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Pagans Have Feelings Too

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Sometimes the difference between causing offense and speaking directly can lie in the timing. Cecil has complained of the massive amount of hate mail he has received from Wiccans after questioning the antiquity of their faith and their claims of maintaining continuity with the original Pagan traditions [November 12]. Late in the article he acknowledges that some Wiccans freely acknowledge the lack of evidence for a pre-Gardnerian origin of Wicca, and, as he states, point to the invention of ritual by those practicing it, as one of Wicca's strengths. This observation appears, almost as an afterthought, after Cecil complains at length about the flaming he got. The implication is that these people are a rational minority among a majority who adhere to a position that Cecil then ridicules with the comment "This be wack, Jack." There is a word for what Cecil is doing, here. Off-line, it is known as "needling" people. On-line, it is called "trolling."

And either way, it clearly shows that Cecil has not done his homework. Most Wiccans refer to themselves as "Neopagans," which, by definition, means that they are denying any claim of historical continuity, even with the Paganism of the early Middle Ages, much less the Paleolithic. (Pagans who have such an unbroken link to the past, would be called "Mesopagan," not "Neopagan.") I would ask the mischievous Mr. Adams which research methods he employed in order to determine what the normative Wiccan view on this subject was, before he assigned himself the right to speak for an entire religious community, and attributed a view to it, that few in it who I have ever encountered, have ever endorsed. Did be bother to speak to so much as a single Wiccan, before doing so? Or did he simply let the first book he saw, speak for Wiccans everywhere? If so, how would this be any different from someone suggesting that Christians believed that God engaged in extortion, based on Oral Roberts's claim that he was going to be called home if he didn't raise enough money?

May I hope that next time, Mr. Adams will try to do a little better? As I finish this letter, I find myself having to ask the Reader to withhold my personal name from publication. I don't like doing that. But we live in a world where Pagans have to be careful about who they reveal that aspect of their identity to, out of fear of the ignorant and close-minded attitudes that will follow. Sniggering commentary like that offered by Mr. Adams, serves to reinforce this reality. The sad thing is, he's probably proud of that.

Name withheld

Cecil Adams replies:

Your claims are nonsense. For example:

1. "Cecil has complained of the massive amount of hate mail he has received from Wiccans after questioning the antiquity of their faith." I never made any such claim. I have never previously discussed "the antiquity of [the Wiccan] faith." I was referring to the complaints I get (which I wouldn't describe as a "massive amount of hate mail") when I make less than complimentary remarks about medieval witches.

2. "Most Wiccans refer to themselves as 'Neopagans,' which, by definition, means that they are denying any claim of historical continuity, even with the Paganism of the early Middle Ages, much less the Paleolithic." I am acquainted with a fair number of Wiccans and have never heard any of them refer to themselves as "neopagans," although I know this term is sometimes used. The people I know don't make any claims for the historical continuity of Wicca, but I get plenty of letters from people who do. In any case, the issue of historical continuity wasn't something I brought up but rather was the premise of the question to which I was responding.

3. "Did he simply let the first book he saw, speak for Wiccans everywhere? If so, how would this be any different from someone suggesting that Christians believed that God engaged in extortion, based on Oral Roberts's claim that he was going to be called home if he didn't raise enough money?" This is idiotic. Margot Adler is a respected writer in the Wicca community; several people recommended her book. She's about as mainstream as Wicca spokespeople get. If you don't know this, I have to wonder how much you really know about Wicca.

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