|I'd rather be a|
|Suckled in a creed outworn|
“”A bunch of wanna-blessed-bes
|—Willow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer|
"Fluffy Bunnies" or "fluffbunnies" is a derogatory term used for Wiccans who are members of no real tradition and who mostly make things up as they go along. And not in a good way; TV series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed are sometimes part of the source material. Commonly associated with the works of Silver Ravenwolf, fluffbunnies drive more traditional Wiccans (most of whom have had to be initiated by people in a line back to Gardener) even more crazy than they drive everyone else.
The term "fluffbunny" derives from their propensity to take all of the "sweetness and light" aspects of neopaganism or Wicca while ignoring anything that they might consider troubling, unpleasant, or "dark."
The culture of fluff
A hallmark of fluffbunnies is that they are often singular or in small groups, not united by dogma or the tenets of Wicca at large but by emotions and the feeling of "freedom" that holding an alternative faith affords in the face of being pressured by authority figures, other faiths, or simply society in general. Overwhelmingly, fluffbunny materials emphasize points that would gain favor with such people: running a gamut from fairly innocent messages of empowerment to full-blown persecution-complex-mongering. This feel-good message functions in much the same way that New Age philosophies do: complimenting the audience to encourage them to continue on.
In lieu of a coven, individual fluffbunnies often latch onto their favorite author and tout them as the be-all and end-all of Wicca, often referred to as "One-book wonders"[note 1] by the Wicca community in large.
Perhaps even more than more traditional Wiccans, fluffbunnies may play up the 'origins' of their faith, linking it to shamanism, lost Druidic traditions, or ancient Roman/Greek/Egyptian/polytheistic worship. Indeed, both neopagan and Wiccan individuals may be identified as fluffbunnies so long as they are fluffy enough. In the haze of appropriated messages, validation, and mysterious wonder for ancient magick, the fluffiest may forget that Wicca was established as a faith in the 1940s.
Despite there being very clear rules and ideas about personal gain and harm unto others, and despite the fact that many fluffbunny books themselves emphasize what is-or-is-not acceptable magic, there are hundreds of beauty, glamor, love, and fortune spells made by and for fluffbunnies, as well as an infinity of hexes, revenge spells, and curses available. While any Wiccan tradition would contain some of these spells, the frequency with which they are thrown around by fluffbunnies can hint to their image-driven nature and often just sheer selfishness, without regard for consequences. Combined with the fact that many but not all fluffbunnies are teens or tend towards a more teenage mindset, such masses of spells betray cries for closure, respect, belonging, and success in a world that places severe cultural pressures on adolescents.
While fluff is often just a phase, it is not always a phase, and the notion that it's just "teenage rebellion" causes fair criticism to be dismissed as normal teen fad behavior, despite that millions of dollars are made off of exploiting said teenagers as well as other believers every year.
Why it's a problem
It's easy for outsiders to claim that criticism of fluffbunnies is merely an example of No true Scotsman in action, where members of a group try to de-legitimize their less popular, weirder-looking colleagues.[note 2] It's not just about "giving paganism a bad name" (though fluffbunnies certainly do that). The existence of disaffected teenagers yearning to feel powerful has created a multimillion dollar industry to consume their disposable income.
Books geared towards fluffbunnies tend to be overwhelmingly reductionist, reducing all non-Christian religion to a simple set of beliefs. Some material marketed at fluffbunnies even profiteers off of feelings of guilt and stress found in some monotheistic traditions: inventing halfway points for people still rooted in Abrahamic traditions with 'white magic' and angel worship[note 3] so they can feel somewhat less burn-able by the rules of their old faith. Other authors even encourage teens to lie to their monotheistic parents to hide their faith in Wicca, displaying a reductionist ('none of them will ever understand you, do not bother to help them understand, only other magickal people understand') attitude to other religions and furthermore a total distrust of people 'outside' Wicca. This is an uncomfortably cult-like attitude despite common fluffbunny lack of organization, and very similar to the New Age attitude that people outside the movement 'just want to bring one down.'
Pseudohistory is also common, as are claims that neopagans are the perpetual victims of endless genocide.
In short, in addition to teaching impressionable young people that they have magic powers, fluffbunny authors also discourage critical thinking, respect for diversity, and the historical record. The fantastic (even more fantastic and flashy than more traditional Wicca) nature of many spells or other invocations often includes magickal beings such as Tinkerbell-style fairies, dragons and unicorns, angels, spirit guides, leprechauns, brownies, and other such things, so that in order to "work with them," fluffbunnies require a secondary belief in as-of-yet unproven supernatural creatures and phenomena. Many fluffbunny-targeted products and practices demand the "opening of one's mind" to the fantastic rather than emphasizing spirituality, making it fairly difficult to be critical of anything. The contradictory nature of many spells (harm none and do what ye will... mind control for the sake of inducing love isn't a violation of ethics, what are you talking about?) doesn't exactly scream "critical reasoning skills." Ideas such as "bodily humors" and "chakras" may be invoked in the same rituals by people who know what neither are... dismissing the long history of theory both spiritual/folk medicinal practices have. Little research is done.
There are hundreds of green ink websites and online pay-order handbooks targeted at fluffbunny neopaganism and Wicca, hawking infinite varieties of totem animals, tree horoscopes, online spellbooks, and other fluffy cruft and/or 'inspiring' pick-me-ups. These often appropriate native cultures/stereotypes of said cultures as 'ancient magick from around the world' and can get so ridiculous as to charge users for PDFs and pamphlets derived as the end-result from an online quiz. Or faux-spiritual tests that depend on clicking an image map in a particularly spiritual way.[note 4] Wicca as a popular teen fad created many fluffbunnies, and with the rise of Harry Potter, Teen Witch, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and other shows in the '90s and '00s, many green ink websites date back to the same decades and follow common terrible web-design trends of the time, such as horrid animated GIFs and long unwieldy table layouts. The timecube law may or may not be invoked.
How to spot one
- Claiming to be a witch while wearing a WWJD bracelet
- Making serious reference to the Melissa Joan Hart/Sarah Michelle Gellar œuvre
- Using the catchphrase "Never again the burning times!"
- Constantly implying that they have supernatural powers, especially mind control.
- ↑ Though there is some debate about this; even firmly established and respected traditional Wicca practitioners may be said to be ten-book wonders.
- ↑ And if you've ever seen a neopagan gathering, looking weirder than the mainstream is quite an accomplishment
- ↑ While angels and saints were once more widely worshiped, modern reinterpretations often just make up 'ancient' traditions wholesale.
- ↑ This is not a joke. Bonus Points: The result is randomly chosen according to how many milliseconds elapsed before the visitor clicked the image.
- ↑ "...you might just want to tell them that you're working with angels if it really bothers your parents, because angels transcend religion and help bring religions together." Silver Ravenwolf, Teen Witch
- ↑ http://www.wicca-spirituality.com/totem-animals.html
- ↑ http://www.angelfire.com/de2/newconcepts/wicca/tree.html
- ↑ http://www.magickspellcraft.com/
- ↑ http://www.darkforce.com/wicca/angels.htm