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Aspects of Wicca, a Neopagan religion.

Part 1 of 2: Wiccan magical spells and charms:

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Quotation:

"Spells are not about turning people into frogs or granting wishes. A spell is a set of actions and prayers that you do and say in order to ask for divine help with some particular aspect of your life." Mnemosyne's Realm 1

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Charms:

According to a Webster's dictionary, the original meaning of the noun "charm" was a:

"... chanted word, phrase, or verse assumed to have magic over to help or hurt; an incantation." 2

There are two modern meanings to the word:

  • "An amulet; an object believed to have magical powers that will ward off evil influences over the wearer, or bring them good luck."

  • "Any action or gesture assumed to have magic power." 2

A Witchcraft encyclopedia expands this definition by adding:

"magical works, phrases, chants, incantations, inscriptions and actions which can be used separately or in combination to make a charm." 3

The encyclopedia's definition for charm is essentially identical to the meaning that most people give to the noun spell. We will consider the two terms as synonymous in this essay.

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Spells:

Spells are one of many ritual activities that many Wiccans engage in. Not all Wiccans cast spells; to do so is a matter of personal preference.

Spells can be designed to attempt to either harm or help others. Thus, there are both evil spells and healing spells. The same magickal processes are used for both.

However, Wiccans are prohibited by their belief system from engaging in spells or other activities which harm or manipulate others. This is a logical result of Wiccans' belief in the three-fold law, and their commitment to follow the Wiccan Rede, their prime rule of behavior:

  • The Three-fold Law states"All good that a person does to another returns three-fold in this life; harm is also returned three-fold."

  • The Wiccan Rede:
    • Short form, In ancient English: "An ye harm none, do what thou wilt."

    • Short form, in modern English: "Do whatever you wish as long as it harms nobody, including yourself.") 4

    • Full version: A 47 line versio of the Wiccan Reed can be viewed on The Celtic Connection. 5

The Rede obviously prohibits a Wiccan from doing harm to themselves or to others, or from attempting to manipulate others, or from taking harmful drugs, etc. Thus, many activities that have been traditionally attributed to Wiccans -- from the laying of curses to conducting love spells -- are strictly forbidden to them. More details.

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Witches, real and imaginary:

"Evil Witches", according to the very early Christian church, never existed. However by the 15th century, the church had changed its mind. They taught that such Witches did exist, that they sold their souls to Satan, flew through the air on broomsticks, engaged in sexual orgies with Satan in the woods, were capable of shifting their shapes to resemble animals, and dedicated their entire life to harming and killing their victims. This fictional belief was used as justification for the church's subsequent burning at the stake of tens of thousands of religious heretics of all types.

In reality, few if any evil Witches existed in the 15th century. They do not exist today either, at least in any significant numbers. Some individuals portray themselves as Witches for monetary gain and offer to cast evil or healing spells at a price. But they are rare and should not be confused with Wiccans. Such "witches" are not bounded by the Wiccan Rede or Threefold Law. so, they feel quite free to cast evil, manipulative spells and curses.

Christians sometimes pray to their God with the intent of determining God's will, obtaining God's help to change their life, or to heal friends and family. Some light a prayer candle in their home or church. Such rituals have many parallels with Wiccan spells. What some Christians call prayers, Wiccans may call magickal spells.

Followers of other religions also cast spells. "Not all witches cast spells, and not all spells are cast by witches. There are many magical religions out there, wicca being one of them." 5 Most Satanists, for example, cast spells. Their rules of behavior are different from the Wiccan Rede, since Satanism is a separate religion from Wicca. Satanists are not prohibited from casting evil spells on their enemies.

Followers of other religions also cast spells.

According to one observer:

"Not all witches cast spells, and not all spells are cast by witches. There are many magical religions out there, wicca being one of them." 5

Most Satanists, for example, cast spells. Their rules of behavior are different from the Wiccan Rede, since Satanism is a separate religion from Wicca. Satanists are not prohibited from casting evil spells on their enemies.

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Allowable spells:

Wiccans are prohibited from doing harm to others. This is generally interpreted as forbidding any spell that seeks to dominate, manipulate or control another person without their expressed wish. Consider a love spell as one example:

  • A Wiccan could design a spell to make a specific person fall in love with her/him. That would be a negative spell, because its intent, goal and effect would be manipulative -- to control the other person for the benefit of the spell caster. A Wiccan cannot ethically perform such a spell. 7

  • A Wiccan could design a general spell to make a specific person more open to love in their life. That again is excessively manipulative. The target person could be trying to avoid romantic relationships at this stage in their life, for whatever reason. However, this type of spell would be allowable, if the Wiccan first obtained the permission of the target of the spell.

  • A Wiccan who is desirous of starting a romantic relationship could cast a spell to make themselves more open to love in their life. That would not  manipulate anyone else; it would not harm others; it would not harm the spell caster. 7,8 It would be acceptable under the Wiccan Rede.e a manipulative component. Wiccans believe that spells alter the course of the universe and are not to be entered lightly without thoroughly considering all of its possible effects.

There are probably as many types and designs of Wiccan spells as there are Wiccans:

  • Some spells are very simple, consisting of only a few phrases and actions. 7

  • The spell may complex and may involve a full Wiccan ritual, including casting a circle, invocation of deities, statement of purpose, working of the spell, meditation, thanking the deities, and closing the circle. 9

  • Silver RavenWolf recommends  a sequence of tasks, including 4 main steps:
    • to know (yourself, what is to be accomplished...)

    • to will (belief in yourself, Divinity, your sills, practicing)

    • to dare (to change circumstances, to change your environment...)

    • to be silent (before the spell, and afterwards...) 10

Many Wiccans believe that it is not important that you follow a spell precisely the way in which it was originally written. Spells may work better if you modify them to match your personality, thoughts, and the specific situation.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today. Unfortunately, the half-life of many web sites dealing with minority religions tends to be very short, and only references 6,9, and 10 are still on line:

  1. "What is Wicca," Mnemosyne's Realm, at: http://www.io.com/
  2. "Webster's New World Dictionary, 3rd college edition," Prentice Hall (1988), Page 237.
  3. R.E. Guilery, "The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft,"   Facts on File (1989). Cited in C.R. Miller, "Wiccan Myths: Charms," at: http://fly.to/shadowdrake/
  4. 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. More info.
  5. Nicky R., "Spell Checks," at: http://www.the-wire.com/
  6. Mike Nichols, "Charmed, I'm sure: the ethics of love spells," at: http://www.geocities.com/
  7. F. De Grandis, "Wiccan love spells," at: http://www.feri.com/
  8. "OK, Where are the love-spells in this book?," Mnemosyne's Realm, at: http://www.io.com/
  9. "Spells in general," at: http://www.newmoon.uk.com/
  10. Silver Raven Wolf, "To stir a magic cauldron: A witch's guide to casting and conjuring," Llewellyn worldwide, (1996). You can safely order this book and/or read 24 reviews.

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This topic continues in Part 2

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Copyright © 1999 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2015-JUL-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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