Caldwell Co. Wicca Study Group

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is witchcraft real?

A. Yes it is very real. However, it is not what you see in the movies or on television. 


Q. How do I know if I am a witch?

A. No one is born a witch. You may be born with some psychic ability or predisposition to studying and learning witchcraft, but no one is “born” a witch anymore than they are born a mathematician. You become a witch only with a lot of study and work. Most people who ask this question believe they have some sort of psychic ability or sensitivity. This is great and helpful, but should not be confused with witchcraft itself. You will also find that some traditional witches or Wiccans will not recognize you as a witch unless you have been initiated by another witch since this is the traditional way. This is a specific use of the word “witch” and is no more or less correct than other usages of the word. Many people have worked on their own and done a “self-dedication” ritual and declared themselves a witch. Either way, much study is required before you reach this point.


Q. Is anyone a natural witch?

A. See the answer to the question above.


Q. What is a hereditary witch?

A. “Hereditary” witch does not mean literally that the witchcraft has been inherited as your eye color, or nose shape is. People who use this term generally mean they are part of a family which has handed down a tradition of witchcraft from one generation to another. Even in such families the craft must be studied and learned. It does not come automatically. This is also known as a “family tradition” of witchcraft.


Q. My great, great, great, great, great, great, grandma was one of the Salem witches. Doesn't that make me a hereditary witch?

A. There were no witches in Salem during the Salem “witch trials”. The poor folks condemned and put to death for “witchcraft” were Puritans who were the victims of superstition and hysteria.


Q. What do you get out of being a witch?

A. Wicca is a religion. What you get out of it is relationship with the gods, goddesses and elements, and the knowledge that comes with studying them and all of nature. If you are looking only for “magic” and “power” you are focusing on the wrong things for becoming a witch or Wiccan. While you can come to understand magic after studying the religion, you must focus on increasing knowledge - not power.


Q. Can I be a Christian and a Wiccan?

A. No. Christianity is a religion which specifically forbids the practice of witchcraft, divination and the worship of any gods other than the Christian god. Wicca itself is a religion in which the ancient, pre-Christian gods and goddesses of paganism are acknowledged and/or worshiped. Sure you can be a Christian and use tarot cards, do spells and rituals and call yourself a witch if you want, but you can not be two religions at once (and have anyone take you seriously).


Q. What do you mean by, “Wicca is a religion”?

A. Many people become interested in Wicca because they think it is all about doing spells. It is much, much more than that. The framework of Wicca gives its followers an outline of how to live their entire lives. It includes worship or honoring of gods and goddesses in regularly scheduled ceremonies. It provides suggestions on how to cook and serve meals, how to raise and educate children, how to celebrate births, marriages, deaths and other rites of passage. It offers ideas to explore on what happens after death and between lifetimes. It helps a follower to understand how to handles the difficult moments in life as well as how to better enjoy the good moments. Wicca is much, much more than “magic”. In fact many experienced Wiccans will tell you that magic is only a very small part of their religion.


Q. Is Wicca a real religion?

A. Yes. While many people of other religions do not respect or recognize Wicca as a religion, there are many Wiccan churches, study groups, and other organizations in addition to the many small, private groups and individuals who practice Wicca alone. The United States military recognizes Wicca as a religion and has chosen to include Wicca in its Handbook for Chaplains.


Q. How do I become a witch?

A. Assuming that it is Wicca in which you are interested, you can begin by reading this entire website - a suggested study syllabus is found on the “Solitary Study” page. Also be sure to read the “Living Magically” page and immediately begin using the “Self Blessing” and “Food Blessing” suggestions which you will find there. It will also be helpful to read the information on the “Spells” page. There are no short cuts. Learning the craft takes a lot of time, dedication and hard work.


Q. Sometimes I know things are going to happen before they happen...does this mean I'm a witch?

A. While psychic abilities may be interesting and helpful they do not mean you are a witch. Many people who are not witches have these abilities, and not all witches do.


Q. How can I join a coven?

A. First ask yourself why you want to join a coven. Not everyone who is Wiccan belongs to a coven. Joining a coven should not be the first thing you focus on when you begin to study Wicca. The important thing is to know enough about Wicca to be able to evaluate whether a group or coven you are thinking about joining is right for you. If you would like to talk to coven leaders you can ask at a metaphysical book store if there are any in your area, or check on The Witches Voice. If you talk to a coven leader be sure to ask plenty of questions. They should either be able to answer you immediately or have a logical explanation of why your question can not be answered. Expect them to ask you a lot of questions as well. If you are told that you are not right for the coven do not take it as a personal insult. Many covens work like families and all members must have compatible personalities. It is not merely a matter of how much you know or what your learning potential is. See our page on “Finding the right teacher or coven” for further information.


Q. What is initiation? Can I initiate myself?

A. Initiation is a ceremony or rite in which a seeker is brought into a group (coven, fraternity, sorority, etc.) by experienced members of the group (who, themselves had been initiated by other experienced members). So, no, it is not possible to initiate yourself. You may hear people use the term “Self Initiation” when what they probably mean is “Self Dedication” - a ceremony in which they introduced themselves to the gods and goddesses and declared themselves to be Wiccan. For further information please see our page on “Self Dedication and Initiation”.


Q. Doesn't a witch have to teach what they know if someone asks? Aren't they oathbound to teach anyone seeking it?

A. I do not know where this rumour started, but no that is not true. Quite the opposite. If a witch or Wiccan is oathbound at all in regard to teaching, it is to NOT teach anyone they do not feel fully qualified to handle the information properly. If anyone knows the book where this rumor appears please drop us a line and let us know.


Q. Do I have to believe in magic for it to work?

A. Yes. Using magic is not like baking a cake. It doesn't matter if you believe a cake recipe will work or not. If you follow the recipe you will get a cake. If you don't believe whole-heartedly that magic works it won't. Please read our page on Spells for further information.


Q. What can witches do?

A. Witches can do anything that any ordinary person does, but they also pay very close attention to the world around them. Witches know that the more they pay attention to everything, the more they will learn. Witches are not supernatural beings, the are just natural beings who try to understand all that is possible within the laws of nature.


Q. Is Wicca just for women? It seems to be so Goddess oriented.

A. No. Wicca is for men and women. Just as the gods and goddesses are of equal importance to us, so are we to Them. While there are some forms of Wicca that may focus more on one or the other, and some covens which have only men or only women, most Wiccan traditions and practice involves achieving a balance in male/female energy.


Q. I have seen websites and ads which say they teach Wicca and magic for a fee. Is this a good way to learn?

A. While it is acceptable for a Wiccan who is teaching classes in person to accept a donation which covers the cost of classroom rental and study material no ethical, traditionally trained and initiated Wiccan charges for the teaching itself. Traditional Wicca and magic are never taught for money or through correspondence courses. One-on-one training is essential. If you see offers for teaching or initiation which does not require you to meet with the instructors in person be highly skeptical.


Q. How long does it take to become a witch?

A. How long is a piece of string? The answer will depend on whether you are working with a coven or by yourself. A coven generally has a set time frame and/or number of assignments which must be completed before a dedication or initiation ceremony will take place. If you are working alone you might want to chose a step-by-step book to work from such as, “Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner” by Scott Cunningham. However you begin your studies you can expect learning the craft to be a life-long pursuit. We never learn all there is to know.


Q. Do I have to be experienced in Wicca before I cast spells?

A. Yes. Wicca does not begin with the casting of spells. It is important to know where the power to do magic comes from, and how to control it and use it safely before attempting to do magic. Read our page on “spells” for a further explanation.


Q. I found a website where they offer to cast Wicca spells, for money, and they are guaranteed for a whole year or your money back! Is this for real?

A. Its really a website, and they will really take your money. However, the ethical rules of Wicca do not allow “selling” of spells or magic. Anyone stupid enough to fall for this scam deserves to lose their money.


Q. How old do you have to be to be a witch?

A. Most teachers of Wicca will not take students under the age of 18. They may make exceptions for children of their adult students. There is no age limit on study however, but we never recommend anyone pursue study of Wicca or anything else without their parent's knowledge and approval.


Q. Do I have to be public about my beliefs in order to practice them?

A. No. Gerald Gardner brought witchcraft and Wicca to the attention of the public and helped create an atmosphere in which many people have found it safe to publicly practice Wicca. However, this does not mean that you, in your own particular circumstances, can or should tell anyone or everyone about your new-found religion. Please read our page on “Public Awareness in Wicca”.


Q. Where can I get witch stuff?

A. A better way of wording that question would have been, “Where can I buy the books and supplies I need for studying Wicca?” You can look for metaphysical book stores under “Books” in your telephone directory or shop online. A couple of the on-line stores we recommend are: Azure Green for all types of books and supplies, and White Light Pentacles which does not have books but a very nice line of jewelry and other decorative items. Both stores have catalogs which they can mail to you.


Q. How do I find my magical name?

A. You do not need a new name to begin studying and practicing Wicca, but many people find it helpful and enjoyable.Your magical or craft name should be something which describes you or inspires you to become a better person. If you are interested in herbs you might consider choosing the name of a healing herb. You could choose the name of an animal, or any combination of words or names. Many people choose names from their favorite books of mythology or fantasy. What you should not choose is the name of any of the major god or goddess. This is considered to be in bad taste.


Q. Isn't a male witch called a warlock?

A. No. “Warlock” is a word most likely Norse in origin and means either “traitor” or “spirit binding song” depending on which Norse word it may actually have come from. (There is some disagreement on this) Either way it has never meant “male witch”. Witches are witches, male or female.


Q. What's the difference between “white magic” and “black magic”?

A. Magic doesn't really come in “colors”. These are really rather outdated terms not used by Wiccans. But what people usually mean when they say “white magic” is magic which is used to help yourself and others, and what they mean by “black magic” is magic that is used to manipulate, control or harm others. Rather than think of magic in terms of good or bad, think of magic as a tool - a tool which can be used to help or harm, but remember that Wiccans may only use magic to help - otherwise they lose the privilege of calling themselves Wiccan.


Q. Where can I find a love spell?

A. Wiccans do not (or should not) do manipulative magic. Most people who ask about love spells want to do a spell to make a particular person love them. That is manipulative. Every person who has ever done such a spell has regretted it. The only safe “love spell” is one which helps make you a more lovable person and perhaps brings you in contact with someone who is right for you and for whom you are also right. And before you think about doing any spells read this page.


Q. Is there a spell for changing the color of my eyes and hair? How about a spell to make a pencil float? How can I levitate myself?

A. If you even have to ask those questions you have been watching too many movie and television versions of “witchcraft”. Hollywood needs flashy tricks to sell movies. Do not confuse anything you see in the movies with the reality of witchcraft or Wicca.


Q. Somebody put a spell on me! What do I do?!?!

A. Ignore it and relax. People can worry themselves sick over so-called spells cast by so-called witches. The chance of a real witch actually putting a spell on you is less likely than your chance of winning the lottery.


Q. Do Ouija boards really work?

A. Ouija boards are games manufactured by Milton Bradley. They are not intended for use as a divination tool. The only purpose they serve is to give kids a tool for scaring each other. No serious Wiccan uses one.


Q. How do I invoke The Spirit?

A. You saw “The Craft”, didn't you? That question actually makes no sense. What “spirit” are you talking about? Are you talking about the spirit of a god or goddess? The spirit of a deceased person? The spirit of an animal? There is no “The Spirit”, and the pagan gods aren't usually referred to as spirits anyway, but as gods.


Q. What is invocation?

A. Invocation is a very mis-used word in Wicca. Invocation, in witchcraft, means inviting a god or goddess to enter your body (inviting them in)and speak and act through you. It is something that is generally done only by very experienced Wiccans and witches. It is not recommended for beginners and not recommended as something you would do alone. What is done more often is to invite the god or goddess into your circle or into your presence, which is “evocation” or calling forth of a god or goddess or elemental.


Q. Do I really need four corners for a spell to work?

A. Again, you've been watching “The Craft” haven't you? A circle has no corners. Try and find one. Squares have corners. Circles don't. However, a circle can be divided into four quarters, and the word “quarter” is used to designate where Air, Fire, Water and Earth appear in a circle. And to answer the question which you are trying to ask: No. There are many Wiccans who always work alone and are have no difficulty at all accomplishing what they need to do.


Q. Do spells really work?

A. Does a toothbrush really work? If you can understand the analogy you will have your answer. See the “Spells” page for further information.


Q. How can I meet other Wiccans?

A. Your first step can be to look for a metaphysical book store in your area. It will be listed under “Books” in the yellow pages of your telephone directory. Look for a store with a name that sounds right and sells things such as incense, crystals and tarot cards. Some such stores will cater to new agers more than Wiccans but it is still a place to start. Metaphysical book stores may be run by Wiccans and may offer classes in Wicca and/or open Circles which you can attend. They may also have information on pagan gatherings which are another great way to meet like-minded people. A great website which provides listings of stores, groups and individual pagans is “The Witches Voice”.


Q. Where can I find a Book of Shadows?

A. If you become part of a Wiccan tradition which has a Book of Shadows you will eventually be told how to make a book of shadows. If you are working on your own you will still be constructing your own book. You can buy a blank book in an office supply store of book store, or make your own book from scratch. You can find instructions on how to make books in the library. What you put in the book of shadows is up to you. Some people use it as a journal and keep track of every bit of their progress in the craft. Others just put all the rituals and spells they do in there. Some write in their native language, and others write in runes. You can illustrate it with drawings you make of your altar, the gods, herbs, or anything else you like.


Q. How do I increase my powers?

A. First of all “increasing power” isn't a goal in Wicca. What you want to be increasing is your knowledge. We are surrounded by energy. Get to know the Elements (Air, Fire, Water, Earth) and understand how their energy works, and read everything you can on the subjects of Wicca and the mythology of the gods which most interest you. See our page on “Living Magically”.


Q. What can the gods do for me?

A. First, you ask the gods what you can do for Them. The gods are not there to serve us, but to teach us. Get to know them. Develop a relationship and They will let you know what is possible.


Q. How do I decide which god and goddess is right for me?

A. Since there are thousands of pagan gods and goddesses finding the ones that you feel most comfortable with can take some time. Some of the easier ones to get to know are the Earth, Moon and Sun which are known by many different names in different cultures. Further suggestions for getting to know the gods can be found in “Introduction to the Gods” and in “Meeting the Gods” in Class 7 of our Introduction to Wicca lessons.


Q. Do witches really fly on brooms?

A. Of course not. A better question might be, “Where did the idea of witches flying on brooms come from?” One possibility is that it comes from ancient fertility rites being observed where farmers would straddle a pole or broom handle and jump around in their fields after planting. The idea was the higher you jumped the higher the plants would grow. Another possibility is that it is pure fantasy. It is known that in the middle ages people were “taught” all sorts of nonsense regarding what witches could do and they actually came to believe these things to be true.


Q. Do you dance in the woods?

A. Are you asking me personally if I dance in the woods? Or are you asking do witches dance in the woods? I have included this question just as an example because a lot of people assume (incorrectly) that all witches or Wiccans do the same things and believe the same way, so they assume when they ask a question like this, and receive an answer that it applies to all witches. Personally, I don't do much dancing anywhere because I have a bad knee. But yes, some witches like dancing a lot and will dance anywhere including the woods. Be sure to word your questions correctly to receive the answers you need.


Q. I have been practicing Wicca for a year now, and my mom doesn't know yet should I tell her?

A. If you want to maintain or build a good relationship with your parents, keeping secrets is not the way to do it. We do not encourage anyone under 18 to study Wicca without consulting their parents. This is not because there is anything wrong or bad about Wicca. It is because it is never a good idea to keep from your parents something which is important to you. If your parents are dead set against you studying Wicca then put it off until you are 18. We have designed our “What is Wicca?” page to help explain Wicca to parents and friends.


Spells

Anyone who has been studying and/or living traditional witchcraft or Wicca will understand why we do not post spells on our website. For the rest of you who are probably a little annoyed at us right now, I will explain...

There is a lot to understand about the craft before you get to the point of doing spells. At the very least you need to develop a relationship with a goddess, a god and the elements. And by “develop a relationship” I don't mean just knowing their names...I mean really getting to know them, and letting them get to know you. You need to have a very good understanding of energy including where it comes from, what it is, and what it can do. You need to understand the consequences of each possible magical act. You need to know how to divine what those possible outcomes can be.

Before doing a spell you need to be very, very sure that you should be doing the spell at all. You need to be very sure that there is not some other more appropriate action that you could take.

Before you do a spell you need to know the purpose of each ingredient, word, and action in the spell. You need to know what the consequences of changing any part of the spell would be.

Sure you can find websites and books full of spells. You can try these spells and maybe they will have the desired results and maybe they won't. To attempt to do a spell without the fundamental knowledge of the gods and magic is not merely like trying to follow a recipe with no training in cooking (which can be bad enough). It could more closely be compared to performing surgery with no medical background - not something that any sane person would do.

An important thing to realize though is traditionally, witches do not ask strangers for spells. There is never any need to. When you do, you come off sounding at best a little naive, and at worst like a complete fool - especially those who insist that, “Of course all witches should help each other with any information they have.” Wrong. Traditionally witches understand the training that needs to come before spell working and they don't need that kind of help. And even more importantly, they are ethically obligated to notgive information out to anyone whom they do not know personally, and can not trust to use the information correctly. So, if you find someone offering to teach you magic or give you spells whom you do not know very well, in person, then you can be sure they have not been trained as witches and are not qualified to give the information they are offering. This is an all to frequent occurence in online “chat rooms” and e-mail discussions groups.

Traditionally, a witch trains from the ground up. First learning the history of the craft and of his or her chosen pantheon of gods, then going on to develop those relationships mentioned earlier, and going further to learn about all the possible steps and ingredients which could be included in a spell. By the time a witch understands all that needs to be understood about spells he or she can write spells for themselves. They don't need to ask.

I hope this clarifies our position. Thank you for reading this page.

Introduction to Wicca, Suggested Reading List and Syllabus

Introduction to Traditional Wicca

In an attempt to meet the increasing need for education in Wicca, CCWSG is proud to bring to the Internet some of the text portion of our “Introduction to Traditional Wicca” course, previously available only to local students. 

We are of the firm belief that most seekers of the basic knowledge of Wicca want and deserve quality basic-education which may not be available, in person, in their geographical area. Please understand that only a portion of traditional Wicca can be learned via printed material. The rest must be learned from a qualified Initiate in person. If you choose to work through the material on our website you might benefit from joining our forum discussions. After working through this class material and recommended books we suggest looking for a teacher or group in your area.  The answers to homework questions can be found in the material posted in the classes or in the recommended books. While we can not provide feed back on entire homework lessons do feel free to e-mail us if you have a specific question about the lessons or related topics.

Interest in Wicca is growing in leaps and bounds, partly due to recent movies and television programs popularizing witchcraft. Everyday we hear of yet another Coven which was started by a group of friends eager to be witches, but having no-where to turn for guidance. The younger generation of Wiccans are frequently unaware that experienced teachers do exist and are willing to help sincere seekers. The operative word here is “sincere”.

While opinions on what Wicca is and how it should be taught vary greatly, we base our opinions and methods on  years of study, research and practice, years of teaching, our interaction with other pagans in-person at pagan gatherings, years of on-line discussions, and the 17 years experience of our own teacher/High Priestess.

Those who base their Wicca practices solely on the information found in books, or the advice of self-taught friends, are only scratching the surface of what the Craft is about. Those who base their practices on movies or t.v. shows are even worse off. They tend to pick up catch-phrases which scream out to those of us with experience: “I'm a Hollywood witch and I haven't got a clue.”

It is not possible to do Initiations on-line or via correspondence. We are aware that there are teachers of the Craft who go through the motions of doing so, but such Initiations are not recognized as valid in traditional Wiccan circles. Nor do we believe it is ethical to teach spells or spell-crafting except in-person, and then that information is shared only with those whom the teacher knows well enough to trust with that information.

It is our desire to provide a course of study which goes deeper into Wiccan basics than most books, but we can not over-emphasize the benefits to be derived from one-on-one contact with an experienced and respected member of the Craft community . Never hesitate to ask a prospective teacher about his or her teachers and their teacher's teachers. Whether you want to work Solitary or in a Coven, learning about Wicca is simple: just pick up a book. However, getting a quality education in the Craft is neither easy nor quick. It can take years of dedicated study and practice, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Our approach to Wicca emphasizes ethics, developing a personal relationship with the Elements and Gods, enlightenment (getting to know yourself and where you fit in the grand scheme of things), and how to truly live (not merely do) the Craft.


 Recommended Required reading before beginning the course:

  • “The Heart of Wicca” by Ellen Cannon Reed

We reccomend that all students read at least one of the following books before beginning this course:

  • “Wicca for a Solitary Practitioner” by Scott Cunningham
  • A Witch Alone” by Marion Greene.
  • “The ABC's of Witchcraft” by Doreen Valiente
  • “Witch Among Us” by Lois Bourne.
  • “Hedge Witch” by Rae Beth.
  • The Principles of Wicca” by Vivianne Crowley
  • “To Ride a Silver Broomstick” by Silver Ravenwolf
  • “Buckland's Complete Guide to Witchcraft” by Raymond Buckland
  • “A Witches Bible Compleat” by Janet and Stewart Farrar.

Syllabus for “Introduction to Wicca” course

Class 1
What is Wicca? What is paganism? What is a witch? Wiccan Ethics • Misconceptions
  • Paganism, Wicca and other neo-pagan religions, and the history of Wicca.
  • Discussion on ethics, the Wiccan Rede and the Three-Fold Law.
  • Wiccan Spirituality.
  • Misconceptions: What Wicca is and what Wicca isn't.
Class 2
History; Views on deity; Mythology; Differences between traditions; Salutations
  • History of Wicca.
  • How Wiccans see the gods.
  • The importance of mythology.
  • How traditions differ
  • Wiccan greetings
Class 3
Wiccan Etiquette; Grounding and Centering; Meditation; Astral Projection
  • Wiccan Etiquette
  • Importance of grounding and centering
  • Meditation and Astral Projection
Class 4
Why do we do ritual? Honoring the Gods; Guided Meditation
  • Various reasons for rituals; why ritual is important.
  • How we honor the gods.
  • Guided meditation - building the astral temple.
Class 5
Tenets of Faith; Meeting the Gods; Wicca as a Way of Life
  • A guide to self improvement - Tenets of Faith.
  • Developing relationships with the gods.
  • Living Wicca.
Class 6
Correspondences; Symbology; Magical Objects
  • Elemental Correspondences.
  • Symbolism of actions and objects.
  • Amulets, Talismans, etc.
Class 7
Divination; Wheel of the Year; Sabbats; Esbats
  • The importance of Divination in the craft.
  • Wheel of the Year - The Pagan Calendar
  • Seasonal and lunar celebrations.
Class 8
Altar Tools; Steps of Ritual; Raising and Grounding Energy; Chants
  • The Altar tools of Wicca
  • Basic steps of Ritual
  • Raising and grounding energy
Class 9
Magic; Rites of Passage; Paths of Power
  • The ethics of magic.
  • Rites of passage - Celebrating Life
  • Paths of Power - A study guide.
Class 10
Review; Exam
Recommending reading for more Wicca basics:

Celebrating Life- Rites of Passage for All Ages, by Tzipora Klein
Drawing Down the Moon, by Margot Adler
West Country Wicca, by Rhiannon Ryall
The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Z. Bradley
The Tao of Pooh, by

Class 1

Traditional Wicca - Class 1What is Wicca? What is paganism? Wiccan Ethics • Misconceptions


Before beginning with Class 1 we recommend that you read the following pages first:

“What is Wicca?”

“Frequently Asked Questions”

“Spells”

1. Origin of word "Wicca":

The Oxford Unabridged Dictionary provides us with a variety of examples of early spellings and uses of the word "witch". Study of Old English shows us that consistency in spelling and word usage was slow in developing, and some variations of any given word may be found only once in old documents.
The word "witch" was spelled many ways including: wych, wice, wic, wyc, wyche, weyche, wich, wicca, wiccian, wytche, wysshyn, wycchyn, wycca, witche, wiech, weche, weach, vytche, vyche and weech.

Other words found using the root word of "wych" are:

"wicca" A wizard, soothsayer, sorcerer, magician
"wicce" A witch, sorceress
"wicce-craeft" Sorcery, magic art
"Wicce-dom" Witchcraft, sorcery, magic
"Wiccian" To practice witchcraft

The word wicca was originally pronounced "wich-a" and would have pertained to an action or a person performing and action (witch-er) rather than applying to a religion. Gerald Gardner chose the word "wicca" (and pronounced it wik-a) as the name for his newly created religion.

The Teutonic prefix of "wik-" means to bend, and is applied generally to various forms of trees which have pliable branches. These would include trees whose branches were used to bake bows such as the "Wych Elm". Other pliable trees include "Witch-wood" (Mountain Ash or rowan-tree), witch alder, and witch hazel. These are all so named because of the flexibility of their branches. As far as we are able to determine the people who came to be called "witches" were so named because of their use (or supposed use) of various pliable branches in their work. Use of a branch for "witching" water (a divining rod used for finding underground water sources), for example, pertains first to the use of a flexible branch for the process, and only later to the person using the branch.

2. Origin of the religion of Wicca:

Gerald Gardner is said to have studied with, and been initiated by witches who had been practicing in England for several generations. The actual truth and details of his background have been the subject of much speculation and are probably known only to those who personally studied with him. Gardner created what we know as "Wicca" by drawing rituals and traditions from many sources, and incorporating both folk magic and ceremonial magic.

In 1949 Gerald Gardner wrote a book entitled, "High Magic's Aid" which is a novel about a coven of witches, and in 1954 he published, "Witchcraft Today", which is a non-fiction book on the history and practice of witchcraft. He had suspected that his was the only coven in existence, but after his books came out he began receiving letters from other witches from all over the world. Today covens descended from Gardner's original coven can be found in many countries. All covens which we call "traditional Wicca" trace their lineage to Gerald Gardner. Most solitary practitioners of Wicca and eclectic Wiccan groups also (sometimes only loosely) base their practices on the religion designed by Gardner.

3. Meaning of paganism and neo-paganism:

The Latin: Paganus - is generally thought to mean "a country dweller, a peasant or countryman." The earliest use of the word referred to country people outside the city of Rome who refused to join the Roman army. It gradually came to mean anyone not keeping up with the beliefs and changes in the progressive city of Rome, and then eventually it was applied to anyone not of the most modern religions. Today most people define "pagan" as someone who is not Christian, Jewish or Muslim, and/or more specifically someone who follows a polytheistic religion such aboriginal Australians, the Kogi of South American, and many other indigenous, tribal peoples including many native American tribes.

We call modern Earth religions, such as Wicca, which borrow early polytheistic religions, "neo-pagan" to differentiate them from the pagan religions who's practices have changed little since pre-Judeo/ Christian times.

4. What traditional Wicca is:

The religion of Wicca has several components which most all be present for it to be traditional Wicca.

a. Spirituality:

Wicca is a way of life and a way of relating to the world around us. Wicca provides a way for each individual to find his or her best way of relating to deity. We acknowledge a force in nature which is around us and within us, but not above us or "in charge" of us. Wicca enables to see the beauty and the magic in everything we sense and do. Wicca is about developing relationships with the gods, goddesses and elements for a better understanding of how we can work with them to improve our lives and the lives of those around us.

b. Enlightenment:

Traditional Wicca is an initiatory mystery religion - based on the ideas found in the ancient mystery schools. Mysteries can not be taught, lectured about, written down or explained. The mysteries of life can only be understood through experience and revelation. We are on a constant quest for answers and explanations to questions such as: "Who are we?", "Why are we here?", "What is our place in the grand scheme of things?", "What does reincarnation mean to us?"
The purpose of a mystery school is to create an atmosphere which can enable the student to come to a certain understanding of the. There are no guarantees. The level of understanding a student achieves will depend on many factors not within the teacher's control.

Wiccans are not afraid to question anything and everything about the world around them, and best of all, we do not feel a need to find the "one and only true right answer". Answers lead to more questions, which leads to more meditation, and more enlightenment. We never stop learning. We believe that the greater our understanding of nature, the better able we are to work with the energies found there. Enlightenment is not a goal - it is an on-going process.

c. Magic:

We use the energies around us to strengthen the power within ourselves. We do not use this power for "power over" others, we use this power to help ourselves, the Earth, and others in positive, non-harmful ways. We believe that the ability to do magic is a gift from the gods which must not be abused. In return for this gift we must always do what we can to help and preserve Nature.

d. Responsibility:

Practicing Wicca means accepting responsibility for one's own choices and actions. Whether the action is a working of magic, teaching magic to a student, raising a child, driving a car or writing a book we muse be aware of the consequences of all that we do and always be thinking ahead. Traditional Wiccans do not look to blame others when things go wrong in the world around them. They look for the lessons in all things and apply what they learn to all that they do.

e. Lineage:

While Wicca can be practiced in a traditional manner without Lineage, it is the Lineage to Gardner that ensures that a tradition of Wicca is being taught and carried on by initiated witches who were initiated by witches who were initiated by witches…and so forth…directly back to Gardner himself, and thereby better assuring that at least some of original flavor and intent of Gardner's Wicca is present.

4. What is not Wicca:

Unfortunately as Wicca has become more and more popular the practice of it has moved further and further away from the original practices and beliefs of Gardner and his followers. Movies, television shows and the Internet have caused an enormous influx of young people who believe that becoming a witch or a Wiccan is a matter of just declaring yourself so.

Calling yourself a witch to shock friends and relatives is NOT the making of a good Wiccan. Dungeons and Dragons, UFO's, Ouija Boards, seances, hanging out in grave yards, and communing with the spirits of the dead are not what Wicca is about. We do invite our loved ones who have passed over to visit with us at Samhain, but ghost hunting and summoning spirits is not part of Wicca. Wiccans sometimes dabble in these things for fun, but they should not be interwoven in Wiccan rituals.
The Christian Bible and Jesus are NOT part of Wiccan theology. It is not possible to be both Christian and Wiccan at the same time. While Christians may dabble in witchcraft it is not possible to serve the gods of Christianity and the Old Gods at the same time.

Wicca is NOT a fantasy world where you can expect to escape from all your problems, nor is it a Twelve Step program for solving your problems. Sure, everyone has problems, and developing spirituality may help. It is not fair, however, to join a coven and make your problems the center of attention. Remember the personal responsibility aspect of Wicca.

Wicca is NOT about putting curses or hexes on people. Wicca is about helping, not harming. The Three-Fold-Law makes this very clear, and all Wiccans are harmed when someone claiming the title of, "Wiccan" goes around threatening others with their ability to do witchcraft.

5. Ethics:

Ethics consist of standards of conduct combined with moral judgment and moral philosophy. There is no one set of morals or ethics which can apply to all people at all times in history. Ethics are very much based on local and current standards. Traditional Wiccans are expected to have an above average level of common sense and therefore they should not need a long, detailed list of laws and rules, but there are certain customs which most traditional Wiccans hold to, on which we will elaborate in future lessons. Common sense is the strongest guide for human as well as Wiccan ethics. As an added guide in Wicca we have the Wiccan Rede and The Law of Threefold Return (also called the Three-Fold Law).

a. Three-fold law:

The Three-fold law reminds us to think before we act, and this means in all things we do and say, not only when we do deliberate magical acts.

Ever mind the Rule of Three
Three times what thou givest returns to thee
This lesson well, thou must learn,
Thee only gets what thou dost earn!

b. Wiccan Rede:

“An it harm none, do what ye will”

There are several long poems which are sometimes referred to as the Wiccan Rede, but the Rede itself is actually just those simple words above. The definition of “rede” is “advice” or “counsel”, and bids all Wiccans to: “Think before you speak and act.” The rede is simple, but at the same time can take years of study and meditation to understand fully.

A long version  can be found purported to be written by Dorren Valiente.

This poem, sometimes erroneously called the “Wiccan Rede”, was transmitted by Lady Gwen Thompson, founder of The New England Coven of Tradionalist Wicca, and first published in Green Egg Magazine Vol III #69, 1975. The author is said to be Lady Thompson's grandmother, Adriana Porter, written originally in 1910 (however, there is some skepticism surrounding its date and origin).

Rede of the Wiccae - Being known as the Counsel of the Wise Ones

1. Bide the Wiccan laws ye must in perfect love and perfect trust
2. Live and let live, fairly take and fairly give.
3. Cast the Circle thrice about to keep all evil spirits out
4. To bind the spell every time, let the spell be spake in rhyme.
5. Soft of eye an light of touch, speak little, listen much
6. Deosil go by the waxing moon, sing an dance the Wiccan Rune.
7. Widdershins go when Moon doth wane, An the werewolves howl by the dread wolfsbane.
8. When the Lady's moon is new, kiss the hand to her times two.
9. When the moon rides at her peak, then your heart's desire seek.
10. Heed the North wind's mighty gale, lock the door and trim the sail
11. When the wind comes from the South, love will kiss thee on the mouth.
12. When the wind blows from the East, expect the new and set the feast.
13. When the West wind blows o'er thee Departed spirits restless be.
14. Nine woods in the cauldron go, burn them fast and burn them slow.
15. Elder be ye Lady's tree, burn it not or cursed ye'll be.
16. When the wheel begins to turn, let the Beltane fires burn.
17. When the wheel hath turned a Yule, light the log and let Pan rule.
18. Heed ye flowers, bush an tree, by the Lady blessed be.
19. Where the rippling waters go, cast a stone and truth ye'll know.
20. When ye have need, harken not to others greed
21. With the fool no season spend, or be counted as his friend.
22. Merry meet and merry part, bright the cheeks and warm the heart.
23. Mind ye Threefold law ye should, three times bad an three times good.
24. When misfortune is enow, wear the blue star on thy brow.
25. True in love ever be, unless thy lover's false to thee.
26. Eight words the Wicca Rede fulfill, 'An it harm none, do what ye will.'

I do not know the author of this rede-related poem. If anyone knows please e-mail me so I can give proper attribution.

Bide the Wiccan Law Ye must
In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill
In it harm none, do what Ye will
What Ye sends forth comes back to thee
So ever mind the Rule of Three
Follow this with mind and heart
And Merry Ye Meet, and Merry Ye Part.

6. Misconceptions:

Most of the misconceptions about Wicca up until the 1990's stemmed from the stereotype of witches and witchcraft passed down for centuries through church teachings. We were, and still are accused by some of sacrificing animals and babies, worshiping Satan or the devil, putting hexes on people, and other ridiculous things.

There are also those who accuse Wiccans of being "phonies" because the are sure that Wiccans themselves believe they are following an intact, ancient pagan religion. This misconception While this may have been the belief of some Wiccans many years ago, most are now well aware of the origins of the religion and set the record straight when confronted with such accusations.

Our greatest defense is to live as decent human beings and show the world that we are not like the stereotypes.

While a lot of the misconceptions Wiccans have to deal with are held by those of other religions, but we also have to contend with misconceptions held by some claiming to be Wiccans themselves. We'll address some of them here:

• Wicca is a religion which includes the worship of pre-Christian pagan gods, yet some people claim to be atheist Wiccans or even Christian Wiccans. Now atheists and Christians can certainly practice witchcraft if they want to, but Wicca is a neo-pagan religion involving connecting with pre-Christian deities. Christ is considered, by Christians to be a savior or messiah. There is no such concept in Wicca. To advance in traditional Wicca involves dedicating one's self completely to the old gods. To the pagans of old the gods were individuals - each with his or her own personality and responsibilities and traits. They were not "aspects" of one god-head, nor were all goddesses aspects of one goddess or all gods aspects of one god. To get to know the gods on the level required for advancement in traditional Wicca a student must respect the gods as individuals and get to know them as such. Traditional Wiccans recognize the importance of working with gods and goddesses who are part of the same pantheon.

• For years Wiccans have claimed that there were nine million people put to death during the middle ages for the crime of witchcraft. Newest studies of original trial transcripts puts the number closer to one hundred thousand. Traditional Wiccans should make every attempt to study the latest and most reliable archaeological and historical information on the craft to avoid carrying outdated information forward.

• Somewhere along the line Wiccans have come to believe that Wicca is an, "anything goes" religion. While indeed there is much leeway in how one practices Wicca, there are still basic tenets which must be present, and others which must not be included or the practice ceases to be recognizable as Wicca. Traditional Wiccans need to understand the meaning of the word "tradition" and understand the significance of tradition and how traditions are carried forward. Wicca remains traditional only when it retains the significant elements included in it by Gerald Gardner and other early practitioners.

7. Keeping a journal:

If you don't have a journal or a diary this is a good time to start one. You should get in the habit of writing in it every day, even if its only a line or two. You can use it for recording your dreams, what you learn about nature, your encounters with the gods and elements, poetry, and anything else you like. Its especially interesting to write down your thoughts on Wicca and the gods so you can go back in a year and see how far you have come.

Homework:

 Write a few paragraphs on why you believe traditional Wicca should be preserved.