What Modern Wiccan Theology Doesn’t Care About

Winding Road


IANA scholar of religion, but it seems to me that one large difference between Wicca and many other religions is that modern (at least) Wicca doesn’t look to separate people out into groups. You know: the saved vs. the damned, the elect vs. everyone else, those who are able to reach a state of disattachment vs. those who aren’t, followers of Mohamed vs. infidels, those who are the chosen people and everyone else.

I think that early Wicca — still attempting to imagine a religion different from monotheism, different from the Christianity which was all that most early Wiccans really knew — fell a bit into the trap. Thus, the insistence that one had been initiated into a coven with a lineage all the way back to the Bronze Age. That made you a REAL Witch, while someone who read some books, developed a daily practice, and went into the woods at night to dedicate her life to the Goddess and declare three times, “I am a Witch. I am a Witch. I am a Witch” could never measure up. Thus, people adopting titles such as Lady Moongrove Ravenwing or Mistress Starshadow. It led to some abuses; icky people insisting that you had to have had sex with their high priest in order to be allowed to call yourself a Witch. But it didn’t last long. Lucky for us, Wicca has (in general) moved well beyond that stage.

Modern Wiccan theology simply isn’t concerned about separating the chosen from the rest of the world. Sure, we have different traditions, but you can search far and wide for any discussion of why Witches are going, for example, to the Summerlands while everyone else is going to have to suffer in a bad place or live as a “once-born.” No serious discussions about how you have to believe X or do Y or the Goddesses/Gods will reject you, your landbase won’t know you, the Elements will ignore your call.

I think that’s a step forward for religion. I think that it’s freeing; it allows us to concentrate on developing our own personal relationship with the divine, with our landbases and watersheds, with our covens, and circles, and traditions. I think it emphasizes the deep truth that we see when we wash away from our eyes the enchantment of forgetfullness (who said that? L.M. Duquette?), the enchantment that causes us to imagine that any of us are separate from anyone/anything else. How simple and how easy to be responsible only for our own spiritual development and to allow others to find the path best for them.

Do you agree about modern Wicca? Is this true for other forms of modern Paganism?

Picture found here.

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5 responses to “What Modern Wiccan Theology Doesn’t Care About

  1. I obviously can’t speak to the questions that you raise, but, FWIW:

    One of the lovely things about religion is that it doesn’t require theology at all. Theology is, in essence, putting into language (perforce inadequately) the expression of our response to our experience of the self-manifestation of the Divine (however one defines that). But theology, in the form of belief systems, doctrines, dogmata, and systematic theology, is not the only available form of such verbal expression. In some societies, that expression may take the form of myth, saga, stories, and lore; and there is nothing inadequate or wanting in the latter as compared to the former. Different expressions for different situations.

    Nor is any verbal expression at all a necessity. Our response to our experience of Divine self-manifestation can take the form of ritual, of behaviour and custom, of community interaction. The four “C’s” that are often cited are Creed, Cult, Conduct, and Community.

    I’m not a scholar of religion either, but I understand that there is some good evidence that cultures tend to engage in religious ritual before they develop (or at least before they express) religious belief systems; we act out before we spell out.

    Bill Moyers writes, in The Power of Myth:

    ‘In Japan for an international conference on religion, Joseph Campbell overheard another American delegate, a social philosopher from New York, say to a Shinto priest, “We’ve been now to a good many ceremonies and have seen quite a few of your shrines. But I don’t get your ideology. I don’t get your theology.” The Japanese paused as though in deep thought and then slowly shook his head. “I think we don’t have ideology,” he said. “We don’t have theology. We dance.”’

  2. “How simple and how easy to be responsible only for our own spiritual development and to allow others to find the path best for them.” That is a very large part of my spiritual practice. I believe that there are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is still the same. I don’t try to convert anyone and I do not listen to anyone who tries to convert me. I have run into a few witches (and even non-witches) who have tried to tell me, “You can’t be a real witch if you…” But by and large other Pagans and I work to find our common beliefs. We tend to share more than compare.

  3. Reblogged this on The Darkness in the Light and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  4. Liberal Christians (there are some, I know them, and they even have ordinations) embrace the idea of “universal salvation” in which God loves everyone, Christian and non-Christian, atheist, equally and doesn’t sort them. My personal opinion is that this is the only god worthy of worship. The belief does cause some practical difficulties. Is Hitler in heaven? Hard to picture.

  5. I think it depends on what you mean with early Wicca. I was initiated in to a traditional Gardenarian coven in the early 90′s (hard to believe that was 20 years ago!) and I think some Wiccans today misunderstand those times. There was no required great rite in the coven I was in, for example, it was done symbolically with a chalice and athame, nudity was optional, and I knew very few people who claimed to be hereditary witches. There was a lot more structure I think, in terms of proper tool usage, and the way to run a ritual etc. It was required that you learn these things and be able to repeat them according to the traditions. There probably were covens who required more of an adherence to these laws (great rite included) but were they as common as people think? I am not so sure. And everyone was of course encouraged to develop their personal relationship with the lord and lady, in addition to the initiation system. It was an interesting time, and of course there was a lot going on prior to that with the trailblazing Wiccans from earlier years. In terms of names, you were expected to take on a magical name in some trads, once you passed a certain point in your training. Those names were considered part of who you are as a Wiccan, and everyone I knew had them. I am sure some people abused their position in covens once they reached high priest or priestess-hood, but again, you did not hear of it much.
    Some of the differences I see today are good. I think there is a lot more of a variety of practice available for example, rather than just the major categories like Dianic, Alexandrian, Gardenarian, Faery Etc. However I also see a lot more divisiveness. Back in the day there was some discussion of other trads practices, like this one I have overheard “I am concerned that the Dianic Wiccans are not balanced in their views but to each their own..” But today I am hearing a lot more judgement in general. Statements about how all Wiccans are a bunch of crystal hugging fluffy bunny weirdo’s and if you are a “real” witch you aren’t a Wiccan. Or from the other side “Those Wiccans have to dark a path, they need to stop their obsession with death and follow the light” While in the 90′s people were more concerned with following the rules and staying on the “correct” path according to their tradition, people today seem much more concerned with the rightness of their own path and the wrongness of others. A little like how various branches of Christianity have split up and each condemn the other. Some might see this as a natural process, the growth of the religion being in it’s impetuous teen years perhaps. And maybe that is true.
    I hope that what you say is correct, and that while there is some divisiveness, there is a lot more acceptance of the variation of a Wiccan’s connection with their personal relationship to the divine. But I think there is a sense of “otherness” still among Wiccans and Pagans, and we still have work to do to overcome that.
    Sorry this is so long, but I had a lot to say on the subject, LOL.

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