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The pentacle , a symbol that is also used in the Wiccan religion
Other symbols used in Wicca

Wicca (sometimes pronounced [ ˈwitʃa ], for male " witcher "; pronunciation according to the English model [ ˈwɪkə ]) is a new religious movement , dating back to the first half of the 20th century, which can be assigned to Neopaganism . It sees itself as a newly designed, nature-loving spirituality and as a mystery religion . It is a mystery religion in the sense that value is also placed on the knowledge of one's own life and inner transformation. Wicca also sees itself as the "religion of the witches," and most followers refer to themselves as witches . In contrast to most neo-pagan movements, many of the different Wiccan movements are explicitly syncretistic .

There are numerous parallels to the cult of the Great Goddess ; In Wicca, on the other hand, a female and a male god are equal partners and representatives of a polar nature.

Almost all Wicca followers have in common the celebration of the eight annual festivals and the magical rituals ( esbats ) based on the lunar cycle .


Wiccan altar

The term Wicca was taken from Anglo-Saxon , where the word wicca (male form) means "witcher", " magician "; the feminine form of this word is wicce (sometimes pronounced [ ˈwiʧe ], plural for both genders wiccan [ ˈwitʃan ]). The English word witch for 'witch' goes back linguistically to wicce or wicca . The esoteric term first appears in the form of Wica in Gardner's Witchcraft Today (1954) as a name for the representatives of the "ancient religion" he describes (and not for Wicca itself). The spelling Wicca is first recorded in 1969.

There are different opinions about the origins of the Old English wicca , wicce . The palatalized / ʧ / speaks for the derivation of the masculine from the feminine noun or derivation of both from the associated verb wiccian , "behexen". Possibly related is Viglius , "divination," which in turn points to the reconstructed Indo-European root word * away due, probably alertness and vivacity called. This is also supported by the name wicker , which is still used in Low German today, for a clairvoyant or magician. Jacob Grimm , on the other hand, connects the word with Gothic Weihs , "holy".

Gerald Gardner and other Wicca writers have instead suggested an origin from the Old English word wita for "wise man" or witan for "to know", which refers to the fact that witches were originally considered wise women. Because of this derivation, Wicca is now sometimes referred to as the “Craft of the Wise” . This etymology was proposed by Walter William Skeat as early as the 19th century and would interpret wicca as a modification of the earlier witga . Since no old English spelling with t is known, this etymology is considered unlikely.

Robert Graves (1948) suggests a connection to the root word * wei , which means "to bend", and therefore sees word relationships with willow ("willow") and wicker (plaited wicker). The reference to witchcraft is therefore the use of magic to “bend” or “bend” the forces of nature or in a more abstract form as a reference to the idea of ​​the “weavers of fate” (see also Nornen ). Grave's guess is also unlikely.

In Germany, “Wicca” was a term protected under trademark law for a short time, but the entry was deleted after a few months. Also common are the terms “old religion” “old path”, which express that Wicca sees itself in the accepted tradition of original cults that do not separate magic and religion. Even Charles Leland described in his book Aradia - The teaching of the witches from 1899 to witchcraft as "la Vecchia Religione", so as "the Old Religion".

Completely independently of Gerald Gardner , JRR Tolkien used the term wicca for the two magicians Gandalf and Saruman as early as 1942 in his first manuscript for The Two Towers of The Lord of the Rings . This is evidenced by a footnote in Chapter 20, The Riders of Rohan , in the seventh volume of the twelve-volume documentation of his work by his son Christopher . However, in the 1969 edition of The Lord of the Rings , Tolkien replaced the term wicca with wizard .


Wicca is one of the groups with the largest number of members in the spectrum of Neopaganism and is particularly widespread in the Anglo-American region. In the USA , Wicca has been officially recognized as a religion since 1994. The estimates of the number of people in the USA who feel part of the Wicca religion vary widely, as the demarcation against other neo-pagan schools is not clear and some people practice different forms of spirituality. It is estimated that by 1990 their number was more than 200,000 in the US, 30,000 in the UK and 800,000 worldwide. The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) showed an increase in the number of Wiccan believers in the US from 134,000 in 2001 to 342,000 seven years later in 2008.

History and structure

History of the Wicca Movement

Vivianne Crowley
Selena Fox

The Wicca religion was founded by Gerald Brousseau Gardner (1884–1964). He stated that he was in an existing Hexencoven , the New Forest Coven , initiated Service. From 1969 the spelling “Wicca” was used for the first time. In later years, in addition to Gardner, Vivianne Crowley , Doreen Valiente, and Eleanor Bone were other leaders who contributed to the development of this faith. Valiente wrote many of today as "traditional" known texts (eg. As The Charge of the Goddess and The Wiccan Creed ), as they revised several passages of the Book of Shadows , by Gerald Gardner from the works of Aleister Crowley were taken . Gardner and Valiente split over disagreements and Patricia Crowther succeeded them.

Stewart Farrar
Janet Farrar (right) and Gavin Bone

The Alexandrian Lineage was founded by Alex Sanders , although it is not unequivocally clarified by whom Sanders was initiated. The founding of the Alexandrian Line was initially considered a schism , but is now part of Wicca in the narrower sense.

Wicca was brought to America by Raymond and Rosemary Buckland - initiators of the Gardner line - where Buckland also founded his own line, the Seax Wica , in later years . In America, Wicca was enriched with elements of feminist goddess spirituality ( Dianic Wicca , Reclaiming tradition) by Zsuzsanna Budapest and Miriam Simos (better known as Starhawk ), while neo-shamanistic influences were introduced by Selena Fox , e.g. B. African and Native American traditions like drums, ecstatic dances and vision work.

Janet and Stewart Farrar published numerous hitherto unknown rituals in their books in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly most of today's eight Sabbath rituals. Janet Farrar rejected the allegation that with this announcement of secret rituals they violated the Wicca covens' requirement of silence. She replied that these rituals had either previously been made public by Gerald Gardner himself or by Doreen Valiente, or that they had only been recreated by the Farrars on the basis of older sources.

Both Raymond Buckland and Janet Farrar and her new husband Gavin Bone (they married about a year after Stewart's death) rejected the exclusivity of initiation within the existing lines of tradition as dogmatism. They advocated self-initiation, which is actually an initiation by the Goddess and God, as Doreen Valiente emphasized in her book in 1978. Vivianne Crowley did not reject self-initiation as a matter of principle either, but considered it only an emergency solution. The modern eclectic Neowicca of the so-called free-flying witches, who are self-initiated and not organized in coven, led to an enormous increase in the spread of Wicca since the end of the 1980s , among other things through the bestsellers by Scott Cunningham and Silver RavenWolf . At the same time, however, there were also opposing efforts to preserve the Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions.


The traditional Wicca followers usually join a convent or coven , a working and worship group, a form of organization that is said to go back to the Scottish belief in witches, but probably has older sources.

No two covens are alike in their beliefs, and even the basic structure described is not necessarily the same in all coven. The styles range from Egyptian to Celtic to Indian or syncretistic mixtures - in ethnology, this is called an eclectic approach. Most covens claim a connection to pre-Christian religions.

According to the traditional view, a coven ideally consists of 13 people (a number that has a special meaning in Wicca), who are divided into working pairs of women and men, if possible. The high priest couple is seen as a unit and, as it were, as one person. Larger covens tend to split up and produce a daughter coven. In the Wicca tradition, a coven has a high priestess and a high priest ( initiated at least in the second degree ) as head as well as a maiden (“the girl” or “the virgin”) as the deputy high priestess. All three have specific tasks in most rituals . The coven meets especially on the holidays ( Sabbat ) and the full moon days ( Esbat ). Some, but not all covens practice "in the sky dress" (from English skyclad , ritual nudity ' ), as a sign of their connection to nature and personal freedom. Others wear special clothes or just everyday clothes.

If the number of members of a coven becomes too large, a working couple of the mother coven with any number of members they have taken along form a new circle, traditionally at least three miles (about five kilometers) away from the mother coven. The removal is intended to prevent the emergence of an organized religion or church .


Gerald Gardner's Book of Shadows
Book cover of a book of shadows with pentacles

The initiation ceremony for the official religious inauguration in a witch's coven is held by an opposite-sex high priest. Through the initiation (among other things) the initiator voluntarily dedicates himself to a certain divine being and the mediation of knowledge and deeper insight based on ancient mystery cults. In Wicca there are a total of three degrees: The first degree is the degree of Goddess and Water. The second degree is the degree of God. With the second degree, the Wicca is ordained a high priest. With this rank it would already be possible to lead your own coven. The connection with the universal energy , the union of God and Goddess - the animus and the anima (according to Vivianne Crowley, 2004) - is the work in the third degree, but this is also seen differently by some Wiccans.

As part of the initiation, a handwritten “ Book of Shadows ” is passed on. This book, which is passed on within a cove, is not static, but is supplemented or expanded over time. In some traditions, the original version of the respective line is also handed down. This mainly contains rituals, less dogmas or fixed guidelines. Furthermore, many covens have their own “Book of Shadows”, in which secret knowledge, rituals, invocations and personal experiences can be entered.

Cult practice


Wicca symbol for the goddess ( full moon and two crescent moon )
Symbol for the horned god (moonship and full moon or sun)

Wicca believe that everything is fundamentally one and connected ( holism ). They venerate nature as holy, since it is one with the divine original ground and gives people strength in physical and spiritual terms ( chthonism ). An important principle of belief is the rule “ As above, so below” , which is supposed to mean that in all areas of the cosmos, large and small, the same polar principles of order are at work and that always reflect the whole, even in the smallest. The sentence originally comes from the hermetic script Tabula Smaragdina . It now represents a widespread understanding in the area of ​​esoteric and New Age thinking. Wicca is therefore not a dualistic religion that regards God and creation as separate from one another and is therefore to be understood more panentheistic than theistic .

Sun and triple moon (symbol of the unity of God and Goddess)

The two polar powers, which are at the center, are described as the triple moon goddess (virgin, mother, wise) or earth mother or mother goddess, as well as the dual horned god ( fertility god and death god ; frequently associated aspects: sacrificed god of the year, green man , heavenly father, Sun god ) personified. Similar to the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung , however, these deities are viewed by many Wiccans only as archetypes of the collective unconscious or as symbols for anima and animus in the individual subconscious. Typically the goddess stands for the passive and lunar female principle ( yin ) and the horned god for the active and solar male principle ( yang ), whereby the horn symbolizes procreative power, power and strength. These two principles are equal and both are necessary, because the whole divine is understood as the union of these polarities . For some theologians, Wicca is therefore only superficially duo-theistic, since at least certain traditions and currents in Wicca also have monotheistic or non-dual aspects.

Dryghten symbol (combination of the triple moon with the symbol of the Horned God)

The goddess and god are often seen as polar aspects of an all-encompassing, asexual and monistic one, which Patricia Crowther called Dryghten . This old Germanic word is found as Dryghtyn as a name for God in some old English Bibles. It is related to the Old High German trôthin and trëuga , based on the Proto-Indo-European * trw . This idea of ​​an All-One , which is not shared by all Wiccans, is similar to the Hindu concept of Brahman or the Buddhist Shunyata as well as the Taoist Tao or the alchemical Azoth . Since Wicca, like followers of many other forms of neo-paganism, believe in the sense of a philosophical panpsychism that everything in the world is alive and animated and connected by a world soul , there are also clear references to the animism of original " natural religions ". The ideas of the existence of several layers of energy bodies (etheric body, astral body, etc.), which should interact with the physical body through the seven chakras and the so-called silver cord , are often adopted from the Far Eastern religions and theosophy . Energy work is therefore a central component of the magical rituals. According to the religious scholar Michael Bäumer, the rituals of the Wicca movement are a modern form of love and success magic. Out of body experiences are also seen as a means of magic, whereby the so-called flight ointments of earlier "witches" are said to have supported such experiences with intoxicating drugs .

For many followers of Wicca and other forms of witchcraft or goddess spirituality, however, the idea of ​​a triune goddess who changes in the cycle of the year and to which certain festivals are assigned is more important than the question of mono- or polytheism :

  • In spring the “bright, youthful, atmospheric goddess is celebrated, embodied in the hunting girl.” (“Amazone”)
  • The summer is the time of Mother Goddess , "which makes fertile with her erotic power earth and water, animals and people, land and sea and thus sustains life."
  • In winter , the rebirth of life is celebrated, symbolized by the Greisingöttin , "the goddess of death as Old Woman Who dissolves all life in the abyss and can also be resurrected from the depths. She is the mysterious deity of eternal doom and eternal return; it determines the astronomical cycles (setting and rise of the stars) and thus also the cycles of vegetation and human life; thus she is the mistress of the cosmic order and the eternal wisdom in person. "

All three figures form a deity; they are never completely separate from each other. The idea of ​​the triune goddess wandering the annual cycle goes back primarily to writings of the 19th century, including the "Cambridge Ritualists" by Jane Ellen Harrison , Gilbert Murray , FM Cornford and AB Cook, but was mainly made by James Frazer popularized in his work "The Golden Branch" and Robert Graves ' "The White Goddess".

The male opposite pole, the horned god , on the other hand, is worshiped either in three or two forms, in the forms of the youthful god of light or divine child and the wild man or lord of the animals as well as lord of the underworld . Like the Great Goddess , the Horned God also wanders through the cycle of the year:

God and goddess

Wicca often “work” with different deities in their rituals. Just like Hindus, but in contrast to real polytheists , Wicca see these deities only as different manifestations or facets of their two main main deities, the goddess and god. The principle "All goddesses are one goddess and all gods are one god" applies to many (first found in Dion Fortune's novel Die Seepriesterin 1938, apparently as a borrowing from a passage from " The Golden Donkey " by the ancient author Apuleius ). Individuals choose their personal deity as a point of identification from various deities from various worlds of gods , whose stories they consider particularly inspiring and to which they most want to refer for personal worship. Similarly, coven will choose some deities as group focus. Sometimes these specific deities are kept secret or a more pantheistic approach is followed and the worship of personal deities is completely dispensed with. Wicca value freedom and see themselves as equal partners of deities who do not consider gestures of humility as an appropriate means of worship.

Frequently revered deities are:

In British Wicca, the name Herne is often used for the horned god. Less common, however, is the worship of:

What they all have in common is that they strive for an ecstatic union with nature and communication with the (personified or abstract) divine. Here again shamanic ideas shine through; see Mircea Eliade in his book Shamanic Ecstasy Techniques .

Life, death and rebirth

Wiccan tombstone

Since they understand everything in the world as circular processes of becoming and passing away, Wicca followers also assume a rebirth of the soul. In contrast to the Far Eastern doctrines of rebirth, Wicca does not regard the cycle of reincarnation ( samsara ) as something negative, the consequences of which are only suffering that should be overcome through spiritual development ( moksha ), but as a natural and eternal cycle that is sacred and also worth striving for is.

Because of the rule of the threefold return, they also believe in karma , but not in the fact that every personal misfortune caused by bad karma is self-inflicted. They also do not believe in determinism and predestination , but on the contrary represent the conviction that one's own soul is free and that one is responsible for one's life. Between the rebirths, the soul should rest for a certain time in the afterlife called “summer land”. This concept of the hereafter is based on Celtic, Hindu (Devachan) and theosophical roots, but also has certain echoes of the Christian and Islamic ideas of paradise.


The beliefs in Wicca have some similarities with ideas such as those in Neoplatonism , Christian mysticism , Jewish mysticism ( Kabbalah ) and Islamic mysticism ( Sufism ), in Hinduism (Advaita Vedanta ), Buddhism ( Tantra , Zen ) and Taoism as well as in the theosophy and anthroposophy can be found. However, Wicca is not a further development of these older concepts of other faiths, but only superficial borrowings or accidental matches, even if such similarities were sometimes mistakenly regarded as properties of a universal "Eternal Philosophy" ( Philosophia perennis ). Occasionally, a connection was made between Wicca and the lost religion of the Sabians from Harren, but this cannot be proven historically. According to the historians of religion (e.g. Hutton, 2001), the spiritual models for borrowing in the modern Wicca faith include in particular Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry as well as Hermetics , alchemy , ceremonial magic and ritual magic (e.g. the medieval Grimoire Clavicula Salomonis from which many of Gardner's rituals are borrowed). These religious-historical findings, however, still meet with contradiction in some Wiccans, who Gardner rather consider an author who has only brought forth the "obvious" of a much older religion - so that in their opinion the influence should have been exactly the opposite: the "old one." Religion “influenced the Freemasons and Rosicrucians, and the development in our modern times is only a flashback . From a scientific point of view, however, there is no evidence for such views. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was particularly important for the development of Wicca . More recently, neo-shamanistic influences have also become unmistakable, as well as a stronger orientation towards Celtic and Germanic paganism .


Wicca sees itself as a tolerant religion and does not claim to be solely valid. Dogmatism , fanaticism and discrimination against other religions are rejected. Wicca sees itself as a contemporary alternative to other forms of spirituality. According to the understanding of personal responsibility, magic in the Wicca cult only serves to direct natural energies and to initiate necessary positive changes. Non-violence and closeness to nature have a high priority.

The ethical principles in Wicca are based on the instruction (speech) “As long as it does no harm, do what you want” ( An ye harm none do as ye will ) and the rule of the (triple) return “Everything that comes from you falls three times back on you ".

“You will build on witchcraft law in true love and genuine trust. - Live and let others live, be moderate in giving and moderate in receiving. - Pull out the circle three times and keep out all evil. - Proverbs will be effective when they are forged in rhyme. - The eyes are gentle, the touch delicate, listening before speaking is your way. - The moon grows, go solstice, dance and sing the pentacle alive. - But the wolf howls at the blue verbena, then go towards the sun, because the moon will be dismantled. - When the goddess Moon is new, kiss her hand twice. - Eight the full moon, be ready, it is the right time for longing in the heart. - If the mighty north wind lets itself be felt, then brush the sails and close all doors. - The wind from the south makes hearts glow, you too can blossom with it in life. - The east wind will unveil news, expect and prepare to celebrate. - If the wind from the west has to command, then the wandering souls are restless. - Nine pieces of wood are good for the kettle, burn them quickly with gentle embers. - The tree of the goddess is wise and old, pity it, and her curse be your salary. - When the year Walburgis Night comes, burn your fire in full splendor. - If the wheel arrives at Jule, light the torches and Pan rules. - You should cherish all plants, because that brings blessings to the goddess. - The murmuring waters are your conscience, throw a stone and you will know. - In your need you will defend yourself and never covet the possessions of your neighbors. - Don't get involved with the gates, because they give you the wrong impression. - Receiving and parting made with warmth, your heart will be made to glow happily. - Let the threefold law be your guiding thread, three times it brings luck and three times the damage. - If bad luck reigns dark days, then wear a star on your forehead. - You will never deceive those who love you, otherwise they will also lie to you. - Finally, eight more words, and the rule is: "And if it doesn't hurt anyone, do what you want!"

- Translation of the English original of Lady Gwen Thompson's Wiccan speech , often incorrectly attributed to Doreen Valiente .

The term speech is derived from the Old English word roedan , which means to lead or to guide . The immediate origin of the Wiccan speech is Gerald Gardner's book The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959), in which he mentions the saying of King Pausole "Do what you like so long as you harm no one" from the novel The Adventures of King Pausole (1901) by Pierre Louÿs . It is generally believed, however, that the speech was also inspired by Aleister Crowley's Law of Thelema , which reads, “Do what you want, let the whole law be. Love is the law, love under will ”. For his part, Crowley could have been influenced by Augustine's words “Love and do what you want” or by the words “Do as thou wilt ...” by the author François Rabelais from the novel Gargantua (1534). One possible origin of the wording of the Wiccan speech, which has been largely overlooked so far, could be the French constitution of 1791, which defines: "Freedom consists in being able to do anything that does not harm another". Today's eight-word version of the speech comes from a speech by Doreen Valientes on October 3, 1964 and was published by Gerard Noel that same year.

The "speech" is also often interpreted by Wiccan supporters to mean that it prohibits all actions that could somehow cause harm of any kind. But there is also the view that freedom to do what you want only applies provided that you do not harm anyone. Actions that cause harm are therefore not equally free, but must be sufficiently justified and appropriate to their extent. Other interpretations see the speech as a requirement to explore one's true will and to exercise it with the restriction not to harm anyone (others or oneself).

The rule of threefold recurrence is based on the principle of cause and effect and the idea that everything you do has consequences, although small causes can also have large effects. This rule is only distantly related to the Eastern concept of karma . The combination of “speech” and the rule of return largely fulfills the function of the “ golden rule ” in so-called Wicca ethics .

The statement of the "speech" is one of the factors why Christian and other groups criticize that Wicca is a hedonistic religion for the consumer and fun society . Her followers, on the other hand, see Wicca as a religion whose ethics are very much based on the idea of ​​personal responsibility. Each person has to weigh up and consider for himself in order to be able to act morally and has to bear the consequences for his actions (rule of the threefold return). This emphasis on personal responsibility fundamentally differentiates the ethics of neo-pagan religions in general from the ethics of the great monotheistic religions, which are based on fear of God and obedience , but also stands out clearly from those ethical standards that focus on the will or well-being of the majority, such as B. Legal positivism and utilitarianism . The Wiccan speech, with its emphasis on freedom, personal responsibility and the prohibition of harm, largely corresponds to the natural law ethics of human freedom and the basic principle of renouncing aggression in individual anarchism and modern libertarianism . In contrast to these individualistic-anarchist currents, Wicca emphasizes not only individual freedom, but also the social integration of each individual in the social community.

Celebrations and holidays

The eight main festivals of the Wicca as a wheel of the year

The year circle, also called the wheel of the year, describes the system of eight seasonal feast days used in the Wicca religion, which symbolizes the cycle of growth and decay in nature. It is very similar to the Celtic annual cycle . The Wicca system is a modern combination of the four Celtic high festivals with pagan solstice festivals in Bronze Age cultures. The names for two of the festival days (Litha and Mabon) as well as many of the rituals are modern creations.

The eight main holidays , called Sabbaths , are based on the course of the year (which are partly calculated according to fixed dates, partly according to natural or astrological events).

Four festivals are considered to be the "higher" festivals and are therefore also referred to as High Sabbaths (other names for these are in some cases light or fire festivals or moon festivals). These are each exactly in the middle between two solar festivals and are therefore also referred to as cross-quarter days. There are different procedures for determining the exact dates of the three-quarter days, depending on the tradition. Traditionally, the dates that correspond to the calendars are used, in other traditions these are also celebrated according to the calendar exactly between the solar festivals:

The wheel cross is also used as a symbol for the solar festivals .

The four solar festivals, which are determined according to the astronomical constellations of the position of the sun, are also known as Little Sabbaths (another name for this is partially solar festivals) and are:

In addition to these eight Sabbath festivals, there are the 13 so-called Esbats , which are held in honor of the goddess during a full moon (sometimes also a black moon ). These are magical working days.

Tools and utensils

Athame with triple moon (left) and Bolline (right)

The traditional ritual tools within the Wicca movement are:

  • The (sword or) the athame : The double-edged, black ceremonial dagger (for directing energy, almost never used for cutting).
  • Bolline: The white knife (for practical activities such as cutting herbs and carving candles).
  • The wand: a magic wand intended to direct energies.
  • Pentacle: A ritual disc (also shield) on which a pentagram (five-pointed star with an upward pointing tip) is depicted in a circle.
  • Censer : For ritual smoking .
  • Whip : As a symbol of power and dominance.
  • Cord: Is used when swearing different oaths, is also referred to as "the measure" because the cord should correspond to the body size of the wearer.

In some traditions, the following utensils are sometimes used:

  • Brooms (e.g. for ritual cleansing of negative energies).
  • Book of Shadows (formerly also called Grimoire ) A book with magical rituals, magic formulas, recipes, etc. that is given to the novice at initiation.
  • Chalice : Used in vow and initiation ceremonies.
  • Cauldron : This is usually a wrought iron saucepan that is used for both ritual meals and smoking.
  • Cake and wine: Used for the “social part” after a ritual.
  • Salt and holy water: Used in consecration rituals.
  • Pendulum : A heavy object on a string that enables prophecies through contact with the media consciousness .
  • Weihwedel: A bundle of herbs or something similar that is used to sprinkle water before or during a ritual.
  • Labrys : A double ax based on the Minoan model, which is stored on the left of the altar.

Athame and wand are held with the right hand (left hand for left-handers). This hand, which is also known as the “protective hand”, symbolizes the point at which the personal power flows out of the body. The left hand (for left-handers, the right hand), on the other hand, is called the “receptive hand” because energy flows through it into our body. In some rituals the chalice symbolizes the female principle (the womb) and the athame the male principle (the phallus), in the spirit of Riane Eisler's "chalice and sword", in some traditions / paths the meaning of athame and staff (and the respective assignment to the cardinal direction) swapped.

Common rituals

In traditional Wicca, rituals are often performed naked (in the "sky dress ", English skyclad ), as clothing is supposed to hinder the magical energies and the connection with the earth. Common rituals are:

A magic circle
  • Drawing the magic circle has great ritual significance. The circle is defined as the point where a spherical sphere created by visualization and magic enters the earth. As a rule, the district quarters are called in the magic circle, to which the four directions, four seasons and four elements are assigned as correspondence. When moving in a circle, the direction plays a major role. Deosil , the clockwise movement (which also follows the course of the sun) stands for good and positive energies. Widdershins , the counterclockwise movement, represents negative energies. Since in the southern hemisphere (e.g. in Australia) the sun moves counterclockwise, the movements of local Wiccan followers are sometimes used in the opposite sense.
  • An important and popular Full Moon Esbat ritual is the "drawing down the moon" ( " Drawing Down the Moon " ), which summoned the goddess and is represented by the High Priestess by this takes the power in itself. This is a form of deliberate ritual possession, the origins of which are said to have been practiced by Thessalian witches in ancient Greece.
  • The so-called "Great Rite" is a symbolic or (nowadays rare) actual sexual act between high priestess and high priest, which, however, is never performed publicly. It is a ritual combination of the traditional “holy wedding” ( Hieros gamos ) with elements of tantric sexual magic .
  • Two central magical practices are “grounding” and “centering”. “Earth” means to connect with the earth. “Centering” means collecting in the middle of the body. Another important technique is focusing, i.e. using an intense imagination to unleash and channel magical energies.

Use of herbs in rituals

Due to the panentheistic character in Wicca, when harvesting flowers, herbs, etc., attempts are made to first establish a connection with the corresponding plants through visualization. Only then is what you need cut, often with the bolline (a white knife). For example, possible uses for herbs are:

  • Offerings to the goddess (watery and earthy flowers and seeds) and the god (fiery and airy herbs and flowers)
  • Body and hair jewelry in rituals, e.g. B. flower wreaths for spring and summer rituals, oak and spruce wreaths for winter rituals, or herb and seed chains made of aniseed, acorns, spruce cones, nutmegs, tonka beans, etc.
  • Ritual fire (apple tree, mountain ash, oak, spruce, horn shrub, mesquite tree , poplar, juniper, cedar)
  • Consecration of the chalice, cauldron and other magical tools, e.g. B. Rubbing the blade of the magic knife (with basil, rosemary or oak leaves), the magic wand (with lavender, eucalyptus or peppermint leaves), the broom (with chamomile, willow and lime balm), the crystal ball (with mugwort) and much more
  • Decoration for the magic circle and altar (depending on the time and occasion, during the full moon ritual: night flowers, white flowers, all with five petals)

Special Sabbath herbs have become established for use at Wicca festivals:

Beltane Altar
  • Imbolc: mountain ash, snowdrops (and the first flowers in general)
  • Ostara: Iris, daffodil, olive, daffodil, peony, gorse, violet, woodruff (and all spring flowers)
  • Beltane: honeysuckle, St. John's wort, hawthorn, woodruff (and all flowers)
  • Litha: mugwort, ivy, oak, verbena, fern, daisy, elder, chamomile, lavender, lily, carnation, rose, yarrow, wild thyme
  • Lughnasadh ("Lammas"): pear, blackberry, heather, crab apple, grains of all kinds, sloe, grapes
  • Mabon: picked ears, acorns, oak leaves, aspen, spruce cones, hazelnuts, autumn leaves, corn, wheat stalks, cypress cones
  • Samhain: apple, pear, chrysanthemum, thistle, grain, pomegranate, hazelnut, pumpkin, corn, nuts, wormwood
  • Jul: Ivy, spruce, laurel, mistletoe, rosemary, holly, juniper, cedar - apples, oranges, nutmegs, cinnamon sticks and lemons as tree decorations.

Elements and elemental beings

The classical theory of the elements is an essential part of the Wiccan worldview. Every manifest form is understood as an expression of the four archetypal elements earth , water , air and fire , which are interpreted differently (sometimes materialistically as aggregate states, but mostly esoterically as subtle energies). In addition, there is the ether as a fifth element , which Wicca interprets as spirit , in contrast to the classic fifth element such as quintessence or Akasha . The five points of the pentagram symbolize these five elements in Wicca. When conjuring up the magic circle, in addition to the four cardinal points and districts, the four elements are often invoked at the cardinal points, which are personalized in the form of four element rulers ( element kings or watchtowers ) who are supposed to rule over the corresponding elementals . Influenced by his relationship with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn , the concept of elemental magic and the watchtowers of Gerald Gardner was borrowed from the system of Enochian magic of John Dee and Edward Kelley . The Wicca ideas about the elemental spirits are largely based on the works of Paracelsus and theosophy or the anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner that emerged from it .

Wiccan traditions

Main article: Wiccan traditions

Traditional wicca

British Traditional Wicca or Traditional Wicca:

Some terms frequently used in the USA to designate those Wiccans who can refer to an initiation line that goes back to Gerald Gardner and who are closely based on his teachings:

  • Gardnerian Wicca
  • Alexandrian Wicca
  • Mohsian
  • Central Valley Wicca

Wicca tradition lines:

Traditions or lines are Wicca organized and initiated in covens, which are still relatively close to British Traditional Wicca, such as:

  • Algard Wicca
  • Blue Star Wicca
  • Celtsun Wicca
  • Corellian Wicca
  • Odyssean Wicca

Neo-Wicca, Eclectic Wicca, Solitary Wicca

Eclectic Wicca is understood to be Wicca followers who do not belong to any particular tradition, but who make use of different traditions and cultures. Eclectics can be initiated in a coven as well as self-initiation towards the god and goddess.

Solitary Wicca ("free-flying witches") is a particularly "free" Wicca style that emphasizes personal freedom and avoids a hierarchical structure. It includes all Wicca that are not organized in coven and learn independently.

Neo-Wicca is not a tradition in the strictest sense, but the collective term for modern and more open interpretations of Wicca - with less emphasis on topics such as sexuality and death, and mostly on the basis of self-initiation.

Typical representatives of Neo-Wicca are:

  • Caledonii Wicca
  • Norse Wicca (Teutonic Wicca, Wiccatru)
  • Pecti-Witta
  • Seax-Wica

Fluffy Bunnies

Serious representatives of the Wicca religion and other neo-pagan cults like to use the term Fluffy Bunnies in the English-speaking world as a mostly derogatory term for newbies, mostly teenage girls who came to Wicca through television series like Buffy or Charmed and only superficially feel from a few books (e.g. by Silver RavenWolf). Characteristic of Fluffy Bunnies is, among other things, that they have a relatively simple-minded conception of magic and Wicca ethics and that they repeatedly and uncritically cite long-disproved historical myths (e.g. Wicca is an ancient goddess religion from the supposed prehistoric matriarchy or supposedly nine million witches are were burned during the " Burning Times " or witches were burned in Salem etc.).

Scientific research on Wicca

Literature review

Wiccan books
Philip Heselton (2005)

The first English-language, academic treatises on the historical development and the belief system of Wicca were the books by the American journalist Margot Adler (1987) and the American anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann (1989). The first English-language dissertations on Wicca come from Gini Graham Scott (1976), Joan Ludecke (1989) and the social anthropologist Susan Greenwood (2000).

The Wicca author Aidan Kelly argued in a book in 1991 that Wicca was a creation by Gerald Gardner and that the older traditions claimed by him (e.g. with regard to the person of Dorothy Clutterbuck and the New Forest Coven) are not authentic. However, this work was also criticized from a scientific point of view. Kelly (2008) reiterated his views and substantiated them in greater detail in a new book.

The historian Ronald Hutton (1999) provided the first independent and detailed scientific treatise on the genesis of the modern witch religion. Hutton also came to the conclusion that Wicca was largely a new creation by Gerald Gardner, building on existing magical traditions and organizations (Isis Mystery Cult , Theosophical Society , Rosicrucian Society , Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship , Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn , Ordo Templi Orientis OTO, Thelema , Ancient Druid Order , Orden der Bard, Ovaten and Druiden OBOD etc.), rites of Freemasonry (especially the co-masonry, which also allows women), the romantic Woodcraft movement (especially the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry ) and even the Nudism as well as the books by Michelet, Leland, Murray, Frazer and Graves.

A more recent book by Philip Heselton (2003), to which Ronald Hutton penned the preface, comes to different conclusions based on further research into Dorothy Clutterbuck and a few other points. A personal “inside view” of the history of Wicca was published by Frederic Lamond (2005) in his book Fifty Years of Wicca , but it cannot and does not claim to be a scientifically neutral study. The history of Wicca in America was also illuminated by the author Chas Clifton (2006). In 2008 the ethnographer Sabina Magliocco published her study on the neo-pagan “witch culture” in America.

In the German-speaking area, there are so far only a few scientific papers on the development and social significance of Wicca:

  • Based on his master's thesis at the University of Bonn, Jörg Wichmann published in 1984 with his book the first comprehensive, religious-scientific description of Wicca as a spiritual system and showed that the Wicca cult is a real religion.
  • Gisela Graichen published her book Die neue Hexen in 1999 with interviews with witches and neo-pagans of both sexes.
  • In 2005, the ethnologist and religious scholar Oliver Ohanecian published his master's thesis, which he had already written in 2003, in book form, The Stranger Within - On the Construction of Reality in the Wicca Cult . This work is based on the philosophy of radical constructivism and has been controversial in Wiccan circles.
  • Britta Rensing dealt with the Wicca belief system in her dissertation on religious studies in 2006 and, in contrast to Wichman, not only took into account witch covens, but also so-called "free-flying witches".
  • In 2007 Birgit Neger wrote the unpublished thesis The Two Sides of the Fence. On the genesis of modern witchcraft and Wicca with special consideration of Austria at the historical seminar of the University of Vienna. In 2009, her book Modern Witches and Wicca: Notes on a Magical World of Today was published .
  • In 2007, Kathrin Fischer published the first folklore study on Wicca in Germany and Austria. She distinguished three types among the followers of the Wicca movement.
  • In Helmut Birkhan's book Nachantike Keltenrezeption (2009) a chapter Wiccas can be found in which he critically examines the allegedly Celtic foundations of this movement. However, he does not classify this as a “forgery” or the like (such as James Macpherson's Ossian or Iolo Morganwgs Barddas ), but rather as a “fictional science” as in Robert Ranke-Graves. In detail, however, he points out the very free interpretation of the Celtic religion , mythology and deities .

Origin of Wicca

Research in religious studies assumes that Wicca came about through a synthesis and new combination of numerous elements. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, favorable conditions existed for a revival of the old "natural religions". The romanticism at the beginning of the 19th century aroused great interest in pre-Christian cultures in Europe. Even later there were influential cultural currents that expressed the longing for the connection between man, culture and nature (e.g. Woodcraft movement). For many people who had lost faith in Christianity, nature was the link between man and ancient pagan religions. In addition, the Witchcraft Act was repealed in Great Britain in 1951.

The organization in Coven, the three degrees of initiation and also some symbols come from the world of Freemasonry . Members of the Masonic lodges were sworn to secrecy, like some Wiccans today, regarding details of their rituals. From Freemasonry, the Rosicrucian Society and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn developed , the main purpose of which was the study and work with ritual magic. Gardener in particular had contact with members of the Rosicrucians after 1938. However, borrowings from Freemasonry are an adaptation of an external structure that has been filled with other content.

Other elements of Wicca actually come from pre-Christian times, such as the worship of goddesses, sometimes also that of a threefold goddess and many of the festivals of the annual cycle. So Imbolc, Beltaine, Lugnasadh and Samhain were actually celebrated among Celtic tribes of the British Isles. Solstice celebrations are handed down to the Germans. However, little is known about the details of these festivals. The idea of summerland and the otherworld also came from the Celts. The statements of various sources on the subject of belief in rebirth among the Celts are contradictory, but the current scientific opinion is that, although the Celts believed in shapeshifters, revenants and resuscitation of the dead, there was no reliable evidence of belief in reincarnation or transmigration of souls gives.

Is an influential for Wicca works from classical antiquity, the novel The Golden Ass (about 150 AD..) Of the Roman author Apuleius , of the initiation into the Isis - mysteries describes. The first mention of women at night is in the Canon episcopi in 906. The assumption that this is a surviving pagan cult or religion is debatable.

Some modern works also had a strong influence on Wicca. The first book in which the witch religion was represented as a surviving ancient pagan tradition was apparently La Sorcière (1862) by Jules Michelet . In 1899, Charles Godfrey Leland published a book in which he wrote down the magical traditions of Italian witches. In 1921 the British anthropologist Margaret A. Murray published the book The Witch-cult in Western Europe about the allegedly long line of tradition of the "wise women" in Europe, referring to witches as a religious / magical cult in their own right, which is in constant confrontation lived with Christianity (as an antagonist ) and had to assert themselves against the decline of their tradition. An important influence was also James Frazer religionsgeschichtlichem book The Golden Bough ( "The Golden Bough") (1890) as well as from Robert Graves and his book The White Goddess ( "The White Goddess") (1948). Both authors believed they could reconstruct a prehistoric, pagan religion from the traditional myths and fairy tales. The book The Heros in a Thousand Shapes (1949) by the mythologist Joseph Campbell also had a considerable influence on the Wicca cult, in particular on the idea of ​​the sacrificed god of the year. The theses represented in the works by Michelet, Leland , Murray , Frazer and Graves mentioned above are, from today's ethnological point of view, partially refuted or implausible. This also applies to the alleged rediscovery of old Welsh druid traditions by the British author Edward Williams (1747-1826) (known as Iolo Morganwg), from whose barddas a whole series of rituals, myths and terms in today's Wicca were borrowed.

Since the 1960s, the Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg has been documenting evidence for the thesis that the witch's sabbaths are at least partly due to a substrate of shamanic fertility and death cults in connection with the ingestion of psychotropic plants, and that the general criticism of Murray has to be put into perspective. Ginzburg's theses of a surviving, pre-Christian, pagan substratum have since been confirmed and supported by various other serious historical studies.

Since the 1970s, an important influence on Wicca emanated from the feminist goddess spirituality, in particular from the book The Witch Cult as the Ur-Religion of the Great Goddess (1983, 1979) by Starhawk and Lady of Darkness, Queen of Light (1987 , Engl. 1975) by Zsuzsanna Budapest. The modern worship of the Great Goddess is based u. a. also on works of archeology and matriarchy research , such as The Language of the Goddess (1995, English 1989) and The Civilization of the Goddess (1996, English 1991) by Marija Gimbutas or in German-speaking countries the book The Goddess and Her Heros (1980) by Heide Göttner-Abendroth . Finally, some short stories and novels, such as Puck of Pook's Hill (1906) by Rudyard Kipling , The Sea Priestess (1938) by Dion Fortune or The Mists of Avalon (1982) by Marion Zimmer Bradley , influenced the development and popularity of New Paganism, of Goddess Spirituality and Wicca.

Typology of Wiccan followers

The cultural scientist Katrin Fischer conducted a total of twelve interviews with Wicca supporters from German-speaking countries. It shows how the world around you, the everyday life that goes with it, images of others and yourself are formed into a group-specific social reality. Using these criteria, Fischer found three types of Wicca, which differ in certain characteristics.

Priest and priestess

These people belong to the British traditional Wicca. The way to Wicca led them through a religious search, since Christianity could no longer give them answers to life questions that were important to them. Their priesthood is the focus of their interest. Wicca represents their religion in which they live their beliefs and beliefs. For them this means that they are on a lifelong spiritual path that should lead them to their self. Wicca is their purpose in life. Individuals of this type see no reason to publicly represent their belief system and mostly withdraw. They are integrated in coven and attach great importance to clear structures, also with regard to beliefs. They are the group that insists most on the secrecy of their cult activities. Feminism and the historical witch hunt have no special place in their thinking. Magic is not and is not intended to allow Wiccans of this type to wield power.

Feminist Wicca

Feminist representation of goddess and god

This includes Wicca, who especially turn to the goddess. They mostly belong to unconventional Wicca traditions such as Dianic Wicca. People of this type either came to Wicca through the women's movement or became politicized through it. The connections of the members in the coven are very close and personal. In contrast to the first type, the belief in rebirth has a high priority for them. The historical witch hunt is interpreted as an extermination campaign against women, which is currently not repeated. People of this type are often in public , hold electoral offices or are involved in the women , ecology and, more recently, the movement critical of globalization . They see no reason to withhold their convictions, which, however, often leads to conflicts with conservative sections of society.

Free-flying witches

The relationship to nature and the animistic world is important for this group. They are characterized by a strong connection to the native roots and by reference to flora and fauna. For the members of this type, hereditary witchcraft is decisive for the feeling of being a witch. Germanic or Celtic roots serve as a connecting element between religion and her skills as a witch. For them the historical witch hunt is a campaign of destruction against the ancient knowledge of wise women. This could still be repeated today. You feel personally affected by it. A Wicca interviewed says, for example, B. regularly flowers on the memorial for the last witch burned in her city. Some of them keep their beliefs secret, but some of them consciously provoke their conservative environment. Feminism doesn't matter to them. Witches of this type believe they have power through magic. They also use these as a defense against strangers.

See also


  • James Aten: The Truth About Wicca And Witchcraft - Finding Your True Power . Aten Publishing, sl 2008, ISBN 978-0-615-20945-6 .
  • Helmut Birkhan : Post-ancient Celtic reception. Praesens Verlag, Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-7069-0541-1 ; Chapter "Wiccas".
  • Vivianne Crowley: Wicca. The old religion in the new age . 3. Edition. Edition Ananael, Bad Ischl 2004, ISBN 3-901134-04-2 .
  • Scott Cunningham : Wicca. An introduction to white magic . Ullstein, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-548-74250-5 ( Ullstein 74250 Esoteric ).
  • Janet Farrar, Gavin Bone: Progressive Witchcraft. New ideas for the witch cult . Arun, Uhlstädt-Kirchhasel 2005, ISBN 3-935581-86-6 .
  • Janet Farrar, Stewart Farrar: Eight Sabbaths for Witches and Rites for Birth, Marriage and Death . Bohmeier, Soltendieck 1994, ISBN 3-89094-274-1 .
  • Kathrin Fischer: The wiccatum. Folklore research on pagan witches in German-speaking countries . Ergon, Würzburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-89913-589-3 ( border crossings 5), also: University of Freiburg (Breisgau), dissertation 2007: The witches of postmodernism .
  • Ronald Hutton: The Triumph of the Moon. A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2001, ISBN 0-19-285449-6 .
  • Frederic Lamond: 50 years of Wicca. A critical personal review . Heiden-Verlag, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-937674-16-0 .
  • Birgit Neger: Modern Witches and Wicca. Records of a magical world of today . Böhlau Verlag, Vienna et al. 2009, ISBN 978-3-205-78350-3 .
  • Oliver Ohanecian: I decide who is a witch. On the construction of reality in the Wicca cult . EBV, Schenefeld 2005, ISBN 3-936912-38-6 .
  • Reena Perschke: Wicca, Pagan, free flying. In: Religion in Berlin. A manual. Edited by Nils Grübel, Stefan Rademacher. Weissensee Verlag, Berlin 2003, pp. 525-529, ISBN 3-89998-003-4 .
  • Silver RavenWolf : The Free Witch's Spellbook. History & tool . Ullstein, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-548-74139-8 ( Ullstein books 74139).
  • Britta Rensing: The Wicca religion. Theology, rituals, ethics . Tectum, Marburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-8288-9486-0 , ( Religionen aktuell 2), also: University of Jena, dissertation 2006 pdf; 41.37 MB) .

Web links

Commons : Wicca  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikibooks: Book on Wicca  - learning and teaching materials

Individual evidence

  1. a b Helmut Birkhan: Nachantike Keltenrezeption. P. 768.
  2. a b c d e f Reena Perschke: Wicca, Pagan, free flying. In: Religion in Berlin. A manual. Edited by Nils Grübel, Stefan Rademacher. Weissensee Verlag, Berlin 2003, p. 525.
  3. See Rensing, pp. 119 and 135.
  4. Stephen Hunt (2003): Alternative religions: a sociological introduction. Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate, ISBN 0-7546-3410-8 , p. 151: "Wicca is essentially a mystery cult" .
  5. a b c d e f g Reena Perschke: Wicca, Pagan, free-flying. In: Religion in Berlin. A manual. Edited by Nils Grübel, Stefan Rademacher. Weissensee Verlag, Berlin 2003, p. 526.
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  12. a b Janet Farrar, Gavin Bone: Progressive Witchcraft: New Ideas for the Witch Cult . Arun, 2005, ISBN 3-935581-86-6 .
  13. Vivienne Crowley: Wicca - The Old Religion in the New Age ( Memento from April 1, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  14. Reena Perschke: Wicca, Pagan, free flying. In: Religion in Berlin. A manual. Ed .: Nils Grübel, Stefan Rademacher. Weissensee Verlag, Berlin 2003, p. 527.
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  23. Witchvox Essay
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  43. Kathrin Fischer: The Wiccatum. Folklore research on pagan witches in German-speaking countries . Ergon-Verlag, 2007, ISBN 978-3-89913-589-3 .
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  45. The 1951 repealed Witchcraft Act of 1735 is based on the premise that witchcraft does not exist and that therefore those who pretend to have magical powers should be treated as cheaters, in contrast to earlier British laws. However, this is of no importance for the further development of Wicca, as it would have effectively criminalized the practice of religion by the Wiccans either way.
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