Getting Started with Wicca
Wicca is a modern-day nature religion that is fast growing in popularity within Western society. This interest has been slowly growing along with an increase in concern for environmental issues, alternative therapies, good nutrition and spirituality in general. Wicca is a way of life based upon pre-Christian traditions and as a duotheistic religion, worships both the god and goddess. It was developed in England by Gerald Gardner, during the first half of the 20th century.
Many 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.
The Many Traditions of Wicca
Getting started in Wicca can feel confusing and overwhelming, especially if you are completely new to paganism. There are many different Wiccan traditions and it is important to spend time reading and learning about these in order to find a path that most suits you, your outlook on life and any existing beliefs you have around divinity and religion. These include Gardnerian Wicca, Alexandrian Wicca, Dianic Wicca and Celtic Wicca. Each of these paths has its own set of beliefs and practices as well as sharing some common factors. Some people find that they do not fit into one specific group and so chose to follow a more eclectic path combining different aspects from several traditions and sometimes from practices and beliefs outside Wicca. This is commonly called eclectic Wicca. By having this aspect of flexibility Wicca allows each person to be able to create a religious system that fits in with their lifestyle and spiritual and moral beliefs, rather than being restricted by a religion that has set teachings regarding right and wrong and what a person should believe in or requires adhering to a strict set of practices. This means that people who practise Wicca can vary greatly.
Wiccans believe in and honour both the god and goddess, though these may have different forms and names depending on the specific tradition. Wiccans may believe in more than one god or goddess (known as polytheism) and may incorporate deities of other religions into their path, such as Egyptian or Hindu gods and goddesses. Unlike many religions, Wicca does not teach that any specific god or goddess is the only true deity. The goddess is commonly seen as the Earth, i.e. Mother Earth or the moon and the god is viewed as the sun.
Wicca honours the divinity of nature and that this is created and controlled by the god and goddess. Nature is also that occurs naturally and includes animals, plants, the stars and universe and even the planets themselves. They existed long before humans and would continue to do so even if people cease to exist.
Although Wicca is much more flexible than many other religions, it does still have rules and restrictions that should be followed. These vary depending on the tradition and some are more relaxed than others. You will need to learn and respect the rules of your particular path and follow any guidance in relation to magic, rituals and required study subjects and times. Becoming Wiccan is not something that can happen overnight or because you have read a few books or posts online. It can be a lengthy process that will take time, concentration and focus and is likely to continue throughout your life as there is always something new to learn or experience. Many Wiccan traditions require newcomers to study for a year and a day before initiation into the religion. This may be true whether you are aiming to join a coven or intend to practice as a solitary Wiccan. There may also be restrictions on how quickly someone can past through the levels of initiation, often known as degrees in order to ensure they obtain the knowledge and skills needed. Wicca is a recognised religion in many countries making it illegal to discriminate against someone because they are Wiccan.
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, what your reasons for doing it are and what your intended outcome is. 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. Your intention is regarded as highly important and even a right action carried out for selfish, corrupt or otherwise negative reasons may still be considered wrong or end up having a negative impact. Wiccans tare expected to take sole responsibility for their words and actions including making amends to those that you do or have treated poorly.
The Wiccan Rede is a central belief that most Wiccans follow regardless of tradition. This is a teaching that contains many aspects of how Wiccans should live their lives and conduct themselves. One part of this that is often repeated and followed is the line "An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will”. This statement illustrates the harmony with which one should live their life, and as long as your actions do not hurt others or infringe upon their rights, freedoms or lifestyle then you are free to procced. The Rede should guide all decisions made by Wiccans but its exact meaning does vary. Broadly it means that you may do anything and behave however you choose as long as you do not harm anyone else. However, the exact meanings of ‘harm’ and ‘none’ may be seen differently by different people and groups. For some following, the Wiccan Rede becomes very much a part of everyday life and they may aim to live a more sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle or become vegan in order to avoid having a part in harming animals, nature and our planet. However, this is not true of all Wiccans. Some may concentrate only on what they do personally to avoid causing harm on a wider scale but some people take their beliefs further and campaign for environmental, animal welfare or social causes if they strongly believe that current practices are causing harm to people, animals or the environment. Divinity is seen within all things that exist, 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.
At times it may feel like it is impossible to go about life without potentially or actually causing any harm at all. For example, it can be difficult to know where our food, clothes and other items have been produced and in what way or may live in an area or to a budget that gives us little choice in what we can buy or where we can shop. In another example, we may worry that just by walking across a field there is a risk stepping on and killing insects and plants or frightening wildlife close by. The concept of harm should be considered but also kept in perspective. As with all aspects of Wicca and pagan or life, in general, it is your intent that is truly important. If you go through life not caring about how you affect others you are far more likely to be seen as causing harm than somebody who is normally kind and considerate but accidentally steps on a snail coming home late at night. Even small steps towards reducing your impact on the earth are a good and positive thing and it is important not to feel like there is nothing you can do. It is perfectly acceptable to take small steps towards a more sustainable life and to remember that no one person can do everything. Smaller-scale ideas include helping with local projects, recycling your household waste where possible and using charity and thrift shops instead of buying new. Many areas also have 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. You may also like to consider moving away from single-use plastics and other disposable items such as kitchen towels, toilet paper, nappies and menstrual products.
The Threefold Law
The threefold law is also central to many Wiccan traditions. This is the idea that whatever you do will come back to you threefold. This can happen in a positive or negative way depending on your initial action. It is thought that if someone is unkind and acts meanly that this energy will come back into their lives trebled. In contrast, kindness and compassion will be returned to a person in the same way. Like with the Rede, your intention is important in following the threefold law. Everyone has off days or may say an unkind thing in the heat of a moment, no one is perfect. Again it is the intention of your actions that is important. This can help remind us to behave in more positive ways and to think before we act or speak. The threefold rule is also a good way to be mindful of your blessings, skills and the abundance that is possible in life.
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 such as the changing seasons or to human-created events such as harvests. Esbats are celebrations based on the lunar cycle and some Wiccans also mark the new and full moons each month. The exact Sabbats dates vary year to year and are pin-pointed using astrologically. 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.
The eight sabbats can be celebrated in a variety of ways and tend to include some acknowledgement or celebration of nature. The Sabbats include:
- Samhain – 31st October. This day is also regarded by many as the Witches New Year
- Yule (winter solstice) – 21st December
- Imbolc – 1st February
- Ostara (spring equinox) – 21st March
- Beltane - 1st May
- Litha (summer solstice) – 21st June
- Lammas – 1st August
- Mabon (autumn equinox) – 21st September
Learning More about Wicca
There is a huge range of books, blogs and other websites to read and learn from in the journey of finding your path within Wicca. Books about Wicca and related subjects such as meditation, tarot, crystal healing and magic are becoming increasing available even in high street shops. YouTube can also be a valuable resource and may people share their beliefs and knowledge through their channels there. You may also find videos showing examples of rituals and spell work, meditations, lessons and other practices. YouTube and other online resources can be a real lifeline when you do not know anyone else who is pagan or in areas where pagan religions such as Wicca are frowned upon and subject to much misunderstanding or hatred.
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. Some areas also have large festivals known as Pagan Pride which can be a great way to meet people and experience a range of ideas and beliefs. These can be a great opportunity to meet and learn from more experienced pagans and to experience a range of activities such a meditation, drumming, music, dance and feasting.
Even if you are unable to travel to events in person there are many online groups and communities to be found. These may be in the form of groups such as on Facebook, message boards and forums on communities such as those on the Amino platform. These groups are likely to be home to people of all ages, beliefs and backgrounds giving a wide spectrum of learning opportunities.
Are you Wiccan?
Although it is not necessary to becoming Wiccan, you may like to look for a coven in your area. Covens are groups of people that come together to practice, study and perform rituals and magic. They may also attend outside events together. Not all covens are open to new members and some may have requirements that you must meet before joining, such as having studied for a set amount of time. It can be nice to meet and mix with people who share the same beliefs and outlook on life as you do, especially considering that there is still a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation around Wicca and paganism in general. There are also a great number of Wiccans who prefer to work alone and they are known as solitary Wiccans. At times this can be lonely but it can also be very free and liberating as you are free to create your own path, celebrate, worship and practice however suits you best. Even if you choose to practice as a solitary Wiccan there is no reason why you cannot meet up with others at events or join online communities. These can be a great help in pointing you in the direction of reliable information or help you in discovering which of the many Wiccan traditions may be the best fit for you.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Claire