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Wicca (an alternative name for modern witchcraft) is a positive, shamanistic nature religion with two main deities honored and worshipped in Wiccan rites: the Goddess (the female aspect and a deity related to the ancient Mother Goddess in Her triple aspects of Maiden, Mother and Crone) and Her consort, the Horned God (the male aspect). Their names vary from one Wiccan tradition to the next, and some traditions use different deity names in both their higher and lower degrees.

Wicca often includes the practice of various forms of white magic(usually for healing purposes or as a counter to negativity), as well as rites to attune oneself with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the phases of the moon and the four seasons.

Wicca (which is also known as the "Craft of the Wise" or often just "The Craft") is considered by many to be both a monistic and pantheistic religion, and is part of the modern Pagan resurgence, or neo-Pagan movement, as many prefer to call it.

"Today, most people who define themselves as Pagans use the word as a general term for "native and natural religions, usually polytheistic, and their members." In simple terms, it is a positive, nature-based religion, preaching brotherly love and harmony with and respect for all life forms. It is very similar to Native American spirituality. Its origins are found in the early human development of religion: animistic deities gradually becoming redefined to become a main God or Goddess of all Nature. This God or Goddess - bearing different names at different times and in different places - can be found in nearly all of the world's historic religious systems. Paganism does not oppose not deny other religion. It is simply a pre-Christian faith.

The Wiccan religion is made up of various sects (or "traditions") such as Gardenerian, Alexandrian, Dianic, Tanic, Georgian, ethnic Traditionalist, and so on. Many of the traditions were formed and introduced in the 1960s, and although their rituals, customs, myth cycles, and symbolisms may be different from one another, they all hold common principles of Craft law.

The main tenet of Wicca Craft is the Wiccan Rede, a simple and benevolent moral code that is as follows:


Or, in other words, be free to do your own thing, provided that you in no way bring harm upon anyone - including yourself. (The Wiccan Rede is extremely important to bear in mind before performing any magickal spells or rituals, especially those which may be considered unethical or of a manipulative nature.)

The Threefold Law (or Law of Three) is a karmic law of triple retribution which applies whenever you do something good or bad. For instance, if you use white magick (or positive energy) to do something good for somebody else, three times the good will come back to you in your lifetime. By the same token, if you use black magick (or negative energy) to bring harm unto others, the bad or "evil" will also return to you threefold in the same lifetime.

The followers of the Wiccan religion are called Wiccan or Witches. The word "witch" applies to both male and female practitioners of the Craft. (Male Witches or Wiccans are seldom, if ever, called warlocks. The word "warlock" which is considered an insult in most Wiccan circles, stems from the Old English "waerloga," meaning an "oath-breaker" and was used derogatorily by Christian Church as a name for a male witch.)

Although Witches are proud to be a part of the Craft, there are some who object strongly to the use of the term "Witch," feeling that the word stirs up too many bizarre images and misconceptions in the minds of those who are unfamiliar with the Craft and perhaps a bit reluctant to accept that which they do not clearly understand.

As Wicca Craft is a Nature-oriented religion, most of it's members are involved in one way or another with the ecology movement and current environmental issues.

Wiccans do not accept the arbitary concept of innate sin or absolute evil, and they do not believe in a Heaven or Hell, other than those which are one's own creations.

Wiccans do not practice any form of black magic or "evil," do not worship devils, demons, or any evil entities, and do not make attempts to convert members of other faiths to the Pagan way. Wiccans respect all other positive religions, and feel that a person must hear the "Call of the Goddess" and truly desire within her or his own heart, without any outside or proselytixation, to follow the Wiccan path.

Many Wiccans take on one or more secret names(also know as "Eke-names") to signify their spiritual rebirth and new life within the Wicca Craft. Eke-names are most sacred and are used only among sisters and brothers of the same path. When a Witch takes on a new name, she or he must be extremely careful to choose one that harmonizes in one way or another with numerological name-numbers, birth-numbers, or runic numbers. A well-chosen name vibrates with that individual and directly links her or him to the Craft.

Many Wiccan work together in small groups which are called covens. The coven (which may consist of up to 13 people) is led by a High Priestess and/or High Priest, and gathers together to worship the Goddess, work magick, and perform ceremonies at Sabbats and Esbats. The members of a coven are known as "coveners," and the place where a coven meets is called the "covenstead."

Wiccans who work on their own, either by personal choice or by circumstance, are called "solitary" Witches.

Wiccans celebrate 8 Sabbats each year, making transitions in the seasons. There are 4 major (or grand) Sabbats and 4 minor (or lesser) ones. The major Sabbats are: Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas and Samhain. The minor Sabbats are: Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice.

The Esbat is a monthly coven meeting held at least 13 times a year during each Full Moon. At the Esbat, Wiccans exchange ideas, discuss problems, perform special rites, work magick and healing, and give thanks to the Goddess and the Horned God. A traditional "Cakes and Wine" or "Cakes and Ale" ceremony also takes place at the Esbat. During this ceremony, consecrated food and refreshments are served, and coveners take time to relax and discuss important magickal subjects. (The "Cakes and Wine" or "Cakes and Ale" ceremony is a traditional custom whenever a Wiccan ritual takes place and the circle is cast.)

In a coven, the Goddess is represented by the High Priestess, and the Horned God by the High Priest.

The Goddess is known by many different names. She is often called Diana, Cerridwen, Freya, Isis, Ishtar, the Lady, or any other name that a coven chooses to use or that a Wiccan feels responds to his or her own mythopoeic vision.

The Goddess is the female principle. She represents fertility, creation, the regenerative powers of Nature, and wisdom. The moon is Her symbol and in works of art, She is often depicted as having three faces - each representing a different lunar phase. In Her New Moon phase, she is the Maiden; in Her Full Moon phase, She is the Mother; and in Her Waning Moon phase, She is the Crone.

The Horned God is a phallic deity of fertility and intellectual creativity who symbolizes the powers of the waxing and waning crescent moons. He is usually represented by a hirsute, bearded man, having the hooves and horns of a goat. He is a God of Nature, and the male counterpart to the image of the Goddess. In primitive times, He was worshipped as the Horned God of Hunting.

Like the Goddess, the Horned God is also known by many different names. In some Wiccan traditions, He is called Cernunnos, which is Latin for "the Horned One." In others, He is known as Pan, Woden and other names.

The worship of the Goddess and the Horned God symbolize the Wiccan belief that everything that exists in the universe is divided into opposites: female and male, negative and positive, light and darkness, life and death, yin and yang - the balance of Nature.

Copyright © 1991 Gerina Dunwich

[ Witches Kingdom / Book of Shadows ]

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