Energy + Spells = Change

strega d'autunno

Energy + Spells = Change

 

When our own energy is concentrated and channeled, it can move the broader energy currents. The images and objects used in spells are the channels, the vessels through which our power is poured and by which it is shaped. When energy is directed into the images we visualize, it gradually manifests physical form and takes shape in the material world.

-Starhawk, The Spiral Dance

 

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Instant Witch

Instant Witch

Author: Sunfell 

You’ve seen them: They’re usually the ones with the most outrageous costumes and jewelry; the ones who at times are almost a Hollywood parody of a Pagan, who look like they’ve escaped a Tolkien novel. You’ve heard them–giggling clutches of teenage girls in the new-age section of the bookstore poring over ‘love spell’ books. You try to avoid them–their incessant pontification and magical one-upmanship can drive a veteran Pagan crazy (and by ‘veteran’, I mean someone who has been practicing for at least a decade).

All right, old timer–time to sit back and remember your early days. Remember when you had your ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment–when perhaps you read about a particular spiritual practice in the first edition of Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon”? and said, “That’s for me!” Remember rushing home from the bookstore with the first edition of Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance” and staying up all night reading it? Remember those lonely BI (Before Internet) days when you wondered if you were the Only Witch/Pagan/Druid in the world and if you’d EVER run into anyone else with similar beliefs? And how you felt when you finally did? I do.

In the 28 years since I realized I was a Witch and a Priestess, a lot has happened in our community. Much of it has been very positive. And some of it has not. One of the perhaps not-so-positive things has been the instant do-it-yourself, be-a-witch-in a week sort of book. Are they useful? Could they be considered dangerous? Should they be taken seriously? How should a Pagan Veteran handle an eager newbie? What are the dangers to a newcomer? I shall try to address these things in this essay.

Perhaps my own story of my journey to the Craft can be used as an example. At the tender age of 12, I knew that my religious path was not going to be in the church of my parents. I felt a calling beyond that stricture, and I knew in my heart that mine was to be a different path. I sat down with a candle at a makeshift altar late one evening when the rest of the family was asleep, and declared myself a Witch. I was a little fearful of that word, but it seemed to me that ‘witch’ fit me better than any other designation. Somehow, through the limited resources I had at that time (1973), I knew that the Witch I had declared myself to be was a Priestess, not an evildoer. And even though I did not know Her by Her many names yet, I felt myself embraced by the Goddess.

And so things remained until I left my home and family to join the US Air Force in 1979. Away from Arkansas and the fundamentalist stranglehold on the libraries and bookstores, I found Starhawk’s and Adler’s books, and many others. My education began. I read those books, and true to the teaching “when the student is ready, the teacher shall appear”, I began running into people who were instrumental in teaching me the principles of Magic and becoming comfortable with rituals outside a church service. The Rosicrucian Order was a great help in doing that. In 1985, I went overseas to Germany, and there my training towards Wiccan initiation began. I was fortunate to get to study with a wonderful group of people, and they believed in a long-term commitment. My training to Third Degree took a total of 7 years–one for the Year of Inquiry (neophyte), one for the First Degree, two to Second, and three to obtain Third. I had moved to England by then, and my Craft Mother made a trip to England to see me and initiate me. While in England, I received additional training and initiations from several different groups, including a ‘Fam-Trad’ lady of the Old Ways.

Now, my path is probably not typical. And I do not claim that my initiation is any ‘better’ than anyone else’s. But I was brought into the Craft in the ‘traditional’ way, even though I called myself a Witch long before. I had no “Instant Witch” books–I just ‘knew’ who I was.

I think that the main thing to look at is the quality of the books in question. Are ‘Instant Witch’ sorts of books useful? Yes, they are, if they have the right concepts. A good Witch primer should teach the basic laws of Magic, and emphasize the ethics of the Craft. They should outline our holidays and our roots. They should contain a self-blessing or dedication rite that is simple to perform, but spiritually effective. They should give the seeker a resource to contact like-minded others and learn more. If used correctly, they permit the seeker to ‘try on’ our rites and mindset and see if they ‘fit’ their own spiritual feelings. Such books can bring forth that ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment–that flash of recognition of ones own spiritual community. But it has to be emphasized that such books are only the beginning of training–they serve as gateways only.

Are such books dangerous? Not in themselves. The dangers lie in the mindset of the seeker. Why are they interested in becoming a Witch? Do they seek an alternative way to acknowledge God/dess or are they looking to have ‘power over’ others? Are they on a manipulative ego-trip? Or do they crave a return to a less dogmatic path than the popular religions offer?

An experienced Pagan can usually spot out the power-tripper pretty quickly. They’re the ones who misuse our rites to threaten or manipulate others by fear and ignorance. Or they’re trying to build an ‘instant Coven’ and inviting one and all to join it. Or else they are trying to shock others by taking on an ‘evil’ persona and relying on the general ignorance of Wicca by the mainstream to have their way. Some are mentally ill. Some want to be ‘fashionable’.

Should a neo-Witch be taken seriously? Yes!! Were you, when you were a young pup? How were you treated when you finally found your community? Newcomers should be treated kindly and courteously. Yes, they are Witches, or ‘baby Pagans’ as my friends like to say. And yes, they can be annoying. But as ‘babies’, they need to be guided and closely watched, because they are going through the measles and mumps that every spiritual ‘baby’ in the Magical Traditions undergoes. If you do not consider yourself a Craft Mother/Father, please, find your newcomer someone who is, and who will give him or her the proper care and guidance.

Here, courtesy of Starhawk and Z. Budapest, are some spiritual ‘measles and mumps’ that every newcomer runs into one time or another. Without a guide, our Instant Witch can be destroyed by any or all of these. The following is excerpted from “The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries” by Z. Budapest, First printing 1980. Susan B. Anthony Coven No. 1, Publisher.

“ÖIt is a necessary part of everyone’s magical education to fall victim to one’s character traits occasionally. We all find ourselves ego-tripping, do-gooding, showing off and all the rest from time to time, but how else can we learn compassion and tolerance for others who go off on the same tangents? Falling victim to one’s own illusions eventually confers a sort of immunity, much like the result of a childhood disease, and with luck, recovery is rapid and complete. Here, then, are the ‘mumps’ and ‘measles’ of magic.

“Omnipotence. This is quite common when first discovering that your Will can effect events. You may feel a tremendous rush of power and believe that you can do anything and everything.

“Guilt. You may believe you can do everything, but sooner or later you will fail. ÖUnless you realize that magic has its limitations and works within the framework of laws (just as standard medical science does) you run the risk of feeling responsible for everything that goes wrong in the universe. Relax. You are not that powerful, nor are you that important.

“Paranoia. As your awareness grows and you become more conscious of negative energy and impulses in others, you may become oversensitive and begin jumping at shadows Ö(and) ascribing every negative thing that happens to you as a ‘psychic attack’. A healthy streak of cynicism is a good defense against this one. Remember that magic that is ‘real’ rarely conflicts with common sense.

“Saintliness. It is hard to resist the temptation to be more ‘spiritual than thou’, to offer unasked for advice to your acquaintances, and to look down on others who have not ‘seen the Light’ – all while trying to appear humble. With any luck at all, you’ll come back to earth before you lose all your friends.

“Showing off. This, like Saintliness, is hard to resist. When the fanatic Jehovah’s Witness in your chem class spouts off about religion, how can you NOT tell her you see a hypocritical green spot in her aura? With painful experience, however, you will discover that listen to your advice or commentary unless they have asked for it, and that magic only works when it is for real, not show.

“Going Half-Astral. When you get so caught up in magic and psychic work that you neglect the earthly plane and your physical body, you will become drained and weakened. In extreme cases, people who lose touch too completely with earth can have what amounts to a psychotic ‘break’. This is easily avoided, however, by making sure you stay grounded and centered when you do any magical work or meditations. Also, it is vital to have a satisfying and rewarding earth-plane life, including a good sex life and a love of good food.

“ÖYour very best protection, against all these ills and any others you may meet physically or psychically, is to maintain your sense of humor. As long as you can laugh at yourself, you cannot head too far down the wrong path, and you always have an immediate ticket back to truth. ÖRemember, laughter is the key to sanity!”

So, you see, becoming an ‘Instant Witch’ is only the first step along a long, but rewarding path. The ‘Instant-Witch’ books should be a sign of how far we have come in 25 years. It is the veterans, and the soon-to-be Elders in the Craft who have done the hard work of clearing the brambles from the entrance to our Path. Look at our young self-starters as a sign of our success, and welcome them warmly, take them in hand, and train and initiate them properly.

Sunfell

Instant Witch

Instant Witch

Author:   Stephanie Arwen  

Gotcha! Now you know there is no $19.95 wayof being a Witch, don’t you? Sit down; take a breath…now that you havefound something you want you want it yesterday! I understand. I can rememberwhen I started. I remember that sense of urgency I got. That “I have toget there right now” I have to be just like Z. Budapest, Starhawk, Margo!I wanted to meet them. I wanted to talk to them yesterday! But most ofall and worst of all, I wanted to be them. Put pushing the river isn’tgoing to get you there any faster. And where is there anyway?

Seventeen years down the road now and I cansay to you that you will NEVER be a Z a Starhawk a Margot a Silver Ravenwolf, a D.J. Conway, a Scott Cunningham. Oh no, you can’t be them. You can onlybe you. And that you is going to be a beautiful thing!

So I was 20 and I finally knew what I wantedto be when I grew up, but no one could give me enough information. I wasneither as fortunate nor as cursed as you are in today’s world of a dozenbooks per subject. Fortunate because you can go into almost any Barnesand Noble, Waldenbooks, or even Amazon.com and just pick up a book. Doyou have any idea how hard that was in 1981? Finding a copy of ZsuzsannaBudapest’s The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries, pt 1 was an experience.I was living in Louisiana at the time and a friend had introduced me toStarhawk’s The Spiral Dance. I was hooked. I am also a bibliography reader.If an author I like mentions a book, then I want to get my hands on thatbook and see what it is about!

But you are cursed as well because thereis so much witchcrap out there. So many people who have written books thatare a total waste of paper. But the books that I think are a waste of papermay be the ones that speak best to you. That is a clue, my new Witch friend.Never let me or anyone else tell you that a book is useless. Learn to readfor yourself and think critically while you read. Does the author makesense or is there a nagging feeling you have that this person is a completeflake? If there is, then do yourself a favor and research the subject.You don’t think that author woke up one morning and knew everything therewas to know about their subject do you? Patricia Telesco, one of my favoriteauthors, has a page on her website that tells new authors to plan for 800hours per book. And that 800 hours includes research as part of it! Soif Ms. Telesco must research, why shouldn’t you?

The web has wonderful places for that kindof research, but don’t forget your local library! Find authors you admire.Then try to discover why you like them. Is it because they have writtenbooks period? Or is it in the way that they deliver their information?Dorothy Morrison has a style that I adore! She is personable and approachablein her books as well as accurate and knowledgeable. Or you might preferFrancesca De Grandis style that has the feel of teacher walking with herstudent and talking.

And don’t just read websites! A website ownercan be someone with less knowledge than you but has the ability and know-howto scan books and copy things wholesale without credit. Don’t be takenin. Go to your local library (you remember, that large brick building onthe corner?) and check out books on anthropology, archaeology, history, etc. Learn where our roots come from. And please, don’t let someone tellyou Wicca is an ages-old religion! It is not. It is a new religion. I liketo say Wicca is a new dress on a very old set of bones. We do have someancient roots, but the branches we have today are new. But you have tolearn to let the urgency not rule you. Do read everything you can get yourhands on. Read “Witch” books. Read all the books! But don’t forget to takeyour salt cellar with you.

Huh? Arwen? What the heck are you talkingabout and what is a salt cellar?

Your Salt Cellar is that thing you carrysalt in so you will always have a grain of salt to take things with. Don’taccept something simply because it is published in a book or on the web.Learn to believe in yourself. Learn to listen to your inner voice. Theone telling you that maybe what you just read is a load of manure …ormaybe it is saying that there is a pearl in that load of manure. Trustin the reality of self. I can’t stress this enough. If you will give yourselfthe tools of knowledge and discernment, then you can begin to hear thetruth in things as well as the lies and mistakes. Do listen to what otherssay about books, but don’t take their word for it. Figure it out for yourself.

The sense of urgency you feel now may makeyou too intent on getting there. But, here is the question. Where is there?Are you so focused on your race to the finish that you are not enjoyingthe journey? Be too intent on getting there wherever there is and not intentupon enjoying the journey and the journey will pass you by! I don’t knowif this message will reach you, but I am 38 (b. 1961). I began my journeyon the path to Wicca in 1981 (or 2). That was 17 years ago. I am stillon the journey of getting there. I will always be on that journey. Learnto enjoy the Trip. There is no there. When you get there, you will havereached the end and that means starting again.

Once you learn that the journey is the meansand the end, then you realize how much more you have to learn.

I wish you good fortune on your travels.A part of me wishes I was at the beginning again, but most of me is quitecontent to be where I am. I am still experiencing new thoughts, new thingsand new people on a daily basis. Remember to enjoy the trip. Oh, and don’tforget to send a postcard from some of those exotic places you visit.

Ok, for those of you who still want all theanswers.

All The Answers ™

Red, blue, green, yellow, white, Hallows, Samhain, Winter Solstice, Yule, Candlemas, Brigidmas, Imbolg, Vernal Equinox, Spring Equinox, Ostara, Beltain, Mayday, Lady’s Day, Beltaine, Litha, Midsummer, Summer Solstice, Longest Day of the Year, Lammas, Lugh’s Feast, Lughnassadh, Autumnal Equinox, Mabon, cakes and wine, Heiros Gamos, 42, North, East, South, West, Water, Fire, Air, Earth, Center, Above, Below, salamander, dragonfly, snake, dolphin, Raven, Morgan, WildHawk, Hawkdatter, OakStandingTall, cat, dog, frog, toad, A, B, C, D, All Of The Above, True, False, myrrh, frankincense, pine, oak, holly, Cerridwen, Cernnunos, Herne, Hecate, Isis, Tammuz.

Now…you have to supply the questions.
Arwen NightstarThe Instant Witch Graphic was done by Andra (webmistress for http://www.spiritonline.com) This graphic is one she made in response to a flurry of “insta-witch” questions she received on her discussion board Spirit Online, an interactive resource for those interested in understanding and discussing religion and metaphysics.

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A Brief History of Paganism in America

A Brief History of Paganism in America

Author:   CoyoteSkyWoman   

Author’s note: This essay was originally a submission to my American History class at Southern New Hampshire University. I felt that I should share it with the Pagan Community at large since it was apparently well received by my professor, who had no previous background or knowledge in Paganism. It is written in APA style, so the notations in the reference section are correct. The reference to Witchvox will probably give you a chuckle. – Deb J.

There is a religion in America today that has been slowly growing since the late 1960’s and has been gaining in popularity and acceptance throughout the years. Neo-Paganism, which includes such diverse branches as Wicca, Druidism, Asatru (a worship of Norse deities) , and many other reconstructionist and revivalist groups often based on the deeply researched practices of the ancients. Far from being the Hollywood vision of witches and witchdoctors, the “worldview of witchcraft is, above all, one that values life” (Starhawk 1979, p 32) , and is tied closer to the natural world than many world religions, save for other nature-oriented sects such as Buddhism and Shinto.

The roots of the modern Pagan movement in America can be traced back to the early 1950’s in England where a man by the name of Gerald B. Gardner first made public his beliefs in an older Goddess based religion called Wica (also known as Wicca, the Craft of the Wise, or simply, the Craft) that had persisted from ancient times. Aidan Kelley, founder of the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn states that “it really makes no difference whether or not Gardner was initiated into an older coven. He invented a new religion, a ‘living system’ and modern covens have adopted a lot of it because it fulfills a need” (Adler 1979, p 80) . Gardner himself claimed that a lot of what he taught came directly from an ancient coven, and that he was initiated by an old neighbor woman by the name of Dorothy Clutterbuck. The veracity of this claim has never been firmly established, and although birth and death records for “Old Dorothy” have been uncovered, how much involvement she had in Gardner’s vision still remains a topic of hot debate.

It is the view of many Neo-Pagans including Kelley that Gardner has never properly “been given credit for creative genius. He had a vision of a reformed Craft. He pulled together pieces from magic and folklore; he assimilated the ‘matriarchal theology set forth in (Robert) Graves, (Charles) Leland, and Apuleius. With these elements, he created a system that grew” (Adler 1979, p 83) .

Whatever the true background of the first English branch of Wicca, by the early 1970’s “all of the main English branches of Pagan Witchcraft had arrived in the United States: and “the books of (Margaret) Murray, Graves, and Gardner found a wide readership” (Hutton 1999, p 341) . There is some evidence that there were indigenous branches of American Paganism on record as early as 1938 when “the very first self-conscious modern Pagan religion, the Church of Aphrodite, ” was ”established in Long Island”, (Hutton 1999, p 340) , however, none of these had the staying power of the English branches. By 1975, Paganism was becoming firmly entrenched on our soil.

The next phase of the assimilation of English Pagan beliefs was a large turning point for the blossoming American Pagans. The radical feminist movement, which was developing during the mid seventies, came into contact with these very Goddess-oriented, female affirming worshipers, and there was a great merging of beliefs. By the mid 1970’s the “view of witchcraft expressed being ‘female, untamed, angry, joyous, and immortal’ “ and this “became embedded firmly in American Radical Feminism” (Hutton 1999, p 341) . The problem was that the feminist view overtook the religious aspects and by the late seventies, witchcraft had decayed into a feminist-rallying cry, centered around the so-called Burning Times when men dehumanized women and supposedly burned them at the stake because they interfered with the newly created practice of the doctor.

Midwives and herbalists were claimed to be some of the targets of this attack, so naturally, feminists flocked to this banner of outrage, seeing it as proof of continued patriarchal persecution.

Not all of the Pagan feminists lost sight of the religious aspects, however. In 1971, a young woman by the name of Zsuzanna Budapest formed the Susan B Anthony coven in Hollywood, CA, and went on to become one of the most respected feminist Pagan writers of the period. While she was staunchly feminist, she also was very much a follower of Wiccan beliefs, and was one of the most influential writers those who were to follow in her footsteps. In 1980, she wrote The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries which went on to become an instant classic, and is one of the standards by which modern Pagans judge all other books in the genre.

Another feminist writer gained fame when she published her first book, The Spiral Dance, on Hallowe’en in 1979. The woman’s penname was Starhawk, and her book gained much praise, not so much for its religious material that was extensive, but also for its poetic prose. Starhawk was a Witch who had been “trained by Gardnerians, and then initiated into one of the homegrown American strains of Pagan Witchcraft which had also absorbed some material from Wicca, the Faery (or Feri) , taught by Victor Anderson” (Hutton 1999, p 345).

Starhawk described her vision of the Craft as “a joyous, life-affirming, tolerant path; a religion of poetry not theology, which yet demanded responsibility” (Hutton 1999, p 346). Starhawk is one of the most often quoted Pagan writers, and The Spiral Dance is considered to be one of the top five selling pagan books of all time. Starhawk’s vision of Wicca floats through the words on every page, and the words are lyric and insightful. The Spiral Dance does not so much instruct readers on how to follow Paganism, but more leads by telling stories and giving examples of what the Pagan life is like through the eyes of a Pagan. Starhawk’s following books, Dreaming the Dark and Truth or Dare delve more deeply into the history of religious movements and examine the dualism present in most religions. Although somewhat darker than The Spiral Dance in tenor, the books never the less contain important ideas that have helped to develop Paganism into the new millennium.

The 1980’s were a time of great change for the Pagan movement in terms of the spread of information and the pursuit of general acceptance. The word was out, either on the newly created Internet or in the increasing number of books available. By the end of the 1980’s there were thousands of established Pagan groups across the country, and festivals were being celebrated on the eight major holidays in the open. While there was still a lot of prejudice, especially in the Midwestern Bible-belt, in the North-East and West coast, there were more and more publicly announced rituals and events that were open to the public. New England’s own Earthspirit community was among the first to hold an annual Beltaine or Mayday event at Sheepfold Meadow in Medford, MA. Complete with Maypole, donated foods by participants, and drumming and dancing, these yearly events were no longer hidden and performed in seclusion, but were held out in the open for all to see.

Other events followed, becoming more widespread and more diverse. By the early nineties, what had once been a small celebration between invited guests in Salem, MA on Hallowe’en or Samhain had become a giant affair involving most of the local merchants and Pagan groups. Huge psychic fairs were held at the Olde Town Hall, and lines went out the door for attendees of such events.

Elsewhere in the country, other similar events were being held, and a website devoted to the progress of the Pagan community as a whole in the U.S. was formed. The Witches Voice or Witchvox as it was commonly known, was a place to meet local pagans, promote events, post informational articles, and advertise skills such as clergy and tarot readers. Most groups interested in promoting their events would post their information online for everyone to see, and from there, hold their events. As of the time of this writing, the Witches Voice community listings are still the most popular way of getting information on upcoming Pagan events.

The amount of Pagan oriented books skyrocketed in the 1990’s. With the publication of books by SilverRavenWolf, Amber K, Edain MacCoy and countless others, the amount of information available at any local bookstore or online bookseller was staggering. Whether it was information on various Pagan holidays like Llewellyn’s Wheel of the Year by the Campanelli’s or on legal issues, like Dana Eiler’s Pagans and the Law, there was a reference out there for anything you could want.

That did not mean that the information was always solid, and there was a lot of repetitiveness, especially since the publishers at Llewellyn knew a good thing when they saw it, but by the mid-nineties, there was no longer a question of whether the Pagan movement would be dying out any time soon. Neo-Paganism was here to stay.
A testament to how deeply entrenched the alternative culture had penetrated the minds of America came from an unlikely source. On November 27, 1995, “an episode of the cult science fiction show, The X-files neatly had its ideological cake and ate it too…” While dealing with a cult-oriented murder case, “the heroine (Agent Scully) burst out that ‘Wiccans love all living things’ – and that settled the matter. Suddenly, the story was in the 1990’s” (Hutton 1999, p 386).

The X-files was not the first television show to portray pro-pagan sentiment. The most stunning “display of motifs taken ultimately from Wicca in the 1980’s and 1990’s” was the hit show broadcast first in the UK and then over here in America. Hosted by Showtime, the show “Robin of Sherwood” produced by HTV was a hit both in America and across the pond. With its stunning scenery and costuming, Robin of Sherwood starred both Michael Praed and, later, Jason Connery, as the title character. The show “portrayed Robin Hood as a pagan guided by the antlered god of the greenwood – here called Herne” (Hutton 1999, p 388) . This show would influence an entire generation of Neo-Pagans, and flavor their view of magic and mystery for years to come.

Now, in the new century, Paganism is alive and well. Annual Pagan Pride events that take place across the country serve as educational tools for both Pagans and non-Pagans alike. Books and movies continue to act as influential means of education, and Paganism continues to grow. As a positive, life-affirming religion, it has its heart in the right place, and as long as it remains so, with its goals intact, it will continue to prosper and spread its message of peace for many years to come.

________________________________

References

Adler, M. (1979) . Drawing down the moon. Boston: Beacon Press.
Hutton, R. (1999) . The triumph of the moon: a history of modern pagan witchcraft. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.
Simos, M. (Starhawk) , (1979) . The spiral dance; a rebirth of the ancient religion of the great goddess. New York: Harper and Row Publishers.

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Instant Witch

Instant Witch

Author:   Stephanie Arwen  

Gotcha! Now you know there is no $19.95 wayof being a Witch, don’t you? Sit down; take a breath…now that you havefound something you want you want it yesterday! I understand. I can rememberwhen I started. I remember that sense of urgency I got. That “I have toget there right now” I have to be just like Z. Budapest, Starhawk, Margo!I wanted to meet them. I wanted to talk to them yesterday! But most ofall and worst of all, I wanted to be them. Put pushing the river isn’tgoing to get you there any faster. And where is there anyway?

Seventeen years down the road now and I cansay to you that you will NEVER be a Z a Starhawk a Margot a Silver Ravenwolf, a D.J. Conway, a Scott Cunningham. Oh no, you can’t be them. You can onlybe you. And that you is going to be a beautiful thing!

So I was 20 and I finally knew what I wantedto be when I grew up, but no one could give me enough information. I wasneither as fortunate nor as cursed as you are in today’s world of a dozenbooks per subject. Fortunate because you can go into almost any Barnesand Noble, Waldenbooks, or even Amazon.com and just pick up a book. Doyou have any idea how hard that was in 1981? Finding a copy of ZsuzsannaBudapest’s The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries, pt 1 was an experience.I was living in Louisiana at the time and a friend had introduced me toStarhawk’s The Spiral Dance. I was hooked. I am also a bibliography reader.If an author I like mentions a book, then I want to get my hands on thatbook and see what it is about!

But you are cursed as well because thereis so much witchcrap out there. So many people who have written books thatare a total waste of paper. But the books that I think are a waste of papermay be the ones that speak best to you. That is a clue, my new Witch friend.Never let me or anyone else tell you that a book is useless. Learn to readfor yourself and think critically while you read. Does the author makesense or is there a nagging feeling you have that this person is a completeflake? If there is, then do yourself a favor and research the subject.You don’t think that author woke up one morning and knew everything therewas to know about their subject do you? Patricia Telesco, one of my favoriteauthors, has a page on her website that tells new authors to plan for 800hours per book. And that 800 hours includes research as part of it! Soif Ms. Telesco must research, why shouldn’t you?

The web has wonderful places for that kindof research, but don’t forget your local library! Find authors you admire.Then try to discover why you like them. Is it because they have writtenbooks period? Or is it in the way that they deliver their information?Dorothy Morrison has a style that I adore! She is personable and approachablein her books as well as accurate and knowledgeable. Or you might preferFrancesca De Grandis style that has the feel of teacher walking with herstudent and talking.

And don’t just read websites! A website ownercan be someone with less knowledge than you but has the ability and know-howto scan books and copy things wholesale without credit. Don’t be takenin. Go to your local library (you remember, that large brick building onthe corner?) and check out books on anthropology, archaeology, history, etc. Learn where our roots come from. And please, don’t let someone tellyou Wicca is an ages-old religion! It is not. It is a new religion. I liketo say Wicca is a new dress on a very old set of bones. We do have someancient roots, but the branches we have today are new. But you have tolearn to let the urgency not rule you. Do read everything you can get yourhands on. Read “Witch” books. Read all the books! But don’t forget to takeyour salt cellar with you.

Huh? Arwen? What the heck are you talkingabout and what is a salt cellar?

Your Salt Cellar is that thing you carrysalt in so you will always have a grain of salt to take things with. Don’taccept something simply because it is published in a book or on the web.Learn to believe in yourself. Learn to listen to your inner voice. Theone telling you that maybe what you just read is a load of manure …ormaybe it is saying that there is a pearl in that load of manure. Trustin the reality of self. I can’t stress this enough. If you will give yourselfthe tools of knowledge and discernment, then you can begin to hear thetruth in things as well as the lies and mistakes. Do listen to what otherssay about books, but don’t take their word for it. Figure it out for yourself.

The sense of urgency you feel now may makeyou too intent on getting there. But, here is the question. Where is there?Are you so focused on your race to the finish that you are not enjoyingthe journey? Be too intent on getting there wherever there is and not intentupon enjoying the journey and the journey will pass you by! I don’t knowif this message will reach you, but I am 38 (b. 1961). I began my journeyon the path to Wicca in 1981 (or 2). That was 17 years ago. I am stillon the journey of getting there. I will always be on that journey. Learnto enjoy the Trip. There is no there. When you get there, you will havereached the end and that means starting again.

Once you learn that the journey is the meansand the end, then you realize how much more you have to learn.

I wish you good fortune on your travels.A part of me wishes I was at the beginning again, but most of me is quitecontent to be where I am. I am still experiencing new thoughts, new thingsand new people on a daily basis. Remember to enjoy the trip. Oh, and don’tforget to send a postcard from some of those exotic places you visit.

Ok, for those of you who still want all theanswers.

All The Answers ™

Red, blue, green, yellow, white, Hallows, Samhain, Winter Solstice, Yule, Candlemas, Brigidmas, Imbolg, Vernal Equinox, Spring Equinox, Ostara, Beltain, Mayday, Lady’s Day, Beltaine, Litha, Midsummer, Summer Solstice, Longest Day of the Year, Lammas, Lugh’s Feast, Lughnassadh, Autumnal Equinox, Mabon, cakes and wine, Heiros Gamos, 42, North, East, South, West, Water, Fire, Air, Earth, Center, Above, Below, salamander, dragonfly, snake, dolphin, Raven, Morgan, WildHawk, Hawkdatter, OakStandingTall, cat, dog, frog, toad, A, B, C, D, All Of The Above, True, False, myrrh, frankincense, pine, oak, holly, Cerridwen, Cernnunos, Herne, Hecate, Isis, Tammuz.

Now…you have to supply the questions.
Arwen NightstarThe Instant Witch Graphic was done by Andra (webmistress for http://www.spiritonline.com) This graphic is one she made in response to a flurry of “insta-witch” questions she received on her discussion board Spirit Online, an interactive resource for those interested in understanding and discussing religion and metaphysics.

Finding The Craft

Finding The Craft

Author:   Sunfell  

The question is innocent enough: “How did you find your Pagan Path?” Sort of like the Christian equivalent, “How did you find Christ?” Both are simple questions, but for me, at least- the explainable answer is not easy. Heck, it would be easier for me to try to convince the Smithsonian that the chewed-up Barbie doll head I found in my back yard is a prime example of “Australopithecus Spiff-Arino”. (Some eccentric fellow actually tried that- and other equally eccentric stunts, and succeeded in amusing the staff, and unwary Web-nauts like me.)

The simple answer was that I was born a mage. That is right—being a magus is something that is so much a part of me that in looking back, my journey was more one of rediscovery than actual discovery. My life, from about age 7 onward, has been like a fascinating jigsaw puzzle with the pieces hidden in time instead of space, and my life has been a series of “Ah, Ha!” moments when a piece clicked into place. As the tapestry of who I was/am has unfolded, it has left a wonderful trail of discovery, experience (both good and bad) and insightful enlightenment in its wake. And it has also left a growing trail of writings—essays such as this one—as breadcrumbs for those Kindred Mages who are also rediscovering themselves and the Way.

Don’t get me wrong—Harry/ette Potter I ain’t. (I haven’t read the books yet—I am waiting for the whole series to be complete so I can (a) get them all at once and (b) read them all at once. I’m odd that way.) When I realized at age 12 or so that I was not destined to take the path of Catholicism and motherhood that my mother trod, I had no name for who I was or what path I was on. In my marrow there was a call that no church could answer. All I knew was that I was responsible for my development and that there was not going to be any popular culture help coming my way. Mine was the unblazed trail, and all I had was the primitive compass of my untried BS detector to guide me.

I spent the first seven years of my realization as a minor at home, and in a state whose libraries had no occult or metaphysical texts whatsoever. Any information relevant to my path was scarce, and when gleaned, was pored over with an intensity that I envy today. Perhaps the lack of information, and the deep attention to detail I paid to what little wisdom I gleaned helped to set my feet more firmly on the path. I wonder if I would have fared as well and as long had I had access to the materials available today. A curious youngster can read in one evening, and by one or two writers, stuff that took me years to acquire. But time runs differently now, and I acknowledge that, and hold no ill will towards today’s young seekers. Envy, perhaps, but not too much- I know what lies ahead for most youngsters on this path. (A hint—it gets much better after about age 29 or so… Honest! Go look up Saturn’s Return in an astrological text to get a hint of what you’re in for. Trust me- you’ll live, and be that much the wiser.)

The simplest name for who I am and what I do is “Way”. This is a life pattern of intense hunger for knowledge, a burning, almost. It is a method of testing and questioning everything—whether orthodox or liberal, and in doing so, developing a ‘gut’ instinct about people and life that is trusted above all else. It is a long process of creating and aligning a moral compass, yet permitting the world outside to be inhabited. There are no isolated ivory towers or monasteries on this Path except for short rests for digesting information—it requires full engagement in all life has to be offered. It is being in the world, but not of it, as Ralph Blum wrote in “The Book of Runes”. Fine-tuning this ‘gut’—or more precisely, Axis—requires that errors be made—even costly ones. Only through trial, error, and success can this central axis be finely balanced, and only time and real life experience can prove it. The goal and end result is courage and wisdom and the thorough internal alignment that only a series of hard knocks can achieve. The burning for knowledge also burns away the blinders and dross that hinders ones progress along the Way. The weight of knowledge is balanced by the Lightness of Wisdom, and once tempered, no spiritual assault can destroy it.

My Way is not an easy one, and not for the timid or easily discouraged. There have been long periods in my life where it seems that nothing has happened—no interesting insights, people or events surfacing for me to focus on and hone my Axis. But in retrospect, those seemingly lean times permitted me to internally process things to prepare me to find that next piece. Doing so would start the process again.

George Leonard wrote in “Path of Mastery” that most people get into something, and experience diminishing returns. This can be due to boredom, difficulty, loss of interest, or lack of challenge by the activity. They start out gangbusters, but gradually taper off into indifference. Many people, including myself, have left a trail of such endeavors in our lives. I can think of a health club membership… but I would rather not.

Leonard continues that in order to master something and keep it interesting and challenging, one must ramp up the difficulty and complexity in a series of steps. Each step involves an effort to obtain it, and the mastery of the step proceeds in a steady manner- and with diligent practice—towards the next challenge and burst of physical and/or mental energy required to surmount it. Thus, the rate of progress is a steady climb and growth of interest and mastery, instead of the initial burst and tapering off of failed efforts.

I call these steps The Spiral Path, because eventually I find myself back at a familiar place or activity, but at a higher level of ability. I tend to have phases where I am more social than other times, and each time I enter a social phase, where I am working with other Pagans and fellow Wayfarers, or participating in the community at large, I find myself at a more and more mature place and level. This is to be expected, and is the mark of life’s progress. If you find yourself being treated like a newbie after years of practice, consider that a hint that perhaps you need to refine your practice and insight. Sadly, there are people who are ‘stuck’ at a certain level, and unaware of it. To walk the steps of the Spiral Path means to challenge your deepest rooted images of yourself. Are you still dressing and acting like you did in the late eighties? That’s a hint right there. Are you willing and ready to examine and discard those presumptions? Doing so often energizes the next step upward.

As I have traveled up my own Spiral Path, I have taken and discarded both magickal and practical names for both myself and my Way. My earliest Pagan name has been long retired, but meant “Strength of the Goddess” in Norse/Latin. I was a ‘baby Pagan’ then, having just read and discovered Wicca through Starhawk’s book The Spiral Dance. That was in 1980, after I had left my parents’ home and was on my own. My name when I was training in Wicca in Germany was Sunfell, (Clothed In Sunlight) and has become my pen name and Internet handle. It reflects the hardest and most rewarding time of my ‘journeyman’ years as a priestess-in-training in Wicca. My current magickal name was bestowed upon me nearly five years ago in a Native American Naming Ceremony, after a ritual purification and Inipi sweat. In the course of this intense training, which lasted several months, I learned about the American roots of Wicca, and that much of what is Wicca today is more American in origin than British. That puzzle piece did not dim my appreciation of Wicca, but made me understand that the more discoveries I make, the more things I find are in common.

My teachers through this 28-year journey were many and varied. Some teachers were strangers with whom I had a casual conversation. Others were old friends who are still part of my life. And still others were actual teachers and initiators, people that I trusted enough to permit them to see me at my most vulnerable. I still am very much a student, but have reached the place in my travels and understanding that I can also teach. This I do informally, through my writing and my living. If my writing lights up an “ah-HA!” in someone somewhere on this Internet, I may never know it unless they email me, but that does not matter. I cannot email Mark Twain and tell him how much he has made me both laugh and think, but I know that those behind me will appreciate his works too. In person, I do not teach formally. Instead, I simply live my life fully and with complete confidence that the Axis I worked so hard in honing will serve me fully and continue to refine itself. And in living with this confidence, perhaps my attitude can be a tiny meme that ignites that same confidence and curiosity and Inner Light in those around me. It is a subtle evangelism that encourages confidence and competence instead of undermining it.

In finding my Way through my life, I have donned and shed many labels. I have been Roaming Catholic, nameless, Pagan, Wiccan, Spiritualist, Gnostic, and currently Eclectic TechMage studying Franz Bardon’s system of Hermetic Pathworking. This has been my longest held and most accurate label for myself, but if something more precise comes along, I shall upgrade to that. I am also a computer tech- and ongoing learning and upgrading are par for the course. Why should my spiritual and metaphysical Way be any different?

The bottom line is that my Path to and with Paganism and metaphysics in its many forms has been a series of refinements, discoveries and upgrades. An idea or concept will reveal itself and snap into place, and I thoroughly explore it until the next challenge/piece reveals itself and I climb to another level. It is always rewarding and engaging, and I am daily grateful that the magickal seed within me lived to grow and flourish. As part of my gratitude for this life, I am doing what I can to share the Light I was privileged to bear.

Hunting the Hunter

Hunting the Hunter

by Melanie Fire Salamander

When I first started work in the Craft, as a solitary, I hadn’t much use for the God. The deity Who attracted me was the Goddess. I remember communing with Her in candlelight, before an altar of old telephone books covered with blue-figured silk. I felt incorporated by Her, supported.

My concept then of the God was the God of the Christians. From my ninth year to my thirteenth, I attended an Episcopalian church, where everyone was too polite to save me, though I did enjoy singing in the Youth Choir. I found the Episcopalian services pretty on the outside, but within they seemed dry as dust. I tried to be moved, but I ended up yawning, more taken by my walks to church through the quiet, sun-splotched Sunday mornings than by the ritual. The most of God I sensed among the Episcopalians was the echo of a long-ago voice.

When I did feel a presence from the God, that presence was of God the Father. Jesus I always saw as a person, a visionary you had to respect; I never got in touch with the loving Christ. We see our gods through the archetypes we’ve found in life, I think, and I was reared in a patriarchal household, from which I wrenched fight by fight over a period of years. In that household, the looming male figure was my father, grey-haired before my birth, the raging patriarch. Though my father and I patched up our relationship as I started serious work as a witch, my wounds were still raw enough I wanted nothing to do with fathers.

One of the first books I read that spoke of witchcraft as a spiritual path was The Spiral Dance. I remember Starhawk’s descriptions of different versions of the God: the gentle, loving Blue God, the viny Green One, and the Horned God, the Hunter. But for me none of Starhawk’s gods rang true. They seemed merely constructs. The Blue God appeared too girlish, and for me green was female. I felt the Horned God as the most real, but frightening and lumpen, as if one would want to mate with a bull. I shrugged, paid lip-service to the God in the group rituals I attended, and on my own worshipped the Goddess.

Meanwhile, life went on. Though I had no vision of the God, I managed to enjoy His sex. In Ireland I had a fling with a 21-year-old boy with dyed black hair, who wore a black shirt his friend’s sister made; we drank too much ale and richocheted against the painted stone walls of his village at 2 a.m.. Back in Seattle, I dated a photographer, also younger than me, slender as a brown sapling, sarcastic; I eroticized the smell of developer. I dated men my own age, too, but I kept reverting. Take my intersection with the surly boy, a singer in a band: I fell in love with his pumped chest and pierced nipple, though we never once held a conversation without arguing. Or take my e-mail flirtation, which went on too long and was never consummated: spiky, poison-sweet, dysfunctional as a car crash.

That one finally brought me to full stop. Some of the others had been obsessions, too, but this one patently made no sense. He had a girlfriend; we’d seen each other in the flesh perhaps five times; we’d never touched. What was it about him that sent my head spinning?

Those attachments you get, which are too strong, in the end seem to have little to do with the persons who inspire them. We tend to worship the gods we see in our lives, and the corollary is that if we don’t see the gods, they try harder and harder to reveal themselves.

I came to the God slowly, through His fauns.

Luckily the gods will teach you lessons many times over. But even when you’ve learned a few things, nothing is for sure. This story I’m telling you now, none of it is “true”; it’s just the explanation I’m giving myself.

Right now for me, the God is a muse. He comes on as a lover, but he is not a husband, nor even exactly a friend, more a capricious mentor. Our relationship is only sometimes about satisfaction; mainly the point is longing.

The God inspires my fiction; the characters I find most fun to write are usually fauns. They’re not portraits of boys I’ve known, though on occasion they’ve started out to be. Often they begin as minor players, who then take on a life of their own. The God inspires them: fills them with His breath and sets them moving. As they move, they draw me into the work, and their touch inspires the other characters.

This particular God-energy seems to work better for me driving fiction than real-life relationships. My fauns were never good boyfriends; I don’t think the Muse makes a good partner. His and my relationship is about tension, a pleasurable discomfort that makes me itch. I wouldn’t want that tantalizing, unfulfilling energy in an ongoing human relationship, but it feels right in relating to a god. It keeps me writing.

But the God will not be bound only into fiction.

At a festival, I saw a boy all in leather, crouched among greenery, looking up at me: black eyes, black hair, trembling lips with a fringe of mustache. I knew for certain I wanted him when I saw him take off his shirt. At the firepit, I maneuvered to sit next to him, warmed my cold hands on his thighs.

The Aphrodite shrine was full, locked, so we found the Pan shrine. Under a fake-fur pelt, we made love by candlelight. Something there was intoxicating as whiskey, something glancing, a bit heart-rending. I remembered him a long time, and I wrote him letters, though no permanent connection came.

It was only later I saw the God was laughing at me.

In the Pan shrine? Melanie, don’t you get it?

So it is often, I think. The gods don’t just come when you call. They make cameo appearances, and later you wonder why you remember that scene.

To see Him in your life, use your peripheral vision. Some people He comforts, some He teases; it depends on what He thinks you need from Him. But never doubt the God is there.

Getting Started On Your Spiritual Education Path

Getting Started On Your Spiritual Education Path

Any spiritual practice requires research and study. Witchcraft is no different
than any other path. Here is some basic info, words of caution, and suggestions
for reading and starting your research.

How Can I Learn More?
If you are one of the many people looking for information on how to become a
witch, there are a few things you should ask yourself first.

1. What is your reason for wanting to be a Witch?
If your reason is simply so you can cast a spell, it’s the wrong reason and you
might find more information if you look for Spellcraft, than Witchcraft.
If your reasons are truly from an interest in the faith or you feel drawn to the
Craft as a religion, then you maybe on the right path. But you should learn more
and make an informed decision.

2. Are you willing to live by the spiritual laws as a way of life?
If you are, or if you’re not sure, do a lot of research on your own and find out
as much as you can about the path you’ve chosen.

3. How Do I Get Started?
Read, learn and read a lot more. Do your own research, and not just from magikal
books or reference manuals. Through studying history, other religions and how
they all inter-relate and interact. I have a favorite saying for this type of
education: “Books can give you knowledge. But only your own personal experiences
give you wisdom to decide your own path.”

Words of Warning.
Don’t take one persons word or teachings as the only truth or as the only way on
this or any spiritual path. No one person has all the answers for you. Only you
know what rings true within your own heart and soul.

When it comes time for you to chose a mentor, be very cautious. There are a lot
of novice people claiming to be a High Priest or Priestess.
The best advice I could give is find someone who can prove they have practiced
the path for several years (my standard is 10 years or more).

Don’t just take their word for it.
Find someone who is willing to answer your questions without charging you money.

Taking a class and paying for an instructors time is NOT the same thing as
finding a “spiritual teacher”. (Classes are wonderful for making new friends and
learning in a group.)

What you should really be looking for is a mentor or guide, not a person who
thinks they have the right to tell you what to do or believe.

Lastly, always question!

Question everything you are told and everything you read.

Research other material to validate what you are being told or what you read in
a book.

Make sure that a book is supported by other books and by history itself.

********************************************
Where Can I Get More Information?

You can begin your study through several publications. Below is a list of a few
I like. If you’re truly interested in beginning your study, start at the top and
go through the list. You’ll also find an extensive resource on our Books &
Resources page.

But if you can’t wait, start now through the many wonderful web sites on the
internet. Of course I like our site, but it’s not the only pagan education site
on the web.

You should start with the basics, an understanding of metaphysical principles.
Then move on to the lessons of the craft. It will make your journey into magik
much easier to understand and utilize.
***************************************************

Where Can I Get More Information?

My students start their research on these first 4 books to gain basic
understanding of the spirit, energy and your own inner awareness. To be read in
this specific order:

* Spirit Guides by Iris Belhayes
This gives you a basic understanding of how you can work with spirit to learn,
advance and enlighten. Something that’s key to any spiritual development.

* Opening To Channel by Sonya Roman & Duane Parker
This builds on Spirit Guides. Where the first book gives you the basic
understanding of spiritual guidance; this one tells you how to better
communicate with spirit. Not just spirit guides; but the Divine as well.

* Living In The Light by Shakti Gwain
This book describes our responsibility and accountability to our own path. I
love this book and feel that it truly changed my life. So I added it to my list.

* The Spiral Dance by Starhawk
The first book into Witchcraft. StarHawk and Dorien Valiente are, in my humble
opinion, the mothers of modern Witchcraft. Both have a great understanding of
the path, it’s spirituality and purpose.

******************************************************
What Path/Tradition Do I Chose?

When you are starting your research, the “tradition” should be the last thing on
your mind.

Before you can find a practice for your beliefs, you have to understand the
beliefs.

When you have established this base of knowledge, I would suggest you follow
your heart.

If you feel drawn to Faeries, research Faery Traditions, or Native American
cultures research Shamanistic practices.

If you feel drawn to your Irish heritage, research Celtic traditions.

If you feel drawn to your Scandinavian heritage, research Norse traditions.

If what you’ve heard about Wicca appeals to you, research the various Wiccan
traditions. And so on.

The point is, the tradition you chose should ‘feel’ comfortable and natural to
you.
***********************************************

What Do I Call Myself?

For now, if you need a label, call your self a “beginning pagan”.

After getting an understanding of the basics of belief and metaphysical
principles, my students are required to pass a written and oral test.

At that time, they’ve earned the right to claim the title of Apprentice. Some
chose to change it as Apprenticing Witch, Apprenticing Pagan, or for those who
have the ambition and desire, Apprenticing Shaman.

Some people think they can study a tradition and claim the title of that
tradition.

There are many Wiccans who follow that practice.

The problem is, many traditions such as Wicca, require a process of initiation
before claiming the title.

To many practitioners of those traditions that require initiations, claiming the
title without the formal education is seen as disrespectful and insulting.

There is no shame in claiming that you are a “beginning practitioner”.

Many established Pagans, Priests/Priestesses and Elders will have a greater
admiration and respect for you if you’re honest about your standing.

They will also be more likely to help you and answer your questions.

And one day- YOU will be the “teacher” to a “beginner” 🙂

author unknown**

Beginner Witchcraft – What to read:

Beginner Witchcraft – What to read:

But reading is less important than observing. You will be tempted to try to become a witch by reading, because those of us w/ big brains and big educations always operate that way. Try to keep a balance between hours spent reading, and hours spent walking in the woods.

Other references:
–Joseph Campbell’s PBS series on mythology is now available on video. He’s a good storyteller and has a wonderful philosophy of how to incorporate myth into your life.

Objects/tools/toys:
Anything can be a tool for working magic and gaining understanding (a leaf, a stone, a pen, a plastic dinosaur)–it’s all in what you invest it with –be slow to acquire toys (blades, wands, etc.)–it’s better if they find you, then your finding them –more important than a lot of gidgets, is setting aside a special place in your home as an altar. Start with candles and incense, and invent simple rituals: lighting a candle while you read, burning incense while you meditate. –because it’s nonverbal in form, the Tarot is actually a better source for learning about the Craft, than any book. Seek out one of the less Christianized decks–I personally like the Barbara Walker and the Motherpeace.

Sacred space:
The first formal “magic” you should learn, is how to set aside sacred space. Pick a place in your home or your yard where you will practice this, and practice often, even if at first it makes you feel self-conscious.

I realize that a lot of this sounds terribly vague. I used to get frustrated when I read books about the Craft, and they didn’t have, like, RECIPES to perform. The hard part of it is, that you learn more from the Goddess, than you do from any human being. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do some simple spells, right from the very beginning: both Adler’s and Starhawk’s books have some straightforward descriptions of working magic.

Don’t get hung up on issues of reality, or the unknown, or the verifiable, or whatever. Just DO. It’s far more important to TRY things, than it is to READ about them.

Crone’s Corner – Imbolc Ideas Having to do with Fire

 

Crone’s Corner – Imbolc Ideas Having to do with Fire

by Starhawk, Anne Hill, and Diane Baker

Brigit Fire
Whether we circle around a hearth, outdoor bonfire, or kindle a blaze
in a cast-iron cauldron, in the season of Brigit we welcome the
return of light. Here are some suggestions for a safe and cheerful
blaze.

Cauldron Fire
You will need:
a cast-iron pot of any size
a lid that fits snugly, for putting out the fire
bricks, hotplate or other heat-resistant material to set the cauldron
on.
Epsom salts
rubbing alcohol
To keep the blaze going for 45 minutes in a five quart cauldron, you
need 1/2 gallon of Epsom salts and approximately 4 to 6 pints of
rubbing alcohol
Any cast-iron pot can be made into a cauldron with a fire of Epsom
salts and rubbing alcohol. This is a very safe blaze. Once the
cauldron is secured on a heat-proof surface, pour the Epsom salts in
until the bottom is covered, approximately 1 inch deep. Pour rubbing
alcohol over the salts until the alcohol is about an inch higher than
the salts. Hold a lighted match just above the alcohol. The liquid
will light and produce a strong orange flame. The flame burns cool,
unlike a wood fire, and it is difficult to burn things
in. When the flame gets low, cover to snuff out completely. Add more
rubbing alcohol to the cauldron and relight carefully. The warmer the
rubbing alcohol, the more quickly it ignites. This fire recipe leaves
a significant amount of sediment in the bottom of the cauldron. For
this reason, it is best to dedicate a pot strictly for cauldron use.

Kindling a Fire
This holiday is a good time to teach your older children how to set a
fire and kindle a blaze. Most children are eager to help lay a fire,
but may be too scared to light one. Using long matches often eases
their fear, and with supervision they can become quite proficient at
lighting fires. Children are great at gathering wood. A note of
caution about burning found wood, however: Make sure you inspect the
wood. Scrap plywood gives off toxic fumes, as does wood that has been
painted or coated with urethane. Make sure the wood you are burning
has not been coated with creosote. Creosote is a dark, often tarry
preservative and is commonly found on wood washed up on the beach.
Its fumes are toxic, and when burned, the treated wood creates a
smoky, stinky blaze. Creosote is easy to identify by its smell, which
resembles that of turpentine or paint thinner.

Egg Carton Fire Starters
You will need:
paraffin wax or beeswax (old candle stubs work great for this)
the bottom halves of cardboard egg cartons
sawdust, pine needles, scraps of cotton material, dry pinecones, or
shredded paper
scissors
a pot
Reuse all those old candle ends in this practical, convenient fire
project. Stuff each cardboard egg holder with sawdust or other
flammable material. Melt the wax in a pot, over low to medium heat.
When the wax is melted, carefully pour the wax into each depression
in the egg cartons. Make sure the wax does not overflow. Let cool.
After the wax has cooled down, use scissors to cut the fire starters
apart from each other, leaving the hardened wax inside its cardboard
shell. To use, set one or two fire starters in your fireplace,
surround with kindling and larger wood, and light. The fire starters
will keep burning long enough to light even the most stubborn logs.

Fire Safety
Never leave candles lit and a blazing fire unattended. It is a good
idea to have a pail of water or a fire extinguisher close at hand
when having a fire. If you often light fires at your home, try
growing an aloe vera plant, or keep some of the pure gel on hand in
the fridge, to use as first aid for burns. Fires at the beach are
popular in all seasons, and eliminate some of the risks of fires in
the woods or in the meadow. Few people are aware of how to extinguish
a beach fire safely, however. Covering up a beach fire with sand
actually insulates the coals, keeping them burning through the night.
Those hidden coals will still be red-hot in the morning waiting for
an unsuspecting person to step on them. Always douse a beach fire with
water – seawater works as well as fresh water – until there are no
more live coals. Wait for the steam to clear; then using a stick,
turn over all the coals to make sure no smoldering coals remain.

Candle Hat
One holiday tradition in Scandinavian countries is for the girls to
wear garlands in their hair that hold a circle of lit candles and
bless the light’s return. We’ve adapted this candle custom to honor
the returning light for Brigit. These paper hats are a simple and
safe variation. Draw an inner circle on a 9-inch paper plate, about
an inch from the rim. Next draw very light lines dividing the circle
into quarters. Draw four rectangular candle shapes, keeping the
dividing lines as guides for the candles’ centers. The rectangles
will meet in the center of the plate in a small square. Cut out the
candle shapes, preserving their connection to the ring at the rim.
This connection serves as the base of the candle. Bend candles
from their base to stand upright. Decorate candles with markers,
crayons and glitter. use the discarded plate material to cut flame
shapes. Color them bright flame colors, then glue or staple them to
the top of the candles.

Brigit Candles
You will need:
1 recipe salt dough clay
a bowl of water
8 1/2 by 11 inch sheet of paper, one for each candle
wax paper, cut into 8 1/2 by 11 inch sheets, one for each candle tape
1 T vegetable oil
toothpicks
small bowl
candle making supplies
Honor Brigit with new special candles. These candles use molds made
from coiled salt dough ropes so that each completely unique candle
bears the spiral imprint of the coil.

Taper Candles
Make ropes by rolling salt dough clay between your hands. Each rope
should be two or three feet long and 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter. If
younger children can’t manage such lengths, have them make smaller
segments that can be joined later with a little pressure and water.
Dip your fingers into the bowl of water occasionally if the dough
tends to crack. Roll the paper into a 1 inch wide cylinder and tape
it shut. Around this cylinder, tape a piece of wax paper. Coat the
wax paper with a thin layer of oil. Lightly moisten a salt dough rope
with water. Lay the paper cylinder on its side at one end of the
rope. Roll it along the dough, wrapping the rope up the cylinder
until it is six inches tall. Be sure the edges of the coiled rope
always touch. To provide extra support, at intervals stick several
toothpicks vertically through the coils. Make a bottom for the mold by
shaping another piece of salt dough into a 3/4 inch thick circle
that’s larger than the coiled tower in diameter. Moisten the bottom’s
surface, then carefully lift the coiled tower onto the bottom piece
and press gently to make a seal. Pull the paper cylinder out. This
slides out easily, leaving the wax paper. Remove it by gently tugging
on the wax paper with one hand while you support the clay coils with
the others. Inspect each part of the mold, looking for tiny cracks
where melted wax could leak. Press these shut. If the coils start to
sag, quickly fashion a paper cylinder around the outside of the coils
and tape it closed. Trim it to the same height as the clay, so it
won’t get in the way when you are pouring wax. Set the mold in
an empty bowl, in case wax leaks through. You are ready to pour.
Pouring the wax is thrilling. Go very slowly up each level to make
sure no wax is leaking through. If a leak appears, carefully pinch it
shut and pour again. Insert the wick. The wax will harden within an
hour, long before the clay dries. To unmold, just unwind the clay. If
some sticks, soak the candle in cool water and then gently rinse off
the clay. The candles have a wonderfully craggy spiral looping from
bottom to top, and burn with a lovely strong flame.

Beehive Candles
You can also make beehive candles with great success by coiling ropes
of salt dough in a small, deep bowl. A rice bowl is the perfect size.
It’s easier to start with making a spiral, about 3 inches across,
outside of the bowl, then transferring this into the bottom of the
bowl. Next coil the rope inside the bowl until you reach the top. The
candle is burned with the dome side up, so the wick has to be
extended through the wax at the bottom of the bowl. When the wax is
firm enough to insert the wick, use a slightly larger straw than
usual, and push it firmly through the candle, into the dough beneath,
straight to the bottom of the bowl. The candle unmolds easily: Lift
candle and mold from the bowl and uncoil the mold.

Brigit Candleholder
To echo the Goddess’s symbol of the serpent, make this candleholder,
which resembles a coiled snake. Follow directions for making a mold
for taper candles, with the following differences:
1. Size your holder by wrapping a paper cylinder around whatever
candle you intend to use. Remove candle before proceeding further.
2. Dough ropes should be about 1/2 inch wide and a foot long. If
candleholder is taller than 4 inches, use toothpicks for extra
support.
3. Make the bottom by coiling a rope into a small circle. 4. After
the paper cylinder has been removed, use your candle to gently test
of the open end of the candleholder is large enough to accommodate
the candle. If it’s too small, delicately press the opening wider. If
it’s too large, fill in with bits of salt dough.
5 Bake the holder as directed. Turn after the first hour to be sure
it does not stick to the pan.
6 Cool completely after baking. Then paint with snaky patterns,
finishing with eyes on the end of the top coil.

 

(from “Circle Round” By Starhawk, Diane Baker and Anne Hill

 

Courtesy of Witches Moon