Wicca and Paganism
Some so-called 'Christians' berate Freemasonry because it accepts members who practice the religious teachings of Wicca. Using inflammatory words like 'Devil Worshipers' and 'Satan', these anti-Masons employ a poison the well argument. It's ironic from those who claim to follow a religious deity known for His love of all.
There are those who would argue that much of Christianity was derived from Wicca, Druidism and other Pagan sources and that in order to gain a religious monopoly, the Christian Church decided during the 15th century to hunt down and exterminate believers in the Old Religion, and other heretics. They contend that the Church created an imaginary evil religion, and argued that Wiccans were evil Witches who followed that religion, kidnapped babies, killed and ate their victims, sold their soul to Satan, etc. They claim that many were exterminated during these "burning times" which lasted until 1792 in Europe and into the 1830's in South America and claim estimates which run as high as 10 million and as low as 3,000. An accurate number (or the truth of these claims) cannot be determined but it appears likely that between 100 and 300 thousand did suffer this fate. The Roman Catholic church preferred to burn witches; they were hung in Protestant countries. According to legend as reported by Wiccans, they went underground, and stayed out of sight until the middle of the 20th century.
Wicca emerged from the shadows in England in the 1950's with the publishing of books by Gerald Gardner. It has expanded at a furious rate in North America and Europe. However it is virtually unknown by the general public because almost all Wiccans hide their religious beliefs and practices. Those who allow their faith to be known publicly are very heavily persecuted in North America; on a per-capita basis, they may well be victimized more often than members of any other religious group. Many assaults, arson, economic attacks are reported yearly. There have even been shootings, one public mass stoning and one lynching in recent years! Reports circulate frequently of misinformed child protection officers seizing children from the homes of Wiccans because they feared that they would be killed or abused in some Satanic ritual. The perpetrators of this religious hatred are usually very devout, very concerned but terribly misinformed people. They believe the misinformation that has been spread about Wiccans continuously since the Middle Ages. It is only in Eastern Massachusetts, Southern California and in a few cities elsewhere in North America that most Wiccans feel secure while coming out of the (broom) closet. In other areas, they tend to avoid persecution by keeping their religious faith secret. Unfortunately, this policy can have negative results, as people speculate that because Wiccans remain underground, they must have something to hide. This is a "no-win" situation with no obvious solution.
Here's what a U. S. Government source - the US ARMY CHAPLAIN'S HANDBOOK: EXCERPT ON WICCA says:
(The US Army has prepared a book for the guidance of its chaplains when dealing with a soldier of a non-traditional faith. The book is: "Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains" (1990) It can be ordered from: USAF Chaplain's Service Institute, Resource Division, 525 Chenault Circle, Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, AL 36112-6429. Pages 231-236 contain an excellent description of Wicca.)
OTHER NAMES BY WHICH KNOWN: Witchcraft; Goddess worshippers; Neo-Paganism, Paganism, Norse (or any other ethnic designation) Paganism, Earth Religion, Old Religion, Druidism, Shamanism. Note: All of these groups have some basic similarities and many surface differences of expression with Wicca.
LEADERSHIP: No central leadership. The Covenant of the Goddess annually elects a First Officer and there is a constitutional limit of two consecutive terms, but in practice officers have almost always served for one year only. In 1991, there are two co-First Officers, Phoenix Whitebirch and Brandy Williams.
MEMBERSHIP: Because of the complete autonomy of covens, this cannot be determined. There are an estimated of 50,000 Wiccans in the United States (1).
HISTORICAL ORIGIN: Wicca is a reconstruction of the Nature worship of tribal Europe, strongly influenced by the living Nature worship traditions of tribal peoples in other parts of the world. The works of such early twentieth century writers as Margaret Murray, Robert Graves and Gerald B. Gardner began the renewal of interest in the Old Religion. After the repeal of the anti-Witchcraft laws in Britain in 1951, Gardner publicly declared himself a Witch and began to gather a group of students and worshipers. In 1962, two of his students, Raymond and Rosemary Buckland (religious names: Lady Rowen and Robat), emigrated to the United States and began teaching Gardnerian Witchcraft here. At the same time, other groups of people became interested through reading books by Gardner and others. Many covens were spontaneously formed, using rituals created from a combination of research and individual inspiration. These self-created covens are today regarded as just as valid as those who can trace a "lineage" of teaching back to England. In 1975, a very diverse group of covens who wanted to secure the legal protections and benefits of church status formed Covenant of the Goddess (CoG), which is incorporated in the State of California and recognized by the Internal Revenue Service. CoG does not represent all, or even a majority of Wiccans. A coven or an individual need not be affiliated with CoG in order to validly practice the religion. But CoG is the largest single public Wiccan organization, and it is cross-Traditional (i.e. non-denominational).
BASIC BELIEFS: Wiccans worship the sacred as immanent in Nature, often personified as Mother Earth and Father Sky. As polytheists, they may use many other names for Deity. Individuals will often choose Goddesses or Gods from any of the world's pantheons whose stories are particularly inspiring and use those Deities as a focus for personal devotions. Similarly, covens will use particular Deity names as a group focus, and these are often held secret by the groups.
It is very important to be aware that Wiccans do not in any way worship or believe in "Satan," "the Devil," or any similar entities. They point out that "Satan" is a symbol of rebellion against and inversion of the Christian and Jewish traditions. Wiccans do not revile the Bible. They simply regard it as one among many of the world's mythic systems, less applicable than some to their core values, but still deserving just as much respect as any of the others. Most Wiccan groups also practice magic, by which they mean the direction and use of "psychic energy," those natural but invisible forces which surround all living things.
Some members spell the word "magick," to distinguish it from sleight of hand entertainments. Wiccans employ such means as dance, chant, creative visualization and hypnosis to focus and direct psychic energy for the purpose of healing, protecting and aiding members in various endeavors. Such assistance is also extended to non-members upon request. Many, but not all, Wiccans believe in reincarnation. Some take this as a literal description of what happens to people when they die. For others, it is a symbolic model that helps them deal with the cycles and changes within this life. Neither Reincarnation nor any other literal belief can be used as a test of an individual's validity as a member of the Old Religion. Most groups have a handwritten collection of rituals and lore, known as a Book of Shadows. Part of the religious education of a new member will be to hand copy this book for him or herself. Over they years, as inspiration provides, new material will be added. Normally, access to these books is limited to initiated members of the religion.
PRACTICES AND BEHAVIORAL STANDARDS: The core ethical statement of Wicca, called the "Wiccan Rede" states "an it harm none, do what you will." The rede fulfills the same function as does the "Golden Rule" for Jews and Christians; all other ethical teachings are considered to be elaborations and applications of the Rede. It is a statement of situational ethics, emphasizing at once the individual's responsibility to avoid harm to others and the widest range of personal autonomy in "victimless" activities. Wicca has been described as having a "high-choice" ethic. Because of the basic Nature orientation of the religion, many Wiccans will regard all living things as Sacred, and show a special concern for ecological issues. For this reason, individual conscience will lead some to take a pacifist position. Some are vegetarians. Others will feel that, as Nature's Way includes self-defense, they should participate in wars that they conscientiously consider to be just. The religion does not dictate either position, but requires each member to thoughtfully and meditatively examine her or his own conscience and to live by it. Social forces generally do not yet allow Witches to publicly declare their religious faith without fear of reprisals such as loss of job, child custody challenges, ridicule, etc.
Prejudice against Wiccans is the result of public confusion between Witchcraft and Satanism. (Emphasis Added)
Books about Wicca abound and our website is created to discuss Freemasonry and anti-Masonry. One thing is clear: at least some elements of Wicca have a commonality with the rituals of Freemasonry. Did Freemasonry borrow from Wicca? It's highly unlikely and, in fact, with the strong Protestant leanings of its original members seems nearly impossible. There are, however, who believe that Wicca is simply a modern 'invention' and that its major proponent (Gardner) borrowed heavily from Freemasonry. You can read a very succinct article recently published in the Atlantic Monthly magazine which espouses that theory right here.