Wicca is a modern pagan religion that draws upon a diverse set of ancient pagan religious motifs for its theological structure and ritual practice. The religion usually incorporates the practice of witchcraft. Developed in England in the first half of the 20th century, Wicca was later popularised in the 1950s and and early 1960s by Gerald Gardner.
As a nature-based religion, Wicca tends to endorse the importance (and employment) of the four elements in its teachings and magikal rites. The energy contained in each of the four elements affects the way [wiccans] think, feel, and behave; it is indispensable to the creative processes. The understanding of nature, environment, and self is a prerequisite to the understanding of spirit and deity.
There are many debates as to whether such a structure existed in Wicca/Witchcraft prior to the nineteenth century. Many Wiccans believe that the three-degree system may have originated in Masonic influences.
Moon goddess is one of the primary deity forms in Wicca/Witchcraft. In modern Wicca/Witchcraft, the moon goddess is often viewed as a triple goddess: maiden, mother, and crone.
The fastest growing form of religious identification, spirituality, or "new" religious movement in American society over the last decade is Wicca and related forms of "Neo-Paganism." However, with no national organization and minimal local organization, little is known about its distribution across a privatized religious landscape nor about the features of state social and cultural environments that are receptive or contrary to its spread.
In the surveys between 1990 and 2000, the number of people identifying themselves as Wiccan or Pagan grew faster than any other religious category studied in the American Religious Identification Surveys (Mayer, Kosnin, and Keysar 2001). Despite that growth, there is little systematic information that would allow an assessment of its distribution across the United States, let alone any systematic examination of its location in a religious ecology.
Wicca is an all-embracing spiritual philosophy and way of life to its followers. In its simplest form, the practice of Witchcraft is a process of learning to understand nature and read her paths with confidence and pride.
The philosophy of Wicca therefore carefully balances free will with responsibility; rights with respect. This balance forms the basis of Wiccan belief.
Several variations on Wicca are currently practiced. There is traditional Wicca, as in the Gardnerian and Alexandrian lineages. Dianic, Faery, Reclaiming, Eclectic, and even Christian Wicca round out the major schools, and there are many minor ones as well.
There is general agreement that Wicca first became a mass movement in recent times in England during the 1950's with the publishing of books by Gerald Gardner. It has expanded at a furious rate in North America and Europe.
Wicca is a religion based, in part, on ancient, northern European Pagan beliefs in a fertility Goddess and her consort, a horned God. Although the religion is a modern creation, some of its sources pre-date the Christian era by many centuries. Most Wiccans do not believe that their religion is a direct, continuous descendent of this earlier religion; they see it as a modern reconstruction.