Thursday, August 16, 2012

Deja Broom: "So you want to be a Gardnerian?"

"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, skip this repeat and await more modern mayhem.

So you want to be Gardnerian?

If you are seeking to become a Gardnerian witch, the only way to do so is to become an initiate through a vetted, properly lineaged Gardnerian group. That is not to say you cannot be a perfectly wonderful witch of an eclectic stripe, but being a part of the Gardnerian tradition, or any lineaged tradition for that matter, denotes some very specific things.

Gardnerians are one of the various types of British Traditional Wica (BTW), that is to say one witchcraft variants whose origins stem from the New Forest area of the UK. Other BTW groups may include Alexandrian, BlueStar, Kingstone, Mohsian, Central Valley Wicca, Georgian, Protean and others.

Gardnerians, specifically, are of an initiatory mystery religion with various, traceable lines of initiates who are all linked with a common ancestry back to Gerald Gardner. Gardnerians all share a core set of materials --- written, demonstrative and oral --- which have been taught to every member of the tradition in a somewhat standardized method of hands-on/directly communicated, experiential and relevatory practices. These practices include certain rituals and techniques which can only be transmitted from teacher to student, in person, and via an alternating male-to-female, female-to-male fashion.

Ok, now that we've gotten the "legal mumbo jumbo" of our rough definition out of the way, I do have to stress that one cannot become a Gardnerian without being initiated by an existing member of the opposite sex, most often by being adopted into an existing coven. You cannot "pick it up" through reading books written by known or purported Gardnerian authors, nor by following along with one of those alleged copies of the BOS found in the public domain.

There is a word common to all BTW folks....that is the notion of "vetting."

Vetting is a means of vouching for or otherwise fact-checking amongst each other so that we can avoid frauds in our midst or so that we can confirm which level of attainment (degree) a person has reached and therefore not prematurely disclose teachings to which the person may not yet be privy. It is essentially the tracing of one's initiatory family tree showing the links of the claimant in the tree and up through their "who begat who" all the way back to Gerald Gardner, and at each level, the named people in the tree can verify their predecessors and antecedents in the transmission of initiations and subsequent elevations to prove that the claimant is a legit practitioner.

Know that such "avoidance of premature disclosure" is not designed for the purpose of higher-level members to lord things over those who are not of similar attainment or degree to receive the knowledge, but to ensure that the person who has not yet reached that degree may have the opportunity to fully experience the revelation directly and for themselves, without the influence of another's opinions. In short, we don't want to "ruin the surprise" of letting everyone come to the same epiphanies as we had done back when we were being trained using the same tried-and-true techniques and exercises.

Vetting is standard practice for BTW folks. Every tradition keeps records of who its initiates are, who is upline or downline from everyone else. And so we can do these periodic checks of folks claiming to be members so that we may: (1) confirm if a claimant was indeed initiated into the tradition as s/he has professed by verifying such attainment with his reported initiators and upline, (2) that the claimant has indeed been passed the requisite material (written, demonstrative and oral) which further verifies his/her understandings of the essential standards/core common to all other members of the claimed tradition and as befitting his/her professed degree and (3) as a method of recordkeeping so that when claimants are proven liars about being a part of a tradition as a deliberate act to defame or otherwise cause negative influence under the auspices of the tradition, we can confront such individuals and counteract their influence.

So it is important to note that as a seeker of any BTW trad, you too have a right to some level of vetting to ensure you aren't being led astray by someone claiming to be of a tradition that they may not be affiliated with.

If you are sincere in seeking out BTW training, I encourage you to join the Yahoo chat group called "Amber and Jet" but also to warn you that it is NOT your typical public pagan atmosphere. It is a group where various factions of BTW teachers, scholars and students come together to answer honest seeker's questions.

I strongly recommend before you jump right in with whatever questions you have there, that you read through the archives since most questions have been asked countless times before you. Speak little and listen much....get to recalibrating your understanding about how a traditionalist thinks versus how an eclectic person thinks about the styles and methods of practice. They are VERY DIFFERENT, VERY DISTINCT paths and not merely a dip of a different pantheon or the changing of a few words of poetry which separate the two.

Also, get to know the other styles of BTW beyond Gardnerian. It may well be that one of these other varieties appeals to you and you may not have known it existed. It is usually far more important to find a coven family that you connect with than it is to try for a specific BTW tradition. In the end, you'll see that the match more than the means makes all the difference.

Lastly, be prepared to have to actually seek out training for awhile. Do not hold the expectation that simply because you've expressed and announced your desire for it, that it should be given to you. BTW folks are selective about whom they are willing to take as students. This isn't an open cattle-call whereby we take anyone and everyone just because they say they want it. Like schools of higher education, we look for the best and the brightest ---you'll hear the term "proper personhood" bandied about--- before we consider passing on the tradition that we have grown to know and love, who will take care of it after us.

And be prepared that in some cases, you may have to travel to study with a group. There may or may not be a BTW group near you. Folks have been known to drive for hours or take flights several times a year to undergo training.