The Greenwood Tradition Celtic Shamanic Wicca
By: Meri Fowler
The Greenwood Tradition is a dynamic Wiccan tradition that emerged from our spiritual practice in 2004. While it appears to be a new Tradition, its roots and connections are influenced by an interesting tapestry of many old teachings. Ronin and I believe it brings together a solid Traditional Wiccan training with an intense spiritual practice that assists the Seekers in going deeper into Wicca as a religion and a mystical way of life.† The story of how our Tradition was born is also the story of my own quest for Spirit and I would like to share it with you.†
My father was in the British Royal Navy when I was a little girl and he traveled the Far East, especially India, bringing us gifts from far away places. I donít know if this sparked my later interest in Yoga and Eastern thought but at the age of nineteen I entered an Ashram in Vancouver connected with ISKCON (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness). I lived in this Ashram and a few others for seven years, including travelling twice to India where I lived for about eight months, studying Bhakti Yoga, the Yoga of Devotion. During these seven years I received 1st and 2nd degree (Brahman/Priestess) initiation and learned how to be a Pujari (acting Priestess).
I left ISKCON when I was twenty-six after and went to live on Salt Spring Island where I continued my study of Yoga with Baba Hari Das and Ashtanga Yoga (1). During my time on Salt Spring I started to read about Findhorn and Faery (2). I rented a small farm property and began my life-long work with Nature Spirits and the Faery people. I think it is their influence that moved me off the Yoga path and onto the path of the Witch. Within our Tradition you will see many influences of Yoga such as chanting, meditation, and devotion to the Divine as well as deep work with the Fay.† I believe that the original Horned God Pashupati (who was the prototype for Shiva) was imported by the Indo-Europeans as they migrated, becoming Cernunnos, the Witches God, so the connection between Yoga and Wicca is meaningful.
Wiccan Traditions: Reclaiming, Eclectic, Lothlorien
My son Jonathan was born in 1989 and we moved to Montreal in 1991. His birth was an important catalyst making me realize that my search for spirituality, which had led to Wicca, should now embrace community and a place to raise a child. I had to come out of the broom closet! At first I was not able to articulate all my beliefs and I practised silently as a Solitary. When I began to meet people from the Pagan community in Montreal and participate in the Reclaiming Tradition Womenís Collective run by Marnie MacDonald I began my formal Wiccan training. (3)
The women I met and the rituals I participated in, both Reclaiming style and public with the Montreal Grove was a wonderful time of growth for me. I met Rune and Ygraine and we formed a small working Coven to study Eclectic Wicca† (4), which we called the Guild of the Green Lady. Many of the words, poems and songs of the Greenwood Tradition were birthed in the Guild and I remember my time with them fondly.† In 1994 I met my friend and study partner Hawk Oberon who has been my enthusiastic supporter and co-explorer ever since. With friends we formed another Eclectic coven, which we called Lady Bird Coven. It didnít last long but during that time we discovered the books and teachings of Reverend Paul Beyerl and the Lothlorien Tradition (5). I became a member of the Mystery School and shared what I was learning with Hawk Oberon. This was the beginning of more formal Traditional Witchcraft training for me, as Reverend Beyerl was originally an Alexandrian Wiccan and his Tradition and teachings are based on that with many influences from Faery.
In 2002 I met Ronin. At that time we were involved in a Circle of friends called Sugar Cauldron, which was not Wiccan but rather an exploration of spirituality, Paganism, and of course dessert! We met weekly and delved into many topics that interested us. Ronin began an intense period of study and immersion into Wicca, which began to gradually move him away from Sugar Cauldron. He felt that something was missing, and he was right. We needed a more solid Wiccan Traditional structure for our spiritual life, a committed and focused Coven.
During the Sugar Cauldron days we began to explore Shamanism with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies (6). Ronin and I met Cathy Heiss who runs the Foundation in Montreal and found a wise and compassionate teacher and friend in her. I continued to study intensively with the Foundation completing the Core and Advanced courses offered in Montreal. I also trained on line with the Society for Celtic Shamanism and Tira Brandon Evans† (7) I realized that Wicca has its roots in the Shamanism of the British Isles and that many of its practices are Shamanic. This avenue of thought along with Celtic Studies has greatly influenced my spiritual practice and our Tradition.
The Faery Shamanic Training that I did with Tira was very interesting for me although perhaps the most important part of it was meeting Rhiannon. She was a member of Tiraís on-line group but she lives here in Montreal and is a Wiccan High Priestess in the American Welsh Tradition, also called Edwardian Wicca (9).† Rhiannon co-taught my Elements of Wicca Course and then invited the participants to explore Edwardian Traditional Wicca with her. She had been trained in the Silver Wheel, one of the oldest Covens in Canada and had hived off in the mid-eighties to run her own group the Circle of High Oaks.† I started to learn with her and have found it invaluable to finally study a formal Traditional Wiccan system in depth. In 2008 I received 2nd degree initiation in her Tradition and am working toward my 3rd.
The Greenwood Tradition has many differences from Traditional Wicca while remaining true to its purposes and spirit. The main differences are in the ritual structure, the Shamanic training and Celtic study.
In our Ritual Structure Outline we have a lot of flexibility and space for creativity and spontaneity. Iím sure this is due to the influence of Reclaiming. Like Traditional Wicca (TW) we cast the circle with sword or athame, but we donít consecrate the circle with all the elements, rather we purify it with love. We donít invoke the Watchtowers but rather Totemic Guardians of the Four Quarters. In our coven work we connect with the Celtic Pantheon but it is not a requirement for the Coveners in their private work, they can pursue their connection to any pantheon that resonates with them. The Divine has many faces! This is the influence of our Eclectic Wiccan studies.
TW performs a symbolic or actual Great Rite, but in our Tradition this is a practice that is taught only to working couples and practiced in private. We do however practice Drawing Down the Moon but not at every ritual.
The beginning of our training is a nine week, eighteen hour course which we called Elements of Wicca and which not only gives a solid introduction to Wicca but also is the beginning of training in our own Tradition. Within this course participants are introduced to Shamanic practice with a power animal retrieval. Those who wish to continue may sign up for Advanced Elements of Wicca in which the group forms a working Coven for a year and a day, lead by Initiated practitioners. During this course they study the four paths, Bardic, Warrior, Healer, and Mystic, learn Shamanic technique and begin their understanding of the Celtic worldview based on old manuscripts, mythology and legend. Our training contains the same elements as the TW training.
The Seekers may apply for Initiation after a year and a day if they and their teachers think they are ready. After Initiation they may leave the group and become a Solitary or may stay with their group and continue for a second year. In the second year the group goes into more depth in their training, they also celebrate the Sabbats according to our Book of Rituals, and may choose if they wish, one of nine Solitary Pathworkings. They are as follows:
- Path of the Wand: Faery Shamanic Training (Not the same as Tiraís)
- Path of the Magick Mirror: Magickal and introspective involving meditation
- Path of the Beads and Bell: Ritual and devotional
- Path of the Bolline: study of the Green Witch Healer (Kitchen Witch)
- Path of the Stang: study of the Oghams and Trees
- Path of the Drum: Shamanic practice
- Path of the Mask: Celtic Shamanic practice using the myths and journey into Annwn
- Path of the Cauldron: Welsh studies and Shamanic practice to find the Cauldron of Cerridwen
- Path of the White Goddess: This path is for 2nd degree initiates only who have completed one of the above paths.
None of the Solitary pathworking is mandatory and each person has a mentor. It takes two to three years to complete one pathworking.
Our Coven is structured like Gardnerian with a High Priestess we call the Lady, a High Priest we call the Chief, a Maiden, and a Summoner. We have three degrees, 1st, 2nd (priest/ess), and 3rd Elder. The Coven is usually made up of thirteen or less people and we try to have a balance of men and women if we can. No-one under eighteen years of age is admitted for the training but we have a Young Paganís Circle for Pagan youth from ages ten to eighteen which has been running since September 2000 and meets monthly. We donít wear robes or practice skyclad but members are encouraged to wear special ritual clothes. Second-degree priestesses wear amber and jet necklaces.
I am writing these notes at the beginning of 2009 and currently we have five active Covens in our tradition and a waiting list for Elements of Wicca. We have a Wiccan Community Center where the Covens can meet and also participate in workshops and public Sabbats when they are held.† The Tradition is growing and alive, which makes us very happy and surprised, as we didnít set out to create a Tradition but rather just one happily working Coven.
I hope this helps to bring into perspective some of the roots and history of our Tradition, which is rich in experience and very joyful. May the Lord and Lady bless it and keep it strong and healthy.