If you made it here, thank you for your interest.
This post is by way of a little amateur research on behalf of our discussion group. We have a new season starting on Sept. 11th. 2014 and the suggested subject is Wicca. Ken, our beloved leader and seeker of all knowledge, commanded me to "look it up", so here is a little background with a bit of a slant towards my point of view (inevitably).
I was quite surprised to learn that Wicca is a religion and, as such, it is very young. It was born in 1930's Britain amid other fledgling religions and cults. Spiritualism and Occultism were still strong in those days and Wicca appears to have much in common with both.
In the late 1930's, Gerald Gardner was initiated into the New Forest Coven and later published books on the subject.
He became known as the Father of Wicca and his followers progressed from being regarded as a cult to being accepted as a religion.
Like other pagan faiths, there is a strong emphasis on nature. The magic (or Craft) they practice is, to them, a feature of nature that we, as a society, do not understand. They worship two gods, representing (among other things) the male and female aspects of the divine. The male god is commonly known as the Horned God while the female god is the Triple Goddess (Maiden, Mother and Crone) representing innocence, compassion and wisdom.
Gatherings, or congregations, of witches are called covens and rituals include "handfastings" which, I gather, are bonding ceremonies. Some celebrate their rituals "Skyclad" (naked) while others prefer a thin cotton gown. Beliefs include the afterlife - called "summerlands" and reincarnation. I understand that they believe that witches are always reincarnated as witches: once a witch, always a witch.
Now to my own thoughts on what little I have picked up from my short and wholly inadequate research. While Wicca may be new in terms of an organisation, the roots of the beliefs are indeed ancient and can be traced back as far as written history can take us. The traditions are not far removed from the occult mystery schools which thrived in the late 19th century (Aleister Crowley was prominent in occult circles at that time). They both draw on Hermetic teachings which have been at the heart of secret societies and alchemical practices for many centuries. Much of the symbolism is common. Take, for example, the Horned God - this has been repeating theme since Egyptian times.
Both the ram and the bull were revered in ancient Egypt. Indeed, the female aspect was often horned too with both Hathor and Isis depicted as horned deities.
|Isis and Horus|
The Horned God has also come down to us, via the occult, as Satan which is probably why some accuse witches of being satanists.
According to Wikipedia:
The satanic "horned god" symbol known as the baphomet is based on an Egyptian ram deity that was worshipped in Mendes, called Banebdjed (literally Ba of the lord of djed, and titled "the Lord of Mendes"), who was the soul of Osiris.
Looking at the symbolism represented above, it is plain to see the the symbol of the Horned God in the geometric shape of the inverted pentacle which is also included in the Tarot card image above.
Coming back to the Triple Goddess and the Horned God of Wicca, the symbols are simple shapes:
|Triple Goddess and Horned God|
And, to finish, in case you thought that the western biblical tradition reserved horns for devils, take a look at this famous statue of Moses ...
|Michelangelo's Horned Moses|