Recently, in conversations with several spiritual sisters, the topic of Wicca has come up. Specifically, we talked about what has happened to our spiritual path over the years since we first became part of it.
Let me do some prefacing here. I believe without change stagnation becomes inevitable. I also believe in tradition. Yes, I know. That sounds very much like a contradiction but it’s really not. For example, I live in a house that was built before the turn of the 20th century. I love this place! It’s very much a fixer-upper but the foundation is solid and so we continue to make changes to improve our living conditions here. Would I tear the place down and start from scratch? Absolutely not! They don’t build homes like this anymore. (All the woodwork and floors are solid oak.) I do recognize that without maintenance and, in some cases, renovation the house would collapse on its own after a while. Hard work and dedication are required but it’s worth it.
Even spiritual paths are like that. Catholics hear Mass in English now instead of Latin. Many Protestant sects have female ministers now. You get the idea. They didn’t change the fundamental principles that their path was founded on but they did “update” things.
Wicca is still not considered a major religion in this and many other countries, but it’s been around longer than many of those major religions. Unlike most major religions, Wicca has no central authority. Our groups, Covens, are separate from each other but connected by our beliefs. We have different “traditions” like Protestants have different denominations. Practices in those different traditions, and even in different Covens within a particular tradition, may vary to a greater or lesser degree, but there are some fundamental beliefs that still connect us. I’ve mentioned them in earlier articles.
For those of us who have been around a long time, we’ve been watching some disturbing things taking place. Our beloved Craft has been becoming so watered down that today it is hardly recognizable in comparison to the path of spirituality we all began to learn and practice so very long ago. Change is part of life. Not all change is positive, however.
Here’s where I’ll probably get all kinds of flack from younger practitioners. When I first became aware of the Wiccan path, known primarily as Witchcraft back then, it was pretty much hidden. I’ve spoken of how teachers were few and far between, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned how the British Witches viewed us. They are very much into tradition, family tradition to be specific or at least they were then. For those of us in the US to say we were Witches without that unbroken line of tradition made us laughable to them. I took this seriously. I was looking to be as authentic as was possible with the limited resources of information available. It took me years of study, research and contact with the few teachers available to establish a curriculum that I felt was spiritually on the right track. Even then, I admit to probably not knowing what I would know had I been trained by a British Coven.
For me, Wicca required dedication, discipline and desire to become an authentic practitioner. When I began teaching others what I had accumulated and learned, I expected that same 3 “Ds” from them. Many came, not so many stayed.
Even in my early reading I discovered that most spoke of the fact that Wicca is not for everyone. Part of this is because of what is required in the training but another part is because Wicca is a spiritual path that leads to the Priest/Priestesshood. Not everyone is looking to take on that duty and responsibility. Part of the responsibility is being the keeper and performer of the “Rites of Passage” which include infant blessings, initiations, handfastings, rites of both womanhood and manhood, funerary rites and more. This is besides holding rituals of worship for the eight holy days as well as rituals for the New and Full Moons.
Taking that title of “Lady” or “Lord” (what we call our clergy) is not done lightly. At least it never was until about the end of the 1980s/beginning of the 1990s. That’s when I really started to notice things changing. People wanted the title but not the responsibility and they certainly didn’t want to have to do a great deal of work to get it. Ladies and Lords were beginning to appear in great numbers. Even students that came to our Temple wanted to know if it was possible to “test out” of certain lessons & classes if they felt they knew the material. I was shocked.
Being trained in Wicca is far more than learning the practices of this spiritual path. As I have frequently quoted Sybil Leek, you must know yourself and do this before you do anything else. That’s a primary, continuing lesson which includes stripping away all the false programming you’ve lived with for so long in order to find your True Self. How, in the name of the Goddess, do you “test out” of that?
So there were many who, not finding a teacher willing to let them ease through the training, started their own groups. A teacher can’t teach what they don’t know – that includes me. In this instance, I speak of those who chose not to take training from a teacher but yet founded a group and teach others. Because of this, much of the older knowledge, rituals and rites of passage are being lost. Newcomers to the path of Wicca often find it very easy to go through the training for the degrees of initiation. Many who now call themselves “Lady” or “Lord” have no idea of what they weren’t taught. This watered-down version of Wicca is becoming the norm, unfortunately.
I find this truly sad. Without the training that includes not only the passing on of rites and rituals, but the One Law, the seven tenets and other things that form the foundation upon which Wicca has always been known and practiced, we lose the very qualities that make Wicca, Wicca. Then, if it’s not Wicca, what is it?
I think I mentioned in an earlier article that one of the first things I learned from an actual teacher was that “All Witches are Pagan, but not all Pagans are Witches.” I can even take that further and say that although most Wiccans use magick, not all magicians (or sorcerers and sorceresses) are Wiccan. So I ask, if you don’t want to take the training of a Wiccan to become part of the Priest/Priestesshood, what’s wrong with being a Pagan or a magician?
I mean no disrespect to those who call themselves, “Witch” or “Wiccan”. Honest. I’ve been walking this path for 40 years now and I guess I’m just disturbed by the fact that our Ways are being lost. If I had a wish to be granted to me by the Gods, I would wish for a revival of Wicca, the Old Religion, that has given me so much enlightenment and peace throughout my life. I believe our world could use that right now.