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The Charge of the Goddess: A History

By Jason Mankey

A couple of weeks ago I somehow ended up in a discussion about The Charge of the Goddess on social media. I think the argument was about “who wrote the Charge?” a question which is more complex than most people realize. Generally when people talk about The Charge they are referencing Doreen Valiente’s prose version (or perhaps Starhawk’s version of it). Certainly it’s the most well known version of The Charge (and my personal favorite), but there are other versions, versions which predate Valiente’s by over fifty years in some cases.

I’ve always found the term “charge” provocative. Because it’s something we don’t use in mundane conversation it carries with it extra power. The term “charge” is a Masonic one and initially indicated a list of instructions. In Modern Witchcraft a “charge” is similar, but it comes with the authority of the gods themselves. When the High Priestess recites the Charge of the Goddess she is reciting no less than the words of The Lady herself. (Never mind that we can trace the origins of the Charge through several incarnations . . . . let’s just say it’s divinely inspired.)

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