Eclectic Wicca

Eclectic Wicca

By , About.com Guide

Eclectic Wicca is an all-purpose term applied to NeoWiccan traditions that don’t fit into any specific definitive category. Many solitary Wiccans follow an eclectic path, but there are also covens that consider themselves eclectic. A coven or individual may use the term “eclectic” for a variety of reasons. For example:

  • A group or solitary may use a blend of beliefs and practices from several different pantheons and traditions.
  • A group could be an offshoot of an established tradition of Wicca, such as Gardnerian or Alexandrian, but with modifications to their practice that make them no longer that original tradition.
  • An individual may be creating his or her own tradition of beliefs and practices, and because this system can’t be defined as something else, it can be defined as eclectic.
  • A solitary may be practicing what he or she has learned from publicly available sources on Wicca, but not be using oathbound, initiatory material, and so recognizes that his or her practice is eclectic.

Because there is often disagreement about who is Wiccan and who isn’t, there can be confusion regarding existing lineaged Wiccan traditions, and newer eclectic traditions. Some would say that only those lineaged covens are permitted to call themselves Wiccan, and that anyone who claims to be eclectic is, by definition, not Wiccan but Neowiccan. Bear in mind that the term Neowiccan simply means someone who practices a newer form of Wicca, and is not meant to be derogatory or insulting.

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Dianic Wicca

Dianic Wicca

By , About.com Guide

Origins of Dianic Wicca:

Born of the feminist movement and founded by hereditary witch Zsuzsanna Budapest, Dianic Wicca embraces the Goddess but spends little time on her male counterpart. Most Dianic Wiccan covens are female-only, but a few have welcomed men into their groups, with the intention of adding some much-needed polarity. In some areas, the phrase Dianic Wiccan came to mean lesbian witch, but that is not always the case, as Dianic covens welcome women of any sexual orientation.

Exceptions to the Rule:

While many Wiccan paths follow a belief system that limits hexing, cursing or negative magic, some Dianic Wiccans make an exception to the rule. Budapest, a noted feminist Wiccan writer, has argued that hexing or binding those who do harm to women is acceptable.

Honoring the Goddess:

Dianic covens celebrate the eight Sabbats, and use similar altar tools to other Wiccan traditions. However, among the Dianic community there is not a lot of continuity in ritual or practice – they simply self-identify as Dianic to indicate that they follow a Goddess-based, feminine-focused spiritual path.

The core belief of Dianic Wicca, as founded by Z Budapest, states that the tradition “is a holistic religious system based on a Goddess-centered cosmology and the primacy of She Who is All and Whole unto Herself.”

British Traditional Wicca

British Traditional Wicca

By , About.com Guide

British Traditional Wicca, or BTW, is an all-purpose category used to describe some of the New Forest traditions of Wicca. Gardnerian and Alexandrian are the two best-known, but there are some smaller subgroups as well. The term “British Traditional Wicca” seems to be used in this manner more in the United States than in England. In Britain, the BTW label is sometimes used to apply to traditions which claim to predate Gerald Gardner and the New Forest covens.

Although only a few Wiccan traditions fall under the “official” heading of BTW, there are many offshoot groups which can certainly claim kinship with the British Traditional Wiccans. Typically, these are groups which have broken off from a BTW initiatory line, and formed new traditions and practices of their own, while still being loosely connected with BTW.

One can only claim to be part of British Traditional Wicca if they (a) are formally initiated, by a lineaged member, into one of the groups that falls under the BTW heading, and (b) maintain a level of training and practice that is consistent with the BTW standards. In other words, much like the Gardnerian tradition, you can’t simply proclaim yourself to be British Trad Wiccan.

Geography doesn’t necessarily determine whether or not someone is part of BTW. There are branches of BTW covens located in the United States and other countries — again, the key is the lineage, teachings and practice of the group, not the location.

Alexandrian Wicca

Alexandrian Wicca

By , About.com Guide

Origins of Alexandrian Wicca:

Formed by Alex Sanders and his wife Maxine, Alexandrian Wicca is very similar to the Gardnerian tradition. Although Sanders claimed to have been initiated into witchcraft in the early 1930s, he was also a member of a Gardnerian coven before breaking off to start his own tradition in the 1960s. Alexandrian Wicca is a blend of ceremonial magic with heavy Gardnerian influences and a dose of Hermetic Kabbalah mixed in.

Alexandrian Wicca focuses on the polarity between the genders, and rites and ceremonies often dedicate equal time to the God and the Goddess. While Alexandrian ritual tool use and the names of the deities differ from Gardnerian tradition, Maxine Sanders has been famously quoted as saying, “If it works, use it.” Alexandrian covens do a good deal of work with ceremonial magic, and they meet during new moons, full moons, and for the eight Wiccan Sabbats.

Influences from Gardner:

Similar to the Gardnerian tradition, Alexandrian covens initiate members into a degree system. Some begin training at a neophyte level, and then advance to First Degree. In other covens, a new initiate is automatically given the title of First Degree. According to Ronald Hutton, in his book Triumph of the Moon, many of the differences between Gardnerian Wicca and Alexandrian Wicca have blurred over the past few decades. It is not uncommon to find someone who is degreed in both systems, or to find a coven of one tradition that accepts a member degreed in the other system.

Psychic Protection for the Witch in Everyone!

Psychic Protection for the Witch in Everyone!

Find out more about psychic protection here…

Psychic Protection for the Witch in Everyone!
As part of the launch of my new book, The Witch’s Shield: Psychic Protection and Psychic Self Defense, I wanted to share the techniques that helped me maintain psychic boundaries and a healthy sense of safety. Though few of us learn them when we should, I really think they are basics of psychic hygiene. If you learn to take care of yourself on a daily basis, you can avoid problems in the future. I learned these techniques studying the art and science of witchcraft, hence the book title – The Witch’s Shield. I’ve shared them in classes for both witches and non-witches alike with great success.
Sometimes the word “witch” scares people off. I can understand that. I thought it was silly at first. When my first teacher, a good family friend, revealed she was a witch, I didn’t understand. But I soon found out the spiritual traditions of witchcraft stretch across the globe and throughout time. Witches were the priestesses and priests of the ancient world. They kept the mysteries of magick and psychic ability. A witch is someone who does magick, not only for her- or himself, but for the good of the community. Sometimes the first step in helping our communities, in helping the world, is helping ourselves by finding health, balance, and clarity. Only then can be devote energy to help others.
So, with that in mind, the wisdom of the witch broadens for us. We might not all identify spiritually as witches, but these techniques of psychic protection and magick are universal, and can apply to anyone as long as the person is open to magick, change, and personal responsibility. You will find similar wisdom in the traditions of shamanism, energy healers, ceremonial magicians, and other New Age seekers.

Here are seven psychic protection techniques from which anyone can benefit:

1 – Smudging – Smudging refers to passing yourself or an object through sacred smoke as a means of purification. When burned, certain herbs release a high vibrational energy that is used to purify unwanted, harmful forces – what most people call negative energy. Herbs like sage, cedar, sweet grass, pine, and lavender can be burned, as well as incenses such as frankincense, myrrh, and copal. Simply wave the smoking substance around you and make sure you pass through the smoke. Don’t do too much. It’s an energetic process, not a physical one, so you don’t have to feel like you are asphyxiating.

2- Sea Salt Bath – Similar to smudging, taking a sea salt bath can cleanse the physical body as well as the energy. Put two tablespoons of sea salt or kosher salt in your bath water and soak. Imagine all the stress and harmful energy you have accumulated or taken on from others flowing into the water. Sit in the bathtub as its drains and imagine it flowing down the drain, neutralized by the salt and water. I have a friend who puts a spray bottle of sea salt and water and gives herself a little spritz and sponge bath. The salt neutralizes any harmful energies, and then she just wipes it off. It’s a great way to clear yourself if you’re on the run and a bath is too time consuming.

3 – Amulet – Symbols and charms have long been lauded for their protective powers. In almost every culture, there is a tradition of wearing or carrying a particular amulet, often blessed by a priest/tess, to confer the powers of divine protection upon the wearer. Take a symbol you find sacred and divine. Find it in a jewelry or pendant form. If you cannot, try drawing the symbol on a piece of paper or wood, and carrying it with you. If you are Christian, use a cross. If you are Wiccan, use a pentacle. Hindu, try the Ohm symbol. There are a variety of symbols, from the Star of David to the Hammer of Thor. Find the one that speaks protection to you. Smudge the amulet and hold it in both hands. Think about protection and infuse your thoughts into the amulet, activating its power to protect in the name of your divinities. Carry the charm with you to receive its protection.

4 – Protection Stone – Like a symbolic amulet, you can carry a stone known for its protective and grounding qualities with you. Most dark colored stones have magical associations with protection. Some of my favorite choices are hematite, smoky quartz, onyx, obsidian, jet, and aragonite. Other stores that are protective include red jasper, amber, citrine, and clear quartz. Like an amulet, cleanse your stone and infuse your intention into it.

5 – Meditation – Meditation is one of the greatest keys to psychic defense. Regular meditation practice leaves you clear, centered, and in a mental place where you can respond to potential threats, rather than unconsciously react to them. It doesn’t matter the style or tradition of meditation. Regular practice is the key. You will not get the long term psychic protection benefits of meditation by doing it only once every few weeks. It must be like exercise, done regularly. I suggest at least three times a week. If you can do it daily, so much the better.

6- Healthy Emotional Boundaries – Emotional boundaries are not the most esoteric form of psychic defense, but one that quite a few people leave out. Sometimes psychic defense – particularly from people who are harmful to us, intentionally or unintentionally – is the ability to say “no” and stick to it. If someone asks you to do something or go somewhere, and you only say yes because you are afraid of being “mean” or “letting them down” but you know its not a good situation for you, you must learn to say no. As an adult, only you define what is acceptable and unacceptable in your life. Draw those boundary lines and stick to them.

7 – Living Your True Will – The best form of psychic self-defense is to live out your true will. What is your divine purpose? Find it! Then actually live it. If you are doing what you are meant to be doing, the universe will support you and very little anyone else does or says will be able to stop you. You true will, or what some call your magical will, is not your destiny. It doesn’t happen regardless. This your partnership with the divine. You must choose to fulfill it. But once you choose to be a full, conscious partner with the divine, you will have a divine protection that will help you in all of life’s difficult areas.

For more information and an expanded view on these techniques, and a whole philosophy on psychic protection, look to my full length work, The Witch’s Shield: Psychic Protection and Psychic Self Defense. May the divine guide, bless, and protect each of your steps.

Dianic Wicca

Dianic Wicca

*The Dianic Craft includes two distinct branches:

*1. One branch, founded in Texas by Morgan McFarland and Mark Roberts, gives primacy to the Goddess in its thealogy, but honors the Horned God as Her Beloved Consort. Covens are mixed, including both womyn and men. This branch is sometimes called ‘Old Dianic’, and there are still covens of this tradition, especially in Texas. Other covens, similar in thealogy but not directly descended from the McFarland/ Roberts line, are sprinkled around the country.

 

*2. The other branch, sometimes called Feminist Dianic Witchcraft, focus exclusively on the Goddess and consists of womyn-only covens and groups. These tend to be loosely structured and non-hierarchical, using consensus- decision- making and simple, creative, experimental ritual. They are politically feminist groups, usually very supportive, personal and emotionally intimate. There is a strong lesbian presence in the movement, though most covens are open to womyn of all orientations. The major network is Re-Formed Congregation of the Goddess, which publishes “Of a Like Mind” newspaper and sponsors conferences on Dianic Craft. [* Amber K]

 

Celtic Wicca (Church of Wicca)

Celtic Wicca (Church of Wicca)

The Church of Wicca was founded by Gavin and Yvonne Frost. They offer correspondence courses in their brand of Wicca, which is sometimes called Celtic Wicca. The Church of Wicca has just recently begun including a Goddess in their diety structure, and has been very patrofocal as Wiccan traditions go. The Chuch of Wicca terms itself “Baptist Wicca”

*The Frosts call their tradition of Wicca Celtic. To me it seems more of a mixture of high magic and eclectic Wicca, with a smattering of Celtic thrown in. For instance, they use three circles, one within the others, made of salt, sulphur and herbs with runes and symbols between them instead of just one circle. They also insist on a white- handled athame and will not have a black handled one, whereas all the other traditions I have heard or read about use a black handled one. It seems to me the Wicca they practice and teach should not be called Celtic at all; but since a lot of it is made up or put together by them from other traditions they should also give it a made-up name; say Frostism. If you DON’T have to pay for the course, and have some extra time, it would probably be worth reading just for comparison. [*From Circe, who took their correspondence course.]

The Frosts have always been rather more public than most traditions (advertising their course in the Enquirer and similar publications) which has earned them heavy criticism in less public Craft groups.

Later Developments In Wicca

Wicca has developed in several directions and institutional structures from the time it was brought to wider attention by Gerald Gardner. Gardnerian Wicca was an initiatory mystery religion, admission to which was at least in theory limited to those who were initiated into a pre-existing coven. The Book of Shadows, the grimoire that contained the Gardnerian rituals, was a secret that could only be obtained from a coven of proper lineage. Some Wiccans such as Raymond Buckland, then a Gardnerian, continued to maintain this stance well into the 1970s. Further degrees of initiation were required before members could found their own covens. Interest outstripped the ability of the mostly British-based covens to train and propagate members; the beliefs of the religion spread faster by the printed word or word of mouth than the initiatory system was prepared to handle.

Other traditions appeared. Some claimed roots as ancient as Gardner’s version, and were organised along similar lines. Others were syncretistic, importing aspects of Kabbalah or ceremonial magic. In 1971 “Lady Sheba” published a version of the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, dispelling what little secrecy remained as to the contents of Gardner’s rituals. Increasing awareness of Gardner’s literary sources and the actual early history of the movement made creativity seem as valuable as Gardnerian tradition.

Another significant development was creation by feminists of Dianic Wicca or feminist Dianic Witchcraft, a specifically feminist faith that discarded Gardnerian-style hierarchy as irrelevant; many Dianic Wiccans taught that witchcraft was every woman’s right and heritage to claim. This heritage might be characterized by the quote of Monique Wittig “But remember. Make an effort to remember. Or, failing that, invent.” This tradition was particularly open to solitary witches, and created rituals for self-initiation to allow people to identify with and join the religion without first contacting an existing coven. This contrasts with the Gardnerian belief that only a witch of opposite gender could initiate another witch.

The publications of Raymond Buckland illustrate these changes. During the early 1970s, in books such as Witchcraft – Ancient and Modern and Witchcraft From the Inside, Buckland maintained the Gardnerian position that only initiates into a Gardnerian or other traditional coven were truly Wiccans.

However, in 1974, Buckland broke with the Gardnerians and founded Seax-Wica, revealing its teachings and rituals in the book The Tree: The Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft. This “tradition” made no claims to direct descent from ancient Saxons; all its ritual was contained in the book, which allowed for self-initiation. In 1986 Buckland published Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft, a workbook that sought to train readers in magical and ritual techniques as well as instructing them in Wiccan teachings and rituals.

Traditional Wicca

 

Often Traditional Wiccans are asked to describe our religion and beliefs for interested people, who may or may not have confused us with other Pagan religions, with inversions of Christian/Islamic religions like Satanism, or with purely magical traditions with no religious base. There is a lot of flexibility in the ways that we describe ourselves, and one characteristic of Wicca is a large degree of personal liberty to practice as we please. Still, there is an outline that can be described in general terms. Many traditions will depart from one particular or another, but groups departing from all or most of these features are probably non-Wiccan Traditions attempting to stretch or distort the Wiccan name to cover what they want to do.Mysteries and Initiation

Wicca is an Initiatory religion descended from the Ancient Mystery Religions. A mystery religion is not like Catholicism where a Priest is the contact point between the worshiper and the Deity, nor like Protestantism where a sacred Book provides the contact and guidelines for being with the divine. Rather a Mystery Religion is a religion of personal experience and responsibility, in which each worshiper is encouraged, taught and expected to develop an ongoing and positive direct relationship with the Gods. The religion is called a “Mystery” because such experiences are very hard to communicate in words, and are usually distorted in the telling. You have to have been there in person to appreciate what is meant. Near and far-Eastern religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Shinto are probably Mystery traditions, but Wicca is very western in cultural flavor and quite different than eastern religions in many ways.

A Blend of Pagan Roots

Most Wiccan Traditions, K.A.M. included, have particular roots in the British Mystery Traditions. This includes traditions of the Picts who lived before the rise of Celtic consciousness, the early Celts, and some selected aspects of Celtic Druidism. American Wicca is directly descended from British Wicca, brought in the late 1950’s by English and American Initiates of Gardnerian, Alexandrian and Celtic Wicca. These traditions are a little like the denominations in Christianity, but hopefully far more harmonious.

While British Traditions are very strong in Wicca, or the Craft as it is sometimes called, other Western Mystery traditions feature prominently, including the ancient Greek Mysteries of Eleusis, Italian Mysteries of Rome, Etruria and the general countryside, Mysteries of Egypt and Persia before Islam, and various Babylonian, Assyrian and other mid-eastern Mysteries that flourished before the political rise of the advocates of “one god”.

What’s In a Name

Wicca, Witchecraft, and “The Craft” are used interchangeably at times by many kinds of people. It is fair to say that all Wiccans are Witches, and many of us believe we are the only people entitled to the name. It is important to know that many people call themselves witches who are not in the least Wiccan, and that Masons also refer to themselves as “Craft”, with good historical precedent. Carefully question people on the particular things they do and believe as part of their religion rather than relying on labels. Any real Wiccan would welcome such honest inquiry.

Traditions and Flavor

There are specific Wiccan beliefs and traditions, including worship of an equal and mated Goddess and God who take many forms and have many Names. Groups who worship only a Goddess or only a God are not traditional Wicca however they may protest, although they may be perfectly good Pagans of another sort. The Wiccan Goddess and God are linked to nature, ordinary love and children – Wicca is very life affirming in flavor.

Because we have and love our own Gods, Wiccans have nothing to do with other people’s deities or devils, like the Christian God or Satan, the Muslim Allah or the Jewish Jehovah (reputedly not his real name). Christians often deny this fact because they think that their particular god is the only God, and everybody else in the whole world must be worshipping their devil. How arrogant. They’re wrong on both counts.

Traditional Wicca is a religion of personal responsibility and growth. Initiates take on a particular obligation to personal development throughout their lives, and work hard to achieve what we call our “True Will”, which is the best possibility that we can conceive for ourselves. Finding your Will isn’t easy, and requires a lot of honesty, courage and hard work. It is also very rewarding.

Wicca is generally a cheerful religion, and has many holidays and festivals. In fact, most of the more pleasant holidays now on our calendar are descended from the roots Wicca draws on, including Christmas, May Day, Easter and Summer Vacation. Wicca is definitely not always serious. Dancing, feasting and general merriment are a central part of the celebrations.

Wiccan Ethics

Wiccans have ethics which are different in nature than most “one-god” religions, which hand out a list of “do’s and don’ts”. We have a single extremely powerful ethical principal which Initiates are responsible for applying in specific situations according to their best judgment. That principle:

“An (if) it harm none, do as ye Will”

Based on the earlier mention of “True Will”, you will understand that the Rede is far more complex than it sounds, and is quite different than saying “Do whatever you want as long as nobody is hurt”. Finding out your Will is difficult sometimes, and figuring out what is harmful, rather than just painful or unpleasant is not much easier.

One Religion at a Time

People often ask “Can I become a Wiccan and still remain a Christian, Muslim, practicing Jew, etc. The answer is no. The “one god” religions reject other paths besides their own, including each other’s. “One-god” religions also do not exalt the Female as does Wicca, and mixing two such different traditions would water them both down. Besides, you’d have to ask how serious a person who practiced two religions was about either one. Being Jewish is an exception, since it is a race and culture as well as a religion. There are many Wiccan Jews, but they practice Wicca, not Judaism.

Magick and Science

People interested in Wicca are usually curious about the magick that Wiccans can do. While magick (spelled with a “k” to distinguish from stage conjuring) is not a religion in itself, it is related to our religious beliefs. Wiccans believe that people have many more abilities than are generally realized, and that it is a good idea to develop them. Our magick is a way of using natural forces to change consciousness and material conditions as an expression of our “True Wills”. Part of becoming a Wiccan is training in our methods of psychic and magickal development.

Because we believe that everything a person does returns to them magnified, a Wiccan will not work a magick for harm, since they would pay too high a price. But a helpful magick is good for both the giver and receiver! Wicca is entirely compatible with the scientific method, and we believe all the Gods and forces we work with to be quite natural, not supernatural at all. We do not, however, hold with the kind of scientific dogma or pseudoreligion that sees everything as dead matter and neglects its own method trumpeting “facts” without honest examination of evidence

Priestesses at Large?

Long ago the spiritual (and sometimes physical) ancestors of Wiccans were Priestesses and Priests to the Pagan culture as well as devotees of their Mystery. Now that a Pagan culture is rising again, some ask if today’s Wiccans could resume that role. This seems unlikely.

Today’s Pagan culture is very diverse and more interested in exploring and creating new forms than in building on existing traditions. A public role would either dilute our traditions or force them on an unwilling audience. The neo-Pagan community generally prefers “media figures” and rapid membership and growth. This is not compatible with our slow methods of training and Initiation, the insistence that livelihood come from work outside the Craft, or our needs for privacy. Our religion is not accepted in the American workplace or political system, and may never be. The most powerful Priestesses are often unknown to all but their Coveners. While all Wiccans are Pagans, all Pagans are not Wiccan, and it is best that it remain so.

Wiccan Fundamentalism

Wiccan Fundamentalism

by Ben Gruagach
http://www.WitchGrotto.com
This article may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes, providing that this original copyright notice stays in place at all times.

Religious fundamentalism is characterized by literal belief in specific spiritual claims, often about a particular religion’s history, regardless of any available evidence. A particular dogma is promoted as the One True and Only Way and anything that deviates is considered heretical.

The Roman Catholic church has an office within its organization called the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. In previous times this office had another name: the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Despite the name change the office’s role has remained the same. It is responsible for keeping doctrinal discipline and confronting and eliminating deviations in doctrinal thought. It’s all about maintaining the authority of the Vatican and the Pope and ensuring that all Roman Catholics are following the same religion and respecting the established hierarchy.

Wicca is a religion based on autonomy. It draws its basis from Pagan religions of the past but primarily from lore about witches and witchcraft. Most today consider Wicca to trace back directly or indirectly to a single man, Gerald Gardner, who promoted the religion starting in the 1940s or early 1950s in Britain. Gardner described Wicca as based on covens with each coven being autonomous. If there was dissent within a coven the rules as Gardner presented them allowed for the dissenting parties to separate and form new covens. This way of dealing with conflict resulted in encouraging diversity within Wicca and reinforced the idea that there was no central authority which would dictate that one coven was wrong and another right on matters of philosophy or practice.

Gardner also insisted that there were other Wiccans out there that he did not know about who had been practicing before he was initiated. He did this partially to promote the debatable claim that he was merely passing on an intact ancient religion. One consequence of this is that it left the door open for others to come forward and claim they were witches or Wiccans too from a common mythical ancestry and Gardner could not really insist they were wrong. Even if these other Wiccans practiced things differently, Gardner’s “old laws” clearly made it acceptable for variety in the way covens and practitioners did things. He might not have intended to do so but Gardner’s decisions regarding how to handle things in his own group had set the stage for Wicca to become much more than just his own teachings in his own groups.

The result of all this was that Gardner essentially gave away the right to exclusive ownership over the label Wicca for his groups and those directly descended from them. He might not have anticipated this possibility but in any case it is what happened. Many groups, sometimes with conflicting philosophies and ways of doing things, have come forward under the banner of Wicca. New groups have been created and old ones have splintered into other quite distinct groups. Autonomy was there so of course it was exercised!

Not everyone has been happy about this. Some of Gardner’s direct spiritual descendants have argued that only they and a few select groups that they approve of should have the right to call themselves Wiccan. However the autonomous structure had already been set up and no one group has the authority to dictate to the rest of the community. Wicca did not have a central authority structure in the past and it does not have one now. It is highly unlikely at this point that a central authority could be established which the majority of Wiccans would respect.

There have been attempts to seize power and establish a central Wiccan authority but these have all failed. One example is when Alex Sanders proclaimed himself the King of the Witches but it was quickly pointed out, particularly by Gardnerian Wiccans, that he did not have any authority outside of Alexandrian Wiccan covens. Another example is when in 1974 at the Witchmeet gathering in Minnesota, Lady Sheba (a.k.a. Jessie Wicker Bell) declared herself the leader of American witches and demanded that everyone hand over their Books of Shadows to her so that she could combine their contents and then establish a single authoritative Book of Shadows which all American witches would be expected to follow. She was laughed at and needless to say was not successful in establishing the central authority she sought.

It was at that same 1974 Witchmeet where we had probably the closest thing to a central Wiccan authority created in the declaration of the Principles of Wiccan Belief. This set of thirteen principles attempted to outline in a very general way the basic foundation of Wiccan philosophy. The concept of autonomy of both groups and individuals is clear in the document. It also specified that lineage or membership in specific groups was not a requirement in order to be Wiccan. Many Wiccans, both as groups and individually, consider the Principles to be the foundation of their spiritual path. However, true to the autonomy inherent in Wicca, there are some Wiccans who do not consider the Principles to be part of their individual or group philosophy.

Some are not satisfied with how things are in the Wiccan community and actively work to establish a central authority with their own particular outlook of course identified as the One True and Only Way. They are not satisfied with the fact that the autonomy they personally enjoy in Wicca also means that other Wiccans are free to follow their own different paths. These are the Wiccan fundamentalists who see variety as heresy. As far as they are concerned, if you’re not practicing things the way they personally do, and don’t believe things exactly the way they personally do, then you must be wrong and should either correct your ways or else stop calling yourself a Wiccan.

Perhaps these attitudes are carried over from previous religious education where the idea of One True Way was key, such as in many varieties of monotheism, particularly the evangelical and literalist varieties. Often the Wiccan manifestation of the One True Way idea comes through as a literal and absolute belief in the truth of a particular teacher’s work. Most often the teacher elevated to the status of never-to-be-questioned guru is Gerald Gardner since he was the one who began the Wiccan movement in the middle of the twentieth century. In the mind of many Wiccan fundamentalists, if Gardner taught it then it must be absolutely true!

Unfortunately for the literalists Gardner has turned out to be a mere human being just like the rest of us. Some things he got right and some things he got wrong. The history of Wicca that Gardner presented, especially the part that explains what came before Gardner was initiated, has proven to be largely speculation with very little evidence to support many of its major claims. Historians aren’t completely ignorant of what happened prior to the 1950s in England. We have enough evidence to know that Gardner’s historical claims were not completely accurate nor were they completely supported by the evidence.

A religion’s value does not depend on the literal truth of its historical claims. Many millions of people find Christianity to be meaningful despite the fact its history is not absolutely settled. Buddhists seem to still find their religion to be valuable despite the questions regarding the provable history of the religion’s founders. Wicca too is a precious treasure for those who practice it even if they don’t believe one hundred percent of the historical claims made by Gardner.

Some religions do consider blind obedience to authority to be a virtue the faithful are expected to cultivate in themselves. Wicca though cherishes autonomy and this is in direct conflict with blind obedience. Wiccans who value blind obedience are welcome to make that a part of their religious practice but they are out of line in expecting others to abide by their dictates. Wicca does not have an Office of the Holy Inquisition and many Wiccans will actively fight against the establishment of such. And that is to be expected.

Wiccans who play the fundamentalist mind-game of proclaiming that those who do not agree with them are not “true Wiccans” deserve the same reaction that Lady Sheba got back in 1974 when she declared herself Witch Queen of America – they should be laughed at and then ignored. Wicca is not a One True Way religion and never has been. Those who would make it over into one are in for a long hard struggle that they will likely never win. Is it really worth it for them? After all, if they wanted a One True Way religion there are plenty of those out there for them to join. Wicca is for those of us who are free-thinkers, rebels, nature-worshippers, who laugh and love and dance in the name of our Gods and Goddesses in spite of what the stiff-shirt self-declared authorities around us tell us is right and proper. Others can try to co-opt our religion and turn it into yet another fossilized dogma of right and wrong to be blindly followed on pain of excommunication or threats of torment in other lives. The witch’s cat is already out of the bag and has been for some time now, and we’re all enjoying the nighttime revels and the daytime ignoring of arbitrary conventions too much to just follow what someone else tells us is the One True Way.

References

Bonewits, Isaac. “Witchcraft: A Concise Guide.” (Earth Religions Press, 2001.)

Heselton, Philip. “Gerald Gardner and the Cauldron of Inspiration.” (Capall Bann Publishing, 2003.)

Hutton, Ronald. “The Triumph of the Moon.” (Oxford University Press, 1999.)

Lamond, Frederic. “Fifty Years of Wicca.” (Green Magic, 2004.)

Valiente, Doreen. “The Rebirth of Witchcraft.” (Phoenix Publishing, 1989.)