Spiritualism and Witchcraft

I am currently rereading The Meaning of Witchcraft by Gerald Gardner. I know I read his book Witchcraft Today about 30 years ago, and I am pretty sure that I read The Meaning of Witchcraft around that time too. His theory of the survival of witchcraft must have seemed pretty convincing to his earliest readers; and provided we do not assume that what survived was a full-blown Pagan religion, or an organized cult, then a lot of his ideas still hold water: namely, the impulses behind the earliest forms of religion and and magic, and how and why people might resort to magical practices even when they were officially frowned upon and then persecuted.

Whilst reading it, I came upon a passage that I found intriguing; it was a reference to a discussion of witchcraft and black magic in Parliament, together with the date and who said what. Here it is (page 13):

As you might imagine, I was curious to find out what was the context of the discussion which gave rise to this attempt to define “black magic”. So I looked it up in Hansard, the official record of the British Parliament, to find out. The interesting thing is that Hansard records other MPs’ interruptions, but it does not record the laughter and ironical cheers; so I would imagine that it was recounted in a newspaper of the day and Gardner must have kept a press cutting. The relevant section is about halfway down the linked-to page, under the heading “House, Brixton (Police Visit)”.

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The Ardanes

I was not passed the Ardanes, so I have never recognized them as part of my Craft. However, they are of historical interest. Not because I believe them to have been written (or at least compiled) any earlier than the 20th century, but because of the light they shed upon the ideas of early Wiccans as to how the Craft could be organized.

It is fairly widely believed that Gardner wrote them, or at least compiled them from a collection of earlier ideas which he presumably picked up from the New Forest Coven, in 1957. Doreen Valiente and other members of the coven had produced a set of Craft laws in an attempt to curb Gerald Gardner’s enthusiasm for publicity, in particular his interviews with some of the more sensationalist newspapers. In response, Gerald produced the Ardanes.

Doreen Valiente et al’s Proposed Rules for the Craft (see Appendix below) are very sensible and apart from items 9, 10, 11, and 12, which would be rather impractical due to the very large number of Wiccans these days, are mostly adhered to in practice.

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The Wiccan Rede

The concept of the Wiccan Rede is frequently and widely misunderstood and misquoted. The full version is “An it harm none, do what thou wilt”. (If it harms no one, do what you want / do your True Will.) I have written about this before but haven’t devoted an entire blogpost to it.

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