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Wicca

I'm not a practicing Wiccan myself. There are elements of Wiccan doctrine that do not align with my philosophical views, at least as far as Wicca is a defined religious orthodoxy created primarly by Gerald A. Gardner. Gardnerian Wicca is essentially a contrived set of beliefs informed by Jewish Kabbalah, some Christian mysticism, and a healthy dose of creativity. My own research has led me down the path of natural, green witchcraft, rather than any organized doctrine from a central body.

Not only that, but the core tenets of Wicca and the specific ritualization (the use of specialized equipment, and the idea that the ritual has to be done just so for the spell to work) are very Kabbalistic in origin. While rituals can be an excellent tool for clearing your mind, focusing, relaxing, etc., I think the credibility of the ritual as the source of the effect is thin at best. It's easy to become too focused on “doing it right”, rather than focused on the why of what you're doing.

I don't begrudge anyone who has found a measure of happiness in organized Wicca. I do, however, caution you to be mindful of the deeper teachings of any organized doctrine - including Wicca - as it is in the root teachings one can find the motivation for humans organizing a religious body in the first place. Wicca brings with it a thread of philosophical belief that teaches humans can tap into great power and use it to our own advantage, without consequence.

I do not believe in this principle. It is a false one - and a very dangerous one. The section on Magic goes into more depth on this subject.

To me, Wicca is a distraction. It misdirects an earnest desire to learn about one's own ancestral folk beliefs into a belief system that is contrived, and therefore false. Although most modern self-identified Wiccans aren't part of any organized coven or hierarchy, the undercurrent in a lot of modern writings about witchcraft favor Wiccan magical theory.

My other beef with Wicca is in its view of humans and our relationship with divinity (whatever you want to call the intelligent force behind the creation of the universe). In Wicca, the human body contains an immortal soul that is reincarnated repeatedly, much like Hinduism, in an effort to become one with divinity. This is philosophically similar to Christianity's belief that the human body contains an immortal soul, which is meant to be reunited with divinity.

Both of these beliefs are based on the pursuit of perfection. This sounds like a worthy pursuit, but it's an impossible one, which means it's just an esoteric distraction from the troubles of reality and our human existence.

Cunningham's writings on the magical uses of natural materials are invaluable. He did extensive research, combined with his own practical knowledge and exploration, which for me lends credibility to his encyclopedias. For Magic itself, I prefer to take a more nuanced approach that acknowledges and embraces the inherent limitations of being human.

One other note: Wicca establishes its own holiday calendar, based on what we know about ancient European seasonal festivals and celebrations. The names of these holidays are invented, although they sound very Celtic (and therefore credible). The western holiday calendar is as Euro-folkish as it is Christian, and I think it's just a lot easier to integrate our existing holiday calendar into a folkish spiritual worldview.

Christmas was the Catholicization of Yule, Easter a reworking of the vernal (spring) equinox. Rather than try to move family traditions to new days with new names, incorporate new meaning into old holidays. This way, you can observe your own annual holidays without imposing or causing problems (which is useful if, for instance, you have religious family members who might not be very happy about your beliefs).