Saturday, June 13, 2009

Psychic test: history of witch craft part 2

Not only sad poems, but also magical practices in Wicca are oftenderived from GD sources. For example:the way of casting the circle: that is, the visualisation ofthe circle, and the pentagrams at the quarters, are both basedupon the standard GD Pentagram Ritual;both the concept and word "Watchtowers" are of course from theEnochian system of Magic, passed to Wicca via the GD (althoughI would like to make it very clear that their use within Wiccabears no relation to the use within Enochia - the onlysimilarity is in the name);the Elements and colours generally attributed to the Quartersare those of the GD;the weapons and their attributions are a combination of GD,Crowley and Key of Solomon.In "Witchcraft Today", Gardner says, "The people who certainlywould have had the knowledge and ability to invent (the Wiccanrites) were the people who formed the Order of the Golden Dawnabout seventy years ago...".The GD is not the only influence upon Gardner; Freemasonry hashad a tremendous impact upon the Wicca. Not only were thethree founders of Isis-Urania Temple Masons, so too wereCrowley and Waite; Gardner and at least one member of thefirst coven (Daffo) were both Co-Masons. Gardner was also afriend of JSM Ward, who had published a number of books aboutMasonry.Doreen describes Ward as a "leading Mason", but Francis Kingsays only that Ward was, "a bogus Bishop... who had writtensome quite good but far-fetched books on masonry, and who rana peculiar religious-cum-occult community called The Abbey ofChrist the King..." Whether the books were far-fetched ornot, we can assume that some of the many similarities betweenWicca and Masonry are in some ways due to Ward's influence.Some of these include:The Three DegreesThe CraftSo Mote It BeThe ChallengeProperly PreparedThe 1st Degree Oath (in part)Presentation of the Working Tools at 1st degreeand so on.It seems to me quite clear that even if Gardner received atraditional set of rituals from his coven, they must have beenexceptionally sparse, as the concepts that we know of as Wiccatoday certainly derive from ceremonial magic and Freemasonryto a very great extent. Indeed, Gardner always claimed thatthey were sparse.It could be argued that all derive from a common source. Thatthe appearance of a phrase, or technique in one tradition doesnot automatically suggest that its appearance elsewhere meansthat the one was taken from the other. However, Gardner admitshis sources in many cases, and Doreen confirms them in others,so I think it is safe to presume that the rituals andphilosophy used by Wicca descends from the traditions ofFreemasonry and Ceremonial magic, rather than from a singlecommon source. However, as Hudson Frew points out in hiscommentary upon Aidan Kelly's book, the phenomena of thetechniques and practices of ceremonial psychic magic influencing folkmagic and traditions is widely recognised by anthropologists,and certainly does not indicate plagiarism. And of coursethere are many traditional witchcraft aspects in the Wicca.We have looked at the development of the magical orders whichresulted from the British occult revival of the 19th and 20thcenturies, and now we can see where this ties in with Wicca,and Gardner's claim of traditional initiation.I have here a "family tree" of the main branches of BritishWicca. It is by no means exhaustive, and is intended toprovide an outline, not a definitive history! I have includedmy own coven lines and development as an indication of thekind of "cross-over" of tradition which often occurs, not tosuggest that these are the only active groups! Also, it wouldnot be ethical for me to include details of other covens.We have two possible "hereditary" sources to the GardnerianCraft: one, the Horsa Coven of Old Dorothy, and two, theCumbrian Group which Rae Bone claims to have been initiatedinto before meeting Gardner. (NB: Doreen Valiente says thatthe Horsa Coven is not connected with Old Dorothy, but isanother group entirely.) There is also sometimes mention of aSt Alban's group that pre-dates Gardner, but as far as I know,this is mistaken. The St Albans group was Gardner's own group,which as far as research confirms, did not pre-date him.To return to Rae Bone: she was one of Gardner's HPSs, and her"line" has been immensely important to the modern Wicca; shewas featured in the magazine series, "Man Myth and Magic" ifanyone has a copy of that.In her heyday she ran two covens: one in Cumbria, and one inSouth London. Rae is still alive, and lives in Cumbria,although her last coven moved to New Zealand many years ago,and she is no longer active. No-one has ever been able totrace the coven in New Zealand.At this point, I will just mention George Pickingill, althoughhe is not shown on the tree, as I think it extremely dubiousthat he had any connection with Gardner, or any other modern Psychic Wiccan.Pickingill died in 1909, whilst Gardner was still in Malaya.Eric Maple is largely responsible for the beginnings of thePickingill myth, which were expanded by Bill Liddell (Lugh)writing in "The Wiccan" and "The Cauldron" throughout the1970s. Mike Howard still has some of Liddell's material whichhe has never published, and I have yet to meet anyone withinthe British Craft who gives credence to Liddell's claims.In the book, "The Dark World of Witches", published in 1962,Maple tells of a number of village wise women and cunning men,one of whom is George Pickingill. There is a photographincluded of an old man with a stick, holding a hat, whichMaple describes as Pickingill. This photograph hassubsequently been re-used many times in books aboutwitchcraft and Wicca.Issue number 31 of "Insight" Magazine, dated July 1984,contains a very interesting letter from John Pope:"The photograph purporting to be Old George Pickingill is infact a photo of Alf Cavill, a station porter at Ellstree,taken in the early 1960s. Alf is now dead, but he was nowitch, and laughed over the photograph when he saw it."A very respected Craft authority has told me that he believesthe photo, which is in his possession, to be of Pickingill,but like so much to do with Craft history, there is nodefinitive answer to this one.Many claims were made by Liddell; some obviously from cloud-cuckoo land, others which could, by a stretch of theimagination, be accepted. The very idea of Pickingill, anilliterate farm labourer, co-ordinating and supervising ninecovens across the breadth of the UK is staggering. To accept -as Liddell avers - that he had the likes of Alan Bennett andAleister Crowley as his pupils bends credulity even further.The infamous photograph which Liddell claims shows Crowley,Bennett and Pickingill together has conveniently disappeared,and no-one admits to ever having seen it. Like most ofLiddell's claims, nothing has ever been substantiated, andwhen pushed, he retreats into the time honoured favourite of,"I can't reveal that - you're not an initiate"!But to return to the family tree: the names of DoreenValiente, Pat and Arnold Crowther, Lois Bourne (Hemmings),Jack Bracelin and Monique Wilson will probably be the mostfamiliar to you.Jack Bracelin is the author of Gardner's biography, "GeraldGardner, Witch", (published 1960) now out of print, althoughstill available 2nd hand, and in libraries. (In Crafting theArt of Magic, Kelly claims that this book was actually writtenby Idries Shah, and simply published under Bracelin's name. Aswith every other claim, Kelly offers no evidence of this)I have seen a copy of Bracelin's Book of Shadows, which it isclaimed dates from 1949, although in The Rebirth OfWitchcraft, Doreen says that Bracelin was a "relativenewcomer" in the mid-1950s. I have also been told by twodifferent sources that Bracelin helped Gardner write "TheLaws". In The Rebirth Of Witchcraft, Doreen states that shedid not see The Laws until the mid 1950s, when she and herpartner Ned Grove accused Gardner of concocting them in orderto re-assert control over the coven. As Bracelin was in theGardner camp during the break-up of the group, it seemsreasonable that he did in fact help with their composition.(NB: Alex Sanders increased the number of "The Laws" muchlater - these appeared in June Johns' book, "The King of theWitches")Although Doreen claims that the reason for the coven break-upwas the fact that Gardner and Bracelin were publicity crazy,there was another reason, which was the instatement of a newlady into the coven, effectively replacing Doreen as HPS. Thisis also the main reason for Gerald's Law which states that theHPS will, "...gracefully retire in favour of a younger woman,should the coven so decide in council." Needless to say,Doreen was not impressed, and she and Ned left the coven undervery acrimonious circumstances. It was quite some time beforeDoreen had contact with Gardner again, and they never quiteregained the degree of friendship that had previously existed.

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