WHAT IS WICCA AND WITCHCRAFT | Here we will learn the hidden secret history of Wicca & witchcraft in details so let's go to know full details about Wicca magic, pagan, Wicca religion beliefs.

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Wicca is a new religious movement based on witchcraft that arose in England in the early to mid-20th-century scholars describe it as a contemporary pagan religion, and in fact, it's arguably one of the largest pagan religions in the world.

In this article, I will cover wickers origins, its beliefs, and practices as well as some major streams of thought running through the tradition, such as environmentalism and feminism, but Wicca is extremely eclectic as the journalist and Wiccan priestess Margot Adler wrote in her book drawing down the moon in this religion, there is an exception to everything.

So as I go through this overview of Wicca I'll try to highlight the internal diversity of belief and practice in this tradition, nothing is monolithic. And because this subject is outside of my own specialty I'll be relying on these scholarly publications on Wicca and we'll be citing them accordingly.

 I recommend you to check out their scholarship if you want to learn more, let's get into it first some basic terminology, the word Wicca derives from the Old English word for witch or sorcerer, which was probably pronounced which.

The term was adopted by practitioners in the early 1960s Wiccan practitioners, both men and women self identify as witches, a term that they reclaim as a positive title rather than the historical Christian view that witches are evil figures now lots of people outside of Wicca use terms like Wicca and Satanism interchangeably, but this is conflating two different movements Satanism encompasses a diversity of groups that, as the name suggests, look to Satan as a symbol of admiration, a symbol of individualism non-conformity or the rejection of authoritarianism some Satanists could be classified as theistic Satanists people who don't believe in the supernatural at all but adopt Satan as a model for their lives.

For example, the Satanic Temple consider themselves to be a non-theistic non-supernaturalists religious organization with Satan functioning as an icon, representing the eternal rebel. Other Satanists are more supernaturalists, these groups do actually believe in a supernatural being called Satan and sometimes practice forms of magic, as part of their religious practice Wicca on the other hand is a different religious movement, Satan doesn't even factor into the picture for Wiccans because they view themselves as following a pre-Christian pagan religion that survived in Europe, despite being Christianized throughout the late antique and medieval periods, and despite witch hunts and witch trials Wicca and witchcraft is not synonymous though.

Yes, Wicca involves practicing witchcraft and they call themselves witches, but there are a bunch of other witchcraft based groups who identify as witches but not as Wiccan, now that we've gotten terminology out of the way.

What about its origins Wicca emerged in the early to mid 20th century founded by the Englishman Gerald Gardner, sometimes called the father of Wicca gardener was avidly interested in esotericism folklore and the occult throughout his life, he joined a Freemason lodge earlier in life and later moved to the town of High Cliff in southern England, where he was involved with the activities of a local group of Rosicrucians and esoteric order.

The town of Highcliffe has located near the New Forest now an extensive National Park and it was here that Gardner claims that in 1939, he encountered and was initiated into a coven of witches, now known as the New Forest coven, he claimed that he had discovered the remnants of a pre Christian witchcraft based religion surviving in England. He got these ideas from the English historian, MargaretMoray, one of the main champions of this so-called witch-cult survival theory.

She was the person who provided the academic foundation for Gardner's own beliefs decades before gardeners have an interest in witchcraft Murray published articles arguing that a pagan religion that she called the witch-cult survived in Western Europe.

Her work culminated in the 1921 book, The Witch cult in Western Europe, in which she argued that witches gathered in covens to worship the pagan horned God and practiced all manner of ceremonial magical rituals, she argued that these groups were the target of the witch trials and witch hunts of the medieval and early modern periods.

 In fact, later in life, Margaret Murray herself wrote the intro of one of Gardner's most popular books witchcraft today summarizing his argument that the various groups of witches throughout England still practice the same rights as the so called Witches of the Middle Ages and that the rights are a true survival and not a mere revival copied out of books now Murray's theories did not hold up to historical scrutiny and by the 1970s historians such as Keith Thomas, the author of religion and the decline of magic discredited her theory as overly selective of its evidence, careful analysis of the witch trial records from early modern Europe determined that the women caught up in these mass panics were not practicing a pagan religion, many Wiccans today hold two versions of Murray's theory as a mythical origin story. Some hold to it literally others metaphorically, saying that they feel an affinity for witches and pagans of the past, even if their tradition is not a direct historical survival.

Returning now to gardeners initiation, whether or not a gardener was actually initiated into a new forest coven has not been independently verified, one of the top biographers of a gardeners life, Philip Heseltine argues that this coven really existed and gardener's initiation truly took place Hamilton's arguments have convinced at least one scholar of Wicca Ethan White, who has written an excellent history of Wicca other scholars of modern paganism Aiden Kelly and Chaz Clifton argue that gardener invented the encounter with the New Forest coven saying that he actually developed Wicca in the 40s and 50s and backdated his initiation to 1939, but ultimately we don't know since the events are based on Gardner's own accounts, regardless of what happened or didn't happen we do know that he founded a coven in London after world war two and went on to be a prolific popularizer of witchcraft.

 During this time in the 40s and 50s. He was a prominent figure in British occult circles, for example, Alistair Crowley, the famous occultist was acquainted with a gardener and initiated him into the esoteric Ordo Templi Orientis gardener also participated as a member of a local Druid order as he developed his own system of witchcraft, the scholar HB urban characterizes gardeners Wicca as an occult bricolage. In other words, a combination of diverse elements from many different traditions in an original a new way for example gardener drew ideas from Freemasonry as well as other occultists such as Alistair Crowley and his esoteric religion for Lima by the 16th gardener's coven grew and initiates started moving overseas to Australia, Canada, and the United States founding new covens abroad.

And although gardener suffered a heart attack and died in 1964, his movement continued to thrive, but now as an international religion, it might actually be the largest contemporary pagan religion in the world, but it's difficult to get exact numbers, the scholar of paganism Patricia Yolanda points to the US Census as an example of this difficulty.

The Census says that in 2008, there were 342,000 Wiccans, but it confusingly only gave a few options Wiccan pagan and spiritualist, though, you can see the problem here. Many Wiccans consider themselves to be pagan.

 So, what are you supposed to check on this census pagan or Wiccan compare this to the UK census which lists Wiccans Druids spiritualist even Satanism witchcraft New Age shamanism pagan with fewer options the US Census probably skews the data, but scholars estimate that the number of Wiccans worldwide is probably somewhere in the low 100 of 1000s of people.


Okay, that's some background history of the movement but let's move on to the beliefs and practices, remember religions are always internally diverse and this is especially true for Wicca many Wiccans are duo theistic, meaning that they believe in to equal deities, often characterized as a goddess and a horned God. Sometimes they're just simply referred to as the lady and the Lord.

The Goddess is sometimes conceptualized as a tripartite goddess, consisting of three archetypes the maiden, the mother, and the Crone again these ideas are drawn from the theories of Margaret Moray argued that these gods were worshipped as far back as the Neolithic times in Europe and that the horned God was mistaken by Christians to be the devil gardener characterize these gods as masculine and feminine archetypes that supported the universe, other Wiccans are monotheistic worshipping only a goddess,


Others are polytheistic and adopt Gods from many different paganisms and many more are atheists and agnostics in fact a prominent Wiccan priestess Phyllis curado says that you don't even necessarily need to believe in the supernatural to be a witch.

She characterizes witchcraft as a spiritual practice that expands our perceptions and she likens it to yoga. In other words, you don't need to be Hindu and believe in Hindu gods to practice yoga. You don't need to believe in the mother goddess and the horned God to be a witch.

As for the afterlife, there are a bunch of different opinions concerning it but reincarnation is probably the most common belief among Wiccans, many Wiccans believe that they will be reborn as witches in the next life gardener himself wrote in his book witchcraft today that the horned God rules the afterlife, and that witches can be reincarnated.

He frequently spoke of his own past lives and was known to say once a witch, always a witch reincarnation is also based on witches actions on earth so there is an aspect of karma here, your current actions will affect your future rebirths.


This is summarized in the Wiccan rule of three, which stipulates that the positive or negative energy that you put into the universe will come back to you threefold. There is also a diversity of traditions or denominations Gardnerian Wiccans are probably the most prominent as they trace their lineage to the founder himself Gerald Gardner, and lineage is a big deal for Gardnerian witches, in order to join you must be initiated by another Gardnerian which the covens are led by high priestesses and each High Priestess is trained by the preceding high priestesses, again, creating a lineage, Gardnerian also tends to do a theistic following the horned God and the mother goddess. Next, there's Alexandria and Wicca founded by a Gardnerian initiate Alexander's in the 1960s Alexandria and Wicca is characterized as being more eclectic than Gardnerian Wiccans exhibiting more of a willingness to experiment with practices and ideas, outside of the Gardnerian tradition, Dianic Wicca is a tradition heavily influenced by second-wave feminism and has been described as a form of feminist spirituality, Dianic Wiccans only worship the Goddess and pushed back against Gardnerian Wicca, for example, gardeners ideal coven comprised of six pairs of men and women, representing the Goddess, and the God, but by the 70s and 80s, some Wiccans like Shoshana Budapest rejected this as too heteronormative and founded a women-only coven called the Susan  Anthony coven number one, and she stipulated that covens should only be led by high priestesses, not priests for these Wiccans, the witch is a symbol of radical religious innovation and political resistance to patriarchy.

Finally, there is eclectic Wicca, we can think of this more as an open-source form of Wicca which rather than relying on strict lineage like Gardnerian Wicca encourages practitioners to experiment and forge their own path.

Many eclectic Wiccans are solitary practitioners, meaning that they are independent of any particular denomination or coven the practice involves performing magical rituals, but Wiccans hold many different opinions about magic and its efficacy.

Some characterize it as the manipulation of the natural world through harnessing cosmic or psychic energy through their willpower.


Other Wiccans simply view magic as a form of prayer or meditation, for example, one of the anecdotes that I read from a practicing Wiccan online says that she might recite a spell to herself, while driving home at night during a thunderstorm for protection, which she likens to a form of prayer, quoting Phyllis curado, again, some Wiccans just view magic as a spiritual practice that expands our perceptions, and although Hollywood leads the public to think of magic in terms of evil magic like the dark arts and Harry Potter Wiccans hold to ethical precepts called the Wiccan read a rule that says, Do as you will.

So long as you do no harm in Wicca there are no central texts like the Bible and Christianity, but Gerald Gardner kept a ritual notebook called the Book of Shadows, which he called a personal cookbook of spells Gardner's Book of Shadows initially relied heavily on the work of other occultists, such as Charles Leyland and Alistair Crowley, but gardeners High Priestess Doreen Valley and Tay edited the notebook to what we have today. Generally, the book is meant to be kept secret and copied by hand, but copies have been made available over the years, Wiccans today often keep their own Book of Shadows as a personal notebook.

 Many Wiccans practice in covens, which is simply a group of people who gather for their magical or religious practice, Margaret Moray the historian that inspired Gardner's theories popularized the term coven and argued that pre-Christian witchcraft practitioners met in groups of 13, which gardener tried to emulate with his own coven many Wiccans today see 12 or 13 people as the traditional size of a coven. They are generally led by a single person called a high priestess or a high priest. 

This form of leadership though is controversial within the tradition, some Wiccans have reported to an anthropologist that some high priestesses and priests can basically become autocratic in their coven other covens strive to be more egalitarian rotating leadership frequently, but like I said many other Wiccans, maybe even most Wiccans are solitary witches, meaning that they don't associate with any particular coven.

Remember, in this religion, there is an exception to everything Wiccans also observed eight seasonal festivals called sabots that form the Wheel of the Year. Following the seasonal changes of a Northwestern European climate to festivals are based on the autumn and spring equinoxes to on the winter and mid-summer solstice are and for other festivals in between. You might recognize the word UIL, which is the pagan name for the winter solstice festival, Wiccans often use the original old Irish names of the sabots so the Salween for October 31 famously the inspiration behind Halloween in bulk on February 2 was stara for the spring equinox, which is etymologically related to the word Easter.

I should also mention that many different pagan groups celebrate these festivals, not just Wiccans, the Eightfold Wheel of the Year is not ancient yes these festivals have ancient roots, such as sat when, but the wheel itself as a seasonal series of festivals was developed in the 1950s and 60s and was fully formed at least by 1962.

When the gardener's High Priestess Dorian belly and Tay started using it in public, this focus on the changing of seasons leads us to the characterization of Wicca as a nature religion.

Some Wiccans see their mythology and the changing seasons, just as the seasons change from spring to summer to fall in winter, the goddess reflects these changing seasons with her tripartite identity, changing from made to mother to Crone many Holden almost pantheistic or animistic belief that there is cosmic or divine energy in nature, correlated to this Wiccans have been involved in environmental activism since the 1970s, for example, a Wiccan initiate founded pagans against nukes in 1980.

So,I want to return to this statement that started the whole article. In this religion, there is an exception to everything. It might have been annoying to hear me constantly say some Wiccans believe these others believe that.

But this is an important part of Wicca the scholar of religion Dr.Leon von Gulick argues that we can involve two potentially conflicting modes traditionalism and eclecticism, there is a strong inclination towards traditionalism to preserve a lineage and to preserve ancient knowledge, specifically to preserve pre-Christian pagan knowledge that they believe was persecuted to near extinction.

We see this especially with Gardnerian Wicca a concern to preserve the gardener's Book of Shadows by writing it by hand.

 It is concerned to preserve knowledge and rituals bypassing leadership from the high priestess to High Priestess in a lineage, keeping the knowledge secret and known only by initiated members, this leads some scholars to say that some forms of Wicca are fairly conservative not conservative in the political sense but in the literal sense of conserving an age-old tradition for the next generation.

At the same time, Wicca is characterized by pluralism and eclecticism, there is an ethos to find your own individualized path practitioners are encouraged to experiment and to keep their own ritual notebook.

This is especially true for eclectic and solitary Wiccans who purposely avoid joining a particular denomination or tradition. These two modes of Wicca traditionalism and eclecticism are sometimes at odds but they are key parts of Wicca as an ever-changing new religious movement.

 If you'd like to learn more I'm including bibliography in this article. And as always thanks for reading and I'll see you next time.

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