How Old is Wicca?

I’ve noticed this can be a touchy subject among Wiccans and other Pagans: the history of the Wiccan religion. People (usually novices) often make statements about the ancient origins of Wicca, or how Wicca has been practiced for thousands of years.

Sorry folks, but this is simply not accurate.

The base of the confusion is that some people don’t distinguish between something that exists today, and its historical roots. Ok, that’s not very clear, is it? How about an example. The poodle was designated as a recognized breed in 1887. Dogs today (including the poodle) have evolved from ancient dog species that existed thousands of years ago. The historic past of the poodle isn’t in question, but you can NOT say that the poodle is thousands of years old. Wicca follows this same idea.

In 1954, Gerald Gardner published the first book on Wicca as we know it today, called “Witchcraft Today”. It’s somewhat typical to date modern-day Wicca from this date, as this was the beginning of the spread of the religion to the masses.

But many people today are unsure of Gardner’s claim of discovering an existing Wiccan coven, and feel that his writings were more his own creations than true (and ancient) practices that had been handed down through generations. He claimed to have been initiated into the New Forest Coven in 1939, by Old Dorothy Clutterbuck. But further examination into this has had difficulty proving that Old Dorothy ever existed.

Gardner’s interests and knowledge of the occult would have given him plenty of raw material to work with. It’s generally accepted that regardless of whether or not Gardner really found an existing witchcraft coven, he adulterated much of his work with Ceremonial magick concepts that appealed to him.

So even though there may be ideas, concepts, practices, or beliefs in the Wicca we know today that are based in older knowledge, the collected whole as presented by Gardner really only came into existence in the 1950s. Though it was based in much older knowledge, the “organized” religion of Wicca is not ancient.

In the grander scheme of things, so what if Wicca is a new religion? All religions had a beginning and they were all new at some point. It’s just not worth debating because it’s not a relevant point.