Frequently Asked Questions
Part 2: Frequently Asked Questions about the WCC & the Odyssean
2.1. What is the Wiccan Church of Canada?
The Wiccan Church of Canada is Canada's oldest and largest public
Wiccan organization, and has been offering public circles and classes
for 25 years now. Traditionally, Wicca is usually practical in small
close- knit groups called covens, but increasingly, as it has become
more popular, a need has developed for public spaces in which Wiccans
can gather together to worship with a community.
As an organization, the WCC's goal is threefold:
- First, to assist practising Wiccans in achieving a spiritual balance
that brings them into true harmony with the Gods
- Second, to bring to the non-Wiccan population an understanding
that we are a positive, reputable and life-affirming religious and
- Third, to achieve for Wiccans the same rights and freedoms enjoyed
by other more mainstream religions.
2.2. How old is it? How did it start?
The Wiccan Church of Canada was formed in 1979, when Richard and
Tamarra James decided to start offering public circles upstairs from
the small occult shop they had recently opened on Queen Street West
in Toronto. The church received its corporate charter as a non-profit
religious organization the same year, and has gradually expanded over
the years. The Toronto temple, which originally fit into the tiny
temple in the front room of Richard and Tamarra's apartment above
the store, now often draws 75 to 100 people for public rituals, and
we have temples in two other cities as well, plus public classes and
many other resources.
2.3. What tradition of Wicca is it based in?
When the WCC first started, no specific name was given to its style
of practice. Its founders had been trained and initiated in a variety
of traditions, but had developed their own style of ritual that drew
to some extent from all of them, and also included a number of innovations
of their own.
Eventually, enough people kept asking "So what tradition is
this?" that Richard and Tamarra felt it necessary to give it
a name before people started calling it something dreadful like "Jamesian".
The name "Odyssean" was chosen, in reference to the Greek
myth of the Odyssey, in recognition of the fact that each individual
has his or her own spiritual odyssey or journey to complete, which
is never the same for any two people.
Many of the practices that came to characterize the Odyssean tradition
were originally developed when Richard and Tamarra were working in
a coven in New York City with the people who were later to found the
Blue Star tradition. The two styles have much in common, and are sometimes
referred to as sister traditions.
2.4. Do you have temples all through Canada? Is
there one in my city?
Currently, we only have temples in the province of Ontario
to be precise, Toronto and Hamilton. In the future, though, we may
expand into other provinces if the opportunity arises and there is
2.5 Are you planning more temples in other cities?
We would certainly like to have temples in more cities than we do at present, but it’s not as easy as simply deciding that there ought to be one in a given location.
Temples in other cities generally start when one or more of our priesthood happen to move there, which usually happens for personal (work/school/family) reasons rather than specifically in order to start a temple. Because we, like most Wiccan organizations, do not have full-time paid clergy, our priests and priestesses don’t really have the luxury of being able to plan their lives entirely around their involvement in the church, and we can’t simply start telling them where to move because we think it would be nice to have a new temple somewhere. All of us must balance our spiritual life with the demands of our mundane life, and that means that moves to other cities generally only happen when there are mundane as well as spiritual reasons.
In addition, it is challenging for one or two people to run a temple on their own, and they run a high risk of burnout, especially when the city they live in is far enough from our largest temple in Toronto that it’s difficult for Toronto priesthood to travel there. This is why some of the temples we have started in other cities in the past have eventually closed. Currently we are trying to be more careful about not starting temples that might be difficult in the long run to support, having no desire to repeat the mistakes of the past. So this means our growth is necessarily slow at the moment — we do want to expand, but we need to make sure a city has enough priesthood to support a temple without burning out before it makes sense to start one there.
2.6. There isn't a temple in my city. Can I start one?
Unfortunately, no unless you're one of our Initiates. The WCC is for the most part a tradition-specific group, and our priesthood are predominantly initiates of the Odyssean tradition of Wicca, who have been accepted for initiation by a council made up of all of the active members of the tradition. And we don't do distance training or correspondence courses. There are other organizations that are made up many different independent groups from a variety of different traditions, and that's perfectly legitimate, but that's not the way we do it we chose the structure we did so that we could know exactly what kind of training all our priesthood have had and make sure that they all meet the same set of standards. We're not saying that's the only right way, but it's the way we prefer to do things.
However, just because you can't start a WCC temple doesn't mean you can't start some other kind of Wiccan or pagan temple. We're not the only tradition or organization around there are hundreds out there, if not thousands. If no group in your area is offering public circles and classes, try to find a private group to get training with, and once you and your teachers feel confident you can handle it, feel free to start your own temple with any others that may be interested. The WCC doesn't have or want any kind of monopoly on the idea of public Wiccan ritual in Canada the more visible, public expressions of the Craft out there, the better!
2.7. OK. How do I find contacts in my area?
There's a special section of our site called Paganlink, which
was set up especially for that purpose. But unfortunately, it's offline
right now because we're in the process of revamping it completely.
It was originally kept on a single HTML page, but it's become much
too large for that, so now we're converting it into a database-driven
format. If you'd like to be informed when it's back up, sign up for
our announcement list. In the meantime, check out The Witches' Voice's
"Witches of the World"
section to find contacts in your area. It's not specifically Canadian
in focus, but does have a fair number of Canadian listings.
2.8. Is the WCC a legally recognized church?
Legal recognition of churches in Canada is a complex and multi-staged
process, involving a number of different government ministries on
both the federal and provincial level. Currently, some of these recognize
the WCC and some do not.
We intend to add more detailed information on this topic in the future. In the meantime, there is a more detailed article on the legal status of Wicca in Canada available on this site.
2.9. What are the WCC's Articles of Faith?
In the process of trying to become a legally recognized church, the
WCC was required to develop a set of Articles of Faith. This was a
difficult task due to the diversity of the Wiccan community, and the
church's desire to b e a welcoming place for as many Wiccans as possible.
Eventually, the following articles were written, with the intention
of being as open and accommodating of as wide a range of Wiccan beliefs
as possible. Obviously, many church members' religious beliefs are
much more specific than this, but the Articles of Faith were intended
to provide a common baseline of Wiccan belief.
The Articles of Faith of the Wiccan Church of Canada:
We of The Wiccan Church of Canada hold the following statements to
be true; not because they have been absolutely proven, but because
they seem to us to constitute a reasonable set of assumptions on which
to base religious belief.
- The universe is in some inscrutable way self-aware, as are all
things in it.
- Portions of self-awareness within the universe may be called Gods.
The number of Gods in the universe is in principle unknowable.
- Self-awareness has no gender and so it is legitimate to personify
any God(dess) as having gender.
- Self-awareness in complex things may be of a greater order than
that in simple things. In order to express such order it is legitimate
but not necessary to refer to some lesser Gods as spirits, dryads,
fairies, angels or whatever. It is also legitimate but not necessary
to refer to the self-awareness of he whole universe as a monotheistic
God or Goddess.
- What happens to a personality upon the death of the body is inherently
unknowable, or at least unprovable. Therefore, it is legitimate
to adopt any belief about an afterlife that one finds satisfying.
- No human action exists in a vacuum, unaffected by and unaffecting
any other occurrence. The effects of action may be referred to as
karmic, according to the principle promulgated by various eastTuesday, October 19, 2004 3:44 PM
- Questions about the origin of the universe are inherently unanswerable.
Therefore, it is legitimate to adopt any belief about the matter
that one finds satisfying.
- We will never know everything about the physical laws which govern
our universe. There fore, we cannot know whether an even which apparently
contravenes such laws is a miracle in the sense of having been caused
by a God to occur against natural law, or is the result of natural
forces not yet understood.
- The web of karmic inter-relatedness which enfolds all events is
infinitely complex. Therefore, it is impossible to know for sure
whether prayers are answered through the intervention of a God,
or through changes which the act of praying make within the worshipper.
- Self-awareness is not inherently good or bad, it simply is. Thus
the Gods are not dictators nor arbitrators of morality. Human society
creates human systems, but these have nothing to do with the will
of the Gods. Society has a moral right to protect itself from violence
and outside force, but this right is not granted by the Gods; society
simply assumes this right.
- Religious experience is totally subjective, and thus nobody can
judge the quality of another's encounter with the Gods.
- The preceding articles of faith have been largely expressions
of what is not knowable, combined with assertions of the
legitimacy of holding beliefs in the face of this inevitable ignorance.
Thus the principle article of faith is that tolerance of the religious
beliefs of others is morally mandatory.
2.10. What is the church's structure? How is it
In terms of its administrative structure, each temple has a steering
committee which oversees the mundane details of that temple's day-to-day
functioning fundraising, securing and maintaining a space for
rituals and classes, purchasing ritual supplies, etc. The church as
a whole has a board of directors, who oversee matters of concern to
the entire church, like the process of getting legally recognized.
In terms of religious structure, we have the three degrees of Initiation
that are common to many Wiccan traditions, and all Initiates serve
as priesthood of the church. The top religious authority, in keeping
with Wiccan tradition, is that of the High Priestess and High Priest.
We also have two "pre-degrees", since the process of working
towards Initiation within this tradition can take quite a long time.
There is the rite of Dedication, which marks an individual's commitment
to walking a Wiccan path, and can be done for any member of the community
at his or her request. And there is also the rite of Neophyting, which
is done for a student studying towards Initiation, approximately at
the halfway point in his or her studies. Neophytes can perform some
of the duties of priesthood, with the permission of their teachers,
as part of their training.
2.11. What kind of services do you offer to the
Both of our temples offer regular weekly public circles
and classes; the exact schedule varies from one temple to the next, but can usually be found via the links on the Temples page..
We also provide spiritual counselling, both for members of the community
and for inmates of federal and provincial prisons through our participation
in the Ontario Provincial Interfaith Committee on Chaplaincy.
The Toronto temple, as the oldest and largest of our temples, also
offers various other activities such as a women's group, a men's group,
and occasionally specialized study groups on various topics when there
is sufficient interest.
2.12 Do you do handfastings, funerals, Wiccanings and other rites of passage?
Yes, we do, as do most Wiccan organizations. Primarily, we tend to do them for members of our own community, but we are open to performing them for others who may need these services but not belong to a community that performs them. However, this needs to be arranged on an individual basis. If we don’t know the people concerned, we will need to find out a little bit about them to make sure the rite is appropriate.
2.13 Are Wiccan handfastings legal?
In the sense of “Is it legal to perform them?”, yes. In the sense of “Are they legally binding as a marriage?”, that depends on who performs them. As we’ve noted elsewhere on this site, Canada (and most other countries we know of) doesn’t recognize religions as a whole, but specific religious organizations. In Ontario, where we are based, no Wiccan organization is yet fully authorized to perform legal marriages (though we’re working on it), but some individual Wiccan clergy belong to a multifaith organization that licenses clergy to perform weddings. If you are interested in a handfasting that is also a legally binding marriage, we can refer you to Wiccan priesthood who also carry clergy credentials through that organization. Apart from that, though, Wiccan handfastings are generally not legally binding in Ontario.
2.14 Do you do same-sex handfastings and betrothals?
Yes, we have done several. We’ve actually been doing them since well before same-sex marriage was legal in Ontario, since Wiccan handfastings here are not generally legally binding even between people of the opposite sex.
2.15. Is there any charge for any of your services?
No. In keeping with Wiccan tradition, we do not charge for circles, or for public or private teaching. We do however accept donations, as our temples need to be able to pay the rent and buy ritual supplies. And we occasionally hold parties and other fundraising events for which there is usually an admission charge, but attendance at these is completely optional.
Those priesthood who are licensed to perform legal marriages through an outside multifaith organization may be required by that organization to charge a fee for weddings. However, this has nothing to do with the WCC; it's between those individuals and the body that grants them the legal authority to marry people. If you have any questions about that, discuss your concerns with the the marriage officiant you are considering.
2.16. Are there private rituals as well as public
ones? What about separate men's and women's rituals?
There are a number of private covens, student groups, etc. run by various
members of the WCC priesthood. Most of these are not part of the church
as such, but can be a useful part of training for those wishing to study
In Toronto, there is also a women's group called Sistrum which has
been meeting on alternate Fridays since 1982, and there has intermittently
been a men's group as well.
2.17. Is there any sort of restriction on who
can be a member of the WCC?
No. Any person who has a genuine attraction to the Wiccan faith is
welcome, regardless of race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation,
gender identity, disability or other factors. If someone's behaviour causes problems
within the community, the Summoner and members of the priesthood (and
secular authorities if necessary) will be notified and the situation
dealt with. We strive to balance the ideal of being open to all people
with the reality of needing to assure that the community is a safe
and supportive place.
2.18. How do I get to be priesthood? What is the
training structure within the tradition?
The first stage in anyone's training is the year-long public class
cycle. When a student has completed
a significant number of the public classes, they may begin looking
for a private teacher among the priesthood. If they are accepted by
one, this will involve both attendance at private classes with the
teacher, and (usually) involvement in a student group or coven for
the purpose of getting some hands-on ritual experience and practical
When the teacher and student agree that the student is serious about
becoming priesthood, likely to eventually succeed in that endeavour,
and is at approximately the halfway point in his or her studies, the
student may be Neophyted. As we noted in question
2.10, this is a rite of passage that marks the approximate midway point
on the road to Initiation. At this point, the student begins learning
the more advanced, oathbound material within the tradition, and may
also, when the teacher feels it is time, begin to take on some of the
duties of priesthood on a trial basis, under the teacher's supervision
(similar to the way that graduate students at university may serve
as teaching assistants under a professor's supervision).
Once the student's Neophyte training is complete, in order to be
Initiated, he or she must be judged to be ready to fulfil all the
responsibilities of clergy in a public church teaching both
publicly and privately, leading public rituals, counselling, etc.
This decision is made by a council made up of all of the currently
active members of priesthood.
The entire process, from beginning public classes to being Initiated as
a priest or priestess, typically takes about 5-7 years, although there is
a fair bit of individual variation.
2.19. Can Initiates of other traditions become
priesthood in the WCC, or just Odysseans?
Although the church is predominantly based in the Odyssean tradition, we do from
time to time accept Initiates of other traditions as church
priesthood. To qualify for this, the priest or priestess in
question must have an established track record of being an active
part of the community leading ritual in association with Odyssean
priesthood, assisting in organizing events, and generally proving
themselves to be solid, reliable and trustworthy. The decision is
up to the High Priesthood, and Initiates of other traditions wishing
to be considered for this role should contact
2.20. I've heard that people in the WCC are
all left-wing Greenpeace members/right-wing rednecks/flaky new agers/uptight
academics/closet Christians/closet Satanists/homophobic puritans/bisexual
polyamorists/whatever. How do I know whether any of these rumours are
Well, given how contradictory many of the rumours are, it would be difficult
for all of them to be true unless the entire population of the church
were suffering from multiple personality syndrome. The members of the
WCC community are an extremely diverse lot, spanning the entire range
of the political, sexual, philosophical and socioeconomic spectra.
Virtually anyone can find some people they will get along with, and
some people they will not.
Unfortunately, sometimes people will make a snap judgement of what
the entire community is like based on talking to one or two people.
Needless to say, their perception of the WCC will vary tremendously
based on whether the first person they happen to talk to is an ageing
hippie who works as a canvasser for an environmental group, a yuppie
real estate agent who goes hunting on the weekends, a computer nerd
who's heavily into role-playing games and science fiction, a graduate
student in Celtic Studies, a mother with three small children in tow,
or a stripper with six facial piercings.
All we can say is this: recognize the diversity of the community,
and if you don't happen to get long with the first person you meet,
wander around a bit and start talking to someone else. Just about
anyone can find someone they have some common ground with and
in time, you may even find you get along fine with the people you
have nothing in common with except for being Wiccan. Friendship doesn't
always have to be based on similarity.
2.21 What does the WCC symbol mean?
The symbol that appears on our web site is an athame descending into a chalice, representative of a part of ritual that is variously referred to as the Wine Blessing, or the Great Rite “in token”. The two ritual tools represent the polarity that is at the heart of Wicca — there are many dimensions to it, but in essence the athame is air and fire, the masculine principle, and force or energy; while the chalice is water and earth, the feminine principle, and form or matter. In this sense it could be viewed as similar to the eastern Yin-Yang symbol. In another aspect, the chalice is life — the womb of the Goddess and the sea from which life first arose — while the athame, as a knife, is death, and together they represent the Eros-Thanatos polarity, or the life-force and death-force, creation and destruction, between them making up the wheel of rebirth.
Either way, the symbol represents a balance that is a key part of Wicca. For more on this topic, see question 1.11.
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