Wicca, Wicca, Who's Got the Wicca?
Wicca, Wicca, Who's Got the Wicca?
My Tradition, or Yours?
[An article which attempts to make sense of all the various Traditions,
Brands, Denominations, ect., which may confuse the unwary new-comer to Neo-
Paganism (Wicca in particular).]
Greetings, and Bright Blessings...
Welcome to this, the next in a series of introductory pieces on Alternate
Religions. Today, we shall take a look at the many varied Traditions in the
Wicca Family of Faiths. Whilst there is, indeed, a large number of groups who
profess one set of tenants, or ideas; one soon begins to see why they may all
be lumped together as one Religion.
Obviously, to start, one must define Religion as it applies to these groups
of people. Next, a listing of some of the more Popular Traditions, giving a
basic description of each. Lastly, some comments on the "cords which bind
these groups together", ie. a discussion on the Underlying Philosophies of the
New Age Movement, Neo-Paganisms in particular.
I. What is a Religion?
A dictionary definition of religion looks something like:
Religion, n.; An organized system of Beliefs and/or Rituals,
centering on a Supernatural Being or Beings.
Everyone with me so far? Good. I think we can all agree on definitions for
"Beliefs" and "Supernatural", so the only sub-definition will be
"Ritual": any ordered sequence of events or actions, including
directed thoughts, especially one that is repeated in the 'same'
manner each time, and that is designed to produce a predictable
altered state of consciousness, within which certain magical or
religious results may be obtained.
Now, by using these definitions, the astute reader may realize that one need
not "believe" in anything in order to belong to a Religion, although most
'established' churches Do require that one has conforming beliefs in order to
become 'accepted into' that Religion. One of the beauties of the
Pagan/NeoPagan/Wiccan Religion is that the majority of the sects do not
require one to have 'conforming' beliefs. One need not Believe in the
God/dess in order to worship them, and this is the key to being a New Age type
New Age Religions acknowledge that there are many paths to Godhood, and that
each person should find his/her own way. Thus, while there is communication
and discussion between the diverse ways of Wicca, there is generally no cause
for religious persecution or Holy Wars. Also, there are very little
'missionary' type efforts, since there is no Prime Directive stating that
everyone who does not believe a certain piece of Dogma is Wrong, and will burn
in Hell forever, unless saved, or made to see the light.
Contrary to most religions, it is Not the shared set of Beliefs, or similar
Dogma which holds the Wiccan Religions together. Rather, it is the Attitudes
of the people involved, and their common Heritage which provide the bonds of
cooperation among the Pagan Peoples. These points of agreement shall be
further addressed following a brief list of some of the more popular
Traditions, with a description of each.
[nb. This is not, by any means, an all inclusive list]
Started by G. Gardner, in England, in the mid 1950's, this Tradition claims
to have existed, in secret, since the Witch-Burnings began during the Middle
Ages. While there is some doubt as to whether or not it is as old as it
claims, there is no denying that the Gardnerian Sect has been one of the most
Influential of the Traditions. In fact, many of the groups which follow were
started by people who had been introduced to Paganism and the Worship of the
Lord and Lady as members of a Gardnerian group.
A structured religion with definite hierarchy within each group (known, as a
Coven), but little to no Authority of one coven over another. Within the
coven, a Matriarchy exists, with the High Priestess generally being considered
the leader (there are, of course, exceptions to this, but these descriptions
are, for the most part, only generalizations based upon information gathered
from many sources).
The typical Gardnerian view of the God/dess is that of a Dominant Three-
Faced Goddess (Maid, Mother, and Crone) with a Male Consort (Who has 2 sides..
the Young Summer King, and the Old Winter King).
Ceremonies include a series of initiations into higher levels of the Craft,
various Holiday Celebrations (based, of course, upon the "Wheel of the Year"
calendar of Feast days.
Started about the same time as Gardner's, this tradition is fairly similar,
with a little more emphasis upon Ceremonial Magick. There are numerous Covens
in both US and Europe.
This is more of a Sub-class, rather than a particular Tradition. There are
several Feminist Traditions which are considered Dianic. This sub-class tends
to emphasize the Female aspect of the Goddess, sometimes to the exclusion of
the Male God. Some feel that these groups are rather reactionary and self
limiting. Be that as it may, the Dianic Covens tend to be more politically
D. School of Wicca:
Headed by Gavin and Yvonne Frost, this School is the largest correspondence
school of Witchcraft in the US. Numerous Covens have resulted from this
School, although it is somewhat unconventional (if, that is, anything dealing
with Wicca could be called conventional). The Frosts' views on Wicca as a
religion do differ with the majority.. in that they do not consider Wicca as
"Pagan", but rather as Monotheistic.
E. Seax (or Saxon) Wicca:
Started by Raymond Buckland, who was originally a leader in promoting the
Gardnerian Tradition, as an alternative to the existing Covens. Unlike most
traditions, which consider the Coven group to be the normal unit of division
(ie. all ceremonies/Rituals = Group Rites), the Seax version has provision for
lone witches (often referred to as Solitares). Another thing which sets this
particular brand apart is its non-reliance upon being properly initiated into
the Wiccan community. Many of the other groups require that new members be
brought to existing covens to be ceremonially initiated into that Tradition,
and that only after years of study within the group is one ready to start a
new coven. The Seax tradition, recognizing that there may not be a friendly,
neighborhood Coven, allows for self-initiation, and Auto setup of a Coven.
F. Traditionalist (Welsh, Scots, Greek, Irish, ect...)
Like Dianic, this is a sub-class. Each Traditionalist group is based upon
the traditions, literature, myth, and folktales of that particular
geographic/demographic area. This is evident in the Names of the God/dess
used by individual groups.
III. Common ties/beliefs/Ideals/ect...
As stated earlier, it's not doctrine/dogma similarities which tend to hold
these diverse groups together, rather, it is the common Ideals and feelings
expressed by the Pagan Peoples themselves. Here are some examples:
The Wiccan Rede: "An it harms none, do what thou will." is almost
universally accepted amongst the groups.
Most groups tend to be polytheistic, animists, pantheists, ect.
One is not "converted" to Wicca, rather, the new comer feels a sense of
"Coming Home", or, more poetically, "The Goddess calls to Her own".
Nature plays a big part in most Traditions, either as direct personification
of the God/dess, or as aspects of them.
There is no counterpart to the Devil, as such, in the Pagan religions... no
personification of All Evil, rather, the choice is there for all to make.
However, there is the Law of Three Fold Return, which states "That which thou
dost send out shall return three fold", so good begets good, and evil befalls
those who are evil (a horrendous understatement / simplification, but true).
Whew! That was a long haul of writing in one sitting... if there are any big
errors noticeable, mail me, and I'll make a second draft of this.. or perhaps
even expand it some.. (my time is limited in as far as when I have
opportunities to just sit down and write something like this, but I can
usually squeeze in some time, here or there.)
I hope that this is somewhat enlightening... there are some other files,
here, which give more basic explanations of the terms used.. (Witch, Coven,
Magick, ect..) ... I did assume a small amount of familiarity present within
the reader... if anyone wishes, I can append a Preface covering that which was