B is for Blessed Be!

“Happy Birthday! BB Mish”

I cringed the first time I read that particular shortening and I cringed even more the first time I wrote it (and that’s what’s quoted above). For those of you outside the fluffbunny community, by which I mean all of us happy eclectic wiccans who are occaisionally despaired of by ‘robust‘ pagans, or for those of you outside the general pagan community wondering what ‘BB’ means it is the usual shortening for ‘Blessed Be’, occaisionally someone will various this with ‘Bright Blessings’ or ‘Brigid’s Blessings’ but usually it’s ‘Blessed Be’.

Just as the radio ham community will end off messages with 88 or 73 (‘hugs and kisses’ or ‘regards’) the Wiccan and Neo-Pagan community started ending off messages with ‘BB’. Now I quite like saying ’88’ so why my cringe when it comes to ‘BB’? Well initially I think I like saying ’88’ because I know I can only say it to a select few people and it’s almost a nostalgia because there are not very many radio hams out there anymore though there seems to be a bizarre crossover with IT people. ‘BB’ is ubiquitous…or is it? Perhaps I just hang out with more pagans than radio hams these days.

Yet, for all it’s perceived ubiquity I still felt I had to explain it to the non-pagans who read my blog, so perhaps it does serve the same purpose as ’73’, a way of identifying ourselves to each other.

But I still had the same reaction to it as I do to ‘womyn’, ‘magick’ and the other various mis-spellings of the English language as ‘identifiers’ of a particular group. Bright Blessings/Blessed Be in the context of letters and sign offs has seemed to me to be a way of saying that we are unique and special snowflakes beyond ordinary use of the English language.

Incidentally ‘Blessed Be’ is a phrase used a lot in various Wiccan rituals and rites and popular usage probably starts from Valiente’s Charge of the Goddess. I suspect Bright Blessings and Brigid’s Blessings became popular because in American culture ‘God Bless You’ and various greetings involving ‘God’ seem a lot more common than in my everyday life and American Wiccans needed something to say. Knowing all this should really have made me more open to the phrase…

Then I came across the story of how the phrase Blessed Be came about. It’s almost certainly apocryphal and I haven’t seen or read anything that backs it up. It’s an ‘I heard it from a guy who heard it from a guy…..Dorothy Clutterbuck‘ type of thing.

The story goes that when Gerald Gardner was setting up Wicca as a structured religious practice he organised a meeting in London.
(Now people don’t like talking about the sexual elements in Wicca, whether that’s because we’re all eclectics who’ve self-initiated after reading Starhawk and don’t know about the mystery elements of it or because everyone and his dog want to distance themselves from Alex Sanders I don’t know. The fact remains that when you boil things down to their absolute base (and there are many good reasons not to) we celebrate the fertility of nature and we’re based on a lot of western magical practice where hieros gamos is damned good magical and religious currency.)
Nevertheless, my story continues, Gardner had invited many people to help start up his fertility religion and what with acceptances and non-acceptances realised that he had an imbalance…far more men than women were eager to show up to his meeting, in fact none of the women he’d invited had said yes… now if you’re going to try for sacred marriage based religion and no girls want to show up you’ve got two options. Apparently Gardner didn’t fancy what’s widely rumoured to be Crowley’s solution to this problem so he took the second option. He went to Kings Cross and found an easy going sort of prostitute who was game. She went along as an authentic goddess worshipper, the first meeting went off without a hitch and at the various climactic moments throughout the evening she would clap the relevant male worshipper upon the buttocks with a rousing “Blessed Be!”

Oh now that makes me like to use the phrase, that makes me smile everytime a neo-pagan signs off with it. I’m not sure if it can be Snopesed but I wouldn’t care if it wasn’t accurate. I think it says a lot about the practicalities of starting a religion and a lot about the sort of problems that Wiccans face on an everyday basis, I admit I’ve never needed to hire a prostitute yet but you need to be creative in your interpretations of the sort of magic we all want to be involved in since it never looks quite as Hollywood as it can get in your head.

The phrase Blessed Be has grown on me as a genuine sign of affection and wishing of Blessings upon each other in the pagan community, I use it quite regularly now, but the reason I came off my high horse and started to enjoy it has never left me.

Blessed Be!

11 thoughts on “B is for Blessed Be!

  1. I find the ‘magick’ spelling awfully annoying… and I think the whole ‘BB’ thing took me awhile to get used to. I’ve always just used ‘blessings’ because its generic enough to work in any situation. But I did like the story at the end… makes it a bit more… I dunno… festive maybe?


  2. Hmmm…. I liked your random musings. I’m actually more ok with "magick" than "Blessed be".

    Maybe it’s because I used to be an amateur magician and so feel the need to distinguish in my head between the magick I practice as a Pagan and the magic I used to do. *shrugs*

    Still the story of BB is rather amusing. 😀


  3. Something to bear in mind is that magick was a common and legitimate spelling up to the 19th century, so Crowley’s use of it was hardly revolutionary!

  4. My feeling is that whatever the status quo of ‘magick’ in the 19th century using it in the 21st century is a deliberate act. Or a sign of dyslexia.

  5. Yes, though the ‘k’ spelling was common for centuries, these days any such use tends to be a deliberate act of following in Crowley’s footsteps!

  6. I am not one to sign off on anything with Blessed Be… It’s too .. I don’t know…. corny…

    I don’t care if the story behind (pun intended) Blessed Be is true or not… I found it to be more plausible than the other nice stories about the beginnings of western magick and Wicca…

    And it is humorus enough to make the salutation bearable… I can even smile at it now and not feel like… ya ok.. whatever…

  7. That’s an interesting point of view. I’ve never thought of "Blessed Be" as a fluffbunny-only salutation, because many witches who I respect say it. They don’t strike me as wanting to be cool or anything. It’s like saying "Best Wishes" or "Namaste".

    The poem you posted that starts "Blessed Be, Blessed Are" isn’t Valiente’s Charge of the Goddess. The Charge is the text below the line break. I don’t know what that poem is nor what it’s really called, and I’m not even sure she wrote it. I haven’t read all of her poetry, though.

    I assumed "Blessed Be" came from Lady Gwen Thompson’s Wiccan Rede/Witches’ Credo/whatever people want to call it. There’s a stanza that ends "By the Lady, Blessed Be."

  8. The poem I linked to I’ve only ever seen as a prelude to the prose ‘Charge of the Goddess’ and I honestly thought it was Valiente’s ‘introduction poem’ to The Charge. Sorry if I have that wrong.

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