Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Shamanism and Wicca

Shamanism is the oldest religion, according to most modern anthropologists. In its pure form, it is the precursor of all Pagan religions (including Wicca) and is the root of most of the neo-Pagan movements found in society today. Shamans, both male and female, held the power in their cultures, because they had the knowledge, and they used it. Knowledge was power, just as it is in the modern world.

Early Shamanic Practices

The earliest Shamans gained their knowledge, their power, through altered states of consciousness, brought on through many different tools. These included fasts, trances, meditation, pain, and even hallucinogenic substances. The specific method used was generally controlled by what the end goal of the shaman was, and the geographical location of the shaman. Through these 'altered states,’ all magickal and spiritual knowledge was obtained. This knowledge was gained through communication with spirits, animals, and even deities. Only some of this knowledge was shared with the general populace, while the rest was reserved for the Shamans themselves.

As time went on, Shamans developed new tools to obtain 'altered states' of consciousness. The introduction of such things as music, dance, and chanting was the very beginning of ritual magick, the practice of which continues today.

In fact, the most effective of magickal rites, even in modern times, are often a combination of the natural and the artificial. Flickering firelight, steady music, darkness, and chanting are still usually more than enough to bring about an 'altered state' and allow modern pagans to access vast amounts of natural energy, the same natural energies once used by the ancient shamans. Ritual is not only found in pagan religions, but in all religions throughout the world. One has only to attend a Catholic service to see that ritual is alive and well in even the most organized or religions.

The very first Shamanic ritual practices gave rise to all 'magickal religions’, including Wicca. It follows, then, that Wicca is a Shamanic religion, despite the fact that it is considered by most to be a ‘new religion’. Though modern Wicca has, for the most part, abandoned the use of pain and hallucinogens, the use of ritual magick allows the same results: a spiritual connection with the divine.

Reincarnation in Wicca and Shamanism

As with most pagan traditions, Wicca embraces the idea of reincarnation, much as the ancient shamans did. It is important to note that, in general, Wicca teaches that we are reborn into another human body, unlike some Eastern philosophies, which hold that we can be reborn into many different forms. There are some exceptions to this rule of Wicca, but they are few and far between. Ancient shamanistic cultures also differ in their view of reincarnation.

Wicca, like ancient shamanism, holds firm to the idea that reincarnation should not be a subject of 'belief.' Rather, through tools such as meditation and past-life regression, reincarnation should be studied until it can be accepted as more than belief, but as an undisputed fact.

For the most part, Wiccans do not believe in destiny or fate. Instead, Wiccans take responsibility for their actions, or lack thereof. In addition, Wiccans take responsibility for their reactions to those things done to them, but certainly not for the actions of others.

Many of the basic beliefs in Wicca come from shamanism, including reincarnation and the use of ritual magick. Though no direct line between ancient shamanistic practices and modern Wicca exists, the striking similarities cannot be denied. While it would be inaccurate to say that Wicca is a truly ancient religion, it is easy to see how it could be said that Wicca, as a modern religion, does indeed include the basic elements of Shamanistic practice.

Friday, May 13, 2011

An Introduction to Wicca: Wiccan Beliefs and Practices

Wicca is a spiritual path that combines an attunement to the divine with the practice of magick. Many factors make Wicca so appealing: its ancient roots, acceptance of magick, and mysterious nature all draw many seekers. However, it’s probably Wicca's versatility that is responsible for its popularity.

Basic Beliefs of Wicca

Wicca is a contemporary, Earth-based spiritual path, acknowledging both a Goddess and God. The divine is usually seen as both within and around all living things. In Wicca, it is believed that the divine is present in every living thing, and so all life is perceived as sacred and interconnected, and leads to a reverence for nature. Wiccans don’t treat the earth as an object to be used for gain alone. Rather, nature is seen as sacred, and Wiccans treat the earth accordingly.

Wiccans acknowledge that the divine is feminine as well as masculine, and the Goddess is essential to Wiccan worship. The power of the Goddess is also seen in many aspects of nature, such as the moon, and the very earth itself. The honoring of the feminine divine is one of the reasons for the very rapid growth in the popularity of Wicca.

Wicca combines ancient beliefs with modern practices which are designed to help its practitioners to attune to the natural rhythms of the universe. This connection to nature is personal, and leads to an equally personal relationship with the divine. This relationship is not facilitated by another, but is instead unique and sacred to the individual. Wiccans honor nature as a great spiritual teacher, and many devote themselves to the study of the power inherent in the natural cycles of the universe. These include, but are not limited to, the cycles of the seasons and the moon.

Ethics in Wicca

Wiccans have no central doctrine, however, there is one fundamental principle: 'An ye harm none, do as ye will.' This means that a Wiccan can do as he or she pleases, provided it does no harm to themselves or others. This honors the freedom of individual, while stressing the responsibility for choices and actions made willingly. Being individuals, each Wiccan decides for him or herself what exactly 'harm' means. As a consequence, Wiccans have very different opinions when it comes to many issues, including abortion, war, vegetarianism, and capital punishment.

Wicca is an ever-changing, completely accessible system of teachings, which allows each individual to form a relationship with the divine. Most Wiccans, though certainly not all, view their learning process as a priesthood, taking years of training and involving several initiations.

Spiritual Practices of Wicca

Wiccan spiritual practices are a combination of ancient and modern techniques for shifting states of consciousness at will in order to achieve many different ends. Sometimes these techniques are used for purposes such as divination, blessing, healing, and other uses that involve the raising of energy. The specific techniques are many and varied, including dancing, chanting, meditation, ritual, song, and prayer. To properly execute these techniques requires much practice, study, patience, and faith. Wiccans may perform spiritual work for others, such as healing or divination, but only with their expressed and informed consent.

Ultimately, Wicca's greatest strength, in the past, present, and future, is its diversity, its adaptability, and its vitality. While its core beliefs, spiritual practices, philosophy, and ethics may remain the same, there is much room for interpretation and individuality. This encouragement of individual expression continues to attract many new seekers.