Don’t Fear The Dark: A Discussion On Cursing

Don’t Fear The Dark: A Discussion On Cursing

Author: Ravenix

I can imagine that the title of this article has already raised a few Wiccan eyebrows, so before I launch into the discussion proper, let me say this to them: Don’t worry. I’m not flaming you. I’m not going to ridicule your beliefs, and to do so would be hypocritical, as I myself devoted several years of my life to Wicca. It’s a good, sound, well-structured system, with a wonderful sense of community and empowerment.

So don’t panic.

If you want to follow the Wiccan Rede, great! It’s an admirable ethic. But it’s not for me anymore. Yes, I have cursed, yes, I do curse, yes, I will probably curse again. But don’t run away just yet; hear me out, and bear what I’m saying in mind.

In Neopaganism, there has been something of a shying away from the ‘dark side’ of spirituality; there is a great emphasis on being ‘nice’, on focusing only on the ‘good’ and ‘light’ side of things. Yet in comparison, our ancestors before us cursed each other like there was no tomorrow. To this day, archaeological digs uncover smashed clay portraits, bottles of punctured animal organs and other such wonderfully wicked hexes (just type ‘curse’ into the Boscastle Museum Of Witchcraft’s database search and you’ll soon see what I mean) . If you mention these items to a Neopagan, they’ll be likely to change the subject sharpish, or blame it on the witch hunters of old.

Everywhere you look, the Law of Threefold Return is drilled into you, as well as other such warnings and cautions about the ‘dangers’ of cursing. Terms such as ‘white’ and ‘black’ magick don’t exactly help. But is cursing as horrid and malicious an act as it is made out to be? Do we have to sacrifice this art completely to be spiritually ‘good’?

As a Wiccan, I always found that the Wiccan Rede was a hard act to follow; the Rede stated that, as a Wiccan, I could not harm anyone, in any circumstance, ever. The questions that came to me were these; what if they harmed me first? Doesn’t that entitle me to some kind of counter? Moreover, what if they deserved it? Then again, who’s to decide?

If we look at Western Heathenism as a whole, there is very little evidence that an idea like the Law of Threefold Return existed before the 1950’s, and it is in fact derived from Eastern spiritualism. Traditional Cornish Witchcraft, perhaps the only Traditional form that has truly thrived in the British Isles, makes great use of cursing.

Have any of these witches, or any of our ancestors, been made to pay for their actions?

Historically, only by the witch hunters. There are no reports that I know of relating to Traditional Witches being punished by the Gods for cursing in itself. Of course that’s not to say that cursing doesn’t require a certain degree of caution- indeed all spellcraft does.

My partner, for example, performed a curse on a group of people that had refused to act when his friend was date-raped at her own birthday party; he consequently suffered from minor blackouts for months afterwards. This, you might say, is proof enough of celestial punishment. However I propose a slightly different view.

Keep in mind that anger and hatred are incredibly violent emotions; they could be argued to be more ‘powerful’ than happiness and calm due to their speed, severity, and unpredictability. Compare how exhausted you are after laughing for five minutes, and after shouting and screaming in rage for the same amount of time. You would probably agree that the latter leaves you feeling much more empty and drained. Also think of the amount of times you’ve flown off the handle for trivial things. This is what makes cursing so risky: the power behind these negative emotions, and their tendency to amplify far beyond what is fitting to their cause.

Basically, if you wish death on someone for stealing your car, the Gods probably will turn around and admonish you for being harsh. On the other hand, if someone hurts your family and you want payback, the anger and hate you unleash in that spell will burst out of you far more readily than a healing spell. In all cursing, then, moderation of your emotions and a good deal of consideration beforehand are key; I believe that my partner’s blackouts occurred because he either wore himself out completely from the spell’s severity, or the Gods deemed him too severe and made him pay accordingly- but they weren’t admonishing him for cursing in itself.

In particular, the idea of your family being hurt is one that does not sit well with the Rede. What if someone did willingly hurt your family? Would you sit and wait for the Gods to avenge you?

This view is one that I imagine the Gods find slightly arrogant; they’re not there to hold your hand, and they don’t heal your friends for you- you have to do most of that yourself, even if you do ask for help, so why isn’t cursing the same?

Or, would you turn the other cheek, letting the instigator get away with their cruelty?

Now I’ve never been the most forgiving person, and I don’t see why I can’t give back what I get from people who wish to hurt me and mine. The trick is to cast a curse that is equivalent to the harm done; something that is very hard to do when the human condition makes us bloodthirsty for revenge of the worst kind.

I would definitely say that cursing is harder than well-wishing, as it requires more control; it also requires you to make contact with a part of yourself that you may not like. This I think is why many Wiccans and Neopagans turn away from it, to the point of fearing it; they refuse to accept the ugly side of their nature, as do most people. This is understandable, but it’s also an imbalanced way of life to me; it’s a sad truth that the world is both beautiful and terrible, and I believe that true balance comes if your spirituality reflects that.

Curses are nothing to fear (unless you’re on the receiving end of course!) , and they can be quite trivial; I performed a curse on a flea infestation in my house a few months ago, with the help of Tiw, and I haven’t had trouble since.

All in all, pins in poppets and mutilated animal organs are extreme examples of what is, really, just another form of spellcraft; if you look past the hype and fight your fear, you’ll find that curses aren’t as terrible as they’re made out to be. Remember that the more severe curses are a last resort; like everything else, you must think twice and use caution.

And like all spells, curses are just a means to an end, usually getting rid of something undesirable when there’s no other way of doing so.

Of course I can’t convince you to agree, and if you’re still dead against cursing, so be it; you’re welcome to your views. But at least consider what I’ve said, and try not to be afraid of something that is, at its heart, an integral part of the Traditional Craft.


Footnotes:
http://www.museumofwitchcraft.com

Beyond the Ethics of the Wiccan Rede

Beyond the Ethics of the Wiccan Rede

Author: Bill BluWolf

The Rede is known to many of Wiccan practitioners as the ethical underpinnings to be followed. While different versions exist, a common form is “An it harm none, do what ye will.” Most of the attribution for the Rede goes to Doreen Valiente, Alexander Crowley, Gardner and according to some, King Pausol. Regardless of the source, we are told we are free to do what we want as long as no harm results. It is important to note that the Rede includes admonishment against doing harm to oneself.

Another important consideration for ethics is the Rule of Three (Three-fold Law or Law of Return) . It states that whatever one puts out, it will return threefold. This is an attempt to warn the practitioner to do good works because it will come back to them three-fold. As an ethical consideration, it is not much different than the Christian’s “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12) . These ethical sayings also ring with the idea of Karma; (to use the Christian saying) what you sow, so shall you reap.

Notice that the ethics so far are prohibitive. They tell us what NOT to do. I get a chuckle from Google’s company motto that echoes what we’ve seen: “Don’t be evil.”

For Wiccans, there is a few last important ethical guides, one is well known to many especially Gardnerians: The Charge of the Goddess. A Charge of the God exists, as well as countless variations of both. Wiccan Laws exist as well, in Gardnerian and Alexanrian forms. I’ll spare you the gory details about the in-fighting regarding the Laws. Needless to say, many disagreed with them.

While the Rede and the Three-fold Law are largely prohibitive, they do so by also telling us we are urged to do positive works. I personally like the Charge from an ethical standpoint because it tells what we should do. In this way it is proscriptive and not prohibitive.

Paraphrasing the Charge of the Goddess, Doreen Valiente tells us we should:

Listen to the words of the Great Mother.
Be naked in your rites.
Meet once a month under a full moon.
Sing, feast, dance, make music and make love.
Have beauty, strength, power, compassion, honor, humility, mirth and reverence within you.

Many have taken her words and adapted them to make them suitable for different audiences and to fit other purposes.

My chief complaint with all of these ethical viewpoints is that they are largely useless in practical secular daily life. It is what we call applied ethics. For example, I am driving down the road and a deer jumps in front of my car. I have seconds to decide; do I hit the deer or do I drive into a ditch or hit a tree? Ethically, I don’t want to kill a defenseless animal. Nor do I want to harm my car, a tree or myself.

As an improvement, there is an international program (which Boy Scouts of America and Cub Scouts use) have a saying; “Leave no trace.” It is used when outdoors and the intent is to leave the place how it was found.

Leave no trace could cover a multitude of other situations, such as greenhouse gases, carbon footprints, new roads and development in protected ecosystems to ocean ecology. It also tells us what to do. Lets think of a short list.

1.Recycle. Our world’s resources are not infinite. We should be doing good management of what resources we do have and not waste them. We should re-plant the trees that we do take for our future generations.

2.Leave what you find. While walking in the woods, we don’t take things like rocks or animals. What is with our preoccupation at collecting massive amounts of material things? Like leaving only footprints, we should only collect what we need.

3.Be considerate of others. Not only this applies to local wildlife, it applies to other people.

4.Clean up after yourself. In the physical sense, it means trash management. In the spiritual sense, it means know your craft and behave responsibly. In the mental sense, it means don’t dump on others, and have a healthy outlook and healthy relationships.

What other things could you add to the list?

Leave no trace is attractive as an ethical proposition because it tells us what to do and what not to do at the same time.

As Pagans, we should look for a more responsible ethical framework. We were here before the other world religions. Shouldn’t we lead the way in ethics?

There are other ethical sayings we could use. “Be my best” comes to mind. The big flaw I see is that my best becomes a crutch when people do bad things. For example, “Well I was just doing my best.” might be a common excuse when a pedophile molests a child. If honestly applied, I do think it works, but maybe we can do better.

The one I like best is “Leave the world a better place than you found it.” It is all encompassing. It is a positive way to say that we should strive to do good works. It covers things from acid rain to gun laws to abortion. It is very simple. A kindergartner should understand this concept.

In applied ethics, it becomes fairly easy to do the right thing. In the example of the deer jumping in front of the car, we can rationalize some choices. The car may hit the deer. The car can end up in the ditch. But it is the more general context that makes it an improvement. Why did the deer do that? Are the local deer crossing roads due to over-crowding? Perhaps we should install fences and control where the deer cross the road. Maybe we should allocate more forestland for deer populations.

“Leave the world a better place” allows us to explore options, and become better stewards of our environment. It creates possibilities that did not previously exist and makes us better humans.


Footnotes:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiccan_Rede

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiccan_morality

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_Three_ (Wiccan)

http://doreenvaliente.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don’t_be_evil

http://www.reclaiming.org/about/witchfaq/charge.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leave_No_Trace

Ethics and Etiquette

Ethics and Etiquette

By Morgaine

When we speak of ethics and etiquette in relation to pagansim what are we referring to? Are we speaking of outdated rules and actions that no longer have meaning and we only give lip service to? I don’t believe so. Ethics and etiquette are living, breathing codes of life, shaping our actions in relation to each other, and ourselves. They are a guiding force in the way we live our lives.

Let us first look at ethics. Ethics are defined as –a set of principles; moral philosophy; rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession; human duty; a particular system of principles and rules concerning duty, whether true or false; rules of practice in respect to a single class of human actions; motivation based on ideas of right and wrong; the philosophical study of moral values and rules.

When we begin to speak of ethics, we need to realize that this can be a very touchy subject. We are human after all, and we want to think our ethics are the correct ones. While there are generally accepted community ethics, it is personal ethics that make up who we are. And these are not the same for each person.

Before we begin to discuss in depth community and person ethics let us first look at the Rede, the most common code of conduct among Wiccans.

Bide the Wiccan law ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust;

Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill;

‘An ye harm none, do as ye will’;

Lest in self-defense it be, ever mind the rule of three;

Follow this with mind and heart;

And merry ye meet and merry ye part.

Every Wiccan knows the Rede. Our passwords into the sacred circle are in here. Our major rule of ethic is here. And the reason for breaking this ethic, as well as the consequences of breaking it foolishly. When we extract the line most popular –An ye harm none, do as ye will’ and begin to dissect it, we have to wonder “Is this an ethic we can every achieve?”

I believe the Rede is a standard of living, like all ethics, and one that is an impossibility to achieve. The goal is to live as closely to the Rede as possible. In the attempt to do this, we begin to analyze our actions. We follow the path of LEAST harm. Thus, we begin to live conscious of our actions, and how they effect the world around us. And here comes the REAL lesson of the Rede. It forces us to have personal responsibility. Once you have acknowledged that the Rede is a goal to work for and not a given situation, and have taken of the blinders that let you go around smug and happy that your religion is so sweet it makes your teeth itch, you can get down to the work of making your life an ethical one. What this involves is considering each decision in the light of the Rede before you decide upon a course of action. You do this by looking at all the possible consequences of that action and whether that will cause harm to any, choosing the path that causes the least harm and, (THIS IS THE KEY) accepting the responsibility for the consequences of your actions whether intentional or unintentional. -Lark, HPS of Tangled Moon Coven.

Wicca, as well as most Pagansim, is a religion and spiritual path of personal responsibility. We strive to live in an aware state. When we do this, we recognize our free will, and the free will of others. If we ignore the lesson of personal responsibility, we fail to realize our true spiritual potential and our true spiritual will.

As we begin our path, we must develop a set of personal ethics, while maintaining a respect for the ethics of the community we are becoming a part of. Some community ethics are very well defined.

-Don’t practice black magick, or follow the left-hand path.

-Don’t attempt to harm another or interfere with their free will.

-Always act in a way that will reflect well upon your path. Never do anything that will bring harm to the Craft.

Since Wicca, and pagansim, are very open paths and for the most part do not seek to make anyone follow ‘ONE RIGHT WAY’, most of the ethics defined by community are concerning harm to others, and harm to the Craft.

But to begin a spiritual path, and to follow it every day of your life, you must develop your own set of personal ethics that define the way you live. No one can tell you what your personal ethics should be. Your teachers, mentors, HPS, HP can all recommend both in word and deed, ethics that work for them. You may be given a ‘Book of the Law’ that governs your group or tradition. If you are a solitary, you may read on the net, or in a book, acceptable codes of conduct, or ideals. But you cannot take someone else’s ethics and make them your own. You must do some soul searching, and decide how you feel about things. Now I am NOT suggesting that you ignore your HPS or HP, or your teachers and mentors. I am suggesting that you should always temper wisdom with personal experience. You must come to a point that you are willing to question what you are taught, to grow in your own self. Through this, your own sense of ethics and morals will come.

Now, here comes the biggie. What do you do when your personal ethics are in direct conflict with accepted community ethics? For example-it has become a phenomenon in the pagan community to love everything white and full of light, and shun everything dark and full of shadow. It has become unacceptable to speak of negative emotions like anger and envy. It has become unacceptable to feel hate towards another person, wish that a murderer would get the death penalty, which that rapist would get castrated by a bunch of angry women. Some of us fondly refer to this a fluffy, bunny Wicca, no offense to anything fluffy, or bunnies. We are taught to love unconditionally because we are all brothers and sisters, connected to each other and every living thing. We are taught that if we experience these emotions, maybe we aren’t all that spiritual, and especially not as much as Miss crystal love and light. We are often looked down upon if we say something like ‘I am so damn mad at my ex husband I could smack him’. The response I myself have heard to such comment is ‘my my, now THAT wasn’t very positive’. Well, guess what. It WASN’T. Now I am not saying that you should indulge in these emotions. They can be deterrents to developing a sound spiritual identity because they are ‘negative’ in the sense that they are base emotions that do not vibrate on the spiritual plane. But they also teach us lessons that can lead to spiritual epiphanies.

Life is a balance between light and dark. Nature is both beautifully creative and frighteningly destructive. Inside of a single human there is light and shadow, and to be totally balanced we must learn to face both, experience both and therefore learn from both. So back to the original question. Let’s say you don’t feel that you are evil if you feel anger at another person or what have you. What do you do when community ethics conflict with your personal ethics? In my opinion, as long as what you are doing does not come into direct conflict with the good of the general community, or does not manipulate or purposefully harm another person, then your personal ethics should come first. You should not do something maliciously to another person. When you do this, you are not only harming yourself, but you are harming that person, AND the whole of the community. It is very important that our community not be sullied, and the reasons are obvious. But beyond this, your personal ethics should prevail.

Do ethics change over time? Do you think that the ethics of our ancestors of 100, 200 or even 1000 or more years ago are the same as what they are now? I believe that ethics are a revolving and ever changing system. Some become outdated, and some we should always keep. For instance, it has only been in the recent resurgence of Pagansim in the last 50-60 years or so that the belief of ‘An ye harm none, do as ye will came about’. In times past, a witch who could not curse, could not heal. Societies have not always believed that you should not harm another person, or that interfering with someone life was a bad thing. The old wise woman of a village was sought out for every reason from fertility, to love, to revenge. It has been in our time only, with the resurgence of beliefs and the discrimination that we face, that we have adopted some of the common ethics we now have. I am NOT saying this is wrong, or that we should go back to the ‘Old Ways’. In a society that we now living in, and the information is available for spiritual purposes, there is no longer a need to seek out the crone of the village and ask her to grant you revenge on your enemy. But this is the perfect example of how ethics change with time. At one time it was ethical for old men to mate with young girls. In our culture, it is no longer ethical. So ethics change, and so they should. Change is the only constant in the universe, and without it, we grow stagnate and our lives become filled with rot and decay. Change blows in new life to help recreate our lives, our beliefs and yes, even out ethics.

The other common code of conduct that we hear of in the Pagan community is ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the Law, love under will.’ This comes from Aleister Crowley, from his book entitled ‘The Book of the Law’. Now knowing some of the things that we do about Crowley, it’s almost humorous to think of him in a discussion of ethics, except to point to what not to do maybe! But, this is a very powerful outlook on developing your own set of personal ethics.

In my understanding ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will’ does not mean you may do as you wish and that is it. It is speaking of your TRUE will, your TRUE purpose in life. And if you are following your true or higher will and purpose you will not come into conflict with another’s will so therefore you do not have to worry about stepping on anyone else’s toes. So you don’t have to worry about harming another, because you are in touch with the divine and you are following your own spiritual path and will, which will not cause harm or conflict with another. Of course, we still have conflicts with people. One way to look at this is as a spiritual lesson for either you or the other person. But if you are seeking to control another or harm another, this is not your true will. This is based upon the belief that every person is an individual, and as an individual you should be true to your own nature or consciousness. You must find your true will and make all of your actions subservient to the one great purpose. This again leads to conscious living.

If ethics are codes of personal and community conduct, then etiquette is a code of social conduct. Etiquette is defined as –the practices and forms prescribed by social convention or by authority; forms of conduct prescribed by polite society; code of correct conduct; also decorum denotes conformity with established standards of manners or behavior; the forms required by good breeding, or prescribed by authority, to be observed in social or official life; observance of the proprieties of rank and occasion; conventional decorum; ceremonial code of polite society; rules governing acceptable behavior.

Just like Emily Post and polite society, we in the Pagan community have behavior that is expected from us in how we interact with that community. In my opinion, etiquette is something sorely lacking in many Pagans. They are not taught certain things about how we interact with each other. This could be because maybe you didn’t have a teacher, or your teacher didn’t know them either. Or it could be because you or those who taught you just didn’t care, it wasn’t important to them. But I feel that etiquette is VERY important. It keeps us civilized, it aids us in how we interact and it shows the outside world that we know how to act.

Beyond the mundane world and it’s social etiquette, lets take a look at some things that are common among Pagan paths, especially the Wiccan path.

  1. You should never touch someone else’s magickal tools and items without their express permission. If you see something you like and want to touch, then ASK. Don’t just hold out your hand for it, or just pick it up. A person leaves an imprint of their energy on what they touch, and they may not want someone else’s energy on their magickal items. This includes athames all the way to stones and jewelery. And do not take offense if you ask and are told no.
  2. The way you live reflects on our whole community. You should always respect others, no matter their path. Inside your own religion thee is a certain higher respect given each other, as Children of the Goddess. This comes from a basic understanding of the hardships of the path, and the process we all go through in some way to evolve. It can be equated to any secret society and it’s initiation process and path of self-discovery. This path is not for everyone, and if you take it seriously, will change your life in ways you could never imagine. Any path that causes growth can be difficult. And we link with others that are going through the same thing we are and take strength from and learn from them.
  3. We endeavor to hold ourselves to a high standard of living our spiritual lives that the mundane world does not. Therefor we support each other, lending a hand when the pitfalls of the world come about.
  4. When someone gives of themselves to teach or guide, we recognize that person’s giving, and respect it. Not all of us are called to teach, and those who are offer a valuable service that should not be taken for granted.
  5. When you are called to teach or guide, you have been given a very serious part to play in your community. You should never abuse it in any way. It also does not mean that you may use it as a way to gain power over, or look down upon any other person. We are all where we should be onour path, and it does not mean a thing that you have 10 or 20 years of service and someone else has 1. We are all equal in the eyes of the Gods. And if you are a teacher, you are held to an even higher state of conduct. You must never involve yourself in anything that could cause harm to your students or to the Craft. You should never do anything that would bring a bad light on us. For instance, you should never become romantically involved with one of your students. You should not condone the use of illegal drugs, or alcohol if the person is not of age. You should not use your position to control your students, or make them dependent on you. The goal is to aid a person on this path. You supply the seed as a teacher. You cannot take them by the hand and learn from them, or be easy on them when you should be honest.
  6. In that same light, those who would be considered an elder in our faith are given a large amount of respect. The wisdom that is gained from following this path for 10, 20 or 30 years is an asset to our community, and we should respect the Elders of the community for what they have learned and what they teach us.
  7. Due to the advent of the internet, there is a phenomenon growing among new seekers that is very disturbing. It involves not understanding the hard work it takes to learn the Old Ways, or the dedication and self sacrifice those who follow, and especially those who teach and guide give to the path. From this lack of understanding, new seekers think they can go to any page on the net, learn what they can and be done with it. It also leads them to think that they can ask for what they want, and someone will just hand it over. For example, I have been asked to send someone a copy of my BOS. This shows me that the person requesting this has no idea of what a BOS is, what it stands for and the process that is gone through to acquire it. This is flat out rude to begin with. This person is wanting their religion hand fed to them. They want to skip the hard work, the dedication, the pitfalls and the trials, and get right to the reward. This is simply not how it’s done. This person wants the secrets and mysteries handed to them on a silver platter, without having to leave the comfort of the computer chair and work for them. This isn’t possible. And I am here to say STOP. Be mindful of what you are asking. You can’t go to the net, read a page or two, then go ask someone for their BOS, or even ask them to teach you. There must be effort on your part. You are not an adept after reading a page, or a book, or even ten books. The mysteries cannot be handed to you on a silver platter and you are a master of the universe. This is what I call lazy Wicca, and through lazy Wicca you will never come to experience the mysteries, because they come through dedication, hard work and a personal dedication to the Gods.
  8. Those who are out of the closet must NEVER give away the secrets of their brothers and sisters. You should never give any personal information. You should never tell the secrets of a coven, who it’s leaders are, who the members are or any other information. We must honor our vows and protect those who for whatever reason have chosen to remain hidden from the eyes of the world.
  9. For those who are out of the closet, your life and your actions must be above reproach in the eyes of the world. As an open pagan, you may be the only one that a non pagan every sees. They will see every Pagan in you. So in all things you must be truthful. You must live with dignity and honor.

In our discussion of ethics and etiquette the point I was trying to impress upon you is this. We have become a society who thinks that we may do as we please, act as we please and there are no consequences. We fight with the Christians. We complain about how they fight amongst themselves. We sneer at them when they point to another of them and say how that person is wrong and they way they practice is wrong. And yet, WE DO THE SAME THING.

When I meet a fellow priestess, I treat her with respect as a person, and doubly so as a priestess, since I know how hard that path can be, to have dedicated your life and your service to the Gods and the Old Ways. If I meet someone who has been walking the path for 20 or 30 years, I respect that person because of the knowledge they have obtained in that time. That is not to say my 10 years is less, or they are ‘more spiritual’ than me. It is saying that this path is not an easy one all the time, and to have lived it every day for that amount of time is deserving of respect. I was taught as a child to respect my elders, and I believe that is still a valid lesson. The elders of this path can teach us things that we have never even thought of. At the same time, as an elder, you should always remember what it was like to take your first stumbling steps on this path, and how you may have longed for some guidance. It is just as wrong to be an elder, and act as if you know everything, or someone who is only 20 or whatever age could never be a spiritual person. We all must remember our ethics and etiquette, and encourage each other every day.

We have forgotten to practice our personal ethics, and have thrown etiquette out the window. We have forgotten Emily Post and Miss Manners, and have went on about our merry little way to fight like cats and dogs, without even offering basic human respect for those with diverging views, and this troubles me. It is a plague that is infecting our community. The Witch Wars continue. We struggle to make our way the right way, even if we don’t realize we are doing this. We forget the very basic teaching that we are all connected, and that all paths are valid, as long as they fulfill our spiritual needs.

Let us remember our ethics. Let us live our lives with honor, treating all of life with respect. Follow your own path, without interference into another’s. Work hard, study hard and receive the blessings of a life well lived.

Paganism and Morality

Paganism and Morality

Author: Morgan Ravenwood

In a previous article I wrote entitled “The Joys and Pitfalls of Pagan Parenting, ” I repeated what my then-teenaged daughter, “Jane, ” said to me in response to my attempts to keep her on the “straight and narrow”: “But, mom, it’s not like you’re a religious Christian or something!”

I spent the rest of our conversation trying to explain why you don’t have to be a Christian to be religious and to believe in—and practice—leading a decent life. Fortunately, time and maturity has proven this to Jane, who now has three children of her own to teach it to.

In some of the online discussion boards I belong to, it has been mentioned repeatedly that many people believe that morality needs religion—and preferably the Christian religion–to exist, and vice versa. Of course, both myself and others, including some Atheists, have hastened to explain that this is in no wise true, presenting our own personal points of view and experiences as proof.

However, a member of one of the boards recently posed a question that demands an answer, both to ourselves as well as the outside world:

“So that we may learn how to properly judge those of other religious persuasions, specifically how are Wiccans and Pagans and Atheists supposed to behave in accordance with their beliefs?

How do we know when they are being true to their religious ideals, and when they are being hypocrites?”

A fair question, especially given that neither Pagans nor Atheists have the words of a prophet or set scriptures to govern their behavior. While I cannot speak for Atheists, where Paganism is concerned, it’s understandable that members of mainstream religions would find it odd, not to mention immoral, that some Pagans perform their rituals “skyclad”—i.e., in the nude–and even participate in what might be considered to be immoral sexual behavior, including homosexuality and polyamory (which simply means “more than one” lover).

The fact that there is no stigma attached to these in Paganism only reinforces this belief.

It is a sad fact that Pagan parents have had their children removed from their custody once their religion becomes public knowledge because Paganism has so often received a negative reputation as a religion with little to no morality.

In view of this, we are almost obligated to try to demonstrate as strong a behavioral standard as possible so as to build and retain integrity for our religion.

While we’ve probably all met a few “Happy Nekkid Pagans” with seemingly looser morals than most, the majority of Pagans I have known have led far more moral lives than many of their Christian counterparts.

I believe that this is due to the fact that some Christians are really only “Sunday Christians, ” named so because they crawl to church on Sunday and feign repentance, only to resume their evil ways on Monday.

But for us Pagans, it’s a little different; we consider ourselves to be “24/7 Pagans” because our own sense of honor and personal responsibility prohibits us from behaving in such a cavalier manner.

And what is the source of this personal responsibility, since it does not depend upon the threat of punishment from an angry god or a feeling of obligation to obey scriptures? I think the basic answer can be summed up quite nicely in three words: The Golden Rule. You know, the one that says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The wording of this has been slightly changed but retains the same meaning in our own Wiccan Rede, which the majority of Wiccans DO adhere to: “An it harm none, do what thou will.”

To do any differently would be to harm oneself if one believes, as most Pagans do, that we are all part of each other as well as the earth. Think how wonderful the world would be if everyone practiced this for even one day!

Also, it is worth noting that some Pagan traditions, which are similar to Christian denominations, have their own set of guidelines that members are expected to follow. Though they are certainly not binding to ALL Pagans, nor do all of them adhere to them, The Thirteen Goals of a Witch, especially numbers one and four through seven, give very good guidelines for ethical behavior:

The Thirteen Goals of a Witch

1) Know Thyself

2) Know Thy Craft

3) Learn, Knowledge is Power

4) Apply Knowledge with Wisdom

5) Achieve balance in your life and everything around you

6) Keep your words in good order – negativity breeds negativity –

7) Keep your thoughts in good order

8) Celebrate life and all the stages of it

9) Attune with the cycles of the Earth and Moon

10) Breathe and eat correctly

11) Exercise the body as well as the spirit

12) Meditate everyday

13) Honor the Goddess and God

It is worth remarking that many of these mirror the behavioral guidelines as set out in the Eightfold Path of Buddhism, which does not carry the stigma of immorality that Paganism does. Yet another Eastern faith belief of importance to Pagans is Karma—that which you do, comes back to you.

Many Wiccans adhere to this belief, but with one notable difference: that which you do, comes back to you—THREEFOLD. Whether or not this is true, the reality of “cause and effect” is indisputable, which certainly prompts some serious consideration in making important decisions, particularly those that concern other people.

Another area in which most Pagans strongly attempt to behave responsibly is preservation of the environment. In these days, especially with a government and national population that are less concerned about preservation and more with maximum utilization, this is no easy task. And yet, believing as we do that the earth is our Mother, we each owe it to Her to do our share. Recycling, composting, and making responsible decisions about using products that are harmful to the environment are all things we can do as individuals.

Lastly, in the “Charge of the Goddess, ” which quite thoroughly lays out recommendations for responsible and moral behavior, Doreen Valiente wrote these words, which are dear to the hearts of the many Wiccans who aspire to live by them:

“Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you, ” and “keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever towards it, let naught stop you or turn you aside.”

Surely, nobody of ANY persuasion, religious or otherwise, could aspire to any higher goals than these.


Footnotes:
This article has previously been published on The Wiccan-Pagan Times website.

Paths and Journeys

Paths and Journeys

Author: Janice Van Cleve

Paths and journeys are not the same thing. Paths are like nouns and journeys are like verbs. Paths are routes that lead to this or that destination. Journeys, on the other hand, are how we drive on this or that path, where we have been, and where we think we are going. Sometimes we take one path and sometimes another. In fact, since we are pursuing multiple short term and long term goals all the time, we probably are journeying on multiple paths every day. We have career paths, relationship paths, financial paths, aging paths, health paths, and many more. We are driving at different speeds, in different vehicles, and talking on different cell phones. No wonder we sometimes get lost or crash into things.

Some paths are determined for us – by bosses, by laws, or by how much money we have or don’t have. Some paths we fall into by chance – job layoffs, traffic accidents, or forces of nature. Some paths we choose because we like the path or because we think it will get us to a desired destination. Spiritual paths are no different.

An illustration might clarify. When I was a Roman Catholic, my spiritual path was the church, my roadmap was the Baltimore catechism, and my destination was Rome. I suppose a good Mormon kid takes the interstate to Salt Lake City, a Muslim travels to Mecca, a Jew to Jerusalem, and a Buddhist evaporates into Nirvana, metaphorically speaking. It all seemed so clear to me back then that if I drove this path with this road map I would get to Rome just like they told me I should. A funny thing happened along the way, however. I got pulled over by the Holy Police and when they checked my drivers license and found out I was a lesbian, they said I couldn’t drive on that road.

So there I was out in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas, my journey aborted, and no clear destination. I got out of the car and wandered around in the cornfields for a while until I met a country girl who guided me to a side road. It was then I discovered that there was a whole network of side roads going to all sorts of interesting places. She told me that this was the Pagan path, or to be more accurate, one of many Pagan paths.

Pagan paths are fun. Some are long, some are short, and some are under construction. There are many intersections, many maps, and many road signs, but no Holy Police. Most of the paths don’t pretend to go to any one special destination; rather, they just seem to go for the joy of going. And that’s when I began to notice a striking thing about these Pagan paths. They have lots of interesting attractions on both sides of the road and no commandment or necessity to reach an ending. What a contrast to the Holy Roman path I had been driving on!

Or was it? Now that I had seen the reality of multiple paths, I looked back at that Catholic highway. For the first time I noticed that it had exit and entry ramps, too. There were Catholic road crews repairing and replacing sections of it as well. Even the Catholic road maps got updated eventually (although it took the Vatican 400 years to exonerate Galileo) . I had not been aware of the varieties of Catholic experience before. Then I noticed that not all the Muslims or all the Jews were driving down their respective straight and narrows either. I wondered then if all paths were actually more or less equal and a journey on any one of them would be just as meaningful and of value as any other. Then I heard the sirens of the Holy Police and I remembered the difference between the highways and the side roads.

That’s not to say I have not encountered sheriffs on the side roads but most of them are pretty laid back and the only laws they enforce are those of common civility and mutual respect as expressed in the Law of Love, the Wiccan Rede, Kharma, and such like. What really holds Pagan paths together is not enforcement but traditions, particularly their seasonal traditions. There’s no denying the seasons. They come and they go as the Wheel of the Year turns. Even in parts of the world where the differences of weather are minimal, the energy forces of each season are still at work. Our various traditions help us align with the seasons, the forces of the universe, and our inner spirits so we don’t get lost or crash.

Where do these traditions come from? Tevya asks that very question: “You may ask, how did this tradition get started? I’ll tell you. . . . I don’t know. But it’s a tradition, and because of our traditions every one of us knows who he is and what God expects of him. Traditions, traditions! Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof!”

Our traditions come from many places – intentional design, borrowing from someplace else, a good idea that sticks, or who knows where? What makes a practice or a set of words a tradition is that it is used repeatedly over time and those who use it invest it with value through their applied energies. In ancient days it was the elders, the loremasters, the bards, and the shamans who remembered the traditions and passed them down orally through the generations. Modern Pagans – and other religious folk – write them down in Books of Shadows, prayer books, and liturgies.

Thus we have many paths, each supported and balanced by their traditions. However, paths all by themselves do not get us to our destinations. We have to choose which paths to follow, and when, and for how long. We have to put our own energies and efforts into motion. Scribes and shamans, priests and priestesses, bards and loremasters are responsible for maintaining the paths and traditions but only we are responsible for our individual journeys.

One of the most delightful features of paths – either side roads or highways – is that if they are alive, they are continually under construction. Our Women Of The Goddess Circle is a good example. It has been under construction for almost 19 years as of this writing. Over time it has developed some pretty good traditions and practices, based on much study, experience, and good judgment. That’s not to say that we haven’t built a bridge or two to nowhere in those years, but we learned and altered course as necessary. We continue to encourage our women to seek out many paths and bring back good ideas.

New ideas are sifted and even if they are tried, it is understood that they are on probation until they prove themselves. Too many changes too often can erode a group’s traditions. On the other hand, closing the door on changes that would improve the performance and appeal of a path could doom it to limited usefulness. The challenge is always to maintain a careful balance between tradition and change.

Part of that balance is to keep reminding ourselves of the mission and purpose of the group and of the path it is on. It is more important for each path to offer its own distinct features and attractions than for it to become either all things to all people or nothing to nobody. Another part of the balance is for each individual to take personal responsibility for their own journey, to contribute enthusiastically to the path she is on while she is on it, and to seek other paths to round out her spiritual needs.

As for myself, I follow the Dianic Wiccan path and I do have a care toward maintaining its traditions and those of the Women Of The Goddess Circle. However, I do journey sometimes on the Gnostic path or the Aquarian path, or I take to the stars with astrology or take to the outdoors alone into the wilds of Nature. My journey is enriched by all of them – and out here there are no Holy Police.

The Dark Side of Leading: Covens, Groups or Groves

The Dark Side of Leading: Covens, Groups or Groves

Author: Lady Abigail

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Perhaps the biggest challenge in any group is in understanding the people you work with. In search of the perfect solution, most people become oblivious to those of differencing opinions. It is not negative; it shows passion to their beliefs. But be careful, passion can sometimes lead to wishing and hoping for things to be different than they truly are or thinking that you have the only answer. This can set up problems when things don‘t go your way.

Gaining the respect of a group is paramount as a leader. Respect comes from knowledge, understanding and accomplishments. You must also show your credibility and reliability within the group so that there is an awareness that you will always do what is in the group’s best interests.

For effectiveness in leadership there must be trust and humility. It is a mistake to try to “become an authority” in all matters. Know when to ask the right questions and be able to test the answers. Your greater knowledge within any group is the freedom to rely on the other members and respect their input.

However, this is different than trying to find answers that will make everyone happy or allowing the personal opinions of anyone to overshadow what is best for the group.

Over my many years of leading groups, I find that people join a group for many different reasons. Some join to learn, some join for community and meeting others of like-minded spirit. Some join for the energy they find working in a circle with others and some join to come together on and give honor to the Gods.

But, far and above, the number one reason I hear is FAMILY: the need to be accepted and comfortable with others who understand who they are, being a part of something greater than themselves.

As a High Priestess of a coven (Ravensgrove Coven) , I find that all of these reasons can all be good as long as there is also an understanding that your reasons may not be the same as the person standing next to you. Yet theirs are just as valid. That is as long as each member can work well with the other.

Nevertheless, problems can arise. Hurt feelings, anger and even jealousy. These must be dealt with as they happen, quickly, personally, privately and honestly. Discretion is honorable is such matters. We are not children who need to be scolded and made example of, nor should be pick sides. We are adults and Pagans; therefore, we are to use wisdom and consideration, not the emotion of the moment.

Once a problem is seen, it is the leader’s place to handle it quickly and as they believe best for all concerned. Those with experience within a group will tell you, when there is any discourse in any group; working together in circle or for magickal intention is not going to happen. Anytime, whether in circle, in life, home or job, you try to work with someone you are angry at … you know it will not succeed. Unpleasant or angry energy is not going to give you any positive results, only negative. Plus all those who have been working within this circle have been drawing the negative energy in and that is detrimental. There must be harmony within any circle, be it for magickal working, healing or energy work. This is for the positive nature of the circle and all its members.

It is not always easy being the leader, since with every decision there will be some that are going to be disappointed once it is made. That is why on matters of great importance you, as the leader, may want to ask your group to vote or give their options on certain issues. Yet, when all is said and done, you will be the one making the finial decision. Good or bad, you will also be the one held accountable, and that is because it is your responsibly to make all decisions in the best interest of the group. On the group as a whole, not your friends, not even your family but for the group as a whole.

I have found that whenever you have more than one person in a room you are generally going to have more than one opinion. The more people in a group the more likely that someone is going to disagree with the decisions made. It is nature; we all think different and have different concerns and outlooks. But when all is said and done, it is the leader’s decision that must be final.

Once the decision is made, everyone within the group must uphold the decision, whether they were in agreement with it or not. This is part of the trust you promised, and gave, to your group and your leader when you joined the group. This is the trust that any decision that would be made would be in the best interest of the group as a whole. Remember: ‘in perfect love and perfect trust’ is not always as easy to implement as it is to say.

Everyone should try to understand that it could be difficult for any leader to continually deal with internal problems between members. If you are having a problem with a member, remember most likely, the group leader is hearing your problem from two sides.

Dealing with constant turmoil can spiritually and personally drain anyone, even a group leader. For some, it can leave them wondering if they should keep the group going if it is a continued drain on energy and not the energy building force any group should be. Sometimes people forget that even your group leader is human, with human emotions and limits. Unfortunately, this is the reason so many new groups fail and the leaders walk away.

*Therefore, here are some of possible problems within any group. To be aware of them may help you or your group to avoid them.

One extremely detrimentally problem within any group is a lack of honest communication. There is nothing more frustrating to any leader than hearing that people are afraid to talk to them. Or that people are worried the leader will get mad. How can you work to heal or fix problems within a group if those within it don’t know that they have one?

Then there is what my Great Grandmother would call the chicken pen syndrome. Where those in a group believe that it is somehow better to talk to someone else about what they consider wrong, or their worries within the group, rather than talk to leader.

If you cannot talk to your leader, directly and clearly, then you cannot trust them. Trust is one of the greatest parts of any group leader’s job. They are your clergy unto your traditions as a whole, so where are you without trust.

When someone feels they need to talk to someone else as a go between with their group leader, this is not only detrimental to everyone in the group but also extremely upsetting to your group leader once they find out. And they will find out, since people love to talk. And if you have a group of people who love to gossip and back bite, do you really think that what you say is going to be confidential?

Any group leader is both a human and an emotional being. They get hurt, angry, sad, and happy. Sometimes within their emotions they will say more than they should. It is called being human. So, you need to remember they are the representation of the Deities, but they are still very human.

A.) When anyone has a problem with anyone or something they believe is wrong, then talk to your group leader.

B.) If you have a problem with someone, then you need to privately talk to that person and handle it. If that does not work then, and only then, you go to the group leader and then you both go and talk with who ever your issue is with together.

C.) If someone comes to you and wants to talk about anyone else (including your group leader) … you to tell the other person that you will not listen (and you need not to listen.) Tell them they need to talk to the person with whom they have a problem. If it is a group concern then they need to talk to your group leader.

D.) Once something is over, finished, or fixed, stop rekindling the fire by rehashing it over and over with others. This just brings it all up again and causes everyone to think they need to pick sides when there are no sides to pick. When it is done, let it be done and put it behind you.

Don’t expect the world when you see childish behavior that seems to come to every group at sometime. Remind each other of the reasons you are there. The friendship, community and energy of being in a group of like-minded souls.

Don’t get disheartened because you think the group should be all about magick or spell work or whatever. There needs to be a balance in all things. Energy work, magick, blessings and power work. Remember your Rituals are a time of honor and worship first, then a time of magickal and energy work.

Let us never forget the honor we give unto our Deities first.

Many groups set up a round table just to deal with any concerns that might arise within the group. It is a time set aside to talk and work together and decide what is best for everyone in the group. You have an open forum for discussion that everyone has a change to speak up and out if need be. But once you leave the table the issues are closed.

Again, once it is over. Let it be truly over. Once a group has made a decision together even if it was not what you wanted, the vote is made and you need to honor the vote.

Everyone must be willing to completely clean away the old rubbish, or as some say, ‘DRAMA’ of the past, and leave it behind or it will destroy any group.

Respect the elders. Teach the young. Cooperate with the pack.
Play when you can. Hunt when you must. Rest in between.
Share your affections. Voice your feelings and Leave your mark.
‘Wolf Creed’

Blessing be unto all,

Lady Abigail
High Priestess of Ravensgrove Coven

Which Element Are You?

Which Element Are You?

 

You can gain insight into your personal elemental affinities by asking yourself questions that cover a wide range of topics. Ask yourself many simple questions. Think of it as peeling an onion. Layer by layer you slowly reveal your core. Revealing spells have their purposes, like when it comes to remembering thing we may have chosen to forget, but when it comes to determining something as deeply ingrained as an elemental affinity, you must peel, peel, and peel. If you write your answers on single sheet of paper, one element will often appear many times. Here is a list of questions to consider.

1. What element do you feel you align with?

2. List any hobbies you have. Is there a recurrent theme?

3. Are you basically happy and content or restless and bored?

4. How are you when it comes to money matters?

5. Do you have a sharp nose for business?

6. What are your favorite food groups or preferred taste sensations? (Sweet, salty, etc.)

7. Are you an artist? Is so, what medium do your prefer? (Words, paint, sculpture, etc.)

8. What is your preferred divination method? (Tarot, scrying, pendulum, etc.)

9. Do you know your aura colors?

10. Do you have past-life memories?

11. What are your preferred textures? (Satin, cotton, etc.)

12. How would you describe your musical taste? What is your favorite type of music?

13. What is your favorite kind of mood enchancer? (Aroma, music, stones, etc.)

14. Do you have any physical impairments? (Hearing, sight, smell, etc.) Do you have asthma or any other type of health condition?

15. Do you have any phobias?

16. What is your favorite activity?

17. What is your preferred reading genre? (Fantasy, horror, nonfiction, etc.)

18. How old are you?

19. What kind of imagery do you prefer? (A waterfall, roaring fire, sky scene, luxuriant garden, etc.)

20. Do you collect anything?

21. What is your favorite color?

22. Do you have a weight problem? (Are you overweight or underweight?)

23. Tell me about your space….is it organized or cluttered?

24. Do you have any bad habits?

25. What color is your car?

26. Do you follow the Wiccan Rede or the Golden Rule?

27. Do you believe in the threefold law?

28. Do you have an altar? What is on it?

29. Are your rituals formal or informal?

30. Tell me about your book of shadows. Is it organized? Divided into sections? How many sections? Are the pages decorated or is it more of a journal? Tell me all about it.

31. How do you handle anger?

32. How do you handle love?

33. Are you methodical or more free-spirited?

34. What is your Sun sign? Moon sign? Ascendant?

35. What is your profession? What do you want it to be?

36. Do you believe in ghosts? What would you consider to be “proof” of a haunting?

37. Do you have a totem animal? If so, what is it?

38. Is there a season of the year that you feel most in tune with?

39. Do you consider yourself a day person or a night person?

40. What mythical or fantasy creatures do you love? Which ones scare you?

41. Looking in your book of shadows, what type of spells are predominant? (Candles, herbs, mojo bags, etc.)

42. What color are your eyes? Your hair?

43. Where are you most comfortable? (At home, in the forest, at the beach, etc.)

44. Do you have any specific dream memories? Describe them.

SOLITARY WITCHES

SOLITARY WITCHES

Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft  – Ray Buckland

In the majority of Witchcraft traditions there is no way that an ‘individual’
can operate – membership in a coven is mandatory. Most traditions have a system
of degrees of advancement not unlike those found is Freemasonry and other secret
societies. With such a system it is necessary for a Witch to advance, within the
coven, to a particular degree before being able to even cast a Circle. In order
to initiate others it is necessary to attain the highest degree. As a First
Degree Witch they can join with the rest of the coven in worship and in the
working of magick but can do nothing alone.

Such a system is all very well, and those involved seem quite content with it.
But it seems to me that an important point is being overlooked. Back in the ‘old
days’ of the Craft, there were many Witches who lived at a far distance from any
village or even from any other people at all. Yet these ‘were’ still Witches.
They still worshiped the old gods and still worked their own magick. That, I
feel, was as it should have been…and as it still should be. There are one or two
traditions, today, that do subscribe more directly to the old ways. In the Seax-
Wica, for example, there is not the dependence on the coven situation; there is
the reality of the Witch alone.

The main point here is that you should not be ‘excluded’ from the Wicca for such
a reason. Just because you don’t live anywhere near a coven; just because you
don’t know of anyone else with similar interests; just because you are an
individualist who doesn’t care to join with others… these are no reasons why you
should not be a Witch. So lets look at Solitary Wicca.

What are the main differences between a coven Witch and being a Solitary?

1. With a covener, the rituals are performed by a group of people; several
(principally the Priest and/or Priestess) playing the parts.
As a Solitary, you do everything yourself.

2. The Coven meets in a large (usually nine ft. diameter) circle.
The Solitary has a small “compact” circle.

3. The Coven use a “full complement” of tools, depending on the tradition.
The Solitary uses only what s/he feels s/he needs.

4. Coven meetings must, to an extent, be held when most convenient for the
majority.
The Solitary can hold a ritual whenever s/he feels like it.

5. A Coven draws on all its members to build a Cone of Power.
A Solitary has only her/his own power to draw on.

6. A Coven has a wide variety of knowledge and specialties.
A Solitary has only her/his own knowledge and specialty.

7. A Coven is usually fairly set in its ways.
A Solitary can change with her/his moods.

8. A Coven ritual can become almost a ‘production’ or pageant.
A Solitary ritual can be the barest minimum of words and actions.

9. A Coven must attune itself as one.
A Solitary IS one.

There are many other differences, of course, but these are enough to illustrate
the point that there are both advantages and disadvantages to being a Solitary.
Generally speaking, there is much more flexibility to being a Solitary, but
there is also a more limited store of knowledge and magickal power on which to
draw. Let me elaborate on the above points.

1. As a Solitary, you do everything yourself.

You can write your own rituals, just for you. But you can also adopt and adapt
coven ones. As an example of what can be done, here are some of the rituals from
this book (Erecting the Temple; Esbat; Cakes and Ale; Clearing the Temple),
suitably modified. You can do the same sort of thing with most of the others.
Compare these with the originals as you go.

ERECTING THE TEMPLE

Wiccan rings the bell three times, facing east. She then takes the Altar Candle
and lights the East Candle from it, saying:

“Here do I bring light and air in at the East, to illuminate my temple and bring
it the breath of life.”

She moves around to the south to light that candle.

“Here do I bring light and fire in at the South, to illuminate my temple and
bring it warmth.”

To the west:

“Here do I bring light and water in at the West, to illuminate my temple and
wash it clean.”

To the north:

“Here do I bring light and earth in at the North, to illuminate my temple and
build it in strength.”

She moves on round to the east and then back to the altar. Replacing the Altar
Candle, she takes up her athame and goes again to the east. With point of athame
down, she traces the Circle, directing her power into it. Returning to the
altar, she rings the bell three times then places the point of her athame into
the Salt, saying:

“As Salt is Life, let it purify me in all ways I may use it. Let it cleanse my
body and spirit as I dedicate myself in this rite, to the glory of the God and
the Goddess.”

She drops three portions of Salt into the Water, saying:

“Let the Sacred Salt drive out any impurities in the Water, that I may use it
throughout these rites.”

She takes up the Salted Water and, starting and finishing at the east, walks
around sprinkling the Circle. She then goes around again with the thurible,
censing the Circle.

Back at the altar, she drops a pinch of salt into the oil and stirs it with her
finger. She then anoints herself with it, saying:

“I consecrate myself in the names of the God and of the Goddess, bidding them
welcome to this, my Temple.”

The Witch now moves to the east and, with her athame, draws an invoking
pentagram.

“All hail to the element of Air, Watchtower of the East. May it stand in
strength, ever watching over this Circle.”

She kisses the blade of the athame, then moves to the south, where she draws an
invoking pentagram.

“All hail to the element of Fire; Watchtower of the South. May it stand in
strength ever watching over my Circle.”

She kisses the blade and moves to the west and draws an invoking pentagram.

“All hail to the element of Water, Watchtower of the West. May it stand in
strength, ever watching over my Circle.”

She kisses the blade and moves to the north, where she draws an invoking
pentagram.

“All hail to the element of Earth, Watchtower of the North. May it stand in
strength, ever watching over my Circle.”

Kissing the blade, she returns to the altar, where she raises her athame high.

“All hail the four Quarters and all hail the Gods! I bid the Lord and Lady
welcome and invite that they join with me, witnessing these rites I hold in
their honor. All hail!”

She takes the goblet and pours a little wine onto the ground (or into the
libation dish), then drinks, saying the names of the gods.

“Now is the Temple erected. So Mote It Be!”

ESBAT

Witch: “Once more do I come to show my joy of life and re-affirm my feelings for
the gods. The Lord and the Lady have been good to me. It is meet that I give
thanks for all that I have. They know that I have needs and they listen to me
when I call upon them. So do I thank the God and the Goddess for those favors
they have bestowed upon me.”

Then, in her own way, she gives her thanks and/or requests help. She then rings
the bell three times and says:

“An it harm none, do what thou wilt. Thus runs the Wiccan Rede. Whatever I
desire; whatever I would ask of the gods; whatever I would do; I must be assured
that it will harm no one – not even myself. And as I give, so shall it return
threefold. I give of myself – my life; my love – and it will be thrice rewarded.
But should I send forth harm, then that too will return thrice over.”

Here the Witch may sing a favorite song or chant, or play an instrument.

Witch: “Beauty and Strength are in the Lord and the Lady both. Patience and
Love; Wisdom and Knowledge.”

(If the Esbat is taking place at either the Full or the New Moon, then the
appropriate segment is inserted at this point. Otherwise go directly into the
Cakes and Ale ceremony.”

CAKES AND ALE

Witch: “Now is it time for me to give thanks to the gods for that which sustains
me. May I ever be aware of all that I owe to the gods.”

She takes the goblet in her left hand and her athame in her right and slowly
lowers the point of the knife into the wine, saying:

“In like fashion may male join with female, for the happiness of both. Let the
fruits of union promote life. Let all be fruitful and let wealth be spread
throughout all lands.”

She lays down the athame and drinks from the goblet. Replacing it on the altar,
she then touches the cake with the point of the athame, saying:

“This food is the blessing of the gods to my body. I partake of it freely. Let
me remember always to see to it that aught that I have I share with those who
have nothing.”

She eats the cake, pausing to say:

“As I enjoy these gifts of the gods, let me remember that without the gods I
would have nothing. So Mote It Be!”

CLEARING THE TEMPLE

Witch: “As I came into my Temple in love and friendship, let me leave it the
same way. Let me spread the love outward to all; sharing it with those I meet.”

She raises her athame high, in salute, and says:

“Lord and Lady, my thanks to you for sharing this time with me. My thanks for
watching over me; guarding and guiding my in all things. Love is the Law and
Love is the Bond. Merry did I come here and Merry do I part, to merry come
again. The Temple is now cleared. So Mote It Be!”

She kisses the blade of her athame.

2. The Solitary has a small, “compact” Circle.

There is no need for the large, coven-size Circle when you are working alone.
One just large enough for you and the altar is all you need…probably five feet
in diameter would be sufficient. When ‘Erecting the Temple’, you would still
walk all around this Circle to ‘draw’ it with your athame, and to sprinkle and
cense it, but for addressing the four Quarters you need only turn and face the
directions from your place behind the altar. When working magick, it is easier
to build up power in a smaller Circle and it is generally a “cozier” feeling.

3. The Solitary uses only what s/he feel s/he needs.

You probably won’t need as many tools as a coven uses. You may decide to use no
more than you athame and censer. It is up to you; you have only yourself to
please. Don’t forget that you don’t HAVE to follow all the rituals exactly.

Examine as many traditions as you are able. See what tools they use and ‘why’
(it seems some groups use some items without really knowing why they do!), then
decide on which ones you need. You will find traditions that use broomsticks,
ankhs, wands, tridents, etc. You may even decide to add something that no one
else uses – the Pecti-Wita, for example (a Solitary tradition, as it happens)
use a ritual Staff which is not found elsewhere. Don’t add something just for
the sake of having it, or just to be different. Use something because you need
to use it, because you feel more comfortable with that particular tool then with
another or then without it at all.

4. The Solitary can hold a ritual whenever s/he feels like it.

A coven meets for the Sabbats and Esbats. The dates for the Esbats are fixed at
the most convenient times for the majority of members. As a Solitary, you can
have an Esbat whenever you feel like it. You can have Esbats three or four days
in a row, or go from New Moon to Full Moon without one at all. It’s up to you
and how you feel. If there is a sudden emergency – perhaps a healing that needs
to be done – you can get into it right away. You don’t have to desperately try
to contact others before you can get to work.

5. A Solitary has only her/his own power to draw on.

When working magick, a coven generates a lot of power. Working together, the
total power of the whole far exceeds the sum of the parts. The Solitary can do
no more then use the power s/he has. This is a fact and should be accepted. It
is one of the few drawbacks to being a Solitary. But this does not mean that
‘nothing’ can be done! Far from it. Many Solitaries do a great deal of excellent
work, drawing only on their own resources. A good parallel night be seen in
boat-racing or sculling, where you have teams of eight oarsmen, four, two or
single rowers. All propel their craft equally well. The only difference is the
greater speeds attained by the boats with the increased numbers of oarsmen.

6. A Solitary has only her/his own knowledge and specialty.

In a coven there is an accumulation of talents. One Witch might specialize in
healing, another in astrology, one in Herbalism, another in tarot reading. Once
might be an excellent tool-maker, another a great calligraphist; one a winemaker
and/or seamstress and another a psychic and psychometrist.

As stated, the Solitary has only her/his own knowledge available. This, then, is
another disadvantage but again, one that must be accepted. There is certainly no
reason why, as a Solitary, you should not be in touch with others (Wiccans and
non-Wiccans) who are astrologers, tarot readers, herbalists, etc. and to call
upon them for help and advice when needed. It is just that you don’t have them
readily to hand there in the Circle with you, available at all times.

7. A Solitary can change with her/his moods.

A Gardnerian coven rigidly follows the Gardnerian rites. A Welsh-Kelic coven
rigidly follows the Welsh-Keltic rites. A Dianic coven rigidly follows the
Dianic rites. This all goes without saying. Even an eclectic coven will
generally settle into rites, from whatever sources, with which it feels
comfortable and will stay with them. But the Solitary is free (freer even than
most eclectics, if only by virtue of having only her/himself to please) to do
whatever s/he likes… to experiment, to change, to adopt and adapt. S/he can do
elaborate, ceremonial rites on day and simple, plain, ingenuous rites the next.
S/he can do Gardnerian oriented rituals one time, Welsh-Kelic the next and
Dianic the next. There is tremendous freedom for the Solitary, which I urge you
to enjoy to the utmost. Experiment. Try different types and styles of rituals.
Find those that are exactly right for you.

8. A Solitary ritual can be the barest minimum of words and actions.

This follows on from (7) above. You can enjoy a true economy of ritual if you so
desire. Let me give you an example:

Erecting The Temple (Alternate)

The Witch lights the four Circle Candles from the Altar Candle and, with the
athame, “draws” the Circle, directing power into it. She then sits, or kneels,
before the altar and proceeds with a meditation on the elements:

(This should be familiarized – not necessarily word for word – so that it can be
followed through without effort)

“You are sitting in the middle of a field. There is lush green grass all about
you, with a generous scattering of bright yellow buttercups. Some distance
behind you, and continuing way off to your left, a wooded rail fence, with other
fields beyond it, stretches off to another distant fence, beyond which are more
fields leading to the foothills of the mountains which you can see in the far
distance.
A very light breeze ruffles the top of the grass and you can feel the
wind’s gentleness as it brushes your face. Crickets chirrup in the grass and,
from the trees beyond the hedgerow, you can hear the occasional song of a bird,
You feel contented, you feel at peace.
A swallow swoops down and soars low across the field not twenty feet in
front of you. He wings up and away over the trees towards the distant mountains.
A grasshopper lands on your knee, then almost immediately is gone again.
You get to your feet and stroll leisurely through the grass, parallel to
the hedgerow. Your feet are bare and the grass lightly tickles them as you move
along. You walk over to your right till you are close beside the hedge, then
advance along it. Reaching out your hand as you walk, you gently brush the
leaves; just catching them with your fingertips as you move along. There is a
slight rise in the ground ahead of you and off to the left. You leave the
hedgerow and move lightly up the hillock to stand where you can gaze about you
at all the beauty that surrounds you.
Seemingly coming all the way from the distant mountains, the breeze you
felt earlier is now more steady and you feel it on your face and arms. It gently
ruffles the tops of the grass and causes buttercups to nod their golden heads.
You stand on the hillock with your legs spread wide and slowly raise up your
arms towards the sky. As you raise them, you breathe in deeply. You hold the
breath for a moment, then gradually release it, bringing your arms back down to
shoulder level. As you release the breath you sing out the sound “Ah”……”A-a-a-a-
a-a-a-h!”
A second time the wind returns, this time blowing strongly; bending the
grass and stirring the hedgerow off to your side. It blows back your hair and
feels warm against your cheeks. For the third time you raise your arms to the
sky and cry out to the air. “A-a-a-a-a-a-a=h!” And for the third time the air
replies by sending the strong, rushing wind across the fields, bending the grass
before it and swirling up and around your body; tugging your hair back from your
face and fluttering the robes that you wear.
As the wind dies you allow your arms to fall to you sides and stand, with
head bowed, in the warmth of the sun. Breathing regularly, but deeply, you feel
the strength of the sun as it shines down upon you from out of the cloudless
blue sky. Slowly you life your face, with eyes closed, and bask in the radiance
that encompasses you. You breathe in deeply, sensing the cleansing and
purifying. AS you breathe, you feel the vitality building within you, fed by
those timeless flames.
You bring your hands up, together, to your chest, cupping them as though
holding the very orb of the sun. You continue raising them, up to your face then
on up high above your head. With palms open and upward, you spread your arms and
reach up, absorbing the sun’s rays into your body, this time through your hands
and down through your arms. Feel the energies rippling down through your body,
down through your legs, all the way to your toes. Feel the fire within you. Feel
the fire.
Now you lower your arms and, turning back towards the hedgerow, you leave
the hillock and continue on along the side of the field. As you walk you become
aware of a new sound – the sound of a running stream a tinkling of the waters
rushing over and around pebbles and small stones reaches your ears and draws you
forward. You reach the end of the hedgerow and see a small wood set back behind
it. From out between the trees runs the stream, bubbling and bustling on its way
to it knows not where. It curves out and around, to rush off and disappear from
view on the far side of the hedgerow you followed.
You drop down to your knees and reach forward a hand to feel the water. It
is cold, yet not so cold as to turn you away. The rushing water murmurs protest
at the new obstacle and bubbles around and between your fingers, eager to be on
its way. You smile and slip the other hand in beside the first. You wriggle your
fingers and rejoice in the invigorating coolness of the water. You splash your
face and feel the cold droplets trickle down your neck. It is refreshing and
energizing. You cup your hands and raise a human grail of divine essence from
the stream you bend and plunge your face into it, to celebrate a catharsis of
the flesh of the spirit. The water refreshes, cleanses and purifies. It is a
gift; a freely given pleasure. You sigh a long sigh of contentment.
Rising to your feet again, you move on along the edge of the trees until
you reach the corner of a large, ploughed field that opens out to the left. The
soil is newly turned and the scent of it heavy in the air. You walk out towards
the center of the field, breathing deeply and feeling the good clean dirt of the
earth between your toes as you walk.
When you finally reach the middle of the ploughed field, you stoop down
and sweep up two handfuls of the rich, dark brown earth. It feels good; in
communicates a kinship of nature. You feel a ‘grounding and centering’ of your
body, through your feet, into the earth. It is a sense of coming home, or
reaching that which you have long sought.
You lie down on the earth, between the furrows, eyes closed and face
towards the sky. You feel the gentle breeze blowing over you and luxuriate in
the warmth of the sun. away in the distance you can just make out the tinkling
of the stream as you absorb the energies of the earth. Your spirit soars and
rejoices. And, in so doing, you have touched all of the elements.”

You can see that the “things said” and “things done” are all in the mind. You
may well feel comfortable doing all your rites in this way, though I do urge you
to ‘at least’ cast your Circle physically.

As a preliminary to the meditation above, you might want to read up on
meditations. Also, I would suggest incorporating the breathing exercises given
in most lessons, including the imagery of the white light.

For such a guided meditation, you might like to record it on tape, ahead of
time, and then play it back to yourself in the Circle.

9. The Solitary IS one.

This can be both an advantage (chiefly so, I feel) and a disadvantage. An
example of the latter: if a Witch happens to have a very short temper and has
been badly used by someone, s/he might possibly be driven by thoughts of
revenge. S/he might be tempted to overlook the Wiccan Rede, rationalizing
her/his thoughts and feelings in some way. However, unless s/he can get all of
the other coven members, including the Priest/ess to feel the same way that s/he
does, s/he can do nothing s/he might later regret. Far more likely is that the
coven would calm her/him an bring the problem into perspective. The Solitary, on
the other hand, does not have this “safety catch”. S/he must, therefore, be
constantly on guard and always carefully and closely examine the situation
before working any magick, giving special thought to the Wiccan Rede.

But on the other side of the coin, the Solitary does not have to make any
compromises in anything s/he does. The Solitary is one with her/himself and is
automatically attuned, with no disharmony or distraction.

So the Solitary Witch is indeed a reality. Don’t let anyone tell you that,
because you don’t belong to a coven and because you were not initiated by
someone (who was initiated by someone who was in turn, initiated by someone… and
so on, ad nauseum), you are not a true Witch. Tell them to read their history
(and ask them who initiated the very first Witch?). you ARE a Witch and you are
so in the fine tradition of Witchcraft. May the Gods be with you.

Natural Baby Ritual

Preparations begin before the birth of the child:

  1. The expectant couple obtains some special wood and burns it down to ash. Traditionally, the desired wood leaves white ash, because it will make the rest of the spell easier, however this may be adapted to suit specific desires. Any traditional magick wood, such as birch, ceiba, hazel or rowan would be appropriate, too.

  2. These ashes are reserved until the birth.

  3. After  birth, the placenta is carried to a strategic area, traditionally a mountain crossroads, and placed on the ground.

  4. The ashes are sprinkled onto the placenta.

  5. The first animal to leave prints either in or with the ash is the child’s protector or represents the species.

Of course, this spell obviously derives from a rural area, with little traffic but a lot of wildlife. Adapt to your needs.

Don’t Fear The Dark: A Discussion On Cursing

Don’t Fear The Dark: A Discussion On Cursing

Author: Ravenix

I can imagine that the title of this article has already raised a few Wiccan eyebrows, so before I launch into the discussion proper, let me say this to them: Don’t worry. I’m not flaming you. I’m not going to ridicule your beliefs, and to do so would be hypocritical, as I myself devoted several years of my life to Wicca. It’s a good, sound, well-structured system, with a wonderful sense of community and empowerment.

So don’t panic.

If you want to follow the Wiccan Rede, great! It’s an admirable ethic. But it’s not for me anymore. Yes, I have cursed, yes, I do curse, yes, I will probably curse again. But don’t run away just yet; hear me out, and bear what I’m saying in mind.

In Neopaganism, there has been something of a shying away from the ‘dark side’ of spirituality; there is a great emphasis on being ‘nice’, on focusing only on the ‘good’ and ‘light’ side of things. Yet in comparison, our ancestors before us cursed each other like there was no tomorrow. To this day, archaeological digs uncover smashed clay portraits, bottles of punctured animal organs and other such wonderfully wicked hexes (just type ‘curse’ into the Boscastle Museum Of Witchcraft’s database search and you’ll soon see what I mean) . If you mention these items to a Neopagan, they’ll be likely to change the subject sharpish, or blame it on the witch hunters of old.

Everywhere you look, the Law of Threefold Return is drilled into you, as well as other such warnings and cautions about the ‘dangers’ of cursing. Terms such as ‘white’ and ‘black’ magick don’t exactly help. But is cursing as horrid and malicious an act as it is made out to be? Do we have to sacrifice this art completely to be spiritually ‘good’?

As a Wiccan, I always found that the Wiccan Rede was a hard act to follow; the Rede stated that, as a Wiccan, I could not harm anyone, in any circumstance, ever. The questions that came to me were these; what if they harmed me first? Doesn’t that entitle me to some kind of counter? Moreover, what if they deserved it? Then again, who’s to decide?

If we look at Western Heathenism as a whole, there is very little evidence that an idea like the Law of Threefold Return existed before the 1950’s, and it is in fact derived from Eastern spiritualism. Traditional Cornish Witchcraft, perhaps the only Traditional form that has truly thrived in the British Isles, makes great use of cursing.

Have any of these witches, or any of our ancestors, been made to pay for their actions?

Historically, only by the witch hunters. There are no reports that I know of relating to Traditional Witches being punished by the Gods for cursing in itself. Of course that’s not to say that cursing doesn’t require a certain degree of caution- indeed all spellcraft does.

My partner, for example, performed a curse on a group of people that had refused to act when his friend was date-raped at her own birthday party; he consequently suffered from minor blackouts for months afterwards. This, you might say, is proof enough of celestial punishment. However I propose a slightly different view.

Keep in mind that anger and hatred are incredibly violent emotions; they could be argued to be more ‘powerful’ than happiness and calm due to their speed, severity, and unpredictability. Compare how exhausted you are after laughing for five minutes, and after shouting and screaming in rage for the same amount of time. You would probably agree that the latter leaves you feeling much more empty and drained. Also think of the amount of times you’ve flown off the handle for trivial things. This is what makes cursing so risky: the power behind these negative emotions, and their tendency to amplify far beyond what is fitting to their cause.

Basically, if you wish death on someone for stealing your car, the Gods probably will turn around and admonish you for being harsh. On the other hand, if someone hurts your family and you want payback, the anger and hate you unleash in that spell will burst out of you far more readily than a healing spell. In all cursing, then, moderation of your emotions and a good deal of consideration beforehand are key; I believe that my partner’s blackouts occurred because he either wore himself out completely from the spell’s severity, or the Gods deemed him too severe and made him pay accordingly- but they weren’t admonishing him for cursing in itself.

In particular, the idea of your family being hurt is one that does not sit well with the Rede. What if someone did willingly hurt your family? Would you sit and wait for the Gods to avenge you?

This view is one that I imagine the Gods find slightly arrogant; they’re not there to hold your hand, and they don’t heal your friends for you- you have to do most of that yourself, even if you do ask for help, so why isn’t cursing the same?

Or, would you turn the other cheek, letting the instigator get away with their cruelty?

Now I’ve never been the most forgiving person, and I don’t see why I can’t give back what I get from people who wish to hurt me and mine. The trick is to cast a curse that is equivalent to the harm done; something that is very hard to do when the human condition makes us bloodthirsty for revenge of the worst kind.

I would definitely say that cursing is harder than well-wishing, as it requires more control; it also requires you to make contact with a part of yourself that you may not like. This I think is why many Wiccans and Neopagans turn away from it, to the point of fearing it; they refuse to accept the ugly side of their nature, as do most people. This is understandable, but it’s also an imbalanced way of life to me; it’s a sad truth that the world is both beautiful and terrible, and I believe that true balance comes if your spirituality reflects that.

Curses are nothing to fear (unless you’re on the receiving end of course!) , and they can be quite trivial; I performed a curse on a flea infestation in my house a few months ago, with the help of Tiw, and I haven’t had trouble since.

All in all, pins in poppets and mutilated animal organs are extreme examples of what is, really, just another form of spellcraft; if you look past the hype and fight your fear, you’ll find that curses aren’t as terrible as they’re made out to be. Remember that the more severe curses are a last resort; like everything else, you must think twice and use caution.

And like all spells, curses are just a means to an end, usually getting rid of something undesirable when there’s no other way of doing so.

Of course I can’t convince you to agree, and if you’re still dead against cursing, so be it; you’re welcome to your views. But at least consider what I’ve said, and try not to be afraid of something that is, at its heart, an integral part of the Traditional Craft.

 



Footnotes:
http://www.museumofwitchcraft.com