Quiet today, but an interesting reply here yesterday. It was from my old friend – better say acquaintance, as there’s some things we just don’t agree about! – Hesselius, who challenges that interesting assertion that Wicca was really only a 20th century invention by people such as the late Gerald Gardner and the like.
That view implies that, if anything, modern ‘witches’ only based the doctrine of their (‘Wicca’) cults and covens on modern interpretations of much older fragmented and nebulous beliefs; which were formulated under the heading “witchcraft” .but which never really existed in times bygone before their founders (Gerald Gardner in particular) declared them to do so. I hope I have summarized that correctly. In other words many writers and others say that Wicca is only a comparatively modern invention (the 1940s and 50s to be more precise). Okay. That’s a major view. Personally I do not agree. But let me reprint Hesselius’s reply so that everyone can be clear about what he stated or asked. He said (quote):
“David hi, You wrote: ‘Now, Wicca, as many people might know, is an ancient religion or Knowledge system that predates Christianity by many thousands of years..’ With all due respect hasn’t the latest scholarship leant towards the conclusion that Wicca per se dates back to at the earliest the late 1940s/early 1950s and was largely a home-made religion created by Gerald Gardner from scraps of folklore, Crowleyan stuff, the ideas of Margaret Murray and so forth as the ‘Book of Shadows’ shows? Francis King in the 1970s also demonstrated how the Wicca which people in the 60s and early 70s thought was an ancient religion was in his view a modern invention… I’d be interested to hear your views on this. Hope this finds you well David and good luck with all your literary work at this time. Best Wishes Hesselius”
Well, I’ll try and answer you simply if I can, Hesselius, but will have to leave many historical facts out, obviously, for the sake of time and space. In fact, I am not even going to argue ancient or historical precedents; I can only talk from my own experience as a once member of my own Wiccan Circle.
Where to begin?! Well, I was first Initiated into Wicca at the age of eighteen. It was by a dedicated Cult whose antecedents went far back into history – long before the time of Gerald Gardner. (As a matter of interest, all the manuscripts I was given to study were authentic documents that had been passed down by families; and we were certainly discouraged from reading modern books on Wicca, especially the views of Gerald Gardner.) What I am really trying to say here is – and as I have explained many times previously – is that Wicca is in fact a very ancient secret religion. It had an Outer Circle (often confused by the ancients with Paganism), but it also had an Inner Circle, wherein most of its sacred doctrines were passed on or taught. I realize I may have oversimplified this, and that many people might not agree (such as my friend Gareth, for example, who tends to take a similar view that this ancient Cult did not – or could not have had any authenticity before the later writings of people such as the late Alex Sanders and Gerald Gardner).
I explained, when challenged by people in the audience on the Robert Kilroy-Silk programme, on June 21st 2001, that Wicca was an ancient religion that predated early Christianity by many thousands of years. I gave two simple examples: the early Christian church had ‘stolen’ off much earlier Wiccan creeds and doctrines. I said that the whole conception of Christmas had been based on a wrongful misinterpretation of the Winter Solstice, which was – and still is – an ancient Wiccan ceremony. We of course have the modern day interpretation of this by the Christmas tree, mistletoe, and holly. In Wicca, these evergreen plants and trees were used to symbolize immortality. Again, I gave the example of the Easter Egg, where Christianity had ‘stolen’ an important date in Wicca to symbolize – or celebrate – the death and resurrection of Christ. In fact, this particular ceremony has long been celebrated in Wicca as a fertility rite, but was ‘taken over’ by the early Church – hence the modern, if not erroneous, introduction of Easter Eggs.
I could go on and on, Hesselius, but I really cannot agree with the modern assumption that it was Gerald Gardner and people such as Alex Sanders who began the modern witchcraft ‘fad’. No. Wicca is in fact a secret ancient Knowledge System, that was misunderstood (mainly by the early Church) in its time, and is likewise misunderstood to this day.
Hope this answers your question – although I don’t suppose it will!
For the moment, David.