Wicca and Witchcraft

Wicca is a Neopagan religion probably originally founded by the British civil servant Gerald Gardner in the 1930s. Gardner claimed that the religion was a survival of matriarchal religions of pre-historic Europe, taught to him by a woman named Dorothy Clutterbuck. Many believe he invented it himself, drawing on such sources as Aradia: Gospel of the Witches by Charles G. Leland, Freemasonry and ceremonial magic; and while Clutterbuck certainly existed, Ronald Hutton concludes that she is unlikely to have been involved in Gardner's Craft activities.

Though sometimes used interchangeably, "Wicca" and "Witchcraft" are not necessarily the same thing. The confusion comes, understandably, because both practitioners of Wicca and practitioners of Witchcraft are called witches. In addition, many, but not all, Wiccans practice witchcraft and vice versa.

Wicca refers to the religion; the worship of the God & Goddess (or just Goddess), and the Sabbat and Esbat rituals.

Witchcraft, on the other hand, is considered a craft, and is sometimes called "The Craft." Witchcraft usually refers to the casting of spells and the practice of magick (the use of the "k" is to separate the term from stage magic).

Gardnerian Wicca is a path of Wicca named after Gerald Gardner (1884-1964), a British civil servant who studied magic among other things. He knew and worked with many famous occultists, not the least of which was Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). Certain traditional practices had survived in Gardner's family, and he found others who had preserved similar survivals, and shared his beliefs in the ancientry of this knowledge. Gardner set about re-inventing that ancient, ancestral religion. He had little to work with and had to write a good deal of it himself. He borrowed appropriate work from other artists, most notably Aleister Crowley and Rudyard Kipling, Queen Victoria's Poet Laureate. Gardner's High Priestess, Doreen Valiente (1922-2000) wrote much of the most well-known poetry, including the much-quoted Charge of the Goddess. The core group grew slowly and in utter secrecy as Witchcraft was illegal in Britain at the time. When the Witchcraft Laws were replaced, in 1951, by the Fraudulent Mediums Act, Gerald Gardner went public.

Gerald Gardner (1884 - 1964) was a British civil servant, anthropologist, writer and occultist who published some of the definitive texts for modern Wicca and neopaganism.
Beginning in 1908 he was a rubber planter, first in Borneo and then in Malaya. After 1923 he held civil service posts as a government inspector in Malaya. In 1936, at the age of 52, he retired to England. He published an authoritative text, Keris and other Malay Weapons (1936), based on his field research into southeast Asian weapons and magical practices.
Apparently on medical advice, he took up naturism on his return to England, and also pursued his interest in the occult. Through the Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship he claims to have met a family of traditional witches and these, he says, initiated him into the craft in 1939.
He published two works of fiction, A Goddess Arrives (1939) and High Magic's Aid (1949). These were followed by his purportedly-factual works, Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959).
Gerald Gardner's work is the subject of some controversy, but recent exhaustive research has shown that his story is indeed plausible, if not verifiable.

Some neopagans regard Gardnerian Wicca as a "fundamentalist" path, in that it demands fairly strict adherence to the procedures and principles laid down by Gardner, as well as stringent requirements for initiation.

Dianic tradition ("Dianic" as in "of Diana") is a branch of the Wiccan religion. It is a feminist, earth-based neo-pagan religion revived by Zsuzsanna Budapest in the 1970s.

Dianic tradition is difficult to define, because it is a spiritual tradition that encourages creativity and celebrates diversity. There are few Dianics who see themselves allied with or involved in a specific lineage, though most acknowledge Z Budapest as the founder of the tradition, even if they don't acknowledge her as their foremother or base their practices on her ovarian book, The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries.

For some, Dianic tradition is folk religion. It's about hedge-witchery or kitchen-witchery. For others, Dianic tradition is more formal, with highly developed liturgy and cosmology. For most, in its essence Dianic tradition is a Women's Mysteries tradition, linked to such traditions across time and across cultures. These practices and beliefs are not a rejection or dismissal of men and male gods. They are a celebration of women's bodies, women's experiences: the biology and culture of womanhood.

Most Dianics conceive of and experience the pagan Wheel of the Year in terms of both seasonal reality and also the life stages of women and of the Great Goddess: maiden, mother, queen, crone and hag.

Dianic tradition, like most Wiccan traditions, focuses on large-group ritual and on the sabbats (seasonal holy days). Some traditions focus more on the esbats (full-moon days) and on spellcrafting. Many Dianics are solitary practitioners, either preferring to work solo or dismayed at the politics and process of women's struggles to embody their power in a world where patriarchy has defined power in terms of oppression rather than empowerment.


See Dianic Wicca

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