One of the benefits of Wicca, and one of its problems, is that there is no 'right way.' There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of different denominations of Wicca, usually referred to as traditions. In addition, even if one is a member of a tradition, there are usually variations on exactly how the individuals involved actually practice.
Traditions of Wicca
The term 'tradition' means that it is a practice handed down from person to person. In Wicca, it means a way of celebrating the Goddess and the God, a loose set of guidelines for ritual practices. Below is an attempt to categorize the various traditions, but keep in mind that this is hardly an extensive list. Instead, it only addresses the most common traditions.
The Alexandrian Tradition was founded by Alex Sanders in the 1960s; this tradition is mostly modified Gardnerian, and is fairly structured.
The Ashling Tradition is loosely based on Irish practices, but is easily adapted for other pantheons as well. There are elements of Ceremonial Magick, and much Celtic Witchcraft involved. This is one of the few traditions which employs a five-degree system, instead of the classical three-degree.
British Traditional Wicca is a mixture of Celtic and Gardnerian practices, based mostly on the teachings of the Farrar husband and wife team. This tradition has become fairly accessible in recent years.
Celtic Wicca is a mixture of Celtic and Druidic practices, with a little Gardnerian thrown in for good measure. Stressing the elements and nature, and a strong connection with the Ancient Ones, this tradition stresses a vast knowledge of plants and herbs, and a connection to the fairy realm.
Ceremonial Witchcraft is essentially Ceremonial Magick, with Wiccan beliefs and practices. Often, the magick used has a distinct Egyptian or Kabalistic flavor.
The Correllian Nativist Tradition is fairly structured. A blend of Celtic Wicca, Aradian Wicca, and Native American spiritual practices, Correllian Wicca is very suited to North American practice, though it is now found worldwide.
Eclectic Wicca isn't really a tradition at all, but rather refers to those people who learn from various traditions and apply what works best for them. This is by far the most common tradition in recent years.
The Gardnerian Tradition is what most people mean when they say 'traditional Wicca.' Organized by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s, Gardnerian Wicca adheres to very structured practices. Gardnerians are not very vocal about their practice, and Gardnerian Wicca is almost always an initiatory tradition.
Seax Wicca was founded by Raymond Buckland back in the 1970s. This is an interesting tradition, since Raymond Buckland created it without breaking his original Gardnerian oath. This tradition is very popular in Europe, and is gaining strength in North America. For the Wiccan who isn't sure about which path they'd like, this is a good place to start.
Other Common Terms and Their Relation to Wiccan Traditions
Family traditions, also called 'fam trads,' are actually quite rare in Wiccan communities. One can say that they practice a family tradition if they can trace the practice of Witchcraft through their family tree, in addition to being taught by a living relative. Channeling their spirit or otherwise contacting them once they've passed on does not "count."
There is some debate about how far back one must be able to trace the Craft, but usually two generations is enough. Sometimes, a family tradition will adopt an individual to carry on their tradition, but this is seldom done, and only if the individual is held in the highest esteem. The ceremony is intricate and important, and a symbol of the great respect the family in question has for the candidate.
The term ‘natural Witch’ has cropped up with increasing frequency in recent years. This fairly commonplace term is often misunderstood. Some people will say they were born with great gifts, and that makes them a natural Witch. This is not the case. It's believed that everyone is born with gifts, and some choose to use them. In reality, the term 'natural Witch' simply means that a woman was a practitioner of some type of magickal system (not necessarily Wicca) while she was pregnant with her child.
There is a school of thought that says these children have more of an inclination to follow a more magickal religion than others; there is not much evidence to support this. It certainly does not mean that these children are more 'powerful.'
There are, of course, many other traditions out there. Then there are those people who combine different traditions. Someone might be a Seax-Gardnerian, a Correllian-Alexandrian, or any number of combinations. Some Wiccans will even combine Wicca with other spiritual paths, such as Druidism, Asatru, or many other paths. Since Wicca is an inclusive tradition rather than an exclusive one.
A final note about traditions: there is no such thing as a Satanic Wiccan, since Wiccans do not believe in Satan.
Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.