Power in circles
Old traditions, new ways
Will, so mote it be.
We all come from the Goddess;
And to Her we shall return.
Like a drop of rain;
Flowing to the Ocean.
We all come from the Horned One;
And to Him we shall return
Like a flash of light;
Shining from a fiery storm.
Hoof and Horn! Hoof and Horn!
All that die shall be reborn!
Corn and Grain! Corn and Grain!
All that fall shall rise again!
-- "We All Come From The Goddess"
traditional Wiccan chant
Over in pagan
, there've been a few heated arguments about exactly who should be called a Wiccan. Wicca was started by Gerald Gardner in the middle of the 20th Century after it was no longer illegal in Britain to be a Witch. Gardner himself was an interesting character, a bit of a dirty old man. Since that time, several other Wiccan traditions have branched off. They share a lot in common -- their metaphysics postulates a Divine Force which has Masculine and Feminine aspects; they practice magick as the application of one's will to change the world; their rituals invoke the God, the Goddess, spand spirits of the elements and directions; their learning process is structured in (3) degrees with initiations, with secret teachings shared upon reaching the next level.
The controversy comes from the last characterization. There are lots of people who claim to be Wiccan and say, think, and do a lot of things that other Wiccans do, but who are not part of a tradition. These could be called Neo-Wiccans, and they're tough to generalize about. Some are completely ungrounded folks who read fluffy New Age Fiction and think that they can make love potions, cast spells to cause mysterious illness, and so forth. Others are people who like the Wiccan worldview or practice in a Wiccan framework, borrowing from other religious and spiritual traditions, and acknowledging that their divinatory powers are a matter of using symbolism to carefully examine a problem. In both cases, the people don't have a lineage going back to Gardner or someone. They may have spent some time learning and then walked to a favorite place in the forest and self-initiated. Or they might be part of a circle that formed and bootstraped initiations of each other.
Now some folks claim that if you aren't part of a Traditional Lineage, you aren't really Wiccan. You're just Pagan, or you're Neo-Wiccan-not-to-be-confused-with-actua
lly-Wiccan. I think this position is fairly silly.
When you're writing to be precise, you have full discression to set technical terms as you chose. Typically it's best to do so in accordance with the rest of the literature so that readers won't be confused. But if you say "In this article I take 'Wicca' to apply only to traditionalist religions tracing to Gerald Gardner" (or something), you're completely free to do so. So the argument is whether in casual discussion we should use "Wicca" to refer to both Traditionalist Wicca and Neo-Wicca, or whether it should only refer to one.
By using "Wicca" as an umbrella term, and adjective-affixed versions to refer to different branches, we indicate that there's something in common between the two styles. It's analogous to using "Christianity" to refer to all denominations, which may be referred to individually as "Orthodox Christianity," "Catholocism," "Lutheranism," "Calvinism," and so forth. If we claimed that only Orthodox Christianity should be called "Christian" and all other denominations should be referred to by just their denominational name, we would lose the ability to say something about all denominations without enumerating them individually. We do make global statements about Christianity, like "Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God," or "Most Christian groups accept the Bible as a holy text, but some think it's literal while others think it's poetic." "Christian," therefore, is a useful term, but wouldn't be very useful if it only referred to one group (which already has a name).
By calling "Wicca" both Traditionalist Wicca (which includes several distinct groups) and Neo-Wicca, we assert that there's some similarity between them. And there is. They do a lot of similar things, they have a lot of similar beliefs, and so forth. We can say something like "Wiccans honor the divine feminine," or "Wiccans don't sacrifice babies." Since we can already refer to Traditionalist Wicca, individual traditions, and Neo-Wicca individually, we gain expressiveness by allowing "Wicca" to be an umbrella term. We should, of course, always make sure our claims are accurate. "All Wiccans are part of a lineage" isn't accurate, but "All Traditionalist Wiccans are part of a lineage" is.
Anyway, that's my position I've posted a few times in arguments, so now I can just link to it.
My own circle is essentially Neo-Wiccan. Our ritual structure involves quarter calls and invoking the God and Goddess, though they often take some rather odd forms, from Celtic Goddesses to Hindu Gods to abstract notions like "The Diaspora" to generic "The Masculine." We share "cakes" and "wine," and afterwords we socialize. I think building a social group is the most important part of religion, and the main reason it evolved and persists. We do a lot of different ritual activities, from standard divination to meditation to experimental stuff like non-verbal ritual and ritual scripted to coincide with Dark Side of the Moon. We don't have any secret teachings, and the woman who got it started was self-initiated with a few of her friends. She isn't, incidentally, our High Priestess or anything of the sort. Our group is very egalitarian. We plan our ritual schedule cooperatively. The leader of each ritual is selected voluntarily, and we often cooperate, especially for sabbats. Everyone has their own unique ritual style, and we embrace everyone's ways of doing things. We have a very wide spectrum of religious beliefs, which creates some really neat diversity. We're silly, we're serious, we're supportive, we're challenging, we're embracing, and we let go when someone feels it's time to leave. (This last bit is how I distinguish between a religion and a cult. You can leave a religion without pressure.) We're a spiritual family, and in some cases closer and more loving than biological family.
I don't usually identify myself as Wiccan, but as Pagan. This is in part because my approach to religion is complete eclecticism -- I borrow from a wide variety of Pagan (and sometimes non-Pagan) religions. Furthermore, I don't subscribe to much of the Wiccan Worldview. So even though I've been initiated as "Priest and Witch," I don't usually claim to be a Wiccan. I practice Neo-Wicca. But then, I sometimes climb mountains, but I don't identify as a Mountain Climber.
My "Book of Shadows" is an online collection of most of the rituals I've led. I'm a couple behind, but you can check out how eclectic I am