I am a Gemini. Actually, I’m a double Gemini. In layman’s terms, this means that both my sun sign and my rising sign (also called ‘ascendant’) are both Gemini. When this happens in a chart, it increases the overall influence of the Gemini traits in a person. Some of the more commonly known traits of a Gemini are: communication, intellect and mental pursuits, seeking information and knowledge, adaptability or having a very changeable nature, and flitting from one topic of interest to another or one subject to another very quickly (often without finishing the first before embarking on a new project). So, in a nutshell, the Gemini personality seems MADE for eclecticism. But, this blog post isn’t really about astrology. I only mention this to help explain where I’m coming from in terms of personal experience.
The idea of Eclectic Wicca/Eclectic Witchcraft is a very popular one and I found it very appealing. Whether this is because dabbling and seeking information from various sources and cobbling them together is part of my own instinctive nature, or whether it’s because this is one of the quickest ways to embrace spirituality and religion, I’m not sure, but when I first embraced Paganism, it was as an Eclectic Pagan Witch. This definition is actually two-fold, since the lesser known meaning of Eclectic Wicca or Eclectic Witchcraft originally simply means Non-Traditional. If you weren’t initiated into one of the British Traditional systems of Wicca (i.e. Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Seax-Wica, and some others) you were considered an Eclectic Wiccan/Witch. Those who follow more structured systems and the older traditions still use this terminology to define someone who is not an initiate of a tradition, but who is still a self-dedicated Witch or someone who practices a system that isn’t lineaged or doesn’t claim heritage through Gardnerian Craft or its offshoots.
When you’re part of a tradition or system, there’s generally a set plan of study and a way of doing things that gets repeated at different ceremonies and is passed on to new members as they join. That’s really what defines a ‘tradition’ — something that is handed down from generation to generation. When you are eclectic, you are leaning more towards making up your own traditions as you go along. You work with one thing or another and figure out how well it suits you. If you like it, you keep it. If you don’t, you have the option to either tweak it a bit or discard it and move on to something else. Eclectic Craft is thus highly individualized and both requires and encourages personal study and growth. There are benefits and drawbacks to both systems.
The above chart isn’t all-inclusive, but it is based in my own personal experience as a solitary eclectic Witch and a covened eclectic Witch as well as being a covened traditional Witch. I spent many years working out my own path as an eclectic, and it was challenging as often as it was exhilarating. For the past several years now, I have been more focused towards a traditionalist viewpoint and system. I find it very rewarding. Ultimately, I often find myself correcting one huge misunderstanding about Traditional Wicca/Witchcraft from an eclectic viewpoint.
“I am too free-spirited to be tied down to only one way of seeing or doing things,” says the eclectic Witch.
“I understand that. I’m the same way. But being a traditionalist doesn’t mean you are limited in your practice. Traditionalists don’t limit, we focus. There is a difference between the two.”
No system should seek to strip you of your individuality. Healthy groups and healthy systems will see the value in their members as distinct people with distinct personalities. There may be some discomfort with the structure of a traditional system, but it should be minimal and within reason and you should never feel as if you are being devalued or debased. Always go into every experience with your eyes open and your critical thinking skills sharp. As with anything, it is up to each Witch to discover for herself or himself which type of Craft best suits them. My only real suggestion is that you don’t dismiss one or the other without having first given it a try for yourself. It’s one thing for an Eclectic Witch or a Traditional Witch to have a strong opinion or pride in their own path, it’s quite another to put down another way of doing things when you don’t have personal experience or at least solid information about it to form an educated opinion.