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Posted on Thursday, April 13 - 2006

" by Diane Vera Copyright © 1992, 1994, 1996 by Diane Vera. In their attempts to dissociate themselves from Satanism, Wiccans have tended to distort their own history. Wicca and Satanism are indeed very distinct religious categories. But there are some intimate historical ties between the ..."

by Diane Vera Copyright © 1992, 1994, 1996 by Diane Vera.

In their attempts to dissociate themselves from Satanism, Wiccans have tended to distort their own history. Wicca and Satanism are indeed very distinct religious categories. But there are some intimate historical ties between the two, as even some Wiccan scholars are finally starting to admit. See, for example, Aidan Kelly's book Crafting the Art of Magic (pp.21-22, 25-26, and 176).Wicca is not "the Old Religion", though it does draw inspiration from various old religions. Wicca as we now know it is derived from 19th-century occult philosophy -- including literary Satanic philosophy, among others -- projected onto a non-Christian Goddess and God, plus some de-Christianized Golden Dawn style ceremonial magick, plus assorted turn-of-the-century British folklore, more recently re-shaped by neo-Pagan scholarship and by modern feminist and ecological concerns. At least several different sides of Wicca's convoluted family tree can be traced to 19th-century literary Satanism, some forms of which had more in common with present-day Wicca than with present-day Satanism.The prime example of literary Satanism that strongly influenced Wicca, especially feminist Wicca, is the book La Sorciere by the 19th-century French historian Jules Michelet (published in English by Citadel Press under the title Satanism and Witchcraft).

Michelet's ideas, as paraphrased by feminist writers such as Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English in their booklet Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers (Feminist Press, 1973), have played an important role today's women's health movement. (At least Ehrenreich and English were honest enough to list Michelet in their bibliography.) See especially Michelet's introduction. Michelet was, as far as I know, the literary origin of today's feminist image of the Witch as a healer. Among other things, he theorized that the witchhunts were used by the emerging male medical profession to wipe out their peasant female competition.According to Jeffrey B. Russell in A History of Witchcraft, pre-feminist classical Wicca also drew lots of inspiration indirectly from Michelet. Michelet was a major source of inspiration to Margaret Murray, Charles G. Leland, and Sir James Frazer, whom most knowledgeable Wiccans do recognize as influential. (Russell points this out, yet neglects to inform the reader that Michelet's book is full of passionate, sympathetic depictions of Satan as well as of the medieval witches. Russell too perpetuates the false counter-myth that Wicca Has Nothing To Do With Satanism.) I'll leave it to folks more scholarly than myself to debate just how indebted Murray and Leland were to Michelet. In any case, the Italian witch mythology Leland presented in Aradia: Gospel of the Witches (originally published 1899), one of Wicca's major sources, contains some diabolical-witchcraft elements of its own.


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