Wicca: The Real History
Date: Thu, 06 Jan 2000 08:50:00 +0000
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
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
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
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
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
that's it for now,