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MessaggioOggetto: Wicca nature religion   Lun 12 Ott 2009 - 16:22



Wicca is a nature religion based upon beliefs and rites believed to be rooted in ancient pagan practices. Wicca claims a direct connection to the ancient Celtic tradition, which is thought to be more in tune with natural forces than Christianity and other modern religions of the West. However, rather than see Wiccans as members of a religion, it might be more accurate to see them as sharing a spiritual basis in nature and natural phenomena. For Wiccans have no written creed which the orthodox must adhere to. Nor do they build stone temples or churches to worship in. They practice their rituals in the great outdoors: in parks, gardens, forests, yards or hillsides. According to the Wicca FAQ page,
"Wicca" is the name of a contemporary Neo-Pagan religion, largely promulgated and popularized by the efforts of a retired British civil servant named Gerald Gardner [late 1940's]. In the last few decades, Wicca has spread in part due to its popularity among feminists and others seeking a more woman-positive, earth-based religion. Like most Neo-Pagan spiritualities, Wicca worships the sacred as immanent in nature, drawing much of its inspiration from the non-Christian and pre-Christian religions of Europe. "Neo-Pagan" simply means "new pagan" (derived from the Latin paganus , "country-dweller") and hearkens back to times before the spread of today's major monotheistic (one god) religions. A good general rule is that most Wiccans are Neo-Pagans but not all Pagans are Wiccans.
A good general rule seems to be that there is no single set of beliefs or practices which constitutes Wicca, though one belief seems to recur: An it harm none, do what you will. Also, some rituals seem to recur.
Wiccans practice a number of rituals associated with such natural phenomena as the four seasons, the solstices and the equinoxes. Their symbols are based on the connectedness of Nature to human life. For example, they celebrate summer in a fertility rite known as Beltane. Rather than pray to some unnatural god beyond all experience, Wiccans seem more concerned with self-awakening, with arousing their connectedness to nature and nature gods, female as well as male. Their rituals seem to be metaphors for psychological processes. They sing, they dance, they chant. They burn candles and incense. They use herbs and charms. Often, Wiccans favor herbs to traditional medicines. In group rituals they express their desires to the community. They don't cast spells. They ask for blessings from north, south, east and west. They meditate. They don't cook weird poisonous stews in cauldrons. They don't fly off on brooms. They don't pray for harm to their enemies. Because Wiccans seem to worship nature and nature goddesses and gods, they can be called pantheists.
Wiccans do share one thing in common with Christians, however. Both believe that nature is essentially good. For Christians, God is good, and thus whatever God creates must be good. For Wiccans, the natural turn of the seasons provides guidance or signs. I, however, see nature as neither good nor bad, but completely indifferent to our well being. Nature is as likely to produce pumiced humans at Pompeii or children swept away in flash floods as it is to produce a swell-smelling flower or a ripe peach. Nature does not care that people are sucked out of their homes by tornadoes and thrown into the Guinness sky of the volcano or that millions bake under an uncaring sun in parched lands. The innocent monsters deformed by uncaring biological laws are just as natural as the beautiful babies that parents swoon over. Those devoured by great cracks in the earth, those drowned in hurricanes, the millions left homeless each year by indifferent forces ravaging an indifferent landscape live in the same world as those living in temperate zones replete with surplus fruits of the land. Only in their mythologies have Wiccan magick or Christian prayer stopped the flood, doused the lightning bolt, stilled the whirlwinds of the tornado and hurricane, calmed the quaking earth, or put to sleep the tsunami. Surely both Wiccans and Christians despise the harm done by nature as much as I do. But the destructiveness of nature is not punishment for bad deeds or failure to appease unseen forces or spirits. It is simply the result of a planet still evolving after more than four billion years, here for no purpose, and destined to die a natural death.
The attractiveness of Wicca may be due to its friendliness towards women, its naturalistic view of sex and its promise of power through magick. It is very popular among women, and it is tempting to say that Wicca is women's revenge for the centuries of misogyny and "femicide" or "gynicide" practiced by established religions such as Christianity. Wicca, like the Celtic religion, allows women full participation in the practice. Women are equals, if not superiors, of men. Women in Celtic mythology are unusual, to say the least. They are intelligent, powerful warriors, ruthless, sexually aggressive, and leaders of nations.
Finally, it should be noted that Wicca is not related to Satan worship. That practice is related to the persecution of "witches" by Christians, especially during the medieval and Spanish Inquisitions, though not necessarily by the Inquisitors themselves. (See the Malleus Maleficarum, 1486, which describes "the three necessary concomitants of witchcraft," namely, "the Devil, a witch, and the permission of Almighty God.") The spirit of the witch hunters, however, lives on in the hearts of many devout Christians who continue to persecute Wiccans, among others, as devil worshippers. The modern witch hunters do not demand purgations. Rather, they try to abolish Halloween, school mascots, books which mention witches, and any sign, symbol or number the Christians associate with Satan. (One local pizza house was even hounded for some markings it had on its delivery boxes. Local witch hunters claimed the markings were satanic signs. The pizza house changed it boxes rather than deal with adverse publicity.)
On the first day of spring in 1996, our local newspaper ran an article about a local coven of witches. The story portrayed the all-female group as harmless nature worshippers who dance in circles and ask for blessings from the north, south, east, west, etc. The article prompted a long letter to the editor decrying the naiveté and ignorance of the author of the story on the local coven. Witches are in cahoots with Satan, said the letter writer, who signed off as "a survivor of satanic ritual abuse." The sincerity of the letter writer seemed as genuine as the sincerity of the women of Salem who confessed to being witches. Are the modern day victims of satanic ritual abuse as deluded as the witches hunted down by pious Christians through the centuries who truly believed that they were as evil as their persecutors said they were? Are the Wiccans of today part of a satanic conspiracy? I doubt it. If there are Christians who are being systematically abused by Satan worshippers, their abusers are not part of an international conspiracy known as Wicca.
See also magick, pagan, Satan, and witch.
reader comments
further reading
books and articles
Allen, Charlotte (2001). "The Scholars and the Goddess." Atlantic Monthly. January.
Cahill, Thomas. How the Irish Saved Civilization (New York: Nan A. Talese Publishing, 1995), ch. 3 "A Shifting World of Darkness."
Sagan, Carl. The Demon-Haunted World - Science as a Candle in the Dark, ch. 7, "The Demon-Haunted World," (New York: Random House, 1995).
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance: witchcraft and wicca page
What's the deal with witches and broomsticks? - Cecil Adams, The Straight Dope
Wicca FAQ
The Celtic Connection
Covenant of the Goddess Homepage
news story
Wiccan soldiers killed in battle can now be buried with the symbol of their religion: a five-pointed star in a circle
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MessaggioOggetto: Re: Wicca nature religion   Lun 12 Ott 2009 - 16:23


Alt.Religion.Wicca Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

From: (Rain of Teleport)
Newsgroups: alt.religion.wicca, alt.magick.tyagi
Subject: Alt.Religion.Wicca Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Message-ID: <8b4f0r$dnj$>
Summary: Frequently Asked Questions (and answers) about the Wiccan religion.
Keywords: goddess, witch, craft, pagan, frequently asked questions, faq
Date: 19 Mar 2000 22:04:11 -0800

Archive-name: religions/wicca/faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly (full moon)
Last-modified: 9 June 1995 (URL's added November 1996)
Anonymous FTP:

Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess; she in the dust of whose feet are
the hosts of heaven, and whose body encircles the universe:

"I who am the beauty of the green earth, and the white moon among the
stars, and the mystery of the waters, call unto thy soul: Arise, and
come unto me. For I am the soul of nature, who gives life to the
universe. From Me all things proceed, and unto Me all things must
return; and before My face, beloved of gods and of men, let thine
innermost divine self be enfolded in the rapture of the infinite. Let
My worship be within the heart that rejoices; for behold, all acts of love
and pleasure are My rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and
strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence
within you. And thou who thinkest to seek Me, know that thy seeking and
yearning shall avail thee not unless thou knowest the Mystery: that if
that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find
it without. For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; and I
am that which is attained at the end of desire."

- from Doreen Valiente's "Charge of the Goddess"

This list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) is designed as an
introduction to Wicca and to this newsgroup as well as a reference for
those investigating the religion of Wicca for the first time.

This FAQ was first composed in March 1995 as a composite of three drafts
by different authors: Lleu (, and Thanks to Lorax (tyagi nagasiva), Ounce, Karen, Janice
Barlow, Anthony Thompson, Daniel Cohen, Balachandra, Bruce Jones and C.M.
Joserlin ("Raven") for their helpful and thoughtful comments at various
stages of this project. Their views have enriched it greatly.

1 Introductions

1.1 What is this group for?
1.2 What is Wicca and how is it related to Paganism?

2 Basic Orientation

2.1 What are some common, basic beliefs in Wicca?
2.2 What god(desse)s do Wiccans worship?
2.3 What tools and rituals do you use?
2.4 Is there a set liturgy or liturgical calendar?
2.5 What is basic Wiccan thealogy?
2.6 What are Wiccan ethics, the "Wiccan Rede" and "three-fold law?"

3 Wiccan Beliefs and Practices

3.1 Can I be a Christian/ Jew/ Muslim/ Buddhist/ Taoist/ Astrologer/
Druid/ Shaman/ omnivore/ whatever and a Wiccan?
3.2 What are "dedication" and "initiation" in Wicca?
3.3 Do all Wiccans practice magic/k?
3.4 Is Wicca the same thing as witchcraft?
3.5 What were "the Burning Times?"
3.6 What are the origins of Wicca?
3.7 What are the major traditions in Wicca?
3.8 What is the "Book of Shadows?" Where do I get one?
3.9 What is a coven and how do I join one?
3.10 How do I witness about Jesus Christ to a Wiccan?
3.11 How do I learn more about Wicca?

4 Resources

4.1 Introductory books on Wicca
4.2 Other Internet Newsgroups
4.3 Wiccan Organizations
4.3 Wiccan Periodicals
4.4 Respected authors
4.5 Other Internet Resources

5 Copyright and Distribution Notice


1.1) What is this group for?

Established in December 1994, alt.religion.wicca is a Usenet
newsgroup for the discussion of Wicca, also known by some as Wicce,
Goddess Worship, the Old Religion, Witchcraft (with a capital "W") or
simply "the Craft."

1.2) What is Wicca and how is it related to Paganism?

"Wicca" is the name of a contemporary Neo-Pagan religion, largely
promulgated and popularized by the efforts of a retired British civil
servant named Gerald Gardner. In the last few decades, Wicca has spread
in part due to its popularity among feminists and others seeking a more
woman-positive, earth-based religion. Like most Neo-Pagan spiritualities,
Wicca worships the sacred as immanent in nature, drawing much of its
inspiration from the non-Christian and pre-Christian religions of Europe.
"Neo-Pagan" simply means "new pagan" (derived from the Latin _paganus_ ,
"country-dweller") and hearkens back to times before the spread of today's
major monotheistic (one god) religions. A good general rule is that most
Wiccans are Neo-Pagans but not all Pagans are Wiccans. Please consult
alt.pagan or the alt.pagan FAQ for more general information on Neo-Paganism.

2 Basic Orientation

2.1 What are some common, basic beliefs in Wicca?

In addition to its positive view of nature, many find Wicca more
welcoming of women than other religions, with an emphasis on personal
experience and a tolerance of other paths. As a whole, Wiccans value
balance with a respect for diverse complexity, seeing sexuality and
embodiment as essentially positive, spiritual gifts. There is a sense of
personal connection to the divine life source, which is open to contact
through "psychic power," mysticism or "natural magic."

2.2 What god(desse)s do Wiccans worship?

Although some Wiccans focus on particular gods from particular world
mythologies, Wiccans may worship many god(desse)s by many different names.
Most worship some form of the Great Goddess and Her consort, The Horned
God. Such duo-theistic forces are often conceived as embodying
complementary polarities, not in opposition. In some traditions worship
of the Goddess is emphasized, although in others the Goddess and God are
seen as complementary co-equals. The Goddess and God may be seen as
associated with certain things (such as the Goddess with the earth or
moon, God with sun and wildlife, etc), but there are no hard and fast
rules. Some traditions worship the Goddess alone while others see
Divinity as essentially beyond human understanding, with "Goddess" and
"God" simply a convenient shorthand.

2.3 What tools and rituals do you use?

Some ritual items are common to almost every Wiccan tradition, such
as the athame (ritual knife) and chalice (ritual cup). Others may be used
by some traditions but not others: bells, brooms, candles, cauldrons,
cords, drums, incense, jewelry, special plates, pentacles, scourges,
statues, swords, staves and wands. The meaning of these items, their use
and manufacture will differ among traditions and individuals. Usually a
Wiccan ritual will involve some sort of creation of sacred space (casting
a circle), invocation of divine power, sharing of dance/song/food or wine
and a thankful farewell and ceremonial closing. Rituals may be held at
Wiccan "sabbats" or "esbats" (see below) or to mark life transitions such
as births, coming-of-age, marriages/handfastings, housewarmings, healings,
deaths or other rites of passage.

2.4 Is there a set liturgy or liturgical calendar?

Most Wiccans mark eight holiday "sabbats" in the "wheel of the year,"
falling on the solstices, equinoxes and the four "cross-quarter days" on
or about the first of February, May, August and November. The names of
the sabbats may differ between traditions, and many Wiccans also mark
"esbats," rituals for worship in accordance with a given moon phase (such
as the night of the full moon). Although there is no one source for all
Wiccan liturgy, many liturgical items such as the methods for casting the
circle, the "Charge of the Goddess," certain myths and formulaic
expressions are common to many traditions. Some common formulaic
expressions include "hail and welcome/farewell," "blessed be" (sometimes
abbreviated on the net as B*B) and the closing "Merry meet and merry part,
and merry meet again." There is no one bible or book of common prayer for
all Wiccans, however, and great value is placed on creativity, poetry and
the artful integration of different myths and ritual elements.

2.5 What is basic Wiccan thealogy?

Some myths and associations are common to many Wiccan traditions,
such as the Goddess' giving birth to the Horned God, the theme of their
courtship and His death, the descent of the Goddess into the realm of
death and others. Another thealogical point held in common by many
Wiccans is the *immanence* of deity/divinity within the natural world,
self and cycle of the seasons. This places value on the earth and this
world, as distinguished from views of transcendent divinity and an
unenchanted creation. Wiccans as a whole are very much "into" cycles: of
life, of the moon and seasons. Cyclical change as an erotic dance of life,
death and rebirth is a popular theme in Wiccan imagery, ritual and
liturgy. (_Thea_ is Greek for "goddess," by the way, so "thealogy" is not
a typo here, but a way of emphasizing the Goddess.)

Although it may be foolhardy to compare things as complex as
religions, people do. Many Wiccans distinguish themselves from Satanists,
for example, in preferring complementary views of divinity to adversarial
ones. Others may note their own comfort and embrace of ambiguity and
polytheism (many gods). Unlike the Jewish, Christian or Islamic
traditions, there is little emphasis on interpretation of "scripture" or a
revealed text. Although many Wiccans may believe in some sort of
reincarnation, they may distinguish themselves from Buddhists in seeing
life as a journey or adventure without any desire to "leave the wheel" of
return. Like Hindus, Wiccans may pride themselves on their tolerance for
other paths, like Buddhists they may value personal insight and like
Taoists they may seek to align themselves more perfectly with nature.
Some Wiccans may separate themselves from the "New Age" in their value for
both "light" and "dark" aspects of existence, a do-it-yourself attitude
and a distrust of money or hierarchies of "enlightenment" which seem to
place spirituality up for sale.

2.6 What are Wiccan ethics, the "Wiccan Rede" and "three-fold law?"

Wiccan ethics are seldom codified in a legalistic way, but may be
informed by some common expressions such as the "Wiccan Rede" and the
"three-fold law." According to most versions of the three-fold law,
whatever one does comes back to one thrice-multiplied, in amplified
repercussion. One short, rhymed version of the Wiccan Rede states "Eight
words the Wiccan Rede fulfill: An it harm none, do what you will." Often
"none" is interpreted to include the doer themself in analogy to the
"golden rule" of other faiths. There are no universal proscriptions
regarding food, sex, burial or military service and Wiccans, as a rule,
discourage proselytization (attempts to convert others to a different

3 Wiccan Beliefs and Practices

3.1 Can I be a Christian/ Jew/ Muslim/ Buddhist/ Taoist/ Astrologer/
Druid/ Shaman/ omnivore/ whatever and a Wiccan?

Since much of Wicca is more worldview and ceremonial practice than
anything else, there is no Wiccan proscription of such things. Most
traditions have no requirement to denounce any other faith and, indeed,
Wiccans often look askance at "one true wayisms" which claim to have a
monopoly on truth, divine revelation or enlightenment. "Christian
Wiccans" probably face the largest skepticism, however, given the history
and ongoing reality of allegedly "Christian" persecution.

Prejudice (fear of job-loss, child-custody challenges, ridicule,
vandalism and even violence) may still keep many Wiccans "in the broom
closet," with concealment and dual observances a traditional Wiccan
defense against persecution. This may make contact with Wiccans
difficult in some areas. Since Wiccan worship is fairly active by its
nature, non-participating observers are rarely invited to Wiccan rituals.

3.2 What are "dedication" and "initiation" in Wicca?

These things mean different things in different traditions. Usually
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MessaggioOggetto: Re: Wicca nature religion   Lun 12 Ott 2009 - 16:24

"dedication" ceremonially marks the beginning of Wiccan study, while
"initiation" may mark full membership in a coven/tradition (such as after
"a year and a day") or may indicate elevation in skill or to special
clergy status. Some traditions look on all initiates as co-equal clergy,
while others have grades or "degrees" of initiation, which may be marked
by distinct sacramental ceremonies, duties or expectations within the

Some people claim that "only a Witch can make a Witch," whereas
others say that only the Goddess and God or demonstrated skill can make a
witch. Doreen Valiente was initiated by Gardner himself, but slyly asks
"who initiated the first witch?" Valiente and others assert that those
who choose to "bootstrap" a coven into existence (by an initial
initiation) or to use self-initiation may do so, citing the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. Self-dedications are also quite common among
new practitioners and solitary Wiccans ("solitaries").

3.3 Do all Wiccans practice magic/k?

That depends on what one means by magic. The occultist Aleister
Crowley helped re-popularize archaic spellings such as "magick", terming
his "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with
Will." Others may think of magic as folk parapsychology or see the
changes wrought as primarily changes in consciousness. Ceremonialists may
distinguish between the "high magick" of ritual observance and the "low
magic" of practical spells (such as for protection and health). Almost
all Wiccans, however, have some sort of ceremony or psychological practice
to better attune themselves with divinity, encouraging insight and a sense
of efficacy. Others may cast love spells or other curses but no, we don't
do it for strangers on the net and no, we don't confuse this with stage

3.4 Is Wicca the same thing as witchcraft?

The short answer is no. Many cultures have a negative word like
"witchcraft," often viewing it as a malevolent, supernatural tool used by
the weak, old or malicious. Some people use the term "witchcraft" to
cover more general skills, such as counseling, the occult and herbcraft.
Some Wiccans call themselves "Witches," capitalizing it as a gesture of
solidarity with the victims of the Burning Times, but this is a personal
decision. Although many Wiccans today may cast spells and practice
magic/k, these are not considered an integral part of Wicca by all
Wiccans. Wicca is not traditional folk magic and all magic is not
necessarily Wiccan, anymore than all people who pray belong to any
particular religion.

3.5 What were "the Burning Times?"

"The Burning Times" is the term used by many modern Neo-Pagans and
feminists to refer to the great European witch-hunts of the early modern
period, coincident with the time of the reformation and seen by many as a
crucial step in Christianity's crushing of the Pagan religions, driving
these underground. Some authors claim as many as ten million people were
killed in these hunts, while more recent scholarship puts the number of
documented deaths at 20-100 thousands, 80-90% of these women. Sometimes
these numbers are doubled to account for non-judicial killings and deaths
from torture, suicide, etcetera. Whatever the numbers, however, victims
of these hunts are perceived as martyrs by Wiccans today, with the lessons
of intolerance, misogyny and religious terror clearly noted.

3.6 What are the origins of Wicca?

This is a matter of some debate within Wiccan circles. Some Wiccans
see their inspiration and traditions as coming directly from the gods.
Certain Wiccan mythology holds that Wicca has come down from the stone
age, surviving persecution in secret covens for hundreds of years. Others
say that their Wicca is a long-held family tradition (or "fam trad"),
passed down through villages and grandmothers. Aidan Kelly argues that
modern Wicca was largely pieced together by Gerald Gardner from Margaret
Murray, Charles Leland and other sources, with significant revisions by
Doreen Valiente (and others), beginning in 1939. Whatever its origins,
Wicca today is a vibrant, modern religion, open to change, creativity and

3.7 What are the major traditions in Wicca and where do they come from?

Aidan Kelly argues that all of Wicca derives from Gerald Gardner,
with some crucial editing and revision by his initiate Doreen Valiente.
Alex Sanders is widely thought to have acquired a Gardnerian book of
shadows, with which he started his own "Alexandrian" tradition, initiating
Janet and Stewart Farrar. Other well-known traditions include Raymond
Buckland's Seax Wicca, Victor and Cora Anderson's Faery Wicca and feminist
Dianic Wicca, which emphasizes the Goddess as put forward by such authors
as Zsuzsanna Budapest. There are also branches of Wicca identifying
themselves with various ethnicities and traditions such as druidism,
shamanism and so forth.

3.8 What is the "Book of Shadows?" Where do I get one?

The Book of Shadows (or "BoS") is sort of a customized reference book
for Wiccans, containing useful information such as myths, liturgical
items, one's own writings or records of dreams and magical workings.
According to Gerald Gardner, such a book should be handcopied from teacher
to student but in practice not every Wiccan has a "book of shadows" and
few are exactly alike. Sometimes only initiates are allowed access to a
tradition's book, or it may be called by a different name, such as "mirror
book," "magical diary" or "grimoire." There are many "books of shadows"
available in print and on-line (leading to the "disk of shadows" or even
"directories of shadows" several megabytes large). If you'd like to copy
from these sources for your personal use, you may assemble your own book,
but please observe copyright laws in your newfound enthusiasm.

3.9 What is a coven and how do I join one?

The coven is the basic, cellular "congregation" for some Wiccans, but is
often very formal, selective and closed, aiming for an ideal of "perfect
love and perfect trust" among members. Most Wiccans begin in less formal
ways such as attending festivals, public rituals, classes or more open
groups (often called "circles"). Many Wiccans probably begin and continue
practice as "solitaries," whether before, after or while a member of a
coven. Solitary practice is a valid "tradition" in the Craft, but some
good places to find other Wiccans are on the net, at public Pagan events or
through occult, political or "new age" bookstores.

3.10 How do I witness about Jesus Christ to a Wiccan?

First of all, please don't do it here. Alt.religion.wicca is
explicitly for discussions on Wicca and Wiccan practice: evangelical
posters are not welcome. Those posting and reading here are adults, many
of whom are or have been Christians, have read a bible, heard of Jesus and
considered their beliefs as seriously as you have yours. The more you
know about Wicca, however, the more intelligent you will seem and you are
certainly welcome here as long as you remain on-topic. Reading this FAQ
is a good first step, and in general it is a good idea to "lurk" and read
for a while before posting to ANY newsgroup. Please keep in mind,
however, Wicca's distrust of proselytization and its conscious lack of an
evangelical tradition. Posts which claim we are all going to hell or
blather about TRUE POWER!!! [IN ALL-CAPS!!!] are particularly
inappropriate, and may be answered with e-mail complaints to you and/or
your service provider.

3.11 How do I learn more about Wicca?

Sticking around and reading this group is one way, as are books and local
contacts. Below is a list of initial resources, beginning with the books
most frequently recommended, two historical books and a few well-respected
authors. At least a few of these should be available through your local
library, and most are easily ordered through any local bookstore. All
contain bibliographies and pointers towards other material.

4 Resources

4.1 Introductory books on Wicca

Margot ADLER, _Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers
and Other Pagans in America Today_ (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979). Second,
1986 edition, ISBN 0-8070-3253-0. Newest Arkana ISBN 0-14-019536-X.

STARHAWK, _The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the
Great Goddess_ (San Franciscso: Harper & Row, 1979). Second, 1989
edition, ISBN 0-06-250816-4.

Scott CUNNINGHAM, _Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner_ (St Paul,
MN: Llewellyn, 1992). ISBN 0-87542-118-0.

Stewart FARRAR, _What Witches Do: A Modern Coven Revealed_ 1983 (Custer
WA: Phoenix, 1989). ISBN 0-919345-17-4.

Silver RAVENWOLF, _To Ride a Silver Broomstick: New Generation Witchcraft_
(St Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1993). ISBN 0-87542-791-X.

Aidan A. KELLY, _Crafting the Art of Magic: A History of Modern Witchcraft,
1939-1964_ (St Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1991). ISBN 0-87542-370-1.

Ronald HUTTON, _The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their
Nature and Legacy_ (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991). Paperback ISBN

Other authors who are generally well thought of include Amber K.,
Zsuzsanna Budapest, Janet and Stewart Farrar, Gerald Gardner, Jade and
Doreen Valiente.

4.2 Other Usenet Newsgroups that may be of interest

alt.pagan soc.religion.paganism alt.religion.shamanism
alt.magick alt.religion.druid soc.religion.shamanism
alt.mythology alt.religion.asatru talk.religion.misc
alt.divination alt.magick.tyagi talk.religion.newage
alt.tarot alt.satanism alt.pagan.magick

4.3 Wiccan/Neo-Pagan Umbrella Organizations

Covenant of the Goddess, PO Box 1226, Berkeley CA 94704, United States.
Universal Federation of Pagans, PO Box 6006, Athens GA 30604, USA.
New Wiccan Church (Gard/Alex), PO Box 162046, Sacramento CA 95816, USA.
Witches Against Religious Discrimination, PO Box 5967, Providence RI 02903.
Alliance for Magical & Earth Religions, PO Box 16551, Clayton MO 63105, USA
Military WARD, PO Box 2610, McKinleyville CA 95521-2610, United States.
The Pagan Federation (British, address same as for _Pagan Dawn_, below).
Circle Network (address same as _Circle Network News_, below_).

4.4 Established Wiccan/Neo-Pagan Periodicals

Green Egg, PO Box 1542, Ukiah CA 95482-1542, United States.
Circle Network News, PO Box 219, Mt Horeb WI 53572, United States.
Enchante, 30 Charlton St #6F, New York NY 10014-4295, United States.
Pagan Dawn (formerly The Wiccan), BM Box 7097, London WC1N 3XX, U.K.
Beltane Papers, 1333 Lincoln St #240, Bellingham WA 98226, United States.

4.5 Other Internet Resources

Other resource lists are posted to this group from time to time,
including lists of FTP sites, WWW urls, offers of materials and reference
files. Among those we found particularly useful in writing this FAQ (and
explicitly tried *not* to duplicate or replace here) are the US Army
"Chaplain's Manual" entry on Wicca and the alt.pagan newsgroup FAQ. Both
are recommended for those with further interest in Wicca and Neo-Paganism,
as are the Yahoo pages on Paganism, Wicca and Witchcraft:

5 Copyright and Distribution Notice

Doreen Valiente retains copyrights to all her copyrighted material, but
the rest of this FAQ is in the public domain as a service and gift of the
Goddess. We ask all who distribute it to keep it intact and attribute it
when quoted or reproduced elsewhere.

This FAQ is posted to alt.religion.wicca once each full moon, and
to other forums as seems appropriate. It is also available on the
World Wide Web and by anonymous FTP as noted in the header.

* "Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill: An it harm none, do as you will" *
--- end of file, Alt.Religion.Wicca FAQ, 469 lines with URLs ---
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Numero di messaggi : 2141
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MessaggioOggetto: Re: Wicca nature religion   Lun 12 Ott 2009 - 16:46

The Works of Margaret Murray
The Witch Cult in Western Europe [1921]


Notes on Margaret Murray
by J.B. Hare
Revised 1/17/2001
The books of Margaret Murray, which appear on the Internet for the first time here at sacred-texts, are ground zero for the modern pagan revival. Murray was one of the first to objectively review the evidence of the 'burning times' witch trials to try to extract a kernel of truth.

If you are a Wiccan or Neopagan and want to understand the intellectual background of the movement, you need to be familiar with Murray's hypothesis. It is important to review the documentary evidence (which she provides in great detail) for yourself, and draw your own conclusions.

Murray had an original approach to the witch trials; she decided to treat the testimony of the accused witches as ethnographic data. The ethnographic approach attempts to analyze the statements of the participants in a culture without prejudice, no matter how how illogical or repulsive they may seem to one's own cultural viewpoint. Eventually Murray put together a framework which explained all of the witchcraft testimony in a very literal way.

The puzzle she was trying to solve was this: why, in an age when there was no mass communication, was the testimony of the witch trials so consistent? Time and again, the women and men accused of witchcraft confessed the same bizarre story: that they had signed a pact with the devil (in person) which was sealed by being tattooed, that they had participated in orgiastic nocturnal ceremonies where they had ritual sexual contact with the devil and other witches, that they had magical powers such as levitation, control over the fertility of humans, animals and fields, and so on, with certain specific details repeated across social and geographic boundaries ad nauseum.

Until Murray, it was believed that this was the result of answers to leading questions, extracted under torture by the witch hunters. It was believed that the witch hunters were 'on the same page' because they all used certain texts such as the ' Malleus Malificarum' ('the Hammer of Witches'), which is a perverse textbook describing how to ferret out witches.

Murray, upon examination of the evidence, concluded that as barbaric as the witch trials were, they were conducted according to long-established legal procedures; that there was material evidence, witnesses corroborated each other, and (perhaps most tellingly) that not all confessions were extracted under torture. In some cases the accused testified willingly. They even went to their deaths unrepentantly insisting that their faith was the true religion and Christianity was false.

Murray's hypothesis was that there was an underground nature religion in Europe which originated in the Neolithic and survived well into the 18th Century. This 'cult' (by which she simply means a belief system without any of the overtones which are popularly assigned to the word) had a cell structure like most underground movements. Murry believed that it was not a goddess religion, at least in the form it survived in during the modern era, although it was not totally male-dominated.

The witches worshiped a horned male god; however women were on a fairly equal footing with men and could rise to leadership roles. Its leader dressed up in an animal costume; when the leader conducted ceremonies dressed in this costume he (or she) was treated as the incarnation of the horned god. In this form the leader of the coven was called called the 'Devil' by Christians, simply known as 'God' by the witches. So when a witch described meeting 'the Devil' in a confession, there was in actuality nothing supernatural happening; this simply meant that they were meeting the leader of their coven dressed up in an animal costume.

This is understandably a controversial proposal; it was so when Murray published her first book, the Witch Cult in Western Europe, in 1921 (at a time when witchcraft was still illegal in Britain). To this day it still arouses fierce debate among the Neopagan intellegensia.

The most controversial aspect of Murray's hypothesis was that the witch cult performed rituals involving human sacrifice and cannibalism (particuarly of unbaptised infants). Naturally this is a very sensitive issue for modern Neopagans, whose practices most emphatically do not include child abuse or human sacrifice, despite what a small but vocal group of (admittedly non-mainstream) Christians claim. For a debunking of the modern witch hunters see this document.

It is hardly neccesary to point out that the medieval Inquisition made identical accusations against Jews. Of course these accusations were and are absurd. It is easy to confirm that there are no such practices by Jews and never have been. It is harder to confirm anything about this hypothetical underground witch cult, since we don't know specifically what they believed or practiced, other than second-hand information extracted mostly under duress.

It is known the ancient mystery religions (of which ancient Christianity is only one example) were based on a mythological cycle about the death and rebirth of a sun-god, as described in great detail in Sir James Frazers' the Golden Bough. This may have been enacted in an actual ritual at some point involving human sacrifice and cannibalism, which softened at a later date to a symbolic ceremony where proxies were used. It has also been pointed out that the rituals Murray described have similarities to ceremonies practised in other parts of the world (such as certain archaic Tantric rituals); this information was not available to Murray at the time, so it tends to support her.

Another controversial aspect of her thesis was her assertion that there were covens of witches very highly placed in the court of James VI, who tried to use magic and poison to assasinate the King; and advance the cause of their leader, Francis Stewart, the Earl of Bothwell, who was a successor to the throne of Scotland, and potentially of England. Murray also hypothesized that Joan of Arc and her companion Giles de Rais were avatars of the witch god, ritually assasinated at the end of their reigns.

Murray's interpretation of history is not provable by the strict standards of the historian. She was highly selective about which historical evidence she utilized, which left her open for criticism by the academic establishment.

Murray also proposed that Fairies (and Elves, Dwarves, Brownies, etc.) were an actual subculture of (full-sized, if slightly stunted by their diet) human beings who lived secretively in the British Isles, persecuted along with the witches. She speculated that the Fairies were a survival of a pastoralist neolithic culture. This culture survived, like the Romany (Gypsy) people, on the periphery, avoiding contact with the dominant culture. The fairy hills of legend were descriptions of their underground residences. They were later converted into the 'wee folk' of legend by Shakespeare, and the folklorists. One interesting aspect of her hypothesis about Faries is that they appeared to have a matriarchial culture. She presents incidental documentary evidence for the existence of a subterranian fairy race, but to my knowledge there is no actual material evidence. I am unaware of any other scholar, either in academia or Wiccan circles, who wholeheartedly endorses this hypothesis about the Fairies.

As for levitation, Murray noted that the witches used herbal ungents which contained known hallucinogens before 'flying', which would have produced ecstatic effects. In addition, the description of the witches' ceremonials included prolonged dancing. It is now known that Shamans used similar techniques, resulting in altered mental states including the sensation of flying. This portion of the hypothesis has been corroborated by other scholars.

As Margot Adler has pointed out in her contemporary book, Drawing Down the Moon, it may be Murray's age in addition to her role as an outspoken academic iconoclast which has caused her ideas to be treated with disdain to the present day. Murray was in her sixties when 'Witch Cult' was published. It might reasonably be argued that her gender has caused academia to ignore her as well. She responded to her noteriety with typical British reserve in the preface to her popularization God of the Witches, published in 1933:

"I have received many letters containing criticisms, some complimentary, some condemnatory, of that book [the Witch Cult in Western Europe]. If other correspondents honour me with similar private criticisms of the present volume, I ask of them that they will sign their communications, even when the opinions they express are adverse. Anonymous letters, of which I received a number, reflect no credit on their writers."
Indeed, we received a flurry of anxious emails after we posted this work at sacred-texts, several quite hostile, in specific, to Murray's Joan of Arc thesis. There are several other 'disgraced' authors' books enshrined here at sacred-texts, e.g. Atlantis, The Antidiluvian World, none have which have elicited any personal hate mail (at least yet...). In any case, I have re-edited this essay based on some of the more rational feedback.

This little ripple from one stone thrown into the pond of western thought has in time grown into a tidal wave. Selective portions of Murray's thesis were used as a basis for the Neopagan doctrine of Gerald Gardner. Other influences on Gardner and his circle were Robert Graves' The White Goddess and Charles Lelands' Aradia, which added a Goddess-oriented component.

Whether or not Murrays literalistic intepretation of the Witch trial evidence is correct, whether or not all Neopagans accept all of her views, Murrays' ideas are at the basis of modern Neopaganism, and as such deserve serious study, as well as a healthy dose of critical thinking.


This page Copyright © 2000 J.B. Hare. Redistribution or reposting requires permission of the author.

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