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History Of Wicca In England: 1939 to the Present Day

by Julia Phillips

This is the transcript of a lecture delivered at the Australia Wiccan Conference in Canberra in 1991. This revised edition first appeared in POP! Goes the Witch, edited by Fiona Horne (Disinformation Co, New York, 2004). It is reprinted here with the author's permission.

A great introduction to Gerald Gardner and Wicca's history, this lecture manages to be concise and accessible while still being detailed. It discusses early influences, important figures, and enduring controversies of Gardnerian Wicca as well as giving some basics on Alex Sanders, Robert Cochrane, George Pickingill, and Sybil Leek. The old version of this lecture, found commonly all over the internet, was never intended for such widespread publication. This revised edition sets the piece in a more enduring form while updating it with revised scholarship on the subject.

Click here to read the lecture. Length: 17 pages / 235 Kb

Gerald Gardner 1946-1949

by Morgan Davis

Between the years of 1946 and 1949, Gardner made the decisions that would lead him to become one of the most influential promoters of modern Witchcraft. However, the events that led him to fully devote himself to promoting this religion are largely unknown, because this period of his life is glossed over in histories and biographies alike. In this essay, I describe Gerald Gardner's actions, writings, and social circles during the years between 1946 and 1949. I draw on the sparse published information about this time span and combine it with other primary sources to craft a history of Gardner's life and immediate social context. With this narrative as a vantage point, it will be possible to distinguish some of the aspects of Gardner's religious, social, and intellectual life that entered and transformed Wicca during the religion's birth into the public world. Some of the topics I address include: Gardner's association with the Old Catholic Movement, Gardner's earliest coven in Bricket Wood, Gardner's friendship with Aleister Crowley, Gardner's association with the Ordo Templi Orientis, Gardner's family in America, and High Magic's Aid.

Click here to read the essay. Length: 50 pages / 370 Kb
Click here for a printable copy. (same essay more compact) Length: 33 pages / 200 Kb

Monique Wilson & The Gardner Estate

by Morgan Davis

This article was first published in the Beltane 2007 edition of The Wiccan. Monique Wilson (Lady Olwen) is an important and controversial figure in the history of Wicca. Credited with being the High Priestess that introduced Gardnerian Witchcraft to America, she also had a hand in forming a coven in Germany and was the heir to Gerald Gardnerís literary estate. This article was written primarily to address the growing curiosity over who currently owns the rights to Gerald Gardnerís literary works, but it also serves to illuminate the last chapter in Gardnerís life and provides a richer biography of Monique Wilson than has been available in the past.

Click here to read the essay. Length: 6 pages / 395 Kb

The Influence of Aleister Crowley upon "Ye Bok of ye Art Magical"

by Roger Dearnaley

This essay, from [now defunct - link is to archived copy], is excellent--meticulously researched and documented, it examines every instance that Dearnaley could find in which text was quoted from Crowley's writings in Ye Bok of ye Art Magical (BAM) and then attempts to determine what edition of Crowley's original the text was quoted from. The result reveals that the entirety of the Crowley material in BAM could have derived solely from a copy of The Equinox, Volume III Number 1 (The Blue Equinox), and Magick in Theory and Practice. More importantly, however, Dearnaley's examination throws light upon many possibilities surrounding the history of BAM as well as (possibly) hinting some at Gardner's early opinion of Crowley's work. Roger Dearnaley's main thesis is to dispel, once and for all, the rumors that Crowley wrote Wiccan ritual. In my opinion, he proves his point admirably and goes much farther to give us a window into the mind of BAM's author. However, the essay is not for the faint of heart--comprising 31 printed pages of exposition and lengthy quotes from source material. Gardnerian initiates interested in reading a slightly longer version may email a request to rogerd(AT)amurgsval(DOT)org.

Click here to read the essay. Length: 30 pages / 118 Kb

Links to Offsite Articles

A Goddess Arrives: The Novels of Dion Fortune and the Development of Gardnerian Witchcraft

This essay, by Chas Clifton, focuses on Dion Fortune's influence on Gerald Gardner and Wicca. The essay was first published in the Fall 1998 issue of Gnossis magazine. This essay, more than any of the others on this page, provides one of the best and most lucid introductions to Gerald Gardner and his role in disseminating Wicca just after World War II. The essay focuses primarily on Dion Fortune, an occultist who published many books and novels on various occult themes throughout the first half of the twentieth century, but Clifton's explanations reach farther than just Fortune. He also covers, in general, many of the possible literary influences on Gardner with a special focus on how worship of the Goddess was presented by Gardner and Valiente in the early fifties. Here you will find information on Margaret Murray, Robert Graves, Charles Swinburne, and much more.

Click here to read the essay.

The Myth of the Burning Times and the Politics of Resistance in Contemporary American Wicca

This essay, by Glenn Shuck, displays an excellent application of the concept of "myth" to the more problematic historical claims made in most popular accounts of the Burning Times. It is a good resource for information on the Burning Times concept, but, more importantly, this essay begins to open the door for discussion of Wicca's historical claims and founding stories outside of the narrow realm of historic truth or falsity, and it begins to address the problem past scholars of Wicca have had condemning the religion as a whole because of the weaker elements in the heritage it assumes. The author, Glenn W. Shuck, uses a number of terms and models to open new avenues of discourse, and the most potent and useful of these is Shuck's interpretation of modern myth--not to be confused with the pejorative definition of this word, which means "not true." Far from condemning the Burning Times myth as erroneous and therefore useless, Shuck provides a new vocabulary and perspective for describing the power that keeps Wiccans returning to this story to inform their lives and communities.

Click here to read the essay.

A Not-So-Broken Tradition

This brief essay, written originaly for The Seeker Journal by Misti Anslin Delaney and Wayland Raven, has been reproduced on Beliefnet. The essay suggests that Wicca has a duel heritage--one is the literal history involving Gardner's popularization and the other is the heritage that Wiccans have adopted from the many sources that were synthesized to create the tradition. The essay raises the contentious issue of whether religious syncretism, in an age so concerned with intellectual property, yields "legitimate" or "valid" religious traditions.

Click here to read the essay.

Margot Adler's Column "Spirit & Matter"

Margot Adler's book Drawing Down the Moon has become a classic among the studies of Wicca. Its appearance in 1979 followed the release of Starhawk's Spiral Dance, about half a decade earlier, and inaugurated a period of flourishing scholarship and enthusiasm about Wicca. Now Margot Adler continues to write a regular column for Beliefnet. Many of her pieces are relevant to Wicca's history and the subjects of this website. The links below will take you to them.

A Time for Truth: Wiccans struggle with information that revisions their history
New Traditions: There is an exuberance and power that comes from creating...
Witches, Pagans, and the Media: Media interest doesn't equal media respect

The Scholars and the Goddess

This Atlantic Monthly article titled "The Scholars and the Goddess" gives a pretty good introduction to the problems presented by Wicca's historical claims. The article caused some stir in the academic and Wiccan community--many were concerned about its irreverence and possibly biased treatment of some of the religion's more sensitive issues. Some of the more high-profile members of the Pagan / Wiccan community wrote in opposition to the article.

Click here to read the article.