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HomeIrreverand Hugh, Witch Neo-Pagan Witchcraft / Wicca 101 Glossary Part 3


Neo-Pagan Witchcraft / Wicca 101 Glossary Part 3

Irreverend Hugh

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Shamanism
It is unfortunate that some people have mixed Neo-Pagan Witchcraft and Shamanism, because as much as shamanism can elucidate what Wicca was aiming for, it can deceive.
Shamanism, contrary to the market values of the New Age, is culturally specific and in order for one to receive shamanic training one must become adopted into a cultural group
which has shamanic roles. I know that “shamanism” is also the latest buzzword for those instinctual magical/spiritual practices that are in evidence around the world, but using the word in this way is very deceptive.
The word refers to practices of certain people in mostly hunter-gatherer cultures who went through ritual/psychic dismemberment and rebirth. This experience gave such people the ability to leave their bodies and travel to
other worlds and planes, commune with spirits and ancestors, and heal those who were sick, or find lost souls and bring them home. Some East Asian societies still have surviving forms of this sort of spiritual specialist, but the word shaman should not be used
as the blanket term for all sorts of these specialists.

Wicca is not shamanic. Anyone who thinks otherwise is really deluded. There may be certain ritual practices that may seem like shamanic practices, but apparent similarities are just that.
Wicca is a religion first of all. This makes it very different from Shamanism, which is really nothing but a blanket term for a series of techniques and phenomena exhibited by certain
Siberian and Native American cultures. Shamanism is not a religion, nor is it a “world view” or any of the rest of the things that New Age writers have falsely ascribed to it.
This very simple difference should be enough to convince anyone that Wicca is not shamanic. I am sure that some people who call what they do “Shamanic Wicca” or whatever will argue with me.
But let me spell it out: Wicca may have some things that look like or may even be “shamanic,” but that doesn’t mean squat. Christianity has elements that could be called shamanic, too.
And if Shamanism was, as some anthropologists say, the earliest version of human spiritualities, it should be no surprise that modern religions would have certain elements that seem shamanic.

The only group or Tradition among Neo-Pagans that I have seen that even comes close to embodying “Shamanism” is the Feri Tradition started by Victor Anderson. But even then, I am reluctant to use the term because of its anthropological
significance and because of the term’s adoption by certain fluffy people and by the New Age.

Skyclad
This refers to participating in or working rituals in the nude. Some traditions, such as Gardnerian, practice almost exclusively skyclad. Most other traditions instead use special robes. Some Wiccans and Witches, solitary or in groups, practice in regular clothing.
Despite the opinions of some writers, ritual nudity wasn’t started by Gerald Gardner because he was a ‘dirty old man.’ Gardner had his reasons for adopting the practice when creating Wicca. The most commonly cited reasons are: energy is more effectively raised without clothing (magical effectiveness); the shedding of clothes is a part of the entrance into sacred space; when everyone is nude, there is equality (no rank or ego to be expressed through types of clothes).
It is up to you to decide whether to agree. Ritual nudity has been practiced off and on by various groups and religions for centuries.

Solitaries
A solitary is (surprise!) a person who does not, for whatever reason, practice with a group. Solitaries were the minority of Neo-Pagan Witches for the first couple of decades or so since the 1950’s. But nowadays (around 2005) it seems that solitaries are the
vast majority of Neo-Pagan Witches, even those who call themselves Wiccan. In Gardnerian Wicca (the earliest version of Neo-Pagan Witchcraft), coven members still make up the majority of adherents since
“one cannot be a witch alone.” But there are some exceptions.

Many older Wiccans have problems not with solitaries themselves but with the idea of self-initiation that many solitaries practice. Personally, I can see the merits to both sides of the argument around this. In my own experience I have found Wiccan groups are generally accepting of people who have self-initiated and who practice alone
so long as they admit to it. In my opinion, solitaries now make up the majority of Wiccans simply because there aren’t yet enough covens, either existing now or being formed, to handle the influx of newcomers.
It should also be noted that there are Wiccan traditions, such as Seax Wicca, in which self-initiation is the usual entry into the practice.

Sorcery
I put this entry here because people often associate this word with witchcraft. It’s time we come up with a concise workable definition of this term. Here goes: Sorcery is the art of manifesting your intentions.
It is the practice of materializing thought-forms. It is the empty-handed practice of magic. Sorcery is connecting with the divine or infinite within and actualizing that.
Some Neo-Pagan Witches have learned this art well, but the art is not necessarily connected with Neo-Pagan Witchcraft. Sorcery is practiced by many people from all walks of life
and from all religions. A sorcerer is one who is self-actualized and has the awareness/sensitivity to be able to summon up anything or any opportunity they need to accomplish whatever they set out to.
A sorcerer is the sort of person who doesn’t pray for rain when she needs to end a drought. She is the sort of person who prays “rain,” and it starts raining. Sorcerers live their lives on purpose. Contrary to the dogmas and beliefs that surround the idea of sorcery, the only difficulty in practicing this art is the belief that it is difficult. That said, work smart not hard.
If this is what you are looking for, you can learn to do this in many traditions. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Neo-Pagan Witchcraft.

Spellcasting, Spells, Spellcraft
These terms refer to the (occult) magical art that most people are familiar with: Someone mutters an incantation and burns some herbs, waves their hand, and “zap!” what they wanted to happen starts to happen.
Thanks to the mass media, popular misconceptions, and the dozens of fluffy books being published, most people assume that this is what Wicca or Neo-Pagan Witchcraft is all about. Unfortunately, in all of this it seems that some people
have forgotten that Neo-Pagan Witchcraft is a collection of religious traditions. The spurious fluffy authors who write their “intro to Wicca(-lite)” books seem to always leave most of the deep aspects out, such as: polytheology, divine ecstasy, energy, awareness, ritual meanings, actual history (as opposed to pseudo-histories), etc.

Casting spells does not make one a Wiccan anymore than it would make one a Buddhist or a Jew. Not practicing spellcraft doesn’t make one any less of a Wiccan. However, the art of spellcraft is a serious occult system which can be learned by anyone interested, if they have the time and dedication.
A lot of Neo-Pagan Witches learn spellcraft as an effective means of practice and change. But the vast majority of those will create their own spells. Reading a spell from a book of spells is considered sloppy practice, and contrary to the latest advertising spiel put out on the cover
of one of those glossy new books, it is an art that takes as much talent as learning, say, painting.
Also contrary to what many people assume, someone who has learned the art well tends to have a high accurate results rate.
(Like any art, each individual has their own style and preferred methods.)

The Threefold Law
This would be more correctly called the Law of Return, but I know many Wiccans are stuck on
traditional-sounding terms and the “threefold law” sounds like something old enough to be from a storybook. Contrary to what many fluffy writers have published, the Law of Return is not a moral code, nor is it an injunction. It is simply
stating what physicists have developed complex calculations for. If you take from the world, you will end up putting something back. If you do something violent, you increase the chances of that being done to you. This is much like the original idea of karma in which every action creates more conditions which reinforce and/or multiply the chances for that action to occur again.
Most people have assumed that karma is a moral underpinning, but like the Law of Return, it is simply a statement about how certain people have observed the world working.
If you eat something, you will eventually give something back to the environment that is useful to some other life. You inhale oxygen and exhale carbon-dioxide. There are many ways to pursue this observation.

An individual can choose to adapt the Law of Return into their own moral code, but keep in mind that doing good because you are getting good back is not very moral sounding.
Likewise, you should seek to avoid causing harm because of the empathy for other beings you have developed and not simply to avoid the harm coming back to you in the future. But that’s all I am going to say on the matter.

It should be obvious to you all why I have chosen to call this “The Law of Return” as opposed to the Threefold Law. I never took the Threefold Law literally like some people who then make asinine statements about it either pro or con. I just prefer the more
reciprocal sounding name of “Law of Return.” This version more adequately reflects the balance that is at the heart of Wicca. The “Threefold Return,” on the surface sounds like a runaway train. No versions of this Law should be taken at face value however.
They should simply inspire you to reflect on your own life. Sure, you may be able to get away with running that red light tonight, but perhaps your action caused anxiety in another driver who then does something stupid which results in you being late for work tomorrow morning.
Or perhaps you are not immediately affected but you have provoked anxiety and have added to the social level just that much and in some way it will affect you later on. Simply put, the Law of Return is the starting point for far sighted thinking.

I won’t say much about what this Law means magically because there is so much muddled pseudo-conceptual crap about magic out there now that it makes me sick. Just note that in magical practices, there is almost an exception for everything.
I feel that a lot of Neo-Pagans, Wiccans in particular, have deliberately misrepresented magic because of their marked lack of experience with it. So I won’t say anything about “not hexing” or about “interfering with other’s lives” or any of that crappola. Not because I feel it unimportant, mind you.
It’s just that you have probably heard it all before. Magically the Law of Return is simple: You need energy or art to get the results you want, i.e. you want something, then make something in return. Put some beauty back in the world. If you pay attention to just these last few statements, you need not worry about the Law of Return at all.

Traditional Witchcraft
This term can refer to two things. The first would be Gardnerian Wiccan traditions and their close relatives like the Alexandrians. This is sometimes, and more correctly, known as “British Traditionalist” or “British Traditional Wicca.”
The second would be people who for whatever reason are claiming to be Witches or Pagans from groups that are older than any of the Neo-Pagan groups since Gardner’s time. Such “traditional” groups
almost always practice rituals that can be shown to have come from Gardner’s Wicca or its derivatives since then. Most Traditional Witches would have us accept their claims on faith, but how do we trust people
who can be shown to be lying? And why the need to lie? The Neo-Pagan Witches and Wiccans who recognize that their own religions are only decades old are still having profound experiences that are as valid, if not more so, than any religion that
goes back in history for hundreds of years.

I am not saying that there can’t be any groups of traditional witches whose practices predate the Gardnerian ‘revival.’ But like unicorns and dragons, I have yet to actually see one of them in reality.
And websites don’t count as evidence.

Traditions
The word “tradition” usually refers to a distinctive ‘denomination’ of a Neo-Pagan religion, usually Wiccan. For instance, Gardnerian Wicca and Dianic Wicca are separate traditions, whereas Wicca as a whole and Asatru (Norse Paganism) are separate religions altogether.
This is the usual way the word is used, though some writers apply the word tradition to each and every Neo-Pagan group in a looser fashion.
The following are some of the more major traditions of Neo-Pagan Witchcraft. I have not included every tradition, just some of the more formative and/or distinctive ones. Anyone interested in looking at a more in-depth list of either Neo-Pagan Witchcraft or Wiccan traditions, and of Pagan paths in general, should visit
the Traditions page on the Witchvox website.

  • Gardnerian – Covens, groups and individuals whose initiations stretch back in succession to Gerald Gardner’s first coven. The term can also refer to people who might not be initiated by a Gardnerian, but who identify with the tradition. Strict Gardnerians do say that one must be initiated, however.
    Gardnerianism has three degrees or elevations. The first gives one access to coven rituals and is such that one’s status is recognized by Gardnerian covens everywhere. The second degree allows one to teach and initiate others. The third degree allows one to set up one’s own coven and to initiate other Witches
    up to the third degree. These degrees reflect experience and in no way allow anyone to be anyone else’s guru or master. Those who lead are simply those who take on the responsibility of teaching and organizing rituals. Beyond these three elevations it is up to one’s own level of experience and demonstrable ritual skill and life wisdom.
    Gardnerians are the oldest documented tradition of Neo-Pagan Witchcraft. Gardnerians today still keep records of lineage and initiations. Gender polarity is still an important part of Gardnerian ritual. The coven remains the essential base of the tradition. Most rituals are done with coveners skyclad. Most other groups and traditions who
    do what they do and call it “Wicca” or “Witchcraft” use rituals and practices that originally came from Gardnerian Wicca, whether or not they’d like to admit it.
  • Alexandrian – Started by Alex and Maxine Sanders in the 1960’s, this tradition mirrors the Gardnerian tradition in many ways. Alexandrians tend to use more of the old Ceremonial Magic influences in their rituals. There was a time when they claimed to be an older more traditional Witchcraft than Gardner’s, but that idea has since been debunked.
    Initially there was a lot of hostility between the Alexandrian and the Gardnerian traditions but that largely disappeared by the early 1980’s.
  • Dianic – The term “Dianic” once meant worshippers of Diana, but now the word almost exclusively refers to feminist Neo-Pagan Witchcraft traditions which exclude both the Horned God and men from their rituals. Some Dianics may worship Diana, but the vast majority of them worship the Goddess wherever She is found and no matter what She is called. There is some debate over whether or not they can be called Wiccan
    because of the latter’s emphasis on balance between the sexes and the worship of both God and Goddess. But this is not the place for that argument. Dianics tend to be very creative and their rituals are more often then not improvised. They can be considered part of the broader feminist Goddess spirituality movement as much as they
    could be considered Pagan Witches. Z Budapest is credited with founding most of what is now thought of as Dianic back in the mid-1970’s. The tradition has remained as popular as ever.
  • Feri – This term used to be spelled “Faery.” It’s founders, Victor and Cora Anderson, changed the spelling to Feri to distinguish the tradition from all of the other groups using the word “Faery” in their title.
    The Feri tradition is wildly variant from what people know of as Wicca. The tradition differs from Wicca in that it has developed its own correspondences for the pentagram, which is used as a meditative tool for illumination.
    Certain concepts, such as the “black heart of innocence” are unique to the tradition. Victor Anderson was a creative genius on par with Gerald Gardner in that he was knowledgeable in many paths (Vodou, Kabbalah, Wicca, Gaelic lore, Polynesian, etc.) and could synthesize them into something
    new. The Feri Tradition has given much training to Starhawk, who is probably the most famous Witch in America. The man known as Gwydion Pendderwen, responsible for writing many Pagan songs and poems some consider ‘traditional.’ was one of the Anderson’s earliest initiates. Another former student of the Andersons, Francesca DiGrandes, has stayed relatively within the Feri fold, unlike Starhawk, and has started
    her own school based upon it. Feri is an initiation based tradition and much of the magical/spiritual work is of a nature that makes it dangerous to attempt without a mentor. Even with a mentor, the Feri Tradition is not easy or ‘safe.’ But as Victor Anderson said, “Everything worthwhile is dangerous.” This sums up the Feri take on their own religion.
  • Seax Wica – Long before there were writers like Scott Cunningham giving rituals for solitary practitioners and self-initiations, there was Raymond Buckland’s Seax-Wica. Buckland started out as a Gardnerian and moved to America to teach the tradition. At some point he developed his own practices
    and decided to write a new tradition. In 1974 Seax-Wica was born. There are some major differences between this tradition and the Gardnerians (and most other Wiccans). There are no secret rituals or practices. There are no oaths of secrecy that members must take. Things that are taught from elders can be changed by students. Unlike other Wiccan traditions
    there are no degrees or elevations. And the largest difference is the acceptance of self-initiation as a valid entrance into Wicca. Since the 70’s, many other traditions of Wicca, such as the Alexandrians, have become accepting of self-initiation and solitary practice.

    Wand

    The wand is used to direct energy and some use it to invite powers or spirits. There are different types of wands used for different uses.
    You can ask experienced practitioners for more details on this if you should feel so inclined.
    Like the athame, the wand seems to be ubiquitous and sold everywhere. Though some Neo-Pagan Witches would frown upon it, you can buy your wand ready made. Some people (like myself) prefer to craft their own wands.
    If yours is store-bought, take care to make it your own before you work with it. It also doesn’t matter how flashy it looks. Simple wands work just as well. Like the athame, this tool is usually personal…i.e. not shared or swapped about by different people.
    Some Neo-Pagan Witches may use their hands where you
    were taught to use your wand or athame. Despite this, usually the wand and athame are not interchangeable items, as even their elemental correspondences point out.

    The Wheel of the Year
    Despite what many wish to believe, the Wheel of the Year is not historical; it being a modern development along with the rest of Neo-Pagan Witchcraft.
    Like many other parts of Wicca, there are aspects of certain of the festival observances that hearken back to pre-Christian (Paleo) Pagan times, but there is no evidence
    of anything like the modern conception existing before modern times. What we can be certain of is that the Wheel was developed first among Wiccan groups back when Gerald Gardner was still alive. It then spread out and became ubiquitous among most other Neo-Pagan religions.
    Originally the cross quarter days (the old four Celtic festivals) were the major observances with the equinoxes and solstices annexed to the nearest full moon nights. At some point in the latter 1950’s these ‘minor sabbats’ were added to the calendar independent of the moon nights. The most important aspect that reaches back to ancient times is the cyclical view of time that the Wheel engenders. This cyclical view can be seen in evidence among surviving knowledge about pre-Christian cultures.

    Keep in mind that what follows is nowhere near exhaustive. Here is the Wheel of the Year with the most common names:

  • Samhain (Halloween) – around November 1st. This is the Wiccan New Year’s Day and the Feast of the Dead, or the Remembrance. It is the day of changes and reflection upon the previous year. Loved ones who have passed since the last Samhain are thanked for coming and goodbyes to them are said. More distantly deceased loved ones are remembered and invited to partake of the celebration. At this time, any thing a Wiccan feels needs to be banished from their lives (particularly dysfunctional habits or other things) can be let go of.
    Death and its remembrance start the year in Wiccan cosmology because death and change is necessary for rebirth and new life. It is not generally seen as a morbid time at all, though this also depends on the individual Wiccan’s emotional make-up.
    In Wiccan mythology/theology, this is the time when the God dies.
  • Yule (Winter Solstice) – around December 22nd. This is also known as Midwinter. It is the time of the longest night (at least for us Northern Hemisphere inhabitants). It is seen as the light returning from the darkness; the hope that, no matter how harsh the coming winter will be, that warmth is promised to return.
    Life is celebrated with blessings and the exchange of gifts. In Wiccan theology this is the time when the God is born.
  • Imbolc (February Eve/Candlemas) – around February 1st.
    This is a festival of lights, since the days are clearly getting longer. The promise of spring is felt. The Goddess transforms from being the Mother who gave birth to the God into the Maiden of the coming spring. The earth is being prepared for its regeneration and growth.
    Some traditions have this as a time when the Crone of the harsh winter transforms into the Maiden.
    This holiday is also a purification time when everything that may block potential growth needs to be destroyed/transformed.
    Since the old day comes originally from Irish culture, some Wiccans honor the Goddess Brigit at this time since this was Her day.

  • Eostara (Spring Equinox) – around March 22nd.
    The Goddess and the God find each other according to some people. This day is the triumph of light over dark as the days will be longer than the nights from now until Autumn Equinox. This time is the celebration of fertility, conception,
    and rebirth as the earth continues to free itself from winter and certain plants start to blossom. In older times, some farmers used to start planting and plowing. Nowadays some Wiccans see this day as a time to start putting plans and actions into
    operation, even if the results will not be seen for months to come.
  • Beltane (May Day/Eve) – around May 1st.
    This is the second most important holiday after Samhain. It represents the start of summer and the beginnings of the riotous and joyous life that summer embodies. Many Wiccans also see this time as when the Goddess and the God become married. Beltane tends to be a popular time
    for Wiccans to handfast themselves. Many groups will dance around maypoles and light bonfires as part of their Beltane celebrations.

  • Litha (Midsummer) – around June 22nd.
    This is the old Midsummer. The word Litha is a modern adaptation. The God is celebrated as coming of age from being a young hunter to an older wise man, though this time is still the midway point of that transformation.
    Like Beltane, some people tend to light fires as part of their celebrations. My own group (which usually prefers to remain private) sees this day as the start of ‘sunrise watching’ season in which special rituals are done at various sunrises until Mabon.
  • Lughnasadh/Lammas (August Eve) – around August 1st.
    The first name refers to an old Celtic God, Lugh. The modern festival tends to have nothing to do with Him and the Irish lore surrounding the time. For Wiccans, the day is usually one of introspection since the God is aging and His impending death is felt to be nearing.
    It is also a time of early harvest and the start of preparations for the coming winter. The first hints of which can be seen in the lengthening nights and the cooler air. The hot sun is finally starting to relinquish, though there is still much summer left. The Goddess is starting to take on Her Crone aspect, though that doesn’t become fuller for some time.
    This is also a thanksgiving day of sorts when we remember the work and sacrifices that have given us what we have and made us who we are.
  • Mabon (Autumn Equinox) – around September 22nd.
    This second harvest day is another day of thanksgiving. The God is clearly in decline as His aged aspect grows. Preparation is made for the coming Samhain and the winter that will follow. The darkness finally overtakes the light as the nights will now grow longer than the days. This is a time of celebration mixed with
    reflection about what has been fruitful and what has not been so fruitful in the past months. Mysteries are contemplated and explored.

    For more information about these days, their correspondences and what certain Wiccan traditions do to observe/celebrate them, you must either do some research or find people with whom you can celebrate with. In time not only does the celebration of the days and their attendant rituals become more profound as the years pass, but the days also take on individual significance for each Wiccan.
    In Wicca, these festival days are thought of as starting at sundown. Thus Samhain actually starts on the evening of October 31st and so on. This follows an ancient custom which can be seen in evidence even in non-Pagan holidays such as Christmas with its Christmas Eve – traditionally the start of Christmas was at sundown on December 24th.

    Wicca
    This is the most generic term for Neo-Pagan Witchcraft, formerly known as the witch cult, and called “modern pagan witchcraft” by Ronald Hutton.
    Those who consider themselves Wiccan make up the majority of Neo-Pagan Witches, and a majority of other Neo-Pagans as well. Gerald Gardner first called his new pagan witchcraft religion
    “Wica” in 1954 (Witchcraft Today). The word acquired its more familiar spelling of “Wicca” by the 1960’s. Wicca is the old English word for a male “witch” (a female witch was a ‘wicce’), and it is from this word
    that the modern form “witch” derives (the old English double ‘cc’ being pronounced like the ‘ch’ of modern English; the modern term ‘Wicca’ being now pronounced universally as “Wicka,” which is a happily convenient distinction separating it from the older word.)

    Wicca now refers to a modern (Neo) Pagan religious system with many branches and traditions, all of which can be traced back to Gerald Gardner’s innovations and the inspiration of an imagined pagan survival ‘witch cult’ by writers like Margaret Murray. Certain common core practices that identify Wicca include: Duotheology of a God and Goddess; the circle as a temporary sacred space;
    four elements in quarter calls around the circle; belief in and/or operation of magic;
    personal polytheology; monthly rituals based on moon cycles; small group worship and ritual; initiation and progressive mysteries; personal and group introspection; spiritual maturation from ritual experience;
    and so on. Note: Though Wiccans are open to magic and tend to believe in it, not all Wiccans actively practice magic. Some are perfectly content to deal with the profound spiritual and celebratory aspects of their rituals without ever getting into using ‘occult’ magic.

    Wicca is in a period of explosive growth right now, which is amazing considering it is not a proselytizing religion. This growth is a sure sign of the present day marketing of books and other paraphernalia, much of which is watered-down Wicca-lite or spurious. It is said that there are now up to 1 million Wiccans in North America alone. (Check with the more credible Neo-Pagan info websites for up to date numbers.)
    Of these 1 million, it is hard to determine how many are really practicing and how many are just using it as an identity crutch. Despite what many people believe, Wicca is not simply a free-for-all for everyone to simply make up what they wish.
    There is an amount of flexibility in all Wiccan traditions, from the most ‘conservative’ (in no way a political term) to the most ‘eclectic.’ But there is a certain continuity that needs to be learned and respected. Those who make the assertion “there is no one definition of Wicca” are copping out at best and deluded at worst. There is much more to Wicca than simply wearing a pentacle necklace, reading books, and then making up one’s own religion. Making up
    your own religion or tradition is fine, just don’t call it Wicca if it has nothing to do with Wiccan beliefs, rituals, or other Wiccans.

    Witch
    This word means something different to different groups of people. (See the Witchcraft entry below for examples of this.)
    When you are initiated or become dedicated (or dedicate/initiate yourself) into Neo-Pagan Witchcraft, the word “Witch” becomes a title you are given or choose to adopt. (Both males and females are called Witches, by the way.) But remember that neither Wicca, nor any other derivative of Wicca, has the copyright
    on this term. The vast majority of people in this world (who speak English anyway) just assume that a witch is someone who practices sorcery and may or may not
    do so maliciously. Some non-Pagans may believe that witches practice a nature religion and were once persecuted by the Church. But this latter idea comes from the promotion of Wicca’s self-image to segments of academia and the media.
    (Not a bad thing at all.) However, do not assume that other people who identify themselves as witches are Wiccan or Neo-Pagan, unless of course they tell you so. Never assume that calling yourself a Witch among others who are not
    Wiccan or Neo-Pagan will gain you any understanding. My advice: There is no reason why you must reveal your religion to anyone who doesn’t know you. But if you must identify your religious affiliations to non-Pagans, use some of the more neutral terms like “natural religion” or even “Neo-Pagan.” Leave off using the word “Witch”
    unless you are around people who know what you mean. To all others you can rightly say “None of your business.” But trust me, the topic of your personal religion or beliefs need never come up among people you don’t know well.

    Witchcraft

    This is another one of those words that means something different to everyone. Isaac Bonewits is one of the only writers I know of who
    has adequately solved the definition problem of this term. (Refer to his website.) Now to Neo-Pagan Witches the word refers to their religion. To most other people
    the word refers to operational magic, or the belief in it. To many Christians the word refers to evil magic and devil worship. To some feminists it simply refers to a woman regaining
    her self-control and personal sovereignty. To Starhawk and others, it refers to modern Goddess religions. Never assume that
    other people will know what you mean when you say “Witchcraft” unless you explain your definition to them carefully.

    It took me a long time to come to some sort of clarity in my own usage of this term. For a while, I used Witchcraft (with a capital ‘W’) to refer to the Neo-Pagan religion, reserving witchcraft (with a small ‘w’) to refer to
    operative magic in the more generally accepted common usage. Nowadays, after thinking about Isaac Bonewits’ definitions, I have decided to follow his conventions since they lead to the most accuracy in understanding. Where I used to write
    Witchcraft (capital ‘W’), I now write and call it Neo-Pagan Witchcraft, unless I am speaking with others who will know what I mean by the former.

    The Witches’ Pyramid
    Otherwise known as the Four Powers of the Witch or the Four Powers of the Magus. This actually comes from Western Ceremonial Magic, but similar ideas exist in other traditions such as Tantra. The Witches’ Pyramid consists of the phrase “To know, to dare, to will,” and “to be silent.”

    Knowledge and learning has a respected place in Wicca (or at least it used to before the rise of Fluffy Bunnies). This “knowing” not only includes literacy (in history, comparative studies, and myths) but also personal experience with the gods and experience with rituals. Contrary to what many people newer to Wicca assume, elders should be respected for their experience, otherwise there is a danger that Wicca will continue to fall prey to shallowness. Likewise, elders should respect newer Wiccans who have demonstrated an ability and thirst for knowing.

    Daring is self-explanatory and works well in conjunction only with knowledge. Facing the mysteries and the parts or aspects of life that are inexplicable is part and parcel of being daring. Wiccans best apply this daring to themselves first. One should not shrink back from responsibilities and one should not avoid doing things simply because they make one afraid. Being daring also means to hold up one’s head high but not in a false sense. Consider the implications of this.

    One needs Will in order to achieve things. You cannot accomplish something without first believing (or agreeing with yourself) that you can accomplish it. Anything that may contradict this belief (or agreement) must be confronted and dealt with, not avoided in some neurotic denial mechanism. This will also means getting over any past hurts or baggage or habits that may be dragging you down or holding you back.

    Being silent is something many people who today call themselves “Witches” would do well
    to practice. There may be good reasons to be silent about one’s religious or spiritual
    affiliations which go from a continuum of fear of persecution on up to the simple fact
    that telling everyone you meet that you are a Witch or Wiccan approaches a sort of perverse
    evangelism. There is no need to wear your religion on your sleeve. With regards to practicing
    magic, being silent is a useful aid as it protects against interference. It is also useful in
    that being silent keeps you from doing things out of hubris. (This is similar to the Buddhist
    ideal that good things should be done without regard to how anyone may or may not praise you.)
    Silence also includes not bragging about one’s experience or even magical attainments.
    This includes all of you internet mages who like to threaten others with your abilities, etc. It is very helpful to remain silent, even when you do know somethings or two
    about certain fields. Remember the proverb “Those who speak much know little.”


    “Witta”
    This term was invented by the author Edain McCoy as the title of her book Witta: An Irish Pagan Tradition. I have included it here only because, for some reason, people
    keep asking me about it. The information in McCoy’s book is watered-down Wicca mixed with some very poorly researched and invented “Irish customs” and beliefs. The best example that proves that “Witta” is a canard is when the author
    claims that the term “Witta” is the Irish Gaelic word, or equivalent, of Wicca. (“Witta” is most likely an old Germanic word that means “wise one.”) Irish Gaelic culture has nothing of the sort. And, as an Irish-speaker, I can assure you that there is no word “Witta” or any equivalent in the language.
    The word doesn’t even sound like an Irish Gaelic word. (How would we spell it natively anyway? As Bhiota or Bhoi-ta? This would be nonsense.)
    Had McCoy even learned about the Irish language, she would know that Gaelic rarely uses “w,” except in modern words borrowed from English. The double “tt” is never used at all. Her trying to pass the word “Witta” off as an Irish Gaelic word
    is simply disrespectful of both Irish Gaelic culture and Wicca. The rest of her book is filled with so many fraudulent claims and historical/cultural inaccuracies as to render the whole work useless. Her claims about the native Celtic institution of professionals known as the Druids
    are particularly baseless and offensive. Don’t let me catch you using the word “Witta.”
    For more information on this and other canards that claim to be Celtic, refer to the article “When is a Celt not a Celt” by Joanna Hautin-Mayer. ( www.cyberwitch.com/wychwood/Library/whenIsACeltNotACelt.htm )


    Afterword



    I know that the above wasn’t as exciting as reading the latest spellbook put out by Fiona Horne or $ilver Ravenwolf, but if you want to have a sure footing or a good grounding as an INDIVIDUAL in Wicca, you do know that
    you have to research, read, practice, and think for yourself. God and Goddess didn’t call you to become a wiccolyte clone. They called you to be YOU. Now, what are YOU going to do about it?

    Please be sure to familiarize yourself with the above terms and their meanings before going any further. Contrary to what many writers have written, I feel that it is essential that anyone newly interested in Neo-Pagan Witchcraft
    get a good grasp of the religion and of its wide modern developments before making any commitment to practicing.
    Beware of those who will try to manipulate your seeking or who will try to get you to accept what they have to teach at face value. Also beware
    of those books which are based on misconceptions and filled with spurious ideas. There is no “instant-witch” miracle incantation, despite what some have claimed. Respect yourself and the path you are interested in. Take your time before making any decisions.
    I hope that in some small way, this glossary helps in that process.

    As part of this whole “Wicca 101” thing, in the future I will post some suggestions for those of you who are new to Neo-Pagan Witchcraft. These suggestions will be more in depth introductions
    to various concepts and practices. You will be able to use them as boosts to your own practice, or as steps to making your own practice. But before any of that, I suggest again that if you really want to learn
    you should read as much as you can, starting with the citations listed above. Try to find elders or teachers who can help guide you along. And remember that anything I say is not the final word. As I have hinted at above, it is YOUR practice and YOUR choice.

    -Irreverend Hugh, KSC



    The following are excellent sources for anyone wishing to learn further:



  • Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Witchcraft and Wicca by Isaac Bonewits (Citadel Press, 2006)
  • Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler (4th ed. 2006)
  • The Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton (1999)
  • Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Age by Vivian Crowley (1st ed. 1989)
  • The Rebirth of Witchcraft by Doreen Valiente (1989)
  • The Witch’s Voice (website)
  • Neopagan.net (website)
  • Wicca For The Rest Of Us (website)


    This page published by the DSSS/PMM. All Rights Reserved by Author. Copyright © 2006.

    Please let us know if you reference or link to this page, or if you have any comments or suggestions. You may share this page, provided you keep the text intact and include this notice.

    The URL for this page is http://www.geocities.com/tribhis/wicca101.html

    and http://www.saint-hugh.chaosmagic.com/wicca101.html


    Permission secured by Daven’s Journal to reproduce these articles here.

    The URL of this document is http://davensjournal.com/wicca101.htm

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