Roleplayer
Roleplayer #20, June 1990

Paganism on Yrth

The Wiccan Religion in a Fantasy Setting

by Brett Slocum

Wicca, or Witchcraft, is one of the many pagan religions of Yrth. It is a nature religion that worships the Goddess of Nature, Mother Earth, and her consort, the Horned God. These two deities go by many local names, such as Isis, Demeter, Innana, etc., and Osiris, Pan, Baphomet, etc. Their basic tenets are to revere the Earth, to do no harm, to enjoy life to the fullest, and to honor the God and Goddess in each other. Both sexes may become Priests or Priestesses.

Witches are very loosely organized into groups called covens or circles. The number of members may vary from two or three to several dozen; the "requirement" for 13 members is a mere rumor. The coven is led by a High Priestess and a High Priest, though more than two leaders are possible. Because of the secrecy involved, a particular coven may or may not be in regular contact with other covens; it is possible that only the priest or priestess knows how to contact other Wiccans. Groups of covens often gather for large rituals every year or two, usually at the summer solstice.

The rituals revolve around the turning of the seasons. For the Celtic-influenced Wiccans, the most important holidays are the "cross-quarter" days that fall hallway between solstice and equinox: Halloween (October 31), which is also called Samhain (pronounced "Sowin"); Candlemas or Imbolc (February 2); May Day or Beltaine (May 1) and Lammas or Lughnasad (August 2). The solstices and equinoxes are also holidays; the spring equinox is called Ostara, and the fall equinox is Mabon. The summer solstice is called Litha, and the winter solstice is called Yule.

(Editor's note: These dates are correct for the real-world Wiccan religion, and should replace the "generic" pagan holidays given in GURPS Fantasy when Wiccan groups enter the campaign. The first name given for each holiday is the English, or Anglish, one; the second is the old Celtic name.)

Rituals often occur on full or new moons as well. The rituals usually consist of a procession, casting a circle, an invocation of the Goddess and the God, chanting, dancing, singing, drama, poetry, offerings of food or crafts to the gods, a healing or divination, and sharing of food and drink among participants. Some rituals are performed in the nude or "sky-clad"; others may be performed in various colorful costumes. Rituals are held in secluded clearings in the forest or in private homes.

Witches are generally misunderstood. Millennia of propaganda by Christian foes have warped the public's perception of the Wiccan religion. Witches do not worship demons or perform human sacrifice, and the use of magic for harmful ends is prohibited.

Wiccan Priests and Priestesses

In GURPS terms, Wiccan clerics – either priests or priestesses – may learn and use any spells from the Colleges of Healing, Communication and Empathy, and Knowledge. Many Witches are also mages, and get the Magery bonus when they learn spells; those that are mages can, of course, learn spells from other colleges.

Because Witches are feared, they hold their rites in private and are only known to others of their faith. This is treated as a -2 reaction from the citizenry which only counts if the character is revealed as a Witch (no point cost) and a +2 reaction from co-religionists. In lands where the dominant religion is intolerant (Caithness, Megalos, Al-Haz), Witches have an Enemy (church authorities or Inquisition). This is a 20-point enemy, appearing rarely (on 6 or less; half cost). A character may elect not to take this Enemy in an area that is tolerant of Pagans (Cardiel).

In an area where Witches are actively persecuted, church membership can be taken as a Secret. This new disadvantage is described on p. SU12, CY25, and in Roleplayer 11.)

Wiccan clerics may fight only in self-defense (Pacifism, -15 points). This is based on the tenet "An it harm none, do what you will." Anyone breaking this rule instantly gains the Unluckiness disadvantage, and can get rid of this only after performing a major "good" deed or quest, as specified by communing with the Goddess or the God (the nature of the deed or quest is up to the GM's discretion). This is based on the tenet "Whatever you do, good or ill, comes back to you three times."

The cost to be a clerically invested Witch is 15 points (for three colleges) minus 3 points (consequence of a broken vow is moderate, and penance is moderately heavy), for a net Clerical Investment cost of 12 points.

Note that a Wiccan, of either sex, may refer to himself or herself as a "witch." The term "warlock" is not used.

Wiccan Character Summary

Clerical Investment (Witch) – 12 points
Colleges: Healing, Communication / Empathy, and Knowledge
Reaction: -2 from citizenry if known, +2 from co-religionists
Possible advantages: Animal Empathy, Empathy, Intuition, Luck, Magery.
Disadvantages: Pacifism (self-defense only), -15 points; Enemy: Church / Inquisition (appear 6-), -10 points.
Other Suggested Disadvantages: Gluttony, Lechery, Pacifism (total), Vow (vegetarianism) (-5).

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