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First developed in the 1970s, Wicca is a relatively new religion. Inspired by ancient pagan worship, the religion is highly decentralized. Unlike the structure in many mainstream religions, there is no central authority in the Wicca. And similarly, unlike most religions, Wicca does not have a single, centralized doctrine or book.
Wiccans do not have a singular sacred text (like the Bible or Qur’an), but they often hold some texts in high regard like the Wiccan Rede, Rule of Three, and the 13 Principles of Wicca. Wiccans also create their own personal sacred books known as a Book of Shadows, Book of Ways, The Tree, or Grimoire.
Whether you’re interested in initiating into the world of Wicca or just curious about the religion itself, this article serves to help you learn more. In it, I’ll discuss things to know about Wicca and its sacred texts, including information regarding significant historical texts, the personal Book of Shadows, and the Wiccan Rede. I’ll also discuss how to implement Wiccan practices into your daily life and how to make your very own Book of Shadows.
Things To Know About Wicca and Its Sacred Texts
If you’re new to Wicca, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of misconceptions surrounding this beautiful religion. Many of these misconceptions may be attributed to misinformation spread by Abrahamic religions, Hollywood, and the media. So, if you’re a newbie, please keep an open mind while reading, and leave your preconceptions behind!
With that said, let’s dive into some information regarding Wicca and some of the more popular Wicca-related texts, often used by Wiccan practitioners.
1. Wicca Does Not Have a Central Sacred Text
While there are many books on the market with titles such as “The Wiccan Bible,” Wicca does not operate based on a centralized sacred text. There is no single guide or doctrine for practitioners to follow.
Wicca is not particularly structured when compared to most religions. Many Wiccan practitioners are solitary, so they have no formal religious organization.
Others are part of a coven, which is a small group that meets privately and isn’t generally open to the community at large. Covens offer initiation rites and a more structured foundation for those who prefer learning in a group. They provide a way for practitioners to interact with other practicing Wiccans within a group setting.
Many covens have their own texts that they use as a guide for spells, rituals, and initiation. These books differ between covens and, therefore, are not considered central sacred and religious texts.
Wiccans often pick and choose their favorite texts based on what resonates with them – and there are many books related to both Wicca and The Craft (if that Wiccan practices magick). Personal research is a huge part of Wicca.
2. Some Texts Are Considered Sacred – But Not by All Wiccans
Some historical texts are considered sacred by Wiccans, but they do not serve as the basis of Wiccan practice, nor do all Wiccans use the same books.
Wicca is highly personalized. Many practitioners utilize books as tools on topics such as:
- Western European Mythology
- Western European Folklore
Despite not having a singular book that is used to guide practitioners of Wicca, there are a number of books that are significant to many Wiccans. Some choose books based on the natural Earth or texts that help them feel more connected to the Goddess or God. Many of these books are of historical importance, not necessarily a foundation for Wiccan worship or magickal practice.
Below, we’ll cover four popular books among Wiccans. You can find each of these books on Amazon:
- The Charge of the Goddess. Written by Doreen Valiente, the “Mother of Modern Witchcraft,” “The Charge of the Goddess” is a collection of poems – essentially Valiente’s “Book of Shadows’ – highly revered by Wiccans. The book is often used in Wiccan rituals, including Drawing Down the Moon. The High Priest or High Priestess often recites parts of the book once the ritual is completed.
- The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. First published in 1979, “The Spiral Dance” covers Neopagan beliefs and practices and touches on Wicca, modern witchcraft, and the female divine. Today, it’s considered a classic and a must-have for most practitioners.
- Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches. It’s believed that “Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches,” was highly influential in the development of Wicca. Written in 1899 – long before the “official” formation of Wicca – the book is popular among Wiccans and self-proclaimed witches alike. Starhawk, the author, touted the information within the book as the original religious text of a group of pagan practitioners in Italy.
- The Meaning of Witchcraft. Often regarded as the “Father of Wicca,” Gerald Gardner writes of his experiences with Wicca and the New Forest Coven. Influenced by ancient pagan practices and rituals, Gardner wrote “The Meaning of Witchcraft” to introduce Wicca to the mainstream in hopes that it wouldn’t die out.
The above-mentioned books aren’t the only texts revered by Wiccans – each practitioner may have their own library of tomes that resonate with them, and they may disregard others entirely. Or they may use a private book created by their coven which is distributed among members.
To reiterate, Wicca is often incredibly personal, with each follower creating and defining their own path.
3. Many Wiccans Create Their Own Spiritual Books
While many Wiccans use the aforementioned sacred texts as a general basis for research of better understanding of the faith, most Wiccans find more significance in their own books. These books, created by practitioners themselves, are often referred to as a “Book of Shadows.”
When Wicca was first developed, it was dominated by covens. There was only one Book of Shadows for each coven, and the book was traditionally kept by the High Priest or High Priestess. Today, however, it’s common for all witches to carry their own personal copy. Gerald Gardner, who first introduced the Book of Shadows, considered it to be a book of spells, and practitioners were permitted to copy from his book and add material as they deemed fit.
With that said, not every Wiccan refers to their personal tome as the Book of Shadows – that nomenclature is more common among Gardnerian sects. Other names for these highly-personalized texts include:
- The Tree (Seax-Wica)
- The Book of Ways (Devotional Wicca)
- The Book
As you can see, these types of books are used among multiple Wiccan sects, albeit in their own ways. Even solitary practitioners implement these personalized books into their practices.
Sometimes, there are two books kept by more traditional Wiccas – one is a book for the coven that discusses rituals and practices, whereas the other is intended for personal use and varies from Wiccan to Wiccan.
The books typically contain:
- Religious texts
- Ritual instructions
- Initiation rites
- Experimental practices
- Herbal lore
- Divination information
- Journaling to track spell manifestation and growth
These books are often used in a Wiccan’s everyday life.
The Book of Shadows is not limited to Wiccan practices only – today, it is common among many pagan practices and different forms of witchcraft. Eclectic Wiccans or non-traditional witches often use the Book of Shadows as more of a journal that records rituals, spells, and their results, as well as other information that resonates with the practitioner.
4. Wiccans Follow the Wiccan Rede
Wiccans may not have a centralized text, but most do abide by the Wiccan Rede.
While not a text, per se, the Wiccan Rede is as close to a doctrinal statement that Wicca has. It’s considered more of a basic guideline for everyday life, rituals, and spellcasting.
The Rede is most commonly recited as:
“An’ ye harm none, do what ye will.”
Doreen Valiente first spoke the Wiccan Rede as the eight-word couplet:
“Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, An’ it harm none do what ye will.”
Other forms of the Rede are as follows:
- “An’ it harm none, do what thou wilt.”
- “An’ it harm none, do as thou wilt.”
- “Than it harm none, do as thou wilt.”
- “Do what you will, so long as it harms none.”
It’s important to note that not all Wiccans abide by this Rede. Some Gardnerian Wiccans use the Charge of the Goddess for their moral guide:
“Keep pure your highest ideal, strive ever towards it; let naught stop you or turn you aside, for mine is the secret door which opens upon the door of youth.”
The Charge of the Goddess is often used for moral or ethical dilemmas, whereas the Wiccan Rede is more of a guide or advice for everyday living.
Is the Wiccan Rede a Commandment?
There are many similarities between the Wiccan Rede and the Christian “Golden Rule” – however, there is much debate about whether the Wiccan Rede is a universal law, commandment, or simply a guideline.
The Wiccan Rede is not a commandment. There is no focus on consequential actions or prohibitions like in other religious texts, such as the Bible or Qur’an. The Rede is often interpreted and implemented differently among different practitioners and is considered “open to interpretation.”
Most Wiccans believe that the Rede means doing good for humankind. Others, however, believe that it encompasses all living beings, from animals to plants.
The words “harm none” are the core of Wiccan practice. But there are many ambiguous situations that require interpretation.
What actions do harm and which do not bring harm? Is it only intentional harm, or unintentional? Who is included in this statement? Animals? Plants? The environment? Is protecting yourself in self-defense, even if it brings harm to another person, covered?
These questions and more are precisely why the Wiccan Rede is open to interpretation.
Regardless of how you or others interpret the Wiccan Rede, the underlying basis is personal responsibility for your actions in all situations and circumstances – minimize harm to yourself, others, animals, the Earth, and the environment as much as possible.
This sense of personal responsibility separates Wicca from most organized religions. In Christianity, for example, there is often blame placed on evil, Satan, or other malevolent entities. Wicca, however, focuses on the self, encouraging others to improve themselves and avoid negatively affecting other lifeforms.
Do Wiccans Perform Black Magic?
Traditional Wiccans do not perform black magic. The Wiccan Rede is a vow of non-harm, and many Wiccans refuse to practice any magick that may affect others without consent. Wiccan magick is focused on personal goals, healing, and cleansing. Although some Wiccans perform banishing spells to block black magic, they never send dark magick into the world.
5. Rule of Three
Most Wiccans believe in the Rule of Three. This rule states that your deeds (both good and bad) will come back to you threefold. You can think of this rule almost like karma, or compare it to the Golden Rule in Christianity.
Aside from the moral and ethical concerns, the Rule of Three is another major reason why Wiccans do not perform black magick. As the rule says, any negativity or evil which you send out into the world will just come back to bite you in the end. So if you conduct black magick, you’ll only be hurting yourself in the end.
6. The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief
Another common work held by most Wiccans is the 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief. These principles were developed in the 1970s as a way to unify members from various Wiccan and Witchcraft factions. They were meant to serve as a unifying document, as well as a statement to counteract misinformation about Wicca and Witchcraft in the general population.
The principles cover concepts like knowledge, responsibility, non-harm, nature, relations with other religions, and magick. You can find a number of foundational principles and ideas in this document.
Ideas for Implementing the Wiccan Rede Into Your Life
Whether you’re a devoted daily practitioner or someone who infrequently dabbles in pagan practices from time to time, implementing the Rede into your life and spiritual work is one way to better yourself and begin to take personal responsibility for your actions.
Wiccans and non-Wiccans may implement the advice of the Rede by:
- Reusing, recycling, or up-cycling to prevent waste.
- Donating to charity.
- Investing in solar or wind energy.
- Planting trees, community gardens, or pollinator plants.
- Becoming vegetarian, vegan, or reducing consumption of animal products.
- Getting involved in animal rescue or environmental organizations.
- Cleansing their homes of negative energies to avoid harming guests.
- Being mindful of the words and tone used towards others.
- Doing volunteer work in your community.
- Take a pause before rushing to anger or blame.
- Cleaning beaches, parks, and nature preserves.
The core of the Rede is based on thinking deeply about how your words or actions may affect others, but how you decide to implement it is entirely up to you.
Creating Your Own Book of Shadows
As discussed earlier in this article, the Book of Shadows is a sacred text used among covens and solitary practitioners alike. For eclectic witches, the Book of Shadows is used more as a personal journal of spells, rituals, and other important information that resonates with the owner.
Creating your own Book of Shadows isn’t a challenging task – any store-bought journal will do as the base in which you can write. However, many Wiccans prefer to bind their books by hand, making them more personal and, therefore, more significant to the practitioner.
The art of bookbinding is ancient – and it also takes quite a long time to complete by hand. Instead of going through the time-consuming process of traditional bookbinding, we’ve put together a much simpler “bookbinding” tutorial – although it uses a stapler as opposed to the traditional weaving with a needle and waxed thread.
Here’s what you’ll need to create your own simple 4.25 x 5.5-inch (10.8 x 13.9 cm) Book of Shadows:
- 32 Sheets of Parchment Paper (A4)
- Bone folder
- Binder clips
- Thin fabric
- PVA Glue (Elmer’s Glue is fine)
- Brush for glue
- Book press or heavy books
- Stiff cardboard or chipboard
- A natural fiber like linen, fabric, or leather for the cover
- Lining paper (i.e., cardstock, marbled paper, parchment paper, etc.)
- Separate the paper into four stacks of eight sheets each. Fold each sheet in half crosswise and use a bone folder to press the fold. Repeat with all remaining stacks of paper.
- Place each folded paper inside of the other to form a small booklet. Repeat with all of the folded papers – you should have four separate “signatures” (a stack of folded pages that make up four or more pages of a book).
- Take one signature and turn it over. The “fold” should appear like a tent, pointing upward. Flatten the sheet a bit to ensure the pages are neatly stacked.
- Open the stapler. Staple about an inch or two (2.5 to 5 cm) from each edge, exactly on the crease.
- Flip the signature over. Staple again on the other side of the crease, just above or below the first staples.
- Repeat for all remaining signatures. These signatures will make up the pages of your book.
- Line up the signatures together. Secure them using a binder clip.
- Measure the length, height, and width of the signatures while they’re stacked together. Make a note of the length and height. For the width, write down five times the thickness. For example, if the width of your pages stacked together is ½ inch (1.27 cm), you would write 2 ½ inches (6.25 cm).
- Cut out a sheet of thin fabric that matches the noted dimensions. This will “bind” the signatures together.
- Apply glue to the “spine” of the stacked signatures. Place them in the center of the thin fabric. The fabric should not be glued to the sides of the signatures – it should look something like “wings,” gently hugging the signatures but not attached, except by the spine.
- Place the bound book into a book press. If you do not have a book press, you may stack several heavy books on top of the bound signatures. Allow it to dry overnight.
- Set the bound signatures onto a piece of stiff cardboard or chipboard. Line up the spine with one edge of the board. Trace around the signature, leaving about ¼ inch (6.35 mm) on the other three sides. Cut out the board and then repeat with another board.
- Place the two boards on each side of the bound signatures. Press them together and measure the combined thickness.
- Use a ruler to draw the dimensions onto a piece of scrap board for the spine. Cut the spine so that it covers the thickness of the boards and the paper together. It should be the same height as the boards.
- Place the book covers and the spine on the reverse side of your fabric, leather, or vinyl. You can use an old t-shirt or even a paper bag (although paper may make a less durable cover). Line everything up (spine and both covers) in the center, ensuring that there’s a border of at least one inch (2.54 cm) all around.
- Cut out the material. Double-check that it shares the dimensions of the book covers and spine one inch (leaving 2.54 cm) on each side.
- Smear white glue all over the boards and spine. Place the spine first, directly in the center on the wrong side of the material (i.e., the side that you won’t see once the book is completed).
- Place each cover board on each side of the spine. Keep about one spine length of space between each of the cover boards and spine. Ensure that they’re all perfectly aligned and straight.
- Spread glue on the cover boards. Do not apply glue to the spine board.
- Place the bound signatures so that they are resting evenly on the spine board. Glue the loose fabric “wings” (that you made in step 10) to the cover boards, right up to the edges. Allow the fabric to dry – hold the papers up with bookends or canned foods to prevent the pages from sticking to the material.
- Choose a lining paper for the book. This can be cardstock, thin marbled paper, parchment paper, or any other paper that you have on hand. Decorative paper is popular. Fold the lining paper in half crosswise. It should be at least the same size as the signatures when folded.
- Place one side of the folded lining paper on the first page of the signature. It should line up neatly with the edge of the paper. Then, glue the other side of the liner to the inside of the cover. It should cover all of the folded material for the cover. Repeat for the back of the book. Allow it to dry overnight before using.
Once you’ve completed your very own Book of Shadows (or whatever you choose to call it), you can fill it in with whatever your heart desires – drawings of nature, ritual ideas, your very own spells, results of your practice, or just daily ramblings. As many Wiccans believe, everything is entirely up to you.
Today it’s estimated that there are over 1,000,000 Wiccans in the United States alone. Interestingly, no single sacred text unites Wiccans as it does in other religions like Christianity (Bible) and Islam (Qur’an).
The fact is that Wiccans do not need a centralized text to unite them because Wicca is highly-personalized.
Despite the lack of a unified sacred text among all Wiccans, many practice the art of journaling, spell keeping, and record keeping with personalized books referred to as the Book of Shadows (among other names).
- Learn Religions: The Rule of Three – The Law of Threefold Return
- Virginia Commonwealth University: Wicca, Neo-Paganism, the Craft, and Dianic
- BBC News: Gerald Gardner – Legacy of the ‘Father of Witchcraft’
- John Hopkins University – Project Muse: A Historical Analysis of the Wiccan Rede
- Wicca Magazine: The Wiccan Rede