Welcome to Just Wicca!
Come and sit beside me near the fire and we’ll speak of the age-old truths of magic that still live today. You’re curious to learn if magic is real, if the old gods still roam the earth. Most of all, you want to know how to take part, to discover your share in this ancient and beautiful human heritage. The beginnings of witchcraft are as old as creation itself. Think back to the caves and shelters of our distant ancestors. You’re a primordial human, watching the skies, the earth and all forces of nature very carefully, for your life and the lives of your loved ones depend on it. You and your people are intimately familiar not only with the changing of the seasons and the migration paths of animals, but the small minutiae that can make a difference between hardship and plenty. The elders are respected for their experience and ability to predict the future based on the past. You know of certain plants that can heal and stop pain, others that kill. It’s plain that there are unseen forces at work, creating and directing everything. How can you communicate with these forces, thank them for providing for you, and ask them for what you need? Both magic and religion arise from this instinct to communicate with the ultimate. Using the elements of the natural world – Earth, Air, Fire and Water – you sought the aid of the Spirits around you. With your people, you celebrated good fortune with dance and song, thanking the spirits for their help. Through ritual, imitation and imagination, magical practices were born, evolving through many centuries into the forms we recognize today. You can still find ceremonial magic traditions, alive and well, even in the most devout Christian churches. Wicca is another branch of the great tree of human faith. You already have magic within you, simply through the fact that you’re alive. All you need are a few ideas and tools. You can choose to follow Wicca as a religion or to walk a path of solitary witchcraft you lay out for yourself based on your instincts. There are many witches who are not Wiccans but who hold to similar principles and practices. The history of Wicca is a colorful quilt of age-old tradition and more modern endeavors to re-create and perpetuate the ancient ways. Let’s look at some of these origin stories.
Witchcraft dates back to the beginning of time, as we’ve seen. Folk healers, midwives and magicians known as “cunning folk” or “wise ones” existed all over Europe. The practices we call Wicca seem to have arisen in Europe, England and the Celtic lands. The people revered the Earth Goddess and a male fertility god, who was often depicted with goat’s horns and feet, similar to the Greek god Pan. Life is guided and directed by these male and female energies in balance, reflected in the Wheel of the Year with its eight holidays or sabbats. While little material evidence of this faith survives, it seems that the ideas were preserved in oral tradition by tiny covens and underground groups of peasants. In Victorian times, several books were published describing the origins of the Goddess religion and its still-living devotees. These people believed that they were continuing the ancient faith, which had gone into hiding after members had been condemned and executed, along with many folk healers and especially midwives, during a series of religious wars in Europe – the terrible period known as the Burning Times. In 1954, occultist Gerald Gardner, who had been a member of one of these little covens in southern England for about twenty years, codified and published the basic ideas. Gardner had also had experience as a Rosicrucian and a Mason, and he blended the rituals from the English coven with ceremonial magick traditions to create a modern Wicca religion. Along with Gardnerian Wicca, several other Craft paths formed at this time, each born from folk magic traditions and beliefs about the Mother Goddess and her horned consort. If you are interested in discovering more about the early days, check our list of books at the end of this page. By the mid-1960s, Wicca had become popular with young people, especially women, who adopted belief in the Goddess as part of a re-awakening of feminist spirituality. The Goddess Movement, with its roots in a 19th-century revival of nature worship and the idea that God was Mother as well as Father, gained momentum in the 1970s. Both men and women sought to reaffirm contact with the most ancient spiritual forces. People gathered together in covens all over England and the United States. Numerous books were published by both initiates and solitary witches, describing how to become a witch and practice magic without the formal initiations of the traditional Wicca faith. As scholars and believers wrote of revived secrets and new magic, Wicca gained credibility as a religion. Wiccans could proclaim their faith openly, even in the armed forces where a chapter on Wicca has been added to the Chaplain’s Handbook.
Wicca, Sex and Gender
Sex has always been part of Wicca because it is part of life. Modern Wiccans seek to include all and to recognize and celebrate human differences. In the traditional Craft, male and female polarities played an immensely important role. Erotic energy was recognized as the great continuer of life, but Wiccans of old days believed that these energies were most powerfully and properly raised between a man and a woman. Some of the ancient rules – such as the initiation of men by women, and women by men – were designed to reflect this male-female resonance. It also kept gay, gender-fluid, intersexed and transgendered people out of the Craft. Yet reaching out for primordial forces also means changing your own consciousness. Outside of Gardnerian-style Wicca, thousands of traditional beliefs include and even celebrate gender variance. In England and Europe, folk customs and mythology are filled with gender-fluid gods and spirits. They change from male to female, have both male and female aspects, or cross-dress. There are powerfully aggressive goddesses and gentle, nurturing male gods. Even Christian heroes like Joan of Arc are said to belong to this tradition, perhaps one reason she was feared by the enemies of France. Some Native American peoples refer to variances in gender identity as two-spirit. Most important, homosexual behavior has long been known to occur in nature. Witches everywhere began to question the age-old ideas that only male and female polarities could create magic. As the writer Starhawk observed, the dominant culture’s enshrined definitions of gender are oppressive to women and confining to men. The forces of nature are not just male or female – or just between male and female. This same energy exists between us and anything we love, even plants and animals, friends and family, art, music, the stars. Wherever it occurs, it is the life force and should be cherished. Modern witchcraft also has a history as a political movement. The Victorians who wrote of the old religion spoke against the industrial society that destroyed nature’s beauty and replaced it with soulless factories. Gardner’s coven was involved in an immense ritual designed to stop Hitler from invading England. Modern Wicca reflected the sexual revolution, the women’s rights movement and the “back to the land” communal experiments of the 1960s. Many of today’s Wiccans are also environmental activists, working to preserve and protect Mother Earth.
Wicca and You
Where do you see yourself in this ongoing story? As you live on Mother Earth, you have a place in the tapestry. You’ve been casting magic spells ever since you first wished upon a star. What calls to you? Do you sense the ancient memories of your ancestors wanting to come back into your life? Do you seek to understand the future, to make a better place in the world for yourself and your loved ones? Do you feel a need to return to nature, to live on the earth in sacred reverence? Do you wish greater knowledge of medicinal plants and herbs, perhaps the use of amulets and symbols for creating the changes you desire? Are you looking for a community joining their forces together to worship nature’s beauty and raise global consciousness of Mother Earth? Witchcraft is all this and more. Magic can be a simple practice such as crossing your fingers or knocking on wood, or a complex ceremony that takes weeks to prepare. You can practice alone or as part of a community, or both. How do you begin? Witchcraft and wisdom are related words. Study and learn. There are thousands of books on the subject, from simplified modern introductions for pre-teens all the way back to Victorian studies on folklore and Goddess religions. Read as many as you can. Every author views the Craft through a different lens. There is no one true Wiccan path; as the philosopher Krishnamurti said, truth is a pathless land and each seeker must find the way for her- or himself. Keep an open mind and choose the ideas that feel right to you. Websites and discussion groups abound. Check out Just Wicca for in-depth information about the Craft where I give free access to classical works on folklore, ESP and ceremonial magick. It should be easy to find a coven or circle in your area that welcomes seekers and potential new members. May you find what you seek in joy. Blessed Be. Lady M. Raven Moon