It’s hard to believe it will soon be 44 years since I began my journey on this spiritual path. A lot has happened in those years, both in my life and in my learning and experience on the Path itself. The Wicca I was trained in, and continue to practice, is barely recognizable by today’s standards of what is Wicca and what is a Witch.
Back in the 1970s, Wicca and Witchcraft were one and the same. If you didn’t follow the complete path of Wicca/Witchcraft, then you were a magician, sorcerer/sorceress, or something else, but you were not a Witch. Back then, even though we all called our Path Wicca, we called ourselves Witches. That would soon change.
I remember finding out that there was a time when we wore our Pentagrams upside down in the time of the Horned God to represent his horns and beard and upright in the time of the Goddess to represent Spirit and the four elements. That had already changed thanks to Anton Szandor LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan. Witches already were having to deal with the stereotypes of what a Witch was, we couldn’t afford a connection to the Church of Satan so we stopped honoring our Horned God by wearing our Pentagrams upside down – ever – to avoid adding to the misinformation that already existed concerning our spiritual practices.
It wouldn’t stop there though. A few more years would pass before we began to call ourselves “Wiccans” rather than “Witches”. Once again, it had a lot to do with Anton and his Church of Satan and the decision to call his people witches. Were we still “Witches”? Definitely. The time had just come to try to dispel those stereotypical images and the volumes of misinformation that have abounded for way too long.
As the years passed, I began to notice a difference in the teachings and disciplines of Wicca. By the end of the 1980s and definitely through the 1990s, it seemed those who found their way to the Path wanted to claim that High Priestess or High Priest degree and title of “Lady” or “Lord” but were unwilling to do the work or take the responsibility that comes with the Degree and title. Students were asking if they could “test out” of a particular subject, like in a college, not seeing the real lesson behind doing the work the subject was asking of them.
By tradition, it was always the custom for the time between Degrees to be “a year and a day” and, as we approached the new millennia, people were in a rush to get those Degrees. They were unwilling to accept that the “year and a day” was a guideline not a hard-fast rule. It was all about attaining the ’brass ring’ as quickly as possible.
Wicca has been called the “Old Religion”, not to claim any particular antiquity, but to call attention to the fact that we were around before the “New Religion”, Christianity. The truth is, there is no unbroken chain of existence to our Path, particularly here in the United States. A great deal of our knowledge and teachings were lost during the Inquisition as well as other times in history. The most we can claim is that our Path is based in antiquity with the worship and respect of Nature, just as primitive people must have felt in viewing and experiencing the changing of the seasons and the phases of the Moon.
I could go on and on about what the Wicca that I was trained in and have practiced these 40+ years is, but what concerns me is what it seems to have become. Wicca has always been a spiritual path that has magick as a perk. That “perk” comes from its primary principle – knowing yourself. Getting to the core of who you truly are allows you to view Life in a whole new perspective. Because of the programming we receive as we grow up, it takes time to peel back those layers and find who you truly are. That teaching has been lost, for the most part. Not knowing who they truly are, practitioners seem to turn to magick for everything – especially any affront they feel has been done to them.
Wanting to still call themselves “Witch” (because witch is such a delicious, spooky word), but only embrace the magick, it was decided to change how one defines a Witch. There are so many definitions of witch now that even I am confused. I came from a simpler time. That probably also means the public, who was barely beginning to understand what a Witch was, is even more confused then before and have probably pretty much returned to assuming we all worship their Devil.
What is even more disturbing to me is the question of whether there are any Seekers out there who truly want to go through the training and disciplines offered by the Wicca/Witchcraft of older times. Is there any young person who wants to know who they truly are? Do they want to be the keepers of the rituals of worship and rites of passage? Are there any who want to teach and counsel others for the sake of helping them to empower themselves? Or will these “Old Ways” die out, just as they were beginning to reclaim some of the knowledge and wisdom lost long ago?
“A Witch knows what she [or he] knows and makes no other claim.” is an old saying that accurately states my position here. I would never claim to know it all, but, after 44 years, I do know a few things. For almost four decades I have watched Wicca slide down a slippery slope to a place where it is so watered down that it‘s barely recognizable. It saddens me. In a time when we should be reaching out even more for spiritual practices and solutions to our lives, those who call themselves “Witch” seem to be having no part of that while those who are seeking a path want things quick and fast seeming to be unwilling to dedicate the necessary time to the discovery of who they truly are and learning the practices of the path they say they want to follow.
Have I lost hope. No. Like Diogenes searching for an honest man, I will continue to search for those who are earnest seekers for enlightenment who have a thirst for knowledge and a willingness to dedicate themselves to that cause.