The Old Gods

Witchcraft for Tomorrow - Doreen Valiente 1993

The Old Gods

The gods of the witches are the oldest gods of all. They are the same as those divinities that were real to the men of the Old Stone Age, who painted them upon the walls of their sacred caves.

Churchmen and other writers who denounced witchcraft and the witches’ heathenish practices, have described in their books two deities whom, they say, the witches worshipped in place of the Christian god. These are a horned figure, part human and part beast, who sat enthroned at the Sabbats, dimly lighted by the flames of the ritual bonfire, while the witches danced around him; also, by his side, a beautiful naked girl, who was regarded as the Queen of the Sabbat, probably because she represented and impersonated Diana, the goddess of the moon, or her daughter Aradia. Both of these central figures of the worship who were actually human beings, masked in the case of the horned god-figure, sometimes led the wild and orgiastic dances at certain stated and traditional times of the year, seasonal festivals which were so old that no one could remember the beginning of them. Such are the central features of the witches’ worship, attested to by innumerable hostile witnesses.

Both of these divinities, the horned god and the naked goddess, can be found among the cave paintings and carvings of our prehistoric ancestors in Western Europe. The horned god can also be found in the religious art of the pre-Aryan cities of the Indus Valley, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. The likeness is precise, even to the feature of a torch between the horns, so often described by old-time writers upon the abominations of witchcraft. The civilization of these ancient cities of India is believed to date back to the third millennium B.C.

The image of a horned head with a light between the horns survives in the secret Tantric worship of India to this day. In the Mahanirvana Tantra, which describes the worship of the supreme goddess, Adya Kali, by means of the Panchatattva ritual, which includes the offering of wine, meat, fish, grain and sexual intercourse within a consecrated circle, we are told how a male horned animal should be sacrificed to the goddess. The animal is decapitated with one sharp stroke of a sacrificial knife; then the severed head, with a light placed on it between the horns, is offered with these words: ’This head with the light upon it I offer to the Devi with obeisance.’*

Before we accuse the Tantrics of cruelty to animals, we should take into account the fact that they believe the sacrificial animal to be released by this act from the bondage of its life as a beast, and enabled to progress into a higher state of existence. A special prayer to this effect is said over the animal before it is killed. It may not be too fanciful to speculate that the sacrificed animal really represents the prehistoric horned deity of pre-Aryan India. Many commentators upon the scriptures called Tantras have suggested that they incorporate extremely ancient religious concepts, although in the form in which we possess them today they have been edited by Brahmins and Buddhists in accordance with their much later ideas.

Still further east, we find fearsome horned gods depicted in the art of Tibet, Nepal and adjacent territories, which although ostensibly Buddhist, evidently contains much older elements which have been adapted to fit into the Buddhist religion. The most notable of these deities, represented both in statues and in the gloriously coloured wall hangings called tankas, is Yamantaka, who is sometimes shown with the head of a bull and sometimes with the huge curving horns of the Tibetan yak. He is coupled with his female counterpart, called his prajna or ’wisdom’, and surrounded by an aura of flames. In spite of his terrifying appearance, however, he is not regarded by the Buddhists as an evil being, but as one of the ’wrathful deities’ who act as guardians of the Buddhist religion; he is also called ’The Destroyer of Death’.

A clue to his real origin and antiquity is given by the fact that Yamantaka was also worshipped and invoked by the followers of the pre-Buddhist Bon religion of Tibet; a religion of a much more primitive kind which was concerned with magic and with the spirits and gods of nature, and was probably derived from the ancient shamanism of the remote regions of Asia, such as northern Tibet and Mongolia. A description of an invocation of Yamantaka by Bon magician-priests is given by Idries Shah in his book Oriental Magic. In view of the Communist Chinese invasion of Tibet, one has to use the past tense in writing of Tibetan traditions; but it may well be that in some remote forest or mountain valley Yamantaka is secretly worshipped yet, even as the witches after the coming of Christianity in Europe forgathered clandestinely to worship their old pagan gods.

In Europe, the best known version of the homed god is Pan. He was the deity of the farmers and shepherds of Arcadia, the most rural part of ancient Greece. Although older and more primitive than the sophisticated deities of Mount Olympus, he was much beloved by country folk as the bringer of fertility. He was the incarnation of the life-force of nature, and known as Pamphage, Pangenetor, ’All-devourer’, ’All-Begetter’. Even so, Osiris of Egypt was the symbol of the returning life-force, and at the same time the god of death and what lies beyond. To the ancient pagans, life and death were two sides of the same coin.

When offended, Pan could be the inspirer of terror, and our word ’panic’ is still derived from his name. Nature is majestic, awe-inspiring and sometimes terrible. The word Pan also meant ’all, everything’. Some representations of Pan show him as a universal god. Hence his body, part human and part beast. The spotted fawn skin that drapes his shoulders represents the stars of heaven. His shaggy hair symbolizes the woods and forests. His mighty hoofs are the strong rocks. His horns are rays of light; while the seven-reeded pipe upon which he plays the mystic melody of life, enchanting all who hear it, is emblematic of the rulership of the seven heavenly bodies, the sun and moon and the five visible planets. In eastern sacred art, a similar representation is made of the god Krishna, whose apparition in his universal form is vividly described in the Bhagavad Gita.

The witches of Thessaly in ancient Greece worshipped the god Pan. He was said to be the secret lover of the moon goddess Artemis, the Greek version of Diana. He summoned his worshippers naked to his moonlight rituals, even as the witches danced naked at their Sabbats centuries later.

The Romans inherited Pan from the Greeks, along with many of their other gods and goddesses; they named him Faunus or Silvanus. His people were the satyrs and wood-nymphs, the personifications of the hidden life of nature. The animal sacred to him was the goat, who later became the goat of the Sabbat. His lusty merriment and shamelessness were naturally obnoxious to the early Christians, to whom this world was fallen from grace and the abode of sin. Hence, he provided the model upon which the horned and tailed Satan was formed. By an evolution well-known to students of comparative religion, the god of the old faith became the devil of the new.

The Buddhists, as we have seen, were rather more subtle in dealing with the primitive horned gods of their countries. Instead of declaring them to be devils, they incorporated them into Buddhism as guardians of the faith.

The Celtic version of the god Pan was Cernunnos, meaning ’the Horned One’. This name is found upon an altar dedicated to him which is now in the Cluny Museum, Paris. This altar was found beneath what is now the site of Notre Dame Cathedral. Probably the shrine of the new religion was deliberately built upon what was already a pagan sacred place.

Other famous representations of Cernunnos are the statue group dating from Gallo-Roman times, now in the Museum of Reims, and that found on the splendid silver cauldron known as the Gundestrop Bowl, which came from a peat bog in Denmark, where it was found in 1891. The former, which is a group of statues evidently influenced by Roman ideas, shows Cernunnos with Apollo and Mercury; but he is the most important figure, and is shown in his characteristic attitude, sitting cross-legged, just as his ancient prototype from the Indus Valley is depicted. The figure on the Gundestrop Bowl is shown in a similar way, and surrounded by lively representations of various beasts, perhaps to show that he is a kind of ruling spirit of nature. This magnificent work of Celtic art (although found in Denmark) is now in the National Museum at Copenhagen. It dates from the second—first century B.C.

A strange and numinous cave drawing from Val Camonica, Italy is cruder and older than these, dating from the fourth-third century B.C. In this, Cernunnos is a towering figure, crowned with stags’ horns and seemingly dressed in a long robe. He is appearing to his worshipper, a naked man who holds up his arms in invocation. Upon the arms of the god are two of the torc bracelets or necklaces which often appear upon other representations of him; they probably symbolize wealth. Beside him is the strange creature also depicted with him upon the Gundestrop Bowl: a horned serpent, perhaps a phallic symbol.

When Margaret Murray wrote about Cernunnos in her book The God of the Witches she stated that most of our knowledge of the horned god in the British Isles comes from the written records made by monks and priests, as the ordinary people who worshipped him were illiterate and left no records. Since that time, however, many representations of Cernunnos have been found in Britain. There need be no doubt that the Celtic horned god was worshipped and invoked in these islands, just as he was in Gaul and elsewhere in western Europe. Margaret Murray’s explanation of witchcraft as the underground survival of the old pagan religion is to that extent supported by evidence.

From the old Stone Age to Celtic Britain; from Thessaly to Tibet; the evidence of ancient records shows the universality and endurance of the archetypal figure of the horned god, the active spirit of life. More could be adduced, for instance the primordial Egyptian god Khnum, who is shown with the head and horns of a ram, in the act of creating mankind by shaping a human being upon a potter’s wheel; or the supreme god of ancient Egypt, Amoun, who is sometimes depicted as an actual ram, exalted upon a shrine or an altar and crowned with the attributes of royalty.

Why, however, should these two cult figures, the horned god and his consort, the goddess of the moon, have such importance that they, of all the pagan divinities, should survive as the deities of the witches?

The answer seems to me to lie in their primordial nature. Both the horned god and the naked goddess, the latter sometimes alone and sometimes in triple form, are both found, as stated above, in man’s oldest sacred art in his most ancient sanctuaries, the caves of the Stone Age. The triple form of the goddess is related to the three phases of the moon, waxing, full and waning. Her relation to human fertility is a vital one, as the female menstrual cycle of twenty-eight days coincides with the duration of the lunar month, a fact which primitive man would undoubtedly have noted. Indeed, some archaeologists believe that markings found to have been made by early Stone Age men are observations and reckonings of lunar phases, man’s first attempt at astronomy and the making of calendars.

The virility of the great horned beasts, the stag and the bison, upon which man in his hunting phase depended; the beauty and mystery of the light of the moon, the meter-out of time and ruler of the tides, both of water and of feminine life; these were fundamental, primitive things. The pagans, who worshipped the divine made manifest in nature, personified them as the first divinities known to us.

They saw, as the peoples of the East still do, the interplay of opposite yet complementary forces, without which no manifestation can take place. These fundamental powers are called in the ancient Chinese system known as the I Ching or Book of Change, the Yang and the Yin.* The Yang is the active, masculine power and the Yin the passive, feminine one.

According to this venerable treatise, which is certainly one of the oldest extant books in the world, all things arise from this basic polarity of Yang and Yin, and their consequent interplay; while their union forms the symbol know as T’ai Chi, the Absolute, the ultimate reality. This is depicted as a circle divided into two equal parts by a curving line through its centre; one part is dark and the other light.

The Hebrew Qabalah, which was believed by its translator S. L. MacGregor Mathers to derive ultimately from ancient Egypt, shows a fundamentally similar idea, with its twin pillars of Mercy and Severity, balanced by the middle pillar of Beauty or Harmony. The pillar of Mercy is crowned by Chokmah, the archetypal masculine principle; the pillar of Severity is crowned by Binah, the archetypal feminine; while the middle pillar bears the highest crown of all, the divine white brilliance of Kether, the first emanation.

The symbolism has been perpetuated in the Twin Pillars of Freemasonry, Jachin and Boaz, which are explained as standing on either side of the porch of King Solomon’s temple. They actually represent that fundamental and divine polarity which underlies all manifested nature, the two opposites whose union constitutes the symbolical Great Work of alchemy. This polarity is also indicated in alchemical symbolism by the masculine sun and the feminine moon.

Symbolism is the natural language of the mind, as evidenced by the psychological importance of our dreams. The great pioneer of this study was Carl Gustav Jung, the psychologist who started out as a pupil of Freud, but soon outgrew the limitations of Freud’s materialistic views. Jung discovered that humans not only have a personal unconscious mind, but that at still deeper levels they are in touch with the collective unconscious of the race, in which are to be found the images, full of numinous significance, that have been stored there ever since man emerged upon this planet.

Jung, however, may only have rediscovered what the hierophants of the ancient mystery cults already well knew. Indeed, this view is supported by the statement in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bardo Thodol, which deals not only with after-death states but with other entries behind the veil of matter, and tells its students that everything they see, and all the deities, both peaceful and wrathful, whom they encounter, have arisen from their own minds.

In the collective unconscious of our race, therefore, dwell timelessly the images of the gods. They are the personifications of the forces of nature, and all are modifications of the primordial pair, the All-Father and All-Mother. In ancient Egypt, all the multifarious gods and goddesses were different forms of the highest god, Amoun, whose name means ’the Hidden One’, and of his feminine consort and counterpart, Amounath. In the temples of India, the sacred symbol is the lingam-yoni, a formalized representation of the male phallus and the woman’s vagina. This represents not only human sexuality, but the interplay of the life-force in all its forms.

In prehistoric Britain, the great Neolithic temples of Stonehenge and Avebury display the same symbolized polarity, but in a more subtle and austere form. At the oldest temple, that of Avebury, the massive stones are of alternate shapes, a tall phallic pillar and a broader, roughly lozenge-shaped stone, which convey the significance of male and female. Two of the largest of these are known locally as ’Adam and Eve’. At Stonehenge, we have the great circle, the receptive womb, while outside it in the avenue is the Hele Stone, a phallic menhir on the summit of which the dawning sun seems to rest at midsummer. A smaller version of this design is seen at the Rollright Stones in the Cots-wolds, where the tall King’s Stone stands outside a stone circle, and is associated with local legends of witchcraft and fertility magic.

An occult writer who realized the true significance of the ancient gods, and their archetypal role in the collective unconscious, is the late Dion Fortune (1891-1946). Frequently reiterated in her works is the sentence: ’All the gods are one god and all the goddesses are one goddess and there is one initiator.’ The one initiator is one’s own higher self, with which the personality becomes more and more integrated as the path of spiritual evolution is followed. This is what Buddha referred to when he told his disciples to ’take the Self as a lamp’.

Dion Fortune wrote a remarkable series of occult novels, of which two in particular, The Goat-Foot God and The Sea Priestess,* are relevant to our subject, as the former deals with the powers of the horned god, and the latter with those of the moon goddess. In these books, the horned god is referred to as Pan and the moon goddess as Isis; but it is made clear that these deities are universal in character.

The esoteric lore contained in these novels (and there is a great deal, for those who can read between the lines) is developed from her treatise on the western esoteric tradition called The Mystical Qabalah. In this book, Dion Fortune, who was an initiate of that tradition, discusses the real nature of the gods as ’magical images’, made not out of stone or wood, but shaped by the thoughts of mankind out of the substance of the astral plane, which is affected by the energies of the mind; hence it is sometimes referred to as ’mind-stuff’, for want of a better name. She quotes the lines of the poet Swinburne:

For no thought of man made Gods to love and honour

Ere the song within the silent soul began,

Nor might earth in dream or deed take heaven upon her

Till the word was clothed with speech by lips of man.

What the great psychologist Jung discovered by painstaking research and observation, the poet before him had known intuitively. The unknown authors of the Tibetan Book of the Dead knew it long before. The gods and goddesses are personifications of the powers of nature; or perhaps one should say, of super-nature, the powers which govern and bring forth the life of our world, both manifest and hidden. In other words, we live upon a plane of forms, superior to which is a plane of forces, upon which the gods move, because by personifying those forces to ourselves as gods we can establish a relationship with them.

Moreover, when such a magical image has been built up and strengthened over the course of centuries by worship and ritual, it becomes powerful in itself, because it becomes ensouled by that which it personifies. The form may have started as imagination, but when that which it personifies is real, imagination becomes in truth the image-making faculty. Every image of art must first be perceived in the mind of the artist, in the imagination. A subjective thought-form conceived by one person may be fleeting; but the thought-forms of a race are a different matter. Moreover, as C. G. Jung has shown, some thought-forms, such as the ’Great Mother’, the ’Wise Old Man’, and the ’Divine Child’, are so universal that he calls them archetypes, dwelling as they do in the collective unconscious of mankind, and appearing in dreams and visions, including the visions of the artist.

Visions, either spontaneous or induced, have always played an important part in religious experience. ’Where there is no vision, the people perish’.* Spontaneous visions arise in the form of significant dreams, or spiritual experiences, the latter sometimes manifesting such potency that they can change a person’s entire life. Induced visions may come about by means of entering into a state of trance or ecstasy. Such states and the various techniques of inducing them have been a basic feature of all world religions, from the most primitive to the most sophisticated. In this connection, we may note the derivation of the word ’ecstasy’; it comes from the Greek ekstasis, with the significance of being temporarily outside oneself, to have broken the bonds of one’s everyday world and entered into another state of being. The most ancient and primitive ecstatic is the shaman.

Shamanism seems most probably to have been the earliest form of religion throughout the world. It has been defined by Mircea Eliade in his authoritative book upon the subject as ’technique of ecstasy’ (Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy). The shaman (a word which comes to us from the Russian language, but which seems to have originated in the dialects of northern Asia) may be either a man or a woman, though the latter has come to be called a shamaness. He or she communicates with spirits, both human and non-human, and performs all kinds of magic; but the distinguishing feature of shamanism is its ’magical flights’ into other realms of being, from which information can be brought back to this world. The relationship between this idea and the supposed magical power of witches to fly, either upon the traditional broomstick or upon some other kind of staff, is fairly obvious.

The means by which these magical flights were achieved, and still are achieved by such contemporary shamans as Carlos Castaneda’s teacher, Don Juan Matus, were very often some hallucinogenic drug derived from plants or fungi. The shamans of northern Asia used the fungus called Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria), which grows throughout northern and western Europe, and in the British Isles. Today quite a lot has been written about ’magic mushrooms’, and a good deal of research is being done into the effects of these and other natural hallucinogens. The result has been that researchers are beginning to take an entirely fresh look at the recorded descriptions of European witchcraft, with its witches’ ointments and traditional knowledge of herbs, or ’wort-cunning’ as it was called.

Another means by which shamanistic ecstasy is induced is wild and rhythmic dancing, the kind of dancing which was notoriously a feature of the witches’ Sabbat. While in a state of ecstasy, the shaman ’meets the gods’; that is, he enters into the world beyond the veil of matter, whether that world be called the astral plane or the collective unconscious.

With this in mind, we can take another look at that famous passage from the early canon laws of the Christian Church, found in collections of such laws dating back to the tenth century A.D.:

’Some wicked women, perverted by the Devil, seduced by the illusions and phantasms of demons, believe and profess themselves in the hours of the night to ride upon certain beasts with Diana, the goddess of pagans, or with Herodias, and an innumerable multitude of women, and in the silence of the dead of night to traverse great spaces of earth, and to obey her commands as of their mistress, and to be summoned to her service on certain nights.’*

Other accounts from ancient writers tell of fantastic Sabbats, during which the horned and hoofed Devil himself appeared, surrounded by eldritch apparitions of all kinds. This, indeed, became a favourite subject for the artist, and some painters, notably Hans Baldung, David Teniers, Frans Francken and Goya, specialized in depicting it; while in his Night on the Bare Mountain the composer Moussorgsky essayed the same task in music, with considerable success.

Such visionary Sabbats must be distinguished from the accounts of actual gatherings, which are much more sober, and contain nothing that could not be accounted for naturally, given the fact that the principal actor, the supposed ’Devil’, was in fact a man dressed in a homed mask and a costume of animal skins, just like the masked dancer who was drawn by some artist of the old Stone Age in the Caverne des Trois Frères at Ariège, France.

There are a good many accounts also of early investigators who tested the confessions of witches to having attended wild and fantastic gatherings, to which they claimed to be conveyed through the air and later returned in the same way to their homes. Such accounts always tell the same story, namely that the witch was observed to anoint herself with some mysterious unguent, stripping naked for the purpose, then lying entranced for some time in a deep sleep, from which she eventually awoke to recount her adventures at the Sabbat. Sometimes, we are told, a rather simple-minded witch actually refused to believe the testimony of the observers that she had not really been flying through the air at all. (I use the pronoun ’she’ for convenience, though such stories are also told of male witches).

One would think in the face of all this evidence, that the witch-hunters would have realized it was the witches’ ointment, and not Satan, that conveyed witches in apparent flight, especially as the actual ingredients of such ointments were given, notably by Giovanni Battista Porta in his book Magiae Naturalis. However, the fanaticism of these men was such that they denied the possibility of the ointments having such an effect, and insisted on attributing everything to the interference of Satan in human affairs. This point is noted, with apparent approval, by the bigoted Montague Summers, in his History of Witchcraft and Demonology.

Times have changed, however, since Montague Summers wrote his admittedly scholarly but utterly biased book. There is, for instance, an extremely interesting symposium entitled Hallucinogens and Shamanism, edited by Michael J. Harner, which contains a section entitled ’The Role of Hallucinogenic Plants in European Witchcraft’, written by Mr Harner himself, who is Associate Professor of Anthropology on the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research. Mr Harner notes that the traditional plants alleged by Porta and others to enter into the composition of the witches’ unguents are those of the Solanaceae, an order of plants which includes, beside humble and well-known things such as the potato, the tomato and the tobacco plant, such dangerous and hallucinogenic herbs as thorn apple (Datura stramonium), henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), mandrake (Mandragora) and deadly nightshade or belladonna (Atropa belladonna). He states that varieties of these plants are found throughout both Europe and the Americas, and that they are used in shamanistic practices by primitive people to this day.

A particularly interesting fact noted by Mr Harner and his fellow scholars is that people using hallucinogenic plants, either in the form of brews or unguents, for the purpose of ’taking a trip’, tend to see the same or similar things in their visions, depending upon the cultural milieu in which they live. In other words, people taking such a drug will be strongly influenced in the visions and experiences they seem to have, by their previously held ideas and beliefs, and the nature of the circumstances in which the drug is taken, the immediate environment and so on.

Thus, South American Indians who believed in their tribal pagan gods might see these gods in their shamanistic trances; while other Indians who had been ’missionized’, that is exposed to the influence of Christian missionaries, saw Christian symbols intermingled with pagan ones.

Certain visions, however, seem to be characteristic of certain drugs. In this connection, Mr Harner notes the experience of Dr Will-Erich Peukert, of the University of Gottingen, Germany, who in recent years experimented with a seventeenth-century recipe for the witches’ salve, or ’flying ointment’, and actually experienced a trance lasting twenty-four hours, during which he seemed to be participating in the weird orgies of the legendary Sabbat. The recipe contained belladonna, henbane and thorn-apple.

Another characteristic recorded from many places and the statements of many witnesses, is the sensation during the shamanistic use of hallucinogenic drugs, of the soul or mind separating itself from the physical body and flying through space, to witness scenes either at a distance upon earth, or in some other dimension. This is all rather puzzling to anthropologists; especially when simple Indians who had never seen a white man’s city or an automobile, claimed to visit such a city in trance and asked what were those strange things that travelled so fast along the roads? To the occultist who is familiar with the concept of astral projection, that is, the ability of the astral body to separate itself from the physical and to travel into other dimensions of being, an explanation in these terms will naturally suggest itself.

Mr Harner comments that scholars as well as present-day members of witches’ covens, have generally failed to comprehend the great importance of hallucinogenic plants in the European witchcraft of former times. However, to my own knowledge this is not true of all present-day covens; but those who possess practical information on such matters generally prefer absolute secrecy. They derive their knowledge from old traditional sources, rather than from those present-day witches who seek publicity in the mass media; and they point to the fact that these hallucinogenic substances are dangerous to meddle with, both plants and fungi. They do not want the responsibility for encouraging foolhardy people to experiments that could have fatal results. I would like to make the point here also, that unless a person has specialized knowledge or guidance with regard to these things, practical experiment with them is most unwise.

I have already referred to Francis King’s story, derived from his friend Louis Wilkinson, of the surviving New Forest coven into which Gerald Gardner was originally initiated, as given in Mr King’s book Ritual Magic in England. Mr King states that this coven made use of the fungus called fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) as an hallucinogen, taking it by mouth in very small doses. They also used an ointment, but this was simply a greasy substance to protect their naked bodies from the cold while taking part in outdoor ritual. Mr King says it consisted mostly of ’bears’ fat’; but I respectfully beg leave to doubt this. Surely, there are no bears in the New Forest? It seems more likely to me that ’boars’ fat’ is intended; in other words, ordinary hogs’ lard, which was the usual basis for apothecaries’ ointments. Benzoin was generally added to it, to improve its smell and make it keep better.

The use of fly agaric brings the practice of this coven right into line with the ancient shamanism of northern Asia, the area from which the very word ’shaman’ derives. Fly agaric also seems to have a traditional connection with the world of Faery. Nearly every book of fairy stories will be found to contain somewhere in its pages a picture of this brightly-coloured fungus, with its red, white-spotted cap. It is not as common as it would have been centuries ago, owing to the increasing urbanization of the countryside; but it can still be found growing wild, especially under birch trees.

The world of Faery is the world of the souls of the pagan dead, of nature spirits, and of the pagan gods. This is made abundantly clear in the Celtic mythology of the British Isles, and of Europe generally. It is also the world of the Little People, those shadowy races who preceded the Celtic invaders and colonizers. They were dark and small in stature, though not so tiny nor non-human that they could not intermarry with the newcomers. They were the mysterious and sometimes dangerous Little People, with their aboriginal heritage of magic.

As one culture succeeded another, the gods and goddesses who were personifications of the primordial powers were still worshipped, albeit with differing rites, simply because these powers are primordial: life, fertility, death and what lies beyond. The Christian church built its sanctuaries upon pagan sacred places. Its central festival, Easter, took its name from Eostre or Ostara, the pagan goddess of spring. The Druidic mistletoe still decks our homes at Christmas. The Celtic Eve of Samhain became the Eve of All Saints, or Hallowe’en. Folklore can give dozens of such instances, where what was once the religion of the country has become, literally, the lore of the common folk.

The worship of the old gods has never died; it has merely either gone underground or changed its form. They who would once have been its priests and priestesses, the Christian church in Anglo-Saxon times began to call witches.

* Tantra of the Great Liberation (Mahanirvana Tantra), trans. by Arthur Avalon (Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1972).

* A considerable spread of interest in the I Ching can be found today in the western world, and a number of translations are available, of which one of the best is The Book of Change, by John Blofeld (George Allen and Unwin, Ltd., London, 1968).

* The Goat-Foot God was first published in 1936 and The Sea Priestess in 1938, in both cases by the Society of the Inner Light, London, which was Dion Fortune’s own magical order. They have since been reprinted by the Aquarian Press, London.

* Proverbs, 29. v. 18.

* Translation quoted from Gerald B. Gardner, The Meaning of Witchcraft.