What do Wiccans believe?

Contemporary Wiccans worship the Great Mother Goddess and her partner the Horned God (Pan), but these and a host of other pagan deities are said to represent various aspects of an impersonal creative force called "The One" or "The All"—reflecting the current influence of Eastern monism popularized in New Age thought. Wiccans regard all aspects of nature—plants, rocks, planets—as having spirit.

Who is the Great Mother Goddess?

She is the female aspect of The All and has many names, including Diana, Isis, and Demeter. She is usually seen in threefold form as maiden (Kore), Mother (Diana), and crone (Hecate), representing the fundamental life stages.

Do Wiccan witches cast spells?

Spells are one of many ritual activities Wiccans engage in, although unlike Satanist witchcraft, Wicca forbids harmful or manipulative spells. Wiccan witches practice two kinds of magic. Low magic is invoked to improve everyday life, such as a job or a relationship, while high magic aims to transform the individual personally. Witches convene to worship deities and invoke magic, but pronouncing curses is forbidden: Wiccans believe that curses rebound threefold back onto the one working them.

How does a local Wicca group work?

Autonomous groups of four to 26 people (the ideal is 13) form covens that meet semi-monthly at the new and full moons, as well as at eight major solar festivals. Wiccans can attain up to three "degrees" of involvement in the coven—full membership after initiation, accomplished witchhood after reaching a certain knowledge level, and priesthood, which usually requires the "Great Rite" of ritual sexual intercourse. The Great Rite, however, is usually performed symbolically by the thrust of a ritual knife into a chalice of wine.

How did Wicca begin?

Gerald B. Gardner (1884-1964), a British civil servant and amateur archaeologist, is credited with founding contemporary witchcraft. Having learned magic in Southern Asia, he became involved in the occult upon his return to England in 1939. He met influential witches at a Theosophical group, but evidence suggests he combined Asian magic with Western texts to invent a new religion with worship of the Mother Goddess at its vortex. His ritual, and an offshoot version fashioned by breakaway initiate Alexander Sanders, spread across North America in the 1960s.

Who are major figures behind Wicca?

Sybil Leek came to the United States from England in 1966 and established independent covens in Ohio and Massachusetts. Self-described pagans eager to avoid the "witch" designation but equally devoted to the Great Mother Goddess were Fred Adams, Donna Cole, and Ed Fitch, soon dubbed "neopagans." They designed new rituals, and by 1980 a hodgepodge of Wiccan and neopagan groups had emerged. The largest Witchcraft-Pagan organization is the Church of Circle Wicca, based in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, and founded in 1975 by Selena Fox and Jim Alan.


J. Gordon Melton, Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America (Garland Publishing Inc., 1986)


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