Defaulting to Wicca: Issues with Intra-Pagan Dialogue

Defaulting to Wicca: Issues with Intra-Pagan Dialogue February 24, 2011

Find other posts related to this topic on the link round-up post!

Over on PAGAN+politics Cara Schulz wrote a great recap of PantheaCon. I will concur that not only is she very nice in person but very funny as well. I was happy to room with her and after meeting her in person have even more respect and love for her, even if she is a conservative! In her post she mentioned something that she and I had discussed while at the convention: Wicca-centric language.

At pan-Pagan events there is a tendency to default to Wiccan language in order to be inclusive. The problem is that it isn’t inclusive of other Pagan religions. Speaking in terms of high priestesses, high priests, “The Goddess” and coven structure actively excludes other Pagan traditions. This tendency to use Wicca as a default is because for decades the majority of Pagans practiced some form of religious Witchcraft. That’s no longer the case. Heathenry is growing by leaps and bounds, and Mediterranean religions are growing steadily.

It’s pretty clear to see why this is an issue for Reconstructionists and other Pagan religions. However, as a Wiccan, I also find this offensive. Right now large numbers of Pagans are using Wiccan language, concepts, practices, structure and cosmology while looking down their nose at Wicca itself.

I had written awhile back about the idea of of cultural appropriation of Wicca but I never really delved into it. While perhaps not comparable to the cultural appropriation faced by Native American peoples, it’s still a factor in the relationship between Wicca and the greater Pagan community. Not only due to it’s pseudo-history, but also it’s popularity, a great number of Pagans harbor an active disdain or contempt for Wicca. Part of this dates from the theories Hutton posited in Triumph of the Moon, part from the abundance of redundant, and even worthless, books on the religion, and partly due to Wicca having once acted as a gateway or buffer for other Pagan religions.

Courtesy cronewynd via Flickr CC license

Yet, as a Wiccan knowing this doesn’t stop it from grating on my nerves when someone expounds Wiccan theology, participates in a coven, engages in Wiccan rituals and yet rejects the label of Wicca. We all know people who identify as some form of Pagan other than Wicca, and yet their worldview, practices and worship structure are practically identical to Wicca. This has led to the promulgation of watered-down Wicca, which has fed the contempt and disdain for the religion.

While I have heard Wiccans speak of this in private, there isn’t very much public discussion about it. Either Wiccans react by separating themselves from the greater Pagan community or they shrug it off as inevitable in a movement where it is anathema to correct someone else’s religious misconceptions.

When Wicca is used as a generic catch-all language for the greater Pagan community not only does it exclude the abundant diversity of the modern Pagan religious movement, but it feeds the idea that Wicca is bland, generic, insubstantial and shallow. We need a more inclusive language when speaking about Paganism. I am making an effort towards that in my own writing, often using “all that which is Divine” instead of speaking of the Goddess or the Gods. If we cannot find a way to develop an intra-Pagan language and dialogue, how can we hope to develop a robust and accurate interfaith dialogue?

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