The Circle of the Sacred Well

An Eclectic Neopagan Circle

What is Wicca?

Wicca, sometimes called "The Craft" or "The Craft of the Wise" is one of many earth-based religions. The religion which is closest to Wicca in America is probably Native American spirituality. Traditional Wicca was founded by Gerald Gardner, a British civil servant, who wrote a series of books on the religion in the 1940's. It contains references to Celtic deities, symbols, seasonal days of celebration, etc. Added to this  were components of ceremonial magic and practices of the Masonic Order. A more recent form is eclectic Wicca which involves a combination of Wiccan beliefs and practices, combined with other Pagan and non-Pagan elements. The various traditions of Wicca are part of the Pagan or Neopagan group of earth-based religions.

How Old is Wicca?

Depending upon how you look at Wicca, it is either one of the newest or one of the oldest religions in the world:

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Wicca is a recently created, Neopagan religion. The various branches of Wicca can be traced back to Gardnerian Witchcraft which was founded in the UK during the late 1940s.

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Wicca is based on the symbols, seasonal days of celebration, beliefs and deities of ancient Celtic society. Added to this material were Masonic and ceremonial magickal components from recent centuries. In this respect, it is a religion whose roots go back almost three millennia to the formation of Celtic society circa 800 BCE. 

Are Wiccans Pagan?

"Pagan" is one of those religious terms which has so many conflicting definitions that the word is meaningless. "Neopaganism" is a better term. It refers to a group of many religious belief systems that are reconstructions of (or patterned after) ancient Pagan religions. Wicca is one Neopagan religion, as are Asatru (Norse Neopaganism), Druidism, Shamanism, and ancient Egyptian, Roman, Greek and other religions.

A follower of Wicca is called a Wiccan. Wicca and other Neopagan religions are currently experiencing a rapid growth in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. This is seen particularly among young adults, who are rejecting what they feel is the autocracy, paternalism, sexism, homophobia, and insensitivity to the environment that forms part of some more traditional religions. Many North Americans of European descent, who are keen to discover their ancestral heritage, are also attracted to this religion.

 

Is Wicca the Same Thing as Witchcraft?

 It is important to realize that:

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The term "witchcraft" in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) refers to (mostly) women who used spoken curses to injure other people or destroy their property.

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The term, "witchcraft" in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) refers to murderers who use poisons to kill people. 

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In North America, "Witch" and "Witchcraft" most often refer to Wiccans and Wicca.

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Wiccans follow the Wiccan Rede, a rule of behavior which prohibits Wiccans from performing any activity that dominates, manipulates, controls, or injures others.

Thus, in terms of behavior, Wicca is a benign and healing religion; the "witchcrafts" mentioned in the Bible are evil and destructive. The two are exact opposites.

 Some Wiccans consider Wicca and the modern definition of the term Witchcraft to be synonyms. Others differentiate between Wicca, which they view to be a religion, and Witchcraft, which they perceive to be the practice of magick (spelled with a ‘k’ to differentiate it from the sleight of hand performed by stage magicians).. Under this definition, Witchcraft is not a religion and thus can be (and often is) performed by members of any religion, or not religion at all.

 

Most Wiccans practice magick, however, while some do not and concentrate on the spirituality of the Wiccan religion.


Is Wicca a Form of Satanism?

The short answer is "No." The long answer is "It depends."

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To some conservative Christians, all religions other than their own are forms of Satanism in which followers worship Satan or one of his demons. So, they view Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Wicca, and dozens of other religions as varieties of Satanism.

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However, most people recognize that there are over many dozens of religions in the world, with different beliefs about deity, humanity and the rest of the universe. One of these is Wicca. Another is Satanism. These two religions have entirely different beliefs about deity, different rules for ethical behavior, different expectations from their membership, different views of the universe, different seasonal days of celebration, etc. Wiccans do not recognize an all-evil deity or quasi-deity like Satan. It is mainly Christianity and Islam which teach that Satan exists, either as an evil principle or as an all-evil fallen angel with supernatural powers.

Wicca and Satanism are not at all similar religions. However, the Christian church linked them in the past -- particularly during the Witch burning times of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. They regarded Witches as Satan worshipers. Some Christian denominations have not been particularly thorough in correcting mistakes of the past. So, Wicca and Satanism continue to be linked in many people's minds.

 Although the words "Wicca" and "Wiccan" are relatively well defined at this time, such terms as Satanism, Paganism and Witchcraft have many meanings. Confusion over the definitions of religious terms is quite common. Even the term "Christian" is defined differently by various groups. The sentence: "Ann was raised a Roman Catholic but became a Christian later in life" might be quite understandable to an Evangelical Christian, but wholly confusing and probably quite insulting and distressing to a Catholic.

Some people sincerely believe that over 75% of the human race (including Wiccans) are followers of Satanism. Others, including Satanists, Wiccans,  religious historians, many theologians, those mainline and liberal Christians and individuals who are knowledgeable about minority religions, etc., consider Wicca and Satanism to be two unrelated groups of religious traditions. They share few points of similarity. In fact, many of their beliefs and practices are diametrically opposed to each other. 

Satanism, as viewed by Satanists, etc.

Satanism consists of many religious traditions, comprising two main faith groups and many smaller religious groups:

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The Church of Satan is the largest organization of religious Satanists. They regard Satan as a pre-Christian concept, representing pleasure, virility, and strength; he is not viewed as a living entity. Their prime symbol is the Sigil of Baphomet. This is a goat's head, drawn within an inverted pentagram (5-pointed star with one point downward and two up). It is surrounded by a circle. Satanists conduct rituals by themselves, and/or meet together in grottos.

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The Temple of Set worships Satan in the form of a pre-Christian deity -- the Egyptian god Set. Their prime symbol is a simple inverted pentagram in a circle. They meet in temples.

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The behavioral code followed by almost all Satanists was written by Aleister Crowley: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." It permits Satanists great freedom of action. Some engage in black magic rituals with the goal of harming those who have hurt them. Turning the other cheek is not their style.

 

Wicca, as viewed by Neopagans, etc.

 Wicca is unrelated to Satanism. It is a group of religious traditions: some are highly structured, while most are eclectic. Many, perhaps most, Wiccans are solitary practitioners. They are, in many ways, directly opposite to Satanists:

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Wiccans worship a Goddess and her consort, a God. 

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They do not recognize Satan or any other all-evil supernatural entity.

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Their prime symbol is the exact opposite to the symbol used by Satanists. It is the upright pentagram -- a 5-pointed star with two points downward and one up. Sometimes it is enclosed by a circle to form a pentacle.

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Their groups are called covens, not grottos or temples.

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Their rule of behavior is called the Wiccan Rede: "An it harm none, do what thou wilt." i.e. do whatever you wish, as long as it harms no one, including yourself. Unlike Satanists, Wiccans are not allowed do dominate, manipulate, control, or harm others. 

Wiccans believe that they worship neither the Christian God nor the Christian devil. They worship a Goddess and a God. Neither is at all similar to Satan. Wicca, and other forms of Neopaganism, are as different from Satanism as Hinduism is from Christianity.

But the Bible Says . . .

  

The Bible contains many passages exhibiting intolerance towards other religions, and almost no passages which actively promote inter-religious tolerance. Wicca is certainly a religion that is very different from Judaism and Christianity. Wicca, as well as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Native Spirituality, Taoism, and hundreds of other religions are thus equally condemned by many verses in the Bible.

 Additionally, many Wiccans engage in specific practices to foretell the future. These include scrying, tarot cards, I Ching, runes, etc. Although these practices are not mentioned in the Bible, they are similar to other divination techniques which are condemned in various biblical passages. However, not all Wiccans engage in divination and the vast majority of persons who use divination are not Wiccans.

Some conservative Christians, and others, have concluded that two of the many forms of witchcraft are related -- or even identical. This is not true.  These individuals often believe that Biblical witchcraft in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures are in some way connected with the Neopagan religion Wicca. Since the King James Version (and some other translations) of the Bible calls for the extermination of "witches," these people may be motivated to oppress Wiccans. In one recent case, a Texas pastor demanded that the U.S. armed forces napalm Wiccans in his area.  In fact, as discussed above, Biblical witchcraft and Wicca are not only unrelated, they are completely opposite from each other.  Biblical witchcraft involves spoken curses or poisoning in order to kill or injure others. Wiccans are prohibited from harming others.

Wiccan View of the Divine

Many Wiccans believe in a deity that is largely unknowable -- sometimes called "The All" or "The One." However, they believe that they can comprehend the male and female aspects of the deity, whom they call the God and the Goddess. Sometimes, they commune with "The Goddess" or "The God." Other times, they link with specific Pagan deities from the past. Instead of "the Goddess," they might relate to Athena, Brigit, Ceridwen, Diana, Hecate, Ishtar, Isis, Venus, etc. In place of "The God" they may link to Adonis, Apollo, Dionysus, Odin, Osiris, Pan, Thor, Zeus, etc.

Some Wiccans pray to their God or Goddess.  Many Wiccans, however feel that they have more of a partnership with the God and Goddess than the God/worshiper relationship found in Christianity and other world religions. They need the Goddess and God; the God and Goddess need them. They welcome communion with the God and Goddess; they don't really worship them in the same way as followers of other religions do.

 Wiccan Beliefs

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Wiccan Deities: Beliefs differ:

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Most Wiccans believe that a creative force exists in the universe, which is sometimes called "The One" or " The All". Little can be known of this force.

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Most regard the Goddess and the God as representing the female and male aspects of the All. These deities are not "out there somewhere;" they are immanent in the world.

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Many regard various pagan Gods and Goddesses (Pan, Athena, Diana, Brigit, Zeus, Odin, etc.) as representing various aspects of the God and Goddess. The term "Wicca" normally implies that the person's religion is based upon Celtic spiritual concepts, deities, and seasonal days of celebration. Some Wiccans include beliefs, practices and symbols from ancient Pagan religions (e.g. Egyptian, Greek, various mystery religions, Roman, Sumerian) or upon Aboriginal religions (Native American Spirituality, Shamanism).  

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Some Wiccans are actually agnostics, who take no position on the existence of a supreme being or beings. They look upon the Goddess and the God as archetypes, based on myth.

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It cannot be stressed enough that Wiccans have no supernatural being in their pantheon of deities who resembles the Christian-Muslim Satan.

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Respect for Nature: Wicca is a natural religion, grounded in the earth. All living things (including stars, planets, humans, animals, plants, rocks) are regarded as having a spirit. Many Wiccan rituals deal with bringing harmony and healing to nature. Wiccans tend to share a great concern for the environment.

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Gender equality: Wiccans celebrate the sexual polarity of nature. For example, the fertilizing rain is one manifestation of the male principle; the nurturing earth symbolizes the female. Females are respected as equal (and sometimes at a slightly higher rank) to males. A priestess is often the most senior person among coven -- a local group of Wiccans. They aim for a female-male balance in most of their covens (local groups), although men are typically in the minority.

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Human sexuality: Sexuality is valued, and regarded as a gift of the Goddess and God, to be engaged in with joy and responsibility, and without manipulation. Wiccans generally accept the findings of human sexuality researchers that there are three normal, natural, and unchosen sexual orientations: heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. Some Wiccans celebrate "the Great Rite" which involves ritual sexual intercourse. However, it is consensually performed by a committed couple in private.

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Afterlife: Wiccans have a wide range of beliefs.

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Some believe in ancient legends of a Summerland where souls go after death. Here, they meet with others who have gone before, review and integrate their previous lives on earth, and are eventually reincarnated into the body of a new born. Some believe that after many such cycles -- perhaps some as female and others as male; some lives with a high standard of living and others in poverty; some in positions of power and others suffering oppression -- that the individual accumulates sufficient experience to go on to another level of existence about which we know nothing.

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Some see an individual's personality, memory, abilities, talents, etc. as functions of the human brain, which degrades and disintegrates at death. They no not anticipate any form of continuity after death. 

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Other Wiccans anticipate continuity after death in some very narrow senses:

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That the molecules that go to make up our bodies may in turn be incorporated in other living entities;

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That our influences on children, friends, and society in general will continue to have influences on the next generations.

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Three-fold Law (a.k.a. the Law of Return) The law states that:

"All good that a person does to another returns three fold in this life; harm is also returned three fold."

This belief strongly motivates each Wiccan to avoid attempting to dominate, manipulate, control, or harm another person.

Back to More Information page

 

The above information is excerpted from the website for religious tolerance:  http://www.religioustolerance.org.  The mission of this website is: To extend religious freedom to people of all religious traditions, even though you may disagree with their beliefs and/or practices.  For more information on Wicca, or any other religious tradition, please visit their website. 

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Religious Tolerance

Due to a continuing negative perception of paganism as a whole and Wicca in particular, we felt it was necessary to provide some accurate information about Wicca. 

The information on this page is provided in order to foster an understanding of the Wiccan religion.   It is not all-inclusive, nor are we attempting to speak for all followers of Wicca or neopagan religions.

Please understand that most pagan religions, including Wicca, do not believe in proselytizing, or seeking out new adherents.  We do not feel our path is the only right one, but that there are many paths to spiritual enlightenment. 

We also feel that people will be drawn to the path that is right for them.  The fact that Wicca is one of the fastest growing religions in the Western World may be credited to a spiritual hunger and seeking that is not satisfied by traditional religions. 

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Blessed Be!