Common Stereotypes and Misconceptions of Wicca
Wicca, a modern pagan religion has in past times been known as witchcraft, and some still refer to it as such. However, it has come to be known as Wicca to avoid the common stereotypes and misconceptions that many people have about the religion.
Within different covens, which are a group of about thirteen or less witches, there are different beliefs and ways of worship and rituals. In a coven, the witches gather to work together on positive magickal practices or for religious ceremonies. There are, of course, some common traits that surface. The profound awe and respect for the God and Goddess; the belief of reincarnation and magick; and the use of magickal circles for ritual purposes. Even thought many are lead to believe that Wicca is a negative and evil religion, due to external influences, predominantly the media and Hollywood, this attention is a fallacy that has lead to false perceptions on the religion. In the past many of the misconceptions about witchcraft came from the Catholic Church. The religion wanted to stop the practice of witchcraft as they were very intolerant of different beliefs and felt that theirs was the only true path to salvation. They still believe this; however no longer openly try to stop the practice of other religions. Today it is the media that is providing many fallacies about Wicca. A prime Hollywood example is the movie Witches of Eastwich in which Jack Nicholson is portraying a demonic, satanic, character that brings out the power in three witches. This is implying a connection between Satan and Wicca, however, Wiccans do not believe in a Satan figure. This is more of a Christianity figure. Another example is the movie The Blair Witch Project which is about a group of people who go looking for the legendary Blair Witch, with whom there is an implication that she is involved in something dark, and they end up disappearing. This again implies that witches are dark and evil. Unlike the dark and evil qualities which external influences and the media have portrayed, following the Wicca religion promotes a positive way of life. It is a religion which advocates tolerance, doing the right thing, and being in tune with nature.
The aspect of tolerance is prominent in the Wicca religion, mostly because Witches have been persecuted for many centuries, and they have a strong belief in religious freedom. They do not look at their religion as the only path that could be followed to achieve spirituality. Wicca is not a missionary religion; they do not go out to convert new members and try to get them to believe as they do. They feel that anyone who is truly interested in following the path of Wicca will find it though their own search. Wicca has of late been attracting the attention of teenage girls. They seem to be drawn to the religion as it focuses on a feminine Goddess, nature based worship, and it gives a sense of self-empowerment. They choose this over the more traditional and wide spread faiths, as they feel they are male-dominated, and morally limiting. Wicca is a very ‘personalized’ religion. There are not certain ways of worship you must follow or any particular rituals. This is very liberating for people as they do what feels right to them.
As can be seen from the main message of Wicca, “if it harm none, do what you will,” the religion strongly advocates doing the right thing. Some people feel that since Wiccans do not have any laws of right or wrong, they will not know what is right, wrong, or harmful. Alex Sanders, self proclaimed “King of the Witches”, wrote “a thing is good for me until I feel it’s not right for me” (Edwards 2). Stewart Farrar elaborated on this saying, “The witch’s own conscience must be the final arbiter” (Edwards 2-3). They also believe in the law of Three- fold, which is the belief that anything you do, any energies that you release will come back to three times as strongly. An example of this is that if one is a good person, then they will usually have good things happen to them, such as a good job and a good marriage. Wiccans accept responsibilities for their actions because of personal choices. Wiccans must face consequences of their actions. The blame cannot be placed on any entity but the Wiccan’s self.
Wiccans have a deep appreciation for nature. Wicca is experiencing awe in watching the seasons unfold and enjoying the song of the birds in the forest. Wiccans are balanced and harmonious with nature. As Rebecca MacEachern said “Many people think Wicca is all about evil spells but its not, it’s a spiritual path which people have chosen to follow” (MacEachern 1). They believe humans are not in any way superior to nature, but instead only one of the many paths that make up the whole. A Chief Seattle said, “We do not own the earth, we are part of it” (Celtic). Most of the celebrations are earth- based, such as Halloween. Being a witch is being a teacher, giver, healer, and protector of all things.
As can be seen in modern society, in many situations external influences have a profound effect on people’s perceptions of issues, people, groups or situations. Little children innocently dress up on Halloween as witches, portraying them with warts, green faces, capes and pointy black hats. However this is not at all what a witch really is. Although many people still have misconception about the nature of the religion Wicca, it is a positive way of life that many people choose to follow through tolerance, morals, and using nature in a positive way.