Why I am Not a Wiccan

by Enyo Perseus

I’ll tell you right now, my definition of Wicca is one that you won’t find in a Scott Cunningham or Silver RavenWolf book. My definition is one that will probably make the traditionalist nod his or her head in approval.

Wicca. A lot of the time, you hear people say that “Wicca means the same thing as Witch, it’s just a more accepted term”, or perhaps “Wicca has been around forever.” Or, even more insulting, you’ll hear “Wicca is whatever you want it to be.”

What about how Wicca was intended to be, or where it came from?

Wicca originated in the 1950’s in England. It was founded by Gerald B. Gardner, who studied under the New Forest Coven in England. Gerald B. Gardner initiated his priests and priestesses into an oath bound, initiatory, mystery-based priesthood.

Let’s dissect Gardner’s definition of Wicca.

Oath bound. In order to be Wiccan, or of the Wicca, you must take certain oaths. I can’t tell you exactly what are in those oaths, because I don’t know. The very oaths that a Wiccan takes are secret.

Initiatory. That means that someone else spoke the words, someone else human brought you into their tradition. That leaves out self-dedication and self-initiation (which I don’t believe is possible, but that’s probably the subject of another essay). In short, if no human being with proper training puts you through the process, you are not Wiccan.

That, in my opinion, is the part that blows it for the masses that are attempting to claim the term as their own.

Mystery-based. Mystery means that there are secrets. Things not known to the masses. Things that cannot be found in a book in Barnes and Noble. The bare basics may be found, but there are portions that cannot be experienced outside of the traditional ritual format. This does not diminish the value of the non-initiate practices. It just differentiates the two, for there are mysteries that can be experienced outside the realm of the Wiccan practice. The secret knowledge of the mystery tradition is not just handed to the initiate on a plate. The initiate must learn it, study it, and discover the true meaning for himself. The books at Amazon don’t quite provide those lessons, or that format, to encourage self-discovery and a personal relationship between witch and deity.

Priesthood. Yes, that’s right, I said Priesthood. Wicca is a clergy, with a hierarchy. A priest starts out as a dedicant in some traditions, and then takes the oaths to become a first-degree. Eventually, the initiate can move up to third degree and a High Priest or High Priestess of his or her own coven.

Another thing to keep in mind that Wicca is also, as Gerald B. Gardner defined it, a traditional religious practice. Tradition. Tradition means doing the same thing in a set way. Think back to Christmas celebrations when you were growing up. Didn’t the same person always carve the turkey? Or when you were a child, did you always get to blow out birthday candles? Tradition. Wicca has things that are exclusive within each tradition of Wicca. Of course, I can’t tell you what these things are, because I don’t know. I am not an initiated Wiccan.

Now that we have established a definition for Wicca, how many people do you know that fit the bill? How many people are living up to the title that they use?

But the word has already changed… Yes, to the masses of non-Pagan individuals, and many neophytes that have wandered in, Wicca means Witch. That is ignorance, not changing a word, and ignorance can be corrected. Personally, I become nearly rabid when someone attempts to lump my practices in with the Wiccan practice.

Why? Isn’t Wicca whatever I want it to be? Nope. We’ve already established what defines Wicca, and a mishmash of practices is not it. Personally, I feel that calling myself Wicca devalues my own practices. My practices are mine, and are not defined by any tradition that I study from the outside. To try to force my practices under an umbrella which it clearly does not belong does nothing to add clarity or legitimacy to my practices. All it does is make it that much harder for people to understand what it is that I practice… and what it is that other people practice.

In the manner that many pagans use Wicca to define them, what does it mean? It means nothing. Instead, I give my practices a much more accurate and meaningful title: eclectic witch, working with the Hellenic pantheon, smiled on by Aphrodite, Athena, and Ares, with a touch of Crowleyan and LaVeyan influence. Does it tell you very much? No, I suppose not, but it’s certainly more descriptive than “Wicca, which means whatever you want it to mean.”

Not only would my embracing the title of Wicca for myself be denying the beauty and complexities of my own practices, but it would also cheapen Wicca itself. I need no false titles to give validity to my path.

Wicca is what it is. Wicca is an esoteric tradition as created by Gerald B. Gardner. I, as well as many traditionalists, find it offensive, irresponsible, and downright reprehensible, to attempt to steal their titles to cast a false sense of legitimacy upon my path. I’ve not done the work, nor experienced the Mysteries or elevations necessary to honestly make such a claim for myself. I feel no need to.

This is why I am Not a Wiccan.

copyright Enyo Perseus

November 16, 2001

All rights reserved