Religion, Ritual & Magic
An introduction to the Craft today
Witchcraft, Wicca, the Craft, the Craft of the Wise are all terms used by modern Witches.Witchcraft today is a renewed version of the Old Religion, with it roots based in the Palaeolithic worship of the Spirit of the Hunt and reverence for the Triple Goddess Maiden, Mother and Crone.
Today's Witches still use these archetypes as the basis of their religious beliefs.Beliefs which include reverence of the male and female forces in nature and understanding of those forces within ourselves.. Witches do not worship (or even believe in) a devil or Satan, but rather, they believe in personal responsibility and in personal growth. If you do wrong, i.e. lose your temper, it is your responsibility, you cannot say "the devil made me do it"! or pass the blame onto someone else. It is therefore up to you to put the wrong you have done, right again. No Witch ever said this was an easy path!
The Wiccan Rede (law) states "An' it harm none, do what thou will", to individuals, peoples, animals, plants etc. That means no harm to anyone, to other people, to those who share the earth with us, to the environment. It may not be an extensive list of what you should or should not do but it is a far harder rule to live by.
Witches also believe in the law of threefold return; i.e. whatever you do is returned to you three times over, whether it is good or bad. This is not a special law for Witches or Witchcraft, or even for magic. I believe that it applies to everyone, in every one of their daily activities!
Witches may be female or male. Male Witches are not called warlocks or wizards or anything else out of fairy tales or other fiction.Witches may work on their own, with a partner, or in a group, sometimes called a Coven.Group working has the advantage of being able to combine the energies raised, rather like putting several batteries together, to create greater power. Some groups are working groups only, others accept and train newcomers to the Craft.
Witches also observe the cycle of the Moon; from new (Maiden) through full (Mother), to waxing and dark (Crone). The Maiden is fresh and new, and enthusiasm. She is joy and life, and perhaps not all that careful! The Mother is caring and sharing, tending and knowing. She too has her fierce side - never come between a mother and her child. She is protective, but with reason, she loves, fiercely and wildly and powerfully. The Crone has always been feared as "she who knows". She has been discarded by all the 'Patriarchal' beliefs. But without her, we have no history, no ancestors and no continuity. Of all the Three the Crone is the one we have lost most of, and the one we need above all, so long as we seek to retain even some element of control over ourselves and our lives. In the Craft we seek to relate all these parts of the Goddess together with The Wheel of the Year back into our everyday lives.
Witches perform Rituals to celebrate the Wheel of the Year and the Cycle of the Moon. They also perform rituals at other times and for other purposes such as healing. If, for example, a person wished for help in obtaining a job, a ritual might be performed to give them extra confidence for the interview. Such rituals may be elaborate or simple. They may involve a number of people or just one on his or her own. They may take place indoors or outside, during the day or the night. Witches may work skyclad (naked) or robed, or even in their everyday clothing.
Working skyclad should not be confused with a prurient interest in sex. Whilst sex is considered a natural, wholesome, and enjoyable part of life, it is also part of the union in a committed loving relationship, not something to be undertaken lightly. Within ritual the union between man and woman is most often token or symbolic, unless they be loving partners in daily life too.
Witches also believe that we should respect nature, we should not take more than we really need and we should seek, even if in some small way, to repay what we have taken. There are many ways of doing this, but every true Witch seeks to walk lightly upon the land and to care for the world around them.
We believe in personal responsibility; there is no 'devil' or demons to make us do wrong. What we do is ours alone, and if wrong, we should not only admit to it, we should also seek to do our best to put it right, however hard that might be.
As a part of this we also believe in personal development, it is up to each and every one of us to strive to be the best 'self' that we can. No-one can do it for us, although there are some who can facilitate (assist), or mentor (be like a personal teacher).
As Witches, we believe in reincarnation (a continuance of the spirit), we do not believe that we come back as the same person, but rather that our essence is renewed and can go on to learn more and better lessons. We also believe in the Summerlands; a place between lives, where we review what we have learned and need to learn, before we move forward to the next life. Where also we may meet and know and love once more those who we have lost in previous lives.
Divination or scrying, is how we see what might otherwise be hidden from us. Fortune telling in the 'common tongue'. Here we use tools such as the tarot, crystal ball, T leaves, etc. to open our subconscious mind to truths which might otherwise be hidden from us.
Most controversial of all, Witches practice magic; this ability to change people, things and events by force of will, is often considered scary, but it is in reality no more frightening than the power of prayer. True magic is not a matter of controlling others, for to change the path of another would be to interfere with their freedom of will and would be a source of, at least potential, harm. Magic is rather the ability to change what happens by true balance and control of the self. Magic must ever be able to be turned inwards, before it can ever work outwards.
Witches also make much use of meditation and visualisation techniques, to access their inner minds, hence the emphasis on self understanding, and development.
And, as is traditional they make much use of herblore and natural healing methods. So called 'new age remedies' are not new, they are mostly remembered; healing, knowledge and magics, hence the feeling of all true Witches that to find the Craft is "just coming home".
Witches also have their own Rites of Passage:
Naming - similar to a christening, although children are brought up to examine numerous beliefs so that they can make their own informed choice of spirituality.
Handfasting - joining or marriage, which may also be legalised though a civil ceremony.
Rites of Withdrawal - at the death of a loved one, we celebrate all the things they have brought to us and to the world around. These rites reflect the belief that the soul or spirit continues.
There are other Rites which reflect other important stages in the life of a person. In all of these Rites, as in all rituals of the Crafts there is a very strong element of celebration.
Witches believe that there are many paths and that it is up to each individual to find their own by informed choice. To this end some Witches, such as myself, feel that it is necessary to ensure that the information necessary to make a reasonably informed choice must be available to as many as possible, even if that be at personal cost. Witches do not believe that any one belief system has a monopoly on the 'one true way' or will be right for every individual. This means that we do not seek to make converts nor condemn the beliefs of others, so long as those beliefs harm no-one. It is perhaps regrettable that other faiths do not similarly accept the concept that there is room for more than one way of approaching and communicating with the Divine. Perhaps if they could bring themselves to do so, there might be fewer lives lost, fewer children orphaned, and fewer parents grieving in our so called civilised world.
Within the Craft there are many different paths; some may involve Celtic imagery, or Norse or Egyptian, others may involve nature spirits or even pure thought forms. Some branches of the Craft are very disciplined and formal, others are more open and can even be quite free-form. It is this unrestrained ability to chose how to worship that offends so many traditional thinkers. It is the same freedom which is attracting people of all ages, genders, and socio-economic groups to this, one of the fastest growing belief systems in the world today.
In our belief it is up to the individual to chose the path which they feel is right for them, so long as they have been given the opportunity to make an informed decision. In this we differ from many of the so called 'orthodox' beliefs.
Other Pagan religions are also being revived today; e.g. Druids, Shamanic paths, Dianic and other women's and men's mysteries groups.
Should you wish to learn more of any of the Pagan or Craft paths I would recommend that you read, listen and think. Talk to your inner self, your conscience if you will, it and you are perfectly able to tell the difference between advertising, mumbo-jumbo, and what is, for you, the truth. Find your heart, and follow it.
Whatever your path may be, we wish you well and trust that this has answered at least some of your questions.