Thursday, March 03, 2005

Wicca 101 Continued

For a religious faith that claims no sacred text to codify its beliefs, Wicca is amazingly replete with books. A search on Amazon for Wicca and “not fiction” garners 1490 titles. Pagan and “not fiction” contains only 85 items. This does not even begin to touch on the websites, specific traditions and Book of Shadows for specific covens. I don’t feel too badly about that; a search for Christian and “not fiction” results in 90,000+ hits. And they already have a definitive text!

Rebecca pointed out in the comments to Wicca 101 that the number of books out there can overwhelm beginners. I agree. After I had been given the gift of sobriety and found that the Goddess Brigit appealed to me, I did what I always do with a new topic: went to buy a book on it. But which book (should that be Witch book, I wonder) to buy? Wicca for Men, Kitchen Witch, To Ride a Silver Broomstick into a Cauldron, Sex Magick, Candle Magick, Candle Sex Magick, Witchcraft Today, The Witches’ Bible, The Witches Bible Concordance, The Witches Guide To Witchcraft, Wicca for Complete Imbeciles, The Golden Dawn of Wicca, How To Pick Up Wicca Chicks . . . the list goes on and on and that was three and a half years ago! From what I can tell, New Age publishers have a goal of publishing a Wicca book a day because the choices now are even more overwhelming.

In my post on Wicca 101, I discussed two different approaches to Wicca, a spiritual earth-based nature centered faith path and a magick and spellwork path. While these two ways mingle and merge at times, often a clear emphasis on one approach or the other can be discerned from the practice of the faith. Books follow the same pattern. Spellwork and magick recipe books abound where the emphasis is on the mechanical workings of ritual and magick. These books have value and offer much to the beginner, but I find them shallow on spirituality. One of the bestselling authors in the genre, Silver Ravenwolf, specializes in these books. Not my cup of tea, but that’s okay; they have meaning to others.

When I started to practice Wicca as a faith it was very important to me to have the four quarters perfectly in alignment with the compass; to purify and cast circle with exactly the right incantations, to have the correct color candles for God and Goddess. Now I find that I often cast circle without worrying about any of that. Oh, sure, for the Sabbats and all, I break out robes and magickal tools; they help create an atmosphere more fitting for a significant day to my faith. But for Esbats (full moons), weekly circles and private ritual, I might use one candle and nothing else. The key is my faith; the Goddess is already present. She makes the space sacred, I simply acknowledge this to be the case.

So the books I turn to for guidance are much less formalistic and mechanistic. The books that follow the cookie-cutter recipe style (i.e. cast circle with athame by turning doesil…etc.) often leave me asking: why? Why is it important to do this? What is the meaning, the symbolism here? Why would the Goddess even care if I go left to right or right to left?

The books that I find valuable are the spiritually oriented books. They may well include rituals and spells or they may not. Often books in which the author recounts their own spiritual journey in Wicca speak to me in a meaningful way. When the book can tie in the natural rhythms of life into the ritual and from there into life – that conveys the spirit of Wicca to me.

The bottom line: books are not very important to the practice of Wicca. I’ll give you my recommendations down at the end of this post, but they are a secondary concern.

A good introduction to Wicca would be to find a local coven, grove, circle, whatever. You can probably find one on WitchVox. Join their email list. Make sure you feel comfortable with the group online. Then attend an open ritual. Talk with people before and after the ritual. If they use chemicals or alcohol (other than passing the chalice, and even then they should be sensitive to people in recovery) I would recommend finding another group. If they want to discuss polyamory in grotesque detail on the first meeting, find another group.

I hate to harp on the negative when there is so much out there that is positive, but Wicca attracts people out of the mainstream of life. Most are wonderful, loving, giving people. But there is a small minority that try to prey upon others. Of course the BTK killer was active in the Lutheran church so the issue of predators in the church is not an issue confined to Wicca.

Wicca is about the individual relationship between the practitioner and the Divine. Since we find the divine in nature, a walk in the woods can become a deeply spiritual experience. I like to go out in my own backyard and lie on the grass and look at the stars. It is easier to do when the dogs are not licking me. Hiking, camping, birdwatching and even hunting (you can hunt in a reverential manner, giving thanks for that which you receive) are all acts of worship in Wicca.

When I hug my wife before we part in the morning to our separate jobs and I thank the Goddess for all of the gifts she has given me, that is a daily act of worship.

Okay, I am losing focus so I am done for the day. At some point in the future, I will address the two written pieces which are universally accepted as Wiccan Doctrine (if you will), those being The Wiccan Rede and The Charge Of The Goddess.

Andy’s Recommended Wicca Books:
The Spiral Dance
Wicca: A Guide For The Solitary Practicioner
Drawing Down The Moon
The Rebirth Of Witchcraft
The Golden Ass