THEALOGY OF WITCHCRAFT: OBJECTIONS TO TEMPLE RELIGIONS
By Maphis and Leokadia
There exists in Toronto, as in several other cities around North
America, a large Wicca-based Church. This churcj is very similar to
most mainstream Christian churches in its style of operation, how it
views itself, and in its goals. It holds large Circles which are open
to the public, offers classes in various aspects of the Craft, in
mythologies, and in other related topics, and it exhibits a
differentiation between the clergy and laity. It has a strong desire
to be treated as a "Church like any other Church" by goverments and
The number of Wicca-based groups wishing to become Temple churches
is growing. While none of the others is as large as the organization
in Toronto, they all seek its large membership, priesthood/congregation
structure and "respectability."
The coven is teh traditional structure for Wicca-based groups. As a
coven grows and matures, it spawns other covens. Each coven is autonomous.
The thealogy inherant to coven-bsed structure has been taken for granted
and has not been articulated. It is the emergence of the Temple-church
groups which challenges us to examine the thealogy underlying the coven
and the Temple structures.
We fundimentally disagree with the Thealogy inherent in a Temple church
structure. We feel that a Temple structure warps Wicca into something
it is not. We do not know if the Temple religionsists are consciously
choosing to become more like what our society says is the "proper" way
to organize a religious group, to behave in ritual, or to think about
the divine - whether through choice or just 'going with the flow' it is
not consistant with the thealogy of Wicca.
The coven structure is not systematically hierarchial. The divine may
be experienced directly by any member of any coven, initiate or not,
through revelation, trance (especially possesion trance), ecstatic states,
or magic. The sacredness of women, sex, Nature Herself, and our bodies
are central. The role of priesthood and the style of ritual differ
dramatically from that practiced by Temple religionists, be they Wicca-based
Religious organizations are channels for the divine and both shape and
reflect their members' experience of the divine. Ideas and experiences
that are inconsistant with the shape of the structure are often not allowed.
THese experiences are disregarded or relegated to a lower level of the
organization's system of values. In our opinion, the thealogy and
organizational forms adopted from the Christian churches are leading the
Temple religionists to discard the central, most distinctive features of
The following chart illustrates the thealogical differences which we
see between Witchcraft covens and Wicca-based churches, on a number of key
IDEA TEMPLE GROUP WITCHCRAFT
---- ------------ ----------
Revelation does not happen, or only rarely happens frequently to us all
to "properly prepared and but person may need help
initiated person," dangerous interpreting it.
to the unwary.
Ecstacy distrusted sought out as a great source
Magic distrusted, glamourized (see frequently practiced, see
Training High degree of training needed High degree of ability and
for initiation training needed for initiation
Size oriented to large groups oriented to small groups
Priesthood glamourized, made much of, teacher, first amoung equals
highly trained formally
Hierarchy Yes, institutional model no formal elders model and
Ritual liturgic, static, and mostly inspired, fluid, participatory
non-participatory basic patterns & guidelines
Consistency inconsistancy between life consistancy between life
and religion - eg. sexist practice and belief
behavior from Goddess
Energy Flow inward toward maintaining and outward toward involvement in
expanding the organization the world
Power hierarchic and Patruarchal enpower the individual
Trust Low trust, low vulnerability, high trust, high vulnerability
very high degree of roleplaying low degree of roleplaying
Openess low high; self-disclosure essential
Realization minimal because of the power coinsiderable - the emphasis
and role games on enpowerment and revelation
Interdependence minimal High, through the creation
of a group soul and the ability
through trust to go higher and
Thealogy ideological, dogmatic, a matter lived, dynamic, a matter of
facts and ideas experiences
The central differences which emerge from the above comparison can be
loosely grouped under one or two of the following general themes:
a) the function and view of the priesthood
b) The relationship which the individual has with the divine, as
directly experienced or as manifested in others; and
c) the relationship which the individual has with the world.
in Temple religion the relationsip between the individual and the divine
is mediated by the Priesthood - so the Priesthood is built up, training is
extensive and formalized, the congregation is divided from the Priesthood,
ritual becomes static and non-participatory, and so on.
In Witchcraft divine revelation is key. Personal encounters with the
divine can come to each individual through trance, possesion by the
Goddess or God through Drawing Down the Moon or Sun, vision, by working
magic, or in other ways. The role of Priesthood is training the individual
to understand revelation when it comes, not to stand between her and her
So on the one hand teh hierarchial, clerical, Patriarchal Temple religion
and on the other the fluid, experiential, enpowering Witchcraft traditions.
It is true that the Craft and Temple groups have common thealogical roots.
We observe, however, that the Temple groups de-emphasize the
"non-respectable" elements of the Craft both in published explorations and
in ritual. There is no nudity, possesion trance, ritual sex, much less
emphasis on ecstaitc states, and no celebration of the wonderful variety
of humanity outside the norm - of gayness, 'insanity', and cultural variety.
They de-emphasize the Horny/Wild Man nature of the God and prefer not to
use the word Witch as a self-description.
In the past the differences between radical Witches and the Temple
religions were put simply in political terms. Our growing awareness that
our politics and spirituality were inextricably bound up in each other,
that our relationship with the Goddess mandated political action and that
political action, in turn, nurtured our spirituality, has forced us to
ask; what is the thealogical contant to what we are doing, and to what the
Temple religionists are doing?
Our conclusion is that there are groups based on Witchcraft who are
moving toward the norms of society in politics and in their veiw of the
divine, and other groups who are developing on the basis of the differences
Witchcraft has with the Patriarchal norms. The Temple religionists are not
practicing the Craft but are moving away from it.