Posts Tagged With: Paganism

How Witchcraft Works – Modern Witchcraft

How Witchcraft Works

by

Modern Witchcraft

Witchcraft is a pagan religion. Pagan religions worship multiple deities rather than a single god. Paganism is one of the oldest religions and includes all religions that are not Christian, Muslim or Jewish, meaning Paganism includes the Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian and American Indian religions as well as all other nature-oriented religions. According to the 1998 Cambridge Fact Finder, Paganism accounts for 50 percent of all religions.

The word “Pagan” actually stems from the Latin Pagini or Paganus, words meaning “hearth” or “home dweller” or, more simply, “country person” — those labeled as Pagans were considered inferior to those living in cities. It didn’t, however, mean those people were “bad.” It wasn’t until the 1450s that fear of witchcraft became more prevalent, and people began associating witchcraft and paganism with devil worship, evil hexes and spells.

Types of Witchcraft

There are many types of witchcraft, many of which overlap and all of which can be defined in different ways by different people, but here are some rough guidelines for their designations:

  • African witchcraft: There are many types of witchcraft in Africa. The Azande of central Africa believe that witchcraft causes all types of misfortune. The “gift” of witchcraft, known as mangu, is passed from parent to child. Those possessing mangu aren’t even aware of it and perform magick unconsciously while they sleep.
  • Appalachian folk magic: Those who practice witchcraft in the Appalachian mountains see good and evil as two distinct forces that are led by the Christian God and Devil, respectively. They believe there are certain conditions that their magick cannot cure. They also believe that witches are blessed with paranormal powers and can perform powerful magick that can be used for either good or evil purposes. They look to nature for omens and portents of the future.
  • Green witchcraft: A Green witch is very similar to a Kitchen/Cottage witch (see below) with the exception that the Green witch practices in the fields and forest in order to be closer to the Divine spirit. The Green witch makes his or her own tools from accessible materials from outdoors.
  • Hedge witchcraft: A Hedge witch is not part of a group or coven. This witch practices magick alone and works more with the green arts, herbal cures and spells. In the early days, Hedge witches were local wise men or women who cured illnesses and gave advice. They can be of any religion and are considered traditional witches (see below).
  • Hereditary witchcraft: Hereditary witches believe in “gifts” of the craft that are with a witch from birth, having been passed from generations before.
  • Kitchen/Cottage witchcraft: A Kitchen witch, or Cottage witch, practices magick around the hearth and home. The home is a sacred place, and the use of herbs is used often to bring protection, prosperity and healing. Kitchen witches often follow more than one path of witchcraft.
  • Pennsylvania Dutch hexcraft or “Pow-wow“: When the Germans first arrived in Pennsylvania, Native Americans were there, so the term “pow-wow” to describe this practice may come from observations of Indian gatherings. Pow-wowing includes charms and incantations dating back to the Middle Ages, as well as elements borrowed from the Jewish Kabbalah and Christian Bible. Pow-wowing focuses on healing illnesses, protecting livestock, finding love or casting or removing hexes. Pow-wowers consider themselves to be Christians endowed with supernatural powers.
  • Traditional witchcraft: Traditional witchcraft often follows science, history and the arts as its foundation. While sharing the same respect for nature as the Wiccan witch (see below), traditional witches do not worship nature nor the god or goddess of Wicca. They contact spirits that are part of an unseen spirit world during rituals. Magick is more practical than ceremonial and focuses greatly on herbs and potions. This sect of witchcraft also has no law of harming none, but does believe in responsibility and honor. Hexes and curses, therefore, can be used in self-defense or for other types of protection.
  • Wicca: Wicca is one of the modern Pagan religions that worships the Earth and nature, and it is only about 60 years old. It was created in the 1940s and ’50s by Gerald Gardner. Gardner defined witchcraft as a positive and life-affirming religion that includes divination, herblore, magic and psychic abilities. Wiccans take an oath to do no harm with their magick.

 

Source:

howstuffworks

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Ethics of Love Magic – Is it OK to Perform

Miscellaneous & Cute Valentines Day Comments

Ethics of Love Magic – Is it OK to Perform

By Patti Wigington, About.com

Love spells. They’re one of the things that often draws new folks to Wicca and Pagan religions. However, there’s a lot of question within the Pagan community about the ethics of  on someone else. After all, if you’re performing magic on someone without their knowledge, aren’t you messing with their free will?

Most Wiccans will tell you that the best way to approach love magic is to avoid focusing on a specific individual as a target. Instead, use your energy and skills to focus on yourself — to draw love your way, or to help you present yourself as a person worthy of love. You could use your magical abilities to feel more confident and attractive, much like a magical makeover. In other words, fix yourself, not someone else.

Bear in mind that many Pagan traditions have no restrictions on the use of magic to change someone else. If you’re part of such a tradition, the use of love magic may well be within the boundaries of . In some traditions of folk magic, love magic is perfectly acceptable. It’s something that’s done as a matter of course, and is no more unethical than wearing a sexy perfume or a cute push-up bra. Magic is viewed as a tool, and can be used in tandem with the mundane to bring you what you want — after all, if you didn’t want to change things, you wouldn’t be doing magic in the first place, right?

Before casting any sort of working that affects another person, though, be sure to think about consequences. How will your actions affect not only you, but other people? Will it ultimately cause harm? Will it cause someone to be hurt, either directly or indirectly? These are all things that should be evaluated before performing any working at all, whether it’s a love spell or some other type of magic. If your tradition or belief system prohibits you from performing magic on someone without their consent or knowledge, then you’d be better of skipping the love magic, and focusing instead on self-improvement and self-empowerment.

Rather than aiming a love spell at someone and expecting them to become your devoted servant and doormat, consider looking at love spells as a method of (a) getting someone to notice you AND (b) getting the person to, once they’ve noticed you, find all the things about you that they like. If you maintain this perspective, you should be able to work love magic and still keep within your ethical boundaries.

About.com

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The State of Paganism: A Perspective From an Old Witch

The State of Paganism: A Perspective From an Old Witch

Author:   Crick   

As Paganism slowly but surely emerges out of the grip of suppression brought on by what is now commonly referred to as organized religions. We may want to be aware of several pitfalls and realities as we once again step into the light of day.

First of all, the top three organized religions are themselves fairly new in the grand scheme of history. Prior to their appearance on the world stage, basically everyone in the world followed some type of pagan belief, which was for the most part an individual spiritual belief and not an organized religion per se. Such beliefs were influenced by ones personal environment and the immediate world around them. There was an interpersonal awareness that helped to shape one’s values and thus their corresponding beliefs. In today’s artificial world we no longer have such a mainstay or influence to guide us.

The current “accepted” beliefs being touted by the main three organized religions and the suppression of former popular beliefs did not occur as a natural effect of events in human history.

It was and continues to be a planned and concerted action, which began in one instance with the advent of the apologists and has continued on through the ages by acts of repression, fear and some very clever propaganda. These deliberate actions have been supplemented by the tactics of politicians who are overtly biased in favor of the institutions of organized religion.

After all, power begets power.

As such we should be aware that the basic tenet of these man made religious organizations is to hold onto such power at all costs. We as a community would like to think that we are accepting of all religious beliefs and spiritual paths, as we should be.

But we should not be so naïve as to think that just because we are so accepting that organized religions will welcome us back with open arms from the isolation of an exile that they themselves imposed upon those of pagan beliefs.

In all reality they (organized religions) would very much like to see paganism fade away as just another passing fad. An example of this is the gathering in Rome in the summer of 2007 of the Roman Catholic Church of which the primary topic was “how to draw folks away from Devil worship (allegedly paganism) and back into the grasp of the one true church”.

Granted there are some individuals within organized religion who are realistic and enlightened enough to accept the fact that not everyone is going to believe as they do. And thus are willing to work with members of alternate beliefs such as paganism.

However the harsh reality is that these folks generally belong to one of the very aggressive religious organizations whose leaders do not endorse such openness. And as such we are being accepted only in isolated situations and only at the very grass roots of these religious institutions.

Acceptance of the fact that the oldest religious/spiritual beliefs in the world were not obliterated and are making a re-emergence is going to take some considerable time, effort and patience.

We will re-emerge into the light of day one enlightened heart and soul at a time. To believe otherwise is in my personal opinion, both foolish and self-defeating.

Another pitfall we should be wary of is manipulation by the organized religions. They have by virtue of their position in the world today, proven to be very adept at such tactics.

And quite obviously (to some of us anyway) they are employing these tried and proven techniques to the very community that they would like to once again vanquish back into the throes of exile.

What is this manipulation you may ask?

Over the recent years, a crumb will fall off of the table of organized religion and a pagan will be ‘allowed” to sit at the same table as these folks. Each time it has been a Wiccan who is chosen to take such a seat and in each case the chosen Wiccan will proclaim themselves as representative of the whole pagan community. And then folks in the pagan community will swoon like young schoolgirls and say, “oh what a great thing this is for the community”.

In my personal opinion, such proclamations fall right into the hands of those of the organized religions who are sponsoring such meetings.

I have serious reservations about such an approach and reaction for several down to earth reasons.

First of all, realistically we as a community are dealing with folks who are well schooled in such manipulation. It is quite apparent that if you can’t outright obliterate what you object to then you find a way to control it.

For example Brighid the Goddess did not become a Christian saint by happenstance. It was an act of sage manipulation by an organized religion. Hence we have the old adage of, “keeping your friends close but your enemies even closer”.

And so with all due respect to those of the Wicca, I personally have to wonder why organized religion seems to only choose members of Wicca, which is by all accounts barely a generation old and thus but a babe in the world of paganism as the ones who are proffered a seat with these folks.

Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying here, I think that it is great that a pagan of any path gets the crumb that is offered, to a certain extent.

But then this brings me to my next concern.

One of the primary tenets of paganism is diversity. And if we are to avoid the pitfalls of hypocrisy then perhaps those Wicca who are chosen to be seated with organized religions should state responsibly, that in fact they represent but a small portion of the pagan community.

Again, with all due respect to those of the path of Wicca, not only would this be a realistic statement but it would also leave the door open to those of other pagan beliefs. And as such would be a confirmation of the pagan community’s stated belief in the tenet of diversity.

Paganism is after all an acronym or umbrella for many “diverse” beliefs. And no one path can honestly state that they alone represent the many different beliefs that align themselves under the banner of paganism.

In all reality, and yet once again with all due respect, as an Irish witch who also engages the path of shamanism, Wicca does not remotely represent my personal path. Nor does it accurately reflect the beliefs of those who are Asatru, Voudon, Santerian, Odinist, Yoruba, Shamanic, witch and so forth.

If we as a community are going to endorse diversity as one of our founding tenets then we need to surpass the temptations of ego and thus avoid the snare that is being put into place by those religious organizations that have shown such skill in manipulation.

Those who are tapped should show some responsibility and use their opportunities to ensure that organized religion is aware that we are in fact a diverse community and do not fit into one spiritual/religious shoe fits all.

By the same token, we as a community need to overcome our petty ego driven differences and be willing to proffer folks from various pagan beliefs as representatives of our community. Granted this will take a measure of maturity that has for the most part been lacking in our community.

But I personally believe that if we are true to ourselves and our community that we can indeed find the inner strength to exhibit such maturity as a community to express ourselves in such a manner.

The final concern that I would like to express in this treatise is this.
Why do we buy into the perception that organized religion has of us?

Realistically, it is “their” perception and should not be the view that we as pagans hold of ourselves.

Why do we as a community get all flustered and swoon whenever organized religion allows us a seat?

They are in all reality the newcomers to the world stage of religious/spiritual beliefs.

Paganism is in fact the oldest such beliefs in existence, period!
When one of us is invited to their table it should be with the approach that they (organized religions) should be honored to have a member of such an ancient belief seated at their table.

We need to stop playing into their blatant manipulation and express ourselves with aplomb and dignity and not as eager children grateful for a brief moment of attention.

I personally believe that this is why they (organized religions) only invite the Wicca (who are the babes of pagan society) into their midst. In this manner they can point and say “but they have only been around since 1952” and so the manipulation continues and unadulterated attempts at control continues.

In closing I would like to make it clear that I am not casting about disparaging thoughts against those of the Wicca or any other members of organized religions and/or other pagan paths.

My words are simply a reflection of the realities that we as pagans did not create but which we have to live with. How cognizant we are and how we approach such issues as a community in regards to organized religions will determine whether we remain in the daylight or whether we once again resume our existence in the darkness of religious/spiritual exile.

If you don’t want to think of these issues in regards to yourself then maybe you should consider the religious/spiritual freedoms (true freedoms) of your children and your children’s children.

For in all reality, such manipulation and control did not occur over one generation nor is it likely to ebb within just one generation. Freedom of religious/spiritual beliefs is an ongoing struggle against those who would have it otherwise.

I think the last 2000 years or so has made that quite clear…

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We Who Shall Inherit Ourselves

We Who Shall Inherit Ourselves

Author:   Ravenhart   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Importance of Basic Techniques

The Importance of Basic Techniques

Author:   Luna 

Since I began earnestly looking into Wicca and magickal practices, some of the most emphasized concepts were visualization and psychic hygiene. And, as I think about this now, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t emphasize them. Much of my own successful magick has been worked with strong visualization of my goal, and I’ve had many a worthwhile meditation session with strong visualization of where I was going, whether I was dancing through a forest in the astral or finding a cave in a waterfall with a shrine to Brigit. Along with that, psychic cleansing and grounding cannot be stressed enough in magickal and ritual working. I know I’ve had many a time when I’ve tried to work some kind of magick or focus in a ritual when I managed to cleanse myself beforehand, and I found that that time I took before and after to cleanse myself of excess energies would often make all the difference in how successful I was in my work.

So where am I going with this? These are all basic techniques that all Wiccans, Pagans and other Earth-based spiritualities hopefully come to in their magickal and ritual workings. These two concepts of visualization and cleansing (along with psychic shielding, which I’ll get to later) were things I drilled into my head before I started doing my magickal workings. They’re some of the most important things a Pagan learns, depending on the tradition. These days, even before I do something as simple as yoga practice, I cleanse myself of excess energy because it’s become such a habit. And I feel it’s a good habit to get into, if only because of my experience of how cleansing and visualization helps me in my life.

However, just a couple months ago, I had an encounter that reinforced the importance of these basic techniques, and, having been granted permission from the friend I shared this experience with, I’d like to share it with you.

Towards the end of my January term at college, I invited my friend Max over to my dorm room, ostensibly to show him a fun video game I thought he might like. I met Max just last semester through our Taiko drumming group here at St. Olaf, and we hit it off immediately. Both of us were from the Twin Cities areas, both of us were involved in marching band in high school, and both of us were interested in spirituality and Mind-Body-Spirit. In fact, Max is a member of the Mind-Body-Spirit organization here at school, and he not only practices Qi Gong but is also interested in studying herbalism and Chinese medicine after graduation.

I should make one thing clear before I go any further: Max is not Pagan. Despite his considerable knowledge of new age techniques and spirituality in general, he tends to relate more to Asian religions and philosophies than to Wicca or Pagan religions. However, he understands a good deal about Paganism and Wicca and has shown great respect for them, enough that I never have any trouble talking to him about it. Despite our rather huge age gap (I’m about to graduate while he’s just finishing his freshman year) , we’ve become good friends.

So, back to the story!

After I’d shown Max the video game, we got to talking about a variety of topics, eventually coming to Max’s Qi Gong class. At this point, he mentioned an exercise they had done in class, something that he hadn’t been able to replicate outside of his class. I asked him to describe what the exercise was. As soon as he did, I remember doing the same exercise myself, and I’m sure many of you will also remember trying this exercise at some point. Max had his hands apart and was trying to project his energy into his hands to create a ball of energy and even make that ball grow. However, without his teacher’s guidance, he hadn’t been able to feel that ball of energy when he tried the exercise outside of class.

Recognizing the exercise, I asked Max if he had tried visualizing the ball of energy between his hands. This was something he hadn’t considered, so I took him through the exercise again as I knew it. Now, I didn’t try to re-explain the exercise entirely, because he already knew it. Instead, I explained to him how, when I tried it, I visualized a bluish-purple ball of light forming in my hands. While the ball wasn’t visible to my naked eye, I knew the ball was there and visualized it as strongly as I could. Max tried the same thing, and he finally understood what I was talking about. He was finally able to replicate the exercise the way he had felt it during class.

So why did Max have trouble with the exercise before he tried it with me? It’s not because of my teaching skills (I honestly doubt I’ve explained the exercise to you properly) . It was because he hadn’t tried to visualize the ball of energy there before. As spiritually and psychically capable as Max is (even more so than I am) , without that visualization, I doubt he would’ve been able to get the same result. It’s not enough the just project the energy into the space between your hands and hope it works. Visualizing the ball of energy, no matter what it looks like or feels like to the individual, is an important step to the success of that energy. I don’t mean to sound preachy or anything like that, but, just speaking from personal experience and from working with Max on this, visualization is an extremely important skill in magick and meditative work. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Pagan or not.

So after having success with that exercise in energy play, Max and I began to talk more about visualization in psychic and meditative techniques. Eventually, he mentioned how he always felt like he had so much energy. Now, Max’s energetic and enthusiastic nature is definitely one of his strong points. In my opinion, it’s made him very strong in Taiko drumming. However, there are many times when Max has too much energy or puts too much energy into his playing, so much so that he often gets asked to back off a little bit when playing so that he doesn’t go overboard. Hearing him say that he didn’t know how to get rid of the excess energy, a thought occurred to me. It reminded me of a YouTube video I’d watched when I was first getting into Wicca that was my introduction to the basics, and, after explaining to him, we decided to watch it.

The video is called Wicca First Degree course Lesson 1 Exercises and the video itself is presented and narrated by Reverend Donald Lewis-Highcorrell of the Correllian tradition of Wicca, who also authored the Witch School series of books. For those of you who haven’t seen this or any of his YouTube videos (which I believe are excerpts from the Witch School DVDs) , even if you don’t consider yourself a Wiccan, I encourage you to check them out. They’re extremely informative, and I often find they’re a valuable resource in magickal practice. If you have the time, please give them a look. Anyways, in this particular video, Reverend Donald introduces the viewer to exercises in psychic cleansing or grounding and psychic shielding. For the purposes of this story, I’m going to focus on the cleansing exercise, as this directly relates to Max’s situation with excess energy.

In the video, Reverend Donald, with the help of some beautiful animations, gives the viewer examples of how to visualize this cleansing, talking them through a visualization of a column of pure white light moving through the body and letting the excess energy flow out of the body with the white light. As an alternative to this, he also describes another visualization of a river flowing through the body and the excess energy as detritus such as twigs and leaves that flow out of the body with the river. These are the two he finds works the best, but he encourages the viewer to find a visualization that works for them. After this point in the video, Max and I having done the exercise along with the video, I paused it and asked Max how he felt. He told me he felt a lot better, not having that excess energy in his body, and we began to once again discuss the power of visualization and these basic techniques and how important they are for anyone attempting psychic or meditative work.

But why am I telling you about all of this? Why did I even bother going into all of that?

Well, that discussion and practice with Max served as a reminder, for me at least, of how important those basic techniques are. It doesn’t matter whether you are a devout Pagan or are simply interested in new age philosophy and practice. Visualization and cleansing, along with other basic techniques, play a key role in all psychic, meditative, ritual and magickal work. And I feel that sometimes we forget how important and integral these basic techniques are. Plus, I see it as an example of the power of these techniques even when used by those who don’t practice a Pagan faith. The fact that these techniques worked as well for Max as they did for me is something I find fascinating, and it’s something I wanted to share. After all, there’s something to learn from every experience, no matter how trivial or groundbreaking, whether it’s your own experience or that of someone else.

Thank you for hearing me out on this, and, for your own future workings, I wish you an enthusiastic Blessed Be! ^_^

___________________________________________

Footnotes:
“Wicca First Degree course Lesson 1 Exercises” by user MagickTV, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQRyIYr3DZM

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Walking The Path As A Public Witch

Walking The Path As A Public Witch

Author:   Medea  

I am a ‘public Witch’. The phrase means different things to different people but generally it means I am one who has come ‘out of the broom closet’. That has come to mean different things to me as the years have gone by.

I never was really in the ‘broom closet’. From the time I was introduced to The Craft by way of The Tarot at age eighteen, I was very open about it. Sometimes the openness was just for ‘shock value’. Sometimes it was just to be ‘different’. More often than not my openness was just a part of my personality. Like a puppy, I gleefully and playfully was just ‘me’ all over the place.

Now, at the age of forty-seven (can I really be that old?) and High Priestess in my tradition, I am still open about it, yet in very different ways. I rarely go for ‘shock value’ anymore (there are, however, those occasions when I cannot seem to help myself) . I have been a professional Nurse for twenty plus years and have learned in some instances the less said, the better. This learned, of course, the hard way. In many, many areas of my life I am much more tolerant and not so quick to take offense. I cannot attribute this to age or wisdom, as in many ways I am very immature and like it that way. It is a by-product of the path in which I have chosen to walk. One of the many, many gifts I receive.

I no longer feel the need to flash a Pentacle ring or necklace every chance I get. Most jewelry associated with the Craft and my religion are worn in private or under my clothes, close to my heart, as they should be. Yet, if I choose to wear such things in public (or forget to take them off) I make no effort to hide them, give no explanations, and make no apologies. My car is no longer adorned with bumper stickers proclaiming me ‘Witch’ or ‘Happy Heathen’. I didn’t take them off, but simply quit feeling the need to replace them each time I had to replace a vehicle. Yet I would not refrain from putting one on my bumper if it caught my fancy.

These days when I find it necessary or appropriate to speak of the Divine in general company I am as apt to say ‘God’ as ‘Goddess’ or ‘The Gods’. I have seen that getting caught up in nomenclature or schematics lessons somehow the sacredness of what one speaks of. If I am asked what Church I go to (a common question here in the South) I tell them. I don’t use flowery or holier- than -thou phrases such as ‘Nature is my Church’.

I say I am Pagan, if need be I say I am ‘Witch’, but more than that, I say I am a person of faith. And in some eyes I see the flash of recognition and in others I see distrust and incomprehension. These things no longer bother me. I am not meant to crusade. Neither am I, or my life, meant to be perfect. I can lapse in my old ways from time to time without being ‘lost’. I can make mistakes.

These days my Pentacle hangs on the lamppost in my yard. It hangs there for protection of my home and property as well as a nod to The Craft. It matters not who sees it and who does not. My home is Pagan and I call it a Temple House. It is where our rituals are mostly held. Where our classes are held. Where I sit and work on my computer on things that are important to the Temple. It is filled with altars which range from very simple to elaborate. Like all things, they change as they should, and I understand one does not need the trappings of religion to walk one’s faith. The house is lived in. It is welcoming to The Gods and Spirits I call, to my blood family and my Temple family and to visitors who come and go. It is meant to be welcoming to visitors of all faith and I believe for the most part it is. It is a work in progress, like the Temple itself. Like all things which grow and change. Like me.

I returned to the place I was born and raised after a twenty-year hiatus. It is a rural area in the Wilds of Tennessee, deep in the Bible Belt. It is a wonderful and beautiful place and the people are wonderful and beautiful too. Yet suspicions and prejudices linger along side traditions that smack of the Old Religion. I am known as a Witch and there is no mistake I am ‘the Real Thing’. At first I was humored, seen as a local girl who went ‘Out West’ and got some very strange ideas. There is often surprise when it is learned I was first introduced to the Craft in good ol’ Nashville, Tennessee. But here in the Wilds, Nashville, too, is a long way and there are many strange ideas to be found there. Maybe not as strange as ‘Out West’, but still strange.

When the realization came that this is not a passing fad for me, and that not only did I practice what I believed but ‘preached’ what I practiced the attitudes began to change. Family members and childhood friends, some I loved dearly and had missed for a long time, began to avoid me. Their attempts to ‘save my soul’ fell on deaf ears, and I took offense to being prayed for in Churches that I would ‘find my way and be saved’. They could not convert me, could not understand when I asked ‘saved from what?’ or said ‘I’m already saved’. And so I became a lost cause and to some a threat. There is no brand of persecution as scorching as that of those we know and love. My invitations to my home were unanswered by some. It became clear there were homes in which I was no longer welcome.

The Goddess does not demand sacrifice though at times it may seem so. I eventually came to understand that in order to have the things I found important in my life there were some things that by nature had to go. There is always grief, but as all things it passes and is, if not understood, accepted.

There were those who came and went. And there are those who stayed. Rituals of one became rituals of two and then three and then as many as fifteen at any given time. Others want card readings or advice or a little magick to ‘help out a situation’. Sometimes they are open about it and do not care who knows or what is thought of their association with me. Sometimes they come on the sly. I have learned to recognize those who come for a reason, such as the Goddess may have, and those who want what I can give and firmly believe me to be going to a Christian hell. There are those who do not care what becomes of me, but care about what it is I can do. Sometimes I still grow angry, usually out of hurt from the fall of one who I may have at some point respected. Mostly I do what I feel to be right and it has become very easy.

Inevitably the question will come from somewhere: ‘How did you get into that?’ that, of course, being Paganism or Witchcraft and sometimes thinly veiled ‘in league with The Devil’. I no longer feel the need to explain how Christianity never ‘felt right’ for me, implying of course I was somehow superior to that particular belief. These days I usually shrug and say ‘Like anyone of faith, I was called to it.’ This leaves little to argue about.

In my tradition today we celebrate Lenaia at the time of Imbolc, yet like so many things, the lines are blurred and the messages are the same. This Imbolc season I find myself taking stock and reflecting on many things about my life and the Path I walk. They, this life and this path, have somewhere along the line become one and the same. Perhaps it is the knowledge of having achieved this very thing, without setting out to do so or even hoping that I could, which is causing me to reflect. Perhaps it is my age, and the realization that, though I am not so old, I have most certainly lived longer in this life than I am going to live. It could be the weathering of so many changes over the last several years, some devastating enough to make me question my faith. Having come to terms with myself I have accepted many things I thought I could not. I can do this; accept these things, because at some point I began to trust that my Gods know what they are doing.

In January of 2001, I performed a solitary ritual outside in the yard at the old house my brother and I shared, divorced siblings clinging together in the changes of life. This was many years after I had picked up my first Tarot deck and felt the power of Otherworlds and the promise of mysteries revealed in them. It was cold and the Full Winter Moon rose high in a dark and starless sky. The moon was the color of ecru and its light brightened and dimmed with my incantation and my song. I had felt and witnessed the Power of the presence of the Divine before. I had seen first hand the workings of magick. Yet this was different. It was as if I were tapped on the shoulder. I had the feeling that Someone had finally gotten my attention. She had been waiting patiently for me to notice She wanted my attention. The voice I heard on the Wind, though the night was Windless, was real even though I could not make out the words. It was as if there was one voice, no, a thousand voices, and though the words were unintelligible I knew they said ‘Follow Me’.

I did not call the God and Goddess by name then, a last holdout of my Pentecost upbringing. They were to me The Lord and Lady. Yet I knew there were names, many names, and I would come to know Them. Although I became a Priestess of Hekate, it was Diana, the Huntress Mother, who called to me that night. I now know Her feel and Her smell and I recognize Her voice. When I hear Her name mentioned I see in my mind’s eye the silver disk floating in the Winter Sky. I often thank Her for calling me.

It wasn’t long after that I held my first private Imbolc ritual, as I have ever since, as I will continue to do. The day was sunny, bright, and cold. The kind of day that often depressed me. With stick incense in hand (patchouli because that is all I had) and the instructions from Scott Cunningham’s ‘Wicca’ in my head I picked my way through the thickets behind our rental house. I found a clearing and sat down, my nose running and the frozen ground pressing against my too thin pants for the weather. I meditated in silence, one thing I was only beginning to get good at. I sat there a long while, sometimes registering the sound of small animals in the thickets. Somehow understanding the sounds of the animals were gifts. I then told the Gods the things I have told them many times since:

I am Your daughter and Your lover. I give myself to You in this life and in any others to come. Set my feet upon the path You wish for me. Teach me the things I need to know. Give me the strength to learn them. I honor You and I love You. So Mote it be.

I meant those words the day I said them. And many times after, even as I wondered how hard this life has to get. I mean them now. The Gods listened and they knew I meant them and they have granted me the very things I asked for.

I love this life. It is at times messy and ugly, often chaotic, and on occasion extremely painful. It is equally interesting, comforting, and fun. And so there is balance. And so I am very, very blessed.

I love being Pagan. It is a wonderful thing to know what one’s path is and to be allowed to walk it. The Buddhist say ‘do the dishes for the sake of doing the dishes’. The clean dishes are only a result of doing the dishes correctly and wholeheartedly. Clean dishes are not the goal, doing the task well is the goal, everything else is, well, gravy. They say the same about the journey we call life. The journey is the point, the destination only the result of taking the journey well and wholeheartedly. Take the journey for the sake of taking the journey, walk the path for the sake of walking the path. Every now and then cast your eyes to the top of the mountain for a moment, but only a moment, focus on your goal, reassess your progress, make the proper adjustments, and get back to the task at hand.

In giving true love for the sake of giving true love, I have been given the truest of love. In giving friendship for the sake of giving friendship, I have received friendship. In being faithful for the sake of being faithful, I am given faithfulness. In giving mercy and kindness and justice for the sake of giving mercy and kindness and justice, I have received mercy and kindness and justice far beyond that I ever expected. In teaching the things I know for the sake of teaching the things I know I have been taught. And such fine teachers I have.

I walk the Pagan Path and the Path of the Priestess (and yes, Witch) for many reasons but mainly because it is my journey, what is put before me to do. It is an awesome task, an honor, and a door to many fleeting moments of happiness, which add up to a joyful life when all is said and done. Sometimes this path of mine is walked on nothing but faith because all else seems to elude me. Yet that which eludes me becomes mine if it is meant to be, and though I question and rail against the way, I am committed.

Along the way I catch the most peaceful sunrises, beautiful sunsets, healing breezes, and mighty storms. I am taught humility; I am reprimanded, led gently back when astray, and kicked hard when I need it. I am loved unconditionally and I know this without a doubt. I neither fear Death nor look for it, waiting for the rewards that I think might be my due. My rewards are many, and they are now. I may at times dread the act of dying and wonder if I will be granted a merciful death or if suffering at the end of this life is part of my lesson and task. Yet I trust that I will have what is needed for me and what is in the end the best. And I will not make that journey alone.

Those who have gone before will welcome me. The Gods will guide me and the Lady Hekate will walk with me as She always has. Cunningham pointed out that there is a difference in believing in something and knowing something. Many of the things I thought I believed I have come to know. To know a thing to be true is to accept it without having to understand it. There are many things I do understand and many things I will someday understand. But knowing, that is something that is not given lightly. It cannot be earned or bought; it can only come from walking the journey and walking it with an open heart and a willing soul.

I am one of many who aid this Phoenix we call Paganism to rise. My voice is among the silent ones who roar their presence into this world in this time. Our books and our Temples were burned and like so many things, though the way could have been easier, it had to be. Our Temples stand in our hearts and in our souls, in our country homes, and our suburban yards, in our small apartments in sprawling cities. This wonderful thing we call the Internet weaves us together across many, many miles. We have new books with words from Powerful hearts. We have remnants from the past which survive and which are important yet unimportant and therefore kept in perspective. We have the new and the old in which to learn and to build from. Balance. As it should be.

I am parched with thirst, and perishing,
But drink of me, the ever-flowing spring on the right (where) there is a fair cypress.
Who are you? Where are you from?
I am a child of Earth and starry Heaven, but my race is of Heaven (alone)
– Orphic Lamella from Thessaly

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Learning to be a Pagan

Learning to be a Pagan

Author:   Lanterna  

I don’t call myself a Wiccan. And I don’t consider myself a Witch either, because I’ve just started walking the path of the Ancient Gods, though I have nurtured the love for magick since I was 11 or 12. It was on Samhain (I called it Halloween at the time) afternoon, and I felt like a huge, powerful, green energy filling my body and soul. I had no religion at the time, and I did not want to belong to any religious group: too many “must dos” and taboos and guilt feelings and intolerance. But an interest in spirituality grew and I got involved in a more or less spiritual movement that proved to be quite disastrous for my mental health. But I did not give up my “quest”.

I’m scared of labels. I’m scared of spiritual masters. I had a bad experience with one of them once. But, honestly, I don’t know how to become a “good” Pagan, if there are any ‘good’ or ‘wrong’ ways to be a Pagan. I just know I am honestly in love with the Earth. I like the divine breeze I can breathe in when I open my window at night, the magick of the roses and the grass in that moment, when everything is quiet, when there is none or very little human activity.

It would be presumptuous of me to say I’m a Witch. Do I serve the Gods well? Do I respect the Earth enough? Do I use my magic tools well enough? I’d like to meet guides but I’m leery of meeting people who are shallow or intolerant or manipulative. I’m tempted to learn on my own, through books (I would not believe everything that is written; I would think carefully about it first) , through Pagan forums or websites.

I think what matters most is the genuine love you feel for the Gods. Nobody can tell you what is the best way to serve Them, worship Them, or how to be an Authentic Pagan. Where there is a will, there is a way, and I’m sure Magick will show me the best path. Maybe I will make wonderful encounters here or somewhere else.

I’m sure some of you who read this article will think that I’m not an “Authentic Pagan” or that it’s just a fad or I do not truly want to get involved in Magick. It’s not true. As I said before, I am genuine. I’m just careful about spiritual movements: I don’t know everything about Paganism, and maybe there are, let’s say, dogmas, opinions, beliefs that I don’t agree with in my very core. I will have to find out.

One of the things that attracted me at first, in Paganism, is that it seems that followers are not judgmental of other faiths. “An’ Ye harm none, do what Ye wilt”. That sounds very wise to me. I try not to harm anyone, and I even try to help and / or comfort people when I can. And yet I am always doubting myself: in what way am I really a Pagan / a Witch? Do you ask yourself the same question? Do you sometimes look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself: Do I deserve to call myself a Witch?

What does it mean to be a Witch?

This is why I have a hard time labeling myself, getting involved in a movement, belonging to a Coven or whatever. I’m a Truth seeker, and I want to be authentic. I am afraid of people telling me, “You’re doing it the wrong way” or “that’s not what a Pagan should do”. I am afraid of narrow-mindedness or people leading me on a dangerous path, as this happened once before.

Don’t get me wrong, if I spend a lot of time reading, thinking, and experimenting before calling myself a Witch and getting involved in Magick 100%. I think that’s what we should do in all religions: read, think over, experiment and then finally decide. We should also trust the signs when they are very strong: like that huge, powerful energy I felt on Halloween day 15 years ago. Or the bliss induced by a Pagan song. Where there is positive energy, bliss, ecstasy, there must be some truth. And it is likely the same thing when we sense that we have “abilities”. It is surely a sign.

I am also sure that when the Gods want something from us, they know how to get our attention. That’s why I try to be very attentive when I perform a ritual, when I pray, or simply when I feel the presence of the Divine sometime in the day.

So to sum up, I think it is not safe to call yourself a Wiccan or a Witch when you have not had a long experience of being into Paganism BUT it does not mean you’re not trying your best to be a genuine, faithful Pagan. It just means you need to take your time, to think this it over, to ask yourself if you are, or can be, a good Pagan before considering calling yourself something as solemn and serious as Witch.

But if you feel strongly attracted to Paganism, if you feel like you are “being called”, it sure means you have to dig in that way before you eventually realize you are (or are not) fit for this spiritual way of life. It’s not like getting a new haircut or getting a tattoo; it is something that will make you rethink your life and it demands involvement and honesty. You want to be sure you understand everything being a Witch implies so that you can walk the path with honor.

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Practicing What We Preach

Practicing What We Preach

Author:   Kricket  

Many pagans have been ridiculing each other’s paths. Though they claim to be open and accepting of other views, they are human, and therefore opinionated. When hearing of a path that disagrees almost entirely with their own, many pagans will feel a need to explain how the other person is wrong. It is seen every day within the community in the ridicule of the openly intolerant practices of certain branches of Christianity. Although the majority of the pagan community has a higher average of open-mindedness than the rest of the world, many individuals see only their own way as the right way.

What these people lack is simply the desire to understand. No longer are they the questioning student, brimming with curiosity for the mysteries of the universe; they feel that they have advanced enough to preach these mysteries to others. Like John Travolta admits to Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, these pagans and people in general talk more than they listen, and they should be trying to listen a little more often.

Recently, I had an encounter in a bookstore that caught my attention more than usual. I was in the New Age aisle, looking for a specific book about Norse Magic. There was a man on my right who made me slightly uncomfortable. He felt wrong. I tried not to show my discomfort, because I prefer to not draw strong conclusions about people I do not know.

Soon enough, he began talking to me. He seemed polite enough; he was not trying to get my number or ask me out — which is a major step up from many other guys who try to start a conversation in a store — but he was more interested in the types of magick that I do not particularly like to engage in. I was not going to persecute him for being interested in Aleister Crowley’s books or for having an interest in the more macabre aspects of witchcraft. I knew that he would just be another person who was trying to teach me. It was entirely up to me if I wanted to practice in the same way that he did.

Our brief conversation consisted of he asking me what type of magick I practice and then he seemed to assume that because I focus on natural magick and working with herbs, I am naturally just beginning my path into the more metaphysical side of life… and so I would be easily drawn in by the more “adventurous and powerful” magick that he practiced.

I found the situation to be amusing. He could not have known that I have been practicing for four years now and was practicing without knowing what exactly I was doing for three years before that. I felt that I could watch and listen to him without feeling threatened. I already know what I feel comfortable with.

Unfortunately for the man, the lady who entered the aisle during our conversation also did not know that I have a good sense of self and that I am not going to suddenly go to the “dark side” just because a man says it is more “powerful.”

When the man left to find me a book on Voodoo magick, the woman began telling me what kind of trouble his type of magick would bring. She began recommending many books that were for beginners. I attempted to communicate that I already had or have read the books, but my efforts were lost on her.

When the man returned without the book, he recommended a few other books that did not fit how I practice magick. I did not tell him that I had no intention of reading them. He was not my problem, nor my master, not even my friend or acquaintance since I did not know his name.

The woman on my left began speaking to him the moment he finished talking to me. She apparently deals with spirits and has performed an exorcism or two in her life. At first she asked him if he ever saw results from the magick that he practiced. He answered that he did, and that began a recitation of The Rule of Three, which he said he already knew.

She then began railing to him about how he is opening doors that he will not be able to close. Oddly enough she then told him that for every door that he closed two more would open. Out of these doors that he could not close but every time he closed them two more would open, would come demons and evil spirits. According to the woman he was going to become possessed if he did not stop practicing the type of magick that he did and his life would be affected negatively for every time he sought power instead of balance and peace.

I would be lying if I claimed I felt that the man had a moral compass that pointed north or that his path to Spirit was going to be without its own repercussions, but even so, I felt an urge to defend him from the barrage of righteousness. The woman talked him out of the store; she followed him, preaching her beliefs the entire way to the door and then he left and she stayed to collect her children.

This incident reminded me of how even people who believe themselves to be accepting and of an open mind often disregard what is being told to them. Many of the people I meet in stores prefer to lecture rather than communicate, especially when they are speaking to someone who is younger than they are.

I know many people who have been frightened away from socializing with other pagans or joining covens because they were never allowed to talk to other pagans. They were talked to.

Most of the pagans that I know like to believe that they are more open to other people and other practices than the members of the more mainstream religions, especially Christianity. They also seem to believe that they allow people to find their own way to Spirit, no matter that person’s age. The woman and the man both proved to me that, as pagans, we are no better than any other human. We often hold strong beliefs, see the wrong in others before attempting to identify the wrongs in us, we can ignore other’s opinions, and we too can judge people based solely off appearances.

The man saw my herbs as a child’s magick, while I see them as an intimate connection to my world. The woman saw the man as a danger to himself, and thus a danger to her, but she forgot that the man has a right to choose his own path in life… just like she does. They both saw my youth as a sign of a still weak character and a paucity of my own knowledge that I could share, but neither bothered to ask me how long I had been practicing or show any interest in me of any kind other than to place their opinions on me.

Most disputes are results of a lack of understanding for the other party and a lack of personal grounding. Usually asking the simple question “Why?” will not only prevent a heated debate without any true evidence against the other side, but it may also spark an interesting conversation that will widen the horizons of both parties. From my experience, it will also give each person a sense that they are worth something and they may pass the courtesy on to the other people they meet in their lives. If people truly wish to be as nonpolluting as possible, energetically as well as physically, they should be more attentive to the light of other people, even if that means dimming their own ego for a few moments.

Not all pagans are like these two people from the store, but as a group, I have witnessed a general feeling of aloofness. Being a pagan does not elevate one above the regular human, instead it should ground us to the world that we live in. The general pagan seems to have lost the idea of practicing what they preach; in our public practices, we are saying the words without the intention, and it is about as effective as it would be in our personal practices. In order for the community as a whole to develop a positive reputation throughout the world, we must learn to be positive within the world.

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