Category Archives: Other Worlds (heven, hell, ect)
The other realms
This is is very interesting book that covers and obscure religious and spiritual practice. This book is not like anything else on the market related to Celtic traditions. This book is very unique, and while it does cover Celtic spirituality and Druidry it does some from the tradition of the Picts. Most books on Celtic Paganism or Druidry cover Irish or Welsch traditions. Very few touch on the Picts and their tradition.
The author covers this tradition from the way it was taught in his family. In places where his family tradition had gaps the author did his best with research into history and lore to complete the tradition. This book is his way of preserving his view and style of Pictish Druidry.
This book is not really broken into chapters but parts with related sections. Aside from the introduction there are eight sections in the book. Each section focuses on unique aspects of this tradition providing information on lore and history as well as theory and practice of ritual and magical workings.
In the Introduction the author starts by presenting several common terms and definitions used within the book and Pagan traditions and spirituality. Next the author explains his approach to reconstructing religious and spiritual traditions. This is essential to understand as the practices in the book are a mixture of reconstructed practices and traditions passed down in his family. The introduction concludes with a summary of principles. Here the author also outlines what exactly he considers Pictish Tradition to entails.
The first section of the book is entitled Pictish Orthodoxy. This section begins with an overview of Celtic spiritual traditions and the different forms out there. The author presents an argument for Pictish Tradition origins and how we does have information to build a base on. This section here is also where we are introduced to the Gods.
The section on the Gods covers a basic introduction to the world view. It covers several of the spirit concepts as well as the type of Polytheism that Pictish tradition followed. Here the author introduces the idea that the Picts would have adopted some Norse traditions.
Here the author covers information on the various Gods of the Pict tradition. He gives their names and attributes. The author covers three different “tribes” or types of Gods worshiped. There are the Greater Gods, the Brethren Gods (Norse Gods), and the Tuatha DeDannan. Through the categorization of the Gods we get a view for the complex syncretic path that is the Pictish Tradition.
The section ends with a discussion on the concept of the trinity and the sacred three. Here we learn about the Celtic three other worlds and the Celtic Knot. The author also explains through this sacred three why certain deities are seen as a Triad. To tie in the Norse tradition with the exploration of the Celtic other worlds (3) the author lists the Nine Norse Realms.
The section part in the book is called Awen. This section is about taking action and how worship is through action. Here the author covers the sacred Holidays. The section on the holidays is rather small. It does present a few examples of how those sacred days could be honored through actions and activities rather than ritual.
The third part of the book is one of the most interesting. This is the section on the Faerie faith. Many spiritual traditions work with beings called the Fae. This section is about the Pictish tradition and their take on the Fae. Here we get a taste for ritual work and how the Picts dealt with contact with spirits.
This chapter had some of the most useful information. It starts out by explains what the faerie spirits really are and how the modern view of fairy’s is actually quite far from the historical perspective. The author explains that he believes this would have been the practice of the common folk and was less to deal with Gods and was more animistic in nature.
After giving brief examples of offerings and how the Faerie Faith may have been practiced the author begins to discuss the different types of Fae. Here we see the variety of spiritual forces found within the Pictish tradition beyond the Gods. The author gives several different types of fae including descriptions of Norse Fae.
Once we are familiar with types of Fae we get into the first practical bit of spiritual work within the book. Here we are learning how to set up an altar to suit the practice of the Faerie faith. The author covers three different types of altars to the Faerie people and the types of fae best honored at each.
The chapter ends with ideas on how to make contact with the Fae. Here the author covers plant talismans and flowers in your garden that could attract the fae. The author also presents a detailed guided meditation to use meditative techniques to meet fae and work with them. In all reality the section on the Faerie faith could be a book in its own right. The author does a great job of presenting information that gives an introduction to the practice within the context of this particular cultural view.
The fourth section of the book is about the priesthood. Here we find out the authors view on Priesthood and why its not a mantle to be taken up easily. The author covers the different types of priests and Druids in this chapter. With each type of druid or priest the author covers the roles they had and how they worked for the Gods and the community. Here the author also covers the various Norse Priests that would have filled similar roles to the Druids. The author makes it clear that for him priesthood and ministry are the same thing.
The fifth section is where we first get introduced to the practice of magic. The practice of magic is one of the main draws to practices like Druidry, Shamanism, and witchcraft. The idea of being able to perform rituals and take specific actions to create change in ones life is very appealing. So it is important to cover the use of magic and the theories behind it.
In this section the author covers the hows and whys of magic. Before getting into magical laws and theory the author outlines the phases and steps involved in spell casting. He explains several magical laws and magical theories. This gives you the basis to start exploring the magic discussed later.
The majority of the section on magic focuses specifically on the Druid practice of magic. The author gives examples of types of magic he calls Low, Middle, and High. In each section of low, middle or high there are examples of types of magical workings and practices that would fit within those concepts.
The chapter ends with a discussion on Druid rituals, tools and the organizations. With the information on ritual and tools the reader now has enough information to create simple spells and workings within this magical paradigm. It is here that we have really begun to be able to piece together a practice from the material presented.
The sixth section in the book is on Magical languages. Here the author introduces Ogham and symbols that are used in magical ritual. The author covers tattoos and scarification rituals as ways that the Picts used magical symbolism on their body. The section on magical languages ends with a brief introduction to Runes and Runic magic.
The seventh part of the book is dedicated to Runes. This is one area of the book that is entirely dedicated to a Nordic aspect of the tradition. Here the author covers the Rune poems and the three different Rune systems. He covers the use in magic and the use in divination. The author even covers creating your own traditional Rune staves and doing traditional Runic readings. This section and the Faerie faith chapter are the two section of the book with the most practical information and the most unique information.
The author ends the book covering a variety of related spiritual traditions. The author begins the section by covering different Druid and Celtic traditions and organizations. Here the author covers traditions like Shamanism, Wicca, and general Witchcraft. This shows that the author not only respects these other spiritual traditions but he also sees how they are connected and possibly related to his own traditions and practices.
Overall the book provides great insight into this spiritual tradition. There is enough information that the reader could decide to explore the practice for themselves personally. The author gave enough information to form a workable practice without doing all of the work for you. He allows the reader to start with this information and work with the spirits and Gods through personal work to develop their priesthood and their practice.
I would recommended this book to people interested in both Celtic and Norse Pagan traditions. While I may not agree with all of the information presented on the Norse traditions, I feel that the author did an excellent way of presenting how the Picts would have adapted the Norse Gods and practices into their traditions.
Today I am going to talk about Pagan pride Day. In the US there is an annual festival at different times in different states where Pagans can come together and celebrate being who and what they are. Its a day for rituals, friendship, exploration, and much more. There are workshops and there are vendors. You have a ritual for the harvest (all are harvest themed) and sometimes other mini rituals in workshops.
I love my local Pagan Pride day. Its been going on for 11 years now. Its been a great way for me to meet friends and be a part of a community. The vendors are typically the same year after year (with new ones from time to time) and many of the attendees are regulars. There were many people I saw once a year at the Pagan Pride day that I still considered friends. It was a fellowship of a kindred mind and spirit that kept us close.
For many years I went just as an attendee. I went for the workshops and the vendors. The ritual component was always nice but they didn’t always make much sense to me. The people were the reason I went. I learned a lot from workshops. One year I learned the LBRP by heart by the end of an hour workshop. Other years I did ancestral work and learned about kitchen witchcraft. One year I learned of a completely new way to look at herbal work from a different perspective.
Pagan Pride days are great. Even when I volunteered for a few years I was still able to see my friends, go to the workshops, and participate in the rituals. I became such a regular scene there and was often so lucky with the raffle that it became a joke about my entering raffles in the Pagan scene. Its still a joke today for those who remember those days even though the event is being run by other people now.
With the change in leadership my role at the event also took a change. I went from being an attendee and a volunteer to being a vendor. This is where I launched Mystic Echoes last year. With this change I gained even more appreciation for vendors and attendees of Pagan pride Days. I was supported by the community in my venture to open a New Age and Metaphysical store. I now knew and understood why vendors came back year after year. I also now understood why people liked the vendors. Its all exposure to different products you might not see or have otherwise. Its also a great place to learn about making new things and how things worked.
Pagan Pride Days are a wonderful thing and need to be embraced more. They offer community for those of us who practice alone but want fellowship every once and a while. They offer education to the general public. They offer understanding, small business sales and development, and do a community service. The fee for the local Pagan pride day is a canned good of some sort. The non-perishable goods are given to a local food pantry so that those in need can have food to eat. Last year they also raised food and toys for the local animal shelter as well ensuring that the animals had food and toys as well.
If you are interested in seeing a world of different pagan religious practices, and in exploring them I can’t recommended going to a Pagan Pride Day enough. The website: Pagan pride Day organization provides a link for you to find local events. They are non judgmental so all are welcome. You don’t have to be Pagan to go and enjoy it. So please go check out a local event.
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.
The Wiccan Way (Published in the UK as The Hedge Witches Way) is a very good book for beginners. This book covers a very simple way to practice magic and witchcraft without the requirement for long formal rituals. This book covers an important topic that most books on witchcraft don’t talk about, even those which come at witchcraft from the perspective of a religious practice. This book covers the concept, practice, and creation of witchcraft prayers.
For many people the practice of magic and prayer are intricately connected. Many books teach that spell casting is a witches way of saying a prayer. While some spells are prayers, this book examines exactly what a witches prayer is. This book covers what makes a prayer a magical act and what makes a prayer an act of devotion, as a witch uses prayers both for magic and for forms of worship.
The US title of the book is a bit more accurate than the UK title of Hedge Witches Way. The reason behind this is that Hedge witchcraft is a very specific form of witchcraft dealing heavily with trance work and spirit companions. While the author does include prayers for traveling and working with the spirit realms, the focus of the style of witchcraft in this book is not shamanic or trance based, and as such this book is not about Hedge witchcraft but a different form of modern Wicca or Wiccan styled witchcraft.
The author calls the witchcraft and magic described in this book as Wildwood Mysticism. The author teaches that this particular form of witchcraft does not need intense structured and formal rituals. The author mentions here that maintaining an altar and saying a simple prayer to the God and Goddess is all that you need to do to practice this style and form of witchcraft.
The first chapter in the book is all about prayer and enchantment. This first introduction chapter basically covers the nature of witchcraft. Here the author mentions a sense of nature being sacred, a connection with spirits and spirit forces, and why prayers can be effective ways of connecting with the various forces in life and that are responsible for life. The author even mentions just how easy it is for the distinction of the difference between a prayer and a spell to fade for witches, as witches who follow this path work their spells and magic through the use of prayer.
The second chapter is a chapter about the Gods that are worshiped and prayed to in this particular tradition or style of witchcraft. The author starts the chapter by mentioning how the Gods of witches were demonized in the past and how we need to bring their truth back. The author then gives a basic idea about the God and Goddess of this tradition including an introduction to the cosmology or worldview of this practice explaining the three realms or worlds and how their God and Goddess manifests in each of them.
The third chapter of this book is about mysteries. In religious witchcraft the experience of the mysteries is the goal of the rituals. In this specific tradition the experience of the mysteries is related to the prayers. This chapter explains why prayers help us access those mysteries and experiences. The chapter also explains why some prayers should be kept private and why some are meant to be shared. This chapter is key in understanding the importance of prayer in this style of witchcraft, as the mysteries are the experiences of the God and Goddess as well as magic and the flow of the universe.
The fourth chapter in the book is about the theories and practices of magic. Here is where the author describes and defines clearly what wildwood mysticism means and is as a practice. The author here defines what it means to be a witch. The author ends the chapter with a list of the practices that makes one a wildwood mystic and a witch in this practice pointing out prayer being the central component to all of them.
The fifth chapter is a chapter on initiation to wildwood mysticism. To the author the witchcraft is the action and practice of the magical aspects while the wildwood mysticism is the actual spiritual practice and components. Before one can be a witch in this practice they need to become attuned and accustomed to the forces of nature through a wildwood mystic initiation. This chapter provides the ritual and prayer outline for this practice. The chapter ends with ideas and areas of study to increase ones awareness of the tides of nature and the feelings of wildwood mysticsim.
The sixth chapter in this book is about the maintenance and creation of an altar to the Gods and to the practice of wildwood mysticism. Here the author provides a very basic and simple idea of what an altar can be. There are no fancy elemental tools and associations on this altar set, rather a bowl of water, a twig or plant for the world tree and something for the God and Goddess. The key point here in this chapter is the practice of saying prayers at an altar as an act of devotion and worship. Its the idea that you can worship with prayers at an altar without elaborate rituals and ceremonial tools that you see in so many other books on witchcraft.
The seventh chapter in the book covers initiation into the practice of witchcraft and the practice of gaining the powers of the witch. As shown earlier the practice of the mysticism and the witchcraft are separate yet connected. This chapter explores and explains how one can use prayers in ritual to gain the powers of a witch and to become a witch yourself providing several different prayers and ritual actions to naming oneself a witch with the powers of a witch.
The next three chapters are very practical chapters. These chapters focus on the practice of need based prayers and magic. These chapters provide insight into the different types of spell work that wildwood mystic witches can and may perform.
The eighth chapter gets into spells for healing. Here the author provides several different types of healing prayers and spell actions for different situations. The author explains how different types of prayers and a different world aspect should be used for different types of healing work. The prayers provided here serve as an excellent base for healing prayer and spell work.
The ninth chapter in this book is again a chapter focused on spells and prayers for a specific need. This chapter focuses on money and wealth. Like everyone else witches have issues with money and they have bills to pay. This chapter provides several different unique prayers and spell actions for different types of wealth and money.
The tenth chapter in this book focuses on good luck and good fortune. Like the other two chapters the prayers and spell actions in this chapter address the three worlds and the aspects of the God and Goddess in each realm that are important to those prayers. The author also examines the different types of good luck and good fortune out there and why you may want to work and pray for them.
The eleventh chapter in this book is probably the most useful chapter in the book. It is in this chapter that the author finally teaches the reader how to write their own prayers. The nine previous chapters provided several different examples of prayers in different situations. By looking at those prayers a reader can have an idea of how prayers may be constructed. The author provides a three step process for writing prayers and provides blanks in them for you to insert your own concepts and addresses. There are also two prayers for example set up as being written.
The twelfth chapter in the book focuses on writing prayers with the assistance of a familiar spirit. Familiar spirits and spirit guides are common themes and concepts in witchcraft traditions. Here the author explains and provides rituals to get and meet your own familiar spirit, but also explains how and why they are useful in prayer writing.
The thirteenth chapter of the book focuses on another traditional practice of witches. That practice is the ability to travel in spirit body to the different realms and worlds. This is the one hedge witch and shamanic aspect of the book. While the other realms and worlds had been addressed through prayers and had spiritual associations given to the other realms, it is only in this chapter that the reader learns to navigate those realms themselves to gain spiritual insight and prayers of their own.
The fourteenth chapter of this book focuses on steps on the path. Here the author provides different tasks and steps that one can take to making wildwood mysticism and witchcraft their path and part of their daily lives. The author begins the chapter by showing through a symbol that the path of a witch is not straight and that it curves and spirals. The author provides examples of ways we look to the other worlds for guidance and nine different actions we can take to make our spirituality and life whole. This chapter is really about the work it takes to bring this spiritual path to daily life, providing ways to make it a part of your daily life.
The final chapter in this book is about the wheel of the year. This chapter focuses on the typical 8 sabbats of religious witchcraft and ways to celebrate the wheel of the year. There are three different spell actions given for each sabbat (one for each of the worlds and realms) as well as a prayer that focuses on the energetic forces and theme of the sabbat.
By the end of the book the reader has an understanding of a cohesive style and tradition of witchcraft that works with minimal tools, nature energies, and prayer. The book teaches witches not only the importance of prayer work, but how effective prayers can be as a magical and spiritual practice and focus all on their own.
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.
Last week my post was dedicated to the beginner and the start of building an altar. As I said building an altar can seem very overwhelming to a beginner. The same problem can be seen to occur with people have have been on their path for a while or have finally chosen their specific paths after a lot of exploration. This post here is going to address how a more advanced pagan can develop altars specifically dedicated to their paths.
Path specific altars and specificity
Last week I mentioned that some paths have very specific altars and there are some times reasons why you may need to change your altar for a specific sabbat, spell, rituals or activity. The more you read and research the more ideas and concepts you may want to try. For this reason it’s important to understand the rituals and the magical practices you are exploring . You may need to have different supplies from those supplies that you started with.
This post will cover a few specific points on the topic of seasonal, magical, and path specific points. Each one of these points will illustrated why there really is no wrong way to set up your altar unless you are on a very specific path. Like I said in my previous post exploration, trial and error are going to be all you need.
The topics covered here will be:
- Eclectic witchcraft altars
- Brittish Traditional Wicca altars
- Traditional witchcraft altars
- 8 sabbat altars (Wicca and witchcraft)
- Ceremonial magic
- Asatru altars and items used
- Hellenic (Greek worship)
- Religio Romano (Roman worship)
Each of these paths have very specific altars and ritual tools. Each of these paths have specific ritual forums for which their altars are designed. Each of these altars has a different use and different specific ways to be used in the altars. I’ll start with what I practice myself. That way I can ease into the paths I have explored but have little to no personal experience with. I am always studying and I am always willing to try something new, but lets start with that which I know.
Eclectic Witchcraft Altars:
As an eclectic witch there are really no real limits and style for the altar. However there are some common themes in the altar set up. Ultimately each witch has to choose how to make their own altar based on what works for them and how they worship the God and Goddess or the spirits they work with. This is where the comments of my last post and directions of my last post come into play. I will however list a few of the common traits and guidelines I have come across for more dynamic and specific worship set up.
One of the most confusing things about an altar can be what direction it’s supposed to face in ritual. Some authors say the altar should face north. Other say it should face east or west. Very few authors I have encountered over my studies have suggested that the altar should face south for fire. When a seeker or an advanced practitioner may set out to set up their altar for ritual they still may ask themselves where they should place the altar in the circle and if they want to have the altar face a certain direction.
I have found for myself that ideally my altar would be placed in the center of the circle facing no specific direction. While yes the altar will ultimately be facing a direction I find no reason for me to be worrying about if my altar faces the wrong way. For me the altar is the center of my worship structure. It is there where I place my offerings and where I place my tools during the altar. Which is why I would prefer to have it in the center of my circle. Unfortunately that doesn’t always work when you have limited space for ritual and moving all the furniture is not a reasonable option.
One of the other reasons I like having the altar in the center of my circle is that during ritual if I am going to use ecstatic practices such as dance, scourging, movement, or even the basic circle dance it becomes much easier to move around. It also makes it easier for me to define a very specific ritual area and I’m able to work ritual with in that area thus creating such a special sacred space. For many reason this makes it easier for worship and magical practices.
Elemental symbols on the altar
Most of the books out there mention that as part of ritual and practice there should be some basic symbols of the elements on the altar. Much of the modern witchcraft philosophy plays into the thought that each of the elements is involved in every part of magic and worship. Many witches believe in the Gods and elemental spirits that rule the winds and the powers of those elemental. This practice was firs seen in the Golden Dawn. Since modern witchcraft as we know it has its origins with the OTO and other forms of ceremonial magic as well as the local natural magic and folk practices of the Isle of man I can understand how Gardner (father of the witchcraft renaissance) formed the practices together. I appreciate this practice and have come to my own understanding of the elemental spirits and guides.
As a witch or magician there are many ways to work with the elements in magic and ritual. For many people there is a red candle for fire, a bowl of salt for earth, a bowl of water for water, and some form of incense for the representation of air. In my early days on my path this was something I had chosen to do on my own. It was simple and it was a very effective mode for my early years and some of my time when my living arrangements were less than grand for my religious and spiritual practices.
Aside from symbols that are literal representation of the elements there have often been tools used in ritual to invoke and call in the elements during the practice of circle casting. Sometimes the water and salt mentioned above are used in the invocation, but more often than not there are other tools involved within the rituals. Typically these are the athame (ritual dulled dagger), the wand, a bell, and occasionally the drums. There will be more talk of the elements and the common elemental tools when I make my post on the elements. For now I’ll post an altar that has the elements mentioned and get on to the next type of altar, a traditional Wiccan altar.
British Traditional Wicca Altars
There are only a small collections of BTW traditions. The traditions that are identified as BTW are:
- *Central Valley (a collective term for the traditions named below)
- -Silver Crescent
- -Daoine Coire
- -Assembly of Wicca
there are some very specific structures to the altar and it has to be set up this way. One of the reasons for that is that Wicca is a tradition defined as:
It is the orthopraxic nature of Wicca which is addressed in this post. The set up a BTW altar is going to be very specific. While they may change with various rituals in general the set up of BTW altars is set up a specific way. This plays largely into how they work rituals and how it’s vastly different than how eclectic practice rituals and use their altars. BTW is a coven based religion as such there would only be the coven’s set of tools on the altar and personal tools would be on your person.
There are different set ups for initiation and different sabbats. The Farrar’s in their book A witches Bible they had diagrams for the various altars that they were using. While it’s true that there are oathbound practices and lore, the Farrars gave enough information to get the concepts needed behind the placement and purposes of the items that a seeker would be able to have some concepts behind what they were exploring.
I have never been initiated into a Wiccan coven. So I have nothing more than the understanding of a seeker. I have a few friends that are initiates and I have been seeking more and more. While I am not specifically seeking Wicca at this point I am seeking truth and wisdom found in witchults and witchcraft traditions.
Traditional witchcraft is yet another form of witchcraft. The basic difference between those who identify as Wiccan and those who are practice the common form of Eclectic witchcraft is that Traditional witchcraft is more focused on the practices of witches that occurred pre-Gardner. Traditional witchcraft focuses on folklore from various cultures and the central theme is ancestral worship (which is discussed in my other blog). In many ways the tools and the actual worship is more land based and more nature oriented than the typical eccelctic path as it explores in depth all aspects of life and creation as well as death and destruction and the relationships between them.
This is reflected often in their altars. There are two ways traditional witches can set up their altars. The first is:
The second type of altar is the prefered style of many traditional witches. Traditional witches in many ways prefer to have their worship outside as the conection the the land is much more powerful. Even a few of their sacred space techniques would be much more powerful outside than inside. It’s the nature of their practice:
The third image is what the second image often starts out with during the initial prep. Instead of a table the Stang (the forked staff) when planted into the earth is used to hold ritual tools and items as well as be the center of the worship. The stand is often associated with the world tree and thus is a central part of the worship in traditional witchcraft.
I have a stang and a staff. One day I will use them in ritual together. For now I have other influences from traditional witchcraft in my path which I will get into little by little in these posts or in my other blog. My main influence from traditional witchcraft now aside from my underworld views, is having an ancestral altar:
Now I am on the last topic that is directed specifically towards the nature of witchcraft religions and practices. This last practice is tied directly into the lore of each of the sabbats and how each witch practices those sabbats. So here we go,
Altars for the 8 sabbats
The 8 sabbats in the various forms of religious witchcraft are one of the primary ways they connect with and worship their deities. Each sabbat leads into a key point or mystery of the nature of the universe and the cycle of life from birth to death to rebirth. The sabbats also go over the nature of the dynamic relationship of the God and Goddess they worship.
Each sabbat will there for have a unique altar setting. In many witchcraft traditions the winter solstice or Yule is considered to be the start of the cycle. I however feel that the cycle actually begins with the midwinter holiday of Imbolc.
Imbolc has always been associated with the birth of new animals. There is the symbolsim of milk being the first food for mammals and it’s prcesseses. Here we are able to really plan for the start of the year and the growing season to come. Its where in ancient times Farmers would finally start to have a source of income from the milk and cheese which would provide needed nutrition and additions to the diet that has been upon them since the last harvest.
I see this as where the God is born of the Goddess. That is why I believe the wheel of the year starts here at Imbolc. The altars at this time of year are decorated with signs of the light really returning and plans for the future.
Ostara: Spring Equinox
The next sabbat in the cycle is the sppring equinox. The sun has really returned. The day and night will be of equal length. The light has been increasing slowly since Imbolc but now it has returned. Here is really the symbol of rebirth. The trees have spread their leaves and there are more buds coming from the ground. Planting is in progress and the animals born at the time of Imbolc are starting to be more independent (baby chicks and bunnies for example).
Here at Ostara the Goddess is as a maiden young and innocent and the God is a boy of around the same age (I typically picture between 4 and 7). They are just starting to explore and understand the world. This sabbat is essentially about the freedom of inspiration and imagination that is often lost after childhood. Its about growth and development hopefulness and a zest for life.
This is one of the highest holy days in many of these traditions. Here sex and sensuality are explored and celebrated. In the cycle of the year the God has reached sexual maturity and is going to be taking the maiden he met at Ostara and enjoying the nature of sexuality and sexual contact. This is also known as May day. Here the God will give the Goddess his seed and she will be carrying his child (to be born at Imbolc).
Litha: Summer solstice
Litha is the height of summer. Its the summer solstice. The light is in full swing. Crops are starting to be grown and some are being harvested already. The Goddess is pregnant with growth and glowing with maternal pride. The sun gives her fertility for growth every day. As the sun heats so do the crops grow and develop.
Lammas or loaf mass:
This is the first of the three harvest festivals. The summer is reaching it’s end. The grains of the summer are ready to be harvest at this time. This will be ground and separated into feed for the animals and flour for bread and biscuits and the like. Some fruits are enjoyed and loved at this time. The rituals here are typically around harvesting the first hard work of the spring and enjoying the fruits of that labor. There are a lot of rituals involving the sacrifice of grain and the blood of the “sacrificed king”. It is believed that the God is sacrificed here so that the land will remain fertile between now and the end of the growing season.
The lord of the grain has been given up so that the lord of the animals and winter could take over the land slowly. The blood spilled will nourish the land. This can also be seen in how the sun seems to be dying at this time of the year. The difference in light has started to be more noticeable with more night starting to be more in control.
This summer I experienced that change and power during the camping trip that I mentioned in my welcome back post. I was able to forget everything and just revel in the power of nature and the dying of the sun enjoying the last of his life before the darkness takes control and his real underworld journey to be reborn begins.
The wheel continues to turn and we turn to where the light and the dark are equal.
Mabon: The Fall Equinox
Mabon is the second harvest. The majority of the harvest is being harvested and enjoyed. There is plenty of food to go around. In many ways this harvest has been described as the witches thanksgiving and I wold have to agree that that is true. The god’s essence is being given to the people through the food they eat. The Goddess is mourning the loss of her love and is nurturing his son growing with in her womb. Here the focus starts to be more on the animals. This is the time of year when hunting and gathering would truly begin. This is why we have hunting seasons to this day.
This is the most famous holiday of witches. Many of the traditions associated with the Halloween stories and decorations have roots in various witch lore and history. The green skin, the crooked teeth, the hat, and many more come from witch trails and lore as well as other folk lore. The dressing up as goblins or other “scary” spirits was done when traveling from place to place at this time to scare away malevolent spirits crossing over. The essence of the “haunted season” is in that spirits of all sorts are more active on this week.
This is also the last harvest festival. It also the night where the ancestors can cross over and visit their living loved ones. This is why there are so many traditions relating to crossing over at this time of year. The veil between the underworld and the world of the living and life as we understand it is at its thinest.
As you can see the altar both represents that which is alive and that which is dead. The seeds of the harvested plants can be gathered and prepared as the stalks and leaves fade and dye. The seasonal leaved trees have almost all lost their leaves while the evergrees are still vibrant. Life and death are equal here and now.
The God has descended into the Underworld and is ready to start his journey to be reborn. Part of his essence remains in the land and in the forest as the Lord of the wilderness and in the Goddess as the Lord of the sun and grain yet to be born).
Yule: Winter solstice
This is the final sabbat in the wheel of the year, This sabbat is the day when the night overcomes the day. Here we are now in a time of the underworld. Nothing can really grow at this time of year and we are dependent on the food that was stored during the harvests. The animals have been slain so that now only the strongest and best remain. It is the time to reflect on everything that was done that year and to start thinking about how the new year will bring new opportunities and will be a time for changes of what will be needed.
In essence the spirit of the God is reborn with in the people. They feel the sun and inspiration and hope for the future growing with in them. They also start to understand that even though some real tough times are ahead until planting begins they can get through it. It will be the last time they can really celebrate and renew themselves for the next year.
The sun is reborn on the morning after the solstice as it is from that that we know the sun will overcome the darkness. This is how we know the God lives and will exist again. His shadow is still slightly in power as the symbols of this time are reindeer and evergreen forests. These are symbols of the God as the Lord of the Hunt and the Lord of the animals and how they live together.
The first altar will be one of my own Yule altars and the next altar will be one for a generic concept of the season
Now the wheel turns and brings us back to Imbolc which was the first seasonal altar I posted. I hope this gives you and understanding of how different altars can be made and created for specific holidays and celebrations, Now I will get into the last real magic and directly Occult type of altar I planed to discuss.
Ceremonial magic is one where the altar has direct symbols for the elements and is focused on a connection with the God head. In many ways it is often connected with Christianity and Christian mysticism. The truth is the early forms of ceremonial magic were based on Christian Occult and mystery practices. Here was where you could find the practices of “Christian Magic”.
Many of the rituals are based on calling in the arch angles and the invocation of their power into the magical space and to help empower the magical actions being taken. This rite can be traced back to the Ritual in short hand known as the LGBRP which means the Lesser Greater Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. I am trained in this ritual and have used it many times. This is a complex ritual which I will go over in length when I have my post on ceremonial magic. In essence you call in the four arch angles to protect the space while vibrating the various names of Yaweh to sanctify the space and prepare it for magical ritual and practice.
I have said before that I practice a form of dragonic witchcraft and magic. This is very true. That practice is very ceremonial. The opening ritual is very much designed after the LGRBP. I call upon the dragon guardians and guides that I have a relationship with rather than angels. The symbolsim is in the structure of the ritual, the tools used, and the altar.
The tools mentioned in the eclectic witchcraft altars can trace their origin to the LGRBP and many other rituals performed by the OTO. Gardner who was the one who crafted the new form of religious witchcraft as we know and see it to day was a member of the OTO and other occult practices. This played into how he crafted the religion of Wicca.
The altars I have shown above may very much resemble this altar:
It is what I would use more often than not in the presence of a Christian friend who wished to attend my ritual. This is also where the heremetic philosophies of the Kyballion allow for there to be witchy changes and views. All of them are essentially the same practice, but the rituals are designed to be related to be specific to that path and that practice.
Finally I can start getting into some of the more path specific altars regarding more culture specific altars. This next section is directed more towards those who have found the deities and the paths they follow. Some of these are more recon style (recreating in modern day to the best of their ability the ancient religions of various cultures) and some are still semi inspired by previous eclectic practices.
Asatru & Other Germanic faiths
Asatru is the recon of the Norse beliefs and religion. The focus is typically on the Aesir. The primary sources of their lore is the poetry and the sagas of the Norse and Germanic people. These inclde the Poetic and Prose Eddas, the Sagas of the Icelanders, The Vinland Saga, and many more. The altars and worship style is very simple and elegent. Their rituals are known as a Sumbel or a Blot depending on the content and the like. Both of those are other topics I will bring up over the course of this year.
I have two sample altars to show you:
This is an altar that some one shared online. The tools are simple and the ritual is still rather joyous and intimate. The next altar shows what each item is called and as I said I’ll be going over this in more depth when I discuss Blots.
The next two religions are often discussed together as they are very much associated. The first is Greek reconstruction often known as Hellenismos and the second is Religio Romano which is the reconstruction of the Roman paths. There are some very substantial differences between the two paths. To be honest I haven’t explored either of these paths as indepth as I would like. While I do have an interest in both of those as they were the first deities I met and worked and worshiped as a teen my path and practices have lead me in other directions.
Both altars are dedicated to the Olympic or Cthonic Gods. There are very interesting cleanliness restrictions of these rituals and in their worship that in some ways to me is ridiculous. However they also had the most sophisticated sanitation and irrigation systems than any other cultures of their time.
Religio Romano: Roman Reconstruction
The altar in the traditions of ancient Rome was called the larium, There are specific designations for what goes on the larium and in the practices of their religion. They also have very strict cleanliness requirements. They also hold that if there is any mistake in the performance of a ritual they must cleanse themselves and the larium and start the ritual over from the begining. It is a orthopraxic religion much like Wicca though they focus on any and all of the Roman Gods.
As you can see there are some very different altar structures and set ups for the different paths one may encounter as they seek. You may find yourself attracted to one culture and want to learn more about how they were worshiped in ancient times and then find that you may find it’s to strict for you so you do something inspired by them. That is why the first post was about seeking and basic introductions and the second post was mostly directed at specific paths and how they are different.
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.