There are many different religions in the world, as well as many different variations of each of them. Many religions are readily accepted, such as Christianity. There are other religions that have a harder time being accepted. The Wiccan religion is one of the latter. Over the years those who practiced the Wiccan religion, or witchcraft as it was known in the beginning, have been persecuted and killed for their beliefs. Only in recent times has it become more accepted. The following will compare how the acceptance of the Wiccan religion has varied over time.
There are many ways in which the religion is more openly accepted today opposed to how it was vehemently opposed in the past. Persecution of witches, and those who studied the craft in the past, is a dark part of our nations history. The thesis is that witchcraft and Wiccan practices are more readily accepted in today’s society in contrast to how individuals who practiced the craft in the past were persecuted and put to death. In the beginning, the Wiccan religion was known as witchcraft and those who practiced it were witches.
Wicca was also known as “the old religion” and has become the evil side of the Christian realm of beliefs. Within the Wiccan religion there is no belief in an evil entity, this is based on the Christian faith creating the belief that witches are devil worshippers or Satanists. The Christians use the words “heathen” and “pagan” to describe and define witches. To those who are Wiccan these words are not derogatory, but rather are complementary. These words, in Latin, actually mean that they dwell on the heath, or uncultivated land, and in the country (Buckland, 2001).
Paganism is defined as a nature based religion that follows ancient views, beliefs, and practices and is commonly referred to as Wiccan or witches and is a pre-Christian religion from which the rituals and beliefs of the Christian faith stem (Guiley, 1999). Originally it was thought that witchcraft was a form of Satanism that required human and/or animal sacrifices to appease the god they worshipped. Based on this belief, the Christians developed criminal procedures to deal with those they thought of as witches. They were given tests to determine whether they were or were not witches. One uch test is dipping the arms of the accused in boiling water. If they healed in a short time, God was thought to have healed them because they were his children. If they accused were not healed, they were put to death because they were known to be witches. Another test like this was throwing them into a body of water with their limbs bound together. If they floated, God saved them and they were not witches; if they sank, they were known to be witches and were left to drown (Martin, 2007). Witchcraft was never even close to Satanism, in fact, witches do not believe in any form of an evil entity.
Over the years they were still punished for the way others saw their religion. Many witches were burned at the stake, just like history tells of in Salem, Massachusetts. Witches were oppressed and killed in the name of their religion for many years (Wicca. org, 2011). Though there was no proof of any kind that witches were Satanists or that they practiced human and/or animal sacrifices, they were still persecuted and put to death. Witches believe that all living things have souls and should be treated with the utmost respect and dignity.
They practice rituals that give thanks to the elements and spirits that are among us, very similar to what the Native Americans do. The Wiccan religion emphasizes the unity of natural and spiritual worlds. Some people believe that Wicca comes from the word witan which means wisdom (Skelton, 1997). There are spiritual traditions that raise the female deity above the male. The religion follows the moral values associated with feminine powers such as love, peace and joy and works by and with peaceful means and pure, perfect love and pure, perfect trust (Morningstar, 2003).
Over the last fifty years, there has been a spike in the number of people proclaiming to be witches, or rather Wiccan. In the 1920’s anthropologists started studying witchcraft which caused secret covens being created in the 1930’s. This growth really escalated in the 60’s because this religion, and its beliefs, fit into what people wanted in their religion. What also helped to increase this religions popularity during this time was the women’s movement. In this religion there is a balance between male and female deities and there is a do only good philosophy (Buckland, 2001).
There is also a new correlation developing between the Christian religion and the Wiccan religion. This is a coming together of both the spirituality and the nature based religious beliefs. This form of the religion became more popular and widely accepted because now there is a tie between the two religions and this never would have happened without a greater and new found acceptance. In 2008, there was a study and survey done. The results were based on Wiccan being called the “New Age Religion” and . % of those studied answered that they fit this category (Higginbotham, 2009). There are magical aspects to this religion which originally were off putting and caused the belief that witches were evil. Now there is a change occurring. Magic is now being thought of as the science and art for causing change to happen within yourself. It is believed that magic will be studied enough to be understood within modern western science (Kraig, 1996). This belief is starting to show with the “green movement” and the natural herbal methods that are being introduced in modern medicine.
People are starting to accept that natural is better and that if they use natural methods to help heal and cure people there will be less long term harm to the body because it is all natural and there are no foreign compounds being introduced to the body. This belief in a natural solution started in the 19th century and was based on the Wiccan beliefs and has gained momentum in the 20th century (Wicca. org, 2011). Wiccan is the fastest growing religion in the US and continues to gain acceptance.
The ecological crisis caused this growth because more people became aware of the need for a return to nature and the need to take care of it (Willowgrovemagick. com, 2011). This religion has a great respect for the Earth and because of this has become the largest neopagan religion. The Wiccan religion is decentralized and many wiccans develop their own rituals and practices following the one and only rule that the religion has. This one rule includes oneself, no harm may be done to oneself within this religion (Religioustolerance. rg, 2011). The Wiccan Rede, or rule, is simple, “Eight simple words the Wiccan rede fulfill; An’ it harm none, do what ye will” (Guiley, 1999). Each Wiccan decides their own path, they choose which gods and goddesses they will pray to, they choose how they will practice their religion, and they choose which rituals they will practice and celebrate. There is no set in stone religious path to this religion, no one God to pray to, no set of laws to abide by, or no list of sins to avoid to prevent damnation.
This religion believes that there is no heaven or hell, but rather believes in an eternity of reincarnation for some and that everything on this planet has a soul. For those who choose in their afterlife to no longer reincarnate they then end up in the Summerlands (Religiousfacts. com, 2011) Today there are modern hotels being used for Wiccan conferences, no longer are there secret coven meetings. There are Wiccan based hospitals, Wiccan based lectures, and there are colleges for Wiccans to attend to further their knowledge of their religion and for them to become High Priestesses or Priests.
It is the fastest growing religion in the world and the growth went practically unnoticed. The Wiccan creed honors the earth and all souls on it as well. The military was instrumental in the spreading acceptance of the religion (Buckland, 2001). Wiccans practice rituals that are based on natural things like the four seasons, the solstices, and the equinoxes. The religion is more concerned with self awakening, self awareness, and self development than a centralized god. This religion favors herbalism and naturalism as opposed to modern medicine.
This religion doesn’t cook poisons in cauldrons, fly on brooms, or pray for harm to come to others but rather asks for blessings from the north, south, east, west, earth, air, fire, water, and spirit and meditates (Carroll, 1994-2009). This religion will continue to grow and develop over time. With the growth of feminism and naturalism, this religion will find even more followers. This religion doesn’t require a day or two out of each week to go to a designated place and pray to a designated god or ask for donations. Each practitioner gets to choose their own path and decide just how much time they want to dedicate to their religion.
There is no one going door to door to ask for followers or for donation. The Wiccan religion is one that can be done alone or done within a group, or coven. This religion has so much freedom for practicing it that it is becoming more and more appealing to more and more people. The freedom that this religion gives those who practice it makes it so easy to want to become Wiccan. Within any book store you will find many books on the religion and how to begin to practice it. The future for the Wiccan religion is very bright and will surely continue to grow for many years to come.
From the early days of persecution and death to the modern colleges and rapid growth, the Wiccan religion has gone from being vehemently opposed to being widely accepted in today’s society. Wiccans have gone from being put to death to being professors at universities. There are those who have gotten their doctorate in Wiccan theology, there are those who openly practice their craft, and there are those who can find Wiccan stores in their town or city. There are many sites on the internet dedicated to the Wiccan religion including online courses, stores, and YouTube videos demonstrating how certain rituals can be performed.
There may be a few left who can’t understand the purpose or belief of the religion, but they are the ones who need to look into their religion to find the part that says to love thy neighbor, to judge and persecute no one, and to accept and forgive them. There is no need to forgive Wiccans but rather those who choose to persecute them still need to ask their God for forgiveness for their lack of acceptance of their brothers and sisters and they need to be thankful for the fact that the Wiccan’s have their one and only law, “An’ it harm none, do as ye will” and that they choose to live by it.
Courtney from Study Moose
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