Seasons of Wicca: The Essential Guide to Rituals and Rites to Enhance Your Spiritual Journey - Ambrosia Hawthorn 2020
Wicca’s Origins & Beliefs
Before we engage with the practice of Wicca, we need to discuss how it began and how it has evolved. I’ll clarify Wicca’s origins and beliefs so you can build your own successful, authentic Wiccan practice.
In this chapter, I’ll discuss the Wiccan Rede, the importance of working with nature and deities, the connection between magic and Wicca, and the ins and outs of building your own practice. These building blocks will enhance your spiritual practice and deepen your faith.
There are no governing bodies, recognized prophets, or true forms of Wicca. Many practitioners are drawn to Wicca because they’re dissatisfied with the structure of traditional religions. Wicca attracts those who wish to embrace a path rooted in nature, spiritualism, and a reverence for the divine.
WHAT IS WICCA?
Wicca emerged in the United States in the 1960s as an Earth-centered religion that incorporates deity and ritual. Many believe the term Wicca originates from the English author Gerald Gardner, who is often referred to as the Father of Wicca. Gardner first used the term Wica, meaning “wise people,” in his book Witchcraft Today, published in 1954. At the time, he referred to Wica as a tradition of witchcraft. Gerald Gardner’s work was heavily influenced by others. As early as 1914, English occultist Aleister Crowley had the idea to create a new religion focused on nature and Pagan traditions. The origins of the rituals in Wicca can also be traced to scholar Margaret Murray, who in the 1920s wrote about witch cults and medieval religion. Murray is often referred to as the “Grandmother of Wicca.”
Wicca falls under the umbrella term of Paganism and is sometimes associated with magic and witchcraft. Many practitioners use the terms Wicca and witchcraft interchangeably; however, not all Wiccans practice witchcraft, nor do all witches follow Wicca. Wicca’s popularity as a modern religion is due in part to its inherent adaptability—it celebrates life and nature, and its practice is often unique to the individual.
THE WICCAN REDE
As you begin your exploration into Wicca, you will likely come across the Wiccan Rede. The Wiccan Rede is a statement that provides a guideline or moral compass for Wiccan practice, and it emphasizes the core value of doing no harm. (The term rede originates from the Old English ræd, which means “counsel” or “advice.”)
There are multiple versions of the Rede, and its origins are cloudy. It was made famous in the 1960s by English Wiccan Doreen Valiente and in the 1970s by author Lady Gwen Thompson, who wrote a longer version titled The Rede of the Wiccae. Though there are multiple versions, the Redes all end with a form of the saying, “Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, An it harm none, do what ye will.”
Engaging with nature is one of the primary tenets of Wicca, and many Wiccans are passionate about the environment and respect all forms of life. Nature permeates Wiccan practice by way of the elements, seasons, celebrations, tools, and even deities. Through the earth, Wiccans feel a connection to the divine, which is the basis for the sabbat, esbat, and solstice rituals.
Wiccan practice often uses tools from the earth, such as crystals, herbs, wooden items, feathers, bone, and minerals. There is energy in all these items. If you choose to practice magic, you can learn to harness that energy to manifest healing, protection, transformation, and prosperity. If you choose a magic- or witchcraft-free path, you might choose to celebrate Earth’s changing seasons and to honor life, death, and rebirth. To connect with nature, you might wish to spend time outdoors, follow the planetary movements and cycles, and notice the natural rhythms in the world around you.
Many Wiccans celebrate and honor the five elements (earth, air, water, fire, and sprit), the four seasons (summer, autumn, winter, and spring), the solstices (winter and summer), the equinoxes (spring and autumn), the 13 full moons (esbats), Earth’s position relative to the sun, and the eight Pagan sabbats (Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lughnasadh, and Mabon). I’ll discuss all of these in greater depth throughout this book.
Goddesses and Gods play a vital role in Wicca. In some Wiccan traditions, the Gods and Goddess are all-encompassing deities and are sometimes referred to as the Horned God and Triple Goddess, God and Goddess, or Lord and Lady. These all-encompassing deities of Wicca are considered complementary polarities that represent the masculine and feminine essences of life. They are responsible for life and balance on Earth.
The Lord, God, Horned God, or masculine presence is represented by the sun, solstices, and fertility of the land and is often symbolized by animal horns, black candles, antlers, and phallic tools, such as swords and wands.
The Lady, Goddess, Triple Goddess, or feminine presence is represented in the cycles of the moon and the stages of womanhood, such as maiden, mother, and crone. The symbols that represent the feminine aspect are water, cups and vessels, and white candles.
Some traditions may honor or celebrate specific deities rather than all-encompassing deities. Choosing which specific deities to honor depends on the practitioner’s beliefs and spiritual preferences. You can choose deities from any pantheon, but beginners often choose from the Celtic, Nordic, or Greek pantheons.
There are many ways to choose a deity to honor. One way is to seek corresponding themes. For example, if you’re celebrating a sabbat, you might look for deities associated with that particular sabbat. Alternatively, if you want to hold a ritual to manifest prosperity or love, you might choose deities associated with those qualities.
Wiccan magic, also referred to as magic, magick, witchcraft, practical magic, or spellcasting, is the manipulation and channeling of energy to harness power. By harnessing this power, you can influence the world around you to create positive change for yourself.
I mentioned earlier that some Wiccans don’t practice witchcraft. It is possible to have a full Wiccan practice without harnessing energy or casting spells. If you chose this path, you’d be considered a Wiccan who lives in harmony with nature and who celebrates the changing seasons, sabbats, and deities without seeking to manipulate the energy found in nature. Of course, you can be a Wiccan who practices magic. Look within yourself and decide what feels right to you.
Those who intend to practice magic, or who are simply interested, must understand the terminology of “good magic” and “bad magic.” These terms often show up on social media in both the magical and nonmagical communities. Magic is “gray” more than it is black and white, and it follows ethical rules. For instance, you wouldn’t want anyone to perform a spell to harm, curse, or alter your own free will, so you shouldn’t use magic to do that to others. Practicing magic comes with great responsibility, and it requires you to make ethical choices. Refer to the Wiccan Rede whenever you practice magic.
To perform the rituals in this book, I recommend using magical tools to assist you. These tools are often used on your altar or in your magical workspace of choice. The tools will vary depending on your intentions, and they have significance and meaning that often reflect elements found in nature. The four most common elemental tools used in Wicca are the chalice, wand, athame, and pentacle.
The chalice, bowl, or cup represents the element of water, the Goddess or Lady, and often signifies feminine qualities. In the chalice, you’ll often place water, wine, or other prepared mixtures.
The wand represents the element of air in most Wiccan practices and fire in most esoteric practices. A wand is used to help direct energy, assists with ritual circle creation, and symbolizes the God, Lord, or masculine presence. Often, wands are made of wood and sometimes incorporate clay and crystals.
The athame is a ceremonial blade that represents the element of fire, and like a wand, it also directs energy. Though athames are knives, they are not used for actual cutting; instead, they are used symbolically to “cut” through energy or to draw symbols in the air. Athames are often used interchangeably with wands.
The pentacle represents the element of earth. A pentacle is a circle containing a five-pointed, upright star and is often used or worn as a symbol of protection or of a witch’s beliefs. In many of the rituals in this book, you’ll place elemental items in a pentacle configuration, with items at each of the five points. The pentacle symbol is often inscribed or drawn on a round, flat object made of wood, metal, clay, or stone.
Other popular tools used to complement a Wiccan practice are candles, crystals, herbs and oils, incense, cauldrons, bells, besoms, bolines, offerings, ritual robes, a Book of Shadows, divination tools, songs and chants, and physical representations of deities and the elements. For further information on these items, see “Tools for Magical Transformations”.
COVENS & SOLITARY PRACTICE
Some Wiccans engage in a solitary practice, whereas others belong to covens, which is a group of practicing Wiccans. Neither type of practice is better than the other. New Wiccans usually begin as solitary practitioners, and once they get comfortable, they may seek out like-minded individuals to discuss with and learn from. This communication is one of the most popular reasons for joining a coven.
Some covens follow a more structured path or tradition, but that’s not always the case. Although a coven can be a wonderful source of community for some, it’s not ideal for everyone. Some instead join circles, which are popular, less-structured gatherings common in the magical community. Circles take place during a celebration such as a sabbat or esbat.
WHAT WICCA ISN’T
Distinguishing among Wicca, Paganism, and witchcraft can be a little difficult. If you’re just beginning to explore these traditions, focus on looking within yourself and figuring out what feels right to you. Read as many books as you can, start practicing, and check in with yourself regularly to see what clicks. If you have an affinity for herbs, gardening, and healing, you may be drawn to a green or herbal path. If you’re fascinated by dreams, astral travel, and meditation, explore those practices and see where they take you.
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT WICCA
Wicca is a cult. Wicca is an Earth-centered religion.
Wiccans worship the devil. Satan is an Abrahamic figure, not a Wiccan one.
Wiccans don’t believe in God. Wicca is a polytheistic religion that honors the all-encompassing God and Goddess or multiple Gods and Goddesses from different pantheons or traditions.
Wicca has no rules. Wicca has no governing body, but it is guided by ethical practices and moral behavior.