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.
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.