History of Witchcraft/Wicca
No passion so effectually
robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear. .........Edmund
Wicca,Witchcraft,a couple of words that spark
But to me it is beauty,love and sacred.Please
continue to learn more........
Historically, the name Witchcraft has been used to refer to two unrelated
and often mutually exclusive religions:
* Wicca, the revival of a pre-Christian religion of Northern Europe, and
* Satanism, the worship of the Christian devil, Satan.
The roots of this confusion can be traced back to Europe during the Witch
burning times of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. Wiccans were accused
of worshipping Satan and selling their soul to him. This false belief
continues today, and is still being actively promoted by some Christians.
This paper will deal with the religion of Wicca only. It is unrelated to
Satanism. There have been many references in the books, media, etc which
attempt to differentiate between the two very different religions.
Wicca, is a reconstruction of an ancient Pagan religion of Northern Europe
which pre-dates the Christian era. It can be directly traced back to the
* Margaret Murray who authored The Witch Cult in Western Europe and The
God of the Witches. These books promoted the concept that some of the
Witches who were exterminated by the Christian Churches during the
"Burning Times" (circa 1450-1792) were remnants of an earlier,
organized, and dominant pre-Christian religion in Europe.
* Gerald Gardner, a British civil servant, who:
o joined a Wiccan Coven in 1939, taking the (then) usual vows of
o persuaded the coven to let him write a book in 1949 about Wicca in
the form of a novel, High Magic's Aid. He carefully revealed a few
of the Old Religion's beliefs and the historical persecutions that
o wrote Witchcraft Today in 1954 in which he described additional
details about the faith
o wrote The Meaning of Witchcraft which described in detail the
history of Wicca in Northern Europe.
According to Gardner, Wicca:
* began in prehistory, as ritual associated with fire, the hunt, animal
fertility, plant propagation, tribal fertility and the curing of
* developed into a religion which recognized a Supreme Deity, but
realized that at their state of evolution, they "were incapable of
understanding It" . Instead, they worshipped what might be termed
"under-Gods: the Goddess of fertility and her horned consort, the God
of the hunt.
* continued their predominately Moon based worship, even as a mainly
Sun-based faith of priests, the Druids, developed and evolved into the
dominant religion of the Celts. By this time, Celtic society had
gradually spread across Northern Europe into what is now England,
France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland etc. They never formed
a single political entity, but remained as many tribes who shared a
common culture and religions.
* survived the Roman, Saxon, and Norman invasions by going underground
* suffered major loss in numbers during the active Christian genocides,
which continued into the 18th Century
* reached a low ebb by the middle of the 20th century. Much of the
theology and ritual had been lost; Wiccan covens had become so isolated
that they had lost contact with each other.
Relationship between Witchcraft and Christianity
The first missionary to the Celts was probably St. Paul. His conversion
the Celtic land of Galatia is recorded in his Epistle to the Galatians of
the Christian Scriptures (New Testament). Later Missionaries and the Roman
army gradually spread Christianity across Europe, easily converting the
rulers and the Druidic priesthood, but having less success in bringing the
common folk to the new religion.
Much of Christianity was derived from Wicca, Druidism and other Pagan
sources; this includes the sites of many cathedrals, the lives of many
Christian saints (who were really pagan Goddesses and Gods), and many
Christian holy days. There are many vestiges of Paganism which remain a
of our culture; e.g. Groundhog Day, Christmas, May Day, Halloween, the names
of the days of the weeks and months of the year, common sayings, numerous
traditions associated with holidays, etc.
In order to gain a complete religious monopoly, the Christian Church decided
during the 15th century to hunt down and burn believers in the Old Religion.
The Church created an imaginary wicked religion, and said that Wiccans were
evil Witches who followed that religion, sold their sold to Satan, etc.
Hundreds of thousands of suspected witches were exterminated during these
"burning times" which lasted until 1792 in Europe and into the
South America. The Roman Catholic church burned witches; the Protestant
churches hung them. Wiccans went underground, and stayed out of sight until
the middle of the 20th century.
Wicca emerged from the shadows in England in the 1950's with the publishing
of books by Gerald Gardner. It has expanded at a furious rate in North
America and Europe. They total about 200,000 in North America, where they
have surpassed in numbers such established religions as Buddhism, the
Quakers, and Unitarian-Universalism. The Canadian Census of 1991 recorded
5,530 Neo-Pagans, which would be mostly composed of Wiccans. However, the
actual number is believed to be much greater, as many Wiccans are known
lie to the census taker rather than expose themselves to physical harm in
the event that their faith became publicly known.
Wicca is the only religious group of significant size whose members are
persecuted in North America. Many Assaults, arson, economic attacks are
reported yearly. There have even been shootings and one public stoning!
perpetrators of this religious hatred are usually very devout, very
concerned but terribly misinformed people. They believe the misinformation
that has been spread about Wiccans continuously since the Middle Ages. It
only in Eastern Massachusetts, Southern California and in a few cities in
North America that most Wiccans feel secure while coming out of the (broom)
Their beliefs include:
* Wiccan Deities: Most Wiccans believe that a creative force exists in
the universe, which is sometimes called "The One" or " The
can be known of this force. They regard the Goddess and the God as
representing the female and male aspects of the All. Most regard
various pagan Gods and Goddesses (Pan, Athena, Diana, Brigit, Zeus,
Odin, etc) as representing various aspects of the God and Goddess.
* Respect for Nature: Wicca is a natural religion, grounded in the earth.
All living things (including stars, planets, humans, animals, plants,
rocks) are regarded as having spirit.
* Gender Equality: Wiccans celebrate the sexual polarity of nature: the
fertilizing rain is one manifestation of the male principle; the
nurturing earth symbolizes the female. Females are respected as equal
(and sometimes at a slightly higher rank) to males. They aim for a
female-male balance in most of their covens (groups), although men are
typically in the minority. Sexuality is valued, and regarded as a gift
of the Goddess and God, to be engaged in with joy and responsibility.
* Three-fold Law The law states that:
All good that a person does returns three fold
in this life; harm is also returned three fold.
* The Wiccan Rede: This is the main rule of behaviour:
An' it harm none, do what thou wilt
This means that a person should feel free to do what ever they want to,
as long as it does not harm themselves or anyone else. This and the
three-fold law obviously prevent a Witch/Wiccan from doing harm to
themselves or to others, or attempting to manipulate others, or taking
illegal drugs, etc.
Their practices include:
* Organizational Structure:Wicca is one denomination (the largest) within
Neo-paganism. Other Neo-pagan groups include individuals and groups who
are reconstructing Druidic, Egyptian, Greek, Roman and other ancient
Many, perhaps most, Witches are solitary practitioners; they perform
their rites alone. Others form covens which are informal groups of
Wiccans. There is no hierarchy beyond the coven; no provincial or
national organization. Those covens which have a High Priestess and/or
Priest elect one of themselves to that office.
* Rituals: Wiccans try to meet out of doors where possible. North
American climate and concern for personal safety usually forces them
indoors. They gather in a circle, which is often 9 feet in diameter.
Candles on the circumference are oriented to the four cardinal
directions. An altar is at the centre or at the northern candle. Rites
begin with a casting of the circle, in which the circle is outlined and
purified, and the candles lit. A space is thus created within the
circle; this is sometimes visualized as a sphere, or as a cylinder or
cone. The purpose of this space is to confine healing energy until it
The central portion of each meeting may celebrate the full moon, a new
moon, a Sabbat or a special Wiccan ceremony. It might include healing,
divination (scrying, Tarot cards, Runes, etc), teaching, consecration
of tools, discussion, or other life-affirming, nature based activities.
After the major work is completed, food (perhaps cakes and wine) is
eaten, and the circle is banished. Because of the increasing concern
over addictions to alcohol and other drugs, many covens have replaced
wine with juice, water etc.
* Wiccan Sabbats: (Seasonal days of Celebration) There are eight Wiccan
Sabbats, spaced about 45 days apart during the year. Four of these are
minor Sabbats: the two equinoxes of March 21 and September 21st when
the daytime and nighttime are each 12 hours long. The Saxons added the
two solstices of December 21,
(the longest night of the year) and June
21 (the shortest night of the year). Actually, the exact date of these
Sabbats vary from year to year and may occur from the 20th to 23rd of
the month. The major Sabbats are also four in number. They occur
roughly between the minor Sabbats, typically at the end of a month.
Different Wiccan traditions assign various names and dates to these
festivals. Perhaps the most common names are Celtic: Samhain (Oct. 31),
Imbolc (Feb. 2), Beltane (May 1), and Lammas (Aug. 1). Dates are
approximate. Their origins are believed to be related to hunting,
farming, and animal fertility.
* Rites of passage: These include:
o Dedication, where a person confirms an interest in the craft,
o Initiation, when a person symbolically dies and is reborn as a
Wiccan; a new name is adopted
o Handfasting, which was originally a marriage for a one year
period. Most Wiccans now regard it as creating a permanent
o Parting of the Ways, which recognizes the end of a marriage
o Wiccaning, which welcomes a baby into the craft, but does not
obligate the child in any way
o Funeral Ceremony, for a Wiccan who has died
* Wiccan tools: Hardware which are used to perform Witchcraft rites often
look like common household items. The following are typical:
o Athame (double sided ritual knife) used for many purposes, but
never for cutting
o A bowl of salt representing the element earth
o Incense representing the element air
o Two candles representing the Goddess and God
o A bowl of water representing the element water
o A bell which is rung to delineate sections of the rite
o A wand to cast the circle
o A goblet and perhaps a libation bowl to hold a drink
o A circle, typically 9 feet in diameter, formed from a rope or row
of small rocks, markings on the ground or floor, etc
o Four candles just outside the circle, at the four cardinal
Prejudice Against Wiccans
Wiccans suffer from one of the highest levels of unwarranted discrimination
of any religious group in North America. This is caused by:
* Popular confusion between two essentially unrelated religions: Satanism
* 500 years of negative and false beliefs about Wiccans which had their
origin in the Witch burning times of the 15th to 18th Centuries.
* Present day religious hatred and misinformation, spread primarily by
The Green Egg quarterly magazine has a column called Jane's Tidings which
collects Pagan and Wiccan related news. In the 1995-Summer edition she
documents the following acts of discrimination:
* Providence RI: Rhode Island Child Protective Services made their first
unannounced visit to a foster home in history. They removed three
foster children. This occurred four days after the foster mother was
identified in a positive local newspaper article as a Wiccan.
* Palm Bay FL: The city prohibited the Church of Iron Oak from holding
meetings at the home of one of their members. This is a Wiccan group.
* Knoxville TN: A Wiccan group had been meeting in a room at the World's
Fair site. They were booted out after an individual became upset at the
sight of some robed Wiccans.
References - Thanks to The Ontario Centre for Religious Tolerance for use
of this information
Trademark © 1996-2010 Alice Kitselman,
owner - Dragonfly Dream TM