Wiccanate is here to stay; here’s why

“Wiccanate” as a word didn’t really enter the collective Pagan consciousness until a few months ago, when it started getting concatenated with “privilege.”  It’s a clumsy-looking, awkwardly-pronounced word which refers to those collected practices and traditions which outwardly resemble what most of us think of as Wicca, e.g. casting a circle, balancing gender poles, invoking elements, and things like that.  It’s a spot-on definition of the type of Paganism I practiced for the first twenty or so years on this path.

I don’t think it’s a particularly attractive word, and wish that whoever coined it had come up with something that feels more elegant to the tongue and the ear.  But wiccanate is here to stay, despite my misgivings.  That’s because it does, in fact, accurately describe an existing subset of Pagan existence.  The debates around this word have been instructive to me, because I’m pretty suspicious of neologisms, thinking that it’s silly to make a new word if another one will do just as nicely.

But the word that I used to use to describe this concept was “Pagan.”  Somewhere I have a notebook with all sorts of ideas about rituals and concepts which are universally Pagan, but in fact were wiccanate.  I was unaware — some would say I failed to ‘check my privilege,’ but the reasons I disagree are numerous enough to require a post to themselves — that there are forms of Paganism which do not in any way resemble the outward forms of Wicca.  Practicing Hellenismos has helped me understand that yes, there’s a whole world beyond that, dissolving my ignorance.  I wish we could use “Pagan” like I used to, but it’s just not true.

Shortcomings aplenty accompany this word, though.  Let’s take a peek.  It’s got:

  • Condescension appeal.  I’ve seen wiccanate used with a sneer, as if the writer were looking down upon those who practice such a religion.  I’ve also seen it put in “condescension quotes,” expressing a clear view that the word — and everything it represents — is made-up fluffery. That baggage comes from the writers and the readers, not the word itself.
  • Awkward spelling.  Put “ate” at the end of an English word and it’s not clear if that syllable includes a long ‘a’ or a schwa, an unstressed syllable.  Either one doesn’t trip off the tongue too teasingly, but it’s the word we’ve got, and repetition makes awkward things seem comfortable with time.
  • Capitalism.  This word is being capitalized, but I reject capitalism.  It’s appropriate to captialize “Wiccan” as the adjectival form for Wicca, but wiccanate is not an adjectival form of a particular religion, so it doesn’t deserve that much credit.  It’s just an adjective, and we don’t capitalize adjectives in English without good reason.

There you have it:  wiccanate entered our conversation charged with lots of emotions, terrible spelling, and inappropriate capitalization, but all of that is overcome by the fact that it defines something which needed to be defined.  Any questions?

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