5th Wednesday: Wildcard (anything goes)
You don’t have to go outside of Wicca to find a lot of misconceptions about our religion; there are plenty of misconceptions about it right within our religion. Even many practicing Wiccans have misconceptions about Wicca. Unfortunately, a lot of the popular sources are not the most accurate sources. Today I thought maybe we could weed through some of the most common mis-teachings about Wicca in popular sources.
Maybe you knew these— but for many of you, some of these are going to shake you and what you thought you knew.
- The Wiccan Rede is not a poem.
You know that ‘Bide the Wiccan Rede we must, in perfect love and perfect trust, yadda yadda yadda…’ that so many people love to tout as the ‘Wiccan Rede’? Yeah, well, it’s not.
The poem, originally entitled ‘The Rede of the Wicca,’ was written about the Wiccan Rede in the late 1970s. It was never a Wiccan-wide important writing until the internet came along, and self-trained Wiccans started calling it the ‘long version’ of the Wiccan Rede.
The Wiccan Rede doesn’t have a ‘long version’ in reality; the actual Wiccan Rede is only 8 words: ‘If it harm none, do what you will’.
- You don’t even need to follow the Rede to be Wiccan.
While we’re on the topic of the Wiccan Rede, you should probably know that it was never some central tenet or commandment in Wicca. The word ‘rede’ means ‘advice,’ and it’s something that came out of the late 1960s in defense of Wicca because so many people thought it was ‘bad’ or ‘dangerous.’
It’s not that the Wiccan Rede was bad advice; it kind of was adopted as a Golden Rule thing. But too many sources these days over-inflate its importance in Wicca. It was never meant to be a law that prohibits you from doing harm, magically or otherwise. Harm is occasionally inevitable, and oversimplified arbitrary commandments do little to really help us evaluate real life situations.
Besides, what kind of turds would we be if we needed to build our religion around a reminder that you don’t go around smacking people for fun? In a civilized society, not running around hurting others willy-nilly should be kind of a given.
- The Threefold Law was nothing more than a misrepresentation of fiction.
Another thing a lot of current sources promote till the cows come home is that everything you do comes back to you ‘times three.’ But guess what? That’s another thing that was never part of Wicca until the 70s… and it was basically someone misinterpreting Gerald Gardner’s fiction.
Before writing nonfiction about Witches, Wicca’s founder, Gerald Gardner, wrote fiction books about them. In one book, a Witch explained to another that when one person does good to you, you should do good back times three; and if they do something rotten to you, again, give it back times three. In this fictional book, this was just the way for these particular characters.
When Gardner published non-fiction books about Witchcraft for the first time, he added nothing remotely like this threefold law. It was unheard of for decades.
Later, in the 1970s, someone dug up the idea, but changed it. It started to be touted as some kind of universal bitch slap warning for people to not do bad things; kind of like it was the Wiccan equivalent of the Christian threat of hellfire.
Doreen Valiente, who helped Gardner develop Wicca and who is known as the mother of modern Witchcraft, said she didn’t believe it when asked about the Threefold Law in an interview. She’s not alone—many Wiccans didn’t from her generation; and even now, there are a lot of Wiccans who don’t believe it. However, you’d probably never know that by looking at the typical Wiccan website.
- The Wheel of the Year is not an ancient construct.
This one should be obvious, because we all know that climates vary around the globe; but ancient Pagans in tropical climates didn’t take joy in the coming of the summer, which for them was the season of death. It was not the return of the light they celebrated, but the relief from it in Wintertime. For many Pagans, fall was not harvest season; it was monsoon season.
Ancient Pagan cultures around the world did have some similar observations when it comes to harvest season, fertility season, honoring the dead, etc., but there was no universal holiday system. The Wheel of the Year is a modern construct.
When Wicca began in the 1940s, there were only four sabbats. They were called November Eve, February Eve, May Eve and August Eve. That’s right, they didn’t even have names. In time, Gardner’s coven suggested adding the equinoxes and solstices to the sabbat list, and he agreed, dubbing them ‘minor sabbats.’ Eventually all eight sabbats took on the names of old Celtic and Germanic festivals that resembled the sabbat.
The construct of the Wheel of the Year was brilliant, and in this day and age it can have a lot of meaning to Wiccans, but sorry to report: it was not something your ancient Pagan ancestors did, nor was it something your Christian ancestors stole from.
- Ancient Pagans were not all good, loving, kind, compassionate, progressive people who flitted in the fields merrily with fairies doing ‘white magic’.
There is a tendency to romanticize and idealize the past; but too many people view ancient Pagans as something out of a fantasy novel. If you had this idea of peaceful, enlightened societies that treated women, children, gays, transsexuals, slaves and foreigners with love and compassion, then you need to get some more reputable history books.
Ancient Pagans were humans… primitive humans. Yes, they were often perfectly fine with slavery, genocide and human sacrifice. Yes, they treated women as bad—in many cases, worse—than Abrahamic religions. They did not all openly embrace alternative lifestyles. They were superstitious. They had absolutely no problem stripping the Earth of her resources—conservation or being ‘green’ was not even a concern until (like in our time), it got out of hand and threatened to decimate them in a particular region—in which case they’d get up and go elsewhere and do the same thing. Yes, they feared magic, too, and burned Witches.
Pagan in the past weren’t bad, they were just products of their time, trying to live in and understand the world through the perspective with which they were presented. But these myths about them have a lot of modern Pagans depressed because they were not born in a time and place that resembled Avalon. Don’t idealize the past, wishing you were born in a different time; embrace now and use it for a more promising future.
- Wicca isn’t about spells, tarot cards, crystals, herbalism, transforming into animals or mythological creatures, I-Ching, astral projection, contacting the dead, working with angels or demons, astrology, crystal gazing, psychic powers, etc. etc.
Anyone of any religion can do those things, Wiccan or not. Wicca is a religion; and like other religions it’s about our relationship with our Gods and how we live our lives.
These things can certainly be part of a Wiccan’s spirituality; but if any source claims to teach you Wicca and talks more about psychic abilities and magic than about things like ethics and tenets, it’s a good chance you have a crappy source. Learning any of these things is fine; but it’s not learning Wicca.
- Wicca isn’t a spiritual accessory that you try on with other religions.
Well, of course, you can treat it as such—there’s no Wiccan police who will pull up one day and tell you that you’re doing it wrong. But a lot of people fail to realize that Wicca is not a tack-on practice to another religion because you like the idea of it. Usually, people will tack it on because they say they follow one religion, but they like doing magic, loving nature and harming none.
That’s all fine and good—but of course, doing magic, loving nature and harming none does not make you Wiccan. Again, anyone of any religion can do these things, they are not specific to Wicca. That would be like me calling myself a Wiccan Jew because I like potato latkes and applesauce, and agree with the commandment not to murder.
Wicca is a religion in and of itself, and can stand all on its own two feet. Wicca teaches us to tolerate and respect the religions of others; that doesn’t mean our religion actually makes sense being paired with other religions. When there are conflicting world views, usually what the person is practicing in reality is not two different religions seamlessly blended; they’re just cherry-picking what they like haphazardly from two different religions, while practicing neither.
- Wiccan do use upside-down pentagrams.
Oh so many people will tell you ‘Wiccans only use the pentagram point-up; that’s the good way! Only Satanists use it point-down! That’s the bad way!’
Uh… they might want to check out traditional second degree initiations. Wiccans use the pentagram both ways: point up represents spirit ascending matter; point-down represents spirit descending into matter.
Since we don’t believe in Satan, the pentagram doesn’t represent him no matter which way it happens to be pointing. There is no ‘evil’ position of the pentagram.
- Familiars: not a Wiccan thing.
Familiars were not even a Witch thing. Familiars were nothing but Christian rumors from the middle ages that said Witches would turn themselves or their demon henchmen into animals, and then the animal forms would go out and spy or make mischief. Later on, in the mid-twentieth century, fiction started painting familiars of good Witches as their animal companions.
Somehow, modern Witches got the idea that this was a real historic Witch concept and adopted it. That’s all fine and good; if someone wants to call their cat a familiar, there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you see Wiccan websites or books telling you how to find your Wiccan familiar, you should realize that familiars actually have nothing to do with Wicca.
- You don’t need to find your Element.
In Wicca, the Elements (big E) are Earth, Air, Fire and Water; they are spiritual symbols that represent everything. They are not merely dirt, wind, flames and H20, though those things would certainly fall into their respective Element’s categories.
Also in Wicca, finding balance in all things is a key tenet. This includes finding balance within the Elements.
You don’t have an Element; you are all four Elements. ‘
The myth of ‘finding your Element’ appears to have blown up on modern websites and in YouTube videos, and it was just never accurate in relation to Wicca. If you really have an incredibly strong affinity to only one element, and really only feel a profound connection to that one, it doesn’t mean that it’s your element; it means you’re terribly imbalanced, and you need to leave your comfort zone and find balance within the other three Elements.
So, did I blow your mind? Did anything on this list shock you? Confuse you? Piss you off entirely? Please let me know in the comments. Feel free to debate and discuss.