Saint of the Day for August 9th is St. Joan of Arc

St. Joan of Arc

Patron of soldiers and France
b.1412 d.1431

St. Joan of Arc is the patroness of soldiers and of France. On January 6, 1412, Joan of Arc was born to pious parents of the French peasant class, at the obscure village of Domremy, near the province of Lorraine. At a very early age, she heard voices: those of St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret.

At first the messages were personal and general. Then at last came the crowning order. In May, 1428, her voices “of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret” told Joan to go to the King of France and help him reconquer his kingdom. For at that time the English king was after the throne of France, and the Duke of Burgundy, the chief rival of the French king, was siding with him and gobbling up evermore French territory.

After overcoming opposition from churchmen and courtiers, the seventeen year old girl was given a small army with which she raised the seige of Orleans on May 8, 1429. She then enjoyed a series of spectacular military successes, during which the King was able to enter Rheims and be crowned with her at his side.

In May 1430, as she was attempting to relieve Compiegne, she was captured by the Burgundians and sold to the English when Charles and the French did nothing to save her. After months of imprisonment, she was tried at Rouen by a tribunal presided over by the infamous Peter Cauchon, Bishop of Beauvais, who hoped that the English would help him to become archbishop.

Through her unfamiliarity with the technicalities of theology, Joan was trapped into making a few damaging statements. When she refused to retract the assertion that it was the saints of God who had commanded her to do what she had done, she was condemned to death as a heretic, sorceress, and adulteress, and burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. She was nineteen years old. Some thirty years later, she was exonerated of all guilt and she was ultimately canonized in 1920, making official what the people had known for centuries. Her feast day is May 30.

The Cult of Mary

The Cult of Mary

Author: Fire Lyte

There is a hidden mystery that exists in the Christian faith that bubbles just under the surface of common knowledge, yet remains in essence an ageless conundrum. This mystery actually started off with the same question that this paper will attempt to answer: “Why me?” Or, more specifically, why Mary? The Catholic Church has hailed her as “the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven; as Our Lady of Lourdes, Walsingham, Guadalupe, Czestochowa; as Flower of Carmel, House of Gold, Ark of the Covenant, ” (Ashe 14) . Men hold Mary close to them as a personal mother, revere her as one of mankind deified, and yet hold her above, still.

The question is why.

There is no data concerning the mother of Christ except in Christian writings, and there is really nothing of Christian merit to compare her to. In order to even fervently research her, one must first accept that Christ existed, which any skeptic could dispel with a call for burden of proof beyond the Bible. Despite this, it is the position of this research to answer the question of “Why Mary?” The answer is that she is the Christian expression of a tradition in place since time immemorial of deifying a Mother Goddess.

In a collection of essays entitled The Blessed Virgin Mary, the author John de Satgé, an evangelical canon, states this about the origin of the veneration of Mary:

The evangelical has a strong suspicion that the deepest roots of the Marian cults are not to be found in the Christian tradition at all. The religious history of mankind shows a recurring tendency to worship a mother-goddess. Three factors in particular suggest that the cult of Mary may be an intrusion into Christianity from the dark realms of natural religion. First, it seems that historically the earliest traces of Marian devotion seem to come from Christian circles to some extent at least tainted with syncretizing Gnosticism.

The second is the ease with which the devotion becomes associated with local holy places so that the faithful make their prayers to our Lady of a particular shrine. May it not be the case, the evangelical wonders, that what we have here is in reality an older religion, a paganism which has been too lightly baptized into Christ and whose ancient features persist under a thin Christian veil? The third factor is an apparent correlation between Marian devotion and an elevation of chastity to a point of esteem where marriage and sexual intercourse are depreciated if not reprehended. (Mascall 77)

Here is a summation of the problem in reasoning Mary’s divinity with Christianity, as Christianity is supposedly patriarchal in nature and supposes that there is only one, true god. This same author goes on to say that the worship of Mary did not begin as the veneration of Christ’s holy mother, but as a deity unto herself. However, Christianity dodges the issue of Mary as a Goddess by referring to a sacred book that one must accept as an article of faith. In point of fact, the veneration, or more adequately, the cult of Mary cannot be fully examined through the lens of Christianity alone. Rather, it must be looked at in a historical context.

There are many variations of this adage, but it is said that to know where you are going you must know where you came from. The same is true in the case of the Goddess Mary and her cult. In order to know why the cult of Mary exists in Christendom, one must know about the veneration of female deity and its importance in ancient cultures. Before the rise of gods or any recorded patriarchal forms of worship, there is evidence to suggest the reverence and worship of goddess worship. More specifically, there is evidence to support worship of The Goddess – or, as Goethe puts it, the Ewig-Weibliche, or Eternal-Womanly (Ashe 24) . It is believed that the stone carvings, dating back to over 10, 000 BC, of women with “gross breasts and bellies” were “exaggerated tokens of motherhood” that were used as cult-objects of early Siberian and European hunting tribes (Ashe 24) .

This early reverence does not stop with the Eternal-Womanly, but continues into every pantheon across the world. Upon moving from the prehistoric era to the oldest recorded myths and legends, The Goddess is “One at her apogee – not always through conscious intercommunication of cults, but psychologically One, under many names and aspects, ” (James 41) . She becomes known by many names, and is credited, depending on your mythos of choice, as a world-matriarch, a wife or mistress, a maiden, an animal, or some combination of the above. She has been called Nintu in Sumeria, Inanna in Babylon as well as Ishtar, Astarte in Canaan, Neith or Isis in Egypt, Cybele in Asia Minor, Artemis or Diana by the Romans, and Aphrodite by the Greeks. (James 77)

By the second millennium BC, however, the waning of The Goddess’ hold had begun. During the reign of The Goddess, however, it has been supposed that a matriarchy was in place with kings married to priestesses as sacred functionaries. (Campbell 315) On the other side, it is more than likely a bit too extreme to suppose that the whole of Europe was under the rule of women. There is much evidence to state the contrary, or at least that women were not in powerful enough positions to rival the reign of a king. Although, more than likely, women were possibly powerful through a knowledge of magic, and, thus, the Eternal-Womanly powerful along with them. (Campbell 316) .

There is also the hint of the idea of matrilinear family lines, that is the tracing of parentage back through the mother’s line rather than the father’s. (Ashe 26) This comes from the now-practical idea that while the mother of a child can be known for certain, his or her father is another matter. Paternal parentage could be hard to prove, or hushed up altogether. Furthermore, the very nature of procreation was a mystery to early peoples. Many cultures, when dealing with the issue of pregnancy, doubted the father’s identity, and some doubted his very existence. (Ashe 27) This deals directly with the nature of this perpetual Goddess ideal. If sex-relations could occur without resulting in a pregnancy, could not pregnancy result without sex-relations?

Early people attempted to answer this question by saying that Earth, the great Cosmic Mother, was a life-giver, and needed no man to do so. In fact, sometimes there was no cause at all other than the Great Mother’s will. Now, we finally get to the point in history where the idea of virgin birth becomes profound and permeates culture. The Egyptian Goddess Neith gives birth to the Sun-God Ra without any aide and by her own power. Cybele splits off a male consort named Attis for herself by her own creation power. In these earliest tales of The Goddess, she is both a virgin and a mother, not unlike a certain Biblical virgin-mother. (Boslooper 162) These days, as was stated earlier, were doomed to end. The days of the reign of The Goddess, in whatever capacity She was in power, began to die out at the beginning of the second millennium BC. (Neumann 163)

The reign of power passed rather swiftly – considering the expanse of time – over to male deities. This happened “partly through the ever-strengthening institution of kingship, partly through changes in kingship, partly through changes in relations between the sexes, [and] partly through war and conquest.” (Ashe 29) The lunar calendar – a female allusion – was replaced by a solar calendar – male-centric. Gods like Zeus became central and chief of many pantheons of Europe, western Asia, and Northeastern Africa. Even worse, however, was what this new male-dominated society did to the veneration of the Goddess. She was torn apart and turned into various, easier to digest deities that seemed much more human and inferior to the now-chief deities. The Goddess in Greece became Athena, Artemis, Hera, Aphrodite, and the rest.

Femininity as a whole was attacked through the myth of Pandora, who was bestowed many gifts by the gods, but was too weak-willed to hold to her pact to never open her ubiquitous box. Thus, the divine feminine was turned into an insipid girl who would never measure up to the standards set before her, and, oh yeah, she was the source of all evil on the planet. (Guthrie 37)
One of the most powerful of female symbols, the serpent, was turned into something that male gods should triumph over.

During New Year’s festivals “Babylonian priests chanted a Creation Epic telling how the god Marduk had created the world by destroying a she-monster of chaos, Tiamat, and re-arranging her fragments. The Goddess’s serpents, formerly wise and benign, were now portrayed as malicious.” (Ashe 30-31) The greatest of these injustices to The Goddess, the Eternal-Womanly, was the Fall. As it went with the change of status among the ancient Israelites, so did it go with the idea of Eve, whose name means Life, and who was the mother of all living. (Gen. 3:20)

At first, she was the naked mother of paradise, walking in the Garden of Eden at the place where a stream turned into four mighty rivers – sources of the earth’s fertility – beside the Tree of Life. (Gen. 2:9) The story quickly turns, however, into the telling of a second-rate creation that causes far too much trouble for the dominant man, and, like Pandora, brings about the evils of the world. How does she do this? Well, the mother eats a fruit tempted her by a serpent; all of these are ancient Goddess symbols that were turned into a warning to paternalistic religious society to condemn the old religion.

Not all feminine entries into Christianity are considered evil. Wisdom, which may very well be a tribute to Athena, is a feminine entity in the Bible, though, admittedly, a widely overlooked entity. When Job asks Yahweh where “Wisdom” is to be found, it is to the feminine counterpart to Yahweh that sits enthroned in Zion to which he is referring. (Ashe 43-44) Wisdom is seen as the mediator between Yahweh and mankind. She was the inspiration for the Torah, supposedly befriended Biblical characters, and guides her devotees to the next world. (Knox 60) In fact, Canon Wilfred Knox says further:

The personified Wisdom is a female figure definitely on the divine side of the gulf, which separates God from man….

There can be little doubt as to the original of this highly coloured portrait. The lady who dwells in the city of Jerusalem and in its Temple, who is also to be compared to all the forest trees of Hermon and the luxuriant verdure of the Jordan valley, is the great Syrian goddess Asarte, at once the goddess of great cities and the mother manifested in the fertility of nature (Knox 70) .

So now the stage is set for the emergence of the cult of Mary. The Goddess, in all of her many aspects, was subdued by a patriarchal society and vilified by its main religion. However, the positive ideal of Her as Wisdom seeped its way into the Bible despite the book’s otherwise masculine leanings. Instead of Wisdom being the mediator and chief female sitting enthroned in Zion, it will soon be Mary, the mother of the savior, who would take that spot.

The deification of Mary was not an overnight creation. When her story was written into the Gospels of the New Testament, she was not immediately charged with the titles aforementioned – Queen of Heaven, etc. To understand how this came about, and how her prominence became so in the first place, one must look to the early church. That is, one must understand the nature of those that wrote the Gospels. According to the Jews, Jesus was not the Messiah, and to consider him such was a blasphemy. (Ashe 50) However, he was a teacher, and he changed the lives of his disciples in the grandest way by seemingly coming back from the dead after his crucifixion.

Christianity was about the teachings of one person, and various subsets or denominations attempted – and still attempt today – to figure out the meaning of Christ’s words. At the heart of the religion was still a man, and the religion is as much about his life as it is about his teachings. His life, however, most definitely includes his mother:

In his [Jesus’] role as dying-and-rising Saviour he could not be readily conceived as standing alone. Such gods had never normally done so. They were rooted in the world of the Goddess, and in some form she accompanied them. You could not have Osiris without Isis, or Attis without Cybele. The death-conquering Christ of the Pauline missions cast a shadow behind him, whether or not Paul was ever aware of it. He evoked a role for another to fill – a woman. The world’s nostalgic desire would prepare a place for her. Doubtless, like Christ, she would transcend myth as well as fulfilling it. And the original relationship of the Young God to the Goddess made Christ’s mother the best candidate (Ashe 53) .

Mary is the cause of Jesus’ first miracle. At her prompting, Jesus turned water into wine at Cana. (John 2:1-12) Other than this, her appearance at his crucifixion, and a handful of other appearances in the Gospels and finally in Acts, she has no place in the rest of the Bible. The author we know as Matthew is chief author that first introduces the symbol of Mary to the Bible. It was said, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) This name is said to mean God with us, which symbolically identifies him as the incarnation of Yahweh. However, the word ‘virgin’ may or may not be translated correctly as one who has never been sexually intimate with a man, as it is rather ambiguous in the original Hebrew. (Ashe 66) Whether or not the child was biologically Joseph’s, or any other man’s, is irrelevant, as it is believe that he was the wondrous child conceived without intercourse through a miracle. Sound like a familiar theme? It should.

In fact, several times throughout the Gospels, and a few times in Paul’s Epistles, Joseph is culturally completely taken out of the equation. It was customary to call a man the son of his father even after his father’s death and for several years afterwards. However, Jesus was always called the “son of Mary.” (Mascall 32) Even during the writing of the Gospels, the authors had already begun to slightly venerate Mary more than other characters of the New Testament by turning Joseph into more of a later consort, mentioned far fewer times in the Gospels than Mary.

The problem in studying the idea of the virgin birth quickly turns into a problem of irrefutability, as the only texts on the matter are the Christian texts. There are some whispers of contradiction in the way certain verses are worded throughout the New Testament, however many such discrepancies occurred due to the need to copy these texts by hand over and over again through the years. Mistakes could have happened. Since these discrepancies are negligible and do not provide any concrete evidence of the contrary, they must be thrown out. (Boslooper 230-234) Thus, the problem of irrefutability.

Now we have a Biblical veneration of Mary, as she was assuredly held above Joseph and many others. We have a miraculous virgin birth, echoed from a long-ago history of deifying the sacred feminine, the Eternal-Womanly. The pregnancy itself is a nearly direct mimic of local Greek or Roman culture – a la Zeus and his many supposed impregnations of various female deities. However, the religion and practice of Christianity was still a purely patriarchal one. Yahweh was a solely jealous male god that did not want his followers to put anybody else on a throne. In the late 370s, however, much of that changed with the public singing of hymns popularized by Syrian Gnostics and Ephraem. (Ashe 195-196) These poems, granted, might be a bit beyond the realm of theology, however:

His many hymns and poems include several addressed to the Virgin. Their flowery praise strikes a new note in Christianity. Its language should not be pressed too far…. Still it is arresting to find Ephraem calling Mary Christ’s ‘bride’ or ‘spouse (thus being the first Christian to clear the hurdle of the Goddess-and-Son relationship, though with a wrench to doctrine) , and writing what seem to be prayers to her, implying her power as a living intercessor with God (Palmer 20) .

These same hymns echo a second Eve theme, but begin to title Mary with the names we are so familiar with. He calls Mary “O Virgin Mother of God” – the Blessed Virgin – as well as the “Gate of Heaven, and Ark, in thee I have a secure salvation. Save me, O Lady, out of thy pure mercy.” (Palmer 24) Through these poems, and the later Gnostic Christian beliefs, Mary becomes the Garden of Eden itself, the Earth. Mary is the mediator between mankind and God, one who is addressed as the Mother of God whose “prayers obtainest for thy faithful ones a covenant, peace, and a scepter wherewith to rule all.” (Palmer 24) Granted, these verses are hidden in messages praising the Father God, but they are there, and they quickly permeated society creating a subculture of Mary worship.

Upon the time of Ephraem’s death a few years later, the practice of praying to The Virgin directly for absolution or intercessory prayer had become commonplace. The ideas perpetuated by the Gnostics entered mainstream consciousness, albeit in a less than matriarchal method. However, many sects, including Rome in some instances, began to retroactively credit Mary with being a far greater presence in the Bible than was originally believed. She had become a patroness of celibacy and virgins that had yet to consummate a marriage. (Boslooper 85) Furthering the idea of her expanded presence, St. Augustine, revering Mary in a nearly Goddess-like deification of maidenhood, stated that “[quoting Isaiah 19:1] ‘Behold, the Lord comes seated on a light cloud, ’” and claims that the light cloud is a symbol of Mary, free from any burden of vice. St. Augustine continues to proselytize, “Receive, receive, O consecrated virgins, the spiritual rain that falls from this cloud, which will temper the burning desires of the body.” (Palmer 27)

Mary became a Goddess of Virginity, though very few actually referred to her as the patron Goddess of Virginity. Rather, it is seen more often this sort of allusion, the idea that she is The Virgin, Queen of Heaven, who calms temptations, desires, and worldly ills. She could be compared to several goddesses of peace, but that might be an oversimplification of her reverence.

The rise of Mary’s importance in Christianity happened swiftly over several centuries, and continues until today. Mary is now the patron saint of many locations, known by many names, just as the idea of The Goddess was disseminated into many names and purposes. She is an intercessor of prayer, a healer of humanity, the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven, and a source of miracles herself. (Ashe 244) In the latter part of the first millennium BC, and well into the second millennium, Mary was and still is attributed with healing many sick and dying individuals. This usually occurs through some medium claiming to be blessed by Mary, or by making a pilgrimage to a site that is purportedly blessed with the presence of The Virgin. (Ashe 245)

The power of Mary as a healer and Holy Virgin Mother holds great sway over many in the Catholic faith still. Gnostic revivalists are mixed about whether or not Mary is the revival of The Goddess, or merely a highly praised saint and important Bible character. The cult of Mary, however, has strikingly similar corollaries to past ideals of The Goddess, and so does her worship. Venerated as Eden itself, she becomes the Goddess of the Earth, the Eternal-Womanly’s oldest and most recognizably universal form.

As The Virgin, her cult harkens back to the days of Artemis, Diana, and the ancient virgin goddesses that created the world without any help from a man, to the time of Cybele who created her own consort without the aide of anything but her own will and sheer power. As a healer and source of miracles, she is likened to the ancient goddesses of magic and spellcraft that abound in Egyptian, Sumerian, Syrian, Greek, Roman, Celtic, and Norse pantheons. As a guider of souls and intercessor of prayer, she is like the psychopomps of ancient times.

But, whether or not Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, Intercessor, Guider of Maidens, Healer of the World, Eden, the cloud the Lord sits upon, should add “aspect of The Goddess or Eternal-Womanly” to her litany of titles is, perhaps, a mystery for the ages. However, it cannot be denied that the reverence bestowed upon Mary is deserving of the title “Goddess.”



Footnotes:
Ashe, Geoffrey. The Virgin: Mary’s Cult and the Re-Emergence of the Goddess. Great Britain: The History Press, 1976. Print.
‘Common Bible’, Revised Standard Version. translation by Ronald Knox, 1973.
Boslooper, Thomas, The Virgin Birth, Preachers Library, 1962. Print.
Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God. vol. 1. Secker and Warburg, 1960-5. Print.
Guthrie, W.K.C.. The Greeks and their Gods. Methuen, 1950. Print.
James, E. O.. The Cult of the Mother-Goddess. Thames and Hudson, 1965. Print.
James, E. O.. Prehistoric Religion, Thames and Hudson, 1957. Print.
Knox , W. L., St. Paul and the Church of the Gentiles, Cambridge University Press, 1939.
Mascall, E.L. and Box, H.S (eds) , The Blessed Virgin Mary, Darton, 1963. Print.
Neumann, Erich. The Great Mother. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1955. Print.
Palmer, Paul S. J., Mary in the Documents of the Church, Burns Oates and Washborne, 1953.

Saint of the Day for August 4th is Pope Saint Gregory III

Pope Saint Gregory III

He was just standing there, not doing anything special. As a Syrian priest he must have felt a little out of place among the Roman people mourning that day for the dead Pope. As a good preacher, he must have wanted to speak to the funeral procession about Christ’s promise of resurrection. As a learned man, he must have wondered who would follow the holy Saint Gregory II as Pope and where he would take the Church. As a holy man, he must have been praying for Gregory II and for all the people around him to find their place after death in God’s arms. But he was just one of the crowd.

Not to God. And not to the people who recognized the well-known holy man in their midst. Right in the middle of the funeral procession they singled him out. They swept him away and clamored for him to be named the next bishop of Rome. Then suddenly, unexpectedly, without his even lifting a finger, his whole life changed and he could no longer just stand there and do nothing.

After he was proclaimed Pope Gregory III, Emperor Leo II attacked the veneration of holy images. Because Leo II thought the honor paid to Jesus, Mary, and the saints by keeping statues and icons was idolatry, he condemned them and wanted them destroyed. Gregory III didn’t just stand there but immediately sent a letter to Leo II. He couldn’t get the letter through because the priest-messenger was afraid to deliver it. So instead, Gregory called a synod that approved strong measures against anyone who would try to destroy images of Jesus, Mary, or the saints.

Gregory took his stand and Leo II apparently thought the only way to move him was through physical force. So Leo sent ships to kidnap Gregory and bring him to Constantinople. Many people in Rome must have tried to get Gregory to move — but he just stood there. And once again God intervened. A storm destroyed Leo’s ships. The only thing Leo could do was capture some of the papal lands.

So Leo got a few acres of land and we kept our wonderful reminders of the love of God, the protection of Jesus, the prayers of Mary, and the examples of the saints. All because Gregory knew when to take a stand — and when to stand there and let God work.

Gregory III was Pope from 731-741.

In His Footsteps: Where in your life do you need to take a stand? Take a stand: The next time you here someone say something that indicates religious, racial, gender, or any other kind of prejudice, take a stand and make it clear that such prejudice is not tolerated by God or God’s people.

Prayer: Saint Gregory III, it’s hard to stand still and wait for God to do his work. Sometimes I doubt God’s providence. I’m afraid that God’s plan won’t work out unless I push it along. Help me, when I’m confused, to stop, pray, and wait for God. Amen

Catholic Online

Seeking (and Finding) Beauty, Mystery, Wonder

Seeking (and Finding) Beauty, Mystery, Wonder

article

by Janice Van Cleve

Beauty, mystery, wonder — these are the fundamental forces underlying any religion or spiritual experience, according to Steve Blamires, a Scottish author who lectured recently at the Theosophical Society in Seattle. He is a native of the Scottish island of Arran, and the purported subject of his talk was the Celtic spiritual tradition, based on beauty, mystery and wonder. The advertisement said he was going to strip away all the additions and complications that later have been added to this originally simple, practical spiritual path.

There certainly was beauty, mystery and wonder in the room that night. I, for example, openly wondered how long this short little man with the affected accent could drone on and on about the wee little village where he grew up. I wondered why it is in talks like this that a speaker’s mystique and credibility are supposedly somehow enhanced by the difficulty in understanding him. It must be a “speaking in tongues” thing.

Another wonder I had was when would he finally get to the subject that was advertised. I have read a good deal about Celtic traditions, particularly as they apply to the neo-pagan movement in the United States. It is amazing to see how far wishful thinking, misinterpretation, ego and greed can go, grinding out endless books with pretty covers to sell to the unsuspecting. One only has to scan the shelves in the bookstores to realize how much bunk and bullpucky has been fabricated.

Those are the things I was wondering. Then I got to the mystery. The mystery for me was how in the world someone like this could attract an audience on a Sunday afternoon to listen to a talk that really wasn’t going anywhere. It must be marketing. You write a few books, get them circulated, they resonate with some key people and presto, you get to speak. It’s also the macaroon cookies. The Theosophical Society offers macaroons that must weigh in at about a pound apiece. The one I had held my attention and kept my sugar up for a couple of hours.

The beauty, besides the nice room and the spiritual ambiance of the place, is that I stayed to the end and allowed my imagination to interact with the presentation. I go to these things not to get one, two or three rote facts, but to stimulate my thinking. The topic is only one factor. The room, the speaker, the other people — even the droning — all spin threads from which an open mind and an active imagination can weave a pattern or at least a story. Besides, I was not about to invest a couple of hours of my time and walk away empty-handed. In this case, I began to see an application of these three concepts of beauty, mystery and wonder in the creation and performance of ritual.

Ritual is all around us. It is in almost everything we do — dating, dining, political rallies, business meetings, worship and workouts at the gym. Even the process by which we get going in the morning can be a ritual of sorts, what with shower, coffee, the news and so on. What separates ritual from habit or accident is that ritual is an intentional series of actions, appearances, sounds and words that move our psyches beyond logic and tap into emotional energies to alter our consciousness.

A good example is fundraising. On the logical level, the objective is to move cash from the donor‘s pocket to the fundraiser’s cause. Logic alone may move a few donors, but they are never enough. For most, the fundraiser needs to employ rituals of conversations, lunches, tours and building connections — the rituals of schmoozing — to achieve the desired results. The fundraiser paints a picture and paints the donor into it in a way that the donor can see. Strict accounting and profit and loss statements will not move the donor there. The ritual of fundraising has to tap into the emotional energy of the donor to alter his or her consciousness to help him or her become invested in the project. When their emotions are invested, their money is never far behind.

Conversely, we all know what it is like to get out on the wrong side of the bed in the morning. Interruption of or missing a comfortable ritual can put us out of sorts very quickly. That’s an altered consciousness our significant others and co-workers would rather not see!

There are many ways to think about and plan effective rituals, but beauty, mystery and wonder are not a bad approach. As I sat there listening to the Scotsman’s brogueish monologue, I imagined applying these principles to the Wiccan rituals I write and in which I perform.

Beauty is absolutely necessary for effective ritual. Symmetry, color, grace, simultaneous movement and repetition, harmonizing sounds and building to a climax — these principles of beauty have been understood and employed by the Catholic Church for centuries. Smells, bells and stained glass windows are no accident. They are designed and intended to build upon chants, processions and fancy robes to weave another world, an altered consciousness that will give participants the feeling that they have experienced a heavenly place and connected with their saints and angels.

Neo-pagan ritual writers today do not have the advantage of following centuries-old customs that tap into the well-trained responses of their followers. In spite of claims to the contrary, most Celtic or other “traditions” have very shallow basis in the modern world, and today’s pagan audience is usually untrained, eclectic and very independent. Ritual writers have the advantage, however, of being able to call upon the skills of storyteller, magician, choreographer and playwright to put together effective ritual. They get to create something new! By paying attention to tried and tested theatrical, military, business, political, social and religious techniques for crowd engagement, they get to build new vehicles to move our psyches beyond logic and tap into emotional energies that alter our consciousness.

Isn’t this just crowd manipulation? That’s where the mystery comes in. Mere manipulation only attempts to move a crowd into one uniform behavior, like buying a certain product or supporting a certain candidate. The mystery of good ritual is that it helps each individual open up to his or her own unique experience of another world or a unique experience of this world. To do this, the ritual must first engage the people. This is why the old Catholic mass with a priest up in front with his back to the people was much less effective than the new format of moving the altar into the middle. This is also why film houses employ wraparound screens and sound, and why sports teams use cheerleaders.

Once engaged, the people need to be moved from passive observers to active participants. Chanting, dancing, singing, toning, drumming, trance journeying and a host of other techniques are useful. While the participants may outwardly be moving closer and closer to the same behavior, what they are actually doing is letting down their logical restrictions. They are depending upon the mutual support of the others within the safety of the circle to let go of the mundane world and experience an altered state of consciousness.

The wonder is what they behold. If one believes in a single deity or truth, then the wonder is to behold it and to connect with it emotionally outside the narrow limits of the mind. If one believes in immanent deity or many deities, then the wonder is to swim among them and to experience them directly. If, on the other hand, one believes in the individual divine nature of each human being, then the wonder is to behold one’s own disembodied goddess/god self blooming like a flower from its pod. Perhaps the wonder is a glimpse into the future or a profound insight into the past. Perhaps it is simply an indescribable sense of beauty or love or peace. Whatever the wonder is, the ritual is successful if it helps participants get there.

That’s as far as my thoughts got when the speaker began winding down his talk and the effects of the macaroon were wearing off. I began to notice the people around me again and to feel how stiff my backside had become in this hard chair. Perhaps I had been daydreaming. Perhaps, however, my little Gaelic friend had slyly managed to slip me into an altered state of consciousness to behold a truth I could not have reached otherwise.

I wonder how he did that? It’s a mystery to me. Sure’n ’twas a beautiful talk!

Janice Van Cleve is known to doze off in lectures and concerts, but usually comes away very satisfied.

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.

On This Day

On this day…

June 1: Jerusalem Day (Israel, 2011); International Children’s Day

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

  • 1670 – Charles II and Louis XIV signed a secret treaty, wherein England would aid France in its war against the Dutch Republic in return for French assistance in England’s attempt to rejoin the Roman Catholic Church.
  • 1916 – Louis Brandeis (pictured) became the first Jew to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court.
  • 1942 – World War II: The crews of three Japanese Ko-hyoteki class submarines scuttled and committed suicide after entering Sydney Harbour and launching a failed attack.
  • 1980 – CNN, the first network to provide 24-hour television news coverage, was launched.
  • 2001 – Crown Prince Dipendra of Nepal killed King Birendra and several members of the Shah royal family in a shooting spree at the Narayanhity Royal Palace in Kathmandu.
  • 2009 – En route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, Air France Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 228 aboard.

Daughters of the Witching Hill: In Search of Historical Cunning Folk


Author: Mary Sharratt

In 2002, I moved to East Lancashire in northern England—the rugged Pennine landscape that borders the West Yorkshire Dales. My study window looks out on Pendle Hill, famous throughout the world as the place where George Fox received the ecstatic vision that moved him to found the Quaker religion in 1652.

But Pendle Hill is also steeped in its legends of the Lancashire Witches. Everywhere you go in the surrounding countryside, you see images of witches: on buses, pub signs, road signs, and bumper stickers. Visiting friends found this all quite unnerving. “Mary, why are there witches everywhere?” they’d ask me.

In the beginning, I made the mistake of thinking that these witches belonged to the realm of fairy tale and folklore, but no. They were real people. The stark truth, when I took the time to learn it, would change me forever.

In 1612, in one of the most meticulously documented witch trials in English history, seven women and two men from Pendle Forest were executed, condemned on “evidence” provided by a nine-year-old girl and her brother, who appeared to suffer from learning difficulties. The trial itself might never have happened had it not been for King James I’s obsession with the occult. His book Daemonologie—required reading for local magistrates—warned of a vast conspiracy of satanic witches threatening to undermine the nation.

But just who were these witches of Pendle Forest?

Of the accused, Elizabeth Southerns aka Mother Demdike, had the most infamous reputation. According to the primary sources, she was the ringleader, the one who initiated the others into witchcraft. Mother Demdike was so frightening to her foes because she was a woman who embraced her powers wholeheartedly. This is how Court Clerk Thomas Potts describes her in The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, his account of the 1612 trials:

She was a very old woman, about the age of Foure-score yeares, and had
been a Witch for fiftie yeares. Shee dwelt in the Forrest of Pendle, a vast
place, fitte for her profession: What shee committed in her time, no man
knowes. . . . Shee was a generall agent for the Devill in all these partes: no
man escaped her, or her Furies.

Quite impressive for an eighty-year-old lady! Although she died in prison before she could even come to trial, Potts pays a great deal of attention to her, going out of his way to convince his readers that she was a dangerous witch of long-standing repute. Reading the trial transcripts against the grain, I was amazed at how her strength of character blazed forth in the document written expressly to vilify her.

Mother Demdike freely admitted to being a healer and a cunning woman. Her neighbours called on her to cure their children and their cattle. What fascinated me was not that Mother Demdike was arrested on witchcraft charges but that the authorities only turned on her near the end of her long, productive life. She practiced her craft for decades before anybody dared to interfere with her.

Cunning folk were men and women who used charms and herbal cures to heal, foretell the future, and find the location of stolen property. What they did was illegal—sorcery was a hanging offence—but most of them didn’t get arrested for it. The need for the services they provided was too great. Doctors were so expensive that only the very rich could afford them and the “physick” of this era involved bleeding patients with lancets and using dangerous medicines such as mercury—your local village healer with her herbal charms was far less likely to kill you.

Those who used their magic for good were called cunning folk or charmers or blessers or wisemen and wisewomen. Those who were perceived by others as using their magic to curse and harm were called witches. But here it gets complicated.

A cunning woman who performs a spell to discover the location of stolen goods would say that she is working for good. However, the person who claims to have been falsely accused of harbouring those stolen goods could turn around and accuse her of sorcery and slander. Ultimately, the difference between cunning folk and witches lay in the eye of the beholder.

Intriguingly, Mother Demdike’s family’s charms recorded in the trial transcripts mirror the ecclesiastical language of the Catholic Church, demonised and driven underground by the Reformation. Her incantation to cure a bewitched person, quoted by the prosecution as evidence of diabolical magic, is a moving and poetic depiction of the passion of Christ as witnessed by the Virgin Mary. This text is very similar to the White Pater Noster, an Elizabethan prayer charm Eamon Duffy discusses in his landmark book, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England: 1400-1580.

It appears that Mother Demdike, born in Henry VIII’s reign, at the cusp of the Reformation, was a practitioner of the kind of quasi-Catholic folk magic that would have been commonplace in earlier generations. The Old Church embraced many practices that seemed magical and mystical. People believed in miracles. They used holy water and communion bread for healing. Candles blessed at the Feast of Candlemas warded the faithful from demons and disease. People left offerings at holy wells and invoked the saints in their folk charms.

Some rituals such as the blessing of wells and fields may have Pagan origins. Indeed, looking at pre-Reformation folk magic, it seems difficult to untangle the strands of Catholicism from the remnants of Pagan belief that had become so tightly interwoven. Keith Thomas’s social history Religion and the Decline of Magic is an excellent study on how the Reformation literally took the magic out of Christianity.

But it would be an oversimplification to say that Mother Demdike was merely a misunderstood Catholic. Although her charms drew on the mystical imagery of the pre-Reformation Church, Mother Demdike and her sometimes-friend, sometimes-rival Anne Whittle, aka Chattox, accused each other of using clay figures to curse their enemies. Both women freely confessed, even bragged about their familiar spirits who appeared to them in the guise of beautiful young men. Mother Demdike’s description of her decades-long partnership with Tibb, her familiar spirit, seems to reveal something much older than Christianity.

In traditional English cunning craft, the familiar spirit took centre stage: this was the cunning person’s otherworldly spirit helper who could shapeshift between human and animal form. Mother Demdike described how Tibb could appear as a golden-haired young man, a hare, or a brown dog. In traditional English folk magic, it seemed that no cunning man or cunning woman could work magic without the aid of their familiar spirit—they needed this otherworldly ally to make things happen.

So how did Mother Demdike, a woman so fierce that none dared meddle with her, come to ruin? The triggering incident reads like the most tragic of coincidences. On March 18, 1612, her young granddaughter, Alizon Device, had a bitter confrontation with John Law, a pedlar from Halifax in Yorkshire.

Moments after their blistering argument, the pedlar collapsed and suddenly went stiff and lame on one half of his body and lost the power of speech. Today we would clearly recognise this as a stroke. But the pedlar and several witnesses were convinced that Alizon had lamed her victim with witchcraft. Even she seemed to believe this herself, falling to her knees and begging his forgiveness. This unfortunate event resulted in the arrest of Alizon and her grandmother. Alizon wasted no time in implicating Chattox, her grandmother’s rival, and Chattox’s daughter, Anne Redfearne. Before long, further arrests of family and friends followed. The rest belongs to the tragic history that ended at Lancaster Gallows in August, 1612.

Although first to be arrested, Alizon was the last to be tried at the Lancaster Assizes. Her final recorded words on the day before she was hanged for witchcraft were a passionate vindication of her grandmother’s legacy as a healer.

Roger Nowell, the prosecutor, brought John Law, the pedlar Alizon had allegedly lamed, before her. Again Alizon begged the man’s forgiveness for her perceived crime against him. John Law, in return, said that if she had the power to lame him, she must also have the power to heal him. Alizon regrettably told him that she wasn’t able to, but if her grandmother, Old Demdike had lived, she could and would have healed him.

Long after their demise, Mother Demdike and her fellow Pendle Witches endure, their spirit woven into the living landscape, its weft and warp, like the stones and the streams that cut across the moors. No one in this region can remain untouched by their legacy. This is their home, their seat of power, and they shall never be banished.


Footnotes:
Further reading:

Owen Davies, Popular Magic: Cunning-folk in English History (Hambledon Continuum)
Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580 (Yale)
Malcolm Gaskill, Witchfinders: A Seventeenth Century English Tragedy (John Murray)
John Harland and T.T. Wilkinson, Lancashire Folklore (Kessinger Publishing)
King James I, Daemonologie, available online: http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/kjd/
Jonathan Lumby, The Lancashire Witch-Craze (Carnegie)
Edgar Peel and Pat Southern, The Trials of the Lancashire Witches (Nelson)
Robert Poole, ed., The Lancashire Witches: Histories and Stories (Manchester University Press)
Thomas Potts, The Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster, available online: http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=230481
Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (Penguin)
John Webster, The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft (Ams Pr Inc)
Emma Wilby, Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits (Sussex Academic Press)

History of Witchcraft (part 4)

History of Witchcraft (part 4)

As  Christianity  became  a part of this nation,  there  is  much

evidence to show where the Christians of the time, and the pagans

lived peacefully together.

In  theology, the differences between early Christians,  Gnostics

(members  –  often  Christian – of dualistic  sects  of  the  2nd

century  a.d.), and pagan Hermetists were slight.  In  the  large

Gnostic  library  discovered at Naj’Hammadi, in upper  Egypt,  in

1945,  Hermetic writings were found side by side  with  Christian

Gnostic  texts.   The  doctrine of the  soul  taught  in  Gnostic

communities was almost identical to that taught in the mysteries:

the soul emanated from the Father, fell into the body, and had to

return to its former home.

It was not until later in Rome that things took a change for  the

worse.  Which moves us on to Greece.

The doctrinal similarity is exemplified in the case of the  pagan

writer  and  philosopher  Synesius.  When the  people  of  Cyrene

wanted  the  most able man of the city to be their  bishop,  they

chose  Synesius,  a  pagan. He was able to  accept  the  election

without  sacrificing  his  intellectual honesty.   In  his  pagan

period,  he  wrote  hymns that follow the fire  theology  of  the

Chaldean Oracles.  Later he wrote hymns to Christ.  The  doctrine

is almost identical.

To  attempt to demonstrate this…let’s go to some  BASIC  tenets

and beliefs of the two religions:

Christian Beliefs

The 10 Commandments

1.) You shall have no other gods before me.

To the Christian, this means there will be no other God.  Yet, in

the bible, the phrase is plural.  I does not state that you  will

not  have another god, it says that you will have no  other  gods

before the Christian God.

In  the case of the later, it could be interpreted to  mean  that

whereas other gods can be recognised, as a Christian, this person

should  place YHVH ahead of all gods recognising him/her  as  the

supreme being of all.

2.) You shall not worship idols

Actually,  what it says in the New International Version is  “You

shall  not make for yourself an idol in the form af  anything  in

heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You

shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord  your

God, am a jealour God, punishing the children for the sin of  the

fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate  me,

but   showing  love  to  thousands  who  love  me  and  keep   my

commandments.

3.) You shall not take the name of the lord in vain.

This one is pretty self explanitory.  When a person is calling on

the lord he/she is asking the lord for guidance or action.  Thus,

the phrase “God damn it!” can be translated into a person  asking

the  lord  to comdemn whatever “it” is to hell.  The  phrase  “To

damn”  means  to  condem to hell.   In  modern  society,  several

phrases such as the following are common usage:

“Oh God!”, “God forbid!”, “God damn it!”, “God have mercy!”

Each  of these is asking God to perform some act upon or for  the

speaker with the exception of “Oh God!” which is asking for  Gods

attention.

4.) Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

Depending on which religion you are looking at (i.e. Jewish, from

which  the 10 commandments come; or Christianity,  which  adapted

them  for their use as well.) the Sabbath is either  Saturday  or

Sunday.   You  may also take a look at the  various  mythological

pantheons  to  corelate which is the first and last days  of  the

week…(i.e. Sun – Sunday.. Genesis 1:3 “And God said, “Let there

be  light,’  and there was light., Moon – Monday..  Genesis  1:14

“And  God said,”Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky  to

separate  the day from the night, and let them serve as signs  to

mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the

expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16

God  made two great lights – the greater light to govern the  day

and  the  lesser  light to govern the night.  He  also  made  the

stars.”  Thus the Sun was created first.  With the day of the Sun

being  the first in the week, then Saturday would be the  7th  or

Sabbath.

5.) Honor thy mother and thy father.

This  is  another that is fairly self explainitory.   It  is  any

parent’s  right  after spending the time to raise you  to  expect

that you respect them.

6.) You shall not murder.

This does not say “You shall not murder…except in my name.”  It

says YOU SHALL NOT MURDER. PERIOD. Out of the 10 commandments,  I

have found that over the course of history, this one has been the

most  ignored.   As we look as the spread  of  Christianity  from

around 300 A.D. forward, we find that as politics moved into  the

church  and  those  in charge of man’s “souls”  were  given  more

control that this one commandment sort of went out the window.

We  see  such things as the Crusades, the  inquisition,  and  the

dominating fear that was placed into the Christian “psyche”  that

one should destroy that which is not like you.

Even  though  we here stories about the “witch trials”,  and  the

“witch  burnings” etc….There were actually very  few  “Witches”

tried  or  burned.   Most  of  these  poor  souls  were  that  of

Protestant  beliefs  (Against  the  Catholic  Church)  yet  still

maintained that they were Christians. But…more on this later.

7.) You shall not commit adultery.

You  can  look  up the meaning in the dictionary,  and  this  one

becomes  pretty self-evident.  What it comes down to is  that  no

person who has ever been divorced can marry again, and you  don’t

have sex with someone that you are not married to.

8.) You shall not steal.

Again, enough said. However…don’t go looking at Constantine  to

be  obeying this one!  The Pagan temples were looted to make  his

coinage.

9.) You shall not give false witness against thy neighbor

Again,  during the times of the inquisition, this also  went  out

the window.  Such tools as torture were used to pull  confessions

from  these  poor  people who then  signed  statements  that  the

inquisitors  had written up saying that they freely  signed  this

document.   Of course…the inquisitors stated that  this  person

was  not tortured, but it was his clever wit that  had  extracted

this confession.

It  was  also  during this time that persons,  refusing  to  take

responsibility  for their own actions or accept that nature  does

in  fact  create strange  circumstances…(i.e.  drought,  flood,

etc.)  and  the resulting illness and  bug  infrestations.   Very

often,  as the Witch-craze developed stronger, the  one  neighbor

would  accuse another of Witchcraft and destroying the fields  or

making their child sick, or whatever.

10.)You shall not covet your neighbor.

On  the  surface, this one is pretty  self  explainitory.   Don’t

crave your neighbor’s possessions.  Yes…I can relate this  back

to  the inquisitional times as well since most of  the  accused’s

property   reverted   back  to  the  Catholic  church   at   this

time…there  were  several accused and convicted  of  Witchcraft

simply because they would not sell their property to the  church.

However…How  does  this effect persons today?  How  far  do  we

carry the “Thou shalt not covet…”?  This can be even so much as

a want, however is it a sin to want a toy like your neighbor has?

If so…we’re all in trouble.  How many of us “want” that Porsche

that  we see driving down the road?  Or how about that  beautiful

house  that we just drove past?  Do we carry this commandment  to

this extreme?  If so…I pity the person that can live by it  for

what that would say is “Thou shalt not DREAM.”

Wiccan Beliefs

Since the religion of Wicca (or Witchcraft) is so diverse in it’s

beliefs,  I have included several documents here  that  encompass

the majority of the traditions involved.  Again, this is simply a

basis…NOT the be all and end all.

Wiccan Rede

Bide ye wiccan laws you must,

in perfect love and perfect trust

Live ye must and let to live,

fairly take and fairly give

For the circle thrice about

to keep unwelcome spirits out

To bind ye spell wll every time,

let the spell be spake in rhyme

Soft of eye and light of touch,

speak ye little, listen much

Deosil go by the waxing moon,

chanting out ye baleful tune

When ye Lady’s moon is new,

kiss ye hand to her times two

When ye moon rides at her peak,

then ye heart’s desire seek

Heed the north winds mighty gale,

lock the door and trim the sail

When the wind comes from the south,

love will kiss thee on the mouth

When the wind blows from the east,

expect the new and set the feast.

Nine woods in the cauldron go,

burn them fast and burn them slow

Elder be ye Lady’s tree,

burn it not or cursed ye’ll be

WHen the wheel begins to turn,

soon ye Beltane fires will burn

When the wheel hath turned a Yule

light the log the Horned One rules

Heed ye flower, bush and tree,

by the Lady blessed be

Where the rippling waters go,

cast a stone, the truth ye’ll know

When ye have and hold a need,

harken not to others greed

With a fool no season spend,

or be counted as his friend

Merry meet and merry part,

bright the cheeks and warm the heart.

Mind ye threefold law ye should

three times bad and three times good

When misfortune is enow,

wear the star upon thy brow

True in love my ye ever be,

lest thy love be false to thee

These eight words the wiccan rede fulfill;

An harm ye none, do what ye will.

One of the Pagan Oaths recognised nationally here in the U.S.

A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality

I  am  a Pagan and I dedicate Myself to channeling the  Spiritual

Energy of my Inner Self to help and to heal myself and others.

*   I know  that I  am a  part of  the Whole  of Nature.   May  I

grow   in  understanding of  the Unity  of all  Nature.   May   I

always  walk  in Balance.

*   May  I  always be  mindful of  the diversity  of   Nature  as

well as its Unity and  may I  always be  tolerant of those  whose

race, appearance, sex, sexual preference, culture, and other ways

differ from my own.

*  May I  use the  Force (psychic  power) wisely  and  never  use

it   for aggression nor  for malevolent  purposes. May   I  never

direct  it  to curtail the free will of another.

*  May I  always be mindful that I create my own reality and that

I have the power within me to create positivity in my life.

*   May  I  always act  in  honorable  ways: being   honest  with

myself and others, keeping  my word  whenever I  have given   it,

fulfilling   all responsibilities and  commitments I  have  taken

on to  the best of my ability.

*  May I  always  remember  that whatever  is  sent  out   always

returns magnified to  the sender.  May the  Forces of  Karma move

swiftly   to  remind me  of these  spiritual commitments  when  I

have  begin  to  falter from them,  and may  I  use  this  Karmic

feedback  to  help myself grow and be more attuned  to  my  Inner

Pagan Spirit.

*   May  I  always remain strong and committed  to  my  Spiritual

ideals in the face of  adversity and  negativity. May  the  Force

of my Inner Spirit ground out  all malevolence  directed my   way

and   transform  it  into positivity. May  my Inner  Light  shine

so   strongly  that  malevolent forces can not even  approach  my

sphere of existence.

*   May I  always grow  in Inner  Wisdom & Understanding.  May  I

see  every  problem that  I face  as an opportunity   to  develop

myself spiritually in solving it.

*   May  I  always act out of Love to all other  beings  on  this

Planet — to other humans,  to plants,  to animals,  to minerals,

to elementals, to spirits, and to other entities.

*   May  I  always be  mindful that the  Goddess and God  in  all

their  forms  dwell  within   me  and   that  this   divinity  is

reflected through my own Inner Self, my Pagan Spirit.

.pa

*  May I  always channel  Love and  Light from  my  being.  May my  Inner

Spirit, rather  than my ego self, guide all my thoughts, feelings, and

actions.

SO MOTE IT BE

In  the  Wiccan Rede above, and scattered in the  oath,  we  find

words  such  as Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.  What  are  these

strange words and what do they mean?

Before  one  can analyse the meaning behind the  phrase  “Perfect

Love  and  Perfect Trust”, one must first define the  words.  For

this  purpose, I will use the Webster’s New World  Dictionary  of

the  American  Language  1982 edition. Perfect:  adj.  [L.  per-,

through  + facere, do] 1. complete in all respects;  flawless  2.

excellent,  as  in  skill or quality 3.  completely  accurate  4.

sheer;  utter  [a perfect fool] 5. Gram. expressing  a  state  or

action completed at the time of speaking – vt. 1. to complete  2.

to make perfect or nearly perfect – n. 1. the perfect tense 2.  a

verb form in this tense – perfectly adv – perfectness n.

Love: n. [<OE. lufu]  1. strong affection or liking of someone or

something. 2. a passionate affection for one of the opposite sex.

3. The object of such affection, sweetheart.

Trust:  n.[ON,  traust]  1.  a)  firm  belief  in  the   honesty,

reliability,  etc.  of  another;  faith b)  the  one  trusted  2.

confident  expectation,  hope, etc. 3.  responsibility  resulting

from  confidence  placed in one. 4. Care,  custody  5.  something

entrusted to one….

Using  these  definitions,  we  come  up  with  “Flawless  strong

affection and flawless faith.

Is this possible?  Those that follow the religion of Wicca  often

give  excuses for this just being words.  When this is the  case,

they are not obeying their faith….thus..they are not  following

perfect love and perfect trust.  But to the rest…the answer  is

a  resounding YES.  This does not ask that you “like”  a  person.

It asks that you see the divine light and love within  individual

whether you like them or not.  Can this be done…YES. As to  the

perfect  trust…we  can always trust a fox to be  a  fox  right.

Therefore,  when we are entering circle, we can  honestly  answer

perfect  trust even if it is on shaky ground.  We may have  faith

that this person will act like any other human.

It  with these beliefs and doctrines that I state that  not  only

was   the  doctrine,  or  teaching  almost  identical,  but   the

vocabulary was extensively the same.

The Cult of Mary

The Cult of Mary

Author: Fire Lyte

There is a hidden mystery that exists in the Christian faith that bubbles just under the surface of common knowledge, yet remains in essence an ageless conundrum. This mystery actually started off with the same question that this paper will attempt to answer: “Why me?” Or, more specifically, why Mary? The Catholic Church has hailed her as “the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven; as Our Lady of Lourdes, Walsingham, Guadalupe, Czestochowa; as Flower of Carmel, House of Gold, Ark of the Covenant, ” (Ashe 14) . Men hold Mary close to them as a personal mother, revere her as one of mankind deified, and yet hold her above, still.

The question is why.

There is no data concerning the mother of Christ except in Christian writings, and there is really nothing of Christian merit to compare her to. In order to even fervently research her, one must first accept that Christ existed, which any skeptic could dispel with a call for burden of proof beyond the Bible. Despite this, it is the position of this research to answer the question of “Why Mary?” The answer is that she is the Christian expression of a tradition in place since time immemorial of deifying a Mother Goddess.

In a collection of essays entitled The Blessed Virgin Mary, the author John de Satgé, an evangelical canon, states this about the origin of the veneration of Mary:

The evangelical has a strong suspicion that the deepest roots of the Marian cults are not to be found in the Christian tradition at all. The religious history of mankind shows a recurring tendency to worship a mother-goddess. Three factors in particular suggest that the cult of Mary may be an intrusion into Christianity from the dark realms of natural religion. First, it seems that historically the earliest traces of Marian devotion seem to come from Christian circles to some extent at least tainted with syncretizing Gnosticism.

The second is the ease with which the devotion becomes associated with local holy places so that the faithful make their prayers to our Lady of a particular shrine. May it not be the case, the evangelical wonders, that what we have here is in reality an older religion, a paganism which has been too lightly baptized into Christ and whose ancient features persist under a thin Christian veil? The third factor is an apparent correlation between Marian devotion and an elevation of chastity to a point of esteem where marriage and sexual intercourse are depreciated if not reprehended. (Mascall 77)

Here is a summation of the problem in reasoning Mary’s divinity with Christianity, as Christianity is supposedly patriarchal in nature and supposes that there is only one, true god. This same author goes on to say that the worship of Mary did not begin as the veneration of Christ’s holy mother, but as a deity unto herself. However, Christianity dodges the issue of Mary as a Goddess by referring to a sacred book that one must accept as an article of faith. In point of fact, the veneration, or more adequately, the cult of Mary cannot be fully examined through the lens of Christianity alone. Rather, it must be looked at in a historical context.

There are many variations of this adage, but it is said that to know where you are going you must know where you came from. The same is true in the case of the Goddess Mary and her cult. In order to know why the cult of Mary exists in Christendom, one must know about the veneration of female deity and its importance in ancient cultures. Before the rise of gods or any recorded patriarchal forms of worship, there is evidence to suggest the reverence and worship of goddess worship. More specifically, there is evidence to support worship of The Goddess – or, as Goethe puts it, the Ewig-Weibliche, or Eternal-Womanly (Ashe 24) . It is believed that the stone carvings, dating back to over 10, 000 BC, of women with “gross breasts and bellies” were “exaggerated tokens of motherhood” that were used as cult-objects of early Siberian and European hunting tribes (Ashe 24) .

This early reverence does not stop with the Eternal-Womanly, but continues into every pantheon across the world. Upon moving from the prehistoric era to the oldest recorded myths and legends, The Goddess is “One at her apogee – not always through conscious intercommunication of cults, but psychologically One, under many names and aspects, ” (James 41) . She becomes known by many names, and is credited, depending on your mythos of choice, as a world-matriarch, a wife or mistress, a maiden, an animal, or some combination of the above. She has been called Nintu in Sumeria, Inanna in Babylon as well as Ishtar, Astarte in Canaan, Neith or Isis in Egypt, Cybele in Asia Minor, Artemis or Diana by the Romans, and Aphrodite by the Greeks. (James 77)

By the second millennium BC, however, the waning of The Goddess’ hold had begun. During the reign of The Goddess, however, it has been supposed that a matriarchy was in place with kings married to priestesses as sacred functionaries. (Campbell 315) On the other side, it is more than likely a bit too extreme to suppose that the whole of Europe was under the rule of women. There is much evidence to state the contrary, or at least that women were not in powerful enough positions to rival the reign of a king. Although, more than likely, women were possibly powerful through a knowledge of magic, and, thus, the Eternal-Womanly powerful along with them. (Campbell 316) .

There is also the hint of the idea of matrilinear family lines, that is the tracing of parentage back through the mother’s line rather than the father’s. (Ashe 26) This comes from the now-practical idea that while the mother of a child can be known for certain, his or her father is another matter. Paternal parentage could be hard to prove, or hushed up altogether. Furthermore, the very nature of procreation was a mystery to early peoples. Many cultures, when dealing with the issue of pregnancy, doubted the father’s identity, and some doubted his very existence. (Ashe 27) This deals directly with the nature of this perpetual Goddess ideal. If sex-relations could occur without resulting in a pregnancy, could not pregnancy result without sex-relations?

Early people attempted to answer this question by saying that Earth, the great Cosmic Mother, was a life-giver, and needed no man to do so. In fact, sometimes there was no cause at all other than the Great Mother’s will. Now, we finally get to the point in history where the idea of virgin birth becomes profound and permeates culture. The Egyptian Goddess Neith gives birth to the Sun-God Ra without any aide and by her own power. Cybele splits off a male consort named Attis for herself by her own creation power. In these earliest tales of The Goddess, she is both a virgin and a mother, not unlike a certain Biblical virgin-mother. (Boslooper 162) These days, as was stated earlier, were doomed to end. The days of the reign of The Goddess, in whatever capacity She was in power, began to die out at the beginning of the second millennium BC. (Neumann 163)

The reign of power passed rather swiftly – considering the expanse of time – over to male deities. This happened “partly through the ever-strengthening institution of kingship, partly through changes in kingship, partly through changes in relations between the sexes, [and] partly through war and conquest.” (Ashe 29) The lunar calendar – a female allusion – was replaced by a solar calendar – male-centric. Gods like Zeus became central and chief of many pantheons of Europe, western Asia, and Northeastern Africa. Even worse, however, was what this new male-dominated society did to the veneration of the Goddess. She was torn apart and turned into various, easier to digest deities that seemed much more human and inferior to the now-chief deities. The Goddess in Greece became Athena, Artemis, Hera, Aphrodite, and the rest.

Femininity as a whole was attacked through the myth of Pandora, who was bestowed many gifts by the gods, but was too weak-willed to hold to her pact to never open her ubiquitous box. Thus, the divine feminine was turned into an insipid girl who would never measure up to the standards set before her, and, oh yeah, she was the source of all evil on the planet. (Guthrie 37)
One of the most powerful of female symbols, the serpent, was turned into something that male gods should triumph over.

During New Year’s festivals “Babylonian priests chanted a Creation Epic telling how the god Marduk had created the world by destroying a she-monster of chaos, Tiamat, and re-arranging her fragments. The Goddess’s serpents, formerly wise and benign, were now portrayed as malicious.” (Ashe 30-31) The greatest of these injustices to The Goddess, the Eternal-Womanly, was the Fall. As it went with the change of status among the ancient Israelites, so did it go with the idea of Eve, whose name means Life, and who was the mother of all living. (Gen. 3:20)

At first, she was the naked mother of paradise, walking in the Garden of Eden at the place where a stream turned into four mighty rivers – sources of the earth’s fertility – beside the Tree of Life. (Gen. 2:9) The story quickly turns, however, into the telling of a second-rate creation that causes far too much trouble for the dominant man, and, like Pandora, brings about the evils of the world. How does she do this? Well, the mother eats a fruit tempted her by a serpent; all of these are ancient Goddess symbols that were turned into a warning to paternalistic religious society to condemn the old religion.

Not all feminine entries into Christianity are considered evil. Wisdom, which may very well be a tribute to Athena, is a feminine entity in the Bible, though, admittedly, a widely overlooked entity. When Job asks Yahweh where “Wisdom” is to be found, it is to the feminine counterpart to Yahweh that sits enthroned in Zion to which he is referring. (Ashe 43-44) Wisdom is seen as the mediator between Yahweh and mankind. She was the inspiration for the Torah, supposedly befriended Biblical characters, and guides her devotees to the next world. (Knox 60) In fact, Canon Wilfred Knox says further:

The personified Wisdom is a female figure definitely on the divine side of the gulf, which separates God from man….

There can be little doubt as to the original of this highly coloured portrait. The lady who dwells in the city of Jerusalem and in its Temple, who is also to be compared to all the forest trees of Hermon and the luxuriant verdure of the Jordan valley, is the great Syrian goddess Asarte, at once the goddess of great cities and the mother manifested in the fertility of nature (Knox 70) .

So now the stage is set for the emergence of the cult of Mary. The Goddess, in all of her many aspects, was subdued by a patriarchal society and vilified by its main religion. However, the positive ideal of Her as Wisdom seeped its way into the Bible despite the book’s otherwise masculine leanings. Instead of Wisdom being the mediator and chief female sitting enthroned in Zion, it will soon be Mary, the mother of the savior, who would take that spot.

The deification of Mary was not an overnight creation. When her story was written into the Gospels of the New Testament, she was not immediately charged with the titles aforementioned – Queen of Heaven, etc. To understand how this came about, and how her prominence became so in the first place, one must look to the early church. That is, one must understand the nature of those that wrote the Gospels. According to the Jews, Jesus was not the Messiah, and to consider him such was a blasphemy. (Ashe 50) However, he was a teacher, and he changed the lives of his disciples in the grandest way by seemingly coming back from the dead after his crucifixion.

Christianity was about the teachings of one person, and various subsets or denominations attempted – and still attempt today – to figure out the meaning of Christ’s words. At the heart of the religion was still a man, and the religion is as much about his life as it is about his teachings. His life, however, most definitely includes his mother:

In his [Jesus’] role as dying-and-rising Saviour he could not be readily conceived as standing alone. Such gods had never normally done so. They were rooted in the world of the Goddess, and in some form she accompanied them. You could not have Osiris without Isis, or Attis without Cybele. The death-conquering Christ of the Pauline missions cast a shadow behind him, whether or not Paul was ever aware of it. He evoked a role for another to fill – a woman. The world’s nostalgic desire would prepare a place for her. Doubtless, like Christ, she would transcend myth as well as fulfilling it. And the original relationship of the Young God to the Goddess made Christ’s mother the best candidate (Ashe 53) .

Mary is the cause of Jesus’ first miracle. At her prompting, Jesus turned water into wine at Cana. (John 2:1-12) Other than this, her appearance at his crucifixion, and a handful of other appearances in the Gospels and finally in Acts, she has no place in the rest of the Bible. The author we know as Matthew is chief author that first introduces the symbol of Mary to the Bible. It was said, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) This name is said to mean God with us, which symbolically identifies him as the incarnation of Yahweh. However, the word ‘virgin’ may or may not be translated correctly as one who has never been sexually intimate with a man, as it is rather ambiguous in the original Hebrew. (Ashe 66) Whether or not the child was biologically Joseph’s, or any other man’s, is irrelevant, as it is believe that he was the wondrous child conceived without intercourse through a miracle. Sound like a familiar theme? It should.

In fact, several times throughout the Gospels, and a few times in Paul’s Epistles, Joseph is culturally completely taken out of the equation. It was customary to call a man the son of his father even after his father’s death and for several years afterwards. However, Jesus was always called the “son of Mary.” (Mascall 32) Even during the writing of the Gospels, the authors had already begun to slightly venerate Mary more than other characters of the New Testament by turning Joseph into more of a later consort, mentioned far fewer times in the Gospels than Mary.

The problem in studying the idea of the virgin birth quickly turns into a problem of irrefutability, as the only texts on the matter are the Christian texts. There are some whispers of contradiction in the way certain verses are worded throughout the New Testament, however many such discrepancies occurred due to the need to copy these texts by hand over and over again through the years. Mistakes could have happened. Since these discrepancies are negligible and do not provide any concrete evidence of the contrary, they must be thrown out. (Boslooper 230-234) Thus, the problem of irrefutability.

Now we have a Biblical veneration of Mary, as she was assuredly held above Joseph and many others. We have a miraculous virgin birth, echoed from a long-ago history of deifying the sacred feminine, the Eternal-Womanly. The pregnancy itself is a nearly direct mimic of local Greek or Roman culture – a la Zeus and his many supposed impregnations of various female deities. However, the religion and practice of Christianity was still a purely patriarchal one. Yahweh was a solely jealous male god that did not want his followers to put anybody else on a throne. In the late 370s, however, much of that changed with the public singing of hymns popularized by Syrian Gnostics and Ephraem. (Ashe 195-196) These poems, granted, might be a bit beyond the realm of theology, however:

His many hymns and poems include several addressed to the Virgin. Their flowery praise strikes a new note in Christianity. Its language should not be pressed too far…. Still it is arresting to find Ephraem calling Mary Christ’s ‘bride’ or ‘spouse (thus being the first Christian to clear the hurdle of the Goddess-and-Son relationship, though with a wrench to doctrine) , and writing what seem to be prayers to her, implying her power as a living intercessor with God (Palmer 20) .

These same hymns echo a second Eve theme, but begin to title Mary with the names we are so familiar with. He calls Mary “O Virgin Mother of God” – the Blessed Virgin – as well as the “Gate of Heaven, and Ark, in thee I have a secure salvation. Save me, O Lady, out of thy pure mercy.” (Palmer 24) Through these poems, and the later Gnostic Christian beliefs, Mary becomes the Garden of Eden itself, the Earth. Mary is the mediator between mankind and God, one who is addressed as the Mother of God whose “prayers obtainest for thy faithful ones a covenant, peace, and a scepter wherewith to rule all.” (Palmer 24) Granted, these verses are hidden in messages praising the Father God, but they are there, and they quickly permeated society creating a subculture of Mary worship.

Upon the time of Ephraem’s death a few years later, the practice of praying to The Virgin directly for absolution or intercessory prayer had become commonplace. The ideas perpetuated by the Gnostics entered mainstream consciousness, albeit in a less than matriarchal method. However, many sects, including Rome in some instances, began to retroactively credit Mary with being a far greater presence in the Bible than was originally believed. She had become a patroness of celibacy and virgins that had yet to consummate a marriage. (Boslooper 85) Furthering the idea of her expanded presence, St. Augustine, revering Mary in a nearly Goddess-like deification of maidenhood, stated that “[quoting Isaiah 19:1] ‘Behold, the Lord comes seated on a light cloud, ’” and claims that the light cloud is a symbol of Mary, free from any burden of vice. St. Augustine continues to proselytize, “Receive, receive, O consecrated virgins, the spiritual rain that falls from this cloud, which will temper the burning desires of the body.” (Palmer 27)

Mary became a Goddess of Virginity, though very few actually referred to her as the patron Goddess of Virginity. Rather, it is seen more often this sort of allusion, the idea that she is The Virgin, Queen of Heaven, who calms temptations, desires, and worldly ills. She could be compared to several goddesses of peace, but that might be an oversimplification of her reverence.

The rise of Mary’s importance in Christianity happened swiftly over several centuries, and continues until today. Mary is now the patron saint of many locations, known by many names, just as the idea of The Goddess was disseminated into many names and purposes. She is an intercessor of prayer, a healer of humanity, the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven, and a source of miracles herself. (Ashe 244) In the latter part of the first millennium BC, and well into the second millennium, Mary was and still is attributed with healing many sick and dying individuals. This usually occurs through some medium claiming to be blessed by Mary, or by making a pilgrimage to a site that is purportedly blessed with the presence of The Virgin. (Ashe 245)

The power of Mary as a healer and Holy Virgin Mother holds great sway over many in the Catholic faith still. Gnostic revivalists are mixed about whether or not Mary is the revival of The Goddess, or merely a highly praised saint and important Bible character. The cult of Mary, however, has strikingly similar corollaries to past ideals of The Goddess, and so does her worship. Venerated as Eden itself, she becomes the Goddess of the Earth, the Eternal-Womanly’s oldest and most recognizably universal form.

As The Virgin, her cult harkens back to the days of Artemis, Diana, and the ancient virgin goddesses that created the world without any help from a man, to the time of Cybele who created her own consort without the aide of anything but her own will and sheer power. As a healer and source of miracles, she is likened to the ancient goddesses of magic and spellcraft that abound in Egyptian, Sumerian, Syrian, Greek, Roman, Celtic, and Norse pantheons. As a guider of souls and intercessor of prayer, she is like the psychopomps of ancient times.

But, whether or not Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, Intercessor, Guider of Maidens, Healer of the World, Eden, the cloud the Lord sits upon, should add “aspect of The Goddess or Eternal-Womanly” to her litany of titles is, perhaps, a mystery for the ages. However, it cannot be denied that the reverence bestowed upon Mary is deserving of the title “Goddess.”



Footnotes:
Ashe, Geoffrey. The Virgin: Mary’s Cult and the Re-Emergence of the Goddess. Great Britain: The History Press, 1976. Print.
‘Common Bible’, Revised Standard Version. translation by Ronald Knox, 1973.
Boslooper, Thomas, The Virgin Birth, Preachers Library, 1962. Print.
Campbell, Joseph. The Masks of God. vol. 1. Secker and Warburg, 1960-5. Print.
Guthrie, W.K.C.. The Greeks and their Gods. Methuen, 1950. Print.
James, E. O.. The Cult of the Mother-Goddess. Thames and Hudson, 1965. Print.
James, E. O.. Prehistoric Religion, Thames and Hudson, 1957. Print.
Knox , W. L., St. Paul and the Church of the Gentiles, Cambridge University Press, 1939.
Mascall, E.L. and Box, H.S (eds) , The Blessed Virgin Mary, Darton, 1963. Print.
Neumann, Erich. The Great Mother. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1955. Print.
Palmer, Paul S. J., Mary in the Documents of the Church, Burns Oates and Washborne, 1953.

My First Personal Contact with the Goddess

My First Personal Contact with the Goddess

Author: Maestitia

I wanted to share with you the story of my first personal contact with the Goddess, and maybe you could share your stories as well.

A few years ago, I was on a quest to find a suitable religion. I was born and raised Roman Catholic, but ten years earlier, I had received a letter from my church advising me that I was no longer welcome there because I had not (according to their records) given them enough money.

I was furious!!

I was not aware that the gift of knowing divinity came with a price tag. I was soured on religion in general, and lived with no religious beliefs for 10 years because of it.

As I got older I decided that I shouldn’t be denied that gift because of one bad experience with a bad church. I also decided that if I was going to have religious beliefs, it was going to be on MY terms, not someone else’s.

I decided that the best course of action would be to write down what I really believed in my heart, and then go looking for what most closely matched my beliefs. I carefully made my list over the course of two weeks.

When the list was finished, I went to my local book store/coffee shop, and began studying every religion that I could find. When I would find one that started to sound dogmatic, or restrictive, or harmful, or just plain ridiculous, it was immediately dismissed, and I’d move on to the next.

This went on for weeks, night after night drinking coffee, and studying. After a few weeks, I stumbled upon a book on Wicca. Everything made sense.

Masculine and feminine are needed for creation in life, and so it is in the case of divinity.

You are free to do as you will, provided you harm nobody in the process.

There is no need to pay.

There is no need to convert others.

I knew I had found it.

I then decided to spend my time at the bookstore studying Wicca. I read every book they had. Some books were obviously written by idiots. (I’m sure you’ve seen those books allegedly teaching spells on how you can fly, become invisible, or make someone fall in love with you). These were immediately disregarded.

I didn’t know any Wiccans at the time, so I knew I’d have to study, and learn, and practice by myself. And so I did.

Night after night were spent in my local woods meditating, and practicing. One night, in the midst of meditation, I asked the Goddess to come to me. I asked her to let me see her and to feel her arms holding me.

Suddenly, in my mind, I could see her. She appeared as a woman of around 20 yrs old, with long dark hair. She came to me and held me. No words were spoken, but she did smile at me, and at that moment I felt an immediate rush of motherly love. Then something very unexpected happened.

The Goddess held up one index finger as if to say, “Wait a moment”.

I was a bit puzzled, but I wasn’t going to ask questions. The Goddess then brought me my Grandmother who had died in 1987. I saw her as plainly as I did in life. She didn’t speak, but I could hear her words speaking to my heart.

She thanked me for caring for her, and for driving her to the hospital when she was sick, and coming to see her. I was able to tell her that I knew how much she hated being in that hospital, and how she was worried about being a burden when she was sick.

She never actually told me that when she was alive, but somehow, I knew it now. I could feel her thoughts and emotions and her words. We hugged, and then she waved and walked away.

The Goddess returned.

I was confused as to why she had brought me my Grandmother. I didn’t ask for that, I wasn’t expecting that, and I didn’t understand any of it.

The Goddess again held me, then backed up a step, looked into my eyes, and said one single word, “Trust”.

Then smiled at me again and walked away.

I came out of my meditation scared, confused, nervous, and completely shaken up. I was crying my eyes out in the middle of a forest at 1:30 A.M. I cried for over an hour.

In the days that followed, I looked back on the events of that evening, and tried to make some sense of it. I believe that the Goddess had brought me my dead Grandmother for two reasons.

First, as a convincer of the things that are possible, and second, because my Grandmother had things she wanted to say to me.

The emotional impact of the evening made a huge mark on me, and when I think about it today, I still get a little misty, and my eyes get moist.

When the time came to choose my witch name, I wanted something to remember that night, that feeling. I went online and found a Latin translator. I put in the word “Sadness” and it gave me the Latin Translation “Maestitia”. I knew I had found it.

There was no second-guessing.

My witch name will always remind me of that night. Sitting on the ground, crying my eyes out, and feeling the love of a Goddess who will never throw her child into a lake of fire, will never demand my money, and will let me be a human being.

I had found peace, and still have it with me.

I still go to the woods. I still have conversations with my Grandmother, and with the Goddess. I still cry sometimes.

I have found a religion that works for me. I feel loved.

The priest from my old church comes around once a year to bless houses (For a fee of course).

On the day he comes, I make sure to have out all of my Wiccan regalia. I have my candles burning, my incense burning, and I politely tell him, “No, thank you, I don’t pay for my religion”.

My faith is strong, and I know what the Goddess wants me to be. A healer, a counselor, a comforter, a helper.