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                              W H A T   I S   W I C C A ? 
                       An Introduction to "The Old Religion" of Europe 
                                 and its Modern Revival 
                               by Amber K, High Priestess 
                                 Our Lady of the Woods 
                                      P.O. Box 176 
                              Blue Mounds, Wisconsin 53517 
           (This leaflet may be reproduced and distributed exactly as-is,  
           without further permission from the author, provided it is  
           offered free of charge.  Changes in the text, however, must be  
           approved in advance by the author.  Thank you!) 
                WICCA (sometimes called Wicce, The Craft, or The Old  
           Religion by its practitioners) is an ancient religion of love for  
           life and nature.   
                In prehistoric times, people respected the great forces of  
           Nature and celebrated the cycles of the seasons and the moon.   
           They saw divinity in the sun and moon, in the Earth Herself, and  
           in all life.  The creative energies of the universe were  
           personified: feminine and masculine principles became Goddesses  
           and Gods.  These were not semi-abstract, superhuman figures set  
           apart from Nature: they were embodied in earth and sky, women and  
           men, and even plants and animals.   
                This viewpoint is still central to present-day Wicca.  To  
           most Wiccans, everything in Natures -- and all Goddesses and Gods  
           -- are true aspects of Deity.  The aspects most often celebrated  
           in the Craft, however, are the Triple Goddess of the Moon (Who is  
           Maiden, Mother, and Crone) and the Horned God of the wilds.   
           These have many names in various cultures.   
                Wicca had its organized beginnings in Paleolithic times, co- 
           existed with other Pagan ("country") religions in Europe, and had  
           a profound influence on early Christianity.  But in the medieval  
           period, tremendous persecution was directed against the Nature  
           religions by the Roman Church.  Over a span of 300 years,  
           millions of men and women and many children were hanged, drowned  
           or burned as accused "Witches."  The Church indicted them for  
           black magic and Satan worship, though in fact these were never a  
           part of the Old Religion.   
                The Wiccan faith went underground, to be practiced in small,  
           secret groups called "covens."  For the most part, it stayed  
           hidden until very recent times.  Now scholars such as Margaret  
           Murray and Gerald Gardner have shed some light on the origins of  
           the Craft, and new attitudes of religious freedom have allowed  
           covens in some areas to risk becoming more open.   
                How do Wiccan folk practice their faith today?  There is no  
           central authority or doctrine, and individual covens vary a great  
           deal.  But most meet to celebrate on nights of the Full Moon, and  
           at eight great festivals or Sabbats throughout the year.   
                          Last amended June 11, 1989  --  Page NEXTRECORD 
                Though some practice alone or with only their families, many  
           Wiccans are organized into covens of three to thirteen members.   
           Some are led by a High Priestess or Priest, many by a  
           Priestess/Priest team; others rotate or share leadership.  Some  
           covens are highly structured and hierarchical, while others may  
           be informal and egalitarian.  Often extensive training is  
           required before initiation, and coven membership is considered an  
           important commitment.   
                There are many branches or "traditions" of Wicca in the  
           United States and elsewhere, such as the Gardnerian, Alexandrian,  
           Welsh Traditional, Dianic, Faery, Seax-Wicca and others.  All  
           adhere to a code of ethics.  None engage in the disreputable  
           practices of some modern "cults," such as isolating and  
           brainwashing impressionable, lonely young people.  Genuine  
           Wiccans welcome sisters and brothers, but not disciples,  
           followers or victims.   
                Coven meetings include ritual, celebration and magick (the  
           "k" is to distinguish it from stage illusions).  Wiccan magick is  
           not at all like the instant "special effects" of cartoon shows or  
           fantasy novels, nor medieval demonology; it operates in harmony  
           with natural laws and is usually less spectacular -- though  
           effective.  Various techniques are used to heal people and  
           animals, seek guidance, or improve members' lives in specific  
           ways.  Positive goals are sought: cursing and "evil spells" are  
           repugnant to practitioners of the Old Religion.   
                Wiccans tend to be strong supporters of environmental  
           protection, equal rights, global peace and religious freedom, and  
           sometimes magick is used toward such goals.   
                Wiccan beliefs do not include such Judeao-Christian concepts  
           as original sin, vicarious atonement, divine judgement or bodily  
           resurrection.  Craft folk believe in a beneficent universe, the  
           laws of karma and reincarnation, and divinity inherent in every  
           human being and all of Nature.  Yet laughter and pleasure are  
           part of their spiritual tradition, and they enjoy singing,  
           dancing, feasting, and love.   
                Wiccans tend to be individualists, and have no central holy  
           book, prophet, or church authority.  They draw inspiration and  
           insight from science, and personal experience.  Each practitioner  
           keeps a personal book or journal in which s/he records magickal  
           "recipes," dreams, invocations, songs, poetry and so on.   
                To most of the Craft, every religion has its own valuable  
           perspective on the nature of Deity and humanity's relationship to  
           it: there is no One True Faith.  Rather, religious diversity is  
           necessary in a world of diverse societies and individuals.   
           Because of this belief, Wiccan groups do not actively recruit or  
           proselytize: there is an assumption that people who can benefit  
           from the Wiccan way will "find their way home" when the time is  
                          Last amended June 11, 1989  --  Page NEXTRECORD 
                Despite the lack of evangelist zeal, many covens are quite  
           willing to talk with interested people, and even make efforts to  
           inform their communities about the beliefs and practices of  
           Wicca.  One source of contacts is The Covenant of the Goddess,  
           P.O. Box 1226, Berkeley, CA 94704.  Also, the following books may  
           be of interest:  (Ask your librarian.)  
              DRAWING DOWN THE MOON by Margot Adler 
              THE SPIRAL DANCE by Starhawk 
              POSITIVE MAGIC by Marion Weinstein 
              WHAT WITCHES DO by Stewart Farrar 
              WITCHCRAFT FOR TOMORROW by Doreen Valiente 
                          Last amended June 11, 1989  --  Page NEXTRECORD 

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