There's been a lot of talk since PantheaCon in the blogsphere recently about Wiccanate privilege.  I was not at PantheaCon, but to the best of my ability to determine, it is a general sense of being marginalized in the Pagan community that exists among a variety of Pagans who do not follow a path that resembles (at least superficially) Wicca.  They feel that most "Pagan" rituals and gatherings are Wiccan-normative, and they would prefer that this assumption is not made in pan-Pagan ritual, conversations and gatherings.  There have been some excellent articles on the topic; here's one at the Wild Hunt; here's one at Finnchuill's Mast; here's one by T. Thorn Coyle in regards to a controversial "Wiccanate" prayer she gave at the gathering; here's one at Of Thespiae (a Hellenic Reconstructionist blog); here's a couple by fellow PaganSquare writers Stifyn Emrys and Taylor Ellwood; here's a couple by fellow Patheos writers Yvonne Aburrow, Niki Whiting, Julian Betkowski, John Halstead and Jason Mankey at Raise the Horns; and P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, writer of "Queer I Stand" at Patheos, has commented about it extensively around the internet though I couldn't find a specific blog post on the topic in my search (though e was at the conference).  If you read all of these, you'll probably get a good handle on the many different sides of the issue and what various people's take on it is: and if you read the comments, it will be more informative still.  If you haven't done so yet, do it; then come back here in an hour or three if you still want to hear my opinion.  Don't worry, I'll wait . . .

Here's my thoughts as someone who identifies as a Wiccan: I think that those who are advocating for this are right!  I think that most people, within and without the Pagan community, do assume that "Wiccanate" paths are the norm.  And I do think we need to be more inclusive and accommodating in our language and form.  No question about it!  Our community is still small enough that I don't think we can afford to alienate each other.  Let's try to get along in a climate of mutual respect.

I think it might help to have an idea of where the problem came from.  Back in the early 90s, when we were all using bulletin boards and Yahoogroups to open these conversations in a collective way that wasn't in-person at festivals, most of the books out there were indeed about essential solitary "Outer Court" Wicca.  Most people came to Paganism through these books.  Most of us still do.  So I (being one of those sorts) got on a bunch of different Pagan groups to chat and learn about stuff, and identified myself as a "solitary Wiccan".  I suppose the reactions I got were fairly indicative of what was typical: some initiated British Traditional Wiccans (who, don't get me wrong, are justifiably proud of their accomplishments because it takes a lot of work to earn those degrees) told me that because Wicca was a special initiatory mystery tradition descending from either the unbroken line of the Craft back to Neolithic days, or Gerald Gardner, I could not be Wiccan because I was not an initiate.  I imagine that my reaction was very similar to that of others like me; I found the term "Pagan" or "Neo-pagan" (which both Oberon Zell and Isaac Bonewits have claimed to have coined; I wasn't there so I don't know) and began calling myself an "eclectic Pagan" instead.

It quickly became unfashionable to call oneself a Wiccan, and I guess that has remained true to this day.  Wiccans are seen as the "stodgy old establishment" of Paganism.  No one wants to admit to having anything whatsoever to do at all with Wicca these days; no matter how much their personal spiritual path quacks and walks like that duck.

Well, perhaps because I started as a solitary and became a covening Witch in an initiatory tradition, I have a slightly different point of view.  For me, "witchcraft" has always been about practice; but "Wicca" was a faith.  It has all those traits about it that are listed as part of the marks of a Wiccanate ritual.  Initiated British Traditional (and related) Witches are priestesses and priests of that religious path, as are initiates of similar paths such as Feri; not every other "Wiccanate" Pagan out there is.  Many people might forget it, but that's pretty much what Gerald Gardner said about it in Witchcraft Today.

The phenomenon is referred to pejoratively as "Sabbat Pagans" in some circles.  These are mostly "eclectic Pagans," as we used to call ourselves twenty years ago, with a belief system and pattern of practice that would be called "Wiccanate".  But we didn't want to be called "Wiccans" because we felt the "real" Wiccans (really just a vocal minority) would be offended.  Or perhaps we perceived Wicca as a patriarchal hierarchy of oppression (which strikes me as having started as a sort of a backlash against the "you can't be Wiccan" sentiment in retrospect.)  We began using the term "Pagan" to avoid the argument, but "Wiccan" is actually what we were.  Other Pagans in the blogosphere have used the term "Wicca-identified Pagans."  Which works not at all, because no one who is one actually identifies as being at all Wiccan.

I agree with John Halstead when he said:

The first thing I noticed in the discussion was that there is still some serious confusion about what “Wiccanate” means. The initiated Gardnerians in the room heard “Wiccan” and “Wiccanate” and they seemed to think the speaker meant initiatory British Traditional Witchcraft. What polytheists mean by “Wiccan” or “Wiccanate” is not traditional initiatory Wicca, but Wicca-inspired Neo-Paganism or Neo-Wicca, what Don Frew pejoratively called “Llewellyn Craft”. You can say that only initiatory British Traditional Witchcraft is “real Wicca” until you are blue in the face. But folks, that ship has sailed. It sailed with Scott Cunningham and Llewellyn and the Internet. To most people, “Wicca” now means American Neo-Wicca, the blending of traditional Wiccan ritual forms, with spiritual feminism, Jungian psychology, and the mythology of Robert Graves.

You see, I think of it in a parallel of the evolution of other religions (and why would it be any different?)  "Pagan" is a blanket term that refers to a variety of religions with some common ground, just as "Abrahamic" refers to a variety of faiths with some common ground.  But the term "Christian" also covers a variety of faiths.  Gardnerian Wicca is kind of like the Catholic church; it was here first.  Alexandrian Wicca is kind of like the Anglican church; it's a spinoff but it looks a lot like the "original" (though arguably Gnosticism is older; but I digress).  Feri and its derivatives are kind of like the Orthodox church, which is really a case of some crossover but the split was so early in their mutual development that it was more like parallel evolution (or, since they are an initiatory mystery tradition that relies heavily on personal gnosis, they might actually be more like the Gnostics - who are still Christians, just with a very different viewpoint and practice.)  The earliest paths that came from these are like the early Protestants; the Lutherans and the Presbyterians, perhaps.  Everything after the publication of Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner is like Evangelical/Protestant Christianity, which came much later, is considerably stripped of a lot of the formalities and ceremony of Catholicism, and usually so by design.

Ask the Catholics if any of the others are Christians; until very recently they would have told you "no."  Ask the Anglicans who the "real Christians" are, and until very recently they would have said that the high churches were Christian but the Evangelical/Protestant types were not.  And so on.  But the truth is, they all possess enough traits in common that they fall under any religious scholar's definition of "Christian."

So yes, the majority of those who describe themselves as "Pagan" are Wiccanate.  I would go so far as to say that I think they all practice variations of traditions that are different denominations of the many faiths that fall under the "Wicca" label.  If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it just might be a duck!

Or, it might be a funny-looking goose (which is what Feri and descended say that they are.)  Which is fine too.  There are many groups that are defined as "Non-trinitarian Christianity" which don't have quite the same cosmology as everyone else (which includes Mormons, Unitarians, Christian Scientists, and so forth). Or maybe those are the Dianics.

If "Wiccanate" is the term we're going to use to describe this, that's fine by me; but I don't think it's going to work out because no one wants to admit that they are in any way "Wiccanate."  It would help if we'd just accept that we all have enough in common that we sort of need a common label that defines us as being of a particular branch of Paganism.  In this we could learn from the Christians: they all finally gave up and reluctantly accepted their common label, but that took them more than 2000 years so I am probably being optimistic). ;)

But we won't.  And the reason why we won't is that many of us in the Pagan subculture pride ourselves on our differences.  We don't want to admit that we're all unique . . . just like everyone else.

Which is part of the problem too.  I think that the "Wiccanates" would be less concerned with working to find commonalities with other "Wiccanates" instead of emphasizing their differences if they felt that their differences were also being respected.

I have another experience from the 90s to relate as a Wiccanate who had yet to redefine herself as an "eclectic Pagan" to avoid offending people.  I joined a Yahoogroup called "Freya's Wiccans."  There were some really great conversations on there between a diverse array of Pagans of different faiths, including a real-life dyed-in-the-wool no-joking Romani.  Awesome stuff!

There I had my first experience with someone who identified himself as Asatru or Heathen.  I asked him about his faith because I was curious.  And mostly, the answers I got were all variations of "we're different than the Wiccans because" and "we're better than the Wiccans because."

After a few months of discussion I got tired of this.  I said, "Okay, I get that your faith is not Wiccan.  That's great!  So what is your faith about then?  If your only claim to fame is that you're better than Wicca, prove it by telling me what you are, aside from Norse."

The vitriol that ensued was personally insulting and offensive, and guess which one of us was taken to task by the moderator?  So guess who left the list?

Even then, back in the 90s, this was a problem, and I think that many Wiccanates, when confronted by Reconstructionists of various stripes, feel the same way.  I offer this advice; while yes, the assumption that you think like they do shouldn't be made, you will catch more flies with honey than vinegar.  Wiccanates know that Gardner made it all up (even the most militant Goddess worshippers are beginning to accept that) and we really don't care how much more historically accurate you are than we are.  I actually read in the blog and comments of a Hellenismos how offended they are that we depict a strange-looking Hecate in our statues and that we "misunderstand" Athena.  Who in the &^%$ are you to tell me that I "misunderstand" a Goddess because I choose to worship Her in a different way than you do?

Yet I do see the frustration and I think it's justified.  Starhawk's suggestion that what we had in common as Pagans was a concern for the Earth and that we needed to unite over that rather than worry about "this small thing" shows just how out-of-touch a lot of us are.  I've made an effort to learn and I know a lot more about Heathenism now; enough to know that worrying about environmental activism really isn't their primary concern.  And I don't know any ritual magicians or Voodoo practitioners who give more than a passing nod to that issue either.  Heathens and Northern Pagans are concerned with family, tribe, and yes, the well-being of the land of their family and tribe . . . but that's not the same thing. I'm not even sure that the original Pagans of the modern age, those being the British Traditional sorts, would agree with that as a defining characteristic of what makes a "Pagan."

The last aspect that I believe has created this problem for us as Pagans is the desire of the early Wiccanate Pagans to be too inclusive.  In our eagerness to embrace other Pagans, we became completely unwilling to state what we actually are!  We say that anyone can be a Pagan and have any combination of beliefs.  Which I completely support and agree with.  So what, then, is Wicca?  What is not Wicca?  People who are not Wiccan or "Wiccanate" are defining this for us right now.  Maybe it's finally time for us to talk about this.  Our lack of definition creates a cultural melting pot instead of a mosaic, which forces those who do not share a "Wiccanate" belief to conform to that structure simply because it overwhelms everything else in its loose, amoeboid borders.

Now that I've probably succeeded at offending everybody, I'd like you to go away from this article until the steam has depressurized, and then I'd like you to come back and consider; am I right or wrong?  And how do we fix this?

I think we should start by refusing to use language that disrespects others and their beliefs, and we should be more willing to stand by what we are.  Let the British Traditional Witches stop trying to claim they're the only game in town.  Let the Eclectic Pagans admit that they're Wiccans too.  Let the Reconstructionists and the Polytheists tell us what they are instead of what they aren't.  Let the Wiccanates, if they don't want to use that label, help us to find a different name that embraces the commonalities that are evident to everyone else but us.

Please understand that I mean no disrespect to anyone.  For the record, I began my journey as a folk witch, then a ritual magician, then a solitary Wiccanate eclectic Pagan, then a Kemetic, then a solitary Celtic witch; I dabbled in Druidry, then became a covening Wiccanate and a Goddess-worshipper of a soft Dianic viewpoint, then I embraced Reclaiming, initiated into a derivative called "Pagans for Peace," and finally ended up as an initiate in Star Sapphire, which descends from British Traditional Wicca but embraces elements of Feri and Reclaiming.  I look young, and I suppose I am young as I am only pushing forty, but I discovered the Pagan path at a very young age and have been walking it for a long time, trying to find my way.

I'm no exception I think; and that, too, is part of the problem we are facing.  We are a bunch of parallel new religious movements, still trying to figure out what we are.  I suppose it's only natural for us to pass through an adolescent stage of emphatically declaring what we aren't, and how different we are from our parents.  In some ways, we will be right.  But in some cases in our adulthood, we will realize how like our parents we are after all.  Maybe it's time we all grew up a little.