Things You Need To Know About…Wicca

Note: I am posting this because a recent discussion about Wicca in a group revealed the true ignorance many Christians have as to what this neo-pagan group actually believes.  I want to make it very clear that I am not writing this to start a debate, to say whether or not Wicca is right or a legitimate group, but to educate all of us on here because the odds are good you will encounter someone who is a Wiccan in your lifetime. 

People loved to hear Jesus and talk to Him.  People do NOT love hearing us today or talking to us.  Why?  It’s not because we have the truth, it’s because we are arrogant.  We think that what we believe is so superior, we don’t bother learning about what anyone else believes before we try to talk to them.  If you want to be effective in evangelization, you need to educate yourself first.  This is an attempt to educate believers on a belief system of our times.  Therefore: I am not entertaining debates about personal thoughts on the group.  This is information presented to help you not sound ignorant when evangelizing or talking to someone else – nothing more, nothing less.  As a Ph.D. in Religion/Comparative Religion, I have studied neo-paganism, including meeting – talking to – and interviewing – several Wiccans in an attempt to know more of what they believe.  Thus – I do know what I am talking about.  Take it as it is given.  This is not meant to incite an argument of any sort.

Theology Wiccans are pagans, which is a basic belief in a combination of polytheistic deity worship made up of gods and goddesses, pantheism incorporating deity inall and the deity in all worshiped, and nature and animal worship.  Separated from Satanism, which is distinguishable by a belief in Satan as a deity, or a certain lifestyle associated with hedonism.  Wiccans do not believe in Satan as an entity.

Philosophy –Centers around the principle that deity is all in all, and that the deity present in all should be worshiped.  They do believe, however, that most are principles of the same all-in-all being,just various impressions of it.  Wiccans seek to control their circumstances and environmental forces through the use of spells and spiritual forces by controlling and channeling the powers of a deity through magic and fertility rites.  They believe strongly in the elements of fire, air, water, earth, and spirit, and calling on those elements as part of controlling forces.   Nature is a particular force to be channeled for the acknowledgement of deity. 

Associative Titles –Wicca, Wiccan; sometimes pagan, paganism; witch, witchcraft; nature worship;polytheism, polytheist.

Sects/Divisions –Groups meet in covens.  The major labels include Wicca; among an unknown number of smaller or unknown groups considered“underground.”  Wiccans are distinguished from other pagans as they are based on modern impressions of ancient Celtic pagan systems.  While there are similarities,it does hold its own unique differences from other pagan groups.  The major one is societal acceptance: Wiccans seek to be accepted as a mainline religion in the United States, whereby Satanists and other pagan groups regard such behavior as “selling out.”  There is also an order known as “Fairy Wicca,”which is exclusively open to gay men. There are also differences between American groups and European Wiccans.

Disputes Within Group –Wiccans debate over rites, rituals, and some interpretations of membership and beliefs application.  Some also question about membership and what it means to be a Wiccan.  Some covens only admit women, some only admit gay men, some admit both men and women. Forms and intents of magic and spells may also vary, at times, from group to group.  They also debate about theiracceptance within society.

Scriptures –Wiccans have no set book of scriptures, but do adhere to certain traditions,sayings, and beliefs.  A book with these passages from assorted scriptures, traditions, and sayings is incorporated in a book known as The Book of Shadows.  It was first compiled by Gerald Gardner, founder of Wicca.  There are many different forms of this book available today.

Basic Religious Practices – Wicca centers around the individual andthe magical group, called a coven, all of whom are sworn to secrecy regarding the specifics of practices.  In past ages, those who left the coven were killed by the membership.  As practices center around the individual’s desire to channel deities into specific wishes and wants, the practice known asa spell (commonly called witchcraft) is offered using action, incantation, and alchemy.  Wiccans generally gather on what they call a sabbat, which is a major pagan holiday determined by different phases of the moon and the different changing seasons.  Smaller ceremonies are called esbats, and relate to the cycles of the moon.  Outsiders are not allowed to observe pagan rites. Specific practices vary between covens, but the general form of the Wiccan rite consists of a liturgical form in which the priest and priestess recite certain spells, actions, and responses, and the people in the coven, in turn, respond.  The specifics of these rites do vary, at times, from group to group, but often include a bread and wine service, greeting, imagery symbolizing the union of male and female, and chants.  Other practices by Wiccans may include astrology, divination, tarot cards, spiritism, psychics, mediums,palmistry, use of Ouija boards (not common but does happen), and other assorted occult practices.  Wiccans, in their private expression, often vary on expectations of personal believers but most ascribe to the theory that there are forms of “black” and “white” magic, with black magic extending into dark realms, and white magic serving a good purpose.  Most Wiccans would try to disassociate with darker forms of magic, and would claim to practice magic that is beneficial.  Most modern Wiccans seek to live by the principle to do no harm, as whatever they send out will return to them threefold.

Holidays –Major pagan sabbats include Samhain (October 31); Yule (December 21); Imbolc (February 2); Ostara (March 21); Beltane (April 30); Litha (June 21); Lughnasadh (July 31); and Mabon (September 21). 

Visual Signs and Symbols –Pentagram; pentagram enclosed in a circle; statues of gods and goddesses;covens; incense; spell-casting; circle; sword; cauldron; chalice; moon in various phases; serpent; raven; traditions centering around women/goddesses.

Creeds, Books, and Laws – The official modern Wiccan Rede is: “An ye harm none, do what ye will.” As Wicca is a modern system based on ancient histories of myth and tradition (of which we only have sporadic records), no official laws or books exist clarifying what is ancient from what is modern.  Most covens hold orders of initiation, and various practices and rituals, which often vary from group to group, are expected as part of the levels of initiation.

Eclectic Beliefs –Wiccan practices and beliefs vary from practitioner to practitioner and coven to coven, as well as sect to sect. General eclectic beliefs include a belief in the ability to control and channel universal forces; magic; divination; alchemy; goddess rites; astrology;moon festivals; spells; worship of Celtic pagan deities; worship of nature; animalism (the belief that animals have spirits that can channel deities); and rejection of Satan.  As people, Wiccans tend to exist on the outskirts of religion and even society, dabbling in holistic medicine and such, and are generally regarded as “odd.”

Relations with Non-Wiccans –Most Wiccans are notably careful about their associations and forwardness with non-Wiccans, due to non-acceptance of them. Many shy away from relations with mainline religious groups,particularly Christianity.  While many Wiccans seek to be accepted as a mainline religion, individual Wiccans face a different story, including job termination, discrimination against housing, and child custody battles when people discover their affiliation.  There are still some Wiccans who affiliate themselves with the Unitarian Universalist Association, specifically the group CUUPS: Coven of Unitarian Universalist Pagans.

Holy Sites –Britain’s sacred springs and holy wells; Wiccans often embrace other pagan holy sites around the world, such as Stonehenge, England;, the Aztec ruins, Latin America; Strega grounds, Italy; pyramids of Egypt; other sites deemed by individual as holy or sacred.

Notable Figures –Gerald Gardner, founder, Gardnerian Wicca; Doreen Valiente, considered the “Mother” of Wicca; Laurie Cabot, the “Official Witch of Salem;” Margot Adler, NPR Radio commentator; Cybill Shepherd,actress; Sully Erna, lead singer, Godsmack.

Notable Groups –Wicca is by far the most visible pagan group today, as many legal cases have involved acceptance of Wicca as a valid religion over the past few years.  Although ceremonies and beliefs are still regarded as secret and ceremonies are done in secret, in an attempt to promote the belief systems, many books have come out about Wiccan ritual.  Wicca seeks to be regarded as a valid, legal,and legitimate religion by mainline society.

Facts and Figures –Exact figures for Wicca are difficult to come by, as many Wiccans do not make their beliefs public.  It is however estimated that Wicca is one of the fastest growing realms of interest in North America.  This is different from membership; it simply means that it is an avenue of interest for many, and one that many are experimenting with today.

Quotable Quotes – “An it harm none, do what ye will.” – Doreen Valiente (1922-1999)

Believer’s Characteristics –Emphasis on deity worship, nature worship, and pantheism; eclectic beliefs that relate to paganism, but uniquely center around witchcraft and Wiccan tradition;evident in theological and philosophical concepts, attitudes, practices, and socialization skills; god and goddess theology, ancient pagan religion, magic, spell casting, astrology, divination, and other assorted occult practices, as dependent upon the interest of the individual; use of pentagram and serpent as symbols; interest in spiritual presences in nature; insistence upon connection to ancient rites and beliefs; sabbat and esbat observance; moon festivals; Wiccan Rede; pagan practices.

 © 2003, 2006, 2013 Lee Ann B.Marino.  All rights reserved.

 

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