Frequently Asked Questions

Part 2: Frequently Asked Questions about the WCC & the Odyssean Tradition

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 lifestyle alternative.
  • 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 sufficient interest.

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.

  1. The universe is in some inscrutable way self-aware, as are all things in it.
  2. Portions of self-awareness within the universe may be called Gods. The number of Gods in the universe is in principle unknowable.
  3. Self-awareness has no gender and so it is legitimate to personify any God(dess) as having gender.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 afterlife.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Religious experience is totally subjective, and thus nobody can judge the quality of another's encounter with the Gods.
  12. 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 organized?

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 public?

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 towards Initiation.

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 training.

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 them.

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 true?

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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This page last modified: Monday, April 9, 2007


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