I don't want to be a witch.
November 26, 2013 12:47 PM   Subscribe

I am interested in Wicca. Always have been. Despite a conventional Christian ubpringing, my inner belief has always been that 'god' is part mother nature and part earth/environment. That's just the way my mind has always imagined 'god', and it's worked for me for over 40 years. Now I need to take it further.

I am in a miserable place right now, mentally, physically and emotionally. I feel the need to explore a spiritual grounding, for want of a better phrase. (I don't believe in witchcraft, even though The Craft is one of my favourite films.)

I want to learn more about Wicca, with a view to eventually becoming Wiccan if I feel it is right. However, everything I find online tells me to read about it - what I find online to read is either a) written by seemingly-12-year-olds, b) pedantic that you must read everything written by the Silver Unicorn Rainbowess or something equally disconcerting, or c) requires the purchase of a lot of books that I can't afford.

Is there an free, reputable online resource that I can explore? How can I learn about Wicca without being caught up in 4 million google results that are like the ones above?
posted by anonymous to Religion & Philosophy (20 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
It hasn't been updated in ages, but you might enjoy Wicca: For The Rest Of Us.

If anyone knows what became of Catherine Noble Beyer and if she ever launched the blog mentioned at the top of the current iteration of the site, or ever wrote anything else, I would love to know. Her work at the above link has been an influence on my own understanding of Wicca/Neo-Paganism, and I am dying to subscribe to her proverbial newsletter.
posted by Sara C. at 12:52 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Eeeeeeee, she does, in fact, have a blog now that is sort of along the same lines as the "it's a religion, not a sparkly unicorn club" tone of the site I linked above.

She's also blogging more recently here, though maybe less about Wicca?
posted by Sara C. at 12:55 PM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Trust your gut. Do what you need to do. What does your heart, your head, your soul, your body tell you about getting grounded? Start there.

A lot of The Old Religion is making it up
As you go along. You can do that too. Then, congrats, you're on your way.

The right resources will find you. This question will help. Good job.

I get a lot of mileage these days from Rob Brezny's Free Will Astrology, which you can find online for free. Maybe check that out.

Welcome aboard!
posted by Sublimity at 12:55 PM on November 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I read Humanistic Paganism. Basically atheist pagans. High intelligence, low woo. Maybe start with "Why Witch?"
posted by Sophie1 at 12:59 PM on November 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

If you are specifically looking for a theistic Wicca, and specifically one that involves a lot of religious practice and thoughts about theology and the like, you might like the Church Of Universal Eclectic Wicca.

(It's not Christian, despite the use of the term "church". They're just a more specifically religious bunch of Wiccans, as opposed to into doing spells or arguing about the Burning Times or being Harry Potter fans or whatever else commonly falls under the rubric of Neo-Paganism lately.)

One thing I really respect about those folks is that they are not about money or selling stuff, ever. I think one of their central tenets is that, if you can buy it, it's not god.
posted by Sara C. at 1:04 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

It would be hard to believe that there is not a wiccan group near you, wherever you are. A Full Moon circle, if it is open, would be a good place to dip a toe in.
posted by Danf at 1:13 PM on November 26, 2013

I'd recommend finding a CUUPS chapter at a Unitarian Universalist Church in your area.

I've met some of my dearest friends this way, and I have narrowly avoided dealing with some real wackadoodles! It's kind of an "odds are good, but goods are odd" kind of thing.

What I liked about it was that it was a way to be introduced to actual people who practice the different forms of Wicca, and to see that we're all just normal people, with jobs and car notes, and cats and lives. Some are more normal than others. Also, the rituals were really fun! At the UU Church in Ft. Lauderdale, there's most of an acre of backyard and there's a labyrinth as well. I'd say 50% of the folks were people I was glad to know, and the other a mix of "Sparkly-Unicorn" and "What is up with Skelitor there in the corner."

Margot Adler of NPR fame wrote Drawing Down the Moon, which talks about her path, and other pagans in America.

But you know, you kind of do want to be a witch, and it's a pretty neat thing to be.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:15 PM on November 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I recommend Positive Magic. First and best book I ever read on the topic and I would describe my spiritual inclinations exactly the same as you do. I think it's also low woo (love that term, Sophie1). Twelve bucks. ($10 for Kindle version). You do not need a ton of books nor should any group require (recommend is fine) them.
posted by bluemoonegg at 1:28 PM on November 26, 2013

If I remember correctly, Scott Cunningham's Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner is still extremely well-regarded.
posted by oflinkey at 1:30 PM on November 26, 2013 [9 favorites]

You might find this stuff at religioustolerance.org to be helpful. In my experience, they have good, not sensationalist explanations of various faiths; their section on Wicca is particularly good.

Scott Cunningham is very good, and can usually be had pretty inexpensively, but you might want to decide if Wicca specifically is what you want before you start spending money.

Wicca is certainly not the only way to embrace a reverence for nature, and in fact, some practitioners are absolutely not particularly into nature for its own sake, rather viewing the natural world as a sort of symbol for other cycles and changes. Ymmv. Drop me a line, if you like, I am not Wiccan, but in a previous life I had a lot to do with various alternative religions.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 1:47 PM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Having been involved with Wicca for a while in my earlier years, and still having pagan values, I think it's a fine thing. There are circles in your state, no doubt, and you can find them through pagan publications and websites. And oflinkey's suggestion is a good one; I have that book, along with many others.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:58 PM on November 26, 2013

I took the Church of Universal Eclectic Wicca's online course about eight years ago and found it very worthwhile, even though I didn't end up continuing on that path. The person behind it offered excellent basics.

Note that there are two different usages of "Wicca": one is an initiation-only tradition with very defined practices and specific deities and mysteries (often clarified as "British Traditional Wicca" or "BTW"), and the other is an eclectic, "do what feels good" faith. (Scott Cunningham's work falls more toward the latter end.) There can be some tensions between the two sides, so it's good to be clear on exactly what you're looking for, and don't take it too personally if someone somewhere insists on correcting your definitions.

You can probably find some good information and/or links at the Cauldron's Pagan Primer. Their forum is good too, but they have a very specific forum culture and can get a little bitey. If you stick to the Beginners Board, you should be fine.

Good luck on the journey! (Feel free to MeMail me if you have more questions.)
posted by velvet_n_purrs at 2:30 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Credentials: Neopagan for over a decade, former second-degree initiate in Alexandrian Wicca.

I would suggest looking up your nearest "new age" shop and checking out their bulletin board. There will be many groups that meet there and around and it's a good way to gently test your waters, maybe join a circle or two. Many large areas also host neopagan festivals throughout the year, and this can also turn into a contact, especially if you have the time to do some volunteer work - shows people you're more dedicated than the average bear.

The problem with recommending books is that many of them, being written in a different time, are extremely heteronormative/dualistic (as is the original Wicca, Gardnerian and then Alexandrian). If this is not a problem for you, or if you can work around that, then I would recommend the works of Janet & Stewart Farrar. The Witches' Bible, The Witches' Goddess, and The Witches' God are all reasonably interesting and more serious works than Silver Ravenwolf. Many libraries will have some of these texts or be able to bring them in on library loan.

Be prepared to look for some time. Gardnerian/Alexandrian Wicca does not advertise (or, at least, it didn't when I was younger). Most of what's out there will be the diluted paperback version, which I think you are probably not looking for. Sacred Texts is a free resource with some good source material (though the Wiccan source texts are meant to be mysteries, so you probably won't find those whole and complete there).

Be patient. Mystery traditions tend to require more "proof" that you are willing to put in the work than an open circle, or a UU group, and so you may end up taking years to advance through the mysteries. Generally speaking, if it's legitimate, it's worth it.

(Of course, the usual disclaimers apply: if they charge you money, if they try to indoctrinate you, run far, far away.)
posted by Nyx at 3:41 PM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Although not online, you could also consider your local library. They probably won't have the more esoteric texts, but may well have some of the books that have become a bit more well-known, like Starhawk's Spiral Dance, which I remember being reasonably well-written and not terribly unicorny rainbowy. Margot Adler's "Drawing Down the Moon" mentioned above should be at various libraries too. Worldcat is a great way to find libraries near you that hold books you want to read. They may well even be able to do inter-library loans if they don't have what you want. [/ librarian]
posted by Athanassiel at 3:42 PM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do a search for 'the center for positive living' and see if there's info or a group near you. My grandmother attended this eclectic group for many many years... at hers were vague Christians, lapsed Catholics, Buddhists, Wiccans and Pagans, etc. all getting together to focus on... positive living (and question what that means).
posted by jrobin276 at 5:43 PM on November 26, 2013

I don't know anything about Wicca, except I heard the other day that it places a lot of emphasis on cycles, that alone makes it seem probably amazing to me.

Why don't you go to your local library and take all the books out as well as get all the books from other nearby libraries through interlibrary loan? Despite not knowing anything about Wicca it seems doubtful that you will find anything that does justice to whatever it is online.

Part of why I say this is in relation to astrology (another so-called "occult" subject)-- it's virtually impossible to find anything intelligent about astrology online, even with books you need to peruse many to find something worth reading. Maybe it's the same with Wicca?
posted by Blitz at 6:11 PM on November 26, 2013

Phyllis Corott's Witchcrafting: a spiritual guide to making magic is just a super intelligent work of practical theology.

I'm more a Wicca sympathizer than a full fledged practitioner. Her book helped me to start making sense of ordinary mystical reality and divine presence.

She has posted many freely accessible videos online about How to Understand Wicca.
posted by bertran at 5:29 AM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those are some blogs I read on the topic. Witchvox.com is what my old teacher recommended that everyone read online in particular. I also like the Cauldron.

I second "go to the library" and Phyllis Curott, and if you can find Robin Wood's When, Why, If, I like that one as well.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:37 AM on November 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, man, Witchvox/"The Witches' Voice" is the worst. Unless they have drastically cleaned up their act and re-branded the site over the past couple years, it's explicitly the opposite of what OP seems to be looking for.

That said I just went over and took a look, and the articles at the top of the front page right now aren't quite as awful as the worst of the Lisa Frank Wicca garbage I remember seeing over there back when I stopped reading it circa 2009.

Though I still think it's not a site I'd recommend for people with serious interest in learning about Wicca, consistent with reality and facts and stuff.
posted by Sara C. at 10:54 AM on November 27, 2013

Credentials: currently first-degree Priestess of Crossroads Tabernacle Church ATC after 20 years of solitary practice

The Aquarian Tabernacle Church is an international organization dedicated to congregational worship in a Wiccan tradition. We are very open to seekers, and all of our rituals are open to the public. There are branches of the ATC in nearly every U.S. state and many countries, more in fact than are listed on either the ATC website or on WitchVox. If you are anywhere in Michigan or Ohio, I extend an invitation to our own next ritual, which will be on Yule, December 21st, 2013, in Ann Arbor.

While others here have disparaged the articles on WitchVox (an opinion with which I partially agree), I find it to be a nice resource for finding other groups. These days, a Google search can also sometimes find other congregational Wiccan churches, as more of us are operating out in the open and conducting public rituals. I have used both of these to find local groups to visit if my family and I happen to be on a road trip over a Sabbat weekend. Whether you visit an ATC church or another open Wiccan church, I think this might be very helpful to you in your spiritual journey.

As far as books go, Scott Cunningham and Raymond Buckland's books probably have the least "woo" and the most helpful information for a solitary. That said, though, there is no substitute IMHO for attending an open ritual and being able to talk first-hand with other Wiccans.

Good luck in your journey, and let me say that I and my fellow priests welcome all inquiries from honest seekers if you have further questions.
posted by solinox at 1:57 PM on November 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

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