What is Wicca?
An Introduction to The Old Religion
of Europe and its Modern Revival
By Amber K, High Priestess Our Lady of the Woods
P.O. Box 1107 Los Alamos, New Mexico 87544
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WICCA (sometimes called Wicce, the Craft, or The Old Religion
by its practitioners) is an ancient religion of love for life and nature.
In prehistoric times, people respected the great forces
of Nature and celebrated the cycles of the seasons and the moon. They
saw divinity in the sun and moon, in the Earth Herself, and in all life.
The creative energies of the universe were personified: feminine and
masculine principles became Goddesses and Gods. These were not semi-abstract,
superhuman figures set apart from Nature: they were embodied in earth
and sky, women and men, and even plants and animals.
This viewpoint is still central to present-day Wicca.
To most Wiccans, everything in Nature -- and all Goddesses and Gods
-- are true aspects of Deity. The aspects most often celebrated in the
Craft, however, are the Triple Goddess of the Moon (Who is Maiden, Mother
and Crone) and the Horned God of the wilds. These have many names in
Wicca had its beginnings in Paleolithic times, co-existed
with other Pagan ("country") religions in Europe, and had
a profound influence on early Christianity. But in the medieval period,
tremendous persecution was directed against the Nature religions by
the Roman Church. Over a span over 300 years, millions of women, many
children, and some men were hanged, drowned or burned as accused 'Witches."
The Church indicted them for malevolent magic and Satan worship, though
in fact these were never part of the Old Religion.
The Wiccan faith went underground, to be practiced in
small, secret groups called covens. For the most part, it has stayed
hidden until very recent times. Now scholars such as Margaret Murray
and Gerald Gardner have shed some light on the history of the Craft,
and new attitudes of religious freedom have allowed covens in many areas
to become more open.
Some covens and larger networks have organized to the
point of incorporating as churches or tax-exempt religious organizations
under state and federal law. Wicca is also recognized by the U.S. Armed
Forces and included in their Chaplains' Manual. Wiccan organizations
were co-sponsors of the Parliament of World Religions in 1992, and in
many forums are receiving recognition as a revitalized and growing religion.
How do Wiccan folk practice their faith today? There is
no central authority or doctrine, and individual covens vary a great
deal. But most meet to celebrate on nights of the Full Moon, and at
eight holy days or sabbats throughout the year. They also gather with
other Nature religions at great outdoor summer festivals.
Though some practice alone or only with their families,
many Wiccans are organized into covens of three to thirteen members.
Some are led by a High Priestess or Priest, many by a Priestess/Priest
team; others rotate or share leadership. Some covens are highly structured
and hierarchichal, while others are informal and egalitarian. Often
extensive training is required before initiation, and coven membership
is considered an important commitment.
There are many branches or "traditions" of Wicca
in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. These include Gardnarian,
Alexandrian, Welsh Traditional, Dianic, Faery, Georgian, Seax-Wicca
and others. All adhere to a code of ethics. None engage in the disreputable
practices of some modern "cults," such as isolating and brainwashing
lonely, impressionable young people. Genuine Wiccans welcome brothers
and sisters, but not disciples or unthinking followers.
Coven meetings include ritual, celebration and magick
(often spelled with a "k' to distinguish lt from stage illusions).
Wiccan magick is not at all like the instant special effects of cartoon
shows or fantasy novels, nor is it medieval demonology. It operates
in harmony with natural laws and is usually less spectacular -- but
effective. Various techniques are used to heal people and animals, seek
understanding, or improve members' lives in specific ways. Positive
goals are sought; cursing and "evil spells" are repugnant
to practitioners of Wicca.
Wiccans tend to be strong supporters of environmental
protection, equal rights, global peace and religious freedom, and sometimes
magick is used toward such goals. Local covens may provide community
service by helping needy families over the holidays, cleaning up litter,
assisting AIDS patients or in many other ways.
Wiccan beliefs do not include such Judeao-Christian concepts
as original sin, vicarious atonement, divine judgement or bodily resurrection.
Wiccans believe in a beneficent universe, the laws of karma and reincarnation,
and divinity inherent in every human being and all of Nature. Laughter
and pleasure are part of their spitritual tradition, and they enjoy
singing, dancing, feasting and love.
Wiccans tend to be individualists, and have no central
holy book, prophet or church authority. They draw inspiration and insight
from Nature, tradition, the arts, literature, science and personal experience.
Each practitioner keeps a personal book or journal in which s/he records
magickal spells, dreams, songs and chants, poetry and so on.
To most in the Craft, every religion has its own valuable
perspective on the nature of Deity and humanity's relationship to lt:
there is no One True Faith. Rather, religious diversity is necessary
in a world of diverse societies and individuals. Because of this belief,
Wiccans do not actively recruit or proselytize. There is an assumption
that people who can benefit from the Wiccan way will "find their
way home" when the time is right.
Despite this lack of evangelistic zeal, many covens are
quite willing to talk with interested people, and even make efforts
to inform their communities about the beliefs and practices of Wicca.
One source of contacts is The Covenant of the Goddess, P.O. Box 1226,
Berkeley, CA 94704. You may also be interested in The Circle Guide to
Pagan Groups, at Box 219, Mt. Horeb, Wi. 53572. Also the following books
may be of interest -- ask your librarian or local bookstore.
The Phoenlx and the Flame -- Vivianne Crowley
The Spiral Dance -- Starhawk
True Magick -- Amber K
What Witches Do -- Stewart Farrar
Wicca -- Vivianne Crowley
This leaflet is distributed courtesy of: The Ecclasian