HOME

TheInfoList




Wicca () is a modern Pagan religion. Scholars of religion categorise it as both a
new religious movement A new religious movement (NRM), also known as a new religion or an alternative spirituality, is a religious or spirituality, spiritual group that has modern origins but is peripheral to its society's dominant religious culture. NRMs can be novel ...
and as part of the
occultist The occult, in the broadest sense, is a category of supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the laws of nature. This term is attributed to non-physical entities, such as angel ...
stream of
Western esotericism Western esotericism, also known as esotericism, esoterism, and sometimes the Western mystery tradition, is a term scholars use to categorise a wide range of loosely related ideas and movements that developed within Western society. These ideas a ...
. It was developed in
England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies northwest of England and the to the southwest. England is separated from by the to the east and the to the south. The country cover ...

England
during the first half of the 20th century and was introduced to the public in 1954 by Gerald Gardner, a retired
British British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people, nationals or natives of the United Kingdom, British Overseas Territories, and Crown Dependencies. ** Britishness, the British identity and common culture * British English, ...

British
civil servant The civil service is a collective term for a sector of government composed mainly of career civil servants hired on professional merit rather than appointed or elected, whose institutional tenure typically survives transitions of political leaders ...
. Wicca draws upon a diverse set of ancient pagan and
20th-century hermetic
20th-century hermetic
motif Motif may refer to: General concepts * Motif (chess composition), an element of a move in the consideration of its purpose * Motif (folkloristics), a recurring element that creates recognizable patterns in folklore and folk-art traditions * Motif ...
s for its
theological Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline An academic discipline or academic field is a subdivision of knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity ...
structure and
ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized, ...

ritual
practices. Wicca has no central authority figure. Its traditional core beliefs, principles, and practices were originally outlined in the 1940s and 1950s by Gardner and an early High Priestess,
Doreen Valiente Doreen Edith Dominy Valiente (4 January 1922 – 1 September 1999) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Englan ...
. The early practices were disseminated through published books and in secret written and oral teachings passed along to their initiates. There are many variations on the core structure, and the religion grows and evolves over time. It is divided into a number of diverse lineages,
sect A sect is a subgroup of a religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, worldviews, religious text, texts, shrine, sanctified places, pr ...
s and
denominations Denomination may refer to: * Religious denomination, such as a: ** Christian denomination ** Jewish denomination ** Islamic denomination ** Hindu denominations ** Schools of Buddhism, Buddhist denomination * Denomination (currency) * Denomination ( ...
, referred to as ''traditions'', each with its own
organisational structure An organizational structure defines how activities such as task allocation Task management is the process of managing a task through its life cycle. It involves planning, testing, tracking, and reporting. Task management can help either individua ...
and level of
centralisation Centralisation or centralization (see spelling differences Despite the various English dialects spoken from country to country and within different regions of the same country, there are only slight regional variations in English orthog ...

centralisation
. Due to its decentralized nature, there is some disagreement over what actually constitutes Wicca. Some traditions, collectively referred to as
British Traditional Wicca British Traditional Wicca (abbreviated BTW) is the term used, mainly in the United States of America, to group a set of Wicca Wicca (), also termed Pagan Witchcraft, is a modern Pagan religion. Scholars of religion categorise it as both a new ...
, strictly follow the initiatory lineage of Gardner and consider the term ''Wicca'' to apply only to similar traditions, but not to newer,
eclectic Eclectic may refer to: Music * Eclectic (Eric Johnson and Mike Stern album), ''Eclectic'' (Eric Johnson and Mike Stern album), 2014 * Eclectic (Big Country album), ''Eclectic'' (Big Country album), 1996 * Eclectic Method, name of an audio-visual ...
traditions. Wicca is typically duotheistic, worshipping and/or working with a Goddess and a God. These are traditionally viewed as the Triple Goddess and the
Horned God The Horned God God, in monotheistic thought, is conceived of as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith Faith, derived from Latin ''fides'' and Old French ''feid'', is confidence or trust in a person, thing, or In the c ...

Horned God
, respectively. These deities may be regarded in a henotheistic way, as having many different divine aspects which can in turn be identified with many diverse pagan deities from different historical pantheons. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as the "Great Goddess" and the "Great Horned God", with the adjective "great" connoting a deity that contains many other deities within their own nature. Some Wiccans refer to the goddess deity as the "Lady" and the god deity as the "Lord"; in this context, when "lord" and "lady" are used as adjectives, it is another way of referring to them as a divine figure. These two deities are sometimes viewed as facets of a greater
pantheistic Pantheism is the belief that reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent within a system, as opposed to that which is only Object of the mind, imaginary. The term is also used to refer to the ontological status o ...

pantheistic
divinity Divinity or the divine are things that are either related to, devoted to, or proceeding from a deity A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (m ...

divinity
, which is regarded as an impersonal force or process rather than a personal deity. While
duotheism Dualism in cosmology or dualistic cosmology is the moral or spiritual belief that two fundamental concepts exist, which often oppose each other. It is an umbrella term that covers a diversity of views from various religions, including both traditio ...
or bitheism is traditional in Wicca, broader Wiccan beliefs range from
polytheism Polytheism is the worship of or belief in multiple deities A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/supernatura ...
to
pantheism Pantheism is the belief that reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent within a system, as opposed to that which is only Object of the mind, imaginary. The term is also used to refer to the ontological status o ...

pantheism
or
monism Monism attributes oneness or singleness (Greek: μόνος) to a concept e.g., existence. Various kinds of monism can be distinguished: * Priority monism states that all existing things go back to a source that is distinct from them; e.g., i ...
, even to Goddess monotheism. Wiccan celebrations encompass both the cycles of the Moon, known as Esbats and commonly associated with the Goddess (female deity), and the cycles of the Sun, seasonally based festivals known as
Sabbat The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of seasonal A season is a division of the year based on changes in weather, ecology, and the number of daylight hours in a given region. On Earth, seasons are the result of Earth's orbit around the Sun ...

Sabbat
s and commonly associated with the Horned God (male deity). An unattributed statement known as the Wiccan Rede is a popular expression of Wiccan morality, although it is not universally accepted by Wiccans. Wicca often involves the ritual practice of
magic Magic or Magick may refer to: * Ceremonial magic, encompasses a wide variety of rituals of magic * Chaos magic#REDIRECT Chaos magic {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from miscapitalization {{R unprintworthy ..., a contemporary magical practic ...
, though it is not always necessary.


Definition and terminology

Scholars of
religious studies Religious studies, also known as the study of religion, is an academic field devoted to research into religion, religious beliefs, behaviors Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and British English spelling di ...
classify Wicca as a
new religious movement A new religious movement (NRM), also known as a new religion or an alternative spirituality, is a religious or spirituality, spiritual group that has modern origins but is peripheral to its society's dominant religious culture. NRMs can be novel ...
, and more specifically as a form of
modern Paganism Modern Paganism, also known as Contemporary Paganism and Neopaganism, is a collective term for religious movements influenced by or derived from the various Paganism, historical pagan beliefs of History of the world#Ancient history, pre-modern pe ...
. Cited as the largest, best known, most influential, and most extensively academically studied form of Paganism, within the movement it has been identified as sitting on the former end of the eclectic to reconstructionist spectrum. Several academics have also categorised Wicca as a form of
nature religion A nature religion is a religious movement that believes nature and the natural world is an embodiment of divinity, sacredness or spiritual power. Beyer 1998. p. 11. Nature religions include indigenous religion Indigenous religions is a categor ...
, a term that is also embraced by many of its practitioners, and as a
mystery religion Mystery religions, mystery cults, sacred mysteries or simply mysteries, were religious schools of the Greco-Roman world Roman Theatre of Mérida, Spain. The term "Greco-Roman world" (also "Greco-Roman culture" or ; spelled Graeco-Roman in ...
. However, given that Wicca also incorporates the practice of
magic Magic or Magick may refer to: * Ceremonial magic, encompasses a wide variety of rituals of magic * Chaos magic#REDIRECT Chaos magic {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from miscapitalization {{R unprintworthy ..., a contemporary magical practic ...
, several scholars have referred to it as a "magico-religion". Wicca is also a form of
Western esotericism Western esotericism, also known as esotericism, esoterism, and sometimes the Western mystery tradition, is a term scholars use to categorise a wide range of loosely related ideas and movements that developed within Western society. These ideas a ...
, and more specifically a part of the esoteric current known as
occultism The occult, in the broadest sense, is a category of supernatural beliefs and practices which generally fall outside the scope of organized religion, religion and science, encompassing such phenomena involving otherworldly agency as mysticism, sp ...
. Academics like Wouter Hanegraaff and Tanya Luhrmann have categorised Wicca as part of the
New Age New Age is a range of spiritual or religious Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religi ...
, although other academics, and many Wiccans themselves, dispute this categorisation. Although recognised as a
religion Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion. Different religions may or may not contain v ...

religion
by academics, some
evangelical Christians Evangelicalism (), evangelical Christianity, or evangelical Protestantism, is a worldwide trans-denominational movement within Protestant Christianity that maintains the belief that the essence of the Gospel Gospel originally meant the Chr ...
have attempted to deny it legal recognition as such, while some Wiccan practitioners themselves eschew the term "religion" – associating the latter purely with
organised religion Organized religion (or organised religion—see spelling differences), also known as institutional religion, is religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality ...
– instead favouring "
spirituality The meaning of spirituality has developed and expanded over time, and various connotations can be found alongside each other. Traditionally, spirituality referred to a religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of design ...

spirituality
" or "way of life". Although Wicca as a religion is distinct from other forms of contemporary Paganism, there has been much "cross-fertilization" between these different Pagan faiths; accordingly, Wicca has both influenced and been influenced by other Pagan religions, thus making clear-cut distinctions between them more difficult for religious studies scholars to make. The terms ''wizard'' and ''warlock'' are generally discouraged in the community. In Wicca,
denomination Denomination may refer to: * Religious denomination, such as a: ** Christian denomination ** Jewish denomination ** Islamic denomination ** Hindu denominations ** Schools of Buddhism, Buddhist denomination * Denomination (currency) * Denomination ( ...
s are referred to as ''traditions'', while non-Wiccans are often termed ''cowans''.


"Witchcraft" and "Wicca"

When the religion first came to public attention, it was commonly called "
Witchcraft In many cultures, witchcraft traditionally means the use of magic or supernatural powers, usually to harm others. A practitioner is a witch. In medieval and early modern Europe, where the term ''witchcraft'' originated, accused witches were ...

Witchcraft
". For instance, Gerald Gardner—the man regarded as the "Father of Wicca"—referred to it as the "Craft of the Wise", "witchcraft", and "the
witch-cult The witch-cult hypothesis is a discredited theory that proposes that the Witch trials in the early modern period, witch trials of the Early Modern period were an attempt to suppress a pre-Christian, paganism, pagan religion that had survived the Ch ...
" during the 1950s. There is no evidence that he ever called it "Wicca", although he did refer to the collective community of Pagan Witches as "the Wica" (with one ''c''). As a name for the religion, "Wicca" developed in Britain during the 1960s. It is not known who precisely invented the term "Wicca" in reference to the religion, although one possibility is that it might have been Gardner's rival
Charles Cardell Charles Cardell (1892–1977) was an English people, English Wiccan who propagated his own tradition of the Craft, which was distinct from that of Gerald Gardner (Wiccan), Gerald Gardner. Cardell's tradition of Wicca venerated a form of the Horned ...
, who was referring to it as the "Craft of the Wiccens" by 1958. The first recorded use of the word "Wicca" appears in 1962, and it had been popularised to the extent that several British practitioners founded a newsletter called ''The Wiccan'' in 1968. Although pronounced differently, the
Modern English Modern English (sometimes New English or NE (ME) as opposed to Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th centur ...

Modern English
term "Wicca" is derived from the
Old English Old English (, ), or Anglo-Saxon, is the earliest recorded form of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventu ...
''
wicca Wicca () is a modern Paganism, modern Pagan religion. Religious studies, Scholars of religion categorise it as both a new religious movement and as part of the occultism, occultist stream of Western esotericism. It was developed in England during ...
'' and '' wicce'' , the
masculine Masculinity (also called manhood or manliness) is a set of attributes, behavior Behavior (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of vari ...
and
feminine Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women A woman is an adult female Female (symbol: ♀) is the sex of an organism that produces the large non-mob ...
term for witch, respectively, that was used in
Anglo-Saxon England Anglo-Saxon England or Early Medieval England, existing from the 5th to the 11th centuries from the end of Roman Britain until the Norman Conquest, Norman conquest in 1066, consisted of various Anglo-Saxons, Anglo-Saxon kingdoms until 927, when ...
. By adopting it for modern usage, Wiccans were both symbolically cementing their presumed connection to the ancient, pre-Christian past, and adopting a self-designation that would be less controversial than "Witchcraft". The scholar of religion and Wiccan priestess Joanne Pearson noted that while "the words 'witch' and 'wicca' are therefore linked etymologically, they are used to emphasize different things today." In early sources "Wicca" referred to the entirety of the religion rather than specific traditions. In ensuing decades, members of certain traditions – those known as
British Traditional Wicca British Traditional Wicca (abbreviated BTW) is the term used, mainly in the United States of America, to group a set of Wicca Wicca (), also termed Pagan Witchcraft, is a modern Pagan religion. Scholars of religion categorise it as both a new ...
– began claiming that only they should be termed "Wiccan", and that other forms of the religion must not use it. From the late 1980s onwards various books propagating Wicca were published that again used the former, broader definition of the word. Thus, by the 1980s, there were two competing definitions of the word "Wicca" in use among the Pagan and esoteric communities, one broad and inclusive, the other smaller and exclusionary. Although there are exceptions, among scholars of
Pagan studiesPagan studies is the multidisciplinary academic field devoted to the study of contemporary Paganism, a broad assortment of modern religious movements, which are typically influenced by or claiming to be derived from the various pagan Paganism ( ...
it is the older, inclusive use of the term which has gained wider usage. Conversely, in various forms of popular culture, such as television programs ''
Buffy the Vampire Slayer ''Buffy the Vampire Slayer'' is an American supernatural drama television series based on the 1992 film of the same name. It was created by Joss Whedon Joseph Hill Whedon (; born June 23, 1964) is an American film director, producer, wri ...
'' and ''
Charmed ''Charmed'' is an American fantasy Fantasy is a genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it n ...
'', the word "Wicca" has been used as a synonym for
witchcraft In many cultures, witchcraft traditionally means the use of magic Magic or Magick may refer to: * Ceremonial magic, encompasses a wide variety of rituals of magic * Chaos magic#REDIRECT Chaos magic {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from m ...

witchcraft
more generally, including in non-religious and non-Pagan forms. Alongside "Wicca", two other names often used for the religion by its practitioners are "Witchcraft" and "the Craft". Using the word "Witchcraft" in this context can result in confusion both with other, non-religious forms of witchcraft as well as other religions—such as
Satanism Satanism is a group of Ideology, ideological and Philosophy, philosophical beliefs based on Satan. Contemporary religious practice of Satanism began with the founding of the atheistic Church of Satan in the United States in 1966, although a ...

Satanism
and
Luciferianism Luciferianism is a belief system that venerates the essential characteristics that are affixed to Lucifer Lucifer is the name of various mythological and religious figures associated with the planet Venus. Due to the unique movements and disc ...
—whose practitioners also sometimes describe themselves as "Witches". Another term sometimes used as a synonym for "Wicca" is "Pagan Witchcraft", although there are also other forms of modern Paganism—such as types of Heathenry—which also practice magic and thus could be described as "Pagan Witchcraft". From the 1990s onward, various Wiccans began describing themselves as " Traditional Witches", although this term was also employed by practitioners of other magico-religious traditions like Luciferianism.


Beliefs


Theology

Theological Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline An academic discipline or academic field is a subdivision of knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity ...
views within Wicca are diverse. The religion encompasses
theists Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being, supreme being or deities. In common parlance, or when contrasted with ''deism'', the term often describes the classical conception of God that is found in monotheism (a ...
,
atheists Atheism, in the broadest sense, is an absence of belief in the existence of Deity, deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that the ...

atheists
, and
agnostics Agnosticism is the view that the existence of God, of the divinity, divine or the supernatural is unknown or Uncertainty, unknowable. (page 56 in 1967 edition) Another definition provided is the view that "human reason is incapable of providing ...

agnostics
, with some viewing the religion's deities as entities with a literal existence and others viewing them as
Jungian archetypes Jungian archetypes are defined as universal, primal symbols and images that derive from the collective unconscious, as proposed by Carl Jung. They are the psychic counterpart of instinct. It is described as a kind of innate unspecific knowledge, d ...
or symbols. Even among theistic Wiccans, there are divergent beliefs, and Wicca includes
pantheists Pantheism is the belief that reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent within a system, as opposed to that which is only Object of the mind, imaginary. The term is also used to refer to the ontological status o ...

pantheists
,
monotheists Monotheism is the belief in one god. A narrower definition of monotheism is the belief in the existence of only one god God, in monotheistic thought, is conceived of as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith Faith, der ...
, duotheists, and
polytheists Polytheism is the worship of or belief in multiple deities A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the . This term is attributed to , such as s, s, , and . It ...
. Common to these divergent perspectives, however, is that Wicca's deities are viewed as forms of ancient, pre-Christian divinities by its practitioners.


Duotheism

Most early Wiccan groups adhered to the duotheistic worship of a
Horned God The Horned God God, in monotheistic thought, is conceived of as the supreme being, creator, and principal object of faith Faith, derived from Latin ''fides'' and Old French ''feid'', is confidence or trust in a person, thing, or In the c ...

Horned God
and a
Mother Goddess A mother goddess is a goddess A goddess is a female deity A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male deity), god or goddess (in a polyth ...

Mother Goddess
, with practitioners typically believing that these had been the ancient deities worshipped by the
hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of culture, language and tools. T ...
s of the
Old Stone Age The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age, is a period in human prehistory Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history between the use of the first stone tools by ho ...
, whose veneration had been passed down in secret right to the present. This theology derived from Egyptologist Margaret Murray's claims about the
witch-cult The witch-cult hypothesis is a discredited theory that proposes that the Witch trials in the early modern period, witch trials of the Early Modern period were an attempt to suppress a pre-Christian, paganism, pagan religion that had survived the Ch ...
in her book ''The Witch-Cult in Western Europe'' published by Oxford University Press in 1921; she claimed that this cult had venerated a Horned God at the time of the Early Modern witch trials, but centuries before it had also worshipped a Mother Goddess. This duotheistic Horned God/Mother Goddess structure was embraced by Gardner – who claimed that it had Stone Age roots – and remains the underlying theological basis to his Gardnerian tradition. Gardner claimed that the names of these deities were to be kept secret within the tradition, although in 1964 they were publicly revealed to be Cernunnos and Aradia; the secret Gardnerian deity names were subsequently changed. Although different Wiccans attribute different traits to the Horned God, he is most often associated with animals and the natural world, but also with the afterlife, and he is furthermore often viewed as an ideal role model for men. The Mother Goddess has been associated with life, fertility, and the springtime, and has been described as an ideal role model for women. Wicca's duotheism has been compared to the
Taoist Taoism (), or Daoism (), is a philosophical and spiritual tradition of Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of c ...
system of
yin and yang In Ancient Chinese philosophy Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period () and Warring States period (), during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significan ...

yin and yang
. Other Wiccans have adopted the original Gardnerian God/Goddess duotheistic structure but have adopted deity forms other than that of the Horned God and Mother Goddess. For instance, the God has been interpreted as the Oak King and the Holly King, as well as the Sun God, Son/Lover God, and Vegetation God. He has also been seen in the roles of the Leader of the Wild Hunt and the Lord of Death. The Goddess is often portrayed as a Triple Goddess, thereby being a triadic deity comprising a Maiden goddess, a
Mother goddess A mother goddess is a goddess A goddess is a female deity A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male deity), god or goddess (in a polyth ...

Mother goddess
, and a Crone goddess, each of whom has different associations, namely virginity, fertility, and wisdom. Other Wiccan conceptualisations have portrayed her as a
Moon Goddess In mythology Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional ( memoir, biography, news report, documentary, Travel literature ...
and as a Menstruating Goddess. According to the anthropologist Susan Greenwood, in Wicca the Goddess is "a symbol of self-transformation - she is seen to be constantly changing and a force for change for those who open themselves up to her."


Monotheism and polytheism

Gardner stated that beyond Wicca's two deities was the "Supreme Deity" or "
Prime Mover Prime mover in science and engineering is a machine or component that converts energy from an energy source into motive power. Prime mover may refer to: Engineering * Prime mover (engine), a component that transforms the flow or changes in pressu ...
", an entity that was too complex for humans to understand. This belief has been endorsed by other prominent practitioners, who have referred to it as "the Cosmic Logos", "Supreme Cosmic Power", or "Godhead". Gardner envisioned this Supreme Deity as a
deist Deism ( or ; derived from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the p ...
entity who had created the "Under-Gods", among them the God and Goddess, but who was not otherwise involved in the world; alternately, other Wiccans have interpreted such an entity as a pantheistic being, of whom the God and Goddess are facets. Although Gardner criticised monotheism, citing the
Problem of Evil The problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil Evil, in a general sense, is defined by what it is not—the opposite or absence of good. It can be an extremely broad concept, although in everyday usage it is of ...
, explicitly monotheistic forms of Wicca developed in the 1960s, when the U.S.-based Church of Wicca developed a theology rooted in the worship of what they described as "one deity, without gender". In the 1970s, Dianic Wiccan groups developed which were devoted to a singular, monotheistic Goddess; this approach was often criticised by members of British Traditional Wiccan groups, who lambasted such Goddess monotheism as an inverted imitation of Christian theology. As in other forms of Wicca, some Goddess monotheists have expressed the view that the Goddess is not an entity with a literal existence, but rather a Jungian archetype. As well as pantheism and duotheism, many Wiccans accept the concept of
polytheism Polytheism is the worship of or belief in multiple deities A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/supernatura ...
, thereby believing that there are many different deities. Some accept the view espoused by the occultist
Dion Fortune Dion Fortune (born Violet Mary Firth, 6 December 1890 – 6 January 1946) was a British occultist The occult, in the broadest sense, is a category of supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that ar ...
that "all gods are one god, and all goddesses are one goddess" – that is that the gods and goddesses of all cultures are, respectively, aspects of one supernal God and Goddess. With this mindset, a Wiccan may regard the Germanic
Ēostre ( ang, *Ēastre , Barnhart, Robert K. ''The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology'' (1995) . Northumbrian dialect ',Sievers 1901 p. 98 Mercian dialect and West Saxon dialect (Old English) ' ; goh, Asterisk#Historical linguistics, *Ôstara; ...
, Hindu
Kali Kali (; sa, काली, ), also known as Dakshina Kālikā ( sa, दक्षिण कालिका), is a Hindu Hindus (; ) are persons who regard themselves as culturally, ethnically, or religiously adhering to aspects of H ...

Kali
, and Catholic
Virgin Mary According to the gospels Gospel originally meant the Christian message, but in the 2nd century it came to be used also for the books in which the message was set out; in this sense a gospel can be defined as a loose-knit, episodic narrat ...

Virgin Mary
each as manifestations of one supreme Goddess and likewise, the Celtic
Cernunnos In Gallo-Roman religion Gallo-Roman religion was a fusion of the traditional religious practices of the Gauls The Gauls ( la, Galli; grc, Γαλάται, ''Galátai'') were a group of Celts, Celtic peoples of Continental Europe in the Iron Age ...

Cernunnos
, the ancient Greek
Dionysus Dionysus (; grc-gre, Διόνυσος) is the god of the grape-harvest, winemaking, fertility, orchards and fruit, vegetation, insanity, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre in Religion in ancient Greece, ancient Greek rel ...

Dionysus
and the Judeo-Christian
Yahweh Yahweh was the national god of ancient Kingdom of Israel (Samaria), Israel and Kingdom of Judah, Judah. His origins reach at least to the early Iron Age, and likely to the Late Bronze Age. In the oldest biblical literature, he is a Weather ...
as aspects of a single, archetypal god. A more strictly
polytheistic Polytheism is the worship of or belief in multiple deities A deity or god is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena that are not subject to the laws of nature.https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/supernatura ...
approach holds the various goddesses and gods to be separate and distinct entities in their own right. The Wiccan writers
Janet Farrar Janet Farrar (born Janet Owen on 24 June 1950) is a British teacher and author of books on Wicca and Neopaganism. Along with her two husbands, Stewart Farrar and Gavin Bone, she has published "some of the most influential books on modern Witc ...
and
Gavin Bone Gavin Bone (born 19 January 1964) is an English author and lecturer in the fields of magic (paranormal), magic, contemporary witchcraft, witchcraft, Wicca and Neo-Paganism, and an wikt:Special:Search/organizer, organizer in the Neo-Pagan community. ...
have postulated that Wicca is becoming more polytheistic as it matures, tending to embrace a more traditionally pagan worldview. Some Wiccans conceive of deities not as literal personalities but as metaphorical
archetype The concept of an archetype (; from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its popu ...
s or
thoughtform Tulpa is a concept in Theosophy, mysticism, and the paranormal of an object or being that is created through spiritual or mental powers. Modern practitioners use the term to refer to a type of willed imagined being which practitioners consider to ...
s, thereby technically allowing them to be
atheists Atheism, in the broadest sense, is an absence of belief in the existence of Deity, deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that the ...

atheists
. Such a view was purported by the High Priestess
Vivianne Crowley Vivianne Crowley is an author, university lecturer, psychologist, and a High Priestess and teacher of the Wiccan religion. She was initiated into the London coven of Alex Sanders (Wiccan), Alex Sanders (founder of the Alexandrian tradition of Wicca ...

Vivianne Crowley
, herself a
psychologist A psychologist is a professional who practices psychology and studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by experimenting with, and observing, interpreting, and recording how ...

psychologist
, who considered the Wiccan deities to be
Jungian archetypes Jungian archetypes are defined as universal, primal symbols and images that derive from the collective unconscious, as proposed by Carl Jung. They are the psychic counterpart of instinct. It is described as a kind of innate unspecific knowledge, d ...
that existed within the subconscious that could be evoked in ritual. It was for this reason, she said "The Goddess and God manifest to us in dream and vision." Wiccans often believe that the gods are not perfect and can be argued with. Many Wiccans also adopt a more explicitly polytheistic or
animistic Animism (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman R ...

animistic
world-view of the universe as being replete with spirit-beings. In many cases these spirits are associated with the natural world, for instance as ''
genius loci In classical Roman religion, a '' genius loci'' (plural The plural (sometimes list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ), in many languages, is one of the values of the grammatical number, grammatical category of number. The plural of a no ...

genius loci
'',
fairies A fairy (also ''fay'', ''fae'', ''fey'', ''fair folk'', or ''faerie'') is a type of mythical Myth is a folklore genre Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions com ...
, and elementals. In other cases, such beliefs are more idiosyncratic and atypical; the prominent Wiccan
Sybil Leek Sybil Leek (''née'' Fawcett; 22 February 1917 – 26 October 1982) was an English witch Witchcraft is the practice of what the practitioner ("witch") believes to be magical skills and abilities such as using spells, incantations, and m ...
for instance endorsed a belief in
angel An angel is a supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the . This term is attributed to , such as s, s, , and . It also includes claimed abilities embodied in or provided by such ...

angel
s.


Afterlife

Belief in the afterlife varies among Wiccans and does not occupy a central place within the religion. As the historian
Ronald Hutton Ronald Edmund Hutton (born 19 December 1953) is an English historian who specialises in Early Modern Britain, British folklore Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions ...
remarked, "the instinctual position of most iccansnbsp;... seems to be that if one makes the most of the present life, in all respects, then the next life is more or less certainly going to benefit from the process, and so one may as well concentrate on the present". It is nevertheless a common belief among Wiccans that human beings have a spirit or soul that survives bodily death. Understandings of what this soul constitutes vary among different traditions, with Feri Wicca, for instance, having adopted a belief from Hawaiian religion that the human being has three souls. Although not accepted by all Wiccans, a belief in reincarnation is the dominant afterlife belief within Wicca, having been originally espoused by Gardner. Understandings of how the cycle of reincarnation operates differ among practitioners; the prominent Wiccan Raymond Buckland for instance insisted that human souls would only incarnate into human bodies, whereas other Wiccans believe that a human soul can incarnate into any life form. There is also a common Wiccan belief that any Witches will come to be reincarnated as future Witches, an idea originally expressed by Gardner. Gardner also articulated the view that the human soul rested for a period between bodily death and its incarnation, with this resting place commonly being referred to as "The Summerland" among the Wiccan community. This allows many Wiccans to believe that Mediumship, mediums can contact the spirits of the deceased, a belief adopted from Spiritualism.


Magic

Many Wiccans believe in
magic Magic or Magick may refer to: * Ceremonial magic, encompasses a wide variety of rituals of magic * Chaos magic#REDIRECT Chaos magic {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from miscapitalization {{R unprintworthy ..., a contemporary magical practic ...
, a manipulative force exercised through the practice of
witchcraft In many cultures, witchcraft traditionally means the use of magic Magic or Magick may refer to: * Ceremonial magic, encompasses a wide variety of rituals of magic * Chaos magic#REDIRECT Chaos magic {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from m ...

witchcraft
or Magic (paranormal), sorcery. Many Wiccans agree with the definition of magic offered by ceremonial magicians, such as Aleister Crowley, who declared that magic was "the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will", while another prominent ceremonial magician, Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, MacGregor Mathers stated that it was "the science of the control of the secret forces of nature". Many Wiccans believe magic to be a law of nature, as yet misunderstood or disregarded by contemporary science, and as such they do not view it as being supernatural, but a part of what Leo Martello calls the "super powers that reside in the natural". Some Wiccans believe that magic is simply making full use of the five senses to achieve surprising results, whilst other Wiccans do not claim to know how magic works, merely believing that it does because they have observed it to be so. During ritual practices, which are often staged in a sacred circle, Wiccans cast spell (paranormal), spells or "workings" intended to bring about real changes in the physical world. Common Wiccan spells include those used for energy medicine, healing, for protection, fertility, or to banish negative influences. Many early Wiccans, such as Alex Sanders (Wiccan), Alex Sanders,
Sybil Leek Sybil Leek (''née'' Fawcett; 22 February 1917 – 26 October 1982) was an English witch Witchcraft is the practice of what the practitioner ("witch") believes to be magical skills and abilities such as using spells, incantations, and m ...
and Alex Winfield, referred to their own magic as "magic (paranormal), white magic", which contrasted with "black magic", which they associated with evil and
Satanism Satanism is a group of Ideology, ideological and Philosophy, philosophical beliefs based on Satan. Contemporary religious practice of Satanism began with the founding of the atheistic Church of Satan in the United States in 1966, although a ...

Satanism
. Sanders also used the similar terminology of "left hand path" to describe malevolent magic, and "right hand path" to describe magic performed with good intentions; terminology that had originated with the occultist Helena Blavatsky in the 19th century. Some modern Wiccans, however, have stopped using the white-black magic and left-right hand path dichotomies, arguing for instance that the colour black should not necessarily have any associations with evil. Scholars of religion Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, William Bainbridge claimed in 1985 that Wicca had "reacted to secularisation by a headlong plunge back into magic" and that it was a reactionary religion which would soon die out. This view was heavily criticised in 1999 by the historian
Ronald Hutton Ronald Edmund Hutton (born 19 December 1953) is an English historian who specialises in Early Modern Britain, British folklore Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions ...
who claimed that the evidence displayed the very opposite: that "a large number [of Wiccans] were in jobs at the cutting edge [of scientific culture], such as computer technology."


Witchcraft

Traditionally, the term "witchcraft" has meant the use of magic to cause harm and misfortune to others, as opposed to helpful "white magic". The historian Wouter Hanegraaff noted that the Wiccan view of witchcraft was "an outgrowth of Romantic (semi)scholarship". He noted that Gardner, like some previous writers, viewed the witch as a "''positive antitype'' which derives much of its symbolic force from its implicit criticism of dominant Judaeo-Christian and Enlightenment values". Hanegraaff noted that Wiccans dismissed various elements traditionally associated with witchcraft—namely infanticide, cannibalism, Satanism, and sexual orgies—by claiming that these were either misunderstandings or fictions invented by the Early Modern witch hunters. Pearson noted that Wicca "provides a framework in which the image of oneself as a witch can be explored and brought into a modern context". Pearson suggested that Wiccans "identify with the witch because she is imagined as powerful - she can make people sleep for one hundred years, she can see the future, she can curse and kill as well as heal and of course, she can turn people into frogs!" Identifying as a witch also enables Wiccans to link themselves with those persecuted in the witch trials of the Early Modern period, often referred to by Wiccans as "the Burning Times". Various practitioners have made the historically inaccurate claim that nine million people were executed as witches in the Early Modern period, thus drawing comparisons with the killing of six million Jews in the Holocaust and presenting themselves, as modern witches, as "persecuted minorities".


Morality

Wicca has been characterised as a life-affirming religion. Practitioners typically present themselves as "a positive force against the powers of destruction which threaten the world". There exists no dogmatic moral or ethics, ethical code followed universally by Wiccans of all traditions, however a majority follow a code known as the Wiccan Rede, which states "an it harm none, do what ye will". This is usually interpreted as a declaration of the freedom to act, along with the necessity of taking responsibility for what follows from one's actions and minimising harm to oneself and others. Another common element of Wiccan morality is the Rule of Three (Wicca), Law of Threefold Return which holds that whatever benevolent or malevolent actions a person performs will return to that person with triple force, or with equal force on each of the three levels of body, mind, and spirit,Lembke, Karl (2002
''The Threefold Law''
similar to the eastern idea of karma. The Wiccan Rede was most likely introduced into Wicca by Gerald Gardner and formalised publicly by
Doreen Valiente Doreen Edith Dominy Valiente (4 January 1922 – 1 September 1999) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Englan ...
, one of his High Priestesses. The Threefold Law was an interpretation of Wiccan ideas and ritual, made by Monique Wilson (Wiccan), Monique Wilson and further popularised by Raymond Buckland, in his books on Wicca. Many Wiccans also seek to cultivate a set of eight virtues mentioned in
Doreen Valiente Doreen Edith Dominy Valiente (4 January 1922 – 1 September 1999) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Englan ...
's ''Charge of the Goddess'', these being mirth, reverence, honour, humility, strength, beauty, power, and compassion. In Valiente's poem, they are ordered in pairs of complementary opposites, reflecting a Dualistic cosmology, dualism that is common throughout Wiccan philosophy. Some lineaged Wiccans also observe a set of Wiccan Laws, commonly called the ''Craft Laws'' or ''Ardanes'', 30 of which exist in the Gardnerian tradition and 161 of which are in the Alexandrian tradition. Valiente, one of Gardner's original High Priestesses, argued that the first thirty of these rules were most likely invented by Gerald Gardner himself in mock-archaic language as the by-product of inner conflict within his Bricket Wood coven – the others were later additions made by Alex Sanders (Wiccan), Alex Sanders during the 1960s. In British Traditional Wicca, "sex complementarity is a basic and fundamental working principle", with men and women being seen as a necessary presence to balance each other out. This may have derived from Gardner's interpretation of Murray's claim that the ancient witch-cult was a fertility religion. Thus, many practitioners of British Traditional Wicca have argued that gay men and women are not capable of correctly working magic without mixed-sex pairings. Although Gerald Gardner initially demonstrated an aversion to Homosexuality and Wicca, homosexuality, claiming that it brought down "the curse of the goddess", it is now generally accepted in all traditions of Wicca, with groups such as the Minoan Brotherhood openly basing their philosophy upon it, and various important figures in the Craft, such as Alex Sanders (Wiccan), Alex Sanders and Eddie Buczynski, being openly homosexual or bisexual. The scholar of religion Joanne Pearson noted that in her experience, most Wiccans take a "realistic view of living in the real world" replete with its many problems and do not claim that the gods "have all the answers" to these. She suggested that Wiccans do not claim to seek perfection but instead "wholeness" or "completeness", which includes an acceptance of traits like anger, weakness, and pain. She contrasted the Wiccan acceptance of an "interplay between light and dark" against the New Age focus on "white light". Similarly, the scholar of religion Geoffrey Samuel noted that Wiccans devote "a perhaps surprising amount of attention to darkness and death." Many Wiccans are involved in environmentalist campaigns.


Five elements

Many traditions hold a belief in the five classical elements, although they are seen as symbolic as representations of the phase (matter), phases of matter. These five elements are invoked during many magical rituals, notably when consecrating a magic circle. The five elements are Air (classical element), air, Fire (classical element), fire, Water (classical element), water, Earth (classical element), earth, and Aether (classical element), aether (or spirit). Aether unites the other four. Various analogies have been devised to explain the concept of the five elements; for instance, the Wiccan Ann-Marie Gallagher used that of a tree, which is composed of earth (with the soil and plant matter), water (sap and moisture), fire (through photosynthesis) and air (the creation of oxygen from carbon dioxide), all of which are believed to be united through spirit. Traditionally in the Gardnerian Craft, each element has been associated with a cardinal point of the compass; air with east, fire with south, water with west, earth with north, and the spirit with centre. However, some Wiccans, such as Frederic Lamond (Wiccan), Frederic Lamond, have claimed that the set cardinal points are only those applicable to the geography of southern England, where Wicca evolved, and that Wiccans should determine which directions best suit each element in their region. For instance, those living on the east coast of North America should invoke water in the east and not the west because the colossal body of water, the Atlantic ocean, is to their east. Other Craft groups have associated the elements with different cardinal points, for instance Robert Cochrane (witch), Robert Cochrane's Clan of Tubal Cain associated earth with south, fire with east, water with west and air with north, and each of which were controlled over by a different deity who were seen as children of the primary Horned God and Goddess. The five elements are symbolised by the five points of the pentagram, the most prominently used symbol of Wicca.


Practices

The Wiccan high priestess and journalist Margot Adler stated that Wiccan rituals were not "dry, formalised, repetitive experiences", but performed with the intent of inducing a religious experience in the participants, thereby altering their consciousness. She noted that many Wiccans remain skeptical about the existence of the supernatural but remain involved in Wicca because of its ritual experiences: she quoted one as saying that "I love myth, dream, visionary art. The Craft is a place where all of these things fit together – beauty, pageantry, music, dance, song, dream." The Wiccan practitioner and historian Aidan Kelly claimed that the practices and experiences within Wicca were more important than the beliefs, stating: "it's a religion of ritual rather than theology. The ritual is first; the myth is second." Similarly, Adler stated that Wicca permits "total skepticism about even its own methods, myths and rituals". The anthropologist Susan Greenwood characterised Wiccan rituals as "a form of resistance to mainstream culture". She saw these rituals as "a healing space away from the ills of the wider culture", one in which female practitioners can "redefine and empower themselves." Wiccan rituals usually take place in private. The Reclaiming tradition has utilised its rituals for political purposes.


Ritual practices

Many rituals within Wicca are used when celebrating the
Sabbat The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of seasonal A season is a division of the year based on changes in weather, ecology, and the number of daylight hours in a given region. On Earth, seasons are the result of Earth's orbit around the Sun ...

Sabbat
s, worshipping the deities, and working magic. Often these take place on a full moon, or in some cases a new moon, which is known as an Esbat. In typical rites, the coven or solitary assembles inside a ritually cast and purified magic circle. Casting the circle may involve the invocation of the "Guardians" of the cardinal points, alongside their respective classical elements; air, fire, water, and earth. Once the circle is cast, a seasonal ritual may be performed, prayers to the God and Goddess are said, and spells are sometimes worked; these may include various forms of 'raising energy', including raising a cone of power to send healing or other magic to persons outside of the sacred space. In constructing his ritual system, Gardner drew upon older forms of ceremonial magic, in particular, those found in the writings of Aleister Crowley. The classical ritual scheme in
British Traditional Wicca British Traditional Wicca (abbreviated BTW) is the term used, mainly in the United States of America, to group a set of Wicca Wicca (), also termed Pagan Witchcraft, is a modern Pagan religion. Scholars of religion categorise it as both a new ...
traditions is: # Purification of the sacred space and the participants # Casting the circle # Calling of the elemental quarters # Cone of power # Drawing down the Gods # Spellcasting # Great Rite # Wine, cakes, chanting, dancing, games # Farewell to the quarters and participants These rites often include a special set of Magical tools in Wicca, magical tools. These usually include a knife called an athame, a wand, a pentacle and a chalice, but other tools include a broomstick known as a Besom broom#In Wicca, besom, a cauldron, candles, incense and a curved blade known as a boline. An altar is usually present in the circle, on which ritual tools are placed and representations of the God and the Goddess may be displayed. Before entering the circle, some traditions fast for the day, and/or ritually bathe. After a ritual has finished, the God, Goddess, and Guardians are thanked, the directions are dismissed and the circle is closed. A central aspect of Wicca (particularly in Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca), often sensationalised by the media is the traditional practice of working in the nude, also known as ''Skyclad (Neopaganism), skyclad''. This practice seemingly derives from a line in ''Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches#Influence on Wicca and Stregheria, Aradia'', Charles Godfrey Leland, Charles Leland's supposed record of Italian witchcraft. Many Wiccans believe that performing rituals skyclad allows "power" to flow from the body in a manner unimpeded by clothes. Some also note that it removes signs of social rank and differentiation and thus encourages unity among the practitioners. Some Wiccans seek legitimacy for the practice by stating that various ancient societies performed their rituals while nude. One of Wicca's best known liturgical texts is "The Charge of the Goddess". The most commonly used version used by Wiccans today is the rescension of
Doreen Valiente Doreen Edith Dominy Valiente (4 January 1922 – 1 September 1999) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Englan ...
, who developed it from Gardner's version. Gardner's wording of the original "Charge" added extracts from Aleister Crowley's work, including ''The Book of the Law'', (especially from Ch 1, spoken by Nuit, the Star Goddess) thus linking modern Wicca irrevocably to the principles of Thelema. Valiente rewrote Gardner's version in verse, keeping the material derived from ''Aradia'', but removing the material from Crowley.


Sex magic

Other traditions wear robes with cords tied around the waist or even normal street clothes. In certain traditions, ritualised sex magic is performed in the form of the Great Rite, whereby a High Priest and High Priestess invoke the God and Goddess to possess them before performing sexual intercourse to raise magical energy for use in spellwork. In nearly all cases it is instead performed "in token", thereby merely symbolically, using the athame to symbolise the penis and the chalice to symbolise the womb. For some Wiccans, the ritual space is a "space of resistance, in which the sexual morals of Christianity and patriarchy can be subverted", and for this reason they have adopted techniques from the BDSM subculture into their rituals. Publicly, many Wiccan groups have tended to excise the role of sex magic from their image. This has served both to escape the tabloid sensationalism that has targeted the religion since the 1950s and the concerns surrounding the Satanic ritual abuse hysteria in the 1980s and 1990s.


Wheel of the Year

Wiccans celebrate several seasonal festivals of the year, commonly known as Sabbats. Collectively, these occasions are termed the Wheel of the Year. Most Wiccans celebrate a set of eight of these Sabbats; however, other groups such as those associated with the Clan of Tubal Cain only follow four. In the rare case of the Ros an Bucca group from Cornwall, only six are adhered to. The four Sabbats that are common to all British derived groups are the cross-quarter days, sometimes referred to as ''Greater Sabbats''. The names of these festivals are in some cases taken from the Old Ireland, Irish fire festivals and the Welsh God Mabon, though in most traditional Wiccan covens the only commonality with the Celts, Celtic festival is the name. Gardner himself made use of the English names of these holidays, stating that "the four great Sabbats are Candlemass, May Eve, Lammas, and Halloween; the equinoxes and solstices are celebrated also." In the Egyptologist Margaret Murray's ''The Witch-Cult in Western Europe'' (1921) and ''The God of the Witches'' (1933), in which she dealt with what she believed had been a historical Witch-cult hypothesis, Witch-Cult, she stated that the four main festivals had survived Christianisation and had been celebrated in the pagan Witchcraft religion. Subsequently, when Wicca was first developing in the 1930s through to the 1960s, many of the early groups, such as Robert Cochrane (witch), Robert Cochrane's Clan of Tubal Cain and Gerald Gardner's Bricket Wood coven adopted the commemoration of these four Sabbats as described by Murray. The other four festivals commemorated by many Wiccans are known as ''Lesser Sabbats''. They are the solstices and the equinoxes, and they were only adopted in 1958 by members of the Bricket Wood coven, before they were subsequently adopted by other followers of the Gardnerian tradition. They were eventually adopted by followers of other traditions like Alexandrian Wicca and the Dianic Wicca, Dianic tradition. The names of these holidays that are commonly used today are often taken from Germanic paganism, Germanic pagan holidays. However, the festivals are not reconstructive in nature nor do they often resemble their historical counterparts, instead, they exhibit a form of universalism. The rituals that are observed may display cultural influences from the holidays from which they take their names as well as influences from other unrelated cultures.


Rites of passage

Various rites of passage can be found within Wicca. Perhaps the most significant of these is an initiation ritual, through which somebody joins the Craft and becomes a Wiccan. In
British Traditional Wicca British Traditional Wicca (abbreviated BTW) is the term used, mainly in the United States of America, to group a set of Wicca Wicca (), also termed Pagan Witchcraft, is a modern Pagan religion. Scholars of religion categorise it as both a new ...
n (BTW) traditions, there is a line of initiatory descent that goes back to Gerald Gardner, and from him is said to go back to the New Forest coven; however, the existence of this coven remains unproven. Gardner himself claimed that there was a traditional length of "a year and a day" between when a person began studying the Craft and when they were initiated, although he frequently broke this rule with initiates. In BTW, initiation only accepts someone into the first degree. To proceed to the second degree, an initiate has to go through another ceremony, in which they name and describe the uses of Magical tools in Wicca, the ritual tools and implements. It is also at this ceremony that they are given their craft name. By holding the rank of second degree, a BTW is considered capable of initiating others into the Craft, or founding their own semi-autonomous covens. The third degree is the highest in BTW, and it involves the participation of the Great Rite, either actual or symbolically, and in some cases ritual flagellation, which is a rite often dispensed with due to its sado-masochistic overtones. By holding this rank, an initiate is considered capable of forming covens that are entirely autonomous of their parent coven. According to new-age religious scholar James R. Lewis (scholar), James R. Lewis, in his book ''Witchcraft today: an encyclopaedia of Wiccan and neopagan traditions'', a high priestess becomes a queen when she has successfully hived off her first new coven under a new third-degree high priestess (in the orthodox Gardnerian system). She then becomes eligible to wear the "moon crown". The sequence of high priestess and queens traced back to Gerald Gardner is known as a lineage, and every orthodox Gardnerian High Priestess has a set of "lineage papers" proving the authenticity of her status. This three-tier degree system following initiation is largely unique to BTW, and traditions heavily based upon it. The Cochrane's Craft, Cochranian tradition, which is not BTW, but based upon the teachings of Robert Cochrane (witch), Robert Cochrane, does not have the three degrees of initiation, merely having the stages of novice and initiate. Some solitary Wiccans also perform self-initiation rituals, to dedicate themselves to becoming a Wiccan. The first of these to be published was in Paul Huson's ''Mastering Witchcraft'' (1970), and unusually involved recitation of the Lord's Prayer backwards as a symbol of defiance against the historical Witch Hunt. Subsequent, more overtly pagan self-initiation rituals have since been published in books designed for solitary Wiccans by authors like
Doreen Valiente Doreen Edith Dominy Valiente (4 January 1922 – 1 September 1999) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Englan ...
, Scott Cunningham and Silver RavenWolf. Handfasting (Neopaganism), Handfasting is another celebration held by Wiccans, and is the commonly used term for their weddings. Some Wiccans observe the practice of a trial marriage for a year and a day, which some traditions hold should be contracted on the Sabbat of Lughnasadh, as this was the traditional time for trial, "Telltown marriages" among the Irish. A common marriage vow in Wicca is "for as long as love lasts" instead of the traditional Christian "till death do us part". The first known Wiccan wedding ceremony took part in 1960 amongst the Bricket Wood coven, between Frederic Lamond (Wiccan), Frederic Lamond and his first wife, Gillian. Infants in Wiccan families may be involved in a ritual called a Wiccaning, which is analogous to a Infant baptism, Christening. The purpose of this is to present the infant to the God and Goddess for protection. Parents are advised to "give children the gift of Wicca" in a manner suitable to their age. In accordance with the importance put on free will in Wicca, the child is not expected or required to adhere to Wicca or other forms of paganism should they not wish to do so when they reach adulthood.


Book of Shadows

In Wicca, there is no set sacred text such as the Christian Bible, Jewish Tanakh, Hindu Gita or Islamic Quran, although there are certain scriptures and texts that various traditions hold to be important and influence their beliefs and practices. Gerald Gardner used a book containing many different texts in his covens, known as the Book of Shadows (among other names), which he would frequently add to and adapt. In his Book of Shadows, there are texts taken from various sources, including Charles Godfrey Leland's ''Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches'' (1899) and the works of 19th–20th century
occultist The occult, in the broadest sense, is a category of supernatural The supernatural encompasses supposed phenomena or entities that are not subject to the laws of nature. This term is attributed to non-physical entities, such as angel ...
Aleister Crowley, whom Gardner knew personally. Also in the Book are examples of poetry largely composed by Gardner and his High Priestess
Doreen Valiente Doreen Edith Dominy Valiente (4 January 1922 – 1 September 1999) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Englan ...
, the most notable of which is the ''Charge of the Goddess''. Similar in use to the grimoires of Magician (paranormal), ceremonial magicians, the Book contained instructions for how to perform rituals and spells, as well as religious poetry and chants like ''Eko Eko Azarak'' to use in those rituals. Gardner's original intention was that every copy of the book would be different because a student would copy from their initiators, but changing things which they felt to be personally ineffective, however amongst many Gardnerian Witches today, particularly in the United States, all copies of the Book are kept identical to the version that the High Priestess Monique Wilson (witch), Monique Wilson copied from Gardner, with nothing being altered. The Book of Shadows was originally meant to be kept a secret from non-initiates into BTW, but parts of the Book have been published by authors including
Charles Cardell Charles Cardell (1892–1977) was an English people, English Wiccan who propagated his own tradition of the Craft, which was distinct from that of Gerald Gardner (Wiccan), Gerald Gardner. Cardell's tradition of Wicca venerated a form of the Horned ...
, Lady Sheba,
Janet Farrar Janet Farrar (born Janet Owen on 24 June 1950) is a British teacher and author of books on Wicca and Neopaganism. Along with her two husbands, Stewart Farrar and Gavin Bone, she has published "some of the most influential books on modern Witc ...
and Stewart Farrar.


Symbolism

The pentacle is a symbol commonly used by Wiccans. Wiccans often understand the pentacle's five points as representing each of the five elements: earth, air, fire, water, and aether/spirit. It is also regarded as a symbol of the human, with the five points representing the head, arms, and legs.


Structure

There is no overarching organisational structure to Wicca. In Wicca, all practitioners are considered to be priests and priestesses. Wicca generally requires a ritual of initiation.


Traditions

In the 1950s through to the 1970s, when the Wiccan movement was largely confined to lineaged groups such as Gardnerian Wicca and Alexandrian Wicca, a "tradition" usually implied the transfer of a lineage by initiation. However, with the rise of more and more such groups, often being founded by those with no previous initiatory lineage, the term came to be a synonym for a religious denomination within Wicca. There are many such traditions and there are also many solitary practitioners who do not align themselves with any particular lineage, working alone. Some covens have formed but who do not follow any particular tradition, instead choosing their influences and practices eclectically. Those traditions which trace a line of initiatory descent back to Gerald Gardner include Gardnerian Wicca, Alexandrian Wicca and the Algard tradition; because of their joint history, they are often referred to as
British Traditional Wicca British Traditional Wicca (abbreviated BTW) is the term used, mainly in the United States of America, to group a set of Wicca Wicca (), also termed Pagan Witchcraft, is a modern Pagan religion. Scholars of religion categorise it as both a new ...
, particularly in North America. Other traditions trace their origins to different figures, even if their beliefs and practices have been influenced to a greater or lesser extent by Gardner. These include Cochrane's Craft and the 1734 Tradition, both of which trace their origins to Robert Cochrane (witch), Robert Cochrane; Feri Tradition, Feri, which traces itself back to Victor Anderson (poet), Victor Anderson and Gwydion Pendderwen; and Dianic Wicca, whose followers often trace their influences back to Zsuzsanna Budapest. Some of these groups prefer to refer to themselves as ''Witches'', thereby distinguishing themselves from the BTW traditions, who more typically use the term ''Wiccan'' (see Wicca#Etymology, Etymology). During the 1980s, Viviane Crowley, an initiate of both the Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions, merged the two. Pearson noted that "Wicca has evolved and, at times, mutated quite dramatically into completely different forms". Wicca has also been "customized" to the various national contexts into which it has been introduced; for instance, in Ireland, the veneration of ancient Irish deities has been incorporated into Wicca.


Covens

Lineaged Wicca is organised into covens of initiated priests and priestesses. Covens are autonomous and are generally headed by a High Priest and a High Priestess working in partnership, being a couple who have each been through their first, second, and third degrees of initiation. Occasionally the leaders of a coven are only second-degree initiates, in which case they come under the rule of the parent coven. Initiation and training of new priesthood is most often performed within a coven environment, but this is not a necessity, and a few initiated Wiccans are unaffiliated with any coven. Most covens would not admit members under the age of 18. They often do not advertise their existence, and when they do, do so through Pagan magazines. Some organise courses and workshops through which prospective members can come along and be assessed. A commonly quoted Wiccan tradition holds that the ideal number of members for a coven is 13 (number), thirteen, though this is not held as a hard-and-fast rule. Indeed, many U.S. covens are far smaller, though the membership may be augmented by unaffiliated Wiccans at "open" rituals. Pearson noted that covens typically contained between five and ten initiates. They generally avoid mass recruitment due to the feasibility of finding spaces large enough to bring together greater numbers for rituals and because larger numbers inhibit the sense of intimacy and trust that covens utilise. Some covens are short-lived but others have survived for many years. Covens in the Reclaiming tradition are often single-sex and non-hierarchical in structure. Coven members who leave their original group to form another, separate coven are described as having "hived off" in Wicca. Initiation into a coven is traditionally preceded by an apprenticeship period of a year and a day. A course of study may be set during this period. In some covens a "dedication" ceremony may be performed during this period, some time before the initiation proper, allowing the person to attend certain rituals on a probationary basis. Some solitary Wiccans also choose to study for a year and a day before their self-dedication to the religion. Various high priestesses and high priests have reported being "put on a pedestal" by new initiates, only to have those students later "kick away" the pedestal as they develop their own knowledge and experience of Wicca. Within a coven, different members may be respected for having particular knowledge of specific areas, such as the Qabalah, astrology, or the Tarot. Based on her experience among British Traditional Wiccans in the UK, Pearson stated that the length of time between becoming a first-degree initiate and a second was "typically two to five years". Some practitioners nevertheless chose to remain as first-degree initiates rather than proceed to the higher degrees.


Eclectic Wicca

A large number of Wiccans do not exclusively follow any single tradition or even are initiated. These ''Eclecticism, eclectic Wiccans'' each create their own syncretism, syncretic spiritual paths by adopting and reinventing the Religious belief, beliefs and
ritual A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized, ...

ritual
s of a variety of religious traditions connected to Wicca and broader Paganism (contemporary), Paganism. While the origins of modern Wiccan practice lie in covenantal activity of select few initiates in established lineages, eclectic Wiccans are more often than not solitary practitioners uninitiated in any tradition. A widening public appetite, especially in the Paganism in the United States, United States, made traditional initiation unable to satisfy demand for involvement in Wicca. Since the 1970s, larger, more informal, often publicly advertised camps and workshops began to take place. This less formal but more accessible form of Wicca proved successful. Eclectic Wicca is the most Wikt:popular, popular variety of Wicca in America and eclectics now significantly outnumber lineaged Wiccans. Eclectic Wicca is not necessarily the complete abandonment of tradition. Eclectic practitioners may follow their own individual ideas and ritual practices, while still drawing on one or more religious or philosophical paths. Eclectic approaches to Wicca often draw on Earth religion and ancient Egyptian religion, ancient Egyptian, Religion in ancient Greece, Greek, Saxons#Paganism, Saxon, Anglo-Saxon paganism, Anglo-Saxon, Celtic polytheism, Celtic, Religion in Asia, Asian, Judaism, Jewish, and Polynesian mythology, Polynesian traditions. In contrast to the British Traditional Wiccans, Reclaiming Wiccans, and various eclectic Wiccans, the sociologist Douglas Ezzy argued that there existed a "Popularized Witchcraft" that was "driven primarily by consumerist marketing and is represented by movies, television shows, commercial magazines, and consumer goods". Books and magazines in this vein were targeted largely at young girls and included spells for attracting or repelling boyfriends, money spells, and home protection spells. He termed this "New Age Witchcraft", and compared individuals involved in this to the participants in the New Age.


History


Origins, 1921–1935

Wicca was founded in England between 1921 and 1950, representing what the historian
Ronald Hutton Ronald Edmund Hutton (born 19 December 1953) is an English historian who specialises in Early Modern Britain, British folklore Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions ...
called "the only full-formed religion which England can be said to have given the world". Characterised as an "invented tradition" by scholars, Wicca was created from the patchwork adoption of various older elements, many taken from pre-existing religious and esoteric movements. Pearson characterised it as having arisen "from the cultural impulses of the ''fin de siècle''". Wicca took as its basis the witch-cult hypothesis. This was the idea that Witch trials in the early modern period, those persecuted as witches during the Early modern Europe, early modern period in Europe were not, as the persecutors had claimed, followers of
Satanism Satanism is a group of Ideology, ideological and Philosophy, philosophical beliefs based on Satan. Contemporary religious practice of Satanism began with the founding of the atheistic Church of Satan in the United States in 1966, although a ...

Satanism
, nor were they innocent people who confessed to witchcraft under threat of torture, as had long been the historical consensus, but rather that they were adherents of a surviving pre-Christian paganism, pagan religion. This theory had been first expressed by the German Professor Karl Ernest Jarcke in 1828, before being endorsed by German Franz Josef Mone and then the French historian Jules Michelet. In the late 19th century it was then adopted by two Americans, Matilda Joslyn Gage and Charles Leland, the latter of whom promoted a variant of it in his 1899 book, ''Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches''. The theory's most prominent advocate was the English Egyptologist Margaret Murray, who promoted it in a series of books – most notably 1921's ''The Witch-Cult in Western Europe'' and 1933's ''The God of the Witches''. Almost all of Murray's peers regarded the witch-cult theory as incorrect and based on poor scholarship. However, Murray was invited to write the entry on "witchcraft" for the 1929 edition of the ''Encyclopædia Britannica'', which was reprinted for decades and became so influential that, according to folklorist Jacqueline Simpson, Murray's ideas became "so entrenched in popular culture that they will probably never be uprooted."Jacqueline Simpson (1994). Margaret Murray: Who Believed Her, and Why? ''Folklore'', 105:1-2: 89-96. Simpson noted that the only contemporary member of the Folklore Society who took Murray's theory seriously was Gerald Gardner, who used it as the basis for Wicca. Murray's books were the sources of many well-known motifs which have often been incorporated into Wicca. The idea that covens should have 13 members was developed by Murray, based on a single witness statement from one of the witch trials, as was her assertion that covens met on the cross-quarter days four times per year. Murray was very interested in ascribing naturalistic or religious ceremonial explanations to some of the more fantastic descriptions found in witch trial testimony. For example, many of the confessions included the idea that Satan was personally present at coven meetings. Murray interpreted this as a witch priest wearing horns and animal skins, and a pair of forked boots to represent his authority or rank; most mainstream folklorists, on the other hand, have argued that the entire scenario was always fictitious and does not require a naturalistic explanation, but Gardner enthusiastically adopted many of Murray's explanations into his own tradition. The witch-cult theory represented "the historical narrative around which Wicca built itself", with the early Wiccans claiming to be the survivors of this ancient pagan religion. Other influences upon early Wicca included various Western esoteric traditions and practices, among them ceremonial magic, Aleister Crowley and his religion of Thelema, Freemasonry, Spiritualism, and Theosophy (Blavatskian), Theosophy. To a lesser extent, Wicca also drew upon folk magic and the practices of cunning folk. It was further influenced both by scholarly works on folkloristics, particularly James Frazer's ''The Golden Bough'', as well as romanticism, romanticist writings like Robert Graves' ''The White Goddess'', and pre-existing modern Pagan groups such as the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry and Druidism. It was during the 1930s that the first evidence appears for the practice of a pagan Witchcraft religion
(what would be recognisable now as Wicca) in England. It seems that several groups around the country, in such places as Norfolk, Cheshire and the New Forest had set themselves up as continuing in the tradition of Murray's Witch-Cult, albeit with influences coming from disparate sources such as ceremonial magic, folk magic, Freemasonry, Theosophy (Blavatskian), Theosophy, Romanticism, Neo-Druidism, Druidry, classical mythology, and Asian religions. According to Gerald Gardner's account in ''Witchcraft Today'' and ''The Meaning of Witchcraft'', Wicca is Witch-cult hypothesis, the survival of a European witch-cult that was persecuted during the witch trials in the early modern period, witch trials. Theories of an organised pan-European witch-cult, as well as mass trials thereof, have been largely discredited, but it is still common for Wiccans to claim solidarity with witch trial victims. The notion of the survival of Wiccan traditions and rituals from ancient sources is contested by most recent researchers, who suggest that Wicca is a 20th-century creation which combines elements of freemasonry and 19th-century occultism. Historians such as
Ronald Hutton Ronald Edmund Hutton (born 19 December 1953) is an English historian who specialises in Early Modern Britain, British folklore Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions ...
have noted that Wicca predates the modern
New Age New Age is a range of spiritual or religious Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religi ...
movement and also differs markedly in its general philosophy. In his 1999 book ''The Triumph of the Moon'', Bristol University history professor
Ronald Hutton Ronald Edmund Hutton (born 19 December 1953) is an English historian who specialises in Early Modern Britain, British folklore Folklore is the expressive body of culture shared by a particular group of people; it encompasses the traditions ...
researched the Wiccan claim that ancient pagan customs have survived into modern times after being Christianised in medieval times as folk practices. Hutton found that most of the folk customs which are claimed to have pagan roots (such as the Maypole dance) actually date from the Middle Ages. He concluded that the idea that medieval revels were pagan in origin is a legacy of the Protestant Reformation.


Early development, 1936–1959

The history of Wicca starts with Gerald Gardner (the "Father of Wicca") in the mid-20th century. Gardner was a retired British people, British
civil servant The civil service is a collective term for a sector of government composed mainly of career civil servants hired on professional merit rather than appointed or elected, whose institutional tenure typically survives transitions of political leaders ...
and amateur anthropologist, with a broad familiarity in paganism and
occultism The occult, in the broadest sense, is a category of supernatural beliefs and practices which generally fall outside the scope of organized religion, religion and science, encompassing such phenomena involving otherworldly agency as mysticism, sp ...
. He claimed to have been initiation, initiated into a New Forest coven, witches' coven in New Forest District, New Forest, Hampshire, in the late 1930s. Intent on perpetuating this craft, Gardner founded the Bricket Wood coven with his wife Donna in the 1940s, after buying the Naturist Fiveacres Country Club. Much of the coven's early membership was drawn from the club's members and its meetings were held within the club grounds. Many notable figures of early Wicca were direct initiates of this coven, including Edith Woodford-Grimes, Dafo,
Doreen Valiente Doreen Edith Dominy Valiente (4 January 1922 – 1 September 1999) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Englan ...
, Jack L. Bracelin, Jack Bracelin, Frederic Lamond (Wiccan), Frederic Lamond, Dayonis, Eleanor Bone, and Lois Bourne. The Witchcraft religion became more prominent beginning in 1951, with the repeal of the 1735 Witchcraft Act, Witchcraft Act of 1735, after which Gerald Gardner and then others such as
Charles Cardell Charles Cardell (1892–1977) was an English people, English Wiccan who propagated his own tradition of the Craft, which was distinct from that of Gerald Gardner (Wiccan), Gerald Gardner. Cardell's tradition of Wicca venerated a form of the Horned ...
and Cecil Williamson began publicising their own versions of the Craft. Gardner and others never used the term "Wicca" as a religious identifier, simply referring to the "witch cult", "witchcraft", and the "Old Religion". However, Gardner did refer to witches as "the Wica". During the 1960s, the name of the religion normalised to "Wicca". Gardner's tradition, later termed Gardnerian Wicca, Gardnerianism, soon became the dominant form in
England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies northwest of England and the to the southwest. England is separated from by the to the east and the to the south. The country cover ...

England
and spread to other parts of the British Isles.


Adaptation and spread, 1960–present

Following Gardner's death in 1964, the Craft continued to grow unabated despite sensationalism and negative portrayals in British tabloids, with new traditions being propagated by figures like Robert Cochrane (witch), Robert Cochrane,
Sybil Leek Sybil Leek (''née'' Fawcett; 22 February 1917 – 26 October 1982) was an English witch Witchcraft is the practice of what the practitioner ("witch") believes to be magical skills and abilities such as using spells, incantations, and m ...
, and most importantly Alex Sanders (Wiccan), Alex Sanders, whose Alexandrian Wicca, which was predominantly based upon Gardnerian Wicca, albeit with an emphasis placed on ceremonial magic, spread quickly and gained much media attention. Around this time, the term "Wicca" began to be commonly adopted over "Witchcraft" and the faith was exported to countries like Australia and the United States. During the 1970s, a new generation joined Wicca who had been influenced by the counterculture of the 1960s. Many brought environmentalism, environmentalist ideas with them into the movement, as reflected by the formation of groups like the UK-based Pagans Against Nukes. In the U.S., Victor Henry Anderson, Victor Anderson, Cora Anderson, and Gwydion Pendderwen established Feri Tradition, Feri Wicca. It was in the United States and in Australia that new, home-grown traditions, sometimes based upon earlier, regional folk-magical traditions and often mixed with the basic structure of Gardnerian Wicca, began to develop, including Victor Henry Anderson, Victor Anderson's Feri Tradition, Joseph Bearwalker Wilson, Joseph Wilson's 1734 Tradition, Aidan A. Kelly, Aidan Kelly's New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn, and eventually Zsuzsanna Budapest's Dianic Wicca, each of which emphasised different aspects of the faith. It was also around this time that books teaching people how to become Witches themselves without formal initiation or training began to emerge, among them Paul Huson's ''Mastering Witchcraft'' (1970) and ''Lady Sheba's Book of Shadows'' (1971). Similar books continued to be published throughout the 1980s and 1990s, fuelled by the writings of such authors as
Doreen Valiente Doreen Edith Dominy Valiente (4 January 1922 – 1 September 1999) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Englan ...
,
Janet Farrar Janet Farrar (born Janet Owen on 24 June 1950) is a British teacher and author of books on Wicca and Neopaganism. Along with her two husbands, Stewart Farrar and Gavin Bone, she has published "some of the most influential books on modern Witc ...
, Stewart Farrar, and Scott Cunningham, who popularised the idea of self-initiation into the Craft. Among witches in Canada, anthropologist Dr. Heather Botting (nee Harden) of the University of Victoria has been one of the most prominent, having been the first recognized Wiccan chaplain of a public university. She is the original high priestess of Coven Celeste. In the 1990s, amid ever-rising numbers of self-initiates, the popular media began to explore "witchcraft" in fictional films like ''The Craft (film), The Craft'' (1996) and television series like ''
Charmed ''Charmed'' is an American fantasy Fantasy is a genre Genre () is any form or type of communication in any mode (written, spoken, digital, artistic, etc.) with socially-agreed-upon conventions developed over time. In popular usage, it n ...
'' (1998–2006), introducing numbers of young people to the idea of religious witchcraft. This growing demographic was soon catered to through the Internet and by authors like Silver RavenWolf, much to the criticism of traditional Wiccan groups and individuals. In response to the way that Wicca was increasingly portrayed as trendy, eclectic, and influenced by the
New Age New Age is a range of spiritual or religious Religion is a - of designated and practices, , s, s, , , , , or , that relates humanity to , , and elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religi ...
movement, many Witches turned to the pre-Gardnerian origins of the Craft, and to the traditions of his rivals like Cardell and Cochrane, describing themselves as following "traditional witchcraft". Prominent groups within this Traditional Witchcraft revival included Andrew D. Chumbley, Andrew Chumbley's Cultus Sabbati and the Cornish Ros an Bucca coven.


Demographics

Originating in Britain, Wicca then spread to North America, Australasia, continental Europe, and South Africa. The actual number of Wiccans worldwide is unknown, and it has been noted that it is more difficult to establish the numbers of members of Neopagan faiths than many other religions due to their disorganised structure. However, Adherents.com, an independent website which specialises in collecting estimates of world religions, cites over thirty sources with estimates of numbers of Wiccans (principally from the USA and the UK). From this, they developed a median estimate of 800,000 members. As of 2016, Doyle White suggested that there were "hundreds of thousands of practising Wiccans around the globe". In 1998, the Wiccan high priestess and academic psychologist Vivianne Crowley suggested that Wicca had been less successful in propagating in countries whose populations were primarily Roman Catholic. She suggested that this might be because Wicca's emphasis on a female divinity was more novel to people raised in Protestant-dominant backgrounds. On the basis of her experience, Pearson concurred that this was broadly true. Wicca has been described as a non-proselytizing religion. In 1998, Pearson noted that there were very few individuals who had grown up as Wiccans although increasing numbers of Wiccan adults were themselves, parents, . Many Wiccan parents did not refer to their children as also being Wiccan, believing it important that the latter are allowed to make their own choices about their religious identity when they are old enough. From her fieldwork among members of the Reclaiming tradition in California during 1980-90, the anthropologist Jone Salomonsen found that many described joining the movement following "an extraordinary experience of revelation". Based on their analysis of internet trends, the sociologists of religion Douglas Ezzy and Helen Berger argued that, by 2009, the "phenomenal growth" that Wicca has experienced in preceding years had slowed.


Europe

From her 1996 survey of British Wiccans, Pearson found that most Wiccans were aged between 25 and 45, with the average age being around 35. She noted that as the Wiccan community aged, so the proportion of older practitioners would increase. She found roughly equal proportions of men and women, and found that 62% were from Protestant backgrounds, which was consistent with the dominance of Protestantism in Britain at large. Pearson's survey also found that half of British Wiccans featured had a university education and that they tended to work in "healing professions" like medicine or counselling, education, computing, and administration. She noted that there thus was "a certain homogeneity about the background" of British Wiccans. In the United Kingdom, census figures on religion were United Kingdom Census 2001, first collected in 2001; no detailed statistics were reported outside of the six main religions. For the United Kingdom Census 2011, 2011 census a more detailed breakdown of responses was reported with 56,620 people identifying themselves as Pagans, 11,766 as Wiccans and a further 1,276 describing their religion as "Witchcraft".


North America

In the United States, the American Religious Identification Survey has shown significant increases in the number of self-identified Wiccans, from 8,000 in 1990, to 134,000 in 2001, and 342,000 in 2008. Wiccans have also made up significant proportions of various groups within that country; for instance, Wicca is the largest non-Christian faith practised in the United States Air Force, with 1,434 airmen identifying themselves as such. In 2014, the Pew Research Center estimated 0.3% of the US population (~950,000 people) identified as Wiccan or Pagan based on a sample size of 35,000.


Acceptance of Wiccans

Wicca emerged in predominantly Christianity, Christian England, and from its inception the religion encountered opposition from certain Christian groups as well as from the popular tabloids like the ''News of the World''. Some Christians still believe that Wicca is a form of Theistic Satanism, Satanism, despite important differences between these two religions. Detractors typically depict Wicca as a form of malevolent
Satanism Satanism is a group of Ideology, ideological and Philosophy, philosophical beliefs based on Satan. Contemporary religious practice of Satanism began with the founding of the atheistic Church of Satan in the United States in 1966, although a ...

Satanism
, a characterisation that Wiccans reject. Due to negative connotations associated with witchcraft, many Wiccans continue the traditional practice of secrecy, concealing their faith for fear of persecution. Revealing oneself as a Wiccan to family, friends or colleagues is often termed "coming out of the broom-closet". Attitudes to Christianity vary within the Wiccan movement, stretching from outright rejection to a willingness to work alongside Christians in interfaith endeavours. The religious studies scholar Graham Harvey (religious studies scholar), Graham Harvey wrote that "the popular and prevalent media image [of Wicca] is mostly inaccurate". Pearson similarly noted that "popular and media perceptions of Wicca have often been misleading". In the United States, a number of legal decisions have improved and validated the status of Wiccans, especially ''Dettmer v. Landon'' in 1986. However, Wiccans have encountered opposition from some politicians and Christian organisations, including former president of the United States George W. Bush, who stated that he did not believe Wicca to be a religion. In 2007 the United States Department of Veterans Affairs after years of dispute added the Pentagram to the list of emblems of belief that can be included on government-issued markers, headstones, and plaques honoring deceased veterans. In Canada, Dr. Heather Botting ("Lady Aurora") and Dr. Gary Botting ("Pan"), the original high priestess and high priest of Coven Celeste and founding elders of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, successfully campaigned the British Columbian government and the federal government in 1995 to allow them to perform recognised Wiccan weddings, to become prison and hospital chaplains, and (in the case of Heather Botting) to become the first officially recognized Wiccan chaplain in a public university. The oath-based system of many Wiccan traditions makes it difficult for "outsider" scholars to study them. For instance, after the anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann revealed information about what she learned as an initiate of a Wiccan coven in her academic study, various Wiccans were upset, believing that she had broken the oaths of secrecy taken at initiation.


References


Notes


Footnotes


Sources

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Wiccan literature

* * * * * * * * * * * * *


Further reading


Significant historical works

*


Practices and beliefs

*


History of Wicca

* * * *


Wicca in different countries

* * * *


General

* * * * * *


External links

* {{Authority control Wicca, New religious movements 1920s in England