I have often had people come up to me and ask “What is a Wicca?” or “What does it mean to be a Wicca? I seem to have trouble giving a good answer and usually find myself not exactly sure how to put it in words. The intention of this writing is to take a look at Wicca and define some of the more basic points over what exactly Wicca is. What makes things more difficult is that each Wiccan defines Wicca differently, and therefore, there are as many definitions of what a Wicca is as there are Wiccans.
While some may believe that in order to be a real Wiccan one must work in a coven, or trace their roots to Gerald Gardner, have Wiccan blood through lineage, others believe that one can be a Wiccan without necessarily subscribing to any of these things. Some may distinguish Wicca from witchcraft while others use the terms interchangeably. I have often been asked the question of what is the difference between a Wiccan and a Pagan. I will also take a look at this throughout this article.
In these teachings, it is my belief that one can practice Wicca whether one is or is not in a coven. One does not have to be initiated into a coven in order to practice. For example, the first witch could not have been initiated into a coven of witches, as there would have been none. Another problem is that there isn’t always a coven available to those that desire to follow a Wiccan path. It is my belief that if one feels an earnest desire to follow Wicca, they should have the freedom to do so whether a coven is available or not. Today we live in an age in which information freely flows, and anyone with the desire to learn and practice Wicca may do so. Many well-known Wiccan writers such as Scott Cunningham and Raymond Buckland would agree with the notion that a Wiccan can practice as a solitary. This is not to dismiss the importance a coven can play. Covens are generally more structured and may be beneficial to those who seek a more structured based spirituality. Many covens also hold their members accountable when it comes to such things as studying and practicing Wicca, whereas someone who practices solitary can be tempted to become lazy and not really practice. However, those who truly desire Wicca will practice regardless of whether they are in a coven or solitary.
So let me get the whole confusion of the difference between a Wiccan and a Pagan straightened out, or at least that is what I’m going to attempt to do. The best way to describe this is to say just as Catholicism is a branch of Christianity, Wicca is a branch of Paganism. Christianity is the umbrella term and branches like Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal all fall under this umbrella. Pagan is an umbrella term in which branches such as Wicca, Druid, Shamanism, Asatru, all fall under. These of course are only a few of the Pagan traditions that exist. The term Pagan can even be confused. Some use the term Pagan to refer to anyone outside of Christianity, others refer to it as anyone who falls outside of a monotheistic religion. However, I will refer to it as an umbrella term used to describe Earth based religions as mentioned above.
So, now one might be wondering what in the world an Earth based tradition is…another item that can be defined in may different ways. I personally view an Earth based tradition as a tradition where one practices being connected with nature in a spiritual since. When it comes to theism many would term Paganism as being Pantheist meaning that deity exists in all things, people, rocks, trees, grass, platypuses, clouds, that strange mark on Jupiter, quasars, politicians (yes, it’s true even those many Pagans would like to deny this aspect of Pantheism), etc. Of course, there is debate even on the definition of what Pantheism is but I won’t go there in this article. We will just go by the simple definition that deity exists in all things. Often Pagans and Wiccans alike will refer to the earth as our Mother meaning that spirit exists within the Earth. If you are not confused by now, give me some time, I’m trying…really.
Soooo, now onto Wicca specifically. Wicca is considered to be a modern earth-based neo-Pagan religion based on ancient practices. While certain practices of Wicca such as the celebration of the Sabbats, Goddess worship, the use of magick are ancient, the religion itself has only been around for a short time as far as we can tell from information available. There is some debate in the area as to whether or not Wicca dates back further than the mid-1900s but that is for another topic. I will try to write an article in the future covering the history of Wicca. All I’m going to say that modern Wicca can be traced back to Gerald Gardner, who allegedly was initiated into a Coven called the New Forest Coven which allegedly claims to trace its roots throughout the middle ages back into ancient times. Of course, there is no solid evidence to verify these claims.
Wicca is a religion that welcomes anyone who is interested regardless of gender (male Wiccans are quite common), age, sexual orientation, race, etc. One does not have to be born in a family of Wiccans or be a part of a particular lineage. While it is a religion that accepts anyone, we do not try to push our religion on others who are not interested. There is no special punishment that someone receives simply for not practicing Wicca. Most religions and spiritual paths have something valuable to offer, and therefore we do not believe it to be necessary to win converts. Wicca is generally friendly toward the LBGT community, and we do not look down on that lifestyle nor try to change anyone in that aspect. Heck, Wicca thrives in individualism so if you live an alternative lifestyle that is great, we encourage people to be themselves as long as it doesn’t bring intentional harm to anyone.
Wicca typically honors both the God and Goddess. However not all Wiccans view the Lord and Lady in the exact same way. Some few them as two personal deities almost like a spiritual mother and father. Others may view them as feminine and masculine energies. Some may believe in many gods and goddess who can be summed up into a God and Goddess. Many believe that the divine spirit is in all things including, stones, plants, animals, humans, etc. Some Wiccans are even atheistic where they still believe in the energies that are within nature but do not associate them with deities. The Goddess may be viewed as the triple Goddess represented by the 3 phases of the moon or as mother Earth. The God may be referred to as the horned God, death, or Green man. Wicca is a very diverse religion itself and while we express various beliefs we also respect others’ beliefs knowing that we all have different points of view. Some Wiccans may refer to the supreme being as “The All” and some believe that “The All” is the Great Spirit that exists in all things and the Goddess and God together represent this all. I will attempt to write more on the nature of deity in another article. However, Wiccan theism varies from Monotheistic, to Duotheistic, to Polytheistic, to Atheistic, to Pantheistic and perhaps other theisms if one looks further.
Hopefully I will be posting Part 2 next week.