Wicca, a newer branch of paganism, is often touted as being a unique and welcoming environment to people of all genders, abilities, and sexualities. There is an incredible amount of sub-sects that people can fall into, from the traditional Gardnerian, all the way to the modern New Age Wicca. A peaceful religion, Wicca beliefs fall into two major redes, “An it harm none, do what ye will” and the Rule of Three. Both essentially follow as such: so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, go for it, and whatever you put into the world, either positive or negative, you will receive it back times three. It is a pantheist religion, with emphasis on the Goddess and Her male counterpart, The Horned God. Many Wiccans have a special deity that they connect deeply with, such as the Celtic Morrigan or the Roman Juno. Wicca is about duality, a perfect balance, and love for all, but with all religions comes a deep, dark place where intentions may not always be the best, and toxic beliefs fester. In the Wiccan world, this is often found within Dianic practices and covens.
Dianic Wicca was controversial from its inception, with many even now classifying it under general pagan umbrellas. It varies from traditional Wicca in that it is focused exclusively on the Mother Goddess, with many completely denying the Horned God’s existence. Generally, the goddess Diana is worshipped, hence the name, but it is believed that the Goddess is a sort of catchall, from all cultures. Therefore, the Goddess can be Diana, or Badb, or even Kali. Dianic Wicca was born in the 1970s by Zsuzsanna Budapest with the intent to combat patriarchy and create a form of Wicca more closely aligned with Mother Nature, as well as to make a utopia based from and for women. A key element of this utopia is to heal women from damages done by men, such as assaults. For many of their witches, their practice is a way to heal. While many sects of Wicca actively condemn curses and hexes, Budapest encourages it against those who harm women, and insists that rapists should always be bound. Covens are almost exclusively women, and according to Budapest, only certain women can join.
For many, this practice is a refreshing and soothing place away from patriarchal societies. It offers healing energies, prayers, and spells to mend the heart and soul. However, with Budapest’s ideologies, Dianic Wicca is an inherently transphobic and misogynistic sect. At the 2011 PantheaCon, Dianic rituals were specifically excluding transwomen at the insistence of Budapest. She furiously stated:
This struggle has been going since the Women’s Mysteries first appeared. These individuals selfishly never think about the following: if women allow men to be incorporated into Dianic Mysteries,what will women own on their own? Nothing! Again! Tr*nsies who attack us only care about themselves.
We women need our own culture, our own resourcing, our own traditions… How dare us women not let them in and give away the ONLY spiritual home we have! …
Why are we the ONLY tradition they want? Go Gardnerian! Go Druid! Go Eclectic!
Filled with women, and men. They would fit fine.
But if you claim to be one of us, you have to have sometimes in your life a womb, and ovaries and MOON bleed and not die.
Women are born not made by men on operating tables.
On a page on her website, which has since been taken down, she clarified by stating that memberships to her covens were open to cisgendered women only. Immediately, there were huge backlashes, resulting in many of her followers creating their own covens with different rules. This led to the rise in McFarland Dianic, in which transwomen are generally more accepted, yet many of these continue to deny that transwomen are “real” women. However, Budapest’s troubling statements only revealed a deeper, darker truth about Dianic and general Wicca.
By excluding transwomen and insisting that women must have a womb, ovaries, and periods, Budapest and her followers are devaluing people to their body parts. With a coven that is supposed to celebrate women and their liberation from the patriarchy, this is shockingly both archaic and dehumanizing. Stripping women down to their menstrual cycles and reproductive organs is exactly what they seek to shelter themselves from: a patriarchy used to categorize women, to empty themselves of their femininity and to essentially turn them into a product that can be labelled and assessed. It is the invasion of women’s gender identity and body parts, of their privacy, that mirrors the invasions from men. Beyond transphobia, the beliefs of Zsuzsanna Budapest isolates and turns away some cisgendered women. She fails to acknowledge that not every cis woman has a womb, ovaries, or periods. She ignores the fact that some women simply do not have children during their lives. An anonymous Wiccan stated that “Dianic Wicca is an absolute insult to Diana. She would never want this”. Dianic Wicca preaches love and acceptance, as Diana does, but fails to provide comfort to even their fellow women. It is crucial to know that not all of these members are transphobic or misogynistic, but there are far too many to simply brush under the rug.
This isn’t the first time Wicca has come under fire for the discrimination against LGBTQ+ women. A Wiccan pioneer, Gerald Gardner specifically argued against gay relationships. He believed that witches told him that power could only be transferred through opposite sex couples, and that same sex relationships created sin. He furthered this with the Wiccan element of balance: for every man, there must be a woman for stability. This denial of queer people didn’t keep them out. Instead, they chose to create their own covens, and thus came some such as the Faery Witches or the Radical Faeries, which are predominantly filled with gay men and surrounds queer sexualities. This duality also excludes, in a more subtle fashion, non-binary people. The belief of “a man and a woman” absolutely excluded them. Luckily, as time passes, LGBTQ+ people are becoming more and more accepted in the Wiccan world, in their own covens, and even in the more traditional ones, such as Gardnerian.
For some, there is a wonderful sense of peace that comes from religion, and Wicca is no different. The tragedy, though, is the discrimination of its own people based on heartbreaking and hypocritical beliefs. As time goes on, the rest of the covens heal from toxicity and invite their fellow witches in, but Dianic Wicca sadly remains stubbornly stuck on the definition of a woman. It is this transphobia and misogyny that will continue to label them as a dark corner of Wicca that people try to ignore. However, as covens come and go and new High Priestesses govern with younger Wiccans, there is still hope for an anti-patriarchal, healing, and inclusive environment for the great witchy women of the world.