Englands Old Religions

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Wicca is commonly called the 'old religion' by its practitioners, a designation that is intended to claim historical ancestry to validate some of its practices. However, this chapter argues that this term does more than retrace or reread a past (religare) and claim to maintain rituals of an ancient Wiccan ancestry (its traditio). 'Old' and 'new' religion are value-laden terms that have links with a political history dating from the time of the Tudor reformations in England, for the term had earlier served both the Church of England and the Catholic traditions of Christianity in the period between the reformations and the nineteenth century. In continental Europe, the various forms of Protestantism that arose in the course of the sixteenth century were seen to offer new experiences of Christianity. Characterised as throwing off the shackles of popery, magic, superstition and monasticism, the reformed Protestant traditions relegated the tropes of Roman Catholicism to the 'dark ages' of Christianity and looked to the future. However, a deep concern of the new Church of England was to demonstrate that English Christianity was not dependent on the Catholic Mission of Augustine of Canterbury (597 CE) for its claims to be apostolic, and it therefore sought to retrace older apostolic origins and 'Celtic' influences.1

There are, then, at least three 'old religions' to which England has laid claim. Two of these are constructs of the Christian church formulated during the period of the reformations, both Protestant and Catholic. During and after the establishment of the Protestant 'new religion', Roman Catholicism was referred to as the 'old religion', both affectionately by lay people who sought comfort from what they knew, and disparagingly by the reformers. Of course, Roman Catholicism cannot be regarded as one of England's 'old religions', but with the revival of English Catholicism in the nineteenth-century Oxford Movement and the development of Anglo-Catholicism, there emerged a more positive reclaiming of the 'old religion', with a concomitant critique of Protestantism as the 'new religion'.2 However, this 'new religion' in the form of the Church of England sought to provide itself with a line of continuity stretching back to the apostolic era in order to substantiate its claim to be an 'old religion'. The third version of an 'old religion', constructed partly in response to institutionalised Christianity in the twentieth century, was of course Wicca. In order to explore the political valorising of 'old' and 'new' it is necessary to demonstrate the uses of these terms in the struggles over authenticity in Anglicanism, before returning to their uses in the development of Wicca.

The 'new religion' of 'Protestant' Christianity in England emerged and developed during the reigns of Henry VIII (1509-47), Edward VI (1547-53) and Elizabeth I (1558-1603), rather than springing fully-formed as a result of Henry's 'divorce question' in 1530. It developed over a period of some seventy years, five of which saw a reversion to the Roman Catholic Church and Papal authority under Mary Tudor (1553-8). Indeed, the new Church of England was never fully Protestant. Henry had wanted a break with Roman authority, not with Catholic traditions of piety and ritual, to the despair of his more Protestant-minded reforming ministers, Thomas Cranmer3 (14891556) Archbishop of Canterbury (1532) and Thomas Cromwell4 (c.1485-1540). Later, Elizabeth continually sought to occupy a middle ground between the Protestant Puritans on the one side, and Roman Catholicism on the other. Only during the short reign of Edward were the Protestant reformers able to follow their own agenda, an agenda that was overthrown during the reign of Mary. By the seventeenth century, then, the Church of England had become 'a fusion of Catholic and Protestant positions in which most Christians, apart from extreme Calvinists and Catholics, could find a home' (Waite, 2003: 77). As will be seen later in this chapter and in Chapter 4, it was the inclusivity of this 'broad church' that allowed for the revival of Catholicism in an English form in the Oxford Movement of the 1830s, and its later Anglo-Catholic and Ritualist developments. The complexity of the religio-political manoeuverings under the Tudor monarchs is not, however, the subject of extensive discussion here; suffice it to say that the general population would not necessarily have been aware of each and every shift or the intricacies of debates and intrigues.5 However, some awareness of the Protestant colouring of Edward and Elizabeth, and the Catholicism of Mary, would have been enough to engender anxieties and expectations as each reign drew to a close, and events such as the 1536 Pilgrimage of Grace and the dissolution of the local monastery would not have gone unnoticed. Indeed, the latter would have been as likely to be celebrated as mourned, given the often harsh treatment of local populations by their monastic landlords.6

If Protestantism emerged as the new people's religion, full of hope for the future, it did so partly by casting Catholicism as the old-fashioned religion, full of superstition and administered by a priesthood that not only performed sacramental magic, but also practised angelic or demonic magic (Waite, 2003: 229). Indeed, to one anonymous reformer writing in 1556, the sorcerers who conjure demons are more holy than you who are the whorish Church . you command Christ to enter into a piece of bread and believe that you could have him as often as you say the words, 'this is my body'.

(cited in Waite, 2003: 102)

Anticipating theories of religion and magic that were formulated in the nineteenth century, magic was not simply un-Christian but a survival from the backward, primitive culture associated in the minds of the reformers with the Middle Ages. That there was a general tendency to refer to Roman Catholicism as 'the old religion' need not refer, then, to a nostalgic remembering of a recent past, nor can it necessarily be read as a yearning for an authentic Christianity, particularly in the 1530s and 1540s when the break with Rome was not strictly a break with Catholicism. A certain amount of time had to pass before it was possible for people to look back to 'the good old days', and certainly there is evidence of this after the passing of centuries. In Witchcraft, Magic and Culture, 1736-1951, Owen Davies cites the example of a Yorkshire Anglican priest in 1825 who was asked to 'lay' a spirit which was troubling an old woman (i.e. she thought she was possessed). He said he couldn't 'lay spirits' to which she responded: 'if I had sent for a priest o' t' au'd church, he wad a dean it' (1999: 23). Davies asserts that there was a popular memory of spirit-laying powers of the Catholic clergy by the eighteenth century in England, though 'Catholic worshippers and priests were rather thin on the ground' (ibid.). Closer to the period in question, in 1593 Thomas Bell could remark on 'the sad fact that the "common people for the greater part", insist on calling Protestantism "the new religion" ' .7 No study of instances of Catholicism being referred to as the 'old religion' and Protestantism as the 'new religion' has yet been conducted, and such an investigation would be out of place here. That there were instances of such labelling is, however, beyond doubt as shown by the examples given above.

Picking up on the anxiety that seems to have attended the labelling of Protestantism as the 'new religion', the emerging Church of England responded with a particular ambition for antiquity, an anxiety for ancestors. This takes us to the second of our examples, the Church of England's desire to promote itself as an authentic expression of the earliest formulations of the Christian religion. As indicated above, the Reformation in England was not accomplished primarily via Henry VIII's marital problems.8 Rather, it emerged and developed9 with many twists and turns throughout the Tudor period and on into that of the Stuart monarchs. A continual theme, however, was the search for, and invention of a tradition of English Protestantism. With the 'old religion' continuing to assert itself through papal interference at one extreme and popular appeal at the other,10 the leaders of the 'new religion' found it necessary to remake a history for the English church that would legitimate the break with Rome and validate their own orders. In order to subvert the attempts of Catholic propagandists to undermine Protestantism by contrasting the antiquity of Roman Catholicism with Protestantism's novelty, they needed to find a precedent: an older 'old religion'.11

Cromwell, as Henry VIII's Lord Chancellor, began this process in his preambles to the Act in Restraint of Appeals (1533) and the Act of Supremacy (1534).12 In the Act in Restraint of Appeals, England is declared 'an empire'

according to 'divers sundry old authentic histories and chronicles', and the English Church 'hath been always thought, and is also at this hour, sufficient and meet of itself without the intermeddling of any exterior person or persons'.13 The Act was to conserve the imperial prerogatives of the imperial crown, both temporal and spiritual, 'to keep it from the annoyance . of the see of Rome'.14 The purpose of these Reformation statutes was 'to separate the English from Western Christendom and provide them with a new identity, derived from a new view of their past' (Jones, 2003: 18). A new, official version of English history was constructed to meet the needs of the new church, the church which had delivered the English from the 'slavery' of papal authority asserted during the Middle Ages, restoring the nation 'to its original imperial state in which the English king had reigned supreme over all aspects of national life' (ibid.: 22). The underlying concept was that England was independent and had therefore developed an indigenous English culture, religion and institutions, untainted by outside influence, power and authority.

The characterisation of England as an imperial realm rests on the legend of the unhistorical King Lucius, portrayed as an English equivalent of Constantine. Cromwell made use of the claim that Christianity was brought to England by Joseph of Arimathea and disciples of St Philip. After the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea had supposedly become a missionary, working with the apostle Philip in France before being made leader of a mission to Britain. Arriving in Glastonbury, he was alleged to have built the first English Church, the vetusta ecclesia,15 c.64 CE, from wattle and daub.16 Once he and his companions had died, the church was unused until 166 ce when King Lucius wrote to Pope Eleutherius (174-189 ce) of his own volition, asking him to send Christian missionaries to convert him and all his people.17 These missionaries, St Phagan and St Deruvian, refounded a small community at the church and built a second of stone, which became a monastery under St Patrick who arrived from Ireland in the fifth century. English Christianity, it was claimed, thus came straight from the early apostles, straight from Jerusalem, not via Rome.

The story reflects the struggles of the monks of Glastonbury during the high Middle Ages.18 The association with the apostles had first appeared in William of Malmesbury's De Antiquitate Glastoniensis Ecclesiae, c.1130, but although the passage on Joseph of Arimathea is an interpolation dating from at least a century later,19 the legend seems to have emerged from an already traditional belief in the apostolic conversion of Britain.20 Such works as Malmesbury's De Antiquitate and John of Glastonbury's Cronica sive Antiquitates Glastoniensis Ecclesie (c.1400) were often commissioned for the purposes of increasing the prestige of monastic houses by demonstrating their claims to ancient historical foundation. But they also had another purpose, a political one. The date of a country's conversion to Christianity determined its precedence in the general councils of Europe, apostolic conversion being the most prestigious. Thus, the legend of St Joseph at Glastonbury enabled claims to be made for the apostolic conversion of England, and it was 'cited by the English party to back its claim to precedence at a series of general councils - at Pisa (1409), Constance (1417), Siena (1424) and Basle (1434)' (Gransden, 1980: 362).

However, the impact of the Glastonbury legends continued to be felt well into Cromwell's lifetime.21 In 1520, a life of Joseph of Arimathea in verse had been printed to reinforce his connection with Glastonbury,22 which the reigning abbot, Richard de Bere (1494-1525), wanted to promote.23 The need to increase revenue from pilgrims in the fourteenth century,24 and rivalries over claims to antiquity and precedence within the church in the fifteenth, had meant that the 'status of Joseph at Glastonbury rose accordingly, and reached its apogee in the early sixteenth century' (Hutton, 2003 a: 69), just in time for Cromwell to make full use of it for the establishment of the new Anglican Church which was to see the dissolution of Glastonbury Abbey, along with all the other monastic establishments. Thus, though the abbey would be dissolved six years after the 1533 Act,25 the story was both readily available and had a proven track record of success in promoting not just an independent English national church, but one which had successfully claimed precedence in the conciliar movement of fifteenth century Europe.26 That Joseph of Arimathea did not enter the Roman Martyrology until 1545 would simply have given further credence to the idea that English Christianity existed, and always had existed, independently from Rome.

From Cromwell's time onwards, according to Jones (2003: 60), 'the history of England was the story of the heroic struggle of its native kings and people, valiantly defending true Christianity against alien invaders who in various guises represented the forces of "Anti-Christ"' (emphasis added). These invaders included not just the heathen Saxons from Germany, but also St Augustine of Canterbury - portrayed as a corrupting agent from Rome - and the arrival of monks and friars following the Norman Conquest. But this was nothing new. As mentioned above, the importance of the idea of an independent English national church, free from Rome, was already traditional before the twelfth century. What was new was that there now existed the institution of such a church, national and erastian in character, broken away from Rome, and backed by the power of the state propaganda machine: the Ecclesia Anglicana was no longer the Catholic Church in England, but the Church of England. The legend was reworked to give England a destiny: to defend the national church which 'had been retained in spite of interference from abroad by the Papacy during the medieval period' (ibid.: 77) - a period which was now to be ignored and dismissed as backward and decadent - and restored to its native state by the Henrician reformation. To aid this effort, those condemned as heretics by the old religion were transformed into native guardians of the true faith - figures such as John Wycliffe (c.1330-84) and the Lollards were now portrayed as suffering persecution in order to preserve the pure and untainted 'English' Christianity. Thus was born the idea of the proto-Protestant martyr.

Marian exiles such as John Bale (1495-1563) portrayed old heretics and heretical sects as new Protestant, or proto-Protestant, martyrs and heroes in an attempt to provide a continuous lineage leading up to the reformers of the sixteenth century. Bale's vision of England's history was one of a golden age of purity characterised by the acceptance of Christianity from a pure source, during Joseph of Arimathea's visit to Britain in 63 CE. Coming from Jerusalem rather than Rome, 'The Brytains toke the christen faithe at ye very spring or fyrst going forth of the Gospel, whan the church was moste perfit, and had moste strengthe of the holy ghost'.27 This purity lasted until the division of Britain into dioceses under Diocletian (regarded as the first sign of institutional rigidity), at which point the second stage of decay and degeneration set in, particularly after the mission of St Augustine. This 'minion of Antichrist' introduced 'candelstyckes, vestymentes, surplices, alter clothes, synyng bookes, rellyckes'.28 Even worse, Augustine and, after him, Theodore of Tarsus, supported the Saxon invaders against the native Britons. The final signs of decay were Dunstan's enforcement of clerical celibacy c.1000, and the Danish invasions, the latter supposedly aided by treasonous monks. England was now completely overrun by papal corruption, which was to last until the 'morning star' of Protestant theology, John Wycliffe, began the third stage of English history by throwing off the yoke of Romish doctrine, followed by the ending of slavery to Rome under Henry VIII. It was claimed, then, that for almost five hundred years the ancient British church had been subverted by the power of Rome; but in the whole of Europe, 'England had withstood subversion the longest, and thrown it off the soonest' (Fairfield, 1976: 106). In purifying the Catholic cult of saints and adapting it for Protestant use, Bale attempted to re-establish continuity with a past golden age of the pre-Augustinian ancient British church and provided the goal of its revival under the sixteenth century reformers. His vision was taken up by another Marian exile, John Foxe (1517-87) in a far more famous work, The Actes and Monuments of these latter and perilous days,29 published in England in 1563 and more popularly known as Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

During the six years of Edward VI's reign (1547-53), Foxe began writing The Actes and Monuments as an historical justification of the Reformation. Like Bale's 1545 work The Image of Both Churches, Foxe depicted this history as one of conflict between the forces of good and evil, or Christ and Antichrist, England and Rome. When Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558, Foxe reworked his book as a propaganda weapon of over 1,800 folio pages for her 'Protestant' establishment. New editions appeared in 1570, 1576 and 1583, and by the time of his death in 1587, 'his book was a national institution . it became a foundation stone of English Protestant nationalism',30 and fuelled hostility towards Catholics and Catholicism for generations.31 An abridged version was issued in 1589, and new full editions in 1596 and 1610. The 1570 edition contained some 500 pages reconstructing English history to suit the reformation under Elizabeth, and the Privy Council ordered it to be set up alongside the English Bible in cathedrals. It was seen as vital that Protestant historiography provide a tradition for the reformers, that 'they might be regarded as continuators of those who through a long persecuted past had been defending the cause of the true primitive church in England' (Aston, 1964: 150; cited in Jones, 2003: 63). The Book of Martyrs occupied Foxe for the last thirty years of his life and, as noted, continued to be influential well into the nineteenth century. At the same time, however, Elizabeth's Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker (1504-75; consecrated Archbishop 1559), was attempting a similar project, 'revealing' the alleged ancient apostolic roots of the English Church via antiquarian research, rather than through a spiritual ancestry based on martyrology.32

Parker 'interested himself, particularly, in "the Ancient British Church" in which he found an independence from Rome that justified his lonely position in Catholic Christendom' (Whitebrook, 1945: 45). Unlike Foxe and the Puritans influenced by his work, however, Parker realised the problem in pronouncing as proto-Protestant those medieval sects that were strictly antiepiscopal. Instead, during the 1560s and 1570s, Parker employed historians and textual scholars whose remit was to demonstrate the roots of Anglican practices in the ancient precedent of an English church of antiquity, via what Robinson has called, '... a fantasy narrative of Englishness that could discover itself in Saxons and Britons' (Robinson, 1998: 1079). Under his direction, they set out to reform the English past by reforming its texts, purging them of the 'corruptions' of Catholic writers, readers, and scholars ... [and demonstrate] the proximity of 'our ordinances and rites' to those of the first English Christians.

(Robinson, 1998: 1061, 1080)

Through focusing on the national character of the Church, the episcopal nature of Anglicanism was neatly side-stepped - it was not, after all, simply the validity of Anglican orders that was at issue.33 By the time of Parker's death in 1575, his scholars had transformed England's past and, whatever the instincts and nostalgia of their seniors, a generation was growing up which had known nothing else, which believed the Pope to be Anti-Christ, the Mass a mummery, which did not look back to the Catholic past as their own, but another country, another world.

The longevity of Elizabeth's reign was to do the rest.

The idea of a Saxon golden age continued to be mined by Anglican churchmen desperate to avoid 'negotiating the dangerous straits of anti-episcopal views' (Barnett, 1999: 30) held by the Waldenses and other medieval sects cast as proto-Protestant. Whilst Puritans vilified the history of the church as 'pagano-papism'34 and condemned its descent into 'priestcraft', Anglicans such as Richard Field35 (1561-1616) portrayed Wycliffe and Huss, for example, as champions of independent national churches rather than as critics of Rome's unchristian episcopal hierarchy. A century later, in 1708, Jeremy Collier (1650-1726), in An Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain, Chiefly of England, was still using the idea of an independent Saxon church to claim a spiritually legitimate lineage for the Anglican episcopate. Yet even among Anglicans, Protestant identity was still defined in anti-Catholic, anti-popery terms via 'the vilification of Catholic Church history and the assertion of a definably Protestant spiritual route through the labyrinth of medieval priestcraft' (Barnett, 1999: 35). As the Church of England became more secure and established, it was the promotion of this idea of a Protestant spiritual route which grew in importance as Anglicanism asserted its identity: anti-Catholicism as 'Englishness' continued to have a very public existence whilst the idea of the ancient British church receded into an important, but no longer dominant, bass note.

A legalistic form of anti-Catholicism had emerged with the recusancy laws of the late sixteenth century,36 the product of legitimate fears brought about as a consequence of the excommunication of Elizabeth I by Pope Pius V which justified plots against her. It centred on an emerging national identity and personal fears stemming from the queen's childhood during the reigns of her three predecessors, Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Mary, and the constant threats to her throne particularly during the first thirty years of her reign. It was to be another 200 years before Catholics were permitted to own land on taking an oath that did not include denial of Roman Catholicism, priests were no longer subject to persecution, and the punishment of life imprisonment for keeping a Catholic school was abolished.37 The 1778 Catholic Emancipation Act provoked the Gordon Riots against 'popery' in 1780, in which anti-Catholics led by Lord George Gordon38 took control of the streets of London for a week, damaging the property of Catholics and their known sympathisers. It took 10,000 soldiers and 285 deaths to suppress the riots. In 1791, Catholics willing to take the prescribed oath were freed from the recusancy statutes and the Oath of Supremacy, certain legal and military posts were opened up, and Catholic worship and schools tolerated. Two years later in 1793, Catholics in Ireland were granted the right to vote, and admitted to universities and the professions. It was not until 1829, however, that the Roman Catholic Relief Act removed the disabling laws against Roman Catholics in Britain, and only as recently as 1926 were the remaining disabilities revoked.39 The period from the English Reformation to the inter-war years was therefore a time of crisis for Roman Catholics living in Britain as well as for British Roman Catholics who had felt compelled to live outside the realm. Religious dissent was still equated with treason, providing a hothouse for political subversion and social disorder, and Catholicism was equated with a descent into chaos.

Catholicism had also been equated with witchcraft in the minds of Protestants since the period of the Reformation,40 and they continued to be linked in the (anti-Catholic) public mind of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.41 For Catholics who remained in England, secrecy was a necessity and essential for priests such as Richard Challoner (1691-1781) who ministered to the scattered flock.42 Challoner set out to ensure the survival of the old religion, constructing an identity for British recusants by 'stressing their continuity with the primitive Church and, in particular, the unbroken continuity of that primitive Church with the British and Irish churches of the Middle Ages, the Reformation era, and his own day' (Hyland, 2006: 2). In tracts such as The Touchstone of the New Religion (1734) and A Roman Catholick's Reasons why he cannot conform to the Protestant Religion (1747), he argued that Protestantism was a new religion which, having broken with the primitive Church, left Catholicism as the only Church which retained the continuity so important to Protestants. In seeking to defend the antiquity of the Catholic Church and its traditions against Protestant charges of novelty, in works such as The Grounds of the Old Religion (1742), Challoner was also providing Catholics with an historical consciousness, just as the Tudor propaganda machine had sought to do for Protestants. Indeed, in 1741 he supplied Catholics with two volumes of their own martyrology to rival that of Foxe - Memoirs of Missionary Priests and other Catholicks of both Sexes who suffered Death or Imprisonment in England on account of their Religion, from the year 1577 till the end of the reign of Charles II. His work prepared the way for the revival of Catholicism in England in the nineteenth century.

This revival continued the emphasis on Catholicism as 'the old religion',43 leading to sustained competition with the established national church in its claims to continuity with antiquity. Thus, William Lockhart (1820-92), one of the first of the Tractarians44 to convert to Roman Catholicism (in 1845), wrote The Old Religion; or, How shall we find Primitive Christianity. A journey from New York to Old Rome (London: Burns and Oates, 1870), whilst the Anglican Thomas Lathbury (1798-1865) authored Protestantism the old religion, Popery the new in 1838. Challoner's The Grounds of the Old Religion had been reissued in 1820, and Hall's (1574-1656) treatise on the differences between 'the reformed and Roman Church', The Old Religion, was republished in 1837. In 1912 the English Benedictine monk and historian, and member of the Pontifical Commission to study the validity of Anglican orders (1896), Cardinal Francis Aidan Gasquet (1846-1929), published England under the Old Religion, and other essays. All of these publications indicate a positive identification with antiquity and a valorising of 'the old'.

Although the influx of Irish immigrants to Britain in the nineteenth century was responsible for much of the growth of Roman Catholicism, it was largely the growth of Catholic doctrines and practices within the State church that concerned Protestant statesmen. Beginning with the Oxford Movement (1833-45)45 of John Keble (1792-1866), Edward Pusey

(1800-82), John Henry (Cardinal) Newman (1801-90) and Henry Edward (Cardinal) Manning (1808-92), the Catholic revival fostered both conversion to the Roman Church46 and the development of Anglo-Catholicism47 within the Church of England. Beginning with Keble's Assize Sermon on 'National Apostasy' of 14 July 1833, in which he attacked the government's proposal to reduce the number of Irish bishoprics by ten following the 1832 Reform Act, the Oxford Movement of the Tractarians fought against the attempted reform of the Church by the state in the 1820s and 1830s,48 and against theological liberalism. They also drew on the interest in elements of primitive and medieval Christianity of the Romantic Movement, and revived the earlier concern of the Church of England to demonstrate direct descent from the apostles. This interest in the origins of the English church led to a reconsideration of the relationship between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church - in the final, ninetieth Tract, Newman had argued that the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England, defined in the sixteenth century, were clearly compatible with Roman Catholic doctrine as defined by the Council of Trent. Having come to this conclusion, and having had his work condemned by many bishops, Newman retired to his community at Littlemore in 1842. When William George Ward's The Ideal of a Christian Church (1844) was censured by the Convocation of Oxford on 13 February 1845 - 777 votes to 386 - Ward, Frederick William Faber and others associated with the Movement were received into the Church of Rome. Newman followed in the Autumn of 1845. After the Gorham Case of 1850,49 other Tractarians converted to Roman Catholicism, including Manning in 1851. As a consequence, the Oxford Movement was attacked for its Romanising tendencies, including the establishment of Anglican religious orders, first for women and later for men, its emphasis on ceremonial, and its introduction of the research and insights of the Liturgical Movement into the liturgy of the Church of England: the Eucharist became more central to worship, vestments were re-introduced, and Catholic practices became more common in worship.50

None of this was particularly new - there had always been Anglicans who identified closely with Roman Catholic thought and practice, and who emphasised continuity with Catholic tradition. As noted above, during the various Tudor reformations the fortunes of those retaining aspects of Catholicism waxed and waned. Under the Stuarts, however, the Catholic faction of the Church of England flourished, particularly under Charles I51 (1625-49), during the Interregnum (1649-60), and in the reign of Charles II (1660-85), 'a Golden Age for Catholic Anglican doctrinal writing, liturgy and spirituality', according to the Society of King Charles the Martyr.52 The Anglican theologians living during this period, known as the Caroline Divines, defended the continuity of the Church of England with the pre-Reformation Ecclesia Anglicana, as well as upholding the doctrine of the Real Presence, and the importance of auricular confession and religious observance at fasts and festivals. Among them was Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), Bishop of

Winchester, an opponent of Puritan rigidity with an aversion to Calvinism who urged ceremonial worship for the Church of England and used the mixed chalice, incense and altar lights in his own chapel. The Non-Juror53 Bishop of Bath and Wells, Thomas Ken (1637-1711), one-time chaplain to Charles II, provides a clear expression of the typical position held by the Caroline Divines in his will. He wrote:

I die in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Faith, professed by the whole Church, before the disunion of East and West: more particularly, I die in the communion of the Church of England, as it stands distinguished from all Papal and Puritan innovations.

(cited in Cross and Livingstone, 1983: 776)

This reversion to the authority of the ecumenical councils prior to the schism between East and West, as well as the rejection of the claims of Rome and refusal to adopt Continental, specifically Calvinist reforms were predominant themes in the formulation of Anglicanism under the Caroline Divines, continuing and developing the doctrinal system that had emerged during the reign of Elizabeth I. The most famous of the Divines was, of course, William Laud (1573-1645), Charles I's Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633. Laud affirmed the apostolic succession, thereby winning the enmity of the strong Calvinist faction that had emerged in the reign of James I and VI (1603-25). As usual, the expression of Catholic tendencies led to accusations of popery even though Laud was a loyal Anglican Englishman, and his intolerance of the Presbyterians in Scotland gave impetus to the Covenanter movement54 and led to the Bishops' Wars of 1639 and 1640.55 He was subsequently accused of treason by the Long Parliament of 1640 and imprisoned in the Tower of London before being executed under a bill of attainder on 10 January 1645.

The work of Archbishop Laud and other Caroline Divines was an important legacy for Anglo-Catholics, and their writings were collected by members of the Oxford Movement for the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology.56 The Tractarians continued to argue that, since the Church of England had preserved the apostolic succession of priests and bishops and thus the Catholic sacraments, it was not a Protestant denomination but a branch of the church catholic, along with the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. Such claims are, of course, contested. On the one hand, neither the Roman Catholic nor the Eastern Orthodox churches accept the branch theory of the 'church catholic', and the Anglican claim to valid apostolic succession and sacraments is rejected by the Roman Catholic Church.57 On the other, the evangelical wing of the Church of England fought against Catholic doctrines and practices within Anglicanism, stressing the essentially Protestant nature of the church. Catholic beliefs and practices thus remained a matter of private opinion rather than official doctrine, leading to the high profile conversions to Rome of Newman and

Manning. Most Anglo-Catholics remained within the Church of England, however, but the development - or reclamation - of an English Catholicism was regarded as 'unEnglish' for much the same reasons as Catholics had been treated as such since the English church was reformed: they encouraged papal interference. This was felt particularly in the years following Pius IX's Rescript of 1850 which created (or 'restored', according to Catholics) a Catholic hierarchy in England. The Times58 reported the appointment of the Archbishop of Westminster as 'a clumsy joke, one of the grossest acts of folly and impertinence which the court at Rome had ventured to commit since the Crown and people of England had thrown off its yoke', and Lord John Russell provides a good example of an English Protestant response to the Rescript. He wrote:

[t]here is an assumption of power in all the documents which have come from Rome; a pretension of supremacy over the realm of England, and a claim to sole and undivided sway, which is inconsistent with the Queen's supremacy, with the rights of our bishops and clergy, and with the spiritual independence of the nation.59

(English Historical Documents, vol. XII (I), p. 368, quoted in Norman, 1968: 57)

The Reformation Journal, in the preface to its first volume, went further still, depicting nothing less than a papal conspiracy to reconquer Britain: '[i]t is now beyond all question that the entire power and policy of Rome is being directed against Britain, with a view to its being subjected again to the degrading slavery of the Vatican'.60

The 'enormities of the Pope' were linked with the 'excesses of the "Puseyites" in the State Church' (Norman, 1968: 57), which rather than being 'the bulwark of Protestantism, turns out to be a huge manufactory of a national or home-made Popery',61 and there were suspicions that the 'Puseyites' and Irish Catholics were linked in a Roman conspiracy. In 1868, Benjamin Disraeli asserted to the House of Commons that 'High Church Ritualists62 and the Irish followers of the Pope have long been in secret combination and are now in open confederacy'.63 To Catholic converts such as the leader of the Gothic revival movement in architecture, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812-52), 'the calumnies, the denunciations against the old religion [had become] more rabid than ever'.64 To Pugin, Catholicism was truly the 'old religion', which would 'never remain satisfied with the mere shadow of antiquity' as found in Protestantism.65

It is hardly surprising then, that after his conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1922, G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) felt it necessary to write on the question of Catholicism as a new or old religion in the 'Introductory: A New Religion' of his 1926 work The Catholic Church and Conversion. Chesterton begins with the observation that '[t]he Catholic faith used to be called the Old Religion; but at the present moment it has a recognized place among the

New Religions' (1926: 1). It has, he argues, become a novelty, 'an innovation and not merely a survival', with no claim to antiquity or tradition. It is a fad, like Socialism, Spiritualism, or Christian Science - it is 'one of the wild passions of youth', an 'indecent indulgence', in which monastic meditations or ascetic manuals are treated as if they were 'bad books' of pornographic content by which an undergraduate might '[wallow] in the sensual pleasure of Nones or [inflame] his lusts by contemplating an incorrect number of candles'. Any religion recognised as 'old' is acceptable, he claims; but new religions are annoying, even frightening, and

[a]mong these annoying new religions, one is rather an old religion; but it is the only old religion that is so new. ... It is coming in again as something fresh and disturbing ... the religion that is two thousand years old now appearing as a rival of the new religions.

(Chesterton, 1926: 2)

Of course, Chesterton was not to know that a 'fresh and disturbing' 'new religion' was waiting in the wings to appear as a rival of the old religions. It was to emerge within the next thirty years, claiming to be far older than the mere 2,000 years of Catholic history, and to be not just an 'old religion', but the 'old religion'. As stated in the Introduction, it was formulated by a retired civil servant called Gerald Gardner, among others, and emerged as a religious entity called Wicca sometime around 1951. This newly-emergent tradition was to draw on the value-laden term 'old religion' in ways that can now be explored in light of the term's previous usage.

The use of the term 'old religion' in Wicca is usually regarded as deriving from American folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland's use of it in Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, published by the Folklore Society in England in 1899. In it, Leland produced an account of the beliefs and rituals of the 'old religion' of witchcraft in Tuscany - la vecchia religione - that he claimed had been reported to him by a witch named Maddelena.66 The religion was purported to be centred on the goddess Aradia, sent down to earth by her mother Diana to teach witchcraft to peasants in order that they might fight their oppressors - feudal landlords and the Roman Catholic Church. According to Leland, in 1890s Tuscany, 'the witches even yet form a fragmentary secret society or sect, . they call it that of the Old Religion, and . there are in the Romagna entire villages in which the people are completely heathen' (Leland, 1990: 116). Whether Leland's claims to have uncovered an old surviving witchcraft religion were true or not is beyond the concerns of this chapter. Suffice it to say that his use of the term 'old religion' is as likely to have been borrowed from Roman Catholicism as it is to have derived from the stories of Maddelena.

Whatever the provenance of Wicca as 'the old religion', the story of a surviving pre-Christian religion called 'Wicca' or witchcraft has exerted a huge influence on the development of Wicca. The idea of witchcraft as a surviving old religion was first presented by two Catholics, Karl Ernst Jarcke in 1828 and Franz Josef Mone in 1839, both of whom were antagonistic to the witch cult they purported to describe. Attempting to make the witch hunt seem perfectly justifiable, they suggested that those persecuted as witches in the early modern period were indeed practitioners of a surviving pagan religion.67 This link with the past was used in the opposite way in 1862 by the radical French historian Jules Michelet, who portrayed the 'surviving witch cult' as a priestess-led, feminist, peaceful and nature loving movement, 'the repository of liberty all through the tyranny and obscurantism of the Middle Ages' (Hutton, 1996: 11). His book, La Sorcière, was commercially successful (as he had intended), and was published in English in 1904 as Satanism and Witchcraft, five years after Leland's Michelet-inspired account appeared.

The story of a surviving pre-Christian pagan witch cult was made most famous, however, by the Egyptologist Margaret Alice Murray in her 1921 publication The Witch Cult in Western Europe: A Study in Anthropology. In this, and her later book The God of the Witches (1933), Murray wove together ideas of rural fertility religion popularised by Frazer, the witch cult as described by Michelet and Leland, and folk customs, as well as asserting her belief that a female goddess was the original deity of the witches, the veneration of the horned god dating from the later, decadent era in which the cult was recorded. Her theory was that the witch cult contained the vestigial remnants of a pre-Christian European fertility religion, which Murray thought had perhaps first developed in Egypt and which she called 'Dianic'.68 It became, in Britain, the more popular and influential version of a story that was by 1921 already almost 100 years old. As Caroline Oates and Juliette Wood have argued, it is easy to see why her version became popular:

Where Mone, Jarcke, Michelet and Leland had all written about secret societies of witches in Germany, France and Italy, Murray made the cult British and, following Pearson,69 extended its secret history much further back in time. Here was an image of ancient British culture just begging to be revived.

Gardner could not resist the opportunity to initiate such a revival. The Folklore Society's stress on lore as living and dynamic, rather than a dead thing of the past, in the period immediately before and during his membership of the society, would certainly have encouraged him to take Murray's ancient but dead religion and make it live again in the traditions, customs and beliefs of modern people.70 Gardner therefore had no hesitation in perpetuating the inaccurate thesis which Murray had made so popular in Britain in his own books Witchcraft Today (1954) and The Meaning of Witchcraft (1959). Witchcraft Today contained an introduction by Murray and closely followed her theory, with chapters claiming that 'There have been Witches in all Ages', and an outline of Gardner's belief that witchcraft 'was directly descended from the Northern European culture of the Stone Age', uninfluenced by anything except 'the Greek and Roman mysteries which originally may have come from Egypt' (Gardner, 1954: 54). The Meaning of Witchcraft begins with an outline of three schools of thought on the origins of witchcraft. Two are summarily dismissed - Gardner ([1959] 2004: 1) does not believe that witchcraft was either 'a kind of mass hysteria' or 'the worship and service of Satan'. Instead, he praises Murray's presentation of witchcraft as 'simply the remains of the old pagan religion of Western Europe, dating back to the Stone Age' and persecuted by the Church as 'a dangerous rival' (ibid.). He continues:

I personally belong to this third school, because its findings accord with my own experience, and because it is the only theory which seems to me to make sense when viewed in the light of the facts of history.

(Gardner, [1959] 2004: 1, emphasis added)

Gardner seems to have felt that he had found academic authority that supported and validated his experiential 'knowing' with historical facts. Like Cromwell and Parker, Gardner had sought 'a return to the origin; a leap beyond history, [which] simultaneously requires that this leap be made through history, [and] be mediated by an immense historical and textual labor' (Robinson, 1998: 1083). He seems to have been convinced that this labour that enabled the leap through history had been provided by Murray. Always aware of his own lack of formal education and qualifications, it may well have been important for Gardner to feel that Wicca had an academically credible historical context. He was probably unaware that Murray's theory was heavily criticised from the time of its publication,71 though he may have known of later critiques by R. H. Robbins (1959: 116-17) and E. E. Rose (1962), both of which are listed among the contents of Gardner's library.72 Of course, their publication came too late for their criticisms to be included in any of Gardner's books, even had he wanted to make reference to them.

In claiming an unbroken witchcraft tradition reaching back into antiquity, a cult which had survived from pre-Christian times, Gardner not only reflected, but extended, the claims of both Catholicism and the Church of England to be manifestations of the 'old religion'. He had provided Wicca with a powerfully romanticised fiction that made it attractive to newcomers and ensured its survival, in just the same way as had the emerging Anglican Church of the sixteenth century and the Catholic minority in England. Of course, recourse to a secretly preserved past is typical of new forms of religion, and of esoteric societies. However, through this consideration of the politicisation of the value-laden terms 'old religion' and 'new religion', the development of Wiccan myths of origin can be seen to be predicated on a Catholic view that 'old' is good, in reaction to a Protestant view that 'old'

is outdated, that the 'new' has superseded the magical, mystical life. Not only that, but claims of ancient origin carried with them associated claims of precedence; in claiming to pre-date English Christianity as the indigenous religion of Britain, Murray and Gardner can also be seen to be claiming precedence in the spiritual life of the nation. In the Anglican struggle for authenticity and in the Catholic response to that struggle, 'old' and 'new' had become categories of political expediency. The Anglican compromise, the via media between the opposing factions of (old) Catholic Rome and (new) Protestant Geneva, had led the Church of England to claim its own ancient origins and apostolic succession. But claims to ancient origins and the consequent assurance of valid apostolic succession were the concern of another group of religious organisations with which Gardner was involved. The same concern with ancient, indigenous religions emerging and operating independently of the Church of Rome characterises the heterodox Christian churches of the episcopi vagantes in England, Wales and France. Under the auspices of two of these 'wandering bishops', the literary fantasm of the Ancient British Church, so useful to Cromwell, Bale and Parker, was to see two further revivals, in the nineteenth century under Rev. Richard Williams Morgan, and in the twentieth under Frederic 'Dorian' Herbert. It was a theme that was to influence the development of Druidry and Wicca, in both of which Gardner was involved.

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