Storytime! A Tale of Two Pagans

Also known as, Frog and Toad Are (Not) Friends.

This file is about a very bad Witch indeed. It’s an old story, but a classic.

I’ve been researching yet another project. This one more academic than usual. Walking away from the novel for another moment, leaving off the line editing of the traditions book, I have decided to go full-on academic again. I have stacks of feminist theory piled on my dining table, reams of notes, and a stack of those detestable little index cards littering my entire house. And I had a baby shower yesterday, so it’s all stacked neatly – but I threatened to throttle anyone who tried to “clean it up.”

It’s reminiscent of my dissemination days, which is nice in its own way. I was at my peak when I was “dissertating” and I yearned for the return of that part of the scholarly cycle for about three years. Thank heavens it’s back. The difference this time around is that I have books and articles on Witchcraft, Paganism, and Magic(k) all around me too.

And now I know what I’m doing. A large research project (275 pages of heavily sourced, theory laden, highly specialized intellectual masturbation) is much easier once one has already done it. Kinda like giving birth, I guess. It’s a terrible metaphor. The male author’s metaphorical appropriation of the female process of childbearing . . . Oh, wait, I’m slipping into philosospeak. Sorry. That happens when my brain is here.

Anyway, this is the story I want to share with you. It’s a true story – so far as we know.

Once upon a time there were two Pagans. One was a frog, he was all bluster and flare. The other was a toad, he was brilliant but a tad(pole) nuts. Together they made a great pair. They worked together and crafted together and built community together. And they skipped through the meadows and ran in the woods and swam in the river and in the evening they sat on the porch and counted stars.[1]

But one day, Frog decided that he was going to do everything in his power to discredit his former friend, Toad.

In the strangest (but by no means the last) episode of social engineering the Pagan world has ever known, Frog appropriated all of Toad’s ideas and passed them off as his own. He called all of Toad’s associates over to his campfire in the woods so he could make them his friends instead. And he popularized a made up term that he used to refer to his old pal, Toad. He told some secrets, but he told them eschew so they essentially became lies. He made up some other lies entirely.

But, Frog was a poor liar. Maybe that’s why Frog died broke, even after having to sell off his land where he held rituals. Then he had to go live in a trailer park.

In a desperate effort to overthrow Toad, he and his spouse invited one of Toad’s nearest and dearest over to show her around his lily-pad, and he got busted lying about everything from his lineage to the origins of his artifacts. After that, nobody liked Frog anymore, but Toad was a bit of a hit.[2]

Sort of.

While Charles Cardell, the man popularly credited with coining the term Wicca, and Gerald Gardner were not nearly as close as I (and Lobel) have made Frog and Toad out to be, they were correspondents, there was a vague and sudden falling out (1958), and Cardell did set out to methodically discredit Gardner and his tradition. We see how well that worked out for him. He surreptitiously published parts of Gardner’s secret book of shadows (“Witch,”1964)  and he wrote a public article inviting all Pagan Witches to get in contact with him, presumably to seduce Gardnerians.[3] He lied about all sorts of things.[4] There’s a bit about the meeting he had with Doreen Valiente where she caught him in all kinds of stoopid fabrications. He lied about fairly inconsequential stuff – and some of his lies were obvious. Who does that?

My mentor’s mentor (whom I met only a handful of times before her death in 1997) loved to tell stories about the “Witchcraft in the Woods” scandal. The whole Valiente/Cardell encounter cracks me up. Please look it up. It’s hilarious.

It seems to me that Cardell told so many lies that he had to go back and make up new lies to cover up his old lies. In the end, he was sued for defamation and lost. The case(s) bankrupted him, like they do. He had to sell his land and live like a nomad in a field.

The fun part of this story is that there was an occult-goods store owner who wrote a little poem in response to Cardell’s bad behavior. Margaret Bruce, following Cardell’s progressively more insidious hostility against Gardner, composed a compassionate letter and this poem:

        • We feel it is tragick
        • That those who lack Magick.
        • Should start a vendetta
        • With those who know betta
        • We who practice the Art
        • Have no wish to take part
        • Seems a pity the ‘Wicca’
        • Don’t realize this Quicca.[5]

Some believe that Bruce was not only commenting solely on the loutishness of Cardell but on infighting as a whole.[6]

So, to round off this story-time, I thought I’d invite you to compose a ditty to go with my Frog and Toad paraphrase.

I’ve tried

But my brain is fried.


And they all lived happily ever after, except for Frog.


[1] Paraphrased from one of my favorite books,  Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel.

[2] Too bad he was dead by then.

[3] Kelly, Aidan A. Inventing Witchcraft: A Case Study in the Creation of a New Religion. Loughborough, Leicestershire: Thoth Publications, 2007. Print.

[4] Do I need to give you a list of sources or can you Google it?

[5] Margaret Bruce. Quoted in Seims, Melissa. “Wica or Wicca? Politics and the Power of Words.” The Cauldron 129, August 2008.

[6] Seims.