What do Wiccans believe?
While Wiccan beliefs can be diverse, most followers of Wiccan believe in a single ultimate reality that pervades the universe and is expressed in the Goddess and God. Most Wicca traditions worship the two deities as equals, where none deserves more importance than the other. This unlike other neo-pagan religions like Asatru.
An attempt is usually made to reflect this balance in the coven, although men tend to be a minority in the Wiccan religion. One notable exception is Dianic Wicca, which worships the Goddess exclusively and only women are admitted to the covens.
The "Triple Goddess" refers to the Wiccan Goddess in her three aspects, Maiden, Mother and Crone. This perspective on the Goddess celebrates her three main forms or appearances, while also adding meaning to the stages of women's lives. All three forms of the Goddess (and stages of life) are regarded as equally valuable and desirable. The Maiden exemplifies innocence and adventurousness, the Mother embodies compassionate love, and the Crone represents wisdom.
The Triple Goddess
The Triple Goddess is worshipped in three of the four phases of the moon: waxing, full, and waning. Some add a fourth aspect to the Goddess to correspond to the new moon, such as the Dark Goddess. The male God of Wicca is known as the Great God, the Great Father or, most commonly, the Horned God.
"Horned God" is a modern syncretistic term that combines similar gods from a wide variety of pagan traditions. The archetypal Horned God is based on, among others, the Celtic Cernunnos, the Welsh Caerwiden, the English Herne the Hunter, the Hindu Pashupati, the Greek Pan and the satyrs, and even the Paleolithic cave painting "the Sorcerer" in the Cave of the Three Brothers in France. There are also a number of related British folk figures, such as Puck, Robin Goodfellow, and the Green Man.
In Wicca, the Horned God is associated with hunting, strength, and virility. His imagery is of a man with horns or antlers. He is often portrayed with an erect phallus, a symbol of the power to create life. Another symbol of his sexual prowess and virility is the occasional presence of cloven hoofs or the hindquarters of a goat. With the Great Goddess, the Horned God is part of the duality that makes up all reality.
In addition to the main Goddess and God, many Wiccans worship various other deities, most of which are drawn from Celtic pagan traditions. Eastern deities such as the Hindu god Shiva are also worshipped by some Wiccans.
In the Feri Tradition, the main gods are the Blue God and the Star Goddess. Alexandrian Wiccans "work with and worship the Old Gods of Europe, primarily focusing on Our Lady of the Moon and her Consort, the Horned One. Our Gods are not jealous, and Alexandrian initiates may work with other deities on a personal or group basis as well."
Wicca and the Afterlife
With regard to the afterlife, Wiccans reject traditional Christian notions of Heaven and Hell and most believe in reincarnation. Some Wiccans believe reincarnation is eternal, in accordance with the cyclical nature of the universe, while others believe that one will eventually attain a place of rest called the Summerlands. (Also see: Wiccan and Christianity comparison chart.)
Wicca and Symbols
Another notable aspect of Wiccan belief is the set of Four or Five Elements of nature. Some hold to the earlier Greek conception of the classical elements (air, fire, water, earth), while others recognize five elements: earth, air, water, fire, and spirit (akasha). Some see the points of the pentagram symbol as representing the five elements.
The elements are commonly invoked at the beginning of rituals or used in their physical forms to symbolically purify the ritual circle. Each element has associated symbols, rituals and meanings, which are outlined in the chart below. (Note: Systems of the elements vary by tradition and the associations below are not used by all Wiccans.)
Wicca Rituals and Practices
Some Wiccans join congregations of witches called "covens," though others work alone and are called "solitaries." Some solitaries do, however, attend "gatherings" and other community events, but reserve their spiritual practices (Sabbats, Esbats, spell-casting, worship, magical work, etc.) for when they are alone. Some Wiccans work with a community without being part of a coven.
Wiccans weddings can be called "bondings", "joinings", or "eclipses" but are commonly called "handfastings." Some Wiccans observe an ancient Celtic practice of a trial marriage for a year and a day, contracted on Lughnasadh, although this is far from universal. When someone is being initiated into a coven, it is also traditional to study with the coven for a year and a day before their actual initiation into to the religion. Simiarly, some Solitary Wiccans choose to study for a year and a day before dedicating themselves to the religion.
A much sensationalized aspect of Wicca, particularly in Gardnerian Wicca, is that some Wiccans practice skyclad (naked). Though many Wiccans do this, many others do not. Some Wiccans wear a pure cotton robe, to symbolise bodily purity, and a cord, to symbolise interdependence and which is often used during rituals. Others wear normal clothes or whatever they think is appropriate. Robes and even Renaissance-Faire-type clothing are not uncommon.
In usual rites the Wiccans assemble inside a magic circle, which is drawn out in a ritual manner followed by a cleansing and then blessing of the space. This preparatory ritual is called "casting the circle." Prayers to the God and Goddess are said, and spells are sometimes worked. Traditionally, the circle rituals are followed by a festive meal of cakes and wine or ale. Before entering the circle, some Traditions fast for the day, and have a thorough wash.
Many Wiccans use a special set of altar tools in their rituals; these can include a broom (besom), cauldron, chalice (goblet), wand, Book of Shadows (a personal journal of rituals, spells and thoughts), altar cloth, athame (ritual dagger), altar knife, boline, candles, and/or incense. Representations of the God/Goddess are often also used, which may be direct, representative, or abstract. The tools are not regarded as having any innate powers of their own, though they are usually dedicated or charged with a particular purpose and used only in that context.Recommended:
- "Wicca." New Religious Movements Homepage. <http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/wicca.html> (April 2005).
- "Wicca." Wikipedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicca>(April 2005).
- "Horned God." Wikipedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horned_God> (April 2005).
- "Feri Deity Page." Feri Crossroads. <http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Rhodes/5569/faedeities.html> (April 2005).
- "Alexandrian Wicca." The Witches' Voice. <http://www.witchvox.com/trads/trad_alexandrian.html> (April 2005).
- "Invoking the Elements" by Storm Faerywolf. <http://www.faerywolf.com/essay_elements.htm> (April 2005).
- "The Elements." Wicca: For the Rest of Us. <http://wicca.timerift.net/elements.html> (April 2005).