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Wicca and Freemasonry

Freemasonry's Latest Scheme: Wicca, the Neo-Pagan Witchcraft Nature Religion for the New Age

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A Certain Point Within A Circle...

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So Mote It Be...

The History of Wicca: 1939 - present day

This talk was given by Julia Phillips at the Wiccan Conference in Canberra, 1991. It is mainly about the early days of the Wicca in England; specifically what we now call Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions. The text remains "as given", so please remember when you read it that it was never intended to be "read", but "heard" and debated.

Text begins:

There are three main strands I intend to examine: one, Gardner's claim of traditional initiation, and its subsequent development; two, magical traditions to which Gardner would have had access; and three, literary sources.

As we look at these three main threads, it is important to bear in mind that Gardner was 55 years old at the time of his claimed initiation; that he had spent many years in Malaya, and had an enormous interest in magic, Folklore and Mythology. By the time he published High Magic's Aid, he was 65, and 75 when "The Meaning of Witchcraft" appeared. He died in 1964, at the age of 80.

Gardner was born in 1884, and spent most of his working adult life in Malaya. He retired, and returned to the UK in 1936. He joined the Folklore Society, and in June 1938, also joined the newly opened Rosicrucian Theatre at Christchurch where it is said he met Old Dorothy Clutterbuck.

I chose 1939 as my arbitrary starting point as that was the year that Gerald Gardner claims he was initiated by Old Dorothy into a practising coven of the Old Religion, that met in the New Forest area of Britain. In his own words,

"I realised that I had stumbled upon something interesting; but I was half-initiated before the word, "Wica" which they used hit me like a thunderbolt, and I knew where I was, and that the Old Religion still existed. And so I found myself in the Circle, and there took the usual oath of secrecy, which bound me not to reveal certain things." This quote is taken from The Meaning of Witchcraft, which was published in 1959.

It is interesting that in this quote, Gardner spells Wicca with only one "c"; in the earlier "Witchcraft Today" (1954) and "High Magic's Aid" (1949), the word Wicca is not even used. His own derivation for the word, given in "The Meaning of Witchcraft", is as follows:

"As they (the Dane and Saxon invaders of England) had no witches of their own they had no special name for them; however, they made one up from "wig" an idol, and "laer", learning, "wiglaer" which they shortened into "Wicca".

"It is a curious fact that when the witches became English- speaking they adopted their Saxon name, "Wica"."

In "An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present", Doreen Valiente does not have an entry for Wicca, but when discussing Witchcraft, does mention the Saxon derivation from the word Wicca or Wicce. In the more recently published The Rebirth Of Witchcraft, however, she rejects this Saxon theory in favour of Prof. Russell's derivation from the Indo-European root "Weik", which relates to things connected with magic and religion.

Doreen Valiente strongly supports Gardner's claim of traditional initiation, and published the results of her successful attempt to prove the existence of Dorothy Clutterbuck in an appendix to "The Witches' Way" by Janet and Stewart Farrar. It is a marvellous piece of investigation, but proving that Old Dorothy existed does nothing to support Gardner's claims that she initiated him.

In his book, "Ritual Magic in England", occultist Francis King does offer some anecdotal evidence in support of Gardner's claims. However, it is only fair to point out that in the same book, he virtually accuses Moina Mathers of murder, based upon a misunderstanding of a story told by Dion Fortune! With that caveat, I'll recount the tale in full:

King relates that in 1953, he became acquainted with Louis Wilkinson, who wrote under the pen-name of Louis Marlow, and had contributed essays to Crowley's Equinox. He later became one of Crowley's literary executors. King says that in conversation, Wilkinson told him that Crowley had claimed to have been offered initiation into a witch coven, but that he refused, as he didn't want to be bossed around by a bunch of women. (This story is well-known, and could have been picked up anywhere.)

Wilkinson then proceeded to tell King that he had himself become friendly with members of a coven operating in the New Forest area, and he thought that whilst it was possible that they derived their existence from Murray's "Witch Cult in Western Europe", he felt that they were rather older.

King draws the obvious conclusion; that these witches were the very same as those who initiated Gardner. King claims that the conversation with Wilkinson took place in 1953, although "Ritual Magic in England" was not published - or presumably written - until 1970. However, on September 27 1952, "Illustrated" magazine published a feature by Allen Andrews, which included details of a working by, "the Southern Coven of British Witches", where 17 men and women met in the New Forest to repel an invasion by Hitler. Wilkinson had told King of this working during their conversation, which King believes to be proof that such a coven existed; there are some differences in the two stories, and so it is possible that two sources are reporting the same event, but as Wilkinson's conversation with King came after the magazine article, we shall never know.

In the recently published "Crafting the Art of Magic", Aidan Kelly uses this same source to "prove" (and I use the word advisedly - the book "proves" nothing") that Gardner, Dorothy, et al created Wicca one night following a social get together! Of one thing we can be certain though: whatever its origin, modern Wicca derives from Gardner. There may of course be other traditional, hereditary witches, but even if they are genuine, then it is unlikely that they would have been able to "go public" had it not been for Gardner.

There have been many claims of "hereditary" origin (other than Gardner's own!) One of the most famous post-Gardner claimants to "hereditary" status was actress Ruth Wynn-Owen, who fooled many people for a very long time before being exposed. Roy Bowers, who used the pseudonym Robert Cochrane, was another: Doreen Valiente describes her association with him in "The Rebirth of Witchcraft", and The Roebuck, which is still active in the USA today, derives directly from Cochrane, via Joe Wilson. "Witchcraft: A Tradition Renewed" by Evan John Jones with Doreen Valiente describes a tradition derived from Robert Cochrane. Alex Sanders, of course is another who claimed hereditary lineage, and like Cochrane, deserves his own place in this history, and we'll get to both of them later.

Many people have been suspicious of Gardner's claims, and have accused him of making the whole thing up. They suggest that the Wicca is no more than the fantasy of an old man coloured by a romantic imagination. One particularly virulent attack upon Gardner came from Charles Cardell, writing under the pseudonym of Rex Nemorensis.

One of Gardner's initiates who is still active in the Wicca today has an interesting tale to tell about Cardell, whom he knew:

"Cardell claimed to be a Witch, but from a different tradition to Gardner's. Cardell was a psychopathic rat, with malevolent intent toward all and sundry. He managed to get a woman called Olive Green (Florannis) into Gardner's coven, and told her to copy out the Book of Shadows so that Cardell could publish it, and destroy Gardner. He also contacted a London paper, and told them when and where the coven meetings were held, and of course the paper got quite a scoop. Cardell led people in the coven to believe that it was Doreen Valiente who had informed on them.

Doreen had just left Gardner in a bit of a huff after a disagreement; another coven member, Ned Grove, left with her. Anyway, the day the paper printed the exposure, Cardell sent Gardner a telegram saying, "Remember Ameth tonight". (Ameth was Doreen's Craft name, and as it has now been published, I see no reason not to use it here)."

My informant also said that Olive Green was associated with Michael Houghton, owner of Atlantis book shop in Museum Street, who was the publisher of High Magic's Aid. Through this association, she also encountered Kenneth Grant of the OTO, although their association was not friendly.

Cecil Williamson, the original owner of the witchcraft museum on the Isle of Man, and present owner of the Witchcraft Museum in Boscastle, has also published a number of articles where he states quite categorically that Gardner was an utter fraud; but, he offers only anecdotes to support these allegations.

Although Gardner claimed his initiation occurred in 1939, we don't really hear anything about him until 1949, when "High Magic's Aid" was published by Michael Houghton.

This book has very strong Solomonic leanings, but like Gardner's own religious beliefs, combined the more natural forms of magic with high ceremonial. In his introduction to the book, Gardner says that: "The Magical rituals are authentic, party from the Key of Solomon (MacGregor Mathers' translation) and partly from magical MSS in my possession)." Gardner did indeed have a large collection of MSS, which passed with the rest of his goods to Ripleys in Toronto after his death.

Scire (pseudonym) was the name Gardner took as a member of Crowley's branch of the OTO; although it is generally agreed that his membership was purely nominal, he was certainly in contact with people like Kenneth Grant and Madeline Montalban (founder of the Order of the Morning Star).

Gardner was given his OTO degree and Charter by Aleister Crowley, to whom he was introduced in 1946 by Arnold Crowther. As Crowley died in 1947, their association was not long-lived, but Crowther confirms that the two men enjoyed each other's company.

So, after that brief introduction we can have a look at the first of the strands I mentioned.

In 1888, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was born, beginning a renaissance of interest in the occult that has continued to the present day. It is impossible to overstate the importance of the GD to modern occultists; not only in its rituals, but also in its personalities; and of course, through making available a large body of occult lore that would otherwise have remained unknown, or hidden in obscurity.

I will be looking at this body of occult lore with other literary influences later, and will here concentrate on the rituals and personalities that have influenced Wicca.

We cannot look at the GD in isolation from its own origins. It is descended from a myriad of esoteric traditions including Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, and Freemasonry. The latter in its own right, as well as via the SRIA - a scholarly and ceremonial association open to Master Masons only.

Whether the German Lodge or Fraulein Sprengel actually existed is a matter still under debate; but either in fact or in spirit, this is the source for the "Cypher Manuscripts" which were used to found the Isis-Urania Lodge in 1888.

As I'm sure everyone knows, Isis-Urania was founded by Dr Wynn-Westcott, Dr Woodman, and MacGregor Mathers. Not only were all three Master Masons; Wynn-Westcott and Mathers were also members of the Theosophical Society. The most important thing though is the fact the these three men were a ruling triumvirate that managed the affairs of the SRIA. This is important, for the SRIA included Hargrave Jennings in its membership, and Jennings is reputed to have been involved with a Pagan group at the end of the 19th century, which drew its inspiration from Apuleius - The Golden Ass.

But back to the GD - whether the Cypher Manuscripts actually existed, or Wynn-Westcott manufactured them is now irrelevant; Mathers was commissioned to write-up the rituals into a workable shape, and thus the Golden Dawn was born.

Members of the Isis-Urania Lodge at various times also included Allan Bennett, Moina Mathers, Aleister Crowley, Florence Farr, Maud Gonne, Annie Horniman, Arthur Machen, "Fiona Macleod", Arthur Waite and WB Yeats. Also associated were Lady Gregory, and G W Russell, or AE, whose "The Candle of Vision" was included in the bibliography of "The Meaning of Witchcraft". The literary and Celtic influences within the GD were immense.

From the Isis-Urania Lodge sprang all the others, including the so-called Dissident Orders derived through Crowley. It is this line that some commentators trace to modern Wicca, so it is the one upon which we will concentrate.

Aleister Crowley was initiated into the Isis-Urania Lodge on 18 November 1898. As you most probably know, Crowley later quarrelled with MacGregor Mathers, and in 1903 began to create his own Order, the Argenteum Astrum, or Silver Star. In 1912, Crowley was initiated into the OTO, and in 1921, succeeded Theodor Reuss as its Chief.

According to Arnold Crowther's account, it was in 1946, a year before Crowley's death, that Crowley gave Gardner an OTO Charter. Ithell Colquhoun says only that it occurred in the 1940s, and further states that Gardner introduced material from the OTO, and less directly from the GD, into "...the lore of his covens".

As Doreen Valiente also admits, "Indeed, the influence of Crowley was very apparent throughout the (Wiccan) rituals.". This, Gardner explained to her, was because the rituals he received from Old Dorothy's coven were very fragmentary, and in order to make them workable, he had to supplement them with other material.

To give an example of some of the lines by Crowley which are rather familiar to modern Wiccans:

I give unimaginable joys on earth; certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.

I am Life, and the giver of Life, yet therefore is the knowledge of me the knowledge of death.

And of course, the Gnostic Mass has been immensely influential.

Not only poetry, but also magical practices in Wicca are often derived from GD sources. For example:

the way of casting the circle: that is, the visualisation of the circle, and the pentagrams at the quarters, are both based upon the standard GD Pentagram Ritual;

both the concept and word "Watchtowers" are of course from the Enochian system of Magic, passed to Wicca via the GD (although I would like to make it very clear that their use within Wicca bears no relation to the use within Enochia - the only similarity is in the name);

the Elements and colours generally attributed to the Quarters are those of the GD;

the weapons and their attributions are a combination of GD, Crowley and Key of Solomon.

In "Witchcraft Today", Gardner says, "The people who certainly would have had the knowledge and ability to invent (the Wiccan rites) were the people who formed the Order of the Golden Dawn about seventy years ago...".

The GD is not the only influence upon Gardner; Freemasonry has had a tremendous impact upon the Wicca. Not only were the three founders of Isis-Urania Temple Masons, so too were Crowley and Waite; Gardner and at least one member of the first coven (Daffo) were both Co-Masons. Gardner was also a friend of JSM Ward, who had published a number of books about Masonry.

Doreen describes Ward as a "leading Mason", but Francis King says only that Ward was, "a bogus Bishop... who had written some quite good but far-fetched books on masonry, and who ran a peculiar religious-cum-occult community called The Abbey of Christ the King..." Whether the books were far-fetched or not, we can assume that some of the many similarities between Wicca and Masonry are in some ways due to Ward's influence.

Some of these include:

The Three Degrees
The Craft
So Mote It Be
The Challenge
Properly Prepared
The 1st Degree Oath (in part)
Presentation of the Working Tools at 1st degree

and so on.

It seems to me quite clear that even if Gardner received a traditional set of rituals from his coven, they must have been exceptionally sparse, as the concepts that we know of as Wicca today certainly derive from ceremonial magic and Freemasonry to a very great extent. Indeed, Gardner always claimed that they were sparse.

It could be argued that all derive from a common source. That the appearance of a phrase, or technique in one tradition does not automatically suggest that its appearance elsewhere means that the one was taken from the other. However, Gardner admits his sources in many cases, and Doreen confirms them in others, so I think it is safe to presume that the rituals and philosophy used by Wicca descends from the traditions of Freemasonry and Ceremonial magic, rather than from a single common source. However, as Hudson Frew points out in his commentary upon Aidan Kelly's book, the phenomena of the techniques and practices of ceremonial magic influencing folk magic and traditions is widely recognised by anthropologists, and certainly does not indicate plagiarism. And of course there are many traditional witchcraft aspects in the Wicca.

We have looked at the development of the magical orders which resulted from the British occult revival of the 19th and 20th centuries, and now we can see where this ties in with Wicca, and Gardner's claim of traditional initiation.

I have here a "family tree" of the main branches of British Wicca. It is by no means exhaustive, and is intended to provide an outline, not a definitive history! I have included my own coven lines and development as an indication of the kind of "cross-over" of tradition which often occurs, not to suggest that these are the only active groups! Also, it would not be ethical for me to include details of other covens.

We have two possible "hereditary" sources to the Gardnerian Craft: one, the Horsa Coven of Old Dorothy, and two, the Cumbrian Group which Rae Bone claims to have been initiated into before meeting Gardner. (NB: Doreen Valiente says that the Horsa Coven is not connected with Old Dorothy, but is another group entirely.) There is also sometimes mention of a St Alban's group that pre-dates Gardner, but as far as I know, this is mistaken. The St Albans group was Gardner's own group, which as far as research confirms, did not pre-date him.

To return to Rae Bone: she was one of Gardner's HPSs, and her "line" has been immensely important to the modern Wicca; she was featured in the magazine series, "Man Myth and Magic" if anyone has a copy of that.

In her heyday she ran two covens: one in Cumbria, and one in South London. Rae is still alive, and lives in Cumbria, although her last coven moved to New Zealand many years ago, and she is no longer active. No-one has ever been able to trace the coven in New Zealand.

At this point, I will just mention George Pickingill, although he is not shown on the tree, as I think it extremely dubious that he had any connection with Gardner, or any other modern Wiccan.

Pickingill died in 1909, whilst Gardner was still in Malaya. Eric Maple is largely responsible for the beginnings of the Pickingill myth, which were expanded by Bill Liddell (Lugh) writing in "The Wiccan" and "The Cauldron" throughout the 1970s. Mike Howard still has some of Liddell's material which he has never published, and I have yet to meet anyone within the British Craft who gives credence to Liddell's claims.

In the book, "The Dark World of Witches", published in 1962, Maple tells of a number of village wise women and cunning men, one of whom is George Pickingill. There is a photograph included of an old man with a stick, holding a hat, which Maple describes as Pickingill. This photograph has subsequently been re-used many times in books about witchcraft and Wicca.

Issue number 31 of "Insight" Magazine, dated July 1984, contains a very interesting letter from John Pope:

"The photograph purporting to be Old George Pickingill is in fact a photo of Alf Cavill, a station porter at Ellstree, taken in the early 1960s. Alf is now dead, but he was no witch, and laughed over the photograph when he saw it."

A very respected Craft authority has told me that he believes the photo, which is in his possession, to be of Pickingill, but like so much to do with Craft history, there is no definitive answer to this one.

Many claims were made by Liddell; some obviously from cloud- cuckoo land, others which could, by a stretch of the imagination, be accepted. The very idea of Pickingill, an illiterate farm labourer, co-ordinating and supervising nine covens across the breadth of the UK is staggering. To accept - as Liddell avers - that he had the likes of Alan Bennett and Aleister Crowley as his pupils bends credulity even further.

The infamous photograph which Liddell claims shows Crowley, Bennett and Pickingill together has conveniently disappeared, and no-one admits to ever having seen it. Like most of Liddell's claims, nothing has ever been substantiated, and when pushed, he retreats into the time honoured favourite of, "I can't reveal that - you're not an initiate"!

But to return to the family tree: the names of Doreen Valiente, Pat and Arnold Crowther, Lois Bourne (Hemmings), Jack Bracelin and Monique Wilson will probably be the most familiar to you.

Jack Bracelin is the author of Gardner's biography, "Gerald Gardner, Witch", (published 1960) now out of print, although still available 2nd hand, and in libraries. (In Crafting the Art of Magic, Kelly claims that this book was actually written by Idries Shah, and simply published under Bracelin's name. As with every other claim, Kelly offers no evidence of this)

I have seen a copy of Bracelin's Book of Shadows, which it is claimed dates from 1949, although in The Rebirth Of Witchcraft, Doreen says that Bracelin was a "relative newcomer" in the mid-1950s. I have also been told by two different sources that Bracelin helped Gardner write "The Laws". In The Rebirth Of Witchcraft, Doreen states that she did not see The Laws until the mid 1950s, when she and her partner Ned Grove accused Gardner of concocting them in order to re-assert control over the coven. As Bracelin was in the Gardner camp during the break-up of the group, it seems reasonable that he did in fact help with their composition. (NB: Alex Sanders increased the number of "The Laws" much later - these appeared in June Johns' book, "The King of the Witches")

Although Doreen claims that the reason for the coven break-up was the fact that Gardner and Bracelin were publicity crazy, there was another reason, which was the instatement of a new lady into the coven, effectively replacing Doreen as HPS. This is also the main reason for Gerald's Law which states that the HPS will, "...gracefully retire in favour of a younger woman, should the coven so decide in council." Needless to say, Doreen was not impressed, and she and Ned left the coven under very acrimonious circumstances. It was quite some time before Doreen had contact with Gardner again, and they never quite regained the degree of friendship that had previously existed.

Monique and Campbell Wilson are infamous, rather than famous, as Gardner's heirs who sold off his magical equipment and possessions after his death, to Ripleys in the USA.

Monique was the last of his Priestesses, and many Wiccans today still spit when her name is mentioned. Pat Crowther was rather scathing about her recently in an interview, and in The Rebirth Of Witchcraft, although Doreen tells of the sale of Gardner's magical possessions to Ripleys, she doesn't ever mention the Wilsons by name. In effect, the Craft closed ranks against them, and they became outcasts.

Eventually, in the face of such opposition they had to sell the Museum in Castletown, and they moved to Torremolinos, where they bought a cafe. Monique died nine years after selling the Museum. It is rumoured that Campbell Wilson moved to the USA, and met with a car accident there: this is only hearsay though - I really do not know for sure what happened to him.

However, Monique was influential in a way that even she could not have imagined, when in 1964 or 5 she initiated Ray Buckland, who with his wife Rosemary (later divorced), was very influential in the development of the Wicca in the USA.

Fortunately, Richard and Tamarra James managed to buy the bulk of Gardner's collection back from Ripleys in 1987, for the princely sum of US$40,000, and it is now back within the Craft, and available for initiates to consult and view.

D and C S. are probably completely anonymous, and if it were not for the fact that C initiated Robert Cochrane (briefly mentioned earlier) they would probably stay that way!

Cochrane's origins are obscure, but I have been told that he was initiated into the Gardnerian tradition by C S, and met Doreen Valiente through a mutual acquaintance in 1964. When he met Doreen, however, he claimed to be a hereditary witch, from a different tradition to Gardner's, and as Doreen confirms, was contemptuous of what he called "Gardnerian" witches. Indeed, Doreen believes he coined the term, "Gardnerian".

Doreen said she was completely taken in by Cochrane and for a while, worked with him and the "Clan of Tubal-Cain" as he described his tradition, which was also known as "The Royal Windsor Cuveen", or 1734.

The figures "1734" have an interesting history. Doreen gives a rather strange account of them in The Rebirth Of Witchcraft, which contradicts what Cochrane himself describes in a letter to Joe Wilson, dated "12th Night 1966", where he says,

"...the order of 1734 is not a date of an event but a grouping of numerals that mean something to a witch.

"One that becomes seven states of wisdom - the Goddess of the Cauldron. Three that are the Queens of the Elements - fire belonging alone to Man, and the Blacksmith God. Four that are Queens of the Wind Gods.

"The Jewish orthodoxy believe that whomever knows the Holy and Unspeakable name of God has absolute power over the world of form. Very briefly, the name of God spoken as Tetragrammaton ... breaks down in Hebrew to the letters YHVH, or the Adam Kadmon (The Heavenly Man). Adam Kadmon is a composite of all Archangels - in other words a poetic statement of the names of the Elements.

"So what the Jew and the Witch believe alike, is that the man who discovers the secret of the Elements controls the physical world. 1734 is the witch way of saying YHVH." (Cochrane, 1966)

Although Doreen says that Cochrane's group was small, it still proved to be remarkably influential. As well as Cochrane and his wife (whom Doreen refers to as "Jean") and Doreen herself, there were others who are well-known today, and a man called Ronald White, who very much wanted to bring about a new age in England, with the return of King Arthur.

In The Rebirth Of Witchcraft, Doreen elaborates upon the circumstances surrounding the death of Cochrane: the bald facts are that he died at the Summer Solstice of 1966 of an overdose. Craft tradition believes that he became in fact, and of his own choice, the male ritual sacrifice which is sometimes symbolically enacted at the height of Summer.

The Royal Windsor Cuveen disbanded after Cochrane died, only to be re-born from the ashes at Samhain that year under a new name - The Regency. All of its early members were from the Royal Windsor Cuveen, and they were under the leadership of Ronald White. The Regency proved to be of great importance to the development of the Wicca, although its existence was kept a fairly close secret, and even today, there are relatively few people who have ever heard of it.

Meetings were held in North London, at a place called Queens Wood. As well as Ron White and Doreen Valiente, members included "John Math", founder of the Witchcraft Research Association in 1964, and editor of Pentagram magazine, and the founder of the Pagan Movement, Tony Kelly. At its height, there were frequently more than 40 in attendance at rites, which tended to be of the dramatic, pagan kind rather than the ceremonial associated with high ritual magic. The Regency operated fairly consistently for over twelve years, finally disbanding in 1978. The Membership roll reads like a who's who of the British Wicca! Some of the rites have been incorporated into modern Wiccan rituals - in fact, one was used at the Pan European Wiccan Conference 1991 with very great success.

Moving back over to Rae Bone's line, there are a number of influential people here, mainly through her initiates, Madge and Arthur, who probably take the award for the most prolific pair in Wiccandom! Rae, although initiated by Gardner, does of course also claim a hereditary status in her own right.

Madge and Arthur's initiates include:

John and Jean Score

John Score was the partner of Michael Houghton (mentioned earlier), and the founder of the Pagan Federation, which is very active today.

Houghton died under very mysterious circumstances, which is briefly mentioned in "The Sword of Wisdom" by Ithell Colquhoun. My Craft source told me that this was actually a ritual that went badly wrong, and Houghton ended up on the wrong end of some fairly potent energies.

There is an interesting anecdote about Houghton in The Rebirth Of Withcraft, which is taken from "Nightside of Eden" by Kenneth Grant, and agrees in some respect to a similar story that I was told some years ago. Doreen suggests in The Rebirth Of Witchcraft that the story may relate to a magical working involving Kenneth Grant and his wife, Gardner, Dolores North (Madeline Montalban), and an un-named witch, who was probably Olive Green.

They were all to perform a ritual together, supposedly to contact an extra-terrestrial being. The material basis for the rite, which took place in 1949, was a drawing by AO Spare.

Apparently soon after the rite commenced, a nearby bookseller (Michael Houghton) turned up and interrupted proceedings. On hearing that Kenneth Grant was within, he declined to enter, and wandered off. The rite was disrupted, and the story goes that everyone just went home.

Kenneth Grant claims that as a result of disturbing their working, Houghton's marriage broke up, and that Houghton died in mysterious circumstances. In fact, the Houghton divorce was a cause celebre, with her suing him for cruelty because he boasted of being a Sagittarian while sneering at her because she was only a dingy old Capricorn!

The interrupted ritual could well have taken place. Madeline had a flat near to Atlantis (Houghton's shop), and would certainly have known both Grant and Houghton. I know for a fact that Madeline was acquainted with Gerald, although her opinion of both him and the Wicca was rather poor. One of Madeline's older students told me that she thought Gardner rather a fraud, and ritually inept. She also had a very low opinion of Wiccans, and refused to allow her own students to participate in Wiccan rites. The reason for this lies in an anecdote which Doreen doesn't relate: the story goes that Madeline agreed to participate in a rite with Gerald, which turned out to involve Madeline being tied up and tickled with a feather duster! The great lady was not amused.

Prudence Jones

Prudence was for many years the president of the Pagan Federation, and editor of its newsletter. She inherited her role from John Score, after he passed away. With Nigel Pennick, Prudence also runs the Pagan Anti-Defamation League (PADL), and is an active astrologer and therapist. She has edited a book on astrology, and with Caitlin Matthews, edited "Voices from the Circle", published by Aquarian Press. Although Prudence took her degree in Philosophy, her main interests lie in the areas of the Grail and troubadour tales, and she has published privately an excellent essay on the Grail and Wicca. She is also a very highly respected astrologer, who lectures extensively in Britain.

Vivianne and Chris Crowley

Vivianne Crowley, is author of "Wicca - The Old Religion in the New Age", and also secretary of the Pagan Federation. She has a PhD in Psychology, and is perhaps the only person to have been a member of both a Gardnerian Coven and an Alexandrian one simultaneously!

Vivianne is very active at the moment, and has initiated people in Germany (having memorised the ritual in German - a language she doesn't speak!), Norway, and - on the astral - Brazil. As a result of her book, she receives many letters from people from all around the world, and organised the first ever pan-European Wiccan conference, held in Germany 1990. The second conference was held in Britain at the June solstice, and the third (1992) in Norway. In 1993, the Conference will be in Scotland.

John and Kathy (Caitlin) Matthews, are probably well-known to everyone, but possibly their Gardnerian initiations are not such common knowledge. The story that John Matthews relates in "Voices from the Circle" is essentially the one which he told the HPS who initiated him.

Pat and Arnold Crowther

I have left Pat and Arnold till last, as it is from their line that the infamous Alex Sanders derives! It is no secret anymore that Alex, far from being initiated by his grandmother when he was seven, was in fact turned down by Pat Crowther in 1961, but was later accepted by one of her ex-coven members, Pat Kopanski, and initiated to 1st Degree.

In "The Rebirth of Witchcraft" Doreen says that Alex later met Gardner, and was allowed to copy from the Book of Shadows; Craft tradition is somewhat different! It has always been said (even by Alex's supporters!) that he pinched what he could from Pat Kopanski before being chucked out, and that the main differences between the Alexandrian and Gardnerian Books of Shadows occur where Alex mis-heard, or mis-copied something! There are certainly significant differences between the two Books; some parts of Gardnerian ritual are quite unknown within the Alexandrian tradition, and the ritual techniques are often different. It is usually very easy to spot whether someone is an Alexandrian, or Gardnerian initiate.

Alex needed a HPS, and as we know, chose Maxine Morris for the role. Maxine is a striking Priestess, and made a very good visual focus for the movement which grew in leaps and bounds.

In the late 1960s, Alex and Maxine were prolific initiators, and a number of their initiates have become well known. Some came to Australia, and there are still a number of covens in the UK today whose HP and/or HPS was initiated by Alex or Maxine.

Alex and Maxine's most famous initiates are almost certainly Janet and Stewart Farrar, who left them in 1971 to form their own coven, first in England, then later, in Ireland. Through their books, they have probably had the most influence over the direction that the modern Craft has taken. Certainly in Australia, the publication of "What Witches Do" was an absolute watershed, and with Janet and Stewart's consistent output, their form of Wicca is more likely to become the "standard" than any other type.

Since their early days of undiluted Alexandrianism, they have drifted somewhat towards a more Gardnerian approach, and today, tell everyone that there are no differences between the two traditions. In fact, despite the merging that has been occurring over the last few years, there are very distinct differences between the traditions; some merely external, others of a very significant difference of philosophy.

Seldiy Bate was originally magically trained by Madeline Montalban, and then took an Alexandrian initiation from Maxine and Alex. Her husband, Nigel, was also initiated by Maxine, and they have been "public" witches for a number of years now, often appearing on TV, radio and in the press. Their background in ritual magic is expressed in the type of coven that they run; a combination of Wicca and Ceremonial Magic.

In 1971, Alex and Maxine went their separate ways. David Goddard is a Liberal Catholic Priest, and for many years, he and Maxine worked in the Liberal Catholic faith, and did not run a coven of any kind. Then in 1984, Maxine gathered together a group again, and started practising a combination of Wicca, Qabalah and Liberal Catholicism. She and David separated in 1987, and since then her coven has been exclusively Wiccan. In 1989, she married one of her initiates, Vincent, and they are still running an active coven in London today.

Alex's history after the split was a little more sordid, with one girl he married, Jill, filling the gutter press with stories about Alex being homosexual, and defrauding her of all her money to spend on his boyfriends. Sally Taylor was initiated by Maxine and David, but then transferred to Alex. She was trained by him, and then started her own group.

I'd now like to focus upon the last of the strands which I believe has been influential upon the birth and development of Wicca; that of the literary traditions and sources to which Gardner would have had access. To a certain extent these are contiguous with the magical traditions described earlier, as nowhere is it ever suggested that Gardner did in fact ever work in a magical Lodge, so we must assume that his knowledge came from the written form of the rites, not from the actual practise of them.

From reading Gardner's books, it is quite apparent that Margaret Murray had a tremendous impact upon him. Her book, "The God of the Witches" was published in 1933, and twelve years previously, "The Witch Cult in Western Europe" had appeared. "The God of the Witches" has been tremendously influential on a number of people, and certainly inspired Gardner.

In fact, "Witchcraft Today", published by Gardner in 1954 contained a foreword by Margaret Murray. At this time, remember, Murray's work was still taken seriously, and she remained the contributor on the subject of witchcraft for the Encyclopedia Britannica for a number of years.

Now of course her work has been largely discredited, although she remains a source of inspiration, if not historical accuracy. In Gardner's day, the idea of a continuing worship of the old pagan gods would have been a staggering theory, and in the second article in my series about Murray (published in The Cauldron), I made the point that Murray may have had to pretend scientific veracity in order to get her work published in such times. Don't forget that Dion Fortune had to publish her work privately, as did Gardner with High Magic's Aid. Carlo Ginzburg's excellent book, "Ecstasies", also supports Murray's basic premise; although of course he regrets her historical deceptions.

There were of course other sources than Murray. In 1899, "Aradia: Gospel of the Witches" was published. Most of Crowley's work was available during the pre- and post-war years, as were the texts written and translated by MacGregor Mathers and Waite. Also readily available were works such as The Magus, and of course the classics, from which Gardner drew much inspiration.

Of paramount importance would have been "The White Goddess", by Robert Graves, which is still a standard reference book on any British Wiccan's bookshelf. This was published in 1952; three years after High Magic's Aid appeared, and two years before Gardner's first non-fictional book about witchcraft. I would just like to say at this point that Graves has taken some very unfair criticism in respect of this book. The White Goddess was written as a work of poetry, not history, and to criticise it for being historically innaccurate is to miss the point. Unfortunately, I agree that some writers have referred to it as an "authority", and thus led their readers up the garden path. This is not Graves's fault, nor do I believe it was his intention.

Another book which has had a profound influence on many Wiccans, and would undoubtedly have been well known by Gardner is "The Golden Bough"; although the entire book was written based upon purely secondary research, it is an extensive examination of many pagan practices from the Ancient World, and the emphasis of the male sacrifice could certainly have been taken from here equally as well as from Murray. Certain of the Gardnerian ritual practices were almost certainly derived from The Golden Bough, or from Frazer's own sources.

In "Witchcraft Today" Gardner mentions a number of authors when speculating where the Wiccan rites came from. He says that, "The only man I can think of who could have invented the rites was the late Aleister Crowley."

He continues to say, "The only other man I can think of who could have done it is Kipling...". He also mentions that, "Hargrave Jennings might have had a hand in them..." and then suggests that "Barrat (sic) of The Magus, circa 1800, would have had the ability to invent or resurrect the cult."

It's possible that these references are something of a damage control operation by Gardner, who, according to Doreen, was not too impressed when she kept telling him that she recognised certain passages in the Witch rites! "Witchcraft Today" was published the year after Doreen's initiation, and perhaps by seeming genuinely interested in where the Rites came from, Gardner thought he might give the appearance of innocence of their construction!

As mentioned previously, Gardner also had a large collection of unpublished MSS, which he used extensively, and one has only to read his books to realise that he was a very well-read man, with wide-ranging interests. Exactly the sort of man who would be able to draw together a set of rituals if required.

The extensive bibliography to "The Meaning of Witchcraft" published in 1959, demonstrates this rather well. Gardner includes Magick in Theory and Practice and The Equinox of the Gods by Crowley; The Mystical Qabalah by Dion Fortune; The Goetia; The White Goddess (Graves); Lady Charlotte Guest's translation of The Mabinogion; English Folklore by Christina Hole; The Kabbalah Unveiled and the Abramelin by Mathers; both Margaret Murray's books and Godfrey Leland's Gypsy Sorcery, as well as a myriad of classic texts, from Plato to Bede!

Although this bibliography postdates the creation of Gardnerian Wicca, it certainly indicates from where Gardner draws his inspiration from. There are also several books listed which are either directly, or indirectly, concerned with sex magic, Priapic Cults, or Tantra.

Hargrave Jenning, mentioned earlier, wrote a book called "The Rosicrucians, their Rites and Mysteries", which Francis King describes as a book, "concerned almost exclusively with phallicism and phallic images - Jennings saw the penis everywhere."

As I mentioned earlier, Hargrave Jennings, a member of the SRIA, also belonged to a group, described as a coven, which met in the Cambridge area in the 1870s, and performed rituals based upon the classical traditions - specifically, from The Golden Ass. There is no evidence to support this, except that there are often found references to a "Cambridge Coven" linked to Jennings' name. Many of the rituals we are familiar with today were of course later additions by Doreen Valiente, and these have been well documented by both her and the Farrars, in a number of books. Doreen admits that she deliberately cut much of the poetry by Aleister Crowley, and substituted either her own work, or poems from other sources, such as the Carmina Gadelica.

Of course we can never really know the truth about the origins of the Wicca. Gardner may have been an utter fraud; he may have actually received a "Traditional" initiation; or, as a number of people have suggested, he may have created the Wicca as a result of a genuine religious experience, drawing upon his extensive literary and magical knowledge to create, or help create, the rites and philosophy.

What I think we can be fairly certain about is that he was sincere in his belief. If there had been no more to the whole thing than an old man's fantasy, then the Wicca would not have grown to be the force that it is today, and we would not all be sitting here in Canberra on a Saturday morning!


Resource: Wicca 101

g and compass

Note: The author of the following article is a Freemason and a Wiccan.

Common Elements in Freemasonry and Neo-Pagan Ritual

Freemasonry is an ancient and venerable institution with many centuries of history behind it. Likewise, Pagan traditions fade into the most distant recesses of time. Yet few modern-day Pagans are intimately familiar with Freemasonry, undoubtedly as least in part due to the all-male nature of the fraternity in contrast to the prominent role of women in most traditions of neo-Paganism. And it is likely that even fewer Masons understand neo-Paganism. Yet there are striking liturgical similarities and historical ties.

Historians agree that the present-day structure known as the Masonic fraternity, whatever its antecedents may have been, began with the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in the year 1717 [1]. It is not surprising, then, to find that some of the symbolic and mythological elements in Masonic rituals would appear to be of Pagan origin. Examples include ritual circumambulation, which is rooted in Celtic practices centered around belief in sympathetic solar magic. By walking in the direction of the sun, Pagans believed (as many do today) that they could attune themselves to Nature's progress around the wheel of the year. Moderns understand the earth orbits the sun, but ancients contemplated a life-giving orb which "rose" in the east and "set" in the west.

Other striking examples occur in common vocabulary of the of the Masonic fraternity and certain neo-Pagan traditions. For example, the word "cowan," which comes from ancient Scottish language, refers to non-initiates in either instance.

No less than the eminent Masonic historian, Dr. Albert G. Mackey, tells of similarities between Freemasonry and ancient Druidism, which was one of thousands of ancient Pagan traditions. (Hereafter, the word "paleo-Pagan" will be used to distinguish between ancient and modern, or "neo-Pagan," beliefs or systems.) Dr. Mackey tells us:

The doctrine of the Druids were the same as those entertained by Pythagoras... The object of their mystic rites was to communicate those doctrines in symbolic language, and object and a method common alike to Druidism, to the Ancient Mysteries and to Modern Freemasonry. [2]
It is believed that the body of knowledge which has descended to us in the form of Freemasonry has its roots in many ancient sources. The most obvious are Semitic and Christian since the outward content of the rituals revolve around the construction of King Solomon's temple. But some aspects of Masonry appear to be of Pagan origin, in the most honorable and classical sense of that word.[3] One reason may be common historical roots.

Pythagoras, himself undeniably a Pagan, reportedly studied the teachings of "Brahmins and Druids," under the mental of an Assyrian philosopher named Ammanianus.[4] Pythagoras, who lived from 586 to 506 BCE, is remembered generally for his love of knowledge, and specifically for his writings on the mystical power of numbers, as well as for being the father of the science of geometry. According to Mackey, Pythagoras "...traveled through Egypt, Chaldea and Asia Minor, and is said to have submitted to the initiations in those countries for the purpose of acquiring knowledge. On his return to Europe, he is said to have established his school at Crotona, with liturgical practices resembling those subsequently adopted by Freemasons" [5].

The present paper will touch on a few of the elements evident in present-day Masonic liturgy, without revealing any of its so-called "secrets," which appear to have common aspects with some of the indigenous Pagan mythologies. Dr. Lewis Spence explains this by pointing out that in the middle ages, students of occultism were often initiated to a variety of societies. He adds his own assessment of Masonic mysticism:

No student of occultism can fail to be struck with the close resemblance of the constitutions of nearly all the mystical fellowships of the middle ages, and the resemblance of the verbiage employed by their founders and protagonists * * *

It is extremely doubtful if among even the higher ranks of masonry, the deepest significance of the tradition of the craft is thoroughly realised and it is the absurd works which every now and then emanate from the eminent masons regarding the history of their craft be accepted as criteria of their higher knowledge, it must indeed be of slight proportions. Regarding the grand secret, or secrets, of masonry, the layman may rest comfortably assured that if he has failed to join the brotherhood, he has missed no fact of supreme importance by so doing. There is no 'secret' at all. The original secrets in connection with the craft were those of operative masons, who were jealous of their position as workmen, and who rightly enough did not believe in giving away business secrets to all and sundry; but the so-called 'secrets' of modern speculative masonry are merely such as have brought alchemy, astrology, and the kindred sciences into unthinking disrepute among those who do not recognize their significance in the history of human thought. This is not to say that masonry as a whole consists of mere clap-trap. The trend of its entire constitution is nowadays frankly mystical, but it is a mysticism which is only half understood by the lower ranks of the craft, and which is imperfectly recognised by its higher officers. Its tenets are unquestionably mystic and lofty, but Masonic transcendentalism has scarcely kept in line with more modern forms of mysticism. [6]
Freemasonry has not been without influence in the neo-Pagan movement in the latter's efforts to reconstruct and recreate that which has been lost. Gerald Brosseau Gardner (1884-1964) is often cited as being chiefly responsible for reviving the religion of Witchcraft in England and the modern West [7]. Wiccan matriarch Doreen Valiente, an High Priestess who worked closely with Gardner, informs us:

Another tradition which has obviously been laid under tribute by Gerald's rituals is that of Freemasonry. Thanks to the work of such writers as Walton Hannah, the ordinary reader is able to find out a good deal more about Masonic ritual than was generally available before. We can therefore see that there are terms such as 'the Working Tools,' the reference to the candidate's being 'properly prepared' for initiation, the 'Charge' which is read to the new initiate, and the existence of three Degrees through which the initiate must advance, which are all very reminiscent of Masonic procedure when one finds them in the witch rituals. Indeed, both Masons and witches today refer to their cult as 'the Craft.' The Third Degree of the witches refers to 'the Five Points of Fellowship,' just as the Third Degree of Freemasonry does, though with a rather different meaning. In the third Degree initiation, the candidate is blindfolded, has a cable-tow placed about the neck and is admitted upon the point of a sharp instrument, in both Gardnerian witchcraft and Freemasonry.

What do these resemblances mean? It has been argued that there was an ancient connection between witch rituals and those of Freemasonry. This may be so, but it is a fact that both Gerald Gardner and Dafo were members of the Co-Masons. Co-Masonry is an offshoot of Freemasonry which permits the admission of women, something which, of course, the United Grand Lodge of England strictly forbids. It originated in France and spread to Britain in 1902, when its first British Lodge was formed in London. In this Lodge the famous leader of the Theosophical Society, Mrs. Annie Besant, was initiated and became the national delegate for Britain, and in 1922 Co-Masonry was affiliated to the Grand Orient of France. When Annie Besant died, her daughter, Mrs. Mabel Besant-Scott, became the leader of Co-Masonry in Britain -- and Mrs. Mabel Besant-Scott was Gerald Gardner's neighbour in Highcliffe, near Christchurch, on the edge of the New Forest. She was also a leading member of the Rosicrucian Fellowship of Crotona [8].
Another close associate of Gardner who is reported to have been a Freemason was Arnold Crowther (1909-1974) [9].

As has already been made clear in the passage from Spence quoted previously, the rise of speculative Freemasonry in the 17th and 18th century has been historically linked to an increase in the popularity among other secret magical orders whose rituals were based on the Hermetica, mystery schools, the Tarot, interpretations of the Kabbalah and astrology [10].

Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) provided other influences on the development of modern witchcraft through association with Gardner. Crowley was an adept of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (which included the Outer Order of the White Brotherhood, Order of the Red Rose and the Golden Cross, and the Silver Star or A.:.A.:. (Argentum Astrum). Even the distinctive three dots in "A.:.A.:." suggests a Masonic connection Later, Crowley advanced through the Ordo Templi Orientis, a German occult order that practices sex magick. Crowley is not known to have had any Masonic connections, though the organizations just named may bear, or once have born, historical or concordant or clandestine ties to the Fraternity.

Isaac Bonewits, Archdruid of Ar' nDrai'ocht Fe'in: A Druid Fellowship, in explaining the evolution of Pagan traditions and beliefs as they were passed through the generations, states the followers of the Old Religion were forced by persecutions during the Burning Times to conceal their "superstitious" beliefs and magical systems. "Instead," he says, "they became involved in Freemasonry and Rosicrucianism in the 18th century, Spiritualism and Theosophy in the 19th; for all of these movements were considered more respectable than witchcraft, and still allowed the Fam-Trads to practice their occult arts" [11].

Another specific common ritual element between Freemasonry and various Pagan traditions centers around the idea of iron as a source of evil to those who touch it. Blacksmiths of ancient Rome and Pompeii wore phallic amulets to counteract the effect which the constant handling of iron was expected to bring upon them. More recently, men who built needfires in Beltane bonfires of Scotland traditionally divested themselves of anything made of metal. Another Scotch custom was that in making the clavie (a fire-wheel used in celebrating Yule) any hammering must be done with a stone rather than metal [12].

Similarly, Masonic ritual requires a candidate for initiation to enter the Lodge "divested of all metallic substances," as it is said the masons who built King Solomon's temple cut each stone without blades of stone. Known as the "rite of divestiture," this Masonic ritual reminds the new initiate of the destitute condition in which all humans enter the world and that all must rely on the charity of others. Mackey explains: "In the divestiture of metals as a preliminary to initiation, we are symbolically taught that Masonry regards no man on account of his wealth" [13]

In ancient times, iron was forbidden inside Greek and Roman temples, just as it was during construction of both Hebrew temples at Jerusalem. Ancient Saxons would not use iron in cemeteries because it was feared the metal would scare away departed spirits. Brass has also been believed to be effective in repelling spirits. Many neo-Pagan traditions also have strict prohibitions about the types of metals, or whether any metal, which may be brought into a ritual circle.

An example of a more direct influx of Masonic material, and of its alteration to fit neo-Pagan system of worship, is documented by Janet and Stewart Farrar when they refer in a footnote to the evolution of Gardner's book of shadows:
Text A says 'Holy Twin Pillars, B. and J.' This stands for Boaz and Jachin, the Masonic names for the twin pillars of Solomon's Temple, representing the complementary principles of Severity and Mercy. The 'B. and J.' was dropped from Texts B and C. In this ritual, the 'Holy Twin Pillars' are the Priestess's breasts, which are kissed at this point. (In the alternative form of the Great Rite..., because of the different positioning of the Priestess and Priest, the Pillars are taken to be the Priestess's legs.) [14]
Two interesting literary references, in line with the Farrars' allusion to the pillars as figured in human breasts and legs, are found in the Song of Solomon, where the lyricist says: "I am a wall and my breasts like towers..." (8:10). And again: "His legs are pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars" (5:15).

Contrary to the Farrars' interpretation of the Masonic meaning of the two pillars, knowledgeable Masonic writers provide a different explanation of the twin pillars which stand at the "inner door" of Masonic lodges everywhere, which are emblematical of the two which supposedly stood in the ancient Temple:

It is believed that when a king was crowned he stood before one of them, for which reason it was called the 'King's Pillar;' when a high priest was consecrated he stood before the other, or 'Priest's Pillar.' For this reason the two pillars represented the foundation of a nation's life, the state and church government and religion, God and King. But... as used in the Second Degree they have more profound and important meaning: they are the symbol of the last step taken in Passing, the step taken between the hard and honest work a man does on his own nature to shape it into the character it ought to have and the reward of that work in honor, peace of mind, power, and self-respect. [15]
Interesting similarities, and also some differences, occur in the ritual assemblies in Freemasonry and various Pagan traditions both ancient and modern.

Wicca is a religion the roots of which, like those of Freemasonry, are lost in antiquity. This century, however, has seen a resurgence of Goddess worship, both in the form of various Wiccan traditions, and revitalization of other forms of Pagan worship. Many of these traditions worship a Great Goddess, side-by-side with a masculine deity.

In the casting of a modern-day Wiccan ritual circle, a process known as "erecting the Temple" includes the consecration of sacred space. This includes saluting the "guardians of the watchtowers" (or other similar language) of the East, South, North and West, usually in that order, at each quarter of the circle. Some also salute the center of the circle. It is explained that each quarter corresponds to one of the essential elements of Air, Fire, Earth, Water and Spirit.

A Masonic lodge, on the other hand, is described as an "oblong square," which denotes two squares joined together to form a rectangle. Masons generally sit or stand around the sidelines of the Lodge as rituals take place, with officers seated in the East, South and North. The Masonic alter is always situated in the center of the lodge, the spot which in a neo-Pagan circle might well represent the element of Spirit.

Russell A. Herner [16] puts forth the hypothesis that the prehistoric stones standing on Salisbury Plain, in England, were placed there by a Masonic organization some 2,700 or more years ago. Although Herner's writings appear more directed at a popular audience than a scholarly one, and are not generally accepted by historians, he raises a number of interesting observations, including that Stonehenge's alignments are oriented to the positions of the cycles of the sun and moon, and that its focal point is to the North-East, a significant direction in the rituals of modern Freemasonry. In addition, Herner notes, the stones are placed precisely in geographical directions, laid out nearly identically to a modern Masonic lodge-room, with officer stations at each of the four quarters.

Ritual space for Wiccans, Druids and other neo-Pagans, is often referred to as "a place that is not a place, a time that is not a time," in allusion to the idea of crossing mystical boundaries.

A Masonic initiate enters the lodge "...neither barefoot nor shod, naked nor clad...," again neither this nor that. In their lectures on Celtic poetry and myth, Taine Bwca and Erynn Darkstar explain the roots of such practices is cosmological terms:

[The Celts] had a very different way of classifying time and space than we do. Their day began at the fall of night. They liked going to boundaries. They enjoyed looking at an absurd concept and breaking it down in terms of things that were and were not. The song that Simon and Garfunkel popularized in the 1960s, 'Scarborough Fair,' has a little piece of ancient riddle that's very Celtic in form, 'between the sea water and the sea sand,' it's neither this nor that. They loved the neither/nor dichotomy. Most of the warriors that die gloriously (and they all basically die gloriously in Celtic tales) die under impossible, absurd situations, like standing on the back of a horse, right between the time when the bell is tolling, neither in nor out of the house, with a weapon that's not been made by anyone in particular... These were people that crossed boundaries * * *

They really, again, like boundary conditions, where the shoreline is, where you can't really see things that clearly, especially in Ireland and Scotland with all that fog there. Things happen at boundaries in Celtic culture, at least for purposes of religion. They don't happen in the middle, or in a 'safe' section. Things happen right on the edge. [17]
Mithraism is one of many paleo-Pagan religions about which more has been learned in recent years. James R. Russell (1994) of the Harvard University Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations presented a paper entitled "Mithraism and Freemasonry" at the Livingston Masonic Library in New York, in which he began: "It has long been recognized that there are very numerous similarities between the initiatory rituals and symbolism of the ancient Mithraic mysteries and those of modern Freemasonry." Dr. Russell proceeded to discuss the contents of Egyptian documents containing a Greek language Obligation which has elements similar to modern Masonic ritual; as well, we might add, as being similar to some current-day Pagan religious rituals.

At the conclusion of each Masonic degree a "Charge" is given. According to Mackey: "It is the admonition which is given by the presiding officer at the close of the ceremony of initiation, to the candidate, and which the latter receives standing, as a token of respect. There is a charge for each degree, which is found in all the monitors [19] and manuals from Preston onward" [20]. Respect for Masonic tradition and law prohibits reproduction of a Charge here, though versions may be found in publication in various places.

In some ways similar, a "Charge of the Goddess" is used among almost all branches of modern Witchcraft. It is published in varying forms. Some covens have Charges which they hold secret. The following version, set in modern language by Starhawk, was first published by Charles Godfrey Leland in 1899 [21]:

Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who of old was called Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Ceridwen, Diana, Arionrhod, Brigid, and by many other names. Whenever you have need of anything, once in the month, and better when the moon is full, you shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me who is Queen of all the wise. You shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you be free you shall be naked in your rites. Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth. For My law is love unto all beings. Mine is the secret that opens upon the door of youth, and Mine is the cup of wine of life that is the Cauldron of Ceridwen that is the holy grail of immortality. I give the knowledge and the spirit eternal and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before. Nor do I demand aught of sacrifice, for behold, I am the mother of all things and My love is poured out upon the earth. [22]

Valiente was quoted earlier to the effect that some version of the "Five Points of Fellowship" of the Masons exist within the third degree of Witch rituals. Also called the "Fivefold Kiss," Guiley offers the following description:

A ritual kissing of five parts of the body done in certain rites and ceremonies, such as handfasting, in some traditions of neo-Pagan witchcraft. It is always done within a magic circle and is symbolic of the homage paid by the God and the Goddess to each other. The fivefold kiss can be done man to woman or woman to man. The kisses may be given on the parts of the body which, with arms and legs outstretched, correspond to the points of a pentacle: head, arms or hands; legs or feet. Or, eight kisses may be given in five body points: on each foot; on each knee; above the pubic hair; on each breast; on the lips. Each kiss is accompanied by a blessing... [23]
The closest thing to a Masonic counterpart of this, as noted, is the Five Points of Fellowship, which Mackey explains thus: "...In the old system, the symbols are the hand, the foot, the knee, the breast and the back. In the new system, the first symbol or the hand is omitted, and the mouth and the ear substituted." [24]

Among the first similarities observed by a Witch visiting a Masonic lodge, to a Wiccan circle (or vice versa), is the orientation of the ritual around the points of the compass. The "cardinal point" in Freemasonry is the East. It is here that the Worshipful Master sits and presides over the ritual, over whose head the letter "G" hangs from the vaulted ceiling of the lodge. According to Masonic custom, it is at the North-East corner that buildings are ceremonially commenced and the cornerstone laid. A nineteenth century Mason, Brigham Young, explained the laying of the cornerstone of a temple in Salt Lake City at the southeast corner, although he acknowledges that this was not traditional:

The First Presidency proceeded to the south-east corner, to lay the first stone, though it is customary at the north-east corner -- that is the beginning point most generally, I believe, in the world. At this side of the equator we commence at the south-east corner. We sometimes look for light, you know, brethren. You old men that have been through the mill pretty well, have been inquiring after light -- which way do you go? You will tell me to go to the east for light? So we commence by laying the stone on the south-east corner, because there is the most light. [25]

Ordinarily, it is at the North-East corner that buildings are ceremonially commenced, according to Masonic custom. Mackey tells us:

The organizers of the Mysteries did not leave things to chance. However vague some of their speculations may have sounded in the ears of the people, they were themselves dealing in as exact science as they were able to command. Hence, while the terrestrial 'East' was ever in the direction of the rising sun, a direction that describes a complete circle with every recurring twelve months, the celestial or true East was permanently situated in the sign of the zodiacal lion, or Leo, or the 'House of the Sun.' In every part of the world we always find the four cardinal points associated with the four elements, -- East, Lion, fire; South, Eagle (Scorpio), water; West, man, air; North, Bull, earth. [26]

These correspondences are similar but do not precisely match those commonly recognized by modern Pagan traditions. Though variation exists with the is diversity of Pagan traditions, following are the correspondences with which this writer is most familiar in a Pagan context, for exemplary purposes, in a table alongside the above noted Masonic counterparts:

East Air Intellect/Imagination East Fire Leo
South Fire Will/Vitality South Water Scorpio
West Water Emotion/Intuition West Air Man
North Earth Body/Foundation North Earth Bull

Another obvious common symbol used in Masonry and Pagan traditions, is the Pentagram, recognized as a symbol of many mystical traditions. With its point turned up or down, it is widely known as the emblem of the Order of the Easter Star, and has numerous layers of meaning. Neo-Pagan author, Amber K, on the other hand, relates some historic meanings this mystic symbol has had, and the meaning it continues to hold to modern Wiccans:

The pentagram has had many names through the ages: Pentalpha, the Endless Knot, the Pentacle of the Virgin, the Seal of Microcosm, the Star of Knowledge, the Pentacle of the Templars, and according to some, the Seal of Solomon. Medieval churchmen, however, called it Witch's Foot, or Wizard's Star, Goblin's Cross, Druid's Foot, and Devil's Sign. It has been used by Sumerians, Kabbalists, Celts, Egyptians, Christians and Gypsies.

It stands for Spirit ruling the world of Matter. Also life, health, protection (especially against hostile spirits). Also a human being as microcosm of the universe. The points can represent the five senses, stages of life, or states of consciousness. Small ones, of silver, are amulets favored by Witches. On a disc of wood or metal it is the Witch's Pentacle, the ritual tool of Earth. If inverted, it can stand for the Horned God or for Spirit hidden in Matter or subject to it. [27]

Of your own free will and accord
It would perhaps have been fitting to address the subject of Free Will first in this treatise, for it is at the beginning and end of both Freemasonry and Witchcraft, and woven throughout. The element of free choice is central to initiation in either, just as the concepts of exercising caution but fearing no danger while in the service of Deity.

Once a candidate for initiation vocalizes willingness to proceed with the ceremony, both in the cases of Masons and Witches (or at least many Witches, depending on tradition), he or she is ceremonially bound, hoodwinked, neither naked nor clad, and called upon to make a number of oaths all subject to free will. Although it would not be appropriate to go into the details here, the two rituals bear a number of other specific parallels.

Paganism and Freemasonry today
It is difficult to fix with certainty the number of neo-Pagans in America. The Witches League for Public Awareness, a nonprofit national organization based in Salem, Massachusetts, estimates there are between 200,000 nationwide. But J. Gordon Melton, a United Methodist minister and director of the Institute for the Study of Religion at the University of California, Santa Barbara, claims there are only 40,000 [28] Of course, Witches are merely a fraction of those who identify themselves as Pagan. At this writing, the EarthSpirit Community of Medford, Massachusetts is in the process of conducting a "Pagan Census Project," with funding from West Chester State University in Pennsylvania and the Covenant of the Goddess (a confederation of Witch covens), which hopefully will yield some meaningful results. Reports of the 1993 World Parliament of Religions indicate the neo-Pagan movement is among the fastest-growing religions in North America today. [29]

On the other hand, as an established organization with clearly defined membership rolls (which in many jurisdictions are computerized), obtaining a count of Freemasons is relatively easy. According to the New York Times, there are currently 2.4 million Masons nationally. This is down from 4.1 million in 1969.

It is unknown how many Masons hold Pagan beliefs, and it probably will never be known since religious affiliation is not something about which Masons traditionally question their members. Some portion of mainstream Masons who might agree with major aspects of Pagan philosophy and spirituality, might hesitate to label themselves "Pagan," partly due to a misunderstanding of what the word denotes and what it implies.

Assuredly, no atheist may ever be a Mason. But neo-Pagans are far from atheist. Some devote more time and energy to prayer, religious study, and other spiritual activities than most Christians, Jews or Moslems -- Mason or not.

Both Masons and Pagans have been subject to periods of intense persecution during their history. For example, a measure declaring Freemasonry Incompatible with Christianity failed by only to a close vote at the 1993 Southern Baptist Convention in Houston. Two reasons cited in support of the proposal were the following:

o The recommended readings, in pursuance of advanced degrees, of religions and philosophies, which are undeniably pagan and/or occult, such as much of the writings of Albert Pike, Albert Mackey, Manly Hall, Rex Hutchins, W.L. Wilmshurst, and other such authors.
o The heresy of universalism (the belief all people will eventually be saved), which permeates the writings of many Masonic authors. [31]

In keeping with the non-sectarian nature of the Masonic fraternity, a number of the members of any given lodge might be practicing Pagans ad the other members be totally unaware. A current Masonic introductory tract affirms:

Freemasonry welcomes men from every religious denomination or creed, requiring only that they affirm their belief in a Supreme Being, and that they are of high moral character and are good citizens. Masonic Lodges are non-denominational and non-political. Partisan and sectarian discussions are not permitted in Lodges.

Masonry is not a substitute for church or religion. The Fraternity urges its members to practice their own particular religious beliefs in their daily lives. [32]

Some Pagan men may find Freemasonry to be a rewarding supplement to their spiritual life. It can provide fraternal association with a broader segment of the men of a community than would be possible under other circumstances, in a Masonic ritual setting which attempts to be as non-threatening as possible on a personal level. While some Pagans may miss the presence of women in Masonry (aside from a small handful who have snuck in over a period of centuries), gender segregation is not unheard of in neo-Paganism, as Dianic Witches or those of certain Faery traditions can attest.

Pagans desiring more information about Masonry are invited to ask a Masonic friend about joining. Likewise, Freemasons who are interested in learning more about modern application of the ancient mystical techniques and philosophies, may contact any of a number of neo-Pagan organizations around the country.

As stated at the outset, the purpose of this article is to initiate a dialog. Nothing in this article should be interpreted to suggest that Freemasonry as a whole, or Freemasons as a group, endorse Paganism, any more than they endorse Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any other religion.

So mote it be.


1. Lang, Ossian (1922). History of Freemasonry in the State of New, Grand Lodge of New York, F&AM, p. 1.

2. Mackey, Albert G. (1924). Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry, Chicago: The Masonic History Company, Vol. 1, p. 221, s.v. "Druidical Mysteries."

3. "Pagan, from the Latin paganus, peasant, and pagus, a district, the country, parallels HEATHEN: a dweller on the heath) both in sense and origin Pagan traveled a more circuitous route, however. First paganus became an epithet among Roman soldiers for civilian. Then, contemptuous usage was adopted by early Christians, who saw themselves as soldiers, milites, of Christ, and who naturally extended paganus to anyone who wasn't converted. See also HICK, PEASANT, and RENEGADE." (Hugh Crawson (1989). Wicked Words: A Treasury of Curses, Insults, Put-Downs, and Other Formerly Unprintable Terms from Anglo-Saxon Times to the Present, Crown Publishers: New York, P. 280.)

4. Rutherford, Ward (1990). The Druids: Magicians of the West, the doctrines, beliefs and practices of Druidism, New York: Sterling Books, p. 46. In this vein, Gerald Gardner (1959) alleges: "According to tradition, a Druid called Abarts was a friend of Pythagoras, who, it will be remembered, was also a believer in reincarnation" (p. 74.)

5. Mackey, op cit., Vol. II, p. 602, s.v. "Pythagoras."

6. Spence, Lewis (1960). An Encyclopaedia of Occultism, New Hyde Park, New York: University Books.

7. Guiley, Rosemary Ellen (1989}. Encylopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, New York: Facts On File, p. 216, s.v. "Magic."

8. Valiente, Doreen (1989). The Rebirth of Witchcraft, London: Robert Hale, pp. 55-56.

9. Guiley, op cit., pp. 77-78, sv. "Crowther, Arnold."

10. Guiley, op cit.

11. Bonewits, P.E.I. (1976). "Witchcraft," The Green Egg, Vol. 14, No. 79 {June 21, 1976.)

12. Elworthy, Frederick Thomas (1986). The Evil Eye: An account of this ancient and widespread superstition, New York: Julian Press, p. 220.

13. Mackey, op cit., Vol. II, p. 482, s.v. "Metals."

14. Farrar, Janet & Stewart (1981). A Witches Bible: Principles, rituals and beliefs of modern Witchcraft, Vol. II: The Rituals, New York: Magickal Childe, pp. 304-305.

15. Anonymous {1958). The Fellow Craft Degree, Grand Lodge of New York, Free & Accepted Masons, pp. 20-21.

16. Herner, Russell A. (1979). Stonehenge: An ancient Masonic temple, Richmond, Virginia: Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co.

17. Darkstar, Erynn and Bwca, Taine (1992). The Cauldron of Poesy: Lectures on Irish magick, cosmology and poetry, Seattle, Washington: Preppie Biker Press, pp. 4-5.

18. Russell, James R. (1994). "On Mithraism and Freemasonry," paper presented at Livingston Masonic Library on November 10, 1994, 7 pp.

19. Anonymous (1947). Monitor of the Work, Lectures and Ceremonies of Ancient Craft Masonry, Grand Lodge of New York, pp. 32, 51 and 65.

20. Mackey, op cit., Vol I, p. 143, s.v. "Charge."

21. Leland, Charles Godfrey (1899). Aradia: Or the gospel of the Witches, reprinted 1974 by Samuel Weiser: New York.

22. Starhawk (1979), The Spiral Dance: A rebirth of the ancient religion of the Great Goddess, San FranciSco: Harper & Row, p. 76.

23. Guiley, op cit., pp. 126-127.

24. Mackey, op cit., Vol. II, p. 572, s.v. "Points of Fellowship, Five."

25. Higgins, Frank (1992). Hermetic Masonry, Kila, Mont.: Kessinger Publishing Co., p. 105.

26. K, Amber (1984). The Pentacle (flyer), published privately.

27. Mackey, op cit., Vol. II, p. 553, s.v. "Pentalpha."

28. Rivera, Jennifer (1992). Hudson Valley, October, pp. 32-35.

29. Arthen, Andras Corban (1993). Earth Spirit: The newsletter of the Earth-Spirit Community (special Parliament Issue.)

30. Peterson, Iver (1993). "Freemasons begin to lift the veil of arcana," The New York Times, June 6, Metro section, p. 44.

31. Curtis, Richard H. (1993). "Can a Southern Baptist be a Mason?," Empire State Mason, Fall 1993, pp. 12-14.

32. Anonymous (no date). "Q&A: Answers to questions about the Masonic Fraternity," Grand Lodge of F&AM of New York State.

The author was raised as a Master Mason in September 1993. He has written numerous articles on religion, spirituality, psychology and counseling. The statements expressed in this article do not represent any organization, including any grand or local Masonic lodge.

Resource: Rue

Further Reading:

Keystone Kraft Koncepts (G.L.O.S.)