So that post on fidget spinners got way more traction than I ever expected it to, and it garnered a number of comments, which were pretty much split down the middle between “Interesting essay,” and “Why are you like this?” But I got kind of hung up on one reply in particular, in which the author expressed perplexity at the “growing number of articles responding to some perceived attack on Wicca.”
I got a big kick out of the phrase, “perceived attack,” as if Wicca was curled up in the fetal position on a fainting couch while a therapist gently asked, “Is there a ‘perceived attack’ in the room with us right now?” But the reality is that there are attacks on Wicca all the time — I mean, nobody’s firebombing covensteads or anything, but the Internet is rife with animosity towards Wicca, and has been for as least as long as I’ve been around. (Thorn and Jason have some toe-curling stories as well.)
Hell, whenever I publish a post about Wicca, I do so with the understanding that I’m going to get hit with a handful of angry, dismissive responses. And honestly? I look forward to them. In fact, here are a couple of my favorites:
“Wicca’s NOT the only practice that gets jumped on. All of this whining about it lately is really getting old. Wicca’s an entry point into the occult and paganism, and being that entry point it’s going to get you looked at. This is one time of taking your lumps and getting over it.”
“Could some of it possibly be caused by the same attitude that causes Wiccans to assume the ‘rede’ and the ‘threefold rule‘ are universal pagan concepts? Or the 30 years of fake history that is only recently being challenged? It’s a new religion with problematic origins and problematic followers. Some of the bullshit is justified.”
And here is a snippet from the greatest comment I’ve ever received, that I really kind of want to print out and have framed:
The Gardinarian [sic] mysteries are not even that deep, there are many more practices that go way beyond what exists in the Gardinarian current. I probably dealt with a lot of shitty Gardinarians but the fact that the traits I have issues with seem to exist in every Gardinarian I know of, yourself included based on your writing, justifies the bad reputation your tradition has. That is me being brutally honest.
Those darn Gardinarians. Recalcitrant ne’er-do-wells, the lot of them.
The recurring implication in these comments is that Wiccans have knowingly brought disdain upon ourselves, so we really just need to be quiet and accept our place. Problem is, I was born with this congenital defect that physically prevents me from knowing my place, and I’ve also never been quiet a day in my damn life. Ergo, please do excuse me while I scandalously outgrow my britches and keep on trucking, waving a megaphone aggressively.
“I’m so happy. Now I can bitch about Wiccans to other people aside from my friends when I’m drunk.”
So this little gem of a segue was not directed at me, alas. It was posted in a Facebook group that billed itself as a space to discuss cultural appropriation within Wicca, but was really just a romper room for people to merrily bash Wicca without repercussion. It landed on my radar after a very sweet friend of mine joined, thinking it was a forum for Wiccan-based social activism. She posted a friendly introduction that was like, “Hi, I’m Gardnerian, thanks for having me,” at which point the other group members basically pelted her with rocks until a moderator stepped in to kick her out.
I never joined myself, but the group was listed as “public” — meaning that anyone could read through the discussions without having to actively participate — and it was a train wreck, y’all. I couldn’t look away.
The group has since been shut down, but I did manage to save some posts from the popular thread, “What Irks You Most About Wicca?” (I wasn’t fooling when I said I hold onto receipts.) The posts are what you’d expect from young, predominantly white people who’d been given blanket permission to hate something: Wiccans are weak, heteronormative posers who are hobbled by stupid rules, and yet they’re also somehow tyrannical monsters who steal everything, and they’re probably all going to hell for their sick, sexual obsessions, so there.
If it sounds like I’m not taking them seriously, it’s because I’m not. Mostly. I mean, they were mainly just sheltered twenty-somethings who hadn’t experienced Paganism outside of social media, but they were also indulging in depthless motions of support while demonizing a demographic deemed “lesser than.” And that is never okay.
Below are some of the more hysterical and horrifying comments (It was a public group, remember, so anyone could read and share the posts), along with my own color commentary at no additional cost. So, let’s see: What irked these people about Wicca?
“Their victimhood fetish & persecution complex.”
Yes. How dare the people we’ve banded together against feel like we’ve banded together against them. But this does sort of highlight the weird contradiction I noticed in the litany of complaints — Wiccans are powerless, yet also a dominant, oppressive force that cannot be resisted. As follows:
“The pressure that magic has to be done ~this way~ usually requiring a lot of resources.”
“It took me a long time to accept that my practice can be simple and easy thanks to Wiccan pressure.”
First of all, I am in love with the concept of “Wiccan pressure” (“Pushing down on me, pressing down on you, no man ask for…”). But considering how much antipathy these people felt for Wicca, you’d think it would maybe have had, I don’t know, slightly less control over them?
“I hate that there’s this element of spiritual gaslighting within it that basically blames you for any kind of suffering you experience while simultaneously expecting you to utilize your suffering in some sort of forced martyrdom. It always made me super uncomfortable and was weaponized against me a lot when I was interested in Wicca.”
Yeah, I have no idea what they’re actually trying to say here. But good use of buzzwords!
“I have expressed interest in multiple groups only to learn they actually have different roles for men and women and I’m not into it. I’m the femme-est cis woman, but I asked if I could choose the men’s role and the technical answer was yes, but I could only choose one.”
So basically, she could’ve taken any role, regardless of gender, but they wouldn’t let her take ALL the roles. Huh. Feels like a glass ceiling.
“The disregard for asexuality. Like sorry I don’t give a shit about fertility.”
Okay. Wicca is, for some practitioners, a fertility cult, but sex (or sexual attraction) and fertility are two very different things, and they are not reliant on one another. Plants and animals that reproduce asexually are still fertile, and fertility itself is not limited to reproduction.
Here are some Merriam-Webster definitions of the word “fertile”:
- Producing or bearing many crops in great quantities.
- Characterized by great resourcefulness of thought or imagination; inventive.
- Affording abundant possibilities for growth or development.
As we’ve covered before, one absolutely does not need to be heterosexual and/or cisgender to practice Wicca. However, if you fully believe that the mere existence of fertility is stifling you… I mean, yeah, you’d definitely be better off on a spiritual path that doesn’t feature a bread holiday.
But hey! Let’s talk about sex.
“My ex-friend wanted me to join her Wiccan cult. Luckily she lived in the states so I could only do stuff over the Internet so, you know, I lied. But I’m not unconvinced there wasn’t weird sex stuff happening.”
“OMG! I don’t know that they were wiccan but my friends and I ended up on a thread the other day where a ‘sex educator’ insisted we all must bow to ‘cock power’ as if so many humans aren’t traumatized by that type of thing.”
“I saw Goody Cunningham dancing in the woods with Tituba.”
Right. I made that last one up. But hopefully, you get the gist, since we’re taking the first tentative steps here into legitimately alarming territory. Hearsay and speculation were being promoted as fact, and things that have not a damn thing to do with Wicca were under the spotlight as examples of how awful Wicca is.
And that’s some funny-mentalist Christian bullshit right there. The seeds of another Satanic Panic. And these performative little ankle-biters were too spellbound by privilege to see it.
So I mentioned earlier that the group got officially zucced, and I’m pretty sure I know what did it. (Although I swear it wasn’t me; I was having too much fun mining it for blog content to actively attempt to get it killed off.) If the members had kept their vitriol to themselves, things would’ve been fine for them. But at some point, they decided to infiltrate other groups, and the attacks on Wicca began in earnest.
They started organizing these little war parties: Someone would post something like, “Hey, guys! I just found a group for Wiccan labradoodle enthusiasts. I’m going to try to destroy it.” And then they’d pop back in the next day to share screenshots like hunting trophies.
This became a regular group activity, with the admin team cheering on members as they reported on the mayhem they’d caused and the misinformation they’d spread — but it was a public group, and people outside of it started catching on. I know of at least one situation where screenshots of screenshots got posted in one of the fora they’d targeted, and since they’d disabled their privacy settings, it was remarkably easy to track down the troll mothership.
I’m sure the members felt terribly victimized when their group went away — I’m willing to hazard a guess and suggest that accepting the consequences of their actions isn’t really in their repertoire. And I’m positive that they’re blaming Wicca for the demise of the group, because how dare those people we’ve been trying to persecute fight back?
You know, it seems like there might be a larger lesson for the rest of in there somewhere.
For those who still want to believe that Wicca isn’t actually under any kind of attack, I’m sorry, but yeah, it really is. And it has been for a good 80 years now, ever since Gerald Gardner wrote a book, and somebody else read it and went, “No, I’m the real Witch.”
But it’ll survive and adapt, as it has done so far, and as it will continue to do. And with a little luck, the people who have based their entire personalities on railing against it will find something better on which to fixate. Or maybe they’ll try putting more effort into their own spiritualities, and less into undermining everyone else’s.
Then again, I’m one of those dogmatic, no-goodnik Wiccans.
What the fuck do I know?