Wicca Compared to
The Traditional Craft
Gerald B. Gardner, recognised as the "Father of Wicca" was a retired a British colonial civil servant in Malaya, an amateur anthropologist and significant amateur archaeologist, a novelist, long-time devoted nudist, and owner of Five Acres Nudist Club in Herefordshire, England. He was an avid occultist and initiate in ceremonial magick (Western Occult Tradition- not related to the Traditional Craft in England), Gardner created what came to be known as Gardnerian Wicca in England around 1954 after returning to England after his retirement from the civil servant. In doing so, Gardner propelled a rejuvenation of pagan in modern society.
But the new Wicca religion he created was an enigma. Gardner claimed he was initiated into a witchcraft coven although his later Wicca creation shows rather little of Traditional Craft practices. His claims have been widely scrutinised and investigated by historians and biographers with unclear conclusions. Cecil Williamson, owner of the Museum of Magic and Witchcraft and Gardner's one-time friend said that Gardner was a “vain, self-centred man, tight with his money, and more interested in outlets for his nudist and voyeuristic activities, than in learning anything about authentic witchcraft”.
The Wicca that Gardner created was not only non-traditional but it was a radically different kind of religion. It was to be practiced in a different way and that makes Wicca very separate from the Traditional Craft (Traditional Witchcraft) as practiced in the British Isles.
Today's British Traditional Wicca (BTW) comprises the original Gardnerian Wicca as founded by Gardner and other closely-related, coven-based traditions most notably Alexandrian Wicca. These coven organizations are conservative, authoritarian, and hierarchical.
This type of organization is alien to Traditional Craft traditions. When Traditionalist groups or covens form, they tend to be quite egalitarian and free of authoritarianism.
Most BTW coveners consider the term Wicca to be rightfully exclusive to BTW coven members. They do not recognize anyone as a Wiccan or as a witch that has not been initiated in a BTW lineaged coven.
In our opinion this is blatantly ridiculous.
They also do not recognize any form of self-dedication, self-initiation. Solitary practice is never allowed except for elderly members that have become unwell.
Traditional Crafters in solitary practice is not only readily allowed but it has a very long and noble history in Britain. In fact, most Traditional Crafters that have ever lived were solitary in their practice. I wish to also point out that the term "witch" is not copyrighted by BTW and is not exclusively theirs. Any Traditional Crafter may correctly and properly call himself or herself a witch if they so choose.
So, where did Gardner get his inflexible conservatism and hierarchical organizational structure?
The Horn of Plentiful Sources
Gerald Gardner, the Great Assembler, had some knowledge of many things occult or esoteric. Using this as a base, he was able to piece together concepts and practices from a wide spectrum of source materials to form a religion that could catch the public's imagination. And so it did.
But what is this wide spectrum of source materials? Well, the list is rather surprising. To some elements of Traditional Witchcraft, which he picked up from acquaintances, Gardner added concepts, beliefs, practices, organizational structure, ritual ceremonialism, and the ceremonial magic of:
- The Order of the Golden Dawn,
- The Freemasons,
- The Rosicrucians, as well as,
- Eastern philosophy,
- Celtic Mythology, and quite notably,
- The writings of Aleister Crowley, specifically Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) of which Gardner was an initiate. It is believed that Crowley wrote a substantial part of the original Wicca coven liturgy.
Progressive Wicca, also called Eclectic Wicca or NeoWicca, has evolved from Gardnerian Wicca and is defined as those covens whose members do not have a traceable lineage of initiation back to Gardner. Keep in mind that Gerald Gardner was not a Hereditary Witch. So the importance of being of direct initiatory lineage from Gardner seems superfluous. Nevertheless, BTW coveners are sticky on this dubious point.
Eclectic Wiccans vary in strictness but are generally more inflexible in almost every aspect of practice than BTW covens. These Eclectic Wiccans recognize solitary initiation and consider solitary practice as completely valid Wiccan practice. Most Wiccans today are eclectic.
Wicca is a henotheistic religion, meaning that Wiccans believe in many gods with one supreme godhead. Wicca is also pantheist in that they believe God is everywhere and everywhere is God. This godhead is called The One, which is a term and concept of divinity "borrowed" from Neoplatonist philosophers of Greek antiquity. However, the Wiccan "One" has a twist in that Wicca is also duotheistic in that The One is personified as a Goddess and God which are the dual female-male aspect of the godhead.
The Goddess and God, who are also referred to as the Lady and Lord, are often represented by any of vast array of lesser Goddesses and Gods from many foreign cultures, including the Egyptians, Sumerians, Hindus, and other ancient and unrelated cultures.
Wicca believes that any Goddess or God from any culture can be used in Wiccan rituals. It should be noted that some traditions, such as Dianic Wicca, which is a feminist coven organization, simply eliminated the God all together and recognize only a Goddess.
Wiccans worship their Gods in a typically Wiccan manner with no regard to their original cultural and religion. Thus, the Goddesses and Gods of ancient cultures are used for their name and appearance, with no historically accurate context of their original significance, attributes, powers, beliefs, or rituals.
To say this is NOT traditional is an understatement. While most Trads recognize the God and Goddess, these are very specific gods that are directly related to the British history of pagan religions. They are used within their correct cultural context and with respect to their known manner and mode of ritual.
Feminist or Fetish
Wicca places priority on The Goddess over the God. More often than not a Wiccan will simply refer to the Goddess, and ignore the God. This feminist prioritizing is seen throughout Wiccan ritual, it is seen in the higher status of the coven High Priestess over the lesser status of the High Priest.
Of all the assemblages of Gardner this is the most curious. Why did Gardner elevate the Goddess, the female, over the God, the male? Was he pro-female sexist? But he was a man; if he were going to promote a natural form of sexism for a man, then he logically would have promoted the God over the Goddess. A predominant Goddess had not occurred in a new religion since antiquity. Female favoritism certainly is not found in Golden Dawn or any other of the occult men's clubs. It is certainly not found in Aleister Crowley's writings. So there must be another reason, perhaps one far more personal. The only possible answer is that Gardner may have had a woman domination fetish. However, this is my own theory.
We note that many Progressive Wiccan covens, which are not BTW, also oppose gender bias and maintain equality of gender in their structure, practices, and rituals.
To my knowledge, in NO Trad in Traditional Witchcraft is the Goddess dominant. While I acknowledge that in many Trads the Horned God is dominant, in this Trad we treat gods and goddesses as equals.
We also view the role of males and females in the Craft equality. We believe it is not logical to have sexism in any manner and we have a long history of egalitarianism in the Traditional Craft, complete social equality. This reflects the principle of Balance which we believe is fundamental to Nature.
Nature and The Principle of Balance
One thing that Gardner brought into Wiccan from Traditional Witchcraft is a deep respect for Nature. Both Wiccans and Traditional Crafters respect and venerate Nature, although Wiccans only seem to acknowledge the good and beautiful in Nature.
However, Trad Crafters subscribe to a idea that Balance is natural, always desirable, and is innately present in Nature. Wiccans do not. They think of Nature as all beautiful and gentle. They ascribe only positive connotations to Nature, thinking it can do no harm.
The Traditional Craft views Nature is innately neutral, as is the Horned God. Nature is neither good nor evil; it is what it is, eternally ambivalent, impartial, and dispassionate. In fact, you cannot have the light without the dark. Thus, Nature always strives for balance. We can do no better than to emulate Nature and to bring balance into our lives and into our personal relationships.
Ethics & Public Relations
For public consumption, Gardner invented some "ancient" rules to demonstrate that Wicca is an ethically-based religion. Gardner even added some quaint Old English words to make his new sayings sound old so he could pass them off from the past (which they were not).
The Wiccan Rede is an often quoted line that goes, "An it harm none, do what ye will". In fact, the Rede sounds similar to Aleister Crowley's "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law".
The Threefold Law states, "Mind the Threefold Law ye should, three times bad and three times good," tells the public that good deeds and bad deeds all come back to the sender in multiples of three.
Neither one has anything to do with Traditional Witchcraft. The Wiccan Rede is illogical as it is impossible not to cause even unintentional harm. The simple act of breathing kills thousands of living bacteria. It is an impossibility to live our lives and not harm something. Thus, if we follow the Wiccan Rede we would have to stop breathing.
The Threefold Law is equally illogical. Let us suppose that a Wiccan school boy who is mindful to harm none ignores a bully that punched him. The Wiccan boy does nothing because he fears harming the bully. By this Threefold Law, the Wiccan boy would then be rewarded with three more attacks!
Instead, Traditional Crafters informally subscribe to what some call The Law of Return, which is The Law of Cause and Affect in physics that states that:
"For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction."
Not that I am condoning violence, however if the Wiccan boy had defended himself and hit the bully in return, that might have been a wiser reaction as it would be reflective of the law of cause and effect. It is a question of Balance.
Another problem with the Threefold Law is that: Energy does not multiply. Energy does not decrease and energy does not increase. So by the laws of the Universe, our actions cannot be returned to us in greater number.
In Wicca, the use of tools is essential to ritual, and the exact nature and design, even the colour must be exactly according to dictated standards. Wicca's primary ritual tools are the chalice, pentacle, athame, and wand. These represent the four Hermetic elements that appear in the rituals of ceremonial magick found in occult organizations such as Golden Dawn. Of course, the Wiccan uses additional tools in ritual, such as the scourge, besom, bell, censer, and cauldron.
The Traditional Crafter considers tools as only an aid in ritual and magic but they are NOT necessary. The only necessary item is the mind of the Traditional Crafter. In the past, the Traditional Crafter would use whatever tools were handy, often tools out of the shed or the kitchen drawer. Today, many Traditional Crafters may have a separate stang, knife, or other items for ritual use.
Wheel of The Year
Wiccans follow the Wheel Of The Year, an adaptation of the festivals that were at one time popular in pagan Europe. Although festivals were always known as festivals, Gardner decided to call them sabbats, which is a term that traditionally applies to any gathering or celebration of Traditional Crafters. Gardner created eight (8) sabbats, one of which has very thin historical evidence of ever being popular anywhere, and one which was a fabrication.
Gardner then included the full moon sabbats into his ritual regiment, but re-named them esbats, adopting a term misunderstood by the discredited academic, Margaret Murray. He de-classed his esbats to secondary status under the festivals (sabbats), in reverse order of their traditional importance.
Wiccans believe that all ritual and spellwork should be done within a cast ritual circle, which is in keeping with the ceremonial magickical practice of continental Europe. They believe a circle is necessary for the creation of sacred space.
However, the Traditional Craft follows the ancient belief that the entire Earth is sacred. Because all the Earth is sacred, a compass round, which is the historically correct term, is technicically redundant. It is not always necessary. Yet it is used in the Old Craft when there is a specific reason. We will lay a compass when there is a reason for added protection, as a retreat to aid concentration, and other purposes the Traditional Crafter may have in mind. Those new to the Craft are encouraghed to use a compass for the first year or two so they can get use to the ritual of casting and taking-down.
Gardner was a long-time nudist before he ever created Wicca. Gardner had spent many years in the tropical climate of Asia, where those so motivated can practice nudity in comfort. In retirement in England, he purchased a Nudist Club. Although ritual nudity is not traditional to Traditional Witchcraft, Gardner brought in nudity, or skyclad, into Wiccan ritual. Certainly the sexual overtones are not lost on new members, which was probably the main reason for creating such a strange practice.
While it is true that BTW covens expect members to be skyclad during ritual, many Progressive Wiccan covens and solitary practitioners remain robed.
While since the Dark Ages, Christian artists have depicted imaginary witches as unclothed or nude, I am not aware of any reliable historical evidence that nudity has ever been practiced as part of ritual in the Traditional Craft. I have been told it is an unknown practice in older number of family Traditions, or Hereditary Trads.
I might add that England is fairly rainy and very chilly in the spring and autumn, and often cold and snowy in the winter. Wicca endorses doing ritual in an outdoor setting, as do Traditional Craft Trads. It is impractical to be unclothed in such "invigorating" weather, although it is rather amusing to imagine it.
Correspondences are relationships between colours, numbers, scents, and objects. The trained practitioner would use like-related correspondences to increase the success of a magical spell by virtue of like correspondences influencing reality. This is based on a principle that like attracts like.
Following ceremonial magickal practices in the secret occult societies, Gardner placed great importance in the use of correspondences and added their use into Wicca ritual and spellcraft. Using the correct correspondences for a specific spell can entail a considerable amount of time in locating specific items to insure perfect co÷rdination of all the variables. This includes the correct incense scent, the correct colour of the candles and the correct colour of an altar cloth, to name only three of a long list of possible correspondences.
While the Traditional Crafter may enjoy the pleasant appearance of an attractively-prepared altar, such an altar is not likely to be used in the Craft. While many Trads acknowledge the relevance of correspondences in ritual and magic, in most Trads very little effort is extended in using correspondences because most magic in the Traditional Craft is spontaneous and it is not ritualized beyond a minimum degree. If the correct correspondence is handy, then it may be used. Correspondences are nice but they are considered to be of minor importance.
To the Traditional Crafter, the inner preparation of the self, of the mind, is of far greater importance than correspondences. The Traditional Crafter will Go Within, and enter Twilight, which is a meditative technique to enable visualization for magic. The primary guiding energy of any spell comes from the mind of the Traditional Crafter with help from the spirits, and not from a ritual, a ritual tool, the colour of the candle, or a collection of other props.
We believe that what is very important is ignored in Wicca, and what is of minor importance has priority in Wicca. In short, their priorities are backwards. There is a saying that while Wiccans spend most of their time preparing for magick, Traditional witches spend most of their time doing magic.
Ritualized ceremony in Wicca is of central importance. There is no doubt that Gardner pieced together rituals from a number of sources, with direct borrowings from the Golden Dawn, Freemasonry, Margaret Murray's academically erroneous theories, and Aleister Crowley's and his OTO. Gardner included Crowley's text because he was an initiate of the OTO.
This is NOT remotely Traditionalist.
Magick With a “k”
Ceremonial magick, which Wiccans spell with the Alesiter Crowley “k”, is from the Western Occult Tradition, which academics consider to be mostly based on Renaissance Hermeticism.
Ceremonial magick is the type of magic practiced in the old occult secret societies of Continental Europe such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Freemasons, the Rosicrucian Brotherhood, among others. Wiccan magick is based to a very large extent on the concepts of Aleister Crowley's understanding of ceremonial magick, minus the evil spirits and demon conjuring aspects seen in the secret societies.
Paradoxically, while many Wicccans are quick to claim they are "in witchcraft" many in Wicca perform little or no magick of their own in their homes. Practicing magic privately is often optional. Wicca is primarily a religion of ritual worship and coven ritualized magick. Many in Wicca, especially younger members, are only involved for worship rituals and the social aspect of the group. So, interest in magic in Progressive Wicca can be weak or non-existent.
Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that a few Progressive Wiccans consider witchcraft and magic to be important and take it very seriously.
Wiccans subscribe to a kind of spell snobbishness, only practicing good or positive spells only, and no spells in self-defense. In theory, a Wiccan should never use a hex or a curse even as a means of protection, although this is not always followed, especially by experienced witches originally trained outside of Wicca.
This is NOT remotely Traditional Witchcraft. It is true that some Trads are more involved in certain aspects of ceremonial magick than others. But most are not. Blue Moon Manor is not.
An extent of our focus in magic is the use of co-operative spirits, such as land spirits, spirit guides, and other friendly spirits that come to our magical workings. Their energy helps us, but our energy must collect and guide the energy to its intended goal. That is a mental activity and NOT a ceremonial ritual.
Wicca's prime ritual is the so-called The Great Rite, which is performed on their "sabbats", their festivals. In the "highest" form, the type intended by Gardner and of which he was so fond, is meant to include full sexual intercourse between the High Priestess and the High Priest. It is also performed during 3rd degree initiation. The fact that they could be married to other people is considered irrelevant.
We think this rite is NOT right for several important reasons. While we readily agree that sex between consenting adult humans is innately sacred, Traditional Crafters believe that sex is a private matter that should only take place at a private location for private reasons. Secondly, sex should be between people that care about each other, and NOT to fulfill a dubious religious obligation.
Rest assured, this rite would NEVER take place among Traditional Crafters.
I should make clear that Progressive Wiccan covens usually perform this rite "symbolically," using a dagger and a cup in a symbolic sex act.
Wiccans have ideas about their religion that are misleading or simply not true. Most of this misinformation came from Gardner himself. Unfortunately, Gardner viewed a great deal of Wicca with no regard whatsoever to historic fact. Although some have argued that Gardner simply did not know better. Deliberate deceptiveness is much more likely.
1) "Wicca is descended from the "Old Religion". There is NO historic evidence to presume this to be remotely correct. Nevertheless, Wiccans, especially BTW Wiccans, stubbornly insists this is true. As with the other points on this list, BTW covens teach this mistaken belief as fact. Some BTW coverners even state that Wicca IS the Old Religion, which is utterly preposterous.
The fact is that the Wicca religion is not ancient paganism and was specifically not based on ancient British religion. It is a form of Neo-Paganism, specifically a Neo-Paganism based on New Age feminist revisionist history.
2) "The rituals in Wicca are ancient" This is widely known to be NOT true. When Doreen Valiente became one of the first Wiccan High Priestesses, she immediately realized that Gardner's so-called "ancient rituals" were partly taken from the rituals written by Aleister Crowley. She then went about systematically removing Crowley's liturgy contributions.
The rest of Wicca's rituals are a widely assembled mixture from various sources or they were creations written by Gardner, Crowley, Valiente, or others, Certainly Wiccan rituals are of a dubious nature.
3) "Wicca is Celtic." This is NOT possible. The Celts were a culture of various peoples that once covered a wide part of Western Europe. It was not a religion. Anthropologists believe it is very likely that Celtic groups held radically different religious beliefs to that of modern Wicca.
It would be more accurate to say that Wicca draws inspiration from some aspects of Celtic myths.
4) "Wicca is witchcraft" Wicca is a religion, it is NOT witchcraft. Witchcraft is magical practice and is not of itself a religion. Wicca uses a unique blend of two distinctly different forms of magic thereby producing one of several forms of modern witchcraft in use today.
It would be more accurate to say that Wicca is a blend of inspiration from some aspects of the Traditional Craft with the theory and procedures usually "borrowed" from the Western Occult Tradition, mostly Golden Dawn and other occult lodges.
5) "Wiccans are witches." For some Wiccans magic is an important feature in their lives, they practice magic inches. their homes on a frequent and regular basis. These Wiccans are indeed wit
However, most Wiccans are not. Then witchcraft is not integrated into one's life, then the Old Craft is not a basic feature in one's life. Passive participation in Wiccan group ritual or just saying ritual words does not make one a witch.
6) "Wicca is British Traditional Witchcraft" Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wiccans stubbornly insists they are traditional British witches. This is not possible because Wicca's link to actual Traditional Witchcraft in Britain is tenuous. Wiccan wayward beliefs, observances, and its ceremonial magick simply do not reflect that of the Traditional Craft. It would be more accurate to say that Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wiccans are part of British Traditional Wicca, BTW.
Wicca has grown to become a family of Traditions, but they are not in Traditional Witchcraft. They are their own Traditions, both BTW and progressive Wicca.
While we are different than Wicca in so many ways, I would like to be very clear in stating that we respect many individual Wiccans. This may surprise some of you but we respect Wicca as a vibrant religion that many good people find personally meaningful, beneficial to their well being and to their spiritual growth. Just because we are different in our traditions and practice does not mean we are innately better. We each have our own way and our own path that is personally significant and which is right for us.