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Wiccan Beliefs

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It is commonly understood Wiccans worship two deities, the Goddess and the God sometimes known as the Horned God. Some traditions such as the Dianic Wiccans mainly worship the Goddess; the God plays either no role, or a diminished role, in Dianism. Many Gardnerian Wiccans do not claim to be duotheistic, but rather, may practice some form of polytheism, often with particular reference to the Celtic pantheons; they may also be animists, pantheists, agnostics or indeed any of the other spectacular range of possibilities.

Wiccans celebrate eight main holidays (or Sabbats): four cross-quarter days called Samhain, Beltane (or Beltaine), Imbolc (also called Imbolg, Oimelc, or Candlemas) and Lammas (or Lughnasadh), as well as the solstices, Litha and Yule, and equinoxes, Ostara (or Eostar or Eostre) and Mabon (see Wheel of the Year). They also hold Esbats, which are rituals held at the full and new moon.

Generally, the names are of ancient Germanic or Celtic holidays held around the same time, although two do not have any historical precedent. Ritual observations may include mixtures of those holidays as well as others celebrated at the same time in other cultures; there are several ways to celebrate the holidays.

Some Wiccans join groups called covens, though others work alone and are called "solitaries". Some solitaries do, however, attend "gatherings" and other community events, but reserve their spiritual practices (Sabbats, Esbats, spell-casting, worship, magical work, etc.) for when they are alone. Some Wiccans work with a community without being part of a coven. Many beliefs hold the ideal number of members for a coven is thirteen. When a coven grows beyond their ideal number of members, they often split into multiple covens, yet remain together as a group. A grouping of multiple covens is known as a grove. Wiccans weddings can be called "bondings," "joinings," or "eclipses," but are most commonly called "handfastings."

Some Wiccans observe an ancient Celtic practice of a trial marriage for a year and a day, which some Traditions hold should be contracted on Lammas (Lughnasadh), although this is far from universal. When someone is being initiated into a coven, it is also traditional to study with the coven for a year and a day before their actual initiation into to the religion, and some Solitary Wicca choose to study for a year and a day before dedicating themselves to the religion.

A much sensationalized aspect of Wicca, particularly in Gardnerian Wicca, is some Wiccans practice skyclad (naked). Though many Wiccans do this, many others do not. Some Wiccans wear a pure cotton robe, to symbolize bodily purity, and a cord, to symbolize interdependence and which is often used during rituals.

Others wear normal clothes or whatever they think is appropriate. Robes and even Renaissance-Faire-type clothing are not uncommon. In usual rites the Wiccans assemble inside a magic circle, which is drawn out in a ritual manner followed by a cleansing and then blessing of the space. Prayers to the God and Goddess are said, and spells are sometimes worked. Traditionally, the circle is followed by a meal. Before entering the circle, some Traditions fast for the day, and have a thorough wash.

Many Wiccans use a special set of altar tools in their rituals; these can include a broom (besom), cauldron, Chalice (goblet), wand, Book of Shadows, altar cloth, athame (personal knife), altar knife, boline, candles, and/or incense. Representations of the God/Goddess are often also used, which may be direct, representative, or abstract. The tools themselves are just that--tools, and have no innate powers of their own, though they are usually dedicated or charged with a particular purpose, and used only in context. It is considered rude to touch another's tools without permission.

There are different thoughts in Wicca regarding the Elements. Some hold to the earlier Greek conception of the classical elements (air, fire, water, earth), while others recognize five elements: earth, air, water, fire, and spirit (akasha). It has been claimed the points of the frequently worn pentagram symbol, the five pointed star, symbolize five elements.

The pentacle (a pentagram (five-pointed star) inside of a circle) is most often shown with its point facing upward. Alexandrian Wicca believes the upper point represents spirit, and the four remaining points symbolize earth, air, fire, and water. This symbolism has slowly worked itself into other traditions such as Solitary Wicca and Seax-Wica, but most Gardnerian Wicca will deny the points of the pentagram or pentacle actually represent anything at all.

Some people believe the top point of the pentacle was chosen to represent the spirit as it is often recognized as being more important than the four elements. When, in Satanism for example, the pentacle is usually inverted, the point representing spirit faces downward, and it is often taken this symbolizes it is less important than physical things.

Another much less common view on the symbolism of the pentacle is the upright pentacle is a protective charm which protects its wearer through passive energies, such as good will or pleasing emotions, and the inverted pentacle protects its wearer using aggressive energies, such as curses or angry emotions.

In either case, these are the elements of nature symbolize different places, emotions, objects, and natural energies and forces. For instance, crystals and stones are objects of the element earth, and seashells are objects of the water element. Each of the four cardinal elements, air, fire, water and earth, are commonly assigned a direction and a color. The following list is not true for all traditions, or branches of Wicca:

Elemental, directional correspondences and colors may vary between traditions. It is common in the southern hemisphere, for instance, to associate the element fire with north (the direction of the equator) and earth with south (the direction of the nearest polar area.) Some Wiccan groups also modify the religious calendar to reflect local seasonal changes; for instance, in Australia Samhain might be celebrated on April 30th, and Beltane on October 31st to reflect the southern hemisphere's autumn and spring seasons.

Wiccan Ethics

Wiccan morality is ruled according to the Wiccan Rede, which (in part) states "An it harm none, do what thou wilt." ("An" is an archaic word meaning "if".) Others follow the slightly adapted Rede of "An it harm none, do what ye will; if harm it does, do what ye must." Either way, the Rede is central to the understanding personal responsibility, rather than a religious authority, is where moral structure resides. One of the major differences between Wiccans and other types of witchcraft is the Rede.

Many "traditional" witches or witches follow other paths do not believe in the Rede. This is a major topic of controversy within the Wiccan and Pagan communities. Many Wiccans also promote the Law of Threefold Return, or the idea anything one does may be returned to them threefold. In other words, good deeds are magnified back to the doer, but so are ill deeds.

Gerina Dunwich, an American author whose books (particularly Wicca Craft) were instrumental in the increase in popularity of Wicca in the late 1980s and 1990s, disagrees with the Wiccan concept of threefold return on the grounds it is inconsistent with the Laws of Physics.

Pointing out the origin of the Law of Threefold Return is traceable to Raymond Buckland in the 20th century; Dunwich is of the opinion "There is little backing to support it as anything other than a psychological law." Her own personal belief, which differs from the usual interpretation of the Threefold Law, is whatever we do on a physical, mental, or spiritual level will sooner or later affect us, in either a positive or negative way, on all three levels of being.

A few Wiccans also follow, or at least consider, a set of 161 laws often referred to as Lady Sheba's Laws. Some find these rules to be outdated and counterproductive. Most Wiccans also seek to cultivate the Eight Wiccan Virtues. These may have been derived from earlier Virtue ethics, but were first formulated by Doreen Valiente in the Charge of the Goddess. They are Mirth, Reverence, Honor, Humility, Strength, Beauty, Power, and Compassion. They are in paired opposites which are perceived as balancing each other.

Many Wiccans also believe no magic (or magick) can be performed on any other person without the person's direct permission (excepting pets and young children who can be protected by parents and owners). Sometimes when permission is expected but not yet attained magical energy will be placed on the astral plane for the receiver to gather if and when he/she is ready.

Basics of Wicca

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