The Charter and the Book

Being a radical revisionist history of the origins of the modern witch cult and the Book of Shadows.

"It was one of the secret doctrines of paganism that the Sun was the source, not only of light, but of life. The invasion of classical beliefs by the religions of Syria and Egypt which were principally solar, gradually affected the conception of Apollo, and there is a certain later identification of him with the suffering God of Christianity, Free-masonry and similar cults."
— Aleister Crowley in Astrology, 1974

"If GBG and Crowley only knew each other for a short year or two, do you think that would be long enough for them to become such good friends that gifts of personal value would be exchanged several times, and that GBG would have been able to acquire the vast majority of Crowley's effects after his death?"
— Merlin the Enchanter, personal letter, 1986

"On the floor before the altar, he remembers a sword with a flat cruciform brass hilt, and a well-worn manuscript book of rituals — the hereditary Book of Shadows, which he will have to copy out for himself in the days to come."
— Stewart Farrar in What Witches Do, 1971

"Actually I did write a scholarly book about the Craft; its title was Inventing Witchcraft. But I spent most of the last fifteen years failing to persuade Carl Weschcke of Llewellyn or any other publisher that there was a market for it."
— Aidan A. Kelly, Gnosis, Winter, 1992

"The Gardnerian Book of Shadows is one of the key factors in what has become a far bigger and more significant movement than Gardner can have envisaged; so historical interest alone would be enough reason for defining it while first-hand evidence is still available."
— Janet and Stewart Farrar in The Witches' Way, 1984

"It has been alleged that a Book of Shadows in Crowley's handwriting was formerly exhibited in Gerald's Museum of Witchcraft on the Isle of Man. I can only say I never saw this on either of the two occasions when I stayed with Gerald and Donna Gardner on the island. The large, handwritten book depicted in Witchcraft Today is not in Crowley's handwriting, but Gerald's — "
— Doreen Valiente in Witchcraft for Tomorrow, 1978

"Aidan Kelly labels the entire Wiccan revival 'Gardnerian Witchcraft' The reasoning and speculation in Aidan's book are intricate. Briefly, his main argument depends on his discovery of one of Gardner's working notebooks, Ye Book of Ye Art Magical, which is in possession of Ripley International, Ltd."
— Margot Adler in Drawing Down the Moon, 1979

Part One — Waiting for the Man from Canada

I was, for the third time in four years, waiting a bit nervously for the Canadian executive with the original Book of Shadows in the ramshackle office of Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum.

"They're at the jail," a smiling secretary-type explained, "but we've called them and they should be back over here to see you in just a few minutes."

The jail? Ah, St. Augustine, Florida. "The Old Jail," was the 'nation's oldest city's' second most tasteless tourist trap, complete with cage-type cells and a mock gallows. For a moment I allowed myself to play in my head with the vision of Norm Deska, Ripley Operations Vice President and John Turner, the General Manager of Ripley's local operation and the guy who'd bought the Gerald Gardner collection from Gardner's niece, Monique Wilson, sitting in the slammer. But no, Turner apparently had just been showing Deska the town. I straightened my suit for the fiftieth time, and suppressed the comment. We were talking big history here, and big bucks, too. I gulped. The original Book of Shadows. Maybe.

It had started years before. One of the last people in America to be a fan of carnival sideshows, I was anxious to take another opportunity to go through the almost archetypical seedy old home that housed the original Ripley's Museum. I had known that Ripley had, in the nineteen seventies, acquired the Gardner stuff, but as far as I knew it was all located at their Tennessee resort museum. I think I'd heard they'd closed it down. By then, the social liberalism of the early seventies was over, and witchcraft and sorcery were no longer in keeping with a 'family style' museum. It featured a man with a candle in his head, a Tantric skull drinking cup and freak show stuff like that, but, I mean, witchcraft is sacrilegious, as we all know.

So, I was a bit surprised, when I discovered some of the Gardner stuff — including an important historical document, for sale in the gift shop, in a case just opposite the little alligators that have "St. Augustine, Florida — America's Oldest City" stickered on their plastic bellies for the folks back home to use as a paper-weight. The price tags on the occult stuff, however, were way out of my range. Back again, three years later, and I decided, what the hell, so I asked the cashier about the stuff still gathering dust in the glass case, and it was like I'd pushed some kind of button.

Out comes Mr. Turner, the manager, who whisks us off to a storeroom which is filled, filled, I tell you, with parts of the Gardner collection, much of it, if not "for sale" as such, at least available for negotiation. Turner told us about acquiring the collection when he was manager of Ripley's Blackpool operation, how it had gone over well in the U.S. at first, but had lost popularity and was now relegated for the most part to storage status.

Visions of sugarplums danced in my head. There were many treasures here, but the biggest plum of all, I thought, was not surprisingly, not to be seen.

I'd heard all kinds of rumors about the Book of Shadows over the years, many of them conflicting, all of them intriguing. Rumor #1, of course, is that which accompanied the birth (or, depending on how one looked at it, the revival) of modern Wicca, the contemporary successor of ancient fertility cults.

It revolved around elemental rituals, secret rites of passage and a mythos of goddess and god that seemed attractive to me as a psychologically valid alternative to the austere, anti-sexual moralism of Christianity. The Book of Shadows, in this context, was the 'holy book' of Wicca, copied out by hand by new initiates of the cult with a history stretching back at least to the era of witch burnings.

Rumor number #2, which I had tended to credit, had it that Gerald Gardner, the 'father of modern Wicca' had paid Aleister Crowley in his final years to write the Book of Shadows, perhaps whole cloth. The rumor's chief exponent was the respected historian of the occult, Francis King.

Rumor #3 had it that Gardner had written the Book himself, which others had since copied and/or stolen.

To the contrary, said rumor #4, Gardner's Museum had contained an old, even ancient copy of the Book of Shadows, proving its antiquity.

In more recent years modern Wiccans have tended to put some distance between themselves and Gardner, just as Gardner, for complex reasons, tended to distance himself in the early years of Wicca (circa 1944-1954) from the blatant sexual magick of Aleister Crowley, "the wickedest man in the world" by some accounts, and from Crowley's organization, the Ordo Templi Orientis. Why Gardner chose to do this is speculative, but I've got some idea. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

While Turner showed me a blasphemous cross shaped from the body of two nude women (created for the 18th century infamous "Hellfire Clubs" in England and depicted in the Man Myth and Magic encyclopedia; I bought it, of course) and a statue of Beelzebub from the dusty Gardnerian archives, a thought occurred to me. "You know," I suggested, "if you ever, in all this stuff, happen across a copy of The Book of Shadows in the handwriting of Aleister Crowley, it would be of considerable historical value."

I understated the case. It would be like finding The Book of Mormon in Joseph Smith's hand, or finding the original Ten Commandments written not by God Himself, but by Moses, pure and simple. (Better still, eleven commandments, with a margin note, "first draft.") I didn't really expect anything to come of it, and in the months ahead, it didn't.

In the meantime, I had managed to acquire the interesting document I first mistook for Gerald Gardner's (long acknowledged) initiation certificate into Crowley's Thelemic magickal Ordo Templi Orientis. To my eventual surprise, I discovered that, not only was this not a simple initiation certificate for the Minerval (probationary-lowest) degree, but, to the contrary, was a license for Gardner to begin his own chapter of the O.T.O., and to initiate members into the O.T.O.

In the document, furthermore, Gardner is referred to as "Prince of Jerusalem," that is, he is acknowledged to be a Fourth Degree Perfect Initiate in the Order. This, needless to say would usually imply years of dedicated training. Though Gardner had claimed Fourth Degree O.T.O. status as early as publication of High Magic's Aid,(and claimed even higher status in one edition) this runs somewhat contrary to both generally held Wiccan and contemporary O.T.O. orthodox understandings that the O.T.O. was then fallow in England.

At the time the document was written, most maintained, Gardner could have known Crowley for only a brief period, and was not himself deeply involved in the O.T.O. The document is undated but probably was drawn up around 1945.

As I said, it is understood that no viable chapter of the O.T.O. was supposed to exist in England at that time; the sole active chapter was in California, and is the direct antecedent of the contemporary authentic Ordo Templi Orientis. Karl Germer, Crowley's immediate successor, had barely escaped death in a Concentration Camp during the War, his mere association with Crowley being tantamount to a death sentence.

The German OTO had been largely destroyed by the Nazis, along with other freemasonic organizations, and Crowley himself was in declining health and power, the English OTO virtually dead.

The Charter also displayed other irregularities of a revealing nature. Though the signature and seals are certainly those of Crowley, the text is in the decorative hand of Gerald Gardner! The complete text reads as follows:
Do what thou wilt shall be the law. We Baphomet X Degree Ordo Templi Orientis Sovereign Grand Master General of All English speaking countries of the Earth do hereby authorise our Beloved Son Scire (Dr.G,B,Gardner,) Prince of Jerusalem to constitute a camp of the Ordo Templi Orientis, in the degree Minerval.

Love is the Law,
Love under will.
Witness my hand and seal Baphomet X

Leaving aside the misquotation from The Book of the Law, which got by me for some months and probably got by Crowley when it was presented to him for signature, the document is probably authentic. It hung for some time in Gardner's museum, possibly giving rise, as we shall see, to the rumor that Crowley wrote the Book of Shadows for Gardner. According to Doreen Valiente, and to Col. Lawrence as well, the museum's descriptive pamphlet says of this document:
"The collection includes a Charter granted by Aleister Crowley to G.B. Gardner (the Director of this Museum) to operate a Lodge of Crowley's fraternity, the Ordo Templi Orientis. (The Director would like to point out, however, that he has never used this Charter and has no intention of doing so, although to the best of his belief he is the only person in Britain possessing such a Charter from Crowley himself; Crowley was a personal friend of his, and gave him the Charter because he liked him."

Col. Lawrence ("Merlin the Enchanter"), in a letter to me dated 6 December, 1986, adds that this appeared in Gardner's booklet, The Museum of Magic and Witchcraft. The explanation for the curious wording of the text, taking, as Dr. Gardner does, great pains to distance himself from Crowley and the OTO, may be hinted at in that the booklet suggests that this display in the "new upper gallery" (page 24) was put out at a relatively late date when, as we shall discover, Gardner was making himself answerable to the demands of the new witch cult and not the long-dead Crowley and (then) relatively moribund OTO.

Now, the "my friend Aleister" ploy might explain the whole thing. Perhaps, as some including Ms. Valiente believe, Aleister Crowley was desperate in his last years to hand on what he saw as his legacy to someone. He recklessly handed out his literary estate, perhaps gave contradictory instruction to various of his remaining few devotees (e.g. Kenneth Grant, Grady McMurtry, Karl Germer), and may have given Gardner an "accelerated advancement" in his order.

Ms. Valiente, a devoted Wiccan who is also a dedicated seeker after the historical truth, mentions also the claim made by the late Gerald Yorke to her that Gardner had paid Crowley a substantial sum for the document. In a letter to me dated 28th August, 1986, Ms. Valiente tells of a meeting with Yorke "In London many years ago and mentioned Gerald's O.T.O. Charter to him, whereon he told me, 'Well, you know, Gerald Gardner paid old Crowley about ($1,500) or so for that.' This may or may not be correct." Money or friendship may explain the Charter. Still, one wonders.

I have a Thelemic acquaintance who, having advanced well along the path of Kenneth Grant's version of the OTO, went back to square one with the unquestionably authentic Grady McMurtry OTO. Over a period of years of substantial effort, he made his way to the IVo 'plus' status implied by Gardner's "Prince of Jerusalem" designation in the charter, and has since gone beyond.

I am, myself, a Vo member of the OTO, as well as a chartered initiator, and can tell you from experience that becoming a Companion of the Royal Arch of Enoch, Perfect Initiate, Prince of Jerusalem and Chartered Initiator is a long and arduous task.

Gardner was in the habit, after the public career of Wicca emerged in the 1950s, of downgrading any Crowleyite associations out of his past, and, as Janet and Stewart Farrar reveal in The Witches' Way (1984, p. 3) there are three distinct versions of the Book of Shadows in Gerald Gardner's handwriting which incorporate successively less material from Crowley's writings, though the last (termed "Text C" and co-written with Doreen Valiente after 1953) is still heavily influenced by Crowley and the OTO.

Ms. Valiente has recently uncovered a copy of an old occult magazine contemporary with High Magic's Aid and from the same publisher, which discusses an ancient Indian document called The Book of Shadows but apparently totally unrelated to the Wiccan book of the same name. Valiente acknowledges that the earliest text by Gardner known to her was untitled, though she refers to it as a "Book of Shadows."

It seems suspicious timing; did Gardner take the title from his publisher's magazine? Ms. Valiente observed to me that the "— eastern Book of Shadows does not seem to have anything to do with witch-craft at all is this where old Gerald first found the expression "The Book of Shadows" and adopted it as a more poetical name for a magical manuscript than, say 'The Grimoire' or 'The Black Book' I don't profess to know the answer; but I doubt if this is mere coincidence."

The claim is frequently made by those who wish to 'salvage' a pre-Gardnerian Source of Wiccan materials that there is a 'core' of 'authentic' materials. But, as the Farrars' recently asserted, the portions of the Book of Shadows: "Which changed least between Texts A, B and C were naturally the three initiation rituals; because these, above all, would be the traditional elements which would have been carefully preserved, probably for centuries." (emphasis added)

But what does one mean by "traditional materials?" The three initiation rites, now much-described in print, all smack heavily of the crypto-freemasonic ritual of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the OTO, and the various esoteric neorosicrucian groups that abounded in Britain from about 1885 on, and which were, it is widely known, the fountainhead of much that is associated with Gardner's friend Crowley.

The Third Degree ritual, perhaps Wicca's ultimate rite, is, essentially, a non-symbolic Gnostic Mass, that beautiful, evocative, erotic and esoteric ritual written and published by Crowley in the Equinox, after attending a Russian Orthodox Mass in the early part of this century. The Gnostic Mass has had far-reaching influence, and it would appear that the Wiccan Third Degree is one of the most blatant examples of that influence.

Take, for example, this excerpt from what is perhaps the most intimate, most secret and most sublime moment in the entire repertoire of Wicca rituals, the non-symbolic (that is, overtly sexual) Great Rite of the Third Degree initiation, as related by Janet and Stewart Farrar in The Witches' Way (p. 34):
The Priest continues:
'O Secret of Secrets, That art hidden in the being of all lives, Not thee do we adore, For that which adoreth is also thou. Thou art That, and That am I. [Kiss] I am the flame that burns in the heart of every man, And in the core of every star. I am life, and the giver of life. Yet therefore is the knowledge of me the knowledge of death. I am alone, the Lord within ourselves, Whose name is Mystery of Mysteries.'

Let us be unambiguous as to the importance in Wicca of this ritual; as the Farrars' put it (p. 31) "Third degree initiation elevates a witch to the highest of the three grades of the Craft. In a sense, a third-degree witch is fully independent, answerable only to the Gods and his or her own conscience." In short, in a manner of speaking this is all that Wicca can offer a devotee.

With this in mind, observe the following, from Aleister Crowley's Gnostic Mass, first published in The Equinox about 80 years ago and routinely performed (albeit, usually in symbolic form) by me and by many other Bishops, Priests, Priestesses and Deacons in the OTO and Ecclesia Gnostica (EGC) today. The following is excerpted from Gems from the Equinox, p. 372, but is widely available in published form:
The Priest:
O secret of secrets that art hidden in the being of all that lives, not Thee do we adore, for that which adoreth is also Thou. Thou art That, and That am I. I am the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star. I am Life, and the giver of Life; yet therefore is the knowledge of me the knowledge of death. I am alone; there is no God where I am.

So, then, where, apart from the Thelemic tradition of Crowley and the OTO, is the "traditional material" some Wiccan writers seem to seek with near desperation? I am not trying to be sarcastic in the least, but even commonplace self-references used among Wiccans today, such as "the Craft" or the refrain "so mote it be" are lifted straight out of Freemasonry (see, for example, Duncan's Ritual of Freemasonry). And, as Doreen Valiente notes in her letter to me mentioned before, "Of course old Gerald was also a member of the Co-Masons, and an ordinary Freemason." as well as an OTO member.

Part Two — The Real Origin of Wicca

We must dismiss with some respect the assertion, put forth by Margot Adler and others, that "Wicca no longer adheres to the orthodox mythos of the Book of Shadows."

Many, if not most of those who have been drawn to Wicca in the last three decades came to it under the spell (if I may so term it) of the legend of ancient Wicca. If that legend is false, then while reformists and revisionist apologists (particularly the peculiar hybrid spawned in the late sixties under the name "feminist Wicca") may seek other valid grounds for their practices, we at least owe it to those who have operated under a misapprehension to explain the truth, and let the chips fall where they may.

I believe there is a core of valid experience falling under the Wiccan-neopagan heading, but that that core is the same essential core that lies at the truths exposed by the dreaded boogy-man Aleister Crowley and the' wicked' pansexualism of Crowley's Law of Thelema. That such roots would be not just uncomfortable, but intolerable to the orthodox traditionalists among the Wiccans, but even more so among the hybrid feminist "Wiccans" may indeed be an understatement.

Neopaganism, in a now archaic "hippie" misreading of ecology, mistakes responsible stewardship of nature for nature worship. Ancient pagans did not 'worship' nature; to a large extent they were afraid of it, as has been pointed out to me by folk practitioners. Their "nature rites" were to propitiate the caprice of the gods, not necessarily to honor them. The first neopagan revivalists, Gardner, Crowley and Dr. Murray, well understood this. Neopagan Wiccans usually do not.

In introducing a "goddess element" into their theology, Crowley and Gardner both understood the yin/yang, male/female fundamental polarity of the universe. Radical feminist neopagans have taken this balance and altered it, however unintentionally, into a political feminist agenda, centered around a near-monotheistic worship of the female principle, in a bizarre caricature of patriarchal Christianity. Bigotry, I submit, cuts both ways.

I do not say these things lightly; I have seen it happen in my own time. If this be truth, let truth name its own price. I was not sure, until Norm and John got back from the Old Jail.

A couple of months earlier, scant days after hearing that I was to become a Gnostic bishop and thus an heir to a corner of Crowley's legacy, I had punched on my answering machine, and there was the unexpected voice of John Turner saying that he had located what seemed to be the original Book of Shadows in an inventory list, locating it at Ripley's office in Toronto.

He said he didn't think they would sell it as an individual item, but he gave me the name of a top official in the Ripley organization, who I promptly contacted. I eventually made a substantial offer for the book, sight unseen, figuring there was (at the least) a likelihood I'd be able to turn the story into a book and get my money back out of it, to say nothing of the historical import.

But, as I researched the matter, I became more wary, and confused; Gardner's texts "A" "B" and "C" all seemed to be accounted for. Possibly, I began to suspect, this was either a duplicate of the "deThelemized" post 1954 version with segments written by Gardner and Valiente and copied and recopied (as well as distorted) from hand to hand since by Wiccans the world over.

Maybe, I mused, Valiente had one copy and Gardner another, the latter sold to Ripley with the Collection. Or, perhaps it was the curious notebook discovered by Aidan Kelly in the Ripley files called Ye Book of Ye Art Magical, the meaning of which was unclear.

While I was chatting with Ms. Deska, Norm returned from his mission, we introduced in best businesslike fashion, and he told me he'd get the book, whatever it might be, from the vault.

The vault?! I sat there thinking god knows what. Recently, I'd gotten a call from Toronto, and it seems the Ripley folks wanted me to take a look at what they had. I had made a considerable offer, and at that point I figured I'd had at least a nibble. As it so happened Norm would be visiting on a routine inspection visit, so it was arranged he would bring the manuscript with him.

Almost from the minute he placed it in front of me, things began to make some kind of sense. Clearly, this was Ye Book of Ye Art Magical. Just as clearly, it was an unusual piece, written largely in the same hand as the Crowley Charter- that is, the hand of Gerald Gardner. Of this I became certain, because I had handwriting samples of Gardner, Valiente and Crowley in my possession. Ms. Valiente had been mindful of this when she wrote me, on August 8th, 1986:
I have deliberately chosen to write you in longhand, rather than send a typewritten reply, so that you will have something by which to judge the validity of the claim you tell me is being made by the Ripley organization to have a copy of a "Book of Shadows" in Gerald Gardner's handwriting and mine. If this is Ye Book of Ye Art Magical, this is definitely in Gerald Gardner's handwriting. Old Gerald, however, had several styles of handwriting I think it is probable that the whole MS. was in fact written by Gerald, and no other person was involved; but of course I may be wrong.

At first glance it appeared to be a very old book, and it suggested to me where the rumors that a very old, possibly medieval Book of Shadows had once been on display in Gardner's Museum had emerged from.

Any casual onlooker might see Ye Book in this light, for the cover was indeed that of an old volume, with the original title scratched out crudely on the side and a new title tooled into the leather cover. The original was some mundane volume, on Asian knives or something, but the inside pages had been removed, and a kind of notebook — almost a journal — had been substituted.

As far as I could see, no dates appear anywhere in the book. It is written in several different handwriting styles, although, as noted above, Doreen Valiente assured me that Gardner was apt to use several styles. I had the distinct impression this "notebook" had been written over a considerable period of time, perhaps years, perhaps even decades. It may, indeed, date from his days in the 1930s when he linked up with a Rosicrucian grouping that could have included among its members the legendary Dorothy Clutterbuck, who set Gardner on the path which led to Wicca.

Thinking on it, what emerges from Ye Book of Ye Art Magical is a developmental set of ideas. Much of it is straight out of Crowley, but it is clearly the published Crowley, the old magus of the Golden Dawn, the A.A., and the O.T.O. Somewhere along the line it hit me that I was not exactly looking at the "original Book of Shadows" but, perhaps, the outline Gardner prepared over a long period of time, apparently in secret (since Valiente, a relatively early initiate of Gardner's, never heard of it nor saw it, according to her own account, until recent years, about the time Aidan Kelly unearthed it in the Ripley collection long after Gardner's death).

Dr. Gardner kept many odd notebooks and scrapbooks that perhaps would reveal much about his character and motivations. Turner showed me a Gardner scrapbook in Ripley's store room which was mostly cheesecake magazine photographs and articles about actresses. Probably none are so evocative as Ye Book of Ye Art Magical, discovered, it has been intimated, hidden away in the back of an old sofa.

I have the impression it was essentially unknown in and after Gardner's lifetime, and that by the Summer of 1986 few had seen inside it; I knew of only Kelly and my own party. Perhaps the cover had been seen by some along the line, accounting for the rumor of a "very old Book of Shadows" in Gardner's Museum.

If someone had seen the charter signed by Crowley ("Baphomet") but written by Gerald Gardner, and had gotten a look, as well, at Ye Book, they might well have concluded that Crowley had written both, an honest error, but maybe the source of that long-standing accusation. There is even a notation in the Ripley catalog attributing the manuscript to Crowley on someone's say-so, but I have no indication Ripley has any other such book. Finally, if the notebook is a source-book of any religious system, it is not that of medieval witchcraft, but the twentieth century madness or sanity or both of the infamous magus Aleister Crowley and the Thelemic/Gnostic creed of The Book of the Law.

As I sat there I read aloud familiar quotations or paraphrases from published material in the Crowley-Thelemic canon. This is not the "ancient religion of the Wise" but the modern sayings of "the Beast 666" as Crowley was wont to style himself.

But does any of this invalidate Wicca as an expression of human spirituality? It depends on where one is coming from. Certainly, the foundations of feminist Wicca and the modern cult of the goddess are challenged with the fact that the goddess in question may be Nuit, her manifestation the sworn whore, Our Lady Babalon, the Scarlet Woman. Transform what you will shall be the whole of history, but this makes what Marx did to Hegel look like slavish devotion.

What Crowley himself said of this kind of witchcraft is not merely instructive, but an affront to the conceits of an era.

"The belief in witchcraft," he observed, "was not all superstition; its psychological roots were sound. Women who are thwarted in their natural instincts turn inevitably to all kinds of malignant mischief, from slander to domestic destruction —"

For the rest of us, those who neither worship nor are disdainful of the man who made sexuality a god or, at least, acknowledged it as such, experience must be its own teacher. If Wicca is a sort of errant Minerval Camp of the OTO, gone far astray and far a field since the days Crowley gave Gardner a charter he "didn't use" but seemed to value, and a whole range of rituals and imagery that assault the senses at their most literally fundamental level; if this is true or sort of true, maybe its time history be owned up to. Mythos has its place and role, but so, too, does reality.

Part Three — Wicca as an OTO Encampment

The question of intent looms large in the background of this inquiry. If I had to guess, I would venture that Gerald Gardner did, in fact, invent Wicca more or less whole cloth, to be a popularized version of the OTO. Crowley, or his successor Karl Germer, who also knew Dr. Gardner, likely set "old Gerald" on what they intended to be a Thelemic path, aimed at reestablishing at least a basic OTO encampment in England.

Aiden Kelly's research work on all this is most impressive, but at rock bottom I can't help feeling he still wants to salvage something original in Wicca. In a way, there is some justification for this; the Wicca of Gerald Gardner, OTO initiate and advocate of sexual magick produced a folksy, easier version of the OTO, but by the middle nineteen fifties some of his early "followers" not only created a revisionist Wicca with relatively little of the Thelemic original intact, but convinced Gardner to go along with the changes.

It is also possible, but yet unproven, that, upon expelling Kenneth Grant from the OTO in England, Germer, in the early 1950s, summoned Gardner to America to interview him as a candidate for leading the British OTO. Gardner, it is confirmed, came to America, but by then Wicca, and Dr. Gardner had begun to take their own, watered-down course. Today most Wiccans have no idea of their origins.

Let me close this section by quoting two interesting tidbits for your consideration.

First consider Doreen Valiente's observation to me concerning "the Parsons connection". I quote from her letter above mentioned, one of several she was kind enough to send me in 1986 in connection with my research into this matter. I did know about the existence of the O.T.O. Chapter in California at the time of Crowley's death, because I believe his ashes were sent over to them. He was cremated here in Brighton, you know, much to the scandal of the local authorities, who objected to the 'pagan funeral service.' If you are referring to the group of which Jack Parsons was a member (along with the egregious Mr. L. Ron Hubbard), then there is another curious little point to which I must draw your attention. I have a remarkable little book by Jack Parsons called Magick, Gnosticism and the Witchcraft. It is unfortunately undated, but Parsons died in 1952. The section on witchcraft is particularly interesting because it looks forward to a revival of witchcraft as the Old Religion — I find this very thought provoking. Did Parsons write this around the time that Crowley was getting together with Gardner and perhaps communicated with the California group to tell them about it?

We must remember that Ms. Valiente was a close associate of Gardner and is a dedicated and active Wiccan. She, of course, has her own interpretation of these matters. The OTO recently reprinted the Parsons "witchcraft" essays in Freedom is a Two Edged Sword, a posthumous collection of his writings. It does indeed seem that Gardner and Parsons were both on the same wave-length at about the same time.

The other matter of note is the question of the length of Gardner's association with the OTO and with Crowley personally. My informant Col. Lawrence, tells me that he has in his possession a cigarette case which once belonged to Aleister Crowley. Inside is a note in Crowley's hand that says simply: 'gift of GBG, 1936, A. Crowley'." (Personal letter, 6 December, 1986)

The inscription could be a mistake, it could mean 1946, the period of the Charter. But, as Ms. Valiente put it in a letter to me of 8th December, 1986:
If your friend is right, then it would mean that old Gerald actually went through a charade of pretending to Arnold Crowther that Arnold was introducing him to Crowley for the first time — a charade which Crowley for some reason was willing to go along with. Why? I can't see the point of such a pretense; but then occultists sometimes do devious things.

Crowley may have played out a similar scene with G.I. Gurdjieff, the other enlightened merry prankster of the first half of the twentieth century.

Gnosticism and Wicca, the subjects of Jack Parsons' essays, republished by the OTO and Falcon Press in 1990, are the two most successful expressions to date of Crowley's dream of a popular solar-phallic religion. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think Aleister and Gerald may have cooked Wicca up.

If Wicca is the OTO's prodigal daughter in fact, authorized directly by Crowley, how should Wiccans now relate to this? How should Crowley's successors and heirs in the OTO deal with it? Then too, what are we to make of and infer about all this business of a popular Thelemic-Gnostic religion? Were Crowley, Parsons, Gardner and others trying to do something of note with regard to actualizing a New Aeon here which bears scrutiny? Or is this mere speculation, and of little significance for the Great Work today?

If the Charter Crowley issued Gardner is, indeed, the authority upon which Wicca has been built for half a century, then it is perhaps no coincidence that I acquired that Charter in the same year I was consecrated a Bishop of the Gnostic Catholic Church. Further, it was literally days after my long search for the original of Gardner's Book of Shadows ended in success that the Holy Synod of T Michael Bertiaux's Gnostic Church unanimously elected me a Missionary Bishop, on August 29, 1986.

Sometimes, I muse, the Inner Order revoked Wicca's charter in 1986,placing it in my hands. Since I hold it in trust for the OTO, perhaps Wicca has, in symbolic form, returned home at last. It remains for the Wiccans to, literally (since the charter hangs in my temple space), to read the handwriting on the wall.

"Witchcraft always has a hard time, until it becomes established and changes its name." — Charles Fort

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