Wicca is a Witchcraft Religion that was created in the 1940’s by a man named Gerald Gardner. In the 1930’s, he had been initiated into a local group of witches, whose practice was much what one would historically expect: folkloric, regional, and influenced by the Grimoire Traditions. In that same spirit, Gardner (with the help of his early High Priestess Doreen Valiente) added to the waning tradition, adding further from Ceremonial Magic, folklore, and infusing it with Valiente’s poetic spirit. At this point (and even more so today) it looked considerably different from the Witchcraft it was born from, yet it still maintains that same spirit and behavior. This new religion, Gardner called it Wica –keeping the name as he had been told by his initiators- came to the US in the 1960’s from England, and quickly grew in popularity and numbers.
There are two primary forms of Wicca today: British Traditional Wicca (which requires initiation into a lineaged coven whose practice is based on the tradition as set forth by Gardner) and Eclectic Wicca (also called NeoWicca; it is based upon the public, or Outer Court, information of Wicca, and added to as the individual practitioner sees fit from wherever they see fit.) Most people who say they are Wiccan are Eclectic and work solitary, that is alone. BTW can only be practiced in a group setting (though each individual will have their own personal practice outside of the coven) and differs greatly from Eclectic Wicca in that it is a priesthood –each initiate is training in service to the God and the Goddess of that coven, learning to preserve the tradition and to better serve those Deities.
Wicca employs folk magic, ceremonial magic, and animism. It honor polar deities, a God and Goddess, the names of Whom may vary from coven to coven and even from person to person (in BTW, the names of the God and Goddess are oathbound and known only to initiates, hence why the titles “the God” and “the Goddess” are so commonly used.) It is an experiential religion, with no doctrine: the Mysteries are experienced and wisdom attained thus; belief is secondary to what you do. Wiccans work with the Gods, the Elements, and possibly also a variety of other spirits, such as genus loci, Ancestors, the Mighty Dead, and Devas or the Good Folk.
There is great focus placed upon personal responsibility and accountability. Christian concepts such as sin and Satan play no part and are not compatible within the Wiccan worldview. Wiccans generally believe that life is a gift, a joy, and that all aspects of life and living are to be embraced and celebrated. There is no quest for an afterlife, as most believe in reincarnation. That we incarnate again and again is also a gift and a joy, not a cycle one seeks to end.
There are neither taboos nor dietary or clothing restrictions. Many Wiccans (Eclectics more so than BTW) hold to what is known as the Wiccan Rede: an it harm none, do what ye will. This simple statement is frequently misunderstood to be law and to mean that one is to try to do “no harm.” This is not only impossible, as life feeds upon life in order to sustain itself, but also not what this statement means. Written in archaic language, “rede” means advice, and the rest of the passage translates as “if it harms none, do it.” This makes the Wiccan Rede permissive as it only tells you what sort of actions are allowed, it says nothing as to what is not allowed. That is for the individual witch to decide.
Many Eclectic Wiccans, shying away from stigma associated with the word “witch,” maintain that while Wicca does include the practice of magick, it is not, however, Witchcraft. This is a gross misunderstanding of the terms and the history of Wicca and the larger historical practice of Witchcraft. This attitude and stance is harmful in that it promotes misunderstanding and further encourages stigma against the practice of Witchcraft and non-Wiccan Witches (of which there are many traditions and practitioners.) As mentioned above, while the further introduction of material from the Grimoire Traditions from Gardner (as well as themes and particulars from his own experience and preferences) has made Wicca a seemingly distant cousin to Witchcraft, and that this is further compounded by the highly individualized practices of Eclectic Wiccans, it still rest firmly upon a Witchcraft footing that infuses Wicca’s very core and cannot be removed without rendering it something else all together.
Throwing the Bones
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