Blue Star Wicca is a centuries-old Tradition founded in 1975.
Less a Tradition; more a buffet.
A Bit of Background
In the mid-1970s, pretty much the only way to participate in a Wiccan ritual (known as a circle) was to know someone in a coven and get yourself initiated. With the boom in New Age and Pagan publishing in the late 1960s, many more people were interested in attending circles than could be supported through existing networks. Franque Dufner took it upon himself to set up a series of open rituals, from which sprang the original Blue Star Coven in Philadelphia.
When Franque left the coven, his ex-wife, an Alexandrian 3rd Degree Initiate called Tziporah Katz, took over as High Priestess. Tziporah and her second husband, folk musician Kenny Klein, took off across country, spreading the evolving Blue Star teachings. Kenny and Tziporah kept in touch with students via letters and teaching tapes, and it is from this period that modern Blue Star grew.
Every Blue Star Coven2 and Grove3 is independent, and there are many individual and regional differences within this highly flexible and adaptable Tradition; however, there are some recognisably fundamental components of the Blue Star system.
The Blue Star Basics
Each Coven and Grove is independent; Blue Star has no centralised authority.
Blue Star Wiccans celebrate the 8 Wiccan Sabbats4 (Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lammas, and Mabon5, each with their associated colours, rituals, and activities) and the 26 Esbats (both New and Full Moons). Typically, the Sabbats are open to visitors, while the Esbats may be either open or closed.
There are seven Tenets of Faith, and also eight Paths of Power, each corresponding to one of the eight Sabbats, which are fundamental to the system.
Blue Star's rites of passage include two pre-Initiatory Degrees and three Initiatory Degrees.
Families are usually welcome at Blue Star circles. Some groups may not be as child-friendly as others, but most will at least welcome children at the Sabbats.
The Tradition is focused on celebration and is often referred to as a 'teaching Tradition'. Some groups work heavily with magic, but it is not central to Blue Star as a whole.
Circles are organised around a central circular altar upon which lie tools and symbols in a specific placement. Participants are thus allowed a full view of all that happens within the circle.
There is a recognisable ritual and liturgical form, with particular liturgical songs known and used throughout the Blue Star Tradition.
Gender-specific ritual roles are the norm in Blue Star. Some Covens and Groves do not conform to this norm for a variety of reasons. Gender-specific roles do not imply the inferiority or superiority of either (any) sex, gender identity, sexuality, or gender role.
Initiatory tattooing is common (though not mandatory) throughout the Tradition.
The Degree System
Blue Star Wicca is an hierarchical initiatory Wiccan Tradition. Hierarchy does not imply that some members of the Tradition are 'better than' others or 'more spiritually evolved' - it simply means that they have decided to make specific commitments to the Tradition and are expected to take greater responsibility than others in planning and hosting, providing pastoral care, and dealing with problems as they emerge (the common phrase is that 'trouble rolls uphill'). While most Traditions have three rites of passage (often referred to as RoPs), Blue Star has five - two pre-Initiate rites of Passage and three Initiatory degrees:
Dedication - This RoP proclaims the Dedicant a Pagan, and does not confer any responsibilities or commitments to the Tradition beyond attendance at circle and a general level of responsible behaviour. Dedicants are not required to take any other RoPs, but remain valued members of the Tradition regardless. Dedicants typically begin to explore mythology and personal connection to deity/ies if they have not done so before; personal experience of deity/ies is very important in this Tradition.
Neophyte - The aspiring Initiate undergoes a year (sometimes more) as a Neophyte, during which time s/he begins to take on more of the responsibilities of 1st Degree. The Neophyte is expected to closely examine her/his life and begin weeding out problematic or destructive behaviours as part of preparation for Initiation.
1st Degree - Now at the beginning of clergyhood, having taken Oathbound (secret) vows of commitment, the 1st Degree takes a more active role in shouldering responsibilities for organisation and works in a supporting role to the 2nd and 3rd Degrees. S/he is not required to take any further degrees.
2nd Degree - The 2nd Degree Initiate takes on yet more responsibilities and commitments within the Tradition, including teaching, organisation, and support to the 3rd Degrees. The 2nd Degree is not required to take 3rd Degree.
3rd Degree - The 3rd Degree Initiates take full responsibility for the Coven and Grove members, including their interactions with others wherever they may be damaging to the community. The buck stops here. In Blue Star, Covens and Groves are largely autonomous, and 3rd Degrees typically 'hive off' from (leave) the mother Coven and Grove to begin their own.
This is, of course, the ideal Blue Star Coven and Grove structure; however, the Tradition is nothing if not packed with realists, and circumstances have often led to a blending and blurring of the roles of Dedicants, Neophytes, and Initiates.
During Blue Star Wicca's early days, it focused on the deities of the Classical Graeco-Roman pantheon6. The focus of the Tradition changed during 'the tour years' to a British orientation, especially drawing on the classic Welsh legends known collectively as Y Mabinogi7 or The Mabinogion8. These days, though there is still an emphasis on British mythology, there is a wide variety of pantheons and individual deities revered by Blue Star Wiccans. Circles have been held to worship deities as diverse as the Hawaiian volcano Goddess Pele9, the Hindu deities Ganesha and Kali10, The Irish deities Dagda and Brighid11, the Gaulish Goddess Epona12, the Greek deities Hekate and Hermes, and in more general terms, Mother Earth and Father Sky. The Tradition is adaptable enough to accommodate the worship of a wide variety of deities from many pantheons.
The Religion With Homework
Blue Star generally requires a great deal of reading, written homework assignments, and rigorous ritual training of its members. Every Coven and Grove has its own recommended reading lists, commonly consisting of books on herbalism, history, anthropology, archaeology, mythology, folklore, magical traditions, and psychology. Blue Star encourages each member to plan and facilitate both private and public rituals and to participate in every area of the Coven and Grove's life.
A notable feature of most Blue Star Covens and Groves is their ability to attract highly competent and adventurous cooks. Blue Star makes much of its post-ritual feasting, and Sabbats are especially food-oriented. Particular foods are associated with each Sabbat, and members go out of their way to prepare grand feasts for each holiday and for RoPs.
At Pagan festivals, it is not unusual for many non-Blue Star festival-goers to crowd around the Blue Star camp at mealtimes, looking forlornly at the usually communal menu.
This has led to the light-hearted adage 'Blue Star: Less a Tradition; more a buffet.' Though Blue Star Wiccans like to joke about their Tradition, it should not be assumed that they do not take their religion seriously.
A concise definition of Blue Star Wicca by 3rd Degrees Catalina Castells and Amy Douglass.
Cat Castells' and George Marvil's site includes a basic Blue Star credo and information on Balefire Coven and Grove of New Jersey.
Devyn C Gillette's synopsis of Blue Star history and links to other related sites.
Sea Star Grove is situated in Seattle.
The Braided Wheel Tradition is a recent (1995) offshoot of the Blue Star Tradition which retains many of its Blue Star traits.
Devyn C. Gillette's overview of Wiccan Traditions contains brief summaries of a variety of Traditions.