21 Wicca and Pagan Symbols in Everyday Life
As a proud practicing Wicca, I am often faced with misconceptions about my religion and its symbols. The truth is that Wicca and Pagan symbols are already heavily integrated into modern society, but many people are unaware of their deeper meaning. I've compiled this list to give anyone that's curious about Wicca symbols or Pagan symbols a comprehensive guide. Read on for examples of the 21 Wicca and Pagan symbols' usage followed by their greater significance.
A Peaceful History of Wicca and Pagan Traditions
Some people hear "Wicca" or "Pagan" and automatically think "Satanic." Pop culture has long perpetuated this misunderstanding of the peaceable religion of Wicca. While Wicca is a relatively new religion, it is based on a belief system that dates back to the Stone Ages. At the heart of the religion is a pair of gods, commonly called the Moon Goddess or Great Goddess and the Horned God or Great Horned God.
1. The Horned God Is Not Satan
The Horned God has spurred many comparisons between Wicca and Satanism. Horned gods predate Christianity, and the vilification of them likely started with that religion as it sought to separate early followers from their Pagan roots. You have no doubt seen a lot of horned gods in the fantasy genre (as minotaurs, satyrs, fauns, etc), but these are rarely representative of the Wicca Horned God. Our Horned God is a noble figure. His depiction as part beast and part man represents the unification of nature and humanity.
2. The Pentagram in Wicca Culture
The pentagram is another important Wicca symbol that is highly misunderstood. Five-pointed stars are strongly associated with Satanic rituals or with dark witchcraft. While many Wiccas do practice a craft of sorts, it is never with intent to harm. A Pagan pentagram represents the five elements of earth, air, water, fire and spirit. It may be used to channel energy, as demonstrated in the bookstore scene in The Craft. In the 1999 film Sleepy Hollow, Katrina Van Tassel draws a pentagram as a protective measure which is initially misinterpreted.
3. Witches and Cauldrons
Cauldrons have a long association with witches, though of course there was a time when virtually everyone cooked with one. This Wicca symbol is just one of many that J.K. Rowling appropriated for use in the Harry Potter universe. In Wicca culture, a cauldron symbol most often represents elements like fire and/or water. Old-fashioned practitioners may also use a literal cauldron in their preparations.
4. The Wicca Besom/Broom
You know that no witch costume is complete without a broom. The Wicked Witch of the West had one in The Wizard of Oz, and all three Sanderson Sisters had them in Hocus Pocus. Why do we associate witches with brooms? In Roman times, midwives used ceremonial brooms to symbolically clean a home of an evil presence before and after childbirth. As a Wicca symbol, the broom represents your ability to move beyond earthly limitations (or to fly, if you prefer).
5. Black Cats - Friends or Foes?
Black cats have gotten a bad rap outside the witching world. They are often used to represent bad luck in popular fiction. Cats represent something else entirely in Wicca culture. Their otherworldly nature makes cats of any color a popular companion. In the movie Constantine, the title character uses a cat to visit Hell.
6. Who Is the Greenman?
The Greenman, or Green Man, is a leafy face often seen in Medieval architecture and later in Victorian-era furniture and hardware. It is widely believed to be derivative of a Celtic Druid-era deity. In Pagan culture, the Greenman has been adopted as a symbol of indomitable nature or male virility.
7. Mano Cornuto vs Sign of the Beast
The mano cornuto symbol is also known as the "horned hand." This symbol was commonly used in Italy as a ward against the evil eye. In the 1980s, a variant of it was embraced by heavy metal music fans who copied the gesture from the artist Dio. It was through heavy metal that it came to be called "sign of the beast" or "throwing horns." In Wicca culture, this symbol has no association with Satan. Instead, it may be representative of either the Horned God or the Moon Goddess.
8. Boline vs Sickle
A boline is a small crescent-shaped knife, often mistaken for a sickle. The sickle is associated with Communism, and the related scythe is heavily symbolic of death. In Wicca culture, the boline has no political or spiritual meaning. It is a common tool, and its use during ceremonies is strictly tied to the physical realm.
9. Quoth the Raven
In pop culture, any mention of a raven is sure to be tied to the eponymous poem by Edgar Allen Poe. They are also featured heavily in Game of Thrones, where the seer Bran Stark has come to identify himself as the Three-eyed Raven. The raven is a powerful Wicca symbol because it represents your ability to move between the physical and spiritual realms.
10. More Than One Wand
Depending on your age, your first sight of a magic wand might have been in The Sword in the Stone, or it might (yet again) have been in Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone. In popular fiction, witches and wizards typically have only one wand. In Wicca culture, the "Book of Shadows" by Gerald Gardner identifies many different wands with many different purposes. As an everyday Wicca symbol, it may represent the element of air or transformative power.
11. Binding Spells vs Voodoo Dolls
Binding spells are sometimes mistaken for voodoo dolls. In movies like The Witches of Eastwick, the three witches create an effigy and use it to inflict pain upon Jack Nicholson's villainous character. While ancient binding spells may have some relationship to voodoo dolls, in modern Wicca binding spells are used strictly for protection.
12. The Moon
The moon has many occult associations. You've no doubt seen plenty of it in werewolf and vampire movies, but Wiccas take the moon very seriously. There are few symbols as sacred as the moon. To Wiccas, the moon is symbolic of the Moon Goddess. It is the beginning and end of all life.
13. The Meaning of the Candle Illuminated
TV shows like The Vampire Diaries like to romanticize common witches' tools but often get their significance wrong. For example, Wiccas do not draw on candles for power. Small candles represent our connection to the divine while large candles may represent the Moon Goddess. Candles also help us to focus our mind and energy on the desired outcome of a spell.
14. Witches and Crystals
Modern witches of all religions and associations acknowledge the power of crystals. Many New Agers that are otherwise unassociated with Paganism also use crystals. It's common to see a hippie in a movie wearing a big chunk of quartz. Wiccas also acknowledge the power of this mineral and often place it on their alters as a symbol of the element Earth.
15. Athames - Not Your Everyday Kitchen Knives
You may not be familiar with the word "athame," but you've no doubt seen this ceremonial knife in movies about witch hunters. The athame is one of the most important Wicca tools, and yet in movies it is more often depicted as a weapon to be used against witches. Usually the knife has a black handle. While it features in many Wicca ceremonies, it is never used to draw blood. In "Book of Shadows," Gardner uses an athame as a symbol of the element Fire, but other Pagan practices may use it as a symbol for the element of Air.
16. Book of Shadows
Now's as good a time as any to address the aforementioned "Book of Shadows." While Wicca traces most of its modern roots to the "Book of Shadows" written by Gerald Gardner, there are as many books of shadows as there are Wiccas. "Book of Shadows" is not one tome but any collection of writings and spells created by a Wicca. Many Wiccas use theirs as a sort of journal. Some people use the term "grimoire" as a synonym for a book of shadows. The show Charmed featured a family Book of Shadows in nearly every episode.
17. The Ubiquitous Evil Eye
The Evil Eye symbol is not limited to Wicca and Pagan symbols. In fact, it is one of the oldest known occult symbols in existence. It traces back to an all-seeing goddess but later became representative of any ill-wishing glare. In pop culture, witchy glares abound, and yet an all-seeing eye symbol is more frequently used in movies referencing Freemasonry and the Illuminati.
18. Why Wiccas Love Stars
Stars are one of the few Pagan symbols that are consistently well-received. You've probably wished on a star before. The act may be more innate than you realized. Wiccas view stars as a promise of their potential to reach divine heights. Five-pointed stars are also used synonymously with the pentagram.
19. The Friendly Spider
Spiders are often associated with witches, but you might be surprised to know that it's not for sinister reasons. Many Pagan religions view the spider as a symbol of creation. In Wicca, the spider also represents re-creation, or a Wicca's ability to redirect energy and even to change fate.
20. Light as a Feather?
The "light as a feather" chant from The Craft quickly became a cult classic at slumber parties. Does it have any basis in Wicca though? Yes and no. No one is using the symbol of a feather to attempt levitation (outside of the Harry Potter universe, that is). That said, feathers are frequently placed on altars to represent the element of Air. They also represent your ability to fly between realms.
21. Blood Magic
Shows like Supernatural have strengthened the association between witchcraft and blood magic. In truth, the only type of blood used in Wicca rituals is Moon Blood (aka menstrual blood).
Did you recognize some of the pop culture appropriations of Wicca symbols? I hope this list has been educational. Maybe it's even given you a new appreciation for the depth of Pagan and Wicca culture.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and feelings below and to pass this along to curious Wicca and non-Wicca friends alike.
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