Traditonal witchcraft or wicca is a pagan religion. It is thought to be one of the oldest and newest religions. The reason they call it the newest is because it is constantly growing. Like the different denominations of Christianity, Witchcraft has many different covens and ideas how to practise it. Though the old Traditional Witchcraft covens still exist there are now covens that just have all female or male members. The Temple of Diana is mostly made up of feminist lesbians, though bisexual and heterosexual women are allowed. Also there is a coven called The Radical Faeries that solely comprises of male homosexuals.
Mankind throughout the ages has been practising witchcraft/paganism. Before the rise of the monotheistic religions - Zoroastrian, Judo/Christian - etc.- mankind believed in the nature spirits and the gods. These gods symbolized fertility and the enduring forces of nature.
In Palaeolithic times man was a nomadic hunter. He lived in caves and relied on his ability to hunt and kill fresh meat for his daily feast. In winter, when all the fruits and nuts became scarce, man's skill as a hunter was even more important. This is one of the reasons he would dress in animal skins and pray to the Horned God to make him a skilful hunter. Many caves in France have crude stone age paintings of a man dressed in animal skins. He needed the Horned God's help in catching fast animals such as elks or boars.
In the Neolithic era mankind changed from being nomadic hunters and started to settle down and farm. Now that they had started to cultivate crops, it was important for them to ensure a bounteous harvest. So they started to pray to Gaia, Diana, Mother Earth, etc. for a plentiful harvest.
Different cultures have other names for the Wicca Horned God and Mother Earth. In Saxon paganism its Wooden and Freya. In Celtic paganism they have Cernunnos and the Matres, a triple mother goddess. The Horned God is also known as the Green Man. These different goddess' and gods basically are all representations of each other and were worshipped by the people for the same reason - fertility.
When Christianity came to Europe the old pagan religion was almost stamped out. It was almost wiped out because all the old pagan sites and their sabbats were taken over by the invading Christians. The reason we celebrate Christmas on 25th December is because in the old witchcraft calendar Yule was celebrated on 21st December and represented festivities, rejoicing, decorating the house and putting up a tree to celebrate the enduring forces of nature.
Three years after the Witchcraft Act had been repealed in 1951, Gerald Gardner (1884-1964), an English civil servant and amateur anthropologist, wrote a book "Witchcraft Today". In the book he claims that Wicca is a pre-Christian pagan witch cult. Prior to starting his own coven, he had been initiated into a coven in the New Forest. After "Witchcraft Today" was published a new interest in witchcraft came about in England.
There are now many followers of traditional witchcraft, especially in America and Britain. One of the reasons people practise witchcraft is because it is a none restrictive religion. It does not have a heaven or hell nor it does not thrown on the sexual union of two consenting adults. Witches are also very moral. They believe in looking after their enviornment and the creatures that inhabit it.
Books You Might Enjoy:
Tarostar - The Witchs Spellcraft Revised
Gabor Klaniczay - Witchcraft Mythologies And Persecutions
Rosemary Ellen Guiley - The Encyclopedia Of Witches Witchcraft And Wicca
Gerald Gardner - Witchcraft Today
Jaroslav Nemec - Witchcraft And Medicine