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Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at

                             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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