Conversations: The Decline of Wicca & The Rise of the Druid?

Conversations: The Decline of Wicca & The Rise of the Druid? August 18, 2015

In the blogosphere we often talk at each other instead of talking to each other. In order to facilitate better communication (and possibly because it’s fun) I like to round up as many Patheos Pagan writers as possible and have an actual conversation, one where we shoot ideas back and forth at each other.

Last week some of us in the Patheos Pagan channel got together to discuss the future of Paganism, but due to space considerations some of that conversation ended up on the cutting room floor. One of my favorite take-aways was a bit on the “decline of Wicca.” I couldn’t quite get it into the original article, but thought it was interesting enough to share on its own.

I plan on doing more of these conversations in the future, if you’d like to be included sometime send me a message.

"The Witches Sabbath" by Andries Jacobsz Stock. F rom WikiMedia.
“The Witches Sabbath” by Andries Jacobsz Stock. F rom WikiMedia.

Jason Mankey: Does Wicca appear to be in decline? I get told that a lot.

Sable Aradia: But I have to tell you guys, when I did my book tour through Western Canada, I found that no matter what’s going on online, on the ground, most of the Pagans I met were still grassroots “Wiccanates,” Wiccans and Witches. Maybe that’s just Western Canada, and maybe we’re a bit of a backwater because none of us go to PantheaCon much, but I think it’s probably representative of most of the Pagan world, which has never heard of the Patheos Pagan channel.

Dana Corby
Dana Corby
Dana Corby: Is Wicca in decline? Sadly, I think yes. But so are most things that require getting together in groups to do something. I’ve fielded numerous requests for teaching and/or initiation that went nowhere when I explained that it required in-person meetings and the would-be student quacked ‘noooo… I don’t do IRL! Don’t you have anything online?” And ‘I said noooo… I don’t do online.”

Tom Swiss: I seem more people specifically identifying as Wiccan (over generic “Pagan”) than in the past, actually.

David Dashifen Kees: I think online Wicca is in decline. Many I meet face to face are still Wiccan, but they’re not a part of the vocal minority that’s duking it out online.

Gwion Raven: I think that comes down to how you define Wicca. In the traditional sense, I gather it is not. In the “pop-wicca” sense, I think it is. A certain blogger recently wrote about “fad-ism” and I think that the current fad is away from Wicca.

Jason Mankey: My wife does say that “hating Wicca is the new black. ”

David "Dash" Kees
David “Dash” Kees
David Dashifen Kees: Perhaps a lot of people who found their way into pop-Wicca are more easily finding their way into other practices that speak to them more personally.

Laine DeLaney: Non-Wiccan varieties of practice and belief, especially Re-constructionist trads, are often not very helpful or friendly to outsiders. Which makes it easier for people to get their start in Wiccan-style Paganism and then gradually move towards a field of different interest … or stay where they are, if that’s what is relevant.

Jason Mankey: For what it’s worth, where I’m at Wicca is really strong. “Jason can I join your group?” is something I hear a lot.

David Dashifen Kees: Very true. And, many try desperately to remain “pure” in some capacity, whether that be the unfortunate racial litmus tests or historical/mythological ones.

Jason Mankey: I think that for many Eclectic Wicca serves as a gateway drug and they then move onto other forms of Paganism/Polytheism. Sometimes leaving the room means knocking down a few chairs on the way out . . . .

Annika Mongan: Ha! In much of the Christian and secular world we’re all considered Wiccans. I get that every time I talk to Christians. It’s a miracle if they know anything about Paganism at all, and if they do, it is Wicca and they can’t comprehend that there might be other kinds of Pagans, Witches, Heathens, Druids, etc.

Angus McMahan
Angus McMahan
Angus McMahan: My non-profit public group does about 30 events a year, and we still see many new people, beginners, of all ages. But thats (insert currently acceptable term for all occult practitioners), not just Wicca.

Tom Swiss: Well…ADF and OBOD are non-Wiccan groups that seem helpful and friendly…

Laine DeLaney: True, and ADF has been on the rise, especially with a new emphasis on Pan IE (Indo-European) practice as opposed to the older assumptions about it being all Celtic re-con.

David Dashifen Kees: But they’re less easily approached, to some degree. Cunningham is on the shelves, Philip Carr-Gomm isn’t.

Jason Mankey: The minimal amount of “Druid how to books” makes jumping into that pool a little more difficult, while the hundreds of Wicca 101 books make that an easier path to pick up sometimes.

Laine DeLaney
Laine DeLaney
Laine DeLaney: They still need to deal with the “D” word that doesn’t fit a lot of us, though.

Jason Mankey: ADF Groves are wonderful and accessible entry ways into Pagandom. They are public in a way that many Witch groups are not.

Molly Khan: Yes. My local ADF grove is fantastic, but a large part of that is the big national organization that provides resources.

David Dashifen Kees: Jason – do you think that’s because “druid” has less baggage as a term than “witch?”

Jason Mankey: I think Druid has its own baggage, it often conjures up images of men with long beards . . . . . I think ADF is accessible because that’s one of their missions. As a Gard, that’s not my mission at all.

Laine DeLaney: I think Druid has about as much baggage, of a different sort. Neither ADF nor OBOD require Celticness for their practice, and yet when you say “Druid” people have *very* specific assumptions.

Gwion Raven: Which is an interesting point – My sense is that there’s less emphasis on Magic with the Druid groups and more focus on study and Nature. So perhaps that’s a little less scary than WITCHCRAFT!

Rua Lupa
Rua Lupa
Rua Lupa: I find the most publicly known groups, such as OBOD, ADF, Wicca, etc. are often what have people take the first step into Paganism and from there decide where they want to go, that sometimes being stepping away from their original starting group. I often find that the following steps people take are more individual practices, but for major events they come together under that same, original group they started under.

Annika Mongan: Gwion -That’s definitely true for a lot of groups who are afraid of magic. And the “W” word carries much more fear than the word “Druid”.

Jason Mankey: But I think the fear attached to the word Witch is also why some people like it. It’s powerful.

Gwion Raven: Jason for sure.

Angus McMahan: Oooh…..taboo.

Annika Mongan
Annika Mongan
Annika Mongan: Absolutely true. I was most attracted to Witchcraft but researched Druidry first, because I thought I had better chances of getting away with it.

Laine DeLaney: Definitely, Jason. It packs a cultural punch.

David Dashifen Kees: That’s why I hung onto it for so long to some extent. I still use it at times, but I don’t do enough things that seem “witchy” to use it regularly.

Sable Aradia: I don’t think this anti-Wicca thing is as bad as I thought it was. I’ve been talking recently to some folks and I think that it’s a tempest in a teapot. It seems to originate, as far as I can tell, from a very small vocal minority of three or four people, a couple of whom are big P Polytheists and a couple of Traditional Witches. I think we, as public Pagans/Polytheists/choose your label are disproportionately dragged into it.

Rua Lupa: The associations with ‘Druid’ is actually one of the reasons for my offshoot and renaming practitioners ‘Saegoahs’ being a fresh start where we could build our own associations without the baggage that is honestly irrelevant other than being one of many sources of inspiration (All Nature Based Practices being a potential source).

Sable Aradia
Sable Aradia
Sable Aradia: Having done that book tour, I don’t think Wicca is on the decline at all. And neither is eclectic Neopaganism. Instead I think that people who have been doing it a while are starting to specialize in one or the other path. Nothing wrong with that at all!

David Dashifen Kees: Tempests in teapots is what the Internet does well. That and molehill mountains.

Sable Aradia: THIS.

David Dashifen Kees: And I agree, Sable, that there’s a very, very small number of people who stir up those tempests.

Tom Swiss: Dash — truth!

Angus McMahan: The Forest is still cool and inviting, the rivers are always refreshing…..


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6 responses to “Conversations: The Decline of Wicca & The Rise of the Druid?”

  1. I see a lot of things that ring true in this. I definitely see that eclectic Wicca can be the “gateway” to paganism. For pure visibility and accessibility of information, there’s nothing else that compares. I also think that a lot of folks encounter types of paganisms they’d never even heard of through studying Wicca. This is exactly what happened to me. I was studying for initiation with a Witchcraft tradition, but during a lull in my studies (I had some personal chaos that made serious study impossible for a while) I discovered ADF and here I’ve been ever since. It is indubitably a better match for me.

    But I also think there’s a lot of truth to the idea that it’s fashionable right now to be “too cool for Wicca” (to put it in its most juvenile terms) in the same way that people sneer at many things they find too popular (you see it a LOT in music.) We Pagans are an individualistic bunch, we pride ourselves on being outsiders who don’t care what others think and who go against the grain. Because folks can sometimes perceive eclectic Wicca as the most mainstream of the Pagan religions, it’s easy to class it right up next to Twilight and Dave Matthews Band as things that are too popular for us. If that makes sense?

    [edit to add: I hope I don’t come across as anti-Wicca. It wasn’t for me, but I have a lot of respect for a number of Wiccan writers, and I’m immensely grateful for it as a foothold into “greater Pagandom” which is a really useful role to fill, even if it makes eclectic Wicca a bit of a revolving door.]

  2. Not to me, Carys. Sounds to me like what you’re saying is that you think that hating on Wicca is a current Pagan hipster activity. Am I right?

    I can’t disagree that eclectic Wicca can be a gateway to many other forms of Paganism and I’m glad you found one that fits you. 🙂 Wicca isn’t for everybody for sure. And that’s the beauty of Paganism/Polytheism; it doesn’t have to be.

  3. Good to see the distinction between pop-Wicca and the initiatory traditions 🙂 As I was going to say I don’t see any decline at all within the latter.

    Fads come and go and the pop-Wicca one is on the wane but will eventually rise again when the newest fads become old. I have been around long enough to see the rise and fall of various shamanic fads, druid fads and Celt recon fads.

    swings and roundabouts

  4. Yes! Exactly, pagan hipsters. Ha. But that’s a cycle too, and in a few year someone will “discover” that Wicca’s been cool all along.