Gerald Gardner claimed to have been initiated into Witchcraft which he later changed to Wicca. He claims that the information he provided came from his Book of Shadows of that coven to which he belonged. It seems fairly clear that Gardner’s story about a surviving hereditary Witch coven at Christchurch near the New Forest is false. It is possible he was initiated into some sort of occult group but not Witchcraft. Gardner concocted his Book of Shadows, a collection of rituals supposedly received from the coven, from the book Aradia Gospel of the Witches by Charles Leland, "which treats of Witchcraft in Italy, from the writings of Aleister Crowley who was a member, as was Gardner, of the Golden Dawn, and poetry of Rudyard Kipling and Free Masonry. The Golden Dawn obtained much of its foundation from the Key of Solomon.
Who and what is the Key of Solomon and why can so much of it be found in modern practices of the new movement called Wicca. The Key of Solomon is the most famous, or infamous, of all magickal textbooks, and influenced many of the other European grimoires or "grammars" of magickal practice. It exists in different versions and languages and is the traditional authorship of King Solomon. That luxurious monarch of the tenth century B.C. was renowned for his wisdom and through legend, "he acquired a formidable reputation as a master magician who had employed legions of evil spirits to build the Temple at Jerusalem, compelling their obedience with his magic ring." It is said that an angel "sent by God to bring Solomon this magick ring, which gave him the power of demons which helped him in his magick." The process of summoning these spirits illustrate the extraordinary and exhausting complexity of European ritual magic—the choice of a favorable place and time; the preliminary prayers, fastings and preparations through which the magician sets himself apart from the normal, everyday world.
MacGregor Mathers, who did the research and prepared and authored the Key of Solomon from seven manuscripts in the British Museum, was considered a real magician and at the turn of the century was head of the Order of the Golden Dawn, which was the most gifted and the most influential of all modern magical groups. The Golden Dawn produced its own rituals, said to have been written by MacGregor Mathers and W.B. Yeats.
After studying the Golden Dawn, one can see it was heavily influenced by The Key of Solomon. The Key of Solomon has ever been the fountain-head and storehouse of Qabalistical Magic and the origin of much of the Ceremonial Magic of medieval times, and has been ever valued by occult writers as a work of the highest authority.
When one looks and compares Wicca, The Golden Dawn and the Key of Solomon, and even Free Masonry one will discover that there are too many similarities between them. Here are but a few interesting instances:
Magickal Tools: It says in Book II, Chapter VIII of the Key of Solomon, "In order to properly carry out the greatest and most important Operations of the Art, various instruments are necessary, as a Knife with a white hilt, another with a black hilt, wherewith to trace circles, characters and other things. The knife with the white hilt mayest perform all the necessary operations of the Art, except the Circles. The Knife with the black hilt is for making the circle, wherewith to strike terror and fear into the Spirits. You should also have a Staff, Wand, Sword, and Cup. Naturally, you have to consecrate these magickal tools. You will also need a linen robe, oils, a chafing-dish of charcoal kindled to put the fumes on to smoke or perfume the place where the magickal works are to take place, incense and also anointing oil to anoint the temples and thine eyes width." This sounds all too familiar with the magickal tools that Wiccans are required to have, except for one thing—the sickle. Probably Gardner got the idea of the boline knife by combining the white hilt knife with the sickle thereby coming up with the white hilt boline knife.
In the Key of Solomon, the Master of the group shall wear a crown. In Wicca, the High Priestess and if there is one, a High Priest, is to wear a Crown.
In the Key of Solomon, the other members of the magickal group shall "ever implicitly obey the orders of their Master; for thus only shall all things come to a successful issue." In Wicca, the coven is to obey their High Priestess.
In the Key of Solomon, everyone is to take a ritual bath and purify themselves before ritual. Once in circle, the Master will kiss a Disciple and each of them will kiss the other. In Wicca everyone is supposed to take a ritual bath before coming to circle. When everyone is in Circle, the High Priestess kisses one coven member and this continues around the circle.
In the Key of Solomon, the Master assigns a "Disciple" into one of the four quarters, and he should on no pretext quit the place assigned to him, nor move therefrom." In Wicca, a coven member is assigned a Quarter. However, under no circumstances are they to leave their Quarter, because if you invoke that Watchtower, you become that Watchtower and you are guarding that particular Quarter.
The Magickal Book: In Book II, Chapter XXI, of the Key of Solomon, concerning the Magickal Book and consecration thereof, you are supposed to draw "on the first leaf" the Great Pentacle and then write on the first "leaf" of your Magickal Book a secret script in which you are provided, and then on the last page of your Magickal Book, you are supposed to write a secret script in which you are provided. Then, anything written between those two pages such as prayers, incantations, seals, magickal letters, etc., would be protected from prying eyes. If you are studying under Gardnerian/Alexandrian traditions, you are told to prepare a Book of Shadows. On the first page you are to draw a large Pentacle and below the pentacle you are to write down some magickal words which you were given. On the last page, you are to draw a large Pentacle and you are given some magickal words to be placed above that pentacle. Then you are told "between these two pages, you are to put your magickal writings and they will be protected from prying eyes!
Places where to meet for magickal workings: In Book II, Chapter VII of the Key of Solomon, "The places best fitted for exercising and accomplishing magickal arts are those which are concealed, removed and separated. Wherefore, desolate and uninhabited regions are most appropriate, such as the borders of lakes, forests, dark and obscure places, mountains, caves, gardens and orchards, etc. But if thou canst not conveniently go unto any of these places, thy house, and even thine own chamber, or, in deed, any place, provided it hath been purified and consecrated with the necessary ceremonies." In Wicca, we are to meet in the same places.
The Circle of Protection: In Book II, Chapter IX, of the Key of Solomon, it goes into great detail in how to construct a nine-foot circle. In Wiccan you are to construct a 9-foot circle in diameter. It is to note that high magic believes that the function of the circle is to protect it against malefic influences outside the circle. Gardner’s philosophy is that the circle is built to contain and concentrate the occult forces inside the circle
Invoking the Elements: The technique of evoking/invoking or banishing the elements with a Pentagram originated from the Golden Dawn.
The Pentagram/Pentacle originally was used for the sole purpose of use in ceremonial magick. King Solomon used the pentagram and pentacle for conjuring spirit and protection. King Solomon was supposed to have called on dark spirits to do his bidding and needed the use of the pentagram and/or pentacle. However, in the Key of Solomon and the Golden Dawn, the inverted Pentagram was used in devil worship. More than likely, this is where the God fearing people connected the pentacle as a "work of the devil." The pentacle might have been worn as a sign of protection in performing magick, but it was never used as a symbol for the nature based religion like it is known today.
Cone of Power - A magickal technique particular to Wicca is the raising of a cone of power, a zone of occult potency that is created within the circle, then released toward the fulfillment of a specific purpose. The Cone of Power is descended from the practice of the Golden Dawn. The important philosophy of anyone’s magick and considered part of the Wiccan "Cone of Power" are these words: To Dare (Desire or Wish), To Know (form or conceive) to Will (actualize), To be silent (refrain from action). These words are once again not Wiccan oriented as most thought but by Eliphas Levi which was his famous motto in the occult practices.
The famous Wiccan Rede "And ye harm none, do what ye will is a modification of Aleister Crowley’s "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." Phrases such as "three-fold, five-fold and eight-fold all originated from the Golden Dawn.
There are even similarities in the purification of salt, water, fire and incense. In the Key of Solomon, they say "Blessings of the Father Almighty be upon this Creature of Salt, and let all malignity and hindrance be cast forth hencefrom and let all good enter herein....." "Wherefore I bless thee and invoke thee." In Wicca, the blessing of the salt goes as follows: "Blessings be upon Thee, O creature of Salt, let all malignity and hindrance be cast out from thee and let all good enter herein." With regards to the purification of the water, Key of Solomon has "I exorcise thee, O creature of Water........ that thou cast out from thee all the impurities and uncleanneses of the spirits....." In Wicca most say something similar to this, "I exorcise thee O creature of Water, that thou cast from thee all the impurities and uncleanliness of the spirits....."
In the Key of Solomon, you are to have a lit candle placed in a Lantern to sit on the altar "to read by, to form the circle by and any other purpose for which thou shalt require." In Wicca, you have what is called "The Maiden Candle" which is to be placed on the altar when not in use to which everything is lit by, you are to read by and anything else you should require of it.
In Wicca, First Degree initiation, the Neophyte (which is a Golden Dawn name) is bound three times and blind folded, which represents if you have the courage to proceed even though you cannot see and are bound, thereby giving perfect love and trust on the coven members. In the Wiccan tradition the use of cords is are used for many reasons, one of which is to acknowledge the level of Degree you are. In the Neophyte Ceremony of the Golden Dawn, the Neophyte is "thrice bound and hoodwinked." Doing this represents how brave the seeker is and totally trusting and dependent on the rest of the group. In the Golden Dawn they use the Cords in much the same way.
Modern Witches had the writings of Margaret Murray and Gerald Gardner to draw on for the religious aspects of Wicca, but these sources were unsufficient when it came to the practical details of ritual setup and/or magick. Some covens tried to get around this by denying the importance of magic and excluded it as much as possible. However, through Gardner, they were still pulling in ceremonial practices of the Golden Dawn in ritual setup when they performed Sabbat celebrations. Most drew upon the Golden Dawn system indirectly through a network of derivative writings. Many of the authors of these writings were not aware of where their magickal techniques actually originated from or their ritual structure. By and large, Witch magic and its ritual set up is a simplified form of high ceremonial magic in the Western tradition.
The complex and rigid structure of ritual magick that developed in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is firmly based on the European medieval tradition. The workhorses of Golden Dawn magick are the five occult elements: Spirit, Earth, Air, Fire and Water. (It is thanks to the Golden Dawn that the Tarot enjoys its present status and widespread use in practical occultism.) The latter four elements are represented by the lesser suits of the Tarot and it is from the emblems of these suits, the Wand (fire) the Dagger (air) the Cup (water) and the Pentacle (earth) that the four magickal instruments of the order take their design.
In summary, from the Witche’s magickal tools, to the casting and construction of a circle, from the five elements and Watchtowers/Quarters to even the Pentacle itself, to the Book of Shadows to the sacred words in which we use in casting, invoking, and banishing, to the Cone of Power and to the very words of law Wiccans go by stem not from Gardner’s Book of Shadows, which he claimed to have come from some secret coven he was initiated into near New Forest but mostly from the Key of Solomon and The Golden Dawn and Aradia Gospel of the Witches by Leland. As far as Leland goes, it is highly speculative that his information came from some Italian Witch as well and may have made it up. In Aradia, there is mention of a "Sabbat" or "witch meeting" but there was no mention of any celebration of any Sabbat in the true sense that Wiccans know of it today, but more of a "witch meeting where they gathered and ate, drank and danced in honor of Diana. Aradia Gospel of the Witches is mainly about honoring Diana, who is the mother of Aradia, and through prayers, Diana grants you favors of being able to perform magick. It is also important to mention that Lucifer was Aradia’s father. However, there is no mention in the entire book of anyone performing Sabbat celebrations in honor of any fertility rights or of the Sun God.
Witchcraft is the celebration of the feminine principal and basically a nature religion. More and more all-women covens are rising up for the simple reason that women want an art and a religion that is wholly theirs. In many traditions, they do worship both a Goddess and God. However, the Goddess, whose symbol is the Moon, is usually considered to be more important in a practical sense, because Her power is manifest on the Earth in the growth of crops, the health of beasts, and the well-being of women, children and men and it has been that way since the beginning of time.
With all of the information provided regarding Gardner and Wicca, it really matters not if you are in a coven or you are a solitaire; whether you belong to an established tradition or starting one, or if you are an initiated Witch or you are self initiated, as there are many paths to the Goddess and all should be looked upon equally. The important thing is to revere the Goddess in all Her aspects, as Her followers of yesteryear once did and to show love and kindness to all Her creatures.....wo/man or beast.
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