INSECT REPELLENT

INSECT REPELLENT

2 oz. vegetable oil or vodka
1/4 tsp each citronella and eucalyptus essential oils
1/8 tsp each pennyroyal, cedar and rose geranium essential oil,

Combine ingredients and apply mixture directly to all exposed skin. Keep oil
away from eyes and mouth – take care not to rub your eyes right after applying
the repellent with you fingers

HERBAL HEALING SALVE

HERBAL HEALING SALVE

2 oz dried comfrey leaves, 1 oz dried calendula flowers
2 cups olive oil
1 oz pure beeswax
4 drops each tea tree & lavender essential oils

Heat herbs in olive oil over low heat for about 5 hours. Do not let the oil boil
or bubble. A crock-pot or the lowest temp setting on a range should be suitable
for heating this mixture. (If the lowest setting is too hot, turn off the heat
once it has warmed the oil – it should keep warm for at least an hour – then
repeat the process twice.) After cooking, strain out the herbs while oil is
still warm.  Place 1 1/4 cups of the herb oil in a pan add beeswax and heat just
enough to melt the wax. Add essential oils and stir. Finally, pour the salve
into widemouthed jars. Store at room temp.

Love Attraction Infusion

Love Attraction Infusion

This infusion is designed to help you find your true love. While using this infusion, meditate on the qualities you want your true love to have. Do not visualize a specific person, as this interferes with his or her free will.

½ cup chamomile flowers

½ cup clover flowers

½ cup lavender flowers

½ cup jasmine flowers

½ cup primrose flowers

½ cup red rose petals

½ cup violet flowers

3 fresh basil leaves

1 TB. mint leaves

1 TB. raspberry leaves

1 inch peeled ginger root

1 small apple, peeled, cored, and sliced.

Jewelweed Soap

Jewelweed Soap

Ingredients you will need:

2 cups glycerin soap

1/2 cup jewelweed maceration (gather blooming jewelweed and boil in 1/2 cup water)

7 drops sweet orange oil

2 drops of orange coloring

 

Melt glycerin in double boiler or slowly in microwave. Add jewelweed maceration, stir until slightly cooled. Add fragrance and color. Pour into molds. Cool.

You can find jewelweed growing next to poison ivy…it has a little orange jewel like flower. It is used to heal the rash caused by poison ivy.

Basic Soap Making Instructions

Basic Soap Making Instructions

  1. Read directions for recipe to make sure you have the required ingredients and gear.
  2. Use safety gloves and goggles or eyeglasses.
  3. Weigh the required amount of water (distilled is best) into one of the pitchers. To do this place an empty pitcher on the scale and set to zero. Now measure the amount of water.
  4. Using the same method as above weigh the lye needed in the second pitcher.
  5. Carefully pour the lye into the pitcher containing the water. You must avoid splashing-this is the most dangerous step! Never add the water to the lye.
  6. Stir solution gently with a wooden spoon until dissolved. Make sure you have sufficient ventilation. Resist the temptation to lean over the pitcher to get a good look. You do not want to breathe anywhere near this container.
  7. While the lye is cooling, melt the fats. The temperature of both must eventually be brought to 100 degrees simultaneously. If the lye solution cools too much, put the pitcher in a pan or bowl of hot water.
  8. Double-check the temperatures of the lye and fat solutions to be sure they are 100-110 degrees (equal temperature is desired).
  9. While stirring the fats, pour the lye solution into the melted fat/oil in a thin stream. Stir continuously to ensure the lye mixes into the fat.
  10. Continue stirring in a carefully manner to avoid splashing. The mixture should start thickening. You will eventually see “trailings” or lines on the surface. This could take 20 minutes to an hour, usually closer to one hour. Be careful using hand mixers as they can speed things up too much.
  11. Pour this liquid soap into your large plastic container mold. Put the lid on and wrap with the towel.
  12. Put the wrapped mold in a warm place and allow to set for 48 hours.
  13. After 48 hours, unwrap the mold. The soap should still be warm. If the surface is still very soft leave lid off for a day. When it is as firm it is ready to be removed from the mold.
  14. Remove soap from mold. To do this, first pull the plastic mold away from the soap on all sides. Then, turn the mold over onto the needle point screen or plastic. If it doesn’t fall out of the mold, push down on the upside down mold and it should pop out. You should have a nice clean block of soap ready to be cut into bars.
  15. First, score the surface where the cuts will be made. Then, warm the knife to be used in water. Dry the knife and cut the block into bars of soap.
  16. The hand cut bars still need to cure. They will become lighter in weight and slightly smaller. Place them on the plastic needlepoint screen for about three weeks.
  17. After one to two weeks, depending on the type of basic soap, you can try making milled soap!

Can You Recognize a Pagan or a Wiccan When You See One?

Can You Recognize a Pagan or a Wiccan When You See One?

Author: jajlo b

I have only been studying and practicing Wicca (and I say practicing since I’m not perfect) for the last 10 years. I’m very much eclectic, and have had to do much of it on my own. I just haven’t found a teacher that I feel is right. And in all honesty, I’m not looking for one just now. I enjoy my freedom to digest what I read in many forms and what comes to me through my dreams, and mediations.

But I often wonder… can you really tell who is Pagan or Wiccan and who is not, by some outward sign?

I mean I know a lot of people who wear t-shirts with faeries and fey on them. I have seen people with bumper stickers saying, “Give me that old time religion” and a Pentacle right next to the phrase. I have even seen t-shirts in Kansas near where the Wizard of Oz museum is with “Good Witch” on the front. (I actually have that one because I have a strange sense of humor.)

But in all honesty, how do you tell a Pagan or a Wiccan from everyone else you meet in your daily life and travels.

The reason that I ask is because of two separate occurrences that happened to my husband and me.

Okay picture if you will, walking into a truck stop about 11 p.m. one night and the cashier is busy with a line full of costumers. And she is wearing one of those fancy sterling silver pentacles. Not a pewter one, but one that you know is sterling silver and she has a small Pentacle ring on that I notice as her fingers are flying across the cash register keys.

Anyway my husband and me finally make our choices and approach the cashier. “Hi, that is a pretty necklace.”

“Thank you, I’m a High Priestess, and my daughter had me order this from such and such” is the response she gave.

Ok, not exactly the response that I was looking for or expected. I only commented on her necklace. I had to do double-check my appearance; yep my pewter Pentacle was safe inside my uniform shirt. And I don’t have any tats or rings or earrings that have Pentacles on them. So why did she just come across with that answer.

Just then I realize she is still talking about the necklace. She goes on to tell me that she was thinking about doing a consecration ritual when it comes in the mail. But she decided not open it till the night of the full moon. So she could do the whole ritual properly (I still haven’t said anything else at this point) .

She goes on to explain she got her ritual bath and set up her altar and went to her room to get the necklace (This was an outdoor ritual she adds almost in a whisper as there is another customer at the register) . But as she goes to take it out of the tissue paper that is wrapped up she gets a shot of what she can only describe as static electricity.

Just then she says she realized that the maker of the necklace had consecrated it when they created the piece. Her daughter quickly tells her to just put it on, and wear as the artist that created it had to be stronger and more skilled than her and her ritual would only ruin the piece.

I tell her that is amazing and thank you for sharing with me and I walk away with my husband, who looks at me and says, “She’s a High Priestess. You didn’t even tell her you were Wiccan. So how did she know?”

I just look at him and shrug, “Beats me”

About a month later sitting in Montana at another truck stop we are eating. I see the younger couple come in (They look to be in their mid to late 20’s; my husband and I are in our 40’s) with their two children. I’m facing the door so I can see the t-shirt the young woman is wearing” 51 percent Angel/ 49 percent Pagan {don’t push it}.

I laughed. “ I like your shirt” I say while giggling about the thought of it.

“Thanks. I’m a High Priestess, ” she says back to me. And walks past.

I look at my husband; he looks at me, and says, “ What is it about declaring High Priestess status suddenly?”

I shake my head and double-check my appearance. My pentacle is in my shirt, not visible to anyone. So what is the deal with people saying this when I just comment on something they are wearing?

Suddenly the young lady comes back over to my table and she ask me point blank.” Do you know what Paganism is?”

“Yes, I do.” I tell her then I tell her I’m a solitary Wiccan.

“Oh really!” she says with a smile and some excitement in her voice (someone that she could talk for a few minutes) “ I was a solitary but then all my friends started coming to me and asking me to help them figure out what books they should read, so I ask them if they wanted to just start a coven with me.

They all said yes, and I told them we could do this but I would have to be the High Priestess since they came to me for advice in the first place.”

“Did they all agree to that?” I ask.

“Yes they did, ” she informs me. “My husband drives truck and he is heading to take me home so that I can do a new moon ritual and an initiation this weekend. I have to run to restroom. I’ll be right back”

She walked off, and my husband looks at me and asks, “Is that the way it is done in a coven” (I’m Wiccan; my husband is Catholic)

“No, ” I tell him, “ it is not done that way”

The young lady comes back and asks me to hold out my left hand palm down. I did and she places her right hand under palm side up. She looks at me and proceeds to tell me” Your energy isn’t very strong. I think you need to study more”

“ I have a head and chest cold that is eating up a lot of my energy right now trying to heal.”

“Well I can tell when people aren’t that strong of a Witch. I was doing a tarot reading on a chat line and for a woman in Ireland and she left in the middle of her reading to talk to her High Priestess”, she says

“Why did she go talk to her High Priestess? “ I asked

“Well when she came back she told me that her High Priestess told her that if I was able to pick up on the things that I was that I was one of the strongest High Priestess she had ever heard of.”

“And the woman told me that her High Priestess was now afraid of me”

I just smile and say, ” That is wild that another High Priestess in another country would be so afraid of you.”

She smiles and says” But I know that I’m that powerful and can do that, so that makes me one of the strong elders in this life”

She says she has to go; her husband is motioning for her to come on and help with the kids.

My husband and I get up and walk up to pay for our food, and my husband ask me, ” How do people just know that you are Pagan or a Wiccan?”

“I don’t know, ” I tell him.

To this day, I often wonder. Can you really tell a Pagan or Wiccan from some other outward sign?

Or were these two women just trying to startle me because I made a comment about their religious items?

Astral Magic: How It Can Improve Your Life

Astral Magic: How It Can Improve Your Life

Author: Nita

There are a few simple methods that anyone who can astral travel can use to improve their life. Astral travel can be used in many different ways to achieve this.

Man has used the astral planes and alternate realities to affect the physical world from the earliest times. Shamans enter astral realms to help, cure and protect people from things they could not see. Shamans can bring elements or parts of alternative realities into existence for short periods of time. The degree of enduring change possible depends upon the Shaman’s skill, how much energy is used, and how big a change is attempted.

Magic can be used to manipulate the unseen forces that are at work in and around your life. Everyone knows what makes him or her happy or unhappy. Many times I have looked at what was going on in my life and wanted to change things. I’m sure you have too. But how do we go about changing things to make life better for us?

The first thing to do is write down what would make you happy and what is causing you problems. The easiest things to work on are things like a new vehicle or material objects to resolve problems.

I once had a car that really was a problem. Every time I started to get ahead, the darn thing broke down and took all my hard-earned money for repairs. I was tired of these recurring problems, but I could not afford another as my current car was doing such a good job of taking all my money.

Finally I decided to use astral magic to get rid of that lemon of a vehicle. I carefully planned out what I was going to do. There is a real time plane when you astral travel. This is the plane most similar to real life. You can form and shape anything you want in the astral plane because it is a fluid environment that is affected by the power of mind.

I astral traveled to the real time plane near my home. I then visualized myself walking out of my house and going to my car. I made sure that the car on the real time plane was different than my present vehicle. I pictured a dependable vehicle; one I could afford that would have me be happy and not take all my money and time fixing it. I did not picture any particular model or make of car. I wanted something that could be pulled into my life easily. Being non-specific about fine details like this makes it easier for life to bring you what you want in a short time. I picked my end result as being happy and unworried about driving my dream car anywhere I wanted to go.

I took my created image and placed it over my present vehicle. I made sure the image kept repeating itself endlessly into the future. I did this by matching the colors and feeling of the energy. I also matched the vibrations and musical notes I received from the image. You can do this by observing things closely in the astral. Everything has colored energy around it. This energy tells you whether it is something good or bad. The pitch of the energy is also a good indicator. The pitch is like the tone you get when you strike a tuning fork. The musical notes of astral energy can form a little tune or medley. If you like the tune and pitch of an astral object’s vibrations and colors, it will usually be good for you in real life. Anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or uneasy should be removed or left alone.

I checked all these things and made sure they felt right for me. I then hooked it all up to my old car. I wanted it to feel like the car I wanted and had created on the real time plane. A week later, I was given a car by a lovely retired couple I hardly knew. They had been sympathetically watching me struggle with my problems. It was an older vehicle but had been well looked after and was dependable. It was just what I wanted. The couple had just received a big settlement and bought a new car. They wanted to do something nice for someone. They had been looking for someone who really needed help and would thus appreciate the gift of their old car.

We can create changes in our physical lives by thinking and doing positive things. This is the power of positive thinking. Bad things and bad luck are caused by discordant energies and negative patterns of thought. These are the underlying causes of bad luck. Unfortunately, many people take bad luck for granted and accept it into their lives, expecting it at every turn. Thinking like this causes you to become stuck in an unhealthy mental pattern where disharmony and a continual stream of problems are manifested in your life. In an astral sense, it could be said you are creating and thus attracting more and more discordant astral colors and tones around you.

Negative astral colors and tones can be cleaned away by positive thinking and regular astral housekeeping. To do this, I perform a simple mental exercise every night before going to bed. This only takes a few minutes.

First I visualize myself going to the real time astral plane. I picture the things I want to have around me or need and visualize them making my life easier. I populate my space with these and hook them over the things in my present space. I feel good colors, vibrations and musical notes replacing those on the physical plane. I see these energies and tones repeating endlessly into the future. I give my own mental image the energies and tones of good health, good luck and happiness. It really does help your life if you do this wholesome practice every day.

When someone you care about is ill or having problems, you can astral project to where they are in the real time plane and help them. You can see the colors and tones of a person’s energy when you are in the astral. It helps if you temporarily change part of your shape when working on a friend or loved one. Extend the length of your arm and fingers and use them to go through your patient’s energy field. Remove any energy that seems wrong or bad and then banish it from the person.

You banish the energy by changing it to a pure white color with different tones. You can also send it to an energy level that will disassemble the negative energy. A high- pitched pure white energy will destroy the components of anything negative. You will find that they do feel better the next time you talk to them. Sometimes they are so used to negative energy that it is drawn back to them. I have found that is because that the inner them feels that is the way it should look in their aura. They have to find the root cause of this and that is where my articles on letting go, forgiving yourself, and finding out if something else could be causing the problems come in handy.

You can repeat this astral cleansing as often as necessary. You can also add pure white or pure light blue energy in a pretty shade to their energy. You can notice the different energy that it creates around them. They will heal quicker and feel better quickly. Cleansing with an electric purple color is akasha flame and will destroy unhealthy and unwholesome energy. You can do all of these methods for yourself or others.

I once had a friend who was really ill. I saw some really strange, discolored spots in her aura. In an effort to help, I astral traveled to her home that night. I again saw the same discolored spots in her aura. I combed these out with my extended astral fingers and removed them. I then filled her aura with bright-blue energy from head to toe. I saw her the next day and she told me she had experienced a burst of energy that morning. Her disorder healed rapidly and I repeated the astral healing each night until I was sure she was healed.

The astral dimension is also the best place to pray and contact God, in any shape or form that a person may worship. The restrictions of the physical planes are removed and you can contact and receive their true essence. You can use this connection to ask forgiveness for anything you might have done wrong, or to ask for help with problems.

You can also thank whatever forces have given you help or assistance. Joining to the principles and virtues of God or the great Now is the best way to resolve any problems and restoring the Good to your life. Your Good is there and waiting for you no matter what mistakes you have made because of the energies of divine love and kindness.

I also use dreams to get advice to solve seemingly unsolvable problems. I ponder and meditate on my problem before sleep and ask for help. I then dream up solutions while I sleep, and know the answers in the morning.

Astral projection can also be used to meditate on the types of energies you would like to bring into your life. A little research will unearth a wealth of symbols, runes for example, each of which has a different meaning. I project out and then visualize and create a doorway. I visualize the most appropriate rune appearing on the door. I have the door attached to a wall, with a doorknob so I can get in and out easily. I walk through the door in my astral body and enter the realm of that symbol.

I ask for help with problems, ask specific questions, or simply ask to learn what I need to know. I feel what energy, vibration and pitch the symbol has, so I can draw it into my life in the real world. I then try and absorb what the experience has taught me, so I will remember and realize it better. This can be an amazing and enlightening experience.

Every symbol has its own realm. If you open yourself to its energies, it brings you into an understanding of the elements it is composed of, and of what can best help you in your life. It also opens you up to the elements involved with that symbol, so never use anything symbolizing something you do not want to experience. Many shamanic type symbols involve birth, death, and rebirth. You can almost duplicate the elements of a near death experience by using them. This gives you a way to review your life and decide what directions you would like to go in and the things you would like to experience. You can also use this to talk to Saints and Angels. You write their name upon the doorway and the symbol of the cross. You can use this for any God or Goddess or Buddha depending upon your beliefs. I feel this method has much to offer for everyone.

You can use the symbol energies in these planes to accomplish the goals they represent. It takes careful research and thinking to pick the symbols that relate best to you, your life and its problems, and your dreams and aspirations. Some of the symbols I have used are the cross, ankh, Buddha, pentacle, and the curved spiral of shamanism.

It is important to erase and remove each doorway you create when you have finished using it. This cleans up your personal space and makes it so you don’t have conflicting symbols that might cause you problems. I suggest keeping a diary of everything that you do, and rating the effect it had upon your life when you used any symbol or method. This helps remind you which symbols you have used, so with hindsight you can link it to the effects it had upon your life at that time.

A good book with meditations and exercises for each rune symbol is “Esoteric Rune Magic” by D. Jason Cooper. The Germanic runes are excellent examples of shamanic symbols. Using these will show what I mean about their different aspects, energies and the effects these can have upon your life.

All these methods are easy to do once you are capable of astral traveling. These practices can make your life easier and richer and prevent problems before they happen. Ignoring problems, or potential problems, will not make them go away. Being aware of your life, working on yourself, thanking the forces that help you and asking for advice can solve far more problems than ignoring them ever will. I believe in taking an active role in my future and helping myself along my life path. I hope that you enjoy and benefit from these methods as much as I have.


Footnotes:
Further Reading
“Esoteric Rune Magic” by D. Jason Cooper, 1994, Llewellyn Publications, St Paul MN, USA, ISBN 1-56718-174-0.
“Tree of Life, A Study in Magic” by Israel Regardie, June 1983, Samuel Weiser, ISBN 0877281491.

Ancient Craft, Modern Practice: Witchcraft in the 21st Century

Ancient Craft, Modern Practice: Witchcraft in the 21st Century

Author: Vikki Bramshaw

There have been many books written on the Craft over the last 50 years. Some of the first were published by those characters we call the founders of modern Wicca, such as Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente, and Ray Buckland. Since then, witches who have initiated themselves from books, without any formal initiation through a lineaged coven, have formed many covens. There is certainly nothing wrong with this process – and by writing these books, our founders themselves provided the material for this process to happen.

However by the original laws, if you were not initiated by one of Gardner’s students, or indeed Gardner himself, then you were not actually ‘Wiccan’. This view has now become outdated, as the practice has expanded and the word ‘Wicca’ has grown to define a religion open to all; although, many traditional Wiccans still hold this view.

Whilst I am trained in traditional Wicca, I have also been involved in working with the Egyptian mysteries, the Old Craft, and other forms of magic and ceremony, which are very separate to Wicca. So, I describe my practice simply as Initiatory Witchcraft, which encompasses the many ritual practices of Paganism and modern witchcraft whilst incorporating much of the structure of Wicca. I believe this removes limitations that may be set by following one path alone, and allows the person to grow.

The aim of my essay today is to first give an introduction to modern witchcraft and Wicca, and briefly discuss my views on some of the practices. I also want to speak about some of the misconceptions of the Craft, and also discuss the future of the Craft, as both a religion and a practice.

Witchcraft and Wicca are branches of Paganism, an umbrella term of eclectic belief systems which are based on the practices of our ancestors, but adapted for a modern world. In order to truly understand witchcraft and Wicca, we have to first identify what Paganism is.

The term ‘Pagan’ is a broad one and many meanings have been given to it, including ‘one who worships false Gods; an idolater’ and ‘a person who has no religious beliefs’. The Middle English translation for the word Pagan comes from the Latin ‘paganus’, meaning ‘country dweller’ or, ‘one who lives off the land’. Looking at these definitions you can see that there is no reference to any religion, or even a belief system. Then again, when that belief system is so ancient that it precedes language, reasoning and the written word, it comes as no surprise that for every era in history people have viewed Paganism in different ways.

Paganism can embrace all pre-Christian religions, as well as other polytheistic religions: that is, religions that believe in many Gods, which have managed to continue through to today. These religions are normally very conducive with the ideals of Paganism, for instance Hinduism, Shinto and Shamanism. Like the Craft, these religions also pay reverence to the old Gods and Goddesses, and work with, and respect, nature. On the whole, polytheistic religions also embrace the feminine deity as well as the male, a key element to the practices of modern witchcraft – worship.

If someone had told me 10 years ago that I would become a religious person, I would have laughed at the idea. I cant really say I was brought up in an atheist household; because whilst my father never recognized a God as such, he was downright Pagan in many ways, living on a smallholding in Wales and planting his crops by the moon phases. Looking back, I realize now that I was taught to respect a non-descript Animist view, that deity is within nature – but nothing that at the time that I would have described as God.

But with Paganism and Craft, the deities start to become part of our everyday lives; they are there in the supermarket whilst we complain about rising food prices, they are there when things go wrong, and we need someone to talk to. And, like my father taught me, deity also lies in the earth, the trees, the vegetables, and even in death. They are also extremely forgiving; somewhat like a long-suffering parent, they roll their eyes at all our mortal mistakes and wild tantrums, and patiently wait for us to reassess the important things in life. But, as long as we are good people at heart, the Old Gods don’t judge, and they also accept us as who we are; people, with flaws, and no one is perfect.

By working with these inner aspects of the Goddess and God, we discover the realization of the divine self. It is only by recognizing the inner divine that we are able to appreciate and respect ourselves, and live our spiritual lives to the full. This Craft ideology reflects the contrast between the “we are not worthy” mindset of monotheistic religion and the pantheist belief of “we are god”.

The word ‘witch’ is a very broad, and very misunderstood term. I’m sure everyone has seen the word witch used to describe a haggard old woman? Someone who nobody likes? A stepmother? Perhaps an old lady, sat around a cauldron, on a dark and windy moor?

But, despite misconception, the meaning of the word ‘witch’ is not confined to any specific religion or country; neither does it point to any particular form of magic, gender, or ethics. The most popular theory for the origin of the word ‘witch’ is that it traces back to the Proto-Indo word ‘wie- ik’ (veek) , meaning ‘to consecrate’, and ‘to practice religion and magic’. This word was also associated with seasons, and cycles of the earth. The related Germanic word, ‘wikk-en’ meant ‘to use magic, divination and sorcery’. But, no matter which theory we favor, or where we look in the world, the witch has always been a symbol of power, transformation and magic.

So then, back to the Craft. If you ask 5 people what the Craft is all about, you will probably get 5 different answers. The reason for this is that the Craft is an intuitive and fluid practice – rather than defining an exact way of worship, it allows for creativity and diversity. It allows a person to make their own decisions as to which practices to follow, and how to follow them. Just like the word ‘Pagan’ the phrase ‘The Craft’ is also an umbrella term, this time used to describe a common ground of pagan magical traditions, and incorporates both modern witchcraft (which, as I mentioned, Gerald called Wicca) and other forms of witchcraft, such as Traditional Witchcraft, Italian Strega, and my own path of Initiatory Craft.

However, whilst the traditions of modern witchcraft vary, in general they all profess to be nature based mystery traditions, which work with the seasons, and acknowledge the cycles of life. We embrace old Pagan rites, develop our occult understanding and progress with our own personal development through the mysteries. It blends the early religions of Britain, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Greece; the mysteries of Freemasonry, and Qabalah; and the ways of the European Cunning Craft, whilst absorbing various different magical systems from around the world. Our modern Craft borrows all the ‘best bits’ of ancient and modern mysticism and combines them all, altering the way we see the world on both a conscious, and subconscious, level.

So, without trying to be too specific about the practices of the Craft as a whole, I will try to explain very briefly what is involved.

Unlike many other religions, the Craft does not advertise itself as being ‘a religion suitable for all’. In fact, many covens will actively work to put someone off joining as a test, if you will, of the persons’ commitment to learn. Nor is admittance to a coven given lightly; my own coven will meet with a potential member several times before a decision is made. The reason is, in my opinion, you have to be a certain type of person to work with the Craft.

An important quality for a witch is an open mind – a willingness to shed pre-conceptions, and learn the mysteries. The person must also have a reverence for the earth, the planet and all things. This doesn’t mean they all have to be tree-hugging hippies; what it does mean, is that they have a respect, and an understanding for the world they live in; that they appreciate the turning of the seasons and the cycles of the earth.

This doesn’t mean a witch has to be a vegetarian or a vegan, either; for the cycles of life are light and dark, and death is an integral part on the wheel of life. Many witches and pagans come from farming backgrounds, people who are already aware of the ebb and flow of the seasons and the cycles of life. For those of us living in towns and cities, the Craft gives us a way to understand and embrace the natural cycles that we might otherwise not be aware of.

This introduces us to the Sabbats, the seasonal festivals. Witches meet at the eight Sabbats of the year – these are, the Winter Solstice in December, Imbolc in February, the Spring Equinox in march, Beltane in may, the Summer Solstice in June, Lughnassadh in august, the Autumn Equinox in September, and Samhaine, in October. At these festivals, we celebrate and give thanks to the abundance of the time of year: at Lughnassadh we give thanks for the harvest, whilst at Samhaine we give thanks for darkness, and rest.

The sabbats comprise of four ‘Greater Sabbats’ and four ‘Lesser Sabbats’. The practice of celebrating the eight festivals together as one system is a relatively new idea, which was designed by Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente in the 1950’s who named the system ‘The Wheel of the Year’.

However these sabbats are based on some very old festivals that, although not always practiced at the same time, nor by the same people, have been followed for thousands of years. Even today, outside of Pagan communities, these sabbats are celebrated in our bank holidays, village festivals, and culture.

The purpose of celebrating these sabbats is threefold. The first is that they allow us to connect with the cycles of life and the turning seasons of the year, which, in this modern world, we might otherwise forget. The second is to make the best of what is offered to us at that time of the year, to evoke the powers of the season and direct those powers, towards our goals in the form of magic. The third is to acknowledge and re-enact the myths of the seasons, which themselves have a subtle effect on our sub-conscious.

Some people argue that to follow the Pagan seasonal festivals is outdated, and we are trying to reconstruct something which is not relevant to modern life. But it is not simply a question of nostalgia. We humans are animals; we are part of the earth and her movements. Just like all other animals, and plant life, we are affected by the seasons on subtle levels, physically, mentally and spiritually. In this way, the seasonal cycles are inherently sacred, and act as a framework for celebrating the cycle of human life. Just as things change in nature, so changes take place within ourselves, allowing us to embrace the cycle of life and recognize our own relationship with the land, and the earth.

We also identify deities as a particular season, or seasons’ change; traditionally, their myths were designed to be read and re-enacted at certain times of the year, in order to help our inner-selves become more connected to the Wheel of the Year, and the cycles of life. The sabbats follow the progress of the sun, seen as a masculine deity, throughout the year; as the sun grows in power the days become longer, it draws to the height of its power at midsummer, and then, as it starts to wane, the nights become longer as we approach the longest night at Yule.

The sabbats are described as solar festivals, and are based on the solar year. A Solar Year is the period of time that the sun takes to travel across the heavens and back to the start of its journey. Along its path, the sun passes through four principal points – two Equinoxes, when both day and night are equal in length, and two Solstices, when either day or night is at its longest.

Astronomical reckoning says that these are the midpoints of the seasons, cross quarter days, like on a hot cross bun. These festivals are called the Lesser Sabbats, or ‘Solar Rites’. The remaining four sabbats mark the start of the energy of that season. These four festivals are therefore usually seen as being of a more agricultural significance, as they mark the beginning of that particular farming period. These festivals are called the Greater Sabbats, or ‘Nature Rites’.

Another cycle that is followed by witches is the Lunar cycle – the moon festivals, called the Esbats. Moon worship is as old as mankind itself. Our ancestors witnessed the moon as it reflected the rhythms of life, the cycles of the seasons, and the tides of the seas. They watched the moon move across the sky, transforming and changing – a beacon of light, that shone through the darkness of night. Women’s menstrual cycles were also effected by the phase of the moon, and in short, it seemed to our ancestors that the moon caused the rhythms of life that they relied on so very heavily.

The gravitational pull of the moon moved bodies of water, causing fluctuations in fishing, travel, and flooding. The weather was also affected by the changes in the moon and this also had a direct effect on mankind. Bad weather and storms were more likely around the time of the full moon, and rings around the moon predicted rain. A red moon signified the time for harvest or an impending death, called ‘blood on the moon’, whilst a lunar eclipse meant a time to perform magic to appease the moon and ask it to return its light to the earth.

In craft today, the esbats are rituals performed on the New and the Full Moons, which honor the moon and make use of its energy, although some may also work during the Dark Moon, later in their training. The structure of the Full and the New Moon esbats are fairly similar, although the magical working of the ritual often changes depending on the phase of the moon. It is normal for the members of the coven to bring along requests for the evening esbat: spells, chants, healing and so on, types of magic; which works by first understanding, and secondly transforming, the web of life.

Invocations are also performed on the Full Moon, better known as the ‘Drawing down the Moon’, which is carried out as a ritualized way of inviting the Goddess into the body of the Priestess. Contrary to belief, ‘Drawing down the Moon’ is not a modern rite, neither is its name; illustrations of female magicians performing this rite can be found depicted on old carved reliefs from Greece. The ‘Drawing down the Sun’ is performed in a similar way, to invoke the God into the body of the Priest, although this is more likely to be performed sabbats, the festivals of the Sun, in most covens.

The elements are also a core principle in European Pagan culture and ritual, and many ancient traditions from all around the world hold the concept of the elements close to their heart. The classical elements of air, fire, water and earth are the building blocks of life, both physically and spiritually; take one of these elements away and life as we know it ceases to exist. The air that we breathe, the fire that warms us, the water that hydrates us and the earth, which nourishes us are all in a fragile balance, which keeps us, and the world we live in, alive.

In the Craft, we learn to embrace each element and acknowledge its nature in our lives. The elements rule our emotions, our skills, our thoughts and our actions, and therefore an understanding of the elements allows us a greater understanding of ourselves and the world that we live in. We begin to appreciate things that seemed insignificant before, and understand their important roles in the cycle of life. We begin to not only embrace the sunny days, but the ‘rainy ones’ too, so to speak, and to see every part of our world as sacred.

The elements are also closely linked with the seasons, the festivals, the moon phases and even the time of day. They are of special significance in the tarot deck, and also play a part in a magic circle. In my opinion, it would not be sufficient to perform a ritual of air, without climbing the highest peak, and feeling the power of the wind upon your back. This is the nature of the elements: a part of the realization that the sacred can, indeed, be the mundane. As part of the degree system within the craft, each initiate is given a test, which usually incorporates the elements, a getting back to your roots, if you like.

The relationship between practitioners of witchcraft or Wicca and their Gods is also an interesting one. I’m sure that some of you have already had some experience of deities, either spiritually or religiously. But the misconception often is that witches/pagans are not religious. The problem is, both with Wicca and Paganism, is that it is so in depth and at times apparently complicated that you cant really describe what it all means in one conversation – or even in a short essay such as this.

People outside of the Craft seem to have a problem getting their heads around the idea that a magical tradition can be a religion, because many people still associate the word ‘religion’ with the main world religions only, such as Christianity and Islam. Others say, “I understand. It’s honoring nature. It’s not following a God. It makes sense, in this day and age.”

Well, maybe part of that is true, but on large these are all misconceptions which are born out of the monotheistic mindset – which very often says that to worship God is to worship something untouchable, unfathomable. How about worshipping the God within and without? Above and below? The all, everything, and ourselves?

Belief systems are not a science, and therefore defining your own view is not always going to be as easy as a, b, or c. In addition, it is very difficult to attribute modern witchcraft to just one theology, as it is a composite and eclectic practice, built upon many different traditions. My own coven identifies most closely with Pantheism, a belief system that deity and the universe as one. Yet, we also believe that the Gods reside in the rocks, the trees, the animals and the spirit of nature: the belief of Animism. But we also visualize the God and the Goddess in personified forms, such as Aphrodite the Goddess of Love, Cernunnos the Horned Lord, Artemis the Goddess of the Hunt, and Anubis the God of Death: the belief of Polytheism.

But what exactly happens when a witch starts to work with Deity on a ritual and a magical level? As we progress through Initiatory witchcraft, we start to work with deity on several levels. The first, and perhaps the most obvious level, is the role of the devotee – we begin to worship the Gods and research their history and mythology, a practice which is not dissimilar to any other religion – although unlike most other religions, witches start to incorporate the Gods into spellwork and ritual and begin working with them very closely.

The second phase – perhaps inevitability due to the connection that is forged between a mortal and a deity when working on a ritual or magical level – is that we start to build a relationship with them. This is a very different sort of relationship than what one might expect from a religion per-se; unlike most belief systems, Paganism does not place the deity on a pedestal, somewhere unreachable and unfathomable. Nor does it demand we speak only through ordained Priests. Whilst all due respect is always given, the Gods become almost friends and family to us, and, often, we start to recognize a God or Goddess who we particularly associate with.

Most people begin to undergo a transformation when they begin to connect with the Old Gods, but for those who want to further this connection and learn more about the Craft, there is ini-shia-tory witchcraft, and training covens who initiate their trainees through the Degrees.

This leads me on to the degree system of Wicca, and other types of Initiatory craft. Contrary to popular opinion, the Degree System is not a badge of power, or a status symbol. In true Craft, the witch is given an initiation to represent the hard work that he or she has undertaken in order to achieve a certain level of training. This training involves learning how to control the ego. Within this training, the student shifts the ego in order to unite self with spirit, with the aim to achieve full consciousness and the ability to transform fate.

Training leads to Priesthood; a journey, which takes the initiate through the Gods and Goddesses of the Craft. The initiate will spend a month, or more, immersed in the ways of the deity; wearing their colors, eating the foods native to their country of origin, and performing rites almost every day. The purpose is to become closer to that deity, and also in order to evoke the positive aspects of that deity – causing them to ‘rub-off’ on the initiate, if you like. The strength of Zeus, the beauty of Aphrodite, and the wisdom of the Egyptian Tahuti.

Of course, the Priestess or Priest guiding the initiate through this process can only give so much, and, – as with all Craft practices, – this journey is wholly in the hands of the initiate. The more effort they make, the more they will progress, and the more they will learn.

The training I am speaking of here relates to First Degree inner circle work, and therefore much of it is oathbound; but I can vouch for the fact that this process works as long as the initiate has the dedication to learn. The priesthood of the Craft is a way of life; it is unfortunate that we also have to do mundane office jobs to pay the mortgage, and perhaps even sleep occasionally – because any Priest or Priestess of the Craft will tell you there are just not enough hours in the day to fit it all in..!

Through the Craft mystery tradition, we find a way in which we can strive to understand the Gods, by identifying them within our own lives and experiences. Ultimately, modern witchcraft brings together the worship of the old Gods and Goddesses and combines it with a focus on self-empowerment, and transformation. In the words of Vivianne Crowley, ‘The Craft is a religion that looks to the good of human beings rather than to the evil, and seeks to bring out the best in a person, rather than dwelling on their faults.’

A difficult thing to achieve for many, after 2, 000 years of we are not worthy! Paganism and the Craft has been almost 200, 000 years in the making, and its rule stretched from the practices of early Neanderthals, right through to the Egyptians, the Greeks and even the early Romans, all polytheistic societies who revered both masculine and feminine aspects of deity: – a God and a Goddess, male and female – a balance lost at the rise of Christianity.

When modern witchcraft came to conception in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, much of the medieval dogma of the past was still reflected onto the practice. Whilst people were fascinated with witchcraft and wanted to learn more, there was still the underlying mediaeval fear, which was associated with witchcraft, magic, and worship of the old Gods.

Gerald Gardner was the first person to openly admit his beliefs and declare himself a practicing witch; other trailblazers, such as Alex Sanders, Robert Cochrane and Doreen Valiente, closely followed him. It is true that mistakes have been made since modern witchcraft started to be recognized, too much press coverage, misunderstandings, and practices having to be tweaked in order for them to truly work. But Wicca is a new religion, only 50 or 60 years young, based on ancient and fragmented practices. For 60 years, we have come a long way, and these people who stood at the forefront of a new religion did a fantastic job in bringing the old ways back.

And now, the future of the craft is in our hands. Since perhaps the late 90’s, the practice of Paganism, and in particular Wicca, has experienced a boom in interest from both the media and people seeking to practice the craft. In my opinion, it is a good thing that paganism and the craft is starting to be practiced by more people, although it should be said that statistics show that we are still only 0.07% of the UK population.

Paganism embraces all ages, all genders, sexualities, ethnicities, and, to some extent, many faiths. The lifestyle that comes with Paganism encourages a respect for nature, a respect for one another, and gives an emphasis on self-development and balance. In my opinion, the more people living this lifestyle, the better the world will be.

It is a fundamental flaw in the culture of neo-Paganism that to be Pagan, one must turn their back on progression. Perhaps, people seek validation for the belief system, which they are following or perhaps they feel Paganism is an escape from ‘real life’. But, in my opinion, Paganism is the very opposite. In keeping with much of Pagan teaching, the key word here again is balance; the ability to embrace the modern world whilst not forgetting our origins and the earth beneath us, – which nurtures us, feeds us, and to whom we return when we die.