I was inspired to write a blog about my personal and also our coven’s feelings and love for the Great Mother Goddess, or “Magna Mater” after re-reading the excellent book, “Evoking the Primal Goddess” by William G. Gray.
Many of the points Gray makes in his book match up with what I have discovered of the Great Goddess and Divine Feminine. I felt it was time to put down in an article how I feel about the Great Mother Goddess from what I have learned from my own coven, the Wolfa Coven, which is part of both Sacred Pentagraph & Horsa Traditions.
“Why should we seek a matriarchal principle of Deity anyway? No one should seek such a thing exclusively of its male counterpart, but we have already sought to exclude the feminine element of God for so many centuries that we have become unbalanced; and we now need to reestablish the equilibrium of energy by mating the polarities of Power with each other so as to cause a state of Cosmos between both conditions of spiritual being.”
-this quote from William G. Gray and his book “Evoking the Primal Goddess” from Llewellyn Publications, 1989.
The first part of this brief quote applies a great deal to the practice of Wicca as I have come to learn it.
Gray was an unsung adept of the occult and although he was not a witch himself, he was an Occultist of great knowledge. He is best known for his “Sangreal Sodality” and also his excellent guide on the Qabala called “Ladder of Lights.” He was quite friendly with Traditionalist witches, Gardnerian witches and also Cochrane’s Clan of Tubal Cain and many other witches of the 1960s.
It is well known that many Wiccans honor a particular pair of gods known as the “Goddess and God.” Some may even provide worship as well in their ceremonies by virtue of the names of their chosen deities.
While I can’t speak for other traditions of Initiatory Wicca, I can tell you about my personal beliefs in this subject which has been developed on what has been passed down to me:
In our coven that is part of Sacred Pentagraph/Horsa Tradition (covenofthewolfa.wordpress.com), I look at both the Goddess and God as a Great Mother Goddess and Great Father God. In my own Occult learnings, they are principles and not humanized or people. That is, because above all, the teachings of Witchcraft descending from Sybil Leek in the New Forest acknowledge an Ultimate Deity, Life-Force or a Supreme Being that is the spark of all things. This Ultimate Deity or Supreme Being is the source from which we have all come from and through a process of reincarnation, the source to which we shall one day return.
This can be summarized well by the following quote:
“Out of the great heart of nature all things proceed, and all things lead back there at last; all worlds and systems of worlds, from the great central sun to the smallest particle in space, must thrill responsive to the pulsation of that infinite heart of compassion. The Great Mother reaches forth to receive her own.” (2)
-quote by Katherine Tingley, published 1922
Regarding Reincarnation and the returning back to the Source of All Things, such as through the process of reincarnation; we believe it is a progressive-evolution that never “devolves” but continuously either stands stationary or moves forward. (Meaning we can’t go backwards – and like nature, we can only stagnate or go forward.)
There are a number of titles or names that many practitioners may or may not call this Supreme Being, but that is not important: that which is perfection can never be personified by our own human understanding. To do so, would be to limit this Supreme Being and make it less than perfection. (This also explains why it is a possible reason why Wiccans are okay with bringing in folks of many different belief systems about the “Gods” – such as monotheists, Deists, polytheists and agnostic: for at the end of the day, a belief in this “power” or “All/Source” is considered beyond any and all religion. It also allows for an encompassing view, meaning, that whether someone is a polytheist, a monotheists or a duo-theist that I can find common ground and relate to what they are doing. My acknowledgement of a Supreme Being means we are all connected together in some way or another – however you choose to describe this one encompassing Divine Monad.)
The Supreme Being is not specifically or exclusively “Wiccan,” nor any religion. It is a simple belief that something that is much greater than us exists, somehow and in some way. This also seems to resonate with the teachings of Theosophy when trying to define what might be within the scope of an “Ancient Wisdom Religion.” (While the teachings of the Rosicrucians, Crowley & O.T.O., at least at first glance, seemed to possibly be very influential to Gerald Gardner’s branch of Wicca; it was The Theosophical Society and folk magic that was very influential in Sybil Leek’s branch of Wicca.)
Now out of this Supreme Being, as energy begins to limit itself and become “less than perfect”, this is when we come to the first primal split – which as Wiccans we call the “Goddess and God.” Typically, this pair are given names which are kept secret by the coven. Since anything less than the Supreme Being is imperfect, it is okay to name these two “gods.” It is also possible that many witch-gods may be nothing more than vivified elementals given power merely by the concentrated thought of those that work with them in ritual. Though what we can say is that Wicca teaches that our gods are not perfect and they need our help, just as we need them. One deceased High Priestess of our coven line said it like this: “We are nothing without our gods, but our gods are nothing without us!”
Many have complained over the years about the “secrecy” of the god names of the traditional covens. In my own personal opinion – call the “gods” what you wish: as the names themselves, when spoken and with certain actions, feelings and emotions, create “thought-forms.” These names in many ways are “key codes” to the coven thought-form, or the unseen presence or “Guide” of a long-standing coven. So don’t worry if you you’re not in the special club without the passwords – many newer groups today have created their own key-code locks of god-names and this is perfectly acceptable for new groups to do. If after many years calling a Stone by a particular name, that stone may gain enough magnetism to answer you back and be just as powerful as any other named witch-god, vivified by the concentrated thought of the collective wills of the coven within the Astral Light.
This above goes back to the idea of the “sacred names,” or as I have written elsewhere before on “Words of Power” which believes that names carry certain power and vibration. If you know certain words, which we know are measurable energy, that produce mental, emotional and physical stimuli and can be measured in the brain, then you can then indeed “mess” with the thought form itself… though some god names are now to the point of power that they go well-beyond what a single witch or even many, many witches could mess with since the thought-form has been built that have taken a life of their own outside of traditions and covens and create quite a labyrinth of connections from witch to witch to witch.
This above also leads to a particular teaching in the world of the occult that says that a coven can be no more than 13 members, because only 12 of them are actual human-born witches and the 13th member of the coven is the “thought-form” of the coven itself. If you quarter a circle by the directions, or cosmic-cross, three witches within each quadrant are all connected back to the unseen presence of deity that is symbolized by the baalfire in the center of the magic circle, equaling 13.
Recently, a coven member asked me why we place our altar in the center of the magic circle when we work indoors. I told them to think about the outdoor rituals we do – what is in the center of the circle? The baalfire or need-fire! In the center, eh? What does the baalfire represent? It represents the Ultimate Deity or Supreme Being, for what can be greater or more pure than fire? Fire is the only element that “rises upward” and can carry the other elements with it. The “Supreme Being” and also the manifested power of the coven thought-form is represented by that central flame. Hence, this is the central hub that covens refer to by the names they have given a particular god. It is always present. Many times, this is why a witch will always recognize another witch.
Now if we take away the thought that we are doing a ritual, and let’s just say it is one of our bonfire nights where we get together to chat, what is everyone’s natural inclination to do, whether they are a witch or not? They automatically and almost instinctively circle round the fire and make a circle, so why would doing a spell or ritual be any different? There are just some natural actions that almost seem to be “instinctual” to us in magical workings and it is our job as occultists to ferret it out and examine the reasons why.
The instinctual discoveries of what we do in our magical operations also apply to our Goddess and God. If these two beings represent a specific pair of the “prime duality,” then what makes sense to us? A Mother Goddess and a Father God maybe?
It is quite common to hear many folks talk about the “Great Mother Goddess” but when they address the “Great Father God” they typically will just say “Horn’ed God” and therefore, almost subconsciously cut out the idea that he is also one of our primal parents as well. Yes, he is a Horn’ed God and the “Lord of Death and Resurrection” to many Wiccans, but what would be wrong with also thinking of him as our “Father God” like we think about a Goddess as our “Mother Goddess?”
Why doesn’t the “God” seem to get the same amount of affection as the “Great Mother Goddess?”
I think this has a lot to do with the second part of the quote above by Bill Gray that refers to the fact that for so long, we have worked to suppress the “Magna Mater” of us all and we have entered the pendulum swing where for many of us, the Goddess receives much greater importance than the God.
There are many covens since the 1960s, 1970s and many today that honor the Goddess in Her many attributes today almost exclusively. It has given many thousands of women (and some men too!) a way to connect and uncover the far too-often neglected Goddess and help Her to reclaim Her rightful role as the Great Mother of us all. It is easy for some to criticize this approach as not being in “balance,” but the feminists who have done this have weaved a strong kind of magical web that has helped to bring Her back to us so that we one day will hopefully be able to restore the equilibrium as best as we can between the two mighty poles of power. (If the earth has been dry for far too long and has only had the rays of the sun beating down on it, then an unequal amount of rain would be needed to fall before the “sweet spot” of just the right natural conditions could occur: some folks are working their own mysteries to recover just that!)
Today, we have many types of groups that “coven” for the purposes of recovering many different types of mysteries.
In our modern day, many groups were formed to explore little known mysteries connected to the ideas of resurrecting the ancient Priesthoods of what might be called the “Ancient Wisdom Tradition” that exist within our Western Mystery Traditions. One of the first hyper-specific offshoots that found expression through modern witchcraft was Z. Budapest’s “Dianic Witchcraft,” not to be confused with the “McFarland Dianic” Line, and also not be be confused with what Sybil Leek called “Dianic.” (I think it is possible that Budapest had been inspired to call her tradition “Dianic” from Sybil Leek’s writings.)
Budapest’s Dianic Witchcraft, in which her first coven was the “Susan B. Anthony Coven No. 1”, and now today many covens have come from her first coven, was all women – straight, lesbian and somewhere in between. Budapest had a mission at the time to recover and find the Goddess wherever she could. At the time, many women identified with the message that she carried in those early years.
Men, of all genders, are also very interested in finding the Great Goddess within the many initiatory covens and systems that exist today. Most male-only covens for men of all gender identifications honor only the male end of the pole, similar to how Dianic Witches typically only honor the female end of the pole. The only All-Male covens that seem to have felt more comfortable embracing the Goddess are covens that are open exclusively to those wishing to discover and explore the gay mysteries. A wonderful all male tradition doing just that, Gala Witchcraft (www.galawitchcraft.com) (3), is finding the gay male witch & priesthood in its many forms through the expression of witchcraft. The teachings are sound, as Gala Witchcraft is an off-shoot of the Sacred Pentagraph/Horsa Traditions and still practice the Craft in our own coven’s style and methods.
Something that we haven’t seen yet, but we have reached a time where the world is most likely ready for it, is for another sub-group of Pagans to explore the Transgender mysteries within the Western Pagan traditions. I think within another 5 years’ time we will see this come about within our Pagan and Wiccan sub-culture. It is possible it has already been established and just not widely known about yet! Casey Giovinco, Chief Elder of Gala Witchcraft and author of “Garbed in Green – Gay Witchcraft & the Male Mysteries” (6) has said he hopes that someday he can offer his support in helping folks who identify as trans or currently transitioning be able to find the mysteries that resonate with them and resurrect them as he has done for gay witches.
Are all these splinter sub-groupings of sub-groupings of an already sub-culture splintering us in a greater sense? I don’t personally think it is.
I think it may only be negative when we pontificate what is the only valid and true way to go in any religion. Those that do this, seem to eventually find themselves alone in the end within their groups because this attitude does not harmonize well in our Aquarian Age era.
A quote about this above that I love very much is from the book titled, “The Mind of the Druid,” which is an older book by Dr. Graham Howe that says, (4)
“Follow the path, my son.”
“Your path, which is not my path.”
One High Priestess of another tradition that I knew well at the time told me that, “All things in Nature must find expression.” Her opinion seems to carry a universal truth that resonated with me. Since Nature Herself is imperfect and in a state of always seeking balance, but never quite obtaining it, when you load up one side of the apple-cart with too many apples, it is bound to tip over in order to achieve equilibrium. Some folks might describe this as Nature’s pendulum swing. In our coven, we call this the “Law of Compensation” and this law itself finds expression through the Fall Festival, or the “Rite of Autumn” – which is a time of us all getting our just desserts for our actions, good or ill – for like nature, what we sow, we must reap.
We have now arrived at the place where we get into the description of the power and place of this prime duality:
The Great Mother Goddess re-claims that which is given unto her: the earth, the sea, etc., much like the womb, which we might describe as a negative force and flow.
Now it is important here to note that “negative” flow does not mean “bad” in ANY way, because destruction/absorption in this case refers to limiting and therefore, giving form and growth to something. For in order for something to be given form, it must be restricted and given a vessel to find expression in. A saying in Wicca is that: “All power comes from the God (Sun) and is shaped and given form by the Goddess. (Earth).” In this way, we are saying that our “Father God” initiates, and our “Mother Goddess” responds. It’s the celestial initiating a response on the terrestrial. One can have no purpose without the other. Each gives the other meaning.
Just like in human reproduction, the seed initiates new life when it finds the egg, and the egg responds. One side cannot and will not exist without the other: Without the response, there can be no initiation – and without initiation, there can be no response.
This is the great universal push and pull, and can be applied to our practice of witchcraft. We see this in the terms “Solve” and “Coagula” that can be found on the arms of the Baphomet dream by Eliphas Levi and also in the style of circumambulation used within ritual:
In some covens, only a sun-wise circumambulation is used in ritual. In other covens, a widdershins method is used in ritual along with sun-wise movements. Sometimes it may start one direction and close another direction and other times only one direction only.
Sometimes in Wicca we find taught an incomplete view or belief that the left or widdershins is BAD, causes chaos and only used in cursing and baneful magic. Likewise, sun-wise or to the right are made because it is “good” magic.
Deosil, or sun-wise, is the “Path of the Sun.” It pushes or “sends out” power. It is the force of the Horn’ed God and the Sun.
Widdershins, or counter-clockwise, is the “Path of the Earth.” It pulls in. It is the force of the Goddess.
Widdershins circumambulation sets up a powerful cyclotron. The best thing I can think of is a “Hurricane” which spins and pulls in counter-clockwise. What does it do? Yes, it pulls in. A tornado is the same. Which way does an astrology chart move? Which way does the earth spin? Widdershins circumabulations create a vacuum. Also, in regards to the medieval books that do describe “witch dances” all talk about how they “dance against the sun.”
Yes, the sun progresses forward in what seems to be a clockwise or sunwise movement. That is but symbolic of our God. It’s interesting, that a religion that is focused on the Divine Feminine, would reject the leftward movements of Widdershins and relegate it to black magic and cursing, because that is the path of the Great Mother.
You don’t find this teaching in many other paths or traditions since most known practices of Wicca has been made popular and inspired by the trailblazer Gerald Gardner.
Sybil Leek achieved the greatest world-wide fame, but the covens she started have always been very secretive, private and small. It is not until recently that many of us who have gathered together and are part of a collective group now that she helped to form have come forward to say that, yes, we are still here and yes, there are similarities even though we have a different way of doing things.
If you are interested in learning a little bit more about what we are all about, one source you will find beneficial has been written by an Elder and Philosophus V* of the Wolfa Coven, Tarostar. Check out his book “The Sacred Pentagraph” to give you an idea of what it is like in the North American branch of Horsa. You will find a photo of our coven temple here in Pennsylvania on page 46 of the text.
In regards to the Goddess-mysteries, the exploration of the “Sangreal” or “Royal-Blood” is not a new concept and is one of the great mysteries that is truly embedded into our Western Mysteries. (Dan Brown’s novel and movie, “The DaVinci Code” also re-sparked even more interest in this!)
It seems no mistake that some of the oldest known ways of tracing lineage is through the Mothers. Today, even those who are Jewish trace their ancestry through the Mother. It is possible this may extend even back to the time when people had no idea how babies were born. Sexual union was NOT for “pro-creation” at that time, and was purely for pleasure and enjoyment only. Then, as if by magic, a baby was born. It may even have been possible that many babies were all born around the same time as each other in a tribe, which, like the animals around them had their own breeding season.
May the Great Mother Goddess be always remembered!
Blessed Be to all in The Craft who remember, honor and call upon the Great Mother in all her manifold attributes and many names!
1. Gray, William. Evoking the Primal Goddess, 1989. Print
2. Tingley, Katherine; Theosophy: The Path of the Mystic. Print.
3. Gala Witchcraft: Gay Male Mysteries: www.galawitchcraft.com
4. Howe, Dr. Graham. The Mind of the Druid
5. Giovinco, Casey. Garbed in Green – Gay Witchcraft & the Male Mysteries. Print.