The Wiccan Basics Quiz

Torrance Grey

Image: Pixabay by Desertrose7

About This Quiz

Wicca — dozens of misconceptions swirl around this modern belief system, nearly as many held by Wiccans themselves as by "cowans" (outsiders). Chief among them is the idea that Wicca is a revival of a duotheistic (God/Goddess) nature religion that was dominant in Western Europe before Christianity. Historians have simply been unable to find evidence of this. Instead, this idea came mostly from the work of one Egyptologist, and it was carried forward by a loose coalition of feminist writers and folklorists. 

That's the bad news. The good news is, the modern belief system of Wicca is tolerant, life-affirming, and has advanced important social issues like feminism, gay rights and environmentalism. And it's only growing more popular, aided by television shows and movies that cast it in a positive light. All this despite saber-rattling and denunciations from threatened leaders of traditional religions, who have attempted to equate Wicca with Satanism, mainly as a way to warn children and teenagers away from it. 

Can you separate the fact from the fiction about Wicca? We've created a 35-question quiz to help you do just that. Show off how much you know about Wicca ... or learn a thing or two! Good luck, merry part, and merry meet again!



A group of Wiccans, or witches, is known as what?

"Coven" is a word that many non-Wiccans will recognize. Covens of outright witches are common in horror and fantasy films; consider the recently-remade "Suspiria," in which a ballet school is run by one.

True or false? A Wiccan might recognize Celtic or Egyptian gods as well as the God and Goddess.

Some branches, or "traditions" of Wicca find the incorporation of ancient and polytheistic religions meaningful. Isis is one such deity, an Egyptian goddess with powerful magic and control over fate.

The four corners, or directions, that Wiccans call on correspond to four what?

Wiccans call on the four elements of earth, water, fire and air. These were also the elements that the ancient Greeks and Romans believed made up the universe and corresponded to four basic human personality types. Wiccans do not generally subscribe to the ideas about personality but do link each element to a compass direction.

With which of these is the Goddess associated?

Probably the strongest association is with the moon. This reflects a strong thread of dualism in Wicca, with the God representing the masculine energy of the sun, and the Goddess the feminine, fertile energy of the moon. This was also seen in Greek mythology, where Apollo was a male sun god, and Artemis (Diana), the female goddess of the moon.

Wicca can be seen as a subset of what religious tradition?

Neopaganism is the broad umbrella term for faith traditions that are inspired by or attempt to reconstruct indigenous and often polytheistic faiths. It's typical for neopagans to take the best of what an indigenous tradition has to offer and reject the harsher aspects (animal sacrifices, for example).

In Wicca, one's intentions and actions are said to rebound on a person in what way?

If you cast a spell, for whatever reason, you should be prepared for its effects to "come back, times three." This rule is seen at the end of the witchcraft movie "The Craft," in which bad magic rebounds (or, at least, appears to) on two teenage witches.

What is "divination"?

Often, divination refers to seeing the future, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, it can mean seeing something happening in a remote location or something that happened long in the past, and so on.

What is the term for a male Wiccan?

Wiccans avoid gendered terms like "warlock" or "wizard." For that matter, some reject the word "witch" as well, because of its association with children's stories, horror movies and the like. But if the term "witch" is used, it applies to men and women, as does "Wiccan."

"Samhain" is the Wiccan word for which holiday?

This Celtic word is pronounced "Sow-when," and is the precursor to our modern, secular Halloween. That is, it's the night when the veil between the worlds is the thinnest, and spirits can visit the realm of the living. The Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating is derived from the idea of leaving out food for hungry spirits so that they don't cause mischief. (See also "dumb supper," elsewhere in this quiz.)

What is an "esbat"?

Though Wicca is de-centralized and has almost no universal rules, we're pretty sure no tradition of Wicca actually involves using animals as "familiars." This mythological idea suggested that witches kept cats or other small animals to amplify their power in rituals, communicate telepathically, or carry messages to other witches.

What kind of ritual is a "handfasting"?

Various forms of handfasting have existed in Europe for hundreds of years, not always referring to a marriage, but sometimes to a contract or commitment. Jim Morrison of The Doors might be the most famous person to marry by handfasting, to his wife, Patricia Kennealy-Morrison.

How many people practice Wicca in the United States today?

Have we mentioned yet that Wicca is really decentralized, with no authority figures? It's a truth you'll see more than once in this quiz. And for this reason, it's no more possible to know how many people in the U.S. practice Wicca as how many get together to play cards.

What does the term "skyclad" refer to?

This is one of the most charming terms from Wicca, the idea that being naked is literally "wearing the sky." Be sure to work out your body-image issues, though, before joining a coven that prefers skyclad rituals.

The practice of black magic is sometimes called what?

This term comes to us from the days when left-handed people were seen as dangerous, possibly having magic powers. (Yes, this was an actual thing). In some languages, "sinistra" means "left-handed," and this is the root of our word "sinister."

Is cursing or hexing forbidden in Wicca?

Many Wiccan traditions do believe in the "Law of Threefold Return," in which one's actions return "times three." But some Wiccans also believe strongly in magical self-defense, or hexes as a way to balance the scales and bring about justice. To each their own!

Which of these places is considered Wicca's "Vatican"?

Wicca is famously de-centralized, so it doesn't have a Vatican, a Salt Lake City or a Canterbury. Salem, Massachusetts is famously associated with the Salem Witch Trials, which didn't have anything to do with modern Wicca.

When a Wiccan refers to "the Burning Times," what are they talking about?

It's Christians who usually believe the world will end in a great fire, as described in the Bible book of Revelation. The "Burning Times" is a term that refers to the burning of suspected witches at stake, a very real and unfortunate chapter in history. Such executions were a way to silence freethinkers and outsiders and, not incidentally, seize valuable property.

Which of these is a traditional period for study, before someone can be inducted into a coven, or move up to priesthood?

As with many aspects of Wicca, this one is shared by other folk traditions. In Haitian Vodou, the spirits of the dead are said to rest underwater for a year and a day before emerging to be reborn. Could this reflect early people's intuition that a solar year wasn't exactly 365 days, but 365 and a quarter (the source of the extra day in a "leap year")? It's a fascinating thing to think about.

The fundamental rule in Wicca, "An' ye harm none, do what ye will," is often called what?

According to Merriam-Webster, "rede" is an archaic term for "advice" or "counsel." The Wiccan Rede sums up much of Wiccan philosophy in one simple, live-and-let-live piece of advice.

According to Wicca, the three stages of a woman's life are maiden, _______ and crone.

The word "mother" might raise some eyebrows among feminist Wiccans, as it seems to imply that child-bearing is an essential part of womanhood. We suppose you could argue that "mother" refers nowadays to a woman's creative and generative powers overall, at their strongest at midlife.

Which goddess is most associated with the early-spring holiday of Imbolc?

Brigid was a Celtic goddess of fertility and the earth. In Wicca, she is often associated with the home and hearth and "kitchen magic." She is honored especially at Imbolc, halfway between the winter solstice and the first day of spring. Imbolc is a loose translation of the Gaelic words for "ewe's milk," reminding us that the spring birthing season is coming.

What is a "dumb supper"?

Wicca, like some of the Eastern religions, has a tradition of setting out food for the dead on special occasions. Though the food remains untouched in the literal sense, the spirits of the dead are thought to be "nourished" by this act of kindness and remembrance.

Which of these is a name for the land of the dead?

In California, Summerland is a small town near Santa Barbara where a million dollars will buy you a falling-down shack. But in Wicca, Summerland is where the souls of the dead go for a time to recover before returning to earth in a new body.

The God who is the counterpart to Wicca's Great Goddess is often called what?

The Wiccan God is often likened to a stag and called the Horned One or Horned God. Male deities with antlers or horns are found in religions that predate Wicca, like the god Pan in Greek-Roman mythology.

Traditionally, how many Wiccans make up a coven?

"Thirteen" is traditionally considered an unlucky number, and this has a lot to do with the days in which "coven" meant "witches." People believed that 12 witches gathered as a coven, and the Devil himself made number 13.

What is the term for a growing coven splitting in two, with a new leader?

This is a British term which alludes to bees. When a beehive gets too big, some bees will break away, following a new queen. A coven that has grown too large to include all members effectively will hive off under a new leader or leaders.

What is it called when a coven raises power for a specific purpose?

Don't confuse this one with "cone of shame." That's a comic term for a veterinarian's "Elizabethan collar," the plastic shield around the head that keeps a dog from licking or chewing up its stitches.

Who claimed to be initiated into the "New Forest Coven" and to have passed down its "ardanes"?

If Margaret Murray is the "grandmother" of Wicca, Gardner is a good choice for "grandfather." He established a tradition of Wicca that is with us to this today. The problem is, no one can prove there ever was a "New Forest Coven" in England, or that they are the source of Gardner's "ardanes," or rules. Some of the language in the ardanes seems to have been lifted directly from the writings of occultist Aleister Crowley.

Which compass direction does water correspond to?

In Wicca, north represents earth, south corresponds to fire, east with air, and west with water. Water is considered a benign and life-giving element, and when poured into a black-bottomed bowl, can be used to see the future.

What's another name for a book of spells?

Grimoire is, not surprisingly, a French term; "Book of Shadows" is for those who prefer a poetic phrase. Ideally, each book will be unique to the practitioner, as they write down their notes and observations on magical practices.

What is the "Great Rite"?

Sexual intercourse between a man and woman in Wicca is symbolic of the union of the God and Goddess. However, this is most often done in a non-sexual, representational way, with the man placing a dagger in a chalice held by a woman.

A particular branch of Wicca is known as a ______.

The word "tradition" in Wicca is more or less equivalent to a denomination in Christianity. Though the term suggests a certain age, this isn't so. A new branch of Wicca can be quite young, but still be referred to as a "tradition."

Which of these famous female academics is sometimes called the "Grandmother of Wicca"?

Murray became famous and well-respected as an Egyptologist but strayed onto shaky ground when, at mid-career, she made an abrupt leap to European history and set out trying to prove the existence of a pan-European witch-cult that pre-dated Christianity. Though many historians discredited her theory, its appeal to the masses fueled the 20th-century rise of Wicca.

Which of these is true of Gardnerian Wicca?

Ever see a Wicca meetup advertised in your area? Yeah, those aren't Gardnerians. You more or less need to make the personal acquaintance of a Gardnerian Wiccan to be invited to join, which is why Gardnerians can usually trace their "lineage" back through generations, sometimes even to Gardner himself.

True or false: Wicca is a religion with deep roots in pre-modern Europe.

Sorry, but historians and anthropologists have simply found no evidence of a widespread nature or God/Goddess religion in Europe. Rather, Wicca is a 20th-century movement rooted in modern values of tolerance, gender equality and more.

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