Excerpt from the Grigorian Witchcraft Basic Course
Published in the Grigorian Witchcraft Tradition Book of Shadows 1998
Taught in the Grigorian Public Temple Space from 1998 - to present
All rights reserved property of Grigorian Witchcraft Tradition
Authors, Jeff Rosenbush and Angelina Rosenbush
The History of Wicca and Witchcraft 1998
A Brief Overview
Wicca is a polytheistic religion and practice originating from the works of Gerald Gardner. It is a religion that not only points to the use and worship of multiple deities, elements, and energy. It also utilizes the balance of these aspects often by setting each with its counter or partner. This is most commonly recognized as the worship of and practice of working with the God and Goddess. Wicca is often referred to as a neopagan religion or a form of modern witchcraft by many followers of Wicca. However, the terms and definitions vary greatly dependent upon point of view. Wicca can often be attributed to its roots being first popularized in the 1949 when Gerald Gardner published his book High Magic’s Aid. Gardner was a retired British civil servant who at the time called it a “witch cult” or “witchcraft” and its adherents “Wica”. It was in the 1960’s that the name became most widely used and commonly known as “Wicca”. From here Wicca has been expanded upon over the years a great deal in an attempt to keep the religion moving forward with humanity. As a result, many ideas and traditions have blended almost to the point of being unrecognizable from their original sources or coven traditions. Of course, to this day British Traditional Wicca, traditional forms of witchcraft which include Gardnerian amongst others remain true to their founding origins. Yet, these days there are multiple forms of the craft of Wicca that have emerged since. These forms can include such themes or practices such as Celtic specific inclinations, Hellenistic practices, even Monotheistic or Atheist associated structure. As Wicca has expanded much debate has ensued since on basis of how much can be integrated and still called Wicca or what are acceptable points of view. This argument is not a new one and existed even in Gardner’s lifetime as the debates between family-based origins and practices in Witchcraft vs. Wicca, and much later the debate over the Self-Initiated Witch arose.
The best way to understand what even brought about these debates or spurred on drawing from such an array of contexts is best understood when we go back even further than Gerald Gardner, and the many founders of Wicca (to which we will discuss later on in this text). If we go back to the early works where the practice of majick use can be traced not only through medieval times and legend, but where our true roots lie in the earliest forms of civilization constructed by early cultures of man. In other words, to us in Grigorian the personal religious and even state temple practices of the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Etruscans, Sumerians, Babylonians, and so forth are just as valid to understanding the earliest roots of witchcraft. Although the information from these times is varied and translation is difficult. Much has been learned since Gardners’ time on the belief system and workings of Alchemists, Occultists, Midwives, Healers, Priest and Priestesses, and yes, the Witches of our Ancient past. It is in this study, as we expound further into our pasts do we better understand the practices and worship of our ancient deities and our roles or beliefs, that we ourselves have taken on.
Regardless of how so ever you choose to you look at Wicca or Witchcraft, to look at its earliest pre ancestors, discussing its origins as a “new religion”, and its writers whether foundational or modern, one thing you must understand is that the Craft is and always shall be not only a practice, or a religion, but rather it is Both. Witches, Healers, and Priests or Priestesses of ancient time and in many organizations today continue to acknowledge both divine, natural, and other forms of energy alongside the energy relied upon and drawn from ones’ own self and ideas as part of their life’s work. And this is exactly what for us Witchcraft is, it is a life’s work, a religion based upon a long and colorful history, a chosen spirituality for the development of oneself, and a practice. We are Witches, and we practice the Craft of us. We have been through time and will always be again, for we are servants of and children for those who are and turn the circle that unites all things and understandings throughout the universe (The Weaver's Mysteries Grigorian Witchcraft Tradition 1998). This is the consciousness of the universe, in us, in Nature, in Deity, and in spirit. One thing is certain for us in Grigorian as Witches we venerate the old Gods and Goddesses. We worship and acknowledge both.
In that it is possible for the divine to not only hold many aspects, but that the divine is linked, just as we are, to their children and their own creations. This interconnectedness that exists not just in the greater cosmos or the world of the divine and of spirit, but it exists also in the lower cosmos or physical planes as well. And it is this force, is what we call the ‘web of life’. The web of life’s cycle is what is often called ‘the great circle’. In that all things, people, plants, animals, natural matter, and spirit matter, or energy matter, and soul by soul links us to not only our ancestors, who here in Grigorian we know as the Community aspect, but also then back again to the divine. This is the great connection that Grigorian Witchcraft teaches in the Weaver’s Mysteries (1998). The balance in all things. Partly, we see it as information that has been sub-divided by cultures and stripped away bit by bit with modernization, loss of information, and distraction in trying to understand things through a rank-and-file system. And yet, the truth is simple, it is just very large. And if one is truly able to conceive of this larger picture than one must become aware of how they fit inside it. Although this may make some feel smaller in some way, the truth is there is no size difference in the links of this chain, for every piece naturally and inevitable intersects with not just one but several others, creating a natural cycle of give and take. It is then that we become aware as the thinking creatures we are of our responsibility within this web, in that we must not only care for ourselves, and those around us, but the environment with which we rely on, and the spirit which makes us whole. That is the wisdom as old as time, it is this understanding of give and take, in that we use our powers to weave and bend, that for a every cycle broken a new connection emerges. And so it is with great care that we should be taking when we even consider any changes we might make. It is then through our own energies both with our hands and with our will do we give it back, both on this plane of existence and in the plane of spirit. It is then through these connections, these threads that we have woven, do we earn our place and find our way home again.
What Witches Are and
What Witches Are Not in Grigorian
By now you have probably heard the phrase, “If you ask one hundred different witches what witchcraft is, you’ll get one hundred different answers.” This is both true and misleading. Because by its’ very nature witchcraft for many becomes an independent spiritual journey on an individual path to whatsoever one is seeking. However, this is where opinion often becomes mixed up with basic truths and facts. As much as witchcraft can be customized to and by an individual, there are still some standards and basic principles that apply and are varied by tradition. Especially when it comes down to a comparison between the differences in training. Again, this is not to say that any one way or path is correct or somehow superior to another, they are simply different, but even in the differences within witchcraft there have always been commonalities that define ones’ practice, religion, and lifestyle to that of witchcraft vs a personal gnosis. For example, the eight sabbats as originating with Wicca, versus the sabbats or rituals specific to set dates in the works of ceremonial magicians.
Witchcraft is very individualized and by its’ nature inherently a path of self-discovery as much as a path of working magick. However, like all things in nature there are inherent cycles, patterns, and stages of development or foundations in knowledge and training that must be applied in order for anyone to be the most successful they can be when it comes to witchcraft. So, to better understand this, and throughout your training you will learn aspects of foundational principles and skill sets to guide your path in Witchcraft within Grigorian.
First, let us begin with the most uncomfortable factor and stereotype often brought into the conversations on what Witches Do by people not in the Craft. The ever-famous horror movie exploitation that they use to place emphasis on the myth that all Witches are inherently evil, because they commit sacrifice. However, it isn’t just the movie or fictional story genre that is to be blamed for this perpetuation of an idea. The truth is there are even many in pagan communities all around the world that embrace an idea of pure goodness when it comes to the Craft and even polytheistic practices of ancient times that is at best glazing over history, that helps to allow for those who would bad talk Witches to twist history and fact witch stereotypes and fear. The truth is simply this, Witches Do sacrifice, HOWEVER, before you jump out of your seat in a tirade, please consider with patience the full truth I am about to teach you. Yes, witches do sacrifice, yet we DO NOT under any circumstances or for any reason sacrifice babies, or people of any age for that matter, live animals, or any other living being. When we say witches sacrifice what we are actually referring to is the witches practice of Oblation. An oblation is an ancient practice dating back to polytheistic worship in the temples of Ancient Rome, Greece, and other areas. An Oblation is an offering made from man (or human) to the God(s) (Grigorian BOS 1998).
Oblations are made regularly by witches in Grigorian, and are done in every way imaginable, through prayer or meditation, through the creation of an object to be given as an offering, and most importantly and true to ancient form the Witches Ritual Feasting. As part of every ritual circle held in Grigorian there is a blessing and offering of Wine and Food, that is first consecrated and blessed, then its’ finest potion offered to the Deities, and the rest is shared by the coven in circle. This is our way of showing gratitude to the Gods and Goddesses but is also an exchange in that we are offering something to them, our energy, our gifts, even our food in exchange for their continuing blessings and support. An oblation is not the same as a votive. A votive offering is specifically a prayer or oath to deity. And I’ve got news of anyone of an ecclesiastic faith who might be reading this as well, before you condemn us for such things consider this; you perform oblations too. When you offer up prayers that is an oblation of words, when you light novena candles, that is a symbolic oblation, and so forth. Faiths around the world although different often have more in common with each other than not. And it isn’t until we focus on these commonalities rather than differences that we will better be able to come together with understanding and dispel fears and stereotypes.
The Earliest Historical Evidence
of Witches as We See It
Witchcraft as a system denotes the belief and practice of magickal arts based upon, living with, and drawing from the natural world, spiritual world, and the divine. It is for this reason within Grigorian Witchcraft in order to understand our history better we go to the first indications within human history where mankind first began to make these connections. We see the first evidence of spiritual magick workings in the cave paintings of early man. Here drawings were created to show not only the history or story telling of daily life, such as hunting by early peoples, but also cave drawings indicate a bigger belief system with references to mystical beings and animals. One of the best and earliest examples of this can be seen in the Chauvet Cave located in the Ardeche region of southern France. This cave was discovered as recently as 1994 and contains over one thousand pieces of art dating as far back as thirty-six thousand years ago. One of the most significant drawings found within the depths Chauvet cave is what has come to be known as ‘The Venus and the Sorcerer’. The black pigment drawing of the “Venus” is a demonstrated by the drawing of a classical female pubic triangle with the proportions of stylized thighs and atomical elements shown in antiquity similar to those known in the small “Venus” statues of central and eastern Europe, but more on this later. The “Sorcerer” as he is titled, is a therianthrope, or half-man, half-beast shapeshifter, in this case an ox. Both the indication of the sacred feminine and the masculine partnership, alongside the animistic symbolism is a clear theme repeated in historical references of the spiritual practices by early humans. This denotes the historical referencing in which to early humans the idea of and understanding of lifegiving forces such as birth and natural cycles were not only somewhat a mystery, but sacred in that they allowed for our continued existence.
Many historians agree drawings such as these were not just a catalogue of ideas but were utilized in some fashion thru the spiritual practices that existed for people at that time. These forms included the idea or ability to summon “magick” or to give them what they wanted or needed for survival through “other” means. So, shamans and other early religious leaders of such early people used magick to commune with Gods and Nature for everything from successful hunts to successful birth, and even death. Evidence of the shaman not only exists in remaining tribal societies today, but in cave references and burial remains alike which have been found in numerous accounts of archeological history.
As we move to the regions of early Europe, we can see archeological digs where examples of the worship of the divine in the Goddess of Willendorf. The small statues of a sacred feminine figure entitled with the name “Venus”. On August 7, 1908 a workman named Johann Veran or Josef Veram is believed to have originally discovered this statue. Excavations began at this time were conducted by archaeologists Josef Szombathy, Hugo Obermaier and Josef Bayer at a paleolithic site near Willendorf, a village in Lower Austria. This statue believed to show a Venus Figure that was worshiped in approximately 24,000 BCE. Yet even though this figure when first discovered was widely accepted as religious image or at least spiritual in nature to represent the sacred figure of the divine feminine. There are some who would have gone so far as to argue it is less of a Goddess, or divine representation, and instead insist it should simply be classified as a fetish in paleolithic man. This is primarily due to a combination of the way in which it was preserved comparably to other artifacts and its approximate location during the actual dig. Even though the original Goddess of Willendorf was found alongside other objects, such as specific forms of pottery, that were and are well-known to have been part of religious significance at that time. As well as the fact this same early Goddess image has been found in multiple locations throughout Europe and even some parts of Asia spanning a timeline of thirty thousand years and a distance range of hundreds of kilometers across continents. Yet, these facts have been largely left out of this argument due to the fact that it undermines the attempted point of dismissal of the image and its’ venerated significance over time by a large number of our early ancestors.
Another such historical representation of the Goddess is known as the Venus of Laussel. This image of the Goddess is dated to be between eighteen and twenty thousand years old and was originally carved into a piece of limestone, it is considered a rare image example of a prehistoric bas-relief. In this relief the Goddess is holding a curved horn with exactly thirteen lines carved into it representing either the lunar or menstrual cycles. This Venus image was found originally in France, and when discovered showed evidence that at one time it had been covered in red ochre, which experts conclude that this shows a significant connection between the image and fertility.
Moving beyond the artistic figures known to us as divine representations through art history, the symbology of witches is just as detailed and references our continued spiritual practices through time. And this symbology is just as controversial, perhaps none more so than the classic symbol of the religion of Witchcraft, the pentacle and/or pentagram. One of the earliest physical representations of the symbol of our faith can be seen in pottery from Jemdet Nasr, an area in early Mesopotamia dated from between 4000 to 3000 BCE according to Edgar Mallowan. Although we do not know for certain that this particular representation was thought of by the early people of Mesopotamia in much the same way as we define it today. The use of the pentagram and how we relate it today however can be found spanning back as far as Ancient Greece, where the geometry of the pentagram and its metaphysical associations were explored by the Pythagoreans (named after Pythagoras 586-506 BCE) who considered it an emblem of perfection. In the original Greek it was called “pentagrammon” (meaning from five (penta) and line (gramme)) later in the 17th century it would be called the ‘Pentalpha’. As the post-classical Greek revival composed its’ name of five geometrical, evenly spaced A's in a singular formation.
Additionally, the pentacle and pentagram can be found in other religions as well. The pentagram has also been used by the early Hebrews as a symbol of Truth. In academic texts such as the Oxford English Dictionary 2nd edition 1989 in reference to the pentacle it said, that "some would connect it" with the Middle French word 'pentacol' (1328) or 'pendacol' (1418), a jewel or ornament worn around the neck. Additionally, the Theosophical Society employ in their glossary: ‘...it seems most likely that it comes through Italian and French from the root pend- "to hang", and so is equivalent to a pendant or charm hung about the neck. From the fact that one form of pentacle was the pentagram or star-pentagon, the word itself has been connected with the Greek pente’.
However, the pentacles’ magickal connotation would become most prevalent for modern witches by the writing of one famous occult text, written by Henry Cornelius Agrippa, The Three Books of Occult Philosophy (c. 1565), gives detailed instructions as to how pentacles should be formulated. This is where the modern magickal significance comes into play as Agrippa writes: ‘we now come to speak of the holy and sacred Pentacles and Sigils. Now these pentacles, are as it were certain holy signes preserving us from evil chances and events, and helping and assisting us to bind, exterminate, and drive away evil spirits, and alluring the good spirits, and reconciling them unto us. And these pentacles do consist either of Characters of the good spirits of the superiour order’. More on the pentacle and pentagram in magick will be discussed later. (see class on Symbolism). Along with this in one of his texts an illustration of the pentagram shows the five planets. As Agrippa drew from artist Leonardo da Vinci. Here we see the use of the pentagram in his renaissance art to show geometric relationships of man to the universe. All this and much more in its’ history resulted in the pentagram coming to be symbolic of the relationship of the head to the four limbs of the pure concentrated essence of the spirit, and to the four elements of matter - earth, water, air and fire. This is also representative and kin to the original writings of Pythagoras in regard to man and the Microcosm (see class on Understanding the Microcosm and Macrocosm).
Throughout history we have now seen archeological, literal, and symbolic references to what we believe is the witches’ path throughout history. In the belief and worship of the divine feminine, polytheistic worship, shamanistic practice, and the use of symbology in magic. Here we have given only a few examples. The whole of our history is of course much more than we could hope to contain in one simple text that is not strictly dedicated to our past alone. Instead let us focus on the actuality, that is this path has existed and evolved through time. For more on this let’s take a closer look and examination of the worship and practices of witches in history, and then on to a more modern history specifically.
Witchcraft and the Occult,
a History of Belief and Religion
Let’s begin with Witchcraft and the Occult itself, the key to understanding these, as we see it in Grigorian, is that witchcraft (contrary to the opinions of some) cannot be simply or accurately referred to as strictly a modern idea. This disconnects the practice and spiritual history of the evolution of witches and witchcraft from the reality. This is that our beliefs and some of even our practices, although individualistic in many cases, Are Ancient. And therefore, should be treated with the reverence and respect they deserve. To better understand this, we must examine the ancient world artifacts and mythologies of many cultures related to the everyday throughout time. Here we can clearly see with the evolution of societies and through multiple cultures the understanding of the world around us, not only does history included new inventions and emerging sciences, but occult and witchcraft practices right alongside and combined with religion. To which almost every culture through time has attributed in their stories the acknowledgement and existence of individuals with the power to change their reality. Not just through science or choice, but also with the aid of magick, the Gods, Goddesses, and Nature itself.
In one of the earliest civilizations, the Ancient Babylonians as we know it today, began the study and practice of astronomy. They invented the abacus and the first sequential number system. The ancient Babylonians did view these emerging sciences, but also not just as a tool or a science, but instead they viewed these practices as divine as well. The Babylonians viewed the movement of the planets as the footprints of the Gods and divining the movements of these planets could help us interpret coming events in the world. This interpretation of astronomy would lead into the development of the practice of astrology, a practice utilized still by many people and not just witches to this very day.
This knowledge would further be passed on into Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians recorded their history and practices, both religious and magickal in pictographs. The Egyptians studied and used writing, geometry, building, astrology, astronomy, and magick. To the ancient Egyptians these beliefs and practices were taught to them by the Gods and Goddesses including in particular the God Thoth. The Egyptians viewed that their science, industry, and faith came from the Gods themselves. These cultures show us through their own literary and artistic history both the existence of witches or at least by another name spiritual leaders, and the use of magick in the very foundations of their societies. These magickal forms and uses that applied divination of signs from the Gods in astrology, astronomy, alphabetic and geometric systems are often employed still today by ceremonial magicians, occultists, and witches. In ancient Egypt however, it was not just priests of the temples or to the pharaoh who worked “ceremonial” magick. Instead as documented in The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic by Owen Davis we see several historically recorded examples where every day people could employ spells and/or curses to protect their homes and property as indicated through the use of magically imbued items, such as a 4th century spell board (Pg. 11) designed to protect its owner from harm.
Many other such evidence of the use of magick can be found throughout history and culture, including dolls for love spells and curses, tablets for conjuring, and many others. Much of this type of day-to-day spell work and the use of talismans can also be seen in recovered archeological evidence from places such as Ancient Rome as well. Where young men wore talismans of protection showing the head of Medusa. And in the book Magic, Witchcraft, and Ghosts in the Greek and Roman Worlds written by Daniel Ogden we see examples even of a surviving curse tablet, in a batch of around fifty-six curse tablets found in the Roman tombs at Via Appia. One tablet known as the ‘Sethian’ curse tablet invokes harm as wished by one person to another through the use of imploring the divine, and then was sealed and buried only to be discovered later as a remnant of our history.
Also, in early Greece, the people of Greece wrote about and worshipped multiple Gods. This was the established religion of these ancient states. The belief in multiple Gods and Goddesses, who were individual or independently worshipped by territory or need of the seasons as applied to the culture, but still believed in and taught as a whole religiously, spiritually. The Ancient Hellenic practices and religion of the early Greeks and other cultures would see a revival as well now in modern texts, which began as early as 1769 with the book The Oestrum of Orpheus and others. The Hellenistic religious practices of ancient Greece and Rome are continued today in similarity at least in many modern pagan Hellenistic Temples and their established rituals.
In ancient Greece we also see the use of magickal systems by one of the earliest philosophers Pythagoras. Pythagoras traveled broadly in his youth studying the mystery schools of multiple cultures. Although it is largely understood today that he didn’t adapt one type of mystery or belief, but rather condensed and unified what he had learned to be as consistencies throughout the ancient world. One key element Pythagoras found in magick in all the places he traveled was mathematics, and the use of numbers in relation to the understanding of the universe. He used this as his foundation of his principles of philosophy and understanding nature. He saw numbers as initiated in the Babylonian system and adapted through evolution as a connecting system to the gods. This numeric system would go on to evolve into numerology, the numeric aspects of the kabbalah, and other forms of sacred mathematics, even music, in its numeric scale. To the Ancient Greeks Music was highly regarded not only as entertainment but could be interpreted as the voices of the muses and the Gods or Goddesses. In that nature, the planets themselves, and even light can be interpreted in harmonic levels, levels which could be understood and interpreted through sound and math
Also, in the ancient worlds we also see the practice of folk medicine, magic spells to protect the household, the giving of offerings to Nature, and the Gods and Goddesses of old. All of which are still practiced by many witches, including ourselves, to this day. Evidence of all this cannot only be seen in archeology, and the surviving works of early Greek philosophers, but also in myths of heroes who on grand adventures either employed the use of witches and magick towards their goals, or even in some cases became ensnared by them and strayed from their path. One such example was Circe the daughter to Helios who was said to have been a sorceress and with her knowledge of magickal herbs and potions aided Odysseus to summon ghosts from Hades.
The history and use of magick as part of ancient life is not just to be found in the still standing remnants of the surviving structures of the ancient east, Greece, and Rome, evidence is retained in the early Celtic people as well. Most Celtic worship is believed today to have centered around natural sacred sites such as caves, groves, stone circles, and rivers. These natural sites leave open the door of debate for some in relation to proving the accuracy of their worship and pagan practices. Yet, some of the most stunning historical finds from the ancient world of the Celtic people can be found via their offerings which survived. The Celts made regular offerings to the land, spirits, and deities which are today often referred to as offerings or gifts. These offerings consisted of decorative weaponry, jewelry, statues, even household objects which were thrown into bogs or rivers. One of the examples that helped define these once lost treasures of having religious and magickal significance for the Celtic people would be found at the source of the river Seine located northwest of Dijon, France. Here, nearly 200 wooden sculptures given up to the river as offerings were discovered, the sheer number leads archeologists to believe that it is more than just coincidence that these similar objects were all found in the same place, spanning multiple years. It is evident these objects weren’t just thrown away but were brought to the location time and time again in the same manner for a specific purpose as an act of devotion or request.
Moving Forward into the Renaissance and Medieval Times we have the emergence not only of other beginning sciences such chemistry through alchemy, but also as discussed earlier the ancient world did not separate astrology, divination, astrology from religion and the use of magick. We see the reemergence of magick and the occult alongside the newest understandings of science and alchemy. As people began a greater understanding of their world through trade not only did new technologies emerge in the renaissance but also beliefs in tradition with the ways of old continued alongside the ever-growing power of the Catholic Church. Alchemy wasn’t just a science, or a superstition employed for the purposes of transmuting led into gold. It was the pursuit of understanding nature, and the human body, how to heal and how to prolong life. Many famous alchemists employed the use of magickal spells from the witch with roots in ancient philosophy alongside their scientific experimentation in the hopes of success. Such as the swiss physician Paracelsus, whose work in medicine created what would be considered by many as a medical revolution at the time, employed his techniques learned from his travels around Europe and training with Folk Healers (barbers), Witches, and Alchemists. As he is believed to have said he took all this combined training, knowledge, and the occult, and stripped it all away to simply leave what worked. In this and others at this time we saw the witch become a background figure who practiced simple folk magick. The alchemist drew on the work of witches prior, but also included occult and esoteric practices from philosophies based on the magick of Solomon and the east. In alchemy, we see the margining of religious symbology and phrasing, or magick workings alongside scientific trial and error. And alchemy from this time would eventually give birth to its scientific ‘child’ if you will Chemistry. Which today is a widely used and valued form of science, even if in its use today scientists omit the religious or occult additions.
During the Renaissance we see the emergence and even acknowledgement of what many consider specifically occult figures and famous occult works who worked during the ever-extending reach of the church. One most notable work for understanding Occultism and the renaissance is The Emerald Tablet by Hermes Trismegistus a condensed portion of The Hermetica it contains occult practices still held today, such as “As above, so below. As within, so without. As with the Universe, so with the Soul.” The Hemetica reinstated what earlier mystery schools had taught is that the divine lies within as well as without. A dangerous remerging philosophy at the time.
Famous people such as John Dee, an English Mathematician, philosopher, and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. John Dee devoted a great deal of his knowledge to the studies of occult arts including alchemy, but also divination, and Hermetics. We know this not only from Queen Elizabeth’s’ Court history, and other Tudor histories about Dee, but also from John Dee’s personal diary often referred to as his ‘almanac’. Keeping in mind that many historians including Dee himself viewed these studies into the occult as nothing extraordinary for the time, and instead is considered to have been Christian by faith, an inventor, a trusted member of the court, and an alchemist. None the less, occult practices were performed by Dee and others, as indicated in the history in the later years of his life and works with what would later come to inspire “Enochian”, through divination Dee and his apprentice Edward Kelley used scrying to contact the angels.
Even beyond this in scientific, literary, and artistic reference throughout the Middle Ages we see a reemergence of magick, in the occult and in the witch. No more evidence of this is needed or is more dramatic than that of the official Condemnation of Witches and subsequent trials, acts of torture, burnings, hangings, and murders of men, women, and children by the church and its advocates at the time. Women, men, and children (some as young as three) were condemned by the church or it’s “priests” on nothing more than hearsay or conjecture, or even on the forced words of victims drawn out by these priests through acts of fear and torture. Between the years 1300 to 1700 thousands died. The witch trials even saw a renewal in early America, between 1692 and 1693 when during the Salem Witch trials where twenty individuals died. And the last person in Europe, Janet Horne from Scotland was accused of witchcraft legally in the British Isles and died in the year 1727. Victoria Helen McCrae Duncan a Scottish medium was the last person to be imprisoned under the British Witchcraft Act of 1735, she was tried in 1944 / 1945.
So, if witches did not Ever exist in History, why is there such evidence to the contrary? There is evidence in myth, in cultural temples, in daily practices of folk magick in households, in the emerging sciences of the renaissance, in art, and even in the civil laws which at that time were dictated by the religion of the church which condemned so many to death. If witches did not exist, and have never existed through time, then why did so many write about it, paint about it, hide it out of fear, and even die for it? There is far too much history and far too many names to chalk up to conjecture and superstition for us.
The Modernist Movement
With persecution of the church many enlightened or at minimum wealthier educated individuals were forced underground into secret societies, such as the Hell Fire’s Club, and the Free Masons. All of which had influence and were highly suspect at the time. Yet none the less this allowed for many texts as well as theories to remain hidden at least in part to reemerge at later points through history. And the members of these society often influenced and even branched off into other occult regions.
This brings us up to the modern times when the spiritualist movements of the 1800s through to the rise in the occult with famous historic figures. As in New York, in 1848, the Fox sisters are known for having begun the trend of the séance and the use of mediumship to contact the dead. And in 1875 Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, a Russian occultist co-founded the Theosophical Society. The society’s underlying concept in that they practice “ancient wisdom religion(s)”. She would go on to be known for writing such popular works as Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine believed to have given some of the foundation of eastern esotericism to the west. Let alone her principal teachings pre-physics that the core substance to the universe was not in fact matter, but energy. A believe held by witches, philosophers, and occultists alike.
Also, Charles Leland, an American writer who through his travels and research in folklore was said to have traveled with gypsies. Then in the year 1899 with the help of a woman named Maddalena, who he referred to as his “witch informant” published Aradia, Gospel of the Witches. Lelands’ work inspired one of the most famous and practiced works of poetry / gospel still used in many wiccan and witchcraft circles today known as The Charge of The Goddess, which is often incorrectly attributed as original work by Doreen Valiente. Although Doreen did modify Leland’s original to be more inclusive and historically her rewording of the original does hold its own significance and importance for many witches. The original charge by Leland is written to be the words of Aradia, daughter of the Goddess Diana, and is spoken to pupils as.
“When I shall have departed from this world, whenever ye have need of anything, once a month and when the moon is full, ye shall assemble in some desert place, or in a forest together join to adore the potent spirit of your queen, my mother, great Diana. She who fain would learn all sorcery yet has not won its deepest secrets, then my mother will teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown. And ye shall all be freed from slavery, and so ye shall be free in everything; and as a sign that ye are truly free, ye shall be naked in your rites, both men and women also: this shall last until the last of your oppressors shall be dead; and ye shall make the game of Benevento, extinguishing the lights, and after that shall hold your supper thus:”
Also, there was the infamous Alister Crowley, who at one time is said to have been at least in part in contact with the Free Masons in his early life. Yet, Alister Crowley is best known for originally being officially initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1898, till his Book of the Law and foundation sytem of magick refered to as Thelema as an occult-based practice in 1904. Known as “The Beast” Alister Crowley’s work is largely considered (by outsiders) to have brought to light the darker sides of the occult and the practice of magick. He would none the less go on through history as having made significant contributions in the world of the occult.
More on Gardner and Other Modern Works
Back to Gardner and Wicca. Gardner none-the-less has become a recognized ‘father-esc’ figure to the religion. Gerald Gardner’s first attracted media attention in London, England with his publication of his book High Magic’s Aid in 1949. This was followed by his Witchcraft Today book in 1954, and other works would subsequently follow.
Another key figure in the early days of Wicca who at one point worked hand-in-hand with Gardner was of course Doreen Valiente. Doreen Valiente history is long and complex and her part in the establishment of Wicca as it is known today, and her work is often not given its true importance. Aside from being Gerald Gardner’s high-priestess and co-author of some of his works. Doreen Valiente was herself an accomplished woman, author, and witch. Her published works include; Where Witchcraft Lives written in 1962, An ABC of Witchcraft written in 1973, Natural Magic written in 1975, and Witchcraft for Tomorrow written in 1978, along with many others. Most notable by many wiccans today is Doreen’s works of poetry which are held as religiously significant, her version of The Charge of the Goddess, but also her important Witches’ Chant and of course The Witches Creed.
European Witchcraft and Wicca would include many other important historical figures and authors who were foundational to the emergence of Wicca as a religion throughout Europe. Including but not limited to; Alex Sanders who founded Alexandrian Witchcraft, also Janet and Stewart Farrar who wrote the Witches Bible. Other historically notable figures in the early days of Wicca include Gwen Porter who in The Green Egg in 1975 published the Rede of the Wiccae. Its original (also known as the long version) here
"Bide the Wiccan Laws ye must in Perfect Love and Perfect Trust. Live an’ let live – fairly take and fairly give. Cast the circle thrice about to keep all evil spirits out. To bind the spell every time – let the spell be spake in rhyme. Soft of eye an’ light of touch – speak little, listen much. Deosil go by the waxing moon – sing and dance the Wiccan Rune. Widdershins go when the moon doth wane, an’ the werewolf howls by the dread wolfsbane. When the Lady’s Moon is new, kiss thy hand to her times two. When the Moon rides at her peak then your heart’s desire seek. Heed the Northwind’s mighty gail – lock the door and drop the sail. When the wind comes from the South, love will kiss thee on the mouth. When the wind blows from the East, expect the new and set the feast. When the West wind blows o’er thee, departed spirits restless be. Nine woods in the cauldron go – burn them quick an’ burn them slow. Elder be ye Lady’s Tree – burn it not or cursed ye’ll be. When the Wheel begins to turn – let the Beltane fires burn. When the Wheel has turned to Yule, light the log an’ let Pan rule. Heed ye flower, bush, an’ tree – By the Lady Blessed Be. Where the rippling waters go cast a stone an’ truth ye’ll know. When ye have need, Harken not to other’s greed. With the fool no season spend or be counted as his friend. Merry Meet and Merry Part – bright the cheeks and warm the heart. Mind the Threefold Law ye should – Three times Bad and Three times Good. When misfortune is enow, wear the Blue Star on thy brow. True in love ever be Unless thy lover’s false to thee. Eight words ye Wiccan Rede fulfill – And its Harm None Do What Ye Will.”
The last eight words of this poem, which was originally coined by Doreen Valiente in 1964 during a public speech, later would be considered as the number one rule for many wiccan covens from this point forward, “Do what ye will, but harm none.” A law which along with the foundational work set by Gardner and others, would permeate into the foundations and publications of many American Wiccans. Including Raymond Buckland, a vigorous promoter of Wicca in America in the 1970’s, he himself was originally initiated by Gardner in 1963. Also, Laurie Cabot who I the 1960’s began teaching classes at Salem State College and is renowned for her work in helping the police solve many cases. Governor Michael Dukakis declared her the “Official Witch of Salem” in 1977. Laurie Cabot has contributed many essential books to wicca including Power of the Witch written in 1989, and The Witch in Every Woman in 1997, along with several others. She herself runs one of the longest standing coven traditions in the U.S. These are just a few of the numerous authors and individuals who contributed to the Wiccan movement here in the U.S. Many others created foundational organizations and supported movements which even helped change American Law and the Rights of Wiccans, Witches, and Occultists alike.
Wicca in U.S. Law
It is important to note Wicca as a religion did not officially become recognized in the United States though until 1986. With the U.S. case of Dettmer vs. Landon. In this case, Herbert Daniel Dettmer was an imprisoned wiccan, and was denied the use of ritual objects traditionally used in wiccan worship. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the matter, deciding that Wicca, and its practitioners, were entitled to First Amendment protection just as with any other religion. In this case Wicca became recognized legally, and from there the U.S. government with the help of many Witch Advocates and Legal organizations has continued to make inclusive rules and laws for Wiccans, Witches, and Occultists alike. Including, but not limited to the rights of U.S. soldiers to bear not only the recognition of Pagan, Wiccan, etc. upon their dog tags, but also to be given the right to the Witch’s symbol, the Pentagram as a religious insignia on their memorials. The right for students to be allowed to wear religious dress and symbols in public schools. Also, the right for parents and guardians to teach wicca to their children as a religion to be upheld in custody situations. None of which would have been possible today if not for the advocacy and growing knowledge of the importance and history of our religious beliefs, practices, and rights, regardless of their variation.
Our history is vast, whether you acknowledge the ancient practices in line with how you choose to observe the history of the craft, or simply stick to the modern versions of Wicca. This history is a part of understanding the foundations of not only the practice, but the words, wisdom, beliefs, practices, and laws that make up who we are in America and elsewhere today. You may or may not agree with some authors or founders even within the craft and instead choose to recognize or acknowledge others. And that is acceptable as well, because in the craft there is no set dogma, but there is still a history. A history that is rich, diverse, and continues to grow even in traditions such as ours.