On a bright windy day, clouds often pass overhead in fantastic shapes. We usually take them for granted or are unaware of their presence, but occasionally we’ll be struck by the appearance of a cloud and may well wonder why we ever stopped looking at them.
Watching the clouds for answers to questions is a delightful and possibly illuminating practice. It’s also quite relaxing and enjoyable. Cloud watching is directly related to other gazing techniques. It may require symbolic thought to fully penetrate the inner meaning of the presented response.
On a day when clouds race across the sky, or when thunderheads build up to impressive size, sit or stand with your back to the sun and look up toward the sky. (Ideally, it shouldn’t be completely overcast.) Think of your question and gaze into the clouds.
Study their shapes, blinking normally. Soon they may form a symbol, or you may become aware of a symbol that was already present. Examine this image and determine what connection it has with your question. This art doesn’t always require interpretation-if the diviner earnestly seeks messages from the clouds, they may plainly reveal the future in recognizable shapes.
Divination For Beginners
Reading The Past, Present & Future
Scott Cunningham
ISBN 0-7387-0384-2

The Book of Shadows

The Book of Shadows

Most Wiccan traditions treasure a Book of Shadows. Such books are rarely
published or even shown to non-initiates. In them, the Tradition’s specific
beliefs and modes of worship are thoroughly or sketchily outlined. Though
contents and organization of these ritual manners vary, most Books of Shadows
include instructions for the circle casting and banishing; religious rituals;
the consecration of tools; laws; coven organizational notes magical rites;
prayers and perhaps herbal lore. Some contain lists of the Traditions
pantheon, training exercises for new students and, finally, initiation

Such books are vitally important to the establishment and maintenance of all
Wiccan traditions, for without them, the tradition’s specific rites and other
lore must be carefully memorized and passed down by word of mouth. This always
leaves room for error, misinterpretation, and even loss of the material. Don’t
misunderstand this: no Wiccan tradition has been able to record every single bit
of information. Much is verbally passed from teacher to student. Still a
tradition’s Book of Shadows provides and unchanging guide and memory trigger for
the practitioner.

There are many different Books of Shadows today. Some are used by hundreds of
Thousands of Wiccans. Others are created by Solitary Wiccans and never shown to

Information from Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by
Scott Cunningham

To me the Book of Shadows is a very special book. Mostly because it is innermost
thoughts that come from your heart and soul As you study and Learn you will fill
that book up with all kinds of things from Spells to Thoughts, To just writing
how you are feeling about things. And it doesn’t matter what kind of book of
shadows you have whether it is a three ringed binder to a home made book. How
you wish to organize your Book of shadows is up to you. Just make sure that you
put as much love and care into as you do yourself. Cause that will always be a
very special and important book in this Life’s Path. And May the Goddess Shine
Brightly in your Heart for Always.

Brooms or Besoms

Brooms or Besoms

A broom is used by many Witches to cleanse an area of baneful* energies
before a rite. They can represent the air or fire element, depending on
each practitioner’s tradition. The staff or handle is considered masculine,
while the brush or broom part is considered feminine. This uniting and
balancing of polarities makes the besom a natural choice for Handfasting
rites. Brooms also represent purification, protection, fertility and

The classic images of Witches riding broomsticks may have originated from
ancient fertility rites. People would jump high in the air on brooms to
‘show’ the crops how high to grow. This is a form of sympathetic magick.

There are many other myths and associations of Witches with brooms. In
Ireland, the besom was sometimes called a “Faery’s Horse”. In medieval
times, the besom was equated with marriages outside of the church. So much
so, that it was recorded that weddings ‘by the broom’ were to be considered

The broom eventually became a symbol of antiestablishmentarianism and and
sensuality. This led at one time to the word ‘besom’ becoming a slang term
for an easy woman. These associations may have been promoted by the church
to discourage marriages outside of the church.

Chapter 13 of “The Magical Household” by Scott Cunningham and “An ABC of
Witchcraft” by Doreen Valiente have additional information and lore about

*Baneful in this instance is defined as energies that are not conducive to
the working at hand, are harmful, or are considered negative.

The Importance of Being a Wise Woman – a Witch

The Importance of Being a Wise Woman – a Witch
Author: Briallason

The term “witch” wasn’t given to anyone accused of being such by the person being accused. The term was given by the ruling powers to a certain type of individual that the ruling powers did not understand and of which they were terribly afraid.

What was, or is, this type of individual that has frightened so many governments, religions, and ruling powers for so long?

They are nothing more than males or females who are aware of their position in life in accordance with the mathematics of the universe (universal law).

They are persons who recognize and are willing to accept their right and responsibility to be in charge of their own lives: Responsible for their own actions, their own lives, their fate, their destiny.

They are persons, male or female, who recognize that within them must reside the respect, council and wisdom of the heart of a mother – a wise woman – in order for a balanced society to exist and for life to be able to continue perpetually.

In the beginning of civilization, it was the key to proper balance in every realm. Made up of many, many races and nationalities of peoples, this ingredient and characteristic was found deep within each of them.

What does it mean to be a wise woman or Witch? True Witchcraft can be practiced from one place and one place only – from deep within the heart and innermost being of the individual. And it is nothing more than a certain degree of consciousness within that individual.

How important is the practice of Witchcraft to each person? It is as important as the very elements upon which we call – earth, fire, air and water. They are essential to our existence, for without them we will not survive. Neither do we call upon spirit to cast a circle, for if we indeed call upon the four elements, then spirit is there in the midst; it is us, you and I.

In a time before now all five elements existed in perfect harmony and each existed with harm to none. And in a time soon to be, again it shall be so.

During current history, as balance was overthrown and the earth and mankind were pulled into an extended sleep, things continually worsened, becoming even further out of balance. And the wise woman or Witch in every person became the enemy of imbalance and a threat to greed and self-indulgence, for the wise woman mind will not bend nor stoop to unjust harm or abuse. And she was greatly feared, to be destroyed on sight.

For the wise woman, wisdom was, and held, the key of life. For centuries she was hidden or hard to find; yet she was always sought by those who wished to destroy her. Anyone practicing any of her ways was considered to be an enemy. Many books were burned, all manner of propaganda was instigated against her, and a song was produced to lure the sleeping generations into submission and obedience.

It was a sweet song, near – if not impossible – to keep from singing and following. It was the song of prosperity, of money, of ease, wealth, dominance, of someone else to fight your battles for you, someone else to determine directions you should go, and it sounded so sweet, so right, so true.

And with time, it took root, and grew. Many chose mates to think for them. Others volunteered to be the leaders, many joined together to show the others how to worship, or what to worship. Armies were formed to protect and fight to keep the freedom of others to indulge in their seeking. Governments were borne, then stronger governments, and institutions and corporations. And they hated each other and began to destroy each other and if, per chance, they could not destroy, then they joined each other, becoming larger and larger with less competition.

And all the while, the wise woman, wisdom, hid and was cast away and downtrodden. But where would she dare hide or be hidden?

Only the wisdom of the Mother herself could hide wisdom where it could not be harmed or destroyed. So she hid it deep within the sleeping hearts of her children, in the dry and barren wilderness wasteland, the cave of the heart, where once had flowed the rivers of life, but now, a place where wisdom herself alone could enter.

And in the Spring Season, at the beginning of the New, in the Dawn of New Day, the children slowly began to awaken – awakening first to the realization that although the old song had promised so much that was needed, it had not produced. Life steadily worsened, and though a few maintained quick riches in the short-term, most people labored more and more just to maintain short-term existence. And with that awakening, slowly came the desire and need to change that manner of existence.

But how to change that old order? To join and fight against wrong by taking of arms and actions to destroy those that subscribed to such ways? By might and power and forming more organizations to stamp out injustice? No. It only produced more misery and injustice and harm to innocent people.

But then, in the first faint winds of dawn came a sound – a song – more beautiful than any other ever heard. A song, first hard to distinguish in direction, then more and more, as sleep was wiped away, the realization – the song is coming from within! Within the barren desert, moisture, breeze, heat and substance. The song’s rhythm was felt within the minds and hearts of the children, the steady drumming from Earth Mother herself, and the importance of wisdom began to dawn.

That wisdom shed light on the importance of loving one another and doing no harm, of understanding the responsibility for your life, and yours alone, and accepting the same. It whispered the truth of the necessity of thinking for yourself, and while respecting other’s advice, the deep realization that direction for you belongs only to you, and with it the responsibility is yours, thus no one else is to blame.

And more and more, the song is heard, and old things begin to shake, for injustice does not survive in a world that is awake.

And a desert blooms, and a fragrance fills the air. And we begin the slow, painful, but steady birth into the time after history, you and me, in perfect love and perfect trust, with secret deity hidden within, balancing our own life in the center of the elements, bringing survival and hope to each other. How important is being a wise woman, a Witch?

It is the beginning, and end, and the ever after of survival and existence.

To Coven or not to Coven- On the Internet?

To Coven or not to Coven- On the Internet?

Author: Stacy Marie
Last year whilst putting all of my cat tails and broom sticks in a row (so to speak) for my brand new shiny coven; my husband made the comment that he felt traditional covens were a thing of the past.

“A thing of the past? We’re just getting started.” I responded.

We went on to discuss how, he feels, that more and more people are choosing to work solitary and opting out of having to deal with the politics that often come with joining a coven.
“Well, gee just take the North wind gale out of my sail then, why don’t ya.”

Here I have invested money and countless hours of my time into Seminary school, polishing up my family tradition and formatting everything into a structured learning program for a full blown teaching coven and whamo my other half doesn’t think it will get off the ground. Now, I am not the type of person to just give up on my visions and dreams, but I have lived with my hubby for 10 years and I didn’t start calling him “Oracle” for not. So, I meditated and consulted my guides, the runes and researched.

I contemplated the reasons why I, myself have not joined a coven. By the time I had any incline to do group work I had already been a practicing Witch for many years. I had studied Asatru and Feri when my life took on a distinctively Wiccan path. I was well set in my ways. I did search for groups and covens, but I found that experience, or rather the lack of experience among group leaders was a rather common hurdle that I just could not get my proverbial broom over.

The people in my life were all solitary: my Dad, my step Mother, her aunt, my husband, our children, etc. I decided perhaps starting a family coven would be the way to go, and that went well for a while, then my Dad and Step Mom moved away. So, I set out to obtain the magickal piece of paper our society so dearly clings to. I wanted to be sure that I had credentials that said to the world, “Psst, hey this Lady took the time to do some actual work for the title Priestess.”

Rather than buy one instantaneously online or what not. As I and my family interacted more within the Pagan and Wiccan community I often was faced with the same question by both my husband and my son; Why did it seem like so many of the people we were meeting were, well, a little heavy on the acorns… in other words nutty?

Ahhh, yes they said it, I repeated it and you know you have thought about it on occasion too. So lets think about the situation that is unfolding here: covens and groups with inexperienced leadership, more people opting for solitary work, people who are a little loopy. Could it possibly be that magick in its many forms is a tad bit dangerous?

No, you don’t say.

The state of the coven culminates for me here; inexperience leads down two paths, one is non interest, i.e. those who have the experience to recognize inexperience when they see it choose to be solitary and path number two taken by those who do not know any better can lead to the possibility of real psychological damage in a blind leading the blind type of scenario. The reality is that Wicca is the fastest growing religion in America today, its numbers double every few months (so certain statistics say) . There simply are not enough quality teaching covens available to all those who would seek them.

It is a daunting task for a beginner to try to discern the quality from the crap both in covens and books. If you are lucky enough to have a quality coven in your area, you still have to mesh well with the other members and the types of energy they raise. What about those who live in the country? What if you have kids? Now you need a family friendly coven. Let me tell you, if you thought finding a coven was difficult, try finding one that accommodates young aspiring witchletts. That is a task that redefines difficult.

Oh, by the gods it is a dilemma, indeed. I think my husband may be on to something, perhaps. What is a girl that has been given a vision to do?

Are online teaching covens a viable option? I researched and meditated. I concluded that online covens are not better than being able to physically coven with others, but they are out there and they do provide a sense of fellowship and community, as do social networks such as Paganspace and Wiccan Together.

A quality online teaching coven or virtual coven, which is not easier to find than a physical coven when trying to hold true to the definition of quality but does, when found, offer a valuable service to those new to the craft that a simple social network does not. It can offer experience to those who would otherwise not have it available. It can offer structure to a path that may fall by the wayside because of frustration created by the mass amount of misinformation, repeated information, plain poorly researched material found in so many books and websites or by the lack of trustworthy peer support for ones work. Which brings me to the experienced witch and what such a coven has to offer them. Trustworthy peer support of ones works.

I can hear it now, screams and spats of how “I don’t need anyone else’s approval or validation for the work I do.” Indeed nor do I. There is nothing more exhilarating however to the spirit then to have the ability to share and compare notes on journey work and just perhaps find similarities that quite possibly lead to epiphanies for both parties involved. This sort of experience is one that is few and far between in solitary work and can lead one to stagnation along the way if not had to some degree, in my opinion.

I decided to heed the words of my Oracle, not by abandoning my vision, but expanding it.
Along with my physical coven, I created an online coven. In order to accomplish this successfully I had to research these types of covens. I have scoured the Internet tirelessly, taking notes the whole way. At the end of my research I was left with a few quality resources available to anyone with a computer.

It is my intent to share this research, so that others may benefit from it. What follows are my findings and in no way do I claim that I had the ability nor opportunity to view every such coven in existence, I did view quite a lot.

As a practitioner of the craft for over 19 years I used my personal experience to make a list of what I feel are the best of the covens I viewed. They do not appear in any specific order and I encourage anyone interested in such a coven to do additional research on their own.

Jaguar Moon Cyber Coven-
Run by Lisa Mc Sherry (Lady Maat) . Formed in 2000 from Shadow Moon Cyber coven and with Southern Cross Coven. Exists as an entirely virtual coven to teach Wicca in a non-threatening manner. Annual classes that start in July and end in June. Fee $60 annual (may vary year to year) . I could not view what an accepted applicant could, as one must apply for membership to gain access to entire site. However, the outline of the Lesson plan is available to the public and very comprehensive. Jaguar Moon Cyber Coven does have a traditional degree system.

Coven of the Far Flung Net-
This site is owned and run by Church of Universal Eclectic Wicca, LLC.
Provides free Wiccan education through a series of online lessons. Universal Eclectic Wiccan Tradition. Public collection of information about various Pagan and Wiccan topics. One must apply for membership. This is a very organized site.

Temple Zenith-
Physically located in Largo/Seminole, FL. A Wiccan/Pagan coven both physical and online where that the Goddess and God are equal in their reflection of cosmic BEING. Core teaching based on the union of the three selves and magick being the art of understanding the interplay between the manifestations of divine forces in Nature. Decent public information on Wicca, magick and Paganism. Traditional Degree format. Structured learning program set up on a social networking platform. Free.

The Holy Temple of Witchcraft –
Founded on August 8, 2005 in Wooster, OH. Online coven for witchcraft. Very clear in their expectations of a student. Degree Structure. Small $10 fee. This site does not contain public information on witchcraft.

Sacred Circles Coven-
Founded on October 15, 2001. Physical coven located in Puerto Rico. This is a Grove of the Old Religion, not Wicca. A wealth of Pagan related public info including mythology, Book reviews, herbs, dream info, cat magick, moon magick and also a growing social network. Free.

The Athame’s Edge
Very organized and clear in their purpose and goals. A Progressive Wiccan Coven. Must apply for membership to gain access to entire site. No public info on Wicca or Paganism other than a brief “What is Wicca?” primer.

The Temple of the Moon’s Rising
Owned and run by Emrys, a young Wiccan Priest with an obvious old soul. Public info on Eclectic Wicca is available on this site.

The Dream of Pagan Unity and Why It’s So Hard to Achieve

The Dream of Pagan Unity and Why It’s So Hard to Achieve

Author: Morgan

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ecumenism among Pagan groups; maybe its the recent flurry of Pagan Pride Day planning, maybe its the common refrain that so many people love to sing about wanting the community to all get along. Either way it’s been on my mind a lot, because it seems like, if everyone who wants unity among the various groups meant what they said, then we would already have it; yet as a community we are divided in many different ways.

Some people are limited by their own views of those outside of their particular group or tradition, some are stuck in old feuds or in personality conflicts, and some are simply stuck in the idea that their way is the only “real” way. So how do we overcome this? It seems easy enough, if we could only get everyone to acknowledge their own hang-ups and issues with unity we could all pull together – but realistically can it be done? Should it be done? Are there compromises that simply should not be made, not even for so often dreamed of a goal as this one?

When I started writing this I began by thinking of my own biggest block, a particular local leader that I have a small laundry list of issues with. And I asked myself, can I let these go? Some of them, I can answer yes for even though it would take effort. I am capable of letting the past go if I really put some energy into it, especially when he never did me, personally, any direct harm. It wouldn’t be easy but it could be done; however if I am honest with myself there are other issues as well that I don’t know if I could move past, ongoing things relating to integrity, truth in teaching – or I should say deception in teaching – and intentional perpetuation of ignorance that touch on areas where I have a much harder time looking the other way. And the bottom line of all this soul searching is that even when I try to put my personal feelings for this person aside, I am still left in a place where I do not want to be associated with him in any way.

How do we build community unity from that? And there is no other way; unity is not the same as tolerance. To be united as a community we must all stand together, and that is more than problematic when – in my own case – I have to always fight the urge to speak out against this person. How do we let go of the desire to let personal conflict and dislike interfere? How do we embrace community members that we simply do not like on a personal level?

How do we define our community? Who is in and who is out? Even within Paganism, in the subgroups of traditions and religions, this is a massive issue. How do we define “us”? We cannot hope to unite as a larger group of Pagans until we figure out who we are as smaller individual groups and that seems an impossible task when every sub-group is fractured by inner disputes. Group self-definition is like the Holy Grail, everyone is searching for it but no one can really find it. Do we include or exclude people convicted of crimes? All crimes, or only some?

Do we push out the snake oil salesman and false prophets that are selling lies while proclaiming it the only “real” Witchcraft/Heathenry/Druidism/etc., or would that very attempt put us on the same level of the more-pagan-than-thou types who cause so much dissention already? We must set boundaries for the safety of the community if nothing else, but how do we decide what those boundaries are and how do we enforce them?

One thing that needs to happen to start is that as a group Pagans need to stop nitpicking each other; if another tradition has a different way of doing things that you disagree with on purely theological or personal grounds let it go. If it’s not your group, why do you really care how they are doing things? If a group is engaging in dangerous, illegal, or manipulative practices that’s a whole different issue, but differences in approach shouldn’t matter. We waste way too much energy fighting over how other people do things, instead of looking for the common ground.

So at the beginning of this I asked if Pagan unity can be achieved, and I think the answer is yes, and no. We can form a stronger, larger community if we find a way to put aside the differences that can be put aside, like letting go of the ideas that any one particular way is “the” way, or “the” tradition. As soon as people start saying that they are the “true” Witches (Heathens/Druids/etc., ) they have set up a rigid dichotomy of us against them, and if you aren’t with them then you aren’t “real” and therefore aren’t legitimate; that attitude has to go right from the start.

I may not agree with someone, I may even hate everything about what he or she does and how he or she does it, but that doesn’t make them less “real”. Of course acknowledging that they are really Pagan, or whatever they are identifying as, does not mean that anything they are saying is true or accurate. (There is also a deeper argument about people claiming to be part of initiatory traditions when they aren’t – that isn’t what I’m talking about here, I simply mean the broad labels that are largely matters of self-identification) .

The flip side of that coin, and this is where the “no” part of the answer comes in, is that some things can never be compromised and we as a community need to stop acting as if anyone calling themselves pagan is automatically a good person. People are people no matter what their faith and some pagans are good people and others are pretty crappy people, just like everyone else. It’s okay for us to say, “no I won’t be associated with that person” if the reason is legitimate and we have really looked at whether we can compromise on this.

That means that true, complete unity will never be possible because there will always be people identifying as Pagans who contribute nothing but dissention to the community. There are online “trolls” and there are real life ones, there mentally unstable people, there are pedophiles and violent people, and there always will be, and these are issues that the community will always have to contend with. Being pagan does not mean that all the bad in the world and in people just disappears, but we can acknowledge this fact and deal with it. So unity is a utopian idea, but building a strong ecumenical community isn’t. That dream could be possible.

Building a larger community depends on putting aside the little things like personality conflicts, pride, and mistrust of other traditions, and embracing the things we have in common. It means working together to build a larger sense of community, not to homogenize all the traditions into one, but to respect the differences and the similarities; it’s our diversity that makes us such an interesting group. Pagan community can be built and made strong, but not without real effort and soul searching from all of us – and that’s why it remains a dream and not a reality.

Are The ’13 Goals of the Witch’ Being Thrown Out the Window Today?

Are The ’13 Goals of the Witch’ Being Thrown Out the Window Today?

Author: Gullveig

The 13 Goals of the Witch has been attributed to Scott Cunningham and other authors, but is treated by traditionalists and non-traditional Pagans alike to be the cornerstone of what a Witch is. However, many Pagans pay lip service to these rules in public while going against them once they are in their own groups and private lives. Even our group leaders, who are supposed to support and encourage us, fail in passing on these goals and living by example. How can we be great Witches if our leaders are backstabbing and living chaotic lives? Simple. We can’t. So we have to be those leaders.       Each goal is listed with a modern explanation below, most having to do with how I see those goals being violated in our Pagan community and how to stop such behavior.

Know Thyself – This is the most important of the goals. This goal is often taken as if you are a jerk in life and you know it, then you “know yourself”. People do believe this. Know Thyself, however, means to be constantly working on yourself, to know your shortcomings and not give in to them. It means also not to make up excuses for bad behavior. If you do not know yourself or work on yourself to make yourself better and therefore be in a spot to help others become better, you might as well not be a Witch.

Know Your Craft — The Craft is a vague word for getting to know your world; because anything you learn in the world can be applied to Witchcraft. I have known natural Witches in my time that would say they could do magick without reading a single book, but these Witches I found had no sympathy or empathy with the world around them. You need to learn about religions, even Christianity, the good points and the bad, in order to see how paganism fits in the time frame of history and religion. On top of this, you need to practice, meditate and keep notes of your observations. That way you can reflect on them and share them with others.

An open mind is key, but there are a good number of Witches out there that can be as judgmental as those closed-minded. A Witch who isn’t educated in the sense of being a “world student” isn’t a true Witch.

Learn — How many of us learn from our mistakes? How many Witches redo the same hurtful actions to others without thinking, “Maybe I shouldn’t start any ill will in the Pagan community?” The role of learning goes way beyond books and knowing your Craft, but how you apply the knowledge gained. It is to learn how to fix problems, heal hurt and bring people together instead of gossiping, sneering at the nemesis coven down the road or sitting back and doing nothing when you want a problem to be solved. This learning is key to being a moral Witch. We only will repeat ignorant actions if we never learn to stop them.

Have Patience — Patience is essential for the Craft. You have to have the patience of a spider, still in its web in order to deal with others and your life goals. People take advantage of patience, such in covens where one person does all the work and the others come and go when they please, not understanding the violation of trust they are causing. They hurt this person by thinking that the person will always have patience with them. It is up to every single witch to be patient and also not violate the patience of others, even if they have a lot of it. It is the one goal that is used most by others disrespectfully.

“Don’t like the childish way I am acting? Don’t you have patience? A Witch has patience, so you shouldn’t be upset I am here two hours late.” Don’t be one of those people. Don’t turn patience on those in your life.

Apply Knowledge With Wisdom — A Witch can know a lot about the world. But Witches that run off at the mouth about this knowledge can be show offs. A true Witch takes what he or she has learning and tapers it with wisdom, also known as tact. If you are a leader, don’t put down others because they don’t understand what you know.

If you are a student and your coven is being immature, speak out about it; use your knowledge to help to solve the problem. Add action into the mix of knowledge and wisdom, and you can be a Witch who does good for yourself, your group, the Pagan community and for humanity and the world. Use your knowledge for good too, not to put someone else down. Set a good example to others about what a Witch is.

Achieve Balance – Witches try to live lives of balance, not chaos. Yet many Witches try to live lives of drama and anger. Some think being a Witch will add spice or drama to their lives. Some of these Witches do it intentionally; some may have an inner problem they need to work on. They might not mean to cause harm by the chaos in their lives, but give into it.

A Witch’s life should be like the calm sea. Not that storms can’t rage in the sea, but problems are taken care of. Stress is controlled and moderate. A Witch tries to combat anxiety and depression, not let illness take over them. A Witch tackles problems head on and doesn’t let others do it for them. Sometimes in the Pagan community, people try to hurt those who have balance. Maybe it is human nature, but it is a sad display of our Witchcraft community to hurt someone just because your life is chaotic and theirs isn’t.

Keep Your Words In Good Order – This means, no gossip and gossip runs rampant in our community. I’ve known Witches who have gone out of their way to say insulting things to others. If you wonder why the Pagan community isn’t taken seriously, this is why. You can’t be a good Witch if you are smiling and talking to someone at a Pagan event, only to stab him or her in the back once you are done. I’ve had people praise a Pagan ritual only to laugh at it to others once it was done.

If everyone would lock their lips and not try to hurt others with words, more problems would be solved or probably wouldn’t happen in the first place. Your words are your honor and those who use them badly don’t have honor for the Craft. If your words don’t ring true, people can’t take you seriously. They will never know if you mean you will show up for event or can be trusted if your words don’t match your actions. So say what you mean and follow through with your actions. If you say you are going to do something, do it. No excuses.

This goal can be lifted if you are having abuse problems with your coven. By all means if someone is hurting you mentally, psychologically or physically or threatens you in a pagan group or coven, let the Pagan community know. This not only helps you, it also helps those who might end up getting the same teacher or stop them from having a bad experience. Don’t let the seriousness of this goal stop you from using your words to make things right. Sometimes a little speaking of the mind works miracles, even if it is tough love.

Keep Your Thoughts in Good Order – Try to solve problems. Sometimes people don’t care how you feel so you have to take the time to get over that and move on. It is hard not to hold malice if someone hurts you, but holding in means thoughts about a person inside yourself will only hurt you. Try to talk and if that person doesn’t wish to listen, move on. Don’t dwell on bad things in your life. This goal is much like keeping your words in order.

Speak out when a situation is bad; use your thoughts to try to heal it. Think good of people. If you can’t then try not to think about the person or situation at all, if you tried your best to clear it up. But please, use your thoughts and words to try to problem solve instead of doing nothing. Make your thoughts strong and positive. Focus on goals. Live those goals. And be aware getting over problems can take a long time. Give yourself that time.

There are comments in our community that state there will never be any more Scott Cunninghams or Doreen Valientes. But we can be. Why can’t I use that as a goal? Why defeat myself with the thought I can never be grand? These thoughts are what hurt our community. We need thoughts with more ambition. We need to think we can all be leaders and that starts now!

Celebrate Life — Celebrate your own life, the lives of others, the lives of animals and nature. This means not harming nature. This one can be tricky if you own a car. But try to respect nature by being as eco-friendly as you can. Some Pagans I have encountered smoke like chimneys, flicking their butts into the street and littering the road with pieces of paper from their cars. It is like kicking the Goddess in the face. She made you this great world and you litter and make it toxic.

Take care of others, work in the community, donate items to your Pagan community, and ask how you can be of service. It isn’t only about having fun, but when you celebrate life, you should have that too. You are a Pagan, connected to all life. What hurts humanity, should hurt you. You should want to take action, even in small ways, like recycling or spending time helping those less fortunate.

Be happy for what you have. Maybe of us Pagans come from countries where we think luxury items are needed for our survival, but we don’t take time to reflect how lucky we are to live in places where we can get an education and have our wants taken care of. One should pray to the God and Goddess for these gifts.

Observe insects and other animals. Pay attention to the value of life. Take joy in the flight of a month or the jumping of a cricket. Or the smile of a friend.

Attune With The Cycles of the Earth– I am surprised by the number of Witches who don’t celebrate the Sabbats or Esbats. Even if you don’t have a ritual, one can toast Demeter during Lammas, for example or harvest berries during Strawberry Moon. Talk to animals and trees. It may sound overly hippie, but you will find you connect. As I said before, many Pagans I have seen, even leaders, throw trash into the street or don’t keep the Sabbats. How will students learn if their leader doesn’t care if it’s the full moon or not? Again, they won’t.

Not keeping the Sabbats also creates a wishy-washy year for students and missing pages in their Books of Shadows. If a group can’t meet, a ritual should be provided for those to do at home. Solitary rituals should be encouraged. I find writing my own rituals helps me develop as a person, because I put myself and my goals into them. They transform me into a better person.

So attune yourself with Mother Gaia, plant native plants, treat animals with respect, acknowledge and learn the cycles of the moon and names of the seasons. Even their symbols. If you don’t live in a place with four seasons, use the ebbs and tides of your areas or imagine how it must be to live in a place with snow in December.

Being a transplant from the Midwest to Southern California, it is hard to do, but must be done. There are lessons for each season to that reflect into one’s own life. It is hard to be a Witch without knowing the land, the grass, the sun, the moon and the stars.

Keep Yourself Healthy – This means, healthy food, no smoking, no excessive drinking, exercise and no harmful activities affecting the body. Yes, I know pagans who tan in tanners, who smoke, who drink and who have even done drugs. This violates the temple the Goddess has given you.

I am not saying you can’t have a burger if you want it, or a cigar at a party, but constant use of these or addiction to them can hurt your temple and also hurt your mind and your outlook on life. I don’t think one has to be a vegan to be a better witch, but a healthy diet helps. I do eat meat, but sparingly. I would smoke a cigar at a party. Yet I don’t have addictions to these things.

As your body ages, you realize you may want to become healthier and quit even the occasional cigarette or dinner of fast food. That happened to me! I even know people I tried to teach meditation too that coughed when they took long breaths because of smoking. So how can you meditate if you can’t even breathe?

Take care of yourself. Be a healthy weight. Note I didn’t say starve yourself either. A person can be a size 0 and be very unhealthy. Witches look healthy and alive. Even the Goth ones. (I would consider myself Gothy by nature.) Take care of yourself before you have to see the doctor.

Meditate – Meditation is a state of mind. It can be from a book or walking along a shady path in the woods. All Pagans should make time for personal meditation and reflection. They should make time to talk to their deities or to nature. This can be a time to write out one’s problems in a journal or to be creative. To me, this should be at least an hour a day, or more ideally, an hour in the morning and an hour at night.

If you don’t think you have time for meditation, you do. Turn off the TV, get off the computer and find a silent place to be. Let your thoughts go. Sit quietly and hear the world around you. Fall into that noise and be. Get books on meditation if you can’t focus. All Witches should be able to meditate because you need to be able to focus in rituals and to direct magickal energy, for example, in spellwork. It is a very crucial part of our religion, being able to focus our will.

Honor the Goddess and God — I wonder when this one went out of style? I have run into a lot of people who tend to speak very vaguely about Gods. As if I need to hide my Athena worship from someone who is into Freya as not to offend their sensibilities. There are a lot of Gods out there and some pagans who don’t even have Gods, but to me, there is nothing more spiritual than making an altar to a God and praising them. I feel it connects action to ritual. It tells the ritual where to go.

So what if someone does a ritual to Shiva when I only worship Diana? Can’t I get something out of that ritual as well? I also find Pagans calling and dismissing Godforms like they are puppets to do their bidding.

What happened to thanking the Gods? Thanking the Sun and the Moon, being grateful for each day given? Listen to what the Gods say to you. If you have a pantheon, read up on the Gods in it. Sometimes I go to rituals and people, even though they are in a coven with a certain pantheon, the members of that group can’t even recite the names and myths of their Gods. It’s a shame.

Study up on the Gods, read mythology and folklore; learn how stories connect to people in real life. You will learn much. Planting an organic apple in the ground for Venus or pouring spring water in the ground for Elen of the Ways is good practice to showing the Gods you appreciate them.

Looking at these goals, I can see why they have stood the test of time and people use them as public domain, though I know that Scott Cunningham’s Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner has these goals phrased like this but I have seen it in many other forms. Using this goal list as a moral framework, a Witch can succeed in magick and working in the community, both the Pagan one and world of humanity and nature.

As Witches, we need to go back to structure in our practice and not freeform, to turn our passivity and bad character traits into ones that benefit life, from without to within. I urge you to print these goals out and follow them. I challenge you. And in meeting the challenge, we can be better Witches and better people.

Paganism in America: Misunderstandings, Controversy, and Mainstream Conflicts

Paganism in America: Misunderstandings, Controversy, and Mainstream Conflicts

Author: WindBreath

What is Paganism? There are countless definitions of this, or rather these, minority groups. The part of speech these is used, because Paganism is in its most basic sense an umbrella term used to describe religions such as Wicca, Druidism, Asatrú, and ancient cultural Pagan reconstructionist faiths. One views the diversity among the very definition of the term Paganism by looking up the term from a Pagan source, and then looking up the term from a non – Pagan source. According to Scott Cunningham, who is heralded as one of the foremost important authors in the Pagan path, a Pagan is “from the Latin paganus, country – dweller. Today used as a general term for followers of Wiccan and other magical, shamanistic and polytheistic religions.

Naturally, Christians have their own peculiar definition of this word. It can be interchanged with Neo – Pagan (Cunningham 200) .” However, a non – Pagan, and more specifically, a definition clearly derived from Christianity’s impact on Western Europe and the United States is “a person not subscribing to any major or recognized religion, esp. the dominant religion of a particular society; spec. a heathen, a non – Christian, esp. considered as savage, uncivilized, etc (pagan, n. and adj., Oxford English Dictionary) , ” which can be found in the 2010 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

This is indeed peculiar, as Cunningham stated in his definition. The main issue facing this description is that it highlights the implications the non – Pagan source that is the OED has on currently practicing Pagans. That is, what type of impact Pagans face day to day with a leading source of direct, resolute, definitions found in books such as the OED. This definition is the tip of the iceberg in the American Christian and political conservatives’ conflict with Pagans.

A look must first be taken at the first amendment right to practice religions in order to understand the dilemma faced by Pagans. The amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… ” (Fathers) which translates to most Americans that not only can Congress not establish any type of state religion, but that they constitutionally cannot block the free exercise of any one particular religion. However, this is amendment is seemingly not inclusive of all. Pagans face discrimination in the workplace, at their homes, their places of business, against their children, and most of this comes from the deeply embedded Christian principles most citizens believe America was founded on.

This often creates legal problems for Pagans tried in courts with cases directly tied to obvious discrimination against their religion. It must be realized that Paganism is a rapidly growing group of religions in the United States. The brief history of Paganism in the U.S, its tensions with Christianity, and the legality of its many religions in relation to Christianity in America shall be discussed. What Paganism is in relation to mainstream religions is paramount in understanding why there is a growing tension among them and mainstream Christian groups. Ultimately, a goal on how to address and dissolve this conflict will be looked at lastly.

Paganism grew within the United States in the late 1960’s and into the 1970’s, and has been blossoming ever since. This started with the influence of key leaders in the early Earth – Religion movements, such as Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca. This was spurred on by writers such as Margot Adler, who’s “Drawing Down the Moon” is still read and looked upon today by Pagans as a guide to the past of American Paganism, and where it may be headed in the future. According to Adler,

“Most neo – Pagans sense and aliveness and presence in nature. They are usually polytheists or animists or pantheists, or two or three of these things at once. They share a goal of living in harmony with nature and they tend to view humanity’s advancement and separation from nature as the primes source of alienation. They see rituals as a tool to end that alienation. Most neo – Pagans look to the old pre – Christian nature religions of Europe, the ecstatic religions, and the mystery traditions as a source of inspiration and nourishment. They gravitate to ancient symbols and ancient myths, to the old polytheistic religions of the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Celts, and the Sumerians (Adler 4) .”

This holds true today, in the year 2010. Although the first copy of Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon was written in the late 1970’s, this revised addition is testament to the evolving growth in numbers of Pagans/Neo – Pagans, but also to the fundamental values Pagans held and still hold to in the modern age.

Although at first glance these practitioners seem to be nothing more than reconstructionists of ancient cultural practices, the fact that many of these people find daily conflict with America’s main religious groups, Christianity, illuminates that there is a tension between the two. The main tensions faced by today’s Pagans with Christians come in the form of what the writer coins to be ‘domestic conflict, ’ or conflict that deals with the day to day life and livelihood of the subject. Also, there are no ‘manageable models, ’ a term coined by Diana Eck, meaning a model on which to base a fair and equal comparison of the two religious groups.

Currently, “the most contentious issues arise from the desires of some practitioners to flaunt their alternative behavior and exhibit their religion as counter cultural on one hand, and those who are more concerned with fostering mainstream acceptance and pursuing legal rights and protections on the other…Pagan[s] struggle to control how others perceive their religion (Davy 183) .”

Clearly, Pagans struggle with the way they are perceived because of the mystery nature of the majority of their religious practices, as well as with individuals within the Pagan movement that wishes to be gaudy and flashy with their religion. These particular individuals, along with those who commit acts of horror such as murder in the name of their particular Pagan religion, are the same individuals making Pagans who are honest, law abiding citizens look like horrible people that should be feared and in some cases, attacked.

While most Pagans and Christians living within the same area normally lead peaceful, non – violent lives, in some cases it has been found that Christians take it upon themselves to demonize and denounce the practices and practitioners of Pagan religions. Many Christian authors have written several books within the last two or three decades which denounce Paganism, and “condemn the rising popularity of modern Paganism as an insidious threat to morality and civilization (Strmiska 8) .”

Here one observes two things: one, that modern Paganism is something that should be condemned, and two, that it is an insidious threat to morality and civilization. There are several cases where this form of thinking through the lens of one’s own faith rather than attempting to understand the other is played out in the form of domestic conflict.

For those who practice a minority religion such as Wicca or Druidism within Paganism, “[they] can be assured of little protection under the Free Exercise Clause, unless the law harming them has clearly and unequivocally targeted their particular religion (Barner – Barry 23) .” For example, in Beaumont, Texas, a reverend of a Unitarian Universalist church and his congregants were explicitly harassed at a meeting they had called within the community. The purpose of this meeting was to answer any questions had by the community about Paganism because of recent allegations of abuse against children during a Pagan festival. This abuse was alleged because a group of children found out that some congregants of the church were indeed Pagan, and the police were soon brought in because the parents of some children stated that their children must have been harmed by the Pagans they spoke with.

During this meeting, the explanations of Paganism were soon silenced by police harassment, and the Pagans who remained after their pastor was removed for refusing to be silent were surrounded by Christians agreeing with their sheriff deputy. Not only was this deputy abusing his power, but he stated that he was “[a] Christian policeman…not going to tolerate Pagan religious practices (Barner – Barry 65) , ” which clearly demonstrates the abuse of the religious majority (and abuse of a position of power, in this case the police) overriding the Constitutional rights to practice religion of the minority.

This example explicitly highlights the abuse of positions of power given by the government, such as that of sheriff deputy in stating that he would indeed illegally enforce his personally formed law that Pagans who practice their religions would not be tolerated.

Examples of these abuses are not limited to adults, and happen in the public school system as well. Since the expulsion of prayers in school, there have been flairs of tension when schoolchildren are caught praying or found to be speaking about their religious beliefs. For the most part, these children are simply reprimanded, or not spoken to at all. However, for Pagans of the elementary, middle, and high school age groups, simply being reprimanded does not happen.

For example, at a middle school in the Midwest, a Pagan student was featured on the school’s wall of fame for having received extraordinarily high grades, as well as for having contributed to the school and her community. However, after the school saw she had drawn herself with a pentagram and a winged pig pulling at it, her portrait was “rejected because it had a religious theme and contained a pentagram (Barner – Barry 190) , ” yet “another picture was placed on the same wall of fame… had a clearly Christian theme (Barner – Barry 190) .” The pig, the student reported to school authorities, represented those who were ignorant of her religious faith and beliefs. Ironically, the school became that pig – not only were they ignorant of her religion, but they also explicitly favored and allowed a Christian display of faith to remain on the wall. After speaking with the child’s parents, her portrait was re hung (Barner – Barry) .

However, this is a success story in terms of religious tolerance, and does not happen often, especially in areas inhabited by conservative Christians. Thus far, conflict with general religious intolerance and school children has been observed. How conflict with Christians affects the lives of day-to-day individuals is of paramount importance, because it demonstrates how otherwise mature and sensible adults treat one another.

Every individual within the United States has the ability to start his or her own businesses. Indeed, America is made up of self – made men, men who worked hard and diligently for their earned titles, positions, and earnings. Opening a business is a difficult endeavor, which includes finding a market to sell to, costs of startup and operations, as well as buying and stocking product that is to be sold, among myriad other things. These things being difficult in their own right, add on top of that for Pagans opening shop in largely Christian areas the threat of vandalism and daily harassment.

For example, a Pagan who wished to open his shop in Austin, Texas, was harassed and ultimately forced to move because of daily taunts that he practiced Satanism. These daily taunts in front of his store caused him to lose business, and thus leave due to pressures of conflict with Christians. Another example of Pagan businesses being attacked is that of a woman in Lancaster, California as recently as 2002. She re named her store, and thus held a new dedication ceremony in the parking lot of the strip mall. Not only did conservative Christian hecklers harass her, but also when the police were called due to the disturbance of the peace, the police unit failed to respond (Barner – Barry) .

These examples given about business owners run counter culture to the idea that each individual has the ability to become a self – made man in the United States. If owning a business comes in direct conflict with the main morals and virtues of the population, then rather than allowing the business to exist as it legally is allowed to, these Christians feel the need to attack and actively take a role in shutting down these stores. Therefore, in reality, every man cannot be self – made if the mold does not fit. Here, one observes the majority coming directly down on the minority based on suppositions of Satanism, evil, and sacrificing of humans/animals. Here, one observes the ignorance and obvious lack of education of the minority religion by the majority.

Furthermore, even though it appears as though attacks are being wrought from every available angle, there is yet another, and most important to every American that is being attacked: the home. Home is supposed to be a place of solace and serenity, a place of relaxation and fun with family. It is supposed to be a place to let go of the cares of the `worldliness of work, school, and other obligations. As an extension, the neighborhood is supposed to be a place of community relaxation and recreation. For many Pagans living openly in majority Christian areas, this is sadly not true. In some extreme cases, Pagans have had to move out of their homes in order to avoid harassment and illegal actions taken against them.

For example, a Pagan couple whose house was almost paid off was found to be practicing Wicca by their neighbors. After discovering the poisoning their dog and the harassing their son on the way to the school bus, the Wiccans went to court against their neighbors only to be told to stop practicing their faith in one week or move out by a judge (Barner – Barry) .

This obvious abuse of power by the judge and illegal act of poisoning another’s animal, along with harassing someone’s child would appear to have been an easy case to decide. However, this was not true. The problem in the sphere of where one lives is that it attacks the right of anyone to live wherever they can afford. It furthers the idea that you can live where you want, so long as you prescribe to the majority lifestyles of those around you. Living in an obvious ‘counter – culture’ way is so threatening to the majority that acts such as poisoning an actual living being are not only not charged as animal abuse, but because no one was charged, it serves as an example that harming someone of a path different than one’s own is fine so long as a perceived threat is thought to be at hand.

All of the above cases have ties to the justice system, which is to Pagans, not just at all. This is seen most clearly in child custody disputes after the breaking up or divorce of parents who are one or both Pagan. Many Pagans face this fear, and “the loss of custody or visitation rights is one of the primary fears of Pagans who are parents of minor children…intact Pagan families may face custody challenges that are initiated by relatives, police, social workers, and adoption agencies. These challenges are usually based on a genuine belief that the children are potentially being harmed by their family’s non-conformist religious practices. (Barner – Barry 116) .”

Clearly, the belief that minor children are going to be harmed because of the minority religious practices directly affects the family. Not only are homes being torn apart, but these children being taken from their homes solely based on religious choice is in direct conflict with the constitutional right to the freedom of religion. It also makes a clear pathway for those who wish to remove minor children from the homes of parents or guardians based solely on their religious choices rather than if there is actual abuse in the home perfectly normal.

These cases of abuses from the majority over the minority are only growing in number as Pagan numbers increases as the years go on. The history of Paganism would appear, to a secular and unbiased individual to be that of a peaceful and Earth – based religious movement that is evolving as technology and people evolve as well. As with other religions that have growing numbers such as Islam and Judaism in the United States, one would first think that Paganism too would, like the aforementioned religions, be accepted as a legitimate religion to co – exist with. However, as the above cases have pointed out, this is not so. Pagans face discrimination in the workplace, at school, at their businesses, and in the courthouse. Stress must be placed on the fact that although these cases are largely isolated incidents, they are growing in number as Pagans grow in number in the United States.

But how are these problems do be dealt with? What is the solution to the many aspects of discrimination against Pagans? Perhaps an unbiased education about Paganism for communities would help foster understanding and help end these conflicts. Education is the key to stopping these attacks on people who have done nothing wrong but practice their religion of choice in a country that is supposed to protect that right. First, people must be taught that Pagans do not want to harm anyone: child, adult, even an animal. To do so goes against most Pagan creeds and vows to not harm any living beings. Second, people must realize that Pagans do not practice Satanism or carry out any Satanic rituals. This is the most important thing – realizing that Pagans are not evil and are not trying to attack the mainstream will be paramount in determining the fate of these minority groups in relation to the majority.

Conclusively, the minority religions of Paganism must be protected equally under the free clause law, and under the legally binding Constitutional amendment that declares that all people have the right to practice their religion of choice. Furthermore, these case studies show the cruel reality faced by Pagans who choose to live openly must face. Their minimal news coverage and lack of media attention show that there is a lot of work to be done in terms of fair coverage of events, but that their stories are covered at all shows that some effort is being made for equal press. Finally, the hope of education for those who do not understand the minority will ultimately lead to true religious freedom for all.


Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess Worshippers and Other Pagans in America. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.
Barner – Barry, Carol. Contemporary Paganism: Minority Religions in a Majoritarian America. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005.
Cunningham, Scott. Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practioner. St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 2003.
Davy, Barbara Jane. Introduction to Pagan Studies. Lanham: Altamira Press, 2007.
Fathers, Founding. “The United States Constitution.” 25 June 2010. US Constitution. 1 December 2010 .
pagan, n. and adj., : Oxford English Dictionary. November 2010. 1 December 2010 .
Strmiska, Michael F. “Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives.” Strmiska, Michael F. Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives. Santa Barbara: ABC – CLIO, Inc., 2005. 1-54.