Wicca and Neopaganism 101 (for the uninitiated)
Throughout the ages, people have been afraid of what they did not understand, and often there was a price to pay.
In 15th and 16th century Europe, this manifested as demonization of witches that led to the death of potentially tens of thousands of women and men. Although the fears that were propagated at the time are beyond belief in today’s world, there are still lingering remnants of their effects at many levels in our society. Specifically, Wicca and neopaganism are still held by many as something unholy, against God and to be shunned or feared.
Let’s unravel the myths around Wicca and neopaganism, and take a look at the depth, presence and wisdom that can be learned from nature-based spirituality and honoring the archetype of the Goddess.
*Note: I have chosen to write this article with a feminine focus, including talking about witches as “she/her”; however, there are male witches too.
What is Neopaganism?
Neopaganism is a modern-day revival of what is thought to have been the beliefs and ways of the pagans of the pre-Christian era — before everything became essentially man-centric and the new patriarchal church began pushing down and subduing the feminine energy, pagan goddess worship, and folk belief.
Neopaganism is a nature-based spiritual path that was birthed primarily from agrarian communities. Their survival depended on the ability to grow crops and manage livestock, so of course, they had great respect for the cycles of nature. The wind and weather all but dictated if they would be able to feed their families. Nature ruled! The Goddess held their fate in Her hands, so it is not difficult to see why they might make offerings and celebrations centered around the Goddess (and the God), since she was intrinsically tied to their wellbeing.
Two of the most well-known neopagan religions are Wicca and Druidism, both of which have their own varying schools and traditions within their own realm of beliefs and practices.
In Wicca, there are several different popular traditions including Gardnerian, Dianic, Celtic, Norse, Solitary and Eclectic paths. Each path has its own practices, tenets, ideology or purpose, and perhaps varying cultural implications from the originating region of each tradition. For example, the Celtic and Norse traditions originated from two different regions of Northern Europe, so they use different names for the goddesses and gods.
Neopagan Celebrations and Feasts
While pre-Christian paganism did not have the official “Wheel of the Year” concept used by most neopagans today, they did have feasts, dancing, offerings, and celebrations that aligned with important times of the year relative to animal husbandry, planting, and harvest. During these celebrations, they made offerings and prayers for abundance and protection, often to Diana or Hecate, depending on the local culture and beliefs.
The solstices and equinoxes are four of these important markers of the year. Today, these holidays are celebrated both in neopagan and secular culture and mark the beginning of each season. In Wicca, these are known as the Lesser Sabbats, or solar sabbats, of Yule (Winter Solstice), Ostara (Spring Equinox), Litha (Summer Solstice), and Mabon (Fall Equinox).
Typically, neopagans also celebrate four additional holidays that mark the cross-quarters of the year, or the midpoints of each season. In Wicca, these are called the Greater Sabbats, some of which are widely known and celebrated in the secular community, including Samhain (Halloween) and Beltane (May 1). Imbolc, which is in February, and Lughnasadh (Lammas), which is in August, are also Greater Sabbats celebrated by Wiccans and neopagans, but less well-known in secular society.
What is Wicca?
Wicca is a neopagan religion most often represented by a pentagram. Wiccans often refer to their religion as “The Old Religion”, but it was actually birthed around 1950 by Gerald Gardner, with some precursors from the 1920’s. Although Wicca is technically a new religion age-wise, it is easy to see why Wiccans identify it as “The Old Religion,” since it is intended as an ode to pre-Christian paganism.
Below are some of the common beliefs and practices specific to Wicca.
The Wiccan Rede
“Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, An’ it harm none do what ye will.”Doreen Valiente, 1964
This one line says it all — be mindful; do no harm.
Although the Wiccan Rede was adopted several years after the birth of the religion, its closing line has become one of the most widely held tenets of Wicca and is essentially the witches’ guiding moral compass. While not an exact comparison, I tend to think of the Wiccan Rede as the Wiccan version of the Golden Rule.
The Rule of Three
The Wiccan Rule of Three is simple. When you cast a spell or work magic, you can expect its energy to come back to you 3 x 3.
For those who believe in this ideology, it reminds us that everything we put out into the world will come back to us threefold (or more). Good begets good; ill begets ill. If you steal, you may find that you will be stolen from. If you give to others, you may find that others give to you.
Some see The Rule of Three as equivalent to karma, with consequences experienced in this life or perhaps even in another life along the way.
I personally view the Rule of Three not as literal, but as more as an extension of the Golden Rule and the Wiccan Rede, reminding me to act according to what I would want to receive back in-kind or amplified. It is basically a personal check on my words, actions, and motives to help me stay in alignment with my highest potential.
The Power of Our Spoken Word
Both the Wiccan Rede and the Rule of Three show us the importance of being mindful in our actions. But we should also be mindful in our words and the energy behind our words. Witches, in particular, have a responsibility to be mindful of using negative or harmful words directed at others. Why? Because we have been trained to use our words as tools of magick, in this life and perhaps many other lives as well.
I am very aware that what I say has special power. My words manifest my reality, intentionally or unintentionally. Combine that with having lived many lives as a witch of some sort or other, and you get a natural born spellcaster that can accidentally effect unintended energetic consequences by speaking thoughtlessly. This is especially true when those words are imbued with strong energy like anger, vengefulness, envy, or spite.
The same goes for complaining or victim-mentality, chronically blaming others for everything that happens to you. These are all examples of spoken words and energy that can cause accidental manifestation with undesirable consequences.
Most often, the results will affect the person with the undisciplined tongue, but sometimes others can get caught in the whirlwind as well. Therefore, it is the duty of a witch to be mindful of her words and her ability to manifest change every time she opens her mouth to speak. Or, if you cannot be mindful out of a sense of duty, at least consider being mindful simply for the benefit of self-preservation. The end results are the same, so whatever works for you, do it!
Myths: Common Misconceptions about Witches and Wicca
Now that you know a little about what neopaganism and Wicca are, let’s look at some common misconceptions.
There were always superstitions surrounding midwives, herbalists, and healers, commonly labeled by the community as witches. All was well when things went well, but if something went wrong, “the witch” was always the one questioned as to whether she intended harm on the people she was supposed to be helping.
Even in Pre-Christian times, when crops failed or there was disease or death, the people needed someone to blame. Witches were the perfect scapegoats to explain these occurrences. They would say the witch controlled the weather or poisoned the soil. This provided actionable recourse to their superstitions and gave meaning to the people’s suffering.
Add Christianity to the mix, with the concept of Satan and the idea of witches consorting with the Devil, and you have a recipe for disaster. This, plus a couple zealous depraved monks (check out the Malleus Maleficarum, aka Hammer of Witches) from the European witch hunts, followed by a plethora of inaccurate and negative depictions of witches in television and movies, and you have a lasting prejudice against witches that continues even to this day.
Let’s take a moment and debunk some of the common misconceptions that continue to propagate these fears and intolerances.
Myth #1 – Wiccans Use Satan for their Power
The idea of Wiccans using Satan to gather power conjures movie-made images of a sorceress with electricity flying, invoking demonic forces.
The religion of Wicca is actually far less glamorous.
While we do see a fair amount of goth makeup and provocative clothing here in the United States, those things are already part of our society outside of witching, and I dare say largely inspired by television, movies, and music videos. This behavior and dress are not part of the religion of Wicca. It is simply a personal preference that some witches embrace, as do many non-witches.
Personally, I identify as a hearth witch, so most of the witches I come across are often expressive, sometimes eccentric people who love vibrant hair color, gardening, and cooking. They enjoy making crafts, and studying herbs, plants, and rocks (crystals) to learn their magical properties. Some even make their own soaps, shampoos, cleaning products, candles, jewelry, and teas. Others study energy, manifesting, divination, alchemy, journey work (visions) and dreams.
But whatever a witch’s niche, invoking Satan is not in the repertoire of a true Wiccan.
Wiccans do not believe in Satan.
Satan did not exist in pre-Christian times. Satan is a Christian manifestation, and therefore, by definition, pagans and neopagans do not worship him since they follow the beliefs and practices of the pre-Christian era.
Pre-Christian pagans worshipped the Goddess and the God, with their folk belief tied deeply to the natural world. The concepts of Satan, Heaven, and Hell are not part of nature-based spirituality, and only rose to prominence when the church and state began to push Christian theology out to the pagan masses. The Christian church was responsible for introducing the idea of witches “consorting with the Devil” as well.
Sadly, the spread of these ideas led to a surge in superstitious fear and ultimately the tragedy of the burning times, turning people against each other and brutally torturing and killing thousands of men, women, and children.
Townsfolk accused their neighbors of witchcraft if they had conflict with them in the past, claiming the “witch” had damaged their property by means of magic. Wise women and healers were also accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death, along with others who were often different in some way.
Other accusations used as evidence against witches during the witch hunts were that they were seen flying on the backs of black goats, that they were cannibals who ate children, and that they were clever and cunning beings who lured men into sex so that the Devil could steal their souls and damn them for all eternity.
Obviously, these accusations are absurd at every level, but that does not change the stigma and fear that remains to this day, often in Christian communities where witches are still falsely associated with Satanism and Devil-worship.
Myth #2 – The Wiccan Pentagram is a Satanic symbol
In Wicca, the pentagram is a sacred symbol representing earth, air, fire, and water (the four elements of nature), plus a fifth element of Spirit, with each element represented by one of its five points.
It is an expression of sacred geometry based on the Fibonacci sequence, which can be observed repeatedly in nature, and which has been used around the world in sacred art and ritual dating back to 6,000 BCE. The pentagram was even used as a Christian symbol for protection before the symbol of the cross became dominant.
Other popular examples of the Fibonacci sequence include the sacred spiral used in spiral dances and meditations, and quite possibly Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, which lies almost directly on the lines and points of the pentagram.
Pentagrams in Use
Pentagrams are found in jewelry, art, tapestries, ornamental boxes, and other objects symbolizing the Wiccan path, but they are also used in spiritual practice. For example, when working magick, drawing a pentagram from different starting points and in different directions represents different energies.
Whatever the use, the Wiccan pentagram is not symbolic for Satan. Satan was introduced by the Christian church. Wicca is a religion focused on pre-Christian beliefs and practices.
The Inverted Pentagram
Much like the sacred Sanskrit Swastika was appropriated by the Nazis and is now associated with anti-Semitism, the inverted pentagram was appropriated by Satanists and Devil worshippers and is now widely recognized by the masses as a sign of Satanic devil-worship.
An unfortunate biproduct of this appropriation is that Wiccans seem to be inaccurately associated with Satanism and the Devil, which is far from the truth.
Perhaps here is where some of the confusion lies.
Some Wiccans do use an inverted pentagram to represent the masculine God energy, because the top of the pentagram inverted looks like the antlers of Cernunnos.
In some neopagan traditions, Cernunnos is the Horned God, representing the masculine — the sun, the Wild Hunt, virility, feasting, and pleasure. It is Cernunnos who runs in the forest and brings the earth back to life each spring, nurturing the crops as his energy (the sun) grows, until he begins to decline in the fall and the days grow shorter. He is associated with action, projection, the forest stag in rut, and all things sacral chakra, and is often depicted as a man with antlers.
In neopaganism, the physical and spiritual realms are intrinsically linked, with spiritual essence as an inextricable part of the physical world. As such, there is no need to transcend the carnal world, rather neopagans intend to be fully present, mindful, and intentional in the physical world as spirituality in practice.
Sexuality and celebration are valid and cherished aspects of the physical/spiritual existence and are not shunned like in the patriarchal religions where embracing the earthly experience is considered hedonistic and in opposition to overcoming the temptations of the flesh in order to experience enlightenment.
Rather, the aspects of Cernunnos are all part of nature, and therefore embraced as a valued part of nature-based spirituality.
Between the association with virility and the antlers (which Christians might choose to interpret as devil’s horns), you can see how there might be connections drawn between Cernunnos and Satan. However, there are clear and significant differences between pagans celebrating the male energy, and the practices of Satanism or devil-worship, as follows:
- Devil-worship is the act of worshipping the Christian Satan.
- Satanism has various churches of varying beliefs which either acknowledge the Christian Satan as an entity to be worshipped, or as an archetypal energy of freedom and self-empowerment that honors the carnal world as the ultimate experience, denying any external god.
- Wicca is neither of these things.
It is a theology based on the beliefs of the Pre-Christian era before the concept of Satan was ever introduced. Wicca and neopaganism celebrate both masculine and feminine divine energies, the Goddess and the God, and view them as contrasting and complimentary, together creating the whole like the Yin and Yang of the Tao.
Wiccans also do not value the carnal world as pre-eminent over the spiritual world or deny the existence of the spiritual world. They see the physical world as imbued with spiritual energy, and life as part of the spiritual experience. Many value the physical world and nature as inherently divine, but they also value magick and the non-physical spiritual realm as well.
Wiccans who use the inverted pentagram use it to symbolize the male god energy of Cernunnos. They do not worship the Christian Satan, or any god of self-indulgence or gratification at the expense of harm to others. Rather, Wiccans adhere to tenets of mindfulness and responsibility, as is made clear by the Rule of Three and the Wiccan Rede.
Anyone who uses a pentagram to symbolize Satan is not Wiccan.
Myth #3 – Magick: Witchcraft is Evil
To understand whether witchcraft is evil, first we must define what witchcraft is.
Witchcraft can be said to be “the practice of magical skills to facilitate change”, but what does that mean?
If you look up magic in the dictionary, you will find a slew of definitions. Two of the definitions which are relevant for our purposes are:
- a quality that makes something seem removed from everyday life, especially in a way that gives delight
- the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces
The easiest way that I can explain magic from my own practice and perspective is that magic is the essence of all existence. It is the magic of the Universe, the “spiritual stuff” of All That Is. It is the non-physical power, the juice that is in everything and through everything. It’s the mystery of life.
Therefore, the practice of magick (with a “k” to denote spiritual magick), which used to be commonly called witchcraft, would be working with that essence that exists everywhere, in everything, to facilitate change.
In the New Age community, some examples equivalent to magick would be the practice of metaphysics, energy healing, crystal beds, or reiki. In Christianity, equivalent examples would be prayer and faith healing.
In my work, I simply clear my space and ask for the highest and best for all involved. I then sense the energies at play and am guided through each gesture or idea to help my client see, hear, know, say, do or understand whatever will guide them toward their highest good and best outcome. We can set an intention, perhaps for clarity or healing or letting go of something harmful, and then we get out of the way and allow.
We ask for Divine assistance and we receive it. For me, this is magick.
Other examples might include waking up with new songs from my dream state, seeing an animal placed in my path and recognizing its animal totem wisdom, unexplained synchronicities that unfold for my higher good, or just being connected with the earth through my garden or the deer, toads, lizards, and birds that frequent my property.
It’s all magical from my perspective, and I am grateful to receive these gifts.
Mystery: Common Symbols and Concepts of Neopaganism
The Power of Three
Three is an important number in Wicca and other spiritual practices throughout time. There are multitudes of stories featuring key characters or objects that highlight the number three. The Norse have the three Norns, the Greeks the three Moirai, and the English the three Fates, all of which determine the lives of humans. The three Horae represent the three seasons. Celtic art and literature are full of images and references of three. Even Christianity’s primary symbol is a Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Three also encompasses the concept of a complete cycle:
- past, present, future;
- plant, tend, harvest; or
- thought, word, and deed.
The 3-dimensional world is considered solid and real, of substance, and yet, it is your third eye that can see and sense beyond the 3-dimensional world and into the non-physical realms of energy and time.
Even in present day speech writing and marketing, presenting ideas in groups of three phrases or points strung together seems to have some extra potency in effectiveness and persuasion.
Whatever the magical affinity to three, Wicca and neopaganism bear no exception. They have their own powerful symbols of three in The Triple Goddess and The Tree of Life.
The Triple Goddess
The Triple Goddess is a primary concept of neopaganism. It is symbolized by the Triple Moon, or sometimes the Celtic Triquetra (the Celtic Trinity knot), and encompasses multiple ideas in one:
- the power of three;
- the cycles of life; and
- mastery of the three realms: the earth (flora and fauna, seasons and growth, and the physical world), the sky (the moon, magick, and the spiritual world), and the underworld (birth, death, and the subconscious).
Over time, there have been many variations of the Triple Goddess. The oldest records seem to originate with Hecate depicted in three different attires, representing the three phases of the moon, and facing outward looking in three different directions, allowing her to see and protect all sides.
Later, Diana was also viewed as a Triple Goddess: Diana as huntress, Diana as the moon, and Diana of the underworld, with other goddesses being added to this designation over time, including Morrigan and Brigid.
Some versions of the Triple Goddess even include three different goddesses together as three-fold and three form with one each representing birth, life, and death, for example Artemis, Selene and Hecate forming a Triple Goddess.
As with most things neopagan and Wiccan, the versions of the Triple Goddess used by each coven or practitioner depend on their tradition and personal connection.
The Triple Moon
The most popular symbol of the Triple Goddess is the Triple Moon. It is depicted as a full moon with two outward-facing crescent moons on each side, reflecting one another in balance.
When working magick or performing ritual, the moon is an important part of Goddess and nature-based spirituality and practices. Wiccans associate the moon with the Goddess energy and recognize it as a strong source of power for crafting. The three primary moon phases that are used in pagan symbology are the waxing moon, the full moon, and the waning moon. In spellwork and manifesting, the new moon is also taken into consideration.
- The new moon is the dark moon when you are setting intention and resting. You are taking inventory, being introspective.
- When the crescent moon becomes prominent during the growing light of the waxing moon, you act, planting seeds and nurturing ventures or projects.
- During the full moon, your magick is at its peak. Now is a good time to manifest your intentions. For instance, if you are going to have an official product launch, you may want to launch it during a full moon for maximum impact.
- Then during the waning moon, when the visible aspect of the moon diminishes again, you can follow the receding energy and focus on things that will be decreasing. You can simplify, clear clutter out of your home, or let go of energetic stuff that does not serve you, like toxic relationships, overbearing responsibilities, or emotional baggage.
As with all pagan practices, Wiccans strive to work with nature and the natural cycles of creation. Using the moon phases as a guide, we can follow her energetic changes and align our efforts with the natural moon energies for maximum benefit.
Maiden, Mother, Crone
Maiden, Mother, Crone is a core principle of the Triple Goddess, representing the three primary stages of life from the feminine perspective.
- The maiden is the innocent, the child that blossoms into a young woman pre-childbearing. This is a period of growth and creativity, learning, and freedom from cares and responsibilities. She represents enchantment, inception, expansion, the promise of new beginnings, birth, youth, and youthful enthusiasm, and is represented by the waxing moon.
- The mother represents nurturing, caretaking, and the protector. She is ripeness, fertility, sexuality, fulfilment, stability, power, and life, and is represented by the full moon.
- The crone is the final stage of development. She is the wise old woman who is now aged in years and whose vitality is slowing declining until she rests in death. She is revered for her wisdom and cunning, which she has gained over the course of a long life. She represents wisdom, repose, death, and endings, and is represented by the waning moon.
These stages represent all that is in the cycle of creation, from conception to death, each with their own gifts and attributes. When we are aware of these stages and the gifts of each, we can more easily bring these gifts into our own lives and better understand ourselves and our world.
The Tree of Life
The Tree of Life is a common pagan symbol that signifies the three realms, heaven, earth, and underworld, as interconnected.
- The roots of the tree symbolize the underworld, death and the subconscious, emotions, and shadow work.
- The trunk of the tree represents the physical world, the living, physical reality, humanity, and the conscious mind.
- The branches at the top of the tree represent the heavens, the realm of the sun and moon (God and Goddess), the superconscious and spirituality.
Often, the Tree of Life is depicted with the roots and branches mirroring each other. This can be associated with the spiritual concept “as above, so below”, meaning the macrocosm and the microcosm mirror each other, just on different scales and perhaps in different nuanced ways.
I like to simplify this concept as, “Wherever you are, you are.” In other words, your life here and now is both an aspect of your higher self and deeper self, and a reflection of them as well.
The Tree of Life is also a great reminder that the visible portion of the tree, the trunk and branches which represent physical and spiritual life, cannot be healthy without healthy roots, the subconscious and emotions. This is why it is so important to do shadow work if we want to live full, balanced, fruitful lives. (Watch my shadow work video!)
The circle is a common theme of neopaganism and Wicca representing infinity and the never-ending circle of life. Circles are often seen circumscribing the Tree of Life, the Celtic Trinity Knot (Triquetra) and the pentagram.
Another common infinity circle is the Ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tale.
Circles are also prevalent in Wiccan magick and ceremony. Before beginning any ritual, witches will cast a circle of protection to create a sacred, clear space in which to work. Once the ritual, gathering or work is complete, the circle is then opened, and free flow of energy and people is again permitted.
Similarities and Differences between Neopaganism and the Abrahamic Religions
If by chance, you were raised in a patriarchal family or religion, or you have friends or family members who are part of the Abrahamic traditions, it is likely there is some discomfort with your interest in Wicca and neopaganism, from them and maybe also within yourself.
To help navigate this resistance, I have listed some relevant points below that show both overt differences and some of the subtle differences between the patriarchal religions and neopaganism.
Feminine and Masculine Spirituality
The Abrahamic traditions, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, are patriarchal, devoted to a male God, with little emphasis on a divine feminine, except perhaps in the mystic traditions which might see the Holy Spirit or the Shakina as feminine. Mostly, however, the feminine is portrayed as an “add-on” to man, and women are taught to obey their masters (men) as part of their servitude to God.
In Wicca and neopaganism, the focus is primarily on the feminine, with many traditions honoring the masculine energy in consort with the feminine to create the whole and perpetuate the cycle of life. The Goddess is associated with moon. The God is associated with the sun. It is about balance and cycles. Day and night, winter and summer. Earth and sky, light and dark, yin and yang. All are seen as contrasting parts of the whole, with each pair representing opposite sides of the same coin.
The Christian church has the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Neopaganism also had a trinity, The Triple Goddess, which represents the cycles of life and the Goddess’ presence in each of the three realms.
Both patriarchal and neopagan beliefs include concepts of duality, but in different ways.
In the patriarchal religions, God is separate from and independent of man and nature. Duality separates sin and holiness, man from God, and heaven from hell.
In the Christian religion, sin is of the Devil and only God/Jesus are holy and without sin. To be saved (from an afterlife in Hell), you must reject sin and repent from it. Only asking Jesus for forgiveness of your transgressions and committing your life to him will allow you to transcend your earthly sin and live with Him in Heaven.
In neopaganism, there is no concept of duality as something that needs to be transcended. Physical reality is believed to be inherently imbued with spiritual energy, not separate from it. Spiritual essence is ingrained in us and everything around us. The elements of the earth, rocks (crystals), plants (herbs), animals, all have spiritual essence and magical properties. Both physical and non-physical realms are seen as valuable aspects of spirituality. The non-physical world, the astral plane, and journey work (shamanism) are but another layer of the spiritual experience.
As such, nature and everyday life are inherently spiritual and not something that needs to be repented for or transcended. There is no separation.
Death and Afterlife
In Christianity, there is a concept of Heaven and Hell as eternal resting places depending on whether you were “saved”. One place is eternal bliss and the other eternal torment and misery.
In some neopagan traditions there is a concept of realms where some souls go after death, for example, the Summerland, or Valhalla and Fólkvangr for the warriors; but overall, there is no concept of waiting for a better place when we die. Rather, many neopagans simply believe in the idea of another cycle of life, which may or may not include a place for rest, revelry, peace, or joy, depending on your tradition and personal beliefs.
In Wicca, regardless of the belief system, while there may be a sense of karma and a desire for personal or collective balancing of actions, there is no judge or jury that allows or denies passage to other realms or sentences punishment. It is truly a religion of self-responsibility.
Wicca and Neopaganism in Practice
Neopaganism is a basic outline of concepts used by various nature-based spiritual traditions. Within the neopagan umbrella, there are multiple paths sharing some ideology and diverging on others.
Most neopagans honor the Goddess and the God, two energies that exist in the same space as complimentary aspects that create the whole. Some Wiccans only honor the Goddess with little or no focus on the masculine, such as Dianic Wicca. Others worship the Goddess, the God, and the lesser gods and goddesses, which could mean that they are polytheistic, but not necessarily.
Some neopagans worship the Goddess and the God as real beings that exist “out there”. Others view them as archetypal energies in each of us, or some combination of the two. You can look within, or you can ask for help from outside yourself. It’s up to you!
Personally, I do not worship the Goddess or the God as beings. I view them as aspects of All That Is, and as archetypal energies. I use them to define the basis for a spirituality that is whole and complete, including both internal aspects and external forces.
Similarly, my spirituality is not solely in the higher chakras, the sky, or the heavens where the non-physical reside, but also in the lower chakras and the earth as well, embracing both light and dark, yin and yang, masculine and feminine.
I also recognize what some witches and neopagans believe to be an underlying energy that is the fundamental organizing principle of all creation. This source energy does not have a personality. It is not an archetype. It is impersonal and acknowledged, but not worshipped in any way.
Gathering, Initiation and Study
In Wicca, your tradition, and whether you are part of a coven, will determine the general outline of your spiritual life.
If you are in a coven, Wicca is an initiatory practice in which you progress through specific levels of mastery. Each tradition has its own rites, beliefs, and levels of attainment. In many traditions, the esoteric knowledge of that tradition has been guarded and kept secret from outsiders, being passed down either generationally or to new coven members typically after initiation.
Solitary witches primarily participate in private study and practice as the name implies. They do not belong to any specific coven as a member, but may have gatherings with other neopagans or witchy friends for discussion, ceremony or other purposes, with each participant bringing their own unique blend of spirituality to the event.
For the solitary witch, the sky is the limit to their practice, as they have complete and utter freedom in the traditions that they choose to draw from and the practices that they choose to embrace. Witches who choose to draw from multiple traditions are known as eclectic witches.
Benefits: The Gifts of the Goddess
For me, neopagansim is not just about embracing some Goddess ‘out there’. It is also about the goddess in me as an empowered woman, and really stepping into a deep respect and celebration of women in general. (Check out my episode, “The Empowered Witch: ‘No’ is the new ‘yes!‘”)
One of the things that I love about Wicca and neopaganism is that sexuality and celebration are honored and respected as valuable parts of spirituality. The female body and all her cycles are valued and cherished as an integral, spiritual, important part of life; as opposed to the patriarchy, where even married women are often not portrayed as sexual beings in a positive way. Rather, feminine sexuality is often swept under the rug and is taboo to embrace.
Being brought up with a fundamentalist Christian mother who operated under these principles, sexuality was never discussed and certainly never embraced in our household. This was very toxic and damaging to my self-image as a young, blossoming woman. Without a positive role model or understanding of healthy sexuality as embodied by the Mother Goddess, I was left to choose a path based on toxic, male-centric views of women as either prudes or whores. I simply had no other perspective to reference as I moved into womanhood.
Similarly, the constant portrayal of women as needing to meet a certain image of beauty and girls being weak or less capable, and the relentless labeling of assertive, successful women as bitches, have all created a very toxic self-image for girls and women that has taken a deep toll over time.
Healing this toxic culture of feminine-shaming is important to me, which is why embracing a Goddess-based spirituality that views the God energy as a vital and necessary partner, not dominator, is so important. As women, and as a culture, we need this reframe to heal our society and create balance and equity.
Wiccan author, D. J. Conway, says that reconnection with the Great Goddess is vital to the health of humankind “on all levels”. She believes the Triple Goddess stands for unity, cooperation, and participation with all creation, while in contrast masculine gods can represent dissociation, separation, and dominion of nature.
This is why a return to the Goddess and emergence of traditions like Dianic Wicca are prevalent in some new feminist revivals, because women and sexuality have been oppressed and repressed for a long time, since the patriarchy took over.
Bringing back the Goddess and honoring the feminine and all her cycles creates a new dynamic, a new relationship for women with themselves and with the world. It creates confidence, balance, and stability. For me, that means a more holistic and healed view of myself, and of women and feminine energy in general. It is very empowering and, in my opinion, very much needed in the world today.