6.5.13

Wiccan Beliefs

In my second post entitled "What is Wicca?" I gave a brief overview of Wiccan beliefs but I didn't go into any detail. I will dedicate this post to a more quality and detailed listing and explaining of these (and some more) beliefs. I would like to note that this is a summary of general beliefs and that every individual is free to adapt these beliefs to their own needs and preferences. Therefore, when you ask a Witch what he/she believes in and notice a difference in what they say and what is written in this post, don't be surprised, but believe me, you will also find many similarities.

Some Wiccan views and practices are:
  • the belief in a Goddess and God (bitheism)
  • the celebrating of eight annual festivals (four Sun festivals and four fire festivals) and 12-13 moon phases (usually full moons) but some people celebrate even more often than this
  • the belief in reincarnation
  • the acceptance of karmic effects (an echo of which is the Threefold law and which is mentioned in the Wiccan Rede)
  • the showing of respect and thankfulness towards nature and celebrating it in all its aspects
  • the creation of one's own sacred space and "sacred texts"
  • the acceptance of the existence of higher energies and alternative realities
  • the belief in the control of energy and consciousness (magick)
  • the toleration of other belief systems and religions
  • the belief in freedom of mind and choice
If I have forgotten anything, by chance, please do remind me :) and I will add this to the list, but since I think I have mentioned everything of vital importance, I will go on to explain each item separately.

1. Bitheism


This concept indicates a belief in two Deities, in this case a Goddess and a God as the two main archetypes who symbolize fertility, natural balance, man-woman, masculinity-femininity, the Sun-the Moon, day-night, strength-tenderness and so on. In the eyes of Witches, they aren't entities to which we should bow but more like entities with which we can identify. The way in which they will be imagined or even called/named depends mainly on the individual. Some may simply call them God and Goddess, others the Horned God and Great Mother, while others may give them names from preexisting mythology (e.g. Cerridwen, Cernunnos, Diana, Pan, Isis, Osiris etc.). In the end, it isn't important how we see them or name them but how we experience them.

The Goddess aspect is quite important because of its being omitted so often in modern times due to the patriarchal construction of society. This could possibly be the reason for a sudden need for leveling out the male and female. 
Everything that is female and all feminine aspects are represented by the Goddess. Though men can also relate to her since every being has a male and female side to them (though in a different ratio). Witches often believe that a person is truly balanced only when they completely level out their male and female side so there really is no need to be embarrassed about your femininity/masculinity.

The Goddess is a symbol of every woman and just like every woman, she has three phases. She is first a Maiden - chaste, young, naive, inexperienced but also full of enthusiasm, optimism and the strength of life. Her symbol is the waning moon. In time, the Maiden blossoms into the Mother (according to the cycle which I will cover in more detail in the Sabbats section of this blog). In this period, she is caring, wise, experienced and at the peak of her physical strength which makes the full moon a very fitting symbol for her. Just like every being, she also grown old and matures into the Crone. Even though her physical strength may have left her, she is wiser than ever and full of the experiences life has to give. It is because of this waning strength that the Crone's symbol is the waning moon.

The Goddess and the God develop simultaneously. He is usually thought to have two phases (though some accept a third also). In the Autumn and Winter he is called the Horned God - a symbol of the wilderness (depicted by the stag antlers on his head), physical strength and masculinity. During the Spring and Summer, he is the Green God who symbolizes the green side of nature when everything is in bloom. We can easily connect these to phases to the food that is eaten during the corresponding seasons. People acknowledged the Horned God in Winter when they needed animal meat for proteins, their skin for clothes and bones for weapons while the Summer is warm and there is no need for such concern so people live off of greenery. According to another myth, the God is divided into two more aspects: the Holly King and the Oak King. The Holly King rules from December 21 (when he defeats the Oak King) until June 21 (when the Oak King takes over). The Oak King logically rules from June 21 to December 21. On the left side, you can see a depiction of the Green God and the above him the horned God Cernunnos. To the right are two pictures of the Oak King with his beard made of tree roots and the Holly King below.

I have already mentioned that every Witch can have different beliefs. Therefore, some may decide to only acknowledge the Goddess (there are traditions that do this too!), while others may be completely polytheistic or perhaps acknowledge only the God in his two aspects (or three if you decide to incorporate the Blue God as a baby into the whole story). Some may even decide to recognize the trinity of the God, Goddess and Child (though you will rarely come across these last to variations).

If I were to get into the philosophy of Deities, that would last a bit too long, though I think I gave a general insight into this topic.

2. Sabbats and Esbats

Both of these are names for celebrations. There are eight Sabbats in a year of which four celebrate the Sun (two equinoxes and two solstices), and the remaining four denote the changes of the earth (sowing, harvests etc.). Esbats are the celebrations of the full moon of which there are twelve to thirteen in a year. Some Witches may also celebrate the new moon which means that in their cases there are even more celebration per year.

These are the eight Sabbats:

Name Pronunciation Date Symbolism Traditions
Yule/
the Winter

solstice
/'ju:l/ December 21 Renewing and
rebirth during the
Winter
Lighting fires, Yule logs,
carrying flowers around
the circle
Imbolc /'imbolk/ February 2 Celebration of
light (encouraging
the Sun to show
itself once more)
Lighting candles in the
circle, wheel symbol on
the altar, blessing seeds
Ostara/
the 
Spring 
equinox
/os'ta:rah/ March 21 The beginning of
Spring
Lighting a fire during the
ritual
Beltaine /'beltein/ May 1 Return of fertility
(peak of the year)
The Maybole, blowing
horns, jumping over the
fire
Litha/
Midsummer/
the Summer

solstice
/'liθa/
June 21 The climax of
magickal energy
and the Sun's
strength
A cauldron with flowers
(and a sword) in the
circle, jumping over fire,
drying herbs
Lammas/
Lughnasadh
/la'ma:s/
/lu'nasah/
August 1 The first harvest,
being thankful
Eating bread, getting rid
of negative things, making
corn dolls
Mabon/
the Autumn

equinox
/'meibon/ September 21 The second
harvest, mysteries
Glorification of fruit (the
love of the God and
Goddess), throwing leaves
Samhain /'soʊen/ October 31 End of the
Summers,
showing respect
to the deceased
Divination (in smoke, fire,
a mirror), leaving food
after the ritual for spirits,
carving pumpkins

Name Symbols and Colors Phase of the God Phase of the Goddess
Yule red, green, cauldron, yule log,
small tree in a pot
Is born/reincarnated
(the Holly King)
Gives birth to the God
(the Maiden)
Imbolc white, silver, green, blue, a bowl
of snow, greenery, flowers
Growing up
(the Blue God)
(the Holly King)
the Maiden
Ostara white, green, pink, purple, plants
in pots, fires, the cauldron

Growing up
(the Green God)
(the Holly King)
the Maiden
Beltaine white, flowery colors, flowers,
cauldrons filled with flowers, 
mirrors
Marries the Goddess
(the Holly King)
Is impregnated
(the Mother)
Litha white, golden, orange, mirrors
(for catching the light of the Sun

or candles)
Peak of power
(the Horned God)
(the Oak King)
the Mother
Lammas yellow, orange, green, corn 
dollies, special breads
Declining strength
(the Oak King)
the Mother
Mabon brown, golden, orange, pine
cones, corn, dry leaves
Withering
(the Oak King)
the Crone
Samhain red, black, orange, white,
apples, pumpkins
Dies
(the Oak King)
Mourns for the God
(the Crone)

The ones in yellow are the Sun festivals (the equinoxes and solstices) and the ones in green are the festivals related to the earth (often called the fire festivals because of their Celtic origins and fire-related traditions).

All of these eight Sabbats make the Wheel of the Year because the year turns just as a wheel does.


I don't plan to go into greater detail in this post about the Sabbats because I think that this is sufficient for you to understand how these festivals mirror the natural cycles as well as the cycles of life which are reflected back onto the myths regarding the Goddess and God. I will dedicate at least one post to each Sabbat as the year proceeds and you will be able to find them in the Sabbats section of this blog. There, you will be able to find more correspondences (I will add more information to the above table for each Sabbat) and in addition to this, I will talk a bit about games and traditions which are characteristic of that particular festival as well as the Sabbat's history. 

Esbats are celebrations of the Goddess' power since the Moon itself is a symbol of her power. Though I will talk more about the appropriate ways of celebrating the Sabbats and Esbats in later posts after I cover a bit more theoretical ground ;)


3. Reincarnation

The word itself means "being born again" and comes from the Latin word incarnare (to be born, be made out of meat) which gains a new meaning by adding the prefix re- which indicates a repeated action.

Now this isn't a new concept. Actually, it was well-known in India and Greece around the 6th century BC (and it is thought that it could have been known even earlier than this). This was probably quite a popular concept among the Celts in the 1st century BC as well as some Christian groups such as the Bogomils and the Cathars (11th and 12th century). You are probably familiar with the appearance of the reincarnation theme in Norse and Egyptian mythology. This idea managed to survive all the way up to the 20th century when the German philosophers like Schopenhauer or Nietzsche started discussing about it.

Of course, this notion is more popular in the East than the West. It is, in fact, on the the essential beliefs in Hinduism since it is thought that a person can be reincarnated for one of several reasons: to deal with unfinished business, to learn something new that is necessary for the growth of the soul, to balance out karma (what goes around, comes back around!), to reach a certain goal etc. This belief is also present in Buddhism, but you probably knew that already :)

But not to blab on too much, how does this belief fit into Wicca?

When we look at the phases of the Goddess and the God, we can notice that everything is cyclical and that the God is, in accordance to this, always reborn and the Goddess rejuvenated because every year once again returns to its beginning. I said in the beginning of the post that Witches try to identify themselves with these Deities...and this also applies to reincarnation.

This cyclical motion can be seen in the turn of the Wheel of the Year also (the passing of the seasons), the Earth's rotation, the death and birth of every living being and, of course, in the Sun-Moon cycle which represents the Goddess and God themselves.

The second reason why reincarnation can easily fit into Wiccan beliefs is because Witches believe in the flow of energy. When we die, our physical bodies return to the earth but we believe that the soul continues to live in another, to us unfamiliar, reality awaiting its reincarnation for the above mentioned reasons. Our souls, our energy, in this way circulates from life to life.

In order for you to get a better understanding of this flow or energy, I will deal with it more in subtitles seven and eight.

4. Karma, the Threefold Law and the Wiccan Rede

All of these three talk mainly about the same thing. I won't even talk about the Wiccan Rede since I talked about it in one of my previous posts in detail. I would like to elaborate on the concepts of Karma and the Threefold Law in Wicca. Both actually send out the same message: everything you do will come back to you.

The word karma itself comes from Sanskrit and means action or deed. It is an essential part of Indian philosophy which says that every action has its consequences. Therefore, everything you do will come back to you, be it good or bad.

The Threefold Law is basically the same thing as Karma. It is also mentioned in the Wiccan Rede (which is why I put it under this heading):

Mind the Three-fold Laws you should, three times bad and three times good.

Even though it is called a law, it really isn't one in the literal sense. Wicca doesn't have sacred scriptures or any sort of Bible; every individual makes their own rules based on their moral. This "rule" is actually a suggestion which tells us to be careful what we do because everything can (and will) return to us. It is called "threefold" because it states that everything will return to us three times the amount we sent it off. Again, this isn't literal. Karma doesn't measure what we do so it can't give us back three kisses if we kiss someone once. This is put symbolically so that the reader will understand more easily that they will get back what they give, but in a larger scale.

5. Celebrating Nature

Wicca (the Witches' religion) is a Nature religion, which means that, apart from it being oriented towards the natural cycles, it also worships and respects nature. Out moral should be enough to tell us that it is wrong to harm any other living being and this is nicely put in the Wiccan Rede whose shortened version goes like this:

These Eight words the Rede fulfill:
"An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will."

The "none" in the second line doesn't imply only other people but also yourselves, which is quite often forgotten. Also, it includes animals and plants, not only people (so basically all living things). Nature is worshiped and celebrated because it is the one thing than enables us to live! The Sabbats are there for us to be show gratitude for what we have, among other things for the food and drink that we have (which are coincidentally an important part of every ritual).

Because of this, you may often come across Witches that are vegetarian or even vegan because they think that they harm animals by eating them. An ecological viewpoint also goes hand in hand with Wicca because there would be no life without the Earth (among other things).

6. The Book of Shadows and the Sacred Circle

Wicca isn't an organized religion and, in contrast to the many organized religions out there, doesn't have that one leader, common sacred spaces or sacred scriptures. 

Witches work in smaller groups called covens (ideally made up of thirteen members but this may vary) or in less formal groups called circles. Each coven has its own leaders called the High Priest and High Priestess who lead every celebration (though this may also vary from tradition to tradition, but lets take this as the starting point). The difference between a coven and a circle is that covens have stricter rules regarding ritual performance. In order for a coven to be a coven, it has to have a HP (Priest) and/or HPs (Priestess) while circles can consist of non-initiates also where celebrations are lead by basically anyone who is willing (of course, within the circle and in agreement with the other circle members).

There is no specific church or temple in which Witches gather. Their (or our) sacred space is nature! This is precisely why it is always better if the Sabbats (or any other rituals) are done outdoors (since this enables a better connection to the outside world and forces of nature). The only addition that makes and space sacred is the circle which is cast by the members before every ritual. The casting of the circle (i.e. erecting the temple, the official name for the beginning of every ritual which includes defining the sacred space and cleansing it) is done in various ways for which it is a bit too early to talk about just now. When I write a post on the appropriate ritual from, then I will address this in detail. For now, it's enough to know that a space is sacred in Wicca when it is cleansed and consecrated and every person has the ability and power to make this happen.

Like I said, there are not sacred documents, although some Witches will agree that some poems and rituals are used more often than others and have become sort of a canon, but that is simply because the poems are perfectly harmonious and appropriate (and in addition to this, they were often written by the founders of this religion) and ritual processes strong. Despite this, it is always recommended that each coven/circle/individual writes their own rituals and spells because it is thought that each act/object gains strength with the amount of time and energy that is put into it. It will also be more effective and also more intimate and have a higher meaning to the practitioner(s). This is why no sacred book can be compiled (not even several of them). This is why every individual has their own "sacred book" called the Book of Shadows where all of the secrets of the Craft are kept as well as a collection of the knowledge that person has gained through the years. This, of course, doesn't have to be a secret, but most people prefer to keep it that way since they write private rituals, divination results, dreams (and their analyses) in there. All of these are of a private nature.

Of course, working in a group isn't obligatory. There is a number of Witches that work alone because they prefer this or they don't have other options because there are no other practitioners near them etc. I have been working alone since I began practicing Wicca and I think I haven't done anything wrong by doing so. But this is a large topic that I'll cover in a separate post.

7. Other Energies and Realities

Witches believe that other energies and realities do exist but that they are manifested in different forms. Though not all Witches will agree on this. What I'm referring to here is the belief that our world isn't the only world that exists and that there are other worlds parallel to ours. This can be a metaphor but doesn't have to be. I will leave this for you do research and discover for yourselves.

Even though some worlds cannot be seen with the naked eye, we still believe that they exist. We don't see air, yet we know it exists because we breathe it. We believe in the existence of emotions, the subconscious and energy even though we cannot see them. This is why Witches often believe in Faeries and other beings that are believed to come from these other realities but also in the visibility of the aura, the functionality of holistic healing and the possibility of astral travel. This, again, doesn't have to be true for each individual. I repeat that this is a generalization and I apologize to those of you who do not fit into the one of the aforementioned groups.

Since I already mentioned the belief in energy, I might as well add more to this with this next section.

8. Magick

Magick is, despite what you might think, quite a simple concept which is a bit harder to grasp. It has been define over and over again as the ability to control energy and consciousness. This is paraphrased, of course. Some of the definitions include:

Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.
~Aleister Crowley

Magic is the projection of natural energies to produce needed effects.
~Scott Cunningham

We do not affect fate by our magical operations, we affect ourselves; we reinforce those aspects of our nature which are in sympathy with the powers we invoke.
~Dion Fortune

Magic is making something happen that you want to happen.
~Raymond Buckland

Magic is the act of using your will to cause change, by focusing and directing your psychic energy.
~Jennifer Hunter 

These are only some of the definitions that exist, but you can see how alike they all are. I think there's no need to talk any more about what I mean at the beginning of this post what I said "the belief in the control of energy and consciousness". 

It's worth stating that magick isn't a game. It can have serious consequences and one must have a strong character and moral in order to not go down the wrong path or get lost on the way. There is no "one" wrong path; it is different for every one of us. Then again, whole books have been written on this subject, so I'll just dedicate a separate post on the topic of magick and moral soon enough.

9. Wicca's Attitude Towards Other Religions

Maybe it was precisely the persecutions and other atrocities that Witches had to go through in history that made them so tolerant today, open and sociable. And truly, I have yet to come across a Witch that has hatred or any other negative emotions towards other religions or their followers.

We believe that everyone has a right to their own beliefs and tastes. A hundred people, a hundred paths, right? Everyone is different and we can't expect everyone to agree with all of our thoughts nor can we agree on everything with everyone else. Though what often surprises other people is the way in which Witches approach other beliefs. There is always a positive reaction along the lines of: "Great! I respect your beliefs, but you also have to respect mine.". I think that this couldn't be any clearer :)

This is why you will never see a Witch recruiting anyone or forcing them to follow "the right path". Firstly, we believe that Wicca isn't the only right path. The "right path" is different for every individual...their own personal right path which fits your needs and beliefs. By persuading or using any form of manipulation, we can only cause harm to others and if you remember the only rule of Wicca, it states: HARM NONE! We also believe that any religion that doesn't cause harm in any way to others is great! :D

10. Free will

In accordance to everything that I mentioned earlier, we think that every person as the right to their own free will and freedom of choice. We do not force our beliefs on anyone else.

If everyone were to live in mutual respect  love and peace and tolerate others (if not love or like them), the world would be a much better place. But hey...dare to dream!

Anyway, I think I have a good "summary" of Wiccan beliefs for now :)

Until next time. Yours,
Witch's Cat

Blessed Be! :D



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