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.
Samhain and Hallowmas:
The Holy Week:
Death and Rebirth in the cycle becomes complete
Part 1: The Spiritual Aspects and implications
I write this as Samhain and Hallowmas come to a close. The festivals of the dead and the transition from the lords of the land to the lords of the underworld completes the transition. I figured that as part of my job to help seekers on their search for questions I should provide some insight as to exactly what this sabbat is about and why people celebrate the sabbat in the ways that they do. Like everything else there are many ways to explain and experience the mysteries of these sabbats and not every ones view will agree with yours or even make sense to you. All I can do is provide my own insight based on my personal experiences and sources.
As I have started to develop my own personal theology this sabbat has come have a different meaning to me than other people might have. That is why in my own practice I call the holiday I celebrate Mortedon. However since most people are familiar with the names Samhain, Halloween, All Hallows Eve, and All Saints Day that is what I will use here.
According to many sources this time of year could easily be considered the witches new year. The God is officially dead and in the underworld. He wont be born again until the Winter solstice and as such he is dead and in the underworld. This is the time to transit between one working season and the other. It is a time of completion and reflection that may bring about the planning ad start of the new planting season for the next harvest.
In many ways the major difference between those who call themselves Traditional witches and those who consider themselves Wiccan is that the majority of the rituals in traditional witchcraft deal with ancestral veneration and ancestors as divine while the rituals found within Wicca focus on the God and Goddess or Lord and Lady rather than the ancestors. This is alright. Not every one is meant to worship and venerate the ancestors. Anthropologically it has been said that ancestral worship was the first form of worship, which is why for me it has become a source of my foundation.
I actually appreciate these different theological styles. There is one holiday in which they both meet and they both share the same view. It is viewed by both paradigms (Wicca and Traditional Witchcraft) as a day to honor both the dead and the ancestors as well as the God and Goddess. It is also an acknowledgement by both sides that the season of reflection is upon us. It is now that we must spend our time upon reflection and preparation for the new year and seasons.
Samhain, All souls Day, All Saints Day, Ancestor Night…all of these are names for essentially the same festival. This festival is an acknowledgment of every one who has gone before us. It is also an acknowledgement that there is life after death. It is here we can really see how even though the people we love and cherish may have passed on from this life, they really are still near by and watching us.
In many ways this is the time of year where the festivals a person honors and celebrates explains at least in part what their view of the afterlife is. For some people who believe in reincarnation this is also a time to connect with any of their past lives so that lessons they have to impart may be gives. This is the second festival where the veil between the worlds of the living and dead as well as spirit worlds is lowest. That is why contact with spiritual allies at this time of year.
Part Two: The Theology and Mythology of the Sabbat
Folkore and myth united
This is according to many sources the last sabbat of the year. For many witches the year starts at Yule and ends at Samhain and begins at Yule. In reality there is no real start or finish to a cycle. Cycles are circles and will always come back to a point and start again. This is how the world and the universe exist. Everything in the universe will be used again in the universe at some point in time. Every thing physical you see on this planet is made of of a star that existed eons before we were born:
Theologically, spiritually, and mentally it makes sense that the world as we know it would work in cycles. The physics at work in the universe simply provide a non-disputed example of how reincarnation exists. Here at Hallowmass and Samhaintide we are really able to see and understand how death and destruction/decay are essential to the growth and development of future lives and crops.
According to the Cycle of the Year and the 8 sabbats within Wicca and Eclectic witchcraft Samhain is when the God is dead. He was sacrificed at Mabon to ensure the fertile grounds of the next harvest. At one point in history it was believed that the king was sacrificed to bring life to the land for the next year. This was symbolic of the God’s death for the fertility of the land. Latter corn dollies were sacrificed instead of a human.
Blood was and still is the essential life force. If a creature is alive it bleeds. By the God sacrificing himself his blood (his life force) goes into the land giving life to the land. He knows that he will be reborn in his son in the end of winter and he will from the underworld guide and symbolize his son’s birth and his return by the return of the sun’s light starting at the Winter solstice (Yule).
It was believed that once a person died their body became the land. The blood of the sacrificed victim nourished the spirits of the land for the winter and would gain their favor for the spring.At Samhain the ancestors and other spirits from the land of the dead returned to give their blessings for the following year to their descendants.
The God at this time was in the Underworld understanding and being reborn. At Beltaine he had impregnated the Lady, his lover and wife, who would bear the child of promise who would carry and light the way for the Lord to be reborn at Yule (the light returning slowly) with his actual birth at Imbolc. The rest of the sabbats continue along this line. So in some ways Samhain is both the start and the finish.
The knowledge that there is life after death and life in death is symbolized no better than with ever greens (one of the reasons why those trees are decorated at Christmas). It’s also one of the reasons I feel that the hope to get through the winter for the spring exists. To see something that is alive and producing chlorophyll in the winter while the rest of the trees are inherently dead proves that there is life in death. It is one of the reasons I can see that death allows for the continuation of life.
With these thoughts in mind it is time to get to:
Part 3: A sample ritual
Ways that honoring the ancestors can be done
Now that it has been established why honoring the ancestors is so important I can start to give you some ideas as to how you as a seeker or as an active Pagan could honor your ancestors and the Gods and celebrate this sabbat and simply begin or further expand your understanding of this sabbat. For myself I gained even deeper insight into the mysteries this Samhain. As I post this the gates start to begin closing and the path seems to close, yet the creepy and spooky nature that is Samhaintide and Hallowsmass remains, the time to honor the ancestors comes to a close.
I have had a week to reflect on what I wanted to write for this entry and I have finally come to the last part of the entry where I can really start to explain how one can go about celebrating this sabbat. For many years as a seeker I was honestly unsure of what to do with my offerings for any sabbat. Samhain was another one that left me confused, so now I feel it it is time to give some sort of explanation as to how you can give your offerings to the Gods and the ancestors.
So here is a very simple ritual:
Ancestral Ritual For Samhain:
Apple or Pomegranete Juice/alcohol
Red Apples or Pomegranete fruit & Seeds
As you pour your drink concentrate and think of your ancestors and the Gods and the land. Focus intently and place this light into the food and drink blessing it in the names of the spirits, the ancestors, and the Gods. You then pour two drinks one for the Spirits, ancestors and Gods and one for your self.
As you take your drink say a prayer for what you are thankful and towards any ancestors you wish to contact and communicate with. Take a moment and think of them. Then get into your trance position. For this it may be best of you lie facing down with your hands working as a head rest head in a comfortable position. After you get into position think and state to your self:
“I Vibrate in harmony with the Underworld and the Gods of the Underworld”.
Repeat this statement over and over until you reach a state where you see and become one with the God or Goddess of the Underworld. Continue the trance until you have gained all the insight you will receive. Slowly reduce your vibration into yourself. Once you are back into yourself take another drink in honor of the Gods and the lesson you learned.
Eat the red apple or the pomegranate seeds. If you eat the apple place the seeds aside till the morning. If you eat the pomegranate seeds place a few aside till the morning.
Go to bed expecting dreams based on the rite you performed. The following morning write down any dreams you may have had. When done and dressed for the day take the seeds and the same drink you had the night before and place them in a whole at the trees base.
Reasoning behind the ritual:
By taking in that blessed drink you understand that the drink is the fruits of the Gods who you worship as well as the ancestors who literally are the land. This drink is their blood after the sacrificial blood of the god had been spilled, this is their response. When you eat the fruits of the land or drink of the liquids you are taking in the essence of the land and your ancestors.
When you let a drink in a cup evaporate overnight that drink is consumed by the air and the essence of life. The ancestors who have returned to visit partake of this liquid. In the morning the seeds and the remaining liquid are returned to the ground. This nourishes the ancestors and the spirits as well as the gods. This is how we can honor and nourish them.
Part four: My conclusion:
For me this really explains a lot. Through the ritual expressed above I was able to understand the roles of the Gods and the Goddesses that I worship. I was also able to understand exactly what the underworld does to work with rebirth and reincarnation. Finally When I look at astrophysics and how the creation of new universes begin and what black-holes really are I can see how my theology and philosophy line up with science.
I really recommended that any seeker of the wisdom of the cycle of destruction, reformation, creation, growth, and development take a basic physics course. This course will explain how the various galaxies came into being, how stars and suns are born, and how new universes are created. In some ways it may also lead a seeker to see how magic could be seen to be the force that keeps all of these things working in balance. That is what Samhaintide and Hallowmas is all about.
What is it
One of the things that has often come up in any of my posts that deal with Wicca has been a mention of fertility as a focus of the religion. In many ways you could day that all forms of religious witchcraft have an emphasis on fertility. Yes. I said witchcraft in a religious sense has to deal with fertility. For many the very mention of fertility rites brings up images of mass orgies and ritual sex parties, and to be blunt yes sexuality is an important aspect of fertility. This is also a common image associated with witches and their rites due to the idea that they have sex with the devil in their rites.
Many of the books out there geared towards new witches and new pagans tell their readers to avoid covens which require sexual acts and symbolism as a part of their membership rites. Unfortunately if the seeker is truly looking for Wicca and they find out about the sexual symbolism and nature of true Wiccan rites they may decide that based on the advice of authors such as Silver Raven Wolf, D.J.Conway and Edain McCoy in their intro books that for that reason they should not inquire any further even if it feels right.
Here is the thing. With the exception of the Second and Third degree in traditional Wicca (Alexandriean, Gardenariean, Mohsian, Central Valley [a collective term for the following traditions-Silver Crescent-Kingstone-Daoine Coire-Assembly of Wicca-Majestic .] ) no imitation of elevation ritual should require sex as part of it. Sexual symbolism is another thing. Sex for a requirement simply as a requirement without any symbolism is simply not something you should do for initiation unless you are of age and you choose to. If you are not of age than any sexual rite should not be required.
Ok. So by now you must be sick of me mentioning that fertility is something to important. You may be thinking that yes I have mentioned that it was important but you (as in me) have yet to explain why fertility is so central to Pagan religions or as you have mentioned many times religious forms of witchcraft? So you are asking What the hell is so important about fertility. The answer is simple and will be explained with in the next paragraph. I was just waiting for you the reader to be asking the question.
The first thing I have to do is explain exactly what fertility is to me. Fertility to me is the ability to create or produce as well maintain or support life in some form. I leave it produce or create and maintain and support and life in some form for many reasons. The first of which unfortunately is related ultimately to the effect the popular form of feminism has had on the idea of woman required to be mothers and subordinates.
Before I continue I must say that I am a woman and I am proud to be an embodiment of feminine energy in this world. I am also a feminist and I do believe in woman’s rights. I for example firmly believe that all woman should have the same equal opportunity in the world of construction as men. If a woman can handle the work than she should be able to have as much respect and right to hold the job as a man. However she should also be held to the same performance level as men. That would go with the job. For me equality in the work place means equal pay and equal expectations.
Now that I have gotten that out of the way I can continue with my post on fertility and the first reason why I see fertility as an important part of witchcraft religions. One of the major complaints that I have seen among women when the idea of fertility rites and religions has come up is that not all women are interested in creating life and being a mother (ie giving birth). The same argument goes for the reason why the MMC is not an accurate form any longer for the roles and parts of a woman’s life. This goes into the heart of why I believe fertility comes in many forms and is important in many ways
So if I define fertility as the ability to create and maintain life of some sort how does that not relate to being a mother and having a baby and raising children?
Let’s start with the first way that I see fertility as working in my life. This is the form it takes for me. It is important for me to be fertile in this way if I am to have a successful future to be able to help provide income for my fiance and myself. That fact there is the central theme in my view about fertility, producing (productive/successful) and providing for a life of some sort (myself and my fiance).
I am not ready or in a position t have children. That doesn’t mean I can’t perform or be involved in any fertility rites. As a college student my education success is a type of fertility. This is the way that fertility in my rites for myself has primarily taken form. The idea here is that my brain and thus my mind be open to all the new information that will come my way. That I have the determination and discipline to put the time and effort into my study and education to be successful and that I be willing to ask and be open to help when I need it.
My rites have also had to deal with financial and economic fertility. This gets into the second way that I view fertility as important to pagan and witchcraft religions. Here my rites have an effect not only on my self and my family but also on the local economy and eventually the national economy which in turn will have an effect on the global economy and thus everyone in the world will have some benefit.
In my life this has involved asking that the company my fiance belongs to continues to grow and he continues to be able to expand his training and thus general availability and interest to the computer field at large. It also involves when I am looking for work me being able to find a job which will work out with me any my disabilities.
In both cases by insuring that we both have jobs, we are both able to spend more money on things that we enjoy such as videos, games, clothes, vacations, nights out, ect. In this way us having employment insures that there will be money to go to local businesses. That will encourage job growth and thus stimulate the local economy further.
With more income taxes the government has more money. They can put this money towards technological developments and other areas of interest. This again creates more jobs. The success of those developments will create more jobs which will then increase tax flow and ultimately will increase local, national and global economies.
Woman and men who are professionals that have no desire to have any children that perform fertility rites often have their rites directed in this way. For people who wonder if the seasonal sabbats performed by witches and pagans have any effect on the world at large I have just given an example that is important for the future of the world economy and thus every one in general.
The third way that I see fertility as essential is literally related to ancestral practices and the ancestral rites. Many people think that there is no reason to perform rites to ensure the fertility of the land as so much of our food these days is processed or handed to us pre-made on a plate. In that way of thinking those people are right. However it negates one important thing. The one thing that with out which we could not survive.
So what is that one thing you ask?
That one essential thing is food. With out food we can not live. I will agree that most of our food is processed. I will agree that in general in the majority of the world as individuals we do not have to work the land for food, hunt or gather food or the like. In general we do not have to kill the animals we eat (unless we hunt or fish for fun). We can go to the supermarket or local store and buy our food all gathered and killed for us and all we need to do is cook it.
Taking all of that in to consideration it is so easy to see why people in general would not understand the need for the rites of the land to be honored. For many there is no consideration as to where the food comes from. It’s just there and always has been. Why think about it? It’ll be there for me all my life right? I just need to keep buying my food items and they will always be there. This is a way of thinking I was guilty of for many years, but as a witch and as a pagan seeking to understand the ancestral ways it is a wrong way of thinking. Why I shall explain.
If the lands are not fertile than the fruits and vegetables we eat along with the grains will not prosper. If the lands are not fertile than the animals that we eat and hunt will not be able to eat so they will die and there will be no meat. That is why I see the nature fertility rites to be as important today if not more so than they were in the past.
The fourth way I see fertility rites as found in the typical 8 sabbats of the wheel of the year as important in the lives of Pagans and witches (and this is one area I have been neglectful) is spiritual fertility. That’s right spiritual fertility. If a person is not open to the presence of the Gods and the mysteries experienced through performing the rites of their path and actually communicating with deity than they will get nothing out of the rites. That is spiritual fertility.
Spiritual fertility is being open to the experiences given to us by the Gods. Spiritual fertility is practicing and experiencing the mysteries. In many ways it is continuing to practice and do the work even if you don’t feel or seem to have any deep experiences at the moment. It means working to remove the rocks in the path and working hard to keep at your path. It’s not easy to be a Pagan.
When I say I have been neglectful in this area I mean it. Every post I have written comes from what my thoughts have gathered based on what makes sense to me after reading and finding my intuition. I have not been doing the prayers and rituals that I would like to. As such I have not opened myself to the mysteries and the Gods as much as I would like. My relationship with deities is not as strong as I would like.
This means I need to work on it. I am. I am working on it. I am going to be more mindful of the esbats and the sabbats. I am going to do more meditation again. I need to get back to my schedule where I did meditate and worship on regular basis. When I did that on a daily basis I was plowing my spiritual fields and the flowers and plants blossomed better than I ever imagined that they actually would. So that is why I can say from personal experience that plowing the spiritual fields with in us is full of work, but it is worth it.
Finally we get into the fifth and last reason why I see fertility as a central and important theme for seekers to consider. I wanted to save the sexual aspect for last as in many ways this is the most important. I didn’t want to start with it as I feel the other areas of fertility are as important to consider as this one. This one is actually why all the other areas are possible to be fertile,
The Great Rite is the most important rite found within witch and pagan rituals. This rite is where the Priest and Priestess are the embodiment the God and Goddess either physically or symbolically act out sexual intercourse or the ultimate act of creation. Through the act of sex a new being is created. That is why sexuality is sacred. That is why life is sacred.
With out the male and female parts of a species (plants are asexual, but do have a male and female component) there can be no reproduction. There can be no continuation of a species. The Great Rites acts out the cosmic sexual act of the God and Goddess which ultimately lead to the creation of the universe as we know it. Sex is sacred as it is the act of creation.
I mentioned that the second and third degrees of Wicca contain the actual act of sex. This is what I have been told by elders of Wicca. These are the initiation/elevation rites that make the initiates High Priests or Priestesses. The third degree is what allows an initiate to hive off and form their own coven. Second degree I have been told can allow the new high priest and or priestess to start teaching. Because it is at the level if being a High priestess where they actually become the God or Goddess in ritual this is why the Great Rite is fully enacted.
There you have it. I have explained what fertility is in my view. I have explained why it’s important and I have gone into the roles fertility has in our life. In many ways you could say that any nature religion should have an aspect of fertility in it, but fertility cults are not nature based. They may go hand in hand but they are not the same thing.
Fairy Tales and Folk Lore
For many years my only sources for the mythology of witchcraft as a religion came from the typical Neo-Pagan Eclectic witchcraft books. I felt that they were lacking in many areas. For a time I thought I could force the myths of other deities into the 8 Sabbats I was following as a witch. While the practice worked for a while, it was unsatisfactory. I felt as if the Gods were hearing me, but were telling that there is more to do and elsewhere to look.
For a long time I had considered looking into fairy tales for the missing pieces of the mythology and lore I was looking for. At the time I was of the mindset that fairy tales were for children. After being exposed to the Disneyfied fairy tales for so long it seemed to me that the only reason an adult had to think about fairy tales was for their small children and not for fun.
A friend of mine told me that if I was interested in the path of Traditional witchcraft beyond what I had read in Artisson and other places I should look into fairy tales. He even gave me a few to look into. That was when I first started to consider it. yet at the time I still couldn’t figure out the connection myself. So I waited and the answer did come to me.
Ok. You may be thinking whats the connection? Witches in many fairy tales are nasty things. Why would looking into fairy tales and folklore be beneficial to a new witch or even an experienced witch?
The simple answer is that the lore found with in many folktales about elves and dwarves contain a lot of lore that is applicable to the understanding of the beings that traditional witches work with, as well as witches in general. Many ideas of the Witches Goddess can be found in folk lore and fairy tales. There are hints at what these beings are like, what the role of witches are and why witches do the things they do.
I have found that Robin Artisson’s The Withching Way of the Hollow Hill to be very useful in understanding the importance of reading folk lore and fairy tales. In Artisson’s other book The Horn of Evenwood he also continues to explore the importance of folk lore and fairy tales as sources of a witches knowledge and wisdom. HedgeRiderby Eric De Vres is also another book that goes into details about the importance of fairy tales and folklore.
Those were the Pagan author who have helped me to see the importance of fairy tales and folklore. Last semester in school I took a local inspired fairy tale and folklore class (New England Folklore and Mythology). That class has inspired me to learn more about folklore. I became adept at analyzing and studying folklore for any of the possible myths and fairy tales I have read over the years. This had confirmed my position on continuing the path of a philosopher, folklorist, and anthropologist.
While I am still sorting through and coming to my own analysis of various tales and folklore that I will eventually pass on to my own students, I have started to gain a deeper understanding of the path of the witch and the various roles we have had over the years.
Ok. So what does folklore entail?
Folklore contains local legends and superstitions. I can be simple things that people grow up doing because every one does it in an area but doesn’t know why. It can be legends of people that lived there who were either detested or respected. They can be practices and customs. Folklore comes in many forms.
Many people wouldn’t consider the witch trials to be a source of lore and wisdom for witches. This is actually quite far from the truth. While I have not read many of the transcripts of the witch trials, I have learned much from books which have cited trials as sources for lore and practices. While that was a dark time for witches (and most if not all of the people accused were not witches at all) and the craft, it still has rich history and events that can become a part of witch lore.
Fairy tales by their very nature are magical and thus hold keys to the mysteries of the magic out there. They provide clues to how the magic was worked and those who ruled magic. There were only a few of the adults that ever remembered their entrances into the fairyland, and these became the magicians/witches and the storytellers.
So, I see how they can be useful. What sorts of fairy tales should we be looking into?
That depends on what cultural background you are coming from. Strega witches will use Italian folklore, fairy tales, and mythology to form the basis of their practices. If you are practicing a Celtic form of Witchcraft you would work with that mythology, fairy tales, and folklore setting. If you are an eclectic witch you would work with which ever cultures you chose to work with. I myself use the Germanic fairy tales and folklore most because that is my ancestry, and those have been the tales which have given me the most insight into my own beliefs and practices.
While you should start with a specific culture in mind, that doesn’t mean it should be your only source of information. I also use English fairy tales and folklore. I also find inspiration in rewritten fairy tales and folklore such as the tale of bearskin. I just said you should have a single culture as a starting point.
I have covered why I read and adapt folklore to my path. As for when I first started to use and truly understand the role of folklore and practices in my own path, that is harder to pinpoint. I think it’s started to happen slowly over time since I took that folklore class and started to look at fairy tales in a new light. Still there is much more for me to learn and explore.
There are many great books out there. I suggest starting with Grimms Fairy tales as they are the most well known. It is in the unknown fairy tales found within those books that you might find the most interest in. Once you have done that you can start looking at any fairy tales from any culture. They may still provide you insight.
For moral and ethical tales Aesop’s fables are an excellent source of ethics and morals or important lessons that should be learned. In many ways the very first stories that children are exposed to such as fairy godmothers, and the like will come back to be the source for hidden wisdom and insight found within those tales.
While they may be dark, you should still read them. Darkness and depression are simply parts of life. In many cases in the darker tales the more important lessons are learned. It is not a requirement, but again simply advice. After all life is not all roses and sunshine. Life is confusing and painful. The fairy tales that include those aspects of human life are just as important as the ones that focus on intense happiness and joy.