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Witchcraft Traditions

The Religion
Witchcraft is a spiritual practice, a way of life, a belief system and a religion. Witchcraft is the religion that sets the foundation of belief. The denominations of Witchcraft are called Traditions. They further define and implement the foundation of beliefs into their own perspectives of practice. Defining their own creed, troth or rede of faith to provide guidance and principles for that tradition.
Witchcraft comes in many forms or Traditions. Many are based on historical evidence, others from archeological and anthropological discoveries. Some are passed down through cultural practices. But many are based on oral traditions passed down through families, communities or cultures. Perhaps this passing down of information is where the word "Tradition" comes from as it relates to sects of Witchcraft. There are many Traditions within the religion of Witchcraft. One of the more commonly known today is Wicca which has become one of the most popular traditions in America. It needs to be understood that Wicca is not the religion, but rather one of many denominations of the religion.
Think of it this way:
The tradition is to Witchcraft what a denomination is to Christianity.
That is to say: Wicca is to Witchcraft what Baptist is to Christianity.
You can read more about this historical perspective in the Is Witchcraft A Religion article.
The Creation of a Tradition
There are many different types of Traditions. Just as in the familiar Christian faith, you'll find Catholics, Baptists, Methodist and so on. Each denomination is Christian at it's base, but the implementation of the doctrine and practices might be slightly different. Similarly there are variations in traditions and practices within Witchcraft.
A tradition can be established in various ways. The most common comes from Hiving. All covens, clans and groups establish their own set practices based on their chosen tradition. As the coven grows and initiates new Priests/Priestess, these individuals often break off from the original coven and establish their own coven groups. This is called Hiving. A hive might be a closely related coven to the original coven, it can be an expansion of ideas and practices, or it can implement an alternative practice of the original coven.
A good example of this is Gerald Gardner's tradition of Wicca. In 1939 he became involved with the Fellowship of Crotona, an occult group of Co-Masons, a Masonic Theosophist Annie Besant. The members claimed to be hereditary Witches who practiced a Craft passed down to them through the centuries of family training. In 1946, Gardner was introduced to Aleister Crowley. Crowley made Gardner an honorary member of the Ordo Temli Orientis (OTO), a magikal order at one time under Crowley's leadership. Reportedly learning a large amount of magikal practices from Crowley.
Based on these earlier coven training and his own historical research, Gardner developed specific rituals, learning criteria and initiation tests for his new denomination of the Craft. In 1953 he initiated Doreen Valiente into his coven. The two collaborated on writing ritual and non-ritual material, a body of work which continues to stand as the authority for what became known as the Gardnerian tradition of Witchcraft or what many know today as Wicca.
Most covens and their eventual traditions are formed in this same way. A teacher often reads, researches and grows beyond their teacher. They expand their knowledge along with their understandings of spirit, nature and beliefs. Being exposed to other religions and other people can also provide for alternative views and beliefs. A well educated teacher/initiated Priest/Priestess will take this knowledge and add it to their practices for their new coven. In doing so, they can establish a new Tradition of Witchcraft.
The Traditions of Witchcraft
All traditions of Witchcraft are based on the ancient craft traditions in one form or another. Often they have been influenced by regional customs and existing spiritual beliefs. As the human existence evolves, so does the human belief and understanding of their place in the Universe. Remaining the same with the exact same beliefs and practices will do a disservice over time.
This is one of the greatest characteristics of Witchcraft. As humans evolve and grow, so does our religion. We do not ignore the advances of sciences, we examine new understandings and contemplate how they add to, confirm or provide alternative views of current beliefs. Traditions are therefore the result of a successful melding of ancient Pagan traditions, Cultural histories and legends, Metaphysical concepts and experiences and modern advancements and understandings.
There are three major categories of Witchcraft traditions.
Classical Witchcraft
Early Nordic which included the Germanic languages, Dutch, Icelandic, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish peoples.
Gothic Witchcraft
Celtic, Anglo-Saxon which includes Druid, Irish, Scottish, and English, as well as, many of the French, and Italian cultures.
Neo-Pagan Witchcraft
Modern sects which have primarily been influenced by the melding of all previous traditions through evolution and expansion of those historical denominations.
The following is a small sampling of many different traditions. This by no means is a complete list.
Classical Craft
Encompasses many traditional rituals with a basis of Egyptian magik and often follow the ceremonies outlined in the ancient Cabalistic writings.
A tradition begun in Italy around 1353. Often associated with it's founder, a woman called Aradia.
The Teutons have been recognized as one of the earliest and formal practioners of the craft. Their ways of practicing the Craft are also known as Nordic.
Many people add Romani (which is a Germanic Gypsy practice) to this list. Others argue this gypsy traditions is based more in the tradition of Gypsy con artists than spirituality. It's an argument that is not easily discussed or resolved.
Gothic Craft
Of Scottish traditions, this sect is also known as Hecatine. It continues to encompass many of the festivals and celebrations of the Scots.
A mix of Celtic/Druidic pantheon energy. This sect focuses heavily on the elements, nature and the Ancient Ones. With a great knowledge of healing and the magikal qualities of nature, including plants, animals and stones, this tradition is most commonly linked to in the Neo-Pagan sects. Aided by the little people, gnomes and fairies, Celtic magik is full of fun, mirth and mythology.
A combination of Celtic and Native American traditions, specifically Cherokee. Focused primarily on Celtic origins. Formed in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, the Carolinas and southwestern Virginia, it's a tradition born from intercultural exchanges and marriages between these two cultures.
    Deborean Wicca
An American eclectic tradition which attempts to reconstruct Wicca as it was before 'The Burning Times' or the European witch craze.
A very famous husband and wife team from England, Janet and Stewart Farrar compiled and researched many of the ancient and modern sects to pull the best parts of all into one. Many of today's modern sects are in one way or another based on these studies and compiled materials.
Based on family traditions passed on generation to generation, (does not included Channeling). Also called "Family Trades", it is up for debate how far back on the family tree one must go to meet the conditions of this sect. The traditions can be passed on to blood relatives or adopted offspring which have been raised within the family ceremonies and rituals. The beliefs are typically Celtic in nature, but include a smattering of many of the current and ancient structures, as well as, many home spun ones.
Also of Scottish tradition, this sect focuses heavily on all aspects of nature. It is a solitary form of Craft.
Neo-Pagan Craft
Founded in the 1960s by Alex Sanders in England, this sect is loosely based on the Gardenarian beliefs. Sanders built his sect in England and called himself "King" of the Coven.
    British Traditional
A mix of Celtic and Gardenarian rituals it is the most famous organization in the International Red Garters society. This sect is based on the Farrar studies of Wicca and is exceptionally structured in belief and ritual. A witch becomes part of the Coven through a training, education and degree process.
Also called "the Feminist" movement of the craft, this sect focuses on the Goddess aspect of Witchcraft. It was first brought to major attention in 1921 by Margaret Murray and includes aspects of many Classical and Gothic traditions.
This is a label for the "everything else" in Witchcraft. It does not follow any particular tradition, ritual or ceremonial practices. Rather practioners focus on what "feels" best and most comfortable to them. Study and practice is than based on information gathered from books, or other practicing witches.
    Faeri/ Faery Wicca
This tradition places an emphasis on the Fae (gnomes, elves, faeries, sprites, etc.), their lore, and their relation to the natural world. Many associate this tradition with an ancient fairy race called the Tuatha De Danaan, the mythological precursors to the Celtic people. It is often, but not always, associated with the Faery tradition founded by author Kisma Stepanich.
    Feri Wicca
Not to be confused with Faeri Wicca. Feri Wicca is based on Victor Anderson's (1917-2001) was developed in the late 1950's and early 1960's. It is an ecstatic, rather than a fertility, tradition stemming from the teachings of Cora and Victor Anderson . Strong emphasis is placed on sensual experience and awareness, including sexual mysticism, which is not limited to heterosexual expression
    Gardnerian Wicca / Wicca
Named after it's founder Gerald Gardner in England during the 1950s. Gardner wanted to ensure that the Old Religion not become extinct by all the new found knowledge and inter-mixing of beliefs. He took his cause to the media at great personal risk to bring his cause and information to a new younger audience in order to bring growth and life to the ancient traditions.
Based on the Saxon beliefs, this sect is very closely related to the Gardnerian traditions. Without breaking his oath, founder Raymond Buckland wanted to pull the ancient rituals into modern language and acceptable ceremonies. In 1973 his dream became a reality with the organization of Seax-Wicca, bringing Witchcraft into the public as a very positive force.
Additional Reading
 What Is Witchcraft?   
 Is Witchcraft A Religion?
 The Creation of Modern Witchcraft
 An Evolution of WitchCraft (Timeline)
 Which Witch is Which? - Labels & Titles

Source: 1, c3, c4, c8, c13, s1, s2, s4, s5, s6, s7, s11, s14, m1, m4, m5, m7, m10, m16, m18, m23, m36
Created: 10.02.1996         Updated: 01.22.2009


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