Posts Tagged With: Christianity

Celebrating Other Spirituality, Folklore & Legends 365 Days a Year – Christmas Eve, Christmas, Yule

verliebte Vogelwelt

December 24 and 25

Christmas Eve, Christmas, Yule

It is generally accepted that the birth of Christ on December 24th is the invention of some overzealous authors who were trying to create some sort of symmetry between Paganism and Christianity. According to the late fourth-century Scriptor Syrus, it was the custom of the Pagans to celebrate the birthday of the sun on December 25, at which time they kindled lights in token of festivity. The Christians also participated in these solemnities and revelries. Accordingly, when the administrants of the church observed that the Christians had a preference for the festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day.

The Pagan feast that was replaced by Christmas was of far older origins and may have been built upon the cult of Mithras, who, for the Persians, was the creator of the universe and manifestation of the Creative Logos, or Word. His birth on December 25 was witnessed by shepherds. After many deeds, he held a last supper with his disciples and then returned to heaven. Some believe that, had Christianity not taken hold when it did, Mithraism very well might have become the world religion.

For more that three centuries Christ Mass was a moveable feast, celebrated on the Epiphany (January 6), the day that, according to biblical account, Jesus manifested himself to the Magi. The Western date of December 25 was fixed to coincide with the Roman midwinter festival of the Kalends, which was preceded by seven days of tribute to their God of agriculture, Saturn.

Many of the Yuletide customs we observe today were common to various thanksgiving days and new year’s rites. For example, the hanging of greenery comes from an old ivy-worshiping worshiping cult dating back to the Dionysian revels in ancient Greece; mistletoe was valued-almost worshiped-by the Druids; ids; and gift exchange most likely generated with the Saturnalia. The Christmas tree was introduced by the Prince Albert of Saxony in 1844 and was an adaption of the Paradeisbaum(decorated tree of life) from the medieval drama of the Tannenbaum.

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How Do Pagans React To Interfaith Relations?

How Do Pagans React To Interfaith Relations?

Author: Silver Faery 

How do interfaith relationships affect our lives? Is the struggle worth it in the end? How can we learn and grow from the people involved in this situation? Those are but a few of the questions that run through my mind.

My main view of an interfaith relationship is with my husband. He is a Satanist, and currently a member of the CoS; he is also in the United States Military, serving to protect our freedoms. He was Pagan when I met him, but over time decided to finally follow what felt right to him, and within the last two years took the path to get him into that area. He views himself as a “God, ” but still won’t deny that there isn’t something out there helping out and guiding. He just won’t worship them anymore. After being in Afghanistan once already, he learned that the Gods don’t really watch and – in his mind – care about humanity. Does this make him “evil” or “damned?” Well it depends on who you ask.

To me as long as he is loyal to his friends and family, truthful, and hard-working; as long as he will help those who he thinks deserves it, and is willing to fight for what he feels is right, I will support him. Though it does get comical at times:

Last year, we had taken our daughter to the park in town. On the way out I happened to notice him talking to a young teenage girl. I walked up beside him…in time to hear her ask him if he was Pagan. He stopped mid-sentence and said, “No, why do you ask?” She pointed to his Baphomet and said it was a Pentacle. He held it up for her to get a closer look. She then realized her mistake and stepped back like he would attack her! He then noticed me standing beside him, looked over and said, “But my wife is Pagan.” I wear a ring with a Pentacle on it, nothing too noticeable, but still there if you know what you are looking at. She didn’t see one around my neck. I showed her my ring. She smiled, and then looked shocked (for lack of a better word). We both get that a lot. She was Pagan; she had pulled her Pentacle out from under her shirt and was hoping to talk to him about Paganism. Obviously she had a lot to learn if she couldn’t understand why a Pagan would be married to someone like that! Then again, it seems to me a lot of people have to learn about Satanism before jumping to the wrong conclusions.

We have talked about how we are going to raise our children. My husband wants them to choose; I want to give them a “base” to compare other religions to. Both of us agree that in the end it will be the kids’ choice on what they want to be. Be it Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, or Satanist…we have the sources for all.

My group of friends is interesting as well. We are mostly Pagans, but we get Christians and have some good Christian friends that hang out with us as well as Atheists and Satanists. We are also one of the few (and I mean few) Gothic Groups in town. Which at times DOES not help our image any. We amazingly get along well: we all love similar types of music, most of us love to learn, and love to debate. We could care less about how a person was raised, what they believe in, as long as they don’t try to force it on anyone else around us. The Christians in our group are pretty opened-minded. They have no problems with us doing our rituals, just as we have no problems if they go to church. If anything, it makes for some interesting discussions. I have had them ask me questions, questions that most Christians can’t or won’t answer about Paganism. One actually asked me an interesting one. He asked if we could go to confession and get help from a Priest with us being Pagan. I told him no, we are not Catholic, so therefore we could not get help from that Christian denomination. He looked shocked that they would not help. This area is mainly conservative Catholic (which can be rather interesting at times).

I had a friend tell me that he was approached by “friends” when he first started to hang out with us…warning him that the Witches were out to take his soul and send him to Hell! He looked at them and said, “No, not really.” The guy didn’t get it. Finally our friend said, “Well I hang out with them because they are more Christian then you are and most of the people you know!” Something that we all took as an honor (especially from the friend it came from).

I had one friend tell me that his parents told him to stay away from us (after seeing one of us walking on the street). His reply was, “I am in my late 20’s and those are the friends that helped me out when I had to stop drinking! I will not stop being friends because they are Witches and on top of that Goth.” He was an alcoholic and was court-ordered to stop drinking; all of his other friends tried to slip alcohol into his drinks. We were the only ones that supported him, even though we all drink. Amazing how influence gets passed along and support gets remembered at the most interesting times.

We have to worry about people thinking we will curse them or even hex them. That’s a laugh, but there are times we use that to our advantage; it keeps them away from us. Probably not the best idea, but we get desperate at times. Do we ever do anything like that? Nope, but we aren’t going to tell them that. Because they wouldn’t believe us even if we did.

Dealing with Christians in general is interesting. If both sides are willing to listen and learn, you can learn wonderful things from each other. The problem arises when one or both sides don’t want to listen. I think the best time I have ever had in this town was when The Passion came out. For once I had people that were willing to listen and learn what Paganism was. Conversations were about different religions and what makes each one unique and how it improves your life! I just wish that it was like that always, not just because a movie came out…especially a movie that described one faith so strongly. And yes I did go and see it – on opening night actually! That was why I could understand where the people I was talking to were coming from. Just as I once in a while re-read the Bible and other Holy Books, again to keep that basic understanding. As well as why I am on Christian Forums, just as I am on Pagan. I think all religions are valid to the believers and that even though it is not for me, I should at least learn about it, just so I know where the other person is coming from. Being a true Christian is a way of life, just as being a Pagan is a way of life. It is much more than a religion or belief or path: it is what helps us decide on everything we say, do, and live. It should change as we learn and grow. Paganism is more fluid then Christianity ever will be, but if a person follows Christianity, you have to take into account that you might never get them to understand. And hopefully through your and all Pagans actions…you might one day get them to at least admit you are not a bad or evil person because of your beliefs.

Enough with Christianity! I know of some Pagans that are just as set in their ways. You know the Pagans that you run into in a chat room on-line. Those are the ones that call all other Pagans “fluffy-bunny” because they don’t agree with their views of what Wicca or Paganism is. The ones that, if you even think of correcting them, you are iggied on the spot. Those irk me to no end! Why? Because it’s Pagans like them that prove to Christians we are all idiots, just as unwilling to learn about them. It goes both ways people – you go into a room bashing Christianity or Paganism (depending on the main religion of the room) and you are going to get a fight and not find one person willing to listen to you. BUT if a person comes into a Pagan room that is Christian and asks a serious question and is willing to learn, DON’T chase them off; they might actually either help their local Pagans or become Pagan themselves. We don’t recruit, but if someone is interested, it would be in our favor to help them.

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Celebrating Other Spirituality 365 Days A Year – Festival of Intium Aestatis/Death of Julian the Blessed

The Witch AltarJune 27th

Festival of Intium Aestatis/Death of Julian the Blessed

 

In ancient Rome, the festival of Intium Aestatis kicked of the beginning of Summer in honor of Aestas, the Goddess of Summer.

It was on this day in 363 c.e., that Julian “The Apostate” died from a fatal wound received in battle. Julian was name “The Apostate” by Christian writers because he reinstated the Pagan cults after Christianity had become the established religion of the Roman Empire.

Julian was brought up in Cappadocia and given a Christian tian education, but he had a passion for the classics and the old Gods. When Julian became emperor, he openly professed his Pagan beliefs and attempted to revive some of the older ideals and a tolerance for all religions. Unfortunately, his philosophy losophy did not sit well with the Christian bishops, who were politically influential at the time.

There was little support for Julian’s return to Paganism, despite his stand. Furthermore, many of the Roman officials disliked Julian’s efforts to improve the lot of the Jews in the Empire or his preparations for a long war with Persia. Julian set out with some 65,000 infantry and cavalry in March 363. He crossed the Syrian desert, capturing small cities along the way. He reached Ctesiphon in June, but it could not be breached. He ordered a tactical retreat up the Tigris. On June 26, he was wounded in a skirmish, and he died on June 27. It is very possible that his death was ordered ahead of time by disgruntled politicians and carried out by one of his own soliders.

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Perfectionism And The Craft

Perfectionism And The Craft

Author: Phoenix Forestsong

The moon is high and heavy; its silvery light beams down, illuminating this sacred outdoor altar. The wind blows softly and lightly upon your face, bringing with it the moist fragrance of forest night. With you are members of your coven, all here to celebrate nature’s beauty and grace together as one. It’s nearly your time to speak, your lines have been memorized, your actions recited, and your will is strong.

It’s time.

As you approach the altar, assuming the masculine stance of the horned God, you begin to speak your lines, making a wide gesture with your hands as proscribed, and knock over the Lord’s candle. The flame sputters out, gold wax courses down the natural rock stone of the altar and your Coven’s Book of Shadows gets splattered.

Of course you feel horrible, and very horrified, but the family of your coven just laughs and passes it off. You’re still shaky, worried that you ruined the ceremony, and your performance is off a little, but you eventually recover and enjoy the evening.

The question is, did you actually ruin the ceremony?

The answer is, of course not! There is magick in laughter, and magick in mirth, as humans we are not perfect beings, in fact, even our Gods are not perfect beings, and this article has been written to accentuate that point.

Perfection in the Eyes of God

My background, and that of many modern-day Witches, is from Christianity. While I’d love to say that Christianity is a loving, caring, and forgiving religion, for me it was not the case. I was raised to know a God that demanded perfection from everything in his presence, including his people and their gifts. Because of the absolutism of Christianity, at least in some branches, “thou shalt not…”, “…the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ…”, “…burn in a lake of fire…, ” etc. it tends to breed perfectionism in its followers. A God that demands perfect worshipers will breed perfect worshipers.

From early on I learned that God loves you, but if you ever break one of his rules it’s an eternity of punishment for you. As most sane people know, this type of attitude is not actually love, it is abuse through fear, and it was my childhood.

Of course, as I grew older, my understanding of the world changed, I became a new person, a deeper individual, a man who learns, studies, and thinks. Always though, as a Christian, I kept running to a god who never changed, who was as inflexible in his rules as he was in his heart. Do as I say, when I say, and how I say, and you can come spend your time worshiping me in heaven after you’ve denied your passions here on earth.

See where I’m going with this? Now, that’s not all of Christianity, but it is a big factor in Christianity for a lot of branches of that faith; the inflexible, omnipotent, omnipresent, perfect God. So, I came to learn that only the best, most perfect stuff went before God, and as a human I kept falling short, as we humans tend to do. Obviously I came to learn another path and I now follow my own Wiccan way. However, I brought along some of my old Christian baggage, and I feel that many other Witches do, or have as well.

Perfection Shmerfection

When I first truly devoted myself to my path, thus ending my relationship with Christianity, I brought along a lot of old baggage. For one thing, I did not attempt to do things for fear of failure. I did not want to present failure to my Gods, I did not want my Gods to see me in the light of failure, and I wanted to prove to be a worthy Witch. It may be something that we’ve all gone through, or it may be that I was just a bit off my rocker in the whole Spirituality department. Regardless, I let my fear of failure, my fear that my work would not be good, or good enough to interfere with my worship.

Of course as time passed I got over that stage and began to see things in a new, logical, and very real light. Even our Gods are not perfect. Do you work with the Greek pantheon? Do you worship with Zeus? Zeus may have been the Master of Mount Olympus and head of the Gods, but he wasn’t perfect by any means. How many children did Zeus father and how many were conceived under false pretense? Zeus’s fatal flaw is that he could not keep his godhood in his toga. Those who worship him know this and accept it as his flaw. Let’s look at another Divine Being.

Hera is sacred as the Goddess of Women and Marriage, yet she was not too kind to children. After Zeus fathered Athena without her, Hera bore Hephaestus without Zeus and, upon seeing his ugliness; she threw her newborn child from Mount Olympus. Hera…the role model for motherhood.

In another tale, Hera tries to prevent the birth of Heracles by tying the legs of Alcmene, his mother, into knots to prevent his birth. When Alcmene’s servant informed her that the child had already been born, she let go of Alcmene’s legs in surprise. With her legs free, Alcmene finished birth and Heracles was born. Hera, furious at being tricked, turned the servant into a weasel. Do we see Hera as a wonderful role model for all women to follow, or do we see Hera as she is, a Goddess, but a flawed Goddess.

Obviously there are many more examples of frailties and flaws from Gods of pantheons the world over. The primary difference is that as Pagans, we understand that perfection is an unattainable goal. It’s unnatural. We learn that it is not the end result that is important, rather it is the path we have to travel to get there that teaches us and causes us to grow as an individual that is the greater concern. In Witchcraft, there is no all-powerful perfect divine being that threatens the destruction of your immortal soul for not living up to his standards; there is only peace, patience, and understanding.

So…I’m Still Worthy?

I say this not to bash Christianity, rather, to point out that while some of us strive to be the best that we can be, sometimes we must look back and realize that we don’t have to prove ourselves to our Gods, rather, our Gods have to prove themselves to us first. It is not a sin to not believe in Aradia. She won’t hurl fiery bolts from the heavens if we displease her or don’t acknowledge her existence. It is a pact that we enter into with our Gods, a willful, thoughtful pact that goes both ways. If we are honest and work for the good, our Gods will work with us. We don’t work for them and they don’t work for us, we work together as one to accomplish a goal.

When we first began our journey, you too were probably unsure about whether these old Gods were real, so as a result we tested them. If they lived up to our expectations, we worked with them. If we did not get along with a certain deity, or felt uncomfortable with their energies, we no longer wasted our time on them.

When coming to Wicca from Christianity, there are several hang ups that occur to people, especially due to the perfectionism that is at the forefront of Christianity. We worry that a spell won’t work if the candle color is not correct, or maybe the candle is too orange instead of red. A spell may call for Dragon’s Blood incense, but you only have Lavender right now because you’re short on cash. Or perhaps a ritual calls for fresh vervain, but you only have sage. Our God’s don’t care. The Magick will still work as long as you believe it will.

Substitutions occur all of the time in the Craft, and there in no one right way to do anything. Every Witch has his or her own method of working spells, certain traits that they like to add to their spells, almost like a signature. I myself have replaced entire herbal components before because I did not understand them at the time. I replaced the herbal components with gemstones, which I did understand, and the spell still went off without a hitch with the results manifesting two weeks later.

To grow in the Craft, to self-actualize into the Witch that you truly know you can be, the first step is “don’t take yourself so seriously.” Laugh at your mistakes, enjoy your failures but learn from them, and celebrate life. The ultimate thanks that we as humans can give to the Universe is to enjoy the time we have while we are in this incarnation. To worry and fret over something not being ‘perfect’ is to waste the life that has been granted to us.

We should enjoy everyday, be thankful for the sunshine in our lives and even for the rain, for to know happiness one must also have known sadness. To know peace is to have known anger. To know deep love for another, one must have previously known heartache and pain.

There is no perfection in the Craft, our Gods are not perfect, we are not perfect, our tools are not perfect, even our magick is not perfect. There is nothing on the face of this planet that is whole, untouched, and perfect. Perfection is much like Plato’s forms, it cannot and does not exist in the real world, but as a concept…it’s perfect!

Blessed Be,

Phoenix Forestsong

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Out of The Broom Closet

Out of The Broom Closet

Author: Lunah

In 1997, I made two Samhain resolutions—one to quit smoking (which I’ve done), and the other to come out of the “broom closet.” Since exiting the general clutter of my particular broom closet, I feel more comfortable in my own skin than ever. My faith is a large part of who I am, and keeping that from people was like living a half-truth. I don’t feel that I could have continued to grow spiritually without acknowledging who I am, and without letting important people in my life know. I’m lucky in that my family is not religious, and I had no reason to fear telling them; I felt that after practicing for nearly 10 years, it was time!

My mom. This went better than I had even expected. I had been looking for an opening to introduce the topic of Paganism, and my mom couldn’t have provided a better one if I had asked!

I flew to Nebraska from DC to visit my mom and stepfather for the holidays, arriving on Christmas Eve. My mom had originally wanted to go to Midnight Mass at a local Catholic church-she’s not Catholic, but is thinking of becoming one. But my plane arrived late, and my luggage arrived even later; instead of Midnight Mass, we ended up sitting in the kitchen, talking, and she mentioned that she felt people should go to church on Christmas Eve because it’s part of “getting back to the roots of the holiday.” At this point I explained the true roots of the holiday-the Winter Solstice, Yule, the Pagan beliefs and customs, etc. She was surprised about the origins of many of the holiday’s traditions. Then she looked at me and said, “So, are you Pagan?”

I said, “Um … yes.”

“You’re not Christian?”

“Um … nope.”

I explained the basics of Wicca, and gave her a copy of Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon.

We went out into the cold, snowy night for a walk, and to discuss it some more. She said she felt guilty that I had had no religious upbringing. I assured her that I did not regret it in the least, that I was happy with my choice, and that I knew it was right for me. I said that not raising me as a Christian did not result in a bad or less moral person. I said that I was raised in a loving, supportive family, which is more than many people can hope for, Christian or not. She felt that perhaps if I had had a background in Christianity, I would have made a different choice. I told her that I knew enough about Christianity to make this decision, and that this choice was not based on a reaction to or a dislike for Christianity; rather, it was a love of Wicca. I said that she shouldn’t feel guilty for not teaching me about Christianity; if that were the case, she should also feel guilty about not teaching me about Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Scientology, you name it. She laughed and agreed with me.

I had been staying away from using the word “Witch” during this initial phase of explanation. But at what would have been the close of the initial conversation, she said, “At least you’re not a Witch; I don’t think I could trust a Witch.” I stopped walking, and she turned around and looked at me and said, “Oh.” So that opened up a whole new conversation as I explained the difference between a real Witch and the common media portrayals.

The bottom line is that she loves me and trusts my judgment; she accepted Wicca as a religion because this is me, her daughter, and she knows that I wouldn’t get into anything “bad.” But she told me, “Don’t expect me to go around telling people ‘My daughter is Pagan or Wiccan or a Witch, ‘” and I told her that was just fine. I said that I do wear a Pentacle and that her friends might notice it; she asked if I could wear it inside my shirt, and I said no.

I think she has a better understanding of who I am now; she also has a new understanding of Wicca and Witchcraft, and has shed the stereotypical beliefs that she held. And I really enjoyed it when she opened a gift from my stepfather the next morning-it was an outdoor wall plaque to hang near her garden, and it was the Green Man! She even knew what it was called-she had picked it out of a catalog herself. She said, “Look, it’s called a Green Man! Isn’t he great?” When I finally stopped laughing and could breathe again, I explained what it was, and we all had a good laugh.

My mother also attended the legal handfasting that my husband James and I had on Ostara of 1999; talk about being exposed to a large pack of Pagans! :) She did just fine, though. She even helped make a list of all the (very Pagan) gifts while James and I were opening them, and I must say there’s just something funny about seeing words like “ritual dagger” or “love butter” written in your mother’s handwriting!

My dad. My father lives in Oregon, and I’m in Virginia; needless to say, I don’t see him as often as I’d like. I also grew up in Europe and didn’t have much opportunity to visit him; I didn’t even see him between 1982 and 1988 at all, and then not again until 1990. We had a short visit in 1994, another in 1996, and then he came to visit us in October of 1999. Although I hadn’t spent a lot of time with him while growing up, I wasn’t nervous about “coming out” to him, either.

Our house has a very “Pagan” feel (gee, the cauldron and the wonderful “Great Mother” statue in the foyer might have something to do with that, not to mention the ever-present scent of nag champa incense), and I knew he’d pick up on it quickly. That, and the bumper sticker on our car says, “Pagan and Proud.” Kind of hard to miss! But he was fine with it; he recognized that Paganism is a religion, and that was very important to me. Nothing fazes my dad; he and I are so alike that I just knew he would understand. He said that there are all kinds of “New Age” shops in Portland, and that now he knows “what to get me for Christmas!” Heh. :) (I got a lovely pair of silver and onyx knotwork earrings. Yeah, Dad!)

The workplace. I’m the corporate publications manager/desktop publisher for a management consulting/information technology firm in Northern Virginia. It’s a rather conservative company, where image and professionalism are the drumbeats to which we are supposed to march. Oops! ;) This was the scariest place for me to wear my Pentacle. The first day I wore my Pentacle to work, I really fought the urge to slip it inside my shirt; however, I persevered. And what do you suppose happened when I started wearing it openly? NOTHING. Big fat zero. No reactions. Nada. I have to admit I was disappointed, in a way!

However, I have had some very interesting conversations with one of our company’s vice presidents; he is from an Italian-American Catholic family, but is very curious about Paganism, and this is probably the most fun interaction I’ve had as a result of being out of the broom closet. Frank was trying to figure out my religion for a while; he once asked if I was Catholic because I was wearing an Indian cotton skirt, the kind with the bells on the waist ties, and at first glance he though it was a rosary. He obviously had no clue what my Pentacle was; I said, “No, Frank, I’m not Catholic; I’m just a good heathen girl.” I think this made him curious!

When the trouble occurred with the Druids at Stonehenge, he mentioned it to me and said, “I’m surprised you weren’t there.” I said, “I’m not a Druid, Frank.” He should his head and had this funny look on his face like, “Drat, I know I’m closer to getting it!” I was enjoying this immensely. :) Then the night before the 1999 Samhain drum circle at the Jefferson Memorial, Frank came into our department and said to me, “So, I hear there’s going to be a Pagan drum circle at the Jefferson.” I said, “Yes, Frank. I’ll be there. Will you?” He sputtered and said, “Um, no, I’m not going.” But Monday morning he came into my office and asked how the drum circle went; I told him it was a lot of fun. He said, “So … um … do you consider yourself to be … um … well … a Witch?” I said, “Yes, Frank.” And he said, “Oh! Um … wow, really? Oh!” There, he finally had it! Success! He was so pleased with himself! I just giggled. He has been very respectful of my beliefs, and in genuinely interested in my answers to his many questions, and such dialog is always welcome!

The neighbors. Our working group, Magick Belly #9, holds open Sabbat celebrations at our house. Our first open Sabbat was Midsummer’s of 1999, and I was a little concerned about how the neighbors would react to a bunch of people chanting in a circle in the backyard. We live on a nice, quiet cul-de-sac in North Arlington, and the neighbors definitely noticed; but they just shook their heads and went back to whatever they were doing.

No problems, until three celebrations later; we did frighten away the trick-or-treaters on Samhain. How were we to know that a circle of people holding candles on the front lawn at night would be so scary to the neighbors’ kids? Whoops! Now whenever the neighbors see people gathering at our house, they watch us with a kind of “what’s going on this time?” air of expectation. The neighbors do still talk to us, however, and wave whenever they drive by, or smile and say hello when we pass them on the street. I think they’ve decided that we’re harmless.

Overall … I have to say my “coming out” experiences have been overwhelmingly positive, and for that I’m thankful. I realize that not everyone can afford to be out of the broom closet, whether it’s because of where they live, where they work, or other similar concerns. To those of you in the broom closet, take heart; we all know it doesn’t make you “less Pagan.” I’ve been lucky, and I know it. Oh, it should have nothing to do with luck; we’re guaranteed religious freedom, no matter what our religion, right? Right.

Lunah

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Perfectionism And The Craft

Perfectionism And The Craft

Author: Phoenix Forestsong

The moon is high and heavy; its silvery light beams down, illuminating this sacred outdoor altar. The wind blows softly and lightly upon your face, bringing with it the moist fragrance of forest night. With you are members of your coven, all here to celebrate nature’s beauty and grace together as one. It’s nearly your time to speak, your lines have been memorized, your actions recited, and your will is strong.

It’s time.

As you approach the altar, assuming the masculine stance of the horned God, you begin to speak your lines, making a wide gesture with your hands as proscribed, and knock over the Lord’s candle. The flame sputters out, gold wax courses down the natural rock stone of the altar and your Coven’s Book of Shadows gets splattered.

Of course you feel horrible, and very horrified, but the family of your coven just laughs and passes it off. You’re still shaky, worried that you ruined the ceremony, and your performance is off a little, but you eventually recover and enjoy the evening.

The question is, did you actually ruin the ceremony?

The answer is, of course not! There is magick in laughter, and magick in mirth, as humans we are not perfect beings, in fact, even our Gods are not perfect beings, and this article has been written to accentuate that point.

Perfection in the Eyes of God

My background, and that of many modern-day Witches, is from Christianity. While I’d love to say that Christianity is a loving, caring, and forgiving religion, for me it was not the case. I was raised to know a God that demanded perfection from everything in his presence, including his people and their gifts. Because of the absolutism of Christianity, at least in some branches, “thou shalt not…”, “…the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ…”, “…burn in a lake of fire…, ” etc. it tends to breed perfectionism in its followers. A God that demands perfect worshipers will breed perfect worshipers.

From early on I learned that God loves you, but if you ever break one of his rules it’s an eternity of punishment for you. As most sane people know, this type of attitude is not actually love, it is abuse through fear, and it was my childhood.

Of course, as I grew older, my understanding of the world changed, I became a new person, a deeper individual, a man who learns, studies, and thinks. Always though, as a Christian, I kept running to a god who never changed, who was as inflexible in his rules as he was in his heart. Do as I say, when I say, and how I say, and you can come spend your time worshiping me in heaven after you’ve denied your passions here on earth.

See where I’m going with this? Now, that’s not all of Christianity, but it is a big factor in Christianity for a lot of branches of that faith; the inflexible, omnipotent, omnipresent, perfect God. So, I came to learn that only the best, most perfect stuff went before God, and as a human I kept falling short, as we humans tend to do. Obviously I came to learn another path and I now follow my own Wiccan way. However, I brought along some of my old Christian baggage, and I feel that many other Witches do, or have as well.

Perfection Shmerfection

When I first truly devoted myself to my path, thus ending my relationship with Christianity, I brought along a lot of old baggage. For one thing, I did not attempt to do things for fear of failure. I did not want to present failure to my Gods, I did not want my Gods to see me in the light of failure, and I wanted to prove to be a worthy Witch. It may be something that we’ve all gone through, or it may be that I was just a bit off my rocker in the whole Spirituality department. Regardless, I let my fear of failure, my fear that my work would not be good, or good enough to interfere with my worship.

Of course as time passed I got over that stage and began to see things in a new, logical, and very real light. Even our Gods are not perfect. Do you work with the Greek pantheon? Do you worship with Zeus? Zeus may have been the Master of Mount Olympus and head of the Gods, but he wasn’t perfect by any means. How many children did Zeus father and how many were conceived under false pretense? Zeus’s fatal flaw is that he could not keep his godhood in his toga. Those who worship him know this and accept it as his flaw. Let’s look at another Divine Being.

Hera is sacred as the Goddess of Women and Marriage, yet she was not too kind to children. After Zeus fathered Athena without her, Hera bore Hephaestus without Zeus and, upon seeing his ugliness; she threw her newborn child from Mount Olympus. Hera…the role model for motherhood.

In another tale, Hera tries to prevent the birth of Heracles by tying the legs of Alcmene, his mother, into knots to prevent his birth. When Alcmene’s servant informed her that the child had already been born, she let go of Alcmene’s legs in surprise. With her legs free, Alcmene finished birth and Heracles was born. Hera, furious at being tricked, turned the servant into a weasel. Do we see Hera as a wonderful role model for all women to follow, or do we see Hera as she is, a Goddess, but a flawed Goddess.

Obviously there are many more examples of frailties and flaws from Gods of pantheons the world over. The primary difference is that as Pagans, we understand that perfection is an unattainable goal. It’s unnatural. We learn that it is not the end result that is important, rather it is the path we have to travel to get there that teaches us and causes us to grow as an individual that is the greater concern. In Witchcraft, there is no all-powerful perfect divine being that threatens the destruction of your immortal soul for not living up to his standards; there is only peace, patience, and understanding.

So…I’m Still Worthy?

I say this not to bash Christianity, rather, to point out that while some of us strive to be the best that we can be, sometimes we must look back and realize that we don’t have to prove ourselves to our Gods, rather, our Gods have to prove themselves to us first. It is not a sin to not believe in Aradia. She won’t hurl fiery bolts from the heavens if we displease her or don’t acknowledge her existence. It is a pact that we enter into with our Gods, a willful, thoughtful pact that goes both ways. If we are honest and work for the good, our Gods will work with us. We don’t work for them and they don’t work for us, we work together as one to accomplish a goal.

When we first began our journey, you too were probably unsure about whether these old Gods were real, so as a result we tested them. If they lived up to our expectations, we worked with them. If we did not get along with a certain deity, or felt uncomfortable with their energies, we no longer wasted our time on them.

When coming to Wicca from Christianity, there are several hang ups that occur to people, especially due to the perfectionism that is at the forefront of Christianity. We worry that a spell won’t work if the candle color is not correct, or maybe the candle is too orange instead of red. A spell may call for Dragon’s Blood incense, but you only have Lavender right now because you’re short on cash. Or perhaps a ritual calls for fresh vervain, but you only have sage. Our God’s don’t care. The Magick will still work as long as you believe it will.

Substitutions occur all of the time in the Craft, and there in no one right way to do anything. Every Witch has his or her own method of working spells, certain traits that they like to add to their spells, almost like a signature. I myself have replaced entire herbal components before because I did not understand them at the time. I replaced the herbal components with gemstones, which I did understand, and the spell still went off without a hitch with the results manifesting two weeks later.

To grow in the Craft, to self-actualize into the Witch that you truly know you can be, the first step is “don’t take yourself so seriously.” Laugh at your mistakes, enjoy your failures but learn from them, and celebrate life. The ultimate thanks that we as humans can give to the Universe is to enjoy the time we have while we are in this incarnation. To worry and fret over something not being ‘perfect’ is to waste the life that has been granted to us.

We should enjoy everyday, be thankful for the sunshine in our lives and even for the rain, for to know happiness one must also have known sadness. To know peace is to have known anger. To know deep love for another, one must have previously known heartache and pain.

There is no perfection in the Craft, our Gods are not perfect, we are not perfect, our tools are not perfect, even our magick is not perfect. There is nothing on the face of this planet that is whole, untouched, and perfect. Perfection is much like Plato’s forms, it cannot and does not exist in the real world, but as a concept…it’s perfect!

Blessed Be,

Phoenix Forestsong

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Witchcraft – Chapter three – Under Early Christianity

Witchcraft

Chapter three – Under Early Christianity

by Ilil Arbel, Ph.D.

As we begin to examine the relationship between the Old Religion and the Catholic Church, one thing must be clear. This book is not an attack on the Catholic Church. The Church, as we know it today, is a wonderful organization. It is charitable, supportive of many great institutions and a patron of learning. Naturally, no one can agree with everything the Church does or thinks. We are entitled to disagreement, which, in turn, boosts progress. However, while part of the historical clash of the religions is painful, it is not told as criticism of the Church today. Over many centuries, the Church evolved into the larger and richer organization we now know.

In addition, many of those responsible for the terror of the Witch Trials were more administrators than men of God. They wanted property and power. Much like some corrupt politicians, they thought that the end justified the means. On the other hand, some Christians truly believed in the influence of the Devil, believed it with all their hearts, and thought that by tormenting the body they saved the soul. It is difficult to understand, in our century, how deeply superstitious most Medieval people were, and how much the supernatural threatened their lives.  Many acted out of ignorance and terror.

In 906, Regino, abbot of Prum, wrote an interesting document. It became known as the Canon Episcopi. Few documents in history were so misunderstood; few caused so much violence.

Regino described the habits of some misguided women who believed in their own hallucinations and illusions. These women thought that the Pagan Goddess, Diana, flew them over great distances. At those faraway places, they worshiped her and her husband, the Devil. Regino, a compassionate man, made it clear that he believed the Devil himself was responsible. The Devil made the poor women think that what happened in their dreams really took place.

Sure, Regino was frustrated by the women’s stupidity – how could they think that any god could exist away from the one true faith, Christianity?  However, not for a moment did he believe in the flights, the Sabbaths, or anything else the women said they had done.

Until that time, the Church Fathers felt the same way, accepting Witchcraft as a stupid hoax. After all, how could an illiterate bunch of women have power over God’s world?  Nonsense!  Any good Christian, using the name of Jesus, could get rid of the tricks of a witch. St. Augustine, for example, heard that witches turned men into donkeys by feeding them magical cheese. He thought it was funny. To the people who told him the story, he said that such events must have been hallucinations or jokes.

Of course the Church did not approve of Witchcraft. The women who worshiped Diana were sinful Pagans who tried to cheat good Christians. But they were powerless. Only God had power over humanity.

If only they stuck to these views. If only there was no connection made between Witchcraft and Dualism. Dualism was a belief that gave real power to evil as represented by Satan. The horned God of the witches, as you will see later, looked very much like Satan. If this connection was not made, perhaps humanity would have been spared the carnage of the witch trials.

But the Church didn’t understand Regino and disagreed, eventually, even with its own early Fathers. The Church took Regino’s document and twisted the meaning around. For six centuries they read it as an admission that the women actually flew to worship at the Sabbaths.  Interestingly, Regino didn’t even mention Witchcraft in the document.  What he asked was that the clergy would preach that such ideas are false. A gentle man, all he wanted was to convince those women to desert Paganism and embrace Christianity. Poor Regino. Had he seen the tortured and murdered victims, he would have been horrified.

For in the early centuries of Christianity, Paganism was not suppressed; Christians and Pagans lived side by side.  They did it for so long, that Christians took over some of the Pagan gods, holy places and customs, in order to reconcile people to the new religion. Pope Gregory the Great, for instance, went as far as ordering the placement of Christian relics in Pagan shrines. He hoped that the people would gradually begin to think that the old god was a new saint. Pagan feast days were used for Christian holidays. Christmas, perhaps, is the most notable example.  In the Bible, the exact date of Christ’s birth is never mentioned. So they placed it right over an important pagan holiday.

Those gods that did not become Christian saints were turned into demons. However, many new converts to Christianity continued to worship them side by side with the new God. One Saxon king had a temple with two altars, one for Christ and one for the “Devils.”  If you look carefully at Christianity now, so much of the Pagan still remains – the dove, the lamb, the sacred fish symbol, the ever-burning fire, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the Baptism – all were, once, Pagan symbols.

As far as the 12th century, priests complained that in Ireland, the people worshiped Pagan Deities. In England, even some monks were caught worshiping Diana in woodland shrines. This continued up to the 14th century. About the same time, the poet Petrarch, while visiting Colonge, saw women performing Pagan rituals. Old habits die hard, country people are conservative, and the transition was not as easy as the Church would have it.

A 6th century Portuguese monk, acting as a missionary, complained that the women worshiped their “devils” quite openly. The interesting thing here is that the monk believed in the existence of those devils. He said the woods, streams, rivers and meadows were full of the devils, and he saw them with his own eyes!

To entice the women to the new faith, churches were built over the old holy places. In the British Isles, they were built over the shrine of Astarte in Northumberland, of Diana in Bath, of Mithras in York. In Spain, they built them over sacred mounds. Still, the women did not accept them. The priests complained that the women brought their old habits into the new churches anyway – they sang, they danced, they performed strange rituals.

Many chieftains accepted the new faith because politically it was advantageous.  Some men followed. There was a good reason why the women stuck harder to Paganism —  the Church despised women. According to the Bible, women caused the Original Sin. The Church considered them weak, stupid, faithless, and hardly above beasts of burden. They had no rights, no protection, no dignity. In almost every way, they were slaves. The strong women of the Old Religion, the priestess, the Witch, the teacher, the healer, became the enemy of all that was sacred.  How could they accept Christianity?

Diana’s cult remained so widespread, that the Church viewed her as an arch rival. Eventually they started to refer to her as the “Queen of the Witches.”   Occasionally they attempted to include her in the Church, like so many of the saints. But they soon realized it was impossible. The Grand Inquisitor Torquemada, the most famous, or infamous, of them all, declared that Diana was the Devil.

Naturally, a secret religion that allowed a woman an important place, appealed not only to the hereditary witches, but to many converts as well. Recruits were never welcomed, though, as they were always potential spies. So the religion went underground almost totally and became a secret society. Many of the people that were later tortured and killed had no connection whatsoever to the Old Religion. The real followers knew, from long experience, how to hide.

This was a strange time. Many new sects came into being, and both Paganism and Christianity influenced all of them. To many people, Jesus himself was a magician. He exorcized demons. He healed the sick by “laying on of hands.”  He raised the dead and made predictions. He claimed Divine Origin and Virgin Birth. It is true that he never tried to prove himself, and claimed all his power came from God. He didn’t want to be thought of as a magician. But to the common people it mattered little.

To understand those times a little better, two sects should be examined – Gnostics and Kabbalists.The Gnostics were not really Christians, and the Church did not approve of them. They were people who wanted peace, mysticism, and a chance to think about the universe. Most of them lived in the wilderness. Unfortunately, the Church destroyed much of their writing with the usual thoroughness. That left us with only partial knowledge of their nature.

The Gnostics disliked the world. They did not believe God created it himself, as He was not interested in creating anything. He was totally removed from any matter, and existed in a realm which was beyond matter. A split in the Godhead had occurred at some point. This split they called The Fall, and it somehow created a demon, called the Demiurge. The Demiurge created the Universe. Some said he did it with the help of Sophia, the feminine side of God. The Demiurge also created six other demons, called Archons, to help him in his work.

To make matters worse, the Demiurge had completely forgotten about The Fall, and believed himself to be the only God. With the help of his Archons he created Man. Man, therefore, is created and trapped by a god who has deluded himself. In other words, God is crazy. Man’s only hope to escape to his true home and the true God is through  knowing the true state of affairs. The word Gnosis, which is what the name of the religion is based on, means Knowledge.

Naturally, the denial of the Christian God did not endear the Gnostics to the Church. And the Demiurge was admirably suitable for identification with Satan. Evil by nature, a fallen angel, self-deluded and cunning at the same time – what could be better?  Heresy!  Kill the Gnostics!

Now, you could ask, where is the connection to Witchcraft?  Gnosticism is a totally different religion, isn’t it?  It does not love the world; it despises nature and its beauty; the earth is a place to escape from rather than enjoy. Nothing in common, right?  Wrong. Religious teachings can always, but always, be twisted around to benefit someone.

This time of furious faith was the golden age of the magicians, and many of them had Gnostic influence. For example, take Simon Magus – a very successful magician.  Simon Magus may have been a native of Samaria. At any rate, he was working there during the time of the Crucifixion. His following, however, continued as far as the 4th century CE and spread far and wide.

Simon was impressed by the apostle Philip’s cures and exorcisms. He decided to be baptized, but saw Christianity more like a magical system than a new religion. He probably didn’t care much about the distinction, being of a practical rather than a spiritual nature. His intention was to buy the apostle’s secret of “laying on of hands” for healing. Very understandably, he thought it was a great magic trick.

Unfortunately, it offended the apostle Peter, who disliked Simon Magus immediately. On their first meeting, Peter rebuked Simon for trying to buy the apostles’ secret. Incidentally, this is where the word “simony” is derived from – buying and selling of priestly gifts or powers. Simon, who considered all of them professional magicians, could not see what was wrong in buying a perfectly good trade secret for a fair price. He probably thought Peter behaved like a pompous hypocrite, but being a particularly pleasant man, Simon took the rebuke with good grace.

Simon’s writings show a lot of female imagery. Paradise, for example, he described as the “womb.”  The imagery links him strongly to the Old Religion.  Unlike Jesus, he never objected when people called him a magician. After his death, his successor called himself Nenander, meaning Moon-man. Neander claimed to be the reincarnation of Simon himself. In later centuries, one of the great objections made against Simon Magus was his acceptance of women as equals. In true Wicca tradition, he viewed the power of the gods as shared between male and female.

He had a disciple, a Phoenician sorceress called Helen. With her he established a sort of trinity in which he was the Father and the Son, and she was the Holy Ghost. So in actuality, he adapted the new religion to his own views. He and Helen were worshiped, though, in front of statues of Zeus and Athena. So he certainly appealed to the Pagans as well.

Helen was worshiped in many forms by the followers, particularly as Sophia, the Gnostic Virgin of Light and wisdom. So here was a strong connection to Gnosticism. She was also claimed to be Mary, Mother of Jesus, and occasionally Mary Magdalene. It was all completely mixed.

Simon Magus, despite his bizarre activities, does not come across exactly like a charlatan. Rather, he operated like a Shaman. True, he did practice some necromancy and even said he had created a human being from thin air and a wandering soul. But these improbable tales were probably just plain advertising and increased business. And many people benefited from his healing.

His end is shrouded in mystery. The legend said he had a contest with the apostle Peter, in front of the Emperor Nero, who was an admirer of Simon. He proved his powers by flying at great height. Peter, supposedly calling on God, broke the spell and sent Simon down to his death. Considering the fact that the flight was probably staged with wires, and that Peter must have tampered with the mechanism, it is interesting that no one ever charged Peter for the murder of Simon Magus.

The second sect to be examined is The Kabbalah. There are many arguments as to when it started. The Kabbalah is Jewish mysticism. It is secret knowledge, forbidden to most people. To study it, you had to be a scholar, male, over forty years of age and married. Otherwise, you were never allowed to touch it. This patronizing attitude was justified by saying that it presented a danger to lesser beings – such as unmarried men or any women. It is available to anyone today, and is extremely interesting. Some good introductory books will be mentioned in the bibliography. For the student of Witchcraft, it is a valuable subject.

Some scholars say that one of the major books, the Zohar, was written in 1275 by the Spanish Kabbalist Moses de Leon. But it is obvious the date means only that it was written down on paper at that time. In oral tradition, it existed much earlier. Some sources believe the Kabbalah was practiced at the time of the early Gnostics. Others go back even further. There is no way to prove it, but the material gives the impression of extreme antiquity.

The similarity between Witchcraft and Kabbalah is astounding, and is often overlooked, mostly because researchers try to pin the origin of Kabbalah on Gnosticism. True, there is a great similarity between Gnosticism and Kabbalah. This is because Gnosticism, as well as Kabbalah, had much of their origin in the Old Religion, but the Old Religion existed thousands of years before either of them.

The format of The Kabbalah is misleadingly simple. The base is a diagram of the sacred tree of life;  it is made by ten circles joined by twenty-two lines. The ten circles are called Sephiroth in Hebrew. The word means “the emanations of God.”  Each soul undergoes a fall from the top circle, the Godhead, through the other circles, each representing a stage of creation, into our world and an earthly body. Then, the soul has to work on its climb back into the Godhead, using the astral body, or the body of light, as its vehicle. The creative Godhead is all pure thought. It is split in two, male and female, so the tree is represented by a female side and a male side, equal in power and necessary for the maintenance of the world.

Through various techniques of devotion, meditation, and concentration, it is possible to release the soul. Then, by using the tree of life, you can travel the universe through the twenty-two paths (those lines that connect the ten Sephiroth). Much can be learned that way.

Another great Kabbalistic similarity to Witchcraft is the “Gimatria.”   This is a system of conversion of words into numbers, and then back into other words of the same number. It sounds simple, but it allows the practitioner to use words of power. Particularly important are the forbidden names of various angels or even, at the ultimate, the unmentionable name of God. The use of language is extended to various formulas and the manipulation of words – very much like magic spells.

One such charm is open to anyone and is quite useful. It is not magic and has no true mystery. It deals directly with your subconscious and could enhance your success with various projects and goals. And yet it is so ancient that it goes back to the invention of writing itself – when the written word was power. Try it.

Take a peace of paper, and in the shortest possible way, write down a sentence that represents a goal. Let’s say  you want to be a professional artist some day, but have very little time to paint or draw, because of your school obligations, part-time job, social life, or sports. You regret that, because you know that to be an artist you must work at it. So write “I AM A GREAT ARTIST.”  Now cross out letters so that each letter appears only once. Here are the steps:

  • “I” is removed. You now have I AM A GREAT ARTST
  • “A” is removed. You now have I A M GRET RTST
  • “M” appears only once.  “G” appears only once. No need      to touch them.
  • “R” is removed. You now have I A M G R E T T S T
  • “T” is removed. You now have I A M G R E T S
  • “S” appears only one. No need to touch it.

After you do that, you will end with this bizarre word “IAMGRETS” which obviously is meaningless. Stare at the word very intently for a long time. Carry it with you. Stare at it often. It sinks, eventually, into your subconscious. You will find that in a few weeks you’ll be doing some unexpected things. Perhaps you will step into an art supplies store and buy those water colors you promised yourself last spring. Or maybe you’ll find yourself drawing caricatures of your teachers at class (not a good idea – beware of being caught). Or you will have an idea of sketching something as part of a school project, perhaps an experiment in biology, which suddenly looks much better when presented graphically. It works every time. This is a small example of Witchcraft at its practical best.

Well, it can’t be denied that Witchcraft does work. But the horror of the next few centuries was not based on practical little magic things like that.  Nor was it about the love of nature and its worship. It was about humanity’s relationship with a nonexistent entity who had many names.

 

Source:

Encyclopedia MYTHICA

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Faith

Witchy Comments

Faith is the Dark Moon
Unseen in the night
We know it is present
Yet long for the light.
 
Faith is the wind
That whispers around us.
 
We cannot touch it
And must take it on trust.
 
Faith is the soft voice
of the Goddess of Old
Who warms us in the winter
And wards off the cold.
 
Let my heart feel the warmth
Let my soul hear Her voice
Let me find faith in the darkness
And my spirit rejoice.
 

So Mote It Be.

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