Wicca Essay, Research Paper
What is Witchcraft? Well, that depends on whose definition you want to use. The terms “Witch” and “Witchcraft” have been used to describe that accused of Christian heresies, not-so-neighborly behavior or practicing medicine without a license. In some cultures, Witches are tribal shamans or healers to be sought out and honored. In others, they are sorcerers and magicians to be avoided or shunned. (Funk and Wagnals) “Witch” and “Witchcraft” are also terms which many Neo-Pagans use today to describe themselves and their spiritual Path. Some also use the same terms in reference to folk magic without a religious connotation. Despite popular stereotypes witches are not Satanists. Everyone has the preconceived notion that witches are ugly, old, animal sacrificers. That is not the case. Witches may cast spells and use cauldrons, (if they can afford them) but they don t do Black Magic . The reason for this is the Wiccan Rede which states that any harm wished upon others will come back upon you. (Witch Alone) Any self-respecting witch would not even think of harming another living person or thing. It is against their religion. The Wiccan RedeHear now the word of the Witches, the secrets we hid in the night,When dark was our destiny s pathway, That now we bring forth in the light. Mysterious Water and Fire, The Earth and the wide-ranging Air,By hidden Quintessence we know Them, and we will keep silent and dare. The birth and rebirth of all Nature, the passing of Winter and Spring,We share with the life Universal, rejoice in the Magical Ring Four times in the year the Great Sabbat, returns, and the Witches are seen,At Lammas and Candelas dancing, on May Eve and old Halloween When daytime and nighttime are equal, when sun is at greatest and least,The four lesser Sabbats are summoned, again Witches gather in feast. Thirteen silver moons in a year are, thirteen is the Covens array,Thirteen times at Esbat make merry, for each golden year and a day. The power has passed down the ages, each time between woman and manEach century unto the other, ere times and the ages began. When drawn is the Magickal circle, by sword or athame of power,Its compass between two world s lies, in the land of shades of that hour. Our world has no right to know it, and the world beyond will tell naught,The oldest of Gods are invoked there, the great work of Magic is wrought. For two are the mystical pillars, that stand at the gate of the shrine,And two are the powers of Nature, the forms and the forces divine. And do what thou wilt be the challenge, so be it in love that harms none,For this is the only commandment, By Magick of old be it done. Eight words the Witches Rede fulfills:If it Harms none, Do what Thou Will! (The Wiccan Grove) In the Wiccan religion they have two deities, the God and the Goddess. The God is the male side and the Goddess is the female side of the religion. While some will argue that the God and the Goddess are two separate entities there are also those that argue that they are one and the same. (The Wiccan Advisor) The different roles are as follows. The God is in charge of all things male in nature. He is also very closely associated with the sun. He will be invoked in any spells involved in anything that will require physical strength. During the day he will also be invoked to add His power to the spell. He will have the most power to aid in spells during the summer solstice and at high noon. The Goddess on the other hand will be in charge of all things feminine and also she will be closely related with the Moon and her time of power will be at midnight and the winter solstice. While the major roles of them are to help not to try and rule. In Christianity their god tells them what to do and what not to do, in Wicca our two gods say, If it Harms none, Do what Thou Will! My thoughts are this, I think that it s better to have two gods rather than just one. Also they are very lenient in that they don t have a set of laws to tell you specifically what to do. If you like that sort of thing however you can either become a Christian or go enlist in the military. While this freedom can be a good thing it also has the bad side to it. For instance, if you were looking for spiritual guidance you will have few to turn to as they Wiccan community is few, far between, and seriously very shy due to past persecutions. While this may surprise you I myself have found a practicing Wiccan in the very small town of Hermiston, Oregon. While I cannot tell you their name I will be able to tell you that they are very nice and not noticeably Wiccan. They still celebrate Christian holidays mainly because of their kids but they still celebrate the occasional Wiccan holiday. Magick (no I didn t spell it wrong this is actually the way that it s supposed to be spelt to mean real magic not just the illusion stuff that you see on TV). Just say the word to yourself; what kind of images does it bring to mind? For me it s fireballs and lightning crackling from my fingers and blowing things up. How is it for you? The real magick is simply used to generate a kind of spectral energy that will influence whatever it is that you want to happen and try to make it happen. In Roland Wordstone s essay on Spell Theory he says, for example: you get the message to your subconscious that you are in need of more money. The subconscious says “No problemo!” Because, you see, the subconscious mind has control over parts of your body that your conscious mind does not. So, perhaps the subconscious mind will send your pituitary gland into fourth gear when you’re at work the next day, causing you to work more quickly, more proficiently, and with more energy than usual. Your boss notices this, and says “What a great employee! I bet she’d be a great choice for that promotion I’m giving next week!” So, you get the promotion, and your spell has worked. The process is: You’ve told a story to your subconscious, your subconscious has forced your pituitary gland to create more hormones, you become more energetic temporarily, your boss notices, and you get what you wanted. Through ritual, your spell has worked! (The Witches Voice) While this isn t the kind of magick that everyone dreams about it is however the only kind of real magick. The tools that are involved in Wiccan Rituals are as follows:ATHAME: (pronounced “a-thAM-ay” or “ATH-a-may”) Many Witches own one or more ritual knives. These are commonly known as “athames” in Wiccan circles. As with all ritual tools, the athame is a very personal magickal item one, which you will want to take some care in obtaining. It should fit well and comfortably in your hand, for one thing. You certainly wouldn’t want it to go flying across the room while you are casting a circle.Many Witches make their own blades or “personalize” purchased ones with runes, carvings and other symbols; all of which serve to blend the energy of the tool with their own magickal intentions. Modern Witchcraft books almost always state that the athame is a “black handled double edged iron blade.” You may call this model, “the classic’, if you like! But many other practitioners now use athames made from stainless steel, copper, silver and various other metals, or even carved stone. Some have family heirlooms, such as letter openers, which serve the purpose. Some Witches never use a blade at all! So you can see, it is more important that the tool you choose suits you personally rather than reflects the latest fashion craze. The athame can be used to cast the magick circle, call the “quarters” or elements, and is part of many an opening ritual, handfasting (wedding) or initiation rite. It is associated with the element of Fire and the South. It is customary in some traditions to have your blade given to you as a gift. Some Witches or ceremonial workers give their tools a magickal “name”. (This practice has become a common reference in many role playing games and fantasy novels.) Almost all materials written state-and most Witches/Wiccans, with the possible exception of the Sax Wiccans, agree- that magickal tools should not be used for any other purpose than ritual work. Often the blade is left “dull” or unsharpened because of this. (Another blade, the “boleen”, with a white handle is sometimes used to harvest herbs or carve symbols, but not used for ritual work.) Some Witches will not let their tools be touched by anyone other than himself or herself. Some covens or working groups share common tools. It is other than for those who are dedicated into a specific Tradition, what you are comfortable with. THE BROOM: The broom or “besom” is used for cleansing ritual areas, hence the term “making a clean sweep”. In handfasting rituals, couples often jump over the broom if they want children. Many Witches have a broom-brushy side up-by their door to protect the home from unwanted outside energies. THE CAULDRON: One of the most common symbols of Witchcraft, the cauldron was once found sitting by the fireplace in almost all homes. The cauldron-traditionally with three legs- represents bounty and blessings. Based on these myths, the cauldron has also come to represent the concept of reincarnation and the cycles of birth, death and rebirth. Many Witches believe in some form of reincarnation or the transmigration of souls. Cauldrons can be used to represent water and used for scrying. It is sometimes used in association with elemental fire as well and small “bonfires” can be lit in them to burn spells or incense. Jumping over the cauldron has replaced the “bonfire” leap in modern times and urban spaces. It can, depending on intent and use, be placed in the Female West or Male South. Cauldrons range in size from the small altar models to the antique “floor” type. Many Witches have cauldrons in various sizes for different workings and purposes.
THE CHALICE: The chalice or cup is used on the altar to represent the Female principle of Water. Another chalice or cauldron is sometimes placed in the West as well. The chalice along with the athame, sword or wand are the modern tools which are used in the enactment of the “Great Rite”-the union of the male and female principle from which Life will spring. Chalices may be of any material. Many use silver or pewter, but ceramic ones are now quite popular and readily obtainable. Some Witches have many different kinds for different types of rituals. Many a practitioner will avoid real “lead” crystal because of the Saturn energy influence. The chalice is sometimes passed around the circle so each participant may take a sip from the cup. This is a bonding experience and often the words “May you never thirst!” are passed throughout the circle with the chalice. Libations of wine or water are often then poured outside to honor the Old Ones and “Sabbat” cakes are also offered back to the Source in a similar manner. THE CLOTHING MAGICKAL: Clothing is “optional” for many Witches. If you are dedicated into a Tradition, you may practice “skyclad”. The clothing-robes, capes, jewelry and other items-used in ritual work are usually dedicated to only these uses. Having “special” garments lends an “otherworldly” feel and sets ritual work apart from mundane life. Many traditions or paths have a “standard” wardrobe, which reflects the ethnic background of that path. Many embroider magickal symbols on their ritual clothing or “hide” small magickal items in the seams and hems to act as talismans for protection. The PATON OR ALTAR PENTACLE: The Altar pentacle is usually a disk or plate of metal or wood inscribed with the five-pointed star in a circle. This is set upon the altar and used to consecrate various other tools and as a focal point of concentration for magickal workings. It is associated with the Female North and the element of Earth. Some Witches use a paton when calling in the elements as well. Patons (sometimes “peytons” or “patens”) can now be found made of ceramic and glass. You can even make your own from clay or simply draw and color one on stiff paper. In some references, it is stated that patons in the ‘old days” were only made from disposable materials so that evidence of your beliefs could be quickly burned should the authorities come knocking at your door! THE STAFF: The staff is a very important tool in some traditions. It is used to mark quarter points or as a “stang” to hold banners representing elements or other unique symbolic flags. The staff may be used in much the same manner as the wand. It is usually matched “to your measure”- which means it reaches to your shoulder- making it easy and comfortable for you to handle without either knocking yourself upside the head or having it trip you up from behind. Any such incident will amuse your friends, but do little to enhance your image in the magickal community! THE SWORD: With the coming of the modern “Celtic Revival”, the sword has become a very popular-and quite showy- magickal tool. It can be used in place of, or in addition to, the athame. Most groups who hold rituals indoors usually limit the use of the sword to just one for the Priest/Priestess. However at festivals and outdoor rituals, Witches often bring their own swords to mark the boundaries or quarter points of the circle. THE THURIBLE OR INCENSE BURNER: A container used to contain a hot coal for burning incense. This is best made from a fire resistant or fireproof material. The most common are the “mini-cauldrons’ of iron and the various brass types which come in wonderful shapes and sizes. Some even hang on a chain. The incense itself represents the element of Air while the fire (charcoal) represents Fire. The combination of these two elements is used to purify ritual areas, other tools or the circle itself. THE WAND: The wand represents the element of Air and the Male East. You can purchase a ready made one or collect one from your friendly neighborhood tree. Even dowels, such as those sold in hardware stores, can be painted and decorated quite beautifully. The wand can be used to cast the circle or direct energy in other magickal ways, such as in spells and incantations. There are wands of glass, copper, silver and other metals, but the “classic” material is still wood. Various woods have different magickal associations and uses. It is very common for a “Wand Witch” to have many wands of various types in his/her magickal closet. Witches who do not use athames often use a wand instead. (The Witches Voice)These are the traditional and functional tools of the witch. While I would say that some were just as I imagined them to be there are those that are definitely very different both in use and in appearance than I thought that they would. But while what I think is of little use or significance I still think it wonderful that there are so many places where you can put in your own input and even improvise in something that you can t afford to buy or even afford to own. Now on to the legality of Wicca. Is it a legitimate religion? I will cite some examples from the court case of Dettmer v. Landon. The original case was brought up by Dettmer when he was denied access to some of the items that he needed for his religious ceremonies such as candles, a statue, a white robe, incense and either sulfur, sea salt, or uniodized salt. The excuse that the guards gave him was that it could possibly hinder prison security and also that the Church of Wicca isn t a religion entitled to First Amendment protection. After repeated requests made by Dettmer from 1983-1985 they still denied his requests. For example, the prison officials stated that the incense could be used to mask the odor of drugs, a statue could be used as a weapon, sulfur could be used to make gunpowder, and a hooded robe could be used to hide a prisoner’s face in an escape attempt. Recognizing that the prison officials had legitimate security concerns with several of the items, Dettmer consulted his religious leaders and offered to substitute sea salt or uniodized salt for the sulfur, to remove the hood from the robe, and to use a plastic statue rather than a wooden or ceramic one. However despite his attempts to compromise they still would not grant him his requests. In addition to this there were others who were given access to similar materials to worship in their religion. So the court had to determine whether Wicca was in fact a religion to be protected under the First Amendment or not. A decision was then reached: “Members of the Church of Wicca sincerely adhere to a fairly complex set of doctrines relating to the spiritual aspect of their lives, and in doing so they have ‘ultimate concerns’ in much the same way as followers of more accepted religions. Their ceremonies and leadership structure, their rather elaborate set of articulated doctrine, their belief in the concept of another world, and their broad concern for improving the quality of life for others gives them at least some facial similarity to other more widely recognized religions. While there are certainly aspects of Wiccan philosophy that may strike most people as strange or incomprehensible, the mere fact that a belief may be unusual does not strip it of constitutional protection. Accordingly, the Court concludes that the Church of Wicca, of which the plaintiff is a sincere follower, is a religion for the purpose of the free exercise clause.” (Dettmer v. Landon) And so it was that Wicca passed into the books as a legal religion fully entitled to all rights and privileges there of. (The Witches Voice) My conclusion. I know what you are thinking, a conclusion already? But alas it must be so. In this paper I have talked about the Wiccan Rede or law, I have briefly touched on the deities that the witches worship, I have talked about spells and the tools that they use to cast them, and last but definitely not least I have proven to you that Wicca is indeed an officially recognized religion. While I would have to say that while I am disappointed that there isn t any real magic I am still fascinated with the modern views on Wicca and the so-called craft. Without real proof that I can document and study I will just have to take it upon myself to trust in others that it is real. Perhaps in time I too will have time to conduct my own studies on witchcraft. But one thing that I know for sure is that whoever it is that is doing the spell casting they will do it without the intent of harming another soul. For full responsibility is upon the caster of all consequences that happen in retaliation and/or reaction to the spell. So despite popular stereotypes witches are not Satanists. Everyone has the preconceived notion that witches are ugly, old, animal sacrificers. That is not the case. Witches may cast spells and use cauldrons, (if they can afford them) but they don t do Black Magic . The reason for this is the Wiccan Rede which states that any harm wished upon others will come back upon you. Any self-respecting witch would not even think of harming another living person or thing. It is against their religion.