‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler
Is there ever a perfect time? A wise mother says there isn’t. She advises us to take life by the hand and march right into the middle, and then start digging out the corners. She says not to wait for a perfect time to do anything, because a perfect time never quite makes it. We simply have to go ahead and make it as near perfect as possible.
A perfectionist is usually someone who can never find the perfect way, and gives up in futility. But the one who aims at perfection and does not wait for it, is at least moving and there’s nothing useless about that. Unless we are moving, we resemble Tennyson’s description: “Faultily faultless, icily regular, splendidly null, dead perfection; no more.”
We have to face life, not under the pressure of perfection, but by pure faith. We have to go on accepting and rejecting as we come to each phase.
“For perfection does not exist,” said eighteenth century writer Alfred de Musset. “To understand it is the triumph of human intelligence; to expect to possess it is the most dangerous kind of madness.”
In the rush of too much to do, we stack up for ourselves things we are going to do, things we ought to do, and things we intend to do. We do first the things of necessity, we take time to think a little about what we ought to do, and the rest is left to good intentions.
Frequently the good intentions hold the key to our happiness. While we bog down in the necessities of living, the things that mean so much slip away unnoticed.
We always expect other people to know that we intended to do this or that, but we must realize that they cannot read our good intentions. Good intentions have the same look as nothing at all. And we have to draw our own conclusions as to what our thoughts and feelings are. Only if we express them can we ever hope for others to know what we would like to do, even though circumstances may hinder us.
It has been written that intelligent beings have what it takes to surpass themselves. By sensible thought we can actively express our good intentions and this opens the way for fulfillment.
Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.
Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet: http://www.hifler.com
Click Here to Buy her books at Amazon.com
Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site: http://www.whitebison.org
Elder’s Meditation of the Day – December 28
“I believe that being a medicine man, more than anything else, is a state of mind, a way of looking at and understanding this earth, a sense of what it is all about.”
–Lame Deer, LAKOTA
The Medicine Wheel explains different ways of looking at the world. The four directions are the East, the South, the West and the North. In the East is the view of the eagle – the eagle flies high and sees the earth from that point of view. The South is the direction of the mouse. Moving on the earth, the mouse will not see what the eagle sees. Both the eagle and the mouse see the truth. The West is the direction of the bear – the bear will see different from the mouse and the eagle. From the North comes the point of view of the bison. To be a Medicine Man you must journey through all points of view and develop the mind to see the interconnectedness of all four directions. This takes time, patience and an open mind. Eventually, you understand there is only love.
Great Spirit, today, allow my mind to stay open.
December 28 – Daily Feast
A very long time ago, among the pages of words written by ancient men is a phrase so potent it still works today. It says, “Call the things that be not as though they were.” So life is hard and scary and you have messed up miserably. Then change it by saying what you do want – by calling into being the way you want things and circumstances to be. Your words have power. They create. They shape. They call into being what you want. You have been digging in your heels and declaring that nothing can be saved. Don’t you know you are doing it? Cancel everything negative you have ever said – be truly sorry for it. And then take hold of your tongue and demand it speak right.
~ You propose to give us land where we can live in quiet. I accept your proposal. ~
LITTLE RAVEN – ARAPAHO
‘A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume II’ by Joyce Sequichie Hifler
Immerse yourself in the richness of life. Open yourself to bright lights and dark corners, blizzards and warm breezes, new ideas, to unique people and the stories they tell.
Life is much more diverse, colorful and fascinating than you could ever imagine. Discover a little more of its magnificence and wonder each day.
Don’t become so consumed with your own concerns that you forget there’s a whole universe of beauty and possibilities yet to be experienced. Venture beyond what you’ve always known, and discover more.
If you feel there has to be more to life, that’s because there is. Step away from the comfort of what is familiar, and discover more.
There will always be problems and challenges, but you don’t have to let them keep you confined. The more of life’s richness you take in, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with life’s difficulties.
All you’ve experienced so far is just a taste of everything life has to offer. Discover more, and enjoy the richness that is yours to live.
© 2015 Ralph S. Marston, Jr.
From The Daily Motivator website at http://greatday.com/motivate/151228.html
Using Your Pain to Help Others
Healing with Hurt
You can channel your pain into helping others and spreading a tide of curative energy throughout the world.
Pain is a fact of being and one that permeates all of our lives to some degree. Since the hurt we feel may be a part of the experiences that have touched us most deeply, we are often loathe to let it go. It is frequently easier to keep our pain at our sides, where it acts as a shield that shelters us from others and gives us an identity—that of victim—from which we can draw bitter strength. However, pain’s universality can also empower us to use our hurt to help others heal. Since no pain is any greater or more profound than any other, what you feel can give you the ability to help bring about the recovery of individuals whose hurts are both similar to and vastly different from your own. You can channel your pain into transformative and healing love that aids you in helping individuals on a one-to-one basis and spreading a tide of curative energy throughout the world.
The capacity to heal others evolves naturally within those who are ready to disassociate themselves from their identity as victims. In fact, the simple decision to put aside the pain we have carried is what grants us the strength to redeem that pain through service. There are many ways to use the hurt you feel to help others. Your pain gives you a unique insight into the minds of people who have experienced trauma and heartache. You can draw from the wellspring of strength that allowed you to emerge on the other side of a painful experience and pass that strength to individuals still suffering from their wounds. You may be able to council individuals in need by showing them the coping methods that have helped you survive or simply by offering sympathy. A kinship can develop that allows you to relate more closely with those you are trying to aid and comfort.
Helping others can be a restorative experience that makes your own heart grow stronger. In channeling your pain into compassionate service and watching others successfully recover, you may feel a sense of euphoria that leads to increased feelings of self-worth and optimism. Your courageous decision to reach out to others can be the best way to declare to yourself and the world that your pain didn’t defeat you, and in fact it helped you heal.
The Daily OM
The Tarot as a Tool for Raising Consciousness
Author: Radko Vacek
A Tarot deck is one of the most common tools of the Wiccan. Yet, I think that often it is incompletely understood in two ways: it can be used as a tool for magic as well as divination, and secondly, many try to divorce it from the Kabbalah with which it may be wed very well.
As far as I have read, there is no good evidence that Kabbalah and the Tarot are historically connected. Nonetheless, there are numerical correspondences between the two, which make connecting them hard to resist. The numbers ten and twenty-two are essential to both.
The so-called Tree of Life is the central symbol of Kabbalah. It consists of ten circles, called sephiroth, arranged in a way roughly resembling a tree, from the top circle, the first sephira, at the crown through seven other sephiroth down to the bottom two resembling the trunk. These all represent emanations from the divine Infinite to the finite world of our experience. Their number corresponds to the Ace through the Ten card of each suit. More importantly, each sephira can be thought of as being like a coin. Just as every coin has two sides, so also does every sephira, with two specific, successive cards of the Major Arcana corresponding to each two-sided sephira. Therefore, twenty out of the twenty-two Major Arcana reflect individual sephiroth this way. The remaining two, Judgment and The World, reflect the Tree as a whole, each one reflecting it from one of two, complementary perspectives.
This article unfolds from the following five ideas:
1) The world is sustained because the divine Infinite overflows into a number of levels of manifestation, all the way down to all the things of this world experienced daily.
2) By the principle, “as above, so below, ” the development of every person reflects this divine process of manifestation.
3) Some people reflect this divine process in their development with more clarity and detail. They are the magical people. Magic is not just something to do sometimes; it is essential in defining who these people are.
4) The Tarot symbolically illustrates both human development in general, and especially that of the magical person.
5) Meditating on the ideas of these developmental milestones, illustrated by the Major Arcana, facilitates raising our consciousness to a level needed both for working spells and for living magically on a more steady basis afterward.
Our work is to make this possible correspondence come alive. I do it through my poetry. The pictures on the cards are like symbolic illustrations of the ideas contained in the stanzas, and each stanza echoes the ideals of its corresponding sephira. I mentally recite each stanza from memory, while relating its ideas both to the ideals of the corresponding sephira and to the corresponding two cards. I have been using my poem, Yet a Magical Route – “Tarot!” which I had to post on http://www.allpoetry.com due to its length.
This procedure is at the heart of much of my working. Words are among my essential tools for magic because I relate to them better than nearly everything else. To me, it makes sense to personalize your magic by working with those things among which you have the most authority. I typically divide my workings into three phases. The first phase is a poem of initiation, in which the tone and purpose of the working is set. The second phase is a raising of my consciousness to the level needed for the work, bridging the gap between the stated purpose and the work of realizing that purpose as the spell. Here is where my poetic meditation on the Tree is used. The third phase is whatever visualization and/or poetic incantation fulfills the purpose of the spell.
My Tarot meditation raises my consciousness by taking me through major steps from birth to the maturity of the magical person. The Major Arcana can be interpreted as symbolic illustrations of these developmental steps. By focusing on these steps, my consciousness is helped to ascend in steps to this magical state of consciousness.
I use my poem, which I memorized, to guide my meditation. Nearly all the poetry used in my workings is my own, and if you choose to use the power of ideas contained in words, you probably should use your own words too. The power is largely in the personalization.
Every sephira not only has two sides to it, like the two sides of a coin, but also a weak and a strong theme to the sephira as a whole. In order to raise my consciousness to the level needed for self-improvement, I use the strong theme of each sephira. It is easier to start with something already strong and strengthen it than to make something weak strong first, and then to strengthen it.
Let us consider the crown sephira, the first emanation from the divinely Infinite. It corresponds to early childhood. As a time of beginnings and routines that are only weakly established to form the basis for extensive repetition, early childhood and its corresponding sephira are associated with the strong theme of realizing oneself anew. What does this mean?
Realizing oneself anew contrasts with producing something again, such as producing some response again as in habitual repetition of a behavior. Habitual responding is incompatible with heroism. Remember times when you were heroic. It involved using the extra energy to take some action off of your usual track, and also doing something that made you stand out from the crowd. This entails to two aspects: 1) asserting your right to be distinct from your surroundings and your former, routine self; 2) having the valor to endure whatever pain may ensue as the consequence of your behavior. A strong theme of childhood, symbolized by the crown sephira, is still being free enough from habit to assert your right to be distinct and to endure the consequences. The Fool card also illustrates heroism done in this childlike spirit.
The Magician card is the other side of the theme of this sephira. The term, “magical hero, ” is nearly as redundant as, “Jewish Rabbi!” What does working magic really mean? We cannot realistically expect magic to shield us from all the pain. The nature of life is such that, no matter how well magic spares us the pain of some exigency, often something else comes up soon to take its place. We are like the Dutch boy using his fingers to plug the holes in the dam. We magically plug one only to see two others take its place. It may well be that the most real magic we can work is to realize ourselves anew with the heroic valor to endure the inescapable pains of life.
One important way in which realizing oneself anew contrasts with producing something again is with respect to sexual reproduction. There is nothing heroic about conceiving babies, but sometimes everything heroic about defending them. Across species, mothers are noted for their heroic self-sacrifice in defending their offspring. Maybe it is having endured the pains of giving birth which enables the mother to realize her child’s worth, to the magnitude seen in maternal efforts to defend her young. As previously stated, the capacity to endure pain is essential to heroism.
This common denominator of capacity to endure pain bridges the ideas associated with the crown sephira with those associated with the second sephira, given the keyword Wisdom. Whereas the first two Major Arcana, associated with the crown sephira, have male characters, the next two Major Arcana of the second sephira have female ones: The High Priestess and The Empress.
The High Priestess represents the good mother who, realizing the child’s worth, inspires self-esteem and the confidence to realize dreams. The contrast between The High Priestess and The Empress is that, whereas the former symbolizes the encouraging function nurturing independence, the latter symbolizes the disciplinary function nurturing responsibility. This disciplinary function is needed as the follow-up to teach the child to exercise self-discipline as a healthy constraint on assertive independence.
These two aspects of mothering can be set to correspond to the second sephira traditionally called Wisdom. I introduced this sephira with respect to enduring pains. Whether having to endure the pains of heroism or of childbearing, such endurance on our daily, mundane level reflects the nature of wisdom on the ideal, divine level. It is through enduring the painful consequences of our errors that we generally acquire wisdom.
So far in our meditation guided by the Kabbalistic Tarot, we have meditated on healthy development in the following terms: 1) asserting one’s distinct identity, 2) developing the resilience of a magical personality, 3) acquiring the confidence needed for growing independence, and 4) internalizing discipline. All these come together to enable the child to master increasingly complex physical tasks.
The Emperor, one of the two Major Arcana corresponding to the third sephira given the keyword Intelligence, symbolizes this child acquiring mastery. However, this mastery is just over physical tasks at first. The child at this stage also needs to refine the power to divide the right from the wrong, that is, to develop a real conscience. The Hierophant symbolizes this. Is this sephira properly called Intelligence? It makes sense that intelligence at the ideal, divine level includes not only the child becoming smarter, but also kinder. Specifically pertaining to Wicca, not only does abiding by the Wiccan Rede make us kinder, but also in the long run the kinder magic is the more effective. It soon becomes much too hard to keep bending the world to meet our desires. We achieve more general, lasting results by selflessly improving ourselves to meet the needs of the world.
Here in the Tree, a shift occurs from the intellect to something else. The latter is commonly described as the psyche. I prefer to describe it as the emotions. On the level of our development, this is reflected as a deepening of affective ties into bonds of real love. This is illustrated symbolically by The Lovers card. This does not necessarily refer to mature sexual attraction. I rather think of this in the more developmental sense of a friendly attraction between a bit older children, who may feel infatuation but not yet be capable of sexual arousal. Still, the experience prepares them for the romantic side of mating. The message of this card is that, although the truth of the physical aspects of the world often are overpowering, these subtle types of enchantment continue to be quite real, if we stay attuned to them.
The second aspect of this fourth sephira, usually called Love, is symbolized by The Chariot. I think of it as The Driver. This deals with love in regard to taking control. In a psychological sense, how do we take control of a situation? By changing our perception, to realize that something is worth doing, not in spite of factors out of our control, but because of these very factors. What seemed to be a factor diminishing the goodness of the thing comes to be perceived as essential to its goodness. Learning to take control over perceptions is essential for the development of the Magician; this actually is what I call mental magic, often the most real of all.
With regard to love, we tend to think of grief as diminishing the beauty of love. But we can work the magic of seeing it this way: valuing is reflected by sorrow, like the moon reflects the sun. Without the light of the sun, the moon would not shine, nor would sorrow be without the valuing coming from love. Sorrow is the overflowing of love into timelessness; therefore, sorrow is a sign of real love. The Chariot symbolizes taking control over love, in realizing that sorrow is part of its essence.
In contrast to Love, the fifth sephira is commonly called Power. Young powers may reach the edges of Earth, but need to fathom the depths of the heart. The Strength card symbolizes the power developed by the young person when earlier acquired abilities are coordinated, integrated, and thus strengthened through maturation. But this newly developed magnitude often lacks proper direction in youth. All the force in the world gets you nowhere, if it is applied in the wrong direction. The Hermit card symbolizes giving efforts a productive direction. With respect to the aspiring magicians, the youths, realizing all, which they are, may reach seemingly unreachable stars!
The eleventh card of the Major Arcana, The Wheel of Fortune, like the hub of a wheel, is the first of the two symbolizing the theme of the sixth sephira, called Compassion or Beauty. It is the turning point of the developing personality. If the youth has developed the overall strength and directs it the right way, the torque is much more likely to turn the person’s life the right way. The right way of the magical person is from limitation to the realization of what they yearn to be.
The magical person, the best that I can judge, most yearns to be original, uncorrupted, and free. We want to be original in creating ourselves anew, distinct from anyone else. What distinguishes the magical person is being more obviously unique than most people. Also, the magical person typically is artistic, or somehow creatively inclined. The painter’s medium is paint on canvas, the sculptor’s are wood and stone, and the magician’s are the elements of reality. Having a mature conscience, the magical person seeks not to be corrupted by the intolerance of society. This desire not to be corrupted is closely intertwined with assertion of the power to choose, putting utmost priority on being a free spirit. The ideal of the magical in human nature is a sense of justice, this yearning for liberation from prejudices underlying intolerance. Therefore, it is fitting that the second card, paired with The Wheel to symbolize this sephira of Compassion, is Justice. This symbolizes the sense of compassionate justice incompatible with holocausts.
In passing from the sixth to the seventh sephira, a second, major shift occurs. This first was from the intellectual to the psychic; now it is from the psychic to the natural. The seventh deals with lasting endurance; the eighth deals with asserting the will; the ninth deals with righteousness of those who seek goals seemingly as remote as stars. All three of these themes have at their foundations learning to accept seemingly undesirable realities as essential to natural order, namely death, aggression, resistance.
The first card of the seventh sephira, commonly called “Lasting Endurance”, is The Hanged Man. It symbolizes moving beyond truths to the reality of ideals, which can make the seemingly unattainable within grasp. People commonly think that truth is of utmost value, but, contrary to the “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats, truth may be ugly. Among the most atrocious acts of man can be justified by probable truths; therefore, we need to move beyond truth to the reality of ideals, such as love, whose supremacy makes atrocities abominable. The maturing young magicians thus might make reality of a love moving even hearts too hard to be moved! They might even be moved to heroics, facing Death as calmly as a Stoic. This leads us into the second card symbolizing the theme of the seventh sephira, Death. This is an undesirable reality to most people, but the maturing magician needs to move beyond revulsion to acceptance. Death is essential to maintaining the natural balance of the world!
Nothing reflects the ideal of lasting endurance better than facing death calmly. Death comes as aggressively as a beast, but only through the dying of the undesirable in ourselves can self-improvement be. The magician endures the worst hardships of life by accepting death as a prime agent of needed progress.
This gives basis for the transition to the eighth sephira, called Majesty. Only by the right to be majestic can anything have majesty. Yet, the assertiveness to claim this right is just a tamed version of that aggression so feared. Given that temperance subdues his harmfulness, even the Devil, the personification of potentially dangerous impulses, has an essential part to play in the development of the young person. This is especially so in the case of the aspiring magician, because using the very elements of the world as artistic media is quite an assertive stance! The cards Temperance and The Devil are the symbols fitting the theme of this sephira. Of course we want to assert ourselves, but still, the true adult way is of temperance, weathering life’s storms in peaceful balance.
This dynamic relationship between aggression and temperance leads into the theme of the ninth sephira, called The Foundation of the World. The Witch has the strength of mind to bend reality, and the wisdom of the spirit to make right choices, but Fate can overturn us like a ship in a hurricane, and turn the wisest into fools. Even Zeus, it was told, sometimes was subjected to Fate. Yet even under the stormiest circumstances, at the foundation of our being in the world lies the divine potential within us. As magicians mature enough to realize this, we still can be fulfilled, like reaching that remote star. The Tower of Destruction and The Star correspond to the developmental theme of this sephira, the former symbolizing the overturning and the latter the fulfillment still attainable by the mature magician.
The tenth, final sephira, called the Kingdom or the Diadem, is the synthesis all the previous themes, enacted on the level of our daily lives. All the objects of our experience are subject to the wear and eventual destruction at the hands of time, as are we the subjects who experience. This inexorable decline applies to our most beloved, which makes Sorrow the unavoidable companion of Life. Those who love, while looking at the full moon, may cherish love lost and sink into gloom. The Moon card symbolizes the painful impermanence of all material things. Yet, as it is put in my poem The Message, posted on Witchvox, “Sorrow is the overflowing of love into timelessness, just as the moonlight is the overflowing of the sunshine. Are not the love and the sunlight divine? Let us therefore regard their overflow!” No less than the moon reflects the sun, in real love there is a victory won! The Sun card symbolizes this victory, like the rainbow after the storm, the celebration of the magnificent surprise of life and love.
The remaining two Major Arcana, Judgment and The World, symbolize two alternate ways of viewing The Tree of Life, with all its sephiroth and corresponding cards, as a whole picture. The card Judgment symbolizes the completions of the various cycles of our world, seemingly in cold disregard of our feelings and welfare. In contrast, The World symbolizes the freedom we nonetheless may find in the world, whose reality is like the beauty of a flower with its petals unfurled. The beauty of this reality of our personal experience is as well a reflection of the beauty of our spirits, having unfolded like buds through the stepwise process of learning to live magically, symbolized by the illustrations on the Major Arcana.
The method of interpreting the Major Arcana here is hardly the only way to make sense out of them. But I have found it useful as a means to a meditation helping to raise my consciousness to a magical level needed for working spells. This is particularly for work involving self-improvement and petitioning for Divine Judgment. One might expect this benefit, because the meditation does consist of focusing on the characteristics needed by the mature person and the professional Witch.
The Perfect Athame
Author: The Redneck Pagan
As some of you may recall, I have recently decided to go back to the basics of my knowledge and experience and begin a process of going deeper. And for those of you who are scratching their heads and wondering if I spent too much time with the glue cap off, here is an excerpt from an earlier blog post to explain:
“I am beginning to realize how little I actually know (…) I mean I have read probably over a hundred books, but rarely stopped to really read them. I would do one or two exercises and then go to the next. I skimmed over the material without properly allowing myself the time and effort to go deeper.
With that little epiphany in mind, I do believe it is time for me to go back to the basics! (…) I am finding myself digging out those 101 books that have been collecting dust, and have started re-reading them. My next goal is to start doing the exercises, and really documenting my results. Not just the half fast skimming I did before, but really seeking the experiences and knowledge. How successful I will be, I don’t yet know. We shall find out how much determination, discipline and dedication I have. “
So with that primer in hand, forwards we go!
In reviewing the basis, I have discovered something of note… the stuff that used to make my heart race with excitement, the books I spent hours reading (and much time and money locating and acquiring) … are getting rather boring! This has been a far more difficult task than I initially gave it credit for. Now before the fingers start wagging and people start saying, “you said you were going deeper”, I have been doing the work (my mother would be shocked at how well I have been doing my “homework”) . I have diligently gone through all of the exercises in the first third of one of my basic books, which is a primer on craft history and some basic jargon … very important stuff for anybody with an interest in Witchcraft and Paganism. However, after I read Doreen Valiente’s “The Rebirth of Witchcraft”, reading about craft history from a Lady who was present for much of it, well… the 101 stuff is boring.
I decided to review some material on the different tools in the 101 books as, being nine years away from my first introduction, I felt it was important to review and check up on newest teachings and theories.
I stumbled across the usual descriptions: the Athame is a black handled, double edge knife used by Witches to direct energy. Witches typically use it to charge items, cast their circle, and cut astral cords. It is never used to cut anything on the physical plane, and some argue that it looses its power if it ever draws blood. I then read about how it is supposed to be made. Made? Uh-oh!
According one author, a witch should always try to make his/her own Athame! I give this author full credit, he goes into great detail on how one should go about it. He explains the equipment needed, ways to get it done, the proper metals to use, wood in the fire, symbols you can carve onto the blade or the handle and even how to consecrate it. And I have to agree with his reasoning: when a witch takes the time, effort and intention on the creation of the Athame it becomes part of him/her. It becomes part of their power. I can see that and understand that. I just have a problem… I am not what you would call “handy”!
When I was younger and living with my parents, we bought a bunch of IKEA furniture for the house. My mother and I shopped and brought it home, and then my father and I put it together. The reason my father and I had to put it together is because my mother and brother refused to work with us. My dad is a brilliant man, he’s been a teacher for over 30 years now, he has helped revamp parts of the elementary school curriculum and I hate playing Trivial Pursuit with the man because I always get my assets handed to me! But for the love of the Gods… DO NOT give that man a hammer. (When I first brought my husband home to meet my father, he was a little hesitant. My husband proceeded to fix his sink trap and tap and realign some closets on their track. My father turned to me and said, “I love him; keep him!”) I have inherited some of my father’s difficulty with tools.
I can recall one day when my husband and I had first moved in together. He was watching a documentary on TV and I was in the bedroom hanging pictures. There was a picture I wanted hung up that was out of my reach. He said he would come hang it up at the next commercial break. I, being the soul of patience, decided to take matters into my own hands. I stacked some towels on the edge of the bed and standing with one foot on the towels and one braced against the wall I prepared to hammer the nail. Well, the hammer was on the floor (and my perch felt a bit precarious) , so I grabbed the closest thing I had, a high-heeled shoe. As I was about to hammer the nail in, I heard “What the hell are you doing! ` My husband lifted me off my perch (he is six-foot-three-inches and I am five-feet-two-inches) He lifted me under the one arm like a rag doll (an amusing sight for the dogs, I’m sure) and took care of the picture for me.
So having said that.. I really don’t think having me playing with a forge and blacksmithing materials is the best idea. The life I save could be my own, and I think the fire department is busy enough without having to come out and rescue me. So what should I do? Well, another option mentioned is ‘receiving one as a gift from another magical person’… I live in Central Alberta, not exactly the place you will find a lot of practicing Pagans. I was very much a solitary practitioner. Receiving one as a gift would have been ideal… but not exactly practical.
Being eager to begin my practice (and being too new to fully understand where the power lay) , I began to scour the city for the Perfect Athame. Dollar stores, Wal-Mart, Zellers and secondhand stores became my playground. I bought several different types of knives (ranging in price from 50 cents to five bucks) . Nothing seemed to be working and I was getting very discouraged. I was too new to truly understand the idea of ‘magic within’ and was worried that if I was unable to find a real and proper Athame that I would never be a proper witch (silly sounding now, but a huge fear at the time) .
I settled on using one of the knives I had picked up at Wal-Mart; it had the best feel in the handle and wasn’t very sharp. I was having decent success with the knife, but it never felt right. My subconscious was not satisfied with the toy I was using! (This was, of course, nine years ago, before the Internet had really blossomed; sites like eBay were in their infancy and specialty websites were few and far between.) I tried to find Athames online but the only ones I found were well out of a college student’s budget.
One day, I was digging through some of my old treasure boxes (you know, the boxes you keep under your bed, filled with what other people might call ‘junk’) . While digging through the box I came across a knife. This particular type of knife is known as a Sgian Dubh (pronounced Skin-Doo) . They are a type of Scottish small knife kept next to the calf in the socks. I received it years ago from Grandfather. He had bought it when he was visiting his brother in Dublin and at the time he gave it to me, I was playing in a pipe band and was a Highland Dancer.
I wore it for two years in the pipe band and another year and a half as a Highland Dancer. I took it anytime I did a performance of a Sword Dance or Highland Fling for an additional two years after that, and then when I no longer danced, I put it away and had not thought of it for years. When I picked it up again I felt like it almost sang in my hand! I began to toy with the notion of using it as my Athame.
It had many positive characteristics. It was double-edged but was blunted so as not to hurt me. It was in a sheath, so I could put it in a bag and take it with me to outdoor rituals if I wanted. The handle was black and was made of a solid molded plastic. It was a gift from my Irish Grandfather (incidentally my path is most closely related to Irish Reconstructionalism and it was my Irish roots and the mythology of my people that first got me interested in paganism) . It came from my family’s homeland and so had a connection to the land of my ancestors. And I had worn it during high-energy activities that I loved!
I gave it a try for the first time at a Sabbat. It just seemed to click. It felt perfect in my hand. I felt powerful with it, mysterious and magical. In recent years, I have seen some beautiful Athames, many of which have been “properly made” and most at a very reasonable price. But I have never had a desire to get a new one. I have my Perfect Athame.
The Redneck Pagan
The Magick of Jewelry and Metals
Author: Raven Digitalis
Jewelry has long been used in magick. Its most common historical use is protective, to guard against demons, malicious creatures, and adversaries’ attacks. With the rise of metallurgy, specifically designed pieces came to be used as magickal talismans. This is prevalent in indigenous and modern societies both.
Jewelry can be a stylistic way to display your beliefs and alignments either inside or outside of ritual circle. Practitioners of numerous spiritual varieties prefer wearing ritual jewelry in the form of charms, amulets, and talismans. Each piece is a significant reflection of a practitioner’s individual callings. Many ritualists go skyclad yet choose to wear jewelry. Metal shimmers and reflects light, becoming important pieces of focus in ritual, especially those held under shroud of night. Gemstones are also common, being direct manifestations of Mother Earth.
Other magicians choose to eliminate all decorative wear including jewelry from the body prior to ritual. They believe the pieces detract from the energies raised, inhibiting the natural flow. On the other hand, most occultists feel that if the piece is properly charged, the magickal act is actually emphasized and the raising of energy can be better directed for a specific purpose. This debate goes hand in hand with the ideas of body piercings being either beneficial or detrimental additions to magickal work. Some believe that when used in ritual, metal is conductive to spiritual vibrations and that simply wearing it presents a suitable image of oneself to the gods and spirits, filled to the brim with sacred symbolism. This is especially beneficial when each piece has been previously charged with magickal intent.
This article examines metal jewelry and the metaphysical associations of metal in particular.
Jewelry reserved solely for ritual and ceremonial purposes are called bigghes. This separates ordinary jewelry from sacred jewelry. Bigghes originally referred to a High Priestess’ ceremonial jewelry but is now used more to refer to any Witch’s jewels.
Some choose to physically protect their bigghes outside of circle in order to ensure that no external energies become attached to the piece, keeping them hidden in a secret place unless ceremony decrees. A popular method is to wrap the ornament in cloth, specifically black for protection. Some choose to reserve certain jewelry for nocturnal rites and others for diurnal, keeping the jewelry attuned to specific ritualistic energies alone. Jewelry can be attuned to any additional purpose imaginable, whether zodiacal, planetary, emotional, intellectual, based in the chakras, or attuned to a piece’s specific symbolism.
Chinese Mysticism, Taoism and Metal:
Spirit is commonly referred to as an individual element in Paganism and Wicca. This recognition places an emphasis on the Divine as the most important aspect making up reality. On the Neopagan pentacle or pentagram, Spirit is placed at the highest point, understood as supreme because it unifies the elements and seals them all together. Though Paganism recognizes Spirit individually, ancient Chinese mysticism sees no separation between Spirit and the other elements. All intertwine and interconnect perfectly, forming the Universe and everything in it. The existence of chi is understood as connecting their conception of the physical elements. The recognition of the five Chinese elements came about before humankind drew a strict separation between reality and spirituality. Therefore, it was unnecessary at the time to consider Spirit individualistically. Some Pagans use the Chinese elements instead of the traditional Pagan ones, while most do not.
In Paganism, metals first and foremost correspond to the element Earth. In ancient Chinese mystical systems such as Taoism, the element Metal is said to encompass all forms of rock and mineral life. In the Taoist practice of Feng Shui, metal represents inner strength, determination, and receptivity. Physically, metal expands when heated. This reiterates the energetic receptivity of metal, that is, if one understands that physical reality (the metal itself) as a reflection of the spiritual. Within Chinese spiritual systems, its energy also dominates the autumnal season and draws energy inward for personal reflection and centering on the subconscious mind. In Chinese astrology, Metal rules the birth signs Monkey and Rooster as their fixed element. In more detailed Chinese astrology, the element ruling each animal rotates continuously while certain attributions remain fixed, so that each birth year has an additional correspondence. Those ruled by Metal tend to be confident, aggressive, and assertive in nature.
Metal is said to correspond to the physical body’s lungs. The lungs hold the sacred breath of life. This is recognized in Buddhist vipassana (breathing or ‘insight’) meditation, which, though having originated with early Theravada Buddhism (which is a school of Hinayana or Early Conservative Buddhism) is common in the Chinese Chan (Zen) Buddhist tradition as well. The skin also breathes and is therefore also ruled by Metal. The nose and mouth are also included, as they are gateways of the breath. Finally, the large intestine corresponds to Metal, as oxygen in the diaphragm regulates abdominal pressure. Deep breathing is essential to keep the blood flowing and the body moving.
In Chinese alchemy, seven metals are specifically emphasized: Iron, Copper, Silver, Tin, Gold, Mercury, and Lead. Each represents a particular stage in the development of humanity. Each corresponds to a planet, having specific astrological correspondences (see the following chart) . Planetary associations to metals came about as a result of the development of various alchemical sciences. The symbolism of “seven” is reflected in the western seven-point star called the septagram, and in the traditional Hermetic hexagram, wherein six planets represent each point of the symbol, with the sun resting in the center. The number seven is also significant in the Vedic Hindu chakra system as the body contains seven main “light wheel” energetic vortexes along the spine.
Additional Pointers on Magickal Jewelry:
When searching for jewelry, or crafting it oneself, one must be mindful of the piece both in a magickal sense and physical sense. Magickal jewelry should be an extension of the practitioner’s internal spiritual being. Not only is a piece’s symbolism significant, but its physical origin and placement on the body are of additional importance.
Sadly, due to corporatism, much jewelry is mass-manufactured overseas. Most of these pieces are made of tin, pewter, or reconstituted silver. These kinds of metals hold a low concentration of energy, in turn causing them to be more difficult to enchant or imbue with magickal properties. Though the price of “real” metal may be considerably higher than the mass-produced, it’s spiritually and aesthetically worth it! Naturally, handmade pieces hold more sentimental and actual value, even if the wearer does not personally know the creator. Each handmade piece is unique and can both conduct and hold a greater capacity of personal energy.
As an aside, please be a good Witch by asking the source (supplier) for the gemstones and crystals you wear; if stones are not ethically mined, whether in terms of the ecosystem or the human labor involved, it won’t carry good karma for you or anyone else.
I believe that jewelry should not be worn nonchalantly; the wearer should have a good amount of knowledge about the symbol they bear and should carry personal sentiments for the piece. Far too many people walk around with flashy symbols completely unaware of the meaning—occult bling, basically.
In addition to having a personal connection to the symbolism of the jewelry, one should always be aware of the reaction it evokes from onlookers. How does the symbol affect other people; what emotions does it have the potential of bringing about in the viewer based on what it might represent to them? Perhaps a Seal of Saturn or Baphomet pendant aren’t the best pieces to wear to the dentist’s office or to a parent-teacher conference. They would, however, be perfect for a Pagan festival or a night at the club!
Any item added to the body naturally influences the body’s energetic flow. Metals have specific properties, which can either inhibit or increase the energetic flow in the area in which it is worn. If a piece is worn near a chakra, it will likely have some sort of influence simply because of energetic proximity (especially if the piece has been enchanted) . The area on which one wears their jewelry carries particular importance. Which brings us to this fabulous list!
Fashioned as a perfect circle, the ring represents eternity, reincarnation, and the cycles of the Universe. It acts as a smaller representation of the magician’s sacred circle. Because of the ring’s shape, magickal energy flows very well through it when charged. Its smoothness and shape symbolizes life’s perpetual cycles.
The ring has long been associated with love. It is a symbol of unity in modern marriage and handfasting ceremonies, solidifying the connectedness between two people and the influence of the Divine in ritual. The ring is placed on the third finger of the left hand, which was once believed to have a vein or nerve in it connecting to the heart. This was actually a misunderstanding by the Egyptians, later adopted by Greeks and finally Europeans.
Magickal folk have long worn rings. The famous Babylonian magician King Solomon had a ring called Solomon’s Seal, which mythically allowed him to accomplish any task he wished, including controlling demons, genii, and other spirits.
Rings can be magickally imbued with any purpose the wearer desires. Because they sit directly on the flesh, the energy of the charged ring has a constant connection with the body. Rings worn on the projecting hand (the hand you write with) should be imbued with properties you wish to project to others such as healing, awareness, peace, and so forth. Rings worn on the receiving hand should be imbued with properties you wish to invite into yourself. (Please be a mindful Witch, magically, not a selfish Witch; there are far too many of the former and not enough of the latter!)
For some wearers, the finger on which the ring is worn is of extreme importance. Traditional Hermetic elemental attributions are as such:
Thumb – Water
Pointer – Fire
Middle – Spirit
Ring – Earth
Pinky – Air
One can also channel the elements through the fingers when inviting them into ritual space. In some modern traditions, the associations between the ring finger and the thumb are switched. This actually makes more sense to me than the former, considering that the thumb is more solid or earthy, and the ring finger is more undulant or watery. I do believe that the finger best associated with Spirit is the middle because it’s the longest of the five. Think twice before flipping someone off… your spirit may be open for anyone to grab!
Necklaces are a part of every culture and are included in popular myths. A necklace called the brisingamen was worn by the goddess Freyja in Norse mythology. The necklace was made of gold, created by dwarfs, and was associated with the ability to bring out the beauty of the wearer. The enchanted necklace was later stolen by the trickster deity Loki—go figure!
Necklaces absolutely surround the wearer with the energies of the piece, mending its energy with that of the wearer constantly throughout the day. This is one reason the jewelry worn should be chosen with care! Necklaces can hang at the throat or heart area. Therefore, the piece works with energies of each: The heart chakra is associated with the color green and contains the vibratory qualities of love, compassion, empathy, and understanding. The throat chakra is believed to be blue in color, connected to energies of communication and self-worth. The jewelry worn on each chakra point can be attuned directly to these associations, or simply carry their own magickal charge using these chakra points as an entryway into the energy body.
Fashioned in a circular form, bracelets hold similar properties to rings.
Wearing empowered bracelets on each wrist is extremely effective for imbuing the magician with particular vibrations, either balancing one’s energy or attuning it to an intended purpose. For this reason, bracelets are especially good for magick of a self-transformative nature. (Many would argue that this is the most important magick there is.) Bracelets made of stone or a series of threaded stones can be highly charged with magickal associations appropriate to the stone. Metal bracelets carry associations with the list of metals (to follow) , while magnetic bracelets are reserved for a specific energy healing practice called magnotherapy.
Ear piercings were once thought to guard against disease, head pain, and “sinful words.” This is more in the realm of superstition than magick, but earrings can still carry magickal associations. Because earrings in pairs are oftentimes worn on opposite sides of the head, they may be empowered with balance and equilibrium. Throughout the day, energies bounce from one earring to the other and thus through the head. If enchanted as magickal polarities, earrings can lend an extreme amount of power to the wearer, especially if the symbolism, structure, or content of the pieces are considered.
Ceremonial crowns are so very sexy. They are most common with females because of their historic usage, though some male practitioners like wearing Horned God crowns or those aligned to the Holly King or Oak King as popularized by poet Robert Graves. In traditional Wicca, the Coven’s Priest and Priestess wear crowns, symbolizing a connection to the gods. Most crowns are made of sterling silver; the well-made ones tend to be fairly pricy. If the Lady chooses to wear her ceremonial crown outside of circle, she best be prepared to live in magickal consciousness the whole day through, standing strong and spiritually aware as a Priestess of the Goddess. Some people wear tiaras and crowns non-ceremonially, for fashion’s sake. This is simply for decoration, but as with all jewelry, it may be used to top off a magickal, enchanting outfit.
What kind of metal is it?
I have always seen molded metal (such as jewelry) as corresponding to both the elements Earth and Fire, regardless of the type. Metal is a natural substance of the earth, and is melted, molded, and crafted with a process involving extreme heat from fire in order to take on a shape. The element Earth represents strength, grounding, and connection to Mother Earth. It is the rational and logical portion of the human psyche. Fire represents passion, motivation, and strength. Its flame is a guiding light to spiritual awakening. Beyond the concept of Earth-Fire connectedness, the various metals also carry their own unique correspondences based on their vibrational currents. Metal jewelry may be worn to draw upon Earth and Fire alone, or magickally worked upon to fine-tune the specific qualities of the individual metal.
The Witches’ athamé and sword are metal tools, used to pierce between the worlds and serve as strong energy conduits. Though I may draw Earth-Fire correlations with physical metal, the magickal blades are ruled under the element Air in western occultism (like Hermeticism) , and thus Wicca. This makes sense, as a blade is used in ritual to project intention, command forces, and direct energies; the force of will behind it can easily align with the element Air.
The following is a list of generally recognized associations with various types of metals. I invite readers to reference this list when purchasing or creating magickal metallic jewelry.
Brass – Deflecting Harm, Fire Magick, Healing, Love, Luck, Mental Powers, Money, Protection. (See also Copper)
Bronze – (See Copper and Tin)
Copper – Amplifying Energy, Balance, Beauty, Calming, Clarity, Compassion, Conducting Energy, Confidence, Cooperation, Creativity, Divination, Emotions, Empathy, Fire Magick, Friendship, Harmony, Healing, Intuition, Love, Luck, Lust, Money, Motivation, Newness, Passion, Physical Health, Pleasure, Preventing Illness, Prosperity, Psychic Development, Sexuality, Sociability, Strengthening Spells, Sustenance, Unity.
Gold – Acceptance, Affirmation, Art, Assertion, Balance, Calming, Courage, Creativity, Dedication, Direction, Energy, Esteem, God Invocation, Guidance, Happiness, Healing, Health, Individuality, Inspiration, Life Choices, Male Mysteries, Mental Powers, Money, Power, Prosperity, Protection, Purification, Realization, Rebirth, Satisfaction, Seasonal Connectedness, Self Awareness, Spiritual Direction, Strength, Study, Success, Wisdom.
Iron – Action, Aggression, Balance, Change, Chaos, Courage, Cursing, Deflecting Harm, Determination, Emotional Control, Extraterrestrial Communication, Faerie Magick, Facing Challenges, Grounding, Healing, Instincts, Justice, Motivation, Physical Health, Protection, Pursuance, Releasing Anger, Sexuality, Strength, Strengthening Spells, Success, Wealth, Willpower.
Lead – Ambition, Banishing, Binding, Boundaries, Business, Change, Chaos, Cleansing, Cursing, Death Magick, Deflecting Harm, Discipline, Divination, Exorcism, Fear-Based Issues, Freedom, Grounding, Habit Breaking, Healing, Introspection, Introversion, Laws, Magickal Petitions, Materialism, Meditation, Necromancy, New Beginnings, Past Life Regression, Protection, Receiving, Recurring Cycles, Releasing, Restrictions and Freedoms, Self Control, Stability, Strengthening Spells, Thaumaturgy, Transformation, Wishes.
Pewter – (See Copper and Tin)
Platinum – Abundance, Balance, Channeling, Communication, Friendship, Growth, Health, Hope, Intuition, Love, Materialism, Memory, Mental Powers, Money, Optimism, Psychic Powers, Sustenance, Transformation, Upperworld Communication. (See also Iron)
Silver – Acceptance, Alignment, Art, Astral Projection, Balance, Beauty, Care, Communication, Dance, Divination, Dreaming, Eloquence, Empathy, Female Mysteries, Fertility, Gardening, Goddess Invocation, Guidance, Healing, Hope, Inspiration, Intuition, Love, Lunar Attunement, Meditation, Menstrual Attunement, Money, Night Magick, Nourishment, Nurturing, Optimism, Peace, Personality, Prosperity, Protection, Psychic Powers, Purity, Self Reflection, Sensitivity, Study, Travel, Wealth.
Steel – Deflecting Harm, Divination, Dream Protection, Grounding, Healing, Protection, Stability. (See also Iron)
Tin – Abundance, Balance, Creativity, Divination, Expansiveness, Generosity, Growth, Healing, Health, Hope, Ideas, Intuition, Justice, Learning, Love, Luck, Mental Powers, Money, Opportunities, Philosophy, Prosperity, Spiritual Awareness, Success, Travel, Wisdom.
The Broke College Student: How To Obtain Some Magickal Tools
As my senior year of college comes to an end and I look back on the years I spent here, I wish to share my thoughts — as a broke college student exploring spirituality and coming to Wicca or another Pagan path — on how you too might obtain some of the basic magickal tools.
Magickal tools like the athame, the cauldron, the wand, the pentacle and many, many others have permeated Pagan culture since our roots. They’re some of the most identifiable aspects of many Pagan paths, and I know of very few, limited though my knowledge may be, who do away completely with those traditional trappings. Even in this day and age, magickal tools still hold a special place in Paganism. We love our tools, and many, if not all of them, would be almost impossible for us to part with.
That said, for the seeker entering a Wiccan or Pagan path, these tools present two challenges: On the one hand, many people feel these tools are completely necessary in order to be considered legitimate in their practice. I won’t deny I felt this way when I first came to Wicca, and there’s still a small part of me (growing smaller every day, but still present in my mind) that feels the need to have these tools in order to work ‘proper’ magick. Much of what we read and watch seems to only confirm these feelings that one cannot be a Witch or Pagan or follow any spiritual path without the proper tools. I’ve read many Wiccan books that stress the necessity of these tools, their importance and place in the circle. Even Pagan non-fiction seems to subtly hint at how important they are.
And these feelings lead to the second challenge for seekers: budget. In today’s economy, the typical college student (at least, from my experience) doesn’t always have a lot of money to spend. What money we do have is usually put towards paying tuition, buying text books, getting something to eat, buying clothes, doing laundry in many cases, paying rent for apartments, and paying for countless other expenses. For some, parents or legal guardians provide most of the monetary aid for everyday expenses, and asking them for money for magickal tools can be difficult (if not impossible) depending on how they feel about the student-in-question’s spiritual decisions. For those who don’t or can’t rely on parental monetary aid (and even for those who do) , work provides the majority of our budget, and many times the budget can’t be stretched to include the purchase of that beautiful new wand.
Also, many magickal tools available on the market today are often expensive, depending on the labor and materials involved in creating them. I remember many a time when I’ve admired a gorgeous handcrafted athame, looked at the price tag, and cringed at how expensive it was. Sticker shock doesn’t just apply to mundane expenses, and even those who have a stable source of income looking for magickal tools, college student or not, may still feel it. As I’m thinking about it now, younger Pagans have an even harder time of it. Often times, they will not have a paying job and may rely on a small allowance that they will either want to spend on other things or can’t use to purchase magickal tools for whatever reason.
Okay, enough with the doom and gloom. Let’s talk about ways to alleviate these problems.
First, I want to say this: the most important tool in any spiritual path is your own will. This is the most powerful tool you have, and it doesn’t cost anything. We are born with it, we develop it over the course of our lives, and it’s something we can’t misplace. In many of the books I’ve read about Wicca, Witchcraft and Paganism (and in my own experience) , the individual will is the most important tool and necessitates no other tool.
I know, you’re probably saying, “Luna, what are you talking about? Are you saying all magickal tools aside from the will aren’t necessary?” Well, let’s think about this. No matter what tools are used in a ritual, they are used to carry out the will of the individual towards change (hopefully positive change) that will better one’s life. Without that will behind the tools, magick cannot take place. Are those tools still valuable to the individual Pagan? Of course! I doubt we’d still be using them today if they weren’t important. But it’s important to understand that the tools are extensions of your own will, and that your own will is the most important tool you will ever have.
I’m guessing a lot of you are wondering why I say this. Well, for most of my Wiccan experience, I haven’t always had the tools I wanted. It took a couple years before I bought my first pentacle, and, at the time of writing this, I still do not own an athame or wand. Yet I’ve found that, even without these tools, my magick is still effective. Why is that? Because, no matter how many tools I have to help me, it has been my will powering the magick. It’s because I want to bring about the changes I wish to see in my life, whether it’s helping to heal my dog after her third knee surgery or wishing my friends luck in dealing with various challenges. My will is what enables my magick, and it’s something I doubt I could live without.
Now, for those of you who still want these tools, fear not. There are ways to acquire them without giving up an arm or a leg. And I want to suggest one that not only has proved successful for me but will hopefully be accessible to almost everyone reading this: art classes.
Yes, I said art classes.
It might be my experience as an art major, but this is one of the most effective and meaningful ways to acquire magickal tools. Most if not all schools, regardless of level, provide art classes for their students and even require students to take some in order to graduate. Even community education programs offer a variety of art classes to the public for those of us in the working world. For those younger Pagans still enrolled in school, this will often be free to you (relatively speaking, given how our taxes fund your education here in the U.S.) and, since you’re already taking these classes, it’s worth it to make something meaningful. Not only that, but you also have access to teachers who know how to work with the materials successfully and safely.
About a year and a half ago, I spent a field experience for my Educational Psychology class helping out with a number of elementary school art classes, where the teachers even invited me to participate in the projects and make my own work, if only to provide an example to the children. At the time, the kids were entering their ceramics unit, creating columns and plates and other items. From the projects I worked on with those kids, I gained a chalice and pentacle, both of which still sit on my bookshelf at home today and still use in ritual.
But more than this accessibility, art classes and projects give you not only the ability to create these tools but to infuse them with your own spirit and make them unique to you. I think I speak for myself, as well as many Pagan artisans who make tools, that there is something special about making tools with your own hands. Just this last semester, I made several chalices through my ceramics class, and this semester for my senior seminar I’m hoping to make my own cauldron. In our world today, I feel that, with the availability of almost anything via the Internet, we may have lost touch with this aspect of our magickal lives. In fact, I’m willing to state outright that, while there is something to be said for purchasing a beautiful cauldron from a Pagan artisan (and indeed, this helps support the artisan’s livelihood and should be encouraged) , there’s definitely something special, a feeling irreplaceable, that comes with crafting your own tools by hand.
Magickal tools are meaningful and often essential parts of the Pagan experience, and many times acquiring them is difficult for a variety of circumstances but it is not impossible… even for the broke college student. Always remember that you already have the most important and powerful tool: you.
Incense of the Day
4 Parts Frankincense
3 Parts Myrrh
2 Parts benzoin
1 Part sandalwood
1 Part Gardenia petals
1/2 Part Orris
1/2 Part thyme
1/2 part Poppy Seed
1/2 part Rose petals
Burn during rituals and spells on the Full Moon, or at any Wiccan gathering other than the Sabbats.
Crystal of the Day
Herb of the Day
Deity of the Day
Greek Goddess of Wisdom
She sums up many of the Greeks’ gifts to Western culture, from philosophy to olive oil to the Parthenon. Athena, daughter of Zeus, joined the Olympians in a dramatic way and figured in many founding myths, including taking an active part in the Trojan War. She was the patron of the city of Athens; its iconic Parthenon was her shrine. And as the goddess of wisdom, the strategy of war, and the arts and crafts (agriculture, navigation, spinning, weaving, and needlework), she was one of the most important gods to the ancient Greeks.
The Birth of Athena
Athena is said to have emerged fully formed from the head of Zeus, but there is a backstory. One of Zeus’ many loves was an Oceanid named Metis. When she became pregnant, the King of Gods remembered the danger he posed to his own father, Cronos, and in turn, how Cronos dealt with his father Ouranos. Wary of continuing the cycle of patricide, Zeus swallowed his lover.
But Metis, in the darkness of Zeus’ interior, continued to carry her child. After some time, the King of Gods came down with a royal headache. Calling upon the blacksmith god Hephaestus (some myths say it was Prometheus), Zeus asked that his head be split open, whereupon sprang gray-eyed Athena in her glory.
Myths About Athena
Befitting the patron of one of Hellas’ greatest city-states, Greek goddess Athena appears in many classic myths. Some of the most famous ones include:
Athena and Arachne: Here, the Goddess of the Loom takes a skilled but boastful human down a peg, and by transforming Arachne into tiny, eight-legged weaver, invents the spider.
The Gorgon Medusa: Another tale of Athena’s vengeful side, the fate of Medusa was sealed when this beautiful priestess of Athena was wooed by Poseidon in the goddess’ own shrine. Snakes for hair and a petrifying gaze ensued.
The Contest for Athens: Once again pitting the grey-eyed goddess against her uncle Poseidon, the contest for the patronage of Athens was decided for the god who bestowed the best gift to the city. Poseidon brought forth a magnificent (salt water) spring, but wise Athena gifted an olive tree—source of fruit, oil, and wood. She won.
The Judgement of Paris: In the unenviable position of judging a beauty contest between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, the Trojan Paris put his money on the one Romans would call Venus.
His prize: Helen of Troy, née Helen of Sparta, and the enmity of Athena, who would tirelessly back the Greeks in the Trojan War.
Athena Fact File
Goddess of Wisdom, Warcraft, Weaving, and Crafts
Pallas Athena, Athena Parthenos, and the Romans called her Minerva
Aegis—a cloak with the head of Medusa upon it, spear, pomegranate, owl, helmet. Athena is described as gray-eyed (glaukos).
Powers of Athena:
Athena is the goddess of wisdom and crafts. She is the patron of Athens.
Ancient sources for Athena include: Aeschylus, Apollodorus, Callimachus, Diodorus Siculus, Euripides, Hesiod, Homer, Nonnius, Pausanias, Sophocles and Strabo.
A Son for a Virgin Goddess:
Athena is a virgin goddess, but she has a son. Athena is credited with being part-mother of Erichthonius, a half-snake half-man creature, through an attempted rape by Hephaestus, whose seed spilled on her leg. When Athena wiped it off, it fell to earth (Gaia) who became the other part-mother.
The people of Athens built a great temple for Athena on the acropolis, or high point, of the city. The temple is known as the Parthenon. In it was a colossal gold and ivory statue of the goddess. During the annual Panathenaia festival, a procession was made to the statue and she was clothed in a new outfit.
Since Athena was born without a mother — sprung from her father’s head — in an important murder trial, she decided that the role of the mother was less essential in creation than the role of the father. Specifically, she sided with the matricide Orestes, who had kiled his mother Clytemnestra after she had killed her husband and his father Agamemnon.