The History of Seax-Wica is a short and interesting one. There are no long myths of the origins of the tradition, no claims to antiquity, and very few conflicting versions of how the tradition came to be.
Mostly Seax-Wica came from the vision of one man, Raymond Buckland. While he was in America teaching the tradition he learned from Gardner to us willing Americans, he found his own ideas developing along lines that differed in important ways from Gardner’s. So, he kept true to his oaths of silence and split with Gardner. He spent many years researching Pagan traditions, and he sat down and wrote, from start to finish, Seax-Wica.
Seax-Wica has a basis of Saxon belief. From what Buckland has said and what I have read, there is a mish-mash of traditions and celebrations intermixed into this tradition, mainly because the Saxon culture itself was made up of many different traditions as well. Many scholars have tried to separate out “pure” Saxon from the rest, and it can’t be done.
Because of this, you have a Norse influence in the Gods’ names. Instead of something completely different, the God is Woden and the Goddess is Freya. If you didn’t know that the Saxons were heavily influenced by the Norse, you could get more than a bit confused by this seeming deity displacement.
Along with the deity influence, probably the best known feature of Seax-Wica is the rune script. In the research I have done on the Internet to see what everyone else thinks of Seax-Wica, I have found 30 different pages with just the rune script on it, and no other information on Seax-Wica. I find this interesting since this rune script is very close to that used by the Norse and their famous FUThARK script. Why use a copy when you can use the original?
One thing that was a novelty in 1974 when Buckland started Seax-Wica was that none of the ceremonies or rites were secret. There was no oath of secrecy binding members of the groups together, nor was there an iron-clad rule that stated everything learned must be passed down without any changes. Individual Priests and Priestesses were encouraged to do research and add to the tradition if it suited them, and to share that knowledge with everyone that was interested.
Regardless of any of that, Raymond Buckland developed Seax-Wica in 1973 and wrote The Tree which was published in December of 1974. This book encouraged the seeker to look beyond what he wrote and to add it to the tradition if they wanted to.
The rituals are on a solar cycle, although Moon rites are encouraged. However, unlike many traditions, it is not only the God that is celebrated during the Sabbats, but both deities, and the same holds true for the Moon Esbats as well. Both God and Goddess are honored at each rite or ritual held in their honor. There is no ritual sacrifice of the God, no supremacy of the Goddess and the Priestess.
There is also a transition time from the Lord to the Lady and vice-versa. In the Seax-Wica tradition, Samhain is the time of the start of the new year, and it is also the time when the Lord is more influential than the Lady. The Lord is supposed to lead the Wiccans through the night of winter into the spring. At Beltane the Lady takes over from the Lord and leads the Wiccans through the summer and fall, when the Earth is alive and growing. Note that one is not supreme to the other, but rather it is a division of who has more guidance over the world during their times. Like every good parent, if necessary the Lady will respond if called upon during the winter and the Lord will act if called upon during the Summer.
There are no power plays because the Covens are truly autonomous and democratic. Each year a vote is taken by the Coven, and a new Priest or Priestess may be elected at this time to lead the Coven for the coming year. Some Covens elect both at the same time each year, others elect the Priest in the Summer, and the Priestess in the Winter. But it is plain that it is almost impossible to have a “Coven Cronies” syndrome without some extraordinary circumstances occurring. There are no degree systems, no initiations, other than the one that makes one a Wiccan. After that, the new initiate has the same right and authority to speak and be heard as the Priestess of the Coven. From the moment of initiation, the new Wiccan is considered a Priest/ess of the Gods.
The actual rituals that are written down in The Tree are short and to the point. There is little that is confusing about the rite itself, other than some unclarity about just what some of the tools are used for. In a few cases, a tool is called for in a ritual that is never used again. For instance, the wand is called upon as necessary for the Ostara celebration, but in actual practice it is not used in the rite at all.
One of the more prominent differences between Seax-Wica and other traditional practices is the Athame (called a Seax in Seax-Wica). In this tradition it can be single or double edged. The Seax is also used in a variety of everyday uses that many traditional practitioners would be shocked to find a ritual knife being used for, from cutting herbs in the garden to cutting the roast for the dinner table that night. The rationale for this is that the more you use a ritual knife, in whatever purpose, the more of yourself you put into the blade and the better able it is to mesh with your energies during a ritual.
This is the reason that many of the standard tools are missing from Seax-Wican practice. For example, the White Handled Knife, normally used for making inscriptions, is replaced by the Seax. The same for the Boline or herb knife. The Cords, used in many traditional Covens, are absent from most of the Seax-Wican tradition except during initiation and cord magick, in which any cord can be used. There is also no Scourge and no ritual flagellation in the Seax-Wican practice. A spear is added to the ritual implements for one of the officers to use in the execution of his duties.
Seax-Wica is focused more on the religion of Wicca than the Witchcraft and spellcraft aspects. In The Tree there is some information on spell casting, herbs and divination, but a practitioner of Seax-Wica would be well-rewarded to get some supplemental works and books on magick and divination to round out their education. This is intentional. The Tree assumes that the person going into Seax-Wica is either already well read in Witchcraft or they are willing to become so.
Another change is the absence of the Maiden and the Crone coven positions. There are four officers in a Seax-Wican coven, but to replace them, the Thegn (pronounced Thain) and the Scribe were made. The thegn position combines many duties but mostly they act as the coven Sergeant-at-Arms. They are responsible for summoning the Coven for the ritual, drawing the physical boundaries of the Circle and acting as the Stage Manager during the ritual. The holder of this position uses the Spear.
The Scribe is the Coven secretary. This person is responsible for keeping all of the coven records, from membership rolls to monies received from donations, to agreements for hand partings. If the coven chooses to become a legal church, this would be the person that handles all the paperwork involved in this undertaking.
One other major difference is that Seax-Wica, unlike most traditional groups, recognizes self initiation. The rationale for this stance can be summed up in one phrase, “who initiated the first Witch?” As such, the declaration of Self Dedication is seen as just as valid as a coven initiation and little to no emphasis is placed upon “So and so, initiated by whom, initiated by this person…” or the lineage of a witch.
While this can and does cause some conflict with other traditions, it also encourages those who have little to no contact with other like minded people to acknowledge their deities and their choice of religion.
With all the advantages listed above, there are some problems with the practice however.
The encouragement to add to the tradition can lead to eclecticism run rampant. Researching the roots of Paganism and Witchcraft can lead to a mixing of cultures that can be confusing to a new practitioner of Seax-Wica. However, many good covens try to break out what has been added to the tradition from Buckland’s teachings and truly try to not confuse cultures and practices.
Another drawback is because Seax-Wica recognized self dedication, it can promote the “one book and I’m a Witch” mind set that has been so prevalent in recent years. With a book like The Tree this is especially dangerous. The Tree, the main Book of Shadows for this tradition, is spare in the rituals and explanations of those rituals. As stated before, it assumes you are already well read in Wicca. If a new practitioner started with The Tree as their primary reference, it could lead into the new person leaping into Wicca full bore without much of the information that is needed and without consideration of what they are about to do or how it will affect the rest of their life. But this problem is more prevalent if one uses The Complete Book of Witchcraft as the sole source of information rather than The Tree.
It also can lead to the “Insta-Priest/ess” syndrome where this practitioner is considered a Priest/ess of Seax-Wica and they have little to no study in many of the areas that are important to the Priests and Priestesses out there. However, to those with a true vocation, who are willing to put in the time and effort to research Wicca and Paganism and Witchcraft, this can be a tremendous advantage. There are those who were not able to find a coven to join or a group who was practicing to initiate them who were able to be with the Gods and participate in an environment that is, to all intents and purposes, free of politics.
This, unfortunately, leads to many various levels of knowledge in the Seax-Wica community as a whole. One good thing that comes out of the sparsity of information is that if you do have a call upon your heart, the finding of information is a joy, and all the others who don’t have a similar call will probably leave Wicca and Seax-Wica after a while and it’s popularity has faded. But this is also a problem in the Wiccan community as a whole, rather than unique to Seax-Wica.
The rituals as written by Buckland and his wife, Tara, are somewhat perfunctory. This “minimalistic ritual” can be good in that there is little to read or memorize for a specific ritual and it leaves a lot of room for elaboration. But this can also be bad in that there is little feel for the ritual because you are not given time to become involved with the rite before the celebration is over. However, some judicious elaboration and rewriting of the rituals can take care of that problem, and some of the rituals, like the hand fasting, are exceedingly powerful if done properly.
The final disadvantage that I can think of is that the way Buckland writes the tradition, it seems shallow. Not that the practitioners are shallow, but the practices, rites and way of doing things feels like it has no depth to it.
I must state this this last point is my personal opinion, and it stems mostly from how I got to Seax-Wica in the first place. I came to Seax-Wica from Mormonism, where rituals and a close connection with God are encouraged, but conformity in the Church is even more encouraged. So it is possible in the framework of Mormonism to have absolutely no testimony of the Church, the Bible, God or anything else they believe in and still be a member. Just so long as you know what to do and when to do it. I had no sense of the Religion, and was looking for something to fill that void. Seax-Wica was the instrument I chose to fill that gap, and over time it did. I have a sense of the Gods now, but I did not when I first started out. All of this sense of the Gods came from independent study of outside materials.
This can be overcome with study and a true sense of the Gods, but it could turn some off. I think in some ways, this was intentional, but I don’t know. It may simply be that there are no illusions about Seax-Wica being the continuation of something from the mists of time, so it will take time for a deep respect for Seax-Wica to be developed.
As you can see from this introduction to Seax-Wica, there are many strengths to it and the disadvantages can be overcome with study and perseverance. This tradition of Wicca is one that has a great deal going for it, but it is also a tradition that has mostly been dismissed by more traditional groups because of it’s lack of antiquity. However, if one accepts that all religious paths are ultimately made by humanity for humanity, then this lack of roots becomes a small matter.
It can even become the basis for an in-depth study of many Pagan paths, as well as a starting point for a lifelong seeking of knowledge.
I, myself, started with Seax-Wica. I jumped into the Wiccan Religion and into Seax-Wica completely from the beginning. That starting point led me to Celtic Religions, Druidry, and eventually into Witchcraft. It taught me a sense of who I am, and Seax-Wica showed me what I did and didn’t want in a religion that I followed. For a time, I thought, like many, that Buckland was a God and that everything he said was the TRUTH and completely infallible. But I also believed that the picture of Covens he painted was the truth, where all the members got along, and cooperated with each other and that the members loved each other with everything they had. I believed that Wiccans were a group of people who had identified what was dark and negative inside themselves and that they had taken steps to eradicate it in their lives. I believed it so strongly that I desperately wanted to be part of that group.
Well, time passed and I am wiser than I was. But because of how Seax-Wica was presented to me, and how Wicca was presented through Seax-Wica, I still wish to be part of this group.
Seax-Wica is not for everyone. If you decide to follow this tradition there will be much asked for by the Gods. Study, practice, reading and research, internalizing lessons and evolutions of yourself will all become necessary. You will be asked to present the Best of what a Wiccan Priest/ess can be at all times, to your fellow Wiccans, and to others who will never understand what Wicca is about.
But despite all that, or because of it, your relationship with the Gods will truly become personal and internal. This is an excellent starting point, so long as you are willing to work and do your share.
And, ultimately, isn’t that what a religion is supposed to do?
The Tree by Raymond Buckland Publisher: Samuel Weiser Publication date: December 1974 ISBN: 0877282587
Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft by Raymond Buckland Publisher: Llewellyn Publication date: December 1986 ISBN: 0875420508
- Chance’s Pagan Place A good site to get some more information from.
- A review of “The Tree”
- A Review of “Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft”
- The Tree, transcribed by Daven My personal copy of the Tree, transcribed when I was younger. I have tried to keep the sections from Buckland separate from those of my own invention, but if you get confused, let me know, and I will show you what is Buckland’s and what is mine.
- Raymond Buckland’s Homepage
- Official Website of the Seax-Wica This is exactly what it says it is, the official site of Seax-Wica, authorized by Raymond Buckland himself. It has a very interesting version of the Myth of the Goddess on there, which is central to some Seax-Wican belief.
- Yahoo! Groups: Seax-Wica A “club” if you will, similar to some other groups out there. I’m a member of this group, and I enjoy it. It’s an email list, and I am a member of it. We have some good discussions there, but we are in danger of closing due to a lack of active members.
- The Official Seax-Wica chat group This is the group that is moderated and that I subscribe to, since there have been many problems recently.
- NOTICE OF DISASSOCIATION WITH MARK VENTIMIGLIA
- Coven of the Spial Seax
Stars light your path.
This is some commentary from another who has some more knowledge than i do in these matters. I will give you this information as I read it. It explains a lot.
Just a few comments on some facts in your article ‘Seax-Wica, a look inside’. There is a sentence regarding the Anglo-Saxon runes:
“…find this interesting since this rune script is very close to that used by the Norse and their famous FUThARK script. Why use a copy when you can use the original?”
The Anglo-Saxon runes (Futhorc) and the Norse runes (Futhark) share a common ancestor, but the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc spun off later to cater for the newly developing Old English/Anglo-Saxon language (thus 5 new runes), while the Futhark was more suited to Old Norse. Likewise, the later Younger Futhark appeared to simplify the runes for the Swedish and Icelandic peoples, seemingly to counter-balance the increasing complex Swedish language. Enough rambling from me, onto the next point:
“…you have a Norse influence in the Gods’ names. Instead of something completely different, the God is Woden and the Goddess is Freya. If you didn’t know that the Saxons were heavily influenced by the Norse, you could get more than a bit confused by this seeming deity displacement.”
Similar story. While there is only superficial evidence that the Anglo-Saxons knew of Freya (her necklace appears as the ‘Brosogoman’ in Beowulf, there’s no mention in AS literature of the Goddess herself), both cultures definitely worshipped Woutan. While they both worshipped Woutan, the Norse coined the names Odin and Othin, while Old English rendered Him Woden. While they both stem from the same source, there was no communication directly between the Norse and the Anglo-Saxon’s until the Anglo-Saxon’s had already written the down ‘Woden’ down in their statement of renouncement (along with Thunnor and a mysterious deity called ‘Saxnot’) and converted to Christianity.
Great journal, I really enjoyed reading through your personal edition of The Tree. These points I make are purely related to history and not Seax-Wica, but I’m the kind who can’t see a Teutonic fact out of place without correcting someone. 🙂
Thanks for your time, -Niht Windan (Stephan Lewin)