A Pyrate Perspective
The thoughts and feelings of a Pirate Wiccan on Pagan issues and community.
The Paradox of Wicca
One of the things that my partner and I discuss a great deal is how it seems old school Wicca (not solitary, Cunningham Eclectic Wicca) is dying out; we argue about whether or not old school Wiccan traditions deserve to survive after all of the strange drama that many within the path have produced in the last thirty years. He argues that if the old traditions die out, we will lose a great deal of knowledge. I generally argue that while I agree with that sentiment, abuse shouldn’t be rewarded.
Whenever he starts talking about Wicca with strangers, people roll their eyes at him and start muttering about fundamentalism and the need to change with the times. British traditional Wicca is a hard path, not meant for everybody, and what people who don’t pursue a traditional initiation don’t always understand is that the training that comes along with it is to facilitate some very specific mysteries that you just don’t find in Eclectic Paganism. This doesn’t mean that traditional Wicca is better or worse than Eclectic Paganism, but it has specific training for a reason, and those of us who go through it have a very specific point of view about what we are doing and how we do it. It is hard work. Once you have done the hard work, being asked to get over yourself and be flexible with ways of thinking that are against everything you’ve gone through is pretty antithetical to all of the experiences that a traditional initiation brings. It’s especially difficult when you have worked hard for years to gain the knowledge you have and you are confronted from someone who has (maybe) read a few books who tells you that you are the one that doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
While Wicca has much to offer and if it dies out, we will lose many of the secrets that we have gained through the last 80 or so years, many people in the new generation of Paganism have no interest in pursuing Wicca because of all the “drama” that people perceive within its ranks. They don’t want drama in their pursuit of Deity. It was definitely one of the reasons I avoided Wicca for a long time. While I understood that it had a lot that it could teach me, I also had no desire to get tangled up in the power plays and emotional drama that seems to come part and parcel with the deal.
Wicca is a hierarchical mystery tradition. You have to work your way through the many steps and elevations for the experiences they bring you. The idea is that by doing this, you will reach a greater understanding of a Whole instead of just bits and pieces of it. The hierarchy exists to assist in the teaching process, to create a structure for who answers to who, and it allows a coven to run smoothly. Those who have been through the elevations are there to help others go through them; that’s sort of the whole point. It has been my experience that if no one is in charge, nothing gets done. Just as in the rest of life, some people are interested in certain roles that others aren’t. And unfortunately, just as in anywhere else, you will find people who abuse those roles.
The notion of the crazy, power hungry Priestess (or Priest, though I find it’s usually centered around the role of Priestess), is certainly not a new one. They say that the crazy ones can also be the most powerful, and to a certain extent I agree. You have to be “crazy” to get past society’s way of looking at the world and to be able to reach for Deity. In a lot of ways, most of us who use magic would probably be considered “crazy” by the general populace. But I’ve also heard stories from people who were initiated in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s about the things that their Priestesses put them through.
One of the ones that always stands out to me is in our tradition is a story about a priestess who, if you messed something up in ritual, would make you kneel in a corner with the scourge in your mouth through the rest of the ritual.
I don’t know about you, but if one of my priests or priestesses tried this with me, I would tell them where to shove it and leave. To me, this goes way beyond the respect that you offer a teacher and the hard work that as a student you should be giving in return for teaching; this is where the line is crossed into an abusive relationship. As a Priestess learning my own role in the coven, I also clearly understand that this is not the way to teach someone. If I were to have a student who made me mad enough for something like that, I as a teacher, have the right to simply ask that student to leave and not come back. I do have students who frustrate me, but I strive to find different ways to present whatever I’m trying to teach, realizing that my first approach was just not the right one for that particular student. Maybe it’s because I grew up with teachers and I work in the education system. A student who doesn’t want to learn is different from a student who is having trouble learning. If a student comes to me and wastes my time, I won’t invite them back to my Circle. I don’t have to waste my time or become an abuser to solve the problem.
We had another Priestess lament to us at Pantheacon about how she missed the days where these sorts of actions were acceptable. I disagree completely.
I think that for old school Wicca to survive, we have to change this view and rethink how we approach our students. As a priestess, I do expect to be given respect for the things I have accomplished, and to be treated in a respectful manner by those who have not reached initiation yet. I also expect to give my respect to both those who have not gained an initiation yet and those who have gone before me. I understand that just because I have gotten through my own initiation, there is still a great deal for me to learn and that others in the tradition can teach it. To me, this is a path of learning and the experiences we gain through that learning. The power structure is there for a reason and is necessary. I also understand that if there is someone in my tradition that I can’t work with, I don’t have to. That’s one of the beauties of having a tradition; there is more than one group, more than one Priestess and Priest available to me. Dozens in fact. But for traditional Wicca to survive, we need to overhaul not only how we handle things within our covens, but how the larger community perceives us. Without these things happening, I do think traditional Wicca will die off completely; sadly, maybe rightfully so.
Please login first in order for you to submit comments