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Wicca, a nature based religion, has for a very long time been cloaked in secrecy. A growing number of people around the world, are growing dissatisfied with traditional religions, and therefore seek a religion that involves one on a personal level. A religion which celebrates the spiritual as well as the physical, where a reverence for the divine is combined with the exercise of magic. Wicca is such a religion, which focuses on honoring nature in the image of both a god and a goddess. The fact that Wicca has some deep roots in the history of religion, and that the practice of magic is accepted makes it very attractive to many people. But until recently, Wicca has given the impression to be an exclusive religion, mainly due to the lack of information, this has in turn resulted in wide reaching frustration among interested parties. Wicca is a popular movement in America and Europe. It is a nature based religion with various traditions, Gods and Goddess worship, witchcraft, spells, rituals, and divination. Wiccans come from all paths of lives, there are lawyers, doctors, students, and even rocket scientist that are Wiccan. Wiccans‟ also believe in the Wiccan rede, “An it harm none, do what you will. Wiccans celebrate eight holidays; two solstices, two equinoxes and four other holidays roughly equally spaced throughout the year. These holidays are called sabbats. Wiccans are not evil. Wiccans don‟t harm people. Wiccans are Not Satanist. Wiccans are not dangerous. Wiccans are ordinary people. Wiccans have families, jobs, hopes, and dreams. Wiccans are not a cult. This religion is not a joke. Wiccans are real. Wiccans are serious. Wiccans have a sense of humor. Wiccans don‟t want to convert you. .Wicca emphasizes harmony, respect for the rhythms of nature, and the worship of both the male and female aspects of divinity. At the heart of Wicca is the law “Harm None”. Wicca teaches you to look at the world through magical eyes, to see fabulous in the mundane, to care for and tend your days with consciousness. Wicca sees the Earth as a living Goddess, who blesses us and must be nurtured and cared for in return. Wiccans honor and work with the cycles of nature and the seasons rather than trying to dominate their environment. The Wheel of the Year, the Wiccan sacred calendar, is marked by eight festivals that celebrate the eternal circle of life. Gerald Gardner was born in 1884, and spent most of his life in Malaya. He returned to the UK 1936. He joined the Folklore Society, and in June 1938, also joined the Rosicrucian Theatre where he met „Old Dorothy Clutterbuck‟. In 1939, he claims he was initiated by „Old Dorothy”. Gerald Gardner created Wicca in the late 1940‟s. In 1954, in England, Gerald Gardner published "Witchcraft Today", the first positive book about Witchcraft. Gardner was the first to call this form of Witchcraft "Wicca", and its practitioners, "Wiccan". He reinforced the description of Witchcraft as published by Dr. Murray, and went further to claim that he himself was a witch. Gardner was a press- hound; his coming out made headlines around the world and drew a lot of interest from people. Raymond Buckland was one of these. He was initiated by Gardner's High Priestess and in the early 1960's, brought Wicca to the United States. With freedom of religion guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, the US was fertile ground for the revival of the old ways. In 1971 Buckland followed up with his own book, "Witchcraft from the Inside". In Europe too, Wicca was flourishing. In the late 60's and early 70's, a Witch named Alex Sanders made headlines and started his own Wiccan tradition in Britain, now known as "Alexandrian Wicca". Written in the 80's -“Wicca, a Guide for the Solitary Practitioner” by Scott Cunningham is considered by many to be one of the most influential works on modern Wicca. Cunningham gave accreditation to those who practiced without a coven. The old belief was that it took a Witch to make a Witch, and that initiation into the Craft was conferred within a coven. Cunningham showed that being Wiccan was a matter of the heart and between the practitioner, and the God and Goddess. Scott Cunningham, among others, showed that Wicca was not just about following old rituals,
but that a Wiccan can invent their own rituals, should investigate the Divine Power for themselves, and should do what is right for them.
History of Witchcraft The purpose of this paper is to give account of the history of witchcraft. This paper demonstrates that witchcraft is not a religion but a practice. The history of witchcraft is as old as the history of man and as complexed as the human soul itself. It is ancient and dates back as far as mankind itself. Witchcraft started out as Paganism and Paganism predates even Christianity! It is a variation of the oldest religion know to man. The belief in witchcraft was widespread in the past. It was widely practiced in ancient Egypt and Babylon, for example. There are countries like Africa where the definitions for magic are so complex and the systems of thought on the subject so diverse and dense that you would have to break witchcraft into categories to get an accurate representation of their beliefs toward it. In Europe things were much more simple. Witchcraft gained in folklore until around the middle ages when it really started to become a part of popular culture. The characteristic of witches being evil and in league with Lucifer developed over time. You have to understand that Christianity was not always the dominant religion. There was a time when it competed against Paganism. During its infancy the followers of Christianity naturally assumed the magic of their God would defeat the old Pagan magic. They saw this as something to be overcome and viewed Pagans from a purely competitive standpoint. It was more important to outdo them than to control or eliminate them. Europe had its good moments with regards to witchcraft. In the 8th century the Emperor Charlemagne declared the burning of witches to be a Pagan custom, and as such was punishable by death. But in the coming years the country would develop an obsession for blaming bad occurrences on "witchcraft" and soon began hunting witches ceaselessly. The European governments' ties with religion only served to embolden the religious leaders of that era. The Protestant Christian establishment characterized witches as in league with Lucifer and promoted the idea heavily. They invented the notion of the "witch's sabbath", as an event where witches would murder children and perform blood sacrifices to Satan. Everything related to Witchcraft was suddenly related to Satanism. Witchcraft as sorcery has existed since humans first banded together in groups. Prehistoric art depicts magical rites to ensure successful hunting. Western beliefs about witchcraft as sorcery grew out of the mythologies and folklore of ancient peoples, especially the Greeks and Romans. Roman law made distinctions between good magic and harmful magic, and harmful magic was punishable by law. When Christianity began to spread, the distinctions vanished. Witchcraft came to be linked with worship of the Devil. In Europe beginning in the 700‟s AD, witchcraft was associated with heresy. The Christian church began a campaign to stop heresy and beginning in the 1000‟s religious leaders sentenced heretics to death by burning. The Inquisition which started back in about 1230, was an effort by the church to hunt out and punish heretics and make them change their beliefs. Not long afterwards the secular courts and the churches were involved in the persecutions of the witches. After the 1500‟s, most people accused of witchcraft came to trial in secular courts. They were charged with human sacrifice and with worshiping the Devil in horrible rites.
The most famous American witch hunt began in 1692 in Salem, Mass. There, a group of village girls became fascinated with the occult, but their games got out of hand. They began to act strangely, uttering weird sounds and screaming. Suspicions that witches were responsible for the girls' behavior led to the arrest of three women. More arrests followed, and mass trials were held. About 150 people were imprisoned on witchcraft charges. Nineteen men and women were convicted and hanged as witches. A man who refused to plead either innocent or guilty to the witchcraft charge was pressed to death with large stones. The witchcraft scare lasted about a year. In 1693, the people still in jail on witchcraft charges were freed. In 1711, the Massachusetts colonial legislature made payments to the families of the witch-hunt victims. In 1939, Gerald B. Gardner became initiated into a coven of people who called themselves hereditary witches. They said they were practicing the Old Religion as it had been passed down to them through their families for many generations. They believed Witchcraft had been a religion since ancient times. Gardner's coven was probably influenced by the writings of British anthropologist Margaret A. Murray. Writing in the 1920's, Murray had put forth the theory that witchcraft was an organized pagan religion that had originated as a pre-Christian fertility cult. In the 1950's, Gardner published books about the ancient religious rituals of Witchcraft. He feared that Witchcraft was in danger of dying out, and he wanted to publicize it. He gathered information from his coven, but he also added material from such sources as European folklore, Eastern magic, and the writings of his friend Aleister Crowley. Crowley, a British writer, was known for his interest in spiritualism and the occult and for his writings on ceremonial magic. Gardner later collaborated with Doreen Valiente, whom he had initiated as a witch in 1953, in writing and revising the rituals. Valiente added an emphasis on the Goddess that was missing in Gardner's work. Gardner's books Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959) became the basis for the modern religion of Witchcraft. The religion grew in popularity during the 1960's, in part because of its antiestablishment and feminist characteristics. It spread from the United Kingdom to the rest of Europe and to the United States, Canada, Australia, and Asia.
History of Paganism Pagan basically means "country dweller," and it got its connotation because the "country" folk, the non-urbane, less "civilized" people, were among the last to have the modern religion--in many cases Christianity--brought to them. In the past, everyone was a "country dweller," and at the dawn of human history people worshipped and gave reverence to natural phenomena, glorifying it as the direct cause of their existence. There was mystery surrounding life and death, the Earth's cycles, and many life processes that have now been studied by science. People's desire to control their environment and to appease whatever forces might be causing their fortune and misfortune gave rise to primitive religions. History records that worship of many gods, goddesses, and deities was viewed by people as important in worship. It was thought that everything had a spirit and was polytheistic, so people had gods and goddesses of the forest, sea, and all aspects of nature. When the civilizations began to change and develop, the gods grew and changed with the people as they began to acquire gods of their occupations, or gods relevant to their village life. The old gods remained, but were changed or conformed to the changing lives of the people. Gods played an important role in every aspect of society influencing
everything from laws and customs to general workings of the community. Reincarnation (rebirth of the body into another bodily form) was believed by the people, but they did not believe in the existence of heaven and hell. Today, Paganism (neo-paganism) celebrates the Earth, living creatures, nature, and so on. Most modern-day pagans believe in more than one god, while others are atheistic. Maiden, Mother, Crone In our effort to increase awareness of Pagan and Neo-Pagan issues and foster a more accurate world-view of the beliefs and practices of Paganism and Neo-Paganism, we have created this area as an open platform to present and explore these issues from every prospective. Pagans do not "recruit" outsiders into their midst by promising a heaven or threatening a hell... those practices, obviously based in fear, only spawn misunderstanding. Pagans (generally) practice what is often referred to as "Earth Religions" Ancient people believed that everything had a spirit and were polytheistic and they placed great importance on the worship of many Gods, Goddesses and Deities. Gods were a part of everyday life and great emphasis was placed on placating them through worship and ritual. Pagans believed that the Gods were immanent and entered every aspect of their society, influencing everything from laws and customs to the general workings of their community. 10,000 BC, during the Paleolithic Age, primitive people were nomadic and had to hunt for their food. This is where the God of the hunt first began. At this time, women found out that their bodies were in tune with the lunar phases, and they worshiped the Goddess deity, and also they were the ones to lead in ritual. Men became priest because some men had to stay with the women because of them being elderly, sick, or wounded. Around 8000-7500 BC, agriculture was found by accident when women put food into the ground and it began to grow. People realized they could grow their own food and then they realized the mystery of fertility. Up until this the deity had been the Goddess of the lunar cult. Men didn‟t understand their role until this. 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 Eutruscans 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 knowledgable 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 6500-4500, there were still remenents 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 mens 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 werethe comman folk, who were balanced and polaric, and sought out the wisdom and the knowledge of the Druids and the Wice. Then, 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 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.
There are many ways of looking at Wicca, witchcraft, and Paganism. One must be open minded and willing to overlook superstitions and misconceptions.
Sources: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/paganism/history/modern_1.shtml http://www.paganfederation.org/paganism.htm http://www.sullivan-county.com/nf0/nov_2000/pagan.htm The Illustrated Guide to Witchcraft, Graham Wyley http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/salem.htm http://wiccanway.net The Complete Book of Witchcraft, Raymond Buckland
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