What is Wicca?
Witchcraft or Wicca is a nature religion practised by both men and women.
Witches gather in the country, open spaces in the woods, in suburbian gardens or city attics, at the Full Moon or at the changing of the seasons.
They seek to tune into the forces of Nature and harmonise with them. Witches worship what they call the ‘Old Gods’, the pre-christian goddesses and gods of mankind.
They worship the Goddess of the Earth, as well as the Threefold Moon and Her consort, the Horned God of the Woods.
Not all witches use the same names for these deities. In different traditions, different names are used.
Often the Goddess is called Aradia or Kerridwen and the God is called Kernunnos or Karnayna.
In some traditions, the names of the deities are kept secret and are only used in rituals.
Whatever names witches use for the Goddess and the God, to them all gods (including those from other religions) are but different expressions of the Divine.
Wicca does not strive to convert, does not send out ‘missionaries’.
Different people walk different paths in their religious quest, and to the witch everybody’s path is sacred.
By worshiping the forces of Nature, within and without oneself, witches try to catch a glimpse of Nature and the Divine Spark which is enclosed within the world
and yet transcends it, which is within time and yet transcends time.
Witches are very much ‘ecologically-conscious’. Witches believe that the gods manifest themselves in Nature, therefore the Earth is sacred.
Definition of Janet and Steward Farrar.
"Modern witchcraft, in Europe and America, is a fact.
It is no longer an underground relic of which the scale, and even the existence, is hotly disputed by anthropologists.
It is no longer the bizarre hobby of a handful of cranks. It is the active religious practice of a substantial number of people.
Just how large a number is not certain, because Wicca, beyond the individual coven, is not a hierarchically organized religion.
Where formal organizations do exist, as in the United States, this is for legal and tax reasons, not for dogmatic uniformity or the numbering of members.
But the numbers are, for example, enough to support a variety of lively periodicals and to justify the publication of an ever-growing body of literature,
on both sides of the Atlantic; so a reasonable estimate would be that the active adherents of Wicca now number tens of thousands, at the very least.
And all the evidence suggests that the number is growing steadily. Wicca is both a religion and a Craft.
As a religion - like any other religion - its purpose is to put the individual and the group in harmony with the divine creative principle of the Cosmos,
and its manifestations, at all levels. As a Craft, its purpose is to achieve practical ends by psychic means, for good, useful and healing purposes.
In both aspects, the distinguishing characteristics of Wicca are its Nature- based attitude, its small group autonomy with no gulf between priesthood
and 'congregation', and its philosophy of creative polarity at all levels, from Goddess and God to Priestess and Priest."
Source: Janet and Stewart Farrar - Eight Sabbats For Witches.
Vivianne Crowley: Wicca, an Old Religion for a New Age.
A witch’s rituals and customs not only allow her to discover the ‘outside’ divinity of Nature around us, but also reveal the divinity within.
It is a way of entering into dialogue with your own psyche. The importance of such rituals lies in the inner symbolism as well as the outward form.
"Wicca exposes us to what Jung called the ‘divine archetypical drama’ – the world of myths.
The seasonal rituals, initiations and even the simple magical Circle in which witches work, exteriorize what happens in the subconscious and permit us to behold,
to understand and to accept and in so doing, to grow."
Source: Vivianne Crowley - Wicca: An Old Religion for a New Age.
Wiccan roots are old and strong, and the present movement was created at the crossroads of several different paths.
Many of the old customs were lost when Christianity decided to drive out and even crush the old pagan religions in Europe.
Some families kept the customs alive, but in the course of time, parts of the tradition were lost or simply adapted.
These relics, esoterically passed on through generations by families and secret societies, and exoterically surviving in folklore,
have provided modern witchcraft with a sound foundation.
Witches have rituals with the changing of the seasons, at the full moon, or simply whenever they feel the need.
There are 8 important seasonal festivals, called ‘Sabbats’.
Four of those are solar festivals: the two equinoxes (March 21st and September 21st) and the two solstices (June 21st and December 21st).
The other four are Celtic festivals:Imbolc on February 1st (Candlemas), Beltain on April 30th (Labor Day),Lughnasadh on August 1st and Samhain on October 31st (All Saints).
Usually, witches also celebrate the full moon.
These gatherings are called Esbats. If the weather allows them to do so, witches generally prefer to have their rituals outdoors, in a completely natural environment.
But if for some reason or other, this proves impossible, the rituals are often held in one of the members’ homes.
Some witches have a separate room which they reserve for Wiccan activities and decorate as their ‘temple’.
Others aren’t so lucky and have to rent a space somewhere. So witches do not have a fixed ‘holy building’ like a church.
They create their sacred space by drawing a Circle, wherever they may be. It is within this sacred Circle that rituals are performed.
Although Sabbats are essentially dignified and ceremonious occasions, there is room for merry-making! When the more formal part of the ritual has been concluded,
it is time for the Cake & Wine ritual. This part is very laid-back and jolly, filled with food and drink.
After this banquet, witches sing and dance and make music by the fire.
Afterwards, the Circle is broken, and the ‘divine space’ transforms back into the plain place it has always been…
Witches not only worship God and Goddess, they also perform magic.
This happens during the full moon rituals, called Esbats. Witches believe the moon has great influence on magic work.
There are all sorts of magic to practice: healing, helping others who are troubled, magic to enhance spiritual growth of coveners, etc.
Different magical techniques are used to obtain these different goals: candle magic, cord magic, foretelling, trance exercises and meditation, etc.
All magical actions involve the bundeling and channeling of energies towards a certain positive outcome.
Witches believe that any magic they undertake, will be reflected back at them threefold.
So performing black magic doesn’t seem like such a bright idea. But what exactly is ‘magic’?
There are many definitions, but none of them seems exactly right.
Though generally the idea of ‘magic’ involves ‘the changing of certain processes purely through will power’.
In many cases, magical techniques in witchcraft have a lot in common with techniques used in psychotherapy and hypnosis.
Most Wiccan traditions have certain Rites of Passage to welcome new members into the coven.
Such initiation rites are used in different cultures all over the world, in order to create a dramatic transition between the ‘old life’ as a layman and
the ‘new life’ of an initiate.
During such an intiation, the neophyte (= new twig) is taken on a secret journey, only known to others initiated before him.
There, she is offered new insights to aid her in her search.Most Wiccan traditions have three stages of initiation.
To be initiated, you must be at least 18 years old.
Initiation can only be requested after a training period of no less than ‘a full year and one day’ in the ‘outer circle’ of the coven.
The coven itself is called ‘the inner circle’. After this first full initiation, the neophyte becomes a ‘witch’ and a ‘priest/priestess’.
After the second initiation, the witch may become a High Priest/ High Priestess.
After the third initiation, he or she is ready to guide a coven completely independently.
During the last decade, many covens have introduced a fourth , or actually a ‘pre-intiation’.
This is the Rite of Passage when a trainee becomes a full-fledged neophyte.
This can happen in the middle of the ‘outer circle’-training, or even at the very beginning of it.
This way, the candidate develops a good idea of what Wiccan initiation involves, without actually having to commit himself to the coven.
During rituals,witches use magical and symbolic tools and ‘weapons’. These help you reach the level of consciousness necessary to consecrate the Circle and perform magic.
These tools and weapons are part of a symbolic system, well-known to coveners.
The most essential items are the altar pieces, representing the four Elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water.
The pentacle represents Earth: stability, material well-being and other practical matters. A small bowl of salt or soil can replace the pentacle as a typical symbol of Earth.
An incense burner with incense, a bell or a sword traditionally represent Air: communication, astuteness and understanding.
A candle or a wand can symbolize Fire: vitality , change and energy. The chalice contains Water: purity, love and intuition.
In some traditions, the cauldron is used to symbolize the Goddess of Creation. The broom is used to purify the Circle and a horn-shaped wand or stick is used to represent the God.
The essence of Wicca.
Wicca does not have any form of creed that witches are ‘supposed’ to follow.The only way to grasp the essence of Wicca is to participate in the rituals.
One of the more poetic parts of a Wiccan ritual, is the charge of the Goddess.Her words say more about the honoring of the Great Mother than any book on Wicca.
'Listen to the words of the Great Mother; She Who of old was also called among men: Artemis, Astarte, Athene, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Kerridwen, Diana,
Arianrhod, Isis, Brigid, and by many other names'
'I am the Great Goddess who brings the gift of Joy to the heart of men. On earth I give the the knowledge of eternal Spirit.
And in the Otherworld I give peace and freedom and reunion with those who have gone before you.
I do not demand sacrifice, for I am the Mother of all that lives and my love is outpoured upon the face of the earth.'
'Listen to the words of the Star Goddess; She in the dust of Whose feet are the hosts of heaven, and Whose body encircles the universe.’
'I Who am the beauty of the Green Earth, and the White Moon among the Stars, and the mystery of the Waters, and the desire in the heart of men, call unto thy soul.
Arise, and come unto Me. For I am the Soul of Nature, Who gives Life to the universe.
From Me all things proceed, and unto Me all things must return; and before My face, beloved of gods and men, let thine innermost divine self be enfolded in the rapture
of the infinite.’ 'Let my worship be in the heart that rejoices; for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals.
And therefore, let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
And thou who thinkest to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not unless thou knowest the Mystery;
that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee. For behold,
I have been with thee from the beginning and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.’