Religion Dispatches corrected an article that said that Wiccans “don’t worship a dude at all, but a female goddess,” after readers wrote in to say that Wicca usually involves interpreting the divine as having both male and female forms.

Gary Laderman’s article, “‘Republicanity’—The GOP Transformation is Nearly Complete,” argues that the Republican party is functioning more and more like a religion. Instead of claiming it is becoming the political front of Evangelical Christianity, Laderman describes “Republicanity” as having myths, rituals, ethics, and theology of its own, some of which are Evangelical in nature, but many which treat politics as a sort of religion in and of itself. Under that last heading, Laderman mentioned multiple religions and briefly described their views of deity, ending with the quote above.

I wrote in with examples drawn from the Covenant of the Goddess (perhaps misleadingly named, as I noted), the Pagan Federation, and the old but oft-reproduced Council of American Witches’ “Principles of Wiccan Beliefs,” all three of which showed that Wicca is not purely about Goddess worship. The article has been corrected, with language that indicates the editors may have received multiple letters on the subject; mine has been reprinted below the article.

I’m thrilled that RD moved quickly and decisively to correct what was a factual error on their part. I didn’t want to belabor the point in my letter to the editor, but there’s one other thing that is an issue in their original phrasing: “a female goddess.” What other kinds of goddesses are there?

RD’s correction is a great step in the right direction, especially for a ‘zine that tries to be equitable to readers of many different religions (and has more mentions of minority religions than any other outlet I read regularly!). But the repetitive “female goddess,” and the fact that in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, someone thought Wicca only allowed goddess worship, shows that the idea of the Divine Feminine can still be unusual and surprising, even to people who study religion for a living.

Let’s be grateful for this step forward, and let it remind us that we are making progress with a radical idea just by holding the Goddess up for devotion along with the God. We’ve made tremendous progress; let’s keep going.

12 thoughts on “Wiccans worship Goddess and God – RD revises article

  1. “a female goddess.” What other kinds of goddesses are there?

    Deities that are non-gender-binary, but are referred to with feminine terms? Maybe I’m overthinking it?

    1. Yeah, that’s a possibility, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what the author had in mind. I’m pretty sure it was used as a reinforcing adjective, or a marker of difference, as in “male nurse.”

    2. That’s what I thought too. Like, the Christian God and certainly the Jewish God aren’t male, but they aren’t female…but Goddess is generally used for female or feminine beings. I can see a parallelism with “a male God,” but that makes it even weirder to not realize that the two tend to go together. How little would you have to know about Wicca to not get that?

      The other (or just related) thing I thought of was some kind of multi-gendered entity, that has some avatars that are male and others female and maybe some both or neither or genderqueer? I’m reasonably sure there are deities/spirits like this, but my mind is a blank. (The only one I can think of is Nahadoth from…The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, what a surprise. I need at least a three-track mind, but nooooo…)

      1. Well, there’s the myth of Hermaphrodite, and Attis, for starters. Neither is a terribly positive idea to relate to, but at least they’re there, which is more than I can say for Protestants and exemplars of femininity.

        Dear old Uncle Gerald, may the Goddess give him a good talking-to, also wrote that a HPS could act as a HP by strapping on the coven sword, which is about as clear an example of sword-as-penis as a Freudian could drool around his cigar over. Gender issues? We haz them. Gerald, I’m looking at you.

      2. Actually the Jewish-Christian God is seen as masculine. “Abba” means “Father” in Arabic. To be honest, Wicca is waterdown paganism with some political correctness thrown into the mix – it doesn’t really have anything to do with Jewish-Christian concept of God or the Holy Trinity.

  2. I’m cringing. Dr. Laderman was not just one of my religion professors at Emory, but my “advisor” (actually, he didn’t much talk to me). Honestly, the man was a lofty Atheist and focused on general methodology and rituals. By senior year it was clear I could have learned more on actual religious practice in other classes, but don’t regret the Death & Dying course. He should keep out of politics.

    1. Interesting perspective! Since my understanding of Wicca emphasizes practice over belief, I am fascinated by things like the functional definition of religion and thought that general thrust of the article was interesting, especially given how many times quasi-religious language is being used to describe the GOP these days (articles of faith, saints, etc). But the snippet about “don’t try this at home” looks even more snide in retrospect, since who better to try to understand religion(s) than the people who are actively involved?

      I also refrained from pointing out that when applying the functional definition, one probably ought to be consistent and define Wicca in terms of its functional practices, which are definitely not all about the Goddess. But I thought that might be a bit much for little old me to say to a professor and magazine editor and so on…

      1. “who better to try to understand religion(s) than the people who are actively involved?”
        Yeah, that’s the perspective. After reading your blog this long, I do understand what you are saying on practice over belief, but it is the *spiritual* realm that separates out Atheists & Skeptics. Dr. Laderman has participated (as many who study religion do) in rituals, but whether he understood what was going on or felt any connection is something else.

        I do agree with a lot of his points in the article – religion too often takes a front seat in Republican politics and this is mostly due to Tea Partiers taking over. Taking from the cultural, psychological, and ritual cues you can see a “theo-fascism” building (his word). Yet, it’s hard to point the gun the other way. Perhaps the Democratic/Liberal side could be assessed in a similar manner. Even though we have multiple religions, we are labeled “godless” by some and ergo by a replacement of a few phrases one could use similar ritual & ethics arguments. (He says they have Fox. We have The Daily Show. We have hacktivists & Facebook movements, etc.) But that’s going to step on some toes and is a conversation I don’t really want to have. Functionality vs. actuality is too easily confused and it comes off as almost propaganda. The Tea Party will not last forever.

        1. I was recently discussing with someone else how it’s possible to be a Wiccan and an atheist (seeing deity as Jungian archetypes, for example). But for the duration of ritual, you have to be willing to believe in the ritual, in some sense. Skeptics who pride themselves on not doing that, even temporarily, are likely to miss major points.

          For me, the reason the opposite argument about the Democrats and/or liberals doesn’t work is that those folks generally have a rule that says all rules can be questioned and revised, which is very much unlike the common conception of religion and particularly the kind of hard-core belief-based religiosity that he’s talking about.

  3. The Mawtyr (not a misspelling) speaks: Wiccan practice at Bryn Mawr tends to be Dianic, emphasizing Goddess and paying little if any attention to God. Dianics are a minority in Wicca, but in the early 80’s, when I was at Bryn Mawr, they were a loud minority. Many women were introduced to Wicca as a feminist religion. Despite Pagan practice swinging back to the balance of male and female, that image remains.

    1. Mawtyr – I love it!

      Fair ’nuff. If the article had said anything even vaguely like that, I wouldn’t have written in. But being told “Your group does not do X,” when I just got done doing X is…a little annoying. Qualifiers, they are your friends! (Or they can be. Usually. See? Like that.)

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