Founded by Alex Sanders and his wife Maxine in the 1960's, the Alexandrian Tradition originated in England. Alex Sanders was often referred to as the “King of the Witches”, and with the help of his wife Maxine, they were instrumental in opening up Wicca to the general public. During the 1960’s and early 70’s, they were responsible for initiating many hundreds of newcomers into the craft, amongst whom where Stewart Farrar And Janet Owen.
In the early days the original rituals of the tradition are thought to have been Gardnerian, plagiarized by Alex and embellished with a few of his own amendments. These he then used to found his own coven from which emerged the Alexandrian Tradition. Today although still similar to Gardnerian in terms of its hierarchical structure, the Alexandrian Tradition tends to be more eclectic and liberal, focusing strongly on ceremonial magick.
Druidic Witchcraft is an eclectic tradition, drawing its beliefs and practices from a variety of sources. These include elements of the Druid religion, as well as Irish, Celtic, and Gardnerian beliefs. Their coven training consists of a degree structure similar to that advocated by other traditions. The International Red Garter is perhaps their most popular Order at this time.
Druidic Witchcraft should not be confused with that of the Druid Religion, which is entirely different. Druids are not witches and do not practice magick, though there are many links and similarities between the two. For instance, the traditional cauldron of the witches is in likeness to the Sacred Cauldron of Inspiration, which is presided over by the Goddess Cerridwen, who is revered by the Bards and Druids.
Other similarities include the four great annual festivals celebrated by the Druids, these mark the four changing seasons; Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn, and are identical to the four great Sabbats celebrated by witches. The Druids also celebrate the lesser Sabbats, the solstices and equinoxes, known to them by their Druidic names as the four Albans; Alban Arthan – the winter solstice, Alban Eilir – the spring equinox, Alban Hefin – the summer solstice, and Alban Elfed – the autumn equinox.
The Druids in common with witches hold to a belief in reincarnation. They are taught that the human soul has to pass through a number of existences while in Abred, the Circle of Necessity, before attaining to Gwynvyd, the Circle of Blessedness. Abred was the condition of earthly existence, but once transcended and its lessons learned, the soul would return to it no more. Three things hold back the soul’s progression to achieve Gwynvyd - Pride, Falsehood, and Cruelty.
The Celtic tradition is based on an eclectic blend of materials, beliefs and practices taken from the pre-Christian, Celtic and Gaulish peoples of Northern Europe, including Gaul, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. This tradition has obvious close links with the Druids, who of old were the “wise men” and “priests” of the ancient pagan Celts and Gaul’s. The Celtic tradition is an earth-based tradition, and has a strong focus on its religious belief’s.
Many aspects of Christianity, as adopted by the church, were taken from ancient Celtic beliefs. The “Holy Grail” can be attributed to the pagan’s “Cerridwyn’s Cauldron”, likewise the Celtic pagan goddess “Brigit” became the Christian’s “Saint Bride”.
Dianic Wicca is a relatively new phenomenon in relation to traditional witchcraft, though the goddess Diana has been revered since ancient times. Zsuzsanna Budapest of California founded the tradition in the United States during the 1970’s, and in the early 70’s was arrested and tried for her belief’s.
Dianic Wicca is a feminist religion, for women only. They honour the deities in their feminine aspects only, and never invoke the God or other male aspects into their rituals or sacred spaces. This practice has caused many conflicts and heated discussions amongst its members. Aside from this exclusion of men, they follow the same ritual paths and beliefs as other Wiccan traditions.
Many Dianic members are politically active in the feminist movement, striving to lift the oppression of female rights, and to bring about the equality of the sexes into all walks of life. This is not a requirement of the tradition; its left to the individual to make her own stand and practice her own beliefs.
An eclectic Wiccan as the term implies doesn't follow any strict traditional guidelines in their practice of the craft. Eclectic Wicca includes a broad range of groups and individuals who have based their philosophies, rituals and practices on a wide and varied number of sources, and practice only those beliefs that suit them best. They often mix traditions and practices together in order to find that which most suits their own circumstances, lifestyles and religious belief’s, practicing whatever magic they consider obtains best results. This is mostly of modern origin for previously Wiccan traditions had more restricting boundaries.
Eclectic Wicca emphasizes spontaneity and therefore plays down the importance of such concepts as Initiations, Oaths, Tradition and Lineage. Critics claim that the majority of Eclectic practitioners take the position that Wicca is a completely modern religion created by Gerald Gardner, and that the beliefs and practices of Wicca are completely individualistic, therefore nobody can define “Wicca” for others. Many traditional Wiccans object to these groups using the name Wicca, and believe their practice should simply be called Eclectic Witchcraft.
The Feri Tradition, (also known as the Faery or Faerie tradition) was founded by Victor and Cora Anderson in the mid-late 1950’s, when they were inspired to form their own tradition after reading a book by Gerald B Gardner “Witchcraft Today”. Anderson based the tradition on fairy folklore and beliefs and was universally recognized as the Grand Master of the Feri Tradition. In 1959, Anderson initiated Gwydion Pendderwen and together they were responsible for writing most of the tradition’s rituals, later adding Alexandrian and Celtic influences.
An old African priestess initiated Victor Anderson into Witchcraft in 1926, they practiced a form of Witchcraft with Huna and African influences that was primarily Dahomean-Haitian. Anderson was one of the last genuine Kahuna. Some of these earlier influences he incorporated into the new Feri tradition. After visiting an Alex Sanders coven in England, Pendderwen incorporated material from the Alexandrian Book of Shadows. Today the tradition has evolved and contains of a mixture of Green Wicca, Celtic and Druidic practices as well as modern Witchcraft.
The Feri Tradition honors the Goddess and Her son, brother and lover (The Divine Twins) as the primary creative forces in the universe. The Gods are seen as real spirit beings like ourselves, and not merely aspects of our psyche. The tradition is an ecstatic tradition, rather than a fertility tradition with emphasis on polytheism, practical magic, self-development and theurgy. Strong emphasis is also placed on sensual experience and awareness, including sexual mysticism, which is not limited to heterosexual expression.
This is a mystery tradition of power, mystery, danger, ecstasy, and direct communication with divinity. Most initiates are in the arts and incorporate their own poetry, music and invocations into rituals. The Tradition is gender-equal, and all sexual orientations seem able to find a niche. According to Francesca De Grandis, founder of the 3rd Road branch: “Faerie power is not about a liturgy but about one’s body: a Fey shaman’s blood and bones are made of stars and Faerie dust. A legitimate branch of Faerie is about a personal vision that is the Fey Folks’ gift to a shaman”.
Initially small and secretive, many of the fundamentals of the tradition have now reached a larger audience, mainly through the writings of Starhawk, one of the tradition’s most famous initiate. Some secret branches of the tradition remain, but while only a few hundred initiates can trace their lineage directly back to Victor Anderson; many thousands are estimated to practice neo-Feri Traditions.
After the repeal of England’s last antiquated witchcraft laws in 1951, there began a resurgence of interest in the old religion, and witchcraft in particular. Gerald Brosseau Gardner, who later that year became director of the newly opened “Museum of Magic and Witchcraft” in Castletown, Isle of Man, spearheaded this resurgence. Gardner started to establish covens, using the basic ideas and rituals he had written about in his fictional book “High Magic’s Aid”, published in 1949.
In 1953 Gardner initiated into his coven Doreen Valiente. It was Doreen who helped Gardner reshape the structure of his covens, by re-writing and embellishing his “Book of Shadows”, thus establishing a new tradition and calling it Gardnerian Wicca. Both Gardner and Doreen were greatly influenced by the teachings of Charles Godfrey Leland, and in time the tradition took on elements of Italian Witchcraft. The famous “Charge of the Goddess” written by Doreen, was clearly inspired by his work.
Other aspects of the tradition influenced by Leland’s view of Italian Witchcraft are, The full moon gatherings, The worship of the goddess and god consort, The cakes and wine rituals and celebrations, and Ritual nudity.
Today the tradition is mainly coven based, and follows an extremely traditional path with a hierarchical grade structure unsuitable for solitary practice. The Gardnerian covens of today still adhere to the old time values of secrecy, and new initiates are pledged to take oaths upon initiation.
This refers to those people that can trace Craft practice back on their family tree in an unbroken family tradition passed down through the generations by their ancestors from the ancient Pagan Mysteries, and were taught the secrets of the Craft by a living relative (my mother’s grandmother’s sister’s cousin was a Witch, doesn't count). Many Hereditary Witches do not consider their traditions Wiccan, and some admit that they only use the term Wicca because of what they had read about Gardnerian beliefs and practices, which seemed to fit more or less closely with their own beliefs and practices. Hereditary traditions are also often referred to as FamTrad, or Family Traditionalists i.e. a Tradition that has passed down within the family and hence by hereditary descent.
Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch)
The traditional British Witch, a Kitchen Witch is a person that practices from home by hearth and concentrates on the practical side of religion, magick, earth mysteries and the elements. Normally he or she is a solitary practitioner and does not belong to a coven or particular tradition, relying instead on self-study, personal discernment, and intuition. In many ways the Kitchen Witch is akin to the old village Witch who lived a solitary life but was called upon for spells and healing potions by the local folk.
The Kitchen Witch commonly works with a familiar spirit, and incorporates the use of herbs, trance, and shamanic techniques such as drumming to induce altered states of consciousness. It’s a more convenient form of practice for those who have limited space and resources like today’s suburban and busy professional city witches. Their focus is on practicality, the use of magick in the home and in the workplace with convenient rituals that include readily available ingredients available at short notice, and on a tight budget. The Kitchen Witch is usually very involved with working for the ecology of the planet, and tries to use only natural objects and materials for ritual and magical purposes.
Nordic Paganism includes those traditions that worship the Norse pantheon of deities and stress conservative values of honour, honesty, courage and duty to one’s family, kith and kin. In the 1970’s a number of Norse Pagan groups sprang into existence almost simultaneously and independently of one another in America, England and Iceland. Many adherents to Norse Paganism are attracted by the emphasis on blood ties and genetics, the warrior ethic and Norse symbology. Norse Pagans recognize both branches of the Norse pantheon, the Aesir (e.g. Odin, Thor, Tiu and Balder) and the Vanir (e.g. Njord, Frey, and Freya).
Norse festivals centre on the seasonal equinoxes and solstices, and holidays such as Ragnar’s Day. Heavier emphasis is placed on skill mastery and shamanism than on magick and meditation. There are a few extreme right-wing Norse Pagan groups who believe they have founded a religion upon the Aryan race; and while some do include neo-Nazis, most Norse Pagans consider these people a fringe element not connected to their religion. Norse traditions are also known as Teutonic traditions.
The Pagan Federation (UK) is the leading organization supporting Paganism in the U.K., and founded in 1971 to provide information on Paganism by countering the many misconceptions about the religion. The Federation works for the rights of Pagans to worship freely without censure as decreed in “Article 18” of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public and in private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance”.
The Pagan Federation publishes a quarterly magazine called the “Pagan Dawn”, formerly known as “The Wiccan”, an influential periodical founded in 1968 by one of the Federations founding members, the late “John Score”. Under his guidance in the late 60’s, the Wiccan rose to prominence in both Britain and the United States as one of the worlds leading journals on Paganism. In collaboration with groups from Britain and the US, Score then played a key role in the formation of the “Pagan Way” in America, and in 1971 its counter part in Britain the “Pagan Front”. The Pagan Front however, evolved separately from the Pagan Way, and eventually changed its name to the Pagan Federation. The Wiccan remained the means of dissemination for the Pagan Front/Federation, before changing its name to the Pagan Dawn.
Through-out the year, the Pagan Federation sponsors and arranges private (members-only) meetings, as well as public orientated events up and down the country. The highlight of these events is the Annual Conference held normally in November, which attracts an international gathering. The aim of the Federation is to provide information and contact between Pagan groups and genuine seekers of the Old Religion. To promote contact and dialogue between the various branches of Paganism in Britain and Europe, as well as other Pagan organizations world-wide, and to provide practical support and effective information to members of the public, the media, public bodies and government administrations.
The Three Principles of the Pagan Federation are:
Love for and Kinship with Nature. Reverence for the life force and its ever-renewing cycles of life and death.
The Pagan Ethic: “If it harms none, do what thou wilt”. This is a positive morality expressing the belief in individual responsibility for discovering one's own true nature and developing it fully, in harmony with the outer world and community.
Recognition of the Divine, which transcends gender by acknowledging both the female and male aspect of Deity.
Membership to the Federation is restricted to persons over the age of 18 years, who agree with the above Three Principles.
Shamanism is a religion that blends Witchcraft with the magical beliefs of African and Native American tribal societies. Rituals and practices are designed to connect individuals to the divine through contact with the spirit world. Through communication with the spirits, the Shaman can work acts of healing, divination, and magic - revealing by way of vision, poetry, and myth the deeper reaches of the human spirit.
According to archaeological and ethnological evidence, shamanism has been practiced for some 20,000 to 30,000 years. It has been found all over the world including remote parts of the Americas, Siberia, Asia, Australia, Northern Europe and Africa. Selena Fox founded the modern Wiccan style of shamanism under the banner of Circle Sanctuary, which is an interfaith blend of Wicca made up from cross-cultural shamanic practices and transpersonal psychology.
To achieve or induce the required mental state of consciousness to perform his or her work, drumming, chanting, and the use of rattles are normally employed. However shamanism is also one of the few Wicca traditions to accept and permit the use of hallucinogens to achieve this altered state. Once achieved the primary focus of the shaman is to heal mentally, emotionally, and physically. To do this the shaman must first have acquired a guardian spirit, the source of his spiritual power. Guardian spirits may appear to the shaman in differing guises such as power animals, tutelary spirits, totemic animals, or familiars.
The most common method of discovering and connecting with the guardian spirit is a solitary all night vigil outside, preferably in some quiet remote place. The guardian spirit will usually manifest itself as an animal, bird, fish, or reptile, but can also appear in human form. It is both beneficent and beneficial and will bring to the shaman the power of an entire species. Once it has appeared the shaman invites the spirit into his own body where it protects him from illness and unfriendly forces while he or she is in an altered state. Healing, divination and other works of magic can now be performed.
Pagan and Wiccan shamanism fosters a close connection with earth issues, and plays a leading role in the environmental and ecological interests of many individuals. It also plays a significant role in the creation of alternative healing therapies especially tailored to Pagan and Wiccan spirituality.
Solitary practitioners are individuals preferring to work in private rather than within the confines of a group or coven. Some practice and study a particular single tradition, while others, like the Eclectic Wiccan pick, choose and blend different traditions. Wicca with its diverse number of traditions works well with this sort of practice, and Solitary working can be as fulfilling as working in a group setting. Because of its solitary nature and without clear guidance, it does involve a deal of self-study and determination to achieve results. Solitary Wiccans often undertake a ritual of self-initiation to dedicate themselves to the Goddess and God.