This guest post is by Court Pellin, a Wiccan high priestess.
Wicca is a pagan religion containing traditions of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Paganism has been around and alive since the beginning of time. Documentation of magic and witchcraft exists even in the oldest texts. Numerous cave drawings all over the world depict symbols of the gods and goddesses worshipped throughout history. Paganism is the oldest form of religion.
Wicca is a Nature oriented religion, which puts emphasis on honoring both The God and The Goddess, and living in harmony with all things in the Universe. It can be practiced in a group, called a Coven, or it can be practiced alone. Wicca is recognized in the United States, and in at least some parts of Canada, as a legitimate and legal religion.
What it is, and what it isn’t
Years and years of distortion have created quite a bad rap for today’s Wiccans. So, what is it really all about?
-They DO NOT worship Satan.
The devil is an anti-Pagan propaganda device invented by the Christian church. Wiccans perceive all life as a constant flow of positive and negative energies, which intertwine to create the balance of life. However, Wiccans DO NOT believe in Satan, so they obviously can’t worship Satan.
-They DO NOT believe in Heaven or Hell.
They believe in taking responsibility for their own actions, rules of Karma, and so on. They DO however believe that your soul goes to an eternal resting place, known as Summerland, when your spirit doesn’t need to reincarnate anymore. (See info on reincarnation)
-Witches NO NOT cast evil/harmful spells.
Modern witches have a very strict belief in the Three-fold Rule, or laws of Karma. Whatever is sent out into our world shall return three-times over. Therefore, if a witch sends out negative energy, it will return to them three-times over. Likewise, the good they do is returned to them three-times.
-They DO NOT kill animals.
As stated before, Wicca is a nature-based religion. They believe in the sacredness of all things. They love animals, and even worship them (much like Native Americans).
-They DO NOT call themselves warlocks.
The word warlock means “truth twister.” Most obviously then, it is a huge insult to call them that. Be them male or female they are called witches or Wiccans.
-They DO NOT summon demons.
Simply put, they are not that dumb.
-Wicca is NOT a cult.
Wiccans believe that people should do what they will, therefore they respect all others religions and hope to receive the same consideration in return. They do not choose to look at their path as the “one true right way,” and believe that no matter what religion you are, we will all find our eternal resting place.
-They DO NOT attack people.
Wiccans never use their powers to attack (again the three-fold rule), BUT that doesn’t mean they can’t defend themselves.
-They DO NOT cast love spells.
They have a strong belief in the free will of others, SO casting a love spell on a specific person is a no, no. However, Witches ARE able to cast a general love spell, asking for the spirits to send a true lover (if that person wills it) their way. The same is true in asking for friendship.
-Witches DO believe in a God.
BUT, they also believe in a Goddess (also known as the Lord and Lady). They believe in the male and female aspects in nature. Both are equal, and opposite, creating balance. One can not work without the other. Think of them as kind of Yin and Yang aspects. The God and Goddess also aid Witches in their magickal works.
-Wiccans DO believe we are all one.
They believe in the connection of all living things through Spirit- people, animals, plants, elements, etc.
-Wiccans DO believe there are three parts of a person.
They believe there is a physical, mental, and spiritual aspect to each person. They try to work with all three parts in order to balance themselves to live in harmony as best they can.
-They DO believe in reincarnation.
Whether it be the Eastern version known as the Transmigration of Souls (the spirit incarnating one body after another in an effort to learn all the life lessons that it can), or Ancestral Incarnation (where the spirit and life lessons of the grandfather transmute to the granddaughter, and so on down the genetic line). The latter is a more traditionally Celtic approach, but both are accepted.
-They DO believe in the Laws of Return.
Wiccans have no belief in heaven or hell that souls will go to based on their worldly actions. With the belief in the Law of Return (or Karma) one’s actions will determine one’s future. The individual is therefore responsible for his or her own fate, based on what he or she chooses to do internally and externally in the world. This is an extension of the Three-fold Law, as stated above.
-Wiccans DO have a firm ethical belief.
Wicca has but one law of action and ethics called the Wiccan Rede. “And ye harm none, do what ye will” covers almost everything that the Ten Commandments do: don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t cheat, etc. The only law that the Ten Commandments express that is not covered by the Wiccan Rede is that of marriage and adultery. In Wicca, love itself is sanctified, with or without government authorization. As long as two individuals share a sincere bond of love that does not harm either party, it does not matter if they are legally joined- no matter if they are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or interracial.
-Wiccans DO believe in magick.
Wiccans believe in the power of magick to create change. Witches use herbs, oils, colors, stones, crystals, and other symbolic materials to represent the change they wish to create. Witches believe that the individual is responsible for his or her own reality. If there is something that is not healthy, or conducive to happiness and growth, they have the power to change it. [NOTE: the reason magick is spelled with a “k” is a simple one. It is to help distinguish the hocus pocus "magic”- all the stuff you see in movies, or watch a magician do- and the true magick of the Craft- basically the every day magick in everything around us, the natural workings of life.]
-Wiccans DO have a religious symbol.
Their symbol is called the Pentacle, a star. Each side of the star stands for the four elements (earth, water, fire, and air), plus the essence of Spirit, which binds all living things. [NOTE: not to be confused with a PentaGRAM, which is an upside-down version the Satanists use- and other negative "black magic" users.]
-They DO believe in the balance of the elements.
The elements of earth, water, fire, and air play an important role in the Wiccan religion. They use the elements to aid them in performing rituals and other such things. Each element has their own aspects, strengths, and symbolism. (See the section on Elements for more info.)
PLEASE NOTE: Not all Wiccans are Witches, and not all Witches are Wiccans. Let me explain. Wicca is a type of Paganism, just as Catholicism is a type Christianity. Witches practice in all forms of Paganism, so it is not limited to being Wiccan. Practitioners of magick are Witches, but just because you’re Wiccan doesn’t make you a Witch. Wicca is just the religion, the faith, and the beliefs. Not all of them practice spellwork and it is most certainly not required. Hopefully that helps clear up the difference between Wiccans and Witches.
Wiccans follow the Wheel of the Year, having 13 Full Moon celebrations and 8 Sabbats- the four Greater Sabbats (also called the Fire Festivals) and the four Lesser Sabbats. Their holidays are made to celebrate the changing of the seasons, the cycles of the moon, and to bring honor to the God and Goddess.
Samhain- pronounced Sow-een, this is the Wiccan New Year. However, most people know this as Halloween. This holiday falls at the end of summer, marking a time of death. Therefore, this is the day when the dead are honored and remembered.
Yule- this Lesser Sabbat falls on the first day of winter, known to most as the Winter Solstice.
Imbolge- pronounced em-bowl, this holiday normally falls on February 2nd. This is a time of cleansing, a festival of the Maiden in preparation for growth and renewal.
Ostara- pronounced oh-star-ah, this holiday is the Spring Equinox, the first day of spring.
Beltaine- pronounced beel-teen, this holiday normally falls on April 30th or May 1st. This is primarily a fertility festival, celebrated much like May Day.
Litha- pronounced lith-ah, this is the Summer Solstice, celebrating the arrival of summer.
Lammas- pronounced lam-mahs, normally this holiday falls on August 1st. This is the first of the harvest festivals of the year.
Mabon- pronounced may-bon, this is the Fall Equinox, or the start of autumn.
Esbats- these celebrations occur every full moon. Wiccans believe a full moon holds the most energy, and that it is the easiest time to tap into Nature’s magick.
Like the Lord and Lady, the four elements aid Wiccans in their work. They help maintain the balance of nature. Each element also has meanings and symbolism behind them…
Earth: is the element of birth, where the original Idea crystallizes and manifests in a material form, building a solid foundation for the next idea. Earth is symbolized by the direction North, the color green, stones or soil, and wolves, horses, deer, or other earth-type animals. The element of Earth brings strength, fortitude, fertility, and patience.
Air: represents the conception or perception of a new idea, the seed of knowledge, and the freedom to choose which direction to move. Air is symbolized by the direction East, the color yellow, feathers or incense, and dragonflies, hawks, ravens, or other air-type animals (basically all types of birds and insects). The element of air brings vision, voice, and free-movement.
Fire: represents the desire or will to manifest the idea, the driving life force, the principle of change and transformation. Fire is symbolized by the direction South, the color red, candles or the sun, and lions, dragons, salamanders, or other fire-type animals (basically all types of large cats and lizards). The element of fire brings passion, lust, will, and desire.
Water: represents the perseverance and courage needed to endure the long gestation, the nurturing and supporting role. Water is symbolized by the direction West, the color blue, seashells or the moon, and dolphins, fish, turtles, or other water-type animals. The element of water brings feeling, reflection, adaptability, and receptivity.
For the basic ritual, or spell casting, a Wiccan will go about the following steps…
1) Casting the Circle: this is when a Witch casts a protective circle of energy around their alter space. This allows them to be protected from negative spirits/energy during their ritual work. However, they may skip this step if they’re working outside in a natural setting, as these places are obviously already considered sacred spaces.
2) Calling the Quarters: this is when the four elements are asked to join the Wiccan in their ritual. The altar will have something representing each of the elements (i.e. a candle for fire, a feather or incense for air, etc) in their corresponding directions. This will help to draw the elements’ presence into the sacred circle.
3) Invoking the God and Goddess: if it is a really serious/formal ritual, than most Witches will also ask for the God and Goddess’ help in their magickal work. This is optional, but if they’re invoked it’s normal to also have something on the altar to represent them (i.e. a gold candle for the God, a silver candle for the Goddess, etc).
4) Ritual: this is the actual casting of the spell or the ritual working.
5) Thanking the God and Goddess: obviously if you have asked for their help, it is proper to thank them for their participation and allow them to go about their own way.
6) Closing the Quarters: this is the time a Witch takes to also thank the elements for their aid and participation in the ritual or spell, allowing them to take their leave.
7) Releasing the Circle: the last thing to do is to open up the sacred circle, allowing the energy barrier they put up to be dispelled (no pun intended).
Court Pellin is a Wiccan High Priestess and a teacher to many newcomers of the Craft. Between running the house and managing two crazy Australian Cattle Dog puppies she finds time to write, mainly fiction novels.
This article was previously published on notaboutreligion.com