wicca


wicca
/wik"euh/, n.
(sometimes cap.) witchcraft, esp. benevolent, nature-oriented practices derived from pre-Christian religions.
[1970-75; < OE wicca (male) sorcerer (ME wicche, mod. dial. witch); see WITCH]

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Modern Western witchcraft movement.

Some practitioners consider Wicca the religion of pre-Christian Europe, forced underground by the Christian church. That thesis is not accepted by historians, and modern Wicca is usually dated to the work of Gerald B. Gardner (1884–1964) and Doreen Valiente (1922–1999), who, after the repeal of the last Witchcraft Act in England (1951), went public with their cult of witchcraft, which centered on a horned god of fertility and a great earth goddess. Gardner is credited with introducing the term Wicca. So-called "Dianic" Wicca focuses on the Goddess as the supreme being and usually excludes men. Wiccans share a belief in the importance of the feminine principle, a deep respect for nature, and a pantheistic and polytheistic worldview. They practice some form of ritual magic, almost always considered good or constructive. Some are solitary practitioners; others belong to covens.

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Introduction

      a predominantly Western movement whose followers practice witchcraft and nature worship and who see it as a religion based on pre-Christian traditions of northern and western Europe. It spread through England in the 1950s and subsequently attracted followers in Europe and the United States.

Origins and beliefs
      Although there were precursors to the movement, the origins of modern Wicca can be traced to a retired British civil servant, Gerald Brousseau Gardner (1884–1964). Gardner spent most of his career in Asia, where he became familiar with a variety of occult beliefs and magical practices. He also read widely in Western esoteric literature, including the writings of the British occultist Aleister Crowley. Returning to England shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Gardner became involved in the British occult community and founded a new movement based on a reverence of nature, the practice of magic, and the worship of a female deity (the Goddess) and numerous associated deities (such as the Horned God). He also borrowed liberally from Western witchcraft traditions. Following the 1951 repeal of England's archaic Witchcraft Laws, Gardner published Witchcraft Today (1954), founded his first coven of followers, and, with input from its members, especially author Doreen Valiente, developed modern witchcraft into what today is known as Wicca. It spread quickly to the United States in the late 1960s, when an emphasis on nature, unconventional lifestyles, and a search for spirituality divorced from traditional religions were especially in vogue.

      Covens, which ideally number 10 to 15 members and are entered through an initiation ritual, sometime align with one of many coven associations. As coven members master the practice of magic and become familiar with the rituals, they pass through two degrees of initiation. There is a third degree for those who wish to enter the priesthood. In Gardner's system priority is given to the priestess, and leaders in the Gardnerian community trace their authority through a lineage of priestesses back to Gardner's coven.

      Despite variation within the Wiccan community, most believers share a general set of beliefs and practices. They believe in the Goddess, respect nature, and hold both polytheistic and pantheistic views. Most Wiccans accept the so-called Wiccan Rede, an ethical code that states “If it harm none, do what you will.” Wiccans believe in meditation and participate in rituals throughout the year, celebrating the new and full moon, as well as the vernal equinox, summer solstice, and Halloween, which they call Samhain. Wiccan rites include invoking the aid of the deities, practicing ceremonial magic, and sharing a ritual meal.

      Most controversial to outsiders is that Wiccans call themselves witches, a term which most Westerners identify with satanism. As a result, Wiccans are continually denying any connection with Satan or devil worship. Wiccans have also attempted to establish ties with other polytheistic (Hindu) and nature-oriented (Native American) religious communities.

Later developments
      By the 1980s there were an estimated 50,000 Wiccans in western Europe and North America. Although the growth rate slowed by the end of the decade, Wicca gained increasing social acceptance and diversified to include numerous variations on Gardner's original teachings and rituals. Moreover, new Wiccan groups emerged independent of the Gardnerians, including one led by Alexander Sanders (1926–1988), the Dianic Wiccans who saw Wicca as a woman's religion, and the parallel Neo-Pagan (Neo-Paganism) movement, which also worshipped the Goddess and practiced witchcraft but eschewed the designation witch. A major controversy developed in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, when a faction of Wiccans broke with Gardner's notion that clothes inhibited magical workings and chose not to follow his practice of worshiping in the nude. Instead they donned ritual robes, claiming pre-Gardnerian sources for their beliefs, and called themselves Traditionalists.

      As Wicca and Neo-Paganism moved into their second generation, belief faded in the notion that Gardner had inherited a set of witchcraft rituals and practices that had been passed on through a tradition with unbroken ties to pre-Christian paganism. Although many Wiccans once cited the work of Margaret Murray, including The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921) and her article “Witchcraft” published in the 14th edition of Encyclopædia Britannica (1929), in support of their belief in the ancient origins of their religion, they now generally recognize that Wicca began with Gardner and his associates.

      As the 21st century began, Wiccans and Neo-Pagans were found throughout the English-speaking world and across northern and western Europe. Two international fellowships, the Pagan Federation and the Universal Federation of Pagans, now serve the larger Wiccan/Neo-Pagan community.

John Gordon Melton

Additional Reading
J. Gordon Melton and Isotta Poggi, Magic, Witchcraft, and Paganism in America, 2nd ed. (1992), provides an overview of Wiccan literature. The best survey of the movement is Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, rev. and expanded ed. (1986, reissued 1997); and entries on the major Wiccan groups in North America appear in J. Gordon Melton, Encyclopedia of American Religions (1999). On the British phase of the movement, see J.L. Bracelin, Gerald Gardner (1960); and Doreen Valiente, The Rebirth of Witchcraft (1989). Helpful volumes on North American Wicca include Aidan A. Kelly, Crafting the Art of Magic (1991– ); and the several volumes published in the series Witchcraft Today and from Llewellyn Publications, the major publisher of Wiccan literature in America.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Wicca — Wic ca (w[i^]k k[.a]), prop. n. [OE. wicche wizard, AS. wicce, fem., wicca, masc.; see also {witch} and {wicked}.] 1. A religion derived from pre Christian times, also called {Witchcraft}[4], which practices a benevolent reverence for nature, and …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Wicca — Wic ca (w[i^]k k[.a]), prop. n. [OE. wicche wizard, AS. wicce, fem., wicca, masc.; see also {witch} and {wicked}.] 1. A religion derived from pre Christian times, also called {Witchcraft}[4], which practices a benevolent reverence for nature, and …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Wicca — An Old English masc. noun meaning male witch, wizard, soothsayer, sorcerer, magician; see WITCH (Cf. witch). Use of the word in modern contexts traces to English folklorist Gerald Gardner (1884 1964), who is said to have joined circa 1939 an… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Wicca — ► NOUN ▪ the religious cult of modern witchcraft. DERIVATIVES Wiccan adjective & noun. ORIGIN Old English, «witch» …   English terms dictionary

  • Wicca — [wik′ə] n. [OE, sorcerer (fem. wicce): see WITCH] a form of witchcraft practiced in the 20th cent. esp. in English speaking countries, characterized by pagan nature worship and white magic: sometimes with the Wiccan [wik′ən] adj …   English World dictionary

  • Wicca — Das Pentakel, ein Symbol, das auch von der Wicca Religion verwendet wird Wicca [ˈwɪkə] ist eine neureligiöse Bewegung[1] und versteht sich als eine wiederbelebte Naturreligion und als …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Wicca — This article is about the duotheistic religion. For other uses, see Wicca (disambiguation). This pentacle, worn as a pendant, depicts a pentagram, or five pointed star, used as a symbol of Wicca by many adherents. Wicca (pronounced  …   Wikipedia

  • Wicca — La Wicca est une religion, basée sur l Ancienne Religion. Elle est en général considérée comme une philosophie. Elle inclut des éléments que l on peut trouver dans nombre de croyances telles que le chamanisme, le druidisme, et les mythologies… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Wicca — El pentáculo (un pentagrama dentro de un círculo) es un símbolo de fe usado por muchos wiccanos Wicca Fundador Gerald Gardner sobre 1953 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Wicca — Пентаграмма, символ веры, используется многими викканами. Викка (англ. Wicca)  неоязыческая религия, основанная на почитании природы[1] . Она стала популярна в 1954 году благодаря Джеральду Гарднеру, английскому государственному служащему в… …   Википедия


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