In the media, and just in common belief, Wicca has a bad rap. It’s often seen as black magic. Some even believe that Wicca is actually a form of Satanism. However, neither of these things could be farther from the truth. Contrary to what many believe, Wicca was first created by Gerald Gardner, and was introduced to the public in 1954. Wicca contains aspects of many ancient European traditions, but no ancient society actually had any Wiccans, or even a religion that was remotely like Wicca. Wicca is a consolidated from of many ancient and modern beliefs, but is not from any one culture. In addition, Wicca has nothing to do with Satanism. They do not worship Satan, they do not summon demons. In fact, most Wiccans don’t even believe in Satan or a Satan equivalent. In fact, their religion is based on the cycles of nature. In addition, witches and Wiccans are not the same thing. Most Wiccans practice spells and witchcraft, and so are witches. However, there can be Christian witches, Jewish witches, Muslim witches, witches of any religion. Witchcraft is just that: a craft. It’s not a religion in and of itself.
The Wiccan Rede states that, “An it harm none, do what ye will”. This phrase sometimes has a different wording, but all of them mean the same thing: if it doesn’t hurt anyone, then you can do what you want. Wiccans also have a very strict code which is similar to an idea of karma. Essentially, Wiccans have the Rule of Three (also called the Threefold Law or the Law of Return), which means that anything that they do comes back to them. How much it comes back to them depends on someone’s personal beliefs. Some believe that whatever you do comes back three times as strong, for better or for worse, depending on your actions. Others believe it comes back “three by three by three”. Wiccans believe that if someone does something bad, it comes back to bite them; that if they do something good, then the kindness will eventually come back to them. For this reason, Wiccans generally do not believe in cursing and very against it. However, other Neopagan religions or witches do believe in cursing, as they are not Wiccan and do not hold themselves to the Wiccan Rede or the Rule of Three. With most pagans that I know, they never really do things like wish death upon someone or try to curse them with disease. Instead, they do things like wish an itch upon someone that they can’t scratch, or that it start to rain on someone at an inconvenient time. Most Wiccans and Neopagans think it best to ask permission before using magic for someone. They believe that if you don’t ask permission when you’re just trying to help, then the other person’s energy will battle yours and just inadvertently make things worse.
Wiccans tend to believe in a god and a goddess. However, nothing is quite universal given that there are many sects, or traditions, of Wicca. The goddess is the true primary deity. I have most commonly seen her referred to as the Goddess or Gaia. I’ve most commonly seen the god called the Horned God or Cernunnos. Gaia was a female Roman titan of the Earth and nature. Cernunnos was an antlered Celtic god of some variety. Many scholars believe that Cernunnos was probably associated with hunting and wildlife, but there isn’t enough evidence for them to be sure. Wiccans define their years and holidays by the lifecycle of nature, recognizing it symbolically with the lifecycle of their deities.
Wiccans also use the pentacle (also known as a pentagram) as one of their major symbols, as do many Neopagans. However, this symbol in no way represents Satan in these religions. In fact, it actually represents the five elements that many Neopagans use in their worship: earth, water, air, fire, and spirit. Earth is often represented by the cardinal direction of North, the color green, and is associated with the winter. Wiccans and other Neopagans often keep altars in their homes, and will use stones, crystals, and a mortar and pestle, among other things, to represent earth on their altars. Water is represented by the cardinal direction of East, the color blue, and is associated with the autumn. It’s often represented with seashells and starfish on altars, and the religious tool often associated with it is the chalice, which is a goblet or cup. Air is associated with the cardinal direction of West, the color yellow, and the season of spring, and is often represented on an altar with feathers. The religious tool associated with it changes depending on who is asked, and can be a wand or an athame, which is a ceremonial knife or dagger. The element of fire is associated with the South, the color red, and the season of Summer, and is often shown on an altar with candles. The religious tool associated with it is either the wand or athame, depending on who is asked. The wand and athame can each represent fire or air, and both are often used on altars. Lastly, the element of spirit is not associated with a direction, color, or season, as spirit lies within all living things. And so spirit is usually represented by a mirror on an altar, or by a representation of the deity or deities that the individual worships.
Wicca and Neopaganism often tend to actually focus on a goddess instead of a god, with some religions focusing on the Triple Goddess. Essentially, those that believe in the Triple Goddess believe that their goddess has three forms: the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. Each of these are the same goddess, but different aspects of her. In their simplest forms, the Maiden is innocence and youth, the Mother is nurturing and maternal love, and the Crone is wisdom and experience. The Triple Goddess is similar to the Christian idea of the Holy Trinity, except with the Maiden, Mother, and Crone instead of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. However, ideas of triple goddesses are actually older than Christianity. Because of this, Wicca and many other Neopagan religions tend to have quite a few women as members, as these religions highlight the importance of women.
In addition, some Wiccans and other Neopagans practice their religion in covens, others prefer to practice alone. Some perform their religious rituals and spells skyclad (naked). Some prefer not to do this. All of these religions are very “customizable”, so to speak. If something in the religion doesn’t really sit well with you, like you would prefer a different deity to represent something, then you’re free to use that deity. Mostly, according to practitioners, the religions and the magic associated with many of them require belief to actually function. And if you can’t really see a certain goddess as the Goddess, then you won’t really be able to believe in the rituals and spells that you’re performing.
If you’d like to find out more about the history of Wicca, please check my Neopagan co-author’s lovely post on the subject: