An Introduction to Traditional Wicca

             An Introduction to Traditional Wicca
    c. 1987,  Keepers of the Ancient Mysteries   ( .K.A.M. )

Often Traditional Wiccans are asked to describe our religion and
beliefs for interested people, who may or may not have confused
us with other Pagan religions, with inversions of
Christian/Islamic religions like Satanism, or with purely magical
traditions with no religious base. There is a lot of flexibility
in the ways that we describe ourselves, and one characteristic of
Wicca is a large degree of personal liberty to practice as we
please. Still, there is an outline that can be described in
general terms. Many traditions will depart from one particular or
another, but groups departing from all or most of these features
are probably non-Wiccan Traditions attempting to stretch or
distort the Wiccan name to cover what they want to do.

Mysteries and Initiation

Wicca is an Initiatory religion descended from the Ancient
Mystery Religions. A mystery religion is not like Catholicism
where a Priest is the contact point between the worshiper and the
Deity, nor like Protestantism where a sacred Book provides the
contact and guidelines for being with the divine. Rather a
Mystery Religion is a religion of personal experience and
responsibility, in which each worshiper is encouraged, taught and
expected to develop an ongoing and positive direct relationship
with the Gods. The religion is called a "Mystery" because such
experiences are very hard to communicate in words, and are
usually distorted in the telling. You have to have been there in
person to appreciate what is meant. Near and far-Eastern
religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Shinto are probably
Mystery traditions, but Wicca is very western in cultural flavor
and quite different than eastern religions in many ways.

A Blend of Pagan Roots

Most Wiccan Traditions, .K.A.M. included, have particular roots
in the British Mystery Traditions. This includes traditions of
the Picts who lived before the rise of Celtic consciousness, the
early Celts, and some selected aspects of Celtic Druidism.
American Wicca is directly descended from British Wicca, brought
in the late 1950's by English and American Initiates of
Gardnerian, Alexandrian and Celtic Wicca. These traditions are a
little like the denominations in Christianity, but hopefully far
more harmonious.

While British Traditions are very strong in Wicca, or the Craft
as it is sometimes called, other Western Mystery traditions
feature prominently, including the ancient Greek Mysteries of
Eleusis,  Italian Mysteries of Rome, Etruria and the general
countryside, Mysteries of Egypt and Persia before Islam, and
various Babylonian, Assyrian and other mid-eastern Mysteries that
flourished before the political rise of the advocates of "one

What's In a Name

Wicca, Witchecraft, and "The Craft" are used interchangeably at
times by many kinds of people. It is fair to say that all Wiccans
are Witches, and many of us believe we are the only people
entitled to the name. It is important to know that many people
call themselves witches who are not in the least Wiccan, and that
Masons also refer to themselves as "Craft", with good historical
precedent. Carefully question people on the particular things
they do and believe as part of their religion rather than relying
on labels. Any real Wiccan would welcome such honest inquiry.

Traditions and Flavor

There are specific Wiccan beliefs and traditions, including
worship of an equal and mated Goddess and God who take many forms
and have many Names. Groups who worship only a Goddess or only a
God are not traditional Wicca however they may protest, although
they may be perfectly good Pagans of another sort. The Wiccan
Goddess and God are linked to nature, ordinary love and children
-- Wicca is very life affirming in flavor. 

Because we have and love our own Gods, Wiccans have nothing to do
with other people's deities or devils, like the Christian God or
Satan, the Muslim Allah or the Jewish Jehovah (reputedly not his
real name). Christians often deny this fact because they think
that their particular god is the only God, and everybody else in
the whole world must be worshipping their devil. How arrogant.
They're wrong on both counts.

Traditional Wicca is a religion of personal responsibility and
growth. Initiates take on a particular obligation to personal
development throughout their lives, and work hard to achieve what
we call our "True Will", which is the best possibility that we
can conceive for ourselves. Finding your Will isn't easy, and
requires a lot of honesty, courage and hard work. It is also very

Wicca is generally a cheerful religion, and has many holidays and
festivals. In fact, most of the more pleasant holidays now on our
calendar are descended from the roots Wicca draws on, including
Christmas, May Day, Easter and Summer Vacation. Wicca is
definitely not always serious. Dancing, feasting and general
merriment are a central part of the celebrations.

Wiccan Ethics

Wiccans have ethics which are different in nature than most
"one-god" religions, which hand out a list of "do's and don'ts".
We have a single extremely powerful ethical principal which
Initiates are responsible for applying in specific situations
according to their best judgment. That principle is called the
Wiccan Rede (Old-English for rule) and reads:

"An (if) it harm none, do as ye Will"

Based on the earlier mention of "True Will", you will understand
that the Rede is far more complex than it sounds, and is quite
different than saying "Do whatever you want as long as nobody is
hurt". Finding out your Will is difficult sometimes, and figuring
out what is harmful, rather than just painful or unpleasant is
not much easier.

Initiation into Wicca

People become Wiccans only by Initiation, which is a process of
contacting and forming a good relationship with the Gods and
Goddesses of Wicca. Initiation is preceded by at least a year and
a day of preparation and study, and must be performed by a
qualified Wiccan Priestess and Priest. The central event of
Initiation is between you and your Gods, but the Priestess is
necessary to make the Initiation a Wiccan one, to pass some of
her power onto you as a new-made Priestess or Priest and to
connect you to the Tradition you're joining.

Women hold the central place in Wicca. A Traditional Coven is
always headed by a High Priestess, a Third Degree female Witch
with at least three years and three days of specific training. A
Priest is optional, but the Priestess is essential. Similarly, a
Priest may not Initiate without a Priestess, but a Priestess
alone is sufficient. Women are primary in Wicca for many reasons,
one of which is that the Goddess is central to our religion.

One Religion at a Time

People often ask "Can I become a Wiccan and still remain a
Christian, Muslim, practicing Jew, etc. The answer is no. The
"one god" religions reject other paths besides their own,
including each other's. "One-god" religions also do not exalt the
Female as does Wicca, and mixing two such different traditions
would water them both down. Besides, you'd have to ask how
serious a person who practiced two religions was about either
one. Being Jewish is an exception, since it is a race and culture
as well as a religion. There are many Wiccan Jews, but they
practice Wicca, not Judaism.

Magick and Science

People interested in Wicca are usually curious about the magick
that Wiccans can do. While magick (spelled with a "k" to
distinguish from stage conjuring) is not a religion in itself, it
is related to our religious beliefs. Wiccans believe that people
have many more abilities than are generally realized, and that it
is a good idea to develop them. Our magick is a way of using
natural forces to change consciousness and material conditions as
an expression of our "True Wills". Part of becoming a Wiccan is
training in our methods of psychic and magickal development. 

Because we believe that everything a person does returns to them
magnified, a Wiccan will not work a magick for harm, since they
would pay too high a price. But a helpful magick is good for both
the giver and receiver! Wicca is entirely compatible with the
scientific method, and we believe all the Gods and forces we work
with to be quite natural, not supernatural at all. We do not,
however, hold with the kind of scientific dogma or pseudoreligion
that sees everything as dead matter and neglects its own method
by trumpeting "facts" without honest examination of evidence.

Priestesses at Large?

Long ago the spiritual (and sometimes physical) ancestors of
Wiccans were Priestesses and Priests to the Pagan culture as well
as devotees of their Mystery. Now that a Pagan culture is rising
again, some ask if today's Wiccans could resume that role. This
seems unlikely. 

Today's Pagan culture is very diverse and more interested in
exploring and creating new forms than in building on existing
traditions. A public role would either dilute our traditions or
force them on an unwilling audience. The neo-Pagan community
generally prefers "media figures" and rapid membership and
growth. This is  not compatible with our slow methods of training
and Initiation, the insistence that livelihood come from work
outside the Craft, or our needs for privacy. Our religion is not
accepted in the American workplace or political system, and may
never be. The most powerful Priestesses are often unknown to all
but their Coveners. While all Wiccans are Pagans, all Pagans are
not Wiccan, and it is best that it remain so.