Review: “A Very British Witchcraft”

Thanks to YouTube, we have access to a wealth of resources dealing with the pagan community, ancient and modern. I first started learning about paganism the old way – poring over loads of books, but it’s quite nice to just lay back and watch some videos. At least every once in a while…

Screenshot from 2017-06-15 21-47-36

My neopagan treat for this week was “A Very British Witchcraft”, a documentary originally broadcast on Britain’s Channel 4. In it, Prof. Ronald Hutton narrates the story of Gerald Gardner, the father of Wicca. I’ve noticed that many think of that tradition as an import from the US, largely due to its growth and success there over the past decades. But as Hutton explains, Wicca is probably the only religion England ever gave to the world. I’m not sure whether that’s entirely true (Anglicanism? Quakerism?), but there are peculiarly British things about it.

Gardner’s colonial experience turns out to be of seminal importance here. Things he’d witnessed in different parts of the British Empire back in the 1920s and ’30s influenced his views of religion, ritual and witchcraft. Out of many disparate elements, Gardner eventually came up with this new religion, clothed in ancient garb. The documentary shows quite nicely the evolution of that movement from the initial group of nudists gathering on his property to what is by now a world religion. It also contains interesting excerpts from Gardner’s public appearances, including an interview he gave for the BBC Panorama programme in the 1950s.

What I found lacking in the documentary is any reference to various forms of neopagan revival outside Britain, but I’ll ascribe that to time constraints. The film might be useful to some of the Wiccans and Neopagans out there who keep repeating the story of Wicca being an ancient path, thousands – nay, tens of thousands of years old, whereas it’s a religion founded by an English eccentric in the 1930s…

To watch the video, follow this link.

 

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