Hmmm . . . I think this is quite a complicated topic. I have thought about this frequently in the past. Some of my concepts have remained very static, while others are more fluid, changing as I progress through life. So, I think I am going to take a cue from others in blogland and begin a little blog series on the subject. First, a few disclaimers . . . what follows are some of my current thoughts on the subject. They are not intended to present any kind of universal understanding and frequently will approach the subject using generalities and ignoring many of the subtleties and nuances that exist. Finally, it is very likely that, as I continue to wrestle with this topic, I will contradict or clarify a previously stated position. I see this as growth and a willingness to question my previous ideas as new information becomes available and various questions are presented. With all this in mind, I will begin my first in a series of blogs that deal with what I mean when I use the term 'witch'.
Again, I am thinking of the post on Witchful Thinking that addresses the question "What is a Witch?"
There is much in that post that 'speaks' to me but the line that reads, "A Witch might never do a ritual of worship, or never contact the Gods for anything, but for a Wiccan it is almost essential" was particular food for thought in my case. Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons. First, I do not follow the Wiccan Path but I do embrace the term Witch in my self-understanding. I thought it was very interesting that the distinction being made between a Witch and a Wiccan was the use of rituals of worship and/or contact with the Gods. My first thought was "How true! I call myself a Witch, but am not Wiccan . . . " Followed immediately by the thought -- "Hey! I do ritual! I recognize Gods and Goddesses!" And then I stopped my knee jerk reactions and really sat and thought about this statement.
How accurately does this sentence really describe me . . . a self-proclaimed witch?
Well, it definitely makes a distinction between the practices of a witch and the practices of a Wiccan. So, we are in agreement there. But, I do conduct ritual (as you well know, by now) . . . oh, but wait . . . do all my rituals involve the worship of or contact with Gods? Um . . . no! I do not see my relationship with the divine as worship. Nor do I view the divine as existing solely in forms of Gods and/or Goddesses.
My relationship with the divine is more veneration than worship. For me, the word worship implies a significant inequality between the worshipper and the worshipped. It brings to my mind the relationship between a parent and a young child. On the other hand, the word veneration brings to my mind a more equal, reciprocal relationship . . . more along the lines of a University Professor and a graduate student. One has more knowledge and experience -- which is deserving of respect, but the other still has significant characteristics, talents, and viewpoints that can be brought to the relationship.
On top of that, there are many times that Gods and/or Goddesses play little or no role in my ritual life. On top of that, as I have mentioned before, formal ritual does not play a significant role in my life as a witch. Taking all of this into consideration, I think I like the distinction made by the above statement. But is a lack of emphasis on Gods and Goddesses the only thing that makes me a witch rather than a Wiccan?
No . . . I see Wicca as a spiritual path that requires some kind of initiation rite -- whether solitary or with a coven -- followed by a, sometimes hierarchical, progression through the tradition. Instead of being initiated, I believe that a witch is. A witch does not 'become' through an initiation but through self-understanding. In other words, in my view, a witch is what a person is while Wicca is what a person does.
I think I will stop there and wait to see what kind of response these thoughts generate. I would very much like this series to be an interactive exercise -- one that will challenge my understanding and help me to solidify my thoughts to the subject. Does this post strike any cords with you? Do you consider yourself a witch, a Wiccan, both? Do you vehemently disagree with one or all of my distinctions between what is meant by the words? Please, point out the error or my ways, as you see it. One of my favorite ways to learn is through constructive, critical discussion -- let's have some fun!