Later Developments In Wicca

Wicca has developed in several directions and institutional structures from the time it was brought to wider attention by Gerald Gardner. Gardnerian Wicca was an initiatory mystery religion, admission to which was at least in theory limited to those who were initiated into a pre-existing coven. The Book of Shadows, the grimoire that contained the Gardnerian rituals, was a secret that could only be obtained from a coven of proper lineage. Some Wiccans such as Raymond Buckland, then a Gardnerian, continued to maintain this stance well into the 1970s. Further degrees of initiation were required before members could found their own covens. Interest outstripped the ability of the mostly British-based covens to train and propagate members; the beliefs of the religion spread faster by the printed word or word of mouth than the initiatory system was prepared to handle.

Other traditions appeared. Some claimed roots as ancient as Gardner’s version, and were organised along similar lines. Others were syncretistic, importing aspects of Kabbalah or ceremonial magic. In 1971 “Lady Sheba” published a version of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, dispelling what little secrecy remained as to the contents of Gardner’s rituals. Increasing awareness of Gardner’s literary sources and the actual early history of the movement made creativity seem as valuable as Gardnerian tradition.

Another significant development was creation by feminists of Dianic Wicca or feminist Dianic Witchcraft, a specifically feminist faith that discarded Gardnerian-style hierarchy as irrelevant; many Dianic Wiccans taught that witchcraft was every woman’s right and heritage to claim. This heritage might be characterized by the quote of Monique Wittig “But remember. Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent.” This tradition was particularly open to solitary witches, and created rituals for self-initiation to allow people to identify with and join the religion without first contacting an existing coven. This contrasts with the Gardnerian belief that only a witch of opposite gender could initiate another witch.

The publications of Raymond Buckland illustrate these changes. During the early 1970s, in books such as Witchcraft – Ancient and Modern and Witchcraft From the Inside, Buckland maintained the Gardnerian position that only initiates into a Gardnerian or other traditional coven were truly Wiccans.

However, in 1974, Buckland broke with the Gardnerians and founded Seax-Wica, revealing its teachings and rituals in the book The Tree: The Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft. This “tradition” made no claims to direct descent from ancient Saxons; all its ritual was contained in the book, which allowed for self-initiation. In 1986 Buckland published Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft, a workbook that sought to train readers in magical and ritual techniques as well as instructing them in Wiccan teachings and rituals.