This year, Vivianne Crowley’s book, Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Millenium, is published in Poland. On this occasion, we asked Vivianne for a short interview regarding the book, Wicca itself, and Vivianne’s visits to different countries in Europe. We would like to share the interview also with broader community, so we publish it in English for you to enjoy.
The core of Wicca is unchangeable, which is probably why your book is still relevant today although it was published 30 years ago. In your opinion, what has changed in Wicca in these 30 years?
Three big changes come to mind. One is that so much has changed due to changes in society. When I wrote the first edition of the book, we had no internet. Now the internet is one of the main ways that people first make contact with others in Wicca and, in the Covid-era, we now do rituals online. All this was impossible to imagine 30 years ago.
It leads on to a second change, which is that many people now practise Wicca mainly at home on their own. They may be solitary practitioners or they may belong to covens but the members may live hundreds of kilometres away from one another, maybe even in different countries. The internet has helped people connect more with Wicca, but we spend much less time working and practising together. People have to be much more self-sufficient in their practice and training may be spread out over a much longer period of time because not everything can be taught online. Some of the subtleties of magical practice can only be learned by working ritual and spellcraft with people who are very experienced.
And the third change is that Wicca is now more diverse. It is practised in so many different languages and has spread all around the world and each year sees Wicca developing in new countries. This has brought a rich diversity to Wicca and allowed a cross-fertilisation from the traditional witchcraft and Pagan practices of many different countries. Wicca has become more diverse in another way too. There are many more LGBTQIA+ people who have found Wicca to be a welcoming spiritual home.
If you were to write this book anew, would you change anything in it?
It would be a different book because Wicca has evolved and I have evolved, but some things would remain the same. I still find inspiration in the work of Carl Jung and I believe that his work can enrich our understanding of the initiatory processes of Wicca. If I wrote the book today, I would add some material directed towards personal rather than coven practice, because people cannot meet so regularly in covens.
How long did it take you to start feeling that it was the right moment to share your knowledge about Wicca? Had you planned your book for a long time before you begun writing it, or maybe there came an impulse, a kind of inspiration that made you feel people needed this kind of book?
I had been in Wicca around 14 years before I first thought about writing a book. It was an idea that came to me suddenly. I hadn’t planned it beforehand at all. I had been working on my doctoral thesis and had spent years of my life writing. Once I finished the thesis, I still had the urge to write, but now I could write about what was in my heart rather than in my head. Alex Sanders encouraged me to write a book about Wicca and he created a special talisman to make the book a success. I sold the book to the publishers based on the outline idea. I hadn’t written anything before I signed the publishing contract in 1987. The book was due to be delivered to the publishers on 30 April 1988, which was the day he died, so he never saw the final result.
You wrote that being a teacher of Wicca means you are always also a student, the very act of teaching people is an act of learning too. Do you still feel like there’s much to learn for you, do you look at it with anticipation? What are your magical interests now?
In the magical art, we never stop learning and the Covid crisis has meant that I have not been travelling so there has been time to re-read many of the books in my magical library and to develop further the relationships I have with various spirits. I have also spent the time writing a new book about magic and my magical experiences. It will be published by Penguin next year.
By the end of your book you pose a question whether there is still a place for Wicca, or religion and spirituality as such in the modern world? Do you have an answer to this question now?
Yes, there is still a place for Wicca, because it meets the needs of people today. It is feminist, nature-oriented, and respects individual autonomy. It has changed over the past 30 years however from being the secret practice of a few to the more open practice of many. Another change has been that in Western countries, growing numbers of people are not brought up in a religion, but they still consider themselves to be spiritual. In English we have the phrase “spiritual but not religious”. Many people do not want to label themselves Wiccan or Buddhist or Christian and they build a personal spirituality drawing on many of the world’s religious traditions. Some people will want to dedicate themselves to a specific path such as Wicca; others will be sympathetic to Wicca – maybe they will want a handfasting or other ceremony from a Wiccan priest or priestess without necessarily calling themselves Wiccan. Wicca has already adapted to this with many Wiccan groups running open seasonal festival rituals for people who are interested in Wicca but who do not want to make a full commitment.
During your spiritual journey, you have visited multiple countries. You helped in building Wiccan community in Europe. How do you see Wicca evolving in different countries?
I always say that starting Wicca in a new country is like transplanting a vine. Each new soil gives a new flavour to the wine. Wicca in England and Wicca in South America, for example, will be similar, but each country is influenced by its culture, folklore, climate, traditional witchcraft practice and indigenous practices. Each new country enriches the international Wiccan community. It is wonderful when we have international gatherings and we share our traditional spells and we hear our traditional rituals in another language. One of the beautiful things about Wicca is how it brings together people from different countries who would never otherwise have had a chance to meet.
I have to ask you about Poland, which you have visited more than once. Do you have any impressions about how Wicca can grow in our country and do you see potential for it in the coming years?
Wicca in Poland has been growing over the past couple of decades and now there are more books in Polish and more experienced teachers in Poland too. I would expect Wicca in Poland to grow and to become a very creative and thriving community over the next few years. The world will be a difficult place in the coming years, politically and economically. In Poland and elsewhere, people will need a strong spirituality to help them deal with all the challenges to come. For many of us, Wicca will be our spirituality of choice, one that reminds us of the important values that make societies good places in which to live.