NOTE: This class is taken from the Order of the Gecko. IF you would like your answers to the questions reviewed or graded, sign up at the Order of the Gecko (its free!) to take the class for real.
Part 1: Introduction
Wicca has been criminalized, ostracized, and even ridiculed in the past couple of years, yet many are unaware of the history, teachings, and current standings of Wicca, or witchcraft. A religion with claims into the far past, its modern interpretation was crafted by Gerald B. Gardner in the early to mid 20th century.
Please note that this course is not intended to teach you how to ‘do’ magic, ritual, or spells, or use the magical tools. This course covers history, holidays, and basic spiritualist traditions within the religion.
Here, we review what it is that makes a witch, the differences between “good” and “bad” witches, and the official community definition of what separates a Wiccan or a witch from the rest of the neo-pagan movement.
What is a Witch? By D. Cheraz
There are a number of things that define a Witch in modern times and there are misconceptions that even Wiccans carry on to misrepresent themselves in the craft and art of out magical life and path of wisdom. there are many points I could bring up about this I suppose but in the essence of time, I’ll focus on two.
Wicca is not a means of rebellion.
Though there are those which use its liberal views on sexuality and personal freedom as a means to rebel. Many times I have seen those who call themselves a Witch use these points as a means of entertainment from the shock it instills in others. These people enjoy the label of Witch simply because it flies in the face of those around them.
They seem to enjoy the shock in the reaction it causes. Though many are guilty of this from time to time in almost anything they undertake be it as simple as a hobby or as grand as a way of life, this is for all intents and purposes a form of Psychic Vampirism, it is a means of ‘feeding’ off of the energy others send out. What is worse, it is a means of ‘feeding’ off of what we could call ‘negative’ energy. These freedoms are not a means of rebellion; they are a part of our lifestyle that requires discipline and responsible action. For example a Witch does not condemn any one for say, drinking alcohol, this does not mean we are free to imbibe as often as we wish, or violate the laws of the land in which we live to do it.
There is no such thing as a ‘Dark or Light’ Witch.
The terms ‘Dark Arts’ or ‘Black Magic’ mentioned in a manner describing one proclaiming to be Wiccan is an oxymoron. It would be like saying “I am a Satanic Christian” the two simply do not fit together. Here we get into a bit of uncharted land, because there are those who feel that certain pantheons of the craft allow for actions that are clearly harmful to others. The accepted creed of the Wicca, clearly states “An it Harm none, do what ye will.”, therefore this is a core belief and foundation of Wicca. I think of it like ‘Spanish’, even though there are hundreds of different dialects, there is still a core system to the language, Latin, and although Mexicans and Spaniards come from two separate parts of the world they still are considered ‘Latino’. In Wicca there are many traditions and pantheons, all vary in belief and philosophy however there is still a core system that is followed by all. Since the idea of ‘Harmful Magic’ is NOT part of that core belief, it is quite impossible to proclaim oneself a ‘Dark Wiccan’ or any other term that attempts to place Wicca in league with so called ‘Black Magic’.
I’ll end this particular rant satisfied that I have stated my opinion on these two points and made my views on them clear. However it should be noted that opinions are as individual as those that state them. It is not my intent to proclaim mastery or all knowingness on the subject of Wicca; rather it is my object here to give a seed of thought to those who would decide to listen.
What is Wicca? By S. Davis
This is probably the most controversial question. A hundred people will give you three hundred different answers. We all develop our own answers to this question, and we will fight tooth and nail to prove our version correct.
At its base, Wicca is a choice of spiritual path which focuses on honoring nature, respecting the Wheel of the Year and the seasons within. Wicca also gives the practitioner the choice of pantheon or gods to worship from, respecting all paths as ways to the Divine.
Even with that very broad definition, I’m sure I will receive complaints. In the end, Wicca can be defined by the 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief, written by the American Council of Witches at the Witchmeet of 1974. That is by far the best definition, and I will leave it at that.
The Wheel of the Year. By S. Davis
The Wheel of the Year is composed of eight major sun holidays, also known as Sabbats. Scattered throughout, on different cycles, are the esbat celebrations of the full and new moon. Please note that these holidays are for those Witches in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Witches’ Year begins on October 31st, Samhain. Samhain is considered one of the two times of the year when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Traditionally, Samhain is considered the “Third Harvest”, but we will get back to that at the end of the year. Samhain’s primary energy is that of renewal, and of communication between the self and the divine. Samhain is, seasonally, the height of Fall.
Yule is the next holiday in the Wheel of the Year. Yule occurs on the Winter Solstice, which usually falls between December 20-23. Yule represents the birth of the God, the time when darkness is greatest and light is short. It represents a turning point in the new year, and we begin the gaining of the light. It is, seasonally, the beginning of Winter.
Imbolc is considered the height of Winter, and is the next Holiday along the spokes of the Wheel. Imbolc traditionally occurs on February 2nd, and is known also as the festival of lights. There is a large pull on this holiday to worship Brigid, the Blacksmith Goddess. Imbolc represents the sun breaking through the clouds, a time of transformation (blacksmith analogies abound) and action.
Ostara is the beginning of Spring, and is also known as the Spring Equinox. It usually occurs between March 20th and 23rd of each year. The worship of the goddess Eostre is traditional within this time, and it is this festival from which Easter comes – the Sunday after the first Full Moon after this day. This holiday represents the preparing of the fields for the coming planting.
Beltane is the height of Spring, and occurs on May 1st of each year. Beltane is also known as May Day and is the major fertility festival of our tradition, representative of planting/plowing the fields (sexual metaphors abound). This is the time when the God is fully grown and begins once again to do his duties.
Litha is the Summer Solstice, and occurs between June 20 and June 23 of each year. Litha is the holiday which is centered around growth and celebration. Litha is also the beginning of Summer, and it is from here on out that the cycle begins once again to wane, the light for the earth becoming dimmer each day.
Lammas or Lughnassadh is the next holiday, and is the height of summer. IT is dually representative of the death of the God(Lugh) and of the “First Harvest” – a time in which those things which are grown most quickly are harvested. Lughnassadh occurs traditionally on August 1st of each year, and is also known by some as the Festival of Bread, celebrating the harvest of wheat.
Mabon is the Autumnal Equinox, and occurs between September 20 and September 23rd of each year. It is the Second Harvest, and the beginning of fall – the time when the harvest are in full swing and gifts are being received from the earth. It is the second time of the year when the times of day and night are equal.
Samhain is both the end and beginning, and is the Final Harvest. The year begins anew.
The Thirteen Principles of Wiccan Belief. Author unknown.
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 these principles. In seeking to exclude those whose ways are 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. Principles of the 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 toward our environment. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance offering fulfillment to 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 (gender) above the other, knowing each to be supportive to the other. We value sex as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magickal practice and religious worship.
5. We recognize both outer worlds and inner, of psychological, worlds sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconscious, Inner Planes, etc.-and we see in the inter-action 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 which 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 her/himself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well without harm to other 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 our personal role within it.
10. Our only animosity towards Christianity, or toward any other religion or philosophy of life, is to the extent that its institutions have clamed 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 our 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 Christian tradition. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor 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.
Exercise 1: Write and Re-write
Search the internet and physical resources such as encyclopedias and dictionaries in your local library for “Witchcraft”, “Wicca”, and “Witch”. Find at least 6 different definitions, cite, and write them in a journal or blog. Did you find any that were very far off from what you understand so far? We will refer to this list again at the end of the course.
Study the often confusing language of the 13 principles of Wiccan belief. For each principle, rewrite it as you understand it, in simpler language. Summarize it. Keep this list in a blog or journal entry.