Saturday, July 23, 2011

DEJA BROOM: Switching Sides...Babies and Bath Water

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

Another misconception worth exploding --- the idea that if you want to make the leap from practicing witchcraft as an eclectic practitioner and want to explore the rigors of undergoing traditional style practice, your prior experiences are worthless. That is wholly inaccurate.

It would be incorrect to say that you deserve "automatically get credit for time served" in, the idea that you should be instantly promoted to third degree in the trad's framework just because you were the leader of an eclectic coven or have had X number of years of solitary or online self-study.

It would also be incorrect to say that everything you've learned to date gets tossed out completely because you aren't considered up to snuff to traditionalists' eyes. It isn't a judgment being passed here.

When switching over from the eclectic witchcraft camp to undergo traditionalist Wicca training, you do not have to discount or discredit or otherwise give up any of your previous study endeavors. Your previous study is not without merit.

I'm here to tell you that I was a fine eclectic practitioner and competent witch for 20+ years before I decided to study with and eventually become elevated within a Gardnerian group. At no time during or since my "graduation" to autonomous high priestesshood as a Gard, was I ever told that I needed to relinquish my previous experiences outside the world of my Gard pathworking.

What is correct and I was told ---and there is much wisdom if not really painful humility in this--- was that I needed to let go of whatever I assumed I knew about what Gard-style witchery was and to put aside my ego built up by my prior eclectic work in order to be open to starting from square one while unlearning and relearning a few things as a Gard path student. The only way I could really let those lessons reach me was to put aside my personal affectations and unfounded expectations associated with my prior eclectic work and come at this Trad version as a newbie.

What I found most surprising about doing this was that only when I let go of my preconceptions about what I'd believed things aught to be and stopped interrupting my teachers to decry "how in my old group we did things like so-and-so"...that's when the epiphanies started to breakthrough for me. When I instead experienced the new trad stuff with the fresh perspective of someone who set aside, temporarily, my prior impressions of the rites and exercises....only then was I really able to get to the core of them in the way that my trad was trying to teach me.

I had to let go and stop trying to steer and justify everything in accordance to my eclectic mindset and trust that by looking at things from the basics all over again, I would be open to seeing things I'd missed or at least being open to different trad-style perspectives because I wasn't already so full of ideas that didn't apply to this new trad pathwork I was trying to grok.

Like the Karate Kid movie.....I had to start my (re-)training by learning to "paint the fence" and "wax the car" before I could reach the right headspace to fully integrate the Mysteries as a Gard as opposed to an eclectic. I had to come empty in order to get filled. And that is why after my initiation and each subsequent elevation within my trad work has been so meaningful. Whereas before I had gone through the motions, had recited portions of the same didn't hold as much meaning nor expose me to the depths of understanding and relating to the Mysteries until I learned to do it the 'proper' way, the way this stuff was originally designed and intended to be passed.

The really amazing thing was that my prior eclectic study wasn't discounted or worthless in my coming to understandings in the trad system either.

Some of it did "translate" and was of great help to me when latching onto ideas faster....even if the building blocks were arranged differently in the trad world views. Ideas and concepts that I knew one way in eclectic-speak, meant something different or slightly off-what-I'd-previously-believed-was-center in the trad-speak.

It was like becoming someone who was multi-lingual....some words were the same in both languages, some had similar root etymology but now had different prefixes and suffixes that altered them a bit and some words were completely new identities for the same objects.

I just had to shift my brain around amongst different company to be sure that I was communicating properly and to the fullest extend of the meanings I was now trying to convey to folks.

So, yeah, I hate it when folks say "Trads do the FORMAL training and the Eclectics do the INFORMAL slap-dash." That's not accurately describing either one, in my opinion. And frankly, it sounds demeaning to both path styles. They are really two different systems entirely, even if they did somewhat come from a common root source.

This continued fighting over which one is more dominant, more preeminent; more right is such a waste of time. They both work, but they are both very different breeds of witch. It is just that simple.

DEJA BROOM: Saying "Tradition" when you mean "Denomination"

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem.

Let's have a vocabulary lesson here, shall we?  There's a difference between calling something a denomination and calling it a tradition. Nowadays, people tend to confuse those words or attempt to use them synonymously.

Which is why you'll hear more than a few snickers from the older generation of pagans (those older than say 40 yrs) when  newbie folks announce to all and sundry your shiny-happy intentions to "create my own tradition."
Whenever someone creates a system anew and practices their own formula for witchery, they have in fact built a new denomination, not a tradition.

Something only becomes a tradition once there is a provenance of material and practice which can be tracked over time and through several generations of progeny (literally generations within a family-like setting, or like an upline/downline system) all sharing in the same unique formulaic practices.

As such the members of the same tradition all agree to certain parameters about what defines their trad. This they mindfully share with others who also adopt it, exactly as passed, and continue to follow it, intact in orthopraxy and methodology, if not also in written/oral/demonstrative lore and material.

Here's an example:

Let's say that you always wear a blue shirt on Tuesdays and that might be YOUR unique thing.If you find others who also like the Tuesday blue-shirt say you teach your kids to do it and they carry on the practice every Tuesday and then teach their kids, your grandkids to do it....then you'd all be a part of a blue-shirt-Tuesday-tradition.

Notice that the key points that are hallmarks to the path have been kept intact: the "blue shirt" AND the specific day "Tuesday" as day of the week. The material is the same, as is the practice of applying it and teaching it to others in the same way.

If however let's say you do it on Tuesdays but your kids decide to rebel a bit and each chooses a different day of the to wear their blue shirts instead. Does this mean they are still related to you in the tradition? The answer is no.

While they could be said to be tangentially related to you under the wider umbrella of "blue-shirt-wearing" as a denomination or sect of society who likes blue shirts on a weekly basis, but they would no longer be, by definition, carrying on your Tuesday-based tradition because they've deviated from your starting point, in this case, your chosen day of the week as Tuesday. They aren't technically carrying on your idea exactly as passed.  Get it?

Ah, but for some all this talk of tradition or denomination is just semantics anyway.  Some folks don't care about following a pre-existing path and instead prefer to carve out their own way entirely.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter WHAT KIND of witch you are...only that you are living this path the way you best see fit and it works for you, and you don't snatch others labelling systems when they don't apply to you.

DEJA BROOM: Humility, a state of grace

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

I really don't understand where this concept of working through a traditional, degree-based system has been misconstrued by some as a pecking order indulgence, as if the sole purpose of having the hierarchy is to establish a one-way track toward declarative, ego inflation.
Well, I'm here to tell you, that just hasn't been my experience of things at all.

In fact, progressing through the various levels of teaching and mastery of practice, working of oral and written lore and the like....well I have found that further one progresses into working within the constrains of an established tradition, the more the system calls upon you to let go of your ego. Certainly not to offer bragging rights or give you reason to feel inflated.

Heck, my coven sis and I used to joke with our HP and HPS: "Hey, I thought this was called 'elevation' why do I feel like my life is going to hell?!"
Well, it is that old adage coming into play: "The more you learn, the less you realize you know and the more you have yet to learn." So it was with my personal experience of things that progress I charted at each level of each degree only led me to know that there was more undiscovered territory that I had to become acquainted with. It is ongoing, lifelong...heck, several lives long if you think about it...and continues to be a remarkable the way toward being exposed more deeply and openly to deity. Truly, ego smashing stuff.
Nothing confronts you more intensely than these ongoing lessons which drive the responsibility and desire to grow further and further home into your soul and cranium.
Each encounter makes me well up from the core of my very being, to nearly cry out to the power of All That Is and say, "I don't know yet" and "I don't quite understand," and leaves me begging for insight and sometimes for mercy, until the Lord and Lady guide and direct me ---sometimes forcibly--- to confront head on those situations that would help me grok, whatever it was They wanted me to register and fix in my life.
The Gods have a funny way of making you repeat your lessons...with ever-increasing intensity... until you finally let go of your preconceptions and self-indulgent thinking and just let go and let the messages wash over you. Hence the oft mentioned "clue-by-four" to the head you may hear tales of.
Trust me when I say there is nothing less of an "all mighty and powerful OZ" moment than that. It is very much a humbling experience, the antithesis of self-aggrandizing.
But what is miraculous about it at the same time is that even in the midst of your suffering to learn, you know that you are loved.
You are channel, vessel, priest/ess....yes, but you are also one of Their hidden children. What makes it special is that you have come into this path willingly, and as such are mindful of what is transpiring, aware of the process as it washes over and through you, your covenmates, and your connections on the warp and weft of the skein of all life. This, to me, is what makes a witch's relationship with deity so very intimate and personal, even as it is connected to what is universal. It is both microcosm and macrocosm, both omnipresent and immanent.
I am S/He as you are S/He and you are me and we are all together.....

And just when you feel most overwhelmed by it all, just when the solemnity and magnitude of discovering and coming to a more profound understanding of one's place in the strands of existence, of birth-death-rebirth...that is precisely when something humorous shatters through and breaks forth in an explosion of joy, of childlike wonder and ecstasy.
You find yourself laughing, expressing the whole gamut of human frailty and generosity in song, in dance, in the pure, unadulterated outpouring of love. Agape, philia and eros surge and abound as the creative comes out of the void and renews everything.
At all times, this experience of being at the epicenter and event horizon is greater than the sum of our human capacity. You cannot be belittle or reduce it with the mere flattery of your own ego ---you as but one practitioner, as if you alone are capable of exhibiting this great work of the Gods.
You are simply one man or woman as vehicle for Them acting in corporeal form. The trick to being an oracle is that one cannot be "home" when it happens. Learning to do this, to be a channel is an honor, yes. And it is fearful and blessed to be able to learn to do so. Yet at no time can anyone who has experienced this say that it is something which they themselves own or control.
It requires the distinct lack of ego, pretense and vanity, in order for it to be possible. Bragging is so not what this is about, especially since it is not even you, but Them, at the helm.

Which is also why, as a teacher of the version of the Craft I was taught, I would pass this great gift of knowledge, of material and experience and the safe space to come to understandings at one's own pace in due time through step-by-incremental-step revelation....I do this with humility.  Again, my role is as a vessel through which the understandings pass to the new practitioner.  It is not me, my ego, who bestows.  It is not me who gives that person "birth into the Craft."   Rather I am merely an access point that the Gods might use as a conduit, to help that acolyte get the tools they need in order to reach their own epiphanies and connections to the Mysteries.

I, me, the person who I am, is essentially unimportant to the transmission, other than I've been trained as a facilitator, a midwife for the experience of someone else.  I am the "training wheels" the acolyte uses for awhile until they learn the necessary techniques by which they too may make connection and communion with deity on their own.....and later, be taught, in turn, how to aid the next generation in achieving this remarkable work.

Being a priestess is absolutely NOT about me.  Being a teacher is absolutely NOT about me.  Being a keeper of my tradition's material is absolutely NOT about me.  I have been entrusted with a task, a part to play, and I am privileged to have been able to come into this task because of my training and with the assistance of, and great patience shown by, my teachers. 
I don't own anything that I hold.  I am its custodian.  Entrusted with its care and asked to ensure its continued existence and safe passage on to others.  It is an honor.....and I with grace, love and humility shall I wield it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

DEJA BROOM: Why I chose Traditionalism over Eclecticism

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem


I was recently asked to explain why, after more than 20 years as an eclectic witch, I'd decided to pursue the path of a specific tradition.

The inquiry came from a relative newcomer to the world of witchcraft, one who thought that one of the "goals" of paganism as a religious outlet was to do away with specific ritual patterns and lineaged teachings. Wasn't there more freedom to be had in cherry-picking your way through the ample lists of deities and ad hoc rituals? Surely sampling many spiritual cuisines is a better way to taste the universal nature of it all, right?

Well, in my own experience, I had found I am personally better able to understand concepts when looking at them in isolation rather than in global immersion...that greater depth speaks to me in ways that greater breadth does not.

I find clarity in working from a place of constants. Having some things as given, stable, allows me to be more creative and inventive in chosing which aspects to vary from. This improves my understanding of how my small changes to these constants will effect the usual and predictable results. It shows me the potential. And in a focused view, like a hypothesis in an experiement, it teaches me how directly my manipulations have changed the anticipated outcomes.

So if my ultimate goal is learning how to go about 'changing consciousness in accordance with will,' and in this case MY WILL, then I am the type who likes to make sure I've covered as many bases as possible before I go messing around with any of the variables.

Perhaps, as I told this seeker, I am just more inclined to dance with the devils I know than those I do not. This little cosmic clue-by-four to the head had led me to move in favor of a more structured practice over the years....and this is what I was trying to explain to this person about how I had come to be a traditionalist after my past stint on the great eclectic learning curve.

In tradition, I don't see limitations...I see differentiation.
To expand the idea of what a "universal truth" is by investigating it through a distinct separate subset cultivated through individual experience. Experiences are wrought by circumstance, environment, and interaction with others both with a like mind and with alternate opinions. Conflict itself is not unhealthy so long as it is productive to expanding the understanding of “universal truth.”

In tradition, I don't see separatism....I see diversity.
Differences are what cause, and sometimes result from, evolution. Fostering growth in new directions, bringing needed changes when ideas, politics and patterns have become stagnant. Pockets of people who are unified by their similar characteristics and shared beliefs may contribute alternate understandings of what was thought a “universal truth” enough to shift a paradigm and completely change it.

In tradition, I don't see delineation....I see discernment.
I see filtering a wider spectrum of choices to allow a more quantifiable interpretation of "universal truth" on a smaller, more understandable scale. Through applying one's own unique perspective of experiential reality, it becomes easier to more readily embrace concepts which were far too large to be comprehended fully through absolutism.

In tradition, I don't see restriction…I see simplification.
Because it is human (and animal) nature to simplify. As sensory input is measured, calculated and compared to the subset of prior knowledge and experience. The search for recognition of a previous pattern, the firing of synapse sequences toward a familiar perception is what drives our responses. It is the unconscious will of survival kicking in to quickly interpret a stimulus and to evaluate it so as to provide the mind, body and soul with the best possible response and reaction. Survival is all about simplicity.

In tradition, I don't see working in a controlled environment as being close-minded toward others....I see it as knowing one's self first.
I truly believe that one must embrace the self in order to relate openly and from the core with others. In starting with what an individual knows as his/her truths, one can come to terms with how everything is defined in his/her reality. Before expanding into the obtuse nature of "universal truth,” it should be understood how what is already known will alter one’s perceptions and will color one's experiences about how we perceive things as we are moving toward the unknowable. And the unknowable includes the interior of another person's head and heart.

From the place of microcosm, I can comprehend the macrocosm. The notion of Perfect Love and Perfect Trust is more real to me here. This is how I understand the eccumenical nature of Nature.

But do not confuse my leanings toward traditionalism to denote a lack of respect for those who favor eclecticism. I certainly do not begrudge people who are indeed capable of mentally dealing with a larger scope of mind-boggling minutia than I am. In fact, I applaud them for their capacity and strength of ego to withstand the long-term effects of juggling so many sources of wisdom simultaneously. If they are talented enough to compartmentalize and appreciate that level of detail and know the provenance of each bit, more power to 'em!

Over time, I just became aware that I am not similarly gifted. That is not a bad thing. Just recognizing it as being a difference that is a hallmark that distinguishes a lot of those who appreciate a "traddie mindset."

And it is this difference which drives me toward being responsible for my own tiny blip on the timeline of human evolution. I feel a sense of desperation to remain mindful about what I can and cannot push my brain to truly comprehend and grok. For only when I am that awake and participating that fully, can I be responsible for myself and all that I engage in. Only by such steadfastness can I hope to reach the next epiphany.

This is how I suffer to learn... You, on the other hand, might be different.

Therefore, when I do earn a particular kernel of knowledge and take it inside my core, I can feel comfortable and confident enough with it to use the hard won understanding with rest of the ol' Witches Pyramid. This helps me to navigate my way around this world....and any other world (or is that Otherworld?!) that I may encounter.

Educated exploration...thoughtful tinkering...conscientious conviction...willful and deliberate Witchery.

This is what I have found as I have been traversing my way within the disciplines of my tradition....and what I did not find during my experiences with eclecticism.

Your experiences may ---and should!--- vary.

DEJA BROOM: Gerald Gardner, the man and the myth

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

The idea that he made the whole thing up is completely and utterly false. What he himself purported to be was a revivalist of an insular British cult/religion that he was initiated into and didn't wish to see die out in his homeland, and later wanted to see spread elsewhere in the world because he found it so enriching and valuable. I also did not say Gardnerians have proof of Wicca as we know it today being around before the advent of Christianity ---- what I said was that Wicca, or at least the progenitor to what most folks today think of Wicca, pre-dates Gerald Gardner if only because there is evidence that Gerald himself was initiated into something which existed before he came along.

Here's another funny aside....can anyone on here even tell me how "Gardnerians" got their name? It wasn't because Gerald called it that. In all actuality, the epitaph started out as one of derision bestowed by a different variety of traditionalist witch from within the UK (Robert Cochran aka Roy Bowers), who used it to distinguish his own way of practice from Gardner' in "Oh, you must be one of those....GARDNERIANS!" rather than a witch practitioner of a his tradition, another family tradition of insular British origin. It is also interesting to note that Gardner himself, and his first several priestesses (a few of which you may know from their biographical books) didn't call themselves Gardnerians, they called themselves, simply, witches.

Most non-initiates are probably not going to like or be satisfied with my answer, but I can only tell you that there is proof, written proof, available, but it is presently only accessible by initiates of our tradition. There was indeed an old Dorothy. There was indeed a group/coven into which Gardner was initiated. There was indeed a set of written and oral materials which he was passed when he became a member of that coven.

Was there a lot of written material? As I've said before, no there wasn't. And this was why Gardner was afraid that as the older members of the tradition were dying off, he feared their ways would go into the grave with them. To reiterate what I said earlier, Gardner took the skeletal framework he had been given, and with the permission of those from whom he studied, he began to add pieces from other occult resources in order to flesh things out into a more viable practice that could be taught to and shared with others. Gardner's oft-quoted goal was to ensure the survival of the Craft, a religion which in the context of his times, he felt was endangered. Once the laws against witchcraft in England were repealed, Gardner sought to promote the ways he was taught to others to encourage the spread of the Craft.

Along the way, that initial framework he had was added to with the intent to make it more viable and attractive along side the occult learning of the day. Yes, there is some ceremonial magic in there, some borrowings from Charles Leland, from Robert Frost, from W. B. Yeats, from Dion Fortune, from Margaret Murray, from Aleister Crowley, Doreen Valiente, and others. But these are additions, not alterations. That idea, to add but never subtract or alter, is a hallmark of many traditionalists.

As for the Laws, those are a whole other matter and not one I would respectfully prefer to discuss. Matters concerning their origin and application are, to me, something I hold sacred and oathbound, despite what may or may not be said about them elsewhere.

Finally, to speak of "the Old Religion" my opinion, there is no evidence to say that the orthopraxy we use today was delivered to us in an unbroken chain since time immemorial. I prefer to think that the phrase is actually a euphemism, one alluding to the concepts of deity being something which is nameless, timeless; unknowable through our human capacity except as it is referenced through the immanent lifecycle of nature.

We call it a religion because we hold reverence for it. We call it old because its cyclical nature of birth-life-love-death-rebirth is the experience we can see, taste, touch, hear and smell, veritably witness and participate in first-hand for ourselves.

Ritual is simply a repetitive way of honoring and enacting those moments of epiphany so that we remember them and, hopefully, ingrain them into our subconscious, perhaps our universal consciousness.

By whatever means that makes sense to you, to the next person or to Gerald Gardner, makes difference only to those who chose to perform those acts. Those who elect to use the skeleton which Gardner had been given and further supplemented, we do not look to him as some demi-god or guru. He isn't thought of as our "pope" or some infallible dignitary. He was a man like any other man...but a man who was passionate in his goal of reviving something he perceived as lost and propagating it through a specific means so as to keep the integrity of the material he was passed by his initiators.

The in today's world, a person seeking to participate in witchcraft has the option to choose to go the route of immersing themselves in Gardnerian or one of several other lineaged trads. Or they can just as easily come up with their own recipe for achieving results which are meaningful to them. There is no value judgment to the path, just different paths to similar goals.
You know,  when speaking with newcomers to the Craft, I find it remarkable that one would whole-heartedly side with Scott Cunningham's view of how modern witchery should be and yet emphatically deny everything about Gardner's contributions. Got a newsflash for you, Scott wasn't a "pagan saint" either.

Mr. Cunningham's own "lineage" per se has some underpinnings of information which derived from British Traditional Witchcraft and it is from those connections where he'd borrowed some of his ideas, repackaged them and gave to them in a watered down version the masses in an effort to make witchcraft more accessible to those who couldn't locate a coven to train with.

These concepts of "you too can be a witch if you subscribe to the minimalist view, the least common denominator" I don't think he'd meant to extrapolate into a DIY-witchcraft worldview, but it has become so today and even traditionalist folks acknowledge that this new strain is a mostly healthy derivation which ensures that the Craft as a whole thrives.

Now before you go getting your collective panties in a twist, I am emphatically NOT saying that you have to be a properly initiated traditionalist of whatever variety to be a proper witch.

I certainly think eclecticism is as valid and viable path as is anyone who participates in a format which is Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Roebuck, CVW, Georgian, BlueStar, MacFarland Dianic, Kingstone, Mohsian, Georgian, Minoan Brotherhood/Sisterhood or what have you.

*Heck, did you even know that there were other branches in the traditionalist family tree beyond Gerald's and Alex's?*

Anyway, back on point with another newsflash. Gardner never claimed to have created anything. What Gardner was passed by his initiators --- and yes, Virginia, Gardner had initiators, he did NOT invent this thing called "Wicca" --- was a skeletal system of beliefs, practices and rituals.

Like other burgeoning occultists of his time, Gardner had often sought out and traded information with other practitioners, using his best judgment to reconcile the information he gleaned to from others against any then-known historic evidence in order to corroborate and supplement the set of practices, rites and ideas he had been given to work with. He did this to fill in the gaps of what he'd been given, not to create something which never before existed.

This was not any mindless grabbing of whatever came across Gardner's path, as some of the more fluffy/less educated variety of eclectics do today. No sir! Gardner took vast amounts of reference notes, had intellectual dialogs in person with other occult contemporaries and wrote many, many letters to others not within his immediate scope of travel. Most of these letters are not available or currently accessible to the general pagan populace, but as a Gardnerian initiate myself, I can only assure you they do exist. They are oathbound materials which pertain to our ways of doing things and are therefore, not something which should be of great concern to those outside our tradition.

Gardner is NOT the founder of Wicca. 

DEJA BROOM: The Myth of Self-Initiation

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem!

Call me a stickler for semantics here, but "self-initiation" is an oxymoron, a misnomer.

You can perform a DEDICATION ceremony by yourself, which would be to acknowledge to the Gods your desire to align yourself to the path or to become a self-acknowledged priest of a certain deity or deities.

However, an INITIATION refers to the beginning an endeavor with others, being taken into the fold of an existing brotherhood or sect and to be adopted by those who are already members. That, obviously, takes other is, by its very nature, not a solo act.

That said, a Dedicant may well be just as proper as any Initiate for the tasks of witchery, but a dedicant would most likely be an eclectic practitioner, one who follows his or her own course of study. Whereas an initiate would be beholden to the methods and practices of the group/tradition/brotherhood to which he or she has now joined.*

Just as one cannot bestow knighthood on ones self....but one may yet be and act in accordance of chivalry just as virtuously as any knight. It all depends upon the style of road you wish to travel.

If you prefer eclecticism, then dedication is probably the best way to go. If dedication satisfies you in what you hope to accomplish in your eclectic practices, then own it and let it stand. Nobody can make you doubt who and what you are. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

If however, you want to espouse what a particular traditional path does, then you must seek out a mentor of that tradition who will agree to sponsor and train you as one of their own. You have to participate in that path by immersing yourself in it. They have an established and prescribed method of training, a unique orthopraxy and a given set of materials ---- and materials is not limited to just written, but also oral and demonstrative lore. Logic therefore dictates that it is impossible to initiate yourself because you cannot already know those materials if you are an outsider. You cannot bring yourself into something which you are not already a part of.

It is a chicken or egg sort of thing really.

But eclectic folks tend to get all upset about this "dedication is different from initiation" idea.

If they'd actually stop with the immediate screaming jump to defensive stance, and instead just shut up and actually listen to or read what non-eclectic folks have to say instead of assuming things we didn't, they would see that we are in agreement with them about not needing to be in a coven to be a witch --- that one may indeed dedicate one's self to the Gods and become a perfectly respectable, valid, witch.

What is important here is that someone who dedicates is just as legit as someone who has been initiated. They are just two different ways, two separate means to achieve roughly the same goals of communing with deity.

*And for the record, if your family is already practicing together in a family-held witchcraft tradition and you've been participating in family rites since you were knee-high to a grasshopper, then initiation, per se, is not required. You are already part-and-parcel with your family and thus it would be redundant to seek out "adoption into the brotherhood" to sanctify what already exists. You're sort of a built-in Initiate.

DEJA BROOM: The Space Between - my interp of the trad/eclectic divide

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem!

This is my understanding of the origination of eclecticism, which was indeed born of traditional ways. It is also my interpretation of how the schism between trad v. eclectic forms of witchcraft came about.

So here's a bit of the ugly truth about the growth of Wicca in the US....historical fact, if you care to look this up by reading something other than what is available on the internet.....there was a time in history (like before the mid-1980's) when the only known way to become a witch or wiccan was to be initiated by someone who already was one or by being born into a family who practiced amongst themselves. That was the original way the Craft was intended to be passed too, by being kept within families or by being carefully meted out by people who could vouch for one another.

More of the ugly truth is that some people who were initiates or fam trads started to see that "outsiders" (non-family or non-initiates) were clamouring for information and some began to spread things around to them. Not the whole kit-and-kabadoole mind you, just parcels of information and more generalized versions of rituals, just enough to whet their appetities. Those witches who were around back in the early days can corraborate my statements or you can go look it up in newspaper articles, interviews, occult magazines and books dating from this time period.

Once intrigued enough by the "samples" they'd been given, the outsider folks did one of two things, they either attempted to gain entrance in an existing coven in order to get the rest of the materials or they used the piecemeal and generic stuff they got thus far and began to build something of their own by attrition. Some went as far as publishing books of their own, making claims that what they'd put together without going through the whole coven schpiel was just as good and valuable. And hey, if it worked, who is to say they're wrong?

Yet more ugly this point, the trad folks and family folks with long-standing ways were getting pretty pissed off. Who were these newcomers with piecemeal info to say that what they had was equivolent to what the trads and family types had? How dare they co-opt parts of our stuff and the names of our stuff and say they're the same thing? Poseurs! Pretenders to the throne! blah-de-blah-de-blah blah!

Some of the trad folks looked at these wiley outsiders and thought, hey, they do have some great ideas and maybe they'll think I'm a hero if I share some more with them. These were the oathbreakers, the people who have been said to give too much away to the new upstarts. They were the ones who said, "oh heck why can't we all just get along and call it all the same stuff?" ---- some family and trad folks agreed, others were vehemently opposed.

But the ravenous desire for more info continued, and as long as there was a market (and $ to be had) there was someone on the new upstart side willing to publish, to print, to hold open public events to get more attention and spread the word that anybody could be a witch!

How dare they! *grin*

So flash forward to about a decade ago, the early 1990s and the advent of the internet. The traditionalists and the family trads have become outnumbered and overrun by the eclectic folks, who have in turn started bashing them for being elitist and close-minded and stagnant, sticking to their old, closed-door ways and keeping their secrets to this day.

A firm line had been drawn between the factions and some traditionalists had decided that it was better when they remained in hiding, kept to themselves and just tried to ignore what the eclectics were doing. The divide kept widening, both sides demanding that each one had the right to do whatever it was they did and the other one had to just deal.

The not-so-ugly truth today, in my opinion, is that most folks are willing to acknowledge that both forms of witchery are viable in their own right and also important. The diversity has helped each side evolve and hopefully most folks are willing to have a dialog about the commonalities we share without becoming hostile. We can agree to disagree on things, and I believe that this is good for the continuance of the Craft as a whole.

After all, like it or not, we do both come from the same roots.