Charge of the Goddess

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The Charge of the Goddess is a traditional[by whom?]inspirational text often used in the neopagan religion of Wicca. It is usually spoken by the High Priestess after the ritual of Drawing Down the Moon. The Charge is the promise of the Goddess (embodied by the High Priestess) to all witches that she will teach and guide them. It has been called "perhaps the most important single theological document in the neo-Pagan movement".[1]

Several versions exist, though they all have the same basic premise, that of a set of instructions given by the Great Goddess to her worshippers. The most well known version is that written by Gerald Gardner,[2] and includes material paraphrased works by Aleister Crowley, primarily from Liber ALThe Book of the Law (particularly from Ch 1, spoken by Nuit, the Star Goddess), and from his Liber XV:the Gnostic Mass as well as Liber LXV (Liber Cordis Cincti Serpente, or the Book of the Heart Girt with the Serpent), thus linking modern Wicca irrevocably to the cosmology and revelations of Thelema. It has been shown that Gerald Gardner's book collection which was acquired by Ripley's Believe It or Not! included a copy of Crowley's The Blue Equinox which includes all of the Crowley quotations in the Charge of the Goddess.[citation needed]

There is also a poetic paraphrased version written by High Priestess Doreen Valiente in the mid-1950s, which is contained within the traditional Gardnerian Book of Shadows.

Several different versions of a Wiccan Charge of the God have since been created to mirror and accompany the Charge of the Goddess.

The Charge of the Goddess is recited during most rituals where the priestess is expected to represent, and/or embody, the Goddess within the sacred circle.

Themes[edit]

The goddess Isis, holding a sistrum and oinochoe.

The opening paragraph names a collection of goddesses, some derived from Greek or Roman mythology, others from Celtic or Arthurian legends, affirming a belief that these various figures represent a single Great Mother:

Listen to the words of the Great Mother; she who of old was also called among men Artemis, Astarte, Athene, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Dana, Arianrhod, Isis, Bride, and by many other names.

This theme echoes the ancient Roman belief that the Goddess Isis was known by ten thousand names and also that the Goddess still worshipped today by Wiccans and other neopagans is known under many guises but is one universal divinity.

The second paragraph is largely derived and paraphrased from the words that Aradia, the messianic daughter of Diana, speaks to her followers in Charles Godfrey Leland's 1899 book Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, London: David Nutt; various reprints. The third paragraph is largely written by Doreen Valiente,[citation needed] with some phrases adapted from The Book of the Law and The Gnostic Mass by Aleister Crowley.[2]

The charge affirms that all acts of love and pleasure are sacred to the Goddess.

Let my worship be within the heart that rejoices,

for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. Therefore, let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility,

mirth and reverence within you.

History[edit]

Ancient Precedents[edit]

In book eleven, chapter 47 of Apuleius's The Golden Ass, Isis delivers what Ceisiwr Serith calls "essentially a charge of a goddess".[3] This is rather different from the modern version known in Wicca, though they have the same premise, that of the rules given by a great Mother Goddess to her faithful.

The Charge of the Goddess is also known under the title Leviter Veslis. This has been identified by the historian Ronald Hutton, cited in an article by Roger Dearnsley "The Influence of Aleister Crowley on Ye Bok of Ye Art Magical, as a piece of medieval ecclesiastical Latin used to mean "lifting the veil." [4]

Origins of Wiccan Charge[edit]

The earliest known Wiccan version is found in a document dating from the late 1940s, Gereald Gardner's ritual notebook titled Ye Bok of Ye Art Magical (formerly in the collection of Ripley's International, Toronto). This version draws extensively from Charles Godfrey Leland's Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches and other modern sources,[5] particularly from the works of Aleister Crowley.[2] The oldest identifiable source is the 17th century Centrum Naturae Concentratum of Alipili (or Ali Puli).[5]

It is believed to have been compiled by Gerald Gardner[5] or possibly another member of the New Forest coven.[6] Doreen Valiente, a student of Gardner, took his version from his Book of Shadows and adapted it into verse, and later into another prose version. Gardner intended his version to be a theological statement justifying the Gardnerian sequence of initiations.

Valiente felt that the influence of Crowley on the Charge was too obvious, and she did not want the Craft associated with Crowley. Gardner invited her to rewrite the Charge. She proceeded to do, her first version being into verse.[7]

The initial verse version by Doreen Valiente consisted of eight verses, the second of which was :

Bow before My spirit bright
Aphrodite, Arianrhod
Lover of the Hornéd God
Queen of witchery and night[8]

Valiente was unhappy with this version, saying that "people seemed to have some difficulty with this, because of the various goddess-names which they found hard to pronounce",[9] and so she rewrote it as a prose version, much of which differs from her initial version, and is more akin to Gardner's version. This prose version has since been modified and reproduced widely by other authors. Like the Charge found in Freemasonry, where the charge is a set of instructions read to a candidate standing in a temple, the Charge of the Goddess was intended to be read immediately before an initiation.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shelley Rabinovich and James Lewis. Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism, p. 41. New York: Citadel Books, 2004
  2. ^ a b c Orpheus, Rodney (2009). "Gerald Gardner & Ordo Templi Orientis". Pentacle Magazine (30). pp. 14–18. ISSN 1753-898X. 
  3. ^ Serith, Ceisiwr. "The Sources of the Charge of the Goddess". Retrieved 2010-08-14. 
  4. ^ Frater T.S. "Levity's Vestments: A Study in Creative Plagiarism"
  5. ^ a b c Serith, Ceisiwr. "The Sources of the Charge of the Goddess". Retrieved 23 October 2007. 
  6. ^ Heselton, Philip. Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration. Milverton, Somerset: Capall Bann. pp. 300–1. 
  7. ^ a b Shelley Rabinovich and James Lewis. Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism, p. 41. New York: Citadel Books, 2004
  8. ^ The Rebirth of Witchcraft, Doreen Valiente, page 61
  9. ^ The Rebirth of Witchcraft, Doreen Valiente, page 62

Further reading[edit]

  • Aidan Kelly. Crafting the Art of Magic, Book 1. St Paul MN: Lllewellyn, 1991. revised edition as Inventing Witchcraft. Thoth Publications, Loughborough, 2007.
  • Sorita d’Este and David Rankine. Wicca: Magical Beginnings. Avalonia, London, 2008

External links[edit]