FOLK MEDICINE HEALING

FOLK MEDICINE HEALING

Folk medicine consists of traditional healing beliefs and methods used in
past cultures mostly by people deemed to have the healing power. As an part of a
culture’s knowledge and values, folk medicine is a system based on traditional
modes of conduct, of coping with sickness. Often sanctioned by the population’s
claims or religious beliefs, these popular practices are used to alleviate the
distress of disease and restore harmony in people who are emotionally or
physically ill, or both. Folk medicine’s lore is widely known among members of a
culture and is usually handed down from generation to generation by word of
mouth.

In general, the system is flexible, allowing the introduction of new ideas about
sickness and healing practices, many of them borrowed from classical and modern
medicine.

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HEALERS

To implement the various folk curing practices, most social groups have
established a hierarchy of healers–beginning with the individuals affected,
their immediate families and friends, knowledgeable herbalists, members of the
clergy, faith healers, and SHAMANS, or medicine men. Many are consulted because
of their empirical knowledge of roots and herbs possessing medicinal properties.
Others are considered endowed with healing gifts because of station or accidents
of birth. The belief that posthumous children have such talents is widely known
in the United States. In the European folk-medical tradition, seventh sons and
daughters are said to possess unusual curing powers; the same applies to twins.
Often spouses and children of known healers are automatically considered to have
similar gifts. As in primitive medicine, many people affected by ailments that
are considered minor and natural treat themselves, with the help of family
members. A vast array of easily available herbal preparations known to most
members of the culture is used to effect a cure. More difficult cases suspected
to be of a magico-religious nature are referred to local healers who are endowed
with special powers. These shamans stage a variety of ceremonies and employ many
of the techniques used in preliterate social groups.

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NAVAJOS

Native American folk medicine is popular in the less acculturated Indian
tribes. A notable example are the Navajos still living in their homeland.
Disease is considered a disruption of harmony caused either by external agents
such as lightning and winds, powerful animals and ghosts, and witchcraft, or by
the breaking of taboos. Three categories of folk healers are usually consulted:
first the herbalists, for symptomatic relief of minor ailments; if no
improvement is observed, then the hand trembler, or diviner, is called; finally,
the singer, or MEDICINE MAN, will carry out specific healing ceremonies
suggested by the hand trembler’s diagnosis. Ritual sweatbaths, drinking of
herbs, and elaborate sandpainting ceremonies characterize Navajo folk healing.

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HOT-COLD THEORY

The hot-cold theory of disease ranks among the most popular systems of
contemporary folk medicine in the United States. In health, the human body
displays a balanced blending of hot and cold qualities. Sickness will ensue
if an excess of hot or cold foodstuffs is ingested. The basic scheme was
introduced into Latin America by the Spanish during the 16th century. Reinforced
by native cultural values, it became firmly embedded in popular Latin healing
traditions. The hot-cold scheme is applied to foods, diseases, and remedies. The
terms hot and cold do not necessarily refer to the temperature of foods or
remedies. Qualities are assigned on the basis of origin, color, nutritional
value, physiological effects of the food or remedy, as well as therapeutical
action. Among New York Puerto Ricans, for example, bananas, coconuts, and sugar
cane are considered cold, whereas chocolate, garlic, alcoholic beverages, and
corn meal are hot. Cold-classified illnesses such are arthritis, colds, and
gastric complaints must be treated with hot foods and remedies. Their hot
counterparts –constipation, diarrhea, and intestinal cramps–require treatment
with cold substances.

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BLACK AMERICANS

The medical folklore of black Americans contains elements derived from popular
European and African beliefs, blended with religious elements belonging to
Christian Fundamentalism and West Indian voodoo. The world is seen as a
dangerous place, prompting individuals to constantly exert caution because
of the whims of nature, frequent divine punishment, and the threat of witchcraft
practiced by hostile humans. Individuals are urged to look out for themselves,
be distrustful, and avoid the wrath of God. Sickness is broadly divided into
“natural” and “unnatural.” The former comprises bodily conditions caused by
environmental forces as well as God’s punishment for sin. Unnatural illness
represents health problems caused by evil influences and witchcraft after the
loss of divine protection; the magical intrusion of “animals” into the body and
the placement of a certain hex play prominent roles in the causation of disease.

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MEXICAN-AMERICANS

Folk medicine is still popular among large groups of Mexican-Americans in New
Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California, and especially in West Texas. Their
healing system, based on pre-Columbian indigenous lore, reflects a degree of
isolation and unwillingness to assimilate Anglo-Saxon culture. Moreover, the
inability of scientific medicine to offer relief for various categories of folk
illness further enhances the usefulness of these practices. Five types of folk
illness are most prominent: mal de ojo (evil eye), empacho (gastro-intestinal
blockage due to excessive food intake), susto (magically induced fright), caida
de la mollera (fallen fontanel, or opening in or between bones), and mal puesto
(sorcery). Prominent among Mexican-American folk healers is the curandero, a
type of shaman who uses white magic and herbs to effect cures. In the cosmic
struggle between good and evil, the curandero, using God-given powers, wards
against harmful spells and hexes. As in other folk systems, faith in the
curandero’s abilities is the essence of the healer’s continued success.

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FOLK MEDICINE TODAY

Folk medical systems, especially those ftinctionffig in a pluralistic society
comprising several distinct ethnic groups (as in the United States), govern
domestic healing activities to a great extent. Recently, the increasing
complexity, technicality, and cost of modem medicine have spurred renewed
attempts at self-medication and the use of herbal preparations, thus reviving
folk medical practices.

A number of folk remedies used *in the past are now manufactured as
pharmaceutical preparations prescribed by physicians. For example, rauwolfia is
an extract of the snakeroot plant, which was used for centuries in the Far East
for its calming effect. It is now prescribed by physicians to lower blood
pressure. Reserpine, a derivative of rauwolfia, has been used by psychiatrists
‘in treating severe mental disorders. Foxglove was first brewed by Indians to
treat dropsy, fluid in the legs caused by heart problems. This practice occurred
for hundreds of years before it was discovered that foxglove contributed the
active ingredients now known as digitalis. Today digitalis is commonly used to
stimulate weakened hearts.

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THE CRAFT AND THE HEALING ARTS

THE CRAFT AND THE HEALING ARTS

Pagans/witches have a wide variety of healing techniques in their
arsenal.  The healing arts encompass the magical and medicinal herbalisms,
shamanistic practices (roughly speaking, using the powers of a spirit
guide), the raising of energy directed towards the patient (cone of power,
creative visualization, etc.), “direct” intercession with the gods, and
standard medical practices (Western medicine, Oriental medicine.)
An effective healing may be any combination of the above, depending on
circumstances.
Several rules of ethics govern the use of the healing arts.  These
follow, along with a few suggestions that may prove useful to the
practicioners of the healing arts:

*If a circumstance calls for standard Western medicine, do not ignore
this in favor of other methods of healing.  Any “witch” who tells you that
his/her treatment is only valid if one stops taking prescribed medicine, or
forgoes recommended surgery should be reported to the local Better Business
Bureau, post haste.  Either they do not realize that the magical methods can
complement “modern” methods, or they are (more likely) con artists.  Stop
them before they hurt someone else, in some cases, fatally.  There is a case
in New Jersey of someone who halted her insulin treatments by the order of a
“witch”, as proof that she had “faith” in that “witch’s” treatment.  Those
pagans who are M.D.’s see no substitution for standard medical practices.
Rather, other workings may be seen as supplementations.  This cannot be
stressed enough.

*Avoid charging for healings.  Certainly, reimbursement for equipment
used is valid, but charging for healings is both unethical and can get one
in trouble with the law, for practicing medicine without a license.  Now,
there is much debate within the Pagan community over charging for magical
services of whatever kind; but it seems to me to be a cheapening of the gift
to charge for it.

*Never heal someone without their consent.  Reasons a person may not
give his/her consent are varied, and must be considered.  Respect the wishes
of others.  One may, however, heal those for whom there is no way to ask
consent — if someone is in a coma, it is permissible to work a direct
healing upon that person.  I find that, for people I cannot mention Craft
healing work to, for one reason or another, that sending healing energy to
the VICINITY of that person is ethical.  The person is then free, on a lower
or subconscious level, to take in that energy (in whatever form they can use
it) or to reject it.  The energy is simply made available for their use,
interpretable by their psyches, and usable according to their own Will.  To
force healing upon someone, whatever your intent, interferes with the other
person’s freedom of choice, unethical in itself, and will have unfavorable
repercussions both for you and for that other person.  You might, for
instance, become the sort of person who Presumes to know what is Good For
Everyone Else, and you might have a good future as a book-burner (at least
in spirit).

*Some people seem to have more of a knack with the non-standard healing
arts than others.  Those people who are the best healers are not necessarily
in the best graces with their god/goddess.  Just because a person can heal
does not imply that their theo/a/logy is the best.  Much of non-traditional
haling may tap into some of the same wellsprings, but healing in and of
itself does not guarantee religious correctness.  Some healers, indeed, are
only marginally religious.  (Obviously, the same applies to MD’s.)

*A healer using herbs has the responsibility of knowing about the herbs
he or she uses.  There are many contradictory statements in the literature,
and there are some herbs that should not be taken in large concentrations;
and there are some herbs that should not be taken by pregnant women or
nursing mothers.  A herbalist should learn the literature, and learn to
distrust literature that does not list contraindications.  Some herbs
recommended in the literature are, frankly, mere superstitions.  Others have
indeed proved effective, and some of these have even passed on to Western
medical practice (digitalis, for instance).

*Those using creative visualization are advised to visualize the
patient as being healthy and happy.  Avoid, while doing the working,
visualizing the patient in his current sick or unhealthy state.  Sometimes
it helps to imagine the patient doing something he or she enjoys doing.

*In creative visualization/cone of power methods the patient may be
present, or may be absent.  It helps, if the patient is present, to touch
the patient directly and gently.

*Those using shamanistic techniques should be well-grounded in such
techniques.  They should have gone on various shamanistic journeys
themselves, and have overcome obstacles on such journeys.  This is in order
that one might be confident and capable during the ordeal of shamanistic
healing.

*After doing energy raising and/or shamanistic techniques of healing,
be very certain to “ground out”.  Shamanism has some of its own techniques,
but after Craft-style healings one method is to lay one’s hands forcibly on
the ground (or floor), exhaling deeply, feeling the excess power returning
to the Earth.

*As a healer, remember that a person’s sickness is not some sort of
supernatural punishment for something he has or has not done.  It is not
your position as healer to cast that sort of judgement.  There are some who
would disagree with me on this, but these are the same sorts who would
reckon AIDS to be a karmic punishment, or who would reckon the starvation in
Ethiopia to be another sort of karmic punishment.

*Know your level of competence.  If you are asked to do a healing, and
you are competent, and the person is sensible about seeking standard medical
help if appropriate; and/or if standard medical help is not helping, it is
in your position to render such aid as you are competent to render.

*No matter how you do whatever it is that you do concerning healing, a
proper “bedside manner” must be more than cultivated; it must be believed.

*Western culture is beginning to realize that standard medicine cannot
solve all illnesses.  Hence, the advent of hospices.  Non-standard healing
practices are (or should be) well-grounded in the notion that not every
ailment, disease, or illness can be cured.  It is a heavy responsibility
upon the healer to deal with this realization.  The pagan religions see
birth, life, and death as an acceptable and natural cycle.  At some time, a
pagan healer will likely come face to face with the notion of mortality;
with the notion that there are patients, despite all skill and caring, that
cannot be cured.  Depending upon the ailment, the healer must know how to
react.  This is true, of course, for even standard MD practice.  At a
certain point, the wholistic/pagan healer must accept the inevitability of
failure; possibly even the inevitability of death.  At such point, whatever
techniques the healer knows for bestowing a sense of tranquility to the
patient are appropriate.  Healing energy may be sent; sent to comfort and
confer the peace of mind essential for a good transition between life and
death.  It is also beneficial if people close to the patient relate to the
patient on a day-to-day basis of support and encouragement, allowing that
person to express whatever he or she needs to express.  Similar energy and
support, sent to a person to help them deal with a permanent but non-fatal
disability, is also appropriate.  Patients require confidence and strength
in such situations, and these may be reinforced in a number of ways, both
magical and day-to-day.

*Remember, take a lot of healing practices with a grain of salt.
Filipino spirit surgery I’d take with a whole bushel.

*One should also be aware of the values of preventative medicine.

– Jehana, 1987.  Distribute freely if copied in entirity –

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Daily Feng Shui News for Feb. 13 – ‘Madly In Love With Me Day’

A long time ago I learned an ancient self-love technique from a Balinese shaman that greatly helps to increase a sense of self-worth and esteem. This is an especially applicable tip to share on today’s ‘Madly In Love With Me Day.’ Every morning when you awake, look into your eyes in the mirror and mean it when you say to yourself, ‘I love you.’ Do this every morning for 40 straight days and you won’t believe how great you feel about yourself at the end of this entire exercise.

By Ellen Whitehurst for Astrology.com

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Trancework and Journeying

Trancework and Journeying

Author:   RuneWolf   

I came to Paganism directly through the practice of “core shamanism, ” so trancework was a foundation stone of my spiritual practice even before I consciously thought of myself as Pagan, and it remains so to this day. It is the third leg of the cauldron, so to speak, in my communication with the Gods, especially my Patron, the other two being prayer and meditation. I personally see these three practices as separate and distinct, although they are quite similar in many respects and overlap considerably in my practice.

Meditation, to me, is just plain ol’ Eastern-style void-stillness meditation, and I use it to give myself a break when the chatter of Talking Self gets to be too much. I use it to wind down the “rat wheel, ” to reestablish my spiritual equilibrium and to center and ground out the toxic energies we so often encounter—and accumulate—in the workaday world. I have been known to “slide sideways” from meditation into a spontaneous journey, but I do consider meditation a discipline, much like regular exercise, and when I set aside time to meditate, I try to stay focused on just that practice.

Prayer, for me, is nothing more or less than talking directly to the Gods. I have regular times – morning and evening, for instance—when I pray, but I don’t limit my contact with Deity just to those times. Depending on what’s happening in my life, I may be in prayer pretty much all day long, and I talk to the Gods “just as if” They were right there in the room—or the car!—with me, because in my understanding of reality, They are. Sometimes They answer, sometimes They don’t, but They are always there, and They always hear.

Journeying is what I do when I want to meet the Gods “face to face, ” in Their own Realm, and the majority of my journeys have been very vivid and very powerful. I have always been a very visually-oriented individual, and I conceptualize in pictures. So the imagery of journeying comes very naturally and powerfully to me, and it’s only a small step from there to incorporate sound and texture. The subjective realities of my journeys are so immediate, that I react physically to my surroundings—I’m told by observers that I “twitch” during journeys, as my physical body attempts to mimic the responses and movements of my Otherworld form.

Initially, I was concerned that small details—and sometimes large ones!—appeared to be inconsistent between one journey and the next, or even during the same journey. My Patron advised me that this was a matter of experience. Our minds, conditioned to this reality, have to adapt to the sensory input of the Otherworlds, and apparent inconsistencies in the appearance, texture, smell or whatever of Otherworld localities and entities is due to this process of adaptation. Over time, with practice and repetitive journeys to the same destination(s), our perceptions grow more acute, more vivid and more stable—if such a word can apply to the Otherworlds.

The other side of the trancework coin is “invoking for possession, ” or “channeling” Deity. I don’t normally trance in this manner, as the sensation of Someone co-habiting my body is unsettling to me. It can also be a dangerous practice, I’m told, although I have never had any unpleasant consequences myself, aside from the aforementioned discomfort. Indeed, on the three occasions I have invoked for possession, the sensations have been nothing short of ecstatic and transcendental. Perhaps the danger lies in that; I might easily get hooked on the “buzz” of channeling!

In all seriousness, invoking for possession is something to be attempted only with a foundation of experience in other forms of trancing, and with expert and caring guidance and companionship in this realm.

To prepare for trancework, I normally create some form of sacred space, usually a simple circle, invoking the Spirits of place and my other Allies to watch over my physical form while I am away. This is my “launching pad, ” and ensures that I have a safe point of departure and return, and also serves as a “homing beacon” when I’m journeying deep into the Otherworld.

I usually take a few minutes to stretch and massage out any kinks or stiffness that I may have physically. I also take time to consciously set aside any intellectual or emotional issues that may not have to do with the purpose of the upcoming journey, but which may create unwanted “static.”

After a few years of experience, I have found that simple breathing techniques, coupled with the appropriate visualizations, are enough to induce the trance and begin the journey. I have always used the cave/passage or well/pool theme as my entrance into the Otherworlds—lately I favor the well, as Brighid is becoming an increasingly important part of my life. For deep journeys, or when I’m having trouble “launching, ” I use a simple single-beat drumming CD. I prefer the CD as it doesn’t have the hiss that a tape does. Live drumming would be great, but I don’t usually have access to a drummer.

Of course, it always helps to take the phone off the hook, put up the “Do Not Disturb” sign, and so forth; the fewer distractions the better. And I try not to journey on a full stomach—I tend to slip from “journey” to “dream, ” and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I might not get done what I wanted to do!

On returning, I take time to jot down a few notes, capturing the “high points, ” as it were, of the journey. I do this even if the impressions seem vivid and lasting, as things will sometimes become jumbled or fade in the most unexpected ways. After that, I often find a bit more stretching to be in order. As I have said, I respond physically to my journeys, and I have come back stiff and sore from particularly lively trips. I do a pretty typical grounding and centering before I release the sacred space, and then I make it a habit to have a light snack. I don’t usually eat heavily for at least half-an-hour to an hour after a journey, as I have found the effects unpleasant on one or two occasions.

One thing I practiced early on was “bailing out”—hitting the astral Panic Button and returning to normal consciousness at a moment’s notice. I practiced this to get used to the sensations—often unpleasant—of this kind of emergency exit, in the event I had to do so unexpectedly during a journey. I’ve never had to, but if I do, I believe I will be better able to handle the situation, having practiced on my own. Sort of like fire drills in school. One caution—I did my “fire drills” on my own; I would not recommend this! If possible, do these with a partner or teacher.

Journeying is, for me, a mystical, ecstatic practice. We often associate “ecstatic” with extravagant physical movements, but the physical stillness of a journey trance can mask incredibly powerful sensations. And I sometimes journey simply to experience that ecstasy, to replenish my internal reserves in a most emphatic way. I also use it to commune, in a very intimate and personal fashion, with Deity. I am not one of those who can “see” Deities and other Beings of Power in this realm. I can only do that when I journey to the Otherworld. So it is an affirmation, if you will, of the reality of Deity, and of the profundity of my relationship with Spirit. I can meet with the Gods in Their Realms, face to face, to question and learn, and sometimes just to socialize. It has been my experience that the Gods crave an intimate relationship with Their children, of a kind that cannot be experienced through the filter of dogma and liturgy, however “spontaneous” and “unstructured.” Just as Mom prefers a visit to a phone call, the Gods prefer to meet us “in the flesh, ” no matter how fervent our prayers or how reverent our ritual.

On those occasions when I have journeyed for the specific purpose of healing others, I can only say that it apparently did no harm to the subject of the healing. Was it “successful?” Did it “work?” That is difficult to quantify. Everyone I helped in such a fashion had been exploring every possible avenue for healing—if they hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have agreed to help. When we need healing, for whatever reason, I believe we must use every possible resource. To rely on one technique or body of knowledge to the exclusion of others is to limit the ways in which the Gods may help us. So I can’t say that my journeying alone, or the acupuncture alone, or the prayer alone, or the vitamins alone, or the chemicals alone, were what ultimately helped one person or another. I tend to think that everything positive we do for ourselves helps in some way. So I feel that, in journeying for those in need, I did indeed contribute to their wellness.

In Their Service…

RuneWolf

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Practice and method of Shamanism

Practice and method of Shamanism

The shaman plays the role of healer in shamanic societies; shamans gain knowledge and power by traversing the axis mundi and bringing back knowledge from  the heavens. Even in western society, this ancient practice of healing is referenced by the use of the caduceus as the symbol of medicine.

Oftentimes the shaman has, or acquires, one or more familiar helping entities in the spirit world; these are often spirits in animal form, spirits of  healing plants, or (sometimes) those of departed shamans. In many shamanic societies, magic, magical force, and knowledge are all denoted by one word, such  as the Quechua term yachay.

While the causes of disease are considered to lie in the realm of the spiritual, being effected by malicious spirits or Witchcraft, spiritual methods as  well as what we would consider physical methods are used to heal. The shaman often will enter the body of their patient to find the spirit making the patient  sick, and heal by removing the infectious spirit by the patient.

However, many shamans have expert knowledge of the plant life in their area, and an herbal regimine is often perscribed as treatment. In many places, the  shamans claim to learn from the plants directly, only being able to determine the effects of a plant and use it to heal after meeting the spirit of the plant  and getting permission.

In South America, individual spirits are called through singing icaros; to call the spirit, the spirit must teach you their song.

The use of totem items such as rocks is common; these items are believed to have special powers and an animating spirit.

Such practices are presumably very ancient; in circa 368 bc, Plato wrote in the Phaedrus that the “first prophecies were the words of an oak”,  and that everyone who lived at that time found it rewarding enough to “listen to an oak or a stone, so long as it was telling the truth”.

The belief in witchcraft and sorcery, known as brujeria in South America, is prevalent in many shamanic societies.

Some societies distinguish shamans who cure from sorcerers who harm; others believe that all shamans have the power to both cure and kill; that is,  shamans are in some societies also thought of as being capable of harm. The shaman usually enjoys great power and prestige in the community, renowned for  their powers and knowledge; but they may also be suspected of harming others and thus feared.

In engaging in this work the shaman exposes himself to significant personal risk, from the spirit world, from any enemy shamans, as well as from the means  employed to alter his state of consciousness. Certain of the plant materials used can kill, and the out-of-body journey itself can lead to non-returning and  physical death; spells of protection are common, and the use of more dangerous plants is usually very highly ritualized.

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Celtic Shamanism

Celtic Shamanism

Definitions  

According to archaeological and ethnological evidence, shamanism has been part of nature practices for some 10 to 20,000 years. Some suggest it’s    much longer back than that.The basic concepts are found all over the world, from Siberia, Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. The word ‘Shaman,’    is actually a Tungus (Siberian) word for a spiritual practice or profession that is still practiced today. Shamanism is not rooted in any organized    religious tradition, but is instead a system of abilities utilized for contact with divine spirit. Shamanic systems vary, but there are basic similarities    in most. But before we can begin understanding what Celtic Shamanism is, we need a common understanding of what Shamanism is itself. There are of course,    many definitions, so let’s cover a few.
In the Donning Encyclopedic Psychic Dictionary, June Bletzer, PhD, describes Shamanism as a very highly respected profession where one serves    his tribe with psychic skills and healing abilities which is intermingled with influential guidance, protection and advanced knowledge from the Etheric    World.
Websters Dictionary defines shamanism as the religion of certain peoples of ancient peoples, based on a belief in good and evil spirits who can be    influenced only by shamans.
In her renowned work Witches & Witchcraft, Rosemary Ellen Guiley describes Shamanism as a system of belief and healing practiced by a    Shaman who enters an altered state of consciousness, which enables him/her to communicate with guardian and helping spirits to draw upon divine    energy.
Kenneth Meadows in Shamanic Experience, describes shamanism as The practice of the principles and techniques which involves working with the    energy of nature that exist both inside and outside the individual self as both manifest forms and unmanifest potentials.
From The Celtic Shaman, John Mathews defines Shamanism as only one of a number of labels used by various cultures to denote someone who through trance    and ecstasy, enters other states of being which he/she usually lives. Returning with news and guidance from which all humanity can benefit.
One of the foremost authors on Shamanism, Mircea Eliade explains, the fundamental characteristic of shamanism is ecstasy. In all probability the    ecstatic experience in its many aspects is coexistent with the human condition in the sense that it is an integral part of what is called man’s gaining    consciousness of his specific mode of being in the word. Shamanism is not only a technique of ecstasy it’s theology and it’s philosophy finally    depend on the spiritual value that is accorded to ecstasy.
In Spiral Dance, Starhawk states Witchcraft is a shamanistic religion and the spiritual value placed on ecstasy is a high one. It is the    source of union, healing, creative inspiration and communion with the divine.
      Margot Adler, in Drawing Down the Moon, refers to the definition put forth by one of my favorite authors on Shamanism, Michael Harner. And this      is the definition we’ll use through out this article.      

Shamanism is best defined as a method to open a door and enter a different reality. A shaman is someone who enters an altered state of        consciousness and goes on a journey in order to gather knowledge from a different reality populated by spirit, the spirit of plants and animals, and        the divine self both within and around the individual. The methods used depend on the culture. Some cultures use drugs, others use drumming and        ecstatic dancing. And still others utilize chanting, dancing, trance, meditation, wine, fasting, vision quests and sexuality.
Shamanism is a very highly respected profession wherein one serves his or her community as a spiritual leader. Providing guidance through psychic    skills, healing abilities and communications with Divine spirit. Believed to be learned from a past incarnation and initiations, along with study and    practice in the current embodiment.
The Shaman, in the strictest definition is more often viewed through it’s secondary meaning “one who is dedicated to a spiritual life    achieving a level of leadership and teaching”. The profession can be found under various other titles such as Mantis, Druid, Medicine Man or Woman.    The Greeks called them Bhopa.
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Wiccan Shamanism

Wiccan Shamanism

by Selena Fox

typed by Lewis for P.A.N. 508-795-7628

Shamanism exists in tribal cultures around the world and has done so for centuries. Yet, in reading most anthropological texts on Shamanism, there is  little, if any reference made to shamanism in Europe. However Shamanism has existed among the peoples of Europe not only in ancient times, but also through  the present day. During the Middle Ages, the Old Ways largely disappeared from public view because of persecution. Yet they were not eradicated but took a  more underground existence. Today, there are some of us of European ancestry that are bringing Shamanic ways rooted in pre-Christian Europe back into the  light.

Wiccan Shamanism is a term I began using several years ago in an attempt to describe my own path of magick and spirituality in relation to the other forms  of Shamanism on the Planet. Wiccan Shamanism draws on the Old but it is not simply an attempt re-construction and revival of the Old Ways of tribal Europe.  Wiccan Shamanism blends both the Old and the New to suit the modern times in which we live. Although emphasis is on European symbology and traditions Wiccan  Shamanism is multi-cultural, incorporating ways of other healers and magick workers from many places and eras.

What follows is a glimpse into Wiccan Shamanism as I know it and practice it. While Jim, Dennis, and others who help with various aspects of CIRCLES work  may share many of these concepts, I speak here only for myself – for at the heart of this spiritual approach is the idea that each person must seek their own  connection with the Divine, within their own Self, rather than having me or anyone else do this for them. This is not a path of a leader with followers, but  a path where each becomes their own leader.

I call to the Powers of the Four Quarters — to Earth in the North which is the Realm of the Physical Body and Material Plane, to Air in the East which is  the Realm of Thoughts and Intellect, to Fire in the South which is the Realm of Will Power and Action, and Water in the West which is the Realm of Emotions  and Intuition. My Medicine Wheel is the Magick Circle which connects the Four Quarters. The sacred places I frequent include a high rock, a crystal clear  spring fed pool n a hidden valley and a circle of stones in a grove of Oak and Birch on a mound.

I am a channel between Planet Earth beneath my feet and the Heavens above my head. I become the World tree when I Shamanize, linking the transforming Dark  of the Underworld with the Awakening Light of the Upperworld.

I am the Crystal LIght that is at the Center of the Circle and is the fifth Element Spirit. I seek always to act out of MY own Inner Self which is at the  enter of MY being, for my Inner Self in the Balance of all the Elements, of my Female and Male sides, of my Lunar and Solar natures of my intellect and  intuition my Inner Self is my doorway into the realm where All is One.

I see the Circle of Life from the Center. I watch the Seasons change as the Wheel of the Year turns and I celebrate the 8 sabbats. I connect with the  dance of Night and Day, of Fair and Stormy Weathers, of the Waxing and Waning Moon. I see the cycle of Birth, Growth, Maturity, Death, and Rebirth in all of  Nature. I examine the cycles of my own life and of the lives of those who seek healing aid from me.

I am the traveler between the World of Daily Life and the Otherworld which is the land of Dreams, visions and Spirits. I am a Consciousness Explorer. the  Otherworldis as real and as important to me as the Day-to-Day World. I bridge the Worlds rather than seeking to dwell solely in one or the other. I journey  into the Otherworld for a reason — to bring back healing and knowledge to apply to Daily Life, helping others, myself and the Planet.

I see the Divine in all things. My friends and allies include not only humans but also plants, animals, rocks, winds, waters, fire, stars, and other life  forms. I commune with the Source some call “God” as both Mother Goddess and Father God, for both aspects are necessary for the Unity.

The main focus of my Shamanic work is Healing. I was called to this path as a young child in dreams and Out-of-Body experiences, but I didn’t begin my  work until my adult years when I started Healing myself. To do this I journeyed alone into the Pit of my Shadow Self and came face-to-face with my problems  and hang-ups; my doubts fears, disillusionments, rejections, angers and hurts; with all MY false self images. Words can not begin to express the misery, the  utter despair the powerlessness I felt during this time. Yet coming apart was essential; it enabled me to break through the barriers which I had formed and  let others form in my psyche that had kept me from being one with my True Self. In the deepest Darkness, I felt the Light of my own Inner Self beginning to  shine through. I focused on the Light and slowly emerged from the Pit, stronger and more integrated than ever before and with the power to heal others as  well as myself. As a result of this transformation process, my life’s work became clear. I now help others from their own pits of negativity and become  whole again.

Yet my work also extends to more than Humankind; it involves bringing Healing to the Planet as a whole. In my communing with the Land, I have heard the  cries of the Earth Mother, sorrowing over the self-centered, greedy, intolerant, and destructive behaviors of many of Her human children, who are polluting  the soils, water, and air; who are playing power games with nuclear fire; and who are polluting the spiritual atmosphere of the entire world with their  narrow-mindedness and hate. I am deeply concerned about survival — not of the Planet Herself for all the humans in the world can not destroy Her even with  all their weapons; She is too strong and powerful for that to happen. What I am concerned about is the survival of the human race. — will we annihilate  ourselves and many of the life forms around us, or will we wake up in time to see the larger picture, find and implement creative solutions to the worlds  problems, and enter a New Age of expanded consciousness?

The Balance of Life can be restored on Planet Earth; Harmony can be restored between humankind and other life forms; Love consciousness can increase and  be prevalent on the Earth. I, along with numerous other healers and ministers from a variety of spiritual traditions around the world today have responded to  the upset of Mother Earth by dedicating our lives to this Planetary Healing Work, each in our own way. It is this Great Work that underlies all the healing  and other things I do. It is the Heart of Wiccan Shamanism.

First published in fall 1984 “Circle Network News”;   © 1984, CIRCLE, Box 219, Mt. Horeb WI 53572 USA.

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Shaman, Priest, Priestess, Pastor, or Candlestick-Maker

Shaman, Priest, Priestess, Pastor, or Candlestick-Maker

Author:   Alfred Willowhawk, DMsc, RMT, CTM, Shaman   

Humans are always reaching for understanding. Whatever their religious, spiritual, or non-spiritual philosophy, we are always seeking to understand the world around us. In our pre-industrialized world, we sought these answers from individuals who seemed to have a better connection than the general population with unseen realms. They were sometimes called shamans, druids, priestesses or priests. Our post-industrialized world calls these individuals, pastors, priests, and guides. Many individuals of western religious frameworks may disagree with this contention. This article will demonstrate that the term used is really immaterial; after all, “a rose by any other name will smell as sweet”, thanks to Shakespeare.

What is a Shaman and why is the term so popular today? We acknowledge that the term “shaman” is not of Celtic or Western European origin. It is actually Siberian in origin but has come to be applied to any Otherworld “journeyer” who functions as a guide for his culture and people. It has also become associated with First Nations, indigenous peoples, and Native Americans. We are not attempting to appropriate the term as used by First Nations or Native Americans.

The term ‘’Otherworld is a uniquely Celtic word, which has similarities to the Underworld of Wiccan and other neo-pagan places. It is a real place, not made up in the head of a person, where the deities and personkind interact. It also overlaps the mundane or physical world. Today, most individuals of Celtic descent and practice call this the Faery Realm. This realm is the depository of all the archetypes of being. Interaction with individuals within this realm can bring forth the entire spectrum of emotional, spiritual, and physical responses. Whether one feels fear, joy, excitement, or any other emotion – the journey to the otherworld is always revealing.

As an individual spends time there, many aspects of oneself become apparent. Deceit is not tolerated there and is easily perceived. The oldest known story of the Celtic Otherworld is the Immram Curaig Maelduin Inso or the Voyage of Malduin’s Boat. It was first transcribed in the eighth or ninth century in its entirety. It visits the thirty-three islands of the Celtic Otherworld and serves as a lesson for any visitor.

In our 21st century time, most individuals seem blind to this world. The Shamanic practitioner, or shaman, as we define it above, serves as the medium through which individuals can receive messages, and assistance from the deities. In our course, The Shamanic Soul: Path to the Sacred Self”, we assist the individual to begin and foster the connection with the Otherworld and their deities. It is not actually necessary to use a shamanic practitioner to feel, see, and touch the Otherworld. Recognizing and interpreting what is seen there is best done with a knowledgeable individual who has studied the signs, portents, and events that are recorded in the “songs” of the pan Celtic world to facilitate the actual intent of these messages.

Among the Celts were members of their culture who journeyed to the Otherworld. They were the Mystics. They were one of four classes including Bards, Healers, and Warriors. The Mystics’ primary function was that of mediator between this world and the Otherworld – as such they meet the widely accepted definition of ‘Shaman’. The Celtic Mystic utilizes the gifts of the Bard and the Healer but acts primarily as a conduit for messages from the deities, spirit entities and ancestors.

The Celtic Mystic or Shamanic tradition was systematically wiped out by the encroachment of the Romans, and later the Christians. The tradition was further impacted by the Celtic Diaspora, which scattered Celts to Brittany, Gaul, Spain, and Asia Minor. The Celts were spread over much of what is now Europe and into Asia.

The term “mystic” has the unfortunate definition of “one who practices or believes in mysticism or a given form of mysticism” (from the Free On Line Dictionary) . “Mysticism” is further defined as “1. a. immediate consciousness of the transcendent or ultimate reality or God; b. The experience of such communion as described by mystics; 2. A belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are central to being and directly accessible by subjective experience.3. Vague, groundless speculation.” I think you can see our problem… Because the term “mystic” has an even less precise definition than the term “shaman”, we choose to use the term “shaman” because it is more commonly descriptive of what we do.

Therefore, like other Shamanic Traditions, because it is what Shamans do, we journey to the invisible spirit world as a medium or mediator for the purposes of healing, divination and to discern the needs of the Earth (see Gaea) and return to this world to guide our people. The imagery, deities and myths we employ in our practice is Celtic/Indo-European.

The definition of Shaman is both simple and complex. A shaman is “one who knows”. We expand this definition as follows: The Shaman is one who knows the world on multiple levels in which he/she lives. The Shaman knows his mind, his soul, his spirit, and his guide. The Shaman knows her culture, her people, her Goddess, her God. The Shaman knows his enemy and his friends; her protection is in knowing.

According to Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic, Emma Wilby, 2006, Sussex Academic Press, “The shaman’s first encounter with his helping spirit is either deliberately cultivated or spontaneous. In tribal societies the deliberately cultivated initial encounter is based upon the rationale that an individual can only become a shaman if he obtains one or more spirit-helpers, and that therefore an aspirant shaman needs to work at magical techniques believed to encourage the appearance of such spirits. A survey of anthropological sources suggests that in tribal societies far more emphasis is place don the deliberately cultivated initial encounter than was the case in early modern Britain, although how far this difference is rooted in culture as opposed to the divergent circumstances under which information about these magical traditions has been gathered, is hard to determine.”

While we are eclectic in our approach to our shamanic practices, we are using our own ancestral and cultural history (Western European Celtic and Greco-Roman) . We do not practice any form of cultural appropriation or “plastic shaman ism”. We are NOT practicing some post-colonial cultural appropriation of First Nations shamanism. Any reference we make here or in our practice to First Nations culture, practices, spirits, shamans, guides, or deities is for historical and informational reference only and not an attempt to associate ourselves with First Nations Shamans. We welcome any criticism of our practice. We are always assessing and re-assessing our understanding of our calling.

It is our contention that shaman ism is “of the blood” — that is, one is born to a shamanic tradition and some crisis brings out the ability or burden or urgent need to practice shamanic journeying. This crisis can be in the form of an illness, disorder, mental or physical trauma. This vertiginous experience brings about the call of the Wounded Healer, which the shaman may have been experiencing for years, to the fore.

It is true that every individual has many woundings and our course The Warrior Within is designed to assist each individual to reach out and heal themselves, yet if one is called to be the Wounded Healer, then this serves as the point of recognition that he or she must accept and act upon his or her shamanic calling to heal him/herself and utilize these gifts to assist others in their healing or he/she will continue on in the illness, disorder, mental or physical trauma. These woundings, as stated above, usually take on a particular flavor and as Ms. Wilby states, “…he is usually alone at the time of his first meeting, and undergoing a period of intense physical and/or psychological stress. Often it is the naturally-occurring pressure of life which generate these stresses…’some great misfortune, dangerous or protracted illness, [or] sudden loss of family or property’ can bring an individual into contact with the spirits. As in early modern Britain, bereavement is often a powerful trigger.” (Pg 132)

The shaman utilizes the gifts and tools that they have developed in their own healing process to assist others in healing themselves. Therefore, for our purposes they are facilitators of self-healing and have the desire to assist others. As shamans we have the ability and/or responsibility to:

*Understand the roles that spirits play in the lives of our people.
* Cooperate with or control the spirits for the benefit of our people.
* Understand the spirits intentions as either good or evil or neutral.
* Use trance-inducing techniques such as singing, chanting, dancing, meditating, or drumming. (1.)
* Recognize and communicate with animals and animal spirits in their roles as messengers of the Otherworld.
* Enter the Otherworld on our own behalf or the behalf of our people.
* Deliver the messages from the Otherworld to our people.
* Guide our people in treating illness or sickness – be that in self-healing techniques, laying on of hands, or advising an individual to seek the consultation of a licensed medical practitioner. We do not claim or attempt to be the sole conduit of healing for our people and as such always insist that illnesses be treated by licensed medical practitioners.
* As Healers and Spiritual Guides, we DO NO HARM to our people.

The shaman then, serves as the conduit whereby individuals can, if they choose, access the other realms of beingness, or utilize the services of the shaman to go there for them. This is similar to the way that other western religious practitioners, priests, rabbis, pastors, seek guidance through meditation and prayer as well as intervention with the Christian god. A pastor will pray for intervention in their parishioners’ lives, and truly believe that the prayers are effective. The shaman does the same thing and has the same expectation.

The spiritual realms are much bigger and more open than we as mere mortals can understand. There is no exclusivity in access to God, Goddess, nature, higher power, etc. Every path is the same. Reach for the heavens and your highest best connection with all creatures of this and every other world. Do not allow your own view to become the One View – it doesn’t exist; a good thing too, as I for one would not like to live in a world that was restricted to my perceptions and understandings of the universe – it is SO much bigger than me.

Blessed Be and enjoy the journey!

_____________________________________

Footnotes:
1. We do not advocate, but accept the taking of mind-altering drugs to achieve trance-state.

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A Shaman Perspective

A Shaman Perspective

Author:   Crick   

Have you ever found yourself walking on a single thread across the abyss of your mind?

And then falling off into the depths of your spirit?

This is a common event for a shaman.

For the most part, those who hear the calling of the wounded healer will have experienced a near-death experience at some point in their lives. I personally believe that such an experience ignites a deep insatiable curiosity to seek out answers not readily available within the mundane world.

As a student of shamanism, a journey that began in 1999, I also believe that many of the Great Mysteries of life reside within the depths of our being. It is this belief that lends itself to seeking out the answers to such mysteries through deep and personal introspection.

In essence, a shaman is a spiritual healer. But before one can begin to heal others, you must first attempt to heal yourself. And since such a healing is never a complete success, the term ‘wounded healer’ comes into play.

During this healing process of the individual spirit, one must be prepared to undergo a complete change in personality. Ones emotional and mental outlook will be altered for life. During this journey inward you will be expected to embrace your Shadow Self.

Carl Jung, a noted psychologist once said, “That when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and are torn into opposing halves.”

So it is with those who follow the path of the shaman. The shadow self is a collection of feelings, thoughts and experiences that are dark and negative and are stored deep within the psyche.

To become a spiritual healer, one must be willing to take a perilous journey inwards. And once there, to have the courage to face the shadow self and to come to understand and to embrace it. This lends itself to a balance within the soul.

When we try to balance the scales too far one way or the other then physical, emotional and mental illness are the result. A shaman learns to harness the dark energy projected by the shadow self and to balance it with the light energy that is projected by the ego or conscious state.

In order to do a healing, a shaman will follow a single thread of energy back into the abyss to see what is at the other end. Once there they can see what caused the problem to begin with and begin the healing process.

I would like to point out that one of the side effects of traveling the path of the Shaman is that it tends to make one extremely honest with oneself and those around them. Some folks may think that this is a very positive result. However it is not always so. We live in a society where subterfuge and dishonesty are the norm.

For instance how many of you have grown up with the adage “if you can’t say something nice to someone, then don’t say nothing at all”? This may seem like good advice but in all honesty (grin) it takes away from the polarity of life. Life is not all sugar and cream and to better appreciate life and indeed to grow spiritually we must be aware of this fact.

This brings us back to the lessons of how to balance the Shadow self.

There are many tools available to one who follows the path of the shaman. One of these is called a Soul Retrieval. This is where it is believed that due to a traumatic experience of either a physical and/or emotional event, which a part of the soul has broken away and is floating around either in this realm or perhaps in an alternate realm. The departure of this piece of the soul can once again lead to physical, emotional and/or mental deficiencies.

And so either the Shaman or in some cases the patient, seeks out and attempts to encourage the missing piece to return. I say, “encourage” because we cannot force the missing piece to return. The events that caused this event to occur must be addressed as part of the over all treatment.

An example may be that one was sexually abused as a child and a piece of the soul broke away. The trauma associated with the abuse must be addressed as part of the Soul Retrieval or the missing piece may refuse to return to its original place within the soul.

An alternative to this practice is called energy extraction. Sometimes a profound experience will leave a residue of energy within our soul that is not in tune with the rest of our spirit. A shaman performing an extraction will connect with their spirit guides or their animal totems and isolate and then remove the opposing energy. This operation allows for ones spiritual balance to return and thus lends to a healthier life both physically and spiritually.

Another tool or experience used by the Shaman is the Vision quest. This is a very personal experience where one seeks out a vision that is specific to the individual. This seeking is done through a variety of methods such as fasting, ingestion of certain herbs, physical deprivation, mental/emotional preparation and so forth.

During my first Vision quest, the spirit of my second son who had passed at birth appeared in a very vivid way. But he appeared as the age he would have been had he still been living within this realm. I won’t go into details of course, but the experience had a profound effect on my thoughts and emotions. I have never had such a lucid connection as I did during that quest. My personal understanding of what we know as life and death was expanded beyond my wildest dreams. As already mentioned, a Vision quest is a very unique and personal experience and will be so for each individual who undergoes such a trial.

Of course the path of the Shaman is not for everyone, even less so then the path of Witchcraft being open to all who seek it. But for those few who are able to withstand and indeed embrace the rigors of such a life, well, there is little that I can say, for you already aware of the spiritual rewards that await you within the abyss.

Amongst these gifts is the ability to connect with the spirits of plants and animals. Such ability is invaluable to one who seeks to become a spiritual healer. For many lessons are learned through such connections. A belief in animism is a basic tenet of shamanism.
There is also the ability to travel the threads of life to alternate realms. Within these realms one encounters wise teachers who are willing to impart their wisdom to such a seeker as a shaman.

There is much, much more to walking the path of the wounded healer, but I hope that this brief look into such an exciting path may inspire someone to seek what may be the path for him or herself.

Blessings

Crick

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Power Animals

Power Animals

A power animal, is a broadly animistic and shamanic concept that has entered the English language from Anthropology, Ethnography and Sociology. A tutelary spirit guides, helps or protects individuals, lineages and nations. In the shamanic worldview, everything is alive, bearing an inherent virtue, power and wisdom. Power animals represent a person’s connection to all life, their qualities of character, and their power.

Power animals are endemic to shamanic practice in both Eurasia and the Americas. They are the helping or ministering spirit or familiar which empowers individuals and is essential for success in any venture undertaken.

In the shamanic worldview, everyone has power animals or tutelary spirits which empower and protect them from harm, like guardian spirits or angels in the Abrahamic Traditions. The power animal may also lend its ward or charge the wisdom or attributes of its kind. For example, a hawk power animal provides hawk attributes, such as hawk-eye.

Power animals most often come to us in dreams, meditations, initiations, and visions.  You can have more than one power animal.  Your power animal at a given time can change depending on your life-path at that time.  Power animals are often attracted by one’s emotional needs of the person – viewed as protectors who help overcome fears and empower us.

The concept of a Power Animal is universal to all cultures. Tribal cultures  will recognize a Totem for the tribe, one for the clan one belongs to,  and one for the family that one is born into. In the United States, and  in other countries, the Tribal and Clan Totem still exists, although it  is thought of in a slightly different manner.

There are also totems for our adopted cultures, such as clubs or societies which we may belong  to, such as the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Loyal Order  of Moose, and the Lions Club.

Even Christianity, the prevalent religion  of this country, has maintained two Totem animals, these being the Fish  and the Lamb. Specialized Totems are also seen in organized sports, their  names being reflected in the team names. Example: Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Falcons

The next type of Power Animal or Totem is that which is personal for  the individual. These Totems are protective spirits which help us in our  everyday life. Everyone has such a Totem. Even today most parents give  a special protective Power Animal to their children and tell the child  that it will be protected over night by that Power Animal. They don’t realize that is what they are doing when they give a teddy bear to their little one.

We often unconsciously recognize the Power Animal affecting someone, and use terms which give away our unconscious recognition.

In the shamanic belief every thing is alive and carries with it power and wisdom.  Power animals are an essential component of shamanic practice.  They are the helping spirit which add to the power of the shaman and are essential for success in any venture undertaken by the shaman.

Shamans believe that everyone has power animals – animal spirits which reside with each individual adding to their power and protecting them from illness, acting similarly to a guardian angel.  Each power animal that you have increases your power so that illnesses or negative energy cannot enter your body.  The spirit also lends you the wisdom of its kind.  A hawk spirit will give you hawk wisdom, and lend you some of the attributes of hawk.

Everyone is thought to have a few of these guardian power animals or it is thought that the individual could not survive childhood.  Over the course of her or his life the person may have several.  If a power animal leaves and one does not come to take its place the individual is considered, by the shaman, to be disempowered and therefore vulnerable to illness and bad luck.

Power animals do not have to be mammals and can be reptiles, insects or sea creatures.  Any living creature can serve as a power animal.  (Plants and trees can serve as plant spirit guides.) Domesticated animals are generally not considered power animals because they already in service to human beings.  It is possible to have a domesticated animal, but it is more likely to have a wild untamed animal serve in the capacity of a power animal.

The gifts that a particular animal is thought to give an individual varies depending on the culture.  Although there are certain consistencies for certain animals.  A particular power animal can come to help you with an issue that is very specific for you.  It is important not to lock each animal into a category, and be open to the gifts it may be coming to share with you.

It is important to honor your power animal.  In many western cultures we are not taught to value animals or the gifts that they add to our life and the world around us.  In shamanic work the power animal is essential, for a shaman who has no power – is not going to have very good results.

On a personal level by honoring your power animal you let it know that its assistance is appreciated.  The spirit of the animal is giving up its mobility in order to spend its time with you and assist you with your life.  Also, by honoring the power animal we make a deeper connection with it.  Honoring it can be as simple a saying a thank you inside yourself, or getting an object which represents it and putting it where you can see it as you go about your day.

Shamanic practice honors and acknowledges the life and wisdom that exists in all things.  Everything is believed to have something to teach you and animals are thought to have a wealth of wisdom and protection to offer you.

If you would like to find out who your power animal is, consulting a shamanic practitioner is an option.  But to discover this on you own, you can ask for a dream and see if anything comes up. You can ask the power animal to show itself to you and if you start seeing one or another animal frequently that would be its way of revealing itself to you.

Power Animals are usually a reflection of your deepest self and also represent qualities which you need in this world, but which are often hidden or obscured. A mistake that people often make is to be dissatisfied when they find that their Power Animal is some non-ferocious animal like  a mouse. We tend to think that a mouse is not very powerful – that it  is meek and afraid. What they forget is that spirits are not limited to  physical reality and that size is irrelevant. Your Power Animal may be  a tiny mouse, but in times of need this mouse can and will change its size  and deportment to that which is appropriate to the occasion.

Source:
Crystalinks

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Signs of a True Elder, Master or Priest

Signs of a True Elder, Master or Priest

Author:   Patricia Telesco 

I have been very disturbed by the increase in the use of titles like Priest, Priestess, Elder, Teacher, Shaman, Lady, and Lord in our community, specifically by those who really do not have the training to claim such honorable terms. You would not see anyone in the Christian church calling themselves by such a title without ordination and schooling, yet among neo-pagans it seems that nearly anyone who wishes to can take up a title and wield it for boon or bane.
Now, I realize that at the heart of things we are our own Priest and Priestess, but that’s far different than being the spiritual guide for many people (not to mention the difference in Karmic implications). To use a title without having earned it in the eyes of others, through training, or by calling is to dishonor all those who have earned their place as our teachers, elders, priests and priestesses. It also doesn’t present the most positive, responsible image of neo-paganism to outsiders who view such antics as manipulative power trips (often rightly so).
Reading one book does not make anyone an expert. Attending a year’s worth or rituals does not qualify a person for eldership or priesthood! In a world of seemingly shake-and-bake shamanism and instant priesthood, the route to true magical mastery isn’t traversed quickly or without sacrifice, and it can’t be found in the yellow pages. And it certainly has very little to do with a fancy or powerful sounding title. At its pinnacle, adepthood isn’t about impressing people; it’s a way of living and being. In other words, the focus is not on “talking the talk,” but on “walking the walk.” What are some of the signs of a true elder, master or priest?
How about someone who:

  1. Reclaims ancient knowledge, tradition, and powers, keeping them alive for future generations
  2. Safeguards magical history so that we can learn from the past in building the future
  3. Personally accepts the responsibility implied by gaining and using mystical knowledge and skill
  4. Honors the earth as a sacred space and use its resources wisely
  5. Acknowledges that life is an act of worship, and strives to keep his or her words and actions in accord
  6. Respects individual diversity, knowing there are many paths to enlightenment and that each person is a sacred space unto themselves.
  7. Embraces creativity and change as a fundamental necessity in keeping magic vital
  8. Encourages balance in all things, especially in his or her own life
  9. Teaches others the ways of magic in simple, understandable steps (no “instant enlightenment” no fluffy bunny magick).
  10. Offers metaphysical aid, consultation, and insights freely to those in need, without personal expectations of gain
  11. Gives back something to their art, or those who practice it
  12. Realizes that tools are only helpmates to magic. Real power comes from the mind, heart, and will working in harmony with earth and Spirit.

In some ways a priest or elder doesn’t ever “arrive” — we are always getting there, realizing that the more we know, the more we realize how LITTLE we know (smile). When we finally reach this understanding, we’re often ready to teach and lead with both heart and head; in balance is spiritual wisdom. In fact, I would hazard to guess that most people who are truly our priests, priestesses, elders and teachers are those who don’t have to say so – we just know it by the example of their lives!

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The Daily OM for December 9th – A Soulful Cure

A Soulful Cure
Working with a Shaman

by Madisyn Taylor

Working with a shaman can be a great puzzle piece in the process of becoming whole again.

Since time immemorial, certain men and women have felt called to heal the sick, to safeguard knowledge, to guide the lost, and to commune with the spirit world. These unique individuals, known as shamans, were mystics and seers, repositories of wisdom, and keepers of herbal lore. During those periods when ignorance loomed large in the world, shamans across the globe bided their time, peacefully practicing their practical yet refined arts in the jungle, mountains, deserts, and tundra that protected them from those who misunderstood shamanism. Today, however, shamanism has reemerged, as modern men and women feel the same call to service that their ancestors felt long ago. Also, as more individuals explore the notion that healing necessarily involves the soul as well as the physical self, people are consulting shamans in their search for wellness, wisdom, and guidance.

The word shaman literally means “he or she who knows. Shamanism is an art that has not changed in any quantifiable way for millennia and is not bound to any particular form of spirituality. It is grounded on the principle that the visible world is saturated with unseen forces that influence the lives of human beings. Shamans, in addition to acting as fonts of wisdom, are dedicated to diagnosing and curing human suffering—whether emotional, physical, or spiritual. To treat an illness, a shaman may communicate with the spirit world in order to connect more directly with the soul of their patient or with the force causing ill health. They often work closely with animal guides, plant and earth spirits, or your spirit guides, and may make use of use of herbal remedies to supplement other forms of treatment. Shamans, as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual realms, recognize that all objects are in manner alive and retain information that can be utilized to heal.

Shamanism is powerful in part because its practitioners tailor healing to the individual needs of those who seek them out. A shaman manipulates energy, giving you power where you have lost it and removing misplaced energy lurking within you. When you seek out a shaman, they will endeavor to know and understand you before treating you. In this way, they can provide you with therapies that act on your whole being, positively influencing your body as well as your soul.

The Daily OM

Signs of a True Elder, Master or Priest

Signs of a True Elder, Master or Priest

Author: Patricia Telesco

I have been very disturbed by the increase in the use of titles like Priest, Priestess, Elder, Teacher, Shaman, Lady, and Lord in our community, specifically by those who really do not have the training to claim such honorable terms. You would not see anyone in the Christian church calling themselves by such a title without ordination and schooling, yet among neo-pagans it seems that nearly anyone who wishes to can take up a title and wield it for boon or bane.

Now, I realize that at the heart of things we are our own Priest and Priestess, but that’s far different than being the spiritual guide for many people (not to mention the difference in Karmic implications). To use a title without having earned it in the eyes of others, through training, or by calling is to dishonor all those who have earned their place as our teachers, elders, priests and priestesses. It also doesn’t present the most positive, responsible image of neo-paganism to outsiders who view such antics as manipulative power trips (often rightly so).

Reading one book does not make anyone an expert. Attending a year’s worth or rituals does not qualify a person for eldership or priesthood! In a world of seemingly shake-and-bake shamanism and instant priesthood, the route to true magical mastery isn’t traversed quickly or without sacrifice, and it can’t be found in the yellow pages. And it certainly has very little to do with a fancy or powerful sounding title. At its pinnacle, adepthood isn’t about impressing people; it’s a way of living and being. In other words, the focus is not on “talking the talk,” but on “walking the walk.” What are some of the signs of a true elder, master or priest?

How about someone who:

Reclaims ancient knowledge, tradition, and powers, keeping them alive for future generations

Safeguards magical history so that we can learn from the past in building the future

Personally accepts the responsibility implied by gaining and using mystical knowledge and skill

Honors the earth as a sacred space and use its resources wisely

Acknowledges that life is an act of worship, and strives to keep his or her words and actions in accord

Respects individual diversity, knowing there are many paths to enlightenment and that each person is a sacred space unto themselves.

Embraces creativity and change as a fundamental necessity in keeping magic vital

Encourages balance in all things, especially in his or her own life

Teaches others the ways of magic in simple, understandable steps (no “instant enlightenment” no fluffy bunny magick).

Offers metaphysical aid, consultation, and insights freely to those in need, without personal expectations of gain

Gives back something to their art, or those who practice it

Realizes that tools are only helpmates to magic. Real power comes from the mind, heart, and will working in harmony with earth and Spirit.

In some ways a priest or elder doesn’t ever “arrive” — we are always getting there, realizing that the more we know, the more we realize how LITTLE we know (smile). When we finally reach this understanding, we’re often ready to teach and lead with both heart and head; in balance is spiritual wisdom. In fact, I would hazard to guess that most people who are truly our priests, priestesses, elders and teachers are those who don’t have to say so – we just know it by the example of their lives!

 

Wiccan and Witchcraft – Questions and Answers

Wiccan and Witchcraft – Questions and Answers

Author:   Gentle Deer Lion Tamer  

This is a compilation of questions that I have been asked over the past few years, and my answers to each. I hope that this provides a better and clearer understanding about Witches, Wicca, Witchcraft, Pagans and The Craft, and helps eliminate some of the misconceptions that are floating around rampantly.

Q. Are Wicca and Witchcraft the same thing?

A. Some say yes, and some say no. I suppose the only way to navigate this question safely is to point out what some may consider the main differences. In general, Wiccans feel free to review different belief systems, such as Celtic, Norse, Essene, Gnosis, or Shamanism, along with many other Paths, and then blend together any points that “feel” right into their own personal path. Pure Witchcraft on the other hand, may focus a little more tightly on using Magick and ritual to work with the elemental and spiritual forces in nature. Regardless, I feel the differences are slight in that Wicca and Witchcraft both work to achieve balance and harmony within nature and one’s self.

Personally, I follow a predominately Celtic Shamanic Wiccan path. As time passes, I find myself increasingly drawing upon the wisdom and beliefs of other spiritual paths as my knowledge and understanding of them increases. So, when asked I’ll tell you I’m a Witch, I also consider myself a Wiccan and Shaman because I utilize and blend aspects of them all.

On the other hand, some that I know have the same belief concepts as I do, on many levels, yet call themselves Christian and even Muslim among other various Paths, and would not ever call themselves witches.

Q. Who do Witches Worship?

A. There is a single power defined as the One or All, which is composed of everything it has ever created. This supreme energy force does not rule over the Universe, it IS the Universe. Since most find it difficult to talk to or call upon a faceless mass of Divine energy, this supreme power is personified into male and female aspects as the Goddess and God. This simply makes the concept easier for the human mind to comprehend and relate to. Some take this concept a step further and use actual names, like Astarte, Isis, Odin, Pan, Diana, Cernunnos, etc., when invoking the Goddess and God. In the end, it is a personal preference and what a Witch uses depends on what “feels” right for them individually.

Q. How do Witches view Christianity? Are Witches Anti-Christian?

A. Not necessarily. Witchcraft, overall, is very tolerant of other religious views, and does not engage itself in criticizing the beliefs of other people, providing that their beliefs do not violate the basic tenant of “Harm None.” Witches do object to religions that attempt to suppress the religious beliefs of others, or every human’s right to seek spirituality in their own way. This is why there is a slight rub between Wiccans, Pagans, Witches, and some Christians. Many of them feel they have exclusive rights to the Divine. We also have a strong disdain for those who use religion as an excuse to commit mass genocide. The “Burning Times” are a clear historical example of one religious group attempting to exert its philosophies and beliefs upon others using extreme measures.

Perhaps an over simplified way of describing our view is this: Imagine a beautiful meadow in the forest, and there are many paths leading to this meadow. It really does not matter which path you take to get there, the important thing is that you get there without harming anyone or anything along the way.

Q. Can I follow the path of Wicca or Witchcraft and be a Christian too?

A. Again, some say yes, and others maintain that they are completely separate religions. I believe that if one looks closely at the true teachings of Jesus with an open heart, you will find some stark commonalities. (In reality, in my personal opinion, Jesus was an excellent example of a true Pagan.) It is only when one takes literally the sometimes-frail misinterpretations of those who misunderstood the intent or used the teachings to suit their own political agendas that one see’s wide differences.

As a solitary you are free to choose any path you desire, or any blend that “feels” right to you. The important thing is to not allow a name or word to become a stumbling block. It is the intent of your actions, thoughts and spirituality that matters in the end. I incorporate Native American traditions/healings/ceremonies within what I do at a spiritual and healing level. Ultimately you must do what “feels” right to you…

Q. The Wiccan Rede says “An it harm none, do as ye will.” Does that mean a Witch can do anything they want and its okay if they justify the action to themselves?

A. An excellent question indeed! And the answer is no… The whole premise of our belief system is based on living in harmony with all things that exist. This includes, but is not limited to the earth, trees, rivers, lakes, oceans, air, and all of earth’s creatures, as well as other people without regard to race, color, religion, or sexual orientation.

My interpretation of the Rede tells me that the creative force of the universe has given me an inner voice, or “conscience, ” which tells me what is right or wrong. It is also this consciousness that connects me to the Divine. By listening to this inner voice, (Perhaps I should clarify here. No I do not hear voices, it is more like something I feel) I try to analyze my impulses and feelings to ensure they are not driven by greed, lust, envy, prejudice or anger. If they are, I try to put them in perspective or discard them all together. I then use common sense and judgment in my actions and accept full responsibility for them. This is not always easy to do, but I try. By keeping these ideals of right and wrong foremost in my mind, as well as seeking to obtain harmony and balance with nature and all living things, I am able to do my best at following the Rede as I go through my day.

This is not to say that Witches are perfect, never do anything wrong, or make mistakes. We are still human. We are aware of, or try to be aware of the karmic return of our actions, and are very careful not to send out negative energy in thought or deed.

Yes, sometimes a Witch will focus an energy form toward someone who needs a psychic zap. This is only done however when a person is consistently doing something very wrong within society and causing a lot of harm to others. If and when a Witch does zap someone, they do so with the full knowledge that it will eventually return to them and there will be a price to pay according to the Law of Three. There are times when we simply must make a personal sacrifice for the good of the whole and shoulder this weight.

When confronted with this type of situation, I prefer to bring this person to the attention of the Goddess, asking her that justice be done according to her will. In this way I am not focusing negative energy towards the individual and therefore am less likely to suffer karmic repercussions.

Q. If Wicca and Witchcraft are not evil, why do you wear black robes?

A. This is another baseless superstition and Witches wear clothing and robes of every color. Black is the combination of all colors and all vibrational rates of light on the material plane. It is known that black is a very good conductor of energy, therefore wearing black simply helps Witches absorb natural energy to increase the power of their thought forms. Some Witches wear nothing at all (skyclad) when performing ritual.)

Q. Okay, so if Wicca and Witchcraft are not evil, why do you hold rituals and ceremonies at night hidden in the woods?

A. This practice has its history in a couple of different things, none of which have anything to do with evil… In the old world, especially within the Celtic tribes, the day followed an entirely different schedule than it does in modern times. The new day for them actually began at sunset. This is also why most observances of holidays were celebrated on the evening before the actual calendar day. The second reason is that survival had an entirely different meaning during those times. Almost without exception, everyone spent their daylight hours tending the crops, their herds, or engaged in their trade. All daylight hours were vitally important simply for survival reasons.

Okay, so that takes care of why we observed our rites at night during ancient times, and many of the reasons are the same in today’s times. For one, most of us are busy working all day earning a living, so the evening is the only time we have to seek spiritual communion. Secondly, Wicca and Witchcraft are still largely misunderstood religions and we are still persecuted for our beliefs. Another reason that is important for me, and possibly for others as well is that I feel a special closeness to the Goddess and God at night. Yes I can, and do, enjoy the mountains and meadows during the daylight, or a sunrise and sunset, but I am truly more aware of the heavens and the great expanse of the Universe at night, so it just makes sense for me.

Q. What form does the practice of Witchcraft take?

A. The form and context vary from group to group, and between each ritual, and may run the gamut from elaborate ceremony to spontaneous ritual to simple meditation.

Q. How do you see the Goddess and God?

A. Wiccans believe that there are female/male aspects to the One or All and without the union and balance of these two aspects, nothing can exist. Read the answer to question number two for more on this.

Q. Do all Witches practice their religion the same way?

A. Yes and no. Wicca is a highly individualistic religion. Moreover, the number of different sects within the Craft may give the impression that no two groups practice the same way. Though practices may vary, most traditions have many similarities, such as the working of magick and a respect for nature. Most Witches find enough common ground for mutual support and productive networking throughout the Craft community.

Q. Is Witchcraft a cult?

A. No. Cults are groups that trade a sense of salvation and belonging for the ability to think for oneself. They indulge in extravagant homage or adoration (Webster’s Dictionary) , usually of an earthly leader of some sort. If you know a real Witch, you’ll quickly come to find the term “Cult” could not apply to us. Most Wiccans, Witches and Pagans come to the Craft individually through reading and communing with nature. They often will remain solitary in their beliefs but other will also find like-minded people to celebrate seasonal cycles or monthly moons with. Witches are extremely individualistic, self-sufficient and defend the right of free will without hesitation.

Q. Do Witches have a bible?

A. No. A bible is supposedly the word of a deity revealed through a prophet. Witchcraft is a Pagan folk-religion of personal experience. Witchcraft in the old times was much the same as the beliefs of the Essenes, Gnostics, Druids, and many other religions. The teachings were passed along by spoken word through long periods of one-on-one instruction with an Elder of the Craft. This approach was taken because the power and knowledge could be misused in the wrong hands. Therefore, by using only the spoken word, the old masters could ensure those who wished to follow the path had a true understanding and their hearts were in the right place as their knowledge of the mysteries grew. Unfortunately, when the medieval church began its attempts to convert and eliminate rival belief systems, the teachers were either killed outright or went underground resulting in much of the ancient knowledge being lost.

Q. If Witches don’t have a bible, what do you use?

A. Most modern Witches keep a Book of Shadows, (BOS) or Grimoire, which is more like an individual’s workbook, journal, or diary, meaningful to the person who keeps it. This book contains rituals, discoveries, spells, poetry, herb lore, etc. Covens almost always keep a similar group book. I am not exactly sure how the name “Book of Shadows” came to be, but I would assume that this also ties into the Burning Times when the church set out to eliminate all texts along with the followers of the old ways. The writings that existed were more than likely were taken into the shadows and hidden with the survivors.

Q. The word Tradition is used quite often. What is the exact meaning of this?

A. Here the word Tradition relates to the beliefs of a specific geographical region such as Celtic, Germanic, Norse, Gardenarian, Alexandrian, Dianic, etc., and is sometimes broken down into further subsets. Essentially it is much the same as the variety of denominations seen within Christianity, such as Methodist, Mormon or Catholic.

Q. Do Witches cast spells?

A. Some do and some don’t. Spellwork should never be the focus of following this path and those who seek our ways only for this purpose are very misguided. A spell is a ritual formula, or series of steps, to direct psychic energy to accomplish a desired end. This energy is drawn from the Earth with the aid of elementals, concentrated and sent out into the world to achieve a positive goal. Since Witchcraft teaches that whatever one sends out is returned threefold, Witches are very careful to never send out harmful energy carelessly. The Christian word for this is “Prayer”. The only real difference is that Witches also invoke the aid of spirit guides, familiars or other elemental energies to add strength to the process as well as using ritual tools.

Q. Do Witches worship the devil?

A. No. Satan, or the Devil, has absolutely no place in Wicca or Witchcraft. The worship of Satan is the practice of profaning Christian symbolism and is thus a Christian heresy, rather than a Pagan religion. The Goddess and God of the Witches are in no way connected to Satanic practices. Satan, or the Devil, does not belong to our pantheon of Gods and Goddesses. Satan, or the Devil, is a Christian creation.

Q. Are Witches only women?

A. No, although women do seem to predominate in the Craft overall. In fact, some traditions have only women practitioners, just as others have only men. A male Witch is simply called a Witch, never a warlock and it is considered an insult to call a male Witch “Warlock”. The word “Warlock” actually means “oath breaker”. Some traditions of Wicca separate between female/male. The word “Wicce” pronounced (Wik-kay) designates a female Witch and “Wicca” pronounced (Wik-kah) designates a male Witch.

Q. How do Witches view Sex?

A. Sex is part of nature and sacred to the Deities and Witches. Just like everyone else, we think it’s wonderful. The Great Rite at Beltane is a symbolic representation of the union between the Goddess and God resulting in the creation of all that exists. Very few, if any, traditions engage in sex as a part of group rites and there are no orgies during ritual. Many couples that have chosen each other, and jointly follow the path, do use sex magick in their private rites and rituals, however. It is a deeply intimate sharing of body, spirit and soul, which bonds them together, closer than anything else can.

Q. What is the purpose of performing ceremonies Skyclad?

A. The term skyclad means “Clad only by the sky”. Not all Witches perform rituals skyclad, but there are those who believe that the absence of clothing allows energy to transfer to and from them more freely. Many simply feel closer to the Goddess and God while in their natural form without the bindings of human technology, insecurities or socially retarded inhibitions regarding the human form. Many wear a robe or some other clothing made of natural materials while participating in group activities and go skyclad only when observing rites alone or with their mate. Regardless, going skyclad during ritual is in no way a sexual act, it is a deeply spiritual one for those who “choose” to do so.

Q. Is Witchcraft a religion?

A. Yes, Witchcraft is a nature based religion and it has been recognized as such in the United States and Canada. In the U.S., Wicca has full recognition as a religion and is granted all rights as such under the Constitution. The American Heritage Dictionary defines religion as “a belief in and reverence for a supernatural power recognized as the creator and governor of the universe”. So yes, it does qualify as such. Our definition differs slightly in that to us, the Creator of the universe IS the universe. Witchcraft, or Wicca, is not something that can be followed once in a while or when it is convenient or we need or want something. It is a dedication made to nature, the deities and yourself. It is a way of life, and as such we are mindful of the balance between ourselves and all things within the universe at all times.

Q. How do Witches view death?

A. Many Witches believe in reincarnation and the Summerland. After passing over, Summerland is where the spirit awaits to be returned into a new physical form. We do not believe in an absolute Heaven or Hell where the spirit spends eternity as reward or punishment for ones earthly actions.

Q. How can someone find out more about Witchcraft?

A. Ours is not a missionary religion, and we never try to make converts. We feel that if this path is right for you, you will find your way to it. We are, however, becoming more visual and vocal in an attempt to educate and dispel myths and superstitions about the Craft. You need not worry about a Witch knocking on your door and wanting to come in and share passages from their BOS. For those who are interested there are many excellent books available in libraries and online. Some Witches also teach classes or facilitate discussion groups. In this way, people may make contact with a like-minded Coven, form their own groups or share thoughts and beliefs with others. There are also a growing number of superb craft sites on the Internet, periodicals, and national and regional festivals through which a seeker can make contact with the larger Craft community.

Religion vs. Spirituality

Religion vs. Spirituality

Author:   Crick   

There is often a blurring of the lines when it comes to the difference between what is a religion and what is a spiritual path. Neo pagans in particular are guilty of this lack of distinction, perhaps because so many neo pagans come from a Abrahamic religion originally. I also believe that because Wicca tries to define itself as a religion that it readily serves as the stepping stone for those who are interested in the mystic arts.

This is not a bad thing, just a pragmatic observation from one who follows a spiritual path rather then a religion.

But then that is where the dual focus of this article comes into play.

To begin with, religions of all types have to define themselves in a manner that sets them apart from other types of religions in order to be seen as a distinctive school of thought and/or belief.

The ironic result of this attempt is that basically all religions have the same underlying theme, whether it be an Abrahamic religion, Judaic, Muslim, Wicca or any of the other four hundred plus religions in the world.

And that theme is that their particular gathering represents all others in the world.

And that the gathering in question does it better then all of the rest. For instance within the Abrahamic religions the Christians claim to be the only “true religion”, within the Muslim religion there are the Baha i, amongst others that claim to represent a better way and so on. Within the neo pagan community the Wicca claim to represent all other pagans, though such claims are simply naive.

For instance those who follow the Shamanic path do not belong to a religion but rather engage in a very personal and thus individualistic spiritual path. They are represented by none but themselves.

My question is; if religion is supposed to be a means of communicating with deity then why does such a communication require so many middle men as it were?

What makes specific folks so special that only they can talk directly to the deity of ones choice?

Is it possible that religion is more about elitism and the many human travails that define our existence as a species?

As far as paganism goes, does connecting with other-wordly entities really require all of the trappings that a religion imposes upon a person?

For instance, does one really need to cast a “Sacred Circle” every single time they want to communicate with deity? Is not the entire earth and all that she contains not sacred?

Has the Sacred Circle simply become a substitute for a raised dais that one uses to distinguish themselves from others with?

This is not to say that there are not “times” when the Sacred Circle should be employed. Such a tool should in my personal opinion, be used as a form of protection when dealing with certain entities and in other instances as a portal to travel to other-wordly realms.

But I also personally believe that some neo pagan religions have perhaps appended the use of such a tool in an effort to define themselves as a separate religion, in short, an attempt at elitism. And as such, the use of such a special tool has become mere dogma and thus has lost much of the meaning of its originally intended use.

One of the problems that I see with religions in general and with neo pagan religions in particular is that when one sets up parameters, especially when dealing with the magickal arts, one sets up barriers to any real spiritual growth.

Paganism was never meant to be stifled by the whims of certain humans and that is exactly what a religion is.

A personage or small group of personages set out a particular dogma and thus a religion is created.

This may work well for those who need such a group mentality in order to relate to their choice of deity. However, paganism is a school of thought and action that does not fit within such a group consciousness.

The magickal arts that are a prevalent part of paganism is never discovered within its entirety. It is a on going process of trial and error which in many cases is what constitutes a real Book of Shadows and not the kind that is purchased off of a book shelf.

What works for one may not work for another and so there is no one BOS for all. Which brings me to yet another thought. Todays neo paganism, on the surface at least, appears to be less about the discovery of ones latent abilities and more about the commercialism that is so prevalent amongst certain so called mystical neo pagan religions. If paganism is about the individual experience, then how can one person define this experience within a book in a way that represents everyone. In reality, they cannot accomplish such a feat and yet there are thousands of neo pagan books written over the last 30 or 40 years that claim to do just that.

As a result the true meaning of paganism and what it represents has become mired in the blatant commercialism that now defines neo paganism.

This sad situation is the direct result of a few folks attempting to fit the concept and workings of paganism into the restrictive parameters of religious dogma. Such an attempt is like trying to fit a square peg into a circle.

In short, this attempt has in many ways stifled the growth and knowledge of what paganism is really about.

And what is that you may ask?

In my personal opinion, paganism is not about yet another form of religion, rather it is about the individual growth of each person who seeks what I personally see as a spiritual path.

If neo pagans would spend less energy in trying to re-invent paganism and instead would spend more time learning about themselves there would be no need for the elitism and commercialism that neo pagan religions bring to the table.

There are many spiritual belief systems under the real pagan umbrella that one could learn from. Those such as the various shaman practices, Native American, practices, Australian bushman and so forth, have been practising their forms of paganism for generations. And yet these folks are not flooding the marketplace with how to books on paganism. But neither do they claim to belong to a mystickal religion either.

They practice and learn from a spiritual point of view. And isn’t that what true paganism is supposed to be all about?There is often a blurring of the lines when it comes to the difference between what is a religion and what is a spiritual path. Neo pagans in particular are guilty of this lack of distinction, perhaps because so many neo pagans come from a Abrahamic religion originally. I also believe that because Wicca tries to define itself as a religion that it readily serves as the stepping stone for those who are interested in the mystic arts.

This is not a bad thing, just a pragmatic observation from one who follows a spiritual path rather then a religion.

But then that is where the dual focus of this article comes into play.

To begin with, religions of all types have to define themselves in a manner that sets them apart from other types of religions in order to be seen as a distinctive school of thought and/or belief.

The ironic result of this attempt is that basically all religions have the same underlying theme, whether it be an Abrahamic religion, Judaic, Muslim, Wicca or any of the other four hundred plus religions in the world.

And that theme is that their particular gathering represents all others in the world.

And that the gathering in question does it better then all of the rest. For instance within the Abrahamic religions the Christians claim to be the only “true religion”, within the Muslim religion there are the Baha i, amongst others that claim to represent a better way and so on. Within the neo pagan community the Wicca claim to represent all other pagans, though such claims are simply naive.

For instance those who follow the Shamanic path do not belong to a religion but rather engage in a very personal and thus individualistic spiritual path. They are represented by none but themselves.

My question is; if religion is supposed to be a means of communicating with deity then why does such a communication require so many middle men as it were?

What makes specific folks so special that only they can talk directly to the deity of ones choice?

Is it possible that religion is more about elitism and the many human travails that define our existence as a species?

As far as paganism goes, does connecting with other-wordly entities really require all of the trappings that a religion imposes upon a person?

For instance, does one really need to cast a “Sacred Circle” every single time they want to communicate with deity? Is not the entire earth and all that she contains not sacred?

Has the Sacred Circle simply become a substitute for a raised dais that one uses to distinguish themselves from others with?

This is not to say that there are not “times” when the Sacred Circle should be employed. Such a tool should in my personal opinion, be used as a form of protection when dealing with certain entities and in other instances as a portal to travel to other-wordly realms.

But I also personally believe that some neo pagan religions have perhaps appended the use of such a tool in an effort to define themselves as a separate religion, in short, an attempt at elitism. And as such, the use of such a special tool has become mere dogma and thus has lost much of the meaning of its originally intended use.

One of the problems that I see with religions in general and with neo pagan religions in particular is that when one sets up parameters, especially when dealing with the magickal arts, one sets up barriers to any real spiritual growth.

Paganism was never meant to be stifled by the whims of certain humans and that is exactly what a religion is.

A personage or small group of personages set out a particular dogma and thus a religion is created.

This may work well for those who need such a group mentality in order to relate to their choice of deity. However, paganism is a school of thought and action that does not fit within such a group consciousness.

The magickal arts that are a prevalent part of paganism is never discovered within its entirety. It is a on going process of trial and error which in many cases is what constitutes a real Book of Shadows and not the kind that is purchased off of a book shelf.

What works for one may not work for another and so there is no one BOS for all. Which brings me to yet another thought. Todays neo paganism, on the surface at least, appears to be less about the discovery of ones latent abilities and more about the commercialism that is so prevalent amongst certain so called mystical neo pagan religions. If paganism is about the individual experience, then how can one person define this experience within a book in a way that represents everyone. In reality, they cannot accomplish such a feat and yet there are thousands of neo pagan books written over the last 30 or 40 years that claim to do just that.

As a result the true meaning of paganism and what it represents has become mired in the blatant commercialism that now defines neo paganism.

This sad situation is the direct result of a few folks attempting to fit the concept and workings of paganism into the restrictive parameters of religious dogma. Such an attempt is like trying to fit a square peg into a circle.

In short, this attempt has in many ways stifled the growth and knowledge of what paganism is really about.

And what is that you may ask?

In my personal opinion, paganism is not about yet another form of religion, rather it is about the individual growth of each person who seeks what I personally see as a spiritual path.

If neo pagans would spend less energy in trying to re-invent paganism and instead would spend more time learning about themselves there would be no need for the elitism and commercialism that neo pagan religions bring to the table.

There are many spiritual belief systems under the real pagan umbrella that one could learn from. Those such as the various shaman practices, Native American, practices, Australian bushman and so forth, have been practising their forms of paganism for generations. And yet these folks are not flooding the marketplace with how to books on paganism. But neither do they claim to belong to a mystickal religion either.

They practice and learn from a spiritual point of view. And isn’t that what true paganism is supposed to be all about?There is often a blurring of the lines when it comes to the difference between what is a religion and what is a spiritual path. Neo pagans in particular are guilty of this lack of distinction, perhaps because so many neo pagans come from a Abrahamic religion originally. I also believe that because Wicca tries to define itself as a religion that it readily serves as the stepping stone for those who are interested in the mystic arts.

This is not a bad thing, just a pragmatic observation from one who follows a spiritual path rather then a religion.

But then that is where the dual focus of this article comes into play.

To begin with, religions of all types have to define themselves in a manner that sets them apart from other types of religions in order to be seen as a distinctive school of thought and/or belief.

The ironic result of this attempt is that basically all religions have the same underlying theme, whether it be an Abrahamic religion, Judaic, Muslim, Wicca or any of the other four hundred plus religions in the world.

And that theme is that their particular gathering represents all others in the world.

And that the gathering in question does it better then all of the rest. For instance within the Abrahamic religions the Christians claim to be the only “true religion”, within the Muslim religion there are the Baha i, amongst others that claim to represent a better way and so on. Within the neo pagan community the Wicca claim to represent all other pagans, though such claims are simply naive.

For instance those who follow the Shamanic path do not belong to a religion but rather engage in a very personal and thus individualistic spiritual path. They are represented by none but themselves.

My question is; if religion is supposed to be a means of communicating with deity then why does such a communication require so many middle men as it were?

What makes specific folks so special that only they can talk directly to the deity of ones choice?

Is it possible that religion is more about elitism and the many human travails that define our existence as a species?

As far as paganism goes, does connecting with other-wordly entities really require all of the trappings that a religion imposes upon a person?

For instance, does one really need to cast a “Sacred Circle” every single time they want to communicate with deity? Is not the entire earth and all that she contains not sacred?

Has the Sacred Circle simply become a substitute for a raised dais that one uses to distinguish themselves from others with?

This is not to say that there are not “times” when the Sacred Circle should be employed. Such a tool should in my personal opinion, be used as a form of protection when dealing with certain entities and in other instances as a portal to travel to other-wordly realms.

But I also personally believe that some neo pagan religions have perhaps appended the use of such a tool in an effort to define themselves as a separate religion, in short, an attempt at elitism. And as such, the use of such a special tool has become mere dogma and thus has lost much of the meaning of its originally intended use.

One of the problems that I see with religions in general and with neo pagan religions in particular is that when one sets up parameters, especially when dealing with the magickal arts, one sets up barriers to any real spiritual growth.

Paganism was never meant to be stifled by the whims of certain humans and that is exactly what a religion is.

A personage or small group of personages set out a particular dogma and thus a religion is created.

This may work well for those who need such a group mentality in order to relate to their choice of deity. However, paganism is a school of thought and action that does not fit within such a group consciousness.

The magickal arts that are a prevalent part of paganism is never discovered within its entirety. It is a on going process of trial and error which in many cases is what constitutes a real Book of Shadows and not the kind that is purchased off of a book shelf.

What works for one may not work for another and so there is no one BOS for all. Which brings me to yet another thought. Todays neo paganism, on the surface at least, appears to be less about the discovery of ones latent abilities and more about the commercialism that is so prevalent amongst certain so called mystical neo pagan religions. If paganism is about the individual experience, then how can one person define this experience within a book in a way that represents everyone. In reality, they cannot accomplish such a feat and yet there are thousands of neo pagan books written over the last 30 or 40 years that claim to do just that.

As a result the true meaning of paganism and what it represents has become mired in the blatant commercialism that now defines neo paganism.

This sad situation is the direct result of a few folks attempting to fit the concept and workings of paganism into the restrictive parameters of religious dogma. Such an attempt is like trying to fit a square peg into a circle.

In short, this attempt has in many ways stifled the growth and knowledge of what paganism is really about.

And what is that you may ask?

In my personal opinion, paganism is not about yet another form of religion, rather it is about the individual growth of each person who seeks what I personally see as a spiritual path.

If neo pagans would spend less energy in trying to re-invent paganism and instead would spend more time learning about themselves there would be no need for the elitism and commercialism that neo pagan religions bring to the table.

There are many spiritual belief systems under the real pagan umbrella that one could learn from. Those such as the various shaman practices, Native American, practices, Australian bushman and so forth, have been practising their forms of paganism for generations. And yet these folks are not flooding the marketplace with how to books on paganism. But neither do they claim to belong to a mystickal religion either.

They practice and learn from a spiritual point of view. And isn’t that what true paganism is supposed to be all about?