Central Valley Wicca: The Kingstone Tradition
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Article ID: 3848
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,683
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Author: Kalisha Zahr
Posted: February 23rd. 2002
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What is Wicca?
I define Wicca as a Pagan Mystery faith that is initiatory, oath bound and experiential in nature, which has ancient roots that originated in the British Isles. However, the term Wicca has been co-opted by the popular Pagan/Wiccan movement that has grown significantly in the past twenty or so years. To differentiate the original Wiccan traditions from the newer non-initiatory groups, in the United States we now refer to ourselves as British Traditional Wicca (BTW) , and in Europe we are usually known as Traditional Wicca (TW) . To simplify things, in this article when I refer to Wicca, I am referring only to BTW/TW unless otherwise indicated.
History of Central Valley Wicca Central Valley Wicca, or CVW, traces its origins back to adherents of the Old Religion who settled in the Central Valley of Northern California by the early 1960s. At that time, our ancestors did not refer to themselves as a "tradition" of the Craft. They called themselves "Wicca." Tradition names came into use later.
According to our original custom, in the early days, a follower of the Old Ways was not told who their initiator's initiator was - therefore, the identity of the person who first brought Wicca to the Central Valley of California remains a mystery - to this day, we only know of her by what is probably her Craft name. What is known is that she had ties to England and had most likely lived there - she was either British or had close connection to a British subject prior to settling in Northern California.
There are several theories about the origins of Central Valley Wicca. There has been much debate among researchers. Some speculate that we may be an early off-shoot or even a precursor of the Gardnerian Tradition. Others suggest that we have a common ancestor with what later became the Gardnerian Tradition. All theories aside, CVW is an independent line of Wicca brought to the U.S. from Britain, and it stands on its own as having its own heritage. Whatever the relationship, Central Valley Wicca shares the basic beliefs and has similar structure and practice to the Gardnerian and Alexandrian forms of Wicca as they are practiced in the United Kingdom (Great Britain) . However, our interpretation of some of the material is unique, and our lore is similar but not identical. I feel that this is primarily due to older regional differences in British Witch lore and practices.
Today, the various branches (we used to call them "Orders") that descend from the Central Valley Wicca - and have developed into Traditions in their own right - include: Silver Crescent, Kingstone, Daoine Coire, Assembly of Wicca, and Majestic. Some of the offshoot Traditions from CVW have blended in influences from other related Pagan paths, although most retain the core essence of CVW.
The rest of this essay is about the Kingstone Tradition. I leave it to those who are of the other branches of CVW to write about their traditions should they choose to do so.
History of the Kingstone Tradition The Kingstone Tradition traces its origins directly to the Central Valley Wicca through both the Silver Crescent and Majestic lines. The Kingstone Tradition was formally established as an independent tradition in 1973.
Core Beliefs In Kingstone, we acknowledge that all of creation stems from an unknowable Source, which is beyond human comprehension. Many of us view this Source as both immanent and transcendent. As Witches, we honour and worship the Old Gods of Nature - the Great Mother and Her consort, the Horned God. We work primarily with the particular set of agricultural/pastoral based deities of our ancestors in CVW. Kingstone initiates may also work with other additional deities as they see fit.
We seek to experience and understand the cycles and tides of birth-life-death in our daily lives through a personal relationship and a direct connection with our Gods, our ancestors, and the local spirits of the land.
We believe in the power of magic, and use both traditional and experimental techniques to achieve our personal goals as well as to help others in an ethical manner.
Role of Clergy Initiation into a Kingstone coven means that, upon taking certain vows, one enters into an initiatory Priesthood. The oaths taken state that the initiate will protect and preserve the Craft, and the commitment to these vows is for life. In our view, initiation into Traditional Wicca is not the same as declaring oneself "Wiccan" as is so often seen today. To us, self-initiation is not possible, while self-dedication is of the utmost importance.
Kingstone Elders and their covens are autonomous. There is no central authority, yet those who teach understand that we hold a duty of care to pass the core tradition to our descendants as it was given to us. It is the role of the High Priestess and the High Priest to guide the coven with wisdom and love.
We are dedicated to preserving and maintaining the rich heritage of our tradition, and we also promote study and research in all related fields.
Organization of Groups Kingstone groups are organized into covens. A coven consists of at least three people who are not all of the same gender. Kingstone covens may work either robed or skyclad (unclothed) .
To become Kingstone, one must be initiated in the traditional manner. Initiation is passed only from female to male or male to female. Same-gender initiations are not permitted in the CVW. We have a three-degree system. The normal minimum period between initiation and degree elevations is a year and a day, but this can vary.
In most Kingstone covens, first-degree initiates (Priestess or Priest) follow the Path of the Goddess. At second degree (High Priestess or High Priest) , the initiate begins the Path of the God. The third degree (Elder) elevation marks the beginning of the journey to unite the paths of the Goddess and the God - when the initiate begins to realize the fullness of deity.
In many ways, our spiritual journey begins anew once an initiate becomes an elder. To truly become an Elder of the Craft in more than name takes much dedicated effort and increased personal responsibility, and one finds that as the years pass, one never really stops the process of growth if one truly walks the initiatory path.
The Kingstone Tradition is matrifocal but not matrilineal. Either a female or a male third degree Elder may operate a coven, but ideally, a cross-gender partnership is preferred. The High Priestess (as Queen of the Sabbat) has the final say within the circle, but an Elder who does not act with wisdom and love may one day find themselves without a coven!
In the rare cases when a coven is led by a male Elder (when a coven splits up, for example) , it is his responsibility to lead the coven with the assistance of a female. In this case, the female initiate will act as the High Priestess until she or another is validly elevated to third degree, at which time she assumes her full responsibilities.
A second degree may initiate (but only up to their degree) only under the authority and blessings of their third degree Elder. Although either a female or male may found a coven, it is preferable that a third degree female Elder cast the circle at initiations. This is in accord with traditional British custom.
Lineage is traced through both the female and the male. Lineage is now a matter of record within the Tradition, and it is not a custom to formally recite lineage to those not of the CVW.
Members of the CVW traditions sometimes use the terms "Lady" and "Lord", but these are titles of respect and not royalty (i.e. as in 'Lady of the hearth' or 'Lord of the fields') . I personally do not use them outside of the Circle.
There is an obligation by each Elder of the Tradition to pass on their Book of Shadows as it was given to them. A genuine or authentic Book of Shadows cannot be purchased; nor can it be obtained in any other way without the seeker having been properly initiated. Some may think that by picking up a Book of Shadows one could simply "set up shop" - but in reality, learning the ritual form by rote only shows that one is able to do the mechanics. The Mysteries are a deep well that transforms the individual, and must be experienced directly.
In service to the Gods, each Elder assists and guides their initiates along our shared exploration of the Mysteries. Some Kingstone Elders teach their initiates informally, ("one-on-one") , while other Elders prefer to maintain more of a formal "classroom" training environment. Most Kingstone covens maintain a strong sense of family. The authority of the coven leaders is supreme in regards to the operation of their coven, but their authority does not extend to non-Craft matters. However, personal matters that interrupt the smooth running of a coven need to be resolved. The Elders are there to assist as needed, and if they cannot, they may suggest that the individual seek outside help (such as professional counseling) .
Holidays We celebrate the traditional Eight Sabbats (there used to be only four) as the seasonal cycle of the Wheel of the Year. Sometimes covens may join together to celebrate the holidays - this can vary from group to group.
Esbats are held on or near the Full Moon. In general, Esbats are usually reserved for coven-only celebration and magical workings, but this can also vary.
Standards of Conduct Initiation and elevation into the Wicca is a privilege, not a right. Initiation is not offered lightly. To be initiated into Wicca as a Priest or Priestess, one must first be a proper person*. The Elders of a coven determine this - often with input from those already in the group. A candidate's sincerity, character, maturity, personal spiritual focus, level of commitment, sense of ethics, and personality are all factors that are considered. In addition, the Elders look for more esoteric signs. The Elders must also consider whether the seeker would bring harm to the Craft, or misuse or abuse the mysteries that they will be entrusted with if initiated. In short, the Elders must rely on their fair and balanced judgment - as well as their own intuition. A person who is generally suitable for initiation might not be accepted into one group (likely for reasons of potential personality clashes) but might mesh well with another. The Priesthood is not for thrill-seekers or glory-hogs, and an initiatory path is not wise for unbalanced individuals.
(*Note: One must also maintain the status of being a proper person once initiated. Those unwilling or unable to do so may be asked to leave the coven.)
It is a tenet of Wicca that money is never charged for initiating and teaching our religion. In the Kingstone Tradition, some covens may share the cost for basic coven expenses by paying reasonable dues, or may simply "pass the witches hat" as expenses arise.
We have an obligation to maintain the privacy of others who are initiates - therefore, to reveal the name or identity of another Witch without their explicit permission is not at any time appropriate.
I feel that it is important to try to show honor and respect to all other Craft and Pagan traditions. Constantly engaging in "witch wars' says to me that we are sometimes our own worst enemies. However, any Witch worth their salt knows to "Walk softly and carry a big stick" (quote from Teddy Roosevelt) and will defend themselves from slanderous attacks. We will also protect and defend ourselves (and others) magically when necessary, for "a Witch who cannot hex cannot heal." Of course any action we take is done with the full understanding of our personal responsibility for having done it, and with a willingness to accept any subsequent karmic repercussions.
The Wiccan Rede ('An it Harm None, Do What Ye Will') only states that all harmless activity is permissible. Harmlessness is a worthy ideal, but not something that is to be taken literally. There is simply no way that any person can go through life without causing something (or someone) else harm. We are, however, fully responsible for our *choices* in life. One way that I interpret the Rede is to follow your highest ideal (your Will) - which implies that it is best to try to choose the path of least harm. As we grow in our understanding of the mysteries of the cycles and tides of life, we begin to realize our connectedness to all beings of the earth. The concept of 'True Will' then begins to suggest our actively working toward the greater good of all in whatever way we feel is appropriate.
Ways of Worship The Kingstone Tradition closely follows the pattern of the original CVW, with only slight variations in form and practice. Specific details of our ways of worship I cannot reveal here. Suffice to say that our teachings focus on the development of a personal relationship with Deity, and a keen awareness and attunement with the cycles of Nature through ritual and in our daily lives.
We use traditional Wiccan techniques to gain self-mastery and develop our skills as Witches to help ourselves and to help others. Experimental methods may also be used, for our Tradition provides us with a firm foundation upon which to build and improvise.
The Future The widespread Pagan/Wiccan movement is still developing, and this, in my opinion, is a natural evolution. What has been happening since the 1970s and continues today with the growing number of Pagan and Wiccan traditions is akin to the development of Christianity, which has thousands of branches today. The same can be said for other world religions. I personally do not disparage this as it is only human nature - and since, at this point we simply cannot turn back the tide, I feel that we should celebrate our diversity!
It is important that the essential core of British Traditional Wicca continues to be passed down to its initiates, and what is refined and added is delineated as such to the new and future generations of our particular path - lest the core become watered down by outside influences. It order to do this, I feel it is crucial that BTW remain an oath bound Mystery Religion, and that it behooves us to focus on quality and not quantity.
Blessed Be, and May the Gods preserve the Craft!
Kalisha Zahr, HPS
Caveat: Insofar as all third degree Elders are autonomous in our tradition, none of us may speak for all of us. As one of the founders of the Kingstone Tradition, the foregoing thoughts are my own opinions concerning the nature of the Central Valley Wicca and the Kingstone Tradition, which I dearly love and cherish.
Reading and Other References:
Being a Pagan: Druids, Wiccans, and Witches Today [Revised Edition of People of the Earth] - Ellen Evert Hopman and Lawrence Bond (See interview with Allyn Wolfe)
Wicca: the Old Religion in the New Age - Vivianne Crowley
The Meaning of Witch Craft; Witchcraft Today; High Magic's Aid (fiction) - Gerald Gardner
Spells and How They Work; The Witches' Goddess; The Witches' God - Janet and Stewart Farrar
Wiccan Roots (history) - Philip Heselton
Gerald Gardner: Witch (biography) - J. L. Bracelin
Natural Magic; An ABC of Witchcraft - Doreen Valiente
Spell Craft - Robin Skelton
The Power of Myth (mythology) - Joseph Campbell
Sea Priestess; The Winged Bull; Goat Foot God (all fiction) - Dion Fortune
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