What is Wicca?

I will dedicate my first post to explaining what Wicca is and its essential belief systems so you can get an image of what I am going to be writing about in the future.

Wicca is a Neopagan religion that came to life with Gerald Gardner, its founder, in the 1950s. This important figure was, when it comes to some attitudes, the successor of prominent names like that of Aleister Crowley (who had a great impact on him since Gardner himself was, for a short while, a  part of O.T.O. - Ordo Templi Orientis, which was founded by Crowley himself), Margaret Murray (who is famous for her works in the field of anthropology and witchcraft), Charles Leland (a well-known occultist, folklorist and writer), Robert Graves (a writer in whose works many modern witches see reflections of Neopagan beliefs , even though he himself wasn't connected in any way to witchcraft or Paganism).

The Triple Goddess
We can trace the beginning of  Wicca to the time when Gerald Gardner returned to England where he approached a group of people which he believed to be the last descendants of the "Old Religion". This group turned out to be a coven (a group of Witches) which came to be known as the New Forest Coven (named after the New Forest region in England). The leader of this group was Old Dorothy Clutterbuck. She, in a way, led Gardner into the world of Wicca (even though this was far from his first acquaintance with the world of the occult and similar paths). He was initiated into the coven in 1939, but he was forbidden from sharing his knowledge with the rest of the world because the coven was secret, but also because a law against Witches existed at the time. In 1949, he published the Novel High Magic's Aid in which he talked about the Craft (short for witchcraft) and revealed two initiation rituals. Scire (his alias) didn't even mention the Goddess in this work. Only after the Witch laws were abolished in 1951 did Gardner publish two more novels under his real name: Witchcraft Today and The Meaning of Witchcraft. These three novels were to be the groundwork for the first tradition in Wicca: the Gardnerian tradition. 

Triple Moon symbol
Other symbols
of the Goddess
I will talk about the history of Wicca in more detail in another post, but for not it is sufficient to say that other traditions soon branched out, each with its own variations of the fundamental beliefs which form Wicca. I would now like to mention some opinions which are common in all the traditions of Wicca. Though, I want to emphasize that Paganism (and Wicca) is a very liberal path, so don't be surprised if you come across a Pagan that tells you one thing and then some come across another who tells you something completely different. You will, in time, develop your own theories and practices, but please remember to respect others' also.

So, I mentioned earlier that Scire (Gardner) never mentioned the Goddess! This sentence would lead you to believe that there is some sort of Goddess involved, right? Right. Wicca is essentially bitheistic because it acknowledges both the God and the Goddess (man-woman, male-female, strength-tenderness, forests-waters, sun-moon etc.). My beliefs up to now have been that the God and Goddess aren't entities (at least now as how I see them) but rather metaphors for balance/harmony. Every Pagan will agree (more or less) on the various aspects of the God and Goddess.

The Green Man
The Horned God
(here Cernunnos)
We usually say that the Goddess has three aspects: the Maiden, Mother and the Crone. This can be directly compared to the phases every girl/woman has to go through, the phases of the moon and so on. The symbol of the Triple Goddess is the depiction of the conjoined three moon phases (waning, full and waxing). Other symbols also include the spiral and the popular stylized female figure with emphasized breasts and hips (often depicted without legs), as you can see in the picture above of a pendant.

The God can be seen from two perspectives: the Horned God and the Green God/Man. The Horned God represents sexuality, masculinity, hunting, the wild and the cycle of life, while the Green Man is the wise, tranquil lord of the Sun. Another sub-division of the God is into the Oak King and Holly King. The Oak Kind rules from Yule (21. December) until Litha (21. June) while the latter rules from Litha to Yule. On the day of these two festivals, a mythological battle happens in which one of the two aspects has to prevail (you already know which one wins when). I can bring special attention to this myth in another post if you like :)

The Holly King
Eight festivals are recognized in Wicca out of which four are solar festivals and the other four fire festivals. The solar festivals are those which celebrate the equinoxes and solstices (Yule, Ostara, Litha, Mabon) and the fire festivals are those whose dates are set according to natural cycles, Celtic fire festivals and agricultural obligations (Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas i Samhain). 
Their order is as follows:

Yule (21.12.)
Imbolc (02.02.)
Ostara (21.03.)
Beltane (01.05.)
Litha (21.06.)
The Oak King
Lammas (01.08.)
Mabon (21.09.)
Samhain (31.10.)

I will say more about each festival as the year proceeds (have a look at the "Sabbaths" section). The next in line is Mabon, so I will write something about that in order to get you into the Autumn equinox mood and tell you a bit about the mythology and traditions of this holiday. 

Esbaths are also celebrated, along with the Sabbaths. Esbaths are nights of the full moon. This is the time to celebrate the Goddess' power and it is thought to be the peak of the moon's cycle and strength.

One of the things I like most about Pagans is their (or better said our) moral. Every person I have met up to now of these beliefs has had strong principles and enviable moral standards. I would connect this to two Wiccan principles: the Threefold law and the Wiccan Rede.

The Threefold law says that whatever you do will return to you threefold (three times). This is simplified as much as possible, but I think it is sufficient for now. Though, this isn't meant in a literal sense. This "rule" simply states that whatever you do will be returned to you but only magnified i.e. if you do something good, something even better will happen to you, but the same goes for bad deeds so be careful what you do or intend to do. This concept was introduced by Raymond Buckland, who brought Wicca to America and inherited this principle from his teacher Monique Wilson who also initiated him. 

This rule is also mentioned in the Wiccan Rede, which is actually a song by Doreen Valiente (yet another famous Witch, connected to Gerald Gardner like all the other aforementioned people). It is too long to be analyzed in this post, but I will dedicate the next one to it.

All the other things that I haven't mentioned aren't less important, but I think that the post is already too long so I'll leave something to talk about for other occasions. You can take this as a sort of introduction (or reminder for those of you that are already familiar with it all) into the world of Wicca and witchcraft, because it is in a way. Many books have been written about each of these subjects separately and hopefully you will read some of them so you don't just have to listen to boring old me :) 

The Wheel of the Year
So, dear readers, let us wrap this up. Until next time. Yours,
Witch's Cat

Blessed Be!

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