Halloween Costumes for the Zodiac

Halloween Costumes for the Zodiac

Spooky, sexy or silly? Astrology reveals your sign’s best costume

Jeff Kishner

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I’m Not a Broom. So What’s with the Closet?

I’m Not a Broom. So What’s with the Closet?

Author: Aoibhin   

When I say “Witch” let’s be honest… what’s the first image that comes to mind? For most, it’s that old green hag with the wart on her nose, right? When people find out I’m a Witch the first thing I get asked is if I ride a broom. My reply is “Yes I do; have you seen gas prices? Plus I earn flyer miles.” Jokes aside, we must look at how this issue came to be and why so many have not told people they are Wiccans. I like to call it the “Walt Disney factor “. Follow me here. I know it sounds odd, but it’s true. We are all familiar with movies like “Wizard of Oz” or “Snow White”. We all know movies like these have Witches, mostly bad ones. Those are the images we saw as children. Witches in those stories are often portrayed as a bad people casting evil on others and as old green women with warty noses.

Halloween, though I love the holiday, has not helped, all of those funny pictures of flying Witches in store windows or scary Witches in haunted houses. So, it’s not shocking that when we tell people who ask that we are Wiccan, we get the blank stare. What’s really going on is they are trying to process what we just said: is it a joke or are they for real? Doesn’t Wiccan mean Witch?

We can’t blame them for this misguided awkwardness. What I have found is that when people are faced with something that invokes fear, they fall back on what they know. This is where Walt figures in. The only association most people have with Witches is what they have seen on television or heard in scary bedtime stories as a child. So they freeze up and we turn green, grow a wart and start tossing newt tails and bat wings into a cauldron for cooking small children.

What is a real Witch to do? Well, what we can’t undo is the damage that’s been hundreds of years in the making. However we can become teachers and lead by positive and productive examples in our communities. I myself noticed this damage when I kicked open the invisible broom closet door and flew out. I didn’t see a need for a graceful exit with my “love me or leave, take me for who I am” view on life. There were some who didn’t agree with my newfound faith, not that I cared because I was finally happy. Then there where others, those filled with questions and concern for my safety and soul. Not sure on how to go about answering them, I jumped into research mode. What I found was shocking but helpful in understanding why we are looked at in society like we are. It seems back in the ole days a Witch’s cheery and loving outlook on life wasn’t always favored among the town’s folk.

So just when did the “broom closet” start accepting candidates? There are many sides to the tale on time period, but they all end roughly the same way. Let’s dive right in starting with the earliest I could find on the subject: the Inquisition. The French Inquisition started in the 12th century. The reason it started was to combat the wide spread of heresy. What is heresy you may ask? Well, it is defined many forms. Heresy addresses violations of Religious, traditional laws, or moral ethics. Christianity was well on its way to becoming the more popular of the religions at this time, so Witchcraft was on its way out, being labeled as heresy. An accusation of heresy was no subject to be laughed at and came with stiff punishments. When the purpose of the Inquisition is translated from the 1578 Handbook for Inquisitors it states, “For punishment does not take place primarily and per se for the good of the person being punished, but for the public good in order that others may become terrified and be weaned away from the evils they would commit.”

It is estimated that during the times when anti-Witchcraft laws were passed, the Inquisition period in history, somewhere between 40, 000 and 60, 000 people were executed. Townspeople were often lead down a garden path due to the lack of education, so it made them easily tricked into believing Witches were evil. When you add fear into any problem it breeds hate and so the torturing of Witches was not viewed as inhuman. Lies of Witches dancing with the Devil, and casting evil spells on people causing harm or death to their families, were found everywhere. The truth that Witches did good things for the town’s people became just a myth. Long forgotten was the mid-wife and doctor role they played in small farming townships. No more did the people ask them to help with beautiful festivals to bring favor on harvesting of crops or long lasting marriages from the Lord and Lady. No, now it was to be pain, hiding, and slander.

Pain was rained down on the accused Witches in order to gain a confession in hopes of saving the soul. Horrible acts of violence carried out while others watched. Punishments were called “tests”, used to find out if the condemned was in fact a Witch. One such ‘test’ involved strapping a large rock to the person and pushing him/her into deep waters. If she/he floats to the top, she/he was a Witch and executed. If they sank and drowned, then a prayer would be said for their souls. Often times, people received daily beatings instead of tests until they confessed to certain wrong doings. Many people confessed even though they were innocent just to end the pain, which usually still meant death. This death could involve being burned alive or hung at the gallows, if the prisoners were lucky. These beatings took a toll on the body causing the skin to bruise and bones to break. So by the time the accused was marched through town to have rotten vegetables and harsh words slung at them, they would indeed appear green in tone and the broken nose could very well look hooked and warty.

Now that we know how Witches became green, let’s take a look at how we fly! Well hold on to your seats… here it is… back in the day, Witches used what was called “Flying Ointment”. It was rumored that this special ointment would allow us to fly on our brooms to demonic orgies and converse with Satan. Now comes the truly funny part in all this… most Witches do not believe in Satan, demons, or hell. So if this special ointment didn’t help us fly, what did it do? The ointment was used to help aide us in divination or seeing into the future. The herbs it contained are poisonous and I warn you against its use. It contains herbs such as Deadly Nightshade (yes, deadly means deadly) and Wolfbane. The ointment never contained Poppy, although it was a popular myth. When mixed correctly in a topical ointment and rubbed on the skin such as the arms and legs the poisonous toxins slowly work their way into your nervous system. The toxins would then cause a floating or flying feeling along with powerful hallucinations. In order to explain what was going on to the best they could, non-users put the image of the green, elderly, wart warning “Witch” on a broom as a picture to use for decoration at Halloween to strike fear into small children.

Luckily for the modern Witch, the last anti-witch law was lifted in 1950. Even with the change in the laws it hasn’t made it easier for the world to accept us again. Still, many seek refuge in the silence and practice behind closed doors. We are getting somewhat of a boost with shows such as “Charmed” and movies like “Practical Magic”. I’m not saying everyone will find the publicity good but at least we aren’t green. Every little bit helps.

Witches are just like everyone else. Matter of fact, if a Witch walked up to most people on the street or sat next to them on a bus, folks wouldn’t know. Perhaps one day the balance will be restored and harmony will rule. Until then, a girl can dream. One thing is for sure: Witches leave behind a touch of magic in the lives of everyone we befriend.

Blessed be,
Aoibhin!

Which Witch? Philosophical and Psychological Roots of Wicca

Which Witch? Philosophical and Psychological Roots of Wicca

Author:   Radko Vacek   

Here is the background story for the jackpot question! English folklore is a treasury of tales. Two of these are so old that they probably helped Jeoffrey Chaucer as a little boy (c. 1350) to develop his imagination to write The Canterbury Tales. Both folktales involve Witches. The one involves a Witch getting melted by water, which was incorporated into The Wizard of Oz. The second actually involves a Witch getting EATEN, by a little boy! Which Witch is she? For the jackpot, name that Witch! Tick-tick-tick- time’s up! Did you win? Check* at the end of this article!

I really did it this time! Here I am supposed to be a writer, and I make my entry as a game show host! Am I guilty of foolishness, rightly convicted to rejection?

No! I was guilty, but I CHOOSE to make myself innocent through the power of Witchcraft! As Witches, we can choose to do that, contrary to what Christians say. They say that the human condition is a coin which has the following two sides: 1) no matter what we ever do, never can we by our powers alone redeem our sins, and 2) no matter what we did, our souls can be saved, if we accept the love of God.

I say that whatever I did is irrelevant with respect to my status now, because I can choose to do this: to develop and use my power to magically transform my nature from weakness to strength, including in the moral sense from guilt to innocence. According to Christians, we are doomed to be sinners by our powerless nature, whereas we can exercise our power of choice to magically empower ourselves.

I agree with Christians up to this point: human nature strongly tends to be evil. The ideas of many prominent philosophers and writers over the ages were summarized by Dr. Sigmund Freud, in this statement in his book Civilization and Its Discontents: “Man is a savage beast”. First of all, man is an animal; it is impossible for any animal to ‘harm none’. No animal can make its own nutrients, as do plants in cooperation with the sun. All animals are in competition with one another to kill other life in order to sustain their own lives. Even so-called harmless hares are not, because they compete to kill plants to survive. Plants, although different from animals, are forms of life nonetheless.

In us, this harmfulness is especially pronounced through the powers of our human brains. The more powerful, the more dangerous, and this is especially important to us, empowered through choosing Witchcraft! We have a moral obligation to the world to abide 100% under ALL circumstances to the ideal of the Wiccan Rede, meaning always to avoid harming to the utmost limits of our capacities.

The vileness of our species is not limited to adults. In fact, it often is more pronounced in children. Many people love to sentimentally depict little children as little angels. Is that ever a joke! Generally, it is lucky that they don’t have the power coming with being big. In order to keep them under control, sometimes you must play the part of the wicked Witch of the West. How fascinating to note that Margaret Hamilton, who played her, started out teaching kindergarten! I bet she got practice for her most famous role with the little devils, nipping those horns at the buds. Young children have not developed their consciences enough to where they can nip those points themselves.

As we move on into our later childhoods and beyond, the conscience is nurtured into a more potent force, so that it starts to hurt our self-esteem to recognize ourselves as evil. This does not necessarily at all mean that we stop doing bad deeds. Our brains also grow, to where we can rationalize our bad deeds in order to keep feeling good about ourselves, even as we act cruelly. For instance, many Christians love to rationalize their cruelty to animals by saying, “They don’t have souls, ” even though in their Bible, Proverbs 12: 10, cruelty to animals is condemned as wicked. Lest I be accused of picking on Christians, we Witches are great at rationalizing our cruelty, making brilliant excuses for working black magic on those we judge worth “the best!”

Never do I have the right, being just human myself, to execute judgment on another person, “to play God, ” as they say. I think that we are okay in working a spell to petition our grievances about others, and ourselves too, to the Higher Powers, but for their judgment, not ours! The domain of the REAL Witch always has been healing, never malpractice on perceived enemies. If we do, then we disgrace our calling no less than Nazi doctors.

So that I am not accused of advocating standards that I myself could not keep, I have experienced such temptations, and for a while, I did yield to them. I have had quite some stresses over the past twenty-two years, and have blamed certain perceived enemies and a side of myself, and I have hated them, and them in me, for it. An important lesson in psychology is that, when I point my finger at others, my four remaining ones are pointing back at me. That is, the things I hate in others probably also are things that I hate in myself. I have yielded to temptation in starting to hex in order to destroy those enemies and that hated side of myself. I am thankful that I have since grown into a real Witch, one strong enough to stop myself from playing judge. I have not forgotten, but now I leave the matter to Divine Judgment regarding others and myself. We become real Witches when we realize that we do not have the right to destroy. The Wiccan Rede is not an afterthought; it is at the very heart of real Witchcraft.

Besides rationalizing, unconsciously lying, how else do grown-ups remedy guilt? Christians believe that, although we all are doomed to be sinners, we can become saved sinners. As a Witch, I believe that I am not doomed to stay wicked, no matter what I may have done. I have magical powers to develop, and, beyond regenerating things physically, among the most noble uses of these powers is rehabilitating myself morally, so that I can look myself in the mirror and have self-respect without self-deception.

One of the worst side effects of Christianity is to deny rehabilitation as a serious possibility. Even though Jesus taught us to forgive one another, in practice Christian society has become unforgiving. Christians have corrupted the premise that we are morally powerless into a prejudice that people do not have the power to rehabilitate. There is an attitude of, “Once a crook, always one, ” very much in effect everywhere. In fact, all it takes to be off the list of candidates is having changed jobs a lot when you were younger, even being unemployed for more than six months! How merciful! People are judged by their resumes, what they have done in the past, without regard for what they may have made of themselves through learning from experience. I define Error as the best teacher. Show me the person who never made errors and I will show you someone who has not learned much, and is among my prime suspects for the fool! Christians say we are sinners for being imperfect, and I say no one gets wise by being perfect. They call them sinners, but I call a few of them sages, the real Witches.

This topic of real Witches as ones exercising their magical powers to perfect their imperfections leads into another essential point. Beginners, I do suspect, see Witchcraft as a means to bend the surrounding world to their wills. However, much of the Craft, and often the most effective working, is directed toward changing the inner reality of the world made largely out of our own perceptions.

Let us embark on an active way of knowing what makes the Witch a Witch.

Why not start this in a light vein, or may I say, a light paw? In my poem, Meeeow! posted on Witchvox, the speaker, a Witch, declares, “No matter what you think I am, I know I am the cat, for how my light paws go.” The witch has changed her very being, from human to feline, by most thoroughly playing the part of the cat. This is not much a matter of the objective truth of what the Witch is, but much more of the subjective reality of how she is perceived to be. As far as all the other cats experience her, “I am one too, to all the other cats, for what I do.” Her acts determine their and our perceptions, which determine the reality of the subjective world, in which we all also live. In fact, more of what we know as the world arises from experiencing our own, personal, inner reality than from experiencing whatever the truths of the surrounding, outside world may be.

This brings to mind, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a well-known short story by James Thurber. The author described the world in which his character lived, consisting of a reality only vaguely corresponding to the truth of the outer world, largely made by Mr. Mitty himself out of his own perceptions. We all could be a.k.a. Walter Mitty, because we all live in our private worlds made largely out of the reality of our own unique perceptions. We can make sense out of seemingly nonsensical behavior, if we understand the reality of perceptions underlying it.

I have come to value the redeeming graces of the cat – magical, graceful, redeemed by beauty – more than ever before, because now dogs no longer scare them out of my field of experience. Canine-oriented parents raised me, and until three years ago, always I had dogs, mostly more than one at a time. Up until the end of 2009, I used to walk a pack of four dogs, a feat for which I was well known but hardly always lauded. Whatever other people might have thought I was, to my dogs I was one of them, “top dog” of the pack. It was not a matter of the truth of what I was, but rather the reality of what I was perceived to be. The truth versus the reality – that is the distinction at the heart of understanding the working of magic and the nature of a Witch.

I propose that at least two-thirds of magic happens in the minds of perceivers. There is this common misunderstanding that when something is in your mind, it is “just in your mind”, meaning it is not real. Nothing can be further from the truth! The magic happening in your mind is among the most potent, energy-efficient, and moral magic that can be. Below follows my rationale for my statement:

Suppose that you are discontent with your limited material possessions. If you are a typical disciple of the Craft, then you will work some form of spell for prosperity or better employment. A better working, however, would treat the discontent. Why? Because really the problem is much more that your discontent is causing you to perceive your material possessions as inadequate, rather than that your material possessions are truly inadequate and cause you to feel discontent. The following maxim makes quite some sense: treasure what you have and you have treasure. Objectively, you may have little, but if you are satisfied with it, then you are subjectively richer than someone among the richest, yet who is not satisfied and always wants more. Therefore, it is better to work the magic between your ears, turning your discontented mind into a contented one.

Besides, it usually takes less energy to magically transform your mind than to bend the whole, wide world out there to suit your desire! This also is more moral; because it often is unfair to impose on the world in order fulfill your own selfish wishes. The world has its own legitimate pursuits for which that extra energy is needed; so do not hog it for yourself! The following story clarifies this:

Once upon a time, a boy was born with very sensitive eyes. Every time he went outside, he would feel nearly blinded by the daylight, which was very painful to his eyes. He decided to invoke the god Hyperion, to beg his cooperation in a spell to dull the intensity of sunshine when he was outside. The spelled worked and he gave his utmost gratitude to “The One Above”. Really though, the sunshine was just as bright as ever. Hyperion knew that the trees and all other living things welcomed the brightness of sunshine after winter, and that their survival depended on it. The spell was granted between the boy’s ears, so that his mind would better tolerate the sunshine. But the result was exactly the same as far as the boy could tell, and this way both he and the world were left contented.

As I have written, the distinction between the truth and the reality is at the heart of understanding the working of magic and the nature of a Witch. In terms of the example I just gave, the truth of the brightness of sunshine stayed the same, but the reality of the world as the boy perceived it changed, and this clearly was the easier, far kinder magical solution. What does this tell us about the nature of the Witch?

The competent Witch has the wisdom and the ethics to choose the better solution. It is forgotten that the name ‘Witch’ shares its roots with the word ‘wisdom’. The real Witch discerns that, at least sometimes, the better solution may not even be the magical one, and that the moral solution typically is the more efficient one as well.

I may be ready to give a tentative definition of the Witch: A Witch is a person with a deep knowledge of the objective truths and the subjective realities of the world, acquired through CHOOSING to interact, not only physically, but also metaphysically, that is, magically, with the things of the world.

Why would the real Witch sometimes not choose a magical solution? Consider the example of a student who wants to be a doctor, but is not making the grades. Should she work a spell to do so? She could, but very few medical students have worked spells to get into and through school. When I was in graduate school working toward an M.A. in psychology, my academic advisor asked me how many hours of sleep I got each night. I answered eight. Dr. Benjamin Luck told me, “If you ever go on for your doctorate, you will have to learn to get by on less than eight hours of sleep. When I was working on mine, I was lucky if I got five.” His advice also would make a fine solution for the would-be medical student in my example. Diligence sometimes beats spells in solving problems!

On the other hand, there are times when one type of magic may be the best solution after all. All the diligence may not work without the prerequisite aptitude. For instance, medical students are very diligent, but doctors also have I.Q.s averaging about 130, in the top 2% of the population. If someone’s intelligence is only average, the M.D. is most likely an unrealistic goal. In similar cases, the magical transformation between the ears, meaning changing perception, often is the best solution.

I have heard many young adults who like animals say they want to be veterinarians. The D.V.M. often is even harder than the M.D. to accomplish. It is obvious that most of these young people will not meet the requirements. Why not try going the vet. tech. route? That may not be so easy either, but usually it is much more realistic! They need to work the magic of turning their fantasies into realistic goals. As I wrote before, this is a very real magic. It is not necessary to be a “big shot” in order to feel fulfilled; this feeling of fulfillment, rather than egotistical pride, is the goal of much worthwhile magic.

Is it possible to raise I.Q. magically? Yours yes, mine no! I am hopeless! But are you sure you want to be a genius? A quote of Sir Henry Maximilian Beerhohm advises us, “I have known no man of genius who had not to pay, in some affliction or defect, either physical or spiritual, for what the gods had given him.” He himself was an ingenious writer, so I bet he knew what he was talking about. Before you sign your name in the blood of magical commitment, be sure to read the fine print!

This leads to a common misunderstanding of the nature of Witchcraft, the idea that magic is a way to make major changes with minimal investment. It is the misconception that, by using a few affordable supplies, you can bend the whole world to grant your wishes. This is a lottery-ticket type of fantasy.

All Witches should remember one of the most essential laws ever: the Law of Conservation. Although it is taught in physics, it is equally essential to metaphysics, and applies every bit as much here and now as it does in a chemistry lab. In lay terms its essential meaning is that we cannot get something for nothing. We should only expect to get out of the world, what we put into it.

Yes, the Witch accepts that the world has enough degrees of freedom to allow magical transformations to be, but still, no real Witch is foolish enough to expect extraordinary magic, that which bends the whole world, without extraordinary discipline. Every beginner would love to have the powers of a Witch Doctor. They forget that Witch Doctors typically have endured prerequisite ordeals, which could easily have been fatal, in order to acquire their world-bending powers. Yes, some problems do require Herculean power to solve, but perhaps most magical solutions involve the mental magic of changing our perceived reality, much easier on us and, as I have stated, probably fairer to the surrounding world.

The choice is yours as the aspiring Witch. Neither choice is inherently better. The easier way, although maybe not heroic, often is more realistic, and life is, after all, hard enough without making it harder. On the other hand, the harder way, although earned at great cost, may well be heroic, and there is a satisfaction in reaching “the seemingly unreachable star” not to be gained any other way. Novice Witch, CHOOSE your values and pursue your way!

The verb ‘to choose’ is highlighted because our strong endorsement of choosing is largely what sets us apart from Christians. They believe none of us has the choice to transcend our sinful nature, just to let it be redeemed through accepting Divine Love. Let us turn our attention to the Witch defined in terms of being someone who chooses to believe in a certain way. I do not think one can choose to be an atheist and stay consistent with being a Witch. There is a religious component that naturally goes together with the Craft, with the practice and the theology being like two sides of one coin.

Here is a tentative, expanded version of my definition: A Witch is a person with a deep knowledge of the objective truths and the subjective realities of the world, acquired through CHOOSING to interact, not only physically, but also metaphysically, that is, magically, with the things of the world. An essential part of the subjective reality of the Witch arises from CHOOSING to revere Higher Powers operating in nature, and to realize the divine, magical potentials in oneself.

We do well in asking, does the Witch need to be defined in any theological context at all? In the Oxford definition, the Devil is implied; the word ‘evil’ is contained in ‘Devil’, the personification of evil. In my tentative definition, I have referred to Higher Powers and divine potentials. Can we find a new, secular definition of Witch, as illustrated by the series Bewitched? The Witches there, I am fairly sure, never were portrayed as practicing a religion, nor, as far as I know, were there ever any allusions made to religion.

Nonetheless, at a subliminal level, it was the overturning of the conservative, tyrannical stance toward being a Witch, and more generally being somehow different, which gave that series its charm. In fact, the story-line of the series would have failed as comedy without religion subliminally supporting it. It was comical mainly because of Darrin playing nearly a parody of a minister saying, thou shalt not do it, while Samantha always ended up wiggling her nose anyway. The main point was that she did it without tragic results, without getting struck by lightning for doing it. She could be seen as practicing a religion of liberalism, obviously without the scripts explicitly making this point. Her behavior can be seen as reflecting an underlying, liberal philosophy of seeing the God of Genesis as Mr. Liberal, with the right to CHOOSE as his first and finest gift to her and to all of us. Therefore, I do not think that Witches as magically empowered persons can be divorced from the deity empowering them.

The verb ‘to CHOOSE’ is in caps throughout for an essential reason. All people, when they say that they do some action, really mean that they choose to do it, but this fact is kept implicit, and therefore done nearly automatically and just semiconsciously. The distinction of the Witch is making the choice explicitly, choosing deliberately. By doing so, she considerably extends her power to choose, and indirectly to change her inner reality and the outside world as well. By making herself aware that she is choosing to do anything, not limited to magic, she gains more and more control over her faculty of choice and more refinement in exercising this power to choose.

No, I am not guilty of sexism for using the feminine pronoun. Witchcraft continues to be associated with femininity, but males too have the feminine inner reality of their anima, according to the great psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung.

Have I been guilty of wasting your time with this article? If so, I apologize. We can assume that I think it was worth writing, but regarding whether or not it was worth your reading, only you are smart enough to be the judge! I accept your judgment!

*Are you a winner as well? The answer to the QUESTION is: The SandWich!

P.S. If you are a winner, congratulations! Just to let you know, at last I have picked a magical name: The SandWich. I find it in good taste. I hope you do too!

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Which Witch? Philosophical and Psychological Roots of Wicca

Which Witch? Philosophical and Psychological Roots of Wicca

Author:   Radko Vacek   

Here is the background story for the jackpot question! English folklore is a treasury of tales. Two of these are so old that they probably helped Jeoffrey Chaucer as a little boy (c. 1350) to develop his imagination to write The Canterbury Tales. Both folktales involve Witches. The one involves a Witch getting melted by water, which was incorporated into The Wizard of Oz. The second actually involves a Witch getting EATEN, by a little boy! Which Witch is she? For the jackpot, name that Witch! Tick-tick-tick- time’s up! Did you win? Check* at the end of this article!

I really did it this time! Here I am supposed to be a writer, and I make my entry as a game show host! Am I guilty of foolishness, rightly convicted to rejection?

No! I was guilty, but I CHOOSE to make myself innocent through the power of Witchcraft! As Witches, we can choose to do that, contrary to what Christians say. They say that the human condition is a coin which has the following two sides: 1) no matter what we ever do, never can we by our powers alone redeem our sins, and 2) no matter what we did, our souls can be saved, if we accept the love of God.

I say that whatever I did is irrelevant with respect to my status now, because I can choose to do this: to develop and use my power to magically transform my nature from weakness to strength, including in the moral sense from guilt to innocence. According to Christians, we are doomed to be sinners by our powerless nature, whereas we can exercise our power of choice to magically empower ourselves.

I agree with Christians up to this point: human nature strongly tends to be evil. The ideas of many prominent philosophers and writers over the ages were summarized by Dr. Sigmund Freud, in this statement in his book Civilization and Its Discontents: “Man is a savage beast”. First of all, man is an animal; it is impossible for any animal to ‘harm none’. No animal can make its own nutrients, as do plants in cooperation with the sun. All animals are in competition with one another to kill other life in order to sustain their own lives. Even so-called harmless hares are not, because they compete to kill plants to survive. Plants, although different from animals, are forms of life nonetheless.

In us, this harmfulness is especially pronounced through the powers of our human brains. The more powerful, the more dangerous, and this is especially important to us, empowered through choosing Witchcraft! We have a moral obligation to the world to abide 100% under ALL circumstances to the ideal of the Wiccan Rede, meaning always to avoid harming to the utmost limits of our capacities.

The vileness of our species is not limited to adults. In fact, it often is more pronounced in children. Many people love to sentimentally depict little children as little angels. Is that ever a joke! Generally, it is lucky that they don’t have the power coming with being big. In order to keep them under control, sometimes you must play the part of the wicked Witch of the West. How fascinating to note that Margaret Hamilton, who played her, started out teaching kindergarten! I bet she got practice for her most famous role with the little devils, nipping those horns at the buds. Young children have not developed their consciences enough to where they can nip those points themselves.

As we move on into our later childhoods and beyond, the conscience is nurtured into a more potent force, so that it starts to hurt our self-esteem to recognize ourselves as evil. This does not necessarily at all mean that we stop doing bad deeds. Our brains also grow, to where we can rationalize our bad deeds in order to keep feeling good about ourselves, even as we act cruelly. For instance, many Christians love to rationalize their cruelty to animals by saying, “They don’t have souls, ” even though in their Bible, Proverbs 12: 10, cruelty to animals is condemned as wicked. Lest I be accused of picking on Christians, we Witches are great at rationalizing our cruelty, making brilliant excuses for working black magic on those we judge worth “the best!”

Never do I have the right, being just human myself, to execute judgment on another person, “to play God, ” as they say. I think that we are okay in working a spell to petition our grievances about others, and ourselves too, to the Higher Powers, but for their judgment, not ours! The domain of the REAL Witch always has been healing, never malpractice on perceived enemies. If we do, then we disgrace our calling no less than Nazi doctors.

So that I am not accused of advocating standards that I myself could not keep, I have experienced such temptations, and for a while, I did yield to them. I have had quite some stresses over the past twenty-two years, and have blamed certain perceived enemies and a side of myself, and I have hated them, and them in me, for it. An important lesson in psychology is that, when I point my finger at others, my four remaining ones are pointing back at me. That is, the things I hate in others probably also are things that I hate in myself. I have yielded to temptation in starting to hex in order to destroy those enemies and that hated side of myself. I am thankful that I have since grown into a real Witch, one strong enough to stop myself from playing judge. I have not forgotten, but now I leave the matter to Divine Judgment regarding others and myself. We become real Witches when we realize that we do not have the right to destroy. The Wiccan Rede is not an afterthought; it is at the very heart of real Witchcraft.

Besides rationalizing, unconsciously lying, how else do grown-ups remedy guilt? Christians believe that, although we all are doomed to be sinners, we can become saved sinners. As a Witch, I believe that I am not doomed to stay wicked, no matter what I may have done. I have magical powers to develop, and, beyond regenerating things physically, among the most noble uses of these powers is rehabilitating myself morally, so that I can look myself in the mirror and have self-respect without self-deception.

One of the worst side effects of Christianity is to deny rehabilitation as a serious possibility. Even though Jesus taught us to forgive one another, in practice Christian society has become unforgiving. Christians have corrupted the premise that we are morally powerless into a prejudice that people do not have the power to rehabilitate. There is an attitude of, “Once a crook, always one, ” very much in effect everywhere. In fact, all it takes to be off the list of candidates is having changed jobs a lot when you were younger, even being unemployed for more than six months! How merciful! People are judged by their resumes, what they have done in the past, without regard for what they may have made of themselves through learning from experience. I define Error as the best teacher. Show me the person who never made errors and I will show you someone who has not learned much, and is among my prime suspects for the fool! Christians say we are sinners for being imperfect, and I say no one gets wise by being perfect. They call them sinners, but I call a few of them sages, the real Witches.

This topic of real Witches as ones exercising their magical powers to perfect their imperfections leads into another essential point. Beginners, I do suspect, see Witchcraft as a means to bend the surrounding world to their wills. However, much of the Craft, and often the most effective working, is directed toward changing the inner reality of the world made largely out of our own perceptions.

Let us embark on an active way of knowing what makes the Witch a Witch.

Why not start this in a light vein, or may I say, a light paw? In my poem, Meeeow! posted on Witchvox, the speaker, a Witch, declares, “No matter what you think I am, I know I am the cat, for how my light paws go.” The witch has changed her very being, from human to feline, by most thoroughly playing the part of the cat. This is not much a matter of the objective truth of what the Witch is, but much more of the subjective reality of how she is perceived to be. As far as all the other cats experience her, “I am one too, to all the other cats, for what I do.” Her acts determine their and our perceptions, which determine the reality of the subjective world, in which we all also live. In fact, more of what we know as the world arises from experiencing our own, personal, inner reality than from experiencing whatever the truths of the surrounding, outside world may be.

This brings to mind, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a well-known short story by James Thurber. The author described the world in which his character lived, consisting of a reality only vaguely corresponding to the truth of the outer world, largely made by Mr. Mitty himself out of his own perceptions. We all could be a.k.a. Walter Mitty, because we all live in our private worlds made largely out of the reality of our own unique perceptions. We can make sense out of seemingly nonsensical behavior, if we understand the reality of perceptions underlying it.

I have come to value the redeeming graces of the cat – magical, graceful, redeemed by beauty – more than ever before, because now dogs no longer scare them out of my field of experience. Canine-oriented parents raised me, and until three years ago, always I had dogs, mostly more than one at a time. Up until the end of 2009, I used to walk a pack of four dogs, a feat for which I was well known but hardly always lauded. Whatever other people might have thought I was, to my dogs I was one of them, “top dog” of the pack. It was not a matter of the truth of what I was, but rather the reality of what I was perceived to be. The truth versus the reality – that is the distinction at the heart of understanding the working of magic and the nature of a Witch.

I propose that at least two-thirds of magic happens in the minds of perceivers. There is this common misunderstanding that when something is in your mind, it is “just in your mind”, meaning it is not real. Nothing can be further from the truth! The magic happening in your mind is among the most potent, energy-efficient, and moral magic that can be. Below follows my rationale for my statement:

Suppose that you are discontent with your limited material possessions. If you are a typical disciple of the Craft, then you will work some form of spell for prosperity or better employment. A better working, however, would treat the discontent. Why? Because really the problem is much more that your discontent is causing you to perceive your material possessions as inadequate, rather than that your material possessions are truly inadequate and cause you to feel discontent. The following maxim makes quite some sense: treasure what you have and you have treasure. Objectively, you may have little, but if you are satisfied with it, then you are subjectively richer than someone among the richest, yet who is not satisfied and always wants more. Therefore, it is better to work the magic between your ears, turning your discontented mind into a contented one.

Besides, it usually takes less energy to magically transform your mind than to bend the whole, wide world out there to suit your desire! This also is more moral; because it often is unfair to impose on the world in order fulfill your own selfish wishes. The world has its own legitimate pursuits for which that extra energy is needed; so do not hog it for yourself! The following story clarifies this:

Once upon a time, a boy was born with very sensitive eyes. Every time he went outside, he would feel nearly blinded by the daylight, which was very painful to his eyes. He decided to invoke the god Hyperion, to beg his cooperation in a spell to dull the intensity of sunshine when he was outside. The spelled worked and he gave his utmost gratitude to “The One Above”. Really though, the sunshine was just as bright as ever. Hyperion knew that the trees and all other living things welcomed the brightness of sunshine after winter, and that their survival depended on it. The spell was granted between the boy’s ears, so that his mind would better tolerate the sunshine. But the result was exactly the same as far as the boy could tell, and this way both he and the world were left contented.

As I have written, the distinction between the truth and the reality is at the heart of understanding the working of magic and the nature of a Witch. In terms of the example I just gave, the truth of the brightness of sunshine stayed the same, but the reality of the world as the boy perceived it changed, and this clearly was the easier, far kinder magical solution. What does this tell us about the nature of the Witch?

The competent Witch has the wisdom and the ethics to choose the better solution. It is forgotten that the name ‘Witch’ shares its roots with the word ‘wisdom’. The real Witch discerns that, at least sometimes, the better solution may not even be the magical one, and that the moral solution typically is the more efficient one as well.

I may be ready to give a tentative definition of the Witch: A Witch is a person with a deep knowledge of the objective truths and the subjective realities of the world, acquired through CHOOSING to interact, not only physically, but also metaphysically, that is, magically, with the things of the world.

Why would the real Witch sometimes not choose a magical solution? Consider the example of a student who wants to be a doctor, but is not making the grades. Should she work a spell to do so? She could, but very few medical students have worked spells to get into and through school. When I was in graduate school working toward an M.A. in psychology, my academic advisor asked me how many hours of sleep I got each night. I answered eight. Dr. Benjamin Luck told me, “If you ever go on for your doctorate, you will have to learn to get by on less than eight hours of sleep. When I was working on mine, I was lucky if I got five.” His advice also would make a fine solution for the would-be medical student in my example. Diligence sometimes beats spells in solving problems!

On the other hand, there are times when one type of magic may be the best solution after all. All the diligence may not work without the prerequisite aptitude. For instance, medical students are very diligent, but doctors also have I.Q.s averaging about 130, in the top 2% of the population. If someone’s intelligence is only average, the M.D. is most likely an unrealistic goal. In similar cases, the magical transformation between the ears, meaning changing perception, often is the best solution.

I have heard many young adults who like animals say they want to be veterinarians. The D.V.M. often is even harder than the M.D. to accomplish. It is obvious that most of these young people will not meet the requirements. Why not try going the vet. tech. route? That may not be so easy either, but usually it is much more realistic! They need to work the magic of turning their fantasies into realistic goals. As I wrote before, this is a very real magic. It is not necessary to be a “big shot” in order to feel fulfilled; this feeling of fulfillment, rather than egotistical pride, is the goal of much worthwhile magic.

Is it possible to raise I.Q. magically? Yours yes, mine no! I am hopeless! But are you sure you want to be a genius? A quote of Sir Henry Maximilian Beerhohm advises us, “I have known no man of genius who had not to pay, in some affliction or defect, either physical or spiritual, for what the gods had given him.” He himself was an ingenious writer, so I bet he knew what he was talking about. Before you sign your name in the blood of magical commitment, be sure to read the fine print!

This leads to a common misunderstanding of the nature of Witchcraft, the idea that magic is a way to make major changes with minimal investment. It is the misconception that, by using a few affordable supplies, you can bend the whole world to grant your wishes. This is a lottery-ticket type of fantasy.

All Witches should remember one of the most essential laws ever: the Law of Conservation. Although it is taught in physics, it is equally essential to metaphysics, and applies every bit as much here and now as it does in a chemistry lab. In lay terms its essential meaning is that we cannot get something for nothing. We should only expect to get out of the world, what we put into it.

Yes, the Witch accepts that the world has enough degrees of freedom to allow magical transformations to be, but still, no real Witch is foolish enough to expect extraordinary magic, that which bends the whole world, without extraordinary discipline. Every beginner would love to have the powers of a Witch Doctor. They forget that Witch Doctors typically have endured prerequisite ordeals, which could easily have been fatal, in order to acquire their world-bending powers. Yes, some problems do require Herculean power to solve, but perhaps most magical solutions involve the mental magic of changing our perceived reality, much easier on us and, as I have stated, probably fairer to the surrounding world.

The choice is yours as the aspiring Witch. Neither choice is inherently better. The easier way, although maybe not heroic, often is more realistic, and life is, after all, hard enough without making it harder. On the other hand, the harder way, although earned at great cost, may well be heroic, and there is a satisfaction in reaching “the seemingly unreachable star” not to be gained any other way. Novice Witch, CHOOSE your values and pursue your way!

The verb ‘to choose’ is highlighted because our strong endorsement of choosing is largely what sets us apart from Christians. They believe none of us has the choice to transcend our sinful nature, just to let it be redeemed through accepting Divine Love. Let us turn our attention to the Witch defined in terms of being someone who chooses to believe in a certain way. I do not think one can choose to be an atheist and stay consistent with being a Witch. There is a religious component that naturally goes together with the Craft, with the practice and the theology being like two sides of one coin.

Here is a tentative, expanded version of my definition: A Witch is a person with a deep knowledge of the objective truths and the subjective realities of the world, acquired through CHOOSING to interact, not only physically, but also metaphysically, that is, magically, with the things of the world. An essential part of the subjective reality of the Witch arises from CHOOSING to revere Higher Powers operating in nature, and to realize the divine, magical potentials in oneself.

We do well in asking, does the Witch need to be defined in any theological context at all? In the Oxford definition, the Devil is implied; the word ‘evil’ is contained in ‘Devil’, the personification of evil. In my tentative definition, I have referred to Higher Powers and divine potentials. Can we find a new, secular definition of Witch, as illustrated by the series Bewitched? The Witches there, I am fairly sure, never were portrayed as practicing a religion, nor, as far as I know, were there ever any allusions made to religion.

Nonetheless, at a subliminal level, it was the overturning of the conservative, tyrannical stance toward being a Witch, and more generally being somehow different, which gave that series its charm. In fact, the story-line of the series would have failed as comedy without religion subliminally supporting it. It was comical mainly because of Darrin playing nearly a parody of a minister saying, thou shalt not do it, while Samantha always ended up wiggling her nose anyway. The main point was that she did it without tragic results, without getting struck by lightning for doing it. She could be seen as practicing a religion of liberalism, obviously without the scripts explicitly making this point. Her behavior can be seen as reflecting an underlying, liberal philosophy of seeing the God of Genesis as Mr. Liberal, with the right to CHOOSE as his first and finest gift to her and to all of us. Therefore, I do not think that Witches as magically empowered persons can be divorced from the deity empowering them.

The verb ‘to CHOOSE’ is in caps throughout for an essential reason. All people, when they say that they do some action, really mean that they choose to do it, but this fact is kept implicit, and therefore done nearly automatically and just semiconsciously. The distinction of the Witch is making the choice explicitly, choosing deliberately. By doing so, she considerably extends her power to choose, and indirectly to change her inner reality and the outside world as well. By making herself aware that she is choosing to do anything, not limited to magic, she gains more and more control over her faculty of choice and more refinement in exercising this power to choose.

No, I am not guilty of sexism for using the feminine pronoun. Witchcraft continues to be associated with femininity, but males too have the feminine inner reality of their anima, according to the great psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung.

Have I been guilty of wasting your time with this article? If so, I apologize. We can assume that I think it was worth writing, but regarding whether or not it was worth your reading, only you are smart enough to be the judge! I accept your judgment!

*Are you a winner as well? The answer to the QUESTION is: The SandWich!

P.S. If you are a winner, congratulations! Just to let you know, at last I have picked a magical name: The SandWich. I find it in good taste. I hope you do too!

Those Pretty, Sexy Witches

Those Pretty, Sexy Witches

Author: Sia@FullCircle

It is known as The Season of the Witch, a time when hefty bags of candy appear on shelves, skeletons come out of dark closets to dance among us, and that ugly, green-faced hag stalks the store aisles, frightening little children and annoying real Witches no end. For many years now, both in response to that Hag, and for my own amusement, I have collected items that portray her opposite. As a result, I have dozens of pretty, sexy, positive Witch figures, toys, trinkets, and images in my collection. Some of these pieces feature young women and little girls, while others depict sweet-faced older gals. The elders are often shown hugging cats or puppies or they carry books, flowers or tiny bags of chocolate. For those in the know, that pretty much says it all.

Finding Positive Witch Figures

When I began collecting twenty years ago it was easiest to find such images in vintage postcards published before 1925 or in copies of pin-up posters from the 1950’s and 60’s. Modern representations were much harder to find. After years of asking for “pretty witches” in stores, and getting odd looks, and after much searching, I began to find what I was after. (1) This was long before the collectible fantasy sculptures you see now were available, and before those pretty fantasy witch outfits for young girls and women could be found in on-line catalogs and the Halloween stores. These days, you can walk into any collectibles store and find sculptures of charming, pretty, sexy, witchy women. During Halloween you can even find these types of items in drug stores. Many of the sexy ones are a bit outré, that’s true. This has often been the case.

The Witch as Sex Toy

One way to remove power from a female image is to make it too cute, too busty, too Marilyn Monroe-ish, and so turn Her into a sex toy. That has been going on for a very long time. There are many provocative and in some cases, charming witch images in art, photography and advertising. To see some of these check out the Sexy Witch Blog by Red Witch (the link is below) . Please Note: This contains very Adult Content, folks – Do not watch this site at work.

Taming the Sexy Witch

Because the young witch is seen as sexy and alluring she has power over those who desire her. That makes her dangerous. So our culture sought to tame her and keep her power for it’s own use. Examples of this can be seen in the 1958 film “Bell, Book and Candle” and in the television series “Bewitched”. As a girl growing up I could never figure out why someone with Samantha’s life experience, talent, and wit would be happy living a boring, subservient life with a dim witted dullard like Darrin. (Being ten at the time, I did not realize that “Bewitched”, “I Dream of Jeannie” and shows like it were a cultural backlash in response to the early Women’s Movement, portraying women with power as besotted handmaidens to rather nervous males) . At least the television version of Samantha (as played by Elizabeth Montgomery) was powerful, subversive and smart, unlike her later counterpart in the film remake of that name. (A link to an insightful review of the remake is noted below.)

Finding the Center

The pendulum swings and swings again. The characters of Willow (from the TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer) , Hermione (from the Harry Potter series) , Tiffany (from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series) along with many of their sister witches in fiction are antidotes to the negative, exploitative or simply silly image of the witch. More positive portraits will come in time.

Crone or Hag?

Whenever we work with the Crone image, we confront our own fears about death, aging and the unknown. As Pagans know, the Crone can be both our ally, and our teacher. But how do we define a Crone? I believe the woman of the Elderflower Festival in California (www.elderflower.org) have done this rather well. They note that the Crone “has often developed a deeper awareness of her own mortality, either through her own brush with death or through facilitating the passage of another. She is shifting from an external focus to a more introspective state. She experiences a sense of urgency to get on with the real business of her life, and she has begun to shed the old in order to pursue what has now emerged as her life purpose.”

This is a figure to be honored, not feared, so it is not surprising that some Pagans find the classic Halloween caricature of the Crone to be deeply offensive. Others shrug it off with a smile. What seems ominous, to me, is the way in which the use of this green-faced creature in modern day culture mirrors the historical periods of Pagan and Witch persecution. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, western patriarchal culture, fueled by the fear of women, (especially older, independent women) promoted a monster known as the Witch.

Frequent crop failures, famines, global weather changes (known to us as the Little Ice Age) as well as injustice, poverty, constant warfare, religious scandals, torture, imprisonment without trial, abuse of power, and political unrest haunted those times. The vicious, vengeful, envious Witch figure was used by those in power to blame ‘the other” for their problems. During this period, professional Witch Finders were paid for every witch they found. How’s that for incentive? Any money, property and animals owned by these witches (mostly older, usually widow women) enriched the town and the church after their deaths. This made the Witch business a very profitable one for all concerned.

Bashing Witches is Good Business.

Just as Jerry Falwell tried to blame feminists, gays, lesbians and Pagans for 9/11 in order to raise his TV ratings, so too did Church and State powers once blame women, Jews, and lepers for the Black Plague. As the Germans used the Jews as scapegoats in Hitler’s day, so did Medieval and Renaissance cultures in the West use non-Christians, cats and old women as the focus for the fear and blame felt by those who suffered because of their greed, corruption and incompetence. When we Pagans say “Never again the Burning Times” we mean that we will not allow ignorance or any Powers That Currently Be to scapegoat or harm our people again.

The Origins of the Green-faced Hag

As far as I can tell, the green colored skin dates from the character of The Wicked Witch of the West as portrayed by Margaret Hamilton in the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz”. (See link to Wikipedia entry below, which shows her portrayal in the movie compared to the original illustrations for the book) . As the Wikipedia entry notes, “In the classic movie The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch, played by actress Margaret Hamilton, was stooped, green-skinned, and dressed entirely in black. In many people’s minds, this representation of The Wicked Witch has become an archetype for human wickedness.”

Advertisers and toy makers picked up on this version and the classic Hag persona, (which featured wrinkles, a long nose, a wart or two, claw like hands, and a pointy chin) added on the green skin. The green colored skin makes the Halloween Witch seem even less human, and more demonic, than before. It is now a standard feature of this image.

I should note here that there is another, far sadder potential origin of this image. This was pointed out by a writer named Angel in 1999 in the form of a prose poem which has been seen at many a Pagan newsgroup since it first appeared. To read it, visit the Endnotes section of this article, and click on “She Returns: The Halloween Witch”

She Who Changes

Can a pretty Witch figure do anything to change people’s hearts and minds? You never know. But keep an eye out for pretty Witches this season and see how many more of them you see now, than you ever saw before. I would argue that the image is changing, as more and more of us come out of the broom closet in positive ways. We change the image, and the image changes the way people see us, as well. When you think about it, the process is…magical.

Uppity Older Women

Most cultures realize that elders, assuming they have paid attention to life’s many lessons, know a bit more then their younger counterparts. Some cultures fear that knowledge, some honor it and use it. Suzanne Braun Lavine, in an prescient article for Ms. Magazine some years back, (see link below) quoted Gloria Steinem’s famous saying that that older women tend to get more radical, not less, as they age. She also quotes Gerda Lerner’s observation that “Such a critical mass of older women with a tradition of rebellion and independence and a way of making a living has not occurred before in history.”

Yea, verily. That fact is only beginning to be noted and we’re going to hear more about older women changing this culture. This is why the old woman in the conical hat with the black cat in her arms can make me smile. I know her true power. Her headgear has long been associated with medieval noblewomen and mystics and outsiders in general (2) ; groups viewed as threats because of their learning and their frequent refusal to toe the dogmatic party line.

Patriarchal culture made these women into such an out-sized caricature so they could mock them and assure that others who might listen to their wisdom would shun them in fear. But in mocking these old ladies (old ladies back then being anyone over the age of 35) , they have unwittingly brought Her down to us through history. Now we can restore that “old” woman to her rightful place, that of experienced, well traveled, thoughtful Elder.

This is not the wizened, frail Crone of yesteryear. Older women today are independent, sexual beings and they have means. They are also powerful Healers, learned Advocates, courageous Guardians, effective Organizers, and a clear-eyed, questioning Seers. As the saying goes, “Everything She touches, changes.”

There are millions of us now, and we are standing up, changing things, and demanding to be heard. And, by the way, we vote.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Sia

Links:

Sexy Witch Blog:

Article by Levine for Ms. Magazine:

Pagan Myths Debunked: Where Do You Think That Pointy Hat Came From, Anyway? by Lillith Veritas:

Review of Bewitched Remake by James Bowman

The Wicked Witch of the West:

Another Theory for the Green-faced Witch
She Returns: The Halloween Witch

Endnotes:

(1) Feminists, Pagans, store owners, and collectors were a bit ahead of a coming trend back in the early 90’s and were, perhaps, a small influence on that trend. This is what Malcolm Glaswall in his book “The Tipping Point” calls The Law of the Few, which contends that before widespread popularity can be attained, a few key types of people must champion an idea, concept, or product before it can reach the tipping point. Glaswell describes these key types as Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. If individuals representing all three of these groups endorse and advocate a new idea, it is much more likely that it will tip into exponential success.

(2) Excerpt from Pagan Myths Debunked: Where Do You Think That Pointy Hat Came From Anyway? By Lillity Veritas (a link to the full article is above)

“There is another, commonly held belief that the pointed hat originated with another persecuted group in Europe, the Jews. While Jews did wear pointed headgear, most scholars now believe these hats were not a likely source for the witch’s pointed hat. After all, pointed hats were fairly common throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

This fact leads us to the source I find to be most believable, and most mundane, for the Pointy Hat Look. During the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, commoners in Wales and England often wore pointed hats. As fashions changed, the last to retain the old styles were the rural and peasant folk, who were considered “backward” by higher society and were usually the ones accused of heresy and witchcraft. Much as we today have stereotypes of the sort of student who might commit violence at a high school, so did the medieval people have their ideas of what sort of person might be a witch.

Along these lines, Gary Jensen, a professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University, postulates a connection between the persecution of Quakers in America and the stereotypical appearance of witches in our folklore. Quakers did wear pointed hats, and the negative image of witches wearing conical hats in America became common about the same time anti-Quaker sentiment was at a peak. Quakers were thought by some to consort with demons and practice black magic, things also associated with the early American view of witches. Once again, an easily recognized symbol of an oppressed minority may have become generalized to a group equated with them.

In the final analysis, it’s likely that more than one of these issues came into play to ingrain the pointy hat into the mainstream idea of what a witch looks like. After all, the ideas that stick most firmly in the mind are the ones repeated from different sources, and many things in history can’t be traced to a single root cause or moment.”

Life As The Witch – Getting that Graveyard Dirt & Dealing With Those Spirits

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I have had several people ask me about graveyard dirt recently. How to collect it? What grave do I get it from? I have answered these questions in extent. But when it come to dealing with the Spirit world, I don’t want to take any chances that I might have been misunderstood or didn’t emphasis the importance of a certain area. Due to this fact, I ran across an article in a book by a Pagan Author I greatly admire, Dorothy Morrison. She also discusses this subject very thoroughly. I hope you enjoy this excerpt from her book, “Utterly Wicked, Curses, Hexes or Other Unsavory Notions”

Graveyard Dirt and Dealing With Spirits

Taking graveyard dirt without permission is much like breaking into someone’s home and stealing their possessions. And if you did that on the physical plane, the only help you’d get from the injured part would be a one-way trip to jail. The same is true of the spiritual realm. Yeah, I know that spirits don’t necessarily live in the dirt in the cemetery. However, that dirt comprises the final resting place of the body it left behind. That means that its energy is in that dirt. And to take that without permission is to take the only possession it has left. Go that route and one thing’s for sure: Jail time is going to be the least of your worries.

You also need to remember that asking permission is not enough. Some sort of relationship must be formed with the spirit before proceeding. And depending upon the spirit and your individual needs, this could take a few minutes or several days. You also need to be prepared for the possibility that you’re not going to be able to form a relationship at all. The reasons for this are many—personality clash, little or no common ground, or an objection to your desires, just to name a few—but in this case, none of that really matters. What does matter is that you don’t push the issue. Just thank the spirit for its time, and continue your search.

Once you do find a spirit that’s willing to help you (and you will), payment for the dirt is not enough. Mind your manners, be polite, and thank it for its assistance. Bring it an extra token of appreciation. You never know when you might need its help again, and no one—living, dead, or otherwise—is going to be willing to offer support of any kind if you can’t even be bothered with common courtesy.

Of course, if a spirit really likes you—if you’ve been kind and courteous and gone the extra mile—it may decide to hang around you, whether you want it to or not. To avoid this, offer it a piece of black onyx as a parting gift once your goal is achieved. (It’s the stone of separation and will sever your connections peaceably.) And if you need the spirit’s assistance again? Not a problem. Just go back to visit, and be assured that it will remember you.

Reference:

Excerpt from:

“The Real Dirt on the Quick and the Dead”
Utterly Wicked
Curses, Hexes or Other Unsavory Notions
by Dorothy Morrison

Pagan Myths Debunked: Where Did You Think That Pointy Hat Came From, Anyway?

Pagan Myths Debunked: Where Did You Think That Pointy Hat Came From, Anyway?

by Lilith Veritas

It’s never been easy to be a pagan in a world where differences are feared and minorities are persecuted. It’s made even tougher by how little nonpagans usually know about the realities of our lifestyle and beliefs. How many times have you had to explain that Satanism is not Wicca, or that Wiccans are not the only pagans? Most nonpagans get their information about Wicca, neo-paganism and other Craft-related beliefs from the mass media, which has faithfully clung to stereotypes and painted a sensationalistic picture of pagans, just like they do about everything else. TV shows like Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer have contributed much to making paganism seem less frightening and more acceptable to the mainstream, but they’ve also continued to support misinformation and superstitions that have plagued pagans throughout modern times. Shows like Sabrina, or even the old favorite Bewitched, leave nonpagan viewers with the impression that witchcraft is all fantasy and special effects, and anyone who believes in such things might have a screw or two loose. Really, do you know anyone who has a talking cat or has developed a working teleport spell?

The reality is that the majority of pagans today come from other religions and backgrounds and are at least partly self-educated, and many bring some of these ideas with them! It’s really difficult to educate the nonpagan public if we’re not clear ourselves on the history of witchcraft and the origins of our symbols, tools and stereotypes. While it’s hard to change deeply held beliefs, the truth is a powerful weapon against fe

and prejudice, and acknowledging our own history is the only way to move forward to a (hopefully) enlightened future.

For a quick example of the history of a pagan tool, let’s look at the Book of Shadows. Many pagans take it for granted that these books are an integral part of being a pagan. The term itself has been popularized by the media; the sisters on Charmed have a family Book of Shadows, which seems to be a universal encyclopedia of all things magickal, and the sequel to the popular Blair Witch Project movie was called Book of Shadows. The common perception seems to be that Books of Shadows have been handed down from medieval times and contain wisdom gathered hundreds of years ago. How accurate is that perception?

The first recorded reference to an actual Book of Shadows was in 1939, by the founder of modern Wicca, Gerald Gardner. He claims to have received pieces of this book during his initiation into the religion now known as Gardnerian Wicca. Both Doreen Valiente and Aleister Crowley appear to have added to the book, after Gardner “restored” it. Prior to that, however, there is no known recording of a Book of Shadows, at least not by that name, and few references to grimoires or books of knowledge used specifically by pagans. The book Aradia: Gospel of the Witches was written by folklorist Charles G. Leland in 1899 and appears to be the closest historically, but it would hardly have been ancient knowledge a mere 40 years later. Books of Shadows are now used by many pagans, both Wiccan and non-, but that name seems to be solely a creation of Gardner and his contemporaries.

Many pagans would like to believe that there is a written source for ancient spells, rituals and traditions to which they can turn to validate their current practices. They may forget that in ancient times, and often through the first part of the twentieth century, the common person didn’t know how to write or read! Most pagans in the Western world today can both read and write, and even those deemed “illiterate” can often do both enough to get by. During the height of the witch hunts and in rural areas where folk medicine and pagan rituals may have continued more or less uninterrupted, literacy was not common, and it is unlikely that many witches, if any, kept such a book. Most commoners didn’t keep books at all!

There is another argument against the idea of ancient grimoires being commonplace: Anyone found with such a book would likely have been found guilty of heresy and possibly put to death, and the book summarily burned. This threat would have been lessened for someone of the upper classes, but for typical rural folk would probably have been too big a risk to take. During the times when herbal healers had to be very careful to hide the tools of their trade and be sure to put their best Christian face forward, it would have been virtual suicide to have a book of “arcane knowledge” laying around the house, even if most of your neighbors couldn’t read it! Having books at all was cause for suspicion amongst the lower classes, since they were poorly understood by most and rarely read by any but high society. The few documented grimoires likely did belong to folks of higher classes, as they were the ones who could afford them and could also afford to learn to read.

As I mentioned, many pagans would like to have a historical book of knowledge to justify their current practices. While it would be nice to trace such things unbroken into the past, “new” does not mean “bad” or “invalid.” Newer ideas aren’t automatically bad ideas! Now that we have the means to write down our beliefs and rituals to pass on to future generations, or just to remind ourselves, many of us will choose to do so. Knowing where a practice comes from allows room to change and grow, and keeps folks talking from a place closer to truth than superstition. And knowing that new practices are springing up will hopefully keep the pagan paths alive and vital instead of bogging them down in the dogma so common in many mainstream religions.

Moving into the realm of stereotypes, many Americans think of the pointed black hat as the key identifier of a witch. These folks are often the most surprised when they meet a real, modern witch wearing jeans and a T-shirt. But where did the stereotype of this pointy hat come from?

One thing to keep in mind in the search for this stereotype’s origins is that it is peculiarly American and Western European, particularly from the British Isles, and it is a fairly modern invention. Witches in Eastern countries do not appear wearing pointy hats or any of the accoutrements that we commonly associate with the Halloween-style witch. Early woodcuts of witches in the Middle Ages showed them wearing scarves, or hats popular at the time, or even with their hair flying in the wind. Our media has popularized the view of witches with pointy hats as well as green skin, warts and brooms. I suspect the Wizard of Oz movie released at the dawning of the media age has more to do with the current stereotype of the “wicked witch” than does historical evidence!

The most positive interpretation I came across was echoed by Doreen Valiente as the probable source: Pointed hats were actually a visual representation of the Cone of Power that witches drew upon during their rituals. While this puts a nice, witch-friendly spin on the image, I find it to be rather unlikely. People in previous centuries who were creating woodcuts of witches tended to paint a very unkind picture and did not include positive aspects of true witchcraft as it existed at the time. Witches were portrayed dancing with devils and participating in all varieties of heinous rites, not drawing down the moon and healing the sick. It is unlikely that someone projecting a witch in such a light would bother to represent a Cone of Power, which is typically a positive force.

There is another, commonly held belief that the pointed hat originated with another persecuted group in Europe, the Jews. While Jews did wear pointed headgear, most scholars now believe these hats were not a likely source for the witch’s pointed hat. After all, pointed hats were fairly common throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

This fact leads us to the source I find to be most believable, and most mundane, for the Pointy Hat Look. During the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, commoners in Wales and England often wore pointed hats. As fashions changed, the last to retain the old styles were the rural and peasant folk, who were considered “backward” by higher society and were usually the ones accused of heresy and witchcraft. Much as we today have stereotypes of the sort of student who might commit violence at a high school, so did the medieval people have their ideas of what sort of person might be a witch.

Along these lines, Gary Jensen, a professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University, postulates a connection between the persecution of Quakers in America and the stereotypical appearance of witches in our folklore. Quakers did wear pointed hats, and the negative image of witches wearing conical hats in America became common about the same time anti-Quaker sentiment was at a peak. Quakers were thought by some to consort with demons and practice black magic, things also associated with the early American view of witches. Once again, an easily recognized symbol of an oppressed minority may have become generalized to a group equated with them.

In the final analysis, it’s likely that more than one of these issues came into play to ingrain the pointy hat into the mainstream idea of what a witch looks like. After all, the ideas that stick most firmly in the mind are the ones repeated from different sources, and many things in history can’t be traced to a single root cause or moment.

In the Craft, as in all aspects of human culture, the powers of media and modern communication weave together a new “truth” from bits of folklore and whispered traditions, and picking apart this fabric to get at the real foundation requires persistence and the willingness to view your own ideas in a new light.

For those interested in further reading about pagan stereotypes and history, I suggest the Internet as a great source of information, if one takes the information found with the proper grain of salt. Two articles in particular that I came across stand out in my mind, and I believe it would benefit pagans in general to read and consider the implications of both of them.

First of these is a speech by Doreen Valiente at the National Conference of the Pagan Federation on November 22, 1997. As a founding influence on the modern practice of Wicca and a contemporary of both Gerald Gardner and Aleister Crowley, Valiente had a unique perspective. In this speech, she questioned many “truths” about Gardnerian Wicca and presented views that some may find surprising. Transcripts of her speech can be found at http://www.users.drak.net/lilitu/valiente.htm.

Second is a very well-researched essay about the Burning Times by Jenny Gibbons, which can be found at http://www.cog.org/witch_hunt.html.

While I don’t endorse either of these sources as the absolute truth, they are certainly thought provoking.

Some other sources:

The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft, by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

Best Witches site, http://www.rci/rutgers/edu/~jup/witches

“The Witching Hours,” by Shantell Powell, http://shanmonster.bla-bla.com/witch

Ten Commandments of Witches

I know there is always an argument when it comes to Witches having Laws or Commandments.  When you get right down to it Witches don’t have anyone at all to answer too. They answer to theirselves and no one else. But there are little Guidelines, Laws, Commandment and so on, that give Witches the ideas how they are supposed to conduct theirselves. White witches follow these types of Commandments almost to the tee. Everyone occasionally strays that is just part of being human.

I would like to point out something. I don’t want anyone thinking that the witch that answers to no one but herself is a bad witch. That is the furthest from the true. A witch like this has been practicing magick a long time. She knows she contains the power within herself. She also know deep down right from wrong. She is very knowledgeable, very skilled, very sure of herself  and will always try to do right. 

If you are new to Witchcraft, you will soon learn  there are lines that we walk every day. There are three of them: First one is white, the middle one is gray, and the last one is black. These lines determine what kind of witch you will be. You decide to be a White Witch (which I do), you will walk the white line. Choose the black line, you will be a black witch.  Are you can do as my friends and I do walk the gray line. Gray witches are not bad witches at all. Being a gray witch I look at this way, I am ready for any magickal havoc that may arise. I can also slip for side to side if need be. I don’t like to slip to the black side but if a friend needs help or there is a problem I will. I think most witches become gray is because they can add any intent they would like to their spells and rituals. Remember intent makes the magick. Also remember a true Witch answers to no one but their self.

Well enough of that, I have intentions of personally going over the Gray, White, and Black issues in Witchcraft. But let’s get to those Commandments (oh if you have a printer you might want to print them out for your Journal or BOS)……..

Ten Commandment of Witchcraft

  1.  Always ensure that no other person will be harmed as a result of your magickTo call yourself a witch means that you will always endeavor to do the right thing and send out only love and kindness. Think about The Wizard of Oz and strive to be like the Good Witch of the North Glinda managed it, and so can you!

  2. Keep your thoughts free of negativity — remember the rebound effect. Keep in mind that every thought you send out can just as easily bounce off the receiver and be hurled back at you at the speed of light. You created the negative fog, so it belongs to you!

  3. Never cast a spell when you are upset or unhealthy. Funny as it may seem, our thoughts projections can go haywire if we are cross, unhappy or sick. Spells may fail to work or the results may be confusing. Therefore it’s imperative that we be in the right frame of mind and physically healing before we begin any magick.

  4. Think positively. If you smile, then you are more likely to be happy. Every time a miserable thought pops into your head, shake it away and try to think about something nice. Your aura is a magnetic energy field and if it’s drab or gloomy you will attract disruptive and depressing situations.

  5. Create a peaceful, calm environment for your spell casting. Make your space as lovely as possible with candles, soft music, and lots of salt at hand to ward old negativity. Keep your home free of clutter and clean house regularly.

  6. Call upon your Angels/Guides to assist you. Your angels/guides are never far away, and they will gladly help and support you when you are trying to change  a situation.  Before casting your spell, say a silent prayer to the to the angelic forces for protection and you’ll ge sure to envelop yourself in their influence.

  7. Respect everything. There is no need to be obsessive, especially if you are feeling the financial pinch, but try as hard as you can to eat all the right foods.  Food is fuel and it affects your aura, so be as organic as you can. Eat badly and you’ll feel bad. Bear in mind that every animal, vegetable, and leaf has a spirit, so treat everything with the respect it deserves.

  8. Wish for money by be careful of greed. If you need to cast spells for material gain, then make sure that when you receive money as a result of magick, you give a little away to keep the cycle of good fortune going. A dollar in a charity box is quite enough; as long as you spread the wealth, your karma will stay positive.

  9. Never influence a person’s mind with magick.  Everyone deserves the right to free will, so never cast a spell to influence a person’s decisions. Doing so has drastic consequences. You could indirectly take that person off the path they are destined to travel and deprive them of lessons they need to learn. If you cast a spell to win back an ex, for example,  it may ge that you’ve derailed their fated union with somebody else in the future. If you’ve reeled them back  in, you have interfered with their karma, and you could get your karmic wrist slapped when you eventually pass over into spirit.

  10. Believe in yourself. No amount of magick will  work unless you have faith in yourself, so make sure that  you truly believe in your spells. Then success will be yours.