The Ardanes: The Old Laws of Wicca

The Ardanes: The Old Laws of Wicca

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In the 1950s, when Gerald Gardner was writing what eventually become the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, one of the items he included was a list of guidelines called the Ardanes. The word “ardane” is a variant on “ordain”, or law. Gardner claimed that the Ardanes were ancient knowledge that had been passed down to him by way of the New Forest coven of witches. However, it’s entirely possible that Gardner wrote them himself; there was some disagreement in scholarly circles about the language contained within the Ardanes, in that some of the phrasing was archaic while some was more modern. This led a number of people – including Gardner’s High Priestess, Doreen Valiente – to question the authenticity of the Ardanes.

Valiente had suggested a set of rules for the coven, which included restrictions on public interviews and speaking with the press. Gardner introduced these Ardanes – or Old Laws – to his coven, in response to the complaints by Valiente.

One of the largest problems with the Ardanes is that there is no concrete evidence of their existence prior to Gardner’s revealing them in 1957. Valiente, and several other coven members, questioned whether or not he had written them himself – after all, much of what is included in the Ardanes appears in Gardner’s book, Witchcraft Today, as well as some of his other writings. One of Valiente’s strongest arguments against the Ardanes – in addition to the fairly sexist language and misogyny – was that these writings never appeared in any previous coven documents. In other words, they appeared when Gardner needed them most, and not before.

The dispute over the origins of the Ardanes eventually led Valiente and several other members of the group to part ways with Gardner. The Ardanes remain a part of the standard Gardnerian Book of Shadows. However, they are not followed by every Wiccan group, and are rarely used by non-Wiccan Pagan traditions.

Lighten Up – Murphy’s Law For Witches

Murphy’s Law For Witches

1) No spell is as easy as it looks.

2) If you perceive that there are four possible ways
in which a spell can go wrong,
and circumvent these,
then a fifth way will promptly develop.

3) Every spell performed to solve a problem
will breed new problems.

4) Mother Nature is sometimes a bitch.

5) Anything that can go wrong will go wrong;
and anything that cannot possibly go wrong
will also go wrong.

6) The Craft as understood by Witches,
will be judged otherwise by non-witches.

a) If you explain a situation so clearly that nobody can misunderstand, the news media will.

b) If, during an interview, you explain
99 good things about the Craft, and tell one bad joke,
guess what will make the headlines!

7) No matter what the result of a spell,
there will always be someone eager to:
a) misinterpret it,
b) fake it, and
c) believe that it happened
as a result of his own work.

8) Once a Ritual is fouled up,
anything done to improve it
only makes it worse.

9) The Coven is a mule, not a car…if pressed too hard,
it will kick and turn on its High Priest.

10) 90% of anything is crap.
a) When dealing with the occult, make that 95%.
b) When dealing with religion, make that 98%.

11) Everyone has a favorite ritual or spell that will not work.

12) As soon as you mention something…
if it’s good, it goes away.
if it’s bad, it happens.

13) If a spell requires ‘n’ materials,
then immediately before beginning,
you will discover that you only possess
‘n-1’ materials.

14) In any formula, it will be discovered
that the required amounts
have been forgotten.

15) No books are lost by lending
except those you particularly want to keep.

16) If you miss an issue of a newsletter,
it will be the issue that concludes the article or ritual
that you are most anxious to read.

17) No matter what goes wrong,
it is always the High Priest’s fault.

18) When your familiar has fallen asleep on your lap
and looks utterly content and adorable,
you will suddenly have to go to the bathroom.

19) A toothache always starts the afternoon of an important Ritual.
Usually after your dentist closes; unless he overdoes the Novocain

20) If a ritual is useful, enjoyable and works,
it will have to be changed.

21) If you drop your Athame during a rite,
you will discover that you are no longer able
to move your right foot.

22) In any outdoor Sabbat, performed skyclad,
the Circle will be drawn around a patch of poison ivy.

23) In Any Sabbat performed robed,
the person behind you will step upon your hem,
thus leaving you skyclad during a dance.

24) When all else fails,
consult your Book of Shadows.

25) If the facts do not support your pet theory,
they must be changed or ignored.

26) In any Coven,
each member tends to rise to his level of incompetence.

27) The organization of any Coven is very much like a septic tank,
the really big chunks always rise to the top.

28) Expansion of the Coven means complexity,
and complexity decays.

29) The inevitable result of improved and enlarged
communications between different Covens
is a vastly increased area of misunderstanding.

30) Any teaching that can be misunderstood
has already been misunderstood.
Often by your own teacher.

31) 20% of the Coveners
account for 80% of the work.

32) Witches and Covens will act rationally
only when all other possibilities have been exhausted.

33) A witch in power
always takes himself too seriously.

34) The amount of wind blowing the day of a rite,
is inversely proportional
to the number of matches you have
to light the candles and incense with *

35) It’s better to have a horrible ending
than to have horrors without end.

36) A Witch will occasionally stumble over the truth,
but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on.

37) The universe is not only stronger than we imagine,
it’s stranger than we can imagine.


38) When the going gets tough, everyone leaves the Coven.

39) In order for something or someone to become clean,
something else must become dirty.

40) You can all become dirty
without anything else becoming clean.

41) The other coven works better.

a) If you change Covens, the one that you just left
will begin to advance faster than the one that you are now in.

42) The closer that you are to the basis of a news article,
the more obvious are the errors in the news coverage of the situation.

a) Newspapers rarely admit their own mistakes.
b)If they do, it will be at the bottom of page 49.
c) Witches in the public eye, therefore, need a warped sense of humor.

43) The best way to inspire fresh thoughts is to
seal the letter and mail the article.

44) For every action,
there is an equal and opposite criticism.

45) Some Witches work by the book,
even though they don’t know who wrote the book
or even what book.

46) Don’t let the Elders know that you are better than they are,
otherwise you will never become an Elder.

47) The High Priestess who attempts to inspire the Coven
with her knowledge of intricate details
has lost sight of the final objective.
The High Priest who ignores those same details
in an effort to reach the objective
will end up someplace else.

48) For every vision of the Goddess,
there is an equal or opposite vision
that negates your own vision.

49) The Coven member, that you trained at great expense
is the first person to leave the Coven;
and usually he does so just when you need him the most.

50) If you are early to a Sabbat, it will be canceled.
a) If you are on time, it will be late.
b) If you are late, it will have started early.

51) The cream rises to the top of a Coven;
so does the scum.

52) The more complicated and grandiose the ritual,
the greater the chance that it will fail.

53) The more carefully you plan a ritual,
the more you will resist admitting that it failed.

54) When explaining a facet of magick or religion
an easily understood and workable falsehood
is more useful than a complicated and incomprehensible truth.

55) Anyone who makes a significant contribution to the Craft,
and stays in the Craft long enough,
will become an obstruction to its progress in direct proportion
to the importance of the original contribution.

56) Everybody lies;
but it doesn’t matter since nobody listens.

57) If you teach a lazy witch
the proper and safe way to draw a Circle,
he will state that it isn’t necessary to do it that way
and toss out 90% of the ritual.

a) When this lazy witch gets into trouble
due to his ignoring the facts,
he will imagine that his failures are caused by another’s curse.

58) The best and most effective rituals occur
when you are home with the flu.

59) You always hear about the need for a ritual or spell
after that need ends.

60) One hour before your first skyclad Sabbat,
you will develop a large and unsightly pimple upon your left breast.

61) In any Coven your sense of humor
will be inversely proportional to your position.


* In order of precedence, you are accountable to: The Gods, your Self, your High Priestess, your Teacher. Initiates are also accountable to the Craft as a whole.
* “Pagan Standard Time” gives you 15 minutes leeway for an announced class or ritual.  If you’ll be any later or won’t make it, CALL!
* Questions are expected, desired, and anticipated.. The only “dumb question” is the one the student doesn’t ask.
* Common courtesy in all things. When in doubt, it is preferable to err on the side of caution and silence.
* Ultimately, you are responsible for your own development. Independent thought and research are strongly encouraged.

                             Comments on The Abbreviated Laws
                                 by J. Random Folksinger
The Wiccan Rede, while it has been taught widely, is not a part of the Laws,
although it may be considered derivative of them. There is nothing in the Laws that says that “in case of trouble, the Coven will be disbanded”. There are, in fact, quite a few possible solutions to specific instances, not just for
There is nothing in the Laws about unaffordability equaling inappropriateness in the purchase of a magickal tool.  What the heck are “L.T. Initiates”? Long Term? Why is it OK for them to form a Coven when it is plain that you have to be of the Third Degree?

The traditional way to hear complaints, at least in my set of the Old Laws, is
for the High Priest or High Priestess to convene the Elders.  It says nothing
about whether the HP or HPs are included in this group, but it is assumed that BOTH, not just the HPs, are so included.  There is also nothing in the Old Laws about a “time of waiting” for a decision.
In the Old Laws, the only thing the year-and-a-day rule pertains to is the
leaving of a High Priestess.
Everything in the “Temple Laws” falls in the good-to-very-good category of
advice; NONE of it is in the Old Laws. And I have known a good many pagans to take PST to mean anytime during the calendar DAY. There are a number of teachers in my experience to whom you NEVER ask a question, at penalty of being kicked out of the class; still, a teacher who can accept this rule is probably a good teacher.
In general, this sheet appears to be a worksheet handed to new students and gone over with them for a quick rundown of the Craft in order to go on to other things; in my opinion, giving them this sheet and NOT reviewing the entire set of the Old Laws (in whatever form) is doing the students a disservice; having this sheet around for later reference, on the other hand, is probably a Good Thing.