Wicca

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A pentacle, a symbol of faith used by many Wiccans

Wicca is a neo-pagan (meaning "new pagan") religion that was created by a British man named Gerald Gardner in the mid-to-late 1940s. Gardner popularized the new religion via books of his that were published in 1949, 1954, and 1959. Those three books are High Magic's Aid, Witchcraft Today, and The Meaning of Witchcraft. Gardner called Wicca the "witch cult" and "witchcraft", and called its followers the "Wica", though in his 1959 book he also called them the "Wicca" (with two Cs), which is where that word came from.[1] The word "wicca" means "witch" in Old English.[2] People who follow Wicca are called "Wiccans". Before the name "Wicca" was adopted, the religion was sometimes called simply "the craft".[3]

Origin[change | change source]

Some time from 1945 to 1949, Gerald Gardner altered, and added content to, the rituals of an earlier group, called the New Forest Coven. In so doing, Gerald Gardner created Wicca. The many elements from the grimoire (old hand-written book) called the Key of Solomon that are present in Wicca, and are also in Gardner's 1949 book High Magic's Aid, were most likely added by Gardner himself, rather than by the New Forest Coven that came before him.

The New Forest Coven was created in the city of Christchurch on the southern coast of England, some time in the 1930s. It was created by a group of low-ranking rosicrucians who belonged to the Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship. Members of that group read the books about witches by Margaret Murray and Charles Leland, which gave them the idea to create a witch coven.

Some time after Gerald Gardner joined the Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship in Christchurch, he was drawn to the group of low-ranking rosicrucians, and they initiated him into the New Forest Coven in september of 1939, shortly after Gardner had lost all faith in the rosicrucian order's leadership on september 3rd.

Beliefs[change | change source]

There are many different traditions of Wicca, yet many are common beliefs that are shared by all Wiccans, such as the afterlife, magic, and morality.

The God and The Goddess[change | change source]

Most Wiccans believe in a horned male god and a moon goddess. The only wiccans who do not believe in both the goddess and the god are those who belong to the unorthodox sect called Dianic Wicca; such wiccans believe in the existence of only the goddess. Some wiccans believe that the god and the goddess are equal, whereas some other wiccans believe that the goddess is more important than the god.[4] There are some Wiccans who worship only the goddess.

Morality[change | change source]

The Wiccan Rede[change | change source]

The main Wiccan moral teaching is called the Wiccan Rede. The word rede means "advice" or "council" in Old German. "An harm ye none, do what ye will" is the very basic Wiccan Rede, which means, "Do what you want to do, but do not harm anything in the process."[5] This means that you must think about how your actions will affect other beings and yourself.

The Rule of Threefold Return[change | change source]

There is a rule in Wicca that is called "the rule of threefold return" or "the threefold rule" or "the rule of three", or called equivalent names that use the word "law" instead of "rule". The rule of threefold return is a rule of conduct, which states that a person must return three times the benefit or harm that other individuals do to them, though returning three times harm contradicts the wiccan rede. The rule of threefold return is revealed to second-degree initiates (though they are usually already familiar with it) during the second-degree initiation ritual, in which the initiator scourges the initiate, and then the initiate returns three times the number of scourgings to the initiator. That second-degree initiation ritual, along with the threefold rule within it, were made public by Gerald Gardner's 1949 book High Magic's Aid, in chapter 17.

In 1986, a wiccan named Raymond Buckland, through his popular wiccan book Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft, created a new definition for the rule of threefold return. In Buckland's definition, the rule of threefold return is not a rule of conduct, but a law of karma, which states that every beneficial action or harmful action that a person does returns to them three times as powerful. Buckland's definition of the threefold rule became more well-known than the original definition of the threefold rule.

Practices[change | change source]

Altars[change | change source]

Many Wiccans have special places at home where they perform rituals, magic, and worship. These places are called altars. Originally, there was only one altar that was used by the coven, when the coven was gathered. But as solitary wiccan practice became more popular, wiccans started to use personal altars.

Wiccans put holy and special objects on their altars, such as the following items:

  • A pentacle. A wiccan pentacle is a rigid disk, the size of a small saucer, that has a pentagram on it which spans across the disk. A wiccan pentacle may be made of any of a variety of materials, such as wood, ceramics, or metal. In wiccan rituals, the face of the pentacle is shown to the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west), so as to show the pentacle to the "lords of the watchtowers", which are believed to be in those directions.
  • An athame (pronounced ah-thah-may). This is a magical knife that is used in rituals. An athame traditionally has a black handle, but not every one does. It is never used to cut anything physical, but is used to make a circular 'cut' through the air, to cast the magic circle. In the 'cakes and wine' ritual and the symbolic 'great rite' ritual, the athame is used to symbolize the male penis.
  • A wand. This is normally wooden, but can also be glass, metal, or clay. It might also have decorations such as crystals, paint, ribbons, or wire. It is traditional for it to be the length from your elbow to your wrist. It is used to direct magical energy.
  • A chalice. This is a cup that is used in two rituals. People drink from it during the 'cakes and wine' ritual. In the 'cakes and wine' ritual and the symbolic 'great rite' ritual, the chalice is used to symbolize the female vagina.

Some Wiccans put other objects on their altars, such as statues of gods or goddesses, a bell, candles, incense, and/or a besom (an old-fashioned broom that is made of all-natural materials). A besom is often used to "sweep" away negative energy or spirits.

Those objects that are common on solitary altars are derived from the various objects that are used in the wiccan group rituals. Those ritual objects include a sword (also called a 'magic sword'), a black-handled knife (called an athame), a bowl containing water, a bowl containing salt, an asperger (an object that sprinkles water), candles, a bell, a white-handled knife (which is now usually called a 'bolline', due to being confused with a different object), a wand, a cup (also called a chalice), a pentacle, a censer (a container that burns incense), a scourge (a short whip with several whipping cords), and binding cords. Gerald Gardner, the creator of Wicca, started the practice of calling such objects by the misnomer 'tools' or 'working tools', because he was imitating Freemasonry, which used actual tools, such as a trowel.

Wiccan Holidays[change | change source]

Wiccans have two types of holidays, called sabbats and full moon esbats. There are eight sabbat holidays throughout the year. As the name suggests, full moon esbats take place during a full moon, so there are twelve or thirteen of them per year. Many post-Gardnerian wiccans use the neo-druidic term 'wheel of the year' to refer to the cycle of eight sabbats.

The eight sabbats are as follows:


Sabbat Northern Hemisphere Southern Hemisphere Historical Origins Associations
November Eve, aka Halloween or Samhain October 31st April 30th Celtic (see also the Celts) Death and the ancestors.
Winter Solstice, aka Yule or Yuletide December 21st or 22nd June 21st Germanic Paganism The rebirth of the sun.
Febuary Eve, aka Candlemas or Imbolc January 31st, or Febuary 1st or 2nd July 31st, or August 1st or 2nd Celtic (see also the Celts) First signs of spring.
Spring Equinox, aka Ostara March 21st or 22nd September 21st or 22nd Germanic Paganism The beginning of spring.
May Eve, aka Beltaine or May Day April 30th or May 1st October 31st or November 1st Celtic (see also the Celts) The full flowering of spring. Fairy folk.[6]
Summer Solstice, aka Litha June 21st or 22nd December 21st
August Eve, aka Lughnasadh or Lammas July 31st, or August 1st or 2nd January 31st, or February 1st Celtic (see also the Celts) The harvest of grain.
Autumn Equinox, aka Mabon or Modron[7] September 21st or 22nd March 21st No historical pagan equivalent. The harvest of fruit.

Book of Shadows[change | change source]

In Wicca, a private book containing spells, rituals, potions, and occult knowledge, called a Book of Shadows, is kept.[8] In some types of Wicca, such as Gardnerian Wicca, the contents of the book are kept secret from anyone but other members of the group, or coven. However, some versions of the book have been published.[9][10] Some parts of these published versions, such as the "Wiccan Rede" and the "Charge of the Goddess" have been used by non-Wiccans or eclectic Wiccans. Many eclectics create their own personal books, and keep them to themselves.

Music[change | change source]

Wicca music or Wicca rock is music influenced by the Wicca religion and its beliefs relating to nature and conservation.[11][12]

An early band called Themis toured Canada and the USA singing and talking about Wicca.[13][14] The Themis body of works promotes things that are Wiccan such as the divinity of nature; the Lord and Lady (dual deity aspect of Wicca)[15] and an ethical credo [16] that resembles Wiccan philosophies.

Another Canadian band, a group of vocalists from Vancouver Canada, the Chalice and Blade, also perform original pieces based on the beliefs of Wicca and "sing songs which show (their) reverence for the earth and the balance of the God and Goddess" -Chalice and Blade

According to The Religion Newswriters Foundation "Wicca is moving into the mainstream" smashing stereotypes as their movement matures. Throughout America, Wiccans are organizing congregations and youth groups, training clergy, pursuing charity work, sharing parenting tips and fighting for civil rights[17]

References[change | change source]

  1. Gardner, Gerald B (1999) [1954]. Witchcraft Today. Lake Toxaway, NC: Mercury Publishing. OCLC 44936549.
  2. Seims, Melissa. (2008). "Wica or Wicca? - Politics and the Power of Words" in The Cauldron magazine #129. Available online at www.thewica.co.uk/wica_or_wicca.htm.
  3. Kemp, Anthony. (1993). Witchcraft and Paganism Today. London: Michael O'Mara Books. Page 3.
  4. Farrar, Janet and Farrar, Stewart. (1987). The Witches' Goddess: The Feminine Principle of Divinity. London: Robert Hale. Page 59.
  5. Harrow, Judy (Oimelc 1985). "Exegesis on the Rede". Harvest 5 (3). http://www.draknet.com/proteus/rede.htm. Retrieved 2007-02-26.
  6. Gallagher, Anne-Marie. (2005). The Wicca Bible: The Definitive Guide to Magic and the Craft. London: Godsfield Press. Page 67.
  7. Gallagher, Anne-Marie. (2005). The Wicca Bible: The Definitive Guide to Magic and the Craft. London: Godsfield Press. Page 72.
  8. Crowley, Vivianne (1989). Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Age. London: Aquarian Press. p. 14-15. ISBN 0-85030-737-6.
  9. Farrar, Janet; Farrar, Stewart (1996). A Witches' Bible. Custer, Washington: Phoenix Publishing. ISBN 0-919345-92-1.
  10. Gardner, Gerald (2004). Naylor, A R (ed.). ed. Witchcraft and the Book of Shadows. Thame, England: I-H-O Books. ISBN 1872189520.
  11. Wicca music defined at WebRadio Canada
  12. A Canadian Wicca Band at CBC Radio
  13. Fans speak of emerging Genre
  14. Toronto Music Scene Magazine "that means that it is hard to saw what type of music it is except to say that it is Wicca Rock, a new genre. ... Each song is: melodic, most have happy words filled with hope and love and the songs have a nice beat for dancing... featuring live tribal drumming (no drum machines in Themis music) and rythmic guitar"
  15. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Wicca 101
  16. Wiccan Music Creed at ThemisMusic.com
  17. Wicca Moves Into The Mainstream - The Religion Newswriters Foundation

Other websites[change | change source]