I’m glad you decided to read this letter. Let me briefly explain what I am doing here.
I’m Wiccan, and a Witch. What I am attempting to do in this letter is give you enough information to explain what that means without going into gross amounts of detail, and to show that we are human beings, not what the popular media has been presenting us as for the last 500 years. I want to relate this to YOU in terms you can understand, to try to dispel the fear that sometimes accompanies a pronouncement of “I’m a Witch”.
First, let me make a disclaimer here. I’m speaking for myself. There are no central organizations of Wicca or Witchcraft. We don’t have a Bible, so in many cases, we decide on our own what we believe. I have shared with all of you what I believe on this site. However, in this page I will be using terms like “Most”, “Generally”, “A great number” and other general statements that leave a section of the Wiccan community out. This is deliberate.
I am generalizing to give you an overview of Wicca. This is done because our beliefs vary from person to person and from group to group as well. It’s not my intent to leave out or gloss over the beliefs of some of those in the Wiccan community, but to show you what some of the common denominators of Wiccan belief are. If I need to get specific, I shall make that plain too.
In some ways it could be seen as comparable to various Christian denomination’s interpretation of the Bible. Methodists don’t interpret passage X of the Bible the same way the Mormons do, and neither of them use the interpretation that the Church of Christ uses. This problem exists in Wicca as well, since ultimately all spirituality is “sculpted” by the practitioner.
Also, let me add that I am mostly addressing this to those who have real questions on what we believe, and have issues with some of those beliefs. I realize and understand that many Christian denominations will not fit what I think about as Christianity. If I have accidentally lumped you or your group in with some of the more narrow-minded groups, then I ask you to ignore those statements and forgive me.
I would also ask that you keep an open mind about this. Trust that my beliefs are just as sacred, just as holy and meaningful to me as your beliefs are to you. Keep that in mind and I will attempt to explain what you are here to find out about. Leave the judging to God, as He requests.
One basic fact you must keep in mind as you read this document is this; most of those who are Wiccan, and who really live by what they believe, started out in one of the “big five” religions, be it Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or Judaism, and in the Western World, most started out Christian. At some point, all of us stopped and looked at our beliefs and realized that there was some portion of our spirituality that was not being fulfilled by the Church we grew up in. We took a hard look at what we did believe, found what we were being taught incompatible with what were comfortable believing, and looked around until we found a religion that DID fit what we believed. Most often, that was some form of Paganism.
It’s not that we don’t know the teachings of Christianity, because most Pagans do, it’s that those teachings just didn’t speak to our soul the way Wicca and Paganism does. This is not to say that there is something lacking in those religions that Wicca and paganism fulfills. That is saying that the practitioners found something lacking in themselves and decided to look elsewhere for fulfillment.
Does this make us evil? Well, does preferring blue over red make someone evil? It makes our tastes different, that’s all. I understand that according to fundamental Christian teachings that I am the tool of Satan, but Wiccans and I DO NOT believe in Satan, nor acknowledge his existence. We find Satan just as repellant as Christian teachings show him to be.
Just understand that if you decide to talk to me about Christianity and how my beliefs are incorrect and dangerous, you must use arguments that have nothing to do with the Bible, because I don’t acknowledge it as the “Supreme Word of God”. Asking me to obey the strictures in the Bible and using arguments from the Bible to prove my soul to be in danger is ridiculous, as funny as trying to get all the citizens in your town to obey the laws of Angola because you are from Angola originally and think those laws are better than the local laws.
What do most Wiccans believe?
Okay, in many ways, this is probably the easiest thing to tell you about, yet it is the most complex as well.
Our religion is about honoring and worshiping the cycles in nature, life, death, rebirth, growing, fertility, the animals and plants and so on. Death is part of life, and most of us are not afraid of death because we know it’s like the Summer Vacation between grades in School. You go to school, learn certain things, take tests, go for the Summer, to come back again. Most Pagans believe in Reincarnation and many chances to learn lessons and improve ourselves.
Our worship services acknowledge these cycles, celebrate the life in a mother’s womb, and celebrate the life of a person who had died.
We believe that ultimately, the only person responsible for what happens in our life is ourselves. We have to take credit and blame for what happens and that no one is going to save us from the consequences of our actions. We do try, however, to help those who are out of their depth in handling their own situations through charitable works. But still, the only person responsible is ourselves, no matter how many mitigating circumstances there are.
We also, in general, believe that any actions we take will come back to us. It varies as to how much we get back, some say three times, I have heard of nine times and some believe that it’s only once. In other words, good actions that I do will bring good actions and blessings to me. Negative or bad actions will bring bad actions or curses to me. So, with that in mind, we always try to make sure that we are putting out more good than bad. I mean, it only makes sense, right? Who would want bad things coming at them when it’s in their power to prevent it?
Also we believe, in general, that it’s okay to take whatever action we wish to so long as no one gets hurt. In that “no one” is ourselves too. However, this is one of the hottest debated things in Wicca. There are many who see this statement, called the Rede, as an absolute commandment and many who see it as a guideline.
If you look at the above, it covers just about every one of the Ten Commandments and most of what Jesus taught. It covers not murdering someone, not stealing, not trying to break up a marriage, it covers honoring your elders, it covers forgiving others that offend you, it covers being charitable to others, it covers the “Golden Rule” and many of the core beliefs of Christianity, or any moral religion. About all it doesn’t cover is the Sabbath Day restrictions, and the “No other gods before me” strictures. However we have our holy days as well.
Our Holy days are on the Full Moon, in which the Lady of the Moon (sometimes referred to as The Goddess) has taken a journey where she lost strength and beauty, and she has now returned to the fullness of her beauty and strength. We call these Esbats. We also have 8 seasonal holidays, called Sabbats. Most times, these holy days are parties, get-togethers, times of celebration with each other as friends where we also do things like have weddings, say goodbye to friends who have died, welcome new babies to our groups, and enjoy life and what has been given to us.
Wiccans are polytheistic, meaning that we worship a “set” of Gods and Goddesses in our celebrations. We don’t have a God who is all loving, all knowing, everywhere and all powerful, we also don’t have a God of evil or temptation. Our basic mind set on this is that it takes male and female to create life, no matter how you cut it. Toward that, we honor the male and the female in our rites and celebrations, and the way they relate to the seasons and nature. A male deer and a female deer is celebrated, for example, just as much as mother and fatherhood in humans are.
Generally we have one God and one Goddess that combine every possible combination of personality traits that can be found in humans. The Goddess is just as wise as She is spiteful, gentle as much as harsh. Many of us worship specific “named” deities who embody attributes that we especially honor, such as kindness, wisdom, knowledge, fertility and so on. This “named” deity varies from group to group and from person to person. There are even some who honor and worship Jesus and Mary from Christian mythology. Some other examples are Odin, Thor, Isis, Hera, Astarte, Diana, Herne, Geb, Zeus and almost any other God or Goddess from classical mythology, and a few you didn’t even know existed. But it’s not the name that matters, it’s the actions done by the person who worships that Name that does matter.
We draw our inspiration for our spirituality from nature, from the world around us. We meditate under a tree, gaze up at the stars, float in a lake, or stare into a campfire. At these times, there can come a flash of understanding, and another piece of the universe falls into place for us. Every Wiccan and Pagan out there has a story like this, and most times it can’t be communicated in words to others. I liken it to the Goddess putting a blanket around me and hugging me, while showing me another part of how it all works. That is our “holy writ” and “scripture”.
Do we worship and honor Satan? Mostly, no. There may be some out there that do, and I can’t do anything about that. Mostly we don’t even acknowledge his existence, other than the existence that Christian Mythology has given him.
Do we believe that Jesus died for our sins? Generally, no we don’t. How can Jesus die for something I am ultimately responsible for? He can’t make it right and can’t pay the consequences of MY action, so his hanging on a Cross is a symbolic story for us. If I commit murder, I’m the one who goes to jail, not him. However, we have myths of a Sacrificed God as well, and we can relate to his sacrifice in that manner. Usually the sacrificed God goes to ensure the renewal of the Earth and the people. That is how we see the story of the Crucifixion, most often.
Let me repeat my disclaimer here again. I am not speaking for ALL pagans and Wiccans. I can ultimately only speak for myself. I can make some broad general statements, and I am doing so, but you must understand that those statements are not intended to speak for everyone who is Pagan or Wiccan. Because as sure as I say that THIS statement is true, 100 or more Wiccans will jump up and say “That’s not how *I* believe….” You may realize that this is true for any set of beliefs, not just Wicca or Paganism.
We also have some “Bad apples” who go out and in the name of our religious and spiritual beliefs set themselves up as gurus and start recruiting. They promise anything to get the recruits, and they can also start brainwashing them. This does NOT mean that they are members of our community, acknowledged by our leaders, nor are they correct. You may see them as wannabe David Korresh’s and the Branch Dividians. If you could see some of our discussions on the Internet denouncing them, you may be amazed. But all we can do is try to warn people away and get the police on them if they are hurting someone.
Do we believe in Heaven? If you mean the City with the 8 gates and the Throne of God and so on, then the answer is generally, no. We do believe in an afterlife, however. We call it the Summerlands. It is a place that is untouched by the hand of Man, usually a field or forest, with plenty of animals and plants in it where we dwell and think on what we have learned in this life. Other groups in Paganism call this place other things, like Valhalla, the Elysian Fields, Hel, Anwyn and so on. It, once again, depends on the practitioner and the path being practiced.
Then we make a decision to come back and what lessons we would like to learn in the next life. Some believe that once we die here, we move upward and learn things from the Summerlands, where we die and go to another place to learn from that place, and on and on and on, continually burning off the dark and negative until we are perfect and can be reunited with the Gods, and be with Them forever.
You heard we do magick and are worried about us because of that? Don’t be. Our Magick that we use is the same force you use when you pray. The only difference is that instead of asking another person to do something for us (God) we try to do it ourselves. We are praying to the universe or the random chance or whatever you want to call it, but basically we put positive energy out into the Universe with our desire “tacked on” to that energy, trying to set up circumstances that will bring what we want to us, rather asking God to do the same thing for us.
Some Pagans do pray to the Gods for help developing qualities that those gods have. For example, a Druid may pray directly to Ogma, Celtic God of the Sun and Knowledge, to help him when he is studying for a test and to help him remember the facts studied. An Asatru practitioner (Norse spirituality) may pray directly to Odin to help him have the courage to confront someone who is being a pain at work.
Are we “lost sheep” that you MUST bring back into the fold? By your beliefs, yes we are. However, we ask for you to respect our beliefs. You don’t have to accept what we believe as true for you, and we are not trying to convert you. We respect that what you believe is correct for you, and we ask that same courtesy in return. We are generally not interested in arguments about who is more right than the other, but we are willing to debate theology with you if you want.
Are we trying to convert you to our beliefs? No, we are not. We are here, not trying to convert anyone, worshiping our Gods as we see fit, and trying to live in peace with each other and the rest of the world.
Do we have a Holy Book? No there is no such thing. Modern Wicca and many NeoPagan groups were developed in the 1950’s, passed down from teacher to student and added to by such things as NewAge mysticism, Buddhist beliefs, Celtic Folklore, and many other influences, and written down by us into our own Journal, or Book of Shadows. That is about as close as I can get you to the concept of a Holy Book or Scripture.
It’s a book into which we put our thoughts on spirituality, our meditations, our prayers and our rites and ceremonies. It’s a book of philosophy and herbalism. It is, in fact, a journal of our spiritual growth. In that, it is sacred to the person who wrote it, as a record of our progress, but what I put into my Book of Shadows will not matter as much to someone else. They may be interested in how I celebrate Yule, and copy that portion of my Book of Shadows into their own, but the rest of it they may read, but they will probably ignore it.
There are those that believe that what we practice now is a direct continuation of how Neolithic man worshiped when he first developed intelligence enough to notice that today is different from last week, and last month. However, that has been disproved by modern Wiccan Scholars. Some of the core practices are based on some of the spirituality that we know of from archeological records we have found, and in some cases, actual historical documents. However, the religion of Wicca itself was created by one man, Gerald Gardner in the 1950’s, and passed down to what we know today.
Is there a central organization that can be contacted? No, there is not. We tend to be autonomous in our worship services, and one group can usually only hold 13 members. With upwards to half a million of us in the United States alone, there is no one central organization, although attempts have been made to create a central leadership. Usually those groups are ignored by the general community, although some attempts have had better results than others.
Some examples of groups that look like they are a central organization are The Witches’ League for Public Awareness , The Witches’ Voice, Witches Against Religious Discrimination and the Covenant of the Goddess . These are places you can go for more information, and for accurate information to get you started, but they are only the overall authority for those who have become members of these organizations.
Do we have a victim attitude? Most times, yes. In many cases, we tend to be on the short end of the stick when it comes to Equal Rights. There are those of us who have lost their jobs when it became known that we are Wiccan, there are those of us who have lost their children to fundamentalist grandparents and we have taken the brunt of the blame for that. There are cases of Wiccans being harassed and beaten by governmental officials as well as the general citizen. This is discounting the stories that we have still from the Inquisition and Salem (both of which had little to do with Witchcraft and everything to do with political power and monetary gain).
I mean, think about it. What is your FIRST reaction when someone comes up to you on the street and says “I’m a Witch”? Usually it’s revulsion or horror, a desire to get away from this instrument of Satan before it corrupts you. Why is this? Look in the media to find your answer. Witches are presented as green-faced, warty nosed hags who eat children and curse crops and who kill unborn babies in the womb before birth. Why would we do something like that? We have to eat too, and we will starve just as fast if the crops die. Killing babies as they are being born would make it pretty obvious that we were around and nasty, wouldn’t it?
What about that passage in the Bible? The one that says “Thou shalt suffer not a witch to live”? It’s a mistranslation. King James had a real problem with Pagan practitioners and had the word changed from “poisoner” or “murderer” to “witch” and defined Witch to be anyone who practiced midwifery, herbalism (the only source of headache cures) or strange religious rites. Look it up sometime.
There have been centuries of hate and persecution and blame laid upon us, so please forgive us if some of our community are a bit sensitive about the subject. Just so you know, many of the witch hunts and persecutions are still going on. They have just changed faces from torture to “removing children from the home based on low moral standards.”
Speaking of children…
Will we try to corrupt your child? Depends on your definition of corruption. Will we try to teach your child without your permission? Mostly, no. We generally don’t go and teach our beliefs to your child without your permission until they get to be 18 or so when they are considered an adult. Will we convert them? If we are not trying to convert you, why should we try to convert your kids? Will we teach them morals different from what they are learning at Church? Depends on the moral standard. If your Church is teaching your children not to steal, not to murder, not to lie, then I don’t see where our morals and yours are different. If your Church is teaching them that a female should be subservient to a man, willing to accept any abuse he decides she needs, and that children are possessions, then we will be showing them something counter to what they are getting in Church. We respect and honor all life, especially children’s lives, and believe that everyone has something to contribute. We won’t go out of our way to teach them, unless we are members of the School System (and then what we teach will be limited to school subjects). Most often we will simply be there, showing them that there are other ways of living life and being happy.
I recently had a chance to put this to the test. I got a letter from a young girl who was 11 and this is my response to her and the reasoning why.
Do we eat children? Nope, there’s not that much sauce available. (Attempt at levity here.) Think about this for a second. We are people, not cannibals. Will we sexually assault children? NO! That hurts them and us, as well as everyone who knew about it. Remember the Rede above? Do what you want so long as no one gets hurt. We would not do anything like that.
Are all of us flakes and weirdoes? No. Generally we are as normal as anyone else on the street. We have jobs, lives, interests other than religion. I myself repair and replace computers and computer equipment for an insurance company. We love, hate, have good days and bad days, periods (for the ladies) and mood swings. We shop and we read books. We go to movies and rent DVDs. If Hollywood were to make a true to life story about a Witch and his or her activities, it would be boring as heck because it would be just like your life. Who would pay good money to see something that they are living.
We do have our share of what you may call flakes and weirdoes, mainly because we accept them for who they are rather than castigate them and force them to conform to our standards of “normalcy”. And they are everywhere, the only difference is that generally we give them the freedom to express themselves without judgment.
Please understand that we have our fair share of assholes as well. There are those who don’t understand about homosexuality, those that think because they converted to our way that it’s automatically better than all the others, our reactionaries, revolutionaries, politicians, and every other kind of human flaw you can think of, we have in our communities. Does this make us the spawn of Satan? No, not any more than it makes the Catholic Church the spawn of Satan, or any other Christian church out there. In our case, they either get it kicked out of them by the people immediately around them, they mature out of it, get professional help, or they leave. We are not perfect. We are better than no one.
You heard that we allow Gays and Lesbians in and that makes us morally corrupt? Well, it’s true, we do allow Homosexuals into our rites and our religion, without judgment, mainly because homosexuality is natural. Animals do it all the time, dogs, birds, cats, eagles, deer and every other species of animal on the planet has some homosexual parings in their midst. So that impulse is natural, of nature, and we allow that to be expressed as part of our religion.
In many ways, it’s LOVE we honor, rather than the form it takes. Male/Female relationships are just as special to us as Male/Male relationships and Female/Female relationships, so long as LOVE and concern and caring are present in that paring. It’s the LOVE that is the main ingredient.
Most often, we allow people to be people, no matter how bigoted, wrong, inconsiderate and immoral. Also no matter how holy, correct, even handed, and righteous. We try to help them improve themselves if they want to change, or we leave if it gets on our nerves. I know of many cases where entire communities have died because someone was being a jerk and everyone left.
You know what the normal reaction a Wiccan has when a bible-thumping bigot gets in our face and starts screaming about how wrong we are is? Normally, we sigh internally, and decide to try to educate this person in what being Wiccan really is about. If they persist, then we start showing them the hypocrisy in their own belief, just to illustrate the point that no religion is perfect. Then if they persist, we leave quickly. Normally that’s what we do. That’s what is going on in our heads. Please understand that by “bible thumping bigot” I am referring to those people who are convinced they are right and everyone else is completely wrong, as well as going to hell for apostasy from The One True Church (whatever narrow view of that they hold). This type of person gives us the most grief.
On to sex. You heard we were all sex fiends and that makes us morally corrupt? Well, we enjoy making love with our partners, but that doesn’t make us corrupt. We generally don’t sleep around with anyone who crosses our path (unless we are single) and usually there is some kind of relationship there. We may, very occasionally, use sex in our worship, but it is always in private with our spouses of record. Sex is natural and it creates babies, two of the things we hold sacred, fertility and nature. And yes, it feels good, and that gets us closer to the Gods. That’s why sometimes you will see bumper stickers that say “My God is a horny God.” We use sex as a sacred rite that gets us closer to the Gods. It’s not something that is indulged in for the sake of the act nor is it so sacred that we can’t enjoy it. It is natural and we use it as a sharing and an expression of love between two people who care about each other.
Do we go out and rape passing people? No. That’s illegal and immoral. More harm. Do we proposition people on the street? There may be some interest, which is normal, but unless there is an indication of mutual interest, we generally don’t try to seduce everyone we see. Do we run around without our clothes? In some cases, yes. Nudity is useful for many reasons, primarily among them is that it puts you in a different mind set. The body is not something to be ashamed of in our belief because the body is natural. Therefore, seeing and viewing the body and enjoying the body are not wrong. Because there is the comfort of others to consider, we generally dress at the door before going out in public.
Generally, our core beliefs are the same as yours are, and we don’t want to change from our beliefs and we would not change you from yours. It’s in the details that we differ. We are religious and moral people who pray to different gods, that’s all. You can approach us with an attitude of “They are wrong, and it’s my DUTY to correct them” or you can approach us with the attitude of respect for another’s belief. Bet you can figure out which will get you a pleasant response from us.
May your God bless you and may the Stars light your path.