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Author Topic: Questions about Deities, Rituals, and Adherence (Wiccan)  (Read 3924 times)
Jenett
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Religion: Priestess in initiatory religious witchcraft tradition
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« Reply #2: August 05, 2009, 11:28:01 am »

When reading the book I got on Wicca, it told me a lot, but left more questions than were answered (Ah life, how you love to taunt people's thirst for knowledge). So I have a few questions.

Out of curiousity - what book? (It's often easier to explain questions if we know what you've been looking at, since there's a *huge* variance in books about Wicca)

The first thing I'll say here is that the term 'Wicca' is used in a widely varying set of ways. You might find a set of essays I wrote up as a personal introduction to my religious path useful in explaining some of that. The index is here: http://jenett.dreamwidth.org/899941.html and it's part 2 that's most relevant to most of your questions in this post.

Anyway, in brief, Wicca is used for everything from a initiatory mystery-focused priesthood tradition focused on very specific deities and with practices descended from a very specific location (this is usually referred to as traditional Wicca or British Traditional Wicca or BTW) to "Well, I like this idea of multiple deities and magic and doing stuff in a circle, but without a lot in common otherwise." Needless to say, this can make some conversations tricky.

I'm a priestess in an initiatory religious witchcraft tradition - for some specific reasons, I tend to think we're another branch of religious witchcraft (of which there are many besides Wicca) and not Wiccan, but we're still relatively close, all things considered. Just so you know where I'm coming from. (The details are in part 3 of that essay, for the curious.)

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I don't quite understand how the God and Goddess concept works. I get that they are considered in a yin and yang way and how one can have a personal relationship with them, but the book didn't explain their relationship with humans in general nor what their power exactly entails

Here's the reason I wanted to explain those different definitions up front. In BTW, the terms 'Lord' and 'Lady' (or God/Goddess) are standins used in public for specific names, because the names and other identifying infomation about those two deities are considered private within the tradition (or oathbound, as the agreement to keep them private is part of a ritual oath.)

I'm not from a BTW trad, so I don't know the details precisely of how they interact in that setting, but a number of public-use forms make note of the Lord and Lady going through a cycle of the God being born at Yule, growing up, becoming a young man/lover by Beltane, the Lord and Lady becoming lovers, the Lord being a willing sacrifice for the land at the harvest, and then becoming lord of the dead until he's reborn again. The Lady's role flows along with this, from mother to lover to grieving crone.

In other groups (and my trad is one of these) that are further away from BTW practice, the group may work with two specific deities who have a different mythology between them, or they may work with different deities at different rituals (so, for example, the group may honor Persephone and Hades at one ritual, and Isis and Osiris at another, depending on the ritual focus.) This can, in my opinion, be done very poorly (picking names out of a hat, or doing it very last minute) or very well (by developing a relationship with the deities involved months in advance of the planned ritual, or slowly over the course of years.)

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I think of an all powerful, all knowing being who can change the very fabric of reality with a single thought. Is this the same with the God and Goddess of Wicca, or are their powers more limited?

First, it's not so much that trad Wicca thinks there's only two deities in the universe - instead, it's focusing on those two, while recognising there are others. (And many BTW folks have relationships outside of their coven practice with other deities.)

The other thing to remember is that in polytheistic settings *many* deities aren't all powerful/all knowing. They have a great deal of power and influence in specific areas, but not necessarily everywhere. You can see this in Greek practice, for example: Zeus can make thunder and lightning bolts, and change form very easily, and all sorts of other things - but he's probably not the deity you most want on your side in a war, because his gift is not particularly tactics and strategy. Ares or Athena would be better fits for that. If you're doing work for prosperity and abundance in your house, you go talk to Demeter, not to Artemis. And so on.

(I sometimes think it's like talking to doctors: every doctor is presumably well-educated and very capable at what they do, and they put an intense amount of effort into those skills. However, they're not going to be top-notch at *every* kind of medicine, because it's a huge field, so you want to talk to the doctor who has the experience and training you need, not just the handiest doctor. And yet, in a pinch, they're probably more help for a number of things than someone without *any* medical training.)

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Are they known to get involved in human affairs often, or more or less just provide spiritual strength when asked?
Depends on the deity, and your relationship with them, honestly. Wicca does provide a particular form of interaction which can be extremely powerful and moving: Drawing Down the Godess or God into the priestess or priest. Through this ritual (which is effectively posessary, somewhat akin to similar practices in the Afro-Carribean traditions like Voudoun or Santeria), they can speak directly to the people in the ritual, and give guidance, commentary, etc.

However, it's very much a relationship, like a relationship you might have with a parent, a friend, a boss, etc. They'll suggest things, and you have the choice to go do something totally different. However, some of your choices may mean that you'll damage the relationship with that person, or step back from it (if you go do something that offends or hurts them, for example.)

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How do they view evil? If they are all good and have set views on what is evil and what is good, then why would they allow evil?

The question of evil is also complex: Wiccan ethics has a big emphasis on self-responsibility and on what you do echoing back to you through the world, rather than a pure good/evil thing. In other words, if you are nasty to others, that nastiness will start showing up in your own life eventually. The good part is that you can make choices to change that.

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As for rituals, does one have to follow them to the letter, or is variance (and I mean more drastic variance, not, "Oh, that is allowed to be two inches shorter/oh, you can do that alone/in a group," style variance) allowed? If variance is allowed, how much is allowed? (E.G. is a circle needed for ones where, when talking about the ritual letter for letter, it says to prepare one? things like that) Also, how does one exactly FIND spells?

It might be useful to think of a ritual like a recipe. There are tons of ways to make bread, or cookies, or pasta sauce, or whatever else you want to make. But there are also lots of places those processes can go wrong (and not work) if you miss a step.

Ritual structure often serves to provide a method that's been tested and found to work. However, as you get more experience, you can learn when you need the structure, and when you don't, and which bits change what. (Much like as you bake more, you learn which bits of the instructions actually matter, and which are personal preference.)  It's also a reminder to me that if I want to make pasta sauce, following a bread recipe probably won't be helpful. Yes, it'll get me food, but not the food I want, y'know?

My tradition uses a persistent structure for ritual, because it helps everyone in the group enter more solidly into the work of the ritual. Repeating the same steps over time helps our subconscious minds to more quickly and easily step out of our daily lives and into the work of the ritual. It's also, in a group, a good way to make sure everyone's in the  same place (mentally, etc.) when you start a working.

When I work on my own, I'm often a bit more flexible. I often do my tradition's ritual set-up because it's a good chance to keep in practice on the parts I don't normally do in group ritual (we divide them up by ritual role, so there are parts I never do in a group setting.) But there are also times I do something quick and simple to get me into sacred space, because I'm pressed for time or for some other reason. It all depends on what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.

As far as spells: there are a number of books that collect them, as well as the info on the Cauldron's site. Personally, I prefer to create my own, based on some basic folk magic techniques. (Knot magic, color magic, etc. etc.) rather than do a spell someone else designed. (This is the equivalent of saying "Ok, so I have this pasta, and I know other people have liked adding these things to it..." and going from there.)
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