It probably started with a misreading of Scott Cunningham. The etymology of “Wicca” – the whole “witch-uh” “Oh, a witch!” thing went through the filter.
A few folks reading bought into the following fallacy flow, and thanks to the double-sworded gift of the Internet, the fallacy spread:
1)Wicca means, more or less witch.
2)Wicca is British, and witch is a British word.
3)PROFIT! ((this is a South Park reference, not an endorsement of the ridiculous idea that American Wicca is a way to part teenagers from their money))
4)Wicca is the only kind of real witchcraft.
5)Also, it is by default exclusively British. (Sometimes they don’t get this far. Which is good for American Eclectic Wiccans who also exist.)
It’s not that other traditional Witches aren’t massively ethnocentric (and that’s a Very Bad thing), it’s that people nowadays have crazy short attention spans. They learn something once – and even if they learn it wrong, it’s stuck as an accepted fact. Certainly there’s some neurology to the situation, too. A weird synaptic byway fails to form that extends it to “oooh, that’s just one kind of witch.”
There are other kinds of witches in every culture. Witchcraft and shamanism are cultural universals – not just in the folklore, where their powers are exaggerated to meet with the exaggerated power of every other character in the story. Every culture known has need of the archetype, some way to bridge the shadowy gap the unifies the darkness we face to survive with the bright reasons we wish to survive.
Perhaps it’s time to re-read Carlos Castanedea. I think a good dive into the mythology and folklore of South America and Africa might do us a world of good. I don’t care if they’re not the stories of my people – my people were Polish freedom fighters, con artists, criminals, geniuses, and every single one of them aimed for plausible deniability. They still do.
We need to hear the other stories of the other witches, the ones that fought just as hard and just as dark. We need to know the visions of the other shamans, the worlds traveled and the battles fought.
Wiccans are not the only witches. And those that identify as Traditional Witches – theirs is far from the only tradition. There are other witches, other traditions, darker skinned, more ancient, where there is no room for ego because it’s all taken up by the will to survive. Some of those witches are European, too. Some of them come from places we only know about peripherally.
But let’s not assume that “Wiccan” means “witch.” “Wiccan” just means, well, “Wiccan.” The witchcraft might come with it… but let’s not assume it’s the only kind in the world.