Before the Gardnerians: Introducing the Magus, Part II

In his autobiographic essay, Hansen relates that in about 1955, through a series of “coincidences” involving a Tarot deck and a baker who always won his bets on horseraces by using numerology, a “nineteen-year-old redheaded nymph with green eyes” introduced him to Donald Nelson, who was “not unsympathetic to my quest [and] told me that if I wished to understand these arcane things, I should first study astrology,” and sold him some of Alan Leo’s books. Hansen and his wife then began serious study … [Read more...]

Before the Gardnerians: Introducing the Magus

 [This begins the first chapter of my forthcoming A Tapestry of Witches: A History of the Craft in America, Vol. I. The book itself will have much prefatory material explaining how, why, and what I am covering. Here I am going to just jump right into the stories.] Certainly there were people called Witches, or who called themselves Witches, in America before the arrival of Gardnerian Wicca in 1963. Sometimes the term meant merely people who practiced some sort of folk magic or had usable p … [Read more...]

Last Day of the Mysteries / Preview of a New History

Boedromion 23:The final events at Eleusis included the rite of the Plemochoai, top-shaped vases, which were tipped over, one toward the east, the other toward the west, just about at sunset, to pour a libation down into the earth, perhaps into a chasm (See Athenaios 11.496.)  It was probably also on this last day, and perhaps as part of the same ritual, that "looking up to the sky they cried `Rain!' and looking down at the earth they cried `Grow!'" (Given by Proklos on Plato's Timaeus, p. … [Read more...]

Today Only! The Secret of the Eleusinian Mysteries

Boedromion 22The central event in the Mysteries is the night-long ritual in the Telesterion, the Hall of Initiation.  The initiates stand on raised steps around the edges of the Telesterion, and see and hear something like a ritual drama. (That the rituals lasted all night is stated by Clinton, p. 38, citing I.G. II2, 3639; see also Greek Anthology, XI, Epigram 42.)  As Plutarch (Moralia, 81d-e) describes, "Just as persons who are being initiated into the Mysteries throng together at the o … [Read more...]

Boedromion 21: Preliminary Initiations Continue

On the day of the 20th and on through the 21st, the mustai are taken blindfolded through a series of purifications and consecrations, one at a time.  Each has a guide who had been initiated in a preceding year (referred to by Plutarch, Moralia, 765A), who could now see the procedures and so becomes an Epopt, "witness."  Candidates are seated on a low throne, with left foot on a fleece, veiled and holding a torch, with a priestess holding a winnowing basket overhead, as priests and/or priestesses … [Read more...]

Boedromion 20: First Day of the Initiations

At sunset, when the next day begins, torches are lit, and because the Greeks used a 7/8 rhythm (or something similar) for a procession, it turns into a torchlit dance.  They proceed not directly into Eleusis, but instead down to the beach, where there is a ritual concerning Aphrodite. (Perhaps this is where the scene of her rising from the sea belongs. Anyway, this is why at this point in our NROOGD Commemoration, we have the Priestess of Demeter take a skyclad dip in the surf.)  Here the mustai … [Read more...]

Boedromion 19: The Procession to Eleusis

Early in the day the mustai, the Eleusinian officials, and all others gather in the main square of Athens, all wearing myrtle wreaths and white robes or other special garb. The priests and priestesses wear red or purple cloaks, and the Hierophant and Dadouches wear a strophion (a twisted piece of cloth, worn like a sash) and have long hair.  The statue of Iakkhos (in late classical times thought to be Dionysos as an infant) is brought from the Iakkhaion, to be carried on its annual visit to … [Read more...]

Boedromion 18 and More about Mary

The mustai remain indoors, preparing the Kykeon, "mixture," a tea of barley and mint, and baking pastries, probably in the shapes associated with fertility.  Outdoors, the uninitiated engage in a procession honoring Asklepios and pour libations to Dionysos. (Aristotle, Athenian Constitution, 56.4; Philostratus, Life of Apollonius, 4.18.)Passages about Mary MagdaleneHere I’m going to post some of the most interesting passages about Mary, in order to later use them in a more detailed essay … [Read more...]

Boedromion 17 and Songs from “The Wedding Guests”

Boedromion 17: A sow is officially sacrificed to the Two Goddesses in their temple in Athens.  Each initiate sacrifices a sheep, whose fleece is needed for the initiation, as well as the purified piglet. (On all this see Aelian, Animals, 10,16; and Aristophanes, Peace, 373-5).%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%"The Wedding Guests" was the musical comedy that I wrote as my Ph.D. dissertation at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, finishing up i … [Read more...]

Boedromion 16: Haladay mustai!

Boedromion 16, the sixth day of Full Moon and the second day of the Mysreries, begins at sunset tonight. Note, when we get there, that the full initiation takes place on days 10 and 9 of the Waning Moon (these days were counted down), since chthonian deities, such as Hades, Persephone, and Hekate,  were worshipped during the Waning Moon.Today is also the Synoekia, a sacrifice of two oxen to Zeus Phratrios and Athena Phratria, "of the clans."On this day the cry is  Haladay mustai, " … [Read more...]