-Part II(B) of World Religion Series-
If you have yet to read Part 1 of Something Wiccan This Way Comes, you can access that post by clicking here. Part 1 discusses the history of Wicca as a religion, as well as explains the major yearly Sabbats.
Now, lets dig a little deeper into the ways in which adherents practice Wicca. Because of the nature of Wicca, there is not a “leader” to give weekly sermons. It is very much a simple reverence for the natural order and beauty found in all things, both creative and destructive. It is a religion based on harmony and appreciation for what the universe provides us. Like, when a Wiccan eats a hamburger, they may feel a reverent thankfulness to the cow who gave its life in order to sustain the adherent’s body and provide nutrition.
The goal of a Wiccan is not to earn entry into paradise at the end of this life, as is the case with many other religions, but to realize that paradise has actually been provided in THIS life and to become attuned to its many gifts.
Whether you are a part of an established coven of Wiccans or are a sole practitioner, you can be a part of a Circle. A Wiccan Circle is a loosely bound group of Wiccans and those interested in the religion who meet to discuss issues, questions and resources for Wiccans. Circles do not generally share their individual Book of Shadows, although the books are becoming less and less “secretive” and personal. Wiccan Circles are excellent groups for uninitiated or new Wiccans to learn and make connections.
Covens are a formal and tightly bound group of Wiccans who practice the religion and do spellwork together. The uninitiated are not permitted to attend Coven gatherings. Once formally initiated into a Coven, a Wiccan will gain access to the Coven Book of Shadows or Grimoire. Covens will include somewhat of a pecking order, headed by the High Priest and/or High Priestess. Each Coven has their own requirements for initiation and rules to follow once initiated.
A Coven can consist of as few as 4 members, but the traditionally held number for a full Coven is 13. Finding the right Coven that fits with your desired style of worship, personal beliefs and feelings can be difficult as the requirements for entry are usually quite strict and kept quite secretive. However, a Coven also offers the most tight bond available among Wiccans, often referring to and treating each other as family.
The sole practitioner is by far the most common type of Wiccan worship. These are Wiccans who either decide not to, or for some reason cannot, be associated in a Coven. The sole practitioner may well be a part of a Wiccan Circle, however that is a loose relationship; more akin to business associates than family. Through self-guided study and the freedom which flourishes in the Wicca religion, a sole practitioner may even initiate themselves into Wicca, or they may decide that step is unnecessary. The proliferation of the internet and ease of access to Wiccan and pagan resources, the sole practioner is currently in the golden age of the style. The sole practitioner will keep their own Book of Shadows and tend to be rather loose with their personal spellwork it contains.
Magic vs. Magick
People who practice magic are called magicians. People who practice magick are Wiccans. In order to differentiate the spellwork performed by Wiccans from the illusions and slight-of-hand performed by magicians, Wiccans refer to their practice with the Old English spelling of the word: Magick. Just like everything else in Wicca, this “rule” is fluid and more strictly observed by some than others.
Magick and Spellwork
One of the most recognizable aspects of Wicca is the practice of magick and/or spellwork. Not all Wiccans choose to practice magick, however even something as seemingly benign as a mantra repeated during meditation or an intention focused upon while rubbing a crystal can be considered magick. In the case of those practicing magick, we find one of the only rules which pervade through all of the different offshoots and schools of thought within Wicca: The Wiccan Rede. The Wiccan Rede is a statement and warning wrapped into one. It states:
The two most important portions of the Rede are “if it harms none, do what you will” and “ever mind the Rule of Three.” The first is meant to express the freedom sought through Magick. Do whatever spell you want…as long as it does not hurt or damage anybody else. The latter invokes the Rule of Three. This is a guiding principle of Wicca. That if you use magick or spellwork to cause pain or destruction to another person, the amount of bad intention you released will be returned to you threefold. It is meant to strongly discourage the use of black magick (spellwork which causes an ill effect in the life of another person).
Within the line “Follow this with mind and heart” is built the concept of intent. This eliminates a craftily worded spell from avoiding the Rule of Three just by playing with verbiage. If the intent of the magick held in the heart and mind of the Wiccan is black, the Rule of Three applies whether the wording of the spell appears positive or not. One must be very cognizant of their state of mind and heart-held intention of the spellwork, lest it cause them negative effects three times worse than that in the spell.
In my opinion, it is this portion of the Wiccan Rede which really describes HOW magick works. It is a form of manifestation. The purpose-filled intention is what the Wiccan is releasing into the universe. The wording of the incantation functions as the mantra to focus the heart and mind on the task at hand and intensify the intention and the items used in the spell symbolize the work and sacrifice the Wiccan is willing to make in order to achieve the requested result.
Magick can be a very powerful draw to individuals interested in Wicca, but also holds the most danger. It is very easy to lose focus on purpose when practicing spellwork. One can end up focused on achieving money, or love, or power, etc. at the expense of the gratefulness and appreciation of natural balance which is at the true heart of Wicca. Much like prayer to other religions, magick should be seen as a communication technique, not as a way to manipulate the cosmos.
Religion Of True Inclusion
A beautiful part of Wicca is how inclusive it is. Because it is such a free, open and individual worship style, there is no distaste or bias against any other religion, race, sexuality, nationality, language, etc. Everyone is a part of nature and, thus, everyone deserves equal love and reverence.
My Personal Wiccan Memories
I spent three years as a sole practioner of Wicca. In researching and writing this two-part post, I was flooded with memories from that time period and they are so powerful that I decided to share some with you readers.
I was a practicing Wiccan from mid 1995-1998. I remember these years as a time of great personal spiritual growth and the time which lit the fire of religious study/questioning that still burns in me today.
1994/1995 were the VERY early days of internet access. My family had one desktop computer centrally located so the whole family could use it. That was you could use it if nobody needed the phone for the next hour because dial-up modems meant that the telephone line could either be used for internet access OR telephone calls, but not both. And smartphones were still many years away. So we would log on and find an AOL chatroom to try to connect with other Wiccans around the world. Search engines were a bit iffy. Google wasn’t founded until 1998, so yes we navigated a world without Google; Wikipedia; Facebook; and Snapchat! Gen Xers UNITE! Books, our main sources of information, were made of paper and came from a library or from a trip to a book store. Many of us fledgling Wiccans found that Llewellyn Worldwide Publishing was a company which published many of the books on Wicca and pagan religions and offered a mail order service!
But as difficult and, at times, confusing as it was, those days also offered me the opportunity to really individualize my worship style. I would spend hours in the wooded areas near my home or up on the mossy mountainsides just walking and basking in the natural beauty and bounty; finding pyrite and other stones for my rock polisher. Or walking through graveyards to gather soil for magick and protection; learning rune meanings; memorizing spells; collecting ceremonial knives; and learning how to interpret tarot readings. On warm nights I could be found climbing out my bedroom widow to sit on the porch roof and watch the moon and stars light up the darkness; contemplating life’s big questions while paying homage to the Godess.
Writing in my own Book of Shadows (which I called my grimoire because, hey, I still had some goth in me) was always something I looked forward to. It was as close to “journaling” as a boy could comfortably get in those days.
Wicca is the only religion which celebrates individuality, where there is no shame in being human. Where the feminine is celebrated as much as the masculine. Where all other religions are respected. Wiccans believe in a balance to nature. Wicca is a religion of peace. No war has ever been or will ever be fought in the name of Wicca.
Wicca can be a very fulfilling and beautiful belief structure. I do find that it is best for introverts because it is so often practiced alone and held secretive. Also, many of the lessons and nature-honoring aspects of Wicca can be, and honestly should be, incorporated into the lives of everyone regardless of their religious stance. I have kept many of the habits and the same thought pattern I developed during my time as a Wiccan and they have served me well in my life. I truly believe that once a person opens themselves to the possibilities and beauty that the Mother universe offers us, they are never quite the same again. You just can’t close that third eye once it is opened. In a way, once a Wiccan, always a Wiccan. Just watch out for those burning stakes, whether they be literal or figurative. Blessed be.