Wiccan Medical Guidelines
NOTE: The headings in this document are the original hospital questionnaire.
RELIGIOUS FAITH GROUP: Wiccan (also Pagan, Witch, Druid)
RELIGIOUS GUIDELINES FOR MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS
I. RELIGIOUS PRACTICES
A. HOLY DAYS:
- Full moons and, sometimes, new moons.
- "Greater Sabbats":
- Samhain (pron. "sow-in") on Oct. 31; Imbolc (or
"Brigid") on Feb. 2; Beltane on May 1; Lammas (or
"Lughnasadh") on Aug.1.
- "Lesser Sabbats":
- Ostara, spring equinox (around Mar. 21); Litha,
summer solstice (around Jun. 21); Mabon, fall equinox
(around Sep. 21); Yule, winter solstice (around Dec. 21).
"Cakes and wine" (or "cakes and ale") are often blessed and shared among
all present at the end of a ritual. Traditionally, "cakes" = bread,
pastry, or other form of baked grain, and "wine" or "ale" = wine, beer,
or other fermented beverage. Depending on individual practice and
circumstances, however, almost any form of food may be substituted for
bread, and fruit juice or water is sometimes substituted for wine.
Though burial type is an individual choice, in general, most Wiccans
prefer not to be embalmed. Some prefer cremation or burial at sea. Many
sit with the dead body in a form of "wake" or vigil, from the time of
death until after the requiem or rite. Some Witches may want to be left
alone with the body immediately after death to "keen" or sing/pray the
deceased's special magickal name to the Gods. At times, the group may
gather in the room and softly sing. Generally after a death, a window
is opened to allow the soul to escape the confines of the building
toward the "Summerlands", the Wiccan concept of the afterlife.
D. RELIGION AND THE HEALING PROCESS:
As do other indigenous religions (e.g. Native American, Hinduism),
Wiccans view not only prayer, but also magic as an extremely important
aid to healing. Magical practices vary according to the individual and
their particular tradition, but these are very common:
- an amulet or talisman: crystal,
medallion, pouch, ring, knotted thong, or other small
object, often inscribed with symbols or writing. This may need to
be kept in skin-to-skin contact with the body at all times -- in which
case it should be taped onto the palm of the hand or another
out-of-the-way place during surgery -- and it should not be encased
in plastic, or touched by others (including family members) without
the patient's or Priest/Priestess's specific permission.
- a candle: the flame symbolizes the life-force
of the patient. When lit for
a specific event such as a surgical operation, it must be kept lit
until the operation or other event is concluded.
- anointment with herbal oil or salt water.
- passing a magical tool such as a wand, crystal,
or "athamè" (magical knife, not used for physical cutting) over or
around the patient's body.
- chanting or drumming -- in a
hospital setting, this would of course need to be done quietly.
recitation of spells.
- divination into the nature of the illness, using
Tarot cards, runes, astrology, or other means.
II. THERAPEUTIC AGENTS AND PROCEDURES
A. DRUGS, BLOOD, AND VACCINES:
Wiccans generally avoid unnecessary procedures, and view drug testing as
intrusive on their personal privacy. By the time most Wiccans have
sought a doctor, they have likely treated themselves with traditional
folk medicines and various alternative healing techniques. Wiccans
commonly use herbal medications, but should consult with their doctors
on an individual basis if they are using herbs, to determine possible
interactions or side effects with prescribed medicines, anesthesia or
tests. There are no Wiccan religious proscriptions against blood
transfusions. Recently, some individuals in the Craft have begun to
question the validity and safety of the standard practice of
vaccination. Both blood transfusions and vaccines are an individual's
It is common for Wiccans to request the return of any body parts removed
and not needed for testing. In addition, they may specifically request
teeth, umbilical cord, and placenta.
C. LOSS OF LIMB:
Generally, Witches believe that if a someone else has possession of one
of their body parts (hair, nails, etc.), then that person has the
potential to cause them harm. Therefore, it would not be unusual for an
individual Witch to request a limb be returned to them after removal.
D. TRANSPLANTATION (recipient):
There is a prevalent belief in the Craft that the soul not only
transcends the body, but also immanently exists in the body's parts.
Therefore, it is likely that a Wiccan faced with receiving a transplant
would undergo specific rites to purify their body prior to surgery, to
thank the donor, and to focus on integrating an organ from another into
III. END OF LIFE ISSUES
A. PROLONGATION OF LIFE:
Though this decision is each individual's choice, most Wiccans see no
value in prolonging a physical life for the mere sake of sustaining a
heartbeat when the person enjoys no apparent quality of life. Witches
prefer helping each other ease into the transition between life and the
afterlife, as opposed to reliance on machines or heroic measures.
Wiccans view death as a natural part of life. Many Witches believe in
reincarnation, and attempt to cope with death by seeing it as a
transition to another plane of existence or life form. Assenting to
euthanasia would not be uncommon, and is each individual's choice.
C. ORGAN DONATION:
The decision to donate organs is, again, an individual's choice.
Generally, most Witches will not agree to any autopsy, prefering to
clean and prepare the body themselves, unless there is foul play or
negligence suspected in the death.
E. DISPOSITION OF THE BODY:
See BURIALS and AUTOPSY.
A. EUGENICS AND GENETICS:
Choosing medical intervention during a problem pregnancy and genetic
testing pre- and post- pregnancy is an individual decision. However,
there are many Witches who prefer at-home delivery by midwives and
family members, with minimal medical supervision and intervention.
Witches usually prefer Nature taking its course, believing in the
sanctity of each life in all its manifestations. If a clear genetic
problem exists, they may take individual responsibilty for their
actions by seeking post-pregnancy genetic testing to prevent future
problem births or congenital abnormalities. In general, Witches abhor
invasive procedures, such as amniocentesis or fetal surgery.
B. BIRTH CONTROL:
Witches generally take individual reproductive responsibility, often
preferring herbal and rhythm methods as opposed to conventional
medicines to prevent pregnancy. Condom use is strongly encouraged in
the greater Pagan community, and children are taught at an early age
about reproduction through myth and ritual by their parents.
C. FETAL TESTING/STERILITY TESTING:
See EUGENICS AND GENETICS.
D. ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION (Donor and Recipient):
Generally, most Witches prefer natural methods of reproduction.
Whether or not to receive an abortion is an individual's choice,
whatever the reason. Craft rituals exist to assist those involved to
mourn and accept their loss.
B. ON DEMAND:
See THERAPEUTIC above.
In general, Witches abhor invasive techniques where they can be avoided,
preferring natural (e.g. herbal) and magickal methods of healing.
ALWAYS ASK before proceeding.
Prepared by Dixie Deerman and Steven C. Rasmussen, Coven Oldenwilde,
upon request for Memorial Mission Medical Center Chaplaincy Services,
Asheville, NC., January 1996.
Return to top of page.
Return to General Information table of contents.
Return to Coven Oldenwilde's home page.
Latest update: 09 Jun. 1996