In the last few years in reconstructionist and polytheist communities there has been talk of the Wiccanate*, referring to practices either specifically Wiccan, or of traditions like (some) Feri and Reclaiming that share many reasonably similar practices like circle casting and working with four elements; the term is used also to refer to the much larger eclectic neopagan practices that still generally reference the aforementioned traits. If one is a reconstructionist and attends pagan festivals and pagan pride events and the like there will be exposure to these practices as a presumed default for the wider pagan umbrella.
More recently this has been labeled as part of “Wiccanate privilege”, the assumption that Wiccanate practices and theologies are the ‘norm’ for pagans, and to the degree where it can be hard for those with very different (or not so different, but still different) practices to be heard, to be given space, to not have their difference erased in public spaces. Many have heard that at the recent PantheaCon there was a discussion on this Wiccanate Privilege, hosted in the Covenant of the Goddess/NROOGD/New Wiccan Church hospitality suite in the Doubletree Hotel in San Jose, California on Sunday Feb. 16. The genesis of the dialog was an online exchange between Don Frew, HP of Coven Trismegiston and well-known in interfaith circles, and P.S. Virius Lupus. The majority of the people present apparently were Wiccans, Feris and Reclaiming witches but with a significant sampling of others including Kemetics, Heathens, and other recons, such as myself. Frew and Lupus introduced their views and got the discussion rolling. The room temperature, figuratively speaking, rose sharply. Each person who shared was to introduce themselves. I said I was a Celtic reconstructionist, a Druid, and also a citizen of the Ekklesia Antinoou, and that I was a polytheist, neither hard nor soft, and also an animist (wow, did I really make that many identity copula statements?). It had been said that this meeting in itself was an interfaith not an intrafaith dialog, and I reiterated that, with some seemingly disagreeing with their body language. I said that much of what constitutes this privilege consists of very small acts, unintentionally privileging and unconscious. I stated that this was very common at the ‘Con itself, and gave as an example something I had experienced the day before, which was a Wiccanate (Goddess) prayer at the end of, what I said was, an excellent panel on pagans and privilege (including Elena Vera, Xochiquetzal Duti, and Crystal Barton) moderated by T. Thorn Coyle. I stated this calmly, indicating it was ironic to come after a long discussion on inclusion, (and mind you, this was not a ritual, but a panel open to people of any or no religious traditions) and I mentioned that I had spoken with some other polytheists who had felt a bit excluded by its language**. Well, this provoked outrage from some present, with one woman exclaiming, how could I “take umbrage” over such a beautiful prayer—and also that it was not a “Wiccan” prayer. Of course I hadn’t taken umbrage and I had taken pains to say it was Wiccanate, not Wiccan. I was accused of ignorance. This led to other practitioners of Feri and Reclaiming Witchcraft to insist that they are not Wiccans and had never been Wiccans, and seemed to be upset to be included under that banner term of Wiccanate. The nature of this event being what it was there was no time to address what larger term they prefer—I’m somehow imagining that it’s neopagan (which would be one of erasure of others), but could be wrong. So while sensitivity to language is an important part of this, I wonder what others think of these paths not wanting to be considered Wiccanate? Quite a few thought Wiccanate privilege didn’t exist, but others obviously attended to the discussion respectfully; I especially note Don Frew, Macha Nightmare and Margot Adler in that category with several telling me afterwards they’d learned something valuable from the dialog, so although I took a lot of heat, as did Lupus, I think overall this event was a positive development. But obviously there is much resistance as Starhawk practically derailed the entire conversation talking about the terrible things happening to the Earth (of which probably everyone there wholeheartedly agreed) and so why talk about such a tiny little thing—an attitude that smacks of privilege. (How many times do queers hear something like this?)
I don’t expect we will all ever agree but it’s good to have dialogue. I do think the pagan communities have way too much New Age ‘we’re all one and should all get along’ influence, and I think this attitude just suppresses difference. Anyway, I have no problem holding unpopular views and I’m glad I had an opportunity to speak some words there.
For more coverage on this event see Aedicula Antinoi: http://aediculaantinoi.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/pantheacon-2014-wiccanate-privilege-discussion/
* My working definition: practices of casting a circle, 4 directions and 4 elements, and a goddess and god, or simply Great Goddess theological focus.
**Thorn has contemplated this in an admirable way in her own blog since.