Inventing Witchcraft: A Case Study in the Creation of a New Religion by Aiden Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Inside the pagan community and without there is an on going debate as to the origins of gardenerian Wicca. On one side of the debate you have authors like Heselton and Whitmore who believe that Wicca is an ancient pre-christian religion that centered on a Goddess and God. On the other side you have authors like Ronald Hutton and Aidan Kelly and Tanya Lurman will maintain that Wicca is a new religious movement. Aidan Kelly’s perspective is unique because he is in fact an insider who practices witch craft. Dr. Kelley invented his own tradition of witchcraft with some other students in Sand Francisco. He was one of the founding members of the New Reformed Order of the Golden Dawn.
Since he himself has founded his own, or at least helped found his own witchcraft tradition, he finds nothing wrong with what Gerald Gardner did. In fact it is a sign of healthy society that shows spark of creativity. At one point all religions were man made and at one point they were new religious movements. Many religious movements whither and die it is only those few that meet the needs of the people that end up surviving. Judaism, Islam and Christianity are examples and so is Wicca. The number of Wiccans and Pagans doubles up every two years.
Gerald Gardner made many false claims implying that Wicca was an ancient religion. Of course when new religious movements come about they will often claim they are the original or the corrected version that people are supposed to follow. All religions start this way. Most follower identify this and just live with the fact that historical reality and mythos are not necessarily the same.
Aidan Kelley put the written works thorugh a scholarly test to determine if there was any truth to Gerald Gardner’s claims. Searching through Gardner’s belonging kept by Ripley’s museum of witchcraft and documents held by Carl Wesche he was able to determine through careful analysis and detective work that Gardner’s claims were false. Among the papers he found several versions of the same ritual often with dyslexic spelling and cross outs. Many of the rituals had undergone revision. These are the signs of authorship not copying something down from a book of shadows. Almost all of gardners works were direct plagiarisms. Elements were lifted dire tly out of Crowley’s works, Lelands Aradia, Rudyard kipolings work etc. Doreen Valiente saw this and when she was intiated she rewrote almost all of it.
One things that Aidan makes note of is Gereald’s interesting in spanking and bondage. His new religion sanctified it . The book does a good job of telling the background story of Wicca and how Gerald Created it. I think Hutton’s book is more complete though. Inventing Witchcraft tends to over do on printing in the text and analyzing it.
In the end after all my research I have come to the conclusion that Gerald Gardner did in fact invent Wicca from available sources. His witchcraft is very much influenced by Ceremonial Magiack. However I do believe that there were precedents about for following witchcraft and following the Goddess that Gardner was not expose to. I enjoyed the historical excursion.
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