BeyondWeird Home
Index  Previous  Next 


                                      Wiccan History 
               Wicca is a relatively modern attempt (approximately 50 years old)
          at  reviving and  reconstructing  the old  pre-Christian religions  of
          Europe.   In a mythopoetic sense  it is many centuries  old.  However,
          the Witch of 200 years ago would not recognize what  is called "witch-
          craft"  today.  Modern Wicca may have some of its roots in some of the
          local  folk-magic and "family witchcraft" of mid 20th Century England.
          It does  have traceable roots  in the Golden  Dawn magical society  of
          late 19th  century England, some  of Aleister Crowley's  magickal work
          and some  Ceremonial Magic dating  back to  Elizabethan times.   For a
          modern  history of  English  Wicca,  the  reader can  most  profitably
          consult the works of Janet and Stuart Farrar and Doreen Valiente.  

               Up  until recently, the earliest known  remnants of human society
          that give us  any clues to the spiritual dimension  of prehistoric man
          are those  belonging to  the Gravettian-Aurignacian cultures  of 2500-
          1500 B.C.E.  This is called the Upper Paleolithic Period.  Though most
          of  the sites  so far  discovered have  been found  in Europe,  a very
          important site in  Anatolia (modern Turkey) has also been found and is
          the  (so far)  the first  or oldest  City of  Catal Huyuk  (pronounced
          chatal Hoo-Yook),they  form a conjectural foundation  for the religion
          of  the goddess as it  emerged in the later  Neolithic Age of the Near
          East.    There  have been numerous  studies of these  Paleolithic cul-
          tures, including extensive explorations of the sites occupied by these
          peoples,  including the apparent rites  connected with the disposal of
          their dead.

               The earliest remains of ancient civilization indicating some form
          of Goddess  worship were in the  caves in Lascaux, France.   Here, the
          first and earliest non-anthropomorphic divine figures were  symbolized
          by  the horse  for female Divinity  and the  Bison as  the male divine
          influence.   This  portion of  the cave  was painted  in approximately
          17,000  B.C.E. and sealed  approximately 10,000 B.C.E.   The anthropo-
          morphic Goddess figures appear sometime approximately 7,000 B.C.E. The
          earliest remains in  Catal Huyuk  have been reliably  carbon dated  to
          6,500  B.C. and show some interesting parallels  in that the horse was
          replaced with an  anthropomorphic goddess  and the Bison  (an ice  age
          animal)  has been replaced with  the aurochs bull,  ancestor of modern
          cattle.  The anthropomorphic Goddess is an Earth Mother and the nearby
          volcanoes (then active) were considered her breasts.1

                          One major conjecture has been that  the concept of the creator of
          all human life may have been formulated by the clan's  image of women.
          The  reasoning behind this conjecture lies in the observations in this
          century  of the few remaining Paleolithic type cultures.  These Paleo-
          lithic  cultures tend to be woman centered  since it is from the women
          that  babies come  and  the women  are  absolutely essential  for  the
          continuation of the tribe or clan.  Current information also indicates
          that it is also probable that the mother was regarded  as the sole (or
          at least  primary) parent of children in  this culture, and that there
          was a  definite pattern of ancestor worship.  It is also very probable
          that ancestry was matrilineal.


               The most tangible  evidence that these very  ancient cultures and
          their predecessors worshipped a goddess is the  numerous sculptures of
          women  found throughout  most of Europe  and the  Near east.   Some of
          these sculptures  date  as  far back as  25,000 B.C.E.!   Small female
          figurines, made of stone, bone and clay (most seemingly pregnant) have
          been found throughout  the widespread Gravettian-Aurignacian  sites as
          far apart as Spain,  France, Germany, Austria, and Russia  spanning an
          apparent period of  at least 10,000  years.  Erich  Neumnann, in  "The
          Great Mother" (p.95) says-  "Of the Stone Age sculptures  known to us,
          there are fifty-five female figures and  only five male figures.   The
          male figures, of youths, are atypical and poorly executed, hence it is
          certain that they had no significance for the cult.  This fits in with
          the secondary character of  the male godhead, who appeared  only later
          in  the history  of religions  and  derived his  divine rank  from his
          mother, the Goddess."

               Johannes  Maringer, in  his book  the  "Gods of  Prehistoric Man"
          says-  "it appears highly probable then that the female figurines were
          idols of a Great Mother cult, practiced by the non-nomadic Aurignacian
          mammoth hunters  who inhabited  the immense Eurasian  territories that
          extended from Southern   France to  Lake Baikal in  Siberia."  It  was
          from the Lake Baikal area in  Siberia that tribes are believed to have
          migrated across the  Bering land  bridge to North  America about  this
          time period, and formed the  nucleus of what was to become the race of
          North American Indians.  In some primitive societies known to history,
          the male role in procreation was not known.  Intercourse and pregnancy
          both begin with puberty, and there was no evident reason to regard one
          as the  cause of the other.  Women were  believed to conceive from the
          light of the moon or from ancestral spirits.

               Neolithic  cultures have left a  bit more evidence  for study and
          the images are a bit clearer and less speculative.   One good instance
          of this  is the stone age  painting of a priestess  officiating over a
          group of worshippers along with a male wearing a horned headdress.  An
          interesting point here  is that  the priestess pictured  is wearing  a
          garter and wielding a  ceremonial dagger, much  like the ones used  in
          modern witchcraft.  Of course much  has been made of this, including a
          lot of unfounded speculations on  the "ancient connections" of  modern
          witchcraft, but that is a topic beyond the scope of  the present work.
          The beginnings  of Roman religion are  sure to have been  based on the
          Etruscan  culture.  Ancestor worship was the earliest form of religion
          in Rome.   Another interesting  fact relating  to ancient  Matrilineal
          forms influencing  present society is  reflected in the  Jewish custom
          current  today that  membership  comes from  the  mother's side  of  a

               The above mentioned goddess images, some as old as 7000 BC, offer
          silent testimony to the most ancient worship of a great goddess in the
          land that is most  often remembered today as  the homeland of  Judaism
          and  Christianity.  In exploring  the influence and  importance of the
          worship of  the Goddess in Canaan  in biblical times, we  find that as
          Ashtoreth, Asherah  (perhaps  the  origin  of the  tribe  of  Asher?),
          Astarte,  Attoret, Anath,  or simply  as Elat or  Baalat, she  was the
          principal deity of such  great Canaanite cities as Tyre,  Sidon, Asca-
          lon, Beth Anath, Aphaca, Byblos, and Ashtoreth Karnaim.   


               In Egypt, the Hebrews had known the worship of the Goddess as    
            Isis or Hathor. For four generations they had been living  in a land
          where women held a very high status and the matrilineal descent system
          continued to function at most periods.  

               Judging  from the number of Hebrews who emerged from Egypt in    
          the Exodus,  as compared with the  family of the twelve  sons who sup-
          posedly  entered it four generations  earlier, it seems  likely that a
          great  number of those Hebrews  known as Israelites  may actually have
          been Egyptians, Canaanites, Semitic nomads and other Goddess-worshipp-
          ing  peoples who had joined together in Egypt.  Archaeological records
          and artifacts reveal that the religion of the Goddess still flourished
          in many of the cities of Canaan long after the Hebrews invaded.

               What are some of the modern day applications of this long history
          of Goddess worship?  For  an answer to this,  let's look at an  encap-
          sulation of the "herstory" of  the legend of the Universal Goddess  as
          taught to the  new entrants to  the Faerie Tradition  in 20th  Century

               According  to the  legends of  the Faerie, Witchcraft  and magick
          began more than 35 thousand years ago, when the last ice age in europe
          began and small  bands of  nomadic hunters  followed the  free-running
          reindeer and bison herds.  They were armed with but primitive  weapons
          ( Stone Age, remember?), and  had to lure or chase the animals  over a
          cliff or into a  pit to kill and eat them.   As Starhawk says,"...some
          among the clans were gifted, could "call" the herds to a cliff side or
          a pit, where a  few beasts,in willing sacrifice, would  let themselves
          be trapped."

               As  the  last ice  age retreated  the  tribes of  nomadic hunters
          worshipped the Goddess of the Wild Things and Fertility and the God of
          the Hunt.Semipermanent homes  were set up in  caves carved out by  the
          glaciers.  Shamans and  Shamanka conducted rites within hard  to reach
          portions of  the caves,  which  were painted with scenes  of the hunt,
          magical symbols and the tribes totem animals.  

               The   transition  from  Hunter-Gatherers  to  agriculturists  was
          reflected in the change of the "Lady of the Wild Things and Fertility"
          to  the "Barley Mother" and the "God of  the Hunt" to the "Lord of the
          Grain".   The importance  of the phases  of the  moon and the  sun was
          reflected  in the  rituals  that evolved  around sowing,  reaping, and
          letting out to pasture.  

               Villages  grew into  towns and  cities and  society changed  from
          tribal to  communal to  urban.  Paintings  on the  plastered walls  of
          shrines depicted  the Goddess giving birth  to the Divine  Child - Her
          son,  consort and  seed.   The  Divine Child  was expected  to take  a
          special interest in  the city dwellers, just as His  Mother and Father
          had taken  an interest in the  people who lived away  from the cities.
          Mathematics, astronomy, poetry, music, medicine, and the understanding
          of  the workings of  the human mind,  developed side by  side with the
          lore of the deeper mysteries.  


               Far to the east, nomadic tribes devoted themselves to the arts of
          war and conquest.  Wave after wave of invasion swept  over Europe from
          the  Bronze Age  onward.  Warrior  gods drove the  Goddess' people out
          from the fertile  lowlands and  the fine temples,  into the hills  and
          high mountains,  where they became  known as  the Sidhe, the  Picts or
          Pixies, and the  Fair Folk or the Fairies.   The mythological cycle of
          Goddess and Consort, Mother and Child, which had held sway  for 30,000
          years  was changed to conform to the values of the conquering patriar-

               In  Canaan,  Yahweh fought  a bloody  battle  to ensure  that his
          followers had  "no other  gods before  me."  The  Goddess was  given a
          masculine name and assigned  the role of a false god.   Along with the
          suppression  of the  Goddess, women lost  most of the  rights they had
          previously enjoyed.  

               In Greece, the Goddess in Her many aspects,  was "married" to the
          new gods  resulting in  the  Olympic Pantheon.   The  Titans, who  the
          Olympians  displaced were more in touch with the primal aspects of the

               The  victorious Celts in Gaul and the British Isles, adopted many
          features  of the Old Religion  and incorporated them  into the Druidic
          Mysteries.  The Faerie, breeding cattle in the stony hills and  living
          in turf-covered round huts  preserved the Craft.  They  celebrated the
          eight feasts of the Wheel of the Year with wild  processions on horse-
          back,  singing and chanting along the way and lighting ritual bonfires
          on the  mountaintops.  It was  said that the invaders  often joined in
          the revels and  many rural  families, along with  some royalty,  could
          claim  to have Faerie blood.  The College of the Druids and the Poetic
          Colleges of  Ireland and Wales were said to have preserved many of the
          old mysteries. ***

               In  the late 1400's  the Catholic Church  attempted to obliterate
          its competitors, and the followers of the Old Religion were forced  to
          "go underground."   They broke up into small groups called Covens and,
          isolated from  each other,  formed what  would later  be known as  the
          Family  Traditions.  Inevitably, parts  of the Craft were forgotten or
          lost and what survives today is fragmentary.  

               After nearly five centuries  of persecution and terror,  came the
          Age of Disbelief.   Memory of the True Craft  had faded as non-members
          who could     remember how they once had met openly died and those who
          came after  never knew of  them.  All that  was left were  the hideous
          stereotypes  which were     ludicrous, laughable or just plain tragic.
          With  the repeal of  the last Witchcraft  Act in England  in 1954, the
          Craft started  to re-emerge as an  alternative to a  world that viewed
          the planet as a resource to be exploited.   


               Janet and  Stewart  Farrar, in  the introduction  to The  Witches
          Goddess  say of the  modern re-emergence of  the Goddess "  ..may well
          prove to be one of the most significant spiritual, psychic and psycho-
          logical developments of our lifetime".  They have since done a wonder-
          ful job of presenting an overview of the ascendancy and history of the
          expression  of the masculine  principle of deity as  e pressed by Male
          God-forms and  Gods with their  book The  Witches' God.   What do  the
          Farrars consider  this "masculine principle" to  be? " represents
          the linear-logical,analyzing, fertilizing aspect, with its emphasis on
          Ego-consciousness  and  individuality,  while  the  feminine principle
          represents the cyclical-intuitive, synthesizing, formative, nourishing
          aspect,  with  its emphasis  on the  riches  of the  unconscious, both
          Personal and Collective, and on relatedness."

               As mankind  started to develop  his cultures  in directions  that
          were more male  dependent in the nature of the  cultures, the emphasis
          in  religion shifted  to  become more  male  god than  female  goddess
          oriented.   As  this  happened, the  Goddess(es)  lost ground  to  the
          God(s). At first,  the female  aspect merely became  secondary to  the
          male, but  eventually the  male took over  and dominated to  the total
          exclusion of the female, particularly in western society as we know it
          today. "The first major  god-form to claim a monopoly of  divinity was
          the  Hebrew Yahweh, from which in  due course sprang the Christian and
          Moslem forms."   "Dr. Raphael Patai,  in his books Man  and Temple and
          The Hebrew  Goddess  shows that  the  Goddess Asherah  was  worshipped
          alongside Yahweh as his wife and sister in the Temple at Jerusalem for
          240 of  the 360 years  the temple complex  existed, and her  image was
          publicly displayed there."   There  is also evidence  that the  Jewish
          community at  elephantine in egypt acknowledged   two goddess-wives of
          Yahweh, and  also there still remains in Ezekiel (xxiii)a metaphorical
          reference to a  pair of wives, where Yahweh condemns the "whoredom" of
          two sisters who "became mine and bore me sons and daughters".  


Next: What is Wicca (Durwydd Mac Tara)