Having spent the week taking care of my lover, who ended up in emergency surgery on Wednesday, I don’t have the energy to address this to the degree I really feel it deserves right now. I’m sharing this link mostly because it seems to be a good example of the conversation, and I want to be sure to read it again soon.
I do want to say: As a reconstructionist, and a spirit worker, I’ve been conscious of the degree to which Wicca, and other forms of Western Magic that share historical sources with Wicca, have been used as “Spackle” for patching the holes in modern Heathen practice. I’ve been conscious of how Eclectic Outer Court Wicca has been used as the Lingua Franca of Pagan interfaith gatherings. That has never bothered me to the degree that it’s acknowledged. I’m occasionally bothered by how little awareness some folks have of the Abrahamic underpinnings in Wicca, but that’s another problem entirely.
I have never felt unwelcome in local Paganism for being a hard polytheist, or a reconstructionist, and only occasionally have I felt unwelcome for being a mystic and spirit worker. I have sometimes felt utterly unaccounted for or misunderstood, but only in very specific settings, and only with the generation of elders who had to fight just for their right to be any kind of Goddess oriented in their faith at all. They’re still fighting that fight, and their having done so has allowed the next generations to move on to other fights in a lot of ways.
To be sure, privilege is a serious problem in the San Francisco Bay Area Pagan community, and at PantheaCon, but I really don’t feel the Wiccanate privilege is anything like the biggest problem to tackle except to the degree that it reflects groundings in other problems like classism, racism, sexism, cis- and hetero-normativity, etc. I have found a certain amount of Wiccanate privilege IS grounded in sexism and cisnormativity, in that the elder generation sometimes focuses so intensely on the need to equalize worship between the Monotheistic model of a masculine Godhead and a feminist model of a female Godhead that they utterly overlook the idea that all gods are NOT one god. But really, there are bigger fish to fry in that camp, and the folks of PantheaCon have spent the last couple years learning that lesson head on. I have been proud of my local community for being willing to take the serious conversations on, however uncomfortable it makes us to realize we’ve stuck our foot in something icky again.
As for Wiccanate Privilege, what I think everyone needs to remember is this: When you’re developing a tradition based on fragments of history and inspiration, it’s pretty well impossible not to have spackle. You need something whole and functional and have only bits and pieces with which to construct it. The rest has to come from somewhere. Most folks don’t notice their spackle. They automatically patch holes with whatever feels “normal” to them. I joke that you can tell what kind of Christian someone used to be by what kind of Pagan they became, and that you can tell what kind of Pagan a culture used to be by what kind of Christianity they developed.
Part of where this fight started is that a whole lot of NeoPagans, because it’s what they had access to, use some form of Wicca for spackle. As such, a whole lot of modern Pagan traditions, whether they’re intended to or not, have some amount of Wiccanate content. This is sufficiently pervasive that a lot of folks who haven’t sat down to analyze how and why learn to assume that this Wiccan spackle is truly universal, as opposed to just ubiquitous.
[Edited to add] Wicca isn’t the only form of spackle, even – it’s just the most common. Christian structures from both Catholic and Protestant practices have been used. Ceremonial magic has been used quite a bit. More recently there’s been a significant increase in Afro-Diasporic spackle, including Hoodoo, Vodou, Santeria, and Umbanda just off the top of my head, and of course there’s plenty of “Shamanic” spackle, Harner-style “Core Shamanism” or otherwise. (“Shamanism” is one of those highly problematic terms. I’m referring here to a set of trance practices, rather than anything from a clear single cultural source, which is why it’s in quotes. If anybody is using actual Shamanism – e.g. Tengrism – for spackle, I haven’t seen it yet.) I’m aware of Buddhist spackle of various stripes, Taoist spackle, and Vedic Hindu spackle (don’t get me started about the word “Hindu”… oy.)
Ultimately, as long as we are mindful of our spackle and respectful of its sources, I think it’s not only acceptable, but it’s frankly absolutely necessary. Wiccan spackle is a lot less problematic than some of the potentially more authentic alternatives, because it’s generally less culturally appropriative. Cultural appropriation is yet another ball of Privilege wax I think is a bigger fish to fry than Wiccanate privilege, by the way.[/edit]
I’m well aware that some of the spiritual technology (e.g. circle casting) I use comes out of Wicca, and from there, Ceremonial magic, which ultimately comes out of Qabbalistic sources. When I have other options for covering the same ground that actually cover the ground effectively for my purposes, I’m happy to learn them. Personally, I have no problem learning from my neighbors.
Yes, I am a hard/devotional polytheist. I have no problem with clarifying which usage of polytheist I identify with, because I think it’s far too late to try and undo other uses of the word. Language is defined very significantly by common use, not just by literal or historical definition. There’s more than one usage out there – if we need to clarify, we should do so, but I don’t find it useful to fight over who gets to keep the unmodified word for themselves without having to provide context, because I don’t think it’s a fruitful discussion. The answer is: Nobody does. Words always require context. Expect to provide context if you want to be understood.
P.S. Spackle isn’t a word I invented with this blog post, or even for this context. It’s a word I’ve heard used in my local community for a decade or more. I know I got it from Lorrie Wood when I was her student. I don’t know where she got it.