There is still considerable confusion over what inclusive Wicca actually is. In part, this could be because the people who are confused about it haven’t read my book, All acts of love and pleasure: inclusive Wicca (available on Kindle and in paperback), or the short guide to being an inclusive coven.
Being inclusive is not just about having gay people in your coven. Gardnerian Wicca in the UK has been welcoming LGBT people into covens for the entire time I have been involved in it, and I was initiated in 1991. Many of my contemporaries and elders in the Craft are bisexual, and there are plenty of gay and lesbian people on both sides of the Atlantic who have been involved in the Craft longer than me, and a trans woman who was initiated in the early 1990s too, who I met in person, and there may have been others too. Alexandrian Wicca also has many LGBT initiates (though I am less well-acquainted with the details).
So what does it mean to be inclusive? If you have LGBT people in your coven, if you then insist that we can only make polarity in male and female pairs, or focus all the rituals on heterocentric mythology and symbolism, we will become frustrated (and so will many inclusive-minded heterosexuals). Being inclusive means modifying or expanding your symbolism and practice to include everyone.
There are also aspects of Wiccan ritual, mythology, symbolism, and custom that exclude other groups, such as disabled people, people with dyslexia, and people of colour (frequently depicting deities as white, for example). Some groups apparently insist that members do every ritual action with their right hand, which would be incredibly frustrating for me as a left-hander.
The aspects of Wiccan ritual that got me frustrated and looking for something more inclusive were:
- standing alternately male/female around the circle (allegedly to maintain polarity);
- calling the quarters using gender binary symbolism (e.g. Earth and Water are ‘feminine’ elements; Air and Fire are ‘masculine’ elements);
- the idea of the cycle of the God and the Goddess around the wheel of the year (not all covens use this symbolism, but many do);
- invocations only ever being performed by a man invoking a goddess onto a woman, or by a woman invoking a god onto a man;
- talk about Wicca being a ‘fertility religion’;
- frequent use of binary symbolism such as women being gentle and flowery and nurturing, and men being thrusting warriors;
- the idea that the cup symbolises the female and the athame symbolises the male in a heterosexual pairing;
- initiations only being done by a woman initiating a man, or a man initiating a woman;
- making new initiates copy out the Book of Shadows by hand (very difficult for people with dyslexia);
- over-use of dancing to raise energy (this is excluding for disabled people, and for me because I get really dizzy).
All of these practices can be modified or expanded to be more inclusive with a bit of thought and consideration. And you don’t have to change everything all at once. My practice evolved over several years; I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to change everything. Many of the things I do in circle are to be more respectful of the deities and spirits, as well as respecting diversity. My practice is still evolving – that’s what a living tradition does.
- Inclusive Wicca website
- Dark Mirror: the inner work of witchcraft (forthcoming)
- The Night Journey: witchcraft as transformation (forthcoming)