Triumph of the Moon was not the last word on Wicca nor the last word on traditional witchcraft in Britain. I think we can safely say that the basic premise of a unbroken link of witchcraft to ancient times has been refuted. But was there witchcraft and yes even a form of Wic(c)a before Gardner? If so how far back does it trace unbroken?
What elements of Wic(c)a are uniquely Gardnerian? very few. What can be traced back before him? Much of his material. Does the name even belong to him and his line alone? Was he just a dirty old man who wanted to see girls naked and do them? Maybe, but on the principals and the actual age he sought out nudity, likely no.
I often see people who have done no or little independent research of their own insist that no one can call themselves Wiccan that wasn’t directly initiated through Gardner. Who has a right to make that claim? Gardner himself perhaps? Did he ever make that claim?
Another claim I see is that Wiccan’s don’t have to be witches. Does that match up with what the (re)founder(s) of Wic(c)a said?
Firstly, Gardner did not originate the word Wicca. In fact it was one of his rivals who had less claim to a witchcraft heritage than good old Gerry did. Charles Cardell originated the phrase Wicca. Doreen Valiente who actually created more original material for “Wicca” than I think Gardner can claim to, got tired of him and went out seeking something older. She checked out Cardell but found him to be totally foolish.
Gardner said that he first heard the word Wica, in initiation, from the witches he met in a local occult society. Those witches claimed to have inherited their traditions only going back to Medieval times. Cursing Napolean was mentioned. These same people also stated to be reincarnated from witches in times past. The way the tradition was handed down is unclear. Was it from parent to child, witch to apprentice, or through past life memories? or a mixture of all three? Is it realistic to believe that there is unbroken witchcraft traditions in Britian going back to Medieval times? I think the Saveok Water Archealogy site in Cornwall is pretty convincing and it goes back to the 1640s (not quite medieval times but close and certainly includes Napolean times).
Gardner said their practices were very fragmentary, which is all the more realistic for something passed down through generations (or ancestral memory) and only brought out in times of need than the ready made kit that Gardner presented.
Gardner filled his initial book of shadows which he named after another publication out at the time for shadow-mancy, (it originally was called a Book of Magickal Arte) with material from other functioning occult societies several of which he was a member of (Masons, Rosecrucian, Golden Dawn, OTO) at the time, rituals and magical principals from indigenous traditions he had investigated in his time as a colonialist, the Key of Solomon, Italian vernacular tradition from Gospel of Aradia and other books by Charles Leland, and local British and Celtic folk magic. And then Valiente came along and swapped out a lot of the Crowley stuff and added in her own beautiful poetry.
Where did the 8 holidays come from? I would suggest they are a mixture of the standard celestial events and the Irish folks who founded the Golden Dawn’s and innovated Celtic Revival material. Maude Gonne, WB Yeats, Mathers and Ella Young among others wrote about and celebrated the four feasts of Lughnassadh, Imbolc, Beltane and Samhain in the 20s and 30s. Where did these folks learn of those holidays? From local vernacular traditions, they actively interviewed local folks, from translations they made of old manuscripts, and their own poetic vision and inspiration.
The Gospel of Aradia and some of the indigenous traditions Gardner investigated both promote worship and magic in the nude. Gardner was not particularly old when he started practicing that way, although he was old when the Witchcraft Acts were repealed and he rode on the freedoms granted Spiritualists to start promoting his tradition. He was involved in naturalism and nudisim which is not about sexualizing and ogling naked people, but instead about normalizing the human body and getting extra vitamin D. I wouldn’t be surprised if he met occultists through nudism, because well fringe people tend to be involved in more than one fringe—and that is what research into his and his colleagues various memberships shows. I know I learned about Wicca, gasp, through Dungeons and Dragons—Call Chick Tracts!!! Was actual sexual ritual a part of Gardner’s witchcraft? Probably. Did he have sex with his wife or a mistress? If he had a mistress was his mistress an adultery issue or a polyamorous partner? It appears he loved his wife very much and he died shortly after she did, maybe of a broken heart, who knows. Does it matter, if Dafo was his lover? Not to most of us sex positive people today, if Mrs. Gardner was down, so are we.
What did Gardner himself create? It looks to me like the only thing he generated himself is Harm None—not even the rest of it, just that line. Do what ye wilt is (the whole of the law, under love) from Crowley who got it from some old novel. GBG rewrote all that stuff in a fake old English style and then what?
So if Gardner didn’t coin the term Wicca, if he said that his line was all witches, and he didn’t even come up with the vast majority of what he put in his Book of Shadows (the name of which he didn’t even come up with himself).
If we use the logic of Tumblr, only descendants of the Coven of Atho by Charles Cardell could call themselves Wiccans. (Since he coined the term and initiated people). And no one but those initiated by Gardner could claim ownership of Harm none. Only people initiated into the secret societies that Yeats and friends organized the four feasts for could use those, only people that Valiente said so could use her poetry and so on.
There is nearly nothing originally Garnder’s. He plagiarized just about everything. He has no special right to the vast majority of what he used.
Does that mean he wasn’t an actually initiated witch? no. Does that mean he made it all up, actually no, I think it has been demonstrated a bunch of times before that he collated it from a number of greater creative minds than his. Is it worthless, no. Its a good tradition with good foundations? The Golden Dawn, The Key of Solomon, Rosicrucian Ancestral/Past life memories, and vernacular folk magic are all arguably valid sources of tradition. In fact those of us creating our own traditions today use many of the same sources.
So please, if you haven’t done extensive research into the major published material about Gardner and Wicca since Truimph of the Moon was published in 1995—and don’t clear up your own ignorance stop saying:
—Only those initiated into Gardner’s line can call themselves Wiccans. That isn’t even a term used by the founder(s) of that line (Gardner and Valiente). Cardell who published the Gardnerian BOS without permission coined that term.
—That not all Wiccans are Witches. If you mean people who are from Cardell’s tradition (which he stole from Gardner) or Gardner’s in any sense, then you are wrong. Those traditions are witchcraft traditions, you are a witch if you are in them. If you mean people who just call themselves Wiccan and aren’t witches nor initiates fine, but please don’t go back to saying only initiates can call themselves Wiccan in the same breath.
—That Gerald Gardner invented Wicca. First off he didn’t call it that, and second its a lot more like he plagiarized his version of witchcraft from other writers. Valiente did more to invent their witchcraft from her own original ideas than he did—she was not down with the plagiarism and wanted to correct it.
—That its paramount to cultural appropriation to dare use material from Wicca since its a closed “culture”. Well I would agree it is cultural appropriation, but only because Gardner is the king of cultural appropriation being an actual colonialist and claiming material that I believe he got from the Irish revivalists and colonized indigenous people he studied as old British witchcraft traditions. Its not much of a closed culture if near everything in it is stolen—and the one person who wrote anything original for it encouraged people to publish it (Valiente supported the Farrars publishing large portions of the material).
Wiccan Roots by Phillip Heselton and Preface by Ronald Hutton Painstaking research into all the occultist and probable witches that Gardner knew, his memberships in various naturalist, secret societies, and travel records with various folks, his background as a colonialist and his publications), more evidence of Dorothy Clutterbuck and Dafo, some suggestion of Mrs. Gardner’s level of involvement. His research is only limited by the loss of so many records during WWII. If it could be found, Heselton found it. Critics of this book, latch onto the facts that Heselton shared that Clutterbuck’s husband had a Biblical Christian phrase on his grave stone, and that some of her poetry mentioned Mary as proof that she was not pagan. However as any Christo-witch, dual observance trad witch, or pagan married to a Christian spouse can attest, the inclusion of a biblical phrase on a spouses graves does not indicate much of anything about the widow, nor does inclusion of some Christian elements in her poetry chapbook prove she didn’t believe in magic nor other spirits and gods. Critics also go on about Dafo as a mistress, and supposes that the entirety of witchcraft was invented by them from imaginary reincarnation memories in order to have an excuse to have sex…Seems highly unlikely when there are way way way easier ways to have affairs than inventing an entire religion and recruiting tons of other people into it. But hey its possible—though that supposition has less proof and is more fancy and vitriol than anything else. I do believe Gardner was an honest seeker of witchcraft inspired by his colonial experiences and the quickly disproven notions of Murray (of which Gardner was aware was disproven). I cannot find the review that made these claims again, if you recall where it was, please let me know.
The Meaning of Witchcraft by Gerald Gardner. His own words about witchcraft and his initiation, his own words about how little was handed to him from the witches he met. Discussion of reincarnation. Mention of Charles Leland, etc. Mentions the word “wica” from his initiation but says Witchcraft the rest of the time and does not use the term Wiccan.
High Magick’s Aide. A functioning book of shadows in itself. Full of material from Mather’s (of the Golden Dawn) Key of Solomon.
Rebirth of Witchcraft by Doreen Valiente. Refudation of Hutton’s claim in Triumph of the Moon that Dorothy Clutterbuck was imaginary. Notes about her contribution to Gardner’s BOS and where various sources came from. She never uses the phrase Wicca either, but always witchcraft, just as Gardner does in his books. All of Valiente’s books are about Witchcraft not Wicca.
Wicca: Magical Beginnings by D’Este and Rankine. These authors did research to find the origins of the elements of Wicca. From skyclad, to the athame (an indigenous sacred knife, and/or from the Key of Solomon), to harm none, to the sabbats.
My own varied research into Ella Young and by association Yeats, Maude Gonne and Mathers. I have read about the four feasts they put together in so many sources and I haven’t seen the full four as put together as a whole in earlier material so I am supposing since Gardner got a lot from the Golden Dawn, that this is where he got those too. I can’t easily point out a single book on it. But Chas Clifton’s Her Hidden Children is a peer reviewed book that confirms it.
Very strange “witch pits” that continue from 1640s to 1960s with pits every 50 years or so using things that appear to be witchcraft using the same types of elements.
The Coven of Atho information: http://www.thewica.co.uk/coven_of_atho%20article.htm (note that this site uses the correct spelling Wica, if you are going to use anything that was Gardner’s term he heard from the witches who initiated him.
The best material on this is not online. You have to *gasp* read books, good books, peer reviewed books, recently written scholarship, not just that you have one wiccan friend who doesn’t like it that non initiates use the term. Don’t pretend someone has said they are against it when they aren’t. I see people misuse Crowdog66’s name all the time and say she has said things she hasn’t upon checking with her myself. Versus the actual direct initiates of Gardnerian witchcraft who published the material and gave the world the names in their books—like the Farrar’s and Buckland, for example.