Posts Tagged With: Book of Shadows

Let’s Talk Witch – Rites of Passage

Let’s Talk Witch – Rites of Passage

Rites of passage are rituals that mark important moments in the wheel of human life. The birth of a child, coming of age, the death of a loved one, marriage, and eldership are five rites of passage that immediately come to mind. At the birth of a child, Wiccans welcome his spirit into the world. This process often includes an introduction to all the elements and a blessing.

When that child comes of age, he has the right to become a fully recognized adult member of the community and begin participating fully in ritual (if he so wishes). The coming-of-age ceremonies vary from culture to culture but generally include elements of learning, initiation, and social affirmation. At this time, magickal tools are often presented as gifts and he is now expected to be responsible for them.

The marriage (or handfasting) ceremony allows the community to witness and support the adult’s choice of a life partner and links two spirits into a harmonious one (in which neither individual is lost). A magickal marriage often includes jumping over a broomstick or sword at the end of the ritual. This rite marks passage into a new life together and also fosters fertility.

Eldership honors a person’s wisdom and contributions to the community. Croning ceremonies are usually celebrated when the witch has completed her second Saturn Return (at the age of about fifty-eight to sixty). Some things do get better with age, and magick is certainly one of them. The Neo-Pagan community does not view old age as a detriment; it is respected and the insights that old witches offer are gratefully accepted.

At the end of a witch’s life, her spirit is ushered on to its next form of existence. This ritual is typically called a Summerland rite. At this gathering, people open the circle for the spirit of that individual to join them in one last dance and song, and to say their farewells. In this way, the circle provides peace and closure, trusting that everyone will meet again in another life.

Source:
“The Everything Wicca & Witchcraft book’
Author: Skye Alexander
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We Who Shall Inherit Ourselves

We Who Shall Inherit Ourselves

Author:  Brannawen Ravenhart

 

Over the course of the past decade or two, the giant surge of information on Paganism and Wicca, and Witchcraft in general has swelled to enormous proportions. Whereas I used to have to scratch pathetically through musty bookstores, or wait patiently for a dog-eared and battered single paperback copy of “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler at the library, or, if great luck would have it, borrow a book or two from some other fortunate soul who not only owned books, but might even know someone who knew someone who might have more; now I can walk into any mall, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Waldenbooks and find many different books in a wide range of topics, depths, and styles. I can surf the Internet and find information on anything I desire. Videos, DVD’s, television documentaries, are all available to me like chocolates in a candy store. What do I want to pick today? What do I wish to learn? What path do I want to know more about? What do I want to know of our own history? The plethora of books and authors allow luxuries today that were unheard of years ago. They also allow a freedom of choice that was never dreamed of. Before, we had to be happy with what we got, and if we did manage to get our hands on something, we often followed that specific information to the people and paths where we eventually ended up. The ways to wisdom had but few trails in the wilderness, and we ended up exactly where they took us.

In a way, this was a very good thing. The hardworking, dedicated individual could find their way only through the mysterious maze of the guidance of others. This led to strength and conviction and solidarity within the covens, groves, groups or even to the Solitary Practitioner, due to the inherent nature of the learning. There are pros and cons about the ‘opening of the Book of Shadows’ to the general public, and there are many valid points to each pro and each con. However, I know what I have felt transform in my own life. I have to base my experience and knowledge on what is real to me. No longer do I have to hide. I may still be cautious, but I know that I can stand in community now, shoulder to shoulder with other battle weary survivors of the shrouded times. I am not alone. I can now say ‘We.’ To that I add “We, who live in the Information Age.”

To me, it is the transformation of having to get up and manually changing one of the three grainy channels on a TV dial to holding the remote control for 400+ stations on digital cable. It is my great luck and fortune to be living in this time, the same way my grandmother and great-grandmother lived through horse and buggy days to rocket ships to the moon. I am a witness. I will never lose sight of that blessing.

This deluge of information, of availability, has propelled Paganism into the face of the forefront of our American culture. No longer complete outcasts, or hidden away, we now have been recognized, have constitutional protections, freedom of speech and religion that is allowed to any other person in this country, as it should be. And we are growing. The information feeding tube has given birth to fantastic amounts of interest, media coverage, watchdog organizations and it is a burgeoning vein that feeds back into itself. By this very exposure we have been given tools and opportunities to defend ourselves against ignorance and segregation, against defamation and harassment (and worse) from other faiths or beliefs who once shunned and persecuted us.

In the same breath, I will also say that I fully agree that now, our own worst enemy is ourselves. Over the years, I have run into many myths about Wicca and Witchcraft, from the days when I wrote my first little book on Witches at age seven (a horrible caricature which makes me squirm due to the naivetŽ it represents — I was equally fascinated and repelled by the wicked witch myth, ) up to today where I see infighting and slander from one group to another. Here is the irony: I conquered my own reservations and cultural enslavement to the myth of ‘evil and Witchcraft, ‘ and then found my way. I conquered my fear of the unknown and of unknown people when I reached out to find others who believed the way I do, and found my way again. I conquered my fear of speaking out and letting my family and friends know about my beliefs, and found acceptance. Now I find myself trying to conquer the anxiety and confusion caused by our own infighting.

I do realize that something this new, this tremendous, this explosive, this controversial will have, by it’s own combustive nature (the birth of a new wave of faith) these types of interwoven battles. Are they of supremacy? Possibly. Jealousy? Of what, I am not sure, but yes, of jealousy too. Does this make sense? No. But I think that at this time, we are not only here to find ourselves, but to find and define each other.

Every single one of us has at this time the potential to make a mark in this path. Relatively speaking, there are so few of us. Human nature makes us want to shine out, speak out, be noticed, be recognized. I have to admit to that. The key here is; what mark is it that we truly want to leave? This is why it is so important to be careful, think hard, and speak wisely. We all have the opportunity here to be heard, if we stop pushing a little. No biting, kicking, scratching or shoving, and as for our kids, well, they just better mind their manners also! We should take the opportunity now of our few numbers, and our own voices, to promote the greater good, rather than ourselves. We can all be heard. Perhaps in another millennium, surrounded by billions of Wiccans, Druids, Shamans and Neo Pagans of all paths, when we are culturally mainstream, we would not have this chance. But now? This is the time to work with each other. To be here and now in this time is such a gift. It is sobering to realize that not everyone can see this.

We are writing our own history. This has been said many ways, many times. This is so true. This is also what upsets me sometimes, when I see someone or hear someone who doesn’t seem to understand or recognize this, or who uses subversion or duplicity to undermine one faction just to promote his or her own. On the other hand, I also feel compassion. We do have to make mistakes to ‘get’ the lesson. That is why we are here, after all. The most we can do is hold onto that thought if and when we do make those mistakes ourselves. All we have to do is notice and thank the ones who do manage to speak out clearly, and fight not only the misconceptions about us, but also the misconceptions we have about each other. We hold in our hands the pen that will leave the mark on the wall of our history. Will it be graffiti? Or poetry? Caricatures? Or great art? We are at the beginning. Our forefathers are living here among us. They could even be ourselves. This is an endowment we should never lose sight of.

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WOTC Extra – Book of Shadows Blessing Ritual

Celtic & British Isles Graphics
Book of Shadows Blessing Ritual

Decorate your altar to Brigid with her cross or any other appropriate symbols because she is the Goddess of inspiration and poetry. She is also a warrior for the weak and Goddess of Mid-wifery. To me, she represents everything women embody – strength, nurturing, creativity. That is why she gives me power when I speak to her in my magickal workings and also why I chose her to call upon when blessing my BOS.

Perform this on a New Moon because this is the time for new beginnings. Light one white candle dressed in an appropriate oil with her name inscribed on it. Burn some incense as an offering. Then speak this prayer aloud while handwriting it in your Book of Shadows.

Great Goddess, Brigid
to you I send
a Witch’s words
from start to end.

I seek your help
so wisdom grows
and from my pen,
magick flows.

Please bless these pages
with your light
and keep this book safe
day and night.

Let the candle burn out on its own and save some left over wax. Take this wax and place it in something safe. Then secure it to your book’s blessing page for good luck. Brigid will inspire you with her magick every time you write in it.

Please note that this does not have to be done on Imbolc for the Gods are always with us. If done on Bride’s Day, however, your Book will be especially blessed.

(c) Kelli Sposato, 2003

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Let’s Talk Witch – Back to the Basics, Your Book of Shadows

Celtic & British Isles Graphics

Let’s Talk Witch – Back to the Basics, Your Book of Shadows

 

A Book Of Shadows

If you practice magick mainly alone, your Book of Shadows will be among your most valued tools. There are Books of Shadows of all kinds, from dark leatherbound volumes with pentagrams engraved in gold leaf on the front to equally effected ones scribbled in old school notebooks.

Many magickal practitioners have a large book of unlined paper in which they record spells they have created themselves, any particularly beautiful chants they write or speak and personal associations for different herbs, flowers and crystals. They may also record the names of those who need healing and the dates when healing was sent.

Other sections describe seasonal celebrations, wisdom received during full-moon meditation and other times of power. Some practitioners will create lists of protective angels and pre-Christian deities whose qualities form a focus for different strengths and qualities.

It can be incredibly useful to have to hand details of a particular incense mix created when you threw lots of ingredients into your mortar and it smelled fabulous.

There may be a chant you created one morning at a sacred site high on the moorlands when the sky was blue and you had the place almost to yourself (if you don’t count the children and the dog).

Even if you do buy a leather bound book, as your Book of Shadows, keep a notebook for your enroute scribbles (in a waterproof bag with a waterproof pen for days when the sky is not so blue).

Keep a back-up of any charts or lists you develop on computer and a back-up CD in case you ever lose your book–for the contents are more precious even than the book itself.

Make time at least weekly to update it and express your insights, while you are waiting for a candle or incense to burn through at the end of the spell. As such a time you will find that you are especially open to prophetic abilities, and the most down-to-earth among us may write beautiful chants when inspired by a particular ritual or spell.

Keep your Book of Shadows safe and only share its insight with those who will respect your tradition. One day it will become a heirloom of great spiritual worth.

The name “Book of Shadows” is also given to the formal handwritten reference book that is held by the High Priestess of a coven. Gerald Gardner, who founded the Gardnerian tradition, believed that the Book of Shadows, or grimoire, should be hand-copied from teacher to student, and some covens still adhere to this practice.

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I Left Wicca. I Came Back. So Can You.

I Left Wicca. I Came Back. So Can You.

Author:   Bliss Diva   

Incense wafts around me as I lift the dragon letter opener I’m using as an athame. The candlelight flickers around the room as I invoke the elements, call the Goddess and God, and settle into a comfortable spot in my circle for my pathworking. The wind howls outside, sending snow whipping onto my window, and I smile – I can feel the divinity and magic in the air around me. Everything is wild and mysterious and I feel so intimately connected to everything around me – I’ve never felt anything like this before. I feel so complete – and I’m only thirteen years old.

…fast forward a year and a half. I’m in a circle in the forest with three friends – the setting sun’s colors filter through the trees above us as we connect our hands. I’m the only ‘experienced’ one among us, so I let them know what to do. We begin to walk in a circle, chanting in unison: “Hecate, Hecate, Hearken well: lend your power to our spell; Hecate, Hecate, Hearken well: help us do our magick well.” Faster and faster we spun, our voices weaving into the branches above us. The world twirled, the air seemed to buzz, and suddenly, without any prompting at all, we stopped chanting and circling and threw our hands into the air – sending the energy into the universe above us, our wishes sent into the world. We stood there a moment, breathing deeply. Then, we collapsed giggling to the earth so we could ground. Everything was perfect. Everything was right. We made magick.

…speed up again. My Book of Shadows hasn’t been opened in several weeks. A thin layer of dust is on my altar. As I rush to put on my prom dress, I realize I forgot all about Imbolc, and Ostara, and the full moon the week before. I look guiltily at my altar, shrug, and walk out for a night of dancing with my friends – and hopefully, my crush.

..and again. I’m packing boxes. Pulling unused items from the corners of my room to either give away or put in storage. I find the stack of my old Book of Shadows on the bottom of my bookshelf. I sit on my carpet, and gaze at them in my hand. I feel a fleeting twinge in my heart, and then set the stack in a cardboard box, next to my other old journals. The box goes back into the closet, with the others. I turn to my travel backpack and begin to sort things to put in there. My hand, rustling through my jewelry box, touches my pentacle. I pick it up and watch it glint in the light. The writing around the edge reads, “I am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars.” I feel the twinge in my heart again, and decide to put it in among the few pieces of jewelry I was deciding to bring.

Just in case.

~*~

That was a year ago. Yes, I traveled. I met many people, and continue to do so. I delved deep into myself and discovered. And yet, I still felt a restlessness.

I was living in tropical paradise on the east coast of Australia – as I am now, for the next few weeks before I leave once more to travel. My life has been perfect – everything I dreamed it would be, ever since I was eight years old.

And yet. And yet.

I woke in the middle of the night, not understanding why I did not feel complete. Was it because I didn’t like the housekeeping job I was doing? No, that wasn’t it. Was it because I wasn’t writing as much on my blog as I would like to? No, that wasn’t it, either. Was it because I missed my family and friends? I missed them, but that wasn’t what was causing the restlessness, either.

I wrote to my darling soul sisters in the Goddess Circle over at leoniedawson.com. I told these beautiful hearts what was rustling deep in my soul, seeking their guidance and womanly advice. I got many replies, and many pieces of advice, and I pondered on it all.

And then, one night, I knew.

I found myself thinking of the spirituality I had spent my adolescence in. I’m now 19 years old – it has been six years since I first discovered Wicca. I remained in that path until I was about 16, after which, I chose not to identify as Wiccan. Why? What turned me away from that religion that made me feel so complete, so wonderful?

I felt shunned and misunderstood and judged by other Wiccans. Nothing I did was right – whatever I believed or practiced, I wasn’t doing it right, I wasn’t a real Wiccan, I was a fluff bunny, I need to do this this way and that that way, you’re harming the earth because you want to learn to drive, you’re harming this and that and this and that…on and on and on. No matter how serious I was, no matter how hard I tried to be intelligent and educated and learned in Wicca, I was judged for one small reason: I was a teenager. at 13, 14, 15, 16 years old, I was considered not smart enough, not mature enough. I was a teenager, thus I was just getting into it because I was “power-hungry” or wanted to be “cool” and I basically was, according to all the adult Wiccans I met, not “serious.”

I heard those things so often that I believed them. So I stopped indentifying as Wiccan. I stopped practicing what made me feel so alive. I continued to pray to the Goddess, and occasionally meditate, but that was the extent of my spiritual practice – even though I wanted desperately, deep within, to again do what made me feel so wonderful.

Eventually, that need got buried so deep I stopped consciously feeling it, even when I connected with some Pagans during my time in Western Australia.

But now.

The restlessness began growing as I began to blog more – as I began to get a grip on what life I truly wanted to make for myself; that is, a life in which my job is doing something I love, and making enough money from it to support my travelling. In my pursuit to create a quality blog with quality posts, I had to dig deep into myself and my Self, in order to write passionately and authentically.

And, in digging, I found a box I had forgotten, in the corner of the closet of my childhood room.

There is a lot of articles all over the internet, and on Witchvox, and on YouTube, and in books, that are all about “beginning Wicca” and “advanced Wicca” – but what about that in-between place, when all you have is doubt? What about that space in which you step off the path to explore new paths, and find yourself being called back, after all the doubt and fear and confusion and unknown and self-discovery, to your original road? What about that spot in the road that you walk on, far from the part you walked off of? Where are the books and articles for that spot?

Here’s one, among none – one for others who have struggled, walked away, and come back. Here’s one for those who already know the basics by heart, but aren’t quite knowledgeable enough anymore to go to the advanced Wicca.

You aren’t alone, darling.

This one’s for you.

Keep walking. Practice your magick. Do what your heart calls you to do.

I don’t practice the same Wicca I practiced at 13, or 14, or 15, or 16. The Wicca I practice now is gentler and more full of gigglesnorts and soaking my dancing toes in the sea.

You don’t have to practice the same way you did before. You’ve experienced other ways. You’ve seen. You’ve touched. You’ve loved, and hated, and cried, and giggled, and gotten your feet dirty on the dust of other roads.

Bring that wisdom to your new path. You are a bigger person now. You are a more beautiful person now.

The Goddess doesn’t mind if you no longer feel connected to elaborate rituals with lots of trinkets and candles and complicated words. She doesn’t mind if you aren’t vegetarian or an environmentalist. She doesn’t mind if you don’t agree with what other Wiccans say.

She doesn’t mind if the only spiritual thing you do is talk to Her while you walk to work in the morning.

I know She doesn’t mind that I mix up the Southern Hemisphere directions sometimes, and that I giggle when I fart during meditation. I know She doesn’t mind that I’m not into spells and big fancy altars anymore.

The time I had away from Wicca, walking on other paths – the time I had away from it, doubting, questioning, wondering – was exactly what I needed to get perspective on why I loved Wicca.
Wicca wasn’t a phase for me as a teenager. I wasn’t into it for the power, or because it was “cool.”

Wicca attracted me because it spoke to my core. I didn’t always translate it very well, because the jumbled emotions of adolescence got in the way, but what it all comes down to is that it resonated with a deep and wild knowing in my breast.

If you walked away from the path and then came back to it at a different point – there was reason for that. Wicca, in some way, spoke to your core as well – to the la loba sitting in your belly.

The wolf’s ears perked up, and a mischievous grin spread across her lips. Because she knew that you had found what you, your whole life, had been longing for.

Walk away. Come back. And walk away again.

Follow your wild knowing.

________________________________
Footnotes:
leoniedawson.com

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Paganism 101: Basics of Pagan Spirituality

Paganism 101: Basics of Pagan Spirituality

Author:   Cu Mhorrigan  

Introduction:

Paganism has received a lot of attention in recent years with the increased use of the internet, television shows like Charmed, Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, Angel and movies like The Craft, Harry Potter, as well as cartoons like Sabrina the Teen-Aged Witch.

Nowadays, it has become fashionable to announce oneself to be a Pagan, or Neo-Pagan, Wiccan or Witch – especially for teenagers, wishing to attract attention, adults trying to follow the latest fad in spirituality, or just as an excuse to justify weird or aberrant behavior.

However, calling yourself a Pagan is one thing; actually following the spiritual path is something else. It is my hope with this ‘class’ that I might explain in practical terms what it actually means to be a Pagan in our modern age and to assist those who wish to implement the following of this spiritual path.

Definition of the word “Pagan”:

The Word Pagan is derived from the Latin word ‘paganus’, which is loosely translated to mean “of the country”. It should be noted however that the usage of ‘paganus’ within the Roman Empire (Where they spoke Latin. Duh!) was always meant to be a slur meaning “hillbilly, redneck, hick, trailer trash, or white trash”. Much in the same way we would talk about guests on the Jerry Springer Show.

Later, when the Christian faith took over the Roman Empire under Charlemagne, it was used to describe those outside of the Christian faith and those in need of conversion. Not an improvement, because paganus was still pretty much of an insult.

Turning a negative into a positive:

It wasn’t until recently that the term ‘Pagan’ gained a more positive use with the resurgence of Pagan beliefs within the European and American Cultures. Those who sought spirituality closer to that of their “ancestors” adopted it. Eventually, it came to mean ‘those who follow the Old religions’ or ‘those who follow a spiritual path outside of the big three Abrahamic religions’. (What are the big Three Abrahamic religions?)

What DO Pagans Believe?:

An it harm none Do as thou wilt.

Speaking in general terms, Paganism is an earth-centered spirituality, which believes in the sacredness of all things, equality of all persons regardless of gender, sexual, and spiritual and social practices. The practices within Paganism are extremely diverse and open-ended allowing individuals to incorporate whatever rituals and belief systems they feel comfortable with.

Since there is so much diversity within our spiritual path, we stress personal liberty, and responsibility for one’s own actions. That as long as a person does not cause physical, mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual harm to others or himself, he/she is free to pursue one’s physical, mental and spiritual development as he/she sees fit.

Which brings me to my next point: Pagans, in general, do not proselytize! That means you aren’t going to get a call from us at three o’clock in the morning asking us if you are going to ritual or not. There is no High Priestess going around smacking people over the head if they haven’t worked on their Book of Shadows or if they bought the wrong candle for a personal ritual. Aint gonna happen.

Why? We are assuming that if you are here, you want to be here. We’ll give you information, let you know your options, and the rest is up to you. We aren’t going to stand on a street corner and scream at folks for not worshipping Athena nor at women/men who chose not to go around sky clad (That’s ‘nekkid’ for those of us who are really new to this).

The Law of Return (or sowing and reaping):

There are no true “sins” within our spiritual practices. There are only things that cause harm (or, as I like to call them, “Stupid Ideas”) and things that are helpful (Or as I like to call them, “Good Ideas”).

When you do good things, good things tend to happen to you (Eventually). When you do bad things, bad things tend to happen to you (Eventually). Of course, since we do not live in a static environment, and people tend to interact with one another, sometimes things get a little ‘fa-kakhed’. However, the Universe always balances Itself out in the end.

This concept is called, karma and it’s a relatively complicated matter, which I have here boiled down to its lowest common denominator. Of course, there are differing views of Karma, one of which is the Three-Fold Law What you do comes back three-fold, or three times, back at you. (If you are not sure as to whether an act will have some kind of repercussion, ask yourself, how much would I really like this done to me?)

(The self-defense caveat: Like all “Laws”, there are loopholes. If someone else is out to cause you harm in some way it would be a really STUPID (Bad Karma) idea not to protect yourself, or your family, or your friends. However, make sure you have as many facts as possible (like the guy is holding a knife and threatens to cut you up) before beating the oneness of all things back into these individuals.

Pantheons, Divinities, Spirits, Energies:

Okay this is where it gets a little tricky, but stay with me. The most common (and extremely annoying) question we as Pagans get is, “Don’t you folks worship Satan?” (Everyone roll his or her eyes here.)

The answer to that is a resounding, “NO!” For the most part, you need to keep in mind that Paganism is a separate religion from Christianity. Hence Satan (Whom I call, the Christian God of Evil and Nastiness) is not a part of our pantheon. Sorry…

For the most part (depending on the tradition you follow) the Pagan concept of Divinity falls under one of the following expressions:

Duo-Theism: (Duo=Two or Dual, Theos=Divinities):

The Worship of a Co-Equal God and Goddess, each having unlimited power, compassion, wisdom, energy or what-have-you, but maintaining different roles and functions.

The God is aggressive, powerful, sexual adventurous, skillful. He handles the Male side of fertility.

The Goddess is nurturing, passionate, creative, sensual and artistic. She oversees the power of creating life through birth and the Female side of fertility.

This belief is widely held by the Wiccans and Wicca-like factions of Paganism.

Poly Theism: (Poly=Many, Theos=Divinities) The belief in multiple Gods and Goddesses.

Many folks see these Gods as extensions of the God and Goddess (i.e. Monism) with each one taking on different aspects at the time of their encounter with the worshipper. Others (like myself) believe that They are actually separate entities with Their own personalities, quirks and motives.

Not every god or goddess is a real people person nor does every god and goddess have a laid back attitude. If you are going to get involved with a particular deity, you had better make sure you do a LOT of research as to what they like, don’t like, and if a particular god or goddess is right for you. Otherwise your life will get extremely interesting in a bad way.

The third school of though in polytheism is the idea of the gods and goddesses being archetypes within a person’s own psyche. This is sort of like a piece of our own subconscious wrapped up in a costume and a mask in order to teach our conscious minds lessons they need.

Of course, there is more than those three Schools of thought, but I’m just giving the basics here.

Pantheism:

Simply put, this is the idea that the Divine is in everything; hence all things are a part of the energy we call god. Since all things are a part of god, all things are sacred and are expressions of the divine in some way, shape or form. When I worship a tree, I am worshipping the Divine; when I give food to a hungry stray, I am feeding the Divine; when I am hurting someone, I am hurting the Divine.

Then there is the Fourth Category:

I-have-no-Friggin-Clue-ism:

For the beginner, this is the best spiritual idea I can suggest. The idea is essentially, “I have no friggin’ clue if there is a Divinity or not, therefore unless I am shown otherwise, I will not say that the Gods are this way or that. I will respect the Power behind the name, but I will not pledge myself to him/her/it unless I have an absolutely good reason to.”

This is actually one of the safest belief systems to take as a new student of the Pagan path because you are open enough to receive enlightenment, but at the same time, you do not run the risk of making a total, complete ass out of yourself. The Gods will instruct you as They see fit.

Now of course, Pagans will usually incorporate not only one, but perhaps two or three of the ideas listed above. This usually comes from personal experience and cannot be learned any other way.
Keep in mind that it’s okay to shift from one idea to another or even to incorporate two or more of these ideas…it’s all good. Just find out what works best for you.

So How the Hades do I Become a Pagan? (Or stupid questions that are commonly asked)

Well, for the most part, it’s a matter of doing a lot of reading and a lot of self-exploration. It took me at least two years of studying online and reading books and attending classes to even consider myself a Pagan. A lot of the traditions under the banner of Paganism will have different views on training and initiation (think of it as baptism), and how one becomes a member of that tradition.

The best way is to start out attending Pagan gatherings, visiting bookstores and such, and talk to other Pagans. Eventually, you will either find a religious path that works for you or you will throw your arms up in dismay and run screaming back to your religion of birth. And there is nothing wrong with that. NOT AT ALL! We realize that the Pagan spiritual path is not for everyone, and we will not be offended. Just make sure you don’t tell people we sacrificed your cat and you’ll be cool with us.

Do I Need to Buy Special Clothes and Dress in Black?

The answer is: Only if you really want to. Yes, there are special robes some folks wear, but unless your coven says otherwise, you can pretty much wear what you want.

Just some basic suggestions: Wear something comfortable and wear something you won’t mind getting dirty. Most of our rituals take place outdoors and, while you may look really good in an Armani suit and Gucci shoes, there is a good chance your clothes will get messed up and your shoes scuffed.

Loose, light clothes in summer and spring is always a good idea, and warmer clothes in the fall are really smart. Most winter rituals will be held indoors, depending on the weather. If it makes you comfortable to wear black Witch clothes and pointed hats and cloaks… Knock yourself out…You’ll be getting lots of stares and odd looks (mostly from us), but all-in-all, if it makes you comfortable, then that is all that matters.

Do I Need to Buy Special Jewelry?

Again, only if you want to and if you enjoy it. Jewelry is a personal matter to the people who wear it. And it’s usually best to find a piece that says, “HEY! I LIKE YOU. WEAR ME AROUND YOUR NECK!” Otherwise, No special jewelry is required to be a Pagan.

Do I Need to Kill Something (like a kitten) and Drink its Blood?

No, you don’t have to kill an animal to be a Pagan. For the most part, we are animal friendly and don’t believe in killing a critter in order to work our rituals. Yes, there are some Pagan groups that practice animal sacrifice and it is left alone…but fear not, the only thing usually killed has already been slaughtered and put on the feasting table in a sacred bucket marked, KFC.

Do I Need to Become a Vegetarian?

Nope, being a vegetarian is a matter of personal preference and what you feel in your heart. While many of us are vegetarians, a lot of us aren’t. It may be a good idea to eat a little healthier, but no one is going to come down on you for eating meat or using meat-based products. However, you might want to do your own research and come up with your own choices.

So, What DO I Need to Do?

Excellent question. One, as I suggested before, do a lot of research, a lot of reading and, when in doubt, do more research. A lot of Pagans keep what is called a “Book of shadows”, which is just a fancy name for a Journal. Write down everything you learn in that book and when you get a chance, read it. If you see a cool article on the net, feel free to print it (for your personal use only, please).

To create a book of shadows, I would suggest buying a loose-leaf binder and fill it half-way with paper. It’s also a good idea to invest in a three hole punch. That way, you can put articles that you printed from the net and use them for later reference. Do not worry about using blood and special things to “make it official”. It is your study guide — your book — and so, make sure you personalize it to suit your needs.

When you feel you are ready, and you have found a religious tradition you feel comfy with, take that Book of Shadows and attend any class you can afford. A lot of places have very reasonable rates for their classes. The Learning Annex is one source, but so is your local Pagan bookstore. Just make sure you talk to the person running the store to make sure he knows what he/she is talking about. If you are not entirely comfortable in studying there, consider looking for another teacher. Remember, this is about YOUR spiritual growth and enrichment and you need to be in an environment conducive to YOUR learning.

Holidays, and Rituals:

There are eight major Holy Days during the Pagan year that a lot of us agree upon. There are also rituals that are held on the New Moon and the Full moon depending on how often your coven (A group of Pagans you worship with) meets.

The Eight Major Holidays are listed in the order they fall on:
Imbolc (February)
Spring Equinox (March 21)
Beltaine (May 1)
Summer Solstice (Litha) (June 21)
Lughnassadh or Lamas (August)
Autumn Equinox (Mabon) (September 21)
Samhain or Halloween (October 31 to Nov 1)
Winter Solstice (Yule) (December 21)

Each Holy Day represents a certain mythological event in our religion, which will be discussed by the High Priest (ess) in advance.

It’s usually a good idea to find out what you would need to bring so that you can best participate in the ritual.

Now most likely you are going to have a hard time pronouncing the names of the days when you first start out, so don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions; it’s the only way you are going to learn.

Tools For Rituals:

Energy: This is the most important, and since I am assuming people know Jack about Paganism, I’m going to make this explanation brief: When we perform rituals and cast spells, we are attempting to gather energy. This energy comes from the universe and ourselves. Depending on what we are trying to do, we use certain rituals, and tools. Think of it this way: It’s like gathering up a whole bunch of snow together. We eventually gather enough to make a snowball and then we pack it in and send it off to impact your friend. It’s basically the same thing. When we perform these rites, they help our minds to focus on gathering this energy and tell it what we want done. Energy is the most important part of any ritual, and without it, we are just looking stupid.

Cauldron: This is basically a black, three-legged pot to be used for burning incense and for other things. They range from tiny to huge and can be used to burn incense, burn paper, and make potions. Now cauldrons tend to be rather expensive, so if you are a bit “Price Sensitive” like me, find yourself one of those old fashioned iron pots that Mom uses to make rice. Make sure you clean it before and after use. If you have one of these in your own home and have had it for a long time, you are pretty much used to it and it is used to you. So, you really don’t have to “charge” it with energy.

Athemae: Essentially, this is a knife or a really small sword. This is used to direct energy raised up during rituals. THESE ARE NOT USED TO CUT PEOPLE (of any species). It can be used for cutting vegetables. Most traditions prefer a double sided blade, small enough to conceal. (You would be amazed how many cops will stop you for carrying a broad sword.) If you’re unable to get an athamae, it’s totally cool to make yourself a wand or use your index finger to direct energy.

Wands/Rods: Okay, these are wooden or crystal sticks also used to direct energy as well as to draw it to yourself. Wands tend to be no longer than your arm, while rods can be longer. Best way to get a rod is to go out on little walks in the park and look for a stick. Once you find a stick you like and that screams out for you to take it, take it home, and sand it and decorate it until you are totally comfortable with it. Viola! You have a wand or rod. If you have as much mechanical aptitude as a slug, ask around your local occult bookstores. Keep in mind they are going to be slightly expensive and you will have to charge it once you get it home.

Candles: Candles are used in rituals to help get your mind into the practice of Magic (No, I am not spelling magic with a K or a J…I’m keeping this as simple as possible. If you want to use the funky spellings in your own notebooks, knock yourself out. You’re not being graded here). Candles are lit in order to help get the mind into a state where it’s easier to put the patterns in for the energy to flow. I would strongly suggest getting candles of all colors and sizes and as many as you can afford. (Usually one of each color.) You can pick them up anywhere.

Incense: Like candles, incense helps the mind get energy together to cast spells. It’s a good idea to make your own incense or to purchase them from a botanica, or occult bookstore. Incense sticks may be colored, but it’s usually a good idea to purchase them based on their smells. Pungent or spicy incense is normally used to send stuff away. (Mainly because they are offensive.) Sweet incense is used to bring stuff to you. Earthy smells help to facilitate healing and to strengthen you.

Divination tools: Things like Tarot Cards, Runes and what not. These are mainly used to help you to make decisions or to gain some kind of insight as to what is going on around you. Keep in mind, these items themselves are not magical in and of themselves, but are based on your own intuition interpreting what you are seeing.

Books, books and more books: Like I said earlier, it is suggested you read religiously. It’s best to keep a library of things you have read or are about to read. Don’t just pick books only by one author, but of different ones. Some people may know a lot about what they are talking about; others are complete and utter horse feces. However, the only way you are going to find out is if you look for yourself and keep your Book of Shadows nearby while you read. If something sounds like nonsense, or if you aren’t sure about whether or not what is true within a book, do some research. It sounds like a lot of work, but this is your spirituality we are talking about here.

It is a good idea to question everything and find out if there is an agreement between the authors you have read. Another thing to keep in mind is that some folks are completely full of fluff and bluster while others deliberately water stuff down to keep from divulging too much about their path. And some are completely straightforward about the things they are writing about.

One of the best ways to learn about an author is find out when they are going to be doing a book signing near you. Get to meet them (Most book signings are free and most will give a short lecture about their book just to whet your appetite for it.) Some of the most intense learning experiences I gained were in attending some of these lectures; it’s also a great way to actually see the person who is writing.

Use your intuition…and don’t be shy about picking their brains. That is what they are there for. In fact, I would suggest doing the same thing at the store where you get your tools and books. It helps you learn a lot faster; especially when you ask Stupid questions. Yes you will get looks. Yes, you will even get the occasional shake of the head, But if you don’t ask, you wont know. It’s worth it.

Suggested Things to do:

Check out different groups that meet in your area. You can do this by attending open (public) circles or classes. Use them as a way to meet other Pagans and eventually find a group that you feel comfortable studying with. If you are Solitary Pagan, it helps to “meet and greet” other Pagans.

Look around for Pagan shops, botanicas and other places where you can get supplies. Most botanicas are devoted to Santeria or Voudu, but you can get some really good equipment at cheap prices.

Check out the local library, as well as the bookstore for things you can read about your particular pantheon.

Ask a lot of questions. Even stupid ones. It’s one of the chief tenets of Paganism to question everything you come across. If you get an answer that sounds like horsesh*t, then verify, verify, verify.

Things Not To Do:

Don’t panic; this seems like a lot of information, but it really isn’t. This is just the primer for your own research.

Don’t sweat if you cannot find a teacher right away, Nine times out of ten, they usually show up when you are ready to learn more about a particular aspect of your tradition.

Don’t start off calling yourself a High Something of a particular tradition. Most systems within Paganism have their own methods of teaching and credentials for clergy and what not. No faking!

Don’t be afraid of getting criticized; it’s going to happen. Learn to grow a thick skin, and if someone points something out to you, listen and check out your own motives and conscience. If the shoe fits, wear it. If it doesn’t, then don’t.

Don’t take everything at face value…Learn how to question what you hear and not be a total jerk about it.

Don’t try and convert people, It rarely works just put out information let people know where you stand and end it there.

Recommended Websites:

http://www.witchvox.com “The Witches’ Voice” —  It’s a great place to start since they have information about everything.

http://pantheon.org —  A great place to learn about the Gods of your chosen pantheon. It doesn’t have all the information, but enough for you to get your feet wet and do some research.

Yahoo.com — They have a plethora of Pagan groups and places where you can talk to people of different walks of life. It’s also a great way to meet Pagans in your area.

Google and other search engines — Another great website with links to thousands of Pagan websites.

Recommended Books:

The Truth about Witchcraft Today: Scott Cunningham
Urban Primitive: Tannin Silverstein and Raven Kaldera
The Book of Shamanic Healing: Kristin Madden
The Celestine Prophecy: James Redfield (Yes, it’s a novel but it helps to get an idea about energy-work and how energy can be gathered and stolen.)
The Wiccan Warrior: Kerr Cucuhain
Witchcraft Theory and Practice: Ly de Angeles
When I see the Wild God: Ly de Angeles
Drawing Down the Moon: Margot Adler (of NPR)
The Spiral Dance: Starhawk
Buckland’s Complete Witches Handbook: Raymond Buckland

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New, Old, or Returning to your Path…

New, Old, or Returning to your Path…

Author:   Darksky   

Firstly, like anything else in life no matter where you’re at in your stage, degree, or practice of the Magickal arts, you’re not the only one that has felt the way you do. We have all been overwhelmed, frustrated, unsure, or confused. New, old, or returning let me say congratulation and welcome! Taking the first step is always a big decision, but you did and now your here.

So now what? You have read everything in print, you have spoken to folks who practice the craft, you have heard from craft store owners, and of course people with their own witch/occult web site. I would say, take everything that you have heard with a grain of salt and do some research. Do not always take what you read or hear so literally. Getting into anything new or returning to it needs a point of origin.

Start with the basics, you cant do advanced work if you haven’t got a good working concept of the basics, and should you be rusty go back and review. True, there is so much to learn, but there are so many paths, traditions, and pantheons to experience. Patience, and being methodical will yield knowledge, safety, and rewards for all your hard work.

So…back to an origin, a jumping off point, Magick is the control of ones own environment, to be able to manifest change in ones self and ones surrounds. So how do we achieve this if we are not in control, distracted, or unsure? To just read books, take classes, buy tools, light candles, deal tarot cards, and attend seminars and book signings are merely actions. Magick without intention and intuition is incomplete and void. A magician needs to have confidence, intuition, and be able to infuse, inject, and penetrate every single aspect of his or her work with intention.

While magick is the art of control in order to manifest, it is also a connection with the universe, nature and the Lord and Lady, that is true, but more importantly it is a connection with ones self.
Self is so vital to magick. True magick is practiced without ego, but without knowing ones self, is it possible?

New, old or returning to your path, your thinking am I ready, have I read enough, how will I know if I doing it right? You may be thinking “I need a teacher, some one to tell me if I’m doing it right.” Sound familiar?

What you need is to learn to listen to yourself, feel the flow of magick, feel nature, feel the universe, and make and keep that connection with the Lord and Lady in your own way. Magick is without doubt, but it’s not without planning, studying, execution, re-evaluation, and perfecting. Never sell yourself short, or underestimate your abilities. I mentioned it before in another post, all the best and great magicians all started out on their journey the same as you and I, with a curiosity and yearning to be more, a feeling akin to something was missing, in short a calling.

You don’t need a certificate, or a degree program that says you are a witch. You will know if you are or aren’t. Would all the great magicians have been lesser practitioners if they had not attended classes? Don’t get me wrong, instruction is good and having someone impart his or her experience and mistakes can be an asset to your practice, if used as a resource. You need to make the magick you practice and craft your own.

Take all you read, hear, try, and are taught and refine it to suit your needs. What works for one witch may not have such a positive outcome for another witch. Write your own spells, your own rituals, make your own oils/incense. Study with out doubt, listen to what the elements, spirits, and the universe have to offer you and make it your own. Practicing the craft and being a witch isn’t the same for everyone. The early magicians that started out with the Golden Dawn took what they learned and applied and formed their own brand of magick. Alex and Maxine Sanders developed their own brand of magick; as did Gardner and Crowley, just to name a few. Christopher Penczak was a Laurie Cabot taught witch and he went on to develop his own brand, as I’m sure Laurie Cabot did.

Magick is personal, intimate, and forever growing. It’s always developing within all of us. Practicing the craft is just that it’s practice, hard work and commitment. Constantly revisit your BOS, and your rituals and styles of writing and preparations to become more in tune with the surrounds and yourself, until you reach a level of proficiency and confidence and belief, but in no way cocky or arrogant. Re-evaluate your workings, combinations of colors, planetary hours, days and nights of the week, and most of all your intentions and intuitions.

We all get a little lax in any en-devour and may look to a quicker way of doing things, and sometimes that a good thing. Magick and the practice of it, is not about the quick and easy way. Slow, methodical, purposeful, with anticipation and excitement. Never bite the magickal hand that feeds you.

So new, old, or returning to your path go slow, prioritize, research, meditate, question, experiment, re-evaluate, and keep silent, remember Crowley said, “Every man and every woman is a star”. Believe it!

_____________________________________________
Magic is believing in yourself. If you can do that, you can make anything happen.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Paganism is wholesome because it faces the facts of life.
Aleister Crowley

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
Albert Einstein

Small is the number of people who see with their eyes and think with their minds.
Albert Einstein

“Do what thou will shall be the whole of the law, love is the law. Love under will.”
Aleister Crowley

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Who Inherits Your Knowledge?

Who Inherits Your Knowledge?

Author:   Lady GoldenRaven 

Here is a thought: For us older wytchs, have you ever thought about who you will pass down your wytchy items to when your time comes to cross over? By the time we hit our “golden years”, most of us have amassed a rather large collection of books, articles, herbs, oils, etc. So where does it go?

We have thought about how we divide up the money we leave for our children, which one gets the house and this one gets the car. But, has anyone given thought to the wealth of knowledge we have put into our Book of Shadows?

Who gets the special oils you created? What becomes of the beautiful staff and wand we created with our own hands?

Do we leave our sacred Book of Shadows to our covens?

Is there a special child or friend who will use this information wisely and keep its secrets to themselves?

Has anyone thought of donating them to the military or some other organization?

Will they find their rightful owners or will they end up in the trash or floating around space with all the missing socks.

As I approach my Crone years and since I have taught many students in the ways of the Wise, I have often thought about leaving my stuff to one of them. However, several of my students have been online. It would be hard to leave my trusted Book of Shadows to any of them, since I have only had little contact with them. So, that leaves the students I taught in person, who are now either in my coven or have moved on.

However, I am lucky. I recently met a woman who is 25 years old. She and I have become really close friends. She had several pagan friends (who are also my friends) who had taught her a little bit about their path.

She calls me Mama Beth, since I am older and she can talk to me about things one cannot talk to about with her real parents. Since I have no children of my own, she is now my adopted daughter. She is serious about her learning of the craft, so I am now teaching her my ways.

I thought long and hard about whom would be heir to my wytchy fortune. I do not own a home, so all I have to pass along is my wytchy stuff, my Led Zeppelin/Robert Plant collection, and my car.

All that has been decided. And now, I have made my decision as to where my Book of Shadows and the rest of my stuff shall go. My daughter shall be heir to all I have in my Wytchy World. I have such a huge collection of books on the subject that is would fill two walls!

I started thinking about this when a friend of mine nearly died a few months ago in a terrible accident. I put much thought and many hours of thought into this decision. Once I decided, I made my intentions clear.

When I told Debbie of my decision, I thought she would never stop crying. She was happy yet sad. It was something she did not want to think about.

Well, nobody wants to think about such things, but you must. She is the only one allowed to even touch my Book of Shadows, let alone look in it to read from it. She has come over for her lessons on time every time. She is learning the Craft well. Most of all–I TRUST HER.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I surely do not want my Book of Shadows, which I spent many hours working on, ending up in a dumpster somewhere. I wrote every word in that book in calligraphy. If anything, it is a piece of art. For one, I have the fortune of having bought a grand Book of Shadows from a great company called Brahm’s Bookworks (link enclosed at the end), which is like the one you see on the show Charmed. Mine weighs over 30 pounds. Now you see why I do not want it simply dumped in the trash.

Who do I know who would appreciate this? My daughter!

Where will the hundreds of jars of herbs end up? Herbs that I lovingly planted, nurtured, and harvested. I have many bottles of oils which I have made, not to mention the holistic medicines I have made from all the above.

My staff, which I lovingly hand picked, designed by me for me, blessed and consecrated and has become a part of me, I do not want to end up in a burn pile somewhere as trash. If, my daughter chooses to burn it in memory of me so that none can use my “magickal” staff, then so be it.

A few of my friends may end up with a few things–some of the herbs and oils and such. My stones and all I promised to a friend who also makes jewelry. So he can use what he wants for wytchy works and pick what he needs for jewelry.

Of course, some things, I can leave to the world via the net. Some of this I have accomplished already. But face it, out in the world of Cyberspace, one cannot be too sure of who they are dealing with. A lot of my stuff is found and will be found as I continue, on Pathways Seminary.

But, I thought I would offer up this little essay as a reminder to all not to forget about whom you will leave your most precious Wytchy wears to. Since the baby boomers are now into their Crone years or close to it as I am, there are a lot of us pagans who belong to this age group.

So while you are sitting there, making out your wills, reserve space and time to have it in writing, to whom you are passing down your religious and magickal items to. I know, whomever ends up with them shall appreciate both the deep thought you put into giving it to them, as well as appreciating the work you did, and all the knowledge contained within these items.

I am happy that I know where my knowledge is going to be used and appreciated.

Thank you,
LadyGoldenraven

___________________________________

Footnotes:
Link to Book of Shadows: http://www.brahmsbookworks.com/id2.html

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