What is Wicca?
Wicca is a Pagan religion but sometimes people refer to it as Pagan Witchcraft, or simply, The Craft. However, the term Wicca mainly covers the entire spectrum. Be that as it may, within the Wicca religion lies many denominations and traditions.
Wicca is one of the earth-based religions and is deeply spiritual for those who choose to follow this path. It is one of the oldest religion in the world and pre-dates Christianity by a long way. It was way of life of our ancestors until imposition of ‘modern day’ religions.
Generally speaking, Wiccans tend to take what they need from Paganism into their own personal path of development. On the other hand, those who choose pure Witchcraft tend to use ritual and Magic** for their chosen path. But, both work closely with the existing natural forces of the universe given to us by the Goddess and God.
Both males and females can become Wiccans and both can be Witches too. In order to differentiate between the two, some traditions use Wicce to define a female Witch and Wicca to define a male Witch. The pronunciation sounds similar to Wickay and Wickah respectively.
** To draw a distinction between modern-day illusionary magic, we can use the word magick.
All Pagan beliefs come from within and give people a spiritual connection with nature. If you feel something magical when you see an expanse of countryside, a mountain or river, for example, then you have this connection too.
Take some time out, especially if you are a city dweller, and visit the countryside or take a stroll along the riverside. You can do this alone or with a loved one to see if you can connect with nature.
Once you do, it will take your breath away and you may get some strange, but pleasant feelings. You may wish to develop these feelings further and find a true meaning to them so as to make sense of them.
*** Although I use the word belief, remember that our religion involves custom, tradition and experience. Therefore, whether we should use the word or not is arguable.
The Following Is A Small Outline Of Some Core Wiccan Beliefs:
01) There is no ‘One’ thing but collectively it all leads to one thing – The Divine Spirit. Since the Universe is balanced, there are feminine and masculine characteristics and we speak of a Goddess and a God. Many Wiccans believe that there are many Goddesses and Gods and individual witch covens can have their own secret deities. However, speaking of a Goddess or God is the norm. Outdoor rituals help to keep your connection to The Divine Spirit and you can draw strength from this.
02) There is balance in the Universe and you must allow this balance to continue. For example, you should not exploit nature. Indeed, you should work in partnership with nature and you need to be fully responsible for all your actions.
05) In order to retain balance in the Universe, you need to be fully responsible for all your actions.
03) There is a circle of life and people are part of that life cycle. For example, water turns to clouds and then returns as water. Therefore, Wiccans believe in reincarnation.
04) Follow the Wiccan Rede – ‘If You Harm None, Do What You Will’. In other words, as long as you do no harm to others, you are free to do anything you wish.
05) Practising magic should be for positive purposes such as healing and developing your spiritual gifts.
There are many other beliefs of course, and you will discover more should you choose Wicca as your religion.
Becoming A Wiccan Or A Witch
Once you decide to become a Wiccan or a Witch, just do a little study on the subject and declare yourself as such. Of course, there’s no need to make it public. In fact, you probably won’t. You have two choices when you become a Witch, practice alone and be a solitary Witch or join a coven.
Becoming a Witch and joining a coven is not straightforward. Indeed you need to have much focus and take time to think about things carefully. But it is possible over time and with high concentration levels to become accepted into the fold.
Once you decide the Craft is for you, you usually need to wait for one year and a day before initiation. This allows ample time in which to complete your studies. Also, during this time you may find out whether the religion is for you or not.
In the meantime, it’s important to spend time getting to know other Witches. They don’t look to convert people and you need to ask in order to gain acceptance into the coven. However, like any other religion, you are able to practice solitary. But, you are able to form your own coven as you get experience.
Joining A Coven
If you join a coven, it could be single-sex or mixed-sex but usually will have no more than the traditional 13 members.
At the end of the day, as a solitary Wiccan or Witch, you are obviously accepting yourself into the religion. In this case, you don’t need to ask anyone. However, its a lot harder to learn, as you will have to sift through the available information yourself.
Of course, once you grasp it, you are able to adapt the religion to suit yourself. Always remember, there are no hard and fast rules to govern you but other Witches will expect a degree of uniformity within the coven.
Oath Of Secrecy
Once you join up with other Witches you should swear an oath of secrecy. This is in respect to yourself and your associates, of course. You should never assume that because you know someone is a Witch, others do too. In reality, you should keep knowledge of your associates to yourself. Not only that, but keep your rituals secret as well as all the other mysteries you come across.
Although persecution still continues to this day, it’s not as bad. Indeed, Wicca is growing while Christianity is on the decline. Be that as it may, it’s still best to keep the secrecy according to tradition. This is because alien religions tend to frown The Craft and still use well rehearsed techniques to put it down. Indeed, they still have a modern form of persecution within themselves!
By keeping your chosen path secret, you gain trust amongst your coven and close associates. This obviously allows you to continue on your chosen path together with those who you also trust. Now it becomes clear why you need to find the Wicca religion because it will not find you.
However, once you become drawn to Wicca, you will soon become aware and then you can start with your studies. If you need to ask questions about Wicca or Witchcraft, we have some message boards specifically for this in our Pagan Forum.
Father of Modern Wicca
As with other forms of religion, there are diverse variations to this area of Paganism. Although the Wiccan religion has its roots in the pre-Christian era, it was Englishman, Gerald Gardner who helped gain recognition for the religion.
In 1954, Gardner’s book, ‘Witchcraft Today’, became available, then in 1959, he brought out another book, ‘The Meaning of Witchcraft’. Gardner himself became a Witch in the 1930’s. So, to many Wiccans, Gerald Gardner has the title of ‘Father of Modern Wicca’.
Generally speaking, Paganism is reinventing itself because there are very few records to draw upon. Therefore, not all Wiccans will be in agreement with each other on all issues. In other words, there is nothing standard about the religion. This is because it predates Christianity by a long way and many traditions and customs are lost in time
Some will follow Gardner fully, hence we get the terms, Gardnerian Wicca or Gardnerian Witchcraft. But many people have since found other paths within the Wiccan faith. Be that as it may, Gardner didn’t use the word Wicca as an umbrella term. Instead, he collectively called the Pagan Witches, Wicca. He also says that it is the ‘Craft of the Wise’.
So, from this we see that Wiccan beliefs, traditions and customs are still developing. In other words, we are all reinventing Wicca and Witchcraft all of the time.
Wiccan customs and traditions have been with us all the time but are not too noticeable in the modern world. Indeed, many of our Pagan ancestors’ customs and traditions crossed over to Christians who were becoming dominant after Christianity became legal. So its just a matter of putting the pieces of the puzzle together and working out what actually belongs to our ancient religions.
Remember, since some people are reconstructing Wicca and Witchcraft and writing books etc., never follow anyone blindly. Just because someone speaks with some authority or writes books, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are correct. They can be the spark, but getting back to nature is easy to do for yourself. Also, by filtering the works of these authors, you can work out what’s right for you.
So, draw from your own feelings, experience, intuition and common sense to find your own level. Reconnecting with nature is the easy bit. Therefore, Modern Wicca is what you make of it, and if your way differs from others, it doesn’t mean you are wrong. In fact, you may even discover things that others have overlooked!
The persecution of Pagans began when Christianity began to take root in Europe. However, those early Christians didn’t wipe out Pagan traditions altogether. On the contrary, traditional Paganism survived in small pockets throughout Europe. Just to point out here that the word Pagan was a derogatory term that Christians would use to describe the ‘religion of the peasants’.
Pagan traditions did carry on but did so away from the alien believers. The persecution of Pagans continued for centuries as we all know. This includes the Witch hunts in the 16th and 17th century. Those days, once they accused a woman of being a Witch, it meant certain death. However, the persecution didn’t fully destroy The Craft.
Gerald Gardner became a Witch after his initiation in 1939 when he met up with local Witches. So it is clear that Witchcraft survived the persecution. Just like other Pagan beliefs, our old customs and traditions are still there just waiting to be discovered.
Since you will be gaining knowledge on your own most of the time, studying should involve reading some appropriate books. Should you read the odd book, use it as a guide and NOT your ‘Bible’.
As a suggestion, a beginner could read this book first by Scott Cunningham, ‘Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner’. However, the idea would be to read a few books and then take stock. The best place to begin is by searching ebay or Amazon for ‘Wicca Books’
Once you begin your studies, use a notebook or diary regularly. This is your ‘Book of Shadows‘ in which you write down your personal experiences and observations. You can then refer to this on demand as you need it.
Soon you will learn about magic (magick) which comes from your inner being and will give you strength to draw on. However, stay away from casting spells at this stage as you need to understand the Threefold Law first. This basically means that if you harm others, it will come back to harm you three times stronger – think karma! But, by doing good, this will reverberate back to you in a positive way three times stronger.
Therefore, your studies should involve how to channel your energies in a positive way and not in a vengeful manner. This is why Witchcraft is good, despite what the ill-informed say. This is because a bad witch casting nasty spells regularly will lead a miserable life. How many people do you know who would choose to lead a miserable life?
Then there is the three-cornered triquetra which looks like three leaves together. But when two or more are intertwined it can have the name of trinity knot. The three points can represent numerous things including the Triple Goddess of Wicca.
Of course numerous other symbols are in use where appropriate, including those of the Runic alphabet. Those are the early letters of the Germanic people before Latin became the norm. Of course, the other symbol that a Wiccan uses is the eight-spoked wheel. This obviously represents the annual cycle of the seasonal festivals. In other words, the Wheel of the Year.
Although some refer to Wicca and Witchcraft as the same thing, there are some differences. But then again there are differences in all religion, even within the different types of Paganism. There is also no ‘one book’ or ‘commandments’ in Wicca, indeed the religion comes from a time before books. But with persecution a thing of the past, we are now seeing the reincarnation of Wicca for the modern world.
On the whole, persecution is is far less now than it has been for centuries. However, secrecy still persists because of previous persecution, so secrecy is still part of the tradition. Therefore, should you discover Witchcraft or Wicca in general, there is no real hang-ups nowadays. The main thing is that you discover who you are and whether your connection with the religion is strong enough for you to pursue.
Once you choose this path you need to ignore those who still choose to persecute or humiliate. They may quote phrases from their books but you can draw upon energies from way before their books came about.
The Pagan Council now has a Wicca Forum as well as a Witchcraft Forum within the Pagan Message Boards. Therefore, this is your invitation to join in with like-minded people. For example, if you have any questions about Wicca or The Craft, ask them there. Likewise, if you would like to answer questions, please do so. We are learning all the time, therefore let’s do it together!