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This page will hopefully answer some of the questions or clarify some of the
information that is circulating regarding Wiccans/Pagans.  Listed is a brief summary/history
of Wicca, the Military Clergyman's Handbook chapter on Wicca and
the American Witches' Council of 1974.



WICCA (sometimes called Wicce, The Craft, or The Old Religion by its practitioners) is an ancient religion of love for life and nature.
               In prehistoric times, people respected the great forces of Nature and
           celebrated the cycles of the seasons and the moon. They saw divinity in
           the sun and moon, in the Earth Herself, and in all life.  The creative
           energies of the universe were personified: feminine and masculine
           principles became Goddesses and Gods. These were not semi-abstract,
           superhuman figures set apart from Nature: they were embodied in earth
           and sky, women and men, and even plants and animals.

                This viewpoint is still central to present-day Wicca. To most Wiccans,
           everything in Natures -- and all Goddesses and Gods -- are true aspects
           of Deity. The aspects most often celebrated in the Craft, however, are
           the Triple Goddess of the Moon (Who is Maiden, Mother, and Crone)
           and the Horned God of the wilds. These have many names in various
           cultures.

               Wicca had its organized beginnings in Paleolithic times, co-existed
            with other Pagan ("country") religions in Europe, and had a profound
           influence on early Christianity.  But in the medieval period, tremendous
            persecution was directed against the Nature religions by the Roman
            Church.  Over a span of 300 years, millions of men and women and
            many children were hanged, drowned or burned as accused Witches."
            The Church indicted them for black magic and Satan worship, though in
            fact these were never a part of the Old Religion.

                The Wiccan faith went underground, to be practiced in small, secret
            groups called "covens."  For the most part, it stayed hidden until very
            recent times.  Now scholars such as Margaret Murray and Gerald
            Gardner have shed some light on the origins of the Craft, and new
            attitudes of religious freedom have allowed covens in some areas to
            risk becoming more open.

                How do Wiccan folk practice their faith today?  There is no central
            authority or doctrine, and individual covens vary a great deal.  But most
            meet to celebrate on nights of the Full Moon, and at eight great
            festivals or Sabbats throughout the year.

                Though some practice alone or with only their families, many
            Wiccans are organized into covens of three to thirteen members.  Some
            are led by a High Priestess or Priest, many by a Priestess/Priest team; others
            rotate or share leadership.  Some covens are highly structured and
            hierarchical, while others may be informal and egalitarian.  Often
            extensive training is required before initiation, and coven membership
            is considered an important commitment.

                There are many branches or "traditions" of Wicca in the United
            States and elsewhere, such as the Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Welsh
            Traditional, Dianic, Faery, Seax-Wicca and others.  All adhere to a
            code of ethics.  None engage in the disreputable practices of some
            modern "cults," such as isolating and brainwashing impressionable,
            lonely young people.  Genuine Wiccans welcome sisters and brothers,
            but not disciples, followers or victims.

                Coven meetings include ritual, celebration and magick (the "k" is to
            distinguish it from stage illusions).  Wiccan magick is not at all like the
            instant "special effects"  of cartoon shows or fantasy novels, nor
            medieval demonology; it operates in harmony with natural laws and is
            usually less spectacular -- though effective.

                Various techniques are used to heal people and animals, seek
            guidance, or improve members' lives in specific ways.  Positive goals
            are sought: cursing and "evil spells" are repugnant to practitioners of
            the Old Religion.

                Wiccans tend to be strong supporters of environmental protection,
            equal rights, global peace and religious freedom, and sometimes magick
            is used toward such goals.

                Wiccan beliefs do not include such Judeao-Christian concepts as
            original sin, vicarious atonement, divine judgment or bodily
            resurrection.  Craft folk believe in a beneficent universe, the laws of
            karma and reincarnation, and divinity inherent in every human being and
            all of Nature.  Yet laughter and pleasure are part of their spiritual
            tradition, and they enjoy singing, dancing, feasting, and love.

                Wiccans tend to be individualists, and have no central holy book,
            prophet, or church authority.  They draw inspiration and insight from
            science, and personal experience.  Each practitioner keeps a personal
            book or journal in which s/he records magickal "recipes," dreams,
            invocations, songs, poetry and so on.

                To most of the Craft, every religion has its own valuable perspective
            on the nature of Deity and humanity's relationship to it: there is no One
            True Faith. Rather, religious diversity is necessary in a world of diverse
            societies and individuals.

               Because of this belief, Wiccan groups do not actively recruit or
            proselytize: there is an assumption that people who can benefit from the
            Wiccan way will "find their way home" when the time is right.

                Despite the lack of evangelist zeal, many covens are quite willing to
            talk with interested people, and even make efforts to inform their
            communities about the beliefs and practices of Wicca.

Go to the page on recommended reading for a list of books for more understanding, or
go to Witchvox.com, for a list of people, covens, and group communities in your area.
 
 

From the Military Chaplain's Handbook:

 
ADDRESS: No central address. Wiccan worship groups, called covens, are essentially autonomous. Many, but far from all, have affiliated with: Covenant of the Goddess, P.O. Box 1226, Berkeley, CA 94704

OTHER NAMES BY WHICH KNOWN: Witchcraft; Goddess worshipers; Neo-Paganism, Paganism, Norse (or any other ethnic designation) Paganism, Earth Religion, Old Religion, Druidism, Shamanism. Note: All of these groups have some basic similarities and many surface differences of expression with Wicca.

LEADERSHIP: No central leadership. The Covenant of the Goddess annually elects a First Officer and there is a constitutional limit of two consecutive terms, but in practice effacers have almost always served for one year only. In 1991, there are two co-First Officers, Phoenix White birch and Brandy Williams.

MEMBERSHIP: Because of the complete autonomy of covens, this cannot be determined. There are an estimated of 50,000 Wiccans in the United States.

HISTORICAL ORIGIN: Wicca is a reconstruction of the Nature worship of tribal Europe, strongly influenced by the living Nature worship traditions of tribal peoples in other parts of the world. The works of such early twentieth century writers as Margaret Murray, Robert Graves and Gerald B. Gardner began the renewal of interest in the Old Religion. After the repeal of the anti Witchcraft laws in Britain in 1951, Gardner publicly declared himself a Witch and began to Bather a group of students and worshipers.
 

In 1962, two of his students Raymond and Rosemary Buckland (religious names: Lady Rowen and Robat), emigrated to the United States and began teaching Gardnerian Witchcraft here. At the same time, other groups of people became interested through reading books by Gardner and others. Many covens were spontaneously formed, using rituals created from a combination of research and individual inspiration. These self-created covens are today regarded as just as valid as those who can trace a "lineage" of teaching back to England.

In 1975, a very diverse group of covens who wanted to secure the legal protections and benefits of church status formed Covenant of the Goddess (CoG), which is incorporated in the State of California and recognized by the Internal Revenue Service. CoG does not represent all, or even a majority of Wiccans. A coven or an individual need not be affiliated with CoG in order to validly practice the religion. But CoG is the largest single public Wiccan organization, and it is cross-Traditional (i.e. non-denominational).
 

BASIC BELIEFS: Wiccans worship the Sacred as immanent in Nature, often personified as Mother Earth and Father Sky. As polytheists, they may use many other names for Deity. Individuals will often choose Goddesses or Gods from any of the world's pantheons whose stories are particularly inspiring and use those Deities as a focus for personal devotions. Similarly, covens will use particular Deity names as a group focus, and these are often held secret by the groups.

It is very important to be aware that Wiccans do not in any way worship or believe in "Satan," "the Devil," or any similar entities. They point out that "Satan" is a symbol of rebellion against and inversion of the Christian and Jewish traditions. Wiccans do not revile the Bible. They simply regard it as one among many of the world's mythic systems, less applicable than some to their core values, but still deserving just as much respect as any of the others.

Most Wiccan groups also practice magic, by which they mean the direction and use of "psychic energy," those natural but invisible forces which surround all living things. Some members spell the word "magick," to distinguish it from sleight of hand entertainments. Wiccans employ such means as dance, chant, creative visualization and hypnosis to focus and direct psychic energy for the purpose of healing, protecting and aiding members in various endeavors. Such assistance is also extended to non-members upon request.

Many, but not all, Wiccans believe in reincarnation. Some take this as a literal description of what happens to people when they die. For others, it is a symbolic model that helps them deal with the cycles and changes within this life. Neither reincarnation nor any other literal belief can be used as a test of an individual's validity as a member of the Old Religion.

Most groups have a handwritten collection of rituals and lore, known as a Book of Shadows. Part of the religious education of a new member will be to hand copy this book for him or herself. Over the years, as inspiration provides, new material will be added. Normally, access to these books is limited to initiated members of the religion.

PRACTICES AND BEHAVIORAL STANDARDS: The core ethical statement of Wicca, called the "Wiccan Rede" states "an it harm none, do what you will." The Rede fulfills the same function as does the "Golden Rule" for Jews and Christians; all other ethical teachings are considered to be elaborations and applications of the Rede. It is a statement of situational ethics, emphasizing at once the individual's responsibility to avoid harm to others and the widest range of personal autonomy in "victimless" activities. Wicca has been described as having a "high choice" ethic.

Because of the basic Nature orientation of the religion, many Wiccans will regard all living things as Sacred, and to show a special concern for ecological issues. For this reason, individual conscience will lead some to take a pacifist position. Some are vegetarians. Others will feel that, as Nature's Way includes self-defense, they should participate in wars that they conscientiously consider to be just. The religion does not dictate either position, but requires each member to thoughtfully and meditatively examine her or his own conscience and to live by it.

Social forces generally do not yet allow Witches to publicly declare their religious faith without fear of reprisals such as loss of job, child custody challenges, ridicule, etc. Prejudice against Wiccans is the result of public confusion between Witchcraft and Satanism. Wiccans in the military, especially those who may be posted in countries perceived to be particularly intolerant, will often have their dog tags read "No Religious Preference." Concealment is a traditional Wiccan defense against persecution, so nondenominational dog tags should not contravene a member's request for religious services.

Wiccans celebrate eight festivals, called "Sabbats," as a means of attunement to the seasonal rhythms of Nature. These are January 31 (Called Oimelc, Brigit, or February Eve), March 21 (Ostara or Spring Equinox), April 30 (Beltane or May Eve), June 22 (Midsummer, Litha or Summer Solstice), July 31 (Lughnasadh or Lammas), September 21 (Harvest, Mabon or Autumn Equinox), October 31 (Samhain, Sowyn or Hallows) and December 21 (Yule or Winter Solstice.) Some groups find meetings within a few days of those dates to be acceptable; others require the precise date. In addition, most groups will meet for worship at each Full Moon, and many will also meet on the New Moon. Meetings for religious study will often be scheduled at any time convenient to the members, and rituals can be scheduled whenever there is a need (i.e. for a healing).

Ritual jewelry is particularly important to many Wiccans. In addition to being a symbol of religious dedication, these talismans are often blessed by the coven back home and felt to carry the coven's protective and healing energy.  Many Wiccan or Pagans choose to wear a pentagram and are not neo-nazi's or Satanists. It's similar to a Christian wearing the Cross or Crucifix or a Jew wearing the Star of David.

ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE: Most Wiccans meet with a coven, a small group of people. Each coven is autonomous. Most are headed by a High Priestess, often with the assistance of a High Priest. Some are headed by a High Priestess or High Priest without a partner, and some regard themselves as a gathering of equals. Covens can be of mixed gender, or all female or male, depending on the preferences of the members. Every initiate is considered to be a priestess or a priest. Most covens are small. Thirteen is the traditional maximum number of members, although not an absolute limit. At that size, covens form a close bond, so Wiccans in the military are likely to maintain a strong affiliation with their covens back home.

There are many distinct "Traditions" of Wicca, just as there are many denominations within Christianity. The spectrum of Wiccan practice can be described as ranging from "traditional" to "eclectic," with Traditions, covens and individuals fitting anywhere within that range. A typical difference would be that more traditional groups would tend to follow a set liturgy, whereas eclectic groups would emphasize immediate inspiration in worship.

These distinctions are not particularly important to the military chaplain, since it is unlikely that enough members of any one Tradition would be at the same base. Worship circles at military facilities are likely to be ad-hoc cross-Traditional groups, working out compromise styles of worship for themselves and constantly adapting them to a changing membership. Therefore, the lack of strict adherence to the patterns of any one Tradition is not an indicator of invalidity.

While many Wiccans meet in a coven, there are also a number of solitaries. These are individuals who choose to practice their faith alone. They may have been initiated in a coven or self initiated. They will join with the other Wiccans to celebrate the festivals or to attend the various regional events organized by the larger community.

ROLE OF MINISTERS: Within a traditional coven, the High Priestess, usually assisted by her High Priest, serves both as leader in the rituals and as teacher and counselor for coven members and unaffiliated Pagans. Eclectic covens tend to share leadership more equally.

WORSHIP: Wiccans usually worship in groups. Individuals who are currently not affiliated with a coven, or are away from their home coven, may choose to worship privately or any form ad-hoc groups to mark religious occasions. Non-participating observers are not generally welcome at Wiccan rituals.

Some, but not all, Wiccan covens worship in the nude ("skyclad") as a sign of attunement with Nature. Most, but not all, Wiccan covens bless and share a cup of wine as part of the ritual. Almost all Wiccans use an individual ritual knife (an "athame") to focus and direct personal energy. Covens often also have ritual swords to direct the energy of the group. These tools, like all other ritual tools, are highly personal and should never leave the possession of the owner.

Other commonly used ritual tools include a bowl of water, a bowl of salt, a censer with incense, a disk with symbols engraved on it (a "pentacle"), statues or art work representing the Goddess and God, and candles. Most groups will bless and share bread or cookies along with the wine. All of these items are used in individual, private worship as well as in congregate rituals.

DIETARY LAWS OR RESTRICTIONS: None

FUNERAL AND BURIAL REQUIREMENTS: None. Recognition of the death of a member takes place within the coven, apart from the body of the deceased. Ritual tools, materials, or writings found among the effects of the deceased should be returned to their home coven (typically a member will designate a person to whom ritual materials should be sent).

It is desirable for a Wiccan priest or priestess to be present at the time of death, but not strictly necessary. If not possible, the best assistance would be to make the member as comfortable as possible, listen to whatever they have to say, honor any possible requests, and otherwise leave them as quiet and private as possible.

MEDICAL TREATMENT: No medical restrictions. Wiccans generally believe in the efficacy of spiritual or psychic healing when done in tandem with standard medical treatment. Therefore, at the request of the patient, other Wiccan personnel should be allowed visiting privileges as though they were immediate family, including access to Intensive Care Units. Most Wiccans believe that healing energy can be sent from great distances, so, if possible, in the case of any serious medical condition, the member's home coven should be notified.

OTHER: With respect to attitude toward military service, Wiccans range from career military personnel to conscientious objectors.

Wiccans do not proselytize and generally resent those who do. They believe that no one Path to the Sacred is right for all people, and see their own religious pattern as only one among many that are equally worthy. Wiccans respect all religions that foster honor and compassion in their adherents, and expect the same respect. Members are encouraged to learn about all faiths, and are permitted to attend the services of other religions, should they desire to do so.

GENERAL SOURCE BOOKS:

The best general survey of the Wiccan and neo-Pagan movement is:

Adler,Margot. Drawing Down the Moon. Boston: Beacon Press,1986.595pp

For more specific information about eclectic Wicca, see:

Star hawk. The Spiral Dance. New York: Harper & Row, 1979.

For more specific information about traditional Wicca, see:

Farrar, Janet, and Stewart Farrar. Eight Sabbats for Witches. London: Robert Hale, 1981. 192~.

The Witches' Way. London: Robert Hale, 1984. 349pp.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Pagan Military Newsletter c/o Terri Morgan, Editor 829 Lynnhaven Parkway 114-198 Virginia Beach, VA 23452 (This is no longer available.)

Because of the autonomy of each coven and the wide variance of specific ritual practices, the best contact person would be the High Priestess or other leader of the member's home coven.



American Witches Council 1974

 
In April 1974, the Council of American Witches adopted a set of Principles of Wiccan Belief. Many of us subscribe to them, but holding we have no set text or dogma, the Wiccan Rede is all ye must follow-" An it harm none, do what thou wilt."

1. We practice rites to attune ourselves with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the phases of the Moon and the seasonal Quarters and Cross Quarters.

2. We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibility toward our environment. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance offering fulfillment to life and consciousness within an evolutionary concept.

3. We acknowledge a depth of power far greater than that apparent to the average person. Because it is far greater than ordinary it is sometimes called "supernatural", but we see it as lying within that which is naturally potential to
all.

4. We conceive of the Creative Power in the universe as manifesting through polarity- as masculine and feminine- and that this same Creative Power lies in all people, and functions through the interaction of the masculine and feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supportive to the other. We value sex as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magickal practice and religious worship.

5. We recognize both outer worlds and inner, or psychological, worlds sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconscious, Inner Planes, etc.-- and we see in the inter-action of these two dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magickal exercises. We neglect neither dimension for the other, seeing both as necessary for our fulfillment.

6. We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, respect those who share their greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have courageously given of themselves in leadership.

7. We see religion, magick, and wisdom in living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it--a world view and philosophy of life which we identify as "Witchcraft the Wiccan Way".

8. Calling oneself "Witch" does not make a Witch but neither does heredity itself, nor the collecting of titles, degrees and initiations. A Witch seeks to control the forces within her/himself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well without harm to others and in harmony with Nature.

9. We believe in the affirmation and fulfillment of life in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness giving meaning to the Universe we know and our personal role within it.

10. Our only animosity towards Christianity, or towards any other religion or philosophy of life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be "the only way" and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practice and belief.

11. As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various terms, the legitimacy of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present and future.
 
 
 
 
 
 

12. We do not accept the concept of absolute evil, nor do we worship any entity know as "Satan" or "the Devil", as defined by Christian tradition. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor accept that personal benefit can be derived only by denial to another.

13. We believe that we should seek within Nature that which is contributory to our health and well-being.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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