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What exactly is Wicca, the Goddess, Witchcraft, and why is it so frowned upon in today's society?
Wicca and paganism
Wicca is a neopagan religion with distinctive ritual forms, seasonal observances and religious, magical and ethical precepts. Wiccans practise a form of witchcraft, but not all witches are Wiccans - other forms of witchcraft, folk magic and sorcery exist within many cultures, with widely varying practices.
Most Wiccans call themselves Pagans, though the umbrella term Paganism encompasses many faiths that have nothing to do with Wicca or witchcraft. Wicca is commonly described as a Neopagan faith though Isaac Bonewits, the influential Neo-druid has claimed that early Wicca (at a time when it was still called "Witchcraft") was in fact a Mesopagan path.Since there is no centralised organisation in Wicca, and no single orthodoxy, the beliefs and practices of Wiccans can vary substantially, both among individuals and among traditions. Typically, the main religious principles, ethics, and ritual structures are shared, since they are key elements of traditional teachings and published works on the subject.
As practised by initiates in the lineage of Gerald Gardner, Wicca is a variety of witchcraft founded on religious and magical concepts. As such it is distinguished not only by its beliefs, but by its practice of magic, its ethical philosophy, initiatory system, organisational structure and secrecy.[Some of these beliefs and practices have also been adopted by others outside of this lineage, often termed Eclectic Wiccans, who generally discard the institutions of initiation, secrecy and hierarchy, and have more widely varying beliefs. Some Eclectic Wiccans neither perform magic nor identify as witches. Within traditional forms of Wicca there are three degrees of initiation. First degree is required to gain membership of a coven; those who aspire to teach may eventually undergo second and third degree initiations, conferring the title of "High Priest" or "High Priestess" and allowing them to establish new covens. At initiation, some Wiccans adopt a craft name to symbolise their spiritual "rebirth", to act as a magical alter-ego, or simply to provide anonymity when appearing as a witch in public (see Acceptance of Wiccans below).
Acceptance of Wiccans
In the United States, a number of legal decisions have improved and validated the status of Wiccans in that country, especially Dettmer v. Landon in 1985. However, there is still hostility from some politicians and Christian organisations.
According to the traditional history of Wicca as given by Gerald Gardner, Wicca is a survival of the European witch-cult that was persecuted during the witch trials (sometimes called the Burning Times). Since then theories of an organised pan-European witch-cult have been largely discredited, but it is still common for Wiccans to feel solidarity with the victims of the witch trials.
There have been assertions made that Wicca is a form of Satanism, despite important differences between these religions,such as the lack of a Satan-like figure in Wiccan theology. Due to negative connotations associated with witchcraft, many Wiccans continue the traditional practice of secrecy, concealing their faith for fear of persecution. Revealing oneself as Wiccan to family, friends or colleagues is often termed "coming out of the broom-closet".