The Alexandrian tradition of Wicca was established in the 1960s by Alex Sanders, and his wife Maxine. Originally Alex claimed to have been initiated by his grandmother when he was seven years old (reference, The King of the Witches by June Johns), but later admitted that this was untrue. In fact, he was initiated into a regular Gardnerian coven, by one of Patricia and Arnold Crowther's initiates, a lady by the name of Pat Kopanski.
When Alex began to publicise Wicca, he encountered strong opposition from more traditional members of the Craft. Some saw it as nothing more than a bid by Alex for personal notoriety; others that he was profaning a mystery. Whatever his motivation, the publicity certainly made people aware of his existence; he and Maxine initiated a great many people in the 1960s and 1970s, including Stewart Farrar and Janet Owen.
Janet and Stewart married, and over the past twenty odd years have published several books about Wicca. What Witches Do, published in 1971 (written during Stewart's first year as a witch), focuses completely upon the Alexandrian tradition, and remains the best guide to the way in which a typical Alexandrian coven operates. Rare, but perhaps still available in second hand shops, is a record of Janet's initiation, narrated by Stewart, called A Witch is Born, which also sheds some light on the traditional Alexandrian coven.
It is, of course, hard to quantify just what makes the essential "Alexandrian Tradition", as covens vary considerably, even within the same culture. I have yet to encounter two covens who work precisely the same way, even from the same line. Generally though, Alexandrian covens focus strongly upon training, which includes areas more generally associated with ceremonial magic, such as Qabalah, Angelic Magic, and Enochian. The typical Alexandrian coven has a hierarchical structure, and generally meets weekly, or at least on Full Moons, New Moons and Festivals.
Most Alexandrian covens will allow non-initiates to attend circles, usually as a "neophyte", who undergoes basic training in circle craft, and completes a number of projects, prior to being accepted by the coven for initiation to 1st degree. Some, though not all, Alexandrian covens will also welcome non-initiated "guests" at certain meetings. My own first experience of Wicca was as a guest of an Alexandrian coven.
Alexandrian Wicca uses essentially the same tools and rituals as Gardnerian Wicca, though in some cases, the tools are used differently, and the rituals have been adapted. Another frequent change is to be found in the names of deities and guardians of the quarters. In some ways these differences are merely cosmetic, but in others, there are fundamental differences in philosophy.
That said, over the last thirty years, the two traditions have moved slowly towards each other, and the differences which marked lines of demarcation are slowly fading away. Individual covens certainly continue to maintain different styles and working practices, but it is possible to speak today of "Wicca" encompassing both traditions.
Appalachian Granny Magic Tradition:
The Appalachian Granny Magic Tradition of Witchcraft is one that is only recently being heard of. Though the tradition is a very old one, dating all the way back to the first settlers of the magical Appalachian Mountains who came over from Scotland and Ireland in the 1700's. They brought along their even older Irish and Scottish Magical Traditions with them. Those two 'old world' Traditions were then blended with a dash of the local tradition of the Tsalagi (Now, called the Cherokee Indians.) The recipe for the Appalachian Granny Magic Tradition was then complete, though this potion simmered on a low boil for many generations before anyone dubbed it with the name, 'Appalachian Granny Magic.'
The Witches of the Appalachian Mountains called themselves 'Water Witches' and/or 'Witch Doctors' depending upon whether they were personally more gifted in healing, midwifery and such realms of magic, or if they were more in tune with dowsing for water, ley lines, energy vortexes and the making of charms and potions. Often a Practitioner called themselves by both titles if they were so diverse in their Magical practices.
The Appalachian Granny Magic Tradition, like many of the older ones, was passed on from parents to their children for many generations, and generally was not 'taught' outside of the individual family structures. Because of the rural and secluded nature of the Appalachian community, the old customs, wisdom, and practices were not as often lost, forgotten, or 'modernized' as the 'old world' traditions that came over to other, more urban areas of the 'new world.' Therefore, one will often find that ancient Irish or Scottish songs, rhymes, dances, recipes, crafts, and 'The Craft,' are more accurately preserved in Appalachia than even in Ireland or Scotland.
Many of these old Scot/Irish traditions, as well as the Tsalagi traditions, both magical and mundane, were carried on in Appalachia until modern times. Some songs, spells, and such have been passed down for many years that way, though sadly, sometimes only by rote, with the original meanings beings lost in the shifting sands of time.
In the secluded mountains of Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, the Virginias and the Carolinas, this denomination of the ancient religion of Witchcraft continued right on through the decades of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and the early twentieth centuries; a time when Witchcraft elsewhere was being nearly forgotten and abandoned by the increasingly modern and monotheistic world. The people of the mountains still relied upon Mother Nature in a way, that 'city folk' did not anymore. The fertility of the crops, the livestock, and of the people themselves was as paramount to the Appalachians of 1900 as it was to the early American colonists in the 1600's. Therefore, fertility, and the worship of Mother Nature, Jack frost, Father Winter, Chloe, Spider Grandmother, Demeter, and such varied deities continued in the Appalachian region, staying a current part of the people's faith, rather than becoming a mythic memory as such 'nature worship' did elsewhere. In fact, we still see "Lady Plenty and Lady Liberty" Goddess of the harvest, with cornucopia in hand, and Goddess of freedom, on the official North Carolina State seal.
Amazingly, even the terms "Witch"", "Witchcraft", "spells", "charms" and such never became taboo in the modern Appalachian culture. Nearly every mountain top and 'holler' community had their local 'Witch' who was openly called such, as a title of honor, not as a insult or a charge of crime, as the term came to be used in other more urban American cultures of the seventeen, eighteen and nineteen hundreds.
The "Witch Doctors" were still called upon to heal a sick child, or deliver a baby, or tend to the dying, as Witches had been so charged with doing in Europe during ancient times. Since often a mountain community had no medical doctor to call upon, the local Witches continued to work as the only healers, well up until the early twentieth century.
The local 'Witch' was also called upon to dowse for water, ley lines, and energy vortexes when one was digging a well, planting a new garden, burying a loved one, or doing any other work with the Earth. Thereby, the term 'Water Witch' arose, though, it is misleading, as these Witches dowsed for more than just water, and one did not have to be a Witch to dowse, though most dowsers of that era and location were, indeed, Witches.
The fairy folk, leprechauns, and other 'wee people,' followed the Scots and Irishmen to Appalachia, it seems, as the Witches of this tradition continue to work closely with these beings. Of course, the Tsalagi people had their own such beings, here when the Scots and Irishmen arrived. The Tsalagi called their magical being neighbors; 'Yunwi Tsunsdi,' which translates to 'The Little People.' Offerings are still commonly given to the wee people daily in Appalachia. To this day, you will find a granny woman leaving a bowl of cream on her back door step, or throwing a bite of her cornbread cake out a window, before placing it upon her families' table.
The spirits of the dead are often worked with as well, a lot of ancestral spirit guide workings are passed down through our Tradition, those practices trace back to not only Scotland and Ireland, but the Tsalagi Nation as well. 'Haints' are widely feared as 'angry' ancestral spirits, and many spells, charms, and rituals are practiced to keep these troublemakers at bay. One of the most interesting and common haint related spells requires that the doors of a home be painted 'haint blue.' Haint Blue is a bright baby blue with a periwinkle tinge, very close to but about one shade darker than the Carolina Tarheels' Blue color. This color is believed to repel the spirits and keep them out of the home.
Music is a large part of the Appalachian Granny Magic Tradition. Many of the oldest spells are sung and danced. Clogging, as Irish Step-dancing came to be called in Appalachia, as well as reels, gigs, lullabies, and chants sung in rounds are all very common magical ingredients in Appalachian spells. For example, a traditional Earth Blessing to be sung while planting and harvesting goes; (Broken into syllables for easier pronunciation of the ancient Tsalagi language, English translation follows)
A da we hi a ne he ne ha
Do hi u a iu ni
O lo hi a li ga lu lo hi u nah ta
Ga li e li ga O sa da du
Wise Protectors, they are so giving
Serenity, it resounds
Mother Earth and Father Sky are so giving
I am thankful, it is good
Another example of the old world musical roots of Appalachian musical magic is the locally common use of the song 'Auld Lang Syne' for Samhain and Funerals, as well as the secular new year.
Divination is popular among Appalachian Granny Witches. Many read Tarot, and regular playing cards, tea leaves, and clouds. Scrying in bowls of water, dirt, or sand is also common. Spider webs are scrutinized for messages from the Cherokee Spider Grandmother Goddess, a Goddess of fate, magic, weaving, art and storytelling, who is said to weave magical messages into the webs of her creatures. (In Tsalagi, She was called; 'Kanene Ski Amai Yehi.'
The tools of the Appalachian Granny Witch vary a bit from the modern 'Wiccan' tools we all are so familiar with. The Wand, often instead called the 'rod', as it is in fact a dowsing rod, is the most important tool. This is usually a long straight rod, rather than the 'forked stick' type dowsing rod used by mundane dowsers. It is generally made of wood from a flowering tree such as dogwood, apple or peach, (For Water dowsing) or made from a metal, (For ley line or energy dowsing) copper conducts energy best, I personally feel. A ritual blade, such as a Athame, is only occasionally used and more often a agricultural blade like a thresher, ax or such will be used in its stead. Cauldrons are used more widely than chalices, in fact, a cauldron placed in ones front yard was a 'open-for-business' type Witches' sign in times gone by, much like a barber's pole is used today. However, that practice has become a popular decoration in the South in recent decades, and one is likely to find a person has a cauldron decorating their front yard, because they saw it in 'Southern Homes Magazine' and thought it was quaintly attractive, rather than it being used to advertise that the 'Witch is in,' so to speak. Mirrors, candles, brooms, pottery, and baskets are other common tools of the Tradition, and all of those items are still commonly made at home, by hand in the mountains of Appalachia.
As most of the Magic of the Tradition is of a healing, practical or sympathetic nature rather than "High" or Ritualistic in form, and there are some differences related to that. Ritual clothing is generally not used, and circles are not cast for every spell, only the more formal rites. An Appalachian Witch, like myself, might do a dozen or more spells in any given day, often with two or three generations of practitioners taking part, so running in to change clothes, or stopping to cast a full circle in the 'strict' form would be rather impractical, and in fact, neither was commonly done in the past, in our Tradition. Although some modern Appalachian Witches, being eclectic already with our Scottish, Irish, and Tsalagi roots, have started to use some other Traditions' practices (such as wearing ritual clothing, casting a formal circle, etc.) at times, as well.
The Black Forest Clan:
The Black Forest Clan is linked, both by lineage and practice, to several other branches of Wiccan thought and philosophy, including the Caledonii Tradition of Druidic Wicca, Gardnerian, general Celtic Wicca, and German Witchcraft. Taken together, these meld smoothly into what is called "Euro-Witchcraft." BFC's initiatory line includes Gerald Gardner, Raymond Buckland, and Lord Serphant as well as Pow-Wow healing practitioners Gertie Guise and Preston Zerbe.
The Black Forest Clan was established in South Central Pennsylvania, the home of Pennsylvania Dutch magickal traditions brought from Germany. Over time those early Pennsylvania Dutch settlers melded their magick with that of the Native Americans they encountered, and the result is what became known as Pow-Wow. The central energy lines of our Tradition's hearthstone, as well as the Initiation of its founders, include those German/Native American magickal healing practices which are over 200 years old.
Black Forest Clan's original members were native to York, Cumberland, Perry and Dauphin Counties. Going back to the very beginning, the Black Forest was actually born around Silver RavenWolf's dining room table, where she and others gathered to study the mysteries and learn all they could about the Craft of the Wise. From there it has grown far beyond what any of those first few Witches could have imagined.
The Black Forest Hearthstone, under the guidance of Silver RavenWolf and her husband MindWalker, was sanctioned in 1993 by Lord Serphant, head of the Serpent Stone Family, and by Lord Ariel Morgan. At the Puff Gathering in North Carolina in the summer of 1996, Lord Serphant transferred the eldering ceremony to Silver, forever cementing Black Forest's association with him. In 1998 Black Forest formed an alliance with the Divine Circle of the Sacred Grove, Druid Organization. As of the Spring of 2001, BFC has 24 groups across the US and Canada, including 23 covens and 1 collective. The Black Forest Clan, from its various states of growth, is 11 years old as of 2001.
The Black Forest Clan is a dual Tradition. Part of its teachings are Celtic Witchcraft, and part are Germanic Witchcraft. Magick is made and our rituals are performed in worship and in service of the Mighty Ones, the Lord and the Lady, that the land and the people may prosper.
They believe, however, that all the Gods are one God, that all the Goddesses are one Goddess, and that even the God and the Goddess are truly one. Therefore they insist their members never denigrate or disrespect the forms of Divinity worshiped by others. To do so would be to insult and dishonor the Lord and Lady.
They teach their members that they are responsible for their own actions, and their own lives, that what we put out comes back to us, and that we create our own reality.
Upon reaching their Third Degree Elevation, Black Forest members are conferred legal recognition as licensed clergy. This is a role that is not taken lightly. BFC Clergy perform marriages as well as handfastings, they officiate at funerals, and at Wiccanings. They teach people by helping them find the answers within themselves and in the world around them, rather than pointing them to a reference book.
Any member who has achieved Second Degree Elevation or passed the instructor's examination, or has been sanctioned by the Clan Head, may begin to teach Black Forest Dedicants in informal study groups. Dedication is the first step on the Black Forest pathway--a pathway designed to prepare students to serve the Wiccan/Pagan community as clergy. The study group may develop into a coven. Covens are led by a High Priest, High Priestess, or both. Black Forest Covens do not hive. They multiply.
Their covens consist of both male and female members holding some or all of the following levels:
Dedicants, or "Gutuaters." The period of dedication is a year and day.
First Degree Elevation, or "Vates."
Second Degree Elevation, or "Fildhe."
Third Degree Elevation, or "Druidh."
Beyond the three degrees of elevation, Lady Silver RavenWolf has Eldered various members who advance the Black Forest Clan through their experience, training, dedication and service.
They celebrate the traditional Wiccan quarters (Vernal and Autumnal Equinox, Winter and Summer Solstice) and cross quarters (Imbolc, Bealtainne, Lughnasadh and Samhain). They hold esbats at the new and full moons.
The Black Forest Clan does not allow alcohol, illegal or unprescribed controlled substances or drugs at Black Forest functions. They have a zero tolerance policy regarding violence or abuse. Black Forest is a clergy training organization, and because of that they hold their members to the highest standards. They expect them to obey the laws of the land, to support themselves and their families to the best of their ability, to be honest, loyal, and to keep their word. They do not like whiners. They do not tolerate the theft of BFC materials, or the teaching of them to unqualified or uninitiated individuals. They aggressively protect the names of their members and are bound by an oath not to reveal their names or whereabouts to anyone for any reason without the express consent of that member.
Because they are a clergy training group, new members must have a minimum of a year's prior experience in the Craft, preferably more, before Dedication into the Black Forest Clan.
A Black Forest Witch shall observe the following:
Reverence for the God and the Goddess
Respect for the religions of other people
Acceptance of the laws of karma and personal responsibility
Respect for other people and tolerance of their differences
Respect for just laws and honest governments
Honesty with others
Loyalty to their coven, its High Priestess and their initiators, and to the Black Forest Tradition
Reverence for the natural world
Respect for their inner selves
Practice of magick for positive outcomes
Honor the succession of teachers.
Members worship Divinity in the particular aspects of the Goddess Morrigan and the God Kernunnos during the dark half of the year, Brigit and Lugh in light half, in our Celtic format. In the Germanic format, the aspects are The Veiled Lady and the Hooded God, though we pay respect to Divinity in all forms.
At ceremonies such as Dedications, Degree Initiations or Elevations our traditional ritual wear consists of black robes and Tradition cords designating the elevation of the member. The cords of the Black Forest Clan are silver, gold and black designating fidelity to the goddess, the god, and loyalty to the Tradition respectively. At Sabbats, members may wear street clothes or whatever they find comfortable .
Their covens and study groups around the country gather to observe the holidays and the moons in keeping with the group mind. Their altar devotion, circle casting, quarter calls, totem animals, and initiation/elevation rituals are uniform throughout the United States and Canada, but aside from that, great autonomy is given to the leaders of each group to be as creative as they like. In addition our members are encouraged to study and explore other pantheons and methods in their solitary work.
British Traditional Witch:
A mix of Celtic and Gardenarian rituals it is the most famous organization in the International Red Garters society. This sect is based on the Farrar studies of Wicca and is exceptionally structured in belief and ritual. A witch becomes part of the Coven through a training, education and degree process.
A very earthy tradition, this one focuses on nature, the elements and elementals, sometime faeries, plants, etc. Many "Green Witches" and "Eclectic Druids" follow this path that looks to the ancient Celtic pantheons for their Gods and Goddess.
A tradition that attempts to preserve the ancient festivals of the Scottish and is sometimes known as the Hecatine Tradition.
Followers of this Tradition uses a great deal of ceremonial magick in their practices. Detailed rituals with a flavor of Egyptian magick are sometimes a favorite, or they may use the Qabbalistic magick.
Sometimes called Feminist Dianic Witchcraft, focus exclusively on the Goddess and consists of women-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 women of all orientations.
Unlike most of the neo-pagan religions, Wicca is an initiatory religion, that is, people who choose to practice Wicca believe that the commitment to this path set changes in motion in their lives.
Like everything else in neo-paganism and the Craft, the term Dianic is one that has several meanings. A majority of those who call themselves Dianic are women that choose not to work with male energy in their ritual, magic, or universe. They feel that they need spiritual and psychic space filled with only women's energy. Some Dianics are feminist Witches, both lesbian and heterosexual, who often come to the Craft through feminism. Although these women may be involved with men in one way or another, they agree that religion has over-emphasized the male for the last several thousand years, and therefore want to share their women's energy in women's circles. They may or may not also be involved with the mainstream pagan community, and they may or may not participate in magic and ritual with men.
An individual who does not follow any particular Tradition, denomination, sect, or magickal practice. They learn and study from many magickal systems and apply to themselves what appears to work best
Faery, Faerie, and Feri Tradition:
There are several 'Faery' traditions. This is a controversial topic so I'll make it brief and send you off to the search engines and libraries for more. A Faery Witch could be but isn't necessarily:
working with nature energies and spirits, also known as Faeries, Sprites, etc.
following one of Faery, Feri or Faerie Traditions.
Among the distinguishing features of the Faery tradition is the use of a Faery Power which characterizes the lineage. It is an ecstatic, rather than a fertility, tradition. Strong emphasis is placed on sensual experience and awareness, including sexual mysticism, which is not limited to heterosexual expression. In this, as in the general spirit of spiritual exploration, there is more risk-taking encouraged than in other Wiccan traditions which may have specific laws limiting behavior, and there is a certain amorality historically associated with the Tradition. We see ourselves, when enchanted, as "fey"--not black, not white, outside social definitions, on the road to Faeryland, either mad or poetical. We are aware that much of reality is unseen, or at least has uncertain boundaries. As in all the Craft, there is a deep respect for the wisdom of Nature, a love of beauty, and an appreciation of bardic and mantic creativity. The Gods are not just constructs or psychological forces from the collective unconscious. The Gods are real, with a system of morality different from our own, and we have a responsibility to them. The Faery Tradition, in common with initiatory lineages of the Craft which practice possession, is a mystery tradition of power, mystery, danger, ecstacy, and direct communication with divinity. This is in contrast to traditions which practice psychodrama or psychotherapy through ritual. The negative side of this style of working is that we have a lot of initiates who did not return unscathed from between the worlds. The tradition is not for everybody, and it is not amenable to mass attendance, like many Pagan paths.
There is a specific corpus of chants and liturgical material, much of it stemming from Victor Anderson and Gwydion Pendderwen, which provides a frame for many Circle-workings, and poetic creativity is highly valued. The magical practices of the Faery (or Feri, as Victor spells it) Tradition are heavily invocatory, to encourage possession, which relies mainly on psychic talent or sensitivity to occur. Rites are stylistically diverse, and may draw from many sources. There is an initiatory lineage, traceable to Victor or Cora Anderson or Gwydion Pendderwen. Victor tells of antecedents of the present tradition in the coven in which he was involved in the l920's and 30's in Oregon. Hallmarks of the tradition are possession of secret names, energy-working using pentacles and visualization of blue fire, a body of poetic and liturgical material, deities and archetypes specific to the Tradition, the doctrine of the Three Selves, a cingulum of a specific color, a "tribal" or "clan" feel to the coven, the use of the horned (sometimes called "inverted") pentagram, and the honoring of a warrior ethic. For example, we are urged not to coddle weakness, support others in insincerities or self-deceptions, or to submit one's own Life force to anyone or anything, which leads to a fierce openness called the "Black Heart of Innocence." The Faery Tradition is gender-equal, and all sexual orientations seem able to find a niche. For many, there is a strong identification with the realms of Faery and with shape-shifting.
Although Victor is universally recognized as the founding teacher of the tradition, it is possible to identify influences which shaped the tradition before its present form evolved. There is a strong African diasporic influence, primarily Dahomean-Haitian, and the Three Selves theory is an outgrowth of Huna beliefs. Neither is Victor the only source for material presently within the tradition. Each initiate seems to draw the tradition in a new direction and uncover new ground.. Some practitioners, such as Gwydion and Eldri Littlewolf, went deeply into shamanic forms. Gwydion also worked extensively with Celtic religion, even learning Welsh early in his Wiccan training. Other influences (Arica, Tibetan meditation, and Ceremonial Magick) entered as Gabriel Caradoc began teaching. Victor, Gwydion, Caradoc, Brian Dragon and Paladin wrote darkly beautiful ritual poetry and liturgy. Gabriel's classes provided an excellent training in magical visualization and his students continue his teachings. Poet Francesca De Grandis and songwriter Sharon Knight have added their inspiration to the corpus of material. Starhawk has used concepts developed in the Faery Tradition in expressing her beliefs and practice, and has given the clearest explanations widely available of concepts such as the Three Selves or the Iron Pentacle.
Gardnerian Wicca is an initiatory mystery Tradition (or branch) of Witchcraft named after Gerald Brosseau Gardner, a man initiated into a traditional Witch coven in the New Forest region of England in 1939. Finding the rituals fragmentary, he rewrote them with the help of Doreen Valiente, one of his initiates, resulting in the present Wiccan form.
Gardnerian Witches see the Divine as immanent in Nature and personified as the God and Goddess, which appear in many forms. They celebrate the turning of the year through eight seasonal festivals known as sabbats, and hold coven meetings, called esbats, for worship, magical working and coven business during the full moon.
This Tradition has three degrees of initiation that are passed on from man to woman, and woman to man. The first degree confers initiation into the Tradition, and usually into the coven. A first-degree initiate receives the title of Priest or Priestess and Witch. At second degree, the initiate becomes a High Priest or High Priestess and is now able to lead rituals and teach. In some lines, second-degree initiates may hive off to form their own covens. Third degree is attained by those who have achieved certain level of spiritual growth and seniority in the Tradition. The standards for these degrees can vary from coven to coven.
Gardnerian covens, which are autonomous, are usually led by a High Priestess and High Priest. Some covens are governed by the High Priestess, whereas in others the High Priestess and High Priest govern as equals.
Gardnerians follow the Wiccan Rede, An if it harm none, do what you will, and believe in the three-fold law that anything one does, good or bad, returns three-fold in this or a future life.
Georgian Wicca was founded by George 'Pat' Patterson in 1970, and was given legal status by the Universal Life Church in the early seventies as the Church of Wicca of Bakersfield. It has been the Georgian Church since the early eighties. It's founder has since passed away, but it is still a highly viable tradition. It is eclectic but heavily influenced by Gardnerian, Alexandrian and Strega (Italian) beliefs with more than a bit of folkloric sources. The anthropological studies behind this are good and well researched. The teachings have a balance between the God and Goddess, but the Lady is the more important of the two. Some of the published information includes this: teaching circles are often by invitation, may or may not work skyclad, combine both religious and magical working, there is heavy emphasis on students researching and writing (thus gaining a better understanding of rituals, workings, celebrations, energy working, etc.) on their own with an awareness of how it affects the student and others in circle with them. There is also emphasis placed upon taking responsibility for your own actions. They have a hierarchy based on a degree system of knowledge (although the degrees are not given outside of covens.) Many things can and are done in teaching circles that may or may not reflect what is done in a tradition's coven although it may reflect the studies of the students.
One who can trace the Craft through their family tree and who has been taught the Old Religion by a relative who was living at the same time. Channeling doesn't count. How far one has to go back on the family tree to meet the conditions of the first part of this definition is debatable. Family Trades occasionally adopt individuals into their dynasty. This decision is never a light one, and usually stems from the lack of offspring to carry on the line, or the high regard they hold for the person in question. The ceremony is intricate and important.
This type is one that practices by home and hearth concentrating on the practical side of religion, magick and the earth and elements. A more convenient form of practice for those who have limited space and resource, mainly suburbanite and city witches. Some traditionalists who don't like this terminology, viewing it as degrading or inappropriate. But the Old Religion problably started in the kitchen or around the cookfire, which was the hub of many charms, spells, healings and velebrations. Grandma's kitchen has always produced magickal memories for people; visions of Mother making that special something for a sick child still holds true today for many of us.
In the Lycian Tradition the emphasis is placed directly on the individual.
RIGHTS OF SEEKERS IN THE
1. To question anything.
2. To define the purpose of their
lives, known as the Great Work,
3. To proceed in the Great Work
as they see fit.
4. To do as they will, knowing
they alone bear the responsibility
for all consequences
proceeding there from.
5. To hold any belief, though
there may be no evidence
whatsoever, as valid for themselves.
6. To reject any belief, for any
reason whatsoever, as invalid for
The belief is that strong individuals make a strong cohesive group, not the other way around. We test each other constantly, much as individual members of a wolf pack test one another. We use techniques such as the "Wolf Exercise" to accomplish this rather than physical aggressiveness. In this way not only do we become more skilled in the Craft, but those with the most experience and knowledge rise to the "Alpha Wolf" status of Priest or Priestess. In turn, if someone has achieved that status and no longer has any more to teach, then another more able person will take their place and continue the teachings. In this way the tradition adapts itself to the people of the current generation without losing its old ways.
The Wolf Exercise:
This exercise must be done with two or more people and will work best if their number is even. If there are only two people then one of them will take the "aggressor's" part and the other will be the "defender." If there are more people, then they should divide evenly into two ranks facing one another and pair off with someone in the opposing rank. One rank being the aggressors and the other being the defenders. A time keeper is selected. If there is an odd person out then that person is the ideal time keeper, although this position should be rotated so that all get a chance to partake in the exercise. A round time is selected, usually from five to ten minutes, by the group.
The defenders will now take a few seconds to think of a statement which reflects a belief they hold. This statement can refer to strongly held religious belief. The two ranks now come together and face off with their partner in the other rank. The defenders make their statements. The response from the aggressors can only be one of the following: First, "I agree with you" which stops the exchange. Two, "I need more information" which leads to a question about the statement. Or three, "I disagree" and this leads to an explanation of why there is disagreement. This then leads to the defender giving more support for their original statement and the exchange continues until time is called.
Several rounds should take place before the whole group decides to end the challenging portion of the exercise. After this all should sit in a circle and discuss any interesting exchanges. Especially those that brought up new and innovative thoughts or dispelled long held beliefs that no longer seem valid. In this way we as wolves challenge one another and so make each other strong. Also, just as wolves kill the weak and allow only the strong to survive, we kill off those beliefs which are only long held superstitions and have no place in a religion of the wise.
In reading how the Wolf Exercise is done, you will notice its similarity to the "Socratic Method" which was practiced by Socrates in Athens, Greece at the Lyceum Temple; the Temple of the Wolf. The question and answer method is applied throughout the Lycian Tradition, and it is for this reason that its modern adherents have begun to call it "Lycian" using the Greek root "Lyc-" meaning "wolf" or "wolfish." In ancient times there was no name given the Tradition; it was simply the Old Religion as practiced by the Wolf Clans. The Wolf Clans were those tribes in Western Europe which took as their totem animal the wolf and practiced their initiations by means of the Wild Hunt.
This is another distinguishing characteristic of the Lycian Tradition. Their initiations and practices tend to be very shamanic and make use of the Wild Hunt for the third level initiation rather than the Great Rite as most other traditions do. Many, if not most, modern traditions use the Great Rite as their final initiation into the Craft. The Great Rite for initiation purposes can be practiced symbolically, by means of a cup and athame or cup and wand, or by actual sexual union. This constitutes the third or final initiation into the Craft. In the Lycian Tradition this is not so. The final initiation is that of the Wild Hunt with its themes of life, death, love and self-sacrifice. The initiation involves facing some very basic fears and looking at where these fears affect one personally. By confronting one's fears and learning to deal with them we become much more effective in our daily life, as we are free to be more relaxed and natural in making our decisions. We recognize that it is our fears that hold us back from doing what we need, or want, to do in this world. By facing our fears in the third initiation we become more our natural selves, the selves before fear and guilt were imposed upon us by our society. Because of the secret nature of our initiations, we cannot be any more specific about the Wild Hunt initiation and so will put that subject aside.
The Wolf Clans of Western Europe were quite widespread in their reach. They extended from the far northern Scandinavian countries down into Ireland and England, then into France along its western coast near the Pyrenees, down into Spain along its northern coast also near the Pyrenees, along the southern European coast and finally into Italy. Inquisition records still exist of the questioning done by the Catholic church of these "Wolf Witches" and show that the latter day cult was of an agrarian nature. The wolves were believed to be benevolent creatures wishing to aid humanity. This was done by means of a mock ritual battle in which the "good witches," those considered to be the wolves, fought the "bad witches" and depending on which side won there would or would not be prosperity for the following year. It is very evident that the battle was of a mock type as all the participants would afterwards sit together and partake of a huge feast. Any child born with the caul was considered to have been preordained to become one of the wolves. The records seem to point out that these witches believed that they left their bodies at night to become wolves, and then met others who did the same and would roam in packs doing good. They were known as the "Benandanti" in Italy.
The modern rebirth of this wolf tradition in America is due to the strongly held belief that we can and do leave our bodies at night. Once out of the body, those of the "Wolf Clans" will find each other, renew the "old ties" and continue the "Great Work" for the good of all. Although there are three grades of initiation in the Lycian Tradition, the final true initiation is accomplished in the spirit body where one becomes fully accepted by the Wolf. All decisions and actions taken are unique to a particular situation and cannot be isolated into some "ideal" situation from which all others can be judged. Being accepted by the Wolf is to become as Nature intended us, in harmony with all that surrounds us. Actions then proceed from a standpoint of that harmony and not from any notions imposed on us of "should" and "should not." The person accepted by the Wolf has integrated themselves. We have united the spiritual, human and animal parts of ourselves to become a whole person in harmony with the Deities, with Nature and with our society. We know who we are and how we belong.
See Tuetonic Witch.
Pictish is Scottish witchcraft with a strong connection to nature in all of its forms. The practice is actually mostly magickal with little emphasis on the religious aspect. This is practiced as a solitary tradition.
Indigenous to S. Central Pennsylvania. This is a system, not a religion, based on 400 year old German Magick. In this day and time it has lost much of its concentrations and is basically now into simple faith healing. Few who practice this today follow the Craft or even know the nature of its true birth.
An important NOT!
Craft practioners are not Satanists. Satanism is also a pre-christian pagan religion, however there are significant differences between these two faiths. Many people often confuse Satan with the Christian devil. Again, this is due to Christian propaganda. Satan is the translated name of the Egyptian God Set, who was the deity of ego and confidence. These traits when taken to extremes are similar to Lucifer and thus the association stuck. Satanists however, do not believe in the existence of the devil, and do not worship that being. They see themselves as the God force and practice a faith of eye for an eye. If you'd like to learn more, I strongly suggest you visit the University Of Virginia's Religious Freedoms site and review their study on Satanism.
School of Wicca:
A widely know correspondence school founded by Gavin and Yvonne Frost and once based in North Carolina (or New Hampshire, can't remember which right now, I file things in my mind alphabetically and somehow this one got mixed up, you know NC or NH) and is now also in West Virginia. The Frosts have started out many Pagans on theirs paths and although
opinions vary about them, they provide (for a fee) an important service to the community. Often, they are the first resource of information discovered by people who live in 'bible belt' or remote areas.
Raymond Buckland developed Seax-Wica in 1973 and wrote The Tree which was published in December of 1974. This book encouraged the seeker to look beyond what he wrote and to add it to the tradition if they wanted to.
The rituals are on a solar cycle, although Moon rites are encouraged. However, unlike many traditions, it is not only the God that is celebrated during the Sabbats, but both deities, and the same holds true for the Moon Esbats as well. Both God and Goddess are honored at each rite or ritual held in their honor. There is no ritual sacrifice of the God, no supremacy of the Goddess and the Priestess.
There is also a transition time from the Lord to the Lady and vice-versa. In the Seax-Wica tradition, Samhain is the time of the start of the new year, and it is also the time when the Lord is more influential than the Lady. The Lord is supposed to lead the Wiccans through the night of winter into the spring. At Beltane the Lady takes over from the Lord and leads the Wiccans through the summer and fall, when the Earth is alive and growing. Note that one is not supreme to the other, but rather it is a division of who has more guidance over the world during their times. Like every good parent, if necessary the Lady will respond if called upon during the winter and the Lord will act if called upon during the Summer.
There are no power plays because the Covens are truly autonomous and democratic. Each year a vote is taken by the Coven, and a new Priest or Priestess may be elected at this time to lead the Coven for the coming year. Some Covens elect both at the same time each year, others elect the Priest in the Summer, and the Priestess in the Winter. But it is plain that it is almost impossible to have a "Coven Cronies" syndrome without some extraordinary circumstances occurring. There are no degree systems, no initiations, other than the one that makes one a Wiccan. After that, the new initiate has the same right and authority to speak and be heard as the Priestess of the Coven. From the moment of initiation, the new Wiccan is considered a Priest/ess of the Gods.
The actual rituals that are written down in The Tree are short and to the point. There is little that is confusing about the rite itself, other than some unclarity about just what some of the tools are used for. In a few cases, a tool is called for in a ritual that is never used again. For instance, the wand is called upon as necessary for the Ostara celebration, but in actual practice it is not used in the rite at all.
One of the more prominent differences between Seax-Wica and other traditional practices is the Athame (called a Seax in Seax-Wica). In this tradition it can be single or double edged. The Seax is also used in a variety of everyday uses that many traditional practitioners would be shocked to find a ritual knife being used for, from cutting herbs in the garden to cutting the roast for the dinner table that night. The rationale for this is that the more you use a ritual knife, in whatever purpose, the more of yourself you put into the blade and the better able it is to mesh with your energies during a ritual.
This is the reason that many of the standard tools are missing from Seax-Wican practice. For example, the White Handled Knife, normally used for making inscriptions, is replaced by the Seax. The same for the Boline or herb knife. The Cords, used in many traditional Covens, are absent from most of the Seax-Wican tradition except during initiation and cord magick, in which any cord can be used. There is also no Scourge and no ritual flagellation in the Seax-Wican practice. A spear is added to the ritual implements for one of the officers to use in the execution of his duties.
Seax-Wica is focused more on the religion of Wicca than the Witchcraft and spellcraft aspects. In The Tree there is some information on spell casting, herbs and divination, but a practicer of Seax-Wica would be well-rewarded to get some supplemental works and books on magick and divination to round out their education. This is intentional. The Tree assumes that the person going into Seax-Wica is either already well read in Witchcraft or they are willing to become so.
Another change is the absence of the Maiden and the Crone coven positions. There are four officers in a Seax-Wican coven, but to replace them, the Thegn (pronounced Thain) and the Scribe were made. The thegn position combines many duties but mostly they act as the coven Seargent-at-Arms. They are responsible for summoning the Coven for the ritual, drawing the physical boundaries of the Circle and acting as the Stage Manager during the ritual. The holder of this position uses the Spear.
The Scribe is the Coven secretary. This person is responsible for keeping all of the coven records, from membership rolls to monies received from donations, to agreements for hand partings. If the coven chooses to become a legal church, this would be the person that handles all the paperwork involved in this undertaking.
One other major difference is that Seax-Wica, unlike most traditional groups, recognizes self initiation. The rationale for this stance can be summed up in one phrase, "who initiated the first Witch?" As such, the declaration of Self Dedication is seen as just as valid as a coven initiation and little to no emphasis is placed upon "So and so, initiated by whom, initiated by this person..." or the lineage of a witch.
While this can and does cause some conflict with other traditions, it also encourages those who have little to no contact with other like minded people to acknowledge their deities and their choice of religion.
One who practices alone, regardless of Tradition, denomination, or sect. Solitaries come in various forms. Some were at one time initiated into a coven and eventually chose to extricate themselves from that environment and continue practicing a particular Tradition or sect by themselves. A solitary can also be an individual who has no desire to practice with or learn from a coven structure, but still may adhere to a specific Tradition or sect through the teachings of another. And finally, a solitary Witch can be aperson who has decided to tough it out on their own, learning from books, networking, and fellow Witches of different Traditions. Another name for a solitary Witch is a "Natural Witch."
Stregheria, (La Vecchia Religione), also know as the Old Religion, is Italian witchcraft. The tradition began in the mid-14th Century with the teachings of Aradia, the Holy Strega. This was based upon a much earlier system of beliefs, dating back to the pre-Etruscian Italians. It is a worship of the "Source of All Things", through the personification of the Goddess and God. There are many things that are similar between Stregheria & Wicca. Strega uses nature in all of its teachings. Naure is considered the "Great Teacher". There is a deep history based upon Aradia's Teachings, as well as a prophecy given to us in the Mythos, which speaks of the coming "Age of Daughter", when reason will rule. The Stregan view of the afterlife is that we return to the Realm of Luna as the moon waxes, and return to Earth as the moon wanes. When we are ready, we pass through the Sun to be made into our new bodies for our return to the Stars. We have the Grigori, who are the Watchers, and Guardians over our rites. And the Grimas, who keep the traditions pure and continuing. The Lare are the spirits of our ancestors, whom we worship and call upon for help and aid. Family and tradition are of utmost importance, and this is what gives this Tradition its strength and power.
Teutons were a group of people who spoke Norwegian, Ditch, Icelandic, Swedish, English and other European dialects that are considered to be 'Germanic' languages. A Teutonic Witch often finds inspiration in the traditional myths and legends, Gods and Goddesses of the areas where these dialects originated.
Many traditional witches do not believe in a supreme power. Instead, they believe that we all have a spirit, all animals and plants have a spirit, and all things of the Earth have a spirit, and all are equal. Instead of being a higher power to "worship," generally speaking, witches simply believe in an equality of all spirit and that all spirit is a part of the universal energies, or gods and goddesses. The modern concept that "all gods are one god,"and has no origins in Europe or with any witchcraft traditions. Witches of the past believed in and revered the pantheons of their ancestors and believed each god and goddess was a separate entity, not that all were "aspects" of one great universal god. Some witches of today do accept the "all gods are one god" concept, but this belief did not originate with witchcraft traditions of the past.
Generally, to a witch, all space is sacred and no circle casting is necessary for most magickal rites. The heavy emphasis on words, 'sometimes' rhyming, and also memorization of rituals of wiccans is not always the case in traditional witchcraft. A traditional witch may perform a ritual how he or she feels necessary at the time, may not have such an emphasis on "ceremony," and also won't always be so concerned with using the "right" color candle or herb, performing on the proper day of the week, using tools, etc. Witches are known more for using what they have whenever they feel it is right- for emphasizing "why" a ritual is performed rather than "how" it is performed.
in most traditions of witchcraft, a person's intent rules whether an action is "ethical" or necessary- not a "harm none" law. Most witches do not agree with the threefold law and feel it is completely illogical. Rather, most witches agree with the basic law of cause and effect. "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." Some also call this type of concept the "Ripple Effect."
Witches do not have a written law to follow, rather, follow the laws and ideas of the heart. Witches take responsibility for their own actions and do not rely on a "Rede" to define what is ethical and what is not, what is proper at what time, and what is not.
Traditionally, witches believe the afterlife is a mystery and that such an exact idea of what we encounter after death is not possible. Witches usually believe the spirit, or soul, will pass on and become a part of the spirit of the land or universe, become a spirit guardian or dwell with the guardians, and may possibly one day be reborn into the extended family in some form. This rebirth may not necessarily be physical, but rather spiritual, and in the form of a protector or guide. There are many variations of beliefs, but reincarnation is not a part of traditional witchcraft beliefs- it is a concept of Eastern philosopy and religion that was also adopted by Gardner and others within modern Wiccan tradition.
Book of Shadows © 2001, Dana (Huntress of the Dark)