This page talks in a very basic way about what it is that Wiccans actually do – and in future we hope to have more blogs and articles to enrich this information. To learn about how a coven works, see our page on ‘what covens do’.
Initiated Wiccans have sworn an oath of secrecy. What that means is that even if you can find Wiccan secrets in books or online, individual Wiccans are oathbound not to tell you themselves. As part of the oath, we also swear not to reveal the names of other Wiccans – so unless someone is very publically Wiccan, has specifically given permission for their name to be passed to you or has introduced themselves to you as Wiccan, you may not easily be able to find out who is Wiccan. I’ve been in public moots where seekers have been asking questions, surrounded by initiated Wiccans, none of whom have been able to answer – or to tell the seekers that there are other Wiccans in the room.
Having said that, Wiccans are, although probably more introverted than extroverted, a convivial and welcoming bunch and for the most part we are keen to welcome in new people – so don’t be too put out if some of your questions meet with silence.
The downside of the secrecy is that there are people claiming to be Wiccan who are not – or who use the veil of secrecy as a way to manipulate people into unsavoury practice (please see the page ‘Information for Seekers’ and read the section on reg flags and warning signs). Therefore if you feel a coven is too secretive or you ever feel uncomfortable in any way, you should back away. You can go onto any of the facebook groups mentioned in the ‘Information’ section as well and ask outright, someone (probably lots of people) will respond to you.
The wheel of the year
Wiccans observe what is often described as ‘the wheel of the year’. The earth turns and with it, the seasons. A critical part of Wicca is about living in harmony with the world around us and this means noticing the changing of the seasons, which flow always one into the other. It also means noticing – and caring for – other living beings, from ants and spiders to pets and domesticated animals, to wild animals, fish, birds, reptiles – and yes, to human beings as well, even the ones who annoy you.
There is a lot which one can do under the banner of living in harmony with the changing of the seasons, however specifically for Wicca, we celebrate 8 ‘Sabbats’ throughout the year as well as the 12-13 Esbats, or full moons each year, each of which we celebrate with specific rituals. This means that we meet at least once a month. Different covens have had different approaches, however ours is to meet regularly both online and in person, sometimes indoors, sometimes outdoors, sometimes as a coven, sometimes with other covens. This has obviously changed during the pandemic.
There are plenty of places you can go to learn more about the sabbats and esbats, so here is the most basic overview and we encourage you to read as much as you can from other sources.
- Yule / Midwinter solstice – the longest night; a celebration of the returning sun and the lengthening of the days
- Imbolc – the earliest spring ritual, a celebration of life returning to the world
- Spring equinox – Balance. We celebrate spring and the start of the true ‘light half’ of the year, when the days are always longer than the nights
- Beltane – traditionally a fertility rite, a celebration of new life and burgeoning growth
- Midsummer solstice – the longest day; a battle between summer and winter as the days start to grow short
- Lammas / Lughnasadh – solemn celebration of the sacrifice of the harvest and the reaping of the corn; the first harvest rite.
- Autumn equinox – Balance. The main harvest festival when we celebrate the fruits of the earth. The start of the true ‘dark half’ of the year
- Samhain / Halloween – The final and darkest harvest; we celebrate our ancestors and those who have gone before at this time of the dead.
I have not included dates, because equinoxes and solstices change annually – and sabbat dates depend on whether or not one is in the Northern or Southern hemisphere. Midwinter in the UK is midsummer in Australia, for example.
Wiccans begin building our relationship with the elements from the start of our journey. We recognise 5 elements, air, fire, water, earth and spirit. These are generally assigned directions, in which air=east, fire=south, water=west, earth=north, although covens can and do change these. If you live by the sea or a lake and this is to the south of your temple space, you might want to re-assign the elemental directions – or for example if you have a fireplace in the north of the room. Some traditions have other assignations, however in general Wiccans follow the order above.
Wicca is by its nature celebrates the feminine, however in truth, both male and female are in balance, so there is a god and a goddess. While the true names of the gods in wicca are oathbound (see above), covens will often work with their own gods – sometimes local gods, sometimes gods from other pantheons, such as Norse, Egyptian, Greek, Hindi and many others.