What Does An Inclusive Coven Look Like?

A lot of people seem to think that inclusive means “I’ve got some gay people in my coven”. That is certainly welcoming – but is it really inclusive? I think there’s a spectrum of inclusivity – so one coven might score 100% and another might score 80% – but I think we have to accept that different people will have different ideas and priorities. However, it would avoid a lot of heartbreak all round if people stated upfront how inclusive their coven actually is.

Inclusive Wicca (design by Yvonne Aburrow)

Inclusive Wicca (design by Yvonne Aburrow)

An inclusive coven ticks some or all of the following boxes:

  • Understands that diversity has a place in celebration, theology and cosmology.
  • Understands that gender identity, gender expression, sex/gender assigned at birth, and biological characteristics are distinct (when I say distinct, I mean noticeably different, but interpermeable and with fuzzy boundaries).
  • Understands that you can make energy through polarity (tension of opposites), resonance (two similar people), or synergy (joining the energies of the whole group).
  • Understands that polarity can be made by two or more people of any gender and sexual orientation, and by two or more people of the same gender, and that polarity exists on a spectrum where Person A may be yang in relation to Person B, but yin in relation to Person C.
  • Understands that you can make polarity with any pair of opposite qualities (e.g. morning people and evening people, cat lovers and dog lovers, tea drinkers and coffee drinkers, air signs and earth signs, fire signs and water signs).
  • Understands that fertility is not strictly biological and may refer to creativity (and that you don’t need a male body & a female body to produce fertility on a symbolic level – e.g. when blessing crops).
  • Allows invocation of any gender deity onto any gender human.
  • Allows gender fluidity in ritual roles & doesn’t make people stand boy/girl/boy/girl in circle.
  •  Does cakes & wine with reference to lover & beloved, or using two cups, or on the understanding that we all contain both ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ energies, or some other inclusive variation, and can be done by two people of any gender.
  •  Accommodates difference (e.g. neurodivergence, dyslexia, left-handedness, aphantasia) and disability. Bonus points for embracing the social model of disability.
  •  Is open to other cultures and ethnicities and does not insist on a genetic basis for culture (e.g. anyone can worship gods from any culture). Bonus points for being aware of the concept of systemic racism.
  •  Tries to avoid cultural appropriation.
  • Is accepting of kink, polyamory, and monogamy.
  • Promotes consent culture.
  • Welcomes members of all ages (over 18) and accommodates older members’ needs.
  • Does not automatically exclude people with mental health issues.
  •  Accommodates different theological perspectives (animism, atheism, pantheism, polytheism, duotheism etc).
  • Body-positive: does not allow fat-shaming or body-shaming.
  • Is prepared to accommodate coven members who are less well-off (by not organising expensive social activities, or having a massive and expensive reading list, for example).
  • Does not insist that its members reach a particular educational level or belong to a particular socio-economic class.
  • Listens to the views of all the members.
  • Values the contributions and ideas of all the members.

Summary

Inclusive Wicca is about being inclusive towards everyone.

There isn’t a competition over who is more oppressed, and there is no queue for liberation. We can work on small issues and large issues at the same time – I am not suggesting that all the categories mentioned in the list receive the same degree of oppression in society – they are included in the list because at some point, they have been excluded from some Wiccan circles for some reason.

Also, please note that inclusive Wicca is not a new or separate tradition; it is a tendency within existing Wiccan traditions. (Though just to confuse matters, in Australia, there actually is a tradition called Inclusive Wicca, which is unconnected to the inclusive tendency – though it may have similar goals.)

Double rainbow in Alaska

Double rainbow in Alaska. Photo by Eric Rolph at English Wikipedia – English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.5.

 


Thanks to Alder Lyncurium, Anna Hammarlund, Anya Read, Brian Paisley, Francois Schaut, Lirilin Lee, Susan Harper, for suggestions and comments on the first draft of this.

 

UPDATE: I have now created an inclusive Wicca website.

If You Have A Racist Friend

So you have a racist, sexist, homophobic, white supremacist friend. Your racist friend is perfectly affable to you, buys you beers, likes to chat about the football and whatever. But you are white and male and straight, so of course he is nice to you. And he doesn’t challenge your world-view, or your assumptions about how the world works, because both you and he are white, straight, and male.

But you know what they say: a person who is nice to you, but not nice to the waiter, is not a nice person. 

One of your acquaintances, on the other hand, points out (on a fairly regular basis) that Black Lives Matter, that there is racism and white supremacism rampant in your community. He (or she) makes you uncomfortable, because s/he challenges your assumptions, and makes you aware that you might have straight/white/male privilege. You are unable to separate out his calls for social justice from  other aspects of his personality that irritate you. Maybe he isn’t actually irritating by any general standard, you just find him irritating because he makes you think about topics you would rather not think about.

So what are you gonna do about it?

Apparently one answer is to do a public character assassination on the anti-racist acquaintance, claiming that he is abrasive and difficult.

In the feminist and anti-racist communities, this is called “tone policing“. It is the assertion that people who demand social justice (as opposed to asking for it politely) are automatically wrong for demanding equality and inclusion. In the anti-racist community, it’s also called “being an apologist for racism”. People who are on the receiving end of racism, sexism, and homophobia (and other forms of oppression) have a right to be angry:

Nobody was ever given rights by politely asking for them. Politeness is nothing but a set of behavioral expectations that is enforced upon marginalized people.

If you see someone who is angry and upset about something that was said or done to them, don’t tell them they should be nicer. Instead: Recognize their emotions as valid. Recognize that their emotional state is an indication that something extremely harmful was done to them, whether it was by you, or someone else. Work to understand why the action was oppressive. Take all that energy that you’re wasting being so concerned with how people are responding to their own oppression, and channel it into fighting oppression. 

Another answer is to say, well, y’know, I don’t like the anti-racist guy, but he is right about calling racism out in my community, so even though he gets up my nose, I will stand with him on this one issue. And the racism of racist guy is so extreme that I am going to have to dissociate myself from his white supremacist views, and call him out on them publicly.

Regardless of whether you find racist guy to be an affable dude to hang out with, and anti-racist guy to be a bit of a douche: racism is wrong, and white supremacism is even wronger. That means racist guy is not an affable dude; he’s an asshole.

And as The Specials so memorably put it, If you have a racist friend, now is the time, now is the time for your friendship to end.

But apparently some people just want a quiet life.

Well, I don’t want to see racism, white supremacism, or apologies for racism on Patheos. And I don’t want to see character assassination of individuals on Patheos. So I agree with John Beckett: Racism cannot be tolerated, and Stephen Abell should no longer be welcome to post on Patheos Pagan.

By Frerieke from The Hague, The Netherlands - Flickr: Day 20.06 _ Diversity and Unity, CC BY 2.0

By Frerieke from The Hague, The Netherlands – Flickr: Day 20.06 _ Diversity and Unity, CC BY 2.0