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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

A tradition of Witchcraft founded by Raymond Buckland in 1973. It has a Saxon basis, although it makes no claims to being a recreation or reconstruction of original Saxon Witchcraft.

The tradition was originally formed to fill Buckland's personal religious needs. After a decade of leadership in Gardnerian Wicca (which he introduced to the United States at the beginning of the 1960s), Buckland felt the need for something more personal. He felt that religion is a matter of individual needs and should not be one of compromise. With his background in religio-magic and his knowledge of ritual, he felt competent to construct a new form of the Old Religion. Yet, because of his Oath of Secrecy, taken when initiated into the Gardnerian tradition, Buckland did not want to utilize any of that material. All the rituals, therefore, were new, and the entire makeup was a break from previous Wiccan structure. There were a number of things in Gardnerian and other traditions that had been obviously adopted from Ceremonial Magic. These Buckland dropped in an effort to simplify what, to him, was a very basic religious structure.

Certain problems had seemed to emerge from the use of a degree system of advancement within a coven. To counteract this, the Seax-Wica tradition does not have degrees. A leader (or leaders) of a coven is chosen by the group itself and leads that group for a year. The coven can be led by either a male or a female, or both working together. At the end of the traditional "year and a day" there is a new vote, and the leader(s) may or may not be voted in for another year. This counters any possible abuse of power and also allows many different Witches to experience the responsibilities of High Priesthood. If a person is a good leader, he or she may well continue as High Priest or High Priestess for a number of years, or he or she may opt not to run again.

The tradition also has no Oath of Secrecy, which Buckland felt was outdated. He also was anxious to help spread the Old Religion, and an open tradition seemed the best way to do that. Although Buckland originally wrote the tradition for his own use, when others heard of it he was asked to share it. This he did, and eventually he published a book on the tradition, called The Tree: Complete Book of Saxon Witchcraft. The actual book of rituals written by hand by the Witch himor herself, the Book of Shadows—whether for the individual or for a coven—in Seax-Wica is known as "The Tree" and is usually bound in a green cover.

A Cowan, or non-Witch, is referred to in Seax-Wica as a Theow (pronounced Tho¯, to rhyme with go). Up until this point, anyone wanting to become a Witch had to be initiated on faith, since it was not possible to attend a Wiccan ritual unless initiated. With Buckland's open system, however, Theows could attend a ritual as a guest to get the feel of the form of the worship and so make a more informed decision about becoming a Wiccan. Once initiated, the individual became a Gesith (with a soft "g"). Since there are no degrees of advancement, all Saxon Witches are Gesiths, and it is from them that the High Priest and/or High Priestess is chosen.

In most traditions it is necessary for a person to be initiated into the coven to become a part of it. A new coven can then only start by hiving off from the mother coven, if approved. In Seax-Wica, as in Solitary Witchcraft, it is possible for a person to self initiate, or self dedicate, himor herself. From there, a coven can be formed. To form a new coven, then, any Gesith may leave the old one and start a new one. The terms Theow and Gesith are taken from Old Anglo-Saxon, as is Buckland's own title of Faeder, or father of the tradition. In 1993, after teaching his branch of the Craft for more than two decades, he handed over the reins to an exstudent of his, Michael B. Smith, who took over as Stiweard, or steward, of SeaxWica. After more than a quarter of a century, there are now Seax-Wica covens in many countries around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, and Russia, as well as in North America and Europe.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.