What is Wicca?
Wicca is a branch of Paganism, or, as some would have it Neo-Paganism.
It takes its roots from prehistoric worship of a fertility goddess and
her horned consort, and also from the Witchcraft practiced by the
Celts in early Britain. However, Wicca as it exists today has only
been around since the mid 1950s when Gerald Gardener went public with
it after his initiation into the Old Forest coven in England. Most
contemprary Wiccan beliefs and practices stem from Gardener, and exist
most purely in the aptly named Gardenerian Tradition.
It is difficult to define Wicca for many reasons. First, until very
very recently, Witches practiced only in secret, for fear of
persecution. While this fear still exists today, our larger numbers
and greater government recognition has allowed many of us to come out
of the "broom closet." For more information of this type, look at the
US Army Chaplain's Handbook section on Wicca.
Today, fortunately, things are much more open and safe. There are
thousands of web sites related to Wicca, as well as many many books
on the subject. Visit my barnesandnoble.com bookstore
to see what I mean!
Wiccans are for the most part pantheistic, meaning that we do not
believe in a supernatural deity. For us, the Divine is present in
the air we breath, the food we eat, and the earth we walk on. Humans
are not above the plants, rocks, or animals, and we do not rule them.
On the physical plane, there is Male and Female (Anima and Animus),
above us on the astral plane there is the God and the Goddess, and
Beyond the Veil there is the All. Wiccans worship Deity in the dual
form of the God and the Goddess,
naming them according to their particular pantheons. Neither deity is
more important or more powerful than the other, although the Goddess
is generally given more recognition. This is becoming less and less
in recent years, except in Dianic Wicca, whose members worhsip only
Now I'm only gonna say this once...WICCANS DO NOT WORSHIP SATAN!!!
Let me put it on the table -- Satan has horns. The Wiccan God also
has horns. Well, I have brown hair, just like Hitler did -- does that
make me a facist? When Christian missionaries came to England, they
discovered a local god with horns who looked kind of like their Devil.
Aha! They said. These poor souls are worshipping the devil and they
don't know it! So they used this coincidence to not only convert
large numbers of Witches to Christianity, but also to forever corrupt
the word "witch" in the English language.
Witches CANNOT worship Satan because Witches do not BELIEVE in Satan,
nor in any concept of absolute evil. The God and the Goddess are
both creative and destructive -- there is no absolute good in
the world either. Satan is a Christian entity. He always has been, and
always will be. If you worship Satan, you must believe in him, and if
you believe in him, then you must be a Christian! 'Nuff said.
The only dogma in Wicca is the Wiccan Rede.
It appears in it's entirety elsewhere in this BoS, but the most
commonly known lines are "An it harm none, do as ye will." This is
often simplified further to the phrase "harm none." This is what Wicca
is about. It's about the freedom to choose so long as you do no harm
to others -- including yourself!
Wiccans have two cycles of holidays, known as Esbats and Sabbats. Put
simply, the esbats are full-moon rituals and the sabbats celebrate the
yearly cycle of the sun. Symbolically, the sabbats tell the story of
the God and the Goddess as they travel around the Wheel of the Year.
Wicca has divided itself up into Traditions, or sects. There are
literally hundreds of Wiccan Traditions alive and flourishing in the
United States alone. A Tradition is a set of beliefs and rituals that
have been set down and are followed fairly strictly by their adherents
Some Wiccan Traditions are Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Dianic,
British Triaidionalist, Pecti, and Solitary. The best resource for
learning about Wiccan Traditions is Margot Adler's Drawing Down the
Moon, which has just been released in mass market paperback form.
Some Witches work in covens. A coven is a group consisting
traditionally of 13, but it can be any number (larger than 13 is in
general considered too big, smaller groups are quite common) who meet
at the Esbats and Sabbats to perform rituals. A coven has a High
Priest and a High Priestess, working as equals to lead the group.
This doesn't mean that the other coven members are passive! On the
contrary, all members of a coven work together to build energy, focus
it, and send it out to it's purpose (usually worship or healing or
both). Witches that are not part of a coven are called Solitaries. I
am a Solitary witch, by choice and geography. Solitaries generally
don't follow specific Traditions (which are geared towards coven work)
and many call themselves Eclectic to reflect the fact that they
bring the teachings of many different branches of Wicca into their
Wiccans use magick. I have adopted the practice of spelling it with a "k" to make the
point that I'm not talking about sleight-of-hand tricks. Magick is a
way of tapping into the living energy of the earth and sending it
forth with a purpose.
The "W" Words...
The word "witch" can refer to any person, male or female, who practices withccraft.
Some use it interchangeably with the word "Wiccan," but for me, Witchcraft is the practice of magick, and
Wicca is the religion. The two often coexist, but they are not the same.
A male witch is NOT a warlock! The
word warlock comes from the Scottish for "beware Loki" and means
Oathbreaker. It is a grave insult to call someone a warlock.
Book of Shadows