Towards an inclusive Wiccan theology

Wiccans can be polytheist, animist, pantheist, monist, duotheist, atheist/archetypalist, or “all of the above depending on the day”. Most Pagans believe that the divine is, or deities are, immanent in the world; and that includes most Wiccans.

This theological diversity works in ritual settings as long as everyone can “translate in their head” and have a certain amount of flexibility as to practice and the wording of rituals.

The goddess Artemis. Photo by Jason Youngman [Public Domain, CC0]

The goddess Artemis.
Photo by Jason Youngman [Public Domain, CC0]

One reviewer of my book, Lisa Roling, expressed surprise that you can have different perspectives on theology in the same religion; but it works for Hindus, Unitarians and UUs, and many other traditions.

As a polytheist, I prefer it if we behave in ritual as though the deities are real, distinct from each other, and have their own desires and goals. So I avoid writing invocations that involve conflating different deities together, such as a multiplicity of sun gods from different pantheons, or assuming that all the gods are one God, or that all the goddesses are one Goddess. I also prefer it if, once a deity has been invoked, they are allowed to speak for themselves (instead of reciting a piece of poetry that has been learned).

As an animist, I prefer to treat all the spirits that are invited into my circles with respect. This means I respectfully invite the powers of the four elements to attend, rather than summoning them (which seems a bit peremptory to me). It also means being respectful of rocks, trees, waters, animals, and birds.

I regard the Horned God and the Goddess of the  as Moon as patron deities of Wicca, rather than as the only deities, or the only ones that we worship.

As I don’t regard all the gods as one God and all the goddesses as one Goddess, and don’t wish to perpetuate a myth that reinforces the gender binary, I don’t celebrate the eight festivals of the Wheel of the Year as stages in the “cycle of the God and Goddess” (and neither did the early Wiccans; the cycle was introduced later).

None of these practices is in conflict with any of the other theological perspectives that one might encounter in a Wiccan circle.

A benefit of polytheism is that the great multiplicity of deities can express gender and sexuality in a huge variety of ways, and deities can change gender, and sometimes have no gender at all. There are gods of same-sex love, transgender deities, cisgender deities, and many more. If deities don’t subscribe to the gender binary, why should humans have to do so?

It’s also somewhat disrespectful to other cultures to conflate their deities with ours. Each culture has developed its own set of relationships with specific deities; and it makes no sense to say that Kali and the Morrigan are the same person, even if they embody a similar archetype. Viewing deities as distinct beings also means that we can visualise them as a multiplicity of colours.

Deities can be humans who have achieved apotheosis, personifications of cosmic forces, or the numen of a specific place, tribe, or city. Sometimes they also embody archetypes.

Polytheism and animism seem to me to be the best explanation of the sense of the numinous and the preternatural. Polytheism because that which has a personality must of necessity be finite; and that which is infinite cannot be a person in the accepted sense of the word. Animism because spirit, or consciousness of some sort, is present in everything. (Who hasn’t had that sense that photocopiers are sentient and can communicate with each other?)

One of Wicca’s great strengths is that it can accommodate multiple theological perspectives; sometimes these are even held by the same person.

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my books.

7 thoughts on “Towards an inclusive Wiccan theology

  1. Excellent post. I find that Druidry is the same, and equally accepting of differing theological viewpoints (despite there always being a loud minority in any group that insist their way is the one true way). I also find that the common emphasis on God/Goddess is problematic and heteronormative, so I tend not to work with personified deity at all, preferring an animist/pantheist perspective on the Sacred. The joy of diversity in thought is that I can stand in a ritual with polytheists, atheists, even Christopagans, and all still be *Pagan* at the same time.

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    • Yes, a pantheist approach to the divine works equally well as a way of avoiding heteronormative models of deity / deities. If it works for you, that’s awesome 🙂

      Personally, I really like having goddesses as a corrective to hundreds of years of patriarchal theology, though. And LGBTQIA deities as a corrective to hundreds of years of repression of same-sex love. And I’m all about the multiplicity. And I am very keen on the goddess Bast. And spirits of place.

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  2. Pingback: Polytheism in Wicca | Dowsing for Divinity

  3. You are very fortunate to have found a home to express your spirituality with such eloquence; my words pale in comparison. There are moments in time when my heart is grasped with nostalgia, and the gods become real to me again. They often become present to me while dancing in the forest. My photo of Artemis was taken in the east end of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Thankfully the owner is a gardener and loves to take care of her property.

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    • Thank you!

      In my experience, the gods are present in moments of joy and connection — whether or not they’re objectively real is not really answerable, as it depends what is meant by real, and what is meant by gods. But if you can feel them and derive comfort from that feeling, that’s good enough for me.

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      • Touché, then again, what we consider to be objective, can also change over time. Even our cornerstones in life can give way to chaos. Whereas the gods at the very least represent an ideal of sorts, for some an impetus to act even when there is no solid ground. While sinking in quicksand, even the most rational person will reach for a small stick so as to stay afloat. In such a circumstance, objectivity takes a back door, whereas the stories we associate to the gods give our death meaning and help to make our ordeal more tolerable. It is as you say, the solace we derive from our relationship with the gods has significant merit, even if those entities are limited to our imaginations, that does not detract from their value and/or virtue.

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