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By Paige Lysaght

Religion 100

EXPLORING WICCA
"When one defines oneself as Pagan, it means she or he follows
an earth or nature religion, one that sees the divine manifest in all
creation. The cycles of nature are our holy days, the earth is our
temple, its plants and creatures our partners and teachers. We
worship a deity that is both male and female, a mother Goddess
and father God, who together created all that is, was, or will be.
We respect life, cherish the free will of sentient beings, and accept
the sacredness of all creation."

-Edain McCoy
The Basics
Origins

 The modern form of Wicca was founded in 1954


by Gerald B. Gardner, a British civil servant who
published a number of books on the subject.
Though it is still considered a new religion, many
of its traditions and practices are drawn from the
Old Religion (pre-Christianity paganism).
Additionally, Wicca falls under the umbrella
category of Neo-Paganism, which includes a
number of other recent religious movements.
Demographics

 It is difficult to determine how many Wiccan


followers there are, as many practice in
private or do not draw attention to their
beliefs.
 It is estimated that there are 1-3 million
followers, with the highest concentrations in
the United States, United Kingdom, and
Canada.
Organizational Structure

 Wicca is not a particularly structured religion.


Many Wiccans, known as “solitaries,” practice
alone, and thus are in complete control of the
way they practice and do much of their learning
through personal research. Although they may
do the majority of their work alone, they may
still become involved in community events.
Other Wiccans are members of “covens.” They
interact directly with other members of The
Craft, and thus are able to learn on a one-on-one
basis. Regardless of which method is selected, it
tends to be fairly informal.
Beliefs
 There is no distinct set of beliefs in the
Wiccan religion. It is frequently adapted to
suit personal ideals and lifestyles, and there is
no single official doctrine that dictates how
one should behave. However, certain aspects
are consistently practiced and can generally
be attributed to Wicca.
Nature

 Wiccans act with


appreciation and
reverence towards
nature, searching for
the divinity in all
things.
 Wiccans learn from
nature, and honor the
different cycles of the
sun, moon, and
seasons.
The Wiccan Rede
 Wiccans follow
the Wiccan Rede,
which states “An
ye harm none, do
what ye will.” It is
a strong
guidepost for
daily life, rituals,
and spellcasting.
The Threefold Law

 Some Wiccans acknowledge the “Threefold Law,”


which states that a person’s deeds will return to
him or her three times over.
Reincarnation

 Though this isn’t always the case, many


Wiccans believe in reincarnation. They do not
accept the heaven/hell theory. Instead, some
believe that souls are only reborn until they
have learned all of life’s lessons, after which
they go to the Summerlands, a place of
eternal rest. Others believe the soul is
constantly reborn. Still others do not believe
in reincarnation at all.
Divine Beings
 Most Wiccans worship two major deities,
a Goddess and a God. They believe that
these figures are equally balanced, and
that the spirit of these figures is embodied
in everything that exists. Some Wiccans
worship individual gods and goddesses as
well, but it’s up to the individual.
Essentially…
“There is a single power defined as the One or All,
which is composed of everything it has ever
created. This supreme energy force does not rule
over the Universe, it IS the Universe. Since most
find it difficult to talk to or call upon a faceless
mass of Divine energy, this supreme power is
personified into male and female aspects as the
Goddess and God.”
–Wicca.com
The Goddess
 The Goddess is celebrated in three forms (reflecting
three stages of life): The Maiden, The Mother, and The
Crone.
 Each form is regarded as equally valuable.
 The Maiden represents innocence and
adventurousness.
 The Mother represents compassionate love.
 The Crone represents wisdom.
 Each stage of the Goddess also corresponds with a
phase of the moon—waxing, full, and waning.
The God

 This figure is known under other names, such


as “The Great God,” “The Great Father,” and
“The Horned God.”
 He is often symbolized as a man with horns or
antlers.
 This masculine force is seen as a symbol of
fertility and nature.
Creation or Evolution?

 There is no set theory that Wiccans


are expected to follow, and most are
fairly open-minded about the subject.
Some followers are more inclined to
believe in evolution, while others
subscribe to one of various creation
myths. The most popular is as
follows…
 The Spirit created the universe out of
nothingness, and with it a Great Goddess.
The Goddess proceeded to create all
nature and placed within it a rhythmic
dance so that it could continue to move
forth on its own. The Spirit then created a
companion for the Goddess, and she and
this God gave birth to all life together.
Sacred Texts

 Wiccans do not have a single sacred text. They


have several books that they may use for
reference (such as the works of Gerald Gardner),
but these books hold more historical significance
than modern function. However, Wiccans do
create their own spiritual books, known as a Book
of Shadows, and incorporate them in their worship
practices.
Contents of a Book of
Shadows
 There are no specific guidelines regarding
what goes into one’s Book of Shadows.
 They are typically looked at as a magickal
journal, including significant writings and
information, spells and rituals, dream
interpretations, and so forth.
 Generally each witch has his or her own book,
but covens may create one which is utilized
by the entire group as well.
Sacred Spaces

 Most Wiccans create an altar, which is a


personal sacred space. The altar frequently
changes—for rituals, for sabbats, and for life.
There are no strict rules for what goes on the
altar—instead, altars are tailored to meet the
needs of their creators. However, certain
tools show up frequently…
 Altar Cloth: a piece of fabric used to  Chalice: used in rituals to hold certain
cover the altar. spirits (usually wine).
 Athame: a ceremonial knife used for  Crystals: used for healing, divination,
directing energy. and rituals.
 Bell: used in rituals to signal  Divination Tools: including runes,
beginnings and endings. tarot cards, pendulums, etc.
 Besom: essentially a broomstick,  God/Goddess Statues: used to
used to sweep away negative symbolize each deity.
energies.  Pentagram: a star encased in a circle
 Book of Shadows: the magickal used to represent the elements.
journal, frequently used in making  Scrying Mirror: a dark colored mirror
notes during rituals. used for divination.
 Candles: used to represent the God  Wand: used for directing energy
and Goddess, and sometimes the five during spells and rituals.
elements as well.
 Cauldron: utilized in a number of
rituals and serving many purposes
(scrying, burning, mixing), the
cauldron is also a representation of
the Goddess.
Possible Altar Set-Up
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/spiritwolf/altar_and_tools.htm
Other Examples

http://www.sacredsource.com/altars0307.html
Celebrations
The Eight Sabbats

 Wiccans
traditionally
recognize eight
holidays. They
correspond with
different
seasonal
changes, and are
celebrated in a
variety of ways.
Imbolc
February 2nd
 A celebration of the beginning of Spring, this
holiday celebrates a time of growth and
renewal.
 This date is often recognized through spring
cleaning, exploring outdoors for signs of the
warm weather to come, and the lighting of
candles to acknowledge the return of the sun.
Ostara
March 21st
 Ostara is a celebration of the Spring
equinox—of growth, renewal, and fertility.
 Eggs are considered a fertility symbol and are
incorporated into rituals. The coloring of what
are now know as Easter eggs was developed.
 This holiday is celebrated through planting of
gardens, enjoying the outdoors, and utilizing
bright colors.
Beltane
April 30th
 Beltane is a celebration of love, fertility, and
self-discovery. Most of the rituals happen
during daylight hours.
 Some “May Day” traditions developed from
this holiday (such as the May Pole).
 It is a common time for Handfasting
(marriage) ceremonies in pagan culture.
Litha
June 21st
 Opposite of Yule, this holiday celebrates the
longest day of the year. It is also known as
Midsummer Night’s Eve.
 It is a time to recognize masculine energy, as
it is a celebration of the Sun God’s time of
great strength.
 Bon fires are often burned throughout the
night, and may be accompanied by dancing
and/or chanting.
Lammas
July 31st
 Lammas (also known as Lughnasadh) marks
the beginning of the first harvest. I
 It is a time to reap the rewards of summer
work, and to acknowledge the coming of fall.
 Because this is a time of harvesting grain,
those celebrating often bake bread to eat and
include in rituals.
Mabon
September 21st
 Mabon is known as the second harvest
festival, and is celebrated on the fall equinox.
 It is a time to recognize equality and balance,
to give back to the earth a portion of what
was created during the harvest, and to enjoy
what was created.
Samhain
October 31st
 Known as the Pagan New Year, it symbolically
represents rebirth through death.
 It is a time to recognize the spirits of family
and friends who have passed away.
 It is celebrated at sunset. Many modern
Halloween traditions are based on Pagan
rituals.
Yule
December 21st
 A celebration of the longest night of the year,
Yule is a time to notice the decline of winter.
 It is also a time of planning for the future.
 Many old pagan traditions have been
incorporated into Christmas celebrations,
such as the symbolic Christmas tree, and the
Yule log.
Lifestyles
Wicca and Human Nature

 Unlike many other religions, Wiccans generally


don’t believe that they are here to complete
certain tasks to please or prove something to
their Creator. Instead, Wiccans try to live good
and fulfilling lives, keeping close in mind the
Wiccan Rede and the Threefold Law, and still
honoring the God and Goddess.
 Wiccans believe that while humans may make
mistakes, that is only in our nature. Therefore,
we should learn from these errors.
Sin and Suffering

 The Wiccan view of sin is significantly


different from the Christian viewpoint.
 They do not support the idea of original sin.
 Wiccans believe that sin is generally the result of
an imbalance between one’s self and nature.
 Unlike most Christians, Wiccans believe that an
individual is born innocent, and then may be hurt
by circumstances or conditions that cause the
imbalance, resulting in harm to one’s self or to
others.
The Wiccan Mindset

 Overall, Wiccans tend to be fairly open-


minded about most “controversial” topics.
They are incredibly accepting of
homosexuals, celebrate women’s rights, and
feel abortion is a personal decision. For the
most part, they stick to their idea of “harm
none.” How each individual interprets this
idea varies.
Are Wiccans Satanists?

 No. Wicca is a peaceful religion that focuses


on nature and the divinity in all things.
Wiccans do not believe in an all-evil being,
like the Satan of Christianity. Additionally,
they abide by the “Harm None” mindset that
is embedded in their religion. In no way are
they affiliated with Satan or Satanists.
Sources
 “Pagan Theologies: A Wiccan Perspective on Good and Evil.” 12 October 2007.
<http://pagantheologies.pbwiki.com/A-Wiccan-perspective-on-good-and-evil>.
 This insider blog offers an interesting (and well researched) summary of Wiccan ideas of good and evil in a
Wikipedia-esque format. The article covers both historical and spiritual aspects, and also discusses the subject
in relation to other religious traditions. Resources are listed at the bottom and can be easily used for further
research.
 “Religion Facts—Neopaganism.” 8 September 2007.
<http://www.religionfacts.com/neopaganism/index.htm>.
 Religious Facts is an outsider website that covers a number of religions, including Wicca and other branches of
paganism. The site’s factual nature is helpful, and it offers a nice comparison chart between Wicca and
Christianity.
 “Wicca.” 14 September 2007.
<http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/wicca.html>.
 This resource is part of a University of Virginia project. The information is extensive (if not a bit difficult to
read because of the length), and it offers several other Wicca-related links as well. It covers many topics,
including history, beliefs, and controversies.
 “Wicca—a Neopagan earth-centered religion.” 10 September 2007.
<http://www.religioustolerance.org/witchcra.htm>.
 Religious Tolerance has sections on many different religions. The Wicca section offers information on the
history of the religion, modern-day Wicca, frequently asked questions, terminology, and Wicca’s relationship
with Christianity. The essays are informative and diverse. It is a very solid resource.
 “Silver Wolf’s Lair.” 20 September 2007.
<http://homepage.ntlworld.com/spiritwolf/our_path.htm>.
 This insider site is a personal website created by two individuals who practice Wicca. It has a wealth of
information, covering ritual practices, sabbats, magick, basic information, and Wiccan lifestyles. The site is
surprisingly extensive, and can answer a majority of questions on the religion.