Did you ever stop and wonder about your Wiccan religion, and just where it
did come from?
Oh, we all know our mythology well. We know the tales that "once upon a time" there was a peaceful, Goddess-worshipping society which extended over all lands. A society without conflict in a Golden Age of existence. Then out of the deserts came these patriarchal, God-worshipping, violent tribes, and everything changed. And finally, there were the Burning Times, the last attempt of those that denied the pagan ways to gain control over the last vestiges of the Old Religion. But of course, we all know that the Old Religion did not die. It merely went underground, meeting secretly until Gerald Gardner was initiated by old Granny Clutterbuck and brought it back into the light of day.
Well, it is certainly a nice story to tell around the fires at night, and every religion has its own myths and stories. But ask yourself two questions, is it true, and does it matter if it isn't.
In answering the first question, let me point out that there is absolutely no scholarly evidence that the myth has any basis in fact. The old sources, such as Margaret Murray's "God of the Witches" have been found to be poorly researched and largely invented. Murray was a friend of Gerald Gardner's and a fellow member of the English Folklore Society, and it appears from more recent investigation that she was prone to finding facts that could be made to support the outcomes she wanted. If you would like to read some well researched works on the subject, I would recommend Ronald Hutton's books "The Stations of the Sun", "The Rise and Fall of Merry England", and "Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles". Be ready to lose a lot of treasured beliefs if you do though.
From the best that anyone can prove, Gerald Gardner invented modern Wicca using bits and pieces of folklore, ceremonial magic, spiritualism, and odds and ends. So our Old Religion appears to be no older than about 50 years old. But just to keep a bit of mystery in the subject... recent review of the records in London has shown that there was a woman named Dorothy Clutterbuck who was born in India, was the right age to be the woman who initiated Gardner, and who was living in the right area of England at the time that Gardner was there.
So where does that leave us. Well, you can always go on taking the myth at face value.
Or you can ask yourself again whether it really matters if we can trace our line back to Oog and Ug, drawing pictures on a cave wall.
Be honest with yourself. We aren't practicing the same religion our ancestors practiced. I follow a Celtic path, but I certainly don't practice human sacrifice or read the future in the entrails of a sheep. In many cases, such as the Celts, no one knows how they practiced their religion since none of it was ever written down.
What we do share with our ancestors is our belief in the male and female aspects of Divinity, our belief that the Divine is immanent in this world, and the belief that all of creation is sacred. We try to re-acquire the connectedness with the natural world which they had, and which we have lost over the millenia. We try to restore the tribal values where each person is a valued member of the community and where we care for and about each other. We still meet the God and Goddess face to face in our meditations, in our dreams, and sometimes in a crowded room. In the rush of the modern world towards its destruction of the environment and of humanity itself, this return to a connectedness with the land and each other may be the salvation of us all.
So does it matter if this isn't that Old Time Religion the myths say it is? I mean, every religion was new once upon a time! I say that if it meets your spiritual needs, if it connects you with the Divine, if it benefits the community, it doesn't matter whether a religion is a million years old or invented last Tuesday.
So go, dance around the fire, celebrate the turning of the year, tell the old tales. For now you are free to enjoy them.....
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Last updated June 29, 1998