Wiccan Mysteries - Raven Grimassi
We cannot consider the Wiccan Mysteries without looking to the Celts, and to the Druids of the British Isles. However, the oldest known European Mystery Traditions (excluding the allegorical themes of Atlantis and Lemuria) actually originate from the ancient regions in and around Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Italy. In most cases these cultures predate the Celtic tradition by approximately a thousand years or more.Many scholars today believe that the Druid cult was the surviving remnant of an earlier Indo-European priesthood. The Mystery Tradition within Wiccan religion originated from the Neolithic Great Goddess culture of Old Europe, and not directly from Indo-European influences on Celtic religion in general.
Sometime between 600-600 B.C. the Celts invaded England and encountered the former Mediterranean Cult of the Dead. The Celts at first feared the Cult, and were especially afraid of the sidhe (fairies) who were actually spirits of the dead.
As far as is known, the Celts had no temples prior to the Gallo-Roman period. The performed their ceremonies in forest sanctuaries under the guidance of the Druids who had become their religious leaders. The name Druid means "knowing the oak tree" or "finding the oak tree" and is obviously associated with the practice of worshiping in the woods. After the influence of the Romans, the Celts erected Pagan temples. The Celts were the first defined people to form a distinctive culture in the European territories north of the Alps. Prior to the middle of the first millennium they were completely unknown to the civilized Mediterranean world. By the fourth century B.C. they were classified by the Greeks as being among the most numerous of the barbarian people in the then-known world. It is possible to trace the origins of the Celtic tribes as far back as the Bronze Age Tumulus culture. However, the Celts do not appear as distinct and identifiable people until the time of the Hallstatt period (seventh-sixth centuries B.C.). During the Hallstatt period the Celts expanded through Frace, the British Isles, and eastward from central Europe.
The roots of Wicca as an expressive religion date back into the Ice Age when humans were painting and carving scenes upon the walls of caves. Some scenes portrayed hunting themes and others appear as ceremonial in nature if not supernatural in concept. When the hunter-gatherer, forest-dwelling humans began to emerge into an agricultural society they brought with them the ancient deity forms of the wilderness. The stag-horned god of the forest was transformed into the goat-horned god of the pasture.
The focus of the early cult, however, was not on deity in a masculine form but rather in a feminine form. The early ancestors of Wiccans worshiped the Great Goddess, who personified the mysteries of women. As the Great Mother, she reflected the mysterious and powerful nature of women to bleed for days without growing weak, and to give birth to another human being. Some very convincing modern studies seem to indicate that it was the women who first established the taboo system. In some respects it was simply to escape sexual attention from the males, but it was also in order to be present to one another during times of menstruation and child birth. Women passed on the knowledge of herbs to soothe pain and reduce bleeding along with other "secrets" to which the men were not privileged.
Men naturally feared what they could not understand, and perceived the taboo system not as a time for women to be alone together, but as a situation that men had to avoid. Thus for men the process of menstruation and childbirth became confused with fear and dread. All they knew was that these times excluded the pleasures of sexual intercourse and caused physical pain for the women. Out of the imaginings common to human nature when forced segregation takes place, negative imaged began to develop. These negative images evolved over the centuries into a mentality that erroneously viewed menstruating as unclean and contaminating. It was due in part to this mentality that men moved away from the spirituality of the Goddess Cult into that of the Warrior/Hunter Cult. Because they could not breast-feed, menstruate, or give birth, men sought an understanding of their own relevance. Out of this body of men arose what became the priesthood of Wicca. In time there occurred a rift among the male societies and they eventually separated into solar-and lunar-oriented cults.
The Great Mother image remained a powerful force even after the shift from matrifocal religion to patriarchal religion. The Catholic Church maintained her divinity in the form of Mary, the mother of God.
When the word "Wicca" first became known to the public at large, it was used to refer to the old pre-Christian European Religion. Today, the meaning has changed to include a more open view of Neo-Pagan and New Age concepts. The Old Religion of Wicca was originally a fertility cult that worshiped a Goddess and a God. It had, at a certain stage of development, a hierarchy that was comprised of a High Priestess and a High Priest, assisted by the Priestesses and Priests. In essence Wicca was a Nature religion focusing on the energies that flowed over the earth with the changing of the seasons.
In the Old Ways, the legend tell of the great gods who watched over their followers, and delivered them safely from the Fall of Humankind through the First and Second Ages. These ages reflect the legends of Lemuria and Atlantis. It was not only the gods, however who cares for and guided humankind, but the early shamans of the tribes. The first shamans were most likely women who, during the daily course of food gathering and preparation, came to learn the secrets of herbalism.
Originally, the women directed the religious/spiritual ways of the tribe and men were excluded from any major roles. Women appeared magical to men because of their ability to produce offspring, and therefore men easily accepted female domination. It wasn't until men realized their role in procreation that they pushed for a greater role in religious matters.