What is Wicca?

Wicca is a belief system based on pre-Christian, native European spirituality, which sees people as part of nature, not above it. In all areas of the world, there were indigenous religions before the spread of Christianity. Wicca is based partly on this spirituality. As with other nature-based groups, Wiccans seek to work with the natural energies which surround us to heal, help and to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. The first group of what we now know as “Wiccans” was put together Gerald B. Gardner in England in 1949.

Wiccans come in all ages and from all walks of life, from students to doctors, lawyers and rocket scientists. While many think of Wicca as a woman's religion there are actually about as many men as women practicing Wicca today.

Wiccans live by the Wiccan Rede, “An it Harm None, Do What You Will”. This requires Wiccans to always be looking ahead at the possible consequences of their actions so that no act or word, whether with magical intent, or in every day life, causes harm to another. A list of suggested “Wiccan Laws” which most Wiccans agree with can be found on HERE.

Wiccans also believe in the “Law of Threefold Return”. This tells us that whatever we do comes back to us, perhaps not literally three times over, but we will experience the consequences of our actions. If we do someone a good turn, it is more likely that we, ourselves, will be treated kindly in the future. If we harm someone, whether deliberately or through negligence we can expect to receive harm ourselves.

While Wicca is one of the fastest growing religions in the United States it is still the subject of much misunderstanding. Much of the confusion and even fear revolves around the definitions of the words, “Witch” and “Pagan”. These are two labels which many Wiccans happily attach to themselves, but they are also two words which we call, “Red Flag” words, because they are easily misunderstood.

When a Wiccan declares, “I am a witch”, what they mean is, “I love nature, I believe in the healing power of herbs, I like to do spells to effective positive change, I recognize deity as both male and female.”

What a listener is liable to think is, “Here is a person who worships Satan, is filled with hate and evil, who goes around putting harmful spells on people, and we are clearly told in the Bible not to, 'suffer a witch to live'”.

The truth is a “witch” is anyone who works with energy and magic and chooses to call themselves a witch. magic and energy can be used for good or bad. Witches who use magic to harm have no right to call themselves Wiccan.

When a Wiccan (or anyone) declares, “I am a pagan”, what they mean is, “I acknowledge the old gods and goddesses that have been worshiped for thousands of years, and I work in harmony with nature, not against it.”

What the listener is liable to think is, “This person is not a Christian, so they must be anti-god and therefore have no morals or ethics.”

The truth is, the word “pagan” comes from the Latin, “pagani” and merely means “country dweller”. It was originally the equivalent of “hick”, or someone who was behind the times in that they were still worshiping the old gods of nature, while the city folk were getting into such “new” gods such as “Zeus” and “Jupiter” and eventually, “Jesus”. Pagan religions are “pre-Christian”, not “anti-Christian”.

What Wicca is not

Wiccans are not Satanists. They do not believe in Satan or worship any kind of evil beings.

Wiccans do not sacrifice or harm animals or people. That would be completely counter to the Wiccan Rede, "Harm None" and all that Wiccans believe.

Wiccans do not proselytize or otherwise force their beliefs on anyone, nor do they attempt to force others to convert or become Wiccan.

Wicca has few written rules, but one of the oldest un-written rules stringently followed by experienced Wiccans, but sometimes overlooked by those new to Wicca is that we never invite (let alone coerce) someone to become Wiccan or join a coven. The traditional procedure is that a person must ask for teaching, or must ask at least three times before they are even considered for becoming a student. Few if any experienced teachers of Wicca accept payment for teaching. Therefore it is important that their time is reserved only for those sincerely interested in learning.

I recently spoke with a young woman who said she disliked Wiccans. When I asked her why this was she said that one group had done spells in her house after she asked them not to, and the other refused to associate with her after she refused to join their coven.

Of course both of these incidents she related to me are un-acceptable behavior for Wiccans. But, unfortunately, these types of incidents are not uncommon due to the enormous growth and interest in Wicca which has given rise to a lot of inexperienced people declaring themselves to be Wiccan and starting their own covens with little or no help from someone who actually knows what Wicca is all about.

And what IS Wicca about?

Wicca has three major components: magic - Spirituality - Enlightenment

I'll explain what I mean by those words in terms of Wicca.

“Magic” (sometimes spelled “magick” to differentiate it from the magic a stage magician does) includes such things as spell-casting, healing, divination and psychic development. Incense, candles, crystals, tarot cards, pentacles, statues of gods and goddesses, fancy robes and pretty jewelry are tools which are frequently used in working magic and the tools themselves can frequently be what originally attracts a person to Wicca. The student of Wicca may go no deeper than learning to use the tools and be perfectly happy. Others attracted by the magic are pleasantly surprised to learn there is much more to Wicca than that. Those whose only contact is with other untrained Wiccans may never learn that the second two components exist.

Different people are attracted to Wicca for different reasons. A lot of people, especially the younger ones who have been turned on to the idea of magic through recent movies and television shows such as, “The Craft”, “Practical Magic”, and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”, may begin their study of Wicca unaware of the components of Spirituality and Enlightenment.

Those who find Wicca during a search for a religion which feels right or who are looking for a name to put on their sense of spirituality, or have a vague sense that, “something is missing in their lives”, may be uninterested in the magic component of Wicca.

What do we mean my “Spirituality” when we speak of it in Wicca? Wiccan Spirituality is balanced and nature-based. By that I mean that we believe that deity consists of both male and female energy, and that energy is found in the world around us, not apart from it. Wiccans do not necessarily “worship” their gods, but look to them as friends and teachers. A lot of people new to Wicca but unfamiliar with the various pagan gods will already have a “relationship” with, “Mother Nature” or some nameless energy they have felt present in their lives.

Some Wiccans see each god and goddess as very real, separate and distinct beings. Others see the various gods and goddesses as aspects of one, big, blended god/goddess energy, or even as aspects of their own personalities. No one is told in Wicca how they must view the gods.

Those who are actually searching for enlightenment and come to Wicca for that purpose are probably fewest in number, but those who study and practice Wicca for any amount of time will find the magical and spiritual components greatly enhanced if they put any effort into the enlightenment component.

Now what do we mean by “enlightenment”? It is usually a word one associates with Hinduism and Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism and Taoism. However, it is not the exclusive property of these disciplines. Enlightenment is the search for understanding. Understanding of one's place in the universe and such heavy questions as, “What is the meaning of life?”, “What happens after death?”, and “Why am I here?” Most Wiccans believe in some for of reincarnation with a rest between lifetimes in a place called, “The Summerlands”, but no Wiccan is told what to believe in regard to life after death.

Exploring these questions will lead to a better understanding of how all parts of nature interact, thereby giving us a better understanding of how energy and magic work and who or what the gods are.

As in other disciplines, enlightenment in Wicca is sought and achieved through meditation.

The Tao Te Ching says, “Between birth and death, Three in ten are followers of life, Three in ten are followers of death, And men just passing from birth to death also number three in ten. Why is this so? Because they live their lives on the gross level.”

How Do Wiccans Practice?

Coven vs. Solitary practice

While the idea of belonging to a coven is attractive to some, every Wiccan must first and foremost be a good Solitary practitioner. A Solitary Wiccan is one who has confidence in his or her own abilities and does not need others to achieve their magical and spiritual goals. Each Wiccan is considered to be a Priest or Priestess and perfectly capable of contacting the gods him or herself, celebrating Sabbats and Esbats and working spells alone.

Many Wiccans spend years as Solitaries before joining a coven while some never join and others join shortly after discovering Wicca. Some may go from one coven or group to another before finding one that is just right for them.

There are many types of covens but they can generally be broken down into two major groups:

Traditional and non-traditional.

A traditional coven is generally one where rituals and stories are handed down through a process of initiation and there are fairly rigid rules on how the rituals are performed, what students must study and how students progress from one level to the next. Traditional Wicca is an “initiatory, mystery path” which means a major focus of such covens is on personal enlightenment and growth.

Non-traditional covens may be run in a more democratic fashion, where people take turns leading the group, and rituals may be borrowed from a variety of traditions or written by the group.

Other differences in covens are found in their choice of god and goddess pantheons, whether they admit men, women or both, and the degree to which they are public or “out of the broom closet”.

Never consider joining a coven without understanding these major points. You should never have to compromise your own beliefs to join a group.

How and What do Wiccans Celebrate?

Much of what Wiccans do is symbolic. Because the roots of Wicca are found in ancient pagan traditions the celebrations revolve around such events the planting, fertility and harvesting of crops. Because we are no longer all farmers modern Wiccans view these events symbolically. When we “plant” it may be a new idea such as starting a diet or exercise program. When we ask for “fertility” it is more likely to be in our pocketbooks than in our wombs. When we “harvest” it may be the completion of a project at work or school.

If anyone knows anything about Wicca or witchcraft it is usually that Halloween is our “Big Day”. Well, it is one of the many things we celebrate but not necessarily the most important.

Halloween, or Samhain as we call it, is one of eight Sabbats or holidays in the Wiccan calendar also known as, “The Wheel of the Year”. Samhain is usually acknowledged as the Wiccan “New Year”, because it is seen as the time when one year dies and the next is born. That is because, at least up North, it is the time of killing frosts and therefore when plants and weaker animals naturally die. And, because of this, it is also a time for remembering those who have passed on. I would like to add that, contrary to propaganda and rumor there is no witches “God” called Samhain. It is just an old Gaelic word meaning “November eve”.

The next Sabbat on the Wheel of the Year is Yule or the Winter Solstice. The Yule log is burned and the tree is decorated acknowledging the end of the shortening days and the beginning of the lengthening days which indicate that Spring will indeed return.

Next on the Wheel is Imbolc celebrated on February 2nd, and, like Groundhog Day, is the time when we look for the first signs of Spring. Imbolc is frequently celebrated by the lighting of many candles or bon-fires as a symbolic burning away of the winter and welcoming the Spring.

Next is Ostara or the Spring Equinox. It is a celebration of new life and the time when gods are re-born as we are told in many myths from around the world.

Beltain, or “May Day” is the next Sabbat, and it is a celebration of fertility, of plants and animals and life. It is when the May Pole dance is done.

Following Beltain is Litha, or the Summer Solstice. It is a celebration of the first hay harvest and the longest day of the year.

Lammas or “Lughnasahd”, August 2nd, is a celebration of the main grain harvest, but Mabon, or the Autumnal Equinox is generally the biggest harvest celebration of the year.

In between the Sabbats most Wiccans also celebrate the Full and New Moons and various Rites of Passage.

As with the Sabbats, the Moons (or Esbats) are celebrated within a Circle. A Circle is the Wiccan equivalent of a temple or church. It does not need to be a permanent structure and may be created indoors or out. The edge of the Circle can be defined either visibly with string or by other means, or it may be invisible. Either way it marks off the sacred space in which the ritual is done.

There is generally an altar placed inside the Circle and on the altar are symbolic objects such as candles, incense, sea shells, bells, crystals and a wand.

A ritual may include singing, chanting, meditation and storytelling and sometimes the working of magic. Rituals of celebration are frequently followed by a meal or feast and singing, dancing and the playing of drums or other musical instruments.

In addition to the Sabbats and Esbats there are many celebrations of Rites of Passage such as births, deaths, wedding or handfastings, coming of age, graduation, moving into a new home, initiation, retirement, first job, first new tooth or any other event worthy of notice.

If you would like to learn more about Wicca please go to our Frequently Asked Questions page or our Solitary Study page.



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