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Solitary or Tradition: The Right To Be Called Wiccan

Author: Ryan Hatcher
Posted: July 20th. 2008
Times Viewed: 5,200

I have read many articles in which the authors state that those who follow traditions are true Wiccans and that solitaries cannot abide under the label ‘Wiccan’. However, Wicca, and most pagan branches had to have been created from somewhere and someone had to have created these branches, be it Gardner, Sanders, Buckland, an ancient Druid or an ancient Native American Shaman.

These ideas must have been created in the minds of these individuals, and with the more modern individuals, the pooling of ideas from other sources would have been a great start, (as with Gardner, pooling the rituals of Dorothy Clutterbuck’s coven, with those relayed by Alistair Crowley, as well as some of Crowley’s Thelema practice and procedures and techniques portrayed in the Greater Key of Solomon).

I’m all for traditions, and I agree that being taught by an experienced individual is far better and more beneficial than being self-taught, but I do strongly feel that solitary eclectic practice is just as valid and creditable as traditional practice.

If a witch is self-taught, they must research and study as much as possible and as thoroughly as possible, checking and double checking things through as many sources as the individual has available.

From then, the Solitary Witch will be able to make an educated evaluation on how to practice, and will then be able to decide which areas of their new spirituality they wish to master, ‘student of many master of none’ need not apply if the student has researched thoroughly, and is then selective of the areas they study and therefore master them.

I fully understand that mixing traditions can damage the authenticity of the traditions that are mixed. However, if individuals are still drawn to these traditions then they will be kept alive and authentic and a mystery by those who are oath bound to them.

It is easy enough to say that in order to be a true Wiccan, you need to join a traditional coven, but not every person has a traditional coven available to him or her. Does this mean that they can never become a true Wiccan and must search for another path, though it would not feel right to them? Of course not! If there is no other option, then the path of the solitary may be the way to go.

As a solitary though, eclecticism my not be necessary. There are some traditional texts available to the public, for example Janet and Stewart Farrar have made the practices of the Alexandrian tradition widely available in their many books (I have A Witches’ Bible open in front of me as I write this), also the Gardnerian Book of Shadows has become available, whether in extracts or in its entirety.

This searching for traditions to become part of has become easier due to the birth of the internet. But, how does one become par of a tradition without being part of a coven? The simple answer is Self-Initiation.

Some may seem shocked or appalled at this idea, but Doreen Valiente herself endorses it, in a sense anyway, in that she published a self-initiation rite in her book Witchcraft for Tomorrow and other tips that can be applied to a solitary practitioner as do The Farrars in their book A Witches’ Bible (p.244) , whom follow the Alexandrian tradition. They themselves have said, “We no longer believe, at this stage of the Craft’s history, that it should be inflexible. Moreover, insistence on it is unrealistic; a large section of today’s Craft (and by no means necessarily an inferior section) either is self-initiated or stems from people who were self-initiated.” This was stated in the mid 80s, and we now are in 2008, nearly 28 years from that point, so why is there still such conflict between solitaries and traditionalists? Therefore, those who seek tradition, yet cannot find a nearby coven, self-initiation into that tradition is an available option.

But what of eclectic witches? Many individuals have a thirst for knowledge, and they may find being restricted to the ritual structure of a specific tradition is stifling and doesn’t allow for growth in knowledge and experience of the wider world of Witchcraft. And so, such a solitary witch seeks out as much information and knowledge on practicing their beliefs and then develops their own structure.

But I have to ask, how is this process any different to the development of the older ‘more valid’ traditions? In essence, the eclectic practitioner, providing they don’t change them, is able to keep the traditional techniques authentic, so long as they acknowledge the tradition that they came from. Sadly however, it is a natural process to adapt the pieces to fit the puzzle so the traditional procedures will become changed.

Who’s to say that in the future there won’t be an eclectic tradition, that is open to people from all magickal backgrounds and traditions that won’t discriminate against other traditions or paths of paganism, a tradition that will truly see every path, solitary, traditional, every path, as equal in the eyes of divinity, with none being superior to others, and with no sense of inferiority of fear of not being a valid, accredited Witch or Wiccan.

Therefore, I put forward that Solitary practitioners, and eclectic practitioners have as much right to be classed as Wiccan if they wish to be, so long as they truly believe in their hearts the ideals of Wicca as a religion.

As the late -- and most definitely great -- Doreen Valiente, the woman who helped Gerald Gardner give birth to the beautiful religion of Wicca, said in Witchcraft for Tomorrow (p.22): “You have a right to be a pagan if you want to be….So do not let anyone browbeat you out of it” and I agree with the Farrars who say that this presumably includes “pedantically minded pagans”.

Brightest Blessings to all

**) O (**

A Witches' Bible - Janet and Stewart Farrar
Witchcraft for Tomorrow - Doreen Valiente


Ryan Hatcher

Location: Swaffham, England

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