Though many believe Wiccans to be witches, there is much more to their practice. Today, Wicca refers to a general belief system. Wicca honors a deity in the form of a Triple Goddess whose phases of virgin, mother, and goddess mimic the moon’s phases. Wiccans draw their energy from nature and multiple deities.
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Wicca is a religion based around nature and anti-Abraham beliefs. Wicca follows polytheistic and pantheistic worship. The term Paganism is commonly used alongside Wicca, which means they believe in many Gods and believe the universe as a whole to be god.
Modern-day Wiccans derive from these base rules but have since developed their own ideas and rituals. Wicca can be traced back to Gerald Brousseau Gardner in the 1940s stemming from British occult author Aleister Crowley. Read on to learn all about what it means to be Wiccan in today’s world.
Gardner’s eventual practices stem from Crowley’s writings in which he formed a movement based upon nature, the goddess, and numerous deities.
By the 1980s, the growth of the Wicca population slowed, but several different branches were formed over the 40 years independent of Gardner’s ideas. As new groups formed, Wiccans became more widely accepted by outsiders throughout Western Europe and North America.
Wicca is a Neo-pagan movement acting to bring attention to pantheistic views. Neo-paganism stems from nature being a divine whole being.
- Gardnerian Wicca
- Alexandrian Wicca
- Dianic Wicca
Gardner developed modern-day witchcraft in 1954 with the help of British author Doreen Valiente creating Wicca. Gardnerian Wicca has a list of rules and rituals they practice. New covens have since formed free from Gardner’s original ideals.
- They believe in the goddess.
- They respect and derive their practice from nature.
- Wiccans have polytheistic and pantheistic views.
- They accept the Wicca Rede: “If it harms none, do what you will.”
- They value meditation.
- They hold rituals on new and full moons, the vernal equinox, summer solstice, and Halloween.
- They call to gods and goddesses.
- They practice ritual magic.
In the early days, Wiccans referred to themselves as witches. Westerners saw them as Satanists, a Catholic idea. Since Catholicism is an Abrahamic religion, Wicca is not actually related to Satanism.
Wicca attempted to tie themselves to other polytheistic religions such as Hinduism and nature-based religions Native Americans practice. Though there are several Wiccans that identify as witches, there are also people who identify as witches that do not follow the Wicca Rede.
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Alex Sanders formed Alexandrian Wicca in England in the 1960s with his wife, Maxine Sanders. His ideas were similar to that of Gardner’s as he was a member of the Gardnerian Wicca before he formed his own coven.
Alexandrian Wicca focuses a lot of their time on the power of magic and celebrates every new and full moon along with eight Wiccan Sabbats. The similarities between Alexandrian and Gardnerian Wicca are noticeable. Maxine Sanders is quoted as saying, “If it works, use it.”
Dianic Wicca has no connections to Gardnerian Wicca. Dianic Wicca worships female deities, focusing on only the goddess, which sets this branch of Wicca apart from other Wicca. Dianic Wicca was formed at the time of the women’s movement in the 60s by Zsuzsanna Budapest.
As Dianic Wicca is a female-based form, most members are women. They devote their time to The Goddess, Mother Nature, as she is the giver of life.
Beliefs and Rituals
Similar to Catholicism with its three different branches, Wicca has base rules that each coven interprets differently. The Rule of Three is a very important rule in Wicca: “Whatever a person puts out into the world, it will return to them three-fold, be it positive or negative.”
High Priests and Priestesses encourage members to have individual interpretations and invoke self-thought and dedication.
Unlike most religions, Wicca does not have a weekly day of prayer or gathering. Most of the organized Wiccan rituals take place on sacred festivals of the year called Sabbats. Members are encouraged to form their own practices, which could involve them praying briefly or holding rituals.
The baseline of Wiccan rituals is to embark on good change on the world using the five elements:
The power to make magic comes from within, and members can informally perform rituals alone or formally with other members. Formal rituals are usually done in a ceremonial circle and use physical pentagrams.
Wicca celebrates eight sabbats, usually displayed as the Wheel of the Years. On these days, they recognize the changing of seasons and celebrate on the closest full or new moon.
- Yule (Winter Solstice)
- Imbolc (Candlemas)
- Ostara (Spring Equinox)
- Beltane (May Eve)
- Litha (Summer Solstice)
- Lughnasadh (Lammas)
- Mabon (Autumn Equinox)
- Samhain (Halloween)
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Wiccan ritual practices occur when celebrating Sabbats, worshipping deities, and when working magic. The rituals usually take place during full moons but sometimes during new moons. There are nine steps in the rituals:
- Purifying the sacred space and coven members
- Forming the magic circle
- Calling to the five elements
- Cone of power
- Calling on the gods
- Great rite
- Food, drink, chanting, and games
- Closing the circle by thanking the Gods and dismissing members.
The magic circle is usually formed around an altar which is used to call the deities. Ritual tools are present such as a knife, wand, pentacle, and chalice. Robes are usually worn during these ceremonies, or the Wiccans take part in skyclad (ritual nudity).
Drawing of the Moon
Drawing from the moon is a practice that uses the moon’s energy to allow the goddess to speak through the High Priest or Priestess. Wicca draws energy from the stages of the moon. The High priest or priestess will enter a trance-like state and speak.
Rights of Passage
Babies born into Wicca may be subject to a wiccaning. The High Priestess or High priest will invoke the goddess to bear protection and solidify the parent’s love and devotion. Unlike a baptism in the Catholic religion, this ritual allows the child to find their own path and spirituality.
Initiation into a coven happens after a member has taken it upon themselves to devote one year and a day of personal study. Once completed, they are given the secrets of the coven and reborn into their new spirituality,
Handfastings were traditionally performed as the engagement period, and a couple would take a year and a day to devote their love to one another. After that time passed, they would be wed. In modern-day practice, handfasting is thought of as the actual wedding and is when the couple devotes themselves permanently together.
Wicca covens consist of 10 to 15 members and are led by a High Priestess and sometimes a High Priest together. Those in the priesthood are in charge of conveying rituals and initiating new members.
There are initiation ceremonies for new Wiccans and different degrees of members.
- They first need to master the practice of magic and devote themselves to the coven’s rituals and teachings as they pass through the second degree.
- The third degree is held for those who wish to pass through to the priesthood.
Wicca is a modern-day, nature-based religion that takes from the Pagan ideas of polytheistic worship. They also base their practices off of the pantheistic way of thinking which is that nature and the earth as a whole is god. Wiccans draw energy from the five elements: earth, wind, fire, water, and air.
The magic practiced by Wicca during rituals draw from the earth and multiple deities to heal and make good changes. Wicca celebrates and encourages individual practice and spiritualism.