Saturday, June 13, 2009

Psychic test: history of witch craft part 1

There are three main psychic strands I intend to examine: one,Gardner's claim of traditional initiation, and its subsequentdevelopment; two, magical traditions to which Gardner wouldhave had access; and three, literary sources.As we look at these three main threads, it is important tobear in mind that Gardner was 55 years old at the time of hisclaimed initiation; that he had spent many years in Malaya,and had an enormous interest in magic, Folklore and Mythology.By the time he published High Magic's Aid, he was 65, and 75when "The Meaning of Witchcraft" appeared. He died in 1964, atthe age of 80.Gardner was born in 1884, and spent most of his working adultlife in Malaya. He retired, and returned to the UK in 1936. Hejoined the Folklore Society, and in June 1938, also joined thenewly opened Rosicrucian Theatre at Christchurch where it issaid he met Old Dorothy Clutterbuck.I chose 1939 as my arbitrary starting point as that was theyear that Gerald Gardner claims he was initiated by OldDorothy into a practising coven of the Old Religion, that metin the New Forest area of Britain. In his own words,"I realised that I had stumbled upon something interesting;but I was half-initiated before the word, "Wica" which theyused hit me like a thunderbolt, and I knew where I was, andthat the Old Religion still existed. And so I found myself inthe Circle, and there took the usual oath of secrecy, whichbound me not to reveal certain things." This quote is takenfrom The Meaning of Witchcraft, which was published in 1959.It is interesting that in this quote, Gardner spells Wiccawith only one "c"; in the earlier "Witchcraft Today" (1954)and "High Magic's Aid" (1949), the word Wicca is not evenused. His own derivation for the word, given in "The Meaningof Witchcraft", is as follows:"As they (the Dane and Saxon invaders of England) had nowitches of their own they had no special name for them;however, they made one up from "wig" an idol, and "laer",learning, "wiglaer" which they shortened into "Wicca"."It is a curious fact that when the witches became English-speaking they adopted their Saxon name, "Wica"."In "An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present", Doreen Valientedoes not have an entry for Wicca, but when discussingWitchcraft, does mention the Saxon derivation from the wordWicca or Wicce. In the more recently published The Rebirth OfWitchcraft, however, she rejects this Saxon theory in favourof Prof. Russell's derivation from the Indo-European root"Weik", which relates to things connected with magic andreligion.Doreen Valiente strongly supports Gardner's claim oftraditional initiation, and published the results of hersuccessful attempt to prove the existence of DorothyClutterbuck in an appendix to "The Witches' Way" by Janet andStewart Farrar. It is a marvellous piece of investigation, butproving that Old Dorothy existed does nothing to supportGardner's claims that she initiated him.In his book, "Ritual Magic in England", occultist Francis Kingdoes offer some anecdotal evidence in support of Gardner'sclaims. However, it is only fair to point out that in the samebook, he virtually accuses Moina Mathers of murder, based upona misunderstanding of a story told by Dion Fortune! With thatcaveat, I'll recount the tale in full:King relates that in 1953, he became acquainted with LouisWilkinson, who wrote under the pen-name of Louis Marlow, andhad contributed essays to Crowley's Equinox. He later becameone of Crowley's literary executors. King says that inconversation, Wilkinson told him that Crowley had claimed tohave been offered initiation into a witch coven, but that herefused, as he didn't want to be bossed around by a bunch ofwomen. (This story is well-known, and could have been pickedup anywhere.)Wilkinson then proceeded to tell King that he had himselfbecome friendly with members of a coven operating in the NewForest area, and he thought that whilst it was possible thatthey derived their existence from Murray's "Witch Cult inWestern Europe", he felt that they were rather older.King draws the obvious conclusion; that these witches were thevery same as those who initiated Gardner. King claims that theconversation with Wilkinson took place in 1953, although"Ritual Magic in England" was not published - or presumablywritten - until 1970. However, on September 27 1952,"Illustrated" magazine published a feature by Allen Andrews,which included details of a working by, "the Southern Coven ofBritish Witches", where 17 men and women met in the New Forestto repel an invasion by Hitler. Wilkinson had told King ofthis working during their conversation, which King believes tobe proof that such a coven existed; there are some differencesin the two stories, and so it is possible that two sources arereporting the same event, but as Wilkinson's conversation withKing came after the magazine article, we shall never know.In the recently published "Crafting the Art of Magic", AidanKelly uses this same source to "prove" (and I use the wordadvisedly - the book "proves" nothing") that Gardner, Dorothy,et al created Wicca one night following a social get together!Of one thing we can be certain though: whatever its origin,modern Wicca derives from Gardner. There may of course beother traditional, hereditary witches, but even if they aregenuine, then it is unlikely that they would have been able to"go public" had it not been for Gardner.There have been many claims of "hereditary" origin (other thanGardner's own!) One of the most famous post-Gardner claimantsto "hereditary" status was actress Ruth Wynn-Owen, who fooledmany people for a very long time before being exposed. RoyBowers, who used the pseudonym Robert Cochrane, was another:Doreen Valiente describes her association with him in "TheRebirth of Witchcraft", and The Roebuck, which is still activein the USA today, derives directly from Cochrane, via JoeWilson.

"Witchcraft: A Tradition Renewed" by Evan John Joneswith Doreen Valiente describes a tradition derived from RobertCochrane. Alex Sanders, of course is another who claimedhereditary lineage, and like Cochrane, deserves his own placein this history, and we'll get to both of them later.Many people have been suspicious of Gardner's claims, and haveaccused him of making the whole thing up. They suggest thatthe Wicca is no more than the fantasy of an old man colouredby a romantic imagination. One particularly virulent attackupon Gardner came from Charles Cardell, writing under thepseudonym of Rex Nemorensis.

One of Gardner's initiates who is still active in the Wiccatoday has an interesting tale to tell about Cardell, whom heknew:"Cardell claimed to be a Witch, but from a different traditionto Gardner's. Cardell was a psychopathic rat, with malevolentintent toward all and sundry. He managed to get a woman calledOlive Green (Florannis) into Gardner's coven, and told her tocopy out the Book of Shadows so that Cardell could publish it,and destroy Gardner. He also contacted a London paper, andtold them when and where the coven meetings were held, and ofcourse the paper got quite a scoop. Cardell led people in thecoven to believe that it was Doreen Valiente who had informedon them.Doreen had just left Gardner in a bit of a huff after adisagreement; another coven member, Ned Grove, left with her.

Anyway, the day the paper printed the exposure, Cardell sentGardner a telegram saying, "Remember Ameth tonight". (Amethwas Doreen's Craft name, and as it has now been published, Isee no reason not to use it here)."My informant also said that Olive Green was associated withMichael Houghton, owner of Atlantis book shop in MuseumStreet, who was the publisher of High Magic's Aid. Throughthis association, she also encountered Kenneth Grant of theOTO, although their association was not friendly.Cecil Williamson, the original owner of the witchcraft museumon the Isle of Man, and present owner of the Witchcraft Museumin Boscastle, has also published a number of articles where hestates quite categorically that Gardner was an utter fraud;but, he offers only anecdotes to support these allegations.Although Gardner claimed his initiation occurred in 1939, wedon't really hear anything about him until 1949, when "HighMagic's Aid" was published by Michael Houghton.This book has very strong Solomonic leanings, but likeGardner's own religious beliefs, combined the more naturalforms of magic with high ceremonial. In his introduction tothe book, Gardner says that: "The Magical rituals areauthentic, party from the Key of Solomon (MacGregor Mathers'translation) and partly from magical MSS in my possession)."Gardner did indeed have a large collection of MSS, whichpassed with the rest of his goods to Ripleys in Toronto afterhis death.Scire (pseudonym) was the name Gardner took as a member ofCrowley's branch of the OTO; although it is generally agreedthat his membership was purely nominal, he was certainly incontact with people like Kenneth Grant and Madeline Montalban(founder of the Order of the Morning Star).Gardner was given his OTO degree and Charter by AleisterCrowley, to whom he was introduced in 1946 by Arnold Crowther.As Crowley died in 1947, their association was not long-lived,but Crowther confirms that the two men enjoyed each other'scompany.So, after that brief introduction we can have a look at thefirst of the strands I mentioned.In 1888, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was born,beginning a renaissance of interest in the occult that hascontinued to the present day. It is impossible to overstatethe importance of the GD to modern occultists; not only in itsrituals, but also in its personalities; and of course, throughmaking available a large body of occult lore that wouldotherwise have remained unknown, or hidden in obscurity.I will be looking at this body of occult lore with otherliterary influences later, and will here concentrate on therituals and personalities that have influenced Wicca.We cannot look at the GD in isolation from its own origins. Itis descended from a myriad of esoteric traditions includingRosicrucianism, Theosophy, and Freemasonry. The latter in itsown right, as well as via the SRIA - a scholarly andceremonial association open to Master Masons only.Whether the German Lodge or Fraulein Sprengel actually existedis a matter still under debate; but either in fact or inspirit, this is the source for the "Cypher Manuscripts" whichwere used to found the Isis-Urania Lodge in 1888.As I'm sure everyone knows, Isis-Urania was founded by DrWynn-Westcott, Dr Woodman, and MacGregor Mathers. Not onlywere all three Master Masons; Wynn-Westcott and Mathers werealso members of the Theosophical Society. The most importantthing though is the fact the these three men were a rulingtriumvirate that managed the affairs of the SRIA. This isimportant, for the SRIA included Hargrave Jennings in itsmembership, and Jennings is reputed to have been involved witha Pagan group at the end of the 19th century, which drew itsinspiration from Apuleius - The Golden Ass.But back to the GD - whether the Cypher Manuscripts actuallyexisted, or Wynn-Westcott manufactured them is now irrelevant;Mathers was commissioned to write-up the rituals into aworkable shape, and thus the Golden Dawn was born.Members of the Isis-Urania Lodge at various times alsoincluded Allan Bennett, Moina Mathers, Aleister Crowley,Florence Farr, Maud Gonne, Annie Horniman, Arthur Machen,"Fiona Macleod", Arthur Waite and WB Yeats. Also associatedwere Lady Gregory, and G W Russell, or AE, whose "The Candleof Vision" was included in the bibliography of "The Meaning ofWitchcraft". The literary and Celtic influences within the GDwere immense.From the Isis-Urania Lodge sprang all the others, includingthe so-called Dissident Orders derived through Crowley. It isthis line that some commentators trace to modern Wicca, so itis the one upon which we will concentrate.Aleister Crowley was initiated into the Isis-Urania Lodge on18 November 1898. As you most probably know, Crowley laterquarrelled with MacGregor Mathers, and in 1903 began to createhis own Order, the Argenteum Astrum, or Silver Star. In 1912,Crowley was initiated into the OTO, and in 1921, succeededTheodor Reuss as its Chief.According to Arnold Crowther's account, it was in 1946, a yearbefore Crowley's death, that Crowley gave Gardner an OTOCharter. Ithell Colquhoun says only that it occurred in the1940s, and further states that Gardner introduced materialfrom the OTO, and less directly from the GD, into "...the loreof his covens".As Doreen Valiente also admits, "Indeed, the influence ofCrowley was very apparent throughout the (Wiccan) rituals.".This, Gardner explained to her, was because the rituals hereceived from Old Dorothy's coven were very fragmentary, andin order to make them workable, he had to supplement them withother material.To give an example of some of the lines by Crowley which arerather familiar to modern Wiccans:I give unimaginable joys on earth; certainty, not faith, whilein life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor doI demand aught in sacrifice.I am Life, and the giver of Life, yet therefore is theknowledge of me the knowledge of death.And of course, the Gnostic Mass has been immenselyinfluential.
By: Julia Philips

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