Now for something completely different… Amateur Religious Ethnography Botched, Or the Pagan Interviews, Part 13 (archive 2011)

Interview with Alexandra Chauran.

Skepoet:  What is your religious background and how did you come to it?

Alexandra Chauran: I am an initiate of British Traditional Wicca, an experiential mystery religion.  I was raised by an Atheist father and a spiritual mother who tends towards a ceremonial magic practice with a Catholic flavour.  I was encouraged to explore religion however I liked, and tended towards polytheism, getting interested in the greater Pagan community while in middle school.  It wasn’t until after age 21 that I was old enough to begin seeking British Traditional Wiccan training, and I participated in three outer courts before receiving my first initiation three years later.  I’ve been in coven training as a Priestess for the last five years.
Skepoet:  What is your academic background?

Alexandra Chauran: Bachelor of Science in Zoology, University of Washington. Masters in Teaching, Seattle University, Clinical Pastoral Education, University of Washington
Skepoet:  How do you see these interacting with each other?

Alexandra Chauran: My early academic work not directly. British Traditional Wicca is orthopraxic, rather than orthodoxic, and based on experience and a core that is taught as each individual was taught, so scholarly investigation into the practice is often done after third degree, and I have only trained into second degree.  However, the Clinical Pastoral Education was so that I could volunteer as a Pagan chaplain at hospital, so that’s the only one that relates without a stretch. Although I’m sure I could say my Pagan love of living things may have inspired my choice of studying animals in college, and that my teaching training may inform how I train students of Wicca later.

Skepoet:   What is your thoughts on Wicca’s relationship with Thelema and Golden Dawn?

Alexandra Chauran: I think they may be an important part of Wicca’s history and in the way that western folks relate to magic.  I also think that my familiarity with ceremonial magic before Wicca may have led to why I felt so comfortable with it.
Skepoet:  What are you thoughts on Wicca’s relationship to other pagan > reconstructionist religions like Asatru and Hellenismos?

Alexandra Chauran: Well, hey, we’re all Pagans, so they’re great.  But in my limited experience with reconstructionist religions (I studied as a Druid with the ADF by post while I was a kid when my parents figure  that was a good way to avoid driving me to Pagan circles in the city), the practice was very different and I obviously didn’t connect with it long-term.
Skepoet:  Do you think neo-pagan groups should do more with community functions  like chaplaincy?

Alexandra Chauran: I think that in British Traditional Wicca each person must find SOME way to eventually pass on their teachings to a student.  That usually means getting out there in the community in some manner, the details of which are entirely up to the individual.

Skepoet:  How do you see British Traditional Wicca experimental approach to  spirituality affecting aspects of your life that aren’t directly  considered spiritual?

Alexandra Chauran: They change my perspective by changing the person I am after I go through the experience. In the same way that somebody who has a near-death experience in a car wreck may stop fighting with his mother about stupid things or may find child’s laughter beautiful instead of
annoying, my own experience of life changes each time I learn a new lesson through my work in the Craft.

Skepoet:  Can you illuminate some of the similarities and differences between British Traditional Wicca and other Wiccan traditions such as Gardnerian, Alexandrian, and Neo-Reformed Order of the Golden Dawn?

Alexandra Chauran: As I understand it, the Golden Dawn came first and ceremonial aspects may have been included in Gardner’s reworking of core material. British Traditonal Wicca is an umbrella term that covers both Gardnerians and Alexandrians as well as my Tradition, Kingstone.  They differ because different people passed down the core information in their own way.  There may have also been other origins, but that is history and all we can do now is suppose.

Skepoet:  NROOGD considers itself a Wiccan craft, which is interesting, but we are veering into craft history.   What you would say would be the philosophical underpinnings of an Orthopraxis-based craft religions? How is it different form Orthopraxis-based ethical religions such as say Jainism or Judaism?

Alexandra Chauran: Since I’ve never been a Jain or a Jew, nor am I a scholar of comparative religion, I find it hard to have the proper perspective in which to answer those questions.  My guess is that the body of lore is very different and also the nature of the mysteries?

Skepoet:  Let’s approach this question from a less comparative model:  What do you think defines or underlies the practice of the craft? What exactly holds it together?  I have met some people in the Craft who don’t even consider it a religion for that reason.

Alexandra Chauran: That helps, thanks.  I can see the issue, because belief is very individual within the Craft.  There are Atheists and hard polytheists practicing alongside one another.  But, since I must answer this question from my own personal perspective, I would say it is the call of the Wiccan deities that draw the people to all undergo a sequence of mysteries.  Of course, I can’t speak for all.

Skepoet:  Do you see a continuity with mystery traditions of pre-Christian
Europe?  Do you think that is even all that important?

Alexandra Chauran: I do not and I do not.

Skepoet:  Do you think it is unwise to place too much emphasis on these kind of concerns?

Alexandra Chauran: Nope.  I just don’t place historical origins as more or less important than perhaps any other scholarly investigations into Wiccan topics. If that really turns somebody’s crank, maybe study into it will help advance their personal learning and understanding of deity.

Skepoet:  Do you find yourself gravitating towards specific deities?

Alexandra Chauran: Though I have worked with deities from several pantheons in my lifetime, and still do to this day, I feel that I was called to Wicca to serve that specific pair of deities as Priestess.  I wouldn’t say exclusively, but certainly it is my duty.

Skepoet:  Was this calling primarily experiential?

Alexandra Chauran: Yes, I can’t imagine the alternative?

Skepoet:  Did it began that calling begin with a singular experience?

Alexandra Chauran: I don’t believe so. I think I was steered in more and more specific directions.

Skepoet:  Thanks so much for your time

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