The occult tradition of Crowley merged with the spurious fertility-cult anthropology of the followers of Margaret Murray during the 1940's and 1950's to produce a new phenomenon. Around the time that the famous litterateur Robert Graves was writing his imaginative and wholly unreliable White Goddess (1948) about an alleged worldwide cult of the earth and moon goddess, modern witchcraft was being created in the mind of an Englishman named Gerald Gardner. According to his followers, Gardner, who was born in 1884, was initiated into the ancient religion in 1939 by a witch of the New Forest named Old Dorthy Clutterbuck. In fact, Gardner had invented the religion on the basis of his readings of the Murrayites and Aleister Crowley, and his experiences in occult organizations such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and Crowley's Order of the Temple of the Orient. Gardner claim to be the mediator of an ancient religion was spurious, but he launched a growing religious movement that has gained many adherents, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries. Whatever its origins, it has become a small religious movement in its own right.
Gardner's works were very influential in British occult circles, and many contemporary witches, sometimes called Gardnerites, received their credentials through Gardner's Witchcraft Museum on the Isle of Man. The question of legitimacy among British witches is still raging, each accusing the other of concocting his own rituals.
Gardner's reputation suffered somewhat after his death when it emerged that he probably fabricated his academic qualifications. In addition, some people claimed that, contrary to his own declarations, he had invented rather than rediscovered the mystic and ancient religion that came to be called Wicca.
The overall world numbers of the witches must be fewer than a hundred thousand. There are a numerous schismatic ( tending to, or of the nature of) groups. The tenets of witchcraft as it has evolved include a reverence for nature expressed in the worship of a fertility goddess and (sometimes) a god; a restrained hedonism (ethics, the doctrine that pleasure in the highest good) that advocates indulgence in sexual pleasures so long as advocates indulgence hurts no one; the practice of group magic aimed (usually) at healing or other positive ends; colorful rituals; and release from guilt and sexual inhibitions. It rejects diabolism and even the belief in the devil on the grounds that the existence of the Devil is a Christian, not a pagan, doctrine. It offers a sense of the feminine principle in the godhead, a principle almost entirely forgotten in the masculine symbolism of the great monotheistic religions. And its eclectic paganism promotes a sense of the variety and diversity of the godhead.
Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion An Anthropological Study of the Supernatural Third Edition
Cassell Dictionary of Witchcraft David Pickering