Wiccan views of divinity are generally theistic, and revolve around a Goddess and a Horned God, thereby being generally dualistic. In traditional Wicca, as expressed in the writings of Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente, the emphasis is on the theme of divine gender polarity, and the God and Goddess are regarded as equal and opposite divine cosmic forces. In some newer forms of Wicca, such as feminist or Dianic Wicca, the Goddess is given primacy or even exclusivity. In some forms of Traditional Witchcraft that share a similar duotheistic theology, the Horned God is given precedence over the Goddess.
Some Wiccans are polytheists, believing in many different deities taken from various Pagan pantheons, while others would believe that, in the words of Dion Fortune, "all the Goddesses are one Goddess, and all the Gods one God". Some Wiccans are both duotheistic and polytheistic, in that they honor diverse pagan deities while reserving their worship for the Wiccan Goddess and Horned God, whom they regard as the supreme deities. (This approach is not dissimilar to ancient pagan pantheons where one divine couple, a god and goddess, were seen as the supreme deities of an entire pantheon.) Some see divinity as having a real, external existence; others see the Goddesses and Gods as archetypes or thoughtforms within the collective consciousness.
According to several 20th century witches, most notably Gerald Gardner, the "father of Wicca", the witches' God and Goddess are the ancient gods of the British Isles: a Horned God of hunting, death and magic who rules over an after-world paradise (often referred to as the Summerland), and a goddess, the Great Mother (who is simultaneously the Eternal Virgin and the Primordial Enchantress), who gives regeneration and rebirth to souls of the dead and love to the living. The Goddess is especially connected to the Moon and stars and the sea, while the Horned God is connected to the Sun and the forests. Gardner explains that these are the tribal gods of the witches, just as the Egyptians had their tribal gods Isis and Osiris and the Jews had Elohim; he also states that a being higher than any of these tribal gods is recognised by the witches as Prime Mover, but remains unknowable, and is of little concern to them.
The Goddess is often seen as having a triple aspect; that of the maiden, mother and crone. The God is traditionally seen as being the Horned God of the woods. A key belief in Wicca is that the gods are able to manifest in personal form, either through dreams, as physical manifestations, or through the bodies of Priestesses and Priests.
Gardnerian Wicca as a denomination is primarily concerned with the priestess or priest's relationship to the Goddess and God. The Lady and Lord (as they are often called) are seen as primal cosmic beings, the source of limitless power, yet they are also familiar figures who comfort and nurture their children, and often challenge or even reprimand them.
Wiccan theology largely revolves around ontological dualism. Ontological dualism is traditionally a sacred gender polarity between the complementary polar opposites of male and female, who are regarded as divine lovers. This kind of dualism is common to various religions; for example, Taoism, where it is represented through yin and yang, and Hinduism, where the lingam and the yoni are symbols of the sacred sexual union of a supreme god and goddess (often Shiva and Shakti). Ontological dualism is distinct from moral dualism in that moral dualism posits a supreme force of good and a supreme force of evil. There is no supreme force of evil in Wicca.
In Wicca, the God is seen as the masculine form of divinity, and the polar opposite, and equal, to the Goddess.
The God is traditionally seen as the Horned God, an archetypal deity with links to the Celtic Cernunnos, English folkloric Herne the Hunter, Greek Pan, Roman Faunus and Indian Pashupati. This was the God whom Gerald Gardner presented as the old God of the ancient Witches, and who was supported by Margaret Murray's theory of the pan-European witch religion, which has largely been discredited. Horns are traditionally a sacred symbol of male virility, and male gods with horns or antlers were common in pagan religious iconography throughout the ancient world.
In Wicca, the Green Man is also often associated with the Horned God, though he does not always have horns.
At different times of the Wiccan year the God is seen as different personalities. He is sometimes seen as the Oak King and the Holly King, who each rule for half of the year each. Oak and Holly are two European trees. Another view of the God is that of the sun god, who is particularly revered at the sabbat of Lughnasadh. Many Wiccans see these many facets, such as the sun god, horned god, sacrificial god, as all aspects of the same God, but a minority view them as separate polytheistic deities.
Traditionally in Wicca, the Goddess is seen as the Triple Goddess, meaning that she is the maiden, the mother and the crone. The mother aspect, the Mother Goddess, is perhaps the most important of these, and it was her that Gerald Gardner and Margaret Murray claimed was the ancient Goddess of the witches.
Certain Wiccan traditions are Goddess-centric; this view differs from most traditions in that most others focus on a duality of goddess and god.
Gardner's explanation aside, individual interpretations of the exact natures of the gods differ significantly, since priests and priestesses develop their own relationships with the gods through intense personal work and revelation. Many have a duotheistic conception of deity as a Goddess (of Moon, Earth and sea) and a God (of forest, hunting and the animal realm). This concept is often extended into a kind of polytheism by the belief that the gods and goddesses of all cultures are aspects of this pair (or of the Goddess alone). Others hold the various gods and goddesses to be separate and distinct. Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone have observed that Wicca is becoming more polytheistic as it matures, and embracing a more traditional pagan worldview. Many groups and individuals are drawn to particular deities from a variety of pantheons (often Celtic, Greek, or from elsewhere in Europe), whom they honour specifically. Some examples are Cernunnos and Brigit from Celtic mythology, Hecate, Lugh, and Diana.
Still others do not believe in the gods as real personalities, yet attempt to have a relationship with them as personifications of universal principles or as Jungian archetypes. Some Wiccans conceive deities as akin to thoughtforms.
Dryghten, an Old English term for The Lord, is the term used by Patricia Crowther to refer to the universal pantheistic deity in Wicca. Gerald Gardner had initially called it, according to the cosmological argument, the Prime Mover, a term borrowed from Aristotle, but he claimed that the witches did not worship it, and considered it unknowable. It was referred to by Scott Cunningham by the term used in Neo-Platonism, "The One"; Many Wiccans whose practice involves study of the Kabbalah also regard the Gods and Goddesses they worship as being aspects or expressions of the ineffable supreme One.
Some feminist Wiccans such as Starhawk use the term Star Goddess to describe the universal pantheistic deity that created the cosmos, and regard Her as a knowable Deity that can and should be worshipped. Contrary to the popular notion that the term "Star Goddess" comes from the Charge of the Goddess, a text sacred to many Wiccans, it actually originates from the Anderson Feri Tradition of (non-Wiccan) Witchcraft- of which Starhawk was an initiate. Within the Feri tradition the "Star Goddess" is the androgynous point of all creation - from which all things (including the dual God and Goddess) emanate.
In addition to the two main deities worshiped within Wicca—the God and Goddess—there are also several possible theological conceptions of an ultimate (impersonal) pantheistic or monistic divinity, known variously as Dryghtyn or "the One" or "The All." This impersonal ultimate divinity is generally regarded as unknowable, and is acknowledged but not worshiped. This monistic idea of an ultimate impersonal divinity is not to be confused with the monotheistic idea of a single supreme personal deity. (Especially since Wicca traditionally honors its two supreme deities, the Goddess and the God, as equal.) This impersonal ultimate divinity may also be regarded as the underlying order or organising principle within the world, similar to religious ideas such as Tao and Atman. While not all Wiccans subscribe to this monistic idea of an impersonal, ultimate divinity, many do; and there are various philosophical constructions of how this ultimate divinity relates to the physical world of Nature. Unlike religions that place a divine creator outside of Nature, Wicca is generally pantheistic, seeing Nature as divine in itself. (The traditional Charge of the Goddess—the most widely shared piece of liturgy within the religion—refers to the Goddess as "the Soul of Nature" from whom all things come, and to which all things return. This theme is also expressed in the symbology of the magic cauldron as the womb of the Goddess, from which all creation emerges, and in which it is all dissolved before reemerging again.)
Wicca emphasises the immanence of divinity within Nature, seeing the natural world as comprised both of spiritual substance as well as matter and physical energy. Many Wiccans also embrace the idea of the spiritual transcendence of divinity, and see this transcendence as compatible with the idea of immanence. In such a view, divinity and dimensions of spiritual existence (sometimes called "the astral planes") can exist outside the physical world, as well as extending into the material, and/or rising out of the material, intimately interwoven into the fabric of material existence in such a way that the spiritual affects the physical, and vice versa. (The conception of Nature as a vast, interconnected web of existence that is woven by the Goddess is very common within Wicca; an idea often connected with the Triple Goddess as personified by the Three Fates who weave the Web of Wyrd.) This combination of transcendence and immanence allows for the intermingling and the interaction of the unmanifest spiritual nature of the universe with the manifest physical universe; the physical reflects the spiritual, and vice versa. (An idea expressed in the occult maxim "As Above, So Below" which is also used within Wicca.)
Given the usual interpretation of Wicca as a pantheistic and duotheistic/polytheistic religion, the monotheistic belief in a single "supreme deity" does not generally apply. An individual Wiccan's personal devotion may be centered on the traditional Horned God and the Moon Goddess of Wicca, a large number of divine "aspects" of the Wiccan God and Goddess, a large pantheon of individual pagan Gods, one specific pagan God and one specific pagan Goddess, or any combination of those perspectives. Accordingly, the religion of Wicca can be understood as duotheistic, henotheistic, pantheistic, polytheistic, or panentheistic depending upon the personal faith, cosmological belief, and philosophy of the individual Wiccan.
According to current Gardnerian Wiccans, the exact names of the Goddess and God of traditional Wicca remain an initiatory secret, and they are not given in Gardner's books about witchcraft. However, the collection of Toronto Papers of Gardner's writings has been investigated by American scholars such as Aidan Kelly, leading to the suggestion that their names are Cernunnos and Aradia. These are the names used in the prototype Book of Shadows known as Ye Bok of Ye Arte Magical.
For most Wiccans, the Lord and Lady are seen as complementary polarities: male and female, force and form, comprehending all in their union; the tension and interplay between them is the basis of all creation, and this balance is seen in much of nature. The God and Goddess are sometimes symbolised as the Sun and Moon, and from her lunar associations the Goddess becomes a Triple Goddess with aspects of "Maiden", "Mother" and "Crone" corresponding to the Moon's waxing, full and waning phases.
Some Wiccans hold the Goddess to be pre-eminent, since she contains and conceives all (Gaea or Mother Earth is one of her more commonly revered aspects); the God, commonly described as the Horned God or the Divine Child, is the spark of life and inspiration within her, simultaneously her lover and her child. This is reflected in the traditional structure of the coven, wherein "the High Priestess is the leader, with the High Priest as her partner; he acknowledges her primacy and supports and complements her leadership with the qualities of his own polarity." In some traditions, notably Feminist branches of Dianic Wicca, the Goddess is seen as complete unto herself, and the God is not worshipped at all.
Since the Goddess is said to conceive and contain all life within her, all beings are held to be divine. This is a key understanding conveyed in the Charge of the Goddess, one of the most important texts of Wicca, and is very similar to the Hermetic understanding that "God" contains all things, and in truth is all things. For some Wiccans, this idea also involves elements of animism, and plants, rivers, rocks (and, importantly, ritual tools) are seen as spiritual beings, facets of a single life.
A key belief in Wicca is that the gods are able to manifest in personal form, either through dreams, as physical manifestations, or through the bodies of Priestesses and Priests. The latter kind of manifestation is the purpose of the ritual of Drawing down the Moon (or Drawing down the Sun), whereby the Goddess is called to descend into the body of the Priestess (or the God into the Priest) to effect divine possession.
While they are not regarded as deities, the classical elements are a featured key of the Wiccan world-view. Every manifest force or form is seen to express one of the four archetypal elements — Earth, Air, Fire and Water — or several in combination. This scheme is fundamentally identical with that employed in other Western Esoteric and Hermetic traditions, such as Theosophy and the Golden Dawn, which in turn were influenced by the Hindu system of tattvas.
There is no consensus as to the exact nature of these elements. One popular system is the ancient Greek conception, where the elements correspond to matter (earth) and energy (fire), with the mediating elements (water, air) relating to the phases of matter (fire/earth mixtures). A more modern conception correlates the four elements to the four states of matter known to science: Solid (earth); Liquid (water); Gas (air); and Plasma (fire); with the akasha element corresponding to pure Energy. The Aristotelian system proposes a fifth or quintessential element, spirit (aether, akasha). The preferred version is a matter of ongoing dispute in the Wiccan community. There are other non-scientific conceptions, but they are not widely used among Wiccans.
To some Wiccans, the five points of the frequently worn pentagram symbolise, among other things, the four elements with spirit presiding at the top. The pentagram is the symbol most commonly associated with Wicca in modern times. It is often circumscribed — depicted within a circle — and is usually (though not exclusively) shown with a single point upward. The inverse pentagram, with two points up, is associated with the Horned God (the two upper points being his horns), and is a symbol of the second degree initiation rite of traditional Wicca. The inverted pentagram is also used by Satanists; and for this reason, some Wiccans have alternatively been known to associate the inverted pentagram with evil. In geometry, the pentagram is an elegant expression of the golden ratio phi which is popularly connected with ideal beauty and was considered by the Pythagoreans to express truths about the hidden nature of existence. The five points of the pentagram have also been seen to correspond to the three aspects of the Goddess and the two aspects of the Horned God.
In the casting of a magic circle, the four cardinal elements are visualised as contributing their influence from the four cardinal directions: Air in the east, Fire in the south, Water in the west and Earth in the north. There may be variations between groups though, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere, since these attributions are symbolic of (amongst other things) the path of the sun through the daytime sky. For example, in southern latitudes the sun reaches its hottest point in the northern part of the sky, and north is the direction of the Tropics, so this is commonly the direction given to Fire.
Some Wiccan groups also modify the religious calendar (the Wheel of the Year) to reflect local seasonal changes; for instance, most Southern Hemisphere covens celebrate Samhain on April 30 and Beltane on October 31, reflecting the southern hemisphere's autumn and spring seasons.
The 1734 Tradition is a form of traditional witchcraft founded by the American Joseph Bearwalker Wilson in 1973, after developing it since 1964. It is largely based upon the teachings he received from an English traditional witch named Robert Cochrane, the founder of Cochrane's Craft, and from Ruth Wynn-Owen, whom he called the matriarch of Y Plant Bran ("the family of Bran").Algard Wicca
Algard Wicca is a tradition, or denomination, in the Neo-Pagan religion of Wicca. It was founded in the United States in 1972 by Mary Nesnick, an initiate of both Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca, in an attempt to fuse the two traditions. Because of this fusion, it is categorised under the heading of British Traditional Wicca, with its initiates being able to trace their lineage back to Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern-day Wicca.Altar (Wicca)
A Wiccan altar is a "raised structure or place used for worship or prayer", upon which a Wiccan practitioner places several symbolic and functional items for the purpose of worshiping the God and Goddess, casting spells, and/or saying chants and prayers.Blue Star Wicca
Blue Star Wicca is one of a number of Wiccan traditions, and was created in the United States in the 1970s based loosely on the Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions. It continues to be practiced today in areas of the United States (including Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Washington, New Jersey, New Orleans, and others), as well as having members in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Ireland and Canada.British Traditional Wicca
British Traditional Wicca (abbreviated BTW) is the term used, mainly in the United States of America, to group a set of Wiccan traditions originating in the New Forest region of England. The term British Traditional Wicca is used to define the originator traditions and practices (usually with traceable lineage) apart from other subsequent forms of Wicca.It is rarely used by initiates in the United Kingdom, as there are fewer alternative traditions to distinguish from.
The most prominent of these traditions are Gardnerian Wicca and Alexandrian Wicca but also other traditions claiming a shared New Forest history. These reach as far abroad as America with traditions such as Central Valley Wicca.Celtic Wicca
Celtic Wicca is a modern tradition of Wicca that incorporates some elements of Celtic mythology. It employs the same basic theology, rituals and beliefs as most other forms of Wicca. Celtic Wiccans use the names of Celtic deities, mythological figures, and seasonal festivals within a Wiccan ritual structure and belief system, rather than a traditional or historically Celtic one.Craft name
A craft name, also known as magical/magickal name, is a secondary religious name often adopted by practitioners of Wicca and other forms of Neopagan witchcraft or magic. Craft names may be adopted as a means of protecting one's privacy (especially for those who are "in the broom closet"), as an expression of religious devotion, or as a part of an initiation ritual. It may also be used as a protective method, as it is believed by some that one's "true name" can be used as a taglock, to identify that person for the purpose of magical activities (predominantly curses).Drawing down the Moon (ritual)
Drawing down the Moon (also known as drawing down the Goddess) is a central ritual in many contemporary Wiccan traditions. During the ritual, a coven's High Priestess enters a trance and requests that the Goddess or Triple Goddess, symbolized by the Moon, enter her body and speak through her. The High Priestess may be aided by the High Priest, who invokes the spirit of the Goddess. During her trance, the Goddess speaks through the High Priestess.Esbat
An esbat is a coven meeting at a time other than one of the Sabbats within Wicca and other Wiccan-influenced forms of contemporary Paganism. Janet and Stewart Farrar describe esbats as an opportunity for a "love feast, healing work, psychic training and all."Faery Wicca
Faery Wicca, or Fairy Wicca, is any tradition of modern Wicca that places an emphasis on the Fae (goblins, elves, faeries, sprites, etc.), their lore, and their relation to the natural world.
"Faery Wicca" also refer to a specific tradition of Wicca, recently founded by author Kisma Stepanich. Adherents of Stepanich's Faery Wicca claim that it recovers the traditions of the Tuatha De Danaan, the mythological precursors to the Celtic people; however, this is disputed by those familiar with ancient Celtic polytheism and mythology. Stepanich's Faery Wicca draws liberally on some degree of Irish mythology, from the author's interpretation of Celtic history, legend, pseudohistory, imagination, and a variety of non-Celtic sources.Faery Wicca is not related to the late Victor Anderson's Feri Tradition of witchcraft, which is sometimes also spelled Faery or Fairy, nor is it directly related to the gay men's group, the Radical Faeries. Though Faery Wicca may draw inspiration from some of the customs practiced among the ancient and modern Celts, it shares more with other modern Wiccan traditions than with the "Fairy Faith" as it is known in traditional Gaelic cultures.Fivefold kiss
The Five-Fold Kiss is an element of Wiccan ritual which involves blessing five sacred parts of the body. With each bestowed blessing the area of the body is sealed with a kiss.
Wiccan tradition practises differ, but the Five-Fold Kiss is first and foremost a blessing bestowed upon the High Priestess by the High Priest or by the High Priestess upon the High Priest.
The ritual symbolises the act of honoring the person as a vessel of the female or male version of Deity.
Each kiss given is accompanied by a blessing:
Blessed be thy feet, that have brought thee in these ways
Blessed be thy knees, that shall kneel at the sacred altar
Blessed be thy [womb/phallus], without which we would not be
Blessed be thy breasts/chest, formed in [beauty/strength]
Blessed be thy lips, that shall utter the Sacred Names.
This is the form of the blessing used by most Gardnerian and Alexandrian covens.In other Wiccan Traditions, the blessing is as follows:
Blessed be thy feet, that have brought thee in these ways
Blessed be thy knees, that shall kneel at the sacred altar
Blessed be thy [womb/phallus], without which we would not be
Blessed be thy lips, that shall utter the Sacred Names
Blessed be thy third eye, that sees all.
The Five-Fold Kiss can be performed during Wiccan rites and ceremonies, such as handfasting or the Drawing Down the Moon Rite.
It may be the origin of the term blessed be, a well-known Neopagan greeting, also used as a general expression of blessing during ritual.Gavin Bone
Gavin Bone (born 19 January 1964) is an English author and lecturer in the fields of magic, witchcraft, Wicca and Neo-Paganism, and an organizer in the Neo-Pagan community. He was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire in England, in 1964.Great Rite
The Great Rite is a Wiccan ritual involving symbolic sexual intercourse with the purpose of drawing energy from the powerful connection between the male and female. It is an uncommon ritual as it is used when the coven is in need of powerful spiritual intervention to help them through a difficult time.
Most often it is performed by the High Priest and High Priestess, but other participants can be elected to perform the Rite.Patricia Crowther (Wiccan)
Patricia Crowther (born 14 October 1927) who also goes under the craft name Thelema, occultist, is considered influential in the early promotion of the Wiccan religion.Seax-Wica
Seax-Wica is a tradition, or denomination, of the neopagan religion of Wicca which is largely inspired by the iconography of the historical Anglo-Saxon paganism, though, unlike Theodism, it is not a reconstruction of the early mediaeval religion itself.The tradition was founded in 1973 by Raymond Buckland, an English-born high priest of Gardnerian Wicca who moved to the United States in the 1970s. His book, The Tree, was written with the intent for it to be a definitive guide to Seax-Wica, and was published in 1974 by Samuel Weiser, and subsequently republished in 2005 as Buckland's Book of Saxon Witchcraft.
The tradition primarily honours four principal deities: Woden, Thunor, Frig or Freya and Tiw. These are seen as representations of the Wiccan deities of the Horned God and the Mother Goddess. The tradition uses a minimal set of ceremonial tools, including a spear. Runes are also significant.Stregheria
Stregheria (Italian pronunciation: [streɡeˈriːa]) is a form of Witchcraft with Southern European roots but also includes Italian American witchcraft. Stregheria is sometimes referred to as La Vecchia Religione ("the Old Religion"). The word stregheria is an archaic Italian word for "witchcraft", the most used and modern Italian word being stregoneria. "Stregoneria Italiana" is a form of stregoneria that is Catholic-rooted folk magic having little if any relationship to authentic forms of Italian Witchcraft.
Author Raven Grimassi has written on the topic. Grimassi taught what he called the Aridian tradition from 1980.
He mixed elements of Gardnerian Wicca with ideas inspired by Charles G. Leland's Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches (1899). The name "Aradia" is due to Leland, who claimed that Erodiade (the Italian name of Herodias) was the object of a "witch-cult" in medieval Tuscany. Since 1998, Grimassi has been advocating what he calls the Arician tradition, described as an "initiate level" variant of the religion, involving an initiation ceremony.Stregheria has both similarities and differences with Wicca, and in some ways resembles reconstructionist Neopaganism focussed on a specific nation or culture (in this case the folk religion of ancient and medieval Italy).
Stregheria honors a pantheon centered on a Moon Goddess and a Horned God regarded as central, paralleling Wiccan views of divinity.The Spiral Dance
For the dance, see Spiral Dance. For the band, see Spiral Dance (band).The Spiral Dance: a Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess is a best-selling book about Neopagan belief and practice written by Starhawk. It was first published in 1979, with a second edition in 1989 and a third edition in 1999. Since its publication, it has become a classic book on Wicca and modern witchcraft, spiritual feminism and the Goddess movement, and ecofeminism. The book has been translated into other languages, including German and Danish.What Witches Do
What Witches Do is a book by Stewart Farrar, and is an eye-witness account of Wiccan practices, namely that of the Alexandrian coven run by Alex Sanders and his wife Maxine Sanders.Wiccaning
A Wiccaning or Paganing is a Neopagan ritual analogous to the christening or baptism of an infant. Specific groups may have alternate names for this rite.
In accordance with the importance put on free will in Neopagan traditions, infants are not necessarily expected to choose a Pagan path for themselves when they grow older. The ceremony, like its Christian equivalent, is focused on the parents' beliefs and the family's communal commitment to look after the child.
|Rites and ritual|