What Is Wicca and What Do Wiccans Believe?
Due to years of misinformation and inaccurate portrayals in popular culture, Wicca is one of the most misunderstood religions.
Many people automatically lump Wicca and Witchcraft together. They assume that Wiccans are witchcraft-practising women who perform various spells and rituals.
While many Wiccans do practice forms of witchcraft, the only spells or rituals involved bring positive change. This is just one example of the misconceptions that people often have about this religion.
If you’re interested in separating fact and fiction, you should take the time to learn more about the Wiccan religion and its history.
Overview of the History of Wicca
Many people are surprised to learn that Wicca is not an ancient religion. However, it’s based on beliefs that pre-date Christianity.
A retired civil servant and amateur anthropologist named Gerald Gardner is responsible for the formation of this modern religion. Gardner wanted to reconstruct the pagan traditions practiced in Western Europe by early civilisations.
Many of these traditions disappeared throughout the ages, mostly due to suppression from Christianity and other major religions. Gardner made it his goal to attempt to preserve some of these early beliefs and practices.
Gardner and his friends formed a coven and started performing rituals worshipping the Goddess and the God. Some members of this coven went on to form other covens, which eventually led to the spread of the Wicca religion.
While Gardner receives credit for establishing Wicca, he did not use the term “Wicca.” In fact, he often referred to it as witchcraft or the craft of the wise, which is probably why people continue to use the terms “wicca” and “witchcraft” interchangeably.
Charles Cardell and Doreen Valiente
Some people believe that Charles Cardell coined the term “wicca” in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Cardell was also an early proponent of the Wiccan religion, but he disagreed with some of the traditions followed by Gardner’s coven.
The 1950s was a turbulent time for the early Wiccans. Along with the separate traditions practiced by Cardell and Gardner, one of Gardner’s closest associates branched out on her own.
Doreen Valiente joined Gardner’s coven in the early days and left in 1957. She researched the Wiccan tradition practiced by Cardell and joined Raymond Howard’s coven in 1963.
Over the years, she wrote numerous works on the Wiccan religion and was one of the most prominent defenders of the religion. Wiccans often call Valiente the mother of modern witchcraft and a key figure in the history of Wicca.
Wicca spread from England to North America and the rest of the globe. Wicca does not have a centralized structure like other religions. There is no organizational structure responsible for maintaining core beliefs or traditions. This allows individuals to have their own personal path and beliefs.
The lack of a central organization has also allowed Wicca to constantly evolve and change. At the core of the religion is the connection with nature, with many rituals, celebrations, and practices revolving around the cycles of the Moon and the Sun.
Traditional Versus Eclectic Wicca – What Is the Difference?
While Wicca has spread and evolved, there are still many Wiccans who adhere to the traditions established by Gardner and Valiente. The two outlined these core traditions, called British Traditional Wicca.
With British Traditional Wicca, a coven initiates the members into the coven. A coven is an organized group of priestesses and priests. However, not all Wiccans belong to a coven or follow the British Traditional Wicca.
As Wicca spread, the people who embraced it started to make it their own. Today, eclectic Wicca refers to the various Wiccan beliefs that do not follow the British Traditional Wicca.
You don’t need to join a coven. You can simply begin honouring the Moon Goddess and the Sun God and achieve balance with nature and your life.
Understanding the Wiccan Law of Three
While most modern Wiccans practice their own unique version of this religion, there are still several principles that they tend to keep, including the Law of Three or the Law of Return.
The law is a religious tenet that states the energy that you put out comes back three times. This refers to both negative and positive energy.
If you do bad things, bad things will happen to you threefold. If you do good things, good things happen to you.
Do Wiccans Believe in a God?
Traditionally, Wicca is a theist religion, which means that followers typically believe in one or more deities. With British Traditional Wicca, Gardner established the belief in many gods, with a focus on a Goddess and Horned God. However, he also believed that there were many ancient gods of the British Isles.
While the beliefs of different Wiccans can vary, most of the rituals honour the Goddess and the God. Wiccans connect the Goddess to the lunar cycles and the God to the cycles of the sun.
The God of the Sun often appears as a Horned God while the Goddess is the Great Mother.
Confusing the Horned God with Satan
Some people mistakenly confuse the Horned God with Satan. As Wiccans do not believe in Christian creations, they do not believe in Satan. They do not sacrifice animals or hurt anyone. In fact, one of the most common tenets of the Wiccan religion is to do no harm.
Most Wiccans believe in some sort of worship to the Goddess and the God. However, there are polytheist Wiccans who believe that there are many different deities.
There are also Wiccans who view the Goddess and the God as personifications of beliefs instead of real deities.
Who Are the Horned God and the Triple Goddess?
As mentioned, most Wiccans believe in a God and a Goddess. These dual gods represent both sides of nature.
The God represents the masculine while the Goddess represents the feminine. Wiccans sometimes personify the God as possessing horns and call him the Horned God, which comes from early Celtic depictions and English folklore. The God may also represent the forest, hunting, and virility.
Wiccans sometimes call the Goddess the Triple Goddess, which means she is the maiden, mother, and crone. Depending on the individual beliefs of the Wiccan, the Goddess may also represent the Moon, the Earth, and the Sea.
Can a Wiccan Be a Christian?
Wiccans are tolerant of all other religions and belief systems. However, these religions need to follow the basic tenets of the Wiccan religion, which includes not harming anyone or persecuting others for their faith.
While Wiccans are tolerant of other religions, not all religions are tolerant of Wicca. For example, Christianity is a monotheistic religion, which means that Christians believe in one god.
The bible also has something called the Ten Commandments. One of these commandments states that Christians cannot worship any other gods.
If a Christian decides to also become a Wiccan, they commit blasphemy by worshipping the Goddess and the God. To follow the Ten Commandments, a Christian cannot be a Wiccan.
However, a Christian may adopt certain aspects of the Wiccan belief system into their own daily life. For example, honoring nature and becoming more connected with the divine may not require a Christian to give up his or her beliefs.
The bottom line is that Christianity and Wicca are two separate religions. Following one requires you to disobey some tenet practiced by the other.
Is Wicca for Females Only?
Wicca is not just for females. A man that worked closely with a woman established Wicca. However, people of all genders, nationalities, and ages can become Wiccans.
While Wiccans often hold more reverie for the Goddess, this religion focuses on the dualism of life, nature, and divinity. The God is just as integral to the Wiccan religion as the Goddess.
In fact, Wiccan covens typically have a High Priest and a High Priestess.
As mentioned, witchcraft and Wicca are not the same thing. However, many Wiccans practice witchcraft and are therefore witches. Many people mistakenly believe that a man cannot be a witch, which may lead some people to believe that a man cannot be a wiccan.
The word “Witch” comes from the Old English words for male witch and female witch. In Old English, wicca means sorcerer or male witch. Wicce means sorceress or female witch. A man can be a Wiccan and a witch.
Do Wiccans Practice Witchcraft and Spells?
What is Wicca? What you really want to know is whether Wiccans are witches who practice witchcraft and spells.
Many Wiccans practice modern witchcraft, which typically involves various rituals, chants, and affirmations. However, these rituals are not what people typically think of when picturing witchcraft or magic.
Most rituals honor the Goddess and the God. Traditionally, Celtic pagans performed these rituals to bring about good harvests. In modern times, people often use these rituals to promote happiness, peace, and good health.
Wiccans do not perform incantations designed to cause people to fall ill. They do not put hexes on people or curse them and their ancestors.
What Are Wiccan Practices?
Most Wiccan practices revolve around rituals. However, you need to keep in mind that Wicca is not a strict belief system. Individuals can decide on the practices that they follow.
Wiccans practice various rituals during Sabbats, which are festivals that occur throughout the year. An Esbat is a ritual performed during a full moon or outside of one of the Sabbats.
When a coven performs a ritual, a circle is usually involved. The members of the coven assemble in a circle and perform a series of invocations, and chants. These rituals may also involve dancing, eating cake, drinking wine, and playing games.
To form the circle, the High Priest or Priestess typically uses an invocation to cast the circle. They then call on the four classical elements – earth, water, fire, and air. The coven may then perform a specific seasonal ritual, followed by prayers and spellcasting.
Wiccans may also use various magic tools during these rituals. For example, a Wiccan may use a pentacle, chalice, candles, incense, and a knife called an athame.
Do Wiccans Celebrate Holidays?
Wiccans commonly celebrate several holidays or festivities. These “holidays” are really celebrations of specific times of the year called Sabbats and they typically coincide with a changing of the season or lunar or solar phases.
There are four Great Sabbats and four Lesser Sabbats. Some Wiccans only celebrate the Great Sabbats, while others celebrate all eight.
The Great Sabbats of Wicca
The great Sabbats include Candlemas, May Eve, Halloween, and Lammas. The less Sabbats include Yuletide, Ostara, Litha, and Modron.
Most of these celebrations date back to the years before Christianity and other major religions. However, Christians adopted many of these celebrations for themselves.
For example, Yuletide often refers to the Christmas holiday season. Candlemas is the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. By creating Christian holidays that coincide with pagan festivities, it was easier for Christians to remove pagan influence.
Many of these celebrations are related to the harvests. Halloween or Samhain is a Gaelic festival that occurs at the beginning of winter to celebrate the end of the harvest season. Imbolc, or Candlemas, marks the beginning of Spring.
Wicca Is a Modern Pagan Religion
In the end, the answer to “what is Wicca?” is that Wicca is a religion based on beliefs established many years before the major religions of today. In fact, Wiccans are following beliefs that predate Christianity by nearly 3,000 years.
Wiccans do not need to follow a set of commandments or read a bible containing a strict set of beliefs. The beliefs of the Wiccans are fluid, much like nature. They can evolve and change over the years.
The one constant is that Wiccans do not believe in harming others. They believe that what you do comes back to you threefold. They also do not practice dark magic or cast negative spells on people.
The bottom line is that Wicca is a peaceful religion that promotes harmony with Mother Nature and with each other. People often misunderstand this religion, despite the fact that it is based on beliefs that pre-date all modern religions.
Images of Doreen Valiente and Gerald Gardner
These images (from Wikipedia) have been use don compliance with the 'Fair Use' provisions provided on that site. The image of Valiente is the property of the Doreen Valiente Foundation. No other image is available and it is used for for visual identification of the person in question.
The image of Gerald Gardner is used subject to the same provisions of fair use and no other image being available. The copyright of the image belongs to Janet Farrar.