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The "Age of Wicca" Debate

Danielle Ní Dhighe

Lynna, if someone were claiming that Wicca as a religion has existed for thousands of years, what would be a good argument to use against them?

Suggest they try reading something that isn't published by you-know-who? :-)

No, seriously, the first thing I try and do in situations like that is find out how they're defining Wicca. Because due to the frequent misuse of the term as a catch-all for virtually any kind of paganism, which we were discussing a bit earlier, they may in fact be simply trying to state that paganism has been around for thousands of years. in other words, it is often a semantic problem rather than a historical one.

But if they are defining it more specifically that that, I would try pointing out that there is a difference between saying that many of the ideas, practices, iconography, etc. of Wicca (i.e. horned gods, mother goddesses, folk magic, nature reverence, ecstatic ritual, mystery religions, etc.) go back to pre-Christian times, and saying that the system itself, in its entirety, as we know now it, does -- in other words, that the whole is younger than the sum of its parts.

Again, I've gotten into big arguments with people sometimes on this point, only to eventually find out that we've read the same books, agree on what is ancient and what isn't, but are using different operative definitions of what constitutes "Wicca". For many people, if a significant number of the things they consider to be central to Wicca can be shown to be present in pre-Christian societies, then it doesn't matter what name was put on it -- what they consider the heart of the tradition was there nonetheless.

But for others, who do not have any sort of scholarly background, the presence of some of the parts is assumed to indicate presence of the whole. You've probably heard this type of argument -- "Well, there are cave paintings of male figures with horns, and pregnant women, so obviously that means they were practicing Wicca!" In this case, a brief refresher course in logic is called for.

And then, of course, there are those who have simply read books which contain wrong information, and didn't have the background to know it was wrong. Some of these will be receptive to more accurate information, and others won't, no matter what you say.

The most important thing, whichever of these is the case, is to make clear to them that by saying that Wicca as a whole does not go back to pre-Christian times, you are not saying that it isn't a valid religion, or that there are not some symbols, beliefs, deity images, magical practices, etc. within it that do. Because for a lot of people, what gets their back up is the implication that something can't be valid if it isn't old, and by making clear that validity is not the issue at hand, you can avoid a lot of headaches.

Hope that helps...

Déithe duit,

Liath Cadhóit
(a.k.a Lynna Landstreet)


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