The Sacred Numbers

While browsing my blog states today, I noticed someone searching out why 13 and 21 were significant to witches.  This is a primarily Wiccan post, as our numerology is different than other schema and identities.

I am going to quote Gerald B. Gardner in his brief, confuddled explanation in Witchcraft Today, below:

Because three and five make eight, many things must be in eights; but eight and five make thirteen, and so thirteen is another good number; but since five eights, or three covens and a leader, make forty, forty is a good number and certain things must be forty.

Does anyone else feel like they were robbed of intelligence with that reasoning?  Either way, that is the traditional perspective.  The numbers in Gardnerian Wicca which are special are 3, 5, 8, 13 and 40.

Spiritually, the numbers can easily be assigned deeper meanings.

3 – The God, the Goddess, and Life/Child/Creation/etc.  The goddess in her triple form.

5 – Man.  The Pentacle.  The God.

8 – The Wheel of the Year – the 8 solar sabbats.(4 “height of (insert season here)”, 2 equinoxes, 2 solstices)

13 – The Wheel of the Year – the 13 lunar esbats.(full moons)

40 – I’m at a loss here.  I do like his explanation.  Three covens and a leader.

Keep in mind that within Gardnerian tradition, these numbers become exceptionally important in the initiation rites – the purification/test act of scourging is assigned to these various numbers.  I believe I mentioned the scourge in an earlier post.

I’m sure I’ll come back to the intricacies of Gardnerian Initiation Rites at some point…but as I have not slept in some time, that’s a rather large chunk of information for me to process at this moment.

Blessed Be!

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Fetish, Gardner, and the Scourge

For some reason, I feel driven to write about sex – well, not sex.  Fetishes.  Fetishes are those feelings…those needs that you have, perhaps from a prepubescent age, that are sexual, but not related to a directly sexual act.  Depending on the type of fetish, it may become a lifestyle.

This post is being created because I people watch, and often, fetishes are the butt of everyone’s sexual jokes.  “I don’t do that” someone will say haughtily, when I know of an instance where someone engages in that behavior because they can’t help it.  But, those with fetishes and alternative desires are not diseased.  The engaging in the behavior is a choice.  They are not weak for having strange urges.  And that discrimination, less recognized than that against homosexuals, but no less hurtful – upsets me.

Because fetishes are of interest to me, I have accumulated a fair amount of knowledge over the years – as any exploratory teen would attest to.  Within that knowledge, I have found many ‘case studies’ of those people who, as mentioned before, had these urges from a prepubescent stage of their life, before they knew what “sex” was.  Are fetishes genetic?  Do they run through families or the father or the mother?  What spawns fetishes, if they’re not genetic, but present in prepubescent stages?  People with fetishes can’t *all* have screwed up childhoods or abuse stories.  Most don’t.

And those who have fetishes are not driven to those, and kept beyond their abilities to use their brains.  By this, I mean that, people with fetishes are intelligent!   Just because something drives them, doesn’t mean it controls them.  They can even go so far as to discuss their lifestyles with dignity and a fair amount of contemplation.

And this brings me to my next point.  The “Sacrifice” within a Gardnerian ritual involves the scourge.  You scourge the initiate as their test, and the act, itself, is very ritualized.  The act, though perhaps not intended to deal a massive amount of pain, is certainly not intended to deal pleasure.

How then, are those who follow the Gardnerian traditions expected to participate within the rituals, if they possess any sort of domination/submission, spanking, whipping, or other masochistic fetish?  For men, how are they supposed to kneel, skyclad, and receive their strokes without reacting to it as they have in the same instance, with their partner wielding a similar instrument?  How are women supposed to live out their ‘darkest’ fantasy of being whipped, while maintaining proper etiquette within the circle?

Is there something inherently wrong with becoming aroused in a circle that was not cast for sex or the Great Rite?  Is there something inherently wrong with becoming aroused during the scourging process?  How about the binding?

We value sex as pleasure, yet it has its place, too.  Should there be an alternate ritual process for those who enjoy the beating?  Or are we made – regardless of fetish – somewhere deep inside, to all get a little aroused from the scourging?  Was Gardner, from whom we receive the scourging rituals, himself a sadist or a masochist?

Does this bring into question the integrity of the rituals at hand?

I will try to tackle these questions at a better time than 2 o’clock in the morning; one by one.  Any comments?

Sacred or Secret?

Well, that’s an interesting way to phrase it, and I saw it that way in a book I picked up at my local Barnes and Noble this evening.  The book, by Christopher Penczak, is called The Magick of Reiki.  I’m not really sure if I’d recommend it yet, as I’ve only gotten through the first little bit, but its definitely been an interesting read so far.  Within the book, Mr. Penczak makes a very good point: Does there have to be one way or the other?

I think, yes, to a point.  My high priest believes the same way.  The truth is, that if you speak of complicated astrophysics to a child of five, they will go, “oooh, pretty!”  but not have a damn clue what you’re talking about.  I believe some things which are sacred should be kept secret, and here’s why:

Energy and Spiritual Mechanics

Referring to my previous post, you’ll see that my general concept of energy is that it is used to cause change.  Now, of course, it follows, that the process is a two way street.  If energy is applied to something, then that energy will change that something.  If the energy of attention is applied to the concept of some spiritual theory, it follows that, however slight, the concept will undergo change.

Just like the gossip game, as something is passed on, it gets transformed.  You can see it with the Wiccan Rede.  Everyone adopts a concept and finds some way to make it special.  If you google “Wiccan Rede” you will find many, many different versions.  They may have one word changed, or perhaps a misplaced comma, or may be entirely different than the one I have posted.   Unfortunately, some of the meaning is lost in translation.

This is not to say that change is bad, it is necessary and natural.  However, being able to choose and control that change is an ability which we all have.  Concerning those things which are sacred to us and we offer our respect towards, it seems silly to tell just anyone who may go on to speak of the concept lightly or malformed to another.

Transfer of Karmic Responsibility

Each and every person that posts or types or writers or teaches someone anything has a karmic responsibility regarding how that student uses that knowledge.  “Knowledge is power” they all say.  If I teach a student the theory of basic energy, there is nothing to say that they can’t somehow use that theory and piss off the powers that be.  Ultimately, that responsibility does fall, to a certain extent, on me.

Fluffy Bunnies and Dumbasses

Who actually wants a thirteen year old going around with bread and wine proclaiming the body and blood of Christ?  Who wants someone else walking around yelling “an it harm none do what ye will!” as they run naked through the mall parking lot?  Similarly, you don’t want someone chanting the Lesser Summoning Ritual of your religion to see what pops up.  Coined fluffy bunnies and weekend witches by the general wiccan community, people like this are the ones that drive a religion or a tradition into the mainstream societies – in a bad sort of way.

Unfortunately, there tends to be an opening up of the door in this modern age.  In fact, that’s what pretty much every one is trying to do, along the way to peace and spiritual enlightenment: share what they know.

The Transition

So, I’ve determined that its best for some bits of knowledge to be sacred and secret.  Is there anything that can be sacred and NOT secret?  Absolutely.  Look at the bible, or the qu-ran, or the torah.  These are just as sacred AND exposed to the public.  I think Christianity really got into the whole distribution-of-knowledge thing, and everyone else had to rush to catch up.

The Wiccan Rede is sacred to Wiccans, and it is also the first thing that we point newcomers towards.  That or a Scott Cunningham book.

I guess I’m not really coming to a conclusion here.  In the end, its best if your tradition has standards.  I’m not going to bring out my Book of Shadows to show Christians for amusement.  Not that they could read it.  Due to the internet, perhaps unfortunately, things like the rede and the charge, theban and Gardner’s rites are all under public scrutiny.  For those of us who believe in the dogma of “Know and be silent”, we’re forced to create our own ceremonies, and rituals, and those of historic function are used as a basis, nothing more and nothing less.  But is it not time for improvement?

To know, to will, to dare, and to keep silent – these come to mind on this topic.  Yet, here I am, speaking to you, the general internet user, about magic.  Would I be making my spiritual ancestors proud?

I believe so.

Sacred or secret?  A little bit of both is best, I think.

Double Bind: Sex

I won’t go so far as to say I grew up in an active Christian household. But my parents, probably like the majority of Christians in America, hold the ideal that the most important, the only true religion, is Christianity, with one God, and Jesus. They never pushed it onto me – don’t get me wrong. But, between that overall feeling and the general atmosphere of my town, I learned two things:

  • Sex is bad.
  • Sex should not be mixed with religion.

Of course, Wicca teaches the opposite. Sex is a life affirming action that we respect and hold to be respected in the highest. Sex should be revered. I also learned something from growing up that is equally hard to overcome:

  • We don’t talk about sex.

Now, here, I come to a slight problem. Between these three, how am I supposed to perform any group ritual? All initiation rituals involve some sexual aspect to them. It is hard for me to come to terms with the idea that my rituals may turn me on. It seems as though the arousal would be distracting from the true purpose of the ritual. But is it?

I hesitate to speak of which parts of the rituals would leave me aroused, but suffice to say that there is always the possibility. Arousal aside, I see much of life being acted through various forms of domination/submission, some of which are played out in our rituals. Life, sex, and domination/submission go hand in hand in hand, and I realize that the acts are an integral part of not only our religion and its rituals, but also, life.

But, I am also working off of the assumption that purification, through the scourge, must be painful.  Pain is bad.  Therefore, purification must feel bad.  But…what if…we accept the pain for what it is?  Fear is the only thing that makes anything excessively painful.  So, if we switch up a few things, we solve the puzzle.

  • Pain is not bad.
  • Fear of pain makes it feel bad.
  • Purification does not have to feel bad.
  • Don’t fear purification.
  • Ritual does not have to be validated by painful purification.

Since sex was not painful, I did not before, classify it or arousal under “pure act”:

  • Sex is not bad, nor is it painful
  • Sex is okay to include in ritual
  • Sex is a pure act

Now of course, I understood these to a level before today.  But the change between understanding these concepts, and being comfortable with them is not always the easiest.  Does anyone else find themselves in a situation similar?

Tarot For Pay

(Saturday and Sunday Post here…I know I won’t get to it)

Forgive me for being a bit of a traditional hard ass when it comes to this. But, although I don’t agree with much of what Gerald Gardner lays down in his laws, writings and what-not, I do agree with one thing: we, as witches, should not accept monetary compensation for our divination. There are several reasons.

When I see a tarot reading festival or a booth in a festival going on at my college, or in my hometown, I watch the people who walk out of the booths. More often than not, they don’t have the look of awe that they should after an in-depth tarot reading. They come out, they immediately kick up conversation with their friends, to let them know how their super special ‘occult’ experience was, and what the wise woman/man had said inside for a small fee.

The tarot is sacred, because it is a tool for us to divine the situations that we find ourselves in that we cannot always see as clearly before hand. Accepting money, the tarot reading done by myself, would be clouded by the fact that if I did a good job, I might get a better tip! Now, I realize that not all card readers are like this. But nevertheless, your cards will feel the influence of money and your new intentions. I say this, and you may smile, but consider the following:

Your tarot cards are specifically yours. If handled correctly, each reading you do, each card you consider, is given your energy, becoming more attuned to you. So, technically, your readings will become more accurate in several years of time with the same deck because

  • You are familiar with the cards
  • You are more adept at interpretation
  • The cards are used to you

When the cards are being used for money, we tend to stop listening to them. We tend to influence the general publics’ opinion of the paths that we walk, and we influence our own cards’ readings. As a result, the readings are more geared at what the person being read wants to hear, and less what they need to hear.

What if the cards are being used for a good cause? A mandatory donation to some fund in exchange for a reading? No. The person being read should always have the choice to donate time or money as they please.

A voluntary donation? Perhaps. But charging for your magic? What if those ever-present parent Gods of ours decide to take the privilege away?

Gerald Gardner

Well, I have to admit that I’m feeling lazy today, and I have an article in the works for later in this week. I believe that, at this particular moment, I am going to simply post an essay I wrote some time ago (4 years ago) regarding Gerald Gardner’s validity as the founder of Wicca. I am posting it merely because it provides background information. I’m not sure what point I was pushing, but as a sophomore in high school then, and a sophomore in college, now, I’m sure my opinion has changed slightly through the years and more research. I’m sure that in upcoming posts, I may rework the article to reflect that, or write a more comprehensive analysis of the issue at hand. With that said, enjoy.

“11. As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various terms, the legitimacy of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present, and our future. ” – The American Council Of Witches, 1974.

Contrary to popular belief, Gerald Gardner is responsible for bringing the Wiccan Religion “out of the broom closet.” Though some discredit him for the work he did in his lifetime concerning the occult, it is possible to prove that Gerald Gardner, through his writings and experiences, helped create the foundation for the religion known today as Wicca.

“To be a Witch is to draw on our archetypal roots and to draw strength from them. It means to put yourself into close consonance with some ways that are older than the human race itself.” – Ed Fitch.

In 1974, a group of Witches, called the American Council of Witches, was established in order to define modern Witchcraft (Wicca). Wicca is difficult to define, by nature, because of its vast variety of traditions and followers. There is no established hierarchy among Wiccans, and they acknowledge no absolute authority of the religion. A Witch is a priest or priestess, and therefore a Witch is able to communicate with their gods without the use of a human medium.

Wiccans worship and perform their rites alone, or in small groups called covens, in order to attune themselves to the rhythms and cycles of Nature. Covens are closely knit, sometimes closer than the families that the members come from. Most Wiccans use meditation and prayer, and a combination of both, to help them guide their along the paths they find morally right. In being knowledgeable about what Wicca is, one can then take a look at someone who is by some, considered to be the founder of Wicca, and by others, “a con man, deceitful and manipulative.” (Knowles)

Gerald Gardner was born on June 13th, 1884, in Great Crosby, Lancashire, England. When he was a young child, he experienced bouts of asthma, which caused his nurse to take him to warmer locations in the harsh winters. As he grew, this affliction left him, but the urge to travel did not. When Gerald evolved into adulthood, he took on the job of a Customs officer. In 1927, he met and married a woman named Donna. She stayed faithful to him until her death in 1960. After her death, Gerald’s bouts of asthma reappeared, probably from depression.

Although Gerald retired from his Customs job in 1936, this did not mean that he retired from everything else. Gerald’s pastime was archaeology. He was fascinated by ancient artifacts, and this led him into Witchcraft articles. Having finally made contact with the occult, in September of 1939, Gerald Gardner was initiated into the New Forest Coven. At this time, the Witchcraft Act was still in effect in England.

Unable to publish non-fiction books about Witchcraft, Gerald published a book called High Magick’s Aid in 1949, under the pen name of Scire. His coven, and their high priestess, “Old” Dorothy Clutterbuck, were wary of his penmanship, and did not want him to publish anything related to their traditions. They, as most traditional Witches are, were very secretive. The Witchcraft Act was repealed in 1951, deposing of the last laws against the occult in England. Just 3 years later, Gerald published the book Witchcraft Today, under his own name.

Doreen Valiente, a high priestess of Gardner’s until they parted ways for a time due to a disagreement, did much to improve Gardner’s status. Angered, or perhaps intrigued by people’s disbelief in “Old Dorothy”, spent a few years after Gardner’s death, proving Dorothy Clutterbuck’s existence.

Many people believe that Gardner drew on previously documented sources to create his own sets of rules and hierarchy; in essence, his own religion. This religion was then promoted through his books.

The document called the “Old Laws” is a perfect example of this. In this document, the language that was used was not uniform. The dialects came from all over Europe, from England and Scotland, and probably from other areas as well, such as France or Spain. The times that certain words were in common use span centuries, from the 16th and 17th centuries to modern usage.

Another fact which supports this belief is the similarity between parts of Gardner’s Book Of Shadows, and Aleister Crowley’s works. Aleister Crowley, an occultist and founder of Thelema, yet another religion, met with Gardner a few times, and obviously influenced his work. Sometimes, entire passages of Gardner’s works are the same as those of Aleister Crowley’s, although they are not the same religions. Doreen Valiente, one of Gardner’s high priestesses, took what Gardner had copied from Crowley and reworded it into a more poetic, smooth form. In this way, she gave Wicca some individuality. Without Gardner, this would have been impossible. Doreen is the author of the more poetic version of the Charge of the Goddess, as well as many other works found within a Gardnerian Book of Shadows. These all are based on many sources, from Charles Leland’s Aradia to some of Aleister Crowley’s works.

Dorothy Clutterbuck is a figure that was wrapped in mystery, who many considered to be a myth until Doreen Valiente proved that “Old Dorothy” existed. Dorothy was the high priestess that Gerald Gardner received his wisdom and instruction from. She ran the coven that Gerald Gardner was initiated into. This coven was one of nine covens that “Old George Pickingill” started. According to Gardner, Mr. Pickingill said that he founded nine covens in his life time, situated around England.

During Gardner’s lifetime, he also served as the “Resident Witch” of the Museum of Witchcraft, located on the Isle of Man. This was run by Cecil Williamson. Upon Gardner’s death, his possessions were given to the museum and then sold to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not organization. This angered some witches, but most weren’t aware of the change of ownership.

The work that Gardner done has soundly impacted Wicca as it is today. This can be seen with Raymond Buckland, one of Gardner’s students who moved to America. Buckland brought Gardnerian Wicca to America, and is one of Llewelyn Publishing’s authors. If one walks down the Witchcraft aisle of any book store, one is bound to see a large, dark blue book by Raymond Buckland.

But what other impacts did Gardner make? Without Gardner to spark the interest, the craft would not be recognized as a legal religion in the United States of America. In 1973, 74 Witches, with Carl Weschcke as the chairperson, formed together to officially define American Witchcraft. Carl Weshchcke is also the owner of Llewelyn Publications, the largest New Age publisher on the American market. The document created by these 74 witches is used in the US Army Chaplains. It is also recognized by the United StatesUnited States Census. Wicca retains rights as a full religion, just like Christianity or Judaism.

“11. As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various terms, the legitimacy of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present, and our future. ” – The American Council Of Witches, 1974.

I am a Witch. Through the research of Gerald Gardner, I have enlightened myself both about other people’s opinions of the craft, and the history concerning it. Without knowing my history, I can not know my present or my future. I have pride to know that I have looked into Gerald Gardner’s life. It is my conclusion that Gerald Gardner greatly influenced the influx of Witches and perhaps permanently changed the path of Wicca forever during his lifetime. I believe that by knowing this, I can honor his memory properly, and respect him as an ancestor.

I am not threatened by debates on how deceitful Gerald Gardner was. Gerald Gardner deserves respect as the founder of tradition Witchcraft. Some will discredit him in an attempt to place themselves on a pedestal, but the fact remains that without Gardner, Wicca or Witchcraft would not be where it is today as a religion.

Sources:

“Gerald Gardner”. <http://home.graffiti.net/seekers/gardner.html&gt;

“Why I choose to drop the Wiccan Label”. Visited 15 Dec 03. <http://www.geocities.com/notuswill/rewicca.html&gt;

Adler, Margot. Drawing Down The Moon. Canada: Beacon Publishing, 1979.

Aleister Crowley Foundation. <http://www.thelemicknights.org/acfresources.html&gt;

Apologia Report. Hawkins Interview. Visited 11 Dec 03. <http://www.gospelcom.net/apologia/mainpages/WhatsNews/Hawkins/Interview.html&gt;

Grimassi, Raven. Encyclopedia of Wicca and Witchcraft. St. Paul MN: Llewellyn Publishing, 2002.

Hautn-Mayer, Joanna. “When is a Celt not a Celt?” Gnosis Summer 1998, pp 59-65. SIRS Brockport High School Library, Brockport, NY. 23 Dec 2003. <http//sks15.sirs.com/cgi-bin/hst-article=display?ID=0000NY0048-SIZ482WA&artno=078472&type=ART&sound=yes&key=WICCA>

Knowles, George. Controverscial.com. Visited 11 Dec 03. <http://www.controverscial.com/Gerald%20Brosseau%20Gardner.htm&gt;

Lacoste, Rikki. Gerald Gardner. Visited 15 Dec 03.

Oakseer. “Gerald Gardner, Old Words and the Old Laws.“. Visited 15 Dec 03. <http://www.angelfire.com/ca/redgarters/gerald.html&gt;

Phillips, Julia. History (2) of Wicca in England. Visited 11 Dec 03. <http://wikca.tripod.com/hiswicca2.html&gt;

Phillips, Julia. History of Wicca in England. Visited 11 Dec 03. <http://www-personal.umich.edu/~sjgavula/wiccahist.html&gt;

Valiente, Doreen. The Rebirth of Witchcraft. Custer: Phoenix Publishing Inc., 1989.
Wicca Modified 29 Nov 2003. <http://en2.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicca&gt;

Witches, American Council of. Principles of Wiccan Belief. <http://wiccanhuntress.tripod.com/13principlesofwiccanbelief.html&gt;