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Wicca And Magic - Witchcraft - Pagan Holiday Recipes - Covens - Correspondences
Wicca is a pagan religion containing traditions of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
(Pagan religion family includes Druidism, Asatru, wiccan, Greek, and Roman). Its origins can be traced even further back to Paleolithic peoples who worshipped a Hunter God and a Fertility Goddess. Cave paintings found in France (and dated at 30,000 years old) depict a man with the head of a stag, and a woman with a swollen, pregnant belly. They stand in a circle with eleven mortals. These archetypes of the divine are worshipped by Wiccans to this very day.
In 1951, the laws against Witchcraft were repealed in England. A man named Gerald Gardner was the first to come into the public eye with a description of what modern witches were practicing. His information came from the traditions of a coven called the New Forest Witches, and from Ceremonial Magic and the Cabballah. He began what is now called the Gardnerian Tradition of Wicca. From Gardnerian came Alexandrian Tradition, and a host of other offshoots that today number in the hundreds.
For two thousand years the image of the Witch has been associated with evil, heathenism, and blasphemy. These ideas have their origin in Christian myths created to convert members of the Old Religion to that of the new, Christianity. By making the Witch into a diabolical character of ill intent and action, the Christian missionaries were able to attach fear to a word that had once meant HEALER, WISE ONE, and SEER. These fears are present to this day. When we think of the archetypal image of the Witch, we remember the evil enchantress of childhood tales. We think of an old, wrinkled hag with a nasty wart on her nose. We think of hexes, and devils, and foul incantations chanted around a bubbling cauldron. While the modern witches have been known to stir up herbal remedies in a cauldron, we are a far cry indeed from the horrifying Wicked Witch of the West!
Witches Do Not Worship Satan. To believe in Satan, one must subscribe to the Christian mythos. Wicca does not have any belief in, nor do we worship a concept of evil incarnate. All life is perceived as a constant flow of positive and negative energies, which intertwine to create the balance of life.
Witches Do Not Cast Evil Spells. Modern Witches have a very strict belief in the Law of Return. Whatever is send out into our world shall return, so even the most ill-tempered Witch would not consider doing magic to harm another being. The spells do involve things like HEALING, LOVE, WISDOM, CREATIVITY, and JOY. The 'potions' might be a headache remedy, or a cold tonic, or an herbal flea bath for the family dog.
Principles of Wiccan Belief
The council of American Witches finds it necessary to define modern Witchcraft in terms of the American experience and needs.
We are not bound by traditions from other times and other cultures, and owe no allegiance to any person or power greater than the Divinity manifest through our own being. As American Witches, we welcome and respect all life-affirming teachings and traditions, and seek to learn from all and to share our learning with our Council.
It is in this spirit of welcome and cooperation that we adopt these few principals of Wiccan belief. In seeking to be inclusive, we do not wish to open ourselves to the destruction of our group by those on self-serving power trips, or to philosophies and practices contradictory to ours, we do not want to deny participation with us to any who are sincerely interested in our knowledge and beliefs, regardless of race, color, sex, age, national or cultural origins, or sexual preference.
We therefore ask only that those who seek to identify with us accept these few basic principles:
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 than is apparent to the average person. Because it is 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 femenine - and that this same creative Power lives in all people, and functions through the interaction of the masculine and femenine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supportive of the other. We value sexuality as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of Life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magical practice and religious worship.
5) We recognize both outer worlds and inner, our psychological worlds - sometimes known as the Spiritual world, the Collective Unconscious, the Inner Planes, etc. - and we see in the interaction of these two dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magical 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, magic, and wisdom-in-living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it - a world view and philosopy of life, which we identify as Witchcraft or the Wiccan Way.
8) Calling oneself “Witch” does not make a Witch - but neither does hereditary itself, or the collecting of titles, degrees, and initiations. A Witch seeks o 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 acknowlede that it is the affirmation and fulfillment of life, in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness, that gives meaning to the Universe we know, and to our personal role within it.
10) Our only animosity toward Christianity, or toward any other religion or philosophy-of-life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be “the one true right and only way” and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practices 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 our 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 Christian Tradition. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor do we accept the concept that personal benifits can only be derived by denial to another.
13) We work within Nature for that which is contributory to our health and well-being.
Immanent Divinity. Wiccans believe that the spirit of God/dess exists in every living thing: in the trees, the rain, the flowers, the sea, and in each other. This means that we must treat our peers, and all the beings of the Earth as aspects of the Divine. Wiccans honour and respect life, in all its many and diverse expressions.
Pantheism - Deity is everywhere from the Classical Greek 'Pan' meaning all and 'Theos' meaning God and 'Thea' meaning Goddess.
Polytheism - Many Gods and Goddesses which are aspects of the God and the Goddess. The God and the Goddess are aspects of The All That Is. Comes from the Classical Greek 'Polla' meaning many and Theos' meaning God and 'Thea' meaning Goddess.
Animism - Everything is alive. This is true because everything is made up of atoms which are constantly moving, except Absolute Zero where all matter is supposed to stop, but that temperature has not been reached. Comes from 'Animum' meaning Soul in Latin.
Nature. Wiccans learn from and worship nature by celebrating the cycles of the sun, and the cycles of the moon. Wiccans look inward for the cycles within that correspond to those of the natural world, and try to move in harmony with the movement of life. Teachers come in the form of trees, rivers, lakes, meadows, and mountains, as well as other humans who have walked the path before. This belief infers a reverence and respect for the environment, and all of life upon the Earth. Wiccans revere the spirits of the elements that create our world. Air, Fire, Water, and Earth combine to manifest all creation. From these four elements they gain wisdom, and understanding of how the universe unfolds. The rhythms of nature are the rhythms of our lives. Wiccans attempt to dance in step with the pulse of the Earth.
Other Faiths. Modern Witches believe in freedom first ! They do not choose to look at our path as the 'one true right way,' but as one path among many to the center. They do not convert new members to the Craft, nor do they advertise or prosteletize. They believe that anyone who is meant for this path will find it through their own search. Wiccans practice tolerance and acceptance toward all other religions, as long as those faiths do not preach or commit harm to others.
Afterlife. Most Witches believe in reincarnation of some sort, whether it be the Eastern version known as the Transmigration of Souls (the spirit incarnating one body after another in an effort to learn all the life lessons that it can), or Ancestral Incarnation (where the spirit and life lessons of the grandfather transmute to the granddaughter, and so on down the genetic line). The latter is a more traditionally Celtic approach, but both are accepted.
Sin. Wiccans do not have a specific concept of sin. There is no heaven or hell that souls will go to based on their worldly actions. Wrong-doing is governed and determined by the individual conscience. With the belief in the Law of Return, and loosely karma, one's actions will determine one's future. The individual is therefore responsible for his or her own fate, based on what he or she chooses to do internally and externally in the world.
Karma - the force generated by a person's actions held to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person's next existence
Dharma - the basic principles of cosmic or individual existence
Samsara - The continuous cycle of life, death and rebirth
For example in a football game:
People have their place in a game, this can be equated to dharma. At the end of the game the coach sees how well, or poorly, someone has done, This is similar to karma. In the next game,the player goes through this cycle again. This is like samasara.
Ethics. Wicca has but one law of action and ethics. It is called the Wiccan Rede or the Wiccan Law, 'And ye harm none' covers almost everything that the Ten Commandments do: don't lie, don't steal, don't cheat, etc. It encourages us to strive not to harm any living thing - including ourselves - except perhaps to survive. Whether this means that you must become a vegetarian or a passivist is up to the individual. The Wiccan Law serves as a guideline to action, not a mandate. The only law that the Ten Commandments express that is not covered by the Wiccan Law is that of marriage and adultery. In Wicca, love itself is sanctified, with or without government authorization. As long as two individuals share a sincere bond of love that does not harm either party, it does not matter if they are legally joined, if they are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or interracial.
Leadership vs. Hierarchy. There is no Arch Bishop of Wicca. There is no one person or organization that determines the practices and beliefs of Wicca as a whole. Instead, Wicca is formed of small nebulas groups and solitaries who are charged with the leadership of themselves. Wicca is a religion of clergy, not followers. Each person who seriously pursues the Craft, whether it be through study in a particular tradition, or through self-teaching and private learning, has the choice to become a priest or priestess of Wicca. Most modern traditions of Wicca offer a three year program of learning that will bring the student to the level of High Priest or Priestess. [the word High Priest/ess means servant; one who serves the God, the Goddess, the community, nature, and Life. It does not mean that a High Priestess is higher or better than anyone else. ]
Churches and Temples. Wiccans do not usually have churches created specifically for the worship of the gods. The temple is found in nature, among the creations of the divine. Wiccans meet in a circle that represents the Circle of Life, and equality. There is no head, no top, no beginning and no end. When necessary, circles take place indoors in houses, apartments, or wherever a sacred, protected space can be found. But ideally, a circle will take place in a grove beneath the stars, with the silver moon shining down from above.
Magic. Witches believe in the power of magic to create change. A prominent Wiccan author named Starhawk defines magic as 'the art of changing consciousness at will.' Aleister Crowley as the 'art and science of causing change in accordance with the Will.' And last, but not least, Moshe Idel 'drawing down of the divine effluence for the benefit of the community.' Wiccans use herbs, oils, colors, stones, crystals, and other symbolic materials to represent the change they wish to create. Wiccans believe that the individual is responsible for his or her own reality. If there is something that is not healthy, or conducive to happiness and growth, they have the power to change it. As aspects of the divine, they are each Creator and Creatress, filled with the power to manifest all that we dream of or desire.
History Of Paganism
Paganism has been around and alive since the beginning of time. Documentation of magic and witchcraft exists even in the oldest texts. Numerous cave drawings all over the world depict symbols of the gods and goddesses worshipped throughout history. Paganism is the oldest form of religion.
Wicca is a Nature oriented religion, that puts emphasis on honoring both The God and The Goddess, and living in harmony with all things in the Universe. It can be practiced in a group, called a Coven, or it can be practiced as a Solitary Witch. We do not worship satan!
The devil is an anti-Pagan propaganda device invented by the Christian church. He (or, more appropriately, "it") had never existed in written literature prior to the New Testament. The Craft is a pre- Christian religion which has been around much longer than the church or its concept of satan, who was never worshipped as a deity of the Old Religion. The devil is strictly a part of the Christian belief system, not the Nature-loving earth religion of Wicca. However, we do acknowledge the light and the dark sides of things, including religions.
There are also some very special Wiccan Holidays that are celebrated throughout the year. These holidays represent the honoring of The God and The Goddess, and the cycle of Nature.
Witches have an inseparable partnership to Mother Earth and celebrate Her turns of the wheel as Sabbats and Esbats. The Wheel of the Year marks the Sun's journey across the sky, the solstices, equinoxes and the Earth's changing seasons. Each spoke of the wheel marks an important moment of progression and change in the Earth. Witches will celebrate the holiday starting the day before until the day after the sabbath date.
The Wiccan religious calendar contains 13 Full Moon celebrations and 8 Sabbats or days of power. The Sabbats are solar rituals, marking the points of the Sun’s yearly cycle, and are but half of the Wiccan ritual year. The Esbats are the Wiccan Full Moon celebrations. There are 12-13 Full Moons yearly, or one every 28 1/4 days. The Moon is a symbol of the Goddess as well as a source of energy. Thus, after the religious aspects of the Esbats, Wiccans often practice magic, tapping into the larger amounts of energy which are thought to exist at these times. Most rites are held at night. The eight Sabbats represent seasonal birth, death, and rebirth.
Witchcraft is recognized in the United States and in at least some parts of Canada as a legitimate religion. In I985, Dettmer v. Landon, the District Court of Virginia pursuant to rule 52 (a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, ruled that Witchcraft falls within a recognizable religious category and therefore is protected by the Constitution. I'm sure it is also recognized in other countries as well. Also, check out The U.S. Armed Forces Chaplain's Handbook section on Wicca.
Types of Wicca
Alexandria Tradition Founded in England in the 1960's. A man by the name of Alex Sanders called himself the "King" of Witches.
British Tradition Mixture of Celtic and Gardnerian beliefs. Covens are co-ed, and they train through the degree process.
Celtic Wicca: This tradition stongly stresses the Ancient ones, the Elements, and nature. They know a lot about flowers, plants, herbs, stones, & gnomes/fairies.
Caledonii Tradition Scottish in origin, it preserves the festivals of the Scots. Used to be known as the Hecatine Tradition.
Ceremonial Witchcraft: These Witches use a lot of Magic in their practices. wiccan Magic is a favorite.
Dianic Tradition This tradition has been known as the feminist movement. It was founded in 1921 by Margaret Murray. They tend to focus more on the Goddess, & not the God.
Eclectic Witch: These Witches don't follow any one Craft. They take what they have learned and apply it as needed to their Magic.
Gardnerian Tradition This tradition is so popular because the man who started it, Gerald Gardner, publicized it so much in the 1950's. Wicca was about to die out, and he made many people aware of the Craft.
Hecatian: A branch of Wicca which worships the Goddess Hecate.
Kitchen Witch: These Witches practice most of their magic in the kitchen, like the name signifies.
Pictish Witch Scottish Craft: Solitary using nature as it's Magickal force. Not much religion involved in this one.
Pow-Wow Based on German Magic: it is not a religion, just a Magickal healing with faith practice.
Seax Wicca: Started by Raymond Buckland, this tradition contains Saxon beliefs and is exclusive for Saxon scholars, though nothing is stopping you from studying it.
Solitary Witch: This is a Witch who practices alone. The tradition may vary, and they can come in many forms. A Solitary Witch can learn off the internet, books, and Witches they may know. They do not belong to a coven, and most of the time feel as if they benefit more by practicing solo.
Strega Witch: Began in the 1300's by a woman named Aradia. They have beautiful teachings but are rare to find anymore.
Teutonic Witch This is the Nordic tradition. People vary from the English, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, and Norwegian.