Is Wiccan the oldest religion?
The symbolism of fertility and fertility is even more marked on Venus de Laussel (photo right), dated at about 25 000 BC. The horn she holds in her right hand is a buffalo horn and represents abundance (the famous cornucopia which is metaphorically an inexhaustible source of blessing). In addition, this horn has 13 notches that would be, according to some researchers, a reference to either lunar cycles or female menstrual cycles.
Some scientists (such as Margaret Murray, 1863-1963, English anthropologist and Egyptologist) locate the origin of witchcraft in the early Paleolithic (prehistoric period ranging from -30,000 to -12,000 years), there are some 25 000 years. Indeed, if in the heart of the Middle Paleolithic the first spiritual concerns are emerging (the man begins to inter alia to bury his dead), it is in the heart of the Upper Paleolithic that the prehistoric art will develop. The engravings and statuettes found during excavations seem to indicate that in those distant times a God and a Goddess were already venerated. We can thus see the roots of Wicca, even if a filiation as old remains only hypothetical.
The goddess during prehistory
The Venus of Willendorf, dated about 23,000 BC JC, presents the typical characteristics of the statuettes of this time. The exaggeration of her belly and breasts - which suggests she is pregnant - has led some archaeologists to assume that these figurines were used as part of a cult of fertility and fertility. This interpretation is supported by the fact that the peripheral parts are very little detailed (arms and legs are small, poorly detailed, almost absent): only the parts representing fertility are truly present. The goddess was therefore seen as a "mother goddess", the one who gives birth and cares for her children.
The symbolism of fertility and fertility is even more marked on Venus de Laussel (photo right), dated at about 25 000 BC. The horn she holds in her right hand is a buffalo horn and represents abundance (the famous cornucopia which is metaphorically an inexhaustible source of blessing). In addition, this horn has 13 notches that would be, according to some researchers, a reference to either lunar cycles or female menstrual cycles. Her left hand on her stomach indicates she is pregnant. Finally, like the Venus of Willendorf she appears, naked with some parts of the body exaggeratedly developed.
God during prehistory
If a female deity seems to have been venerated during prehistory, it appears that this was also the case of a male deity, without us knowing which preceded the other (perhaps we began to venerate them all two at the same time).
In the cave of the three brothers (located in Midi-Pyrénées) have indeed been found two parietal engravings to be half-man / half-animal. These are the oldest representations of what seems to be the God seen by prehistoric men that we know: they too were dated from the Upper Paleolithic.
This God is represented for the first time in half-human / half-bison traits (image above). If at first we thought he was holding a musical instrument, it turned out to be a bow. This engraving thus seems to represent one of the first magic rituals that the man has executed: a man wearing an animal skin and a mask (probably the sorcerer of the tribe) plays the role of the hunting God so that the next hunts of Bison be good. The second representation of God (image on the right) is that of a being half-man / half-deer. Unlike the first etching, it seems that it is not a man who has donned a skin of a beast but indeed the God himself, as it was perceived at that time.
During prehistory, the worship of the goddess predominates
Excavations carried out in Çatal Höyük, an agglomeration located in Turkey which knew its heyday between - 6500 and -5700 BC. JC indicate that during the Neolithic period (prehistoric period extending from 9000 BC to 3300 BC), worship of the goddess was dominant. Several theories can explain this. For Marija Gimbutas (archaeologist, 1921-1994), the worship of the goddess would have been dominant from the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, during which time there existed a pre-Indo-European civilization she called "prehistoric culture of the goddess" and who would have venerated the goddess as a symbol of fertility and fertility. This matriarchal civilization (society "centered" on women, including the transmission of social status - the name and fortune - which is done by the mother, and with the
Others explain, however, that at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, the God and the Goddess were equally venerated. Indeed, the goddess was associated with gathering (as a representative of fertility, and thus, linked to the nourishing earth) and that the "horned god" was linked to hunting (as evidenced by the first engraving of the cave of the three brothers). The worship of the Goddess would have predominated in the summer (when nature offers its fruits to men), and the God in winter (when it was necessary to resume hunting in order to survive). The development of agriculture, and the learning of the means of storing food, would have made hunting less indispensable to survival and would have relegated God to the background and placed the Goddess at the center of beliefs.
Whatever the correct theory, what we can say is that at that time, man had perfected his study of nature, and the Goddess already appeared under the three aspects under which many Wiccans continue to venerate her: the young woman, mother with child, and old lady. If the cult of the goddess is dominant, the worship of God has not disappeared. He also appears at this time under 3 aspects: the son of the Goddess, his lover, and also, the bearded man riding a bull. The writing is unfortunately not yet discovered, which explains why the prehistoric cultures venerating the goddess have left so few traces.
The male gods become dominant during antiquity
If one follows Marija Gimbutas's theory, the matriarchal societies that existed until then are transformed towards 3,000 BC. JC in patriarchal societies. This social change would have affected the religious plan: the worship of the Goddess would have given way to the worship of God. Already in Mesopotamia, the supremacy of the male gods is asserted with Enlil, god of the air, who was presented as the "sovereign of the gods". In Egypt, Ra (who according to legends would either be born of the goddess Neit or would have created himself) becomes the main deity during the Old Kingdom (period of Egyptian history extending from about -2700 at -2200 BC). In ancient Greece, Zeus is, like Enlil in Mesopotamia, presented as the "king of the gods". In these polytheistic religions, goddesses continue to be revered, and if their worship is no less important, it is only secondary. In the continuity of this evolution, the monotheistic religions that will come to light will have only one single god and male, having totally put aside the worship that had been given to the goddess in the past.
Christianity imposes itself in Europe
In 371 AD, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire. In 391 Theodosius I suppresses the last manifestations of "official" paganism in the Empire. However, this should not be seen as an immediate mass conversion: it is not because leaders are converted that the entire population denies its beliefs. In the first centuries of Christianity, it seems indeed that "the old religion" (in the different forms in which it could be practiced) remains dominant in Europe. Unable to suppress beliefs, the Church endeavored to recover on its own account what could be ancient practices. Thus, for example, the Christian festivals were placed at the same times as the pagan festivals, in the same state of mind, Pope Gregory I (640-604) built churches on places of worship pagan. People So they continued to gather at the same place, on the same dates, but the old gods were no longer worshiped there: the worship which was rendered there was directed by a Christian priest.
A kind of hybrid cult, a mixture of Christianity and an older spirituality, would have developed. This is evident in the worship that is sometimes given to the Virgin Mary, to whom churches are dedicated under the name of "Notre-Dame" (Notre-Dame de Paris for example), another name of the Goddess, or in the form of virgin to child (one of the aspects of the Goddess).
The time of persecution
After the death of Gregory I, the Church continued to gain power, but the popes that followed began to worry about the divergences over the content of faith that were emerging. In fact, whoever says one God says only one admissible truth. The chaos in which Europe was then plunged gave the church, by accusing the heretics of these evils, a justification for eliminating them.
If the first trial in witchcraft took place in 1235 in Treves and the first witch was burned in Toulouse in 1275, witches were not the first targets of the Church. Indeed, the first inquisitions first attacked the Cathar heresy (Christian movement which criticized the Church for its ostentatious wealth and its abuse of power), and the Order of the Temple (the famous Templars) .
These inquisitions ended, the Church changed its target. Until then it appears that the witches were more perceived as drawing their powers from God than the Devil (In the Bible, when Moses makes the waters of the Red Sea deviate, it is for example written: "Moses extended his and the Lord fought the sea with an east wind ").
The fact that the pagans were not immediately regarded as devoting Satan to worship is evidenced by the etymology of the word paganism that comes from paganus and originally meant "those who live in the countryside" - paganus so to give, in addition to paganism, the word peasant - if the word pagan was quickly used by the Church to designate those who were not Christian, one realizes that there was then no diabolical connotation in the use of this word.
In the 13th century, the position of the church changed radically. The witch is no longer seen as working hand in hand with God, but as having signed a pact with the devil. It seems that this change of position of the Church is explained because it would then have thought that there existed a "sect" of witches well organized and spreading all over Europe.
The horned god became Satan
While at this time Christianity is the dominant religion in Europe, the worship of the Horned God has not clearly disappeared and continues to be practiced, especially in Great Britain. In 1300, the bishop of Coventry is accused of practicing this cult, in the document accusing him, the horned God is called Satan for the first time by the Church. Indeed, Satan is never described in this form in the Bible.
The witch hunt on a large scale
If from 1326 witchcraft was defined as heresy by Pope John XXII, it was not until 1484 that the gates of terror really opened when Pope Innocent VIII took a papal bull ordering the riddance the lands of witches and black cats by killing them (burning in France and Germany, hanging in England). This was the beginning of a period of collective hysteria.
The Church immediately appointed inquisitors who had full authority against those accused of witchcraft. The latter, in the name of ecclesiastical power, had all the rights to hunt witches, and therefore did not hesitate to resort to torture, thus confessing to the accused anything and everything. All the possessions of those suspected of witchcraft were confiscated to never be returned to them, even in the rare cases where they were innocent: being an inquisitor was an extremely lucrative activity! Among the victims of the witch hunt, we find in the first place the women who were the least socially protected (women living alone and away, such as widows, old girls, or old women for example).
Midwives and healers were also frequently accused of witchcraft. The latter used ancestral knowledge to heal, which went hand in hand with incantations that the Church would have liked to see replaced by prayers addressed to the holy healers.
Women, privileged targets
The persecution was truly launched on a large scale when in 1486 the Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of the witches in French) was published. This code, intended to help the inquisitors in their witch hunt, defines women as the main instrument of the devil, which is surprising because we know they were much better Christian than men. In fact, 80% of victims of witchcraft trials were women. This hatred against women can be explained first of all by the Biblical texts themselves, and more specifically by Genesis (first book of the Old Testament), a book in which the original fisherman is textually described as having been committed by a woman - Eve -, worse it is said that she corrupted the man - Adam -. The famous episode of the apple is indeed so told:"The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasant to the eye, and that it was precious to open the mind; she took of her fruit, and ate it; she also gave it to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it."
The authors of the Witches' Hammer, two Dominican priests, also seem to have certain obsessions, with several chapters in the book devoted to sexuality in witchcraft and reproaching women for being "too erotic".
The end of witch hunts
At the end of the Middle Ages, the Church begins to realize that there is no organized witch sect spreading across Europe as she might have thought. But it is then too late to reverse the trend, famines and epidemics have not disappeared, it means for the population of the time that the devil, despite the witch hunts that have been conducted, was not chased from Europe. The witch hunts will therefore change hands to be led by secular power (secular justice).
The sixteenth-seventeenth century that mark the beginning of the modern world is accompanied by social upheavals, facing the misunderstanding of the world around them the fear of the devil is at its culmination, and witch hunts will reach their peak, before to begin to fade. The collective imagination that places most of the pyres in the Middle Ages is therefore wrong. At the end of the 17th century, one begins to realize that under torture, anyone is able to confess anything. In Salem, for example, an accused will admit to having participated in a Sabbath where the wife of the governor, a woman whose piety was irreproachable, was also present, which would completely discredit this confession. In addition doubts about the reality of the phenomena accused of witches are becoming more numerous. Thus in France the terrible witch hunts ended in 1680, when the Parliament of Paris eventually deny any reality to the satanic pacts. In Great Britain, the last so-called witch was burned in 1727, but the last "Witchcraft Acts" was not removed until 1951.
Estimating the number of victims
If some estimated that 9 million people died during the cruel witch hunts (Dan Brown for example in the Da Vinci Code), this figure seems exaggerated and it is likely that the number of victims much less important. Historians agree on the figure of 100,000 deaths, a number that remains high in proportion to the European population of the time. It should be noted that 100,000 people killed for witchcraft does not mean 100,000 witches: as we have already said, torture techniques used to confess anything to anyone.
Moreover, since the cats suffered the same fate, there was no longer any protection against the rats that carried the Black Death to Europe. Worst of all, they were wrongly held responsible for these epidemics, and their massacre was ordered in retaliation, thus facilitating the spread of the disease. One could add to the dead of the pyres those who died of the plague as having been the victim of witch hunts.
The Wiccain revival
Almost immediately after the suppression of the last "Witchcraft Acts" in 1951, there was a "revival" Wiccan. This thanks in particular to an Englishman, Gerald Brousseau Gardner (1884-1864).
According to Gerald Gardner:
Gerald B. Gardner claims that he came into contact with a "coven" that operated in the New Forest (South of England) and whose creation dates back several centuries (perhaps even before the arrival of Christianity in Europe). He claims that a "witch" witch (a witch witch daughter) nicknamed "Old Dorothy" (the old Dorothy - whose real name would be "Dorothy Clutterbuck") would have initiated her into the coven and the wicca.
Gardner himself admits that what he discovered in the coven was incomplete and made mistakes. On the one hand, for millennia, witchcraft had been an oral tradition, on the other hand and above all, the centuries during which it had been forced to secrecy had forced the covens to isolate themselves from each other, by written as little information as possible for fear of being discovered Gardner corrected and thus completed the rituals of his coven by his own beliefs and research, which gave birth to the Gardnerian Wicca The initiation received by Gardner would have occurred in 1939 but could not be immediately revealed to the general public because of the remaining anti-witchcraft laws. To circumvent them, he published in 1949 High Magic's Aid, a novel in which is described the true beliefs and practices of witches. When the last anti-witchcraft laws were abolished in 1951, it took Gardner 3 years to convince his coven to let him reveal to the public their existence and practices. He then published two books: Witchcraft Today (1954 - Witchcraft Today) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959 - The Meaning of Witchcraft), which detailed the beliefs and practices of Wicca. He says in his book Witchcraft Today: "What Margaret Murray theorized is true. Witchcraft was a religion, and in fact continues to be so. I know it because I am a wizard myself. " it took Gardner 3 years to convince his coven to let him know their existence and practices. He then published two books: Witchcraft Today (1954 - Witchcraft Today) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959 - The Meaning of Witchcraft), which detailed the beliefs and practices of Wicca. He says in his book Witchcraft Today: "What Margaret Murray theorized is true. Witchcraft was a religion, and in fact continues to be so. I know it because I am a wizard myself. " it took Gardner 3 years to convince his coven to let him know their existence and practices. He then published two books: Witchcraft Today (1954 - Witchcraft Today) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959 - The Meaning of Witchcraft), which detailed the beliefs and practices of Wicca. He says in his book Witchcraft Today: "What Margaret Murray theorized is true. Witchcraft was a religion, and in fact continues to be so. I know it because I am a wizard myself." He says in his book Witchcraft Today: "What Margaret Murray theorized is true. Witchcraft was a religion, and in fact continues to be so. I know it because I am a wizard myself. " He says in his book Witchcraft Today: "What Margaret Murray theorized is true. Witchcraft was a religion, and in fact continues to be so. I know it because I am a wizard myself. "
Between doubts and truth
Gardner is far from unanimous, even among the Wiccans. If some see him as the greatest of modern wizards, many see him as a crook who has created wicca from scratch.
Faced with the question "Is Gardner yes or no the inventor of wicca?", The only thing we can say is that Gardner created the Gardnerian Wicca (one of many existing Wiccan traditions). With regard to Wicca as a whole, I leave it to you to make your own opinion, each of the two positions can be supported. What is also certain is that the wicca incorporates many very old elements. I will only mention here as an example the concept of God and the Goddess. As we have seen, such a conception of deities seems to date back to the Upper Paleolithic, moreover, it may be related to the Yin / Yang (principle of Chinese philosophy that can be summarized summarily by saying that the opposites are complementary and that something does not exist without its opposite, for example, we can say that if there were no light there would be no darkness and that without darkness there would be no light), the Yin being associated with the female part of nature and Yang representing his masculine part. If at the heart of this history, I presented the thesis according to which the wicca would go back to prehistory (it is the theory which you will find presented in more by books dealing with the subject), note that it is not shared by all Wiccans.
Scott Cunningham, for example, one of the most recognized Wiccan authors, sees wicca as a modern and accessible religion inspired by ancient practices and adding a part of spirituality to each moment of our lives. Let's just add that it's not because we thought the Earth was flat for centuries that it was the truth. If Wicca sounds right to your heart, it does not matter whether it goes back to prehistory or that it was invented yesterday! Whatever the opinion we have of Gerald Gardner, at least we can recognize the merit of having made talk about the wicca: those who are already Wiccan, and those who are about to become it would be probably not without him.
A prosperous religion
If it is difficult to estimate accurately the number of Wiccans, the majority of them being solitary practitioners, we can say that today wicca is a prosperous religion. It may be noted first of all that wicca is today a "true" religion recognized in many countries, particularly in the United States (and even within the armed forces, where special instructions are the Wiccans in the Department of the Army Pamphlet No. 165-13).
One of the ways to know the evolution of the number of practitioners is to turn to the prisoners declaring to practice this religion. For example, in Canada, in 2002, the Correctional Service of Canada counted 25 Wiccans, and 77 in 2007; which suggests that in the general Canadian population the number of Wiccans has tripled in five years. ReligionLink.com indicates that in the United States the progression of the followers seems comparable (this site indicating that this figure more than doubled between 2001 and 2008, having passed from 134 000 to 342 000). This sharp rise makes it the fastest growing religion in the United States.