Love and the Use Of Magick

Love and the Use Of Magick

Author:   Gentle Deer Lion Tamer 

In this rambling, I will talk about the ever-present topic of Love Spells and also offer some guidance on the use of any spell, ritual or potion for manipulative purposes. By manipulative purposes, I am referring to a working where the object of said working is not aware it is being done, nor has he or she consented to such a working.

Of course this is only my opinion and it is not intended to embarrass anyone. These are simply my thoughts on a subject that gets batted around quite frequently, so take it for what is worth. From the mail I receive from those who have made or seen these mistakes happen, I’m confident the majority who are experienced in this path shares them.

The primary question one must consider before undertaking any ritual working, especially where Love Magick is concerned is, “Is This Working Consistent With The Basic Tenant of HARM NONE as expressed in The Rede.”

Upon asking yourself the following two questions, you can effectively analyze the reasons to either justify or dismiss the working.

1. What is my intent in performing this work?
2. Is this spell or ritual influenced by anger; hatred; lust; greed; jealousy or envy?

If your answer to question number 1 is found within question number 2, then as a Wiccan and follower of the Light Path, you must abandon this spell or ritual because it will not be consistent with the Rede.

Likewise, if question 1 is answered by question 2 and you continue, you can no longer rightfully call yourself Wiccan. A True Wiccan will not use manipulative magick to negatively influence another for his/her own personal interests.

The whole purpose of following this path is to live in harmony and balance with the natural rhythms of life, not to manipulate them to suit a selfish goal. At this point, you need to refer to yourself as a follower of the Dark Path since manipulative magick for personal gain without consideration of the outcome falls within that realm…

Harsh Words? You Bet…

Does It Make You Uncomfortable?

Good…

By undertaking such an action without the consent or approval of another, you are clearly disregarding the Rede and using your gifts for purely selfish reasons. Therefore, you are setting forces in motion that will ultimately have negative impact in one way or another and you are practicing Dark Magick.

You must remember that once you create and release this energy as a thought form, it will acquire life, form and substance. It will run it’s course, and the final outcome through the laws of cause and effect may not be what you wanted. The potential for great harm to both yourself and others are clearly evident in such a working. This is especially clear when you consider that you will eventually need to absorb this energy back into yourself after it has ruined your life and the lives of who knows how many others…

Let’s Look At a Potential Outcome of Such a Working for a Moment…

You create a Love Spell, focus your energy and release it toward your victim. I use the word victim because that is what you have just made this person if they are unaware of your work and have not given their consent.

Through the laws of magick, your victim begins to fall hopelessly in love with you or the person you performed this spell for. So much so that they become increasingly dependent as time passes. They can no longer function without your presence and guidance. You cannot get a moments peace because they constantly have to be with you. You can no longer function at work because they are calling every ten minutes. They become increasingly jealous, possessive and suspicious because they cannot have all of your time. The list of undesirable effects could go on and on and can become more than a little frightening.

Ultimately, you must ask yourself the following questions. Would “you” want someone doing this to you, and if you truly cared for someone, how could you risk doing something like this to them? In my humble opinion, it does not show a very high regard or respect for others or yourself and the decision on whether or not to proceed is clear.

I caution you that non-consensual Love Magic is a double-edged sword and borders on the manipulation of another human being against their “Free Will”. It is also dangerously close to Psychic Rape and is considered highly unethical by most who practice the Craft.

I hope this has given those who have considered using such practices food for thought. While all may not share my opinion, it illustrates the need to consider all potential outcomes before focusing and releasing a spell.

A Better Solution

A friend who wishes to be known as “Betty” writes this:

A couple of years ago, I was single again after the demise of a long marriage. I was lonely, and hoping I would not spend the rest of my life alone. I had decided to ask the Goddess for help, using my own energies and powers. So, not wanting another not-so-good marriage, I was asking for what qualities in a person I wanted, and asked to be -SENT- someone rather than just find someone. I went outside and performed a ritual under the full moon, by myself. I asked that I be sent -THE RIGHT- person, with no particular idea of who that person would be, or any specific qualities about that person. From my previous marriage, I knew that it was important to me that the person share important things in my life, including my religion, at least in a basic sense.

Well, in a couple of days, I met a new person online. I thought we were writing about our shared interest in folk music. Then, after a little while, first he, then I, admitted that there was more interest than that. One thing led to another there, he came to visit me. He told me that he too, had been doing a simple ritual during that same full moon: Lighting candles, and asking Goddess, “Please Mother, send me someone to love so I don’t spend my life alone”. He ended up staying and sending for his things, and we were later married.

This is a better solution than asking for a specific thing, in a specific way, or especially from a specific person. For one thing, the issue of manipulation completely went away. Instead, the person who was sent was also asking for someone to love, through his own ritual. We did not know each other when we did these rituals.

For another thing, we were both asking for a “right person” for us. In both of our cases, sure, other people (former spouses) believed that we were not “the right person”. We probably weren’t for them. For each other, we may well be. Neither of us is perfect, no one is a “perfect partner” for everyone.

We have always been amused that we were doing these rituals with similar intent, although the specifics of the operation of the rituals were very different at the same time, for the same purpose. Perhaps Goddess runs a “cosmic switchboard” of sorts. When She gets various requests, She just introduces people on some criteria – kind of like a dating service with ALL of the information.

Witchcraft/Wicca 101 Examination

I ran across this on one of the sites I usually visit. I had to steal it, lol! Seriously, this is the first time I have seen such an in-depth quiz for individuals finishing up their year and a day. I know we have some new ones among us, it would be an excellent idea for you to print this out. Then when your year and a day is up, take the quiz.

Witchcraft/Wicca 101 Examination

1. What is Wicca?

2. What is Magick?

3. Define the Wiccan Rede and the Law of Threefold Return?

4. What are the two aspects of Deity in Wicca?

5. Name five tools used in ritual and their purpose.

6. Name the elements and their corresponding directions.

7. Name two symbolic items you might put at an altar station for
each direction.

8. Describe how you would set up an altar in your home.

9. What is the difference between an Esbat and a Sabbat?

10. Name the eight seasonal festivals and give brief descriptions.
(Include dates)

11. Why is Samhain so important?

12. Describe two Rites of Passage. (your choice)

13. What is never allowed in Circle?

14. What is a magickal name and why would you want one?

15. What is smudging?

16. What is “skyclad?”

17. Define Widdershins and Deosil.

18. How do you consecrate a tool?

19. What are the basic tools you need to conduct a ritual?

20. What is the difference between a pentacle and a pentagram?

21. Draw the appropriate symbol for each of these items:
a. Pentagram
b. The Goddess
c. The God
d. Altar

23. What are the three aspects of the Goddess?

24. What are the three aspects of the God?

25. Name one Goddess or God from any pantheon and what She/He
represents.

26. You are doing a candle working to help you with the stress at
your job. When you dress the candle, which direction do you apply the
oil and why?

27. What is a Book of Shadows?

28. What is the difference between an Athame and a Bolline?

29. If you want something to decrease or go away, during which phase
of the moon would you work?

30. Name two good color combinations for the Goddess and God candles.

31. What color candle would you use for the following workings:
a. Develop psychic abilities
b. Emotional healing
c. Purify and protect your home
d. Bless your pet
e. Help you study
f. Bring success and good luck

32. True or False:
a. Gardnerian Wicca is worshipping in a garden.
b. “Skyclad” means you wear blue
c. You must be Wiccan to be a witch.
d. You would invoke the Quarters to protect sacred space.
e. The Croning Rite is performed when a woman reaches menopause.
f. Wiccaning commits a child to being a Wiccan.
g. A rune is an ancient temple.
h. Meat should never be used as an offering.
i. Lughnasadh is the second harvest.

33. What is the primary task of a Dedicant?

34. What is the primary task of an Initiate?

35. What is the Summerland?

36. Name a Law of Magick and explain it briefly.

37. Give a Law of Wicca.

38. Give a rule of Circle conduct.

39. Name a Wiccan tradition and describe it briefly.

40. What does Wicca mean to you in your life?

 

One Spirit’s Domain

An Introduction to Traditional Wicca

An Introduction to Traditional Wicca

© 1987, Keepers of the Ancient Mysteries ( .K.A.M. )

Often Traditional Wiccans are asked to describe our religion and beliefs for interested people, who may or may not have confused us with other Pagan religions, with inversions of Christian/Islamic religions like Satanism, or with purely magical traditions with no religious base. There is a lot of flexibility in the ways that we describe ourselves, and one characteristic of Wicca is a large degree of personal liberty to practice as we please. Still, there is an outline that can be described in general terms. Many traditions will depart from one particular or another, but groups departing from all or most of these features are probably non-Wiccan Traditions attempting to stretch or distort the Wiccan name to cover what they want to do.

Mysteries and Initiation

Wicca is an Initiatory religion descended from the Ancient Mystery Religions. A mystery religion is not like Catholicism where a Priest is the contact point between the worshiper and the Deity, nor like Protestantism where a sacred Book provides the contact and guidelines for being with the divine. Rather a Mystery Religion is a religion of personal experience and responsibility, in which each worshiper is encouraged, taught and expected to develop an ongoing and positive direct relationship with the Gods. The religion is called a “Mystery” because such experiences are very hard to communicate in words, and are usually distorted in the telling. You have to have been there in person to appreciate what is meant. Near and far-Eastern religions like Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Shinto are probably Mystery traditions, but Wicca is very western in cultural flavor and quite different than eastern religions in many ways.

A Blend of Pagan Roots

Most Wiccan Traditions, .K.A.M. included, have particular roots in the British Mystery Traditions. This includes traditions of the Picts who lived before the rise of Celtic consciousness, the early Celts, and some selected aspects of Celtic Druidism. American Wicca is directly descended from British Wicca, brought in the late 1950’s by English and American Initiates of Gardnerian, Alexandrian and Celtic Wicca. These traditions are a little like the denominations in Christianity, but hopefully far more harmonious.

While British Traditions are very strong in Wicca, or the Craft as it is sometimes called, other Western Mystery traditions feature prominently, including the ancient Greek Mysteries of Eleusis, Italian Mysteries of Rome, Etruria and the general countryside, Mysteries of Egypt and Persia before Islam, and various Babylonian, Assyrian and other mid-eastern Mysteries that flourished before the political rise of the advocates of “one god”.

What’s In a Name?

Wicca, Witchcraft, and “The Craft” are used interchangeably at times by many kinds of people. It is fair to say that all Wiccans are Witches, and many of us believe we are the only people entitled to the name. It is important to know that many people call themselves witches who are not in the least Wiccan, and that Masons also refer to themselves as “Craft”, with good historical precedent. Carefully question people on the particular things they do and believe as part of their religion rather than relying on labels. Any real Wiccan would welcome such honest inquiry.

Traditions and Flavor

There are specific Wiccan beliefs and traditions, including worship of an equal and mated Goddess and God who take many forms and have many Names. Groups who worship only a Goddess or only a God are not traditional Wicca however they may protest, although they may be perfectly good Pagans of another sort. The Wiccan Goddess and God are linked to nature, ordinary love and children — Wicca is very life affirming in flavor.

Because we have and love our own Gods, Wiccans have nothing to do with other people’s deities or devils, like the Christian God or Satan, the Muslim Allah or the Jewish Jehovah (reputedly not his real name). Christians often deny this fact because they think that their particular god is the only God, and everybody else in the whole world must be worshipping their devil. How arrogant. They’re wrong on both counts.

Traditional Wicca is a religion of personal responsibility and growth. Initiates take on a particular obligation to personal development throughout their lives, and work hard to achieve what we call our “True Will”, which is the best possibility that we can conceive for ourselves. Finding your Will isn’t easy, and requires a lot of honesty, courage and hard work. It is also very rewarding.

Wicca is generally a cheerful religion, and has many holidays and festivals. In fact, most of the more pleasant holidays now on our calendar are descended from the roots Wicca draws on, including Christmas, May Day, Easter and Summer Vacation. Wicca is definitely not always serious. Dancing, feasting and general merriment are a central part of the celebrations.

Wiccan Ethics

Wiccans have ethics which are different in nature than most “one-god” religions, which hand out a list of “do’s and don’ts”. We have a single extremely powerful ethical principal which Initiates are responsible for applying in specific situations according to their best judgment. That principle is called the Wiccan Rede (Old-English for rule) and reads:

    “An (if) it harm none, do as ye Will”

Based on the earlier mention of “True Will”, you will understand that the Rede is far more complex than it sounds, and is quite different than saying “Do whatever you want as long as nobody is hurt”. Finding out your Will is difficult sometimes, and figuring out what is harmful, rather than just painful or unpleasant is not much easier.

Initiation into Wicca

People become Wiccans only by Initiation, which is a process of contacting and forming a good relationship with the Gods and Goddesses of Wicca. Initiation is preceded by at least a year and a day of preparation and study, and must be performed by a qualified Wiccan Priestess and Priest. The central event of Initiation is between you and your Gods, but the Priestess is necessary to make the Initiation a Wiccan one, to pass some of her power onto you as a new-made Priestess or Priest and to connect you to the Tradition you’re joining.

Women hold the central place in Wicca. A Traditional Coven is always headed by a High Priestess, a Third Degree female Witch with at least three years and three days of specific training. A Priest is optional, but the Priestess is essential. Similarly, a Priest may not Initiate without a Priestess, but a Priestess alone is sufficient. Women are primary in Wicca for many reasons, one of which is that the Goddess is central to our religion.

One Religion at a Time

People often ask “Can I become a Wiccan and still remain a Christian, Muslim, practicing Jew, etc. The answer is no. The “one god” religions reject other paths besides their own, including each other’s. “One-god” religions also do not exalt the Female as does Wicca, and mixing two such different traditions would water them both down. Besides, you’d have to ask how serious a person who practiced two religions was about either one. Being Jewish is an exception, since it is a race and culture as well as a religion. There are many Wiccan Jews, but they practice Wicca, not Judaism.

Magick and Science

People interested in Wicca are usually curious about the magick that Wiccans can do. While magick (spelled with a “k” to distinguish from stage conjuring) is not a religion in itself, it is related to our religious beliefs. Wiccans believe that people have many more abilities than are generally realized, and that it is a good idea to develop them. Our magick is a way of using natural forces to change consciousness and material conditions as an expression of our “True Wills”. Part of becoming a Wiccan is training in our methods of psychic and magickal development.

Because we believe that everything a person does returns to them magnified, a Wiccan will not work a magick for harm, since they would pay too high a price. But a helpful magick is good for both the giver and receiver! Wicca is entirely compatible with the scientific method, and we believe all the Gods and forces we work with to be quite natural, not supernatural at all. We do not, however, hold with the kind of scientific dogma or pseudo religion that sees everything as dead matter and neglects its own method by trumpeting “facts” without honest examination of evidence.

Priestesses at Large?

Long ago the spiritual (and sometimes physical) ancestors of Wiccans were Priestesses and Priests to the Pagan culture as well as devotees of their Mystery. Now that a Pagan culture is rising again, some ask if today’s Wiccans could resume that role. This seems unlikely.

Today’s Pagan culture is very diverse and more interested in exploring and creating new forms than in building on existing traditions. A public role would either dilute our traditions or force them on an unwilling audience. The neo-Pagan community generally prefers “media figures” and rapid membership and growth. This is not compatible with our slow methods of training and Initiation, the insistence that livelihood come from work outside the Craft, or our needs for privacy. Our religion is not accepted in the American workplace or political system, and may never be. The most powerful Priestesses are often unknown to all but their Coveners. While all Wiccans are Pagans, all Pagans are not Wiccan, and it is best that it remain so.

What is Wicca?

What is Wicca?

by AmberSkyfire

 

Contrary to popular belief, Wicca is not evil. Wiccans do not follow the devil. Wiccans do not even believe in the devil. Wicca is a nature oriented religion which centers around a single deity (known as the All) which encompasses all things in the universe and without. This All is divided into two equal halves much the same way as the universe is divided into two halves. There is light and dark, male and female, good and evil, etc. These are often evident in the two deities called the Lord and the Lady. Each represents a perfect and equal half and complement each other much like the yin and the yang. The Lord is a father figure. He represents animals, the soul, fathering, passion and the wild. He is symbolized by the color gold, air, fire, and by the Sun. The Lady or Goddess represents the earth mother, motherhood, nurturing, femininity, and that which we can touch. She is symbolized by water, earth and the moon. Wiccans believe in honoring their deities and in living in harmony with nature and the universe. Witches sometimes practice in groups of up to thirteen called covens. Covens are used to bring different people of a faith together so that they may learn from each other’s experiences. Witches can also work alone. They are called solitaries. Wiccans are generally considered witches because they practice the art of magick. Not al witches, however, are Wiccans. Wicca is a religion and witchcraft is simply the practice of the magickal arts. Because Wiccans worship nature, their holidays coincide with significant days of the year. All of the four seasons are celebrated as well as four other holidays which fall between each. All of the eight holidays are spaced at exactly the same number of days apart and do not always fall on the same day each year. Most of these holidays coincide with Christian holidays such as Christmas (Yule) and Easter (Ostara). These holidays are called the Sabbats or Sabbaths. Witches also may or may not celebrate what are called Esbats. Esbats are specific lunar dates that are of major importance. These are the new moons and the full moons. There are 13 full moons during the year, each representing one month. Thus, the pagan calendar has thirteen months and not twelve. Most today represent these lost days in the thirteenth month to leap year. These holidays are meant to celebrate the earth and her cycles of nature. Wiccans follow one basic fundamental rule: “harm none.” The Wiccan Rede or “Law” states: “Abide the Wiccan law ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust. Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill: ‘An’ it harm none, do what ye will.’ And ever mind the rule of three: what ye send out comes back to thee. Follow this with mind and heart, and merry meet and merry part.” The main goal of Wicca is to harm none. Wiccans base their lives on self discipline and helping others. Most spells are done for healing, love, friendship and to help others. You will not find Wiccan spells for harming others or spells which are destructive in any way.

Wicca is a recognized religion worldwide and is protected by the United States Constitution. Contrary to popular belief, Wicca is not an ancient religion. Some of the ideas and rituals follow what is believed to have been practiced by the early Nordic tribes, but the religion was founded in the early 1960’s and was at the time considered a “New Age Religion.” Many unseasoned Wiccans will often refer to their following as “The Olde Ways.” This is often the result of misinformation from other witches either on the internet or in books who claim that they follow ancient traditions. Some will even claim that their beliefs were handed down from century to century and guarded against Christians and others who might seek to waylay witches and traditional witchcraft. Unfortunately, virtually no information has survived to this day and we must rely on skepticism to learn how ancient peoples worshiped.

Lighten Up – You Might be Giving Pagans a Bad Name If…

by Cather “Catalyst” Steincamp

 

You Might be Giving Pagans a Bad Name If…

You insist that your boss call you “Rowan Starchild” because otherwise you’d sue for religious harassment. (Score double for this if you don’t let that patronizing dastard call you “Mr. or Ms. Starchild.”)

You request Samhain, Beltaine, and Yule off and then gripe about working Christmas.

You expect your employer to exempt you from the random drug testing because of your religion.

You think the number of Wiccan books you own is far more important than the number you have read, regardless of the fact that most of your books are for beginners.

You’ve won an argument by referencing “Drawing Down the Moon,” knowing darned good and well they haven’t read it either.

You said it was bigotry when they didn’t let you do that ritual in front of city hall. It had nothing to do with the skyclad bit.

You picketed The Craft and Hocus Pocus, but thought that the losers who picketed The Last Temptation of Christ needed to get lives.

You’ve ever had to go along with someone’s ludicrous story because it was twice as likely to be true than most of the nonsense you spout.

You complain about how much the Native Americans copied from Eclectic Wiccan Rites.

You’ve ever referenced the Great Rite in a pick-up line.

Someone has had to point out to you that you do not enter a circle “in perfect love and perfect lust.” (Score double if you argued the point.)

You claim yourself as a witch because how early you were trained by the wise and powerful such-and-such of whom nobody has heard.

You claim to be a famtrad (hereditary), but you’re not. (Score double if you had to tell people you were adopted to pull this off.)

You claim to be a descendant of one of the original Salem Witches. (Score to a lethal degree if you don’t get this one.)

You think it’s perfectly reasonable to insist that, since every tradition is different, and no one tradition is right, there’s no reason not to do things your way.

You’ve ever been psychically attacked by someone who conveniently held a coven position you crave, and suddenly had a glimpse into their mind so you could see how evil they were.

You’ve ever affected an Irish or Scottish accent and insisted that it was real.

You think it’s your Pagan Duty to support the IRA, not because of any political beliefs you might share, but because, dammit, they’re Irish.

You talk to your invisible guardians in public. (Score double if you have met the Vampire Lestat or Dracula, triple if you got into a fight and escaped, or quadruple if it was no contest.)

You’ve ever confused the Prime Directive with the Wiccan Rede.

You’ve ever tried something you saw on “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch”

You’ve suddenly realized in the middle of a ritual that you weren’t playing D&D.

You’ve failed to realize at any point in the ritual that you weren’t playing D&D.

You’ve suddenly realized that you are playing D&D.

You hang out with people who each match at least fifteen of these traits.

You recognize many of these traits in yourself, but this test isn’t about you. But, boy, it’s right about those other folks.

The Threefold Law in Folktales

Author: Nukiuk

Three is a magickal number. It is the number of forms of the Goddess – Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Likewise, it is the form of the God as Father, Sage, and Son. It symbolises the Druidic elements of Land, Sea, and Sky. It is the number of times you chant a charm, the number of times you walk around a circle… and it is the basis for the three-fold law.

We all know the Wiccan Rede, or some variation of it. My favorite version is one I read long ago, although I cannot remember the author who so cleverly put it into rhyme:

“Three times three, what you put forth comes back to thee.”

Simply put, the threefold law speaks of karma. The energy you put out is the energy you get back, three times over. It is the basis for yet another popular Pagan tenet: “An ye harm none, do they will.” Putting forward negative energy will bring you nothing but negativity in return.

Old folktales are full of this concept, although they may never state it directly. Whether the tale is from Western or Eastern Europe, whether it is written about magical creatures or just about lucky noblemen, the importance of both karma and the number three are readily apparent. In most fairy tales, people get what they deserve for their efforts. My favorite example of this is from The Girl in the Well. In this story, a girl drops her spindle down a well. Her stepmother forbids her to return home without the spindle, so the girl dives into the well.

At the bottom of the well, the girl finds an alternate world. There she meets three groups of people, who each ask her a favor: a group of shepherds who need help cleaning their sheep, a group of cattle herders who need a similar favor, and a rich couple who ask her to work for them for one year. She aids each group, and is rewarded.

When she returns home, her stepmother grows jealous and sends her own daughter into the well. However, the stepdaughter refuses to aid the shepherd and the cattle herders and when she gets to the elderly couple, she is so lazy that after three days they send her home. She bears no rewards, but arrives home covered in bugs and filth. The moral of this story is obvious: put forth good effort, and you will be rewarded; act lazy and mean, and you will be punished. The energy you put out is what you get back.

In this tale, the number three is easily visible. The girl meets three groups of people seeking her aid, and is rewarded when she passes their tests. The stepsister fails all three – in fact, she is sent back home after three days.

Another tale, The Three Feathers tells us of three princes who are in dispute over who should rule the kingdom. His siblings consider the youngest brother a simpleton. The king decides that he shall give them a quest to determine who shall inherit; he sends them out to see who can bring him the most beautiful rug in the land. To settle any dispute, he throws three feathers into the wind, so that each brother can follow one in the direction it went.

One of the feathers goes straight up and down again, so the simpleton remains behind while his two brothers set off, one to the east and one to the west. However, he happens to notice a trap door beneath his feather, and follows it to find a court of toads. He asks the queen of these toads for the finest carpet she has, and it is delivered. Meanwhile, his brothers figure that he won’t be able to find a rug from anywhere, so they decide not to waste their money and each bring back a handkerchief.

When they return, the king declares the simpleton to be the inheritor. The brothers protest, and manage to talk the king into two more challenges – for a beautiful ring, and for a beautiful woman. The feathers do the same thing, and both times the youngest brother wins the challenge in the same manner, and so is crowned king, with his beautiful bride (who was once a young toad maiden) . The two elder brothers put forth no effort in their quests, and thus received nothing. Meanwhile, the supposed “simpleton”, instead of trying to outwit his father, simply does as he is told, and through this wins the crown. This tale has three brothers, sent to find objects three times, who are guided by three feathers. Once again, the number three shapes the way the story turns out.

Finally, the third example of this is in a strange little story call The Three Spinners. A girl refuses to spin flax, so her mother beats her. The queen is passing by and hears the girl’s cries. When she comes into the hut to investigate, the mother is so embarrassed by her daughter’s lack of spinning ability that she instead brags and claims the inverse – that she is beating the girl because she will not stop spinning, even though there woman can afford no more flax. The queen is impressed by this lie, and has the daughter brought to her castle to spin. She says if the girl can spin three roomfuls of flax, she will be able to marry the prince.

Of course, the girl cannot spin. So she cries for three days. After this period, three old women appear who offer to spin the flax for her, if only they can attend the wedding and be treated as the girl’s aunts. They each have a different deformity: a large, flat foot. a massive hanging lip, and an oversized thumb.

The girl agrees, and the rooms of flax are spun quickly. When the wedding comes around, the prince asks the old women how they got their deformities; they respond that they are through treading the pedal, licking the thread, and pinning it down with their thumb, respectively. The prince is alarmed and says that his beautiful bride shall never be allowed to spin again. And so the girl gets everything she wanted from life. The girl in this tale is by no means a paragon of goodness; she is rather lazy and disobedient. However, she made a promise to the three old women, kept it, and was rewarded almost three times as much as was worth such a favor.

This story has three women – specifically crones, the third incarnation of the Goddess. There are three rooms of flax to be spun, and the girl cries for three days. Three three’s – a powerful number, which potentially aided the magic that helped her out of her predicament.

The rule of three is written in many old fairy tales, if you just know where to look. In these stories, the rewards for basic kindnesses are often overdone; but then again, energy does tend to return threefold as much. These three stories are but a small example of the multitude of such tales that fill the body of European folklore. All throughout these tales, the number three is woven into stories of karma that have been told for generations.

Morality Of Wicca

Morality Of Wicca

Wiccan morality is ruled according to the Wiccan Rede, which (in part) states “An it harm none, do what thou wilt.” (“An” is an archaic word meaning “if”.) Others follow the slightly adapted Rede of “An it harm none, do what ye will; if harm it does, do what ye must.” Either way, the Rede is central to the understanding that personal responsibility, rather than a religious authority, is where moral structure resides.One of the major differences between Wiccans and other types of witchcraft is the Rede.

Many “traditional” witches or witches that follow other paths do not believe in the Rede. This is a major topic of controversy within the Wiccan and Pagan communities.Many Wiccans also promote the Law of Threefold Return, or the idea that anything that one does may be returned to them threefold. In other words, good deeds are magnified back to the doer, but so are ill deeds.

Gerina Dunwich, an American author whose books (particularly Wicca Craft) were instrumental in the increase in popularity of Wicca in the late 1980s and 1990s, disagrees with the Wiccan concept of threefold return on the grounds that it is inconsistent with the Laws of Physics.

Pointing out that the origin of the Law of Threefold Return is traceable to Raymond Buckland in the 20th century, Dunwich is of the opinion that “There is little backing to support it as anything other than a psychological law.” Her own personal belief, which differs from the usual interpretation of the Threefold Law, is that whatever we do on a physical, mental, or spiritual level will sooner or later affect us, in either a positive or negative way, on all three levels of being.

A few Wiccans also follow, or at least consider, a set of 161 laws often referred to as Lady Sheba’s Laws. Some find these rules to be outdated and counterproductive.Most Wiccans also seek to cultivate the Eight Wiccan Virtues. These may have been derived from earlier Virtue ethics, but were first formulated by Doreen Valiente in the Charge of the Goddess. They are Mirth, Reverence, Honour, Humility, Strength, Beauty, Power, and Compassion. They are in paired opposites which are perceived as balancing each other.

Many Wiccans also believe that no magic (or magick) can be performed on any other person without that person’s direct permission (excepting pets and young children who can be protected by parents and owners). Sometimes when permission is expected but not yet attained magical energy will be placed on the astral plane for the receiver to gather if and when he/she is ready.

The Three-Fold Law

 

May whatever ye do, Come back to the,
Three times bad, or three times good

Three-Fold Law, or Law of Return as it is also called, is perhaps one of the more controversial aspects of Wiccan ethics. The basic premise is that anything we do comes back to us in the end, often to a greater degree (such as three-fold). If we do good, then good will be retuned and if we cause harm, we put ourselves in danger of harm.

This relates a lot towards Karma. In that ethically it is equivalent to the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have done to you”. But in the case of the Law of Return, there is a literal reward or punishment tied to one’s actions, particularly when it comes to working magic.

The debate over the validity of the Law of Return and its variations takes many forms. Some feel that it was created to keep new initiates in check as they learned to work with magic, while others feel it is a remnant of Christian thinking, being that a majority of Wiccans come from a Christian background. However, many Wiccans today, including some authors and “community leaders”, take the three-fold law quite literally.

Since the idea that “we reap what we sow” is generally accepted among Wiccans, the Law of Return can fairly be considered a core belief. However, it must be acknowledged that it is neither a necessary nor a universally defining belief of the Craft. There are many Wiccans, experienced and new alike, who view the Law of Return as an over-elaboration on the Wiccan Rede, which recommends that we refrain from causing harm. A Wiccan would not wish to cause harm since he or she deems it wrong to do so, not out of fear of retribution.

Doreen Valiente, one of the most influential and respected figures in modern witchcraft, boldly stated in her speech at the National Conference of the Pagan Federation in November 1997:

Another teaching of Gerald’s which I have come to question is the belief known popularly as “the Law of Three”. This tells us that whatever you send out in witchcraft you get back threefold, for good or ill.
Well, I don’t believe it! Why should we believe that there is a special Law of Karma that applies only to witches? For Goddess’ sake do we really kid ourselves that we are that important? Yet I am told, many people, especially in the USA, take this as an article of faith. I have never seen it in any of the old books of magic, and I think Gerald invented it.

While researching the Three-Fold Law, I took the liberty of writing several early authors who had referenced it in their books. The few responses I received were always the same; they did not know where it came from but it was known, at least as oral tradition, when they entered the craft. Using the dates of their initiations I hoped to at least obtain a starting point for my research. In this case, since Raymond Buckland was the first to be initiated of those authors who took the time to respond, I had a start date of 1963. Buckland was initiated as a Gardnerian by Lady Olwen, Gerald Gardner’s last High Priestess before his death in 1964. Although Buckland recalled that Lady Olwen’s coven referred to the three-fold law, he did not recall any mention of it by Gardner himself in their correspondences. I also knew from Margot Adler, that it was known in the US, at least orally when she entered the craft in 1972. “I know it was talked about the minute I entered the craft in the Brooklyn Pagan Way, and that was 72, but whether it came in written or oral form, I don’t know.” The Brooklyn Pagan Way was run by the New York Coven of Welsh Traditional Witches so the Law of Return had already disseminated outside of Gardnerian practice by 1972.

Starting with books in the 60’s, I sought to find any reference to the Three-Fold Law or variations of that theme. I was particularly interested in finding non-Gardnerian sources since, unlike many other aspects of modern Wicca, the Three-Fold Law appears to be a purely Wiccan construct particularly of Gardnerian lineage, adding a moral element to the practice of magic. I then worked backward seeking earlier influences, as well as forward, seeing who referenced these early books in their bibliographies

The Wiccan ReDe

Bide the Wiccan laws ye must
In Perfect Love and Perfect Trust
Live and let live
Freely take and freely give
Cast the circle thrice about
To keep all evil spirits out
To bind the spell every time
Let the spell be spake in rhyme
Soft of eye and light of touch
Speak little, listen much
Deosil go by the waxing moon
Sing and dance the Wiccan rune
Widdershins go when the moon doth wane
And the werewolf howls by the dread wolfsbane
When the Lady’s moon is new
Kiss thy hand to her times two
When the moon rides at her peak
Then your heart’s desire seek
Heed the northwind’s mighty gale
Lock the door and drop the sail
When the wind comes from the south
Love will kiss thee on the mouth
When the wind blows from the east
Expect the new and set the feast
When the west wind blows o’er thee
Departed spirits restless be
Nine woods in the cauldron go
Burn them fast and burn them slow
Elder be ye Lady’s tree
Burn it not or cursed ye’ll be
When the wheel begins to turn
Let the Beltaine fires burn
When the wheel has turned to Yule
Light the log and let Pan rule
Heed ye flower, bush and tree
By the Lady, Blessed be
Where the rippling waters go
Cast a stone and truth ye’ll know The Rede of the Wicca
When ye have a need
Hearken not to others’ greed
With the fool no season spend
Nor be counted as his friend
Merry meet and merry part
Bright the cheeks and warm the heart
Mind the Threefold Law ye should
Three times bad and three times good
When misfortune is enow
Wear the blue star on thy brow
True in love ever be
Unless thy lover’s false to thee
Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill
An’ it harm none, do what ye will

Traditional Witchcraft and Wicca

Traditional Witchcraft and Wicca

How many times have you seen a sentence start with “Witchcraft, or Wicca, is..” leaving the reader with the impression that these are one and the same thing. Such generalizations are unfair to the practitioners of both, and more than a little confusing to those who wish to learn some form of the Craft. Yet, in an age of electronic information, it becomes difficult to set the boundaries that would allow one to study witchcraft or Wicca as distinct disciplines. There are many pagan web sites that proclaim connections to Wicca, although few are truly Wiccan. I must admit that my own web site often fails to make a clear distinction.

Chat rooms and message boards are filled with arguments over whether this or that act is within the perimeters of the Wiccan Rede, yet the chatters are not Wiccan. Perhaps the argument concerns how many traditional witches are needed to call the guardians of the Watchtowers, but the well-meaning participants are unaware that traditional witches usually do not call the guardians. It’s difficult to even find terms to use that haven’t already been so blended as to obscure any divisions.

If you are a newcomer, you might ask why this is so important. When you start out to study to be a doctor, you wouldn’t want to study only psychiatry if you planned to become a surgeon. If your goal in life is to be a great violinist, would you forego violin lessons in favor of piano lessons? In the first case, both are medicine and in the second, both are music, but you certainly wouldn’t want a psychiatrist performing your appendectomy nor would you wish to sit through a violin concert performed by a pianist. You need to know where you are going in order to map out a path that will get you there. If you don’t follow some plan, some path, but just pick up a little information here and there, you’ll never get anywhere at all.

The following sections give some of the differences between Traditional Witchcraft and Wicca, though certainly not all. Before beginning, let me explain my choice of terms. The term Wicca is obvious in that its practitioners use the term to define their religion, and as it has been recognized as a religion by the US government for some years now, the term is widely accepted.

Traditional Witchcraft is a bit more difficult to justify. To some degree it is a continuation of the religion practiced by early European pagans, called witchcraft by the conquering Christians. However, as practiced today it is still a form of neo-paganism, as is Wicca. In other words, it has been revived and reinvented in modern times. It is traditional in the sense that it is not derived from the work of a single founder. The term as I use it should also not be confused with the traditional witchcraft of hereditary witches. Families of witches may indeed practice what I call Traditional Witchcraft, but the designation is not limited to such families.

In discussing the differences between these two religions, it should also be remembered that they have many things in common, particularly when contrasted to the world religions such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism. In fact, they are far more alike than they are different. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to explore the differences. These differences fall into several categories: history, beliefs, ritual, and ethics.

Wicca

Most students of the Craft are at least vaguely aware of the historical origin of Wicca, but have much less precise ideas about the origin of Traditional Witchcraft. This is not particularly surprising. Wicca originated in modern times and has the advantage of being set out in written texts and even in the memories of living people. Traditional Witchcraft, on the other hand, is tied to ancient cultures and myths, and to largely unverifiable ideas about practices and beliefs.

Wicca began with the writings and teachings of Gerald Gardner in the 1930s. Gardner was initiated into the New Forest coven in England by Dorothy Clutterbuck. He published both fictional and non-fictional accounts of witchcraft, the first non-fictional book, “Witchcraft Today,” appearing after the last of the anti-witchcraft laws in England were repealed in 1954. Believing that the Craft was dying out, he dedicated himself to reviving it. In his coven, many things were secret, so his writings combined some things from the coven along with elements of ceremonial magick (Kabbala), Masonic ritual, various versions of the Craft, Celtic mythology, eastern philosophies, Egyptian ideologies, and even fictional ideas from mystical works along the lines of Lovecraft and Hubbert. The elements (earth, air, fire, water) which form an important part of Wiccan ideology are from Classical Greece. Gardner was clearly a learned man to combine diverse philosophies and religions in such a way that it not only stopped the decline of the Craft, but led to the powerful and influential religion that Wicca is today.

Gardner’s students had an important role to play in the evolution and spread of Wicca. Doreen Valiente added the poetic quality to many of the rituals that have been passed down. Others whom Gardner initiated took the new practices to distant lands, while still others branched off forming their own traditions such as the Alexandrian tradition begun by Alex Sanders. In America, many new traditions appeared, among them Dianic witchcraft and the faerie traditions, both of which are further from Gardnerianism than the direct descendents, but still clearly influenced by Gardnerian Wicca.

Traditional Witchcraft

What we’re calling Traditional Witchcraft has an older history than Wicca in some ways, but a much less well-defined one. Witchcraft has been around since the beginning of mankind, long before people could write about it. Our ancestors did leave a few clues such as goddess statues and drawings, but not much can be learned about the nature of their beliefs and practices. Anthropologists surmise that primitive cultures of modern times have at least a passing resemblance to the long dead cultures of the past, and nearly all have some form of witchcraft or magic. However, the witchcraft practiced by most neo-pagans today is clearly of European origin, and even the most traditionally minded witches rarely try to trace the origin of their practice back further than the Middle Ages.

We do know a few things about these times. The native peoples throughout Europe believed in spirits or gods, usually associated with the Earth, Sun, and Moon, and they saw their lives and the lives of the gods as having a cyclical pattern, following the yearly cycle of seasons. The latter part is typical of native peoples everywhere. When one lives by agriculture or hunting and gathering, knowledge, and if possible, control of the seasonal forces of Nature are vital to existence. Thus, the development of a religion in which the seasons are recognized and celebrated and through which one might attempt to control the more violent and destructive aspects of Nature is quite understandable.

Most of our knowledge of European witchcraft comes from the writings of Christian conquerors and priests. In fact, it was the Christians who first called the practice witchcraft. Before the invasion there was no need to give the religion a name. It was simply what all people were brought up to believe. Some specialized roles existed with special names, though the names reflect the language of the region rather than a common system of belief.

Christians suppressed the native religion, in part, by adopting many of their rituals and customs. Yule became Christmas and Oester became Easter, and all became a part of Christian tradition. However, not all pagans abandoned their beliefs when they “became” Christians. Many of the practices simply went underground and were passed from generation to generation in families. Since most people could neither read nor write, these oral traditions were the only means of keeping the knowledge alive. Without written records, we know very little of these ancient traditions. The records we do have are often distorted, having been written by priests of the inquisition or taken from the inquisitions records themselves.

That isn’t to say that we know nothing of Traditional Witchcraft. A little knowledge trickled down and scholars often preserved the mythologies of conquered peoples. Archaeological evidence helps a little too. The neo-pagan revival has attempted to recapture the spirit of the ancient religion, if not its actual practices. Be a little skeptical of those who profess to practice the Old Ways, unless they recognize that they are reinventing those ways rather than reviving them.

Beliefs

There are some fundamental differences in the beliefs of traditional witches and Wiccans. It is vital that any student of the Craft understand these differences, especially if the student is still seeking a path to follow. How can you know if your path is to be Wiccan or that of Traditional Witchcraft if you have no knowledge of the beliefs associated with them?

Perhaps now is a good place to comment on the eclectic witch. All too often newcomers to the Craft grab onto that label because it seems to mean they can believe and do whatever they want without having to adhere to any particular belief or ritual system. That’s simply not the case. To say something is eclectic does mean that it is composed of elements drawn from various sources. However, there must be sources for such eclecticism in the Craft. It does not mean that you can make up your own way of doing everything, your own way of thinking, and still call it the Craft. It does not mean that you can incorporate every New Age idea, regardless of how appealing it may be to the individual, and then claim that what you do is the Craft. An eclectic witch carefully chooses a path that has elements from different witchcraft traditions, making sure that there are no contradictions or conflicts among the element chosen, and that each is well understood. There are some limits. Not only can the path not be entirely idiosyncratic, but it must be clearly pagan.

Some will argue against this, but in my opinion, it is impossible to be simultaneously Christian and a witch without sacrificing important components of one or the other. Conflicts between the two belief systems are immediately apparent, and some are impossible to resolve. Witches of whatever tradition are not monotheistic nor do they follow any revealed scripture (Torah, Gospels, Quran, Book of Mormon, etc.). There are many other conflicting elements, but that must be put aside for another essay.

It’s worth noting again that neither Wicca nor Traditional Witchcraft is traditional in the sense of strictly adhering to the beliefs and practices of our ancestors. Like it or not, this is neo-paganism, for we simply have no choice. Most likely the religion of the original European pagans was quite different, but we have arrived at the point where we need to look at the traditions being practiced today rather than the “old ways,” though with some references to the latter when possible.

The first, and I believe the most important, difference between Wicca and Traditional Witchcraft is the relationship to Deity or deities. Wiccans worship a Goddess and sometimes a God, regarding them as supreme beings. Traditional Witches do not worship any entity as their superior, though they recognize the existence of other entities. They believe in the equality of all beings in the Universe, seeing them as different, separate, but never superior or inferior. This difference is often a source of confusion. A traditional witch may speak of the god and the goddess, usually referring to the female and male aspects of Nature, and while they revere and respect Nature, they do not worship it or its representatives. A Wiccan may speak in similar terms but Wiccan rituals make it clear that the Goddess and God are seen as superior beings to be worshipped. This dualism forms the basic foundation of Wiccan theology, the necessary feminine and masculine components of creative energy. Traditional Witchcraft, however, is polytheistic and animistic, incorporating a number of spirits/deities into a meaningful whole.

Let me make this a little clearer by example. When a Wiccan calls upon the Goddess and the God in ritual, she/he means exactly that – “the” Goddess and God, the ones who appear so prominently in the mythologies that inform this belief and the rituals associated with it. The Goddess is a Triple Goddess and may be called by different names in different circumstances, but most Wiccans believe these different names and personalities are aspects of the one Goddess rather than different entities. Traditional witches, however, may call the Goddess and the God as representatives of the creative force of the Universe, but will usually call on other spirits as well, each being seen as a separate and equal entity.

In Traditional Witchcraft there is a Spirit World or Other World where these other entities reside. Most do not see this as actually separate from this world, but rather a part of it that is usually unseen. Thus, the spirits who are contacted during ritual are already there but may be conjured or evoked to facilitate communication. This is an important point in that Traditional Witches see the interaction between this world and the Other World as constant and not wholly dependent on ritual. Wiccans rely more on ecstatic ritual to obtain contact with the Goddess and to increase ones spirituality.

There are some who say that traditional witchcraft is not a religion at all, because no deities are worshipped. From a strictly anthropological standpoint, that would be a fair statement in that religion may be defined as a system of belief which includes the worship of a superior being or beings. However, to say that the practice of witchcraft lacks spirituality is simply untrue, at least among modern witches. For many witches today, it is the spiritual enlightenment offered by the practice of witchcraft that draws them to it, even if their approach to the deities is somewhat different than that found in other religions, including Wicca.

Ritual

Any discussion of the gods inevitably leads to consideration of the rituals performed in connection with them. In Wicca, rituals tend to be compulsory or at least advised. One must celebrate the Wheel of the Year with its eight holy days that represent parts of the mythic cycle. Traditional Witches often observe the same days as they correspond to solstices and equinoxes, but do not relate them to a specific mythology. In Traditional Witchcraft it is the seasonal changes themselves that are honored, not the lives of gods and goddesses associated with them. Both Wiccans and Traditional Witches observe Moon phases and other natural phenomena.

The sacred circle is central to Wiccan practice. Wiccans generally create sacred space for their rituals by casting a circle, using techniques of visualization and raising energy. Placing more significance on ritual and ceremony, Wiccans create and perform beautiful rituals, filled with symbolism, to mark the seasons of the Earth and the seasons of life.

In Traditional Witchcraft, all space is sacred and all life is ceremony. When ritual or magick is performed, the Traditional Witch is likely to go to a place that has special qualities such as a stream or mountain, but practitioners also recognize that the local park or someone’s backyard is equally sacred. I’m not saying that Wiccans don’t see the Earth as sacred; they do. However, most Wiccans still cast a circle (define sacred space) before performing a ritual. These differences are often a matter of degree and emphasis.

It is often difficult for urban witches to gain any practical experience of the countryside. Perhaps the absence of daily opportunities to be in direct contact with the Nature draws so many of them to the more formal and symbolic rituals of Wicca. The separation from natural settings may also have led to the intense concern with environmental issues among both Wiccans and Traditional Witches.

No consideration of ritual in witchcraft would be complete without some discussion of magick. Magick is central to Traditional Witchcraft, whereas many Wiccans do not practice the magickal arts. However, there is a sense in which all religions use magick, as it may be defined as any attempt to effect the outcome of a given situation by supernatural means (though in Traditional Witchcraft these means are seen as natural). Prayer, for example, is a form of magick.

When practiced, the magick of Wicca tends to be more ceremonial, whereas in Traditional Witchcraft it is more practical. Herbal healing, for example, is a traditional practice which may or may not be part of a Wiccan’s custom. Also, the magick of Traditional Witchcraft may include hexes and curses without a specific rule to prevent such acts (see Ethics section).

A more important difference, however, concerns the presence or absence of spirituality in magick. Some say that magick is never spiritual. Since there are often spirits or deities involved, a better way to look at it might be to consider the relationship between the witch and the spirit in performing magick. The idea noted above in relation to defining religion is also applied to magick, that when witches work with spirits in performing magick, it is not spiritual unless the spirits are worshipped. Regarding spirits as a natural part of the witch’s environment and as equal beings in the Universe would deny any spirituality to the magick of Traditional Witchcraft. Wiccans, on the other hand, perform magick in which a goddess or god is appealed to for aid and paid homage to during the magickal act. By the previous definition, this would be seen as spiritual. I’m not at all convinced that seeing spirits as natural and enlisting their aid without worshipping them reduces the magick of Traditional Witchcraft to something that is merely practical and without a spiritual component.

Rites of passage are also an important part of the ritual structure of both Wiccans and Traditional Witches. Initiatory rites of passage are central to Wicca, at least as practiced in covens. Within each coven there is a hierarchy among the members based on the levels or degrees each member has attained, with the High Priest and Priestess at the pentacle. As a member goes through the levels, she/he learns the Mysteries from someone in authority. The degrees are determined primarily by what the witch has studied and for how long so that the hierarchy, at least theoretically, is one of knowledge.

In Traditional Witchcraft, there are usually rites of passage of some kind, though groups tend to be less hierarchical than Wiccan covens. In some cases, rituals are performed at different stages of a person’s life, while in other cases, rites may reflect the individual’s choice to dedicate herself to some aspect of the Craft. The only thing that can be said with certainty about rites of passage in Traditional Witchcraft is that they are variable, and are determined more by the specific group or individual than by a conventional structure.

Ethics

Wiccan ethics is based primarily on one rule, the Wiccan Rede (advice or creed), “an it harm none, do as ye will.” A true follower of the Wiccan path will know that this does not translate into “do anything you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.” A person’s “will” is the path chosen after careful reflection, not just the whim of the day. Discovering your true will is part of the path you take to spiritual enlightenment, tolerance of others, service to the Universe, and ultimately a fulfilling life. The second most important feature of Wiccan ethics is the Threefold Law, that what you do will come back to you threefold (with three times the energy). This is a karmic principle that has it’s origin in eastern religions and replaces the concept of sin and retribution found in Christianity. In other words, if you harm someone (sin), you will be repaid times three (retribution).

Traditional Witchcraft has neither the Wiccan Rede nor the Threefold Law. There is no morality test, only personal responsibility and honor. Also, there is no good or evil, only intent. Humans have the ability to make decisions and act on them, and they may choose and act with good or evil intentions. Traditional Witchcraft does not set out laws as to what actions and intentions are evil, but followers of this path take responsibility for them. In practical terms, this means that using curses, hexes, and the like are not ruled out on principle. If provoked or threatened, the Traditional Witch may act for self-preservation or the protection of family and home. These are considered honorable acts. Yet if there are negative consequences, the Traditional Witch is willing to suffer them.

A final word

I hope this essay will serve two purposes. For those of you studying the Craft and trying to learn a little about the rather confusing terminology applied to its practitioners, perhaps this will be a starting point, but only that. Don’t take what I’ve written as gospel. Many others will have a different view of these issues, but these few words may help you find the questions to ask. For those of you who saw a movie last week or read a web page somewhere, I hope it will make you think twice about calling yourself a “witch” or “Wiccan.” Without the training, knowledge, and dedication, neither designation is appropriate.

May the ancient gods guide you in whatever path you choose.