SFR: Did you grow up practicing Wicca?
AK: I was the director of religious education for the Unitarian Church and part of my job was to research curricula so I was researching ancient religions and found myself very attracted to the idea of the goddess religions. I thought it would be wonderful if something like that was still around today and after a little more research, I found out that it was. I liked the Unitarian Church a lot for its freedom of thought, but Wicca touched me in a more emotional way.
What does Wicca look like as a religious practice?
It’s a spiritual path. It is a religion but, because it’s not very much like mainstream religion, a lot of us prefer to think of it as a path. We don’t have a book or a scripture or a profit or a time when you can say it was founded. It’s a folk religion, which means that it evolved over time and is still evolving. We have no orthodoxy. We have some shared values and practices and not much organization or bureaucracy.
How specifically do you worship the goddess?
Most of us believe that the goddess is not a transcendent being up there somewhere but is embodied in all of nature. You can imagine her or symbolize her as a human figure but, for most of us, she is the Earth and the sky and the stars. So to worship her, though we generally say ‘to celebrate her,’ we enjoy and respect nature and the creatures that live in it. We celebrate the cycles of the seasons through eight major holy days and we also celebrate the cycles of the moon and try to stay in close harmony with nature, which is a challenge in a technological society.
It seems like the community has embraced technology, though, by communicating through the Internet.
The Internet has been a great boon for us. There was a lot of isolation when I started in the craft. If you were lucky, you found a coven or a teacher, but those might be the only witches you ever met. Right around the 1970s, people were starting to sponsor pagan festivals so, for the first time, you could meet other people who were following a similar path. The Internet just magnified that and now we have a wonderful network. People argue about the fastest growing religion in America and Wicca is right up there with Mormonism and the Baptists and a few others. The Internet is also changing the view of Wicca. When I began, there was a real victim worldview; we didn’t want to let ourselves be recognized out of fear of persecution or, at the very least, misunderstanding. Some of that is now easing and healing because the information is out there and easy to find.
Do you have a hierarchy of teachers in Wicca?
Almost everyone who starts this path wants a teacher. The wise ones figure out that there is no such thing as one teacher. We don’t encourage the guru approach that you will find a spiritual master who will teach you all and have pearls of wisdom falling from their lips. The more time you spend in nature really is the way you learn the most. That’s really our book. There are, of course, a zillion books that people can read, but there is no ‘word of god.’
What are the holiday celebrations like?
Each one of the eight has a different theme and most of the themes come from ancient times. They either have an agricultural base or a pastoral base. But we’ve adapted those to modern times. The idea of harvest may have nothing to do with vegetables or grains but more with the products of our careers or something creative. But the idea is that we plant a seed and nurture that and, eventually we reap the rewards from that. As far as how we do it: We sing, dance, feast, play games and drums. We party. And often we’ll do that in the context of a sacred circle, and we have a whole ritual format that involves casting the circle, calling the corners and evoking the deity. Within that framework, we’re either having fun, celebrating or working serious magick.
What exactly do you mean by magick? [Ed. note: “Magick” is the common spelling in Wiccan literature.]
Well, magick is very hard to get a handle on. It has depth and dimension that’s rather amazing. If you want a quick definition, it’s that magick is the art of changing consciousness at will. A similar idea would be using a focused will to transform yourself and the world.
So it’s a meditative, healing process.
Very often. And the results usually do not involve drama or pyrotechnics. You can do magick to affect the outside world and, once in a while, it does become spectacular. Magick ordinarily happens in a very quiet and naturally appearing way so, if you didn’t know you did work for that, you might think it’s a coincidence. But once in awhile you get thunder and lightning and rainbows. When that happens, it’s wonderful, but most of the time we’re just satisfied with the results and we don’t need the Technicolor.