Wicca in a sentence (it’s as good a definition as any!)
A religion influenced by pre-Christian beliefs and practices of western Europe that affirms the existence of supernatural power (such as magic) and of both male and female deities who inhere in nature and that emphasizes ritual observance of seasonal and life cycles (Merrian-Webster Dictionary)
Something to keep in mind when studying Wicca:
Wicca is not a dogmatic religion (it doesn’t have a book or an authority figure to tell its followers that they absolutely must believe a certain way). So, there is a variation of belief on almost everything. However, there are core tenants that reach across the varying beliefs, and I’ll try to hit those below.
Wiccan beliefs (not fond of the word but even after using a thesaurus I can’t find another one I like any better) can be broken into four main categories.
Category #1. Wicca believes in a Goddess and a God. What this means varies from Wiccan to Wiccan. Some Wiccans are duotheistic (worshipping a Goddess and a God), others are polytheistic (worshipping multiple gods and goddesses). Some believe that all gods are aspects of the God, and all goddesses are aspects of the Goddess. Some are pantheistic (the Goddess and the God are identical with nature), others are panentheistic (the Goddess and the God interpermeate nature but are not identical with it and are also outside of it), and some are almost atheist (the Goddess and the God are Jungian archetypes, or part of a greater universal energy that is not sentient or necessarily divine). The “party line”, however, as Scott Cunningham puts it, is this: Wicca consists of the worship of the Goddess and the God.
Some would say they “work with” the Goddess and God rather than worship them. I disagree with that because it comes from a view that says that the Judeo-Christian-Muslim view of worship is the only way to worship or it assumes that the Wiccan in question holds to a view of Divinity that would make worship less appropriate. Still, many Wiccans prefer the terms “work with” or “revere” to worship.
Category #2. Wicca believes that the Divine energy is in all things, therefore reverence for nature is basic in the religion. All of life is sacred.
Wiccans celebrate the Wheel of the Year, which is the major solar events of the year. Wiccans also celebrate the lunar events of the year. This wheel is a celebration of the life cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. The major lunar events are the full moons, or Esbats. The major solar events are called Sabbats, and there are eight of them. There are two solstices, which are the longest and shortest days of the year, two equinoxes, which are the two days of the year that are of equal length, and then there are the cross-quarter days, which are the days halfway between the solstice and the equinox. Litha (Midsummer’s Eve, or the longest day of the year) and Samhain (a cross-quarter day) are two examples of Sabbats.
Category #3. Although technically you can be a Wiccan and never practice witchcraft, the overwhelming majority of Wiccans practice witchcraft. Wiccans believe that you can work with the Goddess and the God, and Their energy in the world and in yourself to achieve a goal- and that this is called magick. (It’s spelled magick with a “k” to separate it from the magic in Harry Potter or Charmed or something like that. Real magick is far more subtle and less glamorous, but nonetheless powerful). Some believe the energy used in magick is a neutral force, something that is part of nature, just pure energy, and that it can be directed either way. Others believe that since this energy does come from the Divine, or from the part of the Universe that links us all, it is not a neutral force and that is why misusing it is so wrong. Many Wiccans believe that the energy in nature that is used in magick is something that one day could possibly be quantifiably measured by science in fields such as quantum physics. The same goes for the energy used in such activities such as Tarot card reading, using pendulums, runes, etc.
Category #4. Wiccans believe in harming none (this includes yourself, others, and all of nature), and that any evil you do is returned to you. The main moral code for Wiccans, the Wiccan Rede, ends in “And these eight words the Rede fulfill: If it harm none, do what ye will.” This sentence is deceptively simple. Wiccans believe in a positive morality- you do good, you don’t just avoid evil. Wicca doesn’t believe in fate, so you are responsible for shaping your world through your morality or lack thereof.
Wiccans do not:
Worship Satan. Wiccans do not believe in Satan or hell.
Perform ‘black’ or evil magick. See the “harm none” section!
Summon evil spirits or do curses and hexes (many Wiccans don’t even believe in evil spirits, not in the Western religion form of evil, at least.)
Believe their way is the only true way to relate to the Divine. Not everyone is suited to Wicca.
Believe in a gap between “worldly” affairs and “spiritual” affairs. To a Wiccan, the world is sacred, so anything you do to prevent harm to your fellow humans, animals, and the world is sacred activity. So, you will find Wiccans active in LGBTQ rights, Black Lives Matter, environmental activism, etc.
Believe in blind faith. Experience is valued over blind faith. Even with the existence of the God and the Goddess, Wicca doesn’t ask you to just take someone’s word for it.
Worship rocks, trees or grass. Recognizing that everything and everyone has a spark of the Divine is not the same as believing they are Divine. Even pantheists who do believe in an identification of God/dess with nature do not do this.
Engage in sexual perversions. Wiccans do have a very sex positive attitude and are fine with LGBTQ+ individuals, for example.
Have the kind of supernatural powers you see in media. Most Wiccans practice witchcraft, which is simply the practice of magick. Magick is about improving yourself and the world around you. It is not about horror movie stuff. Nor is it the Harry Potter/Charmed/Buffy the Vampire Slayer type either.
Believe in dogma. If there are three Wiccans in a room, you will get six answers to a question. The above is my best attempt to sum up the general beliefs of Wiccans. I don’t pretend it is unbiased.
Things to look out for when getting information on Wicca:
Be vary cautious learning from social media, including (especially) TikTok, as a source of information, unless whoever you’re following has been shown elsewhere to be a reliable source of information. You cannot cover the nuances of Wicca in the time of a TikTok video.
Avoid the term “baby witches” and those who claim to be teachers but use it, someone who tells you that you have to be in a coven to be a Wiccan, or anyone who tells you that Wicca is a religion that existed in an unbroken line from Neolithic times.
Don’t hesitate to distance yourself from anyone who tries to push their authority around. High priestesses and priests are respected for their experience and knowledge but are not considered infallible by any means.
And run from anyone who tries to get you to do things sexually or otherwise that you don’t feel comfortable with (rare, but it happens). Trust your instincts.