About Wicca

Wicca.   What is it and how does witchcraft come into it?  Those are good questions.  Wicca is one member of a branch of religions under the heading of Paganism.  Wicca is not a revealed religion like the big three:  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  A revealed religion is one that is ‘given directly by God’, as in scripture form to tell you how to spiritually and physically live your life.  It is an Orthodoxy.  Wicca is a natural or nature-based religion.  It bases its teaching on the cycles of nature, the feeling of connection with the All, or Spirit, within the deepest part of the self to the outermost reaches of space.  It is an Orthopraxy.

Wicca does have a code of ethics.  It reads, ‘An it harm none, do what you will’,  ‘an’ being an ancient form of ‘if’.  Now, if you think about this carefully, this is doing anything BUT giving one carte blanche to do anything you want to do.  It is saying be very careful of what you do.  Evaluate the consequences. Be responsible. Be ethical.

We also have a belief in threefold return, which does not necessarily mean that if you take a penny, three will be taken from you.  It means you know you did it, your heart knows you did it, and so does the ’All’.   Remember that snowballs and ’poo’ travel downhill!

Wicca was officially and historically given birth, as we know it, when the Witchcraft laws were struck down in Britain in 1951,  and Gerald Gardner came forth with his book ‘Witchcraft Today’ in 1954.  Historically it is written that he was initiated into a family tradition in 1939, by Dorothy Clutterbuck.  This has not been proven nor disproved. He was a pupil of George Pickingill, another claimant to hereditary initiation and creator of a tradition.  Gardner also knew Aleister Crowley, founder of Ordo Templi Orientis.  It is suspected that much of the foundation of Gardner’s Wicca owes its structure to  ideas and writings by Crowley.  Additional material was fleshed out by writings and verse by one of Gardner’s students, Doreen Valiente, and his experience with various occult lodges and societies.  What, if, or how much of his teaching actually comes from a family tradition, we will probably never know.

It is from Gardner that we can draw a direct line of the practice of Wicca to the present.   Raymond and Rosemary Buckland were students and initiates of Gardner’s immediate downline, and carried Gardner’s Wicca to America.    Word and practice of Wicca spread throughout the land.

Paganism and Wicca’s roots (but not Wicca itself) begin in the far past.  Our earliest proof that man has believed in something other than himself  extends back into history some three thousand five hundred years.  Examples are the Venus of Willendorf, the cave art in France of the Magician in Les Trois Freres, the artifacts found in graves, and physical structures such as Stonehenge and the Pyramids at Giza, to name but a few.

Belief structure depended usually on where you lived.  In an agrarian culture the deity reflected a cyclical theme based on harvest and possibly sacrifice to reflect the constancy of birth, life, death, and rebirth.  In an area or culture based in harder climes, such as a desert or even mountains, the themes ran more toward deity as hero, a quest to overcome obstacles, and somewhat, but not solely,  predisposed to warfare.

As agrarian societies advanced, commerce and cities developed, and the separation of man from his earthly surroundings and deity became more evident.  Social and ruling classes developed, and deity became more ‘God over’, than ‘God within/without’.  Some societies also developed monotheism and the belief of a one and only ‘God’.   Out of this stance, Christianity developed.  Its aggressive nature, as it came to be practiced by followers with their own ideas of orthodoxy, eventually forced any who would worship in any other manner to abandon their former beliefs, go underground, or, by various means, to disappear completely.  Usually it was a mix of these things that occurred.  By the fall of Rome, Christianity had begun its spread over the then known world.   Eventually the Crusades, and then the Inquisition, made it very uncomfortable to be known as anything but a pious Christian.

The period known as the Burning Times extended from the mid 1400’s to the late 1700’s.  During this time between forty to one hundred thousand human beings-usually women, but a few men as well- were tortured, maimed, hung and burned as ‘witches’.  Many of these probably for no real reason of witchcraft, but rather due to greed, paranoia,  politics, or hatred.  Sound familiar?

Eventually the ‘Age of Reason’ dawns, and the popularity of dealing with humans-as-cordwood dies.  And yet the seeds of interest in mysticism and the occult begin to grow again.  Through the end of the 1800’s the emergence of spiritualism, mesmerism, and secretive occult societies gain momentum.  All this sets the scene for Gerald Gardner, and his interests, until the 1930’s, and here we circle back to the point where he would have met Mrs. Clutterbuck.

Witchcraft by definition is the practice and belief in the ability to move energy by the will:  to affect change.   “Low Magic’ is concerned with affecting change in day-to-day events and affairs.  Included would be the sympathetic variety- such as using dolls and other ingredients.  This is the idea that like affects like.  “High Magic’ is concerned with affecting change on a spiritual level.  This would include trance and meditation, hypnosis, and deeper rituals focused on changes in the personality.  Most in Wicca believe in witchcraft, though some may not practice it–preferring to focus more on the spiritual and religious aspects.  Not that the practice isn’t spiritual!  Spells can be likened to prayers!

Calling oneself a witch is a matter of various details, or preference.  For some, it is a matter of lineage, initiation, or both.  For others it is being willing to own the image of one who works magic.  One who calls themselves a witch might or might not practice Wicca.  The same in reverse may be said.  Some call themselves both and will tell you why.  Others maintain that only a hereditary witch may claim the title.  Which shoes do you want to wear?  The red sparkly ones, the silver ones, or the black pointy vamps?   Or maybe  you’d prefer a hat!  (No aluminum foil hats!)  Your mileage may vary!