I’ve practiced Wiccan witchcraft for nearly 20 years and 8 years of that has been Gardnerian Wicca. Gardnerian Wicca is very different from the Wicca most often portrayed in books and on television. It’s more ecstatic than one might initially think and there are a lot of candles. Candles burn on the altar, in the quarters, and for other various purposes. My Temple Room is often sweltering after Gardnerian ritual because of all the flames and energy raised.
Gardnerian Wicca isn’t the only tradition that I’m a part of and Wicca isn’t my sole spiritual lens. For years, I’ve been drawn to Avalonian spirituality and I’ve recently found community and spiritual nourishment with the Sisterhood of Avalon (SOA). A mega difference between this Avalonian tradition and Gardnerian Wicca is that the SOA places no focus on spellwork. A second difference is that the SOA exclusively works with 5 Welsh goddesses. As a Gardnerian, I’m used to exclusivity but the no spellwork thing and a new ritual style have been a learning curve. But I love to learn through discomfort, so I’m eating this up.
In Which I Say A Blue Words
The other night I attended an event hosted by the SOA. I had recently gone shopping for new materials for my Avalonian altar: a blue altar cloth, a water vessel, and small blue votive candle holder. I’ve long associated the color blue with Avalon and the reason why finally came into focus for me last night: water is associated with the color blue. While I know that water is clear and merely reflects the sky’s color, the color association is still there for me. And anyone that knows anything about Avalon knows that a lake is involved. Specifically, one must cross a lake to get to the Isle of Avalon, so water is kind of a big deal.
Remember how I said Gardnerian Wicca involves a lot of candles? Well, when I performed my first Avalonian ritual for the April full moon, I had to go against my Gardnerian desire to light all the candles. There were exactly two white candles burning on my altar and they were mostly for being able to see what I was doing in the dark. There were a couple of moments where I just stood still, doing mental gymnastics over whether or not I should cast a circle or light some quarter candles. Even without the ecstatic nature of my usual ritual style, the ritual was moving and powerful in its own right. It was just different. But different was good in this case.
As Good As Blue
Aside from the two white candles on the altar, I had a small nondescript Goddess statue (also visible in the photo attached above), a bowl of water, and my Avalonian Oracle deck that I have cherished for years. That’s all that was on the altar and this, again, went against my Gardnerian nature! I’m used to all the tools, all the candles, all the ceremony!!!! Where’s my ceremony?! But I’ll tell you what: distilling the experience of ritual down to a few simple tools was magical in and of itself. I wouldn’t call it “basic” so much as distilled. And speaking of distilled, I should probably make some sort of water metaphor about that or something. But I’ll just let it sit. Like a bowl of water.
And I wasn’t even sure why I put the bowl of water on the altar – it was an intuitive move on my part except that I know water and Avalon are connected. We cross water to travel, we need it (even more than food) to live, it can be used to either heat or cool, it is exerted in exercise through sweat and also through tears of happiness and grief. Water binds us together and is interwoven into everything we do. So, when I compare the heat of a Gardnerian ritual to the cool, watery vibes of an Avalonian one, I can’t help but feel more balanced in my spirituality. Almost like a boat righting itself in the middle of a tempestuous ocean. There. There’s my water metaphor.
This chant is going through my brain right now:
We all come from the Goddess,
and to Her we shall return,
like a drop of rain,
flowing to the ocean.
That’s all I’ll leave blue with. I mean, YOU with.
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