‘THINK on THESE THINGS’ for February 7th

‘THINK on THESE THINGS’

By Joyce Sequichie Hifler

 

You speak to me of faith and the church you attend. The most important faith will be the way you feel about it within you. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that it is too unsophisticated to think about such things. For it is the very basis on which you draw your breath. Without faith there’s no hope.

 

The most beautiful thing about life is that we can begin it anew each day. We need to forget every unpleasant thing that has ever happened to us, every shallow thing that has no meaning, every unkind word or deed or thought and start all over again.

 

And the only possible way to do it is by faith. Faith in yourself, faith in others, faith in God, and faith that right will win. And facetiously stated, “Them that has, gits.” If you have a little faith, it will attract more – if you know about it within you.

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Elder’s Meditation of the Day – February 7

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – February 7

 

“I can tell you that understanding begins with love and respect. It begins with respect for the Great Spirit. All things – and I mean ALL things – have their own will and their own way and their own purpose; this is what is to be respected.”

Rolling Thunder, CHEROKEE

 

Everything on earth has a purpose and is designed special. No two things are created identical. Sometimes in our minds we have a picture of how things should be, and often what we see is different from what they really are. When this happens we often want to control how things are, making them act or behave according to our picture. We need to leave things alone. God is running all things. How do we do this? In out minds we tell ourselves to love all things and respect all things just as they are. Accept what we cannot change.

 

Great Spirit, teach me the value of respect and help me to accept people, places and things just as they are.

February 7 – Daily Feast

February 7 – Daily Feast

 

Always remember that certain circumstances are not ours to alter. We make the most of them and go on. We can only be examples, never controllers of other people’s lives, other peoples children, other people’s circumstances. Some would have us believe we contribute to harsh events by doing nothing. But some of the best work, some of the deepest caring and doing is not physically evident in the beginning. Help of any kind must be wanted and recognized before it can do any good. Too much help where it is not appreciated can make even a good person helpless. We have to be wise in our giving, and particularly wise in what we withhold, because it may be what we withhold helps the most.

 

~ We were contented to let things remain as the Great Spirit made them. ~

 

CHIEF JOSEPH, 1873

 

‘A Cherokee Feast of Days’, by Joyce Sequichie Hifler

Daily Motivator for February 7th – Get up and do

Get up and do

There are a thousand ways you can talk yourself out of taking action. Yet  there is just one  way to truly move forward, and that is to go ahead and take  action.

It’s great to be smart, informed, and thoughtful. It’s not that great to  think things through so much and to second-guess yourself so much that you never  get anything done.

You can find plenty of ways to justify your procrastination. Yet even if it’s  perfectly reasonable and understandable, it’s still procrastination.

The secret to moving forward is not found in some clever technique. The  secret to moving forward is to get up and go, get up and do, get up and create  value.

Be smart, but don’t be so focused on being smart that you fail to put your  wisdom and intelligence to good, productive use. Be smart, and then act smart,  and follow through on your brilliant thinking.

Instead of just thinking about it and eventually letting the thought die, get  up and do it. Put your thoughts into action and transform them into solid,  lasting value.

— Ralph Marston

 

The Daily Motivator

http://www.greatday.com/

The Mysteries and Esoteric Witchcraft

The Mysteries and Esoteric Witchcraft

Author: Rhys Chisnall

“The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. He to whom the emotion is a stranger: whom no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms- this knowledge, this feeling, is at the centre of true religion.” – Albert Einstein

One of the hardest aspects of the esoteric initiatory Witchcraft to write about, or even communicate, is its strong mystery aspect. Yet, in my opinion, it is one of the most important things that distinguish it from New Age and Popular Wicca/Witchcraft. By its very nature the mystical aspects of Witchcraft are a thoroughly subjective experience and as such any cursory and brief exploration such as this article or any other in print are going to be subjective and inadequate.

“Second hand mysticism has generally an unsatisfactory experience, since if these notions are not the driving force of our life, are not the  beat of our heart or are not personally integrated into our whole, then they are empty gestures. Then they are devoid of meaning similar to reading a literary criticism rather than reading the poem itself. The mystical experience is immediate not vicarious or deputed” (Armstrong 1999)

The mysteries need to be experienced, and they cannot be explained in everyday language, hence the need for the metaphors of myth and the communication of the experiences through the metaphors of symbols and ritual. The religious commentator, theologian and mystic Karen Armstrong said that.

“There is a linguistic connection between the three words, myth, mysticism and mystery. All derive from the Greek verb musterion: to close the eyes or the mouth”. (Armstrong 1999)

There are many roads to the mysteries and the mystical experience. As Prof Joseph Campbell (the late expert in comparative mythology) quotes from the Rig Veda, “Truth is one, but the sages speak of it by many names.” He also tells the story of an interfaith conference set up between Shinto and Catholicism. He was struck at how the priests of Catholicism and Shinto found it difficult to find a commonality or a common religious language to communicate with each other, but the monks and nuns of each religion could. This was because the priests were concerned with holding up their metaphors, their myths, symbols and rituals as ends in themselves, whereas the monks and nuns had moved beyond the metaphors to the experience of the sacred and the divine itself. They were not stuck with believing that the metaphors were the reality and the end goal. They had gone past the virgin birth, the resurrection, and even God, to find a community in the mysteries and mystical experience that were shared by their Shinto counterparts. As Campbell said, “Religion is misinterpreted myth”

The Armenian-Greek esoteric philosopher and practitioner G. I. Gurdjieff suggested that there were four paths to the mysteries. The first three, the way of the fakir, the way of the yogi (nothing to do with ) and the way of the monk are mostly eastern ways to experience the mysteries and represent the three disciplines of the mind, the body and contemplation. These three paths are typical of the Eastern Mystery tradition in that they all involve a withdrawal from society and the world.

The fourth way is ‘the way of the hearth’. It is the way of the Western Mystery Tradition of which esoteric initiatory Witchcraft along with Hermeticism, Qabbalah, mystical Christianity and Sufism are parts. It is the way of being fully integrated with the world, identifying with the universe and with life and not attempting to escape from it (with the notable exception of Gnosticism) . It is seeing no separation between humanity, nature and the divine.
To my mind esoteric initiatory Witchcraft liturgy and ritual are full of mystical language, myth and metaphor. For example within Gardnerian and Alexandrian Witchcraft there are phrases such as, “there is no part of us that is not of the god.” And of course the classic mysteries phrase of the Charge of the Goddess, “If that which thou seeketh, thou findest not within thee, you will never find it without thee.” These and other parts of Witchcraft ritual (not to mention many of the techniques used in ritual to help induce these kinds of states of mind) , strongly suggest the mysteries and mystical experience. The myths of esoteric initiatory Witchcraft point to the internal experience of the mysteries within the individual Witch, relating them to the cosmos, designed to take us beyond mere religion to the direct experience of numinous, divinity and the sacred. The systems, techniques and processes of esoteric Craft, to my mind, seem designed to take us beyond ourselves, and the sum of the parts of the tradition itself, into personal transformation and a new awareness.

So what are mysticism and the mysteries? According to the psychologist Lawrence Le Shan, “Mysticism from a historical and psychological viewpoint, is the search for and experience of the relationship of the individual himself (herself) and the totality that makes up the universe.” (LeShan 1974)

Karen Armstrong agrees when she writes, “Mystics have long claimed that he [God] is a subjective experience, mysteriously experienced in the ‘Ground of Being’…………..they claim that he did not really exist and it is better to call him No-thing”. (Armstrong 1999)

As such the mysteries go way beyond the dogmas, metaphors and systems that have been inspired by them. The techniques and participating within the metaphors of myth, relating it to the self and personal transformation give the practitioner a direct and vivid experience of a unity with a ‘different order of reality’, or perhaps, an expanded order of reality of which they are a part- unified with. They experience eternity within a second, being and non-being, beauty and horror but with no contradiction, no duality, no difference between sacred and profane. In essence the experience is indescribable expect through the language of metaphor, which sadly is mistaken for reality and an end in itself. The effect of these experiences is an inner alchemy, personal transformation- life and indeed you are never the same again.

Campbell hints at this when he says, “But the ultimate mystical goal is to be united with one’s god. With that the duality is transcended and forms disappear. There is nobody there, no god, no you. Your mind, going past all concepts, has dissolved in identification with the ground of your being”. (Campbell 1988)

Now sadly for the bit that people don’t like. The path to the mysteries is not an easy one. Rather it is one that requires hard work, commitment and dedication; it is not for people looking for instant results or an escape from reality. The starting point on the road to the mysteries and esoteric Witchcraft has got to be that of a coping adult, as Joanne Pearson reports in her essay Assumed Affinities (the difference between Initiatory Wicca- specifically Gardnerian and Alexandrian- and New Age spiritualities) .

“In the questionnaire, mentioned at the start of this chapter, none of the hundred (Gardnerian/Alexandrian) Wiccans who responded indicated that they had become involved in Wicca because ‘their life was not working’, and supplementary fieldwork does not indicate that these Wiccans assume there lives or the lives of other Wiccans are, or were Dysfunctional.” (Pearson 1998)

The Witch Dr. Dave Bracey confirms the difficulties and hard work of pursuing the mysteries when he says, “The mysteries are not easy to apprehend. It requires long training, usually with a spiritual guide or facilitator, and a considerable investment of time. This is not something that has much appeal to many in our present day society, conditioned as it is with fast cars, fast food, fast solutions and instant gratification and speedy communication. The mysteries do not arrive ready made and pre-packaged. They cannot be experienced as quickly as the instant high of the new age. But neither does the (esoteric initiatory) Witch’s ‘awareness’ wane, as does the let-down that so often eventuates when the newness of the ‘reborn’ convert fades to be left with the forms and structures of religion which so often become ends in themselves.” (Bracey 2001)

Like much else in life things that are of value are often thing that require a lot of hard work. Saying that though, there are circumstances where mystical experience arises quite spontaneously in some people. This may be down to horrific or beautiful situations, which invoke tremendously strong emotions within individuals that lead them to having an experience of the mysteries.

I am sure that there are many, many people who are perfectly happy practising their religion of non-initiatory exoteric Wicca and Witchcraft and good luck to them, each to their own. I am sure that people get a great deal of spiritual fulfillment from them. So just to reiterate so there is no confusion, esoteric initiatory Witchcraft is not better than New Age and Popular Wicca. It is just different, with different aims, philosophies and purposes and practices. So if the mysteries are not for you, then please feel free to ignore this article, remember that this is only one way and there are many others.

I shall finish with another quote from Dr. Bracey as he talks about the relationship between the mysteries and Craft. “So the mysteries are not for all, but is the way of (esoteric initiatory) Witches. We who ride beyond the ordinary, rejecting the supernatural in favour of the supra-natural, and who are aware of the relationship of the part to the whole.” (Bracey 2001)

Footnotes:
Campbell, J, (1988) , ‘The Power of Myth’, Doubleday
Campbell, J, (1959) , ‘The Mask of God (Primitive mythology, Oriental Mythology, Occidental Mythology and Creative Mythology) ’, Condor
Campbell, J, (1949) , ‘The Hero with a Thousand faces’, Princetown University Press
Campbell, J, (2001) , ‘Thou art that, transforming religious metaphors’, Joseph Cambell Foundation
Campbell, J, (2004) , ‘Pathways to Bliss, Mythology and Personal Transformation’, Joseph Campbell Foundation
Crowley, V, (1989) , ’ Wicca the old Religion in the New Age’, Aquarian Press
Armstrong, K, (1999) , ’ A History of God’, Vintage
Armstrong, K, (2005) , ‘A Short History of Myth’, Cannongate
Pearosn, J, Roberts, R, Samuel, G, (1998) , ‘Nature Religion Today’, Edinburgh University Press
Pearson, J, (2007) , ‘Wicca and the Christian Heritage (Ritual, Sex and magic) , Routledge
Fortune, D, (1935) , ‘The Mystical Qabalah’, Aquarian
Hutton, R, (2003) , ‘Witches, Druids, and King Arthur, Oxford University Press
Heselton, P, (1995) , ‘Secret Places of the Goddess’, Capal Ban
Underhill, E, (1993) , ‘Mysticism’, Oneworld
Lamond, F, (1997) , ‘Religion without Beliefs’, Janus
Lamond, F, (2004) , ‘Fifty Years of Wicca’, Green magic
LeShan, L, (1974) , ‘How to Meditate’, Turnstone
Bracey, D, (2001) , ‘A Personal View of God’, TNW

The Maiden, Mother and Crone Within the Mundane

The Maiden, Mother and Crone Within the Mundane

Author:   Horizons Coven 
 

The Maiden

There was once a time in your life that everything was filled with wonder and hope. Everything was brand new, colorful and the world immense and full of beauty. We were young and innocent. Life was the priceless pearl we discovered by opening the shell. There were Fairy Tales with happy endings where everyone lived happily ever after, and we believed in this possibility. Dandelions were just as lovely as roses and we gathered them as offerings of love to our mothers. We were imaginative; our creative spark took us anywhere we wished to be. Strangers were exciting and mysterious, but were not to be feared. Instead they were heroes with make believe talents and abilities. Clouds became a never-ending parade of circus animals. Unicorns danced in our dreams. We were open to possibilities. We could be anything we wanted to be. We knew without a doubt that some day we would meet our prince charming. We would live happily ever after.

Over time, we were taught to be strong and capable. We were taught that dreams were okay, but we needed to keep our feet on the ground. Our heads were filled with ideals that weren’t our own. We learned to be afraid. The world wasn’t what we imagined, but a place where danger lurked at each corner.

Childlike and innocent is the Maiden. Her hopes and dreams are as certain as truth. Loving and gentle, her world is very fragile as her trust rules over fears. She dreams of a loving relationship that will outshine any tale. Yet she blushes easily when admired. She has not experienced the ways of the world. She is the eternal optimist. Her spirit cannot be crushed and hope reigns eternal. The world is enchanting and magickal. She resides within each of us as the innocent one. She dances with us in a field of wildflowers and tumbles to ground next to us in ecstasy. She whispers her secret desires to the winds and they tickle our ears as the find their place in our heart. We are the oysters and she is the pearl contained within. She is the beauty emanating from within our being for the world to see. She is pure, untouched by the harsh reality of the mundane world.

I can see her as if standing before me, her long hair flowing about her as she dances with the Fae in a circle beneath the crescent moon. Her graceful, lithe body moves gently in the rhythm of lunar energies. Her spirit glows, the radiant light emanating from her heart. Her long flowing gown cannot hide the young woman’s frame beneath. Her laughter is like chimes in my ears. Her smile lights the universe.

Growing in strength and brightness each night, the Maiden, known as Diana and Artemis in the Mediterranean area, is usually depicted carrying a bow and quiver. She is the first aspect of the triple Goddess. Sometimes called the virgin or huntress, she represents the spring of the year, the dawn, fresh beginnings of all life, the repeating cycle of birth and rebirth, the waxing moon and the crescent moon, enchantment and seduction. She shows the way through the inner labyrinth to the divine center where the greatest of spiritual mysteries lie. She is matter and energy held in suspension until the right time arrives. She is a shape shifting Goddess who drives a chariot pulled by silver stags. She helps women who are threatened or harassed by men.

She rules over animals, singing, enchantment, psychic power, fertility, purification, magic, sports, mental healing, dance, forests, and healing. She carries the seeds of all potential: anything is possible and all possibilities are within her. She does not limit herself by the needs or beliefs of others. She is in love with the mystery of life. The Maiden represents expansion, the female principle, and promise of new beginnings, youth, and excitement. The Maiden is associated with the colors white, light pink and light yellow. She symbolizes youth and anticipation of life. Associated with purity and nature, She is usually seen in the company of animals. In the aspect of the Maiden we see the world with child-like wonder, and also huntress and warrior, as Athena and Artemis are known to be.

The Mother
There is nothing like being pregnant. When I was pregnant with my daughter I was happier than I had ever been in my life. Knowing that a life was growing inside me was amazing. I felt more alive than ever before. I could not wait to hold this little miracle of love.

Okay, there are times where you are so sick you want to die. When the baby decides to try to use your rib cage to score a touchdown it doesn’t feel great. You have weird cravings for food.
You are swollen and can’t see your toes and feel like a blimp that swallowed a blimp.

When a child is born, we always want to count fingers and toes and to know once and for all, girl or boy. We have such great expectations for this tiny bundle of joy. Perhaps he will be president. Perhaps she will be a ballerina. We cannot wait to dress them, to show them off and to take pictures of everything from their first diaper change to the first smile.

Fear sets in once you get home. You call the doctor often. Is this the best formula? Are these the best diapers? She/He spit up, is she sick? Do I need to bring the baby to the hospital! The baby gets colicky and cries all the time. You can’t sleep because you worry excessively. You can’t sleep because the baby is crying. Is she hungry or sick? You have to go check and make sure she is breathing! Our maternal, protective instinct has kicked into high gear.

Now, imagine for a moment, we may have a few children; some families have 13 or more, think how many the Goddess has! We are all children of the Goddess, no matter our age. Our child learns to speak and says Mama so many times we want to pull our heads off! Imagine all of the voices and prayers going out at any given time to our Mother, the Goddess.

Our Goddess Mother has our best interest at heart. She wants for us to be happy and healthy. She never turns away because she is tired and wants some peace and quit. She loves us unconditionally. She understands our hopes and desires and dreams. She lives within our hearts. You can lean on her when you need strength and patience with your little one. You can place your child and yourself within the love and light of the Great Mother and trust that she will always be there for you.

The second Goddess aspect is the Mother, the archetype involved in active creation. She represents the summer, blazing noon, reproduction and fertility, the ripeness of life, the Full Moon, and the high point in all cycles. Her traditional color is red, the color of blood and of life itself. She is the great teacher of the Mysteries. The Romans named her Ceres and the Greeks named her Demeter. A virgin of the oldest sense, independent and unmarried, this Goddess gives birth to a son. Called the Grain Mother, the Eternal Mother, and the Sorrowing Mother, she is the mother of Persephone, who wed the lord of the Underworld. Her power extends over protection of women, crops, initiation, renewal, fertility, civilization, law, motherhood, marriage, and higher magic.

The mother devotes herself to “other”: people and things outside of herself. Though the archetype of the mother often makes one think of a woman giving birth to or devoting herself to her children and family, here we are speaking of all of the possibilities of creation. She is a selfless soul whose devotion and love are unconditional. It is here that responsibility and commitment is established.

Some of the symbols of the goddess in the Mother aspect include the serpent, the poppy, and the symbol of Underworld Goddesses, the torch. The Mother also represents fulfillment, stability, and power. The color associated with the Mother is red, the color of blood and the life force, and green, a fertile color. In ancient societies, the pregnant Mother was a metaphor for the fertile fields that sustained the people of the land. The menstrual blood of the Mother has been associated with magick and ritual since Paleolithic times and was thought to have power for healing and fertility.

The Mother is a pillar of grace under pressure. She is capable, strong, and loving. She smiles as the young child plays, joy flooding her heart as her offspring giggles in delight at some new discovery. She keeps the fear and panic hidden when we are sick, be it in body or in spirit. She continually prays for us. She wipes the tears from our eyes, chases us down to give us medicine, and helps to build a pretend fort with blankets. She watches you while you are sleeping and love fills her heart. She is like a tree in that she is able to bend, but is has a strong foundation supporting her.

Climb into the Mothers arms and be nurtured. Within her embrace we are ever safe and loved. Share your dreams with her. She will do all things possible to help you to achieve them and more.

The Crone

We have all seen the little old woman, her hair thin and sparse, her skin aged with wrinkles, her smile crooked as her false teeth lay in a glass to the side. Many associate this image with the Crone. Her hands tremble as she brings food to her mouth. She looks like a baby with food dripping down her chin. Time isn’t always kind to us in that our bodies betray us. But if you were to take some time with this woman, you would find a font of wisdom, a history of love, of sorrow, of experience.

Her spirit still shines. Her face is soft and compassion flows from her heart. Though she appears weak, her essence is strong and sure. She understands your dreams and desires. She has shared them and she has experienced them. She knows what is important in life. She no longer rushes about headstrong seeking. She delights in the memories of all she has seen and known. Some think she has endured. The truth is, she has lived. That is what is important, the living and loving.

Pain causes a momentary tremor in her voice. She will tell you truths. Will you be willing to listen, to hear her words? Can you sit and hold her hand and experience the journey she is willing to share with you? Can you look at her with respect? Can you look beyond the fears of your body aging?

I see my grandmother, gentle and soft spoken, holding me close in her lap. Beside her lays some yarn and knitting needles. She always has time for me and my questions. She receives great joy in watching the young ones at play and reminiscing about her life as the children begin their lives. There is depth to her heart and eyes that show the years of learning the importance of compassion. There is understanding well beyond that of the dreamer’s hopes.

She moves a little slower now and can no longer bare children. In this day and time, people tend to cast the elderly aside. This is heartbreaking. There is so much love and wisdom they have to share. It may be a time of rest, but it isn’t a time to be tossed away. They should not have to live through memories, as they are still able to give so much to this world!

Most cultures cherished their grandmothers and counted them as wise ones once upon a time. They had seen things and done things to survive in new worlds. Once upon a time they were maidens. Once upon a time they were mothers. They know the mysteries of womanhood.

As I entered into the stage of the Crone, I realized that all I have seen and done helped me to become whom I am today. I am a little slower, but I have more patience, more love, and more compassion. I know there are times to sit quietly and say nothing. I know there are times I should offer my wisdom. What others think of me isn’t important, as I know self-love. I know how precious life and time are. I have found that worry does not save me from sorrow or pain. I have found that life isn’t about satisfying the ego. Life is about acknowledging the blessings we have received from joy and from pain, from fear and from faith. I realize that I cannot change the past but that what I have learned from it provides comfort. She is a fount of wisdom, untapped by a modern world. Not because she isn’t willing to share her wisdom, but because we are so self-involved. I cry for the Crone because so many have forgotten her value.

The Crone, also called the Dark Mother, the Old Wise One, or the hag, represents winter, the night, the universal abyss where life rests before rebirth, the gateway to death, reincarnation, the waning moon and the New Moon, and the deepest of Mysteries and prophecies. She is the third aspect of the Triple Goddess. Her traditional color is black and sometimes the deepest of purples or dark blue. She is the initiator into the Mysteries. This aspect symbolizes death and dissolution. Everything in the universe has a life cycle, at the end of which they malfunction, decay, and transform into a different set of materials, elements that are recycled and reformed into something new. The souls of humans are recycled by the Crone and her cauldron, into a new incarnation.

The embodiment of the Crone, Hecate, Queen of the world of spirits, Patron of Priestesses, and the Goddess of Witchcraft, has keys and cauldrons as her symbols. She has power over enchantments, averting evil, dark magic, riches, wisdom, transformation, purification, limits, incantations, and renewal. She is not detached from the world; just not involved in the ways she was before. She can be completely honest because she has nothing to lose. She holds the wisdom, teaches and shares stories with those who will listen.

The crone was once revered as an old woman embodying wisdom and for her knowledge of the truth of cyclic existence. Crones cared for the dying and were spiritual midwives at the end of life, the link in the cycle of death and rebirth. They were known as healers, teachers, way-showers, and bearers of sacred power. They knew the mysteries, were mediators between the world of spirit and the world of form. In pre-patriarchal societies, women’s wisdom held healing power. The crone wisdom was the most potent of all. For nearly thirty thousand years, old women were strong, powerful sources of wisdom. Crones were respected and honored in their communities.

Our appearance may show a lot about our lives. Weathered hands showing our hard work. Our skin weathered like tanned hides show we spent a lot of time outdoors. These outward appearances don’t begin to show the person beneath the surface. They don’t show the entire journey. Look beyond the obvious and you will discover the treasures of life, the joy, the sorrow, all blessings, to the Crone. Don’t sorrow for her because her time draws nigh upon this plane. Rejoice with her. Embrace what will come, accept what has been, and dare to experience all.

From my manuscript – From My Pagan Heart by Lady Kiya

Tears of a Witch

Tears of a Witch

Author:   Crick   

As I wander through the beloved woods, ever so grounded and connected to Spirit, I begin to think of the fear of witchcraft. Such a fear was started by a religious belief system seeking power and control over others. And through the last two centuries this baseless fear has resonated like a war drum through generations of folks. Folks who dared to walk a path that began with the dawn of humankind have lost their homes, their belongings and in many a case, their very lives.

And so I pause beside a woodland stream, as I wonder why.

Are we not all seekers of the light? Do we not all seek the answers to the Great Mysteries within our own beliefs? Are not all beliefs systems, whether religious and/or spiritual simply a possibility to achieving one’s afterlife goals?

For no religion and/or spiritual path has a definitive answer to what our chosen Deity has in mind as far as the Grand scheme of things. As I watch the rivulets of water wash over this streambed strewn with multi-colored pebbles, I think of how generations of folks have come and gone, much like how each rivulet passes down stream. And yet such misguided beliefs have remained in place like the pebbles cascaded across the bed of this secluded stream. Unmoved though a new generation of water sweeps over them.

And then I begin to think that if we do not have the answers, why one would want to be locked into a strict dogma that filters out any new and fresh ideas about spiritual ascension. Seeking answers to such a grand mystery is an on going process. Choosing to be stagnant in one’s spiritual progression leads me to think that perhaps such a belief system it’s not about spiritual growth to begin with.

And so why the hate mongering and the overwhelming fear?

If one is secure within their beliefs, shouldn’t there be a tendency to at least listen to others even if one chooses not to accept what one hears from others. This is known as communication. But when there is no such open communication, it leads me to wonder from where the insecurities that have spanned so many decades are originating.

For as a witch, I offer no harm to anyone unless it is in self-defense. I seek not to convince others of my beliefs; for such beliefs are a mark of my individuality and are constantly undergoing changes as new revelations becomes available.

Does such institutional fear come from the knowledge that a witch connects with Mother Earth as a way of life? I would ask why those who carry such fear in their hearts do not themselves utilize such a rich resource of knowledge. For such knowledge is there for all.

Witches are chastised and have even been put to death for connecting with the spirit realm, and I wonder why. Do we not all have a spirit within us and will we not all revert to spirit when our time in this realm comes to a close? What is there to fear?

Witches are disavowed for drawing upon the energy that is all about us and manifesting this energy into a tangible result. Do not all religions and/or spiritual beliefs follow similar patterns though they may use different words and actions to initiate such workings? Is not such a divine gift available openly and freely to all who seek such inherent abilities? Does Deity select but one belief system and cater to just those thoughts? Or does Deity transcend such narrow parameters and in fact respond to all who seek regardless of which path they follow?

So why manifest such lies and unfounded hatred?

As this stream in the middle of the woods flows over the bed of pebbles, does it really care if some pebbles are red, or brown, or black? Or does it just want to be free to follow its destiny without a barrier created by humans. Are humans any less worthy of such a freedom within their beliefs?

As I think these thoughts, tears run down my cheeks. As a witch I seek to stay connected with the old ways. Ways that have served humankind for so long. Ways that open doors to those places that are now shrouded in the mists of ignorance. Ways that allow me to utilize introspection in an effort to see my own faults and thus gives me the strength to address them in a positive manner. Are such practices so terrible that they deserve the scorn of so many who do not attempt to try and understand?

As a witch, I too walk about in a state of fear. A fear based upon the realities of our society. There is the fear that I may lose my means of employment, if my spiritual path comes to light. This is an established fear that has come to pass at one point in my life. There is the fear that bodily harm could come to me and my loved ones by those who blindly wallow in ignorance, simply because I choose to believe as an individual. This is yet another bitter experience that has raised its ugly head at one point in my life. And once again, I have to ask why.

Why can we not all accept the fact that we are seekers on the path of life? And as it is with such travelers, no one person has all of the answers.

As I stand here on this cold autumn morning and watch this small stream flow by, I know within my heart that in time this stream will wear down the pebbles that it flows over. And that in time new pebbles will take their place.

As a witch and as a human, I can only hope that such a transition will take place in the river of life and that the fear and the ignorance will in time be worn down as well. I desire that which I wish for others, the right to follow my path without obstructions being placed before me by other humans.

I seek to not judge others nor do I seek to be judged.

Spell Casting: The Witches’ Craft

Spell Casting: The Witches’ Craft

Author: Jason Miller (Inominandum)

The Greeks made a distinction between theurgy and thaumaturgy. Theurgy literally means “God working” and refers to spiritual work that leads one into illumination or gnosis. Thaumaturgy means, “wonder working” and refers to the conjuration of spirits, casting of spells, blessing, cursing, curing and harming through practical magick. The balance between these two aspects of the craft has been an issue since the emergence of Wicca in the 1950’s. Does  overshadow religion? This debate has been heating up in online  and blogs recently due to a story on beliefnet.com by Carl McColman entitled Is Wicca Under a Spell, which deals with both sides of the issue. Many people in the Pagan community that I have spoken with feel that magick and sorcery do the religious aspects of Wicca no good and should be downplayed. Some I have spoken to have no interest in spell-casting at all, or perhaps don’t even believe in practical magick, and thus see this aspect of the craft as an obstacle to Wicca taking its place as a major Western religion. I would like to take this opportunity to present the opposing argument.

What often gets overlooked is that Wicca and Witchcraft are not the same thing. The terms are often used interchangeably but Witchcraft is a craft that can be, but isn’t necessarily, part of a religion. Wicca is most definitely a religion. While not all Wiccan traditions stem by lineage from Gerald Gardner, by and large they use a constellation of terms and beliefs that were first put in place by him and those that came after, thus we can say that we can trace Wicca more or less back to him. Witchcraft is a larger area than this. Isaac Bonewits once provided a breakdown of the types of Witches in America, which can help put this into perspective:

10% Neo-Pagan – Revivalist traditions, including Wicca.
70% Neo-Classical – Those who practice folk magick with mixed Christian and Pagan roots without regard to Witchcraft as a religion.
1-2% Classical village healers who practice completely non-religious folk magick.
1-2% Neo-Gothic – Practitioners of Satanism which is based on the Gothic Witchcraft of the Witch Hysteria Era.
1-2% Family Trads.
1-2% Immigrant Traditions: Pow-wow etc.
10% Practitioners of Vodou, Santeria, etc.

For example one of my ancestors was allegedly a “water witch” who told people where to dig wells. While in Venice I was offered a charm to obtain by a Witch. In both of these cases the Witch in question was a devout Christian. According to this breakdown Neo-Paganism and Wicca account for only %10 of American Witches but even within that scope there are many Witchcraft traditions that make it very clear that they are not Wiccan: The Feri Tradition, The Clan of Tubal Cain and the Cultus Sabbati all represent traditions of the craft that have non-Gardnerian roots, and do not fall under the umbrella of Wicca.

I have an enormous respect for Wicca but I am a Witch, not a Wiccan. I object when the terms are used interchangeably and when Wicca attempts to speak for all Witchcraft. I got involved with the craft during the mid 80’s in North Jersey, just outside of Manhattan. Paul Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft, Herman Slater’s Magickal Formularies, and the little spell books from Original Publications had much more of an influence on my Witchcraft than Scott Cunningham or Ray Buckland. This is not to say that I am not religious: I am. But I learned to use practical magick at an early age and was successful at it. I have traveled all over the world to learn traditional magickal techniques: from New Orleans, to Europe, to Nepal. Today I do magick professionally and consider traditional techniques of spell-working to be just as important as religious and spiritual traditions.

I would argue spell-casting is just as sacred as Wicca and Neo-Paganism and far more ancient and widespread a tradition. So where McColman asks the question: “As publishers produce more books about casting spells, is the spiritual message of Witchcraft getting lost?” I ask the opposite: Is the popular influence of Wicca and Neo-Paganism negatively impacting the tradition of spell casting, or if you will, the Witches’ Craft?

I think it is, on a number of levels. I will give just three examples:

Ethics:

The Wiccan Rede provides a very strong ethical principle for Witches to follow. As such, any mention of curses, jinxes, or harmful magick is frowned upon by the Pagan press. Some take this even further and extend it to spells that influence another’s will or reverse a curse back upon its sender. Very often in modern books I read “A REAL WITCH would never do harmful or coercive magick…” While I can applaud the good intent of these writers, and understand that authors are trying to paint a picture of Wicca that is acceptable to mainstream America, the fact is that this type of magick IS part of a “REAL” Witch’s repertoire. From the lead curse tablets of Greece, to the Gospel of Aradia, to more modern Witches like Sibyl Leek and Andrew Chumbley, cursing and coercion have always been a part of the Craft.

When my teacher taught me my first pieces of harmful magick, I was surprised. I had no interest in harming anyone but she told me, “You have to learn how to harm, in order to learn how to heal. The power comes hand-in-hand.” Apart from that lesson, life has taught me that a curse can be justified, and that in rare instances it can be down right compassionate. It is the use of knowledge that determines whether it is good or evil, not the knowledge itself.

To my mind allowing Wicca’s religious stance to determine what gets printed about traditional Witchcraft is wrong and pollutes the baraka of an ancient art. For instance Paul Huson’s book Mastering Witchcraft is one of the only early books of the craft that deals with the subject of vengeance and attack, and was given a horrible reputation in the Pagan community because of it. I have been to stores that refused to even carry it. One that did felt the need to put disclaimers all over it stating that it was “Not Real Witchcraft.” The book didn’t endorse vengeance and attack. It merely tried to present the full scope of the art it claimed to teach. In doing so, it put the preceding chapter on counter-magic and protection into great context. If anything, the craft teaches personal responsibility. Why then can we not trust readers to make their own ethical decisions about the craft?

Materia:

In the aforementioned article on beliefnet.com, Gardnerian Priestess Judy Harrow, author of Spiritual Mentoring, was quoted as saying:

“I remember once a man solemnly informing me that if a spell calls for, say, blue candles, and the candles are white candles dipped in blue instead of being blue all the way through, the spell will fail or maybe even backfire… People who believe that (magic) power is in ‘the stuff’ will not be able to access the power if ‘the stuff’ is not handy.”

A proficient Witch learns to substitute items that can’t be gotten in time. We also learn the magics of breath, gaze, gesture and incantation that can be cast without materials of any type whatsoever. While I agree that not all the power is in “the stuff, ” there certainly is quite a bit more than many modern writers would have you think. Many modern books make the case that “it’s all in your mind” and that the materials are just props with no real power of their own. This to me is disrespectful to the Witches and sorcerers that painstakingly wrote down formularies and philtres over the centuries. If this was really the case, why bother getting the ingredients right at all? Why not just write down “Devils Shoe Strings” on nine pieces of paper and use them instead of the herb? Try it and see what kind of results you get. Having lived in Nepal and worked with various Ngakpas (sorcerers) and Jankris (shaman) , I can tell you that they take their ingredients very seriously. I can say the same about the Bokors and Root Doctors of New Orleans.

Flying ointment made from mugwort in a carrier oil may be safer, but it is not just as good as one made from hemlock, belladonna, and other baneful herbs carefully mixed and applied. A stone with a hole drilled in it will not work as well as a real hagstone formed by running water. A twig from the backyard will not provide as good a basis for an influence charm as a whole High John root. These things have a tradition that goes back hundred of years and should not be cast aside so easily.

Psychological Reductionism:

Australian sociologist Douglas Ezzy was quoted in the beliefnet.com article regarding the effect of spells themselves:

“In his paper ‘New Age Witchcraft? Popular spell books and the re-enchantment of everyday life, Ezzy notes that spell books ‘encourage individuals to take control of their lives through self-exploration and self-affirmation. Furthermore, ‘performing magical spells functions as a way of re-discovering the enchanted and mysterious aspects of life.’”

McColman further interprets this:

“In other words, spells are more than just magical recipes for getting your own way; they are miniature rituals designed to foster a sense of mystery and wonder (what Ezzy calls ‘enchantment’) in everyday life, and to evoke a positive sense of power and hope in the spell-caster’s life. Even if casting a spell doesn’t make you rich or win you love, it could give you hope that such blessings really are possible in your life.

There are many Pagans and Wiccans that have no interest, belief in, or talent for spell-casting. That’s okay. I don’t believe that Witchcraft was ever meant to be a widespread practice. It may be elitist of me to suggest it, but I don’t think that everyone can cast an effective spell. Some can, some can’t. What we have today however are people drawn to the purely religious and spiritual aspects of Neo-Paganism and mistaking it for Witchcraft. They need to find a way to explain the place of spell-casting in a modern world, so its gets explained away in psycho-babble.

Many teachers today will explain that spells don’t actually offer outer change, only inner change. A spell to help you get a job will perhaps build your confidence but not affect the mind of the interviewer. The claim is that the magick is providing mystery, wonder, and self-affirmation. These are all good things, but it is clear that Witches throughout history did not feel this way about their craft, and neither do I!

I and many others know from experience that a well placed and executed spell can alter future events, affect the mind and spirit of a target or a client, and generally deliver the goods that are traditionally attributed to the craft. The effectiveness of this depends on the ability of the practitioner, knowledge of the art, and skillful application of that power and knowledge. Some people have a talent for practical magic. Some do not. Not so long ago, if you didn’t have a gift or calling for Witchcraft, you would not have been drawn to it. Now that it has become a popular subculture and religion, I wonder if people that don’t have much talent for spell work feel the need to write it off? To be clear I don’t think that you need to practice spellcraft to be a Pagan, or even a Wiccan, but that doesn’t mean we should reduce the classical art of Witchcraft to therapeutic drama.

McColman quotes writer Laura LaVoie as saying: “One of my fears with the spell books is that they send the wrong message to those looking for answers on how to be Pagan.” I have heard her fear echoed often in the Pagan community but very few consider the other side of the coin: Neo-Pagans can sometimes send the wrong message to those that just want to practice Witchcraft.

It’s pretty easy to tell whether a book is religious or is a collection of spells. I find it difficult to believe that someone looking to get a start in a new religion would pick up an Encyclopedia of Spells. On the other hand I do know of many people who came to a spiritual path, Wiccan or otherwise, through a desire to cast spells that opened up deeper questions.

I have what I consider to be a very rigorous and serious spiritual practice. I also am a professional Occultist who does readings and magick for pay. If Wicca doesn’t want to be confused with spell-casting, then they should stop using the term Witchcraft and Wicca interchangeably. Wicca represents one tradition of Witchcraft, not the whole practice.

There is room for both spells and Spirit. Keep the spell books coming! Keep the Pagan books coming! Keep the Wiccan books coming! Let them all get better researched and lead people deeper into the mysteries, from whatever angle of approach they choose.

May the Blessing, Cursing, and Cunning Be!

Footnotes:
McColman, Carl, , beliefnet.com, 2005.

Reflecting on Witchcraft, Then and Now

Reflecting on Witchcraft, Then and Now

Author:   Crick   

These days I find myself in periods of reflection on my experiences in the Craft and the ways that is has affected my personal views on life. As part of this reflection, I often wonder in what direction the Craft is now undertaking.

My girlfriend of many years, who is a Druid, and who has spent hours engaged in discussions with the old guy, will occasionally tell me, “you just aren’t right” before flashing a huge grin. When she says this I feel honored because it confirms that I have walked through this life as an individual. And it is has been the experiences of being involved in traditional Witchcraft that has made such a life experience possible.

But now I find myself in a quandary as to my personal views of witchcraft.

When I was growing up on a farm in Tennessee in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and later in suburbia in MD, our family quietly practiced the Craft as we knew it by way of our Irish heritage and the Appalachia influence that we grew up around.

Outwardly we were like any other family at the time; just our beliefs were a bit different from some. And though we referred to folks outside of our personal family as “the others” we were never obvious about such beliefs and so folks around us in the community had no clue. In fact, only one outsider, a Mrs. Bowie, who was a retired minister of a mystical Christian church and close friend of my grandmother Ina and a family from Ohio that used to visit my grandparents when we lived in MD, were the only non-family members that were aware of our ways.

Were we special?

Absolutely not, we were just as dysfunctional in some ways as any other family from that era. However, we never believed in publicity as far as our particular beliefs in the Craft. This was not due to fear of any public backlash or what have you; it was just our way to be private about our family ways.

In those days, folks believed that went on behind closed doors stayed behind those same doors. When my mother branched off into a coven separate from our immediate family at the beginning of 1970, a coven whose focus was primarily on Astrology and its influences on life, the ways of silence were such that though I as a teenager was aware of the existence of that coven, I knew next to nothing beyond that tiny morsel of information.

Some of you may have met my mother at some point in time for during the 1970’s she performed astrological and Tarot readings for a cruise ship liner that traveled between the coast of Florida and the Bahamas.

At any rate, during the mid 1970’s I spent three years in Germany with the military and during that time I was associated with a coven that engaged the path of Hecate and thus would probably be seen as a “dark” coven by Neo pagans today. And yet, though we were very active, we did not seek and in fact went to great pains to avoid publicity.

And now I come to my reservations and thus conflicting emotions about the openness if you will of witchcraft in today’s times. During the years that I have mentioned above, privacy was something that was as a natural way of life at the time and was respected as such.

I am keenly aware that during these same times, that those of the Wicca were in fact moving in the opposite direction and actively seeking publicity at every opportunity. Beyond this observation I personally have no comment to share about the Wicca during those times, for I am speaking about witchcraft as I know it from my personal experiences and not about the fledgling religion of Wicca.

In today’s day and age, with the advent of the Internet where information is readily assessable and where there are now a plethora of Wicca and witchcraft 101 books, it is difficult to find folks who adhere to the tenets of privacy that witchcraft once knew. My personal concerns are that is such openness really a positive step forward in regards to witchcraft?

When I examine my personal views of witchcraft, I see a spiritual path that is wide open to “personal” discovery. Nor do I see any valid restrictions on what or how a practitioner of witchcraft may engage in order to arrive at such discoveries. If one sees the need to conjure up a spirit or other entity in an effort to experience such a discovery, then so be it. If one needs to resort to witchcraft to correct a wrong from another, then again, so be it.

As a witch, I believe that each of us is an individual and as such I do not believe in Karma, a concept that is foreign to the art of witchcraft. But I do believe in maintaining personal responsibility. As an old school witch, I feel that I know my personal goals and the experiences needed to achieve them far better than any group of folks such as those found within the many religions that make up our world. If I make a mistake than I am the one who has to pay for them.

I personally do not believe that a public forum has the right to outline boundaries that defines what steps I am allowed to take to arrive at my experiences in witchcraft. As an individual I do not believe that anyone outside of me has a say on how I personally pursue the path of witchcraft.

Again, I am the one that has to answer for any trial and errors that I engage in within the parameters of witchcraft. And yet this is exactly the perception that we are at in today’s Neo pagan community.

Witchcraft is now defined (erroneously to my mind) as a religion. And as a religion all of the tenets that were once diametrically opposed to the tenets of witchcraft are now accepted as being the norm.

Because of the instantaneous communication of the Internet, folks who engage in witchcraft are cast into a false image of being light and fluffy folks. I personally do not believe in Good and Evil, as these is primarily concepts that originated with the Abrahamic religions. I do believe that there are shades of light and dark, but only in the sense that we need such labels in order to put a sense of understanding on such concepts as they relate to the human experience.

And so I have to wonder, if we took the overwhelming desire for publicity that defines the art of witchcraft today, would witchcraft still be defined as it is by today’s standards. Or would the freedoms that were once a tenet of witchcraft, flourish yet once again?

And are such modern standards, which in effect are enhanced by way of the Internet, realistic as it pertains to the practice of witchcraft?

Massive publicity may bode well for a religion in the sense that it needs such attention in order to boost its membership. But is such publicity really a positive and useful approach to a mystical spiritual path that requires no such membership beyond that of the individual practitioner?

Is the personal responsibility that has always been an unavoidable tenet of witchcraft still possible or even a consideration in the concept of witchcraft as it is defined by today’s standards? Has such massive publicity made witchcraft into a completely unrealistic concept in order to be acceptable to today’s society? Has such publicity taken away from the base realities of witchcraft?

A Little Humor for Your Day – THIRTY ONE SIGNS TECHNOLOGY HAS OVERTAKEN YOUR LIFE

THIRTY ONE SIGNS TECHNOLOGY HAS OVERTAKEN YOUR LIFE

1.   Your stationery is more cluttered than Warren Beatty’s address book. The letterhead lists a fax number, e-mail address for two on-line services, and your Internet address, which spreads across the breadth of the letterhead and continues to the back. In essence, you have conceded that the first page of any letter you write “is” letterhead.

2.   You have never sat through an entire movie without having at least one
device on your body beep or buzz.

3.   You need to fill out a form that must be typewritten, but you can’t because
there isn’t one typewriter in your house — only computers with laser printers.

4.   You think of the gadgets in our office as “friends,” but you forget to send
your father a birthday card.

5.   You disdain people who use low baud rates.

6.   When you go into a computer store, you eavesdrop on a salesperson talking
with customers — and you butt in to correct him and spend the next twenty
minutes answering the customer’s questions, while the salesperson stands by
silently, nodding his head.

7.   You use the phrase “digital compression” in a conversation without thinking
how strange your mouth feels when you say it.

8.   You constantly find yourself in groups of people to whom you say the phrase
“digital compression.” Everyone understands what you mean, and you are not
surprised or disappointed that you don’t have to explain it.

9.   You know Bill Gates’ e-mail address, but you have to look up your own
social security number.

10.  You stop saying “phone number” and replace it with “voice number,” since we
all know the majority of phone lines in any house are plugged into contraptions
that talk to other contraptions.

11.  You sign Christmas cards by putting 🙂 next to your signature.

12.  Off the top of your head, you can think of nineteen keystroke symbols that
are far more clever than :-).

13.  You back up your data every day.

14.  Your wife asks you to pick up some minipads for her at the store and you
return with a rest for your mouse.

15.  You think jokes about being unable to program a VCR are stupid.

16.  On vacation, you are reading a computer manual and turning the pages faster
than everyone else who is reading John Grisham novels.

17.  The thought that a CD could refer to finance or music rarely enters your
mind.

18.  You are able to argue persuasively the Ross Perot’s phrase “electronic town
hall” makes more sense than the term “information superhighway,” but you don’t
because, after all, the man still uses hand-drawn pie charts.

19.  You go to computer trade shows and map out your path of the exhibit hall in
advance. But you cannot give someone directions to your house without looking up
the street names.

20.  You would rather get more dots per inch than miles per gallon.

21.  You become upset when a person calls you on the phone to sell you
something, but you think it’s okay for a computer to call and demand that you
start pushing buttons on your telephone to receive more information about the
product it is selling.

22.  You know without a doubt that disks come in five-and-a-quarter and three-
and-half inch sizes.

23.  Al Gore strikes you as an “intriguing” fellow.

24.  You own a set of itty-bitty screw-drivers and you actually know where they
are.

25.  While contemporaries swap stories about their recent hernia surgeries, you
compare mouse-induced index-finger strain with a nine-year-old.

26.  You are so knowledgeable about technology that you feel secure enough to
say “I don’t know” when someone asks you a technology question instead of
feeling compelled to make something up.

27.  You rotate your screen savers more frequently than your automobile tires.

28.  You have a functioning home copier machine, but every toaster you own turns
bread into charcoal.

29.  You have ended friendships because of irreconcilably different opinions
about which is better — the track ball or the track “pad.”

30.  You understand all the jokes in this message. If so, my friend, technology
has taken over your life. We suggest, for your own good, that you go lie under a
tree and write a haiku. And don’t use a laptop.

31. You e-mail this message to your friends over the net. You’d never get
around to showing it to them in person or reading it to them on the
phone. In fact, you have probably never met most of these people face-
to-face.