Daily Archives: May 8, 2012

An Introduction to Traditional Wicca

An Introduction to Traditional Wicca

© 1987, Keepers of the Ancient Mysteries ( .K.A.M. )

Often Traditional Wiccans are asked to describe our religion and beliefs for interested people, who may or may not have confused us with other Pagan religions, with inversions of Christian/Islamic religions like Satanism, or with purely magical traditions with no religious base. There is a lot of flexibility in the ways that we describe ourselves, and one characteristic of Wicca is a large degree of personal liberty to practice as we please. Still, there is an outline that can be described in general terms. Many traditions will depart from one particular or another, but groups departing from all or most of these features are probably non-Wiccan Traditions attempting to stretch or distort the Wiccan name to cover what they want to do.

Mysteries and Initiation

Wicca is an Initiatory religion descended from the Ancient Mystery Religions. A mystery religion is not like Catholicism where a Priest is the contact point between the worshiper and the Deity, nor like Protestantism where a sacred Book provides the contact and guidelines for being with the divine. Rather a Mystery Religion is a religion of personal experience and responsibility, in which each worshiper is encouraged, taught and expected to develop an ongoing and positive direct relationship with the Gods. The religion is called a “Mystery” because such experiences are very hard to communicate in words, and are usually distorted in the telling. You have to have been there in person to appreciate what is meant. Near and far-Eastern religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Shinto are probably Mystery traditions, but Wicca is very western in cultural flavor and quite different than eastern religions in many ways.

A Blend of Pagan Roots

Most Wiccan Traditions, .K.A.M. included, have particular roots in the British Mystery Traditions. This includes traditions of the Picts who lived before the rise of Celtic consciousness, the early Celts, and some selected aspects of Celtic Druidism. American Wicca is directly descended from British Wicca, brought in the late 1950’s by English and American Initiates of Gardnerian, Alexandrian and Celtic Wicca. These traditions are a little like the denominations in Christianity, but hopefully far more harmonious.

While British Traditions are very strong in Wicca, or the Craft as it is sometimes called, other Western Mystery traditions feature prominently, including the ancient Greek Mysteries of Eleusis, Italian Mysteries of Rome, Etruria and the general countryside, Mysteries of Egypt and Persia before Islam, and various Babylonian, Assyrian and other mid-eastern Mysteries that flourished before the political rise of the advocates of “one god”.

What’s In a Name?

Wicca, Witchcraft, and “The Craft” are used interchangeably at times by many kinds of people. It is fair to say that all Wiccans are Witches, and many of us believe we are the only people entitled to the name. It is important to know that many people call themselves witches who are not in the least Wiccan, and that Masons also refer to themselves as “Craft”, with good historical precedent. Carefully question people on the particular things they do and believe as part of their religion rather than relying on labels. Any real Wiccan would welcome such honest inquiry.

Traditions and Flavor

There are specific Wiccan beliefs and traditions, including worship of an equal and mated Goddess and God who take many forms and have many Names. Groups who worship only a Goddess or only a God are not traditional Wicca however they may protest, although they may be perfectly good Pagans of another sort. The Wiccan Goddess and God are linked to nature, ordinary love and children — Wicca is very life affirming in flavor.

Because we have and love our own Gods, Wiccans have nothing to do with other people’s deities or devils, like the Christian God or Satan, the Muslim Allah or the Jewish Jehovah (reputedly not his real name). Christians often deny this fact because they think that their particular god is the only God, and everybody else in the whole world must be worshipping their devil. How arrogant. They’re wrong on both counts.

Traditional Wicca is a religion of personal responsibility and growth. Initiates take on a particular obligation to personal development throughout their lives, and work hard to achieve what we call our “True Will”, which is the best possibility that we can conceive for ourselves. Finding your Will isn’t easy, and requires a lot of honesty, courage and hard work. It is also very rewarding.

Wicca is generally a cheerful religion, and has many holidays and festivals. In fact, most of the more pleasant holidays now on our calendar are descended from the roots Wicca draws on, including Christmas, May Day, Easter and Summer Vacation. Wicca is definitely not always serious. Dancing, feasting and general merriment are a central part of the celebrations.

Wiccan Ethics

Wiccans have ethics which are different in nature than most “one-god” religions, which hand out a list of “do’s and don’ts”. We have a single extremely powerful ethical principal which Initiates are responsible for applying in specific situations according to their best judgment. That principle is called the Wiccan Rede (Old-English for rule) and reads:

    “An (if) it harm none, do as ye Will”

Based on the earlier mention of “True Will”, you will understand that the Rede is far more complex than it sounds, and is quite different than saying “Do whatever you want as long as nobody is hurt”. Finding out your Will is difficult sometimes, and figuring out what is harmful, rather than just painful or unpleasant is not much easier.

Initiation into Wicca

People become Wiccans only by Initiation, which is a process of contacting and forming a good relationship with the Gods and Goddesses of Wicca. Initiation is preceded by at least a year and a day of preparation and study, and must be performed by a qualified Wiccan Priestess and Priest. The central event of Initiation is between you and your Gods, but the Priestess is necessary to make the Initiation a Wiccan one, to pass some of her power onto you as a new-made Priestess or Priest and to connect you to the Tradition you’re joining.

Women hold the central place in Wicca. A Traditional Coven is always headed by a High Priestess, a Third Degree female Witch with at least three years and three days of specific training. A Priest is optional, but the Priestess is essential. Similarly, a Priest may not Initiate without a Priestess, but a Priestess alone is sufficient. Women are primary in Wicca for many reasons, one of which is that the Goddess is central to our religion.

One Religion at a Time

People often ask “Can I become a Wiccan and still remain a Christian, Muslim, practicing Jew, etc. The answer is no. The “one god” religions reject other paths besides their own, including each other’s. “One-god” religions also do not exalt the Female as does Wicca, and mixing two such different traditions would water them both down. Besides, you’d have to ask how serious a person who practiced two religions was about either one. Being Jewish is an exception, since it is a race and culture as well as a religion. There are many Wiccan Jews, but they practice Wicca, not Judaism.

Magick and Science

People interested in Wicca are usually curious about the magick that Wiccans can do. While magick (spelled with a “k” to distinguish from stage conjuring) is not a religion in itself, it is related to our religious beliefs. Wiccans believe that people have many more abilities than are generally realized, and that it is a good idea to develop them. Our magick is a way of using natural forces to change consciousness and material conditions as an expression of our “True Wills”. Part of becoming a Wiccan is training in our methods of psychic and magickal development.

Because we believe that everything a person does returns to them magnified, a Wiccan will not work a magick for harm, since they would pay too high a price. But a helpful magick is good for both the giver and receiver! Wicca is entirely compatible with the scientific method, and we believe all the Gods and forces we work with to be quite natural, not supernatural at all. We do not, however, hold with the kind of scientific dogma or pseudo religion that sees everything as dead matter and neglects its own method by trumpeting “facts” without honest examination of evidence.

Priestesses at Large?

Long ago the spiritual (and sometimes physical) ancestors of Wiccans were Priestesses and Priests to the Pagan culture as well as devotees of their Mystery. Now that a Pagan culture is rising again, some ask if today’s Wiccans could resume that role. This seems unlikely.

Today’s Pagan culture is very diverse and more interested in exploring and creating new forms than in building on existing traditions. A public role would either dilute our traditions or force them on an unwilling audience. The neo-Pagan community generally prefers “media figures” and rapid membership and growth. This is not compatible with our slow methods of training and Initiation, the insistence that livelihood come from work outside the Craft, or our needs for privacy. Our religion is not accepted in the American workplace or political system, and may never be. The most powerful Priestesses are often unknown to all but their Coveners. While all Wiccans are Pagans, all Pagans are not Wiccan, and it is best that it remain so.

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Two Witches

Two Witches

A Modern Craft Fairy-Tale

by Mike Nichols

Once upon a time, there were two Witches. One was a Feminist Witch and the other was a Traditionalist Witch. And, although both of them were deeply religious, they had rather different ideas about what their religion meant. The Feminist Witch tended to believe that Witchcraft was a religion especially suited to women because the image of the Goddess was empowering and a strong weapon against patriarchal tyranny. And there was distrust in the heart of the Feminist Witch for the Traditionalist Witch because, from the Feminist perspective, the Traditionalist Witch seemed subversive and a threat to “the Cause”.

The Traditionalist Witch tended to believe that Witchcraft was a religion for both men and women because anything less would be divisive. And although the Goddess was worshipped, care was taken to give equal stress to the God-force in nature, the Horned One. And there was distrust in the heart of the Traditionalist Witch for the Feminist Witch because, from the Traditionalist viewpoint, the Feminist Witch seemed like a late-comer and a threat to “Tradition”. These two Witches lived in the same community but each belonged to a different Coven, so they did not often run into one another. Strange to say, the few times they did meet, they felt an odd sort of mutual attraction, at least on the physical level. But both recognized the folly of this attraction, for their ideologies were worlds apart, and nothing, it seemed, could ever bridge them.

Then one year the community decided to hold a Grand Coven, and all the Covens in the area were invited to attend. After the rituals, the singing, the magicks, the feasting, the poetry, and dancing were concluded, all retired to their tents and sleeping bags. All but these two. For they were troubled by their differences and couldn’t sleep. They alone remained sitting by the campfire while all others around them dreamed. And before long, they began to talk about their differing views of the Goddess. And, since they were both relatively inexperienced Witches, they soon began to argue about what was the “true” image of the Goddess.

“Describe your image of the Goddess to me,” challenged the Feminist Witch. The Traditionalist Witch smiled, sighed, and said in a rapt voice, “She is the embodiment of all loveliness. The quintessence of feminine beauty. I picture her with silver-blond hair like moonlight, rich and thick, falling down around her soft shoulders. She has the voluptuous young body of a maiden in her prime, and her clothes are the most seductive, gossamer thin and clinging to her willowy frame. I see her dancing like a young elfin nymph in a moonlit glade, the dance of a temple priestess. And she calls to her lover, the Horned One, in a voice that is gentle and soft and sweet, and as musical as a silver bell frosted with ice. She is Aphrodite, goddess of sensual love. And her lover comes in answer to her call, for she is destined to become the Great Mother. That is how I see the Goddess.”

The Feminist Witch hooted with laughter and said, “Your Goddess is a Cosmic Barbie Doll! The Jungian archetype of a cheer-leader! She is all glitter and no substance. Where is her strength? Her power? I see the Goddess very differently. To me, she is the embodiment of strength and courage and wisdom. A living symbol of the collective power of women everywhere. I picture her with hair as black as a moonless night, cropped short for ease of care on the field of battle. She has the muscular body of a woman at the peak of health and fitness. And her clothes are the most practical and sensible, not slinky cocktail dresses. She does not paint her face or perfume her hair or shave her legs to please men’s vanities. Nor does she do pornographic dances to attract a man to her. For when she calls to a male, in a voice that is strong and defiant, it will be to do battle with the repressive masculine ego. She is Artemis the huntress, and it is fatal for any man to cast a leering glance in her direction. For, although she may be the many-breasted Mother, she is also the dark Crone of wisdom, who destroys the old order. That is how I see the Goddess.”

Now the Traditionalist Witch hooted with laughter and said, “Your Goddess is the antithesis of all that is feminine! She is Yahweh hiding behind a feminine mask! Don’t forget that it was his followers who burned Witches at the stake for the “sin” of having “painted faces”. After all, Witches with their knowledge of herbs were the ones who developed the art of cosmetics. So what of beauty? What of love and desire?”

And so the argument raged, until the sound of their voices awakened a Coven Elder who was sleeping nearby. The Elder looked from the Feminist Witch to the Traditionalist Witch and back again, saying nothing for a long moment. Then the Elder suggested that both Witches go into the woods apart from one another and there, by magick and meditation, that each seek a “true” vision of the Goddess. This they both agreed to do.

After a time of invocations, there was a moment of perfect stillness. Then a glimmer of light could be seen in the forest, a light shaded deepest green by the dense foliage. Both Witches ran toward the source of the radiance. To their wonder and amazement, they discovered the Goddess had appeared in a clearing directly between them, so that neither Witch could see the other. And the Traditionalist Witch yelled “What did I tell you!” at the same instant the Feminist Witch yelled “You see, I was right!” and so neither Witch heard the other.

To the Feminist Witch, the Goddess seemed to be a shining matrix of power and strength, with courage and energy flowing outward. The Goddess seemed to be holding out her arms to embrace the Feminist Witch, as a comrade in arms. To the Traditionalist Witch, the Goddess seemed to be the zenith of feminine beauty, lightly playing a harp and singing a siren song of seduction. Energy seemed to flow towards her. And she seemed to hold out her arms to the Traditionalist Witch, invitingly.

From opposite sides of the clearing, the Witches ran toward the figure of the Goddess they both loved so well, desiring to be held in the ecstasy of that divine embrace. But just before they reached her, the apparition vanished. And the two Witches were startled to find themselves embracing each other.

And then they both heard the voice of the Goddess. And, oddly enough, it sounded exactly the same to both of them. It sounded like laughter.

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Lesson 5 – The Daily Reading

LESSON 5

The Daily Reading

You are now ready to begin putting your tarot knowledge to work. Lesson 5 describes the Daily Reading. In this reading, you select a single card that becomes your theme for the day. The purpose is to heighten your awareness of one approach to life for a single twenty-four-hour period. It also helps you learn the tarot without strain or tedium.

 Let’s say you have drawn the Two of Cups for a daily reading. As you go through the day, you will watch for signs of this card’s special energy. The keywords for the Two of Cups card are connection, truce and attraction. In the morning, you notice that a colleague, who has been rather hostile, comes to your office to talk. You sense a truce, and you take advantage of it. In the afternoon, while working on a problem, you look for the connection between two approaches and find your solution. Later, at a party, you talk to someone who attracts you. On each occasion, you access the energy of the Two of Cups and allow it to guide your decisions.

At first, you may want to choose your daily card deliberately so you can avoid repeat selections and learn the deck more quickly. If you prefer, you can choose your card without conscious intervention. Here is the procedure:

  1. Shuffle the deck once or twice.
  2. Hold the deck face down in one hand and cover it with your other hand.
  3. Pause a moment to become calm and centered.
  4. Ask your Inner Guide to give you the guidance you need for the day.
  5. Place the deck face down in front of you.
  6. Cut the deck to the left and restack it.
  7. Turn over the top card as your card of the day.
  8. Return this card to the deck, and shuffle once or twice.

This procedure is easy to do on a daily basis, and it gives you an opportunity to connect with your Inner Guide regularly. Choose a time that works for you. Mornings are good because you can pick a card during your wake-up routine. You can also select one at night. You will be ready to put your card to use as soon as you wake up. It isn’t necessary to pick one time since your schedule may change. The main goal is to make the Daily Reading a part of your day so that your tarot work progresses.

Keep a journal of your selections. Later, you will find it interesting to trace the pattern of your choices. I started studying the tarot in earnest when I was spending my days caring for my two boys, then under five. One day I calculated the distribution of my daily cards to that point and found the following:

  • Wands – 24
  • Cups – 44
  • Swords – 41
  • Pentacles – 57
  • Major Arcana – 56

How clearly this describes my life at that time – heavy on the real world (Pentacles) and basic forces (major arcana) and not so heavy on individual creativity (Wands).

In your journal, jot down a few highlights of the day next to your entry. This will help you correlate the cards with your moods and activities; but keep it simple, or you will soon tire of the effort.

I wrote my journal entries using five pens of different colors – one for each category:

  • Wands = Red (Fire, passion)
  • Cups = Blue (Water, moods, emotion)
  • Swords = Yellow (Air, mentality)
  • Pentacles = Green (Earth, growth, plants, nature, money)
  • Major Arcana = Purple (spirituality, higher purpose)

Color coding helps you see at a glance the shifting tarot patterns of your weeks and months.

You will probably be surprised to find that you draw certain cards over and over. Of the fifty-seven Pentacles I recorded early on, I drew the Ace and Queen eleven times each! At home with my children, so many of my days reflected the themes of these two cards. The Queen of Pentacles is the ultimate nurturing mother. The Ace of Pentacles offers opportunities to enjoy the material side of life, and it doesn’t get more material than cleaning dirty diapers!

I picked these two cards so often that I became suspicious about them. I examined them closely one day to see if I had damaged them in such a way that I would be more likely to select them. They appeared no different from the others. I was simply drawn to them because they expressed my situation at that time. The cards you select frequently will also tell you about your concerns.

The most important step in learning the tarot is to take the cards out of the box regularly. The Daily Reading is the ideal solution. If you do one each day, you will absorb the character of each card quickly and easily.

Exercises – Lesson 5

The Daily Reading

Exercise 5.1 – Learning the Cards One By One

You can become more familiar with each tarot card by concentrating on a different one each day. This exercise takes a minimum of seventy-eight days, so it is quite a commitment, but, if you stick with it, you will know the tarot deck very well when you are done.

Decide now how you will choose your daily card during this learning phase. You can be systematic (first the Wands, then the Cups, etc.) or spontaneous. You can pick a card that catches your eye, or one that seems fitting for the day’s events. A single day on each card is enough, but you can take longer, if you wish.

When you have selected a card, read its information page at least once. Write down the keywords, and try to memorize them. They will help you remember the meanings of a card quickly. Study the details of the card’s picture as well. You may want to make a copy of the information page to refer to during the day. I don’t recommend carrying your card around as it could get lost or damaged. Start a journal, if you wish.

Exercise 5.2 – Establishing a Daily Reading Practice

When you have studied all the tarot cards at least once, begin drawing your cards without conscious deliberation. Follow the steps listed in lesson 5. Continue to make entries in your journal, if you have one. After a month or so, calculate the distribution of suits and major arcana cards. Do you notice a pattern that reflects your situation? Do certain card(s) show up frequently? Ask yourself why this might be so.

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Calendar of the Moon for May 8

Calendar of the Moon
8 Saille

Agni’s Day

Color: Red
Element: Fire
Altar: Upon a red cloth place a single torch, and light incense of cedar, and a bowl of melted butter mixed with warm milk, which is poured out as a libation during the chant.
Offerings: Speak the truth.
Daily Meal: Hot and spicy.

Invocation to Agni

Lord of the fire that brought us
From savages hunting in the cold
To humans who cluster around the light,
Fire that warms us, cooks our food,
Lord of golden teeth and swift tongue,
You who live in no god’s palace
For you are at home in every home,
Teach us your lesson of truth.
When the storm god, best friend
Of you, the god of lightning’s fire,
Stole a woman and confided only in you,
Fire god, you went and told her seeking lover,
And she was rescued, and you were cursed
By your own friend to be known always
As the One Who Eats All Things.
Yet you held your ground, telling him
That truth is higher in your estimation
Than any bond of the heart,
And to turn your eyes away from wrongdoing
Is a wrongdoing in itself.
Teach us to hold close to your truth,
Truth that burns and scalds and blisters,
Truth that is so painful that it can be mistaken
For some kind of small death.
This is the gift of the Fire God,
Agni the friend to all, who will play no favorites,
Scorch us with your purifying fire.

Chant:
Fire flow, fire flow through me,
Bonfire, brush fire, lightning strike.

[Pagan Book of Hours]

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Calendar of the Sun for May 8th

Calendar of the Sun
8 Thrimilchimonath

Fulla’s Blot

Colors: White and blue
Element: Air
Altar: Upon cloth of white and blue set twelve white candles, one sky-blue candle, a great jug of mead, and a sheaf of grain. Throughout the next eleven days, the altar stays the same, and one more candle is lit. On this day, light the blue candle and one white candle.
Offering: Inventory the food supplies. Do things correctly.
Daily Meal: Soup or stew. Bread with cheese, meat, or jam.

Invocation to Frigga’s Handmaidens

Call: Twelve maidens hold the halls of Asgard!
Response: Twelve virgins hold the pillars of heaven!
Call: Twelve mysteries hold the luck of Asgard!
Response: Twelve virtues hold the Law of heaven!
Call: Twelve words of power resound through Asgard!
Response: Twelve stars light up the dome of heaven!
Call: We call upon the power of Virtue!
Response: We call upon the mysteries of heaven!

Invocation to Fulla

Hail, Asgard’s princess,
Younger sister of the Queen!
Hail, maiden of plenty
Who fills the pots and larders,
Who gives us abundance in all things
That we may in turn give hospitality.
Hail, maiden of the fields
Who makes the grain rise fine and proud!
For abundance is more than mere riches,
It is the careful accounting of fairness
So that everyone gets enough for survival
Enough for happiness
And enough to pass on to others.

Chant:
Cloth of honor from the thread of truth
Weave your heart into all you offer

(A libation of mead is poured out for Fulla, and the jug replaced for the next day’s ritual. Invite outsiders in for dinner on this day, in honor of the virtue of hospitality.)

[Pagan Book of Hours]

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Current Moon Phase for May 8th – Full Moon (Waning)

(waning/180-135 degrees)

by Jan Spiller

A veil of self-absorption is lifted and suddenly you gain access to an unbiased view of others. This is a rare moment when you can see yourself objectively and become aware of whether or not what you want in your heart is actually beginning to manifest in your life. Traditionally, the Full Moon phase stirs emotion, and this is because when you “see” what is happening, you may become upset if you’re experiencing the “same ole, same ole” — rather than the things you would like. If the Full Moon phase is a disappointment, on the next New Moon it’s time to take creative action in the direction of your dreams.

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Magickal Correspondences for Tuesday, May 8th

Magickal Intentions: Courage, Physical Strength, Revenge, Military Honors, Surgery and the Breaking of Negative Spells, Matrimony, War, Enemies, Prison, Vitality and Assertiveness
Incense: Dragon’s Blood, Patchouli
Planet: Mars
Sign: Aries and Scorpio
Angel: Samuel
Colors: Red and Orange
Herbs/Plants:Red Rose, Cock’s Comb, Pine, Daisy, Thyme and Pepper
Stones: Carnelian, Bloodstone, Ruby, Garnet and Pink Tourmaline
Oil: (Mars) Basil, Coriander, Ginger

Mars rules Tuesday. The energies of this day best harmonize with efforts of masculine vibration, such as conflict, physical endurance and strength, lust, hunting, sports, and all types of competition. Use them, too, for rituals involving surgical procedures or political ventures.

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The Wicca Book of Days for May 8 – Soothing Sage

The Wicca Book of Days for May 8

Soothing Sage

Sage not only has many mouth-watering culinary uses, but is valued by herbalists for its antibacterial and antiseptic properties. Astrogically associated with the zodiacal sign of the Bull, which prevails on May 8, sage is often used to soothe a sore throat, and it is thought that its efficacious action is at least partly due to “Taurus’ influence over the throat. So if your throat feels scratchy and raw and you are finding swallowing painful, brew a pot of sage tea (use 1 ounce of dry sage, or 2 ounce of fresh leaves, to 1 pint of boiling water) to gargle with or sip.

Miraculous Manuka?

If you are prone to sore throats invest in a pot of Manuka honey – check that it has a UMF (unique Manuka factor) rating – and you may find that it’s worth its weight in gold. For many people swear that swallowing a teaspooon or two of this New Zealand honey (neat) works wonders.

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