I have often had people come up to me and ask “What is a Wicca?” or “What does it mean to be a Wicca? I seem to have trouble giving a good answer and usually find myself not exactly sure how to put it in words. The intention of this writing is to take a look at Wicca and define some of the more basic points over what exactly Wicca is. What makes things more difficult is that each Wiccan defines Wicca differently, and therefore, there are as many definitions of what a Wicca is as there are Wiccans.
While some may believe that in order to be a real Wiccan one must work in a coven, or trace their roots to Gerald Gardner, have Wiccan blood through lineage, others believe that one can be a Wiccan without necessarily subscribing to any of these things. Some may distinguish Wicca from witchcraft while others use the terms interchangeably. I have often been asked the question of what is the difference between a Wiccan and a Pagan. I will also take a look at this throughout this article.
In these teachings, it is my belief that one can practice Wicca whether one is or is not in a coven. One does not have to be initiated into a coven in order to practice. For example, the first witch could not have been initiated into a coven of witches, as there would have been none. Another problem is that there isn’t always a coven available to those that desire to follow a Wiccan path. It is my belief that if one feels an earnest desire to follow Wicca, they should have the freedom to do so whether a coven is available or not. Today we live in an age in which information freely flows, and anyone with the desire to learn and practice Wicca may do so. Many well-known Wiccan writers such as Scott Cunningham and Raymond Buckland would agree with the notion that a Wiccan can practice as a solitary. This is not to dismiss the importance a coven can play. Covens are generally more structured and may be beneficial to those who seek a more structured based spirituality. Many covens also hold their members accountable when it comes to such things as studying and practicing Wicca, whereas someone who practices solitary can be tempted to become lazy and not really practice. However, those who truly desire Wicca will practice regardless of whether they are in a coven or solitary.
So let me get the whole confusion of the difference between a Wiccan and a Pagan straightened out, or at least that is what I’m going to attempt to do. The best way to describe this is to say just as Catholicism is a branch of Christianity, Wicca is a branch of Paganism. Christianity is the umbrella term and branches like Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal all fall under this umbrella. Pagan is an umbrella term in which branches such as Wicca, Druid, Shamanism, Asatru, all fall under. These of course are only a few of the Pagan traditions that exist. The term Pagan can even be confused. Some use the term Pagan to refer to anyone outside of Christianity, others refer to it as anyone who falls outside of a monotheistic religion. However, I will refer to it as an umbrella term used to describe Earth based religions as mentioned above.
So, now one might be wondering what in the world an Earth based tradition is…another item that can be defined in may different ways. I personally view an Earth based tradition as a tradition where one practices being connected with nature in a spiritual since. When it comes to theism many would term Paganism as being Pantheist meaning that deity exists in all things, people, rocks, trees, grass, platypuses, clouds, that strange mark on Jupiter, quasars, politicians (yes, it’s true even those many Pagans would like to deny this aspect of Pantheism), etc. Of course, there is debate even on the definition of what Pantheism is but I won’t go there in this article. We will just go by the simple definition that deity exists in all things. Often Pagans and Wiccans alike will refer to the earth as our Mother meaning that spirit exists within the Earth. If you are not confused by now, give me some time, I’m trying…really.
Soooo, now onto Wicca specifically. Wicca is considered to be a modern earth-based neo-Pagan religion based on ancient practices. While certain practices of Wicca such as the celebration of the Sabbats, Goddess worship, the use of magick are ancient, the religion itself has only been around for a short time as far as we can tell from information available. There is some debate in the area as to whether or not Wicca dates back further than the mid-1900s but that is for another topic. I will try to write an article in the future covering the history of Wicca. All I’m going to say that modern Wicca can be traced back to Gerald Gardner, who allegedly was initiated into a Coven called the New Forest Coven which allegedly claims to trace its roots throughout the middle ages back into ancient times. Of course, there is no solid evidence to verify these claims.
Wicca is a religion that welcomes anyone who is interested regardless of gender (male Wiccans are quite common), age, sexual orientation, race, etc. One does not have to be born in a family of Wiccans or be a part of a particular lineage. While it is a religion that accepts anyone, we do not try to push our religion on others who are not interested. There is no special punishment that someone receives simply for not practicing Wicca. Most religions and spiritual paths have something valuable to offer, and therefore we do not believe it to be necessary to win converts. Wicca is generally friendly toward the LBGT community, and we do not look down on that lifestyle nor try to change anyone in that aspect. Heck, Wicca thrives in individualism so if you live an alternative lifestyle that is great, we encourage people to be themselves as long as it doesn’t bring intentional harm to anyone.
Wicca typically honors both the God and Goddess. However not all Wiccans view the Lord and Lady in the exact same way. Some few them as two personal deities almost like a spiritual mother and father. Others may view them as feminine and masculine energies. Some may believe in many gods and goddess who can be summed up into a God and Goddess. Many believe that the divine spirit is in all things including, stones, plants, animals, humans, etc. Some Wiccans are even atheistic where they still believe in the energies that are within nature but do not associate them with deities. The Goddess may be viewed as the triple Goddess represented by the 3 phases of the moon or as mother Earth. The God may be referred to as the horned God, death, or Green man. Wicca is a very diverse religion itself and while we express various beliefs we also respect others’ beliefs knowing that we all have different points of view. Some Wiccans may refer to the supreme being as “The All” and some believe that “The All” is the Great Spirit that exists in all things and the Goddess and God together represent this all. I will attempt to write more on the nature of deity in another article. However, Wiccan theism varies from Monotheistic, to Duotheistic, to Polytheistic, to Atheistic, to Pantheistic and perhaps other theisms if one looks further.
What is Wicca part 2
While we believe in working with the supernatural energies around us, we do not believe magic works as it does in fiction such as Harry Potter and the Wizard of Oz. Many of us love Harry Potter, but no, he is not a practicing Wiccan. Working with these energies does not replace mundane activity. If you work magick to lose weight, this doesn’t mean you avoid diet and exercise. Do not stop taking meds if you work healing magick without consulting a doctor first. Being that we generally believe that the divine energy exists in all things we are not opposed to using medicine and other mundane methods to work Magick. Remember that the use of these powers are sacred and shouldn’t be used for entertainment.
Wiccans consider it to be important to treat our earth with love and respect as it is sacred. It is in our best interests to keep the earth healthy. We do not have a sacred book as in other religions, but view nature itself as our holy “book.” Many of us strive to make a difference by:
-Cut down on driving
-Reuse plastic bags and other items
-Volunteer at a food or animal shelter
-Clean up local areas such as lakes, rivers, parks, and areas cluttered with trash
-Take in animals that have been neglected or abused
-Working to live in harmony with others.
Not all of us do all these things, but every little bit helps. Wicca is often about connecting with nature by doing things as simple as taking a walk in the woods or sitting by a lake. You may want to focus on the sounds of nature such as birds, or the smells like plants and flowers, and the beauty that surrounds you. If you are in a city see if there are any parks you can visit. Perhaps you could enjoy the stars and moon at night.
Many Wiccans believe in reincarnation in that we go through many life cycles to learn various lessons. Summerland is a place in the afterlife, which some believe we go after death to rest and reflect before continuing our next journey. Some Wiccans believe that we may spend our time there reflecting what we have learned in our last life and plan out our future life. Perhaps it is here that we are able to clearly see all the past lives that we have lived. We do not believe in a hell where sinners are punished for eternity.
The Wiccan Rede “An ye harm none do as ye will” is generally universally followed among Wiccans. This can refer to physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental harm. For example, it may be harmful to attempt to de convert a Christian because perhaps that person needs to follow that path in order to grow (There also may be cases where it is beneficial if the religion is causing the person harm but I won’t go there with that right now). It is unrealistic to expect a person to never harm anything. There are times we may hurt someone’s feelings, step on a bug, etc. It is more realistic to seek to cause as little harm as possible. The Wiccan Rede is another item that is a whole discussion of its own which I hope to write more about.
Spells should end with “With harm toward none, and the greatest good of all.” It’s also necessary to overcome behaviors that are harmful to self such as cutting, alcoholism, drug abuse, etc. Doing our own will refers to doing the will of our “higher self,” in other words, do what wisest and most loving. The Rede is difficult to follow at times because it requires deep thought and weighing the situation. Sometimes there are situations where harm cannot be avoided.
We celebrate the phases of the moon referred to as Esbats and also celebrate 8 Sabbats throughout the year. Coven witches often come together for these celebrations.
The Law of Three, or Law of Return means whatever we send out in the universe will return to us threefold. If we do negative it will return to us stronger and the same with positive. Some believe that the Law of Three doesn’t have to be exact but can vary due to such things as intention. If one unintentionally harms someone and regrets it later this may help to cancel out the Law of Return.
We do not believe in letting life get the best of us, but rather that if life isn’t satisfying that change may be necessary. We are responsible for our actions, not some deity, negative entity, or other people.
Many witches are interested in healing and may take on professions that deal with medical and psychological healing. Many of us are also interested alternative methods of healing. We also have no qualm with most technology as many of us own PCs
Below is a Link to the “Thirteen Principles of Wiccan belief.”
Wicca generally doesn’t recognize the concept of “original sin.” Instead we believe people are basically good because we all come from the Goddess and God. While people become evil and do bad things, people were not born to be bad. We focus more on the now than in the after life. We do not deny ourselves pleasure nor suffer unnecessary pain. There is a lesson to be learned while we are here on earth.
Some Wiccans partake in various magickal training, which may include herbology, divination (Tarot, palmistry, Ruins, scrying, tea leafs, etc), crystal healing, Shamanistic practices, reiki, astrology, etc.
Creativity, freedom of expression, intelligent thinking are all important in Wicca. We tend to avoid dogma and hard rules beyond the basics. We do not generally have a system of hierarchy such as a pope and bishops, however some traditions have become large enough where outside leadership does exist.
One of the important aspects of Wicca is coming to know yourself, why you think the way your think, why you do what you do, why you feel what you feel. Here are some questions to ponder over.
One of the main ideas in Wicca and many traditions of Witchcraft and Paganism is to know yourself, however, this is something that is best done on your own so here are some questions to think about on your own.
- What makes you feel happy? Depressed? Angry? Excited?
- What qualities do you have that you consider positive?
- What qualities do you have that make you feel negative?
- Take a look at your life and ask yourself how satisfied you are with your life? What do you want improved in your life? What changes do you want to make to live a more satisfying life?
- Have there been events in your childhood that played a strong part in who you are now?
- Do you love or hate yourself or somewhere in between?
- Take a look at behaviors you do that you don’t like? Can you understand what influences these behaviors.
- How do you feel when you do something good such as helping a person who needs a ride as compared when you do something such as get revenge on someone?
- Do you act before you think or think before you act? Would this be something you want to change?