Understanding Wicca: Part 1 – Beliefs


Please note: I use the terms Wicca and Witchcraft interchangeably. Not all Witches or Wiccans do this. For more explanation on why I choose to, see the above tab Is there a difference between Wicca and Witchcraft? Along with this, I must express that the views and thoughts within this blog are my own. Not all Wiccans/Witches believe the same way that I do, but I think a good many of them probably see things in similar ways. If you have questions, please ask.

Wicca is a “monistic” religion. This means that Wiccans view Godhead as being at one with all Nature, unlike some other religions which are “dualistic”, believing that man and Nature are corrupt and separate from God and that the goal of man is to escape from life, the world, and even the “Self” identity. Dualistic religions view the word as a vale of tears, and emphasize the suffering and negativity of life.

Wiccans, on the other hand, realize that there is indeed an unpleasant side to existence and the material world, but they believe that evil can be surmounted by maintaining a positive outlook and realizing humanity’s divine nature.

When Wiccans do use the term “duality” in our religious beliefs, we are referring to the creative, harmonious, and complementary duality of male and female, rather than the sharp dichotomy between good and evil which dualistic religions make.

Neo-Pagan Witchcraft is an autonomous religion. There is no central authority or liturgy; various traditions have their own rituals, philosophy and beliefs. Most are derivative of the dominant tradition, Gardnerian. Traditions have undergone continual evolution, multiplying, changing, even dying, in accordance with prevailing religious needs. Some have added elements from Eastern, Native American, aboriginal and shamanic systems; others have injected politics into their traditions. New rituals, songs, chants and poetry are continually created. Critics say as a result, Witchcraft is an unstable religion. Witches view the change and flexibility as positive, a guarantee that our religion will never grow stale with obsolete ideas.

All modern Witchcraft traditions share a deep respect for nature and all living things. Most Witches are pantheists, believing the Divine Force manifests in multiple forms, recognized as Pagan deities. Rituals are colorful, creative, and energizing. Witches believe in enjoying sensual and sexual pleasures without guilt. Magick, whether performed individually or in a coven, should be directed toward a good purpose, not to harm.

Within traditions, covens are autonomous, some fiercely so. Each customarily has a secret Book of Shadows, which includes the tradition’s laws, ethics, rituals, administrative rules and other material, including personal material and material relating just to the coven. Most traditions have formal Initiation procedures. It has become increasingly acceptable to dedicate oneself to the Craft and to practice alone rather than as part of a coven.

Neo-Pagan Witches define ourselves as healers, servants of the community and servants of the Goddess and (usually) the Horned God, whom we worship in our religion. We believe in respecting the sanctity of all life and being in harmony with all living things and with the forces of the universe. Ideally, we strive to attune ourselves to nature and the elements, forces we control in the working of magick. We develop our psychic abilities and seek to raise our spiritual consciousness through study, the practice of our Craft and observance of a moral and ethical life-style, in accordance with Craft laws and tenets. “Witches, on the whole, enjoy ritual – and they are naturally joyous people,” state English Witches Stewart and Janet Farrar in Eight Sabbats for Witches (1981). “Like worshipers of other religions, they find that appropriate ritual uplifts and enriches them.”

One of the Witches’ most important basic beliefs, obviously, is the reality and the possibility of magick. This involves the idea that the physical world is only part of reality, the part that we are able to comprehend with our five senses. Beyond are vaster realms; and in these the witch seeks to venture. This, again, involves a further belief, namely that human beings have more senses than the usual reckoning of five. By means of these innate psychic capacities, the realms beyond the physical are contacted. These powers, say the witch, are perfectly natural; but latent and inactive in the majority of people. They are powers that have become overlaid and hidden by the artificialities of civilization; but they can be reawakened.

This is one of the matters that have brought Witches so often into conflict with the priests of orthodox religions. The established religion of a country does not find it acceptable for people to have their own contact with the Beyond, independently of orthodox priests and their rules and sacraments. The Establishment does not like having its authority weakened.

 

 References
Cunningham, Scott: Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.
Farrar, Stewart & Janet: Witches Bible Compleat, A.
Farrar, Stewart & Janet: Witches God, The.
Farrar, Stewart & Janet: Witches Goddess, The.
Fitch, Ed: Magickal Rites from the Crystal Well.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen: Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, The.
Ravenwolf, Silver: To Ride a Silver Broomstick.
Valiente, Doreen: Witchcraft For Tomorrow.
Valiente, Doreen: An ABC of Witchcraft.

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