The temple tries to observe special offerings and prayers on important days in the calendar, but exceptions are not unusual. For example, it has been a custom to accept “dedications at various times of year, but to hold initiations always on 11th of November. An exception was made to this policy for Rev. Jayne because her initiation had been delayed because Lady Traci was observing her mourning at the normal initiatory time” (Cookson, 1997).
Paula Maher is a regular participant in the activities of the temple and a devout follower of the Wiccan order. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the religion an interview was arranged with her. The following are some of the salient features of the interview. When asked about the auspicious days in the Wiccan calendar, Paula mentioned the following:
“Most Wiccans mark eight holiday “sabbats” in the “wheel of the year”, is falling on the solstices, equinoxes and the four “cross-quarter days” on or about the first of February, May, August and November. The names of the sabbats may differ between traditions, and many Wiccans also mark “esbats,” rituals for worship in accordance with a given moon phase (such as the night of the full moon). Although there is no one source for all Wiccan liturgy, many liturgical items such as the methods for casting the circle, the “Charge of the Goddess,” certain myths and formulaic expressions are common to many traditions.” (Paula Maher, 2007)
When asked to elaborate on the basic myths pertaining to the religious faith, Paula delved into some of the myths, symbols and associations that are central to the Wiccan worship. They include – the birth of a Horned God by a Goddess, the story of her courtship and subsequent death, etc are all part of the Wiccan folklore. There are some other peculiarities associated with this religious faith. For example, “the immanence of deity and divinity within the natural world, self and cycle of the seasons” is a common theological precept believed by Wiccan followers.
Paula went on further about the central theological principle of the Wiccan faith. She mentioned how Wicca is more than witchcraft and magic, as it is commonly perceived by outsiders. Wicca, she says, is a way of life. The faith had managed to get recognized by the government of the United States as well. Accordingly, most of its practices originate from a sense of profound, spiritual commitment to the natural elements in general and mother earth in particular. Highest moral code proposed by Wicca deems respect for all living things and the duty of Wiccan followers is to help sustain such an elevated condition. Moreover, Wiccan symbols represent the philosophical underpinnings of the doctrine. Paula Maher adds the following important interpretation of Wiccan philosophy:
“Each one of us embodies the divine. Our ultimate spiritual authority is within and we need no other person to interpret the sacred to us. We foster the questioning attitudes and we honor intellect, spiritual and creative freedom. Honoring both Goddess and God, we work with female and male images of divinity, always remembering that their essence is a mystery that goes beyond form. In honoring the Goddess and God, we acknowledge the duality that exists in all facets of life.” (Paula Maher, 2007)
In other words, Paula asserts, the religious order celebrates nature and its splendor. It sees the creation and decay of life in the same light. Hence, the seasons of the year assume special significance; symbolic of the growth and decay of life on earth. In the same vein, the different phases of the moon signify the waxing and waning of human fortunes. Paula adds that, Wicca as a religion is intricately linked with the earth. It is also less rigid than other religions and embraces diversity. Finally, “Gender, age, race, sexual orientation, physical status, family background or ethnic heritage are not important in Wicca. We are male and female, old and young, gay and straight, healthy and disabled, and of all colors” (Ruiz, 2005).
Moving on to the differences and similarities found between Wicca and other religions with wider following, Paula points to some of them. Firstly, Christianity and other Judeo-Christian denominations are patriarchal and paternalistic. This is not the case with Wicca, which is a Duo theistic religion that accords equal status for men and women. Also, the former is dualistic while the latter is monistic. In Christianity, the concept of heaven and hell are strongly entrenched, standing for good and evil; whereas, no such distinction is made by Wicca. Christianity talks about such abstractions as redemption, atonement and confession, similar to the Wiccan concept of Threefold law.
The ways the two religions are practiced are also quite different. For example, Christianity follows a hierarchical and authoritarian structure of spiritual discourse. On the other hand, Wicca endorses no hierarchy or seniority among its followers. All are autonomous human beings in direct communion with their creator. Also, while Christianity is based on the Holy Bible, there is not such equivalent scripture for the followers of Wiccan religion. The Christian rest day of “Sabbath” is based on Biblical and other ancient historical events. On the other hand, Wicca followers don’t take a weekly rest day, but a seasonal one based on their lunar calendar. Humans can be elevated to prophets, saints and messiahs as per the Christian tradition, but no such concept exists in Wicca. Most worshipping is carried out during the daylight hours by people practicing Christianity whereas Wiccan religion assigns special significance to rituals carried out during the moonlight hours as well. While Christianity strongly discourages things such as black magic, they are quite acceptable as per the Wiccan code of living. Hence, it could be asserted that there are more points of differences than similarities between the two religions considered (Hume, 1998). While symbolism is also evident in Christianity, its practical relevance is less pronounced compared to Wiccan symbols.