Understanding Wicca and Witchcraft
The purpose of this article is to answer some very basic questions about Wicca, while dispelling certain misconceptions about it. This article is not meant to be an exhaustive history of Wicca, but rather a starting point for those who are curious about exactly what Wicca is.Understanding Wicca and Witchcraft
The purpose of this article is to answer some very basic questions about Wicca, while dispelling certain misconceptions about it. This article is not meant to be an exhaustive history of Wicca, but rather a starting point for those who are curious about exactly what Wicca is.
What Is Wicca?
Wicca, sometimes referred to as witchcraft, is a neopagan, earth-based religion. Neopaganism describes a group of religions that derive from ancient pagan religions. According to Silver Ravenwolf, author of TeenWitch: Wicca for a New Generation, "witchcraft is a nature based, affirming religion that follows a moral code and seeks to bring harmony among people, and empower the self and others."
There are various Wiccan traditions that embrace a wide variety of beliefs and practices. These include Gardnerian Witchcraft, Alexandrian Wicca, Dianic Witch Craft, Celtic Wicca, Georgian Wicca, and Discordianism. However, the distinct principles of Gardnerian Wicca, founded by Gerald B. Gardner in the 1940's, seem to form the basis of most of the Wiccan traditions. These principles include:
-- Everyone has the divine (or goddess) within
-- One should develop natural gifts for divination or occult magick
-- Divine forces or nature spirits are invoked in rituals
-- The Goddess, as either a symbol or a real entity, is the focus of worship
-- Nature and the earth are sacred manifestations of the Goddess
-- Everyone has his or her own spiritual path to follow
-- Rituals and celebrations are linked to the seasons and moon phases
-- Meditation, visualization, invocation, chanting, burning candles, and special rituals trigger a sense of the mystical, thus reinforcing the core belief system.
Charles Leland and Margaret Murray also played a role in the development of neopaganism. Modern- day Wicca's roots can be traced back to their writings.
Wiccans believe that all matter has a universal force. They support peace and revere nature. The ultimate goal is to be in harmony with nature in order to foster a peaceful existence. Wiccans believe that peace cannot be achieved if they are not in sync with nature. Wiccans also believe that the universal force which exists in all matter can be manipulated through an act of will. This belief is the basis for Wiccan magic.
The deity worshipped by Wiccans is both male and female; therefore, Wiccans honor both the god and goddess. Most Wiccans worship the Great Goddess and Her consort, the Horned God. Some Wiccan traditions place more emphasis on the Goddess. Yet, others do not emphasize the existence of any one predominant deity.
Wiccans celebrate eight holiday sabbats which fall on the solstices and equinoxes and on the four "cross quarter days" on or about the first day of February, May, August, and November. Many Wiccans also celebrate esbats during particular phases of the moon.
What Wicca Is Not
Many people have the mistaken belief that Wicca is satan worship and the Christian church has identified Wicca with satanism. However, Wiccans do not believe in satan or the devil or any other supernatural force of evil. Wiccans view satan or the devil as a Christian construct which Christians juxtaposed against Jesus Christ.
Wiccans do not practice black magic, but rather white magick witchcraft. Because Wiccans do not believe in hurting people, killing animals, taking drugs, or stealing, they use magick only to help themselves, but never to harm or manipulate others.
Nor is Wicca a cult. Wiccans do not believe in trying to convert others to Wicca. They do not believe that one person, a leader, should exercise control over another, as is generally the case with cults.
What is the Wiccan Rede?
The Wiccan Rede is a tenet by which all Wiccan live. The Rede states, "And it harm none, do as ye will". Essentially, this means as a Wiccan, a person can do anything he'd like as long as it doesn't hurt anyone, including himself.
Wiccans also believe in karma or what they call the threefold law which states that whatever a person does, whether good or bad, will come back to them threefold. So Wiccans always consider the consequences before taking action.
The Rising Popularity of Wicca
Wicca and witchcraft have become very popular among teenagers and young adults. Some believe this rise in popularity is due, in part, to the portrayal of witches on television and in the movies. Movies like The Craft and Practical Magic and television shows like Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Sabrina, The Teenage Witch served to create an interest in witchcraft among young people.
Others believe that teenagers and young adults, who consider themselves environmentalists, are drawn to Wicca because of its reverence for earth and nature. Moreover, many believe that teenagers and young adults gravitate to Wicca because it places such a strong emphasis on the role and power of women, self-empowerment, and spiritual growth.
Modern-day Wicca finds its roots in pre-Christian pagan religions. With an emphasis on maintaining harmony with nature, karma, self-empowerment, and spiritual growth, Wicca's popularity continues to grow. However, many hold the mistaken belief that Wicca is satanism or a cult.
There are no hard and fast rules in Wicca. Many Wicca traditions exist today whose practices and rituals differ. However, all seem to adhere to the Wiccan Rede and most seem to have their foundation in Gardnerian Wicca.