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I've been studying books, learning the craft, but most books call Wicca before the 1950's "the old religion". I know before 1951 in the UK, it was still illegal to be a witch, and Wicca started with Gerald Gardener, but what was the old religion of witches called? The only possibility I've seen is that it was called witchcraft, pagani (people of the country), or heathen (people of the Heath).

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There was never an old religion of witches. Witchcraft is not a religion in itself, and there was never one singular "pagan" religion or culture, but many. The idea of there being a Pan-European old religion of witches was based on shoddy research sprinkled with a heavy dose of romanticism.
KA is right, Petrus. Wicca is not an old religion. It is a new one, though it has very old roots in ceremonial magick, cunning craft, and folklore. The idea that witchcraft was once a widespread European folk-religion comes from a book called The Witch Cult in Western Europe by Margaret Murray. Murray published her book in 1921, and it has since been discredited, though some of its ideas are still floating around.
You, and every other student of witchcraft, should read Triumph of the Moon by Ronald Hutton, a book that explains the origins of Wicca quite well.

In layman's terms, what is intended by that is not a formal organization of people but rather a commonplace practice of what is called 'the craft' today.  Folk practice, medicine, psychology, etc.   It has its good/bad just like today's New-Age clap trap.  Some practices stemmed from deep-rooted superstitions so some was harmful, while other practices were known among the common people and still rings true today.

Heathen is used to describe those of us that follow Ásatrú. We chose that because of what the term pagan brings to mind on most people.
Pagan is an umbrella term, a catch all if you will, it refers to anyone not of the Big 3.
Krisjans also use it to try to demonize us all.

Much of Geralds work traces back to Co-Masonry and Strega. Strega goes back to the 1500s and is remarkably similar to Wicca. God and Goddess balance and cooperation.

There are Roots in the old Celtic religions, but Witchcraft itself was not a religion until relitively reciently

To my understanding and what I was taught. The birthplace of all spiritual systems came from the wise. At one point in history the word wise was used as a name (or the older variants). By a group who's earliest references date 20 to 25,000 years ago in cave paintings found in France. It has even been suggested by religious writers that the inclusion of the wise in the story of the baby Jesus was to help transition members of that system to Christianity. After the advent of Christianity the name was demonized and later transformed into the name that we all know of witch. That was also during the same time in history that the devil was invented. References to the spiritual path can be found with searching but little can be found short of the stories handed down in families like mine.

Well those who practiced before the creation of Wicca with Gardner usually didn't call themselves 'witches'  They would call themselves 'cunning men' or healers of various types.  The term which was used by them when Wicca was developing was they were 'traditional' witches.  Two names you might want to look up are George Pickingill (the book to read is "The Pickingill Papers by W. E. Liddell and Mike Howard) and then the works of Robert Cochrine such as Roebuck in the Thicket.


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