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Initiatory Wicca is only one variety of witchcraft, with specific beliefs and practices. Wiccans worship a goddess and a god; they observe the festivals of the eight Sabbats of the year and the full-moon Esbats; and they attempt to live by a code of ethics. This distinguishes the religion from other forms of witchcraft which may or may not have specific religious, ethical or ritual elements, and which are practiced by people of many religions, as well as by some atheists. verification needed

Initiatory Wicca has distinctive ritual forms, involving the casting of spells, herbalism, divination and other forms of magic. Wiccan ethics promote free will while requiring that magical activities not harm oneself or others, as expressed in The Wiccan Rede; some also believe in the Threefold Law of Return

Within the "Eclectic", or non-initatory Wiccan movement, there is much more variation in religious beliefs, and secrecy and organisational structure play a less important role. Generally Eclectic Wiccans will adopt similar ritual structures and ethical principles. A few Eclectic Wiccans neither consider themselves witches nor practice magic.

Many Wiccans, though not all, call themselves Pagans, though the umbrella term Paganism encompasses many faiths that have nothing to do with Wicca or witchcraft.

The Book of Shadows is one traditional book of Wicca, it contains the core rituals, practices, and wisdom of the Wiccan tradition. It's usually copied by hand from one's initiator (High Priestess or Priest), who copied it from his or her initiator.

Secrecy and Initiation

Some practitioners of traditional initiatory Wicca consider that the term 'Wicca' correctly applies only to an initiate of a traditional branch of the religion (Gardnerian or Alexandrian Wicca, or their offshoots such as Black Forest Wicca) because solitary Wicca or eclectic Wicca are different in practice from the religion established by Gardner. However, the term has increasingly come to be adopted by people who are not initiates of a traditional lineaged coven. These non-initiatory Wiccans may undertake rituals of self-dedication, and generally work alone as solitary practitioners or in casual groups, rather than in organised covens. Thus non-initiatory Wicca shares some of the basic religious principles, ethics and the ritual system of 'traditional' or 'initiatory' Wicca, but not the organisational structure, or the belief that Wiccan initiation requires a transferral of power from an initiator. Therefore, some practitioners of traditional initiatory Wicca have adopted the term 'British Traditional Wicca' to differentiate themselves from this movement.

Within traditional forms of Wicca there are three degrees of initiation. First degree is required to become a witch and gain membership of a coven; those who aspire to teach may eventually undergo second and third degree initiations, conferring the title of "High Priest" or "High Priestess" and allowing them to establish new covens.

Ritual attire

A sensationalised aspect of Wicca, particularly in Gardnerian Wicca, is the traditional practice of working in the nude, also known as skyclad. Though many Wiccans do perform rituals skyclad, at least on occasion, others do not. In other situations Wiccans may work robed, often in white or black. Cords are worn, indicating rank, among other things.citation needed Some wear normal clothes. Even renaissance-faire-type clothing is not uncommon. Still others wear robes with stoles which represent their tradition and/or standing within the tradition.

The Elements

The classical elements are a key feature of the Wiccan world-view. Every manifest force or form is seen to express one of the four archetypal elements — Earth, Air, Fire and Water — or several in combination. This scheme is fundamentally identical with that employed in other Western Esoteric and Hermetic traditions, such as Theosophy and the Golden Dawn, which in turn were influenced by the Hindu system of tattvas.

There is no consensus as to the exact nature of these elements. Some hold to the ancient Greek conception of the elements corresponding to matter (earth) and energy (fire), with the mediating elements (water, air) relating to the phases of matter (fire/earth mixtures). Other exponents of the system add a fifth or quintessential element, spirit (aether, akasha).

The five points of the frequently worn pentagram symbolise, among other things, the four elements with spirit presiding at the top. The pentagram is the symbol most commonly associated with Wicca in modern times. It is often circumscribed — depicted within a circle — and is usually (though not exclusively) shown with a single point upward. The inverse pentagram, with two points up, is a symbol of the second degree initiation rite of traditional Wicca. In geometry, the pentagram is an elegant expression of the golden ratio phi which is popularly connected with ideal beauty and was considered by the Pythagoreans to express truths about the hidden nature of existence.

Each of the four cardinal elements (air, fire, water and earth) is typically assigned a direction, a color, and an elemental race. The following list shows a common categorisation, but different traditions of Wicca may use different "correspondences":

* Air: East, Yellow, Sylphs
* Fire: South, Red, Salamanders
* Water: West, Blue, Undines
* Earth: North, Green, Gnomes

Some variations in correspondences can be explained by geography or climate. It is common in the southern hemisphere, for example, to associate the element fire with north (the direction of the equator) and earth with south (the direction of the nearest polar area). Some Wiccan groups also modify the religious calendar to reflect local seasonal changes; for instance, most Southern Hemisphere covens celebrate Samhain on April th and Beltane on October st, reflecting the southern hemisphere's autumn and spring seasons.

Ritual occasions

Wiccans typically mark each full moon (and in some cases new moons) with a ritual called an Esbat. They also celebrate eight main holidays called Sabbats. Four of these, the cross-quarter days, are greater festivals, coinciding with old Celtic fire festivals. These are Samhain, May Eve or Beltane, Imbolc and Lammas (or Lughnasadh). The four lesser festivals are the Summer Solstice (or Litha) and Winter Solstice (or Yule), and the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, sometimes called Ostara and Mabon. See also the Wheel of the Year.

The names of these holidays are often taken from Germanic pagan and Celtic polytheistic holidays. However, the festivals are largely only similar in name, as they are not reconstructive in nature nor do they often resemble their historical counterparts, instead exhibiting a form of universalism. Ritual observations may display cultural influence from the holidays from which they take their name as well as influence from other unrelated cultures.

Wiccan weddings can be "bondings", "joinings", or "eclipses"citation needed but are most commonly called "handfastings". Some Wiccans observe the practice of a trial marriage for a year and a day, which some traditions hold should be contracted on Lammas (Lughnasadh), as this was the traditional time for trial, "Telltown marriages" among the Irish. This practice is documented in the fourth and fifth volumes of the Brehon law texts, which are compilations of the opinions and judgements of the Brehon class of Druids (in this case, Irish). The texts as a whole deal with a copious amount of detail for the Insular Celts.

Some perform a ritual called a Wiccaning, analogous to a Christening for an infant, the purpose of which is to present the infant to the God and Goddess for protection. In accordance with the importance put on free will, the child is not necessarily expected to choose a Pagan path until growing older.citation needed

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