It's really hard to look at the idea of witches without a Christian lens since I grew up in a Christian household. Almost any nature based or polytheistic, shamanic religion can look like witchcraft when you grew up with the idea of one God, although many aspects of Christianity have absorbed different Pagan ideas in an attempt to convert non-believers and because culture is a hard fucking thing to kill.
One thing to keep in mind is that not all magic has been lost. A lot of it has been kept through family superstitions over the years. Don't walk under a ladder, don't open an umbrella inside the house, how to keep the devil or evil eye away. The term Pagan was coined during the end of the Roman empire as Christianity became more and more popular. It was used to describe any "old religions" that weren't as popular in the modern cities. It literally means "of the country" and roughly translates to "heathen".
Nature based neopagan religious with a god and goddess
- Partially based on pre-Christian witchcraft "research" by Margaret Murray
- Also has roots in freemasonry, druidism, and writings by Aleister Crowley
- Crowley is a famous occultist and esotericist, Stuff you Missed in History Class did a great episode on him if you need a fix now - he's worth AT LEAST his own show
- Covens are usually lead by a High Priest and Priestess who initiate new members into the coven
- Practices are supposed to be kept secret from non-witches
- There are supposed to be three different "grades" of initiation that are thought to emulate the grades of Freemasonry
- Gardener had joined the New Forest Coven in 1939
- Some believe that this coven is one of the original covens that managed to survive the witch hunts but it's more likely that it was made up by occultists who wanted to emulate the witch cults "discovered" by Murray
- He began to write books based on his experience but disguised them as fiction because it was still illegal to write about witchcraft (COOL THANKS KING JIMMY YA FUCK)
- When the laws criminalizing witchcraft were lifted in the 1950s-1960s, Gardner began to write his books more as guides for initiates. This kind of pissed some people off because it was supposed to be something that was shared between people and not just something you could pick up in a book.
- Today you can actually sign up for online classes on Wicca (including a whole history of the religion)
- Founded by Alex Sanders and his wife Maxine, who was a Gardnerian wiccan
- Blended Gardnerian wicca, ceremonial magic and Qabalah
- Qabalah is a western occult religion that is the framework of the Order of the Golden Dawn,
- the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross and other neopagan religions
- It emphasizes the extremes of gender (being masculine OR feminine)
- Covens meet on new and full moons and on Sabbats
- Much like Gardnerian wicca, Alexandrian wicca initiates other witches. You can start as a neophyte so you can decide if you want to commit to a coven, and then become a initiate. There are three ranks, with the High Priest or Priestess being the third degree.
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