Modern Wiccan History

  Introduction:

In a Brief History of the Goddess Worshipers we saw that the Celts were an ancient people whose true origins lie buried in the forests of time.  We saw how they lived their lives in unity with the natural world about them--not separated from it as we often see today--but in union.

Through their art and the writings of the Greeks and Romans we got to know them a little better.  We discovered that they worshiped a male God, often horned, and a female Deity first called Danu who gave Her name to the river Danube   This is the region where the Celts originally came from in southeastern Europe—not strictly Ireland, though the Irish have been the keepers of the torch since the Roman conquests. We would probably have none of this if the Irish had not preserved our Celtic heritage. 

The important thing is that we know that what the Celtics believed was fundamentally different from the Judeo-Christian tradition--their world was not exclusively patriarchal--women played major roles in the Celtic society, just as in Wicca today. 

We learned that their spiritual leaders, the Druids, were their judges and priests, teachers and magicians.  So males mattered too. 

Though no writings or spells survive intact, we can get some idea of their ceremony and traditions in the Celts alive today.  They cast spells.  They had their observances in nature, on a hillside or in a sacred grove deep in the forest.  The caldron was often at the center of these festive ceremonies.  

Basically, we learned that our fundamental Wiccan beliefs are not all that different from theirs--or no more different than the separate beliefs of one Celtic clan from another.  And yet there would have been much common ground.  They would have recognized their own gods in the gods of their distant neighbors, as would have the Pagan Romans before the intolerance of Christianity.  

From this tolerance one clan had for another’s belief they learned—as we learn  one from the other—much that led them to greatness in their time.  We learned that the Romans and the Greeks vilified them as "uncivilized"—hating and fearing them after the Sac of Rome in 390 bce    

As are we in the Craft, the Celts were fiercely independent, choosing to worship as we do in our own individual way--It is our greatest strength and our greatest weakness.  Like the Celts themselves, we are ever in danger of isolation, making it easier for an enemy to divide and conquer. 

That way, lies the madness. That way lies the Burning Time—perhaps not burning in public this time--modern Christians don’t have the stomach for it anymore.  But our harsh comeuppance is pending one way or the other.  After all, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”  Exodus 22:17

A Catholic friend recently told me about a supermarket checkout girl being called out and condemned from the pulpit because the priest was sure she was a witch.  Probably just Goth.  But I’m sure he would have liked to punish her anyway—mostly for being a woman.    

Anyway, let’s take this section: the Recent History of the Craft, with a bit of tolerance.  Can we afford less in ourselves?  We are so diverse there is no way for me to write this without stepping on a few toes.  I seek forgiveness of those who have the divine right to believe otherwise.

The history of modern Wicca is only about fifty years old.  Some claim it is an entirely new creation and they point to its creators as the proof, though the creators themselves credit other sources.  However, they’re right.  Wicca is a new creation.  But it is built, unintentionally or not, on a much older tradition.  Would you agree? 

But lately we have become somewhat fictionalized.  And in my case, factualized, as I often look for the truth of our beliefs in the realm of physics (okay, so I’m a bit of a nerd).   I do this so my brain is in on the deal when I journey between the worlds instead of hanging in the wings telling me I’m making a fool of myself, and this’ll never work, and you're gonna stumble  anyway.

But back to modern Wicca: Fortunately, there’s a lot less of it then in the overall worship of the Goddess throughout all of history.  In fact, recent Wiccan history can be summed up in one name: Gerald Gardner.  If you haven’t read him go now and get the books (click Gerald Gardner) Much of what you will read in Gardner's books is familiar from the Brief History of the Goddess Worshipers presented here, and as such agrees with the anthropological facts, as best academia can discern. 

Basically, he said that Neolithic peoples (ancestors of the Celts) developed their beliefs out of hunting and fertility rituals (Again, check out Julian Jaynes on this one).  You can probably get it at the library, the Gardner book, unlikely. You need it on hand anyway.  It’s the beginning of your journey.

So.  Gardner 's ancient  peoples worshiped both Goddess and the Horned God, the God of the Hunt, in harmony with nature. 

You pretty much know all this.  But this is the interesting part.  Gardner theorizes a split in the Celtic religion.  The Druids rising to the fore, with their singularly male succession and their worship of the sun, this as the Goddess Moon Worshipers fall from grace.  But women did not give up their beliefs.  They just went underground where they survived the successive invasions of the British Isles only to fall victim to the Christian Right in the Burning Times. 

In modern times, they almost went extinct--or rather their traditions were almost forgotten.  Gardner himself credits himself for reviving them by exposing the secret rites and ceremonies of the Old Dorothy Clutterbuck’s coven, of which he was a member.  And that he did.  Wicca, ever since, has been growing by leaps and bounds.  For that we owe a great dept of thanks to the Gardner.  I wouldn’t be writing this now if I hadn’t been given a copy in when I was in school—opened my mind, my eyes and my heart and my Being, I'll tell you. 

However (there’s always a however, isn’t there), much like when psychiatrists take a shot at Sigmund Freud, all the while professing their reluctance to challenge the master, then do just that--I have a small bone to pick with the master—right word, huh? Master. 

My problem is with the basic separation of male belief from female in the Druids and the Goddess Worshipers.  The impression I get is typically male: highly competent but unaware of the true source of their power—Womankind, the Goddess Herself. 

Our ancestors believed in the union of the male and female energies, that it literally made the world go ‘round.  Let’s not blow it now. 

Other than that, let’s get on with it. 
Every writer since Gardner has followed or conspicuously diverged from his viewpoints.   I will do the same, while dancing my own path all the while.

That’s it.  The short history of Wicca can be summed up in one man, Gerald Gardner, though it grows greater every day, and in the one law:

"Do what you will, so long as it harms none "

I would add to that, "May it benefit many."

Addendum:  When I first wrote the above I received emails from concerned Wiccans that expected to have more recent history and that it was Aleister Crowley who first wrote the words " Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law ". Duh.

Unfortunately, this was exactly the kind of recent history I had hoped to avoid, thinking, perhaps naively, that if I didn’t get into the controversial areas everyone could agree.  Certainly, few would argue against Gerald Gardner as the father of modern Wicca.  Wrong. 

Okay, let’s take another look at recent Wiccan history.

Who is Who in Wicca Today

Let’s start with a list of important Wiccans.  Most of their books can be accessed by clicking their name; I’ll only list the most famous and influential titles.  All links open in their own window.  If not, hold the control key Ctrl when you click the link.

Margot Adler , “The Witches Witch”, author of “Drawing Down the Moon” and regular commentator
on National Public Radio NPR as host of the weekly Justice Talking where she deals with key
cases in current American justice that effect our nation as a democracy including: the death penalty,
 affirmative action, the debate over family values, the complexities of the right-to-die movement,
and the response of intellectuals to the war in Kosovo, the digital divide, geek culture.

Isaac Bonewits Considered by many to be America’s leading Druid expert on witchcraft and Neopaganism.

Raymond Buckland is the man most responsible for bringing Gardnerian Wicca to America. 
He is also the founder of a Craft school called Seax-Wica based on his Saxon heritage.

 

Z. Budapest Founder of the Susan B. Anthony feminist coven,
star of the San Francisco cable TV show “13th Heaven” and
leader of the Woman’s Spiritual Forum.  Zsuzsanna, is to me,
a big sister who has danced and sometimes staggered the same paths. 

 

Laurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" Founder of the WLPA (Witches' League for Public Awareness)
an anti-defamation group that seeks to educate the public of the true nature of witches
 and the Cabot Tradition of the Science of Witchcraft.  Laurie is everyone’s big sister
and has been practicing longer than most of us have been alive. 
My favorite book of hers is “The Witch in Every Woman”

Cecylyna and Dagonet Dewr Founders of The Pagan Pride project
the Thalia Clan an "Eclectic Mystery Tradition of NeoPagan Wicca".

 

Chas S. Clifton Editor “The International Journal of Pagan Studies”

Deidre and Andrew Corbin, Founder of the Earth Spirit Community
one of the co-authors of the Earth Religion Ant-Abuse Act of 1988


 

Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” His most famous book, “Liber Legis, the Book of Law” is where “The whole of the law” derives, that “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” and later “Love is the Law, Love under Will”, which we now uphold as: “Do what you will long as it harm no one”, or words to that effect.  Warning: approach Crowley’s works with great caution.  He embraced the left-hand path and is largely responsible for much of the negative image witches have to this day.
 

Vivianne and Chris Crowley Their work has been influential
in bridging the gap between Wicca and mainstream religion


Scott Cunningham "Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner”
Scott is the author of over thirty books, mostly on the practice of the solitary witch.

 

Phyllis Curott Author, priestess, attorney.  Now you know who to call when
your rightwing Christian neighbors decide to have an old fashion witch
burning and you’re the guest of honor

Pete "Pathfinder" Davis Founder of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church
 and regent of The Woolston-Steen Theological Seminary

 

Sully Erna Lead singer of the popular rock band Godsmack. As a living religion
we can’t allow ourselves to become elitist. Sully may be more of a Satyr than a
witch but, hey, he certainly is real.

 

Janet and Stewart Farrar Author of the historically significant British book,
 “What Witches Do” Janet is now with Gavin
Bone where both continue to be influential
forces in the Wiccan movement.

Selena Fox Founder of the Circle Sanctuary
Along with Margot Adler has done much to
reform the negative image of witches in America. 
Her Poetry is a treasure.

 

Gavin and Yvonne Frost Authors of more then 22 books, of which the most famous are
“The Magic Power of Witchcraft” and “Pagans of Stonehenge” the latter an account
 of his lifelong fascination with ancient stone circles.  The Gavins are often credited
with founding the first officially recognized Wiccan church in America.

 

Fiona Horne PopWitch and musician but not Sabrina or Samantha.  Fione is fun and knows Wicca
as her best-selling books attest.  I hesitate to include her here because of what
can appear as a concession to the Hollywitch that can cheapen our sacred
faith.  However, she’s generally on the money (as well as rolling in it) with
her basic concepts. She reaches a lot of people especially the youngest. 
So why not.

Ronald Hutton If you really want to know the facts about ancient,
medieval and modern Paganism read Hutton’s books. 

Donald Michael Kraig  Another Southern California
Wiccan, he is the author of several popular books
including, “Modern Magick” and “Modern Sex Magick”

 

Sybil Leek Author of over 60 books on Astrology, Numerology and
Reincarnation her biography “Diary of a Witch” is a fascinating glimpse into
the early British Witchcraft scene from the same area of England as Crowley
and Gerald Gardner’s Old Dorothy Clutterbuck’s coven.

Dr. Leo Louis Martello Was the first witch in American to go public.  Along with already noted Margot Adler and Selena Fox he has done much to reform America’s view of witchcraft.  An early activists and a championing civil rights for witches, Gay and Lesbian, as well as the rights of animal, he is probably best remembered for his $500
million dollar suit against the Roman Catholic Church and $100 million against Salem, Massachusetts for
atrocities committed against our people in the Burning Times and for the famous Central Park “Witch In”
Samhain Eve 1970, where over a thousand people attended. 

S.L. MacGregor Mathers Along with the Dr. William Woodman was a
co-founder of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and holder of
high office in the S.R.I.A. (Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia)

 

Anne Newkirk Niven Pagan publisher, head of BBI Media Inc
which publishes Sage Woman, PanGaia and NewWitch magazine(s).

 

Diana Paxson Founder of the Fellowship of the Spiral Path and
an Elder in the Covenant of the Goddess and of the Troth. 
Her novel “The Shield Between the Worlds: The Second
Chronicle of Fionn Mac Cumhal” is a great summer read.

Carol Queen Her books are for adults; while her activism in the
cause of tolerance for alternative sexuality benefits us all. 

 

Silver RavenWolf Widely read author largely responsible opening
the Craft to “normal” folk.  Not that we aren’t all normal but before
her witches baked children not cookies.  She is also the director
of the Circle Seminary and the Black Forest Clan.

 

Alex Sanders “King of the Witches” founder of the Alexandrian Tradition. 
Along with his high priestess Maxine stirred the caldron of controversy. 
Some maintain that he came under the shadow of the left-hand path as did Crowley.   

 

Starhawk Highly active and progressive, she too is a powerful force
in bringing contemporary Wicca to the fore.  Her must-read book is
“The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess”

 

Doreen Valiente was Gerald Gardner’s High Priestess
and is responsible for much of what we now know as Gardnerian Wicca.   

 

Wren Walker & Fritz Jung
Founders of "The Witches Voice"
longtime Witches and civil rights activists.

Marion Weinstein Author of several books including
“Positive Magic: Occult Self-Help and Earth Magic: A
Dianic Book of Shadows.” She is a lecturer
and comedienne, no less.

 

Carl Weschcke is Llewellyn Publishing the largest publishers of Wiccan and Pagan books
 in the world.  Himself a Wiccan High Priest and Magician
 he has been most influential in
in the rise of Wicca today. 

 

Rev. Kirk White, D. Div., M.A. Founder, President and Academic Dean of
Cherry Hill Seminary .  White is the only one on this list with no picture. 
Smart cookie; no telling when some psycho-bitch of a witch
will use your image to do harm.

 

so may it be,

                   Reni

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