The Wicca Book of Days for Saturday, September 12th

Forest Dragon

The Wicca Book of Days for Saturday, September 12th

Book of Shadows

 

In Wiccan terminology, “Book of Shadows: may have two meanings. Firstly, it may refer to the handbook of Wiccan practices and lore, first published in 1959, that was compiled by the founder of Gardnerian Wicca, Gerald Gardner (1884 -1964). And, secondly it may describe a personal notebook kep by any Wiccan (into which he or she may first have hand-copied information from the coven’s collective Book of Shadows), in which the details of rituals, spells and other magickal workings and observances are detailed and recored. A personal Boook of Shadows should never be ready by anyone other than its owner.

Buy a Book

If you do not own one or have filled the pages of your existing Book of Shadows, why not seek out an appropriate blank book today? Its appearance is a matter of preference, but it should be sturdy enough to hold an wealth of words and symbols.

 

—The Wicca Book of Days

Selena Eilidh-Ash

 

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Basic Principles and Concepts of Wicca

Basic Principles and Concepts of Wicca

By , About.com

Introduction:

There’s an old saying that if you ask any ten Wiccans about their religion, you’ll get at least fifteen different answers. That’s not far from the truth, because with nearly half a million Americans practicing Wicca today, there are dozens — perhaps even hundreds — of different Wiccan groups out there. There is no one governing body over Wicca, nor is there a “Bible” that lays down a universal set of guidelines. While specifics vary from one tradition to the next, there are actually a few ideals and beliefs common to nearly all modern Wiccan groups.

Do keep in mind that this article is primarily focused on Wiccan traditions, rather than on the principles of non-Wiccan Pagan belief systems. Not all Pagans are Wiccans, and not all Pagan traditions have the same set of principles as the core beliefs of modern Wicca.

Origins of Wicca:

Wicca as a religion was introduced by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s. Gardner’s tradition was oathbound, initiatory, and secret. However, after a few years splinter groups began forming, and new traditions were formed. Today, many Wiccan groups owe their basic foundation to the principles laid out by Gardner. Wicca is not an ancient religion, but Gardner did incorporate some old esoteric knowledge into his original tradition, including Eastern mysticism, Kabballah, and British legend.

Who Is a Wiccan, and How Do You Find Them?:

Wiccans come from all walks of life. They are doctors and nurses, teachers and soccer moms, writers and firefighters, waitresses and computer programmers. In other words, anyone can be Wiccan, and people become Wiccan for many reasons. In fact, there are nearly half a million Wiccans in the United States today. As to where to find them, that might take a bit of digging — as a mystery religion that doesn’t proselytize or actively recruit, it can sometimes be difficult to find a group in your area. Never fear, though — the Wiccans are out there, and if you ask around enough, you’ll bump into one eventually.

Calling Upon the Divine:

Wicca acknowledges the polarity of the Divine, which means that both the male and female deities are often honored. A Wiccan may honor simply a non-specific god and goddess, or they may choose to worship specific deities of their tradition, whether it be Isis and Osiris, Cerridwen and Herne, or Apollo and Athena. In Gardnerian Wicca, the true names of the gods are revealed only to initiated members, and are kept secret from anyone outside the tradition.

Initiation and Degree Systems:

In most Wiccan covens, there is some form of initiation and a degree system. Initiation is a symbolic rebirth, in which the initiant dedicates themselves to the gods of their tradition. Typically, only an individual who has attained the rank of Third Degree dedicant may act as a High Priest or High Priestess. Study is required before an individual may advance to the next degree level, and often this is the traditional “year and a day” period.

Someone who is not a member of a coven or formal group may choose to perform a self-dedication ritual to pledge themselves to the gods of their path.

Magic Happens:

The belief in and use of magic and spellwork is nearly universal within Wicca. This is because for most Wiccans, there’s nothing supernatural about magic at all — it’s the harnessing and redirection of natural energy to effect change in the world around us. In Wicca, magic is simply another skill set or tool. Most Wiccans do use specific tools in spellcrafting, such as an athame, wand, herbs, crystals, and candles. Magical workings are often performed within a sacred circle. The use of magic is not limited only to the priesthood — anyone can craft and perform a spell with a little bit of practice.

The Spirit World is Out There:

Because the concept of an afterlife of some sort is typical in most branches of Wicca, there is a general willingness to accept interaction with the spirit world. Seances and contact with the unknown are not uncommon among Wiccans, although not all Wiccans actively seek communication with the dead. Divination such as tarot, runes, and astrology are often used as well.

What Wicca Isn’t:

Wicca does not embrace the concepts of sin, heaven or hell, the evils of sex or nudity, confession, Satanism, animal sacrifice, or the inferiority of women. Wicca is not a fashion statement, and you do not have to dress a certain way to be a “real Wiccan.”

Basic Beliefs of Wicca:

While not exclusive to every single tradition, the following are some of the core tenets found in most Wiccan systems:

  • The Divine is present in nature, and so nature should be honored and respected. Everything from animals and plants to trees and rocks are elements of the sacred. You’ll find that many practicing Wiccans are passionate about the environment.
  • The idea of karma and an afterlife is a valid one. What we do in this lifetime will be revisited upon us in the next. Part of this idea of a cosmic payback system is echoed in the Law of Threefold Return.
  • Our ancestors should be spoken of with honor. Because it’s not considered out of the ordinary to commune with the spirit world, many Wiccans feel that their ancestors are watching over them at all times.
  • The Divine has polarity — both male and female. In most paths of Wicca, both a god and goddess are honored.
  • The Divine is present in all of us. We are all sacred beings, and interaction with the gods is not limited just to the priesthood or a select group of individuals.
  • Holidays are based on the turning of the earth and the cycle of the seasons. In Wicca, eight major Sabbats are celebrated, as well as monthly Esbats.
  • Everyone is responsible for their own actions. Personal responsiblity is the key. Whether magical or mundane, one must be willing to accept the consquences — either good or bad — of their behaviour.
  • Harm none, or something like it. While there are a few different interpretation of what actually constitutes harm, most Wiccans follow the concept that no harm should intentionally be done to another individual.
  • Respect the beliefs of others. There’s no Recruiting Club in Wicca, and the Wiccans are not out to preach at you, convert you, or prosetylize. Wiccan groups recognize that each individual must find their spiritual path on their own, without coercion. While a Wiccan may honor different gods than you do, they will always respect your right to believe differently.

 

Let’s Talk Witch – Back to the Basics, Your Book of Shadows

Celtic & British Isles Graphics

Let’s Talk Witch – Back to the Basics, Your Book of Shadows

 

A Book Of Shadows

If you practice magick mainly alone, your Book of Shadows will be among your most valued tools. There are Books of Shadows of all kinds, from dark leatherbound volumes with pentagrams engraved in gold leaf on the front to equally effected ones scribbled in old school notebooks.

Many magickal practitioners have a large book of unlined paper in which they record spells they have created themselves, any particularly beautiful chants they write or speak and personal associations for different herbs, flowers and crystals. They may also record the names of those who need healing and the dates when healing was sent.

Other sections describe seasonal celebrations, wisdom received during full-moon meditation and other times of power. Some practitioners will create lists of protective angels and pre-Christian deities whose qualities form a focus for different strengths and qualities.

It can be incredibly useful to have to hand details of a particular incense mix created when you threw lots of ingredients into your mortar and it smelled fabulous.

There may be a chant you created one morning at a sacred site high on the moorlands when the sky was blue and you had the place almost to yourself (if you don’t count the children and the dog).

Even if you do buy a leather bound book, as your Book of Shadows, keep a notebook for your enroute scribbles (in a waterproof bag with a waterproof pen for days when the sky is not so blue).

Keep a back-up of any charts or lists you develop on computer and a back-up CD in case you ever lose your book–for the contents are more precious even than the book itself.

Make time at least weekly to update it and express your insights, while you are waiting for a candle or incense to burn through at the end of the spell. As such a time you will find that you are especially open to prophetic abilities, and the most down-to-earth among us may write beautiful chants when inspired by a particular ritual or spell.

Keep your Book of Shadows safe and only share its insight with those who will respect your tradition. One day it will become a heirloom of great spiritual worth.

The name “Book of Shadows” is also given to the formal handwritten reference book that is held by the High Priestess of a coven. Gerald Gardner, who founded the Gardnerian tradition, believed that the Book of Shadows, or grimoire, should be hand-copied from teacher to student, and some covens still adhere to this practice.

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Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft –B.14. Skyclad (1953)

Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft –B.14. Skyclad (1953)

B.14. Skyclad (1953)
It is important to work naked from the start, so it becometh as second nature, and no thought of “I have no clothes” shall ever intrude and take your attention from the work.  Also, your skin being so accustomed to unconfinement, when power is given off the flow is more easy and regular.  Also, when dancing you are free and unconfined. . . .
And the greatest of all, the touch of the body of your beloved thrills your inmost soul, and so your body gives out its utmost power; and then it is most important of all that there is not the slightest thing to divert the attention, for then the mind must seize and mold the power generated, and redirect it to the desired end with all the force and frenzy of the imagination.
It has been said that no real knowledge may be gained our way, that our practices are such that they can only lead to lust; but this is not really so.  Our aim is to gain the inner sight, and we do it the most natural and easy way.  Our opponents’ aim is ever to prevent man and woman from loving, thinking that everything that helps or even permits them to love is wicked and vile.  To us it is natural, and if it aids the Great Work it is good.
‘Tis true that a couple burning with a frenzy for knowledge may go straight to their goal, but the average couple have not this fire.  We show them the way, our system of props and aids (i.e., magic ritual).  A couple working with nothing but lust will never attain in any case; but a couple who love each other dearly should already be sleeping together, and the first frenzy of love will have passed, and their souls will already be in sympathy.  If the first time or two they do stay a while to worship Aphrodite, ’tis only a day or two lost, and the intense pleasure they obtain only leads them again to the mysteries of Hermes, their souls more attuned to the great search.  Once they have pierced the veil they will not look back.
This rite may be used as the greatest of magics if it be done with both partners firmly fixing their minds on the object and not thinking of sex at all.  That is, you must so firmly fix your mind on your object that sex and all else are naught.  You inflame your will to such an extent that you may create a strain on the astral such that events happen.

 

Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – B.7. The Eightfold Way. (1953)

Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – B.7.  The Eightfold Way. (1953)

B.7.  The Eightfold Way. (1953)
Eightfold Path or Ways to the Centre.

1 Meditation or Concentration.  This in practice means forming a mental image of what is desired, and forcing yourself to see that it is fulfilled, with the fierce belief and knowledge that it can and will be fulfilled, and that you will go on willing till you force it to be fulfilled.  Called for short, “Intent”
2 Trance, projection of the Astral.
3 Rites, Chants, Spells, Runes, Charms, etc.
4 Incense, Drugs, Wine, etc., whatever is used to release the Spirit.  (Note. One must be very careful about this.  Incense is usually harmless, but you must be careful.  If it has bad aftereffects, reduce the amount used, or the duration of the time it is inhaled.  Drugs are very dangerous if taken to excess, but it must be remembered that there are drugs that are absolutely harmless, though people talk of them with bated breath, but Hemp is especially dangerous, because it unlocks the inner eye swiftly and easily, so one is tempted to use it more and more.  If it is used at all, it must be with the strictest precautions, to see that the person who uses it has no control over the supply.  This should be doled out by some responsible person, and the supply strictly limited.)
5 The Dance, and kindred practices.
6 Blood control (the Cords), Breath Control, and kindred practices.
7 The Scourge.
8 The Great Rite.

These are all the ways.  You may combine many of them into the one experiment, the more the better.

The Five Essentials:

1. The most important is “Intention”: you must know that you can and will succeed; it is essential in every operation.
2. Preparation. (You must be properly prepared according to the rules of the Art; otherwise you will never succeed.)
3. The Circle must be properly formed and purified.
4. You all must be properly purified, several times if necessary, and this purification should be repeated several times during the rite.
5. You must have properly consecrated tools.

These five essentials and Eight Paths or Ways cannot all be combined in one rite.  Meditation and dancing do not combine well, but forming the mental image and the dance may be well combined with Chants.  Spells, etc., combined with scourging and No. 6, followed by No. 8, form a splendid combination.  Meditation, following scourging, combined with Nos. 3 and 4 and 5, are also very Good. For short cuts concentration, Nos. 5, 6, 7, and 8 are excellent.

Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – B.6. Of the Ordeal of the Art Magical (1953)

Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – B.6. Of the Ordeal of the Art Magical (1953)

B.6. Of the Ordeal of the Art Magical (1953)
Learn of the spirit that goeth with burdens that have not honour, for ’tis the spirit that stoopeth the shoulders and not the weight.  Armour is heavy, yet it is a proud burden and a man standeth upright in it.  Limiting and constraining any of the senses serves to increase the concentration of another.  Shutting the eyes aids the hearing.  So the binding of the initiate’s hands increases the mental perception, while the scourge increaseth the inner vision.  So the initiate goeth through it proudly, like a princess, knowing it but serves to increase her glory.
But this can only be done by the aid of another intelligence and in a circle, to prevent the power thus generated being lost.  Priests attempt to do the same with their scourgings and mortifications of the flesh.  But lacking the aid of bonds and their attention being distracted by their scourging themselves and what little power they do produce being dissipated, as they do not usually work within a circle, it is little wonder that they oft fail.  Monks and hermits do better, as they are apt to work in tiny cells and coves, which in some way act as circles.  The Knights of the Temple, who used mutually to scourge each other in an octagon, did better still; but they apparently did not know the virtue of bonds and did evil, man to man.
But perhaps some did know?  What of the Church’s charge that they wore girdles or cords?

Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – B.5. The Warning (1953)

Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – B.5. The Warning (1953)

B.5. The Warning (1953)
Keep this book in your own hand of write.  Let brothers and Sisters copy what they will, but never let this book out of your hands, and never keep the writings of another, for if it be found in their hand of write, they may well be taken and tortured.  Each should guard his own writings and destroy them whenever danger threatens. Learn as much as you may by heart, and when the danger is past, rewrite your book.  For this reason, if any die, destroy their book if they have not been able to, for, if it be found, ’tis clear proof against them.  “Ye may not be a Witch alone”;  so all their friends be in danger of the torture.  So destroy everything not necessary.
If your book be found on you, ’tis clear proof against you.  You may be tortured.  Keep all thought of the cult from your mind.  Say you had bad dreams, that a Devil caused you to write this without your knowledge. Think to yourself,  “I Know Nothing.  I Remember nothing. I have forgotten all.”  Drive this into your mind. If the torture be too great to bear, say, “I will confess.  I cannot bear this torment.  What do you want me to say?  Tell me and I will say it.”  If they try to make you talk of the brotherhood, do not, but if they try to make you speak of impossibilities, such as flying through the air, consorting with the Devis, sacrificing children, or eating men’s flesh, say, “I had an evil dream.  I was not myself.  I was crazed.”
Not all Magistrates are bad.  If there be an excuse, they may show you mercy.  If you have confessed aught, deny it afterwards.  Say you babbled under the torture; you knew not what you did or said.  If you be condemned, fear not.  The Brotherhood is powerful.  They may help you to escape if you are steadfast.  If you betray aught, there is no hope for you, in this life, or in that which is to come. But, ’tis sure, that if steadfast you go to the pyre, drugs will reach you.  You will feel naught, and you go but to Death and what lies beyond, the ecstasy of the Goddess.
The same with the working Tools.  Let them be as ordinary things that anyone may have in their homes.  The Pentacles shall be of wax that they may be melted or broken at once.  Have no sword unless your rank allows you one.  Have no names or signs on anything.  Write them on in ink before consecrating them and wash it off at once when finished.
Never boast, never threaten, never say you wish ill to anyone.  If any speak of the craft, say, “Speak not to me of such, it frightens me, ’tis evil luck to speak of it.”

Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – B.4. The Priestess and the Sword (1953)

Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – B.4. The Priestess and the Sword (1953)

B.4. The Priestess and the Sword (1953)
It is said, “When a woman takes the main part in worship of the Male God, she must be girt with a sword.”
Note.  This hath been explained as meaning that a man should be Magus representing the God, but if no one of sufficient rank and knowledge be present, a woman armed as a man may take his place.  The sheath should be worn in a belt.  She should carry the sword in hand, but if she has to use her hands, she should sheath the sword.  Any other woman in the circle while this worship is performed shall be sword in hand.  Those outside the circle only have the athame.
A woman may impersonate either the God or the Goddess, but a man may only impersonate the God.

Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – A.5. Cakes and Wine (1949)

Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – A.5. Cakes and Wine (1949)

A.5. Cakes and Wine (1949)
Magus kneels, fills Cup, offers to Witch [she is seated on the altar, holding her athame; Priest kneels before her, holding up the cup].
Witch, holding Athame between palms, places point in cup.
Magus: “As the Athame is the Male, so the Cup is the female; so, conjoined, they bring blessedness.”
Witch lays aside Athame, takes Cup in both hands, drinks and gives drink.
Magus Holds Paten to Witch, who blesses with Athame, then eats and gives to Eat.
It is said that in olden days ale or mead was often used instead of wine.  It is said that spirits or anything can be used so long as it has life.

A.5. Cakes and Wine (1949)
Magus kneels, fills Cup, offers to Witch [she is seated on the altar, holding her athame; Priest kneels before her, holding up the cup].
Witch, holding Athame between palms, places point in cup.
Magus: “As the Athame is the Male, so the Cup is the female; so, conjoined, they bring blessedness.”
Witch lays aside Athame, takes Cup in both hands, drinks and gives drink.
Magus Holds Paten to Witch, who blesses with Athame, then eats and gives to Eat.
It is said that in olden days ale or mead was often used instead of wine.  It is said that spirits or anything can be used so long as it has life.

Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – A.2. Drawing Down the Moon (1949)

Gardnerian Traditional Witchcraft – A.2. Drawing Down the Moon (1949)

A.2. Drawing Down the Moon (1949)
High Priestess stands in front of Altar, assumes Goddess position (arms crossed).
Magus, kneeling in front of her, draws pentacle on her body with Phallus-headed Wand, invokes, “I Invoke and beseech Thee, O mighty Mother of all life and fertility.  By seed and root, by stem and bud, by leaf and flower and fruit, by Life and Love, do I invoke Thee to descend into the body of thy servant and High Priestess [name].”
The Moon having been drawn down, i.e., link established, Magus and other men give Fivefold Kiss:
(kissing feet) “Blessed be thy feet, that have brought thee in these ways”;
(kissing knees) “Blessed be thy knees, that shall kneel at the sacred altar”;
(kissing womb) “Blessed be thy womb, without which we would not be”;
(kissing breasts) “Blessed be thy breasts, formed in beauty and in strength”;
(kissing lips) “Blessed be thy lips, that shall speak the sacred names.”
Women all bow.

If there be an initiation, then at this time the Magus and the High Priestess in Goddess position (Arms Crossed) says the Charge while the Initiate stands outside the circle.