What IS Witchcraft?
Let's start off with what modern Witchcraft is NOT:
Witches do not believe that Wicca has
anything to do with the devil. Most Witches do not believe in "evil."
There are no Shakespearean curses involving
boiling frogs in cauldrons.
Witches do not practice bloody sacrifices
(human or animal). However, followers of some other Pagan religions (such as Santeria) do practice animal sacrifice. There
are some groups who claim to practice things such as human sacrifice, and evidence of other illegal activities (such as grave
robbing). This is not typical of American Pagans, and stories involving these practices should be carefully investigated.
No one really flies on brooms.
Rituals are usually not ecstatic sex
I've never met a green-faced, warty-nosed
Followers of this religion are often gentle, spiritual people
who are concerned with the environment, human rights, and happiness. They usually worship one or more ancient goddesses and
gods. Religious rituals range from solemn, with candles lit and incense burning; to ecstatic, with dancing, chanting, and
Witches do cast spells, although most say they only do so for
positive purposes. They do not hex or curse, nor do they generally interfere with the will of another. Magic (many Witches
say "magick") is often called "The science and art of causing change to occur in conformity to Will". In fact, many Wiccans
will tell you that magick and Christian-style prayer are really the same thing. Unlike Christian prayer, Wiccan rituals usually
include the use of props (candles, incense, altar tools, herbs, etc.) and the request goes to whichever god or goddess the
Witch worships, or more often to the "forces of nature" as a demand rather than a request. Witches also employ divination,
such as tarot cards and astrology, to determine likely outcomes of decisions, or to get in touch with their "inner selves"
or their gods. However, do keep in mind that some do NOT practice divination, and a few do not practice magick.
There is no Witch's "Bible". While is widely felt that wisdom
comes from within, not from a book or even from "On High", some have no problem with transcendent views of deity. There are
sacred texts in several Pagan traditions, such as the Egyptian Book of Coming Forth by Day (commonly called the "Book of the
Dead"). Witches tend to believe that Jesus was a great teacher (and so were Buddha and Mohammed). If they believe in the existence
of the devil at all, they'll tell you that he's simply "another Christian deity". While Pagans invoke a number of deities
(female and male) and entities such as elementals, and believe in beings such as tree spirits and faeries, most say that there
are no "demons" anywhere: this is also a Christian concept, and they're not Christians. Their deities are considered to be
"imminent", or within each of us, meaning that everyone is actually deity. A common phrase at rituals is "Thou art Goddess."
Leaders among Pagans tend to be strong, powerful, self-assured
people. However, most are not overtly power-seeking, overly charismatic, "follow me" types. In fact, because covens
are generally autonomous, often led by everyone equally, the rules are flexible, and there is seldom money exchanged, Witches
can argue very effectively that they are not a "cult".
Although moral and political views are certainly not universal
among Pagans, it is safe to say that most support neo-tolerance (there is no truth/what's true for me is not necessarily true
for you/everything is true (just pick one)), women's rights and matriarchy, sexual "freedom" (including homosexuality, polyamory,
non-monogamy, sexual activity by teens), abortion, and the abolition of Christianity from public life, especially in schools
and governmental functions. In recent years there have been lawsuits filed by Pagans against such things as "In God We Trust"
(which appears on our money), student-led prayer in schools, the Ten Commandments, and Christian symbols, such as the Cross,
in city and county seals. However, many are active in getting the schools to teach the Wiccan holidays (such as Halloween
and Winter Solstice), pagan elements of "Earth Day", and Pagan symbolism.
There is no concept of sin or need for forgiveness in Pagan traditions.
There is no need for salvation, as there is "nothing to be saved from." The main tenet of Wicca is called the "Wiccan
Rede". It states "An it harm none, do as ye will". Basically, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone, anything goes. Views of what
actually causes harm vary from person to person. However, as most feel that you will be paid back three times over for everything
you do, it pays to be careful. However, some argue that causing harm is occasionally acceptable, if you are willing to be
responsible and accept the karmic consequence. A few groups have a more legalistic set of rules to follow, upon which they
will ultimately be judged, although there is rarely any mention of what one is to do when those rules are broken.
Views of death and the afterlife vary widely among Pagans. Many
do not have any concept of a literal heaven or hell. Some espouse the concept of karma and endless reincarnation. They insist
that living once is a ridiculous concept and point to "evidence" and "memories" of past lives. Others believe that everyone
(good, bad, and otherwise) will go to the Land of Apples or Heaven after their live(s) are over. Some combine the two theories
into a reincarnation-until-enlightenment philosophy. Many do not even have a clear concept of what will happen after death,
proclaiming that they'll find out when they get there.
Keep in mind that this is only a brief summary of what most Wiccans
and other Pagans believe, and that there is great diversity within the Pagan movement: not every Witch will agree with every
statement on this page, but most Witches will agree with most of it.