Ask Phoenix: Defining Terms – What is the difference between Old Religion, Eclectic, and Kitchen Wicca?

Q: Could you elaborate on the
difference in Old Religion, Eclectic
and Kitchen Wiccan and the mixes of these? I’m searching through the
web, but I’d like a comparitive opinion or observation, not my
uneducated deductions…Thank you.

— Kimberly

A: As you probably already know,
Wicca is a twentieth century religion. It was created out of human
minds, a mix of ancient practices, turn of the century spiritualism,
and ceremonialism and has evolved to incorporate environmental and
feminist beliefs. The more witches you meet, the more different
traditions you may hear about and they can sound a bit confusing,
especially when the names don’t appear to reveal much about their
particular practice.

Eclectic and Kitchen Wicca are
two strong examples of what is known as American-style Wicca. They are
both practical and pragmatic, with much room for personal
interpretation. There are noticable differences between the two,
although both can co-exist quite happily.

Eclectic Wicca is just as it
sounds: gathered from many sources. Commonly, someone who calls
themselves an eclectic will create ritual with many different
traditions: calling on Greek gods, incorporating Native American
drumming and Celtic-style poetic recitation, or setting up ritual space
in the manner of an Alexandrian. An eclectic is happy to learn new
techniques from friends who practice Nordic ways, mixing in a bit of
Shinto and Hindu to build a hearty stew of true multiculturalism.

The downside to eclectic wicca is
that some may believe that this style isn’t as strong as following a
lineaged tradition, where actions and words have had decades to build
power and meaning, or practicing a reconstruction of one particular
culture’s spiritual methods. Some may dismiss eclectic style as
haphazard, immature, or worse. Of course, insulting another’s religious
practice is disrespectful and downright rude. Usually, the worst that
may happen when an eclectic runs a ritual is that some participants may
feel a little confused or scattered with all the different types of
energy being used, but a good priest or priestess can unify these
disparate energies to make a unique and powerful ceremony.

Kitchen wicca is also pretty
self-explanatory. You probably think of your kitchen as a mix of
practical appliances and mundane tools, but upon closer consideration a
lot of magic happens there, too. What’s more powerful than creating a
nourishing meal or delicious treat for loved ones with your own hands?
Even the most banal kitchen activities — stirring soup, washing
dishes, kneading bread — are meditative and ritualistic.

Kitchen witches ally themselves
with the most ancient of magickal practitioners, the medicine women and
food preparers, tenders of the hearth, keepers of herb wisdom. Their
sacred tools are the morter and pestle, measuring spoons, crockpot,
chef knife, saucepan, and all the ingredients in a well-stocked pantry.
You even see the kitchen witch in action in popular movies, from Like Water for Chocolate to Practical Magic. Their work stems from folk traditions and many take pride in having learned their craft from ancestral wisdom.

Finally, the term “Old Religion”
encompasses the practices of both these traditions. The Old Religion is
actually not a Wiccan tradition, but another term for paganism. “Old”
refers to those pre-christian practices that many are trying to
resurrect today, from Asatru to Celtic Reconstructionism. Many that
follow the Old Religion don’t necessarily call themselves Wiccan, as
Wicca is a new construct, but Wiccans certainly have much to learn from
followers of the Old Religion and all can work together in circle

Phoenix is a Wiccan living in
East Central Illinois, where there’s a surprisingly strong Pagan
community for such a small town. She’s ever inspired by the diverse,
wonderful individuals in town and in the circle she works with.

1999 Phoenix and Spiritualitea. Do not reprint without permission

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