Wicca is a Neopagan religion found in many different countries, though most commonly in English-speaking cultures. Wicca was first publicized in 1954 by a British civil servant and Co-Freemason named Gerald Gardner after the British Witchcraft Act was repealed. He claimed that the religion, of which he was an initiate, was a modern survival of an old witch cult, which had existed in secret for hundreds of years, originating in the pre-Christian Paganism of Europe. Wicca is sometimes referred to as the Old Religion. The veracity of Gardner's claims cannot be independently proven, and it is thought that Wiccan theology began to be compiled no earlier than the 1920s. Various related Wiccan traditions have since evolved, or been adapted from, the form established by Gardner, which came to be called Gardnerian Wicca. These other traditions of Wicca each have specific beliefs, rituals, and practices. Most traditions of Wicca remain secretive and require members to be initiated. However, there is a growing movement of Eclectic or Solitary Wiccans who adhere to the religion but do not believe a traditional initiation is necessary.
The branches of Wicca
There are many different branches for Wicca possibly hundreds so I have listed a few more commoner ones.
was founded by Gerald Gardner
In Gardnerian Wicca there are sexual over tones, they prefer to go skyclad during circle rituals...meaning to go nude. This tradition focuses on the God and goddess who are equally balanced and they do celebrate the 8 sabbats as well as esbats. Gardner considered the occult witchcraft practiced in England to be the remnants of ancient earth-based worship system and his wiccan tradition was his attempt to restore that ancient religious system. Gardnerian Wicca was brought to America around approximately 1963 with the help of Raymond Buckland. Today Wicca and other traditions are on the rise due to many different reasons. The Elders in this Country over the years have been fighting very hard to receive the same rights and laws as other
religions in America.
Founded by Alex Sanders and his wife Maxine in the 1960's, the Alexandrian Tradition originated in England. Alex Sanders was often referred to as the “King of the Witches”, and with the help of his wife Maxine, they were instrumental in opening up Wicca to the general public. During the 1960’s and early 70’s, they were responsible for initiating many hundreds of newcomers into the craft, amongst whom where Stewart Farrar and Janet Owen. In the early days the original rituals of the tradition are thought to have been Gardnerian, plagiarized by Alex and embellished with a few of his own amendments. These he then used to found his own coven from which emerged the Alexandrian Tradition. Today although still similar to Gardnerian in terms of its hierarchical structure, the Alexandrian Tradition tends to be more eclectic and liberal, focusing strongly on ceremonial magick.
It is, of course, hard to quantify just what makes the essential "Alexandrian Tradition", as covens vary considerably, even within the same culture. I have yet to encounter two covens who work precisely the same way, even from the same line. Generally though, Alexandrian covens focus strongly upon training, which includes areas more generally associated with ceremonial magic, such as Qabalah, Angelic Magic, and Enochian. The typical Alexandrian coven has a hierarchical structure, and generally meets weekly, or at least on Full Moons, New Moons and Festivals.
Most Alexandrian covens will allow non-initiates to attend circles, usually as a "neophyte", who undergoes basic training in circle craft, and completes a number of projects, prior to being accepted by the coven for initiation to 1st degree. Some, though not all, Alexandrian covens will also welcome non-initiated "guests" at certain meetings. My own first experience of Wicca was as a guest of an Alexandrian coven.
Alexandrian Wicca uses essentially the same tools and rituals as Gardnerian Wicca, though in some cases, the tools are used differently, and the rituals have been adapted. Another frequent change is to be found in the names of deities and guardians of the quarters. In some ways these differences are merely cosmetic, but in others, there are fundamental differences in philosophy.
That said, over the last thirty years, the two traditions have moved slowly towards each other, and the differences which marked lines of demarcation are slowly fading away. Individual covens certainly continue to maintain different styles and working practices, but it is possible to speak today of "Wicca" encompassing both traditions.
Celtic witchcraft is Wicca with a Celtic twist. Rituals, legends, and deities come from Celtic lore and are often based on the Druidic tradition. They put heavy stress on elements, nature, and the Ancient Ones in their rituals. Celtic witches tend to be more knowledgeable about the properties of herbs, plants, stones, and trees, and use them often in their healing spells and rituals.
Though it is not officially attributed to a single individual, there seems to be a connection to Gavin and Yvonne Frost. This tradition is mostly focused on the male aspect of Wicca but has recently begun to emphasize on the goddess aspect as well as the Gods and goddesses of ancient Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, emphasizing a balance between the God and Goddess. Celtic Wiccans seek to be closely attuned to nature (Gaia). Therefore, they use herbalism and divination, revere women, seek a connection with the ancestors and land spirits. This tradition also emphasizes poetry in its magick,
The old Celtic religious system was polytheistic and nature based with focus on meditation. It uses three concentric circles of salt, sulphur, and herbs. It is also known as Baptist Wicca.
Dianic witchcraft is considered to be a branch of feminist Wicca. The covens usually consist of women, and they honour the goddess of the Moon and hunt, Diana (who is also known as the Greek goddess Artemis). These covens generally focus their energy on the Goddess as the ultimate creator. Some Dianics identify themselves as Wiccans, but most prefer to be called Witches or a priestess of the Goddess.
is a relatively new phenomenon in relation to traditional witchcraft, though the goddess Diana has been revered since ancient times. Zsuzsanna Budapest of California founded the tradition in the United States during the 1960’s, and in the early 70’s was arrested and tried for her belief’s.
Dianic Wicca is a feminist religion, for women only. They honour the deities in their feminine aspects only, and never invoke the God or other male aspects into their rituals or sacred spaces. This practice has caused many conflicts and heated discussions amongst its members. Aside from this exclusion of men, they follow the same ritual paths and beliefs as other Wiccan traditions.
Many Dianic members are politically active in the feminist movement, striving to lift the oppression of female rights, and to bring about the equality of the sexes into all walks of life. This is not a requirement of the tradition; its left to the individual to make her own stand and practice her own beliefs.
Druidic Witchcraft is an eclectic tradition, drawing its beliefs and practices from a variety of sources. These include elements of the Druid religion, as well as Irish, Celtic, and Gardnerian beliefs. Their coven training consists of a degree structure similar to that advocated by other traditions. The International Red Garter is perhaps their most popular Order at this time.
Druidic Witchcraft should not be confused with that of the Druid Religion, which is entirely different. Druids are not witches and do not practice magick, though there are many links and similarities between the two. For instance, the traditional cauldron of the witches is in likeness to the Sacred Cauldron of Inspiration, which is presided over by the Goddess Cerridwen, who is revered by the Bards and Druids
Other similarities include the four great annual festivals celebrated by the Druids, these mark the four changing seasons; Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn, and are identical to the four great Sabbats celebrated by witches. The Druids also celebrate the lesser Sabbats, the solstices and equinoxes, known to them by their Druidic names as the four Albans; Alban Arthan – the winter solstice, Alban Eilir – the spring equinox, Alban Hefin – the summer solstice, and Alban Elfed – the autumn equinox.
The Druids in common with witches hold to a belief in reincarnation. They are taught that the human soul has to pass through a number of existences while in Abred, the Circle of Necessity, before attaining to Gwynvyd, the Circle of Blessedness. Abred was the condition of earthly existence, but once transcended and its lessons learned, the soul would return to it no more. Three things hold back the soul’s progression to achieve Gwynvyd - Pride, Falsehood, and Cruelty.
An eclectic Wiccan as the term implies doesn't follow any strict traditional guidelines, instead they practice the beliefs that suit them best. They often mix traditions to find that which most suits their own stance on religion or belief’s. They practice whatever magick they consider obtains best results, and study those parts of any religion that best suit their lifestyles. This is mostly of modern origin; previously most Wiccan traditions had more restricting boundaries. The eclectic tradition marks witchcraft's expansion into a patchwork quilt of various beliefs and theories. Although this isn't exactly an "official" tradition there are many Wiccans that call themselves Eclectic, in fact most solitary Wiccans consider themselves eclectic. What this means is that they have combined elements from several different traditions into one they feel comfortable with. Many of the newer traditions started out as Eclectic.
Also referred to as the fae, fey, feri, faerie, fairy, and fairie tradition. Founded by Victor and Cora Anderson in the mid-late 1950’s, when they were inspired to form their own tradition after reading a book by Gerald B. Gardner “Witchcraft Today”. Anderson was responsible for writing most of the tradition’s rituals, which he initially based on fairy folklore and beliefs, he is still universally recognized as the Grand Master of the Faery Tradition. In 1959, Victor initiated the late Gwydion Pendderwen, who then aged 13, would later become a leading voice in the Faery Tradition.
An old African priestess initiated Victor Anderson into Witchcraft in 1926, they practiced a form of Witchcraft with Huna and African influences, and which was primarily Dahomean-Haitian. Anderson is now one of the last genuine Kahuna. Some of these earlier influences he incorporated into the new Faery tradition. Pendderwen after visiting with an Alex Sanders coven in England, incorporated material from the Alexandrian Book of Shadows. Today the tradition has evolved and contains of a mixture of Green Wicca, Celtic and Druidic practices, as well as modern Witchcraft.
The Faery Tradition honours the Goddess and Her son, brother and lover (The Divine Twins) as the primary creative forces in the universe. The Gods are seen as real spirit beings like ourselves, and not merely aspects of our psyche. The tradition is an ecstatic tradition, rather than a fertility tradition with emphasis on polytheism, practical magic, self-development and theurgy. Strong emphasis is also placed on sensual experience and awareness, including sexual mysticism, which is not limited to heterosexual expression.
This is a mystery tradition of power, mystery, danger, ecstasy, and direct communication with divinity. Most initiates are in the arts and incorporate their own poetry, music and invocations into rituals. The Tradition is gender-equal, and all sexual orientations seem able to find a niche. According to Francesca De Grandis, founder of the 3rd Road branch: “Faerie power is not about a liturgy but about one's body: a Fey shaman's blood and bones are made of stars and Faerie dust. A legitimate branch of Faerie is about a personal vision that is the Fey Folks' gift to a shaman”. Initially small and secretive, many of the fundamentals of the tradition have reached a large audience, mainly through the writings of Starhawk, the tradition’s most famous initiate. Some secret branches of the tradition remain but while only a few hundred initiates can trace their lineage directly back to Victor Anderson; many thousands are estimated to practice neo-Faery Traditions.
Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch)
The traditional British Witch, a Kitchen Witch is a person that practices from home by hearth and concentrates on the practical side of religion, magick, earth mysteries and the elements. Normally he or she is a solitary practitioner and does not belong to a coven or particular tradition, relying instead on self-study, personal discernment, and intuition. In many ways the Kitchen Witch is akin to the old village Witch who lived a solitary life but was called upon for spells and healing potions by the local folk.
The Kitchen Witch commonly works with a familiar spirit, and incorporates the use of herbs, trance, and shamanic techniques such as drumming to induce altered states of consciousness. It’s a more convenient form of practice for those who have limited space and resources like today’s suburban and busy professional city witches. Their focus is on practicality, the use of magick in the home and in the workplace with convenient rituals that include readily available ingredients available at short notice, and on a tight budget.
The Kitchen Witch is usually very involved with working for the ecology of the planet, and tries to use only natural objects and materials for ritual and magick purposes