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Article ID: 15772

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Section: trads

Age Group: Adult

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The New England Covens of Traditionalist Witches (NECTW)

Author: Ash McSidhe [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: January 1st. 2015
Times Viewed: 4,619

Gwen Thompson (1928-1986) , a hereditary Witch from New Haven, Connecticut. It is with the utmost respect that the Elders of the NECTW dedicate this essay to the loving memory and the living Tradition of Gwen Thompson.

Gwen's impact on the development of the Craft today is undeniable. She is most widely known as the source of The Wiccan Rede. Most Witches are familiar with the Rede, yet its origin is often shrouded in confusion.

The Wiccan Rede first appeared in print in 1975 in Green Egg, (Vol.viii, No. 69) in an article by Gwen Thompson entitled "Wiccan-Pagan Potpourri." She attributed her Tradition's version of the Rede to her paternal grandmother, Adriana Porter, "who was well into her 90's when she crossed over into the Summerlands in 1946."

Gwen's family tradition was handed down through many generations and blended with popular occultism to the present form she named NECTW. Not all who are born into a family tradition are destined to follow this path, and Gwen feared her tradition would die out and fade into obscurity. This was the principal reason she decided to "foster" individuals outside her blood family in order to ensure that the Tradition would survive.

Gwen often spoke of the need for Initiates to shun the limelight and to remain "underground." Yet due to confusion surrounding the Rede even then, she felt its publication would set the record straight.

Ironically, since its first appearance in Green Egg, her family's version of the Rede has appeared in numerous publications, websites and is even sold as a poster, yet in only a few of these instances has the name of Gwen Thompson actually been credited. The contemporary issue of providing information to the Pagan Community poses a dilemma of sorts for the current Elders of her Tradition. Balancing the need for maintaining secrecy and the need to educate the Pagan Community, especially insofar as the origins of the Wiccan Rede are concerned, is an ongoing process for the new millennium.

The simplistic nature of the Rede is due to the fact that many of the old ones were ordinary country people who received little or no formal education, or were very simple in their ways. This included their rituals, practices and wording. They were not taught to strive for perfection, but for Wisdom. And because of the level of persecution at the time, they were unable to openly express themselves. So they resorted to symbolism in ritual, legend, and drawings, and preserved their sacred heritage in the most comprehensive manner.

Due to all the variations of the Rede available today, we have included Gwen's Rede of the Wiccae as it originally appeared in Green Egg:

Rede of the Wiccae
(The Counsel of the Wise Ones)

Bide the Wiccan laws ye must in perfect love and perfect trust
Live and let live - fairly take an fairly give
Cast the Circle thrice about to keep all evil spirits out
To bind the spell every time, let the spell be spake in rhyme
Soft of eye and light of touch - speak little, listen much
Deosil go by the waxing Moon - sing and dance the Wiccan rune
Widdershins go when the Moon doth wane, an the Werewolf howls by the dred Wolfsbane
When the Lady's Moon is new, kiss the hand to her times two
When the Moon rides at her peak, then your heart's desire seek
Heed the Northwind's mighty gale - lock the door and drop the sail
When the wind comes from the South, love will kiss thee on the mouth
When the wind blows from the East, expect the new and set the feast
When the West wind blows o'er thee, departed spirits restless be
Nine woods in the Cauldron go - burn them quick an burn them slow
Elder be ye Lady's tree - burn it not or cursed ye'll be
When the Wheel begins to turn - let the Beltane fires burn
When the Wheel has turned a Yule, light the Log an let Pan rule
Heed ye flower, bush an tree - by the Lady blessed be
Where the rippling waters go, cast a stone an truth ye'll know
When ye have need, hearken not to other's greed.
With the fool no season spend or be counted as his friend
Merry meet an merry part - bright the cheeks an warm the heart
Mind the Threefold Law ye should - three times bad an three times good
When misfortune is enow, wear the blue star on thy brow
True in love ever be unless thy lover's false to thee
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill - an it harm none, do what ye will

It is important to note the spiritual significance, tenets and principles enclosed within the Rede are explained fully to the initiated Witch and remain an oathbound teaching. Much of our lore, including much of the Rede's significance, is transmitted orally. It is ironic how easily so many within the Pagan community have so quickly and easily adopted the Rede as "Law, " not understanding the true meaning behind it.

Yet upon true reflection, a sincere seeker can glean much truth and wisdom in these 26 lines.

Core Beliefs and Practices

NECTW is a place for men and women to be trained as Priests and Priestesses of the Craft. The teachings and intense training are not for everyone. They require a strong follower with a peculiar sense of dedication, and a sincere heart willing to train and practice in order to understand the ways of the Wise. Those seeking to join this Tradition are ideally of keen mind, strong spirit and able body, ready to study the Old Ways and make this path an integral part of their life.

Within NECTW Covens, the eight Sabbats, thirteen full moons and new moon rituals are observed as well as special rituals for teaching/training, healings, blessings, dedications, passings and other purposes. We do not work skyclad, but are always robed. Although we are a Goddess-oriented group, we honor the God as well. NECTW initiates are interested in folklore, meditation, ritual concepts, Celtic history, literature, philosophy, music and art, ecology, herbal lore, runecraft, spellcraft, astrology, Tarot, divination by crystal, pendulum, and board. We do not charge any fees, but all are expected to contribute their share to Circles and feasts. The Book of Shadows is always copied by hand and each degree of elevation must be mastered fully before elevation.

We are quite informal and a key word in our tradition is family. Unity, harmony, courtesy, respect, study, devotion and dedication to the Gods and each other are greatly emphasized. Circles are held outdoors at night unless the weather brings them inside. The feast of cakes and wine are also observed within the Circle, as well as the general Coven feast of the Sabbat. The active Elders, leaders of their respective covens, are an extremely close-knit group and consider themselves quite literally as Gwen's family. It is a truly unique relationship within the Craft, with communication on a regular basis to discuss issues and concerns relating to the Tradition. All valid initiations are announced or discussed, and recorded appropriately by the Tradition's Historian.

Gwen once wrote "Nobody can hear a whisper while they're talking, " and meditation is a most important adjunct to the learning of the Mysteries of the Old Religion. To the NECTW Initiate, there is only one form of wisdom that time alone can bestow, and that is lessons learned from experience.

Within the umbrella of NECTW are several branches: N.E.C.T.W., Tuatha de Danann Tradition (TDD) and the Welsh Rite Gwyddonaid. Outside of the tradition, Gwen Thompson's teachings have founded or have had influence on many Craft Traditions in the U.S., some of which are still active today: The New York Welsh Tradition, Blue Star Tradition (via New York Welsh Tradition) , Georgian Tradition, Keepers of the Ancient Mysteries (K.A.M.) and the StarBorne Tradition. She was an influence on many Gardnerian and Alexandrian Elders as well.

It is a great sadness she crossed over into the Summerlands not realizing the extent to which her family tradition has survived and is as vital today as the Gods themselves. However we feel her smiling from the Land of Eternal Summer, content in the progress and direction her Tradition has evolved under the stewardship of such devoted and passionate Priests and Priestesses.

The only Covens, groups and individuals associated or affiliated with the New England Covens of Traditionalist Witches and Gwen Thompson can be found on the NECTW main web site, If anyone has any questions or comments please do not hesitate to contact the Historian and Archivist for the N.E.C.T.W. at

Copyright: Copyright © 2001, revised 2014 New England Covens of Traditionalist Witches


Ash McSidhe

Location: Duvall, Washington


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