Wicca is an earth-based mystery religion, which was formed from various sources (Thelema, Golden Dawn, The Goetia and Clavicula Salomonis, as well as native British and European religions, such as Celtic practice) by Gerald Gardner in the 1930’s – 1940’s and brought into the public eye with the publication of his “fiction” work, High Magic’s Aid in 1949, published under the pseudonym of Scire. In 1954, following the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in England, he published a further work, namely Witchcraft Today. Thus the religion was brought firmly into the public eye.
Wicca in it’s original form (what is now known as British Traditional Wicca/Witchcraft or Gardnerian/ Alexandrian Wicca) is an initiatory religion, which is oathbound, practiced in a coven and is essentially a priesthood. With the rise in popularity of Wicca through popular culture and the increase in publications on the subject, it is now fair to say that there are two forms of Wicca. The first remains the initiatory form and the second comprises those paths inspired by the first form, which are not necessarily initiatory but are often solitary or eclectic and often involves a self-dedication ritual by the practitioner to their chosen deities.
Initiatory Wicca is a coven based practice. Dedicants or seekers to this path will undergo a basic training period, which works in two ways. Firstly it determines whether Wicca is for them and whether the coven they are training with is the right group for them, and secondly it determines whether the coven themselves are comfortable with the trainee. Once this has been determined, the dedicant or seeker may ask the group for initiation. The coven will generally never push this issue and it is up to the individual to ask for this. When initiation has been asked for there is usually a slightly more indepth training period, designed to provide more knowledge and also for the individual to change their mind if they so wish. This period is usually set at a year and a day by default but is more often tailored to the needs of the individual. Some may take longer to be initiated, others just a few months.
Theinitiation itself is a rebirth and is effectively opening the doors to the mysteries beyond. It is up to the individual to follow the path through those doors. Initiation requires that the individual take an oath of secrecy, that is to say that they must not reveal certain information gained beyond initiation save to a verified brother or sister of the Craft. The person is also given the title of Priest/ Priestess and Witch and thus begins their training as a full coven member with access to the information within, though obviously only as far as their degree allows.
There are three degrees within Wicca and it is following your second degree initiation, when you become a High Priest or Priestess that you are able to teach, to lead rituals and in some traditions, to hive off and form a separate coven. At this level of training you are considered competent enough to work with the material under your own steam, though it goes without saying that it is a constant learning process and your spiritual development always be ongoing.
The religion of Wicca itself is split into two halves; that of the religion and that of the practice of witchcraft. Individuals within Wicca practice both to a greater or lesser extent.
In it’s basic form, Wicca is an earth-based fertility religion, encompassing the concepts of divine masculine and divine feminine and the balance inherent in this (i.e. dark/ light, male/ female, life/death etc). The deities are approached in the forms of a tri-une Goddess (being three in one, Maiden, Mother Crone) and a di-une God (being two in one, Lord of Light and Life and Lord of Death and Resurrection). The God and Goddess follow the seasonal cycles, from birth to death to rebirth and so on, as well as following our own life cycles. Wiccans see life as cyclical and the seasonal festivals reflect this. The following post will give details of what the seasonal festivals and what they mean to Wiccans.
Wiccans celebrate eight seasonal rites per year relating to the cycle of the God and Goddess and these are known as sabbats. Where possible they will also celebrate moon rites (usually held at either full moon or dark of the moon but not exclusively) known as esbats. Although Wiccans can do magical workings (spells/ spellcraft) at seasonal rituals, this type of work is often saved for the esbats unless the working has a purpose relating to a seasonal ritual.
Within traditional covens, rituals are usually held with the members being skyclad (naked) and this is for a number of reasons. Many people believe that being unclothed allows the person to feel nuances in energies, something that Wiccans work with a lot. It is also an expression of “Perfect Love and Perfect Trust” amongst the members of the group and with other Wiccans who may be visiting that group.
Although Wicca does have specific beliefs, tenets and practices, it does not have any rules, besides those which are common sense. Two aspects of Wicca are often mistakenly given the title of rules or laws, and these are the Wiccan Rede (“And it harm none, do as thou will” – this was taken from a law within Thelema – “Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will”), and Threefold Return, the idea that whatever action you take will return to you threefold, good or bad. Both of these are guidelines and are there to give the individual cause to ponder their actions and to take responsibility for any repercussions. They are not there to say you must never do anything bad, after all, it was Doreen Valiente herself who said “a witch who can’t curse, can’t cure”. This again ties in with the concept of balance within Wicca. It is not to say that unless you curse someone or take an unpleasant course of action, you won’t be able to do good, it is simply saying that the willingness to take a course of action, good or bad, must be there in order for you to balance yourself.
Wicca is also a fertility religion. It places a large amount of importance on the concepts of fertility and life within the natural world and of the relationship between God and Goddess, and thus there is a large amount of importance on intimacy between men and women. This is not to say that Wiccans hold orgies or are promiscuous people, but that sex is a sacred act and is a celebration of the joining of God and Goddess as well as being a powerful magical act in it’s own right. This is of course one of the reasons that Wiccan covens do not initiate under 18’s.
Spunky Brewster (aka Goddess of Pimpsmack) 2nd degree Gardnerian initiate.
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