Thea's Inbox: Questions from Beginners

Wiccan essentials for beginning your path or getting back to basics.

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Thea Sabin

Thea Sabin

Thea Sabin is a writer/editor whose professional work currently focuses on web content management, curriculum development, and instructional design. She has taught a variety of subjects—including editing, high school English and theater, gardening, crafts, Wicca, and astrology—off and on for more than two decades. A practicing Wiccan since her teens, she first started teaching Wicca—very, very badly and long before she was ready—in college. She wrote her book Teaching Wicca and Paganism in the hope that it would help other teachers get a better start than she did. Her first book, Wicca for Beginners, was designed to help seekers new to Wicca build a foundation for Wiccan practice. Find Thea on Facebook or at www.theasabin.com.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

This question turns up in my inbox regularly. Sometimes when you’re searching for something, and particularly when you’ve been searching for a long time, a part of you wishes someone could just give you the answer so you can move on to the next step. I get it—really, I do. But the truth is the only person who can and should be answering this question for you is you.

One of the coolest things about Wicca, in my opinion, is that it makes you ask the hard questions and decide things for yourself. If you decide to pursue Wicca as your spirituality, you’re embarking on a path that’s not in the mainstream and doesn’t have a centralized leadership, structure, sacred text, or set of teachings. Exploring Wicca means jumping into the deep end without many of the usual societal supports. Nobody can truly tell you how to do it, although helpful people might be able to provide some guidance on the way. I realize that’s very uncomfortable sometimes, but nobody ever said spiritual growth (or any other kind of growth) is comfortable. If we’re too comfortable, we’re not likely to create change.

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What’s a magical name? How do I get one? And why are so many Wiccans named Raven?

A magical name—or craft name, as they are sometimes called—is a name you take on when you become a Wiccan, and it’s the name other Wiccans in the community will know you by and that you will use in Wiccan rituals. Some people take on a name when they first become interested in Wicca. Others wait until they dedicate themselves to the path through a self-dedication ceremony or when they are initiated into a particular Wiccan group. Some Wiccan traditions (traditions are kind of like denominations in Christianity) have special rules for when someone takes a name and what kind of name it can be, and others don’t. And in some cases your name might be bestowed on you by a teacher, but this practice is not very common anymore.

Most Wiccans who have magical names only use them in the Wiccan community, and use their legal names elsewhere. Having a second name can help protect your privacy in case there are people you don’t want to know about your Wiccan practice. However some Wiccans use their magical names all the time, even outside of the Wiccan community, and some only use theirs when they are in ritual space.

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What’s the difference between a pentagram and a pentacle? Aren’t pentagrams satanic? Why do some Wiccans wear pentagrams? Do I have to wear a pentagram to be a Wiccan?

A pentagram is a five-pointed star, usually depicted as interwoven, or with the lines used to draw it overlapping. A pentacle is a pentagram with a circle around it. Pentagrams and pentacles have long been symbols of protection and warding off evil, and they are used for that purpose by many Wiccans today.

A Little History

Pentagrams have been used for thousands of years and appear in ancient Greek, Roman, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian art. They have been used by Christians, too—perhaps most famously by Hildegard of Bingen, who, along with other twelfth-century Christian scholars, associated the number five with the five senses and the human body (one head, two arms, and two legs; it reminds me a bit of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man), and saw it as the symbol of the microcosm, or the divine reflected on earth. The symbolism of the pentacle plays an important role in the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and of course it is also associated with the Christmas star and sits atop the Christmas tree in many Christian homes.

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Do I have to have sex to be a Witch/Wiccan? 

The first person who wrote me with this question was a young woman. Much of what this woman had read about Wicca resonated with her, but she was a survivor of sexual abuse, and she was afraid to pursue study of Wicca because there might be a “requirement” to have sex—something that terrified her, given her history. I assured her that she absolutely did NOT have to have sex to be a Witch or Wiccan.

There is a pervasive myth floating around on the Interwebs and elsewhere that Wiccan rituals are loaded with sex. The rumor is fed, I suspect, in part by ignorance—we’re Witches, so we must be doing something naughty, right?—and in part by fundamentalists who enjoy portraying Wiccans as participating in orgiastic rituals for the glory of Satan. It makes me wonder whether the fundamentalists are more offended because they think we’re worshipping the devil or because they think we’re enjoying ourselves having sex.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    It is said that the ancient history is that of a fertility cult, and that meant human breeding as the most sacred act of creation.
  • Aryós Héngwis
    Aryós Héngwis says #
    I don't think it's really fair to call those who are concerned about religious groups pressuring young people into sex "troublemak
  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you, excellent post!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I’ve been studying Wicca, and it really appeals to me. But I was raised Christian. Can I practice both at the same time?

First off, you should know that this is a very loaded question, and you might receive different answers from different Wiccans, Pagans, and Christians. This is my two cents, but I don’t pretend to speak for everyone in these communities.

Can It Be Done?

I think it’s not impossible to practice Wicca or Paganism and Christianity fully at the same time, but it’s difficult, because there's a fundamental conflict over deity. Christianity asks Christians to accept Jesus as their savior, and the Bible makes it pretty clear that the Christian god is the only god for Christians. Pagans, however, usually worship gods other than or in addition to the Christian god. So it’s challenging to be a fully practicing Christian and a fully practicing Pagan at the same time, while still being true to both traditions.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Gerald Gardner opined that one could be an "...unorthodox christian and a witch at the same time. It seems to me easier than bein
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    Given the contradictions in the Bible, I don't know that any Christian today could follow all of its edicts. However, despite the
  • Jeanine Byers
    Jeanine Byers says #
    I've read both books. The first, by the Higginbothams, is perfect for people seeking to integrate both paths. The second isn't as

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

How about a list of books for absolute beginners?

After I posted my very long list of recommended Wicca books, a couple of people asked if I would post a list just for beginners. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order.

The Spiral Dance by Starhawk

The Spiral Dance was written around 1979, when there were almost no beginner Wiccan or Pagan books on the market. Many, many people were introduced to the Craft through this book. It’s well-structured and full of great information and extremely useful exercises, meditations, and rituals. I have some quibbles with Starhawk’s view of the Goddess in history, and this book is a bit female-centric, but it is gorgeously written and can help women and men alike build a strong foundational practice. Get the most updated version if you can.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Terence P Ward
    Terence P Ward says #
    Nice, diverse selection! (But I believe it's "Bonewits.")
  • Thea Sabin
    Thea Sabin says #
    Doh! Fixed. Thanks!

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I’m new to Wicca/I have been studying Wicca for a few years. What books do you recommend?

I am asked this question a lot! These are books I have liked myself and/or recommended to students. If you're a beginner--or even if you're not--don't feel like I'm telling you to read all of them. This is a starting point for further exploration. Pick what interests you, and leave the rest. 

Per the suggestions in the comments, I will put together a top ten for absolute beginners. The books below are for everyone, not just newcomers.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • 1
    1 says #
    If I might make further suggestions? Much of modern paganry, in my experience, comes to us from Celtic and British sources. The
  • Thea Sabin
    Thea Sabin says #
    Excellent choices!
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    I echo Piparskeggr's recommendation: "Positive Magic" was the first how-to book on Magick I ever read, and one of the most down-to
  • Thea Sabin
    Thea Sabin says #
    Totally agree.
  • Chris Hershey-Van Horn
    Chris Hershey-Van Horn says #
    I'm also new to the study of paganism and witchcraft. The following book has proved as fascinating as it is informative: - The In

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