by Keith Galapas
As an initiated Gardnerian I am restricted on what I can say about my chosen path in any public medium. I made a promise back in 1976 that I would not discuss the specifics of what we do in in the Gardnerian craft. This means that I am oathbound. There is really no one who enforces this except myself and my own definitions of ethics and honour. It is something I have done my entire adult life. This shows the first two things all Gardnerians share.
1) We have been initiated. It takes a Gardnerian to make a Gardnerian.
This is not limited to our tradition. Many occult and Pagan groups work on the model that it takes one to make one. For Gardnerians, the authority to initiate starts after second degree. Many covens feel that a third degree needs to be there are well. Others view the third degree as optional and a personal choice of the individual.
2) We are bound by oath. We all have made a similar promise.
While we may have different views on what that promise covers, we have all made it. I see it as covering the details of what takes place in the circle. Who was there and what we did. It is clear to me that mentioning the legal name of a witch who has not declared themselves to be one publicly is breaking that promise. When it comes to passed lore, there are more disagreements. Selling a copy of our BoS on Ebay is generally frowned upon. If I were to do so, most others of my tradition would no longer work with me or socialize with me. I would no longer get invitations to visit other covens or to attend workshops. So while we do not have central authority, there are predictable reactions to some behaviours. These take place on a person to person level.
3) We have no central authority.
For the most part, covens are autonomous. Some are more independent than others. That is usually by choice. The leadership in a coven can vary. It has always been my experience that in ritual, it is the High Priestess who is in charge. Outside of the circle the most common model is that it is the High Priestess is in charge as well or has the final veto. But this will vary from coven to coven. Some coven or coven members prefer a more hierarchical structure both within a coven and between covens. Others prefer more of a collection of equals. This is very much a matter of coven fit.
Another aspect of this is that there is no one who speaks for all of us. I personally resent it when anybody goes out and claims to speak on any issue for all Pagans, all Wiccans or all Gardnerians. I may or may not agree with their view. I think it hubris or presumptious to assume that their view is mine because I am one of the above. I will listen with respect and consider the views of anyone who has walked the walk for a decade or more. They may convince me, but cannot order me. Any authority or rank I have ends outside of my circle. Only if my views have merit in others’ eyes will they be adopted.
4) We have a lineage.
We know our lineage and can trace who initiated who back to Gardner. The format of those lists will vary in different areas. Some are by public Pagan names only. Others are by legal names. So for some, stating that lineage is not oathbound is correct (if Pagan names are used). All will agree that giving out legal names is considered oathbreaking.
5) We do not charge for training or participation.
This is one of the most common red flags on an invalid Gardnerian group. That they charge for training or charge for participation in the circles. If a group is meeting at a place, such as a camp-ground, there may be a site fee for the camping.