Home > All, God, Paranormal, Philosophy, Religion > What Is Wicca? [An Atheistic Perspective]

What Is Wicca? [An Atheistic Perspective]

Introduction

I actually had a request to write about this topic. It’s not exactly my area of expertise, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

Now, I could go into a bunch of history, specifics as to what Wiccans believe and whatnot, but I think it would be a little redundant. There are plenty of sources for that on the internet. Wikipedia has a great article on Wicca.

My main purpose here is to give an Atheistic, or, maybe the more appropriate term might be Naturalistic, view of Wicca.

Nature-Based

Nature Wicca is referred to as a “nature-based” religion. What seems apparent are the common themes in Wicca that span many different religions. The idea of a trinity, for instance. Many Wiccans worship the “Triple Goddess;” the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. We see this idea in Christianity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We also see this in Hinduism (the Trimurti); Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. (More info on various other trinities can be found here.)

Taking into account the very symbolic nature of these trinities, it’s worthwhile to mention that in its basic form, religion seeks to explain the world around us. As opposed to science, religion seeks to explain our world with decrees and absolute statements through divine revelation.

With that in mind, we can see that the Triple Goddess is symbolic of things such as the phases of the moon and stages of life. Attempts to anthropomorphize the world around us.

It is said that the origins of Wicca stem from various pagan beliefs which may have been around since before the Abrahamic religions came into existence.

These religions were developed long before scientific inquiry was the standard for proof of a claim. Before we understood as much as we do today about physics, Newtonian mechanics, relativity and even that the world is round. The standard explanation for anything in those times was that a god was in charge of the workings of nature.

We can see how these symbols of Wicca reflect that idea. Things such as the phases of the moon symbolized by the phases of life of a goddess.

Essentially, by “nature-based,” this means that everything in nature is anthropomorphized and brought to a level where everything around us is somehow expressive of some human quality. It gives everything a more personal quality, and where the feeling of “connectedness” stems from.

We can’t relate with trees, or the moon, or any other species on this planet outside of a human context. But, when we attribute human qualities to them, they soon become more relatable and filled with a certain “energy” which is, in its most basic sense, an emotional attachment.

Magic

Book Of Shadows A large part of the Wiccan religion is magic. Be it White or Black magic, Wicca centers around this practice.

As with any claims of paranormal activity, be it ghosts, ESP, dowsing, or magic, there is a huge burden on those who make these extraordinary claims to show evidence that these claims are real.

The problem with magic is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the idea that it actually works. The people who propose that magic works use vague terms such as “energy” and “intention” or “will.” These terms are meaningless, for several reasons.

The most basic of these reasons is that “energy” is nothing more than the potential to do work. This can be either kinetic or potential. Energy is not an invisible cloud floating around waiting for someone to tell it what to do.

If the proponents of magic intend to claim that it is anything more than kinetic or potential energy, then it is up to them to provide the mechanism for how it works. To simply say that it is mysterious, or that science cannot understand it is meaningless. Let me explain a little further.

To claim that magic can have an effect on the physical world intrinsically means that this “magic” must consist of something physical. I liken it to when people claim that ghosts can move objects in a room, or that ghosts can walk through walls. If a ghost can walk through a wall, then it obviously does not interact with the physical world.  This is also the same reason why ghosts cannot be visible. If it were visible, it would have to consist of some physical medium which could reflect light back into the eyes of the perceiver.

A ghost cannot walk through a wall, then in the same instance knock a cup off of a table. Those are two contradicting phenomena. It’s not just that I think it probably couldn’t happen. It is physically impossible, no matter what excuses you use. It violates the laws on which this Universe is based.

In this same way, magic cannot perform work and at the same time consist of something that is not physical. By necessity, any energy able to perform work is detectable by scientific instrumentation. At the end of the day, it all boils down to friction.

In order to perform work, or to actually affect the physical world, there must be friction. One surface against another. To open a door, there must be friction between your hand and the doorknob. To push a cup off of a table, there must be friction between your hand and the cup and the surface of the table. Even, as some magic spells claim, to affect emotions such as love, there must be friction in the brain, causing electric activity in the brain to be sparked by a transfer of electrons.

Any other use of the word “energy” outside of the realm of physicality and friction is simply a ruse to make a claim sound mysterious and beyond our comprehension, to bring the claim beyond the realm of questioning. The word “energy” used in this way is, again, meaningless.

Conclusion

While I am far from an expert on Wicca, there are some glaring similarities between it and many other world religions. The anthropomorphizing of nature, the idea of a trinity, forms of magic and spells and an overall manifestation of mystery around normal, everyday phenomena.

From a Naturalistic or Atheistic perspective, Wicca really is no different from any other religions except maybe for the fact that personal control over the environment is deemed possible through the influence of magic. In most other religions, this control over the environment is only possible through the influence of the godhead, or in the case of monotheism, the god of that particular religion.

Essentially, Wicca is another attempt to explain the world through supernatural means. A way to get easy answers to the complicated questions, such as the origin of the Universe.

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  1. Vicki
    Saturday August 22, 2009 at 11:44 AM

    For someone who isn’t an expert, you give one who may have a different aspect something to think about. I’m sure I’ll have more questions but I’m still digesting what has been said thus far! Thank you!

  2. Wednesday October 27, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    Hi, Ive been researching wicca recently too, and I found this interesting.

    What you say about magic etc I agree with, the only way I would accept a wiccan-like worldview would be in an athiest/scientific pantheist way…

    Also it it VERY difficult to find anything on the net that doesn’t use those loaded terms “energy” and “will” etc. Hardcore Wicca seems as ridiculous as creationism. However, a more loosely based view can have its’ merits.

    For example I am fascinated by what I heard someone else say about “magick”:

    “she goes on to describe it with “There is so much in the natural that is powerful. For me, when people ask me ‘well, what about magic? Witches do all this magick, what about that?’ And I said, you know, I’m not so sure there is much difference between psychology and magick.
    That half of what goes on in magick is really getting your mind into a different place so the world seems different so your more able to access certain things. It’s alot of the insights that almost all the psychologist had from Maslow to Freud and whatever, you know all those insights are basicly psychological insights.

    Now that doesn’t mean maybe we’ll find, that science will find there are certain abilities some people have, maybe there is some small amount of telepathy in the world. Who knows? But I don’t think you need a magickal, supernatural explanation for any of these things that we’re talking about.”

    To give you another perspective on the idea, lets talk spellwork for a moment. Not every Wiccan cast spells, but those who do generally each write their own spellbook and each spell is personal. Why? Why does one spell not work for all witches to get x result? I’ve heard every answer from “It’s the nature of magic”, “it’s how you focus the spell to affect only what you need to specifically”, and the most relevant to what I’m talking about “It’s about perspective.” Perspective? Yes, perspective. Afterall, one of the root ideas in the Wiccan Rede is that you need to look at as many points of view in order to know what might harm someone. The concept behind A year and a day is to explore, to find your own perspective, to experiment with other perspectives.

    Well how does spellwork tie into perspective? When you create a spell you consider how everything ties into the situation your casting for. “This herb, being the element of earth in this spell, represents x, because like the herb has this trait so does x”, “This material represents y, and I’m using that for y because they hold this factor in common”, and so on. You are identifying the factors of the situation and laying them out in a clear manner which allows you to gain insight on the situation your casting for.
    The ritual becomes a way to remember, to ingrain the new found ideas into your head so you can make use of them. Our memories work on cues, the smell of this herb, this movement, chanting this, all sets up cues in our minds. When a cue is triggered, we remember everything related to it. So you cast a spell to help you break a drinking addiction, and you use hops in the spell. Well because of that, when you run into that ingredient that is often in brews today, you have more ability to resist the urge to drink.

    How does that work, and I’ll go back to quoting Margot Adler here, starting in the middle of the story because it’s the relevant part. “So he then gave us this long lecture, in which he said ‘Magic is getting results’.”

    I think this idea of using the basic structure of magick rituals as a form of psycological influence or conditioning is fascinating. There is nothing supernatural required about it. For example, say you wanted to create a “spell” or ritual for calming. You would use sensory anchors (like the smell of lavender, other calming sensory experiences, hand gestures, sounds) combined with imagining and recalling times you have felt very calm and at ease, visualising comfy chairs, hot baths, whatever it is that works for you. If this “spell” or ritual was repeated over time then eventually whenever you smell lavender it will make you instantly calm because your brain associates calmness and the smell of lavender so strongly.

    I only wish I could find other people that were going along this “magick”/psycology route like I am… i feel like Im inventing a whole religion myself xD

    • Kim
      Tuesday January 31, 2012 at 2:05 PM

      I’m glad that someone responded this way because to me spells and the items used in the spells are symbolic. When we read books we don’t expect the symbolic item to actually be what it symbolizes. The billboard in the Great Gatsby was itself only a billboard but how it fit into the context of the story and the way that story was written was what gave it so much meaning. That’s how a yellow Yankee candle goes from being a decorative household item to the manifestation of air. Things have meaning because they’re given meaning and to me that can be a very beautiful thing.

  3. Afei
    Monday June 20, 2011 at 9:13 AM

    A fair, albeit cursory survey of Wicca. Some basic points that you missed or possibly misunderstood given the varying takes and interpretations found across the web: 1. Wicca is a vastly personal belief system. Essentially, observing the 8 point year and holding to the Rede are all one need do to call themselves “Wiccan”. The specifics to mysteries are largely personal. 2. As such, Wicca is largely a metaphor by which the practitioner creates a more intimate relationship with the world around them. There is no canon. There is no dogma. There are no explanations for how the universe works. There are simply traditions and tools which serve as vehicles with which one may or may not draw their own conclusions about universal information we cannot know or perceive. 3. Magick and Energy: Again, magick is largely a metaphor for manipulating an individual’s consciousness and perception. As for energy, there are many kinds. All matter that exists above absolute zero emits EM radiation, including our bodies and brains. Some people may or may not consciously perceive those fields. It’s not important. What is important is that that form of natural EM radiation is often not what is referred to by “energy” in the Wiccan context. Intent is generally what is meant. It may surprise most that when Wicca is truly researched, explored and understood, one can see how it doesn’t conflict in the slightest with Science. I, myself, am a scientist and clinician, as well as a devout Wiccan.

  4. CoffeeAddict
    Monday August 22, 2011 at 3:07 AM

    I am a former practicing Wiccan (approximately 12-13 years, former member of a lineaged coven) turned athiest. I agree with many of your points, particularly about magick vs. Physics. However, in defense of Wicca, magick is not all there is to Wicca any more than prayer is all there is to Christianity.
    It is true, magick tends to take center stage in the religion as the primary mode of spiritual practice. However, there are many different traditions within the religion with very differing ideas on which aspects take priority. There are even those (such as myself toward the end) who practice Wicca almost entirely in the absense of magick. The reason being that there is hidden within a very rich philosophical element which often times is missed by those who do practice the faith superficially. Much of this philosophical element could very much be appreciated by athiests in the same sense that Buddhism is often appreciated by athiests (at least the philosophical aspects, I know many Buddhists who are also athiests, look up Stephen Bachelor).
    As I said, I am a bonafide athiest now. I do not believe deities, magick, or an afterlife/reincarnation are real. But I cannot deny the fact that I gained a great deal in the way of personal growth during my 13 year practice of Wicca. I also cannot deny the fact that I am a better person because of Wicca. This does not negate the fact that a big chunk of the religion is complete bull, but I am not so sure your criticisms are completely well qualified.

  5. CoffeeAddict
    Monday August 22, 2011 at 3:12 AM

    @KissWithAFist
    There are others out there who share your ideas, you are not alone.

  6. Aisling
    Thursday October 6, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    Just thought I’d add my own two cents. I’m a Wiccan, and to me, magic is less of a means of controlling energy or will or anything like that, and more of a placebo. For example, one might use a spell for artistic inspiration. If you believe that you’re being inspired by some supernatural force, then you sort of trick yourself into being inspired, if that makes any sense. Again, it’s like a placebo drug. Only a lot cooler. And more magical.

    • Friday October 7, 2011 at 12:16 PM

      Thanks CoffeeAddict (=

      Aisling:
      I totally agree with you. In my opinion it’s all to do with the subconscious, for instance you might do a spell to… okay this is a bad example, but lets say you did a spell to find love. This seems weird because you can’t control the people you meet by chance etc, but this spell if you do it right could work, because you are burying this aim in your subconscious. Without you noticing your subconscious will be working away at the problem and influencing your actions, maybe it will guide you to places you’re more likely to meet people you get on with, or maybe it will be quietly picking up on cues and signals from other people and analysing them to see what kind of person is best for you. So, say you “find love”, you could think this is some supernatural energy at work when it reality perhaps you just never would have noticed that person if the love spell hadn’t been working away in the back of your mind.

      The mind latches on to magic and stories. The reason we can feel scared of horror movies or inspired by books is because our subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between real and fiction. And witchcraft (and the sense I do it) is a way of exploiting that, of feeding my Muse (subconscious) ideas that will benefit me. Also I use deities as markers for aspects of my personality, so by making an offering or honouring a deity you are in fact strengthening and giving power to a particular aspect of your personality (for instance you could use Athena, who would be personifiying your wisdom and logic, to appeal to when you were at a crossroads and needed guidance).

  7. Ian
    Thursday March 7, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    As I quote the author.,”Energy is not an invisible cloud floating around waiting for someone to tell it what to do”. Yes in fact it/there is. For one it’s called electromagnetism. Now this may not be what a Wiccan calls magic, but it sure does happen. Vagaries in perception, challenge everything, including the ideas you hold to be true. If there isn’t a challenge to a static then how can there be change? With out change how can there be progress.

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