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Why Wicca Is a Major World Religion

By Aidan Kelly

Gerald Brosseau Gardner, that strange retired Englishman, created Wicca because he could not find an adequate religion elsewhere. His museum contained hundreds of pamphlets from various minority religions, and dozens of documents about his memberships, initiations, and ordinations; he had been actively searching for many years. He did not create it out of whole cloth; he used many extant materials, but the structure he and his friends gradually evolved from the late 1930s to the early 1960s was definitely something new under the sun. If he had wanted Wicca to be a tiny secret cult spread only by word of mouth, he would never have written his books. But he did write them, because he hoped Wicca would become a major religion, able to stand on its own, against Christianity or any other religion. That he succeeded marks him as a true religious genius, comparable to Joseph Smith, Jr., or Mary Baker Eddy, or many others. Yet in a way he was even greater, because what he created was not just another variation on Christianity, but an entirely different religion, one that has strengths precisely where Christianity and the other world religions are weak. True, he was a rogue, a reprobate, a rascal guru, but, as William James pointed out in the first of the Gifford Lectures that became The Varieties of Religious Experience, no one who feels obligated to obey all the ordinary rules of society could possibly ever do something as extraordinary as creating a new religion. You can now read the details of how he did it in Philip Heselton’s magnificent biography of Gardner, Father of the Witches. (This is an entirely unsolicited testimonial.)

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