Now, before I get into this and for complete transparency, I was raised a Christian, with my mother being Episcopalian and my father a non-practicing Muslim. I really didn’t give much thought to religion until I entered, ironically, a Catholic university. I took one class in particular that really made me question a lot of what I was told growing up, with its main focus being on monotheistic beliefs. During this class I began to wonder a lot about polytheistic beliefs, which were not taught or mentioned in said class. I became mostly curious and interested in Wicca, a neo-pagan religion, or a “nature religion,” as some practitioners like to call it.
I’m not going to go in depth as to what they practice, you can do that on your own, but for the sake of this class I will analyze it. One of the first questions mentioned by the Allison Parrish prompts was ‘who gets to use this system?’. Freedom of religion in the U.S. allows anyone to practice whatever religion they want, but when I look at it in the context of Parrish’s discussion on hacking and the exclusion of Margaret Hamilton, a woman, I wonder what biases Wiccans may have about other people, or perhaps, biases people have about Wiccans.
One of the first things I noticed during my research of Wicca was that most of the practitioners I saw online were women, though many Wiccans use the likes of Scott Cunningham and Gerald Gardner as guides of the faith. Wicca does attract women, that’s for sure, but I believe that’s only due to the emphasis on duality. There’s a “goddess” and a “god” which are equally worshipped…and perhaps that’s why some men are turned off from it. Due to many women practicing the faith openly, though, I can see why people assume that the religion is for women and not men. This isn’t the case at all.
“[I]t seems illogical and counter-productive to relegate the God along with male practitioners to a minor role in other Wiccan rites. While I am certainly not advocating the dissolution of all female-only covens, I DO encourage them to give some serious consideration to allowing serious male practitioners to participate in their rites. This would present many opportunities for fellowship and the sharing of knowledge, which would surely outweigh any perceived disadvantages,” said Morgan Ravenwood at WitchVox.
Asking myself about the hindering of access, I really do think that to people who don’t know much about the religion can quickly assume that it’s some sort of “secret cult.” There is plenty of information about Wicca online, but I think that it’s also safe to say you’ll have to buy some books to fully grasp it at times. Studying the religion truly helps one understand it better and that personally goes with all religions. For example, as a Christian who picked up the Quran, I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about before. Though a born and raised Christian, I defended Islam so hard in class one time, my professor asked me if I was a Muslim afterwards. I’ve learned that it’s easy to defend a religion when you know more about it.
Learning about Wicca, I’ve discovered that there is no “canon” book that one can just look to for all questions asked, neither is there one path. So, when you’re a solitary practitioner, it can seem a bit difficult to find your way, especially if you don’t know anyone who practices the faith personally.
In fact, many practitioners today look to the writings of Gardner and Cunningham for information and advice. Gardner is regarded as the “Father of Wicca” and many traditionalists look to his writings. Cunningham appeals more to the “newer” generation of Wiccans and is way more understanding in his writings, answering questions like “should I practice when I’m sick” and “do I have to tell my landlord what I do on full moons?”
As for there being no set canon, many practitioners use Gardner’s book of shadows, but covens may use a grimoire, or something far older than Gardner’s text as reference. Solitary practitioners often look to Cunningham’s text about Wicca and the craft. Many practitioners, though, create their own book and compile all of their knowledge about the religion and its rites into one or multiple books. To make a long story much shorter, each practitioner finds their own path, involving study, prayer, meditation and practice, not just one book. The internet makes it much easier, though, for people to find their way in the religion.
The main “rule” that all Wiccans follow, though, is the threefold law. Whatever you put out into the universe, positive or negative, will come back to you three times. As the Wiccan Rede states, “An ‘ye harm none, do what ye will.”
For the most part, I’ve found the Wiccan community to be quite inviting. There are definitely misconceptions about the religion, and I urge people to research Wicca as well as any other religion you have questions on.
Here are a few misconceptions about Wicca that I thought I’d just throw in for the heck of it:
- Witchcraft and Wicca are the same thing
- Wiccans worship the devil
- Wiccans sacrifice animals and humans
- Wiccans have a “dark Bible”
- Pentagrams are the symbol of the devil
The list can go on…