Category Archives: Witchcraft

Spirituality Corner: On Teaching and Traditions

Over the past five or so years, I’ve found myself in the position to help various people on their spiritual journeys. Most particularly, I’ve found myself helping people to learn to communicate with spirit, be it spirit guides, individuals who have passed from this life, or even deity. My most recent experience has been helping someone make a connection to and contact with a particular deity he felt drawn to.

This last experience has been most interesting and even a bit challenging to me, as I have no real knowledge of or connection with this deity myself. If someone were ask me how to connect with and contact Freyja – or even one of the other Norse gods and possibly even a few of the Irish ones – I’d have a plethora of experience and knowledge to draw on. I’d be able to recommend stories to become intimately familiar with, suggestions on offerings to give, and recommendations on how to craft an invocation for calling out to that particular deity.

In this case, I simply had to show the other person how to figure out much of that information himself and explaining to him how he needed to enter a meditative state, set up a sacred space where he could meet the deity, and how to call out to said deity in his own words.

The good news is that it worked beautifully. Contact with the deity was almost immediate and awe-inspiring, which I credit to said deity’s own deep interest in working with and teaching this person. I am pleased that I was able to help make this happen, but I have no delusions that I was anything other than a helpful middle-man helping two individuals meet sooner than if they had to arrange said meeting by themselves.

Back to the struggle to help someone contact a deity I personally have no knowledge of or connection to, though, the experience has given me yet another appreciation for what it must be like to work with a more narrowly defined tradition. I imagine that those covens that focus on working with a specific deity or small group of deities must have a great advantage when it comes to teaching new members and interested people. I imagine they have a great deal of lore and very specific techniques (such as detailed visualizations and invocations) they can employ and teach those seeking to make that same connection. I imagine that said tools have been developed as a result of the tradition and learning what works best for that specific tradition and working with that specific deity or groups of deity.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t plan on leaving my eclectic coven to join or form a tradition with a narrower focus. Nor do I plan on trying to change my current coven into something other than what it currently is. I love my coven and its members exactly for who they are. They are my family and I wouldn’t change or leave them for the world.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t form an appreciation for the way others have come to do things.

Pat Robertson’s world is a scary place

Tuesday, Right Wing Watch reported that Pat Robertson warned pregnant women against putting pictures of their ultrasounds on Facebook.  His reasoning, according to the report, is rather interesting:

“I don’t think there is any harm in it,” he said. “But I tell you, there are demons and there are evil people in the world, and you post a picture like that and some cultist gets hold of it or a coven and they begin muttering curses against an unborn child. You never know what somebody’s going to do.”

This is yet another glimpse into the dark, horrible world that Pat Robertson believes he’s living in. He believes that there are “Satanic witches” who have nothing better to do than scour the Facebook to find random ultrasound pictures from people they don’t know and curse them. In Pat Robertson’s fantasy world, people unlike him run around looking to commit evil for evil’s sake. It leaves one wondering if he also imagines us laughing maniacally and twirling over-waxed mustaches or cackling around cauldrons1.

The thing is, most witches don’t work curses at all. Those who do are really unlikely to curse random strangers for a number of reasons2. If a witch is actually going to work that kind of magic, said witch is going to work it against someone they have a personal investment in hurting.

So why on earth does Pat Robertson imagine evil figures doing all kinds of evil that makes no sense? Does he enjoy the way that it ties his followers to him with fear and terror? Is his desire to paint himself and those like him as the soul heroes of the world so great that he needs to paint everyone else in the world as evil as he can?

Or is he actually trapped in his own fear? Has he warning about evils for so long that he actually sees and fears them wherever he looks? If so, I have to say, that’s a horrible way to live.


1Okay, I’ll confess. The cackling around cauldrons thing actually happens. I mean, every now and then you’re in the middle of a solemn ritual and someone flubs a chant or sends one of the ritual tools skittering across the room due to clumsiness. That’s bound to crack up anyone with a sense of humor.

2The two major reasons are “trying to curse someone you don’t have a connection to is nearly impossible” and “no one in their right mind is going to work with and connect themselves to the kinds of energies a curse entails unless there’s a deeply personal reason to do so.”

 

Samhain Musings

Dark StaircaseToday is the day that Wiccans and many other Pagans in the Northern Hemisphere observe Samhain.  So happy Samhain!1

Among other things, Samhain represents the mythological and metaphorical descent into the underworld, the realm of Death.  It’s the traditional start of a season where life slows down (or used to, before our technology allowed us to keep a fast-paced frenzy going year-round) and offers much time for introspection and reflection.  It’s also a great time for deconstruction of oneself, one’s ego, and how one looks at the world.  In Gardner’s Myth of the Goddess, this is represented by the guardians to Death’s Domain when they challenge the Goddess and tell her she must remove all her jewelry and even her garments.  She had to bare her true self to descend.

I find it somewhat amusing that the modern adaptation of this holiday — Halloween — involves donning costumes and pretending to be someone or something else, when Samhain traditionally is also about divesting oneself of such pretense and facing the Darkness without one’s armor and accepting that such armor cannot truly protect.

Of course, that’s a frightening realization to embrace.  We tend to like our sense of control, especially over ourselves.  We like to think that we can present to the world who we want to be and have this accepted.  And there is some witchery there.  Letting go of that and becoming bare, vulnerable to any who may see the real us rather than the perfected image we prefer to present is a terrifying process.  It’s terrifying to let ourselves be confronted with the real us, for that matter.

But it’s also necessary.  To know who we truly are — stripped of all the pretense and illusions we create for ourselves and others — also enables us to improve ourselves and even reconstruct us.  Often, we can do that in ways so that we are more substantively like the person we imagine and project ourselves to be.  But making that improvement requires we first take a close look at admit we are not that person yet.

So to all my readers, especially any who follow a path where Samhain has meaning to you, I wish you a blessed Samhain.  May you find the serenity and courage to face the Darkness alone, naked (only figuratively, if you prefer), and vulnerable.  May you find comfort in the journey and hold tight to the hope of seeing the First Light of Yule.


1Happy Beltane to any Wiccans and other Pagans Down Under who are celebrating that instead.

It’s almost like I planned it.

Last night, I led my coven through a guided meditation for our full moon ritual.  After much consideration and considering the astrological configuration (sun in Libra, Moon in Aries) for this full moon, I somehow fell upon the idea of making the focus of the ritual be about the third pillar of the Witches’ Pyramid, “To Dare.”  In the traditions I’ve seen, that pillar is usually associated with the element of water, whereas Libra and Aries are an air sign and fire sign respectively.

My idea for the ritual is to consider how Libra’s energy toward finding harmony and balance can actually become a source of blocking the need o push on and face the unknown and the fears that surround it in an act of daring.  The meditation suggested that Aries’s impulsiveness and impression could provide the necessary contrast and catalyst to push past and delve into the depths of daring.

After we finished the mediation, I realized that I had placed the setting of this meditation in a stone edifice (a high tower with a great room at the top).  The stone provided us with a link to the element of Earth, the missing fourth.  And the element was providing the foundation and stability for the working, as is its nature.

I laughed as I realized that without even planning it, I had created a nicely balance meditation in which all the elements were present and invoked in the work we were doing.  Pretty good, considering I don’t actually work much with the elements in my personal practice.

Let us bring forth that which has quietly formed in dark places.

Happy Yule![1]

The winter solstice — that point where the sun’s rays are least direct on the Northern Hemisphere — officially takes place tomorrow morning at 5:30 UTC.  For those of us in the Eastern time zone (UTC -5:00), that translates to tonight/tomorrow morning at 12:30am.

The winter solstice marks the longest night of the year and the triumphant return of the light, longer days, and warmth.  To some Pagans and Wiccans, it represents the rebirth of the sun god.  Yule brings a sense of rejoicing, the darkest time following Samhain has is about to pass and the half-year reign of the underworld will begin to wane and give way to the brightness and warmth that is vital to our survival.

However, I think it’s important to remember as we begin to pass back into more light that we need the time of darkness to survive as well.  After all, the growing season and bountiful harvest rely on the gestational period of the dark winter months, just as our own psyches require downtime and decreased activity.

Yule marks the rebirth of light into a fragile, not entirely ready form, but it’s a birth that takes place thanks to the things that have been rejuvenated and seething in the darkness.  And while that fragile light shall grow stronger and eventually overcome the darkness for its time of reign, it will also be nourished by the waning darkness and the slumber it encourages.

So let the light shine in this quiet time, not as a brilliant force to be reckoned with, but as a comforting glimmer and a promise of what is to come.

Note:
[1]  Or for any readers who are in the Southern Hemisphere, happy Litha/Summer Solstice.  I hope you will indulge me in the rest of this post, however, as I focus on the mysteries I am currently experiencing/working with.

On Mediumship

Sunday evening, I went to Wegman’s to pick up a salad for Monday’s lunch as well as sodas and snacks for the week.  Derek, the cashier who rang me up, inquired about where I had my face painted (I was done up like Tigger), and I told him it was at the annual psychic fair at Psychic’s Thyme.  He asked me about that and then asked if I believed in ghosts.  I simply smiled and said, “Well, I sorta have to, seeing as I’m a medium.”  I think that answer rather surprised him, as he started babbling a bit.  He mostly started talking about the “Paranormal Activity” movies.

This is something I’ve noticed with some people.  While they are fascinated by movies and tales of the paranormal, they really get uncomfortable around those of us who are (or claim to be, if my more skeptical readers prefer) “the real deal.”  I’m not sure whether it’s because they find the idea of spirits frightening[1] and therefore find a spooky, controllable fantasy more appealing than if they were to consider it a reality they do not understand.  Or maybe it’s for some other reason.

Of course, in reality, communicating with spirits isn’t nearly as interesting or titillating as the stuff they put in Paranormal Activity or similar movies.  In a lot of ways, spirit communication is quite ordinary and unremarkable.  Granted, it’s touching in its own way, but in a very different way than the normal thrills.

Spirit communication is ultimately about connection with our greater spiritual comity.  In Saturday’s post, I spoke of the ancestors as a source of wisdom and the creators of the world we inherited.  Spirit communication is an opportunity to connect with those predecessors — though more recently passed loved ones are the most likely to connect with us this way and maintain that sense of continuity and community.  It’s a way to remember them, honor them, and learn just a bit more from them.

But then, I’m not sure everyone values that the same.

Notes:
[1]
  To be honest, I’m more inclined to find them annoying, especially on those occasions where they show up in every day life.  After about the third time I look behind myself to see if the presence I’m feeling is connected to a physical body in a public space, I start to worry that the other people are starting to think I’m weird.[2]

[2]  In fairness, they’d be right…

Gerald Gardner’s Myth of the Goddess

The first edition cover of Witchcraft Today, w...

Image via Wikipedia

While I do not consider myself Wiccan and I’m certainly not an Initiate of Gardnerian Wicca or any of it’s close relatives, my own understanding of witchcraft has been strongly influenced by the thoughts and writings of various such Initiates, including the public writers of Gerald Gardner himself.

Gardner presented a piece of writing in his books which he referred to as “The Myth of the Goddess.”[1]  He indicated that it was one of the — if not THE — central myths of the form of witchcraft he taught.  It also happens to be one of my favorite myths.  As it features the god of the witches as Death himself, I thought it appropriate to post it the day before Samhain.

Now, G. (the Witch Goddess) had never loved, but she would solve all the Mysteries, even the Mystery of Death; and so she journeyed to the Nether Lands.

The Guardians of the Portals challenged her, “Strip off thy garments, lay aside thy jewels; for naught may ye bring with ye into this our land.”

So she laid down her garments and her jewels, and was bound , as are all who enter the Realms of Death the Mighty One.

Such was her beauty that Death himself knelt and kissed her feet, saying, “Blessed be thy feet that have brought the in these ways.  Abide with me, let me but place my cold hand on thy heart.”

She replied, “I love thee not.  Why dost thou cause all things that I love and take delight in to fade and die?”

“Lady,” replied Death, “’tis Age and Fate, against which I am helpless.  Age causes all things to wither; but when men die at the end of time I give them rest and peace, and strength so that they may return.  But thou, thou art lovely.  Return not; abide with me.”

But she answered, “I love thee not.”

Then Death said, “An thou received not my hand on thy heart, thou must receive Death’s scourge.”

“It is Fate; better so,” she said, and she knelt; and Death scourged her, and she cried, “I feel the pangs of love.”

And Death said, “Blessed be,” and gave her the Fivefold Kiss, saying, “Thus only may ye attain to joy and knowledge.”

And he taught her all the Mysteries.  And they loved and were one, and he taught her all the Magics.

For there are three great events in the life of man; Love, Death, and Resurrection in a new body; and Magic controls them all.  For to fulfil love you must return again at the same time and place as the loved one, and you must remember and love them again.  But to be reborn you must die, and be ready for a new body; and to die you must be born; and without love you may not be born.  And these be all the Magics.

Notes:
[1]
At least that’s the name he used for it in Witchcraft Today.  In The Meaning of Witchcraft, he renamed it to “The Magical Legend of the Witches.”

The Underworld

As Samhain approaches, my thoughts turn to the ancestors and the realms of the underworld.  As a witch whose practice tends to be highly shamanistic in nature, I’m quite familiar with these realms and spend a bit of time exploring them and drawing on the wisdom of their inhabitants.

Some of my friends — including Pagans who tend to focus on the brighter side of the divine and upper- and mid-world beings occasionally ask me about my interest in the darker places of our spiritual cosmos.  They find the underworld realms a frightening and daunting place.  And there wariness is not unwarranted.  The underworld can be a strange chaotic, and troubling place.  After all, half-formed and malformed things live their, including our own shadows.  As a witch, I’m thankful that I have guardians, guides, and other allies to walk with me in such places.

But just as I wouldn’t amputate an arm just because because it’s broken or is suffering from pain, the troubling aspects of the underworld are not sufficient reason for me to ignore it.  There is great power and wisdom waiting there.

In addition to everything else it is,[1] it is the home of the ancestors, those who have gone before us, built up the world we lived in, and even gave us our lives.  These are the ones who have set the stage we now walk upon and helped form the person we would become as we walked on them.  The ability to visit them, thank them, and learn from their experiences is cherished.

The fact that we come from the ancestors who inhabit the underworld is also one of the things that makes the underworld the home of all potential.  It is the place where dark — as in unrevealed and unformed — forces exist, waiting to be given shape, form, and purpose.  As a shamanistic witch, I seek to seek out and explore these potentials that lay in the underworld so that I may draw them out and pull them into something in this realm.  It is the realm which provides the source material for new beginnings.

Notes:
[1]  Indeed, trying to describe everything that can be found in the underworld (or mid-world or upper world, for that matter) is not something I can do in a thousand blog posts, let alone this single post.

Video: Personal Power and Silence

I figured it was time for another video.  I took a break from ethics because I wanted to talk about personal power and silence.

Personally, I think that we as a society tend to forget that personal power comes from those deep recesses inside ourselves that usually get drowned out by the noise of the world around us and even that of the more active parts of our conscious mind.  By starting the journey from a place of silence (or by plunging into such a place), I think we have a much higher rate of success.

I also couldn’t resist putting in a bit of a plug for Psychic’s Thyme and mentioning the fantastic Ostara ritual held there last night.

Solstice Night

Hemavan

Image via Wikipedia

Winter solstice night is the longest night of the year.  It is the time when the darkness is at its strongest.  The world is deep in its winter slumber, and many creature have withdrawn into their dens to escape and protect themselves from the frosty grip of winter.  This slumber is important, for it allows all living things time to rejuvenate.  It is this time of rest that conserves and builds the energies that will be expended in the active pursuits of life later on.

And while solstice night marks the peak of this time of contraction and conservation, it also marks the turning point.  For this long, dark night shall end with the rising sun, adn that moment will hail the decreasing rein of darkness.  The days to come shall then grow a bit longer in turn, and the sun’s warming influence, though imperceptible at first, shall likewise grow and strengthen.  In the months to come, we will see what was started with that first fragile sunrise.

For now, we wait in eager anticipation of that first morning, haling the change it represents and the new life it promises.  And we turn inward to see what may be stirring anew in our own lives.  For like the trees and animals, we also experience times of withdrawal and contraction.  Like them, we too need those times of deep rest and rejuvenation.  And as with the longest night, there comes a time when something stirs within ourselves to let us know there is new life and growth to be experienced.  Our time of rest is not eternal.

So let us anticipate an end of our own withdrawal and time of silence this solstice as well.  Let us become aware of that inner stirring that speaks of new projects, new celebrations, and new goals to come.  Let us welcome that fragile awakening and nourish it so that we too may become active and lively in the days and months to come.

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