For our latest installment of our Witching Hour series, we look at seven of the most iconic figures in modern Wicca. This list is by no stretch exhaustive; since contemporary Paganism made itself known in the mid to late 20th Century, there have been innumerous figures making their mark in Wicca.

Witching Hour on Female First

Witching Hour on Female First

We also leave out any influential non-Wiccans; many witches and magicians have been essential to the development of modern Wicca, but as witchcraft and Wicca are not one and the same, we wanted to avoid the confusion. Many occultists, historians and witches of other traditions have been just as important in propagating Wicca as we know it today, some of which we will no doubt visit in later pieces.

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1. Gerald Gardner

Sometimes called the Father of Modern Wicca (although Grandfather is more fitting), Gardner was instrumental in bringing Wicca to public attention in the 1950s. He founded a branch of the religion known as Gardnerian Wicca, through which he initiated a number of influential High Priestesses including Doreen Valiente, Lois Bourne, Patricia Crowther and Eleanor Bone. As important as he is to modern Wicca, his claims about where his own Wicca journey began have been widely scrutinised and debated. He released a number of fiction and non-fiction books about Wicca in his lifetime, one of the most iconic being 1954's Witchcraft Today.

2. Doreen Valiente

While Gardner might have brought Wicca out into the open, it was High Priestess of the Bricket Wood coven Doreen Valiente who was perhaps most responsible for writing a lot of the Gardnerian liturgy which ended up being incorporated into Gardner's Book of Shadows. Originally, much of his text was based on the writings of Aleister Crowley, and Valiente wanted to change this out of concern for the reputation of Wicca. She is largely known as the Mother of Modern Witchcraft, writing and re-writing important Wiccan passages such as the Charge of the Goddess and The Wiccan Rede.

3. Alex Sanders

After Gardnerian Wicca came Alexandrian Wicca, founded by Alex Sanders and his wife Maxine Sanders. Often referred to by his followers as King of the Witches, he's been criticised continuously for his outlandish claims regarding his magical ability and his initiation into witchcraft. Still Alexandrian Wicca - which builds on Gardnerian tradition in combination with ceremonial magic and Qabalah - remains one of the most recognised Wiccan traditions.

4. Zsuzsanna Budapest

Another very well-known Wiccan tradition is Dianic Wicca, founded by Hungarian Wiccan Zsuzsanna Budapest in America in the 70s. This departs from the Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions strongly in that it only honours female deities, and many covens even reject male members. Zsuzsanna has written a lot about women's spirituality and feminism within spirituality, and started identifying as a lesbian after the birth of her sons. In 1975, she was famously arrested for "fortune telling" following a police sting, but the laws against the act were later struck from California law when the Supreme Court recognised her arrest as unconstitutional.

5. Raymond Buckland

Former Gardnerian High Priest, Raymond Buckland claimed to be the first openly practising Wiccan in the US, and to have introduced the Garnerian lineage to the US after he emigrated there in the early 60s. He formed the First Museum of Witchcraft and Magick in the States in 1968 and also formed his own branch of Wicca based on Anglo-Saxon paganism called Seax-Wica. Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft is still a very popular work among modern Wiccans today.

6. Scott Cunningham

He authored some of the most easy-to-follow guides to Wicca ever published including the best-selling Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, and was instrumental in encouraging solitary practise for those without access to covens or teachers. A friend of the influential Raymond Buckland and Raven Grimassi, Scott was openly gay, a Third Degree initiate in the Serpent Stone Family coven and the author of more than 20 books. Sadly, he tragically died from meningitis at the age of just 36.

7. Stewart Farrar

An Alexandrian Wicca initiate, Farrar was a prominent figure in neopaganism and would go on to publish two very important texts on Wiccan with his wife Janet Farrar: 1981's Eight Sabbats for Witches and 1984's The Witches' Way, with consultation from Doreen Valiente. Historian Ronald Hutton described him as "the third and last of the great male figures who have formed Wicca" after Gardner and Sanders. He also wrote several fantasy and science fiction novels, various TV episodes and used to be a devout communist.

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