Tag Archives: Christianity

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.


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

Witchcraft – Chapter three – Under Early Christianity


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.



Encyclopedia MYTHICA


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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On Being Wiccan: Some Unsolicited Advice

On Being Wiccan: Some Unsolicited Advice

Author:   Kame   

I knew I wanted to write essays about my experience of being Wiccan. I wrote a few pithy pieces, full of well-turned phrases and stunningly cogent allusions. But that’s all just verbal masturbation. I threw them in the trash. In the end, I kept asking myself… what is the purpose of these essays? What wisdom (written with a roll of my eyes) do I have to impart? Sigh.

I lost twenty-five pounds last year. Yea, pat me on the back. I have another twenty-five to lose, but that’s another story. When strangers find out about my feat, the first thing they want to know is “What’s your secret?” “How did you do it?” I gave them all the same answer: “Eat less, exercise more.” That is how you lose weight. That’s all there is to it. It is that simple. But every time I told someone that, I could see the disappointment on his or her face. They wanted it to be some elaborate thing…so they could brag about how they were able to accomplish this enormous task if they succeeded or so that they could excuse themselves if they failed by saying it was just too hard.

First bit of unsolicited advice: Quit trying to make simple things complicated. Whatever you are attempting to do, boil it down to its simplest element and never lose sight of that core truth.

Second bit of unsolicited advice: tame the boob tube or anything else in your life that is distracting you. And before you think I’m one of those snooty ‘no TV’, cold turkey types, let me tell you I have a TV — two in fact. I’m an avid fan of Mad Men, Once Upon a Time, Ghost Hunter, etc.

When my youngest was a toddler, she went to daycare at the house of a childhood friend of mine. The TV in that house was always on and I would always end up being distracted by it so that I was unable to complete a conversation with my friend without staring off at it. She frequently remarked that I, the only one of her clients without a TV, was the only one who seemed distracted by it. Actually, we owned a TV then but I didn’t have the heart to break her illusion that we were goody-two-shoe, tree hugging, neo-hippie types. Something about her reaction bothered me for many years… some niggling need to understand why I was so distracted by the thing and others weren’t. To put it simply I don’t multi-task. Not in the way most people understand that term. If you look at the studies that have been done on multi-tasking, they all come to the same conclusion: if you multi-task, your brain does not divide its attention evenly between the tasks. Dividing your attention degrades your ability to concentrate on any one thing. I record everything I want to watch. I skip commercials entirely. When I sit down to watch TV, I watch TV and that is all I do. I like to think that the difference between me and those who leave the TV running all the time is that I, to paraphrase Thoreau, “live in this world, not on it.” So do one, and only one, thing at a time.

That brings me to my last bit of unsolicited advise in this essay and after this, I’ll tie everything back to Wicca. If you’ve made it this far, and the last paragraph bothered you, it’s probably because you are trapped in the ‘time paradox’. There is never enough time to get all the things you need to do done. You probably think you have to multi-task. If you didn’t, you would fall so far behind, even though you feel like you are running as fast as you can, that you would sink into a cartoony, circling, morass of never ending tasks. Get off the treadmill. You can do it. Go ahead; step off. Turn off every electronic device, close every book, close the door. Do this at a time when you can be alone. Sit down and do nothing. Clear your mind and just listen.

There is no clock ticking. All those things you need to do are illusions. They are the bars of the cage that keeps you from being who you really want to be, from doing what you really want to do. You are so busy doing all those things you think you are supposed to do that you don’t have time to figure out whether they are what you need to do to be the person you want to be. (See first bit of advise. Insert here.) Take the time, once a day, once a week, every once in a while, to reduce the clutter of your life down to its simplest elements and think about whether those elements are the building blocks for the person you want to be.

Easier said than done. The first four essays I started and threw out revolved around ritual and historical interpretations, poetry and being a Solitary Wiccan. When I followed the first of my own pieces of advice here and reduced them down to their simplest elements, I kept coming back to the idea of “foundation”. The strength of the ‘what’ part of your path will be constrained by the strength of your ‘how’. Without a balanced approach, you will never bring your practice to full-flower.

I grew up Presbyterian. On Sunday, we would get dressed in our best clothes, drive to the church, sit quietly while the preacher imparted biblical wisdom to us and then go home get changed and eat a big meal. That was our ritual. When it was over, the TV went back on and we went back to our normal life. There was a separation between religion and real life; though it was never spoken of, it was made clear by our actions. I tried to make a go of being a Christian many times. The last time was after my father’s death because I knew it had saddened him that I had left the church. I couldn’t make it work.

The last Christian church I attended had this thing called an ‘Alpha’ course. It was supposed to teach you how to become a ‘real’ Christian. I learned some time after taking the class that one of the couples who attended had been a ‘plant’. They were actually the church members who had brought the course to the Minister’s attention. They went undercover to be a catalyst, to show the newbies by their actions how real Christians behaved. I had a conversation with a friend in the church shortly after that discovery and their advice to me was to keep doing all the things I had been shown in the ‘Alpha’ class by the two fake newbies and eventually it would all make sense. In other words, you don’t need a foundation for your belief; you just need repetition to instill the behavior patterns and the belief will follow. I grew up following religion in that way. I knew where that path leads. That was my ‘Truffaut moment’.

In the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” Francois Truffaut played the scientist Claude Lacombe. In one scene, he taps out the tune they keep hearing everywhere the aliens have dropped clues and says, “Ecoute, ecoute. This means something. This is important.” Anytime I hear something that reads as ‘BS’, but I can’t quite put my finger on why, that’s a ‘Truffaut moment’.

I left that church and all of Christianity behind that day, for good. I went back to the basics. I knew I wanted spirituality in my life, not as a pantomime with costumes and props, but as something as important to me as my breathing. I read a lot stuff: Cunningham and Campbell, anthropology, history, and eastern religion. I think it was Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down The Moon” that made me realize Wiccan wasn’t something I was becoming, it was something I already was; something I had been all my life.

I have five or six Moleskin notebooks I keep. They are full of notes, lists, book titles, drawings; none of them in any particular order in any particular book (though I do habitually date my entries) . When the mood to write comes, I pick up whichever one of my Moleskins is closest and start writing. I’m not sure anyone else could make sense of them. But I can. They are my ‘memory ball’.

I remember seeing a great ball of knotted twine and cloth in the Native American Museum in Washington DC. In my own head, I call it a memory ball. I don’t remember if that was what the scholar who wrote the tag for it named the thing. I don’t remember what tribe it came from, or what era it covered or who made it. I only remember the idea of it:

The ball represented a person’s memories of their life. When events they felt were important occurred, they would take up the ball and add to it a knot or a bead, a bit of cloth to represent their memory of that event. Knot by knot, the ball would grow as they grew old. When they touched it, unwound it, they would have available to them a linear representation of their entire life.

My Moleskin notebooks are a representation of how I came to understand the Wiccan inside of me. If I feel lost or question why I believe what I believe, I open one of the Moleskins and leaf through until I find something that catches my attention… a thought I had, a fact I learned, a place I went that brought me closer to understanding my path and myself. Sometimes reading is enough. Sometimes I take that bit and do more research, more thinking. In some ways, these notebooks are my ‘Grimoire’, though there isn’t much about spells or ritual in them. They are the things I use to bring me back into balance.

One last bit of unsolicited advice: find yourself something like that, something that can bring you back into balance. Maybe it’s a walk in the woods, a soft prayer, a bit of meditation. Don’t hesitate to use it when your life feels scattered and stressed.

There is no secret to becoming a Wiccan, Pagan, Druid or whatever you choose to call yourself. You either are or you aren’t; without meaning to sound like Yoda, there is no ‘becoming’. The only destination before us is death. Everything else is just the path to that destination. Break it down. Make it simple. Build up from there. If you don’t have a foundation for your belief, it’s just a pantomime with costumes and a meal afterward. You deserve better than that.

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Your Ancient Symbol Card for February 27th is The Peacock

Your Ancient Symbol Card for Today

The Peacock

The iridescent emerald plumage and spectacular broad tail of The Peacock make it the ideal symbol of both justified pride and vanity. It denotes the right for one to be proud of themselves for being who they are and for letting others know. In short, its okay to strut a bit. At the same time The Peacock reminds us that while pride and high self esteem are essential components of a healthy psyche, becoming too full of one’s self makes us vain, and vanity is never attractive in anyone.

As a daily card, The Peacock is reminder that you are inherently valuable, and have a right to be proud of who you are as well as let others know you are proud of yourself. It is also a warning to not allow you pride and sense of self worth grow to such grand proportions that you become vain and conceited.

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Who Is A Real Witch Anyway?

Who Is A Real Witch Anyway?

Author:   Amergin Aradia   

It seems that the debate about who is and who is not a “real Witch” is coming to a head. Is this sect real as opposed to that sect? Are those in covens real Witches as opposed to solitaries’. And on and on it goes. It’s beginning to sound like the fight between factions of the Christian religion or between organized religions as a whole. That’s probably the way they began too.

This silly useless debate is pulling our community apart as well. The truth is, are any of us real Witches. And how do you define a real Witch? By whose standards and rules?

As an illustration of my point I’ll tell you my story. I have always known that I was a Witch, even before I really knew what that was. When I was very young (grade school) I had certain abilities and interests that other kids didn’t. I practiced raising energy, practiced ESP (as it was called then) , I astral projected, and I cast spells. I was drawn to the night, the moon and stars, and I identified with all things “magical.”

I wasn’t trained by anyone because there was no one to train me. I had to figure it out for myself and that was in the 1950’s so you know there were very few references to rely on even if I knew where to look. As I grew up I did what everyone else did then, got a job and tried to live what was considered a “normal” life, as unsatisfying as that was.

I maintained my interests and practices over the years as best I could, if only peripherally. There may have been one or two occult bookstores in the area but you really had to search them out and I only managed to get to one every so often and then only to browse because I didn’t know what I was looking for. You didn’t just walk up to someone and tell him or her you were a Witch and wanted to join a coven. And people didn’t come out of the woodwork to invite you to join one, even if you knew where to look.

So I dabbled, training myself the best way I could using instinct as my guide. At the time I would have loved to have found someone to train me and I would have loved to have found a coven to join so that I wouldn’t feel so alone. But they didn’t exactly advertise. And there was no Internet in those days to bring us all together.

So unless you were lucky, you were on your own. Like it or not.

Now that we have all these books, magazines, and web sites to fill in the gaps I find that my instincts did very well by me. Everything that I taught myself way back then is now being touted as the way to do it by the “experts.” I have since collected an entire library of books hoping to find information that would help me advance my practice but with the exception of a few interesting bits that I’ve added here and there, I have been disappointed.

I have also attended classes, open groves, and ceremonies, and while the people that I met were very nice it just didn’t feel right for me. I’ve also become very disillusioned with the influx of the newest brick and mortar shops. They seem to have become havens of self-help, yoga, meditation, and coffee and music.

And while I practice yoga and meditation myself I don’t want to go to my local Craft shop to pick up a yoga mat, balance ball, or a book by Dr. Phil. I want to pick up the tools for my ceremonies and spell crafting and, unfortunately, the kind of shop I want seems to be few and far between (except on line.) It feels as though the craft as I remember it is being homogenized and made so “acceptable” in the eyes of the general public that it is becoming useless to serious practitioners. But I digress here.

So to sum up this article, does it mean that I am not a real Witch because I had no one to “lead the way” or no coven to adopt me and teach me “their right way”? Quite frankly I think that makes me an even better real Witch because I had to figure it out for myself. And because of that my understanding and beliefs don’t quite fit into any prescribed dogma. So that is why I stay a solitary practitioner and that is why I have stepped back from the community as a whole.

But then I don’t look at being a Witch as a religion, with all of its implied rules and regulations and dogma. I look at being a Witch in the same way that the old village Witches looked at it. I revere the earth and heavens and do my best to respect and tread lightly on her.

I try to live a spiritual life without bowing to or begging the acceptance of any one archetypal being. I look at the Goddess and Gods as a representation on this plane of the source of all energy and power. I cast spells for my own benefit, and mine alone, as I don’t believe I have the right to manipulate anyone else’s life. And I believe that Karma will out eventually.

I believe that being a Witch is as simple as that. It’s in your heart, it’s in your soul, and it’s who YOU know you really are. Not because someone gives you permission to be one simply because you read and adhere to someone else’s views as written down and published. Or because you attend meetings once a week, or once a month, or even once a quarter.

But because YOU know you are. And whether you are solitary or a member of a group, no matter what that group represents, you are really on your own. You must practice, practice, practice, and hold that knowing in your own heart…alone.

That’s what makes you a “real Witch.”

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Celebrating Other Spirituality 365 Days a Year – Mesrop Ma tots

February 19 and 20

Mesrop Ma tots

This day celebrates the birth of Mesrop Ma tots, a missionary to the remoter parts of his native Armenia who, in order to provide his countrymen with books in their own language, invented a 36-letter alphabet (still used today with the addition of a few extra letters). He is also credited with inventing the 38-letter Georgian alphabet.

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