What is Wicca?
Wicca is a Pagan/Earth-based spirituality. It draws upon a diverse set of ancient pagan and 20th century hermetic motifs for its theological structure and ritual practice.
Wicca is a diverse religion with no central authority or figure defining it. It is divided into various lineages and denominations, referred to as traditions, each with its own organisational structure and level of centralisation. Due to its decentralized nature, there is some disagreement over what actually constitutes Wicca. Some traditions, collectively referred to as British Traditional Wicca, strictly follow the initiatory lineage of Gardner and consider the term Wicca to apply only to such lineage traditions, while other eclectic traditions do not.
Wicca is typically duotheistic, worshipping a god and goddess traditionally viewed as a mother goddess and horned god. These two deities are often viewed as facets of a greater pantheistic godhead. However, beliefs range from hard polytheism to even monotheism. Wiccan celebration follows approximately eight seasonally based festivals known as Sabbats. An unattributed statement known as the Wiccan Rede is the traditional basis of Wiccan morality. Wicca often involves the ritual practice of magic, though it is not always necessary.
Gerald Gardner, a British Civil Servant, can be credited for bringing to light the religion of Wicca. Drawing from his own involvement in a coven, he was initiated into a surviving Witches coven by one Dorothy Clutterbuck in 1938 or 1939, assisted at times by Doreen Valiente, and the works of Margaret Murray, Robert Graves and other historians. It is composed of Western European folk traditions and Eastern philosophy and incorporates much of the ceremonial magician, the cabalist and the earth-loving pagan into its structure. It is an Initiatory, Oath bound, Mystery Path whose members are trained in Witchcraft, Priestcraft and the High magics of the Ceremonial Magician/Cabalist.
There are many different Wiccan Traditions, such as Alexandrian, British, Celtic, Caledonii, Ceremonial, Dianic, Eclectic, Hereditary, Gardnerian, Kitchen Witch, Pictish, Seax-Wica, Solitary, Strega, Teutonic, Faery Wicca, Shamanistic Wicca.
“Wicca is both a religion and a Craft. … As a religion – like any other religion – its purpose is to put the individual and the group in harmony with the divine creative principal of the Cosmos, and its manifestation at all levels. As a Craft, its purpose is to achieve practical ends by psychic means, for good, useful and healing purposes. In both aspects, the distinguishing characteristics of Wicca are its Nature- based attitude, its small group autonomy with no gulf between priesthood and ‘congregation’, and its philosophy of creative polarity at all levels, from Goddess and God to Priestess and Priest.”
Janet and Stewart Farrar, Eight Sabbats For Witches, Robert Hale, London, 1981.
The Alexandrian tradition was founded by Alex Sanders in the 1960′s, who had been initiated into a Gardnerian Coven. Perhaps the most noted of Alexandrian Wiccans are Janet & Stuart Farrar.
There are differences between the two paths; some merely external, others of a very significant difference of philosophy. There are differences between the two traditions Book of Shadows and there are some parts of Gardnerian ritual that are unknown within the Alexandrian tradition. There are differences in the use of tools and their elementary correspondences and Alex included rituals of a more ceremonial nature as well as material based on the Kabbalah.
Developed from the feminist movement during the 60′s and 70′s, they focus more on the Goddess, womens spirituality and energies, authors include Z Budapest, Marija Gimbutas and Starhawk.
The Gardnerian Tradition is the basis for most of Modern Wicca. It was begun with Gerald Gardner, publishing several books about Witchcraft: 1949-High magic’s Aid, and 1954-Witchcraft Today. He borrowed appropriate work from others, most notably Aleister Crowley, Rudyard Kipling, John Dee and with his High Priestess, Doreen Valiente wrote much of the most poetic rites.