top of page

Ch.1 - Emergence (WMB 1.e)

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 discussion on the magickal currents around the time of the emergence of the Wiccan tradition would be incomplete without mentioning the often neglected work of the pioneering rocket scientist and Thelemic magickian Jack Parsons. During the 1940’s he was the head of the only active Ordo Templi Orientis lodge in America and in 1946 he published a series of essays called Magick, Gnosticism and the Witchcraft. This clearly illustrates, that Parsons, like Crowley, had an established interest in witchcraft. In his Book of Babalon which was also published in 1946, Parsons proclaimed:

“65. Gather together in the covens as of old, whose number is eleven, that is also my number. Gather together in public, in song and dance and festival. Gather together in secret, be naked and shameless and rejoice in my name.

66. Work your spells by the mode of my book, practicing secretly, inducing the supreme spell.

69. This is the way of it, star, star. Burning bright, Moon, witch Moon.”

Allowing for the fact that Parsons used the Thelemic number of 11 instead of the traditional 13 for the number of members in a coven, what he wrote is quite reminiscent of the flavours which would arise within the Wiccan tradition just a few years later. It is worth noting here that it is possible that Gardner could have been exposed to Parsons’ writings around 1947 when he was visiting the United States and met with people such as Karl Germer, who was Crowley’s successor as head of the Ordo Templi Orientis As an interesting aside, not at all related to our discussion here, it is also fascinating to note that Parsons is probably the only magickian who has a crater on the Moon named after him, which is strangely appropriate when we take into consideration that his work may have had some influence on a tradition in which the Moon plays such a pivotal role. Parsons’ astonishingly lucid writings are worthy of further study by anyone interested in the magickal currents of the twentieth century.

In addition to the material published by practising magickians, we also need to consider the material published by a number of other authors in the decades preceding the work of Gerald Gardner. Many of these works were written in a style suggesting that the authors were openly sympathetic to the practice of witchcraft in a way which could not be done by those who undertook its study within a scholastic context at the time.

The Book of Witches by the author Oliver Madox Hueffer published in 1908 has a significantly named opening chapter called ‘On a Possible Revival of Witchcraft. In it Hueffer makes the following rather interesting statement in regards to the likelihood of a witchcraft revival:

“Under these circumstances it is easy to credit the possibility of a revival of the belief in witchcraft even in the most civilised countries of the modern world. What is more, it is far from certain that such a revival would be altogether deplorable. Granted that oceans of innocent blood were shed in the name of witchcraft – the same might be said of Christianity, of patriotism, of liberty, of half a hundred other altogether unexceptionable ideals. And, as with them, the total extinction of the witchcraft superstition might, not impossibly, have results no less disastrous than, for instance, the world-wide adoption of European fashions in dress. This quite apart from any question of whether or no witches have ever existed or still exist…”

What is additionally interesting about The Book of Witches is that it includes an account by Hueffer in regards to a Tuscan witch named Emilia he claimed to have had encounters with two years previous to writing the book. The Book of Witches was published in 1908, so presumably these meetings between Hueffer and Emilia took place around 1906. Hueffer further tells us that Emilia was living in Florence at the time and was considered to be very effective at her magick. In one of the examples given, Emilia worked towards the removal of a curse from a young lady, using charms and incantations – though Emilia did seem to place a great deal more emphasis on the secretive nature of her work than displayed by Leland’s Maddalena and was unwilling to share her methods with the author.

“Exactly what counter-charms she used in Zita’s treatment I was not privileged to know; at least, I can testify that they were entirely successful, and that within a very short time Zita was herself again…”

As already stated Leland’s material was hugely influential amongst those interested in and writing on the subject of witchcraft in the decades preceding Gardner. Another such example can be found in the book Witches Still Live, by Theda Kenyon which was published in 1929. Whilst discussing Aradia Kenyon observes of the incantations within it that:

“Many of these are very beautiful, and have been used from time immemorial, as they are today, and they cannot fail to clarify certain witch mysteries.”

Significantly Kenyon seems to be saying that at the time of her writing the material in the Aradia was being used by witches. This in itself might be easily overlooked, however as this precedes Gardner’s writing (and return to England) by some years, we have to at least take into consideration that Kenyon may have been writing about something which could have contributed to or may have been a predecessor of what would become Gardnerian Wicca. At the very least it is worth considering that her claim that the material was being used may have influenced the subsequent compilers of the material which became the Book of Shadows.

These examples clearly highlight that in the decades leading up to the public birthing of Gardnerian Wicca, there was no shortage of ideas which seem to indicate that a precursor to the tradition either already existed (albeit in the shadows), or that the practices and ideas that previously existed were ready to be amalgamated into a new tradition suited to the time.

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.  

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
bottom of page