[I wrote this missive for my Facebook page this morning after seeing yet another instance of Wicca-bashing on a recon email list. I decided it deserves to live on my blog as well.]
I hold my tongue far too often regarding the following, but today I am speaking out.
I am SICK TO DEATH of the rampant Wicca-bashing I see from Reconstructionist and Pseudo-Reconstructionist Pagans. Obviously Wicca is not your cup of tea—that’s why you do what you do. And that’s fine. But I don’t understand the constant need to bash a beautiful, powerful, and moving spiritual tradition. Gerald Gardner and other Wiccan pioneers of the mid-20th Century paved the way for the thriving and DIVERSE brands of Neo-Paganism we see today. Yes, Mr.& Ms. Asatru, Ms. & Mr. Hellenismos, Mr. & Ms. Celtic Reconstruction, etc.—you are all Neo-Pagans, too. You are practicing your Paganism in a new way for the time you live in. You are one of us. If Wicca hadn’t come first and some people hadn’t said, “Hmmm…worshiping the old gods sounds great, but this isn’t for me. How else can we approach this?” you wouldn’t be here.
Wicca is a powerful, beautiful, and moving religion IN ITS OWN RIGHT. Is it “authentic?” No. Like all Neo-Pagan paths it draws from the past, has been inspired by the present, and is creating a religion for the future. Recon paths are doing the same thing, but with different degrees of borrowing and recreation. And that is OK. Yes, I understand that the idea of all gods and goddesses being aspects of one God and Goddess irks the crap out of some hard polytheists. But just because that philosophy doesn’t resonate with you doesn’t mean that it is invalid. How is someone’s calling on The Goddess in the guise of Athena or Frigga or Cerridwin hurting you? And how is it hurting the gods? The gods are vast—they appear in many ways to different people. Why is your personal experience of the gods “right” and someone else’s experience “wrong?” And please don’t get started on, “Well, the ancients saw them as distinct beings. . ..” Which ancients? At what time period? Ask a Pythagorean how he or she understands the gods and you’ll get a very different answer from an Athenian cult-priest. Differences in understanding the divine are inherent in the human mind and soul—and that is OK. That’s why we as Pagans believe that no one Path has all the answers. Don’t we?
And some Wiccans are in fact hard polytheists. I’m a Third Degree Gardnerian High Priestess, an ADF Dedicant, a Hellenic reconstructionist, and a hard polytheist. I experience the gods and goddesses as distinct beings. I have figured out how that works with Wicca in my own head and my own heart, and it works for me. But I’d never tell anyone that it should work for them, too.
Look. I’ve been around the Pagan Community for 18 years, which I realize makes me a baby to some of you and an elder to others. But my point is, I’ve been around. I’ve been on the elists and the Facebook forums, I’ve been to many festivals and have been a seasonal camper at Brushwood, I have been active in my local community, I belong to an old coven, I’ve served on the Board of Directors of one of the largest Pagan groups in the world, and I have helped run an ADF Grove for the past 13 years. I have seen, heard, and read A LOT. I have seen my share of badly performed rituals. I’ve lived through Witch Wars (and Druid Wars, what have you). I survived a coven with a High Priestess who was “initiated by her grandmother” but whose Book of Shadows was conveniently lost and would not admit that she didn’t know something even to her last breath. I’ve been sexually pressured by people I trusted as leaders and elders. I have seen my share of things I have found to be downright silly, crazy, and just plain stupid. And do you know how I have responded to these things? I have not responded by making snide remarks and bashing entire groups of Pagans. I have responded by performing effective rituals, leading with transparency and integrity, by citing my sources and being clear when I’ve made something up, and just plain doing good work. And today I’m responding by speaking out against this intolerance in the Pagan community, and I have tried to do it as calmly and rationally as possible. [The original version of this post included a lot of “fucks,” “damns,” and the word “dumbass.”] Because my purpose in writing this is not to vent, although that’s how this started [and writing all of those “fucks” sure felt emotionally satisfying.] My point is to step forward and say, “Hey—like it or not, we’re all in this together. Bashing each other does no good and much harm. Let’s work on tolerance and understanding or at least live and let live.”
So when it comes to calling out intolerance, I’m not holding my tongue anymore.