Pagan Soup: Anti-Wiccan Sentiment, Interfaith Violence, and RAP!

Pagan Soup: Anti-Wiccan Sentiment, Interfaith Violence, and RAP! January 5, 2011

Anti-Wicca?

Although I know it’s a bigger issue I just wanted to briefly touch on the topic of anti-Wiccan sentiment in Paganism, which can take a humorous turn. If the conversation turns to things that make us look bad it’s a sure bet that Wicca will be mentioned in some way. Some Wiccans have started to identify as Pagans just because mentioning you’re Wiccan can suddenly make the room go cold in some Pagan gatherings.

Partly this is because Wicca’s popularity ensures it gets the lion’s share of oddballs and lukewarm adherents. Part of this is because Wicca’s contentious history and modern elements make it less valid in some eyes. Part of it is that there are fewer intellectual “brownie points” to be had in Wicca, as being fluent in Saxon English or Homeric Greek may increase your personal rep, it doesn’t do much for your religious rep in Wicca. It’s not that Wicca is anti- intellectual, but that it tends to emphasize the subjective experience.

I think the one complaint against Wicca I take issue with is that it is a magnet for “fluffbunnies”, as I have met Asatru who read a single book, converted and didn’t seek out or even know of the Eddas or other lore. Christianity, Buddhism and other faiths have their own “fluffbunnies”. It’s not a phenomenon confined to Wicca or even Paganism. While Pagans tend to reject outright those who are halfheartedly Pagan, Christianity tends to view half a heart as better than none, so we tend to be the most vocal religious group on this issue.

What are some of the critiques against Wicca that you think are valid?

Jason Pitzl-Waters on Interfaith “Challenges”

The Washington Post asked it’s On Faith panel to comment on the recent clashes between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East, and Jason’s response was spot-on:

These events aren’t mere “challenges to interfaith relations,” they travel right to the heart of various interfaith initiative’s limitations. When you have several powerful faiths that all believe, to differing degrees of fervency, that true peace and harmony will only come after a global conversion to their preferred faith, and that all hold-outs will be punished, either temporally or after death, that is no mere impediment to peace that can be worked out over tea. Peace and tolerance can only come when instruments of political and social control are either out of their hands, or severely limited. Then, when, as Thomas Jefferson said “the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions” you can start to have a real dialog that can produce peace, tolerance, and understanding.

Read the entire response here.

Pagan-ish Rap!

Ask and ye shall recieve… So my call for Pagan rap music got some interesting feedback! Most Pagans live in urban or suburban areas and so you would think that we would find ways to express ourselves in an art form so closely related to chanting and poetry.  Here are the artists that were suggested to me:

Kellee Maize

MC Yogi

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  • Wicca is great. New Age, that’s a different story for me. And it’s the New Age folks who like to say that they are Wiccan that get my goat (and I’d love to sacrifice along with that goat … sorry, my paleopagan slip is showing!).

    I’ve heard folks say – I mean LITERALLY say – that Wicca is anything that anyone who says that they are Wiccan says it is. Huh?

    Aside from the logical issues, it raises practical issues. This means when some predator says that s/he is Wiccan, and a High Priest/ess, and her/his Wicca insists that the HP deflowers members children at puberty AND NO ONE CAN SAY OTHERWISE.

    It also opens Wicca to cultural appropriation of living tribal religions, which isn’t good either, but I’m less likely to want to put folks doing that in a Wicker Man and lighting a match.

    Frondly, Fern

  • Anti-Wiccan sentiment? This is what happens when you put your practice up for public criticism – you beg those who do not understand it, do not follow it, and do not practice it to put in their two cents on what you do. You shouldn’t be inviting others so blithely to cut down something that is personal and private, especially if you are new in your practice and unused to all of the nastiness that people can hurl. Learn the lesson of the north – be silent. Your wisdom and your strength that you get from your practice is for you, not for the masses to throw tomatoes at.

  • Fern, we agree on a few points there.

    Naya, I don’t think staying in the broom closet is the answer. It seems to me much more healthy to talk about and consider the critiques.

    That said, if you are summoning Pokemon into a ritual circle, keeping silent about your practice is probably a good idea.

  • Jason’s piece is a really excellent Pagan response to the question of religious violence in general and to the recent attacks on Christians by Muslim terrorists in Nigeria, Egypt and Iraq.

  • The only valid criticism of my practice can come from the inside; If a naysayer isn’t a member of my coven or outer court, then she has neither the knowledge nor the understanding of what we do to criticize it. Too many people feel that they need to have opinions on things they truly do not know; I do not feed these people additional fodder for their judgmental personalities.

  • Naya, even in the hidden world of Wicca there’s still enough of a public face or reputation for the world to form an opinion of.

    I can form very definite opinions and criticisms of covens I am not affiliated with based on their public face, and I am finding more and more often the less of a public face a coven has, the less credibility they have in the Pagan community.

    There is a curious balance I see Wicca forming as this decade begins where covens are having to balance their public face with their oath-bound initiatory tradition. I think that’s a good thing. More openness generally translates into more accountability and Wiccans are beginning to see there is more to their faith than it’s mystery.

  • Can you form an opinion of music you have not heard with your own ears after merely reading the musician’s web page, too?

    So much of the Craft is experiential; unless you have experienced it, you cannot say anything with any validity about it. Reading something is not the same thing as being there.

    My coven’s only public face is the blog I write, and the tiny few articles about my group on that page. What you see on the blog is merely a tiny glimpse of me and my personal style – hardly enough to levy any criticism that matters. If the pagan population at large approves or disapproves is none of my concern; what is my concern is that people who find my ideas intriguing come to me for more.

  • The Craft is experiential and personal; organizations (hidden or otherwise) are objective entities. Perfect example would be the Frosts. Most Pagans have never met them yet almost every Pagan has an opinion of them.

    We’re not talking about judging souls but forming an opinion of of the building blocks of traditions, which are objective and palpable things. If your site is the only public face of your coven then, yes, people will judge you by that. And that’s not wrong. We are not an all-loving people. As my tradition says “By Your Deeds Will You Be Known”.

    Not caring what Paganism at large thinks of you is fine, but expecting that they not form an opinion of you could be seen as delusional. Again, look to the Frosts. This sort of thinking has not served them well, and that is a shame.

    At some point I would hope that Pagans of all stripes would come to realize that it is a very traditional Pagan thing to want a good reputation, and that honor, honesty, courage and other traditional Pagan virtues have more currency than the mystery behind the curtain. If all a Pagan group has to offer is mystery, then in my humble opinion they do not offer much.

  • Oh well, let them. Their opinions are very short sighted, and short sighted opinions mean nothing more than “stay away from that person who makes opinions based on no experience.”

    I, shortly after receiving my first degree initiation, went on a personal quest to learn all I could about the other religions, the other ways people found God. I visited the services of churches, synagogues, and temples of all sorts, both mainstream and occult.

    I remember once I visited an all Black Christian church downtown. Nothing could have prepared me for it, and I did my preparations – I read about the traditions I was visiting, learned appropriate etiquette and so on. In the middle of a very lively and uplifting service, a younger woman (but older than me) asked if she could pray with me. I agreed, and she grabbed my hand. At first, I could understand her, “Lord Jesus, help (Naya’s real name) feel loved. Lord Jesus, help (Naya’s real name) feel your peace…” and after a few moments, she wasn’t speaking English anymore. I have no idea what she was saying, but she was sweating and crying and shaking and I tell you, she was on a direct phone call with a god. I get chills to this day thinking about the first time I ever witnessed that kind of transcendent ecstasy. And if I just stopped with what I read about that particular tradition, I never would have witnessed, firsthand, something that beautiful and amazing.

    I am -very- glad I reserved judgment until I could see first hand. You cannot form a valid opinion of a spiritual tradition by just reading about it. It simply is not possible because spirituality goes beyond the head – reading a web site; it exists in the heart, it exists in the body, it exists in the air around you and in the energy of all of the people there.

  • Naya: Beautifully put :)

  • AmberRose of PCP

    Naya, while I can understand your point of view, Star brings up some very valid criticisms.

    We cannot fully experience another’s spirituality just by reading about it on a blog, watching a video, or listening to another speak on their experiences. I’m confident that most of us know and accept this. However, I will agree with Star that it should be expected for people to judge you by whatever information that you choose to put forward.

    It’s an idealistic view to hint that we should take time to experience each and every face we come across in a personal light. It’s a beautiful thought, but quite frankly, there’s too many people and there’s not enough time. Learning about how other practice is important, and I would hope that many of my fellow pagans take the time to attend other services along the way. I learned through the years of personal experience, that each path is different, each group of each path is different, and each individual in each group is different. I also learned that while you can’t learn everything from a posting or an interview, that there is a lot you can learn from what a person puts out in front for all to see. However, that being said, while I understand that some people write poorly compared to their speaking ability, if what they present is in poor taste, I am going to, at the very least, hesitate before even thinking about experiencing them on a personal level.

    Even when going to a ceremony or practice of another faith, you can’t learn all there is about them. There are plenty of churches that “speak in tongues”and are experiencing nothing more than a psychological condition rather than talking to god. Unless you feel what they feel, going and looking and holding hands is whatever you make out of it…nothing more. The same with visiting another coven, there are some that are give an amazing show…but don’t know anything about what they actually practice…or the other way around.

    This isn’t to tear down your personal experience, just to put a different light to the same topic.

    Since when is critical thinking of your own practices a bad thing? Just because someone criticizes the way you do things, doesn’t mean their right and doesn’t mean you have to make a change. However, I think it is always a wise move to listen to the criticism…if nothing else…just listen and think about it. I enjoy hearing how others view what I am doing and how. It gives a wonderful opportunity to see what you seem like the outside eyes. Sometimes I change, sometimes I don’t…but the point is not whether to change or not…the point is having the wisdom and humility to accept advice that you need at the time, whether it’s pleasant to hear or not. It’s also knowing when someone is point out what they see as flaws just because they are angry and need to make others uncomfortable.

    While there are many paths that are old, Wicca is fairly new and is still growing and developing. It only makes sense to me, that it’s followers would be willing to speak to other practitioners in order to learn from their mistakes and perhaps teach a bit of their own. This cannot be done through hiding and pretending you are above all others in your way of thinking.

  • On a slightly different tangent, I think the criticisms of Wicca come down to a convergence of several different variables rather that something we can point to.

    One problem area is the authors. “We” have a small collection that are writing because there is a market for Wiccan books. They write because it’s easy to make money off of rather than because they’re elders sharing their wisdom. “We” also have a few of them that write seemingly because they like to put their self-righteous thoughts on paper.

    Second problem area is that because of the youth of the religion, you still have many of it’s participants in the growing stages, even if they’ve been practicing over 40 years. There are many things that have not come often enough to have a way to deal with them as a set standard or even a general standard.

    We also have the flexibility of the path, partially because of it’s infancy. There are so many ways to take Wicca and so many branches to make out of personal experience, that it can often make coherency a difficult thing.

    Many of the books out there that are readily available are from a Wicca 101 standpoint. Not all of the views in the books are accurate (as no book will ever be). But there are a large group of people wanting to learn about Wicca, and this is their only source of what it deemed reliable information.

    There are still a lot of people that are backwards or scared to “come out of the broom closet” due to personal discrimination or perceived inevitable discrimination. This means that they are less willing to discuss their path and learn from each other, but it also means that there is less of an opportunity for people to search them out with some level of ease.

    Because there are so many different ways of doing things, people are bound to disagree. But I think it’s the mix of all of these variables, plus others that I haven’t thought of off the top of my head, makes the problem. One of these problem area’s isn’t enough to point to and say “if this problem didn’t exist all would be better”. It’s the combination of all of these that make it easy for all the problems to exist and continue on as they have been.

    But I think when it comes down to it…they’re just growing pains…

  • Amber, I think one thing that contributes to the “broom closet” prevalence is that a lot of the older books will scare you into the closet before you even naturally have a chance to think about that in an organic fashion. My first book was The Witches Bible and it scared me to death.

    Maybe as we grow and mature more books will come out that encourage being open and reassure people that they won’t be lynched.

  • Illiezeulette

    I stopped calling myself Wiccan when I was exposed to British Traditional Wicca and learned that many older and more conservative BTWs lamented the appropriation of the name of their tradition to encompass practices and beliefs that weren’t truly theirs. I’m not a fan of the (in my experience) rampant uninformed and occasionally unethical appropriation of spirituality and culture that goes on in the New Age and Pagan communities, so I can respect the fact that some of the Wica don’t like non-lineaged non-initiates calling themselves Wiccan (but I don’t necessarily agree with their logic). Personally, I find much of what passes as “Wicca” to be ill-defined, watered-down, misinformed, vague, and therefore spiritually unsatisfying. Thus I gravitate toward well-defined, concrete traditions.

    I’m a Gardnerian pre-initiate and I dabble with some neo-Roman, Roman Recon, and modern Gnostic Christianity. Whether or not I agree with the more conservative “Wicca”-naming-rights side of the debate, I’m “multi-faith” or “multi-tradition,” so I adopt the generic title “Pagan” to sort of try to catch everything in, though the Gnosticism complicates that a bit.

  • kenneth

    Here’s my take on it: Wicca, in its many forms, is most often the first point of contact for seekers. Most books and most beginner’s covens fly that flag. Most first covens are decidedly mixed experiences, at best for a variety of reasons – “fluffiness”, egomaniacal leaders, what have you. The folks who continue on very often move into other arenas – heathenry, ceremonial magick, chaos magick, things they perceive as more authentic or substantive traditions. The other force at play is that Wiccans, at least the more traditional old guard types, are “anti-pagan.” My first priestess and others I have met over the years made a point of telling me that Wicca was apart from paganism and superior to it ethically, how they and not any other pagan tradition had the “real craft” etc. Wicca as a movement is also bookended by people who on the one hand insist you can’t be Wiccan unless you were initiated by someone with the title “Lady” of such and such lineage, and by the other by people who think invoking Pokemon characters is still Wicca. I don’t lose a lot of sleep over the label one way or another. Arguments can be made for and against the “legitimacy” of my initiation. It makes no difference to me. To my mind, if I’m bogus, the gods will see that and treat me accordingly. I celebrate Esbats and Sabbats to stay in their good graces, not those of the “elders of the craft” whoever they are. I use the term “Wicca” because my belief and practice, in general more closely matches that than most other trads.

  • kenneth

    Here’s my take on it: Wicca, in its many forms, is most often the first point of contact for seekers. Most books and most beginner’s covens fly that flag. Most first covens are decidedly mixed experiences, at best for a variety of reasons – “fluffiness”, egomaniacal leaders, what have you. The folks who continue on very often move into other arenas – heathenry, ceremonial magick, chaos magick, things they perceive as more authentic or substantive traditions. The other force at play is that Wiccans, at least the more traditional old guard types, are “anti-pagan.” My first priestess and others I have met over the years made a point of telling me that Wicca was apart from paganism and superior to it ethically, how they and not any other pagan tradition had the “real craft” etc. Wicca as a movement is also bookended by people who on the one hand insist you can’t be Wiccan unless you were initiated by someone with the title “Lady” of such and such lineage, and by the other by people who think invoking Pokemon characters is still Wicca. I don’t lose a lot of sleep over the label one way or another. Arguments can be made for and against the “legitimacy” of my initiation. It makes no difference to me. To my mind, if I’m bogus, the gods will see that and treat me accordingly. I celebrate Esbats and Sabbats to stay in their good graces, not those of the “elders of the craft” whoever they are. I use the term “Wicca” because my belief and practice, in general more closely matches that than most other trads.

  • Cara

    Very superficial, but valid criticism – Wiccan craft names. I understand why people do this and the significance of it, but it is the actual names people choose and where they use them that cause me to cringe and others to mock.

  • Cara

    Very superficial, but valid criticism – Wiccan craft names. I understand why people do this and the significance of it, but it is the actual names people choose and where they use them that cause me to cringe and others to mock.

  • lynn

    There are a lot of things to mock on the surface with respect to wicca — names like “raven goldenfairie,” teenage goth-looking chicks, people chanting and wearing robes like they do in Satan B-movies — just off the top of my head. Then there’s the whole commercialization of it via stuff you can buy.

    But for me as an “eclectic pagan” I think there’s a lot that’s authentic about it too and anyhow who can judge another’s walk? I don’t self-identify as wiccan because I can’t really identify with the whole lord and lady business but Scott Cunningham’s books really helped set me on my own path, which has no name; it’s somewhat of a mishmash between wicca, buddhism, gaia worship, with elements of traditional black gospel music thrown in there for inspiration. I do cast circles and observe the esbats, and some of the sabbats.

  • lynn

    There are a lot of things to mock on the surface with respect to wicca — names like “raven goldenfairie,” teenage goth-looking chicks, people chanting and wearing robes like they do in Satan B-movies — just off the top of my head. Then there’s the whole commercialization of it via stuff you can buy.

    But for me as an “eclectic pagan” I think there’s a lot that’s authentic about it too and anyhow who can judge another’s walk? I don’t self-identify as wiccan because I can’t really identify with the whole lord and lady business but Scott Cunningham’s books really helped set me on my own path, which has no name; it’s somewhat of a mishmash between wicca, buddhism, gaia worship, with elements of traditional black gospel music thrown in there for inspiration. I do cast circles and observe the esbats, and some of the sabbats.

  • Cara

    “traditional black gospel music”

    FTW!

  • Cara

    “traditional black gospel music”

    FTW!

  • Then if you don’t have the time to make an honest assessment, why bother having an opinion at all? It is OK to say, “I have no opinion on that group.” I don’t know many Asatru folks, I’ve never been to an Asatru ritual, so how can I have an opinion on Asatru? I would much rather someone not have an opinion on something than to have an opinion that isn’t based in real experience.

  • Then if you don’t have the time to make an honest assessment, why bother having an opinion at all? It is OK to say, “I have no opinion on that group.” I don’t know many Asatru folks, I’ve never been to an Asatru ritual, so how can I have an opinion on Asatru? I would much rather someone not have an opinion on something than to have an opinion that isn’t based in real experience.

  • Qwyzl

    to each their own. every belief system has thousands of branches and forks going in all different directions. let each person worship, believe or practice as they please. and if they want to call them selves wiccan, pagan, etc., who is any one else to say whether they are not “true wiccans”, “true pagans”, etc.? every one has their own style of doing things. me personally, i prefer paganism over wiccan, because i think paganism is more true to the original roots of one’s ancestors. wicca, though drawn from or inspired by paganism, is relatively new as a religion or belief. all the same – let each worship as they please, and call them selves what they will – wiccan or pagan. we are all people. that alone should be enough to make us stop with the name calling and the “your not a TRUE ——-” (insert name of belief here)”.

  • Qwyzl

    to each their own. every belief system has thousands of branches and forks going in all different directions. let each person worship, believe or practice as they please. and if they want to call them selves wiccan, pagan, etc., who is any one else to say whether they are not “true wiccans”, “true pagans”, etc.? every one has their own style of doing things. me personally, i prefer paganism over wiccan, because i think paganism is more true to the original roots of one’s ancestors. wicca, though drawn from or inspired by paganism, is relatively new as a religion or belief. all the same – let each worship as they please, and call them selves what they will – wiccan or pagan. we are all people. that alone should be enough to make us stop with the name calling and the “your not a TRUE ——-” (insert name of belief here)”.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the Kellee Maize links!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the Kellee Maize links!

  • Julie

    awesome songs and videos!

  • Julie

    awesome songs and videos!