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An Introduction to Traditional Wicca

[from http://www.oakgrove.org/GreenPages/bos/1396.txt ]

   735

Subject: An Introduction to Traditional Wicca
         c. 1987,  Keepers of the Ancient Mysteries   ( .K.A.M. )

     Often Traditional Wiccans are asked to describe our religion and
     beliefs for interested people, who may or may not have confused
     us with other Pagan religions, with inversions of
     Christian/Islamic religions like Satanism, or with purely magical
     traditions with no religious base. There is a lot of flexibility
     in the ways that we describe ourselves, and one characteristic of
     Wicca is a large degree of personal liberty to practice as we
     please. Still, there is an outline that can be described in
     general terms. Many traditions will depart from one particular or
     another, but groups departing from all or most of these features
     are probably non-Wiccan Traditions attempting to stretch or
     distort the Wiccan name to cover what they want to do.

     Mysteries and Initiation

     Wicca is an Initiatory religion descended from the Ancient
     Mystery Religions. A mystery religion is not like Catholicism
     where a Priest is the contact point between the worshiper and the
     Deity, nor like Protestantism where a sacred Book provides the
     contact and guidelines for being with the divine. Rather a
     Mystery Religion is a religion of personal experience and
     responsibility, in which each worshiper is encouraged, taught and
     expected to develop an ongoing and positive direct relationship
     with the Gods. The religion is called a "Mystery" because such
     experiences are very hard to communicate in words, and are
     usually distorted in the telling. You have to have been there in
     person to appreciate what is meant. Near and far-Eastern
     religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Shinto are probably
     Mystery traditions, but Wicca is very western in cultural flavor
     and quite different than eastern religions in many ways.

     A Blend of Pagan Roots

     Most Wiccan Traditions, .K.A.M. included, have particular roots
     in the British Mystery Traditions. This includes traditions of
     the Picts who lived before the rise of Celtic consciousness, the
     early Celts, and some selected aspects of Celtic Druidism.
     American Wicca is directly descended from British Wicca, brought
     in the late 1950's by English and American Initiates of
     Gardnerian, Alexandrian and Celtic Wicca. These traditions are a
     little like the denominations in Christianity, but hopefully far
     more harmonious.

     While British Traditions are very strong in Wicca, or the Craft
     as it is sometimes called, other Western Mystery traditions
     feature prominently, including the ancient Greek Mysteries of
     Eleusis,  Italian Mysteries of Rome, Etruria and the general
     countryside, Mysteries of Egypt and Persia before Islam, and
     various Babylonian, Assyrian and other mid-eastern Mysteries that
     flourished before the political rise of the advocates of "one
     god".




   736

     What's In a Name

     Wicca, Witchecraft, and "The Craft" are used interchangeably at
     times by many kinds of people. It is fair to say that all Wiccans
     are Witches, and many of us believe we are the only people
     entitled to the name. It is important to know that many people
     call themselves witches who are not in the least Wiccan, and that
     Masons also refer to themselves as "Craft", with good historical
     precedent. Carefully question people on the particular things
     they do and believe as part of their religion rather than relying
     on labels. Any real Wiccan would welcome such honest inquiry.

     Traditions and Flavor

     There are specific Wiccan beliefs and traditions, including
     worship of an equal and mated Goddess and God who take many forms
     and have many Names. Groups who worship only a Goddess or only a
     God are not traditional Wicca however they may protest, although
     they may be perfectly good Pagans of another sort. The Wiccan
     Goddess and God are linked to nature, ordinary love and children
     -- Wicca is very life affirming in flavor.

     Because we have and love our own Gods, Wiccans have nothing to do
     with other people's deities or devils, like the Christian God or
     Satan, the Muslim Allah or the Jewish Jehovah (reputedly not his
     real name). Christians often deny this fact because they think
     that their particular god is the only God, and everybody else in
     the whole world must be worshipping their devil. How arrogant.
     They're wrong on both counts.

     Traditional Wicca is a religion of personal responsibility and
     growth. Initiates take on a particular obligation to personal
     development throughout their lives, and work hard to achieve what
     we call our "True Will", which is the best possibility that we
     can conceive for ourselves. Finding your Will isn't easy, and
     requires a lot of honesty, courage and hard work. It is also very
     rewarding.

     Wicca is generally a cheerful religion, and has many holidays and
     festivals. In fact, most of the more pleasant holidays now on our
     calendar are descended from the roots Wicca draws on, including
     Christmas, May Day, Easter and Summer Vacation. Wicca is
     definitely not always serious. Dancing, feasting and general
     merriment are a central part of the celebrations.

     Wiccan Ethics

     Wiccans have ethics which are different in nature than most
     "one-god" religions, which hand out a list of "do's and don'ts".
     We have a single extremely powerful ethical principal which
     Initiates are responsible for applying in specific situations
     according to their best judgment. That principle is called the
     Wiccan Rede (Old-English for rule) and reads:

     "An (if) it harm none, do as ye Will"




   737

     Based on the earlier mention of "True Will", you will understand
     that the Rede is far more complex than it sounds, and is quite
     different than saying "Do whatever you want as long as nobody is
     hurt". Finding out your Will is difficult sometimes, and figuring
     out what is harmful, rather than just painful or unpleasant is
     not much easier.

     Initiation into Wicca

     People become Wiccans only by Initiation, which is a process of
     contacting and forming a good relationship with the Gods and
     Goddesses of Wicca. Initiation is preceded by at least a year and
     a day of preparation and study, and must be performed by a
     qualified Wiccan Priestess and Priest. The central event of
     Initiation is between you and your Gods, but the Priestess is
     necessary to make the Initiation a Wiccan one, to pass some of
     her power onto you as a new-made Priestess or Priest and to
     connect you to the Tradition you're joining.

     Women hold the central place in Wicca. A Traditional Coven is
     always headed by a High Priestess, a Third Degree female Witch
     with at least three years and three days of specific training. A
     Priest is optional, but the Priestess is essential. Similarly, a
     Priest may not Initiate without a Priestess, but a Priestess
     alone is sufficient. Women are primary in Wicca for many reasons,
     one of which is that the Goddess is central to our religion.

     One Religion at a Time

     People often ask "Can I become a Wiccan and still remain a
     Christian, Muslim, practicing Jew, etc. The answer is no. The
     "one god" religions reject other paths besides their own,
     including each other's. "One-god" religions also do not exalt the
     Female as does Wicca, and mixing two such different traditions
     would water them both down. Besides, you'd have to ask how
     serious a person who practiced two religions was about either
     one. Being Jewish is an exception, since it is a race and culture
     as well as a religion. There are many Wiccan Jews, but they
     practice Wicca, not Judaism.

     Magick and Science

     People interested in Wicca are usually curious about the magick
     that Wiccans can do. While magick (spelled with a "k" to
     distinguish from stage conjuring) is not a religion in itself, it
     is related to our religious beliefs. Wiccans believe that people
     have many more abilities than are generally realized, and that it
     is a good idea to develop them. Our magick is a way of using
     natural forces to change consciousness and material conditions as
     an expression of our "True Wills". Part of becoming a Wiccan is
     training in our methods of psychic and magickal development.





   738

     Because we believe that everything a person does returns to them
     magnified, a Wiccan will not work a magick for harm, since they
     would pay too high a price. But a helpful magick is good for both
     the giver and receiver! Wicca is entirely compatible with the
     scientific method, and we believe all the Gods and forces we work
     with to be quite natural, not supernatural at all. We do not,
     however, hold with the kind of scientific dogma or pseudoreligion
     that  sees everything  as dead matter  and neglects  its own  method
vby
     trumpeting "facts" without honest examination of evidence.

     Priestesses at Large?

     Long ago the spiritual (and sometimes physical) ancestors of
     Wiccans were Priestesses and Priests to the Pagan culture as well
     as devotees of their Mystery. Now that a Pagan culture is rising
     again, some ask if today's Wiccans could resume that role. This
     seems unlikely.

     Today's Pagan culture is very diverse and more interested in
     exploring and creating new forms than in building on existing
     traditions. A public role would either dilute our traditions or
     force them on an unwilling audience. The neo-Pagan community
     generally prefers "media figures" and rapid membership and
     growth. This is  not compatible with our slow methods of training
     and Initiation, the insistence that livelihood come from work
     outside the Craft, or our needs for privacy. Our religion is not
     accepted in the American workplace or political system, and may
     never be. The most powerful Priestesses are often unknown to all
     but their Coveners. While all Wiccans are Pagans, all Pagans are
     not Wiccan, and it is best that it remain so.





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