WHAT IS WICCA?
An Introduction to "The Old Religion" of Europe and its Modern Revival
By Amber K, High Priestess
Our Lady of the Woods
PO Box 176
Blue Mounds, WI 53517
This leaflet may be reproduced and distributed exactly as is, without
further permission from the author, provided it is offered free of charge.
Changes in the text, however, must be approved in advance by the author.
WICCA (sometimes called Wicce, The Craft, or The Old Religion by its
practitioners) is an ancient religion of love for life and nature.
In prehistoric times, people respected the great forces of Nature and
celebrated the cycles of the seasons and the moon. They saw divinity in the
sun and moon, in the Earth Herself, and in all life. The creative energies
of the universe were personified: feminine and masculine principles became
Goddesses and Gods. These were not semi-abstract, superhuman figures set
apart from nature: they were embodied in earth and sky, women and men, and
even plants and animals.
This viewpoint is still central to present-day Wicca. To most Wiccans,
everything in Nature -- and all Goddesses and Gods -- are true aspects of
Diety. The aspects most often celebrated in the Craft, however, are the
triple Goddess of the Moon (Who is Maiden, Mother and Crone) and the Horned
God of the wilds. These have many names in various cultures.
Wicca had its organized beginnings in Paleolithic times, co-existed
with other Pagan ("country") religions in Europe, and had a profound
influence on early Christianity. But in the medieval period, tremendous
persecution was directed against the Nature religions by the Roman Church.
Over a span of 300 years, millions of women and many children were hanged,
drowned or burned as accused "Witches". The Church indicted them for black
magic and Satan worship, though in fact these were never a part of the Old
The Wiccan faith went underground, to be practiced in small, secret
groups called "covens". For the most part, it had stayed hidden until very
recent times. Now scholars such as Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner have
shed some light on the origins of the Craft, and new attitudes of relgious
freedom have allowed covens in some areas to risk becoming more open.
How do Wiccan folk practice their faith today? There is no central
authority or doctrine, and individual covens vary a great deal. But most
meet to celebrate on nights of the Full Moon, and at eight great festivals
or Sabbats throughout the year.
Though some practice alone or with only their families, many Wiccans
are organized into covnes pf three to thirteen members. Some are led by a
High Priestes of Priest, amny by a Priestess/Priest team; others rotate or
share leadership. Some covens are highly structured and hierarchical, while
others may be informal and egalitarian. Often extensive training is
required before initiation, and coven membeship is considered an important
There are many branches or "traditions" of Wicca in the United States
and elsewhere, such as Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Welsh Traditional, Dianic,
Faery, Seax-Wica and others. All adhere to a code of ethics. None engage in
the disreputable practices of some modern "cults", such as isolating and
brainwashing impressionable, lonely young people. genuine Wiccans welcome
sisters and brtothers, but not disciples, followers or victims.
Coven meetings include ritual, celebration and magick (the "k" is to
distinguish it from stage illusions). Wiccan magick is not at all like the
instant "special effects" of cartoon shows or fantsy novels, nor medieval
demonolgy; it operates in harmony with natural laws and is usually less
spectacular -- though effective. Various techniques are used to heal people
and animals, seek guidance, or improve members' lives in specific ways.
Positive goals are sought: cursing and "evil spells" are repugnant to
practitioners of the Old Religion.
Wiccans tend to be strong supporters of environmental protection, equal
rights, global peace and relgious freedom, and sometimes magick is used
toward such goals.
Wiccan beliefs don not include such Judeo-Christian concepts as
original sin, vicarious atonement, divine judgement or bodily resurrection.
Craft folk believe in a beneficient universe, the laws of karma and
reincarnation, and divinity inherent in every human being and all of
Nature. Yet laughter and pleasure are part of their spiritual tradition,
and they enjoy singing, dancing, feasting, and love.
Wiccans tend to be individualists, and have no central holy book,
prophet or church authority. They draw inspiration and insight from Nature,
tradition, the arts, literature, science, and personal experience. Each
pracititoner keeps a book or journal in which s/he records magickal
"recipes", dreams, invocations, songs, poetry and so on.
To most in the Craft, every relgion has its own valuable prespective on
the nature of Diety and humanity's relationship to it: there is no One True
Faith. Rather, religious diversity is necessary in a world of diverse
societies and individuals. Because of this belief, Wiccan groups do not
actively recruit or proselytize: ther is an assumption that people who can
benefit from the Wiccan way will "find their way home" when the time is
Despite the lack of evangelistic zeal, many covens are quite willing to
talk with interested people, and even make efforts to inform their
communities about the beliefs and practices of Wicca. One source of
contacts is The Covenant of the Goddess, P.O. Box 1226, Berkeley, CA 94704.
Also, the floowing books may be of interest: (Ask your librarian.)
Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler
The Spiral Dance by Starhawk
Positive Magic by Marion Weinstein
What Witches Do by Stewart Farrar
Witchcraft for Tomorrow by Doreen Valiente
---This leaflet is ditributed courtesy of: Kathexis Coven, PO Box 4538,
Sunnyside, New York 11104-4538