People of Wicca
People of Wicca
Those who follow the Wiccan path are a diverse group of individualists who pride themselves on being members of a religious philosophy that is flexible and adaptive to the needs of contemporary society. Athough there is the sometimes fiery debate as to the true historical roots of the faith, most Wiccans believe that none of them can dictate to any other just exactly what it is that they must believe. In other words, rather than one great book of Wiccan beliefs, an ancient Book of Shadows dogmatically outlining creeds and ecclesiasticisms, there are many books by many men and women who carefully explain the belief structures, rites, and rituals of their particular expression of the craft.
While there were no doubt hereditary witches who quietly practiced the old ways, there was little said publicly about witchcraft in Great Britain and Europe until the beginning of the twentieth century—perhaps because of the grim historical records of the Inquisition and its terrible trials for heresy and witchcraft that tormented the collective unconscious of the religiously minded. Texts about witchcraft were published by Christian scholars, and portrayed the craft as devil worship or demonic possession. Then, in 1897, Charles Godfrey Leland (1824–1903), an American who moved to England in 1870 to study gypsy love, published Aradia: The Gospel of the Witches, which detailed the rites and beliefs of the old religion that centered upon Diana, the goddess of the moon, and her daughter, Aradia. Although the book presented the Sabbats, rituals, spells, charms, and practices of witchcraft from the viewpoint of its ancient practitioners, the book went largely unnoticed by either scholars or the general public.
However, a little over 20 years later, Dr. Margaret Alice Murray (1863–1963), an Egyptologist on staff at the University College in London, began researching the thesis that witchcraft was actually the remnant of an ancient pre-Christian fertility religion that had nothing to do with the Christian concept of a devil that the witches had allegedly worshipped and brought upon them the wrath of the church during the time of the burning, the Inquisition. Although Murray's work underscored the research of Leland, she seemed to have been unaware of his groundbreaking studies. However, it was her book, The Witch Cult in Western Europe (1962), that established a doctrine that would be maintained for many years—Wiccans were members of an ancient pre-Christian religion that once thrived and flourished openly and had then survived underground for many centuries.
Gerald Brosseau Gardner (1884–1964) is considered the father of all contemporary expressions of Wicca, and he became a well-known practitioner of the craft due to the many books that he published on the subject after the laws against practicing witchcraft were repealed in England in 1951. Gardner claimed to have been initiated into the famous New Forest Coven in 1939 by a traditional and hereditary witch named Dorothy Clutterbuck. In 1954, Gardner published Witchcraft Today, which continued the thesis espoused by Margaret Murray that witchcraft had existed since pre-Christian times but had gone underground to escape persecution. According to many researchers, Gardner almost singlehandedly revived—some say reinvented—the worship of the Mother Goddess and combined it with elements from several other metaphysical schools. Gardnerian witchcraft influenced many practitioners, including the colorful Sybil Leek (1923–1983), who, like so many after her would do, modified Gardner's rituals and teachings to fit her own style of Wicca.
The person responsible for the introduction and growth of modern witchcraft in North America was Raymond Buckland (1934– ), an Englishman who had emigrated to the United States in 1962. In 1963, Buckland traveled to Perth, Scotland, to be initiated into Wicca by Gardner's high priestess Lady Olwen and to meet Gardner. In 1966, Buckland established a museum of witchcraft in Long Island, New York. A prolific author of more than 30 books on Wicca and related subjects, Buckland founded Seax-Wica, a new branch of the craft, in 1973.
Gavin (1930– ) and Yvonne Frost (1931– ) formed the first Wiccan Church in 1968 and in 1972 gained federal recognition of witchcraft as a religion. In 1985, they convinced a federal appeals court that Wicca was a religion equal to any other.
Today's practitioners of Wicca are scientists, engineers, radio personalities, law enforcement officers, television stars, politicians, and the complete spectrum of active and productive men and women. There are associations, centers, festivals, gatherings, and hundreds of websites to satisfy both the serious and the curious regarding the practice of Wicca.
Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in America Today Boston: Beacon Press, 1986.
Buckland, Raymond. Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publica tions, 1987, 1997.
Gardner, Gerald B. The Meaning of Witchcraft. New York: Samuel Weiser, 1959.
Leland, Charles G. Aradia: The Gospel of the Witches. Reprint, New York: Buckland Museum of Witch craft and Magick, 1968.
Murray, Margaret Alice. The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962.
Margot Adler (1946– )
Margot Adler is the author of Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in America Today (1986) and Heretic's Heart: A Journey through Spirit and Revolution (1997). She received her B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1968, has a master's degree from Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1982. In the early 1970s, Adler hosted three free-form radio shows on Pacifica Radio—Hour of the Wolf, Unstuck in Time, and The Far Side of the Moon. All merged cutting-edge ideas in science, psychology, feminism, ecology, parapsychology, and spirituality.
Granddaughter of reknowned psychiatrist Alfred Adler (1870–1937), Margot Adler is currently the New York Bureau Chief and Correspondent for National Public Radio, where she has been a reporter since 1979. Her pieces air on All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, and Morning Edition. She also hosts a debate show on the U.S. Constitution that takes place before a live audience in Philadelphia. The show, Justice Talking, airs on many public radio stations.
A practicing pagan since 1971, and a priestess of Wicca since 1973, Adler co-led a Gardnerian coven and a New York pagan group for many years. In the 1990s and into the new millennium, she has led ritual workshops around the country, and speaks frequently on earth-based spirituality and other topics related to paganism, Wicca, and Goddess spirituality. Many of her workshops involve ecstatic singing, chanting, and seasonal celebrations.
Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in America Today. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986.
——.Heretic's Heart: A Journey through Spirit and Revolution. Boston: Beacon Press, 1997.
——. "A Time for Truth." beliefnet, [Online] http://www.beliefnet.com/story/40/story_4007.html.
Grimassi, Raven. Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 2000.
Philip Emmons (Isaac) Bonewits (1949– )
Philip Emmons (Isaac) Bonewits, priest, magician, scholar, author, bard, and activist, is best known for his leadership in modern Druidism and for his serious scholarship in the fields of the occult, metaphysics, and witchcraft. Born in Royal Oak, Michigan, the Bonewits family moved to Southern California when Isaac was nearly 12. His mother, a devout Roman Catholic, emphasized the importance of religion and hoped that Isaac might enter the priesthood. With an I.Q. tested at 200, Isaac went back and forth between parochial and public schools, largely due to the lack of programs for very bright students.
Bonewits's first exposure to real, rather than stage, magic came at age 13, when he met a young woman whose abilities as a practitioner of voodoo and as a diviner of the future convinced him that her abilities were genuine. After attending a Catholic high school seminary in ninth grade, Bonewits realized that he could not fulfill his mother's hope that he would become a Catholic priest. He graduated from public school a year early, spent a year in junior college, and enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley in 1966. It was at this time that he truly began practicing magic, creating his own rituals based on those that he was able to find in books.
Bonewits entered Berkeley as a psychology major but through the individual group study program was able to fashion his own course of
study. Robert Larson, Bonewits's roommate, introduced him to Druidism and initiated him into the Reformed Druids of North America. Bonewits was ordained as a Druid priest in October 1969. In 1970 he graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in magic and thaumaturgy, the first person to do so at a Western educational institution. The media attention revolving around Bonewits's degree resulted in his obtaining a book contract, and in 1971 Real Magic was published, presenting his insights on magic, ritual, and psychic abilities.
In 1973 Bonewits moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where he married folksinger Rusty Elliot, and where he assumed the editorship of Gnostica, a neopagan journal published by Carl Weschcke of Llewellyn Publications. The job lasted less than two years, but Bonewits remained in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for about another year and established a Druid grove called the Schismatic Druids of North America. During this same period, Bonewits combined interests with a number of Jewish pagans and created the Hasidic Druids of North America.
In 1973 he stated publicly that the alleged antiquity of Wicca could not be supported by historical data. Bonewits asserted that the craft as it was practiced in the twentieth century did not go back beyond Gerald B. Gardner and Doreen Valiente —no earlier than the 1920s. Although such views were controversial at the time, by 1983 many scholars within the field began to acknowledge that neopagan Wicca may well be a new religion, rather than the continuation of an old one.
In 1974–75, Bonewits founded the Aquarian Anti-Defamation League (AADL), a civil liberties organization for members of minority and alternative belief systems. Bonewits and his wife divorced in 1976, and he decided to return to Berkeley, where he was elected archdruid of the Reformed Druids of North America. After disagreements with longtime members, Bonewits left the organization, and the Druidic publication that he had established, The Druid Chronicler (later Pentalpha Journal ), soon folded without his involvement.
In 1979 he married Selene Kumin, but that relationship ended in 1982. In 1983 he was initiated into the New Reformed Order of the Golden Dawn, and in that same year he married actress Sally Eaton. Bonewits and Eaton became heavily involved in the California revival of the Ordo Templi Orientis, or "O.T.O.," best known for its most important historical figure, Aleister Crowley. In 1986 Bonewits and Eaton separated.
Bonewits worked for a few months as a computer consultant in Kansas City, then moved to New York with his intended fourth wife, Deborah Lipp, a Wiccan high priestess, whom he married in 1988. The couple conducted a Gardnerian Wiccan "Pagan Way" group in New York and New Jersey, and in 1990 their son Arthur Shaffrey Lipp-Bonewits was born at their home in Dumont, New Jersey.
In that same year, Bonewits began showing symptoms of Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome. Bonewits became unable to work or to perform archdruidic duties, resulting in his loss of employment in 1992 and his assumption of the archdruid emeritus title on January 1, 1996. Although Bonewits began to recover from the more debilitating effects of the disease in 1997, the long bouts of convalescence had caused damage to his marriage with Deborah, and in 1998 they separated. Bonewits has resumed a schedule of writing and lecturing and remains a potent force in the neopagan community.
Bonewits, Isaac. Real Magic. New York: Coward, McCann & Georghegan, 1971.
Guiley, Rosemary. The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. New York: Facts on File, 1989.
"Isaac Bonewits." [Online] http://www.neopagan.net. 12 February 2002.
Raymond Buckland (1934– )
Born in London on August 31, 1934, Raymond Buckland emigrated from England to the United States in February 1962 and was responsible for the introduction of contemporary witchcraft into the United States at that time. Buckland's father was Stanley Thomas Buckland, married to Eileen Lizzie Wells. His father was a higher executive officer in the British Ministry of Health. In his spare time Stanley Buckland wrote, and had published, plays, short stories, poetry, and music, and he influenced and encouraged Raymond in the same pursuits.
At the age of 12, Buckland was introduced to Spiritualism by his father's brother, George, a Spiritualist. This led Buckland, an avid reader, to investigate that subject and to move on to such related subjects as ghosts, ESP, magick, witchcraft, voodoo, and the occult generally. Over time his interest focused on witchcraft.
Buckland was educated at Nottingham Boys High School, then at King's College School, Wimbledon. He holds a doctorate in anthropology from Brantridge Forest College, in Sussex. He served in the Royal Air Force from 1957 to 1959. His first job was as an engineering draftsman; then, after his stint in the R.A.F., he went to work for a London publishing firm. He taught himself to play the trombone and, for several years, led a Dixieland-style jazz band called "Count Rudolph's Syncopated Jazz Men," in his spare time playing regularly at the Piccadilly Jazz Club, Baker Street Jazz Club, and other venues.
In 1955 Buckland married Rosemary Moss and they had two sons—Robert and Regnauld. The family emigrated to the United States in 1962, settling in Brentwood, Long Island, New York. Buckland went to work for BOAC (now British Airways), which enabled him to travel extensively. He stayed with the airline for 10 years.
The Buckland family—nominally Church of England—was not particularly religious, but Buckland's reading drew him to witchcraft. He was greatly influenced by Margaret Murray's books The Witch Cult in Western Europe (1921) and God of the Witches (1952) and by Gerald Gardner's Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959). Entering into a mail and telephone correspondence with Gardner, Buckland eventually was introduced to Gardner's high priestess, Lady Olwen (Monique Wilson), who initiated him into Wicca in Perth, Scotland, in December 1963. Buckland had finally got to meet Gardner just prior to that, before Gardner left for what was to be his final voyage to Lebanon. Buckland had become Gardner's spokesman in the United States, with Gardner forwarding to Buckland any mail he received from the U.S.
Buckland's craft name was Robat. With his wife, who became the Lady Rowen, they established the first contemporary witchcraft coven in the United States, building and expanding on it slowly and cautiously. With Gardner's books going out of print, Buckland took it upon himself to write his first book on the craft, Witchcraft from the Inside, which was published by Llewellyn Publications in 1971. Buckland then dedicated his life to straightening the misconceptions of witchcraft, speaking on the subject and writing articles. Initially he tried to remain anonymous but a newspaper reporter went back on her word and published his name and address. Despite the resulting physical and verbal attacks on him and his family, Buckland continued his work.
Inspired by Gerald Gardner's museum, Buckland gathered artifacts over the years and, in 1966, opened America's first museum of witchcraft and magic, first in the basement of his home, then in an old Victorian building in Bay Shore, Long Island. The museum was successful; being featured in numerous national magazine and newspaper articles, and was the subject of a television documentary. At various times a selection of artifacts was loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and to other museums.
Buckland had his first article published when he was 12 years old. In 1969 A Pocket Guide to the Supernatural, his first book, was published by Ace Books. By the mid-1970s, with the breakup of his marriage to Rosemary, Buckland handed over leadership of the Gardnerian coven to a couple on Long Island and moved, with his museum, to Weirs Beach, New Hampshire. There he married his second wife, Joan Taylor.
By 1973 Buckland had determined that Gardnerian Wicca did not totally fulfill his religious requirements. He founded a new branch of the craft, taking nothing from Gardnerian (because of his oath to that tradition) but writing all new material. He based it on a Saxon background and called it Seax-Wica, or Saxon witchcraft. Contrary to reports by various misinformed writers, Seax-Wica was not started as a joke but as a serious branch of witchcraft—a branch to which Buckland then dedicated himself. Today the Seax-Wica tradition is found worldwide. Buckland moved from New Hampshire to Virginia Beach, Virginia. Aware that many people were unable to join the craft because of geographical location, among other reasons, Buckland started a correspondence course that he ran successfully for four years. The course was focused on Saxon witchcraft; a non-secret tradition.
In 1982 Buckland met Tara Cochran and, separating from Joan, married her in 1983. They lived for a couple of years in Charlottesville, Virginia, before moving to San Diego, California. The museum was placed in storage, where it remained until it was eventually passed on to Monte Plaisance, who reopened it in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 2001. In San Diego the correspondence course had to be phased out, since Buckland felt it took away too much of his writing time.
In 1992 the Bucklands moved to a small farm in Ohio and, after more than a quarter of a century of coven work, Buckland gave it up to work, with Tara, as solitaries. After 30 years of public activity, he retired from active involvement in the craft, settling for only occasional lectures, workshops, and book-signings. For his solitary practice, he drew mainly on Seax-Wica rites, together with aspects of PectiWita (a Scottish tradition inspired by Aidan Breac and developed by Buckland). In Ohio Buckland's writing developed to include novels, a number of divination decks, and saw a return to Spiritualism with the publication of Doors to Other Worlds (1993) and The Truth about Spirit Communication (1995).
A prolific author, by 2001 Buckland had more than 30 books published, with more than a million copies in print and translated into 12 foreign languages. He has written a number of screenplays, numerous newspaper and magazine articles, and has appeared on many radio and television talk shows in the United States, Canada, England, and Italy. Buckland served as technical advisor for the Orson Welles movie Necromancy (1972) (The Witching on video), appeared in small character roles in movies, and has lectured at many colleges and universities across the United States. Among Buckland's best-known titles are Practical Candle-burning Rituals (1970), The Tree: Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft (1974), Doors to Other Worlds (1993), Scottish Witchcraft (1991), The Witch Book (2001), and the Buckland Romani Tarot (2001). Other books are Advanced Candle Magic (1996), Anatomy of the Occult (1977), The Book of African Divination (1992), Buckland Gypsies' Domino Divination Deck (1995), Coin Divination (1999), Gypsy Dream Dictionary (1998), Gypsy Fortunetelling Tarot Kit (1998), Here Is the Occult (1974), The Magick of Chant-O-Matics (1978), Mu Revealed (pseudonym: Tony Earl; 1970), Practical Color Magick (1983), Ray Buckland's Magic Cauldron (1995), Secrets of Gypsy Fortunetelling (1988), Secrets of Gypsy Love Magick (1990), The Truth about Spirit Communication (1995), Witchcraft from the Inside (1971; 1995), Witchcraft…the Religion (1966), and two novels: The Committee (1993) and Cardinal's Sin (1996). He also produced the video Witchcraft Yesterday and Today (1990).
Buckland, Raymond.Amazing Secrets of the Psychic World. New York: HC Publishing, 1975.
——. Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 1986, 1997.
——. A Pocket Guide to the Supernatural. New York: Ace Books, 1969.
——. Witchcraft Ancient and Modern. (1970).
Grimassi, Raven. Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 2000.
Gavin Frost (1930– ) and Yvonne Frost (1931– )
In 1968, Gavin and Yvonne Frost formed the first Wiccan church, the Church of Wicca, and continued lobbying for their cause until, in 1972, they gained federal recognition of witchcraft as a religion. In 1985, their persuasive arguments convinced a federal appeals court that Wicca was a religion equal to any other recognized as such in the United States. The Frosts' School of Wicca, also established in 1968, became the first craft correspondence school and continues to publish Survival, the longest-lived Wiccan newsletter in circulation. The School of Wicca has brought more than 200,000 people to the craft and has handled as many as one million requests for information in a single year. Authors of the controversial Witches' Bible (1975), the Frosts have coauthored 22 books and have appeared on hundreds of national television and radio shows to promote Wicca. Since 1972, Gavin and Yvonne have lived under a vow of poverty, turning over all their material possessions to the Church of Wicca.
It was in his final year at the University of London (King's College) shortly after the close of World War II that Gavin grew interested in the prehistoric peoples of the British Isles and in the reconstruction of their spiritual beliefs. At London University there were several people of the English upper middle class or lower aristocracy who wanted to form a witchcraft coven. Through contacts with Thomas Lethbridge, an authority on witchcraft who worked at the university, Frost and his friends got in touch with a group of witches in Penzance, who agreed to initiate a few students if they met certain conditions. Frost was among a group of four who were blindfolded and taken out to a place they later identified as Boskednan, a Nine-Maidens Circle. (The breath of nine maidens heats the celtic goddess Cerridwen's cauldron of inspiration.) They went through an initiation similar to the initiation that would appear many years later in The Witch's Bible and it was on that occasion when Frost got the scar on his wrist, the spirit-through-fire scar that is still visible. Roots of that coven's practice have always intrigued Frost because they seemed to owe nothing to Gerald Gardner 's work and because the order of service (the same as that shown later in Gavin and Yvonne Frosts' The Good Witch's Bible ) did not resemble that of most other groups.
After earning an honors degree, Frost was requested to work for the Department of Atomic Energy and offered the opportunity to work on a doctorate in pure research. He completed his doctoral thesis on research into the separation of potassium and sodium ions by filtration, and moved on into research on the detection and classification of alpha waves. Then an old school friend contacted him and asked him to work on research in the infrared spectrum. Frost and his significant other, Dorothy Whitford, moved to de Havilland Aircraft in Hatfield near London. Here the research concentrated on investigation of long-wave infrared radiation for the British equivalent of the Sidewinder missile. Much of the testing of that missile was carried out on Salisbury Plain, and it was necessarily done at night. This gave Frost daytimes to explore nearby ancient monuments such as Stonehenge, and time to talk with local historians on what may be called the pagans of Stonehenge.
Gavin and Dorothy married and elected to emigrate to Montreal to work on the Canadian missile program. Upon arrival they learned they would immediately be assigned to Quebec City, site of the Canadian Missile Research Institute. Frost declined, joining instead Canadair's Training and Simulator group. His son Christopher was born in October 1954 in Montreal, and his daughter Sandra in April 1957, also in Montreal.
On one assignment Frost visited Chile when an F-86 had landed on a jungle strip near a remote mountain village, and its engine refused to start. The group needed about four days to locate the problem and get the plane flown out of there. In those four days in the village, Frost got his first taste of religion and healing as practiced by shamans. The villagers could not believe that an outsider, especially a Caucasian, would have any interest in their procedure or would be receptive toward it. But Frost saw many parallels in what they were doing to what he had been taught in the coven in England and had put on his mental shelf with the move to Canada.
When Frost moved to California, he became senior project engineer on the radar system in the F-104. This gave him the opportunity to travel extensively world-wide and achieve high-level contacts in many countries. When the opportunity arose to become the firm's European representative, Frost took it and moved his family to Munich, Germany.
Although the hours and work expectations were still high, there was more free time in Munich to investigate the fascinating subject of German sorcery. Gavin Frost studied for initiation with a group of German sorcerers in Geiselgasteig, the old Bohemian artists' colony south of Munich, but because Dorothy had no interest in the occult or in writing for a living, the family was beginning to fragment. Upon their return to the States, Gavin and Dorothy divorced.
It was here that Gavin Frost and Yvonne Wilson began the long process of establishing the spiritual path they called Wicca as a religion.
Yvonne's parents moved from rural Kentucky to California in 1930, and nine months later in March 1931 she was born in Los Angeles, the oldest of four siblings. She grew up in the hard-shell Baptist matrix, trying hard to conform and cause no trouble, but she felt bewildered inside. As the eldest of four children, she lived in silent obedience, wondering why she did not fit in. Qualifying for Mensa, the international high-IQ society, helped explain the feelings of alienation.
A 10-year marriage ended in divorce, and Yvonne began eight years of living as a self-supporting single woman. She enrolled part-time in a junior college and earned an Associate in Arts in 1962 with the highest GPA in her class. Yvonne also started to explore spiritual options. Buddhism was popular then, in the early 1960s, but she could not get comfortable with it. Spiritualism entered her awareness, with its darkened rooms, psychic development, mediumship, and Native American spirit guides.
In a Spiritualist seance in 1965, a voice came to her through the medium's trumpet: "Can I be your little girl?" Single as she was, Yvonne was taken aback. Still she managed to answer, "Yes. You come when it's time." Bronwyn Frost was born in 1969. In an apport seance Yvonne's spirit guide at that time, Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace, brought her a green cabochon stone. She had it set into a bracelet but has never been able to get it identified.
Yvonne's career at that time was in aerospace, and Gavin Frost was her boss's boss. She formed her first impression of him when she saw how fellow workers yielded plenty of room to Dr. Frost as he strode the firm's halls. During Gavin's stint in Munich, he began work on a novel entitled Pagans of Stonehenge and asked her to edit it for him at long distance. Thus began Yvonne's career as a coauthor.
"One thing led to another," Yvonne Frost recalled. "We two became an item. I became interested in Gavin's path. The teachings of Spiritualism and Buddhism overlapped some aspects of the Craft, so learning the Craft was a natural step. After his divorce we moved together to St. Louis. There his work as international sales manager implied even more travel and longer hours away from home. I used my time to type all the School's lectures and the draft of The Witch's Bible. " (1972)
Yvonne said that Gavin's witnessing Bronwyn's birth brought him an epiphany. He gave up his career in aerospace, though he worked intermittently for a year or so as a consultant, and committed his life and energies to the Craft. "No more gold credit cards, no more first-class flights world-wide, no more captain of industry and management matron for the two of us," Yvonne said. "We traded all this in for a vow of poverty and full-time commitment to living and teaching the Craft."
Continuing her remembrance, Yvonne observed, "In retrospect, our shared life begins to show a pattern. A couple of years remodeling a derelict building in St. Charles, Missouri; three years of raising pigs on unimproved rural Missouri acreage and an abandoned schoolhouse; 20 years in New Bern, North Carolina (site of the First Amendment guaranteeing religious freedom in this nation); all these chapters served to fill in gaps in our respective learning. What we did not already know about humility from the discomforts of rehabbing buildings and from raising pigs, we have learned well and thoroughly from the pagan/Wiccan community and the negativity of its reception. After the theological work, my greatest accomplishment is the establishment of the Church of Wicca as a federally recognized church, not only with regard to its tax-exempt status, but also in federal appeals court. The church's official letter of determination arrived from the IRS in 1972, making ours the first Wiccan Church (despite the resentful claims of others) to earn federal recognition. The key to such recognition of Wicca—the Craft— as a religion has been its well-defined theology."
Frost, Gavin, and Yvonne Frost. The Good Witch's Bible. Hinton, W.Va.: Church and School of Wicca, 1996.
——. The Magic Power of White Witchcraft. New York: Prentice Hall, 1999.
——. The Witch's Bible. New York: Berkley Books, 1975.
——. Witch's Book of Magic Ritual. New York: Prentice Hall, 2002.
Gerald Brosseau Gardner (1884–1964)
Gerald Gardner is regarded as the founding father of all modern expressions of witchcraft/Wicca. Born in Lancashire, England, on June 13, 1884, Gardner spent a great deal of his adult life as a British civil servant and as a plantation manager in Southeast Asia. Although Gardner would later claim to have had an interest in the occult of great duration, he did not really begin to explore Spiritualism and the arcane until he had returned to England after his retirement shortly before World War II. There, in the autumn of 1939, he discovered witchcraft and, Dorothy Clutterbuck, a hereditary witch, high priestess of a New Forest coven, initiated him into a secret group of Wiccans. Throughout his writings, Gardner would always refer to the magical religion as Wica, rather than Wicca, as the word is spelled in common usage today.
In his book The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959), Gardner wrote that when he found Wicca, he knew that he had discovered something interesting, but he was nearly through the initiation when it struck him that the Old Religion did truly exist and that he had become a part of the great circle that had existed since time immemorial. To be a Gardnerian witch would thenceforth be to become a witch who had undergone an initiation that could hearken back to Gerald Gardner and through him to an unbroken lineage that had been hidden and kept secret by sacred oaths and the solemn practice of holy rituals.
At first, when Gardner published High Magick's Aid (1949), a fictional account of witches under the pseudonym of Scire, traditional witches became nervous and upset that he was beginning to reveal too much to the general public. Then, when the witchcraft laws were repealed in Great Britain in 1951 and Gardner wrote Witchcraft Today (1954), a nonfictional treatment of modern witchcraft, he incurred the wrath of many traditional members of Wicca. Gardner argued that he did not reveal any secrets protected by the oath that he had taken during his initiation, but he feared that because so many of the traditional witches were growing very old, new members had to be encouraged to keep the craft alive. He announced his intentions to publish more books about Wicca and to become an outspoken spokesperson for witchcraft. From that time on, Gardner began to develop his own tradition that might be described as a combination of ritual and ceremonial magick, French Mediterranean witchcraft, and the incorporation of the concepts and ideas of such fellow witches as Doreen Valiente.
Gardner became the major spokesperson for contemporary witchcraft and the pagan community, and in 1960 he was invited as such to a reception at Buckingham Palace. He died on February 13, 1964, on the S.S. Scottish Prince while returning from a trip abroad.
Buckland, Raymond. Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 1987, 1997.
Crowley, Vivianne. Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Age. London: Aquarian Press, 1989.
Gardner, Gerald. The Meaning of Witchcraft. London: Aquarian Press, 1982.
——. Witchcraft Today. 1954. Reprint, London: Rider, 1982.
Sybil Leek (1923–1983)
Sybil Leek was a witch, an astrologer, and a psychic who was born in England into a highly unusual family. Her maternal grandmother was a psychic lady and a follower of the Old Religion. Her father was an intellectual and well versed in metaphysics, but more inclined to a scientific investigation of a field of inquiry. Sybil's mother was a theosophist with an inborn affinity toward all children. Added to these were an assortment of aunts, cousins, and other extended family members.
Under the combined tutorial care of her family, Leek managed to escape the British public school system for many years. Each member of the family taught the child his or her particular specialty, as well as a diversity of other things. Leek learned about herbs, witchcraft, astrology, the general field of the occult, and the mystical Kabbalah. This unorthodox rearing was far from one-sided, however. Before the age of nine, young Sybil had "read through" the major classics. She had read the Bible, the works of Shakespeare, and many other volumes of Eastern religious and non-Western philosophies. Most of all, though, Leek learned from her grandmother, who taught her the Craft of the Wise. Once her preliminary instruction was completed, the young initiate journeyed to France, to the Gorge du Loup where Leek was initiated into the world's oldest religion.
In her book Diary of a Witch (1969), Leek described briefly the oath of fidelity that every witch solemnly gives on the night of his or her initiation:
"It is accepted as being binding forever, and no initiate can take it lightly. She accepts wholeheartedly all the tenets of witchcraft— the acceptance of the Supreme Being, the knowledge that good and evil are equal parts of a human being, and that she must personally strive to outbalance evil with good. She must not debase the arts which she has been taught, and at all times she must be conscious of the need to be discreet, not only in her own life but with regard to any other members of the coven."
Shortly after Leek returned to England the family moved to the New Forest, a large area that roughly extends from Southampton northward to the borders of Salisbury and nearby Stonehenge, and westward to Dorset. It was in this area that Leek widened her lore of herbs, nature, and human psychology.
Since the age of 15, Sybil Leek had been in and out of various media jobs, and when she began moonlighting as a roving reporter for Southern Television it was her task to provide material for a series using the magazine format of small documentaries, interviews, and highlights of the day. The show's producers were particularly interested in Leek's contacts with the Gypsies of the New Forest, and she was able to present several interesting and informative vignettes about her nomadic friends.
It was in December of 1963 that Sybil Leek's media relationship caused her to be, probably, the first person to be filmed in mediumistic trance. The incident began when parapsychologist Bennison Herbert, who wished her to accompany him to a twelfth-century mansion that was allegedly haunted, contacted Leek. Almost immediately after the group entered the old house, Leek began to feel herself slipping away from the laughing joviality of the others. The group reached an upstairs room of the old stone building and settled around a large table. Within moments Leek was in a deep trance. Sights and sounds beyond the normal senses surrounded the entranced psychic. She felt someone come in through the door, then felt seized from behind. Leek, enraged, shouted at the image of the ghostly woman standing in the doorway. The struggle ceased as the heavy table at which the group was seated suddenly rose into the air and traversed the room. Then, with vented fury, the table repeatedly threw itself at the heavy stone wall, chipping the surface. A door slammed and something was heard running down the steps. Leek came out of her trance and was told what had happened by Herbert, who had taken notes on all the strange happenings.
At this point the BBC crew could no longer contain themselves. They hastily set up their lights and cameras, hoping to catch more of the same phenomena. The crew was not disappointed. The table began to move once more, traveling across the room to fling itself with renewed vigor at the ancient stonework. An incredulous solid man, weighing 220 pounds, tried to sit on the airborne table, only to be tossed off as if he were a featherweight. The table assaulted the wall with such force that it chipped a two-inch hole through the surface. The footage received wide distribution throughout the south of England and generated tremendous interest. The tables were shown in almost complete levitation and the mark on the wall was quite visible.
After achieving a great deal of fame as the Witch of New Forest, Sybil Leek came to the United States, where she teamed up with psychic investigator Hans Holzer (1920- ) on a series of ghost-hunting expeditions. The two were often followed by an entourage of local, and sometimes international, media, eager to sniff out a good story. Frequently, movie cameras would roll while Leek was in a heavy trance state, but this never deterred the medium from obtaining solid material, which Holzer would then try to substantiate.
Leek never knew where their next jaunt was going to take them. Holzer usually investigated the cases brought to his attention, first affirming that the material represented a solid psychic case, worthy of being investigated. He would give Leek none of this information, to ensure that her trance information could never be accused of being the result of suggestion.
In addition to Leek's many talents as a psychic and her deep immersion in the Old Religion, she had yet another major field of interest that was with her all of her life. As she states in the opening lines of My Life in Astrology (1972): "Astrology is my science; Witchcraft is my religion." For Sybil Leek, astrology lessons began when she was eight years old. From her grandmother, she learned the basics of astrology, with personality traits and psychology stressed; from her father, she learned the painstaking technical aspect of casting a chart.
In her younger days the world of astrology was a glamorous one. Every summer the family would vacation in the Riviera, and Leek's skills were in great demand among the celebrities and nobility that would gather on the beaches. Among her notable clients were the elder Aga Khan, Queen Marie of Rumania, and author Somerset Maugham. Although Leek had nostalgic feelings for that particular time, her later life was to show her an even more exciting use for her astrological skills.
Sybil Leek was determined to aid in the understanding of witchcraft. Unfortunately, she found some of the gravest misunderstandings in her adopted country of the United States. The press persistently confused witchcraft with black magick and Satanism, but Sybil Leek was instrumental in bringing a greater awareness of witchcraft to those persons who wished to form traditional covens, and she never ceased using her wit and celebrity to advance the truth about Wicca, the craft of the wise. She became a major force on the psychic scene, and her rich and varied life consistently led her to prove the deeper meanings and interrelationships between all areas of metaphysics, and her vast experience prepared her admirably for the research and study to which she devoted herself.
Grimassi, Raven. Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 2000.
Leek, Sybil. The Complete Art of Witchcraft. New York: New American Library, reissue 1991.
——. Diary of a Witch. New York: New American Library, 1969.
——. My Life in Astrology. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1972.
Margaret Alice Murray (1863–1963)
For decades, Margaret Murray's The Witch-Cult in Western Europe (1921) was the definitive work on witchcraft and undoubtedly inspired such individuals as Gerald Brosseau Gardner to revive the Craft in the modern era. Murray's thesis was that witchcraft hearkened back to ancient, pre-Christian goddess worship and continued forward in unbroken lineage to contemporary times. The witch craze that seized Europe in the period from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries and that led to the persecution and deaths of thousands of those women who practiced witchcraft was nothing more or less than the attack of the patriarchal establishment on an ancient, woman-centered religion. In her opinion, based on her extensive research, the practice of witchcraft had nothing to do with the worship of Satan, an entity of evil that had been created by Christianity.
Although Murray shall probably always be known in the popular mind as the author of two seminal books on witchcraft, the aforementioned The Witch-Cult in Western Europe and The God of the Witches (1952), among her peers at the University College in London she was a respected scholar and specialist in Egyptian hieroglyphics. Because it was difficult in her day for a proper Englishwoman to become an archeologist, she first obtained a degree in linguistics, which led in turn to the study of Egyptian hieroglyphics and Egyptology. In the late 1890s, her work had been noticed by the eminent archeologist Sir Flinders Petrie (1853–1942), who permitted her to join him in his excavations at Abydos in Egypt. Because she distinguished herself on this expedition, she was invited to join the staff at the University College.
Murray was known as an ardent feminist, and her passion for the political advancement of women may well have influenced her interpretation of the European witchcraft trials as being organized campaigns of terror against those women who still practiced the old goddess-centered religions. Since her books on the history of witchcraft created little uproar among the academics of her day, there was no taint of sensationalism that prevented her from becoming a fellow of Britain's Royal Anthropological Institute in 1926. In 1931, Murray published The Splendor That Was Egypt, a book centered on Egyptology, her special field of interest. From 1953 to 1955, she served as president of Britain's Folklore Society. Remarkably, in 1963, at the age of 100, Murray published her autobiography, Centenary, and The Genesis of Religion (1963).
Franck, Irene M., and David M. Brownstone. Women's World: A Timeline of Women in History. San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995.
Kass-Simon, G., and Patricia Farnes. Women of Science: Righting the Record. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.
Murray, Margaret Alice. The Genesis of Religion. New York: Philosophical Library, 1963.
——. The God of the Witches. London: Faber and Faber Unlimited, 1952.
——. The Witch-Cult in Western Europe. 1921. Reprint, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962.
M. Macha NightMare
As her contribution to the emerging pagan culture, M. Macha NightMare (also known as Aline O'Brien), priestess and witch, chose to develop her skills as a collaborative ritualist and author. Early in her journey on the path of witchcraft, NightMare joined in the formation of Reclaiming Collective, a network of people who sought to bring together activism with earth-based spirituality and healing. She also participated with the collective in teaching the Craft and in performing public sabbats in San Francisco. The collective evolved into a Craft tradition, and eventually dissolved itself in 1997 and reemerged as a much larger and more inclusive entity.
With Starhawk, Macha NightMare coauthored The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over (1997), and she is the author of Witchcraft and the Web: Weaving Pagan Traditions Online (2001). In addition to her books, her articles have appeared in many periodicals, and she has spoken on behalf of the craft to electronic and print media.
NightMare holds elder and ministerial credentials through the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG), the oldest and largest nondenominational organization of witches in the United States. A member since 1981, she is a former national first officer and has served the covenant in many other capacities. She is on the teaching faculty of Cherry Hill [Pagan] Seminary in Bethel, Vermont, where she also serves on the Pagan Pastoral Counseling Advisory Panel.
Macha NightMare is a member of the Biodiversity Project Spirituality Working Group, which seeks to increase biodiversity awareness, preservation, and activism within religious communities. She also works with the Sacred Dying Foundation in educating funeral professionals and hospice workers about pagan beliefs and practices regarding death and dying. To keep current on pagan research, she participates in the Nature Religion Scholars Network.
Macha NightMare's matron is Kali Ma, and her magical practice, inspired by feminism and a concern for the health of the planet, is formed of Celtic, Hindu, and Tibetan practices, the sacred art of tantra, and the magic of enchantment. When the opportunity presents itself, NightMare travels the so-called "broomstick circuit," where she enjoys immersing herself in the diverse community that constitutes contemporary American witchcraft.
She resides in Marin County, California.
M. Macha NightMare's website: [Online] http://www.machanightmare.com/bio.html. 27 February 2002.
NightMare, M. Macha. Witchcraft and the Web: Weaving Pagan Traditions Online. Montreal: ECW Press, 2001.
Starhawk, M. Macha NightMare, and the Reclaiming Collective. The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997.
A feminist and peace activist, Starhawk (also known as Miriam Simos) is one of the foremost voices of ecofeminism, and she travels widely in North America and Europe giving lectures and workshops, drawing on her 25 years of research and experience in the Goddess movement. Her book The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (1979, 1989) is currently regarded as the definitive work on modern, feminist witchcraft. Starhawk holds an M.A. in psychology from Antioch West University. She consulted on the films Goddess Remembered and The Burning Times, directed by Donna Read and produced by the National Film Board of Canada. She also cowrote the commentary for Full Circle, the third film in the same Women's Spirituality series. Many of Starhawk's works have been translated in German, Danish, Italian, Portuguese, and Japanese.
From organizing in her high school during the days of the Vietnam War, Starhawk has been active in social change movements for more than 30 years. She has participated in and helped with training and organizing anti-nuclear actions at Diablo Canyon, Livermore Weapons Lab, Vandenberg Airforce Base, and the Nevada Test Site, among others. She traveled to Nicaragua with Witness for Peace in 1984 and has made two trips to El Salvador to do ongoing support work for sustainability programs. She works on countless environmental and land use issues and was a founder of the Cazadero Hills Land Use Council in Western Sonoma County. Her focus in recent years has been the antiglobalization movement, training for and taking part in the anti-WTO action in Seattle, the anti-IMF/World Bank actions in Washington, D.C., and doing trainings in Europe for the actions in Prague.
Starhawk continues her collaboration with filmmaker Donna Read, working on an hour-long documentary on the life of archaeologist Marija Gimbutas. They have formed their own film company, Belili Productions.
Starhawk works with Reclaiming, a network of people who bring together activism with earth-based spirituality and healing, offering classes, intensives, public rituals, and training in the Goddess tradition of magical activism. She writes a regular column for the Reclaiming Quarterly, and she is also a columnist on the Web for www.beliefnet.com and for www.znet.com.
She lives part-time in San Francisco, in a collective house with her partner and friends, and the rest of the time in a little hut in the woods where she practices the system of ecological design known as permaculture.
Starhawk. Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex, and Politics. New York: Beacon, 1982.
——. The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. San Francisco: HarperSanFranciso, 1999.
——. Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority and Mystery. New York: Harper & Row, 1987.
Starhawk and Hilary Valentine. The Twelve Wild Swans: Journies into Magic, Healing and Action. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000.
Starhawk, M. Macha NightMare, and the Reclaiming Collective. The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997.
Starhawk's website: [Online] http://www.starhawk.org. 26 February 2002.
Doreen Valiente (1922–1999)
One of the most influential individuals in the shaping of modern Wicca was born Doreen Edith Dominy in Mitcham, South London, on January 4, 1922, and spent her childhood in the west of England, an area noted for its rustic beauty and its connection to the folklore of the past. As an adult, she recalled that from a very young age she took to running about while riding on a broomstick. Although she did not consciously know why she had done so, she did remember that it upset her conventionally religious parents, who were opposed to any portrayal of witchcraft, whether or not it derived from childish display.
When Valiente was only seven, her first mystical experience happened one night while she was staring intently at the moon. She perceived at that time that what ordinary people embraced as the world of reality was but the facade behind which something much more real and potent lay waiting for those
who would seek "the world of force beyond the world of form." At the age of 15, she walked out the door of the convent school to which she had been sent and refused to return.
At the age of 19, she married Joanis Vlachopoulos, a 32-year-old able seaman serving with the merchant navy. Six months later, in the summer of 1941, her husband was reported missing. Details are sketchy, but since World War II was in progress, it is assumed that Vlachopoulos was killed when his ship was destroyed by a Nazi torpedo. In 1944, Doreen married Casimiro Valiente.
In the summer of 1952, the year after the Witchcraft Act of 1735 was repealed, Doreen Valiente met a witch of the New Forest Coven who introduced her to Gerald Brosseau Gardner. On Midsummer's Eve 1953, she received the first degree of initiation into Wicca by Gardner, who at that time was operating a witchcraft museum on the Isle of Man. Although Gardner claimed that his Book of Shadows had been compiled by remnants of the Old Religion that he had pieced together for his Gardnerian tradition, the astute Doreen, whose witchcraft name was "Ameth," recognized passages from other works, such as Aleister Crowley 's Gnostic Mass (1942).
Far from being humiliated or angered by his student's recognition that his Book of Shadows was much a pastiche of many traditions of witchcraft, with rites and rituals copied from ancient lore, as well as a few bits and pieces from Freemasonry and Crowley, Gardner invited her to improve, if she could, upon his fragments of the old and the new. Valiente accepted the challenge and replaced nearly all of the Crowley and Masonic excerpts with the thoughts and inspirations that she had received from her own mystical experiences since childhood. The reconstruction of the Book of Shadows achieved by Valiente gave the practitioners of Wicca a practical and workable system which has been followed by many witches ever since. Gardner and Valiente eventually parted company over his claim that his "Old Laws" should be heeded above her revisions, but Valiente continued to doubt the authenticity of some of the laws that Gardner claimed were derived from ancient traditions. Although they later resumed their friendship, it was never again at the level which it had once attained.
When her husband passed away in 1972, Doreen Valiente began to devote herself to writing about witchcraft as she knew and understood it. After her An ABC of Witchcraft (1973) and Natural Magic (1975), she became recognized as an authority on magic and witchcraft. Her last days were spent in a nursing home, and after she had passed her magical legacy on to John Belham-Payne, she died on September 1, 1999.
"Biography of Doreen Valiente" [Online] http://www.doreenvaliente.com/Biography.htm. 28 February 2002.
Grimassi, Raven. Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft. St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn Publications, 2000.
Valiente, Doreen. An ABC of Witchcraft, Past and Present. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1973.
——. The Rebirth of Witchcraft. Custer, Wash.: Robert Hale and Phoenix Publishing, 1989.
——. Witchcraft for Tomorrow. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1978.
Leek, Sybil (1922-1982)
Leek, Sybil (1922-1982)
Astrologer, witch, author, and one of the more popular figures in the modern occult revival. She was born on February 22, 1922, in the Midlands, England, and claimed an ancestry in witchcraft through both sides of her family. Through her mother the lineage could be traced to southern Ireland in the twelfth century and through her father to Russia. She was tutored at home and attended school for only four years (ages 12-16).
She claimed that she had been initiated into the craft while near Nice, in southern France, and that her initiation was to fill an opening left by the death of her aunt, who had been high priestess of a coven. She then returned to England and settled near New Forest, where she reportedly joined the Horsa Coven, which she claimed predated the Norman Conquest. She soon became high priestess of the group. There is no substantiation of that story and some evidence that it is fabricated.
In the early 1950s she claimed to have had a mystical experience in which she realized that her calling in life would be as a spokesperson for witchcraft, the old religion. Her early efforts resulted in tourists flocking to her antique shop, not to buy but to get her autograph. She had a conflict with her landlord, who demanded she renounce her religion, and she eventually had to close her shop. Meanwhile, she had written several books, but none of them dealt with witchcraft.
In the early 1960s Leek moved to the United States. With the assistance of her publisher and a set of public relations people, she soon became famous as a public witch. She lectured widely, appeared on television, and built a large clientele as an astrologer. Quietly, she founded and for a period led several covens, two in Massachusetts, one in Cincinnati, and one in St. Louis.
Leek wrote over 60 books among which were an autobiography, Diary of a Witch (1968), and several on witchcraft, including The Complete Art of Witchcraft (1971). The material in these books conflicts. While claiming traditional witchcraft roots, prior to the neo-pagan revival of witchcraft by Gerald Gardner, her own presentation of witchcraft is completely Gardnerian. She talks of ritual items such as the athame (the ritual dagger) as if she had known about them before Gardner. However, we now know that they were invented by Gardner. She seems to have reproduced a variation on Gardner's ritual. It appears as if she, like many in the early decades of the Wiccan revival, created a magical lineage for herself, but in fact obtained her training and knowledge of the craft from Gardnerians.
She died in Melbourne, Florida, in 1982.
Buckland, Raymond. Witchcraft: Ancient and Modern. New York: H. C. Publishers, 1970.
Leek, Sybil. Astrology and Love. New York: Berkley, 1977.
——. Cast Your Own Spell. New York: Pinnacle Books,1970.
——. The Complete Art of Witchcraft. New York: World Publishing, 1971.
——. Diary of a Witch. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968.
——. A Shop in the High Street. New York: David McKay, 1962.
——. Sybil Leek's Book of Curses. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975.
——. Sybil Leek's Book of Fortune Telling. New York: Collier, 1969.