I was introduced to Wicca, indirectly by someone, when I was in my mid-20s, and I would argue that it helped save my life. I was struggling during a time I call my “personal Dark Ages” with severe depression, anxiety and not-quite-clinical borderline suicide. I hated myself and was life-threateningly terrified of the world. Wicca helped me find my spirituality again, and by extension, my strength, beauty and life.
I’m going to pause here for a moment of honesty: I’ve been very trepidatious about putting up this post, so much so, that I’ve had two conversations with my sister Seba about whether or not to discuss my experience with Wicca and had even then almost decided not to post. She’s good with saying the sugar; I’m good at saying the salt. As I said before, and say again in a bit, I have every respect for Wicca. Seba explained to me just before I posted this, “There are many paths in spirituality. For some, Wicca is the first step. For others, it’s the last. Your feet just don’t feel comfortable on that ground.”
Wicca was my first step.
“There are many paths up the Mountain, but the view of the moon from the top is the same.”
Ancient Japanese Proverb
Since the time of my personal Dark Ages, I’ve moved spiritually from Wicca to someplace I’m still yet exploring. However, I’ve developed and retained friendships with those who still call themselves Wiccan. And I’ve made new friends who are Wiccan whose faith and devotion to their traditions are inspiring. These folks continue to bring a wisdom to conversations that I am yet in the process of gaining. All of these adherents, past and present, have my deepest respect, for their path, practices and beliefs.
Yet, I’m not Wiccan.
I’m not Wiccan, because …
Let’s back up a sec — or a few years.
In re-establishing my path, I’m reviewing my past to see how it affects my now. Face it: There was a point in my last post (Redefining a Family Tradition) that I stated I had a holy-shit moment but didn’t really explain it. (Thought I’d completely skipped something, didn’cha? Well, I kinda did, but I did it on purpose.)
Information on Wicca was one of the most accessible, at least 15 years ago, of all the Pagan traditions and paths out there. When I picked up my first book on Wicca, I was coming out of Agnosticism after a long break from my Church of Christ upbringing. (Don’t worry. I’ll get to that.) To wit, I became Wiccan.
The actual practice of Wicca went on longer than my spiritual leaning did. I ended up with a Goddess representation on my altar that was faceless and nameless. But, I excused myself, in that those practices were what I already knew, and I didn’t have to dig to change them. Lazy much?
Or, perhaps it wasn’t time for a change. Perhaps my insides were ready, but I hadn’t yet come across that outside information I needed in order for the rest of me to catch up. (Perhaps not too dissimilar from where I find myself now.)
When you don’t have a teacher (or have a bad teacher), sometimes, you can get stuck not knowing where to look or looking in all the wrong places. Practices become wrote if there’s no will behind them, and you just wrote yourself into a rut.
Luckily, I had a good teacher, once I decided to take that leap, as it were.
Since I was self-taught with limited access to information, I pieced together what I knew and learned about Wicca at the time (pre-training):
- There is a Goddess and a God. Because having each provides balance. They are in balance with each other.
- There is the All, the One, that which is higher than the Goddess and God, and the two are each halves of that Whole.
- The three-fold law. Whatever you send out, good or bad, comes back to you three-fold.
- Practice “love and light” to maintain good karmic relations with the Universe.
- The male and the female are each acknowledged in ritual.
- There is a balance of male and female tools on the altar.
- If you are female, you align with the Goddess. If you are male, you align with the God.
Female and male. Male and female. Female and male. Female OR male?
Before I began my training to become a High Priestess, I already knew I was moving away from Wicca. I just didn’t know to where or to what, how or even why. Something was tickling my brain I couldn’t swat away or ignore. And I’m one of those people who despises not being able to figure something out, especially when it affects me from the inside, out.
Post-training: There are differences between biological sex and gender and gender identity.
This was the holy-shit moment.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know this, but I had never consciously put in into personal, spiritual context.
I have very fond and loving memories of people from the church with whom I grew up and spent a lot of time, from youth to youth ministers to the adults. These folks were what I call “true Christians,” loving and kind. And I greatly appreciate the love and support they showed my mother before and after her death. Nothing can ever replace their generosity or those experiences from which I took such wonderful and lasting memories.
It is unfortunate, however, that a few proverbial bad apples spoiled the dedication I once had to the church. When I left the Church of Christ, I knew why I was leaving, even if I didn’t discuss it with anyone. Even now, fewer than a handful of people know this. The reasons were very clear for me:
- Because I am female, I felt treated as though I was inferior in specific circumstances; very specific people (men) brushed me off.
- I repeatedly asked, “Why?” And was told, “Because the Bible says so.” This is, in my estimation, the equivalent of, “Because I said so.” Excruciatingly insufficient. Even my parents provided better explanations than that, and they’re the ones who taught me to question.
- Because I questioned, my parents were doing a poor job. (I actually heard someone accuse my mother of this, in so many words, in the hallway of the church building.)
- There were too many arguments against why I shouldn’t be the way I am by nature. I was to deny in myself those things or gifts with which I was born. Since these were “sinful” things, I didn’t talk to anyone about them. I was supposed to suppress them. (I actually tried talking to one person about my prophetic dreams. His response was, “The Bible says not to put any stock in our dreams.”)
- I was sitting in a pew to hear from an elder at the pulpit that women would no longer be teaching “men” over the age of 12 in Sunday School. (This, by the way, didn’t go over too well and was nixed. That it was attempted at all was insulting.)
- I’m against missionary projects that serve the purpose of proselytizing and converting away from hereditary spirituality. It destroys cultures and civilizations.
Knowledge is power. So, I read. And I read a lot. About history, psychology, the paranormal, philosophy. About Wicca.
Wicca taught me that I am not inherently sinful. I don’t have to suppress (Really, though? It’s repress.) my gifts. Because I am female, I am divine: I can produce life, and I bleed. I can ask why and continue to do so until I find a satisfactory, logical explanation. I am not a bad parent for teaching my child to be inquisitive, to think for himself and to not be satisfied with, “Because I said so.” Pagans don’t proselytize. There’s no such thing as Hell. (Which, by the way, was the most difficult concept for me to let go of.)
The problems then became, why am I required to acknowledge a God, if, since I am female, I’m to align with the Goddess? If the Goddess and God are two halves of the Whole, why am I splitting the Whole in order to acknowledge it in a dichotomous practice? When I am in a relationship, why do I honor the God in my partner because of the male energy? Why is male energy “other?” Why is female energy, while a part of me, still “other” in that I have to draw that energy into myself at ritual?
I used to say that when I have a partner, I wanted someone who would stand beside me, not behind or in front of me. This is balance, alignment. Thing is, that’s not how it works. I don’t want a man who stands beside me all the time. If I’m sick, I need him to stand in front of me, to take care of things that I don’t have the energy to do. If I get to the point I can’t handle a situation for whatever reason, I need him to stand kind of to the side and in front of me to help me. (For example, I’m not scrappy. I don’t get into fist-fights. I’d need him to step up if this particular situation were ever to escalate.) If he’s unemployed, I need him to stand behind me and support my career from the domestic sphere. When I have a partner, I want someone who shares responsibilities, moves in front of or behind me, depending on the situation.
Balance is not an active verb when each is standing beside the other constantly. Nor is it balance simply out of respect to biological sex.
In my training (which came after the brain niggling and before that holy-shit moment), we worked with a lot of families that were comprised of gay and lesbian couples, polyamorous couples, single parents and individuals, with varying between kids and no kids. There was no distinction in the definition of family as having a biological male and biological female. There was a distinction between one having the male energy and another having the female energy.
Where did that leave single folk? Well, that single person carried both energies: They were both mother and father to their children.
Where did that leave the polyamorous folk? If there’s three in a relationship, two of the same sex, who carries that representative energy? If they both carry it, does that throw everything out of balance?
Here’ the thing about energy: It’s neutral.
It’s what we choose to do with it that makes it “bad” or “good” or “male” or “female.” These are assignments, words that signify what we tell the energy to do. Even when drawing down, the focus is on drawing a specific type of energy aligned male (God) or female (Goddess).
If we look at energy as something tangible, then having to pick up and put down male or female energy as a single parent takes a lot of work. But if both are inside one to start with, it’s more a matter of “switching gears.” Or is it?
A couple of years ago, I lost my shit over my kid. I didn’t like the way he was being treated, and I lit into this woman like she was my worst enemy. I call this gettin’ all mama-bear on somebody. The energy was protective, defensive and aggressive, all at the same time. Protective is traditionally assigned “female.” Aggressive is traditionally assigned “male.” If we take my sex out of the equation, it can be argued that it was all male energy, because males can be protective, as well. But the thing is, there is a general assumption that women are more outwardly protective of their offspring, especially when we look to nature as an example.
Everything I was throwing at that woman was simply energy, with the purpose of proving a point and making sure she understood to back the hell off. By the time I get to the point where I loose my shit, I’m past the logical and working almost exclusively on the emotional level. But I’ve already thought it through and have my argument, even in the throes of that kind of passion.
I know heterosexual women who are more male than female, energetically. I know heterosexual men who are more female than male.
I am a biological female. I identify my gender as female.
The problem here, for me, is that there’s still a distinction as to what is female outside of biological sex. I can’t identify as male in any way.
Then there’s the argument that each gender carries within them a bit of the opposite.
Before my training, I labeled myself Witch and Pagan and stopped calling myself Wiccan. Before that, I had stopped calling myself Christian.
It isn’t about assigning labels, but understanding that they’re mutable. Energy is neutral, therefore, mutable.
If I break it down then I would identify myself as a domestic (female) warrior (male) witch (unisex).
“Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into.”
I have a lot of respect for both paths, Christian and Wiccan. After all, I was trained in both, grew up (metaphorically or literally) in each. I learned a lot about myself and the world through Christianity and Wicca. Without each, I would not be where and who I am today.
Not calling myself Wiccan comes down to my perspective about one seemingly simple thing: Gender.
 This is the most common credit given to this particular quote, that I could find, though it has been attributed to others.