Here at Spirit Of the Sycamore we like to say that we are "Forging A New Pagan Path", but what does that mean? Well, although our lineage comes from a fairly eclectic Wiccan line and we maintain many of the structural elements, Sabbat and Moon observances as well as ritual styles of that lineage we also were founded by elders who come from other varied lines of Pagan study and practice. We have brought with us elements of those paths such as Druidry and some Native American practices. We set out to establish a core ritual style that most people from a Neo-Pagan background might find familiar and be comfortable with so that if they happened to be new to the area and looking for local Pagans to gather with or if they might be solitaires or folks who are simply seeking they can come to one of our gatherings and say to themselves “I know that.” or “I have seen this before.” A bit of familiarity is a comforting thing when you’re new to a group of people. At the same time we’re not afraid to branch out and explore other ritual styles now and then or incorporate elements into our rituals which come from practices you might not be familiar with. If so, feel free to ask about them and we’re more than happy to explain these to you.
Some traditions rely heavily on focusing on a particular pantheon of gods or teaching that one should believe in a duo-theistic Lord and Lady of which all gods and goddesses are aspects. Some require a certain belief in the cosmology of the divine whether it be from a hard polytheistic viewpoint or a heavily “folk” viewpoint which declares absolutely that the gods are our ancestors. We focus more on our orthopraxy and leave your relationship with the divine up to you as an individual. Oh, we’ll tell you about all of these different concepts and how they work for some people and not for others. We’re here to guide you and help you find that relationship with spirit which fits for you but we’re not going to tell you “You must believe this to be a part of this tradition.” We’re more about having shared experiences whether it be in ritual, magickal workings, crafting, music, meditation or any other activities which might help you connect with the gods. But what you take from that experience is yours to do with as you please.
Some traditions and even entire religions tend to focus on one gender over another or treat people as second class citizens based on their gender, sexuality, race, physical ability or other factors which they are born into or life has dealt to them. We don’t do that. We feel that a person’s ability to attain the highest degree in clergy or lead a group is not governed by these factors but by their own volition and will. Certainly, we recognize that there are particular energies which are more feminine and others which are more masculine but we believe that it is when these energies are in balance that there is greater harmony with the order of nature and as our vision statement says, we are “An organization that welcomes any pagan spiritual path that brings its members to be in balance and harmony with the universe.”
Some traditions are “adult only” or you may find that couples are not allowed to be in the same group as one another. While we will not allow minors to initiate into our clergy training program and we may sometimes have adult only events or activities, the vast majority of our public gatherings are family oriented and we feel that any who wish to participate should be welcome to do so. How, after all, can we expect future generations to carry on our Pagan traditions if they are never exposed to them and allowed to be a part of them. The level of family friendliness may vary from group to group within our tradition as we allow our individual covens, temples, groves, etc. the autonomy to govern themselves as they see fit as long as they operate in accordance with the tradition vision and guidelines set by our elders.
Speaking of “covens, temples, groves, etc.” another way we are different is that we are eclectic enough to give our high priestesses and priests the autonomy to establish their particular group within our tradition in whatever format best suits them. Some may choose the more traditional Wiccan or other Witch format of coven, some may go with a more Druidic approach and use the term grove or nemeton maybe and still others might choose temple. Whatever the name and predominant format, we only ask that they gather at the established days on the common neopagan wheel of the year and perhaps moons if it is applicable to their culture of focus. Eclectic, though we may be, we do stress the importance of learning as much as we can about the ancient practices of the indigenous people of the cultures our groups focus on. Not, in an attempt at a fully reconstructionist style, but to have a firm foundation of knowledge in the ways of our ancestors to build upon for bringing these practices into the modern time and place we currently live in.
Another thing we do differently from a lot of traditions that are out there is give recognition to the concept of Pagan laity. We don’t assume that because you come to our gatherings that you necessarily have a calling to initiate and become clergy. So, we have our own definition of the terms Dedicant and Initiate which may differ from ways you have seen the terms used by other traditions. For us, a Dedicant is someone who has been coming to our gatherings for awhile and has decided they like what we do and want to continue to be a part of it. These folks may wish to become Dedicants of Spirit Of the Sycamore Tradition. If you come to us and tell us you would like to Dedicate then we will hold a dedication ritual for you and welcome you as a full member of the tradition. This is different from someone who says they want to become clergy and become initiated into the clergy training program. People who have decided they wish to train with us are called Initiates and they are first required to attend a certain number of gatherings and rituals and fill out a questionnaire before being reviewed and invited as a candidate to initiate with their home group. Long story short, Dedicants are laity, Initiates are clergy. Our tradition clergy has been working on a collection of prayers, chants, meditations, basic spells and other materials which we hope to eventually make available to our Dedicant members so that they can make our tradition’s approach to Paganism a part of their daily lives. Our tradition’s elders are also working on the clergy training materials which are part of the program we will use to train our tradition clergy. When completed we intend to have clergy who are trained to officiate rituals, rites of passage, last rites, handfastings, house blessings and many other functions that the growing Pagan community has need of clergy to attend to.
Author(s): Cianaodh Óg – High Priest of Temple Of the Standing Stones and an elder of Spirit Of the Sycamore Tradition.
 Orthodoxy, a word most people are already familiar with, literally means “correct opinion” in Greek whereas heterodoxy, or being heretical, means to have a different opinion. Paganism, to us, is about orthopraxy. In other words, it’s more important how you do things than what you believe. In ancient times, “believerhood” at a temple had more to do with things like entering the temple and walking three times around the idol, making your image and reciting an inscription on the wall, as was done in Roman temples for example. No one really asked much what one might believe about the divine, about its nature, or whether you treated it as objectively real or not. Your relationship with the gods was a personal matter between you and them. What you practiced and what you did said more about your path than what you personally believed. That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy a good philosophical discussion about beliefs of the divine. But we don’t hold those beliefs to be of greater importance than how we choose to live and practice our faith.