Thursday, June 16, 2011

Blessings from the smiling, yet oft Salmon-bruised

This enumerated list has been born of my own experiences as a seeker, and eventual initiate, of British Traditional Wicca. Having done many a tango, waltz and mosh-pit dance with the Salmon of Knowledge while seeking BTW, I hereby bequeath these bits o' personal wisdom to fellow seekers as they carefully navigate the BTW learning curve toward finding a suitable coven to study with. Enjoy!

1. Be not afraid to ask questions…but also be not afraid to let go of your preconceived notions about how such questions should be answered! There is a Salmonic proportion to this method of learning by which the sooner you open yourself up to simply listening rather than debating or defending your every comment, the sooner you will find yourself moving into Properly Prepared Personhood.

2. "It is better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt." As a seeker about to voice his/her opinions about the origins of the Wica, the definitions or practices of British Traditional Witchcraft or just how "traditionalists are fuddy-duddies about there being any oathbound anything because it is all in books by now anyway," may I direct you to deeper contemplation of the inherent Salmonic wisdom in this old amorphism. Pontificating about things with which you do not have direct affiliation or knowledge about can only lead to multiple fish-slaps (emailed or otherwise) from those who do practice and espouse these matters.

3. Direct, experiential learning is a far greater teacher than book-learning or distance learning via computer. While books may offer food for though regarding their author's thoughts, perceptions and personal adventures, those who are destined to be of the Wica come to know that there is no such thing as an arm-chair witch. Furthermore, many websites accessible to the internet masses contain author opinions, misconceptions, biases and sometimes downright falsehoods. As a seeker, it is well-nigh impossible for you to be absolutely certain that what you are reading is fact, fiction or somewhere between. The simple truth is you will learn more by `walking your talk' than by reciting rote passages from any text or by following a spell like a recipe. And in BTW parlance, that experience and exposure to Wica and its Mysteries is only taught by someone who was properly trained in a particular path. Books can surely supplement this training, but they are certainly not a substitution for it.

4. You cannot demand respect from others, but you are certainly able to earn it. Boasting about who or what you know will gain you neither access to oathbound material nor endear you to others. What will speak volumes in your behalf is clear, insightful commentary and questioning, coupled with a healthy consideration for others. Knowing when to apply "honor and humility, mirth and reverence" at the appropriate times also helps.

5. The word `Wica' (or `Wicca') as used among BTW folks is not a generic umbrella term; it holds a very precise, specific meaning in BTW parlance. Seekers should beaware that initiates of BTW do not subscribe to the idea that `Wicca is whatever you want to make it.' We feel that this word has been misused in popular culture of late to become a catch-all phrase, when in fact the original meaning relates to a very specific system of beliefs, practices and teachings carried on by a verifiable lineage of people. Be aware that as a seeker, you will have to remain mindful and judicious in your word usage in this way and not assume the one used by pop culture.

6. Seekers should be aware that there are many traditions considered to be BTW, not only the Alexandrians and Gardnerians. Now this one can be a bit of a sticky-wicket as to which traditions are aligned under the BTW umbrella, but when in doubt, ask! The general rule of thumb is that the tradition must have roots of traceable lineage which reach back to the New Forest area of England.

7. Lineage is important to BTW folks, not to lord it over others, but as a means to identify the origins of a claimant's particular knowledge base and practices. BTW folks do not think that people who practice eclectic witchcraft are lesser, only that what they do and what BTW's do are not one and the same thing ---regardless of whatever source material the eclectic folk may use in their practice (including info from texts written by BTW folks). To BTW's, lineage holds great meaning and validity. One's lineage implies an understanding about the bearer's knowledge base and how the Mysteries have been transmitted or made accessible to them by a set of particular practices, teachings and methods of being revealed by a similarly-trained lineage teacher. The different lines within a given trad further distinguish by their association, often in subtle nuances which have been extrapolated, as they relate to a particular up-line's practice. Important note: Lineaged folks keep careful records. With this they can vouch for the validity of claimants saying they are of their tradition or their line. While BTWs won't "out" each other publicly, they do have means to confirm or deny whether a person or group is of their line/trad. This vouch procedure, also called vetting, is usually done backchannel/offlist, when an interested party needs to verify a claimant --- for example, when I seeker has met an individual offering them BTW training and they want to make sure the teacher is legit. However, BTW's most definitely will step forward to "out" folks who claim false lineage; those humorously referred to as the dreaded "Fraudernarians" and "Alexandrianots."

8. Seekers should be prepared to seek for some time before they find a "good home." Don't be discouraged when you do not instantly find an open coven in hiding in your backyard after posting your request for a teacher. Give folks the time to get toknow a bit about you, to see how you respond to discussions and what questions you ask. As a seeker, no one is going to bonk you on the head with the Salmon of Wisdom and drag you off to their covenstead just because you've said you're available as a student. Once you've put it out there that you're looking and what your interests are along with your general geographic locale, do not think it is time to just siton your laurels! Continue to do private solo work. Be out in nature, talk with the Gods, meditate, read mythology and anthropology…and yes, even the occasional occult book or three. Listen! Listen! Listen and actively seek! And be prepared that you may have to arrange some priorities in your life to get yourself ready for serious study. Is your mundane life in order? Do you have the time to devote to many years of study with a group, often having to travel some distance or attend gatherings several times amonth? Is there room in your life to be a disciplined priest or priestess ofthe Gods and not a flexible, eclectic hedge-witch?

9. Define what you are seeking about BTW and know why you are seeking it. Try writing out your definition/description of exactly what you would consider your ideal coven situation. Really contemplate that for awhile. As a seeker, you should figure out just what you want from your future coven, what you have to offer them in return and how willing you would be to make changes in your life to get this to happen. In some cases, that last part is the toughest challenge. Once you have a game plan like this for yourself, you may be surprised how quickly the opportunities start to appear on the horizon.

10. Be aware that while you may be drawn to practice witchcraft, not everyone is meant to follow a BTW path. Being interested in the lore alone is not enough. Being attuned to the energy alone is not enough. Being willing to do all the work involved, to face your demons on the threshold and actively participate in your growth, along with these other things, is the key. Personal responsibility is essential. Dedication, determination, discipline…these are characteristics of someone with BTW potential. Know that it is not a personal failing in any way if you are not cut out for the rigors of a Traditional path or if your life at this stage doesn't support your efforts to devote to such an endeavor. Not everyone that loves animals can be a veterinarian. Not everyone who loves air travel can become a pilot. And not everyone who connects to the Old Gods is meant to be of the Wica. Some are better suited for themselves and the Gods to be an eclectic witch. Some make better folk artisans and poets. Some just quietly live how they live and do not need take it to the level of attaining priesthood. At the end of the day, just be who you are, who you are meant to be.

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