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Lord of the Dance

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  • Lord of the Dance

    Chapter 22 of Joseph McCabe’s The Story of Religious Controversy (1929) depicts a typical Sabbat ritual as God-centered. The gathered Witches would pay him homage (typically by kissing his backside), reports were given, followed by dancing, feasting and a sexual orgy.

    Such worship resembles ancient worship of Pagan deities, notably that of Dionysus. G. Rattray Taylor writes, in chapter 12 of Sex in History, that the Greeks valued music, dancing, alcohol and sex as means to inducing a divine state of awareness, which I refer to as ecstasy.

    It would be stretching credulity to suggest a historical continuity between the worship of ancient Pagan deities and the worship of Witches during the Middle Ages. However, it seems easily possible that a continuity of meaning exists between them. Man of two and three thousand years ago is man of today; and it seems reasonable that man, in whatever age he finds himself, is likely to discover that certain activities practiced in a religious context tend to produce certain results. It is therefore reasonable to postulate an equivalence between the same practice at it appears in similar religious contexts, despite the lack of historical connection between them.

    If we acknowledge that the God is the personification of physical life, that the Goddess is the personification of spiritual life and that the meaning of our lives is reflected in the God’s spiral quest toward final union with the Goddess, then why would ecstatic Witchcraft be God-centered? Shouldn’t we expect it to be Goddess-centered?

    This discontinuity, between Witchcraft worship several hundred years ago and what Witches do today, was initially jarring to me. The temptation is to assume that our historical record, admittedly problematic, does not reflect “true” Witchcraft, but a distortion created by rebellious Christians or by Inquisitorial torture. Yet, this resolution is simplistic, for there are too many accounts obtained without torture and from Witches who weren’t merely rebellious Christians but who loved their religion.

    A resolution has occurred to me. Remember that the God represents physical life: us, in other words, both women and men, in our pursuit of spiritual life, i.e., the Goddess. He is the Lord of the Dance, the One who shows the way to communion with the Goddess, to ecstasy. He leads the revels; and the worshippers follow his lead, letting him guide them into her communion. Thus, he is Lord of the Sabbat, not because he is greater than the Goddess, but because he is us and he knows the way to her.

    I think there may be a key here to something profound. Many people struggle to know where the God fits into our rituals and our religious lives. Perhaps this is it. The Lord of the Dance.