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Wicca and Neo-Paganism

Twentieth Century     Victorian     Druids     The Burning Times     Miscellaneous

Neopaganism covers a wide range of belief systems which have emerged in the past 50 years, primarily in the UK, Europe, and the United States. This includes the better known Wicca, which is a synthesis of traditions from the British Isles, as well as many less visible groups which draw inspiration from other parts of the world. Based on folk-lore, traditional spiritual practices, anthropology, and a synthesis of esoteric systems, Neopaganism does not have any sacred texts of the same vintage as other religions, although unverifiable claims have been made in a couple of cases (e.g. Aradia, and The Gardnerian Book of Shadows).

Rather, the books presented here are source texts of Neopaganism, and other books which deal with related topics. Many of these books contain outdated or speculative material, and some of the texts here are the product of the Renaissance witch hunters. As a whole, the books here are of historical importance rather than a roadmap to modern pagan practice, and shouldn't be construed as such. As always, we encourage readers to think critically.

Descriptions of contemporary Neopagan practice and beliefs can be found in the Internet Book of Shadows section of this site.

Twentieth Century

The Books of Gerald Gardner

The Gardnerian Book of Shadows
The Book of Shadows is a Wiccan text which is maintained by the initiated in manuscript form, and contains description of rituals, spells, and other knowledge. This tradition was carried on by Gerald Gardner, who (depending on the account) either synthesized Wicca, or took it public, during the 1950s.

The White Goddess.
Robert Graves' primary contribution to modern Neopaganism is his White Goddess.

    The Witch-Cult in Western Europe [1921]
    God of the Witches [1933]
Were there ever real witches? If not, what were all the witch trials about? And how about those fairies? Murray tries to answer these and other questions objectively with plenty of documentary evidence. She is often cited as a primary source for Gerald Gardners' ideology.

The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer [1922],
, Robert Graves and Gardner.

Pagan Prayers by Marah Ellis Ryan [1913]


Aradia, Gospel of the Witches by Charles G. Leland [1899]

Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition by Charles G. Leland [1893]
These books describe Stregheria, or Italian traditional witchcraft. These are considered historical source documents of the Wicca movement. Some contemporary scholars have questioned the authenticity of Lelands' scholarship. Recent publications by Raven Grimassi have also added a great deal of depth to the subject of Italian witchcraft. [external site] for more information.

Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling by Charles G. Leland [1891]
The above book by Leland discusses another traditional system of magic, that of the Rom, or Gypsies.

Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft by Sir Walter Scott [1885].
This book by the 19th Century novelist covers much of the same evidence as Murry (albeit in a more popular style). Scott draws few conclusions other than that our ancestors were extremely superstitous.


Although little is actually known about the Druids, that didn't stop 18th and 19th century intellectuals from building a romantic mythology around them. This was closely associated with the rebirth of Celtic nationalism, as well as the Romantic and Gothic movements. This body of fact and speculation later became a central source of modern Wicca and Neo-Pagan belief and practice.

Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions by James Bonwick [1894].
This book reflects a scholarly perspective on the Druids. It ties together many strands of mythology and anthroplogy to shed light on Irish Paganism.

The Veil of Isis or Mysteries of the Druids By W. Winwood Reade [1861]. 277,613 bytes
This book is fairly typical of the mid-19th Century literature about Druidry, which had some romantic misconceptions about the Druids. For instance, we now know that the builders of Stonehenge preceded the historical Celts by many centuries.

The Religion of the Ancient Celts by J. A. MacCulloch [1911]
This is an authoritative study of ancient Celtic religion, including extensive material on what is actually known about the Druids.

The Burning Times

From the 14th to the 17th Century a hysteria spread across Europe which involved torturing and executing people based on accusations that they were witches. Whether any actual practicioners of a pre-Christian pagan tradition were persecuted as the result of a witch trial is up for debate. These books and texts are period documents which illustrate the methods, rationale (such as it was) and history of this persecution. They shouldn't be taken as illustrative of Neopaganism, but as a warning about religious tolerance and the fragile nature of justice.

The Malleus Maleficarum [1486], translated by Montague Summers [1928]
This is the best known witch-hunt manual, a primary source of information on this chilling subject.

Dæmonology by King James the First. [1597] With Newes from Scotland [1591]
Two texts, one an essay on demons and other denizens of the night, the second a broadside with an account of a famous witch trial from the same period.

The Witch-Persecutions, Edited by George L. Burr [1896].
A short collection of translations of historical descriptions of the witch craze.


The Book of Hallowe'en by Ruth Edna Kelley [1919]
Learn about Halloween and its pagan roots.

Irish Witchcraft and Demonology by St. John D. Seymore [1913].
This is a fascinating study of the witch-persecutions in Ireland, along with accounts of paranormal activity.