Tradition

Having been an eclectic for a very long time, I finally chose Wicca as my path. But going from being eclectic to being Wiccan has made me contemplate a lot of what a tradition is and what it means to be a part of one. Why is being a part of a tradition worthwhile? Here are some of my thoughts on the pros and cons of being a part of a tradition.

Pros for being a part of a tradition:

1.) A tradition offers a structured support group. Delving into spirituality brings up issues for a lot of people and it’s good to have support. You have other people around who have walked the same path and have had similar experiences. While people won’t have had exactly the same experience, similar experiences can help guide you through what you’re experiencing on your own path to deity. It essentially makes your life easier and a little clearer.

2.) A tradition has a set syllabus. You’re learning things in a tried and true order which gives you the best experience of learning what can be powerful, difficult and confusing material. In an established tradition people have worked on the syllabus over time and have refined it. They can help direct you toward your goals and give you the tools you need to search on your own.

3.) A tradition provides a lineage, which I know some of you will pooh pooh, but there really is a good reason for having a lineage. Having a lineage gives you credibility. If people know that you learned from credible sources, who in their turn learned from credible sources, they know that you know what you’re doing. You become a much more trustworthy member of the community. You’re also standing with numerous other initiates who have come before you…think of the potential behind that! A lineage gives you unity. When you belong to a tradition, you can travel halfway across the world and still go to a familiar ritual. Religion in a large part is about comfort. How often do you feel uncomfortable when attending a ritual in a different religion or tradition?  When you belong to a tradition, the tradition’s lineage gives you access to other members all over the place. I know I can go to Europe and find other Blue Star people to worship with! How awesome is that?

4.) One of the things that strikes me about groups just starting up (and who often have some idea about what they’re doing), is that they really have to struggle with figuring out how to go about things. Established traditions have tried things and figured out what works and what doesn’t; essentially you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. In traditions, there have probably been a few generations who have already figured these things out, so you don’t have to. This give you the freedom ti learn a good fundamental basis to work on, and then if you like, use this knowledge and experience to work things your way, without reinvention of material that has been there all along.

5.) If you find a tradition that you trust, generally speaking you can trust its initiates, which is important because you don’t have to vet them. You’re not walking into a situation with someone that you don’t know at all.  It essentially gives you a qualified clergy. In Paganism, we don’t have a central authority. For example, in the Catholic world, the Pope is the head of the church and oversees all church issues. If something is going wrong (technically speaking), the pope has dominion over dealing with it. In Paganism, you don’t really have that, so how can you figure out if a priest or priestess is a good one? This is not to say that bad apples don’t pop up, but…it’s at least a little less likely.

6.) An established tradition has a body of clergy, so if you don’t like one priest or priestess, but like the tradition, there are others out there. There are several priestess in Blue Star that I don’t want to work with for personal reasons, but that’s OK, I’m not stuck with them because there are many more out there.

Cons of being in a Tradition:

1.) By nature, traditions are staid. They look down on people who rebel against their teachings. People who look to forge new paths are not tolerated very well. Traditions have worked out what works for them, they don’t like change, even if it’s productive. You can break tradition, but you will most likely get flack for it. Still, after initiation, you are a free agent, and can do as you like.

2.) One bad apple can really spoil the whole bunch. If the tradition misses the fact that they have a bad priest or priestess, (either morally or as just a bad teacher), that person can initiate a whole lineage of people improperly trained or with dubious morals antithetical to the rest of the tradition. Which of course causes much upset and confusion down the line when other people in the tradition meet up with them and realize what’s going on. This in turn causes a lot of drama. (And aren’t Wiccans known for their drama?)

3. Traditional often equals fundamental, and fundamentalists are never lovely to be around. I don’t feel this one needs much elaboration.

4. It seems that a lot of people who become a part of a tradition, do so not for their spiritual selves, but for the “power” that such a structured hierarchy brings. The high priestess of a coven usually has the final say in all things and this can bring about much abuse of power. This can also engender a certain “snobby elitism” towards the rest of the Pagan community that most people I know, can’t stand, neither can I for that matter.

Wicca seems like it has become the dinosaur of the Pagan world. I avoided Wicca for a long time partly do to the fact that I saw it as being the fundamental side of Paganism and having left Christianity, I wanted to avoid that at all costs. It took finding a Wiccan who not only knew what he was doing, but who was responsible and drama free, that I was able to see past some of Wicca’s bad and even obnoxious reputation.

When I’m in circle with my Blue Star coven, we do ritual nearly weekly and we do it the same way each time. Each action causes a reaction and another action. We change details for what we are doing (esbats vs. sabbats, ect.), but the main part of the ritual stays the same. The idea behind this is that if you do something the same way so many times, you don’t have to consciously think about it and your subconscious can come out. I personally find Blue Star ritual to be both beautiful, moving and practical. It’s not the most elaborate ritual I’ve ever seen, nor is it the longest, but it creates a circle with power and great respect for deity behind it. As an eclectic, I always had trouble with ritual (and have gone through a number of just terribly done rituals), so after having been in ritual several times with Blue Star people, I was more easily seduced away from my eclectic practices. If this was what a tradition was about, than I wanted to be a part of it!

When I decided to ask for dedication, it was also because I agreed with the ideas behind the tradition. I never would have started this process towards initiation if I hadn’t agreed with Blue Star practices and principles. The idea of becoming a part of a tradition was a big deal to me. While I never felt that being a part of a tradition was vital to me as an eclectic, the older I get, the more I appreciate the resources and support that a tradition can offer.

So why do you join a tradition where the ideas and practices behind it are clearly laid out, if you don’t agree with it? One of the things that still bothers me about Wicca, are the people in it.

I was discussing this with another coven member and as she pointed out to me, “why worry about everyone else in the tradition? Why not enjoy the people we have and the way we do things?”. And to a certain extent, she’s right. There’s no point in worrying about the stupidity of other people. But then, what’s the point of being in a tradition anyway if you can’t depend on everyone else in it? As I pointed out above, that’s part of the point of a tradition! Why go to all this bother and work if everyone else in the tradition isn’t there to support you in it?

Even as a dedicant who is nowhere near my own initiation, I’ve already had a few run ins with other people in the tradition that have left a sour taste in my mouth. It’s also been pointed out to me that I don’t always bring up “positive issues”, even if they are valid ones. Which I take as diplomatic speak for the fact that people see me as a Negative Nancy. But there’s so many reasons that I avoided Wicca for as long as I did and even though I’m glad that I’ve come to it and have found joy in my own small, fledgling coven, there are still so many issues out there that I can’t ignore.

While I know that a lot of people see Wiccan’s as being elitist snobs, as an insider these days, I sort of get it. Wicca in general has worked for years to put together a religion that gets things done that a lot of eclectics can’t manage without years of study and training. But if Wicca and it’s traditions can’t get their acts together, how can they possibly survive and do they deserve to? That would be a blog for another day…

Gerald Gardner

Gerald Gardner

Alex Sanders

Alex Sanders

 

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12 thoughts on “Tradition

  1. I have a major issue with this so yes I pooh pooh it:

    3.) A tradition provides a lineage, which I know some of you will pooh pooh, but there really is a good reason for having a lineage. Having a lineage gives you credibility. If people know that you learned from credible sources, who in their turn learned from credible sources, they know that you know what you’re doing. You become a much more trustworthy member of the community.

    That is snobbery, on all levels. Thank God I’ve met Trad Wiccans (Alexandrians and Gards) that have stated that lineage only makes you part of the Tradition, and not more credible or trustworthy. Lineage only serves as a way in which to prove you’re part of a tradition, not that you’re better than eclectics.

    Wicca is not for me, never will be, me being Eclectic allows me to love my Gods fully and forge a system specific to honouring them that actually makes sense, rather than wasting my time getting lineage in a Religion that means nothing to me. Honestly some Wiccans have earned the obnoxious and snob label.

    I respect that you are happy in your tradition, I respect that you are getting knowledge easier than what I can through trial and error, and I respect all your points on finding people who have experienced similar things to you, I respect that you have access to good priests and priestesses, I even respect the beauty of your tradition and all Traditions. But to slam the credibility of Eclectics because they do not fit in with Traditional Wicca to gain the “lineage”, that notion is ridiculous.

    Lineage only matters to those in Trads, and it matters most to people who feel that without it they are less credible and trustworthy.

    • bluestarowl says:

      This was in no way a “slam” against eclectics. Some of the best Pagans I know are eclectic. But as an eclectic, I never thought about/realized what the actual point of a lineage is. As an eclectic I just saw the snobbery and the bad points of lineage. I’m also not saying that it works, notice my last point is that maybe traditions don’t deserve to survive when they’ve managed to garner such bad reputations. As someone who has chosen to be Wiccan, I’m still struggling with these issues.

  2. lisaspiral says:

    I am afraid that I have to agree with the purple broom. Lineage doesn’t give credibility. What lineage does give you is history. If you’re honest, the lineage has both shining stars and crazy uncles in the closet. Depending on which point in your path you’re looking at it, those may even be the same people. There is hope with having the history that the mistakes of the past don’t need to be repeated. There is a comfort to heritage that allows the kind of cross country multi-coven associations that you’ve described within the tradition. Credible people don’t necessarily make credible teachers and there is a lot to be said for the “home schooling” of a true Eclectic. I do think lineage is worth something, just not what you have put forth.

  3. bluestarowl says:

    I think there are good and bad sides to lineage. These were just my thoughts on some of the pros and cons. As I replied to purple bloom above, as someone who’s chosen to be Wiccan, I still have my own issues with the overall idea of tradition and what it does. I’ve already run into a lot of issues with my own tradition, even just within the tradition! Which just boggles my mind. While I love what the tradition has come up with, I haven’t yet reconciled myself to being a part of a tradition. And the point of my blog was that there are good sides and bad sides. As an eclectic, I had just never seen any of the supposed good sides of a tradition.

  4. I respect traditions, in so far as they provide a way in which for people to find the path that best serves them, and their notion of growth whether it is through the Gods, or through archetypes or whatever. So I do believe that Traditions deserve to carry on. The snobbery behind them though needs to change. Many Traddies I’ve met are so concerned with lineage and titles that to me show that they are no longer on a spiritual path but an egotistic one. Many other Traddies I’ve met however display a kindness toward understanding how difficult eclecticism can be, and do not use lineage as a proof of credibility except within the lines of tradition. I agree with Lisaspiral on how comforting heritage can be, it really can be wonderful, and something I once longed for but as my path grew I decided it didn’t make me any less spiritual, credible and empowered to not have lineage.

    If I misunderstood your words I apologise, as I do not have an issue with traditions in and of themselves, like I said I find them to be beautiful, but no more so than non-linegaed eclectic practices.

    • bluestarowl says:

      I totally agree with you, snobbery should have no place in all of this and being eclectic can be very difficult. I was not trying to say that a tradition is the only way to go with this. I’m just still trying to find my own place within a tradition when I spent so many years really disliking the whole idea. And maybe one of the cons I should add is that lineage can definitely bring out those that are here only for their own egos. I’ve seen a lot of that too. As I often tell my significant other, I came to Paganism to strengthen my bonds with the divine, not to have some priest or priestess boss me around. Most of the eclectics that I know are amazing people, but I’m finding that some of the tradition people are too…which has come as a big surprise to me! But thanks for the comments!

  5. Triskele says:

    Lovely Blog Post. I really enjoyed it. As an Eclectic that went trad I found most of what you said to be accurate in one way of another. Each trad is different and has its own pros and cons. I think that the word “credibility” can be taken wrong some times. I think that maybe Egregore would be a better term, It provides an energetic boost from the other members, it opens you up to all the past and future energy of the coven etc. It doesn’t necessarily create credibly but does give a VERY strong foundation. The house is already there all you have to do is build your own room, vs trying to raise a house by itself. There are working energys present when you join a coven, a certain amount of strength. (this is speaking of a balanced coven) Having the egregore in place can provide a certain amount of credibility if the coven has strong public members with good reputations. At that point you also get that reputation unless you do something to loose it vs having to build your own reputation. I hope I am making sense. So i don’t think that the “coven” its self gives the credibility, but the reputation of the members before you give you that credibility. If Mrs. Witch 3rd degree trained you and is an amazing witch, and respected in the community, then others will assume that of you and other she trained. Again this is for the most part. There is always that bad apple. I think that the most important thing is that the Coven provides strength. I had tried to start a circle before I went Trad, it failed. The energy was just NOT right. After I went trad, I have been very successful with starting my own coven (2 x because of a move) and I am working on a Circle for those Eclectic Witches that just are not into Trad but want to learn, so far we are off to a great start! Again Lovely Article ❤ Triskele

  6. Here’s another thought: One of the beauties of tradition is that it gives you a solid framework, once that framework is second nature you can start riffing and extemporising. Some of the most cutting edge (and occasionally over the edge lol) rituals I have attended have been at Blue Star Family Gatherings. For me being in a tradition means that I have the comfort of being able to step into ritual with someone I have never met in person and to work with them with a very minimum of discussion beforehand, it means that I have familiar seasonal markers each year and rites of passage that have worn a serious groove in the astral plain. It also means that I have the confidence in the people I work with to step out of that comfort zone and fly in ways I have never tried to before.

  7. This post, and the comments are very good, showing the good the bad and the ugly of witchcraft traditional covens for sure. I am going to link this discussion to my blog to share with other witches. Thank you.

  8. […] post on the A Practical Owl in a Wiccan World blog by a Blue Star Wicca dedicant. She writes about Tradition in Witchcraft contrasting the pros and cons of eclectic versus traditional witchcraft paths. Here is […]

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