Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wicca and Ancient Philosophy, Part Two: The Really Big Picture

Either Wicca is a religion divinely inspired by the same Gods that ancient Pagans worshipped thousands of years ago, or it is not. My belief is that it is. This does not in any way require that Wicca, as we know it, existed thousands of years ago, or even hundreds of years ago. All religions change over time, and this is just as true of Pagan religions as it is for Buddhism, or Hinduism, or Christianity, or any other religion.

But all religions must have some essence, and this essence obviously does not change over time, or if it does, then the religion itself changes into something that, essentially, it was not before. So what is the "essence" of Wicca? Although you might never guess it if you talked to Wiccans, there are actually a great many things that we generally agree on.

Here are some things that most Wiccans will agree on:

(1) worship of the old Goddesses and Gods that were worshipped by the Pagans of the ancient oikoumene prior to the suppression of that worship in North Africa, the Middle East and Europe by Christians and/or Muslims.
(2) spiritual progress through successive incarnations
(3) the efficacy of divination of various sorts
(4) the immanence of the divine in nature
(5) the erotic/sexual nature of the divine
(6) sympathetic magic
(7) The Threefold Law
(8) The Wiccan Rede

Is it possible that all 8 of these aspects of modern Wicca can be found among ancient Pagans? If so, are we not completely justified in declaring that our religion is the same as theirs, that is to say, that we truly are practitioners of the Old Religion?

In the first post in this series I already addressed the Wiccan Rede itself, and a great deal more could be written on just that one aspect of Wicca and it's ancient roots. But I want to fly over each of these eight aspects of modern Wicca at 30,000 feet, so to speak, before dropping down to take a closer look and going into more details.

Some people (including many Pagans) might find it absurd to suggest that there are meaningful links between Greek philosophy, or classical Greco-Roman culture in general, and Wicca. This objection would have never occurred to Gerald Gardner, who quoted the Roman Pagan author Apuleius in the forward to his first major nonfiction work on Wicca, Witchcraft Today:

"I can only repeat the words of Lucius Apuleius in the Metamorphoses, xl, 23, who wrote a long account of his own initiation into the mysteries in cryptic language, saying: 'I have told you things of which, although you have heard them, you cannot know the meaning.'"

In addition to the Apuleius quote, Gardner also makes references to Plato, Pindar, Heraclitus, Proclus, and Orphism. And on the specific issue of origins, Gardner states that his view is that Wicca had been "influenced by the Greek and Roman mysteries which originally may have come from Egypt" (see the chapter on "Witch Practices").