Wicca, a Misunderstood Religion
Wicca is a recognized religion, one of the fastest growing religions today and is widely misunderstood. In fact, it is listed as one of the top ten religions practiced in the United States. Contrary to popular beliefs, those who practice Wicca do not worship Satan, perform sacrifices human or otherwise or use the forces of nature to perform hexes or spells to harm others. One of the main tenets of Wicca is the Witches Reade; 'And it harms none, do what you will.' Another tenet is the three-fold law; any spell worked will act like a boomerang; and come back to you three-fold.
Wiccans do not believe in a heaven or hell as they are Christian concepts and Wicca is a Pagan tradition based in the worship and respect of nature. The idea of performing good works on earth for life only to be awarded with heaven after death makes no sense to them. Satan is also a Christian concept. Wiccans believe in taking responsibility for ones own actions and feel no need to blame everything on some evil entity that stalks the innocent to temp them to the dark side.
There are several Wiccan traditions; the most common is the Gardnerian tradition developed by a British civil servant, Gerald Gardner. Gardner was born into a middle class family June 13, 1884 at Great Crosby in Lancashire, England and died in 1964. He traveled frequently throughout England and Asia and had occupations ranging from tea and rubber planter, to customs official, where he retired in 1939. He also held a great interest in the occult.
Gardner is said to have been initiated into a coven at New Forest, England by a High Priestess named Dorothy Clutterbuck. Legend has it that the witches of New Forest prevented Hitler from invading England by sending out a cone of power and chanting, 'You shall not come'. Whether this had anything to do with it or not, England was never invaded by Germany, they were bombed, but not invaded and all that separated Germany from England was the English Channel.
Gardner eventually went his own way and developed his concept of Wicca by blending aspects of Celtic, free masonry and ceremonial magic.
The Gardnerian traditions believe it is important to; seek to live in harmony with nature and recognize the responsibility they have towards the environment. They acknowledge the greater power lying within all and recognize the creative power of the universe manifested through the polarity of the masculine and feminine with the masculine and feminine being equal to provide balance. One of the most important aspects of Wicca is recognizing the outer and inner, or spiritual world and views the interaction between the two necessary for fulfillment.
As with the Christian prayer, Wiccans will use charms, spells and rituals in order to receive divine help for some particular aspect of their lives. Rituals and spells involve calling on natures energies for a purpose. The ritual of the circle for example, will have candles placed to the four directions, east, west, north and south. A space is created within the circle, which is visualized as a circle or as a cone. The circle is used to commune with the divine. The purpose of this space is to confine healing energies up until the time it is released.
There are eight Sabbats. Four of these Sabbats are the two equinoxes, generally the first day of spring, March 21, the first day of autumn, September 21 when daytime and nighttime are 12 hours in length. The two solstices introduced by the Saxons, of June 21 or first day of summer and December 21, the first day of winter with summer having the shortest night of the year and winter having the longest night of the year.
The other four Sabbats, considered major Sabbats are: Samhain (pronounced Sal Win) occurs on Oct, 31, a time of remembrance for those family and friends who are no longer with us and celebration of the harvest. It is considered the Pagan New Year. Imbolic on Feb. 2, when the first breaths of spring is noticed indicating a new beginning and is a meditative time for Pagans.
Beltane, Apr. 30 or May 1 is the beginning of the pastoral summer season when herds were driven to the summer pastures. Bonfires were lit on mountains and hill tops. People would light their hearths from those fires. Maypoles were erected with streamers of ribbons where the folks would dance around. Beltane marked the midpoint of the sun as it traveled from the vernal (spring) equinox to the summer solstice.
Lammas is celebrated Aug. 1 and celebrated the first wheat harvest. The festival is also known as Lughnasadh, a feast celebrating the funeral games of Tailtiu, the foster mother of the Irish sun- god Lugh.
A common amulet used by Wiccans it the pentacle. The five points of the star represents the elements of earth, air, water and fire. The top of the star represents the spirit. The pentacle may be drawn on parchment, metal or could be drawn in the air with an athame or sacred blade or knife.
Wicca began with the idea that one could only be a witch if a member of your family belonged to a coven at one time, but that has changed. One can become a witch with initiation and a year or two of study within a coven. A coven not needed, but some type of instruction is. Once the instructions are over, one is free to become a solitary. Also, the common perception of Wicca being exclusively female is untrue, although some Wiccan traditions, such as the Dianic tradition are. Males are not called warlocks, they are called witches and both male and female have equal power. This is the main difference from the major religions, which tend to leave females out of the equation.