Posts Tagged With: Doreen Valiente

The Way We Were vs The Way We Are

The Way We Were vs The Way We Are

Author: Ryan Hatcher

If we are to look back to the inception of modern paganism and the people who were the force behind it and were to observe how they practiced, worshipped and worked magic and compared it to how we practice, worship and work magic in modern times, while there is guaranteed to be a great deal of difference, the basic, core values should have remained the same.

I was in Norwich yesterday, a city with a strong pagan undercurrent of its own, for a brief look around the shops to pass some time while my partner enjoyed a 2-hour birthday massage, because of which my wallet had experienced a mass weight loss. So window-shopping it was. On my journey around the city I ventured into a Waterstones bookshop to have a look at their MBS section and had a skim through some of the material. Now, 90% of these books were paganism 101, which is fair enough for a standard mainstream bookshop, but reading through some of these 101 books — some of them recently published — it got me to reflecting: what is taught and considered western paganism now is much different than what it would have been considered to be 60-70 years ago.

What do I mean by this? Well, much of my personal pagan practice is inspired by these ‘old school’ methods with a touch of the modern for flavor (I’m talking about Doreen Valiente and Kevin Cochrane for the older styles, particularly Valiente; the Farrars (Stewart and Janet) represent an in-between period. Kate West and Christopher Penczack add the modern flare.) as I feel their values and ideas resonate with me. Now, keeping Valiente and Cochrane’s ideals in mind (again, more Valiente than Cochrane) , compare them to a lot of Penczack’s work and the work of similar contemporary styles and you’ll see what I’m trying to get at.

The styles and traditions of Valiente and Cochrane (hereon called the ‘older styles’) focus more on the earth-based worship side of paganism: seeing their Gods as personified manifestations of the forces of Life, Love, Death and Rebirth as well as the forces of nature in all it’s guises (be this as the four elements or simply as the grass in your lawn) . I also feel that animism in a subtler form was still there, if only felt and respected rather than overtly expressed.

The crafting of magic seems to have been simpler, as was the training (which doesn’t mean it was by any means easier than today; I’m inclined to say it was harder) . Metaphysical ideas such as energy centres, auras and layers of existence appear to have been acknowledged but were not the priority. The same for ‘the mysteries’ of the craft such as hypnosis, astral projection/trance journeying and psychism in all its forms. The works of the older styles show that they were an important part of their practice along with magic, but they were not the primary focus. I feel they were considered tools and techniques that developed along with the witch as he or she progressed down the spiritual path and was able to understand themselves and their developing abilities better and learn to control, focus and use them.

In contrast, the works of Penczack and his contemporaries (hereon called the ‘newer styles’) seem to focus more on the metaphysical ideas of paganism (energy centres, auras and layers of existence) , ‘the mysteries’ of the craft and magic as being of primary importance and therefore many chapters are devoted to these concepts. Now, I’m not saying this is strictly a bad thing; it may well suit many a new student to paganism, but when it comes to the core values about the spiritual and worship side of paganism, we start to enter the world of ‘love, light and blessed be’.

The realm of the FB, and those big furry ears seem to be cropping up more frequently in pagan literature. The spirituality of the newer styles appears to see the Old Gods as playmates: happy, fun, smiley and They do anything their precious ‘hidden children’ ask for. And unfortunately kids, you just have to look at the global history of paganism and myths of the world to now that is definitely not true. The honouring of nature and the earth extends as far as litter picking and recycling, which are very, very good ideas, and more is being suggested such as planting new trees, getting involved with wildlife protection trusts etc. Unfortunately, I feel many of the witches of the older styles, though some did get involved in these things, chose not to, possibly considering ritual devotion to be sufficient.

Ritual then is the moot point of both the old and new styles. As we are all aware, spiritual practice is a subjective thing, especially when it comes to ritual. Both new and old styles of witchcraft and paganism have placed varying levels of focus on ritual, and all have varying styles and methods in ritual that meets with their needs and the ideals of their respective traditions. However (there had to be a however) , and this goes for both old and new styles of paganism, whatever happened to just going out there and communing with nature face-to-face? No pomp and ceremony, no matter how elaborate or simple, just getting out there and being in the presence of the forces that we as pagans honour and worship.

I say, if you’re in a situation where celebrating a sabbat or an esbat with formal ritual isn’t an option, but you are within distance of a beautiful woodland, then screw it! Go for a walk in the woodland, sit under a tree and meditate! Commune with the spirits of the natural world around you and feel the power of the Old Gods, the powers of life, love, death and rebirth and pour your heart out in gratitude for all you have and for all that it means to be alive.

Wrapping it up: to me, the older styles and the newer styles and those of the styles in-between all have their good points and their bad points. The older styles are more grounded, simple and earthly. The newer styles are more flighty, ‘new-age’, hippy-esque and spiritual (in the modern concept of the word) . I’m sure you can see we have a Yin-Yang situation. And like the Yin and Yang, symbols of the older and newer styles do have parts of the other within them, but what we need to achieve is a balance between the two.

Paganism is a living and growing spiritual path and naturally changes with time, but it shouldn’t lose its heart. If we can bring together old and new, Yin and Yang, then we might be able to evolve paganism further, making it stronger, more refined and give us a definitive direction for us to aim for.

I hope that this essay will encourage pagans, both old hands and new, to review their beliefs, practices and crafts… to look back at the old, and freely explore the new and therein decide what is the best way forward in their spiritual path.

Footnotes:
Witchcraft for Tomorrow – Doreen Valiente

Witchcraft a Tradition Renewed – Evan John Jones with Doreen Valiente

The Witches’ Bible – Janet and Stuart Farrar

The Real Witches’ Handbook – Kate West

Gay Witchcraft – Christopher Penczack

Instant Magick – Christopher Penczack

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Mabon Comments & Graphics
Blessing, Consecration, and Procession of the Elements Now Begins

Four members of the coven who have been chosen beforehand now approach the
Priestess.  Each holds one of the following: an  incense burner, a candle, a vessel of water, and a vessel of salt.  Each in turn approaches the Priestess, recites their piece, receives her blessing, and then processes deosil around the perimeter of the circle while stopping to bow at each of the quarters.

(If you have any of these objects that you would like to be blessed, hold them to the computer screen at this time. Repeat what the member has to say to the High Priestess)

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The Ethics Of Magick

The Ethics Of Magick

Author:   Frances [a WitchVox Sponsor] 

Some people are of the belief that when it comes to the practice of magick that anything goes. Magick is after all, simply that – magick. It is not caught up in ethics or morals. While this is correct, magick is actually shaped by the inner beliefs, ethics and morals of the person who uses it.

In all orthodox religions there are certain laws and regulations of how a follower of that faith should conduct themselves – in Christianity, for example, there are the Ten Commandments. In many Pagan traditions, however, it is believed that there is actually little need for such dogma as each person is ultimately responsible for their actions. Such responsibility can be overwhelming for someone new to Paganism, especially if they come from a more orthodox background, so they find the need to create boundaries in the form of guidelines. Within Wiccan belief there are a number of guidelines such as the Wiccan Rede and the Threefold Law of Return which are designed to help the newcomer understand the essence of that belief.

The Wiccan Rede is a beautiful piece of poetry whose author is believed to have been the late Doreen Valiente. Within this poem many aspects of Wiccan beliefs and practices are outlined, such as the seasonal wheel of the year, honoring the Goddess and the God, and sacred trees to name a few. The poem ends with eight specific words that many Wiccans consider to be the main guideline as to how they are to live their lives: “If it harms none, do what you will.” Some critics of Wicca see this as an indication for followers to do anything they wish. However, when the statement is given due thought, its true meaning is understood – that as long as your actions do not harm anyone, then you are free to live your life as you please. Some Wiccans take this statement further, relating the “none” to animals and the environment as well.

The Wiccan Rede is a version of the Golden Rule, which can be found in most other religions, the earliest dating back to Confucianism, where a 6th century BCE statement, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others,” can be found. Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and even Sikhism also have variations of the Golden Rule.

The second ethical guideline which many Wiccans follow is that of the Threefold Law of Return, where it is believed that every deed done will return to the doer three times greater. This means that a good deed will return three times stronger, but so will any bad deed that is performed.

Many Wiccans also hold either a belief in the Eastern philosophy of Karma, or the Universal Law of Cause and Effect, where every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Karma is often viewed on a more personal level, that the deeds of one’s life are counteracted in the next life, while the Law of Cause and Effect can be viewed on a more global scale. A good example of the latter is seen in our environment. People in the past have done what they like without concern or respect for the environment or the creatures that live in it. The effects of this lack of regard and respect are the depletion of the ozone layer, rising salt levels due to large scale land clearing, droughts and floods brought on by erratic temperature fluctuations, and so on, that are witnessed today.

Taking Responsibility For Your Actions

As not every person who uses magick follows a Wiccan path and therefore is not necessarily guided by the Wiccan Rede, magick itself does tend to have its own guidelines. What some people do not realize when they first desire to perform magick is that magick is based on energy. When you cast a spell, you are sending out energy. The Universe magnifies this energy and returns it to you. Therefore it is vitally important that, before a person performs any form of magickal act, they are fully aware of the energy exchange and are prepared to take full responsibility for their actions. In magick there is no such thing as coincidences – everything happens for a reason, and when you perform a spell you are creating the reason.

Taking responsibility means being honest with yourself about what you are doing and why. You also need to be able to acknowledge your mistakes and their consequences. Mistakes are often the greatest lessons we can learn in life. To learn from your mistakes, you must closely examine what went wrong and to find a way to rectify the error. However, mistakes when performing magick can have dire consequences, especially if your energy is directed at a particular person.

Magick should never be done on a whim. Before you perform any form of magickal rite you need to look careful at the reasons why you want to use magick to obtain something. You also need to be very clear about what you want to achieve. Some people find it useful to consult one form of divination or another, such as runes or the tarot, prior to casting a spell or magickal rite to determine all possible outcomes. Only when you are sure about what you are doing, should you perform magick.

Due to the amount of “spell books” around it is understandable why some people are of the view that magick is an easy and safe means to get whatever they want. However this is a misconception, for magick is not all that safe if you do not know what you are doing. Things can happen that you did not intend. Those readers who have seen the movie The Craft will be able to relate to the dangers of casting love spells – in the movie, the victim of such a spell became obsessed with the caster of the spell to the stage where he was stalking her. There are also numerous stories about people who have cast money spells and while they did end up with a monetary sum, this was obtained through some kind of personal disaster or upheaval, such as an insurance claim or even a death. Therefore it is vitally important to be very careful about what you ask for, because, as the saying goes, you could very well receive it, but not necessarily through the means you had anticipated.

Magick is serious business and should never be taken lightly. It can be dangerous for those who are unprepared and there are consequences if it is used carelessly or with malicious intent. However, if you abide by a few simple guidelines (such as the Wiccan Rede), take the time to properly understand what you are doing and use it responsibly, magick can help you can achieve positive and rewarding changes in your life.

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Brooms or Besoms

Brooms or Besoms

A broom is used by many Witches to cleanse an area of baneful* energies
before a rite. They can represent the air or fire element, depending on
each practitioner’s tradition. The staff or handle is considered masculine,
while the brush or broom part is considered feminine. This uniting and
balancing of polarities makes the besom a natural choice for Handfasting
rites. Brooms also represent purification, protection, fertility and
prosperity.

The classic images of Witches riding broomsticks may have originated from
ancient fertility rites. People would jump high in the air on brooms to
‘show’ the crops how high to grow. This is a form of sympathetic magick.

There are many other myths and associations of Witches with brooms. In
Ireland, the besom was sometimes called a “Faery’s Horse”. In medieval
times, the besom was equated with marriages outside of the church. So much
so, that it was recorded that weddings ‘by the broom’ were to be considered
illegitimate.

The broom eventually became a symbol of antiestablishmentarianism and and
sensuality. This led at one time to the word ‘besom’ becoming a slang term
for an easy woman. These associations may have been promoted by the church
to discourage marriages outside of the church.

Chapter 13 of “The Magical Household” by Scott Cunningham and “An ABC of
Witchcraft” by Doreen Valiente have additional information and lore about
besoms.

*Baneful in this instance is defined as energies that are not conducive to
the working at hand, are harmful, or are considered negative.

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The Craft: Reflections of an Obscured Path

The Craft: Reflections of an Obscured Path

Author:   Eilan  

The gossamer trail of mist-like light illuminates the cove as the elegant crescent rises to its throne in the heavens. Waves of cool, foamy water sweep over the shore, complacently destroying innocent patterns ingrained in the fine sand. Silence reigns in the depth of the night as if a loose drape has smothered all movement and sound. Then, a soft and gradual note begins, accompanied by the steadied pound of taut leather. Crimson flames dance and court the frantic veil of shadow, chased to distant horizons – cast out by the sudden burst of light and color.

“Darksome night and shining moon, East, then South, then West, then North; Hearken to the Witches Rune, Hear we come to call ye forth…” The sweet cascade of voices fills the hollow cove as a warm breeze sails eagerly by. The sinuous chorus dances vividly against the opaque darkness, painting a mural of gentle faith and eternal youth. Faster and faster their ancient words spill from their moist lips, wisps of euphoria melting into the resonating air. Their feet frolic against a whirlwind of floating dust and scarlet embers, unraveling the secret labyrinth buried deep within their hearts. Nostalgia courses along their heaving bloodlines, for they are weaving a web whose humble strands were birthed in the dawn of humanity. Witches have gathered and Magic is afoot.

Since time immemorial humanity has been awed in the presence of the spiritual. For the early nomadic tribes of the arduous Earth, hunting and gathering was a life pursuit. Over time the various tribes developed structure and cohesion from their observations of nature’s cycles, the behavior and movement of their prey and the distinct patterns woven into the very fabric of their physical being. Women became aware of their periodic bleeding which coincided with the moon’s changing face. The mystery of birth and the anticipation of new life grounded women in their evolving passages, accepting the burden of caring for children and thus partaking in the less strenuous labor of gathering seeds, vegetables, herbs and plants. Men, whose role in procreation became that of the virile warrior and Lord of the Dance, brandished their weapons of stone and flint, while stalking the fleeting herds of deer and bison. Theirs was the role of hunting and so the gradual growth in favor of flesh moved the tribes to follow the herds in hopes of fulfilling an un-sated craving. And yet each tribe grew accustomed to their unique environment, borders and the collective experience of those who had gone before them, their revered ancestors.

The mysteries of birth, death and the return of life flourished unchallenged, and various deities, spirits and beings expressed the raw emotive language carved into their history. Behind the myriad of names, faces and myths, an underlying evocation to the Mother Goddess of abundance, fertility and Earth and the Living and Dying God of strength, prevalence and potency moved the ocean of their unconscious. And as in all things, there were those who by oracle, synchronicity, intuition or prophecy came to life as the vessels of the spirits and who the tribes adorned with the marks of ochre and the skins of the hunted, for these were the sacred Priesthood, the advisors and the Shamans of the people. A charge to wisdom and the grace of the Gods ignited the flame of the consecrated and the sacred became the Witches.

Such is the story told by numerous NeoPagan authors today and despite the scrutiny with which various scholars and historians have regarded modern Witchcraft, there is a subtle and romantic truth behind the envisioned history of Witchcraft.

By conventional definition Witchcraft is the ability to harness seemingly “supernatural” forces and bend natural principles in order to achieve a goal, usually immoral and selfish. However this traditional interpretation has little to do with the truth as expressed by the practitioners of Witchcraft today. Witchcraft has been described as a skill, a philosophy, a way of life and a religion. However, in essence the most suitable definition of Witchcraft is as a way of life; that of attuning to the natural world and developing a relationship with the spiritual flow of life’s energy, and working with it to manifest desire. Nowadays Witchcraft is a spiritual pursuit that embodies various Pagan practices and customs that assist the individual in living a life of respect for Mother Earth, her creatures and the Self. However even that statement is dancing dangerously on the edge of unanimity, as Witchcraft is a decentralized and autonomous practice that, by its nature, evolves and changes in order to suit the diversity of personality.

The revival in interest of Witchcraft can be traced back to the early 1950s in England. In 1951 British parliament repealed the anti-Witchcraft legislation, which restricted the legal practice of mediumship and spiritualism, under pressure from Spiritualist organizations that desired to freely practice their craft. This auspicious event set off the beginnings of one of the most phenomenal movements in the Western world. In 1954 a British civil servant named Gerald Brosseau Gardner published Witchcraft Today – a non-fiction work describing Witchcraft as the ancient, Pagan religion of Western Europe, a theory that had previously been discussed by the Egyptologist, Margaret Murray. Murray’s hypothesis has long been discredited; however it must be made clear that Witchcraft is a spiritually valid system which has long been practiced by the people of this Earth under the guise of various local Shamanic and religious systems, or simply as a thread of the rich history of folk lore. Gardner claimed to have been initiated into a traditional Witches Coven in the New Forest in 1939 by a woman by the name of Dorothy Clutterbuck. Skeptics and scholars who frowned upon Gardner as a delusional charlatan questioned the existence of “Old Dorothy,” however research collated by the late Doreen Valiente (Witch and High Priestess of Gardner’s first Coven) has proven that Dorothy did indeed exist and that Gardner’s claims were not unfounded. What can be assessed is that Gardner created a working and accessible system which he called ‘Wica’ (now ‘Wicca’) by examining the commonalities in the religious experiences of the Neolithic peoples of Western Europe, Eastern ethics and spiritual disciplines (meditation), occult fraternities and organizations such as the New Golden Dawn and the Rosicrucians and the various medieval Gnostic groups. While he professed that Wica had direct links with an ancient past and probably sincerely believed this, the truth is that Wica comprises a multitude of cultural and spiritual systems that for lack of a better term have been equated with Witchcraft.

In truth Wicca, as it is spelt today, is a religious attitude that involves harnessing the Magical principles of Witchcraft to further attune the individual to both the sacred mysteries of Initiation and the keen diversity of the natural world. It is a religion of devotion, training, occult tenets and celebration of the Old Gods and their kingdom, the wilderness of Earth. For it is the understanding of Wiccans that Divinity resides in the present, in the physical manifestation of creation and that it pervades all things. Witchcraft in and of itself is not a religion, it is simply a way of life in which the Self is seen as the catalyst for change, growth and development. However, in this case the catalyst is consciously susceptible to the outcome and its effects.

Witchcraft, under the guise of ethics and spiritual values, has become the most popular form of the Craft today. The Western world has experienced this popularity of the “ancient” or rather naturalistic traditions as recorded by their statistical census reports, which in Australia alone have shown a 373.5% growth in people identifying as Witches from 1996 to 2001. This excludes Wiccans, Pagans and other nature-based spiritualities, which have all experienced similar influxes. As time goes on Witches, Wiccans and Pagans have become more willing to inform others about their practices and beliefs, and work actively to encourage accurate portrayals of Pagan culture in the media through pride festivals, charity associations, interfaith communities – the list goes on. Despite this, there is still discrimination against Witchcraft and its adherents and many Witches have been subject to horrendous mistreatment by fundamentalist Christian groups, local and federal governments and other ignorant individuals whose lack of sympathy and tolerance remains a thorn in the side of many Witches and Pagans today. But where did this all start? Why does society reject the truth in favor of sensationalist rumors and historical misconceptions? Where did this hatred of Witchcraft begin and who is responsible for spreading the myths of diabolism, devil-worship, infanticide and crazed orgiastic rites?

The word Witch is said to have its roots in the Indo-European word “Weik” which refers to religion and Magic and therefore the ceremonies that interlink them. Therefore historically, at least in the BC era, Witchcraft and those who practiced it were simply participating in a form of religious tradition which may have been celebrated through simplistic and festive fertility rites and more complicated forms of Ritual performed by talented individuals, i.e. Shamans. It was not until the birth of Christianity and its consequent acceptance as the “one true faith,” that Witches, or rather non-Christians, were perceived as irreligious, ignorant and idolaters. However, it cannot be assumed that the early Christians, whose numbers were few, actively preached against the evils of Pagan worship. Indeed there are various stories and legends, which convey a sense of peace and harmony between the first Christian settlers in Britain and the Druids, the Celtic priesthood. The belief in the innate opposition of good and evil and their tangible embodiments of Holy Spirit (God) and Satan respectively, has shaped the mode of Western thought and colored the belief that Witches’ immoral customs and roles served the Evil One, and thus this opinion was carried by the cancerous spread of rumors and religious indoctrination throughout Europe.

Patriarchy, war, government and propagandist institutions became favorable in the ancient Sumerian and later Babylonian civilizations and the once sacred and revered position of the temple priestess degenerated into petty acquaintances with oracles and soothsayers and the submissive service of the “sacred” prostitute. These societies whose roots were closely related to the development of Judaism influenced the popular view that Witches and their kin (mediums, oracles and diviners) were dark and suspicious characters who remained on the periphery of the community and dwelled in shadows to avoid assured persecution. The Old Testament decrees that, “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.” The passage goes on to address these acts as “abominations to the Lord” and warns that should anyone participate in any of the above they will be driven out by God. Even Roman and Greek writers described Witches as foul, unclean, haggish, unmerciful and predominantly women and officiated the approval of various Magical acts in hopes that this would encourage only regulated and “refined” Magical practice, rather than suffer the onslaught of curses and enraged spirits believed to be consorted with by the “common folk.” This was merely the beginning of a dark stereotype, an archetype that infused the warped unconscious of a hysterical continent into what has been termed the Women’s Holocaust.

As Christianity became the dominant ecclesiastical power in Europe and Paganism declined into the remnants of a deteriorating folk history, Witchcraft, which was intrinsically embedded in Pagan custom, attracted the attention of the Catholic Church. Through a period of crusades, publications (Malleus Maleficarum – Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer [1487]) and papal declarations, Witchcraft fell to the tyranny of both the secular and religious powers, and a hysteria swept over Western Europe which claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, of which a significant percentage were women. The numerous trials the Inquisition imposed resulted in a consistency of confessions that “revealed” the decadent and diabolic revelry that featured prominently in the Witch’s Sabbat. The proposed reason for the universality of answers which the Inquisitors and judges extracted from the convicted is said to owe to the wide use of published manuals on witch-hunting. Confession to these wild allegations was offered as divine redemption and if the individual did not accept responsibility for their actions immediately (if indeed any of them committed such acts) torture was instituted as a means to provoke the desired response.

Nowadays the world has inherited this legacy of brutality, discrimination and complete ignorance, and myths of Satanic worship, cannibalism, curses and naked journeys through the night sky are accepted as fact, superstitious nonsense, or rather left without evaluation. Witches and Pagans have worked through the decades to counteract these misconceptions and rectify society’s assumptions; in many cases this has allowed for fairer treatment and opened doors for a safer public awareness. Witches have never worshipped the Devil, never flown through the frigid air on pitchforks and broomsticks, never eaten children for the sake of an unholy pact and they have never been consumed by the whims of demons and evil. Nor are Witches the epitome of a kingdom of purity and white light, for Witches honor the sacred balance between light and dark, masculine and feminine, night and day. For Life is a journey amidst the colors of a dancing rainbow, and shadow is merely the reflection of an obstructed light, and you are that which stands between them both.

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The Craft: Reflections of an Obscured Path

The Craft: Reflections of an Obscured Path

Author:   Eilan 
 
The gossamer trail of mist-like light illuminates the cove as the elegant crescent rises to its throne in the heavens. Waves of cool, foamy water sweep over the shore, complacently destroying innocent patterns ingrained in the fine sand. Silence reigns in the depth of the night as if a loose drape has smothered all movement and sound. Then, a soft and gradual note begins, accompanied by the steadied pound of taut leather. Crimson flames dance and court the frantic veil of shadow, chased to distant horizons – cast out by the sudden burst of light and color.

“Darksome night and shining moon, East, then South, then West, then North; Hearken to the Witches Rune, Hear we come to call ye forth…” The sweet cascade of voices fills the hollow cove as a warm breeze sails eagerly by. The sinuous chorus dances vividly against the opaque darkness, painting a mural of gentle faith and eternal youth. Faster and faster their ancient words spill from their moist lips, wisps of euphoria melting into the resonating air. Their feet frolic against a whirlwind of floating dust and scarlet embers, unraveling the secret labyrinth buried deep within their hearts. Nostalgia courses along their heaving bloodlines, for they are weaving a web whose humble strands were birthed in the dawn of humanity. Witches have gathered and Magic is afoot.

Since time immemorial humanity has been awed in the presence of the spiritual. For the early nomadic tribes of the arduous Earth, hunting and gathering was a life pursuit. Over time the various tribes developed structure and cohesion from their observations of nature’s cycles, the behavior and movement of their prey and the distinct patterns woven into the very fabric of their physical being. Women became aware of their periodic bleeding which coincided with the moon’s changing face. The mystery of birth and the anticipation of new life grounded women in their evolving passages, accepting the burden of caring for children and thus partaking in the less strenuous labor of gathering seeds, vegetables, herbs and plants. Men, whose role in procreation became that of the virile warrior and Lord of the Dance, brandished their weapons of stone and flint, while stalking the fleeting herds of deer and bison. Theirs was the role of hunting and so the gradual growth in favor of flesh moved the tribes to follow the herds in hopes of fulfilling an un-sated craving. And yet each tribe grew accustomed to their unique environment, borders and the collective experience of those who had gone before them, their revered ancestors.

The mysteries of birth, death and the return of life flourished unchallenged, and various deities, spirits and beings expressed the raw emotive language carved into their history. Behind the myriad of names, faces and myths, an underlying evocation to the Mother Goddess of abundance, fertility and Earth and the Living and Dying God of strength, prevalence and potency moved the ocean of their unconscious. And as in all things, there were those who by oracle, synchronicity, intuition or prophecy came to life as the vessels of the spirits and who the tribes adorned with the marks of ochre and the skins of the hunted, for these were the sacred Priesthood, the advisors and the Shamans of the people. A charge to wisdom and the grace of the Gods ignited the flame of the consecrated and the sacred became the Witches.

Such is the story told by numerous NeoPagan authors today and despite the scrutiny with which various scholars and historians have regarded modern Witchcraft, there is a subtle and romantic truth behind the envisioned history of Witchcraft.

By conventional definition Witchcraft is the ability to harness seemingly “supernatural” forces and bend natural principles in order to achieve a goal, usually immoral and selfish. However this traditional interpretation has little to do with the truth as expressed by the practitioners of Witchcraft today. Witchcraft has been described as a skill, a philosophy, a way of life and a religion. However, in essence the most suitable definition of Witchcraft is as a way of life; that of attuning to the natural world and developing a relationship with the spiritual flow of life’s energy, and working with it to manifest desire. Nowadays Witchcraft is a spiritual pursuit that embodies various Pagan practices and customs that assist the individual in living a life of respect for Mother Earth, her creatures and the Self. However even that statement is dancing dangerously on the edge of unanimity, as Witchcraft is a decentralized and autonomous practice that, by its nature, evolves and changes in order to suit the diversity of personality.

The revival in interest of Witchcraft can be traced back to the early 1950s in England. In 1951 British parliament repealed the anti-Witchcraft legislation, which restricted the legal practice of mediumship and spiritualism, under pressure from Spiritualist organizations that desired to freely practice their craft. This auspicious event set off the beginnings of one of the most phenomenal movements in the Western world. In 1954 a British civil servant named Gerald Brosseau Gardner published Witchcraft Today – a non-fiction work describing Witchcraft as the ancient, Pagan religion of Western Europe, a theory that had previously been discussed by the Egyptologist, Margaret Murray. Murray’s hypothesis has long been discredited; however it must be made clear that Witchcraft is a spiritually valid system which has long been practiced by the people of this Earth under the guise of various local Shamanic and religious systems, or simply as a thread of the rich history of folk lore. Gardner claimed to have been initiated into a traditional Witches Coven in the New Forest in 1939 by a woman by the name of Dorothy Clutterbuck. Skeptics and scholars who frowned upon Gardner as a delusional charlatan questioned the existence of “Old Dorothy,” however research collated by the late Doreen Valiente (Witch and High Priestess of Gardner’s first Coven) has proven that Dorothy did indeed exist and that Gardner’s claims were not unfounded. What can be assessed is that Gardner created a working and accessible system which he called ‘Wica’ (now ‘Wicca’) by examining the commonalities in the religious experiences of the Neolithic peoples of Western Europe, Eastern ethics and spiritual disciplines (meditation), occult fraternities and organizations such as the New Golden Dawn and the Rosicrucians and the various medieval Gnostic groups. While he professed that Wica had direct links with an ancient past and probably sincerely believed this, the truth is that Wica comprises a multitude of cultural and spiritual systems that for lack of a better term have been equated with Witchcraft.

In truth Wicca, as it is spelt today, is a religious attitude that involves harnessing the Magical principles of Witchcraft to further attune the individual to both the sacred mysteries of Initiation and the keen diversity of the natural world. It is a religion of devotion, training, occult tenets and celebration of the Old Gods and their kingdom, the wilderness of Earth. For it is the understanding of Wiccans that Divinity resides in the present, in the physical manifestation of creation and that it pervades all things. Witchcraft in and of itself is not a religion, it is simply a way of life in which the Self is seen as the catalyst for change, growth and development. However, in this case the catalyst is consciously susceptible to the outcome and its effects.

Witchcraft, under the guise of ethics and spiritual values, has become the most popular form of the Craft today. The Western world has experienced this popularity of the “ancient” or rather naturalistic traditions as recorded by their statistical census reports, which in Australia alone have shown a 373.5% growth in people identifying as Witches from 1996 to 2001. This excludes Wiccans, Pagans and other nature-based spiritualities, which have all experienced similar influxes. As time goes on Witches, Wiccans and Pagans have become more willing to inform others about their practices and beliefs, and work actively to encourage accurate portrayals of Pagan culture in the media through pride festivals, charity associations, interfaith communities – the list goes on. Despite this, there is still discrimination against Witchcraft and its adherents and many Witches have been subject to horrendous mistreatment by fundamentalist Christian groups, local and federal governments and other ignorant individuals whose lack of sympathy and tolerance remains a thorn in the side of many Witches and Pagans today. But where did this all start? Why does society reject the truth in favor of sensationalist rumors and historical misconceptions? Where did this hatred of Witchcraft begin and who is responsible for spreading the myths of diabolism, devil-worship, infanticide and crazed orgiastic rites?

The word Witch is said to have its roots in the Indo-European word “Weik” which refers to religion and Magic and therefore the ceremonies that interlink them. Therefore historically, at least in the BC era, Witchcraft and those who practiced it were simply participating in a form of religious tradition which may have been celebrated through simplistic and festive fertility rites and more complicated forms of Ritual performed by talented individuals, i.e. Shamans. It was not until the birth of Christianity and its consequent acceptance as the “one true faith,” that Witches, or rather non-Christians, were perceived as irreligious, ignorant and idolaters. However, it cannot be assumed that the early Christians, whose numbers were few, actively preached against the evils of Pagan worship. Indeed there are various stories and legends, which convey a sense of peace and harmony between the first Christian settlers in Britain and the Druids, the Celtic priesthood. The belief in the innate opposition of good and evil and their tangible embodiments of Holy Spirit (God) and Satan respectively, has shaped the mode of Western thought and colored the belief that Witches’ immoral customs and roles served the Evil One, and thus this opinion was carried by the cancerous spread of rumors and religious indoctrination throughout Europe.

Patriarchy, war, government and propagandist institutions became favorable in the ancient Sumerian and later Babylonian civilizations and the once sacred and revered position of the temple priestess degenerated into petty acquaintances with oracles and soothsayers and the submissive service of the “sacred” prostitute. These societies whose roots were closely related to the development of Judaism influenced the popular view that Witches and their kin (mediums, oracles and diviners) were dark and suspicious characters who remained on the periphery of the community and dwelled in shadows to avoid assured persecution. The Old Testament decrees that, “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.” The passage goes on to address these acts as “abominations to the Lord” and warns that should anyone participate in any of the above they will be driven out by God. Even Roman and Greek writers described Witches as foul, unclean, haggish, unmerciful and predominantly women and officiated the approval of various Magical acts in hopes that this would encourage only regulated and “refined” Magical practice, rather than suffer the onslaught of curses and enraged spirits believed to be consorted with by the “common folk.” This was merely the beginning of a dark stereotype, an archetype that infused the warped unconscious of a hysterical continent into what has been termed the Women’s Holocaust.

As Christianity became the dominant ecclesiastical power in Europe and Paganism declined into the remnants of a deteriorating folk history, Witchcraft, which was intrinsically embedded in Pagan custom, attracted the attention of the Catholic Church. Through a period of crusades, publications (Malleus Maleficarum – Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer [1487]) and papal declarations, Witchcraft fell to the tyranny of both the secular and religious powers, and a hysteria swept over Western Europe which claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, of which a significant percentage were women. The numerous trials the Inquisition imposed resulted in a consistency of confessions that “revealed” the decadent and diabolic revelry that featured prominently in the Witch’s Sabbat. The proposed reason for the universality of answers which the Inquisitors and judges extracted from the convicted is said to owe to the wide use of published manuals on witch-hunting. Confession to these wild allegations was offered as divine redemption and if the individual did not accept responsibility for their actions immediately (if indeed any of them committed such acts) torture was instituted as a means to provoke the desired response.

Nowadays the world has inherited this legacy of brutality, discrimination and complete ignorance, and myths of Satanic worship, cannibalism, curses and naked journeys through the night sky are accepted as fact, superstitious nonsense, or rather left without evaluation. Witches and Pagans have worked through the decades to counteract these misconceptions and rectify society’s assumptions; in many cases this has allowed for fairer treatment and opened doors for a safer public awareness. Witches have never worshipped the Devil, never flown through the frigid air on pitchforks and broomsticks, never eaten children for the sake of an unholy pact and they have never been consumed by the whims of demons and evil. Nor are Witches the epitome of a kingdom of purity and white light, for Witches honor the sacred balance between light and dark, masculine and feminine, night and day. For Life is a journey amidst the colors of a dancing rainbow, and shadow is merely the reflection of an obstructed light, and you are that which stands between them both.

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MAY EVE

MAY EVE

Walpurgis Night, the time is right,
The ancient powers awake.
So dance and sing, around the ring,
And Beltane magic make.

Walpurgis Night, Walpurgis Night,
Upon the eve of May,
We’ll merry meet, and summer greet,
For ever and a day.

New life we see, in flower and tree,
And summer comes again.
Be free and fair, like earth and air,
The sunshine and the rain.

Walpurgis Night, Walpurgis Night,
Upon the eve of May,
We’ll merry meet, and summer greet,
For ever and a day.
This magic fire be our desire
To tread the pagan way,
And our true will find and fulfil,
As dawns a brighter day.

Walpurgis Night, Walpurgis Night,
Upon the eve of May,
We’ll merry meet, and summer greet,
For ever and a day.

The pagan powers this night be ours,
Let all the world be free,
And sorrows cast into the past,
And future blessed be!

Walpurgis Night, Walpurgis Night,
Upon the eve of May,
We’ll merry meet, and summer greet,
For ever and a day.

Doreen Valiente
“Witchcraft For Tomorrow”, pp. 192-193

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts, The Sabbats | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Craft: Reflections of an Obscured Path

The Craft: Reflections of an Obscured Path

Author:   Eilan 

The gossamer trail of mist-like light illuminates the cove as the elegant crescent rises to its throne in the heavens. Waves of cool, foamy water sweep over the shore, complacently destroying innocent patterns ingrained in the fine sand. Silence reigns in the depth of the night as if a loose drape has smothered all movement and sound. Then, a soft and gradual note begins, accompanied by the steadied pound of taut leather. Crimson flames dance and court the frantic veil of shadow, chased to distant horizons – cast out by the sudden burst of light and color.

“Darksome night and shining moon, East, then South, then West, then North; Hearken to the Witches Rune, Hear we come to call ye forth…” The sweet cascade of voices fills the hollow cove as a warm breeze sails eagerly by. The sinuous chorus dances vividly against the opaque darkness, painting a mural of gentle faith and eternal youth. Faster and faster their ancient words spill from their moist lips, wisps of euphoria melting into the resonating air. Their feet frolic against a whirlwind of floating dust and scarlet embers, unraveling the secret labyrinth buried deep within their hearts. Nostalgia courses along their heaving bloodlines, for they are weaving a web whose humble strands were birthed in the dawn of humanity. Witches have gathered and Magic is afoot.

Since time immemorial humanity has been awed in the presence of the spiritual. For the early nomadic tribes of the arduous Earth, hunting and gathering was a life pursuit. Over time the various tribes developed structure and cohesion from their observations of nature’s cycles, the behavior and movement of their prey and the distinct patterns woven into the very fabric of their physical being. Women became aware of their periodic bleeding which coincided with the moon’s changing face. The mystery of birth and the anticipation of new life grounded women in their evolving passages, accepting the burden of caring for children and thus partaking in the less strenuous labor of gathering seeds, vegetables, herbs and plants. Men, whose role in procreation became that of the virile warrior and Lord of the Dance, brandished their weapons of stone and flint, while stalking the fleeting herds of deer and bison. Theirs was the role of hunting and so the gradual growth in favor of flesh moved the tribes to follow the herds in hopes of fulfilling an un-sated craving. And yet each tribe grew accustomed to their unique environment, borders and the collective experience of those who had gone before them, their revered ancestors.

The mysteries of birth, death and the return of life flourished unchallenged, and various deities, spirits and beings expressed the raw emotive language carved into their history. Behind the myriad of names, faces and myths, an underlying evocation to the Mother Goddess of abundance, fertility and Earth and the Living and Dying God of strength, prevalence and potency moved the ocean of their unconscious. And as in all things, there were those who by oracle, synchronicity, intuition or prophecy came to life as the vessels of the spirits and who the tribes adorned with the marks of ochre and the skins of the hunted, for these were the sacred Priesthood, the advisors and the Shamans of the people. A charge to wisdom and the grace of the Gods ignited the flame of the consecrated and the sacred became the Witches.

Such is the story told by numerous NeoPagan authors today and despite the scrutiny with which various scholars and historians have regarded modern Witchcraft, there is a subtle and romantic truth behind the envisioned history of Witchcraft.

By conventional definition Witchcraft is the ability to harness seemingly “supernatural” forces and bend natural principles in order to achieve a goal, usually immoral and selfish. However this traditional interpretation has little to do with the truth as expressed by the practitioners of Witchcraft today. Witchcraft has been described as a skill, a philosophy, a way of life and a religion. However, in essence the most suitable definition of Witchcraft is as a way of life; that of attuning to the natural world and developing a relationship with the spiritual flow of life’s energy, and working with it to manifest desire. Nowadays Witchcraft is a spiritual pursuit that embodies various Pagan practices and customs that assist the individual in living a life of respect for Mother Earth, her creatures and the Self. However even that statement is dancing dangerously on the edge of unanimity, as Witchcraft is a decentralized and autonomous practice that, by its nature, evolves and changes in order to suit the diversity of personality.

The revival in interest of Witchcraft can be traced back to the early 1950s in England. In 1951 British parliament repealed the anti-Witchcraft legislation, which restricted the legal practice of mediumship and spiritualism, under pressure from Spiritualist organizations that desired to freely practice their craft. This auspicious event set off the beginnings of one of the most phenomenal movements in the Western world. In 1954 a British civil servant named Gerald Brosseau Gardner published Witchcraft Today – a non-fiction work describing Witchcraft as the ancient, Pagan religion of Western Europe, a theory that had previously been discussed by the Egyptologist, Margaret Murray. Murray’s hypothesis has long been discredited; however it must be made clear that Witchcraft is a spiritually valid system which has long been practiced by the people of this Earth under the guise of various local Shamanic and religious systems, or simply as a thread of the rich history of folk lore. Gardner claimed to have been initiated into a traditional Witches Coven in the New Forest in 1939 by a woman by the name of Dorothy Clutterbuck. Skeptics and scholars who frowned upon Gardner as a delusional charlatan questioned the existence of “Old Dorothy,” however research collated by the late Doreen Valiente (Witch and High Priestess of Gardner’s first Coven) has proven that Dorothy did indeed exist and that Gardner’s claims were not unfounded. What can be assessed is that Gardner created a working and accessible system which he called ‘Wica’ (now ‘Wicca’) by examining the commonalities in the religious experiences of the Neolithic peoples of Western Europe, Eastern ethics and spiritual disciplines (meditation), occult fraternities and organizations such as the New Golden Dawn and the Rosicrucians and the various medieval Gnostic groups. While he professed that Wica had direct links with an ancient past and probably sincerely believed this, the truth is that Wica comprises a multitude of cultural and spiritual systems that for lack of a better term have been equated with Witchcraft.

In truth Wicca, as it is spelt today, is a religious attitude that involves harnessing the Magical principles of Witchcraft to further attune the individual to both the sacred mysteries of Initiation and the keen diversity of the natural world. It is a religion of devotion, training, occult tenets and celebration of the Old Gods and their kingdom, the wilderness of Earth. For it is the understanding of Wiccans that Divinity resides in the present, in the physical manifestation of creation and that it pervades all things. Witchcraft in and of itself is not a religion, it is simply a way of life in which the Self is seen as the catalyst for change, growth and development. However, in this case the catalyst is consciously susceptible to the outcome and its effects.

Witchcraft, under the guise of ethics and spiritual values, has become the most popular form of the Craft today. The Western world has experienced this popularity of the “ancient” or rather naturalistic traditions as recorded by their statistical census reports, which in Australia alone have shown a 373.5% growth in people identifying as Witches from 1996 to 2001. This excludes Wiccans, Pagans and other nature-based spiritualities, which have all experienced similar influxes. As time goes on Witches, Wiccans and Pagans have become more willing to inform others about their practices and beliefs, and work actively to encourage accurate portrayals of Pagan culture in the media through pride festivals, charity associations, interfaith communities – the list goes on. Despite this, there is still discrimination against Witchcraft and its adherents and many Witches have been subject to horrendous mistreatment by fundamentalist Christian groups, local and federal governments and other ignorant individuals whose lack of sympathy and tolerance remains a thorn in the side of many Witches and Pagans today. But where did this all start? Why does society reject the truth in favor of sensationalist rumors and historical misconceptions? Where did this hatred of Witchcraft begin and who is responsible for spreading the myths of diabolism, devil-worship, infanticide and crazed orgiastic rites?

The word Witch is said to have its roots in the Indo-European word “Weik” which refers to religion and Magic and therefore the ceremonies that interlink them. Therefore historically, at least in the BC era, Witchcraft and those who practiced it were simply participating in a form of religious tradition which may have been celebrated through simplistic and festive fertility rites and more complicated forms of Ritual performed by talented individuals, i.e. Shamans. It was not until the birth of Christianity and its consequent acceptance as the “one true faith,” that Witches, or rather non-Christians, were perceived as irreligious, ignorant and idolaters. However, it cannot be assumed that the early Christians, whose numbers were few, actively preached against the evils of Pagan worship. Indeed there are various stories and legends, which convey a sense of peace and harmony between the first Christian settlers in Britain and the Druids, the Celtic priesthood. The belief in the innate opposition of good and evil and their tangible embodiments of Holy Spirit (God) and Satan respectively, has shaped the mode of Western thought and colored the belief that Witches’ immoral customs and roles served the Evil One, and thus this opinion was carried by the cancerous spread of rumors and religious indoctrination throughout Europe.

Patriarchy, war, government and propagandist institutions became favorable in the ancient Sumerian and later Babylonian civilizations and the once sacred and revered position of the temple priestess degenerated into petty acquaintances with oracles and soothsayers and the submissive service of the “sacred” prostitute. These societies whose roots were closely related to the development of Judaism influenced the popular view that Witches and their kin (mediums, oracles and diviners) were dark and suspicious characters who remained on the periphery of the community and dwelled in shadows to avoid assured persecution. The Old Testament decrees that, “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.” The passage goes on to address these acts as “abominations to the Lord” and warns that should anyone participate in any of the above they will be driven out by God. Even Roman and Greek writers described Witches as foul, unclean, haggish, unmerciful and predominantly women and officiated the approval of various Magical acts in hopes that this would encourage only regulated and “refined” Magical practice, rather than suffer the onslaught of curses and enraged spirits believed to be consorted with by the “common folk.” This was merely the beginning of a dark stereotype, an archetype that infused the warped unconscious of a hysterical continent into what has been termed the Women’s Holocaust.

As Christianity became the dominant ecclesiastical power in Europe and Paganism declined into the remnants of a deteriorating folk history, Witchcraft, which was intrinsically embedded in Pagan custom, attracted the attention of the Catholic Church. Through a period of crusades, publications (Malleus Maleficarum – Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer [1487]) and papal declarations, Witchcraft fell to the tyranny of both the secular and religious powers, and a hysteria swept over Western Europe which claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, of which a significant percentage were women. The numerous trials the Inquisition imposed resulted in a consistency of confessions that “revealed” the decadent and diabolic revelry that featured prominently in the Witch’s Sabbat. The proposed reason for the universality of answers which the Inquisitors and judges extracted from the convicted is said to owe to the wide use of published manuals on witch-hunting. Confession to these wild allegations was offered as divine redemption and if the individual did not accept responsibility for their actions immediately (if indeed any of them committed such acts) torture was instituted as a means to provoke the desired response.

Nowadays the world has inherited this legacy of brutality, discrimination and complete ignorance, and myths of Satanic worship, cannibalism, curses and naked journeys through the night sky are accepted as fact, superstitious nonsense, or rather left without evaluation. Witches and Pagans have worked through the decades to counteract these misconceptions and rectify society’s assumptions; in many cases this has allowed for fairer treatment and opened doors for a safer public awareness. Witches have never worshipped the Devil, never flown through the frigid air on pitchforks and broomsticks, never eaten children for the sake of an unholy pact and they have never been consumed by the whims of demons and evil. Nor are Witches the epitome of a kingdom of purity and white light, for Witches honor the sacred balance between light and dark, masculine and feminine, night and day. For Life is a journey amidst the colors of a dancing rainbow, and shadow is merely the reflection of an obstructed light, and you are that which stands between them both.

Categories: Articles, Daily Posts | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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