Why Wicca Is Not Celtic v.3.0 by Iain MacAnTsaoir and Dawn O’Laoghaire

The following is by no means an indictment of the religion called Wicca. Wicca is indeed a valid and powerful path for those who truthfully walk it and understand it. However, there is a body of people who believe that Wicca is the descendant of the religious ways of the Gaelic or other Celtic peoples (or ‘Celts’ as a general nomenclature). This simply is not the case.

The following is a brief comparison of the Wiccan religion and Celtic religion. The purspose of this exercise is to dispell the notion that Wicca is Celtic, or derived from Celtic religion. It is by no means to be taken as an indepth survey of either religion. There are a great many questions that could be answered for people if they would visit with the elderly people in the rural areas of the Old Countries, or at least read books written by solid academians instead of profit oriented, new age writers. We will place at the end of this article the sources that can be used to substantiate what is said herein. I encourage you to investigate each source given, to check the veracity of the statement for yourselves

When we talk about Celtic religion, we must define what we are talking about. Precisely put, we are talking about religious beliefs, practices and world views that existed in Gaelic and other Celtic cultures, as these developed as natural manifestations within the cultures. While this woudl included Celtic Christianity, for this article we are addressing Classical (pagan) Celtic theology. The pagan methodology and unbderstandings of Gaelic spirituality survived the coming of Christianity and have continued to this day within the ways of people who are by and large nominally Christian. This is however, where Gaelic Traditionalists, both pagan and Christian, look when establishing their beliefs and methodologies.

An example of what existed in Classical times, when compared with what began afterward, is the use of the Maypole. Prior to importation by Germanic invaders, the Maypole was not in use in Gaelic lands. The High Days, which were fire festivals, saw people gather at the local river to make votive offerings, as well as light bonfires on the hill tops. It wasn’t until the coming of the Saxon that the Maypole came to Gaelic lands, and even then the use of the Maypole stayed in the areas where there was a Germanic population, and was not adopted by the indigenous Gaels.

The spirituality of the various Celtic peoples has not changed. The Gaelic peoples still recognize that there are spirits of the Sky, the Sea and the Land (X). It is only in their official methodologyies concerning the Upper Realm, that concepts and methodologies have changed. The Three of Power can still be found in prayers and incantations such as recorded by Alexander carmichael at the early part of the 20th century. Yet there are a great many who claim that things that have never been a part of the Celtic paradigm are Celtic. Wicca seems to be a religion that is particularly prone to this. The people who make the statement that Wicca is Celtic are usually of two sorts. These are the new people who either for their own reasons truley believe this to be the case, or they have fallen prey to some unscrupulous teacher who uses the allure of things “Celtic” to draw in new students or ensure profits. In both cases the problem is exascerbated by the fact that solid information is not easily accessible to the general public. The people who fall for the antics of the unscrupulous teacher usually do not have access to the information it takes to refute the falsehood. All religions have these types, and the fact that these will also exist within Wicca should not serve as a reason to condemn that path.

People who, with utter conviction, state that Wicca is a Celtic path usually have derived this idea by one of two common arguments (taking for granted that they haven’t been misinformed). The first is conveyed by the person stating something to the effect of, “… _____ (usually Gardner is named) drew upon Celtic lore when putting it together… .” The second statement used is, “…it just *is* Celtic, it’ always been Celtic, its always been in places like Ireland and Scotland.” Both of these arguments are easily disproven. The following shall go toward that end.

Traditional Celtic religions, as is the case with all religions, are cultural manifestations. In tribal cultures the people’s spirituality is part of their identity and world view. Gaelic Traditionalism, for example, holds within the Gaelic culture. This just as a Traditionalist Lakota would remain faithful to their culture. In the Gaelic experience, though regional variants of the name would exist, the Mother of the Gods is Danu, and her mate is Bile. From that union came Dagda and Bride, who are described in some articles of lore as mates themselves. From texts and folklore we see that the Gods were born of that union. The Gods are the First Ancestors of the people, and are individuals. Scholars have noted that when Celtic culture entered an area, the Celtic gods of the Upper Realm went in with them. These then intermarried with the local goddesses of the land (the goddesses of sovereignty). Extant geneological texts chart how the ancient Gael believed that they originated with those unions. Hence the very Gods of the people are their First Ancestors.

The various ideas surrounding the ancestors manifest in a host of customs, such as the Feast of the Dead. Also, such concepts as that of the dead reincarnating through blood lines, in conjunction with the customs of the Gaelic peoples, provides a sense of continuity and identity that cannot be missed.

Just as Traditionalists hold steadfastly to their own culture, Wicca tends to draw from various cultures and ideologies. What allows the practicioners of Wicca to put elements from various religions together is the modernist ideology that has at it’s root the Jungian concept of archetypes. Wiccans tend to work heavily in the idea of archetypes — “All goddesses are the face of the Goddess”. They focus on the traits which various deities share, much the same way a Jungian would focus on the shared traits of heros in a Jungian analysis. Wiccans also speak heavily on the subject of masculine and feminine dualities (anima andÊ animus), which are central to Jungian theories of personality. Some Wiccans focus on claiming the shadow side, or “dark” side of individuals, which is a straight lift from Jungian theory.

The concepts that are traditionallay part of Celtic religions reject this type of analysis and state that the Gods are individuals. Furthermore, as stated, traditional Celtic beliefs hold that the Gods are tied to the people by a familial links. As an example, while a Gaelic Traditionalist might agree that your mom and their mom (or your tribe’s Mother Goddess and their tribe’s Mother Goddess) share some traits by virtue of both people being moms, it is a mistake to say that just because both people are moms, they are interchangeable. To the perspective of a Gael, the basic fallacy of extending Jungian analysis to far is this your mom isn’t their mom, no matter how mom-like both people are. Needless to say, one can’t hold an archetype relationship to either the God or the Goddess and a direct and intimate personal relationship to your people’s gods at the same time. The two ideas contradict each other.

Another of the signs telling of the Jungian foundation in Wicca is the propensity to constantly ‘borrow’ of concepts, icons and sacred relics from other cultures and their religions. This causes a great deal of friction to exist between people of other cultures and Wiccans. This friction manifests itself in such passive things as traditional peoples separating themselves and establishing communities aside from the general pagan one. It also manifests in such things as the literal Lakota Declaration of War against those who “steal” (words the spiritual leaders of that People used) that cultures spirituality. The unanimous opinion of the people in the various traditional forms of spirituality is that Wicca and Wiccans spend too much time “borrowing” everything under the sun and throwing it all together. Yet, to be fair, from Wicca’s arcehtypal-based viewpoint, that’s both okay and logical.

From a traditional Gaelic view point, and traditionalists of other cultures say the same things, these practices dishonor the ancestors, distort the fundamental truth (your mom ain’t my mom), and interfere with the duty that traditional people generally feel to preserve and restore traditional cultures. This is because, to them, Wicca creates a distraction that sidetracks people looking for the traditional ways, as well as sucks up the time, interest and energy of people who might otherwise be helping to find ways to preserve their culture. Wiccans also often present themselves as the “true” Celtic religion which prevents some people from ever finding their way back to the path of the ancestors, which would, in the view of a traditional person, honor the gods properly. Meaning, as individuals and as the ‘First Ancestors’. What most traditionalists find deplorable is that many Wiccans embrace the misinformation regardless of fact and refuse to deal with conflicting ideas or views when faced with facts.

Having established the Jungian foundation that allows for misinformation to remain unchecked in the Wiccan community lets start dispelling some of the fallacious notions that exist. The first notion to be addressed is, ‘Wicca is what the Celts of old practiced.’ Toward dispelling this idea, let’s state some things that are faily well established as fact because of the preponderance of evidence,

The first is that modern neo-paganism is highly impacted by, and reflective of, Gardnerian Wicca and its derivatives. The second is that, when Gardner was putting his creation together he drew upon Eastern philosophies, Egyptian ideologies and Judaic ceremonialism, in addition to Celtic lore.

This easily becomes confusing, but when something is made up of components, the whole mechanism is not solely of any one of those components. To state such denotes a severely faulty argument. Let me demonstrate this. For a great many years American Motors Corporartion (AMC) put out a whole line of automobiles. These automobiles very often had Chrysler engines, Ford transmissions, Chrysler brakes, Ford seats and, I believe in one instance, even General Motors instrumentation. All of those components, motors, transmissions, seats, etc, were fixed into a body made by AMC. Yet the complete car wasn’t a Ford because it had a Ford engine, nor was it a Chrysler because it had their transmission. It was an AMC, a creature all its own. The same is true about Wicca. It has a Hindu engine, an Egyption torque converter and a Celtic transmission. These things were set in a ceremonial body that, while reflective of the bodies used by the Hermetic Orders, is Wiccan alone. It is a creature unto itself.

Concerning the second argument they use, I direct your attention at two areas. These two areas will suffice nicely in dispelling the false notion that Wicca just *IS* Celtic. The first area is the theologies of the two systems

The two systems, Wicca and Celtic, and in particular Gaelic, contradict each other on several points. These conradictions are enough to, as a whole, form a severe dissonance between the two religions. In Celtic religion, there are three basic spheres. These are the Sky, the Sea and the Land. Each of these has a ruling body. For the Sky the sun, for the Sea the Moon and for the Land the Earth.

By careful study of the ancient texts, as well as the language itself, we see that the Sun and the Moon are feminine. They are sisters to each other. Though in some lore there is traces of evidence that some believed that while the Sun was feminine, the Moon was masculine. In Gaidhlig the names of both luminaries are feminine, and in invocations and spells they are both addressed as feminine beings. Yet they can change gender according to which of their attributes is brought to the fore. The nurturing, warm Sun who promotes growth is feminine, the light, as personified by Lugh, is masculine, and the scorching Sun just before Harvest is represented by Balor. This contrasts sharply with Wicca which is based wholly on a Feminine Moon and Masculine Sun.

Wicca is a religion whose philosophical foundation is Neo-Platonic dualism with a Goddess and a God as archetypes. Not only is Celtic religion vastly different in that it is truely polytheistic, totemistic, animistic, and zoomorphic but the very processes of reason upon which the whole of the Celtic worldview is based is founded on a tripartite cosmology. In Celtic understanding the world has three independent and free sphere, Sky, Land and Sea. The three realms are both the legs of the cauldron of the world, as well as the three parts of the Tree of the World

The next area of difference regards ethics. The basic ethical statement of Wicca is called ‘the Rede.’ The Wiccan rede states, “An It Harm None, Do As Ye Wilt.” The nature of the Rede is untenable to Celts. The whole morality of Wicca is “harm none”. While it is a theoretical statement, it is one with little real life practice. This is because it’s a rule that must be broken just to survive and as a result leaves interpretation and application to individuals, and common sense, isn’t

Such statments as are typical of the Rede are not a part of the Celtic paradigm, in which we find a heroic morality. In real life, the term “harm none” is typified by the moralities of Wicca, Christianity, and others where the primary imperative is to not hurt others. Heroic is typified by Celtic and Norse religions primarily, though other examples exist. Heroic morality is summed up by the Gaelic hero Caelte as, “truth in our hearts, strength in our arms and fulfillment in our tongues”. Heroic morality is rooted in concepts of personal honor, responsibility and fulfilment of duty. These are all traits of the Heroic morality, but like the Tao, it is an intangible concept that cannot truly be adequately defined

Because Wicca and traditional Gaelic spirituality arise out of different analyticalÊ perspectives, their moralities — the “scripts” they create for their adherents — are radically different. Wicca is a religion that is based on a logical extension of Jungian analysis (and yes, Jung was big into religion) — thus it’s sole ethic “Harm none and do what thou wilt” tends to reflect a personal, individualistic practice. Traditionalist Celts living a “heroic” morality focus on heroism, personal honor, tribal honor and duty to the tribe and “Do what you wilt” is the last thing on their mind. What honor and duty calls for are at the opposite end of the spectrum from what the individualistic bent of Wicca would call for.

The vision conceived and portrayed by Wicca, of what comes after this life, is limited and vague. Celtic religion, on the otherhand, has a complex and intricate conceptualization of the otherworld. In fact, OtherWorld’s interaction in this world is, in many ways, the pivot point of Celtic religion.

Wicca is primarily an invocatory/ecstatic religion which revolves around special rituals. The ‘formularies’ used by Wicca can be traced back through the lodges of ceremonial magic, and especially the work of Alister Crowley. In Celtic religion, the tenets are votive in nature and stress ethics and morality, only secondary importance is placed on ritual. To Celts, life itself is ceremony, with every thought, word and deed being spiritually significant and magical

The very foundation of Gaelic culture was the home. The hearth was the cornerstone of the spirituality of the people. In Gaelic religions great emphasis is placed on the sanctity of the home, and strength of the family. Families, to traditional celtic peoples, include people who have adopted each other. The individuals are encouraged to walk in strength and to fulfill their responsibilities to their families. These components are not found in Wicca

In Wicca, sacred space is ritually ‘created.’ To traditional Celtic sensibilities, both blessing the salt and not blessing the salt are superfluous arguments. This because to the Celtic mind, human kind can make neither the Gods, nor Their creations, any more or less perfect than they already are.

In traditionally based Celtic religions all all space is sacred. The Land is the Goddess of Sovereignty, the Mother of the peoples living there, and holy unto Herself. Sacred space is omnipresent, it is the history of a place or some other distinguishing thing that causes certain places to see different religious usages. What is done at a site depends on the natural predisposition of an area or its history. That the ancestors saw things in this way is established through such literary evidence as the Dindsenchas (a book of place histories).

Related to the concepts of the land is that, the Gods that Celts took with them into a new land (Sky Gods/ Gods of the People), mated with the Land Gods already in that land. Out of those unions came the oldest Gaelic families, out of which came later Gaelic families. What this means is that the Celts saw the Gods as their relatives. Hence we see one of several manifestations of ancestor veneration. Wicca has no component for venerating or developing a relationship with the ancestors, or the Goddess of the land or other land spirits of the lands that a people live in. These are big items in traditional Celtic religions.

Wicca is an initiatory mystery religion. Gaelic and other traditional Celtic religions are inclusive, with very few initiatory elements. Within Wicca there are various degrees and levels, each having its own mystery, each mystery being revealed by someone in authority. While the scope of this article is not designed to explore religious functionaries in pre-Christian Celtic cultures, in Celtic religion, the declarations of the Gods are found in the Order of Nature. The revelations are from the Gods themselves, and in general each person with sincerity seeks to understand the natural world (which includes the “supernatural” world) around them and their place in it. There also the concept of interacting with the natural world as co-inhabitors of the world

As briefly touched on earlier, Wicca uses the classical elements as a fundamental concept. Celtic religions traditionally do not use the classical elements (air, fire, water and earth) in any way. Some point to the inclusions of the four mythical cities of the Tuatha De Danaan, as recounted in the Lebhar Gebhala Erenn as proof of, or a model of, the use of the elements of the later Greek elements. These folk attribute the four treasures that came from those cities as symbols for those elements. However, scholars tend to think that these may have been included as they were by Christian monks to bring things more into line with the Roman concepts as typified by the Roman Vulgate.

Some will argue that the floor plans of sacred sites support the concept of the use of directions in conjunction with the four elements. First, such associations would be speculation only. Secondly, these floor plans are of the square temples that are found primarily on the continent. This floor plan was carried over to the isles with the Romans, and is found as a part of Romano-Celtic culture. The majority of insular temples were round. Typical of this genre is the important ritual structure at Emain Macha which was itself round. Archaeological diggings has shown that the site was based on five concentric rings (perhaps associated with the same five circles placed around a new born) of oak posts, with an opening to the west. Circular sites aren’t plagued with such concerns as which side faces which direction. Indeed, the sitting arrangement of the five kings at Tara, indicate an association with the directions, but these need to be addressed within the framework of the culture. This framwork would be winds, or ‘airts’, not the four Greek elements. The airts are still to this day what are associated with the dircetions, as shown by some of the incantations recorded in the Highlands by Carmichael. The Greek elements were only associated with the Four Treasures in the late 1800’s, by the work of the Golden Dawn, of which Yeates was a member.

If we want to address the Four Treasures, we must recognize exactly what is being stated in the texts. Of those treasures, one was the Sword of Nuada and the other the Spear of Lugh. Lugh did not come with the Tuatha De Danann when They came into Ireland. Lugh showed up later on, just prior to the second battle of Maig Tuired. According to the lore, Lugh’s Spear was forged by Goibiu. In that battle Nuadh was killed, and it was after the battle that Lugh took the kingship. Hence, by seeing that Nuadh was gone, and Lugh ascended, Nuadh’s solar symbol (the sword) was replaced by Lughs solar symbol (the spear). This helps us to see that the significant number involved is ‘three’

Also as stated, in Celtic culture there are the basic spheres of Sky, Sea and Land. These three realms are three parts of the cosmology of most Indo-European peoples, and are not the equivalents of “earth, wind, fire and water” of the Hellenistic Greek world that has filtered down to the modern era through the ceremonial magical lodges.

The Sky, which is related to Fire, is the realm of the gods of culture, light/enlightenment, order, permanence, purity, and the skills (The Tuatha De Danann). The Sea, which is the realm of the watery Underworld is associated with chaos, decay, and death through which comes renewal and rebirth (the Fomorri). Regarding water proper, it is through the sacred wells (direct conduits to OtherWorld), from the Waters of Heaven (which maintains during the rule of the truthful king), that the waters which encircles the Earth, sustains and maintains the people of the Land. It is here on the Land where humans physically exist, living in contentions on the ‘plain of sorrow’, caught betwixt the above and the below.

The closest thing to an elemental system amongst the Gaelic Celts is what are called the dhuile, as such is defined as ‘elements’ in Gaidhlig. These are anywhere from seven to eleven, usually nine, items. These range from sun to lightning to rock. The duile are a way of understanding the relationship of the person to the cosmos, with each item found in the cosmos relating to a part of the person.Wicca has nothing along these lines. In addition, the fertility nature of Wicca addresses the land Gods almost exclusively. When Gods of the other realms are named, they are usually outside of the place held for them in their traditional pantheons. In Celtic theology each is held and venerated in their traditional capacities. As far as the directions are concerned, the overwhelming evidence shows that in tradiional celtic religion, the directions have always been associated with the winds. Not only is evidence found in texts which record folklore and custom, such as the Carmina Gadleica, but also in texts far more ancient such as the Senchus Mor , the Saltair Na Ran, and the Hibernica Minora.(X)

Wicca places little emphasis on mythology. Yet in Celtic religion, mythological stories are a central feature. These, in fact, form the core of magical practice, teaching and what ritual exists (manifested commonly in ‘passion plays’). In Wicca there is no clear teaching of what is required to break past the cycles of rebirth. Yet in Celtic religion, the requirement can be clearly and concisely stated. That being to fullfill one’s duty, to always be honorable and to stand for the truth come what may, while understanding *why* what is honorable is considered so.

Wicca is a relatively recent addition to the religious paths of humanity. There is a lot of mis-information bandied about regarding it. It is sad that a great many of its followers have to do the religion such a dis-service by claiming lineages that don’t exist. I would point out the now tired joke about Wiccan grand mums. Celts tend to discount initiation, or any other device through which validity is gained through some person or agency. To a Celt, that one exists is proof of their validty. The only generally recognized ‘initiations’ are those afforded by the process of life itself, with the two most important being birth and death, with marriage, parenthood and grand-parenthood coming along in a close second place.

Some well known writers have claimed a great antiquity for Wicca. Yet, if it has any age to it at all, then it is through the Wicce which were Saxon in origin, and patriarchal from the start. These are thought to have been members of the Lodges of Cunning Men. They have nothing to do with the mythological Druids (a product of the British Revival effort of the 18th cenutry). The Wicce have even less to do with the historical Draoi. Such histories, as have connected the two groups of people, are in fact pseudo-histories, or as Margot Adler calls such ideas in her book, Drawing Down The Moon , “myths”.

These same writters state that the word Wicca, derives from the Saxon word, Witan. However, the Witan was the proto-parliament of old Saxon England. If one wishes to twist etymology in this way, it would be more correct to trace the word witch, back to the word ‘wicga’, which is Old English for the insect known as the earwig, and which literally means “creepy-crawly”.

These same writers state that Wicca was practiced in the Celtic lands, and specifically name Gaelic lands, where these practices were supposedly called “Witta”. Yet, from the Gaelic language itself we can see the truth that Wicca is not descended from the Gaelic Celts, nor, because of the similarities in language, even the Cymru (those known to the Anglo tongue as the Welsh). The simplicity of this fact is seen in that that there isn’t even a ‘W ‘ in the Gaelic language, so niether Wicca nor Witta as a derivation could be Gaelic. As concerns the Gaelic language, the sound [w] does exist in Gaelic, or at least in Old Irish, as a lenited /m/ or /b/, like the [w] in the current pronunciation of Samhain [sawhIn – thats a capital I]. But that never occurs at the begining of a word.

In technical speak the ‘w’ does not exist in the language, nor is [w] ever its own phoneme, just an allophone of /m/ or /b/ (depending on the word). Since lenition is rare at the beginning of a word though, it is extraordinarily unlikely that any native Gaelic word would have a [w] at the beginning, and thus ‘Wicca’ is practically impossible in Gaelic even transliterated into the Roman alphabet.

The truth is that modern Wicca, as it is most commonly practiced, is a fairly modern construction, dating from the middle part of this century. This was best summed up by one Dr. Marilyn Wells PhD, anthropology Department at Middle Tennessee State University, who has referred to modern Wiccans as Neo-Wiccans. In other words, there is little to no connection between Gardners creation and the Wicce of the middle ages, and no connection to the Celts; except for what modern Wiccans have borrowed and incorporated. As a matter of fact, if the veracity of The Pickengill Papers is complete, as many Gardnerians have vouched, then the Lodges of Saxon Cunning Men stood in the place of adversary to the Celtic Wise Women , which also goes to support this essay.

More evidence supporting this, can be found in a body of religious laws called the “Law of the Craft”. While there are a great number of groups operating who do not use the set of laws that Gardner wrote, these do, however, usually use some derivation. “The Law of the Craft” as it was created by Gardner, and forwarded by a great many people who recieved it from their grandmothers (a bit of humour), at the least shows the attitude present in the creators of this religion. The undertones still reverberate. There are printed copies of this body to be found in the public domain, in such books as Lady Sheba’s Grimoire, and The King of the Witches by June Johns. There is also to be found on the Internet, a work comparing several versions of that body of law. There are three items of note, where that law is concerned. They are:

1. The uniform appelation given to modern Wicca, as a “brotherhood.” 2. The quote,”… as a man loveth a woman by mastering her…” 3. The quote,”…let her(the high priestess)ever mind that all power is lent…from him(the priest)…” (Her power is absolute in Circle only, and even then lent from the Him [the priest figure])

parentheses added by author-

All three of these items fly in the face of how women were viewed by pre-Roman Gaelic people. Our people viewed women as equals to men, and this through the Brehon Laws which governed the society. Women had the right to possess and disburse property. They possessed the right to inheritance. They possessed ascendency to the throne; in many places above the right of men to do so. They possessed the right to keep and bear weapons, and be it noted that subjegating an armed populace is indeed a difficult thing to do. It was not until Christianity was firmly implanted that women lost these rights, and the equality of the law concerning women came into question.

Other corollary evidence comes from Wiccan statements about themselves. Of the Druids, all that can be agreed upon, based on evidence, was that they were intimately involved in sacrifices. Yet, many Wiccan state that they “..are the priestcraft for the pagan people…”. They are even “training clergy”. Yet, within Gaelic/Celtic culture all people were considered capable of, and responsible for, the mediation of the Gods on their own behalf. Celtic regard for personal responsibility is amply abundant. This is particularly true as regards to mediating the Gods on ones own behalf, and is so obvious and well known that even pop culture books such as The Celtic Tradition by Caitlin Matthews tell of this truth. This has even been commented on by respected celtophiles such as Peter Berresford-Ellis as being a part of the mindset of the Gaels unto this day.

Even the Triads of our people show where the redactors hands slipped on occasion, and let go expressions of the feeling among our forebearers, that kept priests were an abomination. The idea evidently being that the first place we give up our personal power over our lives is to priestcrafts. From there on out, it is one piece of our lives at a time, until we are veritable slaves. Slavery is not a position taken with grace by our people.

This is not to deny the fact that certainly after the coming of Christianity, and probably before, that there were probably orders of Monks dedicated to the service of one or a number of deities. This is only to say that just as there were not temples of the Greek and Roman type, neither were there sacredotes or “clergy”, whose functions were to mediate and or intercede the Gods on the behalf of other people. The sacrifices that these officiated over were not to appease angry dieties. Indo-European sacrifices were for the renewal of the world, which itself according to Indo-European thought was created from the primordial sacrifice of a diety.

In fact traditional celtic religions was votive/sacrificial in nature. Concepts of votive oferings and world renewing sacrifice, though central to Celtic religion, has no position in Wicca.

When I was asked to write this essay, I was also asked to keep it as short as possible, yet not neglecting thoroughness. This should be enough though, to establish the premise quite securely, that Wicca is not descended form our Gaelic/Celtic ancestors.

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Special Thanks To: Lughaidh MacRoberts

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Sources:

Popular Superstitions, Sir William R. Wilde, Sterling Publishing, c. 1995
The Druids, Peter Berresford Ellis, Eerdmans Books
Death, War and Sacrifice, Dr. Bruce Lincoln, University of Chicago
Warriors, Priests and Cattle, Dr. Bruce Lincoln, University of Chicago
Myths and Symbols of Pagan Europe, H.R. Ellis-Davidson, Syracuse University
Myth, Legend and Romance – An Enclycopedia Of The Irish Folk Tradition, Dr. Daithi OhOgain, Prentice Hall
A History of Pagan Europe, Prudence Jones and Nigel Pennick
Celtic Goddesses, Miranda Green, Braziller
The Silver Bough Vols 1-4, F. Marion MacNeill, Maclellan
The Folklore of the Scottish Highlands, Dr. Anne Ross, Barnes & Nobles
The Celtic Consciousness, edited by Robert Driscoll, Braziller
The Carmina Gadelica, Alexander Carmichael, Lindisfarne Press
Celtic Heritage, Alwyn and Brinley Rees, Thames & Hudson
The Tain, Thomas Kinsella, Oxford
The World of the Druids, Miranda Green, Thames & Hudson
Twilight of the Celtic Gods, David Clarke with Andy Roberts, Blandford
Lebor Gebala Erenn Parts 1-5, trans. R.A.S.MacAlistair, Irish Texts Society
Clannada na Gadelica, “A Tripartite World and Triune Logic”;, Iain MacAnTsaoir, 1997
The Pickengill Papers-The Origin of the Gardnerian Craft, W.E. Liddell, Capall Bann pub. Oxford
History Of Britain, Oxford University Press
Dictionary of Word Origins, John Ayto, Arcade, c. 1990
Celtic Women, Peter Berresford Ellis, Eerdmans Pub, c. 1995,
The Women of the Celts, Jean Markale, Gordon Cremonesi, c. 1975
A HISTORY OF WITCHCRAFT-Sorcerers, Heretics and Pagans, Jeffrey B. Russell, Thames and Hudson
Drawing Down The Moon, Margot Adler
The Pickengill Papers, W.E. Liddell
The Celtic Tradition, Caitlin Matthews, Element Books
The Celtic World, Miranda Green
Merlin : Priest of Nature, Jean Markale

Some parts of this essay were based on an article by Lughaid MacRoberts, who encouraged the author of this article to utilize his paper which was copyrighted in 1988.

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Prepared by Iain MacAnTsaoir

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Published in: on April 19, 2010 at 1:37 am  Comments (2)  

The Wiccan Rede: Law or Guideline?The Wiccan Rede: Law or Guideline?

After posting on some pagan forums for some time, I noticed a tendency for some Wiccans to try and follow the rede to the letter, giving little thought to what the rede actually means or what following it so closely would entail. I decided to pursue this further as I sometimes like to do with Wiccan concepts.

As I found from previous research, the rede originated (unsurprisingly given Wicca’s close ties with Thelema and Golden Dawn) from Aleister Crowley’s phrase “Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will”. It has been shaped into the rhyming couplet that most Wiccans now follow: “Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill, and it harm none, do as thou will”.

My approach to the rede has always been that it is not a hard and fast rule but a guideline. Think of it as one of those bumpers you have down the side of bowling alleys. The ball may veer off course a little but the bumper helps it back on track. This is how I believe the rede works: as a bumper to keep us from veering too far off the path.

I have never believed that following the rede means that you cannot ever do anything harmful. I fully believe that it is there to give you cause for thought over what you are about to do and decide for yourself whether you are willing to accept the consequences that it brings. It is there as a guide for you to weigh up the pros and cons of each course of action. If you really feel strongly about inflicting harm on someone or something for whatever reason, are you willing to accept the responsibility for your actions?

I’m often fond of quoting Doreen Valiente in the context of this subject: “A witch who can’t curse, can’t cure”. To me, this implies that the willingness to harm when necessary must be there in order to balance out the good than you can do. I believe that to deny darker urges in ourselves and to suppress them is to suppress the balance we need and to suppress what comes naturally to us. Just as leaning too far towards the darker aspects are bad for us in the long run, so equally I believe leaning too far into only the “happy, shiny” side can be as bad. Hence, we have a guide to keep us balanced and content.

I have also noticed that, when quoting the rede in the context of a problem, people have a tendency to apply the rede to others and forget to apply it to themselves. Of course, application of the rede to the self, if taken as a law, can be taken to the extreme, i.e. not drinking, not smoking, not doing any dangerous sports etc. Likewise, not taking yourself into consideration in a given situation would equally well go against the rede. The spark of the divine is also in ourselves and we should be protecting ourselves.

The thing that really tips me towards using the rede as a guide and not a law is the fact that for it to be a law, everyone would have to apply the same set of ideals and beliefs to themselves. This would be in much the same way that the Ten Commandments are a specific set of DO NOT’s. Of course, we know that the rede is not a specific instruction and leaves room for individuality and for common sense.

I am certainly working further on this and delving further into this for my own curiousity, but in conclusion, I believe the rede to be a guideline and not a hard and fast rule. It’s there to help us decide whether the benefits of an action we take outweigh the negatives. It is not only there to help us in our magical lives but also our every day lives. I believe it can be taken to the extreme but if used as I think it was intended, can lead to harmonious and balanced living.

The Pagan Resource community @ Myspace

Spunky Bruster (aka goddess of Pimpsmack)

Second degree initiate of Gardnerian Wicca

Published in: on April 19, 2010 at 1:35 am  Leave a Comment  

The Wiccan Rede and Wiccan Ethics

“Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfil. An it harm none, do what ye will.”

The Wiccan Rede and accompanying Threefold Law are interesting concepts. At first glance they can appear very simple, however this could not be further from the truth.

Aleister Crowley’s Thelemic Law was not, as many think, the inspiration for the Wiccan Rede, though it does bear similarity to it. But when we look beyond the simple surface text, it is clear to see that the meaning of Thelemic Law and that of the Wiccan Rede are fundamentally different:

“An it harm none, do what ye will.”

AND

“Do what thou wilt is the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will.”

The first would appear to be elegant in its simplicity and can virtually be taken at face value, i.e. you are free to do whatever you choose as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. But whilst simple at first glance, it is far more complex in practice, especially when you take into account what the Rede doesn’t mention the concept of unavoidable harm – the ending of an unhealthy relationship for example, which may cause harm to the person involved, but will prevent a greater harm in the long run. When this is taken into account, then a great deal of thought must be put into an action as to whether, if harm, could be caused, whether it can be avoided and, if not, whether the harm caused will negate a greater harm.

Thelemic Law is quite different. It is not suggesting that you can do whatever you choose according to your own desires. What it suggests is that you must discover what your true will is and then live according to that, ignoring any false will that may be imposed upon you. Crowley believed that each person’s true will was in harmony with every other person’s true will and thus conflict and disharmony only occur when people do not discover and live by their true will.

The root of Crowley’s law is essentially the same idea as that of the maxim “Know Thyself” inscribed at the Oracle of Delphi. Crowley’s law in this sense is by no means a new or groundbreaking concept.

So in seeing the difference between the Rede and Thelemic Law, we can now look to Gardner’s own words, to see the real origin and the intention of the Rede:

“They [the witches] are inclined to the morality of Good King Pausol, “Do what you like so long as you harm no one”. But they believe a certain law to be important, “You must not use magic for anything which will cause harm, and if, to prevent a greater wrong being done, you must discommode someone, you must do it only in a way which will abate the harm”. This involves every magical action being discussed first, to see that it can do no damage and this induces a habit of mind to consider well the results of one’s actions, especially upon others”. (The Meaning of Witchcraft – Page 108)

In my experience, I have known many people, particularly those following a Wicca-inspired pagan path, to have taken the Rede to be a law (often seen shortened to “Harm None”); however it is clear that such a law would be impossible to follow. The word Rede actually means ‘advice’ and it is therefore a more sensible approach to look at the Rede as a guideline and an ideal to strive for rather than a hard and fast rule. I like to think of it in terms of the bumpers you have down each side of a bowling alley. The ball may veer off course but the bumper helps it back on track. This is how I believe the Rede works: as a bumper to keep us from veering too far from our paths.

For the Rede to be considered a law, every single person would have to apply the same set of ideals and beliefs to themselves. The Rede is not a string of laws, commanding “Do Not” but rather a more positive way of thinking, giving freedom of personal morality rather than imposing a set of strict rules.

Quite often, when we are told we aren’t allowed something or are told we can’t do something, it makes us want it even more; as the saying goes – forbidden fruit tastes sweeter. Where certain religious laws seek to suppress and contain those elements of human nature that they find distasteful or undesirable, the Rede gives freedom of personal expression in a healthy way. So long as you are not causing harm to others or to yourself, then your morality and individuality are yours to express.

I have heard it argued that such freedom of personal expression would allow for the breaking of non-religious laws and criminal activity but I would argue that not only is the Rede intended for operation within the law (as would be common sense) but that there is no such thing as a victimless crime and that any such activity would constitute harm in any case. Aside from this, I am of the opinion that any person given to break a law is going to do so regardless of any religious guidelines or commandments.

Vivianne Crowley makes a wonderful point in her book, Wicca: A Comprehensive Guide to the Old Religion in the Modern World:

“This moral sense is developed by seeking to adhere to certain basic ideals of love, joy, truth, honour and trust, and making decisions which are in accordance with them.”

When you consider three of the main ideals within Wicca – The Rede, Threefold Law and Perfect Love & Perfect Trust – it makes sense to make your decisions both magically and otherwise based on the concepts cited by Vivianne. That being said, we are also only human and not every decision we make will take all or any of these things into account.

It is also worth mentioning at this point that the word “An” is a rather archaic way of saying “If”. This means that the Rede gives a great deal of freedom of choice in actions where no harm will be caused, but, as I said before, doesn’t actually say anything about what you should do in actions where harm may be caused. This is where the guiding concept of Threefold Law comes into its own.

The Law of Threefold Return

Another stumbling block I often come across is in relation to The Law of Threefold Return. We in the west have a tendency to use the word “Karma” in conjunction with Threefold Law but it is often the westernised view of Karma, which is applied in this context. To give a brief summary of the differences between the westernised view of Karma and the eastern concept:

Western Karma: The idea that Karma is some sort of universal power that hands out punishments to those who do bad things and rewards those who do good things.

Eastern Karma: The idea that actions have natural consequences and that by being mindful of them, you can earn “good Karma” and thus earn a better future. However, failing to take into consideration the results of your actions will earn “bad Karma” and lead to some sort of hardship as a result, whether in this life or the next.

If the Rede has been (as often occurs) mistaken for a law and is applied to everything, in conjunction with Threefold Law in its misunderstood form (i.e. “westernised” karma), it would be difficult to see how a person could even get out of bed in the morning for fear of causing some harm!

So, in my opinion, it is incorrect to liken Threefold Law to the Westernised misconception of Karmic Law. I think though, that it is actually closer to the maxim “You reap what you sow”, which in turn is akin to the true, Eastern concept of Karma, both in terms of every day application and in the context of reincarnation.

I believe it is an easier concept to accept if it is not looked at in terms of whatever you send out, good or bad, comes back to you times three but instead is considered in terms of how our choices are made. In numerology, the number three is representative of divine trinities and of completion (birth, life, death; beginning, middle, end; past, present, future). This concept, rather than linking Threefold Law to Karmic Law (however tenuously) actually lends itself to the idea of Threefold Law simply being a completion of our choices, i.e. Course of action decided upon, course of action taken, results of action taken.

This idea also works well with the concept of Wyrd, which has a similar rule of three: That which has gone before and has led to where you are now; that which is currently occurring and must be handled as it constantly changes, and; that which must occur as a result of all these things.

It is essentially (particularly when combined with the Rede) a method of keeping us mindful of our actions, and ensuring that we are fully aware of the potential outcomes and impacts. This applies not only to our spiritual lives (such as when performing a magical working for example) but also to our daily lives. It reminds us that whatever choices we make, there are repercussions and that we must take responsibility for our own choices and deeds. There is no “big bad” to blame when things go wrong, we are responsible for everything we do, good or bad.

With the interplay between the Rede and Threefold Law it is clearer to see that Wiccan morality and ethics are a far more complex subject than a casual glance would have you believe. Once the additional ideal of Perfect Love & Perfect Trust comes into play, it is obvious that the complexity of the issue of Wiccan morality and ethics can only increase.

Perfect Love and Perfect Trust

I feel that when it comes to Wiccan morality and ethics, this concept is often greatly neglected. It is easy to see where the other two ideals fit in, but what happens when you also incorporate the “highest ideal” of Perfect Love and Perfect Trust?

It is easier to apply this concept to ourselves in terms of our coven mates and with fellow Wiccans, and it is reasonable that this should be the case in the first instance, after all, it is with our coven that we first demonstrate love and trust, in the form of initiation. Their trust that we are the right person for their group and the love everyone bears for each other as friends and as part of the wider Wiccan family. Then there is the trust and love that we ourselves express in putting ourselves in a vulnerable position with them, by undergoing initiation itself.

It is even easy in some regards to apply the concept to our immediate family with whom we share a bond of unconditional love and trust. It is sometimes possible to apply it to friends and lovers, although here, there is no such bond of unconditional love and trust, nor is there the bond of shared spirituality in many cases. Often here, trust must be earned and love is given but not without a certain amount of fear of betrayal or rejection.

So, the question becomes, should the concept of Perfect Love and Perfect Trust be applied outside of the coven environment? Is it possible to apply it, in conjunction with the Rede, to situations involving those outside of our coven, or those people we don’t know at all? Perhaps we leave ourselves open to all kinds of mundane and spiritual problems if we try to define our morality further by including this as a tenet of it away from the environment where it is most often used and where we feel the safest in using it.

Is it even possible to have any love or trust for people whose motivations we don’t actually know, let alone perfect love and trust for them? It becomes a little like the commandment, “love thy neighbour as thyself”. It’s a nice idea in principle, but does it actually work in practice or does it become something unachievable, which we still strive for? Perhaps the best step we can take is to be good people and to treat others with respect and in turn, earn respect through our actions.

SUMMARY

It is very difficult to summarise the concepts I have just discussed, particularly when I have barely scratched the surface of a topic that could be discussed and debated for years; and probably will be! Suffice to say; when it comes to taking any form of action we know will have an effect on people, including ourselves, it is better to consider the possible outcomes carefully and make sure that we are willing to accept the potential consequences of our actions. I recall a conversation with a friend several years ago as we were driving home. We were discussing the ethics of spellcraft and she made a passing comment, which I think fits in very well here. If you cast a spell to attract money or to get that perfect job you want so badly, how do you know that someone you love wont drop dead and that you will get money through inheritance, or that you will get that job but at the expense of someone better suited to it? And I have to agree, it’s very difficult to know these things, but by being mindful of our actions and accepting of their consequences, we can take a great step towards living our lives according to the ethical principles of Wicca and to strive ever onwards towards our highest ideals.

Copyright Sarah Howe 2008

Spunky Brewster (a.k.a. Goddess of pimp smack) 2nd degree high priestess of Gardnerian Wicca

Published in: on April 19, 2010 at 1:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Oiche Shamhna

If all things were not considered equal to the Celts Samhain might have been the most important of all the festivals. Like the other three Celtic festivals Samhain too represented a marked event. This would be the ending of one year and the beginning of another. The word it’s self means the end of summer, kicking off the end of the light 1/2 of the year and the beginning of the dark, sometimes known as the times of the big and little suns. Samhain traditionally begins around Nov. 6th, when the sun is 15 degrees Scorpio, and like most other cross-quarter days the festival usually shifted and is now celebrated as Halloween, like a few years back when we celebrated on Oct. 31st because there was a new moon, making it the est day to proceed.

Samhain is the third traditional harvest festival, and according to legend all harvests needed to be be brought in by this day, since anything left would belong to the cailleach. A hag (though it’s also a word for Witch) embodied by the final, leavings in the fields there were severed from the earth and preserved until the next planting. In Welsh myth the wild hunt with the hounds of hell happen at this time, the riders came from Anwen to find all those who had died from one Samhain to the next, taking them to the gates of the otherworld.

This was the time of year that extra cattle would be killed for food (probably in the form of sacrifice at times) to get them through the winter. It was Samhains associations with death and decay which cause it’s transformation into the Halloween of today. Though the reason this was important to the Celts was it’s obvious associations to the natural world where plants and animals died and decayed to nourish the ground and make it fertile.

Samhain is an in between time, being neither the old year, or the new. To late for the light 1/2, and to early for the dark outside the effects of time, which is a very special place to be, and is recognized as being a time when all are backwards and chaos ensues. The dead are no longer kept away from the living land, and the ancestors become free to join in the festival. The importance of this backwards time is reflected in much of the Irish lore, where many important deaths and births take place either in the morning or in the evening, or the times which lay between night and day. I’m going to work on this further as well as add a festival working that might be of interest to some.

As I said earlier in this thread, there is a great deal of Irish lore surrounding Samhain. In the Irish “Dinnshenchas” It was on Oiche Shamhna that the coupling and marriage of an Mhór Rioghain and an Dagdha just prior to the second battle of Moytura, which was the great battle for sovereinty of Ireland against the Fomorian hosts. This particular union is very important to the time of Samhain and the Morrighan is associated primarily with death destruction and decay on the battle fiend, where as the Dagdha is associated with abundance and plenty, the growth and construction of new things among others, showing the in-between nature of not only the time of year, but also the in-between natures of couplings of equals under brehon law.

In the Adventure of Neara the hero carries a corps on his back and has many visions about death, chaos, and destruction and rides the faery host…The legend of intoxication of the Ulstermen is also set at the time of Samhain when they got drunk and stumbled over Ireland. The death of Cú Chulainn, the great hero of Ulster was at Samhain.

It was also at Samhain that Triple headed Ellen rose from a sidhe, and burn Tara the headquarters and seat of the High king. This would take place every Samhain untill he was killed by Fionn mac Cumhaill. The fact that this God was triple headed shows the importance of unity on all three levels at this time of year.

The fire at the burning of Tara, is significant of the purification of all the peoples of Ireland because the high king nt only represented not only the sovereinty of the land but his people as well. It is said that many of the major events in the Fenian cycle took place at the day of Samhain.

Samhain is a powerful time for the Druids, this time of year allows us to slip in and out of the spirit realm and share with the ancestors, and the gods. It vibrates with death and renewal as well as descents into dark realms and deep insights…A time when knowledge flows in the form of poetry, and poetry in the form of knowledge. May each know the wisdom of the ancestors on this day and every day!

Beannacht Oiche Shamhna!
Coyote

Published in: on April 19, 2010 at 1:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Witchcraft

Witchcraft In Old English this word was ‘wiccecræft’. ‘Wicce, being the feminine origin of ‘Witch’ and cræft, which means ‘power or skill’. Basically then, Witchcraft, is a Woman’s practice of magic. For example, In the Laws of Ælfred (c.890), witchcraft was specifically singled out as a woman’s craft, whose practitioners were not to be suffered to live among the Saxons. In English law, Witchcraft was first declared a crime, in 1542; trials there peaked in 1580s and 1640s but fell sharply after 1660. The last, in 1717, ended in acquittal. The Witchcraft Act was repealed 1736.

Around the time of Gardner’s first works, Witchcraft went from being a word for a woman’s practice of Magic, to encompassing both sexes, and being a word that is simply, the practice of magic. Many people today, who’s beliefs and practices of a magical nature are eclectic will refer to themselves as a ‘Witch’.

Published in: on December 17, 2009 at 7:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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An Overview of Wicca

This overview is from the perspective of Wicca, the initiatory religion with the acknowledgement of the other forms available.

Wicca is an earth-based mystery religion, which was formed from various sources (Thelema, Golden Dawn, The Goetia and Clavicula Salomonis, as well as native British and European religions, such as Celtic practice) by Gerald Gardner in the 1930’s – 1940’s and brought into the public eye with the publication of his “fiction” work, High Magic’s Aid in 1949, published under the pseudonym of Scire. In 1954, following the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in England, he published a further work, namely Witchcraft Today. Thus the religion was brought firmly into the public eye.

Wicca in it’s original form (what is now known as British Traditional Wicca/Witchcraft or Gardnerian/ Alexandrian Wicca) is an initiatory religion, which is oathbound, practiced in a coven and is essentially a priesthood. With the rise in popularity of Wicca through popular culture and the increase in publications on the subject, it is now fair to say that there are two forms of Wicca. The first remains the initiatory form and the second comprises those paths inspired by the first form, which are not necessarily initiatory but are often solitary or eclectic and often involves a self-dedication ritual by the practitioner to their chosen deities.

Initiatory Wicca is a coven based practice. Dedicants or seekers to this path will undergo a basic training period, which works in two ways. Firstly it determines whether Wicca is for them and whether the coven they are training with is the right group for them, and secondly it determines whether the coven themselves are comfortable with the trainee. Once this has been determined, the dedicant or seeker may ask the group for initiation. The coven will generally never push this issue and it is up to the individual to ask for this. When initiation has been asked for there is usually a slightly more indepth training period, designed to provide more knowledge and also for the individual to change their mind if they so wish. This period is usually set at a year and a day by default but is more often tailored to the needs of the individual. Some may take longer to be initiated, others just a few months.

Theinitiation itself is a rebirth and is effectively opening the doors to the mysteries beyond. It is up to the individual to follow the path through those doors. Initiation requires that the individual take an oath of secrecy, that is to say that they must not reveal certain information gained beyond initiation save to a verified brother or sister of the Craft. The person is also given the title of Priest/ Priestess and Witch and thus begins their training as a full coven member with access to the information within, though obviously only as far as their degree allows.

There are three degrees within Wicca and it is following your second degree initiation, when you become a High Priest or Priestess that you are able to teach, to lead rituals and in some traditions, to hive off and form a separate coven. At this level of training you are considered competent enough to work with the material under your own steam, though it goes without saying that it is a constant learning process and your spiritual development always be ongoing.

The religion of Wicca itself is split into two halves; that of the religion and that of the practice of witchcraft. Individuals within Wicca practice both to a greater or lesser extent.

In it’s basic form, Wicca is an earth-based fertility religion, encompassing the concepts of divine masculine and divine feminine and the balance inherent in this (i.e. dark/ light, male/ female, life/death etc). The deities are approached in the forms of a tri-une Goddess (being three in one, Maiden, Mother Crone) and a di-une God (being two in one, Lord of Light and Life and Lord of Death and Resurrection). The God and Goddess follow the seasonal cycles, from birth to death to rebirth and so on, as well as following our own life cycles. Wiccans see life as cyclical and the seasonal festivals reflect this. The following post will give details of what the seasonal festivals and what they mean to Wiccans.

Wiccans celebrate eight seasonal rites per year relating to the cycle of the God and Goddess and these are known as sabbats. Where possible they will also celebrate moon rites (usually held at either full moon or dark of the moon but not exclusively) known as esbats. Although Wiccans can do magical workings (spells/ spellcraft) at seasonal rituals, this type of work is often saved for the esbats unless the working has a purpose relating to a seasonal ritual.

Within traditional covens, rituals are usually held with the members being skyclad (naked) and this is for a number of reasons. Many people believe that being unclothed allows the person to feel nuances in energies, something that Wiccans work with a lot. It is also an expression of “Perfect Love and Perfect Trust” amongst the members of the group and with other Wiccans who may be visiting that group.

Although Wicca does have specific beliefs, tenets and practices, it does not have any rules, besides those which are common sense. Two aspects of Wicca are often mistakenly given the title of rules or laws, and these are the Wiccan Rede (“And it harm none, do as thou will” – this was taken from a law within Thelema – “Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will”), and Threefold Return, the idea that whatever action you take will return to you threefold, good or bad. Both of these are guidelines and are there to give the individual cause to ponder their actions and to take responsibility for any repercussions. They are not there to say you must never do anything bad, after all, it was Doreen Valiente herself who said “a witch who can’t curse, can’t cure”. This again ties in with the concept of balance within Wicca. It is not to say that unless you curse someone or take an unpleasant course of action, you won’t be able to do good, it is simply saying that the willingness to take a course of action, good or bad, must be there in order for you to balance yourself.

Wicca is also a fertility religion. It places a large amount of importance on the concepts of fertility and life within the natural world and of the relationship between God and Goddess, and thus there is a large amount of importance on intimacy between men and women. This is not to say that Wiccans hold orgies or are promiscuous people, but that sex is a sacred act and is a celebration of the joining of God and Goddess as well as being a powerful magical act in it’s own right. This is of course one of the reasons that Wiccan covens do not initiate under 18’s.

Spunky Brewster (aka Goddess of Pimpsmack) 2nd degree Gardnerian initiate.

The Pagan Resource community @ Myspace

Published in: on December 10, 2009 at 11:30 am  Leave a Comment  

A brief history of Paganism

According to Oxford University, the modern meaning of the word “Pagan” would be ‘ a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions’. However, in my opinion, any serious “Pagan” should understand and educate themselves on the fact that Pagan/ism isn’t a religion in and of it’s self, but more over has become something of an umbrella term as Oxford would suggest. For example, a Wiccan would be a Pagan, a Druid would be aPagan, and a “Heathen” would be a Pagan according to modern Etymology.

However, where does the word it’s self originate and how did it become what we as “Pagans” understand today? Basically, a Pagan is someone who doesn’t follow a Christian or Jewish religion. The Word Pagan is actually Latin, and denotes a country dweller. It originates from the word “pagus” (or paganus) and actually means “rural district” Roman soldiers would used the term “Pagan” as some would use the term “hick, redneck, or bumpkin”. Much later, after Rome started to become more of a Christianized culture, the use of the term Pagan shifted some what into and used by city folk to describe someone who continued to worship the old Pagan Idols, this being how the word came to denote one who worships Pagan Gods.

Itwasn’t until the reign of Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus (Constantine I), as it was this reign which would be the turning point for early Christianity from a simple religion, to a state power within the Empire, and from there, from minority, to majority around the year 313 C.E.. Anyone who followed the literally hundreds of the old Pagan Religions of the old Roman Empire werepersecuted by Constantine I relentlessly. The persecuted Pagansincluded the non-Christians of North Africa, the Middle East, andEurope – the area often called the “oikoumene” or the “known world.

As persecution spread around the known world, often Pagans wouldpretend to be Christians as a means of escaping, such as the PaganEmperor Julian for example (who ruled from 361-363), who was borninto a Christian family, and later (no one knows exactly when)converted back to Paganism. Pagans had already begun to practicetheir religions in secret in the mid and late fourth century. Totake this a bit further, there was a famous fellow Pagan authorcalled Libanius who lived at the same times as Emperor Julian andduring his time in power. Libanius also reported in his work “Forthe Temples” that by Julian’s death, there were Pagan’s who notonly pretended to be Christian, but would pray to Pagan gods as theworshiped in the church.

Now let’s fast forward a bit to the Dark Ages, which lasted from about 600 AD to about 1000 AD. Well let’sjust say they’re not called the Dark ages for nothing. Now Pagans not only have Christians to worry about but other Pagans as well. Christians fought Christians, Pagans fought Pagans, Pagans fought Christians, and Christians fought Pagans. Something that was common was the burning of scrolls, books, and other forms of knowledge andancesteral ways of the defeated armies. Very little would ever survive invading hordes and Crusades. However thankfully there were strongholds, places which were from Rome and Athens, such as cityof Timbuktu in central Africa, Irish monasteries, and by Islamic scholars in centers of learning as Baghdad.

Fast forward again to the Middle ages, so much has been lost to “Paganism” already, it is now between 1000 C.E. and 1500 C.E. It is during this time that we begin to see some of the first Inquisitions, known as the Medieval Inquisitions around 1184 C.E., this is the term historians use to describe the various inquisitions which occurred around this date such as the Episcopal Inquisition which raged from 1184 to sometime in the 1230’s, however just as the Episcopal ended, the Papal Inquisition began.

Not a good time to be anyone, Christians, as well as Pagans would be tortured and killed, though more Christians would die than Pagans, it was a dark time for everyone.

Bydefinition an Inquisition is is the judgment of heresy by the Roman Catholic Church. During this time Wicca and Wicce (Male and female practitioners of sorcery and magic O.E.) would become interchangeable with “Pagan”. Fear and sometimes hate would drive priests to focus much of their attention to women, thus the word “Witch” soon evolved from Wicce. This being why much of modern Bible translations focus on women. For example the word from which “Witch” is taken is “Chasaph” which actually means “poisoner”. King James I according to Reginald Scot in his book “The discovery of Witchcraft” had purposely mistranslated the Bible to target women. Some translations saying Witch, some saying Sorceress, I have even heard of one translation which said Woman.

Then there was the Malleus Maleficarum which was first submitted to the University of Cologne on May 9th, 1487 and is translated by Montague Summers to mean “The Hammer of Witches” is the most infamous of all witch hunting instructional books. Written by James Sprenger and Henry Kramer, it remained in use for three hundred years and It had tremendous influence in the witch trials in England and on the continent. This book, should serve as a terrible reminder of what can happen when intolerance is allowed to run rampant. Literally thousands of people were tortured and killed in the name of eradicating Paganism, primarily Christian women. Whether Witch Hunts Driven by King James I or Roman Emperors like Constantine I who was bent on making the world Christian, it should always be remembered that religion is only an excuse for one culture to rule over another. It isn’t religion which teaches us to reign over others, but how we twist said religions. Paganism, like Christianity has endured it’s share of hardships down through the ages.

We as modern Pagans and Christians alike must remember our history, as to never let it be visited back on us. You can no more change what a man holds sacred, than you can change the color of his skin. This is why Paganism has endured, this is why the legacy endures. Let the many paths be opened, let us hear the calling of the ever hidden, let us go to the gathering, and meet at the great Crossroads. Power of the Ancestors be within you!

Coyote

http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/mm/
http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/index.htm
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=witch&searchmode=none
http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/details.php?id=O07P742THW
http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/PAGANISM/id/182360
http://www.egregores.org/

Past and Present journal No. 136 (Aug., 1992), pp. 186-205 Oxford University Press by “The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe” by Valerie I. J. Flint

Published in: on December 10, 2009 at 11:21 am  Comments (1)