Home Again: An Introduction To Blue Star Wicca
by Devyn Christoper Gillette
Blue Star Wicca is a Craft tradition practiced across the United States and touching the lives of hundreds of people as it has evolved and grown. Commonly associated with the simple pleasures of music and family ties among its membership, its history is rich, diverse, and sometimes curiously contradictory.
What would develop into this tradition emerged out of the Coven of the Blue Star, established in Philadelphia circa 1975. It later became prominent in the New York city area. The foundation of this coven had been laid down by Franque D. (“Franque the Wizard”), a peace activist who had been active with Vietnam Veterans Against The War. Franque had earned Third degree, American Welsh tradition (Buczynski line) through “Lady Kay,” and had also played a role in the founding of the Covendom of Valhalla. Franque, with one “Lady Pamela,” a Gardnerian High Priestess who served as Elder, founded the fledgling 12-member coven which also included two other Priestesses: “Lady Paula,” and “Lady Maria.” Membership was largely comprised of students from Pagan Way classes conducted by Lady Pamela in the Philadelphia area and persons involved with Franque’s household in the Society for Creative Anachronism, the Vale of the Flaming Sword.
Within two years, folk musician and storyteller Tzipora K. (later an Alexandrian Third) served as a Priestess, and later exclusively as High Priestess to the coven. The coven grew, and soon had affiliate groups in Philadelphia, Binghampton and Monticello, and soon developed as a traditionalist-style alternative to more rigid groups in these areas.
Fusing elements from a variety of sources, the coven was humorously listed as practicing “Great American Nontraditional Collectic Eclectic Wicca” during its registration process as the thirty-ninth member coven of the Covenant of the Goddes (COG) in February 1980.
Early developments were heavily influenced by the background traditions of its founders as well as original work, and soon became identified as being “post-Neo-Gardnerian.” The Coven of the Blue Star also provided much of the founding energy for at least one annual Pagan gathering in the New York area which continues to be celebrated every autumn.
In 1983, members produced the music cassette Moon Hooves In The Sand in a Brooklyn amateur recording studio. Featuring several songs commonly used in its rituals and coordinated by Tzipora and her then-spouse Kenneth, the cassette initiated a long folk music career for the couple. Wider dispersion of the coven framework began to take shape as “Kenny and Tzipora” traveled the United States in what current Blue Star participants jokingly refer to as the tradition’s “tour period.”
Today, the tradition remains widespread, with groups primarily located in the northeast, central, and midwest United States. Leadership for the overall tradition has been completely decentralized since 1992, with various independent Thirds presently maintaining a loose confederate awareness of one another. The tradition presently includes various factional sects, including Blue Star Traditionalists, Blue Star Nationalists, and even some Blue Star-style eclectic circles. There are also solitaries throughout the United States and individual offshoot groups which borrow heavily from the tradition’s framework. Maidenhill Wicca has some roots in Blue Star, and a bond exists between it and the Odyssean tradition as cousins.
Blue Star Wicca features various fundamental principles, with a primary emphasis on worship of the Old Gods than on conducting acts of magick and spellcraft. Hallmarks of the tradition include specific tenets of faith, initiatory tattooing, liturgical music, and a coven officer system (Handmaiden, Summoner, and sometimes Scribe). Spiritual and community service is a fundamental cornerstone to its initiation ethics, and the initiate is acknowledged as clergy following a training process that can be painstakingly difficult. There is an emphasis on the Craft as part of one’s daily life, celebratory rites of passage for members and associates, sacred acts of cooking, and children are included in appropriate rituals.
Blue Star “officially” works skyclad, although a regalia system does exist for occasions deemed appropriate. Members wear dark (hunter or forest) green robes with cingula (cords), and initiates wear royal blue robes (or rarely, red, being a direct borrowing from the American Welsh and more common with so-called “pre-tour” groups) with cingula and athames. Many groups simply attire themselves in typical daily wear during ritual, although some savvy circles have adopted the color scheme when doing so. Initiates may be seen with other regalia during certain rites, but typically the attire is more modest compared to other NeoGardnerian groups.
The tradition generally retains a tripartite system of initiation (with Dedicant, Neophyte, and Elder grades), with Thirds retaining full autonomy of their respective groups and students. Groups are also coordinated by initiates of other degrees, or even (rarely) by pre-initiates, ideally under the some level of tutelage and/or mentorship by Thirds. Even with this structure, Blue Star endeavors to maintain a family-style camaraderie, with some groups enjoying close social relationships with one another. In 1991, BarleyMoon Coven began the practice of instituting an annual “Family Gather” reunion, and this has continued to be celebrated at rotating sites across the United States.
Most of the earliest groups worked within the Greco-Roman pantheon, but many more recent groups rely on a British Isles, pan-Celtic, and/or continental Indo-European system of worship. When a polytheistic framework is appropriate, popular deities include Herne, Epona, Brid, the Dagda, Diana, and Pan, with “Sky Father, Wind Brother” and “Earth Mother, Star Sister” during more pantheistic rites.
Blue Star provides a framework system which its members have the option to draw upon and build with, and this has had the interesting result of groups developing significant differences while retaining a basic core. Though its social structure has mutated over the years, the positive result is that practical need has become prioritized over dogmatic rigidity, leaving orderliness to serve where best required. There are groups which work within a specific main course of mysteries, while Blue Star as a whole might be set to provide a table setting, leaving participants to satisfy their palates with whatever suits their spiritual appetites and retain a fairly matched set of utensils.
─written by: Devyn C. Gillette, and reprinted with his permission, from Wiccan Candles: A Voice For Pagans, Harvestide 1997, volume 1, number 4, pages 15 and 16; Iris O. Bard, editor. Devyn has a background in American Welsh Wicca and first became involved in Blue Star through Franque D. in 1987. He is a Third degree initiate, and is immensely proud of his wonderful students. We bad, we trad. updated: March 1, 1998 © Devyn C. Gillette
*Please note that Wellspring does not typically work skyclad