Like many pagan belief systems, Wicca has a rich variety of different beliefs and common practices. Below is a list of some of the common beliefs and practices found in Wicca. Each tradition has its own specific practices, but I’ve listed the most common ones that (generally) are universal to all paths.
The Wiccan Rede
The Wiccan Rede is the standard by which most Wiccans conduct their faith and their lives. Doreen Valiente mentioned the Rede during a speech she gave in 1964. There are two generally accepted “versions” of the Rede; the short version and the long version. You can read the long version by clicking here. The short version contains the primary message about living one’s life while on the Wiccan path. While the wording may vary slightly (mostly with respect to the use of “Old English” words like “ye”, “thou”, etc.), the core message is the same. The short version goes like this:
Bide within the Law ye must,
In perfect love, in perfect trust,
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill:
An ye harm none, do what ye will.
What ye sends forth comes back to thee,
And ever mind the Rule of Three.
Follow this with mind and heart,
And merry ye meet and merry ye part.
Seems pretty simple, right? To give you a very simplified interpretation, the Rede tells us to:
- Obey the law (some translations of the Rede start with “Bide ye Wiccan Law ye must” but I believe the message is essentially the same);
- Do what you want as long as it doesn’t harm anyone (the longer version has a line in it that expands on this point: “Live ye must and let to live” – so don’t harm others, and don’t harm yourself);
- Be mindful of the Rule of Three (whatever you do comes back to you threefold – whether that’s bad or good); and
- Follow the Rede with both your mind and your heart (i.e. follow it because you believe in it both intellectually and spiritually).
Sabbats & Esbats
The term sabbat is French in origin, but is ultimately derived from the Latin word sabbatum, which is also the origin of the word “Sabbath.” There are eight sabbats in the Wiccan calendar; think of them like Wiccan holidays, much like Christmas or Easter for the Christian religion. Esbats, which are “minor celebrations,” are the twelve (or thirteen, depending on the lunar calendar) full moons in a year.
Check out Wiccan Sabbats to get more detail on each of the holidays along with some detail on how some Wiccans celebrate each of them. The sabbats have a deep history in the “circle of life” or “wheel of the year” symbolism, so most of the holidays have an underlying theme of “birth-life-death-rebirth” within them.
|Sabbat||Date||What it means|
|Samhain||October 31||Samhain is the pagan new year. It is a time of honoring the dead and signifies the coming “death” in nature (i.e. trees and plants die as they succumb to the harsh winter ahead)|
|Yule||The Winter Solstice (usually around Dec. 21)||The Winter Solstice is the “longest night of the year,” and Yule is the celebration of the figurative “rebirth” of the masculine aspect of the God/Goddess duality (i.e. the Goddess gives rebirth to the God). Yule’s celebratory aspects are closely related to celebrations held around the Christmas holiday. This is a recurring theme in pagan holidays, as the Christian religion over time incorporated the celebrations into their own holidays (that’s a very diplomatic way of saying “the Christians stole ideas from the pagans”).|
|Imbolc||February 2||This sabbat celebrates the symbolic growth of the newly-born God. As nature slowly gives way to spring, this holiday celebrates the growth and renewal of life. Candles are typically lit during Imbolc; not just because everyone’s basically sick of it being dark all the time, but also in anticipation of the days getting longer.|
|Ostara (or Eostara)||The Spring Equinox (usually around March 21)||Springtime! The flowers are blooming, the trees once again begin their dance of life, and it’s not so damn cold and dark all the time! Ostara (yep, you guessed it, Easter is a rip-off of Ostara, even in the name!) is a celebration of things in nature coming back to life.|
|Beltane||May 1||With summer quickly approaching (and spring in full swing… heh, that rhymed), Beltane is a celebration of fertility. Crops are beginning to grow, and summer is right around the corner.|
|Litha (Midsummer)||The Summer Solstice (usually around June 21)||Litha is more commonly referred to as “midsummer” and that’s exactly what is celebrated. Everything is at its peak during this time; the days are the longest, and nature is back in full force.|
|Lammas (Lughnasadh)||August 1||Lammas signifies the first harvest and we begin to see nature preparing for the coming winter. It’s a celebration of abundance and gratitude as crops are harvested.|
|Mabon||The Autumnal Equinox (usually around September 21)||The God prepares for his impending “death” at Samhain. The second harvest usually occurs around this time. Night and day are equal in duration around this time, and we begin to prepare for the end of the “circle of life” on Samhain.|
I can tell some of you may have been raising an eyebrow or two reading the short blurb about each of the sabbats. I get it. When I first began studying Wicca, I was a little confused (and, dare I say, skeptical) of what these “holidays” were all about. But before you leave the site and go back to Facebook to look at funny videos of cats pulling shenanigans, I encourage you to explore my Symbolism section, where I discuss the different things I mentioned here. It’s not as kooky as you think, I promise.
Spells & Rituals
One of the core practices in Wicca is the use of spells & rituals. I have an entire section devoted to different spells and rituals I’ve either found in my research or created myself. I also discuss the anatomy of a spell in my blog.
What’s the deal, though, with spells and rituals? To put it plainly, performing spells and rituals is similar to how other religious observers pray. It is our way of communing with the Universe and working with the energy contained therein. So whereas someone who is a Christian would pray to their God to ask for help during a financially difficult time, the Wiccan would perform a prosperity ritual.
What’s the difference between a spell and a ritual? You’re bound to get slightly different answers based on the specific Wiccan tradition being practiced. Many even use the two terms interchangeably.
A ritual is something that is usually performed to celebrate a sabbat or some other special occasion. A spell is something that is performed usually with a specific goal in mind (such as a prosperity spell to bring in money, a love spell to help in finding a romantic partner, or a healing spell to help with a physical ailment).
However, I often use the term “ritual” when I create a spell that has multiple aspects to it (such as the process of lighting candles, charging a crystal, mixing herbs for a custom incense, etc.). Others may say that a ritual involves setting up your altar, invoking a circle, and the act or acts that you perform in that circle. Don’t get too hung up on the semantics.
Whether you call it a spell or a ritual, you’re ultimately working with the energy that you raise and the deities you invoke.
The Law of Attraction
Although Wiccans don’t typically use the phrase “the Law of Attraction”, it is nevertheless something that is loosely related to Wiccan beliefs. The term was popularized by Rhonda Byrne in her book “The Secret”. What’s interesting is the concepts and ideas that she discusses in her book are beliefs that Wiccans (and pagan witches, prior to Wicca) have believed for centuries: the energy that you put out into the Universe attracts the same energy. Positive energy brings in positivity. Negative energy brings in negativity. So if you’ve read The Secret and you agree with the premise presented in that book, then you already believe in a big part of what Wiccans and other pagans have believed for centuries!
Reincarnation is a belief that is held by many different religions and belief systems, and Wicca is one of them. Many Wiccans believe in the concept of reincarnation. Our “higher consciousness” (or our “spirit” if you prefer that term) has lived many lives. When we die, our spirit returns to the Universe where we reflect upon the life we just completed as well as the past lives we’ve experienced. There, we wait to be reborn. There are quite a few different perspectives on how reincarnation works, all of which have merit. In our mortal state, however, it is difficult to say exactly what happens during the reincarnation process.
Many esoteric views believe that our higher consciousness goes through many different lives in order for us to learn different lessons in each of those lives. Others believe that our higher consciousness chooses the life it wants to experience and reincarnates to fulfill that life. However, you don’t necessarily have to believe in reincarnation in order to be a Wiccan. Wicca teaches that death is simply a part of the cycle of life.