25 Most Influential People in the Birth of Modern Paganism (European Wing) March 5, 2013 By Jason Mankey

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25 Most Influential People in the Birth of Modern Paganism (European Wing)

March 5, 2013 By Jason Mankey

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/11010801-300x300.jpgWho doesn’t love a good list and a short history lesson at the same time? Modern Paganism has been influenced by countless people over the past 200 years, but only twenty-five of them made my list. This installment looks at ten Europeans who made invaluable contributions to Modern Paganism. Part two of this series look at eleven Americans who also played a large role in Paganism’s rebirth. The third and final installment is a “Top 5″ list and contains all the people you thought would be in this post.

Only numbers five through one are listed in sequence, the other European and American pioneers are all listed by continent of origin and in alphabetical order. The very brief “Why they are on this list” part is not meant to be exhaustive, it’s just a brief thumbnail listing a few accomplishments and reasons for inclusion. Opinions are strictly my own, though you are certainly welcome to share some. This list has a very Wiccan slant, but since Wicca is the largest Pagan denomination that’s probably to be expected.

I desperately wanted to come up with a catchy title for this series, but was unable to. What you got was a descriptive title instead. Without the 25 people listed in this series I think Paganism would look radically different, or perhaps exist in a much more limited way. The people on my list were pioneers and paved the way for sites like this to exist today.


First Five Out (If only my list were longer!):
Patricia Crowther
Vivianne Crowley
Ronald Hutton
Theodor Russ/Carl Kellner (Founders of the O.T.O.)
Sybil Leek

(Please remember this is “Part One” and there are two more installments to come. The last of those installments is a “Top 5,” please remember that before thinking I missed someone.)

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/url-4-187x300.jpegWho is she?: Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891), Russian mystic, founder of Theosophy, and author of Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine.

Why she’s on this list: Blavatsky is one of the most important occult figures of all time, and has been called “The Mother of the New Age” on more than one occasion. Blavtasky’s writings helped introduce the Western World to Eastern concepts and ideas. Reincarnation? Karma? Both were ideas injected into the Western occult milieu by Blavatsky. She was also an independent woman who travelled the world in the 19th Century and founded her own religious movement.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/rev-249x300.jpegWho is he?: Raymond Buckland (1934-present), Witch, Spiritualist, Author

Why he’s on this list: Buckland’s fingerprints all over the Modern Craft. He brought Gardnarian Witchcraft to the United States back in the early 60′s. Ten years later he wrote the first complete how to Witchcraft book (The Tree: The Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft), providing enough information so that anyone could practice the Craft regardless of circumstances. After The Tree Buckland continued to write, and has penned numerous fiction and non-fiction titles, with the most famous probably being Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft (or as my friends and I used to call it Uncle Bucky’s Big Blue Book). He’s also a completely nice and approachable gentleman says the guy who was totally star-struck the moment he met Mr. Buckland.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/roy.jpegWho is he?: Robert Cochrane (1931-1966), English Witch, inspiration behind the 1734 tradition, and coiner of the term “Gardnarian.”

Why he’s on this list: Had Cochrane not committed suicide in 1966 it’s possible that Modern Paganism would be vastly different. Cochrane was one of the first English Witches to come forward with a system and cosmology different from that of Gerald Gardner (and his initiates). His rituals were unique and high energy, and when reading about them I get a sense of great joy. Cochrane also took his rituals outside and worked robed, taking Withcraft out of the parlor and back into nature. His correspondence with American Joe Wilson led to the establishment of the 1734 Tradition. Pick up Doreen Valiente’s The Rebirth of Witchcraft and you get the sense that she absolutely loved Cochrane’s rites, and her book Witchcraft: A Tradition Renewed (written with Evan John Jones) is a “how to” guide of Cochrane-style Craft.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/dafo2.jpegDafo (Edith Woodford-Grimes 1887-1975), Gerald Gardner’s first High Priestess.

Why she’s on this list: Dafo was might have been the first Witch High Priestess, and was undoubtedly Gerald Gardner’s first High Priestess. It’s impossible to know just how influential Woodford-Grimes was to the Modern Craft, but she was certainly there at its beginnings in the late 1930′s. Dafo was one of the original members of Gardner’s Bricket Wood Coven, and was present at the initiation of Doreen Valiente in 1953. Dafo distanced herself from the Craft and Gardner in the late 50′s, wishing to remain anonymous and out of the public spotlight. Only in recent years has her vast contribution to Modern Paganism become widely known and acknowledged.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/images.jpegWho are they?: Janet and Stewart Farrar (Stewart 1916-2000, Janet 1950-present), English Witches and writers, Alexandrian initiates.

Why they are on this list: For many involved in British Traditional Witchcraft their first exposure to those types of ritual came in the form of the Farrar’s A Witches’ Bible (originally published as two seperate books Eight Sabbats For Witches and The Witches’ Way). Later books such The Witches’ Goddess and The Witches’ God contained some of the first extended looks at the deities of Modern Pagan practice. Janet Farrar continues to have a strong influence on Modern Paganism, now writing and teaching with husband Gavin Bone. On a personal note words can’t convey just how influential the writings of Stewart and Janet have been on my own development. Their Witchcraft has always been how I’ve wanted my own Craft to look and feel.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/dionfortune.jpegWho is she?: Dion Fortune (Violet Firth 1890-1946), founder of the Society of Inner Light and author of The Sea Priestess and Moon Magic.

Why she’s on this list: Fortune is one of the most important occultists of the 20th Century, and a case could certainly be made for her to appear in my “Top 5.” Fortune’s magickal carrer began with a later incarnation of the Golden Dawn, and ended with her own Society of Inner Light. Of most interest to Pagans are her fiction works, specifically The Sea Priestess, The Goat Foot God, and Moon Magic. Her fiction provided a de facto template for Modern Pagan Ritual and remains highly influential (though probably more so in Great Britain than in the United States). She also wrote accessible works on the Kabbalah and psychic self defense. While Fortune would have probably never thought of herself as a Pagan, she certainly did have a relationship with many Pagan deities at various points in her life.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/robert-graves.jpgWho is he?: Robert Graves (1895-1985), author and poet, best known for The White Goddess.

Why he’s on this list: Robert Graves created a modern mythology from the stories of our ancient past, and in the process introduced concepts that would become an important part of the Pagan world view. The “Maiden/Mother/Crone” archetype comes directly from the writings of Graves, as does the story of the Oak King and Holly King. Graves took ancient myth and gave it a fresh spin, providing it with a new resonance for the 20th Century. The only downside to Graves’ re-imagination is that much of what should be considered prose poetry is looked at as inarguable fact. While Graves is not always read directly by Modern Pagans his thoughts and ideas have been picked up and spread by a multitude of Pagan writers and teachers.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/url-3.jpegEliphas Levi (1810-1875), French occultist, magician, and author.

Why he’s on this list: It’s probably a bit of an over simplification to say that without Levi modern magic as we know it wouldn’t exit, but it’s close to the truth. Levi was a huge influence on The Golden Dawn, and on the American Albert Pike who rewrote the Masonic Scottish Rite. Levi wrote about magic like a scholar, attempting to define its practice and use. He also created some of the first occult correspondence tables. Anytime you match a tarot card to a letter of the Hebrew alphabet you are borrowing an idea from Levi. He also popularized the figure of Baphomet (for better or for worse) and wrote extensively on Lucifer as the light-bringer.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/url-11.jpegWho is he: Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers (1854-1918), writer and co-founder of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

Why he’s on this list: Mathers was one of the driving forces behind The Golden Dawn (along with fellow co-founder William Wynn Westcott) and was responsible for much of the ritual and magical practice in that organization. In addition to his work with the Golden Dawn, Mathers translated many old magickal texts into English, making works such as The Lesser Key of Solomon and The Book of Abramelin more accessible to the majority of the English speaking world. His work as a translator resulted in increased popularity for magickal systems such as the Kabbalah and the Enochian language of John Dee. For the last ten years of his life Mathers lived in France where he promoted a religion dedicated to the goddess Isis.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/alex-sanders-in-robe-alex-sanders-famous-personalities.jpegWho are they?: Alex and Maxine Sanders (Alex 1926-1988, Maxine 1949-present), founders of the Alexandrian tradition and two of the first well known public Witches.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/url-3-205x300.jpegWhy they are on this list: Love him or hate him, “Witch King” Alex Sanders was one of the most influential Witches who ever lived. While not a writer he founded the Alexandrian tradition, and served as a sort of unofficial spokesperson for Witchcraft in Britain during much of the late 1960′s and early 1970′s. Sanders appeared in numerous television documentaries and even released a record A Witch is Born, featuring a Wiccan initiation. While his title “King of the Witches” was self-proclaimed, he did initiate many important Witches, most notably Janet and Stewart Farrar. Since most of Alex’s major magickal work occurred while married to Maxine putting her on this list next to him feels necessary. Speaking of Maxine, she still travels and teaches today.

Coming up with a list of American contributors was a bit more difficult than the European installment. Most American contributors are very “second generation,” it’s a completely different feel and a very different type of list.

The brief “Why they are on this list” parts are not meant to be exhaustive, it’s just a brief thumbnail listing a few accomplishments and reasons for inclusion. Opinions are strictly my own, though you are certainly welcome to share some. This list has a very Wiccan slant, but since Wicca is the largest Pagan denomination that’s probably to be expected.

I desperately wanted to come up with a catchy title for this series, but was unable to. What you got was a descriptive title instead. Without the 25 people listed in this series I think Paganism would look radically different, or perhaps exist in a much more limited way. The people on my list were pioneers and paved the way for sites like this to exist today.


Ask Me Again in Fifteen Years:
Teo Bishop
T. Thorn Coyle
Orion Foxwood
Patrick McCollum
Diana Paxson
Christopher Penczak

Name I Most Wanted to Put on this List But Couldn’t Justify:
Jack Parsons

First One Out, or Number Eleven:
Marion Zimmer Bradley

Please remember, this is one part of a three part series. If you don’t see a favorite there may very well be a reason for that.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/margot1.jpegWho is she?: Margot Adler (1946-present), Journalist, High Priestess, and author of Drawing Down the Moon.

Why she’s on this list: The easy answer to why is that she wrote Drawing Down the Moon, one of the most influential books about Paganism ever. What made DDtM so unique was that it wasn’t simply a “how to” book, it was an overview of North American Paganism, and the first look at the origins of Modern Paganism and Witchcraft. While DDtM is a bit dated in 2013 (first published in 1979, though updated every few years), time has neither diminished its importance or influence. Adler remains an active participant in the Pagan Community, speaking at public events and continuing to write, all while still writing and reporting for National Public Radio. (Every time Adler is on All Things Considered I usually stop whatever it is I’m doing and start pointing wildly at the radio.)

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/url-1-167x300.jpegVictor and Cora Anderson (Victor 1917-2001, Cora 1915-2008), founders of the Feri Tradition.

Why they are on this list: It sometimes seems like every important Craft tradition arose in Great Britain, but that’s not the case. The Anderson’s Feri Tradition is an American Witchcraft tradition, fueled by Hawaiian Magick, sensuality, and the poetry of Victor Anderson. While Feri is not as widespread as its British cousins, it’s had a huge influence on Modern Paganism as a whole due to the prominence of many of its initiates (people such as Gwydion Pendderwen, Starhawk, and T. Thorn Coyle). The Feri Tradition was also a huge influence on Reclaiming, and some of its ideas and practices can be seen in multiple Pagan books.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/isaac02.jpegWho is he: Isaac Bonewits (1949-2010), author, Druid, and Pagan scholar.

Why he’s on this list: Have you ever heard the term “Neo-Pagan?” That’s Issac, but he’s influence on Modern Paganism transcends that one little term. He was the first (and only) person to receieve a Bachelor’s Degree in Magic from the University of California at Berkeley, an experience which lead to the writing of Real Magic: An Introductory Treatise on the Basic Principles of Yellow Magic, one of the early essentials of American Paganism and magick. Bonewits was an initiated Witch and a member of the Reformed Druids of North America before going on to start Ár nDraíocht Féin (probably better known as ADF, or A Druid Fellowship), currently the largest Pagan Druid group in North America. Bonewits was a tireless teacher, writer, and sometimes musician, whose influence on Paganism was as large as his personality. You are missed my friend.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/authorscottcunningham.jpegWho is he?: Scott Cunningham (1956-1993), Wiccan author, most famous for Wicca: A Guide For the Solitary Practitioner.

Why he’s on this list: I think I’m only beginning to understand just how revolutionary it was to title Cunningham’s book on Solitary Practice Wicca back in 1988. Up until then the word Wicca was more a whisper than a book genre. Sure there were books on Witchcraft, but Wicca? Cunningham’s book opened the floodgates and began a dialogue that is still ongoing. If that weren’t enough Cunningham’s “Encyclopedia Series” are standard reference works for using oils, herbs, incenses, metals, rocks, and crystals. Solitary Practitioner has become one of the best selling “how to” books of all time, and continues to be highly influential. In 2009 Llewellyn released Cunningham’s Book of Shadows, showing just how popular Cunningham remains nearly twenty years after his death.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/selena-300x300.jpgWho is she?: Selena Fox (1949-present), founder of Circle Sanctuary, Pagan teacher and activist.

Why she’s on this list: If all Selena had ever done was simply set up the first Pagan Cemetery in the United States and win the lobbying effort to include the pentagram on the list of religious symbols allowed on military headstones she’d have made this list, but those are only two of her many accomplishments. Selena is the founder of Circle Sanctuary, a non-profit church and nature preserve run entirely by Pagans. She’s the force behind Circle’s magazine, one of the oldest and most enduring Pagan magazines in the United States, and is the editor of the Circle Guide to Pagan Resources, until the age of the internet an essential networking tool. She’s also a popular teacher and lecturer, and has participated in the World Parliament of Religions. She’s also one of the most warm and energetic people I’ve ever met.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/url1.jpegWho is he?: Charles Godfrey Leland (1824-1903), Folklorist and author of Aradia.

Why he’s on this list: Leland was an American born folklorist best known in Pagan circles for the books Aradia: Or the Gospel of the Witches and Etruscan Roman Remains, books that are still studied and agonized over 100 years after their initial publication. Aradia is one of the most influential texts in the history of Modern Pagandom, and while the Witchcraft in Aradia is a bit more mean-spirited than modern varieties, there are still many similarities. Much of the material in Aradia has been adapted and re-worked over the years, extending its influence even further. The Charge of the Goddess is found in Aradia, with the more famous Doreen Valiente version using much of the language originally translated from the Italian by Leland. There are many arguments about the historical veracity of Aradia, but no doubts about its influence.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/072-7.jpegWho is she?: Silver Ravenwolf (1956-present), author of To Ride A Silver Broomstick and Teen Witch.

Why she’s on this list: Silver has become a polarizing figure in many Pagan circles, but to an entire generation she was an early entry point into Paganism and Witchcraft. To Ride a Silver Broomstick was an timely and influential work, contributing to and benefitting from the 90′s Pagan boom. I’m not a huge fan of Teen Witch either, but it began a new genre in Pagan books, and introduced a lot of young people to Modern Paganism. Despite the criticisms leveled at books such as Teen Witch there can be no denying that Ravenwolf is a tremendously talented writer, She’s also been one of the most popular Pagan authors in the world for two decades now. Love it or hate it, Silver’s version of Witchcraft has left a lasting mark.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/carl_weschcke_photo.jpegWho is he: Carl Weschcke (1930-present), President of Llewellyn Worldwide.

Why he’s on this list: Llewellyn is responsible for publishing Lady Sheba’s Book of Shadows, Cunningham’s Wicca, and Ravenwolf’s Broomstick, all books that forever changed Modern Paganism, and none of that happens without Weschke’s purchase of Llewellyn Publications back in 1961. Llewellyn has been the largest and most influential New Age/Pagan publishing house for the last couple of decades, and continues to release important and popular work. There are few people within Pagandom who have not read a Llewellyn book and I’ve seen few Pagan libraries without one of those little crescent moon symbols somewhere on the shelf. In addition to Pagan-focused materials, Llewellyn is also a leader in publishing books on astrology, the super-natural, and a wide range of New Age disciplines. Llewellyn brought competent editing and marketing to Pagan publishing, changing it forever.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/oz-wand-199x300.jpegWho is he?: Oberon Zell-Ravenheart (1942-present), founder of the Church of All Worlds and Green Egg Magazine.

Why he’s on this list: Oberon was one of the first individuals to realize that Witches, Wiccans, Druids, and Heathens were all a part of the same Pagan tree, indeed Oberon was one of the first people to use the word “Pagan” to describe our very diverse spiritual movement. He did a lot that uniting in the pages of The Green Egg, one of the most influential Pagan magazines in the States. (Forget the articles, my favorite part of the magazine was always the letter column!) Green Egg was also the mouthpiece for The Church of All Worlds, one of the first (if not the first) legally recognized Pagan churches, and based in part on the book Stranger in a Strange Land by sci-fi scribe Robert Heinlein. In addition to founding a church and publishing a magazine Oberon was one of the first people to propose the Gaia Theory. He’s also written several books and started an online magic academy, The Grey School of Wizardry. It’s impossible to talk about Oberon without mentioning his wife Morning Glory who popularized the term and concept polyamory.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/imgres-1.jpegWho are they?: Internet pioneers Wren Walker and Jason Pitzl-Waters.

Why they are on this list: There’s no doubt that internet has changed Paganism. I can remember a time in the 1990′s when most of us were still connecting through letters, magazine columns, and bulletin boards at the local New Age Bookstore. Today we connect and share information in seconds instead of weeks, and internet personalities have become as important as traditional writers. One of the first real changes in how Pagans connect with one another occurred with the founding of The Witches Voice by Wren Walker and Fritz Jung back in 1997. The Witches Voice was one-stop shopping to find other Pagans, festivals, and supply stores. There was nothing like it before, and nothing like it since. It was (and remains) an invaluable source for information and networking.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/imgres-12-15-31.jpegI have a feeling that Jason is not going to like being on this list, but The Wild Hunt has had a huge influence on Paganism over the nine years its of existence. Until The Wild Hunt, Pagan news was sporadic and spread over a wide range sites. Jason and his crew of writers write about Paganism as insiders as well as journalists. There’s no sensationalism, no misplaced outrage, just intelligent commentary about issues and ideas that effect Pagandom on a global scale. Jason and Wren weren’t the first or only people to bring us inI’ve had a few people question my methodology so I thought I would explain how I made my selections. The most important question posed to myself while putting together this list was “Out of the 75 or so candidates, which of them affect how Pagans think and practice on a day to day and moment to moment basis?” That’s why someone like Philip Heselton isn’t on this list and Helena Blavatsky is. Most of us aren’t wondering if Gerald Gardner was initiated back in 1939 on a day to day basis, but we are probably contemplating the ideas of karma or reincarnation.

A lot of the list is also about what people have read, or will read in the future. Personally I adore Patricia Crowther, but the simple fact remains that more people have read Janet and Stewart Farrar. Their reach on Pagandom is bigger as a result of that. Including Wren Walker and Jason Pitzl-Waters is a reflection of that criteria, the traffic at their websites indicates that they have a lot of readers.

I also firmly believe that Modern Paganism is a direct descendant of the Western Magickal Tradition. The English branches of both Druidry and Witchcraft are tied directly and indirectly to institutions such as Freemasonry and the Golden Dawn. Many Pagans have moved away from the practice of Ceremonial Magick, but it’s still there anytime someone casts a circle or calls the Quarters.

I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with my choices, but I like to think I made a valiant case for each. I think four of my top five are all very obvious choices, I expect a lot of disagreement about numbers three and four. Thanks for reading all three parts, all the comments, and sharing them all on social media.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/url-228x300.jpegNo 5. Aleister Crowley (1875-1947)

Why he’s on this list: The hoofprints of the Great Beast are all over Modern Paganism. From the way Crowley refined the magickal rituals of the Golden Dawn to his poetry and language, Uncle Al has had a huge impact on what most of us do on a day to day basis. Much of Crowley’s language and poetry was “borrowed” by both Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente when assembling much of the liturgy that would come to define British Traditional Witchcraft. While there’s a lot of doubt about just how religious and spiritual Crowley was, poems like Hymn to Pan capture the Horned God at his randiest, and Crowley’s work also call out to female deity, most notably “Sweet Nuit” in The Book of the Law.

Many of Crowley’s idea were inserted nearly whole scale into early Witchcraft, most certainly “an it harm none, do what you will” is a re-imagining of “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” Crowley’s re-writing of OTO Ritual was almost certainly influenced many English Witches. His practice of sex magick may have led to practices such as The Great Rite.

Why Crowley is not ranked higher: I think there is a case for Crowley at number one, and certainly in the top three, but I’m going to argue against it. Time has not been as kind to Crowley as it has to the others on this list. Books like Magick in Theory and Practice have a rather limited appeal, and while we often use fragments of Crowley’s words and writings in ritual, the context is often different. I’d probably make the argument that Crowley gave much of Modern Paganism its structure and spine along with certain ambiance, but he didn’t become our heart or soul.

No. 4 Doreen Valiente (1922-1999)

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/url-1-271x300.jpegWhy she’s on this list: To put it simply Valiente is the most important liturgist in the history of Modern Pagandom. Sure not everyone recites her Charge of the Goddess but it’s familiar to just about everyone. Valiente took some of the rather rudimentary rituals of early Witchcraft and turned them into poetry. Her influence on how we speak the language of Paganism will still be felt in a hundred years, and that’s an amazing achievement.

Valiente is not on this list just because of her early work with Gerald Gardner, she’s here because she’s one of the unifying threads of Modern Paganism. She researched the beginnings of Modern Witchcraft with Stewart and Janet Farrar, and worked with Robert Cochrane. She was one of our first historians, when it comes to Pagan History Books Valiente’s The Rebirth of Witchcraft is an essential text (and a book I treasure and have re-read at least a dozen times). She was also a leading light in the attempt to build Pagan Community in Great Britain. When Valiente is called “The Mother of Modern Witchcraft” it’s not an exaggeration.

Why she’s not ranked higher: I don’t have a good answer for that, if anything Valiente is the soul of Modern Paganism; she’s what many of us aspire to. I have no doubt that Valiente would have been fully capable of creating her own Witchcraft Tradition had she chosen to do so, but she seemed to mainly refine and polish the Paganisms she encountered. I don’t mean that as an insult, because it takes real genius to make what was already good into something truly great.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/url-2-300x300.jpegNo. 3 Starhawk (1951-present)

Why she’s on this list: The first draft of this list had Starhawk listed at number five, but upon further consideration I decided that the ranking was just too low. I know it probably makes more sense to put Valiente in the number three spot, but hear me out. The influence of Starhawk (and people like her) is what changed British Witchcraft into Paganism. Starhawk wasn’t the first person to fuse political action, feminism, and Witchcraft, but she did it better (and more articulately) than anyone else. Starhawk brought new ideas and passions into Paganism and made them feel as if they had always been there.

Over thirty years after its initial publication The Spiral Dance (1979) remains a vital “how to” book. Sure Raymond Buckland might have done it first, but The Tree feels incomplete when compared to Dance. Starhawk also introduced concepts from Victor and Cora Anderson’s Feri Tradition to the wider world, she bridged the worlds between American and European Witchcraft. If that wasn’t enough she helped to found the Reclaiming Tradition, and has been an active participant in religious dialogue on a global scale.

Why she’s not higher: I think in some ways that Starhawk is the heart of Modern Paganism. Her gifts to the umbrella were those of awareness and activism. She certainly changed what was already there, but she didn’t create it, she only added to it.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/murray.jpegNo. 2 Margaret Murray (1863-1963)

Why she’s on this list: If there’s a surprise inclusion on this list it’s Murray. Talking to friends the last 48 hours she was the one figure that everyone trying to figure out my “Top 5″ seemed to forget about. Murray was a well respected Egyptologist and mostly a serious academic (books like God of the Witches were obviously meant for a general audience) but is a major figure in the Modern Pagan Revival because of her books on Witchcraft and the Horned God.

It’s easy in retrospect to dismiss Murray’s Witch-cult in Western Europe (1921). Murray’s hypothesis that the innocents killed in Europe’s “Witch Trials” represented a secret underground pagan religion has been dismissed by a majority of scholars today, but the theory continues to hold a lot of power in Modern Paganism. Regardless of how factual the Murray hypothesis is, it became one of the founding myths of Witchcraft, and as a result Modern Paganism. In addition to providing a mythology, Murray provided the terminology that would become a part of many Pagan traditions. We use words like coven and esbat because they were words that Murray used.

Murray redeemed and legitimized the word “witch.” After reading Murray you want to practice Witchcraft and you want to be a Pagan. Her history of the Horned God in God of the Witches is everything you want a Pagan archetype to be. She traces the worship of Old Horny back to the Cave of the Three Brothers in France and its portrait of “The Sorcerer” to Pan and Cernunnos and then later Robin Hood. Murray’s Witch Religion is a faith of joy and exuberance and I’m certain that it influenced countless people to want to be Witches. She also endorsed Gardner’s version of Witchcraft writing the introduction to Witchcraft Today back in 1954.

Why she’s not higher: There’s only one person who could be number one on this list, but it’s important not to overlook Murray. Without Murray it’s possible that early Pagans might have all called themselves Druids or Heathens and the empowering mantle of witch would have never been worn in Contemporary Paganism. Certainly the influence of Murray’s “Witch-cult Hypothesis” will continue to fade in the coming decades, but her other contributions to Modern Paganism will continue. Besides even if Murray’s theory isn’t exactly true in the literal sense I think many of us will continue to feel a kinship with the women (and men) who were needlessly murdered in the name of religion centuries ago.

http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/panmankey/files/2013/03/url-4-300x200.jpegNo. 1 Gerald Gardner (1884-1964)

Why he’s here: I don’t think there was any real suspense about the number one spot on this list. Even Gardner’s detractors (and there are many) can’t deny his accomplishments. To put it simply Gardner was the first person to share with the world what would become a long-lasting religious and/or magickal tradition that most of us today would recognize as Pagan. His “Wica” had four quarters, a magick circle, a Goddess, a God, and a High Priestess. All of those elements existed before Gardner, but had never endured together for decades until Gardner.

It also doesn’t matter if Gardner was initiated into a coven back in 1939 or completely made his Witch Religion up. If he was initiated and his faith tradition traces back to that group then he’s the great revealer, sharing a new religion with the rest of the world. If he simply assembled the various pieces that make up Modern Witchcraft then he’s the great architect, the creator of a religious tradition that has now taken a seat next to the other great religions of the world. If you were to ask my opinion, I think Gardner exists somewhere between revealer and architect, someone who was probably initiated into something back in 1939 and then added to it.

I know my Top 5 is rather “Wicca-centered” but that’s only because Wicca has been the most dominant branch of the Pagan tree for the last 70 years. If it makes any of you feel better, Gardner himself was no doubt influenced by Druids like Ross Nichols and most likely encountered New Orleans Voodoo when he visited the United States back in 1947-48. Gardner’s interests were wide-ranging and he absorbed influences from various spiritualities. Gardner’s version of Witchcraft was the first public and long-lasting religion Pagan religion of the 20th Century, as such it’s going to have a high place on lists such as this one.
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