Wicca, Mystics, and Game Manuals

Since I am currently lusting after the Book of Shadows Tarot (Lo Scarabeo)–click the link and drool over the artwork–I thought I’d devote a few words to talking about Wicca, more specifically, why some people feel the need to bash it and its adherents.

Let me first start off by saying that I understand why someone might not have the most favourable opinion of Wicca. Yes, there is the unfortunate tendency for the general public to to conflate Wicca with Paganism as a whole. If I had a dollar for every time someone said “All Pagans follow the Rede” or “If you are Pagan, you believe in the Threefold Law,” (this quote, interestingly enough, is an actual quote from a colleague of mine who claimed to be an “atheist Druid” and self-proclaimed expert on all things Pagan), I’d be very rich.

But you know what? That doesn’t excuse some of the condescending comments I’ve heard from certain members of the heathen community, comments like “Why follow a 50 year old tradition when you can follow a 5,000 year old tradition?” or lamenting that people are turning to Wicca instead of the “traditions of their ancestors” in Europe (this was actually a comment in response to a Wild Hunt article about Wiccans in either Lithuania or Estonia). First of all, what 5,000 year tradition? If you can trace an unbroken tradition all the way back to the pre-Christian era, I’m sure there are scholars out there who would like to talk to you. Seriously, the most recent “revival” of Northern European Paganisms occurred in the 60s, YOU ARE EVEN YOUNGER THAN WICCA, YOU DOLTS! Don’t sell me that patronizing bullshit, your religion is not 5,000 years old. You know what? Call up my shade in 5,000 years and then your descendants can brag about their 5,000 year old religion, okay?

Another root of this hostility is the desire to emphasize that magic is not a central part of many non-Wiccan traditions. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with this, but I have to laugh when I hear about people criticizing other people for practicing something like, say, seidr, because “it’s not really seidr because it uses X”. (If you haven’t read it already, go read the post on “Limiting Seidr” at Wane Wyrds here). It’s funny to me because, like their ancestors before them, modern Heathens don’t seem to know what to do with their mystics and magic workers, especially when those same people claim to talk to the deities who supposedly “only talk to important people” (and who, apparently, are so out of touch with the times that they don’t know where California is, I’m serious, this is an actual experience someone posted on a forum).

So these people are called all sorts of names: “fluffy” and “Wiccatru” being two of the most common and least odious I’ve seen. Note that I do think that fluffiness is definitely a problem, not just for Heathens or Wiccans, but Paganism as a whole, but for fuck’s sake, “fluffy bunny” or “Wiccatru” is not code for “someone who disagrees with me”. No, really, it’s not, and for people who claim to be all about the academics, I’ve never seen a community who resorts to using such petty insults so quickly. Yeah, right, bullying people will really improve your standing in the community.

The more I think about it, the more this type of hardcore recon Wicca-basher reminds me of a gamer who reads all the previews and watches all the gameplay videos for a given game and then declares that it’s going to suck before it’s even come out yet, or imagines that they are now somehow an expert at the game when all they’ve been doing is reading about it. Any gamer will tell you that reading about a game and actually playing that game are two different things. You can go on and on about how Skyrim is gorgeous, and show screenshots, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing when you can actually see those majestic landscapes and OMFGS I HATE SABRE CATS!

Seeing this is nothing like seeing it on your own screen.

Or, in short, you can read about a game all you want, but reading is no substitute for actually playing, just like reading is no substitute for actually being a part of that culture. You can go on and on about reconstructing a “worldview” all you want, but the thing is, that world is dead, it’s gone, we don’t live in that sort of world anymore. It just seems so counter-intuitive to me that it’s almost funny. I can understand a desire to shake off the shackles of Christianity, but seriously? You’re using fragmented sources from a Christian perspective that only tells you a small part about how these people lived, and please don’t start with me about how archaeology tells you things. Archaeological finds are subject to interpretation (and the bias of their interpreter) and it’s not like these objects are clearly labeled (unless you’re talking about certain Greek vases, because figures were often labelled with their names).

Take this figure, for example:

???

I heard someone say, not too long ago, that this figure “couldn’t be Odin in a dress, because it’s female”. Where the fuck is this person’s time machine that they know without a doubt who is being depicted? Especially since WE HAVE STORIES WHERE ODIN PUTS ON A DRESS TO LEARN SEIDR! Oh, wait, let me guess, that story’s been Christianized, your argument is invalid. Really? Look, maybe it is Odin, maybe it’s a seidrman, and maybe it’s a bearded seidkona, maybe it’s someone I haven’t considered, but you know, it looks suspiciously like it’s Odin in a dress. It’s like someone’s upset because archaeology didn’t neatly line up with their expectations.

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