A Witch's Notebook:
The term wicca derives from "wicce",
a Norse word meaning "wise one". Though sometimes used
interchangeably, "Wicca" and "Witchcraft" are not the same
thing. The confusion comes, understandably, because both practitioners of Wicca
and practitioners of witchcraft are often called witches. In addition, all
practitioners of Wicca are witches, but not all witches are practitioners of
Wicca. Wicca refers to the religion. This can be a reference to both the
initiatory tradition, where initiates are assigned a degree and generally work
in covens, and to Solitary Wicca, where practitioners self-dedicate themselves
to the tradition and generally practice on their own. Both Initiates and
Solitary Wiccans worship the Goddess, with most also choosing to worship the
God, and both celebrate the Sabbats and Esbats. Witchcraft, or as it is
sometimes called "The Craft”, on the other hand, requires no belief in
specific gods or goddesses and is not a specific spiritual path. Thus, there are
Witches who practice a variety of religions besides Pagan ones, such as Judaism
and Christianity. It is considered to be a learned skill, referring to the
casting of spells and the practice of magic. To add to the confusion the term
witchcraft in popular older usage, or in a modern historical or anthropological
context, means the use of black or evil magic, which is not something Wicca
encourages at all.
Wicca was publicly introduced in the 1950's by
Gerald Gardner, a British civil servant. Its ritual and initiatory structure
consists of elements from Masonic ritual and other occult and ceremonial magick
systems, and regional witchcraft. Gardner originally named his new religion
"Wica" (pronounced "WEE-cha"); an extra "c" was
later added to create the term Wicca used today. Formerly a lineage-only
religion, Wicca has evolved to include non-Gardnerian Traditions, along with
eclectic and solitary practitioners.
It is not ancient, nor based on pre-Christian matriarchal societies. Much of Gardner's "history" was based on the then-popular theories of Margaret Murray, whose "witch-cult" theories have since been discredited. This does not render Wicca any less valid, but it does mean that older historical conceptions are not necessarily viable. The most recent and well-researched book on Wicca currently is "The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft" by Ronald Hutton. I highly recommend it as the first source of information for anyone interested in learning more, newbies and experienced practitioners alike.
Most Wiccans worship two deities, the Goddess and the God, sometimes known as the Horned God. Some traditions such as the Dianic Wiccans mainly worship the Goddess; the God plays either no role, or a diminished role, in Dianism. Some others practice a form of polytheism, or the worship of many gods and goddesses, most of them ancient Celtic deities.
Wiccans celebrate eight main holidays: four cross-quarter days called Samhain, Beltane, Imbolc and Lughnasadh, as well as the solstices, Litha and Yule, and equinoxes, Ostara and Mabon (see Wheel of the Year). They also hold Esbats, which are rituals held at full and new moons.
Some Wiccans join groups called covens, though others work alone and are called "solitaries". Some solitaries do, however, attend "gatherings" and other community events, but reserve their spiritual practices for when they are alone. There are many traditions, sub-traditions, and lineages of Wicca; some of the more well-known are Gardnerian Wicca, Alexandrian Wicca, Dianic Wicca, Seax-Wica, Faery Wicca, Celtic Wicca, Kemetic Wicca, Lycian Wicca and Odyssian Wicca.
In usual rites the Wiccans assemble inside a magic circle, which is drawn out in a ritual manner. Prayers to the God and Goddess are said, energy is raised and spells are sometimes worked. Traditionally, the circle is followed by a meal. Before entering the circle, some Traditions fast for the day, and have a ritual bath.
Many Wiccans use a special set of altar tools in their rituals; these can include a besom (broom), cauldron, Chalice (goblet), wand, Book of Shadows, altar cloth, athame (magical knife), boline (mundane knife), candles, and/or incense. Representations of the God/Goddess are often also used, which may be direct, representative, or abstract.
Most Wiccans hold to the Greek conception of the classical elements (air, fire, water, earth) and add a fifth element - akasha (spirit). It has been claimed that the points of the frequently worn pentagram symbol, the five pointed star, symbolizes these five elements. The elements of nature symbolize different places, emotions, objects, and natural energies and forces. For instance, crystals and stones are objects of the element earth, and seashells are objects of the water element. Each of the four cardinal elements, air, fire, water and earth, are commonly assigned a direction and a color:
Wiccan morality is ruled according to the Wiccan Rede, which (in part) states "An it harm none, do what ye wilt." ("An" is an archaic word meaning "if".) Others follow the slightly adapted Rede of "An it harm none do what ye will; if harm it does, do what ye must". Either way, the Rede is central to the understanding that personal responsibility, rather than a religious authority, is where moral structure resides.
One of the major differences between Wiccans and other types of witchcraft is the Rede. Many "traditional" witches or witches that follow other paths do not believe in the Rede. This is a major topic of controversy within the Wiccan and Pagan communities.
Many Wiccans also promote the Law of Threefold Return, or the idea that anything that one does may be returned to them threefold. In other words, good deeds are magnified back to the doer, but so are ill deeds.
Many Wiccans also believe that no magic (or magick) can be performed on any other person without that person's direct permission (excepting pets and young children who can be protected by parents and owners).
"It seems to be necessary to preface every discussion of Witchcraft with an explanation that, no, Neo-Pagan Witches aren't Satanists. The Christian anti-God, Satan, has no place in Pagan pantheons, either mythologically or theologically." (Green Egg Magazine article, click here)
Because of extensive religious propaganda dating from the late Middle Ages, Wicca has often been linked to Satanism. Wiccan beliefs and practices are no closer to Satanism than they are to Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam. In fact, Wiccans do not recognize the existence of an all-evil supernatural being similar to the quasi-deity Satan. He is found mainly in Christianity and Islam.
However, there are three superficial points of similarity between Satanism and Wicca:
It is also important to realize that some
conservative Christians consider all non-Judeo-Christian religions to be
Satanic. They believe that when followers of these religions worship their Gods
and Goddesses, they are really worshipping Satan and/or his demons. For this
reason, they consider Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Wicca, and hundreds of other
religions to be either Satanism or inspired by Satan.
Popular Misconceptions about Wicca:
Source - Wikipedia: Wicca
Triple Moon Rule graphic Copyright © Robin Wood 1997, Used with Permission