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Book & Candle Comments

 BLACK BALL OF TROUBLES SPELL

To help you make a decision, or to neutralize your trouble, light one white votive candle,
and one gray, deep blue, or magenta candle. Stand before a window, and visualize your
troubles going into a glowing black orb which surfaces from the Earth. Psychically push
the ball back down when you are finished. Don’t forget to push the ball back!
Your energy will go into the Earth as neutral.

~Magickal Graphics~

What Is A Rune?

What is a rune?

by: Donald Tyson
The runes are a set of symbols that concisely embody the most potent magical system of the ancient world. Because rune magic was rarely described in written records, persecution by the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages succeeded in obliterating almost the entire tradition of rune use from the memories of the peoples of northern Europe, the indigenous home of the runes. Runes became the recreation of antiquarian scholars, known only as an obscure and obsolete alphabet preserved in crumbling parchment manuscripts and on leaning stone monuments erected by the vanished Vikings.
Runic characters are letters that can be used for writing. This is their exoteric function. But in pagan times they were used for much more. The undivided forest wilderness in which the wandering Germanic tribes hunted and made war upon each other was ruled by elemental forces – Water, Sun, storm, the seasons, trees, necessary beasts such as the bull and the horse, fire on the hearthstones, the cleared camp circle, the human virtues of cunning speech, courage, battle skill, the mysteries of birth, growth and deathóall of which combined together to determine the life of frail human beings.
The German god Donar, called by the Norsemen Thor, can be traced back to the Sun. Woden, or Odin, was originally the fury of the storm. Ing , the deity who gives England its name, sprang from the fertility of the Earth. All the major Teutonic gods are based upon a limited number of natural potencies. Although they were later refined and made more human in poetry and art, in earliest days they were different masks of the ever-changing face of Nature.
The Germanic tribes embodied these same elemental forces in simple symbols that were used for works of magic and divination by the shamans, who served the combined function of magician-physician-priest. By making symbols to represent the most important powers of the world, these powers could be manipulated for conscious human purposes. The symbols formed the magical link between men and the blind gods of Nature and allowed the shamans to control the destiny of their tribes.
Runes are the descendants of these shamanic power symbols, whose origin extends deep into the past before the beginnings of writing. Each rune is both a letter and a vessel of natural potency. There is a rune for water and a rune for earth, a rune for hail and a rune for ice, a rune for horse and a rune for man. There are also runes that name some of the Teutonic gods. Ing has his own rune, as does Woden (Os) and Tiw (Tyr). These runes represent both the gods and the natural potencies upon which the gods are based. For example, the rune for Tiw is both the god Tiw and the human virtues of honor and courage.

The Mother

The Mother

The Mother stands for nurturing, caring, fertility; she is a woman in the prime of her life and at the peak of her power. She protects her own and will ensure that justice is done and done well. This woman is usually mated. In human age, she would be seen as a woman in her thirties to mid-forties. Her colors are warmer than that of the maiden, such as green, copper, red, light purple or royal blue.

Rituals using the Mother:

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* Project fruition and completion.
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* When childbirth is near
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* Strength to see matters through to the end.
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* Blessings and protection. This especially applies to females who are
threatened by men.
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* Guidance in life decisions.
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* Marriages, or the contemplation of or desire for marriage.
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* Finding or choosing a mate or companion.
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* Gardening, the growing of any plant.
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* Choosing or accepting an animal. Protection of animal life.
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* Making choices of any kind.
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* Gaining or continuing peace.
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* Developing intuition and psychic gifts.
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* Spiritual direction.

“Two Samhain Rituals”

 

“To all the ancient ones from their houses, the  Old Ones from above and below. In this time the Gods of the Earth touch our  feet, bare upon the ground. Spirits of the Air whisper in our hair and chill our  bodies, and from the dark portions watch and wait the Faery Folk that they may  join the circle and leave their track upon the ground. It is the time of the  waning year. Winter is upon us. The corn is golden in the winnow heaps. Rains  will soon wash sleep into the life-bringing Earth. We are not without fear, we  are not without sorrow…Before us are all the signs of Death: the ear of corn  is no more green and life is not in it. The Earth is cold and no more will  grasses spring jubilant. The Sun but glances upon his sister, the earth….. It  is so….Even now….But here also are the signs of life, the eternal promise  given to our people. In the death of the corn there is the seed–which is both  food for the season of Death and the Beacon which will signal green-growing time  and life returning. In the cold of the Earth there is but sleep wherein She will  awaken refreshed and renewed, her journey into the Dark Lands ended. And where  the Sun journeys he gains new vigor and potency; that in the spring, his  blessings shall come ever young!”


–  Two Samhain  Rituals, Compost Coveners

Protect Yourself from Psychic Attack

 

by Christopher Penczak

The heart of magick is empowerment. Magick taps into your own personal resources and builds a bridge of harmony with the universe. Fear is the limiting factor of empowerment. Those who seal away their own magick build a wall with their fear. They fear other people’s opinions, the responsibility, danger and ultimately themselves. Fear is a weapon used by those who seek to control the power. Control mongers bombard society with messages of fear to spread their own power.

Healers, midwives and wise women were tortured and put to death during the Inquisition for using their knowledge and talents. The Church and the newly established medical profession wanted to keep their base of power, and the wise folk threatened them. Rumors of pacts with the Devil, evil witches casting curses and demons stealing children in the night were spread. The general public started to fear the wise folk, and newly developing psychics chose not to explore their gifts because of the social stigma associated with them. The lessons of the Inquisition were simple: Fear pain and death more than honoring your power. Learn to obey those in command. The higher power does not exist in you. You need others to tell you the truth. These are old lessons repeated over and over by dominating forces.

Due to present and past life associations with such propaganda, mystical explorers often fear their own power and the ability to do magick. They believe evil things are lurking about, waiting to snatch their souls. They fear being healers and teachers and do nothing, playing it safe. Unfortunately, the world needs healers and teachers, wise women and cunning men more than ever before.

Because of popular horror movies, books and Ouija boards, the world of magick is associated with the dark creatures that go bump in the night, ready to snatch us away. The good magick of fairy tales seems impotent by comparison, and as a society, we forget our ancient mythology. People with strong psychic, spiritual and magickal talents never tap these resources, fearing the worst will happen. First experiences can seem dark and mysterious, but we often encounter our own darkness and shadow selves, enabling us to make peace with them before we continue onward. I have heard many stories of “psychic attacks” from dark beings or even other practitioners, but 90 percent of the time, it is the victim’s own perceptions and fears reflected back. That is not to say there are not dark beings out there in the spiritual realms. There are, but these creatures are far less common than most people think. Fortunately, the techniques of protection work for both “real” and “self-created” attacks.

Psychic Attacks

 

Psychic attacks come in many forms. The simplest is an everyday experience. Someone says something bad about you, makes a judgment, calls you a name, yells or curses at you. The person is directing his or her energy in a harmful way toward you. If you are not strong enough in self-esteem and personal power, these little attacks take their toll.

Do not become paranoid with this information. Do not go running around accusing everyone who does not agree with you of a psychic attack. Such negativity is not meant as an attack. It is an unfortunate by-product of how our society conducts itself. This is a simple, subtle way harmful energy is directed. We all do it at times. Most often, we do it to ourselves. We judge ourselves as not worthy, not attractive, not lovable, and these images become thought forms, packets of energy, filled with a poor self-image. When people experience an “attack,” they usually are experiencing and clearing these thought forms. Be aware and responsible of your own thoughts, directed towards yourself and others.

Other thought forms and astral entities have a life of their own. You might feel a malevolent presence or voice. These are the reported demons and devils plaguing mystics. They take the form of your greatest fears. Their goal is your fear, your attention, your time and energy. They draw energy from you to feed their existence. Ignoring them is an easy way to break their hold. Laughter is even better. If you don’t take them seriously, they will lose power.

Many people believe in “psychic vampires.” They are not the blood-drinking variety from Hollywood movies or Anne Rice novels, but actual people who drain your energy. Psychic vampires are not usually occult characters, but ordinary people who drive to work every day, raise families and go to school. Usually, they are not aware of this problem. A very few are aware of their energy draining tendency, but lack the skills to stop it. We all know people who are tired, drained and depressed, people who latch onto others for their continual support and strength. Not everyone who is occasionally depressed is a psychic vampire. We all get depressed. Vampires are rather rare, and vampirism can grow out of this malady. Remember vampires are not usually consciously attacking you, and once you are aware of the phenomenon, you can stop playing into their games. With your knowledge comes empowerment.

The last kind of psychic attack is the most rare, coming from another practitioner of the magickal arts. These attacks come as curses, wishing bad luck, nightmares and psychic or mental pain. Usually, the person knows you and will have some vendetta against you. My mother’s godmother practiced folk magick in her Italian community and broke curses all the time. Belief and giving into the curse is the worst thing you can do. The more you feel you are cursed, the more the universe responds. No one can curse you unless you let him or her.

Psychic Defenses

All psychic defenses are based in building your own self-esteem, personal power and confidence. Some contain more physical acts, but ultimately it is your will empowering those acts.

 

To purify a space and prevent unwanted, harmful energy from entering, burn purifying herbs. Frankincense and myrrh are a favorite of both witches and the Catholic Church. Native Americans use sage, cedar and sweetgrass. Southern American cultures burn copal. You can also use lavender or cinnamon. These substances naturally clear a space. Salt absorbs harmful energy. Iron grounds the same energy. Horseshoes were pointed down and hung over doors for this purpose. Iron nails are placed in house frames for the same reason. Potions and oils made of these substances are worn for protection.

Magickal symbols of protection can be worn or drawn. Pentacles, crosses, the Star of David and the Eye of Horus are strong protection symbols, and you can usually find jewelry made with these symbols. Wear this jewelry with the intent of protection. A banishing pentagram, a star drawn starting in the lower left corner, dissolves harmful thought forms and removes unwanted spirits. Repeat it as many times as necessary.

During meditation, start by visualizing a shield of clear crystal around your entire body, about three feet away. State “This protection shield protects me from all harm and reflects love back on the source of the harm.” Never send energy back to do harm; it will again return to trouble you. Even if one attacks you first, you are not justified to curse back. By sending love, you neutralize the harm. Wishing good things on your enemies can be the key to defeating them. They will be so happy with what they have that they stop bothering you. Bless your harm away, and more blessings will return to you. Similar protection shield visualizations can be used around your home, car, loved ones and pets.

Sometimes binding spells are necessary. Write the name of the person meaning you harm on a piece of paper. Put it in a bottle, bound with black thread. Fill the bottle with sea salt, protection herbs, iron filings and things like John the Conqueror root. Seal the bottle and ask that this person harm you no longer. As long as you do not open it, the binding will last. You can put the bottle in your freezer or bury it in the backyard.

As a last resort, call upon your guardian spirits. Call on your guardian angel, your spirit guides or the Goddess and God. A student of mine protected himself by asking for help from Mother Earth and drawing Her energy up and directing it to the malevolent spirit. Be creative when protecting.

As you claim your power and grow in your magickal abilities, you will move in harmony with the universe and attract less attention from such darker entities. Others wishing you harm will effortlessly roll off you because you know your place in the cosmic dance of life. Nothing can make you skip a beat of your dance.

Christopher Penczak teaches witchcraft, Tarot and Reiki classes privately in Salem, NH, combining lightwork, chaos magick and multiculturalism into his magickal tradition. He is also the editor of

The Second Road newsletter. For more information, contact him c/o The Second Road, P. O. Box 2252, Salem, NH, 03079, or e-mail torcboy@aol.com.

 

A Witch’s Calling


Author: Moon magik

From the moment we are born into this learning experience called life, most of us have our spiritual paths chosen for us. If your parents are Catholic, you’re going to be Catholic. If your parents are Baptist, you’re definitely going to be Baptist. Children have no choice to their own beliefs, because their parents require them to follow family tradition. We then grow up doing the same thing to our own children. There are very few people that grow up and just decide after 20 or 30 years that they do not believe what they were raised to believe. There are also some that grow up with absolutely no spirituality in their lives at all.

My mother and father were divorced just 8 months after I was born. My father raised me, because my mother was young and irresponsible and he wanted me to grow up in a good environment. During the first seven years of my life, we lived with my grandparents. My grandparents were Lutheran, so naturally my father was Lutheran as well. There was a Lutheran church conveniently located just a few houses down from our home.

I knew from a very young age that I did not belong in a Lutheran Church. Most Witches’ have a calling to the old ways and earth traditions at some point in their lives. I hated bible study and had no interest in learning about Christ. I didn’t know anything about Witchcraft, or have a clue that I would one day find myself casting spells in a circle on my bedroom floor. I just simply didn’t care for church. It wasn’t until I was about 11 years old when I started having dreams that I was magical.

It began sporadically and then eventually became an every night dream. In my dream I was standing in the middle of the woods during the peak of fall season. I was spinning in circles and dancing around trees. Every time I had the dream, I notice I had a wooden stick in my hand. I now realize the wooden stick was my wand. I went to the library one morning to check out a book on Diana Ross, because I had a book report for school due on the following Monday.

When I sat down at the table in the library there was one small paperback book left behind by what I’m assuming was a lazy citizen. The book was about Witchcraft. I was extremely intrigued, so I decided to check it out and bring it home to read.

When my father saw the book, he was very unsure whether he wanted to allow me to read it or not. I used my charm and wit to persuade him, plus he was the biggest push over ever. The strange thing is, my father told me just a few days ago, that a few years before I checked out that book, I was scolded for drawing pentacles on my bedroom door. He said he couldn’t figure out where I got the idea to draw pentacles. He said he would have not been so freaked out by the action if the drawings were only stars without circles around them. He understands a bit more now that I am 27 and he knows about my spiritual practices.

As I grew older my dreams became more vivid and lucid. I started having dreams of things before they would occur. My first prophetic dream was about my mother. In my dream, the doctor called me on the telephone and told me that my mom was going to die, because she had a tumor in her stomach. About two weeks later my mother had to go to the doctors, because her premenstrual cycle would not end. The doctors ran some test and then found that she had a large mass, the size of a baseball growing in her uterus. They advised her that she needed surgery immediately to get the mass out. My mother called me on the telephone afterwards to talk to me. She was astonished how similar my dream was to her situation.

The second dream was even scarier. I was blind. The only thing I could do was listen to the sounds that were around me. I heard screaming and arguing and then a blast of gunshots so close like the gun was going off next to my ear. The next morning I went to work and received a phone call from my mother in the middle of the day, which was very uncommon. When I answered, she was frantically crying. She proceeded to tell me that one of my closest friends was shot in the head in the middle of the night.

She explained to me that he was still alive, but he was in a coma and the doctors said we should come in and say our goodbyes, because they did not expect him to live through the day. We all gathered at the hospital for which turned out to be a week while he struggled to survive on life support. Finally, he woke up from the coma.

He could not speak, because he had a trachea tube in his throat, so none of us knew if he could hear us or not. A bandage covered his eyes, so we did not know if he could see us. The bullet in his head traveled back down the path in which it entered and actually fell out into the bandage that was wrapped around his head. The doctors did not have to perform any surgery because of that. Unfortunately once the bandage was removed we found out that he was blind.

I have accepted the fact that I am not a psychic. I cannot read tarot cards. I cannot read runes or tea leaves or make use of any other divining tool. The only thing that I have is my dreams. Therefore, I call myself a dream witch. I love witchcraft. I love the freedom of being solitary eclectic and choosing beliefs that make me feel comfortable.

I love the art and beauty of casting a circle and uniting myself with the Lord and the Lady to mold the energies of the universe for my intentions. I love herb magick and candle magick. I love every aspect of earth traditions and wish that more people would discover the beauty and mysticism that surrounds it.

I wish more people would give their children the knowledge and independence to explore different beliefs to decide what or whom they want to worship. Children continue to be lead into their predecessor’s political, social and religious views. I am not saying that I want everyone to follow the path of the ancient traditions; I am just concerned with the limited freedom we give in a country founded on freedom.

 

Calendar of the Sun for Saturday, June 2

2 Lithemonath

Juno Regina’s Day: Queenship Rite

Colors: Purple and gold
Element: Air
Altar: Upon cloth of purple and gold set two purple candles in gold holders, a woman’s crown, peacock feathers, and eight golden stars.
Offerings: Take on a leadership position, if you are female. Follow a woman’s lead, if male.
Daily Meal: Whatever the women in the House want, if they can agree.

Juno Regina Invocation

Great Queen of Heaven,
Ruler of all the Gods,
Lady clothed in light,
You name, Juno, once meant
The indwelling spirit of inspiration
That lives in every woman.
And in every woman is the inner Queen
That you embody and enspirit,
The feminine hand of authority
That is Mother, and yet not mother,
That is Virgin, and yet not virgin,
That is both power and compassion,
Both beauty and strength.
Queen of heaven, we celebrate your Queenship
As it gives us our inspiration;
Have mercy on us as we go through our days,
And judge us lightly in the end.

Chant:
Juno Regina Domina

(One who has been chosen to do the work of the ritual takes the crown in their hands and walks around the circle. If any woman feels moved to take on a leadership position, she can on this day step forward and kneel. The crown is placed on her head, and this is a symbol that she is asking to take on more responsibility. This offer cannot be refused, although the House Mama or Papa has discretion as to her future duties.)

[Pagan Book of Hours]

Middle Age Witchcraft

Middle Age Witchcraft

During the early Middle Ages, the early Christian Church didn’t focus on witches or witchcraft. The Council of Paderborn in 785 explicitly outlawed the belief in witches, and Saint Boniface declared in the 8th century that a belief in the existence of witches was unchristian altogether. The Emperor Charlemagne decreed that burning a witch was actually a pagan custom, and anyone caught doing it would be punished by death. In 820 the Bishop of Lyon and others declared that witches could not fly or make brooms fly, could not make bad weather, nor change their shape. The idea that people could do these things, were deemed fanciful tales of mythology. The decree was accepted into Church law. King Coloman of Hungary declared that witches do not exist, and therefore witch-hunts were not necessary. Many other rulers of his day followed suit and the witch-hunts ceased for a while. These non-existent concepts lasted until the late 12th century. And the first medieval trials against witches occurs in the 13th century with the establishment of the Inquisition. The Church was actually concentrating on the persecution of heresy. But witchcraft, either real or just alleged, was treated as any other sort of heresy. It’s also at this time where we see the label Witchcraft applied broadly to pagan beliefs and practices. No longer does it become a label for a craft or practice, but as a title or label for a set of spiritual beliefs. Witchcraft becomes the title of a religion, with many varying practices. And it’s here where many today claim the label for their religious practice.

Today, Witchcraft can be defined as:

A neo-pagan religion that is further defined and put into practice by it’s many sects, such as Wicca, Deborean Wicca, Strega, Pictish and others.

The European witch-hunts reach their pinnacle around 1450. No longer is it a theological campaign for the church, but a phenomenon that resembles mass hysteria and fear. The classical attributes of a witch, casting negative spells to control others, flying on brooms, intercourse with the Devil, and meeting with demons and other witches at sabbats, became descriptive fact in Canon Law around 1400. Conspiracy theories begin to form; stating that witches use their sabbat rituals and underground movements as a means of plotting to overthrow Christianity. The church and monarchies see this as a war upon their authority and control to be weeded out and destroyed. The lands of the Holy Roman Empire, as well as Scotland were all affected by the trials. 29 editions of The “Malleus Maleficarum” were reprinted between 1487 and 1669, even though the book was condemned by the Catholic Church in 1490. It was continually used by secular witch-hunting courts to condemn and prosecute accused witches. Intellectuals spoke out against the trials from the late 16th century. Not even then elite society could keep themselves or their family members out of the witch jails. Johannes Kepler in 1615 used his prestige to keep his mother from being burnt as a witch. The 1692 Salem witch trials exploded even though the practice of witch trials was declining in Europe. During the Early Modern Period the concern over witchcraft reaches the boiling point. There are many thoughts as to why the trials began. That they were more about the desire of the Church and current Monarchies to gain or maintain control over the citizenry. It’s interesting to note that most of the witch trials that ended in convictions took place in rural areas with a 90% conviction rate. Another interesting statistic is how the highest concentration of trials took place along the borders of France, Germany, and Italy, in what is now modern day Switzerland. Some areas, such as Britain (with the exception of some notable trials in Scotland) saw fewer trials, but were still extensive. And some point to Spain as holding the largest portion of trials and executions. There were early trials in the 15th and early 16th century, but then the witch scare went into decline, before becoming a big issue again and in the 17th century. The practiced declined some say in part to other more weighty concerns placed before the Church and Monarchies. Others say it declined out of fear of reprisals. And still others claim it’s a combination of these reasons, and the increased practiced of Witchcraft sects to go underground and hide their beliefs and practices. There are many traditions who make the claim that their early practioners migrated away from these witch-hunt areas to escape persecution and continue their beliefs and practices. While others make claims of going underground into secret societies. Though there is no unequivocal evidence of secret pagan societies or migrations; we can learn from history how persecutions do indeed force people to flee or live in secrecy.

Candlemas: The Light Returns

Candlemas: The Light Returns
by Mike Nichols

It seems quite impossible that the holiday of Candlemas should be considered the beginning of Spring. Here in the Heartland, February 2nd may see a blanket of snow mantling the Mother. Or, if the snows have gone, you may be sure the days are filled with drizzle, slush, and steel-grey skies — the dreariest weather of the year. In short, the perfect time for a Pagan Festival of Lights. And as for Spring, although this may seem a tenuous beginning, all the little buds, flowers and leaves will have arrived on schedule before Spring runs its course to Beltane.

‘Candlemas’ is the Christianized name for the holiday, of course. The older Pagan names were Imbolc and Oimelc. ‘Imbolc’ means, literally, ‘in the belly’ (of the Mother). For in the womb of Mother Earth, hidden from our mundane sight but sensed by a keener vision, there are stirrings. The seed that was planted in her womb at the solstice is quickening and the new year grows. ‘Oimelc’ means ‘milk of ewes’, for it is also lambing season.

The holiday is also called ‘Brigit’s Day’, in honor of the great Irish Goddess Brigit. At her shrine, the ancient Irish capitol of Kildare, a group of 19 priestesses (no men allowed) kept a perpetual flame burning in her honor. She was considered a goddess of fire, patroness of smithcraft, poetry and healing (especially the healing touch of midwifery). This tripartite symbolism was occasionally expressed by saying that Brigit had two sisters, also named Brigit. (Incidentally, another form of the name Brigit is Bride, and it is thus She bestows her special patronage on any woman about to be married or handfasted, the woman being called ‘bride’ in her honor.)

The Roman Catholic Church could not very easily call the Great Goddess of Ireland a demon, so they canonized her instead. Henceforth, she would be ‘Saint’ Brigit, patron SAINT of smithcraft, poetry, and healing. They ‘explained’ this by telling the Irish peasants that Brigit was ‘really’ an early Christian missionary sent to the Emerald Isle, and that the miracles she performed there ‘misled’ the common people into believing that she was a goddess. For some reason, the Irish swallowed this. (There is no limit to what the Irish imagination can convince itself of. For example, they also came to believe that Brigit was the ‘foster-mother’ of Jesus, giving no thought to the implausibility of Jesus having spent his boyhood in Ireland!)

Brigit’s holiday was chiefly marked by the kindling of sacred fires, since she symbolized the fire of birth and healing, the fire of the forge, and the fire of poetic inspiration. Bonfires were lighted on the beacon tors, and chandlers celebrated their special holiday. The Roman Church was quick to confiscate this symbolism as well, using ‘Candlemas’ as the day to bless all the church candles that would be used for the coming liturgical year. (Catholics will be reminded that the following day, St. Blaise’s Day, is remembered for using the newly-blessed candles to bless the throats of parishioners, keeping them from colds, flu, sore throats, etc.)

The Catholic Church, never one to refrain from piling holiday upon holiday, also called it the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (It is surprising how many of the old Pagan holidays were converted to Maryan Feasts.) The symbol of the Purification may seem a little obscure to modern readers, but it has to do with the old custom of ‘churching women’. It was believed that women were impure for six weeks after giving birth. And since Mary gave birth at the winter solstice, she wouldn’t be purified until February 2nd. In Pagan symbolism, this might be re-translated as when the Great Mother once again becomes the Young Maiden Goddess.

Today, this holiday is chiefly connected to weather lore. Even our American folk-calendar keeps the tradition of ‘Groundhog’s Day’, a day to predict the coming weather, telling us that if the Groundhog sees his shadow, there will be ‘six more weeks’ of bad weather (i.e., until the next old holiday, Lady Day). This custom is ancient. An old British rhyme tells us that ‘If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.’ Actually, all of the cross-quarter days can be used as ‘inverse’ weather predictors, whereas the quarter-days are used as ‘direct’ weather predictors.

Like the other High Holidays or Great Sabbats of the Witches’ year, Candlemas is sometimes celebrated on it’s alternate date, astrologically determined by the sun’s reaching 15-degrees Aquarius, or Candlemas Old Style (in 1988, February 3rd, at 9:03 am CST). Another holiday that gets mixed up in this is Valentine’s Day. Ozark folklorist Vance Randolf makes this quite clear by noting that the old-timers used to celebrate Groundhog’s Day on February 14th. This same displacement is evident in Eastern Orthodox Christianity as well. Their habit of celebrating the birth of Jesus on January 6th, with a similar post-dated shift in the six-week period that follows it, puts the Feast of the Purification of Mary on February 14th. It is amazing to think that the same confusion and lateral displacement of one of the old folk holidays can be seen from the Russian steppes to the Ozark hills, but such seems to be the case!

Incidentally, there is speculation among linguistic scholars that the vary name of ‘Valentine’ has Pagan origins. It seems that it was customary for French peasants of the Middle Ages to pronounce a ‘g’ as a ‘v’. Consequently, the original term may have been the French ‘galantine’, which yields the English word ‘gallant’. The word originally refers to a dashing young man known for his ‘affaires d’amour’, a true galaunt. The usual associations of V(G)alantine’s Day make much more sense in this light than their vague connection to a legendary ‘St. Valentine’ can produce. Indeed, the Church has always found it rather difficult to explain this nebulous saint’s connection to the secular pleasures of flirtation and courtly love.

For modern Witches, Candlemas O.S. may then be seen as the Pagan version of Valentine’s Day, with a de-emphasis of ‘hearts and flowers’ and an appropriate re-emphasis of Pagan carnal frivolity. This also re-aligns the holiday with the ancient Roman Lupercalia, a fertility festival held at this time, in which the priests of Pan ran through the streets of Rome whacking young women with goatskin thongs to make them fertile. The women seemed to enjoy the attention and often stripped in order to afford better targets.

One of the nicest folk-customs still practiced in many countries, and especially by Witches in the British Isles and parts of the U.S., is to place a lighted candle in each and every window of the house, beginning at sundown on Candlemas Eve (February 1st), allowing them to continue burning until sunrise. Make sure that such candles are well seated against tipping and guarded from nearby curtains, etc. What a cheery sight it is on this cold, bleak and dreary night to see house after house with candle-lit windows! And, of course, if you are your Coven’s chandler, or if you just happen to like making candles, Candlemas Day is THE day for doing it. Some Covens hold candle-making parties and try to make and bless all the candles they’ll be using for the whole year on this day.

Other customs of the holiday include weaving ‘Brigit’s crosses’ from straw or wheat to hang around the house for protection, performing rites of spiritual cleansing and purification, making ‘Brigit’s beds’ to ensure fertility of mind and spirit (and body, if desired), and making Crowns of Light (i.e. of candles) for the High Priestess to wear for the Candlemas Circle, similar to those worn on St. Lucy’s Day in Scandinavian countries. All in all, this Pagan Festival of Lights, sacred to the young Maiden Goddess, is one of the most beautiful and poetic of the year.

Paths and Journeys

Paths and Journeys

Author: Janice Van Cleve

Paths and journeys are not the same thing. Paths are like nouns and journeys are like verbs. Paths are routes that lead to this or that destination. Journeys, on the other hand, are how we drive on this or that path, where we have been, and where we think we are going. Sometimes we take one path and sometimes another. In fact, since we are pursuing multiple short term and long term goals all the time, we probably are journeying on multiple paths every day. We have career paths, relationship paths, financial paths, aging paths, health paths, and many more. We are driving at different speeds, in different vehicles, and talking on different cell phones. No wonder we sometimes get lost or crash into things.

Some paths are determined for us – by bosses, by laws, or by how much money we have or don’t have. Some paths we fall into by chance – job layoffs, traffic accidents, or forces of nature. Some paths we choose because we like the path or because we think it will get us to a desired destination. Spiritual paths are no different.

An illustration might clarify. When I was a Roman Catholic, my spiritual path was the church, my roadmap was the Baltimore catechism, and my destination was Rome. I suppose a good Mormon kid takes the interstate to Salt Lake City, a Muslim travels to Mecca, a Jew to Jerusalem, and a Buddhist evaporates into Nirvana, metaphorically speaking. It all seemed so clear to me back then that if I drove this path with this road map I would get to Rome just like they told me I should. A funny thing happened along the way, however. I got pulled over by the Holy Police and when they checked my drivers license and found out I was a lesbian, they said I couldn’t drive on that road.

So there I was out in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas, my journey aborted, and no clear destination. I got out of the car and wandered around in the cornfields for a while until I met a country girl who guided me to a side road. It was then I discovered that there was a whole network of side roads going to all sorts of interesting places. She told me that this was the Pagan path, or to be more accurate, one of many Pagan paths.

Pagan paths are fun. Some are long, some are short, and some are under construction. There are many intersections, many maps, and many road signs, but no Holy Police. Most of the paths don’t pretend to go to any one special destination; rather, they just seem to go for the joy of going. And that’s when I began to notice a striking thing about these Pagan paths. They have lots of interesting attractions on both sides of the road and no commandment or necessity to reach an ending. What a contrast to the Holy Roman path I had been driving on!

Or was it? Now that I had seen the reality of multiple paths, I looked back at that Catholic highway. For the first time I noticed that it had exit and entry ramps, too. There were Catholic road crews repairing and replacing sections of it as well. Even the Catholic road maps got updated eventually (although it took the Vatican 400 years to exonerate Galileo) . I had not been aware of the varieties of Catholic experience before. Then I noticed that not all the Muslims or all the Jews were driving down their respective straight and narrows either. I wondered then if all paths were actually more or less equal and a journey on any one of them would be just as meaningful and of value as any other. Then I heard the sirens of the Holy Police and I remembered the difference between the highways and the side roads.

That’s not to say I have not encountered sheriffs on the side roads but most of them are pretty laid back and the only laws they enforce are those of common civility and mutual respect as expressed in the Law of Love, the Wiccan Rede, Kharma, and such like. What really holds Pagan paths together is not enforcement but traditions, particularly their seasonal traditions. There’s no denying the seasons. They come and they go as the Wheel of the Year turns. Even in parts of the world where the differences of weather are minimal, the energy forces of each season are still at work. Our various traditions help us align with the seasons, the forces of the universe, and our inner spirits so we don’t get lost or crash.

Where do these traditions come from? Tevya asks that very question: “You may ask, how did this tradition get started? I’ll tell you. . . . I don’t know. But it’s a tradition, and because of our traditions every one of us knows who he is and what God expects of him. Traditions, traditions! Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof!”

Our traditions come from many places – intentional design, borrowing from someplace else, a good idea that sticks, or who knows where? What makes a practice or a set of words a tradition is that it is used repeatedly over time and those who use it invest it with value through their applied energies. In ancient days it was the elders, the loremasters, the bards, and the shamans who remembered the traditions and passed them down orally through the generations. Modern Pagans – and other religious folk – write them down in Books of Shadows, prayer books, and liturgies.

Thus we have many paths, each supported and balanced by their traditions. However, paths all by themselves do not get us to our destinations. We have to choose which paths to follow, and when, and for how long. We have to put our own energies and efforts into motion. Scribes and shamans, priests and priestesses, bards and loremasters are responsible for maintaining the paths and traditions but only we are responsible for our individual journeys.

One of the most delightful features of paths – either side roads or highways – is that if they are alive, they are continually under construction. Our Women Of The Goddess Circle is a good example. It has been under construction for almost 19 years as of this writing. Over time it has developed some pretty good traditions and practices, based on much study, experience, and good judgment. That’s not to say that we haven’t built a bridge or two to nowhere in those years, but we learned and altered course as necessary. We continue to encourage our women to seek out many paths and bring back good ideas.

New ideas are sifted and even if they are tried, it is understood that they are on probation until they prove themselves. Too many changes too often can erode a group’s traditions. On the other hand, closing the door on changes that would improve the performance and appeal of a path could doom it to limited usefulness. The challenge is always to maintain a careful balance between tradition and change.

Part of that balance is to keep reminding ourselves of the mission and purpose of the group and of the path it is on. It is more important for each path to offer its own distinct features and attractions than for it to become either all things to all people or nothing to nobody. Another part of the balance is for each individual to take personal responsibility for their own journey, to contribute enthusiastically to the path she is on while she is on it, and to seek other paths to round out her spiritual needs.

As for myself, I follow the Dianic Wiccan path and I do have a care toward maintaining its traditions and those of the Women Of The Goddess Circle. However, I do journey sometimes on the Gnostic path or the Aquarian path, or I take to the stars with astrology or take to the outdoors alone into the wilds of Nature. My journey is enriched by all of them – and out here there are no Holy Police.