Hail & Merry Meet To All Of The WOTC On This Glorious Tuesday Morn’!

Blessed Be Comments
Prayer for Pagan Unity

Dear Eternal Father,
there is so much unrest and disunity
in the world. Help us to embrace
each other and life in peace and
harmony in the Pagan way.
 
Dear Eternal Mother,
we realize there are many different
traditions and paths of faith. Help
us to see past the differences and
unite as one family in total harmony
and love.

So Mote It Be.

 

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The Importance of Basic Techniques

The Importance of Basic Techniques

Author:   Luna 

Since I began earnestly looking into Wicca and magickal practices, some of the most emphasized concepts were visualization and psychic hygiene. And, as I think about this now, I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t emphasize them. Much of my own successful magick has been worked with strong visualization of my goal, and I’ve had many a worthwhile meditation session with strong visualization of where I was going, whether I was dancing through a forest in the astral or finding a cave in a waterfall with a shrine to Brigit. Along with that, psychic cleansing and grounding cannot be stressed enough in magickal and ritual working. I know I’ve had many a time when I’ve tried to work some kind of magick or focus in a ritual when I managed to cleanse myself beforehand, and I found that that time I took before and after to cleanse myself of excess energies would often make all the difference in how successful I was in my work.

So where am I going with this? These are all basic techniques that all Wiccans, Pagans and other Earth-based spiritualities hopefully come to in their magickal and ritual workings. These two concepts of visualization and cleansing (along with psychic shielding, which I’ll get to later) were things I drilled into my head before I started doing my magickal workings. They’re some of the most important things a Pagan learns, depending on the tradition. These days, even before I do something as simple as yoga practice, I cleanse myself of excess energy because it’s become such a habit. And I feel it’s a good habit to get into, if only because of my experience of how cleansing and visualization helps me in my life.

However, just a couple months ago, I had an encounter that reinforced the importance of these basic techniques, and, having been granted permission from the friend I shared this experience with, I’d like to share it with you.

Towards the end of my January term at college, I invited my friend Max over to my dorm room, ostensibly to show him a fun video game I thought he might like. I met Max just last semester through our Taiko drumming group here at St. Olaf, and we hit it off immediately. Both of us were from the Twin Cities areas, both of us were involved in marching band in high school, and both of us were interested in spirituality and Mind-Body-Spirit. In fact, Max is a member of the Mind-Body-Spirit organization here at school, and he not only practices Qi Gong but is also interested in studying herbalism and Chinese medicine after graduation.

I should make one thing clear before I go any further: Max is not Pagan. Despite his considerable knowledge of new age techniques and spirituality in general, he tends to relate more to Asian religions and philosophies than to Wicca or Pagan religions. However, he understands a good deal about Paganism and Wicca and has shown great respect for them, enough that I never have any trouble talking to him about it. Despite our rather huge age gap (I’m about to graduate while he’s just finishing his freshman year) , we’ve become good friends.

So, back to the story!

After I’d shown Max the video game, we got to talking about a variety of topics, eventually coming to Max’s Qi Gong class. At this point, he mentioned an exercise they had done in class, something that he hadn’t been able to replicate outside of his class. I asked him to describe what the exercise was. As soon as he did, I remember doing the same exercise myself, and I’m sure many of you will also remember trying this exercise at some point. Max had his hands apart and was trying to project his energy into his hands to create a ball of energy and even make that ball grow. However, without his teacher’s guidance, he hadn’t been able to feel that ball of energy when he tried the exercise outside of class.

Recognizing the exercise, I asked Max if he had tried visualizing the ball of energy between his hands. This was something he hadn’t considered, so I took him through the exercise again as I knew it. Now, I didn’t try to re-explain the exercise entirely, because he already knew it. Instead, I explained to him how, when I tried it, I visualized a bluish-purple ball of light forming in my hands. While the ball wasn’t visible to my naked eye, I knew the ball was there and visualized it as strongly as I could. Max tried the same thing, and he finally understood what I was talking about. He was finally able to replicate the exercise the way he had felt it during class.

So why did Max have trouble with the exercise before he tried it with me? It’s not because of my teaching skills (I honestly doubt I’ve explained the exercise to you properly) . It was because he hadn’t tried to visualize the ball of energy there before. As spiritually and psychically capable as Max is (even more so than I am) , without that visualization, I doubt he would’ve been able to get the same result. It’s not enough the just project the energy into the space between your hands and hope it works. Visualizing the ball of energy, no matter what it looks like or feels like to the individual, is an important step to the success of that energy. I don’t mean to sound preachy or anything like that, but, just speaking from personal experience and from working with Max on this, visualization is an extremely important skill in magick and meditative work. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Pagan or not.

So after having success with that exercise in energy play, Max and I began to talk more about visualization in psychic and meditative techniques. Eventually, he mentioned how he always felt like he had so much energy. Now, Max’s energetic and enthusiastic nature is definitely one of his strong points. In my opinion, it’s made him very strong in Taiko drumming. However, there are many times when Max has too much energy or puts too much energy into his playing, so much so that he often gets asked to back off a little bit when playing so that he doesn’t go overboard. Hearing him say that he didn’t know how to get rid of the excess energy, a thought occurred to me. It reminded me of a YouTube video I’d watched when I was first getting into Wicca that was my introduction to the basics, and, after explaining to him, we decided to watch it.

The video is called Wicca First Degree course Lesson 1 Exercises and the video itself is presented and narrated by Reverend Donald Lewis-Highcorrell of the Correllian tradition of Wicca, who also authored the Witch School series of books. For those of you who haven’t seen this or any of his YouTube videos (which I believe are excerpts from the Witch School DVDs) , even if you don’t consider yourself a Wiccan, I encourage you to check them out. They’re extremely informative, and I often find they’re a valuable resource in magickal practice. If you have the time, please give them a look. Anyways, in this particular video, Reverend Donald introduces the viewer to exercises in psychic cleansing or grounding and psychic shielding. For the purposes of this story, I’m going to focus on the cleansing exercise, as this directly relates to Max’s situation with excess energy.

In the video, Reverend Donald, with the help of some beautiful animations, gives the viewer examples of how to visualize this cleansing, talking them through a visualization of a column of pure white light moving through the body and letting the excess energy flow out of the body with the white light. As an alternative to this, he also describes another visualization of a river flowing through the body and the excess energy as detritus such as twigs and leaves that flow out of the body with the river. These are the two he finds works the best, but he encourages the viewer to find a visualization that works for them. After this point in the video, Max and I having done the exercise along with the video, I paused it and asked Max how he felt. He told me he felt a lot better, not having that excess energy in his body, and we began to once again discuss the power of visualization and these basic techniques and how important they are for anyone attempting psychic or meditative work.

But why am I telling you about all of this? Why did I even bother going into all of that?

Well, that discussion and practice with Max served as a reminder, for me at least, of how important those basic techniques are. It doesn’t matter whether you are a devout Pagan or are simply interested in new age philosophy and practice. Visualization and cleansing, along with other basic techniques, play a key role in all psychic, meditative, ritual and magickal work. And I feel that sometimes we forget how important and integral these basic techniques are. Plus, I see it as an example of the power of these techniques even when used by those who don’t practice a Pagan faith. The fact that these techniques worked as well for Max as they did for me is something I find fascinating, and it’s something I wanted to share. After all, there’s something to learn from every experience, no matter how trivial or groundbreaking, whether it’s your own experience or that of someone else.

Thank you for hearing me out on this, and, for your own future workings, I wish you an enthusiastic Blessed Be! ^_^

___________________________________________

Footnotes:
“Wicca First Degree course Lesson 1 Exercises” by user MagickTV, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQRyIYr3DZM

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Supportive Practices of the Craft

Supportive Practices of the Craft

Author: Iain Quicksilver

In addition to the practices of witchcraft usually discussed, such as divination and herb lore, there are practices, which support a witch’s overall efforts. The following seven sections describe practices I have found useful for tuning up my Craft practice and keeping it properly focused.

1: Cycles

Witches follow cycles in everything they do, out of respect for their overall balance of health. They don’t work all year, and then try to relax through a brief vacation; witches take little mini-vacations all the time. They sometimes appear to be laid back and lazy, but they respond well in a crisis, and they somehow get their tasks done.

A witch aims at discovering her own biorhythms, so as to work with, rather than against, her natural energy cycle. But in practice there are usually compromises to be made with work and other factors. Her actual daily schedule may be set somewhat askew to her biorhythms, but a witch will adapt to it and arrange for periods of rest between work to attend to quarters other than South / Will / Fire. There are knowledge and skills to acquire, and emotions and the circle and the practice of inner and/or outer stillness to attend to. And there is a little goofing off, daytime rest, which is essential; just watch the animals.

Starting with the Sun cycle and making allowances for work, etc., a witch reserves the earlier parts of the day for practical affairs. She will not work on taxes, for instance, into the evening hours, but will start earlier in the season and devote some weekend daytime hours to the chore. Evening is for going within, withdrawing to one’s own hearth and communing with ancestors and familiar spirits.

2: Directions

It isn’t on any list of witch tools, but a compass is important to the modern witch so she can orient her life and work to the four directions. Witchcraft is always done in a physical context. Pagans are highly aware of their immediate environment and traffic with spirits of the field, yard, stream, the most prominent local tree, as well as with household spirits. The key to contacting household spirits lies in feelings.

When you first move into a new house or apartment, it feels cold and uninviting, especially if it hasn’t been lived in for a while. Not much later, it fits you comfortably like a suit of old clothes; and if, in addition, it is alive with saged boundaries and household shrines, you feel liked by the house as well as liking it yourself. This is a boundary perception, which we are taught to ignore or treat as a subjective matter, but if instead we address the good feelings and express our appreciation for the atmosphere of our dwelling, we break that boundary and begin to recover ancient pagan perception.

In the same way, outdoor sprites can be contacted through greater sensitivity to one’s feelings without discounting them from habit.

Upon awakening in the morning, when a witch is ready to start the day, it is a good practice to take out the compass and address the four quarters. One begins in the North, opening oneself to calming energy. Then to the East, holding in mind briefly what needs to be known or learned today. Then to the South, deciding the first tasks. Then to the West, expanding awareness according to one’s ways. Then seal to the North, stilling the mind and body once again. The witch is now ready to face the day.

3: Expanding Awareness

One way of expanding awareness when silently addressing the West is to relax and wait for something in your peripheral awareness to stand out and beckon your attention. It might be the reflection of something in a window, or the shadow of a tree or the spaces in its foliage. Whatever it is, when it gets your attention, continue to view it peripherally. You are in touch with its mana, or magical energy, and can use it throughout the day when you call it to mind. The image in your memory should be peripheral, not central, i.e. the way it looked when it got your attention. This can also be done with things heard peripherally. These are some of my ways.

4: Conserving Magical Energy

There is a kind of energy or power that the modern world has forgotten, though the memory of it is preserved in folk tales and myths. Indigenous peoples are well aware of it and live their lives with reference to it. While the immediate environment abounds in it, and we take it in all the time, we do not notice it because we squander it in habitual ways, habits that have been with us from early childhood. The ancient Latins called it numen, and the Mongolians, hiimori. It is always personal, taking on the features of the person holding it.

It is only by conserving this energy that the witch becomes ready to do magic, both in the circle and life. We don’t realize that everything takes energy, even unconscious ignoring of things in our environment, such as shadows, eyeglass frames, or background sounds. When we expand our attention to include such things, we gain the energy that was used in keeping them in the background of our attention, the penumbra or half-shadow. This energy is always exponentially higher than the small amount required to expand the attention.

The energy takes four forms for witches, associated with the four ancient elements. The energy of Air makes us learn and understand new things that hadn’t occurred to us before. In everyday life, it also manifests in any new knowledge or understanding.

The energy of Fire boosts the will and lets us accomplish tasks in life that seemed too big to tackle. In order to bring changes into our physical lives, we have to both give up some things, at least temporarily, and adopt other things or actions that further the goal. In the Craft, habits or actions that squander magical energy have to be sacrificed, and then the freed energy finds new outlets on its own.

The energy of Water attracts us to the unknown, and gives us the daring to escape the current limitations of our lives. This is the energy of initiation, which expands and transforms our awareness and can give our lives a whole new basis.

The energy of Earth is cloaked in silence. Witches seek inner and outer stillness, quite as much as Zen monks or Hindu yogis do. This stillness is deep, and the deeper the witch descends into it, the more he or she is transformed and the greater the magical energy that results. It is pursued gradually and at first in little things, like learning to sit still and not scratch, or refraining from certain topics in conversation.

Not that the witch is inactive, quite the contrary; Earth, the North, is also the place of our physicality, and the witch exercises regularly, and takes care of business through Fire and the South. Stillness refers instead to the enormous amount of energy we waste in fidgeting and performing other small, unnecessary actions, both mental and physical: for instance, compulsively repeating past conversations in one’s mind or rehearsing conversations to come in some hypothetical future event (for all thoughts of the future are hypothetical) .

The witch sums up a past event and plans for the future, but these are finite acts that come to an end, instead of repeating over and over and wearing on the nerves. The energy to be had by restricting such habits cannot be anticipated in advance. Out of stillness comes new understanding, closing the circle of practice towards Air and the East.

Thus the witch pursues the four powers of the magus: to know, to will, to dare, to keep silence. But there is a fifth power that results from the balanced development of the four: to go. The witch is saving energy for his or her definitive journey, the flight to the True Sabbat, fellowship and celebration with the ancestors, spirits, and deities in the other world. Folklore depicts it as a joyous occasion, and colors it with the pleasures and longings of the time when the tales were spun. Some tried to cut corners and get there more quickly through the use of the witch’s flying ointment. The actual flight may or may not follow traditional lines.

One may not literally fly up the chimney and then meet the Wild Hunt in the sky and fly to a rath or burg and descend therein through a tunnel into the Otherworld. The journey may parallel many of these features, nonetheless; and there are preliminary journeys to be made that go partway there.

The flight to the True Sabbat is a milestone on the way to the witch’s ultimate journey to the Sun, when he or she acquires a body of light that can materialize at will, so that further incarnations here in middle Earth are no longer needed. This transformation seals the work of the Craft and completes the vows made at initiation; thenceforth one does other work, perhaps as a guardian elemental, paying back for the help received along the way on this side by paying forward.

5: The Familiar

Witches traditionally kept a cat, sometimes a horse, as a familiar. The witch’s astral journeys were made in company with the spirit of the familiar.

The best information I have found on this practice is in Timothy Knab’s A War of Witches, a factual account of an anthropologist’s investigation, some twenty plus years later, of a battle with brujos and brujas in the highlands of central Mexico. In the course of his investigation, he is inducted into Toltec brujeria by one of the survivors and makes a journey to Tlalocan, the Toltec Underworld.

Tlaloc, the Lord of the Underworld, keeps animal spirits called naguals in his corrals. He gives a nagual to each human at birth. The nagual could perhaps be thought of as the link, within each of us, to other animals, inherited though latent from the prehistoric past. But it is a real spirit and to be a brujo one must find one’s nagual. Afterwards, an experienced brujo, through many journeys to Tlalocan, may have acquired a number of naguals, keeping them in fetish objects like puma’s claws, or in a special gourd.

The human soul is called the tonal. It has two halves. One faces towards the Sun and stands guard over the body when the dark lower half, the shadow, goes on journeys down the world pillar to the underworlds. The shadow is so called, both because it lies below our daily awareness and faces towards the nether regions, and because it follows its nagual into the depths as the latter’s shadow.

If the nagual is a cat spirit, the shadow takes on the semblance of a cat spirit. This is done for protection from hungry denizens of the deep, who prize the heart blood of a tonal but will let a nagual go by.

The discipline Knab goes through in becoming a brujo is well worth the reading. But to return to our own practice, preparation for a liaison with a cat familiar’s spirit, besides the obvious step of getting a cat, would seem to involve re-molding one’s own psyche closer to that of a feline. We do this unconsciously when we sit in company with a cat and enjoy its utter relaxation. Cats are content to go from moment to moment doing whatever they are doing, even if it is only resting.

We, however, often have a habit of doubting whether we are making best use of our time, or regretting we are not elsewhere doing other things. Cats, apparently, have no such qualms. The daily practice of witchcraft in fact promotes a calm mind fully given to the moment. Apparently cultivation of inner stillness connects us with the animal, pre-rational mind, so that we can enjoy shuttling between two minds, as the occasion permits.

This is only an example of how the witch models him or herself on a cat familiar. Whether or not one goes on journeys with the cat, cultivating a close relationship with one will draw the witch closer to his or her own inner, pre-rational mind, through which he or she can call up power from the Deep in circle.

6: The Patron Deity

It isn’t incumbent upon pagans to have a special relationship with a single deity, but it can be a rewarding experience. The pagan will continue to honor the other deities and spirits, of course, and may enter into a similar relationship with another later on. Suppililiumas, the king of the Hittites, was singularly devoted to his goddess, and as we know, his subject Abraham devoted his wandering life to his family god, the later Yahweh.

All gods stand ready to teach by sharing their consciousness, and by helping the devotee to practice the disciplines that lead to that awareness. Pagans will generally choose a patron deity (male or female) on the basis of temperamental preferences, though they may be influenced by a dream or vision. The relationship can be devotional or more like a friendship. In the latter case the deity is like an older mentor or senior partner. In late heathen times, Thor was popular with people seeking this latter relation.

In the Craft, the Lord and the Lady serve as patrons. The Lord is the year-god, who has waxing and waning aspects, and these replace each other at the solstices. Because the outgoing aspect dies and is reborn six months later, the Lord (sometimes called the Lad) is more of a demigod, and is not quite up to the Lady’s level. Witches and warlocks alike tend to relate to the Lord as a tutor or preceptor, and to the Lady devotionally.

The continental Celtic god Cernunnos is associated by modern witches with the year-god. He is known only from artifacts and only by the description given him by Greek traders in antiquity on the Ister or Danube river – the horned or antlered one (we do not know his Celtic name) . Cernunnos teaches witches the way to deal skillfully with both the outer and inner life.

The Oak King or waxing year aspect teaches, by example, how to deal with the outer world joyfully and fruitfully. The Holly King or waning aspect is the psycho pomp or soul-guide in Craft initiation, and also provides fellowship with ancestors at Samhain, October 31st.

On the Gundestrup cauldron, found in a peat bog in Denmark, Cernunnos is the central carved figure. He has two antlers, wears a torque or neck-ring signifying wealth, and holds another in his right hand, as bestower of wealth. His left hand grasps a ram-headed snake by the neck, an Underworld animal linked with healing and sacrifice.

It often happens that a pagan already pursues some discipline designed to conserve magical energy, and chooses an appropriate god or goddess, asking him or her to be the patron of that practice. If the god is willing, he or she will help, first of all, by reminding the devotee to practice whatever part of the askesis is appropriate for the present situation.

The devotee thanks his or her patron for these reminders, knowing from experience that practice would be slacker without them. As the partnership goes on, the world will start to take on the colors peculiar to that deity’s consciousness and personality, and will cause subtle changes in the personality of the devotee as well.

The patron deity also teaches in dreams and guides the devotee in waking life by means of signs and omens, often peculiar coincidences that seem mysteriously significant.

The Lady nurtures and feeds witches as well as all her children on the earth, and also teaches those who prefer to relate to a female divinity. The discipline taught by the Lady involves cleansing the emotions of their verbal accretions. The devotee learns to feel without thinking or analyzing or labeling the feeling. In this way, the witch or warlock draws closer to the animals, who have naked feelings unclothed in thoughts. The askesis of the Lady is especially suitable for couples.

7: Inventory

Supportive practices of witchcraft aim at optimizing the free flow of energy through the life of a witch.

A cluttered life is full of energy knots that trap old, stale energy called `miasma’ by the ancients. The first phase of a spell, purification, is designed to unravel one or more of these knots, so that an increase in the flow of magical energy renders the flow palpable. The energy must be felt to be directed, and as some of it is flowing all the time (however feebly) , the rate of flow must be increased for it to be felt. It can then be directed to a chosen purpose in the consecration phase, and, in the final phase, charged with all the force the witch can command through expanded awareness.

But if the witch’s life is full of energy knots, untying one or two of them by purification may not result in a very strong flow of energy. For a stronger flow, the witch must gradually remove clutter from his/her life so that energy knots are few and easily unraveled.

Clutter comes in many forms. There is mental and emotional clutter; the clutter of always being too busy because of over-commitment; the memory-clutter of too many unfinished projects; and the material clutter found in the home: over-stuffed closets, garages, basements, storage sheds, etc. This section is about material clutter.

By learning and applying the principles of feng shui, we can facilitate a free flow of the energy the Chinese call ch’i throughout the home; but before putting feng shui into practice, we must face and do something about the mountains of clutter tucked away in corners, closets, cupboards and other hiding places. We may think that if our accumulations are out of sight they will be out of mind as well, but the deeper, pre-rational mind we share with the animals keeps tabs on every least thimble.

When the writer Aldous Huxley’s house in California burned down, he remarked on how clean it felt to be free of so many possessions. This was a drastic example of what we can achieve in a smaller degree through the practice of inventory.

The deep mind keeps a file on every item we own, and these files must be closed and cleared away if the witch is to use the filing function for fulfilling oaths and following threads of self-discipline. Accordingly, at regular intervals a witch will go through some of his or her clutter, putting things together that belong together, and getting rid of items no longer needed. A good rule of thumb to follow is to keep what one can use (sentiment counts as a use) and put the rest where it is likely to do the most good. In this we see an illustration of the balance of the Craft, which aims at getting maximum enjoyment and effectiveness from possessions without getting bogged down in being possessed by them.

Putting things you don’t need where they will do the most good may mean giving things away; but be careful doing this, as you may lose friends if they feel you are dumping stuff on them. And above all, never tell anyone you are following the rule of inventory, as gifts should at least appear to be made from a feeling of friendship.

Closing accounts with past unfinished business, either by abandoning old projects or by completing them, leads to a greater integration with one’s past selves, and can clear a channel through memory, and far memory, for the witch to travel in the inner journey down to the Summerland.

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1. For numen see Rose, H.J. in the bibliography.

2. For hiimori see Sangerel, both references, in the bibliography.

3. For the folklore of the Sabbat, see Jackson in the bibliography.

4. On the journey to the Sun, see Grimassi, p. 219, in the bibliography, also Nikhilananda, vol. II, p. 158.

5. See Knab in the bibliography.

6. See Gurney in the bibliography. More recently, a royal charter of King Suppliliumas has been found, authorizing a mercantile expedition to Byblos on the ancient Lebanese coast. Abraham may have been in it.

7. See Davidson (I) in the bibliography.

8. For the significance of Cernunnos in modern witchcraft, see Farrar in the bibliography.

9. See Davidson (II) in the bibliography.

____________________________________

Footnotes:
Bibliography:

Davidson, H.R. (I) , Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, London, Penguin Books, 1990.

__________ (II) , Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe, Syracuse, NY, Syracuse
University Press, 1988.

Farrar, Janet and Stewart, Eight Sabbats for Witches, Custer, WA, Phoenix Publishing, 1988.

Grimassi, Raven, Ways of the Strega, St. Paul, MN, Llwellyn Publications, 1995.

Gurney, O.R., The Hittites, London, Penguin Books, 1952.

Jackson, Nigel, Call of the Horned Piper,

Knab, Timothy J., A War of Witches, Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 1995.

Nikhilananda, Swami, translator, The Upanishads, in 4 vols. New York, Ramakrishna-
Vivekananda Center, 1975. Prasna Upanishad is in Vol. 2.

Rose, H.J., Religion in Greece and Rome, New York, Harper Torchbooks, 1959.

Sarangerel (I) , Chosen by the Spirits, Rochester, VT, Destiny Books, 2001.

_______ (II) , Riding Windhorses, Rochester, VT, Destiny Books, 2000.

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Pagan Doers – How To Get Things Done

Pagan Doers – How To Get Things Done

Author:   Sia@FullCircle   
There has been a lot of talk in our community lately about what our Pagan Leaders do for us (and in some cases, to us). But I’m not going to speak on that subject, because the folks here at Full Circle are not Leaders, we’re Doers.
Doers make things happen and their actions light the way for those that wish to follow their example. Full Circle lights the way by organizing events for the Earth Wise Community as a whole. Those who want to join us, show up and get to work. Our volunteers have a say in what we do and how we do it. Those who simply want to attend our events, do that. The latter vote with their feet and with their pocketbooks and we think that’s fair.
What we do here at Full Circle is done at a grass roots level. We work in and for the community. You have a chance to meet and talk to any of us whenever you attend or work on one of our events. You also have the power to help our organization grow and to make a difference in your community.
Full Circle was started by two women with a vision of a Pagan Event Group that was non-denominational and community based. We were committed to networking and to charity work and we wanted this organization to reflect that. We also wanted to create a group that was family friendly but offered adult only events, as well. Finally, we wanted to do Inter-faith work because we wanted to meet people of like mind who cared for Mama Gaia and respected Earth Wise Spirituality. And so we began the work of creating Full Circle. We were later joined by some marvelous men who helped us make this vision into a reality.
I occasionally hear stories that paint Full Circle as some huge organization with deep pockets and a vast network of volunteers. The stories are born, in part, because we do complex events, like M.U.S.E Camp and The Witches Ball, rather well. Would that these stories were true. The money that funds Full Circle comes from several of our Council members. We are not rich and we have families to support, so this was cause for some nail biting on our part. Happily, we have managed to end every year in the black. As for our volunteers, they are few in number, but highly organized, extremely competent, and very dedicated.
The Council members and our Web Builder put in a lot of volunteer time for Full Circle. This is added to the time we spend at our jobs and with our families. Over time, we’ve found others who share the vision and, equally important, they are people who share our work ethic. While we would never ask our volunteers to work the insane kinds of hours we put in (we’re twisted, we freely admit it) we do ask them to follow through on the things they commit to do. We have been wonderfully surprised at the results. We always knew in our hearts that responsible Pagans were out there and they’ve proved that to us. We also knew that the other kind were out there, and sure enough, they’ve taken on projects only to “flake” and let us down. Thankfully, that has happened only a few times and we’ve always been able to regroup, so it has never hurt the quality of our events.
Yet, even responsible and dedicated people can get hit by what our Chief of Operations calls “The Cosmic Twinkie Truck”. For this reason, we try to train two people for any one position, just in case. It is not unlike the apprentice programs you’ll find in the various guilds or in the martial arts. By training up those who will replace us, we insure that our people won’t burn out and that our work will go on after we’re gone. Otherwise, we ‘ll have nurtured nothing more than a Cult of Personality and that’s not what we’re about.
But how do you find people with whom you can share both authority and responsibility? We do that by working with our volunteers over a period of time. We get to know their skills and their areas of interest. When they have shown us that they are committed and capable, then we ask if they’d like to do more. If they say “yes”, they are given more responsibility. We try to give them work to do that excites them because people with a passion can move mountains. At the same time, we make sure that the folks who do the dull jobs get first pick when something fun comes around. In this way, we find the Doers: the people who have the time, commitment, skills, and resources to make things happen. For example, acting Chairs from two of last year’s events were asked to join the Council this year. Some of last years’ volunteers were asked to act as Chairs of Committees. Some members have now become very active volunteers on certain committees. Members of other Pagan groups have since signed up to work on special projects with us for next year. We believe that by doing this work in an organized fashion we are building something of value for all Pagans.
We’re blessed here and we know it. Very often, the people we’ve needed have miraculously appeared and they’ve done a stellar job. As for the few people who’ve let us down … well, what can you do? Flaky people are everywhere, not just in the Pagan community. Alas, they are often the most charming and enthusiastic people we encounter. The so-called “Flake Factor” is the reason why most non-profit groups don’t hand important responsibilities over to untried volunteers. You see, we’ve all been disappointed too many times to take anyone on at face value. Don’t let that worry you though, you will find a welcome here. We don’t pre-judge anyone but we do pay close attention. What you say is not as important as what you do and how well you play with others. If you let us down, we’ll release you with blessings, wave goodbye and wish you well. Then we’ll get on with the work we have on hand.
Some people come to us and want to give us their power. To this we say “Thanks, but no thanks”. None of us want to be Gurus. We believe that being Pagan means accepting responsibility for yourself, your actions and for the quality of your life. We believe that it means claiming your own power and not giving it over to someone else. Ideally, it also means that you use your power to better the world you live in. That’s what Pagan Doers do.
Occasionally, we’ll have someone approach us who wants to pad their “Pagan Resume” and they think that our group might be a good way to do that. These people often want to start at the top and they are disappointed to find that we don’t care very much for titles around here. You may be Lord Duck-a-Muck or a 5th Generation Atlantian or even an Elf-friend. That’s fine; this is California after all, but when you’re here among us, you’re just one of the gang.
For this and other reasons, I ask our people to read books on subjects such as:

  • Active Listening,
  • Positive Confrontation
  • Codependency & Dysfunctional Family Systems
  • Group Dynamics
  • Stress & Anger Management &
  • Effective Management Techniques

We then sit with our volunteers and work out ways of dealing with certain situations. “Praise people very publicly, ” we say, “and correct mistakes privately”. “Don’t spread gossip”. “Listen more then you talk”. “Remember” , we say, “to place principals before personalities.” And most importantly, “Fight fair when you disagree and treat each other with respect.”
Not everyone has these tools placed in their toolbox during childhood. Some of us have to add them in as adults. I know many Pagans who can claim to have 50 books on ritual techniques in their library but they don’t own a single book on conflict resolution. I believe that this is one reason why so many Pagan groups don’t last.
We’re an eclectic bunch, we Pagans, so that means we need to listen to as many different voices as possible if we want to serve our community. We have people in positions of responsibility that are Gay, Lesbian, Straight, or Bi-sexual. Some of our folks are in monogamous relationships, some live the single life, and some are in polyamorous households. Some have children and some do not. Overall, we encompass a wide range of Paths and Traditions. Our backgrounds, ages and life experience vary widely. We also do inter-faith work, as I’ve said, and I’m proud to say that we have Jewish folks, Buddhists, New Age Thinkers, Christians, and Secular Humanists working right alongside of us. Some of these people attend our events, some are involved in groups we sponsor, some serve in Operations, and some work on various committees. All are valued for their greatness of heart and for their many skills.
When we do use a title such as “Leader” we have a wyrd way of defining it. A “Leader” at Full Circle is the one you see doing the donkey work. This comes as a shock to some people. We’ve had folks approach us who want to have all the “fun” of leading, that is, they want to pick and choose all the interesting tasks for themselves and they want to have other people do the dull and boring jobs. Other types think that leading means telling other people what to do and doing nothing at all themselves. Here at Full Circle we think differently. We think that being in charge of something means that you do the most work of anyone in your group. It means you’re the first one to arrive and the last one to leave. You do whatever needs doing. If that means you clean the toilets before an event, then so be it. Don’t laugh, I’ ve done that. The closest I’ve ever gotten to holding a Staff of Office is that toilet brush. So it goes.
Often people come to us and say “You should do THIS!” (“And with what army?” I think to myself). What I reply to them, though, is this: “That’s a great idea! Now, how are you going to make that happen?” I even have a form for them to fill out. (1) . It asks for details, schedules, budgets, fund raising ideas, and a list of likely volunteers for said project. Ninety-nine people out of a hundred shake their heads and walk away. But sometimes that one special person approaches us and says “I’d like to see this happen and here’s what I can do to help”. That person usually ends up on a Committee. And then, Goddess help them, because they are now a Pagan Doer. As such, their goal will be, as our motto states, to “Honor the past, celebrate the present and create the future”.
Wishing you strength, laughter and good company,
Sia
(1) Oh, yes I do! How do you think I’ve survived this long?
Bio: Sia recently completed a two year term on the Board of Directors of the Wildlife Rescue Effort. Overall, she has worked with a total of 5 different non-profit groups on a variety of social & educational issues. She has over 15 years of experience working behind the scenes at a variety of conventions and gatherings; mostly in the Neo-Pagan, Science Fiction and Feminist communities. Her academic background is in English Literature, with an emphasis on Women’s Studies and Art History.
She practices in a Green Tradition and is active in several Ritual Circles in Silicon Valley and in Santa Cruz. For the last 6 years she has presented lectures and led workshops on such topics as wildlife preservation, conflict resolution and Neo-Paganism.
Sia is the Owner of Snapdragon Gifts (www.snapdragongifts.com). She lives with her husband and 4 cats in Santa Clara, California. In her spare time, she gardens and works as a volunteer Rehabilitator for various wildlife and cat rescue groups. She is currently writing a book on the use of humor in Ritual.
Photo credit: The amazing image above comes from the Fairy Oracle by Brian Froud mnd is used by permission. Other images by Brian can be viewed at www.worldoffroud.com


   Author’s Note: If you have enjoyed reading this piece, I would ask the you help support the Witches Voice in their efforts to celebrate and support the Pagan community by becoming a Witchvox Sponsor. They rely on our support to keep this non-profit website up and running, so please, do your part to help our community and send them a donation. With thanks, Sia

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Rethinking Community for Solitaries

Rethinking Community for Solitaries

Author:   Incense Dragon   

For two decades or more, I have been involved in some way with Community building among Pagans. During that time I have attended countless group meetings, attended every kind of fundraiser imaginable, seen groups build up and rip themselves apart, and watched a lot of very well-meaning people expend tremendous amounts of energy, time, and money only to see their efforts bring little or no fruit as a result. Sometimes these efforts are very successful (look at Heartland Pagan Festival or PantheaCon as examples) but sometimes they find only short-lived benefit (if any) .

After sitting out of these kinds of activities for nearly 5 years, I was drawn into this same old model once again when a local leader asked me to run for an open position on the board of directors of her organization. I very quickly found myself back with the same old problems, same old types of conflict, and had to ask myself “how did I end up here yet again?” The answer is simple: Community building is very important to me. It was important to my Pagan mentor decades ago and it has always been important to me. That hasn’t changed a bit. I am still very concerned with building bridges between all Pagans and Pagan groups.

The problem is not necessarily with the well-meaning people who start these groups. When they survive their early efforts, they can develop into long-running events or groups. These types of groups and events are critical to networking, communication, creating a broader community, and giving us ways to come together and celebrate. We need to embrace those successes, but recent events have caused me ask what other approaches there might be. Are there alternatives that would make our efforts at community building more successful?

So I began to meditate on this topic. I asked my patron god and goddess for direction, opened myself to all friendly powers, and began a process of self-examination. In the end, I was surprised by what was revealed to me. Like the majority of American Pagans, I am a Solitary. In my heart, I have always been Solitary, despite my time in a coven. I am Solitary by Choice. I love meeting with other Pagans of all walks of life and going to festivals and conventions with throngs of my fellow Pagans, Solitary and Traditional Pagan alike. But I am a Solitary and decided to walk that path long ago. So why am I trying to act like I am not Solitary?

Large organizations are essential to the building and networking of the Pagan Community. However, I believe we have really missed the boat by using this as our primary (and often exclusive) method of organizing. Large groups are a typical, conventional approach to organization. Pagans are not typical people, however, and conventional approaches may not always be the best way for us. I’m a devote Solitary but that does not mean that I cannot work in a group nor that Solitaries are unable to organize events. Those of us who are Solitary by Choice are still able to work with others to achieve common goals, but we have to recognize that we are a different breed than Traditional Pagans.

I am somewhat sympathetic to those used to the, comparatively, orderly nature of Covens who are thrust into dealing with Solitaries. Solitaries are a group in name only – the reality is that each one of us is different and it is only our basic beliefs that tie us together. Traditional Pagans are, of course, also individuals and I don’t mean to paint them as if they are just in lock-step with their HP or HPS. They view the Pagan world through the eyes of a Coven, and that is quite a different perspective than held by many Solitaries. Our inability to recognize this basic difference has led to countless conflicts, misunderstandings, and worse.

So what do we do?

We can’t possibly ask our Coven Brothers and Sisters to do all of the work. This is something that often happens. Solitaries go to festivals and conventions organized by others, but less often do the work that goes on behind the scenes. It’s completely unfair to enjoy the fruits of the work of others without giving back. We cover some of that by volunteering during the event (picking up trash, hauling wood, etc.) but many Solitaries do not know how, or do not feel welcome, to be part of the organizational side of things. For many, however, it is the feeling of being an “outsider” or feeling excluded (because we are not part of the group behind the organizing of an event) that can lead to feelings of disenfranchisement.

This is the line of thinking that took me into my two month-long meditation about my future with the Pagan Community. My personal conclusion is that I have taken the wrong approach to growing the Pagan Community for all of these decades. Some Solitaries may not be “into” large groups by their nature. This type and form of organization is not native to many of us, and for some it is downright offensive. I just went through a conflict with a local Pagan leader for whom I had the deepest respect and trust. When I failed to act within the organization as a “Covener” would be expected to act, conflict exploded. In the end it turned out to be that this leader did not understand how our email list worked and she believed that I was sending internal organizational information to the general public. It was a simple misunderstanding on her part that led to a painful several months for us both and obliterated my trust in and respect for her.

This led to a horrible conflict between us. She relied on how she was used to people communicating within the bounds of a Coven. I am an “independent operator” with very strong ethical rules and put a lot of emphasis on written communication (I live 60 miles away from the city where meetings are held) . When the Traditional approach and the Solitary approach clashed, the results were horrific. I was insulted and demeaned both publically and privately because someone did not understand how something functioned. This doesn’t mean that the leader is a terrible person. She’s simply not equipped to deal with those of a very different history and perspective. I am not like those she is used to working with. Once our perspectives came into conflict, she interpreted that as a conflict between the two of us personally. Things rapidly spiraled out of control to the point that I was ready to resign from her organization in spite of being a member of the board of directors.

The conflict with that leader will be my last of this nature. I am moving out of these types of organizations and instead I am transforming my efforts to connect and build the Pagan Community into an approach that I should have been using for 20 years. Why have I spent all of this time attempting to fit into an organizational model that I have actively avoided in every other context? I am not saying that I am going to resign from the Pagan organizations to which I belong. Even the organization where I was so heavily impacted by someone else’s ignorance is a place where I intend to keep a membership and continue to participate. I have, however, resigned from that group’s board of directors. The organizational expectations that exist there are designed for those who are prefer the Coven approach. I am not such a person. I am an independent operator and trying to be something I’m not has resulted in recurrent failure.

Instead, I want to use my Solitary approach as an advantage rather than a shortfall to overcome. I am self-reliant and dependable. In fact, it’s difficult for me to rely on anyone else outside my immediate family anyway, so why not rely on the one person upon whom I can always depend? Over the years, I have built very close relationships with a few select Pagans I have grown to trust. Between those people and myself, there is little that we cannot do within our own scale. We will never be a large enough group to accomplish some of the things that large organizations do, but we can certainly do a great deal.

Looking at the overall Pagan Community in America, it seems to me that we mostly exist as individuals or small groups scattered around the country. Think of it as the way that America looked in the 19th Century, especially along the various frontiers. Villages and tiny towns were the way that the individuals or small families who lived in the wild lands would trade and communicate. These are like small Covens or other small, local Pagan groups. There were a few large cities near the frontiers where far more goods and services were available. Using that model, the frontier is where the Solitaries dwell and the cities are the home of large Covens or other large, formal organizations. We are all part of the same society, same nation, and same general geographic area. Yet we are clearly distinct. Each has benefits and drawbacks. Nevertheless, for the nation as a whole to operate, each of these parts must work together.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but it gets to the heart of how we can work together. Cities depend on food and other materials that come from the frontiers/wild places. Raw materials are processed into goods and are available to frontiers people. Each provides something that the other needs and together we operate as a complete economy.

So where does that leave me and thousands of others in a similar situation? How can a Solitary even help to build community? What can a Solitary do that is different than the “standard model” that we have used for community for so long?

One nice thing about being a Solitary is that I have neither reason nor desire to tell anyone else what to do. Don’t look for me to tell you what anyone else should do. I can tell you what I’m going to do. First, I have resigned from all leadership positions in these types of Traditional Pagan organizations. I still think those organizations are important and useful and I will remain a “rank-and-file” member of such organizations, but I will no longer take any type of formal or leadership role within those organizations. Instead, I’m going to focus on projects that help to build community interconnectivity whether between groups or individuals. Some are old projects that I’ve had in mind for a long time, but for which I could never get support from the various organizations with which I worked. Only recently, I realized that I can do a lot of this work alone and that would give me the freedom to try whatever approaches I wish. No meetings, conferences, committees, diminution of the original concept, and no need to find “compromise solutions”. If a project fails, there are no political ramifications and nobody will accuse me of wrongdoing or making a bad decision. If I make a bad decision, I will deal with the consequences myself.

There are drawbacks to this approach. If things go wrong there is nobody else to blame. When you work alone, you have to accept all successes and failures as your own. As a Solitary you can only hope to work with others on occasion. I am not “married” to the idea that I always have to work alone, but I do know that if I plan to work alone I will never be disappointed when someone else fails to show up. Working alone, or with just one or two other people, means you have fewer “person hours” per week to work on a project, you have a lesser ability to raise funds, have to carry all of the needed equipment, set it up, and tear it down with little outside help. It is harder to bounce ideas off someone else when they are not involved in the development of the project. I am also limited by my own knowledge and experience. In a large group you often have a variety of knowledge and skills upon which you can draw.

Working alone also means that the scope or scale of your projects have to be appropriate. Although it is theoretically possible that I could plan a large event and pay for it by myself, realistically I am limited as to the size of projects that I can take on alone. A primary project I am doing currently is a Public Access television show for Pagans ( http://www.incenseboopks.com/moment.htm or http://www.youtube.com/user/PentOclockNews) . I am doing the whole process by myself (aside from the people in the videos) – I record the video and operate the camera, I do the editing, titles, voiceovers, set up the interviews, buy equipment, etc., by myself. It would be nice to have someone else along who can run a camera or just carry equipment (although it has yet to happen) , but this is a Solitary project. And it is a project that can definitely make a difference and help our community statewide. Eventually, perhaps, it will be helpful nationwide.

I am able to (and often do) travel around the state to visit my fellow Pagans and attend their events or meetings. When I do this as an active leader for some organization, like it or not, my visits to those other communities are seen as “official” by many people. As a standing officer, even if I know it’s not true, I have to accept that a lot of people would still see it this way. If the group I want to visit is in some kind of dispute or disagreement with the organization to which I belong, people can easily misinterpret such a visit. Yet if I am not affiliated with the leadership of any particular group, then those problems vanish.

I want to give one more example of what a single person can do to help build a stronger Pagan community. Casting my mind back to the autumn of 2007, I can think of something fun I did (as a Solitary) , that provided an immediate positive impact on my community. I have a friend who holds an annual “non-Event” that is a camping gathering of Pagans in central Oklahoma. This is an open event where Pagans gather at a state park for a weekend of camping, drumming, and fun without any agendas, formal rituals, or planned workshops. Beej’s Non-Event is another great example of a Solitary effort – Beej had the idea, told people, and they came. Naturally, everyone brings their own camping gear and feeds himself or herself. I asked myself what I could do, on my own, to make this event more enjoyable for everyone? There is no staff or schedule, so it truly was a Solitary situation.

My solution was to create the “Greenman Kitchen”. On Saturday morning of the non-event, I set up my canopy, fired up 3 camping stoves, and cooked breakfast for everyone who cared to get up (I fed roughly 35 people that morning) . I did the work and provided everything – it was simply my way to say “thank you” to my community for everything they did for me throughout the year. It required not a single meeting or committee or vote. I didn’t need anyone’s approval nor did I have to compromise on the menu or methods. I did something nice and fun for everyone, and it was a blast. Yes, it was hours of hard work but it was all on my own terms. Best of all, it was a huge Solitary success. I hope to one day bring the Greenman Kitchen back to life in the Oregon Pagan Community. These are not the only such Solitary activities I’ve done for the community, but a nice example of the power of A Circle of One.

Our community benefits from all kinds of people. Our diversity is possibly our greatest strength yet we so often take steps to squash that diversity rather than benefit from it. Those who work well in groups are crucial to the future of the Pagan community in America. One or two individuals simply can’t create the large, organized events that we occasionally get to enjoy. We NEED those who can work with and effectively lead groups of Pagans. They are a huge part of how we can draw closer and bring our energies together. I just hope that if you’ve read all the way to the end of this article that you can now see that YOU as an individual can do a great deal to build and improve our community. Solitaries, Traditional Pagans, and those in-between or beyond those limits can all contribute to making ours a stronger, better-connected community.

Solitary individuals have far more ability to positively impact the Greater Pagan Community than most of us have thought in the past. We Solitaries owe a big debt to those organizations that have worked so hard to create events over the decades. Now we Solitaries need to step up and do our part to help this community connect and grow. The great news is that we can do this while remaining true to our Solitaries paths. We need not try to work within organizations that run counter to how we function in order to be part of the community and to positively contribute to its growth.

Supportive Practices of the Craft

Supportive Practices of the Craft

Author:   Iain Quicksilver   

In addition to the practices of witchcraft usually discussed, such as divination and herb lore, there are practices, which support a witch’s overall efforts. The following seven sections describe practices I have found useful for tuning up my Craft practice and keeping it properly focused.

1: Cycles

Witches follow cycles in everything they do, out of respect for their overall balance of health. They don’t work all year, and then try to relax through a brief vacation; witches take little mini-vacations all the time. They sometimes appear to be laid back and lazy, but they respond well in a crisis, and they somehow get their tasks done.

A witch aims at discovering her own biorhythms, so as to work with, rather than against, her natural energy cycle. But in practice there are usually compromises to be made with work and other factors. Her actual daily schedule may be set somewhat askew to her biorhythms, but a witch will adapt to it and arrange for periods of rest between work to attend to quarters other than South / Will / Fire. There are knowledge and skills to acquire, and emotions and the circle and the practice of inner and/or outer stillness to attend to. And there is a little goofing off, daytime rest, which is essential; just watch the animals.

Starting with the Sun cycle and making allowances for work, etc., a witch reserves the earlier parts of the day for practical affairs. She will not work on taxes, for instance, into the evening hours, but will start earlier in the season and devote some weekend daytime hours to the chore. Evening is for going within, withdrawing to one’s own hearth and communing with ancestors and familiar spirits.

2: Directions

It isn’t on any list of witch tools, but a compass is important to the modern witch so she can orient her life and work to the four directions. Witchcraft is always done in a physical context. Pagans are highly aware of their immediate environment and traffic with spirits of the field, yard, stream, the most prominent local tree, as well as with household spirits. The key to contacting household spirits lies in feelings.

When you first move into a new house or apartment, it feels cold and uninviting, especially if it hasn’t been lived in for a while. Not much later, it fits you comfortably like a suit of old clothes; and if, in addition, it is alive with saged boundaries and household shrines, you feel liked by the house as well as liking it yourself. This is a boundary perception, which we are taught to ignore or treat as a subjective matter, but if instead we address the good feelings and express our appreciation for the atmosphere of our dwelling, we break that boundary and begin to recover ancient pagan perception.

In the same way, outdoor sprites can be contacted through greater sensitivity to one’s feelings without discounting them from habit.

Upon awakening in the morning, when a witch is ready to start the day, it is a good practice to take out the compass and address the four quarters. One begins in the North, opening oneself to calming energy. Then to the East, holding in mind briefly what needs to be known or learned today. Then to the South, deciding the first tasks. Then to the West, expanding awareness according to one’s ways. Then seal to the North, stilling the mind and body once again. The witch is now ready to face the day.

3: Expanding Awareness

One way of expanding awareness when silently addressing the West is to relax and wait for something in your peripheral awareness to stand out and beckon your attention. It might be the reflection of something in a window, or the shadow of a tree or the spaces in its foliage. Whatever it is, when it gets your attention, continue to view it peripherally. You are in touch with its mana, or magical energy, and can use it throughout the day when you call it to mind. The image in your memory should be peripheral, not central, i.e. the way it looked when it got your attention. This can also be done with things heard peripherally. These are some of my ways.

4: Conserving Magical Energy

There is a kind of energy or power that the modern world has forgotten, though the memory of it is preserved in folk tales and myths. Indigenous peoples are well aware of it and live their lives with reference to it. While the immediate environment abounds in it, and we take it in all the time, we do not notice it because we squander it in habitual ways, habits that have been with us from early childhood. The ancient Latins called it numen, and the Mongolians, hiimori. It is always personal, taking on the features of the person holding it.

It is only by conserving this energy that the witch becomes ready to do magic, both in the circle and life. We don’t realize that everything takes energy, even unconscious ignoring of things in our environment, such as shadows, eyeglass frames, or background sounds. When we expand our attention to include such things, we gain the energy that was used in keeping them in the background of our attention, the penumbra or half-shadow. This energy is always exponentially higher than the small amount required to expand the attention.

The energy takes four forms for witches, associated with the four ancient elements. The energy of Air makes us learn and understand new things that hadn’t occurred to us before. In everyday life, it also manifests in any new knowledge or understanding.

The energy of Fire boosts the will and lets us accomplish tasks in life that seemed too big to tackle. In order to bring changes into our physical lives, we have to both give up some things, at least temporarily, and adopt other things or actions that further the goal. In the Craft, habits or actions that squander magical energy have to be sacrificed, and then the freed energy finds new outlets on its own.

The energy of Water attracts us to the unknown, and gives us the daring to escape the current limitations of our lives. This is the energy of initiation, which expands and transforms our awareness and can give our lives a whole new basis.

The energy of Earth is cloaked in silence. Witches seek inner and outer stillness, quite as much as Zen monks or Hindu yogis do. This stillness is deep, and the deeper the witch descends into it, the more he or she is transformed and the greater the magical energy that results. It is pursued gradually and at first in little things, like learning to sit still and not scratch, or refraining from certain topics in conversation.

Not that the witch is inactive, quite the contrary; Earth, the North, is also the place of our physicality, and the witch exercises regularly, and takes care of business through Fire and the South. Stillness refers instead to the enormous amount of energy we waste in fidgeting and performing other small, unnecessary actions, both mental and physical: for instance, compulsively repeating past conversations in one’s mind or rehearsing conversations to come in some hypothetical future event (for all thoughts of the future are hypothetical) .

The witch sums up a past event and plans for the future, but these are finite acts that come to an end, instead of repeating over and over and wearing on the nerves. The energy to be had by restricting such habits cannot be anticipated in advance. Out of stillness comes new understanding, closing the circle of practice towards Air and the East.

Thus the witch pursues the four powers of the magus: to know, to will, to dare, to keep silence. But there is a fifth power that results from the balanced development of the four: to go. The witch is saving energy for his or her definitive journey, the flight to the True Sabbat, fellowship and celebration with the ancestors, spirits, and deities in the other world. Folklore depicts it as a joyous occasion, and colors it with the pleasures and longings of the time when the tales were spun. Some tried to cut corners and get there more quickly through the use of the witch’s flying ointment. The actual flight may or may not follow traditional lines.

One may not literally fly up the chimney and then meet the Wild Hunt in the sky and fly to a rath or burg and descend therein through a tunnel into the Otherworld. The journey may parallel many of these features, nonetheless; and there are preliminary journeys to be made that go partway there.

The flight to the True Sabbat is a milestone on the way to the witch’s ultimate journey to the Sun, when he or she acquires a body of light that can materialize at will, so that further incarnations here in middle Earth are no longer needed. This transformation seals the work of the Craft and completes the vows made at initiation; thenceforth one does other work, perhaps as a guardian elemental, paying back for the help received along the way on this side by paying forward.

5: The Familiar

Witches traditionally kept a cat, sometimes a horse, as a familiar. The witch’s astral journeys were made in company with the spirit of the familiar.

The best information I have found on this practice is in Timothy Knab’s A War of Witches, a factual account of an anthropologist’s investigation, some twenty plus years later, of a battle with brujos and brujas in the highlands of central Mexico. In the course of his investigation, he is inducted into Toltec brujeria by one of the survivors and makes a journey to Tlalocan, the Toltec Underworld.

Tlaloc, the Lord of the Underworld, keeps animal spirits called naguals in his corrals. He gives a nagual to each human at birth. The nagual could perhaps be thought of as the link, within each of us, to other animals, inherited though latent from the prehistoric past. But it is a real spirit and to be a brujo one must find one’s nagual. Afterwards, an experienced brujo, through many journeys to Tlalocan, may have acquired a number of naguals, keeping them in fetish objects like puma’s claws, or in a special gourd.

The human soul is called the tonal. It has two halves. One faces towards the Sun and stands guard over the body when the dark lower half, the shadow, goes on journeys down the world pillar to the underworlds. The shadow is so called, both because it lies below our daily awareness and faces towards the nether regions, and because it follows its nagual into the depths as the latter’s shadow.

If the nagual is a cat spirit, the shadow takes on the semblance of a cat spirit. This is done for protection from hungry denizens of the deep, who prize the heart blood of a tonal but will let a nagual go by.

The discipline Knab goes through in becoming a brujo is well worth the reading. But to return to our own practice, preparation for a liaison with a cat familiar’s spirit, besides the obvious step of getting a cat, would seem to involve re-molding one’s own psyche closer to that of a feline. We do this unconsciously when we sit in company with a cat and enjoy its utter relaxation. Cats are content to go from moment to moment doing whatever they are doing, even if it is only resting.

We, however, often have a habit of doubting whether we are making best use of our time, or regretting we are not elsewhere doing other things. Cats, apparently, have no such qualms. The daily practice of witchcraft in fact promotes a calm mind fully given to the moment. Apparently cultivation of inner stillness connects us with the animal, pre-rational mind, so that we can enjoy shuttling between two minds, as the occasion permits.

This is only an example of how the witch models him or herself on a cat familiar. Whether or not one goes on journeys with the cat, cultivating a close relationship with one will draw the witch closer to his or her own inner, pre-rational mind, through which he or she can call up power from the Deep in circle.

6: The Patron Deity

It isn’t incumbent upon pagans to have a special relationship with a single deity, but it can be a rewarding experience. The pagan will continue to honor the other deities and spirits, of course, and may enter into a similar relationship with another later on. Suppililiumas, the king of the Hittites, was singularly devoted to his goddess, and as we know, his subject Abraham devoted his wandering life to his family god, the later Yahweh.

All gods stand ready to teach by sharing their consciousness, and by helping the devotee to practice the disciplines that lead to that awareness. Pagans will generally choose a patron deity (male or female) on the basis of temperamental preferences, though they may be influenced by a dream or vision. The relationship can be devotional or more like a friendship. In the latter case the deity is like an older mentor or senior partner. In late heathen times, Thor was popular with people seeking this latter relation.

In the Craft, the Lord and the Lady serve as patrons. The Lord is the year-god, who has waxing and waning aspects, and these replace each other at the solstices. Because the outgoing aspect dies and is reborn six months later, the Lord (sometimes called the Lad) is more of a demigod, and is not quite up to the Lady’s level. Witches and warlocks alike tend to relate to the Lord as a tutor or preceptor, and to the Lady devotionally.

The continental Celtic god Cernunnos is associated by modern witches with the year-god. He is known only from artifacts and only by the description given him by Greek traders in antiquity on the Ister or Danube river – the horned or antlered one (we do not know his Celtic name) . Cernunnos teaches witches the way to deal skillfully with both the outer and inner life.

The Oak King or waxing year aspect teaches, by example, how to deal with the outer world joyfully and fruitfully. The Holly King or waning aspect is the psycho pomp or soul-guide in Craft initiation, and also provides fellowship with ancestors at Samhain, October 31st.

On the Gundestrup cauldron, found in a peat bog in Denmark, Cernunnos is the central carved figure. He has two antlers, wears a torque or neck-ring signifying wealth, and holds another in his right hand, as bestower of wealth. His left hand grasps a ram-headed snake by the neck, an Underworld animal linked with healing and sacrifice.

It often happens that a pagan already pursues some discipline designed to conserve magical energy, and chooses an appropriate god or goddess, asking him or her to be the patron of that practice. If the god is willing, he or she will help, first of all, by reminding the devotee to practice whatever part of the askesis is appropriate for the present situation.

The devotee thanks his or her patron for these reminders, knowing from experience that practice would be slacker without them. As the partnership goes on, the world will start to take on the colors peculiar to that deity’s consciousness and personality, and will cause subtle changes in the personality of the devotee as well.

The patron deity also teaches in dreams and guides the devotee in waking life by means of signs and omens, often peculiar coincidences that seem mysteriously significant.

The Lady nurtures and feeds witches as well as all her children on the earth, and also teaches those who prefer to relate to a female divinity. The discipline taught by the Lady involves cleansing the emotions of their verbal accretions. The devotee learns to feel without thinking or analyzing or labeling the feeling. In this way, the witch or warlock draws closer to the animals, who have naked feelings unclothed in thoughts. The askesis of the Lady is especially suitable for couples.

7: Inventory

Supportive practices of witchcraft aim at optimizing the free flow of energy through the life of a witch.

A cluttered life is full of energy knots that trap old, stale energy called `miasma’ by the ancients. The first phase of a spell, purification, is designed to unravel one or more of these knots, so that an increase in the flow of magical energy renders the flow palpable. The energy must be felt to be directed, and as some of it is flowing all the time (however feebly) , the rate of flow must be increased for it to be felt. It can then be directed to a chosen purpose in the consecration phase, and, in the final phase, charged with all the force the witch can command through expanded awareness.

But if the witch’s life is full of energy knots, untying one or two of them by purification may not result in a very strong flow of energy. For a stronger flow, the witch must gradually remove clutter from his/her life so that energy knots are few and easily unraveled.

Clutter comes in many forms. There is mental and emotional clutter; the clutter of always being too busy because of over-commitment; the memory-clutter of too many unfinished projects; and the material clutter found in the home: over-stuffed closets, garages, basements, storage sheds, etc. This section is about material clutter.

By learning and applying the principles of feng shui, we can facilitate a free flow of the energy the Chinese call ch’i throughout the home; but before putting feng shui into practice, we must face and do something about the mountains of clutter tucked away in corners, closets, cupboards and other hiding places. We may think that if our accumulations are out of sight they will be out of mind as well, but the deeper, pre-rational mind we share with the animals keeps tabs on every least thimble.

When the writer Aldous Huxley’s house in California burned down, he remarked on how clean it felt to be free of so many possessions. This was a drastic example of what we can achieve in a smaller degree through the practice of inventory.

The deep mind keeps a file on every item we own, and these files must be closed and cleared away if the witch is to use the filing function for fulfilling oaths and following threads of self-discipline. Accordingly, at regular intervals a witch will go through some of his or her clutter, putting things together that belong together, and getting rid of items no longer needed. A good rule of thumb to follow is to keep what one can use (sentiment counts as a use) and put the rest where it is likely to do the most good. In this we see an illustration of the balance of the Craft, which aims at getting maximum enjoyment and effectiveness from possessions without getting bogged down in being possessed by them.

Putting things you don’t need where they will do the most good may mean giving things away; but be careful doing this, as you may lose friends if they feel you are dumping stuff on them. And above all, never tell anyone you are following the rule of inventory, as gifts should at least appear to be made from a feeling of friendship.

Closing accounts with past unfinished business, either by abandoning old projects or by completing them, leads to a greater integration with one’s past selves, and can clear a channel through memory, and far memory, for the witch to travel in the inner journey down to the Summerland

__________________________________________

1. For numen see Rose, H.J. in the bibliography.

2. For hiimori see Sangerel, both references, in the bibliography.

3. For the folklore of the Sabbat, see Jackson in the bibliography.

4. On the journey to the Sun, see Grimassi, p. 219, in the bibliography, also Nikhilananda, vol. II, p. 158.

5. See Knab in the bibliography.

6. See Gurney in the bibliography. More recently, a royal charter of King Suppliliumas has been found, authorizing a mercantile expedition to Byblos on the ancient Lebanese coast. Abraham may have been in it.

7. See Davidson (I) in the bibliography.

8. For the significance of Cernunnos in modern witchcraft, see Farrar in the bibliography.

9. See Davidson (II) in the bibliography.

_______________________________________________
Footnotes:
Bibliography:

Davidson, H.R. (I) , Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, London, Penguin Books, 1990.

__________ (II) , Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe, Syracuse, NY, Syracuse
University Press, 1988.

Farrar, Janet and Stewart, Eight Sabbats for Witches, Custer, WA, Phoenix Publishing, 1988.

Grimassi, Raven, Ways of the Strega, St. Paul, MN, Llwellyn Publications, 1995.

Gurney, O.R., The Hittites, London, Penguin Books, 1952.

Jackson, Nigel, Call of the Horned Piper,

Knab, Timothy J., A War of Witches, Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 1995.

Nikhilananda, Swami, translator, The Upanishads, in 4 vols. New York, Ramakrishna-
Vivekananda Center, 1975. Prasna Upanishad is in Vol. 2.

Rose, H.J., Religion in Greece and Rome, New York, Harper Torchbooks, 1959.

Sarangerel (I) , Chosen by the Spirits, Rochester, VT, Destiny Books, 2001.

_______ (II) , Riding Windhorses, Rochester, VT, Destiny Books, 2000.

The Natural Witch

The Natural Witch

Author:   Hypatia 

My mother was a natural witch. she died in 1998. She was not a nice witch. She practiced dark magick and was not a good mother. She abandoned me when I was just a child. My father tells me she was powerful and passionate. She would scare him with witchcraft.

The memories I have of her are so intense. I remember she loved nature… but she was a hunter. I remember she had a madness that seemed to plague the thoughts of others. I was four when she left on her journey. I guess it’s where she felt she needed to be.

Me… I stayed and waited… the journey of a four-year-old witch was a rollercoaster ride of emotion, turmoil and eventual discovery.

Even at four I felt different. My whole childhood I felt a strange connections to nature and my dreams. My stepmother used to say I was one with my dreams. I talked, walked and enacted my dreams even as I slept.

I ran away a handful of times. I wanted to find my birth mother. The first time I ran away I was 13. I was chanting on the streets of Long Beach, “I will be fine, no one will hurt me”. I came up to a Jack-in-the-Box and sure enough a large black man (maybe large to me because I was all of 13) offered to buy me fries and a drink and asked me to sit down.

I could tell by his eyes that he was a kind man, intuition mind you that I would begin discounting in my late teens. He knew I was running away and managed to talk me down from my emotional ledge. I walked home at midnight on a busy street across from a strip club with a sense of accomplishment. I may not have found my mother, but at least I was looking.

My parents thought I was strange about nature but put it off onto my Navajo roots. I used to stick my head out the window while my parents were driving to get a better look at trees. I spent hours in forest preserves. I always felt like someone was waiting for me. At first I thought it was my mother. It was, but not any mother I could visualize with my mental database at 13.

At 16, I was pushing my birth mother out, everything about her, especially the fact that she was a witch. Actually, as open-minded as I was, I wasn’t very apt to listening to the nonsense people spewed about witchcraft. I didn’t mock it. Somehow even at a rebellious 16, I was still respectful. I hated her though. I hated what she had done to my father.

At 18, I met and fell in love with a beautiful woman; it was the first time I had ever loved another woman in a romantic way. She was a witch. She was older than me. She was my mentor in many ways. I would laugh though as she would cast spells.

I would think she was ridiculous as she tried to teach me. I was intrigued, and the power was still in me, but the chaos was so strong. I couldn’t pull together a fragment of a thought, let alone try to piece together the history of my people.

My beautiful kept telling me that I was a natural witch. She said I had a power that I didn’t even know how to harness. She said she observed my connections with nature, but abilities to get anything I wanted without hurting people and again… the dreams. I told her I didn’t believe in that voodoo. I slowly pulled away from the first coven that I was ever in, without even knowing I was a part of something real.

It wasn’t until I turned 30 and forgave my birth mother that the Goddess really started to hone in on me. I felt Her everywhere. I craved the outdoors just to be near Her. I saw Her face in everything: the trees, the sky and the ocean. It seemed that even the wind was calling my name.

Still friends with the witch from my childhood, I began to confess my feelings. She smiled and said that she had known all along. She was just waiting for me to be found.

I have always had this power. It is confidence. It is love. It is compassion. And it is so much more. I cannot tell you any more than this. I am a private woman with my craft. I will not even share my name with others. The only person I tell anything to is my friend, and she only hears some things.

My husband doesn’t know. My kids are probably natural witches as well and that is a path they will find on their own. I found it, because the Goddess willed it so. I do not know if secrecy makes my powers stronger, but I figure I have no reason to share my identity with the world. If the Goddess wills it to be, it will be.

I wanted to share my story because I believe that others are like me. My grandfather was touched. My mother was touched. My brother and I are both touched. We never talk about it; but we know.

Maybe every person has the potential to harness such great power, but I know in my heart that the Goddess chose me. She sought me out. She spent 30 years waiting for me to find her. After my discovery I knew that She had been with me all along.

In retrospect, I felt Her with me at 11 while I was running through the meadow in the back of my house. I was a bookworm who never read outside. It was almost like outside is sacred. It was my first altar of sorts. I need this always to be my place of solace.

I respect my Mother, my Goddess, and reciprocate her kindnesses. I will always protect Her, the way She has always protected me.

A Little Humor for Your Day – ‘Top Thirteen Reasons To Be Pagan’

Top Thirteen Reasons To Be Pagan

13. I live for persecution!
12. I’m a night person at heart.
11. We respect our elders…and alders, and willows and oaks.
10. I just love explaining that a pentagram is NOT evil.
9. We do more after midnight than most people do all day!
8. Being burned at the stake is a great way to roast marshmallows.
7. We can talk to Elvis (and he IS dead).
6. You live, you learn, you die, you forget. Then you come back…
5. Double the deities, double the fun!
4. We get more holidays.
3. Brooms get great mileage.
2. We were here first!
1. BELTANE!!!

The Pagan Man

The Pagan Man

Author:   Panisch Lockelear   

When you see images of the green man, Hermes, and the horned gods of many pagan religious paths, it is easy to deduce that the male role is important within out pagan society. When I was younger, I went from elder to elder seeking to understand my role as a male in the ways of the various pagan paths. Although my findings were varied, a single idea prevailed. One of a strong man, full of wisdom. A protector of the innocent and a hunter and provider.

This was somewhat different from the images I was exposed to as a younger pagan male. The men that made up most of the pagan community seemed to be a little more and a little less, when measured to this general sense or idea of a pagan man.

On first impressions of the male pagan, I saw a man full of strong drink, drumming from dusk until dawn, a savage sexual appetite, and servant to the woman of their choosing. On the other hand I could also see a man that cared about his own and all children. I found a wealth of teachings about the land we call mother, and the ways and order of the circle of life we all share.

I must say that many ways and experiences from the pagan men who influenced me greatly, were in my mind conflicting. How could a strong man be a hunter, provider and protector of his clan or those who he was sided and also be sub servant, nurturing and bow to what seemed like a lesser position within our religion?

The men, who I learned from, were all of these things and more. Why then would they seem to take a lesser position within our pagan community?

In talking to a man who had the greatest impact on me as a pagan young man, I learned a lot from my mentor and elder Pond hopper I think he had the greatest impact on me, because he seemed to always have time to answer my often strange questions. He took the time to explain this to me and what I noticed was these were teachings he himself actually lived by.

I remember getting into the subject of pagan male role models and I asked him who his were. His answer surprised me. He said ‘ the Grey Squirrel’.

His words hit home for me. ‘You see, the Grey Squirrel helps his mate to make a house in the trees for the family, he helps her in gathering nuts and food for the long winter’. ‘ When a wayward bird comes along to attack him and his young, he becomes a fierce fighter, yet to see the male Grey Squirrel with his young, he is tender and playful.’

I thought on this and quickly replied to Pond hopper asking him, ‘ well what about sharks or fish, who eat their young or leave their young to fend for themselves, never becoming a part of their life?’

I realize his reply to me now was to make me think for myself. He said to me, ‘ Have you ever heard on the television or read in a paper where a man hurt one of his kids or left his family alone?’

Then he asked me…’ Why do you think that is?’

Of course I had no idea at that age as to why. Later on he explained by simply asking, it is funny how we mirror nature and nature seems to mirror us? The fact is we are not being mirrored at all, because we are apart of this circle of life.

We must play our role in this circle. The only difference between the animals and us is the fact that we can choose. We can choose to either be like the Grey Squirrel or like the shark. I pondered this for many years and found a lot of honor in his teachings.

I slowly began to understand that a good pagan man could be fierce and strong when need be. He can be a hunter and he can be a teacher as well.

A mature pagan man also understands that he is apart of a larger circle as well and must learn to adapt, live and work within both the clan family and the natural circles he finds himself in. I learned that there is a natural order and there is a wisdom needed to be able to navigate this order. This is something the pagan male will strive to become comfortable with by making mistakes and testing his bounds.

Falling down, becomes our teacher and the prize is wisdom. I have fallen down a lot in my life and on my pagan path. For that, I thank the gods and pond hopper for the effort and the gift of time they took to raise me to be a pagan man.

I still strive to understand the mother Earth and her circle that I must be a part of. I learned that I would fall down and in doing so I will learn. I know now that the role of the pagan male is something different to all of us depending on the teachers we have had. The way we have gained our wisdom to navigate the circles we are in are important. They are as important and those elders who take the time to teach us.

I am reminded that in my life as a pagan male, I am a role model for those younger men who watch me. They look to me for the knowledge needed to find their place within the circle as hunters, providers, protectors, servants, and men of real wisdom. I know that I owe a debt to the circle of life.

I know now that Pond Hopper was a man that understood the need to lead by example. I also know that while I may fall down, this is not the end of me. To be strong enough to do that means that I am not relegated to a lesser role within the pagan religion. My role is very well defined and the gods and my mentors are my guides.

The Magick of Life

The Magick of Life

Author:   Crick   

Have you ever taken a moment to notice the magick of life?

While walking along a country road, the reeds off to the side begin to waver to and fro. Is there a Sylph at play? Or is it Father Time heaving a sigh as he passes through?

Have you ever had the pleasure of listening to an old bullfrog bellowing out the blues? A grand old song of love lost and of love yet to be realized. An adage of life presented by way of the lyrics of nature in a symphonic way.

Have you watched as a caterpillar goes wafting along a rough barked tree? She is a beautiful metamorphous in motion, a budding mystery waiting to transform into a colorful and majestic form. From earth to sky, a wonderful delight forever touching our souls. The magick of life in a brief expanse of titillating color.

Have you ever noticed mother spider silently gazing over her web of silken strands. A superb artisan as she quietly guards the doorway to a special realm. Hers is an ancient lesson in patience. Sitting off to the side as a master shaman stealthily traverses from this realm to that using the glistening web as a mystic gateway into orbs of awareness floating about just beyond our senses.

Have you listened to the crescendo of a community of crickets as they sing in unison? First softly then loudly, then softly again, never missing a beat. An exercise in harmony, an everlasting bond of harmony. An awareness of their surroundings woven into the tapestry of their opera.

Such is the magick of life.

Have you ever noticed tiny dewdrops glistening like little diamonds clinging to the tall green blades of grass? An Undine child in the making perhaps as Father Sun draws them up into his warm embrace. Or perhaps a treasure forever in the making and yet never to be harvested.

Have you ever watched as a solitary leaf floats lazily out of the sky? Going this way and that and yet with a sure purpose. Directed by the currents of the breeze, much like life that is influenced by the changing winds of society. And yet a steady yet unseen goal looms before it.

Have you ever watched as a mother bird feeds her young? A bond of love stronger then steel and yet undetected by the human eye. The continuation of life, a magick ever so strong. For love can lead to birth as well as to death.

And so the wheel turns.

Have you ever watched as a black snake silently slithers across a path? A symbol of evil to some and yet seldom seen. Misunderstandings leading to fear, spiraling about in the darkness of ignorance. And yet knowledge will bring you back to the depths of understanding. And such awareness leads to tranquility and peace.

For such is the magick of life.

Have you ever watched a busy colony of ants? Oh the magick that resides within. A common purpose and involvement by all. No obstacle too great. No task too small. Surely lessons here to be learned by those who seek out such mysteries.

For the magick of life offers lessons not to be seen nor heard but to be felt and absorbed when we open up our hearts. Some teach that humans tower above nature. But as pagans it’s our way to be as one with life. For nature is life and the magick that she offers transcends all such misguided beliefs.

Have you noticed?

Deep within the forest, mother bruin lies within the embrace of hibernation, new life forming within her womb. An ancient ritual practiced through the ages. Have you ever wondered about her dreams as she sleeps through the frigid months of winter?
Now that is the magick of life.

Have you ever stood at the waters edge and watched as a mighty fish comes bursting through the surface of its watery domain? Perhaps it is carrying a message of truth and wisdom from He who resides in the murky depths.

Awaken witch, to the wonders of this realm. Listen to all that your ancestors knew to be true. Perhaps it is telling you to shake off the detritus of the mind and to feel with your heart that which is your destiny to experience as a pagan.

Far too long such knowledge has been suppressed by man; let nature be your ears and eyes.

Have you ever listened to the lone cry of a coyote during the moon lit night? A primal reaction to an awareness that has always been and will always be. Shaman quietly smiles in acknowledgement as his brother bids him welcome.

Such, my friend, is the magick of life.

Have you ever come upon the empty shell of a cicada clinging silently to a tree?

It would appear that death in place of life is in evidence; however a metamorphism onto a greater reality is the result of such an event. For death is the balance that creates life, one without the other is an energy, which has not come full circle, a partial reaction to what must be in order to be complete.

Have you ever sat amidst a field on the edge of dusk as an owl goes gliding quietly by? Some would say a witch in flight. Striking fear into its potential prey as it wings by on its deadly mission. And yet even fear has its place in the magick of life.

As pagans of whatever path, we too have something to contribute to the cacophony of magick that swirls all about us like a silent mist contained within the fog of reason.

Freeing our minds from the shackles of fears and insecurities that such knowledge brings to those who are not of pure heart is a step forwards towards such a contribution.

Acknowledging that such wisdom is within our ability to accept is a gift of awareness and acceptance that has been sorely lacking by so many of our species.

Throw off the blinders of prejudice and ignorance and allow yourself to be a student of life.

For the path of the pagan is truly the magick of life.