If you saw my earlier post, you may recollect that I mentioned the definition of witchcraft. Witchcraft is more complex then a few parlor tricks and a couple of nifty talents in the psychic arena. In Wicca, specifically, there is a wide range of variation between the different sects (known as Traditions). There are a few basic points, however, that can be upheld as consistent through these different sects.
Wicca is a religion that is panentheistic and animistic. Where as many of the more 'mainstream' religions view the Divine as separate from the world, Wicca views the world as being suffused with the essence of the Divine and that all things living are ensouled. Frequently, Wiccans also understand the land and all within nature to be possessed of a spirit. Some will contend that locations have their own spiritual identity as well. We Wiccans revere nature and highly respect the spirits that populate our world along side us.
In addition to these spirits, we also understand the universe to be comprised of the five classical elements. We recognize these elements as being present in all things and ruled over by spiritual beings we call Elementals. The classical elements are viewed more as a spiritual matter rather then a literal one. They are understood as different states of matter and associated with various things. Each Tradition has their own unique perception of the Elementals and their respective spheres of influence.
It can be easy to confuse Elementals with deities who are associated with a given element. In classical Wicca, the religion is focused upon dualistic theism. There is a multifaceted god and goddess that are worshiped. These different deities are viewed as aspects of the god and goddess. The practice of invoking these aspects of deity is known as aspecting. Aspecting is different from possession, though it shares many traits. (This will be discussed on its own at a later date.) There are other Traditions of Wicca that are more hard polytheistic then classical Wicca. The Tradition that I am a part of is a blending of hard and soft polytheism. There is no fixed rule in Wicca that states how hard or soft one's polytheistic leanings should be.
The religious practices of mainstream Wicca (and yes, there is a mainstream branch of Wicca) are fairly consistent through the different Traditions. They are also flexible enough that they can be adapted to the needs of a given Wiccan. Religious rites take place within a ritually drawn circle. The invocation of the Elementals is made to ensure the presence of benevolent spirits and to keep away that which could be harmful or counter to the purposes of one's ritual. A blessing is said over the participants and the gods are invoked. Depending upon the purposes of the ritual, meditation, spell casting, divination, or devotional activities take place. A blessing is then said over the cakes and wine, which is then shared by the participants. Following this, the gods are thanked for their guidance and aid. Then the Elementals are thanked for their assistance. The circle is ritually dismantled and the rite is done.
The most frequently expressed moral standard for Wiccans is the Law of Three. It is unclear if this was something that Gerald Alexander or Doreen Valentine developed or if it was passed down to them by the New Grove coven. (There is inconclusive evidence as to the existence of the New Grove coven but that is a discussion for a different time.) The Law of Three is a variant of the most basic law of causality. It has been phrased many different ways and it seems that each Tradition of Wicca has their own version of it.
The variant that I adhere to is:
That which you do returns three times. The first time is the immediate consequences of your action. The second time is the social consequences of your actions. The third time is the long term consequences of your actions.
Acting against another person is very strongly frowned upon unless it is done in self defense or in aid of one who is defenseless. Magic is not to be done for some one else with out their permission unless it is the most dire of cases. (A more precise rule of conduct will be discussed later.)