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Ch.1 - Emergence (WMB 1.d)

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.

A leading light of the Golden Dawn who wrote about witchcraft was the Scottish scholar magician J.W. Brodie-Innes. In an essay entitled Witchcraft written for the Occult Review in 1917, he wrote:

“If we will but for a moment lay aside prejudice, and look at the subject dispassionately, we shall become convinced that the cult of the witch is as old as humanity. It is as old as the world, and as flourishing today as it was in the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries.”

Even more significantly than this remark, regarding the contemporary nature of witchcraft practices, Brodie-Innes made an observation which is unerringly accurate and merits further consideration. In another essay by him entitled Witchcraft Rituals, also published in 1917 in the Occult Review, he observed:

“Returning for a moment to the question of the Rituals. There is little doubt of the antiquity of very many of them. We find them in the Grimoire, and in Trithemius; we search back through the pages of Virgil and Hesiod, and we seem to see the origin of the same formulae.”

The key word in this passage is ‘grimoire’. In the meticulous Archivio di Stato of the numerous trials of the seventeenth century Venetian witch, Laura Malapiero, there are some extremely significant details about the documents in her possession. These included the Key of Solomon, one of the best known grimoires and one which would in time prove to be hugely influential on some of the rituals found in the modern Wiccan tradition.

“When Laura's house was searched by the Capitano of the Sant'Ufficio in 1654, a number of manuscripts were found. Some were rather crudely written scongiuri ; others were sophisticated herbals and copies of the Clavicle of Solomon.”<1>

The State Archives also make reference to a man, Boniface Cabiano, selling magickal manuscripts near the Rialto in Venice in 1648, saying that he “deals in C. Agrippa and a book with little signs and secret circles”.<2> The reference to Agrippa, whose work would also be influential on other grimoires and indeed on Wicca, is something we will encounter again and again as we look at the magickal practices used in this tradition.

Returning to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, we now have to consider the magickal order which would prove to be one of the most influential to emerge during that period. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, founded in 1887, provided a meeting place for many influential figures and inquiring minds of the time. Writers such as W.B. Yeats, Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen, the actresses Florence Farr and Sara Allgood, the artist Pamela Colman-Smith, the writer A.E. Waite as well as the infamous magicians Allan Bennett and Aleister Crowley, all received initiation and training in this order. This would lay the foundations for much of what would follow in the subsequent decades. The Golden Dawn rituals combined strands from a variety of systems of magick and mythology, but the order also promoted equality of the sexes, previously unseen in magickal orders and placed a universal goddess more in the mainstream of esoteric consciousness, in the form of the Egyptian mother goddess, Isis.

The Golden Dawn disintegrated due to internal schisms in the early twentieth century, but it guided the way towards the creation of a number of derivative groups as well as a number of tangential orders founded by ex-members. The most significant of these derivative orders would be the Alpha et Omega and the Stella Matutina, both of which would become new melting pots of magickal and spiritual ideals, attracting many members who would also become important contributors to the development of the modern magickal community, including most significantly the occultists Israel Regardie and Dion Fortune.

Regardie, a psychologist and author, was a member of a Stella Matutina lodge in the early 1930s. In the late 1930’s he published his very important work The Golden Dawn, initially as four volumes, which made available the rituals and teachings of the Stella Matutina (derived from those which were used in the Golden Dawn) to a wider audience, thereby ensuring its survival into the modern day.

Likewise, the author Dion Fortune who is today best remembered for her work The Mystical Qabalah, received initiation and training in the Alpha et Omega. She worked with both Moina Mathers (wife of MacGregor Mathers) and Brodie-Innes, before leaving the Alpha et Omega and forming her own order, which was initially named the Fraternity of the Inner Light, and later renamed the Society of the Inner Light. The Society of the Inner Light is still active today and continues to promote and practice a unique blend of Christian mysticism, Qabalah and pagan ritual.

Contemporary with these esoteric luminaries of the early twentieth century was the magickal artist Austin Osman Spare. His unique style of art led him to early success, though he turned his back on this in order concentrate on the system of sorcery and sigilisation he developed. Spare claimed that he first learned magick from a hereditary witch, Mrs Patterson, who was a descendant of the Salem witches. Spare knew Crowley, as well as Kenneth Grant, one of Crowley’s successors, and it was through Grant that Spare would be introduced to Gerald Gardner in the early 1950s.<3>


<1> Marriage or a career?, Scully, 1995

<2> Marriage or a career? Scully, 1995

<3> Zos Speaks, Grant, 1998

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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