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Wicca: A History

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Wicca: A History

Postby whisperingMaiden » Mon Aug 13, 2012 6:34 pm

General overview
Wicca (sometimes called Wicce, The Craft, or The Old Religion by its practitioners)

is based on an ancient religion of love for life and nature.

In prehistoric times, people respected the great forces of Nature and celebrated the cycles of the seasons and the moon. They saw divinity in the sun and moon, in the Earth Herself, and in all life. The creative energies of the universe were personified: feminine and masculine principles became Goddesses and Gods. These were not semi-abstract, superhuman figures set apart from Nature: they were embodied in earth and sky, women and men, and even plants and animals.

This viewpoint is still central to present-day Wicca. To most Wiccans, everything in Natures — and all Goddesses and Gods — are true aspects of Deity. The aspects most often celebrated in the Craft, however, are the Triple Goddess of the Moon (Who is Maiden, Mother, and Crone) and the Horned God of the wilds. These have many names in various cultures.

Wicca had its organized beginnings in Paleolithic times, co- existed with other Pagan (“country”) religions in Europe, and had a profound influence on early Christianity. But in the medieval period, tremendous persecution was directed against the Nature religions by the Roman Church. Over a span of 300 years, millions of men and women and many children were hanged, drowned or burned as accused “Witches.” The Church indicted them for black magic and Satan worship, though in fact these were never a part of the Old Religion.

The Wiccan faith went underground, to be practiced in small, secret groups called “covens.” For the most part, it stayed hidden until very recent times. Now scholars such as Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner have shed some light on the origins of the Craft, and new attitudes of religious freedom have allowed covens in some areas to risk becoming more open.

How do Wiccan folk practice their faith today? There is no central authority or doctrine, and individual covens vary a great deal. But most meet to celebrate on nights of the Full Moon, and at eight great festivals or Sabats throughout the year.

Though some practice alone or with only their families, many Wiccans are organized into covens of three to thirteen members. Some are led by a High Priestess or Priest, many by a Priestess/Priest team; others rotate or share leadership. Some covens are highly structured and hierarchical, while others may be informal and egalitarian. Often extensive training is required before initiation, and coven membership is considered an important commitment.

There are many branches or “traditions” of Wicca in the United States and elsewhere, such as the Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Welsh Traditional, Dianic, Faery, Seax-Wica and others. All adhere to a code of ethics. None engage in the disreputable practices of some modern “cults,” such as isolating and brainwashing impressionable, lonely young people. Genuine Wiccans welcome sisters and brothers, but not disciples, followers or victims.

Coven meetings include ritual, celebration and magick (the “k” is to distinguish it from stage illusions). Wiccan magick is not at all like the instant “special effects” of cartoon shows or fantasy novels, nor medieval demonology; it operates in harmony with natural laws and is usually less spectacular — though effective. Various techniques are used to heal people and animals, seek guidance, or improve members’ lives in specific ways. Positive goals are sought: cursing and “evil spells” are repugnant to practitioners of the Old Religion.

Wiccans tend to be strong supporters of environmental protection, equal rights, global, peace and religious freedom, and sometimes magick is used toward such goals.

Wiccan beliefs do not include such Judeo-Christian concepts as original sin, vicarious atonement, divine judgment or bodily resurrection. Craft folk believe in a beneficent universe, the laws of karma and reincarnation, and divinity inherent in every human being and all of Nature. Yet laughter and pleasure are part of their spiritual tradition, and they enjoy singing, dancing, feasting, and love.

Wiccans tend to be individualists, and have no central holy book, prophet, or church authority. They draw inspiration and insight from science, and personal experience. Each practitioner keeps a personal book or journal in which s/he records magickal “recipes,” dreams, invocations, songs, poetry and so on.
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Re: Wicca:An Introduction

Postby Lady Cael » Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:15 pm

Oh my gosh I love these so much! I could spend literally hours reading all your posts. They're so helpful and informative. Please keep doing these I love them.
)O( May the Goddess be with you as you learn and question, walk in peace and Blessed Be , love Lady Cael
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Re: Wicca:An Introduction

Postby Lark » Sun Aug 18, 2013 9:54 am

I must disagree with a portion of the original post.

Wicca is NOT an ancient religion although it draws inspiration from the religions of pre-Christian Europe. The religion of Wicca was synthesized by Gerald Gardner in the 1940's and made public by him in the 1950's following the repeal of the Anti-Witchcraft laws in Britain in 1951. Gardner developed the religion of Wicca based on the writings of Margaret Murray (long found to be inaccurate) which claimed that Wicca was a surviving Pagan religion. However, the teachings and practices that Gardner developed were drawn from British folk magic, Masonic rituals, Ceremonial magic, and the writings of those such as Murray, Leland, Fraser and others.

For anyone interested in the documentable history of Wicca I would recommend the following books:

"Triumph of the Moon" by Ronald Hutton
"Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration" by Philip Heselton
"Witchfather, a Life of Gerald Gardner" by Philip Heselton

And these websites:

http://wicca.cnbeyer.com/old_religion.shtml

http://www.geraldgardner.com/History_of ... evised.pdf
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Wicca:An Introduction

Postby lilmizsunshine727 » Sun Aug 18, 2013 10:07 am

Feel free to disagree Lark, everyone is entitled to their personal opinion (: I guess it depends on what branch of Wicca you study. Gardnerian Wicca did start in the 1950s and there is an older version of Wicca as well. There are also a bunch of other types of Wicca, more than I can even count!
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Re: Wicca:An Introduction

Postby Klia » Sat Oct 26, 2013 1:29 am

This is really well put! I'm new to Wicca so this helps me understand things better! Thank you! :flyingwitch: smiley_dance
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Re: Wicca:An Introduction

Postby Vervain » Tue Oct 29, 2013 1:09 pm

lilmizsunshine727 wrote:Feel free to disagree Lark, everyone is entitled to their personal opinion (: I guess it depends on what branch of Wicca you study. Gardnerian Wicca did start in the 1950s and there is an older version of Wicca as well. There are also a bunch of other types of Wicca, more than I can even count!


What older version are you referring to? I, like most people other than yourself, am not familiar with any form of Wicca previous to Gerald Gardner, as he invented it. I'd be interested to see your sources if you have real reason to believe that Wicca is older than Gardner.
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Re: Wicca:An Introduction

Postby Ch4rmed » Wed Oct 30, 2013 3:37 pm

I just watched this clip might be helpfull for everyone who wants to know something more about Wicca..
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkrgX6yeEk0
And here is something more about Gerald Gardner
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Gardner_(Wiccan)
Omg i just realized he was born same day as me:) just different month:):)and year ofc:)
And this is one of most interesting videos i watched..i apsolutelly connect to what this woman says..like she read my mind totally:)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j60GgFpchWQ
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Re: Wicca:An Introduction

Postby LifeAuras » Thu Nov 14, 2013 12:52 am

Ch4rmed wrote:I just watched this clip might be helpfull for everyone who wants to know something more about Wicca..
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkrgX6yeEk0
And here is something more about Gerald Gardner
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Gardner_(Wiccan)
Omg i just realized he was born same day as me:) just different month:):)and year ofc:)
And this is one of most interesting videos i watched..i apsolutelly connect to what this woman says..like she read my mind totally:)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j60GgFpchWQ


Ch4rmed those videos gave me a good Wicca 101 lesson, they were very helpful. I have read allot of metaphysical books and materials but i was kind of lacking on Wicca so like i said they helped me get more informed on the subject. Currently i am researching Druids and their teachings.
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Re: Wicca:An Introduction

Postby FoundMyCalling » Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:28 pm

I'm new to Wicca, this really helped me I'm trying to learn everything I can about Wicca, thank you.
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Re: Wicca:An Introduction

Postby FullTideMoon » Sun Jun 01, 2014 10:31 pm

Wicca is definitely older than Gardner. Where did he get his teachings from? He took what he learned and enhanced it to make it his own and what works for him, just like everyone else following the path. That's why there are so many version of Wiccan Traditions everywhere. Wicca/pagan traditions came before Christian traditions and beliefs and Gardnarian is not as old as Christianity because he was alive fairly recently. The whole "feel" of Wicca is ancient even. Like you have tapped into something as old as Gods. I do believe though, that Gardner was the first to bring Wicca out of the shadows again especially after all the negativity that has been associated with the religion. I wish I could find it, but there was a whole thing on youtube about Gardner and how he came to Wicca and then make his own version...very interesting.
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Re: Wicca:An Introduction

Postby Mythic » Tue Jun 03, 2014 7:41 pm

That makes sense
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Re: Wicca:An Introduction

Postby loona wynd » Wed Jun 04, 2014 8:39 am

lilmizsunshine727 wrote:Feel free to disagree Lark, everyone is entitled to their personal opinion (: I guess it depends on what branch of Wicca you study. Gardnerian Wicca did start in the 1950s and there is an older version of Wicca as well. There are also a bunch of other types of Wicca, more than I can even count!

The ancient Wicca stuff is based on Margery Murrys Witchcult thesis which has largely been disproved by other academics. Gardner piggybacked on this claim saying that the witchcult was ancient. This is evidenced by the fact that Gardner had Margret Murry write the introduction to his first book Witchcraft Today.

That being said he admitted he was making something new and that he was handed fragmented rituals and practices. However the popularity and desire to believe in an ancient pagan witchcult has remained so strong that the concept of Wicca being ancient just wont go away. There is plenty of academic/historical/anthropological/archeological work out there in the last 50 years that shows Murrys thesis as false.

When a practicing witch and anthropologists can prove that the religion is not ancient I think its important to realize that. Most of Ron Huttons work is about educating people on the actual historical origins of Wicca and the sabbats that modern Pagans follow. This is a man who makes his living studying the historical and archeological findings of these ancient European cultures. This is what he teaches in Oxford University as an anthropology professor.

Now there was a nature based religion and worship. I just wasn't called Wicca. Prehistoric religion is something we actually know little about. What we understand comes from anthropological and archeological studies. The book the ancient religions of the British Isles talks about some of these paleolithic beliefs and practices. There was a nature or earth cycle based practice. This has been proven.

The worship of a Goddess and God known as the Lord and Lady however has not been proven. There were multiple deities worshiped (Celtic and Norse pantheons specifically in Huttons works-which are based on the Norther European religions and cultures). Now great goddess statues have been found in various digs across the world. So it is possible that an ancient Great mother Goddess was worshiped by paleolithic man. Many anthropology texts suggest this.

That religion though was not Wicca. It was an animistic religion where all things in nature had a spirit and a force behind it. Man at the time did not know what created rain, what made the sun rise, and much more. So they believed that by giving offerings to the spirits and by honoring the spirits those things were allowed to continue happening. Again this is known from digs and cave paintings. The exact beliefs and concepts we don't know as they did not have writing other than pictographs at the time. So what we know could very well be false. However evidence does suggest the concepts I have mentioned.

Over time those spirits became anthropomorphized into the various Gods and Goddesses of the different cultures we see today, This happened as Man moved into different regions and had different distinct tribes. Those tribes became different cultures. Different distinct personalities and myths were created for the different Gods. That is why we have so many different diverse pantheons, all with some similarities but with more differences than similarities.

We know that there were the 8 sabbats followed but by two separate cultures. The solstices and Equinoxes were from the Germanic Tribes while the sabbats of Beltane, Lammas, Samhain, and Imbolc come from the Celtic tribes. This information is outlined in the book The Stations of the Sun a study of the ritual year in Pagan Europe.

We also know thanks to Leland that there were forms of religious witchcraft out there. The book the Gospel of Aradia outlines just such a practice. That story was found in Italy, and it forms the basis of many Italian Witchcraft traditions. Strega is the biggest of all these forms, with the term Streghera actually meaning witchcraft in Italian.


We know that other forms of religious witchcraft existed prior to Gerald Gardner. These styles of witchcraft are what is known as Traditional Witchcraft. Other writers such as Rober Cochrane even mentioned as such trying to show at the time that Gardner's craft was not the only witchcraft. This is actually where the witch wars started. People were trying to to decredit Gardner, which is also where the term Gardnerian Wicca came from. Charles Godfrey Leland was another folklorist who showed that religious witchcraft existed prior to Wicca with the Gospel of Aradia being published in 1899. Sybil Leek is another example of a religious witch who was not Wiccan practicing a form of Hereditary witchcraft.

Gardner was initiated into a traditional witchcraft coven known as the New Forest Coven. However the rites and rituals he was handed were fragmented. So he reworked them and created something new.Gardner took what he knew about witchcraft from Leland, his initiation into an existing Witch Coven (the New Forest Coven), and the myths and lore of various other traditions and created a new thing. There is an influence in Wicca from Thelema, from Norse beliefs, Celtic beliefs, and much more. By combining all of these practices in a new form a new religion was created. This is where Wicca was born. Prior to Gardner there was no duotheistic witchcult (his words) that held the rituals the way we know them, worked magic as we understand Wiccan magic to be worked, and had the practices Wicca has.

The roots of Wicca are old and ancient but that doesn't mean the religion itself is ancient. The concepts are ancient. I will give you that. They were just not put together in the form we know as Wicca till Gerald Gardner came along. He is considered the father of modern witchcraft because he was the first to publish writings on a tradition.The Word Wicca prior to Gardner simply meant witch in the language of the Anglo-Saxons. However it had not been used for years prior. So Gardner gave it a new meaning and new term. Thus a new religion with unique concepts and rituals was created.

So witchcraft itself is ancient. The worship of the Gods is ancient. Religious witchcraft is ancient. The form of Wicca is not. When you take something that exists and meld it with other things (Thelema, Masonic symbolism, Italian Witchcraft, folk magic, etc) you create a new cohesive path and tradition. Gardner had help. Doreen Valiente was Gardner's first HPS and they wrote many of the rituals and invocations together. Aliester Crowley may not have actually written any of the rituals but the material Gardner had from Thelema provided a lot of inspiration and its easy to see where.

Solitary Wicca is only as old as the Standing Stone tradition or the first published works of Scott Cunningham. Before Cunningham all Wicca was initiation based. It was coven oriented and was all oath bound. Cunningham after getting his first degree left Wicca and decided he wanted to do his own solitary thing. So he took his training in what would now become known as British Traditional Wicca and created a solitary form. He retained the God and Goddess, the 8 sabbats, and the basic ritual structure. What changed was the requirement for initiation and coven work as well as having oath bound materials.

References:

Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain by Ronald Hutton

The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft by Ronald Hutton

The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy by Ronald Hutton

"Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration by Philip Heselton

Witchfather, a Life of Gerald Gardner"by Philip Heselton

Fifty Years Of Wicca by Frederic Lamond
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Re: Wicca:An Introduction

Postby loona wynd » Wed Jun 04, 2014 8:43 am

Vervain wrote:What older version are you referring to? I, like most people other than yourself, am not familiar with any form of Wicca previous to Gerald Gardner, as he invented it. I'd be interested to see your sources if you have real reason to believe that Wicca is older than Gardner.
A lot of books cite Margrey Murry's thesis on the ancient witchcult as a source that Wicca is an ancient religion. This is compounded by the fact that Murry herself wrote the introduction to Witchcraft Today which was Gardner's first published non fiction work on the subject. Its true that witchcraft in religious forms existed prior to Gerald Gardner. Today many people believe religious witchcraft=Wicca, and most of the books out there on the subject make it seem that this is an accurate way to think.
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