Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
April 2, 2001
Ancient religion concocted in 1950's
Wicca exposed as latter-day hokum
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
Since Wicca and "goddess spirituality" emerged as significant cultural phenomena beginning some 25 years ago, I've been inclined to regard them as more a feminist-humanist fashion statement - cocking a snook at perceived Judeo-Christian traditionalism and "patriarchy" - rather than a real expression of religious belief.
Wiccans, goddess cultists and other neo-pagans, estimated to number some 200,000 in the U.S., and presumably proportional demographics in Canada, are almost exclusively white, middle-class, well-educated and politically engaged in liberal-left causes, with no familial or cultural background in pagan religion.
However, I had, until recently, assumed that these people were at least selectively latching onto real ancient pagan rituals and teachings. Certainly that is what they have claimed, asserting that witchcraft is "perhaps the oldest religion extant in the West," with beginnings "more than 35,000 years ago."
Neo-pagans assert that a peaceful, environmentally conscious, woman-respecting, and egalitarian culture existed in what became Western Europe for thousands of years until barbarians and Christians invaded with their warrior gods, weapons of war and patriarchy.
Of course, some neo-pagan claims have always been obviously far-fetched, especially the notion of the so-called "burning times," allegedly beginning around the 14th century, when some nine million witches and pagans were supposedly executed.
For such a holocaust to have been perpetrated and ignored and/or covered up by historians beggars credulity, and then some, even if there had been nine million pagans in medieval and renaissance Christian Europe, also unbelievable.
I just dismissed the "burning times" myth and inflated numbers as typical leftist-feminist revisionism and propagandizing - a politically-nuanced exaggeration of historically documented persecution of alleged witches during that period.
However, a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly by Charlotte Allen, senior editor of Crisis magazine, calls even the most tenuous connection of the modern neo-pagan movement to real religions of antiquity into question.
"Historically speaking," Allen writes, "the 'ancient' rituals of the goddess movement are almost certainly bunk."
"In all probability," she declares, "not a single element of the Wiccan story is true. The evidence is overwhelming that Wicca is a distinctly modern religion, a 1950s concoction influenced by such things as Masonic ritual and a late 19th century fascination with the esoteric and the occult, and that various assumptions informing the Wiccan view of history are deeply flawed."
In addition, Allen notes that there is general agreement among legitimate scholars that there is no archaeological or documentary evidence that any ancient people ever worshipped a single, archetypal goddess.
In short, not only are Wicca and neo-paganism affectations of the postmodern, feminist movement, but are in fact contrived inventions of that faction, based not in ancient traditions, but in dotty 19th-century Romanticism.
Allen cites the 1998 book Goddess Unmasked: The Rise of Neo-Pagan Feminist Spirituality by University of Prince Edward Island professor of religion, Philip Davis, in which he argues that Wicca was concocted by English civil servant Gerald Gardner (1884-1964) out of notions culled from the German and French romantics, the Rosicrucians, and Freemasonry (the Masons would seem to be the movement's only legitimate link to antiquity, but of course they were all men).
Gardner coined the term Wica (sic) in the 1950s, and according to Davis, invented rites based partly on rituals borrowed from contemporary British occultist Aleister Crowley, intertwined with his own enthusiasm for nudism. Ritual sex was another embellishment.
Another scholarly work cited by Allen, is The Triumph of The Moon by Ronald Hutton, a religion historian at the University of Bristol, who, says Allen, "effectively demolished the notion, held by Wiccans and others, that fundamentally pagan ancient customs existed beneath medieval Christian practices."
According to Allen, "there is now widespread consensus among historians that Catholicism thoroughly permeated the mental world of medieval Europe. The idea that medieval revels were pagan in origin is a legacy of the Protestant Reformation."
Hutton told Allen, "There is still no proven pagan feast that stood as an ancestor to Easter" - the latter notion one that even many Christians have accepted as conventional wisdom.
Of course, as a serious Christian, I don't need convincing that Wicca/neo-paganism are based in false belief, but it is delicious to see them exposed as such a banal and make-believe fabrication.
The neo-pagans are just the latest iteration of the old Gnostic heresies, essentially the notion that religion is a reflection of what its adherents want it to be, rather than objective truth revealed by a demanding and omnipotent Creator.
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