Most people have lots of questions
concerning the Wiccan religion.
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions,
with the best answers I can come up with!!
1) What is a Witch? What is Witchcraft?
"Witch" comes from the Anglo-Saxon wicce (meaning witch), which in turn derives from an Indo-European root word meaning to bend or change or do magic/religion (making it related to "wicker," "wiggle," and even "vicar"). It is possibly also related to the Old Norse vitki (meaning wizard), derived from root words meaning "wise one" or "seer." "Warlock" (rarely used, for male Witches) is from the Old Norse lokkur, "spirit song" (not "oath-breaker"). Related words are "Pagan," meaning a country dweller, and "Heathen," a dweller on the heath, both of which peoples were the European equivalent of the Native Americans and other indigenous, nature-worshipping people.
Today, a Witch is a woman or man who practices a life-affirming, Earth- and nature-oriented religion, honoring Divinity in female as well as (or instead of) male aspects, and practicing Magic (which some Witches spell "magick," to distinguish it from stage illusions). There are many different traditions of Witches, encompassing many beliefs in addition to these. Some traditions are practiced by women only, and recognize only the Divine Feminine, the Goddess. Others include men and recognize a male god in addition to the Goddess. Some traditions may date back to before the Spanish Inquisition, others have been in existence for only a few years. The strength of the Witches' religion (also called "the Craft" or "Wicca") lies in its diversity; it is a living, growing religious tradition.
As a religion, the Craft is a revival and/or reconstruction of the pre-Christian religions of Europe, especially Northern Europe (giving us Celtic or Norse traditions), sometimes elsewhere (giving us Graeco-Roman, Egyptian, or Levantine traditions). Many of us have turned for inspiration to the still-living indigenous traditions of other lands, such as Australia, Asia, India, and the Americas. Some of us , recognizing that we are American Witches, work with deities and land-spirits of local Amerindian tribes, though we do not claim to be members of any Amerindian tradition. As Margot Adler, a Witchcraft authority, has written, "The real tradition of the Craft is creativity."
2) Do we pray? Who do we pray to?
Some Witches pray (in the popular sense of the word), some don't. Some Witches regularly meditate on the deities of their choice; some only invoke deities to empower a ritual or work of Magic.
As to who or what our deities are, you will get nearly as many answers as there are Witches.
One of the primary forms Divinity takes for us is the Goddess, the Divine Feminine. She can have many names and many aspects; some Witches worship only the nameless single Goddess, and others worship Her under all the names by which she has been known to the ancients: Ishtar, Diana, Ceridwen, Athena, Amaterasu, Brigantia, Venus, Hecate, Isis, Demeter, and more. In addition, the Goddess can be seen in three aspects: the Maiden (youth, self-sufficiency, often love), the Mother (nurturing, fulfillment), and the Crone/Wise Woman (wisdom, mystery, initiation, and death/rebirth). The Moon, the Sea, and the Earth can all be personified as Goddesses.
Some Witches stop there. Other Witches include the Divine Male, the God. Our God is not limited to the Father aspect, though there are Divine Fathers. The Sun is often personified as a God, as is plant life; the dying and reborn Grain God is common to nearly all agricultural myths. Some name Him merely "the Horned One;" others call him by the names he had of old: Apollo, Osiris, Dionysos, Odin Pan Freyr, Adonis, Tammuz, and many others.
3) Are we Satanists?
No. To be a Satanist, one must believe in Satan. Witches do not believe in Satan. The popular image of the goat-hooved, pointy-horned devil is a deliberate corruption by the early missionary church of the European Pagan Horned God. Making indigenous gods into evil beings was the early church's most reliable method of gaining converts. Some missionary Christian groups continue the practice to this day, in areas that have retained their old religions. Our Horned God is neither evil nor a source of evil; He is the energy of nature, of plant and animal life, which energy manifests for people in music and dance, intoxication and ecstasy, and all joyous activities, including lovemaking.
4) Do we do animal or human sacrifices?
No. Our own internal life-force is sufficient to whatever task we may require; we have no need of stealing the life-force of another. We do, however, have offerings to our dieties...this may include: incense or candles, pouring out libations, placing sacred herbs or food in some outdoor spot, burying talismans or money, and offering wine is the most common.
The only blood a Witch has a right to offer is her/his own. The sacrifice of another's is against the Rede.
5) What do you think happens after death? Do you believe in heaven and hell?
As it has been said, Witches don't believe in life after death, we believe in life after birth. The emphasis of the Craft is on working to make this life good for as many people as possible, oneself included. We do not believe in a hell, sin, or redemption. We don't believe in a heavenly reward for good behavior. Spiritual bribery is not the way of the Witch; the results of good or evil acts are felt in this lifetime.
On the other hand, Witches have quite a few opinions about what does happen after death. Most believe in reincarnation of some sort or other. Some have it that between death and rebirth the soul undergoes some sort of transformation (for which there are a number of metaphors) to prepare it for rebirth. Others believe that the dead join the Blessed Ancestors, who watch over, protect and advise their descendants. Still others have it that the souls of those who chose pain or evil when they were alive may be trapped after death in a state of suffering because that is all they can understand. Most Witches are honest enough to say, "We don't really know, and there isn't any way to know." (And this is actually where I stand)
6) Do you do Black Magic?
No. Some of us do not even recognize "black" or "white" Magic; Magic is Magic, and what its nature is depends on how we use it. Remember that we try to temper all our Magic by the Rede. And we believe in the law of three: Send harm out, and it shall return to you 3X over.
7) How many of us are there?
Conservative reckonings estimate 200,000 Witches and/or Neo-Pagans in the US alone. There could be many more, who are simply more private about their religion, for the very real fear of persecution. Witches are still working hard for our First Amendment rights.