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Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at

          By: Lucie
          Re: Labelling Wiccans
                  Hello. I'm the academic that Khaled mentioned. sigh... I've
          read the
          thread on definitions and I can see the trouble you have gotten into:
          prescriptive definition versus descriptive definition. Let me explain:
          I am currently working in the Dept of Religious Studies of the Univer-
          sity of Ottawa as a graduate student studying contemporary religious
          movements in Canada, especially women centered or women defined. This,
          by definition,includes Wicca/Witchcraft/Neo-Witchcraft/Neo-Pagan-
          ism/Women's Spirituality/Women's Urban(Neo) Shamanism...etc... I'm not
          the only one there involved in this research (we have an actual
          "Centre for Research in Women and Religion"). We also have a number of
          women (and one man) researching collateral aspects of the above
          mentioned religious phenomena. We have had to come to some working
          definitions so that we can talk to each other and to other religion-

                  Personally, I have also had to come up with some minimal
          definition of Wicca/Witchcraft that I can use as a representative of
          said phenomena (yes, I am using the plural form) when I am asked to
          present/explain/ explicate said phenomena to forums such as the
          Canadian Council of Churches or the Canadian Association for Pastoral
          Education (CAPE). It is as a result of this need, that I have devel-
          oped a minimal inclusive descriptive definition that can be used to
          differentiate Wicca/Witchcraft from other religious phenomena.

                  What is a minimal inclusive descriptive definition you ask?
          Ok. Minimal = smallest number of characteristics Inclusive = includes
          rather than excludes Descriptive = what is actually there rather than
          what should be there (prescriptive) Definition = what can be used to
          define, ie. to draw a line around, to know relative to what is left

                  I'm using a technique common in Anthropology: componential
          analysis, ie. the identification of discreet analytical features
          (components) that can be seen as occuring or not. A set of these which
          minimally defines something is seen as its descriptive paradigm. A
          descriptive paradigm is unique in that it can only be used to define
          the phenomenon it describes and no other. Ok? Just so you know what
          kind of language I'm using.

                  Yes, I consider myself 'Wiccan'. No, I am not a member/init-
          iate/follower of any specific 'tradition'. I'm too much of an anar-
          chist at heart for that, and anyways, how can I swear secrecy if my
          only stock in trade as an anthropologist is the knowledge I have
          gained by
          experience? Sort of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

                  Ok. So here goes....Relative to any other faith system,Wic-
          ca/Witchcraft (I won't seperate them yet) can be minimaly defined as
          consisting of these five necessary components:
          1) faith system is nature based
          2) divinity is conceived as inherent
          3) divinity is apprehended as gendered and as minimaly female 
          4) the locus of decision is the individual
          5) the locus of action is the individual in the present


                  What does this mean? Remember, this is to distinguish this
          faith group relative to any other type of faith group. It does NOT
          include variations, only COMMONALITIES.
          1) nature based: as far as I can tell, all forms of Wicca/Witchcraft
          (WW for short?) are based on humans being part of and in nature rather
          than apart from.  Also, seasonality and elements (air, earth, water,
          fire) are central to the human apprehension and interaction with

          2) divinity is inherent: divinity has manifested in all that is, all
          that is is an aspect of divinity, we are all manifestations of divin-

          3) divinity gendered and female: divinity in one of its most apprehen-
          dable forms knows itself in the specificity of gender and that gender
          is at least female "The Goddess". All groups, whether they acknowledge
          the God or not,know divinity in its female form.

          4) locus of decision: morality is a personal, individual thing and
          responsibility for choices is also a personal, individual thing. No
          one can (successfully) impose a set morality on any one else. Ost-
          racism seems to be the only -effective- means of moral cohersion used
          by adherents to this faith. Its the other side of "Do what thou wilt,
          An it harm none" and the Law of Karma. If a person acts contrary to
          the community norm, this person will be shunned, ostracized, severely
          criticized, and may as a result,leave the community. No matter the
          behaviour which the community wishes to refuse to accept, the in-
          dividual will not be 'punished' or told that they may not continue to
          behave in their chosen way. Again, even community norms (and community
          may be read as 'tradition') cannot be imposed or dictated. Even in
          oath bound traditions, oaths are taken freely and as freely adhered to
          or broken.

          5) locus of action: nothing is differed to the 'ever after', nor is
          the past
          fully responsible for what occurs in the present. This is it, this is
          all there is for anyone, make the most of it. Again, no predestin-
          ation, no fatalism, no 'heaven' or 'hell', this is not a prelude.

                  Secondly, no congregation, no group, no church, no polity has
          any more importance and certainly far less immediacy than the in-
          dividual as the believer and the definer of what is believe. Faith is
          lived within the individual, as an individual.

                  Ok. Remember, this describes ONLY what all forms of WW share,
          NOT what deferentiates them from each other or what is defined within
          a tradition as what constitutes the whole of THEIR tradition. It is a
          minimal, inclusive, descriptive definition..... (part 2 follows)


                  Whew....So what use is this type of definition? It allows me
          to compare WW to other faiths such as Christianity, Shinto, Islam,
          etc. It allows me to talk about beliefs and practices without getting
          mired in the specificity of traditions. It also allows me to speak of
          Gardenarians and Dianics in the same breath. They have more in common
          relative to other faiths than they have different relative to each

                  I was asked what defined WW relative to other Pagans and to
          nature based faiths such as Shinto. It took some thinking but I think
          I've been able to do it:
          WW is
          1) focused on the human (rather than nature or divinity)
          2) divinity always takes a human form (at least)
          3) WW works according to principles (fundamental underlying realities  
           which inform behaviour)
          4) WW is law driven (there is a 'right' or 'proper' way...) 5) bel     
            ievers need to rationalize and to make scientific their faith (just  
            think of tables or correspondences and our explanations of 'why it   

                  I was also asked what distinction I made between Pagan, Wicca
          and Witchcraft. I do make a difference.

           Pagan: from paganus (latin) for of the country side as opposed to
          "civitas" of the city

          Neo-Pagan: post 196o's revival of country cum nature based spiritual-
          ity -seen in opposition to Christian/Mainstream church -logical
          spiritual outcome of the 'back to the land' and 'experiential
          experimentation/mystical quest' of this same era

          Witchcraft (revival): British phenomenon dating from the 1950's. Wicca
          is used in Gardenarian texts but not used as a lable of the faith
          group or practice. Wiccan NOT used.

          Wicca/Wiccan: preferred terms adopted by many North American developed
          Traditions of WW to differentiate themselves from British Traditions
          (Gardenarian, Alexandrian)

          Witch/Dianic: terms of self definition used by many North American
          women to acknowledge their mythopoethic/political reclaiming of woman
          centered / woman defined spirituality. Often expressed as: Women were
          burned as witches in the Middle Ages, well, I'm a witch and you're NOT
          going to burn me! May or may not express the adherence to a specific
          tradition (Reclaiming, Dianic (Z. Budapest), etc) but is always an
          indicator of woman centered / woman defined experience and self

          Neo-Witchcraft: all forms of contemporary Anglo (ie of English lan-
          guage,not an ethnic or nationalistic lable) witchcraft to distinguish
          from Ancient, Middle Eastern, Midieval, or non-European forms

          Wicca versus Witchcraft: as it seems to be used by most people today.
          Wicca is a type of religion and witchcraft is a technology (ie spell
          crafting,craft of the wise, nature magic....)


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