What is "Wicca"?
This path is referred to by many names, depending on whom you ask. Some call it 'the Craft', some
call it Wicca, some call it Paganism, some call it Witchcraft, some call it by the generic title "Earth-based
religion', and finally, some just refer to it as their spiritual path. Whatever name or title you choose to tack
onto it, it is essential that you understand what it is at its core - and what it is not. What it is, is a spiritual
way of life, governed by balance, in which you are responsible for your own actions. It encompasses a
belief in a God & a Goddess, respect for our planet and ourselves, and genuine concern for all living
things (be they animal, plant, or human). What it is not, is a way to seek power over others, it's not an
easy way to get something for nothing, and it is not in any way a belief in the
entity called Satan. This path's basic tenet is love. Love for the God & Goddess, love for yourself, love
for every living thing.
It is easy for people to forget nowadays that everything is connected. We are all a part of Mother
Earth, none is more important than another is. This path acknowledges that by respecting every living
creature on the planet. The first and foremost rule of our belief is taken from 'The Wiccan Rede' which,
in the last two lines reads... "In these eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, An' ye harm none, do what ye
wilt". Which basically means that you can do anything you want to do as long as you do not cause harm
to anyone or anything, including yourself. Something else to keep in mind, is that this path, by whatever
name you choose to call it, is more than merely a religion to pay lip service to once or twice a week; it is a
way of life. To truly be able to call yourself a Witch, you must believe in the principles wholeheartedly and
live them every single day.
In 1974, The Council of American Witches set down "The Principles of Belief" as a guideline to the
experience of being a witch in America in the 20th century. It basically outlines the ideas behind the
Wiccan belief system as a whole. While it is does not encompass everything defining witchcraft anymore
than the Constitution encompasses everything about America, it does cover a good many of our basic
ideas. I reproduce that information for you here so you can get a better idea of our belief system.
Principles of Belief
The Council of American Witches finds it is necessary to define modern Witchcraft in terms of the
American experience and needs. We are not bound by traditions from other times and other cultures,
and owe no allegiance to any person or power greater than the Divinity manifest through our own being.
As American Witches, we welcome and respect all life-affirming teachings and traditions, and seek to
learn from all and to share our learning within our Council.
It is in this spirit of welcome and cooperation that we adopt these few principles of Wiccan belief.
In seeking to be inclusive, we do not wish to open ourselves to the destruction of our group by those on
self-serving power trips, or to philosophies and practices contradictory to these principles. In seeking to
exclude those whose ways are contradictory to ours, we do not want to deny participation with us to any
who are sincerely interested in our knowledge and beliefs, regardless of race, color, age, national or
cultural origins, or sexual preference. We therefore ask only that those who seek to identify with us accept
these few basic principles:
* We practice rites to attune ourselves with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the phases of the Moon and the seasonal quarters and cross-quarters.
* We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibility toward our environment. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance offering fulfillment to life and consciousness within an evolutionary concept.
* We acknowledge a depth of power far greater than is apparent to the average person. Because it is far greater than ordinary, it is sometimes called 'supernatural', but we see it as lying within that which is naturally potential to all.
* We conceive of the Creative Power in the Universe as manifesting through polarity - as masculine and feminine- and that this same creative Power lives in all people, and functions through the interaction of the masculine and feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supportive of the other. We value sexuality as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of Life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magickal practice and religious worship.
* We recognize both outer worlds and inner, or psychological worlds - sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconscious, the Inner Planes, etc. - and we see in the interaction of these two dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magickal exercises. We neglect neither dimension for the other, seeing both as necessary for our fulfillment.
* We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, respect those who share their greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have courageously given of themselves in leadership.
* We see religion, magick, and wisdom-in-living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it - a world view and philosophy of life, which we identify as Witchcraft or the Wiccan Way.
* Calling oneself 'Witch' does not make a Witch - but neither does heredity itself, or the collecting of titles, degrees, and initiations. A Witch seeks to control the forces within him/herself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well, without harm to others, and in harmony with Nature.
* We acknowledge that it is the affirmation and fulfillment of life, in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness, that gives meaning to the Universe we know, and to our personal role within it.
* Our only animosity toward Christianity, or toward any other religion or philosophy-of-life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be "the one true right and only way" and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practice and belief.
* As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various terms, the legitimacy of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present, and our future.
* We do not accept the concept of "absolute evil", nor do we worship any entity known as 'Satan' or 'the Devil' as defined by Christian Tradition. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor do we accept the concept that personal benefits can only be derived by denial to another.
* We work within Nature for that which is contributory to our health and well being.
All people have certain sets of standards that they choose to live by. Witches are no different.
Most people set goals of things they wish to achieve during their lifetime. Again, witches are no different.
Being individuals, our standards and goals will not likely ever be identical to any other persons, however,
being a witch, we should all incorporate within our set of standards and goals the following things.
13 Goals of a Witch
1. Know yourself
2. Know the God & Goddess
3. Follow your Path
5. Apply knowledge with wisdom
6. Achieve balance
7. Keep your words in good order
8. Keep your thoughts in good order
9. Celebrate life
10. Attune with the cycles of Nature
12. Honor Nature
13. Teach by example
Because there are many denominations of Witchcraft, each coven is free to create and operate
under their own rules (within their chosen tradition) pertaining to degree system, dedications, initiations,
etc. Should you decide to join a coven or group, you should make it a point to make yourself familiar with
the rules and workings of any group you ask to be a part of. After all, if you aren't interested enough to find
out how they work, Why are you there in the first place?
Ethics, now there is a word you don't often hear without expecting to hear a lecture following it. This may be the exception or it may not, depending on how you look at it. First, let's examine the word ethics, which is defined as… 1) the study and philosophy of human conduct, with emphasis on the determination of right and wrong -or- 2) the principles of right conduct, especially with reference to a specific profession or mode of life. In other words, when one refers to your ethics (or lack thereof), they are referring to your moral principles, code of right and wrong, social values, conduct, decency, respectability, etc.
Now, I imagine you are asking yourself what that has to do with the study of Wicca. The answer is - a great deal. This is a spiritual path that is, at best, misunderstood by the masses. As witches, we know that we are accountable to the God and Goddess for our actions. Anyone who believes in and follows the Way of the Wise will know what you are about when you tell them you are a witch; but those that don't believe in the Goddess, or Wicca, will judge you and everyone else who calls him/herself a witch by your actions. Like it or not, as a witch, you are a representative for an entire spiritual belief system and all those who follow its path. That may seem overly dramatic to you, but I assure you it is the truth. It is a huge responsibility to undertake and a challenge that, sadly, not everyone is up to. You must take this responsibility into account before making your final decision to be Wiccan.
There are a few things that every witch should remember with each action they take. Among these things are...
1. You are directly answerable to the God & Goddess for each action you take.
2. You are responsible for your own actions. No one else, just you.
3. The three-fold law. Everything you do comes back to you times three.
4. Is the action you are about to take going to benefit anyone?
5. Is the action you are about to take going to cause anyone harm? If it is, don't do it!!
6. Witches do not intentionally lie to, steal from, or cheat others. It causes harm to people.
7. Witches do not intentionally break the laws of the land. It can cause harm to people.
8. Drugs, alcohol, and magick do not mix. It's just like drinking and driving; you can't control a vehicle properly if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In order to control magick, you must be in control of yourself.
In order to maintain any level of positive ethics, you must have a certain amount of discipline for your own self; Wicca is a discipline because it teaches levels of consciousness and levels of being. Alex Sanders once said, "Wicca teaches power and free will to use it, once you understand how to use it. The training brings such a balanced outlook about power, that it gives you a sense of responsibility. So you very rarely use your power... only when you think it's absolutely necessary, and only when it's with the will of the other person. You're working on your physical, material level, but you're also pulling the highest aspects of yourself down into that level and realizing them; spiritual realization in the physical manifestation."
The central aim of Wicca is the spiritual and psychic development of each individual and for this, self-analysis and self-criticism are essential. Unlike some other religions or spiritual paths, Wicca doesn't lay down specific rules about what is or is not sinful. However, you will find your sense of what is good and what is right becoming refined to the point where your attitude toward selfishness, trouble-making, insincerity, injustice, cruelty, disloyalty, hypocrisy, promiscuity, and dishonor reach a whole new level. In other words, being Wiccan helps you avoid compromising your ethical beliefs. This is partially thanks to the three-fold law, which in its simplest form states that every action you take comes back to you times three. In other words, if you do something nice for someone, that nice gesture returns to you three-fold. Also, if you were to do something to intentionally hurt someone, that negative gesture would likewise comeback to you three-fold.
Aleister Crowley once said," Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." The rest of that statement is, "Love is the Law, love under will" - love in the general sense of living in a community. "The moment you get this sense of the power of love, you think; I'd better not do this. It's all right for me, and it might be all right for the next person, if he's agreed to it, but it must be his will as well as mine. And there is power, it gives you a sense of responsibility".
Being a witch is more than saying you follow the God & Goddess, more than learning the Wiccan Rede, and more than learning about elements, circles, and spells. Being a witch means demanding more from your self. It means that you don't fudge over what may be right or wrong, that you give your word sparingly and once you've given it, you keep it. It means that you consider the intent of your actions before you carry them out because you know that whatever you put out, you get back three-fold.
Your own conscience is, and must be, the final judge, and if it rebels against an action you are thinking of taking then pay attention!! Remember that Wicca does not lessen your personal responsibility, it makes larger demands from it.
Gods & Goddesses
Most belief systems encourage their followers to believe in God, but only God and only one (for example, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism). Even some of the pagan traditions lean so heavily toward the God that a Goddess is almost never mentioned (Asatru, for example) and some pagan traditions follow strictly Goddess worship so the God is hardly ever mentioned. As Wiccans, our belief in a God and a Goddess is part of what separates us from other spiritual paths. One of the other things that sets us apart is the way we view our relationship to our deities. We do not grovel to them, tell them we are unworthy of their attention, and then ask them to fix all the problems in our lives. Instead, we work with them, as partners, to improve the parts of our lives that need improving. We honor and love them, of course, but we are not required to sacrifice our dignity simply to gain their attention.
There are literally hundreds of Goddesses and just as many Gods from a multitude of pantheons; each has a different name and a different specialty associated with them. They are called by many generic names, Earth Mother and Sky Father, the Lord and the Lady, or just the God and Goddess, but whatever names you choose to call them by, they are equally important. Each is as necessary as the other and together, they create the balance and energy essential for all living things. It is often said that all Gods are one God and all Goddesses are one Goddess and, together, the God & Goddess are One.
The Goddess has three forms, Maiden, Mother, and Crone. The Maiden represents youth and innocence, magick and new beginnings, and the thrill of discovery. She is not yet mated but is on the threshold of her sexuality. The Mother represents caring and nurturing, protection and justice, and fertility. She is usually mated and in the prime of her sexuality. The Crone represents logic and wisdom. She considers anyone younger than her to be her child and can be frighteningly vengeful if any of her children are harmed.
The God also has three forms, Warrior, Father, and Sage. The Warrior represents youth and vigor, hope and vitality, and the thrill of the hunt. He is not mated yet and is at the peak of his sexual drive. The Father represents security and wisdom, devotion and spirit, and growth. He is usually mated and is virile and productive. The Sage represents discretion and reasoning. He advises and loves all his children and will retaliate quickly if they are harmed.
Choosing your Matron Goddess and Patron God may not be an easy task. It will likely require much thought and research on your part. Rather than give you a list of Deities, I am going to let you know that there are several books available, written by credible authors, which list the many Gods and Goddesses, their pantheons, names, and realms of control. I choose to let you find out about the deities on your own, so as not to influence you choice of Patron God and Matron Goddess. Your decision should be your own and will be decided partially by the path you are on, and partially by your own personal preference. For instance, if you find yourself drawn to a particular pantheon, your Deities will, most likely come from there.
However, the choice may be made for you. It is not uncommon for a witch to be chosen by a God or a Goddess. If you find yourself drawn to a specific Deity, you are probably being given a clue that you have been chosen by them. If this happens, pay attention! Research the deity, meditate on their particular pantheon, go on a guided journey to meet them; whatever method you choose is fine but you should definitely try to find out more about them.
You will encounter, and work with, many Gods and Goddesses on this path. The more you learn about them, the more comfortable you will be in invoking their energy. They are there to help us improve our lives and, while they do not expect sacrifices from us, they do expect us to respect them. One of the best ways to show someone respect is to show an interest in them and learn what they are like, not just on the surface, but in their hearts. It is no different with the God and Goddess.
Skeptics have asked for eons how it is that we know the God & Goddess really exist. We, as witches, know they are real because we feel their divine energies in our own souls. We see them manifested in all the life that surrounds us and we feel their presence in ritual and everywhere else. To those whose lives are so closely tied to every living thing, the question is never If we know they exist, but rather, how can others NOT know they do?
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©2002-2008 Rev. Angel Shultz