Early books (and some
modern ones) refer to Wicca as the Old Religion, a religion that survived
in secret in Europe through the Christian period. Frequently, the age
of that "Old Religion" is stretched to astronomical proportions.
Unfortunately, the late Dr. Margaret Murray also didn't know what she was talking about. While her theories were once respected, they were completely dismissed decades ago based, among other things, on her complete lack of supporting evidence. (See more on Murray's Unlikely Theories).
Hinduism and Judaism are among the world's oldest religions, and their age can only be measured in a handful of millennia. No religion comes close to being 25,000 years old, for a variety of reasons:
Furthermore, since the advent of writing, there has never been a single religion uniformly practiced across western Europe before Christianity. That is a fact. Each of the cultures dotting that continent possessed their own pantheons, their own stories, their own creation myths and afterlifes. Pick up any book on European mythologies or pre-Christian religions and see for yourself. There are some similarities, the result of occasional interactions between the cultures, but each religion and mythology is its own independent entity. For that matter, you can find similarities between those religions and Christianity too. That does not mean that they are all the same, nor that they all originate from a single common religion for which there is no evidence for.
Moreover, the idea that Wiccans are following ANY pre-Christian religion is in error. Many of us worship old deities, and some of us try to incorporate the flavor of the old rites, but the simple fact is our knowledge of those rites varies from incomplete to extremely sketchy, depending upon the pantheon in question. Even Gerald Gardner acknowledged:
That supplemental material came mostly from ceremonial magic sources: The Order of the Golden Dawn, Thelema, Freemasonry, and other occult entities of the 19th and early 20th century. But even the age of those "fragments" is hardly ancient. There just isn't any evidence suggesting the survival of an Old Religion through the Middle Ages. Yes, aspects of the pagan beliefs remained in altered forms - gods became fairies, spirits and saints, for example - but that is not to say the religion itself survived. Yes, people continued to believe in and even practice magic, but the practice of magic does not require the existence of a pagan religion. Indeed, there are records of nuns creating magical amulets invoking Jesus and Mary.
It's like saying anyone who celebrates Christmas (exchanging gifts, getting together with family) must be a Christian. There are millions of people who celebrate the holiday every year without holding religious significance to it. Just because some aspects of a religion survive, does not mean the religion has survived.
These facts do not make our beliefs invalid. They simply make them not ancient.
"Wicca is the world's oldest religion / Wicca is older than
And if you're one of the people who argues this, don't tell me age doesn't really matter to you. If it didn't matter, you wouldn't bring it up. We're supposed to be tolerant of all other religions. This ill-informed one-upmanship is embarrassing.
Wicca is approximately
60 years old. We have adopted certain aspects of older religions - we
even invoke some of their gods - but we are not followers of those religions.
and Christianity share an entire Old Testament, not to mention a supreme
being, but they're not the same religion either.
1 Buckland, Raymond. Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft, page 1. Llewellyn Publications, copyright 1975.
2 Julia Phillips, "HISTORY OF WICCA IN ENGLAND: 1939 - present day." Lecture at the Wiccan Conference in Canberra, 1991