Wicca is a Neo-Pagan religion that was inspired by the many pre-Christian religions throughout the world. Its name derived from an old European language meaning Wise (root word wit). Witches, Midwives and Healers are considered Wise ones for they were the healers to go to during pregnancy, for family issues, when someone was ill, or for life coaching. Wise women and Wise men, in those days, were the family doctors, psychologists and family counselors. They prepared herbal brews for healing and made people feel a comfort just knowing that they were there if ever needed. These women gained a great amount of respect in their communities. During the times of the European Inquisition, when Wise Women began to threaten affluent males in the community or towns' folks Wise women were executed burned at the stake, stoned or drowned. Their primary accusation was that they were instruments of the devil, witches or non-christian believers. Hundreds of thousands of women died this way between Europe and the New World (North America) between the 13th century and the 17th centuries. This time of atrocity is called the Burning Times. It was a mass genocide that managed to escape the history books. Most of the murders were directed under the authority of churches. They believed themselves bestowed by God to do so.
Although Witchcraft has never truly faded from use Wicca came into true popularity, onto the American shores, from Europe, in the 1950's and 1960's during the Renaissance of the Feminine (the women's movement) During that time women felt that the God inside of them was not addressed, and they needed to fill the void for their own spirituality, and recognize the spirit of Goddess.
African American Magickal History
In the college text book, “From Slavery to Freedom” the late John Hope Franklin, wrote about archaeological areas excavated in Africa. He said that they found the religion of many African communities combined animism (the belief that all things imbue a spirit) with the belief in ..."whole pantheons of deities and venerations of ancestors." He went on to say “Africans believed that the spirits of their ancestors had great powers over their lives.” Franklin also mentions that these observed sites, to which Africans practiced their spirituality, contained holy objects and icons like pieces of wood, bones of the deceased, rocks, bits of metal, bells and rattles. These tools were used to invoke the spirits and their patron gods. Needless to say Africans were not Christians when they were brought to the Americas. Before they were brought to the New World the Africans were shamanistic and practiced the religions of magick or the metaphysical.
Blacks used the services of Wise Africans between the times of the antebellum period and the times after reconstruction. They did not have access to the medical establishment, or they did not have the money for them. Blacks also felt the oppression of powerlessness and they came to Wise ones to learn how to gain power. Wise people, who were African Americans were called "Mama...," "Aunt..." "Papa..." or "Uncle..." and they practiced with the teachings that were passed down from parent to child, or mentor or apprentice. Many practitioner practiced Hoodoo, or with the practices past down to them from their Ancestors.. Many of the practitioners were so gifted that their clients (including people who were not of African American decent) came to seek their services, even if they had means and access to a medical doctor or community midwifery.
During the women's movement in the 1950's and 1960's Some liberated African American women turned to religions like Santeria, Voodun, Lucumi or other African diaspora to seek out the Goddess, while European American women found mentors like Gerald Gardner who is said to have fathered modern Witchcraft in both Europe and in America.
So What is Wicca?
Wicca is the belief that the human spirit can achieve happiness, accomplishment and balance through spiritual thought, determination and the alignment of the mind, body and siprit, while connecting to the Divine Source. Many Wiccans believe that this Divine Source or Divine Spirit is Goddess. Some believe it is God. Most believe it is a combination of both Goddess and God- two parts equaling one Divine Whole. This Divine Spirit is understood to have many aspects to petition. The practitioner's choice of deity is based on their desires and their connection to that deity. These aspects are considered lower gods. Petitioning these deities while aligning one's own spirit is what Wiccans and Witches call Magick.
Wicca is an Earth-based spirituality. Wiccans believe that the Earth and all of the known Universe is God/dess creation - so it is sacred. Wiccans also believe in the unknown Universes (time and space yet to be discovered). We believe we draw our powers through the Universe(s). Most Wiccans and Pagans believe that the Earth is a living breathing, self- regenerating and self-renewing entity with elements known and unknown. Wiccans believe that all these primal elements are Magickal. Wiccan philosophy is that these elements are spiritual forces that are more than willing to work with the human energy to bring about continuity, changes and newness. It is believed that the human energy and the elemental forces are attracted to each other, and, like different parts of an atom, they come together to create energy, matter and evolution. Wiccans believe that this energy can be used to create magickal workings.
The Three Folds Law Wiccans believe in preforming Magick, but they also believe in harming no one when doing so. Wiccans believe in a three folds law that states doing harm to others, either in Magick or without, comes back to the person preforming the action three times. Because Wicca is considered the religion of the Wise we know that using Magick against others, the earth and all living things is not prudent.
In a word-Wicca is also synonymous with harmony, and harmony is the Wiccan's quest. We seek balance and harmony in all thing of Nature, ourselves and the Universe. We desire to learn the ancient Magickal mysteries of the "All" regardless if it is Eastern, Western or any philosophy in between. We do not fear searching for truth in other philosophies or in other books, because we know that it is natural to find truth in all places, and not just one source. That is why some of us are also Buddhist, African rooted religion, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and yes Christian. Wicca inspires learning and truth and encourages the seeker to seek, because after all the word does mean Wise.
Question: What is the difference between Witches and Wiccans?
Believe it or not even some Witches are often confused about this. The answer is not cut and dry, and many Wiccans and Witches debate the answers. The basic fact is that Wiccans are Witches, but not all Witches are Wiccan. It is like Presbyterians are Christians, but not all Christians are Presbyterians. Wiccans practice Witchcraft and follow the Wiccan Rede. The Rede is a list of core principles or standards. This makes Wicca a type of religion for Witches. Other Witches may respect the Rede but feel they do not need any restraint or dogmatic restrictions.