This article describes how Wicca draws from the Old Traditions of Witchcraft. While this is true, we would simply like to clarify that Witchcraft and Wicca, while similar in many respects, are not the same. One can be a Witch, without being a Wiccan, just as a person can be a Christian, without being a Baptist. Wicca is a recognized religion, while Witchcraft itself is not considered a religion. Thus, Wicca might best be described as a modern religion, based on ancient Witchcraft traditions.
What is Wicca?
Contrary to what those who choose to persecute or lie about us wish to believe, Wicca is a very peaceful, harmonious and balanced way of life which promotes oneness with the divine and all which exists.
Wicca is a deep appreciation and awe in watching the sunrise or sunset, the forest in the light of a glowing moon, a meadow enchanted by the first light of day. It is the morning dew on the petals of a beautiful flower, the gentle caress of a warm summer breeze upon your skin, or the warmth of the summer sun on your face. Wicca is the fall of colourful autumn leaves, and the softness of winter snow. It is light, and shadow and all that lies in between. It is the song of the birds and other creatures of the wild. It is being in the presence of Mother Earths nature and being humbled in reverence. When we are in the temple of the Lord and Lady, we are not prone to the arrogance of human technology as they touch our souls. To be a Witch is to be a healer, a teacher, a seeker, a giver, and a protector of all things. If this path is yours, may you walk it with honour, light and integrity.
Wicca is a belief system and way of life based upon the reconstruction of pre-Christian traditions originating in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. While much of the information of how our ancestors lived, worshiped and believed has been lost due to the efforts of the medieval church to wipe our existence from history, we try to reconstruct those beliefs to the best of our ability with the information that is available.
Thanks to archaeological discoveries, we now have basis to believe that the origins of our belief system can be traced even further back to the Palaeolithic peoples who worshipped a Hunter God and a Fertility Goddess. With the discovery of these cave paintings, estimated to be around 30,000 years old, depicting a man with the head of a stag, and a pregnant woman standing in a circle with eleven other people, it can reasonably be assumed that Witchcraft is one of the oldest belief systems known in the world today. These archetypes are clearly recognized by Wiccan as our view of the Goddess and God aspect of the supreme creative force and predate Christianity by roughly 28,000 years making it a mere toddler in the spectrum of time as we know it.
Witchcraft in ancient history was known as “The Craft of the Wise” because most who followed the path were in tune with the forces of nature, had a knowledge of Herbs and medicines, gave council and were valuable parts of the village and community as Shamanic healers and leaders. They understood that mankind is not superior to nature, the earth and its creatures but instead we are simply one of the many parts, both seen and unseen that combine to make the whole. As Chief Seattle said; “We do not own the earth, we are part of it.” These wise people understood that what we take or use, we must return in kind to maintain balance and equilibrium. Clearly, modern man with all his applied learning and technology has forgotten this. Subsequently, we currently face ecological disaster and eventual extinction because of our hunger for power and a few pieces of gold.
For the past several hundred years, the image of the Witch has been mistakenly associated with evil, heathenism, and unrighteousness.
In my humble opinion, these misconceptions have their origin in a couple of different places.
To begin, the medieval church of the 15th through 18th centuries created these myths to convert the followers of the old nature-based religions to the churches way of thinking. By making the Witch into a diabolical character and turning the old religious deities into devils and demons, the missionaries were able to attach fear to these beliefs which aided in the conversion process. Secondly, as medical science began to surface, the men who were engaged in these initial studies had a very poor understanding of female physiology, especially in the area of a women’s monthly cycles. The unknowns in this area played very well with the early churches agenda lending credence to the Witch Hunters claims and authority. The fledgling medical professions also stood to benefit greatly from this because it took the power of the women healers away giving it to the male physicians transferring the respect and power to them.
Unfortunately these misinformed fears and superstitions have carried forward through the centuries and remain to this day. This is why many who follow these nature-oriented beliefs have adopted the name of Wicca over its true name of Witchcraft to escape the persecution, harassment and misinformation associated with the name of Witchcraft and Witch not to mention the bad publicity the press and Hollywood has given us simply to generate a profit.
What Witchcraft is:
Witchcraft is a spiritual system that fosters the free thought and will of the individual, encourages learning and an understanding of the earth and nature thereby affirming the divinity in all living things. Most importantly however, it teaches responsibility. We accept responsibility for our actions and deeds as clearly a result of the choices we make. We do not blame an exterior entity or being for our shortcomings, weaknesses or mistakes. If we mess up or do something that brings harm to another, we have no one but ourselves to blame and we must face the consequences resulting from those actions. No ifs, and or buts and no whining…
We acknowledge the cycles of nature, the lunar phases and the seasons to celebrate our spirituality and to worship the divine. It is a belief system that allows the Witch to work with, not in supplication to deities with the intent of living in harmony and achieving balance with all things.
The spells that we do involve healing, love, harmony, wisdom and creativity. The potions that we stir might be a headache remedy, a cold tonic, or an herbal flea bath for our pets. We strive to gain knowledge of and use the natural remedies placed on this earth by the divine for our benefit instead of using synthetic drugs unless absolutely necessary.
Wiccan believe that the spirit of the One, Goddess and God exist in all things. In the trees, rain, flowers, the sea, in each other and all of nature’s creatures. This means that we must treat “all things” of the Earth as aspects of the divine. We attempt to honour and respect life in all its many manifestations both seen and unseen.
Wiccan learn from and revere the gift of nature from divine creation by celebrating the cycles of the sun, moon and seasons.
We search within ourselves for the cycles that correspond to those of the natural world and try to live in harmony with the movement of this universal energy. Our teachers are the trees, rivers, lakes, meadows, mountains and animals as well as others who have walked this path before us. This belief creates a reverence and respect for the environment, and all life upon the Earth.
We also revere the spirits of the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water which combine to manifest all creation.
From these four elements we obtain insight to the rhythms of nature and understand they are also the rhythms of our own lives.
Because Witches have been persecuted for so many centuries, we believe in religious freedom first!
We do not look at our path as the only way to achieve spirituality, but as one path among many to the same end.
We are not a missionary religion out to convert new members to think the same as we do.
We are willing to share our experience and knowledge with those who seek our wisdom and perspective however.
We believe that anyone who is meant for this path will find it through their own search as the Goddess speaks to each of us in her time and way.
Wiccan practice tolerance and acceptance toward all other religions as long as those faiths do not persecute others or violate the tenant of “Harm None.”
What Witchcraft is not:
- Witchcraft or Wicca is not a cult. We do not proclaim ourselves to be spokespersons for the divine or try to get others to follow us as their leaders.
- We do not worship Satan or consort with Demons. Satan is a Christian creation and they can keep him. We do not need a paranoid creation of supreme evil and eternal damnation to scare us into doing the right thing and helping others. We choose to do the right thing and love our brothers and sisters because it IS the right thing and it feels good to do it. I suppose it is a maturity thing.
- We do not sacrifice animals or humans because that would violate our basic tenant of “Harm None.” Anyone who does and claims to be a Wiccan, or a Witch is lying.
- We have no need to steal or control the life force of another to achieve mystical or supernatural powers. We draw our energy from within, our personal relationship with the divine and nature.
- We do not use the forces of nature or the universe to hex or cast spells on others. Again, “Harm None” is the whole of the law.
Witches have a very strict belief in the Law of Three which states that whatever we send out into our world shall return to us three-fold either good or bad.
With this in mind, a “True Witch” would hesitate in doing magic to harm or manipulate another because that boomerang we throw will eventually come back to us much larger and harder than when we threw it.
This is not to say that Witches are perfect, we are human too just like everyone else and make mistakes and errors in judgment. Just as there are parents who love and nurture their children, there are parents who abuse their children. As there are many who devote their lives to giving and helping mankind, likewise there are those who devote their lives to taking advantage of and using people for their own gain. Unfortunately, the same flaws in human nature applies to witches too.
Most of us continually strive to consider all potential outcomes of our thoughts and actions pausing to seriously consider the consequences before undertaking a ritual, spell or rite that could go astray. It is when we follow the path with the love of the Goddess in our hearts and adhere to the basic tenant of the Reed that our works are beneficial and we achieve harmony and balance with all things.
The heart of Wicca is not something summed up into a few short words and can often take on different meaning to each since the Lord and Lady touch us in different ways. Through the wisdom and words set down through the ages, you will find that you are able to understand the basis of our beliefs and how they may apply to you. Your inner voice will also quickly let you know if the intent of what you are reading is for superficial purposes to benefit self instead of working to benefit the whole. Remember to read with your heart, for it is when you see life and the world with your heart and spirit that you truly gain an understanding of what Wicca is.
May the Goddess and God bless you on your journey!