I have read an number of newbie post asking about Wicca. I have decided to post this information as it was information that helped me and gave me the basics, so that I may make an informed decision. It is information collected from different sources and for which I have compiled into a very simple form. I hope that the information in this post can help someone have a better understanding.
If you ask any ten Wiccans about religion, you'll get at least fifteen different answers. There is no one governing body over Wicca, Nor is there a "Bible" that lays down a universal set of guidelines.
In general, when we say "Pagan", we're referring to someone who follows a spiritual path that is rooted in nature. Some people call this "Earth-based religion." Wicca as a religion was introduced by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s. Gardner's tradition was oathbound initiatory and secret. However after a few years splinter groups began forming, and new traditions were formed. Many Wiccan groups owe their basic foundation to the principles laid out by Gardner. Wicca is not an ancient religion, but Gardner did incorporate some old esoteric knowledge into his original tradition.
Wiccans come from all walks of life. They are Doctors, nurses, teachers, etc. In fact, a recent study estimates nearly half a million Wiccans in the United States today, even thou there are considerably more. We are out there and eventually you will run into one soon enough. :-)
Wicca acknowledges the polarity of the Divine, which means that both the male and female deities are often honored. A wiccan may honor simply a non-specific God and Goddess, or they may choose to worship specific deities of their tradition.
In most Wiccan covens, there is some form of initiation and a degree system. Initiation is a symbolic rebirth, in which the initiate dedicates themselves to the Gods of their tradition. Study is required before an individual may advance to the next degree level, and often this is the traditional "Year and A Day" period. Someone who is not a member of a coven or formal group, a Solitary Wiccan, may choose to perform a "Self-Dedication Ritual" to pledge themselves to the Gods of their path. Everyone starts on one path, but may relate to another and change once you get more into your research and studies.
In Wicca, magic is simply another skill set or tool. Most Wiccans do use specific tools in spell casting, such as an athame, wand, herbs, crystals and candles. I find that making your tools is beneficial, and makes them more personal and powerful. Magical workings are often performed within a sacred circle. Always Meditate and center yourself first.
Wicca does not embrace the concept of sin, heaven or hell, the evils of sex or nudity, confession, Satanism, animal sacrifice, or the inferiority of women. Wicca is not a fashion statement, and you do not have to dress a certain way to be a "Real Wiccan". As I stated before, Wiccans are everyday people.
Basic Belief of Wicca:
The divine is present in nature, and so nature should be honored and respected. Everything from animals and plants to tress and rocks are elements of the sacred.
The idea of Karma and an afterlife is a valid one. Part of this idea of a cosmic payback system is echoed in the "Law of Threefold Return."
Our ancestors should be spoken of with honor.
The Divine has polarity--both male and female. In most paths of Wicca, both God and Goddess are honored.
The Divine is present in all of us, we are all sacred beings.
Holidays are based on the turning of the Earth and the cycle of the seasons. Eight major Sabbats are celebrated as well as monthly Esbats.
Everyone is responsible for their actions. Whether magical or mundane, you are responsible, one must be willing to accept the consequences, bad or good.
Harm None, interpretation of what actually constitutes harm, most Wiccans follow the concept that no harm should intentionally be done to another individual.
Respect the beliefs of others. Pagans don't hate Christians or Christianity, and we try to show others religions the same level of respect that we want for ourselves and our beliefs.
I hope this was helpful to anyone reading it. These were my initial guidelines when I first wanted to know about Wicca, many years ago. Please consider this your foundation as I have.
Merry Part. Be Well.