‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler
Are you one of those people who degrades yourself in idle conversation until it becomes a fact within your mind? Has it become your belief that this is true humility, talking down your abilities, hiding your light, refusing to accept your rights as a child of God as being meek and humble?
This thing called life is given to us for a purpose, never to downgrade; no more than we should blow it out of proportion by thinking too highly of ourselves.
Each life is important, each breath for a purpose, each moment a time for learning. Walt Whitman has written in “Leaves of Grass”: “Whoever you are! Motion and reflection are especially for you; the divine ship sails the divine sea for you. Whoever you are! You are he or she for whom the earth is solid and liquid, you are he or she for whom the sun and moon hang in the sky, for none more than you are the present and the past. For none more than you is immortality.”
By our words we reveal our minds. It is so easy to refuse to be a channel through which the best can reveal itself. And it is so easy to forget that our song of life, as Whitman has written, “The song is to the singer, and comes back most to him. I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be complete!”
Human beings worry a great deal about what others think. It is a nagging worry that somehow the curtain that protects our privacy from the eyes of the world will suddenly drop and allow us to see all the things our pride has hidden.
Why is it that we seemingly need to be clever in order to handle the world? Why can’t we just live honestly and openly, without scheming and trying to appear that we are something we are not? The world is so heavy laden with priggish pride that the clean simple truth is lost in playing it cool. Why can’t we quit being something pent up inside and be something like sunshine or showers right out here where we can enjoy it or get over it?
Socrates said that the shortest and surest way to live with honor in the world is to be in reality what we would appear to be. And we may just as well, because if there isn’t a good cake under all that frosting, someone is going to know it anyway. To drop all pretense and say with genuine honesty, “This is the way I am” would be to find a whole new way of enjoying the simplicity of being ourselves.
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
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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 – April 5
“As we plunge ahead to build empires and race for supremacy we should stop and listen to [the female] song of life. For without the female there is no life.”
–Oren R. Lyons, Spokesman, Traditional Circle of Elders
Women are created with the ability to produce life. Women have a special tie to the Earth Mother. They have something in common. They are the source of life. The Earth Mother gives songs to the Woman to sing. These songs are about life, about beauty, about children, about love, about family, about strength, about caring, about nurturing, about forgiveness, about God. The World needs to pay attention and listen to Her. She knows.
Great Spirit, let me listen to Her songs.
April 5 – Daily Feast
Think for yourself. Stop living by tradition that promises you the moon and gives you a rock to carry. Think things through – if one way looks easier than another, take the bolder way. Don’t think what it is going to get you but what it is going to build in you. Some things feed the body and some the spirit. Go with the spirit – it already knows what you need to know.
~ Let us form one body, one heart, and defend to the last warrior our country, our homes, our liberty, and the graves of our fathers. ~
TECUMSEH – SHAWNEE, 1808
“A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume II” by Joyce Sequichie Hifler
The Daily Motivator message for
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Dos and don’ts
Care about other people, not about what they think of you. Focus on doing what’s right, not on proving you’re right.
Let happiness be the fuel for your actions all along the way, rather than just a reward at the end. Allow joy to flow out from you instead of expecting it to be given to you.
Create value out of what you have instead of making excuses out of what you lack. Set your goals high but not so high that you fail to act.
Be dependable and reliable without being tedious and predictable. Live fully in the moment today while working to create an even better tomorrow.
Expect the very best while gracefully accepting and dealing with whatever life brings. Think before you act, but don’t let thinking take the place of actions.
Sing your own special song in harmony with all the other songs being sung. Make each moment you inhabit the best for all who are there.
© 2016 Ralph S. Marston, Jr.
From The Daily Motivator website at http://greatday.com/motivate/160405.html
The Message of Pain
Both emotional and physical pain are messages that we need to stop and pay attention.
When we feel pain, our first impulse is often to eradicate it with medication. This is an understandable response, but sometimes in our hurry to get rid of pain, we forget that it is the body’s way of letting us know that it needs our attention. A headache can inform us that we’re hungry or stressed just as a sore throat might be telling us that we need to rest our voice. If we override these messages instead of respond to them, we risk worsening our condition. In addition, we create a feeling of disconnectedness between our minds and our bodies.
Physical pain is not the only kind of pain that lets us know our attention is needed. Emotional pain provides us with valuable information about the state of our psyche, letting us know that we have been affected by something and that we would do well to focus our awareness inward. Just as we tend to a cut on our arm by cleaning and bandaging it, we treat a broken heart by surrounding ourselves with love and support. In both cases, if we listen to our pain we will know what to do to heal ourselves. It’s natural to want to resist pain, but once we understand that it is here to give us valuable information, we can relax a bit more, and take a moment to listen before we reach for medication. Sometimes this is enough to noticeably reduce the pain, because its message has been heard. Perhaps we seek to medicate pain because we fear that if we don’t, it will never go away. It can be empowering to realize that, at least some of the time, it is just a matter of listening and responding.
The next time you feel pain, either physical or emotional, you might want to try listening to your own intuition about how to relieve your pain. Maybe taking a few deep breaths will put an end to that headache. Perhaps writing in your journal about hurt feelings will ease your heart. Ultimately, the message of pain is all about healing.
Traditional vs. Eclectic: We’re Not “All One Wicca”
[Please note: For the purposes of this piece, the terms “Wicca” and “Wiccan (s) ” will refer to the British Traditional family of religious Witchcraft Traditions and those who follow them, the Traditions then including, but not limited to, such lines as Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Moshian, Blue Star, etc. “Neo-Wicca” and “Neo-Wiccan (s), ” then, indicate the perhaps more wide-spread and certainly more widely known Eclectic (and often Solitary) practices espoused by such authors as Scott Cunningham, Fiona Horne, Silver Ravenwolf, and others, the majority of them published by Llewellyn Books. I also use the term “Witch” interchangeably with “Wiccan, ” since nearly all Wiccans contend that they are indeed Witches.]
Anyone who’s been a part of the Wiccan or Neo-Wiccan communities for more than a week is undoubtedly aware of the schism between these two groups. The cause of much frustration for Wiccans is that some Neo-Wiccans misunderstand the distinction made between the practices. Wiccans contend that, while there is nothing wrong or bad or invalid or worthless about the practices of Neo-Wiccans, it is nonetheless a separate and distinct practice (or practices, as Neo-Wicca is Eclectic, after all) from Wicca; neither is better (except in a personal preference, subjective sense), but they are certainly different.
Many Neo-Wiccans, on the other hand, dislike that this distinction is made at all. Some are even offended by the use of “Neo-Wicca” or any classification other than “Wicca, ” but are yet very adamant that “we don’t do that, ” meaning that they find some aspects of Wicca ridiculous, unnecessary, or even offensive. It leads one to ask, if it’s all the same thing, then why isn’t it all… well, the same?
This piece is meant to serve as an outline of how much these two groupings of paths really do differ, and to explain some of the more controversial aspects of Wicca that draw much negative attention and criticism from some Neo-Wiccans. The biggest dividing factor, that then encompasses others, is the Wiccan practice of oathbound secrecy.
Many Wiccan Traditions are esoteric, oathbound practices. This means that there are certain things that are not to be revealed to non-initiates, and that initiates swear an oath to protect those aspects (an oath that they are then expected to keep for the rest of their lives, even if they choose to leave the Tradition at a later time). This is not meant to be used as an ego-trip or a form of elitism, but is instead in place to protect the experience of the Tradition and its rites and Mysteries. However, Wiccans do not contend that their path is the only way one may reach and experience the Mysteries, just that this is the way that suits them. What is usually kept secret, then, are the names of the Gods, the specifics of ritual, the identities (Magickal and mundane) of those who participate in the rituals, the tools used in ritual, and any other non-ritual contents of the Tradition’s Book of Shadows.
God-names are kept secret because They (the God and Goddess honored) are considered “tribal, ” wholly unique to the Tradition. In non-initiate training rituals, a Priest and Priestess may choose to utilize place-holder names of similar Deities, ones with compatible traits, qualities, and associations. However, some may choose to simply use the non-specific terms “God and Goddess” or “Lord and Lady” instead of proper names. That decision is left up to the Priest and Priestess of the ritual/group. If place-holder names are used, they are then a tool to help teach those in training about the God and Goddess they will meet and commune with during and after initiation, so that there will be some degree of familiarity once the initiate comes to face the Gods of their chosen Tradition.
The specifics of ritual, as was aforementioned, are not told to non-initiates to protect the experience. Think of it this way; you and a friend both want to see a newly premiered movie, and your friend gets the opportunity to attend a showing before you do. How impolite and improper would it be for your friend to not only tell you every single detail of the film (including the ending), but also the emotions it will evoke from you, and the impact it would have on your life in general? I’m betting anyone would be pretty darn upset.
This is the same reasoning behind Wiccan rituals being kept secret, so that each initiate who experiences them does so as “untainted” as possible. This explains secrecy in regards to those seeking initiation, but for those who do not, a similar analogy is appropriate; if you see a movie but your friend has absolutely no interest in it, regardless of your opinion of said movie, they probably won’t want to hear about it at all. The logic then is that, since those not seeking initiation are assumed to be uninterested in the Tradition all together, what reason do they have to concern themselves with its practices?
Additionally, this secrecy maintains the authenticity of the rituals, and also the integrity of the initiating line back to the Tradition’s founder. Thus, the rituals cannot be altered or misused, and only those experienced in the Tradition’s Mysteries can go on to teach them to others.
As far as participants’ identities go, that’s fairly self-explanatory on one level; “outing” someone as a Witch is not something taken lightly, regardless of where one counts one’s self on the spectrum Wicca has become. But there is another level to it, in that Wiccans tend keep their lineage oathbound as well. One’s lineage is the line of initiating High Priestesses that leads from one initiate back to the founder of the Tradition, be they Gerald Gardner, Alex Sanders, etc.
And lastly, the tools used and the other, non-ritual contents of the Book of Shadows (BoS) are oathbound because they are related to the specifics of Wiccan practice and experience, and so revealing them can take away from those elements, just as describing pivotal scenes from a movie can taint the enjoyment of the whole thing.
These levels of secrecy and occultism (where “occult” takes on its more accurate meaning of “hidden or secret; to be known only by the initiated”) are a stumbling block to some Neo-Wiccans; they cannot fathom the reasons other than to make Wiccans feel special or better somehow, but as illustrated above, there are very real and important reasons.
Some folks though cannot find it in themselves to abide by these guidelines, but still feel the desire to walk a similar path. Partly because of this, Neo-Wicca and its policy of openness and universality were born. Neo-Wiccans are free to follow any and all God forms that may call or appeal to them, regardless of cultural or religious origin. Neo-Wiccans are also more prone to share their ritual scripts and spells with others. Some even post the entirety of their BoSs online or otherwise make it available for public consumption, such as through published books, which then are a large part of Neo-Wiccan learning materials.
Conversely, learning Wicca involves a specified path that utilizes the repetition of form to facilitate function; the actual movements and words are the same at each ritual, however it is the experience that differs and is truly the most important. This is an orthopraxic approach, that of correct practices leading to Divine experience, rather than orthodoxic, that of correct belief.
While many of us have come to associate “orthodox” with meaning oppressive or outdated and referring specifically to Christianity as often as not, if one simply takes the word at its face value, then Neo-Wicca is in fact an orthodox practice; as long as one believes the “right” things, then one is Neo-Wiccan and then can practice it in whatever fashion one desires.
But what are the “right” beliefs? Is it the duality and balance of God and Goddess? Not according to those called Dianic Wiccans, who hold the Goddess superior to the God, if He is even recognized at all. Additionally, as stated before, Wiccan God names are specific to each Tradition and oathbound, so by default Neo-Wiccans do not and cannot honor the God and Goddess by those same identities, so neither does “right belief“ include the specific Deity forms.
Is it then following the Wiccan Rede? That’s not it either, since there are practitioners out there who discard the Rede all together and still lay claim to the “Wiccan title” (and yes, I’m aware that “rede” means “counsel or advice” and not “commandment, ” but I’ve yet to encounter a Wiccan who thinks its irrelevant).
What about celebrating the Sabbats? Well, okay, almost anyone along the Wicca/Neo-Wicca spectrum can agree that these eight points of the year are important, but what’s not agreed on is how one celebrates them, or even what they’re called (as far as I can tell, only Samhain, Yule, and Beltane are universally used names, the rest can vary). In some cases, the dates are even in dispute, since there are those who figure the Greater Sabbats relative to the Lesser Sabbats each year, marking them as the precise midpoints between the astronomical Solstices and Equinoxes rather than the “fixed” dates of the common calendar.
This final point segues nicely into another striking difference, that of ritual form and elements. Not all Neo-Wiccans cast a Circle in the same way nor include all the same components as others (in some cases, even the rituals for the same event differ each time they are performed) , and being that Wiccan ritual structure is oathbound, one can infer that Neo-Wiccan rituals bear little, if any, resemblance to their Traditional counterparts. If Wicca and Neo-Wicca was indeed the same thing, wouldn’t we all use the same rituals, honoring the same God forms in the same ways?
Wiccans also contend that only a Wiccan can make another Wiccan, that one cannot enter Wicca without someone to teach and guide them. A popular Neo-Wiccan counter to this comes from Scott Cunningham, and is something along the lines of, “but who made the first Wiccan? The God and Goddess. So who are we to be so bold and presumptuous as to usurp and appropriate Their power? Who has the real power to make a Wiccan?”
I can agree to a certain extent; the Wiccan Gods are responsible, to a degree, for Wicca’s existence, in that They provided the original inspiration, need, and desire for a way to honor Them. However, I also believe They intended for things to be done in just that way, else why would They have put the idea in a human mind? Why the need for rituals at all, if any way one honors them is acceptable?
Let me clarify – when I say “the Wiccan Gods, ” I mean those names, faces, forms, aspects, and attributes that are oathbound and specific to the Traditions of Wicca. If Gods other than those have different desires and requirements, then so be it, but then They are not the Gods of Wicca, and therefore need not be honored in the Wiccan way.
The Wiccan way is one practiced by humans to reach out to and commune with the Wiccan Gods, and therefore only one who knows that way can teach that way. A dentist, while a medical professional, cannot teach someone to perform open-heart surgery. So it follows that someone inexperienced in the Wiccan Mysteries, regardless of any other gnosis, knowledge, and experience they may have gained, cannot teach them to anyone.
To add to this, in Wicca the initiating High Priest and High Priestess are seen as representations and “substitutes, ” if you will, of the God and Goddess on this material plane. They are infused with Divine Will and Power at the time of initiation (and in all other rites), so in the realism of non-duality, it IS the God and Goddess who are making new Wiccans, not “merely” other humans. However, the HP and HPS are specifically chosen and trained to perform these duties using the structure and methods of their Tradition.
A Neo-Wiccan, or anyone else who is not HP or HPS even if he/she is a Wiccan initiate, has no such training, and so cannot perform an initiation rite as the representative of the Wiccan Gods.
Clearly there is great disparity between not only practice, but also belief, between those called Wiccans and Neo-Wiccans. All this points to Neo-Wicca being an outgrowth of Wicca, rather than a continuation of it, much like Buddhism was an outgrowth of Hinduism. Buddhism and Hinduism both include the ideas of Karma, Dharma, and Samsara, Yantras, etc., but they differ on the nature and application of these ideas.
Buddhists do not recognize a pantheon of Gods in the way Hindus do, and also do not perform elaborate rituals. The two paths do have commonalities, but are distinct and separate belief systems. It would be improper, inaccurate, and doing a disservice to both paths if one was to say they are the same.
This can also be applied to Wicca and Neo-Wicca; Wicca recognizes a specific set of Gods, while Neo-Wicca does not. Wicca includes much formality and formulary in its rituals, which is not necessarily true of Neo-Wicca. They are related practices, one springing from the other, but they are fundamentally different, and it is improper, inaccurate, and doing a disservice to both to try and say that they are the same.
Of course, it’s all very well and good for these kinds of things to be said by someone who prefers Wicca to Neo-Wicca, someone who is seeking to walk the Gardnerian path. I concede that it would be far more impacting and impressive had this article or one similar been written by a Neo-Wiccan, because there’d be less risk of accusations of elitism, or discrimination, or exclusion. If, however, any Neo-Wiccan found truth in what I’ve presented here, I encourage them to write a similar piece, putting the focus on their practices, revealing the value and beauty that perhaps stems from the differences, rather than in spite of them.
What are the benefits of Solitary work? How is self-study more fulfilling than working under another’s tutelage? How does the tapestry of cultures and customs enrich your practice; is the old adage, “student of many trades, master of none” inaccurate?
I’m not personally looking to be convinced, I’ve found my home and my path, but that kind of piece may go a long way to strengthening other Neo-Wiccans’ sense of identity and purpose. And anyone finding peace and feeling whole on their spiritual journey is a beautiful thing, regardless of what that path may be called.
To Initiate or Not To Initiate – That Is The Question
I’m afraid I must admit that I am a confirmed fence-sitter when it comes to Initiation. When I began my journey, I encountered a lot of “either/or” thinking in the community. If you weren’t “properly” Initiated, you just weren’t a real Witch. Of course, at the negative extreme of this mentality, you have those who believe that only their Trad’s Initiation is valid, so by inference, even those Initiated into another Trad aren’t “real” Witches. Fortunately, such folk are few and far between, but they are out there.
At the time I started, I felt (for whatever reasons) that it was going to be quite difficult for me to locate a Coven/Trad, and so my chances of being “properly Initiated” were remote. Accordingly, I immediately became hostile to those who were, for lack of a better term, pro-Initiation, and threw my pointed hat into the ring with the large community of self-Initiates. And I was quite vocal and hostile to the pro-Initiation camp online.
Then, as Wyrd would have it, I did find a Trad at last, and was ultimately Initiated into that Trad. And that experience has certainly changed my opinion on Initiation, but perhaps not quite in the direction one might think.
After my 1st Degree Initiation, I was quite keen to continue my education, and advance to 2nd. But my Teacher made it quite clear that, from this point onward, it would be the Goddess and the God who did most of the teaching, it would be They who would determine when I was ready for 2nd, and it would be They who would confer that Initiation. Whatever was done on this plane would simply be recognition of what was bestowed by the Gods.
This certainly cast the whole concept of Initiation in a different light for me. If the Gods Themselves were going to be the instruments of my education and advancement from that point onward, certainly They could do the same for someone working Solitary! After all, who was I to say what is beyond Their abilities?
Now, as time has passed, my entire concept of Wicca and Witchcraft has changed. Today, when I think of myself as Wiccan, I think of the religion, the Trad, the Coven and the community. When I think of myself as a Witch, I think of my personal spirituality, my relationship with the Divine, my destiny and calling. Therefore I am firmly of the opinion that not all Wiccans are Witches and not all Witches are Wiccan. Today I believe that many of us are called directly by the Goddess and/or the God, and Initiated by Them in Their own way and in Their own time. I also believe – and here I’ll probably draw flak – that some Initiated Wiccans have never heard the call of the Goddess or God, nor been Initiated by Them. Does that make them “less” Wiccan? Certainly not. Many very accomplished Christian priests will readily admit to never having heard the “True Calling, ” while some folk who have have never even considered being clergy.
Wicca is a religion, and by definition, a community. Initiation is a symbol of acceptance of and into that community. As such, it is something that, for some people, is well worth seeking and once obtained, it should be honored and cherished. It is a mark of commitment, persistence, sacrifice and desire. It’s like getting a black belt in the martial arts. There was no great leap in skill and ability from brown belt to black, but when I won my shodan rank, all those years of work and dedication were compressed into and symbolized by that belt. I became not only a member of, but a leader in, that community. I still get a thrill when I tie that belt on. Just as I still get a thrill when I pick up my staff, the symbol, in my Trad, of 1st Degree.
Conversely, I believe that “self Initiation, ” that is Initiation bestowed directly by the Gods, is just as valid and valuable, and just as dearly to be sought, as Initiation by our fellow Wiccans or Witches. In fact, I could go so far as to say that Initiation from the Gods, whether validated by the community or not, is the only “real” Initiation.
I’ll wrap this up now, since this fence is getting pretty uncomfortable. I think that if one’s ultimate goal is to be a member of the Wiccan religion, then Initiation is a necessary achievement, but one which may not be readily available. If that is the case, then by all means Initiate yourself, until such time as you can find a Coven to “acknowledge” that Initiation. As long as you honestly and sincerely hear the call of the Goddess and God in your mind, heart and spirit, your self Initiation will be as binding as any other – perhaps more so! Even if you don’t “hear the call, ” go ahead and “act as if, ” – if you are really sincere, you will eventually hear the voices of the Goddess and God.
(As a side thought, I think what we really need in the Wiccan community is more recognition by the established Trads of the size and importance of our Solitary contingent. I propose that we work to establish a custom of providing some kind of “honorary” Initiations for those who seek that kind of recognition and validation from the community, but who never intend to formally join a Trad or Coven. An “associate membership” if you will. What are we afraid of? Is not the job of the Priest and the Priestess to serve the wider community? But you say – and rightly so – if we do that, won’t people come to us for Initiation who haven’t really “earned” it? Won’t they come to us for Initiation just so they can call themselves Wiccan? Certainly they will. And there are plenty of folks out there who have “bought” their black belts. But I believe that, in the end, those types get weeded out by the Gods. In the meantime, we could take a big step toward greater solidarity within our own spiritual community.)
If, and the other hand, you have no interest in joining Wicca, but still hear the call – well, that will be worked out between you and the Gods in Their own time!
In Their Service,
Which Witch? Philosophical and Psychological Roots of Wicca
Author: Radko Vacek
Here is the background story for the jackpot question! English folklore is a treasury of tales. Two of these are so old that they probably helped Jeoffrey Chaucer as a little boy (c. 1350) to develop his imagination to write The Canterbury Tales. Both folktales involve Witches. The one involves a Witch getting melted by water, which was incorporated into The Wizard of Oz. The second actually involves a Witch getting EATEN, by a little boy! Which Witch is she? For the jackpot, name that Witch! Tick-tick-tick- time’s up! Did you win? Check* at the end of this article!
I really did it this time! Here I am supposed to be a writer, and I make my entry as a game show host! Am I guilty of foolishness, rightly convicted to rejection?
No! I was guilty, but I CHOOSE to make myself innocent through the power of Witchcraft! As Witches, we can choose to do that, contrary to what Christians say. They say that the human condition is a coin which has the following two sides: 1) no matter what we ever do, never can we by our powers alone redeem our sins, and 2) no matter what we did, our souls can be saved, if we accept the love of God.
I say that whatever I did is irrelevant with respect to my status now, because I can choose to do this: to develop and use my power to magically transform my nature from weakness to strength, including in the moral sense from guilt to innocence. According to Christians, we are doomed to be sinners by our powerless nature, whereas we can exercise our power of choice to magically empower ourselves.
I agree with Christians up to this point: human nature strongly tends to be evil. The ideas of many prominent philosophers and writers over the ages were summarized by Dr. Sigmund Freud, in this statement in his book Civilization and Its Discontents: “Man is a savage beast”. First of all, man is an animal; it is impossible for any animal to ‘harm none’. No animal can make its own nutrients, as do plants in cooperation with the sun. All animals are in competition with one another to kill other life in order to sustain their own lives. Even so-called harmless hares are not, because they compete to kill plants to survive. Plants, although different from animals, are forms of life nonetheless.
In us, this harmfulness is especially pronounced through the powers of our human brains. The more powerful, the more dangerous, and this is especially important to us, empowered through choosing Witchcraft! We have a moral obligation to the world to abide 100% under ALL circumstances to the ideal of the Wiccan Rede, meaning always to avoid harming to the utmost limits of our capacities.
The vileness of our species is not limited to adults. In fact, it often is more pronounced in children. Many people love to sentimentally depict little children as little angels. Is that ever a joke! Generally, it is lucky that they don’t have the power coming with being big. In order to keep them under control, sometimes you must play the part of the wicked Witch of the West. How fascinating to note that Margaret Hamilton, who played her, started out teaching kindergarten! I bet she got practice for her most famous role with the little devils, nipping those horns at the buds. Young children have not developed their consciences enough to where they can nip those points themselves.
As we move on into our later childhoods and beyond, the conscience is nurtured into a more potent force, so that it starts to hurt our self-esteem to recognize ourselves as evil. This does not necessarily at all mean that we stop doing bad deeds. Our brains also grow, to where we can rationalize our bad deeds in order to keep feeling good about ourselves, even as we act cruelly. For instance, many Christians love to rationalize their cruelty to animals by saying, “They don’t have souls, ” even though in their Bible, Proverbs 12: 10, cruelty to animals is condemned as wicked. Lest I be accused of picking on Christians, we Witches are great at rationalizing our cruelty, making brilliant excuses for working black magic on those we judge worth “the best!”
Never do I have the right, being just human myself, to execute judgment on another person, “to play God, ” as they say. I think that we are okay in working a spell to petition our grievances about others, and ourselves too, to the Higher Powers, but for their judgment, not ours! The domain of the REAL Witch always has been healing, never malpractice on perceived enemies. If we do, then we disgrace our calling no less than Nazi doctors.
So that I am not accused of advocating standards that I myself could not keep, I have experienced such temptations, and for a while, I did yield to them. I have had quite some stresses over the past twenty-two years, and have blamed certain perceived enemies and a side of myself, and I have hated them, and them in me, for it. An important lesson in psychology is that, when I point my finger at others, my four remaining ones are pointing back at me. That is, the things I hate in others probably also are things that I hate in myself. I have yielded to temptation in starting to hex in order to destroy those enemies and that hated side of myself. I am thankful that I have since grown into a real Witch, one strong enough to stop myself from playing judge. I have not forgotten, but now I leave the matter to Divine Judgment regarding others and myself. We become real Witches when we realize that we do not have the right to destroy. The Wiccan Rede is not an afterthought; it is at the very heart of real Witchcraft.
Besides rationalizing, unconsciously lying, how else do grown-ups remedy guilt? Christians believe that, although we all are doomed to be sinners, we can become saved sinners. As a Witch, I believe that I am not doomed to stay wicked, no matter what I may have done. I have magical powers to develop, and, beyond regenerating things physically, among the most noble uses of these powers is rehabilitating myself morally, so that I can look myself in the mirror and have self-respect without self-deception.
One of the worst side effects of Christianity is to deny rehabilitation as a serious possibility. Even though Jesus taught us to forgive one another, in practice Christian society has become unforgiving. Christians have corrupted the premise that we are morally powerless into a prejudice that people do not have the power to rehabilitate. There is an attitude of, “Once a crook, always one, ” very much in effect everywhere. In fact, all it takes to be off the list of candidates is having changed jobs a lot when you were younger, even being unemployed for more than six months! How merciful! People are judged by their resumes, what they have done in the past, without regard for what they may have made of themselves through learning from experience. I define Error as the best teacher. Show me the person who never made errors and I will show you someone who has not learned much, and is among my prime suspects for the fool! Christians say we are sinners for being imperfect, and I say no one gets wise by being perfect. They call them sinners, but I call a few of them sages, the real Witches.
This topic of real Witches as ones exercising their magical powers to perfect their imperfections leads into another essential point. Beginners, I do suspect, see Witchcraft as a means to bend the surrounding world to their wills. However, much of the Craft, and often the most effective working, is directed toward changing the inner reality of the world made largely out of our own perceptions.
Let us embark on an active way of knowing what makes the Witch a Witch.
Why not start this in a light vein, or may I say, a light paw? In my poem, Meeeow! posted on Witchvox, the speaker, a Witch, declares, “No matter what you think I am, I know I am the cat, for how my light paws go.” The witch has changed her very being, from human to feline, by most thoroughly playing the part of the cat. This is not much a matter of the objective truth of what the Witch is, but much more of the subjective reality of how she is perceived to be. As far as all the other cats experience her, “I am one too, to all the other cats, for what I do.” Her acts determine their and our perceptions, which determine the reality of the subjective world, in which we all also live. In fact, more of what we know as the world arises from experiencing our own, personal, inner reality than from experiencing whatever the truths of the surrounding, outside world may be.
This brings to mind, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a well-known short story by James Thurber. The author described the world in which his character lived, consisting of a reality only vaguely corresponding to the truth of the outer world, largely made by Mr. Mitty himself out of his own perceptions. We all could be a.k.a. Walter Mitty, because we all live in our private worlds made largely out of the reality of our own unique perceptions. We can make sense out of seemingly nonsensical behavior, if we understand the reality of perceptions underlying it.
I have come to value the redeeming graces of the cat – magical, graceful, redeemed by beauty – more than ever before, because now dogs no longer scare them out of my field of experience. Canine-oriented parents raised me, and until three years ago, always I had dogs, mostly more than one at a time. Up until the end of 2009, I used to walk a pack of four dogs, a feat for which I was well known but hardly always lauded. Whatever other people might have thought I was, to my dogs I was one of them, “top dog” of the pack. It was not a matter of the truth of what I was, but rather the reality of what I was perceived to be. The truth versus the reality – that is the distinction at the heart of understanding the working of magic and the nature of a Witch.
I propose that at least two-thirds of magic happens in the minds of perceivers. There is this common misunderstanding that when something is in your mind, it is “just in your mind”, meaning it is not real. Nothing can be further from the truth! The magic happening in your mind is among the most potent, energy-efficient, and moral magic that can be. Below follows my rationale for my statement:
Suppose that you are discontent with your limited material possessions. If you are a typical disciple of the Craft, then you will work some form of spell for prosperity or better employment. A better working, however, would treat the discontent. Why? Because really the problem is much more that your discontent is causing you to perceive your material possessions as inadequate, rather than that your material possessions are truly inadequate and cause you to feel discontent. The following maxim makes quite some sense: treasure what you have and you have treasure. Objectively, you may have little, but if you are satisfied with it, then you are subjectively richer than someone among the richest, yet who is not satisfied and always wants more. Therefore, it is better to work the magic between your ears, turning your discontented mind into a contented one.
Besides, it usually takes less energy to magically transform your mind than to bend the whole, wide world out there to suit your desire! This also is more moral; because it often is unfair to impose on the world in order fulfill your own selfish wishes. The world has its own legitimate pursuits for which that extra energy is needed; so do not hog it for yourself! The following story clarifies this:
Once upon a time, a boy was born with very sensitive eyes. Every time he went outside, he would feel nearly blinded by the daylight, which was very painful to his eyes. He decided to invoke the god Hyperion, to beg his cooperation in a spell to dull the intensity of sunshine when he was outside. The spelled worked and he gave his utmost gratitude to “The One Above”. Really though, the sunshine was just as bright as ever. Hyperion knew that the trees and all other living things welcomed the brightness of sunshine after winter, and that their survival depended on it. The spell was granted between the boy’s ears, so that his mind would better tolerate the sunshine. But the result was exactly the same as far as the boy could tell, and this way both he and the world were left contented.
As I have written, the distinction between the truth and the reality is at the heart of understanding the working of magic and the nature of a Witch. In terms of the example I just gave, the truth of the brightness of sunshine stayed the same, but the reality of the world as the boy perceived it changed, and this clearly was the easier, far kinder magical solution. What does this tell us about the nature of the Witch?
The competent Witch has the wisdom and the ethics to choose the better solution. It is forgotten that the name ‘Witch’ shares its roots with the word ‘wisdom’. The real Witch discerns that, at least sometimes, the better solution may not even be the magical one, and that the moral solution typically is the more efficient one as well.
I may be ready to give a tentative definition of the Witch: A Witch is a person with a deep knowledge of the objective truths and the subjective realities of the world, acquired through CHOOSING to interact, not only physically, but also metaphysically, that is, magically, with the things of the world.
Why would the real Witch sometimes not choose a magical solution? Consider the example of a student who wants to be a doctor, but is not making the grades. Should she work a spell to do so? She could, but very few medical students have worked spells to get into and through school. When I was in graduate school working toward an M.A. in psychology, my academic advisor asked me how many hours of sleep I got each night. I answered eight. Dr. Benjamin Luck told me, “If you ever go on for your doctorate, you will have to learn to get by on less than eight hours of sleep. When I was working on mine, I was lucky if I got five.” His advice also would make a fine solution for the would-be medical student in my example. Diligence sometimes beats spells in solving problems!
On the other hand, there are times when one type of magic may be the best solution after all. All the diligence may not work without the prerequisite aptitude. For instance, medical students are very diligent, but doctors also have I.Q.s averaging about 130, in the top 2% of the population. If someone’s intelligence is only average, the M.D. is most likely an unrealistic goal. In similar cases, the magical transformation between the ears, meaning changing perception, often is the best solution.
I have heard many young adults who like animals say they want to be veterinarians. The D.V.M. often is even harder than the M.D. to accomplish. It is obvious that most of these young people will not meet the requirements. Why not try going the vet. tech. route? That may not be so easy either, but usually it is much more realistic! They need to work the magic of turning their fantasies into realistic goals. As I wrote before, this is a very real magic. It is not necessary to be a “big shot” in order to feel fulfilled; this feeling of fulfillment, rather than egotistical pride, is the goal of much worthwhile magic.
Is it possible to raise I.Q. magically? Yours yes, mine no! I am hopeless! But are you sure you want to be a genius? A quote of Sir Henry Maximilian Beerhohm advises us, “I have known no man of genius who had not to pay, in some affliction or defect, either physical or spiritual, for what the gods had given him.” He himself was an ingenious writer, so I bet he knew what he was talking about. Before you sign your name in the blood of magical commitment, be sure to read the fine print!
This leads to a common misunderstanding of the nature of Witchcraft, the idea that magic is a way to make major changes with minimal investment. It is the misconception that, by using a few affordable supplies, you can bend the whole world to grant your wishes. This is a lottery-ticket type of fantasy.
All Witches should remember one of the most essential laws ever: the Law of Conservation. Although it is taught in physics, it is equally essential to metaphysics, and applies every bit as much here and now as it does in a chemistry lab. In lay terms its essential meaning is that we cannot get something for nothing. We should only expect to get out of the world, what we put into it.
Yes, the Witch accepts that the world has enough degrees of freedom to allow magical transformations to be, but still, no real Witch is foolish enough to expect extraordinary magic, that which bends the whole world, without extraordinary discipline. Every beginner would love to have the powers of a Witch Doctor. They forget that Witch Doctors typically have endured prerequisite ordeals, which could easily have been fatal, in order to acquire their world-bending powers. Yes, some problems do require Herculean power to solve, but perhaps most magical solutions involve the mental magic of changing our perceived reality, much easier on us and, as I have stated, probably fairer to the surrounding world.
The choice is yours as the aspiring Witch. Neither choice is inherently better. The easier way, although maybe not heroic, often is more realistic, and life is, after all, hard enough without making it harder. On the other hand, the harder way, although earned at great cost, may well be heroic, and there is a satisfaction in reaching “the seemingly unreachable star” not to be gained any other way. Novice Witch, CHOOSE your values and pursue your way!
The verb ‘to choose’ is highlighted because our strong endorsement of choosing is largely what sets us apart from Christians. They believe none of us has the choice to transcend our sinful nature, just to let it be redeemed through accepting Divine Love. Let us turn our attention to the Witch defined in terms of being someone who chooses to believe in a certain way. I do not think one can choose to be an atheist and stay consistent with being a Witch. There is a religious component that naturally goes together with the Craft, with the practice and the theology being like two sides of one coin.
Here is a tentative, expanded version of my definition: A Witch is a person with a deep knowledge of the objective truths and the subjective realities of the world, acquired through CHOOSING to interact, not only physically, but also metaphysically, that is, magically, with the things of the world. An essential part of the subjective reality of the Witch arises from CHOOSING to revere Higher Powers operating in nature, and to realize the divine, magical potentials in oneself.
We do well in asking, does the Witch need to be defined in any theological context at all? In the Oxford definition, the Devil is implied; the word ‘evil’ is contained in ‘Devil’, the personification of evil. In my tentative definition, I have referred to Higher Powers and divine potentials. Can we find a new, secular definition of Witch, as illustrated by the series Bewitched? The Witches there, I am fairly sure, never were portrayed as practicing a religion, nor, as far as I know, were there ever any allusions made to religion.
Nonetheless, at a subliminal level, it was the overturning of the conservative, tyrannical stance toward being a Witch, and more generally being somehow different, which gave that series its charm. In fact, the story-line of the series would have failed as comedy without religion subliminally supporting it. It was comical mainly because of Darrin playing nearly a parody of a minister saying, thou shalt not do it, while Samantha always ended up wiggling her nose anyway. The main point was that she did it without tragic results, without getting struck by lightning for doing it. She could be seen as practicing a religion of liberalism, obviously without the scripts explicitly making this point. Her behavior can be seen as reflecting an underlying, liberal philosophy of seeing the God of Genesis as Mr. Liberal, with the right to CHOOSE as his first and finest gift to her and to all of us. Therefore, I do not think that Witches as magically empowered persons can be divorced from the deity empowering them.
The verb ‘to CHOOSE’ is in caps throughout for an essential reason. All people, when they say that they do some action, really mean that they choose to do it, but this fact is kept implicit, and therefore done nearly automatically and just semiconsciously. The distinction of the Witch is making the choice explicitly, choosing deliberately. By doing so, she considerably extends her power to choose, and indirectly to change her inner reality and the outside world as well. By making herself aware that she is choosing to do anything, not limited to magic, she gains more and more control over her faculty of choice and more refinement in exercising this power to choose.
No, I am not guilty of sexism for using the feminine pronoun. Witchcraft continues to be associated with femininity, but males too have the feminine inner reality of their anima, according to the great psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung.
Have I been guilty of wasting your time with this article? If so, I apologize. We can assume that I think it was worth writing, but regarding whether or not it was worth your reading, only you are smart enough to be the judge! I accept your judgment!
*Are you a winner as well? The answer to the QUESTION is: The SandWich!
P.S. If you are a winner, congratulations! Just to let you know, at last I have picked a magical name: The SandWich. I find it in good taste. I hope you do too!
When Your Pet is More Than A Pet – Familiars and Avatars
Author: Bronwen Forbes
As a prologue to this, you need to know that Herne has been my patron God since I was nine years old. You don’t need to know, but you’ll probably figure out by reading this (if you haven’t already) that sometimes I’m a little slow to notice the obvious.
A few months after adopting my red and white beagle mix Herman, I was trying to sleep in one Saturday morning when I began to idly wonder, “There are so many Goddesses with dogs as part of their symbolism. I wonder what Gods are associated with dogs, too?” And then it hit me like a two-by-four to the forehead. Herne, Lord of the Wild Hunt, is very much associated with dogs, especially red and white hunting dogs, than you very much. (I warned you I’m a little slow sometimes) .
Needless to say, sleep was no longer an option. I sat up and looked at Herman (who had spent the night, as he usually did, asnooze at my side) who was already staring at me with a definite, “took you long enough to figure it out” expression.
And just like that, I not only had a familiar, I had an avatar.
I’m defining “avatar” here not as a recent hit movie or a small picture that represents you on various blogs or discussion boards, but as the earthly representative of a deity. And for the love of me, I hadn’t a clue what to do with mine.
Four months later, we adopted a German Shepherd mix named Katie – and lo and behold, she was also what my husband likes to call a “God-touched” dog. But unlike Herman who was also my familiar (notice the past tense; I still miss him) , Katie let us know pretty quickly that she had no interest whatsoever in being my husband’s familiar, but would happily attend her Goddess Nehelennia’s tasks of safe travel, healing and commerce. Period.
Since acquiring Herman and Katie in 2001, I’ve alao gotten the clue what to do, not just for my special dogs, but for anyone else who may wake up one morning and see deity shining through the eyes of their pet.
First and foremost, and I know this sounds obvious, you have to keep treating your pet like a, well, pet. Your animal companion is your spiritual and or magickal support (familiar) or a little bit of deity (avatar) but he still needs proper food and water, adequate shelter, regular veterinary checkups, exercise, training, vaccinations, etc. After all, it’s not like the Gods can or will take care of your pet for you.
But once the regular, responsible pet ownership duties are taken care of with your familiar or avatar, there are still some things you need to think about to keep your relationship with your animal companion – and your deity – as smooth and fulfilling as possible.
1. Remember that, despite her spiritual role in your life, your pet is still going to act like an animal. Herman used to drive me crazy with this. He was a daily reminder of my relationship with my patron deity, helped me work through some serious ritual issues, was a whiz at helping new students ground and center simply by sitting in their laps during ritual – and he was also a master escape artist. He could climb or dig under any chain link fence, and did so on a pretty regular basis.
Katie, a born healer, is also a big dog and an unrepentant counter-surfer. I can’t begin to count how many times I packed my lunch, left the kitchen to get dressed for work, and came back to find my lunch bag and food containers in Katie’s crate and my ex-lunch in her stomach. She may be God-touched, but she’s still a dog!
2. Give your familiar and/or avatar full autonomy regarding ritual attendance. This includes personal workings, small group rituals, festivals, and rites of passage. Shortly after my Saturday morning revelation about Herman, my husband and I took him with us to visit my parents for the weekend. While we were there, I helped my parents bury the ashes of our old family cat in the side yard garden – an understandably emotional activity. Herman was in the back yard, separated from me by a picket fence. He could see me through the fence, but couldn’t get to me. As my father dug a hole for the ashes, Herman went nuts, for want of a better word. Instead of pursuing squirrels (his usual pastime in my parents’ backyard) , he was throwing himself against the fence and barking frantically, trying to get to me. I should have stepped over the fence, opened the gate, and allowed Herman to join the small ritual. After all, he only wanted to do his job.
There have also been instance and rituals where Herman or Katie did *not* want to attend a particular ritual, and we quickly learned to “listen” to their opinions – rather like knowing that it doesn’t feel right to take a certain tarot deck with you when you go do readings at a community event. We learned this lesson the hard way when we took Katie to a ritual she clearly didn’t want to go to and she had a seizure.
3. Give your pet enough down time. Just as you can’t be in ritual 24/7, it’s unrealistic to expect your pet to be “on, ” i.e. actively acting as a divine representative or helping you with your spiritual work all the time. Don’t bug him to help you if he clearly doesn’t feel like it – the fact that he’s asleep or ignoring you are clear signs that he “doesn’t feel like it.”
If you find yourself needing extra protein, water or sleep after a working or ritual, offer some to your familiar or avatar as well.
If you have a pet that also enhances your spiritual practice or connection with your deity, you have been given a gift beyond price. Very few animals, at least in my experience, can do this, and if you get one or even two in a lifetime, you have truly been blessed. It’s also not something you can actively look for; it’s like love (actually it *is* love) – the more you try to find that special animal, the less likely you are to succeed.
Be patient. If and when you’re ready, the right animal will come.
What to Do When the Spell/Ritual Flops
Author: The Redneck Pagan
Picture this: a quite, beautiful full moon night in September. The air is warm and the leaves are changing and you can hear them rattle against each other as you step outside into the night. You have your list in hand, your supplies have been gathered and you have learned the ritual inside and out. You go to a spot in the yard, and set up your altar and prepare yourself. You cast your circle; you follow the script to perfection, not omitting a single word. You then close your circle, leave your libation and pick up your tools. As you walk back to the bright lights of the house you frown because you have a nagging little thought in the back of your head… “Did the dang thing work?”
Sound familiar yet? It probably does, but do not feel bad if this reads like a ritual you have done because it has happened to me as well! In all honesty, I would wager that this has happened to everybody at least once in their witchy careers, and probably more than once! And if someone says that it has never happened to him or her, then I call BS because we are all human. Being human means we are going to make mistakes, have off days. Sometimes our rituals and/or spells will flop and we will feel… nothing.
So, why do our rituals flop? Well, there can be a lot of reasons; I have yet to go through them all myself. Let’s start with the scenario I gave, the full moon solo ritual. There are a lot of reasons that ritual or spell could have failed. A major one is the mental state. Did your day at work suck and all you can think about is the crappy day? Do you have a huge project to do that is looming over you? Did you just have a fight with a loved one? Did you just loose someone you love? Are bills piling up and have you worried out of your skull? Are the kids being brats today? Do you have a high stakes meeting the next day at work? In my humble experience, fatigue and mental stress are the biggest ways to tank your ritual.
In a ritual or a spell, it is our intention that determines the outcome, and if you are worrying about something else, then you are not focusing your intent. Instead you are gnawing at the problem like a dog with a bone. I can personally think of a handful of rituals and spells I did that failed because I was too distracted to perform them! This doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you; it just means you need to either sort the problem out in your head before a ritual or find a way to set it aside before the ritual. If I have a problem that is going to last a while, I take a piece of paper, write it down and put it somewhere outside of my ritual space. I tell myself that I am putting this down and will pick it up after the ritual. I then find I can shift my focus to the ritual.
The next thing you want to look at is your medical health. Did you have a headache before the ritual? Were you really hungry? Did you get enough sleep this week? Are you getting over a cold or flu? Did you eat something that made you feel off? Are you taking any prescription medication? Did you take an over the counter medication? Are you feeling healthy and well or run down and blah? Working a ritual does take up our energy, and if you are sick then your body is pulling that energy to heal itself and might not be able to spare any for a ritual. I once tried to do a Samhain ritual right after having the flu; it was a terrible idea. I spent the whole ritual feeling too hot, too cold, my head was pounding and I felt queasy. Halfway through the ritual I apologized to the gods and shut the circle down. I lit a candle, said a prayer to the dead, left an offering outside and went to bed.
Any kind of medication is going to play havoc with your system and can even play with your mind. When I take cough syrup I often will feel dizzy and sleepy, and cold tabs make me feel rather stoned. I am not functioning at 100% on those medications and will avoid rituals when I am taking them (and as I take them when I am sick I know from experience working when sick is not always wise) . Prescription medications are a touchy subject, and one I do not have enough expertise to fully address. I would advise that if it is a short-term medication, such as an antibiotic, wait until you are finished the medication. You are taking it to get well again and you want to conserve your energies for that purpose. Long-term medications are a different story, you might be on them for weeks, months or even years and I am not a medical expert. I would advise that you seek out an elder or a very long time practitioner for their expertise and assistance. They would be able to help you learn your own boundaries with how your body and mind interact with the medications and ritual workings. I would also advise you use good judgment. If a ritual is making you feel terrible and out of whack while you are on medications, stop the ritual and ground yourself immediately.
Okay, so your mental health and intentions were set, but the ritual still flopped. Is it possible you missed something? Maybe you forgot a part in the ritual, or didn’t have your correspondences fine-tuned, maybe you mixed up something. It could be that the time of the day was wrong for the intention of the ritual, or perhaps you selected a Deity that didn’t quite match up with what you were doing. There are a lot of ways that we can make a mistake in our ritual planning and execution. Maybe it was a ritual you read in a book that looked cool, but didn’t mean much to you so you weren’t able to get the right frame of mind. There are lots of things that can throw a ritual off or throw a monkey wrench into a spell.
So what do we do? Well, step one is going to have to be not to panic! The first time I felt nothing in one of my rituals I freaked out and tried to redo it three or four times. Guess what, that didn’t work. I felt less and less power each time and more and more fear and panic. Finally, I got bright and wrote down what happened and walked away from it. A few weeks later I was able to look back and figure out what went wrong. In that case, I was getting over a bad flu and my body was not really ready for the ritual.
First, calm down the panicked recital of “Oh my Goddess, it didn’t work. I’m going to lose my broom! I’m not a witch because it didn’t work”. Take a moment, sit down and write out everything you can. Write what you ate that day, what the weather is like, moon phase, what did you do over the last day or two, what your health is like and for women where in your cycle you are. Then walk away from it for a few days. No, really. Walk away from it for a few days; forget it ever happened.
A few days distance gives you a clearer perspective and can let you see if there were any mistakes made, if your health was off or if your mind wasn’t in the right place. It also gives you some time to watch your life unfold and perhaps see your ritual or spell working. Maybe you cast a spell for abundance and a few days later you got a raise at work, or a friend gave you an old table she didn’t need, or you got an unexpected cheque in the mail. These are results that take some time and you won’t see them right after the ritual/spell.
When I was a very new witch, I would perform a ritual and then sit back and wonder if it did work or not! I was a solitary for years and had nobody to ask if it worked or not. I eventually came across a book that a friend lent me (and I wish I could remember who wrote it so I could credit the author!) and in the book the author spoke about rituals and spells. The author explained that there is no Hollywood effects, no lightening in the sky, no booming voices, or sudden windstorms. The author explained that it would be far subtler. You might feel calmer, more relaxed after ritual. Other people might feel pumped up, full of energy and happy. Others might get chills and tingles across the body while another person might feel a sense of accomplishment at the end.
So, your ritual might not have flopped at all, but you just haven’t learned how your body and mind reacts to the ritual. After I read that, I jotted it down on a sticky note and left it on the front of the notebook I was using as a book of shadows. The next full moon, I went along and performed my ritual. I recorded everything as I have recommended above, and included how I was feeling. I did this for a few months for rituals and spells alike. I discovered that after a successful ritual, I often feel really relaxed, peaceful and a bit tingly inside. After a spell however, I feel pumped up, like I could run to the nearest town (25kms away) and a sense of accomplishment. After I learned this about myself, I was able to gauge when a spell or ritual worked or failed.
So when your ritual or spell goes flop, do not panic, but rather treat it as a great chance to learn something new and to grow. You might discover that you need a certain type of ritual to set the mood or that you are just no good at working a spell when your workload is stressing you out. You might discover that certain Deities don’t work out well with you or that a certain format makes your work tank every time. Either way, it will only lead you to self-discovery and a better understanding of the path you are walking on!
The Redneck Pagan
Warp and Weft (Why Witchcraft Works – For Me)
Author: Renee Damoiselle
Picture a loom – a large one, for the weaving of those lovely tapestries that hang in old stone castles. The “warp” are the tightly pulled, vertical, stationary threads. The “weft” are the threads woven horizontally, in and out of the warp ~ both binding them together and evoking from them a work of art. The weft threads are passed over and under the warp with the use of a tool called a shuttle. It is shaped like a bullet with a narrow end to fit between the warp threads and help the weaver pull the weft through. Now this process tugs at the warp threads. It creases and bends them. It stretches and stresses them. Sometimes they even break. But the individual threads are not the point. It’s the vision of the weaver that counts and her persistence and her desire to create. There is a purpose here, a calling and passion, one that the weaver couldn’t imagine turning from until the work is done.
I think it’s a great metaphor for life. Our lives are filled with events that stress and stretch us, that bend and crease our plans and dreams. It is up to us to hold the vision of the weaver and create something useful and beautiful, despite a few broken warp threads.
And what could all of this have to do with witchcraft as a spiritual practice? Lots! Now I say “spiritual practice” as opposed to “religion” because the word “religion”, I think, inspires in people a feeling of dread, over being given dogmatic templates of precisely how to live. I think the word has cultivated a fear in society over being told how they are obligated to behave a certain way or perform certain rites of observance. I prefer “Spiritual Practice” because it demonstrates a personal choice, rather than a dogma one is bound to by virtue of birth or family tradition. Even the word “religion” derives from the root “ligare” ~ (to bind.) It speaks of restriction, which, according to Aleister Crowley, is the only real sin. I happen to agree with the Thelemic master on this one. I much prefer the “Blessed are they’s” to the “Thou shalt NOT’s”.
Hmmm, “a Spiritual Practice of one’s own choosing”? What’s that for? What is its purpose?
Well, doesn’t the pursuit of a spiritual path come from some really basic questions? For example: Who am I ? What is the true nature of reality? What is my purpose here?
I know that’s true for me. And it seems to be true the world over. Transcending eras, cultures, classes and ALL dogma, is what Aldous Huxley termed The Perennial Philosophy.
Three basic human axioms that can be found at the core of all spiritual teachings:
1) Behind and beneath the world of our perceptions we sense something eternal, unchanging, something at once greater than and inclusive of the material world. 2) This same “something” exists within the depths and at the ground of every human soul. 3) The purpose of life is to experience it first hand; that is, to have a personal relationship with Deity here and now, in one’s lifetime.
That first hand experience of deity is known, in witchcraft, (among other paths) as a “Mystery”. Read all you want, take a million classes. It can’t be taught. It must be felt. There is no scripture that can produce that feeling. It simply is. All the scripture on the planet was written ABOUT that feeling, BECAUSE of it.
So, knowing that the divine is within, how do I work with that to answer those questions in a way that makes sense? How do I incorporate that awareness into a daily practice that gives life value? How do I utilize that amazing power to create a beautiful and useful tapestry?
Witchcraft, after all my searching and studying, has provided those answers for me. Free from the dogma of the major world religions, witchcraft gives clear, step-by-step, instructions for experiencing and communing with the divine on a first name basis. Many names, actually. And it acknowledges that this eternal ground of existence is a single spirit connecting us all. It is the warp and we are the weft. This belief system puts the power to create in the hands of the individual. Not only are we, as humans, given the gifts, the intelligence and the means to weave our own incredible fabrics of life, we are RESPONSIBLE for that! For each one of us, finding our true purpose here (our True Will) has an uplifting effect on everyone and everything around us, and extending out to the whole universe!
Also, the philosophies of magic, an integral part of the practice of witchcraft, rely on the web-like nature of reality. Magic works because we see a warp thread here that connects to a weft thread all the way over there. We perform this spell or ritual, using a matching color or texture to that thread, and send the message out, with confidence, having programmed it to reach its destination. We acknowledge and utilize these connections. And we draw from a broad base of knowledge spanning cultures and times to include the energies of deities that could suit every purpose under the sun.
Witchcraft is full of weaving stories. The Greeks give us Athena and Arachne. The Norse pantheon includes Frigga, who spins the clouds and the Norns who weave our fate. In Egypt it was Nit (knit?) or Neith who was said to have woven the world with her shuttle. Many Native American tribes have a divine Spider Woman, who creates all that there is and also weaves the stories and legends sacred to the tribes.
There is a Hindu goddess, named Maya. She weaves the fabric of reality, of all that we can see, touch, smell, taste and hear. She is the weaver of things material. But the unseen warp threads, binding and underlying ALL were set by Brahma. The Eternal – woven in to the transient. That’s what we are. That’s WHO we are.
With all this weaving metaphor you might be wondering if I have personally “labored long at the loom”. The fact is, although I adore textiles of every ilk and admire so the deft hands that create the intricate patterns of tapestry, I use a different medium. For me, the warp is the emerging idea, a barely crystallized understanding, a connection made or a feeling evoked. The weft is the English language with all its complexity and contradictions, its melting pot origins, its gift of idiom. I am a devoted fan of phrases of high-minded intellect and poems of pure whimsy, alike. I weave a word tapestry. The telling of a tale, the spinning of a web of thoughts is a sacred practice to me.
I am never more attuned with divinity than when writing. And like the Native American Spider Woman whose task it was to weave reality but also to be the keeper and the teller of the old stories and the new, I know that writing is part of MY purpose. My gift for writing, I believe to have been bestowed by Athena – (I hasten to mention that fact here, lest I suffer the fate of Arachne who refused to acknowledge the source, even in part, of her amazing weaving abilities) . And NO gift is given by the gods without the expectation of its good use. Responsibility, lies at the heart of every true blessing.
So for me, Witchcraft works because it embodies the ideals of Responsibility and Purpose. We all weave a fabric of some kind with our thoughts and actions. Before I found the path of Wicca, I was weaving unconsciously, allowing my habitual thinking to create my life, and as a result, I was weaving burlap. Today my tapestry is worthy of a castle wall. Yours should be too.
Walking A Warrior’s Path: Reflections on the Divine Masculine.
Author: Rev.Roman Delgado
There is so much in the Pagan community said about the Goddess. For what I have read, the birth of the modern Neopagan movement began with the revival of the way of the great goddess. It is a great relief to many men and women both, to bring back the balance of their souls and to once again welcome the Great Goddess into their lives.
For so long the western world has been so focused on male sky Gods that we have forgotten the Goddess. That was part of what helped bring back the old religions. Humanity however tends to be one track minded. It is not only the Great Goddess who suffered when the old religions gave way to monotheism. The Great Goddess is only one of the primal forces of nature that makes the spiritual world go round, whose influence and tides rule the natural world.
When the monotheistic religions of sky Gods came about, the Role of the divine masculine changed. Many of the aspects of the old Gods became demonized and forgotten. Both men and women have suffered because of this. There is a great need to return to the old ways, to return to nature. To think that the only archetype is valid to a man is that of the Divine king is short sighted. Equally short sighted is the tendency among Goddess centered circles to only view the Great God in relation to the Great Goddess.
Let’s face it, Ladies and Gentlemen, being a man and being woman is more than being a consort to your lover, being a parent or being someone’s child. If I try restricting the role of woman to a mother, I can potentially be deemed a sexist pig. Why is it that in modern times we have done so much of the same to the divine masculine? Both the male and female mysteries stand on their own merit. Both forces are whole microcosmic reflections of the whole, interacting with each other to bring wholeness and life to the universe.
My own experience with the divine masculine is one that I have seen many other men go through. It is a yearning for more than a father figure in the sky. It has been a yearning to see the spark of the divine that I feel in me reflected in the God that I worship. So in order to understand the need for balance not only of both male and female forces, but also of balance within feminine and masculine energies themselves, I shall delve into my past and share. Perhaps my journey will echo in the minds of fellow pagan who read it here.
We all come from different backgrounds. Those of us raised in religious homes had not just family as our first role models, but our religious traditions to be societies first attempt to help us grow into well-adjusted adults. That however does not always turn out who our elders plan. In my case, there were two huge problems with the system. I did not have the physical presence of a strong male role model to grow up around, and much to the dismay of my family and community I turned out to be Gay.
Without someone to guide me through the confusion and pains of not only adolescence but of a very difficult childhood, I attempted to turn to religion for my answers. Alas, my attempts were in vain. The catholic images of God as the father were alien to my situation, un-relatable to me. The image of Christ as the sacrificial God, attempting to redeem me from something that I viewed as part of my own nature offered no comfort. Only the loving image of the Virgin Mary who loved her son no matter what brought hope, love and, acceptance. It however could not be the Archetypal role model that I needed, as Gay as I was and am, I am not a woman.
It is sad to remember how society and my family rejected me. But I have also seen it happen to other young people, not only then, but now as an adult. The reasons are not always the same; it can be all manner of life choices or the child’s very nature that leads to rejection from their social group. Most of the young men I met throughout my formative years and early adulthood, who shared the pagan path, came from that background. Rejected by their primary social groups and families, so many of my early friends sought out the comforting embrace of the Great Goddess. Not all of them found everything they sought.
Seeking love and comfort is a very noble quest, a quest that men have undertaken for as long as we can remember. Just as the Sun Chases the Moon across the heavens, or as Pan chases Selene among the Greek fields and forest, men, too, seek love, balance and fulfillment of our very nature. In some mythological systems, it has been transformed into the myths of the questing knight, or the myth of the great hunter.
Let’s face it, guys like to chase things. It however matters not what we quest for, or for that matter what Archetype choose to follow. Within the heart of every man must lay the ability to balance the creative and destructive aspects of his nature. In the training of warriors, discipline is taught not only to master arts that aide in battle, but also to master one’s self. Henceforth it makes perfect sense that many men are drawn to warrior paths.
But what happens when the need to find that inner balance is not met? What happens when there are no wise elders guiding the young warrior (or knight, hunter etc) down the perils of his path? The answer is simple: The balance is lost. Without internal balance most men, especially young in years tend to self-destruct, or worse bring harm to others and their community. It is within every man’s nature to be both creative and destructive. When a man does not cultivate the discipline to master himself, the basic primal impulses of man run wild. That is seldom a good thing.
In my own life experience, when my military career ended against my will do to health issues, I had no natural outlet for my own warrior instincts. Without a structured safe place to both be creative and destructive, both aggressive and yet protective of those I loved, I began to self-destruct. I spent quite a long time battling self destructive behavior ranging from chemical dependency, to just about anything that would make me feel alive again. I had no outlets for the masculine aspects of my nature that were healthy. I had no family to bond with, no career and my health prevented me from exercising too much.
Years went by and soon something happened. I began to meet men who had a good handle on their own paths. They were not only in touch with their feminine side but also had a great handle on how to be men in a healthy way. I began to meet men who were my own elders, the father figures I never had. I met men who were my wise teachers that I always missed. I met the men who became the brothers I always needed.
Interacting with these men changed not only the way perceived myself, but also the way I see and relate to the divine. I began to better take care of my body, to heal my illnesses, injuries and improve overall fitness. I realized that the old adage “to master one’s self is to master the universe” speaks of the fact that the divine dwells within. If the Great God exists, I must make my body his temple. For as a man I am a vessel of his energy. If the Great Goddess exists, I must be the fit to embody her wisdom and emotion. To be worthy vessel of her wisdom and a good Son to the Great Mother.
Now as I grow, I come to see that the true nature of the Divine Masculine goes beyond the primal. The divine masculine goes beyond the seed that gives life. In ancient Greece, the Horned God Pan was known as the “the all that is”. In ancient Egypt, the Goddess Isis was known as the Single manifestation of all Gods and Goddesses, a very similar title. As a man, I have come to understand the importance of seeing the God as a whole, a reflection of everything that is seen from a masculine perspective. I learned that from my teachers who were warrior, hunters and magicians, I learned that from my father figures who were the kings and elders of their tribe. I learned it from my brothers who are the questing Knights who embody all of these archetypes through their journey.
A man will always be a man. But a man who is to walk the path of the Great God must do so in wholeness. Embracing all of his nature as the nature of the Great God himself. Embracing the Great Goddess, who is his very Anima, his feminine side, who is his wife or mother, his friend or elder, and who is the energy of the counterbalance that so many man quest after.
Without day, there can be no night. Without God, there can be no Goddess. Without creation, there can be no destruction. If we as Pagan men forsake the balance of either God, Goddess or both, we are heading in road that leads through great peril, a road to which I have lost many friends. Because of that, it’s a necessity to not allow ourselves to be one track minded. If my path has taught me anything, it is that spirituality and religion both are about wholeness and balance and it is our duty from time to time to remind those we love to preserve that balance and see themselves in the larger perspective… to see themselves as the embodiment of the The Gods.