With ‘new age’ practices gaining in popularity, Wicca enjoyed resurgence – peaking with the TV show ‘Charmed’. The series followed sisters who were ‘good’ witches and the first episode, entitled ‘Something Wicca This Way Comes’, pulled record audiences. People have mixed reactions to Wicca – is it a harmless, nature based phenomenon or hags on broomsticks? Read on to find out more…
Are Wiccans Witches?
This is the most common question and one that can cause a lot of misunderstandings and unnecessary ill feeling, so let’s answer it first of all.
Wicca is a form of paganism, in the same way that Catholicism is a form of Christianity. All Wiccans are not Witches and all Witches are not Wiccans. Just because someone is a Wiccan, it doesn’t mean that they are a Witch. The confusion probably arises because both Wiccans and Witches are forms of paganism but they are quite different from each other.
Further confusion arises from how we perceive Wiccans and Witches. There are Wiccans who do call themselves Witches but these are ‘hedge’ or ‘white’ witches who work with herbs to create natural herbal medicine. Our stereotyped view of ancient wrinkled women dressed all in black with hooked noses is a throwback to the times when ‘Witches’ were burned at the stake. People were taught to view ‘Witches’ as evil and frightening but these poor unfortunate women were often simple herbalists who helped sick people in their village and often acted as midwives.
What is Wicca?
Wicca is one of the most commonly practised forms of Paganism. Paganism is one of the very oldest religions, going back to the beginnings of time. Wiccans believe that the God and Goddess are divine and most often follow the goddess. Wiccans can belong to a group or work alone as a ‘solitary practitioner’.
The cycles of the moon and the beginning and middle of seasons are times for religious ceremonies. These celebrations are known as circles or rituals and are for the honouring of nature. During the ceremony, an altar is used, which may be a simple table with a cloth. Various items are placed on the altar, including an athame, which is a blunt edged knife. This often alarms those who don’t understand its’ purpose. Not cutting is involved and the athame is simply symbolic. Other items may include cups (chalices), candles, incense and pictures or items decorated with the pentacle.
What is the pentacle?
Students of Wiccan or paganism often wear an item of jewelry depicting this symbol. It is a five pointed star, inside a circle. This is where many people make mistaken judgements about wiccans. The uninformed see the star and think it is a sign of Satanism. It isn’t! Let’s get this straight once and for all. The pentacle that wiccans wear has five points which stand for earth, air, fire, water and the essence of spirit which they believe binds all living things together. The pentagram is a five pointed star worn upside down by Satanists and those who have an interest in black magic…definitely not wiccans! Wiccans don’t believe in Satan so why would they worship him?
What other symbols do wiccans use?
There are many. Celtic knot work is popular, as are crosses, triskeles (the three pointed celtic knot that was the symbol in ‘Charmed’), the double headed axe, nature and Goddess imagery.
Do Wiccans believe in and practice magic?
Yes and no. They believe in magick – which is different from magic. Wiccans use the extra ‘k’ on the end to differentiate between what they practice and the David Copperfield, Kriss Angel style of showbiz magic. Wiccans use natural items such as herbs, stones, crystals etc to create change that will help with happiness and growth. They use positive imagery and believe in personal responsibility. Wiccans believe that whatever they wish for, comes back to them 10 fold so for that very good reason, wiccans do not cast evil spells.
But Wiccans cast love spells…don’t they?
Most definitely not! Wiccans believe in free will and so to cast a spell ‘making’ someone fall in love would be against their beliefs. All they can do to help the path of love is to cast a very general spell, asking that if someone’s affections are returned, the couple may be helped to be together…but only if the object of desire reciprocates and wishes it to happen.
What is the Wiccan Rede?
This is the list of ethics or moral behaviour that wiccans live by. It can be summed up by one line from the Rede: “And ye harm none, do what ye will”. It is similar to the Hippocratic oath that Doctors take when they qualify and pledge to “…first, do no harm.”
The Wiccan Rede is very like the Ten Commandments but it differs in one major aspect – it doesn’t cover marriage and adultery. Wiccans believe that love is sacred and doesn’t require legalizing. If two individuals genuinely love each other, it doesn’t matter what their race or gender is.
What is handfasting?
‘Handfasting’ ceremonies are becoming increasingly popular as marriage ceremonies for those who do not want a traditional ‘religious’ wedding. The name comes from the practice of the couple holding hands during the ceremony and then having their hands tied together, often with ribbons, to symbolise the joining. It is said to be the origin of the phrase ‘tying the knot’.
However, there is a lot of confusion about how handfasting originated and what it has to do with Wiccan or Pagan ritual. There appear to be three meanings and three different historical periods for the practice.
- From medieval times to the early 1600’s, handfasting was a Christian ceremony and was like a formal engagement.
- From the late 1700’s until the early 1900’s, it was erroneously thought to be a ‘trial’ marriage which lasted for one year and one day. No one at that time practised it – but during those years, it was believed to have been practised prior to the late 18th Century.
- From the late 1900’s, the ‘year and a day’ myth persisted and handfasting is now common practice among wiccans, pagans and those who are ‘charmed’ (excuse the pun!) by it
Be nice to Wiccans!
Wiccans are gentle, caring people who don’t deserve the ‘witch’ accusations that are often hurled at them. A love of nature and an attempt to strive for balance is nothing like the Halloween characters that are so popular. We hope that we have cleared up a few misunderstandings regarding Wicca and its’ practice.