A Brief History of Wicca

The Development of Wicca

Solitaries and the "Wicca or Witchcraft" Debate (1972-Present)

In traditional Gardnerian and Alexandrian craft, initiates took an oath of secrecy never to reveal the rituals of it to outsiders. Despite this, both Gardner and Sanders sought publicity, and allowed reporters to witness their practices. Initiates such as Valiente and Buckland had been annoyed at this, the first commenting that "by speaking to the press, Gardner was compromising the security of the group and the sincerity of his own teachings". However, the key rituals of the Gardnerians (which were the basis for most of the Alexandrian ones) were made public in the 1960s when Charles Cardell, in an act of spite against the recently deceased Gardner, published the Gardnerian Book of Shadows.

In 1970, Paul Huson published Mastering Witchcraft a book purportedly based upon non-Wiccan traditional British witchcraft, and the first do-it-yourself manual for the would-be witch, which became one of the basic instruction books for a large number of covens. In 1971 "Lady Sheba" (Jessie Wicker Bell, self-styled "Queen of the American Witches") published what she claimed was her family's centuries-old grimoire, but was in fact substantially plagiarised from the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, and included poetry by Doreen Valiente that is still under copyright.  

Stewart and Janet Farrar

Janet and Stewart Farrar


Following this, several prominent Wiccans decided that it would be better to simply reveal the Wiccan mysteries to the public in their true form. Most prominent among these were Stewart and Janet Farrar, two Alexandrian initiates. Stewart, prior to his marriage, had already published information on Wiccan rituals (with Sanders' blessing), in his 1971 book What Witches Do. Together they published further works on the subjects, such as 1981's Eight Sabbats for Witches and 1984's The Witches' Way. They were joined by their friend, Doreen Valiente, who also published information on the subject of pagan Witchcraft in general.


From these published writings, (some of which, such as Valiente's 1973 book An ABC of Witchcraft, contained a self-initiation ritual), many other practitioners began to follow the Witchcraft religion, working either as solitary Witches or in non-lineaged covens. Valiente herself considered all of these such people to be "Witches", as she reserved the term "Wiccan" to refer solely to Gardnerians, however most of these new followers used the term "Wiccan" to describe themselves. As such, in the United States, it became the norm to refer to any Neopagan witchcraft as "Wicca", and so Gardnerians, Alexandrians and Algards, wishing to emphasise their lineage that stretched back to Gardner, began referring to themselves as followers of "British Traditional Wicca".

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