I’ve seen a lot of questions out there from people wanting to have a list of all the traditions out there, so they can choose one. This is not the most effective way to go about things, for a variety of reasons.
Reason 1: There are many many traditions out there.
While there are a number of widely known traditions out there (Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Blue Star, and a number of others), there are hundreds of other religious witchcraft traditions out there. Many are quite small – a few groups, often in a limited number of places. You can get a very general idea of some of the variations by looking at the Witchvox tradition pages but this is only the tip of a very large iceberg.
Reason 2: Not all traditions are in all places
Even for the better known traditions, a given area may not have groups of every tradition nearby. For example, my own Minneapolis and Saint Paul have a number of Gardnerian and Blue Star groups, but only one or two Alexandrian groups.
There are also a wide number of groups (my own tradition included) who started from a particular tradition’s roots, but branched off and are doing something new, wonderful, and vibrant on their own, developing new strands of practice and potential. You won’t find most of these discussed in books or even on websites (unless you come across someone in the tradition.) but they can be a great option when done well.
Reason 3: Groups within a tradition do vary
While groups within a tradition do have certain things in common (specific practices like initiation rituals, expectations, and so on), groups within a tradition can have very different flavors.
For example, the group I trained in is a training-focused group with a strong focus on particular kinds of practice. My own coven is designed to be smaller and more tightly focused, with a particular interest in the intersection of music and ritual (and magic.) Someone can be a great fit for one group in the tradition, and not a good fit for the other – just because of different personalities and interests.
What to do?
Fortunately, you have some options.
Focus on a finding a group that is a good fit for you (and the you you want to become!) rather than on a particular tradition. Start by checking out the groups that are physically near you, or that you can get to. You will want to find out what these groups do and practice, and how they connect to the broader community, but there are many excellent groups that can provide you with thoughtful training, caring (and challenging) ritual, support in hard times, and people to celebrate with in the good times.
If you feel strongly drawn to a particular tradition, however, you’re going to have some harder choices.
- Some groups are open to students traveling to visit them (every few weeks, every few months)
- Some groups and traditions have options to cover a lot of material via distance training. (However, many traditions, especially initiatory ones, will require significant face to face time and interaction before initiation.) If you’re working at a distance, expect your training to take longer.
- There are traditions and practices out there that do not require group work or face to face training. Remember that there are things you can’t learn by yourself (like how to work in ritual with other people), and that a number of skills may be much harder to learn (centering, grounding, shielding, for example.)
Which one of these you pick is going to depend a lot on other factors. (Do you drive? Do you have lots of other commitments that take your time and energy like children, weekend work, or family you take care of? Can you manage time away on a somewhat regular basis? There are often some ways to travel cheaply, but money for transportation costs may still be an issue.)
If neither of these are options for you right now, there are a number of ways you can build a solid foundation for yourself so that when your life changes and a group becomes possible (your situation changes, a group you’re interested starts in your area, whatever), you’re in the best possible place to take advantage of it.
[last edited January 14, 2011]