Were there circles cast? And quarters called? And ritual structures that were repeated over and over? Words to memorize and recite ad nauseam for each one? Was it goddess centric or dualistic, or did it incorporate all the gods? Did it have degrees and church like structures? Were there tests to take and tasks to perform so that you could pass to the next level?
Or was it more free flowing, wild, wanton, and ecstatic?
Evolution is a good thing. What we once knew grows and changes, altering its initial form until it creates something better, more complete, reaching higher and higher to a greater way of doing things, but sometimes in evolution we lose what the true meaning was of the original and it morphs into something that isn’t wholly recognizable to what once was, and that has its pros and cons. Witchcraft and paganism has come a long way and it has had periods of ebb and flow, of decline and growth, and it has evolved drastically over the years. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it seems that in the community at large, if you don’t do it the evolved way, the new way, than it isn’t valid and sometimes vice versa.
It’s okay to be eclectic, it’s okay to be solitary, it’s okay to be eclectic and in a coven, but sometimes your practices are called into question when that eclecticism leaves the confines of the majority (in this case, Wicca for the most part) and ventures out into the virtual unknown. Most of what we now know about witchcraft and paganism as a blended entity, coming from the beginnings of Wicca and how it has changed since its initial conception by Gerald Gardner.
Gardner blended a mixture of ceremonial magick with what he knew of old world witchcraft and created what we now know as Wicca, though the entity has evolved in its own right with more traditions than you can shake a wand at.
I discovered Wicca when I was rather young and the idea of it all struck a chord with me. I followed it rather blindly as I did not have a teacher to speak of and no real way to learn the ins and outs, but I made do with what I had on hand, both with the internet and books from my local library. I eventually met others who were self-proclaimed Wiccans, but none initiates. I took the term witch, even though I was following a Wiccan path, and after a few years of learning and studying on my own, I realized that Wicca just didn’t jive with me. There was nothing wrong with it, but it didn’t fully encompass my views of the world, of energy and magick, of paganism and the gods. So I left the term behind and started calling myself a Pagan. The assumption from then on when I met anyone who found out I was a practicing witch was that I was a Wiccan, whether it be from other practitioners or not, and the more I was mislabeled, the more agitated I became. Not because I was offended by the term Wiccan, but because the assumption was that if I was a witch and didn’t follow a monotheistic religion, I must be Wiccan. But there is so much more out there than Wicca!
It took me many, MANY years before I realized that even though I didn’t use the term Wiccan and in fact I was not one, my practice and what I knew still inherently was and that is because that is the category we get lumped into and we are lumped into that category because that is really all anyone knows. Sure there are other poly-theistic paths but they are deeply culturally rooted in people of color for the most part and not necessarily open to those that are outside that culture. There are blends of things, especially with the self-taught eclectics, but when joining a group or a coven, it most certainly is going to be Wiccan or at least Wicca flavored.
I didn’t know what to do with this information, this fact that even though I wasn’t one, I was still practicing in the vein of a tradition or religion that I didn’t want to be actively part of. I wanted something more open, more intuitive, less hierarchal and more wild. And I realized that I didn’t have to keep doing things the way I was doing them because it was all I learned…I could create my own way of doing things and step outside that box.
So, I did.
And low and behold, there were others that were like me that didn’t connect with what was popular or more well-known and it has birthed something that feels inherently ancient to me. Something that connects us truly with nature, with the spirits and beings that came before us, with the cosmos and with the energy that is interwoven through us all. I didn’t have to call the Quarters a certain way, or direct my elements here or there, or cast a circle, or raise a cone of power. I didn’t have to follow the rede of Harm None because sometimes you have to fight in order to survive. I didn’t need to question who I was calling in ritual based off of supposedly old chants or whether or not I remembered if I was supposed to do this step in ritual before that one. I didn’t have to call the Lord and the Lady or be solely Goddess driven. I didn’t have to memorize all my rituals or how to specifically call upon the elements or even use the same “elementals” as the majority. I didn’t even have to follow what little historical evidence we have of certain Pagan religions. And you know what? My witchcraft, my paganism, is still valid as hell.
The Gods know what I am doing, the elements know where to sit in my rituals, the land still vibrates beneath my feet and in my heart when I call out into the darkness or howl at the moon. If I want to be silly during ritual, I can be silly. If I want to be informal, I can be informal, if I want chaos instead of monotonous structure, I can be chaotic. And that is ok and just as valid as those who are strict Wiccans. Just as valid as ANY path because when it comes down to it, our relationship with nature and the divine is OUR relationship and it doesn’t have to be the same as everyone else’s. I’m not formally taught, I didn’t go through degrees, I wasn’t raised in this, but I am a Priestess regardless and a leader of a tribe who resonates with what I feel in my soul.
I may not be valid or worthy in the eyes of certain people, but I am valid and worthy in the eyes of the Gods, the cosmos, the Underworld and the Otherworld. They accept me for what I am and appreciate all I do even if it isn’t understood by the majority.
And that’s perfectly alright with me.