(continued from last post)
V. THE REBIRTH OF SHAMANIC RELIGION FROM MYSTERY RELIGION ROOTS: THE
WICCANS AND NEOPAGANS.
A.) Gerald Gardner...the primary synthesiser of Wicca
Gerald Gardner is a singular figure in the 20th Century as far as
religion goes. He started off as a ceremonial magician, and early on
made the aquaintance of Aleister Crowley. There are stories of dubious
authenticity that place him in the inner circle at Crowley's Abbey of
Thelema on a small island off the coast of Italy, and that he hired
Crowley to write the Gardnerian "Book of Shadows". One thing is known:
Gardner held a charter in the OTO to form at least a camp, perhaps even
a separate lodge. And Gardner's stranger sexual proclivities dovetailed
nicely with the OTO as it existed in the early part of this century.
For one thing, Gardner was an avid nudist, and also was quite a fan of
S&M, especially applied in sex magick. But credit must be given to
Gardner for the fact that he was also well-versed in Eastern religion,
the mythology of ancient Greece including the Rites of Eleusis, and
that his knowledge of the practices of the ancient Kelts of Ireland,
Scotland and Wales was remarkable.
It is not, however, very probable that the story that Gardner told of
being initiated into Wicca by an old, grandmotherly woman named
Clutterbuck is at all true. The persecutions of the pagan Kelts in the
5th and 6th Centuries make it highly unlikely that a true "Fam Trad"
preserved without gratuitous Christian syncretism would have survived
into the 20th Century. But considering Gardner's extensive knowledge, it
is unlikely that he needed any help in synthesising his system of Wicca.
There had been attempts to revive the ancient Keltic/Druidic religion
previously. In the 1700s a Masonic Lodge calling itself the Pendragon
Order or the Order of the Dragon and Grail existed in Britain, possibly
even including among its members relatives of the Stuart and Tudor
houses. There are striking similarities between initiatory rituals of
this Masonic order and those of modern Wicca. And historic re-creations
of Druidic ceremonies began to be held late in the 19th Century by the
Society of Druids, Ovates and Bards, and also the Eisteddfod singing
competitions had been revived in Wales. But Gardner seemed to be the
one to pull it all together.
The Crowleyan element did manage to rub off, though. His maxim of "Do
what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" found itself repeated
in Gardner's system as the deceptively ancient sounding "An it harm
none, do what ye will". The "Elemental Weapons" of ceremonial magick
were translated into the tools of the Wiccan: the wand, the pentacle,
the cup and the sword, the latter becoming the familiar athame. The
drawing of magick circles, the use of rudimentary invocations to the
elements, all of these have their parallel in ceremonial magick dating
well into the Middle Ages. Other more mundane influences are also
discernable: the original insistance on an actual, not a symbolic Great
Rite between High Priestess and High Priest, the nakedness in worship
(although the poem by Leland, "Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches"
and paintings by Goya indicate naked witches) and the ritual use of
scourging are no doubt influenced by his personal sexual preferences.
When taken together, Wicca became Gardner's own creation. He had to
remain "in the broom closet" until the British Parliament finally got
around to repealing the "Witchcraft Act" in the '50s, but once that
happened, he was free to teach and spread his system around first
Britain, then Europe, then finally to America in the '60s.