Church and School of Wicca

PaganGreen Paganism and Witchcraft

Religious and educational
institutions founded by Gavin and Yvonne Frost,
located in Hinton, West Virginia. The Church of Wicca,
founded in 1968, is the oldest recognized church of
Witchcraft in the United States, achieving federal recognition
in 1972. Its teaching arm is the School of Wicca,
which offers correspondence courses.
History. The Frosts, who were living in St. Louis, Missouri,
developed correspondence courses out of their
interest and involvement in Witchcraft and began advertising
the courses as the School of Wicca. They followed
with the founding of the church in 1968. Working
with lawyers, Gavin Frost was able to win a “Letter of
Determination” from the Internal Revenue Service giving
religious recognition to “Wicca” and “Witchcraft.”
The ruling, which came in 1972, made the church the
first Wiccan church to achieve this federal recognition,
and the first to use “Wicca” to describe the religion of
The same year, the Frosts began to work for the
church and school full time. Gavin serves as archbishop
and Yvonne as bishop. They obtained their doctorates of
divinity from the church.
The Frosts moved to Salem, Missouri, and then to
New Bern, North Carolina, in 1974. In New Bern, they
attempted to establish a survival community, but it never
matched their vision and after a few years, became inactive.
In 1996, they moved their residence and church and
school offices to Hinton, West Virginia.
In 1986, the Church of Wicca achieved another legal
landmark by becoming the only federally recognized Wiccan
church to have its status as a bona fide religion upheld
in federal appeals court. In a prisoner’s rights case decided
in 1985, Dettmer v. Landon, the District Court of Virginia
ruled that Witchcraft is a legitimate religion. The decision
was appealed by Virginia prison authorities. In 1986, Judge
J. Butzner of the Federal Appeals Court affirmed the decision.
In his ruling, Butzner said, “The Church of Wicca is
clearly a religion for First Amendment purposes. Members
of the Church sincerely adhere to a fairly complex set of
doctrines relating to the spiritual aspects of their lives,
and in doing so they have ‘ultimate concerns’ in much the
same way as followers of accepted religions.”
Beliefs and tenets of the church. The roots of the church
are Welsh Celtic, coming from Gavin Frost’s own Welsh
heritage. Its early philosophy, as expressed in The Witch’s
Bible (finally published in 1975), created controversy in
the Craft. The church held that the Ultimate Deity is not
definable, thus downplaying the emphasis given the Goddess
by most other Witches, and maintained that the Craft
is agnostic, as well as both monotheistic and polytheistic.
Every life form contains a spark of Divine Fire—a piece
of Deity. Lower-level polytheistic deities, or “stone gods,”
can be created in anthropomorphic form as storehouses
of energy for use in magic rituals. In addition to the controversy,
the church’s early view that homosexuals did
not fit into the Craft, a fertility religion, was criticized as
The church’s early view of homosexuality has evolved.
The Church and School of Wicca does not discriminate
against any member by reason of race, color, gender, sexual
orientation, or national or ethnic origin. If any member
of the association is proven to be discriminating for
any of those reasons, that member is dismissed from the
association. Beyond the controversy over homosexuality,
there was much criticism of the church’s early view
that young adults should be fully aware sexually before
Over the years, the church’s position has grown and
changed. Elements of Eastern, Native American Indian
and Afro-American practices have been recognized for
their overlap with the Welsh Celtic tradition, and the
church is now open to people of all sexual orientations.
The church’s view of the Ultimate Deity is still genderless;
God is impersonal, treating all persons alike, transcending
human emotions.
The church espouses five basic tenets of the Craft:
1. The Wiccan Rede—”If it harm none, do what you
2.  Reincarnation as an orderly system of learning. This
is not a tally of “sins” and punishments. Human
experiences are comparable to term papers: a way
of learning.
3. The Law of Attraction—What I do to other living
creatures I will draw to myself. Shakespeare called
this “measure for measure.” It can also be expressed
as “birds of a feather.”
4. Power through Knowledge—Each living creature
has the power (energy) within its body. The skill
of directing that power can be taught and learned.
Whether the power is “good” or “evil” depends on
the intent in the mind of the worker.
5. Harmony—There are perceptible rhythms in the
patterns of the Sun, the Moon, the Seasons. It
makes sense to learn those rhythms and to live in
harmony with them.
The church’s view of reincarnation is that it is a steadily
upward progress of development of the soul. The Frosts
feel that excessive and careless sex has led to the incarnation
of numerous, ill-prepared souls, one of the reasons
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for the increase in poverty, crime and warfare and other
societal troubles around the world. They personally advocate
more judicious contraception.
The use of “stone gods”—Yvonne Frost calls them
“mascots”—is taught for magic ritual. The anthropomorphic
deities are objects temporarily charged with
psychic power; the object itself depends on the purpose
of the ritual and/or the choice of the practitioner.
Craft observances in the church are held on full Moon
nights. The four great seasonal holidays are observed at
the appropriate full moon: Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and
Lugnasadh. The church occasionally conducts services
open to the public, but which do not include power-raising
The church has chartered 28 independent subsidiary
churches around the world. In the late 1970s, the Celtic
Heritage Investigation Foundation was created under
the auspices of the church to conduct “an archaeology of
ideas, beliefs and practices that were lost in the ‘Burning
Times’ when the books of shadows were destroyed.”
Other major activities of the church include working
for Wiccan rights, and bringing Craft teachings to those
in the military, and to prisoners in state and federal penitentiaries.
The church was among Wiccan and Pagan organizations
which fought against the Helms Amendment,
an attempt made in the U.S. Congress in 1985 to strip
Wiccan and Pagan churches of their tax-exempt status.
The School of Wicca. The first and largest Witchcraft
correspondence school in the United States, the School
of Wicca offers numerous courses, among them Celtic
Witchcraft, sorcery, Tantra, astrology, developing psychic
ability, healing, use of herbs, dreams, Western sex magic,
spells and rituals, sacred and mysterious sites, ufology,
Egyptian and Native American Indian magic, and travel
in the astral realm. There are three levels of study: theoretical,
practical and initiatory.
The school publishes the longest-lived Wiccan newsletter,
In 1989, the school formulated a Prisoner’s Handbook
for Wicca for the state of Washington, which specifies religious
tenets, observances and requirements. The handbook
has become a model for other prison systems.
Since its beginnings, the school has introduced more
than 200,000 people to the Craft. It also sponsors special
interest groups, such as gay Wiccans and Wiccans in the
Students of the school, as well as followers of the
church, are encouraged to keep their own book of
shadows—or, rather, “book of lights,” as Yvonne Frost
prefers to call the personal handbook, because it represents
a reaching up to the Deity and the light of spiritual