Wicca; The Oft Ungrateful Child of Thelema

“…then will I breed from her a child mightier than all the kings of the earth…” -Liber Al vel Legis III:45

Audio Version

Do what thou whilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Wicca’s Origins

Gardner’s Wicca descends unarguably from Crowley’s Thelema.

There are a great number of people who seem to be uncomfortable with the relationship of Wicca to Thelema. It is no secret that Gardner’s Wicca borrowed a significant amount of its material from Thelema inasmuch as it is no secret that Crowley’s Thelema borrowed as significant amount of his material from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Suffice to say Gerald Gardiner was a Thelemite to some degree first and it was only after Aleister Crowley’s death that he left Thelema to start Wicca. It therefore should be no great surprise that one can find the Thelemic influences and structure in Gardner’s Wicca if you know where to look. As much as many Wiccans (and some Thelements I’m sure) may not like it, Wicca is, in fact, a Thelemic offspring in the same way that Protestantism is the offspring of Catholicism. It would therefore not be incorrect to call Wicca “Protestant Thelema” if one felt like being particularly cheeky though Gardiner never nailed a 93 thesis to the door of an OTO. I have had it argued to me by particularly dishonest Wiccans that Aleister Crowley got it from Gardiner but the dates of publication and the simple fact that Crowley was Gardner’s senior can quickly debunk this baseless assertion. There is other evidence to this fact to be found elsewhere but I won’t dwell too long on this point. If one examines Wicca understanding the importance of Liber Al vel Legis and the Quabbalah, the structure and relation becomes readily apparent. While this is a topic that has been covered at length before by others I find it useful to reiterate in this form if only to satisfy my own frustrations as well as I hope that recognizing this Wiccans may view their Thelemic siblings with more respect and likewise in return. They are both New Aeon religions after all and many Thelemites cite having started on their magickal path with some form of Wicca.

On the Text of the Gardinarian Book of Shadows

Firstly and most easily established is the grade structure comes directly from Liber CCXX.

Who calls us Thelemites will do no wrong, if he look but close into the word. For there are therein Three Grades, the Hermit, and the Lover, and the man of Earth. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” -Liber Al vel Legis I:40

Wicca possesses a threefold grade structure sometimes referred to as degree or admittance more or less matching that described in the above quote. Crowley broke these three grades up into smaller component degrees for each grade but nonetheless the structure remains in both the A∴A∴ and the M∴M∴M∴. Wicca also has a probationary period of a year and a day before one can take their first initiation. This directly mirrors the student phase of the A∴A∴, though the details differ.

Now, things start getting interesting is when we examine the texts and the teachings as described. I will go through the entire Gardinarian Book of Shadows and comment thereupon.

Firstly let’s examine Wiccan texts starting with Gardner’s own. The Gardnerian Book of Shadows is quite short and there may well be details in his personal copy not found in the publicly available one. As that book has not been published in any form I’ll have to go with what I can; the available publication. Let’s start with some direct textual parallels. For the sake of simplicity I shall henceforth identify The Gardnerian Book of Shadows as GBoS and Liber Al vel Legis as Liber CCXX with quotes in the usual format. As I imagine it will be for you, I find these a very clear case of simply rewording and paraphrasing parts of Liber CCXX and in many cases venturing into outright plagiarism. We shall skip the initial “Casting the Circle” for now.

The first block of examples are all pulled from the section in the GBoS entitled “THE CHARGE: ‘LIFT UP THE VEIL'”.

“…and her eyes shall burn with desire as she stands bare and rejoicing in my secret temple…” -Liber CCXX I:62

“…ye shall be naked in your rites, both men and women” -GBoS

“…if under the night-stars in the desert thou presently burnest mine incense before me, invoking me with a pure heart, and the Serpent flame therein, thou shalt come a little to lie in my bosom. For one kiss wilt thou then be willing to give all; but whoso gives one particle of dust shall lose all in that hour. Ye shall gather goods and store of women and spices; ye shall wear rich jewels; ye shall exceed the nations of the earth in splendour & pride; but always in the love of me…” -Liber CCXX I:61

“and ye shall dance, sing feast, make music and love, all in my praise.” -GBoS

“I am above you and in you. My ecstasy is in yours. My joy is to see your joy.” -Liber CCXX I:13

“To me! To me!” -Liber CCXX I:65

“Let ecstasy be mine, and joy on earth even unto me, To Me, ‘For I am a gracious Goddess.” -GBoS

“There is a secret door that I shall make to establish thy way in all the quarters,” -Liber CCXX III:38

“There is a Secret Door that I have made to establish the way to taste even on earth the elixer of immortality.” -GBoS

“I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.” -Liber CCXX I:58

“I give unimaginable joys on earth, certainty, not faith , while in life! And upon death, peace unutterable, rest, and ecstacy, nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.” -GBoS

“…I charge you earnestly to come before me in a single robe, and covered with a rich headdress. I love you! I yearn to you! Pale or purple, veiled or voluptuous, I who am all pleasure and purple, and drunkenness of the innermost sense, desire you. Put on the wings, and arouse the coiled splendour within you: come unto me!’ -Liber CCXX I:61

“I love you: I yearn for you: pale or purple, veiled or voluptuous. I who am all pleasure, and purple and drunkenness of the innermost senses, desire you. Put on the wings, arouse the coiled splendor within you. Come unto me…” -GBoS

“I am the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star.” -Liber CCXX II:6

“…for I am the flame that burns in the heart of every man, and the core of every Star.” -GBoS

“Let the rituals be rightly performed with joy & beauty!” -Liber CCXX II:35

“Let the rituals be rightly performed with joy and beauty.” -GBoS

“Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us.” -Liber CCXX II:20

“So let there be beauty and strength, leaping laughter, fore and fire by within you.” -GBoS

Again I would like to reiterate that the above examples are all pulled from a single entry in the GBoS. Just two pages and we have that much to compare. This is no accident.

The next section of the published GBoS are the three initiation rituals. It would be improper to comment on them. The published version of the GBoS includes them but I wish it did not. Even as I am not Wiccan, I have respect for oaths and the need for secrecy in any order and do not condone the propagation of such secrets to the uninitiated.

There’s a quick bit about the cakes and wine. It doesn’t go into detail but this of course parallels the Gnostic Mass’s Cakes of Light and Wine which in turn of course borrows the Eucharist from Christianity. The details and symbolism differs in all cases but such minutia has been covered by other writers much better than I can so I don’t have much to add.

After this, the next section covers the Sabbat rituals and there are yet more comparisons to make.

In the first such described, the November eve ritual, it opens with what it calls the witch chant or dance. This is the recitation of the passage called Eko Eko – named after its first line. it is of note that nobody seems to know what any of it is supposed to mean as far as I can find.

Not much further down is the instruction that the priestess should assume the goddess position. It’s not described in the text but one can easily find it elsewhere. This position is simply a renaming of the sign of Typhon

Not long after the instruction is made for the priest to assume the god position. Again we see a rename for a Thelemic sign; in this case the sign of Osiris risen

These signs are common enough in material of the profane that it’s not that important but it is worth noting since we’re describing all the ways Garder’s Wicca descends from Thelema. They may well come from upstream in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn but I am less informed on such matters.

We then have an invocation for the priestess. Immediately we see parallel text as before.

“…I am Life, and the giver of Life, yet therefore is the knowledge of me the knowledge of death.” – Liber CCXX II:6

“Dread Lord of the shadows, god of life and the giver of life. Yet is the knowledge of thee the knowledge of death.” -GBoS

The second Sabbat given is Febuary Eve.

Again many of the above notes apply including similar wording. here we have another spoken invocation. This text also borrows from Liber XV: the Gnostic Mass.

“…and in one Father of Life, Mystery of Mystery, in His name CHAOS, the sole viceregent of the Sun upon the Earth…” -Liber XV

“Encourage our hearts. Let thy light crystallize itself in our blood, fulfilling us of Resurrection.” -Liber XV

“There is no part of me that is not of the Gods.” -Liber XV

“Dread Lord of death and Resurrection, life and the giver of life, Lord within ourselves, whose name is Mystery of Mysteries, encourage our hearts. Let the light crystalize in our blood, fulfilling us of resurrection, for there is no part of us that is not of the gods.” -GBoS

The final two sabbats given are May Eve and August Eve. In terms of connections to Thelema there’s not really anything of note beyond that which was already noted above. I am unsure of the origins of the invocations but they are seemingly not Thelemic. They appear very folksy. They may be wholly original.

The section on chants is short and I have only one note: The described “chant” of IAU and its other permutations is a phonetic example of the IAO formula used heavily in Thelemic texts. It was borrowed originally from the Christian Gnostics as far as I can tell. The rest of the “chants” appear similar to the barbarous names found in the Bornless Ritual and in turn from the Stele of Jeu found in the the Papyri Graecae Magicae.

The sections titled “To Help the Sick” and “The Scourge and the Kiss” are not of much interest sans the references it makes to the material already covered above. The section titled “The Priestess and the Sword” is rather sexist but otherwise wholly unremarkable in this context. “The Warning” and “Of The Ordeal of the Art Magical” are much the same.

Now we have “The Eightfold Way” which is immediately notable in that its title is almost certainly in reference to the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism though its contents are not particularly related. It is otherwise unremarkable.

Though the text continues, I don’t really have anything of note in this context and seem to either be wholly original or taken from non-Thelemic sources of which I have not read.

Wicca and the Qabbalah

The Qabbalah we will be discussing in this section comes from Thelemic and Thelemic-adjacent sources. I am not Jewish and I won’t pretend to have knowledge of the form of mystic Judaism the Kabbalah descends from. This is Hermetic Quabbalah as I understand it. Much could be said about the details of this distinction but that’s not relevant to the topic at hand beyond as here noted.

This is the point where I branch out into other Wiccan sources I have at my disposal. These do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and content of Gardinerian Wicca but in my experience such covens are few and far between. I know next to nothing about Alexandrian Wicca so I have nothing to say on that topic. In any case most people I meet claiming the religion Wicca practice “eclectic” or “American Traditionalist Wicca”. For this I will be focusing on the text of Cunninham’s Book of Shadows and Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. For the sake of simplicity I shall henceforth identify Cunningham’s Book of Shadows as CBoS and Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft as BCBoW.

Amusingly CBoS contains a short reference and name drop of Aleister Crowley on page 9 of the hardcover edition.

The GBoS as published contains little in the form of outright theology beyond that which is implied by the rituals and invocations but we do find some at the start of CBoS. We get a neat little creation myth called “Before Time Was”. This description of this creation myth is much more straightforward but essentially parallels the first and sixth poems from Liber CCCXXXIII.

The first entity mentioned is that of the Dryghtyn. It is described as being “all-knowing, all-pervading, all-powerful, changeless and eternal”. Then the Dryghtyn splits into twin forms; the Goddess and the God who are described as “alone, solitary save for the Dryghtyn”. There’s a direct parallel to this in Liber CCCXXXIII:

                               The Abyss
                    The Word is broken up.
                    There is Knowledge.
                    Knowledge is Relation.
                    These fragments are Creation.
                    The broken manifests Light.

                     The Second Triad which is GOD
           GOD the Father and Mother is concealed in Genera-
           GOD is concealed in the whirling energy of Nature.
           GOD is manifest in gathering: harmony: considera-
               tion: the Mirror of the Sun and of the Heart.

Then we have a description of the Goddess and the God forming the universe. Again we can look at Liber CCCXXXIII for parallels.

     The Word was uttered: the One exploded into one
       thousand million worlds.
     Each world contained a thousand million spheres.
     Each sphere contained a thousand million planes.
     Each plane contained a thousand million stars.
     Each star contained a many thousand million things

The parallels should be obvious. I will also amusingly note this line:

“The Goddess chose the Moon as her living symbol, and the God the Sun as his living symbol, to remind the inhabitants of Earth of their fashioners.” -CBoS

Parallels this line of Liber CCXX

“For he is ever a sun, and she a moon. But to him is the winged secret flame, and to her the stooping starlight.” -Liber CCXX I:16

Both of these come from further upstream in the Hermetic current to the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismagistus itself:

“Its father is the Sun and its mother the Moon.” -Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, Jabir Ibn Hayyan translation

So now down to the part where things get interesting. The Dryghten, the God and the Goddess all have direct corollaries on the Tree of Life; the supernal sephirot Keter, Chokma and Binah. Checkout the diagram above. These are the first 3 emanations of the godhead. The initial state of the Dryghten was without form but after the split two were formed from that one, and yet the one remained, but having split it was no longer the all and therefore was not unlike the other two. It split and its nature was changed but its essence remained. The sephirot of Keter is the primary source for the rest of the tree and ultimately creation just like the Dryghten is the primary source behind the God and the Goddess. Chokmah is astrologically associated with the planet Uranus and Binah with Saturn. Keter is associated with Neptune.

The God and Goddess are not limited to just those aspects though. They embody the entirety of the concept of the divine. So rather than just being limited to those particular sephirot, they would also fit the entirety of the pillars Jachin and Boaz

Boaz is the pillar of severity and represented as being black. Not only is Binah found there as Saturn but also is Geburah as Mars and Hod as Mercury.

In much the same way the pillar Jachin is associated with the goddess. Jachin is the pillar of mercy. Not only does it include Chokmah as Uranus but also Chesed as Jupiter and Netzach as Venus.

The implications of this association is that should Wiccans come to grips with this concept then their magick can be expanded to include more aspects of the Qabbalah as well. If you associate the God and Goddess with Boaz and Jachin then any correspondences for any of their associated sephirot found in the tables of 777 could be used in ritual relating to them. Additionally it opens the door to gematria, as well as the Quabbalistic concept of the Tarot adding an entirely new layer to their reading. (Which may well be an article topic for the future.) Additionally it adds an extra layer to their pentagram ritual “casting circle” also called “calling quarters”. Understanding that this ritual is a blend of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram and the Opening by Watchtower found in the Enochean material could add an entire new layer of meaning to this ritual and others.

Of course Wiccans can go ahead and ignore all this and keep the Quabbalistic correspondences as implied rather than stated but understanding it opens the gateway for Wiccans to see where they stand in the larger occult milieu.

In conclusion, Wicca is uniquely positioned in its relationships because it wears a pagan costume but dances the ceremonial magick dance. It’s a New Aeon religion focused on reimagined versions of Old Aeons practices, beliefs and rituals. (Some of these from the Aeon of Osiris and some from the Aeon of Isis.) It’s been said many times that Wiccans are seen as making it up as they go along and being not well read in the subject of Magick while Thelemites are characterized as being haughty, elitist and overly studious. Neither categorization serves either group well. There are pretentious Wiccans and well read ones just as there are kind welcoming Thelemites and self-righteous ones. In anhy case, it is my hope that the schism between the two paths can be mended and Wiccans grow to respect Thelema and especially the Quabbalah and Thelemic texts, and Thelemites in turn recognize the validity and pedigree of their practices and rituals.

Love is the law, love under will.