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norseman
30-05-2011, 07:05 PM
The British Pagan Tradition.

Paganism believes that ALL religious paths ultimately lead back to the same source, the Divine Spirit. The ways in which the Divine Spirit is seen are the result of cultural differences only. This is a true Taoist statement ! Many paths on the Way to Enlightenment. The quest for your Path is for you, individually, to find your own Way. This Quest is influenced by your environment which, obviously, includes your cultural influences.
Central to the British Pagan Tradition is a relationship with the Land in a real, not symbolic, sense. The Wheel of the Seasons are observed and celebrated and you become part of their ebb and flow. The spirits of the land – the Gods and Goddesses, the Wildfolk, the animals and plants – all sought and honoured for their teaching.

Influences on British Paganism are extremely diverse and have all been absorbed deep within us and our Land.
The megalithic temples, standing stones, Henges, and burial chambers were all built in the Neolithic period by the original inhabitants of Britain, recognising man as being a reflection of the death and regeneration of the passing seasons, the waxing and waning of the moon, and the weakening and strengthening of the sun in its cycles. All essentially concerned with the Cult of the Dead.
In the Bronze Age [22c – 10c B.C.], the knowledge of smelting metals brought changes in society with more emphasis on personal wealth and a move away from megaliths to Water cults.
Around 900B.C. the first wave of Celts arrived – Gaelic-speaking Irish, Scots, Manx. Followed in 500 – 250 B.C. by the British-speaking Celts – Welsh, Cornish, Breton.
The Celts absorbed many of the native beliefs and the Druids made use of the astronomical henges, such as Stonehenge. The influence of the Celtic Druids left an indelible mark shown in folklore and practices right up to present day.

The Roman occupation of England and Wales completed around 100A.D. and lasting to about 500A.D. brought not as many changes as people may believe. The Romans were “cunning” in that they did not impose their own beliefs but fostered a fusion between their native Roman gods and local deities. For example, most Roman soldiers made worship to Mithras, a Persian god. So Celtic deities were worshipped alongside Roman and, to varying degrees, Celts were Romanised but also Romans were Celtisised [ I just made that word up. Do you like it ? ]

Around 450A.D., with the withdrawal of the legions, came the Heathen Saxons. Later, the Danes in around 800A.D. The christianisation of Britain began around 600A.D. with Irish missionaries founding the Christian centre of Lindisfarne off the coast of Northumbria. The Germanic rulers of Northumbria converted and Northumbria became the first Christian kingdom in Britain. Bede completed the Lindisfarne Gospel – the first bible written in [sort-of] English. Within a century, most of the population were nominally Christian. However, in the countrysides, the population was largely Celtic and the Old Religion remained strong. Old festivals were given a fresh lick of paint and renamed to pacify the church ; old places of worship were overbuilt with churches and cathedrals but their foundations were still pagan ; old sacred wells and their spirits were called holy wells and their spirits rebranded as Christian saints. Most of the population were Christian on the surface but still pagan at heart. Example, they had little trust in ChristGod to ensure bountiful harvest so still invoked the Old Gods via their resident “Cunning Man”.
Around the 9th century came the Norseman [ not me personally you understand ! ] and this lead to various unpleasantnesses, and lead to a revival of open Paganism which proved that the population was not as Christian as the church supposed.

All of these influences survive in the British Pagan Tradition, tempered by the spirit of the land itself. Pagans seek to understand what the earth has to teach us, to live with the earth and not to impose our will on it.

I look around the various spiritual/wiccan/pagan sites and everywhere you find the same disagreements/ arguments/worries over Wicca.
They seem to centre around origins and real wicca and not-wicca, coven or solitary, initiated or self-declared.

A major criticism appears to revolve around Gardner. Did he create a movement using scraps from Masonic Order, Rosicrucians, Golden Dawn, Hermetic Order, and various other 19th century esoterics or was there a real foundation somewhere ?
It also does not help that his "group" immediately splintered and founded their own version of the movement.
It seems to me that there was an attempt almost to recreate a mythology and ceremonial which was almost Roman Catholic/High Church with more than a slight touch of closed orders like the Jesuits and Templars. Is Wicca dependent on ceremonies like an established religion with a long history or is it [as I believe ] an informal, personal, individual way of life based on respect for Nature ?

This may sound a bit heretical but I think, maybe, we should dump everything that happened after 1900A.D. and go looking for roots in earlier times. Where did it all come from ? Even the Triple Goddess seems [to me] a female version of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And, another thing, it supplies ammunition to critics when Wiccans take on every known cosmology under the sun.

Obviously Wicca is pagan, so should we just leave it at that ?

avenger
06-07-2011, 03:42 PM
Gardner's entire version of Wicca was based on the Witch Cult Hypothesis which is the backdrop for a book written in the 19th century called 'Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches'. Gardner claimed to be in possession of teachings from a pagan witch religion that allegedly survived the conquest of Christianity in Europe.

It is also known that Gardner was a high-ranked initiate in Freemasonry. So he may have borrowed from them. I don't know.

Modern Wicca, I think, has kind of left the premise of Gardner's original Wicca though. Wicca was a unified religion, based on the Witch Cult Hypothesis, before it became a freeform spiritual practice.

norseman
06-07-2011, 04:13 PM
Hi Avenger. In fact, Gardner was an ordained christian priest of an obscure Celtic Church.
Best to say "alleged" conquest of Europe by christianity. Britain is and always was a pagan country. Christianity was only skin-deep. You have to think about history - who was it about and who recorded it ? There has always been a strong line of Traditional Witchcraft here and Gardner took some aspects of the Craft to form a core of wicca along with a whole load of influences from various esoteric orders.

Take a look in the paganism thread. We are discussing this subject atm.

avenger
06-07-2011, 04:40 PM
In fact, Gardner was an ordained christian priest of an obscure Celtic Church.

Really? Interesting. I didn't know this.

Best to say "alleged" conquest of Europe by christianity. Britain is and always was a pagan country. Christianity was only skin-deep.

I'm not British, but I'd like to know your exact argument for this.

There has always been a strong line of Traditional Witchcraft here and Gardner took some aspects of the Craft to form a core of wicca along with a whole load of influences from various esoteric orders.

This is true. But how prominent was this tradition at the time of Gardner? In your estimate, at least.

norseman
06-07-2011, 05:05 PM
Traditional Witchcraft : there is a thread leading back to the Neolithic in tribal shaman. There has been academic research [ Hutton, Wilby ] which carries this thread right up to the 1940's. The thread is the Wise or Cunning Folk who throughout their history have hidden in plain sight, even in the christian priesthood, and are still active in the rural setting.
Gardner was a member of the New Forest Coven prior to founding wicca. NFC was a Trad Witchcraft coven. Gardner founded his faith on a strong core of Craft and added the Faith elements and rituals to it.
Pagan Country : even when Britain was nominally christian, countryfolk still consulted their local Cunning Man over agricultural and country life matters.
Many of the christian "holy" sites are rebadged pagan sites and the main christian festivals are openly repainted pagan festivals eg. Easter = Ostara, Christmas = Yule, etc. Many christian churches have images of pagan gods in their structure.
Gardner, priest. : His friend Ross Nichols, founder of the largest order of British Druids, was also a priest of the Celtic church and between them, they ordered the festival calender.

sunwolf411
15-08-2011, 08:03 PM
Norseman, I agree with what you said in your post about the history of Wicca. I haven't figured Gardner out, but his own interests seem most important to him. I got the feeling he makes alot of things up to fit his way of thinking. He spent alot of time in the middle east, ans their practices had a big influence on him also. He seems to care about who he knew, not what he knew. I think he cares more about how the practice of Wicca fit into his own needs, and on who he knew, as far as British covens and high priestesses. He has an askewed view of Wicca. I am a newbie, but I have followed your posting for a while, and I like what you have to say. Sunwolf

norseman
15-08-2011, 08:54 PM
Cheers Sunwolf ! Although not wiccan myself, I am a moderator in a wiccan forum and an "old witch" there put me onto my path. The old witches are rather scathing about Gardner. Still, wicca is a branch of a very old tree and the "old tree" is still thriving in Britain and is still developing and changing after all the millenia.

Tanith
16-08-2011, 08:03 PM
Norseman, I love what you said about Britain is and always will be a pagan country. I agree completely. Though I'm not British, I have always had a strong connection to Britain and Ireland through my path of paganism/wicca. It is one reason why I wished to become a historian, and all my focus was always on those two regions- history, myths, literature.

As far as Gardner is concerned, I don't know much about him, but what I have researched and read I have come to decide I do not like him. I believe Sunwolf is spot on. Gardner seemed to care more about his own ideals and how Wicca could further his goals and wishes rather than see the truth of the religion. The same could almost be said of the eccentric Aleister Crowley (though for some reason I have always been a fan of his) and his religious cult. Though Aleister Crowley always amused me. He makes me giggle :)


I have to disagree with your statement concerning the Triple Goddess/Holy Trinity, however. I believe that the Triple Goddess is older than the Trinity, and that the Father-Son-Holy Ghost was created in her shadow (as were many aspects of Christianity) in order to appease pagans some 1600 years ago, when Christiany was spreading quickly. Another reason for this, is that unlike the Trinity, the Triple Goddess follows the seasons and the Wheel of the Year, which nearly everything in paganism/wicca seems to be based on. She ages just as we age. The Trinity does not do this.

I do agree with you that the Triple Goddess and Holy Spirit are connected in the same way you said, I simply believe the situation is reversed.

Secondly (or thirdly?) paganism follows that the Maiden, Mother, and Crone aspects of the goddess are just that: different aspects of the same goddess, the same divine. This holds true for many of the goddesses (and gods) throughout history. We may ask a specific aspect for certain things or blessings, but we realize they're all part of the one divine. Still, paganism/wicca follows that we are duotheistic or even polytheistic, even if this doesn't apply to ALL branches, it does to me and all of those I've called "teacher." This is where Christianity (I was raised Christian) gets hypocritical on you: they maintain that they are a monotheistic religion. Yet many christians worship the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as separate entities. AND catholicism especially reveres the Mother Mary and many saints and angels in the same way that many pagans pray to many different deities.


I would have more, but I don't want the site to time me out again XP

Apologies if I got off track here :)

abikisses
16-08-2011, 08:07 PM
This has been the best History lesson I ever sat through, thank you most kindly!

Blessings
Abi _/\_

norseman
18-08-2011, 10:08 PM
This has been the best History lesson I ever sat through, thank you most kindly!

Blessings
Abi _/\_

Once a lecturer, always a lecturer :D

norseman
18-08-2011, 10:20 PM
Tanith, surprisingly [ or not :D] I have a single deity and She is Mother Earth. I could never understand the need to pull in every pantheon under the sun. Coming back to the Triple Goddess, I am not convinced about the christian triple and the Triple Goddess in terms of timing. It's a chicken and egg but which comes first ? There is something about the Triple which is ingrained in mankind, it crops up all over the place, even in the model of our minds [ Id, Ego, Superego]. I really enjoy the fact that within the pagan streams, there are a variety of ideas. To me, that's healthy and it keeps the pot boiling. Even my own path, which is a long way pre-christian, is still developing and changing the better to fit into the modern world. :smile:

LadyMoondancer
20-08-2011, 02:35 AM
This has been the best History lesson I ever sat through, thank you most kindly!

Blessings
Abi _/\_

I agree. I find Norseman very enlightening. And Tanith puts forth a good post there too. Thank you both - I love this whole thread. Very informative.

Tanith
20-08-2011, 07:45 PM
It's a chicken and egg but which comes first ?

That is very interesting. I have never quite thought of it that way, and certainly never heard of it proposed. Very good point! I may have to re-think my argument, though until more research and study is underwent, I stick by my original thoughts. But good insight, thank you!


LadyMoondancer, thank you :) I enjoyed Norseman's original post as well, and I tried to write my own side to match. If I'm going to respond, what good is a simple answer except to a simple statement?

norseman
20-08-2011, 08:23 PM
Tanith, my hesitation regarding the Triple Goddess rises out of Ronald Hutton statement that it comes from the Robert Graves work, The White Goddess. Although it must be mentioned that Greek mythology and pantheon has triple goddesses e.g. Hera - girl, wife, widow or Demeter - Kore, Persephone, Hecate.
If it can be established that Maiden, Mother, Wise Woman is pagan rather than wiccan, then it can be argued that christianity [ especially Roman Catholicism ] is a pagan religion in that it has a Triple Deity - father, son, Holy Ghost. Just a thought :smile:
However, to muddy the water even further, excavation at Knossus in Crete provides evidence of worship of a goddess with multiple facets.

Tanith
21-08-2011, 02:35 AM
I agree that the argument stands against Christianity being a monotheistic religion. And goddesses with three (sometimes more) aspects are common in many pantheons. Unless I am mistaken (I haven't brushed up on Hinduism in a very, very long time) the principle mother goddess has three aspects. The Hindu trimurti also reflects this- Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. They are usually depicted as separate but also one. And Hinduism is a very old religion, as old as the other polytheistic (but now for the most part dead) religions.

Animus27
21-08-2011, 05:56 AM
Tanith, my hesitation regarding the Triple Goddess rises out of Ronald Hutton statement that it comes from the Robert Graves work, The White Goddess. Although it must be mentioned that Greek mythology and pantheon has triple goddesses e.g. Hera - girl, wife, widow or Demeter - Kore, Persephone, Hecate.
If it can be established that Maiden, Mother, Wise Woman is pagan rather than wiccan, then it can be argued that christianity [ especially Roman Catholicism ] is a pagan religion in that it has a Triple Deity - father, son, Holy Ghost. Just a thought :smile:
However, to muddy the water even further, excavation at Knossus in Crete provides evidence of worship of a goddess with multiple facets.
Norseman, can you give me any references to the Hera thing about girl, wife, widow? I've never heard of that, but I would be interested in seeing if she was portrayed in such a manner.

norseman
21-08-2011, 09:17 AM
Hi Animus, Hutton in Triumph of the Moon quotes Graves, in his The White Goddess: a Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth (http://www.spiritualforums.com/vb/redir.php?link=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.spiritualforums.co m%2Fvb%2Fredir.php%3Flink%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fen. wikipedia.org%252Fwiki%252FThe_White_Goddess) (1948) but, of course, we now get into that grey area between myth and history. However, Hutton is impeccable in his scholarship :smile: