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Southern Hemisphere Magick

Southern Hemisphere Magick

Author: Frances

Despite what appears to be a wealth of information available on neo-Pagan traditions, one section of the community seems to be grossly under-represented and that is those of us who reside in the Southern Hemisphere – Australia, New Zealand and even South Africa, to name but three countries. The majority of authors residing in the Northern Hemisphere seem to have little or no knowledge at all of the differences between the hemispheres. And if such a difference is acknowledged, it is usually limited to only the Sabbats. It is no wonder that endless debates occur on how to “do things” down under.

The following is a suggestion based on my own personal observances as both a Wytch and magickian who resides in the Southern Hemisphere, which may be of assistance to others.

There are at least four major differences between the Hemispheres. The first is the obvious six-month difference in the seasons. When it is Midsummer in the Northern Hemisphere, we in the South are celebrating Midwinter (the “Christmas in July” theme is becoming a popular event even amongst non-Pagans). The dates, according to general consensus, of the Southern Sabbats are:

Samhain – 30 April

Midwinter Solstice (Yule) – 21 June

Imbolg – 1 August

Spring or Vernal Equinox (Eostre) – 21 September

Bealtaine – 1 November

Midsummer Solstice (Litha) – 21 December

Lughnasadh – 1 February

Autumn Equinox (Mabon) – 21 March

If we use the astrological signs in which the Sun moves into to determine each Sabbat date as opposed to actual calendar dates, then this too is changed by six months:

Samhain – 15 deg Taurus

Midwinter Solstice – 0 deg Cancer

Imbolg – 15 deg Leo

Spring Equinox – 0 deg Libra

Bealtaine – 15 deg Scorpio

Midsummer Solstice – 0 deg Capricorn

Lughnasadh – 15 deg Aquarius

Autumn Equinox – 0 deg Aries

This means that Northern Hemisphere-based festivals appear largely out of place in the Southern Hemisphere. Our Morris Dances however still celebrate “May Day” on 1 May regardless of the fact that it marks the beginning of Winter; likewise the Christian Easter falls in Autumn as opposed to Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. However, there are specific events that do align – in particular specific Southern Hemisphere-based public holidays. One good example is ANZAC Day, the day on which we remember Australian and New Zealand service men and women that died at war. This day of remembrance occurs on 25 April, close to the Southern Samhain on 30 April.

The next major difference between the Hemispheres is the direction in which the Sun moves across the sky. As in the Northern Hemisphere, the Sun still rises in the East and sets in the West, however on its journey across the sky in the Southern Hemisphere, it travels via the North because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis. For this reason, most Pagans in the Southern Hemisphere cast their circles in this direction, via the North or in an anti-clockwise direction.

It irks me when authors refer to deosil as meaning “clockwise” and widdershins as meaning “anticlockwise.” Not only does this not apply to the Southern Hemisphere, but also it is etymologically incorrect. According to the Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, the word deosil comes from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning “sunwise” or “in the direction of the (apparent) motion of the sun,” and in the Southern Hemisphere this is anticlockwise. The term widdershins comes from the Middle High Germanic word “widersinnes” meaning “against the sun.” In the Southern Hemisphere, this is clockwise, representing the direction for banishing, winding down energies or even for darker workings. Of course, as English – as well as other European languages incorporated into the English language – stem from the Northern Hemisphere as opposed to the Southern Hemisphere, Northern associations are more dominant. For example, deosil is also said to come from the Irish word “cor deiseil” which means “auspicious right hand turn,” while widdershins is akin to the Irish “cor tuathal” meaning “the mundane left-hand turn.” To save confusion, however, for Southern Hemispheric Pagans, I prefer and recommend the first definition with respect to the Sun.

A further observance is that the energy flow of the Earth between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres is also reversed. Prior to spending time in England I was told to observe the direction in which the water drained down the plughole. In the Northern Hemisphere, energy moves in a clockwise direction, whereas in the Southern Hemisphere, it is anti-clockwise.

If we take the above information into consideration when placing the elements around our magickal circle, it then seems logical for the placement of Fire to be in the North, while Earth is placed in the South. Environmentally, to the North is the Equator and from the North come the scorching Summer winds. North is also the placement in the sky of the Noonday Sun. In the South however, where the Sun never appears in the Southern Hemisphere, are the bitter cold Winter winds, as well as the frozen mass we refer to as Antarctica. However, this goes against the directional placements of the elements in more traditional Pagan groups.

I know a number of traditional Crafters who continue to place their altars in the North because according to their tradition (despite it being Northern Hemispheric-based) this is the “dark quarter.” One reasoning behind this is that on the astral the directional placements of the elements do not matter. If this is the case, then when I operate between the worlds, it should not matter if my physical altar and circle casting reflects the land in which I reside. Surely, if the founders of Earth-based traditions such as the Craft and Wicca (for example, Gerald Gardner, Alex Sanders or even Aleister Crowley) were based, or had spent some time, in the Southern Hemisphere, would they not have taken the differences into consideration?

Some Pagans living in the eastern states of Australia not only swap the elemental directions of Fire and Earth around, but also Water and Air. When you take the environment into consideration, it is easy to see why they do this. East of Australia is the Tasman Sea or even the Pacific Ocean – large bodies of water. In the Southern Hemisphere our weather patterns move largely from the West (therefore the placement of Air).

Another difference between the hemispheres, which is often overlooked, is the direction in which the crescents of the Waxing and Waning Moons point. In the Southern Hemisphere, the Waxing Moon in the sky actually points to the right, while the Waning Moon points to the left. Therefore the symbol of the Triple Moon Goddess (the maiden, mother and crone) reflects an introverted appearance opposed to the extroverted appearance in the Northern Hemisphere. But there are times where the Moon decides to really throw the spanner into the works and the Waxing Moon can be observed lying on her back pointing upwards, and the corresponding Waning Moon pointing downwards.

For us Southern Pagan practitioners, there is more to take into consideration when we work our magick and our circles than simply swapping the Sabbat dates around. And with the varying opinions and reasons behind even basic circle casting, it is little wonder newcomers to the various Pagan traditions in the Southern Hemisphere find it all very confusing. Maybe Pagan book publishers should take this into consideration, and if anyone is interested in issuing a contract for such a book, I would be interested in writing one (shameless plug, but I couldn’t resist).

In the Southern Hemisphere not only do we appear to do things standing on our heads but also working backwards as well – or maybe it is you Northern Hemispheric Pagans who have got it wrong.

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Southern Hemisphere Magick

Southern Hemisphere Magick

Author: Frances

Despite what appears to be a wealth of information available on neo-Pagan traditions, one section of the community seems to be grossly under-represented and that is those of us who reside in the Southern Hemisphere – Australia, New Zealand and even South Africa, to name but three countries. The majority of authors residing in the Northern Hemisphere seem to have little or no knowledge at all of the differences between the hemispheres. And if such a difference is acknowledged, it is usually limited to only the Sabbats. It is no wonder that endless debates occur on how to “do things” down under.

The following is a suggestion based on my own personal observances as both a Wytch and magickian who resides in the Southern Hemisphere, which may be of assistance to others.

There are at least four major differences between the Hemispheres. The first is the obvious six-month difference in the seasons. When it is Midsummer in the Northern Hemisphere, we in the South are celebrating Midwinter (the “Christmas in July” theme is becoming a popular event even amongst non-Pagans). The dates, according to general consensus, of the Southern Sabbats are:

Samhain – 30 April

Midwinter Solstice (Yule) – 21 June

Imbolg – 1 August

Spring or Vernal Equinox (Eostre) – 21 September

Bealtaine – 1 November

Midsummer Solstice (Litha) – 21 December

Lughnasadh – 1 February

Autumn Equinox (Mabon) – 21 March

If we use the astrological signs in which the Sun moves into to determine each Sabbat date as opposed to actual calendar dates, then this too is changed by six months:

Samhain – 15 deg Taurus

Midwinter Solstice – 0 deg Cancer

Imbolg – 15 deg Leo

Spring Equinox – 0 deg Libra

Bealtaine – 15 deg Scorpio

Midsummer Solstice – 0 deg Capricorn

Lughnasadh – 15 deg Aquarius

Autumn Equinox – 0 deg Aries

This means that Northern Hemisphere-based festivals appear largely out of place in the Southern Hemisphere. Our Morris Dances however still celebrate “May Day” on 1 May regardless of the fact that it marks the beginning of Winter; likewise the Christian Easter falls in Autumn as opposed to Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. However, there are specific events that do align – in particular specific Southern Hemisphere-based public holidays. One good example is ANZAC Day, the day on which we remember Australian and New Zealand service men and women that died at war. This day of remembrance occurs on 25 April, close to the Southern Samhain on 30 April.

The next major difference between the Hemispheres is the direction in which the Sun moves across the sky. As in the Northern Hemisphere, the Sun still rises in the East and sets in the West, however on its journey across the sky in the Southern Hemisphere, it travels via the North because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis. For this reason, most Pagans in the Southern Hemisphere cast their circles in this direction, via the North or in an anti-clockwise direction.

It irks me when authors refer to deosil as meaning “clockwise” and widdershins as meaning “anticlockwise.” Not only does this not apply to the Southern Hemisphere, but also it is etymologically incorrect. According to the Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, the word deosil comes from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning “sunwise” or “in the direction of the (apparent) motion of the sun,” and in the Southern Hemisphere this is anticlockwise. The term widdershins comes from the Middle High Germanic word “widersinnes” meaning “against the sun.” In the Southern Hemisphere, this is clockwise, representing the direction for banishing, winding down energies or even for darker workings. Of course, as English – as well as other European languages incorporated into the English language – stem from the Northern Hemisphere as opposed to the Southern Hemisphere, Northern associations are more dominant. For example, deosil is also said to come from the Irish word “cor deiseil” which means “auspicious right hand turn,” while widdershins is akin to the Irish “cor tuathal” meaning “the mundane left-hand turn.” To save confusion, however, for Southern Hemispheric Pagans, I prefer and recommend the first definition with respect to the Sun.

A further observance is that the energy flow of the Earth between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres is also reversed. Prior to spending time in England I was told to observe the direction in which the water drained down the plughole. In the Northern Hemisphere, energy moves in a clockwise direction, whereas in the Southern Hemisphere, it is anti-clockwise.

If we take the above information into consideration when placing the elements around our magickal circle, it then seems logical for the placement of Fire to be in the North, while Earth is placed in the South. Environmentally, to the North is the Equator and from the North come the scorching Summer winds. North is also the placement in the sky of the Noonday Sun. In the South however, where the Sun never appears in the Southern Hemisphere, are the bitter cold Winter winds, as well as the frozen mass we refer to as Antarctica. However, this goes against the directional placements of the elements in more traditional Pagan groups.

I know a number of traditional Crafters who continue to place their altars in the North because according to their tradition (despite it being Northern Hemispheric-based) this is the “dark quarter.” One reasoning behind this is that on the astral the directional placements of the elements do not matter. If this is the case, then when I operate between the worlds, it should not matter if my physical altar and circle casting reflects the land in which I reside. Surely, if the founders of Earth-based traditions such as the Craft and Wicca (for example, Gerald Gardner, Alex Sanders or even Aleister Crowley) were based, or had spent some time, in the Southern Hemisphere, would they not have taken the differences into consideration?

Some Pagans living in the eastern states of Australia not only swap the elemental directions of Fire and Earth around, but also Water and Air. When you take the environment into consideration, it is easy to see why they do this. East of Australia is the Tasman Sea or even the Pacific Ocean – large bodies of water. In the Southern Hemisphere our weather patterns move largely from the West (therefore the placement of Air).

Another difference between the hemispheres, which is often overlooked, is the direction in which the crescents of the Waxing and Waning Moons point. In the Southern Hemisphere, the Waxing Moon in the sky actually points to the right, while the Waning Moon points to the left. Therefore the symbol of the Triple Moon Goddess (the maiden, mother and crone) reflects an introverted appearance opposed to the extroverted appearance in the Northern Hemisphere. But there are times where the Moon decides to really throw the spanner into the works and the Waxing Moon can be observed lying on her back pointing upwards, and the corresponding Waning Moon pointing downwards.

For us Southern Pagan practitioners, there is more to take into consideration when we work our magick and our circles than simply swapping the Sabbat dates around. And with the varying opinions and reasons behind even basic circle casting, it is little wonder newcomers to the various Pagan traditions in the Southern Hemisphere find it all very confusing. Maybe Pagan book publishers should take this into consideration, and if anyone is interested in issuing a contract for such a book, I would be interested in writing one (shameless plug, but I couldn’t resist).

In the Southern Hemisphere not only do we appear to do things standing on our heads but also working backwards as well – or maybe it is you Northern Hemispheric Pagans who have got it wrong!

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Find and Use Places of Power

Find and Use Places of Power

by George D. Jackson

Most of us have been in areas where we have experienced a certain alignment of comfort, creativity and sometimes awe. The waves of positive probability seem to be especially high in these locations. Some locations, in contrast, cause one to feel uneasy and unwelcome. In magickal terminology, this sense of presence is often called the “genius loci,” the spirit of the place. This phenomenon can vary in size from a whole region to areas just a few inches in measurement.

How this presence makes itself felt frequently depends on a person’s mental, spiritual, and emotional makeup. It has been said that no matter what your educational background, emotionally you’re an alchemist. You live in a world of liquids, solids and gases and the heat transfer that accompanies changes in state. These are the things you perceive, the things you feel. So when it comes to the day-to-day sensations of living, you treat with the five elements of the ancient philosophers: earth, air, fire, water and spirit.

Experienced magick users generally use these five elemental levels of sensation to acquire a consciousness of their environmental conditions — including the genius loci. Tools to use to acquire this consciousness include observation and invocation. Emotion is the prime fuel for magickal operations of most sorts, and experienced magick users actively seek out positive places of power where evocation can be practiced to focus various emotional energies. For example, if one determines a place makes one feel creative, and one has magickally explored it by observation and meditation, it may well be a good place to focus energies in spell work for creativity.

With all of this in mind, I would like to relate to you how the genius loci in various places have affected me during my life.

In July 1973, I decided to move to the High Sierra. I owned a cabin in an area called Cold Springs, which is on the western slope of the mountains. Highway 108 leads to this place, which is about 30 miles above Sonora, California. The location is thickly forested and marked in places with old lava flows, some of them over a hundred feet high. I hadn’t spent any real time there before, a couple of days now and then, but now I was settling in for a long stay.

In a very short time, I began to feel I was being watched, combined with a sense of isolation. However, to balance this I felt a strong flow of creative energy. After being there for a few months, I invited a friend who was a professional astrologer to come up and stay for a while. During his visit, I found two how-to books on witchcraft at a nearby resort village and started studying and experimenting with the Art. At the same time, my friend began to develop a new style of approach to astrology. After about three months, he returned to Southern California, and in July 1974 so did I.

All during my residence in the High Sierra, the genius loci made me feel a bit alienated and unwelcome. I found out from talking to some of the long-term dwellers in the area that this sense of disapproving presence was not uncommon among them. States of depression often bedeviled them, particularly during the winter when snowfall made travel difficult. The spirit of that area extracted a heavy toll for living in its province, alive with scenic beauty as it is.

I remember driving up the mountain one winter night all alone on the highway. The sky was clear, and the moon was full. The whole landscape blazed with a silver fire reflected off the snow-covered lava flows and the branches of the trees. It filled me with awe, and I will never forget that experience. The genius loci seemed to say, “This is what I am in my glory.” Still, the price for moments like this was very high, and in the end I fled the raw, aggressive presence of that place.

Southern California is a vortex of creativity, dreams and illusions. This is epitomized in Hollywood, which could be considered the world capital of illusion. Surrounding this center of illusionary activity was at one time more than 50 percent of the nation’s aerospace industry, where dreams were converted into reality. The Los Angeles basin is border on one side by mountains and on the other by the Pacific Ocean. The land on which it rests is crisscrossed with fault lines that cause movement often enough that the locals have come to accept earthquakes as relatively normal occurrences. Further, they consider this a small price to pay for being able to dwell in a place where the overall climate, semiarid, is close to ideal. Over this area hangs an inversion layer like the lid on a pot that has a tendency to allow the several million cars traveling on the area’s many roads to turn it into a gigantic gas chamber. This does have the effect of mitigating the otherwise idyllic climatic conditions. Be this what it may, the regional genius loci draws people to it like a magnet does iron filings. However, it is not the only spirit of the place that is in residence there.

It was to Southern California I returned in 1974, and after a year or so of moving about in the area finally settled in a district in Long Beach called Belmont Shores. The apartment I moved into was about four blocks from where the ocean meets the sand.

During this period, magick had become an established part of my psyche, and the years to come would only reinforce this. I took a part-time job in an occult store located in Sea Port Village in San Pedro and began to further develop my magickal outlook and practice. Thanks to my part-time job, I began to meet like-minded people and finally became able to engage in group rituals.

About six blocks or so from my apartment, a stairway led down from the top of the bluffs facing the ocean to the beach below. Many years before, I had often come to this place to contemplate what was going on in my life. The genius loci in that immediate area had always had a welcoming and calming effect on me. Now I went there to practice spell work on the beach and call upon the powers of the ocean to aid in my efforts. The Spirit of the Place seemed to revel in this activity, and some of my most successful rituals were accomplished there. Years later an elemental force, probably the genius loci, manifested in this location as a whirlwind of sand and water, clearly visible to all of the participants in the ritual who had unwittingly helped to raise it. The experience left some of them a bit shaken and me in a high state of elation. That is a true place of power.

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that some places of power can be quite small. Among the most common places of this nature are certain fishing spots. Fishermen frequently refer to their secret fishing holes as places of power, though not often in this exact terminology. My astrologer friend and I had one at Don Pedro Reservoir in central California. It consisted of a boulder that extended a bit over the water. It never failed to yield fish when the water levels were right. I’ve been a fisherman for many years and have read all kinds of explanation for why certain areas draw fish. The last time I visited that place, the lake had been lowered and the rock was 50 feet above the water line. No surface structure in the ground below the boulder was apparent that would make it a gathering place for fish. I suspect that the genius loci of that spot attracted fish.

I have noticed the spirit of a place can change over time. Perhaps, like a battery, constant use saps its energy, or in some cases changes positive to negative. Maybe the attitudes of the people who come to live in such a place help to effect this type of change. In chaos theory, there is a phenomenon referred to as strange attractors, which are outside forces affecting flow. We may fit this description in the case of spirits of place. How often have you returned to a place to find the presence you expected changed or in some cases vanished?

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Coral

CORAL

SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION: CaCo3, or calcium carbonate in the form of
calcite, is the main constituent of calcareous corals; minor con-
stituents are MgCo3, or magnesium carbonate and proteinaceous organic
substances, which act as binding agents. At 2.5 to 4, the hardness is
slightly higher than that of calcite. The skeletons of corals vary in
color: from bright to dark red, slightly orange-red, pink and white.

ENVIRONMENT: In all cases, coral consists of the branching skeletons of
animals which live in colonies planted on the seabed at depths varying
from tens to hundreds of meters. They are typical of warmish to very
warm seas.

OCCURENCE: The most famous of these organisms is Corallium rubrum, which
lives in the waters of the Mediterranean and, despite its name,provides
not only red, but orange, pink, and white coral. Similar to this are
Corallium elatius, C. japonicum, and C. secundum, which maily live off
the coasts of Japan, China, Indochina, the Philippines, and other
archipelagos of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Coral colonies occupy
large areas especially in the Pacific, but also near the coast of South
Africa, in the Red Sea, and to the east of Australia.  These latter
colonies, however, consist of madrepore, which has little in common with
the corals used as ornaments.

GEMSTONE INFORMATION: Most of the coral used since antiquity as an
ornamental material comes from the calcareous skeletons of colonies of
marine organisms of the phylum Cnidaria, order Corgonacea, genus
Corallium. Corals take a good polish. They also have a certain degree of
elasticity and can be heated and bent into bangles. Thin brancehes were
and still are polished, pierced, and threaded, unaltered, into neck-
laces. Larger pieces are cut into spherical or faceted necklace beads,
pear shapes for pendant jewelry, or cabochons. It is also used for
carved pieces and small figurines, in both oriental and western
art styles. The most highly prized varities of coral are those that are
a uniform, strong bright red.

NAME: The name is derived from the Latin [corallium,] related to the
Greek [korallion].

LEGEND and LORE: The oldest known findings of red coral date from the
Mesopotamian civilization, i.e. from about 3000 BC. For centuries, this
was the coral par excellence, and at the time of Pliny the Elder it was
apparently much appreciated in India, even more than in Europe.Red coral
has traditionally been used as a protection from the “evil eye” and as
a cure for sterility.  One of the Greek names for Coral was Gorgeia,
from the tradition that blood dripped from the Head of Medea, which
Perseus had deposited on some branches near the sea-shore; which blood,
becoming hard, was taken by the Sea Nymps, and planted in the sea. (8)

MAGICAL PROPERTIES: Coral is associated with Venus, Isis and Water. It
has been used as a form of protective magic for children for hundreds of
years.  Cunningham recommends it as a luck-attractor for living
areas.Sailors use it as a protection from bad weather while at sea.
Red-orange coral is one of the four element gemstones of the Pueblo
Indians. It is one of the four colors used for the directions in the
Hopi/Zuni Road of Life. Coral is considered a representative of the warm
energy of the Sun, and the southern direction.

HEALING: Coral’s healing properties are mostly associated with Women,
young children and the elderly. For women it is said to increase
fertility and regulate menstration. For young children, it is recom-
mended to ease teething and to prevent epilepsy. For the elderly, it is
used as a cure for arthritis.

                      ——-bibliography——-

1. Scientific, Environment, Occurence and Name are from (or paraphrased
from) “Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Gems and Precious Stones”.

2. Precious and semi-precious gemstone information may come from
“Gemstones” by E. H. Rutland.

3. Other Precious and semi-precious gemstone information may come from
“Gem Cutting”, sec. ed., by John Sinkankas.

4. Legends and Lore, Magical Properties are from “Cunningham’s En-
cyclopedia of Crystal, Gem & Metal Magic”, by Scott Cunningham.

5. Some of the healing information may come from “Color and Crystals, A
Journey Through the Chakras” by Joy Gardner.

6. Some of the healing information may come from “A Journey Through the
Chakras” by Joy Gardner.

7. Some occult lore is from “The Occult and Curative Powers of Precious
Stones” by William T. Fernie, M.D.

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Conception of God

Conception of God

Author: Katie Koumatos

“How do you envision God?”
“As a witch, do you believe in God? In Jesus?”
“How can you have multiple Gods?”

When I talk to non-pagans about my spiritual beliefs, I get these questions a lot. I imagine this will only increase as I begin my time as a seminary student. While the community at Pacific School of Religion is open minded and welcoming to pagans, I imagine that there is still a lot of ignorance about pagan practices. Even within our community, there are a lot of discussions about how to approach the conceptualization of the divine. So let me share with you my own approach. After many years of searching, I found a beautiful metaphor that describes it perfectly.

Consider the ocean. For any of you who are lucky to have lived in a coastal town, it isn’t easy to imagine that we know the ocean. Growing up in San Diego, I spent many childhood days playing at the foot of the Great Pacific Ocean. As I learned how to spell and do long division, I also learned how to negotiate the fickle nature of the ocean, survive the rising tides and avoid the hidden dangers.

So it is easy to say I know the ocean. But what I actually know is one small piece. I have come to know the Pacific Ocean through half a dozen spots where it comes into contact with the land up and down the California Coast. I know the ocean at its boundaries, its borders. And even then, I only know THIS ocean and I only know it at THESE boundaries.

Every time I go to the ocean, even if I go to the very same beach, it is always a different ocean. Each wave falls differently along the sand, making small but powerful changes in the shape of the land. For me growing up in San Diego, the ocean was blue and relatively warm, playing along long flat beaches filled with sun worshiping beach-goers. The ocean of my adulthood is a colder ocean, breaking against the picturesque rocks of the Northern California coast. Up here the ocean is a grey and windy creature, with swirling and powerful tides. Up here I sit far above the ocean’s break, enjoying the view and the spray but rarely submerging myself in the water.

After many years, I have finally realized that God is like this.

The ocean is truly unknowable. We can list facts and send boats out to gather bits and return. But no human being will ever fully know the ocean. It is simply too vast, constantly changing, and so very deep. However, while the full ocean is unknowable, human beings from the beginning of time have had complex and important relationships with the ocean. We know her in our own spaces, at the boundaries of where she meets the land upon which we live.

Each human being who reaches out into the void seeking the divine cannot ever expect to understand the wholeness of God / Goddess / Universe / Great Spirit / the All. But in our little space, at the boundary between our short, incarnate existence and the vast eternity of divine energy, we find our face of God. Like the ocean, it changes over time, waves shifting the shape of our lives as we adjust and grow in our relationship. And while many people may gather at the same beach, but have different experiences of the ocean, so too may many people gather together in fellowship and yet remain separated by the different faces they see in God.

People can shape God as well, just as humans can shift the land where the ocean meets them. We shape the stories and the perceptions, the expectations and visual imagery. Over time this shaping can become powerful and deeply ingrained. But they are still open to interpretation.

We need these interpretations. The immensity of the divine energy is just too big to engage and feel the comfort and solace that religion offers. Having a personal relationship with God is only possible when God is squeezed down a bit, into a form that we can conceptualize having a personal relationship with. So we humanize the divine energy. Some religions are monotheistic, and give one face of God their full attention. While others simply spread out the realms of symbolic control, creating multiple faces and personalities for us to engage.

Whether your face of the divine is a multi-armed Hindu deity, the kami of the stream near your home, the Virgin of Guadalupe, or your own higher spirit, we are all just seeking a personified form to engage with. As we are made by divine energy, the worship and energy of human beings creates a real and tangible presence for the forms and faces that we have created for the divine. These faces of God are not stagnant, but they can and do exist separately and distinctly from our own personal experience because they are and have been conceived of by other human beings. With each ritual calling, we are making and remaking our Gods just as they are making and remaking us.

In the end, I believe that divine energy is the sum of all of us, along with all the animals and the plants and the whole wide universe. It is the spark of distant stars and the reproduction of the smallest bacteria. It is life and death and the shifting movement of existence here and everywhere, in this moment and in all moments before and after it. I believe that this whole is greater than the sum of these little parts and that collectively, we are conscious. I believe in a pattern, a tapestry of life in which we all play our part. We can make choices in this, but we have a part to play and there are pieces in our lives that guide us. And in all of this, different Gods are just convenient faces, ways to engage an unknowable energy.

The way I see it, God doesn’t care or even acknowledge the differences in our practices. Only human beings, with our limited sight and infinite distractions, could come up with a way to make such a small difference into a reason for centuries of war, dominance, and animosity.

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Elder’s Meditation of the Day – April 10

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – April 10

“Together we can end the Holocaust against the environment.”

–Haida Gwaii, Traditional Circle of Elders

We are all familiar with the Holocaust against the people. When this happens we feel bad and we vow never to let it happen again. We need to seriously examine what human beings are doing to the Earth and the environment. Many species are extinct and many more will become extinct during the next 10 years. We are methodically eliminating life that will never return again. Today, we should take time to pray real hard so we wake up before it is too late.

Great Spirit, today, I pray for us to awaken to what we are doing.

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Our Standards: Should They Be Measured by Intuition or Tradition?

Our Standards: Should They Be Measured by Intuition or Tradition?

Author: Nights Aqua Tiger

Now let me start off with a disclaimer (yeah I know, annoying) but I have been out of the loop a bit for the last three years. Some older patrons might remember me posting from my high school and college years, but many probably do not. In my defense, it’s hard to keep up when you are on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean three months at a time serving our country.
I’m now stationed on land and I see some trends that worry me.

When did those of us in Paganism become snobs? I have heard the phrases “Well, the right way to teach someone” and “All Wiccans must” several times now and have been shocked. I could be wrong but weren’t some of the reasons we joined this community acceptance and the belief that if you were harming none, there is no ‘one right way’? Catholics obviously took the ‘one true way’ route. Growing up, I heard that Protestant religions were not ‘real religions’. Paganism was my first hard look at myself in that respect. I was forced to analyze if I was pushing my beliefs onto others.

As an anthropology major, I ended up spending a lot of time doing some serious introspection about my history and preconceptions. I came to some interesting conclusions: my beliefs had become a habit, not a conscious thought. This became the huge wakeup call in my life.

Like several others, I started my journey with Silver Ravenwolf. Is her advice always the best for everyone? No. However the relief was amazing when during high school I realized I was not the only one feeling this way. That message alone got me through some amazingly difficult times and made me actually seek more resources like The Witches Voice and Pagan Pride Day. Is it good to institutionalize any religion? Not necessarily, but if people who find such starter places never look any farther, then it probably was just a fad for them and they will continue on their journey elsewhere.

For those of us who continue to learn however, I find we tend to get into the rut of familiarity like every other religion. When I hear phrases that diminish someone else’s studies against some invisible set of standards of “purity” or “old traditions”, I start to worry about the paths we are deciding. After my college-initiated phase of introspection, I realized that the rituals had become so familiar that I was no longer focused. My answer? I stopped.

I started doing many rituals purely on the mental level because I was never anywhere long enough to set down some roots or bring with me any sort of supplies. Instead of being inhibiting as I expected, it was freeing. No longer tied to the ritual, I am now able to focus on following my intuition and to explore other studies, pantheons, rituals, and ideas I had never considered. My core beliefs have remained but now I have more ways to express them.

One of the reasons that I have loved finding this path and am now looking into joining in some group magicks is this need to continue to explore new expressions of my love for this path. While meeting the founders of the group I hope to become a part of, I again heard this story of “some people don’t consider me to be ____ because I supposedly wasn’t taught exactly the same way.”

This idea that there is some “pure” form of the tradition or Craft to follow is (Yes, I’ll say it and it’ll probably piss off a few people) NUTS. Have we really forgotten our roots so fast? Not to argue this history because we could debate over who started what when, but the term Wiccan appears to only be about 70 years old (Yes, I know we can argue this in another article if we wish – for now let’s just use it as a starting point) .

The word pagan, as defined by Webster’s dictionary as ‘a follower of a polytheistic religion’. And that’s debatable too… wait… the two words that we most frequently use to describe our community have debatable definitions? So if there are debates behind the simplest definitions within the religion, how can we have a “pure” form?

I brought this argument up to a dear friend and immediately got shut down. “Well, we have to have standards in our teachings!” I couldn’t agree more. But in evaluating someone’s studies to see how they fit into the group, we need to take in more than their ability to memorize some pretty rituals. Let’s get down and dirty!

How many years have they been studying? Do they take a more rigid and structured approach or do they use what is available and their intuition? Can they work within our group? Do their core beliefs follow our principles? How seriously have they been studying/practicing?

Intent and willpower mean a lot within our belief system and we should not ignore their value. Let’s start asking the questions but also remembering that not everyone is going to practice the same within one coven let alone the whole religion.

One of the blessings of this religion is our ability to include new people, ideas, and expressions of belief. One of our new goals needs to be to keep that new joy that we all felt in finding this path alive. One of our next goals should be to help each other feel that joy without judging how/why people study. We are a reconstruction of ideas that we all feel are important to each other and ourselves. Let’s try maintaining that identity…the identity of a people who are accepting of and willing to work together. Let that be our standard.

Let us remember our roots and use that to continue to build an opening happy community that supports each other without judging how someone chooses to participate.

NightsAquaTiger
Second Class Petty Officer of the USCG

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Conception of God

Conception of God

Author: Katie Koumatos

“How do you envision God?”
“As a witch, do you believe in God? In Jesus?”
“How can you have multiple Gods?”

When I talk to non-pagans about my spiritual beliefs, I get these questions a lot. I imagine this will only increase as I begin my time as a seminary student. While the community at Pacific School of Religion is open minded and welcoming to pagans, I imagine that there is still a lot of ignorance about pagan practices. Even within our community, there are a lot of discussions about how to approach the conceptualization of the divine. So let me share with you my own approach. After many years of searching, I found a beautiful metaphor that describes it perfectly.

Consider the ocean. For any of you who are lucky to have lived in a coastal town, it isn’t easy to imagine that we know the ocean. Growing up in San Diego, I spent many childhood days playing at the foot of the Great Pacific Ocean. As I learned how to spell and do long division, I also learned how to negotiate the fickle nature of the ocean, survive the rising tides and avoid the hidden dangers.

So it is easy to say I know the ocean. But what I actually know is one small piece. I have come to know the Pacific Ocean through half a dozen spots where it comes into contact with the land up and down the California Coast. I know the ocean at its boundaries, its borders. And even then, I only know THIS ocean and I only know it at THESE boundaries.

Every time I go to the ocean, even if I go to the very same beach, it is always a different ocean. Each wave falls differently along the sand, making small but powerful changes in the shape of the land. For me growing up in San Diego, the ocean was blue and relatively warm, playing along long flat beaches filled with sun worshiping beach-goers. The ocean of my adulthood is a colder ocean, breaking against the picturesque rocks of the Northern California coast. Up here the ocean is a grey and windy creature, with swirling and powerful tides. Up here I sit far above the ocean’s break, enjoying the view and the spray but rarely submerging myself in the water.

After many years, I have finally realized that God is like this.

The ocean is truly unknowable. We can list facts and send boats out to gather bits and return. But no human being will ever fully know the ocean. It is simply too vast, constantly changing, and so very deep. However, while the full ocean is unknowable, human beings from the beginning of time have had complex and important relationships with the ocean. We know her in our own spaces, at the boundaries of where she meets the land upon which we live.

Each human being who reaches out into the void seeking the divine cannot ever expect to understand the wholeness of God / Goddess / Universe / Great Spirit / the All. But in our little space, at the boundary between our short, incarnate existence and the vast eternity of divine energy, we find our face of God. Like the ocean, it changes over time, waves shifting the shape of our lives as we adjust and grow in our relationship. And while many people may gather at the same beach, but have different experiences of the ocean, so too may many people gather together in fellowship and yet remain separated by the different faces they see in God.

People can shape God as well, just as humans can shift the land where the ocean meets them. We shape the stories and the perceptions, the expectations and visual imagery. Over time this shaping can become powerful and deeply ingrained. But they are still open to interpretation.

We need these interpretations. The immensity of the divine energy is just too big to engage and feel the comfort and solace that religion offers. Having a personal relationship with God is only possible when God is squeezed down a bit, into a form that we can conceptualize having a personal relationship with. So we humanize the divine energy. Some religions are monotheistic, and give one face of God their full attention. While others simply spread out the realms of symbolic control, creating multiple faces and personalities for us to engage.

Whether your face of the divine is a multi-armed Hindu deity, the kami of the stream near your home, the Virgin of Guadalupe, or your own higher spirit, we are all just seeking a personified form to engage with. As we are made by divine energy, the worship and energy of human beings creates a real and tangible presence for the forms and faces that we have created for the divine. These faces of God are not stagnant, but they can and do exist separately and distinctly from our own personal experience because they are and have been conceived of by other human beings. With each ritual calling, we are making and remaking our Gods just as they are making and remaking us.

In the end, I believe that divine energy is the sum of all of us, along with all the animals and the plants and the whole wide universe. It is the spark of distant stars and the reproduction of the smallest bacteria. It is life and death and the shifting movement of existence here and everywhere, in this moment and in all moments before and after it. I believe that this whole is greater than the sum of these little parts and that collectively, we are conscious. I believe in a pattern, a tapestry of life in which we all play our part. We can make choices in this, but we have a part to play and there are pieces in our lives that guide us. And in all of this, different Gods are just convenient faces, ways to engage an unknowable energy.

The way I see it, God doesn’t care or even acknowledge the differences in our practices. Only human beings, with our limited sight and infinite distractions, could come up with a way to make such a small difference into a reason for centuries of war, dominance, and animosity.

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