Daily Archives: June 20, 2011

Modern Witches Connect on the Internet

Modern Witches Connect on the Internet

 

by BlackCat

Back in 1980, the personal computer was new. As a preteen, I used to wonder why anyone would use one. I knew, however, that this was a part of the future, and so I thought it must be a good thing. At the same time, I was spending many hot afternoons in the forest near my home, communing with nature and searching for spiritual connection. I found that connection with all of the life and energy around me. I yearned to learn more and find others to whom I could relate in these matters.

It was hard. There was no huge assortment of “Wicca for beginners” books available, as there is today. I was lucky to find two books on witchcraft at the local library. Even now, a trip to the downtown Seattle Public Library finds fewer selections on witchcraft than the chain bookstore up the street. Funny that the Seattle Public Library has several bookcases full of selections on religious studies of a Judeo-Christian nature, but only a handful of titles on Wicca. It strikes me that ignorance and prejudice still rear their ugly little heads, even in the free-thinking culture of Seattle.

Since my childhood hometown library yielded some results, I also checked bookstores. I discovered that an independent bookstore in town sold Tarot cards. As my ethnic background is Hungarian Gypsy, Tarot cards were considered okay in our household. I believe it was my elder sister who said, “Tarot cards are okay, Mom. They’re like astrology.” I started collecting them with allowance money. I scanned the shelves at that store, looking at the selections. Seeing books by Starhawk classified as “women’s studies,” in my youthful ignorance I didn’t even pick one up.

After a few visits to the bookshop, a woman behind the counter began to chat with me about the Tarot cards. I did not get to know her personally, but looking back I would say that she, like I, was searching and knew there was some way of connecting out there, but we just didn’t have a vehicle to find it.

For most, it was the true witch-shop that connected them. Generally in larger cities, shops specializing in occult merchandise and books became small magnets for like-minded individuals. In a small town, you relied on mail order catalogs. I bought my first athamé via the mail and even a “spell kit.”

Because neo-paganism is a minority spiritual system or religion, its adherents have generally already broken some ties to the cultural mainstream. Our practices require of us new ways of thinking and rethinking previously accepted norms. We do not have a sacred scripture to keep us all in a line, so we are ever seeking and learning new ideas. All the while, we rediscover the beliefs and practices of our ancestors. The use of the Internet is a natural enhancement for these quests.

The Internet can be so helpful in learning that you’d have to be a fool to stay away from it, in my opinion. It is in essence a huge library. All you do is type a word on your computer, and pictures and text are presented on any subject. I use the Internet for news, weather, shopping and especially for e-mail. Like a telephone call, e-mail is immediate, but unlike a phone call it does not interrupt. The receiver can get the communication whenever is a good time for the receiver.

The pagan community using the Internet is large and diverse. Made up of so many creative people and free thinkers, this graphic and opinionated medium was an easy hit. Today, there are thousands of pagan-related Web sites, Webrings that link sites together, e-mail lists, chat rooms and even virtual covens that have sprung up. We already knew that our magick was transcending time and space. Why not use the computer to further this transcendence to commune with other like-minded individuals? Many of these are separated by great physical distance and, yes, time (it’s afternoon here, but it’s tomorrow morning in Japan). Nevertheless, virtual covens communicate via e-mail and online chat-rooms. Rituals are held online, often using a graphic interface that each member can watch on his or her computer during the ritual.

Where to start? Most people have some search feature on the start page of their Internet service provider. According to Lycos, one of these search engines, of the top 1000 most widely searched-for Web topics, the subject of witchcraft ranked 72 and Wicca ranked 91. A search on the word “Wicca” I just did brings up 59,305 Web sites. That’s right, 59,305 individual listings of Web sites you could look at on the subject. Witchcraft brings up a whopping 108,542!

Such a list is hard to sort through, with many of the listings being redundant or actually off the topic you are looking for. The Internet is so extensive as to be almost too big to handle. I have a suggestion. There is one site in particular that stands out among all the thousands to choose from.

The Witches Voice Web site, Witchvox (www.witchvox.com), is a nonprofit organization. Wren Walker, Fritz Jung and Peg Aloi created the organization and Web site in 1997. Wren and Fritz had both previously done work for the Witches League for Public Awareness. They currently operate out of their home in Clearwater, Florida. The Witches Voice is one of the most widely used religious Web sites in the world, having registered since its creation over 30,850,000 pages viewed! Their tagline, “Those who walk in love and truth shall grow in honor and strength,” clearly reflects their honest, noble cause.

Each week, an update is posted, reflecting current events in the pagan community worldwide. The site is extensive, with 34 chapters containing 3410 Web pages. There are over 5000 working links and over 39,000 personal connections verified every three months. The site is rich in graphics, yet with no annoying advertisements. The Witchvox staff does not take any money for the work they do and state they never have and never will. The Witches’ Voice is funded by the community only.

To quote from their Web site, “The Witches’ Voice provides the information, resources, educational materials, networking sections, latest news and all of the other support documents on the Web site to everyone free of charge. What you don’t see on the site are the more personal letters and information packets that are sent to local agencies, schools and individuals, the many hours of research, the discussions with mainstream media on issues that affect pagans, the phone calls offering emotional support and guidance and all the other ways the staff supports the pagan community.”

I use the Witchvox site for many reasons. Sometimes I just browse the well-organized links section and learn about different Craft traditions. One will find widdershins.org and several other Pacific Northwest links. Maybe I want to learn about pagan musicians or an Internet pagan “radio” address. “Wren’s Nest” offers the latest news and is a credited source for my own news column, the Speculum. There are surveys and essays written by community members from all over the world.

The site encourages and accepts sponsorship donations from those that deem its mission of value, and the site uses those funds to pay for communication costs and for donations to events or situations in the community that need help.I can best offer more information by simply quoting the site:

· Witchvox does not teach Wicca or Witchcraft, nor do we promote our personal spiritual beliefs on this site. We offer some of the more popular tenets to those outside of this community in an effort to help them better understand who we are and what we do. Witchvox is about supporting and celebrating the work of the local communities. We are constantly approached for interviews by some of the most famous publications in the world. We defer 85 percent of these requests to witches, Wiccans and pagans at the local level.

· The Witches’ Voice will never be about titles, degrees or fame. Our focus will always be related to the work itself. We live in a world of spin, idle promises and hype. It is our observation that the work will ultimately speak for itself.

· The Witches’ Voice is a community effort; we don’t pay writers or famous names for articles. Even if we could afford to do this, it’s doubtful that we would do it. We are a site by the community… for the community. All are welcome to submit articles and always have been. Notable pagans are encouraged to share their wisdom and experiences.

· The “pages viewed” stats on our splash page are indeed real. They have been faithfully culled from our server logs from day one. They indicate a running daily total of both Witchvox.com and Witchvox.net. Witchvox.com stats are added daily, and Witchvox.net stats are only added at the end of the month. At present, we are pacing at close to 35,000 pages viewed on a daily basis. If you prefer to work with the concept of “hits” (page elements) you can multiply that number by 5; if your preference is for actual visitors, divide this number by 5.

· The Witchvox focus is on the present day and the present way. To us everyone is special and valid in their own personal beliefs. All you have to do to get “featured” here is to do something for the community. We don’t care if you found this path last month or 25 years ago. We do “lean into” individuals and groups that consistently work for the community. Current selfless work, for the good of all, means everything to us.

· The Witchvox staff have no desire to impose our own personal morals on anyone. “An it harm none, do what ye will” — we do maintain a strong sense of ethics. We encourage honesty and direct contact by anyone that has concerns related to what we do.

· We have a rich history of answering 99 percent of our e-mail on a daily basis (we sure have received a mountain of it). We do not participate in “he said/she said” gossip and do not respond to background bitching. Our e-mail addresses are accessible via links at the bottom of all of our pages.

· As always, our goal is to create solutions that are both valuable and useful to the pagan community. Both Witchvox.com and Witchvox.net are here for your news and networking needs. Use them with our love.

· Use the Internet! Start with The Witches’ Voice, www.witchvox.com, and you’re on a firm launching pad for all of your neo-pagan spiritual explorations through cyberspace.

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One Pagan Steps Out of the Broom Closet

One Pagan Steps Out of the Broom Closet

 

by L. Lisa Harris

In days past, stepping out of the broom closet meant sitting at the dinner table and blurting out, “Mom, I’m a witch,” then waiting for her to accept the fact and ask you questions, or faint dead away. She might tell you it was a phase you were going though or refuse to talk to you for a period of time. As a general rule, if it wasn’t accepted, it never left the dinner table. It just wouldn’t do to air the family’s dirty laundry to the neighbors (what would they think?).

Today, it could still be as simple as telling a trusted co-worker that you go to circle, instead of church, or explaining to a potential significant other why there is 7-inch dagger on a small table next to your bed. You might even be lucky enough to be outed by your 9-year-old child, who in an argument with a neighborhood kid yells, “Yeah, well, my mom’s a witch, and I’m going to go get her right now.”

However, with the advent of the Internet, one’s “witchiness” (along with anything else of interest) can be world news in a matter of seconds, as I quickly learned. The speed at which such information can travel and how far it can get can be quite surprising, even for one who is “out of the broom closet.” You can give in an interview to the local paper, and the next thing you know, you’re getting e-mail from Australia.

My adventure in pagan PR and world news began early last winter when I received a phone call from Steve Maynard of the Tacoma News Tribune advising me that he was planning to do a feature story on the Earth Centered Spirituality Group at the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church in Tacoma, which I have facilitated for the past two and a half years. Steve covers religion for the paper and was slowly but surely making progress with his editor in getting earth-centered events covered on the religion page. We both knew he had a long way to go before he would be permitted to treat our group as the paper did other religious groups when, last Easter season, his editor would not allow him to use the word “pagan” when he was describing a UU church service in which elders read children stories of how four traditions (pagan, Hebrew, Christian and Unitarian) celebrated the Easter season.

I was expecting his feature story to be on the religion page, as we were just beginning to get calendar space in the Saturday edition in that section. Imagine my surprise when he told me that it was going to be the cover for the “Sound Life” magazine section and that there was also going to be a photo layout. He was even going to use the words “pagan” and “witch.” For a moment, I couldn’t believe it. All the months of pestering him and sending press releases and information had paid off. We were going to be taken seriously. We were going to have a chance to let Western Washington know what we were and what we weren’t. I was elated.

But on the drive home from work, I asked myself, “What was I thinking?” A nice little column on the religion page was one thing, but to be on the magazine cover of a Sunday edition was another matter. I have been “out” with my family and friends for 13 years and even wear a triple moon pentacle at work, where I have no problem educating those who would malign others’ religion out of ignorance. But when I thought about the conservative Christian parents of the girls I coach in softball and volleyball on the South Hill of Puyallup reading in the Sunday paper about their coach being a witch, something in my stomach did a double back-flip with a twist. I had visions of girls being pulled from the team by parents who didn’t want them corrupted by that “tool of Satan,” other kids not being allowed to play with my daughter and picketers throwing rocks in front of the church. Steve and I had been working towards this for almost a year and a half, so it was no small matter that I found myself reconsidering the wisdom of the situation.

Most witches I know would meditate or cast a circle and ask the Goddess for guidance when dealing with an important situation like this. My goddess never waits for me to do that. I’ve learned to deal with it. She likes to slip into the passenger seat of my car when I’m trying to drive home at the end of a busy day or corner me when I’m in the bathroom and can’t get up and leave because my pants are around my ankles. This time she chose the car, and she really let me have it. “You’re the one that wanted to be a warrior. Now you’re given a chance to battle ignorance and you’re afraid? Don’t be a wimp! Get out there and act like a priestess, not a weenie!” I don’t recommend dedicating yourself to the Morrigane unless you’re the type of person who can stand up to a drill sergeant without flinching. Of course, as I remember it, I didn’t have a lot of say in the matter. She chose me.

About the time I was feeling completely unworthy, my cell phone rang. It was my daughter letting me know that she was home from school. “Honey, how would you feel if the next article about me was in a bigger paper than the last one?” I asked.

“Um, okay, why?” she replied, her mouth overly full of partially chewed banana. I explained that it would be a front page spread and my picture was likely to be in it. More chewing, and another “Um, okay” followed the sound of the fridge being rummaged through. I asked her what her friends would think if they saw the article, and she assured me that her friends don’t read anything other than the horoscopes, music reviews and comics.

“How would you feel if one of your friends wouldn’t hang out with you anymore because your mom’s a witch?”

“I don’t think that would happen,” she said.

“But what if it did?” I pushed.

She swallowed the rest of her banana, which I’m sure was not properly chewed, and in her best exasperated-adolescent voice said, “Well, that wouldn’t make them very good friends, now, would it? Can I go over to Morgan’s?” So much for the girl being traumatized by it. That was one excuse gone. I reminded her to chew with her mouth closed and take smaller bites, then hung up the phone.

The next call came in right on schedule, from Hubby, who was on his break at work. “Hi, honey, how would you feel if all the guys in the break room at work read in the paper that I’m a witch?” I asked, thinking that there was no point in beating around the bush since he only had 10 minutes to talk.

His response was immediate and enthusiastic, “Cool!” he said. “When will it come out? I’d love for some of those dumb, right-wing conservative jerks I argue politics with to see it, so that I can yank their chain.” When he found out it would be in the Sunday edition, he was extremely disappointed he wouldn’t be there at work to watch the looks on his co-workers’ faces when they read it. It would have been amusing, since I used to work in the same place and know all of them. Great, Hubby wasn’t going to be an excuse either. I was going to have to go through with it.

The next step was to set up interviews and photo opportunities. The interviews weren’t going to be a problem. I’d been talking to Steve for over a year and a half and had sent him volumes of information. How much was there that he could possibly ask? I found out that there was plenty. It seemed that the more information I gave him, the more questions he had. He found that the more people he talked to and the more research he did, the more disagreement on basic issues he found. After a month of spending my lunch hours, breaks and time after work talking to Steve, I still couldn’t come up with answers to some questions other than, “Well, if you ask 30 people that question, you’ll likely get 30 different answers.”

I could hear him shaking his head on the other end of the phone line, but he kept with it. He interviewed Ph.D.s, ministers, theologians, authors and other high priestesses in the local community. He attended Tarot classes and rune workshops that we put on in order to get a better understanding of what our group does and interviewed several people at those classes to get a feel for the local community.

The photo editor wanted to photograph a ritual. “We don’t allow photographers at our rituals,” I explained. When I offered to set something up with people who didn’t mind being photographed, he told me that at the paper they “don’t like things that are staged.” “Great!” I muttered to myself. I already had a Brigid ritual to write, a class on the runes to put together and lines to memorize for a Candlemas ritual that another group was putting on. I knew that the only way the layout was going to work would be to put on a real working with participants who didn’t mind being photographed. I made the offer of a special ritual, with a real working, and once he was convinced it wouldn’t be “staged” and I had his agreement the photographer would not disrupt the flow of the ritual, the date was set. I put out a call to the local pagan e-mail lists for volunteers who didn’t mind being photographed.

Getting the volunteers was much easier than I had imagined, and I was rather pleased with how things were working out. The difficult part, I discovered, was going to be finding a ritual that wouldn’t expose material that many in the pagan community would consider “inappropriate” for public use or that would offend or exclude anyone. I soon discovered that what some considered “outer court” material, suitable for any public occasion, others considered “oath-bound.” I was also faced with the fact that just because something is published and sitting on a shelf at Borders doesn’t mean that it isn’t considered oath-bound by one tradition or another. I suddenly had to worry about being pagan politically correct.

Then there were the personal preferences of those who were going to be in the circle. My Wiccan friends didn’t want a Wiccan ritual “performed” for the media. Some of the pagans didn’t want to be confused with witches, the neo-pagans didn’t want to be confused with “New Agers,” my Brit-trad friends didn’t want to be mistakenly identified as Unitarians, and some of the Unitarians didn’t want to be labeled at all. I had 17 ritualists with 17 different ideas of what would and wouldn’t be appropriate.

As I sat at my computer, staring out the window at the woods out back, I thought to myself, “If my close friends and those who trust me to present paganism to the media are this fired up, what about all the pagans who are going to read this in the paper and had no say in the matter? What are they going to think?” Suddenly I went from feeling like a champion of those who suffer religious oppression to feeling like someone not worthy of the task. I had lost count of the number of people who thought that no reporter could be trusted and that I was making a huge mistake. But I had been talking to Steve for a long time. I knew him. I knew what he wanted to accomplish and trusted him to do right by us. I thought I was doing a good thing, and it seemed that it just ticked everyone off. Visions of angry pagans wanting my hide were added to the already scary ones of crosses burning on my lawn or windows being broken at the church by those who fear us. More doubt filled my mind. I tried to brush it away as quickly as I could. I really wasn’t up for a bathroom visit from a ticked-off goddess. I was starting to get a headache.

Two glasses of wine later, I had decided that we would use only published material, to which I would make some changes so that no tradition’s sacred material would be exposed to the media. The ritual would be a working for community understanding, which seemed fitting for a media event. I scanned my bookshelves, literally sagging under the weight of what my hubby considers my “excessive” book collection, hoping that something would present itself.

I noticed my old dog-eared copy of The Spiral Dance sticking out a bit farther than the other books on the shelf. “Starhawk! She knows how to deal with the public and fight for the cause. I don’t really think she’d mind if I borrowed a few things,” I told myself. I found a ritual written by Alan Acacia titled “A Circle for Healing During Struggle,” which fit in perfectly with what we were planning. I modified it to be less priestess-centered and to have the quarters read their parts themselves. I picked out some nice invocations to the God and Goddess, and soon I had a basic ritual ready to go.

The ritual was beautiful, so beautiful in fact that I forgave my friend Dana without even giving her a hard time for calling me a “circle Nazi” in rehearsal. Everyone showed up in festive clothing and colorful robes. People who came to sit and watch but didn’t want to risk being “outed” by being in the circle were drawn in; they just couldn’t stay out. The quarter callers performed their parts perfectly, the candles all stayed lit, and our sound and lighting person hit every musical cue. We passed a small cauldron, which was later lit, around the room, so that each person in turn could hold it and speak aloud what they hoped to accomplish with the ritual. Everyone was so eloquent and sincere and came up with such wonderful, positive wishes that the reporter was frantic trying to copy them all down. We danced a spiral to raise energy, and everyone in that room could feel a strong, palpable force, even the photographer. We had been asked prior to the ritual to send healing energy to a critically ill girl who was on a respirator in a children’s hospital, so we added that to our ritual working and sent it all flying out of the circle in a powerful stream of golden light. Afterwards, everyone in the circle had a look on his or her face as if they had just had amazing sex. I’d call that good energy.

At 4 a.m. on February 8, after weeks of worries and what ifs, I drove down the hill to the mini-mart to get a copy of the paper. I took a deep breath, readying myself in case it wasn’t really there or my trust in the reporter had been misplaced. On the cover of the “Sound Life” section was a full color picture of the ritualists with their outstretched arms, adorned with rings, bracelets and colorful robes, sending healing energy to the ill girl, and the headline “Pagans at Peace.” The light bouncing off of the sanctuary wall in the background looked just like a ball of gold light being tossed out to the universe. There were pictures of the rune workshop and flaming cauldrons. I must say it was possibly the best article I have ever seen on paganism in the mainstream press. Steve had even quoted Christian clergy to explain what attracts seekers to witchcraft and paganism. Yes, there were some things left out, and a couple of people didn’t think that the press should have made it sound like all pagans share a common set of beliefs. All I could do was say, “Well done, Steve. Thank you.” (To see the story, check out “NEW !!! UUAT In the News” under http//members.nbci.com/uuatearth/.)

There were no picketers in front of the UU church that morning. No threatening messages had been left on the answering machine there or at home. Everyone in the church was excited about the article, and some new people even showed up because of it. A friend who works in a local hospital arrived at work to find the article pinned to the bulletin board and a request for pagan clergy posted. The hospital staff had taken notice of the article section that spoke of pagan hospital patients not having access to clergy services. Now there is a group in Pierce County putting together a program to get pagan clergy registered with local hospitals.

The article made it around the globe in a few hours, thanks to the Internet mailings lists and bulletin boards. It made at least two appearances in the “Wren’s Nest” section of The Witches Voice Web site, and I received congratulations from Circle Sanctuary. Soon I started receiving e-mail messages from all over the world. One told me how the article came at a perfect time to show to a judge in a child custody battle in which the mother’s Wiccan religion was being used against her. Another letter told of a case where a young girl was missing and the local media had blamed it on the fact that she had visited a Web site on Wicca. The story went out on the Howard-Scripps News Service and was reprinted in several other newspapers, sparking a whole new batch of letters, all with similar stories and gratitude to Steve for portraying us in a positive light, not just as a media curiosity at Halloween, as many newspapers do.

When it was apparent that nothing bad was going to happen because of the article, I was almost disappointed. I wasn’t going to have to do battle against ignorance or have an exciting and dangerous story to tell in Widdershins. I came to realize, though, that I did have a story to tell. It isn’t about confrontation or hate. It is about battling my own fear and self-doubt. It is a story of a group of people who came together, regardless of personal risk, to accomplish a goal for the greater community. It is the story of a little girl who got off of a respirator and is back home with her family, who incidentally are not pagan.

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She Moves in Mysterious Ways

She Moves in Mysterious Ways

My relationship with Yemayá

by Iris WaterStar

 

The first time that I saw an image of Yemayá, two thoughts ran through my head; the first one was “Oh, that’s me,” quickly followed by the second one, which ran along the lines of “What an odd thing to be thinking about a picture on a candle.” This was about two and a half years ago; the candle was one that I saw in a shop on Capitol Hill called Three Furies. I was there looking around with a friend, and this picture seemed to jump out at me. I had absolutely no idea who in the world this was, but I knew that she was wonderful, and so familiar.

It felt like seeing myself, or some part of myself, a part that I wanted to unfold somehow. This candle was one of the tall cylindrical kind; it was green and had a color painting on it. The picture is of a beautiful woman, standing on the waves of a green ocean surrounded by white blossoms. The stars are out in the twilight sky above her; the crescent moon is off to one side. She has long, dark flowing hair and is wearing a long white gown with her arms outstretched. From her hands, golden stars are falling. She has a thin aura above her head and another bright five-pointed star above her head. She is neither smiling or frowning, she simply is as she is.

I had never experienced a candle calling to me like this one did. I picked it up and put it down several times. Each time, I put it down I was aware of the feeling she was meant to go with me. I finally asked the man who ran the store “Who is this?” He wasn’t sure; he said he thought that it was some ocean-type goddess or something, but that some people had come in recently and told him her name. He couldn’t remember it but it was something like… and he pronounced something that I promptly forgot.

He also told me that these people who knew of her said that he had the candle color all wrong, and that it should be blue and not green. I bought the green candle anyway because I didn’t want to wait the couple of weeks it would take to make another candle.

I took the candle home and promptly set up an altar, with the candle as a centerpiece. I had always had shrines but never one that was dedicated to a specific persona. I had some cobalt-blue glass that I put around it, and shells (I am a Pisces so these weren’t hard to come by ); I had an incense burner, and I bought some moon incense. I had seawater and flowers and white candles.

These things just seemed right and felt like what would be appropriate for an ocean goddess. I remember looking at her and being a little in awe of the energy that seemed to be somehow associated with her. At times, I was a little afraid, but then I immediately would get this sense that she had chosen to come home to be with me and so fear wasn’t needed. I still kept a healthy respect for this energy, as well as a growing fondness.

I later went back to the store and purchased another candle with a beautiful turquoise-blue background. I added that to the altar as well. I did a winter solstice ritual in my apartment that year in solitary fashion. I am used to working with spirit guides, as I have worked as a psychic and spiritual teacher for a number of years, and so I wasn’t completely alone in my work that evening. But I was amazed just the same as I did my work and lit the incenseand candles. I really felt her yet unnamed presence with me. It was a very powerful night.

It was a few months after this time that a woman came into my life who was soon to become one of my best friends. She came to visit my apartment, and in that visit, I first learned of who this goddess was who had decided to come into my life. Her name, my friend told me, was Yemayá. And I found out I had unknowingly set up my altar with many of her traditional things.

Yemayá has an amazing way of setting things up. I found myself signing up for a drumming class along with several good friends. I had never really been interested in taking a class in drumming, but my friends said that “afoshè,” the rhythm that we would be working with, was really hot. So I went to a couple of classes and found myself not only learning the afoshè beginning drumming technique. By “coincidence,” we also learned a chant in this class; it was one to call up a certain goddess in the Yoruba faith. Guess who? So I ended up learning a song/chant and a rhythm that is traditionally used to invoke Yemayá in the rituals where the orishas “ride” the participants. I had to laugh; how obvious can you get!

I have been aware of Yemayá in many different ways; she speaks to me, and I am aware of her when I meditate sometimes. She is very loving and powerful, and I have an incredible affinity for her. She also has been very respectful of my personal space. In my own private personal magic, I do things that might be considered on the edge. Sometimes my ritual journeying involves extreme sensation, and one such evening, it involved piercing. I had very clear visions and awareness of Yemayá during this session, and it was also somehow associated with my Venezuelan Indian descent. I won’t go into great detail here, since it was quite personal, but suffice it to say that she comes to me very strongly sometimes. Along with working with Yemayá, I have become very conscious of the power of my own blood time and have incorporated this into my rituals as well.

I find it a little odd that I tend to do these things and then find out later that they are already in line with traditional practices. I guess I just do things backwards sometimes. Perhaps it is just as well to not second-guess myself. But nontheless, I am finally gathering written information about her and her traditions.

I am also going through the rite of formally choosing her as the goddess to which I am dedicated. On my altar, these days I have added a lovely statue of her, a new candle with her picture on it, her name and the term “La Diosa del Mar” (the Goddess of the Sea). I even have some Yemayá oil. I also have an amulet that my good friend made for me (the one who told me Yemayá’s name in the first place) that has many of the things sacred to her on it.

One of the most recent things I read called her the “Queen of the Ocean, First Mother of the World, Queen of Waters, owner of waters both sweet and sour. Mother of the children of the fishes, deliverer of her people.” It seems appropriate from this Piscean perspective.

I have since heard on more than one occasion that an orisha (which is what Yemayá is) tends to choose people, as opposed to people choosing the orisha. This certainly was true in my case. I didn’t know at the time I went into that store on Capitol Hill that I was going in to meet my goddess. And other than my actual experiences with her, nothing means as much to me as the original candles that I bought, when I didn’t know anything about her – just the feeling/thought that “Oh, that’s me, there I am.”

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The Orishas

The Orishas

by Efun Moyiwa

 

The orishas are the emissaries of Olodumare or God almighty. They rule over the forces of nature and the endeavors of humanity. They recognize themselves and are recognized through the different numbers and colors that are their marks, and each has their own favorite foods and other things that they like to receive as offerings and gifts. In this way, we make our offerings in the manner they are accustomed to, in the way they have always received them, so that they will recognize our offerings and come to our aid.

The orishas are often best understood by observing the forces of nature they rule over. For instance, you can learn much about Oshún and her children by watching the rivers and streams she rules over and observing that though she always heads toward her sister Yemayá (the Sea) she does so on her own circuitous route. Also observehow the babbling brook and the flash flood reflect her changeable moods. As you observe the orishas at work in the world and in your own lives, you will gain a better understanding of them and their ways. Yes, they are complex, but no more so than any other living being such as you or I. We are also blessed from time to time in the religion with the opportunity to meet the orishas face to face during a bembé where one or more of their priests will be mounted.

Elegba

Elegba (also referred to as Eleggua or Elegguá) is the owner of the roads and doors in this world. He is the repository of ashé, the spiritual energy that makes up the universe. The colors red and black or white and black are his and codify his contradictory nature. In particular, Elegba stands at the crossroads of the human and the divine, as he is the childlike messenger between the two worlds. In this role, it is not surprising that he has a very close relationship with the orisha of divination, Orunmila. Nothing can be done in either world without his permission. Elegba is always propitiated and always called first before any other orisha as he opens the door between the worlds and opens our roads in life. He recognizes himself and is recognized by the numbers 3 and 21.

Ogún

Ogún is the god of iron, war and labor. He is the owner of all technology, and because this technology shares in his nature, it is almost always used first for war. As Elegba opens the roads, it is Ogún that clears the roads with his machete. He is recognized in the numbers 7 and the colors green and black.

Oshosi

Oshosi is the third member of the group known as the Guerreros or Warriors and is received along with Elegba, Ogún and Osun in order to protect Guerreros initiates and to open and clear their roads. Oshosi is the hunter and the scout of the orishas and assumes the role of translator for Obatalá, with whom he has a very close relationship. His colors are blue and yellow.

Obatalá

Obatalá is the kindly father of all the orishas and all humanity. He is also the owner of all heads and the mind. Though it was Olorun who created the universe, it is Obatalá who is the creator of the world and humanity. Obatalá is the source of all that is pure, wise, peaceful and compassionate. He has a warrior side, though, through which he enforces justice in the world. His color is white, which is often accented with red, purple and other colors to represent different possible paths. White is most appropriate for Obatalá as it contains all the colors of the rainbow yet is above them. Obatalá is also the only orisha that has both male and female paths.

Oyá

Oyá is the ruler of the winds, the whirlwind and the gates of the cemetery. Her number is nine, which recalls her title of Yansa, or “Mother of Nine,” in which she rules over the egun or dead. She is also known for the colors of maroon, flowery patterns and nine different colors. She is a fierce warrior who rides to war with Shangó (sharing lightning and fire with him) and was once the wife of Ogún.

Oshún

Oshún rules over the sweet waters of the world, the brooks, streams and rivers, embodying love, fertility. She also is the one we most often approach to aid us in money matters. She is the youngest of the female orishas but retains the title of Iyalode or great queen. She heals with her sweet waters and with honey, which she also owns. She is the femme fatale of the orishas and once saved the world by luring Ogún out of the forests using her feminine wiles. And, in her path or manifestation of Ibú Ikolé, she saved the world from drought by flying up to heaven (turning into a vulture in the process). Ikolé means Messenger of the House (of Olodumare). For this reason, all who are to be initiated as priests, no matter what orisha rules their head, must go to the river and give account of what they are about to do. She recognizes herself in the colors yellow and gold, and her number is five. Peacocks and vultures are hers, and we use them often to represent her.

Yemayá

Yemayá lives and rules over the seas and lakes. She also rules over maternity in our lives as she is the Mother of All. Her name, a shortened version of Yeyé Omo Eja, means “Mother Whose Children are the Fish” to reflect the fact that her children are uncountable. All life started in the sea; the amniotic fluid inside the mother’s womb is a form of sea where the embryo must transform and evolve through the form of a fish before becoming a human baby. In this way, Yemayá displays herself as truly the mother of all. She, the root of all the paths or manifestations, Olokun is the source of all riches, which she freely gives to her little sister Oshún. She dresses herself in seven skirts of blue and white, and like the seas and profound lakes she is deep and unknowable. In her path of Okutti, she is the queen of witches, carrying within her deep and dark secrets. Her number is seven for the seven seas; her colors are blue and white; and she is most often represented by the fish who are her children.

Shangó

Perhaps the most “popular” of the orishas, Shangó rules over lightning, thunder, fire, the drums and dance. He is a warrior orisha with quick wits and quick temper and is the epitome of virility. Shangó took the form of the fourth Alafin (supreme king) of Oyó on Earth for a time. He is married to Obba but has relations with Oyá and Oshún. He is an extremely hot-blooded and strong-willed orisha who loves all the pleasures of the world: dance, drumming, women, song and eating. He is “ocanani” with Elegba, meaning they are of one heart. When one sees the quickness with which lightning makes short work of a tree or sees a fire rage through an area, one has witnessed the temper of Shangó in action. Though he traded the Table of Ifá to Orunmila in exchange for the gift of dance, his children have an innate ability for divination. To acknowledge the greatness of this king, all in the religion raise up on the toes of our feet (or rise out our chairs if we are sitting) at the mention of his name. His colors are red and white, and he recognizes himself in the numbers four and six. He is most often represented by a double-headed ax.

Orunmila

Orunmila is the orisha of wisdom and divination. He was the only orisha allowed to witness the creation of the universe by Olorun and bears witness to our destinies in the making as well. This is the source of his title of Eleri Ipin or “Witness to Destiny in its Creation.” His priests, the babalawos or “Fathers of the Secrets,” must devote themselves entirely to the practice of divination and the accompanying arts. Through the Table of Ifá, his priests unfold the secrets of the universe and the secrets of the unfolding of our lives. His colors are green and yellow, which reflect Orunmila’s relationship with Osayín (the secrets of the plant world) and with Oshún, who is his apeteví, with whom he has an extremely close relationship. Orunmila is wisdom and Oshún is knowledge, for wisdom without knowledge is useless, and one who has knowledge without wisdom is merely a danger to themselves and others.

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What is Santeria?

What is Santeria?

by Efun Moyiwa

Santería, or La Regla Lucumí, originates in West Africa in what is now Nigeria and Benin. It is the traditional religion of the Yoruba peoples there. The slave trade brought many of these people to the shores of Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, Trinidad and Puerto Rico, among other places. But along with the bodies being brought over for sale into a life of misery, something else was being brought along. Their souls. And their religion.

First of all, Santería is not a “primitive” religion. On the contrary, the Yorubas were and are a very civilized people with a rich culture and deep sense of ethics. We believe in one god known as Olorun or Olodumare. Olorun is the source of ashé, the spiritual energy that makes up the universe, all life and all things material.

Olorun interacts with the world and humankind through emissaries. These emissaries are called orishas. The orishas rule over every force of nature and every aspect of human life. They are approachable and can be counted on to come to the aid of their followers, guiding us to a better life materially as well as spiritually.

Communicationbetween orishas and humankind is accomplished through ritual, prayer, divination and ebó or offerings (which includes sacrifice). Song, rhythms and trance possession are also means with which we interact with the orishas and with which we are able to affect our day-to-day lives so that we may lead deeper and fuller lives during our stay in this world.

In the New World, the orishas and much of the religion was hidden behind a facade of Catholicism, with the orishas themselves represented by various saints. The slave owners would then say, “Look at how pious this slave is. She spends all of her time worshipping Saint Barbara.” Unbeknownst to them, she would actually be praying to Shangó, the lord of lightning, fire and the dance, perhaps even praying for deliverance from that very slave owner. This is how the religion came to be known as Santería. The memory of this period of our history is also why many in our religion regard the term Santería as a derogatory.

The traditions of Santería are fiercely preserved, and full knowledge of the rites, songs and language is prerequisites to any deep involvement in the religion. Initiates must follow a strict regimen and are answerable to Olorun and the orishas for their actions. As a person passes through each initiation in the tradition, this knowledge deepens and their abilities and responsibilities grow accordingly. In fact, during the entire first year of their initiation into the priesthood, the initiate or iyawó or “bride” of the orisha must dress in white. The iyawo must not look into a mirror, touch anyone or allow themselves to be touched, and they may not wear makeup or go out at night for this year.

La Santería is famous for its “magic.” This magic is based on a knowledge of the mysteries or orishas and how to interact with them to better our lives and the lives of those who come to us for the aid of the orishas. We live under the premise that this world is a magical one. This knowledge seems “supernatural” only to those who don’t understand it, but it really is quite natural.

Although the people were yanked away from their homes in Africa and enslaved in the New World, the orishas, the religion and its power could never be chained down, and the religion survives now – not as an anachronism, but ever-growing, even now in such places as France and the Netherlands.

Maferefún gbogbo orisha!

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A Midsummer Night’s Lore

A Midsummer Night’s Lore

by Melanie Fire Salamander

 

Cinquefoil, campion, lupine and foxglove nod on your doorstep; Nutka rose, salal bells, starflower and bleeding-heart hide in the woods, fully green now. Litha has come, longest day of the year, height of the sun. Of old, in Europe, Litha was the height too of pagan celebrations, the most important and widely honored of annual festivals.

Fire, love and magick wreathe ’round this time. As on Beltaine in Ireland, across Europe people of old leaped fires for fertility and luck on Midsummer Day, or on the night before, Midsummer Eve, according to Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend.Farmers drove their cattle through the flames or smoke or ran with burning coals across the cattle pens. In the Scottish Highlands, herders circumnabulated their sheep with torches lit at the Midsummer fire.

People took burning brands around their fields also to ensure fertility, and in Ireland threw them into gardens and potato fields. Ashes from the fire were mixed with seeds yet to plant. In parts of England country folk thought the apple crop would fail if they didn’t light the Midsummer fires. People relit their house fires from the Midsummer bonfire, in celebration hurled flaming disks heavenward and rolled flaming wheels downhill, burning circles that hailed the sun at zenith.

Midsummer, too, was a lovers’ festival. Lovers clasped hands over the bonfire, tossed flowers across to each other, leaped the flames together. Those who wanted lovers performed love divination. In Scandinavia, girls laid bunches of flowers under their pillows on Midsummer Eve to induce dreams of love and ensure them coming true. In England, it was said if an unmarried girl fasted on Midsummer Eve and at midnight set her table with a clean cloth, bread, cheese and ale, then left her yard door open and waited, the boy she would marry, or his spirit, would come in and feast with her.

Magick crowns Midsummer. Divining rods cut on this night are more infallible, dreams more likely to come true. Dew gathered Midsummer Eve restores sight. Fern, which confers invisibility, was said to bloom at midnight on Midsummer Eve and is best picked then. Indeed, any magickal plants plucked on Midsummer Eve at midnight are doubly efficacious and keep better. You’d pick certain magickal herbs, namely St. Johnswort, hawkweed, vervain, orpine, mullein, wormwood and mistletoe, at midnight on Midsummer Eve or noon Midsummer Day, to use as a charm to protect your house from fire and lightning, your family from disease, negative witchcraft and disaster. A pagan gardener might consider cultivating some or all of these; it’s not too late to buyat herb-oriented nurseries, the Herbfarm outside Fall City the chief of these and a wonderful place to visit, if a tad pricey. Whichever of these herbs you find, a gentle snip into a cloth, a spell whispered over, and you have a charm you can consecrate in the height of the sun.

In northern Europe, the Wild Hunt was often seen on Midsummer Eve, hallooing in the sky, in some districts led by Cernunnos. Midsummer’s Night by European tradition is a fairies’ night, and a witches’ night too. Rhiannon Ryall writes in West Country Wiccathat her coven, employing rites said to be handed down for centuries in England’s West Country, would on Midsummer Eve decorate their symbols of the God and Goddess with flowers, yellow for the God, white for the Goddess. The coven that night would draw down the moon into their high priestess, and at sunrise draw down the sun into their high priest. The priest and priestess then celebrated the Great Rite, known to the coven as the Rite of Joining or the Crossing Rite.

Some of Ryall’s elders called this ritual the Ridencrux Rite. They told how formerly in times of bad harvest or unseasonable weather, the High Priestess on the nights between the new and full moon would go to the nearest crossroads, wait for the first stranger traveling in the district. About this stranger the coven had done ritual beforehand, to ensure he embodied the God. The high priestess performed the Great Rite with him to make the next season’s sowing successful.

In the Middle Ages in Europe, traces of witchcraft and pagan remembrances were often linked with Midsummer. In Southern Estonia, Lutheran Church workers found a cottar’s wife accepting sacrifices on Midsummer Day, Juhan Kahk writes in Early Modern European Witchcraft: Centres and Peripheries, edited by Bengt Ankarloo and Gustave Henningsen. Likewise, on Midsummer Night in 1667, in Estonia’s Maarja-Magdaleena parish, peasants met at the country manor of Colonel Griefenspeer to perform a ritual to cure illnesses.

In Denmark, writes Jens Christian V. Johansen in another Early Modern European Witchcraft chapter, medieval witches were said to gather on Midsummer Day, and in Ribe on Midsummer Night. Inquisitors in the Middle Ages often said witches met on Corpus Christi, which some years fell close to Midsummer Eve, according to Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, by Jeffrey Burton Russell. The inquisitors explained witches chose the date to mock a central Christian festival, but Corpus Christi is no more important than a number of other Christian holidays, and it falls near a day traditionally associated with pagan worship. Coincidence? Probably not.

Anciently, pagans and witches hallowed Midsummer. Some burned for their right to observe their rites; we need not. But we can remember the past. In solidarity with those burned, we can collect our herbs at midnight; we can burn our bonfires and hail the sun.

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Today’s Runes for June 20 is Berkana/Growth reversed

Berkana / Growth reversed

 

Aspects, hindering your growth are frightening you. Carefully revise your part in that process and the part of the others involved. If you realize, that you’ve put your own wishes above all, you might have found the source of the blockage. Gently free yourself from it and put new energy into reaching your goals. A positive outcome is guaranteed.
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Feng Shui Tip of the Day for June 20

For a more inviting love life, make the bed each and every day. Keep fresh flowers in the boudoir for renewed energy.

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