Eleven Things Every Witch Should Know


Witchy Comments & Graphics

Eleven Things Every Witch Should Know

1. Magic is what happens when you open yourself to the Divine. All real magic is
a manifestation of the Divine – it is how you co-create reality with deity.

2. The Divine is within you and is everywhere present in the natural world. And
everything is interconnected by this sacred energy.

3. Wicca is not about information — it’s about transformation, so practice,
practice, practice — and do it as much as possible in Nature! Witchcraft
enables you to commune with divinity and to manifest your destiny, your desires
and your highest and sacred self.

4. The real ethics of how Witches live and practice magic are simple: Witches
live in a sacred manner because we live in a sacred world. We therefore treat
all of life with reverence and respect.

5. Because all magic flows from our connection to the Sacred, our lives and our
magic, must be guided by the sacred nature of the energy with which we work.

6. The energy Witches work with is not neutral — it is divine love.

7. Magic often works in unexpected way because it is not a mechanical process,
and the Universe is not a machine. You are living and making magic within a
divine, organic, living reality.

8. Witches don’t command and control — they commune and co-create.

9. The real secret of successful spellcasting, as with all of magic, is your
connection to the Divine power that dwells within you, and surrounds you. And
spells do work so be careful what you ask for!

10. Nature makes the Divine tangible. By working, living, and practicing your
magic in harmony with Nature, you are in harmony with the Divine.

11. The ultimate teacher is the God/Goddess inside you and in the world of
Nature all around you.

Author unknown

“Harm None”

Burning Times Comments & Graphics

Because Witches have been persecuted for so many centuries. Wiccans and Witches believe in religious freedom first! We do not look at this Path as the only way to achieve spirituality, but as one Path among many to be the same end. We are willing to share experience and knowledge with those who seek wisdom and perspective. Wiccans and Witches practice tolerance and acceptance toward all other religions as long as those faiths do not persecute others or violate the tenant of “Harm None.”

~Magickal Graphics~

Living in Harmony & Achieving Balance

Witchy Cat Graphics & Comments
Wicca acknowledges the cycles of nature, the lunar phases and the seasons to celebrate their spirituality and to worship the Divine. It is a belief system that allows the Witch to work with, not in supplication to Deities with the intent of living in harmony and achieving balance with all things.

~Magickal Graphics~

A WITCH’S PERSONAL MANIFESTO

The following personal manifesto was presented by Paul V. Beyerl to the 1987 Harvest Moon Celebration in Woodland Hills, California. It was in no way written to represent a set of laws to govern the behavior of others, but only as an open discussion of personal ethics to provoke thought and communication.

 

A WITCH’S PERSONAL MANIFESTO

 

I demand these things as a Witch:

– I must pursue my Highest Ideals

– I must strive to elevate my ethics

– I must be as good as my word

– I must demand integrity of myself

– I must be willing to suffer for my religion

– I must willingly embrace discipline

– I must develop financial responsibility and independence

– I must be able to pay my bills

– I must pay attention to my diet & intake of food

– I must LIVE the Hermetic Principle

– I must respect the astral

– I must approach ritual with great care

– I must see ritual work as a disciplined art form

– I must consider seriously the ramifications of reincarnation

– I must conserve fuels

– I must recycle whenever possible

– I must not litter, not even a cigarette butt

– I must avoid negative energy, even within my own thoughts

– I must avoid placing blame for any of the events in my life

– I must take responsibility for my ill health

– I must take myself seriously

– I must have humor

– I must live with my eyes open and my feet grounded

 

I demand these things of myself as a member of the Wiccan Community:

– I must support the work of making Wicca a respected religion

– I must expect financial accountability from those groups to which I donate monies

– I must stop the mockery of other religions (including anti-Christian sentiment sometimes found in modern Paganism)

– I must not support religious plagiarism (such as the teaching of shamanism by those who have never experienced the wilderness nor studied from a real shaman).

– I must be respectful of all other’s ritual forms

– I must separate myths and reality in our history and in our future

– I must work to contribute towards a reputable public image of Wicca

– I must protest against pagans who use shock tactics in dealing with the public

– I must upgrade standards of Wiccan education

– I must support serious research of our religious heritage

– I must demand quality in pagan literature, newsletters and books

– I must support the assembling of libraries

– I must not be a religious isolationist and I must work to remove pagan ghetto mentalities from our communities

– I must demand provocative, challenging workshops over entertainment

– I must share my knowledge and skills

– I must make Initiations increasingly difficult, challenging and rewarding

– I must consider the amount of education other religions expect of their clergy when planning Wiccan training

– I must be willing to network

– I must remain in contact with pagans in other places

 

I demand these things of myself as a Priest/ess:

– I must prepare for the deaths and burials of our peoples

– I must provide for the future of my consecrated tools beyond my physical death

– I must work towards the establishment of legal ministries

– I must provide for children and their education

– I must provide for the survival of my Tradition

I demand these things of myself as a Wiccan citizen:

– I must promote community service, being of help to all peoples regardless of their beliefs

– I must be willing to be political

– I must be a knowledgeable, active voter

– I must respect and utilize the system

– I must find value in the political system in which I live or work actively to promote change

– I must be aware of the world perspective

– I must extend myself to world poverty and hunger

THE DO’s AND DON’Ts OF WITCHES

THE DO’s AND DON’Ts OF WITCHES

WITCHES DO NOT DO EVIL…
They believe that doing evil and harm is against all ethical and moral laws.
Witches simply do not do harm (even to themselves).

WITCHES DO NOT WORSHIP SATAN…
Simply put: He’s THEIR boy…NOT Ours. Witches do not have a Satan/Devil or any
all-evil deity in their religious structure. Witchcraft is a religion that
underscores polarity and views the God and the Goddess as equal entities.

A MALE Witch IS NOT A WARLOCK…
The word Warlock is a Scottish word meaning “oath breaker”, and became a term
designating a male Witch during the ‘burning times’. A Male Witch is simply
that.

WITCHES WEAR CLOTHING OF EVERY COLOR AND EVERY STYLE…
Many Witches do choose to wear black clothing or ritual robes. The color black
is the culmination of all vibrational rates of light on the material plane.
Black absorbs light information and helps Witches be more receptive to psychic
impressions and energies.

WITCHES COME FROM EVERY SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND ETHNIC BACKGROUND…
Many Witches are professional people holding positions of responsibility such as
Doctors, Nurses, Police Officers, Teachers, etc. Witchcraft does not
discriminate against color or ethnic origin and does view everything as equal in
the eye of the Goddess and the God.

WITCHES DO USE SPELLS…
A spell is a thought, a projection, or a prayer. Other religions use prayer,
meditation, projection and ritual to produce an intended result. The word
‘spell’ does not imply doing evil or harm.

WITCHES DO USE MAGIC WANDS…
Often you see the use of magic wands in children’s cartoons and movies making
the idea seem frivolous. In actuality, they are used in healing for directing
energy.

WITCHES DO USE WITCHCRAFT AS A SCIENCE, AN ART AND A RELIGION…
They use their knowledge and magic in harmony with the Universe and Nature
around them.

THE WORD “WITCH” HAS A DEEP AND RICH HISTORY…
As defined by the English Oxford dictionary, “Witchcraft” is a Celtic
(pronounced Kell-tick) word meaning the wise, good people. “Wicce” (wick-kay)
designates a female Witch whereas “Wicca” (wick-kah) designates a male Witch.

IN THE RELIGION OF WITCHCRAFT WE VIEW THE PENTACLE AS AN AMULET AND
A SYMBOL FOR PROTECTION…
The five-pointed star represents the human body and the earth. In combination,
the star surrounded by the circle represents the human body encompassed by the
protection of the Goddess/God force. The pentacle is the symbol for Universal
Wisdom.

WITCHES DO CONCERN THEMSELVES WITH ECOLOGY…
They have never forgotten the basic fact: the world is not our enemy. Neither is
it inert, dumb matter. The earth and all living things share the same life-
force. They are composed of patterns of intelligence, of knowledge, and of
divinity. All life is a web. We are woven into it as sisters and brothers off
All. Witches need to be grounded in both worlds and awake to their
responsibilities for both worlds. It is only by being responsible human beings
that we can be responsible Witches and only responsible Witches will survive.*

*Except from “Power of the Witch” by Laurie Cabot.

Essential Pagan Etiquette

Essential Pagan Etiquette

by Amanda Silvers

I have been to a number of “open pagan events” recently, and I’ve observed that some people don’t seem to know the generally understood codes of conduct. Since I hadn’t seen a good piece on pagan etiquette for a good long spell, I thought I’d put a few of my reflections on paper.

I know that not everyone will know how things should go, for example if you’ve never attended a ritual before. That’s okay; every one of us began somewhere, and we didn’t know how to act either! If you’re a beginner, say so. People will help you and introduce you around and forgive your faux pas (if you make any).

On the other hand, most of my suggestions will come as nothing new to many of you. Practically all standard rules of courtesy pertain to pagan events and gatherings.

The following bits of advice, some general and some specific, cover open pagan events, festivals and rituals. They are commonly relevant to private functions as well. Don’t regard them as comprehensive, though. Always investigate and find out whether there are any special rules for the gathering that you are planning on attending.

Arrival times

Arrival times are frequently set at a certain interval of time preceding the actual beginning of the ceremony, feast or festivity. For example: Arrival time 4 p.m., ritual to follow at 6 p.m., feast after, then drumming. This time interval is generally built in – for latecomers, for people to get their energy settled, visit, have a drink or bathroom visit and so on.

Check with the high priestess, host or event coordinator to confirm that this is the custom of the group you are joining for the event. Festivals generally have a set time at which the space opens, and you cannot arrive prior to that. There is often an opening festival ritual that you will want to attend. Try to arrive in time to participate; it helps the whole group feel cohesive and connected in a different way than if you miss it.

Double-check times always, and don’t arrive after the rite has begun unless you’ve cleared it with the hosts ahead of time. It is generally safe to arrive a bit early and volunteer to help with setup. Particularly if you are new to the area or are attending an event put on by a particular group for the first time, assisting will give the impression that you are sociable and helpful, and people will remember you.

If you do arrive early, and the ritualists are conferring or doing a pre-ritual run through, don’t disturb them!

Certain groups have a policy to lock the door after a certain time, and you won’t be able to get in if you are later than that. “Pagan standard time” (that is, late) is not a standard to aspire to!

What to bring

Do bring a benevolent disposition, a cooperative spirit and an open attitude. Shower or bathe and brush your teeth just prior to ritual if you can; it gets very gamy quickly when 50 to 100 people are in a warm closed room, very close together. Besides, you should cleanse your body just prior to ritual anyway, as an offering to the gods! Also, don’t wear heavy perfumes. They can be almost as offensive as bad body odor. Especially, patchouli and musk oil can be very potent.

Wear a smile, and for most events your fanciest ritual wear (if you have it), ritual jewelry and so on will be appropriate. This is the time and place to don a cape and your best or weirdest ritual array – entirely black clothes or your coffee-cup-sized pentagram.

It is always a good idea to bring a snack or a nonalcoholic drink to share. Offering a snack is a really good way to make new acquaintances! Bring any flyers, announcements, business cards and so on that you want to share with the community.

Bring drums, rattles and musical instruments for yourself and one or two extra to share, if you have them, especially if music or drumming is mentioned in the invitation.

Bring the site fee if there is one, in cash – check ahead to find out so there are no surprises. More about site fees later on.

What to leave at home

Do not bring your disagreeable or superior attitude, head games or grudges or animosity toward others into the circle.

Do not bring animals of any kind. As much as most of us like them, many people are allergic, they can be disruptive to the circle, they may get into the food and so on. It’s okay to allow your familiar into your own circles if you like, but please don’t presume to subject a public group to your pets.

Please, do not bring small children – unless you are prepared to supervise them closely, and to get cut out of the ritual if they become disruptive. (If they do become obtrusive, please motion to one of the ritual staff that you’d like to depart from the circle.) It’s very difficult to concentrate or meditate when there’s an infant shrieking beside you. We all (or most of us, anyway) actually enjoy children when they are reasonably well-behaved, but tempers flare when they begin to encroach on the experience of those who took the trouble to get a sitter or are childless by choice.

Do not bring illegal drugs or alcohol unless you have been assured by the hosts that such is gladly received. With innumerable pagans in recovery now, it’s a good bet that a lot of the people attending an event will be clean and sober. If you do feel that you must have a wee drink or toke, do so very prudently. You never know which person around you might be inclined to call security.

Munchies

Make sure to determine if there is a potluck, and if there is, bring a dish to share that will feed 8 to 12 people. Please be creative when you select what to bring for the potluck. Many times, I have seen four or five containers of deli potato salad and no cheese, bread, drinks, fruit, veggies – well, you get the idea. I recently brought fresh fruit of various kinds and Devonshire cream to an open full moon – it went over very well and was gone in a twinkle.

Homemade is always preferred, hot dishes are frequently at a premium, and meat is popular. However, vegetarian dishes are always a reliable bet, and if you have a specialty that you feature, bring that! Unusual drinks, breads, cheeses, desserts and appetizers are a good risk, as is unique ethnic cuisine.

Check to see if you need to provide your own dishes and tableware, and don’t forget a serving spoon or fork for your contribution, as well as napkins, cups or glasses! I have a fairly large picnic basket that I keep packed with everything I might need – plates, bowls, knives, forks and spoons, napkins and all, including blue plastic goblets and salt and pepper!

If there is no potluck planned, be sure to eat something substantial prior to attending. Keep your blood sugar level up, and you have less of a chance of falling over due to hunger.

Social interaction

Behave toward others with courtesy, kindness and respect. Introduce yourself to and make an authentic effort to meet and make the acquaintance of at least three additional people at each gathering you attend. Expand your foundation of friends, and make other newcomers feel like the local pagan community is gracious and sociable.

Do be cautious when encountering strangers – don’t rush up and leap on them like a puppy with bad manners! Approach them with consideration. Don’t interrupt a conversation, but do contribute if you sense that you have something to add. Query, but don’t pry. Certain pagans are yet in the broom closet and may not wish to divulge a lot of personal information. Take a cue from how candid and friendly they appear to be.

Bringing a small gift for the host or something for the altar is an excellent notion. Flowers are usually appreciated for either.

Ritual behavior

Attempt to observe the customary conduct of others and follow along. Please do not talk, jest or criticize the ritual cast during the ritual. (I have been guilty of this one myself, and I apologize!) Endeavor to not disrupt the ritual energy at all, unless you absolutely can’t wait, and use the bathroom prior to joining the circle!

If there is music, chanting, singing and so on – don’t sing along with the music unless invited to do so by the performers. Then sing only after you’ve listened long enough to be able to sing the words and melody correctly. Respect and honor what the performers have spent their time and energy learning by lending an ear.

Do not touch the altar, ritual items, the ritual cast or anything that does not belong to you without asking first! This includes people’s jewelry and knives. Keep your paws off if it’s not yours!

Energy

You may or may not experience the energy in a public ritual. Practically all are intentionally performed at a “lite” energy level, for the best interests of the collective. The ritualists can never know the skill level of all of the participants.

If you focus and breathe and follow along with the priest or priestess, you will get much more out of the experience. Furthermore, why take the time and effort to attend an event just to convince yourself that it was not satisfactory and then complain about it. Where is the fun in that?

Be mindful, though, that you don’t get “ritual energy overload” if the ritual does in fact have some “juice” to it. If you feel that this is happening or if you get any symptoms such as ringing or buzzing in the ears, dizziness, nausea, queasy stomach, feeling suddenly very hot or flushed or very cold (unless you’re outdoors in October!), you may be getting an energy blast.

If you think you might collapse, or vomit, please make your condition known to the high priestess or priest. It will be much less embarrassing to be ushered out of ritual than just to crash to the ground! Not to mention how unpleasant it might be for others if they believe that you’ve had a heart attack or something.

Not infrequently, you can surf through an intense energy surge by grounding and breathing slowly, maybe by moving your body or by eating or drinking something, if possible.

Personal matters

In my experience producing events, there is no way you can ever make all the people happy all the time – no matter how hard you strive. Please take the time to think about your complaint prior to voicing it. Is it that important to you? Will it be productive? Will it make any kind of difference? Are you willing to help or offer useful, positive suggestions on how to improve things? Are you just having a bad day? My opinion is, if I’m the hostess, I get to do things my way. If someone else has a better idea, they’re welcome to go do it! Don’t just bitch at the producers of an event because you don’t like what they’re doing. If you positively don’t like it, make a note not to attend again, but endeavor to have the best time you can while you’re there and permit others their experience.

Again, please abandon your “attitude” at the door. I have attended numerous events where there were one or two troublemakers, complainers, disrupters and just ordinary assholes. Such people are a pain in the butt for the ritual staff, and often for the attendees as well. After the staff works really hard to make an event happen for the community, then they are subjected to a person who does nothing but complain because the staff hasn’t provided especially for the complainer’s particular, probably unexpected requirements.

Hedonistic composure

I am extremely sex-positive, but I want to say that pagan events are not a place to try to get laid. Ritual is not a place for sexually predatory behavior, and if you do exhibit this, you will quickly gain the reputation of a wolf, cad, or loose woman. You may not be invited – or allowed – to return.

It’s okay to flirt and even to “come on” to someone if who seems receptive, but make sure that person is interested and that you know his or her relationship status (and that person knows yours) before you leap!

If a person says no, respect that! No means no! If someone is not interested, move on to someone else. If you do move from man to man or woman to woman at a ritual or festival, be assured there will be some people who will notice your conquest mentality. A lot of people won’t want to be just another notch on your wand. So use discretion and common sense when choosing sex partners.

At some events, there will be the opportunity for sexual expression for those who wish to revel in it. I really appreciate it when there is a shrine provided for worship of Aphrodite or Pan or other gods that are sexually oriented, and I feel it is appropriate to make a sacrifice to them in this way.

However, if you partake of the shrines and make a mess, please clean it up! Dispose of condoms, gloves and dams properly by wrapping them in a tissue and putting them in the garbage. I don’t know how many times I’ve found used condoms lying in a shrine. Ugh!

Furthermore, wipe up any spills or mess, put out the candles and the incense, throw away the tissues, fold the blankets and so on. Leave the place as you would like to have found it. Remember this is the gods’ domain; you owe it to them.

Also, just as in any similar situation – if you are having sex with a new partner, use latex! We’re living in the ’90s, people. There are many, many incurable diseases that you can catch or pass on. Some strains of hepatitis can be fatal, and several are sexually transmitted. Thus, even if your partner is not at risk for HIV, they could give you hepatitis B or C or herpes. Latex should always be used for all activities involving body fluid exchange with a new partner.

Cleanup

Please pick up after yourself and your party. Make sure the area is as clean or cleaner than when you arrived. You might ask the ritual staff if they need any help with cleanup of the ritual space, kitchen or whatever. Again, volunteering to do these little things shows you are willing to go out of your way, and that is a welcome trait. It also helps you get acquainted with people you may never have met.

Some groups have a work exchange program, so if you want to get in free, ask. Some will require you to do setup and cleanup. Some will not require much at all. It doesn’t hurt to ask, and pay if you’re able. If you want the events to continue to be available – support them, bring your pagan or pagan curious friends!

Time to go?

There are usually times posted for public events, as in: Ritual from 7-8:30. Such a schedule is sometimes loose, and sometimes not. If the event promoters have to pay extra for the building after a certain time, it is annoying to have people just hang out for hours after the ritual is over. Take your cues from the majority of the people: When they leave, make for the door.

When you are at someone’s home, be sensitive to the fact that your host may be tired and want to go to bed. If he or she is yawning and everyone else is gone – go home!

Final suggestions

The time to discuss, analyze or process your experience is when you’re home, behind closed doors. If you have serious criticism, call the promoter or ritualists and ask if they want your feedback. If so, try to convey it in a nonjudgmental tone. If you come across as a whiner, they won’t hear or heed your words!

Don’t forget to express your thanks and appreciation of an event well done, too. Remember, no one and nothing is perfect, so if things went fairly well and you had a good time – call and let them know that too! It’s is a thankless job (most of the time) to produce events, and it’s nice to get some positive feedback occasionally instead of just bitching.

Take advantage of the public events to connect with the pulse of the local pagan community. Experience the diversity of the traditions in the area. Enjoy yourself and learn something new, and honor the people who produce the events and rituals with your presence, attention and energy. Most of all, worship the God and Goddess with those of a like mind. And have a great time doing it!

Tell them I sent you.

Where Have All the Happy Witches Gone?

Where Have All the Happy Witches Gone?

Author: Autumn Heartsong

Like many of you, I didn’t have the experience of being raised Pagan. My baby feet never toddled on a Pagan path and I was well into my middle adult years before I stepped out on that road. I’ve not looked back, save for an occasional glance over my shoulder to compare the road I’m on to those I traveled before. As you might expect, there are vast differences between them, but it is a similarity that has been top of mind lately, one that touches what is, to me, the very heart of a Witch’s walk.

I was raised in a Christian faith that put a great deal of value on reasoning, study, and careful thought. Services were quiet, orderly, and structured. Even the music was quiet. There were no choirs, no soloists. Most of the time it seemed as though everyone in the congregation was trying to under-sing everyone else, as if actually being heard would somehow lessen the holiness of the moment. I always felt, no matter how much knowledge we acquired, our worship was cold and empty. There was no joy, no bliss, no celebration. It was all head and no heart.

As a young adult, I ventured away from that branch of Christianity into more charismatic churches. Ah, I thought, here were people who knew what bliss was! They really understood and felt their faith! They sang lustily, prayed loudly, even danced in the aisles. Yes! I loved it! But when I began to ask questions about the basis for their faith, I found very few answers.

“It’s all a mystery, ” they said. “We’re not meant to understand.”

Not meant to understand? You mean my eternal salvation or damnation depends on some mystery I’m not meant to grasp, on a book I’m not really meant to study, and on questions I can’t know the answers to? That didn’t sit well with me, either. Empty ecstatic celebration might as well have been a rave as a religious experience. It was all heart, no head.

I became a spiritual wanderer, looking in every book, under every rock, and up every tree for answers, listening for the ring of truth. When I found it, more in the rocks and trees than in the books, the ring of truth sang out from inside me where it had been all along. And in that beautiful realization I found the balance I had sought, a path that used both my heart and my head. The more I learned, the more I had to celebrate, and the more I had to celebrate. I was so filled with wonder and joy and happiness at finally finding my place in the Universe, my role in the great scheme, how could it not overflow into my every thought and word?

Imagine, then, my confusion when I look around and see so little expression of that ecstatic experience in my pagan community. There is a hole in the happiness landscape of our everyday life. Where have all the happy Witches gone? Where is the joy?

How is it that people who are deeply connected to the rhythm and flow of nature, who commune with Deity without shame, guilt, or intercessor are not beacons of happy light in the world? Why aren’t more people spontaneously dancing in the moonlight and singing with the stars? Why aren’t we so caught up in the rapture of our connection to the Universe that we find ourselves unable to keep words like “happiness, ” “bliss, ” “joy, ” and “Yes!” out of our everyday vocabulary?

Yes, I’m aware those last few lines were a bit over the top, and I know how difficult it is to be ecstatic when your back hurts, your car payment is late, and your 401K balance is plummeting. I am aware of the state of the world we live in and know intimately the press of the “real world” from all sides. And I’m respectful of the seriousness of my path, the personal responsibility and accountability I take on when I choose to work with the fundamental energetic building blocks of the Universe. I know those things, and I’m still filled with joy and wonder, still dancing in the moonlight at every opportunity.

I have heard the naysayers among my Pagan brothers and sisters, the ones who cast knowing glances at each other and mutter “newbie” (though I’m hardly a neophyte) or, my personal favorite, “fluffy bunny.” They equate my ecstatic expression of my faith with naiveté, my joy with the zeal of the newly converted or a lack of respect for the serious nature of my path. On the other hand, there are those who welcome my celebratory enthusiasm but turn away when the conversation moves toward deeper topics. They’re content with mysteries they aren’t meant to understand.

It seems that some in the Pagan community are squaring off into two camps, head versus heart, much like the churches of my youth. I’m not willing to join either camp. My “church” is in the dance of both perspectives, where head meets heart and knowledge spawns celebration.

My enthusiastic embrace of a more charismatic Pagan path is neither naïve nor fluffy. It is a conscious choice – the choice to allow reason and emotion to overlap, to be aware of the less-than-perfect nature of the world without letting it become my focus, to grow in knowledge and experience without allowing myself to become jaded, cynical, or too sophisticated to feel wonder. From where I stand, every new bit of knowledge I gain only increases my sense of wonder and awe. I choose to embrace both head and heart in my walk – to know and to feel, to think and to dance, to see the shadow and still walk in the light.

As a Witch, I believe embracing a life of awe with will and intent is my birthright and my responsibility. It is a conscious act of creation wherein I take the gifts and insights offered to me and transform them into a life that is both grounded and ecstatic. I would wish for each of you a life filled with wonder and joyful expression. May your learning open doors in both mind and heart.

Whether you choose to physically dance in the moonlight or dance privately in your heart – dance, Witch…dance!

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.

Get Your Pagan Self into the Woods

Get Your Pagan Self into the Woods

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by Catherine Harper

While the pagan religions are frequently generically classified as “nature-based,” pagan culture and practice often seems to grow and flourish the most in and around urban centers. The density of people and social volatility, the greater tendency toward liberalism and an atmosphere that encourages the exchange of ideas … it’s not hard to see why. And perhaps in the cities, where at times our relationship to the natural world seems strange and contorted, we feel most strongly the need for that connection.

(Of course, I sometimes question the whole classification. Not all pagan traditions are so closely tied to real or imagined agricultural roots. And while all may be said to be tied to nature, what then does that not cover? The sky turns equally over city, meadow or forest. There are seasons on the street, as there are on a mountain, and wilderness of a sort in an industrial basin. Unless we are to posit that humans, or the works of humans, stand outside of nature, what does the phrase “nature-based” really mean? But not to belabor the point — many people in the pagan and magical communities feel drawn to, or some reverence toward places and systems of life where the touch of humans is less evident.)

One of the changes in my own practice, over the years, has been a gradual shift of interest away from magical forms and rituals toward a simpler practice dealing with direct connection and experience and contemplation. From being a city girl, fascinated with the natural world but having limited wherewithal to explore it outside of an urban environment, I’ve moved out a bit further, planted my garden, learned to drive, picked up a good pair of boots and sought a portion of my connection with the natural cycles among the mountains, among trees and streams, flowers and mushrooms, snow, sun, wind and rain.

I don’t do a lot of formal ritual anymore. In the woods, if I do anything more than just being there, it is usually simple. A small pile of stones by the side of a stream. A candle lit in darkness. A charm woven of needles or grass, hung from the branch of a tree as a gift and remembrance. I go into the mountains far less to change them than to be changed by them, that the malleable stuff that is my substance may be shaped by these other forces, vast and enduring.

Although there can be a lot of power in ritual, I find that for me the undeniable reality of these experiences grounds me, giving me a simpler but firmer foun-dation. At some level, I may strip down and plunge into a snow-melt fed stream for purification. But even more important, it is simply that I am there, the stream is there and that my soft skin comes to know that water. (Brrr!) I touch, and am touched; the symbol fades before the reality.

There is a feeling among many people that spending time in the wild is something that pagans ought to do. I think such a sense of obligation can only do us harm — there are as many ways of being pagan as there are people who so identify. It seems best to me to strive to understand our own callings and approach those things with delight. (Especially since most of us are already called to many things, and finding balance amidst such abundance is already no simple task.) And yet, it does seem like I know a lot of people who would like to spend more time in the woods, or mountains or untended places by the sea, but who don’t, not even because of the press of time and events by themselves, but because the initial steps are a little too unknown, the research a little too time-consuming, the equipment not entirely familiar. At any one time, that first trip out — or perhaps the second, or fourth — takes a little more preparation than that trip is quite worth.

And so I have for you a modest guide that I hope will help you on your way if you are wanting to get out for the first few times.

What to Bring

Clothing: The basic rule is comfortable, sturdy clothes. Your clothing should allow you to move freely, including scrambling over the odd pile of rocks, or other kinds of moving that might not be part of your everyday life. It should not be likely to be damaged by branches or thorns and it should protect you from the same. Wearing multiple layers is practical, as they can be added or removed to adjust for changing conditions. And conditions do change, the cool day turning blazing hot, the sunny day turning into a thunderstorm. Cotton, as comfortable as it is for many situations, is often not the best choice — it absorbs water too readily and dries too slowly, and so often is cold and uncomfortable when wet. If you have them, lightweight wicking fabrics will serve you well. You can also count on wool, when it’s practical.

Footwear: Good, well-fitted hiking boots are one of the best investments I can recommend for anyone. But if you aren’t hiking more than a few miles, and don’t have ankles that are unusually susceptible to being twisted, any pair of sturdy, supportive shoes will do. Keep in mind that trails are often muddy. Bring waterproof shoes if you have them, and remember that thick wool (or hi-tech synthetic) socks will give you better cushioning and will function better when wet. Also, if you’re going to be walking more than is your usual habit, it’s really not a good time to break in new shoes.

Protective gear: At minimum, I’d recommend a lightweight, water-resistant jacket. (I have one that packs to about the size of an orange.) A hat with a brim for keeping water or sun out of your eyes can be a good idea, as can sunglasses, though it does depend a bit on the time of year and weather. If it’s hot, and you don’t want to cover up, bring sunscreen. Insect repellant is often a good idea too.

Companionship: It’s easy to both over- or understate the hazards of time spent in the wilderness or relative wilderness. One is fairly unlikely to run into serious predators, human or otherwise. But even minor injuries can become serious if they prevent you from returning to the comforts of civilization. (I once fell while climbing up the side of a ravine not much more than a mile from where I lived, putting a deep slash, almost six inches long, up the inside of my leg. Not very far out, but far enough so that no one could hear me. I did get the bleeding to stop, and hobbled home, but it was a sobering event.) These dangers are greatly, greatly lessened by not going alone. It is, to be fair, a rule that almost everyone breaks sometimes. But think about it.

Navigational Material: Classically, you should carry a map and compass. Though if you’re not used to navigating by these means, I don’t know how much they’ll help you. Bring tools appropriate to your trail, whatever it may be — directions, a map, a GPS… and if the trail requires more than you know how to use, save it for another day. Remember, also, that it’s easier to get turned around once you’re off a trail than it might seem.

Other Basics

Food: Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, even if it’s just a sports bar or a handful of trail mix, bring some kind of food.

Water: Same deal. Except more so. (After one 3-mile hike that turned out to be a very thirsty 10-and-a-half-mile hike, I always carry water-purification tablets in my purse as backup, though I use a pump filter if I’m hiking seriously. But this is probably overkill for most people.)

First Aid Kit: You can go fairly minimalist. Most of the time, it will probably go unused, but those few other times you’ll be happy to have it.

Flashlight: Again, you may not intend to be out after dark, but things happen.

Where to Go

Twin Falls, Ollalie State Park: This is one of my all-time favorite short hikes, and even better for being only a short drive from the city. A nice, fairly flat walk along a rushing river surrounded by wildflowers. And then the trees thicken into forest, and there’s a bit of a hill climb to an overlook to the falls. Then down, around, and up again, past more flowers, more river and some really wonderful old trees, and you reach a bridge suspended between two cliffs, offering excellent views of both falls. From the bridge you can follow the trail up to another overlook or two, or simply call it a day and turn back. (The trail eventually connects to a multi-user interstate trail, which, although convenient, is not nearly as scenic.) About 3 miles round trip to the overlook above the bridge.

To get to Ollalie State Park, take I-90 east to exit 34. At the bottom of the exit, turn right, and follow the road until the last left turn before a bridge (which is marked with a sign saying “Twin Falls” or something to that effect). Take that left, drive until you reach the parking area.

Barclay Lake: Barclay Lake is a little farther out, and perhaps a shade longer than the last hike, but less steep. It’s a rougher trail (if you have a tendency toward twisted ankles, make sure you’re wearing supportive boots) through woods with some of the most impressive mosses, shelf fungus and contorted logs that look like trolls. There’s a certain amount of scrambling over logs and some bridges that aren’t much more than logs, along a beautiful stream and at last to a mountain lake. It’s around three miles round trip, with only about 100 feet of elevation gain.

To get to Barcklay Lake, take Highway 2 eastbound, through Index, into the town of Baring. You will see a sign marked “Forest Service Road 6024 next left” and indeed, this is the left you want to take, even though it crosses the train tracks and becomes a fairly piddling road. It then turns into a gravel track, which you follow for about 4.5 miles until you reach the trail head.

The Old Robe Trail: Rushing water. Big trees. Fallen rocks the size of houses. Dark tunnels to creep through. This is one of the most dramatic easy hikes you’re likely to run across. Parking at the trail head, you’ll head down a hill and then across a mostly flat old railroad grade trail along the side of the river. At some points, portions of the trail have washed out. These are still navigable with caution, but do require that caution.

Take Highway 9 until you see a right turn onto Highway 92, toward Granite Falls. Follow 92 into Granite Falls, until it Ts out. Turn left onto the Mountain Loop Highway. (The last few times I’ve been in Granite Falls there has been construction.) About 7 miles out of Granite Falls you’ll see a sign on your right marking the Old Robe Trail.

Further Resources

Washington State is netted with trails. The Mountaineers have lots of publications giving descriptions and directions to many of them (including wonder books aimed at niches — best hikes for kids, best short hikes, best hikes with dogs…). Their Web site is www.mountaineersbooks.org. It lists the books available. There is also a good selection of these and other trail guides at REI, www.rei.com, which is a good source for any additional gear you might want as well.

Alas, All Barrels Have Their Bad Apples

Alas, All Barrels Have Their Bad Apples
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Author: Ginger Strivelli

It is sad but true; all barrels have their bad apples hidden within.

The Pagan community is not immune to ignorant and/or immoral idiots who call themselves one of us, and then go on to be the worse kind of bad example, spewing bad PR and worse damage in the wake of their stupid if not outright evil behavior.

The problem is, most people do not judge all Muslims by the “bad example” of Osama Bin Laden, or all Christians by the bad example of David Koresh, nor all New Agers by the bad example of the Heaven’s Gate cult. Nonetheless, it seems painfully clear that too often too many people still judge all Pagans and Witches and Wiccans and Druids and other Earth Religionists by the crimes of our few bad apples. Admittedly we’ve had some real rotten-to-the-core ones…and will sadly continue to in the future, most likely. We are open and accepting and loving people and we tend to embrace everyone, even those we shouldn’t. In our inclusive accepting ways we sadly include and accept those who we should not to start with. However, once those bad apples have been pointed out to us, we should stop including and accepting them! That seems simple, but often it is not so clear to Pagan leaders, clergy and communities when faced with a situation where one within their circle surprisingly turns out to be a bad apple.

How can we as a community distance ourselves from these types of bad examples? It is a question we ask each other often. A question we are forced to address way too often when such situations arise where someone within our local Pagan Circles turns out to be an idiot, mentally ill, or actually evil. Woefully, we tend to have some people who call themselves “Pagan” who fit all three categories. Perplexingly, some of our fellow Pagans will balk at denouncing these people…they will urge us to be “understanding” or “forgiving” or “tolerant.” The fact is some things, some people, some behaviors and some crimes are just wrong and not understandable, forgivable, or tolerable. That is a hard lesson: For some of us who have fought long and hard for tolerance and acceptance to realize that everything is not tolerable and acceptable! Some things are just wrong. There is still a line between right and wrong. Just because you are trying to be progressive and open-minded and tolerant doesn’t mean you can just not draw that line between right and wrong…you must draw it somewhere. Even if you draw that line at a different place than the (in your view) narrow-minded greater community, you still must draw the line somewhere!

We in the Pagan community try so hard to be open-minded, we often get so open-minded our brains start to fall out. It is a hard lesson for us to face that we can’t and shouldn’t blindly accept everything and anything, just because we preach acceptance and tolerance of our faith.

An ancient and honorable faith like Witchcraft, Paganism, Druidism, Shamanism, or modern variations thereof, like Wiccans and such, should naturally be accepted; a religion is not intolerable. However, some things, some behaviors, some people are intolerable, and we should stop preaching acceptance when we are faced with such stupidity and/or evilness. Those things do not deserve acceptance. People who practice such behaviors should not be “accepted” or “understood.” They should not be excused with the wand of “tolerance.” They should be exposed, exiled, and executed in some extreme cases with the Athame of Lady Justice and Lady Karma instead. We real Pagans should not feel obligated to explain or excuse or expunge such behaviors and crimes. We should stand up and loudly and proudly be intolerant in such cases!

The Pagan community’s bad apples range from just the misguided and stupid bruised-apple types to those who are evil mutations of nature and are rotten-to-the-core types… and none of them should be protected or covered up for by the legitimate Pagan community, just because they call themselves one of “us.” That does not make them one of us; it does not make them representative of our religion or our community. However if we stand behind these bad apple bad examples, and “accept” them and embrace them and forgive them, then we should not be surprised when our whole community gets judged by their bad example. What is the greater community to think if we ourselves allow and foster such fools and monsters amongst us? Naturally they will think us all as ignorant and immoral as our fosterlings.

The phrase goes, “One bad apple spoils the barrel;” that is why a good farmer doesn’t let any bad apples stay in any barrel. We as Pagan clergy and leaders need to listen to the wisdom of that farmer. We need to kick such bad apples out of our barrels as soon as we know they are bad. That doesn’t make us “intolerant” or not “accepting;” that makes us a religious group with a code of honor and morals that we hold ourselves to. It is shocking that many of our Pagan clergy and Pagan group leaders hesitate to show this bit of wise leadership. In their defense, often they are trying to be all-accepting and all-inclusive, for they fear being seen as un-PC. Or perhaps they have just become so open-minded their brains are falling out.

Pagans need to encourage their leaders to set limits on what is acceptable and tolerable and what is not. We need to start drawing that line between right and wrong somewhere, instead of just arguing that everyone else has it drawn too conservatively so we are going to erase it altogether. The line is there for a good reason, so when people go over it, we know to stop associating with them and to punish them or see that the greater community punishes them before they cause any more harm to others around them.

We preach, “And ye harm none.” But perhaps we should add, “And ye let no one else do harm either.”