The Basics and Beyond…It Can be Challenging to Get Good Information on Wicca, Especially if You’re a Beginner!
It’s often confusing for new seekers when they happen upon a page or blog by a trained Wiccan priestess or priest, because beginners often expect to see certain things when they research “Wicca.” Seekers often want information that is oversimplified, “gives spells that anyone can do,” or that panders to beginner sensibilities by using stereotypical imagery like “witchy” looking people, metallic spinning pentagrams, and sparkly proclamations of “Blessed Be!” When you actually find the page of a trained practitioner; one who can teach real Wicca and ALSO spell craft, as the two are not remotely the same thing, you may be taken aback by the noticeable dearth of pictures of black cats, cauldrons, and faeries. That’s because Wicca isn’t about what sites written by the unqualified, which dominate the internet, tell you it’s about.
Readers who want to be spoon-fed make-believe spells and be told false history about “the Ancient Celts and their Samhain rituals” will find this site disappointing. You will not be told “easy beginner spells” are an actual thing on this site. You will not be fed hogwash about Wicca being “ancient,” or stuff that supports false ideas, such as developing “powers” or “being born Wiccan.” Wicca has solid parameters. It is not made up as you go along, or gotten by watching self-trained goth girls on YouTube. Solitary Eclectic Wicca is a valid path, but it isn’t free-form, and it has defined things that make it be what it is.
Wicca is not, contrary to what the uninformed will tell you, “whatever you want it to be.” Solitary Eclectic Neo-Paganism IS whatever you want it to be. And if you are a solitary, eclectic Neo-Pagan, you are welcome here and respected here. But Wicca is not Solitary Eclectic Neo-Paganism. The two are different indeed. And intelligent people want to learn intelligent terminology so as to be able to converse intelligently. They don’t want white-washed, dumbed down information. They want education. If you are still reading, then let’s get to giving you the information you deserve to have!
What Makes Wicca BE Wicca?
Here’s an excerpt from my book, “Prerequisite to Wicca 101: A High Priestess Reveals What Beginner Books Won’t Tell.”
“In Gardnerian, Alexandrian, and derived Traditions of Wicca, a Wiccan ritual has parts that comprise it. These are called the “rites.” There is also a framework of holidays that are a complete system and these are fundamental to the religion. At minimum, most trained Wiccans will agree that the following earmarks must be present for a practice to fall under the definition of “a Wiccan Practice.” Remember, “not Wiccan” isn’t an insult.
Sidestepping the Traditional requirement of initiation, we have:
1. Understanding and study of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, which consists of the 8 solar Sabbats of Samhain (Oct 31-Nov 9 or thereabouts), Yule (Dec 21-22), Imbolc (Feb 2-3), Ostara (Mar 21-22), Beltane (May 1-2), Litha (Jun 21-22), Lammas or Lughnassah (Aug 2-3), and Mabon (Sept 21-22).
2. Observance of the Sabbats through ritual, seasonal activities and communion.
3. Worship of and service to at LEAST one Pagan God and one Pagan Goddess, Who are honored together (1 God and 1 Goddess at each ritual) at Sabbats and possibly Esbats.
4. Understanding of the Esbat concept (usually lunar new and full moons, but can be any non-Sabbat ritual or circle).
5. Each ritual contains the following rites: The Erecting the Temple Rite (or casting the circle for non-initiates), the Invocation (This can mean inviting the Gods in and/or drawing down the moon and/or sun. See the glossary of terms.), the Great Rite (symbolic sex act between the Goddess and God using a ritual blade and a chalice of wine or other drink, followed by sprinkling the blessed wine/drink onto “cakes”), the Simple Feast (sharing of blessed wine and cakes), the Libation (putting blessed wine/drink and cakes outside to share with the Gods), and Clearing the Temple (dismissing the Gods [sometimes called “devocation,”] and dismantling the energetic temple or circle you created).
6. Most would say that all Wiccans follow the Rede (“An it harm none, do as ye will”) voluntarily and to their own understanding.
7. Living by the tenets of Wicca, which include moderation, tolerance (not to be confused with failing to tell facts and correct misconceptions), seeking balance in life, respecting nature, sex-positivity (not to be confused with wanton behavior or failing to have boundaries), honoring the genders as equal, taking personal responsibility for oneself and one’s life, and seeking mental, physical, and emotional health.
8. Aligning with the Wiccan observation that the Universe is a place of balance and is neutral.
9. Keeping liturgies in written form, often called a “Book of Shadows.”
10. Use of and understanding of the Tools of Wicca, which are the Wand (South/Fire or East/Air depending on Tradition), the Pentacle (North/Earth in most Traditions), the Cup or Chalice (West/Water in most Traditions), and the Athame (East/Air or South/Fire depending on Tradition). These have specific uses for censing, asperging, casting, etc. There are other tools that are also fundamental in Traditional Wicca as well, but are not usually used by solitaries, or at least not used the same way, such as the scourge and the sword.
Any practice that does not have the above components in their entirety would fall outside the definition of what makes a Wiccan practice BE a Wiccan Practice. That’s not to say that if a Wiccan misses a Sabbat that they’re not a Wiccan anymore. But understand that Wicca is orthopractic, so it is BASED IN PRACTICE. It’s not a belief system. So unless you practice, you’re not within the definition of what makes a Wiccan a Wiccan. Belief is a RESULT of practice. Your beliefs will grow and change as you practice. What you believe about the Gods in your first year of practice is likely to look nothing like what your belief will be a decade later. That’s as it should be.
So let’s say that you really want to practice but you don’t want to do it the way that is outlined above. That’s fine. That just makes your practice a Pagan Practice rather than a Wiccan Practice. There is no problem with that. It’s not “lesser” to choose to practice your own brand of Neo-Paganism or another Pagan religion. Many people practice a Wicca-BASED form of solitary Neo-Paganism that simply borrows heavily from Wicca. That’s great. There’s no need for worry that this isn’t perfectly fine and serviceable. I myself, when alone and not with my coven, often practice in ways that are outside the framework of Wicca. But what makes me Wiccan is that I ALSO practice with my coven within a system of Traditional Wicca that has all of the components which define it (and I’m an initiate).
What are some ways that people often work a Neo-Pagan practice that is based in Wicca but wouldn’t be defined as Wicca? Here are just a few wonderful ways that people do it:
Wicca based Goddess worship: Some people want to work with only the Divine Feminine. That’s great. You would just not invoke a God and you would not do the Great Rite as it is defined in Wicca. You could still bless wine and cakes if you wanted, as symbols of the Divine Womb and the Body of Mother Earth, for instance. Whatever works for you.
Wicca based Panentheism: The emphasis is taken off of the polarity between male and female and the circle honors all of nature as Divine (you can also be a Panentheist and be Wiccan though).
Some people honor the Sabbats and maybe also the Esbats but they don’t Erect the Temple or cast a circle. These folks often make beautiful Sabbat altars and worship at them, honoring the Divine of their understanding or honoring specific Gods and Goddesses.
These are just a few ways that solitary Pagans might practice. Remember, it’s YOUR spirituality. Do what YOU feel inspired and directed to do in order to feed your spirit and enjoy your practice. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to worship or practice. But some practices fall under the parameters of Wicca and some do not. And that’s fine.
Let’s talk a bit about different “kinds” of Wicca. You have read repeatedly in this book about “Traditions” of Wicca. Traditions are like denominations, roughly. They are the sets of liturgies, legitimately lineaged from either Gardnerian or Alexandrian Wicca (and sometimes both, as is the case with my Tradition). Those who have taken 3rd degree in a lineaged Tradition are seen as having the authority to start a new Tradition of Wicca if they wish. The reason that this is important is that all legitimate forms of Wicca have liturgy which contains the earmarks of real Wicca in each of the 3 elevations and in the liturgies of the Sabbats and Esbats (those are the rites listed above where we talked about the definition of a Wiccan practice). A person who does not have full possession of a Tradition’s liturgies (because they are not a third degree) won’t have the understanding of those earmarks because they haven’t yet received them. So what happens then is that if a person who does not possess a full set of liturgies starts a “new kind of Wicca,” you get partial liturgies and the full absence of some of the liturgies. That makes the “new kind of Wicca” a partial form because there’s a bunch of the skeleton of what makes Wicca BE Wicca that’s missing. That’s the reason. It’s not arrogance. It’s a way of protecting the liturgies and keeping them whole and present for new generations of practitioners.
Now, as Wicca has grown and there are so many Eclectics out there (non-Traditional practitioners), I suppose at this point we can say that if an Eclectic Wiccan creates a body of liturgy and passes it on, it becomes a “Tradition” of sorts, but it’s not going to have all the parts that Traditional Wicca has. And that’s not “wrong” necessarily, but it should at least be understood. This is what happened with Church of All Worlds, which sometimes refers to some of its “nests” as being “Wiccan.” I happen to know that the founders of Church of All Worlds never took 3rd degree in any Tradition, but yet the “Wiccan” nests of CAW seem to make a bunch of folks very happy. The thing that I want YOU to understand is the definitions of these things so you can make educated choices for yourself. If you CARE that the Tradition in which you study have the components of Traditional Wicca, then you can ASK because now you know. If you don’t care, then you don’t care.
Aside from Wicca and solitary Wicca-based Neo-Paganism, there are other formal Pagan religions that you might want to check out and learn about. A few of them are:
Santeria (Which is actually Pagan-ish because it’s a mish-mash of Christianity and Paganism)
Some Pagan religions have some things in common with Wicca and some have almost nothing in common with Wicca. Any Gods or Goddesses can be worked with in a Wiccan format, but if you find that you are, say, only attracted to the Norse Pantheon of Gods, then you might consider looking at Asatru instead of Wicca. If you feel called to work with only Greek or Roman Gods, you might find that Hellenic Reconstructionism is more to your taste. If you value high intellect and strong magical skill sets, take a look at Druidry or Ceremonial Order of the Golden Dawn studies. Often, when people feel attracted to Wicca, they really just need to learn about the different Pagan religions that are available to them. It’s fine to start with Wicca and then find something even more fitting for your own personal spirituality.”