[An article which attempts to make sense of all the various Traditions, Brands, Denominations, et., which may confuse the unwary new-comer to Neo-Paganism (Wicca in particular).] some information by Hurn, some by Jenine Trayer.
This is a look at the many varied traditions in the Wicca Family of Faiths. Whilst there is, indeed, a large number of groups who profess one set of tenets, or ideas; one soon begins to see why they may all be lumped together as one Religion.
Obviously, to start,
one must define Religion as it applies to these groups of people.
Next, a listing of some of the more popular traditions, giving a basic
description of each. Lastly, some comments on the "cords which bind
these groups together", i.e.. a discussion on the underlying philosophies
of the New Age Movement, Neo-Paganisms in particular.
I. What is a Religion?
A dictionary definition of religion looks something like:
Religion, n.; An organized system of beliefs and/or rituals, centering on a supernatural being or beings.Everyone with me so far? Good. I think we can all agree on definitions for "Beliefs" and "Supernatural", so the only sub-definition will be "Ritual": any ordered sequence of events or actions, including directed thoughts, especially one that is repeated in the 'same' manner each time, and that is designed to produce a predictable altered state of consciousness, within which certain magical or religious results may be obtained.
Now, by using these definitions, the astute reader may realize that one need not "believe" in anything in order to belong to a religion, although most 'established' churches do require that one has conforming beliefs in order to become 'accepted into' that Religion. One of the beauties of the Pagan/NeoPagan/Wiccan Religion is that the majority of the sects do not require one to have 'conforming' beliefs. One need not believe in the God/dess in order to worship them, and this is the key to being a New Age type religion.
New Age religions acknowledge that there are many paths to Godhood, and that each person should find his/her own way. Thus, while there is communication and discussion between the diverse ways of Wicca, there is generally no cause for religious persecution or Holy Wars. Also, there are very little 'missionary' type efforts, since there is no Prime Directive stating that everyone who does not believe a certain piece of dogma is wrong, and will burn in hell forever, unless saved, or made to see the light.
Contrary to most religions,
it is not the shared set of beliefs, or similar dogma which holds the Wiccan
religions together. Rather, it is the attitudes of the people involved,
and their common heritage which provide the bonds of cooperation among
the Pagan peoples. These points of agreement shall be further addressed
following a brief list of some of the more popular Traditions,
with a description of each.
C. Celtic Wicca
Frost School of Wicca:
A structured religion with definite hierarchy within each group (known, as a coven), but little to no authority of one coven over another. Within the coven, a matriarchy exists, with the High Priestess generally being considered the leader (there are, of course, exceptions to this, but these descriptions are, for the most part, only generalizations based upon information gathered from many sources). The typical Gardnerian view of the God/dess is that of a Dominant three-faced Goddess (maiden, mother, and crone) with a male consort (who has many names.. the Young Summer King, and the Old Winter King). Ceremonies include a series of initiations into higher levels of the craft, various holiday celebrations (based, of course, upon the "Wheel of the Year" calendar of Feast days.
J. Seax-Wica (or Saxon)
As stated earlier, it's not doctrine/dogma similarities which tend to hold these diverse groups together, rather, it is the common ideals and feelings expressed by the Pagan peoples themselves. Here are some examples:
Rede: "An it harms none, do what thou will." is almost universally
accepted amongst the groups. Most groups tend to
be polytheistic, animists, pantheists, et. One is not "converted"
to Wicca, rather, the new comer feels a sense of "coming home", or,
more poetically, "The Goddess calls to her own". Nature plays a big
part in most traditions, either as direct personification of the
God/dess, or as aspects of them. There is no counterpart to
the Devil, as such, in the Pagan religions... no personification of 'all
evil', rather, the choice is there for all to make. However, there
is the Law of Three Fold Return,
which states "That which thou dost send out
shall return three fold", so good begets good,
and evil befalls those who are evil (a horrendous understatement / simplification,
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