Today I am going to talk about Pagan pride Day. In the US there is an annual festival at different times in different states where Pagans can come together and celebrate being who and what they are. Its a day for rituals, friendship, exploration, and much more. There are workshops and there are vendors. You have a ritual for the harvest (all are harvest themed) and sometimes other mini rituals in workshops.
I love my local Pagan Pride day. Its been going on for 11 years now. Its been a great way for me to meet friends and be a part of a community. The vendors are typically the same year after year (with new ones from time to time) and many of the attendees are regulars. There were many people I saw once a year at the Pagan Pride day that I still considered friends. It was a fellowship of a kindred mind and spirit that kept us close.
For many years I went just as an attendee. I went for the workshops and the vendors. The ritual component was always nice but they didn’t always make much sense to me. The people were the reason I went. I learned a lot from workshops. One year I learned the LBRP by heart by the end of an hour workshop. Other years I did ancestral work and learned about kitchen witchcraft. One year I learned of a completely new way to look at herbal work from a different perspective.
Pagan Pride days are great. Even when I volunteered for a few years I was still able to see my friends, go to the workshops, and participate in the rituals. I became such a regular scene there and was often so lucky with the raffle that it became a joke about my entering raffles in the Pagan scene. Its still a joke today for those who remember those days even though the event is being run by other people now.
With the change in leadership my role at the event also took a change. I went from being an attendee and a volunteer to being a vendor. This is where I launched Mystic Echoes last year. With this change I gained even more appreciation for vendors and attendees of Pagan pride Days. I was supported by the community in my venture to open a New Age and Metaphysical store. I now knew and understood why vendors came back year after year. I also now understood why people liked the vendors. Its all exposure to different products you might not see or have otherwise. Its also a great place to learn about making new things and how things worked.
Pagan Pride Days are a wonderful thing and need to be embraced more. They offer community for those of us who practice alone but want fellowship every once and a while. They offer education to the general public. They offer understanding, small business sales and development, and do a community service. The fee for the local Pagan pride day is a canned good of some sort. The non-perishable goods are given to a local food pantry so that those in need can have food to eat. Last year they also raised food and toys for the local animal shelter as well ensuring that the animals had food and toys as well.
If you are interested in seeing a world of different pagan religious practices, and in exploring them I can’t recommended going to a Pagan Pride Day enough. The website: Pagan pride Day organization provides a link for you to find local events. They are non judgmental so all are welcome. You don’t have to be Pagan to go and enjoy it. So please go check out a local event.
What are the basics of any path and why they are important
Today we are going to talk about an important topic. Today we are going to discuss what it is when they mean “tell me about the basics of X religion or X path” This is a question that many seekers often ask in forums and on mailing lists. In some ways this question seems obvious to answer, but it also at times seems to represent a lack of previous research. The lack of previous research is not necessarily a bad thing as at this point in the seekers stage they may be looking for bare bones information from which to refine their search for their path. This is why it can be important to look at some 101 books before you read to much lore on a specific culture.
What the basics include
The basics of any religion or spiritual path are easy to outline. While not every path has every belief or idea I am going to outline, the idea and concepts behind these basics are found in enough spiritual paths across the world that they can be considered what the basics would be. Basics of a religion include the pantheon or pantheons involved in that particular path (this covers the basic mythology of the path), the style and types of rituals involved and a rough idea of what ritual entails, views on the afterlife and the soul, views on spirits and spirit realms, holidays, and ethics. Each of these basic components provide excellent insight into what each religion essentially believes in and what may be involved in being a part of that particular path.
As I cover the basics of what religions and spiritual paths include I am going to use a few different pagan paths as examples. Most of the references in this post are going to come from either Germanic paganism, Witchcraft (many different forms), or Hellenic Paganism as these are the paths I have the most experiences with. However in general use the examples as an idea for what you may encounter with the paths that you are looking to explore and study. These examples are going to illustrate why these aspects of a religion are important to understand for those paths and why they form the basics.
Pantheon, Pantheons and Spirits
Every religion and spiritual path out there has a unique set of spirits and spirit beings that they work with. These beings do not need to be Gods or even called Gods. They can just be a set of spiritual entities which are worked with for spiritual development. The establishment of which beings are in which path helps a seeker to know which myths are going to be the source for knowledge on the Gods.
It also gives the seeker a culture to research and in some cases a specific name for a path to follow. For example if you know you want to work with the gods from Shintoism you would be following a Japanese pantheon and set of spirits. If that was our path you would now also want to do research on the culture and the history of the Japanese people. You may even want to learn some of the language.
Style and Type of ritual
Different cultures and religions had different rituals. The rituals in Asatru (A Norse/Germanic Paganism recon pagan path) are not the same type of rituals you will encounter in Wicca. The rituals in Wicca are different than the rituals in a Kemetic (Egyptian style of paganism). The rituals in each culture and path are a reflection of the ways that humans and Gods interacted in those cultures. By understanding the basic outlines of different types of rituals you can understand a bit more about the cultures that religion and ritual style is dedicated to.
In Wicca and many forms of religious witchcraft the rituals involve typically a circle being cast. That circle creates a sacred space. The elemental forces are called. The God and Goddess are invoked. Here we have the workings either magical or sabbat related. There is an offering given to the Gods. The Gods are released from the circle and the other elemental forces are released. The circle is taken up and the ritual is over followed by a feast or grounding with food.
This ritual outline there gives a seeker an idea of what exactly will happen during a worship service and ritual. This information gives a person a vague idea of what they will need to do if they seek to follow that specific path. This is useful information because if a person doesn’t like the basic outlines of rituals in a path then that path may not be for them, or they may need to study further to see if there are other ways that they can adapt rituals. It is a starting point for ritual work concepts any way.
Views on the soul and the afterlife
Many religions have views of some sort on the soul and the afterlife. For many people their belief in the afterlife and the soul is a large defining aspect of their path. So in many paths this is a basic concept. Many people will choose spiritual paths which reflect how they personally feel about their beliefs in the spirit and the soul.
Christianity for example does believe in a soul and in an afterlife. The specific views on the soul and the afterlife play a large role in the beliefs and works of this religion and as such it forms a good example of why the view on the soul and the afterlife are basic components of a religion and or spiritual path.
Spirits and Spiritual Realms or Spirits and Cosmology
Different paths have different spirits that they work with and believe in. In some of these paths there are many different realms where different beings and spirits exist. One of these realms is typically the realm where the Gods live and at least one other realm aside from the physical world is the world of the dead. Other paths like Asatru teach that there are many different realms with different spirits that live in those worlds. For example in Asatru there are nine different realms. These realms are Asgard, Vanaheim, Jotenhiem, Midgard, Muspelheim, Swarvelheim, Alfheim ,Helheim, and Nifelheim.
Here is a meme depicting the cosmology of Germanic and Norse Paganism.
Each of those realms have a few specific type of beings that live in them. Asgard is the realm of the Gods in Norse Myth. Here Odin lives. Helheim is the realm of the dead. Jotenheim is the realm of the Giants. Vanaheim is where the Vanir live. Alfheim is the realm of the light elves. Swartvelheim is the realm of the dark elves or dwarves. Midgard is earth. Nifelehim and Muspelheim are realms of fire and ice.
In Norse religion understanding how these realms interact and how they work together is a part of the basics. Here you have seen the realms that are involved in this cosmology and you have been introduced to the concept of a few of the spiritual beings that are encountered in the Norse/Germanic Myths.
Holidays and special occasions
One of the main things people think about in religions are the holidays. What are the sacred and special days of the Gods and spirits of this path. These holidays provide times for worshiping and or strengthening relationships with the Gods and spirits. Some times holidays provide further ways to examine the lore and engage in cultural activities that were specific to that holiday and that time of year.
Some cultures have massive holiday schedules. The Hellenic holiday calender is very complex and long. Those who seek to practice Greek Paganism often have a long list of holidays to choose from. Each of the holidays had a specific reason for being there and some of them were specific to certain Gods and cults. The major holiday in Hellenic paganism that most look into the the festival surrounding the Elysian Mysteries.
With pagans who have complex festival cycles and associations they can often choose which ones to follow. Typically you find the holidays that were the most important to the Gods that you are worshiping in that culture. For example those who are close to Dionysus, Demeter, and Persephone would definitely be doing something for the festival of the Elysian mysteries while a Greek Pagan dedicated more to Pan would find festivals for Pan.
This illustrates the key point I wanted to make with the holidays. There is a major misconception that all pagan paths follow the 8 sabbats or the wheel of the year as it is known and seen in Wicca and Wicca flavored Pagan paths. Asatru does not have the 8 sabbats. There are 4 of them but not all 8. Hellenismos has lots of festivals. Other religions have only one or two that are key components.
Ethics and Morals
Every path out there seeks to teach the idea of what is right and what is wrong. Many spiritual paths form the basis for how we as individual treat each other. Some paths have been so influential on cultures that the ethical considerations of that religion have formed the basics of how that culture interacts with people. Basically ethics influence how we act as a person and how we act in society to other people and with other people.
The rede is the basic ethical outline considerations for Wiccan styled pagan paths. The idea is that you basically do what ever you want so long as you harm none. The rede even states: “an it harm none do what ye will”. This is the way many witches who follow Wicca inspired paths live their lives. Other witches follow different ethical considerations that are more informative.
Some paths don’t call their ethical or moral codes ethical and moral codes. Some paths call them virtues. The Germanic paths idea of how you should live life has a set of what they call the nine nobel virtues. These virtues outline personal behavior as well as different types of actions that can be found.
Here is another meme that lists the nine noble virtues:
By knowing the ethical standards of a path a person can get an idea of what sort of lifestyle they can have. The idea of the morals and ethics are the ideas behind how the Gods want their followers to behave. Often times these ideas include day to day life as well as during conflicts and social settings. The ideas in the ethics are what that path considers to be a good person and living a good life.
This entry here has given you an idea of what the basics of any particular faith are. The examples given come from some of the most popular pagan and spiritual paths. Its important to understand what the basics of a religion or magical path is before you start to get to deep into studies. The basics of the paths provide everything you need to know to understand the beliefs and practices of that particular path and practice. If you understand the basic concepts before you step too deeply in the path, you can have an understanding on if those beliefs and concepts resonate with your personal beliefs and concepts.
Once you understand the basics of a path you can then start to take your studies deeper. With Norse paganism you can start to spend time to study and experience the various realms. You can look at other practices including magical traditions in the Norse belief systems. You can find ways to look at the basics and become deeper involved with them. Once you know the basics its all building from there.
Though a true seeker knows that revisiting the basics is at time a good thing to do. It strengthens foundations and deepens experiences with more advanced concepts and practices within the belief system you have chosen to follow. Once you know the basics you can start to also go off and create your personal understandings and developments spiritually. The basics give us a strong base from which to grow our understandings of that universe.
One of the common themes out there in the world of Paganism and alternative spirituality is the concept of generic Goddess spirituality. There are many different things that people mean when they say that they follow Goddess spirituality rather than a specific religion or spiritual path. In all honesty like all spiritual paths Goddess spirituality is a very personal path. There are some common themes and traits among Goddess spirituality so I am going to cover a few of those themes today for you to follow and understand.
What is Goddess spirituality
What is goddess spirituality? Goddess spirituality is in the end a relationship with one divine great Goddess. This Goddess is the mother of everything. She is the creator of everything. She has no name but is mother to every one who follows her path. The Great Goddess is both apart of this world and separate from this world. The Goddess is in everything and is a part of everything.
Goddess spirituality is actually as old as time. The earliest figures that we have found appear to be mother Goddess figures. It is believed that because women are the ones to give life that the ancient and primitive cultures believed that it was a feminine divine entity that created life. They also believed that it was to her that we returned when we die. She was the womb and the tomb.
The great Goddess is a theme that comes in many different forms and styles. Goddess spirituality is essentially focusing on the Goddess as the source of all life. Its celebrating her form through all life. The great Goddess in Goddess spirituality is the one who can heal, who can protect, and can do everything.
In Goddess based spirituality all you focus on is her energy. The Goddess is the one who gifts you with everything that you need to have in life. She is abundance. She is sexuality, she is passion. The Goddess is the fertile fields, the growing tree. She is the laughter of children and the fiery protection that parents have for their children. This Goddess is love and light but is also fierce and protective. She is also darkness and fears.
Theism and Goddess spirituality
In many pagan paths you find the concept of polytheism. That is a belief in many different Gods and Goddesses. When it comes to traditions and practices of Goddess based spirituality it ca be hard to define exactly if it is a polytheistic path or not. Goddess spirituality can be a polytheistic path or it can be simply a path with out any real form of theism. For now I am going to cover a few of the different theistic or deity centered ways that Goddess spirituality can be experienced.
In Goddess spirituality there are several ways that it can manifest. The primary form of Goddess spirituality is a form that is that of Panentheism. Here they believe that the Goddess is everything in the universe and beyond the universe. The great Goddess both made the universe and makes up the universe. The Goddess is here at all times and everything.
A related view of Goddess spirituality is that of Pantheism. In Pantheism the Goddess makes up all of the universe and all of the known reality we live in. She is everything here. The Goddess is the universe manifested. Just by living and experiencing life we experience her. There is no need for prayer or worship. Simply live life and enjoy the beauty and you have found the Goddess. The Goddess would be in all the food we eat, all the plants we see and any and all animals that you encounter.
Many people who follow Goddess spirituality are soft polytheists of sorts. These people believe that the Great Goddess has many faces and names. They believe that all Goddesses are aspects of the one Goddess. In soft polytheism they believe that she is so vast and so great that as humans we can not fully understand or appreciator all that she has to offer or even all of her mystery. So we created and experience her face in many different forms. In short those who follow a soft polytheistic path believe that no matter what name you use for the great Goddess you are worshiping her.
The other way that Goddess spirituality manifests soft polytheism is believing that one great Goddess created everything and that this Goddess is both male and female. In other words its not just the Goddesses that make up the Great encompassing Goddess. In this view they believe that even the Gods or male aspects of the divine make up aspects of the great Goddess as well as the feminine. This great Goddess is male and female all at once.
Hard polytheism . In Goddess worship through hard polytheism the great Goddess isn’t one Goddess. In this form of Goddess spirituality you are contacting the feminine divine forces through individual Goddesses. Some one who follows Goddess spirituality through the form of individual Goddesses as separate entities worships the Goddesses as feminine divine forms. Here they may worship the individual Goddesses for different reasons for their associations or for what ever reasons the Goddesses they worship call to them.
Then you have monotheistic Goddess worshipers. The monotheistic Goddess worshiper believes that there is only one divine force in the world. That one divine force is the Goddess. They believe that no other divine force in the universe. All the divine power and all divine influences come from this Goddess. They believe that everything came from this Goddess and to her everything will return. This is probably the most common form of Great Goddess worship and Goddess spirituality.
How to practice Goddess Spirituality
In Goddess spirituality the idea is that there are many different ways to practice Goddess spirituality. Like any spiritual and religious path it is going to be a very personal path and choice. Like all paths there will be different ways that you can go out and find the Goddess. There are many ways you can work and make a relationship with the great Goddess and be a part of Goddess spirituality.
The best advice I can give on Goddess spirituality and practicing it is to remember how important feminine energy is to life. All things in this world need both masculine and feminine energy in order to produce offspring and thus survive. Life is the gift of the Goddess. By appreciating life and enjoying life you are living with the Goddess and enjoying all that the Goddess has to offer you. That is a form of Goddess worship.
In the poem the charge of the Goddess there is a line that states “All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals”. This is one of the truths about true divine Goddess spirituality. In true Goddess spirituality doing the things that you enjoy, the things that move your spirit and make you feel whole are ways you can honor and be one with the Goddess. Yes sex and sexuality are implied in that wording but it means more than that. If you live to perform find ways to dedicate your performances to the Goddess. If you paint involve her in your activities and let her direct your painting. By being true to your inner self and your real joys and pleasures in life you are being true to her and letting her move you.
If you are the type of person who likes to do formal ritual than go for it. Goddesses and the divine in general do enjoy formal worship. When ever you are working with any sort of spirit of divine being its important to give them offerings of types at different times. This is how you worship them and stay in their presences. With the great Goddess and Goddess spirituality its not really any different. It just depends on how you interpret the Goddess in your version of Goddess spirituality.
Now you may think that Goddess spirituality is just for women. This is not true. While you may find and will find a majority of Goddess central or Goddess based spiritual paths are women only, this is in part because the Goddess spiritual movement has been tied in with feminine power and movements to empower women. Goddess spirituality also in many cases and ways focuses on women mysteries hence forth it is a female central path. There are men on this path its just different for them and they often times feel out of place.
Paths and traditions
The following is a list of known Goddess central and Goddess spirituality based paths.
Dianic Wicca-Formed by Z Buddapest
Reclaiming- Starhawks tradition a mixture of Dianic Wicca and Feri witchcraft
Goddess spirituality is not one of my expertise. It is an area that I have only done some vague research into. I have presented you with the information I have found. I am providing you with some resources now on Goddess spirituality that may be more beneficial to you,
The Spiral Dance by Starhawk
The Book of Womens Mysteries by Z. Buddapest
The White Goddess Robert Graves
If you have a book or link on Goddess spirituality that you would like to share comment and I will add it to the list. I will also add them to the links pages as I get those resource pages up and running.
Divinity-What is it?
The question I just asked here with the beginning of this post is a very difficult one to answer. In my post about Questions and answers I gave several different questions that deal with you as the seeker trying to figure out and understand what the basis of your view of the divine is. There is a reason I leave this question basically open ended and up to you the read to decide. The idea is that by the end of this post I will have explained a few concepts of the divine and divinity that will allow you the reader to understand more about the possibilities out there.
The world is full of various concepts of the divine. In some cultures you will find multiple views combined and worked together. This post is going to illustrate some of the most common concepts of the divine. By posting these concepts any then looking at the question asked about the divine previously I can point to which views are associated with which questions to help you further understand your path options and choices.
Concepts of the divine
Animisim is the view that all things are composed of a spirit aspect. This belief means that everything is alive. Every tree has its own spirit as does every other plant, animal, rock, and mineral. This belief further can be expanded to have individual places like lakes, streams, mountains, ponds, ect to have their own spirits as well. This was a fairly wide spread belief among ancient pagan religions and was a large part of the very first religions.
Pantheism is the believe that the universe itself is the divine. The world and everything in our reality makes up the divine. The Divine is not personal or considered to have human form or a form to basically interact with.
Panentheism is the belief that God is in the world. The belief here is that the divine is found in everything. It is a part of everything in the universe yet also extends beyond the universe. Here we are also part of the divine. Everything in the world is divine. The world is divine.
This is where you believe in and worship one God while accepting that other Gods exist and may be worshiped that are not your God. This is where monotheism and polytheism can co exist simultaneously. You may personally only acknowledge one god and worship one god, yet you acknowledge other people believe in and worship other Gods. So its acknowledged other gods while not believing in them yourself.
Being Agnostic means that you believe that the nature of the divine to be unknowable. It is not something that can be either proven or disproved. This is a stance that can be applied to spirits as well as to the divine and basically any spiritual or metaphysical stance or belief. There are stages of this like there are agnostics who believe divinity to be unknowable but personally believe more in the possibility and are more open to it. You also have some agnostics that believe that because divinity is unknowable there is no reason to spend any time on the thought or concept. If its there its there if its not its not. There is also a state in between where you just aren’t sure and leave it at that.
Atheism comes in a few forms. In one form it is the completely lack of belief in divinity. In another form it is the disbelief in any deities. Basically it comes down to the fact that Atheists do not believe in any deities guiding the world and the universe. This does not necessarily include a lack of belief in spirits or spiritual forces but specifically divine forces.
Monotheism is the belief in one high and all mighty God. There is only one God. This god is the one who created everything and who rules everything. There are no other divine beings in this world than them.
This is the belief where all gods are one god and all goddesses are one goddess. Within this view there is also a view of the divine where there is one supreme creator that manifests as a God and Goddess in order for humanity to understand it better. Here the various other Gods and Goddesses throughout history are simply facets of this one Goddess and one God. Here it doesn’t matter which God or Goddess you call on in your ritual and work as in the end you believe them to all be one person.
Hard polytheism is where you believe in multiple Gods and Goddesses. here you believe they are all unique and specific individuals. Here Freya is different from Frigga who is different from Juno etc. In this way each God and Goddess have unique personalities and work specific unique roles in their pantheons. With this view you can not simply pick and choose your deities to work with. Its more specific as they all have likes, dislikes, proper offerings, and many other things to consider within cultural contexts of the deities.
Deism is the belief that through reason and observation of the natural world one can establish and determine the existence of a divine creator. Along with using reason and observation of the natural world to determine the existence of a divine creator a deist rejects revelations (sacred texts and the like) as religious authorities. They use their observations and reasoning to come to their own conclusions on the nature of the divine and or the existence of multiple deities or one divinity.
Where to go from here
By now you have a pretty good idea that there are many different ways and different concepts involved in understanding the divine. It is up to you to figure out what your personal view of the divine is. Twelve step programs out there have it right when they have a step in the process to come to understand God in your own way. Not everyone who follows a twelve step program will understand God the same way. Some may not believe in a God per say but they may believe in their own personal divine spark or higher self.
The concepts of the divine I listed above may be able to give you a name for your own beliefs and concepts of the divine. As I said before in this post several of the forms of divine concepts can work together. You can be a hard polytheist, animist, and panentheist at the same time. Its all about thinking of your personal beliefs. There is no right or wrong way to experience the divine.
In the end the divine is a mystery that we must all come to experience for ourselves. The various religions and spiritual paths out there serve as ways to experience these forces. In the end we must all come to our own understanding and our own relationship with the divine. This can take work but in the long run the relationships formed are well worth it.
Asking and Answering Questions
Why we ask questions of ourselves
The process of seeking spirituality is a difficult one. There are a lot of questions that come up as you being to question your path and your beliefs. Many people when they leave their previous belief systems don’t really understand what they are looking for. They may feel something missing but be unsure of what it is exactly they need. During this period its good to read anything you get your hands on. You should read basically any material regarding religions and spirituality you are drawn to. There may be something in those sources that fits what you are looking for, or it could provide you with more confusion.
When you begin seeking a path there is often more information out there than you can handle at once. There are so many texts and websites all offering different insights on how to start and where to begin the practice. They all offer different insight into the lore and the belief systems of various religions and paths. Its too much to take in and can cause confusion and ultimately frustration. Don’t worry. There is something you can do to fight this problem.
So before you throw out all your books on the different topics out of frustration, before you find yourself hopelessly lost in the sea of information you should ask yourself some questions. Wait? Ask myself questions? You got it. Ask yourself-your higher self (spirit guide, soul, how ever you want to see the part of you that is connected to the divine and exists in the spirit worlds) to answer some questions. Your spirit will answer. Even if the answer is not exactly specific pr uncertain you will at least have a place to start.
OK so I get asking questions now. So what are these questions? These questions are questions that will help you find the path you are looking for. They will shed light on what you personally believe. You may think you know what you believe but have you ever really asked yourself what you believe? Many haven’t considered their position on many beliefs out there that you might not find in traditional religions or spiritual paths.
Asking the questions
So here are the questions. There is one big overall question with some smaller questions for each section. This is to make you really think about all aspects of the questions. They may seem simple but these are deep questions that you need to think about. As you write down these questions create a journal and write your answers down. You may want to focus on one question or question set at a time.
1: What is your belief in deity?
Do you believe in multiple Gods or just one God? Do you think that one God can manifest in different forms? Do you believe that the multiple Gods are all different individuals? Do you believe that the divine exists in everything and everything is part of the divine?
2: What do you believe in regards to spirits?
Do you believe that all things contain spirit (animals, plants, rocks, trees, rivers, oceans, mountains, etc)? Do you believe in different types of spirits (Dragons, Fairies, Elves, Dryads, Nymphs, etc)? Do you believe in angels and or demons? What are the relationships these spirits have with humans? With the divine? Do you believe in spirit guides?
3: What is your belief in the soul?
Do you believe in a soul? Do you believe in an eternal soul or does the soul die/change after death? Does the soul have multiple parts (like a mind, the spirit guide, etc) or is it one thing? How does the mind relate to the soul? The body? Is the spirit and the soul the same thing?
4: What is your belief in death and the afterlife?
Do you believe in reincarnation? Do you believe in heaven? Hell? Do you think that there is a place where we go after we die till we are reborn or till our memory fades away? Do you believe in multiple afterlives and multiple realms of the dead?
5: What is your belief in magic?
Do you believe in magic? What is magic to you? Is it something you want to use in spirituality? Is it something you want to be a part of your religion? Are you looking to use magic for more practical means? Do you think prayers are spells and magic?
6: Religion or spirituality?
What does religion mean to me? What does spirituality mean to me? Do I need one to have the other? What do I want out of religion? What do I want out of spirituality?
Answering the questions
I just gave you a lot of questions to answer and think about. I don’t expect the answers to come to you easily. The idea is that you will think about these questions. You might be wondering how do I answer these questions? I can’t really answer that. You have to find the answers yourself. I can show you how I answered these questions myself, and continue to answer them myself.
I have a journal that I have used to write down these questions and the answers I have come up with. I have one page that lists all of the questions. I start with the first question I asked. I center myself through breath and focus. I call to my higher self and spirit asking that they provide me with the direction to go in. I then focus on the question and just start writing down my thoughts related to the question.
Don’t limit yourself. Write down all the thoughts that come into your mind when you think about the question. Don’t worry if there are questions you think of when you answer it. Write them down as part of your response. This the gives you something to work with. When you feel that you can’t say any more on the subject you have channeled all the answers you will have for the time being in regards to that question.
Write down your experiences with any of these things. If you have experienced the divine write about that in the questions about the divine. Write about spirit encounters under spirit beliefs. Experiences often say more than beliefs. If experience something you don’t necessarily need to believe in it as you have first hand knowledge and experience of it. If the experiences made you question something or want to know more about something write that in. Most pagan and spiritual paths are mystery and experience based. That is why including personal experiences with these entries is important.
What if I can’t think of anything to write? What if my answer is I don’t know? Then you start with that. Just keep working the pencil. As you repeat “I can’t think of anything to write” you will eventually find some thoughts coming into the page. If you keep repeating I don’t know eventually you will have a few thoughts or ideas filter into the writing. This is your answer. Your starting point.
Once you have answered a question give yourself a day before going on to the next question. Do not underestimate the amount of spiritual energy and mental energy used when writing these answer and thinking about these questions. You do not want to overwhelm yourself when you first begin seeking. The more time you spend writing about and thinking about spiritual concepts, practices, and the like the more comfortable and aware you will become of the energy used around you.
Using the information
Once you have answered the questions you have asked yourself give yourself a day or two before reading them. This will give your mind and your soul a little rest. You have been asking and looking deep at big questions. A day or two to wait before reading your reflections and thoughts is not a bad thing. You have given yourself a lot of information from deep down and processing it will take time,
So where do you go from here? The next thing you need to do is look at each question group specifically. Start with the deity question. If you found answers along the lines of multiple deities than you have an idea that looking at pantheons may be a good place to start. From here you can then think about any cultures you feel drawn to and start with those myths and god concepts. Then you look at the spirit question. If you already have a pantheon look within other myths and fairy tales or folklore to learn about the spirits in that culture. If you don’t have a pantheon or god concept to start with then looking into shamanic practices is a starting point. I think you see where I am going with this.
The idea is that by answering the questions you can find cultures and spiritual paths that deal specifically with those beliefs and concepts. You may find several different paths that hold similar beliefs. At this point you will be able to read and look at them all. Now is the time to write down as you read what you agree with in a path and what you don’t agree with. You’ll already have an idea of your own beliefs. So finding where you fit in is easier.
The journal you started with answering these questions is going to serve as your spiritual development journal. This is where you will continue to write down questions you have. You will write down what you agree with in certain paths, what you don’t agree with and the things you are not sure about.
As you continue you will find more questions and more answers. You may find that when you review your original answers you have questions there to explore. You may have found the answers to those questions. If you do write a page about that question, when you asked it, and when or where you found the answer in your journal. There will probably be some repetitive entries, but that’s ok. It is your journey and it is going to be unique to you and you alone.
For many years the only definition of heathen was one who was not Christian. If you look in the dictionary you will still find that as part of the definition of heathen. Today however I am not talking about the dictionary definition. I am talking about how it relates to the modern Pagan culture and the culture of Germanic pagans. My heathenism studies have been a major influence in my path and on my craft as a witch.
The heathens of today are often hard to define. For some people it is an umbrella term for an eclectic Germanic recon path. For other people is a very specific tradition with in the label of Germanic religions. I consider it to be a term for an eclectic approach to being a semi Recon based practitioner.
You may be thinking wait a minute you can’t be both eclectic and a Reconstruction can you? When it comes to the Germanic religions it is more possible. There are several Germanic cultures to choose from. You have the Angels and the Saxons, The Danish, The Norse, The Icelandic, the Franks, and several other tribes. Each tribe had slightly different lore. By studying the lore of all the paths and tribes a person can gain a fuller insight into the lore for Germanic paganism.
It is the Nordic lore which we have the most information from. It was also in Norway and Iceland where the religious practices of the Germanic tribes lasted the longest. Several of the sagas that many heathens use as source texts for their practices and understanding of the culture are preserved in a book titled The Sagas of the Icelanders. These sagas tell of the social structure and the social etiquette. From these sagas we learn how they lived. That is why they are excellent sources to use. The other books which provide sagas and lore about the Gods are:
Right now I am in the process of reading Heimskringla. I’ve already gotten some information about lore but not a whole lot. Snorri used the same tale about Odin founding the Kingdom of the Norse in both the prose Edda and in Heimskringla. Both tales are very interesting and explain a bit of the culture of the Gods. Yet my preference is for the origins discussed in the poetic Edda.
My Heathen Practice
My personal heathen practice is more related to the magical practices and the crafts. Witchcraft as we know it ultimately came from the Anglo-Saxon culture. There are three primary deities associated with Magic and witchcraft Odin, Freya,and Loki. Many of the books I have read on Traditional witchcraft have had a Germanic slant. That’s one of the things that started my more invested study and practice with Germanic pagan traditions.
Aside from Raymond Buckland’s Seax Wica there are several other traditions of witchcraft which have a more Germanic leaning.. These books along with the Eddas and Sagas has helped me develop and understand how Germanic magic worked and what the culture was like. As a witch I have found this knowledge and information immensely helpful and informative. I have gained much wisdom from those practices. Yet it is not the only part of my heathen practices.
So what makes me a Heathen? Worship of the Aesir, Vanir, and Jotun. I have accepted the Nine Nobel virtues as part of my moral and ethical guidelines. The Germanic tribes had a concept of Fate of sorts called Wyrd. There is a lot about Wyrd I am still trying to understand and evaluate for myself, I am not discouraged by it though.
The Norse were very much a warrior culture. For them it was about honor and the battle. Yes they had head hunting and other practices that today are considered “Barbaric” but to accept the deities with out accepting an understanding of the culture which worshiped those deities is meaningless. Yes. The Germanic tribes were considered barbarians to the Romans & Greeks, but so were the Celtic tribes. It is only by understanding or trying to understand the culture in which the deities were worshiped that we can truly understand how the religion and spirituality of those times worked.
My interest as an anthropologist really plays into why I work so hard to reconstruct what I can. It is actually through historical sources such as the Sagas of the Kings and warriors and the few archeological finds that we have any concept of what that culture was like. The practice of heathenism also plays deeply into my desire to connect to something from my blood ancestry. For me it was sort of embracing a part of my history and understanding where my family origins were.
What my heathen practice entails
I have not fully developed a comprehensive unified product of witchcraft and Germanic paganism. While witchcraft is a part of my worship and practice of Germanic paganism, there is a lot more to it than that. My heathen practice entails doing a specific form of ritual called a Blot to the Gods. It involves prayers and obviously magic.
I am looking into learning more about rune lore so I can try my hand at runic magic. Working with the runes would also allow me to learn the mysteries of the Runes. Rune magic is actually one of the priary forms of magic used in Germanic paganism. It was gifted to Odin after he sacrificed himself to himself on the tree of knowledge and wisdom. There were several sets made I know of one for humans, one for the Gods, and one for the Dwarves.
My practice also entails a lot of study. There is probably more study than worship at times, and that works for me. My worship is actually often times more impromptu than it is for specific holidays or occasions. I have even developed my own ritual structure for their worship which they don’t seem to mind which is a combination of a Blot and a typical religious witchcraft ritual. One of the reasons I study so much is there is a lot of lore to pour over and assimilate and there is also a lot of history and multiple translations of sacred texts to read.
The path to wisdom is never ending. This is just one place you may also be able to find wisdom and truth.
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
The essence of life and much more
No real introduction to this post. I am just going to cut to the chase, This is a post I have been meaning to write for two weeks because there are essentially two key points that I wanted to make with this topic that would benefit two separate posts. One is on the origin of it’s spiritual component and the other is on a magical aid and as a trance inducing practice. Like I said both of these posts would be related in that they are both centered around the concept of breath and what it means.
One of the reasons I have both felt the need to write these posts and have been unable to complete or even begin starting these posts is that here in Maine its the middle of winter and that’s bad news for asthmatics like myself. If I am struggling to breathe properly it makes sense that while I would both be in the perfect state to explain the properties of Breath as life I am also not in the best states to think of anything but focusing on my own breath.
It is with both of these things in consideration (and the personal stress I was feeling for not posting for two weeks at this point) that I have decided to write this post. I have a lot of different sources to pull on how breath is both life and is also counted to be an aspect and an essence of the soul (though I’ll try to give enough info for you to create your own opinion). This is a wide topic so let’s start with science and the birth of a human baby and the “actual full death” of a human.
Breath in the human life cycle
After a mother has given birth to her child the doctor slaps the baby on the ass to begin crying and thus start breathing. A human is not considered alive if they are not breathing. If a baby does not cry with that action they are not alive and thus need work to be able to breathe or may be considered dead. In the elderly a person’s whole mind and spirit could be gone yet their body kept alive through food and automatic breathing considered “life support”.
The ability to breath and to have the freedom to some what control one’s breath has always been part of what makes a person alive. So long as a person is breathing and their body can “physically” function even with the support of machines a person is technically considered alive. This is a thought and a concept that has been buried deep within human cultures and thoughts for many reasons and a lot of it relates back to lore and mythology.
I mention that this has been buried deep and that would be correct. There are many different mythologies around the creation of man. There are two central themes I have found that in the creation of humanity. One is that we have been physically created out of the earth by the hands of the Gods. The other is that it wasn’t until the Gods gave us breath that we became fully alive, even if other Gods had contributed other factors to what made a human being, we were not alive until we were given breath by the Gods.
There are two examples that I can think of that support this though. . While many people may not be able to understand and accept this, when it comes to the creation and what actually brought humans to life Christians and those who follow Germanic paganism have one thing in common: The breath of life from their High God.
I’ll start with the creation myth of humans from the Poetic Edda (one of the Norse and Germanic sacred texts):”
17. Then from the throng | did three come forth,
From the home of the gods, | the mighty and gracious;
Two without fate | on the land they found,
Ask and Embla, | empty of might.
18. Soul they had not, | sense they had not,
Heat nor motion, | nor goodly hue;
Soul gave Othin, | sense gave Hönir,
Heat gave Lothur | and goodly hue.”
Here Soul is often equated with physical life. The warmth of our body and fact that it actually reflects life was the gift of Honir. Two of the elements that make humans alive were given from one deity. The abilities to make sense/understand the world is one of the gifts of the Gods. That gift was given by Honir. Finally we have Odin’s gift. Other translations list Odin’s gift last as it is not until breath and life is actually given to Ash and Embla that the first humans come to life.
As you can see from my analysis soul and breath in Germanic lore are associated. The breath of life is important. It enters our body at birth and leaves at Death. The breath can be seen as being the vessel for the soul. It enters at birth and leave on death. That s what the soul is. In some ways the soul and the mind and the breath can all be linked exactly to life. The heart starts working before the mind, and the breath.
In the book of Genisis humanity is not aware or alive until God gives them the breath of life:
5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.
6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
So that is the connection in the creation of humanity. In both cultures humans were born from the earth in some form. In Christianity it’s from dust. In Germanic lore it’s from trees that we were born. In both sets of lore it is also only through the gift of the breath of life that humanity becomes aware and able to live.
Last week my post was dedicated to the beginner and the start of building an altar. As I said building an altar can seem very overwhelming to a beginner. The same problem can be seen to occur with people have have been on their path for a while or have finally chosen their specific paths after a lot of exploration. This post here is going to address how a more advanced pagan can develop altars specifically dedicated to their paths.
Path specific altars and specificity
Last week I mentioned that some paths have very specific altars and there are some times reasons why you may need to change your altar for a specific sabbat, spell, rituals or activity. The more you read and research the more ideas and concepts you may want to try. For this reason it’s important to understand the rituals and the magical practices you are exploring . You may need to have different supplies from those supplies that you started with.
This post will cover a few specific points on the topic of seasonal, magical, and path specific points. Each one of these points will illustrated why there really is no wrong way to set up your altar unless you are on a very specific path. Like I said in my previous post exploration, trial and error are going to be all you need.
The topics covered here will be:
- Eclectic witchcraft altars
- Brittish Traditional Wicca altars
- Traditional witchcraft altars
- 8 sabbat altars (Wicca and witchcraft)
- Ceremonial magic
- Asatru altars and items used
- Hellenic (Greek worship)
- Religio Romano (Roman worship)
Each of these paths have very specific altars and ritual tools. Each of these paths have specific ritual forums for which their altars are designed. Each of these altars has a different use and different specific ways to be used in the altars. I’ll start with what I practice myself. That way I can ease into the paths I have explored but have little to no personal experience with. I am always studying and I am always willing to try something new, but lets start with that which I know.
Eclectic Witchcraft Altars:
As an eclectic witch there are really no real limits and style for the altar. However there are some common themes in the altar set up. Ultimately each witch has to choose how to make their own altar based on what works for them and how they worship the God and Goddess or the spirits they work with. This is where the comments of my last post and directions of my last post come into play. I will however list a few of the common traits and guidelines I have come across for more dynamic and specific worship set up.
One of the most confusing things about an altar can be what direction it’s supposed to face in ritual. Some authors say the altar should face north. Other say it should face east or west. Very few authors I have encountered over my studies have suggested that the altar should face south for fire. When a seeker or an advanced practitioner may set out to set up their altar for ritual they still may ask themselves where they should place the altar in the circle and if they want to have the altar face a certain direction.
I have found for myself that ideally my altar would be placed in the center of the circle facing no specific direction. While yes the altar will ultimately be facing a direction I find no reason for me to be worrying about if my altar faces the wrong way. For me the altar is the center of my worship structure. It is there where I place my offerings and where I place my tools during the altar. Which is why I would prefer to have it in the center of my circle. Unfortunately that doesn’t always work when you have limited space for ritual and moving all the furniture is not a reasonable option.
One of the other reasons I like having the altar in the center of my circle is that during ritual if I am going to use ecstatic practices such as dance, scourging, movement, or even the basic circle dance it becomes much easier to move around. It also makes it easier for me to define a very specific ritual area and I’m able to work ritual with in that area thus creating such a special sacred space. For many reason this makes it easier for worship and magical practices.
Elemental symbols on the altar
Most of the books out there mention that as part of ritual and practice there should be some basic symbols of the elements on the altar. Much of the modern witchcraft philosophy plays into the thought that each of the elements is involved in every part of magic and worship. Many witches believe in the Gods and elemental spirits that rule the winds and the powers of those elemental. This practice was firs seen in the Golden Dawn. Since modern witchcraft as we know it has its origins with the OTO and other forms of ceremonial magic as well as the local natural magic and folk practices of the Isle of man I can understand how Gardner (father of the witchcraft renaissance) formed the practices together. I appreciate this practice and have come to my own understanding of the elemental spirits and guides.
As a witch or magician there are many ways to work with the elements in magic and ritual. For many people there is a red candle for fire, a bowl of salt for earth, a bowl of water for water, and some form of incense for the representation of air. In my early days on my path this was something I had chosen to do on my own. It was simple and it was a very effective mode for my early years and some of my time when my living arrangements were less than grand for my religious and spiritual practices.
Aside from symbols that are literal representation of the elements there have often been tools used in ritual to invoke and call in the elements during the practice of circle casting. Sometimes the water and salt mentioned above are used in the invocation, but more often than not there are other tools involved within the rituals. Typically these are the athame (ritual dulled dagger), the wand, a bell, and occasionally the drums. There will be more talk of the elements and the common elemental tools when I make my post on the elements. For now I’ll post an altar that has the elements mentioned and get on to the next type of altar, a traditional Wiccan altar.
British Traditional Wicca Altars
There are only a small collections of BTW traditions. The traditions that are identified as BTW are:
- *Central Valley (a collective term for the traditions named below)
- -Silver Crescent
- -Daoine Coire
- -Assembly of Wicca
there are some very specific structures to the altar and it has to be set up this way. One of the reasons for that is that Wicca is a tradition defined as:
It is the orthopraxic nature of Wicca which is addressed in this post. The set up a BTW altar is going to be very specific. While they may change with various rituals in general the set up of BTW altars is set up a specific way. This plays largely into how they work rituals and how it’s vastly different than how eclectic practice rituals and use their altars. BTW is a coven based religion as such there would only be the coven’s set of tools on the altar and personal tools would be on your person.
There are different set ups for initiation and different sabbats. The Farrar’s in their book A witches Bible they had diagrams for the various altars that they were using. While it’s true that there are oathbound practices and lore, the Farrars gave enough information to get the concepts needed behind the placement and purposes of the items that a seeker would be able to have some concepts behind what they were exploring.
I have never been initiated into a Wiccan coven. So I have nothing more than the understanding of a seeker. I have a few friends that are initiates and I have been seeking more and more. While I am not specifically seeking Wicca at this point I am seeking truth and wisdom found in witchults and witchcraft traditions.
Traditional witchcraft is yet another form of witchcraft. The basic difference between those who identify as Wiccan and those who are practice the common form of Eclectic witchcraft is that Traditional witchcraft is more focused on the practices of witches that occurred pre-Gardner. Traditional witchcraft focuses on folklore from various cultures and the central theme is ancestral worship (which is discussed in my other blog). In many ways the tools and the actual worship is more land based and more nature oriented than the typical eccelctic path as it explores in depth all aspects of life and creation as well as death and destruction and the relationships between them.
This is reflected often in their altars. There are two ways traditional witches can set up their altars. The first is:
The second type of altar is the prefered style of many traditional witches. Traditional witches in many ways prefer to have their worship outside as the conection the the land is much more powerful. Even a few of their sacred space techniques would be much more powerful outside than inside. It’s the nature of their practice:
The third image is what the second image often starts out with during the initial prep. Instead of a table the Stang (the forked staff) when planted into the earth is used to hold ritual tools and items as well as be the center of the worship. The stand is often associated with the world tree and thus is a central part of the worship in traditional witchcraft.
I have a stang and a staff. One day I will use them in ritual together. For now I have other influences from traditional witchcraft in my path which I will get into little by little in these posts or in my other blog. My main influence from traditional witchcraft now aside from my underworld views, is having an ancestral altar:
Now I am on the last topic that is directed specifically towards the nature of witchcraft religions and practices. This last practice is tied directly into the lore of each of the sabbats and how each witch practices those sabbats. So here we go,
Altars for the 8 sabbats
The 8 sabbats in the various forms of religious witchcraft are one of the primary ways they connect with and worship their deities. Each sabbat leads into a key point or mystery of the nature of the universe and the cycle of life from birth to death to rebirth. The sabbats also go over the nature of the dynamic relationship of the God and Goddess they worship.
Each sabbat will there for have a unique altar setting. In many witchcraft traditions the winter solstice or Yule is considered to be the start of the cycle. I however feel that the cycle actually begins with the midwinter holiday of Imbolc.
Imbolc has always been associated with the birth of new animals. There is the symbolsim of milk being the first food for mammals and it’s prcesseses. Here we are able to really plan for the start of the year and the growing season to come. Its where in ancient times Farmers would finally start to have a source of income from the milk and cheese which would provide needed nutrition and additions to the diet that has been upon them since the last harvest.
I see this as where the God is born of the Goddess. That is why I believe the wheel of the year starts here at Imbolc. The altars at this time of year are decorated with signs of the light really returning and plans for the future.
Ostara: Spring Equinox
The next sabbat in the cycle is the sppring equinox. The sun has really returned. The day and night will be of equal length. The light has been increasing slowly since Imbolc but now it has returned. Here is really the symbol of rebirth. The trees have spread their leaves and there are more buds coming from the ground. Planting is in progress and the animals born at the time of Imbolc are starting to be more independent (baby chicks and bunnies for example).
Here at Ostara the Goddess is as a maiden young and innocent and the God is a boy of around the same age (I typically picture between 4 and 7). They are just starting to explore and understand the world. This sabbat is essentially about the freedom of inspiration and imagination that is often lost after childhood. Its about growth and development hopefulness and a zest for life.
This is one of the highest holy days in many of these traditions. Here sex and sensuality are explored and celebrated. In the cycle of the year the God has reached sexual maturity and is going to be taking the maiden he met at Ostara and enjoying the nature of sexuality and sexual contact. This is also known as May day. Here the God will give the Goddess his seed and she will be carrying his child (to be born at Imbolc).
Litha: Summer solstice
Litha is the height of summer. Its the summer solstice. The light is in full swing. Crops are starting to be grown and some are being harvested already. The Goddess is pregnant with growth and glowing with maternal pride. The sun gives her fertility for growth every day. As the sun heats so do the crops grow and develop.
Lammas or loaf mass:
This is the first of the three harvest festivals. The summer is reaching it’s end. The grains of the summer are ready to be harvest at this time. This will be ground and separated into feed for the animals and flour for bread and biscuits and the like. Some fruits are enjoyed and loved at this time. The rituals here are typically around harvesting the first hard work of the spring and enjoying the fruits of that labor. There are a lot of rituals involving the sacrifice of grain and the blood of the “sacrificed king”. It is believed that the God is sacrificed here so that the land will remain fertile between now and the end of the growing season.
The lord of the grain has been given up so that the lord of the animals and winter could take over the land slowly. The blood spilled will nourish the land. This can also be seen in how the sun seems to be dying at this time of the year. The difference in light has started to be more noticeable with more night starting to be more in control.
This summer I experienced that change and power during the camping trip that I mentioned in my welcome back post. I was able to forget everything and just revel in the power of nature and the dying of the sun enjoying the last of his life before the darkness takes control and his real underworld journey to be reborn begins.
The wheel continues to turn and we turn to where the light and the dark are equal.
Mabon: The Fall Equinox
Mabon is the second harvest. The majority of the harvest is being harvested and enjoyed. There is plenty of food to go around. In many ways this harvest has been described as the witches thanksgiving and I wold have to agree that that is true. The god’s essence is being given to the people through the food they eat. The Goddess is mourning the loss of her love and is nurturing his son growing with in her womb. Here the focus starts to be more on the animals. This is the time of year when hunting and gathering would truly begin. This is why we have hunting seasons to this day.
This is the most famous holiday of witches. Many of the traditions associated with the Halloween stories and decorations have roots in various witch lore and history. The green skin, the crooked teeth, the hat, and many more come from witch trails and lore as well as other folk lore. The dressing up as goblins or other “scary” spirits was done when traveling from place to place at this time to scare away malevolent spirits crossing over. The essence of the “haunted season” is in that spirits of all sorts are more active on this week.
This is also the last harvest festival. It also the night where the ancestors can cross over and visit their living loved ones. This is why there are so many traditions relating to crossing over at this time of year. The veil between the underworld and the world of the living and life as we understand it is at its thinest.
As you can see the altar both represents that which is alive and that which is dead. The seeds of the harvested plants can be gathered and prepared as the stalks and leaves fade and dye. The seasonal leaved trees have almost all lost their leaves while the evergrees are still vibrant. Life and death are equal here and now.
The God has descended into the Underworld and is ready to start his journey to be reborn. Part of his essence remains in the land and in the forest as the Lord of the wilderness and in the Goddess as the Lord of the sun and grain yet to be born).
Yule: Winter solstice
This is the final sabbat in the wheel of the year, This sabbat is the day when the night overcomes the day. Here we are now in a time of the underworld. Nothing can really grow at this time of year and we are dependent on the food that was stored during the harvests. The animals have been slain so that now only the strongest and best remain. It is the time to reflect on everything that was done that year and to start thinking about how the new year will bring new opportunities and will be a time for changes of what will be needed.
In essence the spirit of the God is reborn with in the people. They feel the sun and inspiration and hope for the future growing with in them. They also start to understand that even though some real tough times are ahead until planting begins they can get through it. It will be the last time they can really celebrate and renew themselves for the next year.
The sun is reborn on the morning after the solstice as it is from that that we know the sun will overcome the darkness. This is how we know the God lives and will exist again. His shadow is still slightly in power as the symbols of this time are reindeer and evergreen forests. These are symbols of the God as the Lord of the Hunt and the Lord of the animals and how they live together.
The first altar will be one of my own Yule altars and the next altar will be one for a generic concept of the season
Now the wheel turns and brings us back to Imbolc which was the first seasonal altar I posted. I hope this gives you and understanding of how different altars can be made and created for specific holidays and celebrations, Now I will get into the last real magic and directly Occult type of altar I planed to discuss.
Ceremonial magic is one where the altar has direct symbols for the elements and is focused on a connection with the God head. In many ways it is often connected with Christianity and Christian mysticism. The truth is the early forms of ceremonial magic were based on Christian Occult and mystery practices. Here was where you could find the practices of “Christian Magic”.
Many of the rituals are based on calling in the arch angles and the invocation of their power into the magical space and to help empower the magical actions being taken. This rite can be traced back to the Ritual in short hand known as the LGBRP which means the Lesser Greater Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. I am trained in this ritual and have used it many times. This is a complex ritual which I will go over in length when I have my post on ceremonial magic. In essence you call in the four arch angles to protect the space while vibrating the various names of Yaweh to sanctify the space and prepare it for magical ritual and practice.
I have said before that I practice a form of dragonic witchcraft and magic. This is very true. That practice is very ceremonial. The opening ritual is very much designed after the LGRBP. I call upon the dragon guardians and guides that I have a relationship with rather than angels. The symbolsim is in the structure of the ritual, the tools used, and the altar.
The tools mentioned in the eclectic witchcraft altars can trace their origin to the LGRBP and many other rituals performed by the OTO. Gardner who was the one who crafted the new form of religious witchcraft as we know and see it to day was a member of the OTO and other occult practices. This played into how he crafted the religion of Wicca.
The altars I have shown above may very much resemble this altar:
It is what I would use more often than not in the presence of a Christian friend who wished to attend my ritual. This is also where the heremetic philosophies of the Kyballion allow for there to be witchy changes and views. All of them are essentially the same practice, but the rituals are designed to be related to be specific to that path and that practice.
Finally I can start getting into some of the more path specific altars regarding more culture specific altars. This next section is directed more towards those who have found the deities and the paths they follow. Some of these are more recon style (recreating in modern day to the best of their ability the ancient religions of various cultures) and some are still semi inspired by previous eclectic practices.
Asatru & Other Germanic faiths
Asatru is the recon of the Norse beliefs and religion. The focus is typically on the Aesir. The primary sources of their lore is the poetry and the sagas of the Norse and Germanic people. These inclde the Poetic and Prose Eddas, the Sagas of the Icelanders, The Vinland Saga, and many more. The altars and worship style is very simple and elegent. Their rituals are known as a Sumbel or a Blot depending on the content and the like. Both of those are other topics I will bring up over the course of this year.
I have two sample altars to show you:
This is an altar that some one shared online. The tools are simple and the ritual is still rather joyous and intimate. The next altar shows what each item is called and as I said I’ll be going over this in more depth when I discuss Blots.
The next two religions are often discussed together as they are very much associated. The first is Greek reconstruction often known as Hellenismos and the second is Religio Romano which is the reconstruction of the Roman paths. There are some very substantial differences between the two paths. To be honest I haven’t explored either of these paths as indepth as I would like. While I do have an interest in both of those as they were the first deities I met and worked and worshiped as a teen my path and practices have lead me in other directions.
Both altars are dedicated to the Olympic or Cthonic Gods. There are very interesting cleanliness restrictions of these rituals and in their worship that in some ways to me is ridiculous. However they also had the most sophisticated sanitation and irrigation systems than any other cultures of their time.
Religio Romano: Roman Reconstruction
The altar in the traditions of ancient Rome was called the larium, There are specific designations for what goes on the larium and in the practices of their religion. They also have very strict cleanliness requirements. They also hold that if there is any mistake in the performance of a ritual they must cleanse themselves and the larium and start the ritual over from the begining. It is a orthopraxic religion much like Wicca though they focus on any and all of the Roman Gods.
As you can see there are some very different altar structures and set ups for the different paths one may encounter as they seek. You may find yourself attracted to one culture and want to learn more about how they were worshiped in ancient times and then find that you may find it’s to strict for you so you do something inspired by them. That is why the first post was about seeking and basic introductions and the second post was mostly directed at specific paths and how they are different.