The History of Wicca
Wiccans and Druids
An It Harm None Do What They Wilt
The Principals of Belief
As a branch of Paganism, Wicca is one of the oldest existing religions. It dates back to 50,000BC where, in Africa, there has been found a Ritual Circle of the Fertility Goddess Cult and the Horned God Religion. To this day, the Goddess is revered as the Great Mother (Nature), who gave birth to the universe and all that it contains. And from the Goddess came the Horned One, her Consort, who is revered as the Lord of the Hunt, the Lord of the Dead and the Underworld, and the Lord of Life (the Stag, bringer of life). 15,000BC holds evidence of the two original Cults merging to form a single religion.
Wiccans and Druids (the earliest Celtic Priests)
The two religions borrowed from each otherís beliefs. The Druids drew upon reincarnation from the Wicca and the Wiccans developed structured Sabbats and more pastoral procedures from the Druids. Each religion accepted the influence of the other and no conflicts were ever aroused. 14,000 years later the Druids were persecuted by the Roman Empire (Caesar). When the Roman Empire fell, the Saxons began to persecute the Wicca due to Saxon fear of magick.
In 300BC, Christianity formed the first formal writings against Wicca. Anti-witch laws were formed and carried into more current times. In 500BC, the Saxon kings converted to Christianity and passed more and more anti-witch laws until 1231 when The Inquisition was founded under the order of Pope Gregory IX. In 1542 The Inquisition became the Congregation of the Inquisition/Holy Office. There are at least 235,000 (some believe that the number is as high as 9,000,000) documented cases of witch burnings and tortuous deaths of witches and accused witches. Most of the condemned were women and children.
Anyone could accuse anyone else of witchcraft as long as they had two witnesses. This led to many people being tortured for false confessions and then hung or burnt at the stake as witches or heretics. The documents which created the Inquisition were proved as forgeries in the late 1800s. Two German monks, believed to be Dominican or Franciscan, had forged the papers and passed them off as law under Pope Gregory. Nonetheless, the lawful death of witches continued until 1926, 28 years after the forgery was discovered.
It was not until the late 1950ís that witchcraft was legalized in England and not until the 1960ís that it was legalized in North America. The official reason for legalizing witchcraft was that witchcraft and magick did not exist and the British government was trying to rid themselves of useless laws. So it seems that as many as 9 million people were murdered in the name of Christianity. And still, If asked now, the church uses justification by quoting a line from the bible: "Thou shall not suffer a witch to live." King James converted that very one line from the original scripture. The original passage read "Thou shall not suffer a Kaskagh to live." A kaskagh in the old language means "poisoner". Recently, however, the Vatican has agreed to open some of the files pertaining to the Inquisition.
An It Harm None Do What Thy Wilt
The foundations of the Wicca are such. An it harm none do what thy wilt. Meaning, if no one gets hurt in the process, go ahead and live your life. Wiccans do not believe in heaven or hell. They believe in the morals that are contained within them. A Wiccan would never murder or rape or steal, as they would find it morally irremissible. Their lives and beliefs are also guided by the doctrine that all things that they do, good or bad, will be returned on them three fold. A good deed will come back three times as strong. So will a bad doing be returned on them three times as harsh. The only other firm Wiccan belief is reincarnation. We will all live, die and are born three times. Most Wicca create a Book of Shadows which is filled with thoughts, poetry, spells, ideas and anything that has spiritual meaning to the individual. Some worship in covens, others choose to practice alone. Some are skyclad (nude); others prefer robes or even casual street clothing. It is all a matter of personal choice.
There are normally three levels on initiation. A first degree wicca is considered a student or a witch, a second degree initiate is considered a practitioner or priestess, and a third degree initiate is considered a teacher or high priestess.
As old as the religion is, it is understandable that there are different branches of Wicca, called Traditions. Traditional Wicca are considered the conservatives; the Eclectics are considered the liberals; and the Dianics (mostly female) are considered the feminists. Within these three Traditions there are a number of other branches, with each branch being developed by one person who had a different interpretation than his or her own teachers. Examples of these branches are Gardnerian, Alexandian, Welsh, Celtic, Hereditary, Fam-Trad and so on.
O Come All Ye Faithful
The Wicca celebrates four main sabbats and four minor sabbats. Some of these holidays were adapted by christians and are commonly celebrated all over the world. See how many of the following holidays you can recognize.
The Four Main Sabbats
Also known as Allhallows Eve, Samhaine marks the end of one year and the start of the next. This Sabbat lands on October 31. It is also the time of rebirth for the ones who had died in the previous year.
Also known as Canlemas, Imbolic celebrates the purity and innocence of the virgin. Landing on February 2 it also signifies the midway point between winter and spring.
Also known as May Eve, this old Celtic festival used to entail driving cattle between bel-fires to promote purification and protection from disease, or as a prelude to sacrifice. Beltane was also the celebration of the beginning of summer.
Also known as Lammas, this was a time of thanking the Goddess for the harvest. In gratitude farm laborers would attend "wakes" to mourn the death of the corn king. Landing on August 1, this was also the time to prepare for the coming winter.
The Four Minor Sabbats:
Yule, landing on December 21, marks the shortest day of the year. After this occurrence the days begin to get longer.
Midsummer, landing on June 21, marks the longest day of the year. After this occurrence the days become shorter.
Spring equinox, landing on March 21, the world is quickening for the time of the rebirth.
Autumn equinox, landing on September 29, is the last of the harvest and the preparation for winter.
The Principals of Belief
In 1974, the Council of American Witches, in their Spring Witchmeet held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, adopted the "Principles of Wiccan Belief" in an effort to inform and educate the general public and fledgling Witches. Although the Council disbanded in that same year, other groups and organizations have formed that have adopted these beliefs. Many Witches try to practice these Principles in all their affairs - in their Spell Craft and in daily living.
"The Council of American Witches finds it necessary to define modern witchcraft in terms of the American experience and needs."
"We are not bound by traditions from other times and other cultures, and owe no allegiance to any person or power greater than the Divinity manifest through our own being."
"As American Witches, we welcome and respect all life-affirming teachings and traditions, and seek to learn from all and to share our learning within our Council."
"It is in the spirit of welcome and co-operation that we adopt these few principles of Wiccan belief. In seeking to be inclusive, we do not wish to open ourselves to the destruction of our group by those on self-serving power trips, or to philosophies and practices contradictory to these principles. In seeking to exclude those whose ways are contradictory to ours, we do not want to deny participation with us to any who are sincerely interested in our knowledge and beliefs, regardless of race, colour, sex, age, national or cultural origins, or sexual preference."
"We therefore ask only that those who seek to identify with us accept these few basic principles:"
1. "We practice rites to attune ourselves with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the phases of the Moon and the seasonal quarters and cross-quarters."
2. "We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibility toward our environment. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance offering fulfillment to life and consciousness within an evolutionary concept."
3. "We acknowledge a depth of power far greater than is apparent to the average person. Because it is far greater than ordinary, it is sometimes called "supernatural," but we see it as lying within that which is naturally potential to all."
4. "We conceive of the Creative Power in the Universe as manifesting through polarity - as masculine and feminine - and that this same creative power lives in all people, and functions through the interaction of the masculine and feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supportive of the other. We value sexuality as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of Life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magickal practice and religious worship."
5. "We recognize both outer worlds and inner, or psychological worlds - sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconscious, the Inner Planes, etc. - and we see in the interaction of these two dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magickal exercises. We neglect neither dimension for the other, seeing both as necessary for our fulfillment."
6. "We do not recognize any authorial hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, respect those who share their knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have courageously given of themselves in leadership."
7. "We see religion, magick, and wisdom-in-living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it - a world view and philosophy of life, which we identify as Witchcraft or the Wiccan Way."
8. "Calling oneself a "Witch" does not make a Witch - but neither does heredity itself, or the collecting of titles, degrees, and initiations. A Witch seeks to control the forces within him/herself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well, without harm to others, and in harmony with Nature."
9. "We acknowledge that it is the affirmation and fulfillment of life, in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness, that gives meaning to the Universe we know, and to our personal role within it."
10. "Our only animosity toward Christianity, or toward any other religion or philosophy-of-life, is to the extent that it is institutions that have claimed to be "the one true right and only way" and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practices and beliefs."
11. "As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various terms, the legitimacy of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present, and our future."
12. "We do not accept the concept of "absolute evil," nor do we worship any entity known as "Satan" or "the Devil" as defined by Christian Tradition. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor do we accept the concept that personal benefits can only be derived by denial to another."
"Ever mind the rule of three,
What thee sends out comes back to thee.
Three times three,
So mote it be!"
13. "We work within nature for that which is contributory to our health and well being."
Today, Wicca, as a branch of Neo-Paganism, is one of the fastest growing religions. Perhaps this is due to the fact that a Wiccan faction would never draw fees from its members. Or maybe itís the freedom of thought and choices that it has to offer all kinds of worshippers.
Even though its popularity is on the rise, many individuals are still ignorant of the basic beliefs of this fascinating religion, leaving them to believe that witches sacrifice babies and have orgies. The persecution of Pagan believers is still very common. While we as a civilization have grown beyond killing what we do not understand, we are far from the day when we will cease to fear it.