What is Wicca? By Laura Jean Karr
In basic terms Wicca is a nature based ceremonial polytheistic Pagan religion but Wicca is by no means a basic Pagan religion to explain. The history that surrounds Wicca and its many different sects complicates the simple intention of this column to quickly inform the reader about the most popular and misunderstood Pagan religion in existence today. We will start with some brief history as to how the Wiccan movement began and then take a look at the different traditions inside the Wiccan religion.
Gerald Gardner, who is often called the father of modern Wicca, was initiated into a coven in 1939. He went on to write many books on the subject of Witchcraft but only mentioned the word Wica in The Meaning of Witchcraft, which was published in 1959. "I realised that I had stumbled upon something interesting; but I was half-initiated before the word, 'Wica' which they used hit me like a thunderbolt, and I knew where I was, and that the Old Religion still existed. And so I found myself in the Circle, and there took the usual oath of secrecy, which bound me not to reveal certain things."-Gerald Gardner. It is interesting to note that though he wrote about witchcraft itself as being the Old Religion; he never used the term Wicca to describe his personal religion. When Gardner developed is own coven he supplemented the rituals from the coven he had been initiated in with rituals from Aleister Crowley’s Golden Dawn, both of whom were members of the Ordo Templi Orientis and Masons as well. This culmination of different magical traditions is what has become known as Wicca.
The basis of today’s wide spread Wiccan beliefs comes from the writings of Doreen Valiente, known as the mother of modern Wicca. Once a High Priestess of Gardner’s New Forest Coven, she began writing her own tenets when she learned of Gardner’s borrowing from the works of Crowley. Doreen’s The Witches’ Creed and The Charge of the Goddess is just a sampling of her work that is used by many who practice Wicca.
Many Wiccan’s of various traditions uphold three of the most popular tenets: the Wiccan Rede and the Three-Fold Law, or Law of Three and the Four Powers of the Magus. The Wiccan Rede states: “Eight words ye Wiccan Rede fulfill - An' it harm none, Do what ye will” holding it’s parishioners to an ethos of doing no harm by their workings. The Law of Three holds that any energy one sends out will be sent back to them three-fold keeping the Wiccan wary of working magick based solely on emotion. The Four Powers of the Magus states: To Know, To Dare, To Will, and To Be Silent. In other words one must be fully knowledgeable about their workings, must have the self confidence to work with energy, must have the ability to work with intent and must have the ability to keep them secret.
Though many in today’s Wiccan community follow the above tenets, other Laws and belief systems vary by certain degrees. The following is a brief list of the many traditions that exist in modern Wicca.
American Wicca: founded by Pierre “Pete Pathfinder” Davis. Based in Index, WA at the Aquarian Tabernacle Church.
American Welsh: founded by Americans Ed Buczynski and Kate Smith. American Welsh began from the New York Welsh tradition also founded by Ed Buczynski.
Amythystian: founded by Lady Amethyst. Amythystian is the American branch of the English Order of the Royal Oak.
Alexandrian: founded by Alex and Maxine Sanders in England brought to America by Monique Wilson. Popularized the world over by Irish authors Janet and Stewart Farrar.
Blue Star (GANCEW) Great American Nontraditional Collectic Eclectic Wicca: founded by American peace activist Franque Dufner, with latter developments by folk musicians Tzipora Katz and Kenny Klein.
Church of Wicca: founded by Gavin and Yvonne Frost. Known as “Baptist Wicca”
Dianic: founded by Americans Morgan McFarland and Mark Roberts. Popularized by Hungarian feminist Zsuzanna “Z” Budapest.
Faerie (Feri): founded by American poet Victor Anderson in Seattle,WA. In part popularized by Pagan activist Starhawk (Miriam Simos) a former student.
Gardnerian: founded by Gerald Gardner in England brought to America by Raymond Buckland.
Georgian: founded by American George Patterson. The Georgian Church is based in Bakersfield, CA.
Seax-Wicca: founded by Englishman Raymond Buckland.
Wiccan Shamanism: founded by Selena Fox.
Y Tylwyth Teg: founded by American Rhuddlwm Gawr (William Wheeler III). The Church of Y Tylwyth Teg in Athens, Georgia serves as headquarters for the Universal Federation of Pagans.
If you would like to learn more about the Wiccan religion and the many traditions within Wicca you can find books at your local libraries and bookstores or you can check it out online. A good starting point for more information would be to visit The Witches’ Voice at www.witchvox.com.
This article is ©Laura Jean Karr2005.