M jlgV^Ti full-scale discussion of Wiccan Jjgris&^l duotheology, this chapter will give you the highlights and r^^r^i make the subsequent chapters more meaningful. Because Wiccans are Neopagans, whether all of them are willing to admit it or not, much of this is taken from my essay "What Neopagans Believe," which I have rewritten many times over the years. A significantly expanded version of that material will be found in Neopaganism: A Concise Guide. As I say in that book,
Clarifying our doctrines (the things we do and don't believe) without descending into dogma (the things we are ordered to believe or disbelieve by someone in a position of power over us) is a vital step in the growth of any new religious movement. ... Not everyone in the Neopagan movement will use the term "belief" in reference to these concepts and many of these concepts have a wide variety of accepted interpretation. Even so, it's reasonably easy to list those ideas with which a majority of us usually agree or disagree, and thus sketch the outlines of our doctrines.
Wiccans represent the vast majority of the Neopagan movement, and as such have affected the majority of the beliefs and practices of that movement. In the following, I have listed the beliefs as they are held by most Neopagans and added comments that are specific to Wiccan beliefs and practices. Be warned, however, that these are spiritual movements still very much in their early growth stages, and not all members of these movements may agree completely with any particular one of the beliefs I list.
To quote the often accurate (yet totally slanted] Goddess-Worship, Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism, by Craig S. Hawkins, "The idea of uniform or standardized beliefs and practices established and enforced by some authority is not only nonexistent in contemporary witchcraft, it is despised in principle." How terrible of us!
(The book is part of a series of works that try to present more-or-less accurate information about minority belief systems, together with "refutations." If you are interested in the technical jargon that Christian theologians use to describe Wiccan beliefs, or would just enjoy counting the dozens of rhetorical tricks, logical fallacies, and circular arguments that they will stoop to, you might find this inexpensive book worth studying, or at least amusing.)
Hawkins also says, "Most witches evidence a contempt for having their beliefs and practices classified." Maybe by hostile outsiders, but when talking amongst ourselves we don't seem to have that much trouble articulating what we do and don't believe. So let's look at what most Neopagan Witches say when we're discussing our duo-or polytheology.
Neopagans believe that divinity is both immanent (internal) and transcendent (external). Deities can manifest at any point in space or time which They might choose, whether externally through apparent "visitations," or internally through the processes known as "inspiration," "conversation," "channeling," and "possession."
Neopagans believe that children are born holy, since they have no barriers of consciousness between their selves and their indwelling deities. So we can believe in "original blessing" rather than "original sin" and we thus see no need for "salvation" from the latter. Because of this reverence for children, Wiccans and other Neopagans do not approve of any form of child abuse.
Neopagans believe that divinity is as likely to manifest in a female form as it is in a male form, and that the word "Goddess" makes just as much sense as the word "God." Wiccans in particular believe that feminine energies and values are needed to balance the masculine excesses of current cultures. Women and men are spiritually equal, and "masculine" and "feminine" attitudes, values, and roles are of equal importance, regardless of the physical gender of those exercising them. However, some Wic-can traditions reserve certain ritual roles to one physical gender or the other.
Neopagans believe in a multiplicity of gods and goddesses, as well as "lesser" beings, many of Whom are worthy of respect, love and worship. Neopagans have a wide variety of non-exclusive concepts as to the nature of these entities. Among Wiccans, female deities are usually seen as aspects or faces of a single "Triune" Goddess, most often described as a Maiden, a Mother, and a Crone. Male deities are likewise usually seen as aspects or faces of a single "Biune" God, most often described as a vegetation/hunting deity and a solar deity. Thus, Wicca is predominantly "duotheistic." A significant minority worships only female deities, however.
Multiplicity of deities implies a multiplicity of truths, and vice versa, which leads most Neopagans to believe that no one religion,, philosophy, scripture, or other approach to understanding can explain the infinite complexities of the multiverse. No one has a real monopoly on truth, only highly developed guesses and/or large armies.
Christian theologians call this an "open metaphysic" and find it terrifying. Because of the importance of divine immanence, personal experience can be just as important a source of truth as logic or reason might be, each on different levels of reality.
Neopagans do not believe in, respect, or worship any divine or semi-divine figure of ultimate Evil, leaving such concepts to the dualistic monotheists. They invented Satan; they can keep him. As a demigod who was created by Christian and Islamic fear, Sa-tan/Shaitan plays no part in Wiccan or other Neopagan beliefs and practices. As for all those "demons" that some Christians are so obsessed by, those few Wiccans who believe in them at all tend to see them as merely predatory species of spirits in the astral bioregions, who are no more innately hostile to (or even interested in) humans than rattlesnakes or scorpions are.
Most Neopagans believe it is necessary to respect and love Nature as divine in Her own right, and to accept ourselves as part of Nature and not Her "rulers." Many accept "the Gaia thesis" that the Earth's biosphere is a living being. Gaia can been seen as the ultimate Earthly face of the Goddess as the Divine Mother. In some senses, this can be seen as a kind of animism ("everything has a spirit"), pantheism ("the divine is everywhere"), or panentheism ("the divine is in everything").
Neopagans believe that ethics and morality should be based upon joy, love, self-esteem, mutual respect, the avoidance of actual harm to others and ourselves. Most Neopagans believe in some variant of the principle of "karma," and affirm that the results of their actions will always return to them, sooner or later. Many Wiccans go so far as to believe that their karmic return will be three times as strong, for good or ill, as what their actions unleashed.
(Personally, I think the latter idea is both ridiculous and rooted in Christian Dualist theology, rather than the monism of Neopa-gan polytheology or the Polarism of Wiccan duotheology — matter and spirit are not separate and therefore they logically require no separate ethical rules or karmic conditions. The rules by which you live your secular life should be the same ones by which you live your spiritual life. When in doubt, figure out an appropriate metaphor.)
Neopagans believe that human beings were meant to lead lives filled with joy, love, pleasure, beauty, and humor. Neopagans may be carnivores, vegetarians, or omnivores, depending upon their individual religious beliefs. Some Neopagans abstain from alcoholic beverages, but most neither abstain nor disapprove of others drinking
Most Neopagans believe that sexual ecstasy is a divine blessing and it can be a major source of spiritual growth and enlight enment, though we vary widely in how, with whom, and under what circumstances we seek such ecstasy. Indeed, Gerald Gardner's original vision of Wicca was that it was to be a sex magic movement. Because Neopagans are sympathetic towards many sexual minorities and alternative relationship styles that have been persecuted by monotheistic religions, we attract many of them.
Neopagans believe that with proper training, art, discipline, and intent, human minds and hearts are fully capable of performing most of the magic and miracles they are ever likely to need. The performance of magic is a central practice in Wicca, as is divination. This belief clashes directly with monotheistic claims to exclusive miraculous abilities for their founders and saints, as well as their clergy's demands for exclusive "rights" to perform paranormal acts.
Neopagans believe in the importance of celebrating the solar, lunar and other cycles of our lives. We consciously observe the solstices, equinoxes and the points in between, as well as the phases of the moon, and the passages of our lives.
Most Neopagans believe in some sort of afterlife as well as reincarnation, usually involving rest and recovery in "the Summerland" (a term taken from Spiritualism) before reincarnating. There is a common belief that we grow spiritually through each life time and will continue reincarnating until we have learned all we need to.
Neopagans believe that if we are to achieve any of our goals, we must practice what we preach. Neopaganism, like any other religion, should be a way of life. Hence the popular Wiccan saying: "The Craft is not a Hobby."
Most Neopagans believe that healthy religions should have a minimum amount of rigidity and a maximum amount of flexibility. Wicca, like the rest of Neopaganism, is an assortment of organic religions, which are growing, changing, merging, splitting, and producing offshoots.
Neopagans believe in freedom of worship and belief for all religious groups and individuals who are willing to grant us our freedoms in return — not always an easy agreement to get from other faiths — and in withholding social support for those who are bigots. We see religious tolerance as generally a sign of spiritual strength and confidence.
With all this as background, and remembering that for many Wiccans and other Neopagans these beliefs are thought of more as metaphors and artistic designs than as "doctrines," let's take a brief look at the different kinds of rituals that Wiccans practice.
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