What is Wicca?

Wicca is…

Many people, including some witches, use the term White Witchcraft, and what they are usually referring to is Wicca. Witchcraft is one of those terms that is used of a spectrum of beliefs. It is often wrongly thought that everyone who uses the term witchcraft is into ‘Black Magic’ or Satanism. This is not true! There is a major difference between what is commonly called ‘White witchcraft’ or Wicca and ‘Black witchcraft’ or Satanism.

One problem in the past has been the apparent secrecy that has surrounded Wiccan beliefs and practices. Scott Cunningham who has practised Wicca for over 20 years says,

“Until recently, the lack of public information concerning Wicca and Its apparent exclusivity has caused much frustration among interested students.” – Wicca A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, 1988, p.xv.

 

Whether there is secrecy or not, it is very important that we seek to understand what these people believe and not accuse them of all sorts of horrors that are totally unfounded. For instance we should know that Wiccans are not the “enemy” of the church and do not attack Christians or desecrate churches. However, we will seek to show in this article that there is an opening to the supernatural evil and so we must sound a warning bell but, at the same time, not malign the people we refer to.

Like Christianity, witchcraft has many ‘denominations’. Explanations given by ‘one camp’ are not always accepted by another. Wicca for instance is defined by many as being the old pagan religion of Britain coming from an Anglo-Saxon word, wicce, meaning ‘the craft of the wise.’ Others say the original word meant ‘wicked’. This variety can also be understood, when we realise that they do not claim to lead the way to one true Deity, therefore differing beliefs can easily form.

Kevin Logan describes Wicca in the following way,

“This form of witchcraft is a religion of the earth. The worshippers prefer to be known as followers of Wicca; the wise ones who revere the natural life-force. They reject the Christian God wom they describe as ‘a Father God standing outside everything and everyone. They prefer to personify the life-force as male and female, known variously as the God and Goddess, Lord and Lady, the Horned God and the Silver Lady among others. The female is always dominant as a Mother Earth concept, making witchcraft the matriarchal religion. They still retain animism, a belief which assigns a divine spark or spirit to every material thing.” – Paganism and the Occult, pp.86/87.

As Kevin says Wiccans regard themselves as a religion with as much right to worship their way as any Christian group. They also feel that what they have to offer is appealing to many in today’s spiritual climate.

“Many are searching for a personally-involving religion, one which celebrates both physical and spiritual realities, in which attunement with deity is coupled with the practice of magic. Wicca is just such a religion, centering around reverence for nature as seen in the Goddess and the God. Its spiritual roots in antiquity, acceptance of magic and mysterious nature have made it particularly appealing.” – Wicca A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, 1988, p.xv.

Traditionally, Wiccans do not seek to overtly recruit new members although that seems to be changing with new technology available, such as the Internet.

It is difficult to say how many Wiccans there are in Britain today as there are no accurate records. Some conservative estimates would put it at 50,000 but when all that lean towards the belief are taken into consideration it is probably nearer 500,000.

History and Development

There are many today in what is known as Hereditary Craft or Traditional Craft who believe that their practices are much older than the modern revival, as their knowledge has been passed down through many generations. Claims of being the oldest religion are not uncommon.

However, many place the modern revival of Wicca in 1949, with the publishing of a novel about the craft called, High Magic’s Aid. The pen name used by the author was ‘Scire’; his real name being Gerald Gardner [1884-1964], an active Freemason. With the replacing of the 1736 Witchcraft Act by the 1951 Fraudulent Medium Act, meaning witchcraft was no longer a crime, Gardner was able to follow this with two non-fiction works in his own name, entitled Witchcraft Today and The Meaning of Witchcraft.

“Gardner maintained that he had been initiated into a witch cult whose origins went back into prehistory – the New Forest Coven – in the late 1930s” – The Illustrated Guide to Witchcraft, Tony & Aileen Grist, 2000, p.10.

Gardner did not mind being called a witch, a title very acceptable today but not in the 1950’s. He spoke openly about the ‘craft’ and opened a museum in the Isle of Man.

Some other main ‘denominations’ of witchcraft include the Alexandrian, followers of Alex Sanders heralded by the popular press as ‘King of the Witches.’ Sanders was the leader of a coven near Manchester and some describe his brand as more ‘high church’ than those who followed Gardner.

Another group is known as Dianic, followers not so much of a person but of the desire for feminism. Christopher Partridge, Professor of Contemporary Religion at University College, Chester says of this,

“A particular focused form of the Feminist Craft is Dianic witchcraft, which was developed in the United States by the Hungarian-born witch Zsuzsanna Budapest and Morgan McFarland. While, generally speaking, Wiccans (even feminist Wiccans) worship the God and also the Goddess, Dianic covens tend to focus solely on the Goddess. Furthermore, the strong matriarchal focus of the Dianic Craft has led many covens to exclude men and restrict their worship to females only.” – Encyclopaedia of New Religions, 2004, p.297.

Traditionally, witches met in covens of 13 people. However, many groups today are less than this number. Indeed there are some who follow what is known as ‘Hedge Witchcraft,’ who do not meet in covens at all but work on their own

Ceremony

Wicca is full of ritual ceremonies seeking to release power for one act or another. In many ways Witchcraft can be summed up by the word ‘power.’ The individual witch wants to be at one with the power of the earth and then channel and use it. There is even ‘The Law of Power.’

1. The Power shall not be used to bring harm to injure or control others. But if the need rises, the Power shall be used to protect your life or the lives of others.

2. The Power is used only as need dictates.

3. The Power can be used for your own gain, as long as by doing so you harm none.

4. It is unwise to accept money for use of the Power, for it controls its taker. Be not as those of other religions.

5. Use not the Power for prideful gain, for such cheapens the mysteries of Wicca and magic.

6. Ever remember that the Power is the sacred gift of the Goddess and God, and should never be misused or abused.

7. And this is the Law of the Power.

Although the goddesses and gods are present everywhere, most would find or create a ‘sacred space’ specifically for the purpose they have in mind. This is usually an enclosed space, such as a ring of stones or cave. There are many scared shrines that Wiccans and Pagans have been using for years. Sometimes they will want to use church buildings etc., because it is claimed that they have been built on pagan shrines.

In some ceremonies a Wiccan Circle is created. It is not a physical circle but one created by a special ritual. The circle or enclosure concentrates the power, the friendly energy, and at the same time keeps out hostile energy.

In their seeking to contact the various deities, and their powers, Wiccans will use, amongst other things, a mixture of dance, music, visualisation, chanting and meditation.

Books of rituals and spells can be purchased for individuals or groups to use, in order to put them in touch with their specific deities, and for whatever specific purpose they are looking for.

Wiccans would also use a number of ceremonial tools, these include:

Brooms which are still used in some ceremonies – not to fly on – but as an instrument of purification or protection.

Wand as an instrument of invocation to the deity.

Cauldron which is often at the centre of a ritual as it is a symbol of the Goddess.

Athame is a knife which is not used for cutting but for directing the energy that is raised during a particular spell.

Pentacle is often seen as an instrument of protection and is sometimes used to summon the deity.

Belief

There is no overall system of belief, with many traditions from different parts of the world, for instance, native American, aboriginal, shamanism. Most witches feel they should be free to choose their own path as they all lead in the same direction.

This means that ‘experience’ is often more important than ‘dogma’. In Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler writes:

By creating our own divinities we create mental steps for ourselves, up which we can mount toward realizing ourselves as divine . . . The lack of dogma in the Craft, the fact that one can ‘worship’ the Goddess without ‘believing’ in Her, that one can accept the Goddess as “Muse” and the Craft as a form of ancient knowledge to be tested by experience – these are precisely the things that have caused the Craft to survive, to revive, and to be re-created in this century. – p.173.

However, there are normally some basic beliefs, that most Wiccans would hold, to one degree or another, although not necessarily agreeing on every little aspect.

Living Earth

Most Wiccans would believe that the earth is our ‘mother’ and is a living being.

Goddesses and Gods

For most in Wicca, the deity is both male and female, with the majority worshipping the female. For some this does not mean they believe in a literal god or goddess, but that they are personifications of natural forces. What most would see though is that their worship encompasses all other types of worship of deities.

“The concept of this power, far beyond our comprehension, has nearly been lost in Wicca because of our difficulty in relating to it. However, Wiccans link with this force through their deities. In accordance with the principles of nature, the supreme power was personified into two basic beings: the Goddess and the God. Every deity that has received worship upon this planet exists with the archetypal God and Goddess. The complex pantheons of deities which arose in many parts of the world are simply aspects of the two. Every Goddess is resident within the concept of the Goddess; every God in the God. Wicca reveres these twin deities because of its links with nature. Since most (but certainly not all) nature is divided into gender, the deities embodying it are similarly conceived.” – Wicca A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, 1988, p.9.

Pantheism

The goddess or god of Wicca is not the personal God of the Bible, but rather a power that is everywhere and in everything within the universe. Many would say that the first place to look for the deity is within your own heart.

Reincarnation

As with most new age belief systems, Wiccans accept reincarnation as the way ahead. However, they do not teach that you can come back as animal, vegetable or mineral, as in eastern philosophy, but only as a human.

The purpose of reincarnation is to give time for the soul to be perfected, which can never be accomplished in one lifetime. The future life is determined by what you did in this life (karma).

The body dies but the soul lives on and continues its journey towards… – well that might be different for each Wiccan – but it would be some sort of ‘nice place’.

Magic Power

As already stated Wicca is to do with harnessing and releasing magic power. Ceremonies are geared towards ‘tapping into’ this power; although many when asked about the power have no knowledge of really where it comes from.

“Magic is the practice of moving natural (though little-understood) energies to effect needed change. In Wicca, magic is used as a tool to sanctify ritual areas, to improve ourselves and the world in which we live” – Wicca A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, 1988, p.6.

Moral Code

Most Wiccans have a simple moral code that says, “Do what you want, as long as you harm none.” Known as The Rede this is very similar to Alisteir Crowley’s, “Do what thou wilt is the whole of the law,” however, this did not have the rider “…harm none.” No true Wiccan would have anything to do with ‘Black Magic’, and even spells cast to help others without their consent is frowned upon by many.

Wiccans believe in “The Law of Cause and Effect”; every act has a consequence and so whatever you do will effect you; thus if you do something bad it will have a negative effect on you in some way or another.

The Devil

To most in Wicca, there is no personification of evil called the Devil. The ‘Principles of Wiccan Beliefs’ states,

We do not accept the concept of ‘absolute evil,’ nor do we worship any entity known as ‘Satan’ or ‘The Devil’ as defined by the Christian tradition.

Practice

The festivals of Wicca are geared mainly towards the seasons, and each festival would have its own celebration and meaning. The Wiccan calendar celebrates 13 Full Moons and 8 Sabbats or ‘days of power’. The names of these evenings differ depending on the tradition followed. These celebrations are not always on the exact same day but are around the dates below. There are many Wicca calendars available to help people to work out when they should celebrate

2 February – Imbolc or Candlemas – celebrating the strengthening of the light

20 March – Spring Equinox – Eostre or Ostara – fertility and new life

30 April – Beltane or Walpurgis Night – a time for new projects and untried activities

20 June – Summer Solstice – Litha – a time of perfection but at the same time sadness as days will start getting short again

1 August – Lughnasadh or Lammas Day – time of growth and change and a time for introspection

22 September – Autumn Equinox – Mabon – a time for reflection on the transience of life.

31 October – Samhain or Halloween – originally it kept people’s spirits up during the winter months

21 December – Winter Solstice – Yule – festival of lights and feasting

Conclusions

We will conclude this article by comparing what we have seen above about Wicca, with mainstream Christianity. Is it worshipping the same ‘God’ or are there differences which we need to be aware of. Even though most participants are genuine in their belief, are there any potential dangers?

Where does the power come from?

Asking such a question is easy; getting a clear answer is not. In all the years I have been asking it there has hardly ever been a decisive answer, mainly because most do not actually know where the power comes from.

The person who says they do not know, but it works, is being irresponsible. They are allowing a power/force to be unleashed on someone, yet do not know where it comes from, and therefore have no idea how it will act.

To others, that would indicate that it is a supernatural power, it means the power is greater than the natural man. As such, although we feel at first we are in control, in reality it will be in control of us, whenever it wishes. Again the obvious danger can be seen for someone who does not know how to approach and manage such forces.

A third very interesting answer that is given, especially if you ask what is the difference between ‘white’ and ‘black’ Witchcraft, is that there is really only one source of the power, but it can be manipulated one way or the other. This thinking is illustrated in the Star Wars films in which Luke Skywalker served the ‘light side’, and Darth Vader the ‘dark side’ of the same force.

This is a perfect illustration of the shortcoming of this belief, especially when compared with God’s Power (The Holy Spirit). If the power can be manipulated you can never fully trust it and you will never know when it will turn on you and ‘go wrong’. Compare this with God’s Holy Spirit that can be totally trusted and will always have the best interests of the people at heart, not a desire to rule and dominate.

What are they worshipping – Creator or creation

By very definition, in this article, we see that the Wiccan, albeit genuinely, is worshipping the creation. The God of the Bible is shown to have created the very things they worship. Why should I be content with the creation when I can know the Creator?

There is an order in creation, for instance the very cycles of the seasons that they worship, clearly shows the hand of a Creator, and yet a Wiccan is content with the lesser.

Wiccans and Pagans will often say that their religion is older than Christianity; what they actual mean is that their rituals were being celebrated before Jesus Christ came to earth. However, Christ did not come to create something completely new; He completed and fulfilled the ‘old’. There is nothing before Christianity because it goes back before time began; before the earth, moon and sun that are worshipped in Wicca were formed.

If we want the oldest form of worship then we need to look at the God of the Bible not the goddess of Wicca.

The Danger

In most parts of the Western world we are still free to choose which belief we want to follow, but are there any hidden dangers in following the way of Wicca? Even if the Wiccan knows where the power comes from, they do not know where it will lead. Only a fool would set out to cross a desert without a compass, or seek to find a small hamlet in an unknown land without a map. Following a power that you do not know where it is going is just as foolish.

If it is a supernatural power, then this must emanate from a supernatural entity, but can it be the God of the Bible? When you read, in the Bible, that He warns about such practices as Witchcraft, it is clear that He is not involved in such acts; this means that the supernatural power is not of God and not of that which is good; consequently, we are only left with one alternative, which is that it is potentially dangerous.

Finally, remember that the force can be manipulated and so allowing the force to effect you, can cause you to end up in several places, and there is no assurance of where that will be. Also, the fact that the force appears to be ‘good’ today gives you no assurance that it will not be ‘bad’ and ‘dark’ tomorrow.

This is the danger. There is no clear knowledge of where the power comes from or where it will lead. There is no certainty that reincarnation will lead to that ‘nice place’ (see separate article). However when we look at God’s Holy Spirit we find that we cannot manipulate Him; we know where we are; we know where we are going; and we can trust Him. We have security, hope and safety – none of which is found within Witchcraft.

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