Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition - Beyond an Initiatory Line and into a Tradition
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Author: Rev. Vincent Russo
Posted: November 28th. 2010
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Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition - Beyond an Initiatory Line and into a Tradition:
The Chthonioi branch of the Alexandrian Du Bandia Grasail (DBG) Line has developed innovations that were and are significantly different from the practice of the more traditional DBG family, and from the practice of the wider Alexandrian community. The results have led to an extraordinarily rich heritage comprising Sabbats, Esbats, Initiations, Elevations, and kabalistic rites, which acknowledge the ceremonial magic, which Alex Sanders brought into the Gardnerian foundation of his practice.
The heritage of the Chthonioi is one of thoughtful, committed, and reverent worship, practice, teaching and service. It includes a tendency to teach about the perils of "glamour" and to mandate the practice of self-awareness techniques that minimize glamour. This has allowed the Line to produce generally sane and effective, sequential leadership through the daughter covens. As a result, the Chthonioi covens maintain close family ties with each other and even in some cases with "cousins" from the more traditional branches of DBG. We consider the Chthonioi Line to be a distinct path which is Alexandrian-derived, and we have practiced as such since 1974 alongside and in harmony with those Traditional Alexandrians who consider us Kin.
As is proper in a hierarchical tradition, we discuss questions of tradition with our elders, both within the Chthonioi family and with our traditional Du Bandia Grasail Line cousins, and come to a consensus. In this case, many generations of Chthonioi, as well as other traditional Alexandrians in the Du Bandia Grasail Line, have discussed the changes in our practice over the years and have concluded that we do, in fact, deviate enough from core Alexandrian practice that we should add the modifier “Chthonioi” to our Line name. Based on the long established working relationship and history with our kin, we feel that a clarification in name accomplishes several things:
1. It defines us as an identifiable derivation of the Alexandrian Tradition without claiming to be Traditional Alexandrian
2. It allows the more Traditional Alexandrians to choose for themselves if they want to acknowledge our Line as kin without having our praxis imposed on them
3. It allows those Traditional Alexandrians who do consider us kin to still share with us a diverse magical working relationship and attend each others’ events, as has been done since 1974/5 (the birth of Chthonioi Coven/Order of Ganymede) , as well as to cross-train students in more than one family line.
Claiming the right to define ourselves, based on consensus from many available generations of elders in our line, we have made the decision to formally establish ourselves as the "Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition" or “Chthonioi-Alexandrian Wicca”.
Chthonioi-Alexandrian Wicca: A Brief Description:
The term “Chthonioi-Alexandrian Wicca” is used to describe the practice of the Boston-based family of covens directly downline from and including Coven Chthonioi. Coven Chthonioi (and daughter Covens) grew out of the Alexandrian practice of its founders in the 1960’s/1970’s, and is the oldest continuous Line descended from Du Bandia Grasail, the first documented Alexandrian Coven in the USA. Chthonioi and its downline are, in general, open and non-secretive, on the principle that the Mysteries guard themselves well enough without us throwing additional obstacles in the path of understanding.
Originally purely Alexandrian, Coven Chthonioi early on changed its worship from that of the Celtic Gods and Goddesses of Britain to that of the Gods and Goddesses of Greece (Greco-Roman Pantheon and Isian worship) , and changed its ritual form somewhat to suit this change in mythology. Many of the original founders (Chthonioi/Ganymede) were students of comparative religion and Classics. Given the enormous effect Greek and Roman culture has had on American arts, architecture, law and politics, since before the founding of the country, this pantheon has proven especially well-suited to our culture and our focus on social workings. In addition, the comprehensive documentation of Greco-Roman religious practice and philosophy allowed early leaders of the coven to easily form a coherent Tradition. Nonetheless the basic ritual form we use (Casting the Circle, Drawing Down the Moon, Initiations) is closely enough based on our Alexandrian background that most all of the local completely traditional Alexandrians consider us Kin or “kissing-cousins”.
Most Traditional Alexandrians consider themselves to fall under the description of BTW or British Traditional Wicca. The term "Wicca" here refers specifically to the lineaged, initiatory mystery religions with roots in the New Forest region of Great Britain, manifested today through various "traditions" all linked with a common ancestry back to the New Forest area. "Wiccans" or "The Wica" are the properly initiated and lineaged members of those Traditions. Like our more traditional Alexandrian kin, our Tradition’s members are properly initiated and lineaged members who also trace our lineage back in an unbroken initiatory succession to Alex Sanders.
Coven Chthonioi is the originator of the cycle of rituals that has become known as the Book of the Provider (or Provider Cycle) . The Provider Cycle is a series of rituals performing sacred enactments of ancient fertility lore surrounding the Wheel of the Year within the growing and harvest times, and using the symbology of the Earth Mother/Harvest Maiden and the Sun King/Harvest Lord. Most Covens in the Chthonioi-Alexandrian family practice a recognizable form of the Provider Cycle as part of their material and pass down the original Alexandrian Book of Shadows (the “Burned Book” version) as well as considerable additional material.
The name Coven of the Chthonioi, which is Greek, means “the People of the Earth, ” or “the earth-born, ” since first in our prayers we call on Earth, the Mother of us all. The name also refers to the gods of the earth and the realm under the earth, especially Demeter and Persephone, who are central to our Book of the Provider. These were the gods particularly associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries, the ancient initiatory religious tradition that inspired most, if not all, later secret initiatory societies.
We share many things in common with our Traditional Alexandrian Kin. We celebrate the eight Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year, and we celebrate both the New and Full Moons (with variations from coven to coven.) The original Book of Shadows material passed to our Line is present within our Lore and rituals (sometimes obviously, sometimes hidden) and honors our origin and core practice. As a family we do not believe that the Book of Shadows defines or limits us, rather it provides a starting point from which to grow. We feel that Tradition and Innovation are two sides of one coin that, when wisely integrated together, foster healthy growth and fruitful spirituality.
The Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition is organized into Covens, and families of Covens. It is not possible to self-initiate into the Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition; it is only possible to be Initiated into the Line by someone already in the Line authorized to do so. Each coven is autonomous and we claim the sole right to determine for ourselves what constitutes our core practices. As of this writing, Chthonioi-Alexandrian Wicca has at least 6 generations of active Covens.
Covens in the Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition of Wicca tend to emphasize the creative and dynamic character of the Alexandrian Tradition. Since Alex Sanders himself continued to change and evolve his practice of Wicca throughout his life, the Chthonioi branch feels empowered, and even obliged, to continue the creative growth and development of the tradition. These covens place a great emphasis on group ritual, and often incorporate ideas and techniques from non-Wiccan forms of ritual magic. The magic practiced in this branch is primarily theurgic in nature, aiming to effect a subtle inner transformation of the spirit. It is our deeply held belief that Wicca, and specifically Chthonioi-Alexandrian Wicca, is a living growing being of beauty and strength.
Some features that distinguish us from traditional Alexandrians include:
1. The use of pantheons other than the traditional gods of Wicca, primarily but not exclusively Greek/Greco-Roman. In particular, the Tradition works with gods that were involved in the ancient Eleusinian and Isian Mystery religions. Some covens have developed rituals based on ancient mystical and initiatory traditions from other regions as well. The approach taken to the worship of the gods involves both scholarly study of ancient traditions and direct experiential interaction with the gods.
2. The teaching and use of the Provider Cycle and other materials written by Lucifer, the founding High Priest of Coven Chthonioi, and expanded by others. The following selected excerpts from “Raise the Song of Harvest Home”  give an idea as to the nature of the Book of the Provider/Provider Cycle:
-- a. The Provider Cycle ( PC) is a series of rituals performed during the growing season starting at the New Moon or Full Moon (depending on timing) immediately after the Spring Equinox, and continuing on each Full Moon until the closest one before Samhain (October 31st) . (Note: some Covens practice the PC throughout the entire year by using material in addition to the original.)
-- b. Arachne, a Sister of the Order of Ganymede, states in her published remembrance of Lucifer, “The Cycle is perhaps best seen as a rewriting of the Mysteries of Eleusis appropriate to our time and climate; a celebration of the endless cycle of life and death.” The PC owes much of its meaning and drama to its representation of a “Sacred King cycle”.
-- c. The Provider Cycle is an example of successful creation of modern “traditional” ritual. Traditionalization of these new rites was accomplished by careful incorporation of material from pre- and post -20th Century literary sources. The old materials were chosen for their ability to be supportive of the flow of the ritual story, and are made to appear as part of the larger PC whole by the context in which they appear, and by judicious word substitution that does not break the flow of the original meter.
3. The concept that the polarity of “male” and “female” energies and their immanent divinity reside within each one of us, and can be accessed at will. This may be influenced by physical gender but is not necessarily bound by it. The work of polarity magic is expected to take place primarily on the inner planes. The goal of the work is for each priestess and each priest ultimately to have access to both God and Goddess energies within themselves, and to be able to encompass the full creative polarity each within their own auras.
4. Some branches of the Chthonioi-Alexandrian have incorporated Same-Sex Initiations (SSI) as a way of acknowledging the importance and validity of inner contacts and true connection to the divine regardless of physical gender. Although not universally practiced by all within our Tradition, we nonetheless acknowledge SSIs as equally valid, lineaged, proper Initiations and part of our Tradition.
Standards of Conduct:
Chthonioi-Alexandrians adhere to the Wiccan Rede and the Threefold Law. We do not charge money for teaching or ritual, beyond a fair sharing of actual ritual expenses. We are mindful of the power differential between Elders and students and so strive to avoid inappropriate personal, material or sexual exchanges within the context of coven relationships. Exploitative or abusive relationships of any kind are not tolerated. We have a strong ethic of personal initiative, responsibility, and accountability, and encourage the kind of personal development that allows members to function highly in these respects.
History of the Chthonioi-Alexandrian Line: (The following is paraphrased from “Witches at the Hub of the Universe )
The Du Bandia Grasail Line is one of the oldest continuous Alexandrian-derived lines in America, dating from the initiation of Summanus by Alex and Maxine Sanders in 1969, and his development of the early coven, which became Du Bandia Grasail. Summanus was the original founder of DBG and worked with the coven for several years before turning the leadership over to "Lucifer" (who took his name for its original meaning, “Light-bearer”) in 1973.
In 1974, Lucifer and the other coven elders recognized that, even at that time, there were already differences within the Alexandrian Tradition and they as elders were unable to decide which direction the coven would or should take. Lucifer returned to consult with Summanus on the issues involved. Lucifer was advised to set up his own group, one that could celebrate all the “traditional” holidays, but also allow them to continue to build on the original Wiccan system.
As the original coven was unavoidably going to break up, and since none of the factions could truly be said to embody the original coven any longer, none of them were to retain the Du Bandia name. Instead, in 1974, the DBG line split in into three traditional branches which kept to rituals more closely based on the original Alexandrian BOS, and one more progressive branch (Chthonioi/ Ganymede Line) , which kept the original Alexandrian BoS at its core but continued to expand, change, and actively incorporate further materials.
The original daughter covens of the original Alexandrian DBG coven were:
•Coven of the Chthonioi / Order of Ganymede, 1974-present (originator of the cycle of rituals that has become known as The Book of the Provider)
•Astreas, 1973-1984 (Dubuque 1973-75, Milwaukee 1975-84) , merged with outer court Sophia ca. 1978, and still continues through “hives”
•Uil’iomlan Tri-fillte Mathair ("Gefilltefisch") , 1974-1976
•ArDealrach Baintighearna, 1974-1981
The Lines off the original DBG coven, both more traditional and more progressive, continue and prosper today in Massachusetts and elsewhere, with active training given by people who were present in the 1970’s and later. Some members of the DBG line are responsible for the development of the Society of Elder Faiths, (a 501 (c) 3 Pagan church) which has been providing public ritual, workshops and retreats for thirteen years. Other members of the DBG line have been active in helping to produce some of the major festivals and newsletters, which drew pagans together in the decades before the Internet made it easier for people to find each other. And others have quietly offered public ritual in small occult stores for decades. These positive outcomes were made possible by members of both the more-traditional Line (Uil’iomlan Tri-fillte Mathair) and the more-progressive Line (Chthonioi/Ganymede) working loosely with each other as members of the same Family, as equals.
Finally, a small disclaimer and a word of thanks:
Because Elders are autonomous in our Tradition, none of us can possibly speak for all of us. Because we value individual autonomy within our Tradition, we understand that there may be disagreement over particular choices made by covens or individuals of our Line. We consider dynamic and enlightened exploration of such disagreements to be healthy, and do not see them as creating barriers between friendly, working relationships within our Wiccan family. In light of this, we do not expect all members of our family to agree with everything presented.
It is with thanks and deep appreciation that those of us "old enough to remember" wish to acknowledge the Protean Line of the Gardnerian family, and specifically Judy Harrow. Proteus and its downline have an analogous relationship to the Gardnerians as the Chthonioi Line does to the Alexandrians. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their willingness to declare themselves different, liberal and progressive, while nonetheless definite members of the Gardnerian Family. May the Protean Line always prosper!
This essay was written, edited, compiled, and approved by the following Elders and Initiates of the Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition of Wicca and made public in celebration of Samhain, October 31, 2010 C.E.:
Vincent Russo HP, Coven Synchronos, Sheaves of Dememter
Raven HPs, Coven Synergy
Arachne HPs, Symbios
Lakshmi HPs (Current) , Chthonioi
Shamash HP, Chthonioi, Ganymede
Steve Wage, Delios Eros, Chthonioi, Ganymede
Astrea, Chthonioi, Ganymede
Gwyddion, Chthonioi, Ganymede
Lucia, Ganymede, Chthonioi
Iris, Moonfire, Ganymede
Marilyn Bernstein, W.W., Chthonioi, Ganymede
Janus HP, Spawn Far Coven
LoriJoy, SpawnFar Coven
Briannan HPS, Amaltheia, Sheaves of Demeter
Ain, Sheaves of Demeter
Thymele HP of Synergy
Binah, Coven Synergy
Ash, Coven Synergy
Cypress, Synergy Coven
Hanuman HP, Holoklaros, Ganymede, Symbios
Dragonfly HPS, Holoklaros
Anubis HP, Kouretes
Miranda, Kouretes (Symbios, Earthclad, Amaltheia)
Berta A. Miller-Daniels, Order of Ouroboros
TreeFire, Mnemosyne and #8242;s Well, Spawnfar, Silver Cauldron
Wade Birdwell, Urla 303, Rabbit Hole Koven, New Orleans
Rowan, Persephone’s Midden/Coven Temenos
Coven Chthonioi: http://orderofganymede.org/
DBG Family Tree: http://chthonioi.org/familytree/dbgline.html
Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition: http://chthonioi.org/ (This is the website of the Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition, a progressive Alexandrian based tradition of Wicca.)
 Raise the Song of Harvest Home: The Created Ritual Cycle of a Modern Wiccan Lineage – A research Essay by Betty Widerski, © 2002 (selected excerpts) .
 Witches at the Hub of the Universe: The History of Du Bandia Grasail and its Successors (Summanus’ Account) – Part 1 and Part 2 (selected excerpts) .
Copyright: (C) 2010 Rev. Vincent Russo and the Elders and Initiates of the Chthonioi-Alexandrian Tradition
Rev. Vincent Russo
Location: Malden, Massachusetts
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