Wicca is one of the most readily recognizable forms of Neopaganism, and is indeed where many individuals first gain an introduction to modern Paganism. I am no exception, having (finally) left Christianity when I encountered a Wiccan man who callously explained why his religion was superior to mine. Albeit my first exposure to Wiccan ideas may have been rather hostile, I was immediately drawn to the reverence of nature and the concept of witchcraft. I proceeded to read several known books to help gain a better understanding of this alluring new spiritual path, such as: Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham, The Truth About Witchcraft by Scott Cunningham, Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft by Raymond Buckland, The Witches’ Bible: The Complete Witches’ Handbook by Janet and Stewart Farrar, Witchcraft Today by Gerald Gardner, and many more lesser known works that hardly worth mentioning, and shortly after found a community of witches and was initiated into a Wiccan coven. It was for years that I was more-or-less content to consider myself “Wiccan” before I eventually dropped the religion altogether. The below is a compilation of reasons that best explain my decision to leave. Keep in mind while reading that I have not, and will not, generalize all Wiccans to be one way or another, and that this is by no means a personal attack against anyone or their beliefs, but merely my own reasoning. NOTICE: The following may mention subjects considered NSFW
1. Historical Inaccuracy
One of the more common perceptions I witnessed in many Wiccan communities was that in prehistoric times, there were two initial deities found to be worshipped in Europe: The Horned God and The (Triple) Goddess. These were said to be the ancient deities of humanity, or at least Europe, and that all other religions and deities were founded from the misinterpreted or deliberately distorted Horned God/The Goddess concept. This preconceived notion varied from space to space (some variations being far less historically accurate than others), but there was a common general idea that the worship of these two deities had been in existence since prehistory.
However, in reality there is no sound evidence of this. There are several known prehistoric archaeological sites in Europe ( Lascaux Caves, Snowden Crags, Chauvet Cave, Villars Cave, etc) and none of which hint at a worship of the Horned God or the Goddess. Many of these known sites, the caves in particular, are often speculated to have some religious or spiritual purpose, yet none are speculated to be related to Wicca in any aspect -and for a reason. There is no true link between any found European artifact and the actual religion that is Wicca.
2. Cultural Appropriation
While many individuals jump on the calling-out-appropriation bandwagon in either a genuine attempt to stop problematic behaviour or to feel they are doing the right thing, many make harmful false accusations that in turn only further misinformation and stereotypes. However, much of the concern about cultural appropriation or general racism in relation to Wicca is legitimate. I have witnessed numerous times the fetishization of Native American women by white Wiccan men, appropriation of Native American terminology (such as “pow-wow”), an indiscriminate approach to worshipping deities from multiple different cultures and the meshing of unrelated rituals or customs from different cultures. I believe that eclectic Paganism or witchcraft can be done respectfully (and logically), but much of what I have encountered in Wicca has not been.
3. More Occult than Nature
While nature-reverence is commonplace among Wiccans, the religion itself seems to have more roots in occultism or witchcraft in general than it does in nature worship. I personally value Nature itself more than any individual religion, and I have seen a few well-known Wiccans advocate against environment-based activism. And the Wiccans I have met who are fond of environmentalism tend to do so with the goal in mind of preserving a hazardous lifestyle rather than preservation of the planet.*
4. Morality and Ethics
I approved of “An it harm none, do as ye will” or any variation thereof, but otherwise did not care for much of the morality agreed upon by those in the Wiccan faith. I have my own reasons for my perspective on certain actions, situations, or concepts (such as cursing, “black magick,” and karma) and these reasons were often in opposition to those of fellow Wiccans. Generally speaking, many individuals I met had a very black and white perspective on right and wrong. I simply did not. I also merely do not believe in “the rule of three”or “the triplefold” concept.
5. Inconspicuously Conservative
Many Wiccans I met were, like me, a part of the LGBT+ community. But all of these individuals I knew personally were seldom active when it came to witchcraft and virtually never actually worshipped a deity in any way, let alone spent any time reading Wiccan literature. And if they had, they might have better understood my claim that much of the Wiccan faith is at best cis/heteronormative and is at worst, queerphobic. This can be seen when “sex magick” is mentioned in books, I have yet to see it incorporate anything other than penis-in-vagina sex. There is almost no room for intersex or queer couples when these rituals or forms of magick are mentioned. Furthermore, there is a heavy emphasis on the gender binary. Everything is seen in relation to masculinity or femininity (and when femininity is mentioned, it is often in direct relation to fertility which can be degrading in some scenarios (by placing a female’s worth on her ability to reproduce, hence defeminizing sterile females or transwomen) and is illogical in the majority of other scenerios, as fertility is must on a male’s part as well as a female’s in order for a child to be produced), and an emphasis is put on the sacredness of the relationship between a biological male and a biological female as seen with the Horned God and The Goddess. Consequently, traditional gender roles were often upheld. Then there are those who are outright transphobic or homophobic and preach these prejudices alongside Wicca, which I last witnessed occurring less than a week ago on Facebook; and a popular Wiccan page on Facebook linked to an article of a Wiccan woman, the wife of a Christian, describing how their beliefs are not contrary, but actually go hand-in-hand.
6. What is Wicca?
There is a lot of disagreement over what being Wiccan actually means. There are several different covens with unique approaches, academically many forms of Neopaganism are classified as “Wicca” though were founded entirely separately, and there seems to be a new branch of Wicca appearing any time any kid discovers a different ancient pantheon for the first time. I never understood why many cling to the label of “Wiccan” while adopting an almost completely Asatru practice under the name of “Norse Wicca” or “Sumerian Wicca” instead of simply practicing Zuism, or adopting any given set of beliefs and putting “Wicca” after it. Simply placing “Wicca” after a region or culture does not make it practical or appropriate, or even actual Wicca.
All in all, Wicca has become a lot like Christianity: There is a multitude of different sects that sometimes only differ slightly, and there seems to be no universal agreement amongst themselves on how to correctly be Wiccan. And some may argue that it is personal, and there can be no “correct way,” but Wicca is in fact a religion, and that is not how religions work, regardless of one’s personal perspective. Yet if this were the case, considering oneself Wiccan would, in my opinion, be redundant. If it is personal to the point in which there is little agreement, and the differences are of no consequence, then there is no point in using the label. I could simply have my own spiritual beliefs, and that be the end of it.
7. Literal Deities
Several individuals I met believe that The Horned God and The Goddess (or whichever deities are actually being worshipped) have a literal, physical existence. Sacrifices and offerings made were expected to actually be accepted by some entity. Reincarnation was definite, and Summerland is an actual location somewhere.
I’m not going to tell anyone these things are untrue per se, but it is definitely not something I can fully get behind. On the other hand, almost an equal amount of people I met viewed the majority of the deities as symbolic and the offerings to be more “of heart” than anything. But when it came down to it, I literally lacked the faith for Wicca.
These were only a select handful of reasons for why I left Wiccan religion, but to put it simply: I refuse to make excuses for any religion I may be a part of. If I do not fully stand behind something (as I did not with Wicca, in the above points), I will not make exceptions for myself or excuses. Of course “Not all Wiccans” think x, or do y. And of course I could very easily cram my own perspectives and beliefs into the box that is the twisted definition of Wicca and make it all fit nicely, but I have no desire or practical reason to. Instead of conforming the religion to my beliefs, I simply left the religion. I personally believe this is the most ethical (and logical) thing to do concerning any religion, as I once met a Christian who did not believe in the Bible at all yet for some reason clung to the identity of a Christian (as I once did when I was very young). But speaking from personal experience, one’s relationship with a religion is very much akin to romantic relationships: If it feels wrong, makes you feel bad or ashamed, it feels like it has a stranglehold on you, or you find yourself perpetually apologizing or making excuses on its behalf, you will be better off without it! Cutting ties with an unfitting religion is like breaking off a toxic relationship; you will be happier when it’s over. You might find something new, and that’s great. But you may not necessarily need anything new, and that may be the best of scenarios.
*Open Letter to Environmentalists will further my idea about idle environmentalism, and to what sort of perspective I was referring to when I met other Wiccan environmentalists. On a side note: Feel free to give the letter an actual read, and consider signing if it strikes your fancy.