Friday, December 7, 2012

Commentary on the Charge of the Goddess 19: adore the spirit of Me

and adore the spirit of Me who am Queen of all Witcheries. There ye shall assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet who have not won its deepest secrets To these will I teach things that are yet unknown.

Sources and Influences

BAM: and adore the spirit of me who am Queen of all Witcheries. There ye shall assemble, ye who are fain to learn all Sorcery, yet have not won its deepest secrets, to those will I teach things that are yet unknown.

Leland Aradia: to adore the potent spirit of your queen, my mother, great Diana. She who fain would learn all sorcery yet has not won its deepest secrets, them my mother will teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown. (52-57)


This passage is another example of how the text of Aradia has been adapted for use in this context; its adaptation also explains the rather strange-sound of ‘adore the spirit of me,’ when ‘adore me’ or ‘adore my spirit’ would sound more natural. ‘The Goddess’ as envisaged in Wicca is not the same as the Goddess in Aradia, who is a single, named deity, Diana. Where Aradia is talking about this Goddess, Diana, in the third person, the text is adapted to suit the first-person Wiccan ritual context of the Goddess speaking through her priestess.
The passage in which Aradia describes how her mother will teach the witch all things seems to contradict a major tenet of Wicca. I feel, following as it does from the passage about gathering in a secret place, it strikes to the heart of the way Wicca is practiced.
    As stated in the previous section, Wicca is an initiatory mystery religion, which is organised into small groupings called covens. Initiation is performed by the High Priest or High Priestess of the coven into which one is being initiated, and the autonomous nature of the coven means that while it is hierarchically organised, the coven itself is solely responsible for any training, education, or selection prior to initiation, before the power is passed on to the initiate. Granted all this, why does it say in the Charge that the Goddess will herself teach you?
    The answer is in who is speaking: the person who is speaking here is the Goddess speaking through her priestess. In the coven structure it should be the Goddess who is teaching through her priestess. This is what to be a priest or priestess means: to be an intermediary between the divine and the human.
    When this process goes wrong, things tend to become acrimonious. Witches conflict with High Priestesses in a way which is not constructive, the magical harmony goes, covens break up in distressing circumstances for all. Farrar and Bone have coined a term for this: ‘second degree syndrome’ (  Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone: Progressive Witchcraft. New Page Books, Franklin Lakes NJ, 2004, p. 74.).  They attribute this phenomenon to the dogmatism of the teacher, or the method of teaching, leading to the student entering into competition with the leaders of the coven. They interpret this in psychological terms, of the High Priestess’s ego dominating the student’s training, so that the training is identified with this ego, and conflicts with the student’s own ego, which he has not been trained to recognise in his own training. The student will move on to replicate this process in the future, since the acquisition of power will override any search for spiritual authenticity.
I think this psychological ground may be dangerous territory for many High Priestesses to venture into, and I think rather than venturing into psychoanalysis the antidote to this situation may be found in the High Priestess’s remembrance that while she rules the coven as the representative of the Goddess, the Goddess is not only personified in her. If the Goddess’s body encircles the universe and she is in the heart of every man, she is also embodied in all people and things. In a sense the ritual of Drawing Down the Moon is not so much invoking an entity into the High Priestess, since the Goddess is already present in her, but more like saying ‘Now we will ask the Goddess to say a few words.’ If the High Priestess remembers that the Goddess is also in the newest candidate for initiation, it should preserve her from power trips: as we know, when you invoke the power of the Goddess into your life, strange things happen, and her lessons can come from unexpected places.
Power and control manifest often in another way: thinking that you have all the answers. The cycle of life is often pictured in our religion as a spiral, and of course the symbolism of the circle is always present: it has no ending. People like to have a sense of achievement, and like to think they have arrived. In mundane terms, this can be marked by certificates of achievement, degrees, promotions, houses, but in magic there are no such things, and no real target to aim at. Maxine Sanders comments on the restlessness which plagued Alex Sanders, and which she has observed in many (male) occultists (Maxine Sanders: Firechild. Mandrake, Oxford, 2008.).  And surely we have all seen this, if not knowingly experienced it. People seem subconsciously to seek that point at which they can feel they have arrived – and no such point exists in occultism – and so undergo repeated initiations, move on to the next coven or Order, wonder why all the members of their coven have walked out, and so on, never really settling to anything.
This experience of restlessness is also noted in Christian monasticism – another way of life with few markers and little sense of achievement, where it is called accidie. St John Cassian described exactly that pattern or never settling to anything and never getting anything done. The remedy in monasticism is for the monk to stay in his cell (in other words to get on with his monastic life) and the same goes for us. For the witch I would prescribe the remedy of: a divination to discern whether there is any good reason why she should change her situation, and if there is not, to stay where she is and get on with the witch’s task of transforming herself and her world.

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