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Wiccan terminology

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Wicca & Wiccan:

Wicca is a recently reconstructed Neopagan religion based largely on elements of an ancient, pre-Christian Celtic religion. It is thus both a very new and a very ancient religion. A Wiccan is a follower of Wicca. They form the largest single religion within Neopaganism. These terms are well defined and have single, unambiguous meanings. However, there are many traditions within Wicca, just as there are many denominations within Christianity. Each has its own unique beliefs, practices and rituals. All share a recognition of the God and Goddess, a respect for nature. Most respect males and females equally. Their main rules of behavior are the Wiccan Rede, and the Three-fold law.

i.e. do what ever you want to, as long as it harms no one, including yourself. "This belief constantly reminds us that there are many consequences to our actions and we must consider all possible outcomes before acting. The Wiccan Rede thereby binds Wiccans to do the right thing." 1,2

The Three-fold law states that any good that a person does to another returns to themselves, magnified three times. Any harm also returns in the same ratio. This heavily motivates Wiccans to behave ethically, and to avoid harming others.

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Witchcraft, Witch

These terms have so many conflicting definitions that they are essentially meaningless, unless carefully defined in advance of use. Dictionaries sometimes define a Witch as:
bullet A woman of such incredible beauty that she bewitches another person.
Other times, she is:
bullet A woman of incredible ugliness; a hag.
These two definitions are, of course, mutually exclusive. 

Other definitions for Witches are:
bullet A follower of Wicca, a reconstructed aboriginal religion of the ancient Celts. They do not recognize the existence of Satan, the Christian - Muslim supernatural evil personality. Wiccans are prohibited from harming others by their Wiccan Rede, or,
bullet A person who worships Satan, has sold their soul to the devil, and devotes their life to harming others.
These two are also mutually exclusive. 

Still other definitions are:

bullet A person who practices magick
bullet A person who practices black magic, curses, harmful spells, etc. in order to injure or kill others.
bullet A person who is very competent in their field: e.g. "She is a witch of a writer." 
bullet A person who locates underground sources of water often using a wooden implement; a water witch.
bullet A woman who does not obey her husband, or tries to dominate, manipulate and control others.

Many Wiccans use the word "Witch" as a synonym for "Wiccan." Others have abandoned the term Witch; they feel that centuries of religious propaganda have given the term such a negative meaning that it cannot possibly be salvaged. There is a common belief among Wiccans that to abandon the word is to defame the memories of the tens of thousands of Witches and other heretics who were accused of "Witchcraft," were individually tortured and executed during the Christian "Burning Times," circa 1450 to 1792 CE.

We advocate that the word be carefully pre-defined before it is used in a speech or article that may be read by the general public. Even then, the word will still be filtered through the reader's or listener's belief systems. The latter may well have been influenced by centuries of Christian propaganda, and decades of horror movies.

The words Witch and Witchcraft appear in some English versions of the Christian Holy Bible. One verse that is probably responsible for more deaths of innocent people than any other passage from the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) is Exodus 22:18. In the King James Version, this reads: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."  These references are unrelated to Wicca. The original Hebrew term would better be translated as "a woman who uses spoken curses to harm others." It is generally translated as "sorceress" in modern versions of the Bible. The original Greek word that is often translated as "witch" in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) means "poisoner." This has been generally regarded as referring to murderers who use toxic potions to kill other humans by stealth. A more recent explanation interprets the word symbolically to refer to someone who goes around spreading dissention - that is, one who poisons the minds of believers. Both practices, of course, do not apply to Wiccans under the Wiccan Rede: Wiccans do not engage in evil, harmful curses, nor do they proselytize. More details.

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Wicca and Satanism:

Historically, Wicca has been incorrectly associated with Satanism. The roots of this confusion can be traced back to Europe during the Witch burning times of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Witches were accused of worshipping Satan and selling their soul to him. This false belief continues today, and is still being actively promoted by some Christian individuals and ministries. Some conservative Christians believe in the literal truth of some Biblical passages which say that the gods and goddesses that are worshiped by non-Christians are really Satan or one of his demons. They define all non-Christian religions as forms of Satanism

In reality, Wicca is unrelated to Satanism or to black magic. Their governing principles, rules of behavior, basic beliefs about deity, humanity and the rest of the universe, system of morality, etc. are quite different -- often opposite. 

The main Wiccan symbol is the upright 5 pointed star (called a pentagram), and a pentagram within a circle, (called a pentacle). One point of the star is generally aligned upwards, except when it refers to the second degree initiation or male principle . Satanists inverted both symbols and adopted them as their own symbol.

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  1. Psychic Journal: "The Wiccan Rede" at:
  2. The term "Wiccan Rede" is sometimes used to refer to the short phrase which defines Wicca's main rule of behavior. Other times it is used to refer to a poem which includes the behavior rule and the Threefold Law. 

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Site navigation: Home page > World religions > Wicca > here

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Copyright 1996, 1997, and 1999 to 2003 incl., by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2003-JAN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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