There’s a great pagan song by Catherine Madsen called “The Heretic Heart,” part of which of which goes:  Though law, scripture, priest, and prayer Have all instructed me, My skin, my bones, my heretic heart are my authority. Many people come to Wicca looking for the kind of self-knowledge, empowerment, and freedom within their spirituality that “The Heretic Heart” speaks of. But once they’re inspired to explore Wicca, where do they begin? Often they start with books, as I did. But when I began studying Wicca—you know, back in the dark ages—there weren’t nearly as many books available as there are now. I was gratefulRead More →

The energy, power, force of will, juju, positive thinking, or whatever you want to call the force that makes magic work is neither good nor bad. It’s like electricity—it can be used in ways that are good, bad, or somewhere in between. Anyone can do magic. You don’t have to be practicing any religion—including Wicca—to succeed. In the past, people used the term “black magic” for when someone uses that power or force for selfish or evil purposes and/or intends to cause harm with it. Wiccans think of this as malefic magic or evil magic. The Wiccan Rede Despite what Hollywood and the Holy RollersRead More →

When they become Wiccan, many people take on a magical name—or craft name—and it’s the name other Wiccans in the community will know them by and that they’ll use in Wiccan rituals. Some people take on a name when they first become interested in Wicca. Others wait until they dedicate themselves to the path through a self-dedication ceremony or when they are initiated into a particular Wiccan group. Some Wiccan traditions have special rules for when someone takes a name and what kind of name it can be, and others don’t. Most Wiccans who have magical names only use them in the Wiccan community, and useRead More →

An athame­ is a knife used in Wiccan ritual. The name is usually pronounced “A-thuh-may” or “a-THAW-me,” but there’s ongoing squabbling about the “correct” way to say it, so bringing it at a Wiccan dinner party is a great way to start a lively argument if the conversation has gone stale. Traditionally the athame has a double-edged blade and a black handle—more like a dagger than a hunting or utility knife. However, modern athames are made of a wide variety of materials, and some have only a single-edge blade. The athame is considered a masculine tool and is sometimes used in ritual to represent masculineRead More →

Although we’ve all seen the popular horror movie trope of occultists drawing magical circles on the floor to protect themselves from demons and other nasties—a great example is the movie The Devil Rides Out, if you’re interested—the circle in Wiccan rituals demarcates sacred space and is meant to contain any energy you may raise inside it during your ritual. It can serve as a protection to keep out certain distractions or unwanted energies, but it’s not a demon-trapping device. What Does It Mean? The circle symbolizes different things to different Wiccans. Some say when they are inside the circle, they are “between the worlds,” meaningRead More →

A pentagram is a five-pointed star, usually depicted as interwoven, or with the lines used to draw it overlapping. A pentacle is a pentagram with a circle around it. Pentagrams and pentacles have long been symbols of protection and warding off evil, and they are used for that purpose by many Wiccans today. A Little History Pentagrams have been used for thousands of years and appear in ancient Greek, Roman, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian art. They have been used by Christians, too—perhaps most famously by Hildegard of Bingen, who, along with other twelfth-century Christian scholars, associated the number five with the five senses and the humanRead More →

I know it must seem like Pagan teachers who won’t take minor students are discriminating against teens, and I know that is incredibly frustrating when you’re excited about learning and want to start now. I started studying Wicca as a teen, and I remember how intensely I felt about it and how I wanted to learn everything I possibly could as quickly as possible. But the truth is, any teacher who takes on a minor student risks breaking the law. For better or for worse, people under the age of 18 (19 in Alabama and Nebraska, twenty-one in Mississippi and Washington, DC) are legally underRead More →

First of all, it’s awesome that you’re putting yourself out there and trying to get to know people in your area. That’s a scary thing to do for many people, so give yourself props for taking the initiative. There’s a weird paradox with open Wiccan events. Many of these events exist to help newcomers learn more about Wicca and get a foothold in the community while providing local Wiccans a chance to do ritual or socialize together. But when a community comes together regularly—even if there’s acrimony and witch-bitching between some of the members—it forms a culture with relationships and expected behaviors. These dynamics areRead More →

Wiccans and Pagans often use the word “energy” to mean the power that emanates from living things, deity, the earth, or all three. Geek that I am, I have likened it more than once to the Force from Star Wars, “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.” I have also likened it to the “qi” or “chi,” the core principle of tai chi and Chinese medicine. Beginner Wicca and Paganism books—including mine—often include exercises for working with energy. Some of the benefits of doing this are to align with the natural world, to becomeRead More →

Before you try to connect with a teacher, it helps to answer some or all of the following questions for yourself. What do you want to learn? Are you interested in learning about Wicca or Paganism in general or a specific tradition or path? It’s helpful to do a little research to see what traditions appeal to you, or, putting the egg before the chicken, to see if any of the traditions taught in your area resonate with you. Or are you interested in studying a specific deity or pantheon, a magical system, or a skill, such as herbalism? What is your goal in takingRead More →