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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In 1951, the laws against Witchcraft were repealed in England.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.
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.)
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.
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.
. 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.
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.
- 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
- the basic principles of cosmic or individual existence
- 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.
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.
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.
Principles of 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
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