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I think we can all agree that before 1940, nearly all occult activities, save very few, were performed in complete secrecy, so little of what is published today was available then.

Now, there is a word for “witch” in nearly every language on the planet.  While “Wicca”, as we know it today, did not exist until after 1940, there were certainly “witches” of some sort practicing throughout history, all over the planet, as evidenced in many more sources than the contents of a mysterious room in the Forbidden City, certain initiatory secrets in the ancient Bön religion of Tibet, digs in the Indus valley, and refrences in ancient Egyptian papyri. In Europe, this practice has been heavily affected by a “Burning Time” that no-one can deny occurred during the time of the Inquisition.  This event drove such practitioners into secrecy, and only survived in a significant way in remote mountain regions of Germany, Eastern Europe, Italy, France and Spain. The secretive witchcraft practiced in these remote locations became culturally isolated versions of what we call “Wicca” today.  In these parts of the world, what we today call “Wicca” became a very secret family or community tradition.  Due to the violent forces that created this state of affairs, the tradition that survived in these fragmented and isolated conditions itself became fragmented and differentiated over time.  In most cases, very little of what was a genuine and complete mystery tradition before the Burning Time survived complete and intact.

As a result of all this, a “witch” before 1940 would have been more likely a follower of a “family tradition.”  Such a person would have snatched up whatever occult literature could be found at the time, while hand-copying whatever notes that could be had through family friends and associations. People involved in such family and cultural traditions tended to be attracted to other occult activities that slowly re-emerged over the centuries.  These people were naturally attracted to, and heavily influenced such occult orders as “The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn”, the Fraternity of the Inner Light and the Ordo Templi Orientis , besides other separate and more secret orders.  It is known that such magical orders influenced Gerald Gardner, and through him, the influence came round full circle into the English version of “witchcraft” that we know today as “Wicca.”

This paints a picture of a pre-1940 European occult practitioner, who may or may not have called himself or herself a “witch”, and probably never heard the word “Wicca”.  After 1940, while Gerald Gardner affected English Wicca, the other “witches” hiding throughout Europe had not been so affected. In many cases these people still do practice in absolute family or community secrecy.

In American History, an interesting example of secret European family traditions surviving through an immigration to the New World, is the story of the “Pennsylvania Dutch”, or rather, “Pennsylvania Deitsch” (“Pennsylvania Germans”). From the Black Forest hexenmeisters (folk magicians, or spell-casters) of Germany, a group of families emigrated to the lands which are now called Romania, near Transylvania. Kaiser Wilhelm promised them land, in return for settling there. These farming families continued their secret traditions, with an outward appearance of Christianity. They might hang a rosary on the wall, for the neighbors to see, but they continued to practice their own faith in secret. As time went on, they mingled their faith with the practices of Romanian healers. In the early 1800s, they came to America, where they settled in Pennsylvania, and became part of the community which came to be known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. Among these Pennsylvania Dutch, to this day there remain extremely secretive practitioners of very old family traditions (not to mention cooks of great food!)

In the “New World”, Janus-Mithras was trained in a different family tradition by his own mother, who was a Spanish “bruja” pronounced “bruha” , male form is “brujo” – the Spanish words for “witch”).  Not surprisingly, due to the cross-influence between family traditions and secret occult orders already described, Janus Mithras also received training in various secret German occult orders through his own father’s papers.  The “traditional” Wicca described on this web site, that of the Isis Urania covens, is a direct confluence of these sources – the family tradition, and the secret European occult orders.  

Living in Vancouver in 1960, Janus-Mithras was called upon to teach what he had learned from his parents.  As the raw European material Janus-Mithras grew up with wasn’t very useful to English speaking Canadians, he received help from a Gardnerian witch in Vancouver that year, and together they adapted the Gardnerian language to the European family tradition.  Thus, in Vancouver, 1960, Janus-Mithras formed the first of the Isis Urania covens.

Of the “traditional” Wicca described here, while the language is new (post-1940), the teaching behind the language is from a far older family tradition.  It is this older tradition of explanation, Initiation and Realization that is referred to with the word “traditional”.

So, while “Wicca” was invented by Gerald Gardner in a sense, at the same time in another sense, it existed long before Gerald Gardner was ever born, and in many more cultures than the English.  The language of “Wicca” has changed around the world for thousands of years.  Gerald Gardner’s writings simply present yet another new cultural expression of the very old tradition.  The essential teachings, the mysteries, the meaning and significance of those, and the central myth behind it are all much older, and more pervasive than what we today call “Wicca”.  Wicca, the Ancient Way, is a very old system of Initiation and Realization, older than the word “Wicca” itself, and far older than the actual prayers and rituals we use in English today.  It is this Ancient Way that we refer to with the word “traditional” as in “traditional Wicca”.

Mer-Amun MerAmun

One Response to “The Founding of Isis Urania”

  • Richard says:

    Hi Webmaser and Blog Master.

    This is good information on the history of the ISIS URANIA tradition. And I agree with your observations and explanation.

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