initiation

Belief Does Not Equal Initiation

Wicca is not Christianity. Accepting the Goddess as your Lord and Savior does not automatically make you a Wiccan. Hell, doing that with Jesus doesn’t even make you Christian in most instances; you’d need a baptism, and that requires, *gasp*, an actual other Christian! Rites of passage, rites of entry, ordination, and initiation are all terms for similar processes. These rites which bring an individual into the group are things that necessitate an “other” into which one is being brought. Just as you cannot ordain yourself a Catholic priest, you similarly cannot initiate yourself as a priestess of Wicca. That is something that is done for us us, by others of us.

I can’t initiate myself into the Masons or into a fraternity, but that doesn’t mean that my Abercrombie and Fitch wardrobe complete with pooka shell necklace doesn’t make me every ounce the cologne-abusing douchenozzle that a fraternity brother is. We may actually be quite similar in some sad, misinformed 90s way. But one is a frat brother and the other is…probably should become a frat brother, by pledging, binge drinking, and being initiated.

Many pagans who lean toward Wicca but are uninitiated are under the false perception that they can initiate themselves into Wicca and become a priest or priestess by reading books and deciding that yes, they are feeling priestly. The sad thing is that these are usually the same people that don’t know that there is one Book of Shadows that is used in Wicca (in forms that vary slightly from coven to coven, dependent on whether you’re a Gardnerian or a Gardnerian-lite, aka Alexandrian, and where you are). We all have the same rites, we perform the same or similar sabbats which enact the mythology of our Gods, which we also share. We do amazing and unique rituals during full moons, even though we also have a shared liturgy for that, and whenever we have need, so there’s little chance for our practice to become stagnant or stuffy. Our rituals are like the setting up of the diving board off of which we may choose to flip, twist, swan dive, or hit our heads and eat shit because we tried something we weren’t ready for. We’re all human, afterall and everyone can’t be Greg Louganis (but everyone should LOOK like 90s Olympics Greg Louganis).

Greg louganisSrsly.

These IRAB (I read a book) ‘Wiccans’ are also often the first and loudest in attempting to assert misinterpretations of some of our teachings in an effort to control and restrict other witches, which, to those of us who are initiated, is just silly. Just as we know that there is no universal law or rule of threefold return and also that the Rede of the Wicca is only eight words long and advice, not law, we also know that it takes more than reading and meditating and cultural appropriation to become one of the Wica.

Most of us have to seek. The vast majority of us, in fact. True, there are some witches who were so utterly lucky that they discovered there was a coven next door or down the street or maybe even multiple covens in the same town (I’m looking at you, Louisville, KY, Sandwich, MA, half the south shore of MA, and Salem.) But a fundamental part of each of our witches’ journies is their eventual coming home to the Wica. It’s a feeling we all share, one that we all relate to. It takes time and dedication and perseverance, and when it finally results in initiation, the feeling of finally making it back home is practically palpable. We are among our own kind once again, and that is one of the keys to unlocking the magic inherent in ourselves and in the worlds we straddle.

The first step toward initiation into Wicca is what we call seeking. No, that’s not getting on your broom and chasing down a flying golden ball called a snitch. Snitches get stiches. We’re gangster like that. Just ask, what was his name again..? Seeking is when you actively start to look for the right group of people for you. Seeking is often times done online, by scouring Witchvox.com, Facebook groups, Twitter, and a ton of other places. You have to look. A lot. There’s no guarantee that you will find anything even remotely possible, but therein lies part of the mystery. You might overlook a coven nearby for months before the time is right and the observation is made and comes slamming down into your consciousness. You may find no coven within 500 miles. You may have to board a plane or a train or an automobile and travel great distances, because you want to and because it’s worth it to you to make this happen. It takes sacrifice. All of these things have happened before: some people flew from Poland to the UK for training, regularly, for years. Some people just walked down the block. Wicca exists in Tasmania. TASMANIA FOR GODS’ SAKES. I even heard that one of us has been to Antarctica. Baller.

rae-bone-initiation

Seeking is also something that starts within. Who is it that we must ask when we wish to find other witches? Strangers on the internet always make for a fascinating foray in most situations, but truly, the first beings that should be asked are the Gods. Don’t know Their traditional names? No worries, They’ll hear you. We have a monopoly on what we call Them, but we don’t control Their ability to hear other witches who are trying to find their way back to Them. In fact, we count on it. Ask the Gods. Have a circle, light your candles, and make an honest and earnest plea to Them to lead you in the right direction, to bring you to the right people and to bring the right people to you. Amazing magic can be worked when you have an honest need and ask for the assistance of our Gods in seeing it come to fruition, especially if it brings you closer to Them and Their service. Thaumaturgy is fun, but theurgy is fucking amazing.

Spellwork to find a coven should be a logical first thought and one of the first steps taken when seeking. Some witches decide to incorporate this into a ritual for themselves which we commonly refer to as a dedication. They dedicate themselves officially toward studying the Craft for a certain period of time, frequently a year and a day because that is the traditional minimum amount of time a coven will wait in order to get to know a seeker and for a seeker to get to know them. When you’ve seen someone in every season, you get an idea of whether you will mesh with them and whether they would be a good fit for the group.

A dedication is not initiation, but it’s a start on the road toward it. Spellwork to assist you and strengthen your resolve, to grant insight and to bring one closer to the Gods is a great idea, especially when you place no specifics on it and ask for Them to enable you as They see fit. Magic with our Gods’ assistance can accomplish much.

Even though spellwork and magic are all about visualization and fiercely reinforcing your visualization with energy and intent, THERE IS NO SPELL THAT MAGICALLY INITIATES YOU ALL BY YOURSELF IN YOUR HEAD OR YOUR MOM’S BASEMENT WHILE EVERYONE ELSE IS AT CHURCH. To be initiated, you must be put through the Wiccan initiation rite present in the Book of Shadows. Hell, even if you want to go an eclectic route that doesn’t even use the Wiccan rites, have at it: but initiation will still be required for membership into pretty much any form of Wicca even if they do silly, un-Wiccan things like keep their clothes on.

alexandrian-ritual

The hard thing is that options are limited by everything from age to geographical location, frequently depending on transportation and thus either income or municipal transit. If any of these are lacking enough to be a barrier, then that is where your efforts are best suited. Don’t have enough money for a bus pass? Work some prosperity magic, get yourself a better job or an additional job and work your way up toward car ownership as a means to be able to get to coven. Ask the Gods for help with these things as well. You need to be the change required for magic to successfully help you, and the Gods help those who help themselves. The Gods can also help you get a bus pass. I’ve seen it because I’ve been the one shelling out the $80 for a friend to make it to circle reliably. We’re a family, after all.

The great part is that it’s worth it. The best part is that initiation into the Wica comes with family. You become a brother or sister of the Art, and you will have coven siblings and a veritable shit ton of craft siblings around the world who will meet up with you at Pantheacon, invite you to stay at their place in the Netherlands, and generally be completely wonderful to you for no other reason than the fact that you have something truly wonderful and unique on common: a devotion to the Craft, to our Gods, and enough will power to find your way home to all of us. Initiation is a welcoming, and it is also a transformation. I highly recommend it. So don’t half-ass it. Get up and seek.

 

 

wicca ritual

What To Do When Your Lineage Isn’t Gardnerian (other than cry)

Lineage. We all have it. It’s what links us to our ancestors. It’s what predisposes us to things like celiac disease and alcoholism and being hilarious (if you’re Irish enough). Genetic lineage is passed in the womb. Paternal lineage was traditionally passed when you’re born in wedlock. One’s lineage says, to a degree, who they are, and also implies what they were exposed to, how they may have been raised, and what they are likely to inherit.

Wiccan lineage is similar to filial lineage in many ways. While being made a Gardnerian doesn’t expose you to any specific disease other than the very American High Priestess disease, what it does do is ensure that you went through our initiation rite and were exposed to very specific parts of our tradition, introduced to our Gods and spirits as one of us, and basically brought into our tribe by us. The same can be said about Alexandrians and other British Traditional Wicca, though really Alexandrians are just another line of Gardnerians who decided to use more incense and we all know it. Egyptian libraries. Please.

monique wilson

In Wicca, lineage is passed through the initiation and elevation rites. Lineage specifies that one was brought into the Wicca in a ritual in which all of the hallmarks, or core, of our liturgy were present, and that it was performed by someone who was empowered to initiate (not just some random IRAB HPS or a rogue first degree). Accordingly, most Gardnerians in America trace their lineage through Ray Buckland, to his HPS, Monique Wilson, to her HP, Gerald Gardner, and from him to the New Forest coven which brought Gerald into the Wica and gave us what many of us consider to be our core.

Why then, do we run into other witches and pagans online and in person who claim to have lineage going back to Gerald Gardner, but are obviously not Gardnerian or any other kind of traditional Wica? When Silver Ravenwolf supposedly made this claim many years ago, it seemed an honest thing. What non-initiates know of Wiccan lineage is like what they know of filial lineage, or that part of the Bible that’s a bazillion pages of Levi begat Joseph who begat Joshua who begat seventy other people who all eventually lead to Jesus’s step dad, because that was important for some reason: oh yeah, paternal lineage and inheritance rights and validity. Lineage has, for time immemorial, been tied together with the concept of legitimacy. A bastard child was not legitimate and could not inherit, unless his father claimed him and gave him his lineage, despite the political and social fallout. It would seem that errant claims of lineage made in the greater neo-pagan community may still bear the trappings of a need for validity.

Claims by eclectics and members of eclectic traditions (a slightly oxymoronic term, for sure) to have lineage going back to Gerald Gardner show a shallow understanding of lineage. Wiccan lineage isn’t just “Gerald initiated Monique who initiated Ray who initiated me into the Masons, and so therefore I am a mason and also a Gardnerian with lineage going back to Gardner.” It doesn’t work that way. In order for lineage to be passed within Wicca, one needs to do certain things to pass it, and those things are contained in the traditional rites of initiation. Initiation and elevation within Wicca places a spiritual marker on a witch. It flags them as one of us, and as a result, certain deities, spirits, and other beings will take heed when they call, will help them, aid them, protect them, maybe even smite their enemies if approached in some fabulously biblical manner. If an actual, lineage member of the Wica were to toss out the initiation rites, or replace them with something different, then traditional Wiccan lineage is not conferred. Or, if one would like to persist that something is passed, then one must also concede that it is not the same. It is different.

initiation

Gerald Gardner’s initiation rites contain certain things. Let’s call them A, B and Nudity™. When I was initiated, I was given/shown/revealed A, B, and Nudity™, by people who experienced the same from people leading in a chain of individuals putting others through the same rite, in the same way (coughcoughnaked™coughcough). When Ray Buckland initiated the woman next in line from him to me, he did it with the Gardnerian rites, passing Gardnerian lineage.

At some point in time, Ray Buckland decided to branch out, and created Seax Wicca. He created this. He didn’t come across a secret, Saxon coven of witches that had been clandestinely hiding out in the wilds of Long Island in the 1960s. He was a fan of Saxon culture and religion and magic, and he made a workable religio-magical system out of it. He likely wrote initiation rites for it. This is all well and good. But what people don’t understand is that those rites aren’t the rites of entrance into traditional Wicca. When Mr. Buckland was initiated by Monique Wilson, he swore an oath that we all take to basically not reveal information which is bound by that oath. This covers things like the Names of the Wiccan Gods to the identities of other witches, to what is found in our BoS and a bunch of other lore both written and oral. Because he could not pass this on to outsiders, and because anyone being brought into Seax Wicca was still technically an outsider from the traditional oath and practice of Wicca, those new initiation rites did not convey Wiccan lineage going back to Gerald Gardner, because they did not contain the Gardnerian oathbound information and practices. I am not saying that they weren’t equally wonderful and powerful and moving and fulfilling rites or that Seax Wicca is bogus. I am only outlining that it is different, and different is not less-than.

But in recognizing that it is different, one must be willing to admit that because Ray was the creator of that tradition, its lineage started with him. A Gardnerian priest putting a woman through a Co-Masons initiation rite does not make her a Gardnerian any more than a Jewish PhD conferring an engineering PhD on a student makes that student Jewish. The same goes for different traditions of Wicca, as we know them today. A Seax Wicca HP does not pass Gardnerian lineage by initiating someone into Seax Wicca, because even if that person was also a Gardnerian, the initiations are different. You learn different things. You don’t get passed the Gardnerian info or mojo.

Yet, even today, we have people online who claim that their lineage goes back to Gardner through Michael Reagan to Ray Buckland (possibly even through same-sex initiation, which is a big Gardnerian no-no) back up the line to Gardner. Why? Why is it so important to have lineage to the man who brought Wicca out of the broom closet, instead of to someone two links down the chain from him who created another system of witchcraft? Gerald was not the first witch, nor will he be the last, but his name does seem to be one that people cling to, for many reasons.

If your line of initiators goes back a good way, great. If it goes back through multiple varying and different eclectic traditions, wonderful. But the lineage passed to you, if any, would start with your tradition’s founder, not the founder of their previous tradition, or the founder of that person’s previous tradition. Lineage is, after all, a way to identify someone, to have an understanding of who they are and what they do and where they got it from. If you slap that term onto anyone who’s ever high-fived you or walked slowly enough across your lawn, then the term becomes meaningless, and anyone on earth can claim lineage back to anyone if they have only the most flimsy and tangential association with them. The Correllian Nativist tradition does not, from what I understand, convey any actual native American lineage on its members. In the same vein, traditional Wiccan lineage is passed intentionally, and not outside of the realm of itself. If you’re from an eclectic tradition, take pride in it. Don’t attempt to grasp for some unnecessary sense of further legitimacy by reaching out for something that isn’t there.

Or, if you feel that you really need it, then come and get it. It’s still being passed today, around the world, and when a seeker is ready, a teacher can appear.

SK Smith, mostly.

Red Flag Warning Signs on the Cult of Personality Highway: Types of People to Watch Out For in Wicca

Witchcraft is a wide, wide world. Since no one can agree on just what it encompasses, it has at times included everything from mediumship and healing to any non-Judeo-Christian (or Muslim) religious and folk practices. Open-minded people call Spiritualists (practitioners of the religion of Spiritualism) mediums, and close-minded people may just call them witches, and scream about how dark-sided they are, like Wife Swap’s the God Warrior.

Witchcraft changes people, usually for the better, but sometimes for the worse. Minds can be opened, usually by the acquisition of knowledge and the utilization of compassion and empathy. But minds can also grow closed through fear and insecurity. People don’t like fear. They don’t innately like the unknown, as much as they are also inherently drawn to it (hence, witchcraft). People who live in fear often times fail to control those fears, and instead turn their minds toward controlling what causes their fears. They attempt to control their environments, their families, their children, their politics and countries, and in the worst cases, large swaths of the world, leading to some of the most dreadful events in human history.

Fear is a very strong force in this world. Fear leads to a need to control. Sometimes fears are warranted and control is good, like when an invasive species takes over a certain locale and checks need to be put in place to balance out the environment, like this amazing project explaining How Wolves Change Rivers. But sometimes a lot of the time, fear leads to unhealthy actions, like attempting to control other people.

We’ve all heard the stories when it comes to Wicca: such and such a hypothetical person, let’s call her Luna, is looking for information on Wicca online. She’s read a few things, maybe even quite a few things: books and websites and listened to podcasts and studied her little heart out! Then she takes the next step: actually talking to other people online. (We know this is a hypothetical situation. Obviously no modern-day person from AMURICUH would wait until after amassing knowledge about something before talking about it. And pontificating about it. And acting like they know everything about it. But this is OUR story and we won’t let you ruin it with reality or facts. And you’ll see why as we continue to describe a certain type of individual ;)

So Luna has decided to talk to other witches. She likely reads a few sites, visits a few forums, and eventually ends up where everything on the internet ends up: Facebook. She allegedly joined a group that is supposedly about traditional Wicca.™ There are a hundred or so other people in there and the HPS who owns/runs/moderates it allegedly presents herself as a High Priestess of a tradition of Wicca, which sounds quite respectable and knowledgeable! She easily spouts off a few well known platitudes about traditional Wicca, like “Traditional Wicca never costs money!” She seems legit to our dear Luna. This alleged traditional HPS, let’s call her something normal-sounding (which is odd for online Wiccans these days), like Jordana Smith, HPS™. (Though we all know she has like 237 different names and switches between them all because pagan name, craft name, circle name, trad name, real name, title she gave hersel…we mean, that her tradition very validly and ostentatiously bestowed upon her, etc…) Besides, she’s pushing 60 and mentions it A LOT! No one that old would misrepresent themselves!

So young, self-taught, slightly naïve-but-using-her-brain-nonetheless Luna begins to learn. She hears Jordana Smith, HPS™ spout off about such erudite Wiccan concepts as teaching within the Craft, her book, mythology, and the like. She speaks of respect for other peoples’ traditions of Wicca, all of them! She says that they do not all operate the same and that we must all respect that those differences exist. She says that if your opinion or experience differs from hers, she has no problem with that. And yet, she brings up legitimacy and validity, which implies that some are, and some definitely aren’t. It gives her an elevated, insider air. She’s presenting herself as someone who is capable of pointing the finger and saying, “No. They are not legit. They do not belong,” frequently about people from outside her own tradition, or outside of any tradition.

Luna, gods bless her for the burden she bears for it, was born with a functioning brain. She starts to sense, subconsciously at first, that something seems ‘off’ here. She is reading these things about peace and love and harmony and respect, and then seeing, well, things that don’t quite jive with those oft-touted concepts. She starts to wonder about what Jordana Smith, HPS™, is saying. Some things sound great, but other things sounds a bit contradictory to what she’s learned elsewhere. There is a seeming conflict of information to her, and so, in a common act of simple naivety, she decides to ask about it.

She pipes up, saying, “But I learned something different from this other tradition. The Gardnerians teach something different. (Cause like everyone knows who we are, cause we named ourselves after our founder by making someone hate him so bad that he gave us a name, Gardnerians, in an attempt to dispel us like the Nothing in the Neverending Story. But really, he threw our proverbial Dobby a sock and unleashed us onto the world, and for that, we are grateful to him. RIP.)

Luna says, “But I read that not all Wiccans follow the Rede in everything. It’s just advice that applies to situations which cause no harm. It’s not a law across the board.” And Jordana Smith, HPS™ hisses and recoils. The heretofore polite HPS-apparent replies, “Well surely you adhere to the 161 Laws,” but Luna shakes her head (online. Somehow.) and replies, “But, those were made up after Wicca got off the ground and running and only like 1 of Gardner’s HPSes paid them any mind at all. Most of them saw them for what they were, some fancy old type of speak that doesn’t really apply to the modern world in which witches/Wiccans think for themselves, because they’re all equal at 3°. Also, gays are fine and Gardner wanted Doreen to step down because either he wasn’t into her or she was actually as much in control as he was and so he came up with an excuse to solve that little problem.”

Jordana Smith, HPS™, hisses again, recoiling even farther. But she would not give up her hold…err, hope just yet. She greeted Luna with a hello and informed her that everyone needs a high Priest or High Priestess and Elder in the Craft to teach them like she does EVERY PERSON WHO ENTERS THE GROUP JUST IN CASE SHE CAN BE THAT PERSON (HINT: SHE’S IMPLYING THAT SHE FITS THAT DESCRIPTION. PERFECTLY.) So she issues a further challenge, saying, ‘SURELY YOU ADHERE TO THE THREEFOLD LAW!”

Luna, at this point, should probably just nod her head and curtsy and say “Of course I do, my Lady, because if you say that its required dogma in traditional Wicca then it must be so!” But Luna is accursed with the affliction of a functioning brain, and she responds almost without thinking, “What? There’s no Threefold Law of Return in traditional Wicca. That came from a misinterpretation of something in a work of fiction that Gardner wrote in the 1950s. I read it on some crappy Gardnerian blog.”

Jordana Smith, HPS™ has had enough. She flies into an ALL CAPS RAGE!!!!11one and roars “CERTAINLY YOU MUST SEE WICCA AS A RELIGION!!!” To which Luna’s bane of a brain/mouth combo replies without even a thought, “Actually, Wica is traditionally the name of the priesthood of the witchcraft that was practiced in the New Forest region of the south of England in the first half of the 20th century. The actual religion itself has no name.”

Jordana Smith, HPS™ does the only thing that she can possibly do in such a situation. She is being presented with conflicting information from another person who got it from arguably the most well-known and oldest Wiccan tradition on the planet, and her group rules say quite clearly,

“it is imperative that everyone understand before discussing Traditional Wicca that all Traditions are different and may not adhere to the same practices within their respective frameworks.
Everyone needs to respect everyone else’s way of doing things.”

So Jordana Smith, HPS™ BUSTS OUT THE BAN HAMMER SO FAST, THOR THOUGHT THAT RAGNAROK HAD COME BECAUSE NOTHING SINCE MJOLNIR HAD BEEN ABLE TO KNOCK SOMEONE OUT OF THEIR WORLD THAT QUICKLY IN 15 CENTURIES.

<End scene.>

While this fictitious character, Jordana Smith, HPS™, couldn’t possibly be real, there are people out there who are just like her. Such people have their own Facebook groups where they spin their tangled web of Wiccan lies in order to construct a universe that fits them instead of trying to construct themselves in a way to fit the universe (or Wicca). What seekers have to worry about here is being lured in by a bunch of erudite-sounding shit and then finding out that the person or idea that they invested so much of their time and spirit/identity into turns out to not be what they thought. It happens all the time, sadly, and it continues to happen to this day. Why? Because we’re an unorganized religion. We don’t have a Vatican or a Holy See or a Pope to sit on high and proclaim what and who is official and what and who isn’t. So people can get up on a soap box like a protestant preacher on a sidewalk in rural Pensacola and proclaim themselves a High Priestess, and there’s no way to fact check it. The onus of proof lies with the person making the claims to the priesthood. If they can’t prove it, don’t take their word as fact.

This is why we need things like community, even as fiercely autonomous and independent as we are. We need to have a body of peers to review, from afar, what is going on, and to voice their collective approval or disapproval, kind of like science before Ted Cruz got put in charge of the congressional subcommittee of science and became the very anti-science pope that rationalists have feared for centuries.

What can an honest seeker do to be aware of people like this? They need to have (and use!) a functioning brain. If a purported HPS™ has fancy claims of lineage (which turns out to be bullshit, but most seekers won’t be able to debunk that on their own), they are most often undone by themselves, through the time-honored tradition of hypocrisy. When they ban/kick out EVERY SINGLE legitimate and valid British Traditional Wiccan priestess in her their group who happens to disagree with her them, that’s a great red flag for seekers. When it becomes so much, so often, that it’s the majority of what goes on there, and known Gardnerian High Priests are casually dropping the Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Form in that group as a simple conversation piece, your functioning brain should recognize a warning.

But then again, when your cockamamie idiocy and draconian behavior gets featured on some shitty Gardnerian blog, then you really know you’ve made it ;)

Blessed Be, Witches.

P.S. Apparently other witches have come forward to offer up the same warnings that we have about this fictitious person. It’s amazing how much coverage a fake character in a story on Facebook can receive from such different types of witches. While hypocrisy is usually an unintentional red flag warning that such persons tend to send up on their own, sometimes if you just have a really good comments section on your blog, you’ll also give them enough rope to hang themselves as they wade tactlessly and idiotically into a conversation about rape-culture and child pornography.

 

P.P.S.  This little gem was also brought to our attention.   The beloved Donald Michael Kraig dodges bullets while giving a wonderful assessment of the Rede and the Threefold Law.  Unfortunately our girl of the hour still finds a way to change the very meaning of words.  That is some powerful magic.

YLuqpaK1

Gardnerian Wicca is Good

Sometimes in life, things move us. Sometimes it’s a bolt of inspiration that allows us to narrow in on something that we find to be important. Sometimes it’s the identification of a pattern or meaningful coincidence that we come across. Both of these things are common occurrences when it comes to modern religious witchcraft. Today’s blog was inspired by our dear sister Thorn Mooney’s (pictured above) most recent post to her Oath Bound blog on Patheos.com, “What Good is Gardnerian Wicca.” (Why it’s called Oath Bound, we have no idea, but she knows what’s up and what’s secret, so she has as much right to the term as any one of us, if not more for smooshing it in the public’s face. Go, sister, go.)

We’re about halfway through her most recent post, and about halfway through 6 or 8 whiskeys, and you know what, we think we’ve been forced to think. Brava, Thorn. Brava. The conflict within, between whether to write as the spirit moves us or whether to finish reading so we can make informed commentary tears us asunder.

Ok, we chose to finish reading, because reason.

Something that Thorn and we have in common (and she whoops our ass at it) is that we both have degrees in Religious Studies. We have a BA in it, but this witch has an MA. That means she sunk a lot more time, thought, and money into the pursuit, and we do not envy her student loans. This is a priestess who went for it, because she was called to it, and her writings have left us with spiritual truth bomb after spiritual truth bomb as a result. For this, we are grateful as fuck. (We’re also grateful as fuck for this issue of The Burning Times that her coven sent us. I mean, Lies For Dead Seahorses has needed to be shared for decades, obviously. Hit her up. Beg her to send you a copy. It’s solid gold.)

Her candor in the written medium is flawless. Witness the sentence “I don’t even have words for how boring these conversations were,” in regards to her description of the debates between atheists and protestants in her graduate student courses. Another straight up truth bomb is, “If there’s anything I’ve learned through studying religion, it’s the futility of pretending that it’s a definable thing with neat boundaries that make sense to everyone involved.”

She’s flawless in describing to the rest of us how her (our) Gardnerian Wicca doesn’t tell her how to vote, how to think, how to spend her money or fight injustice. She affirms quite clearly that we don’t have a central hierarchy, and she highlights that many conversations at the masters level of education in regards to religion don’t even apply to her (us). She is a light in the darkness of the Judeo-Christian constructed process of studying religion. Encountering Hinduism and Buddhism caused religious scholars to eventually think outside of their shells, but encountering Wicca has mostly led them to deconstruct Wicca in a Judeo-Christian framework, highlighting the similarities and (mostly) differences.

We don’t wish to presume, by reading her blog posts on Patheos.com, what Wicca has given her. But we do feel confident repeating what she says on its behalf; it “made her feel like she had some impact on her own life. It gave her some sense of agency she hadn’t had before.” It empowered her, and caused her to find a sense of empowerment, making her feel more effective over her own life. That personal power, that is the effect of witchcraft. Witchcraft is empowering, which is why is has been so villified by established western religious authority for centuries.

One of the biggest and best things that Thorn Mooney writes about on her blog at Patheos.com is that Gardnerian Witchcraft has given her a sense of family, and we echo this sentiment strongly. When you are initiated into a coven, you are essentially presented with siblings in the Craft. At first, they are usually the men and women who have also seeked, worked, and successfully pursued initiation under the same High Priest and Priestess as yourself. They become your siblings in a way that defies words, because they are not related to you, but they have the same deep understanding of the Mysteries that you do, presented in the same way by the same people, and because this is one of the most defining experiences of your life, you grok them, and they you, in a way that can only be described as kin.

Fuck the royal we for a minute. I’m a Gardnerian. I’m a member of one of the most reclusive witchcraft traditions and Wiccan traditions in existence, and all I can say about my tradition is that it is family. It is finding my, our way back home. My coven is my family, in addition to my kin who I was born into, who love me unconditionally. The level of love and trust inherent in a truly functional Wiccan coven is bar-none. As Thorn says in her blog, we, collectively as a coven, are bigger than any one person’s practice. It is as much beautiful as it is sublime. We rein each other in as much as we lift each other up and soar with each other through the ethos of life and that which we experience beyond. We become co-creators of our shared realities and recognize the divine within ourselves and each other without the need for yoga mats, yoga pants (or any pants, really), or an excessive amount of blissed-out new agey platitudes.

One of the most spectacular things about the traditional Wicca movement is that we have a shared liturgy. Many pagans might scoff at the idea of liturgy in a witchcraft movement, but when it comes to the study of ritual, it has been found time and time again that the repetition of certain actions, certain affirmations, certain observances and practices, has assisted and, in fact, enhanced the state of mind in regards to those practices. We train ourselves through repetition, and in so doing, we form the launch pad for the witchcraft and the religious experiences of ecstasy, communion, and enlightenment that we strive for. When the very basic circle structure and casting, the calling of the quarters, the invocation of the Gods, and the forming of the traditional Wiccan circle become something we can do with our eyes closed, we prepare our minds for true transcendence, because at that point, our rites are primed to transcend our normal senses and ways of thinking. The traditional Wiccan practice does not restrict: it sets the stage for a show that is ineffable, an experience that is transcendent, and a practice that unites us with our gods in a way that words fail to describe.

I, err…. We are grateful to Thorn for sharing so much of her experience with us, and we look forward to reading so very much more from her in the future. And to Jason Mankey, who writes his own blog, Raise the Horns, (and possibly edits Thorn’s?), we offer our thanks, not just for years of beautiful community ritual, but for bringing to us yet another modern voice that reflects the truly visceral experience of Gardnerian witchcraft. We treasure it, and just because she’s not *really* on Facebook doesn’t mean we value it any less. *CoughCoughHintHintAFanPageIsCrapGetARealOneAlreadyCoughCough*

witch, witchcraft, wicca

13 Actual Principles of Wiccan Belief

Our brother over at the House of the Midnight Sun has written a 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief that we can really get behind. Here’s a little taste:

“To be a witch or even a Wiccan coven leader does not necessarily mean I need to be a pillar of the community in service to any and all. I am in service to my gods and spirits and to the people they bring to me for help, not every single person who emails me or stops me in the street.”

Also, there’s rum.

Go read it.

 

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The Wiccan Rede Is Not A Poem

It’s late and I’m on my second whiskey ginger, so I’ll try to make this brief. Oh shit, I forgot to use the royal we. Ignore that shit. We’re going to lay some truth bombs on you, general pagan masses. This is an ancient secret kept by the Wica from time immemorial, and it’s one of the secret tests we use to determine who’s legit, so write this shit down, cause it gives you some real serious Wiccan street cred:

THE WICCAN REDE IS NOT A POEM.

Did you get that? THE REDE IS NOT A POEM. IT DOESN’T EVEN RHYME. Let that shit sink in.

The entirety of the Wiccan Rede is eight words long: “An it harm none, do what ye will.”  That’s the whole thing. Anything other than that isn’t the Wiccan Rede. Let’s talk a little bit about its verbiage and its history, and by that, we mean “let us regurgitate shit to you from Wikipedia because it’s late and we’re buzzed.”

“The word “Rede” derives from Middle English, meaning “advice” or “counsel.” (Too drunk to find and install WordPress footnote plugin, but the thought was there, so feel special.) So basically, the Rede of the Wicca is a piece of advice or a bit of counsel. What do we know about advice/counsel? It’s non-binding. If it were binding, it would be called a law, or doctrine, or a tenet, or something. But it’s not, so it’s just advice. It basically means “If it doesn’t hurt anyone (or anything), then go right the fuck ahead.”

We also remember that admittedly strange period in high school where math class suddenly involved “if/then” shit. WTF was that anyway? We totally blocked that out until just now. That was some whack shit, right? WTF does If/Then have to do with math? God damn. But we digress. Following simple logic (or some vague attempt at tautologies), we see this: the word “An” in the Wiccan Rede translates to the modern English word “If.” When we say “If,” we’re qualifying something. If X is true, then Y. So IF you are pregnant, THEN you will have medical bills. It’s a simple statement of one thing predicates another. But IF you are NOT pregnant, then you may or may not have medical bills OR a shotgun wedding. Basically, an IF statement has nothing to do with something that does not meet that IF. Like, IF you graduate high school, you have a shot at going to college. IF you don’t graduate high school, then you do you, boo, and god help you. You get that rent money however you can, mama.

So, the Rede says, “If it harms none.” That means that the second half “do as ye will” only applies to situations in which “It harms none.” Makes perfect sense. If it’s not hurting anybody, go right ahead. That might be why there are so many homosexuals in Wicca and why we love a good same-sex handfasting. They’re not hurting anybody, especially straight marriage. And let’s be honest, who’s more likely to have open bar: DINKS or people with kids? But what about situations in which you are definitely going to fuck a bitch up? Let’s apply it then.

Does your situation harm none? No? It harms multiple persons? Let’s see if that fits our if/then situation. “If it harms none,” OH WAIT IT DOES HARM SOMEONE. Ok, so where’s the “IF IT HARMS ONE” rede? There isn’t one. There is nothing that says anything about harmful/baneful magic. The Rede says nothing about it. The Rede does not say “HARM NONE! HARM NONE! THIS IS THE WICCAN PRIME DIRECTIVE! HARM NONE!” It basically says nothing at all about harmful magic, because that is the provence of each witch’s individual conscience. Besides, who’s going to tell you not to stop a known rapist? No one.

So, now that we got that out of the way (OMG WICCANS CAN DO BLACK MAGIC OMG!!!11one), let’s move on to that ghastly poem which was erroneously entitled “The Wiccan Rede.”

100% Wikipedia: “In 1974 a complete twenty-six line poem entitled “The Wiccan Rede” was published in the neo-Pagan magazine Earth Religion News. Each line contained a rhymed couplet laid out as a single line, the last line being the familiar “short rede” couplet beginning “Eight words…”.

This poem was shortly followed by another, slightly different, version, [sic] entitled the “Rede Of The Wiccae”, which was published in Green Egg magazine by Lady Gwen Thompson. She ascribed it to her grandmother, Adriana Porter, and claimed that the earlier published text was distorted from “its original form”. The poem has since been very widely circulated and has appeared in other versions and layouts, with additional or variant passages. It is commonly known as the “Long Rede”.

100% A Gardnerian: GWEN THOMPSON WAS NOT WICCAN. Repeat: NOT WICCAN. So a non-Wiccan witch came in and took a Wiccan principle that Doreen uttered in the 60s and then wrote a poem about it. THAT’S LOVELY! But it has nothing to do with our religion. If we wrote a poem about the Pledge of Allegiance involving enemas and Summer’s Eve, NONE OF YOU WOULD BE REQUIRED TO DOUCHE DURING HOMEROOM.

Just like we can’t walk into a Catholic Church and write poems about their catechism and expect them to be forced to adhere to it, a non-Wiccan cannot write Wiccan dogma. Hell, even a Wiccan can’t write Wiccan dogma. We’re an orthopraxic religion, not an orthodoxic one. (Missing footnote here too, because tomato, tomahto.)

So the next time someone tells you that the Wiccan Rede is a bunch of crazy harm none shit, just drop them a link to this article and tell them it involves a lot of swear words.

 

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American Council of Witches 2015

We have recently been alerted to what is potentially one of the funniest witchcraft events of 2015: a little Facebook group entitled American Council of Witches 2015, which can be found at this URL and at this Facebook address.  Upon initial observation, one might wonder, “Who are these people who deign to ordain themselves “The American Council of Witches”? One might also question these things on that Facebook page, which quite a few other people have also done (scroll down and read the “Posts to page” section on the left. It’s brilliant).

The original American Council of Witches, according to the arbiter of all things (Wikipedia), “was an independent group founded in 1974 consisting of approximately seventy-three members who followed Pagan, Neopagan, or Witchcraft traditions; the group convened and disbanded in 1974 after drafting a set of common principles.” They literally, in 1974, in 4 DAYS, attempted to unify and define all of Neo-paganism. That’s like .0001% of Haitian Vodouisants meeting in Canada to attempt to define all of Vodou, for everyone, everywhere. In case that doesn’t make sense to you, it’s also like 74 members of various Christian denominations attempting to hammer out a statement of 13 beliefs for ALL CHRISTIANS IN NORTH AMERICA, and BFF-ing CHICK PUBLICATIONS (read: Llewellyn) to spread that silly shit both far and near before the internet could show up and donkey punch an ignorant bitch for being, well,  just silly.

This shit showed up yesterday on the pagan blogosphere (and by that we mean they have posts from a month ago, but no one paid attention till yesterday because everyone was too busy with logic.)  Luckily, some witchcraft good Samaritan (you know it was the Wiccans) has decided to spoof make the website more truthful, and created a Facebook page for it, so that everyone could see exactly what’s going on. And by that we mean a whole bunch of (hilarious) nothing.

But, in the interest of the ancient Greek god Momus, you should go like the much more legit Council of American Witches.org 2015’s Facebook page, and leave comments on their “Posts to Page” because LOGIC.

 

coven, witchcraft, wicca

When A Coven Comes to Its End

We wrote another piece, but we published it somewhere marvelous, unlike this dump.

Here’s an embellished excerpt:

“We’d known that the end would come for years, because my ridiculous initiators would wax eloquent about their grand “retirement,’ but it was always some distant time when their 10 year old son would turn 18 and they would retire somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Eight years goes by in a flash when you’re happy. I should have stayed surly.”

Read it here.

Kwan Yin

This is a post about the Chinese bodhisattva, Kwan Yin. Kwan Yin does not typically have any association with modern day Wicca, but she is of historical importance to many Gardnerians, and, as such, is included in this blog. Enjoy.

The divinity known as Kwan-Yin throughout China is both unique among Chinese goddesses and similar to other female deities in many ways. She holds a position of particular importance within both Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, as well as popular Chinese religious practice and belief. By existing within both the popular pantheon as well as Buddhism, she enjoys a status unparalleled by any other Chinese deity.

Kwan-Yin has been one of the most venerated deities in China since approximately the fourth century C.E. Yet her entrance into China from Tibet had occurred centuries prior. She “is unique in China in that she appears to have originated as a male bodhisattva and ended up as a goddess.” The male bodhisattva which evolved into Kwan-Yin upon entrance into China is Avalokitesvara. “Bearing a lotus flower, (he) was born from a ray of light that sprang from Amitabha Buddha’s right eye.”  “Avalokitesvara is cherished on account of his vow to renounce Nirvana’s final peace for as long as there are sentient beings still lost amidst samsara’s ocean.”  This is the definition of what it is to be a bodhisattva, especially the key aspect of Kwan-Yin, which is compassion.

Before long, Avalokitesvara was “adopted as Tibet’s tutelary deity.”  When the practice of invoking him first came to China in the first century C.E., he was never depicted as female. But by the twelfth century, female representations of the bodhisattva were very common.

And why did this change take place? It becomes evident, when looking at the role of Kwan-Yin in China, why the switch from male to female was made. The explanation involves “a tertiary embodiment of Compassion, Tara, a beautiful female divinity… born of a tear shed by Avalokitesvara in sorrow for the world.”  She has two functions: “rescuing beings from present woes and assisting them to rid themselves of the delusions binding them to samsara.”  These tasks are almost indistinguishable from the objectives of Kwan-Yin. In this way, the previously eleven-headed and thousand-armed Avalokitesvara now appeared in an unspoiled human form, which the Chinese were quick to espouse. John Blofeld, author of Bodhisattva of Compassion, has found evidence of this in paintings of Kwan-Yin in which the venerable bodhisattva’s posture and mudras are distinctly those of Tara.

When the newer version of the bodhisattva entered into China from Tibet, she was quickly incorporated into Mahayanist doctrine. While having assumed the female identity and attributes of the Tibetan fertility goddess Tara, she retains, in the minds of her Chinese devotees, full identity with the Indian Avalokitesvara. “Viewed esoterically, the sex attributed to celestial bodhisattvas is unimportant, since they are regarded as meditation forms not of beings but of what might be called cosmic forces.” While this statement discredits the importance of gender within a strictly Buddhist meditational outlook, the fact that a divinity could have undergone a change in gender to accommodate the people is significant. The role of fertility within religion had long since been one of the most honored and aspired aspects of any god, and with the Chinese emphasis upon progeny, Kwan-Yin’s association with Tara becomes a vitally important facet of her acceptance into the Chinese popular pantheon.

Nicknamed “the Goddess of Mercy” by Jesuit missionaries, the bodhisattva appeared in many forms to the Chinese, including perhaps her most familiar form, “White robed Guanyin.” The origins of this clearly feminine deity “may lie with a group of indigenous scriptures that portray her primarily as a fertility goddess. Although Guanyin’s power of granting children is already mentioned in the Lotus Sutra, these indigenous scriptures…emphasize Guanyin’s power to grant sons, and…call attention to her protection of pregnant women and assurance of safe childbirths.”  This strictly Chinese vision of Kwan-Yin emphasizes and extends her powers outside of the traditional Buddhist framework of a bodhisattva and affixes her permanently within the greater structure of the general Chinese pantheon. Unfamiliar with Buddhist metaphysics, countless Chinese love her and recognize in her “the protective power and rewarding nature of compassion.”  One can often find her smiling gaze looking out at the world from behind the altars of Taoist temples, a sign of just how beloved she is of the people, no matter what creed they profess.

Her portrayal in the epic Chinese story Journey to the West brings her role back to that of the original Indian bodhisattva, as a divinity primarily concerned with the salvation of mankind. She is begged for forgiveness of sins by Pigsy and Sandy, and even offers forgiveness for sins against Heaven, a place which does not exist in Buddhism, to Monkey. Her ability to rectify seemingly anything is another attribute which grants her a status unrivaled by any other Chinese deity. Proclaimed as “the savior Kuan-Yin” by Monkey it is clear that her powers extend far beyond that of immortals yet her concern remains for that of all sentient beings, not only human.

While her prominence as both bodhisattva and deity enable her to transcend the boundaries placed upon divinities by religion, she is not totally unlike all other gods. The fact that she is a female entity gives her much in common with a number of other feminine divinities, such as Mazu.

Kwan-Yin, “like other Chinese Goddesses, does not belong to a celestial bureaucracy. Chinese female deities, whether of Buddhist, Taoist, or popular descent, usually bear no…resemblance to bureaucrats.” And “despite their non-bureaucratic characteristics, female deities occupy prominent positions in the pantheon of the popular religion.”  It appears that being a female comes with certain privileges, for her role “gives her the ability to act freely of any bureaucratic role, for she exists outside of that system. Personal requests are taken much more frequently to female deities in general.”

A surprisingly distinct similarity between this beloved bodhisattva and another female deity comes in the form of Mazu, a goddess worshipped in the eastern and southern coastal areas. Kwan-Yin, “incarnated as princess Miaoshan, refused to be wed despite her father’s explicit order. Mazu…likewise declined to marry.” Both died shortly thereafter, having been untainted and untamed by men. The stories of Miaoshan and Mazu are quite extraordinary, and highlight the common nature of each goddess. “Not only are they women, they are unfilial women. Thus…(they) represent a sharp departure from the Confucian world view, which considered filial piety a cardinal virtue.”  The significance of such is quite well articulated by Shahar when she says that, “these goddesses remind us of how much power lies outside politics, in the ability to recreate families and nurture children, but also to threaten male ideas of patrilineal unity.”

What sets Kwan-Yin apart from other goddesses, which is also due to her role as a bodhisattva, is her particular devotion to human beings, as well as sentient beings. Not only will she remain within the cycle of samsara for the benefit of all, but her role as a fertility deity enables her to grant boons which would be irrelevant in Buddhist eyes, such as sons, which are treasured in Chinese culture. Kwan-Yin is first and foremost a goddess of compassion, ready at any moment to succor the masses in their hour of need. Not unlike the Virgin Mary of the Christian pantheon, she is the eternal benefactor and proverbial virgin mother figure of humanity. Yet this role of helping humans does not apply to all female divinities, as is the case with the Queen Mother of the West.

When the new Taoism, or “The Way of the Celestial Masters” developed in China in the late fourth century C.E, it “claimed access to higher heavens and more exalted deities.” In this new system, the Queen Mother of the West held court on mythical Mount Kun-lun in the west, where she was served by immortals, who were stellar divinities, or perhaps female residents of the magical Kun-lun Mountain. As ruler, she is queen of the immortals, who are neither gods nor men. Her status as an immortal gives her a sense of independence in contrast to other gods, including Kwan-Yin. The Queen Mother has no duties to uphold to mankind, and can exist peacefully upon her mountain feasting upon her peaches of immortality. She has no need of humanity, unlike Kwan-Yin who needs mankind, if not for worship, to function as a bodhisattva.

The Queen Mother’s status as an immortal did not, however, keep mankind from calling upon her for help in attaining higher states of being. She became a key element in realizing immortality within the new Taoist framework.

The role of both Kwan-Yin and the Queen Mother in Chinese life is perhaps best illustrated in Journey to the West. Throughout the novel, Kwan-Yin acts on behalf of the Buddha as well as humanity in seeking out a scripture-bearer to fetch sutras from India. These Mahayanist texts “can carry the souls of the dead to Heaven, can save all those that are in trouble, can add immeasurably to life’s span, and can deliver those that trust in it from the comings and goings of incarnation.” This coupled with her readiness to administer forgiveness and penance to sinners serves to further her mission on Earth.

In contrast to the compassion of Kwan-Yin lies the relative disinterest of the Queen Mother, whose only main concern within the novel is hosting a peach banquet for the residents of Heaven. She sends fairy maidens to the peach gardens to harvest the fruit, and aside from that, only appears again to inform the Jade Emperor of Monkey’s misdeeds. Her main significance to humans seems to lie in her veneration within immortality cults, as she is seen as a granter of immortality to those who have sufficiently perfected themselves.

It is clear that Kwan-Yin’s unique evolution as well as her prominence in two separate religious systems grants her a position of significant interest from both a religious and anthropological perspective. Venerated as a path to salvation by Buddhists and implored for miracles and intercessions by Chinese people in general, she remains a rather uncommon blend of popular deity and bodhisattva. Her role as a female divinity likens her to other such feminine entities in her existence outside of the traditional bureaucratic model while she retains a sense of distinction in her mission upon Earth. Concerned first and foremost with alleviating suffering, countless millions, no matter what form she may take, feel her powerful presence.

 

 

Works Cited
Blofeld, John. Bodhisattva of Compassion. Boulder: Shambhala, 1978.
Lopez, Donald S. Religions of China in Practice. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.
Sangren, P. Steven. History and Magical Power in a Chinese Community. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1987.
Shahar, Meir and Robert P. Weller. Unruly Gods: Divinity and Society in China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996.
Wu Ch’eng-en. Monkey. New York: Grove Press, 1970.

A Year and a Day

A Year and a Day: No Way

In an ongoing effort to clear up some misconceptions within the wider eclectic Wiccan community, we’d like to describe the traditional idea of a year and a day which is traditionally used to describe the time spent as a seeker, before initiation. Before we get into describing time periods and the process of properly approaching the religion known as Wicca, we should begin by setting some definitions for words that we are about to use. If you are a frequent reader of this blog (which is impossible, because we hardly ever post here), you’ll notice that we’ve mentioned a time or ten that eclectic Wiccans and traditional Wiccans are all speaking English, but hardly ever mean the same thing when they use many words.

Seeker: n. One that seeks: a seeker of the truth.

The question that the above definition should prompt is: what truth is one seeking? Let’s assume, for the sake of this discussion (monologue, really), that one is seeking the modern religion of Wicca. How does one go about seeking out the truth of Wicca? Well, the normal response of many people would be, “Why not ask a Wiccan?” Unfortunately, not everyone is normal. In fact, when it comes to those interested in Wicca, normal is, well, abnormal.

An unfortunate response to this question would be “Wicca is something you find within yourself.” While that is at most partially true, we posit that the larger truth is that Wicca is something within which you find yourself. And not just after being initiated, because then you find yourself in a Wiccan coven. We mean that the practice of witchcraft that is espoused by Wicca should be serving that age old and ultimate of classical pagan maxims: Know Thyself.

We digress; what is seeking? What is the traditional manner in which one undergoes this idea of “a year and a day?”  Well, we hate to have to inform you (that’s a lie; we delight in it) that there is a word missing from this phrase. The true phrase is “At least a year and a day.” Do you see what we did there? We implied that there is a longer period of time in which people seek Wicca. We also indicated that this time has no set number, only that it lasts longer than a year.  The whole “and a day” part means more “one year minimum” and less “exactly 366 days.”

Let us tell you a story about the history of Wicca. Long, long ago when the sun was newly formed and the planet had burst into life, there was the 1960s. I know, I know, this was before most of you were born, and if you remember it, you’re nearing death every day (you’re nearing death every day if you don’t remember it too, it’s just one of those things involved in being alive). In this Jurassic or Cretaceous or whatever period referred to as the 1960s, the very first Wiccan, Raymond Buckland, came to the pinnacle of the western world, the-flower powered United States of America. (Don’t come at us right now CVW people. No one knows when you showed up or who you showed up as, so we’re claiming first dibs on North America.) The fashion was awful, the hair was huge, and in stark relation to the bunch of stuff we just made up, the truth is that once Uncle Bucky got here (before his big blue book, even), he set up a Wiccan coven, and it was the only Wiccan coven in the entire USA.

Now, we were not in Ray’s coven, not in the individual sense, so we don’t know how exactly it operated. But since we’re definitely downline from it and got the bulk of our practice from that coven and its subsequent daughter and granddaughter covens, we can speak with some extremely limited authority on how things generally went during its tenure in New York and its daughter coven’s tenure on Long Island, and their daughter covens all over the eastern and western United States.

Covens are made of people witches.  Wiccan covens are made of witches that are turned into Wiccans. What is the process of being turned into a Wiccan? Well, if you study hard and look for the right people, you may one day find out. But in this time of the 1960s and the 1970s, and hell, even today in the 2010s, people had to be brought into a coven. You don’t just show up accept the Goddess as your personal Lord and Savior in your heart and POOF, you’re a Wiccan and you get to come to our coven. Bringing people into the Craft is something that is never should never be undertaken lightly. You don’t just initiate anyone who walks slowly enough across your lawn. You’ll never get quality people that way. So there has to be a “getting to know you” period. Well, since people are all different, how can we determine a good time period for everyone to “get to know each other?”

We can do this by setting an open ended time period and giving it a minimum of a year and a day. And that is precisely what Wicca did. It espoused the idea that you never initiate anyone you haven’t known for at least a year. It was a sort of safety mechanism built in to keep covens from bringing in people they didn’t know well enough and to give the seeker enough time to get to know the coven and the coven enough time to get to know the seeker and for everyone to agree that it would be a good fit.

Sometimes it’s not a good fit. You may get along great with 4 out of 5 members of a coven, but for some reason that last person just rubs you the wrong way. That means you’re not a good fit for the coven. The coven is a group mind, a whole being, and if you don’t mesh with every part of it, there will be problems bringing you into that group mind. After a year, we like to think we’ll be able to adequately evaluate the whole situation and make a decision about initiation. Most people spend far more than a year and a day as a seeker. Some spend it as a dedicant to a coven, in an outer court. Some just happen to be longtime friends of the people running the coven and years later decide they’d like to take the plunge, and they get brought in. In this case, there’s been a long time for everyone to get to know each other and the decision can be made quite easily.

So where did this idea come from that a year and a day is exactly the amount of time it takes to become a Wiccan? Who spawned this idea that dedication is a thing where you spend a year and a day dedicated to studying Wicca by yourself? People. That’s who. People who didn’t know that the year and a day was a mechanism specific to covens and seekers evaluating each other.  If you lived in rural Louisiana in the 1970s and read about Wicca in newspapers and magazines and wanted to become one, you would have needed to spend a lot of money traveling to New York or California or Kentucky (or Boston, because Alexandrians are Wiccans too), because that was where most of the Wiccans were at that point.

If that was not an option, as it likely wasn’t, then what was one to do? Well, easy! One could just decide that a year and a day is a great way to show dedication and prove that one is a Wiccan, because one read it on the internet. In the 70s.  Makes total sense. This idea, in truth, didn’t really arise until the advent of the internet, when Wicca was written about widely both in print and online, and funneled out for mass consumption by organizations like the Llewellyn publishing house.

Much like the concept that the Book of Shadows is every witch’s personal grimoire and not the name Gardner gave to his working grimoire which held the rites of the Gods of the Wica that was handed down to his initiates, those outside of Wicca who desired entry but could not attain it (for many very legitimate, understandable, and not-their-fault reasons) decided to lift and switch another facet of our craft to suit their needs, which was entry into the cult from the outside, with no assistance or contact with actual priests of the religion.

Presently, one can find an endless array of misinformed people telling each other that a year and a day is everything from the proper solitary dedication period to how long one needs to wear white in order to start a Wiccan coven to the Nigerian Orisa Yemaya. Some appropriations of it are more obviously ludicrous than others. The fact remains though, and the point of this article, is that a year and a day is a minimum, not a solid number of semesters after which one gets a degree. If you really wish to seek entry into the Craft of the Wise (that’s fancy talk for Wicca), you should expect to spend more than just that minimum getting to know you period in forming what will ideally become a lifelong connection to your potential spiritual family and magical current.

Questions? Comments? Rants? Grammar Nazi crackdowns? Leave us a comment, and make it interesting.

*BB*

Gardnerian(s)