Sunday, March 17, 2013

Georgian Wicca

*Previously published elsewhere; see note at end of article.  This information is based on my understanding and research done at the time of original publication.  Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

The Georgian tradition is a branch of the Neo-Pagan, nature-based religion of Wicca. Its roots go back to the 1970s and include influences from older Wiccan traditions.  One of the stated goals from the Georgian Wicca website is to bring about understanding between different branches of Wicca and witchcraft.

The Founder of Georgian Wicca

This sect of the Craft takes its name from George Patterson, a World War II veteran who founded the tradition with Zanoni Silverknife and Tanith in 1970. The group became a legally recognized church in the state of California in 1971.

Influence from British Traditional Wicca

British Traditional Wicca is the term for those Wiccan traditions that can trace their lineage back to the New Forest area of England. While Georgian Wicca cannot claim this lineage, it is heavily influenced by BTW in that it is an oath-bound initiatory path.

Some of the sources drawn from to develop the Georgian tradition were Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca, the New England Covens of Traditionalist Witches as well as Patterson's own studies.

Beliefs and Practices

As mentioned, Georgian Wicca is oath-bound which is only one of the things that makes it a more traditional sect of the religion. Other traditional aspects include a three-degree initiation system, the male/female polarity in training, and the rituals are passed only between coven members of the appropriate degree.

Their are also a set magical and personal ethics coveners follow as guidelines for right relationship with their fellow Georgians and those outside of the coven. Members are encouraged to challenge themselves and grow personally.

Famous Georgians

One of Georgian Wicca's biggest claims to fame is having the prolific Craft author Dorothy Morrison as one of its high priestesses. She is known for her practical, down-to-earth books on the Craft which have introduced Wicca to people around the world.  While she does not publish Georgian material as that is against the oath-bound concept of the tradition, she has presented workable material for solitary students as well as those wanting to form groups.

I'm happy to say there is a new published Georgian author.  I very briefly studied with Puck Shadowdrake, the HP of Circle of the Samhain Moon in Michigan.  He's a great teacher and his book, Magickal Manners:  Guide to Magickal Etiquette is sure to be a valuable resource to coven leaders and seekers.

Georgian Wicca - A Tradition of Unity

In the changing landscape of eclectic Wicca where covens come and go, the Georgian tradition has outlasted many into the 21st century. There are Georgian covens across the United States and the world with membership and interest still growing.

With its history of producing notable members as well as attracting those from many walks of life, Georgian Wicca is likely to maintain its status as a solid spiritual choice for those interested in a nature-based path that encourages personal growth as well as building bridges between traditions.

Source consulted:
© Trish Deneen

[Note:  This is one of my original articles that was first published on either BellaOnline or Suite 101. Unfortunately, much of my work has been copied and posted elsewhere. All of the content on this site is my original work unless otherwise noted.]

British Traditional Wicca

Note: This information is based on my understanding and research done at the time of original publication which has been several years.  Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.  The closest I've come to working with a traditional Wiccan coven is a Georgian Wiccan group.  They were great people, though I decided this wasn't the path for me.

British Traditional Wicca or BTW as it is commonly shortened to is a term that refers to branches of the Neo-Pagan religion Wicca that have origins in the New Forest area of England.

Origins of Wicca

Wicca is a nature-based, mystery religion that combines ancient and modern spiritual concepts. Gerald Gardner, a former British civil servant and folklorist, is credited with bringing Wicca to the public eye in the 1950s with publication of his book Witchcraft Today. He claimed to have been initiated into a coven of witches practicing an ancient strand of witchcraft in England. This group came to be known as the New Forest Coven.

Gardner later formed his own coven. More recent scholarship indicates that he may have pieced together parts taken from ceremonial magic with folk beliefs and practices from around the world as well as from the New Forest group to form the foundations of modern Wicca.

Traditional and Eclectic Wicca

Wicca has grown exponentially since Gardner began initiating coveners in the 1950s. His brand of the craft is called Gardnerian Wicca, which includes a three-degree initiation system with set tenets and beliefs to be adhered to. That is not to say that Gardnerians have no autonomy, but there is pride taken in traditions handed down from coven to coven. Each group has oath-bound material available only to coven members of the appropriate degree.

Offshoots of Gardnerian Wicca began to appear, namely Alexandrian Wicca founded by Alex Sanders, that started to develop their own lineage of covens. British author Raymond Buckland is known as the father of American Wicca. He was of Gardnerian lineage and later devised his own tradition called Seax-Wica. Lineage is one major aspect of delineation between traditional and eclectic Wicca. Eclectic Wicca is usually defined as not having a traceable line back to the New Forest area as well as having a tendency to incorporate beliefs and practices outside of Wicca and that may or may not include an initiation system.

Lines between BTW and BTW-influenced Wicca have become blurred as other groups such as Georgian Wicca founded by George Patterson in California also have an initiatory, oath-bound tradition. Strictly speaking, they are not BTW but do share a common thread of appreciation with the more traditional aspects of Wicca as opposed to religious and spiritual practice derived from books prevalent over the last several decades.

The Reason for the BTW Distinction

From my understanding, the term British Traditional Wicca is used mainly outside of Britain. In England, the religion is identified as Wicca, the Craft, or by other identifiers such as Gardnerian or Alexandrian. The distinction is needed more in the United States where hundreds of eclectic covens with various affiliations have sprung up over the latter part of the 20th century which may have vastly different practices from traditional Wicca.

Source consulted:
  • Hutton, Ronald. The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford University Press. 1999.
An excellent resource for those interested in learning about different forms of Wicca is Wicca for the Rest of Us.

© Trish Deneen

Friday, March 1, 2013

Four Thieves Vinegar

Four thieves vinegar is used by modern witches, magicians, and hoodoo practitioners for personal protection against psychic attack and to banish an enemy from their surroundings. Being easy and cheap to whip up in the kitchen has made it a popular magical item.

Legends of the Four Thieves

There are several legends associated with the use of the vinegar. Perhaps the most well known is that of four thieves who lived during the time of the plague in France. They were caught for their thievery and imprisoned but were promised that if they buried the dead and lived, they would be set free.

The legend says that one of these thieves knew the art of herbalism well. He made some of the magical elixir to keep he and his friends safe from the plague as they were busy burying corpses. Other legends place this tale in Italy.

These legends have woven their way into folklore and permeated magical culture. A French origin is plausible since this recipe was and still is popular in hoodoo, which has strong ties to New Orleans, a city heavily influenced by the French.

Common Four Thieves Vinegar Ingredients

Just as legends vary about the vinegar's origins, so do the recipes. Basically, at least four protective herbs are needed, one for each thief, and apple cider vinegar. Garlic is usually among the five ingredients. It wouldn't be too far fetched to assume these were used because garlic has long been known as a protection against evil and vinegar as a cleansing agent.

Noted hoodoo teacher and folklorist Catherine Yronwode states on her Lucky Mojo website that she uses garlic, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Other recipes call for those three items plus black mustard seed.  Rosemary, sage, lavender, and thyme are all considered protective and cleansing herbs. This is where the creative kitchen witch can have fun and use what is appropriate for the work at hand.

Technique for Making Four Thieves Vinegar

Making four thieves vinegar is quite easy. Here is a basic technique:

  • Place the four (or more if desired) ingredients in a jar just to about 1/2 inch from rim and cover with the apple cider vinegar. Regular or red wine vinegar can be substituted for apple cider vinegar. Seal and let steep for at least a week to 6 weeks. Strain the vinegar into a clean jar and use as needed.
  • Put strong intent for the magical use while mixing the vinegar and herbs such as for all-purpose protection, banishment or cleansing.

Uses of Four Thieves Vinegar

If the herbs are safe for eating, the vinegar can be used as a condiment to be placed on food before consumption as a vehicle for protection. It can be poured in the bath for the same purpose. One traditional hoodoo use of Four Thieves Vinegar involves sprinkling it across the doorsteps of the troublesome person to banish them or simply to stop them from causing problems. Four thieves vinegar is an excellent magical tool to have on hand, especially when there isn’t a lot of time to prepare a spell.

© Trish Deneen