~~ Ravan's Ravings - January, 1999 ~~

A periodic diatribe on one or many issues in the neopagan community

It is Thursday, 07-Jul-2022 01:34:08 PDT in Silicon Valley, California.

Neo-Pagan != "Wicca"

Incorrect Nomenclature Bugs Me!

I can barely begin to tell you how much it irritates me to see various Neo-Pagan religions all casually lumped under the label "Wicca". While Wiccans are Neo-Pagan, not all Neo-Pagans are Wiccans, nor do all Neo-Pagans follow the Rede! It's like saying all Christians are Catholic, and believe in saints!

Now, I'm sure that some will say "Well, gee, at least they aren't calling us Satanists. You should be happy with that." Sorry, no. Calling, say, an Asatruar "Wiccan" is almost like calling a Baptist "Catholic". They might be polite in correcting your misapprehension, but they won't think much of your intellect (and may laugh or say unkind things behind your back.)

Many in non-wiccan traditions feel like they're being swept under the rug when they are labelled "wiccan". Add to that the fact that many tradition based Wiccans feel that their tradition(s) are being diluted by IRAB (I Read A Book) wiccans and the self-mislabeling of some fellow neo-pagans, and you get a recipe for hostility.

Publicity Fostering Confusion

Hey, we are finally getting some recognition! Too bad it's all called "Wicca". In "A HANDBOOK FOR CHAPLAINS (1993) - (ONLINE EDITION - 1998): RELIGIOUS REQUIREMENTS AND PRACTICES" even the US military lists "Gardenarian Wicca" and then "Wicca" as separate. This is great for Gardenarians, but under "Wicca" They list:
OTHER NAMES BY WHICH KNOWN: Witchcraft; Goddess worshipers; Neo-Paganism, Paganism, Norse (or any other ethnic designation) Paganism, Earth Religion, Old Religion, Druidism, Shamanism. Note: All of these groups have some basic similarities and many surface differences of expression with Wicca.

Gee, thanks, guys. It's nice to know that all we all believe basically the same thing, with just "surface differences". It's like saying Baptists and Episcopalians "have some basic similarities and many surface differences of expression with" Catholicism. While vaguely true, it ignores some very essential differences between the faiths in question. They have different definitions for Church of Satan and Temple of Set, why in the hell can't they be bothered with the difference between Wicca, Druidism, Asatru, and Shamanism??

The Path of Apathy

Why don't pagans seem to care about this, instead of being "pleased" with the misnomer? Why don't the pagan organizations that have worked so hard to get the information out there about Wicca and Neo-Paganism care to make the difference clear? Is it because most neo-pagan sites and organizations are Wiccan oriented? Is it because the Neo-Pagan community itself, as a whole, doesn't care what we're called as long as it isn't "Satanist"?

Even the Pagan Educational Network page on Modern Paganism says "Most Pagans abide by some form of 'If it harm none, do what you will.'" Excuse me? People, that's the Wiccan Rede, NOT the "Asatru Rede", NOT the "Druid Rede", NOT the "Shamanic Rede"!!! Yes, some of those traditions may have a similar or compatible code of ethics, but that's not the same as saying we "abide by some form" of it.

Which Witch is Which?

There is yet another point of confusion: most Wiccans refer to themselves as Witches, but not all Witches are Wiccan. There are a lot of forms of Neo-paganism, and many of them use the label "witch" to refer to themselves. The same holds true for labels like "High Priest/ess", "Priest/ess", etc.

There is a lot of overlap in terminolgy, due to the cross fertilization of ideas, but this does not mean that all of the Neo-Pagan beliefs and practices are the same. When in doubt, ask. Surprisingly, most Neo-Pagans are quite knowledgeable about the differences between their own practices and others in their area, and only a few get snippy about it.

What To Do?

Well, if you're a Wiccan, and don't care if other traditions are mislabelled as being the same as yours, you need not do anything. If you're not, though, I have some suggestions:

  • Let your favorite pagan organization know!
  • Tell them that you would rather not have the whole of the NeoPagan community painted with Wiccan colors. Take part in their efforts to educate the outside world, yet encourage them to be accurate in their education.

  • Use the correct terminology in your own web pages and writings!
  • Don't use Wiccan when you mean Neo-Pagan, Asatru, Druid, Shamanism, Eclectic, or whatever. Say what you mean, and don't assume that all Neo-Pagans believe and practice the same things that Wiccans (especially Brit Trad Wiccans) do. In fact, when discussing Wicca, you should probably pay attention to trad names.

  • Gently correct the misinformation that others have received!
  • If you see or read of someone using Wiccan when it is obvious that they mean Neo-Pagans in general, let them know, politely. Also, if they are talking about a specific subgroup (e.g. Asatruar) it might be helpful to point out that it is a neo-pagan subgroup. Those who interface on a regular basis with the press are in a very good position to do this.

  • Don't expect all Pagans to practice or believe alike!
  • If you are in an open circle/ritual, don't get bent out of shape if the ceremonies are not conducted in the way that you were taught was "correct". Often the differences between paths are subtle, and what you perceive as an error may well be the way they were taught! Don't chastise someone for not following the Rede, or whatever other axiom your trad espouses, when you don't even know if their tradition includes it!

    Comments?: E-mail me. (But don't forget to unmunge the address) If you like this page, point a friend to it.

    Page built: January, 1999.

    Page last changed/tweaked on 1/15/1999. Copyright 1/1999 by Ravan Asteris. OK to reprint with attribution and linkage, but not for profit.