Week number four of the Pagan Blog Project! Hang in with me, because this is all about semantics and the history of the words and practices of Wicca (being that of British-Traditional) and Witchcraft (regarding Traditional Witchcraft – of the European derivative).
You lay a compass? Oh, sorry for calling it a
circle. Nice ram skull on your altar— I mean “workbench?”, can I touch? Nice Horn, want to see my Chalice? *awkward wink*
“There’s a problem, you say?” — Indeed there is! Apparently, at least. Well, sort of… How.. do I……….begin?
</begin brief history lesson>
Ages ago in a land far far away (more precisely the late 1930’s to mid 1940’s in the New Forest region of England) there began a religious cult known as The Wica (yes, with only one “C”), also known today as the “Craft of the Wise,” Wicca, British Traditional Witchcraft (In the 1970’s, though, the term “British Traditional Wicca/Witchcraft” was coined to discern between initiated Wiccans and non-initiates of the Craft.), and American derivations such as Georgians & Mohsians. The many derivations of this cult began with one Gerald Gardner, forming offshoot traditions from this man and his New Forest Coven, mainly the one I am currently involved in: Gardnerian Wic(c)a (Witchcraft). To clarify, though: During this period of emergence, there were (and continue to this day) two faces of Gardnerian Wicca. One face is for public encounters. The reason being: During the time of the Witchcraft Acts in England, people could be prosecuted for practicing witchcraft; it scared the public. A softer tone of witchcraft was presented to the public so as to shed light on something people were afraid of: the unknown. Another face is the face still brought about to this day, but is unseen by the public. One could also equate this to the concepts of Outer Court and Inner Court. The inner-court face is not shown to outsiders.
Along the same time period, give or take a decade, as these practices are coming to light, there were a few other Traditions on the rise in England that were equally coming “into their own.” Some of these include Roebuck (Cochranian, which Doreen Valiente herself was apart of), Clan of Tubal Cain, Sabbatic Witchcraft, Cornish (Cornwall) Witchcraft, Chumbley, Artisson, 1734, Anderson’s Feri, etc.
However, of the aforementioned traditions, there was little written history as to when these were founded.
“Most of the evidence relating to non-Gardnerian pagan Withcraft before 1960, however, derives wholly from retrospective testimony,…” (Hutton p289)
</end brief history lesson>
As these traditions came about, many would try to disprove each other (including Wicca), attempt to scrutinize another’s beliefs, or berate the practitioners because of their supposed practice. Each group chastised one and other for “haphazardly making up rites” here and there, which is of the least importance. According to Ronald Hutton in regards to “The Man in Black” (Cochrane), Triumph of the Moon:
… if he actually did compose all the rituals and their underpinning ideas himself, then the word for him is surely not ‘charlatan’, but ‘genius’. (p316)
This can certainly be said regarding anyone’s practice. Whether or not it has been fabricated from nothing, stolen from another, or an amalgamation of historic importance. It is still “inspired work,” which has resiliently (and brilliantly) existed until today. How it all began is of little consequence. How it operates is something different entirely, of course.
Many of this vitriol has come about for a variety of reasons, both personal and impersonal. In effect, there has been a resurgence of this “detest,” or rather unwritten rule that Wicca is beyond the bounds of Traditional Witchcraft, that it is apart from it. In fact, much of what Traditional Witchcraft practitioners are saying today has been said by Wiccans back in the 70’s. One can only imagine years from now what will be said, or who will be claiming these same title-specific ideas.
To examine what Traditional Witchcraft is (or claims to be): Traditional Practices stemming from European Witchcraft, lore, myths and legends, and folk magic; usually incorporating the veneration of Spirits, Ancestors, etc. Traditional Witchcraft plays itself off to be more dark, mysterious, or enchanting. Many a resource will testify that Trad Craft is less involved with ceremonial working (
bullshit, oops), less focused on the religious aspect of the practice, and more worried about individual experience of the spirits, elements, and self. Some might say Gard craft is more family oriented, whereas Trad craft is more land-focused and region-based. In my experience, though, Traditional Witchcraft is just as varied as its practitioners (as is Gard craft), leaving room for a wide array of practices that sprung forth from the belly of what we know today as Traditional Witchcraft.
Then there’s the fact that many Traditional Practitioners use Biblical Christian text in their workings, incorporating some “Folk Practices” from the surviving stories of Witches melding in with society (more appropriately known as Cunning Folk/Pellars/etc.). So, if religion is not a factor within this spectrum, it can be ascertained that Traditional Witchcraft is a practice that can be adapted by most any Religious system, within reason. Yet these practices are described, today, as invariably Non-Wiccan. Is this a deliberate differentiation, something psychologically impeding these self-proclaimed Traditional Witchcraft practitioners to respond to? Are these issues arising from a non-initiate based Wicca, Neo-Wicca, and more eclectic nature of the fluff bunnies pandering around? It seems like that’s why the problem has become so widespread.
Perhaps it is because of the WORD Wicca. It’s short, spoken softly, and carries historical undertones of Women carrying an important role, whereas in other traditions it is a Magister/Magus.
Groups, forums, chat boards, etc. within the spectrum of Traditional Witchcraft (as defined above), abhor the topic of Wicca. Let’s just sit on that subject for a moment — Comfy? Me neither. Because it makes little sense. The only awkward reason I can think of, which turns me off from Neo-Wicca, is the sheer amount of people that read the um-teen amount of books that cover eclectic Wicca and its “practices.” Much like what is happening to the African Diasporic Religions – taking things out of context, not reading up on history, requirements, etc. Many people believe they’re entitled to a name or title (such as Wicca), much like Christianity is accessible to the lay person. But that’s for another time, another rant.
Traditional Witchcraft is more dark? Older (HAH)? Many of our practices fit well with those of Trad Crafters. Why? Because:
Traditional Witchcraft IS Wic(c)a. The main difference being that Wiccans are a part of a more religious spectra (of Traditional Witchcraft); a priesthood. Much like the term Pagan: Trad Craft is an umbrella, describing practices that you’ll find resonate with Gardnerian Wica tremendously. Of course, unless you’re initiated, there are source materials, oral stories, and experiences that will never be had or known. That is why it’s dubbed British Traditional Witchcraft (Wicca), and a mystery cult.
My advice to stuck-up Traditional Witches? Leave Eclectic Wicca off the table (Hell, we do, too) and let’s talk like grown adults about this. Our history, rituals, magic, lore, et al. is not that far off from yours. Just let it happen.
-You think Traditional Wiccans follow the Three-Fold Law? Well, I L.O.L. at you, sir (or madame… sorry). Will, and have, hexed. 😉
-Wiccan Rede? That word synonymous with advice? Get with it, [gender-neutral] dude(tte). I’ll advise you to REDE again.
-Gods? You have no idea.
-Rituals? You have no idea.
-Magic? Whether high or low magic (folk magic). You have no idea.
Know why you think you know?
So let’s get something gay (as straight would be counter-productive and icky), my sassy ass will be calling everything I do Traditional Witchcraft. Because that’s what it is. All this argument seems to boil down to is: “I’m a hipster witch that had these practices way before you, and you’ve probably never heard of them.” Well, surprise surprise,
we’re here, we’re queer, get… oops. Wrong schtick. Wiccans exist as Traditional Witches. COME AT ME, BRO. (Ouch, that actually hurt to type.)
Do not get me wrong: I’m not looking for a broader community in which to settle – Hell no. Gardnerian Wicca has plenty of souls that are just as sinful as I (even more so). Gardnerian Wicca (British Traditional Wicca, as well) stands on its own, it doesn’t need to be placed UNDER anything. But the question still remains: Why the distaste in your mouth? Eclectic kool-aid taste too eclectic for you? That’s fine. Ever taste this Gardnerian PUNCH in the face?
Careful, it’s a biter. (Color me corny)