the triple tradition

“Imolg: The Triple Goddess - Maid, Mother and Crone”

This picture with the quoted caption can be found in “A Witches’ Bible” in the “Eight Sabbats for Witches” section by Janet and Stewart Farrar. I was pleasantly surprised to find photographs in this book of Janet and Stewart Farrar and the rest of their coven.

Wicca 101: Worship )0(

Who or what do you worship?
Wiccans generally worship two gods, a god and a goddess. However, the identities of these deities vary from group to group and even Wiccan to Wiccan, which causes no small amount of frustration in non-Wiccans trying to understand us. In monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), the deity’s identity is of prime importance because these faiths generally hold that their god is the only god.

As polytheists, however, we recognize the existence or possible existence of many gods, although we’re certainly not expected to worship all of them. (The polytheistic religion of Hinduism, for example, recognizes millions of gods. Imagine trying to personally honor all of them!) So while each of us has specific patron gods, our beliefs are not challenged by the fact that other people, even other Wiccans, are following other deities.

Wicca can be divided into two branches: Traditional and Eclectic. Traditional Wiccans worship in small groups called covens, which are dedicated to a specific god and goddess. Teachers within the coven teach new initiates about these deities. Eclectics are most often solitary in their practices and follow whatever god and goddess call them to service. Many times these are deities previously followed by historical cultures such as Isis, Diana, and Apollo. Other times it is deities whose identities are unique or nearly unique to Wicca. Still others are devoted modern interpretation of historical figures.

How does an Eclectic know which deities to follow?
Most serious Eclectics will tell you that their gods found them, not the other way around. Some stories are dramatic, but many are not. For me personally, it came in small stages. First was the sense that someone was there for me. Over time I started to identify more distinct qualities about them, and eventually I learned names for them. This process may be totally separate from whom a Wiccan might simply like or identify with. Throughout childhood, for example, I was always fascinated with the Greek goddess Athena when we studied mythology in school. I liked what she stood for, and I still do, but she is not who called me. Spiritually speaking, there is no connection between Athena and me at all.

My child has mentioned “the God” and “the Goddess.” Who are they?
Some Wiccans believe that all of the polytheistic gods are aspects of one god and all goddesses are aspects of one goddess. These two beings are addressed as God and Goddess just as the Christian god is commonly addressed as God. For a variety of reasons, this view has become widely popular in Eclectic Wiccan literature, giving many the erroneous impression that it is the only view of deity that Wiccans have.

Who are the Horned God and the Triple Goddess?
Traditional Wiccans keep the names of their deities a secret to the wider world. However, when publicly speaking or writing about Wicca, they often describe those gods as the Horned God and the Triple Goddess. These are descriptions specific to the gods of the Traditionalists which have also been adopted as names for deities by some Eclectics. The Horned God is generally depicted with horns or antlers springing from his head. He represents both hunter and hunted and rules the winter, when food traditionally could only be gathered by hunting. He is also lord of the underworld.

The Triple Goddess is strongly associated with the moon, with the waxing, full and waning moon phases associated with her aspects of Maid, Mother and Crone. She is also tied to the earth and agriculture and rules summer, when the land is in bloom and can provide sustenance.

What are nature spirits and do you worship them?
“Nature spirits” is a very vague term. To me the term suggests localized entities such as something that resides in a specific tree, rock or river. Some Wiccans believe in them and some don’t. Those who do believe in them may interact with them and show respect toward them, but neither of these actions equate to worship. (After all, I interact with and show respect toward my parents, but no one has suggested that I am worshipping them by doing so!) The term might also be referring to elementals, non-corporeal creatures composed entirely of one of the four elements (Fire, Air, Water or Earth). Again, some Wiccans work with them, particularly in circle casting, but they not worshipped. In fact, elementals are more often commanded than asked to accomplish something.

Do you worship trees?
No. Trees are just physical shells. Worshipping a tree would make no more or less sense than worshipping a toaster. (We don’t do that either, just to be clear.)

Do you worship “nature,” and if so, how is that not worshipping trees?
Our culture thinks of nature as merely being those things that have not been created by man. When we talk of getting “back to nature” we usually mean doing away with some modern conveniences and spending time appreciating trees, rivers, and clean air.

What we can see and touch and smell, however, is just the outer shell of something greater. Nature has a spirit and/or soul as well as a body: there is a spiritual essence residing within the physical shell.

Many of us also hold a much wider view of nature. Nature is all that occurs naturally, which is everything: the planet, the stars, and universe. The motions of all these things ultimately come from the will of the gods. The connection between physical nature and the gods is intimate: the gods did not just create the universe, step back and observe but continue to reside and work within it.

So while some Wiccans speak of nature as a goddess, they are ultimately speaking of a powerful spiritual being, not trees.

I heard that your god and goddess represent a dualistic view of the world. Doesn’t that mean one of them is evil?
The most known dualistic worldview is Gnosticism, which historically held that there were two great powers in the universe: one was material and entirely evil, while the other was spiritual and entirely good. Christianity certainly possesses shades of this theology even though it ultimately rejected Gnosticism as a whole.

Wicca’s dualistic views differ sharply from this outlook in two ways. First, while the universe is composed of opposites, those opposites work together to make a whole. The Gnostic view pits good and evil, spiritual and material at odds with each other. Where one existed the other could not. In Wicca, both halves are both desirable and necessary. Spiritual and material work together. Lack either part would leave the world incomplete. Likewise, creation comes from destruction and vice versa. The species needs both male and female to survive, and each of us carries some part of both.

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Just a few more weeks until the lovely and talented Annie Alonzi joins us for a guest spot at Wonderland! She still has some availability August 3-5, so get at her while you can!

Contact her at lygeria@gmail.com if you want to get an awesome tattoo from a traveling artist, and feel free to share, Portlanders.

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Some of Annie Alonzi’s tattoos from her guest spot here at Wonderland! Rose of no man’s land, mini wolf for our very own Will Kendall, traditional portrait of Little Kitty. Get in next time around! It was so awesome having her here!

Follow Annie’s tumblr here and find her on Instagram @a_alonzi. We can’t wait to see her again!