The beliefs of Wicca, the highest-profile branch of Neo-Paganism, are widely misrepresented in the media. While television and movies may depict Wiccans as satanists, angry teenage girls or New Age feminists, Wiccans are actually practitioners of a religion that reveres the Earth and recognizes multiple deities -- but no Satan figure. Wiccans don't believe in a devil, but they do believe in gods, spirits, the sacredness of the Earth, individual responsibility and gender equality.
Wiccans don't have a bible or much liturgy, nor do they have a central authority. Because of this, theological beliefs can vary widely between groups and even among individuals practicing Wicca. Some believe in one god with many faces; many believe in a god and a goddess; others believe in many gods and many goddesses -- often all the deities of the ancient mythological pantheons. Still others are pantheists, believing that the Earth and perhaps the whole universe is in itself divine. Traditional Wiccan groups are most likely to work with the Greco-Roman pantheons or the British or Celtic pantheons, but this doesn't mean that they don't believe in gods from other parts of the world; they just don't worship them.
Wiccan practice is not just about worship and gods, it's also about magic and the occult. Wiccans believe that the energy of the world, that of the gods and their own energies can be harnessed to affect change. They work with the seasons and the phases of the moon to access the natural energy of the world, which they believe changes according to what's happening in the land at that time of year or month. They also believe in an inner world, sometimes called the astral plane, the spirit world or the collective unconscious, in which a trained practitioner can gain wisdom and do energy work more easily.
The Wiccan ethical code is deceptively simple. It is summed up in the last line of one of Wicca's only pieces of liturgy, the Wiccan Rede: "An' it harm none, do what you will." With no set of commandments or restrictions, the Wiccan religion places the responsibility for good conduct squarely on the practitioner. As long as their actions do no harm -- to others, to themselves or to the Earth, now or at any time in the future -- they may do whatever they like. However, Wiccans also believe in the threefold law: whatever they do comes back to them three times as strongly. As a result of this and the Rede, Wiccans are deeply motivated to do good and no evil.
As a polytheistic, Earth-based tradition, Wicca has a different set of values from many monotheistic Western religions. It places high importance on caring for the Earth, making environmentalism and animal rights moral priorities for most Wiccans. Because of their dualistic theology, worshiping both a god and a goddess, Wiccans believe deeply in gender equality and women's rights. Sex is viewed as a natural, beautiful, fulfilling force, not something sinful or frightening, and many of the religion's holidays celebrate fertility, both in humanity and in the Earth. Wiccans also value self-designation, freedom from dogma and their right to choose their own religious paths. They don't believe that their way is the only way or that their gods are the only gods, simply that their way and their gods are right for them.
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