But ever do I stand against those who carry not my key.
|The Ravenwood Tradition|
Our beliefs have existed since the very beginnings of human civilization. Our early ancestors looked out at the world around them and sought answers to the challenges and mysteries of their mundane lives. They considered the natural cycles of the Earth and greater universe to be divine and all life to be sacred. They learned what they needed to survive by observing the plants, animals, and cycles of nature.
Over many generations, these early beliefs expanded into magickal systems and philosophies which could not only explain the world’s mysteries, but also exert influence over them. During the Middle Ages, as Christianity was spreading through Europe and the Celtic worlds, these pre-Christian beliefs were commonly held by the populace at large. None of these people would have called themselves witches – not even the village midwives or wise women (wicce) who cared for and served the public. AS Christianity gained popularity and sought to broaden its political and economic horizons, many earlier pagan (originally meaning non-Christian) holidays were supplanted by Christian celebrations. Older beliefs and traditions were vilified and demonized creating an environment of fear. This setting ushered in a dark period – the Inquisition and Burning Times where countless souls lost their freedom, property, and even their lives. Many of the prevalent myths and misconceptions surrounding Witches were documented in publications such as the Malleus Maleficarum, a treatise on identifying, interrogating, and convicting witches and persist in the human sub-conscious to this day. We cannot really know how many died or they really believed in and practiced the acts of which they were accused. Most were probably innocent sacrifices in the name of greed and fear. Nonetheless, we honor them as early pioneers of our religious path.
It is not really until the early 20th century that we have documented widespread evidence of our beliefs in the structured, formalized way we know and teach them today. Charles Godfrey Leland’s Aradia, the Gospel of the Witches in 1899 and Margaret Murray’s The Witch-Cult in Western Europe in 1931 helped bring the Old Ways to light. Still, practice of witchcraft was outlawed in England until 1951 and as such practitioners of the Craft were very private and secretive of their beliefs and very little was publicly known about the Traditional Craft.
In 1949 Gerald Gardner changed that by publishing High Magic’s Aid, a fictional account of medieval witchcraft, followed by The Meaning of Witchcraft in 1959. A doorway had been opened. Eventually as Gardner’s stories which carried seeds of Craft teachings peppered with his own beliefs and lifestyle choices gained in popularity. Traditional Craft Elders realized that it was time to come forward. Pioneers such as Lady Sybil Leek began to share their teachings with the world at large. Still, public covens were virtually unheard of and seekers had to go to great lengths to find the information they sought.
In the 1970s, Lady Sintana, founder of the Ravenwood Tradition, found herself in the Deep South in an environment not conducive to religious tolerance. Having been trained by Lord Sariel from the Isle of Man and having formed a close relationship with Lady Circe of the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Wicca in Toledo, Ohio, she realized that there was a need for a place where the public could learn what they needed of the Old Ways without fear or being shrouded in secrecy.
At Samhain 1977 she founded Ravenwood Church and Seminary of Wicca, Inc. as an incorporated non-profit religious organization. She set up shop, literally and figuratively, on Moreland Avenue in the Little Five Points district of Atlanta, GA. She hung a large sign in front of her Victorian home offering direct experience and teaching of the Craft to the public 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All were welcome.
While many came genuinely seeking a spiritual path, others came with more sinister motives. For many years the property was guarded by members against physical attacks from those who came with dogs and Molotov cocktails in the dark of night to drunken frat boys sent on initiatory pranks to urinate on the witches’ porch. There were legal attacks on the legitimacy of Ravenwood’s beliefs and right to the same tax and legal treatment as other more mainstream churches. Through it all Ravenwood prevailed winning numerous legal battles and establishing important precedents which defined the Craft as a legitimate religion. Ravenwood hosted psychic seminars featuring renowned Craft Elders and promoting greater understanding of the ancient arts and sciences.
In 1996, after decades of devotion to the Craft and service in the public eye, Lady Sintana retired from the day to day operations of the church, turning Ravenwood over to Lord Starhawk. After two years, Lord Starhawk chose to step down and Lady Sintana, as Ravenwood’s Queen and Elder High Priestess passed on leadership to a council of third degree initiates. After two years, this Elder Council left Ravenwood to form the House of Oak Spring Covenstead. At this time, at Beltane 2000 the mantle of responsibility was passed from Lady Sintana to Lady Larina and Lord Gaelin. For nearly ten more years Ravenwood Church continued its original mission promoting education and holding public rituals for all seekers.
In late 2009, at the behest of Lady Sintana the church’s position was reevaluated. It was determined that with daughter groups nationally the Tradition had grown beyond the original scope and mission of the church itself. In an effort to meet the ongoing spiritual needs of the group, Lady Larina and Lord Gaelin along with all active participating initiates of Ravenwood Church & Seminary formed a new coven – the House of RavenStone. Lady Maia of Tidal Moon Grove took on responsibility for the day to day operations of the corporation of Ravenwood Church and serves as its High Priestess. Lady Larina and Lord Gaelin are in the process of forming a national association of groups of the Ravenwood lineage. Check back for more details about this exciting new organization.
While Ravenwood has been through many changes through the years, its teachings and mission are carried on in the daily work of its numerous daughter groups which share common beliefs and practices, but reflect the unique characteristics of the High Priestesses and High Priests. We welcome you to learn more about the rich legacy and history of the Ravenwood Tradition!