When Traditions Split – Witch in the 'Burbs

When Traditions Split

Geoffrey Chaucer turned a phrase once and it remains pretty relevant. Overused, but relevant. The quote is: “All good things must come to an end.”[ref]From Troilus & Criseyde.[/ref] It’s a sad quote, but, for most of life, it remains true.

I bring this up because the quote was brought to my mind when I heard about a split within a Tradition of the Craft.

A singular Tradition (namely, the Feri Tradition taught by Victor and Cora Anderson) that had been passed to countless wonderful people ended up splitting. I don’t know how “official” it is, because neither Victor nor Cora were around to see what took place (I think – I could be mistaken about when the splintering began).

Both of them (once honored as the Grandmasters of Feri, and, in my opinion, still are the Grandmasters of Feri) transitioned into the Otherworld.[ref]Victor transitioned in 2001. Cora transitioned in 2008.[/ref]

From what I can gather, the split took place because there is a very public group of Feri Witches and a group who are not-so-public and wish to remain so. The reasons I’ve been gleaning are:

  • public Feri are teaching Feri via the Internet;
  • public Feri are charging for this teaching; and
  • some of this teaching by public Feri is viewed as information that should remain secret.

I’ve read debates on both sides of the fence and have considered all the viewpoints I’ve found available on the matter.

From my experience, Traditions split over this kind of thing like wildfire.

There are some previous Feri Initiates who have evolved into their own spin-off Traditions. Francesca DeGrandis is Feri – she founded Third Road; Starhawk is Feri – she founded Reclaiming; T. Thorn Coyle is Feri – she’s moved onto teaching Evolutionary Witchcraft.

It happens in other Traditions, too. Judy Harrow, a Gardnerian Initiate, hived off into Proteus Coven, which some Gardnerians consider it’s own Tradition. Alexander Sanders is a prime example – he was initiated by one of Gardner’s own High Priestesses and then went on a research/study/initiating spree of his own (and I find nothing wrong with that, other than maybe taking a slight umbrage with the ethics of where Sanders claimed to come by his material).

And then there’s me. My High Priestess – the one who Initiated me – had a direct line to two different Traditions. She combined them and spawned something new. I can’t go into further details because of the fact that our Tradition doesn’t divulge either legal or craft names of it’s Witches to anyone outside the current Tradition as a matter of Oath. It would be considered a breach of the Rede. But I can say that I met her in 1990, after her relocation from Indiana, to a city not far from my hometown; and that the new name she’d given the Tradition hadn’t quite yet “stuck” even then. (I was initiated the same year I met my High Priestess.)

Still and all – Traditions often split. Look at the Christian church, for goodness sakes. Catholicism spun off into Protestantism, which further split into Baptist, Old Regular Baptist, Pentecostal, Church of God, Lutheran and more – right up to Evangelical and Charismatic. And even later still, Catholicism spun off into Episcopalianism and even Charismatic Catholicism. Now, we even have denominations splitting off – Pentecostal split into Apostolic Pentecostal and Charismatic Pentecostal; Church of God in Christ split off from the Church of God; etc.

I’ve heard that it’s “evolution,” but I don’t so much buy that. I mean, honestly, just because a practice changes a little doesn’t mean it’s a whole new animal. To evolve means that one species develops new attributes suited to its environment – it’s a survival mechanism and is often an improvement of some sort – and becomes a different species. (Except Americans – we’ve mostly become a society of assholes who doesn’t like the brand of asshole-ism that our neighbor purports to be. So we’ve basically devolved.) In the case of Feri, I’m not sure the “evolved attributes” are improvements, in much the same way Christianity’s “evolution” just made more extremist fundy fucktards who are so unhappy that everyone has to be unhappy or it’s just not fair. (‘Cause Jeebus told me so, deep down in muh soul. ‘Merica!)

Enough of the rant on Christians. I digress.

Here’s how I see it …

New practices come about all the time. The very spirit of Feri is that a Practitioner takes what s/he’s been taught and adds his/her take on it – so long as s/he is clear about what material is core and what isn’t. What is not cool is that people are kicking the Old Faith in the teeth by charging money for it and by “teaching” it over the Internet. And this doesn’t just apply to Feri, in my book, but all Craft Traditions.

In my Tradition, I was Oathed not to charge for teaching the Craft, not to charge for Initiation and not to charge for Membership in a Coven.[ref]This oath does not, however, apply to services, such as spellwork or ritual work for another individual or to Divinatory services, such as Tarot reading. It also does not apply to writing non-fiction books on the Craft or production of artwork, “spell kits” or what-not in that vein. But I don’t do any of it because it is not my calling to do so. The extent of my writing on the Craft is this blog an that’s free.[/ref] I was also Oathed not to tell the identities of my Covenmates, my Initiator or my Students. And I was Oathed not to tell the core lore of my Faith (regardless of whether it is already “out there”) to those not aiming for Initiation by an already-Initiated Witch of my Tradition. To paraphrase Judy Harrow’s extremely apt statement: We don’t tell, we don’t sell, we don’t proselytize and we don’t Initiate those who would.[ref]I’ve inserted this statement into my Tradition. For the original version, see Proteus Coven’s page on the topic at http://proteuscoven.com/Pledges.htm[/ref]

This statement alone means that I am Oathed to:

  • not tell (secret lore and practices; Covenmates identities; identities of my Students or Initiators)
  • not sell (secrets of the Old Faith, Initiations, Membership in a Coven or Membership in the Tradition)
  • not proselytize (not “witness” or manipulate or coerce people into joining the Tradition or my Coven, though I am allowed to advertise that our Dedicant Classes are open to newbies)
  • not Initiate those who would (i.e., anyone who would openly do these things cannot be trained by me or Initiated by me into the Tradition or the Coven)

Additionally, I do have to say this: I think most (if not all) Craft Traditions require some Teacher/Student contact. Yes, in some cases, the energy/power current within the Tradition is considered, “universal,” as in: it’s the basic building block of all life (“life force”); and as such, it can be transmitted over long distances. Energy is energy and energy moves. I get it. But if I’m going to take someone under my wing to teach them the ropes of the Craft, I want them close at hand. This isn’t for monitoring their activity, nor is about trusting them not to do shitty things to other people with the power. This is about making sure that, when the proverbial shit hits the fan in their life (and it will, because the current of power is just that fucking intense), there is someone around (i.e. me) with sufficient experience and wherewithal to support them in coming to terms with their newfound power. (But there again: that’s a bit different from teaching general occult, folk magic, witchy tech and tools.)

And that’s what I have to say about that.