8.2.14

The Charge of the Goddess - History, Sources and Analysis

"I think I still remember the very very early days when we never knew where they [the words of the Charge] actually came from. They were just the words of the Goddess..." - Morgana Sythove (interview)
A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting this wonderful woman. I bring her up because it was she who inspired me to write on this subject. After (re)watching one of her videos (which you can find just blow this paragraph), I decided that I wanted to write a post on the subject of the Charge of the Goddess because it truly is a valuable piece of poetry as well as Wiccan liturgy. In fact, it is the only piece of Wiccan liturgy that exists. Although liturgy might not be the perfect word to use, it's the closest possible one that can be found. Liturgy implies a text which is always used in the same form everywhere. This isn't completely true of the Charge because it has had its variations over time. Covens and individuals still adapt it today to fit their needs. In this sense, the Charge is ever-changing, but its foundations stay the same. The result of this are many versions of the text; some shorter, some longer and some even differing significantly from the older versions. This is why I plan to deal with the foundations which are shared by all of these adaptations.

video

Morgana quotes many great books which I have used as a starting point (among other sources which you can find throughout the post). I will repeat the main points of the video in this post as well as some quotes just to make everything easier to follow and compare, but just in case you feel like hearing her recite the Charge in its many versions, feel free to watch the video and hear the information from someone much more experienced and wiser than myself. :)

So let us start by defining what the Charge of the Goddess actually is.

The Basics

For those of you that are not familiar with the Charge (which is what I will call the Charge of the Goddess from now on), it is worth mentioning its main functions.

The Charge of the Goddess is actually a poem (although sometimes written in prose form) which is attributed to Doreen Valiente (Gerald Gardner's High Priestess and an important author on the subject of Wicca and Witchcraft). The attribution issue will be discussed in depth later on, but just for the sake of simplicity, let's leave it at this for now. 


It is recited in Wiccan rituals by the High Priestess during the Opening ritual, or more precisely, during the ritual of Drawing down the Moon (which is a part of the Opening ritual. The act of "drawing down the Moon" is the act of invoking the Goddess into the body of the High Priestess. It is essentially performed by the High Priest and continued by the High Priestess who speaks for the Goddess by reciting this poem, or through which the Goddess herself speaks. Basically, if the Goddess doesn't start speaking through the High Priestess at this point of the ritual, then the High Priestess speaks on the Goddess' behalf by reciting the Charge. You can read the full ritual in the above mentioned post just so you understand the context since I'll be dealing solely with the Charge of the Goddess here.

The Charge can be used in every ritual if the individual/coven/group decides to invoke the Goddess in this way, although it is especially symbolic for Esbat rituals (as they celebrate the full Moon and the Charge is, of course, a part of the Drawing down the Moon ritual). The ritual I will be talking about in this post is intended for a group (as the Drawing down the Moon was written for group work). This doesn't mean that it isn't possible to invoke a deity into oneself if you are working alone, but the methods would differ somewhat. These techniques are manifold and it would take a whole book to talk about them, so I'll just stick to the Charge for now. :)

Before I start complicating things, here is a common version of the Charge (taken from Janet and Stewart Farrar's book Eight Sabbats for Witches, pp. 42-43).
With this, Drawing Down the Moon is complete; the next stage is the Charge. The High Priestess lays down the wand and scourge on the altar, and she and the High Priest face the coven, with him on her left. The High Priest says:
"Listen to the words of the Great Mother, she who of old was also called among men Artemis, Astarte, Athene, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Dana, Arianrhod, Isis, Bride, and by many other names."
The High Priestess says: 
"Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and better it be when the Moon is full, then shall ye assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of me, Who am Queen of all witches. There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not won its deepest secrets; to these I will teach things that are yet unknown. And ye shall be free from all slavery, and as a sign that ye be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites. And ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love all in my praise. For Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and mine also is joy on Earth, for my law is love unto all beings. Keep pure your highest ideal, strive ever towards it; let naught stop you or turn you aside. For mine is the secret door which opens upon the Land of Youth, and Mine is the cup of the wine of life, and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of immortality. I am the gracious Goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart of Man. Upon Earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal; and beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand sacrifice; for behold, I am the Mother of all living, and my love is poured out upon the Earth."
The High Priest says: 
"Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess, she in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven, and whose body encircles the Universe."
The High Priestess says: 
"I who am the beauty of the green Earth, and the white Moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the desire in the heart of man, call unto thy soul. Arise, and come unto me. For I am the soul of nature, who gives life unto the universe. From me all things proceed, and unto me all things must return: and before my face, beloved of Gods and of men, let thine innermost divine self be enfolded in the rapture of the infinite. Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth; for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you. And thou who thinkest to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not unless thou knowest the mystery, that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee. For behold, I have been with thee from the very beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire."
If you want to hear Janet Farrar herself reciting the Charge (as well as some interesting commentary on the subject from both her and Gavin Bone), I recommend you have a look at this video. :)

video

I personally feel very comfortable with the Farrars' adaptation, although this post wouldn't be complete without me giving a few more versions and talking about the historical background and functions of the Charge.

What Happens during the Charge

Simply put, the Goddess is invoked into the body of the High Priestess. The Charge itself is not the invocation (the invocation would be the whole ritual of Drawing down the Moon), but it is the moment when the Goddess speaks through the Priestess. 

Invocation is not to be confused with "possession" and such phenomena because possessions are done by force, while in the case of invocations, the practitioner willingly invites the entity (in the case the Goddess) to be their mental and spiritual "roommate", so to speak, for a short while. Many Pagans believe that invocations are the center of every ritual as well as its high point. 

Calling a deity into one's body may seem very egoistical to some, but it is not perceived as such in Paganism because most Pagans believe that the God and Goddess already are a part of us (as we are a part of them). In this sense, we are all a god/goddess in our own sense. The act of invocation means simply expanding one's self in order to accept a bit more energy. 

When invoking, it is important to keep in mind that you have to be very honest with yourself and with other practitioners. You have to know your limitations and possibilities and be in control of yourself in order to keep your ego from dominating you. The ego can only slow you down and damage any attempts of invocation. This is why one has to free their ego and stop being self-conscious. This lack of self-consciousness doesn't mean that you have to start doing all sorts of atrocities, but rather that you should be open and relaxed; you have to be prepared to let the entity you are invoking bring forth natural reactions and emotions. You also have to be willing to express them appropriately.

When invoking a deity, there are three possible results:
  1. You don't manage to invoke them (which is nothing to be ashamed of; you simply might not be strong enough at the moment, or a strong enough contact wasn't established; there are many other factors which can interfere, but this is by no means anything bad or shameful! It is very natural and normal. Pagans also believe that the deity itself knows best if a person is ready for this experience. They also know when and how they can manifest themselves).
  2. The deity is invoked but doesn't express its presence strongly (you feel them and their presence can be sensed somewhat in your speech and/or body language, but you aren't overwhelmed by them). You often recall this whole experience as being pleasant and remember it completely as do the other people in the circle.
  3. The deity is invoked and completely overwhelms you thus repressing all of your typical behavioral and vocal characteristics (or even your whole personality). There are even instances when you may seem as though you have physically changed to the other people in the circle (e.g. as if your facial features have been altered). If this kind of experience happens, you often don't even remember everything that happened, but nothing bad can happen if you are honest when invoking, if you have good intentions and if you are aware of who/what you are invoking.
In order to help her achieve the trance-like state necessary to invoke the Goddess, the High Priestess can use various aids. For example, she can visualize certain images. For the Drawing down the Moon ceremony, it would be appropriate for her to visualize the Moon actually being drawn down onto the Earth and floating just above her head. It can then take the form of the Goddess herself, step in front of the Priestess and enter her body. These kinds of direct/literal visualizations can be of great help to some. 

Another less direct method comes from Shamanic practices and is not so commonly seen in the Drawing down the Moon ritual. It involves the Priestess putting on a mask which represents the Goddess. Donning on another's face (or even clothes) is an obvious symbolic and emotionally strong act. In doing so, the mask's wearer gives into another personality; they repress their own personality to make way for another magical, mystical personality which is unified with the energy of the cosmos. This act can also help with ego and self-consciousness issues.

But what do the rest of the coven members/circle attendants do while the High Priest and High Priestess perform this ritual? 
Their role for this part of the ritual is to help the priest and priestess in any way they can. They can chant, dance, play instruments or even be completely silent depending on the arrangements. As the Priestess is essentially supposed to enter a trance, anything that would usually help a person enter a trance is done in this occasion (if the Priestess feels that it will help her). In this case, repetitive chants, drum beats and any form of repetition is welcome. It is important to keep the rhythm very stable and unchanging because steady rhythms cause trances, while rhythms which go faster are used to raise energy and then channel it somewhere (and this is not the goal here).

Why Invoke a Deity?

If channeling energy isn't the goal (as is the usual goal of many rituals), then what is the function of invoking a deity (or the Goddess in this case)? Practitioners may perform this act for several reasons. Just to list a few:
  • Invoking a deity and becoming one with it as well as achieving a state of trance is in itself a very impressive act. This is a powerful experience which can be very pleasant. This is reason enough, but along with this experience comes a growth of self-confidence, courage, personal power and charisma. All of this can help the individual in their further ritual/magical works.
  • One may want to invoke a deity to receive suggestions or directions. The act of invocation thus becomes an act of clairvoyance which can be useful both in rituals and in everyday life.
  • When a deity is invoked, the "vessel" (the person into whose body the deity is invoked) can emit great amounts of energy which all come from the deity's power. This is the purest form of cosmic energy which can be used to bless and even to heal. Also, the deity may choose to speak through this person and personally give blessings or wise advice.
  • The energy given by the deity to the individual also becomes a part of the whole circle and everyone in it. This energy can help the practitioners perform magic later on or simply achieve better results in their ritual. This includes easier raising and channeling energy.

Warning

Although there are many positive sides to invoking a deity, one still has to be very careful because you can't just invoke a random entity or one that you know nothing about. You have to be aware of who/what you are invoking. Not knowing what you are inviting into the circle and into a person's body can cause harm. This can be compared to inviting a stranger into your home. Why would you invite someone that you know nothing about and who can be potentially dangerous? This is why it is necessary to do research on the entity/deity beforehand and become acquainted with their personalities.

The above warning is less of a concern in the case of the Charge of the Goddess because Pagans usually invoke the archetypal Goddess (often referred to as the Mother Goddess) rather than specific deities from various pantheons. The latter practice is more common in individual rituals. Though I will talk more about the archetypal Goddess later on. I promised to say a few words about the history of the Charge so here we go. :)

The History of the Charge

Drawing down the Moon

The ritual of Drawing down the Moon, of which the Charge is an essential part in modern practices, is thought to come from ancient Greece or even earlier (from the Etruscan civilization) according to some . It is known that witches from Thessaly (a region in Greece) used to "draw down" the Moon for gaining strong erotic powers. The Moon was visualized as being light yellow or blood red. As it was "drawn down", it was believed to let out Moon-juice which would fall on plants and talismans in the form of dew and thus give them magical powers. This juice was collected and used for potions. The ritual itself was at one point thought to be so powerful (or maybe a bit too powerful) and was banned. Anyone caught performing it would have been severely punished. The Roman poet Statius calls it the "Thessalian villain" in his work Thebaïs. 

The Drawing down the Moon ritual is thus experienced very differently by contemporary witches. The reason for this is not only the different origins of the ritual but also the fact that modern witches aren't as in tune with nature, the Moon and the Goddess as they would like to be (or at least as much as their ancient forebears were). This is why modern witches perform this ritual in order to reestablish their contact with the Divine and with feminine energies or to become one with the Mother Goddess rather than to gain erotic powers (as was done in Thessaly).

The title page of the
original 1899 edition
The modern ritual of Drawing down the Moon has almost no connections to this ancient practice. It is thought to originate from a much younger source; a book entitled Aradia, Gospel of the Witches written by Charles Godfrey Leland in 1899. This text was accepted into the Gardnerian and Alexandrian denominations of Wicca and was soon assimilated into Wiccan rituals. The stories featured in the book supposedly come from an Italian witch who lived in the 19th century. She told them to Leland and he shared them with the rest of the witchcraft world.  

Most versions of the Charge have obvious similarities with a section from Leland's book; notably the first chapter entitled "How Diana Gave Birth to Aradia (Herodias)". In it, Leland describes a Roman ritual which greatly resembles the ritual of the Drawing down of the Moon and the Charge itself. As Stewart Farrar later pointed out in his work What Witches Do, it is simply impossible to miss the resemblance. A section of the chapter (which inspired the Charge the most) reads:
Now when Aradia had been taught, taught to work all witchcraft, how to destroy the evil race (of oppressors), she (imparted it to her pupils) and said unto them:
          When I shall have departed from this world,
          Whenever ye have need of anything,
          Once in the month, and when the moon is full,
          Ye shall assemble in some desert place,
          Or in a forest all together join
          To adore the potent spirit of your queen,
          My mother, great Diana. She who fain
          Would learn all sorcery yet has not won
          Its deepest secrets, them my mother will
          Teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown.
          And ye shall all be freed from slavery,
          And so ye shall be free in everything;
          And as the sign that ye are truly free,
          Ye shall be naked in your rites, both men
          And women also: this shall last until
          The last of your oppressors shall be dead;
          And ye shall make the game of Benevento,
          Extinguishing the lights, and after that
          Shall hold your supper thus

The Charge of the Goddess

As you may have concluded, the previously quoted Charge of the Goddess from Eight Sabbats for Witches isn't the original one, although it has become a commonly used version. It is hard to say what the original would be because it has been rewritten, adapted, prolonged, shortened and basically turned upside down through time. Also, the reason why I mentioned the "issue of attribution" earlier is because, although the Charge is attributed to Doreen Valiente, it was not written entirely by her. In fact, a number of inspirations and direct sources can be found in Doreen's version of the Charge (as well as earlier versions). This implies that there is no one true author of the Charge but rather several contributors.

One of Gardner's earliest Books of
Shadows
The earliest version of the Charge can be found in Gardner's very own Book of Shadows and dates back to 1949 (although his BoS was written over a longer period; from 1949 to 1961). In it, there is actually a chapter named after it. It is entitled "The Charge: 'Lift Up the Veil'". It is also referred to as Leviter Veslis (the Lifting of the Veil). Here is what Gardner says:
Magus: "Listen to the words of the Great mother, who of old was also called among men Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Diana, Arianrhod, Bride, and by many other names." 
High Priestess: "At mine Altars the youth of Lacedaemon in Sparta made due sacrifice. Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full, ye shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me who am Queen of all Witcheries and magics. There ye shall assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not won its deepest secrets. To these will I teach things that are yet unknown. And ye shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that ye be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites, both men and women, and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music, and love, all in my praise. There is a Secret Door that I have made to establish the way to taste even on earth the elixir of immortality. Say, 'Let ecstasy be mine, and joy on earth even to me, To Me,' For I am a gracious Goddess. I give unimaginable joys on earth, certainty, not faith, while in life! And upon death, peace unutterable, rest, and ecstasy, nor do I demand aught in sacrifice." 
Magus: "Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess." 
High Priestess: "I love you: I yearn for you: pale or purple, veiled or voluptuous. I who am all pleasure, and purple and drunkenness of the innermost senses, desire you. Put on the wings, arouse the coiled splendor within you. Come unto me, for I am the flame that burns in the heart of every man, and the core of every Star. Let it be your inmost divine self who art lost in the constant rapture of infinite joy. Let the rituals be rightly performed with joy and beauty. Remember that all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. So let there be beauty and strength, leaping laughter, force and fire by within you. And if thou sayest, 'I have journeyed unto thee, and it availed me not,' rather shalt thou say, 'I called upon thee, and I waited patiently, and Lo, thou wast with me from the beginning,' for they that ever desired me shall ever attain me, even to the end of all desire. 
This much of the rites must ever be performed to prepare for any initiation, whether of one degree or of all three.
This was the first version of the Charge. Its later versions can partly be attributed to Doreen Valiente who rewrote it after she was initiated into Gardner's coven. 

The first printed form of the Charge came out in Gerald Gardner's book Witchcraft Today in 1954. As in the first version, the Charge is not connected to the rite of Drawing down the Moon. It is only stated that it is recited before an initiation, although it is obvious from the very first line that it is intended to be a summoning of the Great Mother. In Witchcraft Today, Gardner says the following:
The goddess of the witch cult is obviously the Great Mother, the giver of life, incarnate love. She rules spring pleasure, feasting and all the delights at a later time with other goddesses and has special affinity with the moon. 
Before an initiation a charge is read beginning: Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who of old was also called among men Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite and many other names. At mine altars the youth of Lacedaemon made due sacrifice. Once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full, meet in some secret place and adore me, who am queen of all the magics...
For I am a gracious goddess, I give joy on earth, certainty, not faith, while in life; and upon death, peace unutterable, rest and the ecstasy of the goddess. Nor do I demand aught in sacrifice...
The charge I think came from the time when Romans or strangers came in; it explains a little which would not be known to all in the old days, and identifies the goddess with goddesses of other lands. I think a similar charge was a feature of the ancient mysteries.

I am forbidden to give any more...
Obviously, Gardner claims that the Charge comes from the Roman era and that it was also used in ancient rites and mysteries. This is an interesting notion, although it has been disproven by several authors, including Stewart Farrar.

Photo of Doreen Valiente (left),
Stewart Farrar (middle) and Janet
Farrar (right)
In 1971, Stewart Farrar wrote about the Charge in his book What Witches Do. This was the first time it was pointed out that much of Gardner's Charge was taken from/inspired by Leland's Aradia from 1899.

Going back to Doreen Valiente, it's worth noting that she is the person who altered the Charge the most in order to adapt it to Wiccan practices. In 1989, she wrote a book entitled The Rebirth of Witchcraft where she openly talks about the process of rewriting the Charge and how it even came to this. She says:

"Gerald's [i.e. Gerald Gardner] reaction was. 'Well, if you think you can do any better, go ahead.' I accepted the challenge and set out to rewrite the Book of Shadows cutting out the Crowleyality, as much as I could . . . I felt the words from Aradia were qualified in this respect, so I retained them as the base of my new version of the Charge, which I originally wrote in verse as follows:

          Mother, Darksome and Divine,

          Mine the Scourge and Mine the Kiss,
          The Five-point Star of Love and Bliss;
          Here I charge ye in this Sign.

          Bow before my Spirit bright

          Aphrodite, Arianrhod,
          Lover of the Horned God,
          Queen of Witchery and Night.

          Diana, Brigid, Melusine,

          Am I named of old by men,
          Artemis and Cerridwen,
          Hell's dark mistress, Heaven's Queen.

          Ye who ask of me a boon,

          Meet ye in some hidden shade,
          Lead my dance in greenwood glade
          By the light of the full moon.

          Dance about mine altar stone,

          Work my holy magistry,
          Ye who are fain of sorcery,
          I bring ye secrets yet unknown.

          No more shall ye know slavery

          who tread my round the Sabbat night.
          Come ye all naked to the rite
          In sign that ye are truly free.

          Keep ye my mysteries in mirth,

          Heart joined to heart and lip to lip.
          Five are the points of fellowship
          That bring ye ecstasy on Earth.

          No other law but love I know;

          By naught but love may I be known,
          And all that liveth is my own:
          From me they come, to me they go."

The above version can also be found in Gardner's Book of Shadows in the chapter entitled "A Revision of the Casting Procedure" from 1957. The next chapter entitled "The Prose Charge" dates from the same year. By this time, Doreen was already a High Priestess of Gardner's coven (i.e. the Bricket Wood Coven) and that same year, she and several other members left him to form their own group because of laws he began to impose on them. The prose version of the Charge in the aforementioned chapter is Doreen's prose version which followed the above version in verse. The prose adaptation reads:
[Magus]: Listen to the words of the Great mother, who was of old also called among men, Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Diana, Arianrhod, Bride, and by many other names. 
[High Priestess]: "At mine Altars the youth of Lacedaemon in Sparta made due sacrifice. Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full. Then ye shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me who am Queen of all Witcheries. There ye shall assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet who have not won its deepest secrets. To these will I teach things that are yet unknown. And ye shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that ye be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites, and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music, and love, all in my praise.' "For mine is the ecstasy of the Spirit, and mine is also joy on earth. For my Law is Love unto all beings. "Keep pure your highest ideals. Strive ever towards it. Let naught stop you or turn you aside. "For mine is the secret which opens upon the door of youth; and mine is the cup of the Wine of Life: and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of Immortality. "I am the Gracious Goddess who gives the gift of Joy unto the heart of Man. "Upon Earth I give the knowledge of the Spirit Eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand aught in sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things, and my love is poured out upon earth."
[Magus]: Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess, She in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of Heaven, whose body encircleth the universe.
[High Priestess]: "I who am the beauty of the green earth; and the White Moon amongst the Stars; and the mystery of the Waters; and the desire of the heart of man. I call unto thy soul: arise and come unto me. "For I am the Soul of nature who giveth life to the Universe; 'From me all things proceed; and unto me, all things must return.' Beloved of the Gods and men, thine inmost divine self shall be enfolded in the raptures of the infinite. "Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals; and therefore let there be Beauty and Strength, Power and Compassion, Honour and Humility, Mirth and reverence within you. "And thou who thinkest to seek me, know that thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not unless thou know the mystery, that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee, for behold; I have been with thee from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire."
You can see that this adaptation is very similar the Leviter Veslis version in the same Book of Shadows. I now have to thank Ceisur Serith who wrote an unbelievably wonderful essay on this topic. He already compared the Leviter Veslis version to both Doreen's prose version and the version from Witchcraft Today. So basically, all the three prose versions that we have mentioned up to now. Just to make it easier for you to compare them, I've put them all in a neat table. Keep in mind that these are the prose versions (they are not written in verse!), but they are separated into what may look like verses just for the sake of simplicity.

Note: the exact year when Doreen Valiente adapted the Leviter Veslis version is not known (although it is estimated to be a short time after her initiation in 1953). Gardner either wrote this version himself, or he was given it by a member of his previous coven called the New Forest coven. Doreen obviously wrote both the verse and prose version before the publication of Gardner's Book of Shadows.

Gerald Gardner
Leviter Veslis

(BoS, 1949)
Doreen Valiente
prose version

(BoS, 1957)
Gerald Gardner
Witchcraft Today
(1954)
Listen to the words of the Great mother, Listen to the words of the Great mother, Listen to the words of the Great Mother,
who ... of old was also called among men who was of old also called among men, who ... of old was also called among men
Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine,
Aphrodite, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Diana, Arianrhod, Bride, Aphrodite
and by many other names. "At mine Altars the youth and by many other names. "At mine Altars the youth and many other names. At mine altars the youth
of Lacedaemon in Sparta made due sacrifice. of Lacedaemon in Sparta made due sacrifice. of Lacedaemon made due sacrifice.
Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and "Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and Once in the month, and
better it be when the moon is full, ye shall assemble better it be when the moon is full. Then ye shall assemble better it be when the moon is full, meet
in some secret place in some secret place in some secret place
and adore the spirit of Me and adore the spirit of Me and adore me,
who am Queen of all Witcheries. who am Queen of all Witcheries. who am queen of all the magics
There ye shall assemble, ye who are fain to learn all "There ye shall assemble, ye who are fain to learn all
/
sorcery, yet have not won its deepest secrets. To sorcery, yet who have not won its deepest secrets. To
/
these will I teach things these will I teach things
/
that are yet unknown. that are yet unknown.
/
"And ye shall be free from slavery, "And ye shall be free from slavery,
/
and as a sign that ye and as a sign that ye
/
be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites, both be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites,
/
men and women, and ye shall dance, sing, feast, and ye shall dance, sing, feast,
/
make music, and love, all in my praise. make music, and love, all in my praise.
/
Let ecstasy be mine, and joy "For mine is the ecstasy of the Spirit, and mine is also joy
/
on earth. For "love is my law." on earth. For my Law is Love unto all beings.
/
/
"Keep pure your highest ideal. Strive ever towards it.
/
/
Let naught stop you or turn you aside.
/
There is a Secret Door which I have made... "For mine is the secret which opens upon the door of
/
/
youth and mine is the cup of the Wine of Life:
/
/
and the Cauldron of Cerridwen,
/
/
which is the Holy Grail of Immortality.
/
to establish the way to taste even on earth the elixir of immortality.
/
/
Say, "Let ecstacy be mine, and joy on earth even to me, To Me.
/
/
For I am a gracious Goddess. I give unimaginable joys, "I am the Gracious Goddess who gives the gift of Joy For I am a gracious Goddess, I give joy
/
unto the heart of Man.
/
on earth, certainty "Upon Earth I give the knowledge of the Spirit Eternal, on earth
And upon death, peace unutterable, rest and ecstacy, and beyond death I give peace and freedom, and reunion and upon death, peace
/
with those who have gone before.
/
nor do I demand aught in sacrifice." Nor do I demand aught in sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of nor do I demand aught in sacrifice
/
all things, and my love is poured out upon earth."
/
Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess. Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess.
/
/
She in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of Heaven, whose body
/
/
encircleth the universe.
/
/
"I who am
/
/
the beauty of the green earth; and the White Moon
/
/
amongst the Stars; and the mystery of the Waters;
/
/
and the desire of the heart of man. I call unto thy soul:
/
arouse ... "come unto me." arise and come unto me.
/
'For I am the "For I am the Soul of nature who giveth life to the
/
/
Universe; ‘From me all things proceed; and unto me, all
/
/
things must return.'
/
Let it be your inmost divine self...
Beloved of the Gods and men...
thine inmost divine self shall
/
in the constant rapture of the infinite be enfolded in the raptures of the infinite
/
/
"Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for
/
Remember that all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals;
/
So let there be beauty and strength,... and therefore let there be Beauty and Strength, Power
/
/
and Compassion, Honour and Humility, Mirth and reverence within you.
/
"And if thou sayest, I have journeyed unto thee, "And thou who thinkest to seek me, know that thy seeking and yearning
/
and it availed me not... shall avail thee not
/
/
unless thou know the mystery,
/
/
'That if that which thou seekest
/
/
thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee,
/
Thou wast with me from the beginning,'... for behold; I have been with thee from the beginning,
/
shall ever attain me the end of desire." and I am that which is attained at the end of desire."
/

Sources of the Charge

All of the versions of the Charge were largely inspired by Leland's Aradia, Gospel of the Witches and several works by Aleister Crowley. Not much can be debated on these topics because the resemblances are more than obvious. 

The influence that Leland's work had on the Charge can be very simply explained without much philosophy, while there has been a lot of controversy on the topic of Crowley's and Gardner's relationship. For this reason, I will first touch upon the influences Aradia had on the Charge and go into a bit more detail on the latter topic.

Aradia, Gospel of the Witches

A specific segment of Doreen Valiente's prose charge can be compared to another segment from Aradia. This same influence can also be noticed in both of Gardner's prose versions (i.e. in the Leviter Veslis version and the Witchcraft Today version), but since we already compared these three, I will just focus on the relationship of Aradia and Doreen's version. 

The segment of Doreen Valiente's Charge which I am referring to is the following one:
Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full. Then ye shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me who am Queen of all Witcheries. There ye shall assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet who have not won its deepest secrets. To these will I teach things that are yet unknown. And ye shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that ye be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites, and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music, and love, all in my praise. 
If you will, compare it to the following segment of Aradia and you will see for yourselves how similar they really are.

          Whenever ye have need of anything,
          Once in the month, and when the moon is full,
          Ye shall assemble in some desert place,
          Or in a forest all together join
          To adore the potent spirit of your queen,
          My mother, great Diana. She who fain
          Would learn all sorcery yet has not won
          Its deepest secrets, them my mother will
          Teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown.
          And ye shall all be freed from slavery,
          And so ye shall be free in everything;
          And as the sign that ye are truly free,
          Ye shall be naked in your rites, both men
          And women also

It took the liberty of underlining the identical parts (although some other lines are very similar or perhaps hold the same meaning in comparison to their counterparts).

When it comes to comparing Aradia with all three prose versions mentioned in this post, they all follow a similar pattern to the above one, so I believe no further elaboration is necessary.

Aleister Crowley's Influence

Even the earliest form of the Charge (the Leviter Veslis version) can be traced to some of Crowley's works; respectively his Book of the Law (a.k.a. Liber Legis), his Liber LXV and his essay "The Law of Liberty". These same influences are mostly found in the other prose adaptations and not so much in Doreen's poem version.

The idea of a charge in itself can be found in Masonry, or more precisely in Masonic initiation rituals. This explains why Gardner insists on the Charge being recited before initiations. In this context, a charge is defined as “an explanatory or expository speech”. More precisely, the notion of a charge can be traced back to Gnostic Masses and the Ceremony of the Opening of the Veil which is an essential part of them.

I think the best way to compare the sources with the Charge is by quoting, so let's begin, shall we? You will find excerpts from the prose versions of the Charge first and the sources will follow. I believe you can easily make the comparisons for yourself without my emphasizing too much. :)

Leviter Veslis: There is a Secret Door that I have made to establish the way...
Source:

Book of the Law: There is a secret door that I shall make to establish thy way in all the quarters...


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Leviter Veslis: ...to taste even on earth the elixir of immortality...
Source:

"The Law of Liberty": Do not embrace mere Marian or Melusine; she is Nuit Herself, specially concentrated and incarnated in a human form to give you infinite love, to bid you taste even on earth the Elixir of Immortality.

Note: Doreen Valiente somewhat altered the above two lines in order to make the "Crowleyality" less visible, but the meaning is essentially the same:
"For mine is the secret which opens upon the door of youth; and mine is the cup of the Wine of Life: and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of Immortality." - references to secrets, doors, immortality (youth, Cerridwen's cauldron etc.) are all present, but Crowley's language is much less noticeable.

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Leviter Veslis: ...let ecstasy be mine, and joy on earth even to me, To Me....
Doreen Valiente's prose version: For mine is the ecstasy of the Spirit, and mine is also joy on earth...
Source:

Book of the Law: But ecstasy be thine and joy of earth: ever To me!


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Doreen Valiente's prose version: ...joy on earth. For my Law is Love unto all beings. 
Sources:

Book of the Law: Love is the law, love under will.
"The Law of Liberty": ...joy of earth...Love is the Law...


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Doreen Valiente's prose version: Keep pure your highest ideals. Strive ever towards it. Let naught stop you or turn you aside.
Source:

"The Law of Liberty": Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever toward it without allowing aught to stop you or turn you aside...


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Leviter Veslis: For I am a gracious Goddess.
Doreen Valiente's prose version: I am the Gracious Goddess...
Witchcraft Today version: For I am a gracious goddess...
Source:

"The Law of Liberty": For hear, how gracious is the Goddess...


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Leviter Veslis: I give unimaginable joys on earth, certainty, not faith, while in life! And upon death, peace unutterable, rest, and ecstacy, nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.
Doreen Valiente's prose version: ...who gives the gift of Joy unto the heart of Man. "Upon Earth I give the knowledge of the Spirit Eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand aught in sacrifice...
Witchcraft Today version: I give joy on earth, certainty, not faith, while in life; and upon death, peace unutterable, rest and the ecstasy of the goddess. Nor do I demand aught in sacrifice...
Sources:

The Book of the Law: I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.
"The Law of Liberty": For hear, how gracious is the Goddess; “I give unimaginable joys on earth: certainty, not faith, while in life, upon death; peace unutterable, rest, ecstasy; nor do I demand aught in sacrifice.”


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Leviter Veslis: Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess.
Doreen Valiente's prose version: Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess...
Source:

"The Law of Liberty": We have heard the Voice of the Star-Goddess...


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Leviter Veslis: "I love you: I yearn for you: pale or purple, veiled or voluptuous. I who am all pleasure, and purple and drunkenness of the innermost senses, desire you. Put on the wings, arouse the coiled splendor within you. Come unto me, for I am the flame that burns in the heart of every man, and the core of every Star..."
Sources:

The Book of the Law: I love you! I yearn to you! Pale or purple, veiled or voluptuous, I who am all pleasure and purple, and drunkenness of the innermost sense, desire you. Put on the wings, and arouse the coiled splendour within you: come unto me!
"The Law of Liberty": “I love you! I yearn to you! Pale or purple, veiled or voluptuous, I who am all pleasure and purple, and drunkenness of the innermost sense, desire you. Put on the wings, and arouse the coiled splendour within you: come unto me!”

Note: Doreen Valiente again modified the Crowley sources in her prose version very much:
"I who am the beauty of the green earth; and the White Moon amongst the Stars; and the mystery of the Waters; and the desire of the heart of man. I call unto thy soul: arise and come unto me." - the patter of "I who am" is present, but the comparisons that follow are slightly different. This still doesn't change the meaning which is again basically the same. She kept Crowley's mentioning of stars as well as the finale of "come unto me". Also. the part where she says "the desire of the heart of man", probably draws upon Crowley's Book of the Law ("I am the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star." - the same quote can be found in his essay "The Law of Liberty") and upon another work by Crowley entitled The Vision and the Voice ("I am the blind ache within the heart of man." - chapters 19)

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Leviter Veslis: Let it be your inmost divine self who art lost in the constant rapture of infinite joy.
Doreen Valiente's prose version: Beloved of the Gods and men, thine inmost divine self shall be enfolded in the raptures of the infinite.

Source:
"The Law of Liberty": He is then your own inmost divine self; it is you, and not another, who are lost in the constant rapture of the embraces of Infinite Beauty.


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Leviter Veslis: Let the rituals be rightly performed with joy and beauty. Remember that all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. So let there be beauty and strength, leaping laughter, force and fire by within you.
Doreen Valiente's prose version: Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals; and therefore let there be Beauty and Strength, Power and Compassion, Honour and Humility, Mirth and reverence within you.
Sources:
The Book of the Law: Let the rituals be rightly performed with joy & beauty!
The Book of the Law: Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us.
"The Law of Liberty": Let the rituals be rightly performed with joy & beauty!” Remember that all acts of love and pleasure are rituals, must be rituals.
"The Law of Liberty": “Beauty and strength, leaping laughter and delicious languor, force and fire, are of us.”


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Leviter Veslis: And if thou sayest, 'I have journeyed unto thee, and it availed me not,' rather shalt thou say, 'I called upon thee, and I waited patiently, and Lo, thou wast with me from the beginning,' for they that ever desired me shall ever attain me, even to the end of all desire. 
Doreen Valiente's prose version: And thou who thinkest to seek me, know that thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not unless thou know the mystery, that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee, for behold; I have been with thee from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.
Sources:
Liber LXV: But I have called unto Thee, and I have journeyed unto Thee, and it availed me not.

Liber LXV: I waited patiently, and Thou wast with me from the beginning.

Liber LXV: They that ever desired Thee shall obtain Thee, even at the End of their Desire.


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Doreen Valiente's prose version is obviously much more complicated when it comes to finding sources. This makes sense as her intent was to remove visible Crowley influences from the Charge as much as possible. She indirectly quotes Crowley, or the Leviter Veslis version and adds much of her own words to make the Charge her own, but the meaning essentially stays the same.

Another source must be added for Doreen's prose version, and that would be Israel Regardie's book entitled The Golden Dawn from 1984. Doreen's inspiration for the line "For I am the Soul of nature who giveth life to the Universe" came from a line from this book which reads: "O Soul of Nature giving life and energy to the Universe. From thee all things do proceed. Unto Thee all must return".

Also, the section "Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold..." was modified from a line from chapter 5 of The Vision and the Voice: "It is shown me that this heart is the heart that rejoiceth...".

Even though Doreen Valiente tried to remove any traces Crowley's influence (and she obviously did try hard to camouflage it as best as she could) it comes as a surprise how much of it can still be felt in the Charge. In fact, most of the Charge, not counting Doreen's time spent modifying, paraphrasing and editing, can be traced back to Crowley in one way or another. Although, the first part of the Charge can almost wholly be seen as an adaptation of Aradia, which certainly makes Leland an important influence.

Gerald Gardner's O.T.O. charter
Crowley's and Gardner's relationship has been debated possibly even too much in occult circles. It has been claimed that Crowley actually wrote the Charge of the Goddess for Gardner (as well as many other Wiccan rituals), and that Gardner even paid him to do so, but this is not true. The two men met in 1945 when Crowley was practically on his death bed and living in Hastings. He died only two years later. During these last to years of his life, his heroin addiction was unsustainable and it seems unlikely to me that he could have written much in that period. Although, Crowley did hand Gardner a charter to start a branch of the O.T.O. in the Isle of Man. In short, Gardner was familiar with Crowley's works and incorporated them into many of his own. He practically admits to this in Witchcraft Today in the chapter entitled "Witch Practices" saying:
The only man I can think of who could have invented the rites was the late Aleister Crowley . . . There are indeed certain expressions and certain words used which smack of Crowley; possibly he borrowed things from the cult writings, or more likely someone may have borrowed expressions from him.
If you feel like reading about Gardner and Crowley, I recommend you have a look at an article entitled "The Influence of Aleister Crowley upon Ye Bok of ye Art Magical" as well as the article "A New and Greater Pagan Cult: Gerald Gardner & Ordo Templi Orientis" because they truly do go into great detail on the subject.

An Analysis of the Charge

In 2008, Sorita D'Este and David Rankine wrote a wonderful book entitled Wicca Magical Beginnings. In this book, the authors give a detailed analysis of the Charge. I didn't manage to get my hands on it, but I did find the second next best thing - Sorita D'Este's article "The Charge of the Goddess: Listen to the Words of Leland and Crowley" in which a complete analysis can be found. The following analysis of the Charge is mostly based on her thoughts, though I will add a few of my own and leave out references to the sources for the Charge which I have already discussed. Basically, I will focus on key concepts of the Charge which I believe are worth emphasizing for a better understanding of the work itself.

Note: the analysis is based on Doreen Valiente's prose version.
"Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who of old was also called among men, Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Ceridwen, Diana, Arianrhod, Bride, and by many other names."
The concept of a Great Mother, as the Goddess in Wicca is often called, is nothing new. She is a universal goddess and is not restricted by names, pantheons, cultures or other mundane things. This is the ultimate and divine feminine. As Sorita D'Este points out, the name of the Great Mother stems from the Roman historian Lucian (2nd era BCE) who wrote a work entitled De Dea Sryria (The Syrian Goddess) and another Roman historian called Apuleius and his work The Golden Ass. Both authors talk about a goddess with many names, ore actually aspects of one Goddess. Lucian also refers to her as Mother Earth and the nature-goddess and mentions her various names in several cultures. Apuleius' work talks about the goddess Ishtar of whom all other goddesses are aspects (you can read the full quotes in the D'Este's essay).

This motherly figure is believed to have existed in prehistoric times and in many ancient cultures. Sorita D'Este writes: "This view is one that would be repeated in writings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In 1901, Sir Arthur Evans became convinced of the idea of a single great goddess in prehistoric times when he was excavating Knossos in Crete. From this idea he subsequently chose to interpret all divine female figures at the site as a single goddess, and all male figures as a single subordinate son/consort god. This idea was expanded by the French archaeologist Joseph Dechelette, who suggested that the cult of the Great Goddess had originated in the Neolithic period in Asia Minor and the Balkans and expanded across the Mediterranean to the whole of Western Europe".

The goddesses which are mentioned in this introductory passage of the Charge vary from adaptation to adaptation. It is generally believed that the names Ceridwen, Diana, Arianrhod and Bride (i.e. the Celtic goddesses) were added after the publication of Witchcraft Today (1954). In the version written by Janet and Stewart Farrar (which you can find at the beginning of this post), Isis is mentioned before Bride and Diana is called Dana. Also, Melusine was added. This name is important to mention because it is proof of the Charge not coming from the Roman era as Gardner claims. This figure is actually a fairy tale character and can be found in the 14th century story called Mélusine de Lusignan.

Nevertheless, this part is though to be the most original (if not the only completely original) part of the whole Charge. 
"At mine Altars the youth of Lacedaemon in Sparta made due sacrifice."
This line has been debated many times and everyone has agreed that it's simply nonsense. The problem is that Lacedaemon cannot be in Sparta because Lacedaemon is another name for the region of Laconia (a region of Greece). Basically, the region cannot be a part of the city (Sparta). This part has also been called contradictory because the Goddess here mentions that sacrifices to here were made, although she later says: "Nor do I demand aught in sacrifice". Sorita D'Este believes that this confusion can be put down to several sources being used to write this part of the Charge, although it could also be significant and signify an important change in the Goddess' attitude. To me, it doesn't seem all that contradictory because even though she many not demand sacrifices, this doesn't mean that humans won't make sacrifices. The notion of demand is completely omitted in this line; it is a mere statement, a fact if you will.

According to D'Este, the youth mentioned in this line refers to the young boys of Sparta who were scourged on the altar of the goddess Artemis Orthia. This was both a sacrifice and a ritual cleansing. This act was supposed to ensure peace between the hunter goddess Artemis and the people of Sparta. You can read a detailed retelling of the story in the article.
"Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full. Then ye shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me who am Queen of all Witcheries. There ye shall assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet who have not won its deepest secrets. To these will I teach things that are yet unknown. And ye shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that ye be really free, ye shall be naked in your rites..."
As I have mentioned, this part originates from Aradia. Both the section from Leland's work and this section give instructions for practicing witchcraft. The only difference is that, in Aradia, the goddess Diana gives direct instructions to her daughter Aradia who then passes them on. The Charge in Wicca slightly reverses this patter; it isn't the Goddess who first contacts the High Priestess but the other way around - the High Priest and High Priestess invite the Goddess.

Regarding the instructions themselves, they refer directly to the celebrations of Esbats (monthly full moon celebrations). The references to sorcery are logical in this context because it is precisely on nights of the full Moon that magic (sorcery) is thought to be most potent. It is also said that we should be "naked in [our] rites". This refers to performing rituals skyclad i.e. naked. Although Gardner did insist on this, it isn't thought of as a rule nowadays. Whether or not a coven/individual will work skyclad or not depends on preferences and agreements. Although ritual nudity should in no way be thought of as shameful, perverse or even sexual. It is merely a celebration of freedom (as the Charge says) and that of the human body and one's contentment with it.
"...and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music, and love, all in my praise."
Apart from these activities being a normal part of many celebrations (not only in Wicca and Paganism but in many other cultures, spiritual paths and religions also), these wall apparently all very typical descriptions of witches' Sabbaths during the prosecutions. In this sense, this line somewhat confirms a stereotype, though I think it's quite a positive one that really does no harm to the witch's reputation. I would like to add that making love is not a necessary part of Wicca in modern times. It may be present in metaphorical form (and much rarely in physical form) in the Great Rite but it is in no way obligatory. Love can be given without having sex (which "making love" presumably refers to); people can give a kiss or a simple hug and still convey the message of love.
"For mine is the ecstasy of the Spirit, and mine is also joy on earth. For my Law is Love unto all beings."
My understanding of this line, without even considering its origins (Crowley's Book of the Law and "The Law of Liberty") is that of pure love and peace. I believe this line holds the core of Wiccan morals; that of "Harm none" and similar loving and caring ideas.
"Keep pure your highest ideals. Strive ever towards it. Let naught stop you or turn you aside."
This line should be clear enough. Each person know what their highest ideals are. These ideals are the highest standards or principles an individual has. I believe that they are that which makes an individual truly motivated in life. The Charge expresses great encouragement and insists on everyone striving towards their goals and always pushing forward. This is a very optimistic idea; one that I try to live by each day of my life.
"For mine is the secret which opens upon the door of youth..."
I really have nothing to add to Sorita D'Este's analysis of this section, so I would instead just like to quote her. She says the following: "The ‘land of youth’ is a translation of the name of the Irish otherworldly realm of Tir-na-Nog, home of the Irish pantheon of the Tuatha de Danaan. As the nineteenth century author Thomas Croker observed in Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland (1828), 'It is called the Land of Youth, because time has no power there, no one becomes old'. The presence in the Charge of this Celtic otherworld clearly indicates the relevance of the Celtic goddesses in the initial list of names".
"...and mine is the cup of the Wine of Life: and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of Immortality."
Emily Balivet - Cerridwen's
Cauldron
The Wine of Life and Holy Grail are obviously references to Christianity, while the Cauldron of Cerridwen is a reference to Celtic mythology. The three vessels are all combined in this sentence because they represent similar notions; life, wisdom and change. The reference to life is obvious (life, immortality). I mention wisdom because Cerridwen's cauldron kept a potion in it which Cerridwen had intended for her son. The first three drops of the potion would bring wisdom and knowledge to anyone who drank them, while the rest was poisonous. The goddess Cerridwen herself is a goddess of rebirth and transformation which is why I mentioned change. Another reference to change is obviously the Wine of Life since wine, in Christianity, represents the blood of Christ (blood being basically life in liquid form - another reference to life). During Mass, ordinary wine is transformed into the blood of Christ, which is where we see this idea of change. The Holy Grail is a direct reference to the transformation of wine to the blood of Christ because it is believed to be the cup used by Jesus during the Last Supper and thus the cup in which Jesus himself have the Eucharist to his disciples.
"I am the Gracious Goddess who gives the gift of Joy unto the heart of Man. "Upon Earth I give the knowledge of the Spirit Eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand aught in sacrifice, for behold, I am the Mother of all things, and my love is poured out upon earth."
I have already stated the sources for this passage, but what about its essential meaning? I believe it refers back to the notion of a Mother Goddess who indeed is motherly. Like any mother, she wants her children to be happy and she is happy to make any necessary sacrifices herself in order to achieve this. But she doesn't expect anything in return. It is simply her motherly instinct and love that make her give and keep on giving.
"Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess, She in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of Heaven, whose body encircleth the universe."
This is an unmistakable description of the Egyptian goddess Nuit, the goddess of the sky. She is usually depicted as a woman hovering over the Earth and its people. Her body is often made up of stars (hence her being called the Star Goddess). Nuit is also important in Thelema (which was developed by Aleister Crowley) where she is as symbol of the whole universe.
"I who am the beauty of the green earth; and the White Moon amongst the Stars; and the mystery of the Waters; and the desire of the heart of man."
Apart from "the heart of man" possibly coming from Crowley's The Vision and the Voice, this sentence is though to be completely original. I understand it as not only symbolizing the Pagan idea of the earthly Goddess (Gaia?), but also as a symbol of the unity of the four elements in the Goddess. I understand the stars are a reference to the sky (the element of air) and the heart as a symbol of the element of fire (as the heart is often connected to passion and passion to fire). The elements of earth and water are clearly mentioned.
"For I am the Soul of nature who giveth life to the Universe; 'From me all things proceed; and unto me, all things must return'."
Sorita D'Este claims that this section originates from the Ritual for Transformation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The connection is obvious once we read what is said there: "O Soul of Nature giving life and energy to the Universe. From thee all things do proceed. Unto Thee all must return".


Even though this material isn't original, I believe it explains very nicely the Wiccan perception of reincarnation in which each incarnation is followed by a period of rest with the Goddess. The very idea of rebirth and birth is essentially female and can thus be connected to the Goddess. Wiccan mythology also takes the Goddess as giving birth to both the God and the universe. I think Starhawk described this nicely: "Alone, awesome, complete within Herself, the Goddess, She whose name cannot be spoken, floated in the abyss of the outer darkness, before the beginning of all things. And as She looked into the curved mirror of black space, She saw by her own light her radiant reflection, and fell in love with it. She drew it forth by the power that was in Her and made love to Herself, and called Her Miria, the Wonderful. Their ecstasy burst forth in the single song of all that is, was, or ever shall be, and with the song came motion, waves that poured outward and became all the spheres and circles of the worlds. The Goddess became filled with love, swollen with love, and She gave birth to a rain of bright spirits that fitted the worlds and became all beings". The myth continues, but I would like to stop here. You can read the full version in Starhawk's book The Spiral Dance.
"Beloved of the Gods and men..."
This part is also believed to be original, although it wouldn't be a very unusual description for an important figure such as a deity or a king. You have probably heard this phrase being spoken even today.
"...thine inmost divine self shall be enfolded in the raptures of the infinite."
Crowley has already been identified as the source for this line, but it is worth noting that it is taken completely out of context. As Sorita D'Este points out, it is a "reference to words spoken by Hadit, the masculine divine in the cosmology of Thelema. Thus it is being used completely inappropriately as words spoken by the Goddess, as in fact it originates in relation to the God". Then again, Doreen didn't care much for "Crowleyality"; she simply used what she felt necessary and put it into her own context.
"Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals..."
The second part of this quote is a clear reference to sex rites, or actually to sex as a sacred rite in itself (even when being performed outside a consecrated circle). Even though this is very much a "Crowley" idea, the idea of sex being holy has been accepted in Wicca and Paganism in general. In fact, all forms of fertility are celebrated in most Pagan rituals (although not necessarily in the form of sexual relations, as I have explained earlier in the post).
"...and therefore let there be Beauty and Strength, Power and Compassion, Honour and Humility, Mirth and reverence within you."
All of these ideas are complementary and are paired together for better poetic emphasis. They also highlight the idea of balance which is necessary for any being to be fulfilled (especially in a spiritual sense). I believe it may also be a reference to male and female characteristics and thus to the Goddess and the God. In this respect, the quote can be connected to the above notion of "acts of love and pleasure" symbolizing male and female unity as well as the harmony achieved in the act.
"And thou who thinkest to seek me, know that thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not unless thou know the mystery, that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee..."
All the "thees" and "thous" can confuse a person, but to but it simply, everyone can find the universal truth, the Goddess/God (or any deity), ultimate perfection or whatever you call it in themselves because we are each a god/goddess in our own right. If we don't look for answers in ourselves we probably won't ever be able to find them. You can also say that we have to first be able to understand ourselves in order to be able to understand everything else around us, including those higher spiritual goals and universal laws.
"...for behold; I have been with thee from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire."
This may once again be a reference to reincarnation, but primarily to the idea of the Mother Goddess with which the whole Charge begins. This makes it very cyclical and appropriate for a Pagan worldview which perceives everything as being cyclical - the interchange of night and day, the seasons of the year, the rotation of the Earth and ultimately the movements of all celestial bodies.

In a deeper sense, it can refer to the cycle of life and death, not necessarily of the physical body, but of the essential being.


After a tiring analysis and background of the Charge, I think it's about time I wrote a conclusion. My only hopes are that you have understood the full complexity of the Charge and its meaning in Wicca after reading this post. Things really aren't as simple as saying "Doreen Valiente wrote it" or "It's just a piece of text recited by the High Priestess". It is much more than that. The Charge of the Goddess reflects the main morals, spirituality, emotional aspects and practical sides of Wicca. They truly are the words of the Goddess who shows concern and gives guidance just as any good mother would.

Thank you for reading this post and until next time, yours...
Witch's Cat

Broj komentara: 6:

  1. Oh my! I am eternally grateful to you for compiling this information here. I have been working on something similar for quite some time unable to find accuarte sources and openess regarding the charge (at least not with a simple google search). Thank you for the direct language, references, dates, and details. I could not thank you enough. I will be rereading this and bookmarking.

    OdgovoriIzbriši
    Odgovori
    1. It was my pleasure. :) And if you don't mind me asking, what are you working on? I'd be happy to help if I can. Most of the literature I used is listed there, though I scanned through a few books, but found mostly general information that I already knew or had already found out from the sources mentioned in the post.
      Anyway, I'm glad you liked the post and found it useful :D

      Izbriši
  2. I am working on a detailed section on The Charge for my own Book of Shadows. I want to have the most common versions present, as well as the one I personally use (Starhawks from The Spiral Dance). I plan to write notes on the sources and an analysis for my own usage. When I began to seriously study the Craft, I wanted to understand where every line originated, and why it was omitted in some versions (a study of greater depth than I realised). I wanted to point out a small mistake you have: In the Farrars' version (the common text) you forgot "The High Priestess says" after "and by many other names"...The High Priestess says: Whenever ye have need. This could be confusing for those new to the text. Again, Thanks so much for this post.

    OdgovoriIzbriši
    Odgovori
    1. Thank you for the correction :) I noticed other mistakes and corrected them also. Either I copy-pasted the text from a pdf and it all got mixed up in the process, or I was very tired when I typed it out. In any case, thank you very much for pointing the mistake out.

      And I understand where you're coming from. I'm interested in the historical aspect of the Craft and the logicality behind all the rites. It may seem strange to some that I actually want to find logic in it all, but that's just the way I understand things. :)

      And Starhawk's version is beautiful, but quite feminist in case you didn't notice. :) in that sense it differs from the "original" Charges. Anyway, I'm guessing you already compared it to the ones from this post, but if you didn't, I recommend you do because you'll find some interesting differences. :)

      I hope the research is going well...I know it can be tiresome, but it all pays off in the end!

      Izbriši
  3. Greetings! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted
    to give a quick shout out and say I truly enjoy reading your articles.
    Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same
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    OdgovoriIzbriši
    Odgovori
    1. Hi there! Thank you very much for the compliment, I really appreciate it. As for the blogs and other link, have a look at the "Useful links" section on right side of my blog. Hopefully you'll find something you like there. I listed all the blogs that I follow as well as a few wicca/paganism-related web sites. :)

      Izbriši