(continued from last post) B.) The transformation of Wicca from a Mystery Religion to a lo

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(continued from last post) B.) The transformation of Wicca from a Mystery Religion to a looser experiential ecstatic movement. In the beginning, Wicca had all the earmarks of Mystery Religion. There was a system of initiatory grades, a clergy whose word was law within the Coven (especially the word of the High Priestess, who was considered the earthly representation of the Goddess) and ritual fraught with intense symbolism. But there was an important difference within the ideology of Wicca and the ideology of most Mysteries. The Wiccan path, like that of the old shamanic religions, was a path of empowerment, not of supplication. Instead of either impressing on the new convert that "without the intercession of the Deity you are nothing," the Wicce's individual importance and sufficiency in the sight of the Goddess and God is stressed from the very beginning. Rather than getting to the Orphic realization that "everything that lives is holy" through the back door of initiatory ordeal, that belief is there from the beginning. Magick in Wicca is not, as was the case in some of the more Christianized occult systems, a power bestowed by God after suppli- cation, or a power to be seized from jealous entities by a Prometheus- like magician, but tapping into an inner source. Power is not external, but internal. Rather than drawing a magick circle to keep evil out, the Wiccan draws the circle to concentrate power that flows from within. When Wicca made it to America, the rebellious era of the '60s was well under way. Those searching for a spiritual path without the patriarchal, anti-Individualist baggage of the Eastern mysticism that had become so popular in that time within the counter-culture found that Wicca was more or less amenable as an alternative. However, the structures of the Wicca taught by Gardner and those influenced by him were often too confining for the "do your own thing" mindset. So a looser form of Wicca began to emerge. The most well-known group that epitomized this looser, anti-hierarchical school of thought was the Church of All Worlds. Their name came from the popular novel by Robert Heinlein, "Stranger In A Strange Land", and their ritual structures borrowed not only from ancient myth and fin de siecle occultism but from the modern-day mythology of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Other groups followed, some even looser than others. A sub-group of mostly female practitioners, the Dianics, that acknowledged only a Goddess also emerged; their more visible proponents being Zsusanna Budapest and the very influential author Starhawk. Some even identified themselves as "Pagan" or "Neo-pagan" or "followers of The Earth Religion" to distinguish themselves from Gardnerian and neo-Gardnerian Wicca. Wicca in America and even in Europe today owes less and less to Gardner and more and more to the looser, more eclectic "Neo-pagan" movement that originated in those heady days of the '60s. Even the most structured groups have elements of the ecstatic and the free-form that is directly an influence of the Neo-pagans.


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