My first significant encounters with Wiccan thought were with Kaatryn McMorgan’s All One Wicca and the Farrar’s The Witches Bible. MacMorgan gave me a firm grounding to begin my studies, but the Farrar’s intoxicated me with the beauty and majesty of Wicca. I remember being particularly struck by the Watchtowers.
Being ignorant of their origin, history or deeper meanings, my imagination unfolded a scene right out a Fantasia: vast castles with central towers in the cardinal directions, rising dreadfully at the far edges of the Universe. The north filled with dwarves, gems, soil, trees, leaves. The east an airy palace full of strange winds, trumpets, chorales. The south brimming with magma, fiery lizards, torches, strange smoke. The west a sea palace strewn with canals, pools, lagoons, waterfalls. Long before I read Tolkien I saw these towers guiding and directing the elemental energies that make up the fabric of the universe.
I picked up Mac Morgan’s The Circle, Cubed this morning. It’s one of those books I’m managing to read at a snail’s pace. I was surprised to find I agreed with her criticism of using the Watchtowers, as well as other Abrahamic practices such as the LBRP, in Wicca. It feels strange to recognize that my views have shifted so significantly over the years.
The Watchtowers come from staunchly Christian Enochian magic, got a makeover by the Golden Dawn and found their way into Wicca. Maybe pre-Gardnerian, maybe through Gardner himself or maybe in the many post-Gardnerian variations that have sprung up over the years. MacMorgan makes the interesting observation that Enochian magic was the result of Dee’s attempt to gain for the Church of England magical access to God that everyone knew the Catholics had (and the Jews, and the Gypsies, and the…). I find it amusing to think of there being a magic race to place alongside the arms race and space race.
Now, the Watchtowers themselves are not the elements or the cardinal directions. The classical elements honored in Wicca are older than Socrates himself, and folks knew their north from south long before Dr. John Dee came along. If the Watchtowers aren’t necessary to Wicca and are Abrahamic in nature, then are they really appropriate for any non-Abrahamic Wiccan tradition? Unless you have statues of Jesus and the Magdalen on your altar, it seems awfully discordant.
I’m biased in the matter. I left Christianity, rejected monotheistic theology and have no use for angels. I know there are Christo-Pagans out there, and there are Christo-Pagans I admire greatly, but that doesn’t mean I get it. I’m curious what other people think though.
Do Abrahamic elements belong in Wicca? Should Wiccans invoke angels? Should they adopt a Judeo-Christian cosmology?