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Modern Western witchcraft movement. Some practitioners consider Wicca the religion of pre-Christian Europe, forced underground by the Christian church. That thesis is not accepted by historians, and modern Wicca is usually dated to the work of Gerald B. Gardner (1884–1964) and Doreen Valiente (1922–1999), who, after the repeal of the last Witchcraft Act in England (1951), went public with their cult of witchcraft, which centered on a horned god of fertility and a great earth goddess. Gardner is credited with introducing the term Wicca. So-called Dianic Wicca focuses on the Goddess as the supreme being and usually excludes men. Wiccans share a belief in the importance of the feminine principle, a deep respect for nature, and a pantheistic and polytheistic worldview. They practice some form of ritual magic, almost always considered good or constructive. Some are solitary practitioners; others belong to covens.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Wicca, visit Britannica.com.