Wicca: The Real History

Date: Thu, 06 Jan 2000 08:50:00 +0000
To: zee-list
From: steve
Subject: [zee-list] Re: Gardner and Wicca (long)

You wanted the real history? Here goes (extracted from my own research and that of Professor Ronald Hutton, whose recent 'Triumph of the Moon' will prove to be the definitive work on the subject).

In the late 18th-early 19th century the Romantics began eulogising the pagan past. Associating Paganism with the countryside (wrongly) they chose Pan, a rather minor deity only much worshipped in the Greek backwoods, as symbolising nature. This led to such names as Peter Pan......

Rudyard Kipling, searching English folklore for something similar to the folk tales he heard as a child in India, wrote 'Puck of Pooks Hill'' a children's book featuring the phrase 'by Oak and Ash and Thorn'. Imitations of Freemasonry became common throughout Britain, usually these orders were for Health Insurance. This spread the swrod-point initiation idea to the lower classes, along with the phrase 'so mote it be'. An early Masonic song includes the phrase 'merry meet and meery part and merry meet again'.

In 1920 Margaret Murray, and Egyptologist, wrote 'The Witch Cult In Western Europe', a spurious book full of deliberate mistranslations that claimed that the Witch Hunts were against a surviving sect of Paganism. Although this work was demolished 50 years ago it was very influential at the time. Note that there is no hint of any Goddess in her work.

In 1923 the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry began adopting Murray's ideas of Witchcraft to its Scout-style camps. In 1926 a newspaper exposed them, and in 1927 the majority voted to return to Quakerism. A minority left to continue their work, including the owner of the estate where they met, situated in the New Forest.

In around 1939 a novel called 'The Silver Bowl' by Hugh Ross Williams was published. Based on Murray, it introduces the idea of 'The Craft Of The Wise'.

In 1939 Gerald Gardner, a retired rubber plantation manager, moves to the New Forest and gets involved with the esoteric groups there, mainly the Rosicrucian Theatre, influenced by the general rag-bag of Theosophy and its offshoots. The OWC rebels are also into the same stuff.

During the war Gardner was initiated into the Ancient Druid Order and the OTO. In 1947 he was invited to America to discuss his becoming OHO of the OTO, presumably because he was in England, male and over thirty, unlike just about any other English member at the time. He declined.

In 1947 Robert Graves publishes 'The White Goddess'. The product of personal insights into the muse of poetry, it is taken as a textbook of Celtic survival.

Around 1947 Gardner decides he is more interested in a full revival of the Murray Witchcraft, with Graves' Goddess and the ex-OWC and Co-Masonic rituals, than in the OTO. He starts writing a Grimoire for Witches in pseudo-Mediaeval English - 'Ye Bok Of Ye Arte Magickal'. He is by now also in the same Nudist colony as Ross Nichols, later Chosen Chief of OBOD. Between them they add the four Celtic fire-festivals to the Druid Solstices and Equinoxes to invent the 8-fold wheel of the year.

In 1949 Atlantis Bookshop publishes 'High Magic's Aid', a novel by Gardner contrasting the High Magic Tradition with a form of Witchcraft unrecognisable from modern Wicca.

In 1949/50 The Occult Observer, co-edited by Ross Nichols, prints an article about an Indian Divination manual called 'The Book Of Shadows'. Around 1950 'Ye Bok Of Ye Arte Magickal' becomes 'The Book Of Shadows'. In 1951 the Witchcraft Act is repealed. In 1952 Gardner publishes 'Witchcraft Today', followed by 'The Meaning Of Witchcraft'. He claims to have been initiated into a coven in the New Forest which nevertheless had only sketchy rituals. This is almost certainly the OWC splinter. Around 1954 Doreen Valiente contacts Gardner, is initiated and instantly realises that about 80% of The Book Of Shadows is cribbed from Crowley. With his permission she replaces all of the Crowley with her own poetry, writing 'The Charge Of The Goddess'.

In 1964 Gardner dies, Alex Sanders appears claiming hereditary membership of the same Craft. Eventually it is discovered that his Book Of Shadows has the 'Charge of the Goddess'.

In 1989 Pagan News publishes an interview between myself and Maxine Sanders in which she admits that Alex stole his BoS.

In 1994 in Aisling I reveal the OWC link. This has been updated in Talking Stick Magickal Journal.

In 1995 Prof Hutton and myself visit the modern OWC and read their early magazines, teaching children the planetary correspondences around the camp fire!

In 1999 Hutton, a Wiccan, acknowledges my work but backs off of the OWC connection. Ignoring the fact that it was an ex-OWC faction he emphasises the distance between the OWC headquarters and the Rosicrucian Theatre (an hour's drive) and concentrates on Gardner's 'creative role'. This is partly because there is a lack of written eveidence for the period 1927-1940, and perhaps partly because he knows that I was treated like a leper by the Wiccans. The fact that between us we proved that there was, in the New Forest, a group working the 4 quarters, stark naked, and invoking a horned god and moon goddess using Crowley's Hymn to Pan by 1923 has been swept aside. Oh well, the truth will out.

Now, to demolish some myths:

There are no hereditary witches, until the Church persecution of ugly old women Witches were supernatural beings, not people.

Only about 45,000 to 60,000 people were executed as witches, not the 9,000,000 claimed by some rabid wiccans.

Gardner began incorporating Crowley in the Bok/BoS after Crowley's death, so Aleister Crowley did not ghost write it.

There is no evidence whatsoever that Gardner was into flagellation for sexual purposes. More fool him, but this is one of many stories about Gardner that issued from Cecil Williamson, a spiteful old man who used to own 'The Witches Museum' in Boscastle, and who seemed perpetually enraged that Gardner had done so much better out of the idea of witchcraft than he had.

that's it for now,