About six months ago we addressed quite a large group. We asked how many considered themselves to be Wiccans. About 75 percent put their hands up. Then we went into more individual beliefs; here there was scant agreement on anything. About 50 percent of those who identified themselves as Wiccans went along with the Wiccan Rede,
If it harm none, do what you will.
When we asked whether Wicca was a religion of Nature, a lesser percentage agreed. Was it a natural spirituality, as contrasted with a religion? Was the Ultimate Deity a goddess? Could a Christian be a Wiccan? In fact, how many actually used Christian god-esses as their personal pantheon? Surprisingly (to us), more than 10 percent agreed, that that was in fact what they did. A couple of bold souls said they were eclectic and didn’t follow any orthodox or conventional path, nor address any named deity. Yes, we think that’s a dark-night symptom.
This whole thing was a sad disappointment to us. When we first started using “Wicca” in 1968 to name the spiritual path on which we were then embarking, we defined a clear spiritual and mundane path–or so we thought. It was a surprise to us when so many usurped the word Wicca and used it to describe their own path whether or not that path resembled in any way the one we had articulated.
Seax Wicca may have been the next clearly defined Wiccan path. When Gardnerian Witchcraft and Alexandrian Witchcraft became Gardnerian Wicca and Alexandrian Wicca in 1974, they had no clearly defined spiritual path–magic, yes; rote ritual, yes; spirituality, questionable–because most of them had broken away from their original roots.
There’s a stage young people go through, sensing somehow, “Not this!” or “Anything but this!” Many such breakaways eventually find an alternative way; some do not. Remember St. Jimmy Buffett’s song about Domino College?
Make your parents hate you! Be a big disgrace.
Go to Domino College and fall flat on your face!
It’s that feeling : Spook the family. “I’m not like you people–thank God!”
So what is a Wiccan? Let’s look at an interesting definition, for which we are indebted to the Unitarian Universalist Association.*
We … covenant to afffirm and promote :
The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations;
Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our (covens);
A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our (covens) and in society at large;
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
For us Celtic Wiccans who believe in the Web of the Wyrd, this feels like a good start. Certainly few would quibble with its ideas. Do we believe in democracy within our coven groups? Quite frankly, we’re confused and don’t know. Practices should vary from group to group, of course. But do we have any common ground? There is an old Sufi saying,**
There are people who have religion and do not think;
There are people who think and do not practice a religion.
We like to think that people on the Wiccan path can have a religion and can think–both. Perhaps that is what separates us from the marching morons who don’t think about anything but being in with their peer group and warding off the random blows of a hateful deity while hell awaits.
So tell us, please, what you think. Is “Wicca” an overworked noun that has lost its meaning? Should it be dumped in favor of a more accurate label for whatever we’re all doing? Or can we resurrect it and find even a few universal concepts with which we all are comfortable?
Yes, we are old fogies, but we ain’t set in our ways. If we wanted to complain about the negative changes we see, we could go on ad infinitum.
If you smell something scorching, somebody’s thinking.
Blessed be those who seek. Gavin and Yvonne
* Singing the Living Tradition
** The Mathnawi, 1466 CE