It’s All In The Wrist – Some Wand Basics

It’s All In The Wrist – Some Wand Basics

Author: Bronwen Forbes

After the athame, the most popular – and misunderstood – ritual tool is the wand. Aside from the “is the wand a tool of the East or a tool of the South?” debate I covered in my Witchvox article on athame basics, there seem to still be quite a few unanswered questions about the wand and its use including: Is it better to make or buy a wand? How long should my wand be? What should I make my wand out of? When should I use the wand in ritual, as opposed to using the athame? How do I charge my wand and make it ready to use?

Is it better to make or buy a wand? In general, it is always better to make a ritual tool than buy it. Obviously, unless you have a forge and the training to make your own blade from scratch, it’s better to buy an athame rather than make it. Plus, wands made by other people can be *expensive.*

I remember a few years back with wands made of wood that had a natural spiral twist to it from growing with a wild grape vine wrapped around it were being sold for about $60. If the seller added a shell or crystal at the tip, the naturally spiral wands were closer to $70. I remember talking to a friend who was Pagan and also participated in “Host Your Own Murder Mystery” events. She had just returned from a murder mystery convention and was telling me about the weird stuff that the attendees bought to make their weekend events more realistic (fake blood and cap guns were only the tip of the iceberg) – and how much they paid for it.

I said, “Yes, but Pagans have been known to pay $70 for a stick!” She laughed, but she also had to agree with me.

How long should my wand be? Traditionally, your wand should be exactly the length from the inside of your elbow to the tip of your middle finger. No more, no less, and *never* “trim” your already-made wand to fit in the fancy storage box your sweetie gave you for Yule (seriously, I know someone this happened to) . However, it’s been my experience that if two people are working partners and only one of them has a wand, the other can generally use the wand even if it’s traditionally the “wrong” length.

What should I make my wand out of? Wands can be pretty easy to make. All you need is a short, cured wooden branch, or, if you want to go fancy, find your own “stick” that has wild grapevine growing around it. Take home, strip the bark off, and polish.

I had a student once who wanted more than anything to be a music conductor. Her wand was, in fact, a conductor’s baton. I thought it was perfect for her. I’ve also known people who have used bones from their totem animals (deer bones work very well, if you can get them) rather than wood. They seemed to work well, too.

My husband has a lovely wand he “recycled” from a red maple tree that needed to be cut down in his mother’s front yard a few years ago. To give him an even closer connection with his wand, he and his father were the ones that planted the tree in the first place. If I ever have a wand, it will probably be made of oak, holly or apple – my favorite trees. A quick note to the Harry Potter fans: no, it will not have a phoenix feather in the middle of it!

You can decorate your wand with shells, crystals, feathers, paint, carve runes into it – whatever makes it more “yours.” However, I would reference the excellent article Lupa posted here on Witchvox about the legal use of animal parts for ritual items before adding feathers or bits of fur to the end, or even making the wand out of bone as mentioned above. The last thing you want is to take your wand to a public space to use for a community ritual and have it confiscated by the police or park rangers because you’ve put a feather on it that, legally, you’re not allowed to have.

When should I use the wand in ritual, as opposed to using the athame? You can, generally, use the wand for anything you’d use the athame for –casting the circle, saluting the quarters, etc. If you believe the wand is the tool of the East, use it any time you need extra “air” energy – when you’re doing a ritual to help you study more effectively for an exam, for instance, or when beginning a new job.

If you believe the wand is the tool of the South, use it any time you need extra “fire” energy – if you’ve been feeling physically run down lately, or you’ve got some old life baggage you want to burn away. If your wand is made of wood, I’d definitely refrain from placing it in a combustible situation – using it to consecrate a burning candle, or poking your incense charcoal to get the burnt ash off the surface and expose the glowing coal within, for instance. Use your athame or boline for those – and save yourself the pain and embarrassment of setting your wand on fire!

How do I charge my wand and make it ready to use? I keep my wand tucked away with the rest of my altar tools (I have a small child and many pets. Ritual tools are safely stored in a special cabinet) . To charge it, I waited for a particularly windy day (yes, I am definitely of the belief that wands are the tool of East/Air) and took my wand outside for a few hours so it could absorb the wind. I also did this as close to sunrise as possible to add the dawn/new beginnings energy to the tool. I still do this periodically if I haven’t used it in ritual for a while – just in case.

Whether your wand is something you make yourself or a gift from a dear friend, cherish it and use it well!

On Fluffy Bunnies…

On Fluffy Bunnies…

Author: Sarenth
As our religion becomes more prominent in the mainstream media, I find myself feeling more and more getting a feeling of competition within the Pagan community. Given that my exposure to the community of Paganism in general is relatively little, consisting of the Pagan community in my backyard, what is in books and on the Internet from sites like Witchvox.com and Rendingtheveil.com, I don’t entirely know if this is rippling through the Pagan community at large or not.

However, as I see it, there are well written but somewhat short-tempered, self-righteous or outright assertive posts and essays being written about ‘what makes a Pagan a Pagan’ and what a Pagan ‘should and should not be’. Some of these are to be found on Witchvox and Rending the Veil, some are to be found on personal websites and yet more in the pages of books from authors of all stripes.

It would seem that some in the community, whether they are in a prominent position such as that of author, editor or any other seemingly ‘big’ role in our community, are wishing to define exactly down-to-the-letter what makes our religion, our religion.

Mind you, I am in the Georgian Tradition of Wicca as an Initiate, but I still work with Gods and Goddesses that I did as a Solitary, so I understand that tradition and values of a ‘lineage-based’ coven structure can be as important to a person as a ‘free-form experiential based’ spirituality. I know that traditions and codes of practice can make or break a person’s spirituality, both from my time as a Catholic and as a Georgian. I also know from my experience as a Solitaire, that sometimes the complete defining of rules and regulations as to ‘how the world works’ and ‘what Paganism is’ is not only spiritual caging, its spiritually debilitating.

Yet, this view of spoon-fed spirituality and/or religion seems to be what some in the community want, a Codes of Behavior and a ‘This is What We Do as Pagan’ manual. I’ve been there, done that with the Papal, Canonical and Scriptural law of Catholic Christianity. Maybe this is my own bias, but after many of us in the community come from a spirituality and religion of strictly defined relationships with God, Goddess, Spirits of all types, our fellow humans and Nature Itself, why would you build up another faith that embraces the same kind of rules that inspired you to move away from, or not accept?

As an example, recently codes of dress have been examined as to what a Witch should and should not wear. Sometimes the opinions therein were based upon what would and would not offend others, which, to a point I can concede is important that you be mindful of others. However, why would we go to a religion that celebrates life, traditions and paths in its myriad of forms, and then shut up those who celebrate their particular form, tradition or path, self-made or no?

The many ‘anti-fluffy bunny’ websites out there that made extensive use of examples of ‘what not to do’ or ‘what makes a fluffy bunny’ are another example of what I see as community self-hate. Rather than ask what these people believe, and try to see their point of view so even if their information is historically or practically (i.e. rooted in this physical, mundane reality) our community, it seems, has taken to name-calling and elitism.

Yes, I know that some viewpoints cannot be argued with, changed or sometimes understood because they are believed in so fervently. I also know that some individuals should not be tolerated, such as those that seek to harm children or those who exist in our religion for the sole purpose of fattening their wallet. Despite this, many ‘fluffy bunnies’ are picked on, ostracized and in general, swept under the rug or pointedly hushed down by those who do not agree with their views. While I am not asking those who do not agree with what is called ‘White Lighter’ or ‘Fluffy bunny’ views to spontaneously accept or begin dialogue with them, I would ask you this: think upon what impact you have on them.

Let’s do a few what-ifs down this line of thinking, with three differing scenarios with three possible results afterward.

Scenario 1: The person is new to the Craft and Paganism and has a near-to-no understanding of either. They are looking for information on these subjects and things related to them. They read a book or a series of them and look at it/them as canon as to ‘how the Pagan world works’ (whether by cosmology or magick) and so, embrace the book and its author as their religious and magickal foundations.

If you approach this person in a manner that is demeaning or hurtful (i.e. judgment calls, jabs at their inexperience or lack of understanding) then you could do a number of things to them. First and foremost, you could drive them from ever fully embracing Paganism and learning the subjects you would prefer they learn. Second, if you don’t outright drive them off, you could make it so they will have a precedent of what a person ‘who knows what they are talking about’ acts like; would you care for someone to treat you like that and represent your religion as you just did?

Third, if they do not leave Paganism and do/do not adopt your ‘views’ as you gave them to them in your demeaning/hurtful stances, they may yet go further into what might be the very practice you feel is incorrect. Worse, they may get into other forms of the same practice that are much more dangerous or forms that might reflect poorly on the Pagan community.

Scenario 2: The person is one who has been in the Craft a year or so with a little experience of Paganism under their belt and is starting to foment relationships with Goddesses, Gods, Spirits and the like. They tell you that (as an extreme example that I have seen cited elsewhere) the Celtic Triple Goddess, The Morrigan, has tapped them for a special partnership and it involves something like making war on anger with hugs and practicing Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.

While this might make you laugh, think of how your dismissal of their spirituality and personal relationship with Deity affects them. Not only this, but who are we, as people to dictate to others how God/dess relates and shows itself to other people? While we do have precedents of how most of our Deities act, react and go through the cycles of the year (i.e. the general nature, demeanor, etc. of The Morrigan) , who are we to tell them that that particular Deity ‘just doesn’t do that’ or ‘never acts like that’. I would feel for so many peoples’ criticisms of absolutist faith and/or spirituality (this I feel can occur in any faith) in the Pagan community that such thoughts, while they may be true for our realm of experience, may not be true for theirs and so, should not be dismissed out of hand.

Approaching a person with such an attitude can have little effect on them, especially if their faith in their God/dess, path, etc. is strong. However, for those who have just began or are strengthening their relationship with their Deity, I find that this is a particularly vulnerable time for new Pagans or Pagans developing in their faith; one which needs care and gentleness to be heeded when people of the same faith speak with them or work to ‘correct’ (i.e. historical precedent of The Morrigan in this case vs. the person’s personal experience) their perceptions of the Deity in question. An approach that is too strong in terms of confrontation, or too harsh in terms of the ‘correction’ can produce long-lasting harmful effects.

First, among these effects could be a sense of not knowing what Deity is like for them. If they have approached Deity, I would believe most have had a certain list of things that is associated with the ‘presence of’ or interactions with of Deity. When people are then are told such things are wrong and given a differing list, one that feels alien or perhaps even exclusionary to their feelings on Deity Itself, they can be turned off to working with Deity entirely and either focusing solely on magick or other Pagan pursuits, or simply dropping Paganism altogether.

Second, I have seen people whom go through a bout of the possibility listed above, only to come out of it always questioning if they have really perceived the ‘presence’ of Deity, or second-guess conversations and interactions with Deity. This is not to say, ‘get rid of your critical thinking when Deity tells you to do something’ or something similar, it merely means that the entire belief in the Deity, or It’s ‘presence’, faith in It’s existence as the Pagan has experienced it, etc., suffers. Faith that is blossoming can suffer a little or a great deal, and I find this is dependant on the person, their convictions and perhaps how much support they have from their community. Though I have seen a Solitaire friend of mine endure the two examples I listed above, I do not find in my speaking with Pagans (like those I find/listen to in bookstores or in chatrooms or message boards) that this is usually the case. People need a support network, and it serves no good to take the Goddesses and Gods they work with in the way they work with them, out from under their feet via their budding faith.

Third, if they do weather the first two outcomes, it could be entirely possible that they emulate the behavior of snap decisions, judgment calls and judging others’ relationship with Deity by their own experiences or by history’s standards. To reverse the situation: would you want a person who has worked with The Morrigan for twenty years tell you that you are working with/worshipping/etc. Her all wrong, and that the She now and always has wanted Her priestesses/priests to make war on anger with Perfect Love and Perfect Trust?

Let’s say in this hypothetical that the history books and records of The Morrigan’s followers are in line with what this person claims, and that you feel completely different, that Morrigan is (as She is described to us in actual Celtic lore) is a War Goddess, but not just of War, but also Death and Fertility?

Scenario 3: The person is part of a group/coven/order/etc. that espouses what could be considered to be ‘fluffy bunny’ beliefs, doctrines, relationships with Deity, etc. They are devoted to these beliefs, and so on, and fervently believe them, but they make claims that are, for instance, historically inaccurate about The Morrigan and Her followers, priests and priestesses when the Celts as a culture still thrived. They follow these teachings with a deep attachment, despite whatever historical or practical errors there may be in them.

As I have asked before, who are we to dictate how people relate to Deity, or practice said Deity’s teachings in a modern context? Are we to begin the practice of ‘proper way to honor’ such-and-such a God/dess? Are we to eliminate Unverified Personal Gnosis (a sudden spiritual awakening that can be brought about by ritual, possession by God/dess or other methods, with results, such as messages from Deity, internal enlightenments, ah-ha moments, etc.) from our religion?

What if you were told something by your God/dess that It wished to change a practice, ritual or your relationship to It, immediately, contra to history’s record? Would you tell you God/dess no, that’s not how we’ve done things, so you aren’t this or that God/dess? If someone made the move to ‘correct’ you on your beliefs, your coven’s teachings, etc., how would you feel?

From the perspective of the person whose group vision you’d be trying to ‘correct’…

First: they could react to your news in either evaluating their religious, spiritual, magickal, etc. conclusions or otherwise absorb the information you present, or put up resistance of some magnitude. At its worst, this would probably escalate to a screaming contest, whether or not you participate. Putting in the way the Chris Rock as the character Rufus does from Dogma, (directed by Kevin Smith) : “I think it’s better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. Life should malleable and progressive; working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth; new ideas can’t generate. Life becomes stagnant.“ It may not, however, be your responsibility to be a catalyst for this growth; it may need to come from within the group.

Second, whether or not they absorb your ideas is moot if they shut themselves off to the ideas of others, replacing their ideas and beliefs with just as much zeal as they previously had, maybe more. So, rather than enlighten, inform or otherwise aid your fellow would-be Pagan, you may just trigger them to shard off from the community at large even further. Teaching them an open mind, much more than the ‘correctness’ of their faith, I feel, is the way to go. You cannot absorb new information if your mind is closed only to what you are told or believe. How are we to expect our children or fellow Pagans to be open to others if we expect them to adhere to hard-and-fast rules about how they ‘are to be like’ or what is ‘officially Pagan.’

Third, they could take everything you try to instill in them the way that you desire, and either assimilate or otherwise consider the application of the knowledge, teachings, what-have-you that you wish to bestow upon them. They could also take everything you’ve said wrong way, become incredibly embarrassed and/or angry, or worse yet, hostile and retaliate.

This is how Witch Wars start, by absolutist thinking.

Absolutism, by its nature, allows no other viewpoints other than the one in control, and so long as two sides disagree and cannot peaceable communicate, there is conflict. This is part of my issue with the Pagan community in general; we bill ourselves so often in public life as being the compassionate, tolerant ones that don’t mind other peoples’ faiths, or beliefs and then we turn on our own people who ‘might make us look bad’. For what?

Why do we even persecute the ‘fluffy bunnies’ real or no? Is it for us to hold up a sign saying ‘We aren’t those flakes! Look at us, we’re Pagans and have as much right to be part of the mainstream! We don’t have weird, counter-culture beliefs or relationships with God/dess, Spirits or any of that crazy stuff!’?

Is it so somehow we feel we get a smidgen of superiority for pointing out that ‘this is only a subgroup’ to people who question us about the attitudes and beliefs we actually normally hold, which are then attributed to ‘fluffy bunnies because we don’t want to explain them, they are controversial or are contra to the mainstream religions?

Look at the Great Rite or Heiros Gamos, for instance; how many of us have explained to others, that though this started off, for instance in Wicca, as a fertility rite between a High Priestess and High Priest of a coven only symbolically? It was performed for real at one point, we’ve only recently stopped doing it, and it’s not some fringe thing.

Pagan rituals are abundantly about fertility, sex and the two colluding between the High Priestess and High Priest and the land for a bountiful harvest. Yet I have seen this practice of the physical copulation referred to by authors and people of the Pagan community as something ‘the fringe’ which, generally, will include fluffy bunnies does, and it The Great Rite is now largely symbolic

In short, it is time to stop using the ‘fluffy bunnies’, ‘goths’ ‘Renaissance Festival freaks’ and all the other straw man labels as scapegoats for the parts of our religion that we don’t want to talk about, that do not jive with the mainstream faiths, or to one-up each other. It is time to stop competing and it is more than time to start coming together and working as a whole for a better future.

If we do not open up our ears and our minds to other people, how can we expect others, i.e. Congress, to do the same for us when we want a bill passed? If we are waging war on people of our faith, regardless of how we express it, then you are doing no one any good, save those who wish for our faith to disappear.

I am not saying capitulate to those whose view you do not believe, but I firmly believe that clinging to dogma, or beliefs for the sake of doing so is not wisdom nor is it courage. It is stubbornness and self-destruction that drive us to doing this, and it is time we stopped arguing with each other, and started conversing.

As much as you may not like it, I feel it is high time we listened to these voices of our community, who may, if we listen, teach us more than our books and personal knowledge can.

Modern Witches Connect on the Internet

Modern Witches Connect on the Internet

 

by BlackCat

Back in 1980, the personal computer was new. As a preteen, I used to wonder why anyone would use one. I knew, however, that this was a part of the future, and so I thought it must be a good thing. At the same time, I was spending many hot afternoons in the forest near my home, communing with nature and searching for spiritual connection. I found that connection with all of the life and energy around me. I yearned to learn more and find others to whom I could relate in these matters.

It was hard. There was no huge assortment of “Wicca for beginners” books available, as there is today. I was lucky to find two books on witchcraft at the local library. Even now, a trip to the downtown Seattle Public Library finds fewer selections on witchcraft than the chain bookstore up the street. Funny that the Seattle Public Library has several bookcases full of selections on religious studies of a Judeo-Christian nature, but only a handful of titles on Wicca. It strikes me that ignorance and prejudice still rear their ugly little heads, even in the free-thinking culture of Seattle.

Since my childhood hometown library yielded some results, I also checked bookstores. I discovered that an independent bookstore in town sold Tarot cards. As my ethnic background is Hungarian Gypsy, Tarot cards were considered okay in our household. I believe it was my elder sister who said, “Tarot cards are okay, Mom. They’re like astrology.” I started collecting them with allowance money. I scanned the shelves at that store, looking at the selections. Seeing books by Starhawk classified as “women’s studies,” in my youthful ignorance I didn’t even pick one up.

After a few visits to the bookshop, a woman behind the counter began to chat with me about the Tarot cards. I did not get to know her personally, but looking back I would say that she, like I, was searching and knew there was some way of connecting out there, but we just didn’t have a vehicle to find it.

For most, it was the true witch-shop that connected them. Generally in larger cities, shops specializing in occult merchandise and books became small magnets for like-minded individuals. In a small town, you relied on mail order catalogs. I bought my first athamé via the mail and even a “spell kit.”

Because neo-paganism is a minority spiritual system or religion, its adherents have generally already broken some ties to the cultural mainstream. Our practices require of us new ways of thinking and rethinking previously accepted norms. We do not have a sacred scripture to keep us all in a line, so we are ever seeking and learning new ideas. All the while, we rediscover the beliefs and practices of our ancestors. The use of the Internet is a natural enhancement for these quests.

The Internet can be so helpful in learning that you’d have to be a fool to stay away from it, in my opinion. It is in essence a huge library. All you do is type a word on your computer, and pictures and text are presented on any subject. I use the Internet for news, weather, shopping and especially for e-mail. Like a telephone call, e-mail is immediate, but unlike a phone call it does not interrupt. The receiver can get the communication whenever is a good time for the receiver.

The pagan community using the Internet is large and diverse. Made up of so many creative people and free thinkers, this graphic and opinionated medium was an easy hit. Today, there are thousands of pagan-related Web sites, Webrings that link sites together, e-mail lists, chat rooms and even virtual covens that have sprung up. We already knew that our magick was transcending time and space. Why not use the computer to further this transcendence to commune with other like-minded individuals? Many of these are separated by great physical distance and, yes, time (it’s afternoon here, but it’s tomorrow morning in Japan). Nevertheless, virtual covens communicate via e-mail and online chat-rooms. Rituals are held online, often using a graphic interface that each member can watch on his or her computer during the ritual.

Where to start? Most people have some search feature on the start page of their Internet service provider. According to Lycos, one of these search engines, of the top 1000 most widely searched-for Web topics, the subject of witchcraft ranked 72 and Wicca ranked 91. A search on the word “Wicca” I just did brings up 59,305 Web sites. That’s right, 59,305 individual listings of Web sites you could look at on the subject. Witchcraft brings up a whopping 108,542!

Such a list is hard to sort through, with many of the listings being redundant or actually off the topic you are looking for. The Internet is so extensive as to be almost too big to handle. I have a suggestion. There is one site in particular that stands out among all the thousands to choose from.

The Witches Voice Web site, Witchvox (www.witchvox.com), is a nonprofit organization. Wren Walker, Fritz Jung and Peg Aloi created the organization and Web site in 1997. Wren and Fritz had both previously done work for the Witches League for Public Awareness. They currently operate out of their home in Clearwater, Florida. The Witches Voice is one of the most widely used religious Web sites in the world, having registered since its creation over 30,850,000 pages viewed! Their tagline, “Those who walk in love and truth shall grow in honor and strength,” clearly reflects their honest, noble cause.

Each week, an update is posted, reflecting current events in the pagan community worldwide. The site is extensive, with 34 chapters containing 3410 Web pages. There are over 5000 working links and over 39,000 personal connections verified every three months. The site is rich in graphics, yet with no annoying advertisements. The Witchvox staff does not take any money for the work they do and state they never have and never will. The Witches’ Voice is funded by the community only.

To quote from their Web site, “The Witches’ Voice provides the information, resources, educational materials, networking sections, latest news and all of the other support documents on the Web site to everyone free of charge. What you don’t see on the site are the more personal letters and information packets that are sent to local agencies, schools and individuals, the many hours of research, the discussions with mainstream media on issues that affect pagans, the phone calls offering emotional support and guidance and all the other ways the staff supports the pagan community.”

I use the Witchvox site for many reasons. Sometimes I just browse the well-organized links section and learn about different Craft traditions. One will find widdershins.org and several other Pacific Northwest links. Maybe I want to learn about pagan musicians or an Internet pagan “radio” address. “Wren’s Nest” offers the latest news and is a credited source for my own news column, the Speculum. There are surveys and essays written by community members from all over the world.

The site encourages and accepts sponsorship donations from those that deem its mission of value, and the site uses those funds to pay for communication costs and for donations to events or situations in the community that need help.I can best offer more information by simply quoting the site:

· Witchvox does not teach Wicca or Witchcraft, nor do we promote our personal spiritual beliefs on this site. We offer some of the more popular tenets to those outside of this community in an effort to help them better understand who we are and what we do. Witchvox is about supporting and celebrating the work of the local communities. We are constantly approached for interviews by some of the most famous publications in the world. We defer 85 percent of these requests to witches, Wiccans and pagans at the local level.

· The Witches’ Voice will never be about titles, degrees or fame. Our focus will always be related to the work itself. We live in a world of spin, idle promises and hype. It is our observation that the work will ultimately speak for itself.

· The Witches’ Voice is a community effort; we don’t pay writers or famous names for articles. Even if we could afford to do this, it’s doubtful that we would do it. We are a site by the community… for the community. All are welcome to submit articles and always have been. Notable pagans are encouraged to share their wisdom and experiences.

· The “pages viewed” stats on our splash page are indeed real. They have been faithfully culled from our server logs from day one. They indicate a running daily total of both Witchvox.com and Witchvox.net. Witchvox.com stats are added daily, and Witchvox.net stats are only added at the end of the month. At present, we are pacing at close to 35,000 pages viewed on a daily basis. If you prefer to work with the concept of “hits” (page elements) you can multiply that number by 5; if your preference is for actual visitors, divide this number by 5.

· The Witchvox focus is on the present day and the present way. To us everyone is special and valid in their own personal beliefs. All you have to do to get “featured” here is to do something for the community. We don’t care if you found this path last month or 25 years ago. We do “lean into” individuals and groups that consistently work for the community. Current selfless work, for the good of all, means everything to us.

· The Witchvox staff have no desire to impose our own personal morals on anyone. “An it harm none, do what ye will” — we do maintain a strong sense of ethics. We encourage honesty and direct contact by anyone that has concerns related to what we do.

· We have a rich history of answering 99 percent of our e-mail on a daily basis (we sure have received a mountain of it). We do not participate in “he said/she said” gossip and do not respond to background bitching. Our e-mail addresses are accessible via links at the bottom of all of our pages.

· As always, our goal is to create solutions that are both valuable and useful to the pagan community. Both Witchvox.com and Witchvox.net are here for your news and networking needs. Use them with our love.

· Use the Internet! Start with The Witches’ Voice, www.witchvox.com, and you’re on a firm launching pad for all of your neo-pagan spiritual explorations through cyberspace.

You, Your God, and Your Future

Author: Frost
I have been with the Pagan community for nearly a decade, notably unguided. I have been fortunate to find friends who are Pagan or open to pagan thought. In that time, I have become a mentor to many of them.

Our Coven recently went through an ideological split during a time when we were trying to restructure. This split made some things better and some things worse.

Throughout the split and in the time since, many of the members have been struggling with their faith. I had been doing the best I could to regain some manner of order, to prevent the crisis of faith that would allow such a split to happen; but I ultimately failed. As such, I was stuck with many practitioners looking for something to do and a declining faith to do it with.

As a result, I sent out the following, and after realizing that others in the community may need to hear these words, I have chosen to also post it here:

I feel compelled to say something as many have made it known they are feeling low. There is but one thing that has remained true for me these past nine years, the nine years which I have followed my path. That one thing is this: my life, however meaningless, mundane, boring, and painful it is now, will come to mean something in the end.

What I mean to say is this: You have been placed upon this earth for a reason. That reason is known to someone but will be kept from you until the time of your death. I believe that at this point, you will reflect upon that life and come to the same understanding that so many before have. That understanding will be unique to you and your own experience, but will go something like this:

I made a difference. I changed a life, and so, I changed the world.

How have you changed someone today? Have you yet or will it be later in the day? Did you teach them a skill, or help them with a task? Did you learn something that will later save lives?

When it all seems so pointless to you, think about the bigger picture.

I once found myself asking my God for just one thing: There are very few things that we do in life that we set out to do. In the end, it’s the little things that gain us the profound legacy that we all yearn for. The one thing that we all manage is the one that we may never see. That achievement is the difference that we make in another human being.

If in your life, you make a difference in one person’s life, then you may die with a legacy. If we teach a skill we leave a larger legacy. If we listen to a problem, we have created a solution. It’s the little difference that we make that lend a hand to large means.

If there were one thing that I could ask my lord for, one thing above all else, it would be to make a difference, if only one person at a time. I would die having been fulfilled in life. The difference is my wish, my dream, and my will.

In a bit more specific request, I will leave you with this: I was born and baptized Lutheran, and still hold some beliefs of that faith. Jehovah and I still chat about my problems, but Odin has taken me in and taught me.

The relationship you have with your god is personal, on which is never to be questioned by another. But we are complex individuals, and just as we have a handful of doctors for each special problem, we too have a hand full of gods waiting to grant us powers. So long as we believe in them then the depth of the relationship is irrelevant. The links exist.

Faith, and in turn religion, exist in a part of us that is neither logical nor understandable. Our Gods make it logical and understandable. They help to fill the void we feel, the feeling of security, feelings of safety. Next time you are alone and afraid, feel the presence of your God all around you and experience a new feeling of safety.

It is safety and security that we all yearn for. The millionaire behind the multi million dollar security system has the same security that I have with my God. Odin has my back, so to speak. That’s not to say that he will never let me get hurt, never let me feel sorrow. He will not save me from the grasp of all things evil. He will keep me safe though, when it counts.

That narrow miss by the car on the road, running five minutes late and avoiding a wreck. He will keep me safe when it counts.

One thing we must all remember is that the love that our hearts have for our Gods must not be perfect, but it must be forgiving. Our Gods have Their purpose for us and They will get us there however best They can. We just need to have faith in the end and the means will fall in to place.

For those of you clutching at straws, examine what you have done, and what you can be doing.

For those of you clutching at faith, keep with it and it will keep with you.

From one troubled person to another, blessed be on this night.

This message was just what my practitioners need to pick up the pieces and get back together. I felt it was important to share this with the rest of you and maybe I can help some one else.

Our future lies with in our Gods and us.

My legacy is still to be writ as is all of ours. Let us then be together in our community of faith. I hope this allows someone to make the decision they had been putting off.

‘Till I find deem it necessary to write again,

Blessed Be

Frost
The Covenant
Order of the Gual
Temple of Odin

When You Might Not Want to Come Out of the Broom Closet

Author: Bronwen Forbes

A great deal has been written about the benefits and advantages of coming out as Pagan to your family, friends and co-workers, both here on Witchvox and in other places. Living an honest life, helping Paganism be more accepted as more people say “I know a Pagan, ” and taking pride in who and what you are – these are all excellent reasons to be open about your faith. However, as a friend of mine reminded me recently, coming out is never something you do just once. You continue to choose with every new day, every new situation and every new person you meet whether or not to say anything about your spiritual path.

Which means, of course, that there are some valid reasons to never come out to anyone, or only to a select few in specific situations. For example (obvious as it is) , if you’ve recently begun the process of legally severing your marital bonds with someone and, before the divorce is final and all child and property custody disputes have been resolved, and you realize in the middle of all this that you’re Pagan, it would probably be in your best interests not to announce your new path until after the dust has settled.

Another obvious example is on the job. I hate to sound like an alarmist, but in this economy, just because you think it’s safe to be openly Pagan at work doesn’t mean it *is* safe. I lived for years in the Baltimore-Washington DC area where no one, not even my employers, cared if I was Pagan or not.

I left DC for a Midwest town that had a university – and a very prominent journalism school. As leaders of a training coven (consisting mostly of college students including one journalism major) , my husband and I were pretty good candidates for “interview a witch for the Halloween edition of the school paper.” It happened every year. While I wasn’t exactly out at work, between my regular appearance in the university’s school newspaper and occasional mentions in the city’s paper for being on various Pagan-related discussion panels, I wasn’t exactly hiding my religion, either. Five minutes on Google would have told my employers everything they wanted to know about it. I don’t think it even occurred to them to check.

Unfortunately, I took this lack of interest in my religious affairs for granted when we moved to a tiny town in New Mexico and I got a job at the local (much smaller) university in the admissions office. We also tried to help revive the campus Pagan student group which had been prominently featured in the local paper a year earlier, when every Baptist minister in the county denounced its existence (which should have been a clue to me to keep my flapping mouth shut) . Connections were made among the students, and next thing I knew it was two weeks before Samhain and the editor of the school paper was interviewing me. It was a good, well-written article, and no one in my office said a word about the fact that I’d just outed myself to the entire campus. I didn’t think any more about it.

Until I realized that my immediate supervisor was quietly and subtly going out of her way to make my workday a living hell – and had been since the article appeared in the paper.

For example, whatever I did wrong was discussed loudly and in public, while my co-worker, a Catholic, got a bit of quiet privacy when her errors were pointed out (We started the same day and did the exact same job) . I mentioned it to my boss and was told it was all my imagination and that I was “too sensitive.”

Eventually I quit; I’m convinced that if I hadn’t, I would have been fired. Was it because of the article? I’ll never know for sure, but in retrospect my decision to come out of the broom closet was, in this instance, a pretty poor one.

Sometimes, though, the decision of whether or not to come out as Pagan is not so obvious. Family and close friends, for example, are the people you most want to accept this part of you, and as a result your prediction of their reaction to your news may be skewed; you so very much need them to be happy for you that you could project the reaction you want onto them.

I’ve asked around, and a lot of my friends suggest telling a close sibling, aunt or uncle and see how they react before having the “Big Talk” with Mom and Dad. But – and this is hard – telling your nearest and dearest may not only be a bad idea, you may not know it’s a bad idea until it’s too late.

Back in the mid 1980s when I first realized I was Pagan, I told my parents. I had plenty of solid, valid reasons for doing so: 1) I was about to be divorced by my first husband over my Paganism and I thought they deserved to know the truth. 2) I had a strong feeling, even in the early days, that my spiritual path was going to be a major part of my life (turns out I was right) and I couldn’t see cutting my parents out of that much of my world (we were a lot closer back then) . 3) My parents are highly educated people with five college degrees between the two of them, have been professional performers most their lives (i.e. used to odd, artistic, fringe folk) , and are reasonably liberal in their personal and political views. In other words, if there are (or were) two Christians (Episcopalians) more likely to accept their daughter’s new spiritual path with open-mindedness and grace, I don’t know them.

At first it looked like I made a good decision to come out to my folks. My father, a college librarian, found a copy of Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance on my recommendation and read it. He said that while he’d never be a Pagan, he was struck by how “poetic it is.”

Fast forward a decade or so. In the intervening years my religion has been referred to as “that Pagan b*llsh*t” more than once. I’ve been told, “We’re just so relieved you’ve managed to stay away from the drugs” (What drugs? Did I miss the memo on rampant drug use in the Pagan community?) , and treated to this day like a not-quite-bright teenager by – you guessed it – my intellectual, liberal parents.

Was coming out to my parents a good idea? Probably not.

Knowing what I know now, would I do it today? No.

The decision to tell or not to tell someone you’re Pagan is a deeply personal one, and not in any way something you should be pressured into. Coming out as Pagan is not “cool” or something to do for the shock it might cause the listener. Although it’s true that the more of a presence we are in society the less “other” we become, and the more our faith is accepted in the world.

But we need to be aware that sharing our religious choice with anyone or everyone is not always the best solution. We no longer need to worry about witchfinders, hangings and other historically dire consequences for openly celebrating our faith, but we do need to think very hard about our livelihoods, our children and the feelings of the one we’re outing ourselves to before we choose to share this most personal information.

Coven Life: What I Have Learned

Author: Sleeping Moon
I started practicing witchcraft or the ancient path as I prefer to call it, back in 1996 or so. At first I was solitary, read my homework, started working with spells and rituals. Thought it interesting when my cats would act a bit crazy during that time. But, felt something was lacking. I wanted other people to talk to, to practice with. And to make sure I was doing every thing correctly. Because I couldn’t “see” energy with my real eyes, I had doubts.

Let’s face it, when we start off (especially when we are young) and the way Hollywood portrays magicks, we, or at least I thought that’s how it was supposed to be. And I was hoping that’s the way it was supposed to be. When that didn’t happen, I didn’t get discouraged. In fact, quite the opposite. I practiced more. To the point where I was calling the quarters just about every night of the week. I also wanted to understand the difference in feeling the energy as well, both while in circle and out of it.

After a year and a half or so, I had found a store in town that solely based their market on the Craft. Of course I was thrilled! (I think I heard about it through hear say.) I of course spread the word to just about any one that would listen what I did and what I was looking for. Both in personal life and in my professional life. I felt like I wasn’t the only witch in town and the only way to find people of like minds was to open my mouth.

When I first walked into the store, I was mystified and in awe. But was a wee bit disappointed in how small it was. I browsed around for a time, and then got the courage to ask the woman behind the counter if she knew of any covens or groups in the area. She was very sweet and took my number. She didn’t give me any definite information. Of course, I left the store a little disheartened that I didn’t have a group to contact me right away.

I’m not sure how much time passed after that, but that nice woman behind the counter did in fact call me. It just so happened to be around Samhain time and that she had her cousin who is a priest, come up from the city to hold a Samhain celebration. She asked me if I would like to attend.

Needless to say, I was on cloud nine and of course accepted.

That first Samhain celebration was a magickal one for me. We held ritual, the priest did his thing, and we blessed and consecrated some items and did a bit of fire scrying. But, during this session instead of being drawn to the fire (like I normally am) I was drawn to the sky. I did end up seeing something that concerned me and asked the priest about it later. The moon was full and round in her splendor that night, but not only seeing that moon, I saw three others as well. Of course I knew what the three moons meant; maiden, mother, crone, but was flabbergasted about the fourth. When he heard this I recall his eyes growing wide and he said most don’t see the fourth moon and it meant that it was the dark moon or hence the dark goddess. Then, in the next breath, he told me witchcraft wasn’t for me.

Boy, was I literally floored. Why would some one tell me that most witches don’t see the fourth moon and then tell me that it’s not my rightful path? Didn’t make much sense. But some how, since he was the only clergy I knew, I persuaded him to teach me. I worked with him for a bit over a year, he would come up from the city quite often and a friend and I would go down there as well. Life was good.

Until he started discouraging me. He was telling me things that didn’t sit well with me and said that he wasn’t comfortable teaching me any more. Plus a big thing that I didn’t care for was it was his way or the high way. (I find that quite often in more distinguished groups.) So after some time, I told him that I was leaving, as I was uncomfortable with his teachings. (He also told me once that he would not initiate me through the great right! Which of course turned me completely off!) So hence I left. My friend did continue working with him, which I didn’t discourage.

After that, I did work solitary for a time until I found Witchvox. I also found my next coven. Or I hoped it would be. It was several hours away, but I didn’t mind the drive because it wasn’t often. This group did a bit of Pow-Wow magick, which I did like. Then I started speaking up a bit more and telling a few individuals what kind of entities I am drawn to (the fae) and what I was currently working with at the time. (It was more of a neutral energy than a positive one…but NOT negative.) When they found out, I was kicked out. Only light energies where allowed there and they wouldn’t tolerate any thing else. (And this person wrote about negative entities–go figure!) I never once brought this neutral energy into our circles and was stunned speechless that this would have happened.

I never thought that fellow pagans would be so prejudiced against certain energies…negative ones, understandable but not the one I was dealing with. This entity I do give a lot of credit too because it pulled me out of several dark moments in my life. This being one of them.
Like I said, I enjoyed the groups company, felt connected and thought I felt at home. Wow, did I get a slap in the face! They also didn’t care for the fact that my Matron was Hecate and the god I was working with at the time happened to be Hades. Too much dark, they said. You need to balance their energies in order to have effective magick. Ptah! Maybe for them, but not for me.
So, I was back to solitary once again.

I started to petition to the gods then to find me some good folks to practice with and that I can feel comfortable enough to be myself and not have to worry about stepping on any ones toes. And let’s face it, being kicked out of a coven or group.

I then went to a few open groups, several which were more than 50 miles away and each one didn’t sit right. Most where the ones where I just stood in circle with my hands in the goddess position and let the Priest/Priestess do all the work. I felt like a minion. Even lower than that. Many times, I didn’t even lend my energy because I felt like a ghost. I also didn’t like the fact that they made you where this, or you couldn’t where that. How discouraging!

Then, back in 2004 I got the courage to look for individuals this time and in my immediate area to hopefully start up a group of our own. I had no goal at the time, no set of rules and no doctrine. I just didn’t want to be alone in my quest. Not too long after that, some one did contact me! This person happened to live in a town not to far away and I was thrilled. We met at a local coffee shop and hit it off.

We practiced between the two of us for a time, went to open group functions together and I came to this conclusion: We needed to start a group of our own where people can feel free to practice how they see fit, with minimal rules and regulations. So then, I placed a group add on Witchvox again. About several weeks later, a woman from a neighboring town contacted me and we met up. Then a few more. For several years it was only five of us, but we where comfortable with that.

We started to bond, open up more, did activities out side of the craft and simply enjoyed each other’s company. After a while, we decided we would like to look for more individuals to join our tight nit family. Several came and went, some didn’t work out for us, and we didn’t work out for them. Which of course happens, whether it’s through conflicting personality traits or the group wasn’t right for them. Period. We even tried to get men involved and that turned out to be hairy. (Not saying that men weren’t welcome, it’s just the certain men that wanted to join with us.)
A few months ago we did open our group to two new women and are lovely additions! About a month ago two more joined and fit in quite nicely.

My main rule of thumb here is that this group of mine is open to all paths that follow the ancient ways. So long as we come together on a common ground, can enjoy each other’s company and feel comfortable enough to speak our minds. There is no right way or wrong way in this group and there is no such thing as a designated high priestess. For we all are! We don’t go through degree’s or initiations for that is up to you and your guides/gods to decide and for the simple fact that we learn from each other.

It also stems back to the age-old question: Who initiated the first witch? And if that spirit initiated that witch, why can’t it initiate more of us?

The broader we are in our magicks/paths, the more we can learn from each other. I purposely let each lady take the chance to host a circle/sabbat so we can see how that witch likes to practice her path. And if that lady is interested in a different magickal aspect of the craft, she has a chance to express that interest to the group.

I don’t base acceptance on race, creed or age. But it is a women’s group at this time. Because I feel the wider we are in acceptance of others, the more fun and enlightening the group will be. And the more we can learn from each other.

I feel humbled that I finally found or I should say that the Gods led me in the right direction to this wonderful group of special women. Each one of these ladies holds a place in my heart and I am thankful that each one has come into my life. I have learned much from this experience, continue to learn daily and enjoy every minute that I spend with them.

Coven life can be hard and challenging at times. If we don’t find a common ground, a member has to go or if a problem arises and is not fixable again, member has to go. It’s tough but the positives out weigh the negatives in this case. There is something awesome about connecting with a group of women that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.

I feel that each woman is unique unto herself and that her view of the craft is the same and should be shared with the world. Or in this case, this group.

I am not saying that other groups have it wrong. Absolutely not. I just feel that more structured groups aren’t right for me as I like each individual to feel like she has a voice and that freedom can speak it’s tongue. In this, I have found my path and hope each one of you does as well.

There is something awesome about finding people of like minds that you can feel free enough to be you.