HISTORICAL ORIGIN: Wicca is a reconstruction of the Nature worship of 
tribal Europe, strongly influenced by the living Nature worship 
traditions of tribal peoples in other parts of the world. The works of 
such early twentieth century writers as Margaret Murray, Robert Graves 
and Gerald B. Gardner began the renewal of interest in the Old Religion. 
After the repeal of the anti-Witchcraft laws in Britain in 1951, Gardner 
publicly declared himself a Witch and began to gather a group of 
students and worshipers. In 1962, two of his students, Raymond and 
Rosemary Buckland (religious names: Lady Rowen and Robat), emigrated to 
the United States and began teaching Gardnerian Witchcraft here. At the
same time, other groups of people became interested through reading 
books by Gardner and others. Many covens were spontaneously formed, 
using rituals created from a combination of research and individual 
inspiration. These self-created covens are today regarded as just as 
valid as those who can trace a "lineage" of teaching back to England. 
In 1975, a very diverse group of covens who wanted to secure the legal 
protections and benefits of church status formed Covenant of the Goddess
(CoG), which is incorporated in the State of California and recognized 
by the Internal Revenue Service. CoG does not represent all, or even a 
majority of Wiccans. A coven or an individual need not be affiliated 
with CoG in order to validly practice the religion. But CoG is the 
largest single public Wiccan organization, and it is cross-Traditional
(i.e. non-denominational). 

BASIC BELIEFS: Wiccans worship the sacred as immanent in Nature, often 
personified as Mother Earth and Father Sky. As polytheists, they may use
many other names for Deity. Individuals will often choose Goddesses or 
Gods from any of the world's pantheons whose stories are particularly 
inspiring and use those Deities as a focus for personal devotions. 
Similarly, covens will use particular Deity names as a group focus, and 
these are often held secret by the groups. It is very important to be 
aware that Wiccans do not in any way worship or believe in "Satan," 
"the Devil," or any similar entities. They point out that "Satan" is a 
symbol of rebellion against and inversion of the Christian and Jewish 
traditions. Wiccans do not revile the Bible. They simply regard it as 
one among many of the world's mythic systems, less applicable than some
to their core values, but still deserving just as much respect as any 
of the others. Most Wiccan groups also practice magic, by which they 
mean the direction and use of "psychic energy," those natural but 
invisible forces which surround all living things. Some members spell 
the word "magick," to distinguish it from sleight of hand 
entertainments. Wiccans employ such means as dance, chant, creative 
visualization and hypnosis to focus and direct psychic energy for the 
purpose of healing, protecting and aiding members in various endeavors. 
Such assistance is also extended to non-members upon request. Many, but 
not all, Wiccans believe in reincarnation. Some take this as a literal 
description of what happens to people when they die. For others, it is 
a symbolic model that helps them deal with the cycles and changes 
within this life. Neither Reincarnation nor any other literal belief 
can be used as a test of an individual's validity as a member of the 
Old Religion. Most groups have a handwritten collection of rituals and 
lore, known as a Book of Shadows. Part of the religious education of 
a new member will be to hand copy this book for him or herself. Over 
they years, as inspiration provides, new material will be added. 
Normally, access to these books is limited to initiated members of the 

PRACTICES AND BEHAVIORAL STANDARDS: The core ethical statement of Wicca,
called the "Wiccan Rede" states "an it harm none, do what you will." The
rede fulfills the same function as does the "Golden Rule" for Jews and 
Christians; all other ethical teachings are considered to be 
elaborations and applications of the Rede. It is a statement of 
situational ethics, emphasizing at once the individual's responsibility
to avoid harm to others and the widest range of personal autonomy in 
"victimless" activities. Wicca has been described as having a 
"high-choice" ethic. Because of the basic Nature orientation of the 
religion, many Wiccans will regard all living things as Sacred, and show
a special concern for ecological issues. For this reason, individual 
conscience will lead some to take a pacifist position. Some are 
vegetarians. Others will feel that, as Nature's Way includes 
self-defense, they should participate in wars that they conscientiously
consider to be just. The religion does not dictate either position, but 
requires each member to thoughtfully and meditatively examine her or his
own conscience and to live by it. Social forces generally do not yet 
allow Witches to publicly declare their religious faith without fear of
reprisals such as loss of job, child custody challenges, ridicule, etc.
Prejudice against Wiccans is the result of public confusion between 
Witchcraft and Satanism. Wiccans in the military, especially those who 
may be posted in countries perceived to be particularly intolerant, will
often have their dogtags read "No Religious Preference." Concealment is 
a traditional Wiccan defense against persecution, so non-denominational
dogtags should not contravene a member's request for religious services.
Wiccans celebrate eight festivals, called "Sabbats," as a means of 
attunement to the seasonal rhythms of Nature. These are January 31 
(Called Oimelc, Brigit, or February Eve), March 21 (Ostara or Spring 
Equinox), April 30 (Beltane or May Eve), June 22 (Midsummer, Litha or 
Summer Solstice), July 31 (Lunasa or Lammas), September 21 (Harvest, 
Mabon or Autumn Equinox), October 31 (Samhain, Sowyn or Hallows), and 
December 21 (Yule or Winter Solstice.) Some groups find meetings within 
a few days of those dates to be acceptable, others require the precise 
date. In addition, most groups will meet for worship at each Full Moon, 
and many will also meet on the New Moon. Meetings for religious study 
will often be scheduled at any time convenient to the members, and 
rituals can be scheduled whenever there is a need (i.e. for a healing).
Ritual jewelry is particularly important to many Wiccans. In addition to 
being a symbol of religious dedication, these talismans are often 
blessed by the coven back home and felt to carry the coven's protective
and healing energy. 

ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE: Most Wiccans meet with a coven, a small group 
of people. Each coven is autonomous. Most are headed by a High 
Priestess, often with the assistance of a High Priest. Some are headed 
by a High Priestess or High Priest without a partner, and some regard 
themselves as a gathering of equals. Covens can be of mixed gender, or 
all female or male, depending on the preferences of the members. Every 
initiate is considered to be a priestess or priest. Most covens are 
small. Thirteen is the traditional maximum number of members, although 
not an absolute limit. At that size covens form a close bond, so Wiccans
in the military are likely to maintain a strong affiliation with their 
covens back home. There are many distinct "Traditions" of Wicca, just 
as there are many denominations within Christianity. The spectrum of 
Wiccan practice can be described as ranging from "traditional" to 
"eclectic," with Traditions, covens and individuals fitting anywhere 
within that range. A typical difference would be that more traditional 
groups would tend to follow a set liturgy, whereas eclectic groups would
emphasize immediate inspiration in worship. These distinctions are not 
particularly important to the military chaplain, since it is unlikely 
that enough members of any one Tradition would be at the same base. 
Worship circles at military facilities are likely to be ad-hoc 
cross-Traditional groups, working out compromise styles of worship for 
themselves and constantly adapting them to a changing membership. 
Therefore, the lack of strict adherence to the patterns of any one 
Tradition is not an indicator of invalidity. While many Wiccans meet in
a coven, there are also a number of solitairies. These are individuals 
who choose to practice their faith alone. They may have been initiated 
in a coven or self initiated. They will join with other Wiccans to 
celebrate the festivals or to attend the various regional events 
organized by the larger community. 

ROLE OF MINISTERS: Within a traditional coven, the High Priestess, 
usually assisted by her High Priest, serves both as leader in the 
rituals and as teacher and counselor for coven members and unaffiliated 
Pagans. Eclectic covens tend to share leadership more equally. 

WORSHIP: Wiccans usually worship in groups. Individuals who are 
currently not affiliated with a coven, or are away from their home 
coven, may choose to worship privately or may form ad-hoc groups to mark
religious occasions. Non-participating observers are not generally 
welcome at Wiccan rituals. Some, but not all, Wiccan covens worship 
in the nude ("skyclad") as a sign of attunement with Nature. Most, but 
not all, Wiccan covens bless and share a cup of wine as part of the 
ritual. Almost all Wiccans use an individual ritual knife (an "athame")
to focus and direct personal energy. Covens often also have ritual 
swords to direct the energy of the group. These tools, like all other 
ritual tools, are highly personal and should never leave the possession
of the owner. Other commonly used ritual tools include a bowl of water,
a bowl of salt, a censer with incense, a disk with symbols engraved on 
it (a "pentacle"), statues or artwork representing the Goddess and God,
and candles. Most groups will bless and share bread or cookies along 
with the wine. All of these items are used in individual, private 
worship as well as in congregate rituals. 


FUNERAL AND BURIAL REQUIREMENTS: None. Recognition of the death of a 
member takes place within the coven, apart from the body of the 
deceased. Ritual tools, materials, or writings found among the effects
of the deceased should be returned to their home coven (typically a 
member will designate a person to whom ritual materials should be 
sent). It is desirable for a Wiccan priest or priestess to be present
at the time of death, but not strictly necessary. If not possible, the
best assistance would be to make the member as comfortable as possible,
listen to whatever they have to say, honor any possible requests, and 
otherwise leave them as quiet and private as possible. 

MEDICAL TREATMENT: No medical restrictions. Wiccans generally believe 
in the efficacy of spiritual or psychic healing when done in tandem 
with standard medical treatment. Therefore, at the request of the 
patient, other Wiccan personnel should be allowed visiting privileges 
as though they were immediate family, including access to Intensive 
Care Units. Most Wiccans believe that healing energy can be sent from 
great distances, so, if possible, in the case of any serious medical 
condition, the member's home coven should be notified. 

OTHER: With respect to attitude toward military service, Wiccans range 
from career military personnel to conscientious objectors. Wiccans do 
not proselytize and generally resent those who do. They believe that 
no one Path to the Sacred is right for all people, and see their own 
religious pattern as only one among many that are equally worthy. 
Wiccans respect all religions that foster honor and compassion in their
adherents, and expect the same respect. Members are encouraged to learn
about all faiths, and are permitted to attend the services of other 
religions, should they desire to do so. 


The best general survey of the Wiccan and neo-Pagan movement is: Adler, 
Margot. Drawing Down the Moon. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986. 595pp 

For more specific information about eclectic Wicca, see: Starhawk. The 
Spiral Dance. New York: Harper & Row, 1979. 

For more specific information about traditional Wicca, see: 
Farrar, Janet, and Stewart Farrar. Eight Sabbats for Witches. London: 
Robert Hale, 1981. 192pp.
______________. The Witches' Way. London: Robert Hale, 1984. 394pp.



Pagan Military Newsletter c/o Terri Morgan, Editor, 829 Lynnhaven 
Parkway 114-198 Virginia Beach, VA 23452 

Because of the autonomy of each coven and the wide variance of specific 
ritual practices, the best contact person would be the High Priestess or 
other leader of the member's home coven.