We have put together a rough list of the most popular forms of Wicca. These forms are known as “Traditions” in Wicca. They can also be know as “Paths” or “sects”. Each tradition varies in its own way, while the core belief is the same for all Wiccans. Below is a little information we found on each Tradition. The explanation of each Tradition is gathered from various places, some our own and some are sources such Wikipedia. Please let us know in the comments if we missed a popular Tradition.
A retired British civil servant named Gerald B. Gardner is the ‘Grandfather’, at the very least, of almost all Neo-Wicca. He was initiated into a coven of Witches in the New Forest region of England in 1939 by a High Priestess named ‘Old Dorothy’ Clutterbuck. In 1949 he wrote a novel [High Magic’s Aid] about medieval Witchcraft in which quite a bit of the Craft as practiced by that coven was used. In 1951 the last of the English laws against Witchcraft were repealed (primarily due to the pressure of Spiritualists) and Gardner published Witchcraft Today, which set forth a version of the rituals and traditions of that coven. There is an enormous amount of disagreement about virtually every statement I have made in this paragraph.
Gardnerism is both a tradition and a family, and lineage is a family tree. The High Priestess rules the coven, and the principles of love and trust preside. We follow our handed down book more carefully than many others, but we are free to add and improvise, as long as we preserve the original.
We work skyclad, practice binding and scourging, are hierarchal and secretive, therefore we are controversial. We’re also controversial because we were first – the first craft tradition in the U. S. and descended from the man largely responsible for starting the craft revival. So, we’re called the snobs of the Craft, but I think we’re as much fun as anyone else; our parties as good, our jokes as bad.
*Each Gardnerian coven is autonomous and is headed by a High Priestess who can turn to her queen (the High Priestess who trained her) for counsel and advice. This maintains the lineage and creates a pool of experienced and knowledgeable leaders and teachers.
*Reincarnation and the Wiccan Rede [An it harm none do what you will] are basic tenants of the tradition. Covens are as much as possible composed of male/female pairs for balance. Most working is accomplished with the energy raised by the interaction of the Lord and Lady as represented by the couples in the coven by dancing, chanting, etc.
*Like many Wiccan traditions, Gardnerians have three degrees. An American Gardnerian must be of the 3rd degree before she can become a HPS. The HPS/HP are responsible for conducting services (circles), training their conveners, and preserving and passing on Gardnerian Craft. *[This material quoted from Converging Paths Newsletter, Kyril, Brita, & Hugh authors.]
A lot of the controversy surrounding Gardnerianism questions the sources of the rituals and other materials, particularly those appearing in print. It is true that Gardner presented these materials as if they were directly from his New Forest tradition. It is clear, however, that whatever materials the coven may have had when he was initiated, Gerald made a lot of changes and added a great deal. Literary sources of the published Book of Shadows include Blake, Kipling, Yeats and Crowley. Much of the published material was written by Doreen Valiente, a member of the coven for a time and later founder of her own groups and author of many excellent books on the Craft.
Gardnerian Witches without doubt do have many materials which have not appeared in print, however, their emphasis on secrecy has made them a punch line in the Wiccan social world. How many Gardnerians does it take to change a light bulb? That’s a secret! Their High Priestess will usually be called ‘Lady’ Soandso and High Priest, ‘Lord Whats-his-name’. [This is far more true in the U. S. than it is in England.]
As most everyone by now is aware, the Alexandrian Tradition is very close to Gardnerian with a few minor changes. (One of the most obvious ones being that the Alexandrians use the athame as a symbol for the element of fire and the wand as a symbol for air. Most of the rituals are very formal and heavily indebted to ceremonial magick. It is also a polarized tradition and the sexuality of that female/male polarity is emphasized. The ritual cycle deals mostly with the division of the year between the Holly King and the Oak King and several ritual dramas deal with the dying/resurrected God theme. As with Gardnerians, the High Priestess is supposedly the highest authority. However, it is odd that the primary spokespersons for both traditions have been men. [This material provided by Gillan]
Alexandrian Wicca is the creation of Alex Sanders (with his then wife Maxine) who claimed to have been initiated by his grandmother in 1933. It’s principal proponents are Janet and Stewart Fararr whose books set forth most, if not all, of the Alexandrian tradition. Contrary to popular belief, the name Alexandrian refers not to Alex Sanders, but to Ancient Alexandria.
Although similar to Gardnerian Wicca, Alexandrian Wicca tends to be more eclectic, and liberal. Some of Gardnerisms strict rules, such as the requirement of ritual nudity, have been made optional by Alexandrian Wicca.
Mary Nesnick, an American initiate in Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions founded a ‘new’ tradition called Algard. This tradition brings together both Gardnerian and Alexandrian teachings under a single banner. This was possible due to the great similarities between the two traditions.
*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]
Celtic Wicca (Church of Wicca)
The Church of Wicca was founded by Gavin and Yvonne Frost. They offer correspondence courses in their brand of Wicca, which is sometimes called Celtic Wicca. The Church of Wicca has just recently begun including a Goddess in their deity structure, and has been very patrofocal as Wiccan traditions go.
Celtic Wicca is a modern tradition of Wicca that incorporates some elements of Celtic mythology. It employs the same basic theology, rituals and beliefs as most other forms of Wicca. Celtic Wiccans use the names of Celtic deities, mythological figures, and seasonal festivals within a Wiccan ritual structure and belief system, rather than a traditional or historically Celtic one.
December 26 1968 – The newly formed Coven of Boskednan in St.
Louis, MO, decided that the course Gavin and Yvonne Frost were then
teaching should be called Wicca and that the letterhead of that course
should be the Church and School of Wicca. The course was based on what
Gavin had been taught in England and on his initiation by the Coven of
Boskednan in Cornwall in 1950.
The original roots of Wicca thus come from a single source: that Coven of Boskednan. Apocryphally the coven was founded by one Henry Wilcox. In 1925 he retired, either as a civil servant in India or from the British Army. (Or of course it may never have happened.)
Another retired British civil servant, one Gerald Gardner, had talked about Witchcraft (note: not about Wicca) and had used the word wicca once in a book of his; however, no one had theretofore written a description of the new religion and spiritual path.
Wicca had absolutely no direct connection to Gardnerian Witchcraft or to any of the multifarious Gardnerian roots: Kellner, Reuss, Masonry, the Order of the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis, the Folk Life Society, Leyland, and (last but not least) Doreen Valiente.
Despite rumor and innuendo, and despite what Wikipedia thinks or claims, the above is a true statement of what occurred. All else is history-as-wished-for or simple creative fiction.
The course was advertised. Thousands of neophytes amost immediately signed up for it.
In December 1971 the Church and School of Wicca applied to the Internal Revenue Service for exempt status as a religious association. By December 13 of that year By-Laws and Articles of Association were written and approved. It earned its status as a religious association in 1972, in the form of a Letter of Determination dated August 31.
In 1976 and 1977 the IRS carried out an extensive investigation of
the Church and School of Wicca. The IRS found the Church blameless of
any wrongdoing. It reported that fact in the Senate, giving the Church
of Wicca the imprimatur of federal approval.
In 1985 inmates in the Virginia penal system petitioned the state system to acknowledge their right to have Wiccan robes and books, and to have Wiccan holidays recognized. That request was rejected; it went into Federal Appeals Court in 1986: Dettmer vs Langdon 799 F.2D 929. The appeal finally led to the landmark decision in the Federal Appeals Court of the Fifth District, confirming Wicca as a religion. In the judge’s words,
“The Church of Wicca is clearly a religion for First Amendment purposes. Members of the Church sincerely adhere to a fairly complex set of doctrines relating to the spiritual aspects of their lives, and in doing so they have ‘ultimate concerns’ in much the same way as followers of accepted religions.”
Both in Lecture XII of the School & Church of Wicca’s original course and in the last chapter of “The Witch’s Bible”, the Frosts explicitly opened Wicca to all people who were on a positive path. That openness and the conscious sustained avoidance of centralized power have since enabled the wonderful, enriching diversity within the Craft that we all enjoy today. Diversity allows anyone to follow any spiritual path that they see fit to follow, so long as it is a positive path and so long as they do not seek to inflict their path on anyone else.
What more is there to say? The rest is merely froth and insubstantial gossip and someone’s Disneyland-type creative fiction.
If one word could best describe the Georgean Tradition, it would be ‘eclectic. Even though the material provided to students was nominally Alexandrian, there was never any imperative to follow that path blindly. George Patterson (the tradition’s founder) always said ‘If it works use it, if it doesn’t, don’t’. The newsletter was always full of contributions from people of many traditions. I’ve always felt Pat’s intent was to provide jumping off points for students and members. So even though I can claim initiation into more than one tradition, I’ll always consider myself ‘Georgian first: George is greatly missed, may the God-dess watch over him. Bright Blessings, Lord Fafner.
“Faery Wicca” also refer to a specific tradition of Wicca, recently founded by author Kisma Stepanich. Adherents of Stepanich’s Faery Wicca claim that it recovers the traditions of the Tuatha De Danaan, the mythological precursors to the Celtic people; however, this is disputed by those familiar with ancient Celtic polytheism and mythology. Stepanich’s Faery Wicca draws liberally on some degree of Irish mythology, from the author’s interpretation of Celtic history, legend, pseudohistory, imagination, and a variety of non-Celtic sources.
Faery Wicca is not related to the late Victor Anderson‘s Feri Tradition of witchcraft, which is sometimes also spelled Faery or Fairy, nor is it directly related to the gay men’s group, the Radical Faeries. Though Faery Wicca may draw inspiration from some of the customs practiced among the ancient and modern Celts, it shares more with other modern Wiccan traditions than with the “Fairy Faith” as it is known in traditional Gaelic cultures.
Solitary Wicca simply refers to the practice of Wicca by individuals on their own, rather than as part of a coven. Solitaries may follow a single tradition, learning through books and/or through participation in informal Wiccan circles, or they may create their own unique practices out of a sort of “patchwork” of many traditions, while also adding elements of their own invention. This second approach is known as Eclectic Wicca (see below), and is quite likely the most common form of Wicca practiced today.
Many newcomers to the religion may start out as solitaries, learning and exploring until they feel drawn to explore practicing with others. Similarly, some coven members may ultimately decide to move to a solitary practice, whether due to the dissolution of the coven they belonged to or other circumstances. Either way, one type of practice is not superior to the other—while there are significant differences between coven membership and solitary practice, the essence of the core beliefs and rituals carries through both forms of Wicca.
There’s a bit of irony in calling Eclectic Wicca a “tradition,” since the only thing eclectic practices truly have in common with each other is that they’re different from any other practice. In other words, the only tradition of Eclecticism is a desire to forge one’s own path to a unique Wiccan practice.
The degree to which eclectic Wiccans “invent” their form of the religion (and not all Wiccans in this category would even necessarily agree with the term “religion”) depends on the individual. Some might create highly unique ritual structures completely from their own inspiration and imagination, while others might simply blend two or more traditions with little to no original material added in.
The reasons for creating an eclectic practice are many, but it often has to do with being a solitary Wiccan with no immediate community to reach out to and learn from. Indeed, most Eclectics are solitary practitioners, though there are certainly covens and plenty of Wiccan circles that fit into this category.
A Green Witch predominantly communicates with Mother Earth and works with Her energies. She most often uses natural items and places (such as sacred oak tree groves or lakes) in her rites and rituals. She does this, so that she can be closer to the Divine spirit that she can sense most strongly in nature. A Green Witch usually makes her own materials for ritual practice, and there are two distinct types of Green Witches – a Flora Witch (who uses mostly flowers and floral materials in her practice) and a Herbal Witch (who uses predominantly herbs and other types of plants).
Most often symbolized by a type of bird (a goose or a raven), the Hedge Witch has the ability to venture into the Otherworld and communicate with the spirit realm. Thus, the Hedge Witch is recognized as a powerful healers or midwife. She specializes in deliverance of spiritual messages into our physical reality and vice versa. It’s a very much Earth-based practice of spirituality. But what does ‘hedge’ have to do with it? In the past, a ‘hedge’ would mark a boundary of a village or settlement, and thus represents the boundary between our physical reality and the spirit world.
You can only be a Hereditary Witch if you are born into a family where the members practice witchcraft, and have passed the practice down from generation to generation. Of course, if you’re born into such a family, you still have the freedom of choice. You can only become a Hereditary Witch if you consciously accept the practice – no one can force it on you.
A Kitchen Witch may not be what first springs to your mind. She’s not confined to the kitchen, where she cooks potions and brews magical stews. She uses practical tools to engage in rituals, ceremonies and magick. A Kitchen Witch enjoys making her home and surroundings a sacred place, making practical and mundane everyday tasks sacred. In this sense, the practices of a Kitchen Witch are somewhat similar to the practices of mindfulness.
While a Secular Witch may use tools such as crystals, herbs and stones in her practices, she does not recognize them as divine or spiritual. A Secular Witch does believe that the materials she uses and the energies that she connects with come from the natural world and the Earth, but she doesn’t necessarily worship any deities or spirits.