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Pagan Blog Project: Pagan Pride Day

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.

Basics-What they are and why they are important

Basics:

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.

Asatru world tree

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:

Nine Nobel 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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Pagan Blog Project: E is for Effort

Once again we have a weekly post for the Pagan blog project.  This weeks topic is all about spiritual development and practices.  Its about why they call it working magic and working rituals and not just reading the material.  Today we are going to talk about Effort and why Effort is so important.

Effort in spiritual studies

This is a lesson I have learned myself.  Spiritual development and the development of spiritual and magical skills are like every other skill set and practices.  You need to actually work at them and practice them to develop them.  You can read the theories and some of the exercises and gain a type of knowledge.  When you actually want to make the changes you need to do the actual exercises and work in order to have the experiences.

I’m saying that you need to put effort into the work.  You can’t just do a meditation once and get everything you need out of it.  You cant just do a practical exercise a handful of times and expect to get anywhere spiritually.  In order to really have mystery experiences with spirits and to really develop skills in meditation and mental focus you need to put in effort.

The more effort you put into your spiritual development the stronger your outcomes will be.  The more time you put into development of  your skills the sooner you will be able to see results.  There is a lot of work in spiritual development.  In many places you will have to face your darkest sides and deepest fears.  This is hard work.  This is why it is important to put your all into it.

Often there are meditations to meet Gods and Goddesses.  The more often you do those meditations the more you will learn from them.  The deeper your relationships will grow.  These are part of how mysteries are experienced and spiritual truths are found.  If you only do the meditations a handful of times your relationships will not be as deep as they could be.

Putting effort into your practice and into your studies is going to pay off in the long run.  The better you are at learning to enter a meditative state eventually you will be able to achieve the state any where and at any time by using physical triggers.  You will also be able to manifest thought changes instantly and be able to know how to train yourself to shift one emotional state into another through working vibrations and other techniques.

Pagan Blog Project: Beginnings

The most common question I am asked is how did I actually begin my practice.  I’m sure that you readers are now wondering the same thing.  You have looked at your own beliefs.  You have come to have a decision and a direction, and you have figured out your concept of the divine.  Now that you have all of those choices and all that work done what do you do?  You actually begin your practice.

Beginning Your practice

The first step on your path is to perform a rite of introduction to the Gods and spirits of your practice.  By now you should have read a few books on the practices of the path you are taking.  If you have a reference for this then that is great.  If not I am going to give an outline for an introduction rite.  Yes before you begin performing offerings on a regular basis it is important that you at least introduce yourself to the pantheon and the spirits you intend to work with.

Now it is important to note that an introduction rite is not the same as a dedication rite.  That is something we can cover another time.  An introduction rite is a more formal way of saying hello.  You may have prayed and gave offerings before as part of your decision making.  Thats good.  Its a start.  Now you are formally declaring your intent to study their ways and work with them.  Before it was a “Hi this is for you if you want”.  Now its more formal.

So what was the point of the ritual before hand if we are beginning with a deeper more direct ritual?  This ritual is a step below actual dedication.  You have not completely dedicated yourself to their service but you are basically promising to study their ways for a year or so.  During that year you will perform rituals, pray, meditate, read, and reflect.  If after your year of studies you have formed strong bonds and feel called to do further work on that path then you will perform a rite of dedication.  For now a rite of introduction is still important.

What does this rite entail?  It entails preparing yourself mentally and physically before the ritual.  Its going to entail blessing the offering in their names.  Its going to entail prayer and meditation.  Its a very simple and basic ritual.  However when you put all your emotions into the ritual you can find that even the smallest ritual gesture like lighting a candle with intent can produce substantial results.

The Ritual

Materials:

  1. Candle to represent your passion and your flame
  2. Note book to write down the ritual and any personal messages you get during the meditation
  3. Fresh soap for the ritual shower  & your normal shampoo and conditioner
  4. Candle for the God and or Goddess
  5. if you are 21+ an alcoholic drink to share as a communion if not sparkling ciders are good
  6. Chalice
  7. An incense you find appealing
  8. Water
  9. Salt

Here is the rest of the ritual

Ritual Shower:

  1. Set the shower at as high a temperature as you can stand and get in.
  2. Begin to wash your body with you soap.  Using the soap suds see the soap becoming all negative energy and all doubts from the day.  See them coming from your body into the  soap.  Put the soap down and rinse your hands.  Let the soap stay on your body for a moment and let it continue to absorb your negative energy and thoughts.
  3. Take your shampoo and lather your hair.  Do the same thing you did with the body to your hair.  This time focus on intense emotions and thoughts.  Focus on stress and frustrations during the day.  See those items become the suds in your hair.
  4. Rinse your hair and place the conditioner in it.  Let the conditioner soothe those thoughts and feeling.  Let the conditioner bring you a sense of peace and relaxation.  Work that sensation all through your hair.  Let is set for about five minutes.
  5. Stand in the shower in a position where your hair wont get wet but parts of you can.  Start to rinse yourself off.  As you start to rinse see the shadowy soap bubble run down the drain and fade away.
  6. After a few moment step under the shower directly and rinse completely,  This time seeing everything run down that has not already gone away.
  7. Repeat the shower one more time.  This time chanting “Water Water Wash Away.  Water Water Cleanse today”
  8. End the shower.  As you towel off wrap yourself up in a white light of positive energy.  This will replace and replenish the energy that was removed through the cleansing shower.

Introduction rite:

  1. Get dressed and set up the altar or place for the ritual.  Make sure you have a container for the water and a container for the salt as well as your offering of food and drink to the Gods.
  2. Mix a pinch of the salt into the water.  You are making Holy water right now.  As you mix the salt and the water see any impurities in the water be gone.  See the water being filled with sacred light from the great divine forces out there.
  3. Light your incense
  4. Take the salt water and either in a circle or simply by sprinkling the water in the four directions dedicate the space as being sacred.  Call upon any guards and guides as you see fit to witness this rite.
  5. Repeat the process with incense.  Now you have consecrated the space with all the elements.  Earth and water in the holy water and fire and air with the incense.  The place is now set for spirits and gods to come and answer.  At this point it is best to remain in the ritual area.  You should only leave in an emergency situation.  If you do say a quick prayer for exiting and a prayer for entering.  Other traditions have other ways of entering and exiting the space in ritual but this prayer will work for now.
  6. Light the Candle for the God and Goddess (both or just one depending on what you had chosen to do)
  7. Call to the Gods.  If you have read an invocation or prayer to them for calling them to a ritual now would be a great time to recite that work.  Basically ask them to come with you now and to join the rite.
  8. Light the candle to represent yourself.  State your intention to learn the ways of those Gods and their followers.  State who you are and why you are serving and learning their ways.  Promise to do your best to learn all you can and integrate what you learn into your life.
  9. Bless the drink and pour a drink for them and for you.  Share this drink with them.  You can praise them or you can silently meditate on their presence and the meaning of the rite.  You should have an idea at this point if they are accepting of you and listening to you,
  10. When you are ready thank the Gods and the spirits for attending the rite.  If you formally laid a circle or walked a circle you can release it now.  If you just sprinkled some water and consecrated the ground by extinguishing the incense and the candle the space is being released. You can then extinguish the candles.  You can pick up and put away.  You may now say a final prayer of thanks and wishes for continued guidance as things get put away and cleaned up.
  11. Record the ritual in the notebook.  Write down everything you did all your feelings and all your emotions.  Write down what you think about what you did and how you felt before and after.

You have now formally introduced yourself as their student.  You have now taken a step into letting the Gods lead the way and be your teachers.  Now you just need to listen to what they have to say.  You may find the lessons come in very strange forms and you may find that things come into your life for no reason after doing this.  These actions are a result of your introduction and prayer manifesting.  The Gods are listening.

Pagan Blog Project: D- Divinity

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:

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:

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:

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.

Henotheism

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.

Agnosticism:

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:

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:

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.

Soft Polytheism:

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:

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:

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.

Pagan Blog Project A: Altars- Temporary workings

Altars- temporary setups

 

One of the common issues many people come into when they first start seeking paganism, witchcraft, and alternative spirituality is that they might not have space for an altar all the time.  There are also many people who live with unsupported family members, or have room mates, or many other factors that do not really allow for having a full time altar set up.  This leaves them asking themselves and other pagans what can they do about this?  Some people feel they are less pagan or witchy if they can’t have a full time working altar or shrine.  If you fit into any of these, then this post is for you.

It is perfectly acceptable to only have your altars set up when you are going to be doing an active working.   Many people have to do this sort of practice and work.  There are many reasons why people don’t have full time altars (children, family, pets, room mates, room size, ect) set up in their lives.  For some it can be a hassel and for others they embrace it and make it apart of their actual rituals.  In this way they can build more power.  They will not be suseptable to any and all energy of day to day life when in storage, as such the ritual and power charge in them remains and builds.

In having your altars up only during working its important to still build a powerful personal connection with the tools on your altar.  When you have to set up an altar for each working you make that part of the work itself.  The set up will help you get mentally and physically prepared for magical, spiritual, and religious work.  The set up and placement triggers the body to know that certain actions are going to happen next.  The mind gets told that a different sort of mindset is needed and the transition from normal consciousness to ritual consciousness comes a lot easier.

By making the altar set up and preparation a part of the ritual you start building power and energy for the ritual the moment those items are touched and sent out.  By unwrapping the items and placing them reverently on the altar they get full of sacred energy.  This energy will build in those items and radiate when they are used.  This process also puts mental and emotional energy into the item that serves as triggers for magical, spiritual, and religious actions.

Ritual preparation is as much a part of the ritual as the meat or actual working is.  By treating this process as sacred and reverently as you would the actual ritual you create an even more powerful ritual working.  The power will start building the moment you start setting up your altar and get it complete for the working.  The blessing after the set up will seal the power in and set the tone for the ritual.

Yes.  That is an important part.  If you are not going to be having a permanent altar the altar should be physically cleansed before and after each ritual.  This is yet another part of the ritual prep and the building of power over the altar.  This will remove any mundane or day to day energy that has built up on the surface of the altar making it sacred and suitable for workings.  The blessing when the altar is set up charges them for that specific ritual.

When you take the items down and put them away you have an action that serve as a way to transition in and out of ritual consciousness.  This serves to finally disperse any energy raised in the ritual that was not directed.  From here the sacred energy can be placed into the objects to be used again.  Anything not wanted to be kept will be dispersed into the ground as the altar is taken down and day to day life returns.  This is why the blessing and cleansing of the altar items and actual altar surface is essential.

I hope that now you can see that even if you have to use temporary altars you can make the most of it and still perfor very powerful and effective rituals.  The spells and ritual workings may take a little longer, but if you put all your intent and focus of the ritual into the items from the beginning the power will still be there.  It will not diminish.  It will only grow the more you feed them.

Pagan Blog Project-A: Asking and answering questions

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.

Simple Daily Spell

One thing that many starting Pagans, witches, and magicians seek to do is find a way to  integrates their spells and rituals into their daily life and really make it a part of who they are.  When I started out in my studies and practice of witchcraft this was one thing that I too struggled with.

Here is a simple spell and ritual that you can use every morning to refresh yourself and prepare for a new day.

Materials:
SoapWater
Shampoo & Conditioner

When you get into the shower turn the water on to as hot as you can stand.

Get in the shower and let the water rinse you off.  A the water rinses your body before you soap state:

“Water water wash away
Water water cleanse today”.

Take your shampoo and soap and wash your body once.  Repeat the chant over and over again.  As you watch the soap go down the drain visulize all emotional baggage that causes you pain washing down the drain as well.

Soap yourself up and repeat the chant and ritual once more.  This time see any and all blocks in your way going down the drain.

You may shorten the chant to “wash a way cleanse today” as you get into the washing.

Use this each more to prepare for each day,

Enjoy!

Loona Wynd

D: Dedication

Dedication

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.

Introductory Ritual:

Supplies:

White Candle

Offering of milk,ale,red wine, or incense

 Sea Salt

Table to work as an altar  (see Altar entry 1 and Altar entry 2 )

Water

Ritual:

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.

Recomitment ritual:

Supplies:

White Candle

Offering of milk,ale,red wine, or incense

 Sea Salt

Table to work as an altar  (see Altar entry 1 and Altar entry 2 )

Water

Ritual:

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

A: Altars Phase 2-specific practice and path requirements

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.

Phase 2:

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:

Eclectic altar 1

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.

Altar direction:

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.

My semi typical Eclectic witchcraft altar

My semi typical Eclectic witchcraft altar

British Traditional Wicca Altars

There are only a small collections of  BTW traditions.  The traditions that are identified as BTW are:

  • *Gardnerian
  • *Alexandrian
  • *Mohsian
  • *Central Valley (a collective term for the traditions named below)
    • -Silver Crescent
    • -Kingstone
    • -Daoine Coire
    • -Assembly of Wicca
    • -Majestic

    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:

  • *Inititory
    • *Lineage
    • *Oathbound
    • *Orthopraxy
    • *Mystery
    • *experiential
    • *fertility
    • *witchcult

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.

BTW altar

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

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:

altar in a more traditional sense

altar in a more traditional sense

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:

Stang as an altar

Traditional witchcraft altar

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:

My ancestral altar

My 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

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.

Imbolc Altar

Altar 7 Imbolc& Spring Equinox Altar

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).

Ostara Altar

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.

Beltaine

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).

Beltaine Altar

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.

Summer solstice altar

Summer solstice altar

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.

Lammas altar

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.

Mabon Altar

Mabon Altar

Samhain/Halloween/Ancestor night

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.

Samhain altar

Samhain altar

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

My Winter Solstice Altar

My Winter Solstice Altar

Yule altar

Yule altar

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

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:

Diagram of ceremonial magic altar

Diagram of ceremonial magic altar

Ceremonial magic 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.

Draconic altar

Draconic altar

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:

Asatru sample altar 2

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.

Asatru sample Altar

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.

Hellelnismos

Hellenic Altar

Hellenic altar 2

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.

Religio Romano Altar 2

Religio Romano Altar

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.

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