UNDERSTANDING WICCA - ESSENTIAL FACTS

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  • Wicca is not Satanism. Period! Modern Witches (Wiccans) just plain don't believe in the guy. OR in "Hell".

  • There is no prescribed, written-down set of beliefs with which everyone is required to agree. Wiccans are today's "freethinkers". They answer to their own consciences for what they accept as materially and/or spiritually true. But we all seem to universally agree that the whole idea of Satan is pretty silly. And gets people off the hook far too often, from taking responsibility for their own personal evil natures.

  • Wiccans do generally embrace a version of the Golden Rule, which holds that whatever we send out into the world comes back to us three times over. It's usually called the Law of Threefold Return.

  • Most Wiccans honor a pair of consort deities, basically a Triple-Aspected Goddess (Maiden/Mother/Crone - the 3 distinct stages of femaleness) and a Horned God (embodiment of wild nature - more likely to have stag antlers than "devil" type goat horns, although most Wiccans aren't very particular about the headgear detail). Anyway, most of us think goats are cute, not creepy. Particularly the bouncy, joyous little baby ones. What kind of sicko could kill and eat one, I ask you?

  • There is also a Dianic Tradition, that leaves out the male element and just worships the Female Principle, or Goddess. They tend to not let men come to the rituals, either.

  • Also, some Wiccans are actually atheists, and don't believe in any kind of deity; but they may consider the natural world, or Earth herself, as being sacred and deity-equivalent.

  • However, most Wiccans seem to agree that we all have immortal souls. Many believe that animals also have souls. Many believe that some or all parts of non-animal Nature are ensouled (for example, trees, unusual rocks, rivers, lakes, springs, volcanoes, mountains, caves, the oceans, Earth herself, the Moon, the Sun).

  • Wiccans who believe in the soul, usually also believe in some form of afterlife. Many believe in reincarnation. Some believe in an Eden-like afterlife where they may spend some time before rebirth on Earth. This corresponds to the Celtic afterlife, variously called Isle of Apples, Avalon, Land of The Ever-Young, Tir-nan-Og, Summerland, Faerie, or the Other Side. Celtic beliefs did not make a firm distinction between the afterlife where souls of the deceased go, and the habitation of the Fae, Elfin Folk, or Nature Spirits.

  • Wicca is a Neopagan religion, but Neopagans aren't all Wiccans. Some people who consider themselves Witches (particularly hereditary Witches) aren't Pagans or Neopagans at all. By academic definition, only three contemporary religions are NOT pagan: Judaism, Christianity, & Islam, the "religions of the book". So, technically, paganism includes animism, shamanism, Hinduism, Jainism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Asatru, etc. Neopaganism is different from paganism, in that the various "traditions" are quite recent constructions, in terms of history and timeline, and do not emerge from a long-standing ethnic/cultural milieu. Besides Wicca, sources of other Neopagan paths currently include ancient Greek, ancient Norse, ancient Slav, ancient Egypt, and pre-Christian West Africa.

  • People who self-identify as Wiccan all generally view time as cyclical (rather than linear), represented by the Wheel of the (Solar) Year. This consists of 8 Sabbats distributed fairly evenly: 2 solstices (Yule/winter and Litha/summer), 2 equinoxes (Ostara/spring and Mabon/autumn), and 4 cross-quarter days (which come more or less in between each of the other 4:  Samhain/Halloween (1st November, between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice); Imbolc/Brigid/Candlemas (1st February, between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox); Beltain/May Day (1st May, between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice); Lughnasadh/Lammas (1st August, between Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox).

  • Samhain/Halloween is defined as the start of the New Year, in keeping with the old (pre-Christian) Celtic calendrical system, in which Winter, starting at Samhain, was the first season of the year.

  • Most Wiccans also honor the phases of the Moon, seeing them as symbolic of the Goddess's three Aspects (New Moon/Maiden; Full Moon/Mother; Waning Moon/Crone).

  • In rituals and altar making, the four directions are invoked, or invited to bless and protect the space. The directions are associated with the four elements of alchemy:  North/Earth; East/Air; South/Fire; West/Water. These four elements are, of course, also assigned to the 12 astrological signs. Many Wiccans also acknowledge the Center/Spirit.

  • Brooms can't fly; energy doesn't shoot out of wands; no sane person cooks toads; nobody can speak "dragon language" or "snake language" or anything similar; Wiccans can't turn themselves into animals (although a few Shamans - religious specialists of various traditional, indigenous religions - might have that ability - but taking a weekend course does NOT make you a "real Shaman") ; "muggle" is just a word that J.K. Rowling thought up.

  • Wiccans maintain (or at least, would prefer it to be true) that most of their beliefs and practices are specifically derived from ancient Celtic ideas and traditions. However, the early Celts (pre-Roman contact) were mostly pre-literate, so most of what makes up Wiccan "tradition" derives from Celtic folklore, mythology, superstition, and possibly, cultural remnants of magical or healing rituals and customs. (Also, some doubtless biased accounts by Roman invaders.) Some beliefs (such as goddess worship, antlered gods, and the importance of solstices and/or equinoxes) can be inferred from archaeological evidence.

  • Therefore, in essence, by anthropological standards, Neopagan Wicca, although very "new", has the same combination of source elements and degree of provable validity as most other religions.

  • Bottom line: if it's a set of beliefs that a person finds comforting, provides a decent behavioral ethos, AND doesn't involve harming others OR oneself, crazed fundamentalists should just back off and mind their own business.

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