The Ara Tradition is a core shamanic Wiccan tradition that was founded in 1983 by author and activist H.Ps. Phyllis Curott with the birth of the Circle of Ara. The Ara Tradition traces its roots to the Minoan and Gardnerian traditions in New York City; at the same time that she was training in the Minoan Sisterhood, Phyllis was studying core shamanism and actively participating in the first shamanic drumming circle based on the work of Dr. Michael Harner. As high priestess of the Circle of Ara, one of the oldest and longest running Wiccan congregations in the United States, Phyllis deconstructed traditional and often patriarchal Wiccan teachings to a system of core practices and principles, and blended these with core shamanic practices. It is this model of teachings, referred to as core shamanic Wicca, that she has passed on to her students. After numerous daughter and granddaughter circles, Curott and the Elders determined that they had created a new tradition, and named it the "Ara Tradition" after the original, and still very active, mother-coven, the Circle of Ara.
According to Phyllis Curott, the leading theologian in our Tradition: “Ara is an innovative tradition of Wiccan spirituality based on the central principle, and experience, of immanent divinity. It reflects years of shamanic Wiccan practice and is intended to help us discover the Divine that dwells within, and all around us, and to rejoice in the ecstasy of that communion.”
Witches in the Ara Tradition recognize that the Divine is immanent in all things. We experience the interconnectedness between all things on this Earth, acknowledging that each are part of a greater whole and that each are inherently sacred. We celebrate the natural cycles of birth, growth, death and rebirth and practice rites that attune ourselves with the natural cycles of the Earth, including the Lunar and Solar cycles.
Ara Witches celebrate the equality of the female and male, which is manifested in all things, including the Divine -- known to us as the Goddess and the God. Because we celebrate the erotic and ecstatic dance between Goddess and God, Ara Witches value consensual sex as a source of pleasure and sacred communion, and as the act that brings about all creation
Ara Witches regularly practice magic, which we define as: "a dynamic process by which [we] co-create reality with deity" (1) and converse with the Divine using various tools for divination.
Ara Witches acknowledge the right and responsibility of all individuals to take charge of their own spiritual development. We acknowledge the right of the individual to do what they will with their own bodies as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. All members show respect to each other and show tolerance for all beings regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, lifestyle choice, religion or species.
We acknowledge the existence of realities far greater than apparent to everyday perception. We acknowledge that through ritual and other Wiccan practices, we can gain wisdom by experiencing those realities.
We acknowledge and experience Nature, and the Earth, as an embodiment or expression of the Divine, and so the natural world is treated with reverence and respect. For Ara Witches, Nature is the greatest of all spiritual teachers, and so we seek not only to live in harmony with the Earth, but to actively spend time in wilderness and other natural environments which are sources of wisdom and spiritual transformation.
The Ara Tradition does not acknowledge the existence of an absolute evil, but we acknowledge that human beings commit cruel or "evil" acts when they lose connection with the Sacred or Divine.
Like other mystery traditions, the Ara Tradition acknowledges “initiation is a cathartic rite of passage, a ritual of death and rebirth. It makes the passage from a life of social constraints and conformity to an authentic life of self-discovery and spiritual fulfillment.” Because initiation comes from the Divine, there is no such thing as “self-initiation” (and “self-dedication” is a more apt term for the ritual performed alone) . However, one cannot self-initiate himself or herself into the Ara Tradition, as such formal initiations into the Tradition requires specific and supervised training.
Ethics and Standards of ConductEdit
The core ethical precept of the Ara Tradition is: Ara Witches seek to live in a sacred manner because we live in a sacred world.
The Ara Tradition does not have "rules" for practicing Witchcraft and magic. Ara Witches do not subscribe to the "Threefold Law" -- whatever you send out magically will come back to you threefold -- because a theory of punishment is not an ethical precept. Witches in the Ara Tradition do not harm, use baneful magic or use magic to manipulate others, not because of any "law" but because we recognize the Divine immanent in all things. Because we are aware of and experience immanent divinity in ourselves and the world around us, Ara Witches act in accord with this theological precept.
Ways of WorshipEdit
The Temple of Ara focuses upon the spiritual principle and practices of immanent, or embodied, divinity' and personal communion with the Divine in Nature and in daily life. Rather than focusing on any single culture or pantheon, the Temple of Ara encourages individuals to cultivate their own areas of interest.
The Ara Tradition celebrates the traditional eight Sabbats. However, the Tradition does not require its members to ascribe any particular mythological theme to the Sabbats. Instead, Ara Witches are encouraged to attune themselves to their natural surroundings and celebrate in accordance with the natural rhythms of their locale.
The circles also meet on the Full Moon, and other dates as wanted or needed.
Role of clergyEdit
Priestesses and Priests in the Ara Tradition are not intermediaries between people and the Divine; rather, they are "teachers who lead by example, sharing their experience and wisdom with those who are committed to learning" the techniques to commune with the Sacred. (2)
Those who complete the Temple of Ara’s rigorous Clergy Training Program may be ordained as clergy and may perform all religious ceremonies and rites of passage of the Ara Tradition, including initiations and legally-binding ceremonies of handfast marriage, and may teach the Ara Tradition. Clergy who have proven through deep and continued service to the Temple that they are wholly merged with the Temple's ideals and principles and are thus trustworthy and capable of upholding its standards, may be named as Elders by the Temple and may serve on the Council of Elders and are responsible for overseeing the spiritual and secular aspects of the Temple.
As part of their dedication to community service, interfaith and media work, Ara clergy frequently conduct Outer Court and grove training programs, lectures on the Ara Tradition, public rituals; participate in interfaith activities and panels; and are profiled by the international media.
Organization of groupsEdit
The Ara Tradition is traditionally organized into circles or covens, each of which can trace their lineage back to the mother-coven, Circle of Ara, which is still currently active in the New York City area.
The Ara Tradition also values the spiritual practices of those who practice the Ara Tradition alone by chance or by choice. Because Ara Witches are trained in techniques that allow them to directly experience and commune with the Divine, all Ara Witches, whether solitaries or coven members, are expected to set aside time for personal spiritual work.
The Temple of Ara is the formal body created to maintain the integrity and consistency of the Ara Tradition and to give it legal recognition. Only the Temple and its designated members and Clergy have the authority to speak for the Tradition, to initiate into the Tradition, to change aspects of the Tradition and to represent the Tradition in the international community. Those individuals and covens pre-existing the Temple's foundation, while cherished as family, are not recognized as members of the Temple, Initiates of the Temple, or Clergy of the Temple unless they join the Temple officially.
The Temple of Ara also conducts Outer Court and grove training programs in the New York City area and offers an intensive international training program for those in areas in which Ara Tradition circles are not currently operating. As part of its dedication to community service, interfaith and media work, the Temple of Ara also sponsors frequent public rituals, some of which have been filmed for broadcast on local and national television.
Reading and Other ReferencesEdit
Phyllis Curott, Witch Crafting: A Spiritual Guide to Making Magic (Broadway Books, 2001) .
Phyllis Curott, The Love Spell (Gotham Books, 2005) .
Phyllis Curott, Book of Shadows: A Modern Woman's Journey into the Wisdom of Witchcraft and the Magic of the Goddess (Broadway Books, 1998) .
(1) Phyllis Curott, Witch Crafting: A Spiritual Guide to Making Magic (Broadway Books, 2001) , p. 29. (2) Id. at 282.