LIFE photo essay of 1960s Wiccans in the UK


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Just as intriguing to me is the photo here is the one of people dancing (fair warning: fully clothed!) in a stone circle in Oxfordshire.

I wonder if any of the people who appeared in these photos suffered any repercussions.

I read a book once about how to practice Wicca that included a lot of nude ceremonies. However, the impression I got wasn’t that they were preserving an ancient way of life, but rather that this old bearded dude was taking advantage of the young impressionable women and boning them “ceremonially”. There were many parts where the ceremony is temporarily suspended while the grand master and his chosen retire to a separate room before returning and having him choose a different girl. It was very cultish. I thought the prominence of the guy was kind of weird for a religion that’s supposed to be so maternal.

One bad book doesn’t condemn a whole class of people, but I was surprised that it was published at all given how it made the author look. I’ll have to look up the name of the book when I get home and see if it has been disowned by the majority of Wiccans or something.

That actually works? Yumpin Yimminy, what am I waiting for?


I doubt it’s been disowned; different strokes and all that. However if you were to read another author, you may find the same rituals described, but with minor changes or different emphasis - rather innocuous by comparison.

If you have ever met any wiccans of the 60s and 70s you are fairly likely to have heard some stories of acts performed to gain the privilege of initiation to higher degrees etc - most of the stories I’ve heard related to high priestesses rather than priests - but somehow always directed at covens who are ‘outgroup’ to the audience and rarely present to defend themselves. The words that always resonated rather unpleasantly for me were the (highly sarcastic) ‘An act of worship upon the Goddess’…

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There’s a few different boss from the 1950s-70s that could be. That sounds like a weird description of the Great Rite, with the weird parts being that a) there is no requirement for it to be am old man and a young woman and b) there is no requirement for the man to lead the rite – usually it’s mutual or, as you supposed, led by the woman.

From what I’ve seen and heard, the Great Rites is talked about a lot more than it is practised. When it is practised, it’s much more likely to be just the two participants – you don’t need a circle of coven members for it.

The book talked about it being all egalitarian, but in all of the examples he gave it was him and a bunch of girls.

Repercussions from whom?

Well, 1960s… Wicca kind of evolved in the ensuing 50 years.

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maybe the best part of this wiccan story is this advertisement

Looks so tasty !

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There are some very solid reasons to practice ritual nude- Intimacy, being close to the elements, shedding of material concerns, heightened sexual energy (fertility is a pretty prominent theme in magick).

But, there’s also the fact that Gardner and a few others were horny old goats who wanted to oogle and fondle young women. Mind you, I’m all for oogling and fondling, I just don’t believe it needs a pretense.

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our desire to replace bullshit with bullshit is astounding.


Found it. “Eight Sabbats for Witches” by Janet & Stewart Farrar. Copyright 1981.

A representative passage from the book:

"When the High Priest reaches To the wonder and glory of all men in the Invocation, he stops. The Maiden then fetches her athame from the altar and ritually opens a gateway in the Circle by the door of the room. The coven file through and leave the room. The Maiden steps last out of the Circle, ritually seals the gateway behind her, lays her athame on the floor outside the Circle and leaves the room, closing the door behind her. The High Priest and High Priestess are thus left alone in the room and the Circle…No member of the coven may question them on it afterwards, directly or indirectly.

An amusing aspect is their little hints about doing the rituals in the modern world. Apparently birthday candles are excellent for making a crown of candles. Also, if you light a bonfire in the woods for your ritual, keep an extinguisher handy.

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Yeah, I’ve brought this up with wiccan friends and their justifications were dressed up versions of “feels good man”.

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Looks more Wickermanny than Wiccany. The 1973, that is.

From the community in which they lived. I’m thinking specifically of their employers. Maybe the part of England where they lived was pretty relaxed, or maybe no one in their community ever saw the article.

In the mid-1990’s some Wiccan friends of mine appeared on a local news program with their faces and voices obscured. They wanted to educate people about what they believed, but were afraid of losing their jobs. I’m sorry to say they had good reason for feeling that way.

Which is probably a better response than ‘clothing blocks the majickal energies’. Ritual behaviour is all about separating the sacred activity from the every day, and you can do this via signifiers involving place, time or behaviour. In every case it makes sense to do something that steps outside of the usual norms, so ritual nudity makes a lot of sense in a Northern European country with a wet climate and a population who tend to be fastidious about being covered up even in the presence of close family members (less true nowadays but still more so than many of our continental neighbours).

OK, L.Ron. time for your cold shower…

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Eh. Fair enough.

My mother was (is?) a leading Dianic Witch in Salt Lake City and has been so (and public) since the 1980s. Most of the sort of thing you were mentioning happened in a few rural places or was just overhyped. Most people, even in Utah, really don’t give a shit enough about the religions of other people* to give you active shit.

  • unless you’re a Muslim.