Friday, October 26, 2012

NeoWicca Is Not Wicca?

I was trapped in a time warp earlier today. I was stuck in the late 1990s where a group of people actually felt the the word "NeoWicca" was so blasphemous that the mere mention of it brought about threats of being removed from an internet forum. Of course, in my usual fashion, you threaten to kick me if I don't adhere to your (ignorance inducing) "rules"? I'll take that challenge my good sir, and I'll raise you my middle finger.

What I found most amazing about this entire encounter was that this particular group was apparently a facebook adaptation of a group that was started many years ago and it was quite obvious that their "rules" had not actually evolved along with the evolution into the new format. Why is it that such a group couldn't possibly fathom the idea of "moving on with the times?" Was it that scary for all the "olden pagans" to step away from their ancient ideas? In this case, the idea that NeoWicca isn't "real" Wicca.

I will preface this with, personally I'm not a fan of "make it up as you go along" pagan traditions to include NeoWicca, however there are a few flaws in the above argument. The first being that "NeoWicca" has been around for a while now. Despite many considering it's origin with Scott Cunningham, I could argue it actually started with Raymond Buckland who began writing in the 1970s and was the first American initiate of British Traditional Wicca by Gerald Gardner himself. It was Buckland who first wrote about "self-initiation" in Wicca in 1986, but obviously would have had such ideas prior to the book.

Even if we trace it to Cunningham, we're still talking early 1980s with his first book and late 1980s with Wicca: A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner. Regardless, it's 2012, which brings me to my second point. Like it or not, today the majority of "Wiccans" are, in fact, NeoWiccans who base a lot of their beliefs and understanding on books like Cunningham's or Buckland's or even, dare I say it, Silver Ravenwolf. They are also the most well known tradition outside of the pagan community. Without them, most people would have no idea what paganism is. In fact, most people come to paganism through some form of NeoWicca. With that in mind, it seems a bit strange to alienate an entire group of people because they don't happen to be initiated.

Another disagreement is on whether or not NeoWicca can actually be considered Wicca. Since I have never actually had any initiate state in my presense, that what is taught by the likes of Buckland and Cunningham is not outer court, it is actually Wicca. It might not be the inner court, but it is still the fundamentals of the tradition. It is still what most dedicants learn prior to initiation. It still contains the foundation. It may be only scratching the surface, but it is still the same surface that even dedicants to initiatory traditions begin with.

The simple fact is, I remember having this same debate when I entered the "pagan community" back in the late 1990s asking the question "what is your lineage?" To know that there are still groups that haven't at least learned to accept that NeoWicca isn't going anywhere and is just as legitimate of a belief system (do it yourself or not) as any other Neopagan tradition isn't really a shock, but is actually pretty sad. Isn't it time to evolve and focus on more important things?

While it's not my first choice of discussion topics, NeoWicca is a "gateway" pagan tradition. Those who practice it should be accepted as part of this community because they are. Does that mean not educating them on other traditions if they haven't figured out that there are such? Of course not, but it's time for the olden pagans to get over themselves, embrace the change, and start focusing on education in the vastness that is the pagan community. No one is saying "we all have to agree," but the simple fact is, NeoWicca is a form of Wicca. So in closing, please get over it!

1 comment:

  1. I might date the roots of "neo-" (or, as I have called it, post-Gardnerian) earlier, to the Samhain 1979 publication of Starhawk's Spiral Dance. That was a gateway book for zillions of women, and implanted the idea, even more so than Z. Budapest's work, that Wicca was first, "women's religion" and second, could be made up as you went along. I remember in the the mid '80s when I connected with the thriving Chicago Pagan being at first confused because no one was doing anything resembling what was in Spiral Dance (though they were doing much that was reported in Drawing Down the Moon which was published on the same day).

    As influential as Buckland's Big Blue Book was in the day (it first came out in 1986), I don't think it still has the impact of Cunningham's Solitary Practitioner 1989. Cunningham touched on the same emotional key as did Starhawk: anyway you do it is essentially ok. (I don't think either said that literally, but it was the impression that was made.)

    Silver RavenWolf is late to the game, with her first book not coming out until 1993. This old-timer will tell you that it is essentially sound. It is extremely accessible, as was Starhawk's. Most criticism comes at it for being simplistic or shallow, which it is. That's what makes it accessible and an appropriate gateway book.

    Buckland is actually an interesting marker in the discussion. In the last decade (or maybe two) I've heard the big blue book dismissed as hopelessly old-fashioned, or even inaccurate(!) surprisingly often. I think whether Buckland (or, say, Paul Huson) falls in or out of your comfort zone is a good marker of "neo-" or not.