minerva asked this question on 1/14/2000:
For the benefit of all who will continue to ask: Wicca, or Neo-paganism (from the Latin paganus, “country-dweller”) is the modern version of the first religious expressions of the human race, and its origins are lost in pre-history. They go back to a time of matriarchal and matrilinear civilizations, when the right to the throne descended down the maternal line and the only modus vivendi of man was hunting and working the soil. These are some of the reasons for the emphasis on the female aspect of the deity and the leadership of the Priestess—the Earth was viewed as the provider of food and medicine, and Woman as creator of life. Anthropologists such as Margaret Murray studied the traces left by the first inhabitants (cave paintings, megalithic monuments, etc.) and rediscovered the Old Religion. Murray published her study in 1931. Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente were the first known contemporary practitioners; they published their books in the 1950's. These, among others, triggered the resurgence of the Craft among people who looked for more participation in their religion, or to take an active stand on issues such as the environment, experimentation on animals, violations of human and civil rights, homelessness, racial prejudice, sexism, domestic violence, and others. In essence, people who are willing to work to help make the world a better place for the future generations.
In this religion there is no such thing as a sacred text, since it includes elements from the earliest religions and philosophies of the world which were taught by word of mouth before written history. The amalgamation of all these influences (plus the newer ones that kept coming along—shamanism, etc.) makes this a highly individualized lifestyle, and there are as many styles and “traditions” of Wicca as there are practitioners and authors. Some of the most popular writers are Margot Adler, Raymond Buckland, Scott Cunningham, Janet and Stewart Farrar, Gavin and Yvonne Frost, Silver Ravenwolf, and Starhawk, among many others, who between them have written hundreds of books about Wicca, its principles and practices. Also, some of the groups or congregations (called “covens”) in the US and Europe on occasion publish newsletters, either printed or in websites.
Neo-paganism holds all life as sacred, and their main tenet goes “An it harm none, do what thou wilt”. Neo-pagans of this day and age view themselves as the spiritual descendants of the healers of ancient times (shaman, medicine man, witch doctor, or wise woman), and they learn, among other things, to heal with natural remedies. They abide by the Law of Attraction: what is thought of or said with a strong enough intention or purpose (willpower) carries with it energy that will eventually find the way to manifest in the physical world. There is also the Law of Threefold Return, which says that all action, thought, or word decreed returns to its source, triplicate (to heal or to harm). Mother Nature always keeps the balance, in this life or the next (some neo-pagans, though not all, believe in reincarnation).
A vital part of Wicca is about striving to become aware of Nature and its cycle (the seasons), and protecting the environment from the damage caused by pollution and deforestation. Because of this, many Neo-pagans become involved in the environmentalist movement. This connection with Nature is manifested in the form of the deities of the ancient mythologies (Greek, Roman, Celtic, Norse, Hindu, etc.). However, these are only symbols or aspects of divinity, which although expressed as male and female (Father Sun and Mother Moon, Father Sky and Mother Earth, etc.) is nonetheless viewed as One.
The people of ancient times visualized their female aspect of deity as having three facets, which symbolized three crucial stages of life: The Maiden (the innocence of childhood), The Mother (the creative power of maternity), and The Crone (the experience and wisdom that can only come with time). In some cases, these aspects were differentiated to the point of becoming separate one from the other, creating the concept of the Triple Goddess. For example: Selene or Phoebe, the Maiden Goddess of the New Moon, represented the moon in the sky; Artemis or Diana, Mother Goddess of the Waxing and Full Moons, is the energy of the moon as manifested on Earth—the tides, menstrual cycles, etc. And Hecate, Crone Goddess of the waning moon, symbolized the underworld and the dark side of the moon. These three would have originally been different aspects of the same Goddess archetype, but eventually became three distinct goddesses.
Wicca imposes no restrictions on its practitioners. Some change to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle so as not to eat any foods that resulted from the death of an animal, but this is not a generalized practice. Neo-pagan authors have different points of view on certain issues, but something they all have in common is tolerance, and the acknowledgement that there are many (and not only one) paths to the supreme deity. Neo-pagans learn to assume responsibility for the choices they make in their lives, and the consequences these entail, instead of blaming something or someone outside of themselves. Neo-paganism does not teach nor acknowledge the existence of any entity being the embodiment of evil (for example, the devil). Nor do they believe in the concept of original sin, since everyone is responsible for their own actions.
Each coven has its own High Priest and High Priestess, independent of every other. Although some may have ranks or degrees such as “Apprentice”, “Initiate”, or “Elder”, these apply exclusively to that particular coven and not to the pagan community in general. There are some people that are acknowledged and respected by the entire community; however, there is no pyramidal hierarchy controlling all Wiccans in the world. Among solitary worshippers, each one is her or his own Priestess or Priest. A member of a coven may be initiated to a higher degree or rank after a period of study and practice equivalent to one lunar year (a year and a day) minimum. Solitary practitioners have a vast amount of resources (both printed and on WebPages) available to enrich their practice.
Priestesses and Priests are not bound by a list of “Thou shalt nots”. The are only requirement is for them to be ready to teach those who have already expressed an interest in studying the tenets of the Craft. Wiccans neither recruit nor “convert”, nor will you find them preaching in a street corner. One who is interested in learning must find them and make first contact, and in some cases apply for admission or acceptance. This is thus because of the great amount of prejudice, intolerance, and outright persecution that still exist in our society. Since there is no hierarchy, there are no fees or tithes. The organizations that work to unify the pagan community rely on donations from voluntary sponsors.
blackelve1 gave this response on 2/3/2000:
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minerva rated this answer a 5.
Glad you liked it :-)