Wicca pretending to be an ancient religion since 1950
This is the very first essay I ever wrote on the subject of Wicca. It was the research I did for this essay that really started me to question my beliefs and perceptions that has ultimately lead to the development of my own path: Pentalism.
Wicca and Witchcraft are two very powerful words. Many people believe them to be the same. Others find them to be very mysterious. Overall there are many misunderstanding between the two words. History is a real issue that needs to be addressed.
Witchcraft has been around for centuries. It is a practice that can be part of any religion in the world. Witchcraft is also considered to be a religion in and out of itself. You can trace Witchcraft all the way through Paleolithic times.
Shamanism is associated with Wicca and Witchcraft. Shamanic religions were the first in the world. Magical practices with in the shamanic religions of the world slowly created Witchcraft. In some areas Witchcraft became a religion. To this day it is still practiced as a religion in those areas.
Witchcraft however is not a religion. It’s a way of life. Wicca is a religion that embraces witchcraft. It is for this reason that Witchcraft and Wicca has become the same thing. They are not the same. There are many differences between the two of them. One of the differences being in the history of each one. Another difference would be the actual practices related to Wicca and witchcraft.
Gerald Gardner is part of the reason that they have become the same thing. People have taken his words and believed them to be true when they were only made to gain acceptance in the world. Wicca is only 50 years old. Witchcraft is as old as time. I intend to show the differences between the two as well as dispel any and all myths associated with Witchcraft.
The first myth to be busted is Witchcraft as a religion. Now there are many witches out there who will claim that Witchcraft is a religion, not only that, but that it’s one of the oldest religions on this planet. While I can see how it may have become like a religion to people over time, Witchcraft is not a religion by itself. It’s more of a practice and a way of life.
I begin with the definition of religion: A cultural set of beliefs and
practices that are commonly centered on a view of the divine. Now Witchcraft can be found all over ancient Europe. Each European Culture had its own divine beings that they believed in. According to our definition of religion for witchcraft to be a religion the divine beings would have to be the same all over Europe.
Yet all over Europe Witchcraft traditions and practices can be found. So what is it that connected Witchcraft over Europe? The answer to this is simple: Folk Magic and Beliefs. Witchcraft is really the practice of different types of folk magic around the world. Since Europe has many different traditions of folk magic it only makes since that Witchcraft would be found throughout Europe.
Since Witchcraft is found throughout Europe and Witches share similar beliefs, what do they all believe in? Unfortunately there is no straight answer for that question. Each witch you ask is going to have a different answer. The only real common belief is that magic works. Magic in this situation refers to the art of causing change in accordance to your will. How do witches do this? Once again it depends on the witch that you ask. Each witch will use what works for them. Here are some common forms:
Herbal: The use of plant properties in various stages to gain something
Candle: The use of etching and colors over wax burnt down to the desire
Cord: The use of colors and knots to attain a goal
Sympathetic: The idea that Like attracts like (meaning acting out the desired effect).
Now, Wicca has become associated with witchcraft. Many people believe that you have to be Wiccan to practice witchcraft. This is not true at all. A witch that I interviewed (whom I’ll call Lune) had this to say “Any one of any religion can be a witch. They do not have to be Wiccan. This is clear when one gets to meet many different witches. I’ve met witches who were Wiccan, Christian, Kemetic (Egyptian), Hellenic (Greek), and Satanic. Some even have no religion at all be they Atheist or agnostic.” As said before the only real common belief is a belief that magic works.
Today many people are writing books on witchcraft. They are claiming it to be a religion. Not only that, but they are stating that it is the same as the Wiccan religion. This is not true in any way shape or form. Not all Wiccans are Witches and not all Witches are Wiccan. The two can and should be separate.
Wicca is a very specific religion. Yes it embraces Witchcraft, but it’s not the entire religion. In fact witchcraft and magic is only a small aspect of Wicca. The worship of the God and Goddess of Wicca is the important thing. The core of the religion is kept secret, and away from the public, though there will be more on that later. What is important is that Wiccans get to know the basics of the religion and that Witchcraft is only a fraction of the religion.
Wicca is a very mysterious religion. Most of the information regarding the “real” religion is kept secret. Some core beliefs have been let out to the public. Yet what we know and can find in books is only the surface of the religion. It actually goes much deeper than that. This makes Wicca an oath bound religion.
Gerald Gardner has let some very small information out. When he and Alex Sanders were alive the only way to learn about Wicca was to know someone who was Wiccan and who was initiated into a Coven. That is not the case today. Unfortunately this has also opened up the flood gates to the public. There are many people wandering around claiming to be Wiccan, yet they don’t even know the mysteries of the religion.
The Charge of the Goddess is a poem that was written by one of the founders of Wicca. It was written to create an idea as to what the Goddess was and how Wiccans were supposed to relate to her. The poem is very beautiful and is recited by the High Priestess at every Sabbat. It has become a staple in Wiccan writings.
Many people believe that because the Charge was written publicly that they can believe in which ever Goddess they want and have it be Wicca. This is not the case. Wicca has a very specific God and Goddess. Only those that have been initiated into Wicca can and do know the real names. However to keep seekers interested and not deterred, Cerrunos and Aradia are the names used in the outer court.
Which leads me to my next point. Wicca is not a solitary religion. One of the laws of Wicca states that “Ye may not be a Witch alone”. In this situation the word witch means Wiccan. The two terms have become interchangeable. For this reason it is important to know what the context of the word.
Gerald Gardner stated in several writings that “Only a Wiccan can make a Wiccan”. He believed that Wicca should be taught from male to female and vice versa. Wicca is a fertility religion. That is one of the reasons why everything goes from male to female and from female to male. Even iniations are done in this way. The high priestess presides over Male initiations and the High Priest Female. Tools of the craft are often charged in this way as well.
Wicca is a young religion. It is only about 60 years old. Witchcraft is as old as time. The history of witchcraft can be traces back through the middle ages and possibly beyond. Though there is no guarantee of how old Witchcraft is. It is believed that the Norse and the Celts practiced a form of Witchcraft in their religious worship. There is not proof to deny or make this claim plausible. We only know what the Romans wrote down.
Witchcraft was not always against the Church. Many people site the verse “Thou shalt suffer a witch to live”. That was not the original verse in the bible. King James was paranoid about being poisoned. He knew that Witches in England knew about different plants that could be used to poison others. He changed the bible verse from “Thou shalt not suffer a poisoner to Live” to the commonly cited “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”.
As you have seen Witchcraft has a very extensive history. During the “Burning Times” Witchcraft had to become a hidden practice. Not only was it against the Church, but it was also against the law. In this time period Witchcraft started to become a folk tradition and religion that was kept within families. They kept their old Gods and practices and made them work with the new religion.
The term pagan comes from this time period. Pagan meant non city dweller. During this time period the people of the country were the last to convert to Christianity. It was not uncommon for families to only partially convert to Christianity. In order to gain more coverts Christianity made some of the local Gods and Goddesses Saints. It was this factor that allowed the people to keep their traditional folk practices and beliefs.
This went on for centuries. In the Victorian Era people became interested in Magic once more. This lead to the development of systems like the Quablah and societies like Free Masons, Golden Dawn, and other hermetic orders. They kept their practices to members only.
Gerald Gardner was a member of one of these orders. When he was in his 60’s he was initiated into a Family tradition of Witchcraft. He admitted on several occasions that the rituals he was handed were fragmentary and in need of repair. This is where the history of Wicca and modern Witchcraft overlap.
To supplement the rituals he had been handed Gardner used aspects of religion from many different cultures. He worked with other occultists and tried to create an extensive new complete religion. That religion is the religion of Wicca. Before the 1950’s there was no religion that was a combination of Witchcraft, Golden Dawn, Celtic, Norse, Ceremonial Magic, and the like. Gardner created a new thing there.
Yet there are many people who claim to have “hereditary Wicca”. They believe that they can trace Wicca back several generations. Gardner did claim that Wicca was the survival of the ancient Witch cults in Europe. However this is not true. Wicca is its own religion and own practices. In these situations I believe they mean Witchcraft.
It is very possible to have hereditary links to Witchcraft. Gardner was initiated into one of these surviving traditions. In twenty years or so I might believe in Hereditary Wicca, but not for a while. Hereditary Witches can be solitary. You cannot be a solitary Wiccan.
One of the rules and practices Gardner put into Wicca was that of Initiation. He took this from the Golden Dawn. He required his students to be trained by a high Priest or Priestess. At first these covens were small, but now they can be larger.
Today you no longer need to know some one of the craft to be initiated into Wicca. There is a-lot of information out there. This information can give a dedicant or seeker a good idea as to if they want to be a member of the religion or not. After all a Coven wouldn’t want to take the time to train someone if they were not going to stick with the religion.
There are many pagans out there who consider themselves Wiccan. They have read a few books on the subject and believe what they say. Unfortunately Wicca is not an Orthodox religion. It’s an Orthapraxic religion which means right of practice. You need to be initiated in order to know how to practice the religion.
Today Wicca has become a “Do as you will” religion. It has been mutilated and destroyed. Hardly any of the “Wiccans” out there have actually taken the work to become Wiccan. They just think they are because some authors said that you could be a solitary Wiccan.
Wicca is a very dogmatic religion. It has specific rules and guidelines. There are specific Gods and Goddesses. I don’t believe that Gerald Gardner wanted this religion to be as open as it has become. In fact it’s no longer a mystery religion. There are those out there who would like to keep Wicca the way it was meant to be. Unfortunately this is not an easy task. Wicca is not as it seems. It is a religion open to initiates only.
So we have covered quite a bit. It is my hope that you have learned about the differences between Witchcraft and Wicca. After all the books on Wicca and Witchcraft are often clouded with mistakes, which makes learning the differences and finding the mistakes difficult. People can learn, and I hope that they will.