In Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler approaches the subject of the Craft today with kindness and understanding, but still valid questions and thoughts:
If anyone can become a member of the Wicca by reading books, if people can create their own “tradition,” if one come to the Craft out of a sense of homecoming, if the Craft works because of the archetypal content of the human mind, is there such a thing as a “valid” tradition or an “invalid” one? Is any tradition that feels right appropriate? How does one decide on the validity of such a religion?
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The Wiccan community is decentralized and each coven is autonomous, and no single definition of the Craft can be applied to all practitioners. With that in mind, many attempts to create a definition within the United States have failed. A large motivator behind the desire to create a unifying definition is to help dispel the sensationalist image that was pushed onward by the media, which continued to link Wicca with Satanism.
in 1974, the Council of American Witches attempted to poll a large number of Witches on what they would consider to be an accurate definition of the Craft. While there were many differences among the various groups, few of them were actually conflicting with others. All groups were able to agree on the basic Wicca crede – “An ye harm none, do ye what ye will,” most agreed it was unethical to forcefully violate a persons’ autonomy, and most affirmed the divinity of all living beings.
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In 1975, the Covenant of the Goddess was created and they wanted to create a larger Wiccan community, a way for the various covens to connect, socialize, and help their neighbors. They stated:
We could not define what a Witch is in words. Because there are too many differences. Our reality is intuitive. We know when we encounter someone who we feel is worshiping in the same way, who follows the same religion we do, and that’s our reality, and that has to be understood, somehow, in anything we do.
Aidan Kelly suggested that the Covenant base its structure on the bylaws and charter of the Congregational Churches, so that it would be a religious body governed by autonomous congregations (covens), and not by ruling popes or bishops (priests or priestesses). The Covenant still exists today, follows this code of ethics:
- An ye harm none, do as ye will.
- No one may offer initiations for money, nor charge initiates money to learn the Craft.
- Any Witch may charge reasonable fees to the public.
- Witches shall respect the autonomy of other Witches.
- All Witches shall respect the secrecy of the Craft.
- In any public statement Witches should distinguish whether we are speaking for ourselves, our coven, or our Church.
- All these Ethics are interwoven and derive from Craft Law.
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I personally found the following quote by Cybele to be moving:
It’s a way of viewing yourself as a very natural being. You are at one with the stones and at one with the stars. It stresses practical knowledge, not blind belief. It’s practical. It permeates absolutely everything that I do. Craft people haven’t lost touch with what’s real. They haven’t allowed themselves to be bombarded with stimuli, or, if they have at one point in their lives, they’ve found their way back.
Modern Craft Traditions
- Most Wicca groups believe in two deities: the God, the lord of animals, lord of death and beyond, and the Goddess, the Triple Goddess in her three aspects: Maiden, Mother, and Crone.
- Most witches believe in some form of reincarnation
- Most covens have an entry or initiation ceremony
Most descriptions of traditions fall flat because they concentrate on the forms – the rituals, for example, which lose almost everything in description – and ignore the eternals, the nonverbal things, the experience of people,
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One of the most popular topic among Witches today is the subject of trappings. Adler includes the following excerpt from a letter:
… I have no trouble believing in such a principle, for thereare things in life which cannot be explained by logic and rationality, There is the evidence of my senses, the feelings which cannot be denied. And I have no doubt at all (on a gut level) that I can grow to experience the principle at first hand.
For the time being, then, I am quite willing to do spells, perform rituals, to chant over candles at midnight, because I’ve come to believe that this is a way to the power. The principle comes from within us, the source of it or the channel through which it manifests itself.
But knowing that intellectually does not help us gain access to it; we don’t order it to come forth with our rational minds, for it does not obey rationality. Therefore I chant, I gaze at a picture of a triune Goddess through incense-smoke as it wavers in candlelight, I turn of my rational mind for a while, and soon I feel it flowing through me like electricity, breathlessly, and I am the same and not the same as I was before…But the trick is to keep from forgetting that candles, incense, images, etc., are props.
That last line bears repeating: “But the trick is to keep from forgetting that candles, incense, images, etc., are props.” A large part of the Wiccan community today is about living in the present, feeling and experiencing life on every level and using props (such as candles and incense) to help calm the mind in order to truly feel the life flowing all around.
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