Wiccanate Privilege and Spackle

Wiccanate Privilege and Spackle

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.

About EmberVoices

Ember Cooke has been a member of Hrafnar and Seidhjallr for more than a decade, where she trained to be a Seidhkona, Galdrakona, and Gythia. She founded the Vanic Conspiracy and made ordination vows to the Vanir and her congregation in the summer of 2013. She has contributed to several publications on Heathen and Northern Pagan subjects and regularly presents rituals and workshops at festivals. Her personal practice is more diverse, as the Vanir have lead her into cross-training and service for the wider Pagan community. This has including medium and servitor training in American Umbanda, clergy training with the Fellowship of the Spiral Path, and jail ministry for local counties. She holds a BA with honors in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University. Ember has lived all her life in the south San Francisco Bay Area, and is intimately bound to the valley of her birth.
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5 Responses to Wiccanate Privilege and Spackle

  1. Pingback: DPM 15: Warding For Fun And Prophet | EmberVoices: Listening for the Vanir

  2. Pingback: Are We Misusing the Term Privilege? | The Lefthander's Path

  3. Lon Sarver says:

    Thanks for this. The “spackle” aspect of how so much Paganism became Wiccanate is often glossed over or ignored in so many of these discussions. It’s important to see how this is part of the evolution of modern Paganism, and not necessarily an encroaching Monist/Duotheist/Archtypalist power grab.

    Also, it’s nice to see more people keep in mind that this is one issue facing Polytheists and Pagans and so on. It’s easy to get wrapped up around divisive drama and lose track of the idea that, sometimes, being decent human beings to one another is important.

    I want a personal relationship with personal gods, but I don’t expect everyone to experience the gods (or want to experience them) as I do. And so long as we can still come together in areas of common interest, and not interfere with each others practices otherwise, I’m good.


    • EmberVoices says:

      > The “spackle” aspect of how so much Paganism became Wiccanate is often glossed over or ignored in so many of these discussions.

      Well, I think the failure to address it AS spackle is actually really problematic for a variety of reasons, which I started to poke at in the paragraphs I added belatedly, but I’m not sure I unpacked it effectively.

      I think it’s something to look at more closely that Wiccan spackle is in many ways our *least* appropriative option (that much I know I did say), in that it’s almost entirely Northern and Central European in source material, relatively modern in source, and minimizes even the Abrahamic content. Since most Neo-Pagans are Euro-centric in their assumptions… well if you’re going to borrow without asking, at least borrow from your own?

      At the same time, the *techniques* and about half the structures being carried over from Wicca are the ones stripped down from Ceremonial magic, and thus from Qabalistic sources, which are themselves appropriative of Jewish Kaballah, and that’s a whole other can of worms, but at least it’s an older one?

      I guess what I’m saying is…. gosh, what a mess! Aside from the feminism that prompted the Goddess Spirituality aspect (which, as I pointed out, still had a lot of cis-centric privilege to it), Neo-Pagan religion is so much a product of privileged appropriation in the first place, it’s hard for me to be hugely upset when I’m subject to bits of it from my fellow people of privilege. Even being here in the first place is already a sign both that fights were made to make space for something other than patriarchal monotheism AND that a bunch of white, heterosexual Europeans had money, spare time, and romanticized colonialist assumptions about pre-Christian and indigenous traditions.

      That reconstructionists are stripping away previous generations mistakes doesn’t mean those mistakes aren’t part of our history. We wouldn’t even BE here if they hadn’t first been made. If that’s our foundation, it’s pretty squishy ground we’re standing on, you know?

      > It’s easy to get wrapped up around divisive drama and lose track of the idea that, sometimes, being decent human beings to one another is important.

      Indeed. And honestly, Practitioners of Pagan religions are so marginalized in general that I don’t think we can afford to be divisive within the movement. But I don’t see how we can avoid it if there are folks who can’t even really understand that we’re a movement, a collection of communities and many religious traditions, not a single community with a single religion.

      I am honestly boggled at the idea that it’s even debatable that PantheaCon is an *interfaith* convention. Of COURSE it is!



  4. EmberVoices says:

    Mind you, I’m not saying I don’t *encounter* this Wiccanate privilege. I absolutely do. Far more often from non-Pagans, though.

    I do jail ministry. I get called an Asatru chaplain or a Wiccan chaplain because I am Heathen and Pagan. But I am neither Asatru in my Heathenism, nor Wiccan in my Paganism. I am, in fact, Vanatru first and foremost, and a generally helpful sort otherwise. The people calling me Asatru or Wiccan literally don’t know better. It annoys me when fellow Heathens can’t get it through their skulls that there are forms of Heathen that aren’t Asatru, and it annoys me when fellow Pagans can’t get it that there are forms of Pagan that aren’t Wiccanate. But that’s not most of what I encounter.



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