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Ch.1 - Emergence (WMB 1.a)

Extract from: Wicca: Magical Beginnings written by d'Este & Rankine, 2008 (Avalonia.) PB / Kindle @ Shared here with the intention to inspire and inform the now and future generations interested in Wicca and other Pagan traditions inspired by it.


Wicca has had a huge impact on the modern revival of interest in esoteric spirituality in the Western world. It first emerged to public attention in the 1950’s, primarily through the work of Gerald Brosseau Gardner and a subsequent succession of people associated with him. During the transitional period of the 1950s, between the austerity of post-war Britain and the swinging sixties, Wicca quickly gained media attention as something mysterious and beyond the norm.

It would be very naive to believe that all the practices and beliefs of the tradition sprang fully formed into being from nowhere and that it was completely unknown or thought of prior to Gerald Gardner. Undoubtedly the publication of his factional novel High Magic’s Aid in 1949, and subsequent writings, teachings and media exposure inspired and fuelled the interest of many people to explore what Gardner referred to as ‘the witch cult’. It would however probably be more accurate to view Gardner’s work as being the product of, or the continuation of, a growing spiritual and magickal current fuelled by a wealth of material published in numerous sources by a range of authors in the previous years, as well as the practices of a wide spectrum of esoteric groups and orders which flourished at the time and in the preceding decades.

The end of the nineteenth century and the first few decades of the twentieth century were to be particularly fruitful in the fields of anthropology and folklore research. In 1890 the folklorist J.G. Frazer published his classic work The Golden Bough, exploring the relationships between myth, religion and ritual in a global context by studying cultural behaviours and patterns from around the world. By 1936 the two volumes of the original work had expanded to thirteen.

Contemporary with Frazer was the American anthropologist Charles Godfrey Leland, who published a number of significant books. Amongst these was Aradia Gospel of the Witches in 1899, a polyglot text which would contribute to some of the most influential material in the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, specifically the Charge of the Goddess. There has been a great deal of dispute about the veracity of Leland’s Aradia, but regardless of whether its authenticity can ever be proved or disproved, it was and still continues to be, albeit sometimes without due credit, a hugely influential text.

What is relevant, yet often ignored about the Aradia is that it continues a trail of many centuries of Italian texts referring to a witchcraft cult, real or possibly mythical, that worshipped the goddess Diana. For example, in 1749 Girolamo Tartarotti published a book called Del Congresso Notturno Delle Lammie (“Of the Nocturnal Meeting of Spirits”) which declared that “The identity of the Dianic cult with modern witchcraft is demonstrated and proven”. Prior to this in 1647 Peter Pipernus wrote De Nuce Maga Beneventana & De Effectibus Magicis (“Six Books of Magic Effects and of the Witch Walnut Tree of Benevento”). Earlier still in 1576 Bartolo Spina wrote of witches gathering at night to worship Diana in his work, Quaestio de Strigus (“An Investigation of Witches”). This trail of documentation, which only lightly scrapes at the surface of what is available from preceding centuries, does strongly suggest that the Leland material was indeed based on an existing tradition, rather than one fabricated out of thin air by Leland or his informant, the witch Maddalena.

Extract from: Wicca: Magical Beginnings written by d'Este & Rankine, 2008 (Avalonia.) PB / Kindle @ Shared here with the intention to inspire and inform the now and future generations interested in Wicca and other Pagan traditions inspired by it.



My name is Sorita d'Este

and this is my website and blog!  Thanks for visiting - I hope you are finding what you are looking for!


Many years ago I dedicated myself to the pursuit of both esoteric knowledge, and an understanding of polytheism, the Gods and Nature.  I have been a full-time writer, author and publisher, specialising subjects linked to the occult, witchcraft, Paganism, mythology, ancient religions and magic - and all kinds of things in between since 2003. 


I live on a hill in Glastonbury, overlooking the marshes of Somerset,  a place of myth and legend, and a crossroad for many different religions. Here I am frequently found digging and growing, serving my fluffy rescue cat and navigating the unknown with my teenage son.  

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