Private Traditions On Public Forums, What’s Oathbreaking?

Private Traditions On Public Forums, What’s Oathbreaking? September 29, 2020

Image credit: Kristina Flour @ Unsplash

As a Wiccan, I took an oath to not divulge the things taught to me within a magical circle unless I was talking to others trained in the same way as me.

In other words, people who had been “properly prepared” for and by initiation.

But as a Heathen working with Norse magic I took no such oaths. I made my own personal vows to my deities, but at no point did I declare privacy or secrecy.

Many other magical groups I’ve been in haven’t requested or needed secrecy.

In general, I’m a bit of an over-sharer. Call it socialism if you will or call it my bipolar brain tendencies. I’m not big on secrets and specialist information you need a membership card to obtain.

I have two parts of my soul – that which I’ve processed and that which I haven’t. If I’m still working out how I feel about something I’m going to be silent about it. Frustratingly so. I’m not going to want to talk to you about it even if you really wish I would. If I’ve processed it that’s fair game, I’m not prepared to hide any part of myself from the wider world. Self-acceptance means I’ll be completely unapologetic in who I am.

I’m not quite an open book, I’m two books – published and still editing.

Oathbound therefore is difficult sometimes for me to get my head around, but it’s a key part of my tradition and it’s a promise I made, which I’ll always do my utmost to keep.

Which is why it’s frustrating sometimes when it’s unclear what is and isn’t oath breaking.

So much of my tradition has been published by people within that tradition.

Gardner himself published elements of the initiation ritual. Sanders put it on Vinyl record. Whilst holding onto the oathbound promises for us, our forefathers sure were a bit share-y with their secrets. Does this mean it’s also ok for me to unveil the parts they published?

Since then many authors have put oathbound material into print. There are plenty of people who consider those who have are oath breakers but many more consider the sharing of information to be an important part of the growth of the tradition.

Breaking oaths or breaking consent? Which is more important in 2020 Wicca?

There are parts of our initiation rituals you would hope (in 2020) dedicants would be told about before being thrown into.

Most people will be aware of these before they enter Wicca but it’s still our responsibility, as initiators, to discuss these before initiation.

And yet ‘properly prepared’ is often taken to mean initiation rather than being trained for initiation? So by telling some of the initiation aspects pre-initiation am I breaking oaths?

There are no established standards of training

For me this is not necessarily a bad thing. I’m not teaching a certification in Witchcraft Studies. I don’t expect certain learning aims to be achieved before I count someone a witch. We all have our own challenges and work at our own paces.

A year and a day doesn’t stand in most cases. You’re ready when you’re ready.

So how can I judge, as a Wiccan, whether I deem that person who someone else has initiated, to be properly prepared? Is it enough to trust someone else’s instincts if I know them well?

What about trusting someone I’ve never met or had contact with? Whose existence I only know about because their initiate is within the same initiate only online space as me?

Am I really keeping my oaths if I talk in these spaces?

What makes one witch tradition more valid than another?

I’ve circled with so many. I’ve also been in ritual space with some amazing people who weren’t part of any Witchcraft tradition but followed other Pagan paths.

Some of the most breath-taking witches I know aren’t Wiccan. Are they not properly prepared? Are they not worthy of my knowledge? That’s a bit rich really when, in a lot of instances, they’ve taught me way more than I’ve learnt in Wiccan circles. What right do I have to say no I won’t share with them when they so willingly share with me?

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this subject and for me it’s come down to really considering which elements of Wiccan practise I consider to be part of the mystery.

Those things I won’t share.

Everything else is fair game.

There are many people who I’d be happy to initiate if they wanted to learn about Wicca’s inner mysteries. It’s their choice, not mine. Wicca isn’t for everyone, but the secrets are only for Wiccans. That’s ok.

If I need to use an example within an article, I’ll quote someone else’s published work, so I personally am not breaking my oaths.

It’s very much like looking at a salad made with stolen tomatoes. I’m eating the salad but refusing to pick my own illicit vegetables.

I recognise the irony in this, but I made a promise when I joined a mystery tradition to uphold the secrets within it.

About Katie Gerrard
Wiccan by lineage, heathen by heart. I’m an author, workshop facilitator, and photographer. I can follow rules, but I don’t follow expectations Stereotype me at your peril! You can read more about the author here.

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One response to “Private Traditions On Public Forums, What’s Oathbreaking?”

  1. It’s a great point that you will be ready when you are ready, so we shouldn’t stick to a certain date no matter what. My brother is thinking about getting into paganism this year and we want to help him get started. I’ll look around online for supplies and gifts that we can send to him to help out.

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