Theistic Satanism: Home > To Pagans > Introduction & Updates > Very old posts > Literary Roots of Wicca



The post below was written back in 1991 or 1992 e.v. For an update by the author, please see: http://www.angelfire.com/ny5/dvera/pagan/intro.html#bos.


Modern Wiccan Concepts based in Literary Satanism

by Diane Vera


As I pointed out to Warren Grant in the PAGAN echo recently, Charles G. Leland mentions Michelet in the Appendix to Aradia: Gospel of the Witches: "Now be it observed, that every leading point which forms the plot or centre of this Vangel [...] had been told or written out for me in fragments by Maddalena (not to mention other authorities), even as it had been chronicled by Horst or Michelet." (pp.101-102, 1974 Weiser paperback edition)

In A History of Witchcraft, Jeffrey B. Russell writes: "Michelet's argument that witchcraft was a form of social protest was adapted later by Marxists; his argument that it was based on a fertility cult was adopted by anthropologists at the turn of the century, influenig Sir James Frazer's Golden Bough, Jessie Weston's From Ritual to Romance, Magaret Murray's Witch-Cult in Western Europe, and indirectly T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land." (A History of Witchcraft, p.133)

Russell states further: "Neopagan witchcraft has roots in the tradition of Michelet, who argued that European witchcraft was the survival of an ancient religion. This idea influenced Sir James Frazer and a number of other anthropologists and writers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The publication of Charles Leland's Aradia in 1899 was an important step in the evolution of the new religion of witchcraft. [...] The doctrines and practices of the witches as reported by Leland are a melange of sorcery, medieval heresy, witch-craze concepts, and political radicalism, and Leland reports ingenuously that this is just what he expected, since it fitted with what he had read in Michelet" (Russell, p.148).

As far as I know, it's possible that Michelet's influence on Gardner was only indirect, via the other above-named writers. This would not invalidate my point, which is that Michelet played a key role in the development of the ideas in question.

Michelet has had a more direct influence on feminist Goddess religion than on Wicca proper. Michelet's La Sorciere (Satanism and Witchcraft) is listed in the bibliography of Woman, Church, and State by Matilda Gage (19th-century Women's Suffrage leader and the founder of pre-Wiccan feminist Goddess religion) and, more recently, in Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers by Barbara Ehrenreich and Dierdre English (1973).

In my opinion, Michelet's most important contribution to both Wicca and feminist Goddess religion was that, as far as I know, he was the first well-known writer (in recent centuries, anyway) to use the word "Witch" (capital W) with its present-day positive connotations of healing and opposition to tyranny.



Back to: