By Victor Epand
Wicca is a nature and magic based religion that is taken from the Pagan practices of ancient times. Wicca mimics other world religions with its own rituals, seasonal "holidays" and belief system. The beliefs of the religion can vary by region, since there is no orthodox method of practice or central organization. There are, however, published teachings and works that most Wiccans adhere to.
The majority of Wiccans worship a God and Goddess who are considered to be equal, complimentary beings, and often are represented by the sun and moon. There is a trinity concept in this religion, with the Triple Goddess having aspects of the "Mother", "Crone" and "Maiden". Many members of Wicca concede that the Goddess had to predate her companion since she is the giver of life.
It is believed that both the God and Goddess are able to take form in the body of the Wiccan coven's Priests or Priestesses during ritual. Though they believe in deities, the concept of an afterlife doesn't hold strong in the Wicca community. Reincarnation is a favored belief and traditional teaching.
Possibly the most adhered to text in Wicca is the Wiccan Rede, which states "and it harm none, do what ye will". This is interpreted as meaning that as long as a person's actions do no harm to anyone else; they can consider themselves free to pursue them. There is also the concept of the Law of Threes (also known as the Law of Threefold Return) that says whatever positive or negative actions a person puts out into the world will return threefold.
The magic rituals of Wicca are performed within a coven or group of practitioners. The rituals are usually begun by casting a circle by invoking "guardians" of the elements and associated cardinal points: North (earth), West (water), South (fire) and East (air). The four elements are thought to represent every action and being on earth. The five points of the pentagram worn by those practicing Wicca stand for the elements and the presiding spirit.
After the circle is cast, prayers are made to the God and Goddess and spells may be cast. If it is at the time of a seasonal holiday, a special ritual may be performed. Tools a coven may have on hand for the ceremony include a book of spells (Book of Shadows), an altar cloth, cauldron, chalice, wand, broom, candles, crystals, athame (ritual knife) and incense. When the ceremony is finished, the God and Goddess are thanked for their participation and blessings and the coven closes the circle.
The Book of Shadows mentioned above is sort of a personalized religious text for either a single practitioner or- more commonly- a coven. The contents are kept secret but often contain such public domain works as the Wiccan Rede. What type of book is actually used varies between Wicca practitioners.
There are many "holidays" or seasonal observances in Wicca. Full moons (and sometimes new moons) bring about the ritual Esbat. There are also eight Sabbats- four of which, the cross-quarter days, are larger than the others and relate back to ancient fire festivals. These are named Samhain, Beltane, Lammas and Imbolc. The other, lesser celebrated festivals are the Summer and Winter solstices and Spring and Autumn Equinoxes.
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