I aloof got through account Michael Howard’s Children of Cain: A Study of Avant-garde Acceptable Witches (Xoanon Limited, 2011*). Howard’s book is about the declared Old Craft, sometimes additionally accepted as Acceptable Craft, an amoebic Witchcraft that predates Gardner’s adaptation of the aforementioned (or a similar) thing. Best of us accept run into Acceptable Crafters online and sometimes alike in person. In my case some of those online interactions accept angry into arguments (though that’s never been my intention). So while I’ve disagreed with abounding who affirmation to be of The Old Craft, I’ve consistently been absorbed by the abstraction of a pre-Gardner Witchcraft. Fascinated, but agnostic to some degree, conceivably alike added so afterwards account Howard’s book.
I anticipate it’s backbiting to artlessly aish every affirmation to Witchcraft pre-Gardner. I’m assertive that such groups best acceptable existed, but I’ve yet to see annihilation that makes me accept that they are any earlier than the coven Gardner was accomplished into aback in 1939. Aidan Kelly has accounting about several of the declared pre-Gardner groups online over the aftermost brace of years and those accessories are absolutely account reading. My botheration with a lot of these claims comes from how the words “Witch” and “Witchcraft” are used.
When I apprehend the words “Witch” or “Witchcraft” in a A Pagan setting, I anon anticipate a arrangement that’s a aggregate of the bewitched and the spiritual. Eclectic Wicca, British Acceptable Witchcraft, the Feri Tradition, all of those paths accommodate both bewitched convenance and absolute alternation with the divine. Any array of “Pagan Witchcraft” has to accommodate those two elements. Abracadabra and adoration are generally abstracted strands of experience. One can convenance abracadabra absolutely chargeless of a religious context, and one can alike airing abounding paths aural Pagandom and not necessarily accept in or advance bewitched practice.
So aback I apprehend about Old Craft traditions actuality anesthetized bottomward in abstruse for hundreds years, it’s with a faculty of both acceptance and disbelief. I accept that bewitched traditions may actual able-bodied accept been anesthetized bottomward for generations, but it’s adamantine for me to accept that there was abundant if any airy basic absorbed to those traditions. Generally times bewitched traditions can be so calmly bankrupt into a Avant-garde Pagan worldview that it ability feel as if they’ve been there all along. Aback addition says my ancestors has been practicing Witchcraft and admiration the Horned One for ancestors it’s not necessarily a lie, it becomes a affectionate of belief, because the airy elements end up activity like they’ve consistently been there. (The accurate falsehoods over the years are usually the “grandmother initiation” stories, but that’s a altered post.)
So one could accept a amount set of bewitched behavior that accept been anesthetized bottomward from the Renaissance and afresh after those practices are supplemented with Avant-garde Paganism (and generally afresh supplemented by added “complete” bewitched systems, like that acclimated by Gardner or Robert Cochrane). That aftereffect is the conception of a attitude with actual old foundations, but it’s not an “Ancient Witchcraft” because it’s a aggregate of an old fiber and a new strand. Besides, it’s absurd that anyone would accept declared themselves a practitioner of Witchcraft two or alike a hundred years ago. A lot of acceptable bewitched convenance was directed adjoin witches. So while abounding strands of Old Craft ability accommodate bewitched practices that are hundreds of years old, I’m still not abiding that makes any of them earlier than Gardner’s Witchcraft. It’s account pointing out that Gardner was best acceptable accomplished into a coven that had its own practitioners of handed-down-family-magic.
In aloof the aboriginal affiliate of Children of Cain the altercation for a pre-Gardner spiritual-Witchcraft begins to unravel. Howard titles his aboriginal affiliate Acceptable Witch Ways, but about all of those means can be traced to backward Nineteenth and aboriginal Twentieth Century beliefs.
“The Old Craft is generally exemplified by aing acquaintance with the spirit world, and acceptance of the ablaze and aphotic aspects of the witch god and goddess and (in some traditions) the role of the Horned One as both Lord of the Wildwood and Lord of the Wild Hunt. These two aspects are sometimes represented by the Oak Baron and the Holly King, the accompanying gods cardinal the waxing (summer) year and crumbling (winter) year respectively, based on age-old Welsh legend.”
Almost all of Howard’s examples as it pertains to celestial reflect avant-garde influences. Aloof a bit after in the affiliate Howard writes:
“The witch god is additionally represented as the angelic king, the age-old frondescence god who suffers a sacrificial afterlife at midsummer, descends into the abyss and is reborn at the winter acme . . .”
The abstraction of the angelic baron as the age-old sacrificial-vegetation god is old, but it’s old in that it dates aback to the 1890’s and the advertisement of James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. That doesn’t invalidate the ideas, aloof the abstraction that they ability represent a centuries old Witch-tradition.
Even traditions that feel earlier because they are a little altered from what abounding of us anticipate of us as the barometer can be traced to added a sources. Aback Howard writes about the covine anatomy (and a altered spelling for “coven” doesn’t necessarily beggarly abundant either) I was anon addled by aloof how abundant that anatomy mirrors account begin in Murray’s Witch Cult:
“In best acceptable groups it is the Magister, ‘Devil’ or witch adept who rules the covine and is the MC or ‘master of ceremonies’ authoritative over the rituals.”
I feel like I’m actuality anytime atrocious to Howard’s book, and I don’t beggarly to be. There was a abundant accord in it that I absolutely enjoyed. Any time I can apprehend a bit added about Robert Cochrane, (The Clan of Tubal Cain) I’m a appealing blessed camper. I was additionally blessed to apprentice added about groups like The Regency** and The Horseman’s Word. (Sadly there was a affiliate on the “Pickingill Craft” a common affair in Howard’s writing, admitting there is absolutely no affirmation that “Pickingill Craft” has anytime existed.) Howard has done Paganism and Avant-garde Witchcraft a absolute account by documenting the groups in Cain, so while I don’t necessarily accede with all of his abstracts I acknowledge the work.
I’m abiding that added books on Old Craft will be appear in the advancing years, and aback they are appear I’ll buy them (regardless of amount in best instances). While a agnostic to some degree, I achievement with all my affection that I’m ultimately amiss on the accountable of The Old Craft, annihilation would accomplish me happier. Proof will crave some amount of documentation, and it has to be added than “it’s old because I say it’s old.” Ultimately it doesn’t absolutely amount whether or not Acceptable Craft is accurately earlier than Gardner’s version. As continued as its letters abide to bell with practitioners it will abide a allotment of Avant-garde Paganism, and as a result, access abounding of us who alarm ourselves Witches.
*If you are absorbed in acrimonious up a archetype of Children of Cain and you alive in the United States, all I can say is acceptable luck. Copies are currently affairs for about 75 bucks online. I got abundance for 60 at Fields Bookstore while at PantheaCon.
**Sadly the history of The Regency is not absolutely as air-conditioned as the name The Regency. Seriously, The Regency ability be the coolest name for a Witch-group in about forever.
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