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Wiccan Religion: Beliefs, Rituals & Holidays

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

Wicca is a rather modern religion whose origins are based on traditional practices of witchcraft. This lesson will discuss Wiccan beliefs, rituals, and holidays in order to provide an overview of the Wiccan religion as a whole.

Witch on broom

Witchcraft

When most of us think about witches, we picture the stereotypical old woman with a crooked large nose, dressed in black clothing and a pointy hat, flying through the air on a broom right after stirring up potions in her cauldron. This traditional image of a witch frightened us as children, and is a popular costume choice at Halloween. Traditional witchcraft, however, doesn't exactly fit this mold.

Witchcraft is a skill that has been practiced by women called witches since ancient times. Woman who practiced witchcraft used natural herbs to come up with potions to cure diseases. Over time, the witches' abilities to cure illness was met with superstition, and many witches faced persecution for practicing their craft.

Wicca

Witchcraft itself is not a religion. However, many witches do have beliefs rooted in the Wiccan religion. The Wiccan religion is known as the religion of witches. It is rooted in traditional witchcraft, and can be practiced on an individual basis or in groups. Those who practice Wicca have an incredible appreciation of nature. They delight in sunrises, and sunsets, and watching the different phases of the moon. Contrary to popular belief, they do not practice evil and are not sympathetic to demonic practices.

Gerald Gardner is credited as being a pioneer of the modern-day Wiccan religion, and is credited with encouraging many others to follow in his beliefs. Although witchcraft itself dates back to the Middle Ages, Gardner formalized Wiccan beliefs in the pre- and post-World War II era.

Wiccan Religious Beliefs

There are many variations of the Wiccan religion. In the early 1970s, a group of Wiccan believers formed a Wiccan council and came up with 13 standards that tend to guide United States-based Wiccan beliefs:

  1. We have a responsibility to nature, and we live as one with nature
  2. Rites are practiced in harmony. in accordance with the phases of the moon
  3. Witchcraft is practiced in accordance with religious practices and magic
  4. Witches have special powers that ordinary people do not possess
  5. The creative power that is practiced by men and women is equal, and sex is revered as a natural part of life
  6. There is a recognized connection between the physical and supernatural worlds
  7. Leaders are respected, but there is no recognized social hierarchy
  8. Only through actions, like living as one with nature and committing to do no harm to others, can one call themselves a witch
  9. Emphasis is on living a fulfilled life that allows bringing meaning to the greater universe
  10. Other religions are only criticized by us if they fail to respect religious practices unlike their own
  11. The history of witchcraft is not threatening; our concern is only with present and future practices
  12. There is no practice of evil, no making others suffer
  13. Nature can supply us with the tools to maintain health and to heal

Wiccan Rituals

Pentacle Used in Wiccan Rituals
wicca

There are a variety of Wiccan rituals that exist within the Wiccan religion. Most Wiccan rituals involve gathering in or drawing a circle that is marked by 5 points, usually symbolized with candles. The area inside of the circle is referred to as the altar. Depending on the type of ritual that is taking place, a number of different tools or objects could be put into use. Wiccan rituals are associated with Wiccan holidays and also with events such as:

  • initiation of a new witch
  • honoring someone who has shown interest in Wicca
  • marriage and divorces, known as handfasting and parting of the ways
  • birth of a child
  • funerals

It is common that spells are also associated with rituals. Spells are cast to effect positive change in the lives of others and may include spells cast for love, or those cast for healing. Wiccan rituals and spells are primarily guided through the Book of Shadows which provides instruction for how these should be performed.

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