RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—When many of us hear the word Wiccan, we automatically assume we're talking about witches and Halloween. The holiday is associated with Wiccans mainly because it's the time of Sanheim (the third harvest), considered a sacred holiday by Wiccans. Most followers of Wicca celebrate eight nature-based holidays, beginning with Samhain (Halloween), Yule (Winter Solstice), Imbolc (Candlemas), Ostara (Spring Equinox), Beltane (May Day), Litha (Summer Solstice), and Lammas Mabon (Autumn Equinox). "At the Halloween season, we take a hard look at our shadow selves, or the hidden part of ourselves, that might be inhibiting our personal growth," explains Jamie Wood, author of The Wicca Herbal: Recipes, Magick, and Abundance (Ten Speed Press, 2003), and The Enchanted Diary: A Teen's Guide to Magick and Life (Celestial Arts, 2005).
THE DETAILS: So are Wiccans witches? And why is it a bad thing if they are? "Because both words originate from the same word, wicce, meaning to bend or shape the unseen forces," Wood explains. "It also means 'wise one,' and was used to describe a person who knew how to use herbs for healing the mind, body, and spirit," she says. The word witch, of course, has endured far more negative stereotypes, but Woods says that both self-identified witches and Wiccans adhere to the principles of "Do what you will, but harm none," and the Threefold Law of whatever you do will come back to you three times. In other words, "Watch your karma and do nothing negative," says Wood.
Because Wicca is known as the religion of ecology, and those who practice it tend to be in tune with the changing of the seasons, gardening and recipes are a big part of the creed's traditions. "The ingredients are not eye of newt or wing of bat, but come from the earth, such as basil or rosemary or even almond oil," says Wood. In the Wiccan tradition, intention is as important an ingredient as the oils and herbs. "As we create our recipes, we focus on what we want to achieve, whether that is peace of mind or silky smooth skin," Wood adds. "Wiccans believe intention is as key an ingredient in lotion as the oil you use to create it. "