Paganism, Wicca, and Me

I've been a practicing Pagan and Witch for about ten years. Although my practice - like that of most modern Pagans and Witches - has been strongly influenced by Wicca, I don't consider myself a Wiccan for a number of reasons. One reason is that my beliefs are too fluid, and I don't want to limit myself to one way of looking at things. For example, I spent some time studying the Norse tradition, in which the Sun is considered to be feminine and the Moon masculine, in contrast with Wiccan tradition. I don't see any problem with holding these views simultaneously, but I don't think that doing so can be considered Wiccan.

Another reason is that I don't agree with most Wiccans' beliefs about gender and divinity. I have noticed two prevalent practices among Wiccans. The first, generally practiced by "eclectic" Wiccans, is a tendency to place an emphasis on the Goddess in worship - partially because for many people who grew up hearing the name "God" used in a stern, authoritarian, often repressive context, it is easy to go to the other extreme as a reaction and effectively ignore the God. The other tendency, usually found among "traditional" Wiccans, is an emphasis on God-Goddess polarity which causes practitioners to revere stereotypical gender roles as divine.

I don't see either of these options as desirable. I'm all for transforming the patriarchy, but I don't think leaving men out of the divine picture - or portraying women or men in stereotyped roles - is the way to go. (More on that topic in my essay Is Biology Destiny?)

A third reason I don't consider myself Wiccan is that I don't believe in the "Wiccan Myth", which goes something like this: A long time ago, people used to worship a goddess, and there was peace and gender equality, and everything was good. Then the Christians came and brought male gods with them, at which point warfare became common and people became obsessed with money and lost touch with the earth and started repressing women. But through it all there was a secret society of witches keeping the Old Religion alive, and during the "Burning Times" millions of them were burned at the stake. This religion resurfaced when Gerald Gardner made it public in the '50's.

OK, so I have a number of problems with this. First of all, Christianity is not responsible for every evil in the world. Sure, I have plenty of bones to pick with Christianity, but I can't buy into the myth of the golden age in which everyone worshiped the Goddess, therefore everyone was happy. I find it extremely unlikely that society was perfect before Christianity came along (just as I think it's silly to say that society became perfect after Christianity came along). To give an example, there were plenty of pagan religions which involved human sacrifice, something which I obviously don't condone. And few modern pagans would be willing to give up today's technology. As regards the debate over prehistoric matriarchy, my belief is that we'll never have enough evidence to be certain one way or the other.

Second, there is no evidence that the people who were burned during the Middle Ages as "witches" were any sort of pagan. Some of them were herbalists and healers, some of them were women who had a lot of power or money, some of them were too smart, some of them just pissed off the wrong people. While it seems likely to me that in medieval times, I might have fit into one or more of those categories, I don't feel any special kinship on a religious basis with those who were killed.

Third, neo-paganism is not a continuation of a pre-Christian religion. It is based in part on folk traditions which have survived from that time, but it is not a direct descendent of ancient paganism. There really isn't any compelling evidence suggesting the survival of such religions in an organized form.

I really think it is too bad that we feel the need to legitimize ourselves by "proving" that we have a historical basis for what we are doing. For me, one of neo-paganism's strengths is that it is flexible and open to inventions and new ideas.

I don't think that Wicca has to include all of the elements I've described here. But I've found that it frequently does. Simply identifying as a Pagan and a Witch is simpler for me than trying to define myself in terms of something I'm not sure I agree with.

Take Me Back to Beth's Pagan Stuff