Full Moon Love Boon
Isis and Osiris Love Placket
The Magick Sex Pentacle
Opening the Star
Practicing Wicca and Witchcraft Today
Starting something new can be frightening; this applies also to a new religion. You will be taught the basic tenants, but in the long run, it will be up to you to make of it what you want.
There are many different witches, each with their own set of rituals. Some witches prefer to work alone, other like working within a coven. Once again this is a person choice. Let no one force you into joining anything with which you are not comfortable.
Let me give you an idea of the various forms of the craft that are available to you.
Gardnerian Wicca: Started in 1950’s by Gerald Gardner. Groups tend to work skyclad. Covens use a degree system. Individuals are initiated by the coven.
Alaxandrian Wicca: Started in the 1960’s in England. In many aspects they are like the Gardnerian Wicca.
Georgian Wicca: Founded by George Patterson in the 1970’s. They are known as the Georgian Church and draw their rituals from the Alaxandrian and Gardnerian crafts. Members also write their own ritual.
Algard Wicca: Founded in 1972. Mary Nesnick combined Alexandrian and Gardnerian Wicca to form the Algard tradition. They are very close to the Gardnerian tradition.
Seax-Wica: Founded in 1962 by Raymond Buckland a protégé of Gardner. He moved to the U. S. A. and in 1973 started his own tradition based on Saxon traditions. Hence Seax-Wica.
Feri Tradition: Victor Anderson is credited to bringing this tradition to America in the late 1960’s. Feri teacher tend to add something of themselves to the religion as they teach. They can be solitary or work in small groups.
Dianic Tradition: This religion focus strongly on the Goddess with little or no interact on the God. This is a feminist movement of the craft. The covens are women only.
British Traditional: There are a number of different British Traditions that are based on the Pre Christian traditions of Old England.
Celtic Wicca: The tradition looks to the Celtic and druidic deities, with an emphasis on magickal and healing properties.
Northern Way or Asatru. This tradition is based on the Old Norse gods.
Pictish Witches: This is a solitary Scottish Tradition that is based on nature.
Strega Witches: This tradition is from Italy.
You will notice that this list is long, but not complete. Many witches are drawn to the “way” because of their background. This need not be so. Follow the one that calls to you.
Becoming a Wiccan
And there are many out there who do what we would call Witchcraft who have no idea what to call it, or even that there are others like them in the country or the world. Being a Witch, like doing Magick itself, is a matter of symbolism and intent.
How Do I Become A Wiccan?
This is a frequently asked question which is asked, and the honest answer would be there is no “becoming a wiccan”, in the sense u wake up one day and decide you are going to be Wiccan. Like all religions its is something you either are brought up with, perhaps if someone in your family is Wiccan, or something you know you want to be part of and you know you are, for example if it feels right for you and you know what you want from it.
Like all religions, you do learn as you live it, with Wicca there are different “slants” to the beliefs as you go from one Wiccan to the next. As you learn you will most probably adopt your own “slant” on your beliefs. There is no right and wrong.
The process of becoming a good Wiccan involves a lot of reading, studying, and developing of your own perspective. It is a religion that encourages independent thought. So by reading some good books, learning about the Craft, then deciding if you’re ready, you can dedicate yourself. The best place to start is to look within yourself.
Sit down and think about what you are trying to achieve, how might be the best way to go about that. Try to figure out what you believe, how you think the world works, why things are the way they are.
Meditate on who you are as a person, and who you want to become. Are you who you want to be? Why or why not? Where do you want to be and why? Only when we understand ourselves can we truly see the world with totally clear vision.
Making the first important step, deciding that this is something you want to look into, all you have to do now is the actual studying part.
A good starting point would be to head to your local book shop or library. Surf the net and find all the information you can; join a newsgroup, check out message boards and chat rooms. Ask a lot of questions, and don’t be afraid of looking silly.
In Old English, wicca meant necromancer or male witch. Some contend that the term wicca is related to Old English witan, meaning wise man or counselor, but this is widely rejected by language scholars as false etymology. Nonetheless, Wicca is often called the “Craft of the wise” as a result of this misconception.It appears that the word may be untraceable beyond the Old English period. Derivation from the Indo-European roots ‘wic’ or ‘weik’ is seemingly incorrect by phonological understanding.Though sometimes used interchangeably, “Wicca” and “Witchcraft” are not the same thing. The confusion comes, understandably, because both practitioners of Wicca and practitioners of witchcraft are often called witches. In addition, not all practitioners of Wicca are witches, and not all witches are practitioners of Wicca.
Wicca refers to the religion. This can be a reference to both the initiatory tradition, where initiates are assigned a degree and generally work in covens, and to Solitary Wicca, where practitioners self-dedicate themselves to the tradition and generally practice on their own. Both Initiates and Solitary Wiccans worship the Goddess, with most also choosing to worship the God, and both celebrate the Sabbats and Esbats.
Witchcraft, or as it is sometimes called “The Craft?, on the other hand, requires no belief in specific gods or goddesses and is not a specific spiritual path. Thus, there are Witches who practise a variety of religions besides Pagan ones, such as Judaism and Christianity. It is considered to be a learned skill, referring to the casting of spells and the practice of magic or magick (the use of the “k” is to ‘in order to distinguish the Science of the Magi from all its counterfeits’ (or perhaps just to make it sound better), and was coined as a spelling by Aleister Crowley). To add to the confusion the term witchcraft in popular older usage, or in a modern historical or anthropological context, means the use of black or evil magic, not something Wicca encourages at all.
BRANCHES OF THE WICCA
There are many different traditions or branches of the Wicca. These depend upon
the original location of each coven’s ancestors within the area known as Western
and Insular Europe. Each is different in many ways — the way in which the
rituals are performed, the wear (or lack of wear) within the circle, the
language which is spoken within the circle, the system of training, the symbols
used, etc. All are the same in that they honor the Deities of Nature, live by
the philosophy of “Harm none and do what you will,” believe in reincarnation,
and have the knowledge of working a specific form of magick.
There are many so-called “courses” on “How to become a Witch” ranging in price
from a dollar to several hundred dollars, none of which are enlightening to the
well read, nor do they reveal any of the secrets of the Wicca. For the curious,
perhaps, they can be of benefit – for the serious, they are at most worthless,
and more often than not, dangerous and inaccurate.
The following are brief descriptions of the various traditions within Wicca:
GARDNERIAN – A branch of Wicca deriving its name from Gerald B.Gardner who was
initiated into a coven of Witches in the New Forest in Britain and who helped
greatly in the advancement of the truth about Wicca by his love for it and his
writings on the subject. It is inherently Celtic in origin encompassing rituals
as practiced in Southern England. Ritual nudity is required at all times.
TRADITIONAL – Many branches of the Craft which claim to be pre-Gardnerian.
This covers a lot of territory, again depending upon the area of origin (i.e.,
Wales, Scotland, Ireland, etc.). Ritual nudity is sometimes required. Some
groups are strictly robed.
ALEXANDRIAN – A branch in Wicca deriving its name from Alexander Sanders. This
is a form of Gardnerian Wicca (rather, a form which “borrowed” much of
Gardnerianism). It is very ceremonial, encompassing much of Quabalistic magick,
etc. Ritual nudity plays a part but it is not required, the choice being left to
the individual Witch.
CONTINENTAL – This can be put under the heading of “Traditional,” again
depending upon origin (France, Germany, Spain, Basque, etc.).
STREGERIA – This can be put under the heading of “Continental.” It is
Witchcraft as practiced in Italy and Sicily, each area of Italy and Sicily
practicing according to their own folk-tradition. These are extremely
secretive peoples, but much can be learned about them by reading Leland’s
ARADIA: THE GOSPEL OF WITCHES and Leo Martello’s WITCHCRAFT: THE OLD RELIGION.
HEREDITARY – Pockets of Hereditary Witches do exist in Europe and America,
carrying on their family traditions. They are usually the most secretive,
preferring to work alone or only within their families. Their form of
Witchcraft is almost entirely different than what we know as Wicca.
DIANIC – This branch of Wicca lays a great stress on the Goddess, sometimes
entirely ignoring Her Horned Consort. I do not know much about them, but they
seem to be similar to Gardnerian (or vice versa). Perhaps this was the
original tradition that Gerald Gardner was initiated into.
THE NEW REFORMED ORDER OF THE GOLDEN DAWN – A neo-Gardnerian or quasi-
Gardnerian group founded by a Californian named Aidan Kelly. They are a
beautiful and idealistic form of the Wicca, constantly researching into our
AMERICAN-CELTIC – Perhaps the largest and fastest growing form of Wicca in
America originating out of the Twin City area (Minneapolis-St.Paul). Their form
is akin to Gardnerian, though ritual nudity is not required by all of their
Two of the newest branches of the Craft are the SEAX-WICCA, formulated by Dr.
Raymond Buckland (formerly a Gardnerian), based upon the religion of the Saxons.
It is a unique system which has eliminated the Degrees and operates upon a
democratic level. Unlike other traditions, non-initiates are permitted at times
to witness the rituals. The other of the two is simply called WICCA and was
formulated by Edmund M. Buczynski from nine ….years of study and research into
pre-Celtic and Celtic religions. It also is operated upon a democratic level.
However, the three degrees have been kept as well as ritual nudity. Only
initiates are permitted to attend meetings.
There are many other groups, many are “underground” and shun any publicity. Most
are small and isolated (like the BOREADS, a lovely tradition who call themselves
the “children of the north wind”). The fact remains that all of these groups are
legitimate representatives of Wicca in the world today.
WELSH TRADITIONAL – This is a Celtic-derived tradition which incorporates the
teachings and mythology and traditions of Ancient Wales. There is a large group
at present in Georgia, California, and New York.
MINOAN BROTHERHOOD AND SISTERHOOD – These groups are worshippers of the Cretan
snake goddess whose holy priests and priestesses were historically homosexual.
The Brotherhood and Sisterhood meet separately at the Esbats, but meet together
A to Z – A Wiccan Glossary
ASPECTS: Forms, facets, or personas of Deity: for example, Brighid, Iseult,Eos, and Kore are all aspects of the Maiden, and the Maiden is an aspect of the Goddess
ATHAME: black handled, double edged dagger. Principally used to cast and dissolve the circle, for which purposes it is interchangeable with the magic sword. A tool of the “Element” of Fire in the Georgian Tradition and some others.
BELTANE: May Eve festival. One of the Ancient Celtic “Fire Festivals.” on this night, the cattle were driven between two bonfires to protect them from disease. Couples wishing for fertility would ” jump the fires” on Beltane night. Also the traditional Sabbath where the rule of the “Wheel of the Year” is returned to the Goddess. This Festival also marks the transition point of the threefold Goddess energies from those of Maiden to Mother.
BOOK OF SHADOWS: Traditionally hand copied book of rituals, recipes, training techniques, guidelines, and other materials deemed important to a Witch or a coven. Each tradition has it’s own standard version of the Book and each Witch’s book will be different as he or she adds to it with time from many different sources. Only another Witch can see your book of shadows. Also, traditionally, it may never leave your hands or possession until death, when it should be destroyed, or (in some traditions) returned to the coven to be disposed of.
BURNING TIMES: a term used by some Witches for the period of persecution in the Middle Ages and later. It is in fact a misnomer in some places, as Witches were only burned in Scotland, and on the continent of Europe. In England and the U.S., they were hanged.
CANDLEMAS: Festival held on Feb. 1. One of the 4 Celtic “Fire Festivals. Commemorates the changing of the Goddess from the Crone to the Maiden. Celebrates the first signs of Spring. Also called “Imbolc” (the old Celtic name). This is the seasonal change where the first signs of spring and the return of the sun are noted, i.e. the first sprouting of leaves, the sprouting of the Crocus flowers etc. In other words, it is the festival commemorating the successful passing of winter and the beginning of the agricultural year.This Festival also marks the transition point of the threefold Goddess energies from those of Crone to Maiden.
CHARGE OF THE GODDESS: The Traditional words of the Goddess to her followers, or “hidden children”. Normally declaimed by the HPS at every coven Circle.
CIRCLE: the area in which the magickal worship and spells takes place. Can also be used to designate a particular group of Witches or Pagans such as “Silver Acorn Circle”.
CONE OF POWER: power raised in the circle by the Witches assembled, and sent out into the world to work magick, is usually visualized as being retained and built in the form of a “cone” prior to release.
COVEN: an organized group of Witches, led by a High priestess and/or a High Priest who meet regularly for worship and fellowship. The traditional membership is 13, but in fact most covens number considerably less. 3 is the minimum in the Georgian Tradition. In Middle English, “Covin” a group of confederates; In Old French “Covine” a band or group with a single purpose; Latin “Com”-together, “Venire”-to come or move.
COVENSTEAD: regular meeting place for a coven. Usually the home of the High Priestess or High Priest.
COWAN: a non-Witch. Formerly used in a very derogatory manner. Still used in Masonic Ritual to indicate the non initiate and/or pretender to “real craft”. Not often used today among most Witches.
COYOTE ENERGY: trickster energies. Named for the American Indian Trickster, Coyote, who tricks man into learning what he needs to learn. Applies to one who constantly jokes and clowns. Also applies to the concept of “Holy Fool” in many traditions.
CROSS QUARTER DAYS: The modern name for the Celtic Fire Festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lammas.
Abracadabra- A word from the Jewish mystical tradition of Qabala. Its root is the name of the Gnostic deity Abraxas, meaning “hurt me not”. It is said to possess magickal powers, especially of protection from illness.
Adept- An individual who through serious study and accomplishments is highly prficient in a praticluar magickal way.
Alba– The Isle of Skye; Scotland
Alexandrian Tradition– A form of Garderian Wiccan practice developed by Alex and Maxine Sanders in Britain in the 1960s.
Alignment- Synchronization of mental and spiritual vibrations with a god, goddess, or astronomical body. Often the complete balance and centering of the chakras is called an alignment.
Altar- A small working area and shrine many pagans maintain, where they perform most of their ritual and spell work.
Amulet- An object charged with personal energies through ritual or meditation often used to ward off a certain force or person.
Aradia- The Italian goddess Diana’s daughter, said to be the origin of all witches. The book “Aradia, Gospel of the Witches” was written by Leland about Aradia and the practice of witchcraft
Arcana– The two halves of the tarot deck.The major arcana consists of 22 cards showing dominant occurrences in our lives.The minor arcana consists of 56 suit cards (commonly called the lesser arcana) that assists the major arcana cards,or shows smaller influences in our lives.
Archetype- Symbolic imagery seen in visions, dreams, meditation, and mind quests. Used to interpret the meaning of the vision thereby betting understanding and communicating with the subconscious.
Arthurian Tradition- A Welsh tradition of paganism based on the lore of King Arthur (the “Once and Future King”), Merlin the Magician, and Guinevere.
Asatru- Modern worship of the old Norse gods.
Aspecting- An advanced magical practice which is seen most commonly in a coven as opposed to solitary. The practitioner attempts to manifest an aspect of the Goddess or the God. This is seen in the pagan ritual of Drawing Down the Moon as well as in other pagan religions such as Vodou, where the priest often allows the deity to speak through his or her body.
Asperger- A bundle of fresh herbs either carrying dew or dowsed with spring water, used to sprinkle the water during ritual purification.
Astral Projection/Travel– The proccess of separating your astral body from your physical body to accomplish travel in the astral.
Attune- To bring different psyches into harmony.
DEOSIL: clockwise, or sunwise. Traditional direction for working “building” magick.
DRAWING DOWN THE MOON: Ritual invocation of the spirit of the Goddess into the body of the High Priestess by the High Priest.
ELEMENTS: Earth, air, fire, and water, plus spirit, which includes them all. These are regarded as realms or categories of nature (both material and non-material) and are not to be confused with the physicists table of elements, which the modern witch, of course, accepts.
ESBAT: weekly or biweekly meeting of a coven. Traditionally held either on the full moon or the new moon.
FAMILIARS: Either a Witch’s pet animal which has been trained to be a magickal helper, or an artificially created “elemental” which performs the same functions as the animal friend.
FIVEFOLD KISS, FIVEFOLD SALUTE: The Witches’ ritual salute, with kisses; (1) on each foot, (2) on each knee, (3) above the pubic hair, (4) on each breast, and (5) on the lips-really 8 kisses in all. It is only used within the Circle, but the words that go with it are the origin of “Blessed Be.”
GNOMES: an “entity” or “elemental” that dwells in the plane of Earth or is associated with the EARTH Element.
GREAT RITE: The rite which is the main feature of the third degree initiation, and which is also laid down for certain festivals. It is sexual in nature, but may be `actual’ (and private to the couples concerned) or symbolic, as the participants wish.
HALLOWS: name used by some traditions for Samhain, or Halloween
HANDFASTING: Wiccan equivalent of a wedding. It can be made legal if the Priestess and/or Priest are registered as clergy with the local authorities, or it may only be considered binding within the coven.
LAMMAS: August 1st. Witch Festival. The Old Celtic name for this festival is Lughnassadh. It is the Festival of the First Fruits, and is the first of the 3 harvests. This festival also marks the change of the Threefold Goddess energies from that of Mother to Crone.
PENTAGRAM: The five-pointed star. With a single point uppermost, it represents the human being. Inverted, with two points uppermost, it can have Satanist associations; but not necessarily. Some traditions of Wicca use the inverted pentagram to signify an initiate of the second degree.
QUARTERS: The North, East, South, and West parts of a magickal circle or other ritual area. (See also “Watchtowers”)
SABBAT: one of the Eight festivals or high holy days of Wicca.
SALAMANDER: an entity that dwells in the realm of Fire.
SAMHAIN: The festival of remembrance for the dead, held on the eve of Nov. 1st. It is the last of the three harvests. This festival also marks the transition of rulership of the “Wheel of the Year from that of the Goddess to that of the God.
SCRYING: divination, usually using such methods as crystal gazing, or divination via incense smoke, or water as opposed to tarot or other manipulative means.
SYLPH: an “entity” or “elemental” that dwells in the plane of Air or is associated with the AIR Element.
UNDINE: an “entity” or “elemental” that dwells in the plane of Water or is associated with the WATER Element.
WARLOCK: a term coined in the Burning Times . It was used to denote a traitor to the Craft, or one who had betrayed the followers of the Old Religion. It’s origin is Scottish. Because of the negative connotations, it is not used by most Wiccans today.
WICCA: the name most modern day Witches use for the Craft. It comes from the Anglo-Saxon word Wicce, meaning to bend or to shape. This is the root word from which we get wicker.
WIDDERSHINS: counter clock wise. Used for “tearing down” OR BANISHING magick.
WHITE HANDLED KNIFE: the working knife of a Witch. It is used to carve candles, and for fashioning the other tools. Traditionally, it can only be used in a circle.
Lessons You May Not Find In Books
“May whatever ye do, Come back to the,
Three times bad, or three times good“
Three-Fold Law, or Law of Return as it is also called, is perhaps one of the more controversial aspects of Wiccan ethics. The basic premise is that anything we do comes back to us in the end, often to a greater degree (such as three-fold). If we do good, then good will be retuned and if we cause harm, we put ourselves in danger of harm.
This relates a lot towards Karma. In that ethically it is equivalent to the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have done to you”. But in the case of the Law of Return, there is a literal reward or punishment tied to one’s actions, particularly when it comes to working magic.
The debate over the validity of the Law of Return and its variations takes many forms. Some feel that it was created to keep new initiates in check as they learned to work with magic, while others feel it is a remnant of Christian thinking, being that a majority of Wiccans come from a Christian background. However, many Wiccans today, including some authors and “community leaders”, take the three-fold law quite literally.
Since the idea that “we reap what we sow” is generally accepted among Wiccans, the Law of Return can fairly be considered a core belief. However, it must be acknowledged that it is neither a necessary nor a universally defining belief of the Craft. There are many Wiccans, experienced and new alike, who view the Law of Return as an over-elaboration on the Wiccan Rede, which recommends that we refrain from causing harm. A Wiccan would not wish to cause harm since he or she deems it wrong to do so, not out of fear of retribution.
Doreen Valiente, one of the most influential and respected figures in modern witchcraft, boldly stated in her speech at the National Conference of the Pagan Federation in November 1997:
Another teaching of Gerald’s which I have come to question is the belief known popularly as “the Law of Three”. This tells us that whatever you send out in witchcraft you get back threefold, for good or ill.
Well, I don’t believe it! Why should we believe that there is a special Law of Karma that applies only to witches? For Goddess’ sake do we really kid ourselves that we are that important? Yet I am told, many people, especially in the USA, take this as an article of faith. I have never seen it in any of the old books of magic, and I think Gerald invented it.
While researching the Three-Fold Law, I took the liberty of writing several early authors who had referenced it in their books. The few responses I received were always the same; they did not know where it came from but it was known, at least as oral tradition, when they entered the craft. Using the dates of their initiations I hoped to at least obtain a starting point for my research. In this case, since Raymond Buckland was the first to be initiated of those authors who took the time to respond, I had a start date of 1963. Buckland was initiated as a Gardnerian by Lady Olwen, Gerald Gardner’s last High Priestess before his death in 1964. Although Buckland recalled that Lady Olwen’s coven referred to the three-fold law, he did not recall any mention of it by Gardner himself in their correspondences. I also knew from Margot Adler, that it was known in the US, at least orally when she entered the craft in 1972. “I know it was talked about the minute I entered the craft in the Brooklyn Pagan Way, and that was 72, but whether it came in written or oral form, I don’t know.” The Brooklyn Pagan Way was run by the New York Coven of Welsh Traditional Witches so the Law of Return had already disseminated outside of Gardnerian practice by 1972.
Starting with books in the 60’s, I sought to find any reference to the Three-Fold Law or variations of that theme. I was particularly interested in finding non-Gardnerian sources since, unlike many other aspects of modern Wicca, the Three-Fold Law appears to be a purely Wiccan construct particularly of Gardnerian lineage, adding a moral element to the practice of magic. I then worked backward seeking earlier influences, as well as forward, seeing who referenced these early books in their bibliographies
In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust
Live and let live
Freely take and freely give
Cast the circle thrice about
To keep all evil spirits out
To bind the spell every time
Let the spell be spake in rhyme
Soft of eye and light of touch
Speak little, listen much
Deosil go by the waxing moon
Sing and dance the Wiccan rune
Widdershins go when the moon doth wane
And the werewolf howls by the dread wolfsbane
When the Lady’s moon is new
Kiss thy hand to her times two
When the moon rides at her peak
Then your heart’s desire seek
Heed the northwind’s mighty gale
Lock the door and drop the sail
When the wind comes from the south
Love will kiss thee on the mouth
When the wind blows from the east
Expect the new and set the feast
When the west wind blows o’er thee
Departed spirits restless be
Nine woods in the cauldron go
Burn them fast and burn them slow
Elder be ye Lady’s tree
Burn it not or cursed ye’ll be
When the wheel begins to turn
Let the Beltaine fires burn
When the wheel has turned to Yule
Light the log and let Pan rule
Heed ye flower, bush and tree
By the Lady, Blessed be
Where the rippling waters go
Cast a stone and truth ye’ll know The Rede of the Wicca
When ye have a need
Hearken not to others’ greed
With the fool no season spend
Nor be counted as his friend
Merry meet and merry part
Bright the cheeks and warm the heart
Mind the Threefold Law ye should
Three times bad and three times good
When misfortune is enow
Wear the blue star on thy brow
True in love ever be
Unless thy lover’s false to thee
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill
An’ it harm none, do what ye will
Accept others as they are. We are all individuals.
Belief in yourself is a necessity.
Concentration is important in any endeavor, both magickal and in life.
Do what you will, so long as it harms none.
Empathy is an important life skill… learn it, practice it.
Find strength in yourself, your friends, your world and your actions.
God is multifaceted… the Lord and Lady, all deities take many names and faces.
Help others every chance you get.
Intelligence is something that cannot be judged on surface.
Judge not… what you send out comes back to you!
Karma loves to slap you in the face. Watch out for it.
Learning is something that should never stop happening!
Magick is a wonderful gift- but it is not everything.
Nature is precious. Appreciate and protect it.
Over the course of time your soul learns many lessons. Make this life count!
Quietness both physically and mentally restores the soul; meditate often.
Remember to take time for yourself as well as others.
Spells can help you, but you must also help yourself!
Tools can only do so much… they are not the foundation of all.
Unless you enjoy worrying, keep a positive mindset!
Visualize the success of your goals before you set out to achieve them.
Wisdom can often be found in the least expected places!
Xenophobia (a hatred of those different from you) is a path to misery.
You are a beautiful person who is capable of anything!
Zapping away all of your troubles is not going to happen
Full Moon Over Washington
A United States Marine Corps helicopter is seen flying through this scene of the full moon and the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, from Arlington National Cemetery.
Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Astronomy Picture of the Day
Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
Explanation: This moon is shining by the light of its planet. Specifically, a large portion of Enceladus pictured above is illuminated primarily by sunlight first reflected from the planet Saturn. The result is that the normally snow-white moon appears in the gold color of Saturn’s cloud tops. As most of the illumination comes from the image left, a labyrinth of ridges throws notable shadows just to the right of the image center, while the kilometer-deep canyon Labtayt Sulci is visible just below. The bright thin crescent on the far right is the only part of Enceladus directly lit by the Sun. The above image was taken last year by the robotic Cassini spacecraft during a close pass by by the enigmatic moon. Inspection of the lower part of this digitally sharpened image reveals plumes of ice crystals thought to originate in a below-surface sea.