On My Issues With Wicca/Our Polytheistic Future

I think that I have to brutally honest with myself and admit that I just do not like Wicca. That’s not to say that there aren’t some Wiccans that I like or even deeply respect (particularly traditional Gardnerian types).

There’s a resentment that’s still there from when I was a moon-eyed young Pagan and first came across Wicca in a book that my college friend lent me. It was called “Witchcraft” and written by Eric Maple. It had a skull, tarot cards, a candle, and a magic circle on the cover. Inside, there was a full color photo shoot of a Gardnerian-style skyclad ritual.

I’d be a liar if I said that seeing skyclad people in a religion when I was 17 years old didn’t persuade me just a little but that was not the driving force.

Once my curiosity was piqued, I read everything on the subject I could get my hands on. Which wasn’t a lot in 1993, prior to the ascent of the World Wide Web. Perhaps if I had known about Usenet back then, I’d have gotten a lot more knowledge, but I was limited to books by Wiccans about Wicca.

I got involved because I thought I was connecting to an ancient religion that worshiped gods and goddesses…a religion that somehow miraculously survived until the modern day.

Once I found out that Margaret Murray’s theory was bullshit, it was difficult to take anything related to Wicca seriously. When I realized that even if Gardner had been initiated into a coven in the New Forest, that he was primarily responsible from cobbling together Wicca from various sources that there was no truly ancient piece of it left.

When I realized that a large part of Wicca and Neo-Paganism were based on bullshit like Graves’ “The White Goddess” and Frazer’s “The Golden Bough”, it felt like a betrayal.


It was one thing back in the early 90s when Wicca’s early history could still be described as shrouded in mystery, but it baffles me that people today still are buying into that myth.

As an adult with over twenty years of perspective on the matter, I can appreciate how one doesn’t need to necessarily accept the myth but still enjoy the religion for the camaraderie. Despite the actual origin being bullshit, Wiccans do have spiritual experiences with their gods and goddesses.

But there’s another element for me. One of my earliest reads as a “baby Pagan” was Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon”. I fell in love with the depiction of Paganism there. It was so diverse! Not only was there Wicca but groups like Starhawk’s Reclaiming, Dianic Wicca, Feri, Discordianism, the Church of All Worlds, reconstructionists like the Church of the Eternal Source,  Druid groups, Feraferia, and the Sabaean Religious Order.

Paganism looked incredibly diverse! I was intellectually excited. Naturally, it became an utter disappointment when the only groups I found locally were Wiccan or Wiccan-based.

There was a great deal of diversity in places like California but I was on the other side of the continent from that.

Even today, I absolutely adore PantheaCon for being able to go to a Temple of the Morrigan to a shrine of Greek gods and goddesses down the hall, where I can attend a Pomba Gira ritual and a Kali ritual on the same day.

This is why I will both staunchly defend the budding Polytheist movement and will grieve if it ever gets to the point where they separate themselves entirely from Paganism.

I, too, am very tired of Wiccans and Wiccan-influenced types from dominating the conversation when it comes to the agency and existence of the Gods, but I absolutely adore the variety it brings to that big tent that some people want out of.

Perhaps we don’t need a big tent, but a large field full of many smaller tents. I want to be able to visit many different temples and give offerings to their gods and goddesses. I want to be exposed to different traditions. Not to treat it casually, as a Wiccan might. Not to view these deities as archetypes, but as real beings full of agency.

Ancient Rome incorporated many different cults, many gods, many goddesses, many mystery religions. My vision for the future of polytheism is to outdo Ancient Rome. While their Empire was huge, their world was much much smaller than ours.

Religion is dying around much of Western civilization, but polytheism is just beginning to come back.

~ by R.M. McGrath on 04/06/2016.

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