Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner - Scott Cunningham 1993


THIS IS BOTH a glossary and a review of general Wiccan ritual techniques and beliefs. I’ve tried to make the glossary as nonsectarian and universal as possible. Many Wiccan traditions possess specific concepts concerning some of these terms and will disagree with me. That’s fine.

Athame: A Wiccan ritual knife. It may possess a double-edged blade and a black handle. The athame is used to direct personal power during ritual workings. It is seldom used for actual physical cutting. The term is of obscure origin; has many variant spellings among Wiccans, and an even greater variety of pronunciations. British and American East Coast Wiccans may pronounce it as “Ah-THAM-ee” (to rhyme with “whammy”); I was first taught to say “ATH-ah-may” and, later, “Ah-THAW-may.”

Balefire: A fire laid and lit for magical or religious purposes, usually outdoors. Balefires are tradition adjuncts to Wiccan ritual on Yule, Beltane, and Litha.

Bane: That which destroys life; is not useful; is poisonous, destructive, or evil.

Baneful: See bane.

B.C.E.: Before Common Era; the nonreligious equivalent of B.C.

Beltane: A Wiccan religious festival observed on April 30th that celebrates the burgeoning fertility of the earth (and, for some Wiccans, the wedding of the Goddess and the God). Synonyms include May Eve, Roodmas, Walpurgis Night, and Cethsamhain.

Besom: Broom.

Blessing: The act of conferring positive energy upon a person, place, or thing. It’s a spiritual or religious practice.

Boline: The white-handled knife, used in Wiccan and magic ritual for practical purposes such as cutting herbs or piercing pomegranates. Compare with athame.

Book of Shadows, The: A collection of Wiccan ritual information that usually includes religious rituals, magic, and advice. There are many Books of Shadows; there is no one correct Book of Shadows.

Cakes and wine: Also known as “cakes and ale,” this is a simple ritual meal shared with the Goddess and God, usually within the circle, near the completion of a religious ritual. Such ritual meals predate Christianity.

C.E.: Common Era; the nonreligious equivalent of A.D.

Censer: A heat-proof container in which incense is smoldered during ritual. An incense burner. Usually associated, in Wicca, with the element of air.

Charging: See empowering.

Circle, Magic: A sphere constructed by personal power in which Wiccan rituals are usually enacted. The area inside the circle is seen as being common ground on which Wiccans and their deities can meet. The term refers to the circle that marks the sphere’s penetration of the ground, for it extends both above and below it. The circle is created through magic.

Circle casting: The process of moving positive energy from the body and forming it into a large, nonphysical sphere of power in which Wiccan rituals usually occur. Circle castings usually begin each Wiccan ritual. The process is also known as “laying the circle” and “creating sacred space,” among other terms.

Clockwise: The traditional form of movement in positive magic and in Wiccan ritual. (If you’re standing facing a tree, move to your left and walk in a circle around it. That’s clockwise motion.) Also known as “deosil movement.”

Conscious mind: The analytical, materially based, rational half of our consciousness. Compare with psychic mind.

Consecration: The act of conferring sanctity. In Wicca, tools used in religious and magical rites are consecrated with energy during specific rituals.

Coven: A group of Wiccans, usually initiatory and led by one or two leaders, that gathers together for religious and magical workings. Most covens operate within a specific Wiccan tradition.

Craft, The: Wicca.

Deosil: See clockwise.

Divination: The magical art of discovering the unknown by interpreting random patterns or symbols. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as “fortune-telling.”

Divine power: The unmanifested, pure energy that exists within the Goddess and God. The life force; the ultimate source of all things. It is this energy that Wiccans contact during ritual. Compare with earth power and personal power.

Earth power: That energy which exists within stones, herbs, flames, wind, water, and other natural objects. It is manifested divine power and can be utilized during magic to create needed change. Compare with personal power.

Elements, The: Earth, air, fire, and water. These four essences are the building blocks of the universe, and ancient magical sources of energy.

Empowering: The act of moving energy into an object.

Energy: A general term for the currently unmeasurable (but real) power that exists within all natural objects and beings—including our own bodies. It is used in folk magic. See also personal power.

Esbat: A Wiccan ritual occurring on any day other than the eight sabbats. Esbats are often held on full moons, which are dedicated to the Goddess.

Folk magic: The practice of magic utilizing personal power, in conjunction with natural tools, in a nonreligious framework, to cause positive change.

Goal: See intent.

God, The: Generally, in Wicca, the God is the male principle; the perfect complement to the Goddess. He’s often identified with the sun; with deserts and forests; and with wild animals. Some see him as the Lord of Death and Resurrection. In the eight sabbats, the Wiccans celebrate his birth, maturity, union with the Goddess, and his death. The God is not to be confused with the common Christian conception of God.

Goddess, The: There are as many definitions of the Goddess as there are Wiccans. Generally, she’s seen as the creatress of the universe; the unfaltering, ultimate source of fertility, wisdom, love, compassion, healing, and power. Often associated with the moon, the seas, and the earth in Wiccan thought, the Goddess has been worshipped in many religions across the globe and throughout time.

Handfasting: Within Wicca, a ritual joining of two human beings in a bond of love, and before the Goddess and God.

Herb: Virtually any plant used in magic.

High Priest: In group Wicca, one of two visible leaders of a coven; a man who co-leads the rituals, or a man who has reached a certain level of proficiency, achievement, and wisdom. The term usually denotes a man who has received not one but several initiations.

High Priestess: A highly experienced leader of a coven; a woman who leads or co-leads the rituals, or a woman who has reached a certain level of Wiccan proficiency, achievement, and wisdom. The term usually denotes a woman who has received not one but several


Imbolc: A Wiccan religious festival celebrated on February 1 or 2 that marks the first stirring of spring.

Initiation: A process whereby an individual is introduced or admitted into a group, interest, skill, or religion. Initiations may be ritual occasions, or may spontaneously occur.

Intent: In magic, the goal of the working.

Invocation: An appeal or petition to a higher power (or powers). Invocation is a method of establishing conscious ties with those aspects of the Goddess and God that dwell within us. Invocation seemingly invites them to appear. In actuality, invocation simply makes us newly aware of their presence.

Law of Three, The: A Wiccan belief that our actions, both positive and negative, will be returned to us threefold.

Litha: The summer solstice, a Wiccan religious festival and a traditional time for magic. Also known as Midsummer.

“Luck, Good”: An individual’s ability to make timely, correct decisions, to perform correct actions, and to place herself or himself in positive situations. “Bad luck” stems from ignorance and an unwillingness to accept self-responsibility.

Lughnasadh: A Wiccan religious festival celebrated on August 1st that marks the first harvest.

Mabon: A Wiccan religious festival celebrated on the autumn equinox that marks the second harvest.

Magic: The movement of natural (yet subtle) energies to manifest positive, needed change. Magic is the process of rousing energy, giving it purpose (through visualization), and releasing it to create a change. This is a natural (not supernatural) practice.

Magic Circle: See circle.

Meditation: Reflection, contemplation, turning inward toward the self or outward toward deity or nature.

Ostara: A Wiccan festival celebrated on the spring equinox that marks the beginning of the return of evident fertility to the earth.

Pagan: From the Latin paganus, a “country dweller” or “villager.” Today it’s used as a general term for followers of Wicca and other polytheistic, magic-embracing religions. Pagans aren’t Satanists, dangerous, or evil.

Pentacle: A ritual object (usually a circular piece of wood, clay, or metal) upon which a five-pointed star (pentagram) is inscribed, painted, or engraved. It represents the element of earth. The words “pentagram” and “pentacle” are not interchangeable in Wiccan use.

Pentagram: An interlaced, five-pointed star (one point at its top) that has long been used as a protective device. Today the pentagram is also associated with the element of earth and with Wicca. It has no evil associations.

Personal power: That energy which sustains our bodies. We first absorb it from our biological mothers within the womb and, later, from food, water, the moon and sun, and other natural objects. We release personal power during stress, exercise, sex, conception, and childbirth. Magic is usually a movement of personal power for a specific goal.

Power: See energy; personal power; earth power; divine power.

Prayer: The act of focusing one’s attention on deity and engaging in communication. In Wicca, prayer is directed to the Goddess and God.

Psychic awareness: The act of being consciously psychic, in which the psychic mind and the conscious mind are linked and working in harmony.

Psychic mind: The subconscious or unconscious mind, in which we receive psychic impulses. The psychic mind is at work when we sleep, dream, and meditate.

Reincarnation: The doctrine of rebirth. The process of repeated incarnations in human form to allow evolution of the sexless, ageless human soul. One of the tenets of Wicca.

Rite: See ritual.

Ritual: Ceremony. A specific form of movement, manipulation of objects, or inner processes designed to produce desired effects. In religion, ritual is geared toward union with the divine. In magic, it allows the magician to move energy toward needed goals. A spell is a magical rite.

Runes: Sticklike figures, some of which are remnants of old Teutonic alphabets; others are pictographs. These symbols are once again being widely used in all forms of magic.

Sabbat: A Wiccan religious festival.

Samhain: A Wiccan religious festival celebrated on October 31st that marks the last harvest and the preparations for winter.

Scrying: The process of gazing at or into a shiny object, flame, or water for the purposes of contacting the psychic mind.

Solitary Wicca: Wicca practiced, due to either choice or circumstance, by individuals without group support.

Spell: The mainstay of folk magic, spells are simply magical rites. They’re usually nonreligious and often include spoken words.

Tools: A word much-used in Wicca, this term includes both physical objects used to facilitate Wiccan ritual (censers, wands, candles, salt, water, and incense) as well as internal processes (visualization and concentration, among others). In some forms of magic, this term also refers to stones, herbs, colors, and other sources of power utilized in spells.

Tradition, Wiccan: An organized, structured, specific Wiccan subgroup, usually initiatory, often with unique ritual practices. The basis of any tradition is its Book of Shadows and specific oral instructions revealed only to initiates. Most traditions are comprised of a number of covens. Most recognize members of other traditions as Wiccans. There are many Wiccan traditions; perhaps the most famous of these is the Gardnerian.

Visualization: The process of forming mental images. Magical visualization consists of forming images of needed goals during magic. It is a function of the conscious mind.

Wand: One of the ritual tools used in Wicca, the wand is an instrument of invocation, usually utilized to call upon the Goddess and the God.

Wicca: A contemporary Pagan religion with spiritual roots in the earliest expressions of reverence of nature as a manifestation of the divine. Wicca views deity as Goddess and God; thus it is polytheistic. It also embraces the practice of magic and accepts reincarnation. Religious festivals are held in observance of the full moon and other astronomical (and agricultural) phenomena. It has no associations with Satanism.

Wiccan: Of or relating to Wicca.

Widdershins: Counterclockwise ritual motion. Compare with clockwise.

Witch: Anciently, a European practitioner of pre-Christian folk magic, particularly that relating to herbs, healing, wells, rivers, and stones. One who practiced Witchcraft. Later, this term’s meaning was altered to denote demented, dangerous beings who practiced destructive magic and who threatened Christianity. This latter definition is false. (Some Wiccans also use the word to describe themselves.)

Witchcraft: The Craft of the Witch. Magic, especially magic utilizing personal power in conjunction with the energies within stones, herbs, colors, and other natural objects. While this does have spiritual overtones, Witchcraft, according to this definition, isn’t a religion. However, many followers of Wicca use this word to denote their religion.

Yule: A Wiccan religious festival celebrated on the winter solstice that marks the rebirth of the sun.