The Lore of The People
The Lore of the People
Whether or not one chooses or believe in the validity of the research that strongly supports the actual existence of ‘The New Forest Coven’ or not, for the sake of this missive, let us assume it is so. This would mean that only what Gardner created after leaving that coven, thereafter deemed Gardnerian, can properly be named as being ‘of the Wica,’ the term he coined to describe his operative system of modern witchcraft. His system was initiatory, by which distinctive premise it remains remote from more recent adaptations from within it, and based upon it, that now include similar movements under the term ‘Wicca.’ However, this term has been too readily applied to many formats, some of which its tenets are actually incompatible with. Some academics, have determined that everything that appeared after 1939 must therefore be categorised as ‘Wiccan’!
Some have even gone so far as to say that all craft traditions MUST therefore derive from Wicca. Obviously, this is utter nonsense, and that Wicca predates many craft traditions, equally so! The proposed existence of the New Forest Coven prior to Gardner’s creation of Wicca would actually suggest the opposite, providing an example of a group maintaining certain magical and folk beliefs as discernible ritual praxes. Theatrical or ceremonial, matters not a jot! Traditional variants are vast, across class, region, trade etc having no generic form to assert as a constructed conformity of belief or praxis.
Here it becomes essential, to take up the duty to inform, to instruct – to direct towards Truth. The role of any teacher is to shield, guard, guide, coerce, tease and stimulate each student to seek beyond their boundaries, safely, where great revelations should seduce them towards an understanding of what is NOT truth. By removing illusion, they stand alone then, to apprehend not a personal truth, but an insight into The Truth, in the Platonic sense of it.
This being so, concerning matters given as ‘truths.’ How exactly should we be persuaded that ‘The Robert Cochrane Tradition’ and other traditions within the Craft are Wiccan, and of more recent provenance than 1939, 51/4? By hearsay? By opinion? Founded upon what, exactly? No sensible academic study should be founded upon either. We know of no real research to date, into the origins of our Tradition; and we have not been informed of any analysis regarding it, and yet its traditions truly abound with genuine historical precedents. As do others. We retain those gifts within, and need no-one outside, looking in, to show us what we are.
Taking ‘Thelema’ as another ‘free’ example, having no set ‘doctrinal theology,’ finds its philosophical origins sourced very differently to those of Wicca, and are therefore accepted as outside the Classification of Wicca. As it can be argued that Traditional Craft, likewise is devoid of any ‘set’ theological doctrines, it must by that same criteria, fail the ‘Wiccan classification; neither should it be deemed as falling under the umbrella of Wicca.
And then of course, there is another distinction to consider. What of those who work in a traditional manner, those who have studied the crafts and customs of our forebears, be that ancestral lore from the 8th century or the 18th? Would their works be deemed ‘Wiccan’ simply because they are younger than Garnder’s Wica? By the definitions some academics incline to, then yes they would. This is of course, quite an oversight, fool-hardy even. Post-dating Wicca, does not automatically infer that one’s praxis is Wiccan! Wicca is defined by its tenets no less so than traditionalists, and each tradition that can reveal these, may then clearly demonstrate their divergence from those of Wicca, and thus avoid that classification. Those who remain discreet concerning their tenets cannot be assumed to belong to any category, and thus avoid classification altogether
With regard to historic Germanic paganism in particular, records show the following:
Caesar: Gallic war 6.21 – ‘The Germans differ much from these usages, for they have neither Druids to preside over sacred offices, nor do they pay great regard to sacrifices. They rank in the number of the gods those alone whom they behold, and by whose instrumentality they are obviously benefited, namely, the sun, fire, and the moon; they have not heard of the other deities even by report.’
Precisely! For those of classical religions, it must have an enormous shock to discover diversity and discretion concerning the beliefs of Clan and Cultic peoples, whose gods and their mysteries relied totally upon very personal and subjective beliefs. Typically, Ancestral cults were the bedrock of belief and praxis. Holding a reverence for ones ancestors, & semi divine heroes (of the blood, literal and metaphysical through adoption) has informed many traditional branches of craft, and is what distinguishes it from Christianity – reverence of god through the intermediary of saints, and from Wicca – reverence for gods/esses directly.
Despite, differences in theology, the Teuton is deemed pagan (polytheistic), the ‘classic’ Christian (monotheistic); yet both engage the revered dead, be they heroic ancestors, or saints, called upon to act as intermediaries for the divine. Both are distinct from Wicca, which is also deemed polytheistic, but which does not generally use intermediaries, preferring to approach the gods directly. Wicca and paganism, however both share in celebrations of their belief in a host of other-world elementals, forms and forces, Christianity refutes and rejects this.
This is why Robert Cochrane believed that the Craft once shared its roots with ancient forms of paganism, but that it and the new, modern paganisms of his era were distinct.
Interestingly, looking at the form invocations and prayers take, has also been a way academics have sought to classify diverse belief systems. The following Assyrian prayer, could be described as having ‘very Christian overtones,’ so, if lifted from its original pagan context and used in a post-Gardnerian ritual, as it calls upon an intermediary, in an obviously Christian manner, would it make that ritual, pagan, Christian, or Wiccan?
BIND the sick man to Heaven, for from Earth he is being torn away!
Of the brave man who was so strong, his strength has departed.
Of the righteous servant, the force does not return,
In his bodily frame he lies dangerously ill.
But Ishtar, who in her dwelling, is grieved concerning him, descends from her mountain unvisited of men.
To the door of the sick man she comes.
The sick man listens!
Who is there? Who comes?
It is Ishtar, daughter of the Moon God!
Like pure silver may his garment be shining white!
Like brass may he be radiant!
To the Sun, greatest of the gods, may he ascend!
And may the Sun, greatest of the gods, receive his soul into his holy hands!
As for ritual construct, ceremony is fundamentally universal, having recognisable patterns of ingress, congress and egress, requiring stages of opening, invocation, communion, dedication and closing. They may even include elements of fasting, praying and sacrifice. On that premise alone, one cannot say a Hindu Puja consisting of these forms is Wiccan, any more than a Native Tribesman of the Americas, chanting and drumming around his fire, crying out to the sky father, is Heathen!
Pashupati is an archaic god-form underpinning many of many horned deific motifs, including Agni and Ganesha, much revered in the Hindu faiths. As is the concept of Goddess Triplicities, (typically as sets of 3×3, akin to the Nornir etc); from the Tridevi Shaktis to Hekate, her forms of destruction, found in Kali/Durga for the purity of the soul; Lakshmi for Creation through all forms of Love, through the hearth and fecundity; and Saraswati, for Preservation, through all acts of Wisdom as spiritual knowledge.
That the male and female virtues of force and form enjoin to sustain the universe, to abate the forces of chaos, via the maintenance of Law, – that is, by living in the ’rightness of things’ as a Universal tenet of belief, interpreted culturally, ethically and, finding expressing through all forms of Law and Lore.
There is a thread by which we may discover a commonality and shift from one to the other across Europe entire, recognising the basic ethic, yet celebrating the diverse Mythic theology ascribed to them. This knowledge, common to men like Graves, a poet, and to an historian, Jane Harrison, who coined the term ‘Triple Goddess,’ is apparently, no longer common. So, when anyone, including modern academics say the ‘Robert Cochrane Tradition’ must be Wiccan because it reveres a Horn-ed god and a Triple goddess, they really do need to return to their comparative religion studies.
The differences reside not in how we craft our gods, but how we craft our cultural perspectives of them, in its mythologies and mysteries, in ethos, primarily; in praxis, hardly at all. It comes down to why we do it and what the focus is. Only this is important. From Sumer to the ‘Summer Isle,’ ritual form changes very little. Especially in rites of fertility and of the hearth. Likewise, to announce that the observance of seasonal rites marks so-called traditional practise as ‘Wiccan’ or even Neo-pagan – again reveals an ignorance of latitude.
The rites of Eleusis and Diwali are also seasonal, as is the Scandinavian blót, and all naturally follow a solar and/or lunar cycle. None of these culturally diverse rites can be deemed Wiccan’, despite sharing the same elements of structural form that has grouped various Craft traditions under that all-encompassing banner, applied too readily by academics especially, uncertain ‘how to properly conform to given criteria.’ Because of the failure to discern more critically, the homogenous umbrella terms: Wicca and Neo-pagan have become meaningless.
Neither do any of the theological labels, used for comparative classification, confer typological universality – that is to say, to use the polytheistic belief of Heathenism, as an example of neo-paganism, is to apply, by extension, neo-paganism as a definition even to historical examples of polytheistic faiths from Sumer, to Scandinavia. This would be as ridiculous as it is erroneous!
In fact, looking at the definition of non-revivalist (ancient) forms of paganism, we discover that it was: “a system of interlocking and closely interrelated religious worldviews and practices rather than as one indivisible religion” and as such consisted of “individual worshippers, family traditions and regional cults within a broadly consistent framework.” [i]
One could say then, that pre-Christian paganism, being largely prehistoric, is therefore devoid of texts by obvious default, or, later, being concurrent with Christianity, its historical transmission was never based in textual form; rather it was primarily dependent upon oral tradition, via its myths and legends, and through all artes of craft and tongue – the dissemination and preservation of knowledge mouth to ear, and hand to eye. Therefore, in neither case, ever dependent upon a written record, but, according to these defined parameters of Folk-lore, that is to say, the Lore of the People.
Neo-paganism may therefore apply more correctly to revived or reconstructed forms of paganism that do not adhere to some only of the older tenets of paganism from which they are derived, exampled specifically in its more generic forms that do not adhere to ancestral cults, clan systems [typical across ancient Europe, the Mediterranean and throughout India and even the Biblical World etc] that include certain oath bound allegiances, which are not the same thing at all as oath-bound secrets within societies and occult systems. Conversely, reconstructed paganisms that do adhere to those former tenets of belief, may not properly be deemed as Neo-pagan. Nor would they be Wiccan, despite post-dating Gardner.
One more prayer, another pagan example. Again, if incorporated into a revived tradition that post-dates Gardner, would that rite revert it to paganism, or maintain its Neo-pagan status. Or perhaps it might even attract an academic to determine for it a ‘Wiccan’ status?
PRAYER OF THE SOWER
BLESSING to the seed I scatter,
Where it falls upon the meadow,
By the grace of Ukko mighty,
Through the open finger spaces
Of the hand that all things fashioned.
Queen of meadow-land and pasture!
Bid the earth unlock her treasures.
Bid the soil the young seed nourish,
Never shall their teeming forces
Never shall their strength prolific
Fail to nourish and sustain us
If the Daughters of Creation,
They, the free and bounteous givers
Still extend their, gracious favor
Offer still their strong protection.
Rise, O Earth! from out thy slumbers
Bid the soil unlock her treasures!
Thus far, I have confined the missive to Traditional Craft, as I believe it to be theologically distinct from Traditional Witchcraft, and which would change the parameters of this missive considerably.
Because ‘traditional’ and ‘witchcraft’ have become synonymous with each other over the last few decades, it does not mean either idiom has always been understood in those terms. For this reason, many ‘families’ and ‘traditions’ have commonly [though not always] subscribed to the collective term – ‘Craft’.
This includes various branches of folk-magic, crafts guilds, charmers, herbalists, cunning men/women and dual faith practises that encompass further and ever more individual digressions, according to influences and location within Britain especially.
These were largely the province of the laboured classes and guildsmen and women. Cunning craft or folk magics… but ‘traditions in and of themselves that range from enrichment of the former to a total cosmological mythos within a Faith, a belief of a ‘People’ bound in Troth, in truth to something ‘other,’ more personal than generic titles and alternative labels offer as substitutes of the Older Religions, faiths and ritual practises of these lands.
Of all the ‘labels,’ applied to ‘The Robert Cochrane Tradition,’ and these do range across the whole spectrum as given above, we are all and neither – specifically we might raise Panentheistic as yet the: ‘closest approximation to what we believe’ – that is to say: it is The Lore of the People
Folklore can be described as traditional art, literature, knowledge, and practices that are passed on in large part through oral communication and example. The information thus transmitted expresses the shared ideas and values of a particular group.
Definition of Neopaganism: ‘A wide range of belief systems which have emerged in the past 50 years, primarily in the UK, Europe, and the United States. This includes the better known Wicca, which is a synthesis of traditions from the British Isles, as well as many less visible groups which draw inspiration from other parts of the world. Based on folk-lore, traditional spiritual practices, anthropology, and a synthesis of esoteric systems, Neopaganism does not have any sacred texts of the same vintage as other religions, although unverifiable claims have been made in a couple of cases.’
Definition of Wicca: ‘A duotheistic [theology based on gender polarity is found in the neopagan religion of Wicca] faith created by Gerald Gardner that allows for polytheism. Wiccans specifically worship the Lord and Lady of the Isles Names of its absolute deities from its highest mysteries are oathbound, but not necessarily the archetypes used at coven level. It is an orthopraxic mystery religion that requires initiation its conclaves/priesthood to consider oneself Wiccan. Wicca emphasizes duality and the cycle of nature, that is considered pantheist.
Panentheism (meaning “all-in-God”, from the Ancient Greek πᾶν pân, “all”, ἐν en, “in” and Θεός Theós, “God”), also known as Monistic Monotheism, – a belief system which posits that the divine – whether as a single God, number of gods, or other form of “cosmic animating force” – interpenetrates every part of the universe and extends, timelessly (and, presumably, spacelessly) beyond it.
*Distinct from pantheism, which holds all things in creation of god equally.