What is a cult?

Wicca is often called a cult, but what exactly is a cult? Oxford dictionary defines cult like this:

1)      a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object: the cult of St. Ola, a network of Satan-worshiping cults

A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object. Yeah, I suppose Wiccan fits that description. We worship the Mother Goddess and Her consort, the Horned God. We honor the Moon and the Earth as direct connections to Her. But this is such a broad definition that any religion would fit it. Even Christianity, which directs its devotion to Jesus and his father. So why don’t we ever call Christianity a cult?

Because cult is a dirty word. It’s used to label those who hold beliefs contrary to mainstream. It’s a word that implies shady dealings, immorality, evil and above all, damnation. People call fundamentalist Mormons a cult because they practice polygamy, and people call Wicca a cult because we practice witchcraft.  In this way, the word cult and the implications associated with it are a social control mechanism. Labels like this one divide and conquer; they separate you from me. They create the Other, that very real construct that de-humanizes real people and makes them victims who were asking for it.

It’s interesting that one of the definition’s examples is a network of Satan-worshipping cults. Our language itself is embedded with stereotypes. How can we address discrimination and hate if we don’t even have the words to begin the discussion?


About Ayslyn'sCorner

I am an eclectic Pagan bordering on atheist who has made her way through a number of different spiritual spaces. You might wonder what a person self-identifying as an atheist has to discuss in a religion/spiritual context – and, well, so do I. That’s one of the things I aim to explore on Ayslyn's Corner. Check out Ayslyn's Corner at http://www.ayslynscorner.wordpress.com Check out Invisible Ink Blog at http://www.whitneycarter.wordpress.com Check out wombs in rebellion at http://wombsinrebellion.wordpress.com/
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