Wicca and Neo-Paganism

Neopaganism covers a wide range of belief systems which have emerged in the past 50 years, primarily in the UK, Europe, and the United States. This includes the better known Wicca, which is a synthesis of traditions from the British Isles, as well as many less visible groups which draw inspiration from other parts of the world. Based on folk-lore, traditional spiritual practices, anthropology, and a synthesis of esoteric systems, Neopaganism does not have any sacred texts of the same vintage as other religions, although unverifiable claims have been made in a couple of cases (e.g. Aradia, and The Gardnerian Book of Shadows).

Rather, the books presented here are source texts of Neopaganism, and other books which deal with related topics. Many of these books contain outdated or speculative material, and some of the texts here are the product of the Renaissance witch hunters. As a whole, the books here are of historical importance rather than a roadmap to modern pagan practice, and shouldn’t be construed as such. As always, we encourage readers to think critically.

Descriptions of contemporary Neopagan practice and beliefs can be found in the Internet Book of Shadows section of this site.


Twentieth Century

The Books of Gerald Gardner

 The Gardnerian Book of Shadows
The Book of Shadows is a Wiccan text which is maintained by the initiated in manuscript form. A Book of Shadows contains description of rituals, spells, and other knowledge. This tradition was carried on by Gerald Gardner, who (depending on the account) either synthesized Wicca, or took it public, during the 1950s.

The White Goddess
Robert Graves’ primary contribution to modern Neopaganism.

 The works of Margaret Murray
An essay by J.B. Hare.

 The Witch-Cult in Western Europe
by Margaret Murray [1921]
Were there ever REAL witches? If not, what were all the witch trials about? And how about those fairies? Murray tries to answer these and other questions objectively with plenty of documentary evidence. She is often cited as a primary source for Gerald Gardners’ ideology.

 The Golden Bough
by Sir James Frazer [1922]
A massive study of the mythological cycle of the Godesses’ lover, the solar God who dies and is reborn. The Golden Bough had a huge influence on Margaret MurrayRobert Graves and Gardner.


Victorian

 Aradia, Gospel of the Witches
by Charles G. Leland [1899]
Evidence of a surviving underground Italian pagan religion?

 Etruscan Roman Remains in Popular Tradition
by Charles G. Leland [1893]
Stregheria is Italian traditional witchcraft. These are considered historical source documents of the Wicca movement. Some contemporary scholars have questioned the authenticity of Lelands’ scholarship. Recent publications by Raven Grimassi have also added a great deal of depth to the subject of Italian witchcraft. See www.stregheria.com [external site] for more information.
 Gypsy Sorcery and Fortune Telling
by Charles G. Leland [1891]
Leland investigates another traditional system of magic, that of the Rom, or Gypsies.

 Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft
by Sir Walter Scott [1885].
Scott covers much of the same evidence for the Witch cult as Murry (albeit in a more popular style). Scott draws few conclusions other than that our ancestors were extremely superstitous.

 The Sorceress
by Jules Michelet, tr. by Alfred Richard Allinson [1939]
The story of witchcraft from the medieval to the 17th century, as a covert women’s rebellion which led to modern science and medicine.


The Burning Times

From the 14th to the 17th Century a hysteria spread across Europe which involved torturing and executing people based on accusations that they were witches. Whether any actual practicioners of a pre-Christian pagan tradition were persecuted as the result of a witch trial is up for debate. These books and texts are period documents which illustrate the methods, rationale (such as it was) and history of this persecution. They shouldn’t be taken as illustrative of Neopaganism, but as a warning about religious tolerance and the fragile nature of justice.

 The Malleus Maleficarum
[1486], translated by Montague Summers [1928]
The best known witch-hunt manual, a primary source of information on this chilling subject.

 Dæmonology
by King James the First. [1597] With Newes from Scotland [1591]
Two texts, one an essay on demons and other denizens of the night, the second a broadside with an account of a famous witch trial from the same period.

 The Witch-Persecutions
Edited by George L. Burr [1896].
A short collection of translations of historical documents of the witch craze.


Druids

Although little is actually known about the Druids, that didn’t stop 18th and 19th century intellectuals from building a romantic mythology around them. This was closely associated with the rebirth of Celtic nationalism, as well as the Romantic and Gothic movements. This body of fact and speculation later became a central source of modern Wicca and Neo-Pagan belief and practice.

 Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions
by James Bonwick [1894].
A scholarly perspective on the Druids in Ireland, weaving together strands of mythology and anthropology to build a picture of ancient Irish paganism.

 The Veil of Isis or Mysteries of the Druids
By W. Winwood Reade [1861]. 277,613 bytes
A typical example of the romantic and misconcieved mid-19th Century literature about Druidry. We now know that the construction of Stonehenge preceded the historical Celts by many centuries.

 The Religion of the Ancient Celts
by J. A. MacCulloch [1911]
An authoritative and factual study of ancient Celtic religion, including extensive material on what is actually known about the Druids.

 The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg, Vol. I [1862]
 The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg, Vol. II [1874]
Iolo Morganwg was one of the first to revive Druidry in the 18th century; however, it is questionable whether these texts are as old as they claim to be. These are nevertheless considered primary source material for the modern Druid revivial.


Antiquity

 The Syrian Goddess
translated by Herbert A. Strong [1913]
Lucian of Samosata’s late classical account of Goddess worship, referenced by Robert Graves and other writers as a primary source of information on worship of the Ancient Near Eastern Goddess.


Miscellaneous

 The Book of Hallowe’en
by Ruth Edna Kelley [1919]
Learn about Halloween and its pagan roots.

 Irish Witchcraft and Demonology
by St. John D. Seymour [1913].
This is a fascinating study of the witch-persecutions in Ireland, along with accounts of paranormal activity.

 Pagan Prayers
by Marah Ellis Ryan [1913]
Traditional spirituality from around the world.

Click on hyperlinks for more detailed information

2 thoughts on “Wicca and Neo-Paganism

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.