Category Archives: Afterlife
The book The Spiral Dance is considered a classic in modern witchcraft literature. The author Starhawk put this book out at a time when there was little to no information published publicly on Witchcraft and people were starving for information. In the 35 years since the original release of The Spiral Dance many more books have been put on the market, but the Spiral Dance remains on the top of many recommended reading lists.
The one down side to this book is that it does focus heavily on the feminist movement and feminism. At the time the book was written the author was heavily involved in the feminist movement and feminist spirituality, so it makes sense that this book would reflect those interests and activities. This book is one of the reasons that religious witchcraft is considered to be “women’s religion”. The theme and focus throughout the book is the use of witchcraft and Goddess spirituality to reclaim women’s rights and women’s power.
The subtext to the title “The Spiral Dance” reads :”A rebirth of the ancient religion of the Great Goddess”. The text is a very apt description for the information that you find within the book. When you combine the focus on the Great Goddess with the feminist movement at the time you have a book that covers feminist witchcraft and feminist spirituality and why its important for the world we live in.
Now Starhawk does talk about why feminist spirituality like the Goddess movement is important to men and what Men can get out of the practice of witchcraft. So while the book is geared towards women and feminist spirituality, there are benefits described for Men and practices of Male witches discussed. The overall tone though is geared towards women and women’s mysteries.
This book is 13 chapters long. Each chapter has a specific lesson that expands on the information in the previous chapter. Within several of the chapters are easy to do exercises and meditations. These meditations and exercises are provided so that a solitary witch or someone seeking witchcraft can learn practices that will allow them to become witches in their own right.
Each chapter starts out with a ritual or a description of the practices found within the chapter to illustrate the lessons and information found within the chapter. Some of these stories are fictional and some of them are from experiences within the authors own coven settings. These personal experience illustrations form some of the most powerful aspects of the book allowing the reader to see what sort of experiences they may have in their own work while not telling them explicitly that these will be your experiences as well.
The first chapter completely discusses witchcraft as a Goddess focused religion. Here is where we first learn the concept of a Great Goddess and of feminist spirituality. The author also goes into the history of witchcraft and what exactly witchcraft is as a religion and a practice. Its a basic starting point illustrating the misconceptions and issues many people have with witchcraft.
The second chapter goes into the worldview of witchcraft. Every religion has a way of viewing the world. Here we re provided with a creation myth for the birth of the God and Goddess within this version of witchcraft as well as the essence of the Great Goddess. Here we are given the concept of the soul/spirit as well as the concepts of energy working and the view on the cosmos.
The third chapter talks about covens. Here we learn about the common structure of religious witchcraft and the way that this structure functions. The author illustrates both same sex covens as well as mixed gender covens and why coven structures work. The comparisson between covens and traditional religious structures provide ways for seekers and students to understand the functional differences between a church and a coven.
The fourth chapter discusses sacred space. One key component in witchcraft rituals is the creation of sacred space. This chapter provides several different ways of working this ritual as well as reasons behind the creation of sacred space.
The fifth chapter is all about the Goddess. This religious witchcraft tradition is Duotheistic meaning it focuses on the worship of a Goddess and a God. In this chapter we are introduced to the Goddess and her roles within the religion. We learn how to call her and how both men and women can relate to her.
The sixth chapter is all about the God. While the Goddess is the focus in the feminist version of witchcraft that the Spiral Dance teaches, the God is still important. This chapter illustrates the relationship between the Goddess and God and how they need each other and work together to be one.
The seventh chapter is all about the use of symbols within magic. Magic works through the use of symbols and directing energy related to those symbols. This chapter in the book has several different spells to try as well as exercises to develop your own understanding of symbols and your own association with symbols.
The eighth chapter is all about the Cone of power. This particular chapter focuses on Coven based workings, but the concepts of raising and directing energy in the shape of a cone is applicable to the solitary student. Here we understand what it means in witchcraft when the concept of energy direction and manipulation is discussed.
The ninth chapter is about trance work. The basic definition of magic given early in the book is the idea and the ability to change ones concious state at will. This chapter explores the use of trance and the reason why trance work is part of witchcraft. Basic meditation and trance concepts are addressed here and there are several different exercises within the chapter for trance work and meditation work.
The tenth chapter of the book focuses on initiation. Solitary witches who read this book will not get as much out of this chapter as a witch who is working for initiation within a coven or specific tradition. This chapter describes what it means to be initiated and provides a coven based initiation ritual as a sample.
The eleventh chapter in the book focuses on esbats or moon based rituals. Within witchcraft the moon is sacred and is revered as a symbol of the Goddess. Moon rituals are typically in many cases working rituals while sabbat rituals are more worship based. Moon rituals can be based on the full or new moons or other moon phases, though full and new are the most common.
The twelfth chapter in the book focuses on the wheel of the year or the sabbats and holiday celebrations of this tradition of witchcraft. Here the author provides sample rituals for ideas as to how to honor the sabbats as well as providing information on the lore and meanings behind the sabbats.
The final chapter of this book is focused on developing religion. Here the author explains the issues that can arrive when religions become based on dogma and established practices and don’t change. The author explains what exactly witchcraft as a religion is and how it has to continue to change and evolve in this modern world. Here we learn the dangers of thinking in strict absolute terms as well as in dualistic terms.
Despite the age, this book is useful. Its a good book for establishing witchcraft as a religion and explaining why religious witchcraft is so different than traditional religions. The book covers the basics and provides enough information that a solitary seeker man or women can start their own practice and create their own relationship with the God, Goddess, and the Great Goddess.
What are the basics of any path and why they are important
Today we are going to talk about an important topic. Today we are going to discuss what it is when they mean “tell me about the basics of X religion or X path” This is a question that many seekers often ask in forums and on mailing lists. In some ways this question seems obvious to answer, but it also at times seems to represent a lack of previous research. The lack of previous research is not necessarily a bad thing as at this point in the seekers stage they may be looking for bare bones information from which to refine their search for their path. This is why it can be important to look at some 101 books before you read to much lore on a specific culture.
What the basics include
The basics of any religion or spiritual path are easy to outline. While not every path has every belief or idea I am going to outline, the idea and concepts behind these basics are found in enough spiritual paths across the world that they can be considered what the basics would be. Basics of a religion include the pantheon or pantheons involved in that particular path (this covers the basic mythology of the path), the style and types of rituals involved and a rough idea of what ritual entails, views on the afterlife and the soul, views on spirits and spirit realms, holidays, and ethics. Each of these basic components provide excellent insight into what each religion essentially believes in and what may be involved in being a part of that particular path.
As I cover the basics of what religions and spiritual paths include I am going to use a few different pagan paths as examples. Most of the references in this post are going to come from either Germanic paganism, Witchcraft (many different forms), or Hellenic Paganism as these are the paths I have the most experiences with. However in general use the examples as an idea for what you may encounter with the paths that you are looking to explore and study. These examples are going to illustrate why these aspects of a religion are important to understand for those paths and why they form the basics.
Pantheon, Pantheons and Spirits
Every religion and spiritual path out there has a unique set of spirits and spirit beings that they work with. These beings do not need to be Gods or even called Gods. They can just be a set of spiritual entities which are worked with for spiritual development. The establishment of which beings are in which path helps a seeker to know which myths are going to be the source for knowledge on the Gods.
It also gives the seeker a culture to research and in some cases a specific name for a path to follow. For example if you know you want to work with the gods from Shintoism you would be following a Japanese pantheon and set of spirits. If that was our path you would now also want to do research on the culture and the history of the Japanese people. You may even want to learn some of the language.
Style and Type of ritual
Different cultures and religions had different rituals. The rituals in Asatru (A Norse/Germanic Paganism recon pagan path) are not the same type of rituals you will encounter in Wicca. The rituals in Wicca are different than the rituals in a Kemetic (Egyptian style of paganism). The rituals in each culture and path are a reflection of the ways that humans and Gods interacted in those cultures. By understanding the basic outlines of different types of rituals you can understand a bit more about the cultures that religion and ritual style is dedicated to.
In Wicca and many forms of religious witchcraft the rituals involve typically a circle being cast. That circle creates a sacred space. The elemental forces are called. The God and Goddess are invoked. Here we have the workings either magical or sabbat related. There is an offering given to the Gods. The Gods are released from the circle and the other elemental forces are released. The circle is taken up and the ritual is over followed by a feast or grounding with food.
This ritual outline there gives a seeker an idea of what exactly will happen during a worship service and ritual. This information gives a person a vague idea of what they will need to do if they seek to follow that specific path. This is useful information because if a person doesn’t like the basic outlines of rituals in a path then that path may not be for them, or they may need to study further to see if there are other ways that they can adapt rituals. It is a starting point for ritual work concepts any way.
Views on the soul and the afterlife
Many religions have views of some sort on the soul and the afterlife. For many people their belief in the afterlife and the soul is a large defining aspect of their path. So in many paths this is a basic concept. Many people will choose spiritual paths which reflect how they personally feel about their beliefs in the spirit and the soul.
Christianity for example does believe in a soul and in an afterlife. The specific views on the soul and the afterlife play a large role in the beliefs and works of this religion and as such it forms a good example of why the view on the soul and the afterlife are basic components of a religion and or spiritual path.
Spirits and Spiritual Realms or Spirits and Cosmology
Different paths have different spirits that they work with and believe in. In some of these paths there are many different realms where different beings and spirits exist. One of these realms is typically the realm where the Gods live and at least one other realm aside from the physical world is the world of the dead. Other paths like Asatru teach that there are many different realms with different spirits that live in those worlds. For example in Asatru there are nine different realms. These realms are Asgard, Vanaheim, Jotenhiem, Midgard, Muspelheim, Swarvelheim, Alfheim ,Helheim, and Nifelheim.
Here is a meme depicting the cosmology of Germanic and Norse Paganism.
Each of those realms have a few specific type of beings that live in them. Asgard is the realm of the Gods in Norse Myth. Here Odin lives. Helheim is the realm of the dead. Jotenheim is the realm of the Giants. Vanaheim is where the Vanir live. Alfheim is the realm of the light elves. Swartvelheim is the realm of the dark elves or dwarves. Midgard is earth. Nifelehim and Muspelheim are realms of fire and ice.
In Norse religion understanding how these realms interact and how they work together is a part of the basics. Here you have seen the realms that are involved in this cosmology and you have been introduced to the concept of a few of the spiritual beings that are encountered in the Norse/Germanic Myths.
Holidays and special occasions
One of the main things people think about in religions are the holidays. What are the sacred and special days of the Gods and spirits of this path. These holidays provide times for worshiping and or strengthening relationships with the Gods and spirits. Some times holidays provide further ways to examine the lore and engage in cultural activities that were specific to that holiday and that time of year.
Some cultures have massive holiday schedules. The Hellenic holiday calender is very complex and long. Those who seek to practice Greek Paganism often have a long list of holidays to choose from. Each of the holidays had a specific reason for being there and some of them were specific to certain Gods and cults. The major holiday in Hellenic paganism that most look into the the festival surrounding the Elysian Mysteries.
With pagans who have complex festival cycles and associations they can often choose which ones to follow. Typically you find the holidays that were the most important to the Gods that you are worshiping in that culture. For example those who are close to Dionysus, Demeter, and Persephone would definitely be doing something for the festival of the Elysian mysteries while a Greek Pagan dedicated more to Pan would find festivals for Pan.
This illustrates the key point I wanted to make with the holidays. There is a major misconception that all pagan paths follow the 8 sabbats or the wheel of the year as it is known and seen in Wicca and Wicca flavored Pagan paths. Asatru does not have the 8 sabbats. There are 4 of them but not all 8. Hellenismos has lots of festivals. Other religions have only one or two that are key components.
Ethics and Morals
Every path out there seeks to teach the idea of what is right and what is wrong. Many spiritual paths form the basis for how we as individual treat each other. Some paths have been so influential on cultures that the ethical considerations of that religion have formed the basics of how that culture interacts with people. Basically ethics influence how we act as a person and how we act in society to other people and with other people.
The rede is the basic ethical outline considerations for Wiccan styled pagan paths. The idea is that you basically do what ever you want so long as you harm none. The rede even states: “an it harm none do what ye will”. This is the way many witches who follow Wicca inspired paths live their lives. Other witches follow different ethical considerations that are more informative.
Some paths don’t call their ethical or moral codes ethical and moral codes. Some paths call them virtues. The Germanic paths idea of how you should live life has a set of what they call the nine nobel virtues. These virtues outline personal behavior as well as different types of actions that can be found.
Here is another meme that lists the nine noble virtues:
By knowing the ethical standards of a path a person can get an idea of what sort of lifestyle they can have. The idea of the morals and ethics are the ideas behind how the Gods want their followers to behave. Often times these ideas include day to day life as well as during conflicts and social settings. The ideas in the ethics are what that path considers to be a good person and living a good life.
This entry here has given you an idea of what the basics of any particular faith are. The examples given come from some of the most popular pagan and spiritual paths. Its important to understand what the basics of a religion or magical path is before you start to get to deep into studies. The basics of the paths provide everything you need to know to understand the beliefs and practices of that particular path and practice. If you understand the basic concepts before you step too deeply in the path, you can have an understanding on if those beliefs and concepts resonate with your personal beliefs and concepts.
Once you understand the basics of a path you can then start to take your studies deeper. With Norse paganism you can start to spend time to study and experience the various realms. You can look at other practices including magical traditions in the Norse belief systems. You can find ways to look at the basics and become deeper involved with them. Once you know the basics its all building from there.
Though a true seeker knows that revisiting the basics is at time a good thing to do. It strengthens foundations and deepens experiences with more advanced concepts and practices within the belief system you have chosen to follow. Once you know the basics you can start to also go off and create your personal understandings and developments spiritually. The basics give us a strong base from which to grow our understandings of that universe.
What I believe
Since this blog is entirely about my own personal path and how it has been developing I think its about time I actually discussed what some of my beliefs are. One thing about my beliefs is that while I do have core beliefs how I understand that has been known to change and evolve. This is a good thing. When my understanding of my beliefs change or how I apply my beliefs changes it means I have grown and developed quite a bit spiritually.
The whole idea with spirituality for me is to develop my sense of connection to the universe and to my Gods. As my experiences change in the world around me and as I learn new things I may change my beliefs. I don’t believe in having solid and steady unchanging beliefs. For me to have an unchanging or to be unwilling to change beliefs and practices when given different experiences means that I am not willing to grow as a person. In nature that which does not grow or change dies. The same thing can happen to a persons spirituality. If they are not open to new experiences and developments they will not grow spiritually and their spirituality and personal spirit can die.
Now that I have explained some of that background information I can actually start to tell you a bit about my personal beliefs. As it has been mentioned before this blog serves mostly as a place for me to sort out information and concepts for my personal path and practices. This blog also serves as a way for me to try and form a cohesive path pieced together out of many different fragments and forms to be one united path.
So where should I start? I guess I will start with my belief in the divine. This is actually one of the simplest and most basic beliefs that I have. It has evolved out of study and reading of multiple sacred texts and mythologies. This belief has also developed out of my personal study of folklore and fairy tales as well as personal experiences in the spirit worlds and in worship with many different Gods,
I personally would call myself an omnitheist. I will get into that in a different post later as omnitheism is one of the core tenants in this path I am developing. Omnitheism is essentially the belief in all deities. I do not need to know about or experience and have personal relationships with all deities to believe in them. In holding this belief I can respect every path on the planet equally as all of the Gods worshiped are equally valid in my view. I have had personal experiences with to many different God personalities to say that some Gods exist and others don’t. So I believe that they are all real.
I think the next thing I will touch on is cosmology. My cosmology is complex and simple. I believe in many other worlds. I believe that because of all the Gods all the different heavens exist as do all the different underworlds. I believe that they are all separate realms within a basic three realm paradigm. All the realms of the Gods are in the upper worlds and heavens. All of the underworlds or lands of the dead are in one location with this reality or earth in the middle.
That is the basics. This is where it gets a little more complicated. I also believe in realms for individual spirit types. I believe there is a realm for all fire spirits and all water spirits you get the idea. I also believe in realms of the elements. I also believe in a realm where all form of Dragons live and exist. I believe in a realm and world of the elves as well as the dwarves and other spirits. I believe that these worlds exist here along side this world in ways that we can’t really see and experience.
I also hold the nine worlds in Germanic mythology as part of my paradigm. So it holds that else where in the cosmos the realms and the worlds of the other spiritual paths and Gods would be there as well. I have not experienced all of them but I can see them all being there. They are all tied together through the web of human experience which will bring me to my next belief and concept.
I believe in Fate. Fate is the web of reality. Fate is the universe. Fate is all of us interacting together in a way we can not all understand. Fate is the way that we are all interconnected and related on a spiritual and universal level. Fate is everything around us, all that we see hear and experience and all that exists on the other side of the world at the same time unseen and essentially unknown to us.
Fate is that which must happen based on that which has gone before. Fate is a combination of events that work together to create what which we know and see as the world we live in. Fate is also how the unseen worlds and the unseen forces in the universe work for us and against us. Fate is cause and effect. Fate is basically all options at any time but only that which fits according to the patterns woven in our lives will come out to pass.
I will say more on fate at a later date. For now we are a part of fate and fate is reality. This forms a large part of my world view and the view of reality around me. It also plays a little into my belief and understanding on what magic is. Though part of my belief in fate and my belief in the many underworlds and afterlife is a belief in the soul.
I believe in a soul. I also believe in an afterlife. My belief in the soul plays a role in my belief in the afterlife and in the other worlds. My belief in the soul is one of the core beliefs I am setting for this tradition. I believe that the soul is actually not just one thing but a combination of five different spiritual forces that work together to form an individual life. I believe that in essence the soul is eternal but it also changes forms and has different parts. Each part has a different role. Because the belief in the soul is complex I am going to leave it at this: I believe in a soul that is the force of life that allows us to live and have experiences. It is what makes a person or being alive.
I believe in spiritual realms for different spirits. So I believe in many different spirits. I believe that all animals have a spirit inside of them or an individual soul. I also believe that there is a spirit ruling over all domestic dogs for example and the like. I also believe that each individual species of plants have their guardian spirit of that plant species as well as individual souls. I even believe that stones and crystals also have a ruling spirit and an individual spirit.
I also believe in Genis Loci or the spirits of places. I believe that mountains have their own spirits. I believe that ponds have their own spirits. I even believe that small ponds can also have many spirits in the area like mountain spirits, broke spirits, as well as the spirits of all the plants and animals in the area. I believe homes posses individual spirits. I also believe that the land our homes our build on also have individual spirit forces.
I believe in magic. Magic I believe is a practice, a force, a skill, and a craft. I believe that magic is the energy we use to cause changes in this world. I also believe that magic is the force that causes change in this universe. I believe magic is the force of change and creation. Its a force for creation and destruction. Magic is a force for life and for spiritual gain as well as daily gain. Magic is also a mystery and a tool by which we can access the mysteries of the universe.
I also believe in psychic abilities. I believe that we can sense and see spirits. I believe that people can sense and see spiritual energy and personal energetic fields known as auras. I also believe that we can contact guardian spirits and receive information from them. I believe that we can also tap into some higher selves and spirit forms and use tools like tarot cards, runes, shells, bones, and other objects to tell or gain insight into the future.
I believe that we all have these psychic abilities. I do believe that we need to learn how to train them and work with them though. I believe that psychic abilities like these provide us all with excellent ways to understand the world around us. It is also through our psychic abilities and practices that we can experience spirits, Gods, and travel to the other worlds. So I believe that learning what our specific psychic senses are strongest and working with them to be developed is essential to spiritual development.
I believe in spirit world travels. I believe that we can travel in spirit to the other worlds. I believe that these travels help us understand and experience the mysteries of the universe. These travels give me insight into the different types of spirits out there and how they may work. Its how I meet spirit guides and how I have experienced some Gods and the spirit realms. Astral travel and shamanic journeys are central tools to this practice.
So there you have it. You have some of the basic beliefs that I hold. As I said some of the beliefs I hold are very complex and could use more attention than warranted in this one post about the basic beliefs I have. Those beliefs like the ones on the cosmology, fate, and the soul are going to be written about in more length as time continues. For now you at least know where my basic beliefs are.
As always if you have any questions for me about my beliefs or anything I post or say here please let me know. I will answer them to the best of my ability.
Asking and Answering Questions
Why we ask questions of ourselves
The process of seeking spirituality is a difficult one. There are a lot of questions that come up as you being to question your path and your beliefs. Many people when they leave their previous belief systems don’t really understand what they are looking for. They may feel something missing but be unsure of what it is exactly they need. During this period its good to read anything you get your hands on. You should read basically any material regarding religions and spirituality you are drawn to. There may be something in those sources that fits what you are looking for, or it could provide you with more confusion.
When you begin seeking a path there is often more information out there than you can handle at once. There are so many texts and websites all offering different insights on how to start and where to begin the practice. They all offer different insight into the lore and the belief systems of various religions and paths. Its too much to take in and can cause confusion and ultimately frustration. Don’t worry. There is something you can do to fight this problem.
So before you throw out all your books on the different topics out of frustration, before you find yourself hopelessly lost in the sea of information you should ask yourself some questions. Wait? Ask myself questions? You got it. Ask yourself-your higher self (spirit guide, soul, how ever you want to see the part of you that is connected to the divine and exists in the spirit worlds) to answer some questions. Your spirit will answer. Even if the answer is not exactly specific pr uncertain you will at least have a place to start.
OK so I get asking questions now. So what are these questions? These questions are questions that will help you find the path you are looking for. They will shed light on what you personally believe. You may think you know what you believe but have you ever really asked yourself what you believe? Many haven’t considered their position on many beliefs out there that you might not find in traditional religions or spiritual paths.
Asking the questions
So here are the questions. There is one big overall question with some smaller questions for each section. This is to make you really think about all aspects of the questions. They may seem simple but these are deep questions that you need to think about. As you write down these questions create a journal and write your answers down. You may want to focus on one question or question set at a time.
1: What is your belief in deity?
Do you believe in multiple Gods or just one God? Do you think that one God can manifest in different forms? Do you believe that the multiple Gods are all different individuals? Do you believe that the divine exists in everything and everything is part of the divine?
2: What do you believe in regards to spirits?
Do you believe that all things contain spirit (animals, plants, rocks, trees, rivers, oceans, mountains, etc)? Do you believe in different types of spirits (Dragons, Fairies, Elves, Dryads, Nymphs, etc)? Do you believe in angels and or demons? What are the relationships these spirits have with humans? With the divine? Do you believe in spirit guides?
3: What is your belief in the soul?
Do you believe in a soul? Do you believe in an eternal soul or does the soul die/change after death? Does the soul have multiple parts (like a mind, the spirit guide, etc) or is it one thing? How does the mind relate to the soul? The body? Is the spirit and the soul the same thing?
4: What is your belief in death and the afterlife?
Do you believe in reincarnation? Do you believe in heaven? Hell? Do you think that there is a place where we go after we die till we are reborn or till our memory fades away? Do you believe in multiple afterlives and multiple realms of the dead?
5: What is your belief in magic?
Do you believe in magic? What is magic to you? Is it something you want to use in spirituality? Is it something you want to be a part of your religion? Are you looking to use magic for more practical means? Do you think prayers are spells and magic?
6: Religion or spirituality?
What does religion mean to me? What does spirituality mean to me? Do I need one to have the other? What do I want out of religion? What do I want out of spirituality?
Answering the questions
I just gave you a lot of questions to answer and think about. I don’t expect the answers to come to you easily. The idea is that you will think about these questions. You might be wondering how do I answer these questions? I can’t really answer that. You have to find the answers yourself. I can show you how I answered these questions myself, and continue to answer them myself.
I have a journal that I have used to write down these questions and the answers I have come up with. I have one page that lists all of the questions. I start with the first question I asked. I center myself through breath and focus. I call to my higher self and spirit asking that they provide me with the direction to go in. I then focus on the question and just start writing down my thoughts related to the question.
Don’t limit yourself. Write down all the thoughts that come into your mind when you think about the question. Don’t worry if there are questions you think of when you answer it. Write them down as part of your response. This the gives you something to work with. When you feel that you can’t say any more on the subject you have channeled all the answers you will have for the time being in regards to that question.
Write down your experiences with any of these things. If you have experienced the divine write about that in the questions about the divine. Write about spirit encounters under spirit beliefs. Experiences often say more than beliefs. If experience something you don’t necessarily need to believe in it as you have first hand knowledge and experience of it. If the experiences made you question something or want to know more about something write that in. Most pagan and spiritual paths are mystery and experience based. That is why including personal experiences with these entries is important.
What if I can’t think of anything to write? What if my answer is I don’t know? Then you start with that. Just keep working the pencil. As you repeat “I can’t think of anything to write” you will eventually find some thoughts coming into the page. If you keep repeating I don’t know eventually you will have a few thoughts or ideas filter into the writing. This is your answer. Your starting point.
Once you have answered a question give yourself a day before going on to the next question. Do not underestimate the amount of spiritual energy and mental energy used when writing these answer and thinking about these questions. You do not want to overwhelm yourself when you first begin seeking. The more time you spend writing about and thinking about spiritual concepts, practices, and the like the more comfortable and aware you will become of the energy used around you.
Using the information
Once you have answered the questions you have asked yourself give yourself a day or two before reading them. This will give your mind and your soul a little rest. You have been asking and looking deep at big questions. A day or two to wait before reading your reflections and thoughts is not a bad thing. You have given yourself a lot of information from deep down and processing it will take time,
So where do you go from here? The next thing you need to do is look at each question group specifically. Start with the deity question. If you found answers along the lines of multiple deities than you have an idea that looking at pantheons may be a good place to start. From here you can then think about any cultures you feel drawn to and start with those myths and god concepts. Then you look at the spirit question. If you already have a pantheon look within other myths and fairy tales or folklore to learn about the spirits in that culture. If you don’t have a pantheon or god concept to start with then looking into shamanic practices is a starting point. I think you see where I am going with this.
The idea is that by answering the questions you can find cultures and spiritual paths that deal specifically with those beliefs and concepts. You may find several different paths that hold similar beliefs. At this point you will be able to read and look at them all. Now is the time to write down as you read what you agree with in a path and what you don’t agree with. You’ll already have an idea of your own beliefs. So finding where you fit in is easier.
The journal you started with answering these questions is going to serve as your spiritual development journal. This is where you will continue to write down questions you have. You will write down what you agree with in certain paths, what you don’t agree with and the things you are not sure about.
As you continue you will find more questions and more answers. You may find that when you review your original answers you have questions there to explore. You may have found the answers to those questions. If you do write a page about that question, when you asked it, and when or where you found the answer in your journal. There will probably be some repetitive entries, but that’s ok. It is your journey and it is going to be unique to you and you alone.
Samhain and Hallowmas:
The Holy Week:
Death and Rebirth in the cycle becomes complete
Part 1: The Spiritual Aspects and implications
I write this as Samhain and Hallowmas come to a close. The festivals of the dead and the transition from the lords of the land to the lords of the underworld completes the transition. I figured that as part of my job to help seekers on their search for questions I should provide some insight as to exactly what this sabbat is about and why people celebrate the sabbat in the ways that they do. Like everything else there are many ways to explain and experience the mysteries of these sabbats and not every ones view will agree with yours or even make sense to you. All I can do is provide my own insight based on my personal experiences and sources.
As I have started to develop my own personal theology this sabbat has come have a different meaning to me than other people might have. That is why in my own practice I call the holiday I celebrate Mortedon. However since most people are familiar with the names Samhain, Halloween, All Hallows Eve, and All Saints Day that is what I will use here.
According to many sources this time of year could easily be considered the witches new year. The God is officially dead and in the underworld. He wont be born again until the Winter solstice and as such he is dead and in the underworld. This is the time to transit between one working season and the other. It is a time of completion and reflection that may bring about the planning ad start of the new planting season for the next harvest.
In many ways the major difference between those who call themselves Traditional witches and those who consider themselves Wiccan is that the majority of the rituals in traditional witchcraft deal with ancestral veneration and ancestors as divine while the rituals found within Wicca focus on the God and Goddess or Lord and Lady rather than the ancestors. This is alright. Not every one is meant to worship and venerate the ancestors. Anthropologically it has been said that ancestral worship was the first form of worship, which is why for me it has become a source of my foundation.
I actually appreciate these different theological styles. There is one holiday in which they both meet and they both share the same view. It is viewed by both paradigms (Wicca and Traditional Witchcraft) as a day to honor both the dead and the ancestors as well as the God and Goddess. It is also an acknowledgement by both sides that the season of reflection is upon us. It is now that we must spend our time upon reflection and preparation for the new year and seasons.
Samhain, All souls Day, All Saints Day, Ancestor Night…all of these are names for essentially the same festival. This festival is an acknowledgment of every one who has gone before us. It is also an acknowledgement that there is life after death. It is here we can really see how even though the people we love and cherish may have passed on from this life, they really are still near by and watching us.
In many ways this is the time of year where the festivals a person honors and celebrates explains at least in part what their view of the afterlife is. For some people who believe in reincarnation this is also a time to connect with any of their past lives so that lessons they have to impart may be gives. This is the second festival where the veil between the worlds of the living and dead as well as spirit worlds is lowest. That is why contact with spiritual allies at this time of year.
Part Two: The Theology and Mythology of the Sabbat
Folkore and myth united
This is according to many sources the last sabbat of the year. For many witches the year starts at Yule and ends at Samhain and begins at Yule. In reality there is no real start or finish to a cycle. Cycles are circles and will always come back to a point and start again. This is how the world and the universe exist. Everything in the universe will be used again in the universe at some point in time. Every thing physical you see on this planet is made of of a star that existed eons before we were born:
Theologically, spiritually, and mentally it makes sense that the world as we know it would work in cycles. The physics at work in the universe simply provide a non-disputed example of how reincarnation exists. Here at Hallowmass and Samhaintide we are really able to see and understand how death and destruction/decay are essential to the growth and development of future lives and crops.
According to the Cycle of the Year and the 8 sabbats within Wicca and Eclectic witchcraft Samhain is when the God is dead. He was sacrificed at Mabon to ensure the fertile grounds of the next harvest. At one point in history it was believed that the king was sacrificed to bring life to the land for the next year. This was symbolic of the God’s death for the fertility of the land. Latter corn dollies were sacrificed instead of a human.
Blood was and still is the essential life force. If a creature is alive it bleeds. By the God sacrificing himself his blood (his life force) goes into the land giving life to the land. He knows that he will be reborn in his son in the end of winter and he will from the underworld guide and symbolize his son’s birth and his return by the return of the sun’s light starting at the Winter solstice (Yule).
It was believed that once a person died their body became the land. The blood of the sacrificed victim nourished the spirits of the land for the winter and would gain their favor for the spring.At Samhain the ancestors and other spirits from the land of the dead returned to give their blessings for the following year to their descendants.
The God at this time was in the Underworld understanding and being reborn. At Beltaine he had impregnated the Lady, his lover and wife, who would bear the child of promise who would carry and light the way for the Lord to be reborn at Yule (the light returning slowly) with his actual birth at Imbolc. The rest of the sabbats continue along this line. So in some ways Samhain is both the start and the finish.
The knowledge that there is life after death and life in death is symbolized no better than with ever greens (one of the reasons why those trees are decorated at Christmas). It’s also one of the reasons I feel that the hope to get through the winter for the spring exists. To see something that is alive and producing chlorophyll in the winter while the rest of the trees are inherently dead proves that there is life in death. It is one of the reasons I can see that death allows for the continuation of life.
With these thoughts in mind it is time to get to:
Part 3: A sample ritual
Ways that honoring the ancestors can be done
Now that it has been established why honoring the ancestors is so important I can start to give you some ideas as to how you as a seeker or as an active Pagan could honor your ancestors and the Gods and celebrate this sabbat and simply begin or further expand your understanding of this sabbat. For myself I gained even deeper insight into the mysteries this Samhain. As I post this the gates start to begin closing and the path seems to close, yet the creepy and spooky nature that is Samhaintide and Hallowsmass remains, the time to honor the ancestors comes to a close.
I have had a week to reflect on what I wanted to write for this entry and I have finally come to the last part of the entry where I can really start to explain how one can go about celebrating this sabbat. For many years as a seeker I was honestly unsure of what to do with my offerings for any sabbat. Samhain was another one that left me confused, so now I feel it it is time to give some sort of explanation as to how you can give your offerings to the Gods and the ancestors.
So here is a very simple ritual:
Ancestral Ritual For Samhain:
Apple or Pomegranete Juice/alcohol
Red Apples or Pomegranete fruit & Seeds
As you pour your drink concentrate and think of your ancestors and the Gods and the land. Focus intently and place this light into the food and drink blessing it in the names of the spirits, the ancestors, and the Gods. You then pour two drinks one for the Spirits, ancestors and Gods and one for your self.
As you take your drink say a prayer for what you are thankful and towards any ancestors you wish to contact and communicate with. Take a moment and think of them. Then get into your trance position. For this it may be best of you lie facing down with your hands working as a head rest head in a comfortable position. After you get into position think and state to your self:
“I Vibrate in harmony with the Underworld and the Gods of the Underworld”.
Repeat this statement over and over until you reach a state where you see and become one with the God or Goddess of the Underworld. Continue the trance until you have gained all the insight you will receive. Slowly reduce your vibration into yourself. Once you are back into yourself take another drink in honor of the Gods and the lesson you learned.
Eat the red apple or the pomegranate seeds. If you eat the apple place the seeds aside till the morning. If you eat the pomegranate seeds place a few aside till the morning.
Go to bed expecting dreams based on the rite you performed. The following morning write down any dreams you may have had. When done and dressed for the day take the seeds and the same drink you had the night before and place them in a whole at the trees base.
Reasoning behind the ritual:
By taking in that blessed drink you understand that the drink is the fruits of the Gods who you worship as well as the ancestors who literally are the land. This drink is their blood after the sacrificial blood of the god had been spilled, this is their response. When you eat the fruits of the land or drink of the liquids you are taking in the essence of the land and your ancestors.
When you let a drink in a cup evaporate overnight that drink is consumed by the air and the essence of life. The ancestors who have returned to visit partake of this liquid. In the morning the seeds and the remaining liquid are returned to the ground. This nourishes the ancestors and the spirits as well as the gods. This is how we can honor and nourish them.
Part four: My conclusion:
For me this really explains a lot. Through the ritual expressed above I was able to understand the roles of the Gods and the Goddesses that I worship. I was also able to understand exactly what the underworld does to work with rebirth and reincarnation. Finally When I look at astrophysics and how the creation of new universes begin and what black-holes really are I can see how my theology and philosophy line up with science.
I really recommended that any seeker of the wisdom of the cycle of destruction, reformation, creation, growth, and development take a basic physics course. This course will explain how the various galaxies came into being, how stars and suns are born, and how new universes are created. In some ways it may also lead a seeker to see how magic could be seen to be the force that keeps all of these things working in balance. That is what Samhaintide and Hallowmas is all about.
What they are and the forms they can take
The overall purpose of this blog is to help seekers find simple advice on how to find their own way. I do this by providing lessons I have learned and by answering some of the most common questions I have been asked in my years of posting on message boards and e-mail lists regarding witchcraft, paganism, and spirituality. To be honest I understand the question as it was something I wondered about myself over the years, but have recently decided I have an understanding of how guides will manifest in a person’s life (and trust me they are not all what you would expect).
The questions I am referring to are:
- “What are spirit Guides?
- What forms can guides take?
- How do I contact them?
- Why do we need them?
This essay is going to focus specifically on the topics of what spiritual guides are and what some of the forms they can take. I figure this would be a good starting point. In order to contact and find out who/what your spiritual guides are you need to at least know what they are and the forms they can take. Next week I will write about why we need them and how to contact them.
Before I continue writing this post I need to explain how I define a guide in my path. The thing is I don’t limit guides to just spirits and other worldly beings that I work with and have contacted. Guides for me can come in the form of authors, teachers, poets, ect. For me a guide is any one who provides you something on a spiritual level that has an effect on the way you view the world.
So that means a guide could be basically anything right?
Yes. However the effect the being has on you should be quite profound. I can’t tell you what to classify as a profound experience. It’s one of those things you know when it happens. If the author inspires you to think about things in a new way they can be a guide. If they give you advice that seems to click with your intuition they are in many cases a guide.
To be honest I have learned somethings about nature simply by watching the world around me and it had an impact on my world view. In that way nature herself would be one of my most important spiritual guides. Yet she is not the only guide I have. I have given a few examples of people you may consider guides, but I think a more direct explanation of each of the examples is important.
I’ll start with the obvious concept of teachers being guides. To be honest one of my guides in recent history has become my first philosophy teacher. He is the one who has basically told me to start writing. He also suggested that I do something with my passion for philosophy, anthropology, religion, mythology, and metaphysics into something I can do with my life. He also said that I need to get into academia.
He has encouraged me to work on my dream. That’s one of the reasons I have started this project. It has helped me work on polishing my writing and getting my thoughts out clearer. It also gets my name and voice out there. Even though this information is given freely, it is still published. The material is still out there and accessible for any one who desires it.
Next you have authors. Many people read a lot of books when they are starting out. I was no different and to be honest I still read as much as I can. I have found that there are some authors who have influenced me more than others. I consider those authors to also be guides as they are providing me with text and information that I have been able to apply to my spiritual development and growth. I have been taking classes with one of those authors who is now a teacher.
If that writers work clicks with you and you suddenly seem to have a better understanding of something you have been struggling with that would be an author I would consider a guide. Now this can be poets, musicians, fictional authors, neo-pagan authors, philosophers, myths or what not. In the end what matters is if the work has an effect on your path and understanding of the universe.
Finally in the physical world you have your role models. To me a role model is someone you look up to and you try to be like. They have inspired you in some way to be the person you want to be, and you feel that they have had an impact on your life. Role models come in all shapes and sizes, and to be honest I have a few myself though if you were to ask me it would take me a minute to tell you one of them.
So far guides have essentially been people who has changed your life in some way. That’s true. They have pinpointed you and helped you out. A guide should never give you the answers and advice you seek directly. They should provide hints or insight into their own struggles or opinions, but in the end you are the one who has to do the work. This is more prevalent when you are dealing with “spirit guides”.
The key term in spirit guide is the word spirit. It has come to the point in the essay where I must actually get into the metaphysical aspect. I am ending with this so I can start the essay with a review of what spirits are and then get onto how to contact them and end with why they are so important.
So what is a spirit?
To me there are many types of spirits. I essentially see them as beings that live in this worlds and in the other worlds that do not have a physical form as we understand it in this world. They are the elves, faes and the ghosts. These are the dragons and gnomes, slyphs and undines, and angels as well. Any being mentioned in lore that does not exist in this physical world but in the spirit world are spirits.
When you deal with spirit guides there are things you need to keep in mind. The first thing is they they will trick you occasionally as a test of your own wisdom and intuition. They will also speak in riddles. Some times there are no words spoken, but you get images or sensations. The communication is going to come in which ever way they feel will get their messages across to you in a way that you will understand. You also have to know that they are no infallible. Spirits don’t know everything and its absurd to think that they do. They may have insight that we don’t due to the nature of what they are and their existence, but they don’t know everything.
Ok. So what forms can spirit guides take?
The most common form aside from an angel is that of an animal. Some people would call these beings your totems, but I do not as totem is a term that applies specifically to a Native American practice. Other paths have other terms for animal guides. Myself I just think of them as my animal guides.
The animal guide or guides you have are typically aspects of yourself that are hidden or that you need to understand. Many people have guides that represent aspects of themselves that they need to face up to and confront, others the animals have special meanings to the person. The first assumption that many people have is that the animal guide will appear in the form of an animal you like or enjoy. The fact is there is no guarantee of that fact. Your guide may be an animal that you hate, and if that is the case there is a lesson there for you.
One form that is common amongst those who follow a more ancestral worship path is to have an ancestor actually be one of your guides. Maybe this ancestor is a recently passed loved one, or maybe it’s a few further generations back. This is an ancestor that has come to help you on your way. In either case if your guide is a family member and not some magnificent being be respectful. To be honest I would prefer to have ancestral guides than an other being as they are actually tied to my blood and my wyrd and thus my fate.
There are angels. Angels are any beings that serve as messengers to the gods. They are intermediaries between the Gods and us at times. They also have wills of their owns at times. They can choose their friends and teach them their crafts. Angels are beings of mass power and should be respected as such.
There are many other beings that can be your guides over the years. Some people believe that Matron and Patron Gods can be guides, but I see that differently. Divine beings are more than guides. They are divine beings and are Gods. They rule many things and have more important things to do than to teach you. They may have lessons for you, but in the end its a riddle what those things are.
The list could go on. I have covered some of the most common guides that people see. I hope that this has been a helpful essay and will provide you with a lot of insight. Next week you will be able to have some technique and tips on how to contact the guides and why they are important. Even if you don’t know your guides right now, you do have them.
I must be honest right here and now. My theory of ascension is in some ways based upon the theories of ascension and the philosophy behind ascension that is described with in the TV series ” Stargate SG-1″ . With that in mind if I take those theories and add them to the theories behind reincarnation that I employ (which will be discussed in my two part posts on Fate) my idea of ascension comes to have reasonable logic behind it. This post is coming now because it is directly related to my last post education and experimentation. Based on some of the things I mentioned in that post my ideas may actually be understood.
So what is ascension? How do we ascend? What does it mean to ascend? All of these are questions I am going to answer in this post. There are many things and aspects of my personal philosophy I am going to be sharing here. While many witches are not concerned with “enlightenment” or reaching the next stage of evolution (some traditional witches consider this to be an aspect of the witches path to succumbing and cheating fate) I am. This is one aspect of my path that I can trace to ceremonial magic. Ceremonial magic is all about reaching a higher state where you become closer to one with the Gods you work with. This is part of the path of ascension. I actually use my witchcraft to help me on this path through utilizing the principles found within the Kybalion.
My thoughts about ascension where made even stronger upon reading the Kybalion. If you read my post: principle of mentalism. I will get into this aspect even more after I post individual responses to the various principles outlined in the Kybalion. For now I can at least give a basic idea as to what I mean by ascension.
Ok. So the first questions I mentioned that I am going to cover is what is ascension? The second phrase in the title of this post is the key. Ascension is the process why which we reach the next state of being. It is the process by which we reach the next stage of being. In ceremonial magic the idea is to become one with the Godhead or the gods. Some people believe that humanity is the last stage prior to be pure essence and godlike. I disagree with that statement. I think there is much more beyond the state of humanity. I personally think that humanity is quite fare from the true essence of divinity. With out ascension we can not reach those states. Ascension is the process by which we reach the next state. That is why ascension is spiritual evolution.
The next question I mentioned is how do we ascend? Ascension is a process that takes many many lives. That is one of the reasons we reincarnate. There many lessons and experiences that can only be gained in the human body. That is why I see the body as an aspect of the soul. With out reincarnation we can not fully learn every lesson there is for us to learn in the human body. There is no way we can experience all of the mysteries available to the human world (every religion has it’s own set of mysteries, and atheism even has it’s own mysteries). That is why we reincarnate.
Ok. So if reincarnation is the key, why do we reincarnate? On of the reasons we reincarnate is to learn lessons that are required for ascension. I believe that there are some actions that are meant to be paid for in another life. I think that if you torture people for pure amusement in one life you will experience some form of torture (emotional strain, financial strain, ect are all forms of torture that may be worse than physical torture). I also think that there are some lessons that people just need to experience.
In my view I find suicide to actually make things worse. When a person commits suicide they opt for an easy out. Any lessons that they had not learned yet in this life (especially if it dealt with that they were having difficulties with when they ended their lives) will be more difficult. I have experienced the courage needed to face and overcome the desires of suicide. If you gain that courage then you really are learning your lesson.
By actually learning the lessons you are meant to learn in each life you are able to learn the lessons you need in order to ascend. By ascending you reach the next stage of being. However the lessons we need to learn as life lessons are not the only things we need to learn in each life. There are many other things, the key however is turning knowledge into wisdom.
I define wisdom as having the ability to turn the knowledge gained from experience into a practical application. That is what seeking true wisdom is. It is seeing the world for how it truly is and it is turning practical knowledge gained from books and experience into something that can be used every day in both the day to day mundane life and the more intimate and spiritual aspects of your life.
There are several goals that are accomplished before one can ascend. The first goal is self explanatory and has the direct tie in to my previous post. The first goal is to learn as much as you can. I believe that a lot of what we learn and experience in each life is recorded on our susoul or the stand of fate which is reality that is us. By learning as much as we can from books and personal experiences we have gained more wisdom which will help us reach the next level of existence.
Through learning as much as we can and thorough seeking true wisdom we can a deeper understanding of the nature of reality, the galaxy, and the universe. This is where I got my idea about death and destruction being the true from. When you look at how the various galaxies, and stars are created there is death and destruction. yet that is only one aspect of the mystery that is the creation of the universe and the galaxies.
As part of gaining as much wisdom as you can and learning all your lessons you will after a long period of time reach the next stage of being. You will have ascended. So what is the next stage of being? That was the final question I asked. Ascending means you have reached the next stage of being and the next state of existence. That is what it means to ascend.
The next state of being is a mystery. It is something that is unknown until you reach it. I have many theories on the possible other states of being are. I will cover each theory, but it is important to know that I don’t know which state comes next, or if even there is a choice. My theory does include some basic order, but I may have it wrong. I do believe there are many stages between humanity and becoming a divine being, but until I have gained a deeper gnosis as to what the ascension involves I can just share the states I believe exist beyond the current state of humanity.
This is related to my cosmology. Right now I am going to give you some idea as to my cosmology. There will be a more in depth post this week. I am on spring break this break which means I’ll have more time to write for my blog. I have so many things I want to write about that this vacation creates a perfect time for that.
Any way back to my cosmology. In essence I hold essentially a multi-world multi-verse theory. In essence I believe in many other worlds and planes of existence beyond our own, and as I hold all mythologies to have some truth and all gods to exist I thus believe that all of their realms beyond this realm exist. There. You have the bare bones of my cosmology.
In traditional witchcraft there are many different views on what happens to people who have succumb and cheated fate. Many witches have a concept of “the mighty dead”. Peter Paddon describes these as the few individuals who have gained enough spiritual knowledge and experience where when the reach the cauldron of rebirth they emerge as a whole individual and not many pieces (source).
I see the mighty dead as one example of the possible next stage of being. These are people who are wise. These masters are often the first spiritual teachers that a novice witch and pagan comes in contact with. They may be young spirit guides. These are people who still have some lessons to learn before they reach the stage of “angels” or even before they become elves.
Robin Artison holds that once you have died you become an elven being or fay beings. I think that it is possible that our shades are elves, which would make elves also the next stage of being. yet I think the mighty dead may be the a stage between elves, as I think the elves have mysteries beyond the ones accessible to the elves. (Witching Way of the Hollow Hill)
Along with elves there is the possibility of becoming a nature spirit or even a genus locai. The genus locai are essentially the spirits of a place. Many witches work with these spirits for power. That is why connections with the land become very powerful for witches. In this way genus locai are essential nature spirits. While I think elves are a type of nature spirit, they are not the only ones. I will cover more about elves in a future post, as well as nature spirits when I cover spirits and elemental spirits and the elements (also this week).
One of the beliefs I have inherited or rather taken from Greek Philosophy and theology is the concept of demi-gods. To be honest I think that the people who are born as demi-gods (born of a human and a god or goddess) as people who are either at the next stage of being, or in between the next stage of being. These people are part god and part human. That is why I am not sure if they are in between the state or at the next stage.
The last possible stage I see between humanity and being a God is that of being an angel. In my very first pagan blog project post I briefly covered angels and angelic beings. For now I will say that I see them as being the messengers of gods. By being messengers of gods they are nearly god like. That means they are actually close to being gods. However they are not godlike. There is still more for them to learn and experience though.
If I go by the Kybalion there is still one more stage before we unite with the ultimate creative source and have experienced all the mysteries we need to experience is godhood. Like I have said I don’t think that once we have experienced all the mysteries we can experience as humans we are automatically at the state of divinity. I think it takes time and a process of centuries of reincarnation into the various life forms.
When you take ascension into consideration it also explains why I believe that all individual Gods described in the various mythologies exist. I also believe that there are many deities out there which may not belong to any one specific pantheon because they are an individual who has reached the stage of being a god after many life times and many ascensions. In that regards I think every witch that practices some form of religious witchcraft can be worshiping a God and Goddess duo that we might not actually have knowledge of.
Since I mentioned that Gods may be ascended beings after many lifetimes I must make one more statement. I do not believe that each and every god and goddess out there to be an ascended being. In fact I believe many gods to be beings that were created by THE ALL in that state. As they are mental creations of THE ALL, THE ALL could have created them in any fashion they exist. There for they are as they were intended to be.
I also think that they could simply be beings beyond our understanding, but that was covered in my post: Divinity
With my last Pagan Blog project post I was all caught up and could now focus on one entry per week. There are three D themes in my path Death, divinity/deity, and Disir. An acquaintance of mine posted a very well written blog about the Disir as in D is for Disir. While the Disir is a concept I accept and do work with, it is not something I have spent much time researching on. That is why I don’t feel like posting anything about them other than I believe that they are ancestral mothers and female ancestral spirits. The topic of Death itself in my path has two subsets which must be touched upon if the topic of death is to be understood with in my path. My post on Divinity and divine will be next week. My post on death and it’s related aspects will be this weeks focus.
So why do I mention the belief in the Disir at all? Well that’s simple. The focus of this entry is on death. However when I think about death and the role it plays in mat nature based path I realize that there is more to death than simply the end of “life” or the end of an essence in “physical form”. When it comes to death the destruction or the end of a life is an aspect of death. It is the onset of death in many cases and in the physical world it may be the aftermath of something (the destruction created death) that brings about new life and new hope.
The Disir are female ancestral spirits. That means they are dead and thus have experienced death and its destructive force. They also have a fresh and new look on life as they are not bound by the physical senses any more. It is to my Disir I am most connected to when I pray to my ancestors, however I am also connected to my Alfar (male ancestral spirits). The fact remains that they are dead and thus that is their connection to death.
Many people would consider me morbid for accepting and relishing in the beauty that comes from death and the destruction found with in the so called icy grips of death. If I am morbid than so be it. The fact of the matter is death is a simple fact of life. I have experiences the cruel loss of loved ones close to me. Those deaths impacted me in many ways. It hurt me.
One of those deaths happened at a time where I was already very anti-life. I was relishing in death as an end to existence and the pains of life. It was a very dark time for me. Everything was a dark empty soul sucking whole. I was convinced I was a demoness at heart and that my humanity was punishment for turning on the demon race at some point.
This went on for several years. Eventually I went into the mental hospital for help when I was severely suicidal and ultimately knocking on deaths door. If you have ever read any of Poe’s works and see how he describes the mad characters as living corpses, that was my physical appearance at the end of 2005. Through therapy I accepted my issues and worked on them. I am no longer so acey for deaths acceptance of me, but I have a new appreciation for death and its role.
In many ways during those years and until the last 3 years I was alive and dead at the same time. I had turned off basically every other emotion I could feel. It was all pain all the time. I was op[en only to the beauty that was found in the darkest of humanity. That for me was the essence of life and humanity. Pain and suffering were my focus of life.
There was a pivotal author that lead me to accept that darkness in your view and acceptance of the world was an acceptable thing. I read several works by Konstantinos. His works about nocturnal witchcraft and Gothic magic lead me to a deeper understanding and appreciation for the darkness within me.
Overtime that in turn started to help me see the beauty in happiness and the simple joys in life, while still accepting the beauty found in pain and suffering as expressions of the human experience. Through the darkness I was able to see life in all its complex forms while seeing the true darkness with in this reality.
I did not mean to get bio-graphical on you, but there it is. Death and darkness have been a prevalent part of my world view for the last 13 years, though not always in a positive way. I did feel that some insight into my own mental state and processing was required to gain an appreciation for what comes next in my blog.
What is this true unrelenting darkness? The truth is that everything dies. The truth is that in order for any sort of life to be sustained there must be other forms of life sacrificed so that others may live. Something must die in order for other things to live. Death is inevitable for all life. Yet death is not the end. Death is simply a door to the next part of the cycle (which was touched on my my earlier post).
If I am morbid then I am morbid. I tend to see myself as a naturalist. In the wild animals see and experience death on a regular basis. There are scavenger species out there who in the wild survive completely upon the dead of other creatures. Death is a part of life. That which dies in nature upon its decay (destruction) provide nutrients into the land and other creatures in the Eco-system into the future provide more life and sustenance for the survival of other lifeforms.
There are entire bacterial life forms and other forms of life who depend entirely upon the cycle of death to survive and live. Death is not pretty nor should it be. However death is also not something to be avoided and hushed over. Death is simply one set in the cycle of life,
Death is what provides for the future. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t mourn our dead. Not at all. I think that death of loved ones should be mourned. I think that death should also be accepted as something that happens. We don’t have to like it or even really want it. Death is not always fair. It just happens. However death is essential in the ultimate progression of the soul of humans and something we experience through many years of our life.
So what does death involve and why do I honor an accept deaths role in the evolution of my soul and self? Well for me I have already experienced a death of myself at least once. I believe that a part of me died when I faced my darkness and escaped knowing that I was no monster, but that I simply had my own views on things. That has given me some idea as to how the physical death of our self.
To answer the question about death and destruction its important to have a brief concept of how I understand the soul to be structured, and my belief in reincarnation as well as ascension. These are things I hope to post detailed essays on under my writings page, but for now I’ll give a basic overview and get back to death and destruction.
The soul is made up of five basic components. You have your body, your mind, the ancestral line/blood/shadow, the spirit, and your soul itself which is will call for now the susoul. Each part of the soul is essential. Only the body is mortal. The other aspects of the soul and our essential selves and the mystery of what reality is are essentially immortal and forever lasting. That doesn’t mean that they are with out change. Time does change and time is the ultimate destruction and death. So now let me explain each part and why:
Your body is your physical body. With out your body you can’t gain the experiences you expect to gain in each life. You need the physical body to gain knowledge and wisdom available in each generation as science and philosophy grow so does our mental experiences and ability to comprehend the universe and the meaning of life. our bodies provide the vessel of experiences which lead to gnosis of mysteries of the universe through religion or other practices.
Your mind is what processes our past life experiences and our current experiences to gain further knowledge and wisdom. It is our mind that processes that which we have gained in the past and that which we must gain in order to ascend to the next physical state of being and those mysteries until we ultimately reach the pinnacle of spiritual development: being at one with THE ALL. Essentially our minds is THE ALL manifested within us as we are simply all thoughts with in the divine cosmic mind (which will be touched upon next week with divinity and deity).
The ancestral line/ blood/ shade is the aspect of the soul which can manifest as a ghost. This is the ego of our self. It is our personality. When we die our mind and our soul guide our shade into the realm of the dead. This is the sum of our current incarnation. When we pray to our ancestors it is this part of the soul that hears the prayers and may or may not answer. So long as some one remembers “you” the shade remains intact. This could be in the form of family stories and legends, physical images, or even in the case of generic “ancestors” the very idea of ancestors of blood is those who have gone before in the family line. So as long as the family line is remembered your ego exists in some form.
I agree with the ancient Greeks in that it would be through the offering of blood (the essence of life) which would bring true memories to the ancestors and dead, but aside from that we exist forever in the land of the dead as our ego. This personality, this physical experience lasts on life. When this physical body dies it is the end of ourselves as we know it. All that will remain of us as we see and know ourslves and our family knows us is a shade which is a poor reflection of that which we were (read the book of the Odyssey where Odyssesus travels to the land of the dead to see what I mean).
Our spirit is our essential life force. It is our Ki. This comes from nature. This is literally what I would refer to as the breath of life. While I think that babies are alive the moment they can live outside the mother’s body a child is “a life” the essence of life is not with in a person until they take their first independent breath. This comes from many mythos where its wasn’t until the first humans were given the breath of life by the respective gods of that religion (in my history Christian and Germanic) that the humans were not fully alive and willing to do the Gods will.
It has often been accepted that breath and life were considered to be equated. I wouldn’t say that it’s far off as all living beings require to breathe in some form in order to survive (yes plants breathe. They intake our exhaled waste and through their intake exhale something we can breathe. Symbiosis at its finest). Thats why I equate spirit with breath and life. When I do spirit enhancing exercises I typically alter my breathing and it has an effect that directly correlates to the feeling I have of my physical being. When I physically feel ill my breathing is different than when I am fit. My breathing and breath relates to my life in direct ways. This is why I also feel that breathing exercises to transmute emotional states and feelings can be highly effective.
Finally there is the susoul. This is the true eternal aspect of ourselves. If you read my essay on witchcraft as an underworld tradition this is the part that Artison would call our true soul and true self. In reality I see that view of the susoul as our true self as incomplete. To me it removes the possibility of our personalities surviving in the afterlife.
My personal experience has shown this to be not only inaccurate for my experiences and those of my close family, but to be inaccurate and to not reflect the experiences of anyone who has been visited by a loved one who has passed beyond the veil. In experiences with ghosts and aspirations of those who have passed you inexplicably deal with the persona or ego of a person. This to me shows that our ego as we know ourselves exist in some form for as long as “we” are “remembered”.
So long as there as cemeteries to mark the graves of the deceased egos will remain. While the names of those buried may not be intact, the fact that their bodies are there means they are remembered and are a part of the land (see my cycle view). Being buried makes our body decay and become part of the land. Thats why we are also essentially immortal. our bodies will become part of the earth and then forever be part of all matter in time and space for as long as time and space exist. Talk about immortality.
I do see that the susoul is an important part of us. In our life this may be our mind, but I see it as separate. Our susoul is our thread in the universe. According to Artison humans are not beings in the physical sense that we exist, but that we are beings in that we exist in the tapestry of the universe in al forms. This existence and being boils down to our essential self which I call our susoul.
Our Susoul is that which is reincarnated in every life. This is the core of our being. Anything that happens to us in this life is based on the actions of our previous ego or egos and has been accumulated on this strand of life. That which is unfair to us in this life may be an action in punishment for a previous life, but it might not be. I do know that the actions we have done in our past for the good or for the ill of yourself and your loved ones will have an impact in the next life and possibly lives after that.
This is why people are said to inherit the sins of their ancestors. In many ways this is true. The actions I make will have an impact on my family in the future for my children, my grandchildren, and even generations beyond there. This is also why the concept of wyrd in the Germanic sense is part of the susoul and the ego/blood/ancestral line/ shade*shadow.
For me death provides a way for new life and new creation. Through each physical manifestation we are given chances to gain further insights into life and into the mysteries of the universe. For now I see the meaning of life simply to be to have experiences in as many ways as possible, enjoy all we can and to experience all that we can in this life. As I said once this physical body I have is dead and has breathed its last breath as a physical being Loona Wynd will cease to exist. Her works and her writing will be all thats left in the world at large to remember or know her. The family she has will be all that can remember her (and right now that doesn’t include any children..but time is still on her side).
When I die my ego will cease to be limited by the senses pf the physical world. I will be in the land of the dead. As such I will have sight beyond my normal sight. I believe that when I die I will also be able to meet with and interact with my past lives. So long as my susoul exists (which basically means so long as the universe and reality exists) all of our past lives exist. Thus we could meet in the afterlife and discuss our meanings and experiences. These discussions could lead to a greater understanding of the mysteries experienced by “Us” and thus help us ascend to the next level.
Death in nature leads to destruction which paves the way for new life and new growth. Death is the force which causes the cycle to turn. Death and destruction are the ultimate forces behind creation. In order to create something is destroyed. Destruction paves the way for the new and destruction ultimately means death.
Through death we are nourished and can grow. All the food that we eat was at one point alive. It was killed in order to sustain us. In the wild animal remains will decay (destruction) over time and provide nutrients allowing the plants to grow strong which will in turn provide nutrients for other life forms. In the cycle of life death, destruction, decay, and rebirth are tied together intimately. I feel that as a pagan and as a nature worshiper and fertility worshiper it is time I acknowledge the importance of death. With out death there can be no life and ultimately no future.
My point: Death, Decay, and Destruction are the key concepts that allow life itself to exist in this world and in any other world. Death is a an effect of life itself. Not only that but with out death physical life as we know it can not exist. I worship death as I worship life and fertility and nature.
When it comes to having a mentor in occult philosophy the new student has many people to choose from. In some ways this is a good thing as it allows people to explore all other options, but there is also the fact that there are some really bad mentors in the Occult. Robin Artisson is one of the few people who will write about or work with Traditional Witchcraft. While “Wiccan” witchcraft is a wonderful practice and I still practice it, Artisson’s work has given me a more realistic view of witchcraft that resonates more than the “Wiccan” witchcraft does.
While he has not been studying and practicing all that long (14 years ) his experiences and where he grew up added to his knowledge. Artisson is of Anglo-Pictish heritage. His family also had Irish, Cajun and Sicilian heritage. Growing up in New Orleans he lived in a home that was the last remnants of folklore and supernaturalism in the US. His college education involved getting a BA in European History/Anthropology and a MA in both Criminal justice and Policy Science as well as Marriage and Family therapy. He is currently working on Trouble and Pernicious Mischief. Artisson also is very shamanic (otherworldly) in his healing practices that some call witchcraft.
One of my central philosophies is that every thing has a shadow and and everything has a light side. To me it’s like looking in the dark at night. In some way there will be some light and in others there will be pitch black. Look at light. A light can not be a light with out darkness and darkness is not darkness with out light. They are one and light and shadow are shades of gray. When I apply that idea to the way I view life I grasp the mystery that is wholeness. All I see is shades of gray which is the balance between light and dark.
The first chapter of his online book The Village or The Pendulum of Souls outlines this concept specifically. When he stated :
“Even the good Christ, gentle and loving, dead for the good of humankind, has a dark shadow beyond- Demon Est Deus Inversus– and what a surprise it is for most to realize who he really is…or should I say, who he is, when you see both sides of his mystery, in the wholeness of light and shadow.”
I felt instinctively that some one else knew what I always thought about Jesus and Gods in general was true. It never made sense to me that God in any form could be all Light with out any Dark. How Christians could see Jesus as anything other than a Man (a blessed, and enlightened man) but a man none the less. Gods have shadows and men have shadows so why wouldn’t Jesus? Understanding the balance and boundaries of each are you can live in a state of wholeness. According to Artisson experiencing that mystery and understanding it is a crucial point in the journey of the witch. How a witch achieved that goal plays into one of the many definitions I consider to be accurate explanations of what witchcraft is and what it means to be a witch.
In old English a witch was called an Hagtessa. Hagtessa specifiably means hedge rider or one who travels freely between the world of the seen and the world of the unseen. At the time it was thought that you couldn’t travel between the worlds and ever remain the same. Yet witches were able to live in both worlds simultaneously. Artisson states in his definition of witchcraft that witchcraft is an other world tradition where you go between the two worlds to gain your power as a witch. Witches call upon the powers of both worlds to enact the changes they desire.
One of the mysteries of my tradition of witchcraft is based upon the mysteries of the other worlds. For me traveling to the different worlds is part of my practice. I feel that my power as a witch comes from the land and the spirits as well as from my own inner fire and passions. The first training I took as a witch was in entering a trance state. I have always felt that the other world and this world were not separate. That which occurs on one world will ultimately have an affect on the other world.
It just feels natural for me to travel between the worlds. I never really needed training on how get there, I just needed to learn to control those movements. When I read Artisson’s thoughts on the necessity of other world travels it added clarity to the bonds between the worlds. His clarification on the bonds has given me a desire to seek this understanding. To add to this mystery I feel that there are many many realms to add to learning.
Artisson spends a lot of time in his book The Witching Way of the Hollow Hill talking about the concept of Fate. He explains how everything is a part of fate and how important fate is to reality. Now before I read the articles in the mentioned books I never really believed in Fate. I believe in Cause and Effect not preordained matters. Artisson describes Fate as:
“ …Fate is a unitive system; spirit or life and physical matter or manifestations are not truly alien substances, ultimately separate from each other. They are complementary, necessary to each other. They are both interactive and co-create with each other.”
Understanding the mystery of Fate is as important as understanding the dualistic nature of reality. Witches are weavers of fate and it is because of fate that we have the ability to make those changes to the strands of fate. This quote:
“ Fate is as a whole the great ‘Field’ of reality that makes anything possible, a great an infinite well of Potentials. From it all things occur and ‘on’ it ‘within’ it ‘as’ it and because of it that things can occur”
is his way of explaining why things work as they do. If fate is a web and weave where everything builds on everything else leaving something to fate means letting it happen with letting what must be must be. To me that also means cause and effect as all that will happen will happen based in that which has come before it.
With us all being connected to each other and part of one reality, it made me wonder about individuality. While the statement of us all being one people gives me a sense of relief, I feel that at times we feel to individualistic. It seems that the many years of Christian Dogma where the Bible states that the Earth is ours to do as we will still has an effect on our relationship with the world on a cultural level. Artisson explains that:
“To be an individual means to have a sense of separation from things while simultaneously being at one with all things”
This duality of experience seems to have a lack of respect for the land. I mean the circulatory system of the earth is polluted, trees are cut down everyday. Those two things water and trees are essential to our life and by polluting them we are essentially killing ourselves and all else. No one seems to understand that the actual land on the earth or plants or animals have consciousness in some manner and have spiritual presence in both worlds.
I have always held that the land speaks to us. I have always known that like us the earth has some form of consciousness. Artisson was able to eloquently explain how this is true. He also explains about the afterlife and the soul. This quote about the land really explains how I as a witch can honor the earth and really work with the energies of the land that we live on:
“Land itself has the substance of ‘mind’; all things are aware-though all things are not conscious in the same manner as a human being or an animal with a brain is conscious”
Like many witches Artisson and I both agree in reincarnation. He also believes in the many parts of the soul. Artisson has made me think about what exactly the soul is any why we reincarnate, though a question did come to my mind as I read his theory. That question was if we reincarnate does that mean a new strand of fate is created? In essence the article about rebirth says that rebirth into a new home does not mean you are the same as we are always changing as we switch between different bodies, forms, and states of being. Each new life brings new challenges and new experiences. These experiences will change your soul’s understanding of the world and a new form of your strand of reality will be created.
To many this idea might be sad. That we are never the same again. The truth is we change a bit every day as every experience will change us. In essence when I die the body and the personality that is Charity Bedell will be gone. My spirit will remain, but I will not be the same. This is not a theory I agree with. I believe that I am not physically immortal but I am spiritually mortal. It was Artisson’s article on the soul that started me thinking about what my views of the soul are.
Religiously what makes up the soul is an essential mystery that one must find on their own. It explains why we have all the parts of the soul and why they have them. The goal of my religious practices is to ascend to the next state of being. Each life I have experiences that will add to my quest for wisdom and learning all that there is to learn.
Artisson has a quote that I agree with, Essentially he states that like many ancients that death is a challenge a mystery and the passage to a new condition of being. It is true that death and what comes after is a mystery. There is a taboo that those who have passed from this world can not tell a living person the experiences of death. It is also forbidden to take the knowledge of what exists and happens after death to the next life. Death is an experience we must all have and as the beliefs about death are non falsifiable all we have is speculation.
This is where Artisson and I start to differ in our opinions in regards to the soul. He believes that there are three components to the soul. I personally believe that there are 5 components. Each component plays a role in what happens after death and during your life. I like Artisson believe that if a person is missing a part of their soul that they will die.
I believe in many realms of the other world. One of those realms is the realm of the dead. The realm of the dead hosts a faint shadow of all your past lives as well as the lives of every one else who has passed on. The susoul as I call it only exists here after we are dead. However because of past lives we are able to gain contact with this realm through trance and dream work. This is the part of your soul that your descendants will be able to contact once you have passed on.
The body only lasts one life time. For this reason the body should be well cared for and maintained. It is our body that allows us to have the physical experiences we need to ascend. It is my view that in order to ascend to the next state of being we need to experience all types of life and lifestyles. In this way we slowly build up wisdom regarding the mysteries of physical being. Once the body dies it becomes part of the land and thus becomes part of sustains our lives.
The mind is also a part of the soul. The mind is your awareness. It is your consciousness and your personality. Your mind is the part of you that will ascend. While it contains all of our personality it also houses the personalities and thought profiles of all your past lives. It is the mind that processes the experiences and from those experiences gain access to the deep mysteries of life. This is what most people would consider the soul. The mind during life lives both in your body and in the other world on your strand of fate working with Old Fate (The goddess that rules over fate, life death and all of creation).
The last aspect of the soul is the spirit. To me the spirit is the force of life. It is that one thing that life can not exist with out. It is not tangible and it is not provable. Yet to me the spirit can not leave the body till death where the spirit is then released to the world and given to another life form. Spirit is what Doctor Frankfurter called the “breath of life” in the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I would agree with that statement.
Artisson will remain one of the most influential mentors I will come across in my studies. He unlike most other mentors I have had always makes me think. I read his works one article at a time and take detailed notes. If I didn’t take the notes and have quotes to refer back to I would not understand Artisson. He doesn’t give you the information on a silver platter. You need to work, ponder and think for yourself. I believe that all good mentors and philosophers should make you think and come to your own conclusions.