An Introduction to "The Old Religion" of Europe
                      and its Modern Revival

                    by Amber K, High Priestess

                      Our Lady of the Woods
                           P.O. Box 176
                   Blue Mounds, Wisconsin 53517

(This leaflet may be reproduced and distributed exactly as in, 
without further permission from the author, provided it is 
offered free of charge.  Changes in the text, however, must be 
approved in advance by the author.  Thank you!)

     WICCA (sometimes called Wicce, The Craft, or The Old 
Religion by its practitioners) is an ancient religion of love for 
life and nature.  

     In prehistoric times, people respected the great forces of 
Nature and celebrated the cycles of the seasons and the moon.  
They saw divinity in the sun and moon, in the Earth Herself, and 
in all life.  The creative energies of the universe were 
personified: feminine and masculine principles became Goddesses 
and Gods.  These were not semi-abstract, superhuman figures set 
apart from Nature: they were embodied in earth and sky, women and 
men, and even plants and animals.  

     This viewpoint is still central to present-day Wicca.  To 
most Wiccans, everything in Natures -- and all Goddesses and Gods 
-- are true aspects of Deity.  The aspects most often celebrated 
in the Craft, however, are thr Triple Goddess of the Moon (Who is 
Maiden, Mother, and Crone) and the Horned God of the wilds.  
These have many names in various cultures.  

     Wicca had its organized beginnings in Paleolithic times, co-
existed with other Pagan ("country") religions in Europe, and had 
a profound influence on early Christianity.  But in the medieval 
period, tremendous persecution was directed against the Nature 
religions by the Roman Church.  Over a span of 300 years, 
millions of men and women and many children were hanged, drowned 
or burned as accused "Witches."  The Church indicted them for 
black magic and Satan worship, though in fact these were never a 
part of the Old Religion.  

     The Wiccan faith went underground, to be practiced in small, 
secret groups called "covens."  For the most part, it stayed 
hidden until very recent times.  Now scholars such as Margaret 
Murray and Gerald Gardner have shed some light on the origins of 
the Craft, and new attitudes of religious freedom have allowed 
covens in some areas to risk becoming more open.  

     How do Wiccan folk practice their faith today?  There is no 
central authority or doctrine, and individual covens vary a great 
deal.  But most meet to celebrate on nights of the Full Moon, and 
at eight great festivals or Sabbats throughout the year.  

     Though some practice alone or with only their families, many 
Wiccans are organized into covens of three to thirteen members.  
Some are led by a High Priestess or Priest, many by a 
Priestess/Priest team; others rotate or share leadership.  Some 
covens are highly structured and hierarchical, while others may 
be informal and egalitarian.  Often extensive training is 
required before initiation, and coven membership is considered an 
important committment.  

     There are many branches or "traditions" of Wicca in the 
United States and elsewhere, such as the Gardnerian, Alexandrian, 
Welsh Traditional, Dianic, Faery, Seax-Wicca and others.  All 
adhere to a code of ethics.  None engage in the disreputable 
practices of some modern "cults," such as isolating and 
brainwashing impressionable, lonely young people.  Genuine 
Wiccans welcome sisters and brothers, but not disciples, 
followers or victims.  

     Coven meetings include ritual, celebration and magick (the 
"k" is to distinguish it from stage illusions).  Wiccan magick is 
not at all like the instant "special effects" of cartoon shows or 
fantasy novels, nor medieval demonology; it operates in harmony 
with natural laws and is usually less spectacular -- though 
effective.  Various techniques are used to heal people and 
animals, seek guidance, or improve members' lives in specific 
ways.  Positive goals are sought: cursing and "evil spells" are 
repugnant to practitioners of the Old Religion.  

     Wiccans tend to be strong supporters of environmental 
protection, equal rights, global peace and religious freedom, and 
sometimes magick is used toward such goals.  

     Wiccan beliefs do not include such Judeao-Christian concepts 
as original sin, vicarious atonement, divine judgement or bodily 
resurrection.  Craft folk believe in a beneficent universe, the 
laws of karma and reincarnation, and divinity inherent in every 
human being and all of Nature.  Yet laughter and pleasure are 
part of their spiritual tradition, and they enjoy singing, 
dancing, feasting, and love.  

     Wiccans tend to be individualists, and have no central holy 
book, prophet, or church authority.  They draw inspiration and 
insight from science, and personal experience.  Each practitioner 
keeps a personal book or journal in which s/he records magickal 
"recipes," dreams, invocations, songs, poetry and so on.  

     To most of the Craft, every religion has its own valuable 
perspective on the nature of Deity and humanity's relationship to 
it: there is no One True Faith.  Rather, religious diversity is 
necessary in a world of diverse societies and individuals.  
Because of this belief, Wiccan groups do not actively recruit or 
proseletize: there is an assumption that people who can benefit 
from the Wiccan way will "find their way home" when the time is 

     Despite the lack of evangelist zeal, many covens are quite 
willing to talk with interested people, and even make efforts to 
inform their communities about the beliefs and practices of 
Wicca.  One source of contacts is The Covenant of the Goddess, 
P.O. Box 1226, Berkeley, CA 94704.  Also, the following books may 
be of interest:  (Ask your librarian.) 

   DRAWING DOWN THE MOON by Margot Adler
   THE SPIRAL DANCE by Starhawk
   POSITIVE MAGIC by Marion Weinstein
   WHAT WITCHES DO by Stewart Farrar

(This leaflet is distributed courtesy of:
    The WeirdBase Bulletin Board Service
    314-389-9973, 300/1200 baud)