Church and School of Wicca

2000, it has grown rapidly. CoA publishes a magazine, Witchcraft & Wicca, and holds events in addition to the festival. The CoA assisted the PAGAN Federation with its conference in 1998 and 1999. Witchfest was launched in 2002.

Until 2003, the CoA had a coVEN-finding service for people interested in joining the Craft, but had to discontinue it because there were not enough covens to accommodate the large number of applicants.

Church and School of Wicca Religious and educational institutions founded by GAVIN AND Yvonne Frost, located in Hinton, West Virginia. The Church of Wicca, founded in 1968, is the oldest recognized church of Witchcraft in the United States, achieving federal recognition in 1972. Its teaching arm is the School of Wicca, which offers correspondence courses.

History. The Frosts, who were living in St. Louis, Missouri, developed correspondence courses out of their interest and involvement in Witchcraft and began advertising the courses as the School of Wicca. They followed with the founding of the church in 1968. Working with lawyers, Gavin Frost was able to win a "Letter of Determination" from the Internal Revenue Service giving religious recognition to "Wicca" and "Witchcraft." The ruling, which came in 1972, made the church the first Wiccan church to achieve this federal recognition, and the first to use "Wicca" to describe the religion of Witchcraft.

The same year, the Frosts began to work for the church and school full time. Gavin serves as archbishop and Yvonne as bishop. They obtained their doctorates of divinity from the church.

The Frosts moved to Salem, Missouri, and then to New Bern, North Carolina, in 1974. In New Bern, they attempted to establish a survival community, but it never matched their vision and after a few years, became inactive. In 1996, they moved their residence and church and school offices to Hinton, West Virginia.

In 1986, the Church of Wicca achieved another legal landmark by becoming the only federally recognized Wic-can church to have its status as a bona fide religion upheld in federal appeals court. In a prisoner's rights case decided in 1985, Dettmer v. Landon, the District Court of Virginia ruled that Witchcraft is a legitimate religion. The decision was appealed by Virginia prison authorities. In 1986, Judge J. Butzner of the Federal Appeals Court affirmed the decision. In his ruling, Butzner said, "The Church of Wicca is clearly a religion for First Amendment purposes. Members of the Church sincerely adhere to a fairly complex set of doctrines relating to the spiritual aspects of their lives, and in doing so they have 'ultimate concerns' in much the same way as followers of accepted religions."

Beliefs and tenets of the church. The roots of the church are Welsh Celtic, coming from Gavin Frost's own Welsh heritage. Its early philosophy, as expressed in The Witch's Bible (finally published in 1975), created controversy in the Craft. The church held that the Ultimate Deity is not definable, thus downplaying the emphasis given the Goddess by most other Witches, and maintained that the Craft is agnostic, as well as both monotheistic and polytheistic. Every life form contains a spark of Divine Fire—a piece of Deity. Lower-level polytheistic deities, or "stone gods," can be created in anthropomorphic form as storehouses of energy for use in magic rituals. In addition to the controversy, the church's early view that homosexuals did not fit into the Craft, a fertility religion, was criticized as prejudice.

The church's early view of homosexuality has evolved. The Church and School of Wicca does not discriminate against any member by reason of race, color, gender, sexual orientation, or national or ethnic origin. If any member of the association is proven to be discriminating for any of those reasons, that member is dismissed from the association. Beyond the controversy over homosexuality, there was much criticism of the church's early view that young adults should be fully aware sexually before initiation.

Over the years, the church's position has grown and changed. Elements of Eastern, Native American Indian and Afro-American practices have been recognized for their overlap with the Welsh Celtic tradition, and the church is now open to people of all sexual orientations. The church's view of the Ultimate Deity is still genderless; God is impersonal, treating all persons alike, transcending human emotions.

The church espouses five basic tenets of the Craft:

1. The WICCAN Rede—"If it harm none, do what you will."

2. Reincarnation as an orderly system of learning. This is not a tally of "sins" and punishments. Human experiences are comparable to term papers: a way of learning.

3. The Law of Attraction—What I do to other living creatures I will draw to myself. Shakespeare called this "measure for measure." It can also be expressed as "birds of a feather."

4. Power through Knowledge—Each living creature has the power (energy) within its body. The skill of directing that power can be taught and learned. Whether the power is "good" or "evil" depends on the intent in the mind of the worker.

5. Harmony—There are perceptible rhythms in the patterns of the Sun, the Moon, the Seasons. It makes sense to learn those rhythms and to live in harmony with them.

The church's view of reincarnation is that it is a steadily upward progress of development of the soul. The Frosts feel that excessive and careless sex has led to the incarnation of numerous, ill-prepared souls, one of the reasons for the increase in poverty, crime and warfare and other societal troubles around the world. They personally advocate more judicious contraception.

The use of "stone gods"—Yvonne Frost calls them "mascots"—is taught for magic ritual. The anthropomorphic deities are objects temporarily charged with psychic power; the object itself depends on the purpose of the ritual and/or the choice of the practitioner.

Craft observances in the church are held on full Moon nights. The four great seasonal holidays are observed at the appropriate full moon: Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lugnasadh. The church occasionally conducts services open to the public, but which do not include power-raising rituals.

The church has chartered 28 independent subsidiary churches around the world. In the late 1970s, the Celtic Heritage Investigation Foundation was created under the auspices of the church to conduct "an archaeology of ideas, beliefs and practices that were lost in the 'Burning Times' when the books of shadows were destroyed."

Other major activities of the church include working for Wiccan rights, and bringing Craft teachings to those in the military, and to prisoners in state and federal penitentiaries. The church was among Wiccan and Pagan organizations which fought against the Helms AMENDMENT, an attempt made in the U.S. Congress in 1985 to strip Wiccan and Pagan churches of their tax-exempt status.

The School of Wicca. The first and largest Witchcraft correspondence school in the United States, the School of Wicca offers numerous courses, among them Celtic Witchcraft, sorcery, Tantra, astrology, developing psychic ability, healing, use of herbs, dreams, Western sex magic, spells and rituals, sacred and mysterious sites, ufology, Egyptian and Native American Indian magic, and travel in the astral realm. There are three levels of study: theoretical, practical and initiatory.

The school publishes the longest-lived Wiccan newsletter, Survival.

In 1989, the school formulated a Prisoner's Handbook for Wicca for the state of Washington, which specifies religious tenets, observances and requirements. The handbook has become a model for other prison systems.

Since its beginnings, the school has introduced more than 200,000 people to the Craft. It also sponsors special interest groups, such as gay Wiccans and Wiccans in the military.

Students of the school, as well as followers of the church, are encouraged to keep their own book of shadows—or, rather, "book of lights," as Yvonne Frost prefers to call the personal handbook, because it represents a reaching up to the Deity and the light of spiritual knowledge.

FuRTHER READING:

Church and School of Wicca Web site. Available online. URL:

http://www.wicca.org. Downloaded October 3, 2007.

Church of All Worlds One of the first and most influential contemporary Pagan churches. The key founder was oberon zELL-RAVENHEART (formerly Tim Zell, Otter G'Zell, Otter Zell and Oberon Zell), president, and his wife, Morning Glory zell-Ravenheart. The headquarters are in Cotati, California.

The Church of All Worlds (CAW) espouses pantheism but is not a belief-based religion. Rather, it is a religion of experience, in which members called Waterkin experience Divinity and honor the experiences and perspectives of others. Divinity is defined as "the highest level of aware consciousness accessible to each living being, manifesting itself in the self-actualization of that Being." The mission of CAW "is to evolve a network of information, mythology and experience that provides a context and stimulus for re-awakening Gaia, and re-uniting her children through tribal community dedicated to responsible stewardship and evolving consciousness."

CAW recognizes the Earth Mother Goddess as well as the Green Goddess and the Horned God, who represent the plant and animal kingdoms, respectively. In CAW, many forms and levels of Divinity are honored—from the universal and cosmic ("The Great Spirit," "Mother Nature"), to the polytheistic pantheons of various peoples and cultures, to the immanent divinity within each and every one. It is dedicated to the "celebration of life, the maximum actualization of human potential and the realization of ultimate individual freedom and personal responsibility in harmonious eco-psychic relationship with the total Biosphere of Holy Mother Earth." It celebrates the eight seasonal festivals of Paganism and the Craft (see Wheel of the Year).

CAW may be the first religion to draw as much of its inspiration from the future as from the past. Its mythology includes science fiction, which played a significant role in the church's beginnings.

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