PRACTICING WICCA AND WITCHCRAFT TODAY

PRACTICING WICCA AND WITCHCRAFT TODAY

 

Starting something new can be frightening; this applies also to a new religion.  You will be taught the basic tenants, but in the long run, it will be up  to you to make of it what you want.

There are many different witches, each with their own set of rituals.  Some witches prefer to work alone, other like working within a coven.  Once again  this is a person choice.  Let no one force you into joining anything with which you are not comfortable.

Let me give you an idea of the various forms of the craft that are available to you.

Gardnerian Wicca:  Started in 1950’s by Gerald Gardner.  Groups tend to work skyclad.  Covens use a degree system.  Individuals are initiated by the  coven.

Alaxandrian Wicca:  Started in the 1960’s in England.  In many aspects they are like the Gardnerian Wicca.

Georgian Wicca:  Founded by George Patterson in the 1970’s.  They are known as the Georgian Church and draw their rituals from the Alaxandrian and  Gardnerian crafts.  Members also write their own ritual.

Algard Wicca:  Founded in 1972.  Mary Nesnick combined Alexandrian and Gardnerian Wicca to form the Algard tradition.  They are very close to the  Gardnerian tradition.

Seax-Wica: Founded in 1962 by Raymond Buckland a protégé of Gardner.  He moved to the U. S. A. and in 1973 started his own tradition based on Saxon  traditions.  Hence Seax-Wica.

Feri Tradition: Victor Anderson is credited to bringing this tradition to America in the late 1960’s.  Feri teacher tend to add something of  themselves to the religion as they teach.  They can be solitary or work in small groups.

Dianic Tradition: This religion focus strongly on the Goddess with little or no interact on the God.  This is a feminist movement of the craft.  The  covens are women only.

British Traditional: There are a number of different British Traditions that are based on the Pre Christian traditions of Old England.

Celtic Wicca:  The tradition looks to the Celtic and druidic deities, with an emphasis on magickal and healing properties.

Northern Way or Asatru.  This tradition is based on the Old Norse gods.

Pictish Witches:  This is a solitary Scottish Tradition that is based on nature.

Strega Witches:  This tradition is from Italy.

You will notice that this list is long, but not complete.  Many witches are drawn to the “way” because of their background.  This need not be  so.  Follow the one that calls to you.

What type of a witch are you?

Solitary:  Practices the craft alone and does not work with a group or coven.  By the Gardnerian and Alexandrian way solitary witches    are not witches.  In order to be considered a witch you must work with a coven.

Eclectic:  These witches pick chose and mix various traditions.  They have no set path.

Hereditary:  These are the practitioners who have been taught the craft from their relative.  The craft was passed, unbroken, from    generation to generation.

So, now, do you want to be a solitary witch or work with a coven?  Let me give you a few Pros and Cons to consider.

PRO

If you join a coven you will receive lots of support.  There are people available with the same beliefs to talk to.  You will also get some structure.    You can work your way up from dedicant to High Priest(s).

CON

Just by the fact that there is structure in a coven may discourage some people.  The coven decides on the where, when at time of the Sabbats and    meetings.  If you break the laws of the coven (dishonor) you will be asked to leave.   The cons of a coven are not unlike those that relate to any group    activity.

PRO

OK, so you will go solo and be a solitary.  This means that you can learn at your own pace.  You can follow your own schedule for Sabbats, within    reason.  You attire is strictly up to you.  Some solitaries will join with a know coven to celebrate Sabbats.  You can design your own rituals.

CON

The major downside is that you are on are on your own.  Help and guidance from knowledgeable witches are not going to be readily available.  The    solitary had no linage to look back on for guidance.  Solitary witches are looked down on by name of the coven witches.  What do you know – a class    structure L

So what type of training do you want?  You can find metaphysical shops and seek help from them.  You can use the local library or book shop.  If you    have internet access there is a wealth of information available for you.

You may want to join a coven.  This decision must be made carefully.  Some covens are basically nothing more than social groups.  Others are based on    the D & D games.  Be selective, just as they will want to interview you, you should reciprocate in kind.

NOTE:  Witches do not try to convert people.

Once you have decided upon a coven go to a few open Sabbats and meetings, if permitted.  If you can not attend an open Sabbat write the coven off.  With    the exception of two Sabbats, all others can be open.

Sit down with the Priestess / Priest and see what the coven will want of you.  The will also ask what you can bring to the coven.  Remember, a coven    becomes your family away from home.  The coven should NEVER supercede your home life.  You family will always come first.

Once you are in total agreement – both ways you can apply to become a dedicant.  During this time you will be kept under the eye of the Priestess and    Priest.  Your initial training will last for a year and a day.  After that time, if upon the agreement of all, you can become an initiate.  From that point    on you will go through the three degrees of initiation.  Each degree will take a minimum of a year and a day to complete.

Being a member of a coven is a commitment.  You will be expected to attend coven functions.  Covens usually meet to celebrate the 8 Sabbats – holidays    of the God and 13 Esbats – holidays of the Goddess.  Members of the coven are given a part to perform during the rituals.  Not showing up for ritual is a    major NO-NO.  If you do not make it you can ruin the ritual.

You may also be asked to help the coven.  Many covens take on community work to help the community.

Many covens plan outing and fun events for their members…

One thing to remember no matter what path you choose; When the Student is ready, the Teacher Will Appear.

Things to Remember

There are possibly hundreds, possibly thousand different types of witches.

You need not join a coven to be a witch.

If any witch asks you to do something that is immoral, illegal or makes you uncomfortable, DO NOT DO IT.

You will find your teacher when the time is right.

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.

Morality Of Wicca

Morality Of Wicca

Wiccan morality is ruled according to the Wiccan Rede, which (in part) states “An it harm none, do what thou wilt.” (“An” is an archaic word meaning “if”.) Others follow the slightly adapted Rede of “An it harm none, do what ye will; if harm it does, do what ye must.” Either way, the Rede is central to the understanding that personal responsibility, rather than a religious authority, is where moral structure resides.One of the major differences between Wiccans and other types of witchcraft is the Rede.

Many “traditional” witches or witches that follow other paths do not believe in the Rede. This is a major topic of controversy within the Wiccan and Pagan communities.Many Wiccans also promote the Law of Threefold Return, or the idea that anything that one does may be returned to them threefold. In other words, good deeds are magnified back to the doer, but so are ill deeds.

Gerina Dunwich, an American author whose books (particularly Wicca Craft) were instrumental in the increase in popularity of Wicca in the late 1980s and 1990s, disagrees with the Wiccan concept of threefold return on the grounds that it is inconsistent with the Laws of Physics.

Pointing out that the origin of the Law of Threefold Return is traceable to Raymond Buckland in the 20th century, Dunwich is of the opinion that “There is little backing to support it as anything other than a psychological law.” Her own personal belief, which differs from the usual interpretation of the Threefold Law, is that whatever we do on a physical, mental, or spiritual level will sooner or later affect us, in either a positive or negative way, on all three levels of being.

A few Wiccans also follow, or at least consider, a set of 161 laws often referred to as Lady Sheba’s Laws. Some find these rules to be outdated and counterproductive.Most Wiccans also seek to cultivate the Eight Wiccan Virtues. These may have been derived from earlier Virtue ethics, but were first formulated by Doreen Valiente in the Charge of the Goddess. They are Mirth, Reverence, Honour, Humility, Strength, Beauty, Power, and Compassion. They are in paired opposites which are perceived as balancing each other.

Many Wiccans also believe that no magic (or magick) can be performed on any other person without that person’s direct permission (excepting pets and young children who can be protected by parents and owners). Sometimes when permission is expected but not yet attained magical energy will be placed on the astral plane for the receiver to gather if and when he/she is ready.

Practicing Wicca and Witchcraft Today

Practicing Wicca and Witchcraft Today

 

Starting something new can be frightening; this applies also to a new religion. You will be taught the basic tenants, but in the long run, it will be up to you to make of it what you want.

There are many different witches, each with their own set of rituals. Some witches prefer to work alone, other like working within a coven. Once again this is a person choice. Let no one force you into joining anything with which you are not comfortable.

Let me give you an idea of the various forms of the craft that are available to you.

Gardnerian Wicca: Started in 1950’s by Gerald Gardner. Groups tend to work skyclad. Covens use a degree system. Individuals are initiated by the coven.

Alaxandrian Wicca: Started in the 1960’s in England. In many aspects they are like the Gardnerian Wicca.

Georgian Wicca: Founded by George Patterson in the 1970’s. They are known as the Georgian Church and draw their rituals from the Alaxandrian and Gardnerian crafts. Members also write their own ritual.

Algard Wicca: Founded in 1972. Mary Nesnick combined Alexandrian and Gardnerian Wicca to form the Algard tradition. They are very close to the Gardnerian tradition.

Seax-Wica: Founded in 1962 by Raymond Buckland a protégé of Gardner. He moved to the U. S. A. and in 1973 started his own tradition based on Saxon traditions. Hence Seax-Wica.

Feri Tradition: Victor Anderson is credited to bringing this tradition to America in the late 1960’s. Feri teacher tend to add something of themselves to the religion as they teach. They can be solitary or work in small groups.

Dianic Tradition: This religion focus strongly on the Goddess with little or no interact on the God. This is a feminist movement of the craft. The covens are women only.

British Traditional: There are a number of different British Traditions that are based on the Pre Christian traditions of Old England.

Celtic Wicca: The tradition looks to the Celtic and druidic deities, with an emphasis on magickal and healing properties.

Northern Way or Asatru. This tradition is based on the Old Norse gods.

Pictish Witches: This is a solitary Scottish Tradition that is based on nature.

Strega Witches: This tradition is from Italy.

You will notice that this list is long, but not complete. Many witches are drawn to the “way” because of their background. This need not be so. Follow the one that calls to you.

The Three-Fold Law

 

May whatever ye do, Come back to the,
Three times bad, or three times good

Three-Fold Law, or Law of Return as it is also called, is perhaps one of the more controversial aspects of Wiccan ethics. The basic premise is that anything we do comes back to us in the end, often to a greater degree (such as three-fold). If we do good, then good will be retuned and if we cause harm, we put ourselves in danger of harm.

This relates a lot towards Karma. In that ethically it is equivalent to the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have done to you”. But in the case of the Law of Return, there is a literal reward or punishment tied to one’s actions, particularly when it comes to working magic.

The debate over the validity of the Law of Return and its variations takes many forms. Some feel that it was created to keep new initiates in check as they learned to work with magic, while others feel it is a remnant of Christian thinking, being that a majority of Wiccans come from a Christian background. However, many Wiccans today, including some authors and “community leaders”, take the three-fold law quite literally.

Since the idea that “we reap what we sow” is generally accepted among Wiccans, the Law of Return can fairly be considered a core belief. However, it must be acknowledged that it is neither a necessary nor a universally defining belief of the Craft. There are many Wiccans, experienced and new alike, who view the Law of Return as an over-elaboration on the Wiccan Rede, which recommends that we refrain from causing harm. A Wiccan would not wish to cause harm since he or she deems it wrong to do so, not out of fear of retribution.

Doreen Valiente, one of the most influential and respected figures in modern witchcraft, boldly stated in her speech at the National Conference of the Pagan Federation in November 1997:

Another teaching of Gerald’s which I have come to question is the belief known popularly as “the Law of Three”. This tells us that whatever you send out in witchcraft you get back threefold, for good or ill.
Well, I don’t believe it! Why should we believe that there is a special Law of Karma that applies only to witches? For Goddess’ sake do we really kid ourselves that we are that important? Yet I am told, many people, especially in the USA, take this as an article of faith. I have never seen it in any of the old books of magic, and I think Gerald invented it.

While researching the Three-Fold Law, I took the liberty of writing several early authors who had referenced it in their books. The few responses I received were always the same; they did not know where it came from but it was known, at least as oral tradition, when they entered the craft. Using the dates of their initiations I hoped to at least obtain a starting point for my research. In this case, since Raymond Buckland was the first to be initiated of those authors who took the time to respond, I had a start date of 1963. Buckland was initiated as a Gardnerian by Lady Olwen, Gerald Gardner’s last High Priestess before his death in 1964. Although Buckland recalled that Lady Olwen’s coven referred to the three-fold law, he did not recall any mention of it by Gardner himself in their correspondences. I also knew from Margot Adler, that it was known in the US, at least orally when she entered the craft in 1972. “I know it was talked about the minute I entered the craft in the Brooklyn Pagan Way, and that was 72, but whether it came in written or oral form, I don’t know.” The Brooklyn Pagan Way was run by the New York Coven of Welsh Traditional Witches so the Law of Return had already disseminated outside of Gardnerian practice by 1972.

Starting with books in the 60’s, I sought to find any reference to the Three-Fold Law or variations of that theme. I was particularly interested in finding non-Gardnerian sources since, unlike many other aspects of modern Wicca, the Three-Fold Law appears to be a purely Wiccan construct particularly of Gardnerian lineage, adding a moral element to the practice of magic. I then worked backward seeking earlier influences, as well as forward, seeing who referenced these early books in their bibliographies

New-Generation Elders

New-Generation Elders

Author: Rev. Mason Stone

Selena Fox, Margot Adler, Raymond Buckland, Laurie Cabot, Starhawk. The list of Elders that we have in the Pagan community is vast (those listed above were simply the first to come to mind) . The title of this essay might seem contradictory, but it’s precisely what I can’t seem to find; young people in the Craft who have the tenacity and balance to stand up for, encourage progression, and lead.

When looking to ‘Elder Qualifications, ‘ I think the best requirements are found in the Charge of the Goddess. They are: beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence. That pretty much sums it up to me. The problem is, how many of us youngsters do see that you can honestly say contain even half of those qualities?

Before anyone starts to think that I’m picking on young people, first let me say that I am one of those young people. I know that I don’t contain within myself all of these virtues. The point that I’m trying to make is that we should try to be more balanced and focused in striving toward these merits. I know that not everyone is called to elderhood but if we honestly take a closer look at this list and employ ourselves to the task, would it hurt us or empower us?

In these next few paragraphs I’m getting information from Thuri Calafia’s book Dedicant: A Witch’s Circle of Fire (published by Llewellyn) and throwing my own two cents in (what’s one more opinion) . Each of the eight qualities is given in pairs for a reason: balance. I agree with Thuri on this (being a Libra, to say that balance is important to me is an understatement) . The first pair is Beauty and Strength. To sum up Thuri’s thoughts on this dynamic duo: beauty without strength leads to feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and low self-esteem.

Strength without beauty causes callousness and bitterness. But when the two are in balance, beauty and strength, they strike a harmonious chord and promote a sense of self-worth, confidence, and the positives of both. I agree with this. Isn’t it neat how two completely different ends of the spectrum complement each other rather than take away? Guess there is something to that old opposites attract thing.

The next twosome we’re given is Power and Compassion. We have all seen what too much ‘power’ can do to a person: inflated ego, selfishness, and in some extreme circumstances, cruelty. Compassion with the absence of a sense of power comes to be meekness and usually ends up with one being the proverbial doormat to the world. Once again though, when the two come together they flower into a person who is not only ethical, but someone who is able to help others without being too timid to say “no” when they are overtaxed. This makes sense to me; do you see why the whole balance thing is important?

Our next set is Honor and Humility. Thuri says that living honorably is being honest, living in a positive manner, and being reliable. But honor is not so nice when humility is not in the equation; it causes arrogance and pride. Humility that isn’t tempered with honor leads to someone who is ignorant to his or her self-worth; they will never be able to reach their full potential because they fear it. Honor fused with humility promotes a sense of pride and also wonder, an utterly charming combination.

Our final couple of virtues is mirth and reverence. Mirth, as delightful as it is, does have its negative attributes. When one has no sense of reverence they aren’t truly respectful of the goings on, making light of everything. While our celebrations are joyful expressions of the divine, however we may perceive it, they are not one big joke for us to sit around and laugh at. Alternately, when reverence decides to stand alone we may find that we have taken all of the joy out of our rites, leaving us only with stiffness and strictness. When mirth and reverence are melded into one, we are able to have a good time and still be respectful.

To try to bring all of these thoughts to a single point, we should all, young and old alike, try to bring these qualities within ourselves and integrate them into who we are, truly striving to balance them all. The oracle at the Temple of Delphi had two requirements before one could enter: “Know Thyself” and “Nothing In Excess”. These are two tenets that I believe we should all invoke. Kind of makes sense, huh?

What prompted me to write this is that I see far too many people, mainly newcomers who are of the younger generation who get into Wicca or Witchcraft or whatever you, dear reader, prefer to call your practice simply for either shock value or the magick and spells; and then there are those who do have a sincere heart but simply don’t realize that a core precept of our ways is not to change the world around you, that’s the Goddess’s territory, but to change and make you better. If we all make every effort to integrate these qualities into the us present and accounted for and shift into an ‘elder’ mindset, regardless of our age, we can find the fortitude and positivity that our community needs to continue to foster in order to remain progressive.

It worries me that not enough of us “new-generationers” (for lack of a better term) are going to be able to take up the reins when it comes our time. One of the faults (or blessings depending on how you look at it) of the human condition is that we inhabit a body that ages, withers, and dies. In forty years, who will nurture the next Circle Sanctuary? Who will write the next Drawing Down the Moon? Who will be there to show guidance to the next set of young ones? By taking action now, we will be ready when that time arrives.