Looking back (at) looking forward

Ye Olde ‘Sweepings’ from Perthe

One of my current projects is the digitisation of a whole heap of Pagan and magical material from the 80s and 90s. In doing so I have scanned Sweepings the Perth Wiccan-Pagan newsletter that ran at this time and where my first efforts in magical writing were published.

It is quite something to see my original pieces as it helps understand the evolution of my ideas and writing. Some are quite embarrassing and cringe-worthy. In my first piece I lambasted the Wiccan community for its belief it was continuing an older tradition of Witchcraft while using ceremonial forms and having little lineage. I was obviously still influenced by the notion of surviving Pagan religious traditions being subsumed in what I thought of as ‘traditional Craft’. Oh well, a bit of actual research and enrolling in religious studies soon cured that.

As we now know Wicca’s actual history, though nothing like its mythic history, is glorious and wonderful with the Gods speaking through the likes of Gardner and others in places like downtown Bournemouth. Professor Ronald Hutton and others show this wonderfully, and while having been influenced by a variant on the Murray Thesis a fair bit in 1989, I am kinda chuffed that within a couple of years I was questioning the whole enchilada. In some training notes from this time I was to posit the origins of Wicca as the 1920s in a manner pretty much shown later by the invaluable research of Philip Hesleton. I hope this shows a flexibility of mind or some such thing. 🙂

Not all of my articles for Sweepings make me groan however. There was one, ‘The Feminine Current in the Golden Dawn’ which was not half bad. Later I re-wrote it for the excellent Sydney based Web of Wyrd, where it was read by Tarot expert, Mary K. Greer. She included its contents in her remarkable Women of the Golden Dawn and kindly arranged me to receive an complimentary copy of said work. The article found its way on the Net some years back and its main themes were included in my recent By Names and Images. Such is the way of writing, I guess 🙂

One of the pieces in Sweepings was a little prophecy piece where I predicted how the Perth Wiccan and Pagan community would look in the year 2000. I wrote:

  • There will be a movement towards a more ‘feminist’ perspective within the Perth Wicca. There will be more women’s only meetings and networks. However, I do not envisage this movement meeting halfway with other non-Wiccan women’s spiritual traditions.
  • There will be a rapid growth in the number of non-Wiccan descended Craft and Pagan groups. These groups will be less formal and rigid than the Wiccan covens.
  • ‘Old’ Wiccan concepts such as the Law, copying the Book of Shadows, the 3rd Degree [initiation] being needed to run a Coven, apostolic succession etc will continue to be questioned until they break down and wither away.

Hmmm… it is now 2012, twelve years after the mythical year 2000. I think this list, together with my inability to predict the New Age incursion into Wicca and the presence of soft-Faerie motifs, shows my complete lack of prophetic skill.

So, no more prophecy for me. However, if I were to ‘wish’ anything for Perth Paganism, and indeed any non-European Paganism, I think it could be expressed very well in these words of Steven Posch, Pagan ‘Culture Builder’ during a recent interview:

“If there had indeed been pagans of our ilk in Europe during the Hidden Years, and if those old paganisms had managed to survive in backwaters here and there, and if they had undergone the usual kinds of culture loss and internal innovation, and if the old ways had been influenced as one would expect by the new religion, and if those ways had managed to survive into modern times, and if our ancestors had brought those ways with them to the New World in their heads, hearts, and steamer trunks, and if those ways had become naturalized to the local weather patterns, vegetation and wildlife, and if those ways had been influenced by the lore of the indigenous peoples, and of other incomers, and if those ways had survived industrialization and the Wars, and if they had managed to come down intact to us today in the second decade of the so-called twenty-first century: then what would our paganism look like?

That, ideally, is what we’re aiming for. It’s a colossal work of collective imagination and heroic research, but that’s what we need to be doing, folks, and we all need to be doing it. As the proverb goes, a witch’s work is never done.”

This is one of the most exciting things I have read for ages, and dovetails completely into the work we are doing with the broader EarthDreaming tradition in the hills of Perth during the six seasons of our Land, with rock and wind, cunning and craft, stang and stick. So, very very good… thanks 🙂

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