The Nature of the Gods

My personal theological position has moved as my Craft has grown and changed, and I find that it loops around. For a long time, I identified as a hard polytheist. More recent experiences make me less sure. But ultimately, I appreciate the paradox that presents itself in so many magical traditions: one can hold multiple positions without being in a perpetual state of internal conflict. Here, I think out loud about the nature of the divine, how we experience the gods individually (and collectively), and why so many of our questions won’t ever get satisfactory answers.

Wiccan Non-Witches

[Please observe right away that this conversation is specifically about (all kinds of) Wiccans.  Please don’t write irritated comments designed to inform me that there are other kinds of witchcraft.  I am aware.  That is a different subject, and not the one at hand.]

It’s popularly asserted in Pagan and witch spaces that one can be Wiccan without being a witch.

This comment makes me a little crazy in its weird semantics.

My gut reaction is, “Uh, no it’s not.”

And then I have to check myself.

Keeping in mind that I’m coming from a BTW perspective, where “witch” and “Wiccan” are often used interchangeably, the idea that Wicca—which is the practice of a specific kind of witchcraft—can exist independently of witchcraft is nonsensical.  In an orthopraxic tradition (I feel a little dirty as a religious studies scholar making these kinds of distinctions, but bear with me for a minute) where that praxis is witchcraft, what exactly is one doing as a Wiccan if not witchcraft?

The answer, I guess, is believing.  The argument that gets flung around is that Wicca (enter the eclectic perspective) is fundamentally about belief in a divine couple and the development of a connection to natural cycles.  So one’s Wicca-ness can be entirely devoted to praying and nature walks, theoretically.

Nevermind my Gardnerian snobbery for a second, but even if we take this to be true, does that mean that these kinds of Wiccans aren’t engaging in ritual?  And if they are what do those rituals look like?  Are they not casting circles or summoning assorted spirit-y things (both of which are certainly acts of magic and therefore, potentially, witchcraft)?

This is a real question, guys.  What are those of you who identify as Wiccan non-witches doing?

And all of this falls apart the second that we realize that “witchcraft” isn’t a cohesive, universal thing with a meaning we can all agree upon.  Honestly, I’m finishing a freaking graduate degree in this stuff and I can barely provide you with a concise definition that I actually feel comfortable flinging around in public.

So that checking of my gut reaction comes upon the realization that, most of the time for me, witchcraft has something to do with the practice of a particular kind of practical, need-based magic.  What sometimes gets termed “low magic” as opposed to the high magick of Hermetic traditions (where Wicca has a good many of its roots).

I realize that’s kind of a terrible, incomplete definition, but that’s usually my operational position, even if I can scholasticize (totally a word now) my way out of it.  And given that, I must realize that this doesn’t necessarily fit the Wicca that is so near and dear to my heart, further affirming that assertion in question.  I know traditional Wiccans who I wouldn’t trust to magic their way out of a paper bag, either because they don’t practice, don’t care, or have never had the need.  They’re still performing the rites and necessary woo that is entailed in being Wiccan (which might be witchcraft, but not strictly according to the above definition), but they’re not witches in the day-to-day sense (spells, potions, working with particular kinds of spirits, travel into spirit realms, etc.).  So in this sense, yes, they are Wiccan without being witches.

(Which sounds super boring to me, but what have you.)

It’s fundamentally kind of a silly conversation, just because we don’t have agreed upon definitions for any of these terms (Wiccan, witch, witchcraft, magic), but maybe there are still grounds for a conversation.

So what’s your perspective?  If you identify as Wiccan but not as a witch, what’s your reasoning?