Wicca is considered the most-studied, largest, and best-known form of modern Paganism. Though it draws on some ancient motifs as well as aspects of 20th century hermetic tradition, Wicca as it is largely understood today was actually not founded until the first half of the 19th century. One Gerald Gardner introduced it to the public in 1954. Gardner was a well-born Englishman, who, according to him, was initiated into the New Forest coven in 1939. The New Forest coven, who met in the New Forest in southern England, was a group of Wiccans who were (according, again, to Gardner) continuing the traditions of a pre-Christian religion called the Witch-Cult.
Though some scholars claim that there is no evidence to suggest that this coven ever existed, and that it was just a device invented by Gardner to substantiate his new religion, others maintain that this coven may very well have existed. Some who believe the coven to be more than a figment of Gardner’s imagination say that it may have been an offshoot of the Order of Woodcraft chivalry; others suggest that it may actually have been based on theories put forth in the 1920’s and 30’s by anthropologist Margaret Murray, who studied a pre-Christian pagan religion that was devoted to the worship of a horned god.
Regardless of whether Gardner was actually initiated into an ancient coven, he attempted to nurse the faith back to popularity by adding aspects of ceremonial magic, Freemasonry, and the writing of one Aleister Crowley (who was, among other things, an occultist, ceremonial magician, and mountaineer). Along with Doreen Valiente, Garnder outlined the beliefs and practices of Wicca in books and teachings. Some traditionalists claim that these teachings must be strictly followed in order for a practice to be considered true Wicca, while others accept that thanks to the non-centralized nature of the religion, it is always evolving, and all denominations, or traditions, as they’re called in Wicca, should be included under the Wicca umbrella.
Generally, Wicca is duotheistic, meaning that they worship two primary deities. In Wicca, there is a god and goddes, typically known as the Mood Goddess and Horned God. These two deities are viewed henotheistically, meaning that that are considered to have characteristics of many divine figures from various other pagan pantheons. Sometimes these deities are referred to with “great” in front of their names, indicating that they encompass other deities within themselves. Though the duotheistic structure is common and traditional, because Wicca is influenced by (and influences) other pagan religions, often Wiccan beliefs include polytheism, pantheism, and others.
Some followers believe that the gods have physical forms and literal existence, whereas others believe that they exist more as symbols. Either way, Wiccans are especially clear that they are not to be confused with Satanists, and that they do not worship the Devil. The Devil is a construction of the Christian faith, and was apparently only associated with Witchcraft by Christians when the Church was attempting to villainize the practice of witchcraft.
The Wiccan Rede: An it harm none, do what you will. This intro has talked a lot about a few technicalities of Wicca, but really I think that simple rede sums it up even better than any technicalities could. Generally, Wiccans believe that anything you do to anyone or anything will come back at you threefold, so you best be good to each other and to the Earth. Pretty lovely. Being generally interested in history and religions, upon doing preliminary research on Wicca, I was interested in leaning more. Though I am not a practitioner and by no means an expert, this blog contains some of the things I’ve found most interesting about the religion, being an absolute amateur as far as the religion is concerned. I hope you learn something new!