Monthly Columns

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times

Celebrating the Old Ways in New Times for

Yule 2022 and Imbolc 2023


Bright Blessings!

As the year comes to a close, and we reflect upon the blessings Yule and Winter Solstice bring, we also look forward to Imbolc when the first signs of Spring appear.

This time, instead of writing about the Sabbats, I want to give you gifts. I am sharing some letters my Priest was able to acquire and tell you about the things the letters discuss! First, a bit about my priest.


Lord Shadow

He is nearing age 72, the age he says most Ceremonial Magicians don’t live past, and he has already dodged death once in the time I have known him. I met him in 2007 when I was studying Chaos Magic with somebody. The man I studied with was friends with my Priest and he assumed we would not get along. Me and my Priest hit it off immediately, and not too long after I asked to be introduced to him to study Wicca. Thirteen years, and three degrees later, my Priest pulled out some letters from the twentieth century and told me about them.

My Priest was not born pagan nor was he raised by Ceremonial Magicians, but he discovered these paths and began walking them. He owned a shop called “Shadow Realm” in Columbus, Ohio for years, and was initiated into Wicca by Lady Brigid around that time. It was in that coven where he would meet his beautiful wife, AJ, he became a stepdad to her two kids, and they had a daughter together. They are now grandparents together.

When we met and he agreed to be my priest and mentor, he had been a solitary witch for a while, and he has spent decades studying Ceremonial Magic from the OTO to Aleister Crowley and is very knowledgeable about both Wicca and Ceremonial Magic and the roots and history of them all. During all of this, he has been an antiquarian book dealer, and even had a merry brawl over some of the property of Aleister Crowley at a Sotheby’s auction.

Because of his connection with other antiquarian dealers of occult books and items, he was able to acquire a lot of letters written by various early Wiccans and even some original letters Crowley penned. One series of letters was written by Charles Cardell, also known as Rex Nemerinsis. In the letters, he flat out accuses Gerald Gardner, father of modern Wicca of being a fake, and went so far as to fling a curse in one letter. He went on to write others, throwing Gardner under a bus, and insisting he, himself to be the authority on witchcraft as opposed to Gardner.


Charles Cardell



Cardell was born in 1895 and crossed the veil in 1977. He lived in Liverpool, England and was an Army major, a psychologist, and a stage magician. He ran a coven from his property in Surrey and venerated a horned god that he called Atho. Another Wiccan, named Raymond Howard originally teamed up with Cardell, but they fell out and Howard pretty much took what Cardell taught him and promoted his own Coven of Atho, showcasing a carving of a bull’s head he claimed was very ancient, but which his son later stated was created by Cardell and was not old at all. The bull’s head mysteriously disappeared, and was never recovered, and many believed Cardell took it.



Cardell was originally friendly with Gardner and his coven, but they, too fell out, and Cardell began telling everybody Gardner was a fake and he, himself had a true witchcraft tradition they should follow. Before going further, you may be wondering what kind of people these were to brawl and fight over Wicca- let me assure you, they were by no means the only ones who did. Early Wicca was filled with such witch wars, and of course a lot of these were had in the public eye with Priests most especially vying for the most attention from the media. Cardell presented himself to anybody who would listen as the authority on witchcraft, and Doreen Valiente met with him and was not in any way impressed. She said:

They were quite splendidly appointed as a sort of private temple; but when Cardell showed me a bronze tripod which was obviously 19th century and tried to tell me that it had been dug up from the ruins of Pompeii, I became rather unhappy. When he showed me a bronze statue of Thor and tried to tell me that it was of a Celtic horned god. I couldn’t help myself pointing out that Thor was not a Celtic god – and then he became rather unhappy.”


While Cardell was being exposed as a liar, the fact was, so was Gardner. He made broad claims that Wicca was the exact religion followed by pre-Christians in the British Isles- however, history, historic writings, and what has been found by archaeologists says different. Gardner venerated a horned god form Rome, Cernunnos, and a goddess who may never have existed, who was promoted by Charles Godfrey Leland in his book, Aradia, the Gospel of the Witches. The things Gardner wrote about and what Leland wrote of do not match in any way what has been found in archaeological digs around ancient Britain.

Wicca, and twentieth century occult and magical practices had some foundation in ancient practice, but a lot of Gardner’s Wicca was because of Aleister Crowley. Gardner copied a lot of Crowley’s rituals, but claimed they were pre-Christian, and Cardell published a book titled Witch with his name Rex Nemerensis which my Priest told me copied a lot of Gardner’s personal Book of Shadows. So, if Cardell published the material Gardner had, how was Gardner’s tradition illegitimate, as Cardell claimed it was? It was not. Wicca was a new tradition that was put together by Gardner drawing from not only Crowley, but other sources, and even though it was new, and not an ancient, unbroken tradition he claimed it was, Wicca worked then, and it works now.


There are countless Wiccan traditions that have somehow over the decades spun off from Gardnerian Wicca. From Alexandrian Wicca to Cardell’s Coven of Atho and even solitary practice some who have never initiated follow, Wicca has been called the fastest growing religion today. With the popularity of magic that is even evidenced by mainstream stores like Barnes and Noble and Joanne’s Fabrics selling books and tarot decks, it is easy to understands why people say Wicca is growing so quickly.


Why the Fights?

Why did early Wiccans fight so much and why are some covens unable to unite with others today? Because of the types of personalities who are sometimes drawn to Wicca. The HIGH Priest and HIGH Priestess- not Priest and Priestess supposedly represent the Father god and Mother goddess in ritual. A lot of power-hungry individuals are drawn to this title. They love to have adoring coven members looking up to them, and love to feel the power of authority over people in ritual. Some Wiccan covens include nudity in ritual and ritual flogging of coven members. Some people who want to hit people who are naked in front of other people have a power complex and serious aggression issues. As Wicca has no hierarchy and can be anti-establishment, some people who are drawn to Wicca have an inability to cooperate and get along with other people, and some who call themselves Wiccan state they see no authority over themselves whatsoever.

Plenty of Wiccans are not this way at all, but plenty are, and if you have been in the neo pagan community enough, you have met plenty of people who are this way. Again, this is nothing like what pre- Christian pagans practiced. They had Priests and Priestesses whose job was to serve the gods and act as intermediaries between the gods and their people. Nobody self-initiated and declared themselves instant authority figures who could boss everybody else around in ritual. The imprinting from the early Wiccan power struggles and posturing to be an alpha Priest has left irreversible imprinting in Wicca, and without a centralized hierarchy of authority figures keeping people in check, covens can become toxic places where members are mistreated, and heartbroken.



One such heartbroken Wiccan was Dafo, or Edith Woodford Grimes. Her exit from Wicca began when Gardner decided to go public. Back in those days, there was no societal tolerance or understanding like many of us crusade for today. There were no equal rights or respect for minority religions. People still got put in jail for being gay, and women could be ostracized as “whores” if they belonged to something like Wicca. Taking a craft name in those days could and would be done to protect your personal identity and craft members could keep their Wiccan activities strictly apart from their daily lives.

Grimes kept her involvement in Wicca a secret from her family, and was approached three times later in her life, asking her to verify what Gardner claimed. She flat out ignored two inquiries and denied any involvement to the third group of individuals who asked. She had joined in the 1940’s, and worked with Gardner, but in 1952, when he began publishing and doing interviews, she completely pulled away from Wicca and all Wiccans, because her family was against all magic and occultism, and she could not risk being exposed.



Today we have opportunities for privacy and also, we are protected by law to belong to minority faiths as we see fit. If we feel discriminated against, we can sue an employer, and the press will be all over it. The ACLU and other organizations help people who have been treated unfairly, and despite what some fundamentalist conservatives attempt, we don’t have to stay in the broom closet anymore unless we want to. We can live and let live when another coven disagrees with our practice, and publishers welcome writings about many different modern magical traditions. So, it’s not a competition. There is no ”Grand High Witch” or “Pope of the Witches” who is the most powerful, and even if you swear an oath to a coven, if you find it to be toxic, you have the right and power to leave.

In many ways, today’s Wicca and witchcraft in general is better for the communities, and the presence of more options and open to the public magical circles and Sabbat gatherings ensures there is a place for everybody.

However, seeing these letters Cardell wrote, we can see how different things were then, and we see how far we have come today. Enjoy these letters. Also, enjoy the time you have with your elders and other soul kin. My Priest always says, “I’m not going to be around forever”, and that’s true. His theory that magicians die by age 72 might be true, and if so, the world will lose a great light within the next two years.

Blessed Yule and Imbolc,

Blessed Be


About the Author:

Saoirse is a practicing witch, and initiated Wiccan of an Eclectic Tradition.

A recovered Catholic, she was raised to believe in heaven and hell, that there is only one god, and only one way to believe. As she approached her late 20’s, little things started to show her this was all wrong. She was most inspired by the saying “God is too big to fit into one religion” and after a heated exchange with the then associate pastor of the last Xtian church she attended, she finally realized she was in no way Xtian, and decided to move on to see where she could find her spiritual home.

Her homecoming to her Path was after many years of being called to The Old Ways and the Goddess, and happened in Phoenix, Arizona. She really did rise from her own ashes!

Upon returning to Ohio, she thought Chaos Magic was the answer, and soon discovered it was actually Wicca. She was blessed with a marvelous mentor, Lord Shadow, and started a Magical Discussion Group at local Metaphysical Shop Fly By Night. The group was later dubbed A Gathering of Paths. For a few years, this group met, discussed, did rituals, fellowship, and volunteering together, and even marched as a Pagan group with members of other groups at the local gay Pride Parade for eight years.

All the while, she continued studying with her mentor, Lord Shadow, and she became a Third Degree High priestess in 2022. She belongs to the Black Dragon Clan.