Wicca, Wicca, Who's Got the Wicca? or My Tradition, or Yours? An article which attempts to
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
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' th at 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 Religion. 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 persecu tion 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.
This is not, by any means, an all inclusive list
A. Gardnerian: 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. Characteristics: 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
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.
C. Dianic: 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 active.
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/Ritual s = 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 friendl y, 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
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,
Author's note: 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 a nd 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 presupposed knowledge.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank