What the Heck is Wicca (and What Isn't It) - Canis Fidelis' FAQ on the Wiccan Religion
Okay, let's face it - Wicca isn't the most known about religion on Earth. A lot of people (perhaps you) don't have any idea what it is or what it's about, and others have tons of myths and misconeptions about it. Every Wiccan on the Web today seems to have written one of these FAQ's, and this is my contribution to them.
For the technical among you, please note that this FAQ doesn't always follow the Q&A format usually associated with Internet FAQs.
Wicca is an Earth-centered religion (or spirtiuality) in which its members (the Witches) seek to cleanse their bodies, minds, and spirits, to help others (starting with friends and family) and the Universe in general. It is closely in tune with natural cycles (such as the seasons, equinoxes [beginning of Spring and Autumn], and solstices [beginning of Summer and Winter]), and with nature in general (Wiccans use plants for many purposes, are concerned about the environment, and are very close and caring to animals).
Some of the things we try to accomplish with Wicca we do with meditation, daydreaming, or visualization. Others we do with magick (spelled with a "k" to denote a difference from stage magic). Magick doesn't involve flashing lights and weird sounds (other than perhaps small candles burning), people being turned to stone, or anything like that. Magick is using ritual and the energy of the mind (and/or of the Elements, or energy petitioned from Spirit) to influence the energy in the world around you and produce change.
Just as with most other religions, Wicca has a calendar of holidays, and things that are sacred. But, please, don't try to ask your school for time off for a Sabbat! ;-)
Above all other things, Wicca is a path for free-thinkers. We are open-minded, and we do our best to have a clear heart. We do not blindly follow anyone or anything's leadership. We have chosen to steer and navigate our own ship in the waters of Time and the Universe, no matter what that ship may look like, or where we may go. We are accountable and responsible for our own actions, both in this life and the next. We don't need any threat of eternal suffering or hanging in limbo or Purgatory to scare our morals straight. We make our own heaven and hell, and we live what we've made each and every day.
A few of you have probably read this far and said, "Hey, cool! I want to learn Wicca so I can kill that bunghole at lunch, paralyse that dog next door so he doesn't pee on my lawn, and curse anyone I feel like!" WRONG! A real Wiccan would rarely even think about such things, much less try them. The main rule of Wiccan conduct is called the Wiccan Rede, and it goes like this:
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill;
An it harm none, do as ye will.
This rule applies to real-life actions, as well as magickal/spritual actions; it also applies to yourself. So black magick is out, as well as violent acts or self-destructive acts (such as illegal drug use, [hopefully] smoking, alcohol abuse, and reckless promiscuity).
So what if you do do something wrong? Well, your karma (I think of karma as your internal, energetic morality meter) will be polluted accordingly, and you'll be punished one way or another three times over, as required by the Threefold Law.
The Threefold Law also works the other way - if you do something good, you'll be rewarded three times over. Your karma will improve.
A lot of the garbage made up about Wicca involves that fact that it lacks a list of "thou shalt nots;" for example, premarital sex isn't specifically forbidden. This is true, but is it really that bad? Reckless promiscuity would be forbidden, because it's a self-destructive act (due to STD's and such) and would break the Rede. But, modest premarital sex, with proper protection used as well as common sense, would not be forbidden - in fact, when used in a truly loving relationship, it would be an act of love, and therefore, good. It's up to the common sense of the person. Sex is sacred, and is the generative force of Nature and of the Universe - it should be used responsibly.
Manipulative spells, which make a person do or feel something against their will, are also forbidden; for example, love spells are used in Wicca, but they must not be targeted. Their target should be the Universe, and Spirit will guide you on the path to love. The same goes for money spells - Magick the Universe, not a person.
The Wicca path is never the dark path.
One major difference between Wicca and many other religions is that we don't believe in a Heaven or eternal life per se, instead, we believe in reincarnation. Things you do in this life may follow you into the next through karma. Sometimes you may be born among your own kind, sometimes you may have to find the path yourself.
Many of us do believe in a sort of "resting place" between lives - it's called Summerland. There, we get to reflect on our life (and past ones), before we continue on.
DO's AND DON'T's
If you have any others to add here, e-mail me. :-)
PENTAGRAMS & THE PENTACLE
Probably the oldest sign associated with Wicca and Witchcraft, is the Pentacle, or the five-pointed star in a circle (like the one superimposed on the Bulldog at the top left of this page). Because of modern (mostly conservative Christian) BS, the Pentacle is often associated with Satanism and evil. This misconception is wrong.
Since the beginning, the Pentacle was not evil - in fact the Pentacle is a potent protection from evil. It will protect its wearer/bearer. Many peoples throughout time have used the Pentacle. Pythagoras used it with his brotherhood, so they could identify each other. Christian knights once bore the symbol upon their shields, and in the Coats of Arms.
The upright Pentacle (standing on two points, one point facing up) symbolizes quite a few things. To a Wiccan, it symbolizes the elements - Fire, Air, Earth, and Water, with the top (and most important point) being Akasha, or Spirit (this symbolizes the principle of "mind over matter," and the importantce to a Wiccan/Pagan of spirituality). It also shows a human in the Leonardian-anatomical position, with two arms stretched upward, and the legs spread; therefore, it symbolizes the ideal human. The circle and points of the Penacle would also guard whatever is in the pentagon in the middle (which acts as a sort of a "womb") - this is where the wearer/bearer would be in relation to the Pentacle if trouble were to come upon him/her.
Satanists have used the Pentacle - but they most often invert it, so it stands on one point, with two points facing up. This is symbolizes the opposite of the Wiccan value system - "material needs first, spirtuality last. Live by the moment, and forget the consequences." I don't think much of this - I mean, if you were a Christian, how would you like me to come along and flip your church's crosses over? Same thing with the Pentacle. The Pentacle is our Holy symbol - they ought to respect it.
One last thing about pentagrams and Pentacles: In Wicca, you may find them multicolored. Usually, the top point will be purple for Spirit (or white, or uncolored), the upper-left point will be blue for Water, the lower-left point will be red for Fire, the lower-right point will be green for Earth, and the upper-right point will be yellow for Air. This isn't a definite guide, however - your mileage will vary.