In order to understand the History of Wicca, Witchcraft and the Craft we must understand its roots. The history of Paganism began in about 10,000 BC, during the Paleolithic Age. It was a time when primitive people were nomadic, and had to hunt for their food, having to follow the herds of animals to survive. This is where the belief of the God of the hunt first appeared. The men worshipped the sun, the stag horned God, and the language of the animals, as hunting was crucial to their survival. The women, who were the child bearers and the healers, where those who took care of the tribe, and were looked upon as having more power, as they were the givers of life. It was during this time, that the women discovered that their bodies were in tune with the lunar phases, and therefore they worshipped the moon, and the Goddess deity, and they were the ones who led the rituals. There were some men however, who stayed behind from the hunt, with the women, as they were old, or sick or injured. And the women, shared these lunar mysteries with these men, and this is how there became priests in the lunar cult.
In around 8000-7500 BC, agriculture was discovered quite by accident, as the food the women stored in the ground began to grow. With this realization, that the people could plant and grow their own food, came the realization of the mystery of fertility. Up until this time, the deity had been the Goddess of the lunar cult, as the men did not understand their role in the cycle of life until this point. The discovery of agriculture proved that the men also had a part in creation. Prior to this, there had been a division between the men and the women for the most part, and after this discovery, they had to work together and they no longer needed follow the herds for food to survive. This was when they became "Paganized", the word Pagan meaning "country dweller". Now the people were able to settle in one place and breed animals, and grow their own food. This was when the people began exploring and discovering the mysteries of life, death and rebirth.
Time went on, and people migrated from many places to settle in Rome, and those who came from Greece, came with many of the same beliefs that the Romans had....and though they worshipped different Gods and Goddess's, they shared in many similarities. With the migration, there also came to Rome the nomadic Etruscans from Asia Minor who were very well versed in the aspects of magic and divinations, and they brought this knowledge with them to Rome. Than came the people of the British Isles, who had also discovered agriculture around the same time as the Indo-Europeans, and these are what we know now to be the Celts. Also, from the islands, came the peoples known as the Mediranian Cult of the Dead. These people were very spiritual and knowledgeable on the theories of death and reincarnation, and they came and spread out all over New Europe. They shared their secrets with the Celts, and these people became the Druids, and they were the ones who oversaw all of the rites of the Pagan people.
The Druids were predominately men, with very few women. From the time of 4500-6500, there were still remnants of the solar/lunar cults that dealt with animals, herbs and the mysteries who intertwined in the Pagan communities, and these people were known as the "wice" and they developed the power and understanding of life and the earth, and these were the keepers of the mysteries. So, during this time of all these different people traveling back and forth and sharing information, three major groups of people developed, which were the Druids who mostly held the men’s mysteries of the Cult of the Dead, the Wice, who held the mystery teachings of the solar/lunar cults, which remained mostly matrifocal, and was made up of mostly woman, and who worshipped the Goddess, and the Pagans, who were the common folk, who were balanced and Polaris, and sought out the wisdom and the knowledge of the Druids and the Wice.
Than, from 0 ACE-650ACE, the old testament was being written in the Middle East. After the death of Christ, the people from the Middle East spread out across the land, spreading the word of Christianity, and eventually came to Rome, and this is when the mass conversion began. They started the conversions first with the rulers, the kings and the Queens first by using money and bribery. This way, the country dwellers would have to convert, as they depended upon the rulers for their survival. Pagan temples were destroyed, and Christian churches were built upon the Pagan holy grounds. The Pagans however, forced to build churches over their Pagan temples, incorporated many of their symbols into the building of these churches, which you can still see today.
During this time the first scriptures of the Pagans emerged, and was held by two Celts.
In 1100, the dark ages began, and no writing went on during this time, and it was like the "lights went out", and when they came back on, the Pagan texts were gone, and the Christian conversion continued to spread, and the Holy Wars began. When the Christians decided that the new ways were not catching on fast enough with the Pagans, the Christian leaders began asserting that the Pagans worshipped and consorted with "the devil" and the inquisition began.
In 1494 two Dominican monks, who were inquisitors of Papal Bull of Innocent the VIII, by the names of Kramer and Springer, produced the book, the Malleus Maleficarum, "The Witches Hammer" which laid the groundwork for the reign of terror that swept Europe well into the 18th century. This period was known as the "Burning Times" where it is estimated that 9 million men, women and children were held prisoner, stripped, starved, deprived of sleep for countless days on end, and horribly tortured beyond human comprehension, to obtain a confession of witchcraft, only than to be strangled or burned at the stake. Ironically, the Malleus Maleficarum was originally rejected by the literary council because of bias and here say, and was forged so that it could be printed. The last accused witch to die under the laws of the Malleus Maleficarum was in 1747 in Australia.
All of those in the craft went underground for fear of persecution, until 1951, when the last of the anti-witchcraft laws were abolished in England. It was at this time, that a man named Gerald Gardner came out from the underground and published his first book, called "High Magic’s Aid" which he published as a fiction book, under his witch name of Scyer. Than in 1952, he published a non-fiction book, "Witchcraft Today" and thus began the New Age Religion of Wicca.
Wicca became a legalized religion in 1985, and has grown at a furious pace since than, in North American and Europe. An approximate number of pagans surpasses 250,000 in North American alone, and the number is believed to be much higher as many Pagans and Wicca’s lie on their census forms for fear of modern day persecution which continues today.
What is Wicca?
Wicca is a new age religion, that has roots from
the times of Neolithic Paganism, information taken from traditional Italian witchcraft, that survived the burning times, and aspects of rites from the masons.
Back in Ancient times, the women and men of the village were the seers and the healers and had the knowledge of herbs and medicines. They healed the sick, delivered the babies, gave council, foretold the future, and were valuable parts of the villages and communities.
They gathered their information and teachings and from all around the things in nature, such as the sun, the moon, the stars, animals, trees, plants and minerals, as well as the cycles of the seasons. They understood that mankind was not superior to nature, but a part of it, and all that it is.
This belief continues today, and most Wicca’s believe in the balanced polarities of the feminine and masculine which are seen as the Goddess and the God, and made up of all the Goddess's and Gods of each certain tradition. These are ultimately all a part of the One Ultimate Creative life force, that many simply call God/ Goddess/ Spirit.
According to Wicca tradition the Goddess is seen as the origin of all creation of the earth, nature, and life itself. The Goddess is also seen in 3 aspects as the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone, which correspond with the waxing and waning phases of the moon, and also the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth.
The God aspect, is seen as the masculine side of nature. He represents the wild force of nature, the hunt, that is strong and expressive, without being patriarchal and destructive. He represents sexuality and fertility, that allows the Goddess to create life, and he is also the keeper of the gates of life and death. Different Wicca traditions have different deity structures consisting of many Gods and Goddess's that represent specific aspects of the ultimate plane of existence. Each one is unique, and used to attune to the mysteries of existence that, that deity represents.
Wicca’s also believe in the (7) planes of existence which are:
1. The Physical Plane (where we exist now)
2. The Elemental Plane
3. The Astral Plane
4. The Emotional Plane
5. The Mental Plane (where the watchers and the Arch angels exist)
6. The Spiritual Plane (where the Gods and Goddesses exist)
7. The Ultimate Plane (where the ultimate creative life force exists)
These planes of existence go from the lowest plane, where we exist, to the highest plane of where the Ultimate creative life force exists. Wicca’s believe that everything is a part of the Ultimate Life Force, from all of the lower planes up to the highest....everything on this plane and in the universe is all a part of the ultimate Spirit.
One of the most important beliefs that Wicca’s follow is called the Wicca Rede, which states "An ye harm none, do what ye will." This is an ethical guideline that we follow, which means that we may follow our spiritual path in any way that we choose, as long as we harm none, and harm nothing, including ourselves.
Another important belief Wicca’s follow is the Threefold Law. In which they believe that whatever they do, or put out, be it good or evil, will return to us threefold, or three times over, therefore anyone who would believe in this, would certainly not do anything harmful or bane.
The third most important belief that most Wicca’s share, is the belief in reincarnation. They do not believe in a heaven, or a hell, and they believe that death just takes us to another plane of existence, which we call Summerland.
Some Wicca’s believe that a soul is continuously is reborn again over and over, whereas others believe that a soul is reborn until they have learned everything their soul is meant to learn through all of their life lessons, and at that time, they become one with the Ultimate Life force on the Ultimate Plane. This makes Wicca’s ultimately responsible for their own actions in life, as they believe the mistakes they made, and the wrongs they have committed, will have them return back again and again, until they can get it right, and learn the lessons they are meant to learn.
Wicca’s follow a basic system of ritual and celebration of the seasons either in covens or on a solitary basis.
We have (8) holidays, that follow the wheel of the year, or the cycle of the seasons, which are called Sabbats. Imbolic, Ostara, Beltane, Midsummer, Lammas, Mabon, Samhain and Yule.
Most Magical rites are performed on Esbats, which correspond to the phases of the moon, when worship and reverence is also performed, although magic can be performed at any time it is necessary. Both rituals and magic are performed within a magic circle, which is a purified and protected space, and a "world between the worlds"
Practice Satanism - Satanism is NOT a Wicca belief, nor do Wicca’s practice it. Satanists worship the devil, and Wicca’s do not even believe in the devil, nor do they believe in hell. Satanism has roots in medieval times and also exists in modern times.
In ancient times the church was the one who originally connected Satanism to those practicing pagan beliefs, to attempt to sway the common people to the new religion of Christianity. In modern times, a man named Anton LeVey created the modern version of Satanism, 'round about 1969, which is mostly a lot of theatrics, and focus's on self fulfillment, and the material, with no consideration of others.
Practice Black Magic - Wicca’s believe, that magic is neither black or white, nor good or evil. Magic comes from the energy of the Universal Life Force, and is considered neutral energy. It is up to the person using it, as to whether they use it for good, or ill. Wicca’s do not use it for harm, as they believe that what energy you sent out, comes back to you 3-fold.
Sacrifice Animals or People - Modern Wicca’s respect ALL life, and strive to "harm none" at all costs, including themselves. They believe life is sacred, and should be revered and protected at all costs. In ancient times however, our pagan ancestors did participate in animal sacrifices as they believed this would help the Gods to look kindly upon their villages, and help their crops to flourish.
Participate in naked sexual orgies - Although some Wicca groups DO practice "sky clad", or in the nude, many Wicca’s do not, and that is a choice of each coven, or practicing Wicca. Many practicing Wicca’s will wear robes during their rituals. And though some of the Wicca beliefs do revolve around fertility, it does not include massive orgies. Some of this belief, may have originated with Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca, who was into nudist colonies, and sexual activity.
Only Wear Black - Most Wicca’s are everyday people, who wear normal clothing, just like everyone
else. You would not be able to recognize most Wicca’s by their clothing, as they usually dress quite normally. They only don robes, and sometimes medieval clothing, for ritual and celebrations only.