I bet you thought
clicking on that link was going to take you to a page with information on Wicca. Well,
you'll get there soon enough, but I just had to take this opportunity to talk at
you a little bit first.
The Craft....The Craft of the
Whats in a word? Whats in a
name? Does a rose by any other name "smell as sweet?" More to the point,
would it still be a rose?
Ive been involved in paganism since
1974, receiving my training in 1975, and Gardnerian initiation in 1976, and Ive seen
a lot in my day. Ive seen things come and go; Ive seen change and development;
and Ive seen paganism grow - and grow explosively - through the many years.
Ive watched the rise of Goddess Spirtuality and Feminist Wicca. Ive watched as
what I was first introduced to as Witchcraft became Wicca; and now, I watch as
the two are being split apart as if they were - and always had been - two
completely separate and unrelated things.
Ive watched the incredible
proliferation of Witchcraft and Pagan Traditions take place over the years, thus standing
the true meaning of the word "tradition" on its head, I might add. Ive
watched the resurgence of Druidry, the emergence of Celtic Shamans, Faery Shamans, Faery
Traditions, Italian Strega Traditions, Norse Traditions, Asatru and Odinists, and many
other forms of earth-based spirituality as they have arrived on the public scene.
Oh, and lets not forget the latest
bunch to show up: the Hereditaries! Everyone has a grandma who left them some old secrets,
I guess. Ive heard it said that Wicca is strictly a Lunar and
Feminine path, while Druidry is a Solar and Masculine path - and other
such simplistic nonsense and attempts at separation and redefinition. Once, I even
had a prospective student express great surprise that I accepted and trained men in my
And Ive watched Witchcraft grow from a
rather small movement, with a small number of "loosely-
defined-but-generally-agreed-upon" set of beliefs, into a huge movement with a sort
of free-for-all "anything goes" mass of beliefs and opinions, based loosely upon
the idea of the Goddess and honoring nature, frequently, with very political overtones.
Paradoxically, at the same time - and most
likely in an effort to balance the above phenomenon - I've watched as many pagan
traditions busily rigidified and codified their beliefs into forms that might almost be
classifed as dogmatic.
Please understand that what I say here is
from my personal perspective and experiences. Im not writing an historical thesis,
trying to argue with anyones pet theories or versions of history, or - most
importantly - I am not trying insult anyones spiritual path. These are MY thoughts,
from what have been MY experiences - what I have seen and lived through these many years.
If you happened to have lived through that era, your mileage may vary.
When I think back to what we believed about
our Craft in those days, I recall that the groups - at least those in which I found myself
- did NOT believe that our Craft had been passed down, unchanged, and in unbroken
lineage, from the "Stone Age," a charge occasionally leveled at Traditional
Witches and Wiccans these days. We felt that Gerald Gardner had been exposed to
some very old practices and materials of a spiritual path, or religion, that he felt was
fast fading into oblivion, and in his determination to change that fact, he worked with
what he had been given, added things, changed things, and rewrote things in order to
revitalize it. We wondered a great deal about the source of the material in our Book of
Shadows - what were the old parts, what were the new - and made efforts to track things
back to their origins. We also were very interested in researching the old pagan myths and
religions wherein we felt our roots lay, in order to create new rituals, because we
realized that things that dont grow, die.
In the course of that research, which many pagans
besides those in our group were carrying out, many folks were greatly inspired, and became
interested in recreating those old pagan religions of their ancestors. Thus traditions
like Asatru, Odinisim, Strega, various Faery Faiths, and many others came into being
- and the race for authenticity and validity was on, gaining momentum in a very short
time, occasionally accompanied, unfortunately, by attitudes of condescension
In those days, we mostly just called ourselves witches,
though some of us called ourselves wiccans, using the term which had been used by
Gerald Gardner in his ground-breaking books of the early 1950's. Later on, the term wicca
(and wiccan) began to be more widely used, since it sounded less - well - scarey,
than "witch," loaded as the word "witch" had come to be with negative
connotations. We thought Wicca, being a somewhat unique word, would convey less in
the way of negative notions and imagery to the hearer than witch. Better for the PR. But
we had no intention of abandoning the word witch, though we were very keen to
clear up all the centuries of misunderstanding around what we felt to be its misuse. We
were keen to reclaim it, and to have our religion recognized as a valid and legitimate
This is not the place to get into a discussion of
the etymology of either of these words, or who brought them into modern usage, or where
they may have gotten them and when. That information is easily found elsewhere, and is
really not part of the points I am trying to make.
An especial focus of this work of clearing up
misconceptions was about the supposed link between witchcraft and satanism. Through the
years, lots of good pagan folk have spent much energy trying to dispel the notion of this
link in the minds of the general public, and for good reason: Satan is the quintessential
Christian "bad guy," and medieval witches were tortured, hung, and burned for
supposedly consorting with him. Now, generally speaking, modern witches dont
even BELIEVE in Satan, considering him a Christian fabrication, and not part of OUR
religion. So, not desirous of invoking the fate of our medieval counterparts, it seemed an
important thing - and a good place to start - to separate the two in the minds of
the general public. We also were very keen to disassociate ourselves with the current crop
of somewhat flamboyant "bad boy" type Satanists, who seemed more interested in
shock and notoriety than in magic and religion.
These days, however, one finds self-professed
Satanists of a different stripe - apparently nice folks, who see things (and Satan) a
different way, but have chosen to use this very charged word to describe their spiritual
path....... So, in the interests of ecumenism, largess, and political correctness, I
suppose we old-timers are supposed to ignore the fact that all the PR weve been
trying to do the last 30 yrs is now outdated, and being undone.....Though the difference
between nature worshipping witches & pagans and devil worshipping satanists is far
from clear in the minds of the general public, as the recent rows over the Harry Potter
books continue to demonstrate.
One might ask why such a charged word as
"witchcraft" was used in conjunction with our religion. The reason for this is
related to the evolution of ideas that took place in the early to mid 1900's. The
"short version" is, that according to the writings of anthropologist Margaret
Murray, what the medieval Church persecuted as witchcraft was really the remnants of the
ancient, nature-worshiping beliefs of our ancestors. Therefore, "witchcraft" was
the Old Religion, the religion of our pre-Christian ancestors. This theory was picked up
by many educated people of the day, including Gerald Gardner, who put it forth in his own
books, and added the testimony of his own experiences of initiation into and work with a
witches coven. The debate continues to rage as to the correctness of these theories.
I hear a lot of talk these days about the difference
between Wicca and Witchcraft, and about the difference between Wicca and Druidry, about
the differences between Wicca and just about anything else, as if those talking were
worried someone might associate them with some "old-fashioned" kind of thing. I
hear lots of people, creating lots of definitions, and stressing - often in sanctimonious,
archly superior tones - their differences, rather than similarities. I hear people
creating The Definitive Definition, or The Definitive Book of
Shadows, and other such silliness.
I suppose its a rather human need, this
desperate attempt to define and name oneself. I suppose its a part of the work of
figuring out who we are as unique individual selves, or even who we are as members of a
group within society........And part of this usually involves figuring out who or what we
But the flip side of this attempt to define and name
The Self is that it creates separation and factionalism. I wish that people would
realize how an over emphasis on this kind of thinking not only creates the above mentioned
separation and factionalism, but constitutes a real and true distraction to whatever
spiritual path we are professing to follow.....
And when we are so busy distracting ourselves with
achieving the perfect definition, we miss The Point.........
The Point being....
It isnt what name we call ourselves, or even
what we believe that is important; it is how we live our lives. Why is it
that we get so wrapped up in names and definitions, in labels and identities, in tools and
paraphernalia, that we become distracted from what our spirituality is really all about?
As "Pagans," as "Witches/Wiccans/Pagans/Druids/Shamans/Fill in
the Blanks," we profess to follow an Earth Religion, a Nature Religion, one that
honors and serves the Divine as manifest in and through the physical plane (i.e. matter,
the Earth) . So how is Nature served, how are God and Goddess served, how is Lifes
Hearth Fire served, if we spend our time arguing what to call ourselves, or about whose
definition is correct, whose grandmother got here first, or whose tradition is older, more
"correct" (academically, historically, or otherwise) and therefore more pure,
more true, more "Holy" ...... rather than spending our time trying to create a
balanced and harmonious relationship with all our relations on this beautiful, blessed
So although Ive walked the path of
Wicca/Witchcraft and Druidry these many years, as the years go on, I find myself more and
more loathe to identify myself as A Wiccan, A Witch, A
Druid, or anything else. I am a woman of the Earth, a mixed blood, whose ancestors
come from both Europe and North America, who is trying to walk in balance, and lead a good
life.....I caretake the Hearthfires of Life. By my deeds you will know me....
Now that I've finished my rant, you can go on to
the next page, for some thoughts on Wicca by pagan author, Ed Fitch