Eclectic Wicca VS Traditional Wicca
Wicca, or Modern Pagan Witchcraft, is a fast growing and evolving religion, and has been for several decades now. When I came to the Craft as a teenager, I saw it all as one thing — The Religion of Witchcraft. I was completely unaware, at that young age, that Wicca was such a diverse umbrella and that Paganism was an even bigger umbrella. It’s popularly said that “all Witches are Pagans, but not all Pagans are Witches”, and this is certainly true. In fact, technically, a Pagan religion is any religion that is not Abrahamic, ie. any religion other than Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. Wicca is one of a myriad of different Pagan paths.
For many many years, I was an eclectic Wiccan. I was someone who, essentially, created my own Witchcraft practice, using bits and pieces of things I liked and discarding things I didn’t to create my own path, so to speak. And I, like a lot of young Wiccans, thought that I could learn everything from books. Even when I sought formal training, the training was with very eclectic Wiccan groups, most notably, the Church of Iron Oak, which was a branch of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, a multi-traditional Wiccan/Pagan church based in Index, Washington. Iron Oak is located in Central, Florida.
I loved the idea of walking a path that had no dogma, doing my own thing, basically making it up as I went along. But, after a time, I grew dissatisfied. I felt that something was missing in my eclectic path. It was then that I found my way into the world of British Traditional Wicca.
Here in the United States, you basically see two main types of Wiccans: eclectics and traditionalists (Trad Wiccans). It seems as though eclectic Wicca has dominated the Pagan and Witchcraft communities for a very long time now, really becoming the norm in the 1980’s and 90’s, and into the early 2000’s. If you search Wiccan videos on YouTube, you will find that the majority are eclectic Wiccans. These people also tend to be very young. I felt that, even as an eclectic, my own practice was very structured to the point of becoming “traditional” in a way, though I could certainly never call it that. So, finally, at the age of 36, I sought out a traditional Wiccan coven for training. I figured it was time to do it the right way, even after 20 years of private practice, and actually learn the Craft as it was passed down.
I quickly realized that the term British Traditional Wicca, or BTW, was not what I thought it was. It became apparent that so many people, and even groups and covens, were using this term when they shouldn’t have been. I will start by saying that British Traditional Wicca is a term only used here in the United States. In Britain, it is simply called “Initiatory Witchcraft”, and it refers to two main branches — The Gardnerian Tradition and the Alexandrian Tradition. The sad thing is, it seems as though a lot of newcomers to the Craft are completely unfamiliar with these traditions, and this is where the entire movement began! Even the name Gerald Gardner is completely unfamiliar to so many people calling themselves Wiccans, and he is the founder of the religion known as Wicca. Of course, back when this all began, in the 1940’s, it was not called Wicca at all. It was simply known as Witchcraft, and it was seen as all the same. ‘Traditions” didn’t start to evolve until after Gardner’s death. Now, they seem to be numerous. Unfortunately, different Wiccan traditions have evolved to the point of barely resembling Wicca as it once was. And so much of what is published these days, what is often referred to as do-it-yourself Wicca, has become something very different. This is why, if I meet someone who calls themselves a Wiccan, more often than not, we are coming from two completely different places and speaking a different language.
I am a Gardnerian Witch.
The Gardnerian tradition is the oldest and original form of Modern Witchcraft, what later became known as Wicca. We are a branch of British Traditional Wicca, which is an umbrella term that is referring to the Wiccan traditions that trace their initiatory lineage directly back to the original coven in England, and to Gerald Gardner, the founder of our religion, and whom our tradition takes its name from.
We are an initiatory mystery tradition and are completely oath-bound. This makes things a little tricky for newcomers to the Craft, or seekers of traditional Wicca, because it is impossible for someone to know whether they actually are interested in Gardnerian Wicca, or whether we would be the right fit for them, when they don’t know what the Gardnerian tradition is or what Gardnerians do. And, because we are oath-bound, we can’t tell you! It’s kind of a catch-22 in a way. Some things that can be volunteered: we are, first and foremost, an esoteric priesthood. We are very highly structured, we place a lot of emphasis on training, we are hierarchical with three degrees of priesthood, we are ritual based and we are coven based. All covens are led by a High Priestess and a High Priest. We are a nature-based, Earth-centered religion, and we worship a Mother Goddess and a Horned God of nature. We worship the Goddess and God of the Wica. And their names are kept secret.
Unfortunately, one of the big things that is a deal-breaker for a lot of seekers of Traditional Witchcraft, is the fact that we are naturists. We practice in the nude, also known as ‘skyclad’. This is one of the main aspects of British Traditional Wicca, and it’s just the way it has always been. In fact, a seeker would be very hard pressed to find a legitimate Gardnerian coven that does not practice this way.
I think a main purpose of this article is to let people know that, yes, Traditional Wiccans and covens do still exist. If you know where to look. And it has bothered me for a long time that so many people pick up a book on Wicca, proudly declare themselves to be a Witch, and start asserting themselves as an expert in the Pagan community, when they are a bit mislead as to what Wicca truly is and where it came from. We are a secret Witch cult. And if a seeker truly feels called, they will find us.