What is Wicca and Why Choose It as Your Path?
First for a bit of background information. Shamanism is thought to be the first religion and shamans the first with knowledge. They were the power wielders and medicine people. Through altered states of consciousness, they gained this knowledge. Ancient shamans achieved these altered states of consciousness by thirsts, fasts, self-infliction of pain, ingesting hallucinogenic substances and so on. They eventually progressed to the use of tools to gain these altered states of awareness, which marked the advent of magical rituals. The tools of a shaman are drums, rattles, music, reflective objects, chants, dance and ritual drama. The use of both natural and artificial tools was found to be the most effective.
Wicca is spiritually descended from these rites. Wicca does not use pain or hallucinogenic substances, but Wicca does use chanting, music, meditation, dance, drums, visualization, concentration and ritual drama. The Wiccan can achieve a ritual consciousness similar to those reached by the harshest of shamanic ordeal without pain, deprivation or hallucinogens.
The “altered states of consciousness” are not “unnatural”. Nature includes a wide range of mental and spiritual states. Most people are ignorant of these mental and spiritual states, but, through ritual, we are allowed communication and communion with the Goddess and God. Also, through ritual, we can enter ritual consciousness and through that we can then expand our knowledge. And knowledge is power.
A practice of Wicca is that of meditation. This practice helps in many ways the practice of the Wicca. Through it we learn to focus and also to relax. This seems to be a contradiction in terms but they are not in actual practice. Also, through meditation we can seek guidance from the spirit world. This may be in the form of a guiding spirit or what some call a guardian spirit, sometimes a person, sometimes an animal, it may also be from the Deities Themselves. Also, those that practice meditation on a regular basis find that they tend to be more relaxed in their daily life than they did before they started the practice of meditation. And when we are relaxed, we are better able to focus on what we really want in a given action.
Something you need to understand about the word Wicca, it doesn’t mean Witch. Wicca is a religion. A Witch is a person who performs magic. This can be any form of magic but it doesn’t have to have anything to do with any religion. A Witch can be of any religion they wish to be or of no religion at all. But if you are of a religion other than Wicca you can’t add the word Wicca to that religion’s name to signify that you are a person of that religion that does magic. So, you can’t say you are a Christian Wicca. You would say you are a Christian Witch though. However, almost all Wicca are Witches and thus you can assume that when someone says they are Wicca that they are also a Witch. Also, magic is used as a tool of Wicca to improve ourselves, the world and others. Just remember that Wicca and Witchcraft are two separate things.
So, what is Wicca about? What should a person expect when they begin their studies and advance in those studies throughout the years to come? Let’s take a closer look at what it means to be Wiccan and what is involved when starting out.
Wicca is a personal spiritual path. That means that much of the practice of Wicca is determined by the practitioner. But there are a few things that are distinct to Wicca and separate it from other Pagan paths. First and foremost, is that the Wicca worship at least one Goddess and one God. Some worship a whole pantheon of Deities or various Deities from various pantheons. You can’t call yourself Wiccan if you don’t include this aspect into your practice. Even Dianic Wicca recognizes that there is a God as well as the Goddess, though they don’t always worship the God in their rituals. Also, Wiccans believe that the divine is within nature and thus Wiccans believe that all of nature should be respected and protected. So, you might find yourself involved in environmental issues as well as animal rights. More on Deities later. Second, most Wiccan recognize and follow The Wicca Rede and the Three-Fold Law; how they interpret these can vary though. I’ll elaborate more later. Third, the Wiccan believes in free will. This means that they believe that we all have the right to make our own decisions and have the right to say no when it comes to others doing spells or rituals for us. Thus, we do not force our will unduly onto another person. To do so not only violates their free will but will probably cause harm which we strive to avoid. So, it follows that we strive to have respect for everyone, and we mean everyone. Fourth, most believe in the Summerland and reincarnation. That one reincarnates human to human but can go from one gender to another. More on this in a bit. Fifth and this is also believed by most Pagan practitioners, you and you alone are responsible for your actions. You can’t blame that you were influenced by some evil entity to do what you did. You did it and you must own up to it. And sixth, Wicca teaches that this physical world is one of many realities and that all of these realities are natural and a part of the universe.
Another belief of Wiccans and Witches is that we can through various devices and methods divine the past, present and future. These devices are, but not limited to, things like the tarot, pendulum, runes, tea leaves, etc. Tarot and the Runes seem to be the most popular. Most believe that divination can be used to learn not only someone’s future, but also to know what is going on around them but outside of their physical sight. It can also reveal to you things about your past as well as helping you to choose how to construct the right spell you should cast for a given circumstance. Most Wicca finds divination to be a very useful tool in their practice. Some Wiccans and Witches can easily learn to use these devices and others have to study a bit harder, but virtually anyone can learn to use them to some degree of success. No, we do not call on demonic forces to use these devices, it is an inner gift that we all have. Some of us ask for guidance from the spirit world or the akashic records, but the devil is not involved in any way, shape or manner.
Another aspect of Wicca is that we practice magic. I’ve heard it said that some Wiccans don’t practice magic, but even the act of casting a circle to perform a ritual of worship is an act of magic. So yes, we, as Wiccans, practice magic. This means that we are Witches. A Witch is a person who practices magic. There are many Witches that are not Wiccan though, so don’t think that all Witches are Wiccan.
As to the subject of religious magic it is a part of many religions. Prayer, which is a part of many religions, is actually religious magic in that it involves a simple form of focused intent and communication with Deity. When extending this further, the energies sent out by our thoughts, can cause the prayer to come true. Magic is the practice of manipulating energies to cause a needed and/or wanted change.
Let me elaborate on Wiccan belief of the Summerland and of reincarnation. We believe that our spirit or soul is eternal and genderless and that when we pass from this earthly plane, we go to a place we call the Summerland and there we contemplate our past lives and our future lives as well. We believe that eventually we are born again in the earthly body of human and live another physical life. We may return to Earth as male or female but we are always human. Many of us believe that we plan some of our earthly life while in the Summerland but only the circumstances in which we are born and that, through free will, we live out that life, hopefully in a way that betters our spiritual selves. We do not believe that we have no control of our lives once we have returned to Earth. We believe that it is up to us to make the most of what we have been born into. There are some that believe that through adversity we are better apt to grow spiritually, though we know that not all do. This doesn’t mean that if we are born in a good life that we are not able to grow spiritually though. There are no perfect lives and though we may not see it, there could very well be adversity in the lives of those who seem to have all they need or could want.
Most Wiccans believe in reincarnation and teaches that humans reincarnates as humans. That though rocks, plants, insects and animals have a spirit, it is different to the human’s spirit. Not less than human, just different. Reincarnation isn’t something that you simply believe in. It should be approached through meditation, contemplation and self-analysis. Through these you may come to believe in it. But it isn’t necessary to believe in reincarnation to be a Wicca.
Most Wiccans don’t believe in pre-destination. We are in charge of what happens to us in that we choose our actions; they are not chosen for us long before we are born. Yes, we are born into situations and with certain attributes that we chose before we were born but what happens after we are born is up to us. We are also responsible for our own actions. The devil can’t be blamed for what we do, nor is it all a part of fate. We are free souls and have control of our lives. Take responsibility of your life, past, present and future, and magic will happen.
So, what should a person expect when they decide to follow the Wicca path? Well they won’t suddenly have total joy and a perfect life. They can, however, expect to be subjected to ridicule and attacks from those that feel that they have stepped onto the path of the devil and things wicked and evil. On the other hand, they can gain a personal relationship with the Deities that they have chosen to worship. This is because the Deities live within us and all around us, so They aren’t any further from us than our thoughts and nature. That person will also find that they have many avenues to practice by. They won’t be told what and how to believe. A person who chooses to follow the Wiccan path can expect to have to study hard for the knowledge that is available to them, but they might also expect to have found an inner happiness because they have discovered that they may have very well found their spiritual home.
As stated before, The Wicca Rede and The Three-Fold Law and the belief that everyone has the right to free will pretty much sums up those rules. There are others, but these are the important ones. What do they mean? Well, The Wicca Rede does say that we can do what we want, but it also says that we are to cause “No Harm” while doing it. The Three-Fold Law states that whatever action you put out, especially magical, will come back to you in like form only three times stronger. In other words, for good actions good will return and for harmful actions that which is harmful will return to you. That leaves the fact that all humans have free will. This means, in conjunction with The Wicca Rede and the Three-Fold Law, that you don’t have the right to interfere with a person’s free will to live as they wish. And yes, that means that casting that love spell on someone is interfering with their free will to love who they feel they should love. Also, before you cast a spell on or for someone you need to ask their permission first, because they have the right to say no. And yes, that applies to healing spells too. These concepts also apply to respect for things of nature as well. This respect and the action of trying to harm none mean that many Wiccans are vegetarians or vegans; as they do not wish to harm any animal unduly. But not all Wiccans are vegetarians or vegans. Some believe in the natural order of things that allows for the consumption of meat. But most that do eat meat do so with respect to the animal it came from. The Wicca Rede means that you do no harm to others but also that you do no harm to yourself as well. This is not only for personal survival reasons, it also insures that you are able to preserve and better the world around you. However, it is recognized that we can’t always do no harm, so, it is accepted that we will try to do as little harm as possible.
Wiccans also believe in respecting our ancestors. That doesn’t mean just those that have passed on, but also those that are alive and with us today. A Wiccan recognizes that our ancestors have much wisdom to pass on to us. Many of the Wicca set up altars to honor their ancestors. Wiccans also celebrates not only the Esbats, which are the various moon cycles such as the Full Moon and Dark of the Moon, but Sabbats as well. There are eight Sabbats in a year and they are a reflection of the various seasons that they are celebrated in.
Let’s set some things straight with a statement that seems to have to be said. Wicca and Pagans don’t believe or worship the devil. Many of those outside of the Pagan community seem to think that we, of the Pagan community, worship the devil or Satan. This isn’t the case. We don’t recognize him as an entity outside of Abrahamic belief systems. Yes, we worship many different Deities but not a one of them is the devil. It is true that some of our Deities wear horns or antlers but They are Deities of nature and many creatures in nature wear horns or antlers. And yes, some of our Deities have cloven feet but again this is a feature of nature. We also recognize that our Deities have a duel nature to Them, They have both a dark side and a light side. But again, this is also a feature of nature. So, no, we don’t worship the devil. And though demons do exist they do not walk openly on our public streets. Not only that but they are extremely rare and have usually been summoned by someone and generally sent back where they came from by the same person. However, Wiccans don’t in general practice the summoning of demons. This is a practice done by other belief systems. A Wiccan does summon or call forth spirits, but generally for guidance and help in magical workings as well as protection during rituals and magic.
The Wicca does not view the Deities as distant. As I stated before, They are within us and are manifested in nature. There is nothing that isn’t of the Gods. Wicca views Deity as dual, as in a Goddess and God, and reveres both. We see Them as equal as well as warm and loving and not distant; though as I said before, Wiccans do recognize that the Deities all have what we would consider a darker side. Just as within nature there is the light as well as the dark. Some Wiccans call on various Deities by name, as they may follow different pantheons. So, one might call on Celtic Deities and another maybe Greek and so on. Still others will mix it up and call on whatever Deity of whatever pantheon that they feel fits their present need.
Now for a practice that is growing rarer these days. Though in the past Wicca has practiced free and open sex and nudity, also called skyclad, it is not generally practiced these days. For one thing sex has been seen to cause dissent within the coven sometimes and for another with the advent of proliferation of HIV it has simply been deemed unadvisable. These days when sex is used within the ritual setting it is usually between existing couples. The use of sex is part of a very specific ritual that is generally only preformed once or twice a year. There is however something called Sex Magic which is a very specific practice and won’t be discussed in this article. As for the practice of going skyclad, naked, it is practiced by some few covens but again it has fallen out of practice for the most part. It is sometimes practiced by solitary practitioners but as they practice alone and within their homes or in very secluded places it is hard to say how many actually practice it. The reason for the practice of skyclad is that some see clothing as a barrier between themselves and the Deities also the clothing is seen to interfere with the flow of energies in magic. Most find these two reasons to not be true in their practice and thus another reason why few people practice skyclad these days.
There is one practice that Wiccans are accused of and that is the use of some form of blood sacrifice in our practice, but this is not a practice of Wicca. Wiccans do not use any form of blood sacrifice in our practice; not human or animal. Let me state this again there are no animal or human sacrifices practiced with the Wiccan community. We do use a knife in our practice though. It is called the Athame but it is generally a dull blade and never used to cut anything in the physical world. We have another knife we call the Boline that is sharp but it is used to cut things like herbs, ribbons, cords and into candles or other objects like wood. Neither knife is ever used to cut into flesh in any way shape or form. There are other magical practices that use blood, bodily fluids and parts but no animal or human are killed to do these kinds of magic. Nor is it taken by force. So, no, there are no blood sacrifices in Wicca.
Magic cannot be used to force nature to do what we want. It is not supernatural but a natural movement of energies to make needed and/or wanted change. If it is possible for something to happen within the scope of nature, then, it can be made to happen through magic. So, if you want to change the color of your hair, then go to the drug store and get a box of hair dye and do it the mundane way or see a beautician.
The Wiccan’s temple is the outdoors in nature. We do not need a brick and mortar building in which to worship or practice our religion or magic. The Wiccan listens to the Earth, so do not lose touch with the Earth or you will lose touch with Deity. Also, don’t lose touch with the physical world either in favor of the spiritual world as it is through the physical world that we experience the spiritual realms. Through rituals we expand our awareness and become one with all of creation.
Many aspects of Wicca come from many different ancient practices. However, it has all been put into a new format. This is why Wicca is both new and old. There is no ancient Wicca Book of Shadows or Grimoires. Wicca was founded in the mid 1950’s by Gerald Gardner and has grown and in some minor ways changed since then. It is more like that Wicca has been refining itself through the years. Many have contributed to what Wicca is today.
Now the question is Why Wicca? Why did you choose to study and practice Wicca? This is a question that should be asked by all teachers and mentors who first meet a potentially new student, but there is no one set answer to these questions. However, a teacher should be looking for certain answers when asking it. I’m not saying that a teacher or mentor should deny teaching a person if they give an answer that may not be very encouraging to a positive outlook as to what they think Wicca is and can be in their lives. But maybe a person should be directed to reconsider what they expect to learn.
Wicca isn’t to be just another way to defy your parents or authority figures in your life. It isn’t a cool way to dress. It isn’t an interesting way to intimidate those around you. It isn’t a way to fit in with your new friends. It’s not a way to look for a new love interest. And it certainly isn’t a way to justify lewd or promiscuous behavior. It’s not a path to get revenge on your enemies. It also isn’t an excuse to be used to justify using substances that alters one’s state of conscientiousness. And it isn’t about the world of Harry Potter or any other Hollywood dream world.
So, if you wish to become a Wiccan then expect to work quite a bit in your studies and your spiritual growth. Being a Wiccan isn’t an ongoing party or fright fest. It’s a serious and enjoyable celebration of life, the Deities and our spiritual self. If all you are after is creating fear or forcing your will on others, then think about choosing a different path.
One more point. Please don’t think that what Hollywood or even many fiction writers puts out for public consumption is what it is to be Wiccan or even a Witch. As stated, that is fiction and great for entertainment but does not work in reality. A fiery light does not stream forth from our wands and we can’t make objects fly. And no, we don’t fly on broomsticks as is seen and read in a popular fiction. All of this is great for the imagination but just doesn’t work in reality. Please don’t confuse the two.
There are many other beliefs and practices that vary from tradition to tradition. Solitaries each have their own beliefs and practices too. What are listed here are the basics that bind us to our beliefs and practices as Wiccans. If you choose to study Wicca and Witchcraft then understand that that study is a lifelong pursuit. Only a dead Wiccan or Witch has stopped in their studies and then they pursue those studies again when they return to an earthly existence as many practice Witchcraft in more than one life time. Life is a never-ending pursuit of knowledge, so as long as we live, we learn something new every day.
For more information on beginner Wicca, I’d like to suggest a few sources. Scott Cunningham’s books “Wicca: A Guide for Solitary Practitioners” and “Living Wicca” can be found in most book stores and libraries and even used book stores. I think his books are great when starting out. They are easy to read and understand.