The pentagram, a symbol of faith used by many Wiccans.Wicca (pronounced /ˈwɪkə/) is a neopagan, nature-based religion. It was popularised in 1954 by Gerald Gardner, a retired British civil servant, who at the time called it Witchcraft and its adherents "the Wica".
Wiccans, as followers of Wicca are now commonly known, typically worship a God (traditionally the Horned God) and a Goddess (traditionally the Triple Goddess), who are sometimes represented as being a part of a greater pantheistic Godhead, and as manifesting themselves as various polytheistic deities. Other characteristics of Wicca include the ritual use of magic, a liberal code of morality and the celebration of eight seasonal-based festivals.
There is dispute as to what actually constitutes Wicca. Initially, it referred to the lineage of one of Gardner's rivals, Charles Cardell, although in the 1960s it began to refer instead only to lineages stemming from Gardner and operating as initiatory Mystery Priesthoods (such as Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca). These are now collectively known in North America as British Traditional Wicca. A third usage, which has grown in popularity in recent years, and which was debatably the original usage, considers Wicca to include other forms of Goddess-oriented neopagan witchcraft that are similar to but independent of that lineage, including Cochrane's Craft, Dianic Wicca and the 1734 Tradition; these are sometimes collectively termed Eclectic Wicca.
1.1.1 The God and the Goddess
1.5 The Five Elements
2.1 Ritual practices
2.2 The Wheel of the Year
2.3 Rites of passage
2.4 Book of Shadows
3.1 Covens and Solitary Wiccans
4.2 Later developments
6 Wicca and paganism
7 Acceptance of Wiccans
8 References and footnotes
9 Further reading
10 External links
The Greco-Roman goddess Selene, one of many goddesses equated with the Wiccan Goddess
Main article: Wiccan views of divinity
Although Wiccan views on theology vary, the vast majority of Wiccans venerate a Goddess and a God. These are variously understood through the frameworks of pantheism (as being dual aspects of a single godhead), duotheism (as being two polar opposites) or polytheism (being comprised of many lesser deities). In some pantheistic and duotheistic conceptions, deities from diverse cultures may be seen as aspects of the Goddess or God.
 The God and the Goddess
For most Wiccans, Wicca is a duotheistic religion worshipping both a God and a Goddess, who are seen as complementary polarities (akin to the Taoist philosophy of yin and yang), and "embodiments of a life-force manifest in nature." The God is sometimes symbolised as the Sun, and the Goddess as the Moon.
Traditionally the God is viewed as a Horned God, associated with nature, wilderness, sexuality and hunting. The Horned God is given various names according to the tradition, and these include Cernunnos, Pan, Atho and Karnayna. At other times the God is viewed as the Green Man, a traditional figure in art and architecture of Europe, or as a Sun God (particularly at the festival of Litha, or the summer solstice). Another depiction of the God is as the Oak King and the Holly King, one who rules over Spring and Summer, the other who rules over Autumn and Winter.
The antlered god from the Gundestrup cauldron, dated to the 1st century BC, depicting the Celtic pagan god Cernunnos and equated with the Horned God of WiccaThe Goddess is usually portayed as a Triple Goddess with aspects of 'Maiden', 'Mother' and 'Crone', though she is also commonly depicted as a Moon Goddess. Some Wiccans see the Goddess as pre-eminent, since she contains and conceives all; the God is the spark of life and inspiration within her, simultaneously her lover and her child. This is reflected in the traditional structure of the coven. In some traditions, notably feminist Dianic Wicca, the Goddess is seen as complete unto herself, and the God is not worshipped at all, though this has been criticised by members of other traditions. Secondarily, the God is also sometimes veiwed in a triple form (possibly in a reflective religious homage to the triple Goddess, referencing their complementary polarity) that being the aspects of 'Son', 'Father' and 'Sage'.
According to Gerald Gardner, the gods of Wicca are prehistoric gods of the British Isles: a Horned God and a Great Mother goddess. Modern scholarship has cast doubt on this claim, however various different horned gods and mother goddesses were worshipped in the British Isles in the ancient and early mediaeval period.
The Hindu Goddess KaliThe duotheism of the God and the Goddess is often extended into a kind of dual pantheism through the belief, in the words of Dion Fortune, that "all gods are one god, and all goddesses are one goddess" —that is, the gods and goddesses of all cultures are, respectively, aspects of one supernal god and goddess. For instance, a Wiccan may regard the Germanic Eostre, Hindu Kali, and Christian Virgin Mary each as manifestations of one supreme Goddess—and, likewise, the Celtic Cernunnos, the ancient Greek Dionysus and the Judeo-Christian Yahweh as aspects of a single, archetypal God.
A more polytheistic approach holds the various gods and goddesses to be separate and distinct entities in their own right. Pantheistic systems may conceive of deities not as literal personalities but as metaphorical archetypes or thoughtforms. While these conceptualizations of deity—duotheism, polytheism and pantheism—may seem radically different from each other, they need not be considered mutually exclusive: Some Wiccans may find it spiritually beneficial (or magically practical) to shift among one or another of these systems, depending upon time and circumstance.
Wiccan writers Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone have postulated that Wicca is becoming more polytheistic as it matures, tending to embrace a more traditionally pagan worldview.
Gardner stated that a being higher than the God and the Goddess was recognised by the witches as the Prime Mover, but remains unknowable. Patricia Crowther has called this supreme godhead Dryghten, and Scott Cunningham called it "The One". This pantheistic or panentheistic view of God shares similarities with beliefs such as the Hindu Brahman.
Wicca is essentially an immanent religion, and for some Wiccans, this idea also involves elements of animism. A key belief in Wicca is that the Goddess and the God (or the goddesses and gods) are able to manifest in personal form, most importantly through the bodies of Priestesses and Priests via the rituals of Drawing down the Moon or Drawing down the Sun.
Beliefs in the afterlife vary among Wiccans, although reincarnation is a traditional Wiccan teaching. Raymond Buckland said that a soul reincarnates into the same species over many lives in order to learn and advance one's soul, but this belief is not universal. A popular saying amongst Wiccans is "once a witch, always a witch", indicating that Wiccans are the reincarnation of earlier witches.
Typically, Wiccans who believe in reincarnation believe that prior to this, the soul rests for a while in the Otherworld or Summerland, known in Gardner's writings as the "ecstasy of the Goddess". Many Wiccans believe in the ability to contact the spirits of the dead who reside in the Otherworld through spirit mediums and ouija boards, particularly on the sabbat of Samhain, though some disagree with this practice, such as High Priest Alex Sanders, who stated "they are dead; leave them in peace". This belief was likely influenced by Spiritualism, which was very popular at the time, and which Gardner had had experience with.
Despite some belief in it, Wicca does not place an emphasis on the afterlife, focusing instead on the current one; as the historian Ronald Hutton remarked, "the instinctual position of most pagan witches, therefore, seems to be that if one makes the most of the present life, in all respects, then the next life is more or less certainly going to benefit from the process, and so one may as well concentrate on the present".
Wiccans believe in magic that can be manipulated through the form of witchcraft or sorcery. Some spell it as "magick", a term coined by occultist Aleister Crowley, though this spelling is more commonly associated with the religion of Thelema than Wicca. Wiccans cast spells during ritual practices inside a sacred circle, in an attempt to bring about real changes (which are further explained in the "Ritual practices" section). Common Wiccan spells include those used for healing, for love, for fertility, or to banish negative influences.
Many Wiccans agree with the definition of magic offered by ceremonial magicians. Aleister Crowley, for instance, declared that magic was "the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will", and MacGregor Mathers stated that it was "the science of the control of the secret forces of nature". Wiccans believe magic to be a law of nature, as yet misunderstood by contemporary science. Other Wiccans do not claim to know how magic works, merely believing that it does because they have seen it work for them.
Many early Wiccans, such as Alex Sanders and Doreen Valiente, referred to their own magic as "white magic", which contrasted with "black magic", which they associated with evil and Satanism. Some modern Wiccans however have stopped using this terminology, disagreeing that the colour black should have any associations with evil.
The scholars of religion, Rodney Stark and William Bainbridge, claimed, in 1985, that Wicca had "reacted to secularization by a headlong plunge back into magic" and that it was a reactionary religion which would soon die out. This view was heavily criticised in 1999 by the historian Ronald Hutton, who claimed that the evidence displayed the very opposite, that "a large number [of Wiccans] were in jobs at the cutting edge [of scientific culture], such as computer technology."
Main article: Wiccan morality
Wiccan morality is largely based on the Wiccan Rede, which states "an it harm none, do what ye will". This is usually interpreted as a declaration of the freedom to act, along with the necessity of taking responsibility for what follows from one's actions and minimising harm to oneself and others. Another common element of Wiccan morality is the Law of Threefold Return which holds that whatever benevolent or malevolent actions a person performs will return to that person with triple force, similar to the eastern idea of karma.
Many Wiccans also seek to cultivate a set of eight virtues mentioned in Doreen Valiente's Charge of the Goddess, these being mirth, reverence, honour, humility, strength, beauty, power and compassion. In Valiente's poem, they are ordered in pairs of complementary opposites, reflecting a dualism that is common throughout Wiccan philosophy. Some lineaged Wiccans also observe a set of 161 Wiccan Laws, commonly called the Craft Laws or Ardanes. Valiente, one of Gardner's original high priestesses, argued that these rules were most likely invented by Gerald Gardner himself in mock-archaic language as the by-product of inner conflict within his Bricket Wood coven.
Although Gerald Gardner initially demonstrated an aversion to homosexuality, claiming that it brought down "the curse of the goddess", it is now generally accepted in all traditions of Wicca.
 The Five Elements
Wiccans believe in the five classical elements, although unlike in ancient Greece, they are seen as symbolic as opposed to literal. These five elements are invoked during many magical rituals, notably when consecrating a magic circle. The five elements are; Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Aether, or "Spirit", which unites the other four.
Various analogies have been devised to explain the concept of the five elements, for instance, the Wiccan Ann-Marie Gallagher used that of a tree. A tree is composed of Earth (with the soil and plant matter), Water (sap and moisture), Fire (through photosynthesis) and Air (the creation of oxygen from carbon dioxide). All these are united through Spirit.
Traditionally, each element has been associated with a cardinal point of the compass; Air with east, Fire with south, Water with west, Earth with north and the Spirit with centre. However, some Wiccans, such as Frederic Lamond, have claimed that the set cardinal points are only those applicable to the geography of southern England, where Wicca evolved, and that Wiccans should determine which directions best suit each element in their region, for instance, those living on the east coast of North America should invoke Water in the east and not the west because the colossal body of water, the Atlantic ocean, is to their east.
The five elements are symbolised by the five points of the pentagram, the most prominently used symbol of Wicca.
Triple Goddess symbol of waxing, full and waning moon
Various different symbols are used by Wiccans, similar to the use of the crucifix by Christians or the Star of David by Jews. The most notable of these is the pentagram, which has five points, each representing one of the five classical elements in Wicca (earth, air, fire, water and spirit) and also the idea that the human, with its five appendages, is a microcosm of the universe. Other symbols that are used include the triquetra and the triple Moon symbol of the Triple Goddess.
In Wicca there is no set sacred text such as the Christian Bible or Islamic Qur'an, but there are various texts that were contained in Gerald Gardner's Book of Shadows. Many of these texts he claimed to have at least partially rewritten, since the rituals of the group into which he was initiated were fragmentary. The most notable among these is the Charge of the Goddess, which contained material from Charles Godfrey Leland's Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches (1899) and the works of 19th-20th century occultist Aleister Crowley. Other texts which are important to Wiccan beliefs and rituals include Eko Eko Azarak and the Wiccan laws.
 Ritual practices
A black handled athame and a white-handled boline, two ritual knives in Wicca with quite different purposes.When practising magic and casting spells, as well as when celebrating various festivals, Wiccans use a variety of rituals. In typical rites, the coven or solitary assembles inside a ritually cast and purified magic circle. Casting the circle may involve the invocation of the "Guardians" of the cardinal points, alongside their respective classical element; Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Once the circle is cast, a seasonal ritual may be performed, prayers to the God and Goddess are said, and spells are sometimes worked.
Common tools in the Wiccan practice include a special set of magical tools. These usually include a knife called an athame, a wand, a pentacle and a chalice, but other tools include a broomstick known as a besom, a cauldron, candles, incense and a curved blade known as a boline. An altar is usually present in the circle, on which ritual tools are placed and representations of the God and the Goddess may be displayed. Before entering the circle, some traditions fast for the day, and/or ritually bathe. After a ritual has finished, the God, Goddess and Guardians are thanked and the circle is closed.
A sensationalised aspect of Wicca, particularly in Gardnerian Wicca, is the traditional practice of working in the nude, also known as skyclad. This practice seemingly derives from a line in Aradia, Charles Leland's supposed record of Italian witchcraft. Skyclad working is mostly the province of Initiatory Wiccans, who are outnumbered by the less strictly observant Eclectics. When they work clothed, Wiccans may wear robes with cords tied around the waist, "Renaissance-faire"-type clothing or normal street clothes. Each full moon, and in some cases a new moon, is marked with a ritual called an Esbat.
 The Wheel of the Year
Wiccans also follow the Wheel of the Year and celebrate its eight festivals known as Sabbats. Four of these, the cross-quarter days, are Greater Sabbats, coinciding with Celtic fire festivals, and these were initially the only four sabbats. The other four are known as Lesser Sabbats, and comprise of the solstices and the equinoxes, and were only adopted in 1958 by the Bricket Wood coven. The names of these holidays are often taken from Germanic pagan and Celtic polytheistic holidays. However, the festivals are not reconstructive in nature nor do they often resemble their historical counterparts, instead exhibiting a form of universalism. Ritual observations may display cultural influence from the holidays from which they take their name as well as influence from other unrelated cultures. The eight sabbats, beginning with Samhain, which has long been thought of as Celtic new year:
Samhain - Greater Sabbat of the dead
Yule - Lesser Sabbat, the Winter solstice
Imbolc - Greater Sabbat
Ostara - Lesser Sabbat, the Spring equinox
Beltane or May Eve - Greater Sabbat
Midsummer, or Litha - Lesser Sabbat, the Summer solstice
Lughnasadh, or Lammas - Greater Sabbat of the Harvest
Mabon - Lesser Sabbat, the Autumn equinox
Gardner made use of the English names of these holidays; "The four great Sabbats are Candlemass[sic], May Eve, Lammas, and Halloween; the equinoxes and solstices are celebrated also.", but other names are now also commonly found.
 Rites of passage
When a person joins a coven and begins to study the craft, they go through an initiation ritual. In this way, all British Traditional Wiccans can trace their initiatory lineage back to Gerald Gardner, and from him to the New Forest coven. Gardner himself claimed that there was a traditional length of "a year and a day" between when a person began studying the craft and when they were initiated, although he frequently broke this rule with initiates.
In British Traditional Wicca, initiation only accepts someone into the first degree. To proceed to the second degree, an initiate has to go through another ceremony, in which they name and describe the uses of the ritual tools and implements. It is also at this ceremony that they are given their craft name. By holding the rank of second degree, a BTW is therefore capable of initiating others into the craft, or founding their own semi-autonomous covens.
The third degree is the highest in BTW, and it involves the participation of the Great Rite, either actual or symbolically, as well as ritual flagellation. By holding this rank, an initiate is capable of forming covens that are entirely autonomous of their parent coven.
The Cochranian tradition, based upon the teachings of Robert Cochrane, does not have the three degrees of initiation, merely having the stages of novice and initiate.
Some solitary Wiccans also perform self-initiation rituals, to dedicate themselves to becoming a Wiccan. Several self-initiation rituals have been published, in books designed for solitary Wiccans such as in Scott Cunningham's book Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.
A handfasting ceremony at Avebury in England, which occurred during Beltane in 2005
Handfasting is another celebration held by Wiccans, and is the commonly used term for their weddings. Some Wiccans observe the practice of a trial marriage for a year and a day, which some traditions hold should be contracted on Lammas (Lughnasadh), as this was the traditional time for trial, "Telltown marriages" among the Irish. A common marriage vow in Wicca is "for as long as love lasts" instead of the traditional Christian "till death do us part".
The first ever known Wiccan wedding ceremony took part in 1960 amongst the Bricket Wood coven, between Frederic Lamond and his first wife, Gillian.
Infants in Wiccan families may be involved in a ritual called a Wiccaning, which is analogous to a Christening. The purpose of this is to present the infant to the God and Goddess for protection. Despite this, in accordance with the importance put on free will in Wicca, the child is not necessarily expected or required to follow a Pagan path should they not wish to do so when they get older.
 Book of Shadows
Main article: Book of Shadows
In Wicca a private journal or core religious text known as a Book of Shadows is kept by practitioners, similar to a grimoire used by magicians. In lineaged groups, such as Gardnerian Wicca, the Book's contents are kept secret from anyone but the members of the lineage concerned (i.e., those initiating and initiated by a particular coven). However, several proposed versions of the Book have been published. Sections of these published versions, such as the "Wiccan Rede" and the "Charge of the Goddess", as well as other published writings about Wicca, have been adopted by non-initiates, or eclectic Wiccans. For many eclectics, they create their own personal books, whose contents are often only known by themselves.
See also: List of Wiccan organisations and Category:Wiccan traditions
A "tradition" in Wicca usually implies the transfer of a lineage by initiation. There are many such traditions and there are also many solitary or Eclectic Wiccans who do not align themselves with any particular lineage, some working alone, some joining in covens. There are also other forms of witchcraft which do not claim origins in Wicca. Traditions within the United States are well described in Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon, Starhawk's The Spiral Dance, and Chas S. Clifton's Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America.
The lack of consensus in establishing definitive categories in Wiccan communities has often resulted in confusion between Lineaged Wicca and the emergence of Eclectic traditions. This can be seen in the common description of many Eclectic traditions as traditional/initiatory/lineaged as well. In the United States, where the confusion usually arises, Wiccans in the various lineages extending from Gardner may describe themselves as British Traditional Wiccans.
 Covens and Solitary Wiccans
Lineaged Wicca is organised into covens of initiated priests and priestesses. Covens are autonomous, and are generally headed by a High Priest and a High Priestess working in partnership, being a couple who have each been through their first, second and third degrees of initiation. Occasionally the leaders of a coven are only second-degree initiates, in which case they come under the rule of the parent coven. Initiation and training of new priesthood is most often performed within a coven environment, but this is not a necessity, and a few initiated Wiccans are unaffiliated with any coven.
A commonly quoted Wiccan tradition holds that the ideal number of members for a coven is thirteen, though this is not held as a hard-and-fast rule. Indeed, many U.S. covens are far smaller, though the membership may be augmented by unaffiliated Wiccans at "open" rituals. When covens grow beyond their ideal number of members, they often split (or "hive") into multiple covens, yet remain connected as a group. A grouping of multiple covens is known as a grove in many traditions.
Initiation into a coven is traditionally preceded by a waiting period of at least a year and a day. A course of study may be set during this period. In some covens a "dedication" ceremony may be performed during this period, some time before the initiation proper, allowing the person to attend certain rituals on a probationary basis. Some solitary Wiccans also choose to study for a year and a day before their self-dedication to the religion.
In contrast, Eclectic Wiccans are more often than not solitary practitioners. Some of these "solitaries" do, however, attend gatherings and other community events, but reserve their spiritual practices (Sabbats, Esbats, spell-casting, worship, magical work, etc.) for when they are alone. Eclectic Wiccans now significantly outnumber lineaged Wiccans, and their beliefs and practices tend to be much more varied.
Main article: History of Wicca
The origins of Wicca are much debated. Gerald Gardner brought the religion to public attention in the early 1950s. He claimed that, after returning to England on his retirement from a career spent in Asia, he encountered a coven of witches located in the New Forest in southern England, (the "New Forest coven") and was initiated into it. In line with the popular Witch-cult hypothesis, he claimed that the religion practised by the coven was a survival of a pagan religion of pre-historic Europe, known as Witchcraft to its adherents. Subsequently fearing that the religion would die out, he published details of its beliefs and practices in a series of books: his novel High Magic's Aid (1949) and his non-fiction works Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959). These books helped to attract many new initiates to a coven that he formed, the London-based Bricket Wood coven.
Gardner reported that the rites of the New Forest coven were fragmentary, and that he substantially rewrote them. Many of the rituals and precepts that he promoted can be shown to have come from the writings of earlier occultists (such as Aleister Crowley) and other writers (including Rudyard Kipling and Sir James Frazer). The remaining original material is not cohesive, and mostly takes the form of substitutions or expansions within unoriginal material. Roger Dearnaley describes Gardner's texts as a "patchwork".
The veracity of Gardner's statements cannot be independently proven, however, and it is possible that Wiccan theology began to be compiled no earlier than the 1920s. Even the very existence of the New Forest coven has been called into question. It has been posited by authors such as Aidan Kelly and Francis X. King that Gardner invented the witch rituals in their entirety, incorporating elements from the writings of Dr. Margaret Murray, incantations from Aradia and practices deriving from ceremonial magic. Some of Gardner's historical claims are consistent with ideas that were current in the earlier part of the 20th century but are in conflict with later scholarship. The idea of a supreme Mother Goddess, for example, was common in Victorian and Edwardian literature: the concept of a Horned God—especially related to the gods Pan or Faunus—was less common, but still significant. Both of these ideas were widely accepted in academic literature and the popular press at the time.
The first edition cover of Witchcraft Today, which first brought Wicca to public attentionSome writers, such as Isaac Bonewits, have been unwilling to believe either that Gardner fabricated his religion out of nothing or that it represented a genuine survival of a historical pagan cult. They have suggested instead that it was constructed at some point in the 20th century prior to Gardner's initiation, perhaps by the New Forest coveners. Bonewits writes:
“ Somewhere between 1920 and 1925 in England some folklorists appear to have gotten together with some Golden Dawn Rosicrucians and a few supposed Fam-Trads to produce the first modern covens in England; grabbing eclectically from any source they could find in order to try and reconstruct the shards of their pagan past. ”
Although some have described Wicca as "the only religion that England has ever given the world," many Wiccans themselves disagree, claiming it stems from very ancient practices." Even the word "Wicca" seems to come from "the Indo-European (IE) root word weik, having to deal with magic and/or religion." This word evolved into the Germanic "wikk", meaning magic or sorcery.
 Later developments
Gardnerian Wicca was an initiatory mystery religion, admission to which was limited to those who were initiated into a pre-existing coven. Wicca was introduced to North America by Raymond Buckland, an expatriate Briton who visited Gardner's Isle of Man coven to gain initiation. Interest in the USA spread quickly, and while many were initiated, many more non-initiates compiled their own rituals based on published sources or their own fancy.
In the United Kingdom, initiates of Gardner had begun to perform their own initiations, and a number of lines of Gardnerian descent began to arise. From one of these (although it was originally claimed to derive from a traditional, non-Gardnerian source) came the line known as Alexandrian Wicca. Increasing popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, and in other countries, along with the increasing availability of published material, meant that many people started to practise a form of Wicca without being part of a coven or having participated in an initiation. In response to this, traditionally initiated Wiccans in North America began to describe their version as British Traditional Wicca.
Another significant development was the creation by feminists in the late sixties and seventies of an eclectic movement known as Dianic Wicca, or feminist Dianic Witchcraft. Dianic Wicca has no connection of lineage to traditional Wicca, and creatively interprets published materials on Wicca as a basis for their ritual structure. This specifically feminist, Goddess-oriented faith had no interest in the Horned God, and discarded Gardnerian-style hierarchy and lineage as irrelevant. Rituals were created for self-initiation to allow people to identify with and join the religion without first contacting an existing coven. This contrasts with the Gardnerian belief that only a witch of opposite gender can initiate another witch.
Isaac Bonewits points out some of the practical problems in establishing the numbers of any neopagan group. Nevertheless some estimates have been attempted. The 2001 American Religious Identification Survey estimated that at least 134,000 adults identified themselves as Wiccans in the United States, compared to 8,000 in 1990. In the UK, census figures do not allow an accurate breakdown of traditions within the Pagan heading, as a campaign by the Pagan Federation before the 2001 Census encouraged Wiccans, Heathens, Druids and others all to use the same write-in term 'Pagan' in order to maximise the numbers reported. For the first time, respondents were able to write in an affiliation not covered by the checklist of common religions, and a total of 42,262 people from England, Scotland and Wales declared themselves to be Pagans by this method. These figures were not immediately analysed by the Office of National Statistics, but were released after an application by the Pagan Federation of Scotland. Adherents.com, an independent website which specialises in collecting estimates of world religions, cites over 30 sources with estimates of numbers of Wiccans (principally from the USA and UK.). Their median estimate for Wiccan numbers is 800,000 worldwide.
See also: Witch (etymology)
The spelling Wica first appears in the writings of Gerald Gardner (Witchcraft Today, 1954, and The Meaning of Witchcraft, 1959). He used the word as a mass noun referring to the adherents of his tradition of witchcraft ('the Wica'), rather than the religion itself. He referred to the religion as witchcraft, never Wica. The word seems to be based on the Old English word wicca [ˈwɪtʃɑ]; similarly, wicca and its feminine form wice are the predecessors of the modern English witch.
Gardner himself claimed he learned the term from existing members of the group who initiated him into witchcraft in 1939: "I realised I had stumbled on something interesting; but I was half-initiated before the word Wica which they used hit me like a thunderbolt, and I knew where I was, and that the Old Religion still existed."
The spelling Wicca was not used by Gardner and the term Wiccan (both as an adjective and a noun) was not used until much later, but it is now the prevalent term to refer to followers of Wicca.
 Wicca and paganism
Wicca is a neopagan religion with distinctive ritual forms, seasonal observances and religious, magical, and ethical precepts. Wiccans practise a form of witchcraft, but not all witches are Wiccans—other forms of witchcraft, folk magic and sorcery exist within many cultures, with widely varying practices.
Most Wiccans call themselves Pagans, though the umbrella term Paganism encompasses many faiths that have nothing to do with Wicca or witchcraft. Wicca is commonly described as a Neopagan faith though Isaac Bonewits, the influential Neo-druid has claimed that early Wicca (at a time when it was still called "Witchcraft") was in fact a Mesopagan path. Since there is no centralised organisation in Wicca, and no single orthodoxy, the beliefs and practices of Wiccans can vary substantially, both among individuals and among traditions. Typically, the main religious principles, ethics, and ritual structures are shared, since they are key elements of traditional teachings and published works on the subject.
As practised by initiates in the lineage of Gerald Gardner, Wicca is a variety of witchcraft founded on religious and magical concepts. As such it is distinguished not only by its beliefs, but by its practice of magic, its ethical philosophy, initiatory system, organisational structure and secrecy. Some of these beliefs and practices have also been adopted by others outside of this lineage, often termed Eclectic Wiccans, who generally discard the institutions of initiation, secrecy and hierarchy, and have more widely varying beliefs. Some Eclectic Wiccans neither perform magic nor identify as witches. Within traditional forms of Wicca there are three degrees of initiation. First degree is required to gain membership of a coven; those who aspire to teach may eventually undergo second and third degree initiations, conferring the title of "High Priest" or "High Priestess" and allowing them to establish new covens. At initiation, some Wiccans adopt a craft name to symbolise their spiritual "rebirth", to act as a magical alter-ego, or simply to provide anonymity when appearing as a witch in public (see Acceptance of Wiccans below).
 Acceptance of Wiccans
The use of the inverted pentagram by the Church of Satan, has led to the misidentification of Wiccans as Satanists.Main article: Religious discrimination against Neopagans
In the United States, a number of legal decisions have improved and validated the status of Wiccans in that country, especially Dettmer v. Landon in 1985. However, there is still hostility from some politicians and Christian organisations.
According to the traditional history of Wicca as given by Gerald Gardner, Wicca is a survival of the European witch-cult that was persecuted during the witch trials (sometimes called the Burning Times). Since then theories of an organised pan-European witch-cult have been largely discredited, but it is still common for Wiccans to feel solidarity with the victims of the witch trials.
There have been assertions made that Wicca is a form of Satanism, despite important differences between these religions, such as the lack of a Satan-like figure in Wiccan theology. Due to negative connotations associated with witchcraft, many Wiccans continue the traditional practice of secrecy, concealing their faith for fear of persecution. Revealing oneself as Wiccan to family, friends or colleagues is often termed "coming out of the broom-closet".
Some people have accused Wicca of being anti-Christian, a claim disputed by Wiccans such as Doreen Valiente, who stated that whilst she knew many Wiccans who admired Jesus, "witches have little respect for the doctrines of the churches, which they regard as a lot of man-made dogma".
Some have asserted that Wicca is simply an off-shoot of the New Age movement, a claim which is fiercely denied by Wiccans and also by historians such as Ronald Hutton, who noted that Wicca not only predates the New Age movement but also differs in its general world view.
 References and footnotes
^ http://www.cog.org/wicca/about.html#PHIL - "Wicca, or Witchcraft, is an earth religion – a re-linking (re-ligio) with the life-force of nature, both on this planet and in the stars and space beyond"
^ Gardner, Gerald B (1999) . Witchcraft Today. Lake Toxaway, NC: Mercury Publishing. OCLC 44936549.
^ Farrar, Janet; Farrar, Stewart (1989). The Witches' God: Lord of the Dance. London: Hale. p. 170-171. ISBN 0-7090-3319-2. OCLC 59693966.
^ Fifty Years of Wicca, Frederick Lamond
^ Adler, Margot (1979). Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-worshippers and Other Pagans in America Today. Boston: Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-3237-9. OCLC 6918454.
^ Fifty Years of Wicca, Frederick Lamond
^ a b Gallagher, Ann-Marie (2005). The Wicca Bible: the Definitive Guide to Magic and the Craft. New York: Sterling Publishing. ISBN 140273008X. OCLC 61680143.
^ Pearson, Joanne; Roberts, Richard H; Samuel, Geoffrey (December 1998). Nature Religion Today: Paganism in the Modern World. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 6. ISBN 0-748-61057-X. OCLC 39533917.http://books.google.com/books?id=rLYCOOUlsBcC&pg=PA6&sig=RyQgiPle57NcIUAQCY0CAoEIsAM#PPA6,M1.
^ The Witches' God by the Farrars, Chapter VIII
^ The Witches' God by the Farrars, Chapter IX
^ The Witches' God by the Farrars, Chapter III
^ The Witches' God by the Farrars, Chapter IX
^ The Witches' Goddess, by the Farrars, Chapter V
^ The Witches' Goddess, the Farrars, Chapter VI
^ The Witches' God by the Farrars, Chapter I
^ Farrar, Janet; and Stewart Farrar (1981). A Witches' Bible: The Complete Witches Handbook. London: Phoenix Publishing. pp. 181–182. ISBN 0919345921. OCLC 62866821.
^ Gardner, Gerald B (1988) . The Meaning of Witchcraft. Lakemont, GA: Copple House Books. p. 260-261.
^ Ronald Hutton (1991) Blackwell ISBN 0-631-17288-2. Page 260-261
^ Fortune, Dion. Sea Priestess.
^ Adler, Margot (1979). Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-worshippers and Other Pagans in America Today. Boston: Beacon Press. pp. 25, 34–35. ISBN 0-8070-3237-9. OCLC 6918454.
^ Farrar, Janet; and Gavin Bone (January 2004). Progressive Witchcraft: Spirituality, Mysteries, and Training in Modern Wicca. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Age Books. ISBN 1564147193. OCLC 53223741.
^ Gardner, Gerald B (1988) . The Meaning of Witchcraft. Lakemont, GA: Copple House Books. pp. 26–27.
^ Crowther, Patricia (1974). Witch Blood! The Diary of a Witch High Priestess!. New York City: House of Collectibles. ISBN 0876371616. OCLC 1009193.
^ Cunningham, Scott. Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.
^ The Wicca Bible by Anne-Marie Gallagher, Godsfield, page 34-39
^ a b c Buckland, Raymond (1986). Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. Saint Paul: Llewellyn. pp. 17, 18, 53. ISBN 0-87542-050-8. OCLC 14167961. http://books.google.com/books?id=fr0pse0LBK0C&printsec=frontcover.
^ Valiente, Doreen (1973). An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present. Hale. pp. Introduction.
^ a b c d e f Hutton, Ronald (1999). Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Withcraft. Oxford University Press. Page 392
^ Farrar, Stewart. What Witches Do. pp. 88.
^ Gallagher, Ann-Marie (2005). The Wicca Bible. Godsfield. pp. 250 to 265.
^ a b c Valiente, Doreen (1973). An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present. Hale. pp. 231.
^ Gallagher, Ann-Marie (2005). The Wicca Bible. Godsfield. pp. 321.
^ Harrow, Judy (Oimelc 1985). "Exegesis on the Rede". Harvest 5 (3). http://www.draknet.com/proteus/rede.htm. Retrieved on 2007-02-26.
^ Lembke, Karl (2002) The Threefold Law.
^ Farrar, Janet; and Stewart Farrar (May 1992) . Eight Sabbats for Witches. London: Robert Hale Publishing. ISBN 0709047789. OCLC 26673966.
^ Valiente, Doreen (1989). The Rebirth of Witchcraft. London: Robert Hale Publishing. pp. 70–71. ISBN 0709037155. OCLC 59694320.
^ Hutton, Ronald (2005-05-24) . The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. New York City: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198207441. OCLC 41452625.
^ Gardner, Gerald B (1954). Witchcraft Today. London: Rider and Company. pp. 69, 75. OCLC 1059746.
^ a b Gallagher, Ann-Marie (2005). The Wicca Bible: The Definitive Guide to Magic and the Craft. Godsfield. Page 77-78
^ Lamond, Frederic (2004). Fifty Years of Wicca. Green Magic. Page 88-89
^ Valiente, Doreen (July 1988) . An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present. Custer: Phoenix Publishing. pp. 264. ISBN 0-919345-77-8. OCLC 18547421.
^ Crowley, Vivianne. Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Age (1989) London: The Aquarian Press. ISBN 0-85030-737-6
^ Farrar, Janet and Farrar, Stewart. Eight Sabbats for Witches (1981) (published as Part 1 of A Witches' Bible, 1996) Custer, Washington, USA: Phoenix Publishing Inc. ISBN 0-919345-92-1
^ Lamond, Frederic (2004). Fifty Years of Wicca. Sutton Mallet, England: Green Magic. pp. 16–17. ISBN 0-9547230-1-5.
^ Crowley, Vivianne. Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Age (1989) London: The Aquarian Press. ISBN 0-85030-737-6 p.23
^ Gardner, Gerald B (2004) . The Meaning of Witchcraft. Red Wheel. p. 10.
^ a b c Stewart, Farrar. The Witches' Way. Chapter II - Second Degree Initiation
^ a b Stewart, Farrar. The Witches' Way. Chapter III - Third Degree Initiation
^ Crowley, Vivianne (1989). Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Age. London: Aquarian Press. p. 14-15. ISBN 0-85030-737-6.
^ Farrar, Janet; Farrar, Stewart (1996). A Witches' Bible. Custer, Washington: Phoenix Publishing. ISBN 0-919345-92-1.
^ Gardner, Gerald (2004). Naylor, A R (ed.). ed. Witchcraft and the Book of Shadows. Thame, England: I-H-O Books. ISBN 1872189520.
^ "Beaufort House Index of English Traditional Witchcraft". Beaufort House Association. 1999-01-15. http://beaufort.bravepages.com/. Retrieved on 2007-04-02.
^ "Different types of Witchcraft". Hex Archive. http://www.hexarchive.com/wicca/witchcraft.htm. Retrieved on 2007-04-02.
^ Clifton, Chas S (2006). Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America. Lanham: AltaMira Press. ISBN 0759102023. OCLC 62766062.
^ a b c "British Traditional Wicca F.A.Q.". Sacramento, CA: New Wiccan Church International. http://www.newwiccanchurch.net/articles/btwfaq.htm. Retrieved on 2007-04-02.
^ Gardner, Gerald B (1954). Witchcraft Today. London: Rider and Company. pp. 18–19. OCLC 1059746.
^ Dearnaley, Roger (2000). "An Annotated Chronology and Bibliography of the Early Gardnerian Craft". Cyprian.org. Archived from the original on 2006-04-24.http://web.archive.org/web/20060424045404/http://www.cyprian.org/Articles/gardchron.htm. Retrieved on 2005-12-09.
^ Heselton, Philip (November 2001). Wiccan Roots: Gerald Gardner and the Modern Witchcraft Revival. Freshfields, Chieveley, Berkshire: Capall Bann Pub.. ISBN 1861631103. OCLC 46955899. . See also Nevill Drury. "Why Does Aleister Crowley Still Matter?" Richard Metzger, ed. Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult. Disinformation Books, 2003.
^ Kelly, Aidan (May 1991). Crafting the Art of Magic, Book I: A History of Modern Witchcraft, 1939-1964. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications. pp. 41–42. ISBN 0875423701. OCLC 22891894.
^ Leland, Charles G (1998) . Aradia, or, the Gospel of the Witches. Blaine, WA: Phoenix Publishing. ISBN 0-919345-34-4. OCLC 44483420.
^ Aidan Kelly's theories have been critiqued in detail: Frew, Donald Hudson (1991). "Crafting the Art of Magic: A Critical Review". WildIdeas.net. http://www.wildideas.net/temple/library/frew.html. Retrieved on 2007-06-05.
^ Hutton, Ronald (2005-05-24) . The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. New York City: Oxford University Press. pp. 33–51. ISBN 0198207441. OCLC 41452625.
^ Hutton, Ronald (2005-05-24) . The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. New York City: Oxford University Press. pp. 151–170. ISBN 0198207441. OCLC 41452625.
^ Bonewits, Isaac (1971). "A Very Brief History of Witchcraft 1.0". Spiritualitea.com. http://www.spiritualitea.com/articles/briefhistory.shtml. Retrieved on 2007-06-05.
^ Hutton, Ronald, The Triumph of the Moon - A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, Preface, " the only religion that England has ever given the world"
^ Heselton, Philip, Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration, blurb
^ Holzer, Hans (1972). The New Pagans. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. OCLC 281240.
^ Bonewits, I (2005)How Many "Pagans" Are There?
^ "American Religious Identification Survey". New York City: City University of New York. http://www.gc.cuny.edu/faculty/research_briefs/aris/key_findings.htm. Retrieved on 2007-06-05.
^ Pagans and the Scottish Census of 2001 Accessed 18 October 2007
^ Adherents.com Statistical summary pages: W Accessed 12 December 2007
^ Gardner, Gerald B (1959). The Meaning of Witchcraft. London: Aquarian Press. pp. 11. OCLC 2378484.
^ Bracelin, Jack L (1960). Gerald Gardner: Witch. London: Octagon Press. pp. 151. OCLC 2792799. 1999 reprint, Thame, Oxfordshire: I-H-O Books.
^ "Definition of "Wiccan"". Dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/wiccan. Retrieved on 2007-05-13.
^ The term magic is sometimes spelt magick; this spelling has a specific meaning within the context of Thelema.
^ "Defining Paganism: Paleo-, Meso-, and Neo-" (Version 2.5.1) 1979, 2007 c.e., Isaac Bonewits
^ Free Congress Foundation (1999-06-09). 'Satanic' Army Unworthy of Representing United States. Press release. http://web.archive.org/web/20020617210538/http://www.freecongress.org/press/releases/990609.htm. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
^ Silk, Mark (Summer 1999). "Something Wiccan This Way Comes". Religion in the News 2 (2). ISSN 1525-7207. http://web.archive.org/web/20070524174633/http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/csrpl/RINVol2No2/wicca.htm.
^ "Barr's Witch Project: Lawmaker Wants to Ban Witches from the Military". LawStreet Journal. 1999-11-01. http://web.archive.org/web/20000229034145/http://www.lawstreet.com/journal/art991101wiccan.html. Retrieved on 2007-07-11.
^ "George W. Bush Justifies Off-The-Cuff Bigotry". Positive Atheism Magazine. 1999-06-01. http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/bushwicca.htm. Retrieved on 2008-11-30.
^ Buckland, Raymond (2002-09-01) . Witchcraft From The Inside: Origins of the Fastest Growing Religious Movement in America (3rd ed.). St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications. ISBN 1-56718-101-5. OCLC 31781774.
^ Davis, Derek; Hankins, Barry (2003). New Religious Movements and Religious Liberty in America (2nd ed.). Waco: Baylor University Press. pp. 75. ISBN 0918954924. OCLC 52895492. http://books.google.com/books?id=up5fnY7Wp1wC&pg=PA75&sig=9NkPJ0x_PZBpvg7tJMC_zjKhx2c. "Much to the chagrin of practitioners of Wicca, there has been confusion in the minds of many about their religion, which is often linked with Satanism, although there are important differences."
^ 'Bewitched' (2003-12-04). "Witch Way". Slate.com. http://www.slate.com/id/2090966/. Retrieved on 2008-05-16. "Believe me, coming out of the "broom closet" is a one-way trip."
^ Valiente, Doreen (1973). An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present. Hale. pp. Introduction.
^ Hutton, Ronald (1999). The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford University Press. pp. 412 and 413.
 Further reading
Nikki Bado-Fralick, Coming to the Edge of the Circle: A Wiccan Initiation Ritual (Oxford University Press, 2005).
Raymond Buckland, The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism (Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 2002).
Helen A. Berger, A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in the United States (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999).
Jon P. Bloch, New Spirituality, Self, and Belonging: How New Agers and Neo-Pagans Talk About Themselves (Westport: Praeger, 1998).
Anne Carson, Goddesses and Wise Women: The Literature of Feminist Spirituality 1980-1992 An Annotated Bibliography (Freedom, California: Crossing Press, 1992).
Chas S. Clifton and Graham Harvey, The Paganism Reader (New York and London: Routledge, 2004).
Chas S. Clifton, Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America (Lanham, Md.: AltaMira Press, 2006).
James R. Lewis, Witchcraft Today: An Encyclopedia of Wiccan and Neopagan Traditions (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1999).
Graham Harvey, Contemporary Paganism: Listening People, Speaking Earth (New York: New York University Press, 1997).
Lynne Hume, Witchcraft and Paganism in Australia (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1997).
James R. Lewis, ed., Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996).
T. M. Luhrmann, Persuasions of the Witch's Craft: Ritual Magic in Contemporary England (London: Picador, 1994).
Sabina Magliocco, Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004)
J. Gordon Melton and Isotta Poggi, Magic, Witchcraft, and Paganism in America: A Bibliography, 2nd ed., (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1992).
Sarah M. Pike, Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001).
Lee Prosser, Isherwood, Bowles, Vedanta, Wicca, and Me (Lincoln, Nebraska: Writers Club Press, 2001). ISBN 0-595-20284-5.
Shelly Rabinovitch and James R. Lewis, eds., The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism (New York: Kensington Publishing, 2002).
Kathryn Rountree, Embracing the witch and the goddess: Feminist Ritual-Makers in New Zealand (London and New York: Routledge, 2004).
Jone Salomonsen, Enchanted Feminism: The Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco (London and New York: Routledge, 2002).
Allen Scarboro, Nancy Campbell, Shirely Stave, Living Witchcraft: A Contemporary American Coven (Praeger Publishers, 1994). DOI 10.1336/275946886.
 External links
Look up wicca in
Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
The Witches' Voice: Neopagan news and networking site.
Covenant of the Goddess (USA)
The Pagan Federation - UK - Canada - Organisation whose stated mission is "To Promote and Defend the Pagan Traditions".
The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies - Official site for this scholarly journal; includes online articles from 2004 onward.
[show]v • d • eWicca
Key concepts Wiccan views of divinity (Triple Goddess · Horned God) · Witchcraft and Magic · History of Wicca · Witch-cult hypothesis · Wiccan morality (Wiccan Rede · Rule of Three) Wicca portal
Notable Wiccans Margot Adler · Eleanor Bone · Gavin Bone · Raymond Buckland · Jack L. Bracelin · Dorothy Clutterbuck · Scott Cunningham · Patricia Crowther · Dafo · Janet Farrar · Stewart Farrar · Gerald Gardner · Ipsita Roy Chakraverti · Raven Grimassi · Philip Heselton · Aidan Kelly · Frederic Lamond · Adriana Porter · Alex Sanders · Maxine Sanders · Doreen Valiente
Denominations British Traditional Wicca: Alexandrian Wicca · Algard Tradition · Blue Star Wicca · Central Valley Wicca · Gardnerian Wicca · Other: Celtic Wicca · Christian Wicca · Dianic Wicca · Georgian Wicca · Seax-Wica · Odyssean Wicca · Universal Eclectic Wicca · Faery Wicca · Traditional Initiatory Witchcraft: 1734 Tradition · Cochrane's Craft · Coven of Atho
Rites and Rituals Esbat · Great Rite · Drawing down the Moon · Fivefold kiss · Wheel of the Year · Wiccaning
Paraphernalia Book of Shadows · Altar · Magical tools in Wicca (Athame · Pentacle)
Other Pentagram · Coven · Craft name · Summoner · Watchtower · Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches · Witchcraft Today · The Meaning of Witchcraft · What Witches Do · Charge of the Goddess · Eko Eko Azarak · New Forest coven · Bricket Wood coven · Wiccan Laws · Homosexuality and Wicca · Museum of Witchcraft · Witchcraft Research Association · Skyclad · Dettmer v. Landon · Coven of the Far Flung Net · Fluffy bunny
Related Contemporary Witchcraft · Paganism · Neopaganism · Stregheria · Thelema · Hedge Witchcraft · Robert Cochrane · Cecil Williamson · Charles Cardell · Raymond Howard · Sybil Leek · Rosaleen Norton · Aleister Crowley · Margaret Murray · Ronald Hutton · Leo Ruickbie
[show]v • d • eNeopaganism
Movements Syncretic: Church of All Worlds · Federation of Damanhur · Feraferia · Neo-druidism · Neo-fascism · Neoshamanism · Radical Faeries · Technopaganism · Unitarian Universalist · Witchcraft (Feri Tradition · Reclaiming · Stregheria · Wicca)
Ethnic: Baltic (Dievturība · Romuva) · Celtic (Neo-druidism · Reconstructionist) · Finnish · Germanic (Ásatrú · Theodism) · Hellenic · Judeo-Paganism · Kemetism · Roman · Slavic
Approaches to Paganism Orthopraxy · Polytheism · Pantheism · Folk religion (Reconstructionism · Folklorism)
Demographics and politics USA · UK · Scandinavia · German-speaking Europe · Latin Europe · Slavic Europe · Greece · Hungary · Festivals and events · Pagan Pride · Discrimination
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