Chapter 16: To Know, To Will, To Dare
Three college students who are orthodox Gardnerian Wiccans visit the Scarecrow
Bookstore. Milly, Brooke, Sophie, Cairo, and Margaretta attend an “outer
court” Gardnerian sabbat, where they meet the students’ high priestess
and witness some scrying. When the circle gathers the next day to discuss
the ritual, the three students invade Cairo and Margaretta’s suite and
try to teach the old women a lesson in “real Wicca.” The cat fetches Gerald
B. Gardner from Summerland to chastise them.
The chapter title refers to the Witch’s Pyramid—“to know, to will, to
dare, to be silent”—which tells how witches should work. Magic requires
knowledge and will. The witch must dare to take action (actually do the
spell or whatever). And it’s important to be silent, as talking about magical
work often dissipates its power. The students have obviously forgotten
to be silent.
Gardnerian Wicca was more or less invented by
Gerald Brousseau Gardner (1884–1964). A retired English civil servant,
he returned home to southern England in 1938 and joined a group of British
Rosicrucians. He is said supposed to have been initiated by an ancient
coven in England’s New Forest. He was also much influenced by Aleister
Crowley, who elevated him to a high rank in the
Ordo Templi Orientis. Gardner was the author of
High Magic’s Aid (1949) and
Witchcraft Today (1959) and the proprietor of the Witchcraft
Museum on the Isle of Man. Today, even though it is seldom acknowledged
in the popular surveys and polls, Wicca is said to be one of the world’s
fastest-growing religions. It is not, however, either ancient or medieval.
Gardner wrote in a faux medieval style to make Wicca seem older.
Sir Charles Aubrey Smith (1863–1948) was a tall English actor famous
for playing stereotypical English officers and gentlemen in 1930s movies.
Elements of the Gardnerian sabbat ritual are drawn from books by Aidan
Kelly and Doreen Valiente (an associate of Gardner’s) and a website. Marsha
Smith, who is a real person and a Gardnerian High Priestess (and who gave
me permission to put her in the book), commented on and corrected the ritual
and provided additional information. My friend Ed Fitch is also a well-known
Gardnerian priest and author.
Using a bowl of water for scrying, one of the young Wiccans sees three
people arriving and teaching the old women a lesson. Although this is a
foreshadowing of the arrival of the Wintergreen sisters, the students think
it’s them. Other things the girl sees are common wishful visions.
The student’s fanciful Craft names (mostly from Tolkien) are not unusual
among young neopagans. As mere first degree Gardnerians, they are not entitled
to be called Lord or Lady.
The “Indian” Princess Summerfall Winterspring was one of the human characters
The Howdy Doody Show (1947–1960). Morgan Le Fay is a powerful sorceress
in the Arthurian mythos. The Heffalump is an elephant-like creature in
the Winnie the Pooh stories. The Jabberwock (“the jaws that bite, the claws
that catch!”) is the monster being hunted in Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.”
Mammy Yokum is L’il Abner’s cantankerous mother in the Al Capp comic strip
that ran from 1934 to 1977. Mrs. Danvers is the severe housekeeper at Manderley
in Daphne du Maurier’s novel,
Rebecca (1938), a character chillingly portrayed by Judith Anderson
in the Alfred Hitchcock movie (1940). The Childcatcher is the (extremely
thin) villain of
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the 1968 musical is based on Ian Fleming’s
novel). The Shadow was an invisible pulp hero of radio and comic books
of the 1930s. The introduction to the radio show is still famous: “Who
knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Heh-heh-heh! The Shadow knows
....” Miss Almira Gulch is the mean old woman played by Margaret Hamilton
The Wizard of Oz.
Summerland is a name for the pagan afterworld. It’s like heaven.
Madame Blavatsky claims to have known nearly every famous person mentioned
Secret Lives, from John Donne (a younger contemporary of Shakespeare)
to members of the Golden Dawn to Gardner. The human HPB did know members
of the Golden Dawn, as they were active in England at the same time, but
even she could not have done all the things the cat claims to have done.
I wrote this story to answer readers who told me the women were casting
their circles and doing their magic all wrong. Although it is the most
widely used, the Gardnerian model is not the only model. The Farrars refer
(in the chapter on Isis in
The Witches’ Goddess to an Egyptian system that sets the elements
in the directions used by the crones. (Gee, and I thought I’d invented
Are you old enough to have gotten all the allusions in this chapter? How
does that make you feel?
If you’re not a traditional Gardnerian Wiccan, do you know any? Have you
been to any of their outer court rituals? What were the people and the
rituals like? How were they different from your own rituals?
So … is there only one best way to invoke a god or goddess or do a ritual?
Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. All rights reserved. Permission
granted to print this page of the
Secret Lives Reader’s Guide for personal use only.