I try not to fly off the handle when someone says something offensive to me - especially when it happens unintentionally. However, if the statement still stings a long time after it was made, I do my best to address it - for other people's benefit and for my own. Some time ago my husband was talking to a business manager at his organization. They were discussing the upcoming summer conference and the subject of thanking god for success came up. Quite a few of the organization members and leaders are devout Christians - and there is nothing wrong with that. When they are asked to speak during the various events, they frequently start (or finish) by saying something like, "I would like to thank Jesus for all my success..." and so on.
I personally find it a little uncomfortable - while there is nothing wrong with one's faith, I don't like it when people flaunt it, especially when they are at business events - this is a business conference, not a mass. Anyway, the business manager Gerry was talking to said something like, "It's like a Wiccan going on stage and thanking Satan." ? This statement kept popping into my head ever since, and at this point, I feel I honestly can't ignore it. It will do me some good to vent and - hopefully - do other people some good to learn a little bit more about our faith to avoid making statements that are (a) ignorant and (b) offensive. It doesn't really make much sense to stay offended at someone who doesn't know any better. So, I decided to point out some things Wicca is not.
Wicca is not devil worship. Period. ...For the simple reason that Satan or devil simply does not exist in our faith. The fundamental principle of Wicca is "Harm none" - that right there is enough to demonstrate that this faith has nothing to do with devil worship. We worship the god and the goddess. Yes, our god is depicted with horns on his head - it's because he is the god of forest and harvest, the shepherd of all animals - wild and domestic. Why some people jumped all over that symbol and immediately declare it representing Satan is beyond me.
Wicca is not a man-hating faith. Us, Wiccans, are not little angels - we do harbor some dislike toward a few things here and there, such as lack of regard toward someone's beliefs, persistent ignorance, refusal to take responsibility for one's words and actions and environmentally irresponsible behavior. We try to change those behaviors through influence by example - not through hate. But we do not hate men. Yes, the goddess is equal to the god in our faith - but we worship them equally. In fact, four out of our eight major celebrations are dedicated to the sun (in fact, one is coming up shortly - the winter solstice). Wicca is a faith of equality - anyone is welcome, as long as "Harm none" is the guiding principle in his or her life. So, while there are some rituals that are gender-specific, in general both genders are included in pretty much everything.
Wicca does not promote sexual promiscuity. Yes, we do have rituals that involve sexual acts between High Priest and High Priestess. Yes, we do worship sky clad (meaning - in the nude). However, if anyone bothered to read up on Wicca, they would very quickly discover that the rituals involving sex between the High Priest and High Priestess involve a lot more than just the physical act.
Sadly, there are some covens out there that seem to have been formed solely for the purpose of having fun with people running around naked. I am sorry to say that - but these are not true Wiccans. Wicca deplores excess of anything - including sex. And that's coming from a faith where a woman's role and fertility are absolutely key. We have high regard for healthy sexuality and sensuality, but orgies are not really our thing.
As for worshiping sky clad - it's actually a highly spiritual experience, purifying in many ways and - sometimes - slightly a-sexual, as paradoxical as it may sound. Let's not forget that the Maid is one of the Moon Goddess's incarnations, and we do call upon her purity and mental reserve to help purge ourselves from some negative garbage.
Wiccan symbols - the moon, the circle, the pentacle (sadly demonized in too many modern "Satan comes to Earth" movies), the runes - are not meant to be used to harm anyone. Again, and again, and again - "Harm none". If you don't abide by that - you are not a Wiccan. It's as simple as that. Yes, we do use symbols in various rituals, but all they are meant to do is help us connect with nature. In fact, not all of us use symbols or attributes to worship (such as the broom, the wand, the cup, the candles, the incense, etc.) - some form the connection easier than others, and some need those little visuals to anchor their mind to.
Wicca does not promote the use of hallucinogenic drugs. It is true, that in the ancient times, people did take mushrooms or herbs that induced visions. However, we have long since figured out that it's pretty much all an illusion and might cause permanent physical damage to boot. Wicca does promote taking care of yourself as much as taking care of others, so do you honestly think we would be in favor of something that could permanently screw up our precious brain cells? I don't think so. We burn candles and incense, because of what they represent in a ritual, but we don't engage in drug fests.
Wicca does not require its faithful to dress in black, wrap themselves in chains and necklaces (a la Professor Trelawney from Harry Potter), get multiple piercings or to have tattoos all over their bodies. I am Wiccan. I wear every color that I think looks good on me (no key lime or poisonous yellow, please). I only have two piercings - one in each ear (I do love my chandelier earrings). If you try to talk me into getting a tattoo, I will forsake that "Harm none" principle for ten seconds I require to kick your from here into last Friday. :-) Seriously, I hate tattoos - it's just too painful, and I am just too much into the whole "take care of yourself" thing.
My husband and I do have a set of ceremonial robes, but they are not black and they are not velvet. (a) Your body is supposed to be in tune with nature, and your skin can't breathe while wearing black velvet. (b) It's generally preferable to make your ritual clothing and accessories from natural materials. So, our robes are made of 100% sand-colored cotton, our belts are made of hemp rope, and our capes are made of 100% green-colored cotton. Because Wicca promotes moderation in all things, we didn't go on line and spend hundreds of dollars on this stuff - we went and bought some fabric and then I made the robes and the capes myself.
We do have some ritual jewelry - also made with natural materials (leather chord, semi-precious stone beads, amber, wood, etc.) Again, not a requirement - they are only important because of what they represent.
Wiccans are not Christian-haters. Wicca states that thoughts are things, and hatred is a negative thought, which violates the - again, altogether now - "Harm none" principle. We are very much about living and letting live, so if someone wants to practice a different faith - that's totally fine, as long as he or she respects ours. I personally am guilty of a little childish pride about my faith's ancient roots. I mean, how many faiths do you know that go as far as hunting and gathering? I feel the same way about the history of the country where I was born and grew up. I have trouble stifling a giggle, when a building merely 200 years old is declared a historic landmark in the United States - not because I disrespect the history of the building, but because we have buildings in Kiev that are five times that age, and they are not the oldest ones. So, yes, I can't help but feel that mild sense of superiority, because my faith is just so darn old and encompasses so many things. Wanna burn me on a stake for that?
Wiccans don't have churches, although creating your own personal place of worship is generally encouraged. But it is best to find that place outside - because Wicca is so much about being in harmony with nature. If there ever were people who truly worshiped their gods in their (the gods') house - it's Wiccans. We go to the places that the god and the goddess built to call on their help or advice, which can be anywhere on Earth. How great is that - to have a place of worship the size of the planet! ...Or the size of the Universe, if you want to expand even further.
Wiccans are many things - bird listeners, singers to the water and whisperers to the flame, drinkers of the air and talkers to the earth, healers of trees and soothers of people and animals. How can any of this be evil or harmful to anyone? You tell me - I've done my best.