Wicca

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Wicca was created in 1954 by Gerald Gardner, based on certain ancient pre-Christian pagan ideals. Etymology: likely from Old English wicca wizard, they affirm witchcraft and magic. [1] It can be very difficult to come up with a universal definition of what a Wiccan is. Most Wiccans desire to live as one with nature, which could be adapted from Buddhism and other religions. Wicca calls on the practitioner to act as their own priest(ess)/shaman, interacting directly with the spirit force sometimes in the form of a horned God and Goddess. [2] They are inclusive, many worship nature or at least hold a deep respect for the natural world, and many promote peace or seek to live in a peaceful manner. Wiccans do not accept or worship the Judeo-Christian devil as Wicca is not a Judeo-Christian religion and as such does not acknowledge the devil. Wicca is often referred to as an "earth based" religion and many Wiccan ceremonies use earth-centric symbolism.

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Wiccan Morality

Most Wiccans submit to two basic rules of morality; the Wiccan Rede and the Threefold Law. The Rede states: "And it harm none, do as you will," meaning that you may do what you like, so long as you do not offer harm to others or to yourself. The Threefold Law states that what you send out in both the mundane and magical planes will return to you, though not necessarily by three. The Rede has been criticized as license to do anything you want, however the Rede itself is a much more restricting rule than it first appears to be. Not harming anyone includes yourself, so behaviors such as unsafe sex, excessive drinking, drugs, reckless behavior, and even smoking are considered against the Rede as they harm the self.

Some Wiccans feel such a deep connection with nature that they refuse to consume animal products. Many Wiccans are vegetarian or vegan however there is no consensus among the Wiccan community and the requirement of abstaining from consuming meat is by no means universal. Virtually all Wiccans are, however, against cruelty to animals or needless destruction of a natural space, due in no small part to Wiccan beliefs.

Sex and sexuality is a fluid topic for Wiccans; Wicca itself provides no mandates about sex and no rules to follow beyond the basic Rede. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals often find acceptance among Wiccans and ideas of non-traditional relationships find root much more readily among Wiccan communities. Sex before marriage is not frowned upon and sex in general is often seen as a blessing.

While Wiccans do perform magic and use spells to attempt to change the world around them, doing so for express personal gain or to harm someone else is taboo. Attempting to solve ones problems with magic and ritual before exhausting mundane means is also strongly frowned upon and a Wiccan who engages in this on a regular basis will quickly find themselves pushed out of the greater Wiccan community. Along with that, an extreme importance is placed on free-will and the ability of the individual to make his/her own choices. Anything that impinges on that is not accepted by Wiccans; including preaching religious beliefs and use of ritual magic on someone without their knowledge or consent.

A term that crops up among Wiccans (and some Pagans) is "fluffy bunny." A fluffy bunny is a Wiccan who is new to Wicca and is lacking some of the more extended understanding that time spent participating in and studying Wicca brings and as such they tend to make over-arching statements of fact for which they have no backing for, make outrageous claims of what they do, wear large amounts of jewelry to identify as Wiccan, talk at length about the Burning Times, carry their Book of Shadows openly, and complain about Wiccans being oppressed. These individuals usually have a mercifully brief shelf life as eventually they get bored of the theatrics and move on to something else or they discover more about Wicca and become more serious. Many Wiccans began their lives in Wicca this way, though most are embarrassed to admit it.

Wiccans and Deities

Wiccans are almost always polytheistic, with some directing their devotion towards a manifestation of divinity called the Spirit or sometimes the Godhead. Most Wiccans are duotheistic worshipping the God and Goddess with no specific other religious ideology attached. Celtic deity names and ideas are often incorporated into Wiccan practices. Nearly all Wiccans, however, subscribe to the idea of Spirit being divided into two polarities, the male and the female. [3] The male polarity is the God, or the Green Man; the female polarity is the Goddess, whom herself is split into the three parts of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. They are also often called the Lord and Lady. They have been given so many names they have been called the Nameless Ones.[4]

Wiccan Holy Witch Days

Wiccans usually celebrate the eight Sabbats, They are also referred to collectively as Wheel of the Witches Year. [5], and the thirteen Esbats. The Sabbats follow the solar cycle, and are as follows:

  • Imbolc (Feb. 1)
  • Ostara (March 21)
  • Beltaine (May 1)
  • Midsummer Day (June 21, sometimes called Litha)
  • Lammas (Aug. 1, sometimes called Lughnasadh)
  • Mabon (Sept. 21)
  • Samhain (Oct. 31)
  • Yule (Dec. 21/22)

The esbats follow the lunar cycle, and are generally celebrated on the full moon.

The Four Elements

Wiccan worship is conducted in a circle (sometimes with a pentacle), and the participants call on the four traditionally greek elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth at the respective cardinal points of East, South, West, and North. Air and Fire are considered masculine elements, and Water and Earth are considered feminine. Air is generally represented by an athame or a sword, and stands for the east, the New moon, spring, the intellect, and new beginnings. Fire is represented by a wand or candle, and stands for the south, summer, the waxing moon, will, passion, and transformation. Water is represented by a chalice and stands for the west, the full moon, emotions, cleansing, and the season of fall. Earth is represented by the pentacle or a bowl of salt, and stands for winter, silence, death, the waning moon, and the practical matters of everyday living.

Wiccans and Ritual

The general procedure for a Wiccan ritual is as follows:

  • Cleansing of the sacred space with incense or water infused with protective herbs
  • Forming of the circle
  • Invoking the four quarters/elements
  • Invoking the Lord and Lady
  • Stating the intent of the ritual
  • Drawing down of sun/moon
  • Perform magical work
  • Cakes and Ale
  • Thank and release Deity
  • Thank and release quarters
  • Cleanup

This is not a hard and fast outline. The drawing down of the moon would generally only occur during an Esbat (see above), just as the drawing down of the sun would generally only occur during a Sabbat. A solitary performing a ritual, or a group performing a simpler ritual may opt not to do these things, just as they may opt not to invoke the ancestors or serve the Cakes and Ale.

Information on a ritual (and other parts of a Wiccan's religious life) are often contained in a Book of Shadows. Despite the ominous sounding name, a Book of Shadows is simply a book (although it can be a box) that contains information a particular individual wants to keep close, details of rituals, holiday information, drawings, notes, and anything else a person wants to keep in it. A Book of Shadows simply contains information about a Wiccan's practices.

Wiccans and the Use of Spells

Wicca as a religion does make use of magic and spells in it's practices. This is often differentiated by an alternate spelling of magic as "magick". This is to differentiate between the ritual magic performed by Wiccans and Pagans from the magic of illusions and card tricks. There is no universal agreement to the use of this term, it has been pointed out in the Wiccan community that a special spelling for magic seems more like a call for attention. Some individuals use "ritual magic" to differentiate between the magic of stage and of the circle.

Magic and spells are almost always performed in a ritual setting in Wicca; it isn't something done on-the-fly or with no preparation. The exact mechanics of magic are debated among Wiccans, but the general consensus is that ritual magic either redirects certain universal energies or curries favor with the gods for a specific effect. A cornerstone of this practice is not mis-using it. Using magic or spells to directly harm another person is as close to sacrilegious as it gets in Wicca and very few Wiccans would be willing to be party to a ritual for the purpose of harming someone else.

Spells are often written custom for the event however certain "canned" spells are available. There is a booming trade among less reputable book publishers in the selling of books with dubious collections of spells that are supposed to be used to do everything from getting the user great wealth to the ability to read minds. In practice, most Wiccans ignore these books or use them as examples of what not to do.

Wiccans and Evil Use of Curses

Although the central tenet of Wicca is the Wiccan Rede, which forbids practitioners from dabbling in the use of malevolent hexes, a significant amount of Wiccans are able to access incantations that inflict harm upon innocents. The following is an incantation that inflicts potent harm upon the intended individual,

"ON THIS NIGHT OF THE FULL MOON, I HEX THEE (say full name of intended) FROM THIS DAY FORTHI HEX THEE WITH (state what you curse them with) ON THIS NIGHT, ON THIS NEW MOON I INVOKE THYNE WILL TO BE DONE , TO ONLY BE UNDONE OF MINE OWN DESIRE AND WILL."[1]

While such materials are available to the Wiccan community, utilizing them to harm others is considered a taboo infringement on another person's free will and as such receives wide condemnation from the greater Wiccan community. Many of the curses and similar tools written up can be attributed to individuals that fall under the "fluffy bunny"[6] category.

Wiccan Symbolism

Wicca makes heavy use of symbols and symbolism in it's rituals and practices.

  • The Athame- The athame is a dull dagger or knife used to cut bonds of energy during rituals. It is symbolic of the masculine and never used to cut physical things, as such the blade is almost always dulled deliberately. The athame is also used as a symbol for air.
  • The Pentacle- The pentacle must be established as separate from a pentagram. A pentacle is a five pointed star within a circle with a single point of the star pointing up. A pentagram is the same symbol but inverted such that two points of the star are facing up. The pentacle is seen as a collection of elements; Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit, as well as a symbol of protection and identification. Many Wiccans as well as Pagans wear a pentacle. Pentacles are also considered a symbol for Earth.
  • The Chalice- The chalice or cup is a feminine symbol, representing the womb of a female. The chalice and athame are often paired to represent a duality and a balance. The chalice is also a symbol for water.
  • The Triquetra- The triquetra is often a symbol of a Celtic view of Wicca, consisting of several designs of different three cornered designs often inside a circle. The symbol is sometimes used to symbolize the three stages of woman (Maiden, Mother, and Crone) as well as something given to a lover, the three points promising to love, honor, and protect them. Other uses of the symbol are to represent things in triplicate, often gods or goddesses.
  • Wand- The wand is used to direct energy and to draw lines using energy. The wand is considered either fire or air.
  • Broom- Also referred to as a "besom", the broom is used to "sweep" away negative energies and to prepare a ritual space. It also is used in handfasting (marriage) rituals where the people to be married jump over the broom to clear themselves of negative energy.
  • Candles- Candles are used as a focal point for energy and to provide light for a ritual.

History of Wicca

Although there are elements of Wicca which date back to ancient times (the Sabbat fire festivals, for example), it does not tie to any particular religious practice from ancient times. Most aspects of Wicca are modern and were created in the last fifty years. Wicca was first popularized in England by Gerald Gardner after the repeal of Britain's laws banning Witchcraft and Black Magic. These attitudes are still adhered to by those who follow his religion in the form in which he created it, who are known as 'Gardnerians'. Nowadays, there are many forms of Wicca, including Alexandrian, Dianic, Druidic, Corellian, Stregha (Italian witchcraft), Faery, and many others. There are also many Solitary and Eclectic practitioners, who follow no set tradition at all but through practice create their own.

Basis in History

A minority of Wiccans claim their beliefs can be traced back to an ancient religion, however the mainstream Wiccans understand that Wicca, as it sits today, was a creation of the modern age. Even though the specifics of Wicca are fairly recent, many of the ideas and some of the practices and symbolism within Wicca can be traced back to religions before Christianity and sometimes before recorded history. This is why Wicca has been called a new expression of old ideas.

References

  1. Merriam-Webster -Wicca
  2. FAQs about Wicca that people ask, Religioustolerance.org
  3. Wicca for One by Raymond Buckland, page 28
  4. Wicca a Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham, page 11
  5. Wicca for One by Raymond Buckland, page 104
  6. http://www.soulrebels.com/beth/fluffy.html

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