were still being written … it would a several hundred years before the main boy of them would be agreed on or the basic Nicene Creed would be agreed on. 

    We aren’t just watching this sausage being made, we are part of what is going into it.

    • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman

      You always have such a way with words, Fern. I am going to steal that next time we’re talking about community at “the Shoppe”: “imagine all the Pagans and related folks as chunks of meat and seasonings in a giant sausage …”

  • John Beckett

    Star, this may be the most thoughtful – and thought provoking – piece you’ve written for this blog.

    While I think it’s a stretch to call Wicca a Christian heresy, Wicca grew out of a thoroughly Christian environment and clearly has elements of Christian belief and practice in it.  Isaac Bonewits called this “Mesopagan” – the folks in between the Paleopagans of antiquity and the Neopagans of today. 

    I’m a Druid and not a Wiccan.  Many early revival Druid orders were explicitly Christian – some of the 19th century Druids would barely qualify as heretics.  But the Druidry I practice, and virtually all of the Druidry I’m acquainted with, is clearly and intentionally Pagan (the exception being some of the cultural societies).  I see “popular Wicca” doing the same thing.

    The question for formal, traditional, Wicca is whether or not it will update its sources and its rituals to remove elements of Christianity and Judaism, or whether it will remain a Mesopagan religion.

    Neither choice is “right” – but Wiccans should be aware that there is a choice to be made.

    • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

      My immediate question to that is: Who, exactly, do you mean by “formal, traditional, Wicca”?  Heck, I think the answer to that may be part of what I’m chewing on with regard to this whole post and thread, actually.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      Isaac Bonewits defined Mesopagan as: “a general term for a variety of movements both organized and nonorganized, started as attempts to recreate, revive or continue what their founders thought were the best aspects of the Paleopagan ways of their ancestors (or predecessors), but which were heavily influenced (accidentally, deliberately and/or involuntarily) by concepts and practices from the monotheistic, dualistic, or nontheistic worldviews of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or early Buddhism. Examples of Mesopagan belief systems would include Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, Spiritualism, etc., as well as those forms of Druidism influenced by those movements, the many Afro-Diasporatic faiths, Sikhism, several sects of Hinduism that have been influenced by Islam and Christianity, Mahayana Buddhism, Aleister Crowley’s religion/philosophy of Thelema, Odinism (some Norse Paganism), most “Family Traditions” of Witchcraft (those that aren’t completely fake), and most orthodox (aka “British Traditionalist”) denominations of Wicca.”

      He included traditional Wicca as Mesopagan, as opposed to Neopagan, the main distinction between Mesopaganism and Neopaganism for him being: while Mesopaganism was influenced by monotheistic and dualistic traditions like Christianity, Neopaganism “consciously strove to eliminate as much as possible of the traditional Western monotheism, dualism, and puritanism.”

      This is why I think that Star can legitimately wonder if some people find that traditional Wicca is “not Pagan enough”, if by “Pagan” she means Neopagan.  Phaedra Bonewits has called for a return to the Neo-, Meso-, Paleo- distinctions on her own blog: [ http://neopagan.net/blog/2011/06/01/be-neopagan-once-again/ ]

      • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

        I too like the distinction of mesopaganism and neopaganism. It goes some way to block assumptions that we all think alike on core issues that I think is often a source of discord between BTW and later Wicca in particular (someone being different to you, is merely being different to you, but when you expect someone to be the same as you and they turn out to be different its hard not to interpret that as their being wrong, and also as their saying you are wrong).

        I do think though, that the way neopaganism “consciously strove to eliminate as much as possible of the traditional Western monotheism, dualism, and puritanism” is an example of the influence of North American Protestant ways of thinking about religion, and in many ways therefore represents a very different, and perhaps deeper, influence of Christian thinking upon pagan thinking. (Descartes would have been another influence upon the same approach though).

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          It seems odd to say that Protestantism was striving to eliminate monotheism, dualism, and puritanism.  How do you mean?

          • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

            Puritan Protestantism strove (and strives) to remove from Christianity artefacts of non-Christian religion, and Christian traditions that are followed because they are traditions rather than because they come directly from Christian theology.

            Neopaganism, in Bonewits’ formulation, strove (and strives) to remove from paganism artefacts of non-pagan religion, and modern pagan traditions that are followed because they are traditions rather than because they come directly from pagan theology.

            I think there’s a clear analogy.

            The influence of Descartes I see in the Cartesian project of constructing a doctrine of everything (both physical and metaphysical) from first principles. It led to a demoting of the importance of tradition qua tradition in Western thought, that supports the neopagan approach (and the Protestant, and for that matter later defences against Protestantism such as those by Cardinal Newman) but is completely at odds with many mesopagan approaches; certainly it is totally at odds with BTW (along with being at odds with earlier Catholicism, and with Eastern Orthodox Christianity).

            (We could perhaps also look to Platonic thought for some influences too, I don’t think Protestant thinking is the only source on recent developments in neopaganism, just a very important one).

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            I think I understand.  It’s almost a fundamentalist impulse, at least an anti-tradition impulse, in both Protestantism and Neopaganism.

          • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

            It’s funny you should say, “impulse”, since “The Fundamentalist Impulse” will be the title of a talk I’ll be giving in Dublin in October.

            Actually though, I think Fundamentalism is something that can then come after (and within Protestantism, did), but so also would be the social activism of Methodists, the abolitionism of and anti-militarism of Quakers, the “extremism of love” of Martin Luther King, the anti-Caesaropapism which the religious tolerance that all of us now enjoy owes a lot to.

      • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

        I’m well aware of Isaac’s definitions of Neo-, Meso- and Paleo-Pagan, but his definitions existing != those definitions being the ones in use in this thread, particularly in relation to the tangential set, “formal, traditional Wicca”.

        Or, to put a finer point on it: I am a Traditional Wiccan.  My Tradition does not include this Watchtower business and it certainly doesn’t include the LBRP (which belongs, IMO&E, firmly in the realm of Ceremonial Magic(k) ).  As such, I’m having some cognitive dissonance with the breadth of some of the brushes in use and thought maybe we could define our terms a bit.

        Or, to refine even further (look!  It’s like alchemy!  :)  )… it seems to me that some “formal, traditional Wicca” has either already side-stepped some of the potentially Christian influences and not brought said into the Trads to begin with and/or has been doing the work to excise such influences from the Traditions.  There seems to be a tendency in this thread for some parties to offer their position from the (apparent) point of view that such hasn’t happened and/or isn’t happening… so some of this is coming across rather a bit like some people asking Traditional Wiccans, “So, when are you going to stop beating your wife?”

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          What tradition do you belong to?

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            I’m Crossroads Tradition, a close child Tradition to ATC, of whom the Wiccan church I run is an affiliate.

          • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

            I suspect that many of the participants in this discussion would not consider the ATC–and therefore anything derived from it–as “traditional Wicca.”

            The ATC website says:
            Since religion should never be something that is “hoarded” or kept from
            true seekers, rather than being a traditionally “exclusive”
            organization, ATC was intended from the outset to be open and accessible
            to all sincere seekers, and proudly proclaims its complete independence
            from any other tradition. While craft “lineage” may be important to
            some and rightfully so for them, it is really of little consequence to
            us at ATC, where we feel our long history of beneficial accomplishments
            for the religion is of far more tangible value and significance.

            That’s not traditional Wicca, which is usually understood as an initiatory mystery cult, with a particular expression of hetero-erotic duotheism as its central mystery. 

            I am not saying that the ATC is better or worse that traditional Wicca, just different, by Pete’s own choice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fernwise Fern Bernstein-Miller

    At 70 or so years old, Christianity’s ‘basic books of the Bible’ were still being written … it would a several hundred years before the main boy of them would be agreed on or the basic Nicene Creed would be agreed on. 

    We aren’t just watching this sausage being made, we are part of what is going into it.

    • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman Presson

      You always have such a way with words, Fern. I am going to steal that next time we’re talking about community at “the Shoppe”: “imagine all the Pagans and related folks as chunks of meat and seasonings in a giant sausage …”

  • John Beckett

    Star, this may be the most thoughtful – and thought provoking – piece you’ve written for this blog.

    While I think it’s a stretch to call Wicca a Christian heresy, Wicca grew out of a thoroughly Christian environment and clearly has elements of Christian belief and practice in it.  Isaac Bonewits called this “Mesopagan” – the folks in between the Paleopagans of antiquity and the Neopagans of today. 

    I’m a Druid and not a Wiccan.  Many early revival Druid orders were explicitly Christian – some of the 19th century Druids would barely qualify as heretics.  But the Druidry I practice, and virtually all of the Druidry I’m acquainted with, is clearly and intentionally Pagan (the exception being some of the cultural societies).  I see “popular Wicca” doing the same thing.

    The question for formal, traditional, Wicca is whether or not it will update its sources and its rituals to remove elements of Christianity and Judaism, or whether it will remain a Mesopagan religion.

    Neither choice is “right” – but Wiccans should be aware that there is a choice to be made.

    • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

      My immediate question to that is: Who, exactly, do you mean by “formal, traditional, Wicca”?  Heck, I think the answer to that may be part of what I’m chewing on with regard to this whole post and thread, actually.  

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      Isaac Bonewits defined Mesopagan as: “a general term for a variety of movements both organized and nonorganized, started as attempts to recreate, revive or continue what their founders thought were the best aspects of the Paleopagan ways of their ancestors (or predecessors), but which were heavily influenced (accidentally, deliberately and/or involuntarily) by concepts and practices from the monotheistic, dualistic, or nontheistic worldviews of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or early Buddhism. Examples of Mesopagan belief systems would include Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, Spiritualism, etc., as well as those forms of Druidism influenced by those movements, the many Afro-Diasporatic faiths, Sikhism, several sects of Hinduism that have been influenced by Islam and Christianity, Mahayana Buddhism, Aleister Crowley’s religion/philosophy of Thelema, Odinism (some Norse Paganism), most “Family Traditions” of Witchcraft (those that aren’t completely fake), and most orthodox (aka “British Traditionalist”) denominations of Wicca.”

      He included traditional Wicca as Mesopagan, as opposed to Neopagan, the main distinction between Mesopaganism and Neopaganism for him being: while Mesopaganism was influenced by monotheistic and dualistic traditions like Christianity, Neopaganism “consciously strove to eliminate as much as possible of the traditional Western monotheism, dualism, and puritanism.”

      This is why I think that Star can legitimately wonder if some people find that traditional Wicca is “not Pagan enough”, if by “Pagan” she means Neopagan.  Phaedra Bonewits has called for a return to the Neo-, Meso-, Paleo- distinctions on her own blog: [ http://neopagan.net/blog/2011/06/01/be-neopagan-once-again/ ]

      • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

        I too like the distinction of mesopaganism and neopaganism. It goes some way to block assumptions that we all think alike on core issues that I think is often a source of discord between BTW and later Wicca in particular (someone being different to you, is merely being different to you, but when you expect someone to be the same as you and they turn out to be different its hard not to interpret that as their being wrong, and also as their saying you are wrong).

        I do think though, that the way neopaganism “consciously strove to eliminate as much as possible of the traditional Western monotheism, dualism, and puritanism” is an example of the influence of North American Protestant ways of thinking about religion, and in many ways therefore represents a very different, and perhaps deeper, influence of Christian thinking upon pagan thinking. (Descartes would have been another influence upon the same approach though).

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          It seems odd to say that Protestantism was striving to eliminate monotheism, dualism, and puritanism.  How do you mean?

          • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

            Puritan Protestantism strove (and strives) to remove from Christianity artefacts of non-Christian religion, and Christian traditions that are followed because they are traditions rather than because they come directly from Christian theology.

            Neopaganism, in Bonewits’ formulation, strove (and strives) to remove from paganism artefacts of non-pagan religion, and modern pagan traditions that are followed because they are traditions rather than because they come directly from pagan theology.

            I think there’s a clear analogy.

            The influence of Descartes I see in the Cartesian project of constructing a doctrine of everything (both physical and metaphysical) from first principles. It led to a demoting of the importance of tradition qua tradition in Western thought, that supports the neopagan approach (and the Protestant, and for that matter later defences against Protestantism such as those by Cardinal Newman) but is completely at odds with many mesopagan approaches; certainly it is totally at odds with BTW (along with being at odds with earlier Catholicism, and with Eastern Orthodox Christianity).

            (We could perhaps also look to Platonic thought for some influences too, I don’t think Protestant thinking is the only source on recent developments in neopaganism, just a very important one).

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            I think I understand.  It’s almost a fundamentalist impulse, at least an anti-tradition impulse, in both Protestantism and Neopaganism.

          • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

            It’s funny you should say, “impulse”, since “The Fundamentalist Impulse” will be the title of a talk I’ll be giving in Dublin in October.

            Actually though, I think Fundamentalism is something that can then come after (and within Protestantism, did), but so also would be the social activism of Methodists, the anti-abolitionism of and anti-militarism of Quakers, the “extremism of love” of Martin Luther King, the anti-Caesaropapism which the religious tolerance that all of us now enjoy owes a lot to.

      • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

        I’m well aware of Isaac’s definitions of Neo-, Meso- and Paleo-Pagan, but his definitions existing != those definitions being the ones in use in this thread, particularly in relation to the tangential set, “formal, traditional Wicca”.

        Or, to put a finer point on it: I am a Traditional Wiccan.  My Tradition does not include this Watchtower business and it certainly doesn’t include the LBRP (which belongs, IMO&E, firmly in the realm of Ceremonial Magic(k) ).  As such, I’m having some cognitive dissonance with the breadth of some of the brushes in use and thought maybe we could define our terms a bit.

        Or, to refine even further (look!  It’s like alchemy!  :)  )… it seems to me that some “formal, traditional Wicca” has either already side-stepped some of the potentially Christian influences and not brought said into the Trads to begin with, or has been doing the work to excise such influences from the Traditions.  There seems to be a tendency in this thread for some parties to offer their position from the (apparent) point of view that such hasn’t happened and/or isn’t happening… so some of this is coming across rather a bit like some people asking Traditional Wiccans, “So, when are you going to stop beating your wife?”

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          What tradition do you belong to?

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            I’m Crossroads Tradition, a close child Tradition to ATC, of whom the Wiccan church I run is an affiliate.

          • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

            I suspect that many of the participants in this discussion would not consider the ATC–and therefore anything derived from it–as “traditional Wicca.”

            The ATC website says:
            Since religion should never be something that is “hoarded” or kept from
            true seekers, rather than being a traditionally “exclusive”
            organization, ATC was intended from the outset to be open and accessible
            to all sincere seekers, and proudly proclaims its complete independence
            from any other tradition. While craft “lineage” may be important to
            some and rightfully so for them, it is really of little consequence to
            us at ATC, where we feel our long history of beneficial accomplishments
            for the religion is of far more tangible value and significance.

            That’s not traditional Wicca, which is usually understood as an initiatory mystery cult, with a particular expression of hetero-erotic duotheism as its central mystery. 

            I am not saying that the ATC is better or worse that traditional Wicca, just different, by Pete’s own choice.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      Isaac Bonewits defined Mesopagan as: “a general term for a variety of movements both organized and nonorganized, started as attempts to recreate, revive or continue what their founders thought were the best aspects of the Paleopagan ways of their ancestors (or predecessors), but which were heavily influenced (accidentally, deliberately and/or involuntarily) by concepts and practices from the monotheistic, dualistic, or nontheistic worldviews of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or early Buddhism. Examples of Mesopagan belief systems would include Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, Spiritualism, etc., as well as those forms of Druidism influenced by those movements, the many Afro-Diasporatic faiths, Sikhism, several sects of Hinduism that have been influenced by Islam and Christianity, Mahayana Buddhism, Aleister Crowley’s religion/philosophy of Thelema, Odinism (some Norse Paganism), most “Family Traditions” of Witchcraft (those that aren’t completely fake), and most orthodox (aka “British Traditionalist”) denominations of Wicca.”

      He included traditional Wicca as Mesopagan, as opposed to Neopagan, the main distinction between Mesopaganism and Neopaganism for him being: while Mesopaganism was influenced by monotheistic and dualistic traditions like Christianity, Neopaganism “consciously strove to eliminate as much as possible of the traditional Western monotheism, dualism, and puritanism.”

      This is why I think that Star can legitimately wonder if some people find that traditional Wicca is “not Pagan enough”, if by “Pagan” she means Neopagan.  Phaedra Bonewits has called for a return to the Neo-, Meso-, Paleo- distinctions on her own blog: [ http://neopagan.net/blog/2011/06/01/be-neopagan-once-again/ ]

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

    “I have to wonder if traditional Wicca is rejected in favor of popular Wicca or Reconstructionism because it’s not Pagan enough?” Some academics would answer “yes”.

    Recently, in *Wicca and the Christian Heritage* (2007), Jo Pearson reached the same conclusion. She writes that, while Wicca has been instrumental in the development of a variety of forms of Neopaganism, “the relationship between Wicca and Paganism has changed over the years, and indeed, the notion of Wicca as a form of Paganism now needs to be challenged.” She observes that it can no longer be said that all Wiccans are Pagans: “In many ways initiatory Wicca can be regarded as existing on the margins of Paganism.”

    A decade earlier, in *New Age Religion and Western Culture* (1996), Wouter Hanegraaff states that he might not have even included Wicca in his survey of Neopganism if it had remained a “relatively self-contained England-based occultist religion”. He goes on to observe:

    “A further complication results from the fact that traditional Wicca, in particular, is rooted in traditional occultist ritual magic, and still retains much of that legacy. […] The complicating factor with regard to our concerns is that Wicca is a neopagan development of traditional occultist ritual magic, but that the later movement is not itself pagan.” (emphasis added).

    A decade before that, in *Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America* (1987), Robert Ellwood and Harry Partin were already drawing the same conclusion:

    “The Neo-Pagan movement breaks down into two broad categories: the magical groups, deeply influenced by the model of the Order of the Golden Dawn, the O.T.O., and Crowley; and the nature oriented groups. The former are the more antiquarian; they love to discuss editions of old grimoires, and the complicated histories of groups an lineages. They delight in precise and fussy ritualism, though the object is the evocation of intense emotional power [...]
    “The pagan nature-oriented groups are more more purely romantic; the prefer woodsy setting to incense and they dance and plant trees. They are deeply influenced by Robert Graves, especially his White Goddess. They are less concerned with evocation than celebration of the goddesses they know are already there. The mood is spontaneous rather than precise, though the rite may be as beautiful and complex as a country dance. [...]
    “Wicca itself is in the middle between magic and nature-oriented groups.”

    I find it helpful to think of Neopaganism and occultism as two circles circumscribing different
    cultural phenomena with overlapping circumferences. Traditional Wicca would fall within the overlapping area, whereas many other forms of Neopaganism would fall largely outside of the circle of occultism.

    • http://twitter.com/shetakaey Sheta Kaey

      Great comment! Speaking from a standpoint of convenience, I call myself “Pagan” to people who inquire, to identify as “one of those woo woo people who don’t embrace Christianity.” I’m an occultist with a strong ritual magick background; I don’t feel remotely pagan except in terms of very wide generalization.

      Wicca, when I played with it for a couple of years back in the late 80s/early 90s, never felt right to me *because* it was so Christian flavored. But I never knew that there were efforts being made to push Wicca to the Neopagan fringes. That strikes me a deliciously ironic, since Wiccans seem to believe that they *define* paganism and that everything else is somehow irrelevant.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        Yes, I take issue with the notion that Wicca is the esoteric center of which Paganism constitutes an exoteric manifestation.  As a Neopagan, it’s fascinating to hear the same sentiment from an occultist on the other side of that divide.  

        • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

          I would object to it as a Wiccan too. An esoteric source (among others), yes, but certainly not a “centre”.

          Historically also, I don’t think we much defined paganism, because historically paganism wasn’t something people felt as much need to define. Rather it was a label that was applied to Wicca, the less blatantly Christian forms of Druidry, the Northern Traditions (what we would now mostly label “Heathen”, but this was not the case then) and we mostly didn’t object to it very much (sometimes we did, Maxine Sanders being a well-known case, who said she had never been a pagan, but had been in a fertility cult – the latter clearly true, the former a matter of how you understand the word).

          As later forms of paganism, particularly in North America, find themselves with a greater need for a firmer definition, we sort of get grandfathered in because we often don’t match the definitions, but we’ve also been labelled “pagan” for decades so the fact that we don’t match such definitions raises a contradiction (the fact that ancient forms of paganism tend to be even less “pagan” by such definitions doesn’t seem to have the same problem). The matter is complicated by recent paganism being more dogmatic (albeit loosely), with the result that some British Traditional Wiccans (those who agree with such views) fit the definition better than others.

          Again, I find the palaeo- meso- neo- distinction mentioned above useful in resolving this to some degree.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            I wasn’t aware of Maxine Sanders saying that.  I know Gavin and Yvonne Frost insisted they were witches and Wiccans but not Pagans.  Their form of Wicca definitely was different than Neopagan (what Star calls “popular”) Wicca though.

          • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

            I think they would be very different to both BTW and neopagan Wicca in a different direction again to what we’ve been discussing so far.

      • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

        Um, I’m Wiccan, and I don’t believe I define paganism and I certainly don’t believe that everything else is somehow irrelevant.

        • http://twitter.com/shetakaey Sheta Kaey

          Okay, not all Wiccans feel that way, but many do, particularly the newbies. I apologize if I generalized too much in my statement.

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            Apology accepted!  Sorry if I came off stroppy… I do get a little tired of that particular brand of tar.  ;)  And you’re right… a fair few Wiccans do act like that… I recall that such *was* particularly bad in the early 90s, especially.  I’d like to think that it has been getting better since then, but I can see it being bad with new converts or the aggressively pretentious.  ;)

          • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman

            It has resurfaced lately. I have taken to calling it “Wiccan privilege” because 1) that’s a good description; and 2) it irritates Wiccans, or at least the ones who need to be irritated.

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

            I like that term. Although I’d argue the Wiccans it tends to irritate are those who refuse to call themselves Wiccan.

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            I’m saddened to hear it has been resurfacing.  I wonder why that is.  It’s a tremendously ignorant attitude, I’m heartily in favour of stamping it out.

    • Rua Lupa

      I definitely fall into the spontaneous, dancing, guerrilla gardening, surrounded by forest, nature-oriented group.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

    “I have to wonder if traditional Wicca is rejected in favor of popular Wicca or Reconstructionism because it’s not Pagan enough?”  Some academics would answer “yes”. 

    Recently, in *Wicca and the Christian Heritage* (2007),
    Jo Pearson reached the same conclusion.  She writes that, while Wicca
    has been instrumental in the development of a variety of forms of
    Neopaganism, “the relationship between Wicca and Paganism has
    changed over the years, and indeed, the notion of Wicca as a form of
    Paganism now needs to be challenged.”  She observes
    that it can no longer be said that all Wiccans are Pagans: “In many
    ways initiatory Wicca can be regarded as existing on the margins of
    Paganism.”

    A decade earlier, in *New Age Religion and Western Culture* (1996), Wouter Hanegraaff states that he
    might not have even included Wicca in his survey of Neopganism if it
    had remained a “relatively self-contained England-based occultist
    religion”.  He goes on to observe:“A
    further complication results from the fact that traditional Wicca, in
    particular, is rooted in traditional occultist ritual magic, and still
    retains much of that legacy.  […] The complicating factor with regard to
    our concerns is that Wicca is a neopagan development of traditional
    occultist ritual magic, but that the later movement is not itself pagan.” (emphasis added). A decade before that, in *Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America* (1987), Robert Ellwood and Harry Partin were already drawing the same conclusion:”The
    Neo-Pagan movement breaks down into two broad categories: the magical
    groups, deeply influenced by the model of the Order of the Golden Dawn,
    the O.T.O., and Crowley; and the nature oriented groups.  The former are
    the more antiquarian; they love to discuss editions of old grimoires,
    and the complicated histories of groups an lineages.  They delight in
    precise and fussy ritualism, though the object is the evocation of
    intense emotional power [...] “The
    pagan nature-oriented groups are more more purely romantic; the prefer
    woodsy setting to incense and they dance and plant trees.  They are
    deeply influenced by Robert Graves, especially his White Goddess. 
    They are less concerned with evocation than celebration of the
    goddesses they know are already there.  The mood is spontaneous rather
    than precise, though the rite may be as beautiful and complex as a
    country dance. [...]“Wicca itself is in the middle between magic and nature-oriented groups.”I find it helpful to think
    of Neopaganism and occultism as two circles circumscribing different
    cultural phenomena with overlapping circumferences.  Traditional
    Wicca would fall within the overlapping area, whereas many other forms of
    Neopaganism would fall largely outside of the circle of occultism.  

    • http://twitter.com/shetakaey Sheta Kaey

      Great comment! Speaking from a standpoint of convenience, I call myself “Pagan” to people who inquire, to identify as “one of those woo woo people who don’t embrace Christianity.” I’m an occultist with a strong ritual magick background; I don’t feel remotely pagan except in terms of very wide generalization.

      Wicca, when I played with it for a couple of years back in the late 80s/early 90s, never felt right to me *because* it was so Christian flavored. But I never knew that there were efforts being made to push Wicca to the Neopagan fringes. That strikes me a deliciously ironic, since Wiccans seem to believe that they *define* paganism and that everything else is somehow irrelevant.

    • http://twitter.com/shetakaey Sheta Kaey

      Great comment! Speaking from a standpoint of convenience, I call myself “Pagan” to people who inquire, to identify as “one of those woo woo people who don’t embrace Christianity.” I’m an occultist with a strong ritual magick background; I don’t feel remotely pagan except in terms of very wide generalization.

      Wicca, when I played with it for a couple of years back in the late 80s/early 90s, never felt right to me *because* it was so Christian flavored. But I never knew that there were efforts being made to push Wicca to the Neopagan fringes. That strikes me a deliciously ironic, since Wiccans seem to believe that they *define* paganism and that everything else is somehow irrelevant.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        Yes, I take issue with the notion that Wicca is the esoteric center of which Paganism constitutes an exoteric manifestation.  As a Neopagan, it’s fascinating to hear the same sentiment from an occultist on the other side of that divide.  

        • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

          I would object to it as a Wiccan too. An esoteric source (among others), yes, but certainly not a “centre”.

          Historically also, I don’t think we much defined paganism, because historically paganism wasn’t something people felt as much need to define. Rather it was a label that was applied to Wicca, the less blatantly Christian forms of Druidry, the Northern Traditions (what we would now mostly label “Heathen”, but this was not the case then) and we mostly didn’t object to it very much (sometimes we did, Maxine Sanders being a well-known case, who said she had never been a pagan, but had been in a fertility cult – the latter clearly true, the former a matter of how you understand the word).

          As later forms of paganism, particularly in North America, find themselves with a greater need for a firmer definition, we sort of get grandfathered in because we often don’t match the definitions, but we’ve also been labelled “pagan” for decades so the fact that we don’t match such definitions raises a contradiction (the fact that ancient forms of paganism tend to be even less “pagan” by such definitions doesn’t seem to have the same problem). The matter is complicated by recent paganism being more dogmatic (albeit loosely), with the result that some British Traditional Wiccans (those who agree with such views) fit the definition better than others.

          Again, I find the palaeo- meso- neo- distinction mentioned above useful in resolving this to some degree.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            I wasn’t aware of Maxine Sanders saying that.  I know Gavin and Yvonne Frost insisted they were witches and Wiccans but not Pagans.  Their form of Wicca definitely was different than Neopagan (what Star calls “popular”) Wicca though.

          • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

            I think they would be very different to both BTW and neopagan Wicca in a different direction again to what we’ve been discussing so far.

      • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

        Um, I’m Wiccan, and I don’t believe I define paganism and I certainly don’t believe that everything else is somehow irrelevant.

        • http://twitter.com/shetakaey Sheta Kaey

          Okay, not all Wiccans feel that way, but many do, particularly the newbies. I apologize if I generalized too much in my statement.

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            Apology accepted!  Sorry if I came off stroppy… I do get a little tired of that particular brand of tar.  ;)  And you’re right… a fair few Wiccans do act like that… I recall that such *was* particularly bad in the early 90s, especially.  I’d like to think that it has been getting better since then, but I can see it being bad with new converts or the aggressively pretentious.  ;)

          • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman Presson

            It has resurfaced lately. I have taken to calling it “Wiccan privilege” because 1) that’s a good description; and 2) it irritates Wiccans, or at least the ones who need to be irritated.

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

            I like that term. Although I’d argue the Wiccans it tends to irritate are those who refuse to call themselves Wiccan.

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            I’m saddened to hear it has been resurfacing.  I wonder why that is.  It’s a tremendously ignorant attitude, I’m heartily in favour of stamping it out.

    • Rua Lupa

      I definitely fall into the spontaneous, dancing, guerrilla gardening, surrounded by forest, nature-oriented group.

  • Sarah

    I can see your perspective and in part I agree with it. Modern witchcraft and Wicca are obviously going to be influenced by Christian thought because they were created within a Christian culture, perhaps even as a reaction to that culture (at least for some people). I guess I am stuck though on certain things you have written here which *appear* to be bad history, although I’m willing to accept I’m just reading you wrong. People have mentioned the festivals, but the thing that confused me was this: “If everything in Wicca comes to us via Christianity, have we combined the Virgin and the Magdalen and set her among the stars?” I’m sure you must be aware that all the symbolism and imagery of the Virgin originated in ancient middle eastern religions.

    Frankly, I have to say that whatever Wicca was when it began, it is a very different beastie now. I know Gardnerian witches from my childhood who find Wicca bewildering. Although I can see some Christian elements I see mostly the influence of Eastern spirituality, European paganism, and shamanism these days. (“Influence” or “appropriation”, depending on your point of view.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      “If everything in Wicca comes to us via Christianity, have we combined the Virgin and the Magdalen and set her among the stars?”

      I think the answer is “yes”.  The Neopagan Triple Goddess can be traced back to Robert Graves, and from him to Jane Harrison, who related the Mother and Virgin figures of Demeter and Kore to the Father and the Son in term of their relationship to each other, being two-in-one.  She states in her *Prologomena on Greek Religion*:

      “It has been shown in detail that the Mother and the Maid are two persons, but one god, are but the young and old form of a divinity always waxing and waning.  It is the same with the Father and the Son; his is one but he reflects two stages of the same human life.”

      Harrison in turn was deeply influenced by Sir Arthur Evans and his discoveries from Crete which she wrote about in her “Reminiscences of a Student Life”.  Ronald Hutton has observed that Evans’ interpretation of the Cretan deities as manifestations of a single Great Goddess and her subordinate son and consort was based on the classical legend of Rhea and Zeus, “but his insistence that she had been viewed as both Virgin and Mother, with a divine child, owed an unmistakable debt to the Christian tradition of the Virgin Mary.”

      Of course, Sarah is correct that the Virgin and the Magdalen can be traced back to Paleopagan antecedents (see Steven Benko’s *The Virgin Goddess*), but there is a good argument for saying that Paganism became Meso- and Neo-paganism through the mediation of Christianity.

    • LezlieKinyon

      Sarah, I believe that you hit the nail on the head concerning how Wicca has evolved since “High Magic’s Aid”.  I will also add that England, during the 40′s & 50′s had become – and, still is – a profoundly *secular* nation. If Star were referring to the UK of the 1800s or the 1700s, she might have some credence to this argument, however, the people of the British Isles are a modern, secular nation with all the glories, rights, responsibilities, influences from other nations, and hard-won democratic ideals as any other modern nation. (In fact, the UK is a leader in many areas with a good deal of political clout!) Gardener, Valiente, and Saunders (both of them) are the children of that nation. When they set out to write their BOSes, it was to the people of the post-war, post-modernist UK they were speaking to (they – apparently – did not concern themselves with the Americas or beyond at that time). They were directly addressing the spiritual desolation of the era that so many other writers across many fields have addressed during the Cold War period. *Modern Wicca* – and Neopagans in the general sense – owe as much to the philosophies emerging from the East, the dramatic political unrest and social change of the late 20th century, the meditation movement, the humanist movement, the humanistic/transpersonal psychology movement, the emergent feminism and environmentalism of our era, F/SF literature (e.g.: Tolkien), (and, it must be said:) psychedelia and rock and roll as much as it owes anything to the mysticism of the Christianity or its esoterica and heresies of the 1930s-50s (and, before). I do not think that Pagans – in general – reject Wiccan Circles as their personal path because they are not Pagan enough, but for a plethora of other reasons. (Including the ever-popular, “They are too organized”.) (If only they knew .) The idea that Neopaganism and Wicca are at odds with each other is a destructive one, and one that I, personally, find both incorrect and futile. One feeds into the other, and the result is a dynamic and creative atmosphere. After all, our beloved Bard, the hippy-guy who got us out of our living rooms hopping around to something recorded and sort of Pagan-ish and up and singing, was Gwyddion, a founder of Church of all Worlds. If I were to name the most influential people of 2011, that list would start with names like Shekinah Mountainwater, Oberon G’zell, Starhawk, Victor Anderson, a host of musicians and (seriously) not Alex Saunders or (!) the esoteric writers of the 19th century.

  • Sarah

    I can see your perspective and in part I agree with it. Modern witchcraft and Wicca are obviously going to be influenced by Christian thought because they were created within a Christian culture, perhaps even as a reaction to that culture (at least for some people). I guess I am stuck though on certain things you have written here which *appear* to be bad history, although I’m willing to accept I’m just reading you wrong. People have mentioned the festivals, but the thing that confused me was this: “If everything in Wicca comes to us via Christianity, have we combined the Virgin and the Magdalen and set her among the stars?” I’m sure you must be aware that all the symbolism and imagery of the Virgin originated in ancient middle eastern religions.

    Frankly, I have to say that whatever Wicca was when it began, it is a very different beastie now. I know Gardnerian witches from my childhood who find Wicca bewildering. Although I can see some Christian elements I see mostly the influence of Eastern spirituality, European paganism, and shamanism these days. (“Influence” or “appropriation”, depending on your point of view.)

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      “If everything in Wicca comes to us via Christianity, have we combined the Virgin and the Magdalen and set her among the stars?”

      I think the answer is “yes”.  The Neopagan Triple Goddess can be traced back to Robert Graves, and from him to Jane Harrison, who related the Mother and Virgin figures of Demeter and Kore to the Father and the Son in term of their relationship to each other, being two-in-one.  She states in her *Prologomena on Greek Religion*:

      “It has been shown in detail that the Mother and the Maid are two persons, but one god, are but the young and old form of a divinity always waxing and waning.  It is the same with the Father and the Son; his is one but he reflects two stages of the same human life.”

      Harrison in turn was deeply influenced by Sir Arthur Evans and his discoveries from Crete which she wrote about in her “Reminiscences of a Student Life”.  Ronald Hutton has observed that Evans’ interpretation of the Cretan deities as manifestations of a single Great Goddess and her subordinate son and consort was based on the classical legend of Rhea and Zeus, “but his insistence that she had been viewed as both Virgin and Mother, with a divine child, owed an unmistakable debt to the Christian tradition of the Virgin Mary.”

      Of course, Sarah is correct that the Virgin and the Magdalen can be traced back to Paleopagan antecedents (see Steven Benko’s *The Virgin Goddess*), but there is a good argument for saying that Paganism became Meso- and Neo-paganism through the mediation of Christianity.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1309881889 Lezlie Kinyon

      I believe that you hit the nail on the head concerning how Wicca has evolved since “High Magic’s Aid”.  I will also add that England, during the 40′s & 50′s had become – and, still is – a profoundly secular nation. If you were referring to the UK of the 1800s or the 1700s, you might have some credence to this argument, however, the people of the British Isles area  modern, secular nation with all the glories, rights, responsibilities and hard-won democratic ideals as any other modern nation. Gardener and Valiente are the children of that nation and when they set out to write their BOS, it was to the people of the post-war, modernist era they were speaking to.

  • http://erynn999.livejournal.com/ Erynn

    Regardless of one’s opinion of Wicca as a potential “Christian heresy”, I think that the reason reconstructionist-oriented Pagans reject Wicca (or ignore it) is because it isn’t [fill-in-the-blank-culture] enough, not because it isn’t “Pagan” enough. Wicca isn’t Celtic. It isn’t Hellenic or Roman. It isn’t Slavic. It isn’t Norse. That’s why we find reconstructionist paths — because we’re drawn to a particular culture or cultures and their deities.

    In most of these cases, the cosmology doesn’t match up. The conceptions of deity are different. The way ritual was/is conducted is different. These are significant factors.

    While it can fairly be said that a lot of reconstructionists found their way there via Wicca, that was more because Wicca is the first thing most people find when they’re interested in Paganism. Wicca has a huge presence and oftentimes Wiccan groups are the only ones in a given area, so we find fellowship and inspiration where we can. That some of us eventually find it unsatisfying and move on isn’t so much about Wicca as about what we’re looking for and what we need spiritually.

    I would, as many people here have, argue that Wicca isn’t a Christian heresy. It doesn’t position itself as Christian in the same way that, say, Mormonism does. I would think that a thing would have to consider itself Christian to qualify as a heresy within that religion.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      “I think that the reason reconstructionist-oriented Pagans
      reject Wicca (or ignore it) is because it isn’t
      [fill-in-the-blank-culture] enough, not because it isn’t “Pagan” enough.”

      I agree, but I think the reason traditional Wicca is rejected in favor of what Star calls popular Wicca *is* because traditional Wicca is not Pagan enough.  I don’t want to get into a debate about what is Pagan again, but I think the influence of occultism (noted by the authors in my response above) is a reason to distinguish the two.

      • http://erynn999.livejournal.com/ Erynn

        I don’t know. I felt plenty Pagan while I was a practicing Alexandrian. I just didn’t feel like it had anything at all to do with the Celtic cultures and deities I was really interested in.

        I tended to view a lot of the ceremonialist magic trappings as useful magical technology, not the spiritual underpinnings of the practice.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          As Robert Ellwood and Harry Partin explain in their review of Neopaganism in Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America:
          “The unifying theme among the diverse Neo-Pagan traditions is the ecology of one’s relation to nature and to the various parts of one’s self.  As Neo-Pagans understand it, the Judaeo-Christian tradition teaches that the human intellectual will is to have dominion over the world, and over the unruly lesser parts of the human psyche, as it, in turn, is to be subordinate to the One God and his will.  The Neo-Pagans hold that, on the contrary, we must cooperate with nature and its deep forces on a basis of reverence and exchange. Of the parts of man, the imagination should be first among equals, for man’s true glory is not in what he commands, but in what he sees.  What wonders he sees of nature and of himself he leaves untouched, save to glorify and celebrate them.”

          I would contrast this with the influence of ceremonial magic on Wicca as Star describes it above: “In the Kabbalistic Cross humanity is placed at the center of the
          Universe, in the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram humanity
          exerts it’s will over the elements of the universe, and in the ultimate
          act of Dominionism the Gods themselves are summoned by the Wiccan into
          an energetic circle in which they are confined until being released.” 

          These seem to be two different paradigms: the first resembling Starhawk’s concept of “power with” and the latter resembling her concept of “power over”.  As I understand it, Alexandrian Wicca is even more heavily influenced by ceremonial magic that Gardnerian Wicca.  I’m curious how you separate the magical technology from the spiritual underpinnings.  I think the medium is the message sometimes.
           

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            I am (obviously) not Erynn, but I certainly have no problem separating the “magical technology” from the spiritual underpinnings.  Look at the differences between Workings and Celebratory rituals.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            When I say the medium is the message, I mean for example casting of the magic circle, which can having the effect of cutting celebrants off from their natural surroundings.  Or calling the quarters or elements without regard for the natural elements around us, like for example a river that may happen to be in the north (not the west) in relation to the ritual location.

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

            I have never understood that. How is declaring sacred space cutting yourself off from nature? Which is more isolating: participating in a Wiccan ritual in a thunderstorm or in any other ritual inside a building? If anything the cast circle intensifies nature rather than expells it. At least this has been my experience.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            That’s an excellent point.  I’d take any just about ritual in a thunderstorm over just about any ritual in a building.  But if I am out in the thunderstorm, drawing a circle and declaring everything in it sacred seems pointless and counterproductive.  It may come down to personal taste.  I will acknowledge that the circle performs an important function in creating liminal space and time, which is important for any ritual.  I just wonder if there is not a better way to create that sense of liminality than drawing a line which by definition separates me from something else, which seems strange to me as a pantheist/panentheist who wants to use ritual to connect, not disconnect. 

          • Rua Lupa

            The Reformed Druids think in the same fashion, by drawing a circle, you’ve put up a wall to everything your connected to. And I agree.

          • Rua Lupa

            A building is not separate from nature any more than a forest is. Everything is a part of Nature, we may be human but we’re also beasts. Animals, all of us. We are like uber beavers and brain steroids. Just being aware of that interconnection is sufficient unto itself to enhance your experience of Nature, but Nature cannot be intensified any more than it already is. Unless you get struck by lightening, then you’ve got me there.

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

            I phrased that badly. I feel that awareness of nature is intensified in circle. I notice the wind, the stars, the moon and trees more. You can’t really be more aware of these things in a basement. Connecting to the soil is far different than grounding yourself on concrete.

          • Rua Lupa

            “connecting to the soil is far different than grounding yourself on concrete.”

            I’ll say that what you’ve described is easier, yet is a lot less different than you may realize. You’re thought process seems to stop at concrete, unlike with soil, your thought process allows you to continue to think of the organisms in the soil, what is growing in and on it etc. Concrete is no different so long as you don’t stop thinking of the connections it has. It is made of stones, and mineral, that mineral was dug up and altered to be the foundation you stand on, like that of soil, above is a ceiling of wood – how old is that wood, where did those trees come from, your walls contain insulation, fibers like the hairs of a beast keeping you warm, (the material the insulation is made of may vary depending on the building), then think of the many hands that were involved in harvesting this material all the way to putting this structure together. We have a tendency to think that once homo sapiens alter the shape of something it is no longer of Nature. When really it is no different than a beaver and its lodge or dam. 

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            I think this idea is interesting and challenging.  Can we connect to “nature” in an asphalt paved shopping mall parking lot?

          • Rua Lupa

            We can, but as you said, it is more challenging, mostly because of the lack of balance, yet regardless, it is still of Nature. When I speak of balance, I speak of life creating a diverse ecology so in that harmony is achieved. A mountain is a prominent figure in Nature, yet when you step atop a barren one, you may see and realize that it is comparable to the shopping mall parking lot in terms of this balance. Yet somehow people feel that it is more Natural to be on a mountain top compared to a parking lot. And I believe it is because of what I’ve mentioned before on our thought processes in regard to our connections.

            If this topic interests you, the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn is highly recommended.

          • Rua Lupa

            I am with you on that.

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            I’m not clear on how casting a Circle cuts one off from /nature/, could you explain, please, how that works?

          • Rua Lupa

            Well, lets start with, “why do you cast a circle?”

  • http://erynn999.livejournal.com/ Erynn

    Regardless of one’s opinion of Wicca as a potential “Christian heresy”, I think that the reason reconstructionist-oriented Pagans reject Wicca (or ignore it) is because it isn’t [fill-in-the-blank-culture] enough, not because it isn’t “Pagan” enough. Wicca isn’t Celtic. It isn’t Hellenic or Roman. It isn’t Slavic. It isn’t Norse. That’s why we find reconstructionist paths — because we’re drawn to a particular culture or cultures and their deities.

    In most of these cases, the cosmology doesn’t match up. The conceptions of deity are different. The way ritual was/is conducted is different. These are significant factors.

    While it can fairly be said that a lot of reconstructionists found their way there via Wicca, that was more because Wicca is the first thing most people find when they’re interested in Paganism. Wicca has a huge presence and oftentimes Wiccan groups are the only ones in a given area, so we find fellowship and inspiration where we can. That some of us eventually find it unsatisfying and move on isn’t so much about Wicca as about what we’re looking for and what we need spiritually.

    I would, as many people here have, argue that Wicca isn’t a Christian heresy. It doesn’t position itself as Christian in the same way that, say, Mormonism does. I would think that a thing would have to consider itself Christian to qualify as a heresy within that religion.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      “I think that the reason reconstructionist-oriented Pagans
      reject Wicca (or ignore it) is because it isn’t
      [fill-in-the-blank-culture] enough, not because it isn’t “Pagan” enough.”

      I agree, but I think the reason traditional Wicca is rejected in favor of what Star calls popular Wicca *is* because traditional Wicca is not Pagan enough.  I don’t want to get into a debate about what is Pagan again, but I think the influence of occultism (noted by the authors in my response above) is a reason to distinguish the two.

      • http://erynn999.livejournal.com/ Erynn

        I don’t know. I felt plenty Pagan while I was a practicing Alexandrian. I just didn’t feel like it had anything at all to do with the Celtic cultures and deities I was really interested in.

        I tended to view a lot of the ceremonialist magic trappings as useful magical technology, not the spiritual underpinnings of the practice.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          As Robert Ellwood and Harry Partin explain in their review of Neopaganism in Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America:
          “The unifying theme among the diverse Neo-Pagan traditions is the ecology of one’s relation to nature and to the various parts of one’s self.  As Neo-Pagans understand it, the Judaeo-Christian tradition teaches that the human intellectual will is to have dominion over the world, and over the unruly lesser parts of the human psyche, as it, in turn, is to be subordinate to the One God and his will.  The Neo-Pagans hold that, on the contrary, we must cooperate with nature and its deep forces on a basis of reverence and exchange. Of the parts of man, the imagination should be first among equals, for man’s true glory is not in what he commands, but in what he sees.  What wonders he sees of nature and of himself he leaves untouched, save to glorify and celebrate them.”

          I would contrast this with the influence of ceremonial magic on Wicca as Star describes it above: “In the Kabbalistic Cross humanity is placed at the center of the
          Universe, in the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram humanity
          exerts it’s will over the elements of the universe, and in the ultimate
          act of Dominionism the Gods themselves are summoned by the Wiccan into
          an energetic circle in which they are confined until being released.” 

          These seem to be two different paradigms: the first resembling Starhawk’s concept of “power with” and the latter resembling her concept of “power over”.  As I understand it, Alexandrian Wicca is even more heavily influenced by ceremonial magic that Gardnerian Wicca.  I’m curious how you separate the magical technology from the spiritual underpinnings.  I think the medium is the message sometimes.
           

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            I am (obviously) not Erynn, but I certainly have no problem separating the “magical technology” from the spiritual underpinnings.  Look at the differences between Workings and Celebratory rituals.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            When I say the medium is the message, I mean for example casting of the magic circle, which can having the effect of cutting celebrants off from their natural surroundings.  Or calling the quarters or elements without regard for the natural elements around us, like for example a river that may happen to be in the north (not the west) in relation to the ritual location.

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

            I have never understood that. How is declaring sacred space cutting yourself off from nature? Which is more isolating: participating in a Wiccan ritual in a thunderstorm or in any other ritual inside a building? If anything the cast circle intensifies nature rather than expells it. At least this has been my experience.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            That’s an excellent point.  I’d take any just about ritual in a thunderstorm over just about any ritual in a building.  But if I am out in the thunderstorm, drawing a circle and declaring everything in it sacred seems pointless and counterproductive.  It may come down to personal taste.  I will acknowledge that the circle performs an important function in creating liminal space and time, which is important for any ritual.  I just wonder if there is not a better way to create that sense of liminality than drawing a line which by definition separates me from something else, which seems strange to me as a pantheist/panentheist who wants to use ritual to connect, not disconnect. 

          • Rua Lupa

            The Reformed Druids think in the same fashion, by drawing a circle, you’ve put up a wall to everything your connected to. And I agree.

          • Rua Lupa

            A building is not separate from nature any more than a forest is. Everything is a part of Nature, we may be human but we’re also beasts. Animals, all of us. We are like uber beavers and brain steroids. Just being aware of that interconnection is sufficient unto itself to enhance your experience of Nature, but Nature cannot be intensified any more than it already is. Unless you get struck by lightening, then you’ve got me there.

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

            I phrased that badly. I feel that awareness of nature is intensified in circle. I notice the wind, the stars, the moon and trees more. You can’t really be more aware of these things in a basement. Connecting to the soil is far different than grounding yourself on concrete.

          • Rua Lupa

            “connecting to the soil is far different than grounding yourself on concrete.”

            I’ll say that what you’ve described is easier, yet is a lot less different than you may realize. You’re thought process seems to stop at concrete, unlike with soil, your thought process allows you to continue to think of the organisms in the soil, what is growing in and on it etc. Concrete is no different so long as you don’t stop thinking of the connections it has. It is made of stones, and mineral, that mineral was dug up and altered to be the foundation you stand on, like that of soil, above is a ceiling of wood – how old is that wood, where did those trees come from, your walls contain insulation, fibers like the hairs of a beast keeping you warm, (the material the insulation is made of may vary depending on the building), then think of the many hands that were involved in harvesting this material all the way to putting this structure together. We have a tendency to think that once homo sapiens alter the shape of something it is no longer of Nature. When really it is no different than a beaver and its lodge or dam. 

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            I think this idea is interesting and challenging.  Can we connect to “nature” in an asphalt paved shopping mall parking lot?

          • Rua Lupa

            We can, but as you said, it is more challenging, mostly because of the lack of balance, yet regardless, it is still of Nature. When I speak of balance, I speak of life creating a diverse ecology so in that harmony is achieved. A mountain is a prominent figure in Nature, yet when you step atop a barren one, you may see and realize that it is comparable to the shopping mall parking lot in terms of this balance. Yet somehow people feel that it is more Natural to be on a mountain top compared to a parking lot. And I believe it is because of what I’ve mentioned before on our thought processes in regard to our connections.

            If this topic interests you, the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn is highly recommended.

          • Rua Lupa

            I am with you on that.

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            I’m not clear on how casting a Circle cuts one off from /nature/, could you explain, please, how that works?

          • Rua Lupa

            Well, lets start with, “why do you cast a circle?”

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          As Robert Ellwood and Harry Partin explain in their review of Neopaganism in Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America:
          “The unifying theme among the diverse Neo-Pagan traditions is the ecology of one’s relation to nature and to the various parts of one’s self.  As Neo-Pagans understand it, the Judaeo-Christian tradition teaches that the human intellectual will is to have dominion over the world, and over the unruly lesser parts of the human psyche, as it, in turn, is to be subordinate to the One God and his will.  The Neo-Pagans hold that, on the contrary, we must cooperate with nature and its deep forces on a basis of reverence and exchange. Of the parts of man, the imagination should be first among equals, for man’s true glory is not in what he commands, but in what he sees.  What wonders he sees of nature and of himself he leaves untouched, save to glorify and celebrate them.”

          I would contrast this with the influence of ceremonial magic on Wicca as Star describes it above: “In the Kabbalistic Cross humanity is placed at the center of the
          Universe, in the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram humanity
          exerts it’s will over the elements of the universe, and in the ultimate
          act of Dominionism the Gods themselves are summoned by the Wiccan into
          an energetic circle in which they are confined until being released.” 

          These seem to be two different paradigms: the first resembling Starhawk’s concept of “power with” and the latter resembling her concept of “power over”.  As I understand it, Alexandrian Wicca is even more heavily influenced by ceremonial magic that Gardnerian Wicca.  I’m curious how you separate the magical technology from the spiritual underpinnings.  I think the medium is the message sometimes.
           

  • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman

    If anyone shall assent to the proposition that traditional Wicca has enough Christian influence to be considered a heresy, and if that person shall have ever indulged in the once-common denunciation of Satanism as “other” because of its origins as an inversion of Christianity, that person shall write 500 times on the Cosmic Blackboard, “I vow to stop being a doofus.”

  • http://freemanpresson.wordpress.com/ Freeman Presson

    If anyone shall assent to the proposition that traditional Wicca has enough Christian influence to be considered a heresy, and if that person shall have ever indulged in the once-common denunciation of Satanism as “other” because of its origins as an inversion of Christianity, that person shall write 500 times on the Cosmic Blackboard, “I vow to stop being a doofus.”

  • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

    To me, Wicca is it’s own religion.  It is not a heretical Christian religion even if you find its roots there; it not longer considers itself part of such a culture, even if it ever did.  Modern scholars and practitioners alike do not treat it as such.  Just because Wicca involves syncretism with monotheistic practices, that does not make it Pagan.  To me, what makes me a Northern Tradition Pagan, a Christian a Christian, a Wiccan a Wiccan, etc. is the theological and cosmological framework in which each one of us works.  They are wholly different.

    I think it’s fine that we can borrow from one another.  I have no problems adopting old songs and prayers I sang as a Catholic and setting them to new lyrics and words.  I think it’s fine that Wicca borrowed the Watchtowers from Enochian magic and Christianity.  If Christians want to seidh to connect to their God, well, that would be interesting to see how they work with such a practice, but if that’s their schtick more power to them.  They’re not claiming what I am, and I’m not claiming what they are.  

    Not every bit of each others’ practice may fit into the others, but syncretism has been practiced for a long, long time.  

    As to your questions, I would say some iterations of Wicca have combined the Virgin and Magdalen and set her in the stars.  I would also say some have given the Devil pipes and let him loose in the wild.  Some people do, essentially, treat their Wicca as a kind of earth-friendly/oriented Satanism, in which they are the star players, and the Gods they pretend to worship simply help them along whenever asked or called to circle.  

    Others treat the Goddess and God as how I was taught They are: multifaceted Beings, containing the All That Is between Them, worthy of respect and reverence.  I think it really does come down to how one treats their Gods, how one interacts with Them, and the theological framework within which those relationships are based, that determines what you practice moreso than the word you use to describe yourself.  What you live is what you are: if you see the Goddess and God as part of a whole Being in which we are all encompassed, and treat Them as such, then you are practicing Wiccan theology even if you don’t call yourself that.

    I think you’re free to call yourself what you wish, but I am free to call what I see as a spade, a spade.  

    As I see it, Wicca is Pagan, and a modern iteration of it that came at a time when it was sorely needed.  It is a viable religious path, despite it being maligned at times by other Pagans, and one who has many followers I personally respect.  I came to Paganism through eclectic Wicca, and I respect Wicca for the role it has played in my life, even if I have gone on to another path.  As I see it, Wicca itself is not a gentler, kinder, more fanciful Satanism.  Wicca is it’s own thing, and while it does have a love of hedonism built into it (and I find this a good thing; we are still much too uptight in American society for enjoying ourselves) it is a responsible hedonism that asks you balance your own pleasures against others’ wants and needs.  

    I would not say that Wicca is the staunch survival of polytheism, but rather, a revolution of mindset that, through Gardner and others’ visions have evolved to meet the spiritual needs of its followers and strives to evolve in its everyday, as well as long vision.  Not everyone who follows a path seeks its evolution; some seek its comfort, and there’s a million other reasons, I’m sure, that people follow Wicca their whole lives.  What I see has helped it survived is the religion’s willingness to adapt and change as new information comes along, as new thoughts come along, and as new understandings about its foundations come along.  I hope that ability to question never fades, from Wicca, or any of its Pagan coreligionists.  

    The rise of popular Wicca, I would say, is something that a Catholic priest (I don’t recall if he was mine but I think it was) said to me on why people leave the Church: “People are spiritually thirsty, and they follow where the water leads them.”  He seemed at peace with that, and it taught me to look at people in other religions in a new light.  I don’t think the founders of Wicca knew it would explode like it did, but I am glad it did.

    I think that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to the question of keeping or rejecting Abrahamic elements, excepting that it makes sense within the group or person’s spiritual framework.  If you believe that all Gods and Goddesses are contained with your God and Goddess, then I see no reason to not call on Abrahamic elements, seeing as how Yahweh is part of your God.  If you don’t believe that Yahweh is a part of your God, then that presents some interesting questions: why?  Is Yahweh a God (or not) because He is (or is not) part of your God?  Where does He fit into your spiritual framework, if anywhere?  If He has no place in your spiritual framework, how is that determined?  How do you determine which Gods to accept and which Gods to reject as part of your God?  A similar set of questions could be posed with the Goddess, such as in the case of Lillith or Asherah.

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

      Not everyone believes All Gods are one God, all Goddesses one Goddess.

      • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

        Agreed, but that was something that, during my time as a Wiccan, that was emphasized.  I have to speak in generalities because I only have my own experiences, understanding, and what books I have read to go off of.  I don’t pretend to speak for the whole of Wicca; I’m not Wiccan.  However, I see that duotheism is usually a core Wiccan tenet both in its practice, and in what I have read.

        • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

          I have run across multiple duotheisms within the Craft over the years:

          * All Gods are one God, all Goddesses one Goddess.

          * There are many gods, but we worship the gods of the Wica, whom we call the Lady and the Lord (at least in public).

          *  There are many gods, but we always call one goddess and one god per ritual.

          (Can anyone think of any duotheisms that I’m missing?)

          Individuals may blur some of these together, and most traditional Wiccan covens don’t require their initiates to accept a particular duotheism.  As Jon Hanna points out below, covenmates often don’t even know what each other think about this.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        Star, what does your tradition of Wicca believe about the unity/multiplicity of divinity?  I take it from some of your previous posts that you are a hard polytheist.

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

          We are monotheistic, pantheistic and polytheistic. We don’t believe there is one correct way of viewing the divine.

          I am a hard polytheist myself, and feel very much at home in my traditions view of the Gods. Perhaps, it’s not what you believe about the Gods, but how you treat them that counts?

          • http://www.facebook.com/fernwise Fern Bernstein-Miller

            Maybe it’s more how you serve them than how you treat them.

            I like to serve them with a cream sauce.  And a side of fava beans.

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

            Gee thanks Fern. Now I want chianti.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000892067766 Anne Hatzakis

            I’ll send you a nice site for wines sometime. In the meantime, I think Dionysus prefers a pinot noir.

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

            Pinot Noir = win!

          • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

            I’d be of like mind here. I’m a hard polytheist, but my tradition will tolerate other views (having a tradition that addresses our gods, rather than a doctrine about their nature). I also take a relatively literal interpretation of the tradition (we work with a specific god and goddess whose names are kept secret) but my upline includes people who were very influential in the popularity of Fortune’s formulation on the nature of the divine within both trad and recent Wicca. People I work with think differently to me, and I don’t even know the views of all of them.

          • http://twitter.com/shetakaey Sheta Kaey

            I consider myself panentheistic, but I cut my teeth on Qabalah. ;) I mention this only because you didn’t include it in your list.

            Out of curiosity, is there a lot of switching among individuals between mono- and polytheism? I can reconcile pantheism with polytheism, or pantheism with monotheism, but not so much the “one god” and “many gods” views. I think of Wicca as inherently duo-/polytheistic. I’m having a hard time even conceiving of Wicca as monotheistic, regardless of pantheism or animism that might be applied to it.

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            Something some people like to trot out is that Dion Fortune once wrote, “All gods are one god, and all goddesses are one goddess, and there is one initiator.”  

            If one holds to that belief, then, in essence, one is technically monotheistic.  (though I suppose that depends on one’s definition of “initiator”, huh?  Duotheistic, at least, anyway.)

            Of course, this goes into the whole matter of soft polytheism vs. hard polytheism (and degrees between the two), what place gnosis has in Paganism and various other things which could all quite easily be as ~ahem~ lively a discussion as this has been.  :)

      • Dana Corby

        Thank you, Star! I’m among the ‘no, They’re not” camp. In fact, if I were a Goddess (or God) I think I’d be offended — what am I, a paperclip?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      “I would also say some have given the Devil pipes and let him loose in the wild.”

      In his *Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles*, professor Hutton refers to the Neopagan Horned God as Margaret Murray’s “paganization of the Christian Devil”.  We Pagans like to emphasize the similarities of our beliefs to those of ancient Pagans, but there is good reason to argue that some elements may be closer to Christianity, in so far as paganism became Neopaganism through the mediation of Christianity.  The Horned God (like the Triple Goddess) is a good example of this.  Insofar as the Horned God is a modern re-paganization of medieval Christian devil imagery by Jules Michelet and Margaret Murray, it is once removed from the Christian Devil, but *twice* removed from any ancient pagan horned god.

  • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

    To me, Wicca is it’s own religion.  It is not a heretical Christian religion even if you find its roots there; it not longer considers itself part of such a culture, even if it ever did.  Modern scholars and practitioners alike do not treat it as such.  Just because Wicca involves syncretism with monotheistic practices, that does not make it Pagan.  To me, what makes me a Northern Tradition Pagan, a Christian a Christian, a Wiccan a Wiccan, etc. is the theological and cosmological framework in which each one of us works.  They are wholly different.

    I think it’s fine that we can borrow from one another.  I have no problems adopting old songs and prayers I sang as a Catholic and setting them to new lyrics and words.  I think it’s fine that Wicca borrowed the Watchtowers from Enochian magic and Christianity.  If Christians want to seidh to connect to their God, well, that would be interesting to see how they work with such a practice, but if that’s their schtick more power to them.  They’re not claiming what I am, and I’m not claiming what they are.  

    Not every bit of each others’ practice may fit into the others, but syncretism has been practiced for a long, long time.  

    As to your questions, I would say some iterations of Wicca have combined the Virgin and Magdalen and set her in the stars.  I would also say some have given the Devil pipes and let him loose in the wild.  Some people do, essentially, treat their Wicca as a kind of earth-friendly/oriented Satanism, in which they are the star players, and the Gods they pretend to worship simply help them along whenever asked or called to circle.  

    Others treat the Goddess and God as how I was taught They are: multifaceted Beings, containing the All That Is between Them, worthy of respect and reverence.  I think it really does come down to how one treats their Gods, how one interacts with Them, and the theological framework within which those relationships are based, that determines what you practice moreso than the word you use to describe yourself.  What you live is what you are: if you see the Goddess and God as part of a whole Being in which we are all encompassed, and treat Them as such, then you are practicing Wiccan theology even if you don’t call yourself that.

    I think you’re free to call yourself what you wish, but I am free to call what I see as a spade, a spade.  

    As I see it, Wicca is Pagan, and a modern iteration of it that came at a time when it was sorely needed.  It is a viable religious path, despite it being maligned at times by other Pagans, and one who has many followers I personally respect.  I came to Paganism through eclectic Wicca, and I respect Wicca for the role it has played in my life, even if I have gone on to another path.  As I see it, Wicca itself is not a gentler, kinder, more fanciful Satanism.  Wicca is it’s own thing, and while it does have a love of hedonism built into it (and I find this a good thing; we are still much too uptight in American society for enjoying ourselves) it is a responsible hedonism that asks you balance your own pleasures against others’ wants and needs.  

    I would not say that Wicca is the staunch survival of polytheism, but rather, a revolution of mindset that, through Gardner and others’ visions have evolved to meet the spiritual needs of its followers and strives to evolve in its everyday, as well as long vision.  Not everyone who follows a path seeks its evolution; some seek its comfort, and there’s a million other reasons, I’m sure, that people follow Wicca their whole lives.  What I see has helped it survived is the religion’s willingness to adapt and change as new information comes along, as new thoughts come along, and as new understandings about its foundations come along.  I hope that ability to question never fades, from Wicca, or any of its Pagan coreligionists.  

    The rise of popular Wicca, I would say, is something that a Catholic priest (I don’t recall if he was mine but I think it was) said to me on why people leave the Church: “People are spiritually thirsty, and they follow where the water leads them.”  He seemed at peace with that, and it taught me to look at people in other religions in a new light.  I don’t think the founders of Wicca knew it would explode like it did, but I am glad it did.

    I think that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to the question of keeping or rejecting Abrahamic elements, excepting that it makes sense within the group or person’s spiritual framework.  If you believe that all Gods and Goddesses are contained with your God and Goddess, then I see no reason to not call on Abrahamic elements, seeing as how Yahweh is part of your God.  If you don’t believe that Yahweh is a part of your God, then that presents some interesting questions: why?  Is Yahweh a God (or not) because He is (or is not) part of your God?  Where does He fit into your spiritual framework, if anywhere?  If He has no place in your spiritual framework, how is that determined?  How do you determine which Gods to accept and which Gods to reject as part of your God?  A similar set of questions could be posed with the Goddess, such as in the case of Lillith or Asherah.

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

      Not everyone believes All Gods are one God, all Goddesses one Goddess.

      • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

        Agreed, but that was something that, during my time as a Wiccan, that was emphasized.  I have to speak in generalities because I only have my own experiences, understanding, and what books I have read to go off of.  I don’t pretend to speak for the whole of Wicca; I’m not Wiccan.  However, I see that duotheism is usually a core Wiccan tenet both in its practice, and in what I have read.

        • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

          I have run across multiple duotheisms within the Craft over the years:

          * All Gods are one God, all Goddesses one Goddess.

          * There are many gods, but we worship the gods of the Wica, whom we call the Lady and the Lord (at least in public).

          *  There are many gods, but we always call one goddess and one god per ritual.

          (Can anyone think of any duotheisms that I’m missing?)

          Individuals may blur some of these together, and most traditional Wiccan covens don’t require their initiates to accept a particular duotheism.  As Jon Hanna points out below, covenmates often don’t even know what each other think about this.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        Star, what does your tradition of Wicca believe about the unity/multiplicity of divinity?  I take it from some of your previous posts that you are a hard polytheist.

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

          We are monotheistic, pantheistic and polytheistic. We don’t believe there is one correct way of viewing the divine.

          I am a hard polytheist myself, and feel very much at home in my traditions view of the Gods. Perhaps, it’s not what you believe about the Gods, but how you treat them that counts?

          • http://www.facebook.com/fernwise Fern Bernstein-Miller

            Maybe it’s more how you serve them than how you treat them.

            I like to serve them with a cream sauce.  And a side of fava beans.

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

            Gee thanks Fern. Now I want chianti.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000892067766 Anne Hatzakis

            I’ll send you a nice site for wines sometime. In the meantime, I think Dionysus prefers a pinot noir.

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

            Pinot Noir = win!

          • http://www.facebook.com/fernwise Fern Bernstein-Miller

            Maybe it’s more how you serve them than how you treat them.

            I like to serve them with a cream sauce.  And a side of fava beans.

          • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

            I’d be of like mind here. I’m a hard polytheist, but my tradition will tolerate other views (having a tradition that addresses our gods, rather than a doctrine about their nature). I also take a relatively literal interpretation of the tradition (we work with a specific god and goddess whose names are kept secret) but my upline includes people who were very influential in the popularity of Fortune’s formulation on the nature of the divine within both trad and recent Wicca. People I work with think differently to me, and I don’t even know the views of all of them.

          • http://twitter.com/shetakaey Sheta Kaey

            I consider myself panentheistic, but I cut my teeth on Qabalah. ;) I mention this only because you didn’t include it in your list.

            Out of curiosity, is there a lot of switching among individuals between mono- and polytheism? I can reconcile pantheism with polytheism, or pantheism with monotheism, but not so much the “one god” and “many gods” views. I think of Wicca as inherently duo-/polytheistic. I’m having a hard time even conceiving of Wicca as monotheistic, regardless of pantheism or animism that might be applied to it.

          • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

            Something some people like to trot out is that Dion Fortune once wrote, “All gods are one god, and all goddesses are one goddess, and there is one initiator.”  

            If one holds to that belief, then, in essence, one is technically monotheistic.  (though I suppose that depends on one’s definition of “initiator”, huh?  Duotheistic, at least, anyway.)

            Of course, this goes into the whole matter of soft polytheism vs. hard polytheism (and degrees between the two), what place gnosis has in Paganism and various other things which could all quite easily be as ~ahem~ lively a discussion as this has been.  :)

      • Dana Corby

        Thank you, Star! I’m among the ‘no, They’re not” camp. In fact, if I were a Goddess (or God) I think I’d be offended — what am I, a paperclip?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

      “I would also say some have given the Devil pipes and let him loose in the wild.”

      In his *Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles*, professor Hutton refers to the Neopagan Horned God as Margaret Murray’s “paganization of the Christian Devil”.  We Pagans like to emphasize the similarities of our beliefs to those of ancient Pagans, but there is good reason to argue that some elements may be closer to Christianity, in so far as paganism became Neopaganism through the mediation of Christianity.  The Horned God (like the Triple Goddess) is a good example of this.  Insofar as the Horned God is a modern re-paganization of medieval Christian devil imagery by Jules Michelet and Margaret Murray, it is once removed from the Christian Devil, but *twice* removed from any ancient pagan horned god.

  • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

    I think you’re overstating the Christian influence upon Wicca.

    Still, since it’s normally understated, that’s quite refreshing!

    There are more ways in which we are unlike Christianity, than like it, and most of what came to us via Christianity, wasn’t mainline and wasn’t Christian in origin either. It’s an artefact not of Christianity, but of the past two thousand years of Western culture, of which the role of Christianity was immense (including on ideas that Christians and non-Christians alike would like to distance from Christianity).

    After all, you started with the watchtowers as your example. It’s not like the image of a watchtower at each of four quarters is something that brings you close to Christian orthodoxy! It’s pretty unheard of in over 99.99% of Christian practice and belief, and also not of solely Christian origin in itself.

    I do think it’s also true that we don’t match what a lot of people want paganism to be too. I’m pretty okay with that, a paganism where all of it matches what everyone wants sounds horrifically homogeneous to me.

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

      I overemphasized on purpose to spur discussion. :)

      • Kyul

        It seems as though you’re ignoring all of the valid comments and attacking anyone less versed on the subject :)

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

          Actually, most of the “Likes” on comments come from me. If you like, I’ll post a spate of “me too” comments.

      • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

        To take the discussion in a different direction. What about this way of looking at a tradition, not in the BTW fashion as a tradition first and foremost, but in the neopagan fashion as an expression of a philosophy and theology* which one may then measure the tradition by and adjust if necessary. That’s pretty Protestant, really. Here we have an influence not just of artefacts of Christendom (and again, many of which are in themselves pagan or at least not purely Christian in origin) but rather the influence of Reformation theology. Likewise in much of what is relatively recent to modern paganism we can see the influence of North American Protestant (particularly the less mainline denominations) criticisms of Catholicism and Anglicanism and North American Protestant ideas about what a religion is, how it functions, and what its purpose is:

        1. Emphasis on doctrine rather than tradition (repeats what I say above, but it has other effects on neopaganism besides that).
        2. Rejection of hierarchy within a priesthood.
        3. Emphasis on the ability of anyone to be a priest without years of training or claims to a succession.
        4. Strong importance placed upon state recognition of denominations and ministers.
        5. Extreme proliferation of denominations, to the extent that each coven or grove becomes essentially its own tradition (just as each church becomes essentially its own denomination in much of US Protestantism).
        6. Strong emphasis upon activism as an expression of the religious ideal (mainly social for the Protestants and environmental from the Pagans, but both seen doing both – the comparison is closer if we look more at 19th than 20th Century Protestants).
        7. Emphasis upon personal experience over any mediating role.
        8. Claims of links to an ancient tradition, but great suspicion of more recent traditions.

        The fifth in particular is interesting to the European prespective; it both stands as the way that North American (esp. US) Protestantism is most immediately unlike that of Europe, and the way that North American (esp. US) paganism is most immediately unlike that of Europe. Particularly in comparison to the Pretanic Isles, which was where the forms of modern paganism that most came to influence later paganism (Wicca and Druidry) came from. The, Southern Baptist, Doctrine of Soul Competency may be the religious idea with the greatest influence on 21st Century paganism.

        Now, this isn’t particularly surprising. Some are things that earlier modern paganism certainly had the seeds of: Our hierarchies are not catholic – that is universal – hierarchies, our training may take years but its still not quite as intense as that for the mainline Christian churches (an effect ironically of the lack of doctrinal uniformity), we have a strong emphasis on personal experience – just that we also have an element not so much of mediating role as of shared mediating actions to provoke this – and the claims to links to ancient tradition is right there in the beginning (though less often believed as literally true today).

        From that point on, North American pagans are operating in a socioreligious paradigm that has both shaped and been shaped by the denominations of the Great Awakenings and further back to the rejection of Caesaropapism of the “Pilgrims”. There’s nothing terribly surprising in finding this influencing the way in which paganism developed in the decades since the British-originated traditions ceased to dominate the modern pagan landscape. It would be nothing short of amazing to find otherwise.

        It is an argument that some (though by no means all) neopagans take offence at, as the suggestion of Christian influence is seen as a suggestion of corruption or impurity** (or some less emotive word for something that just shouldn’t be there), but barring an approach that focuses purely upon the experiences of one tribe (i.e. reconstructionism) this objection to such foreign influences is yet again an example of a very Protestant way to think about religion.

        * Or thealogy if one really wants, but I’m sure that should mean either “study of theatre” or “study of spectacle” and the-ology isn’t gendered.

        ** Of course, some mesopagans take offence at the sort of Christian artefacts you pointed to. Personally I’ve little patience for either taking offence at what is essentially in both cases the idea that they are part of a relatively complicated movement with several different influences. Still, I’ve no wish to cause offence for the sake of it, so its something it is sometimes polite not to state too frequently.

  • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

    I think you’re overstating the Christian influence upon Wicca.

    Still, since it’s normally understated, that’s quite refreshing!

    There are more ways in which we are unlike Christianity, than like it, and most of what came to us via Christianity, wasn’t mainline and wasn’t Christian in origin either. It’s an artefact not of Christianity, but of the past two thousand years of Western culture, of which the role of Christianity was immense (including on ideas that Christians and non-Christians alike would like to distance from Christianity).

    After all, you started with the watchtowers as your example. It’s not like the image of a watchtower at each of four quarters is something that brings you close to Christian orthodoxy! It’s pretty unheard of in over 99.99% of Christian practice and belief, and also not of solely Christian origin in itself.

    I do think it’s also true that we don’t match what a lot of people want paganism to be too. I’m pretty okay with that, a paganism where all of it matches what everyone wants sounds horrifically homogeneous to me.

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

      I overemphasized on purpose to spur discussion. :)

      • Anonymous

        It seems as though you’re ignoring all of the valid comments and attacking anyone less versed on the subject :)

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

          Actually, most of the “Likes” on comments come from me. If you like, I’ll post a spate of “me too” comments.

      • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

        To take the discussion in a different direction. What about this way of looking at a tradition, not in the BTW fashion as a tradition first and foremost, but in the neopagan fashion as an expression of a philosophy and theology* which one may then measure the tradition by and adjust if necessary. That’s pretty Protestant, really. Here we have an influence not just of artefacts of Christendom (and again, many of which are in themselves pagan or at least not purely Christian in origin) but rather the influence of Reformation theology. Likewise in much of what is relatively recent to modern paganism we can see the influence of North American Protestant (particularly the less mainline denominations) criticisms of Catholicism and Anglicanism and North American Protestant ideas about what a religion is, how it functions, and what its purpose is:

        1. Emphasis on doctrine rather than tradition (repeats what I say above, but it has other effects on neopaganism besides that).
        2. Rejection of hierarchy within a priesthood.
        3. Emphasis on the ability of anyone to be a priest without years of training or claims to a succession.
        4. Strong importance placed upon state recognition of denominations and ministers.
        5. Extreme proliferation of denominations, to the extent that each coven or grove becomes essentially its own tradition (just as each church becomes essentially its own denomination in much of US Protestantism).
        6. Strong emphasis upon activism as an expression of the religious ideal (mainly social for the Protestants and environmental from the Pagans, but both seen doing both – the comparison is closer if we look more at 19th than 20th Century Protestants).
        7. Emphasis upon personal experience over any mediating role.
        8. Claims of links to an ancient tradition, but great suspicion of more recent traditions.

        The fifth in particular is interesting to the European prespective; it both stands as the way that North American (esp. US) Protestantism is most immediately unlike that of Europe, and the way that North American (esp. US) paganism is most immediately unlike that of Europe. Particularly in comparison to the Pretanic Isles, which was where the forms of modern paganism that most came to influence later paganism (Wicca and Druidry) came from. The, Southern Baptist, Doctrine of Soul Competency may be the religious idea with the greatest influence on 21st Century paganism.

        Now, this isn’t particularly surprising. Some are things that earlier modern paganism certainly had the seeds of: Our hierarchies are not catholic – that is universal – hierarchies, our training may take years but its still not quite as intense as that for the mainline Christian churches (an effect ironically of the lack of doctrinal uniformity), we have a strong emphasis on personal experience – just that we also have an element not so much of mediating role as of shared mediating actions to provoke this – and the claims to links to ancient tradition is right there in the beginning (though less often believed as literally true today).

        From that point on, North American pagans are operating in a socioreligious paradigm that has both shaped and been shaped by the denominations of the Great Awakenings and further back to the rejection of Caesaropapism of the “Pilgrims”. There’s nothing terribly surprising in finding this influencing the way in which paganism developed in the decades since the British-originated traditions ceased to dominate the modern pagan landscape. It would be nothing short of amazing to find otherwise.

        It is an argument that some (though by no means all) neopagans take offence at, as the suggestion of Christian influence is seen as a suggestion of corruption or impurity** (or some less emotive word for something that just shouldn’t be there), but barring an approach that focuses purely upon the experiences of one tribe (i.e. reconstructionism) this objection to such foreign influences is yet again an example of a very Protestant way to think about religion.

        * Or thealogy if one really wants, but I’m sure that should mean either “study of theatre” or “study of spectacle” and the-ology isn’t gendered.

        ** Of course, some mesopagans take offence at the sort of Christian artefacts you pointed to. Personally I’ve little patience for either taking offence at what is essentially in both cases the idea that they are part of a relatively complicated movement with several different influences. Still, I’ve no wish to cause offence for the sake of it, so its something it is sometimes polite not to state too frequently.

  • http://www.groveofthelion.com/ Adrian Hawkins

    I think and feel after reading both articles and all of the comments on each that this is what I feel and think. I’m hypothesizing here.

    I think that religion evolves. A religion survives. Ancient Europe was often a place of bloody war between countries, empires and nations. A tactic of those conquering nations (or religions) was to absorb the beliefs of the locales to appease them.

    Christianity absorbed many holidays from other religions (such as how Easter is mark by using a Jewish method) and certainly their is some evidence (acknowledged by people of both faiths) that paganism and Christianity have been members of the same club to say the least. Many people will cite the holidays mentioned about by others as an example. They survived there and adapted  and changed to the environment around them. When Wicca came about these things were more of a new branch on the tree of religion(I’m not finding the right word here, but I hope you get what I mean)

    I think just like the Christians before them, the Wiccan’s included some of the things that people were familiar with so that they would feel at home and comfortable while relaxed and open to the new ideas and concepts that were being presented.

    Maybe, just, maybe Wicca is a Christian heresy and Christianity is a heresy of Wicca ( and many other influences). As some might say “You have your Christianity in my Wicca”. or “No, you have your Wicca in my Christianity”.

    Either way this stew is a recipe I have enjoyed all my life and I think I will continue to enjoy. I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s responses and the new links and books I have to read.

  • http://www.elementforge.com Adrian Hawkins

    I think and feel after reading both articles and all of the comments on each that this is what I feel and think. I’m hypothesizing here.

    I think that religion evolves. A religion survives. Ancient Europe was often a place of bloody war between countries, empires and nations. A tactic of those conquering nations (or religions) was to absorb the beliefs of the locales to appease them.

    Christianity absorbed many holidays from other religions (such as how Easter is mark by using a Jewish method) and certainly their is some evidence (acknowledged by people of both faiths) that paganism and Christianity have been members of the same club to say the least. Many people will cite the holidays mentioned about by others as an example. They survived there and adapted  and changed to the environment around them. When Wicca came about these things were more of a new branch on the tree of religion(I’m not finding the right word here, but I hope you get what I mean)

    I think just like the Christians before them, the Wiccan’s included some of the things that people were familiar with so that they would feel at home and comfortable while relaxed and open to the new ideas and concepts that were being presented.

    Maybe, just, maybe Wicca is a Christian heresy and Christianity is a heresy of Wicca ( and many other influences). As some might say “You have your Christianity in my Wicca”. or “No, you have your Wicca in my Christianity”.

    Either way this stew is a recipe I have enjoyed all my life and I think I will continue to enjoy. I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s responses and the new links and books I have to read.

  • kenneth

    This is an interesting issue, and one that has rarely been raised as far as I can tell. I DID in fact drift away from traditional Wicca in large part because I felt too many ritual elements were simply aping Christianity. For the same reason I couldn’t find a home in ceremonial magick. I spent more than two years in a trad coven, got my First Degree and the whole bit, and learned some valuable technique. That said, it just simply makes no sense to me to be invoking Judeo-Christian entities and signing myself with a cross, Kabbalistic or otherwise.

    It’s all well and good to say “we use it with a different intent,” but I don’t quite buy that as a good reason for hanging onto what is clearly an alien import which was used to bridge the lack of historic pagan liturgy.  Why use a makeshift tool when the right one is now in reach? Using Judeo-Christian ritual elements and calling their powers is going to tend to bind yourself to them and to that mindset. You’re reinforcing deeply held cultural memory and childhood conditioning in a way that’s not going to be overcome simply by assigning some other intent at a conscious level. At best, you’ll manage to get better at operating a jury-rigged metaphysical machine of sorts. Or you’ll simply go through motions which are meaningless to you to keep the group dynamic flowing. The only “upside” I can see is being able to say you preserved some tradition passed down inerrantly from x and y lineage since (pick some improbable date in antiquity).  To me, that’s not a good enough reason. 

  • kenneth

    This is an interesting issue, and one that has rarely been raised as far as I can tell. I DID in fact drift away from traditional Wicca in large part because I felt too many ritual elements were simply aping Christianity. For the same reason I couldn’t find a home in ceremonial magick. I spent more than two years in a trad coven, got my First Degree and the whole bit, and learned some valuable technique. That said, it just simply makes no sense to me to be invoking Judeo-Christian entities and signing myself with a cross, Kabbalistic or otherwise.

    It’s all well and good to say “we use it with a different intent,” but I don’t quite buy that as a good reason for hanging onto what is clearly an alien import which was used to bridge the lack of historic pagan liturgy.  Why use a makeshift tool when the right one is now in reach? Using Judeo-Christian ritual elements and calling their powers is going to tend to bind yourself to them and to that mindset. You’re reinforcing deeply held cultural memory and childhood conditioning in a way that’s not going to be overcome simply by assigning some other intent at a conscious level. At best, you’ll manage to get better at operating a jury-rigged metaphysical machine of sorts. Or you’ll simply go through motions which are meaningless to you to keep the group dynamic flowing. The only “upside” I can see is being able to say you preserved some tradition passed down inerrantly from x and y lineage since (pick some improbable date in antiquity).  To me, that’s not a good enough reason. 

  • kenneth

    That said, no I wouldn’t characterize Wicca as a “Christian heresy.” Heretical movements, in general, accept the core beliefs and pantheon of the parent religion, but part ways on key matters of authority and interpretation.  Christian heretics have, so far as I can tell, always accepted the basic premise of Christianity – ie Christ and the need for salvation. Mostly the heresies varied in who or what they considered Christ to be and what was needed for salvation, who or what stood as the legitimate earthly authorities etc. So we’re not heretics, but we did appropriate heavily from Christian tradition for some very cogent historical reasons. I’m not sure we have such good reasons for continuing to do so today.

  • kenneth

    That said, no I wouldn’t characterize Wicca as a “Christian heresy.” Heretical movements, in general, accept the core beliefs and pantheon of the parent religion, but part ways on key matters of authority and interpretation.  Christian heretics have, so far as I can tell, always accepted the basic premise of Christianity – ie Christ and the need for salvation. Mostly the heresies varied in who or what they considered Christ to be and what was needed for salvation, who or what stood as the legitimate earthly authorities etc. So we’re not heretics, but we did appropriate heavily from Christian tradition for some very cogent historical reasons. I’m not sure we have such good reasons for continuing to do so today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/juniperj Juniper Jeni

    Asking for people’s opinions and then rejecting their opinions is bully behaviour and does not create good discussion. Also that response to the person who said they did not want to get jumped one “I can take, so can you” classic bully type statement. Where is you empathy? Where do you allow room for people to share? Are you looking for discussion or do you just want people to agree with you?

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

      Yup, I’m heartless. This has generated fascinating discussion from people who disagree with me strongly, but I have ruthlessly trod over those with thoughtless or indefensible responses. You have me pegged.

    • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

      If one really believes that one will “be jumped on”, then why say anything?

      Frankly, to make an accusation that someone is refusing to enter into a fair debate, but refusing to enter into the debate oneself, seems a lot closer to an attempt to bully than anything else here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/juniperj Juniper Jeni

    Asking for people’s opinions and then rejecting their opinions is bully behaviour and does not create good discussion. Also that response to the person who said they did not want to get jumped one “I can take, so can you” classic bully type statement. Where is you empathy? Where do you allow room for people to share? Are you looking for discussion or do you just want people to agree with you?

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

      Yup, I’m heartless. This has generated fascinating discussion from people who disagree with me strongly, but I have ruthlessly trod over those with thoughtless or indefensible responses. You have me pegged.

    • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

      If one really believes that one will “be jumped on”, then why say anything?

      Frankly, to make an accusation that someone is refusing to enter into a fair debate, but refusing to enter into the debate oneself, seems a lot closer to an attempt to bully than anything else here.

  • LezlieKinyon

    Long and short answer: no.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1309881889 Lezlie Kinyon

    Long and short answer: no.

  • Rua Lupa

    Wow, I am very please to even read those questions as they are important to ask. I think that there will be an interesting variety of responses that might be worth a blog post in itself.

    What I am going to say is strictly my personal opinion, and I do not expect everyone to agree with me. I feel that Wicca (and many other neo-pagan paths, not all but many) is a break away path for ex-Abrahamic followers. That Wicca stems from Christians who questioned their path and decided that there should be a better way. And as a result looked to distant ancestors and ancient traditions for inspiration. The elements that sung to their hearts were incorporated into this new path. But because of being so entrenched in Christian doctrine in their lives, and in society, for so long, Christian elements persisted in the mind set and hence the practices in this new path. Further on into the present, it is easier to step away from Christian perspectives because our society is now not so entrenched and has become more secular. Not to mention our ease of learning about other paths throughout the world through the internet. Through this more free thinking time people are better able to reconstruct from what initiated their inspirations to begin with, and for creating entirely new ways of doing things that are free from Christian Doctrine in subconsciousness.

    There is nothing wrong with Wicca and its way of doing things, it was and still is a jumping point from Christian thinking to a whole new world view. I think that without Wicca and Paganism in general, it would be very difficult for questioning Christians (and other Abrahamic paths) to conceive of different ways of doing and seeing things. But, in all honesty, I can see in a few more generations that Wicca, and similar counterparts, will cease to be prevalent. As there may very well be no psychological need for these paths to aid in changing the mindset of a Christian world, because there may very well be no Christian Dominion anymore. That in that new day, there will be bountiful diversity of paths that were already in the regions before conversion, that have evolved and become native in the regions, or have returned to the indigenous ways in their regions. This is what I can foresee, and this is what I perceive to be the beginnings of now. 

  • Rua Lupa

    Wow, I am very please to even read those questions as they are important to ask. I think that there will be an interesting variety of responses that might be worth a blog post in itself.

    What I am going to say is strictly my personal opinion, and I do not expect everyone to agree with me. I feel that Wicca (and many other neo-pagan paths, not all but many) is a break away path for ex-Abrahamic followers. That Wicca stems from Christians who questioned their path and decided that there should be a better way. And as a result looked to distant ancestors and ancient traditions for inspiration. The elements that sung to their hearts were incorporated into this new path. But because of being so entrenched in Christian doctrine in their lives, and in society, for so long, Christian elements persisted in the mind set and hence the practices in this new path. Further on into the present, it is easier to step away from Christian perspectives because our society is now not so entrenched and has become more secular. Not to mention our ease of learning about other paths throughout the world through the internet. Through this more free thinking time people are better able to reconstruct from what initiated their inspirations to begin with, and for creating entirely new ways of doing things that are free from Christian Doctrine in subconsciousness.

    There is nothing wrong with Wicca and its way of doing things, it was and still is a jumping point from Christian thinking to a whole new world view. I think that without Wicca and Paganism in general, it would be very difficult for questioning Christians (and other Abrahamic paths) to conceive of different ways of doing and seeing things. But, in all honesty, I can see in a few more generations that Wicca, and similar counterparts, will cease to be prevalent. As there may very well be no psychological need for these paths to aid in changing the mindset of a Christian world, because there may very well be no Christian Dominion anymore. That in that new day, there will be bountiful diversity of paths that were already in the regions before conversion, that have evolved and become native in the regions, or have returned to the indigenous ways in their regions. This is what I can foresee, and this is what I perceive to be the beginnings of now. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenazfilan Kenaz Filan

    Is Wicca a Christian heresy?  No – but I’d argue that has only served to make its content and worldview all the more Christian.  I go into more detail on my blog. Suffice it to say that Wicca/Neopaganism generally sets itself up as the antidote to Christianity, not the perfected form.  Suffice more to say that this “rejection” of Christian images and ideas has often not been accompanied by an internal inventory and an attempt to get past Christian preconceptions and prejudices.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenazfilan Kenaz Filan

    Is Wicca a Christian heresy?  No – but I’d argue that has only served to make its content and worldview all the more Christian.  I go into more detail on my blog. Suffice it to say that Wicca/Neopaganism generally sets itself up as the antidote to Christianity, not the perfected form.  Suffice more to say that this “rejection” of Christian images and ideas has often not been accompanied by an internal inventory and an attempt to get past Christian preconceptions and prejudices.  

  • http://twitter.com/dmkraig Donald Michael Kraig

    I love all the comments and differing views. I’d like to present a slightly different one based on my university major, philosophy. In philosophy there is something called a logical fallacy. This argument suffers from the fallacy know, in Latin as “post hoc ergo propter hoc” which means, “after this, therefore because of this.” To translate into understandable English, the basic idea of the argument is that because Wicca came after Christianity and has some similarities in places, Christianity must be the source of Wicca. 

    By this line of argument—B comes after A and has similarities to A, therefore A must be the source of B—there is no such thing as a “Judeo-Christian” tradition, only a “Judeo-Christian-Islamic-Satanic-Wiccan” tradition! [The concept of a Judeo-Christian tradition is also a farce, but that's another subject creep.]

    To show that B came from A, or in this case that Wicca is derived from and a heresy of Christianity, you’d have to show a direct link, not merely a similarity and relative dating. So far I’ve only seen implications and no direct links.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fernwise Fern Bernstein-Miller

      And, Correlation does not equal causation. Sometimes different religions/structures include the same things because they speak to the same part of the human/whatever system.

  • http://twitter.com/dmkraig Donald Michael Kraig

    I love all the comments and differing views. I’d like to present a slightly different one based on my university major, philosophy. In philosophy there is something called a logical fallacy. This argument suffers from the fallacy know, in Latin as “post hoc ergo propter hoc” which means, “after this, therefore because of this.” To translate into understandable English, the basic idea of the argument is that because Wicca came after Christianity and has some similarities in places, Christianity must be the source of Wicca. 

    By this line of argument—B comes after A and has similarities to A, therefore A must be the source of B—there is no such thing as a “Judeo-Christian” tradition, only a “Judeo-Christian-Islamic-Satanic-Wiccan” tradition! [The concept of a Judeo-Christian tradition is also a farce, but that's another subject creep.]

    To show that B came from A, or in this case that Wicca is derived from and a heresy of Christianity, you’d have to show a direct link, not merely a similarity and relative dating. So far I’ve only seen implications and no direct links.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fernwise Fern Bernstein-Miller

      And, Correlation does not equal causation. Sometimes different religions/structures include the same things because they speak to the same part of the human/whatever system.

  • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

    It’s something Maxine has been going on about lately, as I understand it, but that’s second hand, so take it with the requisite mass of sodium chloride.

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

      Maxine Sanders? After reading her autobiography I thought she pretty much retired from everything…

      • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

        For some values of lately, I guess.  I know she attended the Day for Doreen (two years ago, now) and was on about it then.

  • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

    It’s something Maxine has been going on about lately, as I understand it, but that’s second hand, so take it with the requisite mass of sodium chloride.

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

      Maxine Sanders? After reading her autobiography I thought she pretty much retired from everything…

      • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

        For some values of lately, I guess.  I know she attended the Day for Doreen (two years ago, now) and was on about it then.

  • Outdoorphanatic

    The chritian and egyptian are based on zoroastrianism… The chritians piggy backed off tbe pagan holidays… The articles argument are weak at best….

  • Outdoorphanatic

    The chritian and egyptian are based on zoroastrianism… The chritians piggy backed off tbe pagan holidays… The articles argument are weak at best….

  • Goblinboy60660

    My dad, a scoutmaster for years, would probably have a heart attack at that statement! :D

  • Goblinboy60660

    My dad, a scoutmaster for years, would probably have a heart attack at that statement! :D

  • Drakonyx

    I think we, as a Western society, are obsessed with labels and categories. I personally think Wicca is an amalgam. Because Christianity in the Dark Ages worked so hard to wipe out any vestiges of its predecessors, much was lost, and neo-Pagan religions had to reconstruct things the best they could. Some elements were borrowed from Christianity, of course, since it held the broadest selection of traditions available.

    Some of those traditions, however, had been borrowed by Christianity from Pagans before that. Much of Catholicism’s success can be attributed to its ability to absorb and adapt to the pre-Christian traditions it supplanted. Now Wicca is, to some extent, using the same approach. That’s natural. Wiccans who like to claim they live in a glass bubble and that everything about them is original and “undefiled” by Christianity are as naive as Christians who say all of their beliefs are somehow unique and original.
    The saying attributed to Solomon is all too true: There’s nothing new under the sun.

  • Drakonyx

    I think we, as a Western society, are obsessed with labels and categories. I personally think Wicca is an amalgam. Because Christianity in the Dark Ages worked so hard to wipe out any vestiges of its predecessors, much was lost, and neo-Pagan religions had to reconstruct things the best they could. Some elements were borrowed from Christianity, of course, since it held the broadest selection of traditions available.

    Some of those traditions, however, had been borrowed by Christianity from Pagans before that. Much of Catholicism’s success can be attributed to its ability to absorb and adapt to the pre-Christian traditions it supplanted. Now Wicca is, to some extent, using the same approach. That’s natural. Wiccans who like to claim they live in a glass bubble and that everything about them is original and “undefiled” by Christianity are as naive as Christians who say all of their beliefs are somehow unique and original.
    The saying attributed to Solomon is all too true: There’s nothing new under the sun.

  • Dinydee

    My understanding is that Christian Holidays were aligned with pagan holidays in an attemp during the (King James Era?) to convert Pagans to christianity. And since Paganism predates christianity and Wicca is just a revival of the old religion then would not the mother and ever resurrecting fathe have been adapted  from paganism to christianity?

    • http://thesatyrsthicket.blogspot.com Nicholas Farrell

      Such as Dionysus or Horus who predate christianity by millenia.

  • Dinydee

    My understanding is that Christian Holidays were aligned with pagan holidays in an attemp during the (King James Era?) to convert Pagans to christianity. And since Paganism predates christianity and Wicca is just a revival of the old religion then would not the mother and ever resurrecting fathe have been adapted  from paganism to christianity?

    • http://thesatyrsthicket.blogspot.com Nicholas Farrell

      Such as Dionysus or Horus who predate christianity by millenia.

  • Fox_mulder

    This more true than acceppted no less. Anything Based on the works of Gardner aNd in turn. Buckland are nothing more than Christian concepts on witchcraft. It shows strong in the concepts and the redemption rule(s) that have been brought in in order for Christians to accept a wiccan because in reality a wiccan has no real power. However a true witch which ignores the Christian power over wiccan beliefs is the one who is in control. We lose the control once a witch bows down to the Christian influence and realizes that the whole “do as thy will, but harm none” was merely a rule that was put in as a way to keep the Christian church h from tying ourkind to a stake and burning us again. A new dawn of witchcraft fundamentalist are being brought forth, and more importantly on the matter we are teaching our young to ignore the Christians as they are weak willed and true evil. The ideas of “the peaceful pagan” is nonthing more than a myth by people who just wish to sit next to a tree and smoke po but do not wish to ask for forgiveness the following Sunday in church. It is becoming a time Mordred and more for witches to stand up with pride against the Christians for their paranoid and rude ways.

  • Fox_mulder

    This more true than acceppted no less. Anything Based on the works of Gardner aNd in turn. Buckland are nothing more than Christian concepts on witchcraft. It shows strong in the concepts and the redemption rule(s) that have been brought in in order for Christians to accept a wiccan because in reality a wiccan has no real power. However a true witch which ignores the Christian power over wiccan beliefs is the one who is in control. We lose the control once a witch bows down to the Christian influence and realizes that the whole “do as thy will, but harm none” was merely a rule that was put in as a way to keep the Christian church h from tying ourkind to a stake and burning us again. A new dawn of witchcraft fundamentalist are being brought forth, and more importantly on the matter we are teaching our young to ignore the Christians as they are weak willed and true evil. The ideas of “the peaceful pagan” is nonthing more than a myth by people who just wish to sit next to a tree and smoke po but do not wish to ask for forgiveness the following Sunday in church. It is becoming a time Mordred and more for witches to stand up with pride against the Christians for their paranoid and rude ways.

  • Delia
  • Delia
  • http://twitter.com/antitheistangie ajackson

    Since most Christian holidays are really Pagan holidays renamed, can we say Christianity is nothing more than Pagan heresy? What – no? You find that offensive and an overly simplistic view of a religious tradition I know little about?

    Huh, and here that’s what I was thinking about your write-up. 

  • http://twitter.com/antitheistangie ajackson

    Since most Christian holidays are really Pagan holidays renamed, can we say Christianity is nothing more than Pagan heresy? What – no? You find that offensive and an overly simplistic view of a religious tradition I know little about?

    Huh, and here that’s what I was thinking about your write-up. 

  • http://thesatyrsthicket.blogspot.com Nicholas Farrell

    Keep in mind that Christianity originally based it’s own holidays on pagan holidays at the time. With that said, it seems to me that Wicca originally was an attempt to peel back the christian coating. On a personal level, I as a wiccan do not believe in sin, therefore I do not have need of salvation, only forgiveness and a willingness to learn and be humble when I have done something wrong (there is sometimes a difference between what is wrong and the christian concept of sin).

  • http://thesatyrsthicket.blogspot.com Nicholas Farrell

    Keep in mind that Christianity originally based it’s own holidays on pagan holidays at the time. With that said, it seems to me that Wicca originally was an attempt to peel back the christian coating. On a personal level, I as a wiccan do not believe in sin, therefore I do not have need of salvation, only forgiveness and a willingness to learn and be humble when I have done something wrong (there is sometimes a difference between what is wrong and the christian concept of sin).

  • http://twitter.com/WiccanPope Vidian Lawrence

    True Christianity is Wicca. Wicca means “The Craft of the Wise.” Proverbs 8 in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible teaches of the Birth Mother Goddess Wisdom. Early Judaic Christians, and Solomon believed She was the Consort of Jehovah. Together in marriage They are One God. Her name in Greek is Sophia. This explains, “Let Us make man in Our image.” Jehovah was talking to His Wife Wisdom. She said, “The Lord possessed me BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH.” In Proverbs 8. John 17:24 Christ said, “Father You loved Me BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH.” Sophia says, “Come eat my bread and drink my wine.” In Proverbs 8. Christ is the Goddess Wisdom of Proverbs 8 incarnate in a man. The Point is Wicca is the Craft of the Wise. One CANNOT be WISE without GODDESS WISDOM. http://wiccanpope.com/ teaches more.

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

      WiccanPope.com simply disheartens me, for personal reasons, but I’m happy you’ve found a path that works for you.

      I think most Christians would disagree with you, and calling anything “true” isn’t very Wiccan.

  • JoOrton

    Reading this article, it sounded almost like some attempt to proselytize.  Wicca is not Christian. The God is not “Satan” and Pan is not “The Devil” after somebody (who?) has “given him pipes.” The holidays this author is claiming Wicca “took” from Christianity are in fact based on older, Pagan holidays. The fact that Christianity later took them and added their own spin is incidental. 

    The author might want to do a little research, though I suspect the goal of this article was more to be controversial than to actually make a real point. Pan existed well before Christianity, and “the Devil” was made to look like him in order to discredit him. Star Goddesses existed well before the Virgin Mary was dreamed up; indeed, the popular Catholic image of Mary looks quite similar to the Egyptian Goddess Isis.

    You could make a much better argument that Christianity was *really* a form of Pagan “heresy” since it borrows its entire mythology from earlier myths, including that of Isis, Osiris, and Set. That would be missing the point however. Wicca is not Christian “heresy” any more than Christianity is Pagan “heresy” for the fact that they are different religions and cannot be graded based upon each other. Religions and gods have been influenced by each other and given different culture spins by people probably since time began.  That does not mean that they are all the same thing.

    Most people in the western world grew up Christian, so it’s no surprise that the founders of modern occultism did, too. To use that to claim that Wicca is really Christianity, though, is just plain silly and whoever would imagine such a thing has no understanding of Wicca (or of Christianity for that matter.) I suggest more history books, and less histrionic accusations, are in order for the author of this really very silly bit of fluff.

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

       This post prompted truly fascinating conversation that didn’t stoop to insulting it’s author.


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