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:
First ancestral altar
First ancestral altar
Second Ancestral Altar
Second Ancestral Altar
Ancestor Altar 3
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.
The subject of this post is something that I actually have to think long and hard about. Lately when I think about it I can’t honestly say that I have been fulfilling my honest statement of being dedicated to serving my readers and myself on my personal spiritual journey. The last few weeks have been full of self doubt and self assessment. To be honest I even asked myself what right I had to run and even continue to post on a blog dedicated to helping newbies and seekers find their own paths.
I honestly felt that there was no reason for me to continue posting this blog. I have had a crisis of self esteem and self worth. It just hit me recently that while I may not be exactly where I thought I would be at this point in my life I am exactly where Fate has dictated I belong. This for me was a central part of accepting my current situation and current feelings of worthlessness.
During this time I have had to take a look at where I stand spiritually. I have to admit I have never completed any training beyond my Reiki 1 certification. I am proud to be a dedicant in the Temple Tradition. This to me also shows and states quite a bit about the truth regarding myself. I consider myself dedicated to the truths of witchcraft and finding my own path.
So this post is about the process of dedication and what exactly dedication means. It is actually something that I consider several times a year as I look at my studies in witchcraft, paganism, philosophy, and magic. With everything that I want to do in my life I have to make sure I study diligently .
Dedication or Initiation?
One of the most common things that new witches find in books on solitary witchcraft is a self initiation ritual. A self initiation ritual does not work. One can not self initiate. To be initiated means that you are being brought into the religion or tradition. You can not bring yourself into a religion or tradition. You can however perform a dedication ritual announcing to the Gods and yourself that you are going to be following their path.
As a person seeks their spiritual path they are going to have to decide at some point if they want to a solitary practitioner (alone or maybe with a close friend or family member or if they want to seek out a group. There are benefits to both of these choices. I have never been a member of a group so I can’t speak for the benefits, though I am seeking one for fellowship and joint worship. Groups may call for initiation rituals (Any British Traditional Witchcraft coven will require it and other traditions are also initiatory). This is choice will found the rest of your path for the near future.
Types of dedication rituals
As dedication rituals are personal there are many different ways and many different types of doing a dedication ritual. When I am exploring the worship of a religion I have not studied I perform a different type of dedication ritual than I do when I committing myself to the worship of specific set of deities. All of these dedications are important rituals to be taken seriously. Each type signifies a different level of commitment to a relationship with deities.
The first type of dedication is one of an introduction. An introduction ritual is one where you are telling the Gods that you want to learn about them and their worship. That you are opening yourself to them and that you are finding your path. In this way you are not saying that you are going to stick around forever but that you are exploring and wishing to get to know them.
Here is a simple introduction ritual. It is this ritual I have used when I introduced myself to the Germanic pantheons. I will make similar rituals when I go back and study Hellenic Paganism, Roman Paganism, and Kemetic recon. This ritual is only used when I am simply saying “Hi. I’m…. I want to learn more about you and will try to honor you as I study about you, your culture, and your history”. For me it is a sign of respect to introduce yourself before you start blindly studying and working on a base relationship.
Offering of milk,ale,red wine, or incense
Place your hands over the water and state “By water’s natural cleansing I cleanse this water”
Take a pinch of pure sea salt and place it in the water. State “With salt this water is pure”
Take your finger and stir the water together creating a sacred holy water.
Walk around the ritual space and state “By the purity of this sacred water this space in prepared for ritual”.
Go to the altar and light the candle.
Here is where the ritual is going to essentially different for each person. Every culture and every religious tradition out there will have a different sort of prayer style. Some prayers are invocatory and others are more free form. This is where a seekers early research should pay off as they should have some sort of idea as to what rituals the Gods of that pantheon like. This is where you will state in ritual and prayer you intent to learn about them and is the first step in developing a relationship with the deities.
Say the appropriate type of prayer for the pantheon and culture in mind
Sit in silence for a few minutes.
Go to the what ever you are offering.
Place your hands over the offering and state “This is my gift to you may it nourish you and bring your much joy”
Pour the offering into the plate or bowl.
Keep the offering out for a while letting the liquid be absorbed into the atmosphere or our it onto the ground the next day
You have to keep in mind that was just a simple outline for some one who has no real experience or any real knowledge of ritual structure and organization. The more experience you have the more complexity you can add to the ritual if you so choose. This ritual was simple because it is simply an introduction and they can be very simple.
The second type of dedication ritual is one that is sort of like a marriage. You are committing yourself to your path for actual service to the Gods. During this point in time you will have many trials and tests as you figure out your role and what the deities want from you. Some its teaching, others it’s healing. Some people never quite find exactly what the deities they worship want out of them for service, so they do what comes naturally to them or they simply continue to hold rituals in honor the memory of the Gods they worship.
One thing I did for the longest time to help me gain confidence and keep on track with my spiritual studies and practices was to do a renewal ritual. This ritual always renewed my spirit in the process. It also always brought me back into myself and into my place in my studies. It also always seemed to bring me closer to the deities I had introduced myself to.
Offering of milk,ale,red wine, or incense
Place your hands over the water and state “By water’s natural cleansing I cleanse this water”
Take a pinch of pure sea salt and place it in the water. State “With salt this water is pure”
Take your finger and stir the water together creating a sacred holy water.
Walk around the ritual space and state “By the purity of this sacred water this space in prepared for ritual”.
Go to the altar and light the candle.
Say the appropriate type of prayer for the pantheon and culture in mind
Sit in silence for a few minutes.
Go to the what ever you are offering.
Place your hands over the offering and state “This is my gift to you may it nourish you and bring your much joy”
Pour the offering into the plate or bowl.
As you place your offering state your promise to start serving with more honesty and more dedication. Announce proudly that you are giving yourself to service to these Gods for however long you are planning to keep at this level of service.
Look for any signs in your dreams or day to day life that the deities are listening to you and ready to accept your service to them.
Keep the offering out for a while letting the liquid be absorbed into the atmosphere or our it onto the ground the next day.
The ritual you see out there is one of my reasons for having such a strong connection with the Germanic deities. I have spent a lot of time working ritual in honor of the Germanic deities. It has fostered my relationships with several different deities in the Germanic pantheon. In some ways this is a connection to my believed ancestral path.
The last name of Boynton is very Germanic. There is a shire in Yorkshire England which holds the name Boynton. My research has indicated that this shire would have been under control of the Saxxons. This is a place I need to visit when I next visit England. I mean a shire which has the same name as my biological surname? How can I not visit that place? In which case the Germanic pantheon (which includes the Anglo’s, The Saxon’s, The Franks, The Norse, and several more tribes) would be a home coming for me which is what it felt like to me.
The third type of ritual is one that indicates a more serious commitment. In this final dedication ritual you are completely giving yourself to everything any anything that the deities you worship desire. This is a very difficult and very important type of ritual that will cement your future. Here you are asking to become an active priest or priestess.
The final dedication is one of an initiation from the Gods. When witches talk about how only the Gods can initiate and make some one a priest or priestess of their path this is the sort of ritual that they have in mind. This is a life changing ritual and is one of deep meaning. It is this ritual where you finally accept what it is that the Gods truly desires.
This is where one becomes a true servant of the Gods. You are not only doing rituals for the Gods, but you are also offering services to the community. You may start doing more volunteer work, you may teach a few people, you may even become an interfaith Chaplin. In accepting the true mantle of what it means to be a member of the clergy (a true priest and priestess) one has given all that they are to their deities.
Remember when I said that a person would have to choose between being a solitary practitioner and as a member of a group and how I mention that BTW requires an initiation of sorts? The level of commitment that this dedication entails is the same as an initiation into a BTW Coven. How can I say that with out actually being initiated into BTW? It’s simple. I have enough friends within various BTW traditions both with valid initiations and one oath breaker related tradition to say for sure that initiation into BTW makes you a priestess of those deities. That means that within your coven and in your day to day life you are serving the needs of those Gods in what ever way they need from you. That is the sort of commitment that this level of dedication and initiation requires.
I am actually at this point in the development of my own witchcraft tradition. I have yet to formalize the arrangement through a ritual. This is something I am working on. I have some what reluctantly accepted the mantled of priestess. Perhaps this is the only way I can develop access to the mysteries that my Gods have instore for me. For this reason I can not give a sample ritual. If you are looking for some ideas you might want to look at:
- A witches Bible By Stewart Farrar
- What witches do by Stewart Farrar
- Solitary Wicca by Scott Cunningham
- Witchcraft for Today by Gerald Gardner
- Wicca for One by Raymond Buckland
- The Outer Temple of Witchcraft by Christopher Penczack
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.
Frigga: The All Mother
One of the things I have mentioned is that I have a connection to the Nordic deities. The three deities I have the most connection with are Frigga, Odin, Niord. The first Blot I ever held was in honor of Odin and Bragi as poets. I have since honored Nirod at school. Nirod being the God of the seas is quite at home on my college campus (which is on the ocean and has three beaches on the campus). Odin and Nirod came first. Then I started to be open to Frigga as there were mother issues I have had to over come.
My relationship with Frigga came out of a desire to help heal my abandonment issues from my biological mother. I am adopted. When I was two and a half the state took me away from my her due to the abuse and living situation. I had never really forgotten the pain that caused me. Since that day I had abandonment issues.
It got even worse when I was six and taken away from my Foster family that had raised me for four years. Those wounds were things that have hurt me deep. Several years ago my adoptive mother (from now on called mom) moved away. I felt abandoned as she had always been about half an hour drive away. Now she was almost three hours away. I felt alone and abandoned.
With Frigga’s love and embrace I was able to start to forgive my parents for the abandonment I was feeling. I started to feel the pain that they had for leaving me. I began to see that it was their love, the true unconditional love of a mother that was what let them have me go under the care of another family. The immense anger and rage I felt towards them was dissipated. There remained a bit of anger, but it was towards the men who abused me and not the mother who let the abuse happen.
When my mom moved back into the area develop a more mature relationship with my mother. My mother until that point has still been controlling and wouldn’t accept no as an answer to a question regarding what’s going on in my life. She even still unrolls my pant legs when they get rolled up…It for me was really annoying.
I called on her to help me develop a relationship where she would respect my boundries as an adult. I didn’t want her to ask about my finances or my therapy or anything any more. That stuff was no longer her daily concern. After giving an offering to Frigga I started to have the courage to stand up to my mom.
It was her devotion to Baldur that got my attention. When she heard of the prophecy of Baldur’s death she traveled all the worlds and made all the plants and animals vow that they would not harm Baldur. Even though she forgot the mistletoe she was still devoted entirely to saving her son’s life.
While my relationship with Frigga started out asking for her advice on helping me with a mother, there was much more that developed. When I found my love for philosophy and began to understand what true wisdom was she started to become stronger. It is said that Frigga is the wisest of the Goddesses and that she knows the Fate of all things though she speaks it not.
Her wisdom is one of the reasons I have continued to have a relationship with her. She is wise and I aspire to be as wise as I can in her honor. I feel that she has forced her hand in my life towards become a philosopher and ultimately a teacher and priestess who helps others find wisdom. I also feel her arms wrapped around me as my own mother.
I have also felt Frigga angry with me when I have been highly disrespectful to my parents. I feel as if her eyes are looking at me coldly. I then end up getting calm and apologize and try to explain what my feelings were much easier. I try to do my best to honor Frigga by being a good daughter and learning all the lessons that come my way.
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.
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!
I must be honest right here and now. My theory of ascension is in some ways based upon the theories of ascension and the philosophy behind ascension that is described with in the TV series ” Stargate SG-1″ . With that in mind if I take those theories and add them to the theories behind reincarnation that I employ (which will be discussed in my two part posts on Fate) my idea of ascension comes to have reasonable logic behind it. This post is coming now because it is directly related to my last post education and experimentation. Based on some of the things I mentioned in that post my ideas may actually be understood.
So what is ascension? How do we ascend? What does it mean to ascend? All of these are questions I am going to answer in this post. There are many things and aspects of my personal philosophy I am going to be sharing here. While many witches are not concerned with “enlightenment” or reaching the next stage of evolution (some traditional witches consider this to be an aspect of the witches path to succumbing and cheating fate) I am. This is one aspect of my path that I can trace to ceremonial magic. Ceremonial magic is all about reaching a higher state where you become closer to one with the Gods you work with. This is part of the path of ascension. I actually use my witchcraft to help me on this path through utilizing the principles found within the Kybalion.
My thoughts about ascension where made even stronger upon reading the Kybalion. If you read my post: principle of mentalism. I will get into this aspect even more after I post individual responses to the various principles outlined in the Kybalion. For now I can at least give a basic idea as to what I mean by ascension.
Ok. So the first questions I mentioned that I am going to cover is what is ascension? The second phrase in the title of this post is the key. Ascension is the process why which we reach the next state of being. It is the process by which we reach the next stage of being. In ceremonial magic the idea is to become one with the Godhead or the gods. Some people believe that humanity is the last stage prior to be pure essence and godlike. I disagree with that statement. I think there is much more beyond the state of humanity. I personally think that humanity is quite fare from the true essence of divinity. With out ascension we can not reach those states. Ascension is the process by which we reach the next state. That is why ascension is spiritual evolution.
The next question I mentioned is how do we ascend? Ascension is a process that takes many many lives. That is one of the reasons we reincarnate. There many lessons and experiences that can only be gained in the human body. That is why I see the body as an aspect of the soul. With out reincarnation we can not fully learn every lesson there is for us to learn in the human body. There is no way we can experience all of the mysteries available to the human world (every religion has it’s own set of mysteries, and atheism even has it’s own mysteries). That is why we reincarnate.
Ok. So if reincarnation is the key, why do we reincarnate? On of the reasons we reincarnate is to learn lessons that are required for ascension. I believe that there are some actions that are meant to be paid for in another life. I think that if you torture people for pure amusement in one life you will experience some form of torture (emotional strain, financial strain, ect are all forms of torture that may be worse than physical torture). I also think that there are some lessons that people just need to experience.
In my view I find suicide to actually make things worse. When a person commits suicide they opt for an easy out. Any lessons that they had not learned yet in this life (especially if it dealt with that they were having difficulties with when they ended their lives) will be more difficult. I have experienced the courage needed to face and overcome the desires of suicide. If you gain that courage then you really are learning your lesson.
By actually learning the lessons you are meant to learn in each life you are able to learn the lessons you need in order to ascend. By ascending you reach the next stage of being. However the lessons we need to learn as life lessons are not the only things we need to learn in each life. There are many other things, the key however is turning knowledge into wisdom.
I define wisdom as having the ability to turn the knowledge gained from experience into a practical application. That is what seeking true wisdom is. It is seeing the world for how it truly is and it is turning practical knowledge gained from books and experience into something that can be used every day in both the day to day mundane life and the more intimate and spiritual aspects of your life.
There are several goals that are accomplished before one can ascend. The first goal is self explanatory and has the direct tie in to my previous post. The first goal is to learn as much as you can. I believe that a lot of what we learn and experience in each life is recorded on our susoul or the stand of fate which is reality that is us. By learning as much as we can from books and personal experiences we have gained more wisdom which will help us reach the next level of existence.
Through learning as much as we can and thorough seeking true wisdom we can a deeper understanding of the nature of reality, the galaxy, and the universe. This is where I got my idea about death and destruction being the true from. When you look at how the various galaxies, and stars are created there is death and destruction. yet that is only one aspect of the mystery that is the creation of the universe and the galaxies.
As part of gaining as much wisdom as you can and learning all your lessons you will after a long period of time reach the next stage of being. You will have ascended. So what is the next stage of being? That was the final question I asked. Ascending means you have reached the next stage of being and the next state of existence. That is what it means to ascend.
The next state of being is a mystery. It is something that is unknown until you reach it. I have many theories on the possible other states of being are. I will cover each theory, but it is important to know that I don’t know which state comes next, or if even there is a choice. My theory does include some basic order, but I may have it wrong. I do believe there are many stages between humanity and becoming a divine being, but until I have gained a deeper gnosis as to what the ascension involves I can just share the states I believe exist beyond the current state of humanity.
This is related to my cosmology. Right now I am going to give you some idea as to my cosmology. There will be a more in depth post this week. I am on spring break this break which means I’ll have more time to write for my blog. I have so many things I want to write about that this vacation creates a perfect time for that.
Any way back to my cosmology. In essence I hold essentially a multi-world multi-verse theory. In essence I believe in many other worlds and planes of existence beyond our own, and as I hold all mythologies to have some truth and all gods to exist I thus believe that all of their realms beyond this realm exist. There. You have the bare bones of my cosmology.
In traditional witchcraft there are many different views on what happens to people who have succumb and cheated fate. Many witches have a concept of “the mighty dead”. Peter Paddon describes these as the few individuals who have gained enough spiritual knowledge and experience where when the reach the cauldron of rebirth they emerge as a whole individual and not many pieces (source).
I see the mighty dead as one example of the possible next stage of being. These are people who are wise. These masters are often the first spiritual teachers that a novice witch and pagan comes in contact with. They may be young spirit guides. These are people who still have some lessons to learn before they reach the stage of “angels” or even before they become elves.
Robin Artison holds that once you have died you become an elven being or fay beings. I think that it is possible that our shades are elves, which would make elves also the next stage of being. yet I think the mighty dead may be the a stage between elves, as I think the elves have mysteries beyond the ones accessible to the elves. (Witching Way of the Hollow Hill)
Along with elves there is the possibility of becoming a nature spirit or even a genus locai. The genus locai are essentially the spirits of a place. Many witches work with these spirits for power. That is why connections with the land become very powerful for witches. In this way genus locai are essential nature spirits. While I think elves are a type of nature spirit, they are not the only ones. I will cover more about elves in a future post, as well as nature spirits when I cover spirits and elemental spirits and the elements (also this week).
One of the beliefs I have inherited or rather taken from Greek Philosophy and theology is the concept of demi-gods. To be honest I think that the people who are born as demi-gods (born of a human and a god or goddess) as people who are either at the next stage of being, or in between the next stage of being. These people are part god and part human. That is why I am not sure if they are in between the state or at the next stage.
The last possible stage I see between humanity and being a God is that of being an angel. In my very first pagan blog project post I briefly covered angels and angelic beings. For now I will say that I see them as being the messengers of gods. By being messengers of gods they are nearly god like. That means they are actually close to being gods. However they are not godlike. There is still more for them to learn and experience though.
If I go by the Kybalion there is still one more stage before we unite with the ultimate creative source and have experienced all the mysteries we need to experience is godhood. Like I have said I don’t think that once we have experienced all the mysteries we can experience as humans we are automatically at the state of divinity. I think it takes time and a process of centuries of reincarnation into the various life forms.
When you take ascension into consideration it also explains why I believe that all individual Gods described in the various mythologies exist. I also believe that there are many deities out there which may not belong to any one specific pantheon because they are an individual who has reached the stage of being a god after many life times and many ascensions. In that regards I think every witch that practices some form of religious witchcraft can be worshiping a God and Goddess duo that we might not actually have knowledge of.
Since I mentioned that Gods may be ascended beings after many lifetimes I must make one more statement. I do not believe that each and every god and goddess out there to be an ascended being. In fact I believe many gods to be beings that were created by THE ALL in that state. As they are mental creations of THE ALL, THE ALL could have created them in any fashion they exist. There for they are as they were intended to be.
I also think that they could simply be beings beyond our understanding, but that was covered in my post: Divinity
The first thing I must say is that posting this essay and my personal experience is a part of my moon ritual. I am doing this in the honor of the wisdom found with in the Queen of Fate and the Queen of the Night (they are one and the same) as well as Goddess of the moon who teaches me the practice of magic and the mysteries that are the practice of magic. Yes I consider magic to hold it’s own mysteries. In that respect this is my esbat as I am honoring the Goddess and God of Wisdom and my religious witchcraft path through this post.
Originally I was going to talk about the importance of these two practices in two different blog posts, but after reading my outline I realized that they go very well together. The topics I am going to cover are education and experimentation. I see this post in some ways to be a continuation of my post on being an eclectic pagan, but in reality this post in general will apply to each and every Pagan out there. Due to my background being of being an eclectic witch I will be posting from that perspective. I just hope that traditionalist will find something of value here as well.
I am going to begin with the value of education. To be completely honest I am going to cover some non religious and spiritual aspects of education here (at least on the surface) but when I explain why they are here you’ll see why I find all education in the end to be essential.
Education for me in the religious and spiritual sense covers more than just religious and spiritual education. In fact for myself I consider any sort of education post high school to be extremely important. I have only experience College education so my comments will reflect that, but like I said in the end to me it does have spiritual ramifications.
Wait colleges education as spiritual education? You must be off your rocker right?
Honestly this has been only a recent development in my understanding of the importance of education towards spiritual development and advancement. This has actually influenced my idea about ascension (which I will cover in another post). I see college as important as it can really expand your mind to new ways of thinking. It can also teach you how to look critically at all the books you read for guidance on your path. However for me the real understanding came from the philosophy course.
Every major that I have come across in every college I have looked at requires one class in philosophy. For me I think that any one that has any interest in pursuing any religious path should take an introductory course in philosophy. I consider myself a true philosopher which is why I find taking at least one course in philosophy to be essential to your growth spiritually.
When people think of philosophy they typically think of deep in depepth thought and thinking. For many people philosophy is simply out of their comfort zone. It seems to be something that is only held with in the mind of the great thinkers like: Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Bertrand Russel, and many others, but in reality philosophy when you get right down to it is essentially the way a person views the world.
The definition of philosophy is really based on the Greek roots of the word. The word Philosophy is made up of two Greek words, Philos and Sophia. Philos basically means love of. Sophia is translated as both knowledge and wisdom. So the subject of philosophy is essentially “the love of knowledge and wisdom”. That right there is one of the reasons I find college education ti be essential.
Through the various topics covered in college a college student is introduced to many ways of looking at the world (in other words philosophies). Once a student takes a philosophy course (the choice is typically either ethical dilemmas or a basic introduction to philosophy) they begin to start to question (or at least ideally if they got anything out of the course) how they actually understand and perceive the world from then on.
Once a philosophy course is taken (usually with in the first two semesters) a student will begin to question the worldviews offered by any text they encounter. This is the reason I have found a college education to be essential to spiritual development.
Aside from the class benefits, you typically have a chance to encounter many different cultures, religions, political, and spiritual beliefs on a college campus (even ones religious in nature tend to still have a diverse set of actual beliefs and spiritual concepts on campus). In college you are bound to have a vast amount of experiences and be allowed to experience many different things from various cultures. When you look at it that way here is yet another point why I see college as important.
The third reason I see college as important is one of the keys to ascension. This is the second time I have mentioned ascension in this post so a brief description of ascension is required here. Ascension for me is basically the process by which we reach the next stage of being. I believe that there are many stages of existence and that there are many mysteries and experiences that can only be learned in certain states. That is why I believe having a human life is essential. To be honest I think that there are actually many lives that need to be lived in human form before we learn all the lessons and experience all the mysteries that we need to in this life.
So where does college play in?
In college we have many choices to make. I believe that the choices we make in this life are those that we are fated to do (I’ll cover my concept of fate some point next week) as we chose the lessons we wanted to learn in this lifetime based on the lessons that we have already learned. I believe that career choice and vocational path all play a role in the lessons we learn.
This is where college comes in. The ultimate format of our college education is based on the career path that we have decided to pursue at that time. I say at that time because it is not uncommon these days to find people who spent years of their life in one field of work now looking for something else.
I believe that each different career path has its different set of mysteries. In many ways if you think about it there are various Gods that could be considered “Gods of X profession”. For example in financial jobs I would consider Hermes to be a God that you could gain insight from. The various jobs we have today like manufacturing might got to a god like Vulcan/Hephaestus or finances to gods like Hermes or trickster gods. That is why I think every job on earth possesses it’s own set of mysteries and lessons that can only be experienced in that setting.
That is where college comes in. In college you have to take courses based on your major or majors. Each course provides more insight into the information that you require for your job. These lessons may give you a different world look based on the career path you take. The mysteries you experience can be increased if you work with a deity related to your professions. That is how college fits in to the theme of spiritual education. Yet it goes further than that.
I mentioned briefly about how I see ascension to be reaching the next stage of existence. One of the ways we ascend is through obtaining as much knowledge as we can in this lifetime. College facilitates this by having courses in general on basically any subject that you can imagine. By attending college you have access to courses on basically any aspect of any given subject. That allows you to obtain as much knowledge as you can.
As a college student who has been in college off and on for the last 8 years and will finally have her associates (I have had many major issues with my mental health to overcome during my time in college) this year in liberal studies; I can firmly say that every course I have taken in my college career has given me something to think about, or has helped me develop a skill that would become necessary in future classes and in jobs (learning how to study and ask for help and learning boundaries as to what I can do and can’t do). I strongly support some sort of education after high school. It doesn’t matter if that education take the form be a trade specific training or a 2-7 year college/vocational training, or the format of apprenticeship, semi mater, master, and grad master format, I find that the skills learned here will help one succeed in all other areas of life.
Ok, so the rant on the aspect of college or post high school education ran much longer than I had originally thought it would be. I think I was able to provide a clear point as to why I see post high school education to be important. I think that the job path we choose can provide some mysteries of their own and I see those as being the mysteries we are meant to learn in this life.
There are however other forms of education that are important. The first thing is that you take personal responsibility for your spiritual education. No one is going to hand you the answers on a silver platter. If you have questions that you are seeking answers for you are the ones that really need to take responsible for your own spiritual education.
So what does spiritual education entail? Well there are many things that spiritual education can entail. There is research, reflection, participation, and discussion. Each of these are very important to developing personally. They are things that should not be skipped when a person comes to explore spirituality. If you remove one of them in the end the other aspects don’t have as much of an impact. This is where the second part of this post comes into play.
The very first thing I mentioned as a part of spiritual education is research. Research is an important part of learning about your path. Research can contain listening to podcasts, reading books, joining e-mail lists, historical documentaries, academic articles published in various magazines, and websites. In either way it takes note taking, paying attention and either reading or watching a lot of documentaries. In essence it is very time consuming. However if you don’t research you really never have any material to base your practice offf of.
As an eclectic I take the research a step further. I look into cultural, religious, and historical aspects and context for the practices. I then look to see how that piece fits into the whole of that subject and topic. If it is something I agree with spiritually (context into consideration) I will add it to my practice. This typically means using more than just that one concept.
Research also allows you to explore many different avenues of looking at the same topic. It can also allow you to work through concepts in culture not familiar to you. Hence this is why research is essential to both eclectics and traditionalist. It may be difficult, but in the end it takes a lot of time and is worth the effort.
The second thing I mentioned was reflection. I will cover reflection after I discuss the meaning of participation in the sense of spiritual and religious development. I am covering participation now as it coincides directly with research. That is why participation is the second part of exploration and reflection is the third.
After a person has done some research they are likely to have an idea of the path and maybe the Gods that they are interested in. This is what will guide how a person starts to participation aspect of spiritual development. I say the path determines how you participate as the Gods and development of your path becomes intently personal at this point.
There are many ways in which a person can participate in a religion or spiritual experience. There is personal ritual through prayer and offering as well as mediation or acts of worship. There are acts in communities that can be done in honor of various gods. That is an act of participation. The other type of participation is through groups and public rituals. I have found that the website Witches voice to very useful in finding groups. You may have to travel though.
The next part is spiritual reflection. In many ways I see this blog as an overall spiritual reflection for my years on my path. If you are not into blogs you can use a personal diary or as many witchcraft authors refer to it a Book of Shadows, This book basically entails any detail of any spiritual work that you do.
Reflection here entails writing down all of your thoughts and experiences. In some ways it also means looking at your experiences and develop the path you are on. It is very uncomfortable but it is important. Through reflection we are able to look at what we have read as well as our own experiences and find them working as a whole. This provides keys to mysteries and understanding.
The last thing I mentioned about education is discussion. Through discussion people can ask you questions about your path. By answering questions a person is forced to actively think about their beliefs and their practices. In many ways this forces a person to find ways to describe exactly what they believe and how they understand the universe.
There are some risks to experimentation though. When you experiment with a new ritual or worshiping new gods you end up working with a massive amount of power and entities beyond our full comprehension. You also risk the possibility of your entire universe being turned upside down. When ever you experiment with a belief and religious system all of you’re previous thoughts and notions about the world can be turned all around.
This is where you need to have courage. I mentioned in my previous post that eclectics really need to be courageous. Any one exploring a new religious path as a seeker needs to be courageous. You need to be able to try and fail and try again. That is the risk here.
The benefits of experimentation are vast. You gain self awareness and knowledge. You gain insight as to the various Gods out there. You get to explore different world views. You can learn a lot. You just have to be willing to question yourself and the other beliefs. In the end the search for a religious or philosophical path in life has a lot of risk and benefits.
This week one of the possible prompts for the Pagan Blog Project for the letter E was eclectic paganism and eclectic witchcraft in the form of “neo-Wicca”. Over the last few days I have read several different blogs from the Pagan blog project on this topic. While there have been many valid insights there are some things I feel that I should say about myself.
Here is the first part of the prompt:
Eclectic practice is something that can be a big debate in different part s of the Pagan community. Some feel that being eclectic opens you up to a whole world of ideas and tools that with the more narrow view of a specific tradition just isn’t available. Yet others feel that being eclectic equates to a practice that is lacking in structure and commitment to anything. Are you eclectic? -Rowan Pendragon
Yes. I am eclectic. I am both an eclectic witch and an eclectic pagan. I find that the two are very different practices. While I do use my witchcraft to help me connect to deity and as a part of my worship to deity, it is primarily a non religious practice a craft. The deities I worship with my craft are responsible for the core mysteries of the witchcraft tradition I am developing and sharing through these pages and writings. That being said I do accept that witchcraft is essentially a craft and a philosophy that while spiritual in nature can be adapted to any philosophy or religion.
I however say that I am an eclectic pagan because I am not limited to one ritual set or technique. I am not limited to any one pantheon or cultural way. I do not have to worship or follow the typical 8 sabbbats found in most witchcraft traditions (which I do honor as well). I can worship any deity I want with any holiday I choose.
I have used Hellenic rituals to honor Zeus and other Hellenic Gods. I have had an ecstatic ritual invoking Pan and have been in states of ecstasy and panic created from the worship of Pan that forced me to face my sexual fears and my deepest personal fears. I have also felt the caress of Dionysus while drunk on booze and enjoying liquor. While I have only celebrated one Hellenic festival and it was years ago, I still have that deep connection to Pan.
I have held Blots and Symbels in honor of the Aesir, Vanir, some of the frost Giants. I use the Nine Nobel virtues as the corner stone of my philosophy when it comes to my world view and ethical views. I have experimented with runes and the Seax worship of Odin and Freya (it didn’t work for me). I have started to explore a few Germanic holidays that might not be followed by people other than the Asatru and Heathen recons.
I have done a full moon esbat to Diana according to The Gospel of Aradia and Strega traditions. I still have a lot to learn about Strega and the other deities. However I feel strong in my connection to Diana through the Gospel of Aradia. The most recent connection I have felt to any deity was during that ritual this past summer.
While I am interested in Celtic and Native American traditions I have not pursued them. I know that in many cases those cultures are closed to outsiders. While my own teacher (Chris Penczak) has a connection to some of the Celtic deities, I am not comfortable making that connection as I am not of that blood. From what knowledge I have been able to research even with my adoption I have no connection to Scotland or Ireland. The only possible Celtic connection to me would be in England if there are any to be found with in Anglo-saxon English culture.
I was raised in the United Church of Christ. To this day I have never accepted the core trinitarian philosophy of the UCC that God, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit were one person. I do believe in Jesus and I do believe in the Holy Spirit and God. I just think that they are all separate entities. I think that they are all connected that Jesus is a Demi-God and the son of God as well as a prophet, teacher, and wise man. I believe in God. I just don’t worship Jehova/Yaweh/Allah (the God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) as my exclusive god. I worship any God I chose when I chose.
As an eclectic pagan like I said I am not limited to exploring and experiencing the rituals and celebrations of just one cultural practice. That being said if I worship a deity from the Roman pantheon I try to worship them with those rituals. In that respect I have started to answer the second question asked by Rowan which was:
What are your thoughts on eclectic vs. traditional practice ?
When it comes to my religious witchcraft experiences I can’t really explain. I have a deep interest in Wicca and those traditional rites and rituals. However there are practical issues and other things that prevent that from happening. I wish I could be a part of a traditional group of some sort. I long for the commitment of repeated rituals with mass power behind them, a community, and a set of core rituals and practices that have already been developed. I long for that sort of setting.
When it comes to the exploration of the other paths I have tried to practice in the traditional way. It can be difficult. I find that the traditional practice makes the connection with the deities a lot easier as the rites are typically found with in the lore in some way.
I find security in tradition. It helps me cement my practice and create foundations that are strong. The foundations built on tradition are stronger. I believe strongly in the power of tradition, habit, and practice. To me these help develop sign posts on the path, and tradition gives validation to personal experience.
This is why I am an odd eclectic. I have explored many paths and taken several things. When I explore I use recon methodology. I read the lore and I read academic sources if they are available. I read and research the history. I have discussions with other recons. I pray and make introduction based offerings to the Gods. I use tradition.
I find that I am going to eventually find one recon path to stick to. However for now I feel that I need to explore all paths open to me at this point in time. I will always keep the worship of the various deities separate. I do not believe that they are all the same. I do not believe that all Gods are one God and all Goddesses one Goddess. I believe that all Gods are individual entities. That is why I keep the worship of the various deities separate. I find that honors and respects them.
I find that eclectic practice where you take different deities in worship them in context that they were never worshiped in before (Hindu deities in a Neo-Pagan witch) is not acceptable. While there have been some deities that have been worshiped in the context of other traditions (The Hellenic, Roman, and Kemetic deities were all interacting via the cross-cultural worship and interaction at the time) I find that in the end, the comparisons are usually fairly off and done with little deep research into the myths and lore as well as traditions of those people.
That is why I as an eclectic keep the worship of every different pantheon separate. I find that it helps me bond with them and the culture better this way. It also helps me gain a deeper understanding of the culture through the exploration of the rituals. Plus I gain a modern understanding through anthropological research.
Now I must begin the topic of “Eclectic neo-Wicca” and my feelings about that. I do not accept people who practice an eclectic form of religious witchcraft based loosely on the teachings of proper Wiccan rites as Wiccan. I do accept them as witches. In fact I firmly believe as an eclectic religious witch there is an established traditions for us.
Wait eclectic tradition?
Yes. Eclectic tradition. My personal library contains several books on “Eclectic witchcraft”, as well as Wicca and traditional witchcraft (not even mentioning my recon sources as well). I have found that essentially if you look at the books that label themselves as “eclectic Wicca” there are essentially core rites and rituals practiced. While the individual practitioner may be a soft polytheist who uses other deities aside from the MMC and horned God (which I was when I started and I will have a post on this later at some point) in their rituals the actual content of the rituals is the same. The words may be different, but the intent and the format are the same.
That is why I see eclectic neo-pagan witchcraft to be a cohesive tradition. The various deities found in the tradition are different but the ritual format and content are the same. I have found that even when looking at the various witch traditions out there: (Cabot, Temple, Blackforest, Standing Stone, and many others) they have the same core rituals and sabbats. While the individual interpretations were different and may use different deities the overall mythology is the same.
My religious witchcraft is eclectic. I have taken from traditional witchcraft (Through Robin Artisson and a few other authors), The “Wiccan literature” out there (Gardner, Frosts, Sanders), I have taken from Hermetic literature (The Kybalion), Shamanic literature, and Eclectic Witchcraft as well as some Thelemic literature (The LBRP). My practice melds all of these together into one whole unit that works. How this is developing I am still not fully aware. Its just developing.
However none of that makes my practice in any way Wiccan. Nor does it make me Wiccan. I have not been initiated into Wicca. I have not learned the rites of Wicca, nor have I experienced the mysteries of Wicca, nor do I know the names of the deities in Wicca. I am not Wiccan. I may never be Wiccan. I am a witch as the religious and magical practice that primarily drives me is derived from various forms of Witchcraft.
In discussions I have had with other people in regards to the nature of the magical craft called witchcraft one constant comment has been that witchcraft as a craft is eclectic in nature. It is something that is going to be developed individually by each witch.
As a magical practice I primarily define witchcraft as dealing with the folk lore and folk traditions of European countries both continental (German, France, Italy, Norway, Sweden) or Island (England, Ireland, Scotland, Iceland,). This magical practice contains lore from all of these sources and have adapted to include some Christian influenced charms over the years.
It is this adaptability that has allowed Witchcraft to survive. It’s no wonder that witches are often considered to be ‘cunning”. Witchcraft has many forms from protection from witches (witch bottles and many protection charms during the puritan era in America fit into this category). Some of the practices can be traced to fairy tales, and others more to local legends and traditions. The fact of the mater is that as a magical practice witchcraft has always adapted and will always be adaptable due to its eclectic nature.
As I mentioned before essentially witchcraft as a magical practice is going to be created by each individual witch. While there may be some spells and charms passed on through oral lore or in the form of a Grimiore ( or Book of Shadows) essentially every witch must find what works for them selves. This is why constant trial and error is important. That is why constant study and exploration is important.
My witchcraft involves angelic forces from time to time. It can involve elemental spirits, dragons, other spirits, ancestors, gods or just my own energy. The spells I create can involve intense energy manipulation or little to none. They can involve manipulating physical objects or they can involve simply focusing mental energy. My magic is varied and allows for experimentation and development.
The final question asked in the prompt this week by Rowan was:
how do you feel eclectic work benefits you if that’s the path you follow?
I have found several benefits to being an eclectic pagan. One of the key benefits is that I can widen my network of contacts and I can increase my experiences. I have found that by honestly going into the various Recon and eclectic or traditional groups saying that I am a seeker who seeks genuine wisdom and experiences. I do not know if my path lies along the lines of a specific tradition or if I am suited more to always be an eclectic. For now I wish to simply discuss and learn from you about your groups practices that they will be more willing to accept me.
Another benefit has been the ability to constantly explore and try new things. As I said before in this post I am not limited to any specific holiday calendar or ritual setting. By being an eclectic I have opened myself up to the possibilities to be found in any and every path out there. I don’t have to experience the mysteries of the universe (and I believe every path to have a unique set of mysteries available to them) through just one culture. I can experience many mysteries.
The largest drawback I have found to be that I have to constantly be studying. As an eclectic I have to constantly be reading and expanding my references for various paths. I have to look into history and culture. I have to look into modern telling of myths and folk lore as well as more of the literal translations of source texts.
I have to look at personal experience. I have to compare it to lore and experiences by other people. I have to keep a record of what I have done and what I hope to experience. There is a lot of exploration that comes with being an eclectic. There are times that the work may not seem worth it, but in the end I find it worth it.
I am an eclectic because I am a philosopher in the truest sense of the word. I am a lover and seeker of wisdom and knowledge. That may explain the various deities I have connections to (Zeus, Odin, Thoth, Friga, ect). I believe that there is wisdom to be found any where. You just have to be open to the possibilities.
Could I be wrong?
Yes. However I have found that the journey is worth it. I have found that in the end I seek to find wisdom where I can. I might not agree with every practice I read, and frankly not all of the rituals I have experiences have sat well with me. The fact that I keep going shows that I have the one key virtue that all eclectics need:
To be an eclectic witch and an eclectic pagan is to have the courage to explore, test, and question everything that is out there. It is to test your self and your practice. It is the courage to try things that other people might not. It is the courage to experiment and fail and try again.
Is it worth it?
I think so. I find enjoyment and pleasure out of reading about, researching, experiencing, and exploring various religions and philosophy. I find enjoyment out of pondering the nature of the universe. I find enjoyment out of exploring all avenues of wisdom and learning. I am in that ways happy to be a college student.
For those reasons and more I am an eclectic. I tread the border between being a traditionalist. I hold that traditions should remain in tact. I hold that traditions are meant to be done a specific way for specific reasons. In that way I am a traditionalist. In that I am open to more than one tradition or way of thinking I am eclectic. Just because it’s tradition doesn’t mean it’s the only way, but it also doesn’t mean that traditions should be discounted.
For this weeks prompt there were several things I came up with. It was a choice between ethics, eclectic, entheogen, energy, and education. There were several blogs posted about being eclectic, so I decided that I would focus on entheogens. I am still going to post an entry about being eclectic at some point, but for today I am going to focus on entheogens.
Most of the books I read when I started out on my path said that real witches did not use drugs or drinks in rituals. As a teen I had no problem with this as I was not legal drinking or smoking age. I also had no desire to “get high” or “get drunk” at this time in my life. However it made me wonder why people would say that witches had never used substances in ritual.
I was aware that some Native American tribal traditions partook of Peyote or other substances as part of their ritual. It was a sacred practice and done to contact the deities and achieve a deep trance. I was also quite aware that in ancient Greece the Oracle of Delphi induced trance by breathing the vapors of the cave (which were hallucinogenic) and I had also heard that often times the wine drank during Hellennic rituals was laced with another substance to once again help achieve a deeper trance.
It seemed to me that if there were historical uses of substances in various cultures, why would witches be exempt from this practice? What was so wrong with using a substance blessed and connected to your Gods to not only connect with the Gods but with spirits as well? When I asked these questions it was often answered that “the experiences would not be genuine” or that “they shouldn’t be taken seriously”. I asked what made a substance trance so different from one gained by use of drumming, incense, or other practices? The answer was that the experience comes from with in and not from the substance.
My thinking was then: Wait what? Are you serious? Even if a person is using an entheogen in their ritual it’s not to “get high”. It’s to contact with deity and spirit. The tool of choice is the entheogen instead of or in addition to other “traditional” trance. The experience with the deity still would come from with in as it would be from the desire to connect that the bond was formed.
Entheogens is something I am still exploring. I typically use a smoke or a drink. Most commonly I use catnip. It has a nice relaxing sensation that helps me reach a deeper trance. The smoke is always blessed before I partake and I often take a “hit” as I praise my Gods. I often look at the smoke remaining in the room after an exhale and see symbols and get messages from the Gods that way.
I haven’t tried to use an herbal tsine blend yet, but its something I probably will look into later on. I know that the use of substances in ritual is something of debate. I also know that the practice isn’t for every one. It helps me relax and focus to connect with deity, and in the end, isn’t that all that rituals are meant to do connect and celebrate deity?