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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pagan Basics - The Basics of Wicca

 **This was originally written and published on My One Witch's Wonderland Blog, which has since closed!

What is Wicca?

Wicca is without a doubt the largest and most popular of that pagan paths. However many today are still in the dark as to what Wicca really is. What do they believe? How do they act? Who do they worship?? With nearly half a million Americans practicing Wicca today, there are dozens -- perhaps even hundreds -- of different Wiccan groups out there. There is no one governing body over Wicca, nor is there a "Bible" that lays down a universal set of guidelines. While specifics vary from one tradition to the next, there are a few basic ideals and beliefs common to at least most modern Wiccan groups.


Basic Beliefs of Wicca:


While not exclusive to every single tradition, the following are some of the core tenets found in most Wiccan systems:

    * The Divine is present in nature, and so nature should be honored and respected. Everything from animals and plants to trees and rocks are elements of the sacred. You'll find that many practicing Wiccans are passionate about the environment.
    * The idea of karma and an afterlife is a valid one. What we do in this lifetime will be revisited upon us in the next. Part of this idea of a cosmic payback system is echoed in the Law of Threefold Return.
    * Ancestors hold a place of great honor. Because it's not considered out of the ordinary to commune with the spirit world, many Wiccans feel that their ancestors are watching over them at all times.
    * The Divine is present in all of us. We are all sacred beings, and interaction with the gods is not limited just to the priesthood or a select group of individuals.
    * Holidays are based on the turning of the earth and the cycle of the seasons. In Wicca, eight Sabbats are celebrated, as well as monthly Esbats.
    * Everyone is responsible for their own actions. Personal responsibility is the key. Whether magical or mundane, one must be willing to accept the consequences -- either good or bad -- of their behavior.
    * Harm none, or something like it. While there are a few different interpretation of what actually constitutes harm, most Wiccans follow the concept that no harm should intentionally be done to another individual.
    * Respect the beliefs of others. Wiccans as a group recognize that each individual must find their spiritual path on their own, without coercion. While a Wiccan may honor different gods than you do, they will always respect your right to believe differently. There is no recruiting in Wicca, no door to door and no preaching. However if you ask, they will answer!

Deities:


Most Wiccans worship two deities, the Goddess and the God. Some traditions mainly worship the Goddess, here the God plays either no role, or a diminished role. Some others practice a form of polytheism, or the worship of many gods and goddesses. Beliefs will vary from tradition to tradition and in some cases from practitioner to practitioner.

    * Wicca can be monotheistic: Some Wiccans recognize a single supreme being, sometimes called "The All" or "The One." The Goddess and God are viewed as the female and male aspects of this single deity.
    * Wicca can be duo-theistic: Wiccans often worship a female Goddess and a male God., often called the Lady and Lord.
    * Wicca can be polytheistic: Wiccans recognize the existence of many ancient Gods and Goddesses, including Pan, Diana, Dionysus, Fergus, etc.
    * Wicca can be atheistic: Some Wiccans view the God and Goddess as symbols, not living entities. Depending upon which definition of the term "Atheist" that you adopt, these Wiccans may be considered Atheists.

Magickal Practices:

Wicca isn't completely structureless. Some Wiccans prefer to practice within a group, called a coven. Covens are highly organized. Generally they consist of up to thirteen members and are led by a height priest or priestess. Covens will generally have rules that govern over the initiations of new members and the use of magick. As a group they will come together for both Esbat and Sabbat rituals and celebrations.

In addition to Covens there are also those that prefer to practice alone. These Wiccans are generally referred to as "Solitary." These Solitary Wiccans may or may not join together with a non-coven working group for special celebrations, but in most cases they are happy to practice alone or with family.

There are many traditions, sub-traditions, and lineages of Wicca; some of the more well-known are Gardnerian Wicca, Alexandrian Wicca, Dianic Wicca, Seax-Wica, Faery Wicca, Celtic Wicca, Kemetic Wicca, Lycian Wicca and Odyssian Wicca.

For the usual rites and rituals Wiccans assemble inside a magic circle, which has been drawn out in a ritual manner. Prayers to the God and Goddess are said, energy is raised and spells are sometimes worked. Traditionally, the circle is then followed by a meal.

Many Wiccans use a special set of altar tools in their rituals; these can include:

    * Besom (broom)
    * Cauldron
    * Chalice (goblet)
    * Wand
    * Book of Shadows
    * Altar Cloth
    * Athame (magical knife)
    * Boline (mundane knife)
    * Candles and Holders (as needed)
    * Incense and Burners (as needed)
    * Representations of the God/Goddess (may be direct, representative, or abstract)

Most Wiccans hold to the conception of the classical elements (air, fire, water, earth) and add a fifth element -  Akasha (spirit). Many hold the belief that the five points of the pentagram, or five pointed star symbolize the five elements.

The elements of nature symbolize different places, emotions, objects, and natural energies and forces. For instance, crystals and stones are objects of the element earth, and seashells are objects of the water element. Each of the four cardinal elements, are commonly assigned a direction and a color:

    * Air: east, yellow
    * Fire: south, red
    * Water: west, blue
    * Earth: north, green

Ethics:

Wiccan morality is ruled according to the Wiccan Rede, which states (in part) "An it harm none, do what ye wilt."  Some follow the slightly adapted Rede of "An it harm none do what ye will" or "If harm it does, do what ye must". However it's said, the Rede is central to the understanding that moral structure resides in personal responsibility, rather than a religious authority.

Many Wiccans also promote the Threefold Law of Return, or the idea that anything that one does may be returned to them threefold. This belief varies from person to person as to what the meaning of Threefold actually is. Many believe it refers to the number of times energy or deeds return. Others believe it refers to everything we do is magnified threefold and return to us. While others still translate it more abstractly believing that everything returns in a greater amount than we first give...  No matter how you see it, it all boils down to the same meaning:  Whatever one does is returned to them plus some. This refers not only to good, but also to negative actions.

Many Wiccans also believe that no magick can be performed on any other person without that person's direct permission (excepting pets and young children who may be protected by parents and owners).

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