Looking at a mystical belief system

What is a Witch?

Did you dress up for Halloween last week? Despite the recent craze for vampire or zombie costumes, the number one Halloween fancy dress outfit is still the witch. But behind the stereotyped ugly crone with green skin, a pointy hat and broomstick lies a fascinating faith that promotes a care for nature and the planet, non judgemental spirituality, and equality between male and female.

Paganism

Paganism is a term which covers a wide variety of beliefs. The Pagan Federation of Great Britain estimates there are up to 200,000 practising Pagans in the UK. The term covers many traditional religions, such as Wicca, Shamanism, Heathenism and Hellenic paths. Paganism has at its root a belief that spirituality is found within nature. The natural cycle of birth, death and rebirth is also at the heart of Paganism, echoing the changing of the seasons. Paganism is polytheistic, having many gods and goddesses each representing a different area of life and spirituality.

Witchcraft

Witches were the healers and the psychics of the past. But the skill witches (also called cunning woman or wise women) had with plants and herbs for curing disease often saw them fall under suspicion. Their knowledge seemed like magical powers to the uninitiated. Likewise, those people who had psychic ability, or second sight, were also treated with suspicion as their gift was inexplicable. Just like psychics, the witches of the past were considered communicators between the physical and spiritual world.

Wicca: a new witchcraft

Wicca was developed in the early 20th century, derived from the old traditions of various Pagan beliefs. The mother goddess and her consort the horned god are central to the religion, balancing female and male energies. The horned god is a woodland deity, similar to the Greek god, Pan, he is certainly not connected to evil or the devil - this was a deliberate distortion spread by the medieval church to frighten people.

The depiction of the divine female within Wicca is strong. The central female deity is called The Triple Goddess. She represents the stages of femininity - maiden, mother and wise woman - as well as the phases of the Moon.

Wicca has eight seasonal festivals within the calendar, poetically called the 'Wheel of the Year'. These include Yule in December, Ostara around Easter time, Midsummer, and Samhain on October 31, for the remembrance of ancestors.

There are very few rules and regulations in Wicca. Its main law is 'harm none' in either: words, deeds or intention.
Wiccans believe the mind has the power to cause change - this is called magick. (It's spelled with a 'k' to differentiate it from stage magic.) Spells and rituals are performed for healing and to help people with anxieties and issues. Magic can never be used to harm or with bad intent. If it is, Wiccans believe that the negative energy will rebound upon the perpetrator threefold.

Wiccans believe the soul is reincarnated after death and that each life brings new knowledge and learning to a soul.

Try Wicca

Here are some basic spiritual principles derived from Wicca that you can try to see if Wicca is right for you

The Wiccan Rede
Harm none: it is a simple but powerful moral code. It is asking you to be constantly aware of your words, thoughts and actions. To be conscious of the impact they will have on yourself, on others and on the world around you. The idea of 'treading lightly' on the earth, so as not to waste its resources is important to Wiccans. Many Wiccans are vegetarians. Others will perform a good deed to balance the resources they take or consume.

Threefold Law
This is the belief in Wicca that any harm you do will come back to you in triplicate. Think before you act or speak. Negative energy you generate may be returned to you. It's close to the Eastern idea of karma - the idea that you create your own destiny.

Book of Shadows
Keep a magical journal. This is the diary of your spiritual progress within Wicca. You can write your thoughts, rituals and any good advice you receive or creative ideas. Your Book of Shadows is personal and private.

Take Responsibility
You are responsible for your own choices in life. You can shape your life and change it if you try. You are your own priest/priestess - you have divinity already within you. Everyone has their own truth. Wiccans do not judge or blame. Wiccans would never try to convert anyone to their faith; people must find their own path, freely.

Honour Mother Earth
The Earth is sacred. A spark of divinity runs within all Earth's rivers, seas, mountains, woods, fields, plants and animals. Work with the rhythms of the Earth, the seasons and the weather. Don't mindlessly use Earth's precious resources and never harm her creatures.

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