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Wicca  
 
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Wicca is primarily a nature religion, honoring the deities and spirits of nature, and seeking to commune with the divine through the contemplation and celebration of nature and its mysteries.

Although the religion was formerly erroneously claimed to be a modern survival of an old witchcraft religion that originated in pre-Christian Europe and is sometimes referred to as the Old Religion, contemporary Wicca was officially founded in 1951 by Gerald Gardner, a retired British civil servant. He claimed to be an initiate of an ancient witchcraft tradition stretching back to the Middle Ages. In fact, the earliest date that the group could have been formed was some time in the 1920s.

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As organized by Gardner, Wicca was a secretive society in which membership could be gained only through initiation by another Wiccan. Most Wiccan groups still practice initiation, but many popular books on the subject suggest that this is not required, and many people who have not been initiated identify as Wiccan.

One of Gardner's initiates was Doreen Valiente, who wrote much of the core Wiccan liturgy (known as the Book of Shadows, implying that written texts are mere shadows of actual performed rituals), including The Charge of the Goddess (1954), which contains much that Wiccans interpret as theological statements. The most important of these from a glbtq perspective is the belief that "All acts of love and pleasure are My rituals." Most Wiccans take this statement to mean that the Goddess approves of sexuality in all its glorious diversity.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Wicca and other forms of witchcraft attracted many second-wave feminists, interested in reclaiming the negative stereotype of the witch (an embodiment of female and "deviant" sexuality) and celebrating women's power, and the nurturing qualities of darkness and nature. Among witches, the most celebrated of these feminists is Starhawk, who has written many inspirational books on feminist witchcraft.

Also in the 1970s Dianic witchcraft (which is mostly women-only and honors a single Goddess) was founded. It attracts women of all sexual orientations.

In 1975, a group for gay men, called the Minoan Brotherhood, was formed in New York. It was started in response to the heterocentric culture of Wicca at the time, and includes "a strong current of spirituality."

Wicca became much more eclectic and open to innovation in the 1990s, when people began to experiment with different and more inclusive forms, including same-sex initiations and more polytheistic rituals. This trend has continued into the twenty-first century.

Problems with Wicca

Many Wiccan rituals emphasize the importance of polarity, the idea that for magic to work, there has to be erotic attraction, usually between a man and a woman. Traditionally, a woman had to initiate a man, and a man had to initiate a woman. Gardner himself was , though the reason usually given nowadays for a woman initiating a man (and vice versa) is that it is to ensure a balance of power in the group (if one gender or one person did all the initiations, they would have an unfair advantage).

Some Wiccans are duotheist, that is, believing that "All the Gods are one God and all the Goddesses are one Goddess." As the divine couple are then understood to be lovers, this again tends to exclude glbtq practitioners or at least underpin heterocentrism.

Polytheist Wiccans see the Horned God and the Moon Goddess (the two deities of the divine couple) as patron deities of Wicca, with a special relationship with the religion, rather than a conflation of a multiplicity of different deities. Still, there is a great deal of emphasis on duality and polarity in the rituals; and there are many people who insist that Wicca is a "fertility religion."

However, Wiccan liturgy does not imply that all magical acts are about fertility. Indeed, it could be argued that "fertility" should in any case be interpreted in its widest possible meaning, such as fertility of ideas and spirit, rather than simply physical reproduction.

Wicca as it is practiced today is sometimes heterocentric, but very rarely homophobic.

Queer Wicca

Wicca and other contemporary pagan traditions celebrate our existence in this world and attempt to gain spiritual insight from nature and the world around us. Wicca also honors the qualities of darkness and the powers of the moon. These are themes that have proven particularly prominent in queer spirituality and attractive to glbtq adherents of Wicca.

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Gerald Gardner, the founder of contemporary Wicca.
  
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