When did I become a Witch? I really don't know—or, rather, I could as well say I was born that way.
No, I was not born into a Wiccan family, although my parents and grandparents had largely occult and even a Pagan approach to life. My grandfather was a very active Theosophist for years, serving even as a national vice-president. He was also a civil rights activist before that phrase was even used or there were organizations that became a movement. My father was a vegetarian when some asked where that country was, and a naturalist sometimes seen running naked in the rain by country neighbors.
Witches Not Made
And my childhood reading included the available occult books, mostly Theosophical from my grandfather's library. As an adult I moved onward into the then-rare books of Dion Fortune and Aleister Crowley, Rudolph Steiner, and Alice Bailey, and included supernatural fiction, FATE Magazine, parapsychology, and the whole range of what we now call New Age. And I believe it is a New Age in which there has been a shift in consciousness and an influx of energies that is rapidly leading to a "New World Order."
One of those early books I read so eagerly was Witchcraft: Its Power & Influence in the World Today by an adventure writer named William Seabrook. This was in 1940, and I assure you it was one of the most contemporary treatments of the subject available sixty-two years ago! This was before Gerald Gardner's first Witchcraft novel in 1949 and his "real" books in the 1950s. Seabrook treated Witchcraft as a natural power practiced in many places in many guises—from astral travel to Voudoun. But he mentioned a device of wood and leather straps suspended by chains he identified from old engravings and books on medieval sorcery as a "witch's cradle." In our modern terminology, the occupant of the cradle would move into an altered state of consciousness through the combination of sensory deprivation, rigid posture, and swinging motion.
I sought eagerly for more information on this, without results. After Gerald Gardner published The Meaning of Witchcraft, I wrote and asked him what he knew of this device. He answered graciously, and we carried on a correspondence that has been reported elsewhere. He advised that he could not answer my questions directly because of his oaths, but he referred me to other people who would. This led not only to answers on that question, but to my receipt of so-called "Weschcke Papers," in which there was a nearly complete but early version of Gerald's Book of Shadows.
Into the Present—and Future
Wicca/Witchcraft is both the "Old Religion" and the newest, free to grow without the restraint of dogma and rigid authority of institutional religions. A religion and craft for today, and tomorrow in which Sandra and I have been proud to play a small role.
Carl Llewellyn Weschcke (Minnesota) was the owner and chairman of Llewellyn Worldwide, the world's oldest and largest metaphysical publisher. He played a seminal role in the rise of Wicca and Neo-Paganism in the 1960s and ...