A very brief history of Wicca
The Gods of Wicca can be traced back to paleolithic man, cave paintings depicting a horned god (God of the hunt) and a pregnant Female with swollen milk laden breasts and extended vagina are fairly common and still being discovered. As man progressed to the new stone age "Neolithic", the hunt became less prominent as farming and settlements became the norm. Now the seasons and the phases of the moon became more apparent. Agriculture and the Earth became the center of attention, the Phases of the moon have been found carved in antler in Europe as early as 7500 B.C.E. The Cycle of the moon and its effects on women (the menstrual cycle) was apparent and became associated with the Goddess (Earth Mother motherhood)
The moon has three major aspects of it's cycle waxing, full and waning The Goddess too was depicted as have the same phases Virgin (pre-puberty), Mother (fertile) and Crone (wise) . All living things could be associated with these phases birth, life, death. These basic ideas of "gods" developed over thousands of years. As as the migration and integration of humans continued so certain beliefs spread with them and merged, Gods were married to Goddesses they had offspring who were themselves Gods and the whole scenario was molded to fit with the myriad of different traditions and beliefs.
Wicca itself is greatly influenced by the Celts from about 450 B.C.E. they were the dominant race in Europe much of what is known of Celtic culture and religion is via the Romans, which cannot be taken as wholly accurate (history is written by the victors). We do know that the Celtic Priesthood had an alphabet "Ogham" , Alas most Celtic tradition was oral, passed down from generation to generation.
The four Major Festivals are derived from The Celts ;
Samhain : The end of the summer and the beginning of the dark days, now called Halloween. Traditionally celebrated by most agricultural peoples.
Imbolic : The first day of the lambing season (Feb. 1st) the return to fertility after the winter.
Beltane : ( May eve) fires were lit on hills to celebrate the return of the power of the Sun
Lughnasadh (Festival of the God of Light) was held on the eve of July and first day of August. His festival was a great summer celebration i the modern wicca calendar it is known as Lammas
Pagan religions of every Ilk flourished for centuries happily co-existing with each other as many were based on the same "roots". The days however of Paganism were numbered and in 324 C.E. with the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine to Christianity.
Christianity like it's forebear Judaism was far from tolerant of other faiths. Anyone who did not follow their doctrine was assumed to be a follower of Satan. And many of the Gods of the Old Religions were depicted by the Christians as demons. Many "Christian" rulers converted their people with a simple choice , baptism or death, not surprisingly the Christian faith so long split by schisms began its meteoric rise to prominence
The Church did not have it all its own way, many "converted" Christians still worship the old Gods and especially the Goddess, such a thorn in the side of the Church was this , that is the 5th century Mary mother of Jesus, was officially venerated as the Virgin Mary, neither Goddess no wholly human but "blessed by God" , to try and supplant the Goddess with their own female deity.
Much stayed the same for the next few centuries , the Church continued to issue books and edicts condemning Paganism and Witchcraft as worshiping devils . In the 13th century the Church officially declared Witchcraft as heresy along with all Pagan and many Alternate Christian doctrines.
In a strife ridden Germany in 1484 Pope Innocent II issued a Papal bull denouncing Witchcraft ( For Witchcraft read , anything not Catholic ) to be heresy. The bull authorized Priests Kramer and Spengler to prosecute "Witches" throughout Northern Germany, this was shortly followed in 1484 by the "Witch finders Bible" Malleus Maleficarum" or "hammer of Witchcraft". This open the floodgates to a reign of terror which swept Europe and later the USA. With the Churches blessing wholesale slaughter and persecution took place, aided perhaps by the fact that those convicted had their goods and chattels confiscated and distributed between accuser and persecutor.
Although Paganism as such was suppressed by the Church , The Pagan traditions lingered on, Mayday, Mistletoe at Yule, and many others simply passed into part of Christian celebrations. Paganism itself began to re-emerge in the more intellectual circles of Europe during the renaissance period in the 15th century this continued to grow via the "Secret Societies" such as the Illuminati, the Freemasons and the Rosicrucians.
In 1899 Charles Leland published "Ariada or The Gospel of Witches" purporting to be the long held traditions of Italian Witches. One of the Major works to influence modern Wicca was "the Witch cult in Western Europe; A study in anthropology" by Margaret Murray , she concluded that with "burning times" had been a suppression of an underground Pagan Religion, secretly kept throughout the Christian persecution and still flourishing in England.
Although Leland's "Ariada" suggested that Goddess worship was still practiced in Italy, it was not until the 1950's that there was any public awareness of the Old Religion being continued in circles in England. Then along came Gerald Gardner, In 1939 he had been initiated in to the Craft by Dorothy Clutterbuck a Bournemouth resident. Gardner held differing views to the current ethos of practicing witches. They still felt that secrecy was required whilst Gardner felt that a more public profile was needed and with the repeal of the Witchcraft Laws in 1951 his first non fiction publication was in 1954 "Witchcraft Today" followed in 1959 with "The Meaning of Witchcraft"
Gardnerian Witches have become one of the major branches of Wicca, another being Alexandrian, whose members were initiated by Alex and Maxine Sanders themselves of Gardnerian origin.
The rest to quote a phrase "is history"