Articles/Essays From Pagans
February 1st. 2019 ...
Paganism and Witchcraft in the Media
September 25th. 2018 ...
Understanding the Unseen
August 25th. 2018 ...
A Little Magickal History
Men and the Goddess
Back to Basics Witchcraft: Magical Creativity for Small Living Spaces
Kitchen Magic and Memories
Why the Faeries?
Magic in Daily Life
An Open Fire: Healing from Within
Cernunnos: The Darkest Wood in the Moon's Light
Gudrun of the Victory Gods
Ares and Athena
La Santa Muerte... The Stigma and the Strength
The Lady on the Stairs
The Wheel of the Year in Our Daily Lives
July 26th. 2018 ...
The Importance of Unification: Bringing Together Community Members to Invoke Cohesivity
May 29th. 2018 ...
Wild Mountain Woman: Landscape Goddess
April 20th. 2018 ...
Nazis Made Us Change Our Name
January 25th. 2018 ...
Finding Balance: Discipline Wedded to Devotion
November 15th. 2017 ...
September 30th. 2017 ...
July 31st. 2017 ...
Sin Eaters and Dream Walkers
July 2nd. 2017 ...
On Cursing: Politics and Ethos
June 1st. 2017 ...
The Sacred Ego in Mediterranean Magical Traditions
April 30th. 2017 ...
Tarot Talk: the Knight of Pentacles
March 30th. 2017 ...
Tarot Talk: the Ace of Swords
January 10th. 2017 ...
The Gray of 'Tween
Becoming a Sacred Dancer
Little Dog, Big Love
December 9th. 2016 ...
A Child's First Yule
November 10th. 2016 ...
What Exactly Is Witchcraft?
A Witch in the Bible Belt: Questions are Opportunities
On Death and Passing: Compassion Burnout in Healers and Shamans
What I Get from Cooking (And How it’s Part of My Path)
September 11th. 2016 ...
The Shadow of Disgust
August 12th. 2016 ...
When Reality Rattles your Idea of the Perfect Witch
Hungarian Belief in Fairies
Designing a Pagan Last Will and Testament
July 13th. 2016 ...
What Every Pagan Should Know About Curses
Magic With A Flick of my Finger
Finding and Caring for Your Frame Drum
An Open Mind and Heart
June 13th. 2016 ...
Living a Magickal Life with Fibromyalgia
My Father, My First God
Life is Awesome... and the Flu
May 15th. 2016 ...
Faery Guided Journey
Working with the Elements
April 2nd. 2016 ...
The Fear of Witchcraft
Magic in Sentences
March 28th. 2016 ...
Revisiting The Spiral
January 22nd. 2016 ...
Coming Out of the Broom Closet
December 20th. 2015 ...
Magia y Wicca
October 24th. 2015 ...
Feeling the Pulse of Autumn
October 16th. 2015 ...
Sacred Lands, Sacred Hearts
September 30th. 2015 ...
September 16th. 2015 ...
Vegan or Vegetarian? The Ethical Debate
August 6th. 2015 ...
Lost - A Pagan Parent's Tale
July 9th. 2015 ...
Love Spells: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
The Magic of Weather
June 7th. 2015 ...
A Pagan Altar
A Minority of a Minority of a Minority
May 6th. 2015 ...
13 Keys: The Crown of Kether
March 29th. 2015 ...
A Thread in the Tapestry of Witchcraft
March 28th. 2015 ...
On Wiccan Magick, Theurgy, Thaumaturgy and Setting Expectations
March 1st. 2015 ...
Choosing to Write a Shadow Book
February 1st. 2015 ...
Seeker Advice From a Coven Leader
January 1st. 2015 ...
Manipulation of the Concept of Witchcraft
Broomstick to the Emerald City
October 20th. 2014 ...
Thoughts on Conjuring Spirits
October 5th. 2014 ...
The History of the Sacred Circle
September 28th. 2014 ...
Seeking Pagan Lands for Pagan Burials
Creating a Healing Temple
August 31st. 2014 ...
Coven vs. Solitary
August 24th. 2014 ...
The Pagan Cleric
A Gathering of Sorcerers (A Strange Tale)
August 17th. 2014 ...
To Know, to Will, to Dare...
On Grief: Beacons of Light in the Shadows
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Many Masks of Wiccan History
Article ID: 12947
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,759
Times Read: 7,204
RSS Views: 27,075
Author: Sorita d'Este [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: November 2nd. 2008
Times Viewed: 7,204
“I realised 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.”
From: The Meaning of Witchcraft, Gerald Gardner
Wicca encompasses an entire worldview and way of life. It is an experiential system of magick, mysticism and spirituality that is practiced by people all over the world today. As an initiatory magickal tradition it first came to the public’s attention in the 1950’s at the hands of retired British civil servant Gerald Gardner. As can be seen from the opening quote, Gardner claimed that he had been initiated into a coven in the New Forest area of England and that what he was writing about and teaching was based on the rituals he encountered there. Some researchers have dismissed this claim over the years as a flight of fancy, and claims and counterclaims abound about the “real” origins of what has become known as Wicca today.
Whilst debating the possible starting point of the Wiccan tradition amongst some students in late 2001, it occurred to me that the evidence which was being used to support the various theories was primarily based on the people who were the early public face of the tradition and their contemporaries. Yet this is a tradition that is also called a ‘Craft’ and which is an experiential tradition where personal experience is paramount for the understanding of the practices and beliefs. So why were we debating the origins of the tradition in terms of who said or did what? It is the practices that hold the key to the origins of Wicca, for they are the heart and body of the tradition.
From that moment on my husband David Rankine and I set about systematically researching the origins of the practices and beliefs, which were passed to us through our initiators and colleagues, as well as in published materials. Our preconceptions were constantly challenged as we explored the origins of the practices and beliefs from different angles in an effort to find possible solutions to the question of when and where the tradition may have originated. We separated the rituals into their component parts, then looked at each individually and even divided them up into smaller parts, before finally putting it all back together creating a colourful mosaic with our findings in our book Wicca Magickal Beginnings published in early 2008.
Faced with several possible interpretations based on the evidence we correlated, it became clear that although it remained possible that Gerald Gardner may have created the tradition, it was certainly not that plausible in comparison to some of the other conclusions that we reached. In fact, at this stage of our research we feel that it is most likely that Gardner was not that much of a charlatan after all, but that his accounts of initiation into an existing tradition, upon which he later expanded, were truthful. When stripped right back, without the many additions and evolutions it has undergone since the 1950’s, Gerald Gardner’s ‘Witch Cult’ appears to predate him by at least some years, or even possibly quite a few decades.
Based on the information we discovered in our research, which often supplemented and sometimes contradicted existing views, we concluded there were five possible origins for the Wiccan tradition. Of these some were highly unlikely, but we wanted to consider every angle with our practice-based evidence. The possible origins were that the Wiccan tradition was the survival of a British system of folk magick; that it was the final form of a tradition of European Witchcraft with its roots in classical Greece and Rome; that Gerald Gardner and his associates invented the tradition; that the Wiccan tradition was a continuation of the Grimoire tradition; or that the Wiccan tradition was the continuation of a Victorian ceremonial magick system.
The first conclusion, of it being derived from a British folk magick system, we dismissed due to the lack of a coherent body of practice. Individual techniques were sometimes similar, but these were scattered geographically and not part of a system of practice. There has been a great deal of discussion on the influence of cunning folk on Wicca. However we felt that any material, which may have found its way into Wicca from the cunning folk, was largely grimoire derived in the first place, as many of the cunning practices were. Also we may note that cunning practice was very much solitary, unlike the group-based dynamic of the Wiccan tradition, and that it was actually practiced as antithetical to witchcraft.
Likewise we discarded the idea of European roots from the classical Greco-Roman world due to the lack of similarity between such witchcraft and the Wiccan tradition. This is most evident in the malefic nature of the practices of ancient witchcraft, which is directly opposed to the life-positive ethic of Wicca. The practices are entirely different, and there would have been some level of similarity between the two, even allowing for evolution or change over the centuries. Additionally the witchcraft practices postulated in the writings of significant authors like Michelet and Murray put forward the idea of a religious cult, as opposed to a magickal tradition, which is what Wicca was.
As we have already mentioned, when all the evidence was considered, we did not feel that Gerald Gardner had created the tradition, though he did add more contemporary material to it, which he felt was in keeping with the flavour of the tradition. We should also observe that Gardner became involved in any magickal groups he could find, and had many significant acquaintances in the worlds of magick and folklore. Gardner’s naďve comments about the way magick works in his writings do not suggest a man who created a system from scratch, whereas adding material from existing works is far more plausible. This is particularly evident in the way some of the material is used out of context, which fits with it being added by someone who was not that familiar with magickal practice.
The most plausible conclusion, based on the form and nature of the practices was that the Wiccan tradition was a continuation of the Grimoire tradition, synthesizing material from several Grimoires together to form an elegantly simple and practical system of practical magick. Such a synthesis occurred with Francis Barrett’s classic work “The Magus” in 1801, and it is possible this may have provided some of the inspiration and material for whoever united the techniques from disparate Grimoires to form such a seamless basis for the tradition. As all the core practices in Wicca are grimoire derived, this is the most logical argument. This would then indicate that the magickal beginnings of Wicca as a tradition are probably in the nineteenth century. Considering the explosion of magickal traditions, orders, literature and personalities found in this period, this is not really surprising.
Finally, the fifth conclusion, that it was the continuation of a Victorian ceremonial magick system was dismissed as the magick of orders such as the Golden Dawn provided minimal input into the Wiccan tradition, and then probably as later additions by Gardner or his associates. All of the material derived from the writings of Aleister Crowley came from several specific books, and the Golden Dawn material was published by Israel Regardie in the late 1930s, though it could also have been provided by one of the many dozens of ex-Golden Dawn (or derivative group) initiates who were around at the time.
Of course we realise that for some this would be a controversial conclusion, and as such we present the practice-based evidence in this volume in a way that allows for individual interpretation. We also focused on the component parts, which were common to all the traditions, both esoteric and exoteric, that we have personal knowledge of. These parts form the bones of the tradition, which were already present when Wicca became public in the 1950s, and do not include the many later additions that have occurred in the subsequent decades as Wicca has transformed from an esoteric magickal tradition to an exoteric pagan religion, or indeed group of religions. The global impact of Wicca has been felt not just in its proliferation, but also in the many other pagan traditions, which have drawn heavily on its techniques and beliefs to expand their own corpus of practices.
Whilst some of the material in Wicca Magickal Beginnings will undoubtedly be of interest to those with a casual interest in this modern tradition of witchcraft, the bulk of it is aimed at people who are practitioners and who, like us, want to develop a deeper understanding of the origins of their practices and beliefs. Through an honest understanding of our history, we are after all better able to build on its foundations and take it forward in and with the light of truth.
Wicca Magickal Beginnings, Sorita d'Este and David Rankine, Avalonia 2008
(Full Biography of sources are cited in the book and are extensive)
Copyright: (c) Sorita d'Este 2008
Location: Glastonbury, England
Author's Profile: To learn more about Sorita d'Este - Click HERE
Bio: See my profile
Other Articles: Sorita d'Este has posted 5 additional articles- View them?
Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE
Email Sorita d'Este... (No, I have NOT opted to receive Pagan Invites! Please do NOT send me anonymous invites to groups, sales and events.)
Web Site Content (including: text - graphics - html - look & feel)
Copyright 1997-2019 The Witches' Voice Inc. All rights reserved
Note: Authors & Artists retain the copyright for their work(s) on this website.
Unauthorized reproduction without prior permission is a violation of copyright laws.
Website structure, evolution and php coding by Fritz Jung on a Macintosh.
Any and all personal political opinions expressed in the public listing sections
(including, but not restricted to, personals, events, groups, shops, Wrenâ€™s Nest, etc.)
are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinion of The Witchesâ€™ Voice, Inc.
TWV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.
The Witches' Voice carries a 501(c)(3) certificate and a Federal Tax ID.
Mail Us: The Witches' Voice Inc., P.O. Box 341018, Tampa, Florida 33694-1018 U.S.A.
of The World
NOTE: The essay on this page contains the writings and opinions of the listed author(s) and is not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.
The Witches' Voice does not verify or attest to the historical accuracy contained in the content of this essay.
All WitchVox essays contain a valid email address, feel free to send your comments, thoughts or concerns directly to the listed author(s).