Wicca in Context - by a non-Wiccan
Wicca seems to be viewed by many people as something "way out" or
which can not be construed as a religion. In fact, when looked at from a purely
objective point of view, religions have a great deal in common and Wicca is
really not so unusual.
Perhaps the best place to start is at the beginning. Religion almost certainly
started as a way to explain the world. Primitive people had no understanding
of science, and so had no rational means of explaining their observations of
the world around them. They could observe phenomena such as thunder, lightning,
flood, draught, disease and death, and the changing of the seasons. They also
learned the curative powers of certain plants. An intelligent being will try
to make sense of its world, but without any scientific knowledge, none of these
observations can be explained rationally. Therefore it was necessary to invent
a scenario which fitted the facts, and the easiest way to do this is to develop
the concepts of deities. By inventing Gods which have control over otherwise
inexplicable events, our intelligent but primitive being has model of his world
so his mind is no longer troubled by the unknown. Or is it?
The next though in the head of our primitive man is naturally that if his world
is being manipulated by powerful gods, it would be a good idea to appease these
gods and seek their favour whilst avoiding their displeasure at all costs. Hence
it was natural that our creature should develop rituals around his concept of
what the gods would want to see. Hence practices such as worship and sacrifices
came into being.
So far, so good. Around the world, the small isolated communities of primitive
beings are developing in parallel. They develop in the same basic way but with
local variations. Primitive cultures all over the world have been found top
have a lot in common with regard to their religious beliefs, such as the worship
of a sun god.
Our primitive people are quite happy in their isolated worlds. They can explain
their world in ways which they are comfortable with, and if something happens
which they can't explain, they just invent a new god or some other extension
to their existing beliefs which completes their theology.
The trouble is that along with religion comes politics. The interaction of
religion and politics manifests itself in two different ways. These manifestations
can be regarded as being internal and external to the community.
Imagine a situation where two neighbouring communities come into contact. Each
has its own beliefs which are unlikely to be completely compatible with the
other's. Each community is going top take offence if the activities of the neighbouring
community are interpreted as being displeasing to its gods. Even if there is
no obvious offence, once some disaster has befallen a community and it is clear
that the gods have been offended, the obvious scapegoat is a neighbouring community.
Hence neighbouring communities had a new cause for war as well as the traditional
disputes over land and resources.
The other interaction of politics with religion is more insidious. People living
in awe, even fear, of powerful gods are people in a perfect state for manipulation.
A political leader who persuades a community that a certain course of action
is required in order to avoid the wrath of some vengeful super-being has a very
powerful position. As communities became larger and religion became more complex,
the scope for political manipulation via religion became ever greater. Any ideas
which challenged the accepted religious beliefs would be perceived as a direct
threat to those in power. Thus came about the doctrine of intolerance, and extremes
such as the Spanish Inquisition.
With the development of science, education and the media, the citizens of a
modern community can explain the world around them in terms which do not require
a religious context. Consequently, the influence of religion on society has
declined dramatically and the world of politics has gained the upper hand in
controlling the way we live. However, the process is far from complete, and
the entanglement of politics and religion can still be identified as a factor
in many trouble spots around the world. However, the secular democracy is now
the norm in advanced societies.
The decline of the artificially developed religions, those which were developed
to become tools for the control of entire populations, has left a gap in the
market for spiritual beliefs. There a large numbers of people who are sceptical
of the highly developed religions but who still feel that there must be something
more to the universe than the laws of physics. The requirements of these people
are not disimilar to those of the primitive creature we came across at the start
of this dissertation. We now have intelligent and educated people who have a
grasp of the laws of physics and who can see through the smokescreen surrounding
politics. All they are seeking is a closer connection with the world around
them, something to believe in which constitutes religion in its purest terms,
devoid of politics.
It seems to me, as someone on the outside of the Wiccan movement, that Wicca
is the predictable resurgence of "primitive" religion. Most people
don't need to explain the natural phenomena in the world around them and even
fewer people want to become part of a group ripe for manipulation, although
a number of cults have shown that manipulation in the name of religion is far
from over. These people seem to seek a sense of belonging and an escape from
the world where science rules. There are still enough questions which science
can not answer to leave room for spirituality. Wicca seems to be a no-frills
type of belief which is broad enough to be adapted to suit a range of individual
It seems that Wicca is widely misunderstood. Perhaps this is a legacy of the
days when persecution of pagans was institutionalised by the established churches.
Perhaps it is also down to the fact that no being an organised religion, it
has no publicity machine of its own through which to put its case. However,
Wicca is clearly not devil worship. The role of magick in Wicca seems to be
not so dissimilar to the belief of Christians in the power of prayer, or in
miracles. The "pure" nature of the religion, without political connotations,
means that Wiccans are unlikely to pose any threat to a secular society as a
whole. The days of burning "witches" at the stake are over. Secular
tolerance is the order of the day, so if anyone wants to practice their beliefs
without detriment to others, then frankly it is not the business of anyone else
None of us has to agree with the beliefs of another. History has even showed
us that even being in the overwhelming majority is no guarantee of being in
the right. Just look at the belief of a flat earth in the centre of the universe
a few hundred years ago. Wicca may look like "mumbo jumbo" to many,
but then so would the religious services of many other creeds. If you want to
know where YOU stand on Wicca, just ask yourself this: who is likely to do the
most harm to the world, a Wiccan or a politician?
ORIGINALLY FROM www.crosswinds.net/~darklands
Copyright remains with the original author of the work.