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Traditional Gardnerian Wica

Public discourse in the United States is presently fixated upon what is, and is not, supported by “historical precedent.” That idea that if something was not written down by founding fathers, or elders, then it may not inform our choices. We find ourselves reasonably troubled by the idea of being guided by individuals who do not represent our interests. Those who express mock surprise and remorse that a four-thousand-word document, written in 1787 by fifty-five men does not mention procedures like abortion—or anyone other than men. To contrast, Gardnerian Wiccans must also suffer edicts from individuals who do not represent their interests. Individuals who express similar mock surprise and remorse that a loose collection of documents, written by ostensibly white, cisgendered, heterosexuals with a variety of problematic attitudes, might not mention inclusivity—or anyone other than white, cisgendered, heterosexuals.

In the United States, those of us whom you might consider reasonable recognize that the omission of non-men from the Constitution is, rather than something to build a society around, something we should seek to repair. Similarly, reasonable Gardnerian initiates understand that our tradition cannot be predicated on exclusion. Yet, in both instances, those so-called representatives seek to establish that if something is not mentioned in founding documents such as the Constitution or a Book of Shadows, that it is not something that individuals have the right to choose. Unless, of course, it can be supported by historical precedent— tests of precedent which only support those who were once in power, and those like them. To that end I think it is pertinent to make clear who is truly in power here.

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote that “laws (regarding) women make an absurd unit of a man and his wife, and then, by the easy transition of only considering him as responsible, she is reduced to a mere cypher.” (A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1781) A Priestess is, as Mary would put it, “ever mindful” that her “power” comes from him. And we are tasked by these representatives with understanding that these documents are not simply “words on a page” and they implore us to understand that these principles must be upheld. They are, after all, “inextricably woven into the foundations of our tradition,” making clear that tradition is the core of the concern. And we, to receive the benefit of the inclusive and open nature of Gardnerian Wicca, must work within traditional guidelines to be regarded as Gardnerian.

Within those guidelines it may be pertinent to ask if the signers are recognized as “young and lovely” (Gardner, WitchCraft Today), or “fertile” with “no post menopausal women or sterile old men” among them (Lamond, 50 Years of Wicca). And whether, within these traditional parameters, we should express concern that there are among the signers High Priestesses who have not yielded their authority to “younger more nubile” Priestesses, according to Gerald Gardners own interpretation of “the Laws of the Craft” (Lamond). Or is it, perhaps, that these representatives recognize harmful content that should be abolished where and when it suits them?

Traditions must evolve to survive.

Charles Darwin stated that it is the most adaptive that survive and this has proven true time and again. Species, societies, beliefs, and yes, even traditions, that do not adapt to changing environments simply cease to be. It is made clear, time and again, that the “Craft of the Wise must not be allowed to die” (Adler, Drawing Down The Moon).

In an interview, Doreen Valiente, regarded by many as the mother of Neopaganism, stated that Gardnerian Wicca is “not an orthodox religion,” saying “when you see the results of the orthodox religions, I’m very glad it isn’t.” She made clear that she saw inherent danger in orthodoxy—the idea that one must “conform to what is generally or traditionally accepted as right or true; established and approved.” (OED) “Groups […] will do their own thing,” she says, continuing “I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all […].” “What right have we got to deny people the right to worship the old gods and the right to feel kinship with nature?”

Tradition should never be conflated with laws or orthodoxy, but Tradition, when referring to Gardnerian Wicca, should be observed to be invented—a relatively new thing, introduced in a way that implies a connection to the past. Let's be clear: that is exactly what is happening here; Tradition has been invented. (Hobsbawm, Inventing Traditions) These traditionalists are in fact relying on a relatively modern usage of the word “tradition,” which entered the lexicon during the Age of Enlightenment. When, in a time of philosophical and intellectual growth, when the worlds brightest minds were turned toward the pursuit of knowledge—traditionalists arose in opposition to that enlightenment. It suggested a resistance to social progress, was utilized as a way of othering, and made clear that the conservative way is the correct way. That the way of progress and forward-thinking is not. (Bronner, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences)

In a speech on November 27th, 1997, Doreen Valiente stated “At first I did not question anything Gerald told me about what he claimed to be the traditional teachings of the Old religion. Eventually however, I did begin to question, and began to ask how much was traditional and how much was simply Gerald’s prejudices. For instance, he was very much against people of the same sex working together, especially if they were (LGBTQIA+). In fact he went so far as to describe (LGBTQIA+) people as being “cursed by the Goddess. […] I see no good reason to believe this. In every period of history, in every country in the world there have been (LGBTQIA+) people, (of all genders). So why shouldn’t Mother nature have known what she was doing when she made people this way? I don’t agree with this prejudice against (LGBTQIA+) people, either inside the craft of the wise or outside it.” (Lughnasadh 1998, Pagan Dawn)

“Those who are to be bound by laws, ought to have a voice in making them.” A phrase written by James Madison, which caused concern to those present during the writing of the the Fourteenth Amendment. Those who could not bear that the word “person,” took place of what they felt should be “men.” During a debate on the floor of the United States Senate it was asked if this was to be taken to mean that women were also persons. “I believe,” stated Mr. Howard, that “Mr. Madison was old enough and wise enough to take it for granted that there was such a thing as the law of nature which has a certain influence even in political affairs, and that by that law women are not regarded as the equals of men.”

Today, those who have positioned themselves as representatives of Gardnerian Wicca, wish to bind LGBTQIA+ seekers and initiates to laws that they had no voice in making. Much like when interpreting the laws of our land, we cannot base our decisions as initiates upon the Book of Shadows alone, but rather, go beyond the text we were given and those who wrote it. And those whom others would deem “reformists” (defined as “supporting or advancing gradual reform,” and reform itself as correcting something or to causing something to be better) are protecting Gardnerian Wicca from loss—safekeeping something we were given—by adapting. Supporting gradual reform, and abolishing abuse as the word “reformist” might suggest. And those who would call us “reformists” as though it were an insult of the highest order, those who would use the word tradition to hold something captive from growth—give away exactly what they are. Not only implicitly opposed to making things better, but supporters of the abuse we hope to abolish. And those traditionalists, Doreen stated, “might have some temporary successes. They may win some battles. But they’re going to lose the war.”

I will not call myself traditional, nor for that matter reformist, but simply what I am—Gardnerian. And while I cannot walk the path of those who would destroy our Craft through their refusal to embrace the enlightenment that the gods have so kindly gifted us and adapt to an ever-evolving world—I wish them a gentle extinction.

L. Mortellus 3°—High Priestex of The Coven of Leaves

I declare that The Coven of Leaves is open to individuals of all ages, races, sexual orientations, identities, backgrounds, and so on, and is accepting of long distance students, as well as current students or initiates who may be seeking a more inclusive coven family. The Coven of Leaves teaches the tradition as passed to us by our Long Island upline so long as it does not cause harm. I further state that I disavow Lady Unise, and all other signers of the document entitled “Traditional Gardnerian Wica.”


Lady Epona 3°—High Priestess of Autumn Moon Coven

Mitra, Outer Court—Autumn Moon Coven

Tamsin 3°—High Priestex, The Coven of Leaves

Proteus 3°—High Priest, The Coven of Leaves

Dealandé 2°—High Priestess, The Coven of Leaves

Brynalwen, 1°—The Coven of Leaves

River Barton, Outer Court—The Coven of Leaves

Melpomene, Outer Court—The Coven of Leaves

Tettix 1°—The Coven of Leaves

Adrija 1°—The Coven of Leaves

Tadhg, Outer Court—The Coven of Leaves

Kierkei 3°—High Priestess, Coven Restless Wind—Downline of The Coven of Leaves

Fáidh 3° - High Priest, Acorn Garden

Faewolf 1°—High Priestess, Acorn Garden Coven

Kellyanne, 3°—High Priestess, Blue Timber Coven

Acacia 2°—High Priestess, The Glenwood Coven

Oneiros 3*—Highlands' Coven

Samira 3*—Highlands' Coven

Corvus 3°—Sheaves of Demeter, Alexandrian/Chthonioi-Alexandrian

River 2°—Sheaves of Demeter, Alexandrian/Chthonioi-Alexandrian

Raven 2°, Sapphire Coven and Grove, Blue Star

Viviane 3*—Eildon Tree

Thumper *3—High Priest

Bwca Teine—Cal-Gard

Euphus Ruth—Seeker

Carnelian—1° of HeartSong Coven


While Mortellus and The Coven of Leaves are not soliciting signatures for this document, they understand that some may wish to do so, or add a statement to it as Mortellus has done. If any you wish to do so you may reach out to Mortellus through the contact page. Signers of this document are not restricted to any particular tradition, degree, nor even initiates—“those who are to be bound by laws, ought to have a voice in making them.”


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