Charge of the Goddess In Wicca, a poetic and inspiring address given by the Goddess to her worshipers through her intermediary, the coven high priestess. The Charge of the Goddess is used primarily in the Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions, but is not limited to them. It was authored and popularized in the 1950s by Gerald B. Gardner and Doreen Valiente, and is one of the best-loved and most often -quoted writings in the Craft. Various versions have been written by other Witches, such as Starhawk.
The charge customarily is delivered in Drawing Down the Moon, a ritual in which the high priest invokes the Goddess into the high priestess, who enters a trance state and allows the Goddess to speak through her.
Gardner wrote the first version of the Charge, in which he adapted Tuscan witches’ rituals as recorded by Charles Godfrey Leland in Aradia: The Gospel of the Witches (1889), and borrowed from Aleister Crowley‘s writings. Valiente rewrote Gardner’s version in verse, retaining words from Aradia because they were traditional, but eliminating much of the Crowley material.
Aradia includes a “Charge of the Goddess,” which consists of instructions given to mortal witches by Aradia, daughter of Diana and Lucifer. Leland maintained that the legend possibly dated back to the Middle Ages and had been handed down orally from generation to generation. According to the legend, Diana charges Aradia with coming to earth to teach witchcraft to mortals. When Aradia is finished, Diana recalls her to heaven. As she prepares to leave earth, Aradia tells her witches:
When I 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 a 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; . . .
After writing her verse version of the Charge, Valiente found that most persons preferred a prose Charge. She wrote a final prose version which retains bits of Aradia, as well as phrases from Crowley’s writings, such as “Keep pure your highest ideal,” from The Law of Liberty, and “Nor do I demand [aught in] sacrifice,” from The Book of the Law.
The following prose text of the Charge is as it appears in Eight Sabhats for Witches (1981) by Janet and Stewart Farrar. The Farrars, who call the Charge a “Wiccan Credo,” made small changes in Valiente’s wording, such as substituting “witches” for “witcheries”:
The High Priest says:
“Listen to the words of the Great Mother; she who was of old 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 any thing, 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 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 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 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 free- dom, 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 word of the Star Goddess, she in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven, 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 of the heart of man, call unto thy soul. Arise, and come unto me. For I am the soul 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 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, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you. And thou who thinkest to seek 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 beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.”
- Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon. Revised ed. New York: Viking, 1986.
- Farrar, Janet, and Stewart Farrar. A Witches Bible Compleat. New York: Magickal Childe, 1984.
- Kelly, Aidan A. Crafting the Art of Magic Book I: A History of Modern Witchcraft, 1939-1964. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publi- cations, 1991.
- Starhawk. The Spiral Dance. Revised ed. San Francisco: Harper-SanFrancisco, 1989.
- Valiente, Doreen. The Rebirth of Witchcraft. London: Robert Hale, 1989.