Before we start. I want you to go get a dictionary and look up the word “eclectic.” I’ll wait.
Found it yet?
There has been some controversy with this word and with people going around calling what they do Eclectic Wicca. There are still a few hung-up British Traditional Wicca types who wrongly equate Eclectic Wicca with fluffy-bunnyism. This is far from the truth, even though many Bunnies hide behind the word ‘eclectic’ as a blanket excuse for their “Wicca-is-anything-I-want-it-to-be” ethic. Some people would go so far as to blame the fluffy-bunny phenomena on Eclectic practitioners. That is also not true. The fluffy-bunnies come from the spurious writings of certain authors and webpage creators.
Some people go so far back as to blame Gerald Gardner for the Bunnies, since he is the one who wrote about, lock stock and barrel, the persecution of Wiccans in the middle ages – which never happened – and a whole lot of other figments. We are not here concerned with that, since Wicca has largely gotten beyond proving how ancient it is. I do bring up Gardner on purpose however.
Way back when, in the latter 1940’s and 1950’s, Gardner and his co-conspirators created Wicca from a blend of all types of sources: Literary Romantic paganism, Margaret Murray’s speculations, Ceremonial Magic, folk magic, and the information and inspiration of older pre-Christian Pagan cultures. Wicca’s basic forms and beliefs were largely ironed out by the 1960’s. Gardner and friends did what many today are doing. They were being eclectic. Not willy nilly anything goes ‘eclectic,’ but test-it-and-see-if-it-really-blends-in eclectic. And they created a beautiful new religion out of the process.
This process is still ongoing as I write this. Wicca has expanded and now has many more branches, or traditions, than old Gardner probably ever imagined. There is a marked distinction between the Traditional British Wicca traditions, such as the original Gardnerian groups and the Alexandrians which came immediately from them, and the Eclectic groups and individuals. Isaac Bonewits (Witchcraft: A Concise Guide) calls it a continuum from the most “orthodox” to the most “heterodox” version of Neo-Pagan Witchcraft.
I am not going to talk about why there are a few Traditionalists going around thinking that Eclectic practitioners are not real Wiccans. I want to clarify what Eclectic Wicca is, so that the Bunnies out there can no longer have any hope of using the term Eclectic Wicca as an excuse for their ignorance and piss-poor behaviors. Now before I do that, I want you to go and look up a bunch of “Wicca” websites. Just do a random search. Again, I’ll wait.
Did you do it?
Have you discovered any problems with what you can find?
It seems like there are people going around calling what they do Wicca, or some sort of (Neo-Pagan) Witchcraft (when they really want to say “Wicca”), and mixing it up with unicorns, dragons, fairies, hobgoblins and all sorts of bizarro-strange nutty critters from fantasy novels. They are then calling this sort of shlep-paste “Wicca.” When asked about their confusion between a modern religion (Wicca) and fantastical creatures from Never-Never Land, they either say that idiotic Bunny Standard Party Line “Wicca is whatever I make it to be” or they say that some of us shouldn’t come down on them too hard because they are “eclectic” and, after all, Uncle Gerald mixed and matched too.
Sure, Senior Gardner mix and matched all right. But he and his friends tested and tried everything first. He was also quite knowledgeable in both the Romantic yearning for paganism of his day and some of the Ceremonial Magic going on. The man was well read and educated and had been places on this planet. So he was in a unique position creatively to take his inspirations and give them a life of their own. To reduce what he did to a simple “mix-and-match” is simplifying what really happened.
Eclectic Wiccans abound these days. There are even eclectic covens and eclectic traditions nowadays. None of these could be said to be Bunnies. The problem with the Bunny is that they think that they can read a book, do as they wish, and then call it Eclectic Wicca. And while they may have the right to call what they do ‘eclectic,’ if they are going to call what they do Wicca, they had better demonstrate that it is Wicca. Despite the flexibility, there is continuity in the religion. (Invoking the gods and goddesses; casting circles; four/five elements; charges; responsibility – Law of Return; etc.)
Running around attempting to merge Native American medicine circle practices with Nordic blots and crossing that with an invoking of Diana while reciting a Gaelic rann (probably mispronounced) will certainly garner you the right to call what you do “eclectic,” but none of those things has anything to do with Wicca except in your own mind. Behavior such as this also displays a lack of knowledge about Wicca itself…and, dare say I, a patent lack of respect for Wicca and all the cultures you ripped off in the process of your little cocktailed rite.
Being an Eclectic Wiccan has nothing to do with such fluffy nonsense. It simply means that one has no affiliations for whatever reason with any of the more ‘traditional’ Wiccan traditions. Many Eclectic Wiccans have studied and practiced for years in one or more of the various Traditions. Many have not. But all of them can demonstrate that what they are doing is Wicca. The point of calling oneself or one’s group Eclectic is to place an emphasis on growth, change, personal inspiration, and flexibility. The use of many different sources by members to accomplish this is encouraged, but never carelessly. Old ideas and practices are not discarded, they simply evolve along with the new. One’s personal relationship with the gods and goddesses is more important than rank, title, or elevations. So you will find that many Eclectic Wiccans have nothing to do with such things, and/or belong to groups having nothing to do with those things. The idea behind all this is to keep Wicca vital and dynamic.
Now whatever in the above gives certain Bunnies the right to play-act by reading Fiona Horne, believing in angels and unicorns and then to call it Wicca? And then when such Bunnies are questioned… to say that what they are practicing is Eclectic Wicca? Have they forgotten what the word Wicca means and what it refers to? I know in this day and age of A.D.D. and bad-education, some people out there will be offended that I am actually attempting to DEFINE both Wicca and Eclectic Wicca. But without some sort of definitions, the Bunnies will run rampant over us eating all of our crops, whether British Traditionalist Wicca or Eclectic Wicca. In time, all that will be left will be some watered down Wicca-lite and the wiccolytes who follow it…going around mindlessly and zombie-like chanting “Ever mind the rule of three, Wicca is whatever I want it to be.” Is this something you want to see happen?
The Bunnies can go around and try to march into the ranks of the Gardnerians or other British Traditionalists, but we know that won’t work so well. So they must next march into the crowds of people, who for whatever reason, would not rather define what tradition of Wicca they adhere to and so call it Eclectic. The Bunnies can hide here more successfully due to the legendary openness of eclectic practitioners. But openness does not mean having nothing going on upstairs. The Bunnies can call whatever they do “eclectic.” But they can’t call it Wicca. And we still have the right to call what they do bullshit.
-Irreverend Hugh, KSC
[June 10th, 2005]
This page published by the DSSS/PMM. All Rights Reserved by the Author. Permission secured by Daven’s Journal to reproduce these articles here.