Wiccan Glossary Draft: Names

In the process of starting to collect Paganese, I’ve decided that so far I’m mostly describing my understandings of Wicca, so I’m not even going to begin to call this an attempt at a Pagan glossary because that would be marginalizing or erasing all the lovely Pagans who aren’t Wiccan. I’ve also started grouping concepts by themes or connections, rather than alphabetically.

Caveats apply; this is only the first draft, it is only my work, and it is not meant to be taken as an attempt to exert authority over any other Pagans or Wiccans. I may speak about others, and will happily receive feedback to help me refine those statements, but I’m not trying to speak for anyone else.

With that said, here’s the first concept cluster: Names.

Wicca, Wiccan, Witchcraft, Witch – Different individuals use these differently.  Listen or ask about local or personal usage to be sure. Literata regards herself as both a Wiccan (practitioner of Wicca) and a Witch, so they are sometimes used here interchangeably. Wiccan is usually regarded as more neutral, Wicca is usually the name of the religion, Witchcraft usually refers to the practice or to doing magic, and Witch is someone who does Witchcraft.

Broomcloset, in the – Wiccan term adapted from QUILTBAG rights movement. To be in the broomcloset is to not identify as Wiccan or Pagan. People may be partially in or out, and out to some groups (friends) but in the broomcloset to others (family). This is a very touchy issue in Wicca and Paganism today, so it is good manners to regard someone’s status as a Pagan or Wiccan as a private piece of information until or unless you are told otherwise. It is not acceptable to “out” someone and may have major consequences ranging from ostracism to loss of job, loss of custody of children, and even death threats or outright violence. Paganism’s questionable legal status means that many laws against religious dicrimination are not always sufficient protection.

Craft name – Many Wiccans adopt a religious name, both to symbolize one’s self-created identity as a Pagan and to separate one’s Pagan persona from legal names and mundane activities.

Solitary – Someone who primarily practices alone. Many Wiccans today are eclectic solitaries who may attend open rituals at Sabbats.

Coven – Group of Wiccans who have decided to work together. May be large or small, formal or informal, hierarchical or not, and so on. Often gathers once a month at about the full moon for esbats and eight times a year for Sabbats.

HP, HPS – Abbreviations for High Priest and High Priestess. Traditional titles for the male and female leaders of covens or officiants at rituals.

Gardnerian, Alexandrian, BTW – British Traditional Wicca is the group of traditions founded by Gerald Gardner in Britain shortly after World War II. Gardnerian Wicca traces its roots to Gardner, and Alexandrian to Alex Sanders, who branched off from Gardner.

Lineage, initiations, degrees – BTW is structured around initiations which are given as first degree, second degree, and third degree. A person who has a third degree initiation is a HP/S. Lineage is the sequence of initiators that can be traced back to a founding figure such as Gardner or Sanders. Not all Wiccans use systems like this; many feminist forms reject degrees or hierarchy entirely. Others have founded their own initiatory lineages or expanded the system to include more numbers of degrees, or self-bestowed degrees.

The Craft – Alternate name for Wicca or Witchcraft, borrowed from Masons.

Cowan – Impolite term for outsider, borrowed from Masons.

Feri, also several variations on F(a)er(ie/y) – A Wiccan tradition that focuses on ecstatic experience, especially physical and artistic, founded by Victor and Cora Anderson.

Dianic Wicca, also wicce – Loose grouping of traditions and approaches that emphasize extremely feminist ideas and normally exclude men and possibly trans women.

Eclectic – Usually means not adhering to any established tradition or set of practices, creating one’s own path and potentially drawing on a wide range of sources, mixing and matching as one sees fit.

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About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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