Witches Among Us
The neo-pagan religion of Wicca is not coming to a town near you – it is already there! The Unites States government recognizes Wicca as a legitimate religion, and there are Wiccan chaplains in the military and in some state prisons.
Witchcraft, covens, magick, gods, goddesses, spells, curses, astral travel, fairies, elves, dead ancestors, animal guides, and much more exist in the “otherworld.” Is it nonsense, game playing, fantasy, a marketing gimmick or, is there some kind of reality behind it? Whatever the answer may be, Wicca is a growing phenomenon and not likely to recede any time soon.
In the previous chapter, we looked at Santería, the West African religion that came to the New World due to the slave trade that flourished from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. The Yoruba tribe of West Africa worshipped deities called orishas. In the New World orisha worship commingled with the Roman Catholicism that was already present in the Hispanic Caribbean Islands. The new religion – really the old Yoruba religion of Africa – became known as Santería (loosely translated into English as “the saint thing”). While researching this transplanted religion, I noticed how much the Santerían world view paralleled that of Wicca. Having then completed a lengthy essay on Santería, which formed the basis of the previous chapter, I purchased a number of books on Wicca hoping to further understand this religion that is growing in popularity, particularly in America.
Since there is no official document that authoritatively speaks to the central dynamics and principles of Wicca, the following are statements to which most Wiccans seem to subscribe, yet as is often the case, not by all. Out of necessity, they will be somewhat overlapping and even contradictory. My personal commentary on Wicca will comprise the last part of this chapter.
PART I: Basic facts about Wicca from its proponents
Wicca is a growing religious system, though there is no hierarchical Wicca Church as in Methodists or Baptists. The number of books on Wicca on the market is growing rapidly, and there are more than 6,000 Wicca-related websites on the Internet. There are Wiccan radio shows, Wiccan umbrella organizations, and state-certified Wiccan churches.
No one knows the origins of witchcraft. Gerald Gardner, the person who more than any other is responsible for bringing the cult into the modern era, said: “My own theory is, that it is a Stone Age cult of the matriarchal times, when woman was the chief; at a later time man’s god became dominant, but the woman’s cult, because of the magical secrets, continues as a distinct order.”
Judy Harrow, in the foreword to the fiftieth anniversary edition of Witchcraft today by Gerald Gardner, attributes a major change for Wicca with the 1979 publications of Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon and Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance, wherein the emphasis is on the “joyous worship of Mother Earth.”
A Wiccan is a person who is following the Wiccan religion/spiritual path and has either undergone a Wiccan initiation or has formally and ritually declared him- or herself Wiccan.
Some Wiccans use the words “Wiccan” and “witch” interchangeably, but there are witches who do not consider themselves Wiccans. Wiccans are a subgroup of witches. Wiccans and witches are both subgroups of a larger group: pagans. Pagans are practitioners of earth-based religions. Most Wiccans and witches consider themselves pagan, but not all pagans are Wiccans or witches.
Witchcraft is what Wiccans and witches do, and “Wicca” is the name of the religion itself. There are a number of groups that are Wiccan. Some of these are: Alexandrian, Celtic, Dianic, Dicordian, Eclectic, Gardnerian, Neo-Gardnerian, and Georgian.
A solitaire is a witch who practices alone and is not in a coven. A coven can vary in size, but 13 is the number of persons who comfortably fit into the ritual circle. In it is the High Priestess, who is seen as the goddess incarnate and is the spiritual center of the coven. Also there may be a High Priest, who assists the high Priestess, and is seen as the god incarnate.
Wicca is new but old at the same time. Its origins are shrouded in mystery, and many will say it began among rural Celts. Magic – and magic is what Wicca is about – has been practiced since prior to recorded human history. Wiccans spell magic with a “k” – thus, “magick” is the word used.
The Wiccan path is based on the earth rather than the heavens.
A witch uses magick in his or her everyday life.
There is no central church of Wicca, and no Wiccan bible or sacred document exists of any kind that details the beliefs, rules, and teachings of the religion.
Wiccans are monotheistic. Their primary deity may be referred to as “The All,” “The Universe,” and “The One.” The Lord and Lady, or the god and goddess came from or out of “The All.”
Wicca embraces reincarnation and karma, concepts carried to India in and around the tenth century B.C. and was absorbed into Hindu monistic thought. After a certain degree of westernization, it is for most Wiccans the idea that there is death and rebirth, a process that goes on until balance and perfection are reached.
There is a male and female aspect of all people; thus there is a natural equality of the sexes. But these aspects are not in balance. A central goal of Wicca is to restore the proper balance.
Wiccans strive for a balance between the male and the female, and when such a state is reached, reincarnations cease and the individual enters into their version of heaven called Summerland.
“You learn Wicca by loving it,” is a common statement made by Wiccans.
Wicca, with its focus on natural cycles and its emphasis on meditation and psychic abilities, provides many opportunities to touch the mysteries of the divine and the cosmos.
Some Wiccans teach that Wicca is European Shamanism: the word shaman refers to a person who enters an altered state of consciousness in order to take a spiritual journey to retrieve information, heal, work magick, tell the future, or commune with the dead.
Wicca is a religion that many (but not all) witches practice. It is an earth-based religion that honors both the god, represented by the sun, and the goddess, represented by the moon.
Wiccans are taught to be in tune with their psychic abilities. Magick circle, the sacred space of Wiccans, is said to be “between the worlds,” and Wiccans “travel” between the worlds to meet the gods, receive information, and heal. Wiccans often enter ecstatic or trance states in order to work magick or commune with the divine.
Many Wiccans have life-altering experiences that lead them to the Wiccan path, and Wiccan groups often initiate new members in a symbolic death and rebirth ceremony meant to provide a mini-shamanic crisis and shift the initiate’s perspective.
Wicca is a magickal system. As generally understood, there are two types of Wiccan magick. (1) There is every day magick. This might consist of spell work for things like finding a new job or protecting one’s home. (2) There is magick to manifest or make real the witch’s personal power and divinity. In essence, it is a working the witch’s will to find purpose in life and alignment with the higher self.
PART II: Generalized Statements from Proponents of Wicca
“If you use your magickal energies, they may just help you stay clear-headed and focused. Powers are a special blessing that we all have. Some witches believe that their powers come from the Goddess. Wherever they come from, just know that you have them. If you open your heart and mind, you can use your powers. And the more you work with them the better, the more powerful, you become.”
The abilities you have are natural and inborn, so there is no reason to be frightened of them. Soon you will come to rely on them.
Nature is never good or evil, it just is. Wicca is often compared to Native American beliefs and traditions. Witches recognize that it is in our best interests to keep the earth healthy and vital. While many religions have a holy book, our book is the earth itself and all of her creatures.
The Goddess and God will take notice [of your attention to them through rituals] and your spells will soar!
“Wiccans believe that the Goddess is in everything and is not some force standing out there watching us. In the faith of Wicca, we believe in deity – the All. We divide that into a male and female spirituality, the God and Goddess, or Lord and Lady.”
Wiccans also work with the demigods who are different, smaller aspects of the All.
Witches are not anti-Christian, nor do they harbor negative feelings about other religions. Witches will, however, avoid “narrow Christians” and not allow one to be in their ranks.
Wiccans deny Jesus is the Son of God but accept Him as an enlightened or holy man.
“Wiccans believe in the morals that are common to most faiths. But Wiccans do not believe in the Christian concept of original sin. Wiccans live in the now. While some Wiccans believe in reincarnation, life is to be lived for what it is in the present so that we may learn from this lifetime on Earth. As Wiccans, we do not deny ourselves pleasure or put up with unnecessary pain. We believe that we all have a job to do, or a lesson to learn, or maybe a debt to pay from the last lifetime. Once we have succeeded in our mission, we must move on to the Summerland, where we can reflect and choose our mission in the next life. Or, perhaps choose not to reincarnate and rather work as spirit guides.”
While Wiccans do not believe there is a hell to punish sinners, they do believe there is a universal law, called karma. Witches know that whatever energy or actions they send out, whether negative or positive, they will come back to them threefold.
If you send out positive energies, you will get positive energies in return.
The central principle of Wicca is the Wiccan Rede, “An it harm none, do what ye will.”
Witches do believe in “God,” the pure energy of the All, of the god and goddess, most high. Witches do not believe in Satan.
It’s often prudent not to openly broadcast your status as a witch. Spirituality is, after all, a personal affair. If friends are curious, answer their questions honestly but stress the positive aspects of your religion: Harm none; live as though the Earth and all of its inhabitants are sacred; strive toward the positive.
Wiccans believe that all spiritual paths lead to the same house – union with the divine. Perhaps, in our search for tolerance, harmony, peace, and freedom of spirit, by the end of this millennium all the major religions will have broken down and merged together into one gentle and magickal earth-centered faith.
PART III: The Wiccan Deities
In Wicca, the Divine or Deity is greater than creation, and yet it is creation. Deity or the Divine is immanent in all things, but it is also distant and beyond grasp.
In Wiccan thought, the union of the goddess and god creates the universe. The goddess is the god’s mother and lover. In the mythos of most Wiccans, the goddess gives birth to the god, he matures, they make love and she becomes pregnant, he dies, and he is reborn of her again. The god’s existence is cyclical, like the grains.
Communicating directly with the god and goddess is one of the greatest joys and responsibilities of a Wiccan.
Many Wiccans have personal patron deities – in addition to the god and goddess – with whom they work frequently.
The Celtic, Greek, Roman, Norse, and Egyptian gods are probably the most popular amongst Wiccans.
In addition to the god and goddess, a Wiccan may be involved with any number of otherworldly entities. There are, in addition to the personal deities, the animal familiars, dead ancestors, gnomes, elves, and so on. It seems there are any number of spiritual entities, not all of the good kind, that hover around Wicca and are involved in casting the spells and conducting the rituals.
There are two types of Wiccan animal familiars: disincarnate (spirits in animal form) and incarnate (spirits indwelling living pets or other animals). Disincarnate animal familiars or spirits serve as guides and helpers. Not all Wiccans work with animal spirits. In the accounts of the witch trials, there are stories of animal familiars, most of which were said by the witches’ accusers to be demons in animal form. Proponents of Wicca strongly believe the animal familiars are not demons. A Wiccan chooses the animal spirits to work with, but it is said that sometimes the animal familiar does the choosing.
PART IV: The Wiccan Ritual
A Wiccan ritual is a means of creating consecrated ground or sacred space in order to pay homage to deity. Ritual is also used to do magick and to work with the energy of the god and goddess.
It is a good idea to do a small ritual every day to honor the Lord and Lady.
Rituals can be performed for grounding, to connect with the goddess, to celebrate a sabbat, to honor one’s ancestors, or to perform magick.
There are eight sabbats having to do with the earth and the positioning of the sun. These fall about six weeks apart. Four of them are known as solstices and equinoxes, and the mid-points between them are the cross quarters.
Covens meet to perform rituals together regularly – for the thirteen esbats, or Wiccan moon rituals, and eight sabbats every year. Esbats have to do with the moon, especially full moons; the sabbats have to do with the sun.
In the ritual, it is necessary to call down the quarters – the four directions of North, East, South, and West – and the Elemental powers of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Over these is spirit, which sits atop the pentacle. A pentacle is a pentagram, a five pointed star, with a circle around it.
A high priestess will “call down the moon” to give her power to do magick. She is then considered to be an incarnation of the goddess.
The circle is drawn with an athane (a small, handmade dagger) to a diameter of nine feet. Another circle is drawn one foot outside that one and even another circle is drawn another one foot outside the second.
Once the Powers have been called down or in they must be told or shown what they are to do. Often the Powers are “bound” with a rhyme.
Doing magick takes serious and sincere preparation of the body, mind, and spirit on a daily basis and becomes time consuming, even controlling.
A witch’s journal is called a Book of Shadows; a witch’s recipe book is called a grimoire. The grimoire can also contain lists of angels, spirits, and magickal properties of objects found in nature. Gerald Gardner’s Book of Shadows has become the standard for all grimoires.
PART V: Summon, Stir, Call, Invite, or Request
Wiccans “summon” certain entities – the four elements, fairies, and the elementals, for example. The four elements are air, fire, water, and earth. The elementals are personifications of the four elements. The elemental associated with air is sylphs, fire is the salamander, water is undines or nymphs, and earth is gnomes. Other larger, more powerful entities are “stirred.” These are the Ancestors, dragons, and Watchtowers. One stirs them because they are sleeping and need to be awakened before they can attend the ritual. If one wants the god and goddess to attend one’s ritual, “call” them respectfully, and they will come. And one can call angels also. When one “invites” entities to one’s ritual, it is asking them to be present, but not to join inside the circle. These are the familiar entities. One can “request” the presence of any of the four winds and of one’s spirit guides. Also, one tells the entities asked to the ritual what they are to do. One can ask them to protect, observe, or help carry out one’s magick.
Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Spirit have dragons from the Elemental Realm.
Guardians of the Watchtowers: some witches are afraid of them and won’t use them in ritual.
Fairies: flower fairies, mermaids, mermen, little people, sprites, and pixies. These can appear as miniature humans, or they can take the form of an elf. They are summoned. You’ll know that the fairies have arrived when the flames of your candles start to dance around. They are extremely mischievous. To discourage fairies from taking up permanent residence in your home, hang iron pots around the house. Because iron renders fairies powerless and incapable of magick, they will flee from this metal and leave you in peace.
Elementals: Sylphs, salamanders, undines, and gnomes.
Tree spirits: from the realm of Fairy.
The Lord and the Lady: around us all the time. So, too, are all the many varieties of angels. The ancestors also dwell in the Realm of Spirit, but they are sleeping.
Angels: divided into three levels: One, seraphim, cherubim, and thrones. Two, dominions, virtues, and powers. Three, principalities, archangels, angel messengers, and guardian angels.
Ancestors: figures from the past who have great wisdom and knowledge. They have lived in the times of Egypt, Rome, or Greece, like Socrates. An ancestor might even be an actual ancestor like a grandparent.
Spirit Guides: like guardian angels, are assigned to us at birth, and we can have as many as seven. Sometimes a spirit guide is a soul that does not need to be reincarnated. Often spirit guides come to us in our dreams. If you meditate regularly, you may start being able to see them.
Spirit animals: (disincarnate) may be summoned.
Familiars: individual animals that are inhabited by spirit (incarnate). They can help with magick. Familiars have more dignity than regular pets because they are able to communicate with you telepathically.
PART VI: Basic Wiccan Principles and Ethics
Much of Wiccan practice can be divided into two categories – eclectic and traditional.
Eclectic: This is where Wiccans compile their practices from a variety of sources.
Traditional: Wiccans here use a system of practices that have been handed down to them and have a certain level of consistency, though the lines will sometimes blur. Some of the traditions are: Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Feri, 1734, Celtic and/or Celtic Reconstructionist, Minoan, Seax Wicca, Asatru, Church of All Worlds, Covenant of the Goddess, New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn, Central Valley Wicca, Blue Star, Dianic Wicca, and Reclaiming.
To save time and space, no elaboration will be made here on these traditions, since that is not germane to our purpose.
Key General Principles
Wiccan Principle 1: Deity becomes a polarity. Many Wiccans believe that there is a single great divine force, which they call spirit, the All, the Divine, or just Deity.
Wiccan Principle 2: Deity is immanent, meaning that deity is inherent or present in all people and things. This is close to the definition of animism, which is that everything has a consciousness of its own but different in that there is a sacred force that infuses everything, and that force is deity or a part of deity.
Wiccan Principle 3: The Earth is divine. Wiccans believe that the earth is a manifestation of deity, and may be called Gaia. Therefore, many Wiccans believe that a significant part of their spiritual path is taking care of the earth.
Wiccan Principle 4: Psychic power or psychic abilities help Wiccans with many things, like honing their intuition, divination (reading astrological charts or tarot cards, for example), and sensing things that science cannot yet explain, like the spirits of the dead or the presence of the gods with people.
Wiccan Principle 5: The use and practice of magick – the idea that everything is infused with the divine and thus the divine can cause change to occur in conformance with the will of the magickian. Further, it is the concept that all things contain some divine energy, which can be tapped into in order to affect change.
Wiccan Principle 6: Reincarnation. Wiccans have at least three different positions on this. (1) Some believe that our souls are reborn into new bodies. (2) The human essence “recycles” after the body dies and becomes cosmic energy. (3) All humans share one soul, and this soul experiences the many possibilities of life by inhabiting all of our bodies at the same time.
Wiccan Principle 7: Sex is sacred, sexuality is then considered a gift from the gods, and gay sex is as good as any other form of sex, except that none are to be harmed in the practice of sacred sex.
Key ethical principles
Wicca is not Satanic or anti-Christian. Wiccans do not believe in Satan. Satan is part of the Christian religion, and Satanism is a Christian heresy.
Wiccans do not try to convert others to Wicca.
Wicca is not dualistic, as in a good god fighting with a bad god. Wicca does not see God and Satan as opposite partners, or two parts of a whole.
Wiccans can honor more than one religion.
Wicca is not a way to get power over others, not only about magick, not an excuse to wear edgy clothes, nor is it a mask for sexual abuse.
Witches should never attack, but they can use their magick to defend themselves.
Do no harm. Everything else is fair game.
“Black magic” – magick is like electricity. It is neither good nor bad. It just is. If you intend to harm, you are doing negative magick. If you intend the greatest good for all, then you are working positive magick.
All things in life exist along a continuum. Our actions are neither totally good nor totally bad, but lie somewhere between these two polarities.
Are life forms killed in a healing, let us say, when germs are poisoned by antibiotics? Everything has a right to live. But a virus or bug is making someone sick, and a healing is therefore justified. The point is that the greater good predominates.
PART VII: The Threefold Law
Many, but not all, Wiccans subscribe to the Threefold Law. This law teaches that whatever you put out into the world or universe will come back to you three times. And this may be good or bad.
This concept is based on the principle of “like attracts like.” The goal, therefore, is to put out positive energy and not negative energy. It is not necessarily dealing with good or bad behavior, since that would begin to evolve into rule-setting and then performance of that which was good and avoidance of that which was bad.
When the Threefold Law and the Rede, “An it harm none, do what ye will,” are taken together, you see that if you are working your true will, if you are synchronized with the universe and the divine, then the positive energy you generate ripples out and affects everything around you, and it is a beacon for other positive energy to be attracted to you. This is the place where Wiccans strive to be.
PART VIII: Summerland
Summerland beckons. It is not heaven and it is not hell. Some witches believe it is where spirits go after death to rest and reflect in the company of the god and goddess, and to decide how they are going to reincarnate. Each soul chooses who it will be and what lesson it will learn in its new lifetime. Once it is reincarnated, it does not remember what its lesson is, but must find out by living through all the experiences of its new life. If a soul does not wish or need to reincarnate right away, it may become a spirit guide. Ultimately, each spirit, after it has learned all it needs to learn and taught what it needs to teach, is reunited with the All. In each lifetime, the spirit advances toward this ultimate goal.
Though Wiccans believe that all animals have souls, these do not go to Summerland, since the souls of animals are so pure they have no lessons to learn in this life.
PART IX: What is Energy in relation to Deity, and what is Visualization?
For some Wiccans, “energy” and deity are the same thing. Some Wiccans refer to energy and deity as the “life force.” Others see deity as sentient, thus having consciousness and the capacity to experience things as humans do with their senses. Still others think that energy emanates from deity, or that it comes from the goddess.
Others will say that energy is power, and that of three types: personal power, divine power, and earth power.
“Visualization” is the creating of a picture in the mind’s eye of what it is the magickian wants to happen. Once visualization occurs, energy follows thought. If you can see something in your mind, then you can affect it or make it happen.
PART X: Trance and Pathworking
Trance is integral to the religious or spiritual practices discussed in this book and is the centerpiece of each of them, no more so than with Wiccan practice. It is at this point that we present Ioan M. Lewis’ work on trance and ASC.
Ioan M. Lewis is a Fellow at the British Academy and Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the London School of Economics, UK and author of “The Social Roots and Meaning of Trance and Possession” in the Oxford Handbook of The Sociology of Religion, edited by Peter B. Clarke and published by Oxford Press in 2009.
The opening sentence in the Oxford Handbook on Lewis’ contribution is: “Altered States of Consciousness’ (ASC) is an umbrella term, applied to psychological and sociological phenomena regularly encountered in the study of trance, possession, and shamanism – all of which have significant if problematic links with music.”
“Music” – a surprise? No, since in Santería there is the bembe with the bata drumming, shamanism with much the same, Wicca and the mood music, then charisma with the beat of the drum and the bass guitar. A strange connection? Not really.
There is more beyond the music. Dancing of a certain kind goes with much of the music and is present in all four of the spiritual practices above. The impact of music, dancing, singing, chanting, and other stimulants is such that even the chemical make-up of the brain can be altered. Below is a paragraph from Lewis that summarizes his thesis:
Such personal, psychological experiences may, of course, be shared and mutually intensified as in spirit cult séances, evangelical religious services, pop concerts, political rallies, football crowds, etc. The discovery of natural euphoriates (endorphins) in the bloodstream in the early 1970s provided a plausible chemical explanation of trance, and linked it with the effect of psychotropic drugs, thus giving a novel and unexpected meaning to Marx’s famous definition of religion as “the opiate of the people”–more accessible and less mysterious than he ever imagined.
Lewis condenses entering into the trance to two processes: sensory deprivation and sensory overloading. Deprivation is by means of trauma, stress, illness, isolation, fasting, and submission to physical pain. Overloading is by means of “musical and other sonic bombardment (especially monotonous drumming), strobe lighting effects, the ingestion of hallucinogenic drugs, and more mundane procedures like over-breathing and even strenuous exercise.”
This semi-scientific explanation of the induction of a trance state may be, in my estimation, somewhat limited but is nevertheless sufficient. The shaman and Wiccan understand that the ultimate purpose for the trance is to have a spirit or other ethereal entity enter the body of the person entranced. This possession marks the real initiation for the person entering into the priesthood of Santería, authenticates a person as a true shaman, and demonstrates the authority of the witch. In charisma the sudden change in behavior or appearance of the “anointed one” signals that a “prophet” or “prophetess” is present to heal or utter a “thus saith the Lord.” It is the trance that makes the difference. As Lewis puts it, “Trance is cross-culturally the most conclusive public demonstration that a human being has been seized by a spirit.”
There can be a sexual component to the trance state. Lewis points out that St. Teresa of Avila “recorded that in her transports of mystical feeling she had achieved ‘spiritual marriage’ with Christ. Her most sublime experiences she described as unfolding in three stages: ‘union’, ‘rapture’, and the climatic ‘wound of love’.” In a parallel way shamans will consider they are “bound in marriage” to the orisha, god or goddess, that has mounted them at their initiations. Lewis points out the “pervasiveness of eroticism in describing the relations between humans and spirits.”
Lewis concludes and reconnects with his opening theme by stating, “In this sensual perspective, although the precise modalities of music and trance seem still imprecisely defined, music is nevertheless evidently the food of love.”
If music, what then of dance? In Judy Harrow’s section in the back of Gardner’s Witchcraft Today, she quotes Doreen Valiente, one of Gardner’s High Priestesses:
Dancing has a very important magical effect upon people. . . . A group of people dancing in harmony together are on one mind, and this is essential to magical work. Their mood can be excited or calmed by varying the pace of the dance. In fact, a state of light hypnosis can be induced by magical forms of dancing; or people can achieve a state of ecstasy, which in its original form is ex-statis, “being outside oneself.”
Harrow goes on to say that since Gardner’s time dance has increased in popularity; indeed, a new movement “called Sacred Circle Dance, which uses rhythmic bodily movement to alter consciousness…” is widely practiced.
Dr. Margaret Murray, former assistant professor in Egyptology at University College, London, who wrote the Witchcraft entry for the 1929 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica and is one of the early proponents of paganism, also noted the role of music and dance in pagan worship:
All the movements are rhythmic, and the accompaniment is a chant or performed by percussion instruments by which the rhythm is strongly marked. The rhythmic movements, the rhythmic sounds, and the sympathy of numbers all engaged in the same actions, induce a feeling of exhilaration, which can increase to a form of intoxication. This stage is often regarded by the worshippers as a special divine favour, denoting the actual advent of the Deity into the body of the worshipper.
Pathworking depends upon the trance state. Trance states can be reached by any number of ways. Attempts at centering, balancing, grounding, relaxing, focusing on a single object, letting the mind wander, emptying the mind of all – these are some of the mechanisms commonly used to enter into trance. Drugs can be used, and extreme experiences such as in a sweat lodge, reduction of oxygen coming into the brain, and other esoteric practices can be employed.
Once in the trance state, the pathworking can begin. Along the path, helpful guides may be encountered whom the entranced individual can ask for information. Likewise, one’s inner self (supposedly the personification of the subconscious) may be encountered. Or an animal or human spirit that is associated with a sacred site may be found. Also, pathworking can be used to meet with, talk to, and get information from the dead.
The advice given to one doing pathwork is to be polite to any being encountered, be they human spirits, gods, fairies, elves, animal spirits, ghosts, folklore characters, or other entities. Wiccans deny that there is any danger in being in a trance, but do assert that a person in the trance state is more vulnerable to “ambient” energies, because the conscious mind, which would normally trigger you to tune out unwanted energy, sounds, or other distractions, is on a little vacation when you are in trance.
PART XI: Gerald Gardner and Wicca
In Gerald Gardner’s, The Gardnerian Book of Shadows, is described the “Eightfold Path or Ways,” which reveals Wiccan dependence on the trance state.
One of the most respected Wiccans, a co-founder of Reclaiming, is Starhawk, who writes, “Witchcraft is a shamanistic religion, and the spiritual value that is placed on ecstasy is a high one. It is the source of union, healing, creative inspiration, and communion with divine.” The Eightfold Path is a way to lead a person to the “center” and to leave one’s body by means of a trance, or altered state of consciousness, or by what Michael Harner would call the Shamanic State of Consciousness, SSC.
Path 1: Meditation or concentration
Path 2: Trance states, clairvoyance, projection of the Astral
Path 3: Drugs, Wine, Incense
Path 4: Dance, Performing Rites with a purpose
Path 5: Chants, Spells, etc.
Path 6: Blood control (Cords etc), Breath control
Path 7: Scourge
Path 8: The Great Rite
The first six paths are fairly plain as to their nature; however, number 7 and 8 require some explanation.
The Scourge is a magickal tool used to direct spiritual entities and is used inside the circle. It is a whip or flail and can be used to flagellate members of the coven, especially in initiation rites. Symbolically it stands for suffering and sacrifice that one is willing to endure.
The Great Rite is a form of sex magick that may include ritual sexual intercourse, either actual or in symbol. Usually, the high priestess and priest act out the Great Rite. In the northern hemisphere the Great Rite appears around May 1 at the festival of Beltane, and around November 1 in the southern hemisphere.
PART XII: Divination
Wiccans rely on various forms of divination to work their craft. Astrology and numerology are two chief forms of determining the future and making decisions.
Divination is deemed useful in making day-to-day decisions. Besides the aforementioned practices, the pendulum, runes, and tarot cards are commonly used.
PART XIII: Skyclad
“Skyclad” means naked. Doing ritual, the coven may be Skyclad. The nine foot in diameter circle accommodates thirteen people, often six couples and a high priestess. (This arrangement may vary.) The concept is that within each person is power and energy that are necessary to work magick, and clothes inhibit the radiating outward of the power and energy. So, naked magick works best.
Wicca is greatly concerned with power. Gardner wrote, “Witches are taught and believe that the power resides within their bodies which they can release in various ways, the simplest being dancing round in a circle, singing or shouting, to induce a frenzy; this power they believe exudes from their bodies, clothes impeding its release.”
The circle is also there to retain the power of the witches as opposed to the magicians or sorcerers circle which is intended to keep “evil” forces out.
Gerald Gardner was asked, “Why do you say that witches work naked?” His answer was, “I can only say: Because they do.” And they do so for the above reason, at least that is the general spin. If it is other than that, if these people are not aroused by naked flesh, then they are indeed on a higher plane than most normal people.
PART XIV: The power and pull of Wicca
However contradictory this might now seem, there are credible reasons why Wicca would be attractive. For instance, Gerald Gardner stated, “I have known many atheists who have entered the Cult and said, ‘It is so lovely to find a religion in which you can believe.’” Writing in the 1950s he said that Wicca (Gardner usually spelled Wicca “Wica”) preserved for the Age of Aquarius reincarnation and karma, which he noted was widely embraced in the ancient world but had suffered a retreat when the Church grew in dominance. He actually predicted a phenomenon that is generally understood and acknowledged, when he wrote,
But we are today upon the threshold of a new Age. Call it the Aquarian Age, the Age of Horus, or what you will. The great, clean wind of a new Cosmic Power is blowing upon the world from the depths of space. Already it has blown away many of the cobwebs of the past. Much prudery and false modesty, for instance, has gone by the board.
Wicca did more than that; to a degree it mainlined an interest in magickal rites and soul journeying. In the twenty-first century Wicca is more than alive and well. Following are some of the ways it has made inroads into or ridden on the coattails of modern culture to attract adherents:
(1) Children of nearly every culture grow up learning stories about the fantastic and the imaginary – elves, fairies, Santa Claus figures, ghosts, the deity myths of Greece and Rome – all packaged so attractively for children. Three generations have now been immersed in the delightful world of Disney characters, thus opening their minds to all things magickal.
(2) Wicca and other neo-pagan practices allow for children to remain childlike in the imagination, at least in light of the pain and burden of living life in a chaotic world.
The hidden wonders of the ancient mysteries lure young and old alike. There are secrets, mysteries that every witch initiated into the craft is sworn to never divulge, and I have found that these do, in fact, remain secret, despite the fact that most things hidden come to light sooner or later. On the other hand, the secrets of Wicca must remain such, since their broadcast might bring negativity to its adherents.
(3) The lure for power, which is ubiquitous in humans, is a driving motivation. Magic and all the vast array of that which falls under the category of the occult, provides a mechanism into that spooky yet enticing world. Witches claim that the source of their power is unknown, although they have learned to control it and use it in such a way that none are harmed.
(4) Satan is real and he is able to perform miracles. The materialist will make a direct paradigm shift toward the spiritual when demonic tricks are played out in real time and space.
(5) Wicca is different, edgy, exciting, sexy, and cool. It is the perfect stage for acting the spiritual rebel against the dominant religions. Combining all these elements gives Wicca an allure along with a barely masked sexual element. Who can resist? There but for the grace of God. . .
(6) Satan desires that people, God’s creatures made in His image, worship him. The whole point of the “Temptation in the Wilderness” (see Matthew chapter 4) was an enticement acted out by Satan to have Jesus bow down and worship him. Though our aim is not to offend Wiccans, it seems obvious that Wicca is another indirect means by Satan to redirect worshippers from God to himself. Behind the Lord, the Lady, the goddess, and the god lurks the chief demon, whether this is claimed, admitted, or even known by Wiccan proponents.
(7) Wicca is a dress-up activity, a masquerade ball, or a stimulating game. The thrill of maintaining the secrecy, if not the conspiracy, is a real draw. Secret societies at one time were the rage, and in Wicca the game is back.
(8) Wicca gives meaning to those in search of it. It is not an overstatement to say that women dominate Wicca and most other forms of witchcraft. Meaning and power go together well. Meaning attaches itself to the maxim to harm none but rather do good and especially for the “self.” Power over people, events, and circumstances through magick is power nonetheless – a significant enticement.
PART XV: A Question or Two
Proponents of Wicca commonly boast about its ancientness as compared to Christianity, for instance. The implication is that older is better. Is old really better than something newer?
I have an old car and I have a newer car. Let me tell you, the new one is better than the old one. The old Copernican model of the universe is not as reliable as newer ones. I could go on, but it is a disingenuous argument that older is better.
Wicca is indeed old, because it is based on animism, the basis for shamanism, then infused with magical concepts. But how does this give Wicca credibility?
Another question, as mentioned previously, has to do with why Wiccans love to say they do not believe in Satan. Wiccans will sometimes admit that there are evil forces about, which they of course know how to isolate and avoid. For the most part, such evil forces, energies, and beings are left unexplained.
Wiccans are not Satanists like the followers of Anton LaVey, author of the Satanic Bible, with whom I interacted during my years as a preacher in the Haight-Ashbury in the late 1960s. In my mind there are differences, although more cosmetic than actual. Just who are the helper spirits, the supposed souls of the dead, the fairies, elves, and animal spirits, really? Might they just be minions of Satan? It is not a good idea to play fast and loose with the dark sides, assuming they can be whisked away with a sleight of hand.
PART XVI: Wicca viewed from a Christian’s Perspective
Is Wicca real? With all its fairies, elves, gnomes, ghosts, and far more, is it a game of make believe? Do Wiccans really believe in what they are doing? Do they actually think they are talking to dead ancestors and communicating with gods and goddesses? Or is it something else or something more? Do Wiccans themselves understand what they are involved with?
The world view held by Wiccans is that energy, live energy, is everywhere, in everything, and can be manipulated by spells and rituals. If Wiccans are right, is science wrong when it sees energy not as spiritual or personal, but as something that can be empirically measured and observed?
Is there something unknown or at least unrecognized behind Wicca? Wiccans become quite upset when accused of being in league with the devil, whose existence Wiccans vehemently deny. Yet, how do they know they are not?
One issue generally ignored by Wiccans is, what is the basis of their authority? They have no sacred book, no actual central authoritative doctrine, no revelation, and no vision. What they rely on are myths, fairy tales, and ancient concepts from a wide variety of cultures. If all Wiccan deities, gods, and goddesses were added up, the final total would be quite large. Wiccan beliefs are indeed an uncritical epistemic patch-work of myths and bizarre behavior.
Is it make-believe? A child’s game not discarded? A form of rebellion against the teachings of the Bible? A demonic deception? It seems that Wicca is all of these at once.
From a Christian’s perspective, Wicca embraces what the Scripture condemns. In the Torah, Deuteronomy 18:10-12, is a listing of “pagan” practices that were ubiquitous in the ancient world and which the people of Israel were to reject as false:
There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a wizard or a necromancer, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD.
No, Wiccans do not burn sons or daughters or anyone else as offerings to appease idols, but the rest of it must be seen as routine in their world.
A witch might say, “So what? I prefer to worship and practice my religion any way I want.” And I would heartily agree. It might be prudent to examine what else is involved, however.
This is not to say that Wiccans do not really communicate with spirits, angels, gods, and goddesses. They do, but these entities/deities are not what they present themselves to be. The short and quick answer is that they are unclean or demonic spirits in disguise.
There could not be more disparate world views than Wicca and Christianity or biblically faithful Judaism, for that matter. Wiccans pretend to value Christianity, but they actually hate it and fear it. They know that if the Bible is correct, then they have fallen into gross deception. Not only are they worshipping false gods, but they are fully engaged with and possessed by demons whose leader is Satan himself. Whatever is gained in Wicca, the unsuspected loss is far too disturbing to contemplate. This is not child’s play; life and death is determined here, and not of the physical kind.
Wiccans may become trapped by the very religion they practice. It promises freedom and power, but in time it proves to give neither and turns dark. Inside Wiccans will likely be voices that shout at them to ignore the Christians. The reason for this is that Jesus Christ is the One who has power and authority over demons who masquerade themselves as gods, goddesses, spirit guides, and so on. A cosmic spiritual battle is underway here, and ultimately the real and true God will prevail. It is only a matter of time.
For those Wiccans who read this, please see it as an attempt to speak a word of reality to you, and we hope this statement will not be seen as patronizing. Please apply critical analysis to the religion to which you have committed yourself.
 Gerald Gardner, Witchcraft Today, 43. (Note that Gardner’s theory of prehistoric matriarchy is well-disputed. See a fuller discussion in Cynthia Eller, The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won’t Give Women a Future (Boston: Beacon Press, 2001).
 Judy Harrow, in Gerald Gardner’s Witchcraft Today, 2004 edition.
 Here is found a number of Wiccan traditions bound together, and no two groups may be identical. Individual witches, or solitaires, will develop their own practices, rites, and ceremonies.
 Gerald Gardner was instrumental in focusing modern Wicca. His The Gardnerian Book of Shadows describes the major ceremonies and rites of Wicca.
 The Oxford Concise English Dictionary defines “Celt” as: “a member of a group of western European peoples, including the pre-Roman inhabitants of Britain and Gaul and their descendants, especially in Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Cornwall, Brittany, and the Isle of Man.”
 The Wiccan concept of monotheism is not the same as that of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, where the God of creation, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is the primary and single God.
 Wiccans capitalize “Goddess” and “God” but I use the lower case.
 This particular concept – the altered state of consciousness – figures large in shamanism, Santería, and Wicca, along with a number of other religious or spiritual practices. Another word for the altered state of consciousness is “trance.” Trance is particularly important in Wicca.
 The parallels to Christianity are perhaps deliberate but disingenuous.
 There is a certain redundancy in these statements, since different branches of Wicca and Wiccan writers will describe the core ideas differently. It is necessary to present the overlapping in order to see the full range of Wiccan thought.
 Magic is what magicians do on the stage, in film, on television; magick with a “k” is what Wiccans do.
 Zimmermann and Gleason, Wicca and Witchcraft, 6.
 Ibid., 7.
 Ibid., 11.
 Unlike the Hindu version of Karma and reincarnation, Wicca employs a watered down version of the two concepts, making them more acceptable to the Western mindset.
 There will be more on the Threefold Law further in the chapter.
 There is a tendency of Wiccans to be less than forthcoming about what they actually do and believe. Full disclosure is not common among witches – a mark of a cultic mentality.
 A familiar spirit is one that masks itself as someone familiar to you – a deceased grandparent, for instance. The animal familiar will appear as a dog, cat, or other animal that one is familiar with.
 The distinction between ancient animism and Wicca’s concept of the force or energy in all appears to be but a quibble.
 Gaia, in Wicca, is a female deity that can be involved in magick and ritual. Gaia theory, the concept of an earth, indeed a universe, that regulates itself in unknown ways, is not a part of Wicca but rather is a scientific theory.
 Interestingly, Wiccans tend to think that Christians, who believe in a heaven, are not living in the “here and now” and take little interest in the environment.
 Oxford Handbook, 375.
 Ibid., 378.
 Ibid., 383.
 Ibid., 382. In other research we have received testimony from persons who experienced sexually-oriented trances in which spirit beings, especially animal helpers, actually have sexual intercourse with those they possess.
 Ibid., 386.
 Gardner, Witchcraft Today, 178.
 Ibid., 179.
 Gardner, Witchcraft Today, 15-16.
 Ambient here means energies, specifically supernatural entities, that might happen to be nearby and might not be friendly, might even be nasty. Wiccans would not describe these as being evil.
 Gerald Gardner, The Gardnerian Book of Shadows, Forgotten Books, 2005, 65. Gardner was born in 1884 and died in 1964. His craft name was Scire.
 Starhawk, in Gay Religion, from the essay by Mary Jo Neitz entitled “Queering the Dragonfest: Changing Sexualities in a Post-Patriarchal Religion,” edited by S. Thumma and E. R. Gray, Altamira Press, 2005, 272.
 Gardner, Witchcraft Today, 20.
 Ibid., 19.
 Gardner, The Meaning of Witchcraft, 242.
 Ibid., 239.
 Ibid., 238.