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An Introduction to Wicca
Wicca is a nature religion that is fast growing in popularity within Western countries. This growing interest has been slowly growing along with people’s interest in environmental issues, alternative therapies and medicine, nutrition and other systems and ideals not considered to be part if mainstream life.
The Many Traditions of Wicca
Wicca honours the divinity of nature and centres around the principle of ‘harm none’. The Wiccan rede ‘An it harm none do what ye will’ should be observed by wiccans at all times. Although interpretations of the rede may vary between people or specific groups of Wiccans it is generally seen as a way to encourage people to take responsibility for their own actions and to think carefully about how their thoughts and actions will affect themselves, other people, animals and the environment around them.
Wicca does not have a set central set of texts or rules that must be followed and there are many variations that fall within the group of Wicca. These include Gardnerian Wicca, Alexandrian Wicca, Dianic Wicca and Celtic Wicca. Each of these paths has its own beliefs and specific practices as well as sharing common factors. Some Wiccans chose to follow a more eclectic path and take parts from several traditions and even from outside of Wicca and combine these to create a path unique to them. This means that people who practice Wicca can vary greatly. This flexibility also means that each person will be able to create a religious system that fits in with their lifestyle and spiritual and moral beliefs rather than being restricted by a more structured religion that has set teachings on what is right or wrong.
Most Wiccans believe in and honour the god and goddess, though these may have different forms and names. The goddess is commonly seen as the Earth, i.e. Mother Earth or the moon and the god as the sun. Wiccans may believe in more than one god or goddess, which is known as polytheism, and may even incorporate deities of other religions into their Wicca path, such as Egyptian or Hindu deities.
Today there is a huge range of books, blogs and other websites to read and learn from in the journey of finding your own personal path within Wicca. For people who choose to follow a particular Wiccan tradition instead or find that after beginning to research one appeals to them they will also find a plethora of information online and offline. Depending on where you live there may also be local groups, often known as moots, and events organised for Wiccans and other pagans to attend.
Most people find that their belief in Wicca spreads out into and informs many areas of their lives and is not purely confined to their spiritual or religious beliefs and practices. This principle can also work in reverse: for example someone who has a very keen interest in gardening may come to Wicca because they are interested in learning about how the moon phases can affect the grown of plants or in how herbs and other plants can be used for magical and healing purposes.
Divinity Within Wicca
Divinity is seen within all things that exists, especially the natural world and so therefore nature is thought of as sacred and should be respected and cared for. Spirituality can be nurtured and nourished through contact with nature and it is important that each person does what they can to care for a preserve these resources and spaces. This can be accomplished through large actions such as joining or fund raising for activist groups and environmental causes or on a smaller scale, which may include helping with local projects, recycling your household waste where possible and using charity and thrift shops or schemes such as Freegle to pass on unwanted but still useful items instead of throwing them away. By taking these steps you are not only helping the environment by reducing waste but can also help others who may be in need.
Balance, Harmony and the Wiccan Rede
Within Wicca there is a strong focus on finding a balanced and harmonious way of living with the world around us. It is important to stop and think about what you are doing, why and what your intending outcome of any action is. This does not only apply to the moral aspect of decisions. Even if an action is not considered to be morally wrong the person should consider why they are doing it and what they are hoping to achieve. If this is for selfish, corrupt or otherwise negative reasons or means then the action is still considered to be wrong and going against the Wiccan rede.
The rede should guide all decisions made by Wiccans but its exact meaning does vary. Broadly it means that you may do anything and be however you choose as long as you do not harm anyone else but the exact meanings of ‘harm’ and ‘none’ may be seen differently. For example some Wiccans consider eating meat as causing harm because it causes the death and sometimes mistreatment of animals. In this cause the person may decide to become vegetarian or vegan or alternatively they may commit to only buying meat that has come from more ethical sources. Some people concentrate only on what they do personally and avoid causing harm but some people take the rede further and may join and campaign for environmental, animal welfare or social causes if they strongly believe that their current practices are causing harm to people, animals or the environment.
At times it may feel like it is impossible to go about life without potentially or actually causing any harm at all. In today’s world it can be difficult to where our food, clothes and other items have been produced and in what way, for example or just by walking across a field you risk stepping on a killing insects and plants. The concept of harm should be considered but also kept in perspective. As with all aspects of Wiccan and pagan or magical life in general it is your intent that is truly important. If you go through life not caring about how you affect others or how animals are treated for human benefit for example that attitude is far more likely to be seen as causing harm than somebody who is normally kind and considerate but accidentally stops on a snail coming home late at night and genuinely feels sad. Even small steps towards reducing your impact on the earth are a good and positive thing.
Festivals and Sabbats
The human relationship with the earth is remembered and celebrated in eight seasonal festivals known as the Sabbats. These festivals are connected to changes in the earth itself such as the changing seasons or to human created events such as harvests.
The Sabbats dates vary year to year within a few days and can be pin-pointed astrologically if desired. However many people chose to celebrate each sabbat on a set day every year. Either of these practices is considered perfectly acceptable and you should do whichever feels right for you.
© 2013 Claire