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Wicca: It's Traditions and Concepts

Author: Rev. Dr. Scott Baldwin

Copyright © 1998 - Not to be reproduced without written consent.
Rev. Dr. Scott Baldwin
Under a Silver Moon


What is Wicca? |
Wiccan Traditions |
Wiccan Concepts




What is Wicca?



'An it Harm None, Do what Thou Will' shall be the whole of the law. It's the rede that most Wiccan witches around the world bind themselves to. What exactly is Wicca? It's a religion based on Nature. The most important aspect of Wicca is that the only dogma that it contains is what each practitioner makes of it. This is why there are quite a few traditions in Wicca, much like the Christian religion and its several sects. Wicca is the revitalization of the Old Religion, which pre-dates Christianity by at least 10 thousand years, if not more. Its name, Wicca, means "Wise One", and was derived from the Anglo-Saxon word 'Wicce', which means 'to bend'. Although some will argue this definition, this term was used long ago, by the wisest of the whole kingdom in England. The Anglo-Saxon kings would first consult the 'Witan', The Counsel of the Wise, or the tribal witches, before acting on anything. In those early times, it was well known that the Witan were very wise, for not only did they have to lead the religious rites, but they also had to have knowledge in the fields of law, herbal lore, alchemy, divination as well as magick.

What should have been mentioned in my preface is that Wicca, and the Old Religion, are NOT the same thing (when someone says they come from a line of Wiccans that dates back thousands of years, they're just pulling your chain, because Wicca dates back no earlier than circa 1951.) They're quite possibly nearly the same, but due to the fact that the Old Religion in itself was not a written religion, there can be no way for sure to know exactly how worship was conducted.

Who exactly created Wicca? We all know that religions are a creation of humankind, in an effort to seek spiritual reasoning and explanations for life. Credit for the creation of Wicca can, in a way, be credited to Gerald Gardner. He did not create Wicca from his mind however, but rather by borrowing from several traditions and religions. History tells us of Gerald Garnders initiation into an English witch coven called The New Forest Coven headed by "Old Dorothy" Clutterbuck, who was a hereditary witch. The coven had been in existence for decades, however it wasn't until 1951 that Britain repealed the last laws mandating that all witches be put to death. Once the law was repealed, Gardner created "Wicca", which combined elements from the New Forest Coven with those of the Golden Dawn and Masonic-like ceremonies (this was due to the fact that Gardner was a Freemason) as well as borrowing from the works of authors (like Dr. Margaret Alice Murray who wrote "The Witchcraft Cult in Western Europe" in 1921). The resulting religion was dubbed "Gardnerian Wicca", and from this creation many other traditions have spawned. But even though Gardnerian Wicca was the first "Official" tradition of Wicca, this does not mean that all other traditions are false, or "wannabe's" as some Gardnerians refer to them as. They just need to remember how Wicca was created.

Those who practice Wicca are known as witches, including the male practitioner. Although the term 'Warlock' has been used by television, as well as movie producers, the term is not generally used by Wiccans. In ancient times, Warlock was a label given unto a person of a village who broke an oath, and is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word 'Waerlog.' Male witches may still refer to themselves as a "warlock", and then explain to those who object to its use that "Waerlog" and "Warlock" are two different words. I myself, as a male witch, prefer to call myself a "Witch". Some ask what the difference is between a Witch, and a Wiccan. Basically, all Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccans, and not all Wiccans practice witchcraft. This definition is also debated, because of the dogma or bias that each practitioner creates.


Traditions of Wicca



There are, as in many other religions of the world, several denominations of Wicca. These are derived from the eclectic idealism of the religion itself, and because of such, Wicca is viewed in a way that suits the needs of the desires and beliefs of each practitioner. As stated previously, Wicca is comprised of a great deal of Dogma. Many will argue this statement blindly, because they're not well educated in the religion. Dogma exists because each practitioner has their own belief of who the Goddess and God are, and how worship to the Divine should be conducted. Their beliefs in how magick works also differs. This is dogma.

Alexandrian Wicca



This tradition was founded by Alex Sanders, in England. This is a tradition made with many Judeo-Christian and Ceremonial magickal elements. Covens work sky clad as a rule, and all eight sabbats are observed, as well as both the God and the Goddess being honored.

Eclectic Wicca



Many prefer to follow this tradition of Wicca. Not being a tradition to the word, the idea of being an Eclectic Wiccan is that you borrow from many aspects of the Ancient Religions of the Earth. Some disrespect the Eclectic tradition because they view it as lawless. Remember, the only rule we must follow in Wicca is our rede of the Witches - 'An it harm None, Do as thou will.' Some prefer to follow the Gardnerian path, yet work robed. Others prefer to work with only four people, while others prefer to follow a Druid/Arch Mage path. All are valid, and acceptable. Those who do not accept the Eclectic view of Wicca have either fallen into a tradition comprised of much dogma, or they still have much to learn along their path in life.

Gardnerian Wicca



Founded by Gerald Gardner, this tradition was actually launched shortly after the second World War. Contrary to the belief of many, Aleister Crowley did NOT write the Book of Shadows for Gardner. Also, it was not Gardner who brought the rebirth of the Old Religion. This misconception has earned this tradition the mistaken idea that the Gardner Tradition is the only true trad in Wicca. The Goddess takes emphasis over the God in this tradition, with the female ranking above the male practitioner. Also, there is a 'system of degree' that does not allow for self-initiation into this tradition. There is also a rule where covens work sky clad, and they aim to have 'perfect couples' with equal numbers of males and females, paired, and the covens of Gardnerian are autonomous. Most who are members of this tradition claim it's the only true tradition. This is due to the misconception previously pointed out. However, fact remains that many still believe that it was Garnder that fathered Wicca.


Other Traditions



I've decided to mention the above because these are the only one's I've bothered to read up on, or I have no reference to others. I do have recommended reading that mentions much more, and that would be Raymond Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. There is an excellent section that describes many traditions, and how they conduct themselves in ritual.


Concepts



There are a lot of concepts and ideas of Wicca and the Old Religion. The following are explorations into those issues.

God and Goddess: Some have asked which entity, or deity, we worship. We're accused by many of worshipping Satan. However, we all know this isn't true, because we do not recognize Christian doctrine in its whole, while many don't believe any of their doctrine. When you ask a Wiccan who they worship, the answer can, and will, vary. Some only worship the Goddess, while others only worship the God. There are many however that worship both the God and the Goddess, recognizing the Duality Aspect. When asked which Goddess or God, the answer too can vary. There are many names and faces worn by the Goddess and the God. Many believe that the Divine Being, Mother Creator, "God", whichever name you use, goes by many names, and has many faces. The belief that all the Gods and Goddess' of the world are all but the same one "Supreme Being" is a common belief, shared by many. The different names are chosen to suit the need of the one calling them, as all items in magick are used. This purpose is for a focal point, to help concentration. One last group of people are those who maintain that the Divine is a field of energy that surrounds us, and penetrates us. Christian doctrine shows this philosophy which teaches that God is everywhere. This is one example of shared doctrine.

Magick: To understand how magick can even be considered to be real, one must understand physics. All objects are comprised of atoms, be it living, or inanimate objects. Atoms are comprised of a nucleus, and electrons which orbit the nucleus. How is it then, that some objects are hard, and others are soft? It all has to do with how the atoms bond together, as well as the specific atoms in question. Bonding occurs when electrons from one atom, are shared and exchanged with electrons from another atom. Since atoms are basically free floating, and electrons are shared with other atoms, everything in the known universe are linked together by a common theory - Electron bonding. Humans share their atoms with every object or life form that they come in, or close to, contact with. The exchange of electrons is a form of energy. Since magick is the act of manipulating and working with the energies in nature, all one has to do is tune themselves into this concept just presented. Using ones mind to control matter is magick. Hence, we get the term "It's all mind over matter." Items used within magick are tools used as a means of making focusing much easier. The flame of the candle is used to help fix a gaze, so one can have a clear mind.

The Pentagram: The Pentagram is perhaps the centerpiece of our religion. It's to our religion as the crucifix is to the Catholics. Contrary to modern day Judeo-Christian teachings, it is NOT a symbol of Satan. It's a symbol of all living things in nature, and how everything ties together (see Magick above). Each point leads to the next, which ends at the point where it began. There are five points to the pentagram, each representing an element in nature. Yes, there are at least five elements in nature. These are: Earth, Fire, Air, Water, Soul. The circle found to encompass the pentagram represents the cycle of life. It has no beginning and no end. It symbolizes reincarnation, where death comes rebirth of the soul.

Good and Evil: This topic alone brings division in the ranks of many who claim to follow an Earth Based Religion. All it takes is an open mind, and understanding to comprehend the fact I'm about to present - Contrary to what Judeo-Christian teachings, as well as many "Witches", there exists in nature, no such thing as ABSOLUTE GOOD or ABSOLUTE EVIL. There does exist the concept of both. We must look at the definition of each word to understand this. Good is defined as "acceptable, or lacking Evil. The Opposite of Bad." And Evil is defined as "the Opposite of Good, Morally wrong or Bad." Therefore, neither can exist independent of the other. This means that each and every one of us are just as evil, as we are good. It's our morals, religions, beliefs, and upbringing that determine the dominant quality. To further provide examples to that just mentioned, yet another opposite exists in nature. The concept of Day and Night. What is Day but the opposite of Night. Light is the absence of Dark, and Dark the absence of Light. Hate is the absence of Love, and Love is the absence of Hate. This is a perfect example of Duality in nature. This is fact, and cannot be argued against if intelligence is used.

As I stated, this remains a hot topic, creating much division in the ranks of Earth Religions. I've gotten into an argument online with published author Ellen Cannon Reed on this topic, who commented on Adolph Hitler. She said that the man was EVIL. For my opinions, she took away my right to speak on her IRC channel, as well as the rights of those who took my side. This should show you that just because someone is a published author doesn't mean they know what they're talking about. Now for my reply to her statement. "Good and Evil co-exist within each other. Sure, in my opinion, Hitler was evil. But to those who belonged to the Nazi Party, he was a good man." Is this too difficult of a concept to see?

These are great examples of how to explain the concepts of good/evil. It should show you that there is NO such thing as white or black magick, because the magick we use remains the same, from one person to the next. It's how the PERSON uses it, as well as how the individual views it, which determines what it is.

Suggested Pdf Resources

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