With the advent of an apparent schism in modern society between the fundamentalists and the secularists, many people are drawn to nontraditional, non-organized religious systems in search of a connection to spirituality and the creative source of life they believe exists. Some may be deterred by formal church services with pulpit-pounding guilt trips ("you must behave as I do"), doctrinal exhortations ("you must believe as I do"), and even political orders ("you must vote as I do"). Others may simply wish for a system that allows them to worship in their own time and in their own way. Still others have been discouraged by the insistence in most Western religions on the predominance of the male authority figure and the aspersions cast on the female of the species, in the form of subtle sexism, blame cast on women for "original sin," or in some extreme cases, outright consignment to second-class citizenship and subjection to the will of the male figures in the woman's life.
All of these factors may have led to the resurgence and growing popularity of the earth-based religions, such as Paganism, Native American spirituality, and the Goddess-centered religions. Wicca, in particular, has enjoyed a surge in practitioners throughout the last century.
"Wicca" as a term can serve several functions.
- It is often used as a generic term for a larger group of many "traditions," or "trads."
"Wicca" is also the label for a specific religious system that accepts certain precepts common among that large group of traditions, without adhering exclusively to any particular tradition's practices or deities.
Regardless of what drives a person to pursue Wicca, the novice Wiccan tends to find genuine spiritual expression, a creative freedom that simply does not exist in organized Western religion, and a comforting, attractive sense of empowerment (and responsibility). Since Wicca has no formal hierarchy or institutions for formal instruction, most people who are interested in learning about Wicca or becoming dedicants (newly-dedicated practitioners of Wicca) must learn through books, websites, and other Wiccans.
- Get a general understanding of Wicca. To achieve a good grasp of the basic tenets of Wicca, nothing will beat a rainy afternoon sitting on the floor of the local bookstore, browsing through the alternative religions section. Look first for books such as Wicca: The Complete Craft by D.J. Conway, Living Wicca and Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, both by the late, great Scott Cunningham. Books such as these will give you the general sense of Wicca as a broad religious "template" against which you may later, if you choose, overlay a particular tradition.
- Look for a book that contains information on core concept topics. Such topics include casting a Circle, the Rede (the single "commandment" of Wicca, which says, essentially, "If it will harm no one, do as you will"), calling the quarters, drawing down energy and energy work in general, and, of course, magick and spells. Practice tapping into your intuitive powers (which are key in the practice of Wicca) by asking yourself silently which of the books will be most helpful to you in your journey, then passing your hand over the covers of each book you are considering. The book or books that are right for you will "respond" to your hand by giving you a rush of energy, a tingling sensation, or a feeling of general warmth.
- Explore the rites of Wicca. Using one of your selected books, which should contain a simple template and instructions for casting a spell and performing a Circle rite, experiment with the central experience of Wiccan practice. You do not need a formal coven (or group of Wiccans) or formal instruction in rites before you try this step. All you need is a willing spirit, a basic understanding of the structure of the rite, and an intent for your practice (which could be as simple as "to explore what Circle feels like").
- Explore Wiccan websites and message boards. There are many sites on the web that are devoted to Wicca or a specific tradition. Find an open community and join. In order to make the most of your experience, you'll want to observe the general rules of Internet etiquette (i.e., no all-caps "shouting", no "flaming" or overt rudeness, etc.) and any other rules the community has adopted for itself. It might help to simply observe for a week or two in order to get a sense of the place and the people who post there, before you jump in with an introduction post.
- Look for active covens in your area - or start your own! If your town or city has an alternative religions bookstore, this can be an excellent resource for finding other Wiccans in your area. If no formal group exists, ask the owner or manager if you can post a flyer seeking to start one, if this appeals to you. But don't feel obligated to have a coven membership; many Wiccans find spiritual richness and fulfillment practicing as solitaries.
However, observing a coven Circle, especially on one of the eight major "holidays" or Sabbats, can be an enriching and wonderful experience. For that reason alone, you may wish to explore whether your area has any active covens that welcome visitors or inquiries for membership, or simply interested observers. Be aware that many Wiccans face intolerance from the more established religious communities, and may be extremely nervous about "outsiders" peering in, as it could invite trouble or even outright persecution. If the coven leaders do not know you personally, don't be offended if your request is denied. Consider establishing relationships with individual Wiccans first, then inquiring as to whether their covens might welcome you at a Sabbat.