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                                            History 
      
                                 (c) 1988, by Weyland Smith and 
                                The Rocky Mountain Pagan Journal 
      
                    "Mommy, how old are we?"  Does our faith come down to us in 
               Apostolic succession from "that time whereof the memory of man 
               runneth not to the contrary", or was our religion dreamed up in 
                         the nineteenfortiesbyaretiredBritishcivilservantwiththe
                     collaboration ofa dyingheroin addictandpoet? Does itreally 
           matter? 
      
                                   To
                                    whatextent
                                             themodern
                                                     practitionersof
                                                                   paganismmay
                                                                             lay
                     ajust claimto themantleof theirpredecessorsfrom thetwelfth 
                   centuryhas beena matterof greatdebate bothwithin andwithout  
           the Craft community almost from the moment Gerald Gardner 
               published _Witchcraft Today in 1954.*1*  Though the debate is 
               continued with somewhat less fervor today than it was in the 
                         1960s,ithasnever whollyceasedanditcontinuesto beaCrisis
              of Faith which besets many practitioners of paganism every year. 
      
                                   Itcan
                                       beatroubling
                                                  questionto
                                                           face,especiallyif
                                                                           one's
             early teachers tried to justify their credentials by claiming 
               that what they taught had great antiquity.  The question isn't 
               any easier to answer with truth or objectivity when there is a 
                         bunch
                             ofradicalfundamentalistsrunningaroundseekingtoclaim
             that we aren't really a religion and so of course we aren't 
               entitled to protection under the First Amendment. 
      
                    It is a sign of progress, I think, that there seems to be 
               less of that sort of teaching today than there was when I began 
               my studies.  Today most of the teachers that I know are secure 
               enough in their religion that they can face the staggering 
               thought that the ethical and philosophical system that guides 
               their lives may indeed be younger than some of them are.  The 
               plain fact is that we simply don't know. 
      
                                   Gerald
                                        Gardnerand
                                                 CharlesLeland*2*
                                                                mayhave
                                                                      triedto
                                                                            palm
             fiction off on the world as fact.  It's certainly been tried 
               before--and since.  On the other hand, they may each have been 
               reporting the truth as they found it.  It certainly is a fact 
                         thatnoone Iknowhasever comeacrossany BookofShadowsthat 
             dates before the beginning of this century.  Presumably, if one 
                         exists,sayintheBritishMuseum, itwouldhavebecomeknownto 
             scholars looking into the subject over the last half century.  
                         GrantedthattherewaslessburninginEnglandthan elsewherein
             Europe, but there was enough that surely some physical evidence 
               would have survived in the hands of the government if nowhere 
               else. 
       
                                   The
                                     VaticanLibrary,of
                                                     coursemayyet
                                                                turnup
                                                                     sucharelic.
                         Theirfailure todosoat thistimecanbeexplained aseasilyby
              the lack of such a document as by a possible desire to suppress 
               it.  We may never know that one, but when push comes to shove, 
               does it really matter? 
      
                                   Thomas
                                        Jefferson,
                                                 speakingon
                                                          the
                                                            questionof
                                                                     whether
                                                                           black
             colonial slaves were Americans or not is said to have remarked 


                                                                             788

               "They're people and they're here.  If there's any other 
                         requirement,Ihaven'theardofit."Perhapswemightparaphrase
              Jefferson a bit and remark that the modern practitioners of 
               Witchcraft are undeniably here and a large number of them are 
                         sincere intheirbeliefs. Thatinitselfshouldqualify usasa
             religion. 
      
                    Perhaps as important as the legal question is our own self 
               image.  Would a "real witch" from the middle ages recognize or 
                         disownone ofhersisters oftoday? Wouldshewant togowith a
             "New Age" circle, a Dianic grove, a Gardnerian coven, or would 
               she laugh hysterically at the bunch of us and walk off into the 
               sunset? 
      
                    While the antiquity of our current practice of witchcraft 
               shouldn't be a matter of serious concern, to us _or to our 
                         detractors,itsauthenticityshouldbe.Thesearchforourroots
              must continue to be pursued by serious scholars and magicians 
               alike in order that we may come as close as possible to the 
                         ideals andpurposesofourancientpredecessors.Thereisavery
             practical reason why this is so.  That reason is tied up in 
                         somethingcalledan_egregore. Onthesubjectofan egregore,I
             would like to quote extensively from a recent article in _Gnosis 
               by Gaetan Delaforge: 
      
               ..."An egregore is a kind of group mind which is created when 
                         peopleconsciouslycometogetherforacommonpurpose.Whenever
             people gather together to do something and egregore is formed, 
                         butunlessanattemptismadetomaintain itdeliberatelyitwill
                       dissipaterather quickly.Howeverifthe peoplewishtomaintain
             it and know the techniques of how to do so, the egregore will 
               continue to grow in strength and can last for centuries.   
      
               An egregore has the characteristic of having an effectiveness 
               greater than the mere sum of its individual members.  It 
               continuously interacts with its members, influencing them and 
               being influenced by them.  The interaction works positively by 
               stimulating and assisting its members but only as long as they 
                         behaveand actinlinewith itsoriginalaim.It willstimulate
             both individually and collectively all those faculties in the 
                         groupwhichwillpermittherealizationoftheobjectivesof its
             original program.  If this process is continued a long time the 
               egregore will take on a kind of life of its own, and can become 
               so strong that even if all its members should die, it would 
               continue to exist on the inner dimensions and can be contacted 
               even centuries later by a group of people prepared to live the 
                         livesoftheoriginalfounders,particularlyiftheyarewilling
             to provide the initial input of energy to get it going again. 


                                                                             789

      
               If the egregore is concerned with spiritual or esoteric 
               activities its influence will be even greater.  People who 
                         discoverthekeyscantapinonapowerfulegregorerepresenting,
              for example, a spiritual or esoteric tradition, will, if they 
               follow the line described above by activating and maintaining 
                         suchanegregore,obtainaccesstotheabilities,knowledge,and
                     driveofall thathasbeen accumulatedin thategregoresince its 
                   beginnings.  Agroup ororder whichmanages to dothis can,with  
          a clear conscience, claim to be an authentic order of the 
               tradition represented by that egregore.  In my view this is the 
               only yardstick by which a genuine Templar order should be 
               measured."*3* 
      
                                   Mr.
                                     Delaforgewas
                                                writingabout
                                                           theKnights
                                                                    Templarand
                                                                             the
                     various groupsclaimingto representitin moderntimes, butthe 
           parallel with ancient witchcraft and the many diverse groups 
                         claimingto representittodayisobvious. Ihopethebenefitto
              be gained by reconstructing as faithfully as possible the 
               attitudes and goals of our ancient brethren is equally obvious. 
      
                    In her books "The Sea Priestess" and "Moon Magic", Dion 
               Fortune was demonstrating this technique.  Vivien LeFay Morgan 
                         wasattemptingnothinglessthanthe
                                                       reactivationoftheegregore
              of the Atlantean priesthood. 
      
                    When Gerald Gardner published "Witchcraft Today", he 
               embarked upon the outward steps of his part of the reactivation 
               of the egregore of the old witch cult in western Europe.  The 
               inward steps were probably begun by one or more of the magical 
                         lodgesof
                                theearlytwentiethcentury,mostlikelyDionFortune's
              Society of the Inner Light during its "pagan phase" in the late 
                         twentiesandthirties.*4*Gardner'spublic
                                                              worksservedtobring
              the reactivated egregore into contact with an increasingly 
               receptive populace where it could gather unto itself the 
                         additionalpsychicenergyitneededtobecomeonceagainaviable
              force in the world.  How well it has achieved this end is to be 
               observed by anyone with the eyes to see.   
      
      
                    I personally think that our job in this generation is to 
               deepen and strengthen our ties with this newly reawakened force 
               in the world; to learn from it and to draw inspiration from it, 
               and to bring the Craft back from the status of a "cult" to that 
               of a genuine religion.  To do this we must learn more of the 
                         goals,ideals,andambitionsofourbrothersandsisterswhohave
              gone before--as they really were, not as we would like them to 
               have been. 


                                                                             790

                                   Please
                                        notethat
                                               theidea
                                                     isnot
                                                         necessarilyto
                                                                     recreatethe
              _practices of our predecessors, particularly if we are talking 
               about things like blood sacrifice.  One should note that this 
                         practicewasfollowedby thejewsinbiblicaltimes,but thatin
                     moderntimes theydon't doit. This doesnot keepthemodern jew 
                   frominteracting withthe egregoreof hisancient faith. Judaism 
           has surely progressed since the time of the Ceasars, so has the 
               Craft.  The idea, when activating and interacting with an 
               egregore is to re-create the _goals and _attitudes of the 
               founders.  That doesn't freeze the practitioner into practices 
               which have long since been outgrown. 
      
                                   WhatI
                                       thinkweneednow
                                                    ismorerealscholarship.
                                                                         Whatdid
                       Samhainreallymean toourpredecessors;or Beltane;orImbolc? 
                   Not only howdid theycelebrate it,but how didthey _feelabout  
               it? Platitudes about"fruitfulness and fertility"are simplytoo    
             superficial. This is not madeany easier by the factthat these      
       observances were pastoral and agricultural while most of us are 
               city dwellers who do well to keep a potted plant alive through 
               one summer. 
      
                    An attempt in this direction was made by the Holy Order of 
                         SaintBrigitnearFortMorgan,Coloradoabout tenyearsago.The
              farm is gone now and its residents are scattered, yet it cannot 
               be said to have entirely failed of its purpose.  Many of the 
               former participants in the experiments can be found today, 
               quietly practicing the Craft. 
      
               This is not to say that we all should sell our goods, quit our 
               jobs, and move out into communes somewhere, but we must at the 
                         leastestablishcloseenoughcontactwiththeharshrealitiesof
             this world that we can appreciate how frightening the onset of 
               winter must have been to those who had no central heating, food 
                         storesorwelfare tofallback upon.Whenwe havedonethis, we
                     will,perhaps,be ableto recapturethemindset ofthePriestess  
           at Samhain. 
      
      
                    These truths are not to be found in the Fantasy fiction 
                         sectionofB.Dalton's,butinthehistoryandanthropologylibr-
              aries of our local universities.  The reading is much dryer and 
                         lessfun,but ittalksaboutthe peopleasthey reallywere.It 
                     isn't afantasy worldto hidefromreality in,but neitheris it 
           a dead end.  It can take us back in time and forward in our 
                         understandingsothatwemayreallycontacttheancientreligion
             of witchcraft as it was, learn from it, and pass it on, 
               rejuvenated and strengthened to our children. 


                                                                             791


      
                                             Notes 
      
               1.   Gerald B. Gardner, _Witchcraft _Today, (London: Rider and 
                    Company, 1954) reprinted (New York: Citadel Press, 1971) 
      
               2.   Charles Godfrey Leland, _Aradia, _or _Gospel _of _the 
                    _Witches, (London: David Nutt, 1899; reprinted (New York: 
                    Samuel Weiser, 1974) 
      
                         3.GaetanDelaforge,_Gnosis,"TheTemplarTradition:
                                                                       yesterday
                    and today", No. 6, (Winter 1988), pp 8-13. 
      
               4.   Alan Richardson, _Dancers _to _the _Gods, (London: The 
                    Aquarian Press, 1985) 


                                                                             792


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