Wicca is a neo-pagan metaphysical religious system, with an independent magickal system built into the religion. Wicca was developed in the 1950's by a man named Gerald Gardner. Wicca was founded as a functioning neo-pagan religion in 1954. Gerald Gardner claimed he had been initiated into the New Forest coven by Dorothy Clutterbuck. Gerald studied the works of Aleister Crowley, the metaphysical practices of many cultures, and the teachings of the Golden Dawn and the Freemasons. Gerald had a keen interest in witchcraft, Buddhist, and Vedic practices.
The Wiccan religion exhibits a heavy Hermetic, and Thelemic influence in practice, principals, and tools. Wicca is a semi-structured coven-based polytheist religion without a strict religious dogma; covens usually consist of 13 members. Wicca is based on a three-degree coven system, with a High Priestess and High Priest. All Wiccans once initiated are considered Priestess and Priests of Wicca, and enter the coven as a first-degree Wiccan. A first-degree Wiccan is given the information and guidance for practicing her or his spiritual journey into the metaphysical. At this stage, the new Wiccan is encouraged to find their path to their true selves. They can be guided by members of the coven and the High Priestess and High Priest.
Once the Priestess and Priest, have reached a sufficient level of spiritual growth, they become a second-degree Wiccan. A second-degree Wiccan is tasked to grow their awareness and spiritual development, by working with and helping other Wiccans on their spiritual growth and their pursuit of Wiccan practices. The third and final degree in Wicca is the achievement of spiritual development. To combine one's conscious self with one's unconscious self and the divine self; mixing them as one. Once one is a third-degree Wiccan and only then is the Wiccan Priestess and Priest qualified to become a High Priestess and High Priest.
Upon initiation, the new Wiccan receives the Wiccan rede, a text that contains the fundamental core principles of Wicca; this is an ethical guide to the metaphysical practice.
The central tenets of the Wiccan rede are:
“Do as thou will but harm none.” Meaning that a Wiccan follows their true will, as long as their will does not harm or interfere with another's will. Due to the complexities of the repercussions of one's actions; this law would be almost impossible to enforce. Wiccan practitioners see this law from the perspective of intent, do as thou will, intend no harm.
The law of the three-fold return states that any energies out will return three times, this is based on karmic principals. Wiccan initiates are encouraged to return any positive energy sent to them, back three-fold.
The last part of the rede is the eight virtues of Wicca. The eight virtues are separated into four pairs:
- Beauty and Strength
- Power and Compassion
- Mirth and Reverence
- Honor and Humility
The four sets of virtues are aligned to represent balance in the microverse as well as the macroverse. This concept is mirrored in the Kabbalistic tree of life, if one examines the outer Sephiroth in the two outer pillars of the tree.
Wicca was developed as a coven-based system of religion, spirituality, and magick, with self-discovery and spiritual growth as its foundation. After one is initiated, their spiritual growth is independent; growth is based on the Wiccan rede and covens' principles and practices. Gardnerian Wicca incorporates rituals; unlike High Magick, it does not rely on complicated ceremonies like Hermetic practices. The Priestess and Priest help and guide each other in their growth, the High Priestess and High Priest act as guides and mentors. The Wiccan religion is based on one's environmental harmony and concept of balance in the duality of one's self, one's environment, and the supernatural universe. This duality is similar to the ying and the yang, or the Kabbalistic tree of life. This energy is in everything that exists in the physical, the metaphysical, and the supernatural (the One is part of everything, and everything is part of the One).
Wiccans believe in the universal energy. They also believe in the Goddess and the God, and the duality of the female and male aspects of one's self. The universe is acting in equality and in unison as one. The Wiccan religion is a spiritual journey of awakening, but it is not Wiccan magick, not all who practice the religion practice magick. From a religious perspective, the key to the religion is the connection and unity of one's self with the One, the God, the Goddess, the Earth, and the universe. Wiccans perform ceremonies to celebrate their beliefs; these ceremonies encapsulate the wholeness and the unity of the universe and celebrate the beauty and interconnectedness of it all.
Wiccans believe that death is not the end but the beginning of a new journey for the spirit. Upon the death of the physical body, the soul/the divine self/the conscious universal energy within, transcends the physical plane/dimension to a plane of pure universal energy called Summerland. Summerland is the realm of non-physical existence where the soul is to rest and contemplate one's past lives, while one awaits reincarnation or rebirth on a physical plane. Summerland is not a private reality customized for the individual; it is a state of pure energy where all souls exist as part of the One. In Summerland, one's soul can interact with all the souls awaiting rebirth, and one can reunite with other souls they have known in previous carnations.
The cornerstone of Wiccan practices is self-spiritual growth. Pre-Christian practices like meditation, visualization, and mental discipline are the center of the practice of Wicca. They are used to enhance the rituals and ceremonies of worship. The most basic, although crucial ritual is the casting of the sacred circle, in physical form, and or in a pure energy form. The Priestess and Priest physically draw a circle large enough to perform the ceremony within it. Typically, one uses charcoal to draw the circle; however, flour, salt, chalk, stones, and many other things can be used depending on the magick performed. Once the circle parameters are marked, the practitioner uses a wand, athame, staff, or finger to focus one's higher self, drawing the divine energy around the perimeter of the circle. The practitioner uses one's will, intent, visualization, and belief to focus the energy through themselves. Energy from the practitioner streams to the circle perimeter cleansing it and vibrating it to life with the pure energy of purpose.
Once the circle is cast:
The practitioner starts by facing the East. Call to the Guardian, Angel or Watcher of the East and the elemental of Air to come to your magickal working and cleanse, bless and aid you in your work. The color yellow should be incorporated into your magickal workings.
Face South. Call the Guardian, Angel or Watcher of the South and the elemental of Fire to come to your magickal working and cleanse, bless and aid you in your work. The color red should be incorporated into your magickal workings.
Face West. Call the Guardians, Angel or Watcher of the West, and the elemental of Water to come to your magickal working and cleanse, bless and aid you in your work. The color blue should be incorporated into your magickal workings.
Face North Call the Guardians, Angel or Watcher of the North, and the elemental of the Earth to come to your magickal working and cleanse, bless and aid you in your work. The color green should be incorporated into your magickal workings.
Face East and thank the spirits for coming to your aid.
Once the circle has been cast, space is consecrated and cleansed of all negative energy. One has created a sanctuary for your operations. Raise the energies of the circle to the heavens and down to the center of the Earth. You have created a sacred space that will protect you and vibrates in unison with the universe. This allows the practitioner to connect the Goddess, the God, the One, and the divine self. The sacred space will magnify and focus the energy, increasing and holding the energies of intent until released. At this point, you show respect for the Goddess, and God, bless them and ask for their blessings and positive energy. If you are performing magick, this is when you would complete your spell and focus your intent with your will. The Wiccan would perform the appropriate ceremony sending out harmony, love, and protection. You would then share consecrated food and drink and leave an offering to the God and Goddess if you wish.
Once your ceremony is complete, bid farewell to the God, the Goddess, and the spirits and thank them. Close the ceremony by removing the circle, releasing the energy and intent held within; re-draw the circle calling the energy back into one's self. The pre-mentioned ceremony is one example because there are now many different Wiccan orders and branches; the ceremony may vary in particulars. Some ceremonies are practiced skyclad (nude) by practitioners. Performing skyclad shows purity, and connection with the One, the Goddess, and the God; this depends on the coven, and the ceremony or magick being performed. Most Wiccans strongly believe that a practitioner of Wicca must obtain permission from a person before performing magick for them.
Wiccans celebrate eight main festivals; these festivals are celebrated as Wiccan ceremonies in accordance with the Wiccan beliefs and principals.
Yule is approximately December 21st (this varies with the year), this is the time of rebirth after death. The Goddess gives birth to her son, the God, and the God is reborn on the shortest day of the year.
Imbolc is February 2nd; this day represents the Goddess's recovery after giving birth to God; it is the purification after the winter.
Ostara, approximately March 21st (this varies with the year) the spring equinox, the first day of spring. The Goddess covers the Earth with fertility, and God grows to maturity.
Beltane is April 30th, the God enters manhood, and the God and the Goddess unite in their love, the God impregnating the Goddess; this is a celebration of her fertility.
Litha or Mid-summer was also known as the summer solstice, approximately June 21st (this varies with the year) the highest point in power for nature.
August 1st-Lughnasadh, the time of harvest. Nature has reached the apex of its cycle of life and begins its decline, and the God begins to lose strength. This is a realization of the cycle of reincarnation, the Goddess knows the God is dying, but he will be reborn as her child because he is growing in her womb.
Mabon, approximately September 21st (this varies with the year), day and night are equal, nature is in decline, and the God prepares for the cycle of death and rebirth.
October 31st-Samhain; the gods' journey has come to an end as he passes through the veil of death and readies himself for rebirth, at this time the veil between the physical and the supernatural is the thinnest.
This is only a brief description of the festivals, to fully understand and celebrate the festivals, one must look deeper into their meanings.
Wiccan tools are used to focus their energies, intent, and the powers of the microverse and the macroverse. In Wicca, the book of shadows is one of the most crucial tools; it is used to document one's spiritual journey and the methods one used.
The following is a list of the core tools of Wicca:
The book of shadows
The besom or broom
The atheme - black-handled knife
The boline - white-handled knife.
The cup or chalice
In Wicca, like all magick based systems, one's tools need to be cleansed and consecrated before initial use, and they must be, cleansed before and after each use. There are many ways to consecrate one's tools, some more complicated then others. Cleansing, however, can be done with Earth (salt), Air (incense), Fire (passing it through a flame), or Water (submerging it in water). The key to cleansing is the use of one's intent and will to direct one's higher self to cleanse out the energies.
Wicca has evolved and branched off over the years into many different Wiccan-based religions or magickal practices. In the 1960's Alexander Sanders, a former member of Gerald Gardner's coven branched off and formed Alexandrian Wicca (a Wiccan belief system heavily influenced by ceremonial magick, and Thelemic practices.) The '60s and '70s showed a great interest in Wicca, which produced several nature-based methods that showed a higher level of respect for nature and life. Another product of this time was the forms of Dianic Wicca; this differs from most Wiccan practices in one fundamental way. Traditional Wiccans celebrate the God and the Goddess, the unity and duality of the masculine and feminine within themselves. The practitioners of Dianic Wicca do not worship or honor the God; they only honor the Goddess. The Goddess is seen as all Goddesses and is the source of all living things. Ceremonies have elements of the celebration of womanhood and the acknowledgment of the atrocities committed against women by society. This form of Wicca is very empowering to the Priestesses, and most have identified themselves as radical feminists.
Reconstructionist Wicca has gained popularity, this is the amalgamation of Wicca with ancient religion, for example, Wiccan Druidism.
Wicca started as a coven-based system of support and growth. Wicca has evolved to include the sole practitioner; this form of Wicca is no less valid than coven-based Wicca. Wicca is a spiritual journey of self-discovery and enlightenment. Sole practitioners face more obstacles in their journey, due to the lack of guidance and help of a coven; they must work harder to find their path. There are many types of Wicca today, all of which are equally valuable and important. Wicca maybe a new religion but it is steeped in ancient spirituality, mysticism and power.
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