Monday, 7 September 2015

Give me a break.

I have written about this subject a number of times, and I feel like yet again I need to pull this post out and repost it - originally written in 2011!

I am growing really tired of all of the bickering and elitism that seems to be rampant in the online pagan community. It's been particularly bad in the last 5 or 6 years.

I started really noticing it on tumblr. 'Oh, you aren't a real Wiccan because you weren't initiated by Gardner himself'; 'My practice is so much more authentic than yours because I get my information from seances where I contact the dead philosophers themselves and fact check'; 'If you are not of Scandinavian stock, you cannot practice Asatru or Heathenry! Lol Hitler lol'. 

Then I was noticing it on Facebook. 'Oh, I can't use a dish, I NEED a thurible. Why does no one have this expensive piece of equipment?'; 'Oh, you can't read THAT. If you aren't reading everything in it's original Greek, you're a poser'; 'If you aren't initiated, I don't want to hear your opinion.' Or this delightful piece.

Seriously, people. Fuck off.

I am all for checking your practice. What I mean by that is validating your practice using various criteria. Is it culturally appropriating in a destructive or offensive way? Do you have at least 2 accredited sources to fact check your mythology and methodology? If you are a reconstructionist, you generally do this anyway, but I think it's a valuable habit to have. I'm also not saying that there is no wrong way to do things - there definitely is a wrong way to do things. A lot of these paths are very self driven, and it's a lot of work. It is up to you to educate yourself on the proper ways to do things.

My issue comes from people claiming you need to be initiated into some mystery tradition (like Gardnerian Wicca) to have a valid opinion. Not being Wiccan, I'm obviously not initiated into anything like that. I'm a member of a tradition I created - I have done dedication rites to my gods and spirits within the structure of that. However, if someone is a solitary practitioner and studying Wicca, dedicating themselves to that path is within their right to do. They couldn't dedicate themselves to the Gardnerian mysteries, but they could certainly take the rough framework and be a solitary eclectic Wiccan. I do believe that to be the part of a specific lineage (Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Seax) you need to be initiated into that lineage by someone of that lineage. It's not something a solitary can do. It would be like trying to be a Catholic without receiving any of the sacraments.

However, in no way can anyone presume to tell you how you talk to your deities. It's exceedingly arrogant and privileged to tell someone that they cannot be a Wiccan because they weren't initiated into a coven. If you follow the Wiccan belief structure, and live by Wiccan ethics, you're a Wiccan - in the same scenario, if you believe in God and follow the Bible, you are a Christian. Denying someone the right it believe whatever they want is a way to exert control over someone else - and it's being a dick.

My favorite example to give is this - say, for a minute, you're living in a tiny town. The nearest city with any significant population in 6 hours away. You live below the poverty line with 2 small children. No one will teach you online, you must come and learn in person. In order to get any training in Wicca, you would have to make a 12 hour trip (there and back) weekly for 3 years. What are you expected to do? Choose between feeding your children and learning Wicca? Or, perhaps,  you could make 1 trip into the city and buy 2 or 3 books. Over the next few years, you could learn from those books, and chat with others online. You could develop your own practice, following the guidelines of Wicca.

When you start making Wicca (or any occult traditions) elite, you start making them only available to the rich, and it becomes incredibly difficult to take anyone seriously. If Gardner could see how weirdly fanatical orthodox fundamentalist his followers have gotten, the rolling in his grave could power Glastonbury. Gardner disliked the church because of it's elitist practices.

It's not just Wiccans - there is a certain snobbery that goes along with traditional witchcraft as well. Most traditional witches are solitary by nature, and it seems the more 'dark' and 'into dead stuff' you are, the more witch cred you have. It's a lot of bullshit that turns into screaming matches about who is more witchy than thou. Commence eye rolling.

Now, I'm not saying that mystery traditions shouldn't be selective about their members, especially those running covens or groves. I'm simply saying that focusing all your energy on what other people are doing, and none on your own practice kind of negates the reason to have a practice or tradition in the first place. Listen, I don't give a shit how you practice. The only thing I care about is how I practice, and how I honour my own experiences and my own deities. Life if short, as I have just learned. Stop spending all your time worrying about how I practice, and worry about your own gods.

To each their own, right?

Raymond Buckland started teaching Wicca to the uninitiated because he was tired of the hierarchical bullshit inherent in Wicca and realized that in order to grow and change, it needed to be presented in other ways to different kinds of people. Does it ‘dilute’ Wicca? Sure, I guess, if one can ‘dilute’ such an abstract concept as knowledge. Keeping things ‘as they have been’ is the issue that the Catholic church has been running into for years - you can’t run something like it’s still in the dark ages. ‘The old ways’ are not necessarily the best ways. Society has to grow and evolve somehow.