Wicca vs Eclectic Neo Pagan Witchcraft AKA Solitary Wicca
Wicca or Eclectic Neo Paganism:
The differences and the similarities
There is much misinformation about Wicca out there these days. Much of that information is based on a book written by Scott Cunningham. Scott Cunningham was an initiate of Wicca. However after getting initiated he left the coven and created his own practice. He published that practice in a book that he titled Wicca: A guide for the Solitary Practioner. Cunningham’s book does not teach Wicca as he left after initiation. As such he was never exposed to the actual rites and rituals of Wicca or the mysteries which form the core that is Wicca.
One of the most important misunderstood facts in the History of Wicca is the founding of the religion. Many people say that Wicca is an ancient religion, or “The Olde Religion”. That just simply is not true. Infact they have not found any evidence of a single “Old religion” practiced by all ancient people in the early days of society. There are parts and pieces of Wicca that existed before but there was no religion called Wicca till Gardner came.
Gerald Gardner created Wicca. The religion he created was formed through various pieces of occult lore that he had learned during his travels as well as bits of witchcraft that he seemed to have learned from the NewForest area coven. Many people say that Gardner just popularized Wicca, when infact he actually created it.
I look at it this way. Say you are building a chair. The chair you build is designed based on styles you found appealing. After piecing together the design it may resemble something else that has gone before, but it is your own creation. Wicca is the same thing. The religion Gardner created did not exist prior to his creation in the late 40’s early 50’s. There may have been similar religions and practices about, but that it’s self is not Wicca.
Scott Cunningham’s book does not teach Wicca at all. Wicca can not be learned from a book or a website. Wicca is something that must be learned face to face and by a proper initiate. If a person is truly Wiccan they will be able to trace their training lineage back to Gerald Gardner or one of his priests or priestesses. This is because all wiccan lore and practices is oathbound. You can not learn Wicca until you have been initiated.
So what is Wicca? Well the shortest description of Wicca is: Wicca is a religion where every member is clergy. All initiates are priests and priestesses to the God and Goddess of Wicca. Wicca is also an:
Initiatory is plain and simple. You can not be a wiccan with out a proper initiation to a proper coven with lineage that traces back to Gerald Gardner or one of his High Priestesses. Initations are male to female and female to male. Lineage in this case means who initiated who back to Gardner or one of his High Priestess.
Oath bound means that much of the religion can not be discussed with people who are not initiated. For that reason books that claim to teach Wicca are not teaching Wicca but a form of eclectic neo paganism. Eclectic neo-paganism is free style with any ritual style you want, where as Wiccan rituals are only done in a specific way with specific words and actions.
Orthapraxic means that the rites and rituals can only be done a specific way. The rites can not be changed or altered. There are somethings that can be added, but the core can not be changed. I do not know what can be added as I am not Wiccan, and there is a possibility I may never become Wiccan. I do know from talking to many initiated wiccans (though e-mail and message boards) is that nothing can be removed.
Fertility is simple yet complex. The focus of Wicca is on fertility. The rites do have sexual symbolism and some sexual actions. For this reason they can not and will not initiate any one under 18. Most covens don’t initiate people under the age of 25 however 18 is the limit. While the rites contain sexual acts and sexual symbolism, the rites are not about pregnancy and what not (though they can be if that is what is asked for). They are about fertility in general. With out fertility nothing on this world would exist. It is not a nature religion.
Mystery and experiential mean that there are mysteries or things in the religion which can not be adequately described in words. In order to understand the Wiccan rites and rituals you experience these mysteries. The mysteries are the core of Wicca. These mysteries and experiences are unique to Wicca and only shared with Wiccans.
Wicca is Dithestic. The religion focus on the worship of two deities a God and a Goddess. The names of these deities are known only to initiates. To non initiates they are simply called the Lord and Lady. Wiccans are free to worship other deities outside Wicca, but the two practices must be kept separate.
Witchcult is probably the most “thrilling” of the factors that make up Wicca. Once one is initiated into Wicca they are made both a witch and a wiccan. All religions are cults, but not all cults are religions. Gardner himself refers to Wicca as a witchcult in his many books.
Priesthood is the simple. All initiates into Wicca are clergy to their deities. They all serve their God and Goddess. I do not know how all Wiccan’s serve their deities, but I know they do. It can be community outreach, teaching, or volunteer services of various sorts.
At first it may seem like Gardnerian Wicca is the only official and true Wiccan tradition. That is not true. There are only a handful of Wiccan traditions. These traditions all trace their core teachings back to Gardner. The initiations of the priests and priestess are traceable to Gardner. These traditions are:
- *Central Valley (a collective term for the traditions named below)
- -Silver Crescent
- -Daoine Coire
- -Assembly of Wicca
Any other religion or tradition that claims to be Wiccan are not Wiccan traditions. They are neo-pagan witchcraft traditions. Most of the books that you read out there on “Wicca” are about Eclectic-Neo-paganism. So what exactly is Eclectic neo-paganism? That is the most difficult thing there is to define as every one who practices ENP has a different practice and a different set of views.
Typically Eclectic-Neo-Pagans follow a simple witchcraft tradition. They are typically earth or nature worshipers with a strong focus on the Goddess. An example of these traditions would be Dianic Witchcraft or Seax-Wicca. These traditions on the surface may look like they are Wiccan, but there are substantial differences. For example Seax Wicca is a tradition where you can become a member simply by doing a self dedication ceremony and following the rites of that tradition as published by Raymond Buckland. In that tradition you can practice solitary.
So what is “solitary Wicca”? It’s a misnomer. In reality there is only one way a person could be a solitary Wiccan. A solitary wiccan would be a person who has gone through the proper process of initiation and has had to move from their coven or the coven disbanded. The member in that situation does not cease to be Wiccan. However the rites and rituals that they perform are not Wiccan as Wiccan rites can only be properly performed in a coven setting.
Solitary Wicca as the public knows it is also called “Eclectic Wicca”. Wicca is not eclectic and there can never be an eclectic tradition of Wicca. Wicca has specific rites and specific deities. Ecclectic neo-pagan witchcraft (solitary wicca or eclectic wicca) has no specific rites or rituals. There are many things that eclectic neo-pagans may share such as the rede and the like. However there is nothing that really unites them as a coherent tradition.
It seems to me that the people who call themselves Wiccan who have not gone through the initiation process and had those experiences are lying to themselves. The experiences one has with in a properly cast Wiccan circle are what makes one Wiccan. If you have not gone through those initiations then you have no right to use the title Wiccan.
Wicca is a religion that is elitist. Not everyone can be Wiccan. Not everyone is ment to be Wiccan. If you are not considered a proper person by the coven you approach then you are not a person for Wicca. Now what makes a person a proper person is different for each coven.
That may seem surprising. It’s not really. Any witchcraft tradition that has an initiation process typically has a way of screening their members. They want to make sure that you are going to fit in with the coven properly. They need to make sure that you can trust them and that they can trust you as trust is central to having proper coven performances and harmony.
So Wicca places you in a specific box. If you like most people who claim to be Wiccan prefer to be free and find your own way of doing things then you should not call yourself Wiccan. As an Eclectic you are free to worship which Gods you want (so long as the Gods do not belong to a specific culture that is closed to outsiders such as the celts and the Roma *Gypsies*). You can follow your own holy days and follow your own intuition.
It makes more sense to me that if a person was seeking a religion that made the most sense to them that they would follow their own path. It may be difficult to do so, but in the ends the rewards are fantastic. That doesn’t mean you can’t study other religions (including Wicca) but you shouldn’t label yourself anything until you know that you belong there.
I myself am a seeker. I am a dedicant in the Temple of Witchcraft tradition or the Temple tradition of Witchcraft. I am not Wiccan, and I may never be Wiccan. It was six years ago that I learned the truth about Wicca and started to really question that which I knew and that which was “popular”. I have contacted a few Wiccan Covens to see about training with them. At this point in time I am not a proper person in the eyes of those covens. That is fine with me. I respect Wicca and wish to learn as much as I can about the religion. However I do what I can to avoid questions that could lead to oath breaking.
In the end Wicca has a long future ahead of it. However if people continue to spread misinformation about Wicca I feel that what Gardner developed will come to be meaningless. It is not an anything goes religion. Wicca has specific guidelines. Wicca has specific practices. If you don’t have those practices then you are not practicing Wicca.
The final misconception about Wicca is that the only law is the “Rede”. The “Wiccan rede” is a simple two line poem. The lines are “An it harm none do what ye will”. In fact in Wicca, the rede is simply that advice. Which is what the word Rede means. The advice is basic. If it doesn’t harm anything then great, Go ahead and do the action full force. It does not mean that you can not do any action that causes harm to another person. In actuality the rede means that you can do whatever action you desire so long as you can accept understand and live with the consequences. To me that is how I live and work as well.
The rede is not the law of Wicca. Wicca has infact 151 or so laws. These laws are called the Ardanes. The Ardanes have been published online in various forms. My favorite resource would be: The Old Laws or the Ardanes From what I have been told by actual initiates of Wicca the ardanes mean something different to the initiates. For the uninitiated these ardanes are a simple way of looking into the laws of Wicca.
The only real similarities between eclectic witchcraft and Wicca are superficial. The rites that solitary “Wiccans” practice are similar in nature to the rituals practiced by Wicca. However they are not the rituals of Wicca as those rituals are only known to the initiates. The rituals published in the Gardnerian Book of Shadows may be the actual rites of Wicca. However with out the mysteries and proper context the rituals are useless and have no meaning.
Cunningham was only exposed to the “Outercourt”. The outercort is basically those rites and rituals performed by Wiccan covens with seekers and other non initiates. They are not Wiccan, but they,may have a Wiccan flair to the rites. These rituals are designed to see if seekers can work well with the coven and they also offer a community service (a group of worship). He mislabeled what he experienced as Wicca as he left the coven after his initiation and never saw the core or true Wiccan rites.
It is well known that Wiccan’s practice witchcraft. Initiation into Wicca makes one a priest/ess and a witch. To define what witchcraft is is difficult. In simpliest terms it is the practice of magic. Magic is the art and science of causing change in the world in accordance to ones will (desire) by manipulating subtle energies and directing those energies to your desired outcome. You may have noticed that I don’t use the term Magick. The reason is simple. Magick is a specific practice unique to the religion of Thelema. Magick has numerological significances that to me I don’t understand. As such I do not use magic. In most cases the context of the sentence will explain or show what type of magic you are referring to.
In the end one path is not better than the other. Both Wicca and eclectic neo-paganism are good paths. What is right for one person might not be right for another person. It is important to know that desire to become Wiccan is not enough. You must be called by the Gods. Wiccan high priestesses are typically able to tell if a person is a proper person and if they are ment to serve those Gods.
So where does this leave the beginner or the seeker? Well it gives them many options. If someone is seeking a path other than Christianity they have many opportunities. The first thing I would suggest is to figure out what they are looking for. Next I would ask them if they were attracted to any specific deities and cultures. If so I would suggest they read source texts on those myths (for example if you were interested in the Germanic deities you would use the Poetic and Prose Eddas as well as the Sagas of the Icelanders and other sagas). Finally I would suggest they read some reliable and good or accurate sources on that path. Research and practice.
My intent is not to push anyone away from Wicca. My intent is simply to inform people what Wicca really is. I feel that as a seeker for Wicca it is my job to help defend Wicca from false labels. That is one of the oaths a wiccan takes upon initiation. To Wiccans protecting, preserving, and defending the truth about Wicca is their responsibility. I feel that as a seeker I should do what I can to help clear the misinformation out there.
Buckland, Raymond. Buckland’s complete book of witchcraft.
Cunningham, Scott. Living Wicca: A further guide for the solitary practioner.
Wicca a guide for the solitary practioner. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print
Gardner, Gerald. The Meaning of Witchcraft. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Witchcraft Today. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Hutton, Ron. Triumph of the Moon.
Wicca for the rest of usWeb. 8 Dec. 2010.