(A talk given to the LGBT "Fountain Moot", Birmingham; 18 May 2004)
Part 1: an Introduction to Alexandrian Wicca
Alexandrian Wicca is one of the British Traditional Witchcraft Traditions - a group of related religious traditions that share a common initiatory history, often tracing back to Gerald Gardner, one of the first people to start writing about Witchcraft as the Mystery Religion that it is - basing his writings on the teachings he had received as an Initiate of a surviving coven in the New Forest in the 1940's.
The Alexandrian line itself has grown from the work of Alex Saunders in the 1960's - and all those within the line trace a direct Initiatory lineage to him and his covens.
Alex himself claimed to have been initiated into the Craft as a child by his Grandmother - further developing his knowledge and practice through the Qabalah, Egyptian Lore and the Magick of Abramelin. In 1965 he was proclaimed "King of the Witches" in a Traditional ceremony attended by 12 Witch Queens from all over the Country. In the same year he was handfasted to Maxine - his Wife and High Priestess for many years (and still a key figure in the Craft today).
There is a common misconception that the Alexandrian Tradition takes it's name from Alex Saunders himself. This however is not the case: the name Alexandrian is in fact used in respect for the legendary Library of Alexandria - which was founded by Alexander the Great to collect, share and advance all knowledge; it was sadly destroyed by religious bigots in the 2nd Century, and rebuilt by the Shining Ones on the other side of the Veil - it is now said to house the Akashic records, and can be rediscovered on the 30th path of the Tree of Life.
In naming our Tradition after the great Library, Saunders hoped that his Craft could be a conduit through which these great ideals of furthering knowledge and understanding could be continued...
A definition of Wicca...
As a Mystery Religion, Wicca continues the ancient tradition of Initiation and oral teaching, and is believed by it's adherents to trace some of it's roots back to the Mystery Traditions of Elusius and beyond. As such, the British Traditional Witchcraft traditions can be seen as distinct from other forms of what is often called eclectic wicca or the wiccan revival.
Traditional Wicca is best defined as: an Initiatory, Oathbound, Magick-using, Pagan Mystery Priesthood, dedicated to the Great Goddess and her consort the Horned God - and celebrating it's Mysteries through the Eight Sabbats and the 13 Esbats...(Definition from Dianis Lucien of the Starkindler Line)
So - what do all those terms mean?!?!
The Eight Sabbats
The Eight Sabbats are a solar cycle that follow the Wheel of the Year - and celebrate the labyrinthine journey of the God from Greenwood innocence through sacrifice to self knowledge.
- His journey begins at Yule with his birth as the Sun reborn from the Womb of the Great Mother. At Imbolg - in February - he is nursed at Her breast.
- At Spring Equinox we find him as Pan in the Greenwood - and with him discover the rising tide of life both within ourselves and the greening world about us - and with his influence we find the stirring of the reproductive powers of nature.
- The Sexual drive reaches its peak in the Sabbat of Beltane, May day, which is still celebrated with the Phallic May pole and Morris dancing, Stag dances and Hobby horses of many Folk festivals throughout the UK.
It is beneath the blossoms of Beltane that the God embraces the Goddess - they love and are one - and their union in the Greenwood is still celebrated in like manner by many covens today.
- With Midsummer the God is at his height as Sun King - and soon the corn will be ripening.
- At Lammas and Autumn Equinox The God makes the ultimate sacrifice - and is cut down as John BarleyCorn - he begins his descent into the underworld...
- A journey that ends at Samhein with his Crowning as Hades - lord of the Underworld - and the gates of Death are thrown open for the Faerie folk to ride free...
- At Yule He is born again - and the great Wheel turns once more.
As the Sabbats reflect and manifest the cycle of the God, so the 13 Esbats are the working of the lunar cycles of the Goddess - following her through Maid, Mother and Crone - and the waxing and waning of the Astral light.
For Witches the Lunar cycle is a cycle of magick - and a time for working and celebrating the gifts of the Great Goddess.
As the Maid we see her as life in it's fresh potential, the promise of new beginnings - and the power of an energy as yet untapped. She is Springtime, the dawn - the hatching egg... She is also the Huntress, running through the woods in pursuit of her quarry - her hounds besides her. She is danger if abused. She is joy itself. Her traditional colour is white.
The Mother is ripeness - the mounding of life within the womb. She births, nurtures and teaches - and from Her life streams across the skies. She is fertility itself. She is also the Hearth - the centre of the home, and the centre of the Craft. In Her everything comes to fruition - and in this aspect she is the Silver light of the Full moon. her traditional colour is the rich red of the menstral blood.
Lastly, the Crone - who is wisdom, bright Kore become grey-eyed Persephone - Keeper of Mysteries and Queen to Hades. As such she can seem terrible - the withered hand of death that plucks life from the vine - yet she holds within her, eternal knowledge and the Hidden Mysteries beyond the Veil - As pyschopomp she leads us by the hand beyond Death and on through rebirth... She is the Dark moon, and her colour is Black.
These two aspects of solar and lunar - God and Goddess - sabbats and esbats - also reflect the Cosmic polarities of Darkness and Light, Life and Death, male and female - and the shifting tides of energy and change that arise from the interplay between them.
This ebb and flow of the Year - and the waxing and waning of the moon - also symbolises and manifests stages of growth that are then explored by the witch on both an external - and more importantly INTERNAL - level.
Ritual and magick:
The interweaving of the Sabbat and Ezbat cycle is most worked through our Ritual practice: In common with other Occult Traditions we work within a Circle, and use the 4 great Elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water as protectors and guides.
It is within this Sacred magickal space that we invoke and work with the God and Goddess. It is the working of these Mysteries - and our Ritual practice - that gives Traditional Wicca it's particular "feel"...
It is also in the regular working of these Mysteries, rituals and ceremonies that we are brought to a fuller understanding of our Selves.
Initiation and Oaths:
In common with all Mystery Religions, Traditional Wicca is also an Initiatory Path.
Initiation is the process that connects us to the currents and Mysteries of British Traditional Wicca; it introduces us to the Elements, and the God and Goddess - and connects us to the Spiritual Ancestors of the Craft - on a human level it also adopts us into the greater Family of our Tradition and Line.
It takes us through Spiritual Transformation - and rebirths us as Children of the Goddess.
As both a Mystery religion and a Priesthood, Initiation into the Traditional Craft can only come from another Traditional Witch with the power to do so - in the Alexandrian Tradition this power is only passed at the 2nd Degree. In this we follow the old adage that "Only a witch can make another witch"...
Within the Alexandrian Craft there are 4 Initiations - Becoming an Alexandrian Witch involves an experiential Training process that can take up to 6 years of study and practice - and usually takes place within a close-knit Coven.
Any person who wants to enter a Alexandrian Coven normally starts with the Introductory degree of Neophyte - this gives them a period of time to look at the Religion, work some of the rituals with us and to decide if they want to make the commitment to the Craft; if they do, then they begin the formal training itself, and take their 1st Degree Initiation - where they are Oathed and Consecrated as a Witch.
From there they then study and practice with the Coven and their High Priest and High Priestess - working the rituals and the Sabbats - and learning the ways and practices of our Craft. They progress through the Initiations until they attain the final 3rd Degree - where the title of High Priest or High Priestess is bestowed - the person is then entitled to Hive off to create their own Coven if they wish - and to start teaching new people...
The Coven is the natural "Unit" in the Traditional Craft - Being a Member of a Coven is part intense study and the working of Ritual and Magick - it is also often an opportunity to learn from those who have many years of experience upon the Path.
But being in a Coven is also - perhaps most importantly! - about being a member of a close-knit group of friends - a family - people with whom you are able to share the most intimate heart of oneself.
We meet in Perfect Love and Perfect Trust - and such closeness makes our rituals and Sabbat celebrations even more intense; there truly is nothing more powerful or enriching than working ritual with a closely-bonded Coven - every member of which you know you could trust with your life!
Working the Craft - working Magick - is an intensely emotional experience; and we bond extremely closely to our Coven-kin. We learn from each other - and support each other - and deep friendships are often made that last lifetimes...
But being in a Coven is also about having friends with whom one can share a truly good time (and occasionally way too much drink...!) - and of course there are also the Coven outings!
Each Coven works within the Tradition - but is also free to explore ideas within that Tradition. For example - some groups may colour their practice with Egyptian ideas, another may work closely with a Nordic pantheon...
Each Coven develops differently, and will have different styles - the root is the same, but the blossom may vary. We may have our differences, but we are still "Family" - and it is this "Unity in Diversity" that is one of the Craft's great Strengths...
All of which describes a little of who we are and what we do.
But the *reason* we are Witches is because of the God and the Goddess - our deep love and commitment to them - and the inspiration that they give to us in our workings and our lives...
In the Traditional Craft The Goddess is our central figure - She is the Goddess that is all Goddesses - and we know Her by many Names:
- She is Mighty Isis - Throne of Egypt and the Mother of Nations.
- She is Diana the Huntress of the moon,
- She is Ishtar from Great Babylon - Queen of Heaven and bright Star of the Sea,
- She is Hecate who stands at the Crossroads and brings men to their fate - She sets in the twilight sea as Persephone and leads us to the Halls of Hades -
- She is Cerridwen - the great Sow, and keeper of the cauldron of the rebirth!
We invoke Her as the Moon - and She speaks to us through the words of the Great Mother Charge - saying:
"Call unto thy soul: arise! and come unto me - for I am the soul of nature who gives life unto the Universe. From me all things proceed and unto me all things must return. And before my face - beloved of gods and men - let thy innermost Divine Self be enfolded in the rapture of the Infinite!"
She is the Beauty of the green Earth, and the white moon amongst the stars - and She tells us that all acts of love and pleasure are her rituals...
As the Goddess is to all women - so the God is to all men. He is the God who is all Gods - the Divine spark within.
- We invoke Him As the light - formed from Her first Darkness, He turns the wheel of time.
- He is Osiris - brother and lover of Isis - father to Horus - Lord of the twin horizons.
- He is Pan - cloven hooved and shaggy thighed - Shepherd of Goats upon the Wilds Hills way.
- He is the Horned lord - the Greenman - the pulse of life within the seed and within the vine - and the rhythm of nature within us all.
- He is Lugh - Strong-armed in battle and far seeing in wisdom.
- He is the Sun God at the height of His power - Lord of Life and Lord of Light.
- He is Zeus - King of the Gods - and lover to Ganymead.
- He is Herne, surrounded in mists.
- The Dread Lord of Shadows - the Comforter and Consoler...
The Goddess is the Great Mother - the God the All Father. On every level from the physical to the spiritual, we are their children - born of their union and manifesting them upon Earth.
It is within their coupling - and their cosmic union - that the pulse of the greater energies is worked and manifested within the rituals of Witchcraft.
Goddess - but I love my religion!!!!