Wiccan history - Gardner, Thompson, etc.

Discussion in 'Pagan' started by bgruagach, Apr 23, 2005.

  1. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    InLove asked:
    I think those are excellent questions -- and they deserve a whole thread just for them, so I hope you don't mind that I set one up.

    You've asked a few questions in your post so I'll break them down a bit and try and provide some answers. These are just what I understand and are of course open to debate.

    1. The origins of Wicca, and Gerald Gardner's role:

    Wicca is a religion that incorporates the practices of witchcraft as one of the fundamental components. A lot of the ideas in Wicca are drawn directly from witchcraft lore. Wicca is just one of many different religious systems that are based on witchcraft. Witchcraft itself is not a religion. It's the practice of folk magick and can be done within the context of any (or no) religion.

    Gerald Gardner is largely considered to be the starting point (at least as a promoter, if not the originator) of Wicca. This means that Wicca goes back to about the 1940s, or possibly the late 1930s at the earliest.

    Wiccans today all trace their practice back to Gardner -- either directly through a lineage of initiations, or indirectly through inspiration and as the source of their religious ideas.

    Gardner didn't make it all up out of nothing though. He and other Wiccans who followed him have drawn extensively on both Christian and pre-Christian ideas and practices to incorporate in Wicca. Wicca is a Pagan religion though so it does tend to draw more from Pagan ideas than Christian ones.

    2. Lady Gwen Thompson:

    Lady Gwen (Gwynne) Thompson, who lived from 1928 - 1986, was the founder of an American Wiccan sect called the New England Coven of Traditional Witches (NECTW). Most Wiccans know her name through exposure to her poem "The Rede of the Wiccae" which Lady Gwen had published in the Ostara 1975 issue of the popular Pagan magazine, "Green Egg." The poem has been widely circulated although it is sometimes mistakenly called "The Wiccan Rede." The Wiccan Rede is just the statement often summarized as "Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill: an it harm none, do what you will." Lady Gwen's poem includes the Rede at the end. You can see the NECTW website here, and a good article explaining the history of the Wiccan Rede and Lady Gwen's poem here.

    3: Connection between Celts, Wiccans, and Christians:

    Wicca didn't come from completely original ideas -- a lot was drawn eclectically from a wide variety of sources. Some of the ritual structures (like the idea of degrees, a Charge, etc.) were drawn from Freemasonry, which has a lot of overtly Christian elements. Some was drawn from ceremonial magick (particularly the grimoire "Key of Solomon" translated by Macgregor Mathers) which is also largely based on Christian theology.

    But Wicca is a Pagan religion, and so also draws heavily from pre-Christian ideas and mythology. Gardner was English, so it's not surprising that he would draw from the mythology of his homeland -- which means drawing from Celtic myth. He didn't restrict his Pagan sources to just Celtic though. He also drew from European sources (especially Italian -- C. G. Leland's book "Aradia" in particular) as well as Greek and Roman myth (such as from things known about the Eleusinian mysteries.)

    Theres is also some Qabala mixed into Wicca. Qabala in many popular forms is a mixture of mostly Jewish and Christian thought, but also has some Pagan ideas. There are forms of Qabala that are more Jewish (bananabrain on here is much more able to discuss the Qabala than I am) but I believe Gardner and other early Wiccans drew more from the Christianized forms of Qabala than the purely Jewish ones.

    4. The role of magick:

    Witchcraft is all about magick -- it's folk magick, after all. Since Wicca is a religion that is based on witchcraft, it is a magickal religion. There are some people today who say they practice Wicca divorced from any magickal practice. While they are free to do so, I tend to think they are missing a lot of the point of Wicca.

    There are lots of spiritual paths that include magick in some form. Praying for a miracle, and doing specific things like lighting certain types of incense or special candles, using anointing oils etc. as part of the petition to the Higher Powers is all a form of magick no matter what religion you follow. Even within the category of witchcraft, Wicca is just one of the possible paths. There are definitely non-Wiccan witches out there, including witches who do not follow any established spiritual path but their own unique one.

    There are some excellent Frequently Asked Question files about Wicca, witchcraft, and modern Paganism on the web at http://www.witchvox.com/xbasics.html They also have a series of high quality essays about various denominations within the modern Wiccan and Pagan community, most which provide links for how to find more info for those who are interested. The denominations ("traditions") essays are not all-inclusive -- there are many denominations that do not have essays there. The ones listed are just the ones that were submitted to the people who run Witchvox.

    Witchvox also provides the very best Pagan networking resources available anywhere. You can find groups, stores, events, and individuals for all over the world. You'll often find that there are groups that do public events (either rituals or talks/classes that anyone can attend) if you are curious about meeting people in person.
     
  2. InLove

    InLove at peace

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    Thank you very much. bgruagach. Now I can tell my goddaughter that I am not crazy! Yes, and 'tis a battle with the young lass--I just want her to understand what she believes.

    But I was placing Lacy Gwynne way before her time, I guess-going back to the Welch (Welsh) (sp?)

    Quite interesting to me about the magick of the traditional Christians. I never really thought of it that way. The lighting of candles, and all the ceremony--guess one could look at it that way. The only things I would separate from magick would be the Lord's Supper (some call it the Eucharist.) And baptism. Those are more than rituals--what do you say?

    I so appreciate being able to come here and just learn and share with everyone. I hope I can come here more often. I hope I learn to get around in here soon.

    InPeace,
    InLove
     
  3. Scarlet Pimpernel

    Scarlet Pimpernel demned elusive

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    No, the Lord's Supper and Baptism are absolutely rituals. I'm not sure what you mean by calling them "more than" rituals. There is a specific order of events, specific words that are said each time, and there is a specific supernatural purpose. As a matter of fact, any liturgical Christian would probably tell you that those two are THE rituals of the Christian Church. They are sacraments, and you don't have to call them magic rituals if you'd rather not, but that doesn't make them not rituals.

    I have, however, come across the argument that the Eucharist, at least as it is practiced in the Catholic Church, is a perfect example of a magick ritual, in that by uttering the right words, having the right intent, and offering it to the Divine, the bread and wine are physically transformed into something completely different in substance (i.e., the literal flesh and blood of Jesus). They even burn incense and chant! If it walks like a duck...;)
     
  4. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    I've never heard of a Lacy Gwynne, but Lady Gwen (Gwynne) Thompson (the "Lady" part is a title often used in Wiccan groups, usually to indicate a leader although not always) was definitely a real person.

    Lady Gwen is most famous as the one who introduced the poem "The Rede of the Wiccae" which included the Wiccan Rede statement at the end of it. Lady Gwen claimed that she learned this poem from her grandmother, Adriana Porter, who died in 1946. Lady Gwen might have learned parts, perhaps even the majority, of the poem from her grandmother. However, we know that the Wiccan Rede statement that was included at the end could not have come from her grandmother because the nice and tidy eight-word phrasing originated with Doreen Valiente, who first said it in a speech she gave in 1964. The idea of the Wiccan Rede being important in any way to Wiccans didn't really take hold in Wicca until after Doreen's speech. So my guess is Lady Gwen had a poem her grandmother had taught her about magickal lore, and Lady Gwen updated it and added the Wiccan Rede to the end of it, and then called the whole thing "The Rede of the Wiccae."

    I think I've read somewhere that Lady Gwen's denomination of Wicca, NECTW, includes some Welsh mythology so maybe that is the Welsh connection you'd heard about. I see on the denomination's website (http://www.nectw.org/covens.html ) that they have two associated covens located in Wales as well.
     
  5. InLove

    InLove at peace

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    LOL--no, I have never heard of Lacy either! (Sorry about that.)

    Thanks for your insight. Now that you mention it, I believe that I may have read Lady Gwynne's name in connection with a collection of Celtic lore.

    I hope to have more time soon to research this and much more.

    InLove
     
  6. InLove

    InLove at peace

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    Good point. I like this subject.

    InLove
     
  7. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

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    If you remember what the title was for that collection of Celtic lore, please let me know what it is. I'd love to track it down and read it!
     
  8. InLove

    InLove at peace

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    I have been mulling this over, and while I realize I may need to take the subject to another board soon, I think I am okay for now.

    I have been thinking that perhaps the reason the tradition of the Lord's Supper, or the Eucharist, seems to defy definition as "magick" might be because it is done in remembrance of Christ, His will as recorded in Luke 24.

    (And I really am mosttly addressing the Protestant viewpoint here, because, as you pointed out, the Catholic and Protestant views differ quite a bit.)

    But I am thinking that most people try to honor a loved one's last requests, and since true Christians love Jesus, dong so seems to go beyond mere ritual, and to somehow encompass more than, or something different than, magick.

    Just thinking on screen....

    InPeace,
    InLove
     
  9. Scarlet Pimpernel

    Scarlet Pimpernel demned elusive

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    I recognize that I'm being a bit stubborn here, but I'm having a hard time seeing what you're getting at. If you believe that involving Christ in an action makes it incompatible with magick, I can respect and understand that viewpoint, though I don't necessarily agree personally.

    If by "mere ritual" you mean doing something by rote, without thinking about it, again I can understand what you're getting at. But don't make the mistake of thinking that "ritual" means "meaningless". A ritual is just what I said it was earlier - something done in the same way every time, for the same purpose. That purpose can be very profound, such as publicly stating your intention to follow Jesus Christ, or very mundane, such as brushing your teeth or balancing your checkbook.
     
  10. InLove

    InLove at peace

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    Greetings, S.P.,

    I think I could have expressed my thoughts more clearly on this subject. Let me try again:

    By no means am I suggesting that a ritual involving the honoring of Christ is generally incompatible with magick as practiced by many gentle people. And I certainly don't mean to imply that ritual is meaningless or powerless.

    I am musing, however, that to honor a loved one's last requests, even when those requests involve ritual, might be viewed as more than ritual in itself. An act of love and honor, whether accompanied by ritual or magick (or both) cannot be limited to either, but has at its core something other.

    Just my thoughts again--and stubborn is okay with me, as long as my dense and clumsy writing is forgiven as well--;) enjoying this--thanks!

    InPeace,
    InLove
     
  11. InLove

    InLove at peace

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    Greetings, bgruagach!

    Still looking for that--time to organize my resources, I suppose! Just posting to let you know I haven't forgotten!

    InPeace,
    InLove
     
  12. Scarlet Pimpernel

    Scarlet Pimpernel demned elusive

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    That I can definitely agree with, without reservations. But for me, it is the love and honor I have for the Divine which I try to put into and express through my magick rituals that makes them so powerful to me. That is only my path, however - many others have a different experience/purpose/intention with magick.

    pwah, I wouldn't have called your writing dense or clumsy - just part of the limitations of the electronic medium. And I'm enjoying it too!
     

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