(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
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.