Thursday, 4 September 2014

New Season Starter: Wicca


If you made it here, thank you for your interest.

This post is by way of a little amateur research on behalf of our discussion group. We have a new season starting on Sept. 11th. 2014 and the suggested subject is Wicca. Ken, our beloved leader and seeker of all knowledge, commanded me to "look it up", so here is a little background with a bit of a slant towards my point of view (inevitably).

I was quite surprised to learn that Wicca is a religion and, as such, it is very young. It was born in 1930's Britain amid other fledgling religions and cults. Spiritualism and Occultism were still strong in those days and Wicca appears to have much in common with both.

In the late 1930's, Gerald Gardner was initiated into the New Forest Coven and later published books on the subject.

Gerald Gardner
Gerald Gardner

He became known as the Father of Wicca and his followers progressed from being regarded as a cult to being accepted as a religion. 

Like other pagan faiths, there is a strong emphasis on nature. The magic (or Craft) they practice is, to them, a feature of nature that we, as a society, do not understand. They worship two gods, representing (among other things) the male and female aspects of the divine. The male god is commonly known as the Horned God while the female god is the Triple Goddess (Maiden, Mother and Crone) representing innocence, compassion and wisdom.

Gatherings, or congregations, of witches are called covens and rituals include "handfastings" which, I gather, are bonding ceremonies. Some celebrate their rituals "Skyclad" (naked) while others prefer a thin cotton gown. Beliefs include the afterlife - called "summerlands" and reincarnation. I understand that they believe that witches are always reincarnated as witches: once a witch, always a witch. 

Now to my own thoughts on what little I have picked up from my short and wholly inadequate research. While Wicca may be new in terms of an organisation, the roots of the beliefs are indeed ancient and can be traced back as far as written history can take us. The traditions are not far removed from the occult mystery schools which thrived in the late 19th century (Aleister Crowley was prominent in occult circles at that time). They both draw on Hermetic teachings which have been at the heart of secret societies and alchemical practices for many centuries. Much of the symbolism is common. Take, for example, the Horned God - this has been repeating theme since Egyptian times. 

Both the ram and the bull were revered in ancient Egypt. Indeed, the female aspect was often horned too with both Hathor and Isis depicted as horned deities.

Isis and Horus

The Horned God has also come down to us, via the occult, as Satan which is probably why some accuse witches of being satanists.

According to Wikipedia: 

The satanic "horned god" symbol known as the baphomet is based on an Egyptian ram deity that was worshipped in Mendes, called Banebdjed (literally Ba of the lord of djed, and titled "the Lord of Mendes"), who was the soul of Osiris.

Looking at the symbolism represented above, it is plain to see the the symbol of the Horned God in the geometric shape of the inverted pentacle which is also included in the Tarot card image above.

Coming back to the Triple Goddess and the Horned God of Wicca, the symbols are simple shapes:

Triple Goddess and Horned God

The Triple goddess also represents phases of the moon while the Horned God also represents the sun and moon. Look at the second symbol and put the sun in the curve of the moon and we are back to the Egyptian Isis/Hathor horned crown.

And, to finish, in case you thought that the western biblical tradition reserved horns for devils, take a look at this famous statue of Moses ...

Michelangelo's Horned Moses


  1. Thanks so much for your hard work David getting this research together.

    As you explain Wicca as such is quite recent but its roots are ancient.

    In some ways I see Wicca and paganism generally as the spiritual side of the Green Movement. Personally I have always been drawn to the mystical aspects of nature - even materialists can wax poetical about a sunset or autumnal leaf colours.

    And Wiccans focus primarily on the female aspects - Mother Earth and all that - and I feel the time has come for us to ditch the heavy masculine, sometimes violent aspects of life.

    I think this subject was inspired by a YouTube I posted in the S.E. Discussions - this one : with the dark eyed lass seemingly making the point that it didn't much matter what you did as a Wiccan in terms of ritualistic paraphernalia as long as your heart was in the right place. I'm sure we'd all agree with that.

    Incidentally newcomer Lynden Swift responded to that video by writing:
    "I used to be a member of an initiated coven. I'll be happy to try to answer any questions you might have about the practice, though in reality, every coven very much evolves its own practices and so there is a ridiculous variety of practices, even within the initiated traditions. So I could probably only speak in generalities!"

    Hope you turn up on Thursday Lynden to join the discussion.

    One question Ken - is it a 'sky-clad' evening?

    1. David C ... thanks for this helpful short introduction to the subject !

      Dave H ... I think skyclad is best reserved for summer evenings ... it's a bit too cold now, at least for me. If you wish to turn up skyclad that's fine, but before you do please research alternative venues for future meetings because I doubt the Elstead will allow us back again :-)

  2. Margot Adler, a famous Pagan author - she wrote Drawing Down the Moon - died recently. See here:

    And here's a very interesting account of her association with the pagan world - she was a Wiccan priestess. It ties in a lot with what David wrote on this blog in his potted history of Wicca


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