Monday, May 4, 2009

Wicca for Beginners

Wicca for Beginners: Fundamentals of Philosophy and Practice
© 2006 Thea Sabin
288 pages

I could say that I decided to read this book as a part of my private comparative religion studies, or as research for a fantasy novel -- but in reality, I checked this book out because a computer game I play involves witches. Despite my less-than-serious intentions, the book turned out to be an aide in said studies and research. Author Thea Sabin, a 'high priestess', begins the book by evaluating what Wicca is and what it isn't. Before starting, I had the vague impression that Wicca was earth goddess-worship with rituals. According to Sabin, and although Wiccans see the Earth as divine, they worship both a God and Goddess, often through the guise of mythological deities. Sabin lists several traits of Wicca, including that it is an experimental religion: people try rituals and symbols, and continue to use them on the basis of whether they work or not. Sabin asks the reader numerous times to turn off the "Mr. Spock" portion of our brain. She offers a history of Wicca and witchcraft traditions, then dives into Wiccan "tools", including tapping into 'energy' through the use of a spiritual taproot and crystals. After writing on various tools of Wiccan practice, she examines practices themselves -- trance states, rituals, and spells. The book also includes information on Wiccan holidays, including appropriate rituals and dress. Lastly, she addresses readers who are interested in joining a Wiccan tradition.

Although sometimes the book was difficult to take seriously, it was enormously interesting. I have come to regard most religions as originating from and being primarily about philosophical ethics, but Wicca is an exception. I knew there were religions like the Greco-Roman religion(s) that didn't have much to say on morality, but I've never thought about modern religions in those terms, having grown used to to the fact that in the west, religion has monopolized ethical philosophy. Wicca, it seems, is not about moral behavior, although the book includes a section on Wiccan ethics: it is principally about worshiping deity and using divine powers for spells. (A chapter on spells is also included). I didn't know that spells were taken seriously, but apparently they are. The book does a good job of explaining the religion to people like myself, although it is primarily aimed at those who are interested in becoming Wiccan.

Final note: the author explains the symbolism of everything from the pentagram to witches' brooms. I figured brooms were just some strange medieval holdover, but they have a symbolic importance.

4 comments:

  1. I think its wonderful that you took the time to learn about Wicca. I am not Wiccan but have several Wiccan friends and yes they do take it quite seriously. Sadly hollywood, television, and some religious groups have done what they can to paint us as evil, silly, or both.

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  2. I've known a few witches over the years too - one of them is actually an authors of a few books too. Wicca is an interesting religion/philosophy/world-view. Take away some of the more fantastic elements and its very interesting indeed.

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  3. I especially like the earth-centered holidays: it seems like an interesting and fun way to keep the turning of Earth in mind. Decorating for seasons appeals to me.

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  4. Wicca doesn't have to be all about silly spells and worship. It's actually a very useful belief system if you consider it's utility. Consider that Wicca assists in attuning to the seasons, the weather, and the fertility of soil. Consider that Wicca deals heavily in what we now call "Old Wives' Remedies" and other "natual medicines". I urge you to read more more more about Wicca. It's a wildly misunderstood system of belief and has a long and beautiful history of help and healing.

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