“Wicca Man” Trailer

Here is the trailer for the new British documentary on Gerald Gardner, theatrically introduced by Ronald Hutton rather like an episode of the archaeology program Secrets of the Dead.

Britain’s Wicca Man – (C) Matchlight from Matchlight on Vimeo.

I am happy to hear Professor Hutton say that Wicca was developed in the 1940s—I would say the very late 1940s at that, definitely post-World War II.

It is time to give up on the whole legend of the hidden coven at the Rosicrucian Theatre, of Gardner’s 1939 initiation at Dorothy Clutterbuck’s house, of the 1940 Lammas working against a possible German invasion, and all of that.

There is no evidence for any of it except Gardner’s say-so, and if those things happened, they do not gibe at all with what we know that Gardner was doing in the 1939-1947 period, namely trying out a variety of different esoteric groups before he “found” the one that he liked—Wicca.

8 Comments

  1. Kris Hughes says:

    What scared me most about that was how much Hutton’s voice resembled that of Philip Carr Gomm. Are they really one and the same person? I think we should be told! (Truly no disrespect intended! I think quite highly of PCG’s work with OBOD.)

  2. MomaFauna says:

    Ever since I saw this clip on TWH, I have had mixed feelings.

    Primarily, I am pleased about this film because, like you, I believe we need to know our roots. We don’t have to like them, but we need to know them. I think Crafting the Art of Witchcraft, Triumph of the Moon, Her Hidden Children (especially for Americans) & probably some of their source material (Pickingill Papers,Roebuck in the Thicket,etc.) should be required reading. I suspect The Rebirth of Witchcraft — which I finally obtained this week, but have yet to read — should also fall into this list. Even if one finds flaws/cause for argument with parts of these texts, the overarching story, historical resources & the data they provide is essential. Everyone inclined toward Wicca should read all of Gardner & Valiente’s books. Period. I am appalled when I meet someone who thinks the sole authority on Wicca is, say, Cabot, Starhawk, Budapest, or some more recent personage & then they look at me blankly when I mention Gardner & Valiente.

    Besides, it might save a few people the shock I experienced when I read Aidan Kelley’s book the first time.

    My concerns about the film surrounds the sensationalistic angle the trailer portrays. Is that really necessary? Especially the reference to “the devil” in the trailer. Couldn’t that discussion wait until the film? Perhaps I am an old fuddy-duddy,but I feel like the sensationalism has the potential to discredit the film academic merit in the eyes of the people who could benefit from its message most.

    Oop. Now I’m late. Rants do that.
    Hesitations aside, I very much look forward to this film.

    • Gareth says:

      It’s an advertisement, it’s intention is to grasp peoples’ attention so of course it’s going to be “sensationalistic”; though I would say it’s theatrical with the music and imagery. With regards to the ‘devil’ reference it clearly states that Wicca is not devil worship.When you think about it, it could gone for the ‘are they a dangerous cult?’, ‘is it a threat to children?’, ‘do they worship the devil?’ or any other number of fear-mongering approaches.

      • MomaFauna says:

        Agreed on the attention-grasping. It’s just a bit heavy-handed, IMHO.

        I tend to think in the Pagan/Wiccan community there is often an automatic jump to the defensive ‘devil’ discussion when perhaps that issue was not even a concern to the listener/learner. There was a series of posts written by Hecatedemeter during the Pagan Pride days time window which discussed at length the need for positive framing. In those posts, she argued that we should no go straight for the devil issue & what Paganism is *not* but rather, focus on what it *is*. I suppose I just have a tendency to wince whenever the devil subject comes up at all. It a knee-jerk reaction & that bit in the trailer definitely jerked my knee. But you are correct, it could have been much worse & I concede that there are some circumstances when that old devil discussion still has its place.

  3. Morgan says:

    I wrote better than 600 words in response before starting to argue with myself — I blame the zaniness caused by watching archival footage of Gerald Gardner in color (Look at his red sweater! And he has a broom!)

    I don’t think it would be useful to give up the legends surrounding Wicca’s origin. They are an essential competent of Wicca’s history as stories that Gardner told, which is not the same as arguing that their contents is empirically true. (Although that Gardner told those stories is empirically true — and that alone is reason to retain them.)

    The value of these legends is not the same as their veracity. They are useful to Wiccans who understand them with the nuance of legend or myth, and they are useful to scholars exploring the social conditions surrounding Wicca’s rise. To remove the legends altogether — to say only that Gardner invented Wicca in the 1940s rather than to take the time to review his claims and their problems — would be to significantly alter the social dimension of history, which is just as important as its empirical dimension.

    I do not think that Gardner understood himself as the “inventor” of religion, regardless of whether we assign him that role. How he understood the relationship between religious authority, history, and tradition is of great historical consequence. Understanding how we use the past in our constructions of truth and value — and how old Gerald did those things in his red sweater — is a prerequisite to understanding “what really happened” and why such a thing would matter at all. When Gardner talks about the past, he is communicating something about himself.

    • Morgan says:

      “They are an essential competent of Wicca’s history…”

      Apparently I am not competent enough to write COMPONENT.

    • Chas Clifton says:

      Of course we can continue to examine what the legends say about the expectation that people had of Wicca — or how GBG chose to feed those expectations. But I still see people repeating them as literal truth, and that is something that I think should stop.