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~The History of Wicca & Witchcraft
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The history as documented by Kevin Baker.

The history of Wicca is under much debate in the Wiccan community. Some people say that it dates back to as early as the Stone Age. Others say that its origins are much more recent. The problem with the history of Wicca is that there has been much persecution throughout the years, making it very hard to keep accurate records. The more recent history can be confirmed, but the problem lies in the ancient history.

Archaeologist have found drawings in caves from the stone age that would suggest that Wicca, or witchcraft, dates back that far, but it's hard to be certain. In the earliest age of man writing was nonexistent and the drawings found are hard to interpret. It's believed that even in the Stone Age there was some concept of a higher being and there were various forms of worship. Some scholars say that the drawings found were the beginnings of what is know as Wicca today. Others feel that the connection is too weak to make a judgment like that. Evidence has been found to support that there was some form of Wicca in early C.E.

Artifacts have been found from the first few centuries that suggest there were witches back then. Some of these things include decorated knives, mixing bowls and jewelry. The Christian church was also more tolerant of witchcraft in early C.E. People who were found to be practitioners only had to repent with no real threat of harm. Then in the late 13th century the view of magic began to change.

The belief that magic was a form of evil that came from the devil himself grew in the late 13th century. People who practiced witchcraft were viewed as being bonded with Satan and evil. This began what most Wiccans refer to as "The Burning Times". The Inquisition was founded and many witches were put to death. The numbers vary depending on what sources they come from, but the lowest estimates are well into the thousands. The witch-hunts ended by the 18th century, the last outbreak being the Salem witch trials. In Salem, Massachusetts twenty people, supposedly witches, were put to death after an outbreak of hysteria cause by several young girls we said they were bewitched.

Wicca had a low following in the time that followed, up until the mid 20th century. In the mid 20th century there was a rebirth of witchcraft, referred to today as the Neo-Pagan movement. Several writers drew great attention to Wicca and its beliefs. The most famous of these writers was Gerald Gardner who wrote "Witchcraft Today" in 1954 and began to revitalize the Wiccan movement. Today Wicca thrives and has a large following.

The word Wicca was originally the Old English word meaning "a male witch"; "a female witch" was a Wicce; the craft of witches, or "witchcraft", was Wiccecraeft; and "to bewitch" was Wiccian. Just as the Old English words Wicca and Wicce evolved into the Modern English word "witch", so too the word Wiccecraeft evolved into the Modern English word "Witchcraft".

Our Modern English word "witch" is the correct term for anyone who practices witchcraft, the magickal arts of a witch. Nevertheless, there are people who practice the magickal side of witchcraft but not the religious; such folk may be called witches, but they are not Witches. The use of Witch as a proper noun denotes a religious practitioner, of whom Wiccans are a proper subset: "All Wiccans are Witches, but not all Witches are Wiccan."

The word Wicca refers to British Traditional Witchcraft, also called English Traditional Witchcraft: a specific magickal Mystery tradition that evolved down through the centuries along with the evolution of the English people and the English language. The use of the Old English word Wicca distinguishes British Traditional Witchcraft from the many other forms of religious Witchcraft that exist.

While it might seem odd that the Old English word for "male witch" is used today for a kind of Witchcraft, the English language has often used the masculine gender for a mixed gender plural. For example, the word brethren, is used of a mixed-gender group of people related by blood, faith, philosophy, or other affiliation; in other words, "brethren" is used as a synonym for "brothers and sisters". The Wiccan Law of the Craft speaks of "the Brethren", "Brothers and Sisters", "the Craft", and "the Wicca"; clearly, all of these terms are mixed-gender plurals including both male and female. So while the Old English form was "Wiccecraeft", the modern usage has become "Wicca Craft": the Craft of the Wicca.

The following paragraphs explain the terms used in the definition of Wicca in more detail:

The term Initiatory refers both to the Spiritual Initiation that can only be received from the Gods, and to the ritual of Initiation by which an individual is brought into Wicca and consecrated as a Priest (ess) and Witch.
The term Oathbound refers to the Oath of secrecy regarding the "Secrets of the Art" which the Initiate swears during their Initiation. The concept of Initiation, involving an Oath of secrecy, has always been a hallmark of the Pagan Mysteries, for example the Mysteries of Isis and the Eleusinian Mysteries.
The term Magick-using refers to the fact that Wicca is a form of Witchcraft, and therefore all Wiccans are Witches. As such, they practice the Magickal Art, which is part of the Witches' traditional Craft. Magick may be defined as "causing change to occur in conformity to will, through the proper direction of the proper force, in the proper degree, in the proper manner, to achieve the desired result." There are some modern Pagans who call themselves Wiccan, but who deny that the word Wicca has anything to do with Witchcraft or the practice of Magickal Arts; but as we have seen, the etymological and historical evidence clearly proves otherwise. "All Wiccans are Witches, but not all Witches are Wiccan."
The term Pagan refers to the fact that Wicca is one of the Pagan religions that have always existed in the world, religions which affirm that Nature is not apart from, but is a living part of the Divine, and that the Universe is a many-layered Reality in which the ancient Goddesses and Gods worshipped from the earliest times live, move, and have Their Being. The medieval Church insisted those Pagan Deities were "the Devil", and that the Priests and Priestesses who served those Deities were "servants of the Devil". And so those who called themselves the Wicca, the Witches, were viewed by the Church as devil-worshippers, the servants of evil. While there are those who deny that the word Witch was ever connected with the worship of Pagan Deities, the etymological and historical evidence clearly proves otherwise. "All Wiccans are Pagan, but not all Pagans are Wiccan."
The term Mystery refers to a "Divine Secret" or spiritual truth conveyed to the Initiate by means of a secret rite; for the Mysteries themselves cannot be fully expressed in words, since even if that spiritual truth could be fully expressed verbally, it is the inner spiritual experience of that truth which conveys full comprehension and accomplishes the spiritual Initiation.
Etymologists derive the Old English words Wicce and Wicca from the Indo-European root Weik, which according to Webster's New World Dictionary meant "to separate (hence set aside for religious worship)." In other words, "to consecrate". That original meaning, in reference to people rather than to places or things, clearly indicates consecration to a specific Priesthood. In Wicca, the Initiate is consecrated as both Priest(ess) and Witch, thus the word Wicca unites the concepts of "specific consecrated Priesthood", and of "practitioner of the witches' magickal craft", in a single word.

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