I find myself on Tumblr quite a bit these days, and often I browse the Paganism tags. In those tags, I find a number of misconceptions, half-truths, and misunderstandings of what Wicca is and who can be Wiccan. I know, I shouldn’t really be surprised–it’s the Internet, after all. What follows is a brief list of some items I frequently see, followed by responses.
- “An it harm none” is the only rule of Wicca.
- You can’t be a solitary Wiccan/Witch.
- It takes a Witch to make a Witch.
- You must practice skyclad or you’re not a true Wiccan.
- “Wiccae” is a proper form today for the plural/adjective of “Wicca.”
Number 1: “An it harm none, do what thou wilt” isn’t really a rule, nor is it the only one. If you’re in a coven, you have rules on how to behave and interact with other coven members and with non-coven members of the Craft. You have rules for secrecy and what you are allowed to share. Even when not in a coven, there are other “rules” beyond Harm None that affect your interactions, such as karma and the Threefold Rule. However, while we call these things rules, they really aren’t. They are guidelines. Any rule can be broken, whether mundane or magickal. The kicker is whether you are willing to accept the consequences of your actions. Harm None is also only a guideline in that it is impossible to harm no one–even by locking yourself away to avoid harming others, you are harming yourself. So this “rule” isn’t really a rule. It’s a guideline.
Number Two: You can’t be a solitary Wiccan/Witch. I call complete bull on this one. You can be a solitary Wiccan/Witch. I was a solitary for ten years. It is entirely possible to be a solitary Wiccan or a solitary Witch. Some people progress just fine on their own. Some start off in a coven or other group and become solitary. Others are like me, who start solitary and then find a group. I think this idea comes from the next idea in Number Three.
Number Three: It takes a Witch to make a Witch. This one tends to vary depending on tradition. In the tradition I’m part of, it’s true. It’s a part of the lineage. “Witch” is a serious title to be earned and worked toward, not something to be bandied about. That being said, when I was a solitary, I did call myself a Witch. The difference was, I didn’t have the training to back up the title I used. I think that’s really what this idea comes from–having the training to back up the claim. I believe that in some ways, this notion is used to underscore the importance of training and initiation for certain aspects of Wicca. However, there will be those out there who use this notion as a power-play, but those people don’t strike me as being particularly healthy people to be around anyway. I guess my conclusion on this one is: 1) it depends on the tradition being discussed, and 2) you can call yourself whatever you want, but consider if you can back it up. “Witch” connotes a certain level of discipline, control, and power. Can you back it up? Do you care?
Number Four: You do not have to practice in the nude (aka skyclad) to be a “true” Wiccan. Wicca is an experiential religion. If your experience is that you are uncomfortable being naked during a ritual, or in front of a group of people, then you don’t have to be nude to have a successful ritual. I believe this comes from the idea that you should approach the Goddess and God in the form you were given–the naked body–and be natural. However, it is more important that you are comfortable and confident. If that means you’re clothed, then so be it. Nudity is a practice for some covens and traditions, but it is not something that should be forced on anyone, especially if they are uncomfortable with it. There is also no “true” Wiccan or any one way to be Wiccan, so let’s just throw that notion completely out the window, shall we?
Number Five: I have absolutely no idea where people got the idea that “Wiccae” is a word. Just because something was proper hundreds of years ago does not make it the proper form to use today. Old English was proper hundreds of years ago, but unless you’re in an Old English play, no one would consider using that kind of language now. The proper forms in use today are “Wicca” and “Wiccan”–the noun and the adjective/noun forms. The noun form (Wicca) does not have a plural. The adjective/noun (Wiccan) form does. “Wiccae” is not a word. I understand how the form of the word was concocted to follow Latinized plurality forms, but it’s still incorrect in both descriptive grammar and prescriptive grammar.