I think I’m having issues with definitions.
For example, who is a Wiccan?
From my understanding of the matter, you can’t call yourself Wiccan unless you’re formally initiated into a Wiccan tradition. You can say, well, I practice Wicca, but you can’t actually be Wiccan unless formally initiated.
All through my eclectic years, and now in my Wiccan ones, this is how I’ve always understood the issue. So when I run into someone who claims to be Wiccan and I ask them what tradition they practice and they get upset with me, I remain confused. I’m not trying to be snobby at all by saying that to be Wiccan you need to be initiated. I know there are those out there who like to use initiation as a form of validation of their faith or to claim some sort of mystical power; I’m not one of them.
This was always how Wicca was defined to me by other Pagans. It took me a long time to decide that I wanted to be initiated and the decision was based on factors that had nothing to do with some sort of validation of my faith or power. Gardner clearly states that one must be initiated, and I think that for the most part, even if you aren’t practicing Gardnerian Wicca, Gardner still has the final say on the matter (as nutty as the man might have been). He was, after all, the first Witch to ever write about Witchcraft from the inside, and all Wiccan traditions are in some part based on his writings. There are a lot of Pagan traditions; why claim to be Wiccan if you don’t want to be initiated and have this specific experience? Be eclectic and do your own thing. I did for a long time, and I was perfectly happy.
This isn’t the only definition I’m having problems with.
Even just defining Pagan is an issue. Which in some ways is part of the point. Those of us who call ourselves Pagan are in many ways claiming our own authority in how we define ourselves. But I think that when we are trying to discuss “Pagan” issues, one should at least have a basic understanding of what that means so as to have an actual discussion. I think my significant other and I have a lot of issues with the fact that he’s usually arguing with an initiation based tradition in mind and I’m still arguing with eclectics in mind. (Hey, I’m still new at this whole BTW thing…)
I think even the dictionary is somewhat confused…or maybe not confused, but too overwhelmed to have a good solid definition of what Pagan is:
Definition of PAGAN
I was recently having a conversation with someone who said to me “‘The pagan community’ as a whole does not represent my interests either religiously, as a black woman, as a woman living in a ‘traditional’ gender roles marriage, as a theurgist,, or as an amateur philosopher/classicist with Aristotelian leanings. In all, the ‘community’ doesn’t really provide anything for me beyond having a place to potentially find people I CAN connect with.” If the community as a whole doesn’t represent you, why do you still define yourself by that community? Is it worth trying to fit into a larger community if all you’re there for is finding someone else who might not fit in the way you do? (This conversation by the way was about the issue of pagan women veiling for ‘modesty’, which I completely reject as a monotheistic, male-influenced oppression of women that doesn’t fit with any of the larger ideals of the Pagan community. “And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye are really free, ye shall be naked in your rites; and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise. For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and mine also is joy on earth; for my Law is Love unto all Beings.” This does not strike me to have much to do with society’s overwhelming sense of ‘modesty’. Anyway, back to the subject at hand…)
The overall “community” of Pagans generally reject authority and are so stuck on avoiding it, that they avoid the very definitions of what Pagan means. In their attempts to reject authority, many people seem to become “Pagan” with no interest in or regard for the very definitions of Paganism. This does not make us a community; it makes us a group of people who reject community.
I guess what I’m posing is this: Why claim to be something you’re really not? Why not define yourself as something you are?
After I wrote this, I read this blog, ARADIA and the Revival of Modern Witchcraft, which has some thoughts on Wicca and the fact that “Paganism is a religion without a hermeneutical tradition”. I thought her thoughts on the article from Pomegranate were relevant to this discussion if anyone is interested in further reading.