WICCA AND WITCHCRAFT
The Spiritual Seeker’s Guide
Steven S. Sadleir
Wicca, or Witchcraft is the old religion of Europe, which apparently evolved from Druidism. Wiccan is generally a term applied to a “Wise One” or “Magician”, and Wicca is the practice of “magic”, which is the application and utilization of natural laws. As Witchcraft competed as a religion with Christianity (the ‘new’ religion) in the Christianized Western World, witchcraft became repressed as a form of paganism (i.e., a Primative Teaching) and was given an evil stigma, and therefore was not practiced openly. However, with the repeal of the English Witchcraft Act in 1951, many covens, or congregations, have opened up to teh public and many new groups have formed. There are now dozens of Wiccan orgnaizations in the United States and Europe, with perhaps, thousands of active Wiccans and Witches. Most witches practicing the craft publicly are considered ‘white’ witches, that is, they yse their knowledge for good ends and practice the Wiccan Creed: “Ye hurt none, do as ye will.” Black Witches (which has recieved most of the notoriety, but are considered a minority) are generally not visible to the public and use thier knowledge for selfish or evil means. Satanism is NOT considered a form of witchcraft, but was created by people who believe there is a Satan, or Devil.
Wicca/Witchcraft generally involves some form of God or Goddess worship, and many involve the workings of spiritual guides as well. Wicca/Witchcraft is a very individualized religion, and each person chooses his or her own deities to worship. Generally, the supreme being is considered ‘genderless’ and is comprised of many aspects that may be identified as masculine or feminine in nature, and thus a God or Goddess. Originally, the horned God of hunting represented the maculine facet of the deity, whereas the female qualities were represented in the fertility Goddess. The Gods and Goddesses from the personalities of the supreme being, and are a reflection of the attributes that worshippers seek to emulate. Wiccans may draw upon the ancient civilizations of the Druids, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, or other polytheistic cultures to commune with the particular aspect of the deity that they identify with. Some favorite gods include Osiris, Pan, Cennunnos, and Bacchus. Facotie Goddesses include Isis, Caridwen, Rhea, Selene, and Diana.
Wiccans generally observe the four greater Sabbaths of Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Laghnasadh; and the lesser Sabbaths – the Spring and autumn equinoxes and the summer and winter solstices. There celebrations are typically free-spirited, and are sometimes held ‘skyclad’ (naked) or in various styles of robes. Other services include handfasting (marriage), handparting (divorce) and wiccaning (birth rite). Regular meetings, called Esbats are also held, at which magic and healing are performed. Wiccans/witches meet in small groups (up to twelve) called a coven, whcih typically join with other covens to form a ‘Grove’.
Rituals are typically held outside and consist of forma a circle and erecting the temple (consecrating the circle); invoking, praising, and soliciting assistance from gods, goddesses, and elementals; observing the change of season and energies represented by the various seasons; singing; dancaing; ‘cakes and ale’ (sharing of bread and wine); and clearing the temple. Personal practive includes meditation and prayer, divination, development of personal will and psychic abilities through spells and various forms of healing. Most Wiccans/witches have altars where they burn candles and incense and practice thier rites. To perform thier rites, other tools of the craft are used, such as an athame, yag-disk or, seaux (a handmade and consecrated knife), a sword, a wand, and sometimes special jewelry, amulets or talismans (magically empowered objects). Sometimes these objects are inscribed with magical writings. Joining a coven or grove typically involves an initiation, which is stylized by each individual group, but generally involves the confirmation that the initiate understands the principals and an oath of secrecy.