Wicca Is A Magical Religion

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“A witch’s altar” from The Meaning of Witchcraft

Wicca is a form of modern pagan witchcraft founded by Gerald Gardner in Britain during the mid-20th century. Gardner claimed that he was initiated in 1939 into a coven of witches, and then helped reassemble their fragmentary practices and beliefs into a cohesive religious form. Notable primary influences on the formation of Wicca include Margaret Murray’s hypothesis of an ancient religious witch-cult, ceremonial magic and Western esotericism of the 19th & 20th centuries, and concepts of pagan mythology originating in Romanticism.1 These combined with elements such as a revival of folk magic practices, the influence of Charles Godfrey Leland’s book “Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches” published in 1899, friendship with Aleister Crowley, and Gardner’s interest in Druidry produced a pagan religious form of witchcraft that became known as Wicca.2

The mixing of typical witchcraft-based “folk magic” and the more ceremonial Hermetic-inspired “high magic” was central to Gardner’s teachings, and is evident in the ritual forms and magical patterns of belief that make up the practice of modern Wicca.

For example, the casting of a circle is a central practice of Wicca, and requires the ability to manipulate the energy that makes up existence in order to delineate a sacred and protected space for the performance of further rites. The raising and control of such energy is a type of magical practice. Circle casting further involves evocation of the guardians of the cardinal directions and/or their respective elements of earth, air, fire and water. As these beings/elements are not seen as deities, such evocation could also be termed “summoning” – a traditional magical practice.

Inside the magic circle, Wiccans may “raise a cone of power” for either a specific purpose or just to charge the participants with energy. Again, this energy manipulation is a magical practice.

Some, perhaps most, Wiccans also practice spell-casting; the type of folk magic that is most easily and often identified specifically as “magic”. This can involve the use of the raising of energy, focused intent through visualisation, chanting, magical correspondences, and the creation of enchanted objects such as sigils, charms, amulets or talismans. Obviously, this practice is magical, but it is not the only form of magic!

The idea that all things are connected and that one can create changes by actively tapping into that connection is magical as well as spiritual.

Practices such as cleansing and consecrating tools such as the athame, chalice, pentacle or wand require both magical action and belief, as do forms of personal energy management such as grounding, centering and shielding. These practices are all central to Wicca.

Some mix magic with ritual forms such as prayer. An example of this would be Drawing Down the Moon, an invocation of the Goddess that often results in the recitation of the Charge of the Goddess. This poem, a central part of Wiccan liturgy written by Doreen Valiente, directly refers to the Wiccan Goddess as the “Queen of all Witcheries” and enjoins the listeners to “assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery”.3

Another example would be the rite of Cakes and Wine, the purpose of which is to share a consecrated meal with the Gods (and coveners) while using the grounding process of eating to shed any surplus energy raised during ritual. In most Wiccan ceremonies, this ritual uses the symbolic Great Rite where the athame is plunged into the chalice to bless the wine, ale or other liquid used by imbuing them with the creative power of the union of the Goddess and God.4

Something that Wicca shares with other religious forms of witchcraft is a core interest in the liminal spaces of the world. The image of the witch has always been one of awe and fear, of power achieved by hidden (occult) means, of difference and rebellion.5 To mix this imagery with the order, tradition and human connection of religion results in a balanced worldview and spiritual practice. Wicca is a religion of polarities where differences are not in opposition but necessary parts of a balanced spectrum. Wicca is a religion of the between spaces; of all the shades that both compose and seperate black and white. Because of this, any division between magic and ritual is at odds with a Wiccan worldview.

When it comes to the word “wicca” itself, the link to magic is made clear. In Old English, “wicca” was a masculine noun meaning sorcerer, with “wicce” being the feminine version. The use of the word Wicca to mean a specific form of modern pagan witchcraft became common during the 1960s, after Gerald Gardner referred to witches as “the Wica” in his books7, and pagan witches identified “wicca” as an ancestor of the modern word “witch”.

It’s no coincidence that Gerald Gardner’s books are titled “Witchcraft Today” and “The Meaning of Witchcraft” – Wiccans are Witches first and foremost. To seperate out the witchcraft and the magic is to mutilate the core of the path, and undermine Wicca’s ability to change the future of religion. To make magic is to make change, and transformation will always be a pillar of the Witch religions.

References

  1. Beyer, Cassie. “History of Wicca.” Wicca For the Rest of Us. http://wicca.cnbeyer.com/history-of-wicca/. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
  2. For more information on Gardner and the history of Wicca, see http://geraldgardner.com/essays.php
  3. Valiente, Doreen. “The Charge Of The Goddess.” The Official Doreen Valiente Website. http://www.doreenvaliente.com/Doreen-Valiente-Doreen_Valiente_Poetry-11.php. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
  4. Aislynn. “Cakes and Ale.” Roots of Ritual. http://www.rootsofritual.net/general/cakes-and-ale/. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
  5. Illes, Judika. The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z of the Entire Magical World. Thorsons, 2005. eBook.
  6. “Wicca (n.)”. Online Etymology Dictionary. http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=Wicca. Web. 18 Apr. 2016.
  7. Gardner, Gerald. “The Witch Cult in Britain.” The Meaning of Witchcraft. Magickal Childe Inc. 1982. 8. Print.
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Published by

Demi

I'm a 30-something cis-female pagan solitary Witch and Priestess living in Auckland, New Zealand. I've been studying and practicing modern pagan witchcraft since 1997, and my path has been inspired by the Reclaiming Tradition, Feri, Cunning Craft, Wicca, Druidry, the Religio Romana and the Church of All Worlds.

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