Your Own Tradition
“BELIEFS” ISN’T THE best word, but the only other ones that I could come up with were “tenets” and “concepts,” neither of which is satisfactory. Since religion is usually conceived of as being built on beliefs, this word will have to serve.
General Traditional Wiccan Beliefs
Aside from strictly deity-oriented beliefs, Wiccans share a few others, including:
• The Goddess and God are revered. This is central to Wiccan thought.
• Human souls enjoy a series of incarnations in human form. Reincarnation is one of the most widespread of Wiccan beliefs. Precisely how and why we incarnate several times is open to mystical speculation. Few Wiccan traditions have specific teachings regarding this doctrine. Some simply state that we reincarnate and meet others we’ve known in past lives. Others are more specific, some less specific. Some traditions say that we never switch sexes from one life to another; still others state that we choose whichever gender is appropriate for our evolutionary lessons. There’s little agreement.
• Power can be sent in nonphysical form to affect the world in positive ways. Thus, we accept both the practice of magic and its effectiveness.
• What is done will be returned to the doer. Precisely how this energy is returned has been a matter of great speculation. Some Wiccans state that the Goddess performs this function; others that it’s a law of the universe, like gravity, and that no one being is in charge of seeing that this occurs. It’s an automatic response, like a ricochet.
• The earth is our home, our Goddess. It’s not a tool that we can ruthlessly abuse. Ecological concerns are rather new in Wicca, but now play an important role. Many rituals are performed to give healing strength to the earth. The ecological movement has had a tremendous impact on Wicca.
• Wiccans aren’t evangelical. We have no need to go out and spread the word. Answering questions about our religion is far different from knocking on doors and asking strangers, “Have you heard the word of the Goddess today?” Such practices are certainly understandable (though irritating) in religions whose members believe that they’ve really found the only way, but are absurdly out of place in Wicca.
• Wicca accepts that every religion is correct to its adherents. This doesn’t mean that we like every representative of every religion, but ecumenicism must be the way of life. Not only must we all tolerate each other, Wiccans will share dialogue with representatives of other religions to increase their knowledge of our ways.
• Wicca accepts members from both sexes, from every race, national origin, and, usually, of every sexual preference. Unfortunately, racism and prejudice does exist in Wicca: many covens simply won’t let non-Caucasians receive training and initiation. Such racism is usually covert and is rarely openly stated, but it does exist. Though Wiccans are human, and we’ve been taught from birth to like certain groups and to dislike others, we must overcome such idiotic concepts and realize that we’re all people. Racism and prejudice in any form is anti-Wiccan. Besides, who ever said that the Goddess is Caucasian?
• Wicca is a religion, not a political organization. Groups of Wiccans can and sometimes do work toward a common cause, and individual Wiccans may indeed become personally involved in the political system, but Wicca as a whole isn’t a religion that preaches issues or supports specific political candidates. Some issues in which individual Wiccans have become involved include women’s rights; reproductive freedom; land conservation; animal rights; restrictive religious legislation; and other issues.6 However, Wicca isn’t a political religion. Some covens, in fact, ban discussion of politics before, during, and after circle.
• Wicca doesn’t charge for private lessons or for initiation. Physical objects created by Wiccans (pentacles, knives, wands, incenses, oils, books) and services (such as public classes and Wiccan-based counseling) can and should be paid for, but not personal, private Wiccan instruction or initiation. In some groups, coven funds are kept to pay for ritual supplies; this is the only exception.
Virtually all Wiccans subscribe to the above list of beliefs. Certainly most traditions do. It’s impossible to discover precisely how every individual Wiccan interprets these beliefs, but we can be assured that most of them do in one form or another.
It could be valuable for you to make a list of your personal Wiccan beliefs—not just the raw beliefs themselves, but your interpretations of them. For example, you may write the following:
• We incarnate many times to learn our lessons.
• We may incarnate with people we’ve known in other lives.
• Cats reincarnate, too.
What’s important is to bring your beliefs to paper. This crystallizes them; firms them. Beliefs can become rather hazy. Such an exercise can define them.
Your interpretations of the general Wiccan beliefs may and probably will change as you grow in experience and understanding. This is natural. The list that you’ve made may become out of date. This, too, is fine.
Wicca is a religion that teaches specific beliefs. We should be fully familiar with them if we’re to practice this religion. It may take time for you to completely accept some of these beliefs. Study, think, pray, and experiment.
Wiccan beliefs are the heart of Wicca.
6. A good summary of a national example of individual Wiccan involvement in politics can be found in the article concerning the Helms Amendment (which would have removed tax-exempt status for religious Witchcraft and Neo-Pagan groups) in Rosemary Guiley’s The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, page 156.