Shaping Wicca: Musing on Gardner and Valiente

The discussion on my last two posts on Wicca have been fascinating, and they’ve brought to light something I haven’t considered before. True to form, I’ll take this idea and run with it until I hit a wall. As this is the anniversary of Valiente’s death, it seems fitting to ponder her role in shaping the Craft.

In any Pagan forum you can find the, often unchallenged, assertion that Gardner invented Wicca. A little more digging will find Fam Trad and non-Gardnerian derived Wiccans claiming Gardner drastically altered the teachings he received. You will also find someone stating, again often unchallenged, that Valiente stripped the Crowley out and basically smartened up Gardnerian Witchcraft.

Valiente is beloved, particularly for The Charge of the Goddess, but whether you believe Gardner received Wicca or invented it, it seems no one considers that Valiente overhauling what he gave her is questionable, suspect or even bad.

Don Frew left this comment on the Watchtowers discussion:

If, as I have argued elsewhere, we follow Gardner’s direction and look to Neoplatonic theurgy to understand much of the material that Gardner received (_The Meaning of Witchcraft_ 1959, 185-189), then the so-called “Dryghton Prayer” is a representation of the 4-realm Neoplatonic cosmology and the Mighty Ones are indeed in the role of the Daimons, as opposed to the Elemental forces of the world of matter.

While a 4-Element paradigm entered Gardnerian Craft with the advent of Valiente, there is no evidence of such a paradigm in the material Gardner received, no association of tools or directions with elements, etc.  In fact, both Dayonis and Robert – who worked in Gardner’s coven – confirm that they were discouraged from working with elemental forces and did not associate the Mighty Ones of the directions with the elements.  Gardner himself attests that the group he joined did not like to work with the Elementals (_Witchcraft Today_ 1954, 126).

It would seem that Valiente’s importing of a 4-Element paradigm (probably from the Golden Dawn) included importing her own interpretation of equating the Mighty Ones with the Watchtowers.

About the same time he posted this I ran across a Gardnerian ritual from 1949 (from Aiden Kelley’s collection) in MacMorgan-Douglas’ The Circle, Cubed that gives no indication of Watchtowers or elements, but only the cardinal directions.

My own curiosity always leads me to wonder what the crux of Wicca is, aside from additions and trimmings. So I wonder if Valiente’s influence on the Craft enchanced the essence of Wicca? Or did it add outside elements that served to obfuscate the heart of Wicca?

Valiente is known for spurning both Gardner and Cochrane after studying with them in her search for authentic Craft. While it may be both of these idiosyncratic gents deserved a good spurning, it makes me wonder if her issue was that the Craft they taught, rather than being unauthentic, were simply not in line with Valiente’s Ceremonial Magic leanings?

I also wonder if the portrayal of Valiente as the one who gave Gardner and Cochrane “what for” is an example of anti-male bias? Gardner and Cochrane founded two extremely important traditions, and while they were not saints, they do seem to live to some degree in Valiente’s shadow.

I love Valiente’s contributions to the Craft, and today I will think about her. I will think about her writings, her life and her influence, good, bad or indifferent, on my practice and understanding of Wicca.

Hail Doreen!

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About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

    A little education please … (1) Is it definitive that Dryghton Prayer was from Gardner?  (2)  What are the 4 realms of Neoplatonism?  (3) Doesn’t the Dryghton Prayer read: “In the name of the Mighty Ones of the Four Quarters,
    the Kings of the Elements”?  So aren’t the “Mighty Ones” associated with the elements a priori? (4) Does anyone know if Valiente is the person responsible for introducing Robert Graves’ Triple Goddess into Wicca?  If not, who is?

    I think all you have to do to decide if Valiente enhanced Wicca is look at Gardner’s Ye Bok.  http://www.americanneopaganism.com//Ye%20Bok%20of%20ye%20Art%20Magical.pdf

    P.S. Let me know when you figure out what the “crux” of Wicca is — I’d love to know.

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      Actually, it’s my understanding the Dryghtyn Prayer comes from Patricia Crowther, and it’s a variation on something she received from Gardner.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        Right.  I was wondering if anyone had verified Crowther’s claim, since the Dryghton doesn’t show up anywhere else that I am aware of.  It seems odd to take an idea based on hearsay, even from someone as close to Gardner as Crowther, as Gardnerian theology if it is not the BOS or any of Gardner’s writings.

      • Robert Mathiesen

        I would like to know more about the origin of that prayer myself.  It is not in _Ye Bok of ye Art Magical_, but of course that was the earliest of several manuscripts that Gardner wrote.  It might, I suppose, be in one of Gardner’s later handwritten Books of Shadows — there are perhaps three or four of them.   Can anyone here set us straight about that possibility? 

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      I don’t see anything that suggests that pdf is valid? It’s a copy of a copy found on the internet, and hardly reliable. The handwriting doesn’t look like it belongs to someone who learned penmanship in the era of the Palmer Method.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        I agree.  We could just use Aidan Kelly’s quotes from *Inventing Witchcraft*, but if I recall right I think I read something by Don taking issue with the quality of Aidan’s work.

      • Robert Mathiesen

        Star, when I went to Toronto in the early 1990s to have a good long look at Gardner’s manuscript _Ye Bok of ye Art Magical_,” Richard James gave me a xerocopy of the very same notebook that is copied on that PDF, and told me that it was a pretty good handwritten copy of Gardner’s _Ye Bok …_ that had been made by one of his coveners for her own use.  As I sat with Gardner’s original manuscript and the stack of books I had brought with me to identify its sources, I often compared that xerocopy with the original manuscript.  It actually was (just as Richard James had said) a pretty good copy of that manuscript.  So the linked PDF is well worth bookmarking.  It is not just anyone’s random book of witchcraft.

        Gardner’s original manuscript (_Ye Bok …_) was a pretty interesting object in and of itself, and not just as a collection of pretty interesting texts.  I am quite certain that a few parts of the manuscript, including the three degree initiations, were copied from an elaborately caligraphed manuscript that had been written by someone other than Gardner, probably no more than a decade or so earlier, in a hand that Gardner had not understood perfectly.  The arguments for this are fairly technical, but I touch on them a little in the introduction to the new facsimile edition of Charles Leland’s handwritten witchcraft manuscript, _The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York_, published by The Witches’ Almanac just this year.

        Presonally, after examining that manuscript, I had — and still have — no doubt whatever that Gardner spoke the truth when he claimed to have been initiated (in or around 1939) by a group of people who called themselves the Wica, and who had religious beliefs and practices and rituals of their own, some of which rituals they already had in written form before Gardner joined them.

    • Don Frew

      While there have been several comments on John’s post, it might be simplest to respond to his post to clear up comments both in his and in subsequent posts…

      1) The earliest surviving textual evidence we have for the Dryghtyn prayer is Page 261 of what is called “Doreen’s Black Book”, which appears to be the BoS she used in her own coven after her split with Gardner in 1957, but before she started working with Robert Cochrane in 1964.  In the Black Book, it is titled “The Blessing Prayer”.  During the course of my correspondence with Valiente, I asked her about
      the origin of the Dryghtyn prayer.  She wrote back, “I wrote the
      blessing ‘In the name of Dryghtyn…’ in its present form; but this was a
      long time ago, and I have a feeling that I copied it from earlier
      material somewhere.  The trouble is that I can’t offhand remember what,
      except that it was something that Gerald showed me.  If I remember
      anything more about this, I will let you know.  I connect it somehow
      with a time when I visited him in the Isle of Man.” (private
      correspondence, 20 June 1994).  She never said exactly what parts she had
      rewritten.  With the dating of the Black Book uncertain, we are left with Patricia Crowther’s account of it having been a part of her 1st Degree initiation in 1960 (_Witch Blood_, 1974, p. 39).  (However, there is some question about this initiation date, since depending on which contemporary source is consulted, it could have been as much as 5 years earlier than this.)  So… yes, the Dryghtyn prayer DID come down through Gardner, but how much older than him it might be is not known for certain.

      2) The four realms of the Neoplatonic cosmology are The One – Mind or Nous, the realm of the Gods – Soul, the realm of the Daimons – Matter.  The natural world as we experience it is the result of the ideas of Mind and the harmonizing aspects of Soul organizing chaotic Matter.  It’s important to remember that the Neoplatonists emphasized that the world is a fundamentally good emanation of the One, and that these “realms” are convenient terms to use for talking about reality, but that all things are always simultaneously proceeding from the One and returning to the One and simultaneously exist in all realms at once.  Also, there is no sharp demarcation between the realms, rather reality is continuous from the One to Matter and back.  Following Gardner’s lead in using Neoplatonism to understand Craft, I believe that these realms correspond to: the Dryghtyn – the Goddess & God – the Mighty Ones – the Kings of the Elements.

      3) The more one studies the many historical documents and “Books of Shadows” we have from Gardner, Valiente, and others, the more one realises how arbitrary the punctuation is.  This is especially true in the earliest texts, which often use slashes – ” / ” – in the place of punctuation.  This can be indicative of texts that have gone back and forth from being written in columns to being written out in paragraphs.  A good example is when an oath is written with breaks where the candidate will repeat a line or phrase vs. being written out as a single text.  As a result, there is a relative equivalence in these texts between: . , : ; – & or and.  Under these circumstances, it is not at all unlikely that there should be an “and” between the Mighty Ones and the Kings of the Elements.  Otherwise, if we assume that the Mighty Ones and the Kings of the Elements are the same, it seems odd that they would be distinguished by being mentioned twice, while the Goddess & God are only mentioned once.  Also, while the Mighty Ones are invoked around the Circle, and have been from the earliest “Gardnerian” scripts, both Dayonis and Robert (who worked in Gardner’s coven) are quite clear that these were not elemental.  Gardner wrote that the Wtches avoided working with the elements.  Further, there is no mention of the elements in any of the early “Gardnerian” texts, no correspondence between them and the tools, between them and the directions, etc. (I’ve already cited the sources earlier in this blog.)

      4) I don’t think we know who first introduced material from Robert Graves into Gardnerian Craft, but we know that Gardner met Graves for the first (and as far as we know, only) time on January 17, 1961 (Richard Graves, _Robert Graves and the White Goddess 1940 – 1985_, 1995, p. 326) in the company of Idries Shah.

      * Re: the PDF of the BAM to which John refers… This was a hand copy made by “Joy”, a student of Richard & Tamara James, who are the owners of the BAM.  They asked her to make this copy so that they would have a backup if anything happened to the original.  (BTW, later, they agreed to let Anna Korn, Allyn Wolfe, Philip Heselton and me make a photographic copy of each page for the same reason.  This version has been transcribed and digitized.  I have found that photos of the original BAM are more accurate than the many hand-copies that are floating around the internet.)  HOWEVER: 1) The PDF of Joy’s copy is a lengthy excerpt, being about 75% of the ~270 pages of material in the BAM.  2) Joy reformatted the text, sometimes adding headings that are not in the BAM, like “Magic Knives”, “Swords”, “Holy Writ”, etc.  3) The BAM uses inks of several colors to indicate parts to be spoken, words of power, etc.  These are lost in the black-and-white PDF.  4) The BAM includes illustrations and diagrams that Joy does not reproduce.  5) Joy’s copy does not reproduce the many scribal errors that are key to establishing that the texts are being copied by Gardner from an earlier, manuscript source (as Robert Mathiesen points out) rather than being composed by him.  In other words, this PDF is a very good copy, but of only about 75% of the BAM and its errors can be misleading.

      * John’s comments about Kelly’s versions of the texts are correct.  I have addressed some of the errors in Kelly’s versions of the texts in an article in the Canadian anthropology journal Ethnologies, which is reproduced here on the Patheos site (http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/2011-Introduction-to-Key-Frew-Article-Donald-Frew-02-08-2011.html).  Rather than taking my word for it, however, I would ask that folks read Kelly carefully and note that HE HIMSELF says in his _Crafting the Art of Magic_ that he altered the texts before publication:
      “I have augmented the text for the first two degrees from the full script in _High Magic’s Aid_, pp. 290-303″ (CAM1, 1991, p. 54)  “Augmented” how?  Where?  Kelly doesn’t say. 
      “On pp. 271-288 of ‘Ye Bok of ye Art Magical’ are outlines of rituals for the four cross-quarter days.  The outlines are terse and cryptic, but they do not differ in any essential way from the later texts of the Sabbat rituals.  They can be fleshed out as follows.” (ibid. p. 67)  “”Fleshed out” to what extent?  Using what criteria?  Kelly doesn’t say.
      Whatever one may think of Kelly’s analysis, by his own admission the texts presented in _Crafting the Art of Magic_ cannot be taken as accurate reproductions.

      I’m glad Robert and I seem to have come to many of the same conclusions.

      Regarding historical research and the search for the “right” way to be Wiccan… I posted what I did because there are many people who cannot escape equating “older” with “truer / better / more authentic / etc.”  Many times, when I have said that a given text “a” is older than another text “b”, I have been accused of saying that “a” is better or that “b” is wrong.  This has happened so many times that I felt the need to be proactive in countering this before folks started responding to Star’s blog.

      Blessed Be,
      Don Frew

      Blessed Be, Don Frew

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1309881889 Lezlie Kinyon

        Don, (Hello!) I actually got to read two different versions of Kelly’s manuscript on the history of Wicca prior to publication.  They differed significantly from the published version in so many ways that they can’t be enumerated here. Through a mutual friend, I was told that Kelly stated that the editors “mangled” the book and this led to his severing his relationship with Llewellyn.  (This would not surprise me.)  If you are in touch with Aidan – perhaps these issues can be cleared up by reviewing his research notes. And- I am in complete agreement in your statement about equating ” ‘older’ with “truer / better / more authentic / etc.”  While the roots of Wicca are both interesting and obscured, what it has become is (IMHO) somewhat more interesting. When I read these posts and look at the BAM I try to remember that we are still at the beginning!

        • Don Frew

          Basically, Kelly wanted to include all the academic apparatus that he felt bolstered his argument, but Llewellyn wanted a more “popular” book.  However, Llewellyn did not change the texts.  The altered texts presented in _Crafting the Art of Magic_ are the same as they are in his 1977 manuscript _The Rebirth of Witchcraft_ and on the disks he sold privately independent of Llewellyn.  The alterations I pointed out had nothing to do with Llewellyn’s editors. 

          (BTW, I confirmed this with both Llewellyn-owner Carl Weschcke and Nancy J. Mostad, Acquisitions & Development Manager for Llewellyn Publications.  Mostad also tells a very different story of Kelly’s relationship with Llewellyn.  She wrote, in the Winter 1992 issue of Gnosis Magazine, #22: “It was not suggested that [Kelly] leave anything out of the book that might not be ‘palatable for the general reader,’ since such technical material (warts and all) could have appeared in an appendix if it was not suited to the main body of the book.  In this case, the author did not elect this option.”  I believe that Kelly has posted on this blog and he may want to give his own version of this history.)

          And remember that, while everyone has focused on the BAM, it is only one text among many.  There are thousands of pages of surviving early Craft documents shedding light on the early history of modern Wicca, including several other “Books of Shadows”, and that’s just from Gardner and Valiente.  Also, texts have been passed down from other members of the coven Gardner joined.  There’s LOTS to study and there are several folks working on it.  I include a list and description of many of these texts in my talk “Gardnerian Wica as Theurgic Ascent”, online at the TheurgiCon website:
          http://theurgicon.com/gardnerian.pdf

          Blessed Be,
          Don Frew

      • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

        Don,

        Will the digitized version of BAM be made available so we can see the reality?  (Or any of the other documents you mention?)

        I remember my fury the first time I read Kelly and noticed all the weasel-wording about his editing the BAM to say that he thought it should have said.  OK, so I’m still furious, almost two decades later.  How could anyone who claimed to be doing scholarship have done that?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

    A little education please … (1) Is it definitive that Dryghton Prayer was from Gardner?  (2)  What are the 4 realms of Neoplatonism?  (3) Doesn’t the Dryghton Prayer read: “In the name of the Mighty Ones of the Four Quarters,
    the Kings of the Elements”?  So aren’t the “Mighty Ones” associated with the elements a priori? (4) Does anyone know if Valiente is the person responsible for introducing Robert Graves’ Triple Goddess into Wicca?  If not, who is?

    I think all you have to do to decide if Valiente enhanced Wicca is look at Gardner’s Ye Bok.  http://www.americanneopaganism.com//Ye%20Bok%20of%20ye%20Art%20Magical.pdf

    P.S. Let me know when you figure out what the “crux” of Wicca is — I’d love to know.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      Actually, it’s my understanding the Dryghtyn Prayer comes from Patricia Crowther, and it’s a variation on something she received from Gardner.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        Right.  I was wondering if anyone had verified Crowther’s claim, since the Dryghton doesn’t show up anywhere else that I am aware of.  It seems odd to take an idea based on hearsay, even from someone as close to Gardner as Crowther, as Gardnerian theology if it is not the BOS or any of Gardner’s writings.

      • Robert Mathiesen

        I would like to know more about the origin of that prayer myself.  It is not in _Ye Bok of ye Art Magical_, but of course that was the earliest of several manuscripts that Gardner wrote.  It might, I suppose, be in one of Gardner’s later handwritten Books of Shadows — there are perhaps three or four of them.   Can anyone here set us straight about that possibility? 

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      I don’t see anything that suggests that pdf is valid? It’s a copy of a copy found on the internet, and hardly reliable. The handwriting doesn’t look like it belongs to someone who learned penmanship in the era of the Palmer Method.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        I agree.  We could just use Aidan Kelly’s quotes from *Inventing Witchcraft*, but if I recall right I think I read something by Don taking issue with the quality of Aidan’s work.

        My point though is we can take any version of it we have access to and compare it with Wicca you understand it and see which is a more complete and better system.

      • Robert Mathiesen

        Star, when I went to Toronto in the early 1990s to have a good long look at Gardner’s manuscript _Ye Bok of ye Art Magical_,” Richard James gave me a xerocopy of the very same notebook that is copied on that PDF, and told me that it was a pretty good handwritten copy of Gardner’s _Ye Bok …_ that had been made by one of his coveners for her own use.  As I sat with Gardner’s original manuscript and the stack of books I had brought with me to identify its sources, I often compared that xerocopy with the original manuscript.  It actually was (just as Richard James had said) a pretty good copy of that manuscript.  So the linked PDF is well worth bookmarking.  It is not just anyone’s random book of witchcraft.

        Gardner’s original manuscript (_Ye Bok …_) was a pretty interesting object in and of itself, and not just as a collection of pretty interesting texts.  I am quite certain that a few parts of the manuscript, including the three degree initiations, were copied from an elaborately caligraphed manuscript that had been written by someone other than Gardner, probably no more than a decade or so earlier, in a hand that Gardner had not understood perfectly.  The arguments for this are fairly technical, but I touch on them a little in the introduction to the new facsimile edition of Charles Leland’s handwritten witchcraft manuscript, _The Witchcraft of Dame Darrel of York_, published by The Witches’ Almanac just this year.

        Presonally, after examining that manuscript, I had — and still have — no doubt whatever that Gardner spoke the truth when he claimed to have been initiated (in or around 1939) by a group of people who called themselves the Wica, and who had religious beliefs and practices and rituals of their own, some of which rituals they already had in written form before Gardner joined them.

    • Don Frew

      While there have been several comments on John’s post, it might be simplest to respond to his post to clear up comments both in his and in subsequent posts…

      1) The earliest surviving textual evidence we have for the Dryghtyn prayer is Page 261 of what is called “Doreen’s Black Book”, which appears to be the BoS she used in her own coven after her split with Gardner in 1957, but before she started working with Robert Cochrane in 1964.  In the Black Book, it is titled “The Blessing Prayer”.  During the course of my correspondence with Valiente, I asked her about
      the origin of the Dryghtyn prayer.  She wrote back, “I wrote the
      blessing ‘In the name of Dryghtyn…’ in its present form; but this was a
      long time ago, and I have a feeling that I copied it from earlier
      material somewhere.  The trouble is that I can’t offhand remember what,
      except that it was something that Gerald showed me.  If I remember
      anything more about this, I will let you know.  I connect it somehow
      with a time when I visited him in the Isle of Man.” (private
      correspondence, 20 June 1994).  She never said exactly what parts she had
      rewritten.  With the dating of the Black Book uncertain, we are left with Patricia Crowther’s account of it having been a part of her 1st Degree initiation in 1960 (_Witch Blood_, 1974, p. 39).  (However, there is some question about this initiation date, since depending on which contemporary source is consulted, it could have been as much as 5 years earlier than this.)  So… yes, the Dryghtyn prayer DID come down through Gardner, but how much older than him it might be is not known for certain.

      2) The four realms of the Neoplatonic cosmology are The One – Mind or Nous, the realm of the Gods – Soul, the realm of the Daimons – Matter.  The natural world as we experience it is the result of the ideas of Mind and the harmonizing aspects of Soul organizing chaotic Matter.  It’s important to remember that the Neoplatonists emphasized that the world is a fundamentally good emanation of the One, and that these “realms” are convenient terms to use for talking about reality, but that all things are always simultaneously proceeding from the One and returning to the One and simultaneously exist in all realms at once.  Also, there is no sharp demarcation between the realms, rather reality is continuous from the One to Matter and back.  Following Gardner’s lead in using Neoplatonism to understand Craft, I believe that these realms correspond to: the Dryghtyn – the Goddess & God – the Mighty Ones – the Kings of the Elements.

      3) The more one studies the many historical documents and “Books of Shadows” we have from Gardner, Valiente, and others, the more one realises how arbitrary the punctuation is.  This is especially true in the earliest texts, which often use slashes – ” / ” – in the place of punctuation.  This can be indicative of texts that have gone back and forth from being written in columns to being written out in paragraphs.  A good example is when an oath is written with breaks where the candidate will repeat a line or phrase vs. being written out as a single text.  As a result, there is a relative equivalence in these texts between: . , : ; – & or and.  Under these circumstances, it is not at all unlikely that there should be an “and” between the Mighty Ones and the Kings of the Elements.  Otherwise, if we assume that the Mighty Ones and the Kings of the Elements are the same, it seems odd that they would be distinguished by being mentioned twice, while the Goddess & God are only mentioned once.  Also, while the Mighty Ones are invoked around the Circle, and have been from the earliest “Gardnerian” scripts, both Dayonis and Robert (who worked in Gardner’s coven) are quite clear that these were not elemental.  Gardner wrote that the Wtches avoided working with the elements.  Further, there is no mention of the elements in any of the early “Gardnerian” texts, no correspondence between them and the tools, between them and the directions, etc. (I’ve already cited the sources earlier in this blog.)

      4) I don’t think we know who first introduced material from Robert Graves into Gardnerian Craft, but we know that Gardner met Graves for the first (and as far as we know, only) time on January 17, 1961 (Richard Graves, _Robert Graves and the White Goddess 1940 – 1985_, 1995, p. 326) in the company of Idries Shah.

      * Re: the PDF of the BAM to which John refers… This was a hand copy made by “Joy”, a student of Richard & Tamara James, who are the owners of the BAM.  They asked her to make this copy so that they would have a backup if anything happened to the original.  (BTW, later, they agreed to let Anna Korn, Allyn Wolfe, Philip Heselton and me make a photographic copy of each page for the same reason.  This version has been transcribed and digitized.  I have found that photos of the original BAM are more accurate than the many hand-copies that are floating around the internet.)  HOWEVER: 1) The PDF of Joy’s copy is a lengthy excerpt, being about 75% of the ~270 pages of material in the BAM.  2) Joy reformatted the text, sometimes adding headings that are not in the BAM, like “Magic Knives”, “Swords”, “Holy Writ”, etc.  3) The BAM uses inks of several colors to indicate parts to be spoken, words of power, etc.  These are lost in the black-and-white PDF.  4) The BAM includes illustrations and diagrams that Joy does not reproduce.  5) Joy’s copy does not reproduce the many scribal errors that are key to establishing that the texts are being copied by Gardner from an earlier, manuscript source (as Robert Mathiesen points out) rather than being composed by him.  In other words, this PDF is a very good copy, but of only about 75% of the BAM and its errors can be misleading.

      * John’s comments about Kelly’s versions of the texts are correct.  I have addressed some of the errors in Kelly’s versions of the texts in an article in the Canadian anthropology journal Ethnologies, which is reproduced here on the Patheos site (http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/2011-Introduction-to-Key-Frew-Article-Donald-Frew-02-08-2011.html).  Rather than taking my word for it, however, I would ask that folks read Kelly carefully and note that HE HIMSELF says in his _Crafting the Art of Magic_ that he altered the texts before publication:
      “I have augmented the text for the first two degrees from the full script in _High Magic’s Aid_, pp. 290-303″ (CAM1, 1991, p. 54)  “Augmented” how?  Where?  Kelly doesn’t say. 
      “On pp. 271-288 of ‘Ye Bok of ye Art Magical’ are outlines of rituals for the four cross-quarter days.  The outlines are terse and cryptic, but they do not differ in any essential way from the later texts of the Sabbat rituals.  They can be fleshed out as follows.” (ibid. p. 67)  “”Fleshed out” to what extent?  Using what criteria?  Kelly doesn’t say.
      Whatever one may think of Kelly’s analysis, by his own admission the texts presented in _Crafting the Art of Magic_ cannot be taken as accurate reproductions.

      I’m glad Robert and I seem to have come to many of the same conclusions.

      Regarding historical research and the search for the “right” way to be Wiccan… I posted what I did because there are many people who cannot escape equating “older” with “truer / better / more authentic / etc.”  Many times, when I have said that a given text “a” is older than another text “b”, I have been accused of saying that “a” is better or that “b” is wrong.  This has happened so many times that I felt the need to be proactive in countering this before folks started responding to Star’s blog.

      Blessed Be,
      Don Frew

      Blessed Be, Don Frew

      • LezlieKinyon

        Don, (Hello!) I actually got to read two different versions of Kelly’s manuscript on the history of Wicca prior to publication.  They differed significantly from the published version in so many ways that they can’t be enumerated here. Through a mutual friend, I was told that Kelly stated that the editors “mangled” the book and this led to his severing his relationship with Llewellyn.  (This would not surprise me.)  If you are in touch with Aidan – perhaps these issues can be cleared up by reviewing his research notes. And- I am in complete agreement in your statement about equating ” ‘older’ with “truer / better / more authentic / etc.”  While the roots of Wicca are both interesting and obscured, what it has become is (IMHO) somewhat more interesting. When I read these posts and look at the BAM I try to remember that we are still at the beginning!

        • Don Frew

          Basically, Kelly wanted to include all the academic apparatus that he felt bolstered his argument, but Llewellyn wanted a more “popular” book.  However, Llewellyn did not change the texts.  The altered texts presented in _Crafting the Art of Magic_ are the same as they are in his 1977 manuscript _The Rebirth of Witchcraft_ and on the disks he sold privately independent of Llewellyn.  The alterations I pointed out had nothing to do with Llewellyn’s editors. 

          (BTW, I confirmed this with both Llewellyn-owner Carl Weschcke and Nancy J. Mostad, Acquisitions & Development Manager for Llewellyn Publications.  Mostad also tells a very different story of Kelly’s relationship with Llewellyn.  She wrote, in the Winter 1992 issue of Gnosis Magazine, #22: “It was not suggested that [Kelly] leave anything out of the book that might not be ‘palatable for the general reader,’ since such technical material (warts and all) could have appeared in an appendix if it was not suited to the main body of the book.  In this case, the author did not elect this option.”  I believe that Kelly has posted on this blog and he may want to give his own version of this history.)

          And remember that, while everyone has focused on the BAM, it is only one text among many.  There are thousands of pages of surviving early Craft documents shedding light on the early history of modern Wicca, including several other “Books of Shadows”, and that’s just from Gardner and Valiente.  Also, texts have been passed down from other members of the coven Gardner joined.  There’s LOTS to study and there are several folks working on it.  I include a list and description of many of these texts in my talk “Gardnerian Wica as Theurgic Ascent”, online at the TheurgiCon website:
          http://theurgicon.com/gardnerian.pdf

          Blessed Be,
          Don Frew

      • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

        Don,

        Will the digitized version of BAM be made available so we can see the reality?  (Or any of the other documents you mention?)

        I remember my fury the first time I read Kelly and noticed all the weasel-wording about his editing the BAM to say that he thought it should have said.  OK, so I’m still furious, almost two decades later.  How could anyone who claimed to be doing scholarship have done that?

  • Don Frew

    Since I was quoted at length in Star’s post, I would just like to make sure that one thing is clear before people start responding:  When I argue that one aspect of Craft is older than another aspect, or that some aspect of Craft was a change introduced at a particular time by a particular person, I am NOT making any kind of value judgement about one being “better” or truer or more correct than another.
    The Craft is a Nature-religion and Nature changes.  It should come as no surprise that WE have changed and adapted over time.
    The investigation and understanding of our history can explain aspects of our Craft that have been mysterious and can lend new depths of meaning to what has been passed down.  It is NOT a search for the “right” way to be Wiccan.
    Blessed Be,
    Don Frew

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

      It could be argued though, that the proliferation of traditions, and especially popular Wicca, implies that these elements are weighed and judged. Air in the north is found to be “righter” or “better” than in the east, and vice-versa. Valiente herself was searching for “authentic” Witchcraft when studying with Gardner and Cochrane.

      I don’t think there is “One True Wicca” but I do think it’s interesting to discuss why this element and not that? Without Valiente, Wicca would look very different. It’s that difference I find fascinating.

      And lest I once more get accused by anyone of being anti-Wiccan, this line of questioning is my brain sowing it’s wild oats before I reach initiation. I want to explore ideas now, before my perspective changes.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1309881889 Lezlie Kinyon

        In actual fact – it might make a great deal of sense for the Atlantic Seaboard Wiccans to evoke the ocean/water, etc. in the *east* and not in the West as we on the Pacific do… .  IMHO: As a *Nature* religion, it behooves us to be aware of place.  Whether the Wiccans of New England do that is, of course, entirely their choice.

        • Annakorn

          When I lived in New England, we could think of the Father of Waters, the Missisippi, which was to the West of us.

        • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

          But is Wicca a “Nature religion”?

          When I started exploring the Craft in the 80s, it was mostly a magical religion, and Wicca was a fertility religion.  It was only starting to become a nature religion–which came in from the tradition of nature religion in the US, not from the UK.

        • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

          But is Wicca a “Nature religion”?

          When I started exploring the Craft in the 80s, it was mostly a magical religion, and Wicca was a fertility religion.  It was only starting to become a nature religion–which came in from the tradition of nature religion in the US, not from the UK.

      • Annakorn

        The “right” way to Wiccan, or a Witch, varies by person, and also varies by personal developmental stage of the person in question. Also, the Gods will frequently make their views or needs known to each of us. So there is no one way, better to stop seeking it.
        Anna Korn

        • Annnkorn

          wow.. when posted it completely dropped out the verb to be from that statement! it was “the right way to BE a Wiccan or a Witch”
          I’ve noticed that the Disqus system occasionally skips or repeats.

        • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

          I disagree. Just because there is no blanket One Right Way doesn’t mean you stop seeking the right and proper way for yourself. I hope I never stop seeking. Life would be rather dull and colorless if I did stop.

  • Don Frew

    Since I was quoted at length in Star’s post, I would just like to make sure that one thing is clear before people start responding:  When I argue that one aspect of Craft is older than another aspect, or that some aspect of Craft was a change introduced at a particular time by a particular person, I am NOT making any kind of value judgement about one being “better” or truer or more correct than another.
    The Craft is a Nature-religion and Nature changes.  It should come as no surprise that WE have changed and adapted over time.
    The investigation and understanding of our history can explain aspects of our Craft that have been mysterious and can lend new depths of meaning to what has been passed down.  It is NOT a search for the “right” way to be Wiccan.
    Blessed Be,
    Don Frew

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      It could be argued though, that the proliferation of traditions, and especially popular Wicca, implies that these elements are weighed and judged. Air in the north is found to be “righter” or “better” than in the east, and vice-versa. Valiente herself was searching for “authentic” Witchcraft when studying with Gardner and Cochrane.

      I don’t think there is “One True Wicca” but I do think it’s interesting to discuss why this element and not that? Without Valiente, Wicca would look very different. It’s that difference I find fascinating.

      And lest I once more get accused by anyone of being anti-Wiccan, this line of questioning is my brain sowing it’s wild oats before I reach initiation. I want to explore ideas now, before my perspective changes.

      • LezlieKinyon

        In actual fact – it might make a great deal of sense for the Atlantic Seaboard Wiccans to evoke the ocean/water, etc. in the *east* and not in the West as we on the Pacific do… .  IMHO: As a *Nature* religion, it behooves us to be aware of place.  Whether the Wiccans of New England do that is, of course, entirely their choice.

        • Annakorn

          When I lived in New England, we could think of the Father of Waters, the Missisippi, which was to the West of us.

        • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

          But is Wicca a “Nature religion”?

          When I started exploring the Craft in the 80s, it was mostly a magical religion, and Wicca was a fertility religion.  It was only starting to become a nature religion–which came in from the tradition of nature religion in the US, not from the UK.

      • Annakorn

        The “right” way to Wiccan, or a Witch, varies by person, and also varies by personal developmental stage of the person in question. Also, the Gods will frequently make their views or needs known to each of us. So there is no one way, better to stop seeking it.
        Anna Korn

        • Annnkorn

          wow.. when posted it completely dropped out the verb to be from that statement! it was “the right way to BE a Wiccan or a Witch”
          I’ve noticed that the Disqus system occasionally skips or repeats.

        • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

          I disagree. Just because there is no blanket One Right Way doesn’t mean you stop seeking the right and proper way for yourself. I hope I never stop seeking. Life would be rather dull and colorless if I did stop.

  • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

    I’m just going to tackle one thing now, though there’s certainly plenty here to be worth coming back to later.

    “You will also find someone stating, again often unchallenged, that
    Valiente stripped the Crowley out and basically smartened up Gardnerian
    Witchcraft.”

    You will indeed find this stated, including by Valiente.

    However, those pieces most commonly attributed to Valiente, are packed full of Crowley material. The Charge if anything became more Crowley-based than the previous version.

    In short, the suggestion that Valiente removed Crowleyana is not just wholely untrue, but the exact opposite of what actually happened.

    However, it’s also clear from Valiente’s writings that she either did not hold Crowley in high esteem as an individual or at least thought it politic to distance witchcraft and anything else she was associated with from him. Quite possibly both.

    As well as giving a concious reason for downplaying the degree to which he was a source of hers, it would also give an even stronger unconcious reason, so she may well have not considered his influence upon her work to be significant, despite his material being heavily represented in what is attributed to her.

    • Don Frew

      Jon, you wrote <>

      I’m sorry, but this a common misconception. 

      The earliest known version of what came to be called “the Charge of the Goddess” is a text titled “Leviter Veslis” on pages 263-268 of _ye Bok of ye Art Magical_ (c. 1939).  It was peribably meant to be “Leviter Vestis” – i.e. “Let the cloth be lifted.” – but Gardner had an annoying habit of not crossing his “t”s.  This version was composed sometime between 1919 and 1939.  We know this because it is about half Leland and about half Crowley (with some other odd bits thrown in).  The Crowley part is dependent on an essay called “The Law of Liberty” that was not published until 1919.  The version of the Charge in the BAM was not of Gardner’s composition.  We know this because 1) it contains scribal errors that are consistent with copying rather than composing, and 2) a misspelling frequency analysis shows that words that Gardner habitually misspelled are not mis-spelled in the Charge, while words that Gardner spelled correctly in all known examples ARE misspelled in the Charge.  Add to this the fact that the BAM includes a commentary on the Charge, and a commentary on the commentary (both with the same types of scribal errors), and we have a strong case that the Charge was composed before Gardner joined the group in 1939.  So… 1919-1939.

      Valiente copied the Charge into her own Book of Shadows (now called “Text C”) on pages 3R-4R4, where she further mangled the title into “Leviter Vestris”.  However, she disliked the Crowley material and rewrote the Charge into a poetic, quatrain version on pages 119L-123R, where she titled it ” ‘The Charge’ in Verse”.  This is the version that starts with: “Mother darksome and divine…”  This version contained NO Crowley material at all.  However, as Valiente recounts in her _The Rebirth of Witchcraft_ (1989, p. 62), the coven preferred to have a prose version, so she rewrote the older prose version from the BAM into the prose “Charge” we know today, incorporating bits and pieces from her poetic version.  This newer prose version had a LOT more Crowley in it than her poetic version did, but it had CONSIDERABLY LESS than the “original” did.  So, yes, Valiente DID reduce the amount of Crowley material in the Charge. 

      Blessed Be,
      Don Frew

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        Wow!  Is there a Don Frew app?

        • Don Frew

          If that isn’t a 21st century compliment, I don’t know what is.  Thank you!

          Blessed Be,
          Don Frew

      • Robert Mathiesen

        I’d like to second what Don wrote about “Leviter Vestis” not being Gardner’s composition, but copied by him from an earlier source.  I think Gardner even mimicked the calligraphy as well as he could.  The capital M in the texts copied into BAM from some earlier source looks somewhat like a 0 and a 7 run together, thus: 07 (with the top line of the 7 connected to the zero, and the angled line curved a little toward the zero, as a closed parenthesis would be).

        Gardner tried to mimic this in his later manuscript rituals, but without the source before him, he got it wrong, more like this: o07 (with the zeros squared off).  The original form is not at all common in English calligraphy.  It derives from a form of capital M found in many German books printed in the 1400s.  The calligrapher and type-designer Stanley Morison popularized these German type forms in the early 20th century, but they never caught on except among a narrow circle of esthetes and artists.  There is no way Gardner could have been influenced by these artists, but someone living in England with an artistic bent (maybe “Dafo”) certainly could have been.

        One small difference of opinion, though:  I take “Leviter vestis” to be an ablative absolute construction in Latin, meant to mean “Lightly clad.”  Leviter is an adverb meaning “lightly.”  Vestis is a past passive participle (in the ablative plural) from the verb vestire: to clothe, to dress.”

        • Robert Mathiesen

          PS  I ought to have been a little more specific about the meaning of the Latin construction in “Leviter vestis.”  It is an ablative absolute, and this very often has the meaning of an adverbial clause, as it does here.  Literally, the two words translate as “Lightly clad,” but a translation on the order of “While lightly clad” or “Being lightly clad” would have conveyed the meaning of the ablative absolute moreo accurately.  In this context: “[Say this] while lightly clad.”

        • Annakorn

          I know what you mean, Robert–almost like a Tengwar G. One could make a nice article out of analyzing the types of calligraphic styles Gardner uses (or at least, attempts to use–his passion is greater than his skill) in his various Hands of Write. I’ve always been struck by how the texts for the seasonal festivals are written in the most unskilled calligraphic hand (before he learned to hold the pen at a 45 degree slant)…and they are located at the BACK of the book in the BAM.

          In fact, if you come from a coven that no longer insists on hand-copying, and either xeroxes its Book of Shadows, or passes copies as an electronic Disc of Shadows, you lose a valuable education and a key to interpretation in what our forbears were up to in writing their Books. A friend of mine told me once of the demon Titivolus, who preys on unwary calligraphers, and causes them to make errors. You can see Titivolus at work in many early Books of Shadows!

  • http://www.hackcraft.net/ Jon Hanna

    I’m just going to tackle one thing now, though there’s certainly plenty here to be worth coming back to later.

    “You will also find someone stating, again often unchallenged, that
    Valiente stripped the Crowley out and basically smartened up Gardnerian
    Witchcraft.”

    You will indeed find this stated, including by Valiente.

    However, those pieces most commonly attributed to Valiente, are packed full of Crowley material. The Charge if anything became more Crowley-based than the previous version.

    In short, the suggestion that Valiente removed Crowleyana is not just wholely untrue, but the exact opposite of what actually happened.

    However, it’s also clear from Valiente’s writings that she either did not hold Crowley in high esteem as an individual or at least thought it politic to distance witchcraft and anything else she was associated with from him. Quite possibly both.

    As well as giving a concious reason for downplaying the degree to which he was a source of hers, it would also give an even stronger unconcious reason, so she may well have not considered his influence upon her work to be significant, despite his material being heavily represented in what is attributed to her.

    • Don Frew

      Jon, you wrote <>

      I’m sorry, but this a common misconception. 

      The earliest known version of what came to be called “the Charge of the Goddess” is a text titled “Leviter Veslis” on pages 263-268 of _ye Bok of ye Art Magical_ (c. 1939).  It was peribably meant to be “Leviter Vestis” – i.e. “Let the cloth be lifted.” – but Gardner had an annoying habit of not crossing his “t”s.  This version was composed sometime between 1919 and 1939.  We know this because it is about half Leland and about half Crowley (with some other odd bits thrown in).  The Crowley part is dependent on an essay called “The Law of Liberty” that was not published until 1919.  The version of the Charge in the BAM was not of Gardner’s composition.  We know this because 1) it contains scribal errors that are consistent with copying rather than composing, and 2) a misspelling frequency analysis shows that words that Gardner habitually misspelled are not mis-spelled in the Charge, while words that Gardner spelled correctly in all known examples ARE misspelled in the Charge.  Add to this the fact that the BAM includes a commentary on the Charge, and a commentary on the commentary (both with the same types of scribal errors), and we have a strong case that the Charge was composed before Gardner joined the group in 1939.  So… 1919-1939.

      Valiente copied the Charge into her own Book of Shadows (now called “Text C”) on pages 3R-4R4, where she further mangled the title into “Leviter Vestris”.  However, she disliked the Crowley material and rewrote the Charge into a poetic, quatrain version on pages 119L-123R, where she titled it ” ‘The Charge’ in Verse”.  This is the version that starts with: “Mother darksome and divine…”  This version contained NO Crowley material at all.  However, as Valiente recounts in her _The Rebirth of Witchcraft_ (1989, p. 62), the coven preferred to have a prose version, so she rewrote the older prose version from the BAM into the prose “Charge” we know today, incorporating bits and pieces from her poetic version.  This newer prose version had a LOT more Crowley in it than her poetic version did, but it had CONSIDERABLY LESS than the “original” did.  So, yes, Valiente DID reduce the amount of Crowley material in the Charge. 

      Blessed Be,
      Don Frew

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        Wow!  Is there a Don Frew app?

        • Don Frew

          If that isn’t a 21st century compliment, I don’t know what is.  Thank you!

          Blessed Be,
          Don Frew

      • Robert Mathiesen

        I’d like to second what Don wrote about “Leviter Vestis” not being Gardner’s composition, but copied by him from an earlier source.  I think Gardner even mimicked the calligraphy as well as he could.  The capital M in the texts copied into BAM from some earlier source looks somewhat like a 0 and a 7 run together, thus: 07 (with the top line of the 7 connected to the zero, and the angled line curved a little toward the zero, as a closed parenthesis would be).

        Gardner tried to mimic this in his later manuscript rituals, but without the source before him, he got it wrong, more like this: o07 (with the zeros squared off).  The original form is not at all common in English calligraphy.  It derives from a form of capital M found in many German books printed in the 1400s.  The calligrapher and type-designer Stanley Morison popularized these German type forms in the early 20th century, but they never caught on except among a narrow circle of esthetes and artists.  There is no way Gardner could have been influenced by these artists, but someone living in England with an artistic bent (maybe “Dafo”) certainly could have been.

        One small difference of opinion, though:  I take “Leviter vestis” to be an ablative absolute construction in Latin, meant to mean “Lightly clad.”  Leviter is an adverb meaning “lightly.”  Vestis is a past passive participle (in the ablative plural) from the verb vestire: to clothe, to dress.”

        • Robert Mathiesen

          PS  I ought to have been a little more specific about the meaning of the Latin construction in “Leviter vestis.”  It is an ablative absolute, and this very often has the meaning of an adverbial clause, as it does here.  Literally, the two words translate as “Lightly clad,” but a translation on the order of “While lightly clad” or “Being lightly clad” would have conveyed the meaning of the ablative absolute moreo accurately.  In this context: “[Say this] while lightly clad.”

        • Annakorn

          I know what you mean, Robert–almost like a Tengwar G. One could make a nice article out of analyzing the types of calligraphic styles Gardner uses (or at least, attempts to use–his passion is greater than his skill) in his various Hands of Write. I’ve always been struck by how the texts for the seasonal festivals are written in the most unskilled calligraphic hand (before he learned to hold the pen at a 45 degree slant)…and they are located at the BACK of the book in the BAM.

          In fact, if you come from a coven that no longer insists on hand-copying, and either xeroxes its Book of Shadows, or passes copies as an electronic Disc of Shadows, you lose a valuable education and a key to interpretation in what our forbears were up to in writing their Books. A friend of mine told me once of the demon Titivolus, who preys on unwary calligraphers, and causes them to make errors. You can see Titivolus at work in many early Books of Shadows!

  • Don Frew

    We understand both that we are “correcting” “Leviter Veslis” to “Leviter Vestis” and that we are dealing with corrupted Latin whatever it is, but I can’t agree that “Leviter Vestis” is an ablative absolute meaning “lightly clad”.  Ablative absolutes, in Latin, are phrases consisting of a noun or pronoun with a verb participle.  A good example would be the first phrase in “The army having been conquered, we entered the city.”  The “army having been conquered” describes a state or condition under which the rest of the sentence occurs.

    The problems with treating “Leviter Vestis” as an ablative absolute meaning “lightly clad” and with the translation of the individual words are:
    1) There is no noun or pronoun.
    2) “Leviter” is an adverb meaning “slightly”, “mildly”, or “with equanimity” (based on the adjective levis, -e which means slight or light, as in “not heavy”), BUT it is only used as an adverb with other comparative or superlative adjectives, as in “slightly more beautiful” or “mildly spicier”.  There is no comparative adjective in “Leviter Vestis”.
    3) Ablative absolutes require a past participle (sometimes a present participle) of the verb.  The past passive participle of vestire is vestitus, while the present participle is vestiendus.  Neither of these could become “vestis” in an ablative absolute.
    4) Even if we accept “vestis” as an erroneously recorded ablative “vestitis”, it’s in the plural, as Robert points out.  What is the plural noun being modified?  Also “–is” in this case is a plural masculine or neuter ending, not feminine, so it couldn’t be describing the Priestess as Robert’s translation would suggest.
    5) The translation Robert suggests uses the ablative absolute as a current modifier (“while lightly clad”) rather than a past modifier (having happened before the event in question).  In such a case, the present passive participle – vestiendus – would be used, which takes us further away from “vestis”.

    Instead, I still think that we are left with a corruption of a Latin sentence based on the verb levo, -are (to raise or lift up) and the noun vestis, -is (a covering, garment, or clothing), the gist being “Lift up the veil” or “Let the cloth be lifted.”… something like that.

    IF we assume that “Vestis” IS the noun, I think it’s suggestive to note the word’s poetic use by Titus Lucretius Carus to refer in his De Rerum Natura (“On the nature of things”) to the skin of a snake and to a spider’s web – both images associated with the Goddess.  Both of these uses of vestis are in Book 3 of De Rerum Natura.  The snake’s skin is in reference to the soul shedding bodies between incarnations and the spider’s gossamer to how light the touch of the soul is upon the body.  It’s more of a stretch, but interesting, to compare it to “Vestalis, -e”, an adjective meaning “related to the Vestal Virgins”.

    Blessed Be,
    Don Frew

    • Don Frew

      I’m sorry.  I, too, just had a problem with the Disqus system.  My post should have been part of the thread following Robert Mathiesen’s comments on Leviter Veslis in the BAM.

      Blessed Be,
      Don

    • Robert Mathiesen

      Don, you may be right about the meaning of Leviter vestis, if vestis is a noun in its own right, and not just a mistake for vestitis (ablative plural of vestitus), or perhaps a late Latin deverbal adjective vestis (again, ablative plural of vestus, which is not a word in Classical Latin at all).  I was mistaken in calling vestis a past passive participle, at least for Classical Latin.  I will need to think about the meaning of vestis this more.  Many thanks!  I always appreciate comments that make me think about a matter more carefully.

      For what it may be worth, I had assumed the phrase was what is sometimes called “dog Latin,” that is, poor Latin composed by someone trying to seem more learned than (s)he is, where “leviter” was a literal back-translation of “lightly,” assumed to have exactly the same range of meaning as the English word.

      As for ablatives absolute, however, in actual fact they do not always have a participle in the second position, but on occasion they can have a noun or adjective in that position instead.  Also, they can occur without any noun at all in the first position, as the so-called “impersonal” ablatives absolute.  See, for instance, Allen & Greenough’s _New Latin Grammar_ (1903), section 419, subsections a, b and c., which is now available on the web.  All of A&G’s examples of the impersonal ablative absolute are in the singular, but I am pretty sure I have also seen the construction in the plural, now and then, in Medieval Latin.

      If, however, vestis is a noun, as you suggest, then there is no ablative there at all, but only a nominative or genitive, and the details of ablatives absolute do not matter any longer.

      • Robert Mathiesen

        That should have been “think about the meaning of vestis more.”  Too early, not enough tea!

      • Don Frew

        Robert, thanks for the reference to Allen & Greenough.  It says something about the study of Latin that a “NEW Latin Grammar” can be dated 1903.  ;-)  Anyway, you are still left with the problems that 1) “the adjective “levis” is modified into the adverb “leviter” when it is used with a comparative adjective and there isn’t one in the phrase, and 2) whether it’s “vestis” or “vestitis” (as we assume and not “veslis” as it’s written), if it’s an adjective as you suggest then it’s modifying a masculine or neuter plural noun.  What would that noun be?  It’s usually assumed that the title “Leviter Vestis” refers to the Goddess or to the Priestess, which would of course be a feminine singular noun.

        We agree that it’s corrupt or “dog Latin” – composed or recopied
        by someone with little to no understanding of Latin – and we agree that
        it has something to do with a cloth, garment, or veil that is sheer or
        removed.  That’s probably as close as we’ll ever get.  There was an early school of Qur’anic interpretation that addressed the lack of vowels in the written text by saying that all possible readings of the text that were grammatically and logically consistent were equally true.  Maybe that’s the best way to approach “Leviter Veslis”, although in our case it’s all readings that are even vaguely possible.

        Blessed Be,
        Don Frew

  • Don Frew

    We understand both that we are “correcting” “Leviter Veslis” to “Leviter Vestis” and that we are dealing with corrupted Latin whatever it is, but I can’t agree that “Leviter Vestis” is an ablative absolute meaning “lightly clad”.  Ablative absolutes, in Latin, are phrases consisting of a noun or pronoun with a verb participle.  A good example would be the first phrase in “The army having been conquered, we entered the city.”  The “army having been conquered” describes a state or condition under which the rest of the sentence occurs.

    The problems with treating “Leviter Vestis” as an ablative absolute meaning “lightly clad” and with the translation of the individual words are:
    1) There is no noun or pronoun.
    2) “Leviter” is an adverb meaning “slightly”, “mildly”, or “with equanimity” (based on the adjective levis, -e which means slight or light, as in “not heavy”), BUT it is only used as an adverb with other comparative or superlative adjectives, as in “slightly more beautiful” or “mildly spicier”.  There is no comparative adjective in “Leviter Vestis”.
    3) Ablative absolutes require a past participle (sometimes a present participle) of the verb.  The past passive participle of vestire is vestitus, while the present participle is vestiendus.  Neither of these could become “vestis” in an ablative absolute.
    4) Even if we accept “vestis” as an erroneously recorded ablative “vestitis”, it’s in the plural, as Robert points out.  What is the plural noun being modified?  Also “–is” in this case is a plural masculine or neuter ending, not feminine, so it couldn’t be describing the Priestess as Robert’s translation would suggest.
    5) The translation Robert suggests uses the ablative absolute as a current modifier (“while lightly clad”) rather than a past modifier (having happened before the event in question).  In such a case, the present passive participle – vestiendus – would be used, which takes us further away from “vestis”.

    Instead, I still think that we are left with a corruption of a Latin sentence based on the verb levo, -are (to raise or lift up) and the noun vestis, -is (a covering, garment, or clothing), the gist being “Lift up the veil” or “Let the cloth be lifted.”… something like that.

    IF we assume that “Vestis” IS the noun, I think it’s suggestive to note the word’s poetic use by Titus Lucretius Carus to refer in his De Rerum Natura (“On the nature of things”) to the skin of a snake and to a spider’s web – both images associated with the Goddess.  Both of these uses of vestis are in Book 3 of De Rerum Natura.  The snake’s skin is in reference to the soul shedding bodies between incarnations and the spider’s gossamer to how light the touch of the soul is upon the body.  It’s more of a stretch, but interesting, to compare it to “Vestalis, -e”, an adjective meaning “related to the Vestal Virgins”.

    Blessed Be,
    Don Frew

    • Don Frew

      I’m sorry.  I, too, just had a problem with the Disqus system.  My post should have been part of the thread following Robert Mathiesen’s comments on Leviter Veslis in the BAM.

      Blessed Be,
      Don

    • Robert Mathiesen

      Don, you may be right about the meaning of Leviter vestis, if vestis is a noun in its own right, and not just a mistake for vestitis (ablative plural of vestitus), or perhaps a late Latin deverbal adjective vestis (again, ablative plural of vestus, which is not a word in Classical Latin at all).  I was mistaken in calling vestis a past passive participle, at least for Classical Latin.  I will need to think about the meaning of vestis this more.  Many thanks!  I always appreciate comments that make me think about a matter more carefully.

      For what it may be worth, I had assumed the phrase was what is sometimes called “dog Latin,” that is, poor Latin composed by someone trying to seem more learned than (s)he is, where “leviter” was a literal back-translation of “lightly,” assumed to have exactly the same range of meaning as the English word.

      As for ablatives absolute, however, in actual fact they do not always have a participle in the second position, but on occasion they can have a noun or adjective in that position instead.  Also, they can occur without any noun at all in the first position, as the so-called “impersonal” ablatives absolute.  See, for instance, Allen & Greenough’s _New Latin Grammar_ (1903), section 419, subsections a, b and c., which is now available on the web.  All of A&G’s examples of the impersonal ablative absolute are in the singular, but I am pretty sure I have also seen the construction in the plural, now and then, in Medieval Latin.

      If, however, vestis is a noun, as you suggest, then there is no ablative there at all, but only a nominative or genitive, and the details of ablatives absolute do not matter any longer.

      • Robert Mathiesen

        That should have been “think about the meaning of vestis more.”  Too early, not enough tea!

      • Don Frew

        Robert, thanks for the reference to Allen & Greenough.  It says something about the study of Latin that a “NEW Latin Grammar” can be dated 1903.  ;-)  Anyway, you are still left with the problems that 1) “the adjective “levis” is modified into the adverb “leviter” when it is used with a comparative adjective and there isn’t one in the phrase, and 2) whether it’s “vestis” or “vestitis” (as we assume and not “veslis” as it’s written), if it’s an adjective as you suggest then it’s modifying a masculine or neuter plural noun.  What would that noun be?  It’s usually assumed that the title “Leviter Vestis” refers to the Goddess or to the Priestess, which would of course be a feminine singular noun.

        We agree that it’s corrupt or “dog Latin” – composed or recopied
        by someone with little to no understanding of Latin – and we agree that
        it has something to do with a cloth, garment, or veil that is sheer or
        removed.  That’s probably as close as we’ll ever get.  There was an early school of Qur’anic interpretation that addressed the lack of vowels in the written text by saying that all possible readings of the text that were grammatically and logically consistent were equally true.  Maybe that’s the best way to approach “Leviter Veslis”, although in our case it’s all readings that are even vaguely possible.

        Blessed Be,
        Don Frew

  • http://blog.dianarajchel.com Diana Rajchel

    Years ago I read a history of Ritual Magic that was essentially the back gossip of the magical lodges in and around London. It seems that women did have a significant influence on the Golden Dawn in a way that was exceptional for its time; I have to wonder how much Valiente might have been influenced by this, if at all? One of my first encounters in exploring Wicca came from finding most of Valiente’s books in my university library. How they got there, I don’t know, but I’m grateful for it to this day.

  • http://dianarajchel.com Diana Rajchel

    Years ago I read a history of Ritual Magic that was essentially the back gossip of the magical lodges in and around London. It seems that women did have a significant influence on the Golden Dawn in a way that was exceptional for its time; I have to wonder how much Valiente might have been influenced by this, if at all? One of my first encounters in exploring Wicca came from finding most of Valiente’s books in my university library. How they got there, I don’t know, but I’m grateful for it to this day.


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