What Witches Believe...

Of basic beliefs and ethics . . .

This is a tough one to answer simply, because among all the other things witches are, we are individualists. We each make our own relationship with Deity, and each grow and love in our own way. It is said that if you ask a room full of thirteen witches a question, you'll get twenty-five different answers. And it's true.

That said, there are some fundamental beliefs that pull us together strongly enough to create the sort of loving community you see here. Wicca is a spiritual path, a way of seeing the world and Divinity, and our relationship to it. It is a very simple ethical principle. It is a way of life. And it is a way of tuning into the shifting energies of life around us and tapping into those energies to make the world a better place; this is what we mean by magic.

We believe that Deity/Source/God/dess is imminent in the world around us. Divinity permeates every living thing. . .and most of us define rocks, soil, water, air, fire, and the planet Herself as living things. Just look with an open heart at a dew-filled spider web or a lacework of bare winter branches covered with ice crystals, and you'll see what we mean. God/dess is IN there. S/He's in each one of us, too.

This idea has many ramifications.

First, it means every living thing is sacred. We don't believe in a hierarchy of God above man above animals above plants. We believe Divinity permeates everything, and so everything has an equal right to our love, reverence, respect, and protection. Witches tend to be dedicated environmentalists. But more than that, we let ourselves be guided by a very simple and powerful ethical principle:

"An it harm none, do as ye will."

Instead of listing a number of "Thou shalt nots," we say that as long as one's actions don't harm any living thing, including ourselves, in ANY way, we can do whatever brings joy and love into our lives. So, fun between consenting adults --with suitable precautions-- is okay. Using any sort of physical, mental, emotional, or magical coercion if someone is reluctant, is NOT.

Second, because we believe that Divinity is in everything we see, we don't create a hierarchy of values based on things of the spirit being of more worth than things of the body. Our bodies are rather miraculous gifts God/dess provides to allow us to live in and learn from on the physical plane. We see it as a spiritual imperative to take care of them. Every act that helps us maintain our physical existence thus takes on a spiritual dimension. When doing dishes or cleaning out the basement become sacred acts, life is a whole lot richer.

We also believe that our thoughts, actions, emotions, and prayers create energy. This energy goes out into the world and, in the process of being reflected by the other beings there, is multiplied before it returns to us. Some say threefold, others say tenfold; it may vary. But what we put out returns to us multiplied, whether that be love or fear, anger or compassion. So most of us work actively to try to diffuse our fears, express our anger cleanly and let it go, and to develop a greater understanding of the world around us.

Our lives are gifts, and if we need to protect ourselves, we do; generally through the most peaceful means possible. Often this takes the form of surrounding ourselves with light to reflect or deflect anything that means us harm. We do kill to eat; most creatures do. Some of us are vegetarian. Personally, because I see plants as people, too, and know that something must die so I can survive, I eat a variety of foods, expressing my gratitude for this food to the creatures who supply it.

Another belief that many of us share is that our souls cycle through many lifetimes. We will be back to enjoy the progression of the seasons again. Among witches, there are many different visions of the time and space between lives; most are joyful places where we meld more closely with our Gods. But because we know we'll be back again, we know that any mess we leave behind will be here when we return (possibly even multiplied in the interim). Another strong motivator to live in harmony and respect with all others in our world.

One of the things we learn, in deeper and deeper ways as we progress on this path, is that on the levels of spirit and energy, we are not only connected to, but literally ONE with all living things. Any harm we do another is, in the long run, harm to ourselves. We don't need a disciplinary God to judge us; we see the results of our actions. Harm harms us; love strengthens us. This is extremely empowering, because we know that if we make our own messes, we can also, with the support and loving guidance of the Goddess and God, clean them up.

Of the Goddesses and Gods . . .

So, what Gods and Goddesses do we believe in? Here is where individuality really comes in. Most witches see Divinity as complex and reflecting all the different traits and aspects of human nature. It is common to speak of Divinity as Goddess and God, Lord and Lady, Mother and Father, where the Goddess represents feminine, life-giving, nourishing, receptive forces, and the God represents masculine, dynamic, projective forces. The Goddess is often identified with the Moon: mysterious, and ever changing. The God is similarly identified with the Sun: vitalising and life giving.

Many witches see the Goddess as three-fold: Maiden, Mother and Crone. The Crone is the figure most often identified with witches in popular culture, as the warty old hag who flies on her broomstick and harasses Dorothy, Snow White, and trick-or-treaters. Witches see Her as a grandmotherly figure of great wisdom and compassion, who sometimes challenges us to grow by tweaking our fears, and who helps us face death when the time comes. The Mother is the nourishing aspect who births, feeds, supports, and loves us. The Maiden is the playful curious aspect who encourages us to explore our world with joy.

The God is often seen and the Lord of the forest and of the animals. Sometimes He is depicted as a laughing man with a luxurious beard of Oak leaves. He can be depicted as the warrior prince who inspires us with hope when we must defend something precious to us. . . our land, our loved ones, or our truths. Very often he is associated with virile male animals such as stags, stallions and rams. More on this later, as it is these images that Christianity has incorporated into their Lord of Evil.

Many of the ancient pagan dieties were gods and goddesses of fertility. This makes sense when you remember that survival depended on the fertility of crops and herds, and that a large family meant more hands to work the farms. In our overcrowded modern world, witches tend to focus on the fertility of our minds and creative work. It is a precious part of our faith to emulate Her creativity in our work, play, and households.

There are whole pantheons of Gods and Goddesses from different countries and eras of history. The Welsh Gods might appeal to people of that ancestry. Egyptian Gods and Goddesses might appeal to people with past lives in that time. It is neither right nor wrong to limit oneself to working with Divinities from one culture or another. Some witches might choose to work with Mother Goddesses from many cultures, for example.

My own way of seeing this is that Divinity is like a huge jewel with many, many facets that all direct and reflect light in their own ways. We all see different facets depending on the angle we look from. None is better or more correct than any other, although with the polishing power of many prayers, some of the facets get bigger than some of the others. The Christian God has a huge facet, and does put out a lot of light, but He is not the whole picture. We work with the Gods and Goddesses that call to us, and we develop relationships with them that help and support us in our evolution.

Of the Flows of Nature . . .

Many of us tune into the energies of Nature around us and make a conscious effort to live, work, and play in harmony with them. Most witches follow the phases of the Moon and time their work according to how its purpose harmonises with Her phases. Most witches follow the cycles of the Sun and His effects on the flora and fauna of our world, and we try to harmonise our work with the energies of the seasons. Many of us follow the courses of the stars and planets, and work with their influences according to the wisdom of astrology.

This principle is characteristic of many earth-based religions and also Buddhism, which calls it "going with the flow." We learn that there are times when action is appropriate, and times when we would better spend our time in reflection. There are times when we can build and accomplish much, and times when we can let go of habits we no longer need. Everything we do is a little more powerful when we harness the natural flows around us rather than fighting them.

Of Magic . . .

And this leads into a discussion of magic. Life itself is magic: the cycles of birth and death, the processes of healing, the processes of homeostasis in living bodies. Witches learn to nudge these natural processes by applying focus and will. Our plants grow better if we focus the life-giving energies of Goddess and God in them, according to their natures and natural cycles. Our careers progress better if we focus our minds and learn to set goals for the highest good of all. Our physical and emotional health flourish if we are aware of the constant need to give and take, to assimilate and cleanse, to push ourselves to our limits and to experience new boundaries, and if we are aware of the gifts of the foods we eat and the plants we use for healing.

Beyond these processes of living well, yes, we practice the application of will to accomplish our wishes. We know from the outset that if we will something that will harm another, the chance of our work being successful are reduced. If what we wish is in harmony with Divine Will, our magic is simply a demonstration of our willingness to work within that Plan. We apply our focused will to the purpose we have in mind, at a time and in a way conducive to harnessing the energies of Nature that support our purpose, and then we let Divine Will determine the outcome for the highest good of all.

When we work in this way, spells, incantations, incense, candles, music, and ritual tools are used only as ways of focussing our intent and energy. The words of a spell are less important than the intent behind them, and the focus we have learned through discipline. This is why many witches do not like to teach spells to those who might use them to force an issue without being aware of the principles behind magic.

Of Our Past . . .

Witchcraft is based on what we know or try to reconstruct of the beliefs of pagan peoples in the world before Christianity. Some study scholarly works and archeology for clues to these beliefs. Some claim that they are initiated into wisdom that has been passed down to them in an unbroken lineage from those times. Some open to remembering how they have related to Divinity in previous incarnations. Some find their memories in poems and songs. Some simply hear of our beliefs and practices, know this is the right path for them, and learn by doing.

In the time since our religions were dominant on Earth, other religions have held sway over centuries of civilisation. These religions have misconstrued what we are about based on their own world views. It is tempting at times to protest what we are NOT in response to what others say about us. But the truth is that this merely drags us into trying to define ourselves by their frames of reference.

For example, we are not Satanists. Satan is a figure created many centuries after Christ's death. It was constructed of a Persian demon figure and those of our Gods endowed with horns and hooves. It was used by the Christians as a repository for the qualities of humanity that they considered sinful. It is almost as if, having taken all the good and loving qualities of humanity and deposited them in their God, the Christian Church needed to similarly externalise all the dark and fearsome qualities. Satan is actually irrelevant to the witch's world-view because we make a virtue of owning all our qualities, light and dark. Deity is within us, and so are our shadows. This gives us the power to explore, know, shed light upon, and heal our shadows rather than try to deny them and let them rule us in ways we are unaware of.

Since the early Christians thought we served their anti-God, Satan, they feared us. And in their fear, they sought us out and killed many of us; over nine million people are believed to have been killed in witch hunts in the Middle Ages. Many of these were not witches, but were women living alone, or healers and midwives. We honour these souls, and we pray for an end to the fear that led to their deaths.

Of our Present . . .

We see our time on this Earth as an opportunity to grow, heal, learn, make amends for past mistakes, and allow our souls to evolve. In the process, we meditate, pray, sing, and create art, music, poetry and prose. We love our families and friends. We take great joy in the beauty of the world around us and in making the parts of it we live in beautiful and healthy. We serve Divine Will by functioning as gardeners and doctors, mothers and administrators, counsellors and craftspeople, computer operators and entertainers. We make it a goal to interact with our world in a loving respectful way, and we forgive ourselves when we fall short. We help each other, and we grow.

If you think you might be one of us, read on. If not, we respect your path and wish you well on your journey nonetheless. Regardless, be our guest for as long as you wish. We hope our information about healing will be of interest to you, and of course our hearts will be just as open.

Blessed Be.

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