The ATC Tradition
The Stone Circle at Index, Washington, c. 2003
We are of The Old Religion, sired of time and born of the Earth Mother. For too long our people have traveled the stony, solitary path that goes only onward toward an endless, visible yet seemingly unreachable horizon of acceptance. The Horned God Pan plays his pipes lonely and alone in an empty glade for his people are scattered in this barren age of gray and lifeless machines. The gentle winds carry His plaintive notes over deserted heaths and grassy plains, onto the sloping, verdant uplands and mountain groves. Who knows still the ancient language of our Goddess, the Moon? Who yet is able to speak with Her and hear Her reply? The magics of the old Pagan gods have withered in the dragon’s breath we call “scientific enlightenment.” The old ways of magic have slipped into the depths of the dim past, and now only the standing stones remember what the Moon told us long ago and far away – the things we used to learn from the trees, the voices of the blowing grasses, the scents of the earth around us.
We are Pagans and we worship the Old Gods. Among our people there are some yet who speak with the Moon and dance with the Horned One in the forest. These are the Wicca, our clergy, the leaders in the Old Ways. Deep and often inscrutable, they are recognizable only by our own kind by the light in their eyes, the lilt of their voice, the love in their heart, the magic in their hands and their knowledge of themselves and of our realities. The Wicca are the teachers, the guardians of knowledge. But what of the rest, those lone and weary seekers on the path, those we have come to call the Solitaries?
A Solitary is one who worships the Goddess and God of Nature, whether by observation or by study, whether by love or admiration, whether in their sacred rites with the Moon or on the great festivals of the Sun, alone and uncertain of the existence of others of like mind. For centuries, there have been those of other beliefs who, in their zeal, unsuccessfully tried to drown our tiny and flickering flame of knowledge and bring it to extinction. Failing at that task, they unwittingly succeeded at another: once forced into a secretive, small, family-like group structure for survival, our growth was effectively stymied for all time.
Yes, there have been attempts to swell our numbers by forming groups of greater size but always on the same smaller model, and the effort largely failed. Failed because of a reliance on the dynamics which often work smoothly in a small group because of the family-like interaction and interdependence, but which proves unachievable in the larger group setting. The lessons inherent in this experience have in large part been overlooked.
The time is upon us to shed that covenant of secrecy which has kept our groups small, intense, focused sharply and narrowly on the survival of our knowledge and ways in the hands of a few, the secret, the Wicca. Now many Pagan theologians have emerged from secrecy, generating a large body of publicly available liturgy and literature. A broad interest in the rituals of life and passage has reemerged. The laws which unjustly restricted our spirituality are all repealed and the doors are opened to us. Yes, there are some who in the zeal of their own beliefs would deny us our Goddess and God, but the growing tolerance of our path by other, more popular religious philosophies is the rule of the day and the law of the land. The time is upon us to go forth and gather our scattered sisters and brothers who meander alone across a barren wasteland of dying spiritualities. The time is here for the Wicca to come out of the shadows into the streaming light of a new dawn. The time is now, to resume the task of ministering to the almost staggering numbers of people who today are proclaiming themselves as followers of the ways of Nature and the Old Gods, all too long neglected: the Solitary Pagans.
It is to that purpose the Aquarian Tabernacle was dedicated when the tradition was begun in 1979 C.E. The Tabernacle
Ordains embody the moral and ethical system which guides us in our mission. They are adapted from the traditional craft ordains handed down in many versions through the centuries, adapted to suit the 20th century and the needs of our unique tradition.
The Aquarian Tabernacle Church is a positive, life-affirming spirituality, a non-dualist, non-racist, non-sexist, non-exclusivist, bi-polar, ecologically oriented faith dedicated to the preservation of Holy Mother Earth, the revival of the worship of The Old Gods in a modern context, the achievement of the fullest of human potentials and the creation of a peaceful world of love, freedom, health and prosperity for all sentient beings. We claim to speak only for our own tradition and not for others in the many Neo-Pagan movements of today. We believe above all else that everyone has the right to identify and follow their own spiritual path, and in that belief, we do not seek actively to convert others to our faith; we will help those seekers who come to us to learn of our ways so that they may make their own conscious choices of which path is right for them. We follow The Old Religion, Paganism, the way of Nature and of the Earth Mother, The Great Goddess, and Her consort, The God. Our tradition is one based on the concept of service to the larger Pagan faith community, and we focus our efforts on outreach and on providing a place for group worship and celebration of the Mysteries of Nature, a place where sincere seekers may come to learn and grow in their Paganism as a way of life.
The Tabernacle has never been what might be called “an initiatory order”. Although founded in 1979 ce, it was given its first formalized structure on the Summer Solstice, Friday, June 21st of 1985 ce. Five Priestesses and Priests joined together at the MoonStone Circle of standing stones in a group ceremony to dedicate the newly installed altar stone, and in recognition of the Tabernacle’s goals of service to the community. Some of that original group has dispersed over the intervening years, but the spirit and dedication to the Tabernacle’s original goals continues, perpetuated through the Innermost Circle, the Keepers of the Gate, and other inner circles of the tradition in the U.S., Canada and abroad.
We believe above all else that everyone has the right to identify and follow their own unique spiritual path, and in that belief we do not actively seek to make converts to our religion. We will help those seekers who come to us, asking to learn of our ways so that they may make their own conscious choices on the path that is right for them.
In our tradition, one based on serving the many solitary believers as well as organized groups, we focus our attentions on providing group worship and celebration, and a place where seekers may come to learn and grow in their Paganism as a way of life. While our object is to serve the larger Pagan community, we remain a separate and distinct tradition, following our own customs and laws, and are a self-regulating closed membership organization, rather than a composite community group with open membership from other traditions. The Aquarian Tabernacle Church is governed and perpetuated from within, but we do accept into our tradition, individuals and groups from other traditions who wish to associate themselves with our work and goals of serving the larger Pagan community, and agree to follow our tradition’s customs and Ordains. We are a public, incorporated non-profit church and are recognized as tax-exempt by government at all levels.
The Aquarian Tabernacle Church tradition is under the stewardship of two distinct structures, one principally secular and one principally spiritual, although there is of necessity a requisite overlap in the responsibilities of several of the offices between these structures. The secular matters rest with the Board of Directors and Corporate Officers who administer the worldly affairs of the church corporation and deal with legal matters. The Archpriesthood of the Keepers of the Gate, the innermost circle of this tradition, together with the Council of Elders (the tradition’s Judicatory), administer the spiritual affairs of the larger church body according to the Ordains.
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
We recognize that the traditionally small circle or group structure is not always appropriate nor useful for all who wish to follow our religion. We hold that the Wiccan Inner Circle should be equated to a seminary where clergy are trained to serve the larger community. There are many Pagans who want to worship and celebrate the high holidays and the lunar cycle together, yet do not desire to make the teaching and practice of Wicca the central focus of their lives. They are the many scattered believers who have suffered the lack of contact with others – the neglected folk who will insure the future, the return of Paganism as a major influence in Western religion. It is to these people that we of the Tabernacle tradition dedicate and focus our energies. There remain some who believe our path must remain dark and secret, available only to “the chosen few,” and they are entitled to their privacy. But history supports our belief that the ancients never intended that anyone who honestly seeks after the knowledge and love of the Goddess and the God should be deprived of it.
Pagans and Wiccans who participate generally in Tabernacle open worship, gatherings and affairs fall into several categories: Associate members, Supporting members, and Voting members (See the Membership brochure for more information). In each of these categories, they may be further divided into Clergy, Seekers and Students. This constitutes the church body or congregation’s). Consideration for membership in an Inner Circle must be requested, but is only gained through invitation, and ministerial candidates most often come from within the broader membership of the church.
Within the Inner Circle membership, which requires a formal dedication and a substantial period of ministerial training, there are five levels of recognition based on the individual accomplishments of the dedicant in advancing their learning of Wicca, the administration of a public church congregation, and the Tabernacle tradition of service to the community. Training is conducted by those of Third Level or above.
Although First and Second Levels are considered in training, they are given expanded responsibilities and are allowed an increasing participation in and control over, their learning process. Attainment of Third Level requires a re-dedication to some aspect of ongoing community service, a Great Work selected and proposed by the candidate and reviewed and accepted by the teacher(s) and Council of Elders, and actively pursued. (Failure to continue a Great Work returns the candidate to Second Level.) Ours is an active tradition requiring an ongoing commitment to service to retain Third Level clergy status. All dedicants of Second Level or above are accredited clergy and may minister to others within the guidelines of our tradition. On attaining recognition as Third Level within the tradition, one becomes eligible to be seated on the Council of Elders.
Every practitioner of Wicca and Paganism is a contributor to religious tradition. Times change and the traditions must evolve and follow the changing needs and demands of our Gods and our people. Solitary need no longer mean “isolated or alone.” The followers of The Old Ways are everywhere, and we will be beside them, serving them and our Goddess and God. If you are interested in these same goals, if you have an interest in our work, let us hear from you.