In our modern age, ever since the introduction of Wicca ala Gardner to the states by one Raymond Buckland, there has been a swelling tide of various types of the Craft.
There are many Wiccans who came into Wicca in the 1970’s and 1980’s who are still going strong. Some of them are right here in my own neighborhood. After all, Louisville, KY, has always been thick with Gardnerians. Many of these folks would call what some of us do today “NeoWicca,” or simply, “NeoPaganism.”
Their reasoning is that what we’re practicing isn’t the Gardnerian Tradition (what was properly known as Wicca) of yesteryear. I call these folks, “Hard Gards.”
It is precisely these Hard Gards – or rather their thought process that only Gardnerian Wicca is actually Wicca – that have given rise to the idea that some things just aren’t meant for everyone. As they say, “back in the day,” even though good ol’ Gerald was publishing written works on the topic, he was doing it for educational purposes. In the eyes of many Hard Gards, these written pieces were published in order to let the general public know that we exist, that we’re around, and that we deserve recognition as a religion, as well. It wasn’t, they say, to bring in the masses, but to simply get us on the map as a positive path to the Divine.
I get that idea. But I don’t think it’s exactly true. I’m not here to belabor that point – it’s an age-old argument that will likely never shrivel up and die.
I am here, however, to say this: the idea of certain forms of the Craft not being for everyone is a very valid point.
The “brand” or “flavor” of Wicca I practice is not Gardnerian. It’s a blend of Gardnerian with a very different, American-born, earlier Tradition of the Craft. My High Priestess and Initiator had a Gardnerian lineage. She met someone in California, back in the 1970’s, who practiced a second Tradition of the Craft that my High Priestess had never known before. She studied. She practiced. She learned. And she was Initiated into that Tradition. She then blended the two practices back in the 1980’s and came up with what we now call Feycraft. It is what I practice, and it is what my Coven practices. It is also what we teach to newcomers to the Coven.
And there are some very valid reasons that Feycraft just, in fact, is not for the masses.
First, there’s a very specific current of power underlying Feycraft. The current, in and of itself, is not harmful. But sometimes, as is often the case, a person with a mild case of depression may be drawn to Feycraft. When they find themselves in the midst of the current of power and the changes it brings, that depression may become exaggerated. And then the person is even more depressed and ends up having involuntary suicidal thoughts, which they’ve never had before. It can be scary. Or, a person who is mildly depressed may jump into the Feycraft current and end up with a sense of euphoria and an almost-unmanageable case of mania, where s/he spends money wildly or runs off on adventures that could do him-/her-self harm. So the current of power and the things it inspires within you need to be tempered with good judgment and some self-control.
Second, we observe the typical Wiccan Sabbats: Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lughnasadh, Mabon. And we generally observe them in a typical Wiccan fashion. Except we also don’t. Our Sabbats, like most of Wicca or modern Neopaganism, are centered around the life cycle of the gods and agricultural fertility. But, the current of power behind Feycraft can be sexual, as well, as in: sex for the sake of pure pleasure. While we don’t sleep with each other (and I warn against it when beginners come in), in one’s personal life, individuals may be freed from some societal constraints over time, causing him/her to perhaps engage in self-destructive, unhealthy sexual patterns. And this is why we utilize a specific energy running tool – it helps to counteract any seemingly-negative issues the current of power may bring up. As for Sabbats, we currently perform our rituals robed as a group. Individuals do as they please, and in my own personal practice, I am usually Skyclad (nude).
Third, we’re a little tribal. Well, okay, we’re mostly tribal. We have at least one Coven Leader, we have a Coven Council that makes most decisions, and we have a three-degree system of training, initiation and elevation. But – these are formalities. In practice, we’re very informal and jovial. We can be loud. Some of us like to drink alcohol, which further lowers inhibitions. We’re more familial than anything, and that is as it should be. So for folks wanting formality and a dictatorship, Feycraft is probably not the place for them. In fact, right after Dedicant classes with the Coven, you’re basically thrown to the wolves to learn anything and everything else on your own – except for a few requirements to meet to get to Second Degree. By the time you finish Dedicant classes, you’re expected to be mature enough – and have experienced enough of an energetic change/shift within yourself – that you can see the difference between reality and fantasy, between useful information and someone’s wishful thinking.
Fourth, we have a set of rules and we follow them. These aren’t stifling spiritual laws, like the Rede (and we don’t even really view the Rede as a Law anyhow). These are logistical rules that keep the Coven running smoothly, including what is “core lore,” and what is not, and what is oathbound and what is not. With these rules in place, there is little to no argument about all the “he said she said” crap that comes with most modern forms of group-based Wiccan practice. You either get in line, or you get the fuck out, because we don’t have time for drama. And besides – once that current of power smacks you square in the face, you’ll quickly figure out that drama just makes it harder for you to deal with the current of power and it’s effects.