Posts Tagged With: Spiral Dance

A Brief History of Paganism in America

A Brief History of Paganism in America

Author:   CoyoteSkyWoman   

Author’s note: This essay was originally a submission to my American History class at Southern New Hampshire University. I felt that I should share it with the Pagan Community at large since it was apparently well received by my professor, who had no previous background or knowledge in Paganism. It is written in APA style, so the notations in the reference section are correct. The reference to Witchvox will probably give you a chuckle. – Deb J.

There is a religion in America today that has been slowly growing since the late 1960’s and has been gaining in popularity and acceptance throughout the years. Neo-Paganism, which includes such diverse branches as Wicca, Druidism, Asatru (a worship of Norse deities) , and many other reconstructionist and revivalist groups often based on the deeply researched practices of the ancients. Far from being the Hollywood vision of witches and witchdoctors, the “worldview of witchcraft is, above all, one that values life” (Starhawk 1979, p 32) , and is tied closer to the natural world than many world religions, save for other nature-oriented sects such as Buddhism and Shinto.

The roots of the modern Pagan movement in America can be traced back to the early 1950’s in England where a man by the name of Gerald B. Gardner first made public his beliefs in an older Goddess based religion called Wica (also known as Wicca, the Craft of the Wise, or simply, the Craft) that had persisted from ancient times. Aidan Kelley, founder of the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn states that “it really makes no difference whether or not Gardner was initiated into an older coven. He invented a new religion, a ‘living system’ and modern covens have adopted a lot of it because it fulfills a need” (Adler 1979, p 80) . Gardner himself claimed that a lot of what he taught came directly from an ancient coven, and that he was initiated by an old neighbor woman by the name of Dorothy Clutterbuck. The veracity of this claim has never been firmly established, and although birth and death records for “Old Dorothy” have been uncovered, how much involvement she had in Gardner’s vision still remains a topic of hot debate.

It is the view of many Neo-Pagans including Kelley that Gardner has never properly “been given credit for creative genius. He had a vision of a reformed Craft. He pulled together pieces from magic and folklore; he assimilated the ‘matriarchal theology set forth in (Robert) Graves, (Charles) Leland, and Apuleius. With these elements, he created a system that grew” (Adler 1979, p 83) .

Whatever the true background of the first English branch of Wicca, by the early 1970’s “all of the main English branches of Pagan Witchcraft had arrived in the United States: and “the books of (Margaret) Murray, Graves, and Gardner found a wide readership” (Hutton 1999, p 341) . There is some evidence that there were indigenous branches of American Paganism on record as early as 1938 when “the very first self-conscious modern Pagan religion, the Church of Aphrodite, ” was ”established in Long Island”, (Hutton 1999, p 340) , however, none of these had the staying power of the English branches. By 1975, Paganism was becoming firmly entrenched on our soil.

The next phase of the assimilation of English Pagan beliefs was a large turning point for the blossoming American Pagans. The radical feminist movement, which was developing during the mid seventies, came into contact with these very Goddess-oriented, female affirming worshipers, and there was a great merging of beliefs. By the mid 1970’s the “view of witchcraft expressed being ‘female, untamed, angry, joyous, and immortal’ “ and this “became embedded firmly in American Radical Feminism” (Hutton 1999, p 341) . The problem was that the feminist view overtook the religious aspects and by the late seventies, witchcraft had decayed into a feminist-rallying cry, centered around the so-called Burning Times when men dehumanized women and supposedly burned them at the stake because they interfered with the newly created practice of the doctor.

Midwives and herbalists were claimed to be some of the targets of this attack, so naturally, feminists flocked to this banner of outrage, seeing it as proof of continued patriarchal persecution.

Not all of the Pagan feminists lost sight of the religious aspects, however. In 1971, a young woman by the name of Zsuzanna Budapest formed the Susan B Anthony coven in Hollywood, CA, and went on to become one of the most respected feminist Pagan writers of the period. While she was staunchly feminist, she also was very much a follower of Wiccan beliefs, and was one of the most influential writers those who were to follow in her footsteps. In 1980, she wrote The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries which went on to become an instant classic, and is one of the standards by which modern Pagans judge all other books in the genre.

Another feminist writer gained fame when she published her first book, The Spiral Dance, on Hallowe’en in 1979. The woman’s penname was Starhawk, and her book gained much praise, not so much for its religious material that was extensive, but also for its poetic prose. Starhawk was a Witch who had been “trained by Gardnerians, and then initiated into one of the homegrown American strains of Pagan Witchcraft which had also absorbed some material from Wicca, the Faery (or Feri) , taught by Victor Anderson” (Hutton 1999, p 345).

Starhawk described her vision of the Craft as “a joyous, life-affirming, tolerant path; a religion of poetry not theology, which yet demanded responsibility” (Hutton 1999, p 346). Starhawk is one of the most often quoted Pagan writers, and The Spiral Dance is considered to be one of the top five selling pagan books of all time. Starhawk’s vision of Wicca floats through the words on every page, and the words are lyric and insightful. The Spiral Dance does not so much instruct readers on how to follow Paganism, but more leads by telling stories and giving examples of what the Pagan life is like through the eyes of a Pagan. Starhawk’s following books, Dreaming the Dark and Truth or Dare delve more deeply into the history of religious movements and examine the dualism present in most religions. Although somewhat darker than The Spiral Dance in tenor, the books never the less contain important ideas that have helped to develop Paganism into the new millennium.

The 1980’s were a time of great change for the Pagan movement in terms of the spread of information and the pursuit of general acceptance. The word was out, either on the newly created Internet or in the increasing number of books available. By the end of the 1980’s there were thousands of established Pagan groups across the country, and festivals were being celebrated on the eight major holidays in the open. While there was still a lot of prejudice, especially in the Midwestern Bible-belt, in the North-East and West coast, there were more and more publicly announced rituals and events that were open to the public. New England’s own Earthspirit community was among the first to hold an annual Beltaine or Mayday event at Sheepfold Meadow in Medford, MA. Complete with Maypole, donated foods by participants, and drumming and dancing, these yearly events were no longer hidden and performed in seclusion, but were held out in the open for all to see.

Other events followed, becoming more widespread and more diverse. By the early nineties, what had once been a small celebration between invited guests in Salem, MA on Hallowe’en or Samhain had become a giant affair involving most of the local merchants and Pagan groups. Huge psychic fairs were held at the Olde Town Hall, and lines went out the door for attendees of such events.

Elsewhere in the country, other similar events were being held, and a website devoted to the progress of the Pagan community as a whole in the U.S. was formed. The Witches Voice or Witchvox as it was commonly known, was a place to meet local pagans, promote events, post informational articles, and advertise skills such as clergy and tarot readers. Most groups interested in promoting their events would post their information online for everyone to see, and from there, hold their events. As of the time of this writing, the Witches Voice community listings are still the most popular way of getting information on upcoming Pagan events.

The amount of Pagan oriented books skyrocketed in the 1990’s. With the publication of books by SilverRavenWolf, Amber K, Edain MacCoy and countless others, the amount of information available at any local bookstore or online bookseller was staggering. Whether it was information on various Pagan holidays like Llewellyn’s Wheel of the Year by the Campanelli’s or on legal issues, like Dana Eiler’s Pagans and the Law, there was a reference out there for anything you could want.

That did not mean that the information was always solid, and there was a lot of repetitiveness, especially since the publishers at Llewellyn knew a good thing when they saw it, but by the mid-nineties, there was no longer a question of whether the Pagan movement would be dying out any time soon. Neo-Paganism was here to stay.
A testament to how deeply entrenched the alternative culture had penetrated the minds of America came from an unlikely source. On November 27, 1995, “an episode of the cult science fiction show, The X-files neatly had its ideological cake and ate it too…” While dealing with a cult-oriented murder case, “the heroine (Agent Scully) burst out that ‘Wiccans love all living things’ – and that settled the matter. Suddenly, the story was in the 1990’s” (Hutton 1999, p 386).

The X-files was not the first television show to portray pro-pagan sentiment. The most stunning “display of motifs taken ultimately from Wicca in the 1980’s and 1990’s” was the hit show broadcast first in the UK and then over here in America. Hosted by Showtime, the show “Robin of Sherwood” produced by HTV was a hit both in America and across the pond. With its stunning scenery and costuming, Robin of Sherwood starred both Michael Praed and, later, Jason Connery, as the title character. The show “portrayed Robin Hood as a pagan guided by the antlered god of the greenwood – here called Herne” (Hutton 1999, p 388) . This show would influence an entire generation of Neo-Pagans, and flavor their view of magic and mystery for years to come.

Now, in the new century, Paganism is alive and well. Annual Pagan Pride events that take place across the country serve as educational tools for both Pagans and non-Pagans alike. Books and movies continue to act as influential means of education, and Paganism continues to grow. As a positive, life-affirming religion, it has its heart in the right place, and as long as it remains so, with its goals intact, it will continue to prosper and spread its message of peace for many years to come.

________________________________

References

Adler, M. (1979) . Drawing down the moon. Boston: Beacon Press.
Hutton, R. (1999) . The triumph of the moon: a history of modern pagan witchcraft. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.
Simos, M. (Starhawk) , (1979) . The spiral dance; a rebirth of the ancient religion of the great goddess. New York: Harper and Row Publishers.

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Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – A.6. The Sabbat Rituals (1949)

Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – A.6. The Sabbat Rituals (1949)

A.6. The Sabbat Rituals (1949)
November Eve
Walk or slow dance, Magus leading High Priestess, both carrying Phallic wand or broom, people with torches or candles.  Witch chant or song:

“Eko, eko, Azarak Eko, eko, Zomelak Bazabi lacha bachabe Lamac cahi achababe Karrellyos  Lamac lamac Bachalyas cabahagy sabalyos Baryolos Lagoz atha cabyolas Samahac atha famolas Hurrahya!”

Form circle.
High Priestess assumes Goddess position.
Magus gives her Fivefold Kiss and is scourged.
All are purified [that is, bound and scourged with forty strokes, as in the initiation rituals].
Magus assumes God position.
High Priestess invokes with Athame:  “Dread Lord of the shadows, god of life and the giver of life. Yet is the knowledge of thee the knowledge of death. Open wide, I pray thee, thy gates through which all must pass.  Let our dear ones who have gone before, return this night to make merry with us.  And when our time comes, as it must, O thou the comforter, the consoler, the giver of peace and rest, we will enter thy realms gladly and unafraid, for we know that when rested and refreshed among our dear ones, we shall be born again by thy grace and the grace of the Great Mother.  Let it be in the same place and the same time as our beloved ones, and may we meet and know, and love them again.  Descend, we pray thee, upon thy servant and Priest (name).”
High Priestess gives Fivefold Kiss to Magus.
Initiations if any; all others are purified.
(Note: Couples may purify each other if they will.)
Cakes and Wine.
The Great Rite if possible, either in token or truly.
Dismiss [the guardians, and close down the magic circle; the people then stay to] feast and dance.

February Eve
After usual opening, all are doubly purified [that is, with eighty strokes].
Dance round outside circle, High Priestess with sword girded on and drawn, Phallic wand in left hand.
Enter circle.
Magus assumes God position.
High Priestess gives Fivefold Kiss, invokes: “Dread Lord of death and Resurrection, life and the giver of life, Lord within ourselves, whose name is Mystery of Mysteries, encourage our hearts. Let the light crystalize in our blood, fulfilling us of resurrection, for there is no part of us that is not of the gods. Descend, we pray thee, upon this thy servant and Priest (name).”
All should be purified in sacrifice before him.  He then purifies the High Priestess with his own hands, and others if he will.
Cakes and wine.
Great Rite if possible, in token or real.
Games and dance as the people will.
Dismiss [the guardians, and close down the magic circle; the people then stay to] feast and dance.
May Eve
If possible ride poles, brooms, etc. High Priestess leading, quick dance step, singing

“O do not tell the priests of our arts.For they would call it sin,
For we will be in the woods all nightA conjuring summer in.

And we bring you good news by word of mouthFor women, cattle, and corn:
The sun is coming up from the south,With oak and ash, and thorn.”

Meeting dance if possible.
Form circle as usual, and purify.
High Priestess assumes Goddess position; officers all give her the fivefold kiss.
She purifies all.
High Priestess again assumes Goddess position.
Magus invokes, draws down moon, “I invoke thee and call upon thee, O mighty Mother of us all, bringer of all fruitfulness, By seed and root, by stem and bud, by leaf and flower and fruit, by life and love, do we invoke thee, to descend upon the body of thy servant and Priestess here.”
Magus gives Fivefold Kiss to High Priestess.
All should be purified in sacrifice before her, and she should purify Magus and some others with her own hands.
Cakes and wine.
Games.
Great Rite if possible, in token or truly.
Dismiss [the guardians, and close down the magic circle; the people then stay to] feast and dance.

August Eve
If possible, ride poles, broomsticks, etc.
Meeting Dance if possible [the double-spiral dance described in Witchcraft Today, p. 167].
Form circle.
Purify.
High Priestess stands in pentacle position.
Magus invokes her: “O mighty Mother of us all, Mother of all fruitfulness, give us fruit and grain, flocks and herds and children to the tribe that we be mighty, by thy rosy love, do thou descend upon thy servant and Priestess (name) here.”
Magus gives Fivefold Kiss to High Priestess.
Candle game:  Seated, the men form a circle, passing a lighted candle from hand to hand “deosil”.  The women form circle outside, trying to blow it out over their shoulders.  Whoever’s hand it is in when it is blown out is 3 times purified by whoever blew it out, giving fivefold Kiss in return.  This game may go on as long as the people like.
Cakes and wine, and any other games you like.
Dismiss [the guardians, and close down the magic circle; the people then stay to] feast and dance.

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“Samhain Dream”

“Samhain Dream”

by Myria/Brighid

It is Samhain …The Night of Shadows. The Circle is cast around the fire, And through the darkness, we glance, For the veils are thin, in this sacred night! Ancient voices around us, Whispering old and forgotten songs, While we dance the Spiral Dance, To meet Her. And there She comes, The Lady of the Gate! Power and compassion evolving us, As a dark but comforting wave. Beautiful Queen of the Dark Night! With Her mantle of raven’s feathers, And eyes deep with wisdom. Cerridwenn! She opens Her arms, in a welcoming embrace, We feel around us the flow of love, Of Her Eternal Grace. And then we hear Her voice, Melodious and grave, That speaks from inside our soul, As an echo in a cave. Blessed Daughters of My Heart, I hear your prayers from afar. And that is why I came tonight! Do not despair when the times are hard! Do not abandon the Path you found! For time has come for My return, And you, Loved Ones, shall open the way, Singing my name as the ancient bards. I am always with you, do never doubt that! I am the Old and the Young One! I am the Keeper of the Gate! I am the Master of Time! I am the Dark Goddess of Death! I am the Bright Goddess of Dawn! I am The One! I am Cerridwenn!

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Finding The Craft

Finding The Craft

Author:   Sunfell  

The question is innocent enough: “How did you find your Pagan Path?” Sort of like the Christian equivalent, “How did you find Christ?” Both are simple questions, but for me, at least- the explainable answer is not easy. Heck, it would be easier for me to try to convince the Smithsonian that the chewed-up Barbie doll head I found in my back yard is a prime example of “Australopithecus Spiff-Arino”. (Some eccentric fellow actually tried that- and other equally eccentric stunts, and succeeded in amusing the staff, and unwary Web-nauts like me.)

The simple answer was that I was born a mage. That is right—being a magus is something that is so much a part of me that in looking back, my journey was more one of rediscovery than actual discovery. My life, from about age 7 onward, has been like a fascinating jigsaw puzzle with the pieces hidden in time instead of space, and my life has been a series of “Ah, Ha!” moments when a piece clicked into place. As the tapestry of who I was/am has unfolded, it has left a wonderful trail of discovery, experience (both good and bad) and insightful enlightenment in its wake. And it has also left a growing trail of writings—essays such as this one—as breadcrumbs for those Kindred Mages who are also rediscovering themselves and the Way.

Don’t get me wrong—Harry/ette Potter I ain’t. (I haven’t read the books yet—I am waiting for the whole series to be complete so I can (a) get them all at once and (b) read them all at once. I’m odd that way.) When I realized at age 12 or so that I was not destined to take the path of Catholicism and motherhood that my mother trod, I had no name for who I was or what path I was on. In my marrow there was a call that no church could answer. All I knew was that I was responsible for my development and that there was not going to be any popular culture help coming my way. Mine was the unblazed trail, and all I had was the primitive compass of my untried BS detector to guide me.

I spent the first seven years of my realization as a minor at home, and in a state whose libraries had no occult or metaphysical texts whatsoever. Any information relevant to my path was scarce, and when gleaned, was pored over with an intensity that I envy today. Perhaps the lack of information, and the deep attention to detail I paid to what little wisdom I gleaned helped to set my feet more firmly on the path. I wonder if I would have fared as well and as long had I had access to the materials available today. A curious youngster can read in one evening, and by one or two writers, stuff that took me years to acquire. But time runs differently now, and I acknowledge that, and hold no ill will towards today’s young seekers. Envy, perhaps, but not too much- I know what lies ahead for most youngsters on this path. (A hint—it gets much better after about age 29 or so… Honest! Go look up Saturn’s Return in an astrological text to get a hint of what you’re in for. Trust me- you’ll live, and be that much the wiser.)

The simplest name for who I am and what I do is “Way”. This is a life pattern of intense hunger for knowledge, a burning, almost. It is a method of testing and questioning everything—whether orthodox or liberal, and in doing so, developing a ‘gut’ instinct about people and life that is trusted above all else. It is a long process of creating and aligning a moral compass, yet permitting the world outside to be inhabited. There are no isolated ivory towers or monasteries on this Path except for short rests for digesting information—it requires full engagement in all life has to be offered. It is being in the world, but not of it, as Ralph Blum wrote in “The Book of Runes”. Fine-tuning this ‘gut’—or more precisely, Axis—requires that errors be made—even costly ones. Only through trial, error, and success can this central axis be finely balanced, and only time and real life experience can prove it. The goal and end result is courage and wisdom and the thorough internal alignment that only a series of hard knocks can achieve. The burning for knowledge also burns away the blinders and dross that hinders ones progress along the Way. The weight of knowledge is balanced by the Lightness of Wisdom, and once tempered, no spiritual assault can destroy it.

My Way is not an easy one, and not for the timid or easily discouraged. There have been long periods in my life where it seems that nothing has happened—no interesting insights, people or events surfacing for me to focus on and hone my Axis. But in retrospect, those seemingly lean times permitted me to internally process things to prepare me to find that next piece. Doing so would start the process again.

George Leonard wrote in “Path of Mastery” that most people get into something, and experience diminishing returns. This can be due to boredom, difficulty, loss of interest, or lack of challenge by the activity. They start out gangbusters, but gradually taper off into indifference. Many people, including myself, have left a trail of such endeavors in our lives. I can think of a health club membership… but I would rather not.

Leonard continues that in order to master something and keep it interesting and challenging, one must ramp up the difficulty and complexity in a series of steps. Each step involves an effort to obtain it, and the mastery of the step proceeds in a steady manner- and with diligent practice—towards the next challenge and burst of physical and/or mental energy required to surmount it. Thus, the rate of progress is a steady climb and growth of interest and mastery, instead of the initial burst and tapering off of failed efforts.

I call these steps The Spiral Path, because eventually I find myself back at a familiar place or activity, but at a higher level of ability. I tend to have phases where I am more social than other times, and each time I enter a social phase, where I am working with other Pagans and fellow Wayfarers, or participating in the community at large, I find myself at a more and more mature place and level. This is to be expected, and is the mark of life’s progress. If you find yourself being treated like a newbie after years of practice, consider that a hint that perhaps you need to refine your practice and insight. Sadly, there are people who are ‘stuck’ at a certain level, and unaware of it. To walk the steps of the Spiral Path means to challenge your deepest rooted images of yourself. Are you still dressing and acting like you did in the late eighties? That’s a hint right there. Are you willing and ready to examine and discard those presumptions? Doing so often energizes the next step upward.

As I have traveled up my own Spiral Path, I have taken and discarded both magickal and practical names for both myself and my Way. My earliest Pagan name has been long retired, but meant “Strength of the Goddess” in Norse/Latin. I was a ‘baby Pagan’ then, having just read and discovered Wicca through Starhawk’s book The Spiral Dance. That was in 1980, after I had left my parents’ home and was on my own. My name when I was training in Wicca in Germany was Sunfell, (Clothed In Sunlight) and has become my pen name and Internet handle. It reflects the hardest and most rewarding time of my ‘journeyman’ years as a priestess-in-training in Wicca. My current magickal name was bestowed upon me nearly five years ago in a Native American Naming Ceremony, after a ritual purification and Inipi sweat. In the course of this intense training, which lasted several months, I learned about the American roots of Wicca, and that much of what is Wicca today is more American in origin than British. That puzzle piece did not dim my appreciation of Wicca, but made me understand that the more discoveries I make, the more things I find are in common.

My teachers through this 28-year journey were many and varied. Some teachers were strangers with whom I had a casual conversation. Others were old friends who are still part of my life. And still others were actual teachers and initiators, people that I trusted enough to permit them to see me at my most vulnerable. I still am very much a student, but have reached the place in my travels and understanding that I can also teach. This I do informally, through my writing and my living. If my writing lights up an “ah-HA!” in someone somewhere on this Internet, I may never know it unless they email me, but that does not matter. I cannot email Mark Twain and tell him how much he has made me both laugh and think, but I know that those behind me will appreciate his works too. In person, I do not teach formally. Instead, I simply live my life fully and with complete confidence that the Axis I worked so hard in honing will serve me fully and continue to refine itself. And in living with this confidence, perhaps my attitude can be a tiny meme that ignites that same confidence and curiosity and Inner Light in those around me. It is a subtle evangelism that encourages confidence and competence instead of undermining it.

In finding my Way through my life, I have donned and shed many labels. I have been Roaming Catholic, nameless, Pagan, Wiccan, Spiritualist, Gnostic, and currently Eclectic TechMage studying Franz Bardon’s system of Hermetic Pathworking. This has been my longest held and most accurate label for myself, but if something more precise comes along, I shall upgrade to that. I am also a computer tech- and ongoing learning and upgrading are par for the course. Why should my spiritual and metaphysical Way be any different?

The bottom line is that my Path to and with Paganism and metaphysics in its many forms has been a series of refinements, discoveries and upgrades. An idea or concept will reveal itself and snap into place, and I thoroughly explore it until the next challenge/piece reveals itself and I climb to another level. It is always rewarding and engaging, and I am daily grateful that the magickal seed within me lived to grow and flourish. As part of my gratitude for this life, I am doing what I can to share the Light I was privileged to bear.

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Circle Closing

celt71

CIRCLE CLOSING

Adaption of Starhawk’s  The Spiral Dance.

 

By the earth that is her body

And by the air that is her breath

And by the fire of her bright spirit,

And by the living waters of her womb,

The circle is open, but unbroken

May the joy of the Goddess live in our hearts

Merry meet, and merry part

And merry meet again.

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Hunting the Hunter

Hunting the Hunter

by Melanie Fire Salamander

When I first started work in the Craft, as a solitary, I hadn’t much use for the God. The deity Who attracted me was the Goddess. I remember communing with Her in candlelight, before an altar of old telephone books covered with blue-figured silk. I felt incorporated by Her, supported.

My concept then of the God was the God of the Christians. From my ninth year to my thirteenth, I attended an Episcopalian church, where everyone was too polite to save me, though I did enjoy singing in the Youth Choir. I found the Episcopalian services pretty on the outside, but within they seemed dry as dust. I tried to be moved, but I ended up yawning, more taken by my walks to church through the quiet, sun-splotched Sunday mornings than by the ritual. The most of God I sensed among the Episcopalians was the echo of a long-ago voice.

When I did feel a presence from the God, that presence was of God the Father. Jesus I always saw as a person, a visionary you had to respect; I never got in touch with the loving Christ. We see our gods through the archetypes we’ve found in life, I think, and I was reared in a patriarchal household, from which I wrenched fight by fight over a period of years. In that household, the looming male figure was my father, grey-haired before my birth, the raging patriarch. Though my father and I patched up our relationship as I started serious work as a witch, my wounds were still raw enough I wanted nothing to do with fathers.

One of the first books I read that spoke of witchcraft as a spiritual path was The Spiral Dance. I remember Starhawk’s descriptions of different versions of the God: the gentle, loving Blue God, the viny Green One, and the Horned God, the Hunter. But for me none of Starhawk’s gods rang true. They seemed merely constructs. The Blue God appeared too girlish, and for me green was female. I felt the Horned God as the most real, but frightening and lumpen, as if one would want to mate with a bull. I shrugged, paid lip-service to the God in the group rituals I attended, and on my own worshipped the Goddess.

Meanwhile, life went on. Though I had no vision of the God, I managed to enjoy His sex. In Ireland I had a fling with a 21-year-old boy with dyed black hair, who wore a black shirt his friend’s sister made; we drank too much ale and richocheted against the painted stone walls of his village at 2 a.m.. Back in Seattle, I dated a photographer, also younger than me, slender as a brown sapling, sarcastic; I eroticized the smell of developer. I dated men my own age, too, but I kept reverting. Take my intersection with the surly boy, a singer in a band: I fell in love with his pumped chest and pierced nipple, though we never once held a conversation without arguing. Or take my e-mail flirtation, which went on too long and was never consummated: spiky, poison-sweet, dysfunctional as a car crash.

That one finally brought me to full stop. Some of the others had been obsessions, too, but this one patently made no sense. He had a girlfriend; we’d seen each other in the flesh perhaps five times; we’d never touched. What was it about him that sent my head spinning?

Those attachments you get, which are too strong, in the end seem to have little to do with the persons who inspire them. We tend to worship the gods we see in our lives, and the corollary is that if we don’t see the gods, they try harder and harder to reveal themselves.

I came to the God slowly, through His fauns.

Luckily the gods will teach you lessons many times over. But even when you’ve learned a few things, nothing is for sure. This story I’m telling you now, none of it is “true”; it’s just the explanation I’m giving myself.

Right now for me, the God is a muse. He comes on as a lover, but he is not a husband, nor even exactly a friend, more a capricious mentor. Our relationship is only sometimes about satisfaction; mainly the point is longing.

The God inspires my fiction; the characters I find most fun to write are usually fauns. They’re not portraits of boys I’ve known, though on occasion they’ve started out to be. Often they begin as minor players, who then take on a life of their own. The God inspires them: fills them with His breath and sets them moving. As they move, they draw me into the work, and their touch inspires the other characters.

This particular God-energy seems to work better for me driving fiction than real-life relationships. My fauns were never good boyfriends; I don’t think the Muse makes a good partner. His and my relationship is about tension, a pleasurable discomfort that makes me itch. I wouldn’t want that tantalizing, unfulfilling energy in an ongoing human relationship, but it feels right in relating to a god. It keeps me writing.

But the God will not be bound only into fiction.

At a festival, I saw a boy all in leather, crouched among greenery, looking up at me: black eyes, black hair, trembling lips with a fringe of mustache. I knew for certain I wanted him when I saw him take off his shirt. At the firepit, I maneuvered to sit next to him, warmed my cold hands on his thighs.

The Aphrodite shrine was full, locked, so we found the Pan shrine. Under a fake-fur pelt, we made love by candlelight. Something there was intoxicating as whiskey, something glancing, a bit heart-rending. I remembered him a long time, and I wrote him letters, though no permanent connection came.

It was only later I saw the God was laughing at me.

In the Pan shrine? Melanie, don’t you get it?

So it is often, I think. The gods don’t just come when you call. They make cameo appearances, and later you wonder why you remember that scene.

To see Him in your life, use your peripheral vision. Some people He comforts, some He teases; it depends on what He thinks you need from Him. But never doubt the God is there.

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THE ELEMENTS

THE ELEMENTS

The Elements have been a part of man’s ancient and arcane lore since its

inception in  pre-historic times. Different traditions associate them with

various things. The following  list of correspondences comes from Starhawk’s

“The Spiral Dance.”

 

AIR:

Direction:  East.

Rules: The mind, all mental, intuitive and psychic work, knowledge, abstract

learning, theory, windswept hills, plains, windy beaches, high mountain peaks,

high towers, wind and breath.

Time: Dawn.

Season: Spring.

Colors: White, bright yellow, crimson, blue-white.

Signs of the Zodiac: Gemini, Libra, Aquarius.

Tools: Athame, sword, censer.

Spirits:  Sylphs, ruled by King Paralda.

Angel:  Michael.

Name of the East Wind:  Eurus.

Sense:  Smell.

Jewel:  Topaz.

Incense:  Galbanum.

Plants: Frankincense, myrrh, pansy, primrose, vervain, violet, yarrow.

Tree:  Aspen.

Animals:  Birds.

Goddesses:  Aradia, Arianrhod, Cardea, Nuit, Urania.

Gods:  Enlil, Khephera, Mercury, Shu, Thoth.

 

FIRE:

Direction:  South.

Rules: Energy, spirit, heat, flame, blood, sap, life, will, healing and

destroying, purification, bonfires, hearth fires, candle flames,

sun, deserts, volcanoes, eruptions, explosions.

Time:  Noon.

Season:  Summer.

Colors: Red, gold, crimson, orange, white (the sun’s noon light).

Signs of the Zodiac:  Aries, Leo, Saggitarius.

Tools:  Censer, wand.

Spirits:  Salamanders, ruled by King Djin.

Angel:  Ariel.

Name of the South Wind:  Notus.

Sense:  Sight.

Jewel:  Fire Opal.

Incense:  Olibanum.

Plants: Garlic, hibiscus, mustard, nettle, onion, red peppers, red poppies.

Tree:  Almond, in flower.

Animals:  Fire-breathing dragons, lions, horses (when their hooves strike

sparks).

Goddesses:  Brigit, Hestia, Pele, Vesta.

Gods:  Agni, Hephaestus, Horus, Vulcan.

 

WATER:

Direction:  West.

Rules:  Emotions, feelings, love, courage, daring, sorrow, the ocean, the tides,

lakes, pools, streams, and rivers, springs and wells, intuition, the unconscious

mind, the womb, generation, fertility.

Time:  Twilight.

Season:  Autumn.

Colors:  Blue, blue-green, green, gray, indigo, black.

Signs of the Zodiac: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces.

Tools:  Cup.

Spirits:  Undines, ruled by King Niksa.

Angel:  Raphael.

Name of the West Wind:  Zephyrus.

Sense:  Taste.

Jewel:  Aquamarine.

Incense:  Myrrh.

Plants: Ferns, lotus, mosses, rushes, seaweed, water lillies, and all water

plants.

Tree:  Willow.

Animals: Dragons (as serpents), dolphins and porpoises, fish, seals and sea

mammals, water-dwelling snakes, all water creatures and sea birds.

Goddesses:  Aphrodite, Isis, Mariamne, Mari, Tiamat.

Gods:  Dylan, Ea, Llyr, Manannan, Osiris, Neptune, Poseidon.

 

EARTH:

Direction:  North.

Rules: The body, growth, nature, sustenance, material gain, money, creativity,

birth, death, silence, chasms, caves, caverns, groves, fields, rocks, standing

stones, mountains, crystal, jewels, metal.

Time:  Midnight.

Season: Winter.

Colors:  Black, brown, green, white.

Signs of the Zodiac: Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn.

Tools:  Pentacle.

Spirits:  Gnomes, ruled by King Ghob.

Angel:  Gabriel.

Name of the North Wind:  Boreas, Ophion.

Sense:  Touch.

Jewel:  Rock crystal, salt.

Incense:  Storax.

Plants: Comfrey, ivy, grains:barley, oats, corn, rice, rye, wheat.

Tree:  Oak.

Animals: Coworbull, bison, snakes (earth-dwelling), stag.

Goddesses:  Ceres, Demeter, Geae, Mah, Nephthys, Persephone, Prithivi, Rhea,

Rhiannon.

Gods:  Adonis, Athos, Arawn, Cernunnos, Dionysus, Marduk, Pan, Tammuz.SPIRIT /

 

ETHER:

Direction:  Center and circumference, throughout and about.

Rules:  Transcendence, tranformation, change, everywhere and nowhere, within and

without, the void, immanence.

Time:  Beyond time, all time is one.

Season:  The turning wheel.

Colors:  Clear, white, black.

Tools:  Cauldron.

Sense:  Hearing.

Plant:  Mistletoe.

Tree:  The flowering almond.

Animal: Sphinx.

Goddesses:  Isis, the Secret Name of the Goddess, Shekinah.

Gods:  Akasha, IAO, JHVH.

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Where Gods Dwell – Creating Altars and Shrines

Where Gods Dwell

Creating Altars and Shrines

by Amanda Silvers

An altar is, customarily, an area set aside for meditation or worship, or for working magick. A shrine is ordinarily an altar, specifically dedicated to a particular energy or deity. What is the purpose of an altar or shrine, besides creating a special place for your ritual or worship to take place? There are many answers, and I offer this as a guide for beginners and more experienced people as well.

When you transform a physical area or location to focus on a divine spirit, it is then possible for that spirit to manifest in the material world. Whether it is a god or goddess, an elemental or one of the fey, it has a space and energy to create from. The idea is to cause this to be a special and sacred place of honor and adoration of the deity or spirit, so put plenty of desire and effort into your creation.

To build an altar or shrine, begin on the correct day and hour for your chosen purpose. You may determine the day and hour by looking it up in a table of correspondences, in one of Scott Cunningham’s books or in The Spiral Dance. Start fashioning a place by contemplating how much space you have to devote, where you might like it, how accessible the area is to you and how secluded it is. Importantly, if you do not wish people to ask a bazillion questions, situate your shrines where they will be private. When you think about the purpose of the altar or shrine, the deity will help guide you where best to build it; just follow your feeling or instinct.

Next, clean the space, both physically and energetically. Do a clearing or banishing with water, incense or whatever you usually use, and at the same time clean the area well. Wipe it down and take away anything that was there before. (If you wish to replace an item on the altar, cleanse and bless it first.) Once you have accomplished this, purify and bless each item for the altar and place it in its correct position. Each piece is like an ingredient in a dish; it adds to the final product. There is a distinctive energy that is produced by an altar once it is blessed, and you will come to enjoy sharing the energy there.

If what you want to create is a shrine, say a prayer of dedication to the specific deity, and with your intention and desire affect the space to be sacred to that deity. Also, as you bring in each item you may anoint and dedicate them one by one, for more power, or you may wait until the whole shrine is set up and dedicate it at the end, as a whole. Chant, sing, play appropriate background music, burn incense, do whatever helps you be in the energy of the deity you wish to venerate. Put as much energy into anointing, placing and praying over the items as you can to make the shrine very powerful indeed.

Once you have accomplished this, it’s time to invoke the deity and ask that deity to lend his or her presence and power to your shrine. Be respectful, be sincere, be reverent, but do not forget that the gods do have a sense of humor. So do not be totally surprised if something unusual happens. When you are finished, spend some time communing with your chosen deity, and hearken to the small (or not so small) voice that will speak to you.

You might try creating small altars or shrines around your house and yard. Even the workplace can become an area of worship if you are discreet and use your symbology wisely.

I have a main altar that contains my ritual working tools, a couple statues of the god and goddess I traditionally work with, offerings and some other magickal items that are special to me. I create other shrines depending on what energies I am currently working with. I have had in the past and know several people who have a shrine blessed to each god or goddess they work with. A shrine can be a nice focus for bringing in more of the energy of a specific deity.

It’s a valuable idea to keep a journal of your communications with the gods, so that over time you can look back and see how you have grown and changed in your approach. Be conscientious; keep your altars and shrines clean and well-organized (unless they’re to Eris!). Spend time engaged at your shrines every day, and you will come to have a very close relationship with the gods. Raise energy for them, and offer gifts…. remember the gods and they will remember you!

Items that you might want to place on your altar or shrine

For a working altar, you will want a number of magickal tools including, but not limited to:

  • Athamé (sacred to the God)
  • Bell (air)
  • Bowl of water (water)
  • Candles (fire)
  • Cauldron (earth)
  • Chalice (Goddess)
  • Incense burner and incense (air)
  • Oil lamp (fire)
  • Representations of the God and Goddess
  • Rocks or crystals (earth)
  • Salt (earth)
  • Shells (water)
  • Wand (air)

For a shrine, you will want:

  • Representations of the deity; these may be pictures, statues or other things that represent the god or goddess in question to you
  • Altar cloth
  • Anointing oil
  • Athamé
  • Bells
  • Candles
  • Crystals
  • Earth
  • Feathers
  • Flowers (alive or dead)
  • Fruit
  • Herbs or greens
  • Incense and burner (the fire of consumption)
  • Meat or animal parts
  • Metal
  • Money
  • Oil lamp (the fire of illumination)
  • Poetry
  • Salt or sand
  • Shells
  • Stones
  • Wand
  • Water
  • Wine
  • Other offerings as appropriate

The suggestions following, regarding shrines to specific deities, will aid you in starting shrines, but use your personal preferences and the colors and items associated with your particular deities.

For Aphrodite, I recommend a rose-colored altar cloth, rose quartz, a statue or picture of a beautiful woman or sexually explicit photos, some Aphrodite incense, red candles, shells, pink or red flowers, water and a condom or two. Her colors are rose, red, orange, white and pink.

For Pan, think green! Provide a green or brown altar cloth. Pinecones, greenery, wildflowers, phallic-shaped stones, statues or pictures of the god, goats or a beautiful man are good, as well as animal skins (especially goatskins), Pan incense, green or brown candles, earth, mushrooms and phalluses (dildos). His  colors are brown, tan, forest green, leaf green and teal blue.

For Hecate, remember she is the goddess of magick and witches as well as the goddess of death and transformation (destruction). For her, I have a black altar cloth, a crystal ball, Tarot cards, crystals, dead and living flowers, animal skulls and bones, Hecate oil and incense, black candles, an oil lamp and a threefold statue of Hecate. She likes her devotees to write poetry and songs to her, and she is somewhat jealous. Her color is black.

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