There are many different beliefs about the origin of Wicca. Some believe it is a religion based on ancient northern European pagan beliefs, and some believe it began as rituals associated with fire, animal fertility, tribal fertility and the curing of disease, among others. Many believe that it evolved as a dominant religion of the Celts, and at the same time, others believe that theirs is a religion that did not descend from such earlier religions.
It all depends on how one looks at Wicca. It could be considered as one of the oldest religions, or one of the newest Neopagan religions. Wiccans – the followers of Wicca – consider themselves as Neopagans. Neopagan religions can be defined as religions that reconstruct ‘ancient Pagan belief systems which had been abandoned’. Variously, Wiccans consider themselves as:
• Monotheistic – as they recognize a single supreme being. The Goddess and God are considered the female and male aspects of this single deity.
• Duotheistic – as they often worship a female Goddess and a male God, called the Lady and Lord.
• Polytheistic - as they recognize many ancient Gods and Goddesses, including Pan, Diana, Dionysius, Fergus, among many others.
Some Wiccans also consider themselves to be atheists, depending on how one defines atheists.
Wicca, as a Neopagan religion was founded in the 1940s by a British Civil Servant – Gerald Gardner. His books on the religion had references to the Celtic deities, and symbols, etc, as well as to ceremonial magic and practices. Such things led many to look at Wicca as witchcraft. Today, the many traditions of Wicca are a part of Neopagan group of earth-based religions.
Wiccans who pray to their Gods and Goddesses consider the relationship more of a partnership, than like the relationships that exist between the worshippers and their God in other religions, including Christianity. Their supreme deity is often called ‘The All,’ or ‘The One.’ The Wiccans have a different view of their deity, and so do most of the major religions of the world. Wiccans might relate to Athena, Brigit, Ceridwen, Diana, Hecate, Ishtar, Isis, Venus, among others, in place of their Goddess and God.
The three major religions – those that ensued from Abraham - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all have different views of their deity. Their offshoots, such as conservative Protestant, Roman Catholic, liberal Protestant, Islam, Reform Judaism, Orthodox Judaism, and Conservative Judaism, among others, too, have a different conception of their God.
The child born to the Wiccan parents does not automatically become a Wiccan. It is their belief that only a matured person can make a choice of the religion he/she wants to follow, and this an infant can hardly do. Once an adult decides to become a Wiccan, there are certain initiation rituals, where he declares himself to be a Wiccan. The rituals may take many forms, starting with the consecration of a sacred space; invocation of the deities; the ritual itself, which may include magic, casting of spells, a community meal, dancing, readings, singing, among other rituals; and restoring the space to ordinary use.
Though virtually unknown to the general American public, Wiccan is the fifth largest religion in the United States after Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism, with around 750,000 adherents. For many, Witchcraft and Wicca are synonymous. The adherents of Wicca believe that Witchcraft is not Satanism, as per the Christian school of thought. Satan, according to them, is a very Christian concept, and this concept also prevails in Islam. As per the Christian thought, Witchcraft has negative connotations, which Wicca does not have. Wicca teaches about survival, and about the innate powers of Nature.