Wicca General Practices
Wicca and Witchcraft: General Practices in Wicca
The roots of the religion called Wicca, or Witchcraft, are very old, coming down to us through a variety of channels worldwide. Although any general statement about our practices will have exceptions, the following will attempt to present a basic foundation for understanding.
Some of the old practices were lost when indigenous religions encountered militant Christianity and were forced to go underground for survival. The ancient mystery religions were lost when the practice of the rites were stopped and the old verbal traditions were no longer available. Parents transmitted their traditions to their children down through the centuries with parts being lost and new parts created. These survivals, along with research into the old ways, provide a rich foundation for modern practice. Other factors contributing to the revival of the Craft are archeological and anthropological studies of the religious practices of non-Christian cultures, the works of the Golden Dawn and other metaphysical orders, and the liberalization of anti-Witchcraft laws.
Modern Witches hold rituals according to the turning of the seasons, the tides of the moon, and personal needs. Most rituals are performed in a ritual space marked by a circle. We do not build church buildings to create this ritual space -- all of Earth is in touch with the Goddess and so any place may be consecrated to use for a rite.
Within this sacred circle, two main activities occur -- celebration and the practice of magic. Celebration is most important at the major seasonal holidays, called Sabbats. At these times the myths of that particular holiday are enacted and dancing, singing, feasting, and revelry are all part of the festivities. On these occasions we celebrate our oneness with Life. Magic is more often performed at gatherings called Esbats, which coincide with the phases of the moon. Types of magic practiced include psychic healing sessions, the channeling of energy to achieve positive results, and work toward the individual spiritual development of the coven members. Magic is an art which requires adherence to certain principles. It requires a conscious direction of will toward a desired end. It is an attribute of magic that what you direct your will toward will return to you three times. Therefore, Witches are careful to practice only beneficial magic.
When the celebration, teaching, or magical work is finished, the blessing of the Goddess and God is called into food and drink which are shared by all. The circle is opened and the space is no longer consecrated.
To create the circle and the working of magic, we use tools to facilitate a magical mood in which the psychic state necessary for this kind of work can be achieved. The tools are part of a complete and self consistant symbolic system which is agreed upon by the participants and provides them with a 'map' for entry into unfamiliar psychic spaces. Such a system, like a map, is arbitrary and not 'true' in an absolute sense; it is a guide to a state which is ineffable and can be most clearly reached through poetry and 'starlight' vision.
A primary tool, which is owned by most Witches, is an athame or ritual knife. The athame is charged with the energy of the owner and is used as a pointer to define space (such as casting a sacred circle) and as a conductor of the owner's will and energy.
Other important tools
Other important tools are the symbols on the altar which denote the elements: earth, air, fire, and water (some 'maps' include spirit). A pentacle (a pentagram traced upon a disk, like a small dish) is often used to symbolize earth and its properties -- stability, material wealth and practical affairs. Alternatively, a small dish of salt or soil can be used to symbolize the earth element. A ritual sword is usually used to symbolize air and its properties - - communication, wisdom, and understanding. Alternatively, a thurible of incense or a bell may be used to symbolize the air element. A candle or wand is used to symbolize the element of fire and its properties -- will, transmutation, and power. A chalice of water is used to symbolize the element of water and its properties -- cleansing, regeneration, and emotion. In traditions which include the symbol of spirit, an ankh, quartz crystal, or some other object is used to symbolize spirit and its properties -- perfection, balance, illumination and eternity.
Since these tools are merely the conductors of personal energies, as copper is a conductor for electrical energy, most covens provide some degree of training in psychic development to strengthen each memeber's ability to participate in the religious activities. Each individual decides what level of such training is useful for them. We see psychic abilities as a natural human potential. We are dedicated to developing this and all of our positive human potentials. The energies raised by these practices and other religious activities are directed toward healing ourselves and the Earth, and toward diverse magical workings.