Frequently Asked Questions
Part 1: Frequently Asked Questions about Wicca
1.1. Your site talks about Wicca and paganism a
lot. Are they the same thing?
Paganism is a generic term for polytheistic and/or
nature-revering religions, be they ancient or modern. Some people use
the term neo-paganism for modern pagan religions, to distinguish
them from their pre-Christian predecessors.
Some people do use the terms "Wicca" and "paganism"
interchangeably, but this isn't really accurate. Wicca is one
type of neo-paganism, but there are many others. Some of them are
based on specific pagan cultures, such as Celtic Reconstructionism,
Ásatrú (Norse reconstructionism), and so on. Others
are highly eclectic and modern in their focus, such as the Church
of All Worlds.
Most neo-pagan religions share at least a few characteristics in
common with Wicca, but they may also have many differences. Modern
paganism is extremely diverse, just as ancient paganism was.
1.2. OK, so what is Wicca, exactly? How is it different
from other kinds of paganism?
Wicca is a modern religion which traces its roots to pre-Christian paganism.
Its beliefs and practices stem from a blend of European pagan folk tradition
and 19th-20th century occultism. In its current form, it probably dates
to approximately the late 30s or early 40s, but some aspects of it may
go back further (this is a matter of some debate, as we'll see
There are many different traditions within Wicca, just as
there are many denominations within Christianity, and it has grown
considerably more diverse over time. Not all of the traditions that
now exist share all the characteristics that Wicca originally did,
but the distinguishing characteristics of Wicca in its most traditional
form can be summed up as follows:
- Wicca is an initiatory, oathbound mystery religion...
- ...which is polytheistic, honouring a variety of gods and
- ...but also dualistic, seeing individual deities, at least
to some extent, as aspects of one God and one Goddess...
- ...and pantheistic, viewing divinity as immanent within
the natural world.
- It centres around the mysteries contained within the Charge
of the Goddess and the Legend of the Descent of the
- ...and encompasses the practice of magic...
- ...as well as religious devotion.
- Its ethical basis is expressed in the Wiccan Rede ("An
it harm none, do as ye will")...
- ...and the Threefold Law ("What ye send returns three
- Ritually, it involves casting a circle as the basic setting
for spiritual and magical work...
- ...and emphasizes the Platonic four elements of earth,
air, fire and water...
- ...plus some form of gender polarity, be that theologically
in the image of the God and Goddess, and/or mundanely in the physical
gender of participants as well...
- ...and usually incorporates some form of the "Great Rite"
(union of the God and Goddess), frequently symbolized in the blessing
of the ritual wine by the conjoining of the athamé (ritual
knife) and chalice (ritual wine cup), as seen in the WCC logo.
Like we said, Wicca itself contains a lot of diversity, and not all
forms of Wicca include all these elements, but most include
most of them to some degree, and the more of them a given tradition,
group or ritual includes, the more sense it makes to describe it as
"Wiccan" rather than simply "pagan".
1.3. OK, so what's all that mean? What is
an "initiatory, oathbound, mystery religion"?
The word "mystery" comes from the Greek word mystes,
meaning "initiate". Although it has the everyday meaning of
something not easily understood which could in fact be said to
apply to Wicca it has more specific meanings in a religious context.
One, according to our dictionary (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary,
10th edition, just for the record), is "a religious truth that
one can only know by revelation and cannot fully understand". In
other words, an aspect of religion that can only be experienced, not
explained fully in words a matter of experience, not dogma.
A second definition is "a secret religious rite believed (as
in the Eleusinian or Mithraic cults) to impart enduring bliss to the
initiate." The ancient Greeks in particular had various rites
of this sort, the best known being the Eleusinian Mysteries. The idea
here is that being exposed to a mystery in the first sense
an experiential religious revelation would bring about change
and spiritual growth in the individual, making them, in a sense, a
new person. "Initiation" literally means a new beginning.
While modern Wicca is certainly not an exact duplicate of the ancient
mystery religions, it does draw on some of the same methods and ideas.
Most Wiccans believe that the core of our faith is a matter of experience,
and not of dogma or doctrine. Every myth, every symbol, every ritual
act, holds multiple layers of meaning, many of which are not easily
put into words. The successive initiations within most Wiccan traditions
expose the initiates to gradually deeper understandings of the teachings
and lore of the tradition, thus encouraging spiritual growth.
At each initiation, oaths are taken. These vary considerably
from one tradition to the next, but generally involve pledging oneself
to the service of the gods, to ethical conduct, and to secrecy regarding
the inner teachings or mysteries of the tradition.
1.4. Can you explain that polytheistic/duotheistic/pantheistic
thing a bit more?
Briefly, polytheism means worshipping many deities, duotheism
means worshipping two deities, and pantheism means regarding
everything as divine, or as a manifestation of deity. Pantheism also
has a secondary meaning, according to our dictionary, of "the worship
of all gods of different creeds, cults or peoples indifferently; also:
toleration of the worship of all gods". All of these concepts can
be found within Wiccan theology, although there is considerable variation
in how they are expressed, and the degree of importance that is attributed
to the different concepts.
Wiccans regard all the gods and goddesses of all the world's mythologies
as legitimate manifestations of an underlying divinity, which is generally
regarded as immanent residing primarily within the natural
world, not somewhere outside it. Many Wiccans do believe in the existence
of a spirit world or Otherworld, but is contiguous with this world
and pervades it; in a sense, it is the soul of the land itself, just
as each living thing has a soul. So the Otherworld itself is immanent
within this world, just as the gods are.
That underlying divinity is also perceived as having a masculine
and feminine side, personified as a God and Goddess, who are often
referred to as the Lord and Lady. The many individual gods and goddesses
are seen by most Wiccans as being at least to some extent
aspects of the one god and one Goddess, who are in turn aspects of
one primal divinity, sometimes referred to as the Source. A phrase
you will often hear used to describe this view is this one, from the
occultist Dion Fortune: "all gods are one God, and all goddesses
are one Goddess, and there is one Initiator."
In practice, different Wiccan traditions, and different individuals,
vary a lot in how much emphasis they place on individual deities versus
the one God and Goddess. Some primarily deal with individual deities,
and see "the" God and Goddess as more of an abstract theological
concept, while others deal primarily with the Lord and Lady, and see
the individual gods and goddesses only as archetypes or masks for
1.5. What are the Charge of the Goddess
and the Legend of the Descent of the Goddess? Where can
I find them? And what are those mysteries?
These are two texts that are used within many traditions of Wicca, with
minor variations. Of the two, the Charge is more widespread than the
Descent, probably because the Charge simply deals with the nature of
the Goddess, while the Descent deals with the balance and interplay
of life and death, a topic many people find uncomfortable or emotionally
challenging. You can find both texts in any of a wide variety of books
on Wicca see our reading list for some suggestions. They can
also be found in many places on the Internet.
As for the mysteries well, as we've already explained, mysteries
are things that aren't easily put into words! But the major ideas
expressed within them can be roughly described as follows: The Charge
deals with the sort of polytheistic/pantheistic view of divinity we
just talked about, and with the immanence of divinity within nature,
and with some of the basic principles of the Wiccan way of life. The
Descent concerns the nature of life and death, the balance between
them, and the difficulty of coming to terms with the existence of
death and suffering and the harsher side of life. Both contain many
levels of meaning, and should not be read superficially. Very little
in Wicca has only one meaning, and these texts least of all!
1.6. What about this magic thing? What do you mean
by that? What kind of magic?
Magic, in a Wiccan context, could perhaps best be defined as an active
form of prayer. Instead of merely asking the gods to do something for
us, while we remain passive and uninvolved, we ask them to help empower
us to do it for ourselves. This practice is rooted in the immanent view
of divinity we already described: since the gods reside within the natural
world including within us we all share to some
degree in their power, and can learn to use it to affect our own lives
and the world around us.
Wiccans work magic alone and in groups, in formal rituals and informal
spell work, for a wide variety of purposes: physical and emotional
healing, self-improvement, spiritual growth, attracting positive influences
into one's life such as love or prosperity, protection from negative
influences, and so on. Wiccans do not, however, use magic to
harm others, for reasons that will be made clear a little further
1.7. That reminds me: what's Witchcraft? Are Wicca
and Witchcraft the same thing?
The word witchcraft means a lot of different things to different people,
probably even more so than the word paganism. The word Wicca means "witch"
in Old English, and some Wiccans do call themselves Witches, but that
doesn't mean that they are the only people who do. As with paganism,
you could say that Wicca is one type of witchcraft, but not the only
When anthropologists use the term "witchcraft", they are
usually referring any sort of magic that happens outside the accepted
religious structure of a society "practising magic without
a licence", you could say. When historians use the term, they
are usually talking about the witchcraft persecutions of the late
Middle Ages, where "witchcraft" was more of a social invention
used to persecute people who didn't fit in than an actual system of
magic or religion. When storytellers and filmmakers use the word,
they are usually talking about the image of the "witch"
that we're all familiar with from fairy tales. And there are other
magical systems that call what they do "witchcraft" as well.
There really isn't any one correct definition. Some Wiccans are
very attached to the word "witch", and dislike hearing it
used in other contexts, while others accept that it means different
things to different people. And still others don't like being called
witches at all, because they find that gives people the wrong impression
of what they believe and do.
1.8. So how come you don't have any spells on this
site? I want to turn my math teacher into a toad.
Well, first of all, this is an information site for a public church,
Secondly, magic in real life doesn't tend to be anywhere near as
dramatic as the sort of thing you see on Charmed or Buffy
the Vampire Slayer. Magic works in terms of probabilities,
not certainties you can never guarantee that something you
do a spell for is going to happen, you can only enhance the chances
of it happening. The chance of magic working is always related to
the chance of the result you want happening without the magic.
So if you do a spell to get a job, while at the same time you are
actively looking for one taking your resume around to potential
employers, registering on job search sites, and so on there
is already a reasonable chance of your finding a job, so magic can
act to enhance that chance, making it more likely that you will find
a job that suits you within a reasonable period of time. However,
if there's little or no chance of something happening to begin with
you winning the lottery, say, or your math teacher spontaneously
turning into a toad then enhancing the chances of that happening
isn't going to make much difference. Ten times zero is still zero...
It's also worth noting that magic is not a substitute for dealing
with your problems in daily life (or for having a life, for that matter).
The job spell referred to above wouldn't work well if you weren't
actually looking for one, and a spell to attract a lover probably
won't work if you have no social life or major personal hygiene problems.
Too many beginners look to magic to solve all their problems with
no further effort on their part, and it just doesn't work that way.
In general, it's always best to look first to what you can do about
your problem in mundane life first, and then, if you still want to
use magic, use it to enhance or strengthen the efforts you are already
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, there's the matter of magical
ethics. There are a variety of views on this, as with most things
in Wicca, but there are a few fundamental principles that are generally
agreed on. One of them is that, as we mentioned before, it is a bad
idea to use magic to harm others. Magic is not an excuse to get away
with doing something that would be wrong or dangerous in ordinary
life. If, for example, it's wrong to try to kill someone with a weapon,
it's also wrong to try and do it with a spell.
Another commonly agreed-upon principle is that it's wrong to constrain
the free will of another person unless it's absolutely necessary
to prevent them from harming someone else. And even then, some do
not feel it's acceptable like we said before, opinions do vary.
So while most Wiccans would agree that it's wrong to do a spell to
try and force someone else to fall in love with you or have sex with
you that's basically the magical equivalent of rape
there would be considerably more disagreement on whether it's right
to do a spell to stop a rapist. Some would say it's never acceptable
to interfere magically with someone else's free will, while others
would argue that we do that in daily life when we put people in jail
to stop them from committing violent crimes, and that using magic
for the same purpose is no different.
1.9. Ethics? Oh yeah, you said something about
that before. So what are this "Wiccan Rede" and "Threefold
Law" all about? Do they mean all Wiccans are pacifists? Vegetarians?
Some are, and some aren't. It depends on how they interpret those principles.
The Wiccan Rede "An it harm none, do as ye will"
seems simple on the surface, but is actually very complex, and
paradoxical, if you really think about it. Remember, in a mystery religion,
nothing is ever as simple as it seems...
Certainly, there are some who interpret it as "You may only
do as ye will if it harms none" ("an" being
an archaic version of "if") and thereby do feel that it
constrains Wiccans to be pacifists, and there have been a few Wiccan
writers in the last decade who have left out the "do as ye will"
entirely, giving their version of the Rede as simply "harm none".
Others consider this to be a distortion of the Rede, and point out
that if Wiccans were really forbidden to harm anything, we'd all starve
to death (vegetarian or not; plants are alive too!). They also note
that "An it harm none, do as ye will" doesn't translate
to "harm none" any more than "If you go to Wic-Can
Fest, say hello to my friend Bob" means "Go to Wic-Can Fest".
Both statements tell you what to do if a particular condition
happens to be true, they don't tell you what to do if it isn't.
So what does the Rede really mean? Well, that's a subject we can
debate for hours, preferably at the local pub. But here's one interpretation
worth considering: the Rede says, essentially, that you have complete
freedom if your actions do not harm anything or anyone else
but if they do, the implication is that you no longer have complete
freedom. Why? Because as soon as you act in a way that affects another,
or the world around you, you are embedded in a web of cause and effect,
connecting you to the others who were affected by your actions, and
causing you to be in turn affected by their reactions, and so on.
You are bound by the consequences of your act, and find yourself having
to act again, and again, in ways that are constrained by the initial
act. Thus, you can no longer simply "do as ye will"...
And of course, all this talk of cause and effect brings us directly
to the Threefold Law: the principle that "What you
send returns three times over". Similar to the Eastern concept
of karma and in fact, the word karma is often used as shorthand
for it, even though the two concepts are not entirely the same
this is another principle that is more complex than initially meets
the eye. At first glance, it seems simple: if you do something good,
three equally good things will happen to you, and if you do something
bad, three equally bad things will happen to you. But it should become
obvious after a little observation that the laws of cause and effect
do not operate in nearly as simplistic and mechanistic a manner as
that. If I were to punch you in the nose, thereby causing you to punch
me in the nose three times, thereby causing me to punch you in the
nose nine times, thereby causing you to punch me in the nose 27 times,
thereby causing me to punch you in the nose 81 times well,
we wouldn't have time to do much else, would we?
Most Wiccans believe that the Threefold Law refers to the effects
of actions taking place on three different levels, or in three different
ways: on the physical, mental and spiritual levels; in the realms
of nature, humanity and the gods; or by virtue of the person who performs
any given act becoming, in a symbolic sense, the actor, the act itself,
and the acted-upon. Again, it's a reinforcement of the idea that all
actions have consequences, and that the foundation of ethical behaviour
is being as aware as possible of all the potential consequences of
one's actions, and taking full responsibility for them.
Obviously, that's a deeply individual process. Every serious Wiccan
will think long and hard about the nature and consequences of any
action they take, especially any action that has a chance of
harming someone or something. Some Wiccans are ardent pacifists, others
serve in the military or police force because they believe they can
prevent greater harms from taking place that way. Some Wiccans are
vegetarians, others are hunters who believe that all living things
have some degree of sentience, and that one should at least take responsibility
for killing whatever it is that one is going to eat. Some Wiccans
are anti-abortion, others are pro-choice because they feel that forced
pregnancy is an intolerable infringement on free will. But the one
commonality underlying these differences is that none of us come to
the positions that we take on these or any ethical issues without
long and careful consideration.
1.10. OK, so what about this "casting circles"
thing? What's that about? And those elements?
The image of a quartered circle as a representation of the world or
cosmos, with different powers, attributes or beings seen as residing
in each quarter, is found in many different cultures around the world,
from the canopic jars of Egyptian funerary ritual with their guardian
deities, to the Irish legend of the Settling of the Manor at Tara, to
the ceremonies of some of the First Nations of North America.
For Wiccans, the magic circle is the sacred space within which
all ritual takes place; a deepening of contact between this world
and the Otherworld of the gods and spirits. Its shape represents the
wholeness of all things, and cyclical nature of life and time. The
four quarter points of the circle are aligned with the four elements:
air in the east, fire in the south, water in the west, and earth in
Each represents certain qualities of life and spirituality, as well
as the physical element itself. Air is the winds, the sky,
the clouds, the breath of our bodies, the incense we burn on our altars,
and all gasses and vapours; but it is also knowledge, wisdom, inspiration
and truth. Fire is the sun, moon and stars, the warmth of our
bodies, the candles we light on out altars, and all forms of energy;
but it is also passion, courage, vitality and the spark of life. Water
is the sea, the rivers, the rain, the tears and blood of our bodies,
the wine we offer to the gods at our altars, and all fluids; but it
is also love, emotion, intuition and sensitivity. Earth is
the land, the rocks and soil, the flesh and bone of our bodies, the
altars and temples we build to our gods, and all solid things; but
it is also strength, permanence, endurance, form and pattern.
Together, they are the basic constituents of our world, our bodies,
our minds and our spirits. Nearly all Wiccan rituals begin with tracing
the boundaries of the sacred circle, and then recognizing and honouring
the four elements in some way (often referred to as "calling
the quarters". By doing that, we affirm the basic shape of
life and the cosmos, and its constituent parts, in perfect balance.
Some Wiccan traditions ascribe deities to the quarters; some work
with elemental spirits such as sylphs, salamanders, undines and gnomes;
and some do not personify the elements in any way.
Some traditions also recognize a fifth element in the centre, while
others believe that it is we ourselves that are at the centre
we and all living things, who are formed of all four elements in balance.
1.11. And what was that about gender polarity
and the union of the God and Goddess? Does that mean you guys have orgies
Sorry, no. We mentioned before that Wiccans view divinity as having
a masculine and feminine side; this gets expressed in a variety of ways
by different traditions. And a central point of ritual in many Wiccan
traditions is the symbolic representation of the union of those forces,
often through the conjoining of the athamé and chalice in the
blessing of the ritual wine, as shown in the WCC logo. However, exactly
how this idea is expressed, and what it is felt to mean, vary considerably
among different traditions, and even among different individuals in
the same tradition.
Part of the reason for this variation is that as mentioned back
in question 1.2, Wicca is based partly on pre-Christian
folk tradition, and partly on 19th-20th century occultism or
as some might say, it's partly "low magic" and partly "high
The folk tradition component, whether you believe it was handed
down through the ages or researched from books by a handful of English eccentrics in the 1930s or thereabouts (and we'll
get into that question later on), is based to a large extent around
the idea of fertility religion that is, ritual practices
designed to encourage the fertility of the crops, herd animals, and
the people. In small, traditional communities, this could often be
a matter of life or death if the crops didn't grow or the cows
didn't calve, you might starve. Many fertility rites involved sexual
symbolism of one sort or another, on the basis that fertility of the
land and the animals could best be encouraged by acting out the process
that led to fertility among humans. And one can still see sexual imagery
in many Wiccan rituals, including the blessing of the wine mentioned
However, the other half of Wicca's magical heritage tends to view
things in a more metaphysical light perhaps in part because
turn-of-the-century ceremonial magicians didn't usually have to worry
about getting enough to eat! One can find dualistic imagery in many
occult rituals and techniques, and it is often symbolized by
gender, but in a less literal way. For example, the Tree of Life glyph
of the Qabala contains a "masculine" pillar and a "feminine"
pillar, embodying polarized qualities, but these are not seen as having
much to do with physical gender the task of the magician
is to "walk the middle pillar", keeping the qualities
of the outer two in balance.
So the union of the God and Goddess as expressed in the wine blessing
some traditions use can be seen in (at least) two ways: one is as
a symbolic sex act bringing life and fertility to the world; and the
other is as a metaphysical conjoining of two complementary forces,
like a western version of the Chinese Yin-Yang symbol, both of which,
like the four elements, need to be in balance within each one of us
regardless of our physical gender.
And while the use of sexual imagery in ritual does mean that Wiccans
regard sexuality as a potential manifestation of the sacred, it does
not mean that we run around having sex with everyone we meet!
Wiccans are just as varied as anyone else in their expression of their
sexuality, if not more so. Anyone who shows up to a Wiccan ritual
intending to treat it as a meat market or pickup joint is likely to
be shown the door very quickly.
1.12. Does that fertility religion stuff mean
it's just for heterosexuals, or people who want to have babies?
Not at all. Most Wiccan traditions are open to anyone of any sexual
orientation, and in fact there are some that are specifically geared
toward gays and lesbians. Some groups, be they gay- and lesbian-oriented
or not, are made up of men only or women only, so that polarity doesn't
become an issue at all. Regarding sexuality, it's probably safe to say
that the majority of Wiccans would agree with Mrs. Patrick Campbell's
famous quote that she didn't care that what anyone did in the bedroom,
"as long as they don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses."
In terms of ritual, different Wiccan traditions (and individuals)
vary considerably both in the amount of emphasis they place on gender
polarity and in the extent to which they view it as physical or metaphysical.
Those who feel closer to the folk magic side of Wicca's heritage may
emphasize the fertility religion aspect, and have very different roles
for men and women in ritual. Those who feel closer to the ceremonialist
side are more likely to de-emphasize gender in ritual and view polarity
as predominantly metaphysical. But many other factors can affect this
Some gay and lesbian Wiccans don't mind working in polarity-based
traditions, while others prefer either a single-gender group, or a
mixed-gender that either doesn't deal much with polarity or views
it as primarily metaphysical. Fortunately, the Wiccan community is
large and diverse enough that with a bit of searching, just about
anyone can find a group that meets their needs.
Regarding physical fertility or intent to have children, very few
Wiccan traditions place any importance on that. Most regard childbirth
as a joyous occasion, and many have special rites of passage for expectant
parents, but few if any would make an issue of someone being unable
to have children, or simply uninterested in doing so.
1.13. But I've heard some people call Wicca a
"goddess religion". Wouldn't that mean it was mainly for women?
Well, the Goddess is certainly a major part of Wicca, and many women
are drawn to it for that reason. But the Goddess isn't all there is
to Wiccan theology, and women are not the only people drawn to the Craft.
Most Wiccans would probably agree that mainstream Western society
has had a big overemphasis on the male face of divinity for a long
time, and that the balance needs to be restored. But different traditions,
and individuals, vary considerably as to how they feel that should
be done. Some traditions do strongly emphasize the Goddess because
they feel that is necessary to redress the balance, and some of those
trads are primarily or exclusively made up of women. But others believe
that countering inequality with more inequality is counterproductive,
and prefer to emphasize the God and Goddess equally.
1.14. What kind of afterlife do Wiccans believe
Given the cyclical and interconnected nature of the Wiccan worldview,
most Wiccans believe in reincarnation of some form but
vary considerably as to the details. Some believe that people progress
directly from one life to the next, whereas others believe that at least
some time between lives is passed within another realm, sometimes called
the Summerland (a term originally coined by the Theosophical
movement of the 19th century). Wiccans who choose to work primarily
with the deities of one specific culture will often use the terms and
concepts of that culture with regard to the afterlife, so that a Norse-influenced
Wiccan may look forward to Valhalla, a Celtic one to Tír na nÓg, etc.
It is generally believed that karma the consequences of actions
accumulated during one life can carry on to the next, so the
life situation one is born into may be influenced by the events of
past lives. Thus, one could find a parallel to the concepts of Heaven
and Hell in the belief that one's future lives may be more or less
pleasant, depending upon one's actions in this one. Many Wiccans also
believe that souls exercise some degree of choice in the types of
incarnations they have, in order to learn lessons, or expose themselves
to particular experiences. However, not all Wiccans feel that everything
is predetermined by either choices or consequences of past actions;
many believe that there is also at least some element of random chance.
1.15. What do Wiccans think about other religions?
One of the distinctive characteristics of Wicca is that most of its
followers do not believe that it is the only correct way, or
even that there is one correct way for everyone. Wiccans are highly
individualistic, and tend to believe that it is up to each individual
to find his or her own spiritual path, and that what works for one
person may not work for another. Because Wiccans generally regard
all deities as valid manifestations of divinity, they don't really
care what deity their friends or neighbours choose to worship, as
long as it provides them with fulfilment and the basis for an ethical
way of life.
1.16. Does Wicca have any kind of central organization?
No. Individual groups and traditions may organize themselves in a
variety of ways, from highly structured to completely anarchistic,
but Wicca as a whole has no overarching structure. There is no Pope
of Wicca, and likely never will be. Some traditions have very clear
lines of authority and leadership, but these apply only within those
1.17. One more question: where does Wicca come from? How old is it? I've heard some people say it's the oldest religion in the world, and other people say it was made up by some British weirdo(s) in the '30s. Or '40s. Or '50s. No two books seem to quite agree.
That depends on who you ask. The precise age and origins of Wicca are a topic of much controversy, both within and outside the Wiccan community. Most people agree that Wiccan belief and practice is a blend of old and new that is, that some aspects of it are derived from pre-Christian paganism while others are clearly of 19th century or later origin but where disagreement sets in is in exactly how much is new as compared to old, and whether the older elements were inherited from an existing tradition dating back to pre-Christian times, or were reconstructed in the early 20th century by people who wanted to bring back "the Old Religion", even if they had to reinvent it to do so.
Entire books have been written on this topic, and we don't intend to try and settle it here. Suffice it to say that asking this question of a group of Wiccans in a social setting is a good way to spark an argument that will last all night, and when it comes right down to it, the one thing they will all agree on is that ultimately, the most important thing is that Wicca exists here and now, not how it got here.
1.18. So if all this sounds right to me, how do i become a Wiccan?
There's no central committee determining who is or isn't a Wiccan, so the decision as to whether and at what point to consider yourself Wiccan is largely up to you. Some traditionalist groups do not consider someone a Wiccan until they are initiated by an existing coven, but as an organization devoted to public ministry, we tend to view things a bit differently. There are many people whose religious beliefs fit closely with Wicca, yet who for a variety of reasons choose not to follow an initiatory path. That is part of the reason our public circles and classes exist.
If you are considering Wicca as a spiritual path, the first things you should do are to read as much as you can about it, and think about what you read: does it mesh with your own beliefs and perceptions? What do you believe? How do you feel the world works, and what is your place in it? What do you value; what do you hold sacred? Do these fit with what you've been reading about Wicca?
Whether you ultimately want to study with an established group (be that us or anyone else) towards initiation, or simply practice your faith on your own, research, thinking and questioning always come first. You will benefit more from any group's teaching if you have already done some study on your own and have some idea what you as an individual believe.
1.19. How do I find a teacher or group?
We are working on redeveloping the PaganLink section on our web site, which is a database for Canadian Wiccans and other pagans seeking contacts in their area. In the meantime, you might want to check out Witches of the World, at the Witches' Voice web site.
Please note that Wicca is a very diverse religion, and not every teacher, coven or temple out there is going to be appropriate for every potential student or seeker. Be sure to find out as much as you can about a prospective teacher or group before making a commitment — their tradition, background, level of experience, philosophy, ethics, approach to teaching, expectations of a student or member, etc. And expect them to want to find out just as much about you. It's also a very good idea to do some reading on your own first, before seeking out a teacher or group, so that you have a better idea of your own interests and what you're looking for.
Also, please exercise caution and common sense, as when meeting any new people, particularly if your only contact with them has been over the Internet. Be aware that people can misrepresent themselves and their intentions, and that while Wiccans in general tend to be highly ethical people, there is no way of controlling who calls themselves Wiccan, especially online. If possible, try to have any initial meeting be in a neutral public place like a restaurant or coffee shop.
1.20. There isn't a Wiccan group in my area. Is there a way I can learn on my own?
Yes, by following the same process outlined under "How do I become a Wiccan?" — read, think and question. Even if there are no occult shops in your area, you can find a lot of good pagan books at online stores such as Amazon.ca and Chapters.Indigo.ca — see our reading list for recommendations.
You may also find it useful to participate in online discussion forums or mailing lists, to exchange ideas with others. Unfortunately, a lot of the available forums tend to be fairly shallow, and mainly populated by people searching for magical quick-fixes for their problems, so it may take some searching to find a good one. We've listed some online resources we find useful in our links section.
Once you feel ready to start practicing, there are many ways of doing ritual on your own. A number of books out there are specifically geared toward solitary practitioners, such as Doreen Valiente's Witchcraft for Tomorrow, Marian Green's A Witch Alone, and Scott Cunningham's Wicca for the Solitary Practitioner. All these writers come from different traditions and philosophical approaches, so you may need to do some reading and experimenting to find what suits your preferences and style.
1.21. How can I learn Wicca if I'm underage?
There are particular challenges for young people trying to learn the Craft — most groups don't allow minors without parental permission, and there may be issues with trying to practice at home. As with any new seeker, reading on your own is the first step. If you want to go beyond that and start contacting local groups, be prepared to discuss the issue with your parents first, because most groups will want to speak with them before admitting you — that is, if they accept minors at all. If you can't find a group or your parents won't let you join one, then you will have to settle for practicing on your own until you reach legal age.
1.22. What if my parents don't approve?
That's a difficult situation. It can be very frustrating not to be able to explore the spiritual path that you wish to, but legally, your parents have the right to direct your religious education until you're 18, at least in Canada — if you're located somewhere else, check the laws in your area.
We do encourage young people to try to work out their differences with their parents and reach some compromise with them, even if it's just that you can read what you want but can't actively practice as long as you're living with them. But if your parents are really hostile to Wicca, you may not even be able to do that.
If your parents are adamantly opposed to you even reading about Wicca, then you may simply have to wait it out... 18 may seem a long way off, but you'll get there eventually and from that point on, your religious education is entirely up to you.
1.23. Is Wicca a legally recognized religion?
That depends on where you live, and what you mean by that term. Most countries recognize religious organizations, rather than religions as such, so while there may be a number of recognized Wiccan organizations in a given country, that doesn't necessarily mean that a new Wiccan group starting tomorrow would enjoy the same level of recognition.
Also, in some countries (including ours!), legal recognition is a complex and multi-staged process. It is quite possible in Ontario, where we are based, to be recognized by some branches of government but not others, so that a Wiccan group might be authorized to serve as prison chaplains, but not to perform legal marriages.
To find out the legal status of Wicca where you live, check your local laws, or contact a Wiccan organization in your area — Witches of the World is a good place to find listings. We also now have an article on the legal status of Wicca in Canada on this site.
1.24. How can I become a Wiccan priest/ess?
Different traditions vary widely on this, but because we have an emphasis on public ministry, the training involved in becoming a priest or priestess is extensive; we try to make sure our clergy our as well-trained as those of mainstream religions. We've answered the question of how someone becomes a priest/ess within the WCC and/or the Odyssean tradition in part 2 of this FAQ.
For other groups or traditions, you would need to consult them -- there's no one standard.
1.25. I'm doing a project or paper on Wicca for my school. Can I ask you one or two really general questions (like "Tell me everything you know about Wicca") and get back complete, detailed answers letting me off the hook from doing any actual research for myself?
Short answer: no.
Long answer: For those doing research on Wicca, we have a lengthy reading list on this site (which we plan to update soon with many new books — and reviews), as well as a listing of web resources. There really is no substitute for doing your own research, and you will need to use a variety of sources to get a balanced picture, rather than expecting to find all your information in one place. If you have specific questions about Wicca in general or our church or tradition in particular, which you haven't been able to find answers to elsewhere, feel free to contact us, but please don't just say "Tell me more about Wicca"”!
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