The Wiccan Religion Rough Draft Mikki Dandreano September 3rd, 2010 Wicca is a common and older name for witchcraft; the term witchcraft has been defined in many different ways – in past times it was mostly referred to as a human harnessing of supernatural powers for the purpose of practicing black magic. For this reason, magic, witchcraft and sorcery has been associated with Satanism. Not all withes worship Satan; in fact most of them do not have a belief in Satan – nor is there a belief in hell, original sin or evil.
During the Middle Ages, witchcraft experienced a huge revival. The supernatural world became very popular. If someone wanted to become a witch, there was an initiation process; the first would be that the witch must join of their own free will and the second requirement was that the prospective witch must be willing to worship the devil – Modern day witches are typically not Satan worshipers. Wicca is considered a New Age Movement, and with that Wiccans do not believe and accept that there is good or evil, they say that there are only forces that must be balanced.
Most Wiccans support a neo-tolerance for politics, meaning that there is no absolute truth, what is true for one many not be true for another, so everything is true – just pick one. They are also strong supporters of women’s rights and matriarchy, sexual freedom; including polyandry, non-monogamy, homosexuality, and sexual activity among the teenage community. In the past few years there have been lawsuits filed by Pagans against things such as ‘In God We Trust, student led prayer, Christian symbols (such as the Cross), The Ten Commandments in many cities.
Many Wiccans are active in getting schools to teach Wiccan holidays, like the Winter Solstice and Halloween, to honor pagan elements such as Earth day and Pagan symbolism. The United Nations are trying to introduce pagan earth worship into the schools by promoting Earth Charter in education; this is a document that contains much pagan doctrine and tradition. The start of modern witchcraft began with Gerald Gardner (1884 – 1964); he was an archaeologist and had accumulated an extensive occult background.
While Gardner was in Southeast Asia, he learned of secrets of the Malaysian magical knife and became a nudist and a Mason. In 1930, he returned to England as an avid occultist and became a member of the Corona Fellowship of Rosicrucian’s; this is where he met Dorothy Clutterbuck; Dorothy initiated Gardner into witchcraft. There seems to be a general agreement that Wicca first became a mass movement in recent times in England during the 1950’s with the publishing of books by Gerald Gardner and has expanded at an extreme rate through Europe and North America.
Wicca is one of the largest of the minority religions in the United States – there are no real estimated numbers of the Wiccans in this country but the best estimate is over 750,000, which would make Wicca about the fifth largest organized religion in the United States; following Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism. The Wiccan religion is almost unknown by the general public because almost all Wiccans hide their beliefs and practices. The few Wiccans that decide to let their religion be known are normally heavily persecuted; on a per-capita basis, they are thought to be victimized more often than members of any other religious groups.
In 1999, there were several attacks on Wicca and other Neopagan religions by leading political figures; including Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) and Governor George W Bush (R_TX_ over the religious rights of Wiccan soldiers at Ft. Hood, Texas – they were joined by over a dozen Fundamentalist Christian groups. After the known attacks in 1999 against the Wiccan community, the religion has somewhat come “out of the closet” to reveal their faith in a more open manner. To totally understand Wicca, you must first know the ways, laws, and powers of a witch; one who practices Wicca is called a witch, and this is referred to as a man or a woman.
Wicca is actually a beautiful nature and goddess focused religion. The Wiccans have something known as the “Wiccan Ways”. They are basically saying that they will seek out wisdom in books, poems and texts but to also look at nature, as this is where all the old secrets are preserved. They feel that while books contain words, trees contain energy and wisdoms that books could never hold. They feel that one should be like a “river willow tree”; meaning that they should evolve so they can grow and shine; Wiccans will not mock rituals or spells of another, because they do not believe they are greater in wisdom or power.
One should always make sure their actions are honorable because everything they do will return in thrice fold – bad or good. Wiccans honor everything that is living – life of all things should be saved to preserve your own life. The Wiccan power is not to be used to bring harm to anyone, to control or injure others; but if the need should arise, the power will be used to protect their life or the lives of others. Their powers are used only as need dictates and can be used for one’s own gain, as long as they harm no one in the process.
Wiccans feel they should not accept money for the use of their power because by doing so it will take control and they will become like other religions. Most of all, they remember that their powers are a gift from the Goddess and God and shouldn’t be misused and abused. WICCAN SABBATS The Wiccan, Pagan and Witchcraft year runs from October 31st through October 30th. Following the Wiccan year, they have many holidays’ they celebrate and pay tribute to. Samhain Lore, on October 31st, translates into “End of Summer” and is the final harvest of the year.
This is a magical interval when laws of space and time are suspended and the thin veil between worlds is lifted. This is a great time for communication with departed loved ones; it is a time to study the Dark Mysteries and honor the Dark Mother and Father. In older times, the Feast of the Dead was celebrated by leaving food at altars and doorsteps for the dead. Many practioners of Wicca still follow this tradition – candles are lit and left in windows so souls can be guided home, apples are buried along the roads and paths for spirits who are lost and have no one to provide for them, extra chairs are set at dining tables for unseen guests.
In older days, traveling after the sunset was not advised at all because the “wee folk” became active, pulling pranks on people. To fool the spirits people dressed up as ghosts and dressed in clothing of the opposite gender. On February 2nd, Imbolc Lore is celebrated. At this point in the year, herd animals have either given birth to offspring or they are about to give birth. This is a time of blessing of the seeds and of agricultural tools, the center point of the dark half of the year has arrived.
Imbolc is a festival for the Maiden, from February 2 to March 21; this is her season to prepare for renewal and growth. Straw Beideo’gas (corn dolls) are created from wheat or oat straw and placed in baskets; young girls carry the dolls from door to door, gifts are given to the image of the doll from each house. Candles are lit and placed into each room of the house; this honors the rebirth of the Sun. April 30th or May 1st begins Beltane, also known as May Day or Roodmas. This holiday is celebrated with rituals and feasts and is one of the eight solar Sabbats.
As summer begins and the plants start to bloom and blossom, the mood of the people start to lighten. In Celtic times, this was a time of unabashed sexuality and promiscuity where marriages of a year and a day could be undertaken; however this is not observed in this way in our times. (Celtic Connection, The, Herne) Lughnasadh begins on July 31st, and means the funeral games of Lugh. This day honors the Tailtean marriages and coincides with the first gathering of harvests. As autumn begins, the Sun God is entering his old age but is not yet dead.
The God symbolically will lose strength as the Sun rises further in the south each day and the nights begin to be longer. The Christian’s adopted this theme and called it Lammas, which means loaf mass, a time when baked loaves of bread are placed on the altar. December 31st is Yule lore and is when the dark half of the year begins turning itself over to the light half. On January 1st, the Sun will start to climb a little higher in the sky and stay a little longer. This is known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year. Bonfires are lit and crops and trees were toasted with spiced cider.
The Yule log is the highlight of this festival; the log must have been harvested from a householder’s land or given as a gift – one cannot buy one. Once the log is brought into the home and placed in a fireplace, it is decorated with greenery, covered with a cider or ale, and dusted with flour before it is set on fire. The log then burns throughout the night and smolders for 12 days after before it is put out ceremonially. (YULE, Akasha) Ostrara begins on March 21st and is also known as the spring or Vernal Equinox, or Lady Day.
Spring reaches its midpoint – day and night are in perfect balance. A young Sun God celebrates a sacred marriage with the young Maiden Goddess who will conceive. In nine months, the young Maiden will become the Great Mother and at this time, there will be newborn animals and new plant growth. The next full moon is called the Ostara and is sacred to the Saxon Lunar Goddess of fertility. Christian’s adopted this as Easter, which is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon follows the vernal equinox. June 21st, begins the summer solstice or Litha.
This holiday is the opposite of Yule. This is the longest day of the year; life and light are plenty. During mid-summer, the Sun God has reached the moment of his greatest strength; he is lord of the forests and his face is seen in church architecture peering from countless foliate masks. The Christian religion turned this day of Jack-in-the-Green to the Feast of St. John the Baptist; portraying St. John in a rustic attire, sometimes with cloven feet and horns. September 21st, is the Mabon, or the Autumn Equinox.
This divides night and day equally; people take a moment to respect the darkness that is impending. There are thanks given to the sunlight as people begin to store their harvests of the year’s crops. Offerings of ciders, herbs, wines and fertilizers were appropriate. Wiccans celebrate the aging Goddess as she passes from Mother to Crone and her consort the God as he prepares for a death and a rebirth. There are many other names for this holiday because it is a lesser Wiccan Sabbat; some of the names are The Second Harvest Festival, Feast of Avalon or Cornucopia.
At this festival, it is appropriate to wear your best clothing and dine to celebrate with lavish and beautiful settings. WICCAN SYMBOLS Some of the Occult symbols are quickly replacing Christian symbols in modern society. Many of the symbols have several meanings. There are four categories of symbols associated with Wiccans and witchcraft; the four are items used in Wiccan practice, things historically associated with Wicca, Symbols adopted by witches and symbols of Goddesses and Gods. The Pentacle is by far, the most distinctive and basic of the Wiccan symbols.
It is often mistaken as a satanic icon, but it can’t be mistaken as belonging to other religions and deities. The Chalice or Cauldron, Anthame and the wand are primary tools of a witch; however many Wiccan’s have these items as well. The Anthame is a ritual knife, and is a basic altar tool- they are traditionally black handled, they live in the East, which is the direction that represents discernment, beginnings, thought and choices. The anthame represents an ability to make distinctions and to separate things.
For Wiccan’s this knife is not used to cut anything, it is used more to direct a magical energy; in some traditions a white handled knife, which is a working knife, is used for cutting. Bats have become Wiccan symbols because they are a product of night and they maneuver without normal senses; the bat also holds a shamanic totem in Native American culture; this could be a reason Wiccan’s adopted this as a symbol. The body is also a symbol; a naked person standing under the moon or while circling a fire is known to the Wiccan world as Skyclad.
Wiccan’s are free with their bodies, more so than the people of One-God religions. The body is seen as a temple of the Devine. Fire is invoked at all Wiccan celebrations; fire or flame of any sort represents the element of Fire and fire is a primary force and power of passion. Witches were known to jump fires, as this is almost seen as a “dip into a purifying flame” – it is believed that if they dip into a flame they will come out clean and new. There are many other symbols that the Wiccan’s have adopted; Air, Wind, Earth; as they are people of nature.
They use Candles, cloaks, crows, evil eye, feathers, frogs, Goddesses, Herbs, Hexagrams, Incense, Mirrors and Moon, Owls, Ravens, Salt, Spiders, Star, Tarot Cards, Tea Leaves, the number 13, and many many others – each having their own meaning and part of the religion. WICCAN TEXTS The Book of Shadows is the name of the book that contains religious and magical texts for Wicca and other Neo-pagan witchcraft. The Book of Shadows contains rituals, magical practices, ethics and philosophy of Wicca; more often there are list of personal witch’s spells.
There are a number of versions of the Book of Shadows; each with their contents altering and varying to a greater or lesser degree from the early version belonging to Gerald Gardner. After Gardner’s death, his rival Charles Cardell, published much of the material of Gardner’s Book of Shadows. In the 1970’s, the book was republished in a truer form – much of it published into a book called The Witches Way. (Wikipedia) INTERVIEW I met with a wonderful woman, whom I will call GiGi, as she was uncomfortable revealing her real name.
She was incredibly helpful with answering questions that could have come off as offensive. She wanted to make sure her religion was viewed in a positive light and offered as much information as possible. I asked what made her feel drawn towards the Wiccan religion. She informed me that she had always felt closeness to nature and felt that herbs and a strong sense of belief of healing was what lead her to this way of life. The next question I asked of Gigi was if there were a message she could get across to everyone what would it be? At this point, arly in the interview, tears welled up in her eyes, she informed me that she wanted people to understand that Wicca is not a religion of hatred and black magic; it is a religion of healing, of nature and of love. Yes, they believe there are spells that can assist them with different elements of life, but they see this as no different than other religions believing in “laying hands” on someone to heal them. The next question was the hardest for me to ask, as I did not want to offend her; however, I wanted the truth for others to hear. What is the difference between Wiccan and Satanists?
The answer I received was enlightening. Wiccans worship a Goddess and her consort, a God; while Satanist worships Satan. Wiccans do not recognize Satan or any all evil supernatural entity. Wiccan’s rule is “An it harm, do what thou wilt”, which means do whatever you want, as long as it does not hurt anyone, including yourself. Wiccan’s, unlike Satanist are not allowed to manipulate, control or harm others. The behavioral code of a Satanist is “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”, which allows Satanists groups great freedom of their actions.
They engage in black magic rituals with a goal of harming anyone who has harmed them. Turning the other cheek is not the way Satanists work. I asked about the origins of the religion and how far Wicca dates back. I was told that it dates back thousands of years to beyond Christianity, as witchcraft. Wiccan’s have torqued and altered some beliefs of the original witches but do recognize their roots date back in history. Wicca became more popular in the 1950’s and throughout the 1970’s. What is the difference between white and black magic?
Gigi goes into detail, telling me that black magic (or magik) is intended to cause harm and is evil, while white magik is to heal and not harm. Black magik is used to benefit you, while white magik is used to benefit others. Gigi also wants people to know that magik is an ability to do something that seems out of the ordinary but it does not contradict the laws of nature – such as walking on water. There are special ceremonies for funerals and weddings, however with there not always being covens close to everyone, finding the right person to perform the rites and ceremonies can become a task.
I asked if a Wiccan couple has children, and the children decide to follow another religion, is that ok with the family. Gigi tells me that by all means it is ok; basically, they want their children to find harmony and happiness within themselves and if that is through another belief system that is fine with them. My interview was held at Gigi’s home, where many of the coven meetings are held. She lives in a small town just outside of Orlando, Florida. Admitadly, when I arrived at this town, it does not look like a town that would be welcoming to her religion.
She informs me that she has not had any problems, but most of the events are low key and if it is a large ceremony, they do tend to try to find other locations. I find this sad, that she and her family can not practice their religion freely because of the close mindedness of others. Within my interview with Gigi, I felt a strong connection. She almost felt like a mother figure; someone you could go to and ask them anything and know you are going to get a straight forward answer and as much insight as possible. Gigi is an amazing woman, a strong member of her community, but not fully allowed to be who she wants to be.
I do have every intention of keeping in contact with her and learning more. COMPARING TO OTHER RELIGIONS Wiccan’s have a view of nature and believe that everything is connect with each other. They do not believe in one god, instead they believe in the Earth, Wind, Fire, Water and feel that each person is devine within themselves. Where as Christianty believes in One god alone and that god is the creator of all beings. There are other religions and belief systems that follow along with Wicca in believing in more than one god, such as Native American’s and Greek Mythology.
No one can say which religion is right, as long as one does no harm to others and follows a good path, each person in whichever religion they chose, is doing the right thing. CONCLUSION Wicca has been around for centuries, dating back before Christianity with the Witches. However, Wicca was not truly brought out until the 1950’s. Since then, Wicca has become a new age movement and has a constant gaining of followers. References http://www. jesus-is-savior. com/False%20Religions/Wicca%20&%20Witchcraft/history_of_wicca. htm http://www. religioustolerance. org/wic_hist. htm