History of Wicca

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In this chapter I will be teaching you the difference between Wicca and Paganism and the History of Wicca.

What is the difference between Wicca and Paganism?

Wicca is a tradition of Witchcraft that was brought to the public by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s. There is a great deal of debate among the Pagan community about whether or not Wicca is truly the same form of Witchcraft that the ancients practiced. Regardless, many people use the terms Wicca and Witchcraft interchangeably. Paganism is an umbrella term used to apply to a number of different earth-based faiths. Wicca falls under that heading, although not all Pagans are Wiccan.

The term “pagan” (derived from the Latin paganus, which translates roughly to “hick from the sticks”) was originally used to describe people who lived in rural areas. As time progressed and Christianity spread, those same country folk were often the last holdouts clinging to their old religions. Thus, “pagan” came to mean people who didn’t worship the god of Abraham.

History of WIcca - The history of Wicca documents the rise of the Neopagan religion of Wicca and related witchcraft-based Neopagan religions.Wicca originated in the early twentieth century, when it first developed amongst several secretive covens in England who were basing their religious beliefs and practices upon what they read of the historical Witch-Cult in the works of such writers as Margaret Murray. It was subsequently popularised in the 1950s by a number of figures, namely Gerald Gardner, who had been initiated into the Craft - as Wicca is often known - by the New Forest coven in 1939. Gardner's form of Wicca, the Gardnerian tradition, was spread by both him and his followers like the High Priestesses' Doreen Valiente, Patricia Crowther and Eleanor Bone into other parts of the British Isles, and also into several other, predominantly English-speaking, countries across the world. In the 1960s, various new figures arose in Britain who popularised their own forms of the religion, including Robert Cochrane, Sybil Leek and Alex Sanders, and organisations began to be formed to propagate it, such as the Witchcraft Research Association. It was also during this decade that the faith was transported to the United States, where it was further adapted into new traditions such as Feri, 1734 and Dianic Wicca in the ensuing decades, and where organisations such as the Covenant of the Goddess were formed.

From the 1970s onward, books began to be published by such figures as Paul Huson, Scott Cunningham, and Stewart and Janet Farrar which encouraged self-initiation into the Craft, leading to a significant boost in the number of adherents and the development of new traditions. With the rising popularity of Wicca, it was used as a partial basis to various witchcraft-based American films and television shows, further increasing its profile, particularly amongst younger people, in the 1990s.

Since the early 1990s, various historians have published studies and research into the history of Wicca, including the American Aidan Kelly and the Britons Ronald Hutton and Philip Heselton

In the 16th and 17th centuries, something known as the witch hunt took place across Europe and the American colonies, during which somewhere between 40,000 and 100,000 people were killed. These people had been accused of being witches, who, according to their persecutors, worshipped the Devil, and committed acts of diabolism that included the cannibalism of children and desecration of the Eucharist. Most scholars since have agreed that these were the victims of isolated incidents of hysteria in remote, peasant communities, and that there was no religion being practiced by these witches.

However this was not the only view; one, which originated with Karl Ernst Jarcke in 1828, and which was expanded upon by Jules Michelet in the 1860s and Margaret Murray in the early 20th century, known as the Witch-cult hypothesis, claimed that the witches had been members of a pan-European pagan religion which had pre-dated Christianity and had been persecuted by the Christian Church as a rival religion.

Many Wiccans, particularly those of the early decades, believed that their religion was a continuation of this pagan Witch-Cult. It was only in the 1980s and 1990s that some Wiccans began to see the idea of the Witch-Cult as a creation myth rather than as historical fact.

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