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I had the good fortune of being born into Wicca. That’s an unusual situation: the vast majority of Wiccans — including my parents, whose parents were various sorts of Low Protestant — converted from other religions. The Halloween season invites many questions from people outside of Wicca about the nature of our religion. Some of those questions are things that even I didn’t have a good answer for, despite having been involved with Wicca since the day I was born. With that in mind, here are 10 things about Wicca I wish more people knew. 1. “Wicca” means different things to different people. Wicca has no central authority to dictate the shape of the religion. We have traditions, certainly, but those traditions vary widely between groups and individual practitioners. As a result, generalizations about the religion — “this is what Wiccans believe” — are hard, if not impossible, to make. Some things remain constant, but nothing I write here is likely to apply to 100 percent of Wiccans. Widely cited “universal” Wiccan beliefs, such as the Witches Rede — “Do what thou wilt an it harm none” — and the Threefold Law — “whatever you do shall be returned to you three times over” — were never even mentioned in my home growing up. I’m reminded of Robert Anton Wilson’s tremendously helpful term “sumbunall” — that is, some, but not all. Feel free to insert “sumbunall” liberally throughout the rest of this article. 2. All Wiccans are Pagan, but not all Pagans are Wiccan. Although Wicca is the most widely known of the Neo-Pagan religions, it’s not the only one. These religions are often lumped together by people within and without the Pagan community, but there are important differences between Wicca and other faiths, such as Heathenry and Druidry. These religions can have different calendars, theologies, and ritual forms. One of the debates happening in the Pagan world right now, in fact, is figuring out the most equitable way to represent multiple forms of Paganism at major public events without giving undue attention to Wiccan practices. 3. Wiccans have diverse views of theology, even within their own communities. So what do Wiccans believe? That’s another question with many potential answers. The usual answer is that Wiccans believe in a God and Goddess who manifest in the form of the deities familiar to us from mythology and tradition. But the exact nature of those entities is a matter of personal interpretation. Some Wiccans believe in the supernatural reality of divinity, while others may view the God and Goddess as archetypal forces within the human mind. The Goddess is frequently identified with the Earth itself (or herself!), and the God with the sun. There has also been pushback from some queer Wiccans regarding this binary model of God and Goddess, which can be seen as alienating to people who don’t fit into Western society’s gender norms. Even this most basic aspect of Wiccan theology is subject to evolve. 4. Wiccans approach ritual as a creative art form. In my family coven, every ritual is unique. We write an entirely new script for every holy day. My ritual partner and I not long ago completed a cycle of all the major holidays, or sabbats, in which we adopted a different mythology for each one, for example. At major Pagan festivals, there are Wiccans who take great pleasure in presenting public rituals that play with the form of our ceremonies — I have seen a ritual that used only occult material available in the nineteenth century for its text and a ritual that used a stand-up comedy routine in place of the liturgy. A few features characterize the standard Wiccan ritual — an invocation of the elements, for example — but one of the great joys of Wicca is seeing how our fellows adapt the form to their own individual purposes. 5. Even though Wicca is a young religion, it still has deeply held traditions. Wicca is a creation of the twentieth century, more or less, although it follows from developments that had been taking place in the United Kingdom for many years before it was “officially” introduced to the broader world by Gerald Gardner in 1954. Most Wiccans no longer believe in the famous Margaret Murray “witch-cult theory,” which suggested that Wicca was a belief system handed down in secret since the Paleolithic era. That’s not to say, however, that Wicca lacks rich traditions that have been handed down over the course of decades. Some of these practices may exist primarily within one group’s memory: at my family’s Samhain (Halloween) celebrations, for example, our rituals have included a moment where we speak the names of our dead as far back as I can remember. Eventually, these practices come to form the unique identity of an individual Wiccan group. 6. Some Wiccans belong to covens; others don’t. Wicca was originally conceived of as a coven-based, initiatory religion in which prospective Wiccans had to undergo a vetting process and then be inducted into a coven through a special ritual. This initiatory tradition is still alive and vibrant today, and many covens can trace their histories back to major figures in Wiccan history, such as Gardner or Gwyddion Pendderwen. But most Wiccans today are, to use the term of art, “solitary practitioners” who worship without groups and without initiation into a lineage. These solitary Wiccans study their religion through books and discussion with other Pagans, a process that has become much easier since the internet became widely available. Both the initiated and the solitary practitioners are “true” Wiccans, although the way their worship looks may vary dramatically. 7. Pretty much no popular depiction of Wicca has come close to being accurate. This probably comes as no surprise to anyone who thinks about religion seriously, but even today there are few pop culture images of Wicca that bear any real resemblance to the religion as it is practiced. While most Wiccans believe in magick on some level, our magick doesn’t resemble the fantastic portrayals seen in The Craft or Witches of East End. (Ours is much more dangerous!) That’s not to say that Wiccans don’t enjoy these works — on the contrary, I know quite a few Wiccans who were ardent followers of American Horror Story: Coven — but pop-culture Wicca is even less dependable than pop-culture Catholicism. 8. Wiccans tend to be eclectic, for better or for worse. Wicca, in contrast to many of the other Pagan religions, does not usually limit itself to one set of gods. As an example, while Heathenry, by definition, only includes the Germanic deities, Wiccans often include gods from many different pantheons on their altars, and include ritual practices from an equally large number of religious traditions. For the individual practitioner, this eclectic approach to religion means that every Wiccan can interact with the divinities and practices that speak most powerfully to them; however, it can also lead to a shallow, or even offensive, understanding of the beliefs held in other religions. 9. Wiccans seek to “re-enchant the world.” This phrase, “re-enchanting the world,” is one that I admittedly have heard used only recently, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. Wicca came about, as far as I can tell, as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution and the continuing alienation of humans from the natural world; equally, it has gained much of its vigor from a dissatisfaction with the patriarchal traditions of the Abrahamic religions. If modern life has alienated humanity from the world and forced us into unhealthy and unjust relationships with one another, then Wicca seeks to restore the connections that are central to the well-being of both the planet and ourselves. For some Wiccans, this process may be as simple on a personal level as making time to meditate outdoors; for others, it’s a grand critique of life under global capitalism. Wicca attempts to restore the essential magick of life on Mother Earth. 10. Wiccans have holidays besides Samhain, you know. The traditional Wiccan calendar, the Wheel of the Year, features eight sabbats, of which Samhain is only one. These sabbats include the equinoxes and the solstices, plus the festivals of Imbolc (February 1), Beltaine (May 1), and Lughnasadh (August 1). In addition to that, most Wiccans observe a monthly ritual at the Full Moon and some also meet on the New Moon. All of that is before we take into account the Pagan Festival Season, which, for the Pagans who attend, often becomes a holiday just as sacred as any of the others. Although Samhain is usually thought of as the most holy night of the Wiccan year, we’re happy to talk about any of the others as well — the Witches come out every night, not just on Halloween.