Category Archives: Traditional Wichcraft
Ancestral Veneration: What it is, types of ancestors, and working with them
What Types there are and How to work with them
What is Ancestral Veneration
Ancestral Veneration is one of the most ancient religious and spiritual practices. The respect and belief in an afterlife as well as honoring ancestors can be traced back to paleolithic mankind. It is believed that honoring our ancestors was the first religious and spiritual form of ritual work. From ways the dead were buried to views of the afterlife ancestors and the dead were never far from the mind of our paleolithic ancestors, and for some this truth remains today.
Ancestral veneration is not worshiping our ancestors, at least not in the common sense of worship. Ancestral veneration is more like honoring the dead in a respectful way. Its a belief that they are still with us in a spirit form. That they can hear us and can effect our lives from the other side. Its a belief that our ancestors like other spirits can help us become the best person we can be and to live the life that we really want and desire.
There are exchanges of offerings and gifts. This isn’t worship. In some ways I think of it like when I put a flower on my ancestors grave. Its giving something to them to signify that you remember them and care for them. These gifts can be basically anything. Though some cultures do have rules against some items being given to different spirits.
In some cultures flowers are only for the dead and it’s ok to leave offerings to the dead till they rot as this signifies they have taken everything. In other cultures and practices only water is offered to the dead. Even Christianity has mention of the value of prayer for the dead. Working with and honoring our ancestors is a powerful spiritual path and there are many ways to go about it.
The act of the gift and the offering is the important thing though. Its through these exchanges that relationships with our ancestors can develop and grow. Its believed that a gift will ensure a gift. Its also believed that because the dead and our ancestors are beyond the veil they have access to energy and powers of the universe that we don’t so by asking them to help us in our work and our lives they can tap into those energies for us. Granted they dont help us unless we help ourselves. So the gifts symbolize our part to do our work.
Many religions and traditions have celebrations and days of the dead. Halloween, All saints and All Souls day, Samhain, Dia de los Muertos(Mexican Day of the dead), The Bon Festival (Japan), and Pitru Paksha (Fortnight of the Ancestors-Hindu) are different festivals in different cultures. They have one thing in common. They are all festivals to honor the dead and the ancestors. These are only a handful of celebrations that exist to celebrate ancestors and the dead. The point is that the concept of honoring the dead is still alive and well in this world today.
The practice of honoring the dead is starting to become more common in Pagan practices today as well. Part of that is that many of us are reclaiming this practice. It was a part of ancient pagan traditions, so the practice was largely destroyed in the west. For many reclaiming ancestral veneration as a part of our practice not only connects us to our more recent ancestors and keeps our passed loved ones in our lives, but it also allows us to reach the deepest ancestors we have which can be powerful guides for those starting down pagan paths.
Personal Development of Ancestor work
One of the reasons I am writing this post today is in honor of a new ancestor. A loved one of mine has just crossed the veil. It is this passing that has once again made me think about working with my ancestors and how is really always been a central part of my practice. I haven’t always considered the contact with my ancestors and the shrines to my past loved ones ancestral veneration. I thought it was simply remembering them and keeping them alive.
Ancestor veneration is a large part of my practice and spiritual work. My ancestors have a lot to teach me. I have an ancestor altar that I pray at everyday. While it is a strong part of my practice these days, ancestral veneration and honoring has not always been a large part of my path. In fact it was at one point something I really only did on the festival of the dead (Samhain) as that was the focus. I thought that was really all that was needed, and at the time maybe that was for my best.
When I started to practice witchcraft I had recently lost my Grandmother. Many of the psychics and readings I had done at the time confirmed that she was staying close to me as a spirit guide (I was having dreams of her). So I started working with my ancestors through a single ancestor as a spirit guide. That was 17 years ago. Now I have an altar to all my ancestors as I have learned that any of our ancestors can be our guides and guardians.
Originally I didn’t offer any prayers, or much to my ancestors. I would simply say hello to them when I needed to feel their presence. I had a place of memory for them where I could see them and keep them in my life. Then when I started to explore traditional witchcraft as a religious and spiritual practice I heard of the concept of giving them offerings and having shrines and altars to them. So I created one and started an ancestral prayer working.
The practice with ancestral veneration got even deeper when I started to explore Germanic paganism and found I had Germanic ancestry. When I read how they honored their ancestors and the powers of wyrd and Oorlog I decided that I had to develop my relationship even further. So I started to work them into Germanic rites and rituals through the phrases “The Alfar and the Disir”
There was a time when I stopped practicing basically everything. Then I started to explore Hoodoo. My interest and desires to understand magic and witchcraft returned. Through this I found more focus on ancestors and honoring your culture. I found that ancestors will be powerful allies in spells as well as in meditations and trance work. So through Hoodoo my work with my ancestors started to develop further and I learned new prayers to use for my ancestors.
Now today I have a prayer I say to them every morning and I have a prayer I say every evening to my ancestors. I give them offerings when I perform rituals and I invite them into my ritual circles. They have a part of my day to day life and my spiritual life. I couldn’t imagine my spiritual work without my ancestors at all. They are always there for me and they always will be. I may not be able to physically hold them and see them, but when I need them I can feel them and I know they are always there for me.
The types of ancestors:
Being adopted my ancestors actually come in different forms and types. Not all of my ancestors are of the blood. Some are of the spirit and some are of the heart. I have legal blood ancestors and blood ancestors. I have ancestors in all of my families that I don’t know but are my allies through the bonds of the heart and the spirit. I even have ancestors that are not really in my family at all but are in my spiritual family. All of these ancestors have roles to play in my life and I honor them all.
I dont consider ancestors limited to just the blood and the heart though.This post is going to discuss the different ancestors I have through my adoption and my spiritual practices and how I can honor and work with each of them. For the longest time I didn’t engage in ancestral veneration because of my adoption. I wasn’t sure if I should honor my ancestors of my adoption, my foster family, or my biological family. Thinking about this also was painful so while I wanted to honor my ancestors I didn’t go about it until I had answered my confusion.
How I came to see the types of Ancestors
That was how I came to see the different ancestral lines. One year I went to the local Pagan Pride day. I typically attend a few of the workshops that go on. This year there was one about ancestral work and contacting your ancestors. The key component of that workshop was a meditation on ancestral lines. During this meditation I saw three lines of ancestral blood flowing from my body. There was a fourth that was some what gray at the time and today its now clear.
It was then I knew that I was to honor all of my ancestors. Those of my foster family, my blood or biological family, and my adoptive family. It was through this work that I came to see that there are many different types of ancestors and that not everyone will have access to blood ancestors. Through these meditations and concepts I came to see that there are
four primary types of ancestral allies: You have your ancestors of the Blood, your ancestors of the heart, and the ancestors of the spirit. Adoptive ancestors are actually a mixture of two types which I will get into in the next sections as well as being their own type of ancestor.
Ancestors of The Blood
Every one is familiar with the concept of blood ancestors. These are those of your family or blood line that goes back generations. These are the strongest allies that one can have. These are the ancestors that everyone thinks about when they think of ancestors. Ancestors of the blood also include ancestors gained through marriage and long term committed relationships. When I got engaged to my fiance his ancestors joined mine and mine his. We are a family unit. These ancestors go back generations on each side. So the lines of blood ancestors are very long.
These are the strongest allies that you can have as a spirit. They are the ones that have your best interest at heart. Through the strands of Fate, and the workings of Wyrd we are always directly connected to our ancestors. Our actions reflect them as much as their actions reflect on us. So we need to honor them in our lives and we need to keep them close to us. Before any other spirit is petitioned the ancestors will work stronger for you and faster for you. There is little that is stronger than the power of the blood.
For me I also have my adoptive ancestors, These are the ancestors of my adoptive family. They are the family that raised me and that belongs to me. In ancient cultures at times the roles of the blood ancestors would be replaced by the foster and or adoptive family. In my case I never considered them to replace the blood ancestors at all. I considered them additional ancestors that I was blessed to have.
We have no physical blood that ties us. However to all of the world and all legal meanings they are my flesh and blood. That is how I feel about them as well. In all honesty at times they are more my family than my blood and biological family simply because I have minimal contact and my relationship with that family is in its infancy (until recently was non existent). Which is why they are both ancestors of the blood and of the heart. The time that they spent raising me and being involved in my life can not be undone.
They gave their blood, sweat, and tears to me. They are for my my most powerful allies. They have been there for me more than the blood ancestors. They were the first ancestors I have contacted and they were the first ones to make themselves known to me. This is the ancestral line that has been the strongest for me. My blood ancestral work is focused on more ancient pagan ancestor while my adoptive ancestral work is more with Saint and angel work (Hoodoo influences as well).
It is because my adoptive Ancestors gave so much of their blood, sweat, and tears into my life and that they took me in they are also ancestors of the heart. They are of the blood because of the family ties and concepts but of the heart because there is no physical blood. Its a spiritual and memory based blood love. The bond of the heart here shows how even just being in a family for a short while can create strong family bonds.
Ancestors of the Heart
Those of the heart are the family that has passed that are not connected through marriage or blood or even legal adoption. In my case this is where my foster family lies. They did not adopt me but are still my family. I have lost several members of that family and they were all close to me. They are now my ancestors and they watch over me. Our bond is somewhat stronger than blood or law.
These ancestors are some of my more recent ancestors. It was my Uncle Cleve’s passing which made me think about ancestors. He was my foster uncle and is an ancestor of my heart. His two brothers are also my ancestors here. I have a Grandfather here as well. To them and to me the fact that I did not live with them, and was not legally a part of the family after my adoption never mattered. I never stopped being their family. That is what the ancestors of the heart are all about.
The ancestors of the heart are those that have passed on we considered family even if there was no blood between you. These can be friends you thought of as brothers and sisters, close friends and even those who you would consider “father”or “mother” figures. If you feel that they were and are apart of your family in your heart than they are your family and are your ancestors. Never let anyone else tell you any different.
Ancestors of the Spirit:
Finally there are ancestors of the spirit. For me I consider any Occultist, Witch, and Magician who worked hard to preserve the magical and spiritual arts are my spiritual ancestors. Even though I dont agree with all of their teachings and philosophies people like Gerald Gardner, Aliester Crowley, Doreen Valiente, Scott Cunningham, and many others put a lot of work into making magical spirituality acceptable and part of our day to day lives again. Those are a few of my spiritual ancestors as a witch based on the practices I have taken into my practice.
As I explore Hoodoo and other magical systems other spiritual ancestors will come into my practice. For example Marie Laveau is a famous Hoodoo worker in New Orleans. In some respects I could consider her a spiritual ancestor. Other ancestors in the case of Hoodoo would in general be any one who struggled to keep African American spiritual heritage alive through Hoodoo and Rootwork. When a teacher passes I would add them to the spiritual ancestors as well.
You can also have ancestors of the spirit when you are spiritually adopted into a tradition. There are many religions and paths where they are only open to people of a specific culture. Occasionally through the practice of spiritual adoption outsiders are initiated and welcome into that spiritual family. The ancestors of your initiator in these situations become your ancestors and guides as well. It is a spiritual family you have entered into and like all families they will help you and work with you if you honor them as taught.
Working with your ancestors
Now that we have covered the types of ancestors out there and I have mentioned the importance of working with your ancestors its time to actually start thinking about how we can work with them. Why do we work with them, and what the best ways of working with them are.
There are two primary ways aside from meditation and spirit travel work that a person can work with their ancestors. These two forms are the altar and prayers. They work well together and serve as a starting point for building power with your ancestral allies. Unless one is experienced in astral travel and spirit communication using those tools right away to work with your ancestors is not the best of ideas. Prayers and altar work are all you really need.
Really when it comes to working with your ancestors the only real must do I have found is having an altar of some sort where you can offer prayers and other items to them as you get to know them. These altars can evolve and change over time. The point of the altar is to serve as a focal point in your work. The altar is a place for you to offer your prayers and your gifts to them.
Your altar doesn’t need to be fancy. Many people start off not knowing any of their ancestors. In which case a candle, a cup for water, and a plate for offerings is all you would need to contact them. If you know your passed on loved ones and you have photos of them you can and should add those photos to the altar.
The altar also serves as a place of remembrance of the dead. So its a place to put items that make you think of your ancestors as well as their photos. You want it to look nice and appealing. This is going to be their home for you in your house and their place in your life. So its also important to keep the altar neat looking.
Here are some examples of my own ancestral altars and how its changed over time:
As you can see by looking at these altars they have changed over time. As they have changed so has my relationship with my ancestors evolved. The reason I wanted to show you the evolution of the altar is that I want you all to know that you can let your altar change over time. Its not meant to be a static thing! Its meant to be something that evolves with you and with your relationship with the spirits!
There are no limits on your ancestral altar. Let their spirits come through. There are reasons for the symbols I have placed on my altars. They grew as my focus and my relationships grew. One thing has always been common though-the focus has been on remembering them and keeping their memories alive in my life.
The best way to work with your ancestors even before starting an altar is simply to pray to them. Prayers to your ancestors aren’t really any different than prayers for gods and spirit guides. You are simply having a conversation with your ancestors. Prayers are how we can communicate with them directly and its our best way to communicate with them. They can communicate with us in different ways (dreams, scents, meditations, sudden insights etc) but we can really only speak to them through prayers.
The easiest prayer is simply:
“Blessed Ancestors I welcome you into my life. May you bless and guide me and may you teach me what you yourself can”
That’s all your prayers to your ancestors need to be. You dont need to praise them. You don’t need to have a fancy invocation. You simply can address them as your ancestors and they will listen to you. You dont even really need to ask for a blessing. You could simply say something along the lines of:
“Good Morning Ancestors. I welcome you this day”.
All you are doing with your prayers is acknowledging that they exist and that they are apart of your world. By giving them a simple welcome everyday you will start to feel their presence build up. You will begin to know them and feel them like you do can with other spirits and beings that you work with. The more attention you give them the more you will notice them.
Prayers can be more complex and verbose. My personal prayers evolved from a simple Hello and welcome to a full blessing and daily petition for them to be here. There is a bit of praise and there is a bit of thanks. These prayers are offered twice daily. I feel that they flowed from me into the written form when I was channeling spirits and writing prayers for them. My ancestors let me know what they wanted.
Offerings and Gifts
The final way that we can work with our ancestors is in offerings and gifts. These gifts are ways that we say thank you and show our appreciation to them. There are many ways types of gifts that can be given to our ancestors. You can give your ancestor basically anything you would give yourself or a person. They are still family and they are still people.
For myself I consider flowers on graves a gift to them. I also place flowers on the altars every so often as remembrances of them. I try and give them their favorite flowers. I also try and give them their favorite things. For my grandmother I will think of her when I go bowling and send her some of that energy as play and a memory of our times together.
On holidays I will set aside a portion of the food on my plate for my ancestors. I will let it sit till the end and eat that last. They eat the essence of that portion while I eat my meal. When I have finished the portion for me they will have had their fill and I can take nourishment from the food. Other cultures burn food offerings to ancestors and spirits. Some burry the food in the yard. Other throw it into the woods for animals to eat.
There are some taboos in various cultures about what can and can’t be given to ancestors and the dead. If you belong to a specific culture, religion, and or tradition I suggest that you look into ways that they honor the dead. By honoring the traditions of your culture, your religion and your tradition you are honoring your ancestors in that way as well. These traditions after all were ancestral in many cases.
This post has covered my own discovery into the importance of ancestral veneration. It has covered the types of ancestors and a few of the ways that we can work with our ancestors. Your ancestors are part of who you are. They are powerful allies that can teach you things you wouldn’t imagine and who can be there for you in ways none else can. Your ancestors are still here in this life and in this world just in a different form.
There are many ways to work with them. Once you start working with them you will find that there are many more ways and reasons to work with them. I’ve been working with my ancestors actively for several years and my relationships with them continue to grow and develop. I am constantly learning new reasons to honor them and new ways of working with them. The more I learn the more I realize there is to learn.
These allies seem to be the ones that develop the most as I develop spiritually. The more I understand spiritual and magical practices the stronger they seem to become and the more things we seem to be able to so together. Its my hope that any one who has read this will start to develop their own relationships with their ancestors and start to find the power and comfort in ancestral grace and guidance.
Why I am not a Traditional Witch
As many of you may or may nor know I don’t consider myself a strict traditional witch, though I do have a lot of traditional leanings. I feel that I needed more direct experiences and practices within Traditional witchcraft to consider myself a traditional witch. Training in the Feri tradition is a part of that.
The other reason I didn’t consider myself really a traditional witch is that I didn’t work really directly with local land spirits and forces. I worked more with my personal energetic forces rather than spirits. That has been changing recently with my studies in the Feri tradition and in Hoodoo/Conjure.
So recently I did a prayer and asked if there were any fairy spirit in the area to make themselves known. A few days later a mushroom ring appears in my backyard. For the first time in my life a fairy ring appeared in my home. It made me feel like the local fairies and spirits did take the first offering I gave at my home/house spirit shrine.
Its just something I thought I would share. I have never experienced a fairy ring in my yard before. So for me its a special gift of the fairies. To me its a signal that my connections with the local forces and spirits is growing and they are listening to me.
Review: The Heart of the Initiate
The Heart of the Initiate is a wonderful book. This book was created by Victor and Cora Anderson for their students and those interested in the Feri tradition of witchcraft. The forward states:
“THIS BOOK IS A VALENTINE from Victor and Cora Anderson to you. For those of us who are their initiates, the Andersons live on through the many personal recordings and letters we held close and treasure. We’re grateful for this great opportunity to share rare insights into the Anderson’s teachings, and offer you an imitation of what it was like to be their student.”
It is clear that the Andersons wanted their teachings to be preserved and shared. That they wanted more people to understand and know what their tradition was and is all about. The proof is in the quote mentioned above. For this reason the book was created which allows seekers like me and students of Feri to see what the actual founders and high masters said about the tradition and their teachings.
Due to the nature of this book there are not chapters. The book reads like correspondences which is what they are. There are a few sections in which various teachings are written about in letter or essay form, but not your traditional chapters and sections style.
The first section of the book is called Some Pictish views on the old religion. Here we learn about some origins of the practices and how the religion is different from others. It talks about the origins and how sex is sacred. There is a little bit on basically all aspects of the Craft in this section written by Victor.
The second section of the book is called Commentaries. In this section there are a few specific articles on points important to the specific Feri tradition of witchcraft as they teach it. Topics include Raising power to divinity, Sexual Initiation, Sexual ethics, Training and Initiation, The Consort, The Guardians, The morning prayer, Possession, and Salvation. All of these concepts are teachings important in the Feri tradition to some extent and these basic articles express how they work and what they mean.
The third section of the book is the most informative section of the book. Here there are glimpses at some of the rites and materials actually presented to their students. There are exercises and explanations given. The letters are written by Victor and Cora presented to us as they responded to their students. The only thing missing in this section would be the letters from the students to their teachers so the context makes more sense.
The very last section of the book is important for seekers like myself. In many books on traditional witchcraft there is an exercise to switch from a Christian path to a Traditional witchcraft path which involves the reciting of the Lord Prayer backwards. Here Victor describes yet another prayer that can be used which is essentially a modified version of the Lords prayer for seekers trying to be open to new paths and teachings.
Pagan Blog Project: B is for Belief
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.
Pagan Blog Project: E- Entheogens
We live in a world filled with a rather large variety of plants and animals. Learning about them and their lives is a fun and exciting thing to do. Working with the energy of plants and animals is something that witches do. Lately I have noticed a trend of people looking away and wanting to throw away some aspects of religious and spiritual traditions. The one aspect I see people ignoring more than others is the use of substances in spiritual and religious practices. This is something I personally want to preserve and keep around.
So today’s post is going to be on the use of Entheogens in spiritual and religious practices. As this is my personal blog I feel free to discuss this topic here. On my other blog (Seeker sight) I focus on topics and posts that can help beginners find their paths. I focus there for on subjects that are appropriate for people just starting out in their spiritual path. For me the practice and use of Entheogens even as a curious study and exploration is not something that a beginner needs to read or worry about So it gets posted here.
Using substances to experience Gods and spirits
As I mentioned the use of substances in ritual to achieve a trance state where one can engage with spirits and Gods effectively is a practice traditional among many different cultures. Different cultures have different substances that they use to engage in spirit flight or spirit activity. The various tribal shamans and witches who use these substances are instructed on their use by their masters and their teachers as well as by the plant spirits themselves.
Before I begin to describe an explain why some people may engage in the use of Entheogens let’s look at exactly what Entheogen as a term means and why the uses of these varied herbs is so successful. If the technique and uses didn’t work people would not continue the traditional practices. So they do work for a reason. Lets see what that reason is.
In his book Hedge Rider Eric De Vries defines Entheogens as:
Entheogen means bringing forth the God and is the name used for herbal substances that are used for spiritual and or magical purposes. The important thing to remember is that entheogens are rarely used for recreational purposes. Not because they have limited effect, but because they aren’t really fun
This definition right here says all that needs to be said. Entheogens bring forth the experiences of God and spirit. They are used ritually to create a trance where they can experience, interact with, and work with the force of God. Each herbal substance is going to be different and have different effects on the mind and the body. For this reason it is important to study the substances and their uses. It is also practical to actually be instructed by some one who engages in this practice. Some herbs can be very dangerous if not handled and processed properly.
At the end of the statement about not being used recreational De Vries makes a very good point. Entheogens are not used recreational. Its not that they don’t have an effect that people enjoy or can get use out of. That’s not the issue at all. The issue here is that the experiences are not “fun”. Its not something to do because you are bored. Entheogens are sacred and using them in recreational ways takes away the sacred.
In order to effectively work with the entheogen and the God force you need to work hard to establish a specific mind frame for the work. You need to train yourself to be sensitive to spirits, to calm your mind, and to be able to visualize the experiences with the Gods or spirits. Its difficult to train your mind.
The other thing is that there are some entheogens that take a lot of time and energy to prepare. One of the legendary entheogens associated with witches and witchcraft is the famous flying ointment. This was a salve that the witches spent a long time crafting and making. When the herbal mixture was applied to the body astral travel and spirit work could commence.
Sometimes these mixtures contained deadly herbs. Most of the flying ointment recipes we have found scraps of related to traditional witchcraft involve herbs like belladonna, wolfbane, nightshade, and yew to name a few. The actual recipes and proportions have long been lost. Crafting the flying ointments of the past traditional witches with those herbs is dangerous. This is why today softer and calmer herbs are used in modern flying ointments.
Today there are other more effective herbs that we know cause the same effect as the herbs mentioned above and are safer and better known. While I personally find the past recipes interesting and worth study, and I would watch some one make them, I personally have no interest in working with those. I have found other herbs give me just as powerful of a trance state while being safer. These are also herbs I have studied and done other work with.
My experience with entheogens comes in the form of herbal smokes. I have worked with catnip, mugwort, and Capillaris Herba
Artemisia capillaris also known as Yerba Lena Yesca. My smoke blend currently has a mixture of all of them for a balance. When I smoke this blend my awareness of my mental state increases. My sensitivity to smells and surroundings increases. I can through this also have more control over my awareness and more easily reach an out of body astral state for communication with spirits and deities.
Entheogens alone do not make the experience work though. I also use mental training as well as incenses, sound, lighting, and seated position to engage in trance work. The entheogens give me easier access to these mental states and often allow for more clarity of experience and extended experiences. I am relaxed which allows the trance states to come more naturally. This is also why they last longer.
Entheogens for me are one tool that I have in my bag for working with spirits. I have found it to be an effective tool. I do not smoke the mixture outside of doing some sort of spiritual work. The mixture was crafted and blessed for that sort of work and to use it on anything else to me is a waste of the mixture. It also takes away from the sacred ritual of the preparation, the working, and the blessing that comes with its use in spiritual work.
For years I was interested in the use of substances in spiritual practices. I was well aware of the use of peyote in a Native Church. I was also aware of the fact that shamans and spirit workers for centuries had engaged in this sort of spirit work. I was interested in the use and workings of substances in ritual. I was afraid of trying it, and it also felt taboo. All of the books and websites I had read on my spiritual path had all said that substances of any sort were not a part of witchcraft at all and anything saying such should walk away from that material.
There has been a trend in the modern new age and spiritual practices to discount any experiences had under the influences of any sort of substance. There have been arguments made that today we can leave those tools and practices behind us as we have other less damaging methods of gaining trance. They also claim we have a better understanding of the mind and mental processes today and through that we have learned how to get in and out of these trance states at will without the use of substances.
While all of what they say about mental processes and the ability to get in and out of trance at will without substance use today is true, it doesn’t mean that there is anything less spiritual about experiences under substances. They are sacred plants and it is a sacred tradition for many cultures. I see no reason to ignore this aspect of spirit world work traditions. I have simply chosen to work a combination of the ancient traditions and modern work for effective means of contacting spirits and doing spirit world work.
The use of all aspects of plant medicine and plant properties has always been a part of magical practices. I see no reason to change that now. To ignore traditions and valid ways of gaining knowledge and experience for me is to ignore an aspect of the practices and cultures I have studied that was sacred and important to them. If I am gaining spiritual guidance and inspiration or influences from these cultures and practices I need to be informed of all aspects of practices associated with the cultures.
So I stand outside of many people with this view on entheogens and substances. I know that and I accept that. For me I know that not everything I do and study will appeal to everyone. Not everyone will feel the same way about things as I do, and they don’t have to. So long as no one tries to stop me from using legal herbs in my entheogen work I have no problems with their objections to my use.
A: Ancestors and Why Ancestral veneration exists
One of the common theme that anthropologists have found with prehistoric religion as well as with some more of the ancient pagan religions that ancestral veneration and respect was a central theme. There were often rituals done specifically to honor the ancestors and there were often altars specifically designed for ancestral worship. There were also shrines to the spirits of the land which have been connected to ancestral veneration.
So a question I asked myself often was what it actually meant for ancestors to be worshiped. They were dead and gone. While I believed they existed and continued to live in some sort of afterlife I never really figured out why it was important. Then one day I was reading a book about traditional witchcraft which explains why if you are worshiping nature and the land that you really are worshiping your ancestors.
The body when it becomes buried or cremated ultimately becomes a part of the earth. The body contains a part of your spirit and your soul. That part is released into the land once you have passed on. It means they are the earth and as a nature worshiping witch I must be honoring my ancestors as well.
I then started to understand the rituals behind the sacrificed king and the blood into the land. By feeding the ancestors we feed the essence and spirits of the land. By placing the sacred king as a sacrifice and having his blood spill into the land the world was fertile for the next year. The worship of the land and the veneration of the ancestors were essentially the core of the ancient beliefs.
Some people have theorized that the spirits of the land were actually the spirits of the ancestors. Some people believe that the elves in various traditions are based on ancestors and spirits of people being sacrificed at specific locations for religious purposes. The identity of the recent sacrifice would merge with the essences and personalities of the other sacrifices and a spirit built of all of them would be born.
Ancestral veneration was important and for me still is important. In some ways it has helped me deal with the losses of several of my loved ones. It also helped me gain some closure with my adoption and loss of that sense of self. Once I started to accept that I could still see and interact with my ancestors each and every day my path became more meaningful and I started to really understand and explore the true nature of underworld religious traditions.
Pentalism is definitely an underworld tradition at it’s heart. There are all sorts of spirits and world that are traveled to and explored in this path. There is an entire mystery set related to the mysteries of the underworld, the soul, and reincarnation. These were actually some of the very first mysteries I experienced within my training in the Temple tradition. It’s also related to my philosophies of the elements which I will get to in another little while.
Why do I practice an underworld tradition? In essence this tradition and practice has come to accept that the core essence of the universe is that there can be no creation with out destruction, no life with out death. I have come to see that there really is no difference between the two, except for their polarity on the pole of life.
In some ways I really started to understand how my rituals and magic are ways to maintain the balance of the creation/destruction from starting to embrace the underworld aspects of my path and of the religions I have studied. Things have started to fall in place and I began to understand the dynamic polarity that allows for fertility of life (the creation and destruction). I started to see the mysteries of nature.
Once I started to worship my ancestors and pray to them I began to feel more complete. My theology and philosophies were really beginning to meld together and become a cohesive whole. I was starting to see my path form some syncretic aspects which has been important to me. It was nice to see how I really was beginning to understand what it means to be a member of a mystery religion.
I have really started to understand why people took such care of their dead. In some ways I can also see now why so many people in America have an issue dealing with death and the loss of a loved one. Other cultures have no real issues with death. They understand it’s necessity and importance.
From worshiping my ancestors I was able to look at the cycle of life in a new way. When I took my physics class and we went to discuss basic astrophysics regarding the formation of stars and the forces involved I started to see the larger picture. I really started to understand what it means to be alive and in this universe. I can’t explain it any better than this image so I will end my post by saying these images when you apply it to the life cycle on earth you see how earth is a microcosm of the macrocosm which is the universe.
So what gives about the blogs name? Forging the Pentacle?
The explanation is simple. The path I have started to develop is called Pentalism. There are five aspects to almost all parts of the practice. There are five primary influences, five Gods, Five goddesses, five parts of the soul, and more. The pentacle for me shows how while there can be five individual points, in the end they can all be connected and are always interwoven in peace. The Pentacle is an extremely sacred symbol for this path due to the importance of five. Pentalism is meant to be experienced in a group setting. However I have not really developed each of the degrees and practices (related to each of the foundational traditions of types of craft) I can’t really teach and initiate people until the first degree has been formed (I’ll develop the second degree material in my personal practice as I teach the first degree and so forth).
Ok, so that explains the name, what about content?
I already mentioned some of the content you will be seeing. There will be information on ritual content as well as some basic sabbat or holiday information. There will be some basic information about the deities involved (this is going to be an initiatory oath bound tradition). There will also be posts about failures and successes and everything in between. When I fail I want to have people laugh at it and also help me find out where I went wrong.
By writing this blog I am sharing the basic outline of what will become my tradition. I process information best when I write out my thoughts and my experiences. By putting the information and the process on a blog I hope to get input from other people in the Pagan community . I want that input to challenge me. I want people to point out mistakes in my research and logic. I also want people to tell me why they like something or find something useful. That way I can become a better writer and explore the things I write about in a different light.
This blog will also be participating in the Pagan Blog project. However all of the entries on this blog will reflect this path specifically and only this path. My other blog (Seeker sight) is more about my search for knowledge and wisdom which I can find any where. There will be some cross over as they both will cover some of the same beliefs and practices. That said both blogs should be treated as unique and individual blogs.
You said the title is “Forging the Pentacle” right? So what are your tools and what are the foundations and origins of Pentalism?
There are five primary spiritual and religious practices which form the basis of Pentalism. All of them are different forms of witchcraft as a spiritual practice. Each of them has provided me with many different ways of working my craft and my religion. They have all had an effect on how I have experienced the Gods and Goddesses of Pentalism. I don’t belong to any one of these practices, but have combined them all. Which is why I am and Pentalism will always remain an eclectic religious witchcraft tradition.
The first witchcraft path I must discuss is Wicca. When I say Wicca I don’t mean the works of Silver Raven Wolf, Edain Mc Coy, D.J. Conway, Raymond Buckland, or even Scott Cunningham to name a few. I am refering to the books by Janet and Stewart Farrar (What Witches Do, 8 Sabbats for Witches, Way of the Witches, The Witches God, The Witches Goddess), Gerald Gardner (Witchcraft Today and The meaning of Witchcraft), and some of Doreen Valientines work as well as the writings of Alex and Maxine Sanders. Those are actual Wiccan initiates who have lineage via initiation which is cross gender and that can be traces back through Gerald Gardner to the New Forest coven of witchcraft.
A brief explanation of how I define Wicca is required here. I define Wicca as an Oathbound, Mystery, Cross Gender initiatory, Orthapraxic Witchcult where every initiate is a member of the clergy That is a lot to swollow. So I am going to break it down into little bits. I’ll cover each section in it’s own paragraph. Once you’ read each paragraph you’ll see why that simple definition required extra explanation. You’ll also see why I have such a strict view on Wicca and why I am only Wiccan influenced and Inspiried.
Let’s start with the term “oath bound”. By oath bound I mean that the rites and rituals, mysteries, names of deities, and practices are known and only taught to initiates after initiation. Prior to initiation the rites and rituals a seeker and pre-initiate experience are Wiccan flavored and Inspired, but Not Wiccan. There are many religions whose practices are oath bound. In history the Eluisian mysteries come to mind as only the members of that cult ever experienced those rituals and knew what those rituals entailed. There you go. A historical reference to a religious practice and set of mysteries that are oath bound.
The next term in my definition is mystery oriented or based. So what does this mean? By Mystery I mean that there are some aspects of the religion that are based on expereince in ritual which are deeply intimate and can not truly be expressed by words. All witchcraft traditions have mysteries.
The Cross Gender initiation is self explanatory. Only men can initiate women and women can only initiate men. This goes into the power myth described in the decent of the Goddess. There is also an issue of polarity. I’m sure all the reasons for this practice are explained after initiation. It’s something I have experienced. The “public” rite I went to basically said that in their circles it’s male-female-male-female as much as possible (based on the ration of men to women). I actually think it’s a great way to raise energy.
The orthapraxic aspect of Wicca is something that many people can’t grasp coming from orthodox religions such as Christianity where having specific beliefs was the important part of the religion. In Wicca it is not the belief that is important rather it is the proper practice and performance of Wiccan rites and rituals (which can only be performed in a coven setting) that is important. It is the proper performance of these rites and rituals that allow the clergy
The witchcult aspect is important to note as well. Upon the seeker or dedicant’s initiation into Wicca they are made a witch. This is especially important if that person never identified or used that term before. All wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccan. In fact most witches are not Wiccan. Wiccans are witches because they use witchcraft in both practical day to day life and in their worship of their deities. That is what makes them witches.
The final aspect of my definition of Wicca is that they are all members of the clergy. That is right. Once you have been initiated into Wicca you have become a priest or priestess of the Lord and Lady. For this reason every one is a part of the clergy. If you are not called to serve the Lord and Lady of the Isles (the two specific deities in Wicca) then you are not a proper person for Wicca.
Ok. So you explained what Wicca is. You didn’t explain why you say you are inspired by Wicca. Can we get an explanation for that please? Afterall you even said that you aren’t an initiate. There for you don’t actually know the rites and rituals of Wicca. So how are you influenced and inspired by Wicca?
There are a few reasons why I say that. The first thing is that I cleanse ad consecrate my holy water in the same fashion, often times using the same words outlined in 8 sabbats for witches. The second thing is that part of my understanding of the deities I work with (with in Pentalism) was influenced by the Oak and Holy King battles (also described in 8 sabbats for witches). Finally there is the full ceremonial outline. When a full complex ritual is performed it often includes all the elements described within Wicca. These form the first foundation of Pentalism.
The largest element found within my path is the central fact that this path is eclectic. Generic eclectic-neo pagan witchcraft can be found in many different books. My favorites include Christopher Penczak, Laurie Cabot, Ellen Dugan, and Doreen Valientine. I have however also been influenced by Starhawk, Silver Ravenwolf, Edain McCoy, D.J. Conway, Raymond Buckland, and Scott Cunningham (you see there was a reason I mentioned them before). All of these author claim to teach eclectic Wicca. There is no such thing (as shown above). There is however essentially a core tradition of eclectic neo-pagan witchcraft loosely based on Wicca and ceremonial magic as outlined by Cunningham in his book “Solitary Wicca” and “Living Wicca”. At the end of his life he did drop the association with Wicca and simply called it a witchcraft tradition, but the publisher kept the title as is.
The books by these authors all have different views of the God and Goddess and the wheel of the year. However there are some key and central similarities in the practices that lead me to believe they are essentially practicing the same religion, but not always the same way. It is a witchcraft tradition or set of traditions and way of thinking/practicing that has it’s own mysteries and basically a freelance style of ritual. Every eclectic is different, but they are all the same at the same time. We embrace the similarities and celebrate the differences. That is what being a true eclectic is all about.
The MMC concept here is one of the reasons I came to the 5 god and goddess concept for this tradition. It seemed with in the various discussions about the forms of the Goddess with in the wheel of the year there were some things described which never seemed to fit to the MMC concept. I started to see five different Gods and Goddesses described with in the lore and the rituals. That, along with the outline in Wicca lead me to the format that became the Gods and Goddesses of Pentalism.
The ideas about experimentation and the different types of ritual and altar set ups encountered through these books gave me the foundation of how to explore and experiment. That is what has lead me to know what does and doesn’t work for me in my religion and spirituality. That is how I have been able to begin to piece together this tradition. I am very thankful to be an eclectic and to have started to form a cohesive eclectic tradition that I am going to be proud to pass on to others.
Hedge witchcraft is a practice of witchcraft that not many people are aware of. While there are more books available on the subject these days, originally there were only a few websites out there that had any information out there. I am not entirely a hedge witch, but I do embrace and participate in the practices. I say I am not a hedge witch because it is not the only practice I engage in for my craft. While it has played a central role in my access to mysteries, it is not the only or the central aspect of my practice.
So what is hedge witchcraft? Hedge witchcraft is based on the concept of the hedge representing the border between the civilized world (towns, farms, and cities) from the wild (forests, open fields and stretches of road where no one is in sight) and the practitioner being able to be in both this world (civilized) and the other worlds (wilderness and forests). This is the European native form of shamanism.
One thing about hedge witches and hedge witchcraft it is essentially a solitary practice as each hedge rider must find there own way of getting into those trance states, and they need to find their own connection to deities and the sabbats. The other thing is that often time hedge witches will celebrate the sabbats through their trances. This is where the myth of the flying to the witches sabbat comes from. I haven’t used trance as a sabbat celebration yet, but I bet it would be powerful.
However due to my use of various types of trance and trance states to acces the mysteries and to contact spirits I have to add this as one of the foundations of Pentalism. It has been a major part of my practice for years. In fact it was during a workshop on “shamanic witchcraft” that I met my first formal teacher Christopher Penczak. That is also one of the reasons I consider hedge witchcraft to be one of the points on the foundation of Pentalism.
In many ways it has been equated to traditional witchcraft in it’s truest form, but I personally think there are other things. This goes into traditional witchcraft. I had mentioned it in my foundational forms, so I will discuss it briefly here. This is an aspect of the foundation I am still developing. It is a new addition to my practice, and as such it is something that needs a lot of exploration.
So what is traditional witchcraft? I thought that Wicca was a form of traditional witchcraft? Am I wrong?
There are many definitions of traditional witchcraft. The most common definition is that of “forms of pre Gardnerian witchcraft”. By default that makes Wicca not traditional witchcraft, and there are a few reasons for this. Wicca is a more ceremonial form of witchcraft than most traditional witchcraft practices. That is the first and primary difference between Wicca and traditional witchcraft. The other is more of a focus on a personal relationship with the land. While there are some correlations and the like, there are many differences between them. I have explained why Wicca is not traditional witchcraft, but I haven’t explained what it is yet. So here goes.
For me traditional witchcraft is pre-gardnerian forms of witchcraft. There are some forms of this practice which are initiatory (The new Forest Coven for example) and there are many forms which are solitary. The sources I have read on the subject come from both solitary and coven based books. So my view has a bit of both. That still doesn’t explain what exactly traditional witchcraft entails.
Well it is an underworld tradition. The rites and rituals typically involve some sort of physical and spiritual travel which symbolically and spiritually bring us to the underworld. That is where the Gods reside in this tradition. It is also where fate is woven and where the ancestors reside. That is why I say traditional witchcraft is an underworld tradition.
Traditional witchcraft also involves a lot of ancestral worship and veneration. Who and what the ancestors are and what the ancestral worship and veneration mean will be covered in another post shortly. For now they are those who have passed beyond the physical veil and into the underworld reals and they are those who are yet waiting to come back and return (they will be future witches and will create future ancestors). The ancestors are of blood and body as well as emotional and spiritual ties.
The final difference between traditional witchcraft and Wicca is the way the rites are performed and the tools used in rituals. The rituals in traditional witchcraft are less formal and theatrical/scripted. They are more spontaneous, yet they have some structure. All of these are factors in why this form of witchcraft has become part of the spiritual foundation that is Pentalism.
The final point in the Pentalist foundation is that of Hermetic witchcraft. This is a style of witchcraft in religious and spiritual terms as well as magical practices that highly engages the mind. When the tradition will be taught this will actually be the first degree. The points and lessons of this degree are outlined in the book “The Kybalion”. There will be many more essays on the Kybalion and how it relates to this tradition.
The is also tied into the first degree of the Temple tradition. That is where I have started my official training as a witch. For the last three years my magical practices and my rituals as well as meditations have been based entirely off of the teachings in the first degree of the Temple tradition as well as the Kybalion. As I begin to develop more and develop techniques for each of the key principles I can begin to further develop this.
Ok. So there you have the foundation. This should give you a basic idea as to where the ideas and concepts in this tradition are found. Things will become more clear as I post more. Every post will add insight into this path and how it comes together. This has served as your basic introduction and foundation to Pentalism. Some of the basic practices will be covered in an upcoming post. Please enjoy!