Wicca is a pagan religion which was first publicised by Gerald Gardner in 1954, and which claims to be the continuation of Witchcraft from pre-historic times. Its members describe themselves as Witches, and they meet in Covens.
There are a multiplicity of branches of Wicca, owing to the fact the Covens are mostly autonomous entities. Generally speaking though, practices common to all Wiccans include:
- The importance of the role of the Goddess.
- The Wiccan Rede.
- The three degrees of initiation.
- The observance of the Eight Sabbats or major pagan holidays (i.e. the Solstices, the Equinoxes, and the cross-quarter days).
- The twelve Esbats i.e. Full Moon rituals. Unlike the Sabbats, the Esbats are not as specific, and give the Coven more scope for interpretation.
History of WiccaEdit
One of the main reasons that Gerald Gardner chose to publish in 1954 was that in the United Kingdom, Witchcraft had still been illegal until just three years previously. The Fraudulent Mediums Act of 1951 repealed the last remaining Witchcraft laws still on the statute books at that point (the Witchcraft Act of 1735).
Prior to Gardner publishing, there was a great paucity of information regarding the Wicca movement. Because of this, Gardner has come in for a lot of criticism by people alleging that he was not telling the whole truth in his book Witchcraft Today. Note, however, that the same paucity of information meant that Gardner's nay-sayers had no more proof than Gardner himself.
Among items of controversy are:
- The authorship of Gardner's Book of Shadows; and
- The Historicity of Gardner's own witch-cult.
Authorship of the Book of ShadowsEdit
Gardner displayed a so-called "Book of Shadows" at his Museum of Witchcraft which he alleged contained Wiccan rituals. However, his critics have pointed out that there was no evidence that Witches in history had ever used such a book, and thus claimed that it was a modern fabrication.
Gardner himself speculated in Witchcraft Today that Aleister Crowley was the only person of whom he knew that could have created such a book. It is known from Crowley's diaries that he and Gardner met briefly towards the end of the former's life, when they discussed Freemasonry in general, and the OTO in particular. This has led some to suggest that Gardner himself commissioned Crowley to write the Book of Shadows. Tellingly though, Crowley's same diaries make no mention of he and Gardner discussing witchcraft on the occasions they met. It has also been pointed out by other authorities that the parts of the Wiccan rituals supposedly having a modern influence could just have easily have been adapted from Crowley's published works, such as Magick in Theory and Practice and his periodical The Equinox, by an unknown third party.
The Historicity of Gardner's own witch-cultEdit
Gardner himself had claimed to be initiated into Wicca in 1939, fifteen years before the publication of Witchcraft Today. In that book, Gardner claimed that he was a "member of one of the ancient covens of the Witch Cult which still survive in England." This has not prevented some people from alleging that the whole of Wicca was in fact a modern fabrication, and point to the lack of historical evidence of Wicca as showing there is no "apostolic succession" linking it back to ancient Witchcraft. However, at least one author, having had access to Doreen Valiente's private papers, has argued that although Wicca is indeed a modern creation, it was founded in the 1920s by former members of the Golden Dawn who believed they were witches in a previous [Reincarnation|incarnation].
Witchcraft vs WiccaEdit
Subsequent to Gardner's publication of Witchcraft Today, other individuals came forward to say that they were also Witches, but their tradition was unlike that of Gardner's Wicca. The author Stewart Farrar apparently identified four main traditions of Witchcraft:
- Gardnerian - i.e. Gerald Gardner's own movement; and
- Alexandrian - i.e. created by Alex Sanders.
There are also a multiplicity of other Witchcraft movements which are dissimilar to Wicca, such that, it is possible to be a Witch, though not a Wiccan.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Gardner, G B, 1954, Witchcraft Today, Rider, London
- ↑ Gardner, ibid.
- ↑ Heselton, P, 2003, Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration, Capall Bann, Milverton (Somerset).
- ↑ Farrar, S, 1991, What Wiches Do, Phoenix, Washington USA