What is Wicca?
Wicca is essentially the lore of the wise Witch (woman or man) although more usually woman in olden times. The old woman who lived on the outskirts of the village and who had perhaps a stronger connection with nature than most, who did most of the ceremonies, helped women with birthing and so on, usually able to see the future (Clairvoyant) and perhaps also a Spirit Medium. Good with herbs and potions, in fact taking the place of them village doctor, psychiatrist and midwife all in one! This tradition is almost identical to the Shaman, and many other disciplines in other cultures, just the name is different.
Witchcraft or Wicca is an earth religion, a re-connecting with the forces of nature, revering the Old Gods and Goddesses the pre-Christian deities of Europe.
Principally revered is the Triple Faced Goddess, who is also the Goddess of the Earth, and her escort the horned God. (Green Man)
In many circles the actual name is thought to be too sacred to speak aloud, and they are referred to as The Lord and The Lady What this does in fact is to honour both the male and female.
Wicca (and Shamanism) differs from many other religions in that they honour all other religions and their deities. You will very rarely find a Pagan of any sort pushing their own religion! We have to find the way ourselves. Wicca teaches that there are many paths to the divine by celebrating Nature. Wicca believes that there is much to be gained and learned by studying the past, myth, song and ancient rituals of past civilizations, to try to guard the earth and all her citizens.
One of the things that separate Wicca from all other major religions is that there are no set rules, or rituals, each person or group has its own way of working and celebrating.
Basic Wiccan Philosophy
Wicca, or Witchcraft, is an earth religion - a re-linking with the life force of nature, both on this planet and in the stars and space beyond.
Groups of women and men meet on the new and full moons and at festival times to raise energy and put themselves in tune with these natural forces.
They honor the old Goddesses and Gods, including the Triple Goddess of the waxing, full and waning moon, and the Horned God of the sun and animal life, as visualizations of immanent nature.
Wiccan religion is not a series of precepts or beliefs, but rather a belief that we each have within ourselves the capacity to reach out and experience the mystery - that feeling of ineffable oneness with all life.
Those who wish to experience this transcendence must work, and create, and participate in their individual religious lives. For this reason congregations, called covens, are small groups which give room for each individual to contribute to the efforts of the group by self-knowledge and creative experimentation within the agreed-upon group structure or tradition.
There are many traditions or sects within the Craft. Different groups take their inspiration from the pre-Christian religions of certain ethnic groups (e.g. Celtic, Greek, Norse); in the liturgical works of some modern Witch poet or scholar (e.g. Gerald Gardner, Z. Budapest, Alex Sanders, Starhawk, Raymond Buckland, Robert Graves); or by seeking within themselves for inspiration and direction. Many feminists have turned to Wicca and the role of Priestess for healing and strength after the patriarchal oppression and lack of voice for women in the major world religions.
An offshoot of the Gardnerian, it was founded by Alex Sanders. The most well known Alexandrians today are Janet and Stewart Farrar, authors of many popular books on Wicca.
A feminist based Wiccan tradition which emphasizes the Goddess, sometimes exclusively. Some Dianic groups accept only women into covens.
Founded by Victor Anderson, this is a shamanic type of Wicca, using elements found in other Pagan religions such as Hawaiian Huna. It's origins purport to be older and quite different from Gardnerian Wicca.
This is a large grouping of Wiccan traditions that emphasize a Celtic pantheon of deities, sometimes leading to attempts to re-construct the original religious system of pre-Christian Ireland. Some groups are more neo-Druid than Wiccan.
This is probably the largest and fastest growing division of Wicca today. Eclectic groups create their own tradition, using pieces borrowed from other traditions, especially Gardnerian, with whatever pantheon system the adherents prefer.
There are many paths to spiritual growth. Wicca is a participatory revelation, a celebratory action leading to greater understanding of oneself and the universe. Wiccans believe there is much to learn by studying our past, through myth, through ritual drama, through poetry and song, through love and through living in harmony with the Earth.
In common with other earth-centered religions, witches also do not believe in a "Hell" or an evil-incarnate being (i.e. "Satan"). However, many do recognize the Greek god Pluto, also known as Hades, and his realm of the Underworld which includes the fiery abyss of Tartarus. Wiccans strongly believe in tolerance of other faiths, and do not hold the belief that Wicca is the "one true way". They are non-evangelistic, and opposed to proselytizing, testifying, confessing and converting
The Solo Witch (Often called the Hedge Witch)
This is usually a very traditional path, going back in fact to the old village wise woman and has a lot in common with the Shaman and Druid. In fact these days it is common to be both Witch and Shaman, and to use the best of both!
What does the Solo or Hedge Witch do? Keeps the seasons, reveres the world of natures, communes with all animal life, trees, water, uses ritual to carry spells, divines the future, teaches people to love each other and respect the planet. And practices harmlessness
The mark of a good witch is that she only uses her power for good! And then sparingly! The results can sometimes be very far-reaching and alarming! The very best way to use magic is not to use it! The mark of a successful Witch or Shaman is to Lead by living the life that you believe in - YOU BECOME THAT LIFE! And others will come to you to learn.
Most witches, especially hedge witches are animal lovers and can communicate on some level with animals. This is not always so for Coven witches, but then in the burning times it was the solo witches (old harmless women) who were persecuted, often simply because of the connection with their animals who were perceived as familiars.
The Coven Witch
Many witches prefer to belong to a coven, although this can present challenges such as: a YEAR AND A DAY APPRENTICESHIP (no serious coven will take you in on other terms than this!) Good covens usually have very strict traditions.
Wicca has only one creed, DO AS THOU WILT be the whole of the law AN IT HARM NONE which has been misinterpreted to mean "do as you like"! which it most certainly does not mean. "Do as you will" means in this context "do as your higher self leads you to do, for the good of all"
Responsibilities And The Law of Three
Witches of either sort are very moral people, and well know that what they put out will eventually return to them to the power of three.
Some people think that to be a witch gives you permission to do as you wish without consequence - but nothing could be further from the truth! What you put out, comes back to you - three times good, or three times bad - you decide. Be a good Witch!