How can I know what I think until I see what I say? E M Forster, Aspects of the Novel
I was reminded very quickly into beginning this work that the word, essay, originally meant an attempt and came from essayer, “to try.” The act of writing it, of trying to manage my tendency to parenthetical diversions in my thinking, (the quotes at the start of each main chapter are there originally, to give voice to some of my more irrelevant thoughts, so they would let me get back to my point), led to some surprises, and quite a different result than what I expected the attempt to bring.
Initially, I was motivated by my experience of having had some great, as well as some poor, experiences with Innovative Witchcraft, before committing to Traditional Wicca. I wanted to look back at why I, both found value in some Innovative practices, and did not in others, from my current perspective, and see if I could find anything that could be extended to something more widely applicable, than to just my own experience. To do so though, is probably not possible through any analytical approach; what is most important in any form of witchcraft, is that which cannot be explained or expressed so directly, but which at most can only be conveyed by what Joyce Carol Oates calls, “the prism of technique.”1 It needs artistry rather than exposition, and at the cost of inevitably involving more bad poetry emerging from the Pagan community, attempts at this are certainly worth making, but this is not the place for it. At the very least, it needs a more emotional approach than taken here.
Another difficulty with taking this approach to such a question, is that much Innovative Witchcraft practice is entirely intuitive in its basis; its core features do not come from, or end up in any book, or other textual resource. In some cases, such an approach can be used as an excuse to avoid study, but it also covers some particularly impressive witches. Alas, by its very nature, such a very intuitive way of working does not leave much behind in the form of textual resources, that can be examined by the sort of approach taken here, and are inevitably excluded, as unfair as that may be.
By the time I came to draft an outline, my original goal was already abandoned. The essay I then envisioned at that point, was in turn rapidly destroyed the moment I started actually writing.
One goal at that stage, that remained, was to highlight features of both trends, that may be missed when examining them together. It makes sense that, while speaking about witchcraft in the wider context of Western society, one would highlight those features that are outside of the norms of experience of post-Christian society—our worshipping a goddess as well as a god and our use of magic being two obvious examples—while examining them in relation to each other, should highlight different perspectives in either case, that will be of value to people with an interest in either, or in both. Hopefully, I have achieved that, for some readers at least.
One continual problem throughout is that in each area of consideration, my method has resulted in my considering points of contrast, which despite continual attempts to indicate otherwise, (at the cost of resulting in mealy-mouthed phrasing), there is a risk of implying that those points of contrast represent the entirety of Innovative Witchcraft. Since my perspective is that of a Traditional Wiccan, the result may be less balanced than I may wish for, particularly on those points where, either my previous practice was closer to the Traditional, (and hence the other approach described is foreign to all that I have personally experienced), or even more so if I did experience the point of difference in question as an Innovative Witch, and found it unsatisfying, (and hence, while being able to claim a good position to judge its value in one way, in another I could be held to have a double bias against it). Throughout this, I have striven to avoid bias, yet whether I genuinely succeeded in this or not, (and it is impossible for me to judge my success here), the work as a whole reads to me as having a harsher view of Innovative Witchcraft than I actually hold to. Whether I should consider this to be a failure on my part, or an indication of finding something in the act of writing, or indeed if this harshness is really there at all—what reads to me as describing a difference where some forms of Innovative Witchcraft compares unfavourably to Traditional Wicca, may read to such Innovative witches as describing them more favourably in the comparison—I cannot opine on.
Another problem with this work, is a tendency to focus upon the US, all the more problematic since I have no first-hand experience of that country. To a large degree, this is appropriate; much of the trends within Innovative Witchcraft originate in the US, and were reïmported into Europe in time to have a considerable influence on European witches of my generation. Another reason though, is that the easiest manner to tell that a form of witchcraft that isn’t Traditional Wiccan, has at least a degree of post-Gardnerian influence, is the very use of the word Wicca that prompted this work. The influence of forms of witchcraft completely outside of Wicca in England, and the interest in local traditions in the Celtic Fringe countries, including my native Ireland, mean that the word is not as much used outside of its original sense here, and hence detecting post-Gardnerian influence outside of Traditional Wicca, is not as straightforward. In all, while it is inevitable that forms of witchcraft influenced by Traditional Wicca, but outside of it, existed outside of the US for the period examined, the practice of actually identifying these streams as Wicca, would seem to be an American one. There is still undoubtedly much that would inform this work that could be found outside of the Americas, particularly in England.
In this final section of conclusions, I shall indulge in not attempting for objectivity, as I have done earlier, but allow my own opinions greater voice.
My first surprise, is that I found myself writing more on politics that I imagined, something I have mixed feelings about as a former, (and rather ineffectual), activist, who has quite consciously abandoned explicit activism. Yet, the position of Identity Politics in how modern witchcraft is discussed, and how modern witches, particularly young people developing an interest in the Craft, view their position cannot be ignored. The important question, is whether and in what way this politics feeds back into their witchcraft. Certainly, the view exists that a motivation for “fluffies” is, “to make a political statement,”2 but that polarised position is not a promising source for a balanced view of just how this may operate in practice. Indeed, the very concept of fluffydom can be a way of policing an identity. Since the rejection of any concept of initiatory lineage allows for no formal means of determining who is, or is not, considered Wiccan within Innovative Witchcraft, those who are seen as claiming to be “us,” but as not, or as “us,” but of letting “us” down will be rejected by other means. Compare this with labels like, Uncle Tom, CHuDWah, and so on, along with some such as Lipstick Lesbian, that later became identities people would actively associate themselves with. The anti-fluffy concept therefore, itself fits into an Identity Politics. That it does so in a negative manner, in defining what it is against, more clearly than what it is for, has probably removed much of the impact of each individual argument made.
In looking at the portrayals that are of such great concern to the Identity Political analysis, along with generating interest even in the mainstream press, I have to conclude that there is no doubt something of real impact here, but more red herrings than insight is on offer. That one popular culture representation can be read as commenting on this very Identity Politics, makes that series seem particularly rich in subtext, and worth another view generally, but the question it raises about whether such attachment to a politicised identity can lead to a loss of authenticity, rather than a gain, aren’t really answered. The safest prediction for where the teen witches of today will be, some ten years or so from now, is that some will still be engaging in some sort of Craft, and very accomplished at what they are doing, while others will indeed find that witchcraft gave them an identity they could hide themselves in, rather than find anything of true value in. Alas, stating this is little more than an exercise in spouting truisms, unless a means to determine who is likely to be which can be developed.
The question of how, if at all, adult witches can help these teen witches is also something I cannot come to any firm conclusions on. I certainly find little of much value in the resources marketed at them. Informationally, there is nothing here that is not already easily available elsewhere, and I feel pretty confident in saying, that the tone would have greatly irritated me at that age. Finally, they lack guts when it comes to anything that addresses the situations that teenagers find themselves having to cope with.
The resources teenagers provide for themselves, are much more promising in many ways. They may often read as naïve, but I am inclined suggest that it is better to give young people the opportunities for creativity; there may not be many Shelleys, Brontës, Ribauds, or Mozarts in the world, but there are enough that dismissing what teenagers may have to bring out of hand, may be unwise.
At the same time there seems to be a strong incentive to avoid stating one particular observation; teenagers’ judgement sucks. Whether it’s from some sort of political correctness,3 or an understanding that young people are likely to resent such an opinion, and hence not listen to anything else one has to say, after they hear one express it, or maybe people just don’t want to make their own judgements fair game for comment,4 this is rarely expressed outright. Yet in traditions that value wisdom and honour the Crone, is it really inappropriate, just to point out that teenagers do not, as a rule, make very good judgements? To attempt to grow in a manner appropriate for a witch, would young people not perhaps be best advised to examine the ways in which they, and their peers, tend to make judgements. Can something be done that assists them in this, while at the same time not descending to the patronising tone of existing resources?
When young people have ambitions to any other endeavour, whether vocational or avocational, that requires an ongoing commitment, and also is generally an adult pursuit, then whether they can engage in it at that time, or have to wait until an older age, there is most often quite a bit of ground work that can, or must, be done beforehand. Considering that any youths interested in the Craft, are presumably intending that they would continue with it long into their adult life, perhaps this groundwork should focus on what will aid them best in later pursuit of the Craft, than presently.
Thinking back to my own teenage years, (I did not have an interest in Wicca then, though given my range of interests at the time, it sometimes seems strange that I never did research it more), what I feel I could have done then, that would be of most benefit to my practice now, would include paying better attention to learning in foreign languages in school. This is not something to be found in any book on witchcraft, but it was something offered to me at the tax-payers expense, and with stronger adult encouragement that I would have liked at the time! Developing better ability at memorising verse, already going out of fashion in my day, but still present to some extent in the English Literature curriculum, would also have helped. Better habits regarding physical fitness would also have been of benefit, indeed I probably retain a bias against acknowledging just how much, considering how long it is since I’ve been to the gym.
The first thing I think of, that moves out of what was already offered by my grammar-school education, is basic meditative technique; something I did work on at the time, but not with much resolution. Another would be some sort of martial art, especially one with a concept of chi or similar. Even with this, the curriculum suggested here, is still some way away from anything that is making it into the teen-marketed resources on witchcraft. Similarly, if I come to think about what did stand me in stead, from that part of my life, it is not the limited occult and mystical research I engaged in at the time. Perhaps a curriculum of suggested training could be developed, that would benefit future witches in later practice, while also working well with their formal education. Such a curriculum would also be general enough to have benefits for those who no longer feel called to practice witchcraft when they get older, be relatively uncontroversial with parents, and the lack of surface sparkle may well be reassuring to some.
Moving back to politics, I was surprised at how much attention I found myself paying to WITCH, as I must admit I previously thought of them as little more than a footnote, in both witchcraft and Feminist history, due to how short-lived they were. Apart from learning that Robin Morgan’s influential, “Goodbye To All That,” was written during the period, there are many points of similarity with future Feminist witchcraft. Many seem superficial, but they may have been very powerful in planting memes, that later grew into a Feminist use of witchcraft that took that witchcraft more seriously.
One criticism that is made of politicised witchcraft is their previous, and in some cases, persisting, belief in a matriarchal prehistory, and in the account of the Burning Times popularised by Matilda Joslyn Gage. Such criticism attacks both the religious and political theory, at the same time.
Both Feminists and witches have been able to absorb the changes to how academically acceptable these theories have become. Continuing belief, or at least continuing uncritical belief, in them, is now rare, and articles critical of them are as often found in publications explicitly favouring Feminist or Wiccan views.5 The two combined though, seem to have a harder time absorbing such changes in scholarly opinion. Starhawk’s notes to her latest addition of The Spiral Dance, notes that the death toll of the Burning Times was, “probably,” much lower than the 9million cited, but falls a great deal short from accepting the latest research in this regard.
An analogy could perhaps be made, with the preference of engineers for, “loosely coupling,” very separate devices, and that of marketers for integrating them tightly. If you combine several useful or desirable items together, it is easier to convince other people of their value, but if you keep everything separate, and interacting only at particular points of contact, then it is easier to fix, improve, replace or discard, any one of them, without damage to the rest of the system.
A great many Traditional Wiccans have been involved in a great many political causes, including Feminist and environmental causes, and do not seem to have the same difficulties in adapting to change of historical opinion, in either their religious or political life. It could be that perhaps, the traditional apolitical stance of the old magical orders is actually an advantage, rather than an impediment, to those who feel called to political action. An ideology that ties witchcraft to political thought could be seen as providing a single point of failure for both.
John Rowan criticised Wicca and witchcraft by arguing, “…the Craft was not designed to overthrow patriarchy, it was designed to ignore patriarchy.”6 Politicised witches, whether Traditional, Innovative, or non-Wiccan, may feel otherwise, but perhaps his criticism points to a strength, rather than a weakness, for those who feel called to both Pagan witchcraft, and political action against patriarchy. While a religious perspective that ignores patriarchy will not entail support for such action, and mean that one cannot necessarily count upon one’s coreligionists and coven siblings as comrades, nor is it in direct opposition to such politics, as many would argue many other religions are.
As such, if we accept Rowan’s criticism of the Craft, there is still arguably less conflict in reconciling Feminist, or ecological politics, and other political positions besides, and Traditional Wicca, or forms of witchcraft that share its apolitical position, than in reconciling them with those religions that Feminists have criticised as perpetuating patriarchy, and radical ecologists have criticised for supporting a view of natural resources that justifies unrestrained exploitation.
Some politically motivated Innovative Witches may therefore find greater value in emulating Traditional Wicca’s lack of explicit politics, than in emulating the joined-up philosophy of Starhawk or Budapest. Such an approach will never satisfy everyone for whom political, religious, and magical expression, are each important, but it may become a more common combination, as understandings of ideas that have been important to political witches change, (whether the changes come from the academy or elsewhere), and these changes must be either resisted or absorbed, in both the political and religious sphere.
The criticism of much politicised witchcraft as “fluffy,” will probably be both an encouragement and impediment to such a move; an encouragement in altering the cultural landscape of Paganism, so as to be more critical of some of the views behind politicised witchcraft, but an impediment in this leading to a staunchly anti-Feminist, and a less common but still present anti-environmentalist, stream in Pagan thinking, which could create a faultline that divides Pagan culture quite sharply, and lead to a degree of polarised insularity on both sides.
More than once, I came to the conclusion that the reason for a piece of terminology or a practice being used in Innovative Witchcraft, is that it is seen as a “Wiccan word,” or a “Wiccan thing.” While to some Innovative Witches this may seem disparaging, especially if, as I have argued above that many do, they place doctrine in a position where it precedes praxis. However, I see considerable value in such artefacts; this is what tradition is, in one sense. There is also a certain regard for the poetry of such phrases, and the beauty of practices, that I feel is important. Of course, Innovative Witchcraft is also developing its own nomenclature that contains other words and expressions, such as solitaire, for a solitary practitioner, and Book of Mirrors, for a book solely for recording dreams and experiences, rather than techniques, or other knowledge acquired elsewhere. Opinions will of course differ in each case, (personally I find solitaire hopelessly inaccurate, in historically implying reclusiveness, but Book of Mirrors, I find lovely in its evocative phrasing), and some will die out while others thrive.
For Innovative Witches that wish to benefit from what is public about Traditional Wicca, perhaps what is needed is not less lip-service, like some argue in the face of activities they see as superficial, but more. Thinking of the abandonment of the scourge in much Innovative Witchcraft, I wonder if perhaps merely placing it on the altar unused, would be better than removing it entirely. If a given practitioner sees no value in it, is it necessarily wise to prevent it from remaining part of a downline’s practice?
This would still radically downplay the scourge’s position, but to de-emphasise a tool has a precedent in Traditional Wicca:
At first I was puzzled by the absence of the Cup from the witches’ working tools and the inclusion of the unimportant pentacle,….
The answer I get is: In the burning times this was done deliberately. Any mention of the Cup led to an orgy of torture, their persecutors saying that it was a parody of the Mass; also the riding or dancing pole (‘broomstick’) was cut out. Censer and pentacle were substituted and explanations made to fit what their persecutors expected. If all told more or less the same story of what they were taught—because it was actually true and it agreed with the story of others—why bother to continue the torture?7
How different is this to removing the cup entirely! Furthermore, such witches knew that they were deëmphasising the cup, which does not apply to someone studying their Craft from books that have either silently omitted the scourge, or explained it away as nothing more than an artefact of one man’s sexual peccadilloes. The most essential difference, remains that the manner in which Gardner tells us the cup was removed from one place it could have been mentioned, potentially reduced information only to cowans, or newcomers who would be expected to learn more about it soon, whereas the manner in which so many Innovative writers have removed the scourge from the Craft, reduces information from would-be practitioners. At this point, the lack of the scourge in much Innovative Witchcraft is now a persistent legacy of those who rejected it, and it is simply not much considered, or often even known of, by those who follow in their wake.
But then, what value the scourge has for any Innovative practice will depend on that practice, and it is not my place to comment. Having done so, I may as well go on to opine that a greater attention to non-Wiccan streams of witchcraft could also perhaps benefit many. I can see Ann Finnin’s The Forge of Tubal Cain,8 (mentioned first in this work when defining what I would exclude, and then ironically once more despite that), for example inspiring many that are defining their own practice.
The explanation of the scourge’s use existing purely out of a sadomasochistic desire, is one I find hard to buy. As BDSM becomes more openly expressed in our society, I believe the argument will become harder to justify still, unless the scourge proves more popular within it than I suspect it will; scourges simply aren’t terribly popular in constructing scenes. Even if a sexual interest did form a motivation as the allegation says, it doesn’t suffice to explain the use of a scourge, rather than a switch or birch, or much of the way in which scourge is used; it is the cane and the birch that informed the English sadomasochism of that era. With the popularity of floggers being more recent, the closest thing to a scourge in domestic mundane use at the time, would be the martinet; very much a French implement. To persuade people that any given English gentleman of Gardner’s generation, was engaging in “the English vice” has been an easy task, due to how it fitted with late 20th Century stereotypes of Victorian-era sexuality, and of BDSM itself, despite his non-institutional educational background probably insulating him from much of the alleged causes; but to accuse him of a French version of it seems to stretch plausibility too much.
There is currently a fashion of reäppraising attitudes towards the Victorian era generally, and I feel that this, combined with changes in the image of BDSM, will soon make the allegations seem not just unsupportable, but quaintly naïve.
The prudishness of Conway in particular, I honestly find quite shocking. It is rather extreme though, and perhaps it is unfair to Innovative witchcraft generally to pay her example too much attention. If we ignore her example as a misleading datum, the question of the place of sexuality in witchcraft points to large questions of just what is witchcraft meant to be, and how it should present itself.
The first question, is perhaps the ultimate engine behind much change that happens within Innovative Witchcraft, and the one that I have the least insight into their views on. If anything, I feel I have less of an idea here, than when I began. Things would get even more confusing if I were to include traditions and trends that I deliberately excluded. In the introduction I gave some reasons for excluding some such trends, such as those who consider themselves “Wiccan” but not witches. Returning to the boundaries I drew at the time, I have to question my own motives. While I had to have some criteria for inclusion or exclusion, and stand by the restriction to forms of witchcraft, I also realise that part of my motivation was simply that I have too great a difficulty in seeing such people as even vaguely related to anything I would label Wicca.
Such decisions being made by other people, can perhaps be detected by what they find humorous. The first I ever heard about the Correlian Nativist Church, was from Wiccans who found them funny, yet such things as the robes, school, and organisational structure that will strike some as strange, wouldn’t necessarily do so if they were a Druid order or a Christian denomination; it is the contrast with what people expect from Wicca, that causes them to find humour in the incongruity. Much the same may be true of Innovative Witches who value their view of Wicca as being free-form and spontaneous, and cannot reconcile that view with descriptions of Traditional Wicca, so similarly finding humour there.
This humour is found in incongruity, when the clash between expectation and result happens immediately, and sharply. When the disparity takes longer to surface the reäctions can be more unpleasant. It is said that, “expectations are premeditated resentments”9. Of course expectations proving incorrect may merely illicit humour, as above, or indeed delight, depending on the circumstance. It is when expectations are allowed to grow or otherwise be invested in, that their being dashed can result in resentment. Differences between different forms of witchcraft, whether across Traditional/Innovative lines, or otherwise, can bring a mixture of considered criticism and debate, insight and inspiration, or merely be interesting to learn about. But someone shaken by an expectation being suddenly exploded, in whichever direction, is wont to cause resentments that could encourage, not discussion, but mere sectarianism.
Expectations can collapse on both sides simultaneously, and in different ways. I witnessed an online discussion on aspects of Wicca, which started with one person making Traditional assumptions, and arguing in terms of Wicca being a fertility cult. One respondent indignantly retorted, “since when has Wicca been a fertility cult?” To some this response seemed as absurd as, “since when has water been wet?” To others he seemed to have hit upon the mot juste to counter nonsense, written by someone who clearly knew nothing about Wicca! Perhaps, depending on how they viewed the idea of a “fertility cult,” some even saw the opening statements as anti-Wicca. Expectations were clearly departed from on both sides, and resentment did indeed emerge in the participants’ tone.
With Traditional Wicca being in the exalted position of being the elder of Innovated Witchcraft, and in many ways its progenitor, but Innovative Witchcraft being in the likewise exalted position as the larger, more visible, and more diverse, of the two, neither is ever going to be able completely ignore the other. With interaction being inevitable, such interaction can only be conducive to anything other than discord, if expectations of the other are realistic. Neither can either expect the other to fit their definition of Wicca, and must be prepared for surprises in just how far departures from their own practice can be, but neither can either expect the other to fit comfortable stereotypes that reflect details of those differences.
The second question of how witchcraft should present itself, seems often a point of more vocal disagreement than the core differences underneath. Apart from influencing the concern about fictional representations and reportage, it also heavily influences the view within witchcraft of anyone who allows themselves to be so reported, or makes any public statements. Any such act potentially alters the interface between the Craft and the public, but so does deliberately avoiding such publicity.
This question then becomes reified, into the question of whether paying any attention to how outsiders may view something, could place one’s focus other than where it should be; that focusing on the values of outsiders removes focus from one’s own values. With the only absolute position possible being that of strict isolationism, and all other positions by necessity being differences in degree, it is inevitably going to remain fraught. Underscoring all of this is the growing position of the Pagan community as a market, with the potential both for increasing commercialisation and increasing suspicion of commercial motives.
After the eight Sabbats, Earth Day is probably the most mentioned date on witchvox and other forums of Wiccan discussion. That Wicca is a nature religion, seems to be treated as self-evident by many Innovative Witches.
In examining the question of whether this is true of Traditional Wicca, I eventually concluded that the very question is pretty much a red herring. One can certainly define nature religion in such a way as to include all, or almost all, Traditional Wiccans, so somebody may find it useful in a descriptive manner. Where people seek to start from nature religion in determining what Wicca is, or what it “should” be, then this not only repeats the act of assuming doctrine precedes praxis, that I hold to be of little value with Traditional Wicca, but also allows one to define nature religion as one wants. In the end, I could not only find no final answer to the question, but no value in answering it.
The question that started all of this work, is that around the use of the word Wicca by Innovative witches. At the end of it, I find myself less inclined to be tolerant of such usage, than I was before. I started this work as a Traditional Wiccan, who uses Wicca and The Wicca as they are used within its Traditions. Before that, I had been an Innovative Witch, who used the word witch, and preferred it over Wiccan in quite a few ways.10 Yet despite this I was inclined, due to a general inclination towards taking a descriptive rather than prescriptive view of the English language generally, to consider this a valid usage, albeit not one that I would ever share.
A descriptive view of language can only go so far though. If taken to extremes it descends into meaninglessness. If the word wicca is to be of any use, it must mean something, and the degree of variety within post-Gardnerian practice generally, means that outside of its original usage it tends to end up meaning anything, and hence meaning nothing. Added to this, is a perception on my part that those forms of witchcraft, post-Gardnerian or otherwise, that do not use the word Wicca tend, ironically, to have more in common with Wicca as I understand it, than those that do.
In considering the question of when cultural borrowing crosses into cultural theft, I suggested that much of Innovative Witchcraft could be considered from a Traditional Wiccan perspective in much the same way. When considering this, I find it hard to logically argue any other way about the use of the label Wicca for something outside of the lineages from which it came, but nor can I say emotionally that I find this offensive, in the way that I do find Witta11 and Faery Wicca12 offensive as an Irishman. Partly I suspect this is because it does not come on top of a prior colonial experience, but mostly for all of our increasing visibility, the Wicca are still the hidden children, and as such complaining loudly about a practice by outsiders, that is not active persecution, is perhaps not an appropriate stance.
Where I do find it problematic is in terms of the effect it has upon seekers, whether those seekers are seeking Traditional Wicca, Innovative Witchcraft, another form of witchcraft, or are unsure which they are called to, if indeed they are called to any at all. Strangely enough, I find it more disparaging to Innovative Witchcraft, (remembering that when I practised such myself, I did not use the term Wicca), to borrow the clothes of another practice carries an implication that it cannot stand on its own merits. This on its own would seem a strong reason not to extend the term in the manner in which it has been extended.
As a word that means anything ends up meaning nothing, and our culture does not tolerate meaningless words13, I do not think continually straining Wicca to cover an increasingly wide range of practices can continue until it becomes a metasyntactic term for people to apply definition to as they wish can, but eventually it must implode into a new, firmer, definition. Still, it seems that the word is too engrained in general usage outside of Britain and Ireland, and increasingly even there, for it to revert to its original meaning. Rather, I suspect that the term will be influenced by the existence of implicit orthodoxies I have pointed to in Innovative Witchcraft, and so it will come to be narrowed down to fit those orthodoxies, as they become strengthened by repetition and continuation. Ironically, this will likely result in the most popular definition of Wicca actually excluding those Traditional Wiccan practitioners who do not fit these orthodoxies. While the idea of a definition of Wicca that actually excludes Gardnerians, Alexandrians, Mohsians, and so on may seem absurd, perhaps the greater severance between Traditional and Innovative practices this would entail, would lead to there being less disagreement between them; we tend to have greater grudges with closer neighbours. The overlap in the definitions is a key to the source of potential confusion. As such, in being a contentious signifier it seeds contention between the identities it signifies, with each feeling they are being silenced by the other. With two definitions that are not only separate, but seen as separate by both, and understood as separate by outsiders, then neither definition would entail this silencing.
Wicca itself is not the only term that is understood differently by both groups. In looking at differences around the Book of Shadows, it was clear that the concepts differ considerably even though the same term is used. Tradition, also, has overlapping meanings between the two trends, only some of which agree with the common dictionary senses.
Even words which don’t have specific meaning to either trend are often used differently. Innovative criticisms of Traditional practices often refer to them as dogmatic, but strictly, dogmata are only tenets and beliefs, not practices, so it is not technically possible for anyone to be dogmatic in any practice, only in their beliefs about it. With a lack of dogma valued throughout much of modern Paganism generally, this ceases to be a mere lexical pedantry, and acquires significance and the potential for emotional impact. So too differences in understanding of the terms rede, initiation, training, and nature religion, in their general senses will impact upon differences in attitudes to what they signify specifically within Pagan witchcraft. While the differences aren’t solely across the line between Traditional and Innovative, they frequently are. Given the way in which language shapes assumptions and expectations these differences, especially if unacknowledged, are wont to lead to misunderstandings. As much as anything else, Traditional Wicca and Innovative Witchcraft are perhaps divided by a common language.
- [Oates 1992]
- [Nobel Beyer 2002]
- An ever-problematic term, but here I need not deal with the question of the value of political correctness, or even if it really exists, just that the concept exists in some form, and influences public behaviour of many.
- And teenagers are often annoyingly good at finding ways that adults’ judgements also suck, at the best of times.
- To have cowans singing about the historical oppression of witches, while witches write articles on witchvox about this being both exaggerated, and unrelated to witches, must stand one of the more amusing ironies in Identity Politics.
- [Rowan 1987]
- [Gardner 1954]
- [Finnin 2008]
- This saying seems popular within Alcoholics Anonymous. The source may be [Peck 2002].
- I can’t claim too much in the way of foresight in this regard, part of my reason for avoiding Wicca, is that I had the mistaken belief that those using the word, considered it an unbroken continuation from the Anglo-Saxon wiċċa.
- [McCoy 1993]
- [Stepanich 1994] & [Stepanich 1998]
- Consider that words coined without meaning for nonsense verse, such as chortle from Lewis Carol’s “Jabberwocky,” and runcible from Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat,” and “The Pobble Who Has No Toes,” have since acquired quite precise definitions.