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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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