My third degree initiation as a Witch is in the Rainbow Serpent tradition. You’ve probably never heard of it, it’s one of those small-but-mighty lines of Witchcraft. This line travelled from Northern California to Australia and then back to the Pacific Northwest.
It came to me at a time when I was pushing against the definitions of Witchcraft. There was a feeling among traditional Witches that if you weren’t initiated by another Witch, you weren’t actually a Witch. I argued for self-definition in the pages of the mimeographed Pagan magazines for a while before finally copping to a Georgian first. See? I’m a real Witch! I still wanted to advocate for all those who were called to the path, however they arrived.
Challenge came to Rainbow Serpent naturally. In Australia the seasons proceed opposite the northern hemisphere. Even the way water spirals down a drain is reversed. Should Witches continue to celebrate Yule in the height of summer and dutifully trod the circle clockwise? Rainbow Serpent developed a methodology of adapting the celebration to the place it was being celebrated.
This was my idea of a tradition! I was happy to find a line which prioritized integrity to the magic over strict repetition. It still seems to me to be simple common sense. Our magics root in the earth; that rooting is not theoretical, but practical and immediate. It’s not symbolic earth, it’s the dirt underneath my feet.
I started a custom of decorating a sabbat altar in the house from items I find in the woods around the house. At Yule it fills with evergreen boughs and holly berries, at Beltane sprigs of hawthorne and sprays of Indian plum, at Samhain the altar fills with red maple leaves. I watch the seasons pass and tune myself to what is happening in the world. This is what I learned from my tradition, and I am proud to practice it.