I run an open, local, public, Pagan group, and as such I try to be as friendly as possible during our “gather time” before rituals. This past Imbolc I was making the rounds and saying hello to everyone when I noticed a newcomer. I slowly made my way over to her and eventually she met my gaze.
“Hi, I’m Jason,” I said. “It’s nice to have you here with us tonight.”
“I’m Laura” she replied, “I’m so glad to have found a an open Pagan circle to do ritual with.”
“We’re glad to have you. Do you follow any specific Pagan path?” It’s a question I ask most newcomers, since we want to be inclusive.
She nodded and said “I’m a Wiccanate.”
“That’s great” I said with a big smile on my face, “because most of our rituals are Wiccanate . . . . .”
Of course that conversation never really happened because I don’t know of anyone who calls themselves a “Wiccanate” or describes their faith as “Wiccanate.” Perhaps I live a sheltered Pagan existence, but until the last couple of weeks I had never heard the term before. I’m familiar with the terms “Wicca” and “Wiccan,” I’ve even come across the word “Witta” before, but never Wiccanate.
Apparently it’s being used in the ongoing discussions about Wiccan Privilege and is meant to signify those who aren’t in a recognized Wiccan Tradition but call themselves Wiccans. Strange . . . . for the past two years I’ve been reading a great deal from people who used to think of themselves as Pagans but now want to be called something else. That’s cool, so when did anyone ask to be called a “Wiccanate?”
Before we proceed I acknowledge that Wiccan Privilege is an on-going problem within Modern Paganism. Pagan and Wicca are used far too interchangeably and books about “Generic Paganism” are often simply providing bare-bones Wiccan-type ritual structure. Pagan-pride days are often (but not always) dominated by Wiccan groups, and the programming at many large Pagan festivals tends to be Wicca-centric, but that’s changing. The presence of non-Wiccan Pagans has been on the upswing at a lot of Pagan events, and many of the best (and also some of the loudest) voices in the Pagan Blogosphere belong to folks outside of Wiccan traditions. Look around Patheos Pagan, Wicca is simply another Pagan tradition in an online sea full of diversity here. The Wild Hunt has always included non-Wiccan news and voices. There’s certainly still a bias and people who self-identify as Wiccan are still a majority within Modern Paganism (especially in the English speaking world), but that’s changing. I think it’s also something that many of us are trying harder to be conscious of on a daily basis, we can do better, I can do better, and I think that many of us are.
I understand wanting to make a distinction between the Wicca written about in books and Traditional Wicca via initiatory traditions. They can be very different beasts, however one is not better than the other, and there’s no reason to insult anyone whose introduction to Wicca came from a Llewellyn book. Initiatory or Traditional are pretty good words for describing a particular branch of the Wiccan tree, terms like General, Eclectic, and perhaps even Non-Denominational also get the point across. I haven’t even gotten to the most descriptive terms yet; words like Gardnerian, Dianic, Alexandrian, and Odyssean. All of those terms say plenty. I don’t see why anyone needs to use the term “Wiccanate” as a descriptor. (If the changing definition of the term Wicca bothers you, how about blaming the publishers who put it in on the front of their books, instead of the people who bought those books. If you own fifteen books with “Wicca” on the spine you probably feel as if you are a Wiccan.)
I think there’s often an unnecessary dismissal directed at anyone who practices General Wicca (look, there’s another term) and it’s completely unwarranted. Some of the finest Priests, Priestess, and people I’ve ever met practice Wicca sans tradition, and I say that as an initiate. What they do is both different from what I do in my own tradition, yet also familiar. On a similar note, the things practiced in other Initiatory Traditions are that way too, both familiar yet different. That’s why there are lots of traditions, so people can find the thing that calls to them. Whether that comes from a clandestine coven or a book ordered from Amazon is of no consequence to me, only the sincerity of the practitioner. (And for the record, I have met some very serious Wiccans whose only lessons have come from books and life, and some less than impressive Trad-Wiccans who have studied with amazing teachers.)
So yes, let’s continue to call out General Paganism when it gets a little too Wiccan-centric. The Pagan Universe does not revolve around four quarters, a circle, Gerald Gardner and a cloud of dust. My Pagan table always has plenty of room for any interested in breaking bread or bacon* with me, and always will. I have friends involved in Hellenic Paganism, Druidry, Voodoo, Norse Traditions, Thelema, and all kinds of other things. Heck, I even practice a few different traditions myself. Perhaps “Wiccanate” was not meant to slander, but until I meet someone using that term to describe themselves, I will continue to think it sounds dismissive and uncomplimentary.
*I don’t eat it myself, just trying to help the gluten-free and Paleo crowd.