Principles of Wiccan Belief

In April, 1974, the Council of American Witches adopted a set of Principles of Wiccan Belief:

1. We practice rites to attune ourselves with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the phases of the Moon and the seasonal quarters and cross quarters.

2. We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibility towards our environment We seek to live in harmony with nature, in ecological balance offering fulfillment of life and consciousness within an evolutionary concept.

3. We acknowledge a depth of power far greater than that apparent to the average person. Because it is far greater than ordinary it is sometimes called supernatural, but we see it as lying within that which is naturally potential to all.

4. We conceive of the Creative Power in the universe as manifesting through polarity — as masculine and feminine — and that this same Creative Power lies in all people, and functions through the interaction of the masculine and feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supportive to the other. We value sex as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment used in magickal practice and religious worship.

5. We recognize both outer worlds and inner, or psychological, worlds sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconscious, Inner Planes, etc. — and we see the interaction of these two dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magickal exercises. We neglect neither dimension for the other, seeing both as necessary for our fulfillment.

6. We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, respect those who share their greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have courageously given of themselves in leadership.

7. We see religion, magick, and wisdom in living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it — a world view and philosophy of life that we identify as Witchcraft — the Wiccan way..

8. Calling oneself Witch does not make a Witch — but neither does heredity itself, nor the collecting of titles, degrees and initiations. A Witch seeks to control the forces within herself or himself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well without harm to others and in harmony with nature.

9. We believe in the affirmation and fulfillment of life in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness giving meaning to the Universe we know and out personal role within it.

10. Our only animosity towards Christianity, or towards any other religion or philosophy of life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be the only way and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practice and belief.

11. As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various terms, the legitimacy of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with out present and our future.

12. We do not accept the concept of absolute evil, nor do we worship any entity known as Satan or the Devil, as defined by the Christian tradition. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, not accept that personal benefit can be derived only by denial to another.

13. We believe that we should seek within nature that which is contributory to our health and well-being.

Spiritual Laws

1. Witches know that no truths are absolute. Indeed, the downfall of humanity relies on the belief that there is an absolute truth for everything. There is not one absolute way to interpret reality, to behave or to live. Therefore, there is no single correct way to practice magic, pray, celebrate the seasons, or reach our peak of spirituality. The idea that there is only one truth to any question leads to fanaticism, compulsion, and persecution.

2. Witches understand that the universe consist of perfect balance. Therefore, everything has an opposite, not necessarily equated to a negative. A perfect example to this is male and female — the two complement each other in balance, yet one is not better than the other. Easy opposites that come to mind are light and dark, right and left, up and down, et cetera.

3. Witches realize that for every action there is a reaction. Most of us see this as the law of karma. Witches use the poem “Ever mind the rule of three, what you manifest comes back to thee.” Therefore, if you create evil, then you will receive evil back. If you create harmony, then you will experience harmony in kind.

4. Witches know that we are all one. We are all connected. Everything you do influences yourself as well as someone else. We are not as separate from humanity as we perceive ourselves to be; therefore, when we make decisions for one, we invariably make decisions about or for others.

5. The witch understands that the ultimate act of spirituality is the act of positive creation through love. Positive creations manifest harmony; negative formulations create chaos. As much as possible, we should attempt to concentrate our energies on positive creativity. In essence, all humans were born to create through love; this is our primary mission statement.

6. Witches realize that the energy created through worship and ritual manifests as a circular stream of positive energy. What we give to Spirit will return to us.

7. A witch should never close their mind to knowledge, because through the continuous process of learning that we raise our personal vibrations.

8. A witch uses the magical circle as a physical/non-physical representation of a church or temple on the earth plane. A witch needs to purify themselves physically, mentally, and spiritually before casting or entering a magic circle. There are no arguments, hatreds, or any sort of evil allowed inside the circle.

9. Witches use the energies of the elements around them alongside their own energies to assist in raising power. Witches know that the greatest energy manifests as love.

10. Witches use common sense and do not share their mysteries with fools. Good energy was never meant to be wasted on idiocy.

11. Witches do not point out the identity of other Witches to the general public, as discrimination still haunts many of our brothers and sisters. If one Witch brings discrimination on the head of another Witch, then he or she is directly responsible for the harm and will reap the karmic consequences. It is also said that if a Witch knowingly breaks the Laws or Ordains, then he or she will not be permitted to incarnate on Earth again and will instead be delegated to the mythical hell that the standard religions have created. It is their thought form after all.

Practical Laws

The Practical Laws of Magick state:

1. Never practice a magical application or system that you don’t fully understand. That includes the use of any magical symbol, too. If you don’t fully understand the potential and power of what it can invoke, then do not mess with it. An adept practitioner is an informed practitioner.

2. Do not set a price on magical work, and do not accept “dirty” money. You can ask for reimbursement for supplies and a fair fee for your time, but do not get greedy. Any monies that has been gained by illegal means, whether by the person giving it to you, or by the person who gave it to them, will still have a psychic slime left on it that would take more than a mere cleansing and consecration could exorcise. It is best not to accept this money at all.

3. Know that thoughts are things, and what you create in thought may manifest in reality.

4. Never, ever, lie to yourself. It is the epitome of deceit.

5. Do not lend your Book of Shadows to anyone. You can let others copy the information with your guidance, but never let your book out of your sight. You can never know if the person you lend it to will have relatives that don’t understand or accept Witchcraft who will destroy your hard work.

6. Injuries, poverty, sickness, and/or accidents often result from low self-esteem or negative programming — NOT bad mojo.

7. There is one that I will use the exact wording of Lady Galadriel because there is no better way to say it: “Do nothing that will endanger anyone in the Craft, or which will bring then into conflict with the law of the land, or any of our persecutors. In this regard, it is NEVER permissible, in any dispute involving the Craft, to invoke any laws other than those of the Craft, nor may any tribunals be held other than one consisting of the High Priestess, the High Priest, and the elders.” In other words, do not call child protective services on the Witch across the street because they practice different than you. It does not mean that you cannot call the cops on a wife-beater just because he is a Witch, though. Know the laws, and use the knowledge wisely.

8. Property owned by Crafters should be guarded both mundanely and spiritually by the Witch.

9. As long as you are acting in accordance with a positive belief system, don’t worry about what others think of you. Those people are just showing poor self-esteem or fear and you should not waste your time or energy on them.

10. A Witch’s power grows in direct relation to their level of wisdom. Therefore, if someone is threatening you with magic, know they are without wisdom and an idiot, and their power comes only from your fear.

11. Always do your best. You do not have to be perfect, that is impossible. As long as you do the best you have the ability to do, then you shouldn’t have to worry about the outcome.

12. Do not use your personal power in malice. You may, by all means, defend yourself, and you may ask the universe to formulate justice in a manner most befitting the attack.

13.Never use you magical abilities to show off, for most likely you will fall flat on your face.

14. This law has come about in the nineties: do not sleep with your students. That does not mean that you cannot teach your life partner. Some teachers in the past extorted sex for magical information. Very bad. This just is not done in the nineties, nor in the new century. Witches are proud of their sexuality, and have matured enough to realize they don’t have to prove it.

The Wiccan Way

Recognizing that there is more than one path to spiritual enlightenment and that Wicca is but one of many, and that Wicca holds within itself the belief that there is more than one type of step set to the spiral dance, find here listed common denominators of the Craft.

That there is above all the Goddess in her three-fold aspect and many are her names. With all her names we call her Maiden, Mother and Crone.

That there is a God, consort and son, giver of strength and most willing of sacrifice.

That “and it harm none, do what ye will” shall be the law.

That each of her children are bound by the three-fold law and that whatever we create, be it joy or sorrow, laughter or pain, is brought back to us three-fold.

That as she is the mother of all living things and we are all her children, we seek to live in harmony not only with each other, but with the planet earth that is our womb and home.

That life upon the earth is not a burden to be born, but a joy to be learned and shared with others.

That death is not an ending of existence, but a step in the on-going process of life.

That there is no sacrifice of blood, for She is the mother of all living things, and from her all things proceed and unto her all things must return.

That each and every one of the children who follow this path has no need of another between themselves and the Goddess, but may find Her within themselves.

That there shall not by intent be a desecration of another’s symbols of beliefs, for we are all seeking harmony within the One.

That each person’s faith is private unto themselves and that another’s beliefs is not to be set our and made public.

That the Wiccan way is not to seek converts, but that the way be made open to those who for reasons of their own seek and find the Craft.

And as it is willed, SO MOTE IT BE!!

Wiccan Ethics

As Scott Cunningham says in Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs:

Magic is love. All magic should be performed out of love. The moment anger or hatred tinges your magic you have crossed the border into a dangerous world, one that will ultimately consume you.

Biding the Rede is the only thing you have to do to be Wiccan. Do no harm. That is the essence of the Wiccan faith, our one law. No one imposes this on us. A Wiccan is a witch who chooses of his or her own free will to be bound by this law. We see life as magical and magic as sacred, so Wiccans are white witches who do not hex or harm.

To assume that white magic is less powerful than black magic would be to mistake kindness for weakness. Certainly we defend ourselves, but we generally do so by deflecting attacks rather than by attacking

Magic itself is neutral, a tool. Like a hammer, it can be used to smash or to build. It is colored by your intent. White magic is a term used to describe that which is positive, constructive, or helpful. Black magic is that which is negative, destructive, or harmful. If you have a business and you work spells to make it prosper, that’s white magic. Casting spells to destroy your competition would be black magic. These are not racial terms. The terms good and evil, or dark and light, are often used to express this same concept.

Why black and white, and not some other colors? To answer this question you have to go back into prehistory and imagine how terrifying the night was for humans before we learned to use fire. The black of night was full of unseen threats, a dangerous time that you might not survive. The white light of day brought illumination and safety, welcome relief.

White magic is the right-hand path, black magic the left. The symbolism of right and left is also very ancient. The right hand was used for eating, the left hand for bathroom functions. Imagine life without toilet paper and you’ll understand why it’s customary to shake hands with your right hand! This has nothing to do with being right- or left-handed. It does, however, explain why, in the past, left-handed people were often forced to learn to write with their right hands.

The term green witchcraft is sometimes used to describe Celtic magic, fairy magic, Earth magic, or any combination of these. There are several theories of “gray magic,” but I think gray magic is what Hindus call maya illusion.

Do murderers balance nice people? Do child abusers balance loving parents? If they create balance, does this excuse their crimes? Try telling that to a judge! “Well your honor, I only stole that car to create balance in the universe.”

There is another polarity theory, which states that if you do two hexes and two healings, they balance one another or cancel each other out. Although there may be some logic to this, it’s still just a self-serving excuse, a way to delude yourself that you are a white witch when you practice black magic.

Some traditions hold that those spells you cast on yourself constitute white magic, while those you cast on others constitutes gray magic. I think a spell that harms you or anyone else is black magic; one that helps or heals anyone, including yourself, is white magic. There is no gray in this area as far as I am concerned. Being of service to people in need or distress is one of the things witches do best. I therefore see nothing wrong in casting spells that help others with their permission, of course.

Some witches argue that there are evils too great, situations too grave, to be handled with white magic. The end justifies the means, they say, making black magic necessary for the greater good. Although there is some merit to this argument, I have never encountered a situation I couldn’t handle with white magic. Binding, banishing, and transformation are the powerful tools of a white witch.

There are excellent moral and ethical arguments against practicing black magic. If you are not convinced by those, however, here is a practical one:

What goes around comes around.

Everything we put forth is eventually returned to us. Moreover, Wicca recognizes the Law of Three, which states that this return is triple. Black magic may provide instant gratification, but it ultimately does you more harm than anyone else. Many white witches have learned this lesson the hard way.

Carefully examine any spell or magical working before you perform it to be sure that it is in accord with Wiccan law. Ask yourself if you are casting the spell for the person, or on the per son. If you do harm inadvertently, try to right it. Many witches work a phrase into their spells that prevents accidental harm? something like, “And let no harm be done by this.”

Wicca Overview

WICCA (sometimes called Wicce, The Craft, or The Old Religion by its practitioners) is an ancient religion of love for life and nature; a personal, celebratory religion in which there must be balance in all things. We are Pagan, celebrate the Goddess and the God, and are joyous creatures. Blessed is the Pagan that walks with their head bathed in sunlight, shoulders among the clouds, feet treading the moonlight, heart warmed by nature. Blessed is the Pagan that casts the magick Circle in the name of the Goddess, for their magick shall always be blessed. Blessed is the Pagan that preaches not, hates not, doubts not. The Pagan heart is full of joy, love and magick. The Lady and the Lord watch over Their Priests and Priestesses with perfect Love, perfect Trust, and is honored that such a creature would praise them. Blessed is the Pagan that walks the Wiccan Path.

Modern Wicca began in England in 1939, when Gerald Gardner was initiated into a traditional British coven by Dorothy Clutterbuck. He later broke the coven’s seal of secrecy and published books about the beliefs and practices of British Wiccans, because he feared the religion would die out. This began what continues to be a groundswell of people converting to Wicca. For more information on the history of Wicca, please refer to Lesson 1.

Debate currently rages over whether Wicca is a new religion, or the oldest of all religions. Some say that Wicca has been practiced continuously in Europe at least since the Ice Age. They cite paleolithic carvings of female figures, such as the Venus of Willendorf, as evidence of Goddess worship having been the origin of all religions. No, say others, Wicca is a neo-pagan faith, a 20th century construct.

Wicca is actually both. Modern witches follow in the tradition of our earliest ancestors and are the shamans and healers of the 21st century. Certainly witchcraft has changed over the millennia, but we still have much in common with the neolithic practitioner crouched before a fire, crushing herbs for a healing brew. Methods and tools may be different, but the intent is the same: to help and to heal, to honor the Mother in all that we do.

Witchcraft has adapted when necessary — we are only just emerging from the siege mentality that the Burning Times imposed upon us. We are in the process of learning how to live openly as witches again.

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 — is true aspects of Deity. 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 men and women and many children were hanged, drowned or burned as accused “Witches.” The Church indicted them for black magick and Satan worship, though in fact these were never a part of the Old Religion.

The Wiccan faith went underground, to be practiced in small, secret groups called “covens.” For the most part, it 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 religious 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 covens of three to thirteen members. Some are led by a High Priestess or Priest, many 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 membership is considered an important commitment.

There are many branches or “traditions” of Wicca in the United States and elsewhere, such as the Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Welsh Traditional, Dianic, Faery, Seax-Wica and many 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 brothers, but not disciples, followers or victims.

Coven meetings include ritual, celebration and magick. Wiccan magick is not at all like the instant “special effects” of cartoon shows or fantasy novels, nor medieval demonology; 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 religious freedom, and sometimes magick is used toward such goals. Every Wiccan is a priest or priestess of the Goddess as well as a witch. Each Wiccan determines his or her own code of personal conduct and behavior according to the Rede, so you will find Wiccans who are pacifists as well as Wiccans who are professional soldiers, some are omnivorous and others are vegans.

Wiccans tend to be individualists, and have no central holy book, prophet, or church authority. They draw inspiration and insight from science, and personal experience. Each practitioner keeps a personal book or journal in which she or he records magickal “recipes,” dreams, invocations, songs, poetry and so on.

To most of the Craft, every religion has its own valuable perspective on the nature of Deity 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: there is an assumption that people who can benefit from the Wiccan way will “find their way home” when the time is right. Despite the lack of evangelist 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.

Often Traditional Wiccans are asked to describe our religion and beliefs for interested people, who may or may not have confused us with other Pagan religions, with inversions of Christian/Islamic religions like Satanism, or with purely magickal traditions with no religious base. There is a lot of flexibility in the ways that we describe ourselves, and one characteristic of Wicca is a large degree of personal liberty to practice as we please. Still, there is an outline that can be described in general terms. Many traditions will depart from one particular or another, but groups departing from all or most of these features are probably non-Wiccan Traditions attempting to stretch or distort the Wiccan name to cover what they want to do.

Mysteries and Initiation

Wicca is an Initiatory religion descended from the Ancient Mystery Religions. A mystery religion is not like Catholicism where a Priest is the contact point between the worshiper and the Deity, nor like Protestantism where a sacred Book provides the contact and guidelines for being with the divine. Rather a Mystery Religion is a religion of personal experience and responsibility, in which each worshiper is encouraged, taught and expected to develop an ongoing and positive direct relationship with the Gods. The religion is called a “Mystery” because such experiences are very hard to communicate in words, and are usually distorted in the telling. You have to have been there in person to appreciate what is meant. Near and far-Eastern religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Shinto are probably Mystery traditions, but Wicca is very western in cultural flavor and quite different than eastern religions in many ways.

What’s In a Name

Wicca, Witchcraft, and “The Craft” are used interchangeably at times by many kinds of people. It is fair to say that all Wiccans are Witches, and many of us believe we are the only people entitled to the name. It is important to know that many people call themselves witches who are not in the least Wiccan, and that Masons also refer to themselves as “Craft”, with good historical precedent. Carefully question people on the particular things they do and believe as part of their religion rather than relying on labels. Any real Wiccan would welcome such honest inquiry.

Traditions and Flavor

There are specific Wiccan beliefs and traditions, including worship of an equal and mated Goddess and God who take many forms and have many Names. Groups who worship only a Goddess or only a God are not traditional Wicca however they may protest, although they may be perfectly good Pagans of another sort. The Wiccan Goddess and God are linked to nature, ordinary love and children — Wicca is very life affirming in flavor.

Because we have and love our own Gods, Wiccans have nothing to do with other people’s deities or devils, like the Christian God or Satan, the Muslim Allah or the Jewish Jehovah (reputedly not his real name). Christians often deny this fact because they think that their particular god is the only God, and everybody else in the whole world must be worshipping their devil. How arrogant.

They’re wrong on both counts.

Traditional Wicca is a religion of personal responsibility and growth. Initiates take on a particular obligation to personal development throughout their lives, and work hard to achieve what we call our “True Will”, which is the best possibility that we can conceive for ourselves. Finding your Will isn’t easy, and requires a lot of honesty, courage and hard work. It is also very rewarding.

Wicca is generally a cheerful religion, and has many holidays and festivals. In fact, most of the more pleasant holidays now on our calendar are descended from the roots Wicca draws on, including Christmas, May Day, Easter and Summer Vacation. Wicca is definitely not always serious. Dancing, feasting and general merriment are a central part of the celebrations.

Wiccan Ethics

Wiccans have ethics which are different in nature than most “one-god” religions, which hand out a list of “do’s and don’ts”. We have a single extremely powerful ethical principal which Initiates are responsible for applying in specific situations according to their best judgment. That principle is called the Wiccan Rede (Old-English for rule) and reads:

“An ye harm none, do as ye Will”

Based on the earlier mention of “True Will”, you will understand that the Rede is far more complex than it sounds, and is quite different than saying “Do whatever you want as long as nobody is hurt”. Finding out your Will is difficult sometimes, and figuring out what is harmful, rather than just painful or unpleasant is not much easier.

Initiation into Wicca

People become Wiccans only by Initiation, which is a process of contacting and forming a good relationship with the Gods and Goddesses of Wicca. Initiation is preceded by at least a year and a day of preparation and study, and is usually performed by a qualified Wiccan Priestess and Priest although self-dedication can be acceptable if the subject is fully schooled. The central event of Initiation is between you and your Gods, but the Priestess is used as a channel, to pass some of her power onto you as a new-made Priestess or Priest and to connect you to the Tradition you’re joining.

Women hold the central place in Wicca. A Traditional Coven is always headed by a High Priestess, a Third Degree female Witch with at least three years and three days of specific training. A Priest is optional, but the Priestess is essential. Similarly, a Priest may not Initiate without a Priestess, but a Priestess alone is sufficient. Women are primary in Wicca for many reasons, one of which is that the Goddess is central to our religion.

Magick and Science

People interested in Wicca are usually curious about the magick that Wiccans can do. While magick (spelled with a “k” to distinguish from stage conjuring) is not a religion in itself, it is related to our religious beliefs. Wiccans believe that people have many more abilities than are generally realized, and that it is a good idea to develop them. Our magick is a way of using natural forces to change consciousness and material conditions as an expression of our “True Wills”. Part of becoming a Wiccan is training in our methods of psychic and magickal development.

Because we believe that everything a person does returns to them magnified, a Wiccan will not work a magick for harm, since they would pay too high a price. But a helpful magick is good for both the giver and receiver! Wicca is entirely compatible with the scientific method, and we believe all the Gods and forces we work with to be quite natural, not supernatural at all. We do not, however, hold with the kind of scientific dogma or pseudo-religion that sees everything as dead matter and neglects its own method by trumpeting “facts” without honest examination of evidence.

Priestesses at Large?

Long ago the spiritual (and sometimes physical) ancestors of Wiccans were Priestesses and Priests to the Pagan culture as well as devotees of their Mystery. Now that a Pagan culture is rising again, some ask if today’s Wiccans could resume that role. This seems unlikely.

Today’s Pagan culture is very diverse and more interested in exploring and creating new forms than in building on existing traditions. A public role would either dilute our traditions or force them on an unwilling audience. The neo-Pagan community generally prefers “media figures” and rapid membership and growth. This is not compatible with our slow methods of training and Initiation, the insistence that livelihood come from work outside the Craft, or our needs for privacy. Our religion is not accepted in the American workplace or political system, and may never be. The most powerful Priestesses are often unknown to all but their Coveners. While all Wiccans are Pagans, all Pagans are not Wiccan, and it is best that it remain so.

What Is Wicca?

The Craft is accepting, generous, and loving. It’s gentle, unobtrusive, and supportive. It’s an ethical way of life that, once embraced, brings immeasurable joy and wonder to everyday living.

Who are the Wiccans and Witches of Today?

Witchcraft is not merely legendary; it was, and is, real. It is not extinct; it is alive and prospering. Since the last laws against Witchcraft were repealed (as recently as the 1950s), Witches have been able to come out into the open and show themselves for what they are.

And what are they? They are intelligent, community-conscious, thoughtful men and women of TODAY. Witchcraft is not a step backwards; a retreat into a more superstition-filled time. Far from it. It is a step FORWARD.

Witchcraft is a religion far more relevant to the times than the vast majority of the established churches. It is the acceptance of personal and social responsibility. It is acknowledgement of a holistic universe and a means towards a raising of consciousness. Equal rights; feminism; ecology; attunement; brotherly/sisterly love; planetary care–these are all part and parcel of Wicca/Witchcraft, the old yet new religion.

Wicca, the religion of the “Witches,” has long been shrouded in secrecy. Anyone interested in learning “The Craft” had to content themselves with hints from books and articles. The Wiccans wouldn’t say much, save that they weren’t looking for new members.

Growing numbers today are dissatisfied with traditional religious structures. Many are searching for a personally-involving religion, one which celebrates both physical and spiritual realities, in which attunement with deity is coupled with the practice of magic.

Wicca is just such a religion, centering around reverence for nature as seen in the Goddess and the God. Its spiritual roots in antiquity, acceptance of magic and mysterious nature make it particularly appealing.

Since we have arrived at a point in time where one mishap could end our planet as we know it, there has never been a time when Wicca as a nature-reverencing religion has had more to offer.

WICCA (sometimes called Wicce, The Craft, or The Old Religion by its practitioners) is an ancient religion of love for life and nature; a personal, celebratory religion in which there must be balance in all things. We are Pagan, celebrate the Goddess and the God, and are joyous creatures. Blessed is the Pagan that walks with their head bathed in sunlight, shoulders among the clouds, feet treading the moonlight, heart warmed by nature. Blessed is the Pagan that casts the magic Circle in the name of the Goddess, for their magic shall always be blessed. Blessed is the Pagan that preaches not, hates not, doubts not. The Pagan heart is full of joy, love and magic. The Lady and the Lord watch over Their Priest/ess with perfect Love, perfect Trust, and is honored that such a creature would praise them. Blessed is the Pagan that walks the Wiccan Path.

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 — is true aspects of Deity. 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 men and 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 Religion.

The Wiccan faith went underground, to be practiced in small, secret groups called “covens.” For the most part, it 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 religious 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 covens of three to thirteen members. Some are led by a High Priestess or Priest, many 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 membership is considered an important commitment.

There are many branches or “traditions” of Wicca in the United States and elsewhere, such as the 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 brothers, but not disciples, followers or victims.

Coven meetings include ritual, celebration and magic. Wiccan magic is not at all like the instant “special effects” of cartoon shows or fantasy novels, nor medieval demonology; 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 religious freedom, and sometimes magic is used toward such goals.

Wiccan beliefs do not include such Judeo-Christian concepts as original sin, vicarious atonement, divine judgment or bodily resurrection. Craft folk believe in a beneficent 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 science, and personal experience. Each practitioner keeps a personal book or journal in which s/he records magical “recipes,” dreams, invocations, songs, poetry and so on.

To most of the Craft, every religion has its own valuable perspective on the nature of Deity 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: there is an assumption that people who can benefit from the Wiccan way will “find their way home” when the time is right. Despite the lack of evangelist 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.