M. and I went yesterday to check our favorite mushroom grounds. The radar had shown thunderstorms up there earlier in the week, but whatever rain fell had soaked right in. Nothing was coming up yet, not even LBMs. The mushroom hunter’s catch-all term: “Little brown mushrooms.” Like “little gray bird” when you are looking for birds.
Stepping into a small clearing, probably part of a 1980s skid trail, I looked down and saw a knife. An eight-inch chef’s knife with a single-bevel (“chisel”) edge, to be precise — Asian-style, so probably Chinese-made. Much like this one.
I had made my offerings just minutes before at a hollow stump. This find seemed definitive. It was like something said, “Sorry, no mushrooms. Would you like a knife?”
That is the second time I have found a knife at my feet. The first time was in Teller County, Colorado, east of Florissant, when I was in my mid-twenties. It was the last day of Februrary, consequently, the last day of small-game hunting. No dog then — just me, my old Ford F-100 truck, and Granddad’s shotgun. I didn’t see a rabbit, but walking through the woods I found an antler-handled knife.
A little time later, I found an aluminum camping cup.
I was new to the Craft then, but I could see a certain pattern here. Would there next be an aluminum camping plate with a pentagram scratched on it?
Well, no. But it was “a moment.”
As for yesterday’s knife, it might have been lost last season by one of the Vietnamese I think. Or other SE Asian.market-hunters recreational mushroom hunters with very large appetites and pillowcases to fill I saw in that area last year.
Whatever it’s origins, I touched up the edge, and M. is slicing vegetables with it now.
A little more than twenty years ago, in the preference to his landmark study of contemporary Pagan Witchcraft, The Triumph of the Moon, the historian Ronald Hutton wrote that “the unique significance of pagan [sic] witchcraft to history is that it is the only religion which England has even given the world.”
It’s true. There is Wicca all over Europe, North America, and parts of South America. Outposts of local, as opposed to expat, Wicca have appeared in south Asia too.
A Member of Parliament, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, himself an author, praised it: “In her writing, Rashme displays a deep knowledge of the psyche of Wicca, of healing witchcraft and of the exotic practice of spells and magical wizardry. The reader is led through a bewildering maze of incense-filled prose which will assail your senses as though you are physically by her altar.”
According to the publisher, the book “takes you through the practices she has perfected over a period of time.While providing a succinct introduction to the subject, it also creates an awareness about the world of the Wiccan that will help dispel the myth of a witch being ‘evil’ and make people realize that the modern-day witch is engaged in working for the highest good. As much a well-written manual on Wicca as it is a chronicle of a wondrous journey, the book will not only make you discover the hidden Wiccan in you, it will also be an appropriate guiding tool.”
I would like to know more about the “wondrous journey.” Is this really about Wicca-the-magical religion, or is it more about the Wiccan as “service magician,” to use another term that Professor Hutton has tried to popularize as a neutral way to describe sorcerors, shamans, hedge witches, and all manner of folk magical practitioners? Rashme Oberoi is on Facebook here for her Tarot practice, and if I am not mistaken, also works in corporate public relations.
Either way, it says something for Wicca that it such a book could be published in a nation known for ancient polytheisms. Or is there a novelty factor at work here too?
I was researching something about Wicca in Germany, and up popped this Witch Dance video. Apparently the belly-dancers got involved, put some shimmy in the besom brigades’ sweeping, and now it’s an international thing. From Germany, here is the Tribal Gypsy Dance troupe:
And this year in Frenchtown, New Jersey, a plaintive call from the bourgeois bohemians in the YouTube comments:
Hello Tricia. We checked this account but didnt see an email posted by way we could get in touch with you. That said, my husband and I live in Milford NJ. We are throwing a Christmas party and are wondering if you could teach our guests a dance. If so, please let us know your fee. You’re great at teaching groups of people and feel you would make a wonderful addition to the occasion. Please think about it.
I am all for putting your Paganism in the street (or on the beach or Salem Common) where it belongs. But Pagan studies friends, this is waiting for some theoretical lenses!
2) Pagans and wiccans are becoming more established
More established [than self-identified shamans] are pagans [sic], who number 74,000 people (up from 57,000 in 2011) and who gather most in Ceredigion, Cornwall and Somerset, and wiccans [sic], who number 13,000. Wicca is sometimes described as a witchcraft tradition whose roots lie in pre-Christian religious traditions, folklore, folk witchcraft and ritual magic.
Don’t get a swollen head, unless you speak Romanian (see number 3).
You can buy the former mill (built 1828) in Castletown,Isle of Man, that once housed housed Cecil Williamson and Gerald Gardner’s “Folklore Centre of Superstition and Witchcraft,” whose name went through various permutations, even as its little restaurant went from being “The Folklore Restaurant” to “The Witches’ Kitchen.”
Being near to the former residence of the Arbory witch, Elizabeth Kewin, who was in 1666 rumoured to have transformed into a hare and cast evil spells, the mill was soon associated with witchcraft.
By the 1950s, an Englishman named Cecil Williamson had bought the mill and planned to create a museum of folklore and witchcraft there. Later selling it to his friend Gerald Gardner, the mill was revamped as The Museum of Magic and Witchcraft.
After Gardner’s death in 1964, the museum ran for a short time under new owner Monique Wilson, who eventually sold it and its exhibits, but in its relatively short life, the museum was credited with helping to popularise Wicca as a religion.
In the museum world, objects must have “provenance,” a detailed description of where they came from and a chain of ownership. Ideally. Think of it as a story with documentation — although the art and antiquities trades are full of examples of forged documentation
In Gardner’s case, he merely had to provide a story. This ritual sword belonged to . . . wait a moment, it’s on the tip of my tongue. . . “The Southern Coven of English Witches.” In other words, me and my fellow explorers of possible survivals of ancient Paganism, as described by Professor Murray.
“A collection of objects used by witches, lent by an existing coven of witches,” the witchcraft museum’s pamphlet read at one point.Philip Heselton, Witchfather: A Life of Gerald Gardner, vol. 2 (London: Thoth, 2012), 474.
The example given is that ancient Mediterranean people knew at a basic level how steam power worked. A few simple examples were built .Roman technology could have produced boilers and pistons, but it wasn’t “steam engine time” yet. There were no situations that required steam engines, no one willing to invest in them. Yet in the 18th-century, steam technology took off and dominated the next two centuries, still having some use today.
Even as Hero (or Heron) of Alexandria could conceptualize a steam engine two thousand years ago, so various people tried various Pagan revivals in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some in the Baltic countries, for example, clung to life through Nazi and Communist persecution but did not go world-wide, beyond their own ethnic diasporas.
Wicca went world-wide in the late 20th century, becoming, as Ronald Hutton writes in The Triumph of the Moon, “the only religion which England has ever given the world.”Ronald Hutton The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), vii. Maybe we should just say that “It Wiccas when it’s Wicca time,” and that time was 1950–51. And one of the key locales was an old windmll on the Isle of Man.
In my fantasy, the old mill could be bought and turned into a museum again, complete with dioramas of its 1950s self — a meta-museum! — material on the history of Wicca as a worldwide religion since the 1950s, and of course a restaurant, selling “Home Baked Cakes in the old Manx farmhouse style” as did the original.Heselton., 429.
“I don’t agree with all her views, but in the history of the craft, she is an important person,” said Sabina Magliocco, professor of anthropology and religion at the University of British Columbia. “When you look at all of the witchcraft as feminist resistance that flowered in the Trump era, none of that would have existed if it hadn’t been for what Z and others like her did in the 1970s.”
Here she speaks in Malcolm Brenner’s 1991 documentary Out of the Broom Closet, which was digitized and placed on YouTube by the New Age Movements, Occultism, and Spiritualism Research Library. Archives and Special Collections. Valdosta State University. Valdosta, Georgia.
The CoG Timeline was compiled and designed by Andrea Joy Kendall with contributions from Anne Agard, Angie Buchanan, Jo Carson, Andras Corban-Arthen, Phyllis Curott, Amber K, Anna Korn, Rowan Fairgrove, Donald Frew, J. Hildebrand, M. Macha NightMare, and Starhawk. This timeline includes events of interest to anyone that wants to understand what the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) and its members do.
The Timeline is presented in two PDF files: Part 1 and Part 2. Do understand that since CoG started in northern California, the Timeline reflects that geographical slant. The San Francisco Bay Area is somewhat over-represented. New Yorkers may wail and lament.
CoG itself was started in the 1970s:
In the Spring of 1975, a number of Wiccan elders from diverse traditions, all sharing the idea of forming a religious organization for all practitioners of Witchcraft, gathered to draft a covenant among themselves. These representatives also drafted bylaws to administer this new organization now known as the Covenant of the Goddess
It chief purpose, beyond fellowship, was to provide ministerial credentials to Witches who wished to perform weddings and fill other public roles.
In my own experience, I would say that by about 1980, Wiccan elders were quietly beginning to abandon the Murray-ite thesis of unbroken ancient Pagan religion lasting to the 17th century or later.
Leave it to First Things, a Catholic-leaning magazine on religious issues, to weigh in on the upcoming centenary, which deserves to be noted.
While Margaret Murray was by no means a founder or adherent of Wicca, the religion to which her writings gave birth, The Witch-Cult in Western Europe inspired the now global phenomenon of neopaganism. There can be no doubt that Murray had a brilliant scholarly imagination—too brilliant, perhaps, for the serious flaws in her reasoning to be seen by many. While few Wiccans and neopagans now believe literally that their religion has existed since prehistory, Murray’s legacy persists in the strange idea that witchcraft was a religion, an idea long since debunked by historians of witchcraft. It is ironic that this idea, devised by a feminist historian, often eclipses the reality that the accusation of witchcraft was a misogynistic construct weaponized against innocent women. Murray’s unsubstantiated claim that these women practiced a secret pagan religion was, ultimately, a calumny against the victims of a dark era of misogynistic violence.
“What it is about the Norse gods is they teach you to respect nature and the world and that’s how the world should be run, not like in the modern day,” said Mr Mehmed, who is also known as Magnus Shield-Breaker.