The other day, I was asked what my religious status meant on Facebook. My housemate had gone onto my page with her friends and they had seen the term ‘Wicca’. One friend instantly concluded I was a witch and they all thought that was a bad thing. My housemate told her friends that ‘I couldn’t possibly be a witch, I was too nice’. But that is not what Wicca is. There are many misconceptions about the religion, and yes, it is a religion.

Whenever I tell people I’m a Wicca, they either look at me in complete confusion, or try to edge away slowly like I’m going to turn them into a frog. More often than not, I guess they’re thinking I belong in an asylum. I’m overjoyed when they ask what it is.

I would not call myself a witch. You can be a Wicca and a witch, but you can’t necessarily be a witch and a Wicca. A witch is someone who does magic. You can be a Wicca and not do magic, so therefore you’re not a witch. A Wicca is someone who has the beliefs and values of the Wicca religion, but who can also incorporate magic into their lives if they wish.

Origins of Wicca
Our ancestors used to read the skies for the weather, know the seasons for farming, and they were thankful for everything nature supplied them. Wicca and Paganism is one of the oldest religions. It is a way of life.

Most famously, there were the Salem Witch Trails that took place in the1600s, where ordinary Wicca’s and Pagans were burnt at the stake, hanged and drowned by people who were afraid of them. Is knowing how to cure an upset stomach with herbs and flowers, worth dying over?

We celebrate nature still, even in this high tech world. A Wicca’s festivals are days that mark the major changes in the nature around us, like the summer solstice and spring. You may see Wicca images around you, but have no idea that it has its root in the religion. For example, Easter comes from the word ‘Eostre’ of ‘Ostara’, who is an Anglo-Saxon Dawn Goddess. Ostara’s symbols are the egg and Hare, the now popular Easter bunny and Easter egg. The chocolate Yule log that you can eat at Christmas, was traditionally an actual log that candles were stuck into and lit on the 21st to symbolise the coming sun. The national holiday, May Day, on the 1st May is called Beltane to Wicca’s and is a festival that celebrates the marriage of our Goddess and God. The Maypole used on this day, symbolises the union between the God and Goddess.

Common Misconceptions
Not so long ago a friend of mine, Opal River, sent me a link to an article on a website written by an extreme religious group. Reading it almost caused me to burst into tears; the person who wrote it obviously had been seriously misinformed about the core values of Wicca. They seemed to argue that Wicca’s dye their hair red to represent the devil they worshipped, sacrificed animals in rituals, participated in mass orgys and are all destined for hell.

Firstly, we do not worship the devil! For starters, we don’t even believe there is a devil. There is only bad energy that, if used wrongly, can be dangerous. If we don’t even believe in such a being as the devil, how can we worship it?

We worship both a male and female deity. Now, what or who Wicca’s worship can differ from person to person. The basic rule is that there is both a God and a Goddess; whom those God and Goddess’ are is completely up to the individual. They can be Aphrodite and Zeus or Osiris and Isis. It is all based on which God’s create the most personal connection to you and who you feel most comfortable to worship and let into your life. Imagine it as a disco ball; there is one main ball, which is covered by many tiny mirrors. Each mirror represents the different faces the ‘one’ can take. Even though we all worship different beings, we still belong to the same religious group.

We do not sacrifice animals during rituals! That is one the biggest mistakes that people seem to relate to Wicca. Wicca’s see animals as friends and we are taught to respect them. We believe that we each have our own spirit guide that takes the form of an animal and they are here to teach us and help us on our journey. Animals are no lesser beings than humans; to kill one is murder. We do not have the power or right to take anyone’s life, and that includes the life of an animal. Why would the stereotypical witch keep a black cat, wouldn’t she just kill it for its blood?

Wicca’s do condone sex as we see it as a joining of both the male and female, which symbolises the union between our God and Goddess. Now, I cannot comment on the mass orgies as I am not a member of a Coven. However, I have spoken to many members of different Covens and they told me that it depends on the High Priest and Priestess, and what each Coven feels. I know for sure, however, that Wicca’s do not have sex with thousands of strangers and say it is in the name of religion.
Dying your hair red…that’s surely personal preference? And seeing as we don’t worship the devil as I explained previously, it cannot represent that!
Lastly, can we be destined for hell? Does anyone know what happens when we pass on? Is there even a hell? If there is then the way we have treated life can surely not allow us to go to hell. Wicca’s do not believe in hell, we believe that we will be reincarnated until we learn all we were put on this earth to learn. After we have done everything possible, we will go to the ‘Summerlands’, our version of Heaven where everyone will be happy. We have no concept of hell in the Wicca religion, just like we have no concept of the devil.

Our ‘Bible’
Like any religion, we have a set of guidelines – not rules – but advice that we should follow. One of these fundamental rules are, ‘An it harm none, do what ye will’. This basically means, do what you like as long as no one gets hurt. You must ask permission if you want to delve into the lives of others, doing it without their knowledge is not good manners. I had to ask a friend whether I could send good vibes her way when she went for a job interview; even though it was a good act, I had to ask her for permission because it’s her life and not mine.
Also, even if you think something is being done for good, you have to think through every possible outcome and whether working magic is really the correct thing to do. Is it really a good idea to send positive vibes for the job interview? Wouldn’t it be better if they knew they got the job purely on their own merit and not because I was working magic to help them? Hence, Wicca’s don’t do magic every day, we take time to procrastinate, re-evaluate, think of other options and take into account the season, our health and state of mind. Everything makes an impact on the type of magic you want to cast. For example, you wouldn’t want to cast a happy spell for someone when you were angry, there could be a number of backfires! Whatever we hand out, gets back to us threefold, like Karma.

Our New Year
Wicca’s take time to notice the world around them. One of our biggest festivals is Samhain otherwise known as Halloween on the 31st. This we celebrate as our new year because our ancestors considered the months November to January to be ‘Dead days’, as there was hardly any light to work the land by. Samhain is when the barrier between the world of the living and the dead is at its thinnest. It is a time when spirits are likely to pass into our world; this is the origin of why people dress up as monsters and vampires to go trick or treating on Halloween.

We light two candles at this time, one to symbolise last year and one for the coming year, making our thoughts focus on what we would like to achieve in the future. It is also tradition to lay a place at the table for any family members that have passed away, and to leave an extra portion for them just in case they come to visit. We do not, however, conjure spirits, as it is not seen as right to disturb the dead.

The pumpkin that you see in front of every house at Halloween comes from the tradition where we light candles in the window to guide welcome spirits home and deter others. After midnight the King of the Hunt appears and comes to take all the souls that have passed from the other world to this one, back to where they came from. You shouldn’t be outside on Halloween after midnight just in case you get caught by the King of the Hunt too!

Can I be a Wicca?
Wicca is one of the fastest growing religions in the country according to the Office for National Statistics; but one of the smallest at the moment, apparently only consisting of 7,000 people following the religion in the UK. But, there are many people who follow the Wicca way of life without even realising it. I did for many years possess the values, morals and beliefs that Wicca’s held without even knowing that I was a member of a religion. You have to ask yourself one question; do I really believe in what Wicca stands for? Do I really want to commit myself to this?

What the majority of people do not understand is that it is not just getting initiated and making magic that will work immediately. You have to completely change your view of the world and make it a way of life. Small things will show that you are committed, i.e. meditating at least once a week, praying to your Gods/Goddesses every single day, respecting nature and everything it gives you.

Unlike some religious groups, we do not see our religion as the ‘right’ one and try to convert others to our way of thinking. We respect other people’s views and let them tread their own path through life.

You can choose whether you want to become a member of a Coven, which is a gathering of Wicca’s who meet at least once a month and worship and celebrate festival days together. You have to find a Coven you trust and who trusts you. This is important, as you will be working with energy together and need to have complete control over it. Alternatively, you can become a Solitary, which obviously means you work alone. This can be hard while first starting out on the path, as you have to teach yourself about what not to do, and how to do it. There is a positive side, you only need to rely on yourself and can worship in a way that is comfortable for you. It depends on what you would prefer. Wicca does not tell you what to do but only guides you through your own world.

So, what do I say when someone asks me what Wicca is? I tell them the truth. If they want to have an in-depth discussion, I am more than happy to try and teach them. If I can tell one person about the religion, maybe in turn they can spread the word that we’re not evil with green faces and warts.