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The U.S. Army Chaplains Guide to Wicca
A guide to Wicca for U.S. Military chaplins.
EXTRACT FROM "Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: a Handbook for Chaplains"
U.S. Government Publication No.008-020-00745-5
Historical roots: Witchcraft is the ancient Pagan faith of Europe. This nature-oriented, agricultural, magical religion had no central organisation, but was passed through families. During the Christian era, particularly after the beginning of the systematic persecution of Witches in 1484, almost all the public expression of the Craft disappeared. Surviving in hidden and isolated places, Witchcraft has made a comeback in the twentieth century, partially spurred by the repeal of the last British Witchcraft Laws in 1951.
Current World Leadership: No central authority. Many Witches have, however, affiliated with the American Council of Witches, formed in 1974, to provide a structure for co-operation and mutual sharing.
Origins in the U.S.: Brought to the U.S. in the 17th century by immigrants from Europe. Since then, many Witches from many ethnic and national traditions have brought their religious practises to the New World. It survived in the isolation of rural settings and the anonymity in the city. The 1960's saw a significant revival of the Craft, and many Witches and "Covens" (local groups) became at least partially public. Many discovered others of like mind through the emerging Pagan press. A meeting in Minneapolis formed the American Council of Witches (1974) and a statement entitled "Principles of Wiccan Beliefs" was adopted.
Number of Adherents in the U.S.: Unknown: Between 10,000 and 100,000.
Organizational Structure: The basic structure is the Coven (local group) with 5 to 50 members (ideally 12-15) led by a High Priestess or High Priest. The Priest and/or Priestess derives authority from initiation by another Witch. Some Covens are tied together in fraternal relationships and acknowledge authority of a Priestess or Priest from whom orders are derived. Many are totally autonomous.
Leadership and Role of Priestess and/or Priest: The High Priestess and/or High Priest has authority for the Coven. Witches pass through three degrees as they practise
acknowledges one as a full member of the Coven and initiates the process of mastering the skills of a Witch;
recognizes growth in ability and admits one to all the inner secrets; and
admits one to the priesthood.
Who may conduct Worship services?: A High Priestess or Priest.
Is group worship required?: No, but it is encouraged.
Worship requirements: None, but Witches are expected to practise their faith, which includes mastering magic, ritual, and psychic development and the regular worship of the Wiccan Deities.
Minimum Requirements for Worship: The athame, or ritual knife; the pentacle, a metal disc inscribed with magical symbols; a chalice; and a sword. Various traditions will demand other items.
Facilities for Worship: Witches worship within a magic circle that is inscribed on the ground or the floor. The circle should be located so as to insure the privacy of the rituals.
Other Specific Religious Requirements other than Worship (see above): None.
Dietary Laws or Restrictions: None.
Special Religious Holidays: The four great festivals are seasonal:
Spring Equinox, March 21
Summer Solstice,or Midsummer, June 21
Autumn Equinox, September 21
Yule, or Winter Solstice, December 22
These are joined by four cross festivals related to the agricultural and herd-raising year:
Candlemas, February 2
May Eve, or Beltane, April 30
Lammas, July 31
Hallowe'en, October 31
Besides these eight, most Wiccan groups meet either weekly or bi-weekly (on the full and new moon).
Funeral and Burial Requirements: Practices vary widely. In case of death, the Coven to which the Witch belongs should be contacted.
Cremation: Many prefer it, but the local Coven should be consulted.
Autopsy: Generally no restrictions.
Medical Treatment: No restrictions.
Uniform Appearance Requirements: None are proscribed.
Position on Service in the Armed Forces: No official stance. Many witches are presently military personnel, while others are conscientious objectors, derived, from the generally pro-life stance of Wicca.
Is a Priest or Priestess required at time of death?: No.
Any practices or teaching that may conflict with military directives or practices: None, generally, though individual covens may have some. The local Coven should be contacted if specific questions arise.
Basic teachings and beliefs: Underlying agreements are summed up in the "Principles of Wiccan Beliefs" adopted by the American Council of Witches. Specific expressions of beliefs will vary widely, due to the ethnic roots or the traditions of the individual covens.
Creedal statements and/or authoritative literature (see also Basic belief): All Witches use two books, a Grimoire, or book of spells and magical procedures, and a book of shadows, or book of ritual. Each Coven will use a different grimoire and/or book of shadows.
Ethical practices: Wiccan ethics are summed up in the Law called the Wiccan Rede, "An Ye Harm None, Do As Ye Will".
How does Witchcraft recruit new members?: Witches do not proselytize, but they welcome inquiries from those who hear about the Craft by either word of mouth or the media.
Relationship with other religions: Co-operations with the whole pagan community is very high. Relations with other religions are cordial, except those groups which have sought to persecute or defame the Craft.
FAQ and Information on Wicca
Wicca,Witchcraft,a couple of words that spark fear,confusion,and hate......
But to me it is beauty,love and sacred.Please continue to learn more........
Historically, the name Witchcraft has been used to refer to two unrelated
and often mutually exclusive religions:
* Wicca, the revival of a pre-Christian religion of Northern Europe, and
* Satanism, the worship of the Christian devil, Satan.
The roots of this confusion can be traced back to Europe during the Witch
burning times of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Wiccans were accused
of worshipping Satan and selling their soul to him. This false belief
continues today, and is still being actively promoted by some Christians.
This paper will deal with the religion of Wicca only. It is unrelated to
Satanism. There have been many references in the books, media, etc which
attempt to differentiate between the two very different religions.
Wicca, is a reconstruction of an ancient Pagan religion of Northern Europe
which pre-dates the Christian era. It can be directly traced back to the
* Margaret Murray who authored The Witch Cult in Western Europe and The
God of the Witches. These books promoted the concept that some of the
Witches who were exterminated by the Christian Churches during the
"Burning Times" (circa 1450-1792) were remnants of an earlier,
organized, and dominant pre-Christian religion in Europe.
* Gerald Gardner, a British civil servant, who:
o joined a Wiccan Coven in 1939, taking the (then) usual vows of
o persuaded the coven to let him write a book in 1949 about Wicca in
the form of a novel, High Magic's Aid. He carefully revealed a few
of the Old Religion's beliefs and the historical persecutions that
o wrote Witchcraft Today in 1954 in which he described additional
details about the faith
o wrote The Meaning of Witchcraft which described in detail the
history of Wicca in Northern Europe.
According to Gardner, Wicca:
* began in prehistory, as ritual associated with fire, the hunt, animal
fertility, plant propagation, tribal fertility and the curing of
* developed into a religion which recognized a Supreme Deity, but
realized that at their state of evolution, they "were incapable of
understanding It" . Instead, they worshipped what might be termed
"under-Gods: the Goddess of fertility and her horned consort, the God
of the hunt.
* continued their predominately Moon based worship, even as a mainly
Sun-based faith of priests, the Druids, developed and evolved into the
dominant religion of the Celts. By this time, Celtic society had
gradually spread across Northern Europe into what is now England,
France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland etc. They never formed
a single political entity, but remained as many tribes who shared a
common culture and religions.
* survived the Roman, Saxon, and Norman invasions by going underground
* suffered major loss in numbers during the active Christian genocides,
which continued into the 18th Century
* reached a low ebb by the middle of the 20th century. Much of the
theology and ritual had been lost; Wiccan covens had become so isolated
that they had lost contact with each other.
Relationship between Witchcraft and Christianity
The first missionary to the Celts was probably St. Paul. His conversion of
the Celtic land of Galatia is recorded in his Epistle to the Galatians of
the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). Later Missionaries and the Roman
army gradually spread Christianity across Europe, easily converting the
rulers and the Druidic priesthood, but having less success in bringing the
common folk to the new religion.
Much of Christianity was derived from Wicca, Druidism and other Pagan
sources; this includes the sites of many cathedrals, the lives of many
Christian saints (who were really pagan Goddesses and Gods), and many
Christian holy days. There are many vestiges of Paganism which remain a part
of our culture; e.g. Groundhog Day, Christmas, May Day, Halloween, the names
of the days of the weeks and months of the year, common sayings, numerous
traditions associated with holidays, etc.
In order to gain a complete religious monopoly, the Christian Church decided
during the 15th century to hunt down and burn believers in the Old Religion.
The Church created an imaginary wicked religion, and said that Wiccans were
evil Witches who followed that religion, sold their sold to Satan, etc.
Hundreds of thousands of suspected witches were exterminated during these
"burning times" which lasted until 1792 in Europe and into the 1830's in
South America. The Roman Catholic church burned witches; the Protestant
churches hung them. Wiccans went underground, and stayed out of sight until
the middle of the 20th century.
Wicca emerged from the shadows in England in the 1950's with the publishing
of books by Gerald Gardner. It has expanded at a furious rate in North
America and Europe. They total about 200,000 in North America, where they
have surpassed in numbers such established religions as Buddhism, the
Quakers, and Unitarian-Universalism. The Canadian Census of 1991 recorded
5,530 Neo-Pagans, which would be mostly composed of Wiccans. However, the
actual number is believed to be much greater, as many Wiccans are known to
lie to the census taker rather than expose themselves to physical harm in
the event that their faith became publicly known.
Wicca is the only religious group of significant size whose members are
persecuted in North America. Many Assaults, arson, economic attacks are
reported yearly. There have even been shootings and one public stoning! The
perpetrators of this religious hatred are usually very devout, very
concerned but terribly misinformed people. They believe the misinformation
that has been spread about Wiccans continuously since the Middle Ages. It is
only in Eastern Massachusetts, Southern California and in a few cities in
North America that most Wiccans feel secure while coming out of the (broom)
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