What is with all the anti-Wicca sentiment lately? Is this something that’s been around for a while and I’ve just not been aware of? While browsing Tumblr and some forums recently, I’ve come across a bunch of anti-Wicca sentiment, with statements such as (only pasted mild quotes):
“If you are close to one of the Sabbats, then you will see a Wiccan complaining about how Christians stole the holiday from Wicca!”
“Stop saying all Pagans are Wiccans! Wiccans keep getting it wrong!”
“Oh, also, stop freaking appropriating other cultures for your Pagan practices.”
Cultural appropriation is a topic (a very long, in depth topic) for another day, and it is an issue that needs to be addressed within Wicca and within the larger Pagan community as a whole. But back to the main topic of this post, Wicca and annoyances about Wicca(ns).
People, please. Let’s not make the same mistakes that other religions have made by turning on each other and creating divisiveness where there was once solidarity. We need to remember that there are some people out there among us who are misinformed, who do not do their research, who have not been taught real history, and who will speak without thinking. Understanding and patience are called for, not denigration or derision. Some of them are merely misinformed–to play off a stereotype, remember back when you were a teen and thought you knew everything and pretty much trusted the first resource you came across. And then you talked about it incessantly (OK, not all teens, but generally, most teens are like this at some point).
To speak more personally, while I identify more easily as simply “Pagan,” I am in fact Alexandrian Wiccan. I came to this path with clear eyes and a sound mind–I knew what I was getting into, both in terms of Paganism in general and Wicca in particular. That being said, I still find it more comfortable to identify as Pagan when speaking with other people. It’s a term that is generally understood without getting into too many details–and most people don’t really want the details, to be honest. They may want to confirm or ask about some of the sensationalized stories they’ve heard about Paganism, but they don’t really want to know the actual details per se.
I find it rather upsetting that people within the Pagan community are behaving this way, both on the side of condemning Wiccans for being Wiccan and on the side of those who aren’t doing their research and spreading misinformation (albeit unknowingly). One of the biggest examples I saw repeatedly brought up was that of Wiccans who say that Wicca predates Christianity. Well, anyone actually involved in Wicca should know the history of their spirituality and that Wicca as a religion was created in the 1900s based off of pre-Christian practices. Wicca itself is not pre-Christian. Paganism, as a general term for mostly earth-based, polytheistic spiritualities, is pre-Christian. (And yes, I know that the definition of “Paganism” is debatable, but for clarity’s sake, we’re going with that one.) And the little baby Pagans and baby Wiccans are being slammed for this, for believing a little too fervently in something they found online.
Rather than slamming each other, how about we encourage each other to learn? Ask questions. Point out factual errors and provide better sources. If they’re interested in correcting their mistake, they’ll be grateful you helped. If not, then you can slam them for spreading misinformation and so on and so forth. But I believe most people are prepared to learn at least something more about the spirituality they profess to be a part of.
Reacting with hostility and anger is only going to breed more of the same. Creating bad experiences for newbie Pagans, whether online or in person, does not do our community credit. We have to remember that the Internet is only an extension of real life–the effects of communication online have real world consequences. Hiding behind anonymity on the Internet in order to criticize and complain about other people not only hurts our community by spreading poison, but it makes you look bad, regardless of whether you are “anonymous” or not.
I understand that it can be frustrating for those who are not Wiccan to have the assumption that Pagan = Wiccan and vice versa, or that things that are Pagan are assumed to be specifically Wiccan. There is a lot of misunderstanding out there, not only within our community but outside of it as well. While it can be very frustrating, I think we also need to realize that not everyone is going to understand. Not everyone is going to do their research, and not everyone is going to bother with fact-checking or delving any deeper into a subject than what they read on Wikipedia. Part of our responsibility, then, is to educate. If we want people to understand, then we must be willing to teach and to share. We can’t hide in the broomcloset forever. If we do, we must be willing to accept that stereotypes will persist, misunderstanding will persist, and a lot of misinformation will persist. We must be willing to challenge the people who do spread false information, find out whether they are doing so intentionally or unintentionally, and find out if they are willing to listen and to learn. If not, let them go on their merry way. It’s their choice.
I think many Pagans forget that largely our collective spiritualities are based on the concept of choice, and having a choice in our lives. We have the choice to sit and complain about these people–but we also have the choice to get out there and actively do something about the source of our complaints. Complaining on the Internet accomplishes nothing except letting you blow off steam. It does nothing positive for those who read your poison, it does little to help you, and it does nothing about the people who are the source of your complaint. If you want to keep bitching about Pagans who don’t know what they’re talking about, then fine, go right ahead. But you don’t solve anything by doing so. You only make yourself angrier and the person on the other end who sparked your complaint either doesn’t read your words because you didn’t respond directly to them, or they do read your words and get offended and angry in turn. It’s a vicious cycle that does absolutely nothing good.
Part of why I started this blog was to try to help others see that Pagans aren’t what they’re portrayed as being. I have tried, to the best of my ability, to help spread truth and start discussion of real issues for Pagans and the broader community. I think I’ve succeeded fairly well in the past three years, but I am one person. There is only so much I can do. I can only start the spark of discussion with my words. The rest is up to the rest of you.