Witch, Pagan, Neo-Pagan, Wiccan, and so on. These are all labels, titles, words to allow us to fit ourselves into little boxes. They are also words that create an us vs. them mentality. “I am not a Wiccan.” “You shouldn’t capitalize neopagan.” And my ever favorite and constant argument, “Well, actually, that tradition you practice in is only XX years old.” We spend a lot of time telling other people what does or doesn’t make their practice legit. We waste a lot of energy ‘othering’ those whose practices aren’t in perfect alignment with our own.
Personally I’m rather tired of it.
It leads me back to one of the tenets of Reclaiming Witchcraft. “You are your own spiritual authority, rooted in community.”
Why do you need another person to authenticate your beliefs or practices? Sure, maybe you want some guidance or direction. Maybe you need a jumping off point. I totally get that. But at the end of the day, your spiritual practice is yours and only yours. You don’t have to justify it, explain it, or share it. This also means you don’t have to listen to anyone else. No book, no teacher, no blog post gets to tell you what to do or what your spiritual path description should be.
Rooted in Community
However, the tenet doesn’t end there. You are your own authority, rooted in community. Even if you are a solitary practitioner this part of the saying cannot be ignored. If your path causes harm, is abusive, or damaging to other people than you are not practicing rooted in community.
This is not about “harming none” or the Wiccan rede. This is a basic cause an effect. What you do has an impact on others. Be aware of that impact and honor how your actions impact your community. Even if that community is the people you live with or your cats.
I’ve been doing this a long time folks. I know the sordid past of modern Witchcraft and Wicca. I know the problematic origins of some common (and popular) beliefs. I know that many of the elders and founders of Wicca, Witchcraft, and modern Paganism were terrible people.
To that, I quote Janet Jackson, “What have you done for me lately?”
It is important to know the trouble and problems of the past so we can make better choices moving forward. But ultimately, what you do now is what is important. How is your magick and your practice improving your life? How is your Witchcraft helping improve the world? How has your tradition helped you to be a better/stronger/more connected person?
The shadows of the past will always exist. We can’t deny them. But we can move forward and create traditions that are better, stronger, and wiser than the past. We can practice how we want to, without worrying about whether that makes us a “Witch”, “neopagan”, or some other label.
You are your own spiritual authority, rooted in community.