What is Wicca?

Wicca is an Earth-based, nature centered religion drawing on the ideas of pantheism, gnosticism, ceremonial magic, and the remnents of pagan religions. Wicca is a religion which involves communion with the Earth, living in peace with yourself and others, and giving to those that gave to you. Wicca is a religion based on communion with a fertility Goddess and her consort, a horned God, or the incorporation of other deities. The Wiccan Rede contains the basics of what Wiccans define as ethical and moral behavior.

Many interchange the word Wicca with the word Witch, and this is entirely incorrect usage. Though some Wiccans may practice Witchcraft, not all Witches are Wiccan. Information regarding witches and witchcraft are available on this site's Witch/Wizard page.

History of Wicca

In 1954, Gerald Gardner published the first book on Wicca, as we know it today, called "Witchcraft Today". Since England had repealed its witchcraft laws, this book was able to spread the concept of Wicca to the masses.

Gardner claimed to have been initiated into the New Forest Coven in 1939, by Old Dorothy Clutterbuck. However, there is very little evidence that Dorothy ever existed, so what other sources could Gardner have gained his knowledge from?

Gardner's interests and knowledge of the occult would have given him plenty of raw material to work with. It's generally accepted that regardless of whether or not Gardner really found an existing witchcraft coven, he adulterated much of his work with Ceremonial magick concepts that appealed to him.

So even though there may be ideas, concepts, practices, or beliefs in Wicca that are based on older religions, the collected whole as presented by Gardner really only came into existance in the 1950s. This makes it a modern religion, and not one of the ancient religions that pre-date Christianity.

The Wicca, given to the world by Gardner, has acted as a template for the formation of other paths which use a mixture of Gardner's concepts, with additions from other ancient religions.

Wiccan Paths

Gardnerian Wicca
In the 1950's, after England repealed its witchcraft laws, Gerald Gardner went public about his practice of Witchcraft. He rewrote the rituals of the coven he belonged to so that they would be more accurate, and re-titled the tradition, giving it the name Wicca. Gardnerian covens have a degree system in which one learns about the craft. Individuals must be initiated by the coven and cannot intitiate themselves through self-study. Gardnerian covens work skyclad. In addition, some try to have equal numbers of men and women in the group.

Alexandrian Wicca
Alex Sanders founded this tradition in the 1960's. Originally based in England, practitioners work skyclad and much of their ritual is similar to Gardnerian practices, although the Alexandrians place more emphasis on ceremonial magic. Sanders called himself the "King" of his witches.

Georgian Wicca
George Patterson founded the Georgian tradition in Bakersfield, California, in 1970. They also are known as The Georgian Church. Their rituals are drawn from Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions with other elements added as the coven members see fit. In fact, in some covens members write their own rituals. Some Georgian covens work skyclad, and some do not.

Algard Wicca
In 1972, Mary Nesnick combined the Gardnerian tradition with the Alexandrian to form the Algard tradition. Some people think that in practice this combination ends up being very close to the Gardnerian tradition because much of Alexandrian ritual is similar to Gardnerian to begin with.

In 1962, Raymond Buckland, a protege of Gerald Gardner, moved to the United States where he founded this tradition. Buckland taught the Gardnerian tradition for a number of years. Because of problems that he saw in the practice of the craft, he started his own tradition in 1973. Seax-Wica is based on Saxon traditions, but as Buckland admits, he made it up alone. Covens decide for themselves if they will work skyclad or robed. Witches of this tradition can be initiated by the coven or through self-study.

Feri Tradition
There are a number of ways to spell the name of this tradition. You'll also see Fairy, Faery, and Faerie. Victor Anderson is credited with bringing the Feri tradition to the United States, where he has taught in the San Francisco area since the late 1960's. Feri teachers tend to add something of their own when they teach, so there is a strain of eclecticism in this tradition. Feris are usually solitary, or they work in small groups.

Dianic Tradition
The Dianic Tradition focuses on the Goddess with little talk about a God. The Goddess is worshipped in her three aspects - Maiden, Mother, and Crone. There are different varieties of Dianic witch. Since the 1970's, the Dianic Tradition has been seen as the feminist movement of the craft. Some, but not all, Dianic covens are exlusively women.

British Tradition
There are a number of different British Traditions, all of which are based on what people believe to tbe the pre-Christian practices of England. Many British Traditional groups follow Janet and Stewart Farrar, who have written a number of influential books about witchcraft. The groups tend to be structured, with training for neophytes (beginners) following a degree program. Their practices are said to be a mix of Celtic and Gardnerian traditions.

Celtic Wicca
This tradition looks to ancient Celtic and Druidic deities and beliefs with an emphasis on the magical and healing powers of plants, minerals, gnomes, fairies, and elemental spirits. Some of the rituals are derived from Gardnerian practice.

Teutonic Wicca
This tradition is based on Asatru, the Old Norse deities. Practitioners generally work in re-creations of Old Norse dress. They celebrate four Solar Fire festivals and Old Norse holidays.

Stregherian Wicca
This group follows traditions from Italy. Some people trace Strega teachings back to a woman named Aradia in the 14th century. The Strega tradition is rapidly gaining popularity in the United States today.

A Scottish Solitary tradition passed on by Aiden Breac, who personally teaches students in his home at Castle Carnonacae, in Scotland. The tradition is attuned to the solar and lunar changes, with a balance between the God and the Goddess. Meditation and divination play a large part in the tradition and it also teaches several variations on solitary working of magic. Information is not generally available and Mr. Breac (Now in his 90's) is not seeking further students.

Deboran Witchdom
Founded by Claudia Haldane around 1990, the Deboran branch is eclectic. They make little ritual use of nudity, and work with balanced polarities (Goddess-God; positive-negative). What they are aiming for is reconstruction of the Craft as if Wiccedom had continued without interference to this day. They use research, logical deduction and divination in this quest. Sabbats are open to guests but Esbats are closed. Coven leaders are called Robin and Marion, with their seconds-in-command called the Maiden and the Green Man. They do not have First, Second, and Third Degrees as such, but Apprentices, sealed and sworn Witches and Elders.