Shaping Wicca: Musing on Gardner and Valiente

Shaping Wicca: Musing on Gardner and Valiente September 1, 2011

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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