There is not a lot of information about the Gardnerian Tradition available to non-initiates. The Gardnerian Tradition is the basis for most of Modern Wicca. I hope the following will give you some insight to one of the major traditions in Wicca today.
The Gardnerian Tradition began with Gerald Gardner. He published several books about Witchcraft: 1949-High Magick's Aid, and 1954-Witchcraft Today. (This was the first book on the craft I read.) Gerald believed the Craft was dying out as most of the members of his group were older and very few new members were being initiated. He could not reveal his coven's information, (due to his oath) so he developed a tradition that was a combination of ritual, ceremonial magick, French Mediterranean Witchcraft. These writings, along with contributions from Doreen Valiente, became the basis of Gardnerian Tradition.
Many feel that the tradition is very rigid. This is far from the truth. The Gardnerian Tradition is not static. We don't just repeat the same rituals by rote. A tradition that does not change will die. While we do add information, ritual, spellwork, etc., we don't remove older info. This allows future members to know what we have built upon and have a sense of history of where we have been.
Dedication is usually the first step in joining a group and usually occurs when the group and the student feel that there is a connection. Dedication is a serious event. It is a promise to study with a group/teacher and their promise to teach. A student will have studied for at least a year and a day with a teacher before being considered for initiation. Some groups have a list of requirements that must be met before a student may ask for initiation. The Gardnerian Tradition is a Mystery Tradition. This means that we have information that is passed only to other members of the Tradition. In the Gardnerian Tradition, there are 3 degrees, or levels of accomplishment.
When a person is initiated in the tradition (1st degree), they are initiated by a person who was initiated by another Gardnerian, using the Gardnerian ritual. Most people find that initiation is a life changing experience.
2nd Degree requires *at least* another year and a day of study (more often it takes longer). This is a time when those who feel the call to teach or to lead a group begin deep study.
3rd Degree is for those who will run a group. Normally it takes several years (5-7 years is not uncommon) to go from 1st degree to 3rd degree. When you have reached 3rd degree, and wish to start a group of your own, you "hive" from your mother coven. This means that you "break away" and work on your own. This does not mean you are alone. You can always call upon your HPS and Queen for advice. You are autonomous but if you choose to ignore counsel from your elders you will find yourself on a very rough path.
Life in a coven is very different from solitary practice. A coven is like a family. We have learned to love and trust each other and would do most anything for each other. We know that in times of need, our chosen family will be there to help in any way they can. We respect each other and choose to work together. When a member of a group is lost, through moving, or crossing to the summerlands, the grief of the others is real and deep.
Because of the persecution of the past, Gardnerians are often very secretive about their locations and event that this is their tradition. This secrecy is not snobbery, but a remnet of times when to reveal yourself meant death. Many in the tradition are now mixing with local pagan communities, and participating in local events.
For more information on Gardnerian Tradition or to contact a teacher, please e-mail me.
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