Wicca, a brief introduction

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What is Wicca?

       Wicca is a living religion, constantly changing and growing to adapt to the needs of its practitioners. The Wicca being followed today is not the same as the Wicca that was followed yesterday. It has changed and evolved as we all have, by learning and coping with the events that shaped our modern era.

       The history of witchcraft is confused and almost impossible to fully understand. It seems most likely that the modern resurgence of Wicca began with Gerald Gardner, an author who published his works in the late 1950's.

       Wicca became known in the early 1960's and grew with the concepts of flower power, peace, universal love and women's equality. Many feminists were drawn to it because of its emphasis on 'the Goddess'.

       Out of a desire for a history, today's pagans often tell each other and themselves that their religion began long ago with the first humans; that it has survived the persecutions of the Roman Empire and the Mediaeval church. Many believe they are the holders of information passed down through the generations. Information and knowledge that had originated with the first shamans, druids and witches of prehistoric Europe.

       The new pagans of this century had the right idea, but the wrong story. There is much knowledge and wisdom to be found in the study of early cultures. Wiccans of today continue to draw from the cultures and mythologies of these historic civilizations. They combine the wisdom and philosophy of Greek, Celtic, Norse, Egyptian, Babylonian, Hebrew and many other ancient cultures with their own ideas and experiences to create a religion that is unique and ever- evolving.

       Wicca is a religion which avoids absolute doctrines. No two pagans believe exactly the same thing, nor do they worship in the exact same manner. What is included here is generally accepted by a significant portion of today's Wiccans.

       Wicca is a pagan religion with many gods and goddesses. Many Wiccans will say, however, that 'All gods are one God, all goddesses are one Goddess' Others go further, believing that God and Goddess are two sides of the same Deity, and worship both equally. Others concentrate mostly (sometimes solely, in the case of some feminists) on the Goddess.

       The 'God' is traditionally seen as all that is masculine. The three most popular archetypes are the Horned God of the Forest, the God of the Underworld, and the Sun God. The Goddess is traditionally seen as all that is feminine, Some of the archetypes associated with her are the feminine trinity of 'Mother-Maiden-Crone', the Earth Mother and the Goddess of the Ocean. Note that all these archetypes, male and female, are aspects of the natural world. This is a theme found throughout today's Pagan community--a reverence and love for Nature.

       Wiccans have only one rule and one law. The rule, often phrased in flowery language, is: 'If it harms none, do as you will'. The law is known as the 'Threefold Law'. Paralleling the concept of Karma found in certain Eastern religions, the threefold law is a belief that whatever energies one puts out into the universe, be they good or bad, will return onto the sender three times as strong.

       Ceremonies in Wicca are done for the same reasons that they are in other religions: to foster a sense of community, to give thanks to God or the Gods, to celebrate a significant event, as an act of devotion, to pray for healing, to focus on a goal or for any other reason that 'feels right'. A basic ritual may include a purification, an invocation to the elements and the Gods, a wine and cake blessing, working the intent of the ceremony, a farewell to the Gods and elements, and finally a closing or grounding of the energy in the area where the ritual has taken place. Remember that this is not doctrine: anything that works and 'feels right' is appropriate. For example, a Judeo-Christian person may say a quick prayer thanking God for a glorious day. A Wiccan is just as likely to do the same, for the same reason.

       Wiccans celebrate certain feast days or Sabbaths. These include: Samhain on October 31, the Winter Solstice around December 21, Imbolc on February 2, the Spring Equinox around March 21, Beltane on May 1, the Summer Solstice around June 21, Lamas on August 1 and the Fall Equinox around September 21. A quick internet search for "Pagan Sabbats" will provide more details

Common questions and answers:

I thought a Pagan is someone who does not believe in God
Originally, "pagan" was to Christian Rome what "redneck" is today. This was thus used as a slur by Christians against the non-Christian Romans. Today, a pagan is someone that believes in one or more gods, but who does not worship the God of the Hebrews, Christians and Moslems. An atheist is someone that does not believe in the existence of a god or gods.
Don't Wiccans worship Satan?
No, Wiccans do not worship Satan or the Devil for two reasons:
  1. In order to worship Satan, or the Devil, one has to accept that the God of the Bible is the one and only true God, and that Satan is one of his fallen angels. Wiccans do not worship Satan for the same reason Christians do not worship Prometheus. In order to worship the devil, the Wiccan would first have to embrace Judaism, Christianity or Islam as their religion of choice. Wiccans are unlikely to do this, as they have chosen a polytheistic (with multiple gods) religion. The Hebrew God's first commandment is a prohibition against worshipping other deities before him, as is the Israelites' only supreme being.
  2. Most Wiccans agree that there is some truth to all religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The God of the Bible, and the devil are therefore theoretically available for worship. Keep in mind, however, that Wiccans hold one belief above all others: "It's ok to do whatever you want, just so long as you don't hurt anyone". Devil worship, by its very nature, is said to involve going out of one's way to hurt others. This means Devil worship is one of the few activities expressly prohibited to Wiccans. Again, in order to worship the devil, Wiccans would first have give up Wicca and embrace the Judeo-Christian pantheon and belief system as their religion of choice.
Ok, so Wiccans don't worship the Devil. Isn't worshiping the 'Horned God' or the 'God of the Underworld' the same thing?
The Judeo-Christian Devil has no equivalent in most classical mythologies. The 'Devil' is a concept found in many dualistic religions (i.e. religions that only have 'Good' and 'Bad' Deities in conflict with each other). Wicca is polytheistic. Most Wiccans believe there is some truth in the stories of all the Gods. They worship the ones that interest them, for myriad reasons. Each of these Gods and Goddesses has its own personality. Much like the humans who pay homage to them, the tales associated with the Gods are complex, interesting life stories and personal ethics. Some of them are nice, likable folk, while others are the types one would avoid like the plague. As a rule, the Gods and Goddesses of the Wiccans are not the absolute 'all or nothing' characters from dualist traditions such as Zoroastrianism, Manacheism or Christianity. In other words, Pagans do not have a 'the good guy' versus 'the bad guy' religion. According to the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Devil is the embodiment of pure evil, and has no other qualities other than 'all that is bad'. Wiccans have no interest in such a two-dimensional character.
Follow this link for another more detailed explanation on why Wiccans would not worship the Judeo-Christian Devil.
An inverted Pentacle is used as a sign of devil worship. You can't deny that, now can you?
Yes, 'Devil worshipping' rock bands often use inverted crosses and upside down Pentacles to show how evil they are. (One might argue that this is mostly in order to sell more records to hapless teenagers.) Followers of the Judeo-Christians tradition who choose to worship the Evil represented by their Devil also use them. By their choice of 'unholy' symbol, these people insult the Wiccan tradition as much as the Christian Faith. They choose the inverted cross and the upside-down pentacle because both of these symbols have historically been associated with Christ or spiritual goodness in general. The five-pointed star was in use for thousands of years before the early Christians adopted it as a representation of their Living God. These Christians chose the Pentacle to represent the new Christ 'man-god' because the shape of a five pointed star (with one point up) is reminiscent of a human outline. They also chose it because their Roman culture already associated the Pentacle with spiritual good, and goodness in general. The use of the Pentacle has waned in the Christian world over the last few centuries. As a result, many Christians have forgotten, or do not realize the association between the five-pointed star and Jesus. In Europe, however, countless churches are still decorated with this ancient symbol of goodness and purity. One Canadian Church still decorated with Pentacles is St. Matthew's United Church. Located at 729 St. Clair West, in Toronto, Ontario, this church was founded in 1879.
The pentacle is also used as a symbol by some Christian organizations today. Most focus on the mystical aspects of the Christian faith. Mysticism is concerned with the nature of reality, the individual's struggle to attain a clear vision of reality, and the transformation of consciousness that accompanies such vision. Many Christian Saints, including St. Francis of Assisi were mystics. Today, some Christians choose a mystical approach to their faith and devotion to Christ. One such group is the Society is the Rose Cross (also known as the Rosicrucians). The Society of the Rose Cross uses the five-pointed star because " the number five is the emblem of Health and Safety; ...it represents Spirit and the four elements." This organization, has roots in the Christian reform movement of the European 16th and 17th century. They embrace Christ's teachings and also borrow ideas from several other traditions, none of which have anything to do with Devil worship.
'Devil Worshippers' defile the Pentacle and the Cross by inverting them in order to represent the evil of Satan or the Devil. They turn them upside down because they worship the opposite of the goodness and love for God (and humankind) that Christ represents to Christians.
Don't Wiccans commit human sacrifice?
No, Wiccans do not hurt people or animals in their ceremonies. They also do not eat human flesh or drink any kind of blood, even figuratively. Stereotypes such as these are fueled by Hollywood horror films, centuries of persecution because of xenophobic narrow-minded propaganda and a general lack of knowledge about Wicca. Remember that Wiccans only have one rule: Do whatever you want, just so long as you don't hurt anybody. Many Wiccans include all living beings in this rule, so they choose to be vegetarian. This is why libations and offerings to the Gods tend to be products of the land or of the mind. They include gifts such as cakes, wine or a portion each meal. They can also include artwork, poetry, planting trees or cleaning up a park. Under no circumstance would a Wiccan offering involve the hurting or the death of an animal for ceremonial reasons. Being in tune with nature, they would find this to be a foolish waste of resources, and bad Karma to boot. Since not all Wiccans are vegetarians, offerings may sometimes include meat, but Wiccans do their grocery shopping in the same stores as everyone else.
It is interesting to note that some Wiccans are former Christians. Some left the Christian community because they were uncomfortable with ceremonies such as Holy Communion. The idea that a priest was calling a God and requesting that He transmute (change) normal wine and bread into the blood and body of Christ made them uneasy. These people prefer the Wiccan belief that hurting anyone or anything is immoral. Regardless of Christ's love for mankind and his good intentions in instructing His disciples to "Do this [Holy Communion] in remembrance of Me", Wiccans never get involved with these types of rituals because, at a certain level, they legitimize and celebrate the infliction of pain and suffering.
On television, there is a show where Wiccans can alter reality with magic. Is this what Wicca is all about?
Again, one must not confuse pop culture entertainment and reality. Pagans sometimes refer to their ceremonies as magic rituals, but the laws of physics rule. The spells cast are known as 'white magick', and tend to focus on improving aspects of people's lives. These can include praying for a sick person to get better, to assist a recovering alcoholic stay dry or to help someone cope with grief after a tragedy. They also include rituals for personal growth (meditation) or celebrations of community or joy. In other words, Wiccans celebrate their faith for the same reasons most religions' participants do.
A Serious Wiccan would not expect to be able to turn someone into an newt or fly on a broomstick any more that a realistic Christian believes the films such as Dogma, Stigmata or The Exorcist depict true to life Christian experiences. In short, Pagan 'magic rituals' serve the same purpose that prayer does for Judeo-Christians and meditations does for some Eastern religions. Follwers Wicca and these faiths realize that none of these activities confer extraordinary supernatural powers.
Do you actually believe in magic?
That depends on what you mean by "magic". Most Wiccans don't actually believe they can fly, change people into newts or turn lead into gold. If you mean "Do you believe your 'magic' can have a positive outcome", then the answer is probably yes. Don't forget that the word magic (often spelled "magick" by Pagans to differentiate it from sleight of hand or stage magic) refers to our form of prayer or devotion. The answer to your question will probably be the same as if you asked a devout Christian if they believe in the power of prayer. While not all Christians ask for favours when they pray, some do. They may ask for moral support (for themselves or someone else). They may ask for strength through difficult times. They may even ask that God cure a disease or infirmity. There is ample anecdotal evidence for the benefits of prayer, specially when the benefit could be explained as the result of "Positive Mental Attitude" or because of the placebo effect. A quick Internet search will yield hundreds of web sites on the benefit of prayer, ranging from realistic testimonials to more sensational or fantastic stories.
Some Christians, Jews and Moslems ask God for favours when they pray. Some Wiccans cast magick spells to focus energy on a specific goal. No one has been able to quantify the power of these activities with scientific measurements, nor has anyone explained why they sometimes appear to work. Regardless of scientific support, some people just choose to make this 'leap of faith'. Some believe they benefit from it. Some probably do. Such are the mysteries of 'faith'.
I want to make someone fall in love with me. How do I cast a love spell?
You are still mistaking fantasy and fiction with the real world. It is impossible to cast supernatural magical spells that alter reality and take full control of the human soul in real life. Even if it were possible, casting a spell to take away someone's free will would be tantamount to psychic rape. In real life, forcing someone to change their free will and go against their very nature is called 'Brainwashing'. To brainwash someone, they must usually be kidnapped and tortured is some way. Since for Wiccans the most important rule is to harm none, they would never attempt such a vile and disgusting act.
I saw a news report about a murderer who said he was a Wiccan. I also read a story in the newspaper about these kids who were Wiccans and hurt a helpless child. You can't deny this people are part of the Wiccan cult.
There are sick and evil people in all walks of life. Hitler claimed to be 'Christian'. Jim Jones was an ordained christian priest. There are countless hate mongering groups out there that use the Bible and Jesus' teachings as justification for their twisted ideas. Europe's Colonial history is also full of horrific deeds based on less-than-enlightened attitues to other people's history, cultures and religion. Here are examples of groups that work to track the harm and work to foster healing: Jesus preached love and tolerance. He instructed His followers to love their neighbors and to turn the other cheek should someone hit them. By their actions, people such as Hitler, Jones and the organizations described in the above links prove their contempt for Christ's teachings. The perpetrators of such evils still call themselves Christian. By the same token, anyone can claim to be a Wiccan. The phony ones are easy to uncover, so long as one remembers their basic rule: Do whatever you want, just so long as you don't hurt anyone.
I saw a bunch of Wiccans with tattoos and long dirty hair running around in a park somewhere. Some wore black robes and others were dressed in torn jeans and leather jackets with chains. Why does Wicca attract this type of people.
Many teenagers turn to the occult as a form of rebellion during their teen-age years. Wicca is an inclusive religion. As a rule, there are no 'dress codes' or other rules that would interfere with the freedoms these teenagers seek. A great number of these teens are disappointed when they learn that becoming a true Wiccan requires a lot of work. They usually leave mainstream Wicca to form their own 'Wiccan covens' in order to have fun without having to bother with all the boring stuff. Others leave when they realize that Wicca is not about changing people into newts and casting love or money spells. Some simply outgrow their interest in alternative religions. Because Wicca is relatively free from firm dogma, those who continue their studies are a varied lot. Some embark on a lifetime journey of learning, seldom going to the temple ceremonies, but spending hours in libraries researching esoteric points of ancient philosophy or anthropology. Others simply go to circle every week, and are no different than other church going folk from the more common faiths. Others choose to continue living outside of the typical norms of North American society. As this subset of Wiccans tends to be more visible than the average pagan, they are the ones who get noticed. Since it is impossible to tell a typical Wiccan from any other person in society, the popular image of Wiccans is determined by the small but visible minority of the group.

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