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  • Eleven Things Every Witch Should Know
  • Create Your Own Book of Shadows/Magic Journal
  • Form Your own Coven
  • How to Join the Temple of Ara and Study with Phyllis
  • The real Secret of Spell Casting
  • 9 Steps to Casting Your Spell
  • 5 Facts for Successful Spellcasting
  • What is Wicca?
  • What are the spiritual principles of Wicca?
 
A social and spiritual activist, Phyllis Curott has been an attorney and Wiccan priestess for more than 20 years.
 
 
 
 

What is Wicca?
Wicca is the modern revival of the ancient, indigenous, pre-Christian Goddess religions of Europe and the Middle East. It is very similar in its spiritual practices and principles to Native American spirituality, and to that of other indigenous peoples. Wicca is also referred to as Witchcraft, the Old Religion, and the Craft of the Wise. People who practice Wicca are called Wiccans, or Witches. (Male practitioners are also called Wiccans or Witches, never Warlocks.) Wicca is also the fastest growing religion in America. Wicca is a spiritual practice, rather than an abstract belief system. It has more in common with a spiritual practice such as yoga, which provides an individual with her/his own experience of the Sacred, than with Biblical religions, which are based upon faith or belief in a transcendent, male deity.

What are the spiritual principles of Wicca?
Wicca is a life-affirming religion that experiences the Divine as immanent, that is, everywhere present in the world. The Divine is embodied in the Universe, in the world in all of its aspects, and in humanity. Wiccans consider all of life sacred and inter-connected by the Divine that dwells in all things. Wiccans have a profound reverence for all of life as holy and therefore they have a deep ethical standard to harm none. It is unethical to engage in any form of spiritual work, or daily activity, that seeks to control, manipulate, harm or have power over others. Wiccan ethics are simple and profound: Witches live in a sacred manner because they live in a sacred world. Spiritual insight is achieved through living in harmony with the Earth, and with Nature, Wiccans have a deep respect for Nature, and all of its forms and creatures (the earth, air, water, humans, animals, plants), are revered as the living body or expression of the Divine. Witches work to attune themselves with the natural energies of the Earth, Moon, Sun and Universe as a means of attuning oneself with the Sacred. Wicca is non-dogmatic. There is no single leader, guru or prophet, or literature of revealed and absolute truth. Rather, Wicca is an accessible system of spiritual practices that enable individuals to personally experience the Divine within themselves, in others, and in the world. The Divine is perceived as feminine, the Goddess, and masculine, the God, and is also perceived as totalities beyond gender, the Divine. Witches relate to the many aspects of the Goddess and God through the metaphors of many deities. There are many different traditions or denominations within the Old Religion - some reflect ethnic groups such as Celtic, Welsh, Greek, or Italian, others the perspective of particular teachers. One of the most rapidly growing is the shamanic approach practiced by H.Ps. Curott. Wiccans are very tolerant of the faith traditions of others, and do not proselytize, though they will teach someone who sincerely wishes to learn.

Do Witches worship the devil?
Witches do not worship nor do they believe in the devil and they are deeply offended by the accusation, and the stereotypes and discrimination that accompany it. There is no devil in the Old Religion of the Goddess. Satan is strictly a character from the Biblical pantheon, and only the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe in him. This erroneous association of Witches and the devil arose out of the persecutions of the Catholic Church's Inquisition against the Jews who were also falsely accused of worshiping Satan . These accusations and persecutions were also turned upon women and the practitioners of the Old Religion. During the 200 years of the Witch-hunts, several hundred thousand were tortured and killed, approximately 90% of whom were women. Women lost all legal rights during this prolonged period of terror. Legally, they were no longer legally considered people, but were instead deemed chattel or property to be disposed of by fathers, husbands or brothers. Women could not inherit or own property, they could not receive an education, they were forbidden from practicing medicine as midwives and herbalists, and they were accused of worshipping Satan when they practiced their ancient shamanic religion that worshipped the Goddess. The struggle that women have to obtain equal rights today stems from this period of ferocious persecution of women and Witches.

Why do people call themselves Witches?
The word Witch is the phonetic spelling of an old Anglo-Saxon word wicce, pronounced witche. Wicce meant a practitioner of the Old Religion, a wise one, or shaman, and has its foots in the old Norse word vitke, meaning a priestess, seer or shaman. The Old Religion is the shamanism of Europe and the Middle East, and Witchcraft, or Wicca, is its modern revival. Just as Jews were persecuted and maligned but did not abandon their religion or its name, so too Witches were persecuted and maligned, and today they use the word to reclaim their religion and to challenge the culture's distorted images and misogyny. Many Witches prefer to refer to themselves as Wiccans, and the terms are often used interchangeably.

How many Witches are there?
Wicca is now the fastest growing religion in the United States. While it is difficult to establish exact numbers because so many practice in secrecy do to fear of discrimination, various reliable academic sources have placed the numbers at 750,000 at the low end, and 5 million at the upper end. Barnes and Noble has estimated that, based upon booksales, there are probably close to 10 million Wiccans. At 750,000, Wicca would be the 5th largest organized religion in the United States, behind Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism. Wicca is surpassing Buddhism and has surpassed established faith groups such as Quakers and Unitarian-Universalism. 10 to 15 % of Unitarians describe themselves as Wiccan or Pagan (a related religious view). Witches are book buyers. This is because almost half, and possibly more, are solitary practitioners who have learned from books due to the absence of a sufficient number of teachers. Both the New York Times and Publisherıs Weekly have published articles in the last two years describing Wiccan publishing as one of the fastest growing and most lucrative areas of publishing. Wiccans are younger than the practitioners of other religions. Spin Magazine's survey, in their Girl Power Issue of October of 1998, found that Witchcraft was the number one interest of teenage girls and young women. Age distribution(approximately):
11% are 17 or under
25% are 18-25
40% are 26-39
23% are 40-59
1% are 60 or over

Approximately 71% of Wiccans are female, and 29% are male, though more men are coming to this spirituality each year. Witches tend to be well-educated, well read and independent. They increasingly represent mainstream America there are Wiccan doctors, lawyers, soldiers, psychologists, schoolteachers, schoolchildren, busdrivers, waitresses, artists, actors, singers, and celebrities, to name just a few typical occupations.

Why is Wicca the fastest growing religion in the United States?
There are 3 primary reasons:
First, the Goddess is one of the most important reasons that Wicca is the fastest growing religion in America. Wicca is the only Western religion that has a conception of the Divine as not just male, but also female. The Goddess is deeply empowering for women She is also a source of healing for men. Wicca is also the only Western religion in which women are honored as spiritual leaders. Second, Wicca is very well suited to the modern temperament, which is rational, independent, and self-motivated. Wiccans don't have to have faith in the existence of some transcendent, distant God because they have direct and personal experience of a present and indwelling deity. Wicca is a spiritual practice that anyone can master to experience her/his connection to the Divine. The spiritual practices are deeply empowering, and life- transforming. Wicca is non-dogmatic, there's no prophet, no guru, no charismatic leader, no one (usually a man) standing between you and God/dess, interpreting "God's will" or telling you how to live. You are responsible for your own encounter with deity and Wiccan practices provide this profound encounter. And why would anyone leave the most extraordinary experience of her/his life to someone else? Third, Wiccans experience the world around them, and particularly Nature, as the embodiment of the Divine. Nature is the greatest spiritual teacher for Witches, because it is the body of the Divine. In an era of environmental crisis that threatens our survival, Wicca provides a way of living in harmony with the natural world, and therefore of living in harmony with the Sacred. This is a very beautiful way in which to live, that also enables us to make the enormous, necessary changes so that the Earth, and we will survive.

Do Witches cast spells and practice magic?
Witches do practice magic and cast spells but not in the way that most people think. Magic is not supernatural manipulation nor is it silly superstition. I have a new definition of Magic: Magic is what happens once you experience your connection to the Divine. It is how you co-create reality with deity. Spells are specific, pro-active expressions of this magic. They are not a means of having power over others or Nature by the use of supernatural forces. Spellcasting is actually a form of religious ritual which is very similar to prayer. The primary difference is that instead of praying to beseech the aid or intervention of an external (male) divinity when you feel powerless to create a needed change or result, a Witch draws upon her/his own indwelling divine energy, as well as the aid of the greater Divine, to manifest her/his gifts, goals and desires in the world. The only person one ever seeks to control with a spell is oneself. And they work so I warn people to be careful what they ask for! Witch Crafting deals extensively with real magic and with spellcasting.

What are some Wiccan spiritual practices?
Witch Crafting provides readers with detailed guidance in not only the "how to" practice, but also, uniquely, the "why do." Wiccan techniques enable people to experience the magic of everyday life. They help alter our consciousness to better experience communion with the Divine. Wiccan techniques help one to fully develop one's gifts and capacities to live a full, joyful and spiritual life. They are also used for practical purposes such as healing, divination, purification, protection, inspiration, blessing, and the raising of energy to achieve positive life goals such as fulfilling work and relationships. All of these techniques which may include spellcasting, prayer, meditation, ritual, drumming, singing, chanting, dancing, journeying, trance, active meditations in Nature, and others, require and engender wisdom, maturity, patience, passion, compassion and an abiding relationship with the Sacred. Wiccans may practice alone, and are called solitaries, or in groups called covens (from the Latin convenire to come together), or circles. There are also large conferences and festivals held all over the world where thousands of Wiccans come to celebrate together. There is no central authority or hierarchy, and there are now thousands of Wiccan temples and churches legally organized and functioning throughout America. Wicca was legally recognized as a religion in the early 1970's, and was included the Military Chaplains' Guide in 1985.

What are the Wiccan holy days?
In addition to working with the phases of the Moon, which is particularly significant for women, Witches celebrate eight festivals, called "Sabbats," from the Greek word esbaton, meaning holy day, to attune themselves to the seasonal rhythms of Nature and the spiritual wisdom abiding in those cycles of change. (These days have become the basis for most of biblical religious calendars.) Collectively they are referred to as the Wheel of the Year:
October 31 Samhain, popularly referred to as Halloween
December 21 - Winter Solstice or Yule
February 2 Imbolc or Brigitıs Day
March 21 Spring Equinox, or Oestara
May 1 Beltaine, or Mayday
June 21 Summer Solstice, or Litha
August 2 Lughnassadh
September 21 Autumn Equinox, or Mabon

 

From Witch Crafting. Copyright (c) 2001 by Phyllis Curott. All rights reserved.