|Your Deck of Ancient Symbols Card for Today|
Although the exact meaning may vary, The Hand is a symbol of some form of personal power in many cultures and religions. The presence of The Hand is an indication that your personal powers are at or near their zenith. The Hand suggest a time when you should leave your mark on the world.
As a daily card, The Hand suggest that now is a time for you to leave your mark on the world. Your unique strengths are heightened to a point where you can not only expect to make substantial progress towards your goals, but enjoy recognition for your efforts as well.
I was recently the butt of a joke. I know this happens to lots of folks, no matter what their theology. What ticked me off though was the fact that my theology was what the jerks were pointing fun at. Some pagans enjoy being a spectacle, and still more are just damned proud (and not afraid to let you know it) of their faith. I too am proud of who I am, and what I believe. I take my faith seriously, and DO NOT like to have it blown off or laughed at. So I blend.
I’m sure lots of us blend, and blend well. Blending in is what saved your neck, and flesh in the not so distant past. These days there are hate crimes; no doubt man seems to never run out of reasons to hate each other. What you find more and more though, is discrimination, and/or the assumption that you are a flaky, feather brained hippy.
Now I know it could be worse. I could be tortured and/or burned at the stake a few lifetimes ago, but it’s still annoying! I don’t like the silly superstitions people have or the down right misinformation. When cornered by simpletons who think their path is the “one true path to god” I love to put them in their place with a simple history lesson. Or one of my personal favorites: quoting the Bible to thwart them. In the end though, I am too busy to debate the universe day in and day out. Talk about exhausting!
This particular person only found out about my spiritual preferences because he is a friend of my love’s. He came over for dinner and saw some books I have sitting on the bottom shelf of my coffee table. Every time I see him he has a new snide or smart-a** comment. I thought I’d be smart-a** too.
After one of his comments one day I asked if he worshipped Buddha. He just shook his head and I said that it certainly looked that way. (He is pushing 400 lbs and 5’10) Unfortunately, that didn’t work, and I felt guilty for acting just like him instead.
I don’t wear a pentagram; instead I wear a triquetra that is two inches high. I just love it, and it gets compliments from everyone I meet. I love when they ask if it has a special meaning. I always answer yes! I wear regular make up in natural tones.
I work 8-5 Monday through Friday. My home is warm and welcoming. There isn’t a noticeable altar anywhere. There is a 12-inch tall star hanging in my kitchen, and a moon as well. I have a gold and silver candle on each side of my kitchen sink.
No one knows the 4-foot high metal sculpture of a willow that hangs in my kitchen is a sign of the Mother. Nor do they see the candles and celestial design in my kitchen as my altar, and sign of love to the Lord and Lady. (Can you see the Kitchen Witchery here? LOL!)
When one of the dearest friends I have was going through a tough time, she happened to mention she was interested in stones and their symbolism. She also mentioned having strong feelings for Shamanism. So I asked if she would like some of the leopard skin jasper I had, and a couple other stones I thought she might like. She was thrilled! I was too; I have known her 25 out of 27 years of my life. Now was the first time I could talk about my spiritual side with her. She had lots of questions, and carries the stones everyday!
So you get the idea of how well I blend in? I made an agreement with my beloved when we first started dating. I would keep my books and obvious craft stuff out of sight of his two young children. I agreed readily because I was in my late teens before I could grasp that this is not a satanic path.
I figure that subtly dropping hints and blending it in slowly is best anyhow. Heck, I didn’t even realize I was learning the Old Ways from my grandmothers and mother until I was already well used to it. The kids request ’Wytches Chant 98’ all the time, without knowing that is the name. They only know that they love it. As a matter of fact we listen to that band often. They love it, and I think that it opens their minds a little.
My beloved is not Pagan, though he has picked up some of my “witchy ways” as he calls it. He even had some runes tattooed on his inner arm. They are like armor to him he says. They make him feel protected, and mark the important points on his journey. The other arm is going to be health and spiritual runes. He has told me that I am a good “Ambassador” for Pagans. He says he would never have taken me seriously, or be willing to venture down his spiritual path this far if I had been as “Loud and Proud.”
So, back to the frustration. I am not ashamed of who I am. I don’t like probing questions either. (Picture sneering face here.) I am open to those who are REAL. I feel like I do more good this way anyhow. When I explain the possible meanings of the Trinity Knot to someone who asks, I feel they take away a positive experience. I’d rather that any day, to the’ stare and giggle’ by the general public.
So here is the question for you dear reader. Are you straight up or blended? Have you asked yourself lately?
After I heard about that jerk cracking jokes on me, I started to ask myself that same question. I know negativity lives among us. Perhaps I’m too serious. I don’t know. I do know this however. I WILL NOT change my way of practicing.
I’m too happy for that! (Unlike him.) Thanks Karma!
Author: Zan Fraser
Those who seek clues as to the nature of English witchcraft prior to Gerald Gardner turn their attentions sooner or later to William Shakespeare’s tragedy of Macbeth. “Witch Plays” appear to have been highly popular with Elizabethan/ Jacobean theater-goers; virtually every significant play-writer from the 1580s to the early 1600s contributes a “witchcraft work” and Macbeth’s fame is such that nine people out of ten will cite it as their first association with witches. The virtue presented by these bodies of work is that they describe and demonstrate the puzzling phenomenon known as the “witch’s craft” in a way not found otherwise in period sources.
One should not allow oneself to be distracted by the disagreeable elements of Shakespeare’s presentation, such as the infamous ingredients-litany of the Witches’ Brew (IV.i.1-37) , which starts off with eyes of newts and toes of frogs before culminating in a horrific porridge of body-parts and animal intestines.
Such sections represent Shakespeare’s concessions to the rabidly anti-witch views held by Elizabeth’s successor, the new King James I of England, who ascended following Elizabeth’s death in 1603. As James VI of Scotland, his Majesty had published Daemonologie, an attack on witches as socially corrupt persons and failure to be in endorsement of royal opinion was a severely fraught stance.
Peering through the grotesque but self-protective veil that Shakespeare hangs in front of his work, one finds that the witchcraft depicted by the Bard of Avon nonetheless plays heavily upon two traditional and fundamental concepts- the performance of magic through the creation of charmed, circular space, and the powering of this specialized space by the raising up of magical, charming energies.
Folklorists have long identified the “ring-dance” (holding hands and dancing in a ring) as a particular activity of both faeries and witches; in Witches and Jesuits, Garry Wills interprets the blocking of the Three Witches of Macbeth in terms of their “spinning” or generating a magically charmed precinct through circular motion. (The notorious Cauldron Speech that opens Act IV actually accompanies such an “energy-generating” performance, immediately prior to the Scottish King’s entrance.
It is fascinating to consider that the Witches’ line “Open locks, whoever knocks” [IV.i.45] suggests that they have placed magical protections around their spell-working site- exactly as we ourselves would do- and that it is necessary to “cut” others into the circle. It is also interesting to reflect that they describe Macbeth as the “something wicked” that “this way comes.”) .
The conclusion to the so-called “Witches’ Scene” is another example of a witches’ circle-dance, as the Three launch into an “antic round” (IV.i.130) in mocking contempt for the Scottish King and Murderer: “I’ll charm the air to give a sound while you perform our antic round, that this great king may kindly say, our duties did his welcome pay!” Thus with one final whirling circle, the Three take their last leave of the soon-to-fall tyrant.
The instant before they first greet Macbeth (“A drum- a drum! Macbeth doth come!”) , the Witches (who have been anticipating this encounter since the play’s opening scene) perform a ring-dance (or dance in a witches’ circle) in order to create the charmed atmosphere that the late 1500s and early 1600s considered appropriate for events of a magical nature. As if to remove any doubt about the matter, they helpfully (in fact) inform us so (I.iii.31) :
“The Weird Sisters, hand in hand, posters of the sea and land, thus do go about! About! Thrice to thine and thrice to mine and thrice again to make up nine! Peace- the charm’s wound up.”
As the text makes plain, the Three join hands (“hand to hand”) and “thus do go about”- they go around in a circle (presumably nine times, although one imagines this may be fudged a bit during actual performances) . Their purpose is made explicit when they halt (“Peace”) and judge that their charm is “wound up.”
It is within this mini-arena of charmed and potent space that they greet Macbeth, soon to be the Scottish king through murder and usurpation.
Unique in Shakespeare’s canon is Macbeth’s status as a hexed play with a dark and malevolent curse attached. It plainly is not clear when this superstition might have developed, but within theater communities there is a firm belief against uttering The Name out loud when one is backstage, for to do so is to invite the terrible malignancy of outraged fate. (Productions of the Scottish Play, as it is cautiously called, are famed for plagues of injury and accident.) In sensible and sage manner, a ceremony exists to throw off the dark importuning of the Fateful Word. The rash actor must immediately move herself outside the space of the theater (or at least the dressing room or backstage area) and unwind the grim energies by spinning in a counter-clockwise circle- she must spin widdershins, in other words.
In the movie The Dresser, Albert Finney plays an actor who must perform this ritual when he lets slip the Name of the Scottish King. The superstition is fascinating because it mimics in minor the execution of a witch’s round-dance. However, in this instance, one does not “wind up” a charm- one “unwinds” bad or wicked fortune.
An activity on a par with much documented English folk-magic, the ceremony of “casting off” the dark energies of Shakespeare’s Scottish play has become as intertwined with the play as any portion of its text. How remarkable then, that within the play’s lore, are found two examples of the logic that lies behind the witches’ ring-dance – an express instance of the “winding up” of a witch’s charm and an implicit demonstration of the “unwinding” of ill-omened actions.
In both cases, these seem to me to be examples of the strange and obscure practice attributed to witches and articulated by Gerald Gardner as “raising energy.”
Author: Fire Lyte
Black cats, warty toads, and a menagerie of creepy, slimy, crawly animals have all been accused of allying themselves with witches. The image of the witch with her pointed hat and magic broom just wouldn’t be complete without Fluffy the magic talking cat taking a nap on the bristles as she flies through a full moon sky casting her spells on the unsuspecting public below. It is because of their connection to witches that many people are afraid of black cats, black dogs – otherwise known as Grims, and toads. In fact, people kill black cats every year, because people are so frightened of them. Where does this deep-seated fear come from, and is it merited?
The word we use to call a spirit in animal form that helps a witch is ‘familiar.’ This term originally comes from the Latin ‘familiaris, ’ meaning ‘domestic, ’ but it also has root definitions in the Old French ‘familier, ’ and the Spanish/Italian words ‘familia/famiglia’ meaning ‘family.’ Dr. Jim Maloney of NYU proposes that the noun form of ‘familiar’ that we use to mean a witch’s companion spirit most likely derived from these later definitions in the 1580s, because women that lived apart from society – who were tried for witchcraft – would have probably brought in stray or wild animals, nursed them back to health, and tamed them. That woman would have, most definitely, thought of such animals as family.
As with all things witchy in the Middle Ages, familiars got a really bad rap from their respective local populaces, as everything having to do with those put on trial for witchcraft was considered of the Devil. The Encyclopedia Britannica showcases these definitions clearly in their entry on familiars, in which they highlight that the noun form of ‘familiar’ – meaning an imp or spirit that assists, instructs, or otherwise augments a witch’s powers – came about in the Middle Ages during the witch trials. Not only were they thought of as spirits, but also they were automatically assumed to be demons.
But, let’s think about this for a second. So, familiars were actually wild or stray animals that men or women brought in from the outside – where they otherwise would have starved to death – nursed them back to health, and tamed them. Think about what this looked like to the average person in the 14th century in conjunction with what we know about the witchcraft trials. A man or woman living away from town near the woods, who has knowledge of medicine and agriculture, that subsists off of their own garden, and also seems to have tamed wild animals to do their bidding without any help from anybody else. Wouldn’t that seem strange to you? Would that seem a little…magical? It would if you lived 500-600 years ago and relied on your fellow townsfolk for your needs, and if you also happen to be a puritanical sheep that listened to everything your local fire and brimstone preacher said.
The Britannica goes on to explain that people believed these tamed animals must have been gifts from Satan, who apparently tames animals in his spare time. It was believed that the witch must feed the familiar by a mark given her by the devil known as the witch’s teat. During the trial of a witch, he or she was typically stripped naked and searched head to toe for such a teat. And, in every instance, some such mark of the devil was found: a mole, a wart, or even a finger could be used as evidence of this mark. Elizabeth Howe, Harvard scholar on the Salem witch trials, said in her book ‘The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane’ that a woman’s clitoris was also used as evidence of this witch’s teat. Once the mark was found, it was over for the defendant. The mark was considered a sure sign of the person’s guilt, and sentence was passed shortly thereafter.
However, a familiar wasn’t always just a mooch from Satan who sucked on a woman’s nether regions and blighted the crops of nosy neighbors. They could also be what are known as ‘tutelary spirits, ’ or ones that teach. Michael Freeze in his 1992 book Patron Saints talks about a host of tutelary spirits in various religions. From the African tribes that worshipped the spider god Anansi, to the Native American people whose entire pantheon was made up of animal spirits, to the magical foxes of Japan, to genies, angels, and devas, the never ending list of spirits that take the form of animals covers the globe. And, of course, none of them had anything to do with the devil.
Zeus turned into a swan and a bull in order to mate with a young, pretty girl. Odin had ravens that flew across the world and reported back to him each night the events of the day. Animals as teachers have had a firm place in religious and folkloric history for thousands of years. However, that was legally put a stop to in 1604 with England’s passing of the Witchcraft Act, which made it illegal to associate with, hire, be friends with, feed, or reward any evil spirit for any reason. The law was truly put into effect in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts when two dogs were tried, convicted, and hanged for being believed to be a witch or a witch’s familiar.
Given all this, though, familiars have become one of the most beloved tools of the modern witch. Every television witch from Sabrina, to the Halliwells, to Samantha had a cat that, in one way or another, identified itself as their familiar. They are there to point out information that is right under the witch’s nose, but is being overlooked. While many witches today like to keep an animal – or seven – around the house, the idea that they are working magical companions does not seem to be as prevalent as it once was. Or, is it?
Let’s go back to the original propagation of the familiar. They were probably animals that needed care, love, and attention from someone, and the people on the edge of the town were the ones that provided it. In all reality, did these people actually work magic or learn arcane secrets from these animals? No, but they probably appreciated the company and felt less lonely, which is a kind of magic in and of itself. Though, a quick scan through your local bookstore will tell you the notion still exists in modern witchcraft and paganism that we learn from our pets, and many texts actually encourage us with spells and high rituals to find our familiars.
A quick story: The folklorist William Morgan said that during the English Civil War, the Royalist general Prince Rupert was in the habit of taking his large poodle dog named Boye, into battle with him. Throughout the war the dog was greatly feared among the Parliamentarian forces and credited with supernatural powers. The dog was apparently considered a kind of familiar. At the end of the war the dog was shot, allegedly with a silver bullet.
So, what category do you fall in to? Are you the loving outsider who takes in strays or runaways, who has a house full of love and furniture covered in pet hair? Or, are you the puritanical witch who dances with the devil on the full moon and feeds Evil Fluffy from your nether-teat? Either way, make sure to spay and neuter your familiars. We don’t need more imps running around.
William Morgan, “Superstition in Medieval and Early Modern Society”, Chapter 3
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=familiar and searchmode=none
Author: Bronwen Forbes
As a prologue to this, you need to know that Herne has been my patron God since I was nine years old. You don’t need to know, but you’ll probably figure out by reading this (if you haven’t already) that sometimes I’m a little slow to notice the obvious.
A few months after adopting my red and white beagle mix Herman, I was trying to sleep in one Saturday morning when I began to idly wonder, “There are so many Goddesses with dogs as part of their symbolism. I wonder what Gods are associated with dogs, too?” And then it hit me like a two-by-four to the forehead. Herne, Lord of the Wild Hunt, is very much associated with dogs, especially red and white hunting dogs, than you very much. (I warned you I’m a little slow sometimes) .
Needless to say, sleep was no longer an option. I sat up and looked at Herman (who had spent the night, as he usually did, asnooze at my side) who was already staring at me with a definite, “took you long enough to figure it out” expression.
And just like that, I not only had a familiar, I had an avatar.
I’m defining “avatar” here not as a recent hit movie or a small picture that represents you on various blogs or discussion boards, but as the earthly representative of a deity. And for the love of me, I hadn’t a clue what to do with mine.
Four months later, we adopted a German Shepherd mix named Katie – and lo and behold, she was also what my husband likes to call a “God-touched” dog. But unlike Herman who was also my familiar (notice the past tense; I still miss him) , Katie let us know pretty quickly that she had no interest whatsoever in being my husband’s familiar, but would happily attend her Goddess Nehelennia’s tasks of safe travel, healing and commerce. Period.
Since acquiring Herman and Katie in 2001, I’ve alao gotten the clue what to do, not just for my special dogs, but for anyone else who may wake up one morning and see deity shining through the eyes of their pet.
First and foremost, and I know this sounds obvious, you have to keep treating your pet like a, well, pet. Your animal companion is your spiritual and or magickal support (familiar) or a little bit of deity (avatar) but he still needs proper food and water, adequate shelter, regular veterinary checkups, exercise, training, vaccinations, etc. After all, it’s not like the Gods can or will take care of your pet for you.
But once the regular, responsible pet ownership duties are taken care of with your familiar or avatar, there are still some things you need to think about to keep your relationship with your animal companion – and your deity – as smooth and fulfilling as possible.
1. Remember that, despite her spiritual role in your life, your pet is still going to act like an animal. Herman used to drive me crazy with this. He was a daily reminder of my relationship with my patron deity, helped me work through some serious ritual issues, was a whiz at helping new students ground and center simply by sitting in their laps during ritual – and he was also a master escape artist. He could climb or dig under any chain link fence, and did so on a pretty regular basis.
Katie, a born healer, is also a big dog and an unrepentant counter-surfer. I can’t begin to count how many times I packed my lunch, left the kitchen to get dressed for work, and came back to find my lunch bag and food containers in Katie’s crate and my ex-lunch in her stomach. She may be God-touched, but she’s still a dog!
2. Give your familiar and/or avatar full autonomy regarding ritual attendance. This includes personal workings, small group rituals, festivals, and rites of passage. Shortly after my Saturday morning revelation about Herman, my husband and I took him with us to visit my parents for the weekend. While we were there, I helped my parents bury the ashes of our old family cat in the side yard garden – an understandably emotional activity. Herman was in the back yard, separated from me by a picket fence. He could see me through the fence, but couldn’t get to me. As my father dug a hole for the ashes, Herman went nuts, for want of a better word. Instead of pursuing squirrels (his usual pastime in my parents’ backyard) , he was throwing himself against the fence and barking frantically, trying to get to me. I should have stepped over the fence, opened the gate, and allowed Herman to join the small ritual. After all, he only wanted to do his job.
There have also been instance and rituals where Herman or Katie did *not* want to attend a particular ritual, and we quickly learned to “listen” to their opinions – rather like knowing that it doesn’t feel right to take a certain tarot deck with you when you go do readings at a community event. We learned this lesson the hard way when we took Katie to a ritual she clearly didn’t want to go to and she had a seizure.
3. Give your pet enough down time. Just as you can’t be in ritual 24/7, it’s unrealistic to expect your pet to be “on, ” i.e. actively acting as a divine representative or helping you with your spiritual work all the time. Don’t bug him to help you if he clearly doesn’t feel like it – the fact that he’s asleep or ignoring you are clear signs that he “doesn’t feel like it.”
If you find yourself needing extra protein, water or sleep after a working or ritual, offer some to your familiar or avatar as well.
If you have a pet that also enhances your spiritual practice or connection with your deity, you have been given a gift beyond price. Very few animals, at least in my experience, can do this, and if you get one or even two in a lifetime, you have truly been blessed. It’s also not something you can actively look for; it’s like love (actually it *is* love) – the more you try to find that special animal, the less likely you are to succeed.
Be patient. If and when you’re ready, the right animal will come.
Poetry as Meditation
Sculpting your thoughts into a poem can take you on a journey where your conscious mind is momentarily cast adrift.
The creation of any kind of art can be as much a form of meditation as a vehicle for self-expression. Energetically splashing colors of paint onto a canvas can be like casting the weight of the world off your shoulders, while raising your voice to hit the high notes of a song can inspire you to release your fears so you can reach new heights in your own life. And then there is the act of meditation that can take place when you create poetry. Sculpting your thoughts and emotions into a poem can take you on a journey into your inner universe where your conscious mind is momentarily cast adrift.
Like other forms of meditation, writing poetry requires that you stay fully present during the process, rather than focusing on any outcome. In doing so, you release any inhibitions or ideas of “what needs to happen,” so that your thoughts can flow freely through you. When you write poetry, you are able to see the reflections of your innermost self imprinted on a page.
If you’d like to experience poetry as a meditation practice, you might want to try this exercise: Set aside twenty minutes where you can be alone in a quiet space. You may want to look at poems other people have written to see if there is a style of poetry you would like to try. You can also try writing in freeform. The structure of the poem will then organically reveal itself to you. When you are ready, sit down with pen and paper and let the words flow. Don’t think about what you are going to say next, and don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or logic. Instead, be as descriptive, visually precise, rhythmic, or lyrical as you want to be. When you feel complete, put the pen down, and read over what you’ve written. Appreciate this work of art you have created. You may even find that thoughts and emotions you had repressed before are now making themselves known so you can process and release them. Writing poetry as a form of meditation lets you slow down your mind long enough for you to get out of your own way, so that your soul can freely express its deepest yearnings.
Your very essence
What you truly desire, you cannot ever take from anybody else. Because what you truly desire, is to fulfill your own unique purpose.
If you cheat or steal, you gain nothing of real value. If you destroy or injure, you are just making life more difficult for everyone, especially including you.
There are no shortcuts to the real fulfillment you seek. When you grab the mere tokens of that fulfillment, you push the real substance of it farther away.
There is no such thing as something for nothing. Even if there were, you would not want it, for it would bring no fulfillment.
Go ahead, make the commitment, make the effort, and persist in that effort until you can feel the fulfillment start to take hold. Go ahead and do the hard work to make a positive difference in your own special way, because that is what you long to do.
You are immensely valuable, and that value can be fully expressed only through sustained and focused effort. Make the commitment to live that value, for it is your very essence, and well worth whatever you must endure.
— Ralph Marston
Life’s Like That
Hope that diffused in the hazy air
left me with no words, that I could say
system it is, that’s not so fair
leaving me alone, in an utter dismay
Startled to see that just “luck” prevails
proving luck is enough to lead the game
hardwork bewildered, seeing its losing trail
aspirations buried, to avoid the shame
futile it is, to ponder upon the ruling of fate
it’s no one, who deserves a blame
This is a mere unfortunate spate
A tiny bit, in the time’s frame.
Stood up to gather the courage that’s lost
as I know, misery cannot make me its bait
A door closes to open another one fast
proving persistence is my blessing trait!
Rocking in the chair, I think again
what went wrong , that I didn’t gain…
Truth is very simple and just so plain..
Pal…Move forward…..take no pain!!!!
— Copyright © 2007 Viji Mutupuru