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The Silver Moon coven has gathered in the woods for their monthly esbat, celebrating the goddess in all her glory. The circle has been cast and the guardians of the four quarters invoked. Now the High Priest begins the reading of the Charge...

High Priest: Now listen to the words of the Great Mother, who of old was also called among men Artemis, Astarte, Athena, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Dana, Arianrhod, Isis, Brigid and by many other names. At her altars the youth of Lacedaemon in Sparta made due sacrifice.

The High Priestess is about to start into her bit when there seems to be a bit of a commotion outside the circle. A stranger all dressed in black and with a raven on his right shoulder has turned up. The rest of the coven is wondering whether this is some weird elemental that's cropped up. Both coven leaders are staring at the figure incredulously.

Stranger: Look I am really sorry to disturb your ritual. I was just passing through on my way to the local when I heard what you said. And I must say it just does not cut the mustard.

High Priestess: What are you saying - that we're reciting the charge incorrectly?

Stranger: No, I am not disputing your recital. What I'm saying is that you cannot go around saying the youth of Lacedaemon in Sparta made due sacrifice.

High Priest: Why not?

Stranger: You got a few spare moments? If so, I'll explain why.

There is a brief huddle amongst the coven at which there is much whispering and then finally the coven agrees to hear the stranger out.

Stranger: OK, for starters the Farrars have already pointed out the most obvious reason in their Witches' Bible. Sparta is in Lacedaemon not the other way around. Saying the youth of Lacedaemon in Sparta is like saying the youth of Australia in Sydney. But geography is not the only reason for ditching the whole Spartan angle.

The nature of Sparta itself does not mesh with the nature of Wicca, and in fact the sentiment echoed within the charge. However, it does mesh with that of the people of Lacedaemon. In essence, Wicca can be described as a fertility religion concerned with the cycle of the seasons and the fruitfulness of the land. All kind of concepts that mesh nicely with an agrarian based culture such as that of Egypt or the Fertile Crescent, but not of Sparta. Sparta as a city in Lacedaemon is a highly militaristic culture. It has an agrarian base but it is maintained by a captive population, the natives of Lacedaemon outside of Sparta. Spartans do not maintain the fields and orchards necessary to keep them alive, their task is to fight and fight bravely. And it is due to the fact that their society is slave-based that they are such good fighters. After all, if you're outnumbered ten to one, you have to have some kind of edge.

Thus the Spartans turned their society into a militaristic culture, the premise being that the Helots and Perioci - the two tiers of the slave population and also the indigenous inhabitants of Lacedaemon - needed to be confronted with a force they could not hope to defeat. Prior to the Battle of Leuctra in 346 BC, no force of equal numbers had ever defeated a Spartan army and quite often they were able to defeat forces of far greater numbers. Every Spartan child was taught the worth of a Spartan soldier in comparison to those of other states.

So it's hardly the kind of culture that would embrace the kind of precepts found in the charge and the rede.

But the Helots and Perioci are a different matter entirely. They are both agrarian societies native to Lacedaemon, and their outlook on life is more in tune with the sentiments of the charge, especially the concept of the charge symbolizing a kind of freedom not bound by the constraints of existing society. For the Helots and the Perioci, the whole sentiment of the charge would empower them in a way that they could not achieve in the existing social structure. Thus Wicca is more likely to do with societies such as the Helots and the Perioci than that of the Spartans. So perhaps the line should be the youth of Lacedaemon in Peloponnesia, which is the region of Greece that Lacedaemon lies in.

Anyway sorry to interrupt your ritual. Hope my rambling has given you some food for thought. I'm off down the local to argue the premise of 'religion is the opiate of the masses'. Buenos noches.

The stranger wanders off down a forest track muttering to his raven friend about who's doing the buying. Once he has departed the Silver Moon coven return to the business of their esbat.

[Editor's note: Being the sort of person who, if asked about the history of Greece, is likely to tell you that the stage play came first, then the movie with Travolta, I'm not going to touch the historical aspects of this piece. However, with mucho respecto to Thomas, Stewart and Janet, I'd defend the 'Lacedaemon in Sparta ' bit as a slightly awkward bit of rhetoric, rather than naff geography. If you read 'Lacedaemon in Sparta' as a single location, it does sound dippy, but the sentence is probably meant to be read as a poetic inversion of 'In Sparta, the youth of Lacedaemon made due (and rather grisly) sacrifice'. Sort of like 'politicians of Australia in Canberra mingle, talk drivel and make lots of money'. - Cyfrin]

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