Transfered from the Local Religion Echo in Nashville, Tennessee.

  Wicca: Part I--Introduction, Etymology, and Overview
  By: Dagmar
     Wicca (sometimes called Wicce, The Craft, or The Old Religion)
  is an ancient religion based on repect and love for both life and
  nature.  It has been in existance in one country or another, for
  about 10,000 years now.  It has eight holidays, which occur on the
  sabbats and esbats(quarters, and eighths) of the seasonal year,
  and these holidays celebrate both the turning of the seasons, and
  honor historical events.  The concept of deity is viewed as
  immanent, meaning it's considered a part of the here-and-now, and
  not transcendent (other-worldly).  In most cases it is also
  considered from male and female aspects, but more on that later.
     The term Wicca, itself, dates back for a long, long, time.  It
  can begun to be traced in the Anglo-Saxon word 'wic', which means
  to bend, shape, or change.  It has been speculated to be connected
  to the Old Norse word 'vitki', meaning wizard, derived from the
  root words, meaning 'wise one' and 'seer.'  In Old English, the
  root word, 'wic,' remained basically the same, leaving 'Wicca'
  (male form: one who...) and 'Wicce' (fem. form: one who...) and
  'Wiccan' (neuter plural form: those who...), pronounced WICK-CHA,
  WICK-CHE, and WICK-CHEN, respectively.  Further corruptions of the
  language produced the term 'witch,' meaning still, one who bends,
  shapes, or changes.  (Quick travel tip: 'Wiccans,' while it may
  _sound_ nice, the the equivalent of saying 'witcheses,' so don't
  use it.)  Oh, incidentally, male witches are very rarely called
  warlocks.  This is because it's not a very descriptive term.
  'Warlock' stems from the Old Norse word 'var-lokkur', meaning
  'spirit-song,' (_not_ 'oath-breaker').
     Wicca, like so many other religions, has many different
  denominations, except that we (the witches) call them traditions.
  Some of these include Gardnerian, Alexandrian, British
  Traditional, Welsh Traditional, Dianic, Seax-Wicca, and Faery.
  Groups of witches often come together to form a 'coven,' which is
  a shortened form of the word 'covenant', which is a type of basic
  oath each member swears to the others of the coven.  Such
  promises are usually centered around promoting harmony and peace,
  and/or protection to the other members of the coven, and/or
  secrecy.  Be it known that this Age is more an Age of Darkness
  in some respects than it has ever been.  It is still not safe to
  go 'round the streets calling oneself a witch openly.  Each coven
  is led by a High Priest/ess, who may be appointed by the others,
  or it may rotate between members.  In any case, the High
  Priestess is essentially just a person who makes certain that
  everything is in order.  There are no other perks involved.  Other
  than that, Wicca has no real organizational structure, whatsoever.
  Each person is considered to be his/her own priestess, and shall
  need no intermediaries between themselves and Divinity.

  Wicca: Part II--Perceptions of the Divine
  By: Dagmar
     Witches consider the Divine as having two aspects or personas
  --the Goddess and the God.  Some traditions emphasize the role of
  the feminine aspect, some consider the male and female equally,
  and some outright deny the divinity inheirent in the male aspect.
     The Goddess has had many names down through the centuries, and
  while some traditions use simply the term Goddess, others worship
  her through a multitude of names by which she has been known to
  the ancients: Ishtar, Diana, Cerridwen, Athena, Brigantia, Venus,
  Amaterasu, Hecate, Isis, Demeter, and several others.  She is
  also considered to be of trifold aspect as the Maiden (youth,
  self-sufficiency, and love), the Mother (nurturing and
  fulfillment), and the Crone (wisdom, mystery, initiation, and
     The God, also commonly referred to as the Horned God (for
  reasons which if are not immediately obvious, consult your
  Freudian psychology texts) of the wilds, is sometimes considered
  to have a dual aspect as the Young Summer King and the Old Winter
  King.  He is also called by the names he had of old: Apollo,
  Osiris, Dionysus, Odin, Pan, Freyr, Adonis, and Tammuz, to name a
     The Gods are personified as two separate and distinct entities.
  As such, neither are 'married' to one another, but rather, the God
  is considered to be the Consort of the Goddess, and their
  relationship is one of equal love, respect, and dignity.  They are
  considered to be handfasted, and the holiday of Beltaine
  celebrates this in particular (just hold on, I'll get to the rest
  of the holidays eventually), the time when this arrangement is
  affirmed anew each year.
     Neither of the gods are considered to be either omniscient, or
  omnipotent by rights, and are merely as strong as the wind, and as
  patient as the ocean.  They are Man and Woman, Nurturer and
  Warrior, Gatherer and Hunter, God and Goddess, and no more.  We
  are their sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, and their

  Wicca: Part III--The Holidays and their Meanings
  By: Dagmar
     Witches have eight great festivals which are celebrated
  either on or around the sabbats and esbats of the seasonal year.
  While the exact meaning and name varies between traditions, the
  following is a list of the more common names and meanings.
  Imbolc, February 1st:  Feast of Returning Light.  Also called
     Candlemas in honor of the Irish Brigid, Goddess of holy wells,
     fire, healing, smithcraft and poetry.  It is Brigid's fire
     which warms the earth after winter according to legends.
  Ostara, March 22nd:  Feast of Planting and Rebirth.  Named after
     the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Dawn, this is the origin of the
     English word 'easter.'  This holiday marks the Vernal(spring)
  Beltaine, May 1st:  Feast of Fertility and Burgeoning Life.  This
     holiday is also called May Day.  Marks the beginning of the
     light half of the year as the first day of summer.  One of the
     more commonly associated things is the May pole, where people
     dance around, festooning it with ribbons and whatnot.  And yes,
     the May pole is another one of those Freudian things.  ;)  This
     is also the holiday on which is celebrated the handfasting
     (more on this later) of the Goddess and Consort for yet another
  Litha, June 22nd:  Feast of the Sun on High or the Solar Hero.
     This marks the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year.
     Festivities are usually those associated with civilization and
     culture, arts and music, especially.
  Lughnassad/Lammas, August 1st:  'Feast of Lugh' or 'Loaf-mass.'
     Feast of the Hero God Lugh, who undergoes a shamanic
     death/rebirth initiation, and/or the Barley God, who dies and
     is transformed into beer.  Festival of the First Fruits, the
     First Harvest.
  Mabon, September 22nd:  Celebration of the Harvest.  This holiday
     also marks the Autumnal(fall) Equinox.  This has an analog in
     the American Thanksgiving.
  Samhaim, November 1st:  Feast of the Ancestors and the Witccan New
     Year.  Pronounced SAH-WHEN, this holiday is popularly known as
     Halloween.  Trick-or-treating evolved from pagan 'souling' when
     children who were to represent ancestors collected food and
     blessed the houses they visited.
  Yule, December 22nd:  Feast of the Rebirth of the Sun.  The
     longest night of the year, after which the days begin to grow
     longer again.  Winter Solstice.  Many Christian customs have
     pagan origins which stem from this pagan holiday: the Yule log,
     the Tree, Evergreen Decorations, and Wassailing.

  Wicca: Part IV--The Witches Themselves
  By: Dagmar
     You'll find witches practically everywhere in the world today.
  Doctors, lawyers, maids, laborers and artists.  They're just
  normal people--no special powers need to be inheirited, you don't
  have to be born with extra limbs or fingers, and there is very
  little you can do to pick one out of a crowd (aside from ask
  politely).  For example, the reknowned musician Stevie Nicks is a
  witch.  Craft ties aside, only one thing has been shown as a
  common denominator among witches, and this is something common to
  most pagans; they are avid readers.  Doesn't give one a lot to go
  on, does it?  Witches tend to gravitate to Greenpeace-type
  organizations, due to a desire to preserve life for generations
  to come (some personify the Lady as the Earth Mother, and this,
  too, comes into play).  Most new witches are attracted to the
  Craft simply because it's what they've believed in all along, and
  didn't realize that others felt the same way as well.
     One unique thing about Wicca is that it is believed that there
  are many different paths, and each individual should find his own
  path to enlightenment.  Thusly, no one condemns anyone else for
  not having the exact same beliefs.  To witches, it is the attitude
  of the individual that is the most important, not whether one uses
  the proper name of the Lady or other such technicalities.
     Another thing is th so-called 'occult' practices of witches.
  These include spellcasting, divination, meditation, herbalism,
  ritual and ritual drama, and a whole slew of psi-oriented
  phenomena.  This is also another area of common misconception in
  that witches do not have to participate in all or any of the above
  to be a witch, even though the meaning of the word 'witch' seems a
  little pointless otherwise.
     Witches are beings in a perpetual state of becoming.  We are
  always trying to grow, always trying to learn, and always trying
  to acheive greater aesthetic heights.
     Oh, I almost forgot the inter-personal relationships of
  witches, namely 'handfasting.'  This is an agreement between a
  couple, pretty much analogous to marriage.  It is now a
  arrangement recognized by the U. S. Government as well, I've
  heard but I digress.  In any case, it is a bond (commonly
  accompanied by gifts of Significance between the two) of total
  love that is to last for a year and a day.  Whether or not it is
  renewed is up to the two.  Witches may also be married in the
  usual manner (of course).

  Wicca: Part V--What Witches Are Not, and Ethics
  By: Dagmar
     One quick way to learn what witches are _not_ is to consult
  your local library for a copy of the Malleus Maleficarum (known as
  the 'Hammer of the Witches').  This book was a vicious fabrication
  by two medieval monks that was designed specifically for the
  hunting down and extermination of 'witches.'  It is the source of
  almost 99% of the misinformaion about witches today.  A forwarning
  for the feint of heart, this book is extremely graphic.  If you
  thought that holocaust literature was disturbing, guess again.
     Aside from that, witches do _not_ worship Satan or Lucifer in
  any way, shape, or form, either actively or passively.  They do
  not perform blood sacrifices (except in the case where one's own
  blood is offered, and while it is certainly disencouraged as being
  unsanitary and a bit unsavory, it is a witch's own buisness what
  one does with one's own blood) due to the strong belief that the
  rights of others are considered to be just as sacred as their own.
  Their beliefs do not include any of the Judean history/mythology
  (Jesus, Moses, etc.), and they generally have very little to do
  with Christianity, except in the cases when it comes knocking on
  one's door in the middle of the night, bearing torches and
  pitchforks, so to speak.
     Witches are not without ethics.  I know this is hard to grasp
  since we don't use any bible, but bear with me.  Each witch is
  considered to be a responsible adult, capable of making his/her
  own decisions, and answerable to the universe in general for the
  results of those decisions.  We have something called the Rule of
  Three, which dictates that whatever you do will come back to you
  threefold, at least.  We also have the Wiccan Rede, which is a
  formal (sort of) set of laws generally used by covens to cover
  specific behaviours.  There are many different versions of the
  Wiccan Law, but a short one is as follows.
              Bide the Wiccan Law ye must,
                In perfect Love, in perfect Trust.
              Eight Words the Wiccan Rede fulfill:
                'An ye harm none, do what ye will.'
              Lest in self-defense it be,
                Ever mind the Rule of Three.
              Follow this with Mind and Heart,
                And Merry Ye Meet,
                      And Merry Ye Part.

  Wicca: Part VI--Historical Notes for Understanding
  By: Dagmar
     In the Middle Ages, one particular religion, for reasons as yet
  unknown, decided that it's power was threatened by those who would
  improve their way of life, and thus violate the unwritten laws of
  the Estates.  This religion, for reasons, again, of it's own,
  began a campaign to systematically wipe out all traces of such
  ideas.  Scientists, alchemists, mathematicians, and magicians
  alike were forced to make a choice--either recant their beliefs,
  or be killed.  Thus entered the world into a new Age of Darkness,
  and thus the period known as the Burning Times began.  With time,
  science won it's way into the favor of the Church, and medicine
  and mathematics along on it's coattails, but witches, by merit of
  disagreeing on basis of religion, never was accepted.  Other
  religions such as Buddhism, Islam, and a few others are tolerated
  either because they pose no direct threat to the power of the
  Church to dictate truth, or because earlier attempts to overthrow
  them have failed, but never Wicca.
     It is for this reason it was decided then that we should go
  'underground' with our beliefs to avoid any more deaths.
  Provisions were added into many Redes that no one shall speak of
  the Craft to those who are not of it, nor shall any witch release
  the name of any other witch, under any circumstances.  Some Redes
  even went so far as to add that if this provision were broken, the
  witch would be condemned to spend eternity in the hell of the
  Christians!  In retrospect, we see that hiding was a grave error,
  in that it allowed the seeds of fear and hatred towards us to
  germinate and grow into an integral part of today's culture.
  Attempts are now being made to come out of the Broom Closet, so to
  speak, but the going is slow and arduous, indeed.
     It is due to this bloody past that many witches have a sore
  spot where Christianity is concerned, but we are working on making
  things better.  While we will not forget the past and it's
  lessons, we are willing to forgive.

  Wicca: Part VII--Addenum
  By: Dagmar
     I left out a few side notes when I wrote the first six or so
  sections, both for the sake of brevity, and to reduce the level
  of negativity that was reaching mammoth proportions, and some
  things I have just now realized needed throwing in.
  Part I--Brief Introduction, Etymology, and Overview
     The origin of the word 'warlock,'--'spell song' comes from a
  very long time ago, when male practicioners of paganism took their
  roles as Warrior/Protector a bit more seriously in that their
  primary bent of magick lay in the making of weapons and
  metalcraft.  Have you ever heard the legends of ancient pagan
  blacksmiths singing to their swords as they hammered the hot
  metal?  You've got it...
  Part II--Perceptions of the Divine
     Z. Budapest (a born-name, if what I've been told is correct) is
  a Dianic witch.  This particular tradition is about as matriarchal
  (if not more, in some cases) as the Christian denomination of
  Church of Christ is patriarchal.  So be forewarned, male
  theologians, her writings may seem a little 'tinted.'
  Part III--The Holidays and their Meanings
     Of all these holidays, Samhain gatherings usually turn out to
  be the largest by far.  This is not morbidity, but like I said,
  it's our New Year.  The Chinese New Year is is not on December
  31st, either.  Look at how many people turn out for the Christian
  New Year's Day in Times Square, New York!
  Part IV--The Witches Themselves
     Not much else to be said here, aside for a quick aplogy for the
  sketchiness of the description of handfasting.  I am a die-hard
  bachelor-type, and as such, hold such ceremonies as things to be
  avoided at all costs.

  Wicca: Part VIII--More Addenum, and Final Comments
  By: Dagmar
  Part V--What Witches are Not, and Ethics
     In the opinion of almost all witches, Satanism is a Christian
  religion, and not a pagan one for two reasons.  Taxonomically,
  their deity, Lucifer, comes from the Christian pantheon, and most
  of the doctrines of Satanism are merely contradictions and
  confoundations of Catholicism.  Again, Satanism didn't come from
  the heath, so it really can't be called 'pagan,' which means 'from
  the heath' or 'country dweller.'  Neither do we consider sangreal
  sodialists to be of either classification, but that's another
  subject entirely.
     Sadly, a few misguided individuals have used the Malleus
  Maleficarum as a guide to pattern their own vile behaviour after,
  calling themselves Witches, but the differences between them and
  us should be readily apparent.
     On final thing.  If someone wears a lot of black, or red, for
  that matter, it doesn't mean that they're not a good witch (this
  is getting cheesy-sounding, but bear with me).  The colors used
  to symbolize the Lady in her three aspects are White (Maiden),
  Red (Mother), and Black (Crone).
  Part VI--Historical Notes for Understanding
     One thing which I have left out, is that the burning times are
  not as far behind us as most of us would like to think.  I know a
  girl, my age, whose grandmother was burned as a witch.  No joke.
                                  _Final Comments_
  This ends my series of articles on Wicca.  The information
  presented here represents both my own personal opinion, and
  information gleaned from years of study from books, news articles,
  and other pagans.  Standard disclaimers apply.
     If you have any questions further on the subject, please feel
  free to ask!  Standard disclaimers apply here, too.
     I can also be reached on Who Am I BBS (615)/833-5322, or on
  UseNet via dagmar@brainiac.raidernet.com.
     Blessed Be! *

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 * Origin: The Homestead, Nashville TN (615)385-9421  HST (1:116/3000)