Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Charge of the Goddess

The Charge of the Goddess interests us both because it is a beautiful piece of Pagan liturgy, and it celebrates the many faces of the White Goddess: Queen of the Fey, Lady of Sovereignty, Moon-Maiden, Mistress of the Gate of Earth.

The original prose Charge of the Goddess was written by Gerald Gardner, compiled from several different sources, including a similar passage found in Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, compiled by Charles Leland, and a portion of the Gnostic Mass of the Ecclesiæ Gnosticæ Catholicæ written by Aleister Crowley. Each of these pieces are included below for comparison.

The Original Charge
from G.B. Gardner's Book of Shadows; also titled Lift Up the Veil

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.

Aradia's Speech to Her Pupils
From Aradia the Gospel of the Witches, Chapter I: How Diana Gave Birth to Aradia

    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 Priestess's Speech from the Gnostic Mass
by Aleister Crowley

The Gnostic Mass serves as the central ritual of the Ecclesiæ Gnosticæ Catholicæ, which is the eccesiastical arm of the more well known Ordo Templi Orientis. The Gnostic Mass contains a section which influenced Gardner's version of the Charge of the Goddess. Gardner is known to have been an initate of the Ordo Templi Orientis, and had met with Crowley on several occasions. It is clear that both the Great Rite and "Lift Up the Veil" are obviously based on the Gnostic Mass. Although not direct plagarism, the similarities between the two documents are striking. The "Priestess's Speech " (for lack of a better term) of the Gnostic Mass is included below for comparison to Gardner's original Charge. The Priestess's Speech is an echo of the Goddess Nuit's speech from Liber AL vel Legis, or "The Book of the Law", Chapter I, Verse 61.

    To love me is better than all things.
    if under the night-stars in the desert thou presently burnest mine incense before me,
    invoking me with a pure heart, and the serpent flame therein,
    thou shalt come a little to lie in my bosom.
    For one kiss wilt thou then be willing to give all,
    but whoso gives one particle of dust shall lose all in that hour.
    Ye shall gather goods and store of women and spices
    ye shall wear rich jewels
    ye shall exceed the nations of the earth in splendour and pride
    but always in the love of me, and so shall ye come to my joy.
    I charge you earnestly to come before me in a single robe,
    and covered with a rich head-dress.
    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!
    To me! To me!
    Sing the raptuous love-song unto me!
    Burn to me perfumes!
    Wear to me jewels!
    Drink to me, for I love you!
    I love you.
    I am the blue-lidded daughter of sunset
    I am the naked brilliance of the voluptuous night-sky.
    To me! To me!

The Common Prose Charge
by Doreen Valiente

The current, and most famous version of the Charge of the Goddess was written by Doreen Valiente for Gerald Gardner. Valiente's version removes most of the influence of Crowley's Mass in favor of more nature-influenced imagery. This version of the Charge of the Goddess has become accepted as the most popular piece of Neopagan liturgy today.

    Introduction spoken by the High Priest:

    Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old also called amongst men Artemis, Astarte, Diana, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Dana, Arianrhod, Isis, Bride and by many other names.

    The Charge of Great Mother spoken by the High Priestess:

    At my altars, the youth of most distant ages gave love, and made due sacrifice. Whenever you have need of anything, once in a month, and better it be when the Moon is full, then shall you gather in some secret place and adore the spirit of Me, who am Queen of all Witcheries.

    There shall you 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 you shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you be really free you shall be naked in your rites. And you 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 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 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.

    Interlude spoken by the High Priest:

    Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess. She in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of Heaven, whose body encircles the universe.

    The Charge of the Star Goddess spoken by the High Priestess:

    I who am 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, call unto thy soul. Arise and come unto me, for I am the souls of Nature who gives life to the universe.

    From me all things proceed, and unto me all things must return. And before my face, beloved of Gods and men, thine inmost divine self shall be enfolded in the rapture of the infinite.

    Let my worship be with the heart that rejoices, for behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

    And you who thinks to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail you not, unless you know the mystery, that if that which you seek you find not within thee, you will never find it without thee. Behold I have been with you from the beginning and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.

The Verse Charge
by Doreen Valiente

Although Valiente's Prose Charge has become the most popular accepted version in modern Wicca Doreen stated that her personal favorite version of the Charge was a poem she wrote in rhyming couplets. Doreen had a gift for poetry, as is evidenced in much of her writing, and she also held the belief that speaking words in rhyme was an effective way to raise power.

    I the Mother, darksome and divine, Say to thee, Oh children mine (All ye assembled at mine Shrine), Mine the scourge and mine the kiss The five-point star of love and bliss Here I charge ye in this sign.

    All ye assembled here tonight Bow before my spirit bright Aphrodite, Arianrhod, Lover of the Horned God, Mighty Queen of Witchery and night

    Astarte, Hecate, Ashtaroth, Dione, (Morrigan, Etain, Nisene), Diana, Brigid, Melusine, Am I named of old by men, Artemis and Cerridwen, Hell's dark mistress, Heaven's Queen.

    (Whene'er trouble comes anoon) All who would learn of me a Rune Or would ask of me a boon, Meet ye in some secret glade Dance my round in greenwood shade, by the light of the full moon.

    (In a place wild and lone) With the comrades alone Dance about my altar stone. Work my holy Magistry,Ye who are fain of sorcery, I bring ye secrets yet unknown.

    (Whate'er troubles come to thee), No more shall ye know slavery Who give due worship unto me, Who tread my round on Sabbat-night. Come ye all naked to the rite, In token ye be truly free.

    I teach the mystery of rebirth, 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.

    I ask no offerings, do but bow, No other law but love I know, By naught but love I may be known, All that liveth is mine own From me they come, to me they go.

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