Wicca (Witchcraft) today.

 

There will be articles about Wicca at the present time (in the World and in the CIS). Articles can be subjective and do not claim to be the only truth. Remember - every witch and every coven sees things differently.

Wicca today. Wicca and Paganism in Russia and the CIS.

Overview. 2021

This report is no academic work of a historian or religious scholar, but personal recollections and opinions of a participant in these events, written in free form. The report describes a brief and summarized history of Wicca and Pagan Witchcraft in Russia and the CIS  in the post-Soviet period. The report does not reveal anyone's personal data and is not a full-scale study. It is only for those interested in the topic. The term CIS stands for the Commonwealth of Independent States and is meant here as a generalized reference to the countries of the former Soviet Union. Only for those who are interested. 

 

Witchcraft, unfortunately or fortunately, is not homogeneous. Once a natural shamanic and witchcraft art that goes back to the eternal and multifaceted Great Mother, it has grown, changed, distorted and transformed over time.

Wicca in Russia and CIS can be roughly divided into two parts. The first is the natural witchcraft (some analogue of hedgewitch, close to Wicca), preserved by some hereditary witches and covens who have not left near-paganism. Usually generic and secretive. They have probably always been. Sometimes their way can be described as a mixture of Paganism and occultism or Paganism and Christianity, where by Paganism is meant both near-Vikkan and near-Slavic or near-Northic paganism. All their lives intuitively followed the "way of the Craft of the Gods", hearing the call of the Spirits. Thus coming from the depths of centuries, and preserved in secrecy. Often have a lot of eclectic rituals, but developed throught the years and generations of family. These witches and covens usually very rarely participate in the "social life" of the Wiccan community, preferring their own personal path and fellowship with a few friends. There are exceptions, but rarely, and it is mostly about earning through magic.

And the second is the "modern part" of Wicca, which came along with the books from the West. After the fall of the "Iron Curtain" (1990s) culture from other countries became available in the former Soviet Union. Among them was also actively reviving Wicca. It was represented by such rare books and translations as by Laurie Cabot, Raven Grimassy, Scott Cunningham and some others. These were the first full-fledged books on Witchcraft to get the most distribution and you could say that they were where it all started openly. Before them, you could only find rare works like Papius, but those didn't resonate with the masses. And these first witch books, the path of beauty and harmony described in them, have sunk into the hearts of some people. These people created the first websites about Wicca, translated Western articles and slowly wrote their own. Many others later learned from them (around 1990s-2010s). Almost always through the Internet and by oneself. Before the sites, everyone learned only from rare and occasional books. The sites sometimes had small forums, often inactive. Most of the information on those sites was then translations of generalized articles about Wicca from the West, but there were few personal articles as well. Wiccans began to actively write their own articles, much less make any full-fledged videos or music, much later.

It was then completely eclectic Wicca, absolutely accepting self-dedications. Or even more accurately, not exactly Wicca, but Wiccan-magic eclecticism. But it was a time of inspiration and development, of the first sites and singles. One can remember such names as Fialkora, Hechisera, Annelle, Andrey Girin, Leo Greenwood, Vlad Lomaev, Zau Targiski, Soit, Dina Shea, Oixxo, Zalissa, Galina Bednenko, Riola, and others (names are in the public domain and are not secret). Not all of them are still active and connected to Witchcraft, many have changed their names, traditions or have left magic altogether, stopped their social activity in Pagan sphere. One of those who remained faithful to the ways of the Goddess is still, for example, Fialcora. Some of the people I remember personally.

Though certainly they were not the only "first wave”. I quite often heard stories about those who heard the Call on their own, began to strive for inspiration and intuitively conjured with the Force of Nature. And when these people came across books about Wicca later on, they were surprised and said: "Oh, so this is exactly what I was doing myself". And that was (and still is) quite often. Therefore it seems to me that it is incorrect to say that someone was "the first wave", or even more so "brought initiation or self-initiation" to the CIS. There have always been witches, it's just that the availability of books on Witchcraft has helped to make the practice and development more structured.

The modern history of Wicca in the CIS can be notionally divided into several eras. Roughly speaking "five-year periods" (people of the former USSR used to live in five-year periods:)). Which are characterized by the rise and fall of the activity and the number of Wiccans, the appearance and disintegration of covens.

As the amount of information about Wicca increased on the Internet (and availability of the Internet increased) more and more of those who were inspired by Wicca began to appear. In the first years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Wiccans in the CIS were exclusively lone solitary eclectic witches, each of whom considered themselves the only Wiccan witch for many hundreds of kilometers (around 1990-2005). The active growth of Wiccans began with the development of the social network "Vkontakte" (around 2006). Spontaneous small covens of no more than 4-5 people appeared and disappeared, and there were quite a few of them. Some lasted longer, some shorter. Some left a trace, some were forgotten altogether. Some of the names I listed above.

Most Wiccans were in Moscow and St. Petersburg, which is natural (there is always more activity in these cities than in the rest of the country). Some even tried to hold small meetings of their own, where there were usually no more than 10 people. But after a few years, when the number of open and active Wiccans (not afraid to speak about themselves) exceeded a certain "critical mark" Wiccans tried to unite, to start communicating with each other, to create some common structure. So an attempt to unite probably the unitable, the "Alliance of Wiccans of Russia" (2011-2014) was created. It existed for about three years, and even managed to hold three small festivals, intercity meetings of Wiccans (near Moscow and St. Petersburg, once a year, at Lugnasad). At which up to 40 people came (give or take), which is quite a lot for Russia at such an event even now. They were the first Wiccan festivals in the CIS. Unfortunately, then it turned out that there were too many disagreements. And the union broke up, the Alliance of Wiccans of Russia (Союз Виккан России) "fell into oblivion". Several covens and a lot of solitaries which were a part of the Alliance went into different directions, and their communication was not very active, sometimes interrupted by small conflicts. For a time, there was this shaky truce and neutrality. But, unfortunately, it was not for long. Wiccans gradually grew in number, communities and groups in social networks were gradually becoming larger. Perhaps the fact that some saw each other as "competitors" and did not want Wicca to be talked about based on the views of «opponents» played a role. A little later, the paranoid idea arose that someone had "helped" everyone to quarrel. But oneway or another, the era of inspiration and peace was over (at least for a while). From the attempts at inter-campus communication, it turned out that there were too many differences, and people were unwilling to dialogue and smooth over personal misunderstandings. A "war of witches" broke out (2014-2018).

And the Wiccan community was somewhat divided. One part is communities and small groups in conflict with each other. And the other is the neutral and distant solitaries who continued the practice of eclectic natural witchcraft on their own. The reasons for the conflict are difficult to describe, for the most part - a lack of understanding, a strong unwillingness to comprehend each other. Some had a fear that they would be "judged" by other, different Wiccans. Some had envy of larger and more successful projects or priests. And some occasionally even just masked negative magic or psychological problems with Wicca. As Wicca grew in prominence, profanities and deceitful people sometimes began to arise, such things eventually arise everywhere. "The War of the Witches" went on for several years, many Wiccans conflicted badly, there were many trolls, embittered haters and bullying. This had a negative impact on the development of the Wiccan community in Russia and the CIS - circles broke up, people left Wicca, and newcomers did not want to come. People stopped trusting each other, and partially it still is so. But nothing lasts forever, and gradually the degree of hostility began to decline. Some people were no longer interested, for some it was no longer profitable, and some actually realized that the world is more valuable (became wiser).

The era of diplomacy (2018-2021) has gradually arrived. A time of attempts at cooperation and collaboration between Wiccan activists and community heads, between covens and projects. The only exceptions to this were the neutral solitaries of the outlying areas who, as before, continued their personal practices; yes, there are individual toxic haters slowly continuing conflicts on their own and already "opposing all." Though of course Wiccans were not the same, past alliance breakups and years of conflict had taught people to be suspicious, distrustful. Plus evolving (somewhat in separate ways) small traditions and Wiccans' own views somewhat divide people in different directions. But after attempts to destroy the cooperation of Wiccan circles and to make the Wiccan community and Wiccan priests look like perverted sectarians (a group of crazy and embittered "Wiccans"-freaks, haters), we can say that the community has somewhat learned to unite and defend itself when in need (2018). Although mistrust and some estrangement still remain, diplomacy is a good thing. Not everything is homogeneous. Although most try to distance themselves from whose who create divisive conflicts, some still communicate with them.

Various commercial groups are emerging, also calling themselves "covens." Wicca as a "business project", which wasn't there before and these not selling witches' crafts, but paid training, initiations, etc. Although based purely on eclecticism and their own developments. "The only right" practices and traditions, which should not be in Wicca. Sometimes such groups combine all kinds of magic, just to sell it. Also a lot of online teenage covens and mainstream "witchcraft" from magazines in newsstands began to appear.

But overall diplomacy and growth is an interesting beginning and one hopes that it can be consolidated and improved. That Pagans can learn to cooperate, learn to help and support each other. To learn more to accept the views of others. Support each other without intrigue. And jointly defend themselves from someone else's aggression. At least, not to support those projects and people who carry enmity (negative attitudes).

Wiccans in the CIS do not need, in the opinion of our coven, any unified and centralized "official" organization - that would be the end of free will. It would be the "Pope of Wicca". Occasionally someone expresses such an idea, but I am deeply convinced it comes only from personal egocentric ambition and a thirst for recognition, a thirst for fame. Wiccans don't need "official" priests and any officiousness and bureaucracy, that would be a thriving corruption. I don't mean professional priests loving their Craft, leading their covens and traditions. But the heads over the others in the likeness of single leaders. The need is not for a unified system, but for cooperation and support. The need to heal the effects of conflict and hostility. And ideally also for supporting each other from the attacks of embittered people (including pagans). Wicca is supposed to be the way of the wise.

Wicca in the CIS is a multicolored patchwork quilt that consists of different fragments moving - loosely - in the same direction. Some communities are closer to Western traditions and ceremonial magic, some are closer to shamanic and natural concepts of the Craft, some are syncretic. Many perform rituals taken from books or spontaneous rituals, but there are also those who make up rituals themselves. Few circles have created their own versions of initiation. There are a few Gardnerians, some eclectic self initiated dianics, quite a few people inspired by one tradition or another and their outer circles, but in an eclectic manner. And a great many free eclecticists of Wiccan witchcraft in general, without a touch of any particular tradition. Some are more mystical, some are more social. For some witchcraft is more of a way with spirits, and for some with people. Some are united in small alliances and clans, most exist on their own. Concerning more or less larger clans, generally speaking, there are just two. They are "Spirit of the Goddess" (our project) and "Wiccan Alliance" (the heritage of the "Allianceon of Wiccans of Russia", but so far they have not held any common festivals).  Many are friends of this or that project. And of course there are a lot of solitaries and neutral miniature groups of 2-4 people scattered around the CIS. Full-fledged individual traditions of Wiccan witchcraft are also developing, with somewhat different paths. But it's still too early to judge anything specific by them. The Wiccan community of Russia and the CIS itself is very small. For example - if any of the open circles gather a meeting for 50 people, this will be an event comparable to the huge Pagan festivals of hundreds of people in America. Even the groups that hold open circles can be, relatively speaking, counted on the fingers of one hand, if in Russia. For the CIS, on the fingers of two hands. Although small and closed mini-circles can be counted probably two or three dozen if we take only Wiccans. Statistics on them are difficult because they often arise and disintegrate.

It is worth noting that Slavic Wicca, sometimes of interest to witches in the West, as a specific tradition was never formed. There were witches who tried to promote it as a specific practice, but it was not fully spread as a tradition. But nevertheless, it exists in an eclectic format for many solitaries, who address the Goddess and God at the same time and on the Wiccan model, but with Slavic names and with a Slavic flavor. This cannot be called a tradition, because each such witch does everything in her own way, it is a subspecies of eclecticism and the mixing of Wicca and Slavic Paganism by each individual person. The subspecies is stable, but highly non-homogeneous. It can be compared to those who in personal practice refer to the Gods in Celtic, Greek, Egyptian, Hindu or other images.

It is also worth noting that the issue of cultural expropriation in the CIS is most often seen as cultural exchange and interaction. The USSR was a multinational and multicultural country, no matter what. In both the European and Eastern parts of these lands, many cultures were historically mixed for a variety of reasons. Therefore, many Pagans outside of traditionalism view the mixing of cultures as natural and normal. Although there are those who are against this, usually traditionalist pagans (i.e. reconstructors or supporters of only one ethnic tradition). In occult communities this is also often seen as normal, with many practices moving from one tradition or order to another. In the environment of occultism, the negative reaction is rather on illiterate borrowing of magical rituals from the context of the tradition.

I would like to say that in Russia (in the whole CIS, as well as everywhere else in the world) there have always been natural witches (both singles and communities) who honor the Great Mother and God of Nature. Sometimes in near-Wiccan folk imagery based on the myth of the Mother-Great Earth and the Father-Sun. Can they be called Wiccans? Maybe not from the point of view of authoritarian people and dogmatists, but in my opinion they can (if they respect the Creed). They don't always cooperate with each other or other traditions, but they are and always will be.

The cooperation of other Pagan traditions with Wicca in the CIS is difficult. There is no permanent inter-traditional dialogue, unfortunately. The only place for permanent gatherings of Pagans of different traditions right now is the only pubmut (meeting) in Russia, at the moment, from the International Pagan Federation, in Moscow. It has been in existence since 2012. But because of social and legal issues, it is difficult to operate IPF itself in the country. Another pubmut was in Ukraine. Besides this, sometimes Pagans of different traditions can come to meetings of Wiccan open circles (also quite rare, compared to other countries). Or to each other. But this does not happen often, and these are usually Pagan eclectics. Representatives of Rodnovery (Slavic Paganism) and Asatru (Northern Paganism) often do not want to have much contact with Wiccans and other traditions associated with the West. Sometimes for intolerant reasons. Though not always. It is worth saying that Rodnovery is not the only kind of Slavic Paganism in the CIS, there are many eclecticists whose paths can differ greatly from each other. In general, Slavic paganism is not very homogeneous. Each nation used to have it a little bit different and now, despite the generalized currents and unifying factors, there are many different traditions in the Slavic Paganism itself. The traditions of the eastern and northern Slavs are sometimes somewhat different and have different communities of Pagans. There are even profane and destructive individuals on Slavic Paganism, presenting it as a collection of aggressive individuals supposedly in contact with aliens, etc. Adequate Pagans try to distance themselves from this. One of the most active figures and priestss of Slavic Paganism (and not only) is probably Veleslav Cherkasov, author of many books. There are quite a lot of groups of Slavic pagans. Also the theme of Slavic paganism is reflected in the themes of such musical groups as "Kalevala", "Melnitsa", "Nevid", "Sventoiar", "Kalevala". In the creative project "Russian polydoxy" etc.

Asatru, in the same way, is not the only kind of Nordic Paganism; there are other kinds, appealing to a variety of deities of Nordic Paganism in general. There is also a large number of practitioners of runic magic and northern shamanism in an eclectic style. Sometimes mixing it with other traditions. In the communities of these traditions this sometimes creates a lot of confusion and controversy. There are several communities of asatru and other subspecies of the northern tradition, and a huge number of solitaries practicing runic magic eclectically.

Reconstructionists of non-Wiccan traditions of Paganism also keep quite separate from Wicca and the occult environment in general. This is usually Celtic, Egyptian, or Greco-Roman paganism, practiced outside the Wiccan prism of perception, and with an academic approach. But they communicate with representatives of Slavic and Northern Paganism. Although of course, and thank the Gods, there are a large number of Pagans of different traditions that communicate well with each other. This has always been and always will be the case, but in a personal way.

Slavic and Nordic Paganism has been active and open since around the 1990's. But it developed more actively than Wicca. Due to the cultural specifics, mentality etc.

Just lately also the so-called "paganism of the small nations" has started to revive. For example, in the Republic of Mordovia Pagan festivals have started to be held again, and various musical groups have even appeared, trying to revive the culture, the "Oime" group is one of them. The ethnographic direction of "Oime" includes folk songs, lamentations, instrumental plays on authentic musical instruments of Erzyan and Mokshan representatives.

There are many representatives of eastern pagan movements, such as Hinduism, in which there are a large number of subspecies and currents. From purely commercial types (sometimes fraudulent) to closed schools and individual small communities of traditions such as Shivaism or Shaktism. Many pagans who prefer a general eclecticism add Indian Gods to their practice.

There is a little more structure and unity in the occult. Representatives of European magical orders are quite cohesive and have their own meetings, projects, publishing houses, etc. Sometimes they cooperate with individual Wiccan circles and occasionally even have mutual initiations, usually if they themselves practice quite ceremonial magic. But rarely. With the pagans of ethnic traditions communicate little, communicating more often with non-traditional practitioners of magic. Permanent cooperation and full-fledged dialogues with Wiccan witches is not there yet. Conflicts are expressed in the frequent non-acceptance and disrespect by the representatives of the magical orders of Wiccans as full-fledged magical practitioners. Often because of pride and egocentrism.

Also at the junction of Abrahamic mysticism magic, folk superstitions and pagan types of witchcraft there are many borderline dualistic (syncretic) currents. From the usual magical eclecticism to black magic and destructive traditions. As, for example, among Satanists, there are many different kinds: philosophy according to La Vieux, semi-pagan Luciferian or Lilitian, concrete destructive and negative kinds, or currents that defile old pagan spirits as demons, devils and demons, etc. Dualistic belief has a strong influence on non-Wiccan types of witchcraft as well, from traditional witchcraft to folk black-magic selves. Dualistic belief itself in the CIS is a mixture of folk Christianity, various superstitions and folk near-magic traditions, and fragments of something that was once pagan. It is a historical phase in which the religious order gradually changed from the old pagan to Christian. This did not pass painlessly for the people, and in terms of culture left a huge variety of syncretistic currents - entrenched as positive, neutral or negative, continuing to this day. The dualistic syncretism of Slavic traditions and folk Christianity is still quite widespread in the villages and has left behind many folk festivals and amusements.

There are representatives of traditional witchcraft trying to develop the traditions of Cochrane, Chamblee, Schulke, etc. But they are more like enthusiasts. Often they are also quite distant from Wiccans, communicating more in the occult community. The dialogue is often maintained only between individuals in social networks, meetings are rare and personal.
In some institutions, paganism and esotericism are sometimes studied from an academic and religious point of view.

Among non-pagan esoteric trends there can be called a passion for psychic, bioenergetics and light esoterics in general, which existed even in the Soviet times. It can in no way be called any tradition, it is a private interest of people in the subject of psychic abilities. People fond of "Soviet esoterics" often believed in the unity of the universe (close to Gaia theory), engaged in lithotherapy, less often herbalism, studied the works of Vernadsky and the Russian cosmists, studied energy with the help of frames, pendulums and other methods. The most famous representatives of this trend are Kashpirovsky, Djuna, Wolf Messing, and others. In the USSR, there were several psychics known to many who provided training. But their relations with the authorities were often very difficult. In Russia, this subject became very quickly commercialized and a lot of television personalities emerged who claimed to be magicians for show-picture purposes, supposedly teaching at schools of magic, etc. Sometimes they also use pagan traditions to expand their circle of clients. The relations of this part of the magical community with the authorities, religious figures and often the pagans themselves remain rather difficult.

A little more separately we can distinguish ethnic shamans, shamans of the peoples of the North of Russia and the Buryat-Mongolian lands. This shamanism of local peoples of these lands. It is quite different from the Western Wiccan and modern pagan and urban shamanism, but more in social and ethnic aspects. It is a tradition centered on practice with one's ancestral spirits, one's clan. In this they are similar to Slavic paganism. They started to develop actively from about 1990's, after the change of the state system. These shamans keep very closed and have almost no full contact with the pagan community (of any tradition). Except for isolated instances of interaction between people privately - this is quite common.

It is rather people from the western part of Russia, initiated in the traditional shamanism, who contact with these shamans. Last years an increase of social activity and development of the organizations and communities is observed, but basically on a commercial basis and attempt to separate "real" shamans from "not real". They are sometimes very dismissive of Western urban shamans. They sometimes hold small festivals and community gatherings among their own coreligionists. Usually for the purpose of introducing people to shamans for the sake of further providing magical services to the needy or to solve administrative issues within their community. If in contact with other pagans, they more often prefer Slavic shamans and priests than Western traditions. Though it depends, of course, on the individual.

There is even a joke among Russian pagans: the one thing all pagans have in common is that everyone is very different and many do not want to unite. This is a disadvantage that pagans of all traditions and types in the CIS, it seems to me, will not soon overcome. Unfortunately. Although in the eyes of my circle the difference in practice and tradition is not significant. But many prefer to see the difference rather than the commonality. Although many in Russia mix shamanism and witchcraft, different pagan and magical traditions in their personal eclecticism. Even our tradition, Stellar Witchcraft, is based on a professional fusion of witchcraft, shamanism and pagan theurgy. But this is still at the level of individuals and fragmented little circles, there is no full-fledged interaction. It seems to me that people here are not yet ready for a full-fledged dialogue between all traditions as equals. But I hope I am wrong. The Russian Pagan community is somewhat different from the West. In the West, generally speaking, Paganism is an international and inter-traditional multi-faceted community. In the CIS, it's still more of a fragmented tradition leading the beginning of a dialogue with difficulty.

But to generalize a little, perhaps the most common "tradition" in the CIS is pagan-esoteric absolute eclecticism. The vast majority of whose followerss are solitaries. Funny fact, if we speak somewhat conventionally, the generalized pagan community in the CIS can be roughly compared to the American community 50-60 years ago.

Another interesting point is that many pagans, witches and magicians here more or less quietly declare themselves or their circles/meetings in social networks, without considering it de-anonymization. Of course not all, there are many who hide their paganism and esotericism, from relatives or colleagues at work, many will not understand and there can arise many problems. And there are a lot of conservative people. But there are also many who write about their worldview openly, whether pagans, occultists, Freemasons, shamans, etc. Although more often they have two accounts in social networks, one for work and relatives, and one for pagans and witches. Perhaps the thing is that those who write about themselves openly communicate more or less only among the pagan-magic community.

The largest natural Wiccan witchcraft project in the entire CIS, is "the Spirit of the Goddess", which is a large project with a coven and several outside circles. It was started in 2012, before that I was involved in non-Wiccan mystical practices, in the Far East. Our tradition, Stellar Witchcraft, is probably the first original tradition of Russian Wicca that has gone beyond one coven, with a complete system of practices, liturgy, initiations, flow, etc. We also founded a small tradition of the Stellar Hecateane, which is a subspecies of the Hecate of "heavenly" and "Wiccan" orientation. One can say that a whole generation of Wiccan witches has already started their way thanks to the "Spirit of the Goddess" and our project is already a classic of Wiccan witchcraft in the CIS. In our circles many pagans and witches have found each other.

In the future it is hoped that we will all learn to coexist peacefully and understand that there is always more in common than in difference. And peace is always better than conflict. We are all responsible for our common future. And we hope it will be peaceful, filled with cooperation and mutual aid, wisdom and development.

In the name of the Great Mother.

Blessed be.

Victor Aradia, High Priest of the "Spirit of the Goddess" coven and Founder of the «Stellar Witchcraft» tradition.

Translate by Bryde.

2021