What is the Modern Tradition of Witchcraft?
Usually people's first reaction to ModTrad is "Isn't that an oxymoron? How can something be modern and traditional?" Well, the key to it is that we examine the traditions and folklore of the past, and decipher a way to interpret them in a contemporary format that relates better to humanity's needs today. ModTrad incorporates a system of careful research, reflection, and ingenuity. Although most of us fantasize about living out in the middle of nowhere, being self-sufficient, close to the earth, the reality is that most of us lead urban-based lives. When one examines the sabbats on the wheel of year, one discovers that they are planting/harvest/farming based. How does this relate to us now, living in the concrete jungle, lacking fields and livestock? How do we keep the meaning and intention in something that seems outdated? How does this reflect through all the aspects of the Craft, such as spellcraft and our view of the Divine? This is the challenge of Modern Traditional Witchcraft.
Structure: The Modern Tradition is what is known as a family tradition or "famtrad" for short. We are not organized into covens, but rather houses, where members can both work together and in a solitary form. The primary default for a ModTrad Witch is to practice solitary, so other members are not required to perform daily/regular practice, ritual, etc. The houses are part of the one Family, though they may be separated by location and other factors. The Modern Tradition does not have a system of ranking (such as degrees). If a House has a designated leader, they are known as the Focus, but this title is fluid and refers more to duties of organization than rank. Those looking to enter the Family are known as Seekers.
History: Labyrinth House, the first House of the Modern Tradition was formally founded in January of 2000 in Rhode Island by Tempest, and two other women, K & D. Each of the founding members came from a mix of formal training in other Traditions, their own family training, and a heavy focus on the arts. They began working together circa 1997. Finding common practices and beliefs both in their backgrounds and visions for the future, they forged together a new tradition to help grow and share those ideas. House of Annwyn, the second house of the Modern Tradition was established via Tempest in May 2000 with 5 new members. These members had been studying with Tempest prior to the official founding of the tradition by way of The Cauldron of Annwyn Pagan Society - an open path group Tempest founded in 1998. After Tempest relocated from RI to CA in late 2001 the members of the House of Annwyn continued teaching and growing in New England. Tempest continued to teach in California, but did not form any more new Houses after 2004.
The Keys of Practice:
-Know Thyself - be aware of your strengths and your weaknesses (mentally, spiritually, physically)
-Accept Responsibility - acknowledging both known and unknown consequences for your actions
-Maintain Balance - not just about focusing on moderation, but understanding extremes and working with them
What is expected of a Modern Tradition Witch?
*Be self-motivated and scholarly minded (ever-learning is ever-growing)
*Endeavor to be of sound and stable mind (strive to maintain a fairly healthy emotional and mental state)
*Be able, ready and especially willing to perform any aspect of a ritual at a moment's notice, as well as being able to foster a spontaneous nature infused with self-esteem
*Be cross-cultural/aware of different traditions and practices.
*Practice (or ready to learn) at least one form of divination
*Accept and maintain the key notion that its not just knowing how to do something but the WHY as well (and foremost)
*Be respective of other members and other paths
*Consider this path as a way of life for oneself (not a hobby or casual amusement)
*Able to work independently as well as socially/within a House.
About the Family by Joyce Siegrist
The following is a short article by Traditional Witch Joyce Siegrist, reproduced here with her permission. Although I didn't agree with Joyce on some issues, I find it to be a very good explanation of Family...
There has been a good bit of talk about the structure of a "family" in Witchcraft. I've said so many times before that Witchcraft was not a religion until this century that I'm beginning to sound like a broken record. So I won't go there for now. Instead, I'd like to tell about how a family is organized.
First, the definition. In the European classical cultures a family is defined as all members of a household who live together and intend to live together in perpetuity. It says nothing about blood lineage even tho that was the common denominator in so many families. Quite often you would find what we would refer to today as an "extended" family...... with the grandparents, adult children, grandchildren living together. In addition to that, you could have servants, aunts and uncles, cousins and any number of other relatives. Even the pets are considered members since they are part of the household.
The thing that makes "Old" family traditions different from modern day Wicca or new pagan religions, is not so much the fact of religion as it is culture. For my own family the culture is Hungarian Romany. There are several Italian Strega's on this list too. But still one culture does not totally define a family. Let's consider hypothetically that all the families we come into contact with are Witch families. My family is Hungarian Romany (Gypsy). We know about our culture but are learning as much as we can about those
things outside our family that are shared by other Roma. But suppose that a daughter of our family marries an Italian Strege (sorry I can't remember the spelling for a male Italian Witch) and moves in with his family. Also suppose that she has children and teaches them the way of the Strega because that is what she had to learn to become part of her husband's family.
October comes and it's time to gather for the Festivals of that month. We see Roma families and we see Italian families gathering but they are all part of the same "family" for the purpose of Witchcraft. But because they are perpetuating different cultures, we call them "branches" off the main family. I guess it's like planting this one great hybrid tree that can produce apples, pears, plums and all kinds of other fruits too. But the key for any ONE branch of a family is the culture that is accepted as one's own, not the practice of any kind of religion. However, in this modern day and time, to gain a rightful place in society, we've had to incorporated some form of
religion into our various branches of the family. I don't dictate to my family branches whether they have religion as part of their practices or not. If they want it and incorporate it, I don't have a problem. If they don't, I still don't have a problem with it. We're not here to argue the supremacy of one religion over another. We are here to learn what the "real" old families were and how to build a new one if we aren't part of, or can't find, an old one.