Sunday, October 21, 2007

Various Paths Explained

Okay one of the hardest things a Pagan will do, will be to find the right Path for themselves. Each tradition or path has different ethics, traditions, holidays, deities, etc. It can be overwhelming to find the one that best sooths your spirit. Here is my brief overview of some of the more popular traditions.

Alexandrian: This is a Wiccan tradition branched off from the Gardnerian path. It is steeped in myetery and tradition, with formal and structured practices. There a re several small differences between Alexandrian and Gardnerian, the main is the Alexandrian use of the Atheme as a symbol for the element of fire and the Wand a symbol for Air. Like many Wiccan traditions the Polarity of energy is celebrated - the male/female interaction. Contrary to popular belief, the term Alexandrian does not refer to the creator of the trdition, ALex Sanders, but to ancient Alexandria. Alexandrians tend to be more liberal and eclectic than strict Gardnerians. Most of the principles of this tradition have been outlined by Janet and Stuart Fararr in their book series.

Asatru: (Aka Norse Heathenism) Many believers prefer the term heathens to neo-pagan as this is one of the few pagan traditions to be based mostly on actual documented practices and beliefs, staying true to their Norse ancestry. The Asatru believe in 3 levels of deity: The Aesir (the gods of the clan - representing leadership, community, crafs, etc) The Vanir (which represent the fertility of the land and forces of nature). The Jotnar (these are giants, the Gods of unrest and disorder, in a constant battle with the Aesir.) As opposed to following the Rede and Crede, the Asatru follow a Moral Code which includes: Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Industriousness, Self-Reliance and Perservearance.

Black Forrest Clan: This is Silver RavenWolf's group and is considered Euro-Wiccan, drawing from Silver's German heritage and Pow-Wow and training she received from her Old Guard Wiccan magickal teachers. The Black Forest is not a social organization and does not charge an initiation or elevation fee. The Black Forest training program is designed specifically to train Wiccan Clergy, and therefore does not train individuals new to the Craft.

Blue Star Wicca: Blue Star was founded Frank Duffner in 1975 in Pennsylvania. Blue Star practices mostly as a hierarchical, mystery-based tradition with its roots in Alexandrian Craft. Most covens operate on a Grove system, in which uninitiated members and students comprise an Outer Court, and Initiates make up an Inner Court. Traditionally, a Coven (or circle) would include both Inner and Outer court members and would be presided over by a Third Degree High Priest and High Priestess.

British Traditionalist Witch: A formal, structured, neo-Gardner that is a mix of Celtic and Gardenarian beliefs. Most famous organization at this time is the International Red Garters. British Traditionals move mostly from within the Farrar studies/Alexandrian. They too are fairly structured in their beliefs, and train through the degree process. Their covens are also co-ed.

Celtic Pagan: This is the term for those of us who follow the ancient Celtic path. Following in the steps of our forefathers to dedicate our lives to the greater good. Any Priest/Priestess, Shaman, Druid, of the Celtic path has a strong sense of responsibility to the welfare, safety and happiness of those conscidered 'under their protection.' Having a strong connections to the spirit of nature, the boundries between the realms and our duty as humans to care for nature. Celtic Pagans are different from Celtic Wiccans in that they do not follow the Rede or Crede. More like the Nore Heathens the Celtic Pagan follows a moral code. Having personal integrity is essential to any Celtic Pagan. It generally takes a minimum of ten years to be conscidered Priest/Priestess level i nteh Celtic Path.

Celtic Wicca: These followers adhere to Celtic/Druidic patheons, and rituals/practices that are Gardnerian in base, heavily stressing the beliefs in nature, the elements and the Ancient Ones. They had a vast knowledge of and respect for the healing and magickal qualities of plants and stones, flowers, trees, elemental spirits, the little people, gnomes and fairies.

Ceremonial Witchcraft: Followers of this Tradition use a great deal of ceremonial magick in their practices. Detailed rituals with a flavor of Egyptian magick are sometimes a favorite, or they may use the Qabbalistic magick. Less religion, more emphasis on the art and science of magick. Rituals are generally complex and practices lean towards the esoteric side of Wicca. Not geared towards the solitary practitioner, but can easily be adapted for those who choose to work alone.

Circle Wicca: Circle was begun in 1974 by Selena Fox and Jim Alan. Its headquarters are at Circle Sanctuary, a 200 acre Nature preserve and organic herb farm in southwestern Wisconsin.They publish an annual source, the Circle Guide to Pagan Resources as well as a quarterly magazine, Circle Network News.

Covenant of the Goddess: A cross-traditional federation of over one hundred covens, plus solitary elders and associates, who have joined together to win recognition for the Craft as a legitimate and legally recognized religion. Essentially it is a meeting of the minds in Coven's. Any coven can join as long as it is a cohesive, self-perpetuating group that has been strong for a minimum of 6 months.

Dianic: This is another Wiccan tradition. *The Dianic Craft includes two distinct branches:
*1. One branch, founded in Texas by Morgan McFarland and Mark Roberts, gives primacy to the Goddess in its theology, but honors the Horned God as Her Beloved Consort. Covens are mixed, including both women and men. This branch is sometimes called 'Old Dianic', and there are still covens of this tradition, especially in Texas. Other covens, similar in teleology but not directly descended from the McFarland/Roberts line, are sprinkled around the country.
*2. The other branch, sometimes called Feminist Dianic Witchcraft, focus exclusively on the Goddess and consists of women-only covens and groups. These tend to be loosely structured and non-hierarchical, using consensus- decision- making and simple, creative, experimental ritual. They are politically feminist groups, usually very supportive, personal and emotionally intimate. There is a strong lesbian presence in the movement, though most covens are open to women of all orientations. The major network is Re-Formed Congregation of the Goddess, which publishes "Of a Like Mind" newspaper and sponsors conferences on Dianic Craft. [* Amber K] {2}

Druid: This is a branch of Celtic Paganism. We are the Priests and Priestesses. The teachers and protectors of knowledge. We are the keepers of brehorn law, ensuring those under our protection follow our strict moral code as well as are not harmed by the lack in others. We act not just as mediators between students and spirituality, between man and the Gods, but we lead the rites of passage both for people and nature - ensuring balance, we are the shamans of the Celtic world - traveling between the realms - for the purposes of maintaining balance as well as aquiring knowledge.

Eclectic Witch: This catch-all phrase indicates that the individual does not follow any particular Tradition, denomination, sect, or magickal practice. They learn and study from many magickal systems and apply to themselves what appears to work best. Followers include any aspects involved in the other traditions. This may include the belief in the Celtic deities as well as Jesus Christ, as well as a strong belief in Buddhism. At the same time, followers worship the God and Goddess of Wicca. With these ideas, one can choose what they wish to follow, which they feel would be best for their heart, mind, body, and infinite spirit. One can add and remove certain elements of rituals in this branch, although this is widely controversial within the Neopagan community. The main idea though is to follow whatever one feels will affirm their life, rather than to be locked into a tradition which may be overwhelming or to follow given rules or certain aspects of the tradition which may frighten the practitioner. A main goal in any way of Eclecticism is balance. Followers aim to take that which was taught and use certain ideas in those teachings as tools toward their spirituality and higher purpose. A free spirit is considered to be a balanced spirit.

Faery Wicca: (aka Feri, Fey, Fairy, etc) This is an Irish tradition that centers on green Witchcraft and faery magick. It is an ecstatic, rather than fertility tradition, emphasizing on polytheism, practical magic, self-development and theurgy. Strong emphasis is placed on sensual experience and awareness, including sexual mysticism, which is not limited to heterosexual expression. Starhawk is an initiate.Among the distinguishing features of the Faery tradition is the use of a specific Faery Power or energetic current which characterizes the lineage. Feri witches often see themselves as "fey": not black, not white, outside social definitions, on the road to Faeryland, either mad or poetical. Edgewalkers. They know that much of reality is unseen, or at least has uncertain boundaries. There is a deep respect for the wisdom of Nature, a love of beauty, and an appreciation of bardic and mantic creativity. Core teachings acknowledged by many of the branches of the tradition include the doctrines of the Three Souls, the Black Heart of Innocence, the Iron and Pearl pentacles, as well as an awareness of "energy ecology", which encourages practitioners to never give away or to waste their personal power, preferring instead techniques designed towards transmuting "negative" energy into a pure and more useful form. Trance experiences and personal connection with the Divine are at the heart of this path, which has led to a wide variety of practices throughout the larger body of the tradition.

Family Traditions: These are the practices and traditions, usually secret, of families who have been Witches for generations.

Gardnerian: Gerald Gardner is thought of as either the grandfather of most neo-pagan traditions, or a big fat liar. There is much disagreement surrounding his history from the coven he clamed to be initiated in to his work "Witchcraft Today" in which he lists many practices and beliefs of this coven. This tradition leans heavily on tradition and family, paying close attention to family geneologies - the term 'hereditary witch' is often coined by this tradition, although most pagans dislike that term. Reincarnation and the Rede {an' it harm none, do what ye will} are the basic tenets for this path. Covens strive for a balance between the male/female members - as this polarity is an important component to their rituals and practices. They lean heavily on secrecy and tradition (although the basis for the traditions are greatly disputed). It is thought that Crowley, Blake, Kipling, and Yeats have all contributed to Gardnerian's published books of shadows.

Georgian Tradition: The Georgians, founded by George E. Patterson in 1970, were chartered by the Universal Life Church in 1972, as The Church of Wicca of Bakersfield. In 1980 they were chartered as The Georgian Church.They lean toward the Goddess and generally work skyclad but individual groups or individuals may do as they wish. They are both religious and magickal and celebrate the eight Sabbats. Members are encouraged to learn from all available sources - making it an established eclectic tradition.

Hereditary Witch: One who can trace the Craft through their family tree and who has been taught the Old Religion by a relative who was living at the same time. How far one has got to go back on the family tree to meet the conditions of the first part of this definition is debatable. Family trades (another name for Hereditary Witches.) This term is greatly debated in the pagan community, as it seems to make those with family traditions more important than those that broke away from tradition to follow their spirit.

Kemetic Wicca: The Kemetic or Egyptian path is the worship of the set of Egyptian gods and goddesses. There is particular strain to pray to the family of Osiris and his wife/sister Isis, and their falcon-headed son, Horus. This is called a trinity. Sacred symbols such a the Ankh (the ancient Egyptian symbol for life), and Eye of Horus/All Seeing Eye are very popular in this sect. Some try to copy the religious rituals of the ancient Egyptians and the Book of the Dead (ancient Egyptian book describing spells and rituals used during embalming and other various rituals) is sometimes used as a reference.

Kitchen Witch: Basically, this type is one who practices by hearth and home, dealing with the practical side of religion, magick, the earth and the elements.

Neo-Pagan: This is the term used to indicate any religion that is based on the beliefs, traditions, symbols, practices, etc, of ancient religions. Saddly, due to lack of proper documentation, Neo-Pagans buil their traditions on assumptions and supositions of the ancient world.

Minoan Tradition: The Minoan tradition is actually of triad -- the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood, and the Cult of Rhea -- was incorporated in December of 1998 under New York State religious corporations law. Their beliefs do not focus on the gender differences of the dieties and many Minoan followers are gay, lesbian and bisexual.

Pictish Witch: Scottish Witchcraft that attunes itself to all aspects of nature: animal, vegetable, and mineral. It is a solitary form of the Craft and mainly magickal in nature with little religion.

Reclaiming: Reclaiming is a community of women and men working to unify spirit and politics. It is a tradition of Witchcraft that began in the 1980s in Northern California.

Pagan: This is an umbrella term. Saddly there are many different definitions for it ranging fron evil anti-Christian Devil worshippers to Naturalists. (Go figure) But the most widely accepted definition amound us is this: Paganism is the practice of any Non-Christian religion. So, that would include all Eastern Religions, Judism, Wiccans, Celtic, Native Americans, etc.

Pow-Wow: Indigenous to South Central Pennsylvania. This is a system, not a religion, based on 400 year old Elite German magick. Pow-Wow has deteriorated to a great degree into simple faith healing. Although Pow-Wow finds its roots in German Witchcraft, few practicing Pow-Wows today in Pennsylvania follow the Craft or even know the nature of its true birth.

Sacred Wheel: An eclectic neo-Pagan path which was organized in Delaware withing the past decade. Calling themselves Wiccan, they focus on balance and learning. Celtic beliefs are a part of their teachings. Still concentrated in the easten states, covens are formed from study groups which include both old-timers and novices.

Seax-Wica: Founded by Raymond Buckland in 1973. Although of Saxon basis, it was authored by Raymond himself without breaking his original Gardenarian oath.

Shamanic Witchcraft: This term refers to practices associated with those of tribal shamans in traditional Pagan cultures throughout the world. A shaman combines the roles of healer, priest (ess), diviner, magician, teacher and spirit guide, utilizing altered states of consciousness to produce and control psychic phenomena and travel to and from the spirit realm. Followers of this path believe that historical Witchcraft was the shamanic practice of European Pagans; and Medieval Witches actually functioned more as village shamans than as priests and priestesses of "the Old Religion." Shamanic Witchcraft emphasizes serving the wider community through rituals, herbalism, spellcraft, healings, counseling, rites of passage, handfastings, Mystery initiations, etc. The distinguishing element of Shamanic Witchcraft is the knowledge and sacramental use of psychotropic plants to effect transitions between worlds.

Solitary Witch/Pagan: This is the term for those who are not a part of a coven, but choose to practice their faith privately.

Strega Witches: Follows a Tradition seated in Italy that began around 1353 with a woman called Aradia. Of all the traditional Witches, this group appears to be the smallest in number in the United States. It is traditionally a quasi-messianic Syncreto-Pagan religion that honors the Roman god Lucifer, the Roman goddess Diana, and their lovechild, the demigoddess Aradia who was sent to earth in human form to offer freedom through witchcraft to the poor and oppressed. It is mainly a Classical Anarchist religion, and can be seen as a direct reaction to the Christianization of Italy and the predominant class system thereof. In fact, Stregherian mythology is filled with strong Anarchist and anti-Christian themes, both literal and allegorical.

Teutonic Witch: From ancient time, the Teutons have been recognize as a group of people who speak the Germanic group languages. Culturally, this included the English, Dutch, Icelandic, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish peoples. This is also known as the Nordic Tradition and incorporates deities, symbolisms and practices from Norse and Germanic cultures.

Wicca: This is another Umbrella term. Any and all traditions that follow the Rede and Crede are conscidered a branch of Wicca. This is made possible by the fact that Wicca has no specific pantheon - so one could infact be a Christian Witch, or Celtic Wiccan, or Roman Wiccan, etc the first part of the title referring to the pantheon and traditions they adhere to.

For a comprehensive look at the different paths in America, check out Margot Adler's Book - Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America

(1) Religious Tolerance { }
(2) Bewitching Ways { }
(3) Wicca { }
(4) Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft by Raymond Buckland, Llewellyn Publications, 2006
(5) Ritual Craft, by Amber K. and Azreal Arynn K, Llewllyn Publications, 2006

1 comment:

Luminosities said...

What a great post! Well-written, clear and concise. It gives the reader a starting place for further research into possible paths.