Sunday, November 25, 2007

History as wished for

We have been looking at old information in an attempt to get all the dates accurate on the School of Wicca.
In December 1968 Gavin and Yvonne Frost, then resident in Ferguson, Missouri, founded The Church and School of Wicca. The School began advertising courses in March 1969 in Avant Garde magazine. That advertisement and the associated mailing piece were the first recorded use of the word Wicca to name an alternative spirituality. In all his writings, Gerald Gardner used the lower-case wica (sic) one time. He did not use it to describe a religion or a spiritual path. In 1969, Leo Martello used an acronym, W.I.C.C.A.
The Wiccan path which the Frosts articulated bore little resemblance to either the Gardnerian or the Alexandrian "traditional" Witchcraft paths. Instead, it was based on the practice of the Penzance Coven that initiated Gavin in 1951. That practice was and is a system of spiritual development based on Tantric Yoga. Since its founding, the Church has used
a. psychic gender differences to power its rituals and
b. the endorphines produced by orgasm to reach altered states without the use of quasi-legal substances.
The official formative date shown on the Articles of Association and the Bylaws of the Church and School of Wicca (a religious association) is December 13, 1971.
On August 31 1972 the IRS issued a letter of determination granting 501.c.(iii) status to the Church of Wicca. Also late in 1972 the Church helped the IRS establish their criteria for the recognition of a church.
There is a problem with the dates of the change from Gardnerian Witchcraft to Gardnerian Wicca. So many people are using secondary and tertiary sources. Please do not quote Wikipedia or Ronald Hutton or any other secondary source. Our source is a conversation with Doreen Valiente in 1991. If you have a primary written or printed source, please let us know. We want to keep our records correct.
Blessed be those who resist confusion between hearsay and evidence. Gavin and Yvonne

Friday, November 9, 2007

A Foot in Both Worlds?

The question today is an old one revisited; that is, can a Wiccan use a Christian pantheon in his/her spiritual life? Time and again we have pointed out that in working with lower-level stone gods, as they are often called, people can use any pantheon they wish. We have knowingly made no exclusions. Don't overlook the 283 named deities in the Celtic pantheon alone; and it is said that in the Hindu pantheon/s there are over 30 thousand. Aren't those enough to choose from?
The real drawback, though, is that Christianity is a dominator cult-of-the-book, whereas we ourselves tend to articulate and pursue a partnership religion based in Nature. Those individuals who want to omit the red-in-tooth-and-claw bit may do so, of course, though we acknowledge that aspect as part of the real world.
Therefore if you are a Christian, ipso facto you cannot be a Wiccan. The cult of Christianity is not compatible with the spiritual path of Wicca. The Wiccan Ultimate overarching unknowable Deity (or perhaps Spiritual Focus) makes Wicca a religion in the temporal dimension, and in the spiritual dimension a spiritual path. At heart it is henotheistic. (Whoa! What a big word. Look it up, though. Surprise--it's been there all the time.) Yet it is not quite even that. In our terminology it is syncretic monotheism that also offers the option of using hearth god-esses. Differences are slight but worth exploring.
So you can use any pantheon you like--but don't drag in the non-win moral values of another religion such as, no sex until a pimply-faced clerk issues you a $10 license to Do It, or other so-called moral values. Many of western culture's "moral values" drive most people straight to the loony bin or onto the path of walking one walk while they talk another talk.
Of course there are other important questions that we can't address in this blog. Examples:
* When does a tampon with its attached nylon cord become a dildo?
* When is a hip not a crotch to someone who has a crotch fixation?
Show of hands : Is there anybody we haven't offended yet?
Blessed be. Gavin and Yvonne

PS Rhiannon: If you are serious about acreage, come visit us in West Virginia. We'll talk.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Old Stuff - Our Spiritual Heritage

Trial records show that in the 1340s CE, trials of "heretics" almost ceased, to resume only after publication in 1376 CE of Nicholas Eymeric's "Directorium inquisitorum". That book replaced Bernard Gui's "Practica officii inquisitoris heretice pravitatis" of 1324 CE. Bernard Gui was a competent lawyer. It is thought that his book and the legal requirements it contained slowed the trials. To our knowledge, no other reason for the slowdown has been suggested.
-- Kieckhefer "European Witch Trials" pub University of California Press, 1976

The Black Death slots neatly into the middle of that period. The first cases occurred in southern France and northwestern Italy in December 1348, and it reached Scotland and Scandinavia two years later.
-- Ziegler "The Black Death" pub Collins 1968

1315 - 1320 were the first 5 famine years of the Little Ice age, involving continual rain and the ruin of cereal crops. An estimated 2 million souls died. In the following 300 years, there were 111 of total famine. In France an estimated 7 million died. All death statistics in this whole period are SWAGs (scientific wild-assed guesses), though the few extant birth records reveal that the women were trying to repopulate Europe. Many women formed beguinages, mainly female towns/villages/communes. Such population centers were easy targets for later genocidal murders ordered by the church.
-- M. Kolbenschlag "Eastward unto Eve" pub Crossroads 1996

The plague was made more virulent because people were (a) starving and (b) huddled together in hovels for warmth--along with heat-seeking rats that bore the fleas that carried the disease.
The 1350-81 time period saw continuous peasant revolts against civil and church laws. In England the 1351 revolt is well documented. It was caused by the church's backing of the Statute of Laborers, which attempted (a) to fix wages back to pre-plague levels and (b) to reintroduce serfdom and forced labor.
The first serious mention of Witches comes from the Council of Constance, 1414-16 CE :
"Witches are real and are the cause of the bad weather."
This was a reversal of the previous position of the church in the Canon Episcopi, which decreed the death penalty for anyone who burned supposed magicians. St. Boniface's encyclical declared : "Belief in magic and werewolves is unchristian."
Only in 1428 CE was the classical definition of "witch" tortured out, in trials held in the canton of Valais (Switzerland). The definition allows hair-splitting Christians to claim that none of the "heretics" murdered earlier were Witches and that anyone who doesn't exactly fit the Valais definition is not a Witch and thus doesn't count.
-- G & Y Frost "Who Speaks for the Witch?" pub Godolphin House 1991
-- H. C. Lea "Materials toward a History of Witchcraft" (3 volumes) pub Yoseloff 1957
-- H. R. Trevor-Roper "The European Witch Craze" pub Pelican 1969
It appears to us that this period, say 1315 through 1376 CE, should be studied in more depth to correlate information from various disciplines. Maybe a doctoral thesis ... ?
By the way, any time you get a chance to hear Professor Skip Clark at one of the festivals, do it! He is a genuine expert on the subject, not just a guy on a crusade, and has no axe to grind.
-- S. Clark "Mythhistory of Witchcraft" / VHS tape pub Godolphin House 2005

An Extremely Different Subject

As we drove from the mountains of West Virginia into the flatlands of Ohio, the trees were turning, and beautifully so. Mountainsides were swathed in green, orange, and red. As we approached Columbus and the flatlands of the prosperous state of Ohio, at first we enjoyed the open farmland with a scattering of trees and farmhouses and the browning corn ready to be cut. Then about 25 miles from Columbus, we ran into urban sprawl. "Planned" communities clustered around golf courses where sprinklers kept the lawns green and beautiful.* What we call the house machine had been running at full throttle in the area, as it has around many of the nation's large cities.
We believe very strongly that there are two types of communities that genuine pagans should invest in.
1. A farming community where a group gets together to run a farm. We have spent hours upon hours advising pagan/Wiccans on the challenges entailed in such intentional communities. Gavin is a country boy brought up in rural England, and we had our own farm in Missosuri in the early 1970s. We do know the problems, and we know a lot about shortages in cashflow.
2. In another trype, the ashram, a group gets together and cooperatively buys a larger old downtown mansion that can be rescued and turned into several spacious apartments. Such a cooperative does a lot to save inner cities, especially in smaller communities, in what is called infill housing. The infill approach recycles land within urban areas instead of paving over yet more farmland or woodland just for the sake of conspicuous consumption. The apartments made from such older homes usually have spacious rooms and high ceilings and make much nicer living space than modern crackerboxes. A good sound group can share such things as the kitchen and the laundry room, enabling its members to put in high-quality commercial-style equipment that requires very little maintenance. The cost-effectiveness of such an infill arrangement is obvious, and of course it saves a few acres of contryside from the all-devouring house machine.

P.S. This is not a flame of Columbus. Columbus is only a typical example of what is going on over the entire nation. Every year a new area the size of Indiana is paved over. Many pagan/ Wiccans dream vaguely of buying their own piece of unimproved land. If that is your dream, to make such a commitment and to run a small farm, we strongly suggest that you place an ad in the local paper of the nearest easily accessible farming community, something to this effect :
"Volunteer free labor on your farm on weekends."
Most farmers work 24/7. A little extra help and a little time off is a real bonus for them. In this way you will get, as they say in Missouri, your boots into the pig muck (on the coast of North Carolina it's getting your oars into the water) without a huge painful outlay of cash and a lifetime's commitment. Doing this may save you a great deal of heartache later, because you will get a glimpse of what modern farming entails in the real world. It will offer (one of Yvonne's current favorite phrases) a reality smack.
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* See S. Steingraber's "Living Downstream" for a nightmare description of what golf courses do to the planet's health. At least a million gallons of water per day per course ... and the incidence of prostate cancer in greenskeepers is six times as high as in the general population, because of the lawn chemicals that go into the land to keep it picture-perfect. Aren't you proud to be a taxpayer?