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Wicca is a Neo-Pagan religion and one (but not the only) form of Witchcraft.

History Edit

OriginEdit

The origin of Wicca is a disputed subject, discussions of which have lead to three prevailing theories. The first is that Gardner was taught a religion, based on pre-historic European matriarchal religions, by an unknown woman he simply referred to as "Dafo" or "old Dorothy". This person is assumed by most researchers to be Dorothy Clutterbuck, although several, including Philip Heselton have presented theories that they were two separate persons. In Wiccan Roots and Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration he contends that Gardner did not write the Wiccan rituals, but received then from an unknown source. He also wrote that most of the material used to "flesh out" Gardner's written work not only came from Aleister Crowley, but came solely from his book, The Equinox vol 3 no. 1 or Blue Equinox. According to a partial estate listing [1], Gardner never owned a copy of this book, but had other books and even visited Crowley shortly before his death in 1947.

The second is that Gardner created it himself, referencing several resources including works by Dr. Margaret Murray, Aradia: Gospel of the Witches by Charles Godfrey Leland, and taking pieces of several existing occult practices such as Freemasonry and ceremonial magic. Historian Ronald Hutton concluded that Dorothy Clutterbuck didn't have anything to do with Gardner.

The third, and perhaps most popular is that Gardner met Clutterbuck and the New Forest coven when he was reportedly initiated in 1939 where he remained until England repealed its anti-Witchcraft laws. After which he began writing Witchcraft Today, which was finally published in 1954, and in 1959 he followed it with The Meaning of Witchcraft. It is from these two books that much of modern forms of Wicca are derived.

Contemporary WiccaEdit

Since being introduced to a significantly wider audience by Gardner, Wicca has forked in many directions, commonly known as traditions. Gardnerian Wicca, for example, is initiatory, meaning that it is limited to people initiated into an existing coven. The secrets contained in its Book of Shadows were only accessible to someone from within the coven.

Another form of Wiccan traditions are syncretistic ones which import concepts and practices from other religious practices such as ceremonial magic and Kabbalah. The formation of Dianic Wicca was a step in a completely different direction because it promotes self-initiation and the idea that it is the birth-right of every woman.

Common practices and beliefsEdit

Wiccans celebrate eight main holidays (or Sabbats): four cross-quarter days called Samhain, Beltane (or Beltaine), Imbolc (also called Imbolg, Oimelc, or Candlemas) and Lammas (or Lughnasadh), as well as the solstices, Litha and Yule, and equinoxes, Ostara (or Eostar or Eostre) and Mabon (see Wheel of the Year). They also hold Esbats, which are rituals held at the full and new moon.

Wicca is generally a dualist system, worshipping both the Goddess and the God sometimes known as the Horned God. Some traditions like Dianic Wicca worship the Goddess; the God plays either no role, or a diminished role. Many Gardnerian Wiccans practice some form of polytheism, often with particular reference to the Celtic pantheons; they may also be animists, pantheists, agnostics instead of dualist. Many Wiccans worship the set of three deities consisting of the sun/sky, sea/earth, and the moon.

Many Wiccans are members of groups, known as covens, although it is not uncommon to find solitary practitioners. Coven membership is sometimes a point of contention between different traditions of Wicca because one line of thought believes that a coven should be no more than thirteen members, and the other that a coven can contain as many members as it chooses. The former still have more than thirteen members by having covens "hive" off, with the multiple covens forming a grove. Almost all Wiccans gather together, at one time or another, regardless of coven membership, for community events.

Traditionally, most, if not all, spell work is done inside a magic circle, which is drawn out in a ritual manner followed by a cleansing and then blessing of the space. Many Wiccans use a set of special tools for spell work (see Category:Tools).

MoralityEdit

Wiccan morality is guided by the Wiccan Rede, which (in part) states "An it harm none, do what thou wilt." ("An" is an archaic word meaning "if".) The Rede is central to the understanding that personal responsibility, rather than a religious authority, is where moral structure resides. While the Wiccan Rede concept was present early on in Gardner's teachings, it appears to have moved into a more central role thanks to Doreen Valiente and a speech she gave in 1964[2]. Some Wiccans, including some Gardnerians, do not consider the Rede to be central to their system although today many do.

Many Wiccans also promote the Law of Threefold Return, or the idea that anything that one does may be returned to them threefold. In other words, good deeds are magnified back to the doer, but so are ill deeds. It can also be interpreted to mean that your deeds come back to you emotionally, spiritually, and physically, not three times in strength. This is another point of contention within the Wiccan community as several prominent members, including Gerina Dunwich, believe that the Rule of Three should be interpreted as whatever we do on a physical, mental, or spiritual level will sooner or later affect us, in either a positive or negative way, on all three levels of being.


See also Edit

Notes Edit

  1. Gerald Gardner's estate listing at New Wiccan Church
  2. essay by John J. Coughlin examining the Wiccan Rede's history

References Edit

External links Edit

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