The Mi'nerwen Tradition|
Posted: February 16th. 2004
Times Viewed: 10,224
The Mi'nerwen Tradition is more than just a system of belief. Based on an organized shamanic system, it is a complete culture with a rich history, mythology, and etiquette.
Now it should be noted that there has been some controversy surrounding the origins of the Mi'nerwen Tradition. This is because until recently the Tradition was more or less a secret society. Like many other Pagan traditions that have survived the Dark Ages, the Mi'nerwen Tradition chose to hide from those who would destroy it, and pass their knowledge down as an oral tradition. It has only been over the past couple years that they have chosen to risk becoming more public again; primarily because their dwindling numbers have forced them to either become more public, or finally die out as a tradition.
Mi'nerwen history comes to us as a series of legends about an ancient civilization, perhaps nearly as advanced as our own, although more likely a Bronze or Iron Age society. Many people have immediately labeled the Mi'nerwen Tradition, and the Order of Tra, frauds because of these legends, and our inability to "prove" the existence of such a civilization. This is unfortunate to say the least.
It is important to remember that these are legends, and they are presented as such. There are many spiritual traditions based on a mytho-history; so this is not a new concept. There are those who believe that Mi'nerwen legends are largely metaphorical and symbolic, and try to look at them for insight the way one might view a fable. And, of course, there are others, including myself, who believe that, like many legends, our mytho-history is based at least in part on actual events. (I have trouble believing that it is a coincidence that nearly every culture has legends about ancient advanced civilizations. Is it really so hard to believe that they might be based on something real?)
In any event, the important message here is that our legends are just that, and should not be construed as a claim to have proof of a civilization that currently exists only in our mythology. It is true Mi'nerwen scholars are working hard to piece together archeological evidence that might shed some light on the issue. Not unlike the many archeological projects that people have taken over the years to ascertain the true history behind the Arthurian Legends. When the truth of the matter has been uncovered, then we will all know; in the meantime it is important that people make their own decisions whether these are long forgotten facts, or simply stories with important messages. But this does not invalidate the Mi'nerwen Tradition any more than the Judeo-Christian mythology story of Eden invalidates Christianity.
What we know for fairly certain is that the Order of Tra was one of the groups that Gerald Gardner studied and based many of the ideas in his tradition on. Other than that we have what has been passed down to us by our mothers and grandmothers before them.
We also know that the founder of the Order of Tra was a woman named Tra'Kama, about whom many Mi'nerwen legends center. Her teachings, passed down via word of mouth, are the direct basis for the beliefs and teachings of the Order of Tra. A mytho-historical figure, Tra'Kama was a great leader who banded together a number of prehistoric tribes bringing about a new society, one that was fairly advanced for its time. Little solid facts are known about the historical Tra'Kama, as we have only our legends to go by.
Today the Order of Tra, and the followers of the Mi'nerwen Tradition in general, are at the forefront of the growing Wiccan/Pagan Reform movement. The goal of the Reform is to preserve, and in some cases completely resurrect some of the pre-Gardnerian traditions that have suffered as a result of the growing popularity of newer more popular traditions. This is not to say that these newer traditions are any less valid than the older ones. Most Wiccan Traditions are less than a hundred years old; this does not make them less legitimate, it's just important to be honest about it, and many new Wiccans over the recent years have been doing less and less research into the origins of their beliefs. The Reform hopes to combat this by helping to make more in-depth material available to everyone so that people can make more educated decisions about which paths are truly for them.
The Mi'nerwen Tradition is very diverse, in the true shamanic style. There is no worship, so to speak, of any one, or group, of deities. Instead, individuals are encouraged to search out their own spirit guides and learn from them individually.
However, this is not eclectic Wicca either. There is some framework to the basic philosophy. The Order of Tra teaches that everything in the universe, indeed the universe itself, is all part of the "Tree of Life." The Tree is a fractal ocean of probability. Every person chooses her own path along the Tree's infinite branches. It is within this framework, the belief that we are all part of the universe, and of each other, that the personal journey of every Mi'nerwen takes place.
Another important aspect of Mi'nerwen philosophy is honor. Mi'nerwens adhere to an unwritten code of honor that directs them to always think for themselves, be productive and contribute to society, love everyone, and to be creative and original.
Originality and creativity are some of the most important aspects of Mi'nerwen culture. The more creative your approach to life, the more honor you bring to your family. At the same time it is also exceedingly important to contribute to the betterment of your people, and to put the needs of your people, above your own personal agenda. Laziness is considered about the most dishonorable attribute a Mi'nerwen can be accused of.
Mi'nerwens are also very free of taboos, social and sexual. Free love is encouraged, as are all manners of the pursuit of happiness.
The Mi'nerwen Tradition is also very matriarchal. Interestingly, there was a time not that long ago when Mi'nerwen men were treated more as pets, taken care of, pampered even, but with no rights. In fact according to legend, in early Mi'nerwen society, men were little more than property.
Today men and women in the Mi'nerwen Tradition are more or less equal, but some of the matriarchy still remains, as well as a fairly feminine perspective on the universe. This doesn't mean that men are unwelcome in the Mi'nerwen Tradition; in fact for the first time in the history of the Order of Tra, men are being allowed to join the Order. In fact the current "Regent" is male. (The regent is administrating the Order until someone is ready to take over as the Penlunatra.)
Role of Clergy
The Mi'nerwen Tradition is shamanic, but there is an organized clergy called the Order of Tra. In many ways the Order is like a seminary for shamans. The Order passes down all information about Mi'nerwen customs and culture, as well as many Mi'nerwen healing techniques, and knowledge about the universe and how it works.
Every member of the Order is to some degree a jack-of-all-trades, a combination priestess, artist, scientist, doctor, and philosopher. The true shaman.
However, the Order also branches out into eight disciplines, and each member, while having a smattering of training in each of the disciplines, specializes in one of the eight.
The eight disciplines are:
Culture - (Trekenreluna)
Philosophy - (Raisluna)
Physics - (Solasluna)
Healing - (Velkanluna)
History - (Kepeteluna)
Language - (Linijluna)
Divination - (Krintululuna)
Art - (Trekluna)
There are three primary levels of initiation in the Order of Tra. They are Initiate, Cleric, and Priestess. Above them are eight High Priestesses, one for each discipline; and at the top there is the Penlunatra, who directs the Order of Tra's activities and represents the Order to the Phoenician Alliance High Council.
The role of the Order of Tra in the Mi'nerwen Tradition is that of advisors and teachers, as well as scientists, and skilled artisans. The Order of Tra preserves and enhances the culture of the Mi'nerwen Tradition, and training with the Order of Tra is the primary method of secondary education for Mi'nerwens pursuing the arts and sciences.
Organization of the Mi'nerwen Tradition
The organization of the Mi'nerwen Tradition is a direct carryover of the government believed to have presided over the Mi'nerwen civilization. The structure is directly based on Tra'Kama's ideas for a utopian society.
The followers of the Mi'nerwen Tradition are split up into a number of clans. Each of these clans has its own customs and culture in addition to being part of the Mi'nerwen Tradition. Each of these clans is represented on the Phoenician Alliance High Council. The High Council is a group of advisors and delegates who speak for their clan and advise the Alliance monarch on events and disputes.
The Alliance Monarchy is based around the Clan Kama, the Alliance's royal family. These women aren't like the royalty in many other cultures. They are trained from a young age to be just and humane leaders, but they do not get any really special treatment or wealth. They have all of the responsibilities and none of the perks of being royalty. (Mi'nerwen philosophy dictates that all women being equal, no one should be held up above the others as being worth more. People should be rewarded for their accomplishments, but a poor farmer is just as good as a monarch, and just as important to society; there is no more honor in being royalty than in working the soil.)
The Mi'nerwen clans are further divided into "covens." Mi'nerwen covens are a direct result of the Order of Tra going underground to avoid persecution from those who would label it "heresy." As with many secret organizations, the Mi'nerwen Tradition was split up into cells. Each coven had contact with two other people: the head of their clan, and the head of the Order of Tra.
Now this may seem an excessive measure, but during a time when the Inquisition could burst into your home like some kind of Spanish Gestapo, this did not seem so extreme a course of action, compared with the result of staying out in the open. When you're being hunted, the rules change.
Nowadays covens have become practically second nature to the Mi'nerwen Tradition, and they remain in use, even though the Order of Tra has chosen to come out of hiding.
Every Coven has one member of the Order of Tra assigned to it, and although every member of a coven is a member of that coven's clan, the coven is lead by a knighted member of the clans "royal" family. (They can be a member by birth or by adoption. Adoption is the most common these days though.)
It is unfortunate the Mi'nerwen concept of royalty doesn't translate into English very well, as the word "royalty" comes with connotations attached to it by western society that do not carry over into the Mi'nerwen concept of basic equality.
The concept of regular holidays is not native to the Mi'nerwen Tradition. Mi'nerwens usually found plenty of reasons to celebrate. However as our lives got more busy and fast paced, the need for some evenly spaced holidays built into the calendar showed more merit, and about 1500 years ago the Order adopted the Celtic Holidays that are now used by so many Wiccan Traditions; but with a Mi'nerwen twist.
The formal holidays we celebrate are:
YULE (circa December 21)
Longest night of the year, the turning point when the days shall afterwards grow longer as winter begins its passage into the coming spring. Symbolizes the triumph of darkness over light. Yule is a time for warm gatherings amongst one's coven and family, as well as feasting and the exchanging of gifts amongst one's coven. This is also the time for quiet trysts and sensual love affairs. It is a more subdued holiday, with celebration behind closed doors. A time for anonymous acts of kindness, and helping those less fortunate. Traditional adornments are a Yule Log, usually of oak, and a combination of mistletoe and holly. Colors for Yule are dark green and deep red.
IMBOLC (February 2)
This is a Sabbat of purification, a festival of light and fertility. This also a traditional time for initiations into covens, and self-dedication rituals. Mi'nerwens often make "Imbolc resolutions," not unlike New Year's Resolutions. Traditional decorations for this festival are blue and green. Celebration includes feasting and a bonfire outside, or a smaller candle setting inside, depending on your climate.
OSTARA (circa March 21)
Ostara is one of the more colorful holidays. Feasting and socializing are the important factors in this holiday as well as the celebration of the return of color to the natural world. Colors for Ostara are bright green, as well as yellow, and light blue. Oranges and yellows are present, but less prominent.
BELTANE (MAY 1)
Most important to Mi'nerwens, save for Samhain. Beltane is the great fertility rite of life, starting at dusk on the 30th and continuing until the dawn of the 1st. The Maypole is a symbol of the union of the masculine and feminine to create life. Besides the Maypole often a bonfire is present, and members of the group are encouraged to jump the flames for luck and their own fertility. Food, drink and love are the activities of the evening. In most clans the celebration of unions of love are enacted. Beltane is the time of many marriages in the Mi'nerwen. Clothing is optional in most get-togethers on this holiday, and mostly it is sensual and very colorful. It is the holiday of free love. Colors for Beltane are bright and cheerful reds, blues, greens, oranges, and pinks.
LITHA (circa June 21)
Held on the longest day of the year, the Solstice is the celebration of warmth's triumph over cold and that of the bountiful beauty that warmth brings into life. Flowers are common; roses and all usually wear bright cheerful wildflowers. Celebration includes dancing, much joy, and much feasting. Many Mi'nerwens will attire themselves in bright colors and equally bright adornments of flowers. Litha's usual food fare may include fresh fruits, fresh meat, and fresh vegetables. There are also bonfires, cookouts, and music. Celebration is usually outdoors. This is also a holiday symbolic of the hunt, and meat plays an important role in Litha feasting. Colors for Litha include bright blue, bright many shades of green, symbolizing the jungle.
LAMMAS (August 1)
This is the big celebration of the harvest. Lammas is about giving thanks for a good harvest from one's gardens and crops. Much feasting and dancing occur, though it is a little bit more somber than many of the other holidays. As summer passes, Mi'nerwens give thanks for the bounty it brought. Colors for Lammas include yellows, oranges, and many greens.
MABON (circa September 21)
Mabon marks the end of the harvest period of the year. Celebrations include feasting dancing, and relaxation. It is a time to take off from work and get some rest. Colors for Mabon are brown and purple. Traditional feasts include cooked vegetables, fresh meats, fruits, and cooked foods made with products of the years harvest. It is a time of enjoying the fruits of ones labor, both symbolic and literal.
SAMHAIN (October 31)
This Sabbat is also known as Feast of the Dead. This is a night when a coven gathers for a grand feast, primarily of meats, in honor of those past. Mi'nerwens feel that on this night the separation between the physical and spiritual realities is at its least guarded and its veil the thinnest. It is a time for spiritual communications and workings, and also the celebration of the death and rebirth. It is a time of endings of relationships and bad situations and it is the time when one can see the glimmer of hope in the future. Mi'nerwens also use Samhain as a time when they can take a day off and commune with their spirit guides and with their ancestors. It is a somber holiday, one of dark clothes and thoughts for the dead, and it is certainly a time to remember one's dead. Colors for Samhain include deep red, black, and orange.
Standards of Conduct
The modern Wiccan Rede is a good example of the basic philosophy Mi'nerwens take to life. Do what you want, so long as you do not harm, or dishonor those around you.
In the event that disagreements arise, one of the primary jobs of the head of each coven is to arbitrate disputes among members of the coven.
In Mi'nerwen society there were three honorable ways to settle a dispute: negotiation, arbitration, or a duel. When a disagreement was obviously not going to be solved on its own, a Mi'nerwen would issue a challenge to another, who would then choose between arbitration and a duel.
Since it is impossible to stop people from fighting, if that is what they have made up their minds to do, Mi'nerwens chose instead to dictate conditions under which such a fight could take place honorably. This has proven more effective in maintaining the overall peace.
Today duels are much less common, as secular local laws in many places prohibit fighting. But, just as with most other things, Mi'nerwens believe that how you settle your disputes behind closed doors is your business. Which is the whole idea behind Mi'nerwen ethics.
Ways of Worship
Faith isn't a concept that carries over very well into the Mi'nerwen Tradition. Mi'nerwens choose more to focus on thinking for yourself, and making up your own mind utilizing all available information. So it is not surprising that there is not a lot of "worship" in the Mi'nerwen Tradition.
Mi'nerwen spirituality is based around mentoring. Mi'nerwens look for mentors among the spirit realm who can help guide them on their path through the Tree of Life. These mentors take the form of spirit guides, and ancestors.
Mi'nerwens place a lot of value on receiving advice from one's ancestors. Instead of praying to one's ancestors for help, as many cultures do, Mi'nerwens most often implore their ancestors for inspiration to help them solve their own problems, and by doing so, bring their family honor. The idea of asking for someone to do something for you, instead of doing it yourself and taking responsibility for what you do, is not popular in Mi'nerwen culture. Honor is gained by taking responsibility, not by sloughing it off. As such the Mi'nerwen dynamic of interaction with deities and spirits is entirely different from many other belief systems.
Website of the Order of Tra
Wiccan/Pagan Reform discussion and columnist site
Official Web Portal for the Phoenician Alliance. (A lot of Mi'nerwen Tradition Info)
A Guide to the Mi'nerwen Tradition by My'dRin. Available as a free download.
For more information contact:
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