Saturday, November 16, 2013

Witch or Warlock? What's in a Name?


A LOT...apparently!

Recently, I got into heated debate on Facebook with a long time friend about the use of the word, "Witch", Wicca, Tradition and Sexism.

It began when I shared this photo without realizing that the original poster had included the following comment:

"To answer many questions from men - yes, you too can be a Witch. And, NO you are not called Warlocks! If you don't like the word Witch then use Pagan or Spiritual. BB Raven"   

This oversight on my part, began a 3 day long debate about the use of the term Witch, as opposed to Warlock, which ultimately ended our friendship.  Admittedly, I am saddened.

You see, my friend refers to himself as a Warlock.  So when he read my post suggesting that male Witches are NOT called Warlocks, he became offended because he believed I was being sexist and insensitive by endorsing the original posters comments, which was simply not the case.



warlock (n.) Look up warlock at Dictionary.com
Old English wærloga "traitor, liar, enemy," from wær "faith, a compact" (cf. Old High German wara "truth," Old Norse varar "solemn promise, vow;" see very; cf. also Varangian) + agent noun related to leogan "to lie" (see lie (v.1)).

Original primary sense seems to have been "oath-breaker;" given special application to the devil (c.1000), but also used of giants and cannibals. Meaning "one in league with the devil" is recorded from c.1300. Ending in -ck and meaning "male equivalent of a witch" (1560s) are from Scottish.


 

I refer to myself both as a Wiccan, Witch and at times, a Pagan, if I don't want to get into a lengthy explanation of the first two.  The noun, "Witch" in our tradition, as well as in many other traditions, is a gender neutral word which is perfectly acceptable to describe what we do. Warlock is not used as commonly as the word "Witch".  Yet, it's a perfectly fine word to define one's self.  The current definition of the word, Warlock" is "a man who practices the Black Arts".  Now, it was opined that "Black Arts" refers to "any magic using tradition".  Well, that's interesting.  I practice a "magic using tradition" and yet, even if I wanted to, with all my little heart, I could not call myself a "Warlock".  Why?  NO PENIS!  Still, I don't consider "Warlock" a sexist word. When I think of a Warlock, I imagine a powerful practitioner who isn't afraid to venture where many Witches dare to go.


witch (n.) Look up witch at Dictionary.com
Old English wicce "female magician, sorceress," in later use especially "a woman supposed to have dealings with the devil or evil spirits and to be able by their cooperation to perform supernatural acts," fem. of Old English wicca "sorcerer, wizard, man who practices witchcraft or magic," from verb wiccian "to practice witchcraft" (cf. Low German wikken, wicken "to use witchcraft," wikker, wicker "soothsayer"). 


When I refer to "our tradition", I'm referring to British Tradition Gardnerian Wicca. Gardnerian Wicca is a tradition whose members can trace their lineage back to Gerald Gardner and is the oldest tradition in the United States. Gerald Gardner founded Wicca some 60 years ago and since then, many different traditions have evolved. It is an oath-bound, initiatory tradition.

Admittedly, there are certain aspects of this tradition, that depending upon the male ego, will not sit well.
Firstly, a man can not run a Coven without a female counterpart. The polarity between the High Priestess and High Priest completes the balance of power.  The men are not referred to as Warlocks, they are called Witches. And, the hand that holds the sword casts the circle and that hand belongs to the High Priestess.

It was then my friend's opinion, that Wicca is a feminist, sexist religion with a female supremacist philosophy, that "minimizes or excludes male spirituality entirely".  Men find themselves following a Wiccan path not for the spiritual fulfillment, but because they are seeking female acceptance and don't mind being emasculated by having to adopt a female noun. That "noun", of course, being "Witch". The men who practice Wicca are   damaged and wounded, are looking for "anything" to fulfill the spiritual void left by Christianity and who don't mind being subordinated. They are "Last Among Equals" and will accept that, because they have no choice not to. To paraphrase,Wicca can be "therapeutic" for people who have been "emotionally and physically traumatized over the years and that's the main reason for getting into religion".

The first group I ever practiced with was an eclectic group which was run by our High Priest.  At this time, I know at least three Covens that are led by men.  So, when I hear all this negativity put forth about my religion,  I can't help but wonder how I missed all these spiritually unfulfilled, damaged, wounded, emasculated men for the past 20 years.

Wicca is a feminine based religion. No one has ever denied that. There are more women practicing Wicca than men.  The female to male ratio is difficult to determine, because not all Wiccans are open regarding their beliefs. That said, if so many men were being forced into taking a spiritual backseat or were being emasculated by being "forced to adopt a female noun", wouldn't there be a lot more Warlocks and a lot less men practicing Wicca?   Furthermore, if there are so many damaged, wounded and emasculated men looking for anything in terms of spirituality, there are a lot more religions that require as lot less work and devotion than what it takes to practice British Tradition Gardnerian Wicca.  Being an initiatory tradition, it takes years of study and training. For me, much of that training has come from sitting at the feet of men who exude spirituality, who are powerful practitioners and who understand that using a noun, male or female, does not define them.

Let's talk a little bit about tradition, shall we? Tradition by definition, is the passing down of elements of culture and beliefs from generation to generation.  The same is true of British Tradition Gardnerian Wicca. We adhere to beliefs that have been passed down by Gerald Gardner to his initiates.  His initiates, both male and female, are Witches. So when someone argues that they are being "forced to adopt a feminine noun" in order to practice Gardnerian Wicca, what they are actually saying is that they should be allowed to break with tradition, for the sake of ego.

It's like this...suppose I wanted to join the military.  I go to the recruiting office and tell them I want to serve in the armed forces.  It's always been my dream to be a fighter pilot.  The recruiter tells me that if my passion is flying, I would be perfect for a career in the Air Force.  No, no, no! My father, grand-father, great grandfather and my mother's father, all served in the Navy, it's a family tradition and I want to follow in their footsteps!  I want to join the Navy! But I can't. Why? Because they pilot boats in the Navy, not planes! Can I really claim discrimination because the Navy refuses to break with tradition? Furfuxsake!

My friend pointed out that my experience is limited to private groups, as compared to his own which includes being a public figure who works "countless" events in a large metropolitan area.  He left traditional Witchcraft because he did not wish to be, "last among equals".

Now I may not have his years of experience, nor have I worked with large public audiences, but I have never left traditional Witchcraft.  My experience lies in the fact that I am a 2nd degree initiate of British Tradition Gardnerian Wicca, with a Clan that spans most of the East Coast and a far away as Brazil, so I think I have a tad more insight into the awesome men who are proud to refer to themselves as "Witches".  

In Darkness, Light,


Tracy



7 comments:

Deborah Lipp said...

Your "friend" made so many mistakes in his complaint that it was hard to focus on any one of them.

He equates feminism with sexism (false). He equates a gender-neutral noun traditionally associated with women as being the same as a "female noun" (false--"nurse" isn't a femal noun either, even though traditionally most nurses are female). He equates a requirement to work in partnership with women as oppression.

The "oath-breaker" etymology has been called into question by linguists in the past ten years: This article is good: http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/contemporaryissues/a/Warlock.htm.

The percentage of women active in Wicca is higher than the percentage of men, but the breakdown is roughly the same in every religion. Women are more religiously active than men in America regardless of the religion.

Goose said...

"It's like this...suppose I wanted to join the military. I go to the recruiting office and tell them I want to serve in the armed forces. It's always been my dream to be a fighter pilot. The recruiter tells me that if my passion is flying, I would be perfect for a career in the Air Force. No, no, no! My father, grand-father, great grandfather and my mother's father, all served in the Navy, it's a family tradition and I want to follow in their footsteps! I want to join the Navy! But I can't. Why? Because they pilot boats in the Navy, not planes!"

The Navy actually has more aircraft than the Air Force does. If you watch the movie "Top Gun" closely, you can actually see Navy ships. So yes, you can be a Navy fighter pilot. Just a fun bit of trivia for you.

Goose said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tracy ~ The UnOfficial Witch of Ridgewood said...

Thanks, Goose! Yes, I already know. My Dad was in the Navy. It was more metaphorical than factual.

Goose said...

"He equates a requirement to work in partnership with women as oppression. "

Well, if women aren't required to work with men, but men ARE required to work with women, then it's a sexually-biased system where men are considered to need supervision. It does actually sound sexist.

"It was more metaphorical than factual. "

Well, that was the example. Clearly there was a fundamental misunderstanding of how the military works, so maybe that's not the only misunderstanding going on over there.

Tracy ~ The UnOfficial Witch of Ridgewood said...


Well, "Goose" the misunderstanding is in believing that requiring male and female polarity within the Gardnerian Tradition makes that a sexually biased system.

In that case, Dianic Wicca, the Minoan Brotherhood and Sisterhood would be sexually-biased systems as well. Edmund Buczynski, who founded the Minoan Brotherhood was, in fact, a Gardnerian Elder. His purpose for founding this Tradition was related to the fact that, and I quote:

"The Minoan Brotherhood was founded as a response to the heterosexist culture of most forms of Traditional Witchcraft prevalent in the 1970's. These traditions believe that due to the inherent polarity of nature, magic must be performed between a man and a woman, and any groups that work without this balance are doomed to failure"

http://www.minoan-brotherhood.org/

In point of fact, I have NEVER participated in a ritual that was run entirely by an HPS. If for some reason the HP is unavailable, another male member will act on his behalf.

But since you shared your opinion, and I have always respected and valued the same, I will happily share the opinion of another dear friend:

http://witchesandpagans.com/Opinion/pagan-men-unite-nw14.html


Tracy ~ The UnOfficial Witch of Ridgewood said...


"Well, that was the example. Clearly there was a fundamental misunderstanding of how the military works, so maybe that's not the only misunderstanding going on over there."

Well, yes, that was the example. However, if it were my desire to serve in the military as a pilot, it would make more sense to pursue a career in the Air Force as my first choice, not in the Navy. Hence, the metaphor.