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What Is Wicca ?

The Art of Wicca

History

Wicca is a neo-pagan religion based on the pre-Christian traditions of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Its origins can be traced even further back to Paleolithic peoples who worshiped a Hunter God and a Fertility Goddess. Cave paintings found in France (and dated at 30,000 years old) depict a man with the head of a stag, and a woman with a swollen, pregnant belly. They stand in a circle with eleven mortals. These archetypes of the divine are worshiped by Wiccans to this very day. By these standards, the religion that is now called Wicca, is perhaps the oldest religion in the world.

In 1951, the laws against Witchcraft were repealed in England. A man named Gerald Gardner was the first to come into the public eye with a description of what modern witches were practicing. His information came from the traditions of a coven called the New Forest Witches, and from Ceremonial Magick and the Cabballah. He began what is now called the Gardnerian Tradition of Wicca. From Gardnerian came Alexandrian Tradition, and a host of other offshoots that today number in the hundreds.

Wicca Altar

Misconceptions

For two thousand years the image of the Witch has been associated with evil, heathenism, and blasphemy. These ideas have their origin in Christian myths created to convert members of the Old Religion to that of the new. By making the Witch into a diabolical character of ill intent and action, the Christian missionaries were able to attach fear to a word that had once meant Healer, Wise One, and Seer. These fears are present to this day. When we think of the archetypal image of the Witch, we remember the evil enchantress of childhood tales. We think of an old, wrinkled hag with a nasty wart on her nose. We think of hexes, and devils, and foul incantations chanted around a bubbling cauldron. While we modern witches have been known to stir up herbal remedies in a cauldron, we are a far cry indeed from the horrifying Wicked Witch of the West!

Witches Do Not Worship Satan. To believe in Satan, one must subscribe to the Christian mythos. We do not. Wicca does not have any belief in, nor do we worship a concept of evil incarnate. All life is perceived as a constant flow of positive and negative energies, which intertwine to create the balance of life. [From my own experience, I must say that the only evil I have ever observed in the world has come from Man. There are no ax-murderers, or child-abusers to be found in the animal kingdom, or in nature as a whole.]

Witches Do Not Cast Evil Spells. Modern Witches have a very strict belief in the Law of Return. Whatever we send out into our world shall return to us, so even the most ill-tempered Witch would not consider doing magick to harm another being. The spells that we do involve things like Healing, Love, Wisdom, Creativity, and Joy. The "potions" that we stir might be a headache remedy, or a cold tonic, or an herbal flea bath for the family dog.

Beliefs

Immanent Divinity. Wiccans believe that the spirit of God/dess exists in every living thing: in the trees, the rain, the flowers, the sea, and in each other. This means that we must treat our peers, and all the beings of the Earth as aspects of the Divine. We attempt to honour and respect life, in all its many and diverse expressions.

Circle of Religion

Nature. Wiccans learn from and worship nature by celebrating the cycles of the sun, and the cycles of the moon. We look into ourselves for the cycles within that correspond to those of the natural world, and try to move in harmony with the movement of life. Our teachers come in the form of trees, rivers, lakes, meadows, and mountains, as well as other humans who have walked the path before us. This belief infers a reverence and respect for the environment, and all of life upon the Earth We revere the spirits of the elements that create our world. Air, Fire, Water, and Earth combine to manifest all creation. From these four elements we gain wisdom, and understanding of how the universe unfolds. The rhythms of nature are the rhythms of our lives. Wiccans attempt to dance in step with the pulse of the Earth.

Other Faiths. Modern Witches believe in freedom first! We do not choose to look at our path as the "one true right way," but as one path among many to the center. We do not convert new members to the Craft, nor do we advertise or prosteletize. We believe that anyone who is meant for this path will find it through their own search. Wiccans practice tolerance and acceptance toward all other religions, as long as those faiths do not preach or commit harm to others.

Afterlife. Most Witches believe in reincarnation of some sort, whether it be the Eastern version known as the Transmigration of Souls (the spirit incarnating one body after another in an effort to learn all the life lessons that it can), or Ancestral Incarnation (where the spirit and life lessons of the grandfather transmute to the granddaughter, and so on down the genetic line). The latter is a more traditionally Celtic approach, but both are accepted.

Sin. In Wicca, we do not have a specific concept of sin. There is no heaven or hell that souls will go to based on their worldly actions. Wrong-doing is governed and determined by the individual conscience. With the belief in the Law of Return, one's actions will determine one's future. The individual is therefore responsible for his or her own fate, based on what he or she chooses to do internally and externally in the world.

Ethics. Wicca has but one law of action and ethics. It is called the Wiccan Rede or the Wiccan Law, and can be found under the Reading Room category of the same name. "And ye harm none" covers almost everything that the Ten Commandments do: don't lie, don't steal, don't cheat, etc. It encourages us to strive not to harm any living thing - including ourselves - except perhaps to survive. Whether this means that you must become a vegetarian or a passivist is up to the individual. The Wiccan Law serves as a guideline to action, not a mandate. The only law that the Ten Commandments express that is not covered by the Wiccan Law is that of marriage and adultery. In Wicca, love itself is sanctified, with or without government authorization. As long as two individuals share a sincere bond of love that does not harm either party, it does not matter if they are legally joined, if they are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or interracial.

Leadership vs. Hierarchy. There is no Arch Bishop of Wicca. There is no one person or organization that determines the practices and beliefs of Wicca as a whole. Instead, Wicca is formed of small nebulas groups and solitaries who are charged with the leadership of themselves. Wicca is a religion of clergy, not followers. Each person who seriously pursues the Craft, whether it be through study in a particular tradition, or through self-teaching and private learning, has the choice to become a priest or priestess of Wicca. Most modern traditions of Wicca offer a three year program of learning that will bring the student to the level of High Priest or Priestess.

Churches and Temples. Wiccans do not usually have churches created specifically for the worship of the gods. Our temple is found in nature, among the creations of the divine. We meet in a circle that represents the Circle of Life, and the equality that we share. There is no head, no top, no beginning and no end. When necessary, our circles take place indoors in houses, apartments, or wherever we can find a sacred, protected space. But ideally, a circle will take place in a grove beneath the stars, with the silver moon shining down from above.

Magick. Witches believe in the power of magick to create change. A prominent Wiccan author named Starhawk defines magick as "the art of changing consciousness at will." By being in tune with the rhythms of life, we can create change for ourselves and for our world. We use herbs, oils, colours, stones, crystals, and other symbolic materials to represent the change we wish to create. Wiccans believe that the individual is responsible for his or her own reality. If there is something that is not healthy, or conducive to happiness and growth, we have the power to change it. As aspects of the divine, we are each Creator and Creatress, filled with the power to manifest all that we dream of or desire.

What is Wicca?

 

Wicca is a forest in the light of the silvery moon...

a glade enchanted by the light of the Faery.

It is the dewdrop on the petals of a flower in bloom,

the warmth of the summer sun on the skin,

the fall of colourful autumn leaves,

and the softness of winter snow upon the Earth.

It is light, and shadow and all that lies in between.

It is the song of the wind, and the tune of the tides.

It is the symphony of life!

To be a Witch is to be a healer, a teacher, a seeker, a giver,

and a protector of all things living and alive.

If this path be yours, may you tread it with honour and with light!

God and Goddess

 

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