MODERN NEO-PAGANISM & THE OCCULT
A Guide to Alternative Religions
And Their Opponents (Vers. 2.0)
SPECIAL REPORT ON WICCA (WITCHCRAFT) AND PAGANISM
During the summer of 1989, Hal Mansfield was invited and attended a Pagan festival (Dragonfest) located in the Colorado Rockies. The festival included people from all over the United States, with approximately 250 in attendance. He has also talked with numerous other Wiccans and Pagans and has done extensive research in the area of Wicca/Paganism. The following conclusions will be no doubt controversial. Keep in mind our center does not evaluate belief systems; that task is left to individuals and their own faith communities. We only look at the operational mechanics of an organization or group.
With that in mind, Hal found that applying our definition of destructive cults, Wicca and the Pagan communities do not fall under the definition. That being: An organization that inhibits individual freedom of thought through the use of violence, deception and mind control. Using another model, that being Dr. Lifton's eight points of mind control, Wiccan communities don't fall under that category either. For more detailed explanation of these points, we would suggest reading Dr. Lifton's book, "Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalitarianism." During the four days Hal was at the festival, he was made welcome and allowed to attend (or not as he saw fit) anything he wanted. There was no pressure, guilt, mass recruitment, or anyone constantly to accompany him unless he asked. There was no autocratic leadership, no mass orgies, or long processions of hooded, black robed people practicing black arts ceremonies until all hours of the night. Instead, there were workshops, a lot of music, people enjoying the great outdoors, and the rituals were relatively short, brightly colored, and no Devil worship. Satan is not in their belief system.
A large percentage of the workshops dealt with social issues such as: the environment, politics, ethics and feminism to name a few. During these workshops, opposing points of view constantly came up on the issues at hand. Though debate was at many times heated, no one was put down for expressing themselves or bringing contrasting opinions into the discussions.
Cult-related crime does occur, but we need to be careful not to jump to conclusions and lay blame on groups because of alternate beliefs. Hal feels this has happened to a large extent to Wiccans/Pagans. There are extreme differences between an alternative religion and destructive cults. Hal finds little or no evidence to link Wiccans to occult crime or cult cases we have researched or investigated. The few links are in the adolescent "Do-it-yourself" covens in which kids beg, borrow and steal from all sorts of belief systems, books, movies, etc. For more information on this, we would refer you to our discussion paper: "Pseudo-Satanism in School Systems Today." The other area is involving an individual's own pathological behavior. Almost all these persons call themselves Satanists. Satanism, whether it's a made-up system by individuals, an organized group, or a destructive cult, is not Wicca or Paganism! There is little similarity between them.
Some skeptics might say the Pagan/Wiccan communities put on a show for Hal. He would reply that he doubts 250 people would come from all over the country just to put on a show for him. Hal has interviewed countless numbers of Wiccans/Pagans and has found the same findings as above throughout the years. This is not a comprehensive report on Paganism, only very basic. Wicca and Paganism are too complex to outline in this paper.
The final thought is, when cult crime does occur, rumor and wild speculation are poor substitutes for good research and investigatory techniques. Each case needs to be handled as unique, not lump-sum them all together.
As always when we publish a report of this nature, we invite comments, evidence and suggestions in support or in contrast to our findings. Permission for reproduction of this report is granted; feel free to share it.
RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT RESOURCES CENTER
629 S. Howes Ft. Collins, CO 80521
Hal Mansfield, Director
A service of United Campus Ministry at Colorado State University
WHAT IS WICCA?
An Introduction to "The Old Religion" of Europe and its Modern Revival
by Amber K, High Priestess
Our Lady of the Woods
P.O. Box 176
Blue Mounds, Wisconsin 53517
(This leaflet may be reproduced and distributed exactly as in, without further permission from the author, provided it is offered free of charge. Changes in the text, however, must be approved in advance by the author. Thank you!)
WICCA (sometimes called Wicce, The Craft, or The Old Religion by its practitioners) is an ancient religion of love for life and nature.
In prehistoric times, people respected the great forces of Nature and celebrated the cycles of the seasons and the moon. They saw divinity in the sun and moon, in the Earth Herself, and in all life. The creative energies of the universe were personified: feminine and masculine principles became Goddesses and Gods. These were not semi-abstract, superhuman figures set apart from Nature: they were embodied in earth and sky, women and men, and even plants and animals.
This viewpoint is still central to present-day Wicca. To most Wiccans, everything in Natures -- and all Goddesses and Gods -- are true aspects of Deity. The aspects most often celebrated in the Craft, however, are the Triple Goddess of the Moon (Who is Maiden, Mother, and Crone) and the Horned God of the wilds. These have many names in various cultures.
Wicca had its organized beginnings in Paleolithic times, co-existed with other Pagan ("country") religions in Europe, and had a profound influence on early Christianity. But in the medieval period, tremendous persecution was directed against the Nature religions by the Roman Church. Over a span of 300 years, millions of men and women and many children were hanged, drowned or burned as accused "Witches." The Church indicted them for black magic and Satan worship, though in fact these were never a part of the Old Religion.
The Wiccan faith went underground, to be practiced in small, secret groups called "covens." For the most part, it stayed hidden until very recent times. Now scholars such as Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner have shed some light on the origins of the Craft, and new attitudes of religious freedom have allowed covens in some areas to risk becoming more open.
How do Wiccan folk practice their faith today? There is no central authority or doctrine, and individual covens vary a great deal. But most meet to celebrate on nights of the Full Moon, and at eight great festivals or Sabbats throughout the year.
Though some practice alone or with only their families, many Wiccans are organized into covens of three to thirteen members. Some are led by a High Priestess or Priest, many by a Priestess/Priest team; others rotate or share leadership. Some covens are highly structured and hierarchical, while others may be informal and egalitarian. Often extensive training is required before initiation, and coven membership is considered an important commitment.
There are many branches or "traditions" of Wicca in the United States and elsewhere, such as the Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Welsh Traditional, Dianic, Faery, Seax-Wicca and others. All adhere to a code of ethics. None engage in the disreputable practices of some modern "cults," such as isolating and brainwashing impressionable, lonely young people. Genuine Wiccans welcome sisters and brothers, but not disciples, followers or victims.
Coven meetings include ritual, celebration and magick (the "k" is to distinguish it from stage illusions). Wiccan magick is not at all like the instant "special effects" of cartoon shows or fantasy novels, nor medieval demonology; it operates in harmony with natural laws and is usually less spectacular -- though effective. Various techniques are used to heal people and animals, seek guidance, or improve members' lives in specific ways. Positive goals are sought: cursing and "evil spells" are repugnant to practitioners of the Old Religion.
Wiccans tend to be strong supporters of environmental protection, equal rights, global peace and religious freedom, and sometimes magick is used toward such goals.
Wiccan beliefs do not include such Judeao-Christian concepts as original sin, vicarious atonement, divine judgment or bodily resurrection. Craft folk believe in a beneficent universe, the laws of karma and reincarnation, and divinity inherent in every human being and all of Nature. Yet laughter and pleasure are part of their spiritual tradition, and they enjoy singing, dancing, feasting, and love.
Wiccans tend to be individualists, and have no central holy book, prophet, or church authority. They draw inspiration and insight from science, and personal experience. Each practitioner keeps a personal book or journal in which s/he records magickal "recipes," dreams, invocations, songs, poetry and so on.
To most of the Craft, every religion has its own valuable perspective on the nature of Deity and humanity's relationship to it: there is no One True Faith. Rather, religious diversity is necessary in a world of diverse societies and individuals. Because of this belief, Wiccan groups do not actively recruit or proselytize: there is an assumption that people who can benefit from the Wiccan way will "find their way home" when the time is right.
Despite the lack of evangelist zeal, many covens are quite willing to talk with interested people, and even make efforts to inform their communities about the beliefs and practices of Wicca. One source of contacts is The Covenant of the Goddess, P.O. Box 1226, Berkeley, CA 94704. Also, the following books may be of interest: (Ask your librarian.)
Drawing Down the Moon (revised ed.) by Margot Adler
The Spiral Dance by Starhawk
Positive Magic by Marion Weinstein
What Witches Do by Stewart Farrar
Witchcraft for Tomorrow by Doreen Valiente
A Wicca FAQ
Some have asked how this little booklet came into being. It's all very straightforward: as the most visible representatives of paganism here in Austin, Texas, I and my consort, Arnthor Phalius, are asked often to appear in public to talk about witchcraft. The questions included here are those most often asked, along with the answers we give.
Of course we cannot pretend to speak for all Pagans, only for ourselves. But the little booklet has been well-received as a non-threatening method of getting to know a subject like Wicca. Occasionally we will find someone who has had negative experiences with persons who call themselves Wiccans or Witches, and in those cases they expressed relief on find that `other types' of Pagans existed than those which had given them their initial bad impressions.
I (Merlana) am a mystic who responds to the Universal Mind as it is expressed in Nature. It is my deep belief that persons who reverence these principles are unified at bottom, and separated only by the illusion of words, which are not reality. Sometimes words aren't even adequate representations of `Reality`!
It is my intention in this little booklet to re-define some issues and terms in the way that my tradition sees them. It so happens that much of the rest of Paganism falls within this general framework. (NOTE: A `tradition' is a varietal type, like `denomination').
1. WHAT IS WICCA?
`Wicca' (pronounced WICK-ah) is one name given to the Nature religions practiced in Northern Europe and the Middle East from the times of the ice ages. It is one spiritual path out of many in a group of spiritual practices known as Neo-paganism. Neo-paganism is currently in a world-wide revival, led by persons and groups in the United States and Britain.
2. HOW DO WICCA AND NEO-PAGANISM FIT TOGETHER?
Wicca is one subsidiary form, or `tradition,' similar to the way Christianity has many forms. One can be a Christian and still be Baptist, Methodist or Roman Catholic. In the same way, one can be a Pagan but ascribe to another, more specific, sub-variety of philosophy.
3. IS IT THE SAME AS WITCHCRAFT?
One linguistic theory has the word Wicca coming from Old English `Wicca-Craeft', meaning `craft of the wise ones.' Most followers of Wicca (and most Pagans) prefer not to use the terms `witchcraft' or `witch' because of the emotional connotations these words carry in our society.
Generally, one who calls him or herself a `witch' without further qualifications is seeking notoriety and special attention. Those of us who guard the portals of personal Power (like Carlos Casteneda's character Don Juan) are normally hard to find or engage in discussion. Our Mysteries are carefully hidden from the world, and from those who might be tempted to misuse them.
4. WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE ABOUT GOD?
Although Pagans generally agree that one God exists and is the same regardless of name, they vary in specific concepts about God, as in other religions.
What an individual Pagan holds is strictly a matter of personal belief. However, occasionally a tradition will teach highly-specific concepts, structures and mythologies. If one finds oneself in disagreement, the best policy is `voting with the feet', or withdrawing to find another group who better agrees.
Most Wiccans divide the Godhead (generally conceived of as Mother Nature) into two forces. One force is male and the other female. They are called respectively: The God and The Goddess.
Between them, these two divinities create balance and harmony in the Eternal Dance. They represent the forces of birth, death and regeneration symbolised in the change of the seasons. Wiccans call 5this cycle The Wheel Of The Year. Most rituals celebrate the Wheel Of The Year and our deep, meaningful participation in natural cycles of change.
Because the male force has been in ascendancy for thousands of years due to the Christian, Moslem and Jewish religions, there is presently a tendency to emphasize The Goddess, especially by feminists (or by those whose personal concept of God happens to be female).
We also believe in Magick, which is a partnership between humanity and the Universal Mind. This partnership creates changes in what we normally call `reality', i.e., change accomplished with prayer. These changes can seem miraculous or merely coincidental, and always include personal effort. Magick is not the same as `wishing.'
5. WHAT HAPPENS AT A WICCAN CEREMONY?
There are several types of get-togethers that Pagans of all traditions attend. The most available and open is called a `Grove,' where those who wish may study both spiritual and ceremonial topics. Most groves emphasize fellowship and harmony of mind between their members. You should choose one as much for how you blend with the personalities of the members as for a particular brand of teaching.
Eight times a year, at the solstices and equinoxes, May Day, Halloween, and other points on the lunar calendar, Pagans gather together (usually outdoors under trees) to celebrate Nature and the turn of the seasons.
These celebrations consist of dancing, prayer, invocations, and rituals passed down from the many traditions through the ages. We also urge participants to develop and use their own original rituals and to share them with others.
Because we dance and pray in a standing Circle (or sometimes a spiral), and because we draw at these times from the Universe spherical energies of protection and power - these meetings are called (appropriately enough!) Circles.
6. HOW CAN I ATTEND A GROVE OR CIRCLE?
Wiccans and Pagans tend to be very private, and do not advertise their faith at publicly as some others might. This is mainly because of past persecutions. However, for those who are sincerely interested, there always exist persons with whom to visit and explore that interest.
7. DO I HAVE TO GIVE UP MY OTHER SPIRITUAL PATHS TO BECOME A WICCAN?
That will depend on the tradition and the teacher. In general, Pagans are most tolerant of any philosophical structure, and ask only that the tolerance be returned. You will not be requested to do anything that differs with your beliefs and spiritual needs.
8. DOES BEING PAGAN MAKE A PERSON SPECIAL OR DIFFERENT?
Well yes, of course. But the special qualities are available to everybody. Everything that Pagans do with Magick is done in other religions by other names. It is only that we have found that these particular formulas, beliefs, and celebrations work best for us.
These are varying approaches to (and grasps of) personal Power. One way of recognizing someone who is truly Powerful is to note whether he or she seems to need control or influence over others. True personal power is content to control only the self, and personal reality.
9. DO YOU CAST SPELLS ON OTHER PEOPLE?
The major law in our religion is: "Do what you will, an it hurt no other." (The Golden Rule) In other words, no one is prevented from exploration of God and GodSelf as long as others are not harmed.
We do believe in directing the energies of the universe toward accomplishment of certain ends, but magick is never effective on another person unless the person specifically requests it and takes responsibility for that request.
Attempts at so-called `black' magick, or use of the universal energies for negative or harmful purposes, only result in karmic backlash magnified at least threefold on the unfortunate would-be black magician.
10. ARE PAGANS ANTI-CHRISTIAN?
No. But many Christians are anti-Pagan. Historically there has existed an adversary relationship between Christianity and the Nature Religions (largely created by Christians.)
It takes much universal love not to strike back when attacked, and occasionally a Pagan might seem bitter or afraid as the result of anti-Pagan treatment. This is only a personal reaction, not a characteristic of the religion itself.
It is also true that Wiccans and Pagans have suffered dismissal from jobs and worse simply from their religious affiliation being revealed. Events like these lead to a certain caution and sometimes even an attitude approaching mild paranoia.
11. WHO IS IN CHARGE OF PAGANISM?
Each person is in charge of him or herself, responsible totally to Godd/ess. One might hear an individual called High Priestess, or Priest, but this title has more to do with the role played in ceremonies than with status in any formal hierarchy.
12. WHAT MAKES WICCA DIFFERENT FROM OTHER PATHS THAT BELIEVE IN THE PSYCHIC POWERS?
We usually find that people most often comment on the robes and the tools. Traditionally we wear special garments while engaging in devotions, as a male Jew wears prayer shawl and skullcap. The garments have symbolisms, and stand for beliefs of the person wearing them.
The tools are: a cup, knife, staff (or wand), and the pentacle, a 5-pointed star with 5th point upward, enclosed in a circle. For those familiar with the tarot cards, this was the original source of the tarot suits as well as many meanings and symbolisms in the tarot deck.
13. WHAT IS DONE WITH THE TOOLS?
They are used, along with other objects, like candles, bells, and incense to focus energies and influence Universal forces with our prayers. If the format reminds you of Roman Catholic mass, that's because much of the indigenous Nature Religion's mysteries were `adopted' when Christianity moved into Northern Europe -- into England, Scotland, Ireland and Scandinavia ... the lands of the Celts.
Also, if the tools and concepts seem to resemble elements in Rosicrucianism, the Caballa, and the Masonic Temple, it is because the latter paths drew and adopted Pagan rituals and forms for other uses. Since ours was an oral tradition we gratefully acknowledge the role these organizations played in bringing to modern times knowledge and insights which have otherwise been lost.
Here's a bit of trivia: Although the Founding Fathers of the U.S.A. generally held indifferent attitudes about Christianity they were all thirty-third degree Masons. Obviously they sought to incorporate their high ideals into writing our first constitution. This odd fact explains to some people why fundamentalist Christians and the constitution occasionally seem to be at cross-purposes.
14. HOW LARGE IS THE RELIGION?
Since Wicca, or Paganism, is an alternative religion uninterested in power or clout, we measure our `size' usually only by spiritual growth. There is a national newspaper published quarterly by which many Pagans keep in touch.
15. WHAT ABOUT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY?
That's magick, too! Craft practitioners of old WERE the scientists ... there was need for healers and herbalists, agriculture and astronomy experts. The scientific method has now made teaching these subjects respectable in universities. But in the process we have lost the lore's former integration of the spiritual relationship between God Expressed As Nature and ourselves.
Many of us are scientifically trained and hold technological jobs and interests. This does not interfere with but only adds to a desire for ritual celebration and union with Godd/ess. Also many of us are ourselves practicing psychics, or are interested in extrasensory perception (ESP) and its uses. Paganism makes available a philosophical structure for all of these ends utilized effectively for millennia.
It urges individuals to develop their personal powers within that structure and to use them thereafter in a responsible way.
16. THAT'S SOMETHING ELSE: WHY DON'T I EVER HEAR OR READ ABOUT PAGAN CHARITIES OR GOOD WORKS?
Good news makes terrible press. News media and supermarket tabloids would much rather print scandal and controversy. How many times have you seen a headline that attributed a person's conduct to his/her belief in Witchcraft? Do you ever see the same types of stories about Moslems, Jews or Christians?
In addition, organized charity can only be accomplished under certain forms of organized religious structures. That takes leadership, delegation of powers, community resources and accumulation of money and collective wealth.
We focus instead on personal responsibility and the necessity of reflecting Godd/ess in our characters and lives. Occasionally persons in the Craft will join together to change a situation or to help someone, but this is always done quietly and with the full knowledge and permission of those for whom the help of change in requested. It is always done without taking public credit. We feel that Godd/ess knows, and that is all we need.
17. HOW CAN WE SUM THIS UP IN A FEW WORDS?
Wicca, a branch of the spiritual movement called Neo-paganism (or Paganism) is primarily a religion of personal, mystical relationship between the Universal Mind as expressed in Nature and the individual. It believes in Magick, or positive change wrought by prayer and ceremonial ritual. It brings its practitioners the joy of union and harmony with Godd/ess as expressed in Nature as well as fellowship with other persons who are on similar paths.
Personal responsibility and growth are stressed, dogma and rigid beliefs are discouraged.
Hill Country Pagan Grove
Austin, Texas, U.S.A.
Published December 1982 by C.C.C.
Creative Cooperative Consolidated
12611 Research Blvd. Number 125
Austin, Texas 78759 U.S.A.
First edition, December 1982
Second edition, revised, April 1983
THE PRINCIPLES OF WICCAN BELIEF
I have recently been asked to make a post on the Principles of Wiccan Belief. While no one Wiccan can speak for all, I believe the following pretty much sums up the basics of what MOST Wiccans believe. IT is taken from Margot Adler's "Drawing Down the Moon", 2nd edition, pages 101-103.
1. We practice Rites to attune ourselves with the natural rhythm of the forces marked by the Phases of the Moon and the Seasonal Quarters and Cross Quarters.
2. We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibility toward our environment. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance offering fulfillment to life and consciousness within an evolutionary concept.
3. We acknowledge a depth of power far greater than that apparent to the average person. Because it is far greater than ordinary, it is sometimes called "supernatural", but we see it as lying within that which is naturally potential to all.
4. We conceive of the Creative Power in the Universe as manifesting through polarity - as masculine and feminine - and that this same Creative Power lives in all people, and functions through the interaction of the masculine and feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supporting of the other. We value Sex as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magical practice and religious worship.
5. We recognize both outer worlds and inner, or psychological world, sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconscious, the Inner Planes, etc. and we see in the interaction of these two dimensions the basis for para-normal phenomena and magical exercises. We neglect neither dimension for the other, seeing both as necessary for our fulfillment.
6. We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, respect those who share their greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have courageously given of themselves in leadership.
7. We see religion, magick, and wisdom-in-living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it - a worldview and philosophy of live which we identify as Witchcraft, the Wiccan Way.
8. Calling oneself "Witch" does not make a witch - but neither does heredity itself, or the collecting of titles, degrees, and initiations. A Witch seeks to control the forces within him/herself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well, without harming others, and in harmony with Nature.
9. We acknowledge that it is an affirmation and fulfillment of life, in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness, that gives meaning to the Universe as we know, and to our personal role within it.
10. Our only animosity toward Christianity, or toward any other religion or philosophy of life is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be "the only way" and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practice and belief.
11. As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present and our future.
12. We do not accept the concept of "absolute evil," nor do we worship any entity known as "Satan" or "The Devil" as defined by the Christian tradition. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor do we accept the concept that personal benefit can only be derived by denial to another.
13. We acknowledge that we seek within Nature for that which is contributory to our health and well being.
Now, I'm not saying that I (or any other Wiccan for that matter) agree with this list 100 %, but I think numbers 8, 10, and 12 pretty much give a thumbnail sketch of where we're coming from.
Wicca, Wicca, Who's Got the Wicca?
My Tradition, or Yours?
An article which attempts to make sense of all the various Traditions, Brands, Denominations, etc., which may confuse the unwary new-comer to Neo-Paganism
(Wicca in particular).
Greetings, and Bright Blessings...
Today, we shall take a look at the many varied Traditions in the Wicca Family of Faiths. Whilst there is, indeed, a large number of groups who profess one set of tenants, or ideas; one soon begins to see why they may all be lumped together as one Religion.
Obviously, to start, one must define Religion as it applies to these groups of people. Next, a listing of some of the more Popular Traditions, giving a basic description of each. Lastly, some comments on the "cords which bind these groups together", ie. a discussion on the Underlying Philosophies of the New Age Movement, Neo-Paganisms in particular.
I. What is a Religion?
A dictionary definition of religion looks something like:
Religion, n.; An organized system of Beliefs and/or Rituals, centering on a Supernatural Being or Beings.
Everyone with me so far? Good. I think we can all agree on definitions for "Beliefs" and "Supernatural", so the only sub-definition will be "Ritual": any ordered sequence of events or actions, including directed thoughts, especially one that is repeated in the 'same' manner each time, and that is designed to produce a predictable altered state of consciousness, within which certain magical or religious results may be obtained.
Now, by using these definitions, the astute reader may realize that one need not "believe" in anything in order to belong to a Religion, although most 'established' churches Do require that one has conforming beliefs in order to become 'accepted into' that Religion. One of the beauties of the Pagan / Neo-pagan / Wiccan Religion is that the majority of the sects do not require one to have 'conforming' beliefs. Wiccan religions acknowledge that there are many paths to God, and that each person should find his/her own way. Thus, while there is communication and discussion between the diverse ways of Wicca, there is generally no cause for religious persecution or Holy Wars. Also, there are very little 'missionary' type efforts, since there is no Prime Directive stating that everyone who does not believe a certain piece of Dogma is Wrong, and will burn in Hell forever, unless saved, or made to see the light. Contrary to most religions, it is not the shared set of Beliefs, or similar Dogma which holds the Wiccan Religions together. Rather, it is the attitudes of the people involved, and their common heritage which provide the bonds of cooperation among the Pagan Peoples. These points of agreement shall be further addressed following a brief list of some of the more popular Traditions, with a description of each.
[nb. This is not, by any means, an all inclusive list]
Started by G. Gardner, in England, in the mid 1950's, this Tradition claims to have existed, in secret, since the Witch-Burnings began during the Middle Ages. While there is some doubt as to whether or not it is as old as it claims, there is no denying that the Gardnerian Sect has been one of the most Influential of the Traditions. In fact, many of the groups which follow were started by people who had been introduced to Paganism and the Worship of the Lord and Lady as members of a Gardnerian group.
A structured religion with definite hierarchy within each group (known, as a Coven), but little to no Authority of one coven over another. Within the coven, a Matriarchy exists, with the High Priestess generally being considered the leader (there are, of course, exceptions to this, but these descriptions are, for the most part, only generalizations based upon information gathered from many sources).
The typical Gardnerian view of the God/dess is that of a Dominant Three-Faced Goddess (Maid, Mother, and Crone) with a Male Consort (Who has 2 sides.. the Young Summer King, and the Old Winter King). Ceremonies include a series of initiations into higher levels of the Craft, various Holiday Celebrations (based, of course, upon the "Wheel of the Year"
calendar of Feast days.
Started about the same time as Gardner's, this tradition is fairly similar, with a little more emphasis upon Ceremonial Magick. There are numerous Covens in both US and Europe.
This is more of a Sub-class, rather than a particular Tradition. There are several Feminist Traditions which are considered Dianic. This sub-class tends to emphasize the Female aspect of the Goddess, sometimes to the exclusion of the Male God. Some feel that these groups are rather reactionary and self limiting. Be that as it may, the Dianic Covens tend to be more politically active.
D. School of Wicca:
Headed by Gavin and Yvonne Frost, this School is the largest correspondence school of Witchcraft in the US. Numerous Covens have resulted from this School, although it is somewhat unconventional (if, that is, anything dealing with Wicca could be called conventional). The Frosts' views on Wicca as a religion do differ with the majority.. in that they do not consider Wicca as "Pagan", but rather as Monotheistic.
E. Seax (or Saxon) Wicca:
Started by Raymond Buckland, who was originally a leader in promoting the Gardnerian Tradition, as an alternative to the existing Covens. Unlike most traditions, which consider the Coven group to be the normal unit of division (ie. all ceremonies/Rituals = Group Rites), the Seax version has provision for lone witches (often referred to as Solitaries). Another thing which sets this particular brand apart is its non-reliance upon being properly initiated into the Wiccan community. Many of the other groups require that new members be brought to existing covens to be ceremonially initiated into that Tradition, and that only after years of study within the group is one ready to start a new coven. The Seax tradition, recognizing that there may not be a friendly, neighborhood Coven, allows for self-initiation, and Auto setup of a Coven.
F. Traditionalist (Welsh, Scots, Greek, Irish, etc...)
Like Dianic, this is a sub-class. Each Traditionalist group is based upon
the traditions, literature, myth, and folk-tales of that particular
geographic/demographic area. This is evident in the Names of the God/dess
used by individual groups.
III. Common ties / beliefs / Ideals / etc...
As stated earlier, it's not doctrine/dogma similarities which tend to hold these diverse groups together, rather, it is the common Ideals and feelings expressed by the Pagan Peoples themselves. Here are some examples: The Wiccan Rede: "An it harms none, do what thou will." is almost universally accepted amongst the groups. Most groups tend to be polytheistic, animists, pantheists, etc. One is not "converted" to Wicca, rather, the new comer feels a sense of "Coming Home", or, more poetically, "The Goddess calls to Her own". Nature plays a big part in most Traditions, either as direct personification of the God/dess, or as aspects of them. There is no counterpart to the Devil, as such, in the Pagan religions... no personification of All Evil, rather, the choice is there for all to make. However, there is the Law of Three Fold Return, which states "That which thou dost send out shall return three fold", so good begets good, and evil befalls those who are evil (a horrendous understatement / simplification, but true).
COMPARISON BETWEEN CHRISTIANITY AND WICCA
The following comes from "A Law Enforcement Guide to Wicca"
written by Kerr Cuhulain, a Wiccan police officer
|Dualistic: Divinity separate from everyday world||Monistic: Divinity inseparable from everyday world|
|Belief in Resurrection||Belief in Reincarnation most common|
|Heaven: destination of Christian souls||Summerland: resting place between incarnations|
|Original Sin||No equivalent|
|Redemption/Atonement/Confession||Karma/3-fold law (All actions, for good or ill are returned 3fold)|
|Bible (Scripture)||No equivalent|
|No equivalent||Book of Shadows|
|Sabbaths based upon Biblical and Christian historical events||Seasonal and lunar sabbats|
|Generally daylight worship Churches/Temples||Generally nocturnal worship (esbats) Circles cast where convenient, usually no formal temple.|
|No size restrictions on congregations||Small groups (covens) usually 3-13 people, though may be larger|
|10 Commandments||Wiccan Rede: An it harm none, do what thou wilt.|
|Psychic phenomena generally discouraged except for "miracles" and trans-substantiation.||Psychic abilities encouraged (magick)|
THE AMERICAN COUNCIL OF WITCHES:
BASIC PRINCIPLES OF THE CRAFT
1. The first principle is that of love, and it is expressed in the ethic, "DO AS YOU WILL, SO LONG AS YOU HARM NONE"
a) love is not emotional in it's essence, but is an attribute of the individual as expressed in relation to other beings;
b) harming others can be by thought, word, or deed;
c) it is to be understood the "none" includes oneself;
d) the harm which is to be regarded as unethical is gratuitous harm; war, in general, is gratuitous harm, although it is ethical to defend oneself and one's liberty when threatened by real and present danger, such as defense against invasion.
2. The Witch must recognize and harmonize with the forces of the universe, in accord with the Law of Polarity: everything is dual; everything has two poles; everything has it's opposite; for every action there is a reaction; all can be categorized as either active or reactive in relation to other things.
a) Godhead is one unique and transcendent wholeness, beyond any limitations or expressions; thus, it is beyond our human capacity to understand and identify with this principle of Cosmic Oneness, except as It is revealed to us in terms of It's attributes and operation.
b) The most basic and meaningful attribute of the One that we, as humans, can relate to and understand, is that of polarity, of action and reaction; therefore Witches recognize the Oneness of the Divinity, but worship and relate to the Divine as the archetypal polarity of God and Goddess, the All-Father and the Great Mother of the universe. The Beings are as near as we can approach to the One within our human limitations of understanding and expression, though it is possible to experience the divine Oneness through the practices of the Mysteries.
c) Harmony does not consist of the pretty and the nice, but the balanced, dynamic, poised co-operation and co-relation.
3. The Witch must recognize, and operate within the framework of the Law of Cause and Effect; every action has it's reaction, and every effect has it's cause. All things occur according to this law; nothing in the universe can occur outside this law, though we may not always appreciate the relation between a given effect and it's cause. Subsidiary to this is the Law of Three, which states that whatever goes forth must return threefold, whether of good or ill; for our actions affect more than people generally realize, and the resulting reactions are also part of the harvest.
4. As Above, So Below. That which exists in the Macrocosm exists, on a smaller scale and to a lesser degree, in the Microcosm. The powers of the universe exist also in the human, though in general instance they lie dormant. The powers and abilities can be awakened and used if the proper techniques are practiced, and this is why initiates of the Mysteries are sworn to guard the secrets from the unworthy: Much harm can be done by those who have power without responsibility, both to others and to themselves according to the Laws of Cause and Effect and of Threefold Return.
a) Since our philosophy teaches that the universe is the physical manifestation of the Divine, there can be nothing in the universe which does not partake of the nature of the Divine; hence, the powers and attributes of the Divine exist also in the manifest, though to much smaller degree.
b) These powers can be awakened through the various techniques of the Mysteries, and, although they are only capable of small effects in and of themselves, it is possible to use them in order to draw upon the forces of the universe. Thus humanity can be the wielders of the power of the Gods, a channel for Godhead to act within It's own manifestation. This, then, is further reason for the oath of secrecy.
c) Since the universe is the body of the One, possessing the same attributes as the One, it's Laws must be the principles through and by which the One operates. By reasoning from the known to the unknown, one can learn of the Divine, and thus of oneself. Thus the Craft is a natural religion, seeing in Nature the expression and revelation of Divinity.
5. We know that everything in the universe is in movement or vibration and is a function of that vibration. Everything vibrates; all things rise and fall in a tidal system that reflects the motion inherent in the universe and also in the atom. Matter and energy are but two poles of one continuous phenomenon. Therefore the Witch celebrates, harmonizes with, and makes use of the tides of the universe and of life as expressed through the cycle of the seasons and the motion of the solar system. These ritual observances are the eight great Festivals of the Year, referred to as the Wheel of the Year. Further, the Witch works with the forces and tides of the Moon, for this body is the mediator of much energy to our planet Earth and thus to ourselves.
6. Nothing is dead matter in the universe. All things exist, therefore all things live, though perhaps in a different manner from that which we are used to calling life. In view of this, the Witch knows that there is no true death, only change from one condition to another. The universe is the body of Godhead, and therefore possesses one transcendent consciousness; all things partake of the consciousness, in varying levels of trance/awareness.
a) Because of this principle, all things are sacred to the Witch, for all partake of the one Life.
b) Therefore the Witch is a natural ecologist, for Nature is part of us as we are a part of Nature.
7. Astrology can be useful in marking and interpreting the flow and ebb of the tides of our solar system, and thus of making use of those tides; astrology should not be debased into mere fortune-telling.
8. Throughout the development of the human race, civilizations have seen and worshipped many and various attributes of the Divine. These universal forces have been clothed in forms which were expressive to the worshipper of the attribute of the Godhead which they expressed. Use of these symbolic representations of the natural and divine forces of the universe, or god forms, is a potent method for contacting and utilizing the forces they represent. Thus the Gods are both natural and truly divine, and man-made in that the forms with which they are clothed are products of humanity's striving to know the Godhead.
a) In keeping with the Law of Polarity, these god-forms are brought into harmony by the one great Law which states: All Gods are one God. All Goddesses are one Goddess. There is one Initiator. This law is an expression of our understanding that all of the forces of the universe, by whatever ethnic god-form is chosen to clothe and relate to whichever force, can be resolved into the fundamental polarity of the Godhead, the Great Mother and the All-Father.
b) It is the use of differing god forms, of differing ethnic sources or periods, which is the basis of many of the differences between the various Traditions of the Craft. Each Tradition uses the forms, and thus the names, which to that Tradition best express and awaken an understanding of the force represented, according to the areas of emphasis of the Tradition.
c) Because we know that differing names or representations are but expressions of the same divine principles and forces, we require our members to swear that they will never mock the names by which another honors the Divine, even though those names be different from and seemingly less expressive than the names and god forms used by our Tradition (for to the members of another Tradition, using it's names, ours may easily seem equally less expressive).
9. A Witch refuses to allow her/himself to be corrupted by the great guilt neuroses which have been foisted on humanity in the name of the Divine, thus freeing the self of the slavery of the mind. The Witch expresses responsibility for her/his actions, and accepts the consequences of them; guilt is rejected as inhibiting to one's self-actualization, and replaced by the efforts of the Witch to obey the teachings of harmlessness, responsibility for the consequences of one's actions, and the goal of actualizing the full powers of the individual.
a) We refuse to believe that a human being is born innately sinful, and recognize the concepts of sin and guilt are tremendously inhibiting to the human potential; the consequences of the Law of Cause and Effect, called karma by some, are not punishment, but the recurrences of situations and their effects because the individual has not gained the Wisdom needed to handle or avoid such situations.
b) There is no heaven except that which we ourselves make of our life on Earth, and likewise there is no hell except the effects of our unwise actions. Death is not followed by punishment or reward, but by life and the continuing evolution of the human potential.
c) One cannot damn the divine in oneself; one can, however, cut oneself off from it through the rejection of wisdom and a refusal to strive for self-realization. This cutting off does not lead to personal suffering in "hell", for there is no Self to suffer if the tie to one's own divinity has been severed; what remains is merely an empty shell, a "personality" or thought-form devoid of it's ensouling Spark of the Divine Fire.
10. We know of the existence of the life-force which ensouls all living things, that is, all that exists. We know that a spark of this Divine Fire is within each and every thing that exists, and that it does not die; only the form of it's existence changes. We know that this spark of the life-force returns to manifestation again and again in order to fully realize and actualize it's potential, evolving finally to the peak and essence of existence which is pure being. In this process of reincarnation each form returns in the same type of form, though it's ever-increasing actualization may lead to higher levels of existence of that form. Man returns as man, cat as feline, mineral as mineral, each class of form evolving as the individual forms of that class evolve.
11. This process of evolution through successive incarnations in manifest form works through the utilizations of wisdom gained, the essence of the life-experience. This essence of experience, or Wisdom, is an attribute of the spark of life itself, one and inseparable (see 9a).
12. We must care for the body, for it is the vehicle of the spark of life, the form by which we attain. Thus we must heal the body of it's ills and keep it a tuned and perfected tool; so must we heal others (both physically and psychologically) as far as it is within our power to do so. However, we cannot interfere with the life of another, even to heal, except at their request or with their express permission; unless such non-interference would be inhibiting to our own, ethical existence and development -- and even then the responsibilities and consequences must be understood and accepted. This, then, is one of the important reasons for the communal life the Witches under the guidance of the Priesthood: That the group may be guided by wisdom and experience, with the aid and support of one's peers; and that one's actions may be guided by the influence of the ethical life of the group as a whole.
13. Harmony with, and utilization of, the great natural forces of the universe is called magick. By magick we speak, not of the supernatural, but of the superbly natural, but whose laws and applications are not as yet recognized by the scientific establishment. The Witch must strive to recognize these forces, learn their laws, attune her/himself to them, and make use of them. The Witch must also be aware that power corrupts when used _only_ for the gains of the self, and therefore must strive to serve humanity: Either through the service in the Priesthood, or by example and effects of his/her life on others. The choice must be made in accord with the true nature of the Witch.
WHAT LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WITCHCRAFT
Below please find information on the modern religion of Witchcraft. After being the victims of hundreds of years of 'bad press', Witches are beginning to go public and to define themselves and their religion.
We hope, by this endeavor, to counteract the tendency to associate psychotic events or Satanic rites with the practices of our life-affirming beliefs. Moreover, we acknowledge the need to establish positive interfaith dialogue with members of other local religious communities.
Although there are a number of Witchcraft Anti-Defamation Leagues throughout the country, none are presently active in the Kansas City area. Thus, we at the Magick Lantern have compiled this information to provide an overview of Witchcraft, or Wicca, in its contemporary form. The Magick Lantern is a bookstore founded in 1984 to serve the occult community of Kansas City. Its owner, Mike Nichols, is an ordained minister of Wicca, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of that office.
We have included in this outline a brief statement on each of the following:
* Frequently Asked Questions w/ Answers
* Basic Philosophy
* General Practices
Of necessity, we have merely highlighted these aspects for you. We cannot illustrate the entire panorama of our diverse religion, but we have tried to convey a basic understanding of the Craft of Wicca. On request we can furnish more detailed information or a representative authorized to speak on our behalf.
The MAGICK LANTERN
1715 Westport Road
Kansas City, MO 64111
OCCULT -- occluded or hidden, secret; the study of secret or hidden knowledge. Secret societies include the Masons and Rosicrucians.
EARTH RELIGION -- a religion whose main tenet is that the worshipper be in harmony with the Earth and with all life. Such religions oppose the idea that the world is a resource to be subdued and exploited.
PAGAN -- a practitioner of an Earth Religion; from the Latin 'paganus', meaning 'country dweller'.
NEO-PAGANISM -- a modern Earth Religion which borrows and adapts from the best of pre-Christian Pagan religions, sometimes with additions from contemporary religious thinkers.
WITCHCRAFT -- a magical Neo-Pagan religion with many diverse traditions derived from various cultural sources (though mostly European) around which Covens and solitary practitioners base their practices. Modern Witchcraft traditions include: Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Dianic, Celtic, Traditionalist, Faerie, NROOGD, Druidic and others.
THE CRAFT -- another name for Witchcraft.
COVEN -- a congregation of Witches, usually at least three but no more than 13 members.
WITCH -- one who worships the Goddess(es) and/or God(s) of Paganism, practices magic, and considers her/himself to be a follower of the spiritual path of Witchcraft.
MAGIC -- the conscious use of psychic energy, accompanied by ritual, to accomplish a goal; often spelled 'magick' to distinguish it from stage magic (such as sleight-of-hand).
SABBAT -- any one of the eight seasonal festivals equally spaced throughout the year, celebrated by individuals and Covens of Witches.
ESBAT -- any one of the 13 lunar festivals throughout the year, celebrated by Witches at the times of the full moon.
PENTAGRAM -- a five-pointed star, ancient symbol of good luck and protection. Displayed with one point up, it is the most common emblem of Witchcraft. When displayed inverted (two points up), it MAY represent negative magic (or Satanism), but not necessarily; some traditions of Wicca (chiefly British) use it as a POSITIVE symbol of advanced rank.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS W/ ANSWERS
Q. What form does the practice of Witchcraft take?
A. The form and context vary from group to group and between each ritual, and may run the gamut from elaborate ceremony to spontaneous ritual to simple meditation.
Q. How do you see the Goddess?
A. As the immanent life force; as Mother Nature; as the inter-connectedness of all life.
Q. Do all Witches practice their religion the same way?
A. Yes and no. Wicca is a highly individualistic religion. Moreover, the number of different sects within the Craft may give the impression that no two groups practice the same way. Though practices may vary, most traditions have many similarities, such as the working of magic and a respect for nature. Most Witches find enough common ground for mutual support and productive networking throughout the Craft community.
Q. Is Witchcraft a 'cult'?
A. No. Cults are groups that trade 'salvation' and a sense of belonging for the ability to think for oneself. They indulge in 'extravagant homage or adoration' (Webster's Dictionary) usually of an earthly leader of some sort. This is the antithesis of the Witchcraft experience. Most Witches come to the Craft through reading and communing with nature and later finding like-minded people. Witches are extremely individualistic.
Q. Do Witches have a bible?
A. No. A bible is supposedly the word of a deity revealed through a prophet. Witchcraft is a Pagan folk-religion of personal experience. A Witch may keep a 'Book of Shadows' which is more like an individual's workbook or journal -- meaningful to the person who keeps it -- containing rituals, discoveries, spells, poetry, herb lore, etc. Covens may keep a similar group book.
Q. Do Witches cast spells?
A. Some do and some don't. A spell is a ritual formula, or series of steps, to direct psychic energy to accomplish a desired end. Energy may be drawn from the Earth, concentrated and sent out into the world. Since Witchcraft teaches that whatever one sends out is returned threefold, Witches tend to be very careful never to send out harmful energy.
Q. Do Witches worship the devil?
A. No. The worship of Satan is the practice of profaning Christian symbolism, and is thus a Christian heresy rather than a Pagan religion. The gods and goddesses of the Witches are in no way connected to Satanic practices. Most Witches do not even believe in Satan, let alone worship him.
Q. Are Witches only women?
A. No, although women do seem to predominate in the Craft overall. In fact, some traditions have only women practitioners, just as others have only men. A male Witch is simply called a Witch, never a warlock.
Q. How can someone find out more about Witchcraft?
A. Ours is not a missionary religion, and we never try to make converts. However, for those who are interested, there are many excellent books, and many Witches teach classes or facilitate discussion groups. In this way, people may make contact with a like-minded Coven or form their own group. There are also Witchcraft networks, periodicals, and national and regional festivals through which a seeker can make contact with the larger Craft community.
Wicca, or Witchcraft, is an earth religion -- a re-linking with the life force of nature, both on this planet and in the stars and space beyond. In city apartments, in suburban backyards, and in country glades, groups of women and men meet on the new and full moons and at festival times to raise energy and put themselves in tune with these natural forces. They honor the old goddesses and gods, including the Triple Goddess of the waxing, full, and waning moon, and the Horned God of the sun and animal life, as visualizations of immanent nature.
Our religion is not a series of precepts or beliefs, but rather we believe that we each have within ourselves the capacity to reach out and experience the mystery -- that feeling of ineffable oneness with all life. Those who wish to experience this transcendence must work, and create, and participate in their individual religious lives. For this reason our congregations, called covens, are small groups which give room for each individual to contribute to the efforts of the group by self-knowledge and creative experimentation within the agreed-upon group structure or tradition.
There are many traditions or sects within the Craft. Different groups take their inspiration from the pre-Christian religions of certain ethnic groups (e.g. Celtic, Greek, Norse); in the liturgical works of some modern Witch poet or scholar (e.g. Gerald Gardner, Z Budapest, Alex Sanders, Starhawk, Raymond Buckland, Robert Graves); or by seeking within themselves for inspiration and direction. Many feminists have turned to Wicca and the role of priestess for healing and strength after the patriarchal oppression and lack of voice for women in the major world religions.
There are many paths to spiritual growth. Wicca is a participatory revelation, a celebratory action leading to greater understanding of oneself and the universe. We believe there is much to learn by studying our past, through myth, through ritual drama, through poetry and song, through love and through living in harmony with the Earth.
Despite competition from twentieth century 'life in the fast lane', the awesome spectacle repeated in the patterns of the changing seasons still touches our lives. During the ages when people worked more closely with nature just to survive, the numinous power of this pattern had supreme recognition. Rituals and festivals evolved to channel these transformations for the good of the community toward a good sowing and harvest and bountiful hunting.
One result of this process is our image of the 'Wheel of the Year' with its eight spokes -- the four major agricultural and pastoral festivals and the four minor solar festivals commemorating seasonal solstices and equinoxes. In common with many ancient people, most Witches consider the day as beginning at sundown and ending at sundown on the following day. Hence a sabbat such as November Eve runs through the day of November 1st. Solstice and Equinox dates may vary by a few days depending on the year.
October 31 -- November Eve -- Samhain
Samhain means 'summer's end', for now nights lengthen, winter begins, and we work with the positive aspects of the dark tides. In the increasing starlight and moonlight, we hone our divinatory and psychic skills. Many Craft traditions, and the ancient Celts, consider this New Year's Eve. It is the one night when the veil that separates our world from the next is at its thinnest, allowing the dead to return to the world of the living, to be welcomed and feasted by their kin. The Christian religion adopted this theme as 'All Saints Day' or 'All Hallows Day' (Nov. 1), celebrating the eve as 'All Hallows Eve' or 'Halloween'. The alternative date of November 6 ('Martinmas' or 'Old Hallows') is sometimes employed by Covens.
December 21 -- Winter Solstice -- Yule
'Yule' means 'wheel', for now the wheel of the year has reached a turning point, with the longest night of the year. This is the seedpoint of the solar year, mid-winter, time of greatest darkness when we seek within ourselves to comprehend our true nature. In virtually all Pagan religions, this is the night the Great Mother Goddess gives birth to the baby Sun God, because from this day forward, the days begin to lengthen, light is waxing. The Christian religion adopted this theme as the birthday of Jesus, calling it 'Christmas'. The alternative fixed calendar date of December 25th (called 'Old Yule' by some Covens) occurs because, before various calendar changes, that was the date of the solstice.
January 31 -- February Eve -- Imbolc
Actually, this holiday is most usually celebrated beginning at sundown on February 1, continuing through the day of February 2. 'Imbolc' means 'in the belly (of the Mother)' because that is where seeds are beginning to stir. It is Spring. Another name for the holiday is 'Oimelc', meaning 'milk of ewes', since it is lambing season. It was especially sacred to the Celtic Fire Goddess, Brigit, patron of smithcraft, healing (midwifery), and poetry. A Coven's High Priestess may wear a crown of lights (candles) to symbolize the return of the Goddess to her Maiden aspect, just as the Sun God has reached puberty. Weather lore associated with this sabbat is retained by the folk holiday of 'Groundhog's Day'. The Christian religion adopted a number of these themes, as follows. February 1 became 'St. Brigit's Day', and February 2 became 'Candlemas', the day to make and bless candles for the liturgical year. The 'Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary' adapts the Maiden Goddess theme. The alternative date of February 14 ( 'Old Candlemas', Christianized as 'Valentine's Day') is employed by some Covens.
March 21 -- Vernal Equinox -- Lady Day
As Spring reaches its midpoint, night and day stand in perfect balance, with light on the increase. The young Sun God now celebrates a hierogamy (sacred marriage) with the young Maiden Goddess, who conceives. In nine months, she will again become the Great Mother. It is a time of great fertility, new growth, and newborn animals. The next full moon (a time of increased births) is called the 'Ostara' and is sacred to Eostre, Saxon lunar goddess of fertility (from whence we get the word 'estrogen'), whose two symbols were the egg and the rabbit. The Christian religion adopted these emblems for 'Easter', celebrated the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The theme of the conception of the Goddess was adapted as the 'Feast of the Annunciation', occurring on the alternative fixed calendar date of March 25 ('Old Lady Day'), the earlier date of the equinox. 'Lady Day' may also refer to other goddesses (such as Venus and Aphrodite), many of whom has festivals celebrated at this time.
April 30 -- May Eve -- Beltane
'Beltane' means 'fire of Bel', Belinos being one name for the Sun God, whose coronation feast we now celebrate. As summer begins, weather becomes warmer, and the plant world blossoms, an exuberant mood prevails. It is a time of unabashed sexuality and promiscuity. Young people spend the entire night in the woods 'a-maying', and dance around the phallic Maypole the next morning. Older married couples may remove their wedding rings (and the restrictions they imply) for this one night. May morning is a magical time for 'wild' water (dew, flowing streams, and springs) which is collected and used to bathe in for beauty, or to drink for health. The Christian religion had only a poor substitute for the life-affirming Maypole -- namely, the death-affirming cross. Hence, in the Christian calendar, this was celebrated as 'Roodmas'. In Germany, it was the feast of Saint Walpurga, or 'Walpurgisnacht'. An alternative date around May 5 (Old Beltane), when the sun reaches 15 degrees Taurus, is sometimes employed by Covens. (Both 'Lady Day' and 'Ostara' are names incorrectly assigned to this holiday by some modern traditions of Wicca.)
June 21 -- Summer Solstice -- Litha
Although the name 'Litha' is not well attested, it may come from Saxon tradition -- the opposite of 'Yule'. On this longest day of the year, light and life are abundant. At mid-summer, the Sun God has reached the moment of his greatest strength. Seated on his greenwood throne, he is also lord of the forests, and his face is seen in church architecture peering from countless foliate masks. The Christian religion converted this day of Jack-in-the-Green to the Feast of St. John the Baptist, often portraying him in rustic attire, sometimes with horns and cloven feet (like the Greek god Pan)! Midsummer Night's Eve is also special for adherents of the Faerie faith. The alternative fixed calendar date of June 25 (Old Litha) is sometimes employed by Covens. (The name 'Beltane' is sometimes incorrectly assigned to this holiday by some modern traditions of Wicca, even though 'Beltane' is the Gaelic word for 'May'.)
July 31 -- August Eve -- Lughnassad
'Lughnassad' means 'the funeral games of Lugh', referring to Lugh, the Irish sun god. However, the funeral is not his own, but the funeral games he hosts in honor of his foster-mother Tailte. For that reason, the traditional Tailtean craft fairs and Tailtean marriages (which last for a year and a day) are celebrated at this time. As autumn begins, the Sun God enters his old age, but is not yet dead. It is also a celebration of the first harvest. The Christian religion adopted this theme and called it 'Lammas', meaning 'loaf- mass', a time when newly baked loaves of bread are placed on the altar. An alternative date around August 5 (Old Lammas), when the sun reaches 15 degrees Leo, is sometimes employed by Covens.
September 21 -- Autumnal Equinox -- Harvest Home
In many mythologies, this is the day the Sun God, the God of Light, is killed by his rival and dark twin, the God of Darkness -- who was born at Midsummer, reached puberty at Lammas, and lives a mirror-image life of the Sun God. From this mid-Autumn day forward, darkness will be greater than light, just as night becomes longer than day. So it is a festival of sacrifice, including that of the Sun God in his aspect of Spirit of the Fields, John Barleycorn -- for this is the final grain harvest. The Christian religion adopted it as 'Michaelmas', celebrated on the alternative date September 25, the old equinox date (Old Harvest Home). (The Welsh word 'Mabon', meaning 'son', is used by some Witches for the name of this holiday, although such usage is recent and not attested historically.)
The roots of the religion called Wicca, or Witchcraft, are very old, coming down to us through a variety of channels worldwide. Although any general statement about our practices will have exceptions, the following will attempt to present a basic foundation for understanding. Some of the old practices were lost when indigenous religions encountered militant Christianity and were forced to go underground for survival. The ancient mystery religions were lost when the practice of the rites were stopped and the old verbal traditions were no longer available. Parents transmitted their traditions to their children down through the centuries with parts being lost and new parts created. These survivals, along with research into the old ways, provide a rich foundation for modern practice. Other factors contributing to the revival of the Craft are archeological and anthropological studies of the religious practices of non-Christian cultures, the works of the Golden Dawn and other metaphysical orders, and the liberalization of anti-Witchcraft laws.
Modern Witches hold rituals according to the turning of the seasons, the tides of the moon, and personal needs. Most rituals are performed in a ritual space marked by a circle. We do not build church buildings to create this ritual space -- all of Earth is in touch with the Goddess and so any place may be consecrated to use for a rite. Within this sacred circle, two main activities occur -- celebration and the practice of magic. Celebration is most important at the major seasonal holidays, called Sabbats. At these times the myths of that particular holiday are enacted and dancing, singing, feasting, and revelry are all part of the festivities. On these occasions we celebrate our oneness with Life. Magic is more often performed at gatherings called Esbats, which coincide with the phases of the moon. Types of magic practiced include psychic healing sessions, the channeling of energy to achieve positive results, and work toward the individual spiritual development of the coven members. Magic is an art which requires adherence to certain principles. It requires a conscious direction of will toward a desired end. It is an attribute of magic that what you direct your will toward will return to you three times. Therefore, Witches are careful to practice only beneficial magic.
When the celebration, teaching, or magical work is finished, the blessing of the Goddess and God is called into food and drink which are shared by all. The circle is opened and the space is no longer consecrated.
To create the circle and the working of magic, we use tools to facilitate a magical mood in which the psychic state necessary for this kind of work can be achieved. The tools are part of a complete and self consistent symbolic system which is agreed upon by the participants and provides them with a 'map' for entry into unfamiliar psychic spaces. Such a system, like a map, is arbitrary and not 'true' in an absolute sense; it is a guide to a state which is ineffable and can be most clearly reached through poetry and 'starlight' vision.
A primary tool, which is owned by most Witches, is an athame or ritual knife. The athame is charged with the energy of the owner and is used as a pointer to define space (such as casting a sacred circle) and as a conductor of the owner's will and energy.
Other important tools are the symbols on the altar which denote the elements:earth, air, fire, and water (some 'maps' include spirit).
A pentacle (a pentagram traced upon a disk, like a small dish) is often used to symbolize earth and its properties -- stability, material wealth and practical affairs. Alternatively, a small dish of salt or soil can be used to symbolize the earth element. A ritual sword is usually used to symbolize air and its properties - - communication, wisdom, and understanding. Alternatively, a thurible of incense or a bell may be used to symbolize the air element. A candle or wand is used to symbolize the element of fire and its properties -- will, transmutation, and power. A chalice of water is used to symbolize the element of water and its properties -- cleansing, regeneration, and emotion. In traditions which include the symbol of spirit, an ankh, quartz crystal, or some other object is used to symbolize spirit and its properties -- perfection, balance, illumination and eternity.
There are many other minor tools which are used for some specific purpose within magical workings, but the tools described above cover the basic tools used in the practice of the religion of Wicca.
Since these tools are merely the conductors of personal energies, as copper is a conductor for electrical energy, most covens provide some degree of training in psychic development to strengthen each member's ability to participate in the religious activities. Each individual decides what level of such training is useful for them. We see psychic abilities as a natural human potential. We are dedicated to developing this and all of our positive human potentials.
The energies raised by these practices and other religious activities are directed toward healing ourselves and the Earth, and toward diverse magical workings.
'Drawing Down the Moon' (revised ed.) by Margot Adler
'Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft' by Raymond Buckland
'What Witches Do (2nd ed.)',
Sabbats for Witches',
'The Witches' Way', 'The Witches' Goddess', all by Stewart (& Janet) Farrar
**WebMaster's Note: 'Eight Sabbats for Witches' and 'The Witches' Way' are available in a combined volume as 'The Witches Bible'. It is soft bound and costs less than either volume sold seperately**
'The Spiral Dance' by Starhawk
'Witchcraft Today' and 'The Meaning of Witchcraft' both by Gerald Gardner
'The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries (V. 1 & 2)' by Z. Budapest
'ABC of Witchcraft', 'Natural Magic', and 'Witchcraft for Tomorrow' by Doreen Valiente
'The Truth About Witchcraft', a Llewellyn Educational Guide
[NOTE: Much of the foregoing information was originally issued as a 'press release' by Covenant of the Goddess. While whole portions were left basically intact (aside from the correction of spelling errors), other sections (especially the material on holidays) were substantially rewritten and expanded by Mike Nichols, who assumes full responsibility for any inaccuracies thus incurred.]
The Eight Sabbats of the Old Religion
The Old Religion,Wicca,divides the year into eight main high days or Sabbats. Four of these are associated directly with the two equinoxes and the two solstices. The other four fall at dates in between these points.
In the Celtic Tradition, the year begins at SAMHAIN,or as it is called now,Halloween. This is the night that the veil between the world of men and spirits is considered to be the thinnest, so it is of little wonder that people should think of it as a night that all sorts of things roam about. It is New Year to the Celtics and a time to try and peek a little into the time ahead or to see if it is possible to view the future with Divination. Divination is done in many forms but all seek to establish a look ahead,whether the answer appears good or bad. SAMHAIN is also considered to start the reign of the GOD or the dark time of the Year when the Sun goes lower each day and begins to weaken.
YULE- December 21 is called YULE. It is the time of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. From this day forward the sun again begins to grow in strength and rise to new heights each day. It is a time of celebration and gift giving. At each of the Sabbats a number of Covens will meet and those that practice solitary may come to celebrate in the festivities. Families come together traditionally to these festivals. At Yule the celebration is in honor of the Sun being reborn and its start to warm the Earth and drive the Winter from the land. In the early days the LORD of the HUNT, or the HORNED GOD of the HUNT, was most important for survival in Winter since hunting was the means of survival practiced. The Horned God is in no way to be confused with the DEVIL. Wicca does not consider the Devil to be an entity but believes that all good and evil are contained in each individual and it is up to that individual to be as good or as bad as they deem.MAN is man,both good and bad.
CANDLEMAS or BRIGIDDAY- February 2nd is celebrated as Candlemas. This is a festival of lights. This date is approximately half way between YULE and SPRING. BRIGID was the Celtic Goddess of Fire,Smithcraft,Healing and Wells and this was her day. Candlemas is considered in some traditions as the marker point where the Mother Goddess, the Great Earth Mother marks the path for the Sun God to find her in the dark times. It is a time when the first rush of Spring may be felt in the air and the warmth of the Sun grows stronger.
SPRING EQUINOX- March 21 is the festival of Spring and the return to the land of life after the dead of Winter. It is a celebration of the return of growth and green things to the land. This festival is usually considered to be a sharing of love between the GOD and GODDESS, a period of equality, a balance between the forces of nature and man and woman. If possible this festival is done outdoors so the feeling of being close to nature is attained. All around the feeling of Spring may prevail from the new grass beneath the feet to the sweet clean smell of the air. The joining of mankind with nature at this festival is easily accomplished with the land renewed all around us.
BELTANE-April 30th is the celebration of Beltane. This is one of the old fire festival at which BALEFIRES would be started across the country with a new fire that had been started by the Priests and hearths would be rekindled with the fresh flame. In some quarters stock would be driven between two fires, one to each side to purify the animals(not to mention get rid of pests they might be carrying). It is also considered as the coming together of the God and Goddess in fruitful union to add new life to the crops and hasten their growth.
SUMMER SOLSTICE-June 21st is the longest day of the year and marks the high point reached by the Sun on its yearly journey. It is the height of Summer and the fields are green with the new crops. Life abounds all around us and in every living thing is the feeling of oneness with nature. It is easy to stand in a woods or a field and feel the Earth around you while the Sun shines on your face. To hear the birds in song or to watch the animals teaching their spring born young what they must learn to survive winter is a beautiful feeling of oneness with all beings.
LAMMAS- August 2nd is the festival of Lammas which is the first harvest. The early crops are being brought in and stored for winter while the abundance of nature is all around. The corn stands high in the fields and the days are warm and luxurious. Lammas is the time of sharing the first harvest and breads that are made from the early grains. It is a festival where sharing between all present of the harvest and its bounty forms a closeness or bond. It is a time of thankfulness to the God and Goddess for their help in the creation of a full harvest for the winter that lies ahead.
FALL EQUINOX-September 21st is the exact opposite of March 21st. Both of these are times of equal night and equal day. Fall Equinox is a reminder that the Sun will now start to grow shorter each day from this point on until again at YULE the longest time of darkness will come again. This is again a time of equality between the God and Goddess, the God represented by the Sun, the Goddess by the Moon. Each representing half of one whole that is fulfilled by their joining as one. Fruitfulness of the land being the end result of their mutuality, the bounty of the harvest will be brought in and stored against winter, and the dark times. From here the next festival is again SAMHAIN and the start of a NEW YEAR.
SO THE WHEEL OF THE YEAR TURNS IN THE OLD RELIGION
For further information about the Old Religion send a self addressed stamped
P.O. Box 186
All inquiries with return postage will be answered.
HISTORY OF WICCA IN ENGLAND:
1939 - present day
(This talk was given by Julia Phillips at the Wiccan Conference in Canberra, 1991. It is mainly about the early days of the Wicca in England; specifically what we now call Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions. The text remains "as given", so please remember when you read it that it was never intended to be "read", but "heard" and debated.)
There are three main strands I intend to examine: one, Gardner's claim of traditional initiation, and its subsequent development; two, magical traditions to which Gardner would have had access; and three, literary sources. As we look at these three main threads, it is important to bear in mind that Gardner was 55 years old at the time of his claimed initiation; that he had spent many years in Malaya, and had an enormous interest in magic, Folklore and Mythology. By the time he published High Magic's Aid, he was 65, and 75 when "The Meaning of Witchcraft" appeared. He died in 1964, at the age of 80.
Gardner was born in 1884, and spent most of his working adult life in Malaya. He retired, and returned to the UK in 1936. He joined the Folklore Society, and in June 1938, also joined the newly opened Rosicrucian Theatre at Christchurch where it is said he met Old Dorothy Clutterbuck. I chose 1939 as my arbitrary starting point as that was the year that Gerald Gardner claims he was initiated by Old Dorothy into a practising coven of the Old Religion, that met in the New Forest area of Britain. In his own words, "I realized that I had stumbled upon something interesting; but I was half-initiated before the word, "Wica" which they used hit me like a thunderbolt, and I knew where I was, and that the Old Religion still existed. And so I found myself in the Circle, and there took the usual oath of secrecy, which bound me not to reveal certain things." This quote is taken from The Meaning of Witchcraft, which was published in 1959.
It is interesting that in this quote, Gardner spells Wicca with only one "c"; in the earlier "Witchcraft Today" (1954) and "High Magic's Aid" (1949), the word Wicca is not even used. His own derivation for the word, given in "The Meaning of Witchcraft", is as follows:
"As they (the Dane and Saxon invaders of England) had no witches of their own they had no special name for them; however, they made one up from "wig" an idol, and "laer", learning, "wiglaer" which they shortened into "Wicca". "It is a curious fact that when the witches became English-speaking they adopted their Saxon name, "Wica"."
In "An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present", Doreen Valiente does not have an entry for Wicca, but when discussing Witchcraft, does mention the Saxon derivation from the word Wicca or Wicce. In the more recently published The Rebirth Of Witchcraft, however, she rejects this Saxon theory in favour of Prof. Russell's derivation from the Indo-European root "Weik", which relates to things connected with magic and religion.
Doreen Valiente strongly supports Gardner's claim of traditional initiation, and published the results of her successful attempt to prove the existence of Dorothy Clutterbuck in an appendix to "The Witches' Way" by Janet and Stewart Farrar. It is a marvellous piece of investigation, but proving that Old Dorothy existed does nothing to support Gardner's claims that she initiated him.
In his book, "Ritual Magic in England", occultist Francis King does offer some anecdotal evidence in support of Gardner's claims. However, it is only fair to point out that in the same book, he virtually accuses Moina Mathers of murder, based upon a misunderstanding of a story told by Dion Fortune!
With that caveat, I'll recount the tale in full:
King relates that in 1953, he became acquainted with Louis Wilkinson, who wrote under the pen-name of Louis Marlow, and had contributed essays to Crowley's Equinox. He later became one of Crowley's literary executors. King says that in conversation, Wilkinson told him that Crowley had claimed to have been offered initiation into a witch coven, but that he refused, as he didn't want to be bossed around by a bunch of women. (This story is well- known, and could have been picked up anywhere.) Wilkinson then proceeded to tell King that he had himself become friendly with members of a coven operating in the New Forest area, and he thought that whilst it was possible that they derived their existence from Murray's "Witch Cult in Western Europe", he felt that they were rather older.
King draws the obvious conclusion; that these witches were the very same as those who initiated Gardner. King claims that the conversation with Wilkinson took place in 1953, although "Ritual Magic in England" was not published - or presumably written - until 1970. However, on September 27 1952, "Illustrated" magazine published a feature by Allen Andrews, which included details of a working by, "the Southern Coven of British Witches", where 17 men and women met in the New Forest to repel an invasion by Hitler. Wilkinson had told King of this working during their conversation, which King believes to be proof that such a coven existed; there are some differences in the two stories, and so it is possible that two sources are reporting the same event, but as Wilkinson's conversation with King came after the magazine article, we shall never know.
In the recently published "Crafting the Art of Magic", Aidan Kelly uses this same source to "prove" (and I use the word advisedly - the book "proves" nothing") that Gardner, Dorothy, et al created Wicca one night following a social get together! Of one thing we can be certain though: whatever its origin, modern Wicca derives from Gardner. There may of course be other traditional, hereditary witches, but even if they are genuine, then it is unlikely that they would have been able to "go public" had it not been for Gardner.
There have been many claims of "hereditary" origin (other than Gardner's own!) One of the most famous post-Gardner claimants to "hereditary" status was actress Ruth Wynn-Owen, who fooled many people for a very long time before being exposed. Roy Bowers, who used the pseudonym Robert Cochrane, was another: Doreen Valiente describes her association with him in "The Rebirth of Witchcraft", and The Roebuck, which is still active in the USA today, derives directly from Cochrane, via Joe Wilson. "Witchcraft: A Tradition Renewed" by Evan John Jones with Doreen Valiente describes a tradition derived from Robert Cochrane. Alex Sanders, of course is another who claimed hereditary lineage, and like Cochrane, deserves his own place in this history, and we'll get to both of them later.
Many people have been suspicious of Gardner's claims, and have accused him
of making the whole thing up. They suggest that the Wicca is no more than
the fantasy of an old man coloured by a romantic imagination. One particularly
virulent attack upon Gardner came from Charles Cardell, writing under the
pseudonym of Rex Nemorensis.
One of Gardner's initiates who is still active in the Wicca today has an interesting tale to tell about Cardell, whom he knew:
"Cardell claimed to be a Witch, but from a different tradition to Gardner's. Cardell was a psychopathic rat, with malevolent intent toward all and sundry. He managed to get a woman called Olive Green (Florannis) into Gardner's coven, and told her to copy out the Book of Shadows so that Cardell could publish it, and destroy Gardner. He also contacted a London paper, and told them when and where the coven meetings were held, and of course the paper got quite a scoop. Cardell led people in the coven to believe that it was Doreen Valiente who had informed on them."
Doreen had just left Gardner in a bit of a huff after a disagreement; another coven member, Ned Grove, left with her. Anyway, the day the paper printed the exposure, Cardell sent Gardner a telegram saying, "Remember Ameth tonight". (Ameth was Doreen's Craft name, and as it has now been published, I see no reason not to use it here)." My informant also said that Olive Green was associated with Michael Houghton, owner of Atlantis book shop in Museum Street, who was the publisher of High Magic's Aid. Through this association, she also encountered Kenneth Grant of the OTO, although their association was not friendly.
Cecil Williamson, the original owner of the witchcraft museum on the Isle of Man, and present owner of the Witchcraft Museum in Boscastle, has also published a number of articles where he states quite categorically that Gardner was an utter fraud; but, he offers only anecdotes to support these allegations.
Although Gardner claimed his initiation occurred in 1939, we don't really hear anything about him until 1949, when "High Magic's Aid" was published by Michael Houghton. This book has very strong Solomonic leanings, but like Gardner's own religious beliefs, combined the more natural forms of magic with high ceremonial. In his introduction to the book, Gardner says that: "The Magical rituals are authentic, party from the Key of Solomon (MacGregor Mathers' translation) and partly from magical MSS in my possession)." Gardner did indeed have a large collection of MSS, which passed with the rest of his goods to Ripley's in Toronto after his death.
Scire (pseudonym) was the name Gardner took as a member of Crowley's branch
of the OTO; although it is generally agreed that his membership was purely
nominal, he was certainly in contact with people like Kenneth Grant and Madeline
Montalban (founder of the Order of the Morning Star). Gardner was given his
OTO degree and Charter by Aleister Crowley, to whom he was introduced in
1946 by Arnold Crowther. As Crowley died in 1947, their association was not
long-lived, but Crowther confirms that the two men enjoyed each other's
So, after that brief introduction we can have a look at the first of the strands I mentioned.
In 1888, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was born, beginning a renaissance of interest in the occult that has continued to the present day. It is impossible to overstate the importance of the GD to modern occultists; not only in its rituals, but also in its personalities; and of course, through making available a large body of occult lore that would otherwise have remained unknown, or hidden in obscurity. I will be looking at this body of occult lore with other literary influences later, and will here concentrate on the rituals and personalities that have influenced Wicca.
We cannot look at the GD in isolation from its own origins. It is descended from a myriad of esoteric traditions including Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, and Freemasonry. The latter in its own right, as well as via the SRIA - a scholarly and ceremonial association open to Master Masons only.
Whether the German Lodge or Fraulein Sprengel actually existed is a matter still under debate; but either in fact or in spirit, this is the source for the "Cypher Manuscripts" which were used to found the Isis-Urania Lodge in 1888. As I'm sure everyone knows, Isis-Urania was founded by Dr Wynn-Westcott, Dr Woodman, and MacGregor Mathers. Not only were all three Master Masons; Wynn-Westcott and Mathers were also members of the Theosophical Society. The most important thing though is the fact the these three men were a ruling triumvirate that managed the affairs of the SRIA. This is important, for the SRIA included Hargrave Jennings in its membership, and Jennings is reputed to have been involved with a Pagan group at the end of the 19th century, which drew its inspiration from Apuleius - The Golden Ass.
But back to the GD - whether the Cypher Manuscripts actually existed, or Wynn-Westcott manufactured them is now irrelevant; Mathers was commissioned to write-up the rituals into a workable shape, and thus the Golden Dawn was born.
Members of the Isis-Urania Lodge at various times also included Allan Bennett, Moina Mathers, Aleister Crowley, Florence Farr, Maud Gonne, Annie Horniman, Arthur Machen, "Fiona Macleod", Arthur Waite and WB Yeats. Also associated were Lady Gregory, and G W Russell, or AE, whose "The Candle of Vision" was included in the bibliography of "The Meaning of Witchcraft". The literary and Celtic influences within the GD were immense.
From the Isis-Urania Lodge sprang all the others, including the so-called Dissident Orders derived through Crowley. It is this line that some commentators trace to modern Wicca, so it is the one upon which we will concentrate.
Aleister Crowley was initiated into the Isis-Urania Lodge on 18 November 1898. As you most probably know, Crowley later quarrelled with MacGregor Mathers, and in 1903 began to create his own Order, the Argenteum Astrum, or Silver Star. In 1912, Crowley was initiated into the OTO, and in 1921, succeeded Theodor Reuss as its Chief.
According to Arnold Crowther's account, it was in 1946, a year before Crowley's death, that Crowley gave Gardner an OTO Charter. Ithell Colquhoun says only that it occurred in the 1940s, and further states that Gardner introduced material from the OTO, and less directly from the GD, into "...the lore of his covens".
As Doreen Valiente also admits, "Indeed, the influence of Crowley was very apparent throughout the (Wiccan) rituals.". This, Gardner explained to her, was because the rituals he received from Old Dorothy's coven were very fragmentary, and in order to make them workable, he had to supplement them with other material.
To give an example of some of the lines by Crowley which are rather familiar
to modern Wiccans:
I give unimaginable joys on earth; certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice. I am Life, and the giver of Life, yet therefore is the knowledge of me the knowledge of death.
And of course, the Gnostic Mass has been immensely influential. Not only poetry, but also magical practices in Wicca are often derived from GD sources.
the way of casting the circle - that is, the visualization of the circle, and the pentagrams at the quarters, are both based upon the standard GD Pentagram Ritual; both the concept and word "Watchtowers" are of course from the Enochian system of Magic, passed to Wicca via the GD (although I would like to make it very clear that their use within Wicca bears no relation to the use within Enochia - the only similarity is in the name); the Elements and colours generally attributed to the Quarters are those of the GD; the weapons and their attributions are a combination of GD, Crowley and Key of Solomon.
In "Witchcraft Today", Gardner says, "The people who certainly would have had the knowledge and ability to invent (the Wiccan rites) were the people who formed the Order of the Golden Dawn about seventy years ago...".
The GD is not the only influence upon Gardner; Freemasonry has had a tremendous impact upon the Wicca. Not only were the three founders of Isis-Urania Temple Masons, so too were Crowley and Waite; Gardner and at least one member of the first coven (Daffo) were both Co-Masons. Gardner was also a friend of JSM Ward, who had published a number of books about Masonry.
Doreen describes Ward as a "leading Mason", but Francis King says only that Ward was, "a bogus Bishop... who had written some quite good but far-fetched books on masonry, and who ran a peculiar religious-cum-occult community called The Abbey of Christ the King..." Whether the books were far-fetched or not, we can assume that some of the many similarities between Wicca and Masonry are in some ways due to Ward's influence.
Some of these include:
The Three Degrees
So Mote It Be
The 1st Degree Oath (in part)
Presentation of the Working Tools at 1st degree
and so on.
It seems to me quite clear that even if Gardner received a traditional set of rituals from his coven, they must have been exceptionally sparse, as the concepts that we know of as Wicca today certainly derive from ceremonial magic and Freemasonry to a very great extent. Indeed, Gardner always claimed that they were sparse.
It could be argued that all derive from a common source. That the appearance of a phrase, or technique in one tradition does not automatically suggest that its appearance elsewhere means that the one was taken from the other. However, Gardner admits his sources in many cases, and Doreen confirms them in others, so I think it is safe to presume that the rituals and philosophy used by Wicca descends from the traditions of Freemasonry and Ceremonial magic, rather than from a single common source. However, as Hudson Frew points out in his commentary upon Aidan Kelly's book, the phenomena of the techniques and practices of ceremonial magic influencing folk magic and traditions is widely recognised by anthropologists, and certainly does not indicate plagiarism. And of course there are many traditional witchcraft aspects in the Wicca.
We have looked at the development of the magical orders which resulted from the British occult revival of the 19th and 20th centuries, and now we can see where this ties in with Wicca, and Gardner's claim of traditional initiation.
I have here a "family tree" of the main branches of British Wicca. It is by no means exhaustive, and is intended to provide an outline, not a definitive history! I have included my own coven lines and development as an indication of the kind of "cross-over" of tradition which often occurs, not to suggest that these are the only active groups! Also, it would not be ethical for me to include details of other covens.
We have two possible "hereditary" sources to the Gardnerian Craft: one, the Horsa Coven of Old Dorothy, and two, the Cumbrian Group which Rae Bone claims to have been initiated into before meeting Gardner. (NB: Doreen Valiente says that the Horsa Coven is not connected with Old Dorothy, but is another group entirely.) There is also sometimes mention of a St Alban's group that pre-dates Gardner, but as far as I know, this is mistaken. The St Albans group was Gardner's own group, which as far as research confirms, did not pre-date him.
To return to Rae Bone: she was one of Gardner's HPS's, and her "line" has been immensely important to the modern Wicca; she was featured in the magazine series, "Man Myth and Magic" if anyone has a copy of that. In her heyday she ran two covens: one in Cumbria, and one in South London. Rae is still alive, and lives in Cumbria, although her last coven moved to New Zealand many years ago, and she is no longer active. No-one has ever been able to trace the coven in New Zealand.
At this point, I will just mention George Pickingill, although he is not shown on the tree, as I think it extremely dubious that he had any connection with Gardner, or any other modern Wiccan. Pickingill died in 1909, whilst Gardner was still in Malaya. Eric Maple is largely responsible for the beginnings of the Pickingill myth, which were expanded by Bill Liddell (Lugh) writing in "The Wiccan" and "The Cauldron" throughout the 1970s. Mike Howard still has some of Liddell's material which he has never published, and I have yet to meet anyone within the British Craft who gives credence to Liddell's claims. In the book, "The Dark World of Witches", published in 1962, Maple tells of a number of village wise women and cunning men, one of whom is George Pickingill. There is a photograph included of an old man with a stick, holding a hat, which Maple describes as Pickingill. This photograph has subsequently been re-used many times in books about witchcraft and Wicca.
Issue number 31 of "Insight" Magazine, dated July 1984, contains a very
interesting letter from John Pope:
"The photograph purporting to be Old George Pickingill is in fact a photo of Alf Cavill, a station porter at Ellstree, taken in the early 1960s. Alf is now dead, but he was no witch, and laughed over the photograph when he saw it."
A very respected Craft authority has told me that he believes the photo, which is in his possession, to be of Pickingill, but like so much to do with Craft history, there is no definitive answer to this one.
Many claims were made by Liddell; some obviously from cloud-cuckoo land, others which could, by a stretch of the imagination, be accepted. The very idea of Pickingill, an illiterate farm labourer, co-ordinating and supervising nine covens across the breadth of the UK is staggering. To accept -as Liddell avers - that he had the likes of Alan Bennett and Aleister Crowley as his pupils bends credulity even further.
The infamous photograph which Liddell claims shows Crowley, Bennett and Pickingill together has conveniently disappeared, and no-one admits to ever having seen it. Like most of Liddell's claims, nothing has ever been substantiated, and when pushed, he retreats into the time honoured favourite of, "I can't reveal that - you're not an initiate"!
But to return to the family tree: the names of Doreen Valiente, Pat and Arnold Crowther, Lois Bourne (Hemmings), Jack Bracelin and Monique Wilson will probably be the most familiar to you.
Jack Bracelin is the author of Gardner's biography, "Gerald Gardner, Witch", (published 1960) now out of print, although still available 2nd hand, and in libraries. (In Crafting the Art of Magic, Kelly claims that this book was actually written by Idries Shah, and simply published under Bracelin's name. As with every other claim, Kelly offers no evidence of this)
I have seen a copy of Bracelin's Book of Shadows, which it is claimed dates from 1949, although in The Rebirth Of Witchcraft, Doreen says that Bracelin was a "relative newcomer" in the mid-1950s. I have also been told by two different sources that Bracelin helped Gardner write "The Laws". In The Rebirth Of Witchcraft, Doreen states that she did not see The Laws until the mid 1950s, when she and her partner Ned Grove accused Gardner of concocting them in order to re-assert control over the coven. As Bracelin was in the Gardner camp during the break-up of the group, it seems reasonable that he did in fact help with their composition. (NB: Alex Sanders increased the number of "The Laws" much later - these appeared in June Johns' book, "The King of the Witches")
Although Doreen claims that the reason for the coven break-up was the fact that Gardner and Bracelin were publicity crazy, there was another reason, which was the enstatement of a new lady into the coven, effectively replacing Doreen as HPS. This is also the main reason for Gerald's Law which states that the HPS will, "...gracefully retire in favour of a younger woman, should the coven so decide in council." Needless to say, Doreen was not impressed, and she and Ned left the coven under very acrimonious circumstances. It was quite some time before Doreen had contact with Gardner again, and they never quite regained the degree of friendship that had previously existed.
Monique and Campbell Wilson are infamous, rather than famous, as Gardner's heirs who sold off his magical equipment and possessions after his death, to Ripley's in the USA. Monique was the last of his Priestesses, and many Wiccans today still spit when her name is mentioned. Pat Crowther was rather scathing about her recently in an interview, and in The Rebirth Of Witchcraft, although Doreen tells of the sale of Gardner's magical possessions to Ripley's, she doesn't ever mention the Wilsons by name. In effect, the Craft closed ranks against them, and they became outcasts. Eventually, in the face of such opposition they had to sell the Museum in Castletown, and they moved to Torremolinos, where they bought a cafe. Monique died nine years after selling the Museum. It is rumoured that Campbell Wilson moved to the USA, and met with a car accident there: this is only hearsay though - I really do not know for sure what happened to him. However, Monique was influential in a way that even she could not have imagined, when in 1964 or 5 she initiated Ray Buckland, who with his wife Rosemary (later divorced), was very influential in the development of the Wicca in the USA. Fortunately, Richard and Tamarra James managed to buy the bulk of Gardner's collection back from Ripley's in 1987, for the princely sum of US$40,000, and it is now back within the Craft, and available for initiates to consult and view.
D and C S. are probably completely anonymous, and if it were not for the fact that C initiated Robert Cochrane (briefly mentioned earlier) they would probably stay that way! Cochrane's origins are obscure, but I have been told that he was initiated into the Gardnerian tradition by C S, and met Doreen Valiente through a mutual acquaintance in 1964. When he met Doreen, however, he claimed to be a hereditary witch, from a different tradition to Gardner's, and as Doreen confirms, was contemptuous of what he called "Gardnerian" witches. Indeed, Doreen believes he coined the term, "Gardnerian".
Doreen said she was completely taken in by Cochrane and for a while, worked
with him and the "Clan of Tubal-Cain" as he described his tradition, which
was also known as "The Royal Windsor Cuveen", or 1734. The figures "1734"
have an interesting history. Doreen gives a rather strange account of them
in The Rebirth Of Witchcraft, which contradicts what Cochrane himself describes
in a letter to Joe Wilson, dated "12th Night 1966", where he says:
"...the order of 1734 is not a date of an event but a grouping of numerals that mean something to a witch."
"One that becomes seven states of wisdom - the Goddess of the Cauldron. Three that are the Queens of the Elements - fire belonging alone to Man, and the Blacksmith God. Four that are Queens of the Wind Gods."
"The Jewish orthodoxy believe that whomever knows the Holy and Unspeakable name of God has absolute power over the world of form. Very briefly, the name of God spoken as Tetragrammaton ... breaks down in Hebrew to the letters YHVH, or the Adam Kadmon (The Heavenly Man). Adam Kadmon is a composite of all Archangels - in other words a poetic statement of the names of the Elements"
"So what the Jew and the Witch believe alike, is that the man who discovers the secret of the Elements controls the physical world. 1734 is the witch way of saying YHVH." (Cochrane, 1966)
Although Doreen says that Cochrane's group was small, it still proved to be remarkably influential. As well as Cochrane and his wife (whom Doreen refers to as "Jean") and Doreen herself, there were others who are well-known today, and a man called Ronald White, who very much wanted to bring about a new age in England, with the return of King Arthur.
In The Rebirth Of Witchcraft, Doreen elaborates upon the circumstances surrounding the death of Cochrane: the bald facts are that he died at the Summer Solstice of 1966 of an overdose. Craft tradition believes that he became in fact, and of his own choice, the male ritual sacrifice which is sometimes symbolically enacted at the height of Summer.
The Royal Windsor Cuveen disbanded after Cochrane died, only to be re-born from the ashes at Samhain that year under a new name - The Regency. All of its early members were from the Royal Windsor Cuveen, and they were under the leadership of Ronald White. The Regency proved to be of great importance to the development of the Wicca, although its existence was kept a fairly close secret, and even today, there are relatively few people who have ever heard of it.
Meetings were held in North London, at a place called Queens Wood. As well as Ron White and Doreen Valiente, members included "John Math", founder of the Witchcraft Research Association in 1964, and editor of Pentagram magazine, and the founder of the Pagan Movement, Tony Kelly. At its height, there were frequently more than 40 in attendance at rites, which tended to be of the dramatic, pagan kind rather than the ceremonial associated with high ritual magic. The Regency operated fairly consistently for over twelve years, finally disbanding in 1978. The Membership roll reads like a who's who of the British Wicca! Some of the rites have been incorporated into modern Wiccan rituals - in fact, one was used at the Pan European Wiccan Conference 1991 with very great success.
Moving back over to Rae Bone's line, there are a number of influential people here, mainly through her initiates, Madge and Arthur, who probably take the award for the most prolific pair in Wiccandom! Rae, although initiated by Gardner, does of course also claim a hereditary status in her own right.
Madge and Arthur's initiates include:
A: John and Jean Score
John Score was the partner of Michael Houghton (mentioned earlier), and the founder of the Pagan Federation, which is very active today. Houghton died under very mysterious circumstances, which is briefly mentioned in "The Sword of Wisdom" by Ithell Colquhoun. My Craft source told me that this was actually a ritual that went badly wrong, and Houghton ended up on the wrong end of some fairly potent energies.
There is an interesting anecdote about Houghton in The Rebirth Of Witchcraft, which is taken from "Nightside of Eden" by Kenneth Grant, and agrees in some respect to a similar story that I was told some years ago. Doreen suggests in The Rebirth Of Witchcraft that the story may relate to a magical working involving Kenneth Grant and his wife, Gardner, Dolores North (Madeline Montalban), and an un-named witch, who was probably Olive Green.
They were all to perform a ritual together, supposedly to contact an extra-terrestrial being. The material basis for the rite, which took place in 1949, was a drawing by AO Spare. Apparently soon after the rite commenced, a nearby bookseller (Michael Houghton) turned up and interrupted proceedings. On hearing that Kenneth Grant was within, he declined to enter, and wandered off. The rite was disrupted, and the story goes that everyone just went home.
Kenneth Grant claims that as a result of disturbing their working, Houghton's marriage broke up, and that Houghton died in mysterious circumstances. In fact, the Houghton divorce was a cause celebre, with her suing him for cruelty because he boasted of being a Sagittarian while sneering at her because she was only a dingy old Capricorn!
The interrupted ritual could well have taken place. Madeline had a flat near to Atlantis (Houghton's shop), and would certainly have known both Grant and Houghton. I know for a fact that Madeline was acquainted with Gerald, although her opinion of both him and the Wicca was rather poor. One of Madeline's older students told me that she thought Gardner rather a fraud, and ritually inept. She also had a very low opinion of Wiccans, and refused to allow her own students to participate in Wiccan rites. The reason for this lies in an anecdote which Doreen doesn't relate: the story goes that Madeline agreed to participate in a rite with Gerald, which turned out to involve Madeline being tied up and tickled with a feather duster! The great lady was not amused.
B: Prudence Jones
Prudence was for many years the president of the Pagan Federation, and editor of its newsletter. She inherited her role from John Score, after he passed away. With Nigel Pennick, Prudence also runs the Pagan Anti-Defamation League (PADL), and is an active astrologer and therapist. She has edited a book on astrology, and with Caitlin Matthews, edited "Voices from the Circle", published by Aquarian Press. Although Prudence took her degree in Philosophy, her main interests lie in the areas of the Grail and troubadour tales, and she has published privately an excellent essay on the Grail and Wicca. She is also a very highly respected astrologer, who lectures extensively in Britain.
C: Vivianne and Chris Crowley
Vivianne Crowley, is author of "Wicca - The Old Religion in the New Age", and also secretary of the Pagan Federation. She has a PhD in Psychology, and is perhaps the only person to have been a member of both a Gardnerian Coven and an Alexandrian one simultaneously!
Vivianne is very active at the moment, and has initiated people in Germany (having memorized the ritual in German - a language she doesn't speak!), Norway, and - on the astral -Brazil. As a result of her book, she receives many letters from people from all around the world, and organised the first ever pan-European Wiccan conference, held in Germany 1990. The second conference was held in Britain at the June solstice, and the third (1992) in Norway. In 1993, the Conference will be in Scotland.
D: John and Kathy (Caitlin) Matthews
John and Kathy (Caitlin) Matthews, are probably well-known to everyone, but possibly their Gardnerian initiations are not such common knowledge. The story that John Matthews relates in "Voices from the Circle" is essentially the one which he told the HPS who initiated him.
E: Pat and Arnold Crowther
I have left Pat and Arnold till last, as it is from their line that the infamous
Alex Sanders derives! It is no secret anymore that Alex, far from being initiated
by his grandmother when he was seven, was in fact turned down by Pat Crowther
in 1961, but was later accepted by one of her ex-coven members, Pat Kopanski,
and initiated to 1st Degree.
In "The Rebirth of Witchcraft" Doreen says that Alex later met Gardner, and was allowed to copy from the Book of Shadows; Craft tradition is somewhat different! It has always been said (even by Alex's supporters!) that he pinched what he could from Pat Kopanski before being chucked out, and that the main differences between the Alexandrian and Gardnerian Books of Shadows occur where Alex mis-heard, or mis-copied something! There are certainly significant differences between the two Books; some parts of Gardnerian ritual are quite unknown within the Alexandrian tradition, and the ritual techniques are often different. It is usually very easy to spot whether someone is an Alexandrian, or Gardnerian initiate.
Alex needed a HPS, and as we know, chose Maxine Morris for the role. Maxine is a striking Priestess, and made a very good visual focus for the movement which grew in leaps and bounds. In the late 1960s, Alex and Maxine were prolific initiators, and a number of their initiates have become well known. Some came to Australia, and there are still a number of covens in the UK today whose HP and/or HPS was initiated by Alex or Maxine.
Alex and Maxine's most famous initiates are almost certainly Janet and Stewart Farrar, who left them in 1971 to form their own coven, first in England, then later, in Ireland. Through their books, they have probably had the most influence over the direction that the modern Craft has taken. Certainly in Australia, the publication of "What Witches Do" was an absolute watershed, and with Janet and Stewart's consistent output, their form of Wicca is more likely to become the "standard" than any other type.
Since their early days of undiluted Alexandrianism, they have drifted somewhat
towards a more Gardnerian approach, and today, tell everyone that there are
no differences between the two traditions. In fact, despite the merging that
has been occurring over the last few years, there are very distinct differences
between the traditions; some merely external, others of a very significant
difference of philosophy.
Seldiy Bate was originally magically trained by Madeline Montalban, and then took an Alexandrian initiation from Maxine and Alex. Her husband, Nigel, was also initiated by Maxine, and they have been "public" witches for a number of years now, often appearing on TV, radio and in the press. Their background in ritual magic is expressed in the type of coven that they run; a combination of Wicca and Ceremonial Magic.
In 1971, Alex and Maxine went their separate ways. David Goddard is a Liberal
Catholic Priest, and for many years, he and Maxine worked in the Liberal
Catholic faith, and did not run a coven of any kind. Then in 1984, Maxine
gathered together a group again, and started practising a combination
of Wicca, Qabalah and Liberal Catholicism. She and David separated in
1987, and since then her coven has been exclusively Wiccan. In 1989, she
married one of her initiates, Vincent, and they are still running an active
coven in London today.Alex's history after the split was a little more sordid,
with one girl he married, Jill, filling the gutter press with stories about
Alex being homosexual, and defrauding her of all her money to spend
on his boyfriends. Sally Taylor was initiated by Maxine and David, but then
transferred to Alex. She was trained by him, and then started her own
I'd now like to focus upon the last of the strands which I believe has been influential upon the birth and development of Wicca; that of the literary traditions and sources to which Gardner would have had access. To a certain extent these are contiguous with the magical traditions described earlier, as nowhere is it ever suggested that Gardner did in fact ever work in a magical Lodge, so we must assume that his knowledge came from the written form of the rites, not from the actual practise of them.
From reading Gardner's books, it is quite apparent that Margaret Murray had a tremendous impact upon him. Her book, "The God of the Witches" was published in 1933, and twelve years previously, "The Witch Cult in Western Europe" had appeared. "The God of the Witches" has been tremendously influential on a number of people, and certainly inspired Gardner. In fact, "Witchcraft Today", published by Gardner in 1954 contained a foreword by Margaret Murray. At this time, remember, Murray's work was still taken seriously, and she remained the contributor on the subject of witchcraft for the Encyclopedia Britannica for a number of years. Now of course her work has been largely discredited, although she remains a source of inspiration, if not historical accuracy. In Gardner's day, the idea of a continuing worship of the old pagan gods would have been a staggering theory, and in the second article in my series about Murray (published in The Cauldron), I made the point that Murray may have had to pretend scientific veracity in order to get her work published in such times. Don't forget that Dion Fortune had to publish her work privately, as did Gardner with High Magic's Aid. Carlo Ginzburg's excellent book, "Ecstasies", also supports Murray's basic premise; although of course he regrets her historical deceptions.
There were of course other sources than Murray. In 1899, "Aradia: Gospel of the Witches" was published. Most of Crowley's work was available during the pre- and post-war years, as were the texts written and translated by MacGregor Mathers and Waite. Also readily available were works such as The Magus, and of course the classics, from which Gardner drew much inspiration. Of paramount importance would have been "The White Goddess", by Robert Graves, which is still a standard reference book on any British Wiccan's bookshelf. This was published in 1952; three years after High Magic's Aid appeared, and two years before Gardner's first non-fictional book about witchcraft. I would just like to say at this point that Graves has taken some very unfair criticism in respect of this book. The White Goddess was written as a work of poetry, not history, and to criticise it for being historically inaccurate is to miss the point. Unfortunately, I agree that some writers have referred to it as an "authority", and thus led their readers up the garden path. This is not Graves's fault, nor do I believe it was his intention.
Another book which has had a profound influence on many Wiccans, and would undoubtedly have been well known by Gardner is "The Golden Bough"; although the entire book was written based upon purely secondary research, it is an extensive examination of many pagan practices from the Ancient World, and the emphasis of the male sacrifice could certainly have been taken from here equally as well as from Murray. Certain of the Gardnerian ritual practices were almost certainly derived from The Golden Bough, or from Frazer's own sources.
In "Witchcraft Today" Gardner mentions a number of authors when speculating where the Wiccan rites came from. He says that, "The only man I can think of who could have invented the rites was the late Aleister Crowley." He continues to say, "The only other man I can think of who could have done it is Kipling...". He also mentions that, "Hargrave Jennings might have had a hand in them..." and then suggests that "Barrat (sic) of The Magus, circa 1800, would have had the ability to invent or resurrect the cult."
It's possible that these references are something of a damage control operation by Gardner, who, according to Doreen, was not too impressed when she kept telling him that she recognised certain passages in the Witch rites! "Witchcraft Today" was published the year after Doreen's initiation, and perhaps by seeming genuinely interested in where the Rites came from, Gardner thought he might give the appearance of innocence of their construction!
As mentioned previously, Gardner also had a large collection of unpublished manuscripts, which he used extensively, and one has only to read his books to realise that he was a very well-read man, with wide-ranging interests. Exactly the sort of man who would be able to draw together a set of rituals if required. The extensive bibliography to "The Meaning of Witchcraft" published in 1959, demonstrates this rather well. Gardner includes Magick in Theory and Practice and The Equinox of the Gods by Crowley; The Mystical Qabalah by Dion Fortune; The Goetia; The White Goddess (Graves); Lady Charlotte Guest's translation of The Mabinogion; English Folklore by Christina Hole; The Kabbalah Unveiled and the Abramelin by Mathers; both Margaret Murray's books and Godfrey Leland's Gypsy Sorcery, as well as a myriad of classic texts, from Plato to Bede! Although this bibliography postdates the creation of Gardnerian Wicca, it certainly indicates from where Gardner draws his inspiration from. There are also several books listed which are either directly, or indirectly, concerned with sex magic, Priapic Cults, or Tantra.
Hargrave Jenning, mentioned earlier, wrote a book called "The Rosicrucians, their Rites and Mysteries", which Francis King describes as a book, "concerned almost exclusively with phallicism and phallic images - Jennings saw the penis everywhere." As I mentioned earlier, Hargrave Jennings, a member of the SRIA, also belonged to a group, described as a coven, which met in the Cambridge area in the 1870s, and performed rituals based upon the classical traditions - specifically, from The Golden Ass. There is no evidence to support this, except that there are often found references to a "Cambridge Coven" linked to Jennings' name.
Many of the rituals we are familiar with today were of course later additions
by Doreen Valiente, and these have been well documented by both her and the
Farrars, in a number of books. Doreen admits that she deliberately cut much
of the poetry by Aleister Crowley, and substituted either her own work, or
poems from other sources, such as the Carmina Gadelica.
Of course we can never really know the truth about the origins of the Wicca. Gardner may have been an utter fraud; he may have actually received a "Traditional" initiation; or, as a number of people have suggested, he may have created the Wicca as a result of a genuine religious experience, drawing upon his extensive literary and magical knowledge to create, or help create, the rites and philosophy. What I think we can be fairly certain about is that he was sincere in his belief. If there had been no more to the whole thing than an old man's fantasy, then the Wicca would not have grown to be the force that it is today, and we would not all be sitting here in Canberra on a Saturday morning!
for a small gathering...
Note: This is a fairly typical Wiccan ritual, but remember as you read
it that it is -not- "universal." Wiccans write their own ritual, many times
creating one anew for each occasion.
Many covens will not use a ritual like this one, though theirs might be similar. The "Calling of the Quarters," invoking the four directions, the sharing of food and water or wine, the teaching/discussion segment, and the dismissal of the Quarters (also called "Watchtowers" in some groups) will be found to be pretty much universally accepted in most covens, though the words may differ markedly.
A circle may be marked on the floor, surrounding those who will participate in the ceremony. An altar is to be set up a little north of the center of the circle. The altar should have an image of the God and Goddess with an incense burner placed in front of the images.
Two white altar candles, dishes of salt and water, goblet of wine or fruit juice, cauldron with a special candle to symbolize fire and light, a little bell (if you have one) the athames and a small dish of the cakes or cookies for the Cakes and Wine ceremony.
When everyone is ready the participants should assemble in the circle area.
Purify and cast the Circle but do not light the candle in the Cauldron.
"Let it be known that the Circle is about to be cast, let none be here
but of their own free will."
The Priestess then says:
"This is the night of the solstice, the night that the darkness is triumphant over light, and yet on the morrow, the dark begins to give way and the light will return. The spirit of nature is suspended, all living things wait the transformation of the Dark King into the Infant Light. We watch for the coming of dawn, when the Great Mother will again give birth to the Divine Child, The Sun God who is the bringer of the life of Spring and the promise of Summer. We call the Sun from the womb of night. Blessed Be."
All: "Blessed be."
The Priest then calls the quarters; making the sign of the invoking pentagram in each direction.
Facing East, saying:
"Lords of the Watchtowers of the East, we summon, awaken and call you up to guard the circle and protect us in our rite. Come to us now on the cold winter wind and breathe into us the spirit of the pure joy of life. So mote it be!"
All: "So mote it be!"
Facing South, saying:
"Lords of the Watchtowers of the South, we summon, awaken and call you up to guard the circle and protect us in our rite. Come forth from the fires that warm this winter's night. Kindle within us the warmth of spiritual awakening. So mote it be!"
All: "So mote it be!"
Facing West, saying:
"Lords of the Watchtowers of the West, we summon, awaken and call you up to guard the circle and protect us in our rite. Come forth from the frozen streams, from the driven snow. Bring us the water of life to wash away our fears and resentments that we may find peace of mind. So mote it be!"
All: "So mote it be!"
Facing North, saying:
"Lords of the Watchtowers of the North, we summon, awaken and call you up to guard the circle and protect us in our rite. Come forth from the fertile bosom of our Blessed Mother Earth, and nourish us so that our faith may grow in strength. So mote it be!"
All: "So mote it be!"
The priest then takes the wand, and starting at the north, draws it along the entire circle clockwise back to the north point, saying:
"The circle is sealed, and all herein Are totally and completely apart From the outside world, That we may glorify the Lady whom we adore. Blessed Be!"
All repeat: "Blessed Be!"
The priest now holds the wand out in salute towards the north for a moment and then hands it to the priestess, who also holds it out in salute. She motions to the group to repeat the following lines after her:
"As above, so below ...
As the universe, so the soul.
As without, so within.
Blessed and gracious one,
On this day do we consecrate to you
Our bodies,Our minds,
And our spirits.
Priestess: "To die and be reborn, The Wheel is turning, What must you lose to the night?"
"Fear is lost to the night. Fear is lost to the night. To die and be reborn, The Wheel is turning, What must you lose to the night?"
All: "The light was born, And the light has died."
Priestess: "Everything passes, All fades away.
The High Priest places a pinch of salt on each member's tongue,and says:
"My body is salt, Taste the breath of death."
"You are entering a space of perfect freedom."
As everyone visualizes their hopes for their new life to come with the coming of the Sun the Priestess gives each a drop of honey on their tongues, one by one, saying:
"Taste the sweetness of life."
We are awake in the night! We turn the Wheel, to bring the light! We call the sun from the womb of night!"
The Priestess says:
"He sets his face to the West, but in the East arises!"
"Queen of the sun! Queen of the Moon! Queen of the horns! Queen of the fires! Bring to us the Child of Promise!"
"It is the Great Mother Who gives birth to Him, It is the Lord of Life, Who is born again! Darkness and tears Are set aside, When the sun comes up again!"
"Golden sun, Of hill and field, Light the earth! Light the skies! Light the waters! Light the fires!"
All: "Io! Evohe! Io! Evohe!"
The High Priest lights the cauldron candle, and all begin chanting:
"I who have died am alive again today, The Sun is born again! This is the birth of life and love and wings, We are born again, we shall live again! The Sun Child, the Winterborn King!"
"The Dark God has passed the Gate, He has been reborn through the Mother, With Him we are each reborn!" "The tide has turned! The light will come again! In a new dawn, in a new day, The sun is rising! Io! Evohe! Blessed Be!"
The Priestess now faces the altar, takes the goblet of wine in both hands, raising it offering it to the Lady and the Lord saying:
"We give thanks to the Gods for that which sustains us."
The Priest, also facing the altar, takes the plate of cakes, raising it and offering it to the Lady and the Lord, saying:
"We give thanks to the Gods for that which sustains us."
All: "So be it. May we ever be aware of all that we owe to the Gods."
The Priestess holding the goblet with both hands faces the Priest. The Priest, holds his athame between his two palms, point down, faces her. He slowly lowers the point of the athame into the wine, saying:
"In like fashion may male join with female,"
"For the happiness of both, and let the fruits of the union promote life,"
"Let all be fruitful and let peace, happiness and good will be spread throughout all lands."
The Priest then raises the athame, replacing it upon the altar. The Priestess holds the goblet for the Priest to sip the wine, and the Priest holds it for the Priestess, replacing it upon the altar.
The Priest then takes up the plate of cakes, holds them before him, turning to the Priestess. She touches each of them with the point of her athame, saying:
"This food is the blessing of the Gods to our bodies,"
"Let us partake of it freely, and as we share, let us remember always to see to it that what we have we share with those who have nothing."
The Priestess takes a cake and eats it, offering one to the Priest who also takes and eats a cake.
The Priest then takes the goblet and offers the wine to each of the Coveners in turn as the Priestess offers them each a cake.
"As we enjoy these gifts of the Gods, let us remember, without them, we would have nothing,"
Priest: "Eat and drink. Be happy. Share and give thanks. So Mote It Be."
All: "So Mote It Be."
Now is the time for discussion and teaching. Wine and light refreshments may be served. When the meeting has ended, all will stand and silently meditate for a moment.
Priest facing East, making the sign of the banishing pentagram, says:
"Lords of the watchtowers of the East, return now to the brisk Winter winds which are brimming with the excitement of the year's climax. Take with you our blessings and thanks. Hail and farewell!"
All: "Hail and farewell!"
Facing South, making the sign of the banishing pentagram, says:
"Lords of the Watchtowers of the South, return now to the fires of the Winter Hearth. Take with you our blessings and thanks. Hail and farewell!"
All: "Hail and farewell!"
Facing West, making the sign of the banishing pentagram, says:
"Lords of the Watchtowers of the West, return now to the frozen streams and snow fields. Take with you our blessings and thanks. Hail and farewell!"
All: "Hail and farewell!"
Facing North, making the sign of the banishing pentagram, says:
"Lords of the Watchtowers of the North, return now to the Earth where seeds nestle awaiting the warmth of Spring. Take with you our blessings and thanks. Hail and farewell!"
All: "Hail and farewell!"
Priest: Raises his athame in salute, says:
"We came together in perfect love and perfect trust, in love and friendship, let us part in the same way. Let us spread the love we have known here outward to all; sharing with those we meet on our separate ways."
Priestess: Raises her athame in salute saying, (as all coveners raise their athames in salute also)
"Lord and Lady, we give you our thanks for sharing this time together in our rite. We give you thanks for watching over us, for guarding us and for guiding us in all things. Love is the Law, Love is the Bond, Merry did we meet, merry do we part; and merry will we meet again."
The priestess will then take the wand and tap each candle to put it out, starting at the north and going clockwise around the circle, while saying:
"Our rite draws to its end. O lovely and gracious Goddess, Be with each of us as we depart. The circle is open but not broken! So Mote it be"
All: "So Mote it be! Merry Meet, Merry Part, May the Love of The Lord and The Lady, Be always in your heart."
Adapted from the published works of Raymond Buckland, "Complete Book of Witchcraft;" Janet and Stewart Farrar, "A Witches Bible Compleat;" Starhawk, "The Spiral Dance," Michael Fix, "Harvest Home Ritual" (posted on a BBS somewhere), and my teacher and mentor, Durwydd MacTara.
A short note might be in order here: WICCA, as such, is a "synthetic" religion; it has been -created- by many people over a period of years from research into the remnants of such European paganism as has survived. Much of its ritual derives from Masonic concepts and from early "ceremonial magic" groups such as the "Golden Dawn."
Though many of its practitioners tend to try to convince themselves and others that it has an unbroken line of descent from pagan Europe, there is little or no solid evidence of such.
As it grows and evolves, it has been slowly brought more into line with more realistic rituals and practices, taken from studies in anthropology and sociology, in addition to historical research, but it leaves out the more ugly aspects of much of pre-Christian paganism, and tends to remain European in orientation.