A Fox News segment about the University of Missouri recognizing Wiccan holidays sparked controversy after many were offended by the words and attitudes of the Fox reporters. The same reporter later apologized after the news channel received many phone calls from upset viewers. Witchcraft. You see it in movies and your read it in books, but what are the Wiccans all about?
Wicca is a modern, Pagan witchcraft religion that was developed by Gerald Gardner in the 20th century in England. Wicca is called “The Craft” or “The Craft of the Wise.” The name derives from the Old English masculine term for ‘sorcerers.’ The religion is derived from an ancient Pagan religion and is one of the many earth-based religions. The original religion was just called witchcraft until the 60s and 70s when the name Wicca came into use.
While there is no authority figure, and most Wiccans believe in a deity that is largely unknowable that they call “The All” or “The One.” Most Wiccans worship a god and goddess called the mother goddess and the horned god. These two different gods are viewed as viewed as the two sides of a pantheistic godhead. The goddess is regarded as the Triple Goddess of the moon, stars, and fate. They also believe in a Horned God that is associated with forests, animals and the realm beyond death. These two god heads are also sometimes called the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine. They are complementary opposites. They can be called the Divine Couple and are seen as both lovers and equals.
The religion is divided into different branches called “traditions.” Each tradition has its own organizational structure, but many traditions have a similar set of beliefs.
Wiccans celebrate rituals that involve direct encounters with the God or Goddess rather than through a priest. The Wiccan baptism is called a Wiccaning service, but unlike the Christian baptism, Wiccaning does not obligate the infant into the religion. Wiccans are encouraged to make their own decisions once they are old enough.
They also celebrate initiation rituals when a person becomes a Wiccan. The rituals are performed by a Wiccan group called a Coven. These rituals can take many forms like casting of a circle or closing of the circle. The rituals can also include magic, spell casting, dance, readings and singing. Many rituals are used during celebrations which often take place during full moons. Rituals begins by casting a magic circle. Once the is made, Wiccans perform a seasonal ritual and prayers are said and rites are read. The rites often include a magical tools such as a athame, a wand, a pentacle, a chalice, candles, incense and a broom. When rituals are finished the Wiccans thank God and close the cirlce.
Wiccan traditions and celebrations follow the seasons. They have eight seasonal festivals called Sabbats and collectively called the Wheel of the Year. Wiccans also celebrate weddings called handfasting which is a European ceremony that involves tying the hands of the two people with ribbon. A common vow for Wiccans is “for as long as love lasts.”
The number of Wiccans worldwide is uknown, but the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey estimated that there were about 134,000 American who identified themselves as Wiccans.
Most Wiccans believe in reincarnation. The High Priest Raymond Buckland said most Wiccans believe that they are reincarnated into the same species over time in order to learn lessons and advance spirituality. Wiccans believe: “once a witch, always a witch.”
“If you take the Christian Bible and put it out in the wind and the rain, soon the paper on which the words are printed will disintegrate and the words will be gone. Our bible is the wind and the rain.”
-Herbalist Carol McGrath (as told to her by an unidentified Native-American Wiccan)