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 Wicca 101 Series - Third Installment: History in Brief

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Join date : 2009-11-30
Age : 37
Location : Minneapolis, MN, USA

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PostSubject: Wicca 101 Series - Third Installment: History in Brief   Wicca 101 Series - Third Installment: History in Brief Icon_minitimeThu Dec 10, 2009 12:55 am

A Brief History of Modern Wicca

Keep in mind there's plenty here that lots of people disagree with, some very vehemently. I encourage all who read this to do their own research, getting as scholarly as possible. With that in mind, I can tell you that what follows is the history as my parents (Gardnerian initiates since 1986, Coven leaders since ca. 1990) have always explained it, their sources being their own training and independent research.

Gerald Brosseau Gardner, a British civil servant, claimed that at some time in the early 1930s, he came upon a Witchcraft Family Tradition (or FamTrad) practicing in the New Forest area of England. He was later granted admittance to this Coven, having proved to the High Priestess' satisfaction that he had "Witch Blood," that a blood ancestor of his was a Witch of some kind or another (he did not claim a direct, unbroken lineage of parent-to-child teachings of Witchcraft from this ancestor, however, simply that this ancestor existed and was a Witch). This was necessary because, at that time, not only was Witchcraft illegal in England, but also closed off to those not "of the Blood.”

As time passed, Gardner saw his Coven mates growing older, and their children uninterested in taking up the practices. He didn't want to see these beliefs die out, so with permission from his High Priestess, he began to write fiction inspired by his beliefs and experiences (High Magick's Aid and A Goddess Arrives). When the anti-Witchcraft laws were finally repealed in 1951 and replaced with the Fraudulent Mediums Act, he published non-fiction books on the subject (The Meaning of Witchcraft and Witchcraft Today). He used these books as a way to get the word out, to attract the right sorts of people to him so that they could become his students.

In order to teach others, though, Gardner needed a different way to say what his path taught; as was a requisite of his Coven, he had taken an oath not to reveal certain specifics of the Coven's practices. Additionally, Gardner also said he did not receive complete materials, being that much of the FamTrad was oral and performed by rote and from memory, as opposed to being written down. As such, parts of it were unfortunately, naturally lost over time. So, passing down his learnings as they stood would have been impossible at worst, and impractical at best.

But how to avoid breaking his oaths and still teach the Witchcraft he knew? First, Gardner obtained permission from his High Priestess to move forward with this endeavor, and then he set about finding new ways and words to express the same ideas, which he did by reading the works of other occultists (and in some cases, joining other occult orders, such as the Freemasons and the Order of the Golden Dawn), researching cultural anthropology and other related subjects, and drawing from his many travels to India.

Gardner may also have based what are now the Gardnerian Tradition's rituals on what he'd already been practicing, but unless a very unethical member of his FamTrad comes forward, we won't know exactly. However, I do feel safe in saying that his intention was retain the same feel, evoke the same emotions and experiences, and impart the lessons in similar fashion as his FamTrad, and that he would not have began teaching what we now know as Wicca unless he felt his work had in fact achieved those aims.

With these changes, Gardner was able to begin teaching non-hereditary seekers, and his body of works became known as the Gardnerian Tradition of Wicca. This Tradition has in turn inspired other Traditions and become the foundation of all of modern Wicca as it is known today, as well as influencing other forms of modern Paganism.
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