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  • Wicca - sister to ceremonial magick?

    It's a well known fact that western ceremonial magick makes up a large part of the foundation for Wicca. How do you feel about this? I'm curious to explore the connections.

    Wicca in general has evolved to a more direct and intuitive practice. Even less rigid then it started. This shift in Wicca, is positive for our development? I feel it is. I see a lot of great and positive results in people's lives from their personal connection with Wicca. After all, we do have all the answers within. The free nature of Wicca's expression is rooted in early emphasized and/or adopted philosophies of "An it harm done, do as ye will." Wicca has found a unique balance in structure and intuitive practice. I find this to be quite an innovation in spiritual practice and a great addition to our collective consciousness. This is evident in the growing number of wiccans all over the world.

    However, are there complications from this shift away from rigidity? Have we found the right balance? I notice one main issue in the integrity of Wiccan teachings. With many not learning in a consistent way, I see many people who begin to practice Wiccan confused about origins and general practices. It takes many years for people to catch up or get their questions answered. Some great spiritual concepts are being lost down the way of our progression. These inconsistencies can be perceived as a lack of depth from an outside view. One possible solution: I hope more people will step up to share what they've learned so new people coming to the path will be able to walk a clearer road. Second solution: More wiccan books being written on the deeper philosophy of spiritual practices and more exorcises to help people find their own answers within.

    I'm curious to hear what you think about the Wicca's development from it's origins. Also what do you think about the current strengths and current issues in our foundation?
    Last edited by rawrTigress; May 6th, 2010, 08:02 PM.

    )O( Athena )O(

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  • #2
    well, this forum has been dead lately so I'll bite here.

    I think the ceremonial magic was obviously a tool used by Gardner (and Sanders he incorporated even more actually) to fill in the gaps left by thier other sources, and I think it works very well, also as for your question, I think it's important to note that a lot of the ceremonial magic that Gardner was into also places a fairly high value on doing things intuitively, obviously as in Wicca there are certain things that must be done a certain way and certain things that must be accepted as truth (although it can be from vary8ing perspectives in order for the system to work. This ties into the problem a lot of people have with ecclectic Wicca, it's that Wicca is defined by a certain set of principles and a certain set of doing things, of course there is always room for reinterpretation but once you get to a certain point, it's not really Wicca anymore (not to say that whatever form ecclectic practice isn't a valid form of spiritual expression, but it usualy isn't Wicca)
    "The word "natural" is completely meaningless! Everything is natural! Nature includes everything! It's not just trees and flowers! It's everything! A chemical company's toxic waste is completely natural! It's part of the nature! We're all part of nature! Everything is natural! Dog shit is natural! It's just not real good food!" George Carlin

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    • #3
      Thank you for responding! Good point. I like your perspective on the topic.

      )O( Athena )O(

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      • #4
        I'm mostly going to agree with Nox, but I might as well bite as well - for those who don't already know, my first stop after parting from Christianity was ceremonial magic, then to discover that Wicca was the right path for me. But I wouldn't have found Wicca had ceremonial magic not come first, at least not back then (1970s).

        Originally posted by rawrTigress View Post
        It's a well known fact that western ceremonial magick makes up a large part of the foundation for Wicca. How do you feel about this? I'm curious to explore the connections.
        The roots of ceremonial magic are present in Wicca, but as Nox pointed out, what's left is the more intuitive part of ceremonial magic. Comparing the early publications that I've collected over the years, Gardner included a fair amount of Crowleyesqe material early on, and it appears to have been Valiente who softened it and added more intuitive material. The result, as portrayed by Farrar, suited me very well, and still does after thirty-plus years - I was never very happy with a system where something horrible might happen if you stir the Dove's Blood Ink the wrong number of times, although even that suited me better than Christianity.

        Whatever the origin of the New Forest Coven, which certainly pre-dated Gardner, though quite possibly not by much, the coven certainly had most of its members in common with the Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship, formed by Gerald Sullivan in the 1920s as a sort of reformed order, so the appearance of CM elements in the publicly available material is fairly natural. Some of the stuff in High Magic's Aid can be traced to the journal Folklore, other folk elements were probably brought to the group by one Rosamund Sabine (nee Carsnew).

        Originally posted by rawrTigress View Post
        Wicca in general has evolved to a more direct and intuitive practice. Even less rigid then it started. This shift in Wicca, is positive for our development? I feel it is. I see a lot of great and positive results in people's lives from their personal connection with Wicca. After all, we do have all the answers within.
        A study a few years ago, sponsored by the Daily Telegraph, found that members of experiential religions tend to live longer and healthier lives. Subsequent questionnaire work suggests that this is in part because these people tend to be more willing to examine lifestyles and adopt a lifestyle with which they're comfortable. I therefore see the proliferation of offshoots from Wicca as originally made public as a very healthy move.

        [quote=rawrTigress;4180596]The free nature of Wicca's expression is rooted in early emphasized and/or adopted philosophies of "An it harm done, do as ye will." Wicca has found a unique balance in structure and intuitive practice. I find this to be quite an innovation in spiritual practice and a great addition to our collective consciousness. This is evident in the growing number of wiccans all over the world.{/quote]

        I suspect that it was the other way around: "An' it harm none, do what you will", at least in that form, is a modified version of Crowley's "Do what thou wilt is the whole of the Law, Love is the Law, Love under Will", that first appears in The Rede, which is a relatively late addition. The Rede, IMO, is rooted in an expression of the nature already espoused by the early covens. To what extent it has more influence in the expansion of Wicca than, say, TV and films, is questionable.

        Originally posted by rawrTigress View Post
        However, are there complications from this shift away from rigidity? Have we found the right balance? I notice one main issue in the integrity of Wiccan teachings. With many not learning in a consistent way, I see many people who begin to practice Wiccan confused about origins and general practices. It takes many years for people to catch up or get their questions answered. Some great spiritual concepts are being lost down the way of our progression. These inconsistencies can be perceived as a lack of depth from an outside view. One possible solution: I hope more people will step up to share what they've learned so new people coming to the path will be able to walk a clearer road. Second solution: More wiccan books being written on the deeper philosophy of spiritual practices and more exorcises to help people find their own answers within.
        I fully agree with your viewpoint, but there are several problems here. Let's take two personal ones first. I could write a book about what I believe, based on thirty years' research as a relative local, to be how the coven evolved. There's actually a fictionalised timeline on my web site. it attracts criticism from both the "Gardner made it all up" school and the "It was an underground hereditary coven" school. Not even Capall Bann are going to touch it under those circumstances; I could self-publish but then I'd have no chance of reaching the bookstores, print-on-demand, judging by my email-bag, would probably sell about three copies. Pagan Dawn, probably the UK pagan magazine with the highest production values (aka the glossiest one with the fewest typos) picked up my article on the Rede and the Three-fold law. A local moot asked me to prepare it as a lecture, and I duly did so. The organiser clearly hadn't actually read the article beforehand: most people seem to want to just have their existing viewpoint reinforced; they don't seem to want to question their views.

        Then there's the question of material. Most people who could really contribute to publications on deeper philosophy are bound by oaths: I suspect that the original idea was precisely to make it necessary to find a teacher, but clearly in terms of straight Gardnerian Wicca it's a two-edged sword. "You're wrong but I can't tell you why' won't sell, either. I'm not allowed to publish the Sullivan material either, but that's a 'no prior publication' NDA I had to sign to get access. There will one day be a critical edition, at which point I could put together a popular version with added philosophy, but the edition's been in preparation since at least 2002 and doesn't look to be coming along any time soon.

        a little later: that's what I like about lists like these, they make me think. I typed all this and, as I normally do, went and did something else before hitting send. Lying in the bath, it struck me that many years ago I put together a set of web pages allowing the reader to compare the publicly available information from 1949, '53, '57 and '61, showing how the early stuff developed in public. So no oath-breaking to put it together. It was designed as an aide-memoire for interested people and would make no sense whatever to your target audience, but I could have a go at putting it into a linear format and adding background, including where the stuff came from where it's abvious, and a bit about the ROCF. If I were working full time this would probably take a month, but I have to earn enough to eat and so on, so it might take about a year. Is that the kind of thing you had in mind?

        Originally posted by rawrTigress View Post
        I'm curious to hear what you think about the Wicca's development from it's origins. Also what do you think about the current strengths and current issues in our foundation?
        IMO the biggest strength is the diversity of approach. Sadly, it results in the biggest weakness: constant bickering about whether or not something is "Wicca", about the necessity of a teacher and about the necessity of initiation. We must look like bitter people to outsiders.

        blessings
        ffetcher

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        • #5
          I read your response and I want to give my response all my attention. I'm currently in finals at school, but once this week is over I'll post my thoughts in full.

          )O( Athena )O(

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          • #6
            I wouldn't call Wicca a sister to ceremonial magic. More like a daughter or niece; Wicca integrated a lot of ceremonial magic into it, thanks to Gardner and Sanders and the like. Wicca is, at least traditionally, strongly tied to the occult revival of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ceremonial magic will always be an integral part of Wicca's history and traditions.

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            • #7
              I agree, great way to word it.

              I feel that the key factors that were used from ceremonial magick are the key factors that you find in any magickal traditions.... Example: the structure of invoking the watchtowers/elements is common in most magick traditions, such as Native American ceremonies, Tibetan Buddhism, and many more. I think what was added in are key spiritual and universal truths such as "love and respect" being the most important focus of any practice (the wiccan rede), plus the 7 directions (North, East, South, West, Up, Down and Inner), and connecting with the divine.

              These concepts I have no doubt where found in the original ancient practices that were revived through Wicca.

              )O( Athena )O(

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              • #8
                I think, for better or worse right and right now worse in my opinion, this direction has the potential to mature into something wonderful.

                most self-proclaimed Wiccans i honestly find undisciplined and without a clue... and i feel Wicca has gone from a marriage of the intuitive and the ceremonial to being too.....emotionally immature.. it has lost too much cohesion and I don't see a lot of self-development. People leave Wicca all the time and while part of it is because it was the first thing they heard about part of it is also because they grew up. That's were most of Wicca is, it is a comfort religion were people feel accept but theres not a lot spiritual discipline that gets stuck to. Those who are the exception hopefully know this doesn't apply to you and you know there's some truth to what I'm saying here.

                On the otherhand I know many ceremonial magicians who go to the other extreme which isn't healthy either. They don't come up with anything new, cultivate any intuitive process or capability in themselves. They don't know how to achieve a liminal or altered state. Neither do many eclectic Wiccans to be fair.

                So where is the silver lining here?- well the hope that out of the eclectic soup people will emerge having founded their own traditions which open up new path-working and development.
                Wicca is at a sweet intersection of ceremonial magick and as it has been put here, intuitive praxis. i think with the material and the communication that exist now that Wiccans today can do an even better regard of marrying the two in many regards.

                Imagine it, if Gardner and Cochrane hadn't fought... take Cochranian forms of witch in technique are even more intuitive than electic Wicca but which as have the development of faculties and marry that to the ceremonial aspects in Wicca with some exploration of those roots and you could have the best of both worlds. Cochrane loves mental puzzles but also talked about developing things like "the sight" and brought a good amount of mysticism and pathos to it.

                That's what i want to see, thats the crossroads were we see new things emerge....
                Tsalagi Nvwoti Didahnvwesgi Ale Didahnesesgi
                (Cherokee medicine practitioner of left and right hand paths)
                anikutani.stfu-kthx.net - The Anikutani Tradition

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                • #9
                  Personally I'd say Wicca is a niece or nephew to the Ceremonial / High magical systems. The reason being Ceremonial / High magical systems are practices and not dependent or specifically connected to a spiritual / religious element. Wicca as conceived was heavily connected to a spiritual / religious aspect with the magical connection being part of the glue to hold it together.

                  In that regard the Ceremonial / High magicians were logical and many times educated more than spiritual / religious driven in their pursuits. The early grimories and such were written to account for this and many times were often encoded or even worded to account for that lack of spiritual / religious influence. Yet Wicca by design was built around the mystical and emotional sense of revelation through divine interaction within a group dynamic. A definite difference from the revealed format of the prevailing christian concept.

                  It wasn't about altered or liminal states or such as those realistically would be more found in Shamanic and/or Hedgerider type scenarios which were not Ceremonial or High magical systems such as Enocian, Somomon, Ephesian, Alexandrian, etc. Figure the Ceremonial / High magical would actually have been the for runners of the scientific community. It's one of the reason Agrippa is still one of the main books to read when discussing the Occult community and the notion of ceremonial / high magical systems.

                  I think part of the problem though is the definition's have been so watered down as to just what each is that many in the community really do not know anymore.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by monsnoleedra View Post
                    Personally I'd say Wicca is a niece or nephew to the Ceremonial / High magical systems. The reason being Ceremonial / High magical systems are practices and not dependent or specifically connected to a spiritual / religious element. Wicca as conceived was heavily connected to a spiritual / religious aspect with the magical connection being part of the glue to hold it together.

                    In that regard the Ceremonial / High magicians were logical and many times educated more than spiritual / religious driven in their pursuits. The early grimories and such were written to account for this and many times were often encoded or even worded to account for that lack of spiritual / religious influence. Yet Wicca by design was built around the mystical and emotional sense of revelation through divine interaction within a group dynamic. A definite difference from the revealed format of the prevailing christian concept.

                    It wasn't about altered or liminal states or such as those realistically would be more found in Shamanic and/or Hedgerider type scenarios which were not Ceremonial or High magical systems such as Enocian, Somomon, Ephesian, Alexandrian, etc. Figure the Ceremonial / High magical would actually have been the for runners of the scientific community. It's one of the reason Agrippa is still one of the main books to read when discussing the Occult community and the notion of ceremonial / high magical systems.

                    I think part of the problem though is the definition's have been so watered down as to just what each is that many in the community really do not know anymore.
                    The grimoires were extremely religious in content. Most of the author a were Christian or influence by Judeo-Christian, occasionally Islamic influence. I agree with you that today, ceremonial magical, while it draws on these roots does not require the practitioner to have a religious outlook one way about it or another but this is a modern development. Not that these works were necessarily against the non-religious, but it just wasn't so much a question then.

                    Ceremonial Magick was all about their by, communion with the divine. While it isn't normally as liminal as certain forms of witchcraft, it did use altered states. That is what enflamong oneself with prayer was all about, but most ceremonial magicians today skip that part entirely.

                    You are correct that High Magick was "learned magick" available to the higher social classes and yes these were the forerunners of science. Don't think though that they wernt religious for the two were wed back then. There's was different that the outlook of the common folk, including much philosophy, but much of that was also theology.

                    Interesting enough, the first Gardnerian Wiccans did not consider themselves Pagans because Pagan meant commoner while the considered themselves part of the priesthood. Cochrane on the other hand was of the common folk and rejected pagan for other reasons. You see these differences in that feud.
                    Tsalagi Nvwoti Didahnvwesgi Ale Didahnesesgi
                    (Cherokee medicine practitioner of left and right hand paths)
                    anikutani.stfu-kthx.net - The Anikutani Tradition

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by DracoJesi View Post
                      The grimoires were extremely religious in content. Most of the author a were Christian or influence by Judeo-Christian, occasionally Islamic influence. I agree with you that today, ceremonial magical, while it draws on these roots does not require the practitioner to have a religious outlook one way about it or another but this is a modern development. Not that these works were necessarily against the non-religious, but it just wasn't so much a question then.

                      Ceremonial Magick was all about their by, communion with the divine. While it isn't normally as liminal as certain forms of witchcraft, it did use altered states. That is what enflamong oneself with prayer was all about, but most ceremonial magicians today skip that part entirely.

                      You are correct that High Magick was "learned magick" available to the higher social classes and yes these were the forerunners of science. Don't think though that they wernt religious for the two were wed back then. There's was different that the outlook of the common folk, including much philosophy, but much of that was also theology.

                      Interesting enough, the first Gardnerian Wiccans did not consider themselves Pagans because Pagan meant commoner while the considered themselves part of the priesthood. Cochrane on the other hand was of the common folk and rejected pagan for other reasons. You see these differences in that feud.
                      I think though were it gets iffy, my opinion anyway, is that their practice was separate from their religion / spirituality. Yes they were Christian's or which ever religion but they separated practice and religion though they called upon aspects of it. In many ways it reminds me of Pow Wow magics or old Pennsylvania Dutch magics in that they are very religious and use scripture and such but one is separate from the other. I guess for me it's like the argument you see in many shamanic circles regarding core shamanism where culture and influence is stripped away as to influence to keep procedure.

                      I realize my argument sounds like I contradict myself there but I think we have to read the old grimores but understand the social and cultural influences but understand they influenced but the practitioners also worked outside of them or bent them. Figure it was the baseline from where they started and measured success or failure. Sorry head cold right now so words not getting on cyber page like I want at the moment.

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