The meaning of witchcraft
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Over the years I have heard a lot of people dispute Gardner's claims (and claims about Gardner); mostly from people I strongly suspect have never taken the time to actually read this book. While we can never know for sure how much Gardner inherited from his initiators and how much he cobbled together on his won, at least in this book we have his statements first hand.
I first read this book more than a quarter of a century ago. Every time I got a copy into my library, I made the mistake of loaning it out (and losing it). With this reprint, I can now tell my students where they can get their own copies. It belongs in the library of every serious student, if only for the historical value.
One of the things which struck me as I began this book was how little things have changed in four and a half decades - Churchmen still preach against the "devil-worshipping Witches," and if something goes wrong in a locality with a publicly known Witch anywhere in sight, you can be sure who will get the blame for "causing" the misfortune.
Say what you will about Gerald Gardner, he knew human nature. He knew that the public, although curious about Witchcraft, was reluctant to grant it legitimate religious status. It was all a thrill to read about in the Sunday papers near Halloween, but no rational person could possibly believe in it; could they?Read more ›
Modern scholarship disputes his claims to a religion stretching back in an unbroken line to the dawn of time, claims which were based largely on the dodgy history of Margaret Murray (read Ronald Hutton, or Drawing Down the Moon for more info), however his insights are still being used - regardless of whether the history he was aware of was accurate or not.
Some of the things to be noted are that Gardner specifically states that he is unable to give exact details of Wiccan beliefs - for instance, the names of the gods, witch language or specific practises - so he gives a general outline. I have heard it argued that because of this, those trained outside traditional lineaged Wicca cannot call themselves Wiccan as they do not have the requisite inner knowledge. That is an argument for others, but it is certainly an interesting book and well worth reading.