Gerald Gardner, writes Cerelia, “holds the distinction of bringing contemporary Witchcraft to the modern world.” Indeed he does. Somewhat awkwardly for those who maintain that Wicca is descended from an ancient cult of the Goddess, this retired British civil servant made most of it up sometime in the 1940s and 1950s. The eccentric Mr. Gardner’s pastimes were not confined to witchcraft. He was also a keen naturist and a fan of flagellation. Cerelia grumbles that many of Gardner’s “personal likes and fantasies” may have crept into the rites that he developed. Indeed they did. As she notes, the insistence that witches had to be “skyclad” (naked) while practicing their craft was “probably” (probably?) his idea, and her description of the initiation ceremonies in Gardnerian Witchcraft does seem to include a remarkable amount of binding, blindfolding and “whipping with cords.”
The estimable Stuttaford has written a timely essay for Halloween. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that an occupation which involves women running around naked and going in for bondage should have been conceived by a man. I always find it amusing how every new ‘religion’, from the first Gnostics to the Albigsenians to modern Gaiaism, always involves women taking their clothes off and sexually servicing men. And if you dig deeply enough, you can almost always find the clever, fast-talking Lothario who invented the new way to get some action.
There is nothing new under the sun.