The Various Colors of Witchcraft – White Magick

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The Various Colors of Witchcraft – White Magick

The White Witch

O brothers mine, take care! Take care!
The great white witch rides out to-night.
Trust not your prowess nor your strength,
Your only safety lies in flight;
For in her glance there is a snare,
And in her smile there is a blight.

The great white witch you have not seen?
Then, younger brothers mine, forsooth,
Like nursery children you have looked
For ancient hag and snaggle-tooth;
But no, not so; the witch appears
In all the glowing charms of youth.

Her lips are like carnations, red,
Her face like new-born lilies, fair,
Her eyes like ocean waters, blue,
She moves with subtle grace and air,
And all about her head there floats
The golden glory of her hair.

But though she always thus appears
In form of youth and mood of mirth,
Unnumbered centuries are hers,
The infant planets saw her birth;
The child of throbbing Life is she,
Twin sister to the greedy earth.

And back behind those smiling lips,
And down within those laughing eyes,
And underneath the soft caress
Of hand and voice and purring sighs,
The shadow of the panther lurks,
The spirit of the vampire lies.

For I have seen the great white witch,
And she has led me to her lair,
And I have kissed her red, red lips
And cruel face so white and fair;
Around me she has twined her arms,
And bound me with her yellow hair.

I felt those red lips burn and sear
My body like a living coal;
Obeyed the power of those eyes
As the needle trembles to the pole;
And did not care although I felt
The strength go ebbing from my soul.

Oh! she has seen your strong young limbs,
And heard your laughter loud and gay,
And in your voices she has caught
The echo of a far-off day,
When man was closer to the earth;
And she has marked you for her prey.

She feels the old Antaean strength
In you, the great dynamic beat
Of primal passions, and she sees
In you the last besieged retreat
Of love relentless, lusty, fierce,
Love pain-ecstatic, cruel-sweet.

O, brothers mine, take care! Take care!
The great white witch rides out to-night.
O, younger brothers mine, beware!
Look not upon her beauty bright;
For in her glance there is a snare,
And in her smile there is a blight.

James Weldon Johnson, 1871 – 1938
Published on Poets.org

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White Witchcraft

White magic has traditionally referred to the use of supernatural powers or magic for selfless purposes. With respect to the philosophy of left-hand path and right-hand path, white magic is the benevolent counterpart of malicious black magic. Because of its ties to traditional pagan nature worship, white magic is often also referred to as “natural magic”.

In his 1978 book, A History of White Magic, recognised occult author Gareth Knight traces the origins of white magic to early adaptations of paleolithic religion and early religious history in general, including the polytheistic traditions of Ancient Egypt and the later monotheistic ideas of Judaism and early Christianity.

In particular, he traced many of the traditions of white magic to the early worship of local “gods and goddesses of fertility and vegetation who were usually worshipped at hill-top shrines” and were “attractive to a nomadic race settling down to an agricultural existence”. He focuses in particular on the nomadic Hebrew-speaking tribes and suggests that early Jews saw the worship of such deities more in terms of atavism than evil. It was only when the polytheistic and pagan Roman Empire began to expand that Jewish leaders began to rally against those ideas.

During the Renaissance
By the late 15th century, natural magic “had become much discussed in high-cultural circles”. “Followers” of Marsilio Ficino advocated the existence of spiritual beings and spirits in general, though many such theories ran counter to the ideas of the later Age of Enlightenment. While Ficino and his supporters were treated with hostility by the Roman Catholic Church, the Church itself also acknowledged the existence of such beings; such acknowledgement was the crux of campaigns against witchcraft. Ficino, though, theorised a “purely natural” magic that did not require the invocation of spirits, malevolent or malicious. In doing so, he came into conflict with Johannes Trithemius who refused to believe in Ficino’s theory but created spells and incantations of his own related to beneficial communication with spirits. His works, including the Steganographia, were not published until the 17th century and were then immediately placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum where they remained until the 20th century. Trithemius’ “disciple” Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa was responsible for publishing some of his work and in turn created his own. His work included the De occulta philosophia libri tres which contained an outline of, among other things, classical elements, numerology, astrology and kabbalah and detailed ways of utilizing these relationships and laws in medicine, scrying, alchemy and rituals and ceremonies. Giambattista della Porta expanded on many of these ideas in his Magia Naturalis.

It is the coming-together of these ideas – early “natural” religions and later philosophical thinking – that Knight suggests is “at the root of the Western tradition of white magic”. Also at the root of white magic are symbols and religious symbolism in particular. The star, Knight gives as example, was of critical importance to Jewish tradition and then to early Christians (like the Star of David) and to later Masonic tradition and Neo-paganism.It continues to be of importance of white magic practitioners in the form of the pentagram and night-time ritual.

Zambelli goes further and suggests that white magic – though then not specifically distinct from its counterpart black magic – grew as the more acceptable form of occult and pagan study in the era of the Inquisition and anti-witchcraft sentiment. If black magic was that which involved Trithemius’ invocation of demons, Ficino’s “purely natural” white magic could be framed as the study of “natural” phenomena in general with no evil or irreligious intent whatsoever. Zambelli places academics like Giordano Bruno in this category of “clandestine” practitioners of magic.

Modern interpretations
In his 2009 book, Magic and Alchemy, Robert M. Place provides a broad modern definition of both black and white magic, preferring instead to refer to them as “high magic” (white) and “low magic” (black) based primarily on intentions of the practitioner employing them. His modern definition maintains that the purpose of white magic is to “do good” or to “bring the practitioner to a higher spiritual state” of enlightenment or consciousness. He acknowledges, though, that this broader definition (of “high” and “low”) suffers from prejudices as good-intentioned folk magic may be considered “low” while ceremonial magic involving expensive or exclusive components may be considered by some as “high magic”, regardless of intent.

According to Place, effectively all prehistoric shamanistic magic was “helping” white magic and thus the basic essence of that magic forms the framework of modern white magic: curing illness or injury, divining the future or interpreting dreams, finding lost items, appeasing spirits, controlling weather or harvest and generating good luck or well-being.

Goddess worship
Though not exclusively a female pursuit, modern white magic is often associated with stereotypically feminine concepts like that of a Mother goddess, fae, nature spirits, oneness with nature and goddess worship.In modern stories or fairy tales, the idea of “white witchcraft” is often associated with a kindly grandmother or caring motherly spirit. The link between white magic and a Mother Earth is a regular theme of practitioner Marian Green’s written work.

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White Witchcraft

Practiced to provide good intentions to the people around you.

The practitioners are often said to have a Wiccan faith. This is a religion which is guided by modern pagan beliefs. It allows one to look in the earth and aspire for its development.

Practitioners believe in the threefold return. This belief says that for every good action you make, the return of this is three times in magnitude. This also applies in the bad side. However Wiccan practice does not encourage bad practices in life.

Practitioners normally utilize prayers and rituals. They use spells to provide luck to the people around them.

Practitioners also use objects which are highly useful for witchcraft. Some witches utilize talismans and crystals. They are said to benefit a lot from such objects.

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Understanding White Witchcraft

White witchcraft is a common theme in movies and TV stories, but it’s a bit more of a tricky subject than you might think. If you have already done some study into Wicca or witchcraft, you probably already have a little introduction into the differences between black and white magic spells.

If you have decided to work with white witchcraft, that generally means you will only cast spells with positive intention and not do any hexing or curses. Of course, not everything can be labelled quite so neatly and you may have some thinking to do about your intentions when it gets into some of those in-between gray areas.

A curse is a clear type of “black magic” but what about a binding to just keep someone away from you? Some would say that it’s not harmful, but some might still see it as a negative approach to interfering with another person’s free will.
Some people feel that the whole concept of white magic is impossible to achieve anyway because everything you do will effect someone else, and that can end up with all kinds of consequences that go way beyond your original intentions.

Instead of worrying about the details, just live your life in a good way and don’t deliberately try to hurt people. That’s usually good enough. Of course, sometimes other people deserve some negative energy but that’s another topic altogether.

Sometimes people add the “white witchcraft” label to themselves just to make other people feel less nervous. So many people misunderstand what witchcraft is that they need a little (meaningless) assurance that we’re not evil.

So if you are looking to get involved in white witchcraft, that really just means you have a positive attitude when you cast spells and that you never seek to harm another person. Pretty much all the spells on this site would fall into that category, but I do have a few pages specifically on white magick spells that you can check out.

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White Witches

White magic is different from black magic because of its purposes. While the latter induces harm or pain from the other party, white magic is cast for the welfare or the good of the person who will benefit from it. Fortunately, a white witch has more power than a black witch. In this case, we can expect that the good will always win over the bad.

For what purpose do White witches use White Magic?
For its great deal of power, white magic is used to bring good or protect people from black magic curses or spells. A white witch also uses her power to destroy or break any types of black magic. White magic protects an individual from the harms caused by black magic.

There are certain spells and magic that white witches can do for you. One of them is the love spell which is the most popular among other spells because we all deserved to feel love and to love. It is the most in-demand forms of white magic as it is to cast love spells on the apple of your eyes. Also, it is used to bring back lost love, to strengthen an existing bond, or to attract a new lover.

In addition, it also protects people in a relationship. For instance, couples can get the services of a white witch to protect their marriage and prevent them from getting separated or divorced. Aside from that, there are also specific cases you can be helped by white witches like lost love, soul mate, anti-lying spells, and lust, among others.

Aside from relationship spells, there are also things your white witch can do when it comes to money and finances. It is another in-demand branch of white magic that is commonly used- money spells.

If you want to become a successful businessman, it is one of the beat spells that you can have because it can take your business and financial status to the next level especially if you follow procedure instructed by your white witch. This type of white magic is one of the most commonly requested by people when it comes to their economic status.

This type of spell will drive money to you; thus, adding more fund onto your bank account. If you need some financial gain this year, hire an expert witch to perform this spell for you. Aside from helping you get more money, you will also have the chance to manage your business effectively.

Moreover, there is also the healing spell that your white witch can perform for you in order to get you rid off your sickness. It is also one of the most requested types of white spells that you can ask from your expert witch.

If you’re loved one is sick, you can also consult this witch to help him recover from his sickness, pain, or injury. This type of healing spell is used to help people who are affected by a certain disorder in their emotional, mental, or physical being.

These are three of the most prominent spells that your white witch can perform for you. To guarantee perfect and desired results, you have to make sure that you also have the pure intention.

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Reference:
Wikipedia 
Awaken the witch within 
Free Witchcraft Spells 

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Various Types of Witchcraft – Hereditary Witchcraft

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Hereditary Witchcraft

As you meet more and more people in the Pagan community, you’ll occasionally encounter someone who claims to be a “hereditary witch.” They may even tell you they’ve been “Wiccan since birth,” but what does that really mean?

Well, it could mean a variety of things, but for a lot of us, it generally sends up a red flag when someone uses the phrase “born witch” or “Wiccan from birth.” Let’s look at why that may be the case.

Is There Witch DNA?
You’re not born Christian or Muslim or Hindu. There’s no “Wiccan DNA” that makes any one person more genetically witchy than someone who begins practicing in their fifties. You simply cannot be a Wiccan since birth because Wicca is an orthopraxic religious system that generally involves you doing and believing certain things that make you Wiccan. You can be raised by Wiccans–and many children are–but that doesn’t make you Wiccan from the moment you pop out of the womb, it simply means you were born to Wiccan parents.

That said, certainly, there seem to some people who may be more adept at Witchy Things at some point in their life, but there’s no chromosomal or biological difference in these folks as compared to the general population. You’ll obviously meet people that are psychically gifted, and whose parent or grandparent or child also displays these same traits. But if you operate on the assumption that everyone has some latent psychic ability anyway, it may be that these individuals were encouraged to use their talents while growing up, rather than repressing them like the majority of other people.

You may also encounter people in the Pagan community who claim “born witch” status because of some ancestral link to an individual in the past who was accused of witchcraft. You’ll bump into plenty of people who think Salem ancestry makes them special. It doesn’t, for a variety of reasons.

Familial Traditions of Magic
Also, there are certainly hereditary traditions of witchcraft, but by “hereditary” we don’t mean that the practices are biologically inherited.

These are typically small, familial traditions, or Fam Trads, in which beliefs and practices are handed down from one generation to the next, and outsiders are rarely included. PolyAna identifies as a hereditary witch, and her family hails from Appalachia. She says,

“In our family, what we do is more of a folk magic tradition. My son and I and my granddaughter, who is adopted, practice the same folk magic as my mother and grandmother did. We’ve done it as far back as anyone can remember. We follow the Celtic gods, and my Granny was nominally Catholic but brought a belief in the old gods with her from Ireland. She found a way to make it work, and we’ve carried on those traditions.”

PolyAna’s family practices aren’t typical, but there are certainly other hereditary traditions like hers out there. However, it’s hard to even estimate how many there are, because the information is generally kept within the family and not shared with the general public. Again, this is a family tradition based on practices and beliefs, rather than any documentable genetic link. For families with an Italian background, Stregheria is sometimes practiced in the United States and other countries.

Author Sarah Anne Lawless writes,

“The passing on of traditions through the family is a global concept, and is not restricted to culture or continent. There are many family traditions existing in the United States… who all bear a striking resemblance to the fairy doctors and cunning folk of Northern Europe, many of whom were hereditary themselves. The traditions… were strict and binding; they could only teach one student from the next generation of the family of the opposite sex. In many older witchcraft families in the UK, the traditions of transferring knowledge are thought to follow similar rules.”

For many modern Pagans, including those in hereditary family traditions, witchcraft is either a skill set that is developed and honed over years of practice, or it’s a belief system that is seen as a religion that one spends a lifetime working towards.

For some people, it’s a combination of the two.

So, after all that, could someone be part of a hereditary familial tradition? Absolutely, he or she certainly could. But if what they’re claiming is some sort of biological superiority that makes them witchier than everyone else, you should consider it suspect at best.
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Hereditary Witchcraft

Are You:

psychic?

drawn to dark, mysterious things?

not just interested in Vampires and Faeries, you want to be one?

unable to stay away from books about witchcraft and sorcery?

able to see or sense ghosts, and the past lives of places?

excited about going to places like Salem, or Whitby?

into dark glamor and wish to convey a powerful presence?

compelled by the Mysteries?

having trouble staying in your body? Are out of body experiences a away of life?

Since childhood you have practiced rituals to either placate the Gods, or communicate with spirits.

in a natural deep communion with nature and the spirits in trees, plants, animals, and landscapes.

passionate that sacred things and places must be protected.

more perceptive than most other people you know?

convinced that you have to keep these qualities to yourself.

These are just some of the possible traits that can indicate that you may be a hereditary witch — that you are a carrier of the Witch Blood

How it Used to Be
I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, in a small town of Irish and French Catholics in Massachusetts. Witches were believed to be either fairy tale characters or evil old women who were burned at the stake in the Middle Ages.

England had serious laws against witchcraft until 1951. After these laws were repealed, Gerald Gardner went public with Wicca, a religion he developed by cobbling together folk lore, the ideas of Margaret Murray, some involvement with British magical traditions, and perhaps with a mix of the tribal ritual he may have seen in his years as a civil servant in Indonesia.

Robert Cochran came along later claiming to come from a long line of witches, as did Sibyl Leek. Still, the idea of a family carrying on an unbroken heritage of witchcraft or magical practices was considered a very wild claim. Yet some people seemed to be born with psychic and magical powers, were clearly drawn to tales of witchery and magic, and had the imagination to create communities of like minded souls who came together to be witches.

Those desires had to come from some place! This is where the idea of the Witch Blood was born. It may have been Robert Cochran who coined the term to describe people who for some inexplicable reason were willing to risk everything — jobs, houses, partners, families, etc. in order to pursue the path of witchcraft. Witch Queen Maxine Sanders was driven out of her home by frightened neighbors and had another house torched when they found out she was a Witch, even though she had done them no harm.

The conclusion was that, just as in fairy tales in which the Beggar Maid is discovered to be a Princess by virtue of her uncharacteristic beauty and refinement, someone with witch blood in their veins can be spotted by other witches. Perhaps there are people who come from families where the Craft was practiced long ago. These practices went underground, or were replaced with Christianity, but something remains in the genes that is passed down to one or members of the family unrecognized, or misunderstood.

Dormant Witch Blood can also be ignited by Initiation into Wicca, Faery Witchcraft practices, and the creation of a magical way of life.

Now
Today, many people have been born into witch families, and raised in the Craft. There is no doubt that they are hereditary witches and carry the Witch Blood. There is no mystery surrounding it as there when I was a young person just finding this stuff out about myself.

Still, I am sure that there are some in the current generation who feel these things and have no role models in their families. Their families may even be fundamentalist Christians — I have known a few people like that. Some Christians doth protest too much, and some ex-witches have gone into Christianity because of bad experiences in covens, or after frightening themselves when the magic actually works! They can be the most virulent antagonists against witchcraft.

Of course films and now television are currently having a field day with witches. Teenagers can take them on as role models, and in many cases, not be stigmatized as weirdos. In general, I have found witches to be a pretty happy lot, optimistic and creative, imaginative and fun loving. If sinister overtones are there, it is because of the dark cycle we all must go through, and the way some us walk between the worlds. Some witches are also sociopaths, but that isn’t just because they are witches, nor is sociopathology exclusive to witches and magicians.

If you have found yourself wandering in the woods, or walking the hills like a lost soul, hoping somewhere deep inside, where even you cannot verbalize it, that you will find them, then you might be blessed with the witch blood. If you leave offerings for the spirits, try to engage others to sit in a circle and call the spirits, if you feel you have a secret name, you might have the witch blood. If you are more drawn to these things than “normal” activities, are more comfortable in nature than in a church, if you can’t get your nose out of certain types of books….then I may have news for you….you maybe a Hereditary Witch,

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Reference
Patti Wigington, ThoughtCo 
Winterspells 

Various Types of Witchcraft: Druidism

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Druidism

 

Druidism refers to the system of religion and philosophy (and rites and ceremonies) taught by the Druids, the priestly and learned class in the ancient Celtic societies of Western Europe, Britain and Ireland. Modern attempts at reconstructing, reinventing or reimagining the practices of the ancient Druids are called Neo-Druidism or Druidry.

 

The earliest written mention of Druids dates from a lost work of the Greek doxographer Sotion of Alexandria in the early 2nd Century BC, and the fullest account comes down to us from Gaius Julius Caesar. The Druids were suppressed by the Roman government and disappeared from the written record by the 2nd Century AD, although they continued to feature prominently in later Irish myth and literature. Our historical knowledge of Druids is very limited, and there is little contemporary evidence for even their existence.

 

The Celtic communities that Druids served were polytheistic, also showing signs of animism in their reverence for various aspects of the natural world, such as the land, sea and sky, and their veneration of other aspects of nature, such as sacred trees and groves (the oak and hazel were particularly revered), tops of hills, streams, lakes and plants such as the mistletoe.

 

The Druids, who were almost exclusively male, combined the duties of priest, judge, scholar and teacher in these communities. They enjoyed exemption from military service as well as from payment of taxes. It was not a hereditary caste, and Druidic lore consisted of a large number of verses learned by heart, which could take up to twenty years, although nothing is known to have survived of the Druids’ oral literature, even in translation.

 

Fire was regarded by the Druids as a symbol of various divinities and was associated with cleansing. They believed in a form of metempsychosis, or reincarnation of the soul after death. They were versed in various methods of divination and were reported to be able to predict the future by observing the flight and calls of birds and by the sacrifice of holy animals. Alleged ritual killing and human sacrifice were aspects of druidic culture that shocked classical writers. They could punish members of Celtic society by a form of excommunication, and this exclusion from society was one of the most dreaded punishments.

 

There was a revival of interest in the Druids in England and Wales from the 18th Century, much of it historically inaccurate, and Druids began to figure widely in popular culture with the advent of Romanticism. John Toland, who founded the Ancient Druid Order in 1717, shaped many of the ideas about Druids current during much of the 19th Century. The Order was organized by Henry Hurle along the lines of Freemasonry, and it continued until it split into two groups in 1964. The writer and artist William Blake was credited as having been its “Chosen Chief” from 1799 to 1827, although there is no corroboration of this.

 

John Aubrey, in the 17th Century, was the first modern writer to connect Stonehenge and other megalithic monuments with the Druids, and this theory was spread more widely by William Stukeley in the 18th Century, despite the apparent contradiction of linking the Druidic religion (which dates from the Iron Age) with the much older monument. The Ancient Order of Druids were the first to practise rituals at Stonehenge in 1905, and Stonehenge has since become a popular place of pilgrimage for Neo-Druids and others following Pagan or Neopagan beliefs.

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Druidism

One of the most striking characteristics of Druidism is the degree to which it is free of dogma and any fixed set of beliefs or practices. In this way it manages to offer a spiritual path, and a way of being in the world that avoids many of the problems of intolerance and sectarianism that the established religions have encountered.

 

There is no ‘sacred text’ or the equivalent of a bible in Druidism and there is no universally agreed set of beliefs amongst Druids. Despite this, there are a number of ideas and beliefs that most Druids hold in common, and that help to define the nature of Druidism today:

 

Theology
Since Druidry is a spiritual path – a religion to some, a way of life to others – Druids share a belief in the fundamentally spiritual nature of life. Some will favour a particular way of understanding the source of this spiritual nature, and may feel themselves to be animists, pantheists, polytheists, monotheists or duotheists. Others will avoid choosing any one conception of Deity, believing that by its very nature this is unknowable by the mind.
Monotheistic druids believe there is one Deity: either a Goddess or God, or a Being who is better named Spirit or Great Spirit, to remove misleading associations to gender. But other druids are duotheists, believing that Deity exists as a pair of forces or beings, which they often characterise as the God and Goddess.

 

Polytheistic Druids believe that many gods and goddesses exist, while animists and pantheists believe that Deity does not exist as one or more personal gods, but is instead present in all things, and is everything.

 

Whether they have chosen to adopt a particular viewpoint or not, the greatest characteristic of most modern-day Druids lies in their tolerance of diversity: a Druid gathering can bring together people who have widely varying views about deity, or none, and they will happily participate in ceremonies together, celebrate the seasons, and enjoy each others’ company – realising that none of us has the monopoly on truth, and that diversity is both healthy and natural.

 

Nature forms such an important focus of their reverence, that whatever beliefs they hold about Deity, all Druids sense Nature as divine or sacred. Every part of nature is sensed as part of the great web of life, with no one creature or aspect of it having supremacy over any other. Unlike religions that are anthropocentric, believing humanity occupies a central role in the scheme of life, this conception is systemic and holistic, and sees humankind as just one part of the wider family of life.

 

The Otherworld
Although Druids love Nature, and draw inspiration and spiritual nourishment from it, they also believe that the world we see is not the only one that exists. A cornerstone of Druid belief is in the existence of the Otherworld – a realm or realms which exist beyond the reach of the physical senses, but which are nevertheless real.
This Otherworld is seen as the place we travel to when we die. But we can also visit it during our lifetime in dreams, in meditation, under hypnosis, or in ‘journeying’, when in a shamanic trance.

 

Different Druids will have different views on the nature of this Otherworld, but it is a universally held belief for three reasons. Firstly, all religions or spiritualities hold the view that another reality exists beyond the physical world, rather than agreeing with Materialism, that holds that only matter exists and is real. Secondly, Celtic mythology, which inspires so much of Druidism, is replete with descriptions of this Otherworld. Thirdly, the existence of the Otherworld is implicit in ‘the greatest belief’ of the ancient Druids, since classical writers stated that the Druids believed in a process that has been described as reincarnation or metempsychosis (in which a soul lives in a succession of forms, including both human and animal). In between each life in human or animal form the soul rests in the Otherworld.

 

Death and Rebirth
While a Christian Druid may believe that the soul is only born once on Earth, most Druids adopt the belief of their ancient forebears that the soul undergoes a process of successive reincarnations – either always in human form, or in a variety of forms that might include trees and even rocks as well as animals.
Many Druids share the view reported by Philostratus of Tyana in the second century that the Celts believed that to be born in this world, we have to die in the Otherworld, and conversely, that when we die here, we are born into the Otherworld. For this reason, Druid funerals try to focus on the idea that the soul is experiencing a time of birth, even though we are experiencing that as their death to us.

 

The Three Goals of the Druid
A clue as to the purpose behind the process of successive rebirths can be found if we look at the goals of the Druid. Druids seek above all the cultivation of wisdom, creativity and love. A number of lives on earth, rather than just one, gives us the opportunity to fully develop these qualities within us.
Wisdom

The goal of wisdom is shown to us in two old teaching stories – one the story of Fionn MacCumhaill (Finn MacCool) from Ireland, the other the story of Taliesin from Wales. In both stories wisdom is sought by an older person – in Ireland in the form of the Salmon of Wisdom, in Wales in the form of three drops of inspiration. In both stories a young helper ends up tasting the wisdom so jealously sought by the adults. These tales, rather than simply teaching the virtues of innocence and helpfulness, contain instructions for achieving wisdom, encoded within their symbolism and the sequence of events they describe, and for this reason are used in the teaching of Druidry.

 

Creativity

The goal of creativity is also central to Druidism because the Bards have long been seen as participants in Druidry. Many believe that in the old days they transmitted the wisdom of the Druids in song and story, and that with their prodigious memories they knew the genealogies of the tribes and the stories associated with the local landscape. Celtic cultures display a love of art, music and beauty that often evokes an awareness of the Otherworld, and their old Bardic tales depict a world of sensual beauty in which craftspeople and artists are highly honoured. Today, many people are drawn to Druidry because they sense it is a spirituality that can help them develop their creativity. Rather than stressing the idea that this physical life is temporary, and that we should focus on the after-life, Druidism conveys the idea that we are meant to fully participate in life on earth, and that we are meant to express and share our creativity as much as we can.

 

Love

Druidry can be seen as fostering the third goal of love in many different ways to encourage us to broaden our understanding and experience of it, so that we can love widely and deeply.

 

Druidry’s reverence for Nature encourages us to love the land, the Earth, the stars and the wild. It also encourages a love of peace: Druids were traditionally peace-makers, and still are. Often Druid ceremonies begin with offering peace to each cardinal direction, there is a Druid’s Peace Prayer, and Druids plant Peace Groves. The Druid path also encourages the love of beauty because it cultivates the Bard, the Artist Within, and fosters creativity.

 

The love of Justice is developed in modern Druidry by being mentioned in ‘The Druid’s Prayer’, and many believe that the ancient Druids were judges and law-makers, who were more interested in restorative than punitive justice. Druidry also encourages the love of story and myth, and many people today are drawn to it because they recognize the power of storytelling, and sense its potential to heal and enlighten as well as entertain.

 

In addition to all these types of love that Druidism fosters, it also recognizes the forming power of the past, and in doing this encourages a love of history and a reverence for the ancestors. The love of trees is fundamental in Druidism too, and as well as studying treelore, Druids today plant trees and sacred groves, and support reforestation programmes. Druids love stones too and build stone circles, collect stones and work with crystals. They love the truth, and seek this in their quest for wisdom and understanding. They love animals, seeing them as sacred, and they study animal lore. They love the body and sexuality believing both to be sacred.

 

Druidism also encourages a love of each other by fostering the magic of relationship and community, and above all a love of life, by encouraging celebration and a full commitment to life – it is not a spirituality which tries to help us escape from a full engagement with the world.

 

Some Druid groups today present their teachings in three grades or streams: those of the Bard, Ovate and Druid. The three goals sought by the Druid of love, wisdom and creative expression can be related to the work of these three streams. Bardic teachings help to develop our creativity, Ovate teachings help to develop our love for the natural world and the community of all life, and Druid teachings help us in our quest for wisdom.

 

Living in the World
The real test of the value of a spiritual path lies in the degree to which it can help us live our lives in the world. It needs to be able to provide us with inspiration, counsel and encouragement as we negotiate the sometimes difficult and even tragic events that can occur during a lifetime.
The primary philosophical posture of Druidism is one of love and respect towards all of life – towards fellow human beings and animals, and all of Nature. A word often used by Druids to describe this approach is reverence, which expands the concept of respect to include an awareness of the sacred. By being reverent towards human beings, for example, Druids treat the body, relationships and sexuality with respect and as sacred. Reverence should not be confused with piousness or a lack of vigorous engagement – true reverence is strong and sensual as well as gentle and kind.

 

This attitude of reverence and respect extends to all creatures, and so many Druids will either be vegetarian or will eat meat, but support compassionate farming and be opposed to factory farming methods. Again, the belief that we should love all creatures is likely to be tempered with a robust realism that will not exclude the possibility that we might want to kill certain creatures, such as mosquitoes.

 

For many Druids today the primary position of love and respect towards all creatures extends to include a belief in the idea of causing no harm to any sentient being. This idea is known in eastern traditions as the doctrine of ‘Ahimsa’, or Non-Violence, and was first described in around 800 BCE in the Hindu scriptures, the Upanishads. Jains, Hindus and Buddhists all teach this doctrine, which became popular in the west following the non-violent protests of Mahatma Gandhi. The Parehaka Maori protest movement in New Zealand and the campaigns of Martin Luther King in the USA also helped to spread the idea of Ahimsa around the world.

 

Many Druids today adopt a similar stance of abstaining from harming others, and of focussing on the idea of Peace, drawing their inspiration from the Classical accounts of the Druids, which portrayed them as mediators who abstained from war, and who urged peace on opposing armies. Julius Caesar wrote: ‘For they [the Druids] generally settle all their disputes, both public and private… The Druids usually abstain from war, nor do they pay taxes together with the others; they have exemption from warfare.’ And Diodorus Siculus wrote: ‘Often when the combatants are ranged face to face, and swords are drawn and spears are bristling, these men come between the armies and stay the battle, just as wild beasts are sometimes held spellbound. Thus even among the most savage barbarians anger yields to wisdom, and Mars is shamed before the Muses.’

 

In addition Druids today can follow the example of one the most important figures in the modern Druid movement, Ross Nichols, who in common with many of the world’s greatest thinkers and spiritual teachers, upheld the doctrines of non-violence and pacifism. Many of Nichols’ contemporaries, who shared similar interests in Celtic mythology, were also pacifists, including T.H.White, the author of the Arthurian The once & Future King. Nichols often used to finish essays he wrote with the simple sign-off: ‘Peace to all beings.’

 

The Web of Life and the Illusion of Separateness
Woven into much of Druid thinking and all of its practice is the idea or belief that we are all connected in a universe that is essentially benign – that we do not exist as isolated beings who must fight to survive in a cruel world. Instead we are seen as part of a great web or fabric of life that includes every living creature and all of Creation. This is essentially a pantheistic view of life, which sees all of Nature as sacred and as interconnected.
Druids often experience this belief in their bodies and hearts rather than simply in their minds. They find themselves feeling increasingly at home in the world – and when they walk out on to the land and look up at the moon or stars, or smell the coming rain on the wind they feel in the fabric of their beings that they are a part of the family of life, that they are ‘home’, and that they are not alone.

 

The consequences of this feeling and belief are profound. Apart from this trusting posture towards life bringing benefits in psychological and physical health, there are benefits to society too. Abuse and exploitation comes from the illusion of separateness. once you believe that you are part of the family of life, and that all things are connected, the values of love, and reverence for life naturally follow, as does the practice of peacefulness, of harmlessness or ‘Ahimsa’.

 

The Law of the Harvest
Related to the idea that we are all connected in one great web of life is the belief held by most Druids that whatever we do in the world creates an effect which will ultimately also affect us. A similar idea is found in many different traditions and cultures: folk wisdom in Britain says that ‘what goes around comes around’ and in ancient Egypt, the idea attributed to the Apostle Paul when he said ‘As ye sow, so shall ye reap,’ was spoken by the god Thoth several thousand years earlier in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, when he said ‘Truth is the harvest scythe. What is sown – love or anger or bitterness – that shall be your bread. The corn is no better than its seed, then let what you plant be good.’ In Hinduism and Buddhism the idea is expressed as the doctrine of cause and effect (karma).
The two beliefs – that all is connected and that we will harvest the consequences of our actions – come naturally to Druids because they represent ideas that evolve out of an observation of the natural world. Just as the feeling of our being part of the great web of life can come to us as we gaze in awe at the beauty of nature, so the awareness that we will reap the consequences of our actions also comes to us as we observe the processes of sowing and harvesting.

 

Reference
The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids

 

Various Paths of Witchcraft: British Traditional Witchcraft

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British Traditional Witchcraft

 
British Traditional Wicca, or BTW, is an all-purpose category used to describe some of the New Forest traditions of Wicca. Gardnerian and Alexandrian are the two best-known, but there are some smaller subgroups as well. The term “British Traditional Wicca” seems to be used in this manner more in the United States than in England. In Britain, the BTW label is sometimes used to apply to traditions which claim to predate Gerald Gardner and the New Forest covens.

 

Although only a few Wiccan traditions fall under the “official” heading of BTW, there are many offshoot groups which can certainly claim kinship with the British Traditional Wiccans. Typically, these are groups which have broken off from a BTW initiatory line, and formed new traditions and practices of their own, while still being loosely connected with BTW.

 

One can only claim to be part of British Traditional Wicca if they (a) are formally initiated, by a lineaged member, into one of the groups that falls under the BTW heading, and (b) maintain a level of training and practice that is consistent with the BTW standards.

 

In other words, much like the Gardnerian tradition, you can’t simply proclaim yourself to be British Trad Wiccan.

 

Joseph Carriker, an Alexandrian priest, points out in a Patheos article that BTW traditions are orthopraxic in nature. He says, “We do not mandate belief; we mandate practice. In other words, we do not care what you believe; you may be agnostic, polytheistic, monotheistic, pantheistic, animistic, or any variety of other classification of human belief. We care only that you learn and pass on the rites as they were taught to you. Initiates must have similar experiences with the rites, though the conclusions they come to as a result of them may be wildly different. In some religions, belief creates practice. In our priesthood, practice will create belief.”

 

Geography doesn’t necessarily determine whether or not someone is part of BTW. There are branches of BTW covens located in the United States and other countries—again, the key is the lineage, teachings and practice of the group, not the location.

 

British Traditional Witchcraft

It’s important to recognize, however, that there are many people who are practicing a traditional form of British witchcraft that is not necessarily Wiccan in nature. Author Sarah Anne Lawless defines traditional witchcraft as “A modern witchcraft, folk magic, or spiritual practice based on the practices and beliefs of witchcraft in Europe and the colonies from the early modern period which ranged from the 1500s to the 1800s… there really were practicing witches, folk magicians, and magical groups during this time, but their practices and beliefs would have been tinged with Catholic-Christian overtones and mythology – even if thinly veneered on top of the Pagan ones… Cunning folk are a good example of the survival of such traditions even up to the mid-1900s in rural areas of the British Isles.”

 

As always, keep in mind that the words witchcraft and Wicca are not synonymous. While it’s entirely possible to practice a traditional version of witchcraft that pre-dates Gardner, and many people do it, it’s not necessarily true that what they are practicing is British Traditional Wicca. As mentioned above, there are certain requirements in place, put there by members of the Gardnerian-based traditions, that determine whether a practice is Wiccan, or whether it is witchcraft.

__________________________

The Guild Structure of British Traditional Wicca

 

Introduction

 

Within British Traditional Wicca (called in Britain simply “Initiatory Wicca”), there exists a structure known as the degree system. One’s first degree is initiation, or becoming one of the Wicca. Second and third degree initiates are acknowledged to be more experienced initiates of progressively greater skill, talent, or “power.”

 

But what does it all mean in practice? In order to answer this question, let’s discuss the parallels that the medieval guild structure has with the Wiccan degree system.

 

A guild was an association of artisans who controlled the practice of their craft in a particular town. A few guilds in France even gave rise to the earliest of the universities, where our modern academic degrees—bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate—retain this guild-like structure: apprentice, journeyman, master.

 

For those not conversant with matters medieval, here is a brief description of the guild structure.

 

Apprentices lived with their master while being taught the craft; parents paid for the apprenticeship. An apprentice did not marry until apprenticeship was over, and in return the master guildsman taught well. At the conclusion of apprenticeship, the youth became a journeyman, who had fully learned his trade but was not yet a master. He now earned a wage and was expected to save enough money to start up his own business. For the journeyman to become a master, he had to submit a master work piece to a guild for judgment. If the work were deemed worthy, the journeyman would be admitted to the guild as a master.

 

However, an extremely significant difference exists between the craft guild system and the Craft or Wiccan degree system. That difference is simple—there is no requirement for any initiate to seek elevation to a higher degree.

 

In the trade guilds, apprentices are expected to complete training in trade skills and rise to journeyman status as an employable worker in that trade. Mastery is not a guaranteed status, for that requires a certain aptitude or talent beyond the skills, whereas apprentices become journeymen or “flunk out.” In contrast, in the Craft an initiate may continue at first degree without seeking to achieve a higher degree, as they choose. Initiates may, equally, choose to seek elevation as they grow in their Craft and in their life.

 

Let me state clearly, here, that one must seek out training, initiation, or elevation in British Traditional Wicca. One must ask, or one does not receive; the Wicca do not proselytize. At the same time, asking does not guarantee that any candidate will be accepted for training with a coven’s outer court, initiated into a coven, or elevated to a higher degree. Receiving a yes or no answer from one coven may not be the final answer—but no is a valid answer. Coven leaders make their decisions for the good of their Craft and their coven. Often, no means “not now” or “not with these elders” or “I don’t know why, but my spidey-sense says not him, or not for us.”

 

Apprentice
Historically, an apprentice was contractually bound for a set period of time (usually seven years) to serve a master at a trade or craft—weaving, metal-smithing, carpentry, stone-working, etc. The apprentice’s duties were often simple labor at the outset, cleaning the shop and learning the most basic activities by observation and instruction: the names and uses of the tools of the trade; the materials used and how they were acquired, stored, readied, and put to use; and the social interactions of the shop, between customer and master, or master and workers, which might include lesser masters, journeymen, and other apprentices.

 

The duties of an apprentice were to learn his trade in all its aspects, and to keep the secrets of that trade. The master committed in his turn to train the apprentice in the specific trade—the obverse side of the contractual coin. The master provided instruction at the level needed and opportunities to learn by doing. He also corrected the inevitable errors of a novice and remedied the difficulties encountered in novice projects.

 

The first degree
In British Traditional Wicca, one’s “apprenticeship” begins with initiation. At the time of Gerald Gardner’s initiation in 1939, witchcraft was illegal in Britain. As described by Gerald Gardner, it was only during his actual initiation that he even discovered that the coven initiating him were witches. “I was half-initiated before the word ‘Wica’ which they used hit me like a thunderbolt, and I knew where I was, and that the Old Religion still existed.”

 

Gardner’s initiation was when he began to learn the Craft specifically. His long interest in matters magical and occult informed his witchy education, but it was not until he was a sworn “brother of the Art Magical” that any information was shared—be it written or oral or action. Like the apprentice of old, Gardner was oath-bound to keep the secrets of the Wicca.

 

In Gardner’s published non-fiction, he states that he may not describe the magical techniques and words that the Wicca use in their rites; he is keeping his oath of secrecy. For this reason, when writing his 1949 novel High Magic’s Aid, he instead used material from the 19th century McGregor-Mathers English translation of The Key of Solomon (a Latin grimoire of ceremonial magic) to flesh out the scenes that depicted magical workings (spells).

 

Our rites are transformative, productive of subtle change in those who undergo them. Any new initiate is exposed to words and actions and energies within the magical circle that are outside of prior experience.

 

It is often said that one’s first degree is especially about getting to know the Goddess, a reality necessitated by the patriarchal roots of modern culture, one in which the very title Pope means “father.” Like the apprentice, a new initiate has duties which are, primarily, to learn: to know the Wiccan calendar, to call a quarter, to structure a ritual, to memorize an esbat ritual, to cast a circle, etc.

 

Our solar-calendared rituals follow what is now called “the Wheel of the Year” in a neat progression of eight sabbats at the solstices and equinoxes alternating with the cross-quarters that begins at Hallowe’en. Hallowe’en, Candlemas, May Eve, Lammas, these are the fire festivals central to the Wicca. One sabbat ritual at a specific season is a scant introduction to that sabbat’s energies as well as its traditional ritual.

 

Think about it. You may remember one special Yuletide, but it is more likely that, for instance, you think of youthful summer camps or Mardi Gras events as a collective montage that is seasonal in nature and features a number of actions and feelings that mean that time of year to you. So it is with our sabbats. Doing them more than once takes more than one year.

 

For this reason, the lunar esbat rituals become familiar to the new initiate much more quickly. Celebrated once or twice monthly at full and new moons, frequent repetition aids both the memorization expected of initiates and aids them to perform the energetic steps that occur in creating, working, interacting with deities, and concluding any ritual circle. By the time initiates have completed a year working in coven, they have experienced at least twelve esbat rituals as well as the four fire festivals, and more likely all eight of the currently practiced sabbats.[6] They will have memorized the esbat ritual text and actions used in coven, and the annual progression of the sabbats have taught the basics of the Wiccan progression of seasons and energies. An experienced first-degree initiate can call a quarter, or all four, perform a simple traditional circle solo if required, work with an experienced partner to lead a pre-arranged esbat or sabbat within the coven, and aid in the general running of the coven. Energetically, the initiate will raise and ground energy as led by the coven leaders or elders.

 

If the initiate is working towards a hoped-for elevation to the second degree, the necessary first degree material has been completely hand-copied into the initiate’s own book of shadows. Likely the initiate has pursued individual own study interests in support of the coven or personal practice. Within a particular coven’s practice, the initiate may be assigned reading, writing, or practical exercises to complete as a part of training. Thus, sometime following that oft-quoted “year and a day,” a first-degree initiate may be elevated to the second degree.

 

Journeyman
Journeymen artisans were expected to do just that, journey. Travel from town to town, work with others of the same guild in which they had apprenticed, learn and share styles, materials, tools, and techniques. Like apprenticeship, a journeyman’s study could take years. Journeymen were paid a wage, might live apart from the master’s residence, often married and started a family.

 

To transition to mastery, journeymen undertook to create a master-piece, a piece of work by their hands that was adjudged to be work worthy of a guild master. And not every journeyman, sometimes called a “jack,” succeeded in becoming a master in his guild. “Jack of all trades and master of none” refers to a person unsuccessful in achieving master status. A competent journeyman often remained in his master’s business as a valued assistant and still might rise to mastery in time. In larger craft workshops, a number of masters might work in a common facility.

 

The second degree
Whether an initiate has been once or thrice round the Wheel of the Year and its sabbat cycle, elevation to the second degree brings many responsibilities and connections. First and foremost, second-degree elevation connects an initiate to the current of energy specific to initiatory Wicca. Such connection causes inevitable changes in an initiate—ones that need to be absorbed throughout her ensuing year and a day. The second degree carries a responsibility to the Craft as a whole.

 

The expectations for a newly elevated second-degree witch begin with getting to know the God, a task which often involves path-workings and underworld trance journeys.

 

Once the degree has settled, the second may guest with other covens, or attend multi-tradition open sabbats or classes of other traditions of witchcraft. During second degree work, initiates explore within themselves as well as without. Often second-degree initiates find challenges in dealing with their shadow selves, those parts which they’d rather not acknowledge, confront, resolve, nor have others know.

 

The duties of a second-degree witch include learning to teach magical skills, assisting the leaders of the coven, and learning the process of initiation to first or second degree.[9] The teaching requirement of second degree does not send our initiates out in search of converts; the Wicca do not proselytize. A second-degree initiate may have personal or family knowledge that interests the coven. For example, a student of eastern European ancestry might give the coven a class on traditional techniques and designs for dying pysanky, Slavic Easter eggs. Another may pursue research into home-brewing methods for making ritual ales or wines or meads, and share successful recipes in ritual. A working geologist may introduce the group to practical uses of natural minerals, including how to find the crystal that works—in contrast to the one that just looks pretty.

 

A second-degree practitioner may be given responsibilities beyond that of every coven member. A woman might be named “maiden” of the coven, often considered a deputy high priestess. Similarly, a man might be appointed “guardian” or “summoner” or asked to understudy the role of the high priest. Such understudy roles match the custom of the “maiden coven,” where its coven leaders are second-degree initiates growing into fully-fledged coven leaders under the guidance of their parent coven.

 

Underworld journeying, shamanic studies, divinatory methods beyond any yet used, Craft history, the second degree calls the witch to live the Wiccan path as much as study it. Inevitably, bumps and bruises, missteps and mistakes occur along the way. Often, coven leaders are called upon to assist with mistakes, correct missteps, cluck over the bumps, and salve the bruises… or not, as seems good to them. Sometimes a coven leader’s hardest task is to allow the error to occur, and wait until asked for assistance before deciding whether to act or to let be, to speak or to keep silent.

 

During second-degree studies, practitioners determine or discover any Craft specialties. They may have healing talent, and learn ways to use it within Craft as well as without. They may find they develop undiscovered psychic skills, or even the ability to teach them. A second-degree witch may choose a wider audience, presenting open rituals for the local pagan community, offering classes in herbs, stones, divination, or dance. Nothing in the tradition forbids such public teaching, and nothing in the tradition demands it.

 

Second degree also requires practitioners to step out of their comfort zone, another form of journeying. They may be adept at tarot but ignorant of astrology, talented at rhymed spells but unable to keep a steady beat on drum or rattle. Learning unfamiliar skills, stretching into tasks and techniques that are unfamiliar or outright alien, these challenges broaden practitioners while adding more tools to their witchy toolbox.

 

Unlike the first degree, once one has progressed to the second degree, one is expected to work to achieve the third degree. First degrees are practitioners, plain and simple, with but responsibility to their gods, their coven, and themselves. Second degree engenders a deeper change, imbuing a sense of having begun something which is less than complete… and an awareness of challenges to come.

 

Master
In the guild system, once a panel of masters in one’s own guild adjudged one’s submitted master work piece(s) as being of the standard expected of a master in that guild, then one became a master. To give an example, journeymen knitters in one 14th century European guild presented three items to be judged of master-work quality: a man’s shirt, a hat, and a carpet.

 

The third degree
One’s training in any degree truly begins when the ritual initiating or elevating one to that degree is complete.[10] Thus, Gerald Gardner was taught the secrets of the Craft only after his initiation. Similarly, once a candidate is brought to second or third degree, a period of further learning follows, no matter how well-prepared and how apt the candidate may be. At the same time, every BTW coven is autonomous—independent, a law unto itself. This autonomy means that the newly minted third degree witch—theoretically—springs forth fully formed with lore and wisdom at the ready. In practice, any new coven leader consults with her mentors while “finding her feet.”

 

Once the ritual that creates a third-degree witch is complete, that witch may move into leadership of her coven. She may remain in a supportive role to her coven leaders; for instance, she may be especially skilled in a magical ability, and talented in the teaching of it. In the mobile population and fluctuating job market of our modern society, she may find herself relocated from a region thick with BTW covens to one with but one or two across three states… or none. In such a case, any third-degree witch can found a coven from scratch, a time-consuming labor of love. Equally, she may simply work as “a witch alone” for a time.

 

By the same token, a witch may be head of the only BTW coven—as far as anyone knows—within several hundred miles, or encounter life-altering circumstances that put her in the midst of a metropolitan region where every second coven among a baker’s dozen is BTW. She might choose, in such a case, to join an existing coven… or even an elder’s coven, a rarity that occasionally blossoms.

 

All Wiccan covens are led by a third-degree priestess, called in BTW the High Priestess, and assisted by the priest of her choosing, usually also third degree, the High Priest. As with guilds and mastery, achieving the third degree moves a witch into some kind of a leadership role. Because covens are led by thirds, a new third-degree witch may step in to lead an existing coven, or “hive off” from the parent coven to form a new one.

 

Some of the lore and practice of the higher degrees are unsuited to less-experienced witches. For this reason, written, oral, and ritual practices are usually passed by coven leaders to first, second, and third degrees separately, most often individually. For example, a new initiate may never have experienced the intense combination of spiritual and physical energies that often occur during a magical working in coven. Thus, coven leaders must ensure that when initiates do encounter such, they recover successfully with any needed assistance. Further, coven leaders teach their initiates how to recognize and care for their own needs if working magic alone, as well as in coven, a common practice for many witches.

 

Any elder may choose to share written, oral, and ritual practice with any initiate as it seems needed, so that a first-degree or second-degree coven member might come to have some lore and material usually restricted to a third-degree witch. In an example of my knowledge, when a witch’s sister was stalked and assaulted with emotional wounds to the entire family, that witch consulted her coven leaders.

 

Those coven leaders chose to summon arcane aid to back up the mundane legal actions already taken—a restraining order, police charges filed, action for damages, and so on. In an arcane echo of these mundane actions, the coven leaders led a degree-specific circle of the second and third degree members of their coven, which then “bound” and “banished” the perpetrator from doing further injury. And so did that witch come to have written and oral lore—at second degree—which was usually reserved to the third degree.

 

Conclusion
Such is one of many duties of leadership, to ensure both the continuation and safe practice of our Craft, just as the master in a guild workshop both taught and oversaw safe practice of his craft. The Wicca do not proselytize; however, our elders find that a fair number of individuals seek out the Wicca hoping to learn magic, join a coven, work love spells, gain power, break hexes, acquire status, and so on.

 

A very few of those seekers discover that the more they learn about British Traditional Wicca, the greater the sense of coming home, of returning to a spirituality and deities they never knew they missed. And some of us find the teachers who “fit” for us happen to be of the Wicca… which is how my own journey into the Craft grew from chance meetings into my own initiation, and thence to hiving off and founding my own coven. A saying among us encapsulates this progression: “May the Gods preserve the Craft!”

 

Apprenticeships often included fostering; apprentices were housed and fed and clothed by their contracted master, living as a part of his extended family. I do not discuss this aspect of the master-apprentice relationship here, except to note that it existed—its relevance to Wicca is that a coven leader’s role often seems quasi-parental.

 

 

Wicca is often called an experiential religion for this reason—it is not about believing, it’s about doing, experiencing, and dealing with the result.

 

Historically, the four cross-quarter sabbats or “fire festivals” of Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain or Hallowmas were the Wiccan large events; the solstices & equinoxes were celebrated at the closest full moon circle or esbat. A particularly successful Yule ritual in the late 1950s in Gardner’s coven led to the coven asking to celebrate the solar quarters as separate sabbats.

 

The phrase “a year and a day” describes one full year counted inclusively‚ a term used in mathematics but most often applied to the calendar. Example: one full week, counted inclusively, is 8 days Sunday through Sunday. The same effect arises in music, where an octave (meaning eight) higher is seven half-tones up from the original pitch.

 

At second degree, most North American initiates have the ability—but not the authority—to initiate another person into the Wicca; that authority remains with the third-degree coven leaders, who may appoint a working pair of second degrees to lead what is sometimes called a maiden coven. Initiations into such a maiden coven are performed by the second-degree leaders… whose authority to perform the initiations are granted by their elder third degrees. In contrast, some European BTW covens are led by second-degree initiates; the third degree being viewed as almost a spiritual retirement, or one undertaken by a working partnership together to complete the hieros gamos.

 

Between the two largest segments of initiatory Wicca, Gardnerian and Alexandrian, it has been said that Gardnerians initiate and then train to that level, different from Alexandrians, who train to a level and then initiate to match. These two methods represent the ends of a spectrum along which any coven may operate—if true in practice at one time, that practice has altered in most locations.

 

In the commonest North American practice, many third-degree witches are coven leaders. In other parts of the world, both second and third-degree witches are coven leaders, and as noted before, British and European covens are often led by second-degree practitioners. In either system, third-degree coven leaders become autonomous and independent.

 
Reference
Patti Wigington, ThoughtCo.com

Deb Snavely, Wiccan Rede Online 

Famous Witches Throughout History – Circe

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Circe

In Greek mythology, flame-haired Circe is a minor goddess (or sometimes a nymph, witch, enchantress or sorceress) living on the island of Aeaea. She was reputed to transform her enemies, or those who offended her, into animals through the use of magical potions and was renowned for her knowledge of drugs and herbs.

Circe’s father was Helios, the god of the sun, and her mother was Perse, an Oceanid and daughter of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys. She was also the sister of two kings of Colchis, Aeëtes and Perses, and of Pasiphaë, the mother of the Minotaur.

In Homer’s “Odyssey”, Odysseus’ crew stumbled onto Circe’s island and her “water mansion” in a clearing in a dense wood, around which prowled harmless lions and wolves, the drugged victims of her magic. She invited the sailors to a feast, but the food was laced with one of her magical potions, and she turned them all into pigs with a wand after they had gorged themselves on it (modern interpretations suggest this may have been a hallucinogenic intoxication or drugged delusion rather than shapeshifting).

Odysseus set out to rescue his men, using the holy herb “moly” given to him by Hermes to protect himself from Circe’s potion, and following Hermes’ advice as to how to avoid Circe’s magic and seductions. Having freed his fellows, Odysseus and Circe became lovers, and he and his men remained on the island for a year feasting and drinking wine, after which Circe assisted him in his quest to reach his home.

Later poets extended the story, one version being that Telegonus, Circe’s son by Odysseus was sent by Circe to find Odysseus, who had long since returned to his home on Ithaca, but on arrival Telegonus accidentally killed his father. He brought the body back to Aeaea, taking Odysseus’ widow Penelope and their son Telemachus with him, and Circe made them immortal and married Telemachus, while Telegonus made Penelope his wife.

According to legend, Jason and the Argonauts also visited Circe’s island while they were escaping the Colchian fleet, (possibly at the request of Circe’s niece Medea, who was with them, or possibly instructed by the magical ship “Argo” itself) in order to be purified and cleansed by Circe for the assassination of Medea’s brother Apsyrtus.

In some stories, Circe was also attributed the ability to darken the heavens by hiding the moon or the sun behind clouds, and destroy her enemies with poisonous juices, calling to her aid Nyx (Night), Chaos or Hecate, the goddess of the crossroads. In her presence, and because of her enchantments, the woods would move, the ground rumble and the trees around her turn white. At night, uncontrolled visions filled her house, the walls and chambers of her palace could seem to be bathed in blood, and fire could seem to devour her magic herbs.

She is also credited with converting, in a fit of jealousy, the beautiful young woman Scylla into a monster with the face and breast of a woman, but having in her flanks six heads and twelve feet of dogs, who ever after presented a danger for ships passing the strait of Messina between Sicily and Italy. She is also supposed to have turned the handsome young magician Picus into a woodpecker after he refused her advances.

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The Spellbinding Story of Circe, Goddess of Magic

 

Circe was a goddess of magic and she continues to be one of the most enchanting deities of ancient Greek mythology. This daughter of Helios and patron of ancient Greek witches still fascinates people even today.

She appeared in many of the most famous ancient Greek texts, such as The Odyssey by Homer, The Theogony by Hesiod, Description of Greece by Pausanias, Geography by Strabo, and The Library of History by Diodorus Siculus. She was also mentioned by famous Roman writers like Virgil, Cicero, Ovid, Hyginus, Valerius Flaccus, Statius, and Propertius. Why did Circe become so popular for these and other writers? She was just one of many characters in Greek mythology, but people saw something in her which fascinated them more than the others.

The Magic of Circe
Witchcraft has always been important. Since the beginning of humanity, people have searched for solutions through magical practices. Therefore, Circe (or Kirke) became one of the most magnetic women in Ancient Greece.

In most texts, she is described as a daughter of Perse the Oceanid and the Titan of the Sun – Helios. She had several siblings, including Pasiphae (who married King Minos and bore the famous Minotaur.) Aeetes, known as the keeper of the Golden Fleece, was said to be her brother. However, some ancient texts suggest that she was actually the powerful goddess Hecate’s daughter instead.

Her personality and attributes encompass all of the key ideas related to witchcraft. It is written that she was a specialist in herbs and knew how to use them for magic and healing. She created many recipes for ancient potions to use in magic rituals. Circe is often depicted with a wand or a staff. One of the most famous of her accomplishments was transforming her enemies into animals.
The most popular account of Circe comes from the Odyssey 10. 135 – 12. 156:

“[Odysseus sailed forth from the land of the Laistrygones (Laestrygones) and came next to the island of Kirke (Circe):] Then we came to the island of Aiaia (Aeaea); here Kirke (Circe) dwelt, a goddess with braided hair, with human speech and with strange powers; the magician Aeetes was her brother, and both were radiant Helios the sun-god’s children; their mother was Perse, Okeanos’ (Oceanus’) daughter. We brought the ship noiselessly to shore, and with some divinity for guide we put in at the sheltering harbour. We disembarked, and for two days and two nights we lay there, eating out our hearts with sorrow and weariness.

But when Eos the Dawn of the braided hair brought the third day at last, I took my spear and my sharp sword and hastened up to a vantage-point, hoping to see some human handiwork or to catch the sound of some human speech. I climbed a commanding crag, and from where I stood had a glimpse of smoke rising from the ground. There were gleams of fire through the smoke, and at sight of this I wondered inwardly whether to go and look. But as I pondered, it seemed a wiser thing to return first to my vessel on the beach, give my men a meal and then send them out to spy. I was on my way back and near the ship when some divinity pities me in my loneliness and sent a great antlered stag right across my path [perhaps a man that Kirke had transformed into an animal].”

 

Her role is quite large in the Odyssey, where it shows many things about morality and understanding the power of magic and the fear of deities in ancient Greece. Homer’s description of her also led to Circe being considered as one of the most attractive female figures in ancient mythology.

A Heroine of Science and Literature
Stories from ancient literature fascinated many scientists so much that they started to search for scientific explanations in them. For example, the plants which are believed to be the ones Circe used to put a spell on Odysseus’ companions were called Circaea. That name was given during the late 16th century.

Circe’s fame didn’t die with the end of ancient beliefs. During medieval times, she became an important symbol in moral stories created by Giovanni Boccaccio. In ”Famous women” ( De mulieribus claris ), he wrote that she lived in Italy and commented on her actions. She also appeared in the monumental 600-page text written by Georg Rollenhagen in 1595, titled ”The frogs and mice” ( Froschmeulseler). In that book, Rollenhagen described the story of Odysseus or Ulysses and Circe.

In 1624, Spanish writer Lope de Vega also presented her in his text titled La Circe – con otras rimas y prosas , where he wrote another version of the Greek myth. She was a popular motif during the 19th century in books related to mystical and mythical topics as well.

Circe Today
Circe is now one of the most popular figures from ancient witchcraft and mythology. Her character appears in TV series, movies, games, and fantasy books. She still casts her magic and terrifies men, who have no idea what to do – should they escape or admire her beauty? Circe is a symbol of female power for women and vanity for men. Regardless of how she is interpreted, she is still one of the most magnetic women from ancient Greek myth.

 

Reference
By Natalia Klimczak, Ancient Origins 

Zygmunt Kubiak, Mitologia Greków i Rzymian, 1997.

Pierre Grimal, The Dictionary of Classical Mythology, 1996.

Homer, Odyssey, available at:
http://classics.mit.edu/Homer/odyssey.html

Kirke, available at:
http://www.theoi.com/Titan/Kirke.html

Various Paths of Witchcraft – Ceremonial Magick

OakTree_Pentagram_Tattoo_by_Ralwor

Various Paths of Witchcraft – Ceremonial Magick

Ceremonial Magick Definition
Ceremonial Magick: Ceremonial Magick is one of the most complicated systems of spiritual attainment in the world. It is a mixture of Jewish, Christian, and ancient Egyptian philosophy mixed with ancient Indian and Chaldean ideas spiced with a hint of earlier Paganism. This is mixed with the ceremonial aspects of Catholicism and Masonry. It usually heavily involves the study of the Kabbalah, the mysticism of the world put into Jewish and Judeo-Christian terms.

source: Truth About Psychic Powers, Donald Michael Kraig

Ceremonial Magick:
The object of ceremonial magick is to stimulate the senses, to power-up the emotions, and to firmly conceptualize the purpose of the operation—which is to create a transcending experience to unite Personality with the Divine Self. To this end, rituals, symbols, clothing, colors, incenses, sound, dramatic invocations and sacraments are selected in accordance with established “correspondences” of one thing to another to transport the magician towards a mystical reality.

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Ceremonial Magick

Ceremonial magic is generally defined as magic in which the practitioner uses specific rituals and invocations to call upon the spirit world. Also called high magic, ceremonial magic uses as its base a blend of older occult teachings–Thelema, Enochian magic, Kabbalah, and other various occult philosophies are typically incorporated.

 

Ceremonial vs. Natural Magic

Ceremonial magic differs from natural magic, or low magic.

Natural magic is the practice of magic in accordance with the natural world–herbalism, etc.–while ceremonial magic involves the invoking and control of spirits and other entities. Although there is much more to it than this–ceremonial magic in and of itself being fairly complex–these are the main surface differences. Ultimately, the main purpose of performing high magic is to bring the practitioner closer to the Divine itself, whether that is in the form of a deity or another spiritual being.

 

Origins of Ceremonial Magic

In the late sixteenth century, a translation of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum described “ceremoniall magicke” as containing two parts, “Geocie and Theurgie,” or goetia and theurgy. Although this was the first documented use of the term ceremonial magic, the practices involved had been around for at least a century or two, as the rituals have been noted in the grimoires of early Renaissance and medieval-era magical practitioners.

Over the years, numerous European occultists studied and practiced many of the rituals and ceremonies still in use today. Francis Barrett was an Englishman, born in the late eighteenth century, who studied metaphysics, the Kabbalah, natural occult philosophy and alchemy. Long intrigued by the writings of Agrippa, and by other esoteric texts, Barrett wrote a work entitled The Magus, heavily influenced by Agrippa’s works, and purporting to be a magical textbook focusing on herbalism, the use of numerology, the four classical elements and other correspondences.

The French occultist Alphonse Louis Constant, better known by his pseudonym Éliphas Lévi, lived in the 1800s, and was part of a number of radical socialist groups. An avid Bonapartist, Lévi developed an interest in the Kabbalah, and subsequently magic, as part of a group of radicals who believed that magic and the occult were essentially a more advanced form of socialism. He was fairly prolific and wrote a number of works on what we today call ceremonial magic, as well as books on spiritualism (The Science of Spirits) and the secrets of the occult (The Great Secret, or Occultism Unveiled).

Like Barrett and Agrippa, Lévi’s flavor of ceremonial magic was heavily rooted in Judeo-Christian mysticism.

 

Ceremonial Magic Today

During the Victorian era, spiritualist and occult groups flourished, and perhaps none is as well known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. This secret society embraced ceremonial magical practices, although it eventually imploded when members couldn’t seem to agree on the actual religious beliefs of the group. Like their predecessors, many Golden Dawn members were Christians, but there was an influx of Pagan beliefs brought in that eventually led to the fragmenting of the Order.

Many of today’s ceremonial magic practitioners trace their roots to the teachings of the Golden Dawn. Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) is an international organization which was originally modeled on Freemasonry. During the 1900s, under the leadership of occultist Aleister Crowley, O.T.O. began to include elements of Thelema as well. Following Crowley’s death, the organization has seen a number of changes in leadership. Like many ceremonial magic groups, membership includes a series of initiations and rituals.

Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.) is a Los Angeles-based ceremonial magic tradition that carries influence from both the Golden Dawn and the Freemasons. In addition to group ritual work, B.O.T.A. offers correspondence classes on Kabbalah, astrology, divination, and many other aspects of occult studies.

Although information on ceremonial magic often seems to be limited, this is due in part to the need for secrecy within the community. Author Dion Fortune once said of the teachings of ceremonial magic, “Secrecy concerning practical formulae of ceremonial magic is also advisable, for if they are used indiscriminately, the virtue goes out of them.”

Today, there is a great deal of publicly available information on the practice and beliefs of high magic, or ceremonial magic. However, it is said that the information out there is incomplete and that it is only through training and work that a practitioner can unlock all of the secrets of ceremonial magic.

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Ceremonial Magic

Ceremonial magic or ritual magic, also referred to as high magic and as learned magic in some cases, is a broad term used in the context of Hermeticism or Western esotericism to encompass a wide variety of long, elaborate, and complex rituals of magic. It is named as such because the works included are characterized by ceremony and a myriad of necessary accessories to aid the practitioner. It can be seen as an extension of ritual magic, and in most cases synonymous with it. Popularized by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, it draws on such schools of philosophical and occult thought as Hermetic Qabalah, Enochian magic, Thelema, and the magic of various grimoires.

 

Renaissance magic
The term originates in 16th-century Renaissance magic, referring to practices described in various Medieval and Renaissance grimoires and in collections such as that of Johannes Hartlieb. Georg Pictor uses the term synonymously with goetia.
James Sanford in his 1569 translation of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s 1526 De incertitudine et vanitate scientiarum has “The partes of ceremoniall Magicke be Geocie, and Theurgie”. For Agrippa, ceremonial magic was in opposition to natural magic. While he had his misgivings about natural magic, which included astrology, alchemy, and also what we would today consider fields of natural science, such as botany, he was nevertheless prepared to accept it as “the highest peak of natural philosophy”. Ceremonial magic, on the other hand, which included all sorts of communication with spirits, including necromancy and witchcraft, he denounced in its entirety as impious disobedience towards God.

Revival
Starting with the Romantic movement, in the 19th century, a number of people and groups have effected a revival of ceremonial magic.

 

Francis Barrett
Among the various sources for ceremonial magic, Francis Barrett’s The Magus embodies deep knowledge of alchemy, astrology, and the Kabbalah, and has been cited by the Golden Dawn, and is seen by some[according to whom?] as a primary source. But according to Aleister Crowley, perhaps the most influential ceremonial magician of the Modern era, much of it was cribbed from Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy.

 

Eliphas Levi
Eliphas Lévi conceived the notion of writing a treatise on magic with his friend Bulwer-Lytton. This appeared in 1855 under the title Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, and was translated into English by Arthur Edward Waite as Transcendental Magic, its Doctrine and Ritual.

 

In 1861, he published a sequel, La Clef des Grands Mystères (The Key to the Great Mysteries). Further magical works by Lévi include Fables et Symboles (Stories and Images), 1862, and La Science des Esprits (The Science of Spirits), 1865. In 1868, he wrote Le Grand Arcane, ou l’Occultisme Dévoilé (The Great Secret, or Occultism Unveiled); this, however, was only published posthumously in 1898.

 

Lévi’s version of magic became a great success, especially after his death. That Spiritualism was popular on both sides of the Atlantic from the 1850s contributed to his success. His magical teachings were free from obvious fanaticisms, even if they remained rather murky; he had nothing to sell, and did not pretend to be the initiate of some ancient or fictitious secret society. He incorporated the Tarot cards into his magical system, and as a result the Tarot has been an important part of the paraphernalia of Western magicians. He had a deep impact on the magic of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and later Aleister Crowley, and it was largely through this impact that Lévi is remembered as one of the key founders of the twentieth century revival of magic.

 

Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (or, more commonly, the Golden Dawn) was a magical order of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, practicing a form of theurgy and spiritual development. It was probably the single greatest influence on twentieth century Western occultism. Some aspects of magic and ritual that became core elements of many other traditions, including Wicca, Thelema and other forms of magical spirituality popular today, are partly drawn from the Golden Dawn tradition.

 

Aleister Crowley
English author and occultist Aleister Crowley often introduced new terminology for spiritual and magical practices and theory. For example, he termed theurgy “high magick” and thaumaturgy “low magick”. In The Book of the Law and The Vision and the Voice, the Aramaic magical formula Abracadabra was changed to Abrahadabra, which he called the new formula of the Aeon of Horus. He also famously spelled magic in the archaic manner, as magick, to differentiate “the true science of the Magi from all its counterfeits.”

 

Magical tools
The practice of ceremonial magic often requires tools made or consecrated specifically for this use, which are required for a particular ritual or series of rituals. They may be a symbolic representation of psychological elements of the magician or of metaphysical concepts.

 

In Magick (Book 4), Part II (Magick), Aleister Crowley lists the tools required as a circle drawn on the ground and inscribed with the names of god, an altar, a wand, cup, sword, and pentacle, to represent his true will, his understanding, his reason, and the lower parts of his being respectively. On the altar, too, is a phial of oil to represent his aspiration, and for consecrating items to his intent. The magician is surrounded by a scourge, dagger, and chain intended to keep his intent pure. An oil lamp, book of conjurations and bell are required, as is the wearing of a crown, robe, and lamen. The crown affirms his divinity, the robe symbolizes silence, and the lamen declare his work. The book of conjurations is his magical record, his karma. In the East is the magick fire in which all burns up at last.

 

Grimoires
A grimoire /ɡrɪmˈwɑːr/ is a record of magic. Books of this genre, are records of magical experiments and philosophical musings, giving instructions for invoking angels or demons, performing divination and gaining magical powers, and have circulated throughout Europe since the Middle Ages.

 

It is common belief that magicians were frequently prosecuted by the Christian church, so their journals were kept hidden to prevent the owner from being burned. But it is also a well-known fact that church and the rabbi keep records of demonic activity and exorcism too in their own magical records which were used for similar record keeping. Some claim that the new age occultism is a sham and borrowed heavily from these old record books by the religious. Such books contain astrological correspondences, lists of angels and demons, directions on casting charms, spells, and exorcism, on mixing medicines, summoning elemental entities, and making talismans. Magical books in almost any context, especially books of magical spells, are also called grimoires.

 

 

Enochian magic
Enochian magic is a system of ceremonial magic centered on the evocation and commanding of various spirits that was the magical exploration made by an English occultist Dr. John Dee. It is based on the 16th-century writings of Dr John Dee and Edward Kelley, who claimed that their information was delivered to them directly by various angels. Dee’s journals contained the Enochian script, and the table of correspondences that goes with it. It claims to embrace secrets contained within the apocryphal Book of Enoch. It is a widely held belief that these revelations were personal and specific to Dee’s life and reality and borrowed on imagination heavily.

 

Organizations
Among the many organizations which practice forms of ceremonial magic aside from the Golden Dawn are the A∴A∴, Ordo Templi Orientis, and the Builders of the Adytum.

 

References:
The Llewellyn Encyclopedia
Patti Wigington, ThoughtCo.com
Wikipedia 

The Various Paths of Witchcraft: Egyptian Witchcraft


Egyptian Comments & Graphics

Egyptian Witchcraft

Like the witch craft of any other region, the Egyptian witch craft is based upon the country’s tradition, myth, legend, rituals, drama, poetry, song, dance, worship, magic and living in harmony with the earth.

The practitioners of Egyptian witch craft honor the ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses including the Triple goddess of the waxing, full and waning moon and the horned god of the sun, death and animal life.

Since moon has an important place in Egyptian witch craft, therefore both men and women in city apartments, suburban backyards and country glades meet on full moons and on festival occasions to raise their energy levels and harmonize themselves with the natural forces.

Congregations in Egyptian witch craft are called temples and covens where the seekers are initiated into learning the witch craft. The repeated patterns of changing seasons have great importance in the Egyptian witch craft. Ritual and festivals evolved to celebrate these seasonal cycles more especially during the sowing and harvesting seasons.

Egyptian witch craft, therefore, has an image of the ‘Wheel of the Year’ with its eight spokes which symbolize the four agricultural and pastoral festivals and the four solar festivals commemorating seasonal solstices and equinoxes. Like the ancient Pagans and witches, Egyptian witches consider the day as beginning at sundown and ending at sundown the following day.

Egyptian witches hone their divination skills in the increasing starlight and moon light and as winter begins, they work with the positive aspects of the dark tides. Therefore October 31-November eve is the most auspicious period for the Egyptian witches as this, according to them, is the time when the veil that separates our world from the next is the thinnest. This period allows the dead to return to the world of living when their kith and kin welcome and feast them.Egyptian Zodiac Wheel

Egyptian witches perform magic at gatherings called Moon Celebrations or Esbats which coincide with the phases of the moon. Witches practice healing magic, protection, retaliation and channeling of energy to develop themselves spiritually. They create circles to work magic. The primary tool that they use to work magic is a ritual knife called a Sacred Blade or Athame. The sacred blade gets charged with energy of the owner and is used to define space such as drawing a sacred circle where the owner’s will and energy work. A bowl of water is used to symbolize the element of water and its properties: cleansing, regeneration, and emotion.

Other important tools denote the elements earth, air, fire, and water. A pentacle (a pentagram traced upon a disk, like a small dish) is often used to symbolize earth and its properties, stability, material wealth and practical affairs. Alternatively, a small dish of salt or soil can be used to symbolize the earth element.

Scarab and Witchcraft
Witchcraft is based upon personal faith and beliefs, worship of pagan gods and nature. This belief system coincides with the deification of Scarab and its identification with Ra or Atum by Egyptians.

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Egyptian Witchcraft

 

Just like the witchcraft of other countries, the Egyptian witchcraft has been influenced by the legend, myth, tradition, worship, dance, song, magic, poetry and rituals of its own country. The followers of this witchcraft pay respect to the Egyptian deities that includes gods as well as goddesses. The goddess that is well-known is the Triple goddess and the god that is popular in this culture is the horned god.

As the moon is considered to be an important part of the Egyptian witchcraft, the practitioners of Wicca in this country get together on full moons as well as festive events for the purpose of balancing themselves with the forces of the nature and also for the purpose of improving their energy levels.

The places that people go to worship the deities are in the covens as well as temples and these are the places where the followers of Wicca learn more about witchcraft. The Egyptian witchcraft stresses on the importance of the changes in the seasons and there are many festivals that are connected to the seasonal changes.

Most of the festivals and rituals in the Egyptian witchcraft take place during the harvesting as well as sowing seasons. This kind of witchcraft is said to have a wheel of the year and this wheel has four pastoral and agricultural festivals and the remaining four festivals are celebrated in honor of equinoxes and solstices. Just like the traditional witches and pagans, the Egyptian witches also believe that the day starts at sundown and it ends at sunset of the very next day.

The witches in Egypt improve their divinatory skills in moon light and starlight. They also do this when the winter season begins. It is to be noted that the practitioners of witchcraft work with the dark tides (positive aspects). This is probably the reason why the last day of October and the eve of November is considered to be a favorable period. The witches are also of the opinion that it is during this time that the veil between out world and the other world is the thinnest. It is also during this time that the people who are still living invite their deceased loved ones for feast and the spirits come to the world of the living.

The gatherings where the practitioners of the Egyptian witchcraft carry out magic are known as Esbats or Moon Celebrations. These celebrations takes place during the different phases of the moon and this is the reason why they are known as moon celebrations. During the Esbats, the practitioners perform protection and healing magic and they also channel the energy for the purpose of developing themselves spiritually.

To perform magic, the witches draw circles. Athame or the Sacred Blade is a ritual knife that the witches make use of for the purpose of working on magic and this is also their most important tool. This blade is charged with the energy of the witch to whom the Athame belongs to and then this tool is used for the purpose of creating a circle where the witch will work on her energy and will. The witches also make use of a bowl of water because this represents the element of water and also the properties of water like regeneration, cleansing and emotion. Many a times, the witches make use of a pentagram to represent the earth and the properties of this symbol are material wealth, practical affairs and stability.

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Ancient Egyptian Magic

Magicians
In Egyptian myth, magic (heka) was one of the forces used by the creator to make the world. Through heka, symbolic actions could have practical effects. All deities and people were thought to possess this force in some degree, but there were rules about why and how it could be used.

Priests were the main practitioners of magic in pharaonic Egypt, where they were seen as guardians of a secret knowledge given by the gods to humanity to ‘ward off the blows of fate’. The most respected users of magic were the lector priests, who could read the ancient books of magic kept in temple and palace libraries. In popular stories such men were credited with the power to bring wax animals to life, or roll back the waters of a lake.

By the first millennium BC, their role seems to have been taken over by magicians (hekau). Healing magic was a speciality of the priests who served Sekhmet, the fearsome goddess of plague.

Lower in status were the scorpion-charmers, who used magic to rid an area of poisonous reptiles and insects. Midwives and nurses also included magic among their skills, and wise women might be consulted about which ghost or deity was causing a person trouble.

Amulets were another source of magic power, obtainable from ‘protection-makers’, who could be male or female. None of these uses of magic was disapproved of – either by the state or the priesthood. Only foreigners were regularly accused of using evil magic. It is not until the Roman period that there is much evidence of individual magicians practising harmful magic for financial reward.

Techniques
Dawn was the most propitious time to perform magic, and the magician had to be in a state of ritual purity. This might involve abstaining from sex before the rite, and avoiding contact with people who were deemed to be polluted, such as embalmers or menstruating women. Ideally, the magician would bathe and then dress in new or clean clothes before beginning a spell.

Metal wands representing the snake goddess Great of Magic were carried by some practitioners of magic. Semi-circular ivory wands – decorated with fearsome deities – were used in the second millennium BC. The wands were symbols of the authority of the magician to summon powerful beings, and to make them obey him or her.

Only a small percentage of Egyptians were fully literate, so written magic was the most prestigious kind of all. Private collections of spells were treasured possessions, handed down within families. Protective or healing spells written on papyrus were sometimes folded up and worn on the body.

A spell usually consisted of two parts: the words to be spoken and a description of the actions to be taken. To be effective all the words, especially the secret names of deities, had to be pronounced correctly. The words might be spoken to activate the power of an amulet, a figurine, or a potion. These potions might contain bizarre ingredients such as the blood of a black dog, or the milk of a woman who had born a male child. Music and dance, and gestures such as pointing and stamping, could also form part of a spell.

Protection
Angry deities, jealous ghosts, and foreign demons and sorcerers were thought to cause misfortunes such as illness, accidents, poverty and infertility. Magic provided a defence system against these ills for individuals throughout their lives.

Stamping, shouting, and making a loud noise with rattles, drums and tambourines were all thought to drive hostile forces away from vulnerable women, such as those who were pregnant or about to give birth, and from children – also a group at risk, liable to die from childhood diseases.

Some of the ivory wands may have been used to draw a protective circle around the area where a woman was to give birth, or to nurse her child. The wands were engraved with the dangerous beings invoked by the magician to fight on behalf of the mother and child. They are shown stabbing, strangling or biting evil forces, which are represented by snakes and foreigners.

Supernatural ‘fighters, such as the lion-dwarf Bes and the hippopotamus goddess Taweret, were represented on furniture and household items. Their job was to protect the home, especially at night when the forces of chaos were felt to be at their most powerful.

Bes and Taweret also feature in amuletic jewellery. Egyptians of all classes wore protective amulets, which could take the form of powerful deities or animals, or use royal names and symbols. Other amulets were designed to magically endow the wearer with desirable qualities, such as long life, prosperity and good health.

Healing
Magic was not so much an alternative to medical treatment as a complementary therapy. Surviving medical-magical papyri contain spells for the use of doctors, Sekhmet priests and scorpion-charmers. The spells were often targeted at the supernatural beings that were believed to be the ultimate cause of diseases. Knowing the names of these beings gave the magician power to act against them.

Since demons were thought to be attracted by foul things, attempts were sometimes made to lure them out of the patient’s body with dung; at other times a sweet substance such as honey was used, to repel them. Another technique was for the doctor to draw images of deities on the patient’s skin. The patient then licked these off, to absorb their healing power.

Many spells included speeches, which the doctor or the patient recited in order to identify themselves with characters in Egyptian myth. The doctor may have proclaimed that he was Thoth, the god of magical knowledge who healed the wounded eye of the god Horus. Acting out the myth would ensure that the patient would be cured, like Horus.

Collections of healing and protective spells were sometimes inscribed on statues and stone slabs (stelae) for public use. A statue of King Ramesses III (c.1184-1153 BC), set up in the desert, provided spells to banish snakes and cure snakebites.

Statue of Horus Horus © A type of magical stela known as a cippus always shows the infant god Horus overcoming dangerous animals and reptiles. Some have inscriptions describing how Horus was poisoned by his enemies, and how Isis, his mother, pleaded for her son’s life, until the sun god Ra sent Thoth to cure him. The story ends with the promise that anyone who is suffering will be healed, as Horus was healed. The power in these words and images could be accessed by pouring water over the cippus. The magic water was then drunk by the patient, or used to wash their wound.

Curses
Though magic was mainly used to protect or heal, the Egyptian state also practised destructive magic. The names of foreign enemies and Egyptian traitors were inscribed on clay pots, tablets, or figurines of bound prisoners. These objects were then burned, broken, or buried in cemeteries in the belief that this would weaken or destroy the enemy.

In major temples, priests and priestesses performed a ceremony to curse enemies of the divine order, such as the chaos serpent Apophis – who was eternally at war with the creator sun god. Images of Apophis were drawn on papyrus or modelled in wax, and these images were spat on, trampled, stabbed and burned. Anything that remained was dissolved in buckets of urine. The fiercest gods and goddesses of the Egyptian pantheon were summoned to fight with, and destroy, every part of Apophis, including his soul (ba) and his heka. Human enemies of the kings of Egypt could also be cursed during this ceremony.

This kind of magic was turned against King Ramesses III by a group of priests, courtiers and harem ladies. These conspirators got hold of a book of destructive magic from the royal library, and used it to make potions, written spells and wax figurines with which to harm the king and his bodyguards. Magical figurines were thought to be more effective if they incorporated something from the intended victim, such as hair, nail-clippings or bodily fluids. The treacherous harem ladies would have been able to obtain such substances but the plot seems to have failed. The conspirators were tried for sorcery and condemned to death.

The dead
All Egyptians expected to need heka to preserve their bodies and souls in the afterlife, and curses threatening to send dangerous animals to hunt down tomb-robbers were sometimes inscribed on tomb walls. The mummified body itself was protected by amulets, hidden beneath its wrappings. Collections of funerary spells – such as the Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead – were included in elite burials, to provide esoteric magical knowledge.

The dead person’s soul, usually shown as a bird with a human head and arms, made a dangerous journey through the underworld. The soul had to overcome the demons it would encounter by using magic words and gestures. There were even spells to help the deceased when their past life was being assessed by the Forty-Two Judges of the Underworld. Once a dead person was declared innocent they became an akh, a ‘transfigured’ spirit. This gave them akhw power, a superior kind of magic, which could be used on behalf of their living relatives.

 

 

Reference
Witchcraft 
J. Roslyn Antle, High Priestess, The 7Witches Coven
Dr Geraldine Pinch, BBC History 

Books
Amulets of Ancient Egypt by Carol Andrews (British Museum Press, 1994)
‘Witchcraft, Magic and Divination in Ancient Egypt’ by JF Borghouts in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East edited by JM Sasson (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1995)
Magic in Ancient Egypt by Geraldine Pinch (British Museum Press/University of Texas Press, 1994)

 

Various Paths of Witchcraft: Eclectic Wicca/Witchcraft

Eclectic Wicca/Witchcraft

The Merriam Dictionary defines the word ‘eclectic’ as meaning “selecting what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles .” Eclectic Wiccans (and eclectic Pagans, who are a very similar group) do just that, sometimes on their own and sometimes in informal or formal groups.

Overview of Eclectic Wicca
Eclectic Wicca is an all-purpose term applied to witchcraft traditions, often ​NeoWiccan (meaning modern Wiccan), that doesn’t fit into any specific definitive category.

Many solitary Wiccans follow an eclectic path, but there are also covens that consider themselves eclectic. A coven or individual may use the term ‘eclectic’ for a variety of reasons. For example:

Mixed and matched traditions: A group or solitary may use a blend of beliefs and practices from several different pantheons and traditions.
Modified traditions: A group could be an offshoot of an established tradition of Wicca, such as Gardnerian or Alexandrian, but with modifications to their practice that make them significantly different from that original tradition.
Uniquely individual practices: An individual may be creating his or her own tradition of beliefs and practices, and because this system can’t be defined as something else, it is usually defined as eclectic.
Uninitiated practitioner: A solitary may be practicing what he or she has learned from publicly available sources on Wicca, but not be using oathbound, initiatory material, and so recognizes that his or her practice is eclectic.
Because there is often disagreement about who is Wiccan and who isn’t, there can be confusion regarding existing lineaged Wiccan traditions, and newer eclectic traditions. Some would say that only lineaged covens (based on traditional practices) should be permitted to call themselves Wiccan. By that reasoning, anyone who claims to be eclectic is, by definition, not Wiccan but Neowiccan (‘new’ or nontraditional Wiccan).

Bear in mind that the term Neowiccan simply means someone who practices a newer form of Wicca, and is not meant to be derogatory or insulting.

Church of Universal Eclectic Wicca
One organization that supports practitioners of eclectic Wicca is the Church of Universal Eclectic Wicca. They describe themselves as follows:

Universalism is a religious belief that allows for the existence of truth in a multitude of places. Eclectism is the practice of taking from many places….What we encourage is experimentation and exploration towards those things in your religious life that work and letting go of those things that don’t. UEW defines Wicca as any religion that calls itself Wicca, AND believes in a god/force/power/whatever that is either genderless, both genders or manifests as a male/female polarity that we agree to call “the Lord and Lady.” AND upholds the Five Points of Wiccan Belief.

The Five Points of Wiccan Belief include the Wiccan Rede, the Law of Return, the Ethic of Self-Responsibility, the Ethic of Constant Improvement and the Ethic of Attunement. The Wiccan Rede is written in many ways, but its intent is consistent: “do what you will, so long as it harms none.” The Law of Return states that whatever positive or negative energy a person puts out into the world will be returned to that person three times over.

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Eclectic Witchcraft

The definition of the eclectic witch is one of the hardest magical traditions to pin down if for no other reason than the fact that the term “eclectic” means different things to different witches. Very simply put an eclectic witch is one who follows more than a single tradition and who utilises different paths, cultures and traditions in the work that she does.

The confusion comes in when discussing to what extent different magical systems can be brought together for positive effect. There is a deal of difference between a witch who is conversant in two or three different traditions and blends the parts of each that call to her into a unified whole which is her own path and a witch who just picks up the odd idea here and there and throws them all haphazardly into the random pot without making any effort to understand the culture and history behind each tradition. Without understanding why a magical practise is relevant to a tradition it is futile to absorb that practise into individual workings and a witch who chooses to do so will not reap much benefit from it. It is important however to understand that some paths are very compatible and an eclectic witch who makes use of ideas from paths from a similar field will likely find it helps her move forward in the development of her own path.

To some extent most modern witches display a certain amount of eclecticism and it could be argued that the witch who does not is missing out as it is hard to imagine any tradition that could not be enriched by the ideas and practises of another. The difficulty with being eclectic comes when non harmonious systems are brought together and the lack of understanding behind the ideas from all of the different systems are not adequately understood. This wouldn’t lead to any danger but it would render the workings of such a witch pretty worthless. One of the most important things to learn about magic is that it works if you understand why you are doing something. Using random ingredients because they have value to a witch on another path but mean nothing to you are unlikely to yield great results. There is also the danger of over-diversifying – a witch who wants to study, learn and work with everything is diluting the essence of every tradition she works with. With no cohesion between the magical paths she chooses to work with her own path will eventually become nothing but a pick and mix of meaningless fragments.

The concept of being eclectic can be extended to fit the idea of a tradition changing over time. Even the most rigid family based traditions adapt and evolve as new family members are born and add their input into the path. There is (at least as far as I am aware) no specific term that fits a witch who adheres to one primary tradition but allows her path to evolve and change. In the absence of such a term we refer to these witches as being eclectic. Strictly speaking they do not fit the term but they do echo the idea that witchcraft cannot stand still and that in order not to stagnate every path needs fresh ideas and input to stay alive.

Eclectic Wicca is a different concept to Eclectic Witchcraft although the principle of choosing different elements from different established strands still rings true. An eclectic Wiccan may practise a blend of Alexandrian and Gardnerian or even a blend between one Wiccan tradition and a different magical path. Where Eclectic Wicca cannot be applied as a term is when the practises of an individual do not confirm to the established structure of the Wiccan religion. You cannot for example make any claim to be Wiccan if you do not believe in deity. Wicca, unlike witchcraft is a defined religious path with specific beliefs at its heart. An individual who does not share the core beliefs cannot claim to be a part of the religion.

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Reference

Patti Wigington 
Witch Way Forward 

 

 

 

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Various Traditions of Witchcraft – Gardnerian Wicca/Witchcraft

Gardnerian Wicca/Witchcraft

Who Was Gerald Gardner?

Gerald Brousseau Gardner (1884–1964) was born in Lancashire, England. As a teen, he moved to Ceylon, and shortly prior to World War I, relocated to Malaya, where he worked as a civil servant. During his travels, he formed an interest in native cultures, and became a bit of an amateur folklorist. In particular, he was interested in indigenous magic and ritual practices.

After several decades abroad, Gardner returned to England in the 1930s, and settled near the New Forest.

It was here that he discovered European occultism and beliefs, and – according to his biography, claimed that he was initiated into the New Forest coven. Gardner believed that the witchcraft being practiced by this group was a holdover from an early, pre-Christian witch cult, much like the ones described in the writings of Margaret Murray.

Gardner took many of the practices and beliefs of the New Forest coven, combined them with ceremonial magic, kabbalah, and the writings of Aleister Crowley, as well as other sources. Together, this package of beliefs and practices became the Gardnerian tradition of Wicca. Gardner initiated a number of high priestesses into his coven, who in turn initiated new members of their own. In this manner, Wicca spread throughout the UK.

In 1964, on his way back from a trip to Lebanon, Gardner suffered a fatal heart attack at breakfast on the ship on which he traveled.

At the next port of call, in Tunisia, his body was removed from the ship and buried. Legend has it that only the ship’s captain was in attendance. In 2007, he was re-interred in a different cemetery, where a plaque on his headstone reads, “Father of Modern Wicca. Beloved of the Great Goddess.”
Origins of the Gardnerian Path

Gerald Gardner launched Wicca shortly after the end of World War II, and went public with his coven following the repeal of England’s Witchcraft Laws in the early 1950s.

There is a good deal of debate within the Wiccan community about whether the Gardnerian path is the only “true” Wiccan tradition, but the point remains that it was certainly the first. Gardnerian covens require initiation, and work on a degree system. Much of their information is initiatory and oathbound, which means it can never be shared with those outside the coven.

The Book of Shadows

The Gardnerian Book of Shadows was created by Gerald Gardner with some assistance and editing from Doreen Valiente, and drew heavily on works by Charles Leland, Aleister Crowley, and SJ MacGregor Mathers. Within a Gardnerian group, each member copies the coven BOS and then adds to it with their own information. Gardnerians self-identify by way of their lineage, which is always traced back to Gardner himself and those he initiated.
Gardner’s Ardanes

In the 1950s, when Gardner was writing what eventually become the Gardnerian Book of Shadows, one of the items he included was a list of guidelines called the Ardanes. The word “ardane” is a variant on “ordain”, or law. Gardner claimed that the Ardanes were ancient knowledge that had been passed down to him by way of the New Forest coven of witches. However, it’s entirely possible that Gardner wrote them himself; there was some disagreement in scholarly circles about the language contained within the Ardanes, in that some of the phrasing was archaic while some was more contemporary.

This led a number of people – including Gardner’s High Priestess, Doreen Valiente – to question the authenticity of the Ardanes. Valiente had suggested a set of rules for the coven, which included restrictions on public interviews and speaking with the press. Gardner introduced these Ardanes – or Old Laws – to his coven, in response to the complaints by Valiente.

One of the largest problems with the Ardanes is that there is no concrete evidence of their existence prior to Gardner’s revealing them in 1957. Valiente, and several other coven members, questioned whether or not he had written them himself – after all, much of what is included in the Ardanes appears in Gardner’s book, Witchcraft Today, as well as some of his other writings. Shelley Rabinovitch, author of The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism, says, “After a coven meeting in late 1953, [Valiente] asked him about the Book of Shadows and some of its text.

He had told the coven that the material was ancient text passed down to him, but Doreen had identified passages that were blatantly copied from the ritual magic of Aleister Crowley.”

One of Valiente’s strongest arguments against the Ardanes – in addition to the fairly sexist language and misogyny – was that these writings never appeared in any previous coven documents. In other words, they appeared when Gardner needed them most, and not before.

Cassie Beyer of Wicca: For the Rest of Us says, “The problem is that no one’s sure if the New Forest Coven even existed or, if it did, how old or organized it was. Even Gardner confessed what they taught was fragmentary… It should also be noted that while the Old Laws speaks only of the punishment of burning for witches, England mostly hanged their witches. Scotland, however, did burn them.”

The dispute over the origins of the Ardanes eventually led Valiente and several other members of the group to part ways with Gardner. The Ardanes remain a part of the standard Gardnerian Book of Shadows. However, they are not followed by every Wiccan group, and are rarely used by non-Wiccan Pagan traditions.

There are 161 Ardanes in Gardner’s original work, and that’s a LOT of rules to be followed. Some of the Ardanes read as fragmentary sentences, or as continuations of the line before it. Many of them do not apply in today’s society. For instance, #35 reads, “And if any break these laws, even under torture, the curse of the goddess shall be upon them, so they may never be reborn on earth and may remain where they belong, in the hell of the Christians.” Many Pagans today would argue that it makes no sense at all to use the threat of the Christian hell as punishment for violating a mandate.

However, there are also a number of guidelines that can be helpful and practical advice, such as the suggestion to keep a book of herbal remedies, a recommendation that if there is a dispute within the group it should be fairly evaluated by the High Priestess, and a guideline on keeping one’s Book of Shadows in safe possession at all times.

You can read a complete text of the Ardanes here: Sacred Texts – the Gardnerian Book of Shadows
Gardnerian Wicca in the Public Eye

Gardner was an educated folklorist and occultist, and claimed to have been initiated himself into a coven of New Forest witches by a woman named Dorothy Clutterbuck. When England repealed the last of its witchcraft laws in 1951, Gardner went public with his coven, much to the consternation of many other witches in England. His active courting of publicity led to a rift between him and Valiente, who had been one of his High Priestesses. Gardner formed a series of covens throughout England prior to his death in 1964.

One of Gardner’s best known works, and the one that truly brought modern witchcraft into the public eye was his work Witchcraft Today, originally published in 1954, which has been reprinted several times.

Gardner’s Work Comes to America

In 1963, Gardner initiated Raymond Buckland, who then flew back to his home in the United States and formed the first Gardnerian coven in America. Gardnerian Wiccans in America trace their lineage to Gardner through Buckland.

Because Gardnerian Wicca is a mystery tradition, its members do not generally advertise or actively recruit new members.

In addition, public information about their specific practices and rituals is very difficult to find.

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Gardnerian Wicca/Witchcraft

Gardnerian Wicca, or Gardnerian witchcraft, is a tradition in the neopagan religion of Wicca, whose members can trace initiatory descent from Gerald Gardner. The tradition is itself named after Gardner (1884–1964), a British civil servant and amateur scholar of magic. The term “Gardnerian” was probably coined by the founder of Cochranian Witchcraft, Robert Cochrane in the 1950s or 60s, who himself left that tradition to found his own.

Gardner claimed to have learned the beliefs and practises that would later become known as Gardnerian Wicca from the New Forest coven, who allegedly initiated him into their ranks in 1939. For this reason, Gardnerian Wicca is usually considered to be the earliest created tradition of Wicca, from which most subsequent Wiccan traditions are derived.

From the supposed New Forest coven, Gardner formed his own Bricket Wood coven, and in turn initiated many Witches, including a series of High Priestesses, founding further covens and continuing the initiation of more Wiccans into the tradition. In the UK, Europe and most Commonwealth countries someone self-defined as Wiccan is usually understood to be claiming initiatory descent from Gardner, either through Gardnerian Wicca, or through a derived branch such as Alexandrian Wicca or Algard Wicca. Elsewhere, these original lineaged traditions are termed “British Traditional Wicca”

Beliefs and practices
Covens and initiatory lines

Gardnerian Wiccans organise into covens, that traditionally, though not always, are limited to thirteen members. Covens are led by a High Priestess and the High Priest of her choice, and celebrate both a Goddess and a God.

Gardnerian Wicca and other forms of British Traditional Wicca operate as an initiatory mystery cult; membership is gained only through initiation by a Wiccan High Priestess or High Priest. Any valid line of initiatory descent can be traced all the way back to Gerald Gardner, and through him back to the New Forest coven.

Rituals and coven practices are kept secret from non-initiates, and many Wiccans maintain secrecy regarding their membership in the Religion. Whether any individual Wiccan chooses secrecy or openness often depends on their location, career, and life circumstances. In all cases, Gardnerian Wicca absolutely forbids any member to share the name, personal information, fact of membership, and so on without advanced individual consent of that member for that specific instance of sharing. (In this regard, secrecy is specifically for reasons of safety, in parallel to the LGBT custom of being “in the closet”, the heinousness of the act of “outing” anyone, and the dire possibilities of the consequences to an individual who is “outed”. Wiccans often refer to being in or out of the “broom closet”, to make the exactness of the parallel clear.)

Theology
In Gardnerian Wicca, the two principal deities are the Horned God and the Mother Goddess. Gardnerians use specific names for the God and the Goddess in their rituals. Doreen Valiente, a Gardnerian High Priestess, revealed that there were more than one. She said that Gardner referred to the Goddess as Airdia or Areda, which she believed was derived from Aradia, the deity that Charles Leland claimed was worshipped by Italian witches. She said that the God was called Cernunnos, or Kernunno, which in Celtic meant “The Horned One”. Another name by which Gardnerians called the God was Janicot (pronounced Jan-e-ko), which she believed was Basque in origin.

The Gardnerian tradition teaches a core ethical guideline, often referred to as “The Rede” or “The Wiccan Rede”. In the archaic language often retained in some Gardnerian lore, the Rede states, “An it harm none, do as thou wilt.”

Witches … are inclined to the morality of the legendary Good King Pausol, “Do what you like so long as you harm no one”. But they believe a certain law to be important, “You must not use magic for anything which will cause harm to anyone, and if, to prevent a greater wrong being done, you must discommode someone, you must do it only in a way which will abate the harm.”

Two features stand out about the Rede. The first is that the word rede means “advice” or “counsel”. The Rede is not a commandment but a recommendation, a guideline. The second is that the advice to harm none stands at equal weight with the advice to do as one wills. Thus Gardnerian Wiccan teachings stand firm against coercion and for informed consent; forbid proselytization while requiring anyone seeking to become an initiate of Gardnerian Wicca to ask for teaching, studies, initiation. To expound a little further, the qualifying phrase “an (if) it harm none” includes not only other, but self. Hence, weighing the possible outcomes of an action is a part of the thought given before taking an action; the metaphor of tossing a pebble into a pond and observing the ripples that spread in every direction is sometimes used. The declarative statement “do as thou wilt” expresses a clear statement of what is, philosophically, known as “free will.”

A second ethical guideline is often called the Law of Return, sometimes the Rule of Three, which mirrors the physics concept described in Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.”This basic law of physics is more usually today stated thus: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Like the Rede, this guideline teaches Gardnerians that whatever energy or intention one puts out into the world, whether magical or not, some response of equal effect will return. This teaching underlies the importance of doing no harm—for that would give impetus to a negative reaction centered on oneself or one’s group (such as a coven).

In Gardnerian Wicca, these tradition-specific teachings demand thought before action, especially magical action (spell work). An individual or a coven uses these guidelines to consider beforehand what the possible ramifications may be of any working. Given these two ethical core principles, Gardnerian Wicca hold themselves to a high ethical standard. For example, Gardnerian High Priestess Eleanor Bone was not only a respected elder in the tradition, but also a matron of a nursing home. Moreover, the Bricket Wood coven today is well known for its many members from academic or intellectual backgrounds, who contribute to the preservation of Wiccan knowledge. Gerald Gardner himself actively disseminated educational resources on folklore and the occult to the general public through his Museum of Witchcraft on the Isle of Man. Therefore, Gardnerian Wicca can be said to differ from some modern non-coven Craft practices that often concentrate on the solitary practitioner’s spiritual development.

The religion tends to be non-dogmatic, allowing each initiate to find for him/herself what the ritual experience means by using the basic language of the shared ritual tradition, to be discovered through the Mysteries. The tradition is often characterised as an orthopraxy (correct practice) rather than an orthodoxy (correct thinking), with adherents placing greater emphasis on a shared body of practices as opposed to faith

History
Gardner and the New Forest coven
On retirement from the British Colonial Service, Gardner moved to London but then before World War II moved to Highcliffe, east of Bournemouth and near the New Forest on the south coast of England. After attending a performance staged by the Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship, he reports meeting a group of people who had preserved their historic occult practices. They recognised him as being “one of them” and convinced him to be initiated. It was only halfway through the initiation, he says, that it dawned on him what kind of group it was, and that witchcraft was still being practiced in England.

The group into which Gardner was initiated, known as the New Forest coven, was small and utterly secret as the Witchcraft Act of 1735 made it illegal—a crime—to claim to predict the future, conjure spirits, or cast spells; it likewise made an accusation of witchcraft a criminal offense. Gardner’s enthusiasm over the discovery that witchcraft survived in England led him to wish to document it, but both the witchcraft laws and the coven’s secrecy forbade that, despite his excitement. After World War II, Gardner’s High Priestess and coven leader relented sufficiently to allow a fictional treatment that did not expose them to prosecution, “High Magic’s Aid”.

Anyhow, I soon found myself in the circle and took the usual oaths of secrecy which bound me not to reveal any secrets of the cult. But, as it is a dying cult, I thought it was a pity that all the knowledge should be lost, so in the end I was permitted to write, as fiction, something of what a witch believes in the novel High Magic’s Aid.

After the witchcraft laws were repealed in 1951, and replaced by the Fraudulent Mediums Act, Gerald Gardner went public, publishing his first non-fiction book about Witchcraft, “Witchcraft Today”, in 1954. Gardner continued, as the text often iterates, to respect his oaths and the wishes of his High Priestess in his writing. Fearing, as Gardner stated in the quote above, that witchcraft was literally dying out, he pursued publicity and welcomed new initiates during that last years of his life. Gardner even courted the attentions of the tabloid press, to the consternation of some more conservative members of the tradition. In Gardner’s own words, “Witchcraft doesn’t pay for broken windows!”

Gardner knew many famous occultists. Ross Nichols was a friend and fellow Druid (until 1964 Chairman of the Ancient Order of Druids, when he left to found his own Druidic Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids). Nichols edited Gardner’s “Witchcraft Today” and is mentioned extensively in Gardner’s “The Meaning of Witchcraft”. Near the end of Aleister Crowley’s life, Gardner met with him for the first time on May 1, 1947, and visited him twice more before Crowley’s death that autumn; at some point, Crowley gave Gardner an Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) charter and the 4th OTO degree—the lowest degree authorizing use of the charter.

Doreen Valiente, one of Gardner’s priestesses, identified the woman who initiated Gardner as Dorothy Clutterbuck, referenced in “A Witches’ Bible” by Janet and Stewart Farrar.Valiente’s identification was based on references Gardner made to a woman he called “Old Dorothy” whom Valiente remembered. Biographer Philip Heselton corrects Valiente, clarifying that Clutterbuck (Dorothy St. Quintin-Fordham, née Clutterbuck), a Pagan-minded woman, owned the Mill House, where the New Forest coven performed Gardner’s initiation ritual. Scholar Ronald Hutton argues in his Triumph of the Moon that Gardner’s tradition was largely the inspiration of members of the Rosicrucian Order Crotona Fellowship and especially that of a woman known by the magical name of “Dafo”. Dr. Leo Ruickbie, in his Witchcraft Out of the Shadows, analysed the documented evidence and concluded that Aleister Crowley played a crucial role in inspiring Gardner to establish a new pagan religion. Ruickbie, Hutton, and others further argue that much of what has been published of Gardnerian Wicca, as Gardner’s practice came to be known, was written by Blake, Yeats, Valiente and Crowley and contains borrowings from other identifiable sources.

The witches Gardner was originally introduced to were originally referred to by him as “the Wica” and he would often use the term “Witch Cult” to describe the religion. Other terms used, included “Witchcraft” or “the Old Religion.” Later publications standardised the spelling to “Wicca” and it came to be used as the term for the Craft, rather than its followers. “Gardnerian” was originally a pejorative term used by Gardner’s contemporary Roy Bowers (also known as Robert Cochrane), a British cunning man, who nonetheless was initiated into Gardnerian Wicca a couple of years following Gardner’s death.

Reconstruction of the Wiccan rituals

Gardner stated that the rituals of the existing group were fragmentary at best, and he set about fleshing them out, drawing on his library and knowledge as an occultist and amateur folklorist. Gardner borrowed and wove together appropriate material from other artists and occultists, most notably Charles Godfrey Leland’s Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, the Key of Solomon as published by S.L. MacGregor Mathers, Masonic ritual, Crowley, and Rudyard Kipling. Doreen Valiente wrote much of the best-known poetry, including the much-quoted Charge of the Goddess.

Bricket Wood and the North London coven

In 1948-9 Gardner and Dafo were running a coven separate from the original New Forest coven at a naturist club near Bricket Wood to the north of London. By 1952 Dafo’s health had begun to decline, and she was increasingly wary of Gardner’s publicity-seeking. In 1953 Gardner met Doreen Valiente who was to become his High Priestess in succession to Dafo. The question of publicity led to Doreen and others formulating thirteen proposed ‘Rules for the Craft’, which included restrictions on contact with the press. Gardner responded with the sudden production of the Wiccan Laws which led to some of his members, including Valiente, leaving the coven.

Gardner reported that witches were taught that the power of the human body can be released, for use in a coven’s circle, by various means, and released more easily without clothing. A simple method was dancing round the circle singing or chanting; another method was the traditional “binding and scourging.”[26] In addition to raising power, “binding and scourging” can heighten the initiates’ sensitivity and spiritual experience.

Following the time Gardner spent on the Isle of Man, the coven began to experiment with circle dancing as an alternative. It was also about this time that the lesser 4 of the 8 Sabbats were given greater prominence. Brickett Wood coven members liked the Sabbat celebrations so much, they decided that there was no reason to keep them confined to the closest full moon meeting, and made them festivities in their own right. As Gardner had no objection to this change suggested by the Brickett Wood coven, this collective decision resulted in what is now the standard eight festivities in the Wiccan Wheel of the year.

The split with Valiente led to the Bricket Wood coven being led by Jack Bracelin and a new High Priestess, Dayonis. This was the first of a number of disputes between individuals and groups, but the increased publicity only seems to have allowed Gardnerian Wicca to grow much more rapidly. Certain initiates such as Alex Sanders and Raymond Buckland who brought his take on the Gardnerian tradition to the United States in 1964 started off their own major traditions allowing further expansion.

 

 

Reference

Patti Wigington, Published on ThoughtCo 
Wikipedia