WICCA (sometimes called Wicce, The Craft, or The Old Religion by its practitioners)
is based on an ancient religion of love for life and nature.
In prehistoric times, people respected the great forces of Nature and celebrated the cycles of the seasons and the moon. They saw divinity in the sun and moon, in the Earth Herself, and in all life. The creative energies of the universe were personified: feminine and masculine principles became Goddesses and Gods. These were not semi-abstract, superhuman figures set apart from Nature: they were embodied in earth and sky, women and men, and even plants and animals.
This viewpoint is still central to present-day Wicca. To most Wiccans, everything in Natures -- and all Goddesses and Gods -- are true aspects of Deity. The aspects most often celebrated in the Craft, however, are the Triple Goddess of the Moon (Who is Maiden, Mother, and Crone) and the Horned God of the wilds. These have many names in various cultures.
Wicca had its organized beginnings in Paleolithic times, co- existed with other Pagan ("country") religions in Europe, and had a profound influence on early Christianity. But in the medieval period, tremendous persecution was directed against the Nature religions by the Roman Church. Over a span of 300 years, millions of men and women and many children were hanged, drowned or burned as accused "Witches." The Church indicted them for black magic and Satan worship, though in fact these were never a part of the Old Religion.
The Wiccan faith went underground, to be practiced in small, secret groups called "covens." For the most part, it stayed hidden until very recent times. Now scholars such as Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner have shed some light on the origins of the Craft, and new attitudes of religious freedom have allowed covens in some areas to risk becoming more open.
How do Wiccan folk practice their faith today? There is no central authority or doctrine, and individual covens vary a great deal. But most meet to celebrate on nights of the Full Moon, and at eight great festivals or Sabbats throughout the year.
Though some practice alone or with only their families, many Wiccans are organized into covens of three to thirteen members. Some are led by a High Priestess or Priest, many by a Priestess/Priest team; others rotate or share leadership. Some covens are highly structured and hierarchical, while others may be informal and egalitarian. Often extensive training is required before initiation, and coven membership is considered an important commitment.
There are many branches or "traditions" of Wicca in the United States and elsewhere, such as the Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Welsh Traditional, Dianic, Faery, Seax-Wica and others. All adhere to a code of ethics. None engage in the disreputable practices of some modern "cults," such as isolating and brainwashing impressionable, lonely young people. Genuine Wiccans welcome sisters and brothers, but not disciples, followers or victims.
Coven meetings include ritual, celebration and magick (the "k" is to distinguish it from stage illusions). Wiccan magick is not at all like the instant "special effects" of cartoon shows or fantasy novels, nor medieval demonology; it operates in harmony with natural laws and is usually less spectacular -- though effective. Various techniques are used to heal people and animals, seek guidance, or improve members' lives in specific ways. Positive goals are sought: cursing and "evil spells" are repugnant to practitioners of the Old Religion.
Wiccans tend to be strong supporters of environmental protection, equal rights, global, peace and religious freedom, and sometimes magick is used toward such goals.
Wiccan beliefs do not include such Judeo-Christian concepts as original sin, vicarious atonement, divine judgment or bodily resurrection. Craft folk believe in a beneficent universe, the laws of karma and reincarnation, and divinity inherent in every human being and all of Nature. Yet laughter and pleasure are part of their spiritual tradition, and they enjoy singing, dancing, feasting, and love.
Wiccans tend to be individualists, and have no central holy book, prophet, or church authority. They draw inspiration and insight from science, and personal experience. Each practitioner keeps a personal book or journal in which s/he records magickal "recipes," dreams, invocations, songs, poetry and so on.
To most of the Craft, every religion has its own valuable perspective on the nature of Deity and humanity's relationship to it: there is no One True Faith. Rather, religious diversity is necessary in a world of diverse societies and individuals. Because of this belief, Wiccan groups do not actively recruit or proselytize: there is an assumption that people who can benefit from the Wiccan way will "find their way home" when the time is right. Despite the lack of evangelist zeal, many covens are quite willing to talk with interested people, and even make efforts to inform their communities about the beliefs and practices of Wicca. One source of contacts is The Covenant of the Goddess, P.O. Box 1226, Berkeley, CA 94704.
In April 1974, the Council of American Witches adopted a set
of Principles which we personally believe in:
1) We practice rites to attune ourselves with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the phases of the Moon and the seasonal Quarters and Cross Quarters.
2) We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibility toward our environment. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance offering fulfillment to life and consciousness within an evolutionary concept.
3) We acknowledge a depth of power far greater that that apparent to the average person. Because it it far greater than ordinary it is sometimes called "supernatural", but we see it as lying within that which is naturally potential to all.
4) We conceive of the Creative Power in the universe as manifesting through polarity--as masculine and feminine--and that this same Creative Power lies in all people, and functions through the interaction of the masculine and feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supportive of the other. We value sex as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magickal practice and religious worship.
5) We recognize both outer worlds and inner, or psychological, worlds sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconscious, Inner Planes, etc.--and we see in the inter-action of these two dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magickal exercises. We neglect neither dimension for the other, seeing both as necessary for our fulfillment.
6) We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, respect those who share their greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have courageously given of themselves in leadership.
7) We see religion, magick and wisdom in living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it--a world view and philosophy of life which we identify as Witchcraft--the Wiccan Way.
8) Calling oneself "Witch" does not make a Witch--but neither does heredity itself, nor the collecting of titles, degrees and initiations. A Witch seeks to control the forces within him/herself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well without harm to others and in harmony with Nature.
9) We believe in the affirmatino and fulfillment of life in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness giving meaning to the Universe we know and our personal role within it.
10) Our only animosity towards Christianity, or towards any other religion or philosophy of life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be 'the only way' and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practice and belief.
11) As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various terms, the legitimacy of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present and future.
12) We do not accept the concept of absolute evil, nor do we worship any entity known as 'Satan' or 'the Devil' as defined by the Christian tradition. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor accept that personal benefit can be derived only by denial to another.
13) We believe that we should seek within Nature that which is contributory to our health and well-being.
Recognizing that there is more than one path to spiritual enlightenment and that Wicca is but one of many, and that Wicca holds within itself the belief that there is more than one type of step set to the spiral dance, find here listed common denominators of the Craft.
That there is above all the Goddess in her three-fold aspect and many are her names. With all her names we call her Maiden, Mother and Crone.
That there is the God, consort and son, giver of strength and most willing of sacrifice.
That and it harm none, do what ye will shall be the law.
That each of her children are bound by the three-fold law and that whatever we create, be it joy or sorrow, laughter or pain, is brought back to us three-fold.
That as she is the mother of all living things and we are all her children, we seek to live in harmony not only with each other, but with the planet earth that is our womb and home.
That life upon the earth is not a burden to be born, but a joy to be learned and shared with others.
That death is not an ending of existence, but a step in the on-going process of life.
That there is no sacrifice of blood, for She is the mother of all living things, and from her all things proceed and unto her all things must return.
That each and everyone of the children who follow this path has no need of another between themselves and the Goddess, but may find Her within themselves.
That there shall not by intent be a desecration of another's symbols of beliefs, for we are all seeking harmony within the One.
That each person's faith is private unto themselves and that another's belief is not to be set out and made public.
That the Wiccan way is not to seek converts, but that the way be made open to those who for reasons of their own seek and find the Craft.
And as it is willed, SO MOTE IT BE!
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