Home Discussion Forum In your eyes does Traditional Witchcraft go further back than Gardner and...

In your eyes does Traditional Witchcraft go further back than Gardner and the NFC?

I for one…beleive that practices that predate Gardner and the NFC are being done behind closed doors. After all….the Family Tradition Witches thought Gardner was what we now call “Fluffy” because he didn’t have proof of his learnings. So I wonder what type of “Witchcraft” was done before Gardner started his Coven…and no I don’t mean 200 years ago. I mean maybe about 50 or 100 years before him. After all even in Ceremonial Magick….Grimoires have survived for hundreds of years….why not a simple…easy to remember….vocal teaching…of the Craft?
Elm. That is not true. The power of suggestion is a psycological power over someone…making them manifest thier own problems…as in “American Haunting” with the Bell Witch. But some curses and healings and spells can work on a non beleiver. The Witch much simply beleive in themself stronger than the person they are working magick on.


  1. I am not a witch but I see witchcraft as going back to the middle ages and earlier…isn’t it an original spiritual belief?

  2. As far back as directly after the Flood of Noah when Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz rebelled against God and spawned many false gods and goddesses which started many cults and false religions.

  3. I am aware of several regional traditions that predate Gardner, at least back to Victorian times. From there, it’s not a huge leap back to preindustrial rural societies that could easily have harbored some traditions, although these were likely heavily Christianized to avoid detection.
    The sheer amount of folklore, herbal traditions and the like suggest heavy survivals of some aspects, although probably little of the modern pagan philopsophies came from these eras. That so many tidbits survived all over the European and colonized world makes it likely that larger chunks did upon occassion also survive.

  4. Witchcraft, like all religions is a both a subjective experience and an experience that is larger than the self. It is an organic experience that grows and changes, yet it has rituals and standards.
    The personality of any religions is both strengthened and changed by having it written down. It sharpens a faith to be persecuted, but it also endangers its teachings.
    Life is life. It just happens as it does.

  5. It’s possible, but I doubt that it was organized as such. I think it would have been more like “folk magick” than what we call Wicca. Probably the closest thing would be Kitchen Witches.
    My grandmother used to read playing cards, and had her own folk-remedies.
    But Witchcraft and Wicca are different things. Was there an underground “religion” that has continued for centuries? Maybe, but it’s doubtful. It would have changed to the point where it would no longer be recognized. There is a Christian cult that was once part of a church in Japan, I believe. It now bears little resemblance to the church it once was, and is no longer what would be called Christian. It is more like something that evolved *into* an aboriginal religion.

  6. Witchcraft will be with us as long as people insist on believing superstitions . Witches can’t put spells or curses on non-superstitious people.
    They use, what is called – – – the Power of Suggestion .

  7. what is now called witchcraft was simply herbal knowledge. My grandmother was considered a ‘witch’ because she was a midwife and used natural methods instead of medical ones. She learned whatshe knew from her mother and grandmother.

  8. My answer entirely depends on *exactly* what you mean by Traditional Witchcraft.
    If by that, you mean Gardner’s Wicca –
    There’s a lot that has been written on this subject now and people who have done much more (way more) research than I tell me the answer is pretty much “no”. And I am pretty much in agreement.
    If you mean something else by “Traditional Witchcraft”, then we have a bit of a different answer I believe.
    However, this is a subject that if you were sitting in my living room, I could talk for hours and hours (and hours) about this.

  9. Yes, I believe that. They also say he INVENTED Wicca. I don’t want to go into it since everytime I do people who follow Gardner knock me down and say I am a lier. Surfice it to say, I believe AND know through studying the history of religions both Monotheism as well as Politheism.

  10. There is no proof of any secret society of witches in England prior to Gardner. His claims of learning from Dorthy Clutterbuck cannot be verified. These are the facts. That quite a bit of the practice can be found in works of the Golden Dawn is also undisputed.
    However, secret societies that have oral traditions are unlikely to be uncovered easily. We do know for a fact there were covens in France(Aradia) that predate Gardener. There are records of similar practices to what Gardener laid out. As far back as 1609 we find descriptions and accounts of those practices in the Compendium Maleficarum. Also, witchcraft existed in Italy in the form of Strega.
    Considering the stigma put on (and danger associated with) such practices, to have existed at all in England, in any form, one would have had to keep complete secrecy. One cannot say that because something is not known or uncovered, we have proof of non existance. Take the Druids, we know that they existed prior to the Roman invasion, but little (if anything) is known about their practices. We also know that the influence of the Church drove the Druids underground, there were not heard from again…that they went away and disbanded really doen’t wash. Someone was likely practicing somewhere and teaching an oral tradition.
    All that is speculation, perhaps we’ll never know.

  11. Hi there. Me again. Kinda looks like I’m your stalker, eh?
    To answer your question – yes. It’s far older than Gardner and Sanders. Witches were killed even back in the high times of the Roman Empire. It was ok to be pagan. It was ok to consult oracles. But it was NOT ok to work magic or be a sorcerer. To be caught doing so meant execution even 2000 years ago.
    The Acts of Peter includes his wrangling with one such sorcerer. Simon the Magus. See the “early christian writings” link below.
    I recently read a book by Montague Summers. In it he states that “modern” – his version of modern predated Gardner and Sanders – witch craft (back then there was no Wicca) was actually a sort of corruption of Gnosticism. The Gnostics had their own version of what we Catholics call Mass.
    The Catholic Church considered the Gnostics to be heretics. Civil authorities slaughtered them.
    Then along comes Protestant Reformation. Especially in England, Catholics were considered witches and executed. Burned at the stake. Hung, drawn, quartered at Tyburn Tree, with body parts strung up for all to see.
    This is where the historical accounts of hidden compartments for implements of witch craft comes from. There is an old manuscript, Ancrene Wisse. You might want to give it a read. To be an anchorite (male) or anchoress (female) was the ultimate for Catholics. You lived as a solitary. The requiem mass was said for you and basically you were dead to the world. They were the wise men and wise women. During the reformation they were slaughtered. They are just now returning. Anyway, the manuscript says to say your “Blessed Be” many times throughout the day.
    I don’t recall how it was stated in the books I’d read by Sanders and Gardner. But I do know they never mentioned the Golden Dawn or Aliester Crowley. It was more or less the rebirth of Gnosticism and the mock mass. Stylized ceremonial magic.
    Gardner and Sanders took what they’d done with Crowley and the Golden Dawn and made it their own. Two similar yet distinctly different branches of modern day witch craft.
    I realize at this point that I’ve yammered. Probably a lot more input that you ever thought you wanted. Apologies.
    Edit: For Teawitch. From their (Gardner and Sanders) points of view they did invent it. Reinvent would probably be a better term. But what they created was their own and for the most part “original.”
    Original as one can get when taking a corruption of the Catholic mass and turning it into the ceremonial magic of witch craft. That’s why the trappings of Catholicism are still used within their workings. The chalice, the patten, altar cloths, candles and incense.
    That is also why there is such a profound difference between the “witch craft” of Gardner and Sanders and “Wicca” that is so popular today.

  12. Grimoires? Are you talking about Ceremonial Magic? Well that is something I’m not savvy about at all, but I’m sure at least a few of my contacts would know… *star*

  13. Sure it does, but it was well hidden, and it wasn’t exactly regarded as a religion, although we did honour the God and Goddess. I began my training in the mid ’60s in the north of England (I was a child), and the women who taught me were in their 60’s and 70’s and had been practicing Witchcraft all their lives. Every Beltane and Samhain, there were several bonfires lit on Pendle Hill, and had been for as long as anyone remembered. The good Christian people in our little town would pull their curtains closed so they didn’t see the fires, and averted their eyes if they were outside in view of Pendle Hill when the bon fires were burning. I was allowed up there only once, and my mother kept me away from the fire, but there were indeed people standing around it. I never was able to go back, because we moved away when I was a teenager. I guess I was considered too young to actually be part of the rituals around the bonfires.
    The Witches who taught me knew about Gardner, but thought he was just a dirty old man and that he did not seem to know a lot of what he should do regarding traditional British Witchcraft.

  14. Just my humble opinion from having learned about many different world religions since early child hood, but…
    “Witchcraft” isn’t a religion. Being a “Witch” (medicine wo/man, shaman, etc) was a job, in the same way as being a “Viking” was your job. [To go “a-Viking” was to go “raiding” – the actual term used in old times to describe this culture was Northmen, using “vikings” is not correct]
    Forms of witches/shamans/druid-teachers/ancient herbalists and midwives/etc have been around almost as long as homo sapiens have been creating rational thoughts within their brains and trying to figure out the world surrounding them. They are the ones who used natural, passed down methods of dealing with life’s ails, to help the community around them.
    There are many Pagan religions (note, Pagan is an umbrella term for polytheistic religions, and therefore different from “witchcraft” also) that have existed for centuries, whether behind closed doors or not. But there has been religious persecution for centuries between many of the world religions – hence the need for such “behind closed doors” practices – and as you can learn from reading history the saved, known historical works are always written by the victors, not the conquered.
    We may never know what some of the ancient religions and crafters believed or practiced… but we can attempt to learn from the pieces that were left behind, and try to save our own practices for future generations to learn from.


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