Paganism in general, and Wicca in specific, is a widely-varied religion, wherein there are about 10 different explanations for everything for every 8 people. While there are many similarities among the different "denominations" of Wicca, the differences often outweigh them. Keeping that in mind, I shall try to explain a bit about my "version" of Wicca so that my readers might be able to better understand what it is that I believe.
From what I have been able to ascertain from my reading and from those fellow Wiccans I have talked with about the subject, Wicca is sort of a revival religion founded by, most notably, Gerald Gardner in the mid-1950's. It is based on the ancient nature religions of Europe. While Wicca can claim similarities to those ancient religions, it is, for the most part, a creation of the 20th century. After Gerald Gardner "came out of the broom closet", he was followed in the 1960's by Alex Sanders, the self-proclaimed "King of the Witches". There are many other well-known authors and witches who have added significantly to making the "Craft" what it is today. They know who they are, and to them I say, "Thank you." For those of you who don't know who they are, see my bibliography. Today, although I have not seen any official figures, I would wager that there are hundreds of thousands of practicing Wiccans. I am glad to be among that number.
Tools of the Trade
Just as in any religion, Wicca uses several tools to focus the practitioner while in ritual. What follows is a mini-glossary of the tools I, personally, use and their uses:
*Athame -- A black handled, two-edged, dull knife. It is used to represent the direction of South, and the element of Fire. I use my Athame to draw my Circle, so that I may more easily visualize it.
*Wand -- A branch or other relatively straight piece of wood, about 14 inches in length and approximately 1/4 inch in diameter, used to represent the direction of East, and the element of Air. I use my to direct energies.
*Broom -- Pretty self-explanatory what it is. Mine is a broom I found in a Big Lots near Halloween. It is used for ritual cleansing.
*Censer -- Used to burn incense in. I use incense to promote the frame of mind which facilitates ritual. Incense is also used for ritual cleansing.
*Cup -- Used during the "cup and cake" portion of ritual. It is also, along with the Athame, to charge water.
*Pentacle -- A flat, heat-resistant plate with a pentegram inscribed upon it. Used to hold items to be consecrated/charged.
Other "denominations" (i.e. Gardnarian, Alexandrain, Dianic, etc) of Wicca use different tools, or they place different significances on them. For example, some Traditions use the Athame for East, and the Wand for South. Basically, my thoughts on that is this: do what feels right for you, then it will be right.
WinterWolf's Travels on the Wiccan Path
I come from a very eclectic religious background. My father was raised Presbyterian and my mother was raised Orthodox Jew. When I was 2 years old, my mother converted to Christianity. But, until then, my family celebrated both Christmas and Hanukkah. Both parents traveled the Wiccan path for a while, and then went away from it. My father still practices it to an extent, and I have no idea what my mother's religion is this week. She changes religions like most people change socks.
While I was growing up, I had the opportunity to sample from several of the Christian denominations, such as Baptist (both Southern and Free Will), Methodist, Presbyterian, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, Christian Church, and Catholicism. I also, thanks to my father, was able to sample Wicca. I settled on Catholicism while in High School, but left the Church during my Senior year of College. It was then that I "rediscovered" Wicca, thanks to a book by the late Scott Cunningham: Wicca: a Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. I have now been practicing almost one full turn of the Wheel of the Year, and I am so much more at peace with myself and my fellow humans than I ever was while a Christian. This is not to say that Christianity is a bunch of hooey, it isn't. I am simply stating that, as a religion, Christianity is not for me.
The Principles of Belief
In the late 1970's, the Council of American Witches convened to establish a certain set of beliefs. I have re-printed them here, as they are basically a mirror of my own beliefs. While they are not exactly what I believe, they are close enough so that I feel comfortable in putting them in an essay on what I believe.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Calling oneself "Witch" does not make a Witch -- but neither does heredity itself, or the collection 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.
9. 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.
10. 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 practices and belief.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. We work within Nature for that which is contributory to our health and well-being.
Getting to the Nitty-Gritty
It is difficult to explain to someone who has no idea about Wicca, what Wicca is. There are many really good books floating about which will help a Seeker find some information. What I can say is this: I don't worship Satan; I don't sacrifice children or small animals in the dark of the moon in graveyards; and I don't place hexes on anyone, with or without their permission. What I do believe is simple: 'An it harm none, do as ye will. Sort of a corollary of the Golden rule, it's called the Wiccan Rede. That is just the final line, and the rest is just as important, but I feel that to boil things down, the final line is enough. Basically, what it means is, don't impose on anyone's free will without their full consent. Karma is a very real thing, and I am a firm believer in "instant Karma" -- meaning it comes right back, it doesn't wait until your next life. Yes, I do also believe in reincarnation, but that is a subject for another essay.
Some Final Words
I hope you have been able to get something out of this short essay. While I can't answer everyone's questions in a couple of pages, I do hope it has given you some food for thought. However, if reading this made you want to pray for me or save my soul, feel free to do so, just don't tell me about it. I simply don't want to know.
By: WinterWolf (with permission)