Why I Love Wicca

I am a Wiccan. Wicca is a form of religious Witchcraft, and I love it dearly. I didn’t always love it. For a few years I desperately tried to find another Pagan path that spoke to me. Yet I came back to Wicca, though at the time I was not enamoured of it’s history and skeptical of it’s theology. I was an eclectic solitary Wiccan, now a traditional Craft student, and soon to be an initiate of a Wiccan tradition.

Ycco Wikimedia CC Lic.

Consider the Rede: An it harm none, do what ye will. It’s like a little flower, a Zen koan, an absurd little jewel that contains the core of Wicca within it. One one extreme it will lead you to believe you have free license to behave boorishly, on the other extreme it seems to trap you in paralytical inaction. Yet it’s lesson lies in balance, in polarity, that divine tension that lies between two extremes. The answer always lies in moderation, in harmony. Purity is a myth, we are a mixture of all the elements, never wholly male or wholly female. Straight or gay is an extreme, when most people live along the Kinsey scale, or outside of it: bisexual, queer, transgender, intersex, girly men and macho women. All along the divine tension we live, between two extremes, finding our balance. Neither ignoring consequences, nor shunning need but recognizing and being mindful of the harm we cause merely by living. Finding the balance between give and take. An it harm none, do what ye will.

We are a religion of many sects, many cults, many expressions. From the “hard Gards” to the solitary eclectics weaving their own magic. We are each full of the same awe, wonder, mystery, and joy. We cast the circle, call the elements, honor the Gods, celebrate the Mystery and send our energy to make a positive change in the world. This happens in rituals containing hundreds of people. This happens silently in candlelit bedrooms of closeted solitaries. Our words may be different, our mythos vary and the details be different, but as Wiccans we are all calling forth the same Mystery. Maybe this Mystery is something passed down in secret from the ancient Pagans of England and Italy, maybe the distillation of the grimoire tradition, the torch of the Neo-Platonists passed down over the centuries, or a bit of divine inspiration as a goaty old man in England crafted a new Eleusis out of thin air.

We adore a Goddess as silvery as the moon, who despite her tough, craggy, pocked and cratered face shines with grace and beauty. Delicate and gentle in the night sky, those who underestimate her forget she can make the sea itself beat against the shore. She pours her love out upon the earth, on every sexual and gender identity, on every skin color, on every age, every level of ability. She gives us her acceptance and love, for we are born from her blessed, without blemish or sin. Then she charges us to make the absolute best we can with the current life we are given, to recognize our power and rise to every challenge, before we return to her, like a rain drop returning to the boundless sea. It is she who brings the dew, makes verdant the seed and excites all the earth to fecund glory. She is the changing woman, always moving, always perfectly herself and never quite who you expect.

We adore a God who is hunter and hunted, who is the dark forest and the baking desert, the deep blackness of death and decay and also the white hot heat of the blazing sun. He is the keeper of the dead and the guide to rebirth. Maybe you see him antlered, horned and hooved, as a crowned solar king, as a child of promise, as continually battling siblings, or as the dark lord of death. Maybe he is just that still point when you find the rhythm of your work, or the spark of vitality as you glide across the dance floor. He is the insistent drumbeat of the wild hunt, tearing through the night skies and dancing round a sacred bonfire, and the quiet stillpoint where you face your own darkness and mortality. He is the one who rises to fall, then in triumph to rise again.

Consider the Circle, this round temple under the night sky and beneath the radiant sun, this energetic expression of our worldview. The Circle surrounds us. It arcs over us, and dips below us. We are encapsulated by energy, both to keep our energy within, and to keep the spirit equivalents of “rubber-neckers” away. It takes a lot to build this Circle, to have all the pieces in place, and you really only notice that because when you begin to bring it down there is an energetic domino effect. You pull that energetic string or shift that energetic keystone and it all cascades down, returning to the earth. It’s really beautiful, this temple that is a place that is not a place, a time that is not a time, that is the same circle, that same shape, all the world over.

Consider the Elements: Air, Fire, Water and Earth. They are epic and primordial, deep and abiding. Honored since the Greeks, perhaps before, they form the gateways to all of nature. They speak to our bones. They provide a structure with which to understand ourselves and our relationship to all of nature. We seek our equilibrium, between the four ancient elements, seeking the balance which enables that fifth element, Spirit, to thrive, inspire, nuture and guide us.

I love that the symbol of our Will is a weapon which may not be used in violence, nor used for mundane work. Both as a representation of our indomitable spirit and a reminder of the Rule of Three, the athame is a reminder that to be tempered, to be sharp, to be strong and to be focused is not merely a physical discipline but a mental discipline as well.

This is what Wicca means to me. This is what I’m in love with, the dance, the tension, the sorrow and the joy. It’s what I discovered as a young girl that made me feel as if I’d finally come home. It’s the siren song of my own heart that called to me as a solitary, that informed my practice even when I shunned and mocked the very word Wicca. It’s what is now leading me to do something that I never thought I would do, be initiated into a tradition. A tradition that speaks the same language I do and loves this Craft as well.

This is what I believe:

1. That Wicca is a definable, unique and recognizable religion with myriad denominations and worthy of respect.

2. That it doesn’t matter if you adhere to one specific tradition or none, as long as you respect what you practice and don’t treat Wicca as a random collection of interchangeable parts that can be disposed of on a whim.

3. That this tradition VS. solitary dichotomy is false: anyone who practices Wicca with honesty and integrity is always welcome at my table.

4. If you feel the need to bend Wicca, to throw away the Gods, ignore the Elements, abandon the Circle and deride the Rede, then you’re not practicing Wicca and doing yourself a disservice when there are a wide variety of Pagan religions and practices to choose from.

5. If your practices, cosmology, tenets, and theology are Wiccan, and you shun the Wiccan label, then you need to consider your religious life, because you have incorporated a dishonesty into your practice.

Every tradition will define Wicca for itself, and every solitary will build a Wiccan practice which feeds and nurtures their soul. Yet just like other religions, it is the traditions which define the religion. Christianity is defined by the Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans and Eastern Orthodox traditions, not by the individual who rejects all the church traditions, the bible and the commandments, but still has “Jesus in their heart.”

I take Wicca seriously, partly because I’m a nerd, but also because I’m a religious person. I’m committed to the idea of continually learning and growing, constantly questioning and examining. Wicca doesn’t stop at The Spiral Dance, Living Wicca or Uncle Bucky’s Big Blue Book. If your religious practice can’t bear serious examination, then you better find a new one before the foundations start to crack. Wicca lives in the traditional teachings of my coven, in the pulsing, massive rituals at Pagan festivals and in the idiosyncratic circle I’ve cast since I was a teenager. Wicca is a journey, and I intend to both enjoy myself and learn along the way, while remaining dedicated to refusing stagnation and keep spiraling deeper in and wider out.

Maybe you think that makes me a Hasidic Wiccan.* Maybe you think I take things too seriously. Maybe you think my going from a solitary to an initiate makes me elitist. Maybe you think I’m mean because I believe an unexamined faith isn’t worth practicing. Maybe, like me, you think practicing the Craft of the Wise, whether alone or in a coven, means you are constantly searching for wisdom and that the journey isn’t for the half-hearted.

At any rate, I love Wicca. I love popular Wicca. I love traditional Wicca. When you love something, you defend it, and set a high standard for it. That’s how I see it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to follow a friend’s example and go hug a tree. Probably a cottonwood.

* I actually like the idea of being a Hasidic Wiccan. Probably because I’m a big fan of Matisyahu.

About Star Foster

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

  • http://twitter.com/whitestagforest Aine Llewellyn

    Great article.  I’m not Wiccan, but I love this piece.

  • http://twitter.com/whitestagforest Aine Llewellyn

    Great article.  I’m not Wiccan, but I love this piece.

  • Anna Greenflame

    Sharing with my group.

  • Anna Greenflame

    Sharing with my group.

  • http://sixty-seven.tumblr.com/ Charlie Jensen

    Good job equating trans and intersex people as something other than men and women when lots of us are men and women.

    What made you think that was a good idea, exactly?

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

      I didn’t do that. I said what we think of as male and female are not “pure” identities or even appropriate identities. There’s a spectrum, and everyone lives somewhere in the middle, not on any extreme end of a polarity.

      • http://sixty-seven.tumblr.com/ Charlie Jensen

        “bisexual, queer, transgender, intersex, girly men and macho women”

        Yeah, you just did that. You said that we can’t have male or female genders.

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

          I said NO ONE does. I essentially said gender binary is false.

          • http://sixty-seven.tumblr.com/ Charlie Jensen

            So you don’t understand how I’m hurt, offended, and disgusted to be told that my gender is false?

            Okay!

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

            At this point I think you’d be hurt, offended and disgusted if I said good morning.

          • http://sixty-seven.tumblr.com/ Charlie Jensen

            Glad to see that you’re an even shittier person than I thought you were.

            Protip: You can’t actually know what balance is without having any basic human sympathy or understanding.

            Done with you, though. I’ve heard that general your ~*~opinions~*~ >>>>>> my lived experience.

          • Cara

            What the hell is your problem????

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

            You just reminded me why I don’t read TS/TG blogs and fora anymore, sugar.

            Of course, you also made me feel better about my own reading skills and basic human understanding.

          • Matthaios

            Do you understand the word “binary”? Binary means “on/off” or “yes/no”…or, in this context, “Male/female”. I read what Star is saying as, “there is no just-male or just-female but a wide spectrum of in-between.” We all have both in varying degrees.

            Now, if you are saying you are both male and female…then you are proving Star’s point. She never called your gender “false.”

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

            Considering that I can guarantee you that most of them men you know are not big, hulking, emotionless-except-for-anger-and-pride, He-Men, and most of the women you know are not soft, delicate, quite, emotional rollercoasters who believe they are nothing if they aren’t married and popping out a succession of babies, I’d say Star is correct.  She’s not exactly saying that “men” and “women” as genders are non-existent, but that practically nobody exists on such extremes of gender that the gender binary is essentially useless.  Maybe she’s not worded herself in the best way, but you can choose to either be a literalist or to read between to lines.  Protip!  One option will help you understand what you just read better, and the other will be more likely to increase bloodpressure prematurely.

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

        I kinda got your intent, but I take issue with conflating gender identity with sexuality; the two are related, sure, but they’re both still very different things.  That and, as a TS person myself, I see TS and TG as two different things — for starters, TS people have easily-defined gender identities as being definitely on the opposite end of the spectrum of what they were assigned at birth.  To be transgender, on the other hand, is a catch-all term for transgressing normal gender identities or merely transgressing normal gender expressions; bigender people would be TG, but Christine Jourgensen was TS, Chaz Bono is TS but not apparently TG, while a trans man who maintains an effeminate appearance and/or demeanour would be.

        While I cannot deny that most people see themselves as having wholly male or wholly female genders, the reality is the majority of those people also have a distinctly feminine or masculine side, some people making theirs more apparent than others.  Jayne Mansfield and Mae West were brash, aggressive, and (for the time) treated men the way most of the male characters of MAD MEN treat women — yet these are actresses still lauded for their femininity.

    • http://twitter.com/whitestagforest Aine Llewellyn

      Usually I don’t mind when intersex, transgender, transsexual, gender queer people point out when something is offensive, being between genders myself and hopefully starting T soon…

      …but that comment just came off as nitpicky. To me, at least.

      • http://sixty-seven.tumblr.com/ Charlie Jensen

        Gee, excuse me for being hurt and offended. I’ll try not to do that next time, just for you!!!

  • http://sixty-seven.tumblr.com/ Charlie Sierra Whiskey

    Good job equating trans and intersex people as something other than men and women when lots of us are men and women.

    What made you think that was a good idea, exactly?

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

      I didn’t do that. I said what we think of as male and female are not “pure” identities or even appropriate identities. There’s a spectrum, and everyone lives somewhere in the middle, not on any extreme end of a polarity.

      • http://sixty-seven.tumblr.com/ Charlie Sierra Whiskey

        “bisexual, queer, transgender, intersex, girly men and macho women”

        Yeah, you just did that. You said that we can’t have male or female genders.

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

          I said NO ONE does. I essentially said gender binary is false.

          • http://sixty-seven.tumblr.com/ Charlie Sierra Whiskey

            So you don’t understand how I’m hurt, offended, and disgusted to be told that my gender is false?

            Okay!

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

            At this point I think you’d be hurt, offended and disgusted if I said good morning.

          • http://sixty-seven.tumblr.com/ Charlie Sierra Whiskey

            Glad to see that you’re an even shittier person than I thought you were.

            Protip: You can’t actually know what balance is without having any basic human sympathy or understanding.

            Done with you, though. I’ve heard that general your ~*~opinions~*~ >>>>>> my lived experience.

          • Cara

            What the hell is your problem????

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

            You just reminded me why I don’t read TS/TG blogs and fora anymore, sugar.

            Of course, you also made me feel better about my own reading skills and basic human understanding.

          • Matthaios

            Do you understand the word “binary”? Binary means “on/off” or “yes/no”…or, in this context, “Male/female”. I read what Star is saying as, “there is no just-male or just-female but a wide spectrum of in-between.” We all have both in varying degrees.

            Now, if you are saying you are both male and female…then you are proving Star’s point. She never called your gender “false.”

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

            Considering that I can guarantee you that most of them men you know are not big, hulking, emotionless-except-for-anger-and-pride, He-Men, and most of the women you know are not soft, delicate, quite, emotional rollercoasters who believe they are nothing if they aren’t married and popping out a succession of babies, I’d say Star is correct.  She’s not exactly saying that “men” and “women” as genders are non-existent, but that practically nobody exists on such extremes of gender that the gender binary is essentially useless.  Maybe she’s not worded herself in the best way, but you can choose to either be a literalist or to read between to lines.  Protip!  One option will help you understand what you just read better, and the other will be more likely to increase bloodpressure prematurely.

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

        I kinda got your intent, but I take issue with conflating gender identity with sexuality; the two are related, sure, but they’re both still very different things.  That and, as a TS person myself, I see TS and TG as two different things — for starters, TS people have easily-defined gender identities as being definitely on the opposite end of the spectrum of what they were assigned at birth.  To be transgender, on the other hand, is a catch-all term for transgressing normal gender identities or merely transgressing normal gender expressions; bigender people would be TG, but Christine Jourgensen was TS, Chaz Bono is TS but not apparently TG, while a trans man who maintains an effeminate appearance and/or demeanour would be.

        While I cannot deny that most people see themselves as having wholly male or wholly female genders, the reality is the majority of those people also have a distinctly feminine or masculine side, some people making theirs more apparent than others.  Jayne Mansfield and Mae West were brash, aggressive, and (for the time) treated men the way most of the male characters of MAD MEN treat women — yet these are actresses still lauded for their femininity.

    • http://twitter.com/whitestagforest Aine Llewellyn

      Usually I don’t mind when intersex, transgender, transsexual, gender queer people point out when something is offensive, being between genders myself and hopefully starting T soon…

      …but that comment just came off as nitpicky. To me, at least.

      • http://sixty-seven.tumblr.com/ Charlie Sierra Whiskey

        Gee, excuse me for being hurt and offended. I’ll try not to do that next time, just for you!!!

  • Chatnoir1957

    As always, you hit a home run with this entry. Thanks

  • Chatnoir1957

    As always, you hit a home run with this entry. Thanks

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

    [edit]This is in response to Charlie’s comment above. I don’t know why it didn’t nest under it :(

    Your tone sounds as if you think what she wrote was a purposeful and personal slight against you Charlie.  It probably wasn’t.  If we all waited until we were experts on everything before we wrote about them, nothing would ever be written, and becoming an expert at anything would be out of our grasp.

    Is there something about the nugget of that paragraph, “All along the divine tension we live, between two extremes, finding our balance.” that you disagree with?  Or is it that she enumerated the commonly perceived facets of that divine continuum that dazzled you away from it?  

    Balance, and a light touch are the essence of Wicca.  Are we to change and invalidate the whole message here because of what you zeroed in on, or is there something here that might make it worth consideration?  Is it irretrievable in the end?

    • http://sixty-seven.tumblr.com/ Charlie Jensen

      Intent is magical, right?

      “Your tone sounds as if you think what she wrote was a purposeful and personal slight against you Charlie.  It probably wasn’t”
      Seriously? I can’t even deal with the ridiculousness of this statement.I disagreed with trans and intersex people being their own category away from male and female. Not all of us are gender binary. Some of us are.”If we all waited until we were experts on everything before we wrote about them”Wait until you know enough to not be an jerk about something before you write about it.

      And yeah you can be an expert enough in something to NOT be a complete jerk.How is this a hard concept to grasp, exactly?

      • Exaltedunmelody

        Charlie, as another transperson who has a binary gender identity, I agree with your criticism. However, the reason people are arguing with you is not necessarily because of the point you raise, but because you’re throwing a fit over a relatively minor slight that’s totally unrelated to the point of the paragraph (not to mention the article as a whole) and lashing out at someone who probably meant no harm.

        It’s okay to speak up when you are hurt or offended. It’s not okay to initiate a cycle of blame.

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

          Can you explain to me how I caused offense? I’m being serious, not sarcastic.

          It seems to me as women produce testosterone and women produce estrogen, we are none of us “pure” in our gender. Gender extremes are to some degree cultural constructs. So we all fit along a continuum of various gender expressions and identities, although some would say they exist outside it, like people who identify as genderqueer.

          Where am I causing offense in this? Is it just clumsy wording on my part? Thanks.

          • kenneth

            I don’t see any problems, and I’m pretty well in tune with trans issues having had a friend in that position. There may be a distinction worth making between “gender” in the sense of how we identify our spirits with our biology in these bodies and gender as an understanding of masculine and feminine energy. When it comes to body and identity gender, the overwhelming majority of us do identify strongly as one or the other. In some folks, that concept does not happen to align with their biology, creating some challenging medical issues and even more challenging cultural issues.

             The ebb and flow of masculine and feminine energies within our core spirit is, and should be, considerably more dynamic. In my own tradition, we dedicate a considerable amount of work and concern to the idea that those forces should be celbrated and balanced at every level of creation.  Wicca attributes some very important magickal and existential attributes to masculine and feminine energies. The idea of polarities has always been a big deal going back at least to Gardner.

             One rub people have had with traditional Wicca is that they got a bit hung up on the idea that polarity could only be achieved by physical man-woman circles and initiations and that only heterosexuals could conduct a proper circle. I may be speaking out of turn here, but it’s my impression that concept has changed and grown some over the decades. I think Wicca, in general, has come to the recognition that masculine-feminine polarity exists or should exist even within individuals. In my own experience, I have been part of some damn effective circles that were not physical gender-balanced and at times have had Goddess speak through me. Conversely, I have seen women (who were not outwardly “butch” fulfill the priest role very aptly.

            I should also clarify something I said earlier. I was the one who called you a “Hasidic” Wiccan. I should emphasize I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s a point for outsiders to realize that Wicca has some traditions which are much more structured and rigorous than that writer happened to encounter. Initiatory trads are not bad or good. They are what they are. I too was drawn to it for a time and gained some things from it and learned that it was not to be my lifelong path. I have found some traditional groups to be elitist, but the same is true of plenty of solitaries.

             I’ve found that old-line trad leaders are at risk of taking themselves too seriously. On the other hand, many eclectics are at risk of not taking their craft seriously enough. My own tradition, which we identify as Wicca but which does not have direct lineage, aims for a balance in these qualities. We aim to take our craft very seriously and ourselves not at all. Is that the “right” way to be Wiccan?” No, it’s what’s right for us at our place in our journey. Your initiation, whether it carries you into a coven for three more years or 30, is what’s right for you if you know it to be where you belong. 

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

            Disclaimer:  I am not Charlie, so I can’t know exactly what is going through his head.

            I think what Charlie is reading into one isolated phrase is that you are claiming that *all* transgender folk identify as other than one of the binary genders.  As a third-gender person, I identify as other than binary genders, but Charlie does identify as one of them.  (I would assume, based on the name Charlie, that he identifies as a man.)

            It is problematic to include transgender in a list of binary-transgressive identities (“bisexual, queer, transgender, intersex, girly men and macho women”), since transgender includes both transgressive and binary identities.  However, if he had pointed that minor flaw in a non-shaming manner, I think we would all have been better off.

            On the other hand, arguments about hormones in the comment I’m replying to really goes off the rails, as it unintentionally privileges biology as the “essence” of gender, rather than identity or experience.

            In brief, you made a mistake in phrasing and then went on to a position that many folks would disagree with (that no-one really has a binary gender) on the other hand, Charlie is being intentionally nasty.  Guess who I’d rather invite over for a cup of tea?

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

            I’ll have to agree with those stating that physiology isn’t the essence of gender, it’s the essence of reproductive sex, and there is far more variation to that than what’s taught in grade-school biology textbooks.

            The essence of gender is experience — as you state, gender is largely a cultural construct (and genders are assigned based on apparent physiology at or shortly after birth), and so being a man or women in Senegal, for example, will mean something slightly, if not wildly different from what it means in Bangladesh and from what it means in Portland.  In Chinese tradition, cooking is a “male” art, largely taught to boys by men; in Anglo cultures, though, it is a “female” art largely taught to girls by women.  A TS man in Dallas, Texas, might eschew cooking in hopes of being regarded as more masculine, but a TS man in Shanghai might take it up in hopes of the same; their physiologies might be, essentially, the same, but their experiences as men differ based on culture — yet both are still no less men than non-TS men of their respective cultures.  Biology really has nothing to do with it.

            Now, if you were using biology as an analogy, that’s understandable, but it’s also kind of sloppy an analogy — at least to some-one who understands why the sexes have presence of both androgens and oestrogens in their bodies.  Male physiologies need some oestrogens because without that buffer, testosterone can rapidly become toxic to the body, and female physiologies need some testosterone to have a sex drive and maintain bone and muscle density, which are really needed for, at the very least, carrying a foetus (menopausal women typically get HRT in both oestrogens *and* androgens).  Hormones are clearly about more than just reproductive traits and secondary sex characteristics.

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

        Not all of us are gender binary. Some of us are.

        How many “binary gendered” people do you know who conform to every single conceivable stereotype associated with their gender?  I’ll give you a dollar for every single one you know.

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

      Your tone sounds as if you think what she wrote was a purposeful and personal slight against you Charlie.  It probably wasn’t.

      You know, you can argue with Charlie perfectly well without resorting to a tone argument.  While there is certainly something to be said for flies and honey, the reality is that flies will flock to a steaming pile of faeces, even if there is honey present, so there’s really no evidence that playing nice will get one anywhere in a debate, and the (sl)activist types I’m sure Charlie keeps close on-line and off are well aware of it, and even use it to their advantage.

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

    Your tone sounds as if you think what she wrote was a purposeful and personal slight against you Charlie.  It probably wasn’t.  If we all waited until we were experts on everything before we wrote about them, nothing would ever be written, and becoming an expert at anything would be out of our grasp.

    Is there something about the nugget of that paragraph, “All along the divine tension we live, between two extremes, finding our balance.” that you disagree with?  Or is it that she enumerated the commonly perceived facets of that divine continuum that dazzled you away from it?  

    Balance, and a light touch are the essence of Wicca.  Are we to change and invalidate the whole message here because of what you zeroed in on, or is there something here that might make it worth consideration?  Is it irretrievable in the end?

    • http://sixty-seven.tumblr.com/ Charlie Sierra Whiskey

      Intent is magical, right?

      “Your tone sounds as if you think what she wrote was a purposeful and personal slight against you Charlie.  It probably wasn’t”
      Seriously? I can’t even deal with the ridiculousness of this statement.I disagreed with trans and intersex people being their own category away from male and female. Not all of us are gender binary. Some of us are.”If we all waited until we were experts on everything before we wrote about them”Wait until you know enough to not be an jerk about something before you write about it.

      And yeah you can be an expert enough in something to NOT be a complete jerk.How is this a hard concept to grasp, exactly?

      • Exaltedunmelody

        Charlie, as another transperson who has a binary gender identity, I agree with your criticism. However, the reason people are arguing with you is not necessarily because of the point you raise, but because you’re throwing a fit over a relatively minor slight that’s totally unrelated to the point of the paragraph (not to mention the article as a whole) and lashing out at someone who probably meant no harm.

        It’s okay to speak up when you are hurt or offended. It’s not okay to initiate a cycle of blame.

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

          Can you explain to me how I caused offense? I’m being serious, not sarcastic.

          It seems to me as women produce testosterone and women produce estrogen, we are none of us “pure” in our gender. Gender extremes are to some degree cultural constructs. So we all fit along a continuum of various gender expressions and identities, although some would say they exist outside it, like people who identify as genderqueer.

          Where am I causing offense in this? Is it just clumsy wording on my part? Thanks.

          • kenneth

            I don’t see any problems, and I’m pretty well in tune with trans issues having had a friend in that position. There may be a distinction worth making between “gender” in the sense of how we identify our spirits with our biology in these bodies and gender as an understanding of masculine and feminine energy. When it comes to body and identity gender, the overwhelming majority of us do identify strongly as one or the other. In some folks, that concept does not happen to align with their biology, creating some challenging medical issues and even more challenging cultural issues.

             The ebb and flow of masculine and feminine energies within our core spirit is, and should be, considerably more dynamic. In my own tradition, we dedicate a considerable amount of work and concern to the idea that those forces should be celbrated and balanced at every level of creation.  Wicca attributes some very important magickal and existential attributes to masculine and feminine energies. The idea of polarities has always been a big deal going back at least to Gardner.

             One rub people have had with traditional Wicca is that they got a bit hung up on the idea that polarity could only be achieved by physical man-woman circles and initiations and that only heterosexuals could conduct a proper circle. I may be speaking out of turn here, but it’s my impression that concept has changed and grown some over the decades. I think Wicca, in general, has come to the recognition that masculine-feminine polarity exists or should exist even within individuals. In my own experience, I have been part of some damn effective circles that were not physical gender-balanced and at times have had Goddess speak through me. Conversely, I have seen women (who were not outwardly “butch” fulfill the priest role very aptly.

            I should also clarify something I said earlier. I was the one who called you a “Hasidic” Wiccan. I should emphasize I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s a point for outsiders to realize that Wicca has some traditions which are much more structured and rigorous than that writer happened to encounter. Initiatory trads are not bad or good. They are what they are. I too was drawn to it for a time and gained some things from it and learned that it was not to be my lifelong path. I have found some traditional groups to be elitist, but the same is true of plenty of solitaries.

             I’ve found that old-line trad leaders are at risk of taking themselves too seriously. On the other hand, many eclectics are at risk of not taking their craft seriously enough. My own tradition, which we identify as Wicca but which does not have direct lineage, aims for a balance in these qualities. We aim to take our craft very seriously and ourselves not at all. Is that the “right” way to be Wiccan?” No, it’s what’s right for us at our place in our journey. Your initiation, whether it carries you into a coven for three more years or 30, is what’s right for you if you know it to be where you belong. 

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

            Disclaimer:  I am not Charlie, so I can’t know exactly what is going through his head.

            I think what Charlie is reading into one isolated phrase is that you are claiming that *all* transgender folk identify as other than one of the binary genders.  As a third-gender person, I identify as other than binary genders, but Charlie does identify as one of them.  (I would assume, based on the name Charlie, that he identifies as a man.)

            It is problematic to include transgender in a list of binary-transgressive identities (“bisexual, queer, transgender, intersex, girly men and macho women”), since transgender includes both transgressive and binary identities.  However, if he had pointed that minor flaw in a non-shaming manner, I think we would all have been better off.

            On the other hand, arguments about hormones in the comment I’m replying to really goes off the rails, as it unintentionally privileges biology as the “essence” of gender, rather than identity or experience.

            In brief, you made a mistake in phrasing and then went on to a position that many folks would disagree with (that no-one really has a binary gender) on the other hand, Charlie is being intentionally nasty.  Guess who I’d rather invite over for a cup of tea?

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

            I’ll have to agree with those stating that physiology isn’t the essence of gender, it’s the essence of reproductive sex, and there is far more variation to that than what’s taught in grade-school biology textbooks.

            The essence of gender is experience — as you state, gender is largely a cultural construct (and genders are assigned based on apparent physiology at or shortly after birth), and so being a man or women in Senegal, for example, will mean something slightly, if not wildly different from what it means in Bangladesh and from what it means in Portland.  In Chinese tradition, cooking is a “male” art, largely taught to boys by men; in Anglo cultures, though, it is a “female” art largely taught to girls by women.  A TS man in Dallas, Texas, might eschew cooking in hopes of being regarded as more masculine, but a TS man in Shanghai might take it up in hopes of the same; their physiologies might be, essentially, the same, but their experiences as men differ based on culture — yet both are still no less men than non-TS men of their respective cultures.  Biology really has nothing to do with it.

            Now, if you were using biology as an analogy, that’s understandable, but it’s also kind of sloppy an analogy — at least to some-one who understands why the sexes have presence of both androgens and oestrogens in their bodies.  Male physiologies need some oestrogens because without that buffer, testosterone can rapidly become toxic to the body, and female physiologies need some testosterone to have a sex drive and maintain bone and muscle density, which are really needed for, at the very least, carrying a foetus (menopausal women typically get HRT in both oestrogens *and* androgens).  Hormones are clearly about more than just reproductive traits and secondary sex characteristics.

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

        Not all of us are gender binary. Some of us are.

        How many “binary gendered” people do you know who conform to every single conceivable stereotype associated with their gender?  I’ll give you a dollar for every single one you know.

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

      Your tone sounds as if you think what she wrote was a purposeful and personal slight against you Charlie.  It probably wasn’t.

      You know, you can argue with Charlie perfectly well without resorting to a tone argument.  While there is certainly something to be said for flies and honey, the reality is that flies will flock to a steaming pile of faeces, even if there is honey present, so there’s really no evidence that playing nice will get one anywhere in a debate, and the (sl)activist types I’m sure Charlie keeps close on-line and off are well aware of it, and even use it to their advantage.

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

    It’s a wonderful article Star.  Thank you.

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

    It’s a wonderful article Star.  Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Meical-AbAwen/100001820054006 Meical AbAwen

    Thank you, Star

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Meical-AbAwen/100001820054006 Meical AbAwen

    Thank you, Star

  • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

    Thank you, Star.

  • http://twitter.com/ouranophobe Áine

    Thank you, Star.

  • Robert

    Thank you for this, Star.

  • Robert

    Thank you for this, Star.

  • Chris

    “That it doesn’t matter if you adhere to one specific tradition or none, as long as you respect what you practice and don’t treat Wicca as a random collection of interchangeable parts that can be disposed of on a whim.”
    This very thing is how denominations form…. take Christianity for example… after the reformation (and all the way to today, actually) various denominations formed because people did just what you sneer at… they interchanged parts and disposed of parts…. not necessarily on a “whim” but they did…. creating everything from Calvanism to Mormonism.  The fact that modern Wiccans do this is NOT invalid. 

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

      The “at a whim” part is absolutely essential to Star’s statement.  She is not arguing against religious evolution, she is arguing against an egocentric attitude that *nothing* matters but what *I* want.  The behaviors of the founders of Calvinism and Mormonism is exactly the opposite.  They believed that their changes were necessary for everyone.

      When I edited together my coven’s Book of Shadows from our founders’ hand-written books, I wrote the following for the first page:
      Concerning our Way:
      Nothing in this Book of Shadows is laid down as a law for
      you to follow.  These are suggestions,
      possibilities, no more.  We are
      traditional, but are not a Tradition.  We
      believe that the Craft must be a living tradition, constantly growing and
      changing.  Remember and honor your roots,
      but stretch your branches to the sky.

      I think what Star is asking newcomers to the Craft to do is to “remember and honor your roots,
      but stretch your branches to the sky.”

  • Chris

    “That it doesn’t matter if you adhere to one specific tradition or none, as long as you respect what you practice and don’t treat Wicca as a random collection of interchangeable parts that can be disposed of on a whim.”
    This very thing is how denominations form…. take Christianity for example… after the reformation (and all the way to today, actually) various denominations formed because people did just what you sneer at… they interchanged parts and disposed of parts…. not necessarily on a “whim” but they did…. creating everything from Calvanism to Mormonism.  The fact that modern Wiccans do this is NOT invalid. 

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

      The “at a whim” part is absolutely essential to Star’s statement.  She is not arguing against religious evolution, she is arguing against an egocentric attitude that *nothing* matters but what *I* want.  The behaviors of the founders of Calvinism and Mormonism is exactly the opposite.  They believed that their changes were necessary for everyone.

      When I edited together my coven’s Book of Shadows from our founders’ hand-written books, I wrote the following for the first page:
      Concerning our Way:
      Nothing in this Book of Shadows is laid down as a law for
      you to follow.  These are suggestions,
      possibilities, no more.  We are
      traditional, but are not a Tradition.  We
      believe that the Craft must be a living tradition, constantly growing and
      changing.  Remember and honor your roots,
      but stretch your branches to the sky.

      I think what Star is asking newcomers to the Craft to do is to “remember and honor your roots,
      but stretch your branches to the sky.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1360841140 Caity Strickland

    Thank you, Star.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1360841140 Caity Strickland

    Thank you, Star.

  • http://musingsofawiccan.com MCH

    I wasn’t offended by anything said in Star’s article here at all. In fact, I wrote some similar stuff on my own blog on Sept 1st.  Nobody will ever agree with all of what Star says, and I’m sure not all of what I said either.  I’ve grown up a gay man in the south all my life, so I’m no stranger to bullying and crappy treatment by others. But I think we are all individuals first, and a man or woman second, and a queer/trans/gay/str8/bi/whatever last.  Sexual orientation is not near as important as your identity as an individual.  I think that comes first, it has sound reasoning behind it and makes sense.  I also think if a person wants to argue/debate a point, they should do so respectfully and with some semblance of rational common sense, not emotional reactions or troll behavior.  Great article Star!

  • http://musingsofawiccan.com MCH

    I wasn’t offended by anything said in Star’s article here at all. In fact, I wrote some similar stuff on my own blog on Sept 1st.  Nobody will ever agree with all of what Star says, and I’m sure not all of what I said either.  I’ve grown up a gay man in the south all my life, so I’m no stranger to bullying and crappy treatment by others. But I think we are all individuals first, and a man or woman second, and a queer/trans/gay/str8/bi/whatever last.  Sexual orientation is not near as important as your identity as an individual.  I think that comes first, it has sound reasoning behind it and makes sense.  I also think if a person wants to argue/debate a point, they should do so respectfully and with some semblance of rational common sense, not emotional reactions or troll behavior.  Great article Star!

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

    This was a great post Star!

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

    This was a great post Star!

  • Trevor

    I understand being upset by some of what Star said here — I don’t get the feeling that she meant to be insensitive, but the way it is written there is a sense that you /must/ be somewhere in the middle, and that if you consider yourself to be at one end of the spectrum or the other, then you are out of balance.

    “Purity is a myth, we are a mixture of all the elements…. Straight or gay is an extreme, when most people live along the Kinsey scale, or outside of it….  All along the divine tension we live, between two extremes, finding our balance.”

    I am gay, and would place myself squarely at the far end of this polarity.  While I agree that it seems many (most?) people are somewhere in the middle of the Kinsey scale, I happen to be at one end.  But the way this is worded, it sounds to me like I am being judged as not “finding [my] balance”.  I assume that the angry comments by Charlie as regards the “never wholly male or wholly female” part are from a similar sense that this post is denying the existence of anyone being fulfilled while identifying themselves at one or the other end of the spectrum.

    • http://twitter.com/whitestagforest Aine Llewellyn

      Hmm…I can see that, though I didn’t read what she wrote that way.  (Then again, I am pretty ‘in the middle’ or ‘outside’ of gender and sexuality, not identifying as male or female or gay or straight, so there is that obvious difference.)  I read what she was saying as meaning there are many places along this spectrum, in-between and at the edges, and they are all to be respected.  What I read was that we shouldn’t focus just on the extremes, but honor all identities.

      Again, just how I read it, and I do understand how you read it.  Thank you for posting your viewpoint, it was very helpful.

  • Trevor

    I understand being upset by some of what Star said here — I don’t get the feeling that she meant to be insensitive, but the way it is written there is a sense that you /must/ be somewhere in the middle, and that if you consider yourself to be at one end of the spectrum or the other, then you are out of balance.

    “Purity is a myth, we are a mixture of all the elements…. Straight or gay is an extreme, when most people live along the Kinsey scale, or outside of it….  All along the divine tension we live, between two extremes, finding our balance.”

    I am gay, and would place myself squarely at the far end of this polarity.  While I agree that it seems many (most?) people are somewhere in the middle of the Kinsey scale, I happen to be at one end.  But the way this is worded, it sounds to me like I am being judged as not “finding [my] balance”.  I assume that the angry comments by Charlie as regards the “never wholly male or wholly female” part are from a similar sense that this post is denying the existence of anyone being fulfilled while identifying themselves at one or the other end of the spectrum.

    • http://twitter.com/whitestagforest Aine Llewellyn

      Hmm…I can see that, though I didn’t read what she wrote that way.  (Then again, I am pretty ‘in the middle’ or ‘outside’ of gender and sexuality, not identifying as male or female or gay or straight, so there is that obvious difference.)  I read what she was saying as meaning there are many places along this spectrum, in-between and at the edges, and they are all to be respected.  What I read was that we shouldn’t focus just on the extremes, but honor all identities.

      Again, just how I read it, and I do understand how you read it.  Thank you for posting your viewpoint, it was very helpful.

  • Karen

    Star you have written a beautiful article from your heart that defines what wicca means to you. You  put into words how many individuals feel about wicca and what it means to us. If people read it they would see how as a religion or belief we wiccans accept that people have the right to practise what they believe in wether it be any form of paganism or any of the other forms of religious practises in our world. That we show no discrimination to colour, gender, or gender oriantation, and at the end of the day all we want is harmony with ourselves,each other and for our world,and to all live in peace(yes very much wishing to look at life through rose tinted glasses)and to have everyone accept us as we are.This is not a hard thing to achieve if we live and let live and accept that we can ‘do what thy will but harm none’ and accept that others can have the right to say and do what they want in their religeous beliefs. You have not hurt anyones feelings if they read it properly and accept your right to say what you feel and not get on their high horse and rant about what is in your heart, they should just think yes or no  agree, or disagree, and leave it at that. We are all the same inside made up of the same DNA just moulded differently which makes our world an interesting place to live blessed be to all

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

      The following is not related to the larger discussion.

      The Wiccan Rede is not ‘do what thy will but harm none’.  It is:
      An it harm none, do what thou will.

      I say this not to be nit-picky but because it is very important that the Rede is a logical implication (an “if p, then q” statement can be restated as “q or (not p)”).  To understand the Rede it is necessary to consider what to do in a situation where there is no choice that harms none.  Logically, what the Rede says is that if there is no harmless choice, you must use other ethical principles than the Rede.  One common principle to consider at that point is the Rule of Three.

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

      The following is not related to the larger discussion.

      The Wiccan Rede is not ‘do what thy will but harm none’.  It is:
      An it harm none, do what thou will.

      I say this not to be nit-picky but because it is very important that the Rede is a logical implication (an “if p, then q” statement can be restated as “q or (not p)”).  To understand the Rede it is necessary to consider what to do in a situation where there is no choice that harms none.  Logically, what the Rede says is that if there is no harmless choice, you must use other ethical principles than the Rede.  One common principle to consider at that point is the Rule of Three.

  • Karen

    Star you have written a beautiful article from your heart that defines what wicca means to you. You  put into words how many individuals feel about wicca and what it means to us. If people read it they would see how as a religion or belief we wiccans accept that people have the right to practise what they believe in wether it be any form of paganism or any of the other forms of religious practises in our world. That we show no discrimination to colour, gender, or gender oriantation, and at the end of the day all we want is harmony with ourselves,each other and for our world,and to all live in peace(yes very much wishing to look at life through rose tinted glasses)and to have everyone accept us as we are.This is not a hard thing to achieve if we live and let live and accept that we can ‘do what thy will but harm none’ and accept that others can have the right to say and do what they want in their religeous beliefs. You have not hurt anyones feelings if they read it properly and accept your right to say what you feel and not get on their high horse and rant about what is in your heart, they should just think yes or no  agree, or disagree, and leave it at that. We are all the same inside made up of the same DNA just moulded differently which makes our world an interesting place to live blessed be to all

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

      The following is not related to the larger discussion.

      The Wiccan Rede is not ‘do what thy will but harm none’.  It is:
      An it harm none, do what thou will.

      I say this not to be nit-picky but because it is very important that the Rede is a logical implication (an “if p, then q” statement can be restated as “q or (not p)”).  To understand the Rede it is necessary to consider what to do in a situation where there is no choice that harms none.  Logically, what the Rede says is that if there is no harmless choice, you must use other ethical principles than the Rede.  One common principle to consider at that point is the Rule of Three.

  • Anonymous

    A lovely piece – I’m forwarding it to the students in our Coven. BB!

  • LezlieKinyon

    A lovely piece – I’m forwarding it to the students in our Coven. BB!

  • http://en-pi.facebook.com/steward John Deltuvia

    I like that you wrote “Wicca is a form of religious Witchcraft”.  There are many Wiccans and other Pagans who think that Wicca is the -only- form of religious Witchcraft, and apply the Rede to all Witches – sometimes even all Pagans.

    Given the notion of the “butterfly effect”, I personally find the practice of the Rede logically impossible.  But that’s just my opinion.

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

      Regarding the Rede and logic, take a look at my comment to Karen.

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

      Regarding the Rede and logic, take a look at my comment to Karen.

  • http://en-pi.facebook.com/steward John Deltuvia

    I like that you wrote “Wicca is a form of religious Witchcraft”.  There are many Wiccans and other Pagans who think that Wicca is the -only- form of religious Witchcraft, and apply the Rede to all Witches – sometimes even all Pagans.

    Given the notion of the “butterfly effect”, I personally find the practice of the Rede logically impossible.  But that’s just my opinion.

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

      Regarding the Rede and logic, take a look at my comment to Karen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Edward-Bonthron/100000568391011 Edward Bonthron

    Excellent article!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Edward-Bonthron/100000568391011 Edward Bonthron

    Excellent article!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dana-Martin-Green/532934078 Dana Martin-Green

    No matter what was said above, the article is a wonderful read. I am a fellow Wiccan and I loved how you cover our religion.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dana-Martin-Green/532934078 Dana Martin-Green

    No matter what was said above, the article is a wonderful read. I am a fellow Wiccan and I loved how you cover our religion.


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