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.
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.
One of the common theme that anthropologists have found with prehistoric religion as well as with some more of the ancient pagan religions that ancestral veneration and respect was a central theme. There were often rituals done specifically to honor the ancestors and there were often altars specifically designed for ancestral worship. There were also shrines to the spirits of the land which have been connected to ancestral veneration.
So a question I asked myself often was what it actually meant for ancestors to be worshiped. They were dead and gone. While I believed they existed and continued to live in some sort of afterlife I never really figured out why it was important. Then one day I was reading a book about traditional witchcraft which explains why if you are worshiping nature and the land that you really are worshiping your ancestors.
The body when it becomes buried or cremated ultimately becomes a part of the earth. The body contains a part of your spirit and your soul. That part is released into the land once you have passed on. It means they are the earth and as a nature worshiping witch I must be honoring my ancestors as well.
I then started to understand the rituals behind the sacrificed king and the blood into the land. By feeding the ancestors we feed the essence and spirits of the land. By placing the sacred king as a sacrifice and having his blood spill into the land the world was fertile for the next year. The worship of the land and the veneration of the ancestors were essentially the core of the ancient beliefs.
Some people have theorized that the spirits of the land were actually the spirits of the ancestors. Some people believe that the elves in various traditions are based on ancestors and spirits of people being sacrificed at specific locations for religious purposes. The identity of the recent sacrifice would merge with the essences and personalities of the other sacrifices and a spirit built of all of them would be born.
Ancestral veneration was important and for me still is important. In some ways it has helped me deal with the losses of several of my loved ones. It also helped me gain some closure with my adoption and loss of that sense of self. Once I started to accept that I could still see and interact with my ancestors each and every day my path became more meaningful and I started to really understand and explore the true nature of underworld religious traditions.
Pentalism is definitely an underworld tradition at it’s heart. There are all sorts of spirits and world that are traveled to and explored in this path. There is an entire mystery set related to the mysteries of the underworld, the soul, and reincarnation. These were actually some of the very first mysteries I experienced within my training in the Temple tradition. It’s also related to my philosophies of the elements which I will get to in another little while.
Why do I practice an underworld tradition? In essence this tradition and practice has come to accept that the core essence of the universe is that there can be no creation with out destruction, no life with out death. I have come to see that there really is no difference between the two, except for their polarity on the pole of life.
In some ways I really started to understand how my rituals and magic are ways to maintain the balance of the creation/destruction from starting to embrace the underworld aspects of my path and of the religions I have studied. Things have started to fall in place and I began to understand the dynamic polarity that allows for fertility of life (the creation and destruction). I started to see the mysteries of nature.
Once I started to worship my ancestors and pray to them I began to feel more complete. My theology and philosophies were really beginning to meld together and become a cohesive whole. I was starting to see my path form some syncretic aspects which has been important to me. It was nice to see how I really was beginning to understand what it means to be a member of a mystery religion.
I have really started to understand why people took such care of their dead. In some ways I can also see now why so many people in America have an issue dealing with death and the loss of a loved one. Other cultures have no real issues with death. They understand it’s necessity and importance.
From worshiping my ancestors I was able to look at the cycle of life in a new way. When I took my physics class and we went to discuss basic astrophysics regarding the formation of stars and the forces involved I started to see the larger picture. I really started to understand what it means to be alive and in this universe. I can’t explain it any better than this image so I will end my post by saying these images when you apply it to the life cycle on earth you see how earth is a microcosm of the macrocosm which is the universe.
This is the first post of the new year. Once again I will be participating in the Pagan Blog Project. The Pagan Blog Project involves one post a week on Friday based on the prompt of that week which will be a letter of the alphabet. With 52 weeks that means each letter will be done twice. So it’s appropriate that my first post of the year be a part of the project which got me writing and developing my audience. With out further Ado:
Pagan Blog Project week 1: A
The simplicity and the complexity
One of the first questions that many seekers ask themselves and look for an answer when they read a book is how to set up an altar. To be honest this is something I have often asked myself. Every path has a different style of worship and a different type of an altar. This is why altar creation is often a confusing topic for seekers.
I have found that altar creation often goes and works in two phases. The first phase is one of basic simplicity and progress of development spiritually, magically, religious or what ever. The second phase is one of more specificity. Here the path and orientation of the altar is more specific and designed for a specific path and practice. While a person develops spiritually they may end up going through both phases multiple times to expand horizons and to develop the way they wish to.
So with out further ado here are the seven key tips and pointers I have found for altar creation and development during the first phase of the altar and spiritual guidance. As a person evolves in their spiritual path their altar and how they use it will evolve with them. The first stage may see a lot of changes rapidly and that is completely normal. It’s important you try to be like water and adapt.
Seven points of Phase one
Figure out what style of altar you have in mind (ceremonial,shrine,easily hidden, permanent, easy up&Down, travel, indoors, out doors) each of these types of altars have different things to take into consideration.
With no specific deities or altar set up in mind let the altar build itself until you get a feel for where you are going (maybe start with a candle and some incense a statue, things that relate to your path, ect)
Tend to the altar regularly (spend time working with it, using it, making things for it, cleaning it, ect)
The Gods and spirits will guide you-let them
Experiment till you find what works for you
So let’s start with the first point as it then gets into the second point.
1) Define Altar
Any person who has spent any time reading books on meditation, psychic development, witchcraft, magic, spirituality, paganism, occult philosophies, magick and the like has read several different definitions of what an altar is and why it is used in that manner by that path. For this I can understand why it can be difficult to try and understand how to develop your own altar and what you might want to put on it.
Here is my definition of an altar:
1: A work surface for magical workings (spells, crafting magical obejcts, consecration, ect)
2: A place for placing offerings for spirits and deities
3: A focal point in ritual to direct and manifest energy to be sent out during worship
4: A place dedicated to a very specific spirit or deity where prayers and rituals are offered
When I am working a ritual I typically use all four definitions at one time. I often feel that in my religious and spiritual practices as well as philosophical experiments and practices I find a way to implement and use all four definitions. In that way I have an altar for every need including two for a two very specific types of spirits (Dragon and ancestral).
Take a piece of paper and at the top of the page write out your concepts and ideas for what an altar is.
Include diagrams of how you might picture your own altar or altars
This brings us up to point 2:
2: Figure out what type of altar you would like
In my outline and introduction I mentioned that there are many different types and styles of altars. There are altars outdoors, altars set up in Temples, altars that take up a wall, simple altars, complex altars, path specific altars and many more. In many cases books will provide some diagrams for altars, or can provide altars that look so complex and overwhelming that a new seeker and practitioner will get overwhelmed. That’s why before any one starts to form an altar they need to have their definition and an ideas.
So remember those sketches I had you do? You might have ended up with a diagram like this
The important thing is that you may have some sort of idea in your mind. This is great. Part of coming up with your definition of an altar was coming up with how you were going to be using your altar in your spiritual and religious development. With your definition you now have some idea where to start. The second point here is to decide exactly what type of altar you are going to construct.
When you consider what type of altar you are going to build there are many considerations. For one do you want to have an altar outside or do you want to have it inside? Is your altar going to be up permanently or is it going to be put up and taken down when you need or desire to use and work with your altar? Is you altar going to be open for any one to see or is it going to be hidden? Before one can construct an altar they need these questions answered.
On a new piece of paper (or the back of the same paper) answer the following questions about your altar
Inside or out?
Hidden or open?
Permanent or only when needed?
Once that is done we can get onto the next set of questions related to figuring out what type of altar you are going to be setting up. How you answered the above questions is going to dictate what happens next. For example I myself want to have an outdoor altar but I don’t have one because I can’t. For years I had to decide if I wanted to hide my altar or if I wanted it open and there was a time when it had to be hidden. There were times when I could keep my altar up all of the time and there were times when I had to dismantle it after a ritual and setting up the altar actually became a part of the ritual.
On the same piece of paper under the last three questions answer the next set of questions
Is my altar going to be ceremonial?
Is it a focal point for energy in ritual?
Do I want something simple or something complex?
Does my path require something specific at this point in my studies?
Now that you have decided on how you ultimately are going to set up your altar you can get on to point 3.
3: Let the altar Build itself
Now that you have an idea and decided what you want to do it’s time to start letting the altar build itself. The first step is choosing where to place your altar. If the altar is outside figure out where and how you are going to use it. Think about if it’s going to be environmentally friendly (if permanently established outside or in a closed area). Once you have that it’s time to build your altar.
Here you need to think about what you actually want to put on the altar. As a starting point you may want a candle holder and and incense holder. You may also want to put on any objects which seem to be spiritually important to you and help you focus. What you start with may be impacted by your location and supplies on hand. Never forget that you can use household candle holders and the like for your altars and rituals.
The simplest altar I have:
Here you can clearly see a single candle in a candle holder and two religious symbols one for the God and one for the Goddess. You can also see that I am simply using the top of my dresser as the altar. It’s a simple altar for basic daily affirmations and meditation exercises. It was also used for focusing energy towards the spirit of the home and land before I could give the offerings to the spirit in person.
Some people freak out when they see an altar like this (not mine):
Early in my seeker years the above picture is how I always figured a magicians and witches altar would look like. I never felt my small altar (like the one pictured above) would actually work for magic. Though all the books I read stressed the importance of making sure that your altar reflected yourself and what you had, I never felt comfortable and that I was doing it right even though I was doing what seemed to feel right. This goes into the next exercise I have for you:
Find where you are going to build your altar and clean it.
Gather up the items you are going to place on your altar and place them to the side of the location.
As you put the items on the altar focus on the altar and it’s new purpose and keep an image in your mind of what you are using the altar for.
When done stand up and say something like a dedication prayer:
“I now call this my altar and it shall be consecrated and dedicated to all my spiritual, religious, and magical pursuits”.
Focus your energy into a ball and “throw” it into the altar
Now that you have an altar built and established it’s time to talk about the fourth point which is tending to your altar regularly.
4: Tend to the altar regularly
Tending to an altar seems like a simple task right? Well it’s not that simple. Tending to an altar can be simple but it can also be very complex and require time and effort. This ties into the first point about understanding and defining an altar and then figuring out what you are going to be using the altar for.
An altar that is dedicated to a specific spirit type such as a Dragonic Altar:
Tending to the altar is a daily task. The management of these altars is the primary way to maintain relationships with these beings. Here you will give offerings, keep the place clean, offer prayers, focus energy in worship, and use as an aid in both magic and spiritual endeavors.
A meditative and simple focal altar like the one on my dresser are simply tools for practice and serve specific purposes. Maintaining them is about using them to build practice and strengthen your meditative and trance practices. They are primarily magical tools and working with them exercises those magical mussels.
Altars set up for generic rituals, and specific sabbatts are designed to be created and maintained as part of worship and a development of a relationship with the Gods and spirits.
Once your altar has been established spend about 5-10 minutes a day working with your altar.
Fondle the items on the altar, light the candle, give a prayer, etc. Build energy and focus the energy into the altar.
Record each day your experiences.
After two weeks feel the energy of the altar before you begin your altar maintenance and after. You will be seeing how an altar starts to develop ts own energy and persona. Take that energy and mix it with your own and put the new combined energy into the altar.
Record and repeat.
This brings up to the fifth point of developing an altar.
5: Gods and spirits will Guide you, Let them
As you begin to build your altar and your relationships with the spirits involved you may start feeling the Gods, Goddesses, and spirits directing you over time as to what may and may not belong on the altar. It is important that you listened to these voices. The altars I have posted above are always evolving and changing. With each change I try to capture a photo of it that I can eventually place into my BOS for prosperity.
For that reason there the final point of this essay is important.
6: Explore and Experiment
Over the years my altars have been experimental. Sometimes the layout and the rituals just failed. Sometimes the ritual worked, but the altar layout failed and didn’t make any sense. It’s through these trials and errors that we finally start to figure out what works for us and our path as well as the spirits and deities that we are involved with.
The experimentation should also reflect growth and trials for new things and development. You need to be willing to fail and willing to try something before putting it aside. You need to have the courage to develop on your own. You can use what others have shown and have it be a base, but in the end you need to make it your own.
As you evolve the different aspects of your spirituality may evolve and start to merge together into one cohesive path. This is what starts and evolves into a tradition. Things that were separate blended together to make one, a syncretic path. A key way to discover this and see how they are becoming one is to watch you altar over time (this is why the pictures are important).
As I understand my deities and my path I hear their voices and my instincts have started to guide me in developing my altars to reflect my path. Every once and a while when something doesn’t sit right a new altar is created and it allows for new insights and different types of worship.
That is the essence of exploration. Now my path has three distinct altars one for dragons, one for ancestral and home spirits, and one for worship. With out exploration I would have never found that this was the best balance for me. The worship altar does change as I have a different sabbat altar than I would a ritual and prayer altar.
My Dragon altar evolved from God and Goddess with a Dragon too being it’s own altar:
Exercise 6:Once a month try a new set up to your altar.
Draw a diagram or take a picture of the differences and record the physical changes.
During the month continue the maintenence exercise as above and record the differences.
Notice any changes that occur in your energetic field.
If something feels wrong change it and record the changes.
If you feel more powerful or more positive record the changes and start to expand and understand the way the energy works.
You may find that one setting is better for you than an other
I hope that this outline and guide has helped you as a seeker. As I said this only covers the first phase and part of altar making and development. The second phase is a bit more indepth and will be the focus of next week. If you have any questions or thoughts please post them in the comments section.
~Loona Wynd 1/5/2013 12:01 am~
Samhain and Hallowmas:
The Holy Week:
Death and Rebirth in the cycle becomes complete
Part 1: The Spiritual Aspects and implications
I write this as Samhain and Hallowmas come to a close. The festivals of the dead and the transition from the lords of the land to the lords of the underworld completes the transition. I figured that as part of my job to help seekers on their search for questions I should provide some insight as to exactly what this sabbat is about and why people celebrate the sabbat in the ways that they do. Like everything else there are many ways to explain and experience the mysteries of these sabbats and not every ones view will agree with yours or even make sense to you. All I can do is provide my own insight based on my personal experiences and sources.
As I have started to develop my own personal theology this sabbat has come have a different meaning to me than other people might have. That is why in my own practice I call the holiday I celebrate Mortedon. However since most people are familiar with the names Samhain, Halloween, All Hallows Eve, and All Saints Day that is what I will use here.
According to many sources this time of year could easily be considered the witches new year. The God is officially dead and in the underworld. He wont be born again until the Winter solstice and as such he is dead and in the underworld. This is the time to transit between one working season and the other. It is a time of completion and reflection that may bring about the planning ad start of the new planting season for the next harvest.
In many ways the major difference between those who call themselves Traditional witches and those who consider themselves Wiccan is that the majority of the rituals in traditional witchcraft deal with ancestral veneration and ancestors as divine while the rituals found within Wicca focus on the God and Goddess or Lord and Lady rather than the ancestors. This is alright. Not every one is meant to worship and venerate the ancestors. Anthropologically it has been said that ancestral worship was the first form of worship, which is why for me it has become a source of my foundation.
I actually appreciate these different theological styles. There is one holiday in which they both meet and they both share the same view. It is viewed by both paradigms (Wicca and Traditional Witchcraft) as a day to honor both the dead and the ancestors as well as the God and Goddess. It is also an acknowledgement by both sides that the season of reflection is upon us. It is now that we must spend our time upon reflection and preparation for the new year and seasons.
Samhain, All souls Day, All Saints Day, Ancestor Night…all of these are names for essentially the same festival. This festival is an acknowledgment of every one who has gone before us. It is also an acknowledgement that there is life after death. It is here we can really see how even though the people we love and cherish may have passed on from this life, they really are still near by and watching us.
In many ways this is the time of year where the festivals a person honors and celebrates explains at least in part what their view of the afterlife is. For some people who believe in reincarnation this is also a time to connect with any of their past lives so that lessons they have to impart may be gives. This is the second festival where the veil between the worlds of the living and dead as well as spirit worlds is lowest. That is why contact with spiritual allies at this time of year.
Part Two: The Theology and Mythology of the Sabbat
Folkore and myth united
This is according to many sources the last sabbat of the year. For many witches the year starts at Yule and ends at Samhain and begins at Yule. In reality there is no real start or finish to a cycle. Cycles are circles and will always come back to a point and start again. This is how the world and the universe exist. Everything in the universe will be used again in the universe at some point in time. Every thing physical you see on this planet is made of of a star that existed eons before we were born:
Theologically, spiritually, and mentally it makes sense that the world as we know it would work in cycles. The physics at work in the universe simply provide a non-disputed example of how reincarnation exists. Here at Hallowmass and Samhaintide we are really able to see and understand how death and destruction/decay are essential to the growth and development of future lives and crops.
According to the Cycle of the Year and the 8 sabbats within Wicca and Eclectic witchcraft Samhain is when the God is dead. He was sacrificed at Mabon to ensure the fertile grounds of the next harvest. At one point in history it was believed that the king was sacrificed to bring life to the land for the next year. This was symbolic of the God’s death for the fertility of the land. Latter corn dollies were sacrificed instead of a human.
Blood was and still is the essential life force. If a creature is alive it bleeds. By the God sacrificing himself his blood (his life force) goes into the land giving life to the land. He knows that he will be reborn in his son in the end of winter and he will from the underworld guide and symbolize his son’s birth and his return by the return of the sun’s light starting at the Winter solstice (Yule).
It was believed that once a person died their body became the land. The blood of the sacrificed victim nourished the spirits of the land for the winter and would gain their favor for the spring.At Samhain the ancestors and other spirits from the land of the dead returned to give their blessings for the following year to their descendants.
The God at this time was in the Underworld understanding and being reborn. At Beltaine he had impregnated the Lady, his lover and wife, who would bear the child of promise who would carry and light the way for the Lord to be reborn at Yule (the light returning slowly) with his actual birth at Imbolc. The rest of the sabbats continue along this line. So in some ways Samhain is both the start and the finish.
The knowledge that there is life after death and life in death is symbolized no better than with ever greens (one of the reasons why those trees are decorated at Christmas). It’s also one of the reasons I feel that the hope to get through the winter for the spring exists. To see something that is alive and producing chlorophyll in the winter while the rest of the trees are inherently dead proves that there is life in death. It is one of the reasons I can see that death allows for the continuation of life.
With these thoughts in mind it is time to get to:
Part 3: A sample ritual
Ways that honoring the ancestors can be done
Now that it has been established why honoring the ancestors is so important I can start to give you some ideas as to how you as a seeker or as an active Pagan could honor your ancestors and the Gods and celebrate this sabbat and simply begin or further expand your understanding of this sabbat. For myself I gained even deeper insight into the mysteries this Samhain. As I post this the gates start to begin closing and the path seems to close, yet the creepy and spooky nature that is Samhaintide and Hallowsmass remains, the time to honor the ancestors comes to a close.
I have had a week to reflect on what I wanted to write for this entry and I have finally come to the last part of the entry where I can really start to explain how one can go about celebrating this sabbat. For many years as a seeker I was honestly unsure of what to do with my offerings for any sabbat. Samhain was another one that left me confused, so now I feel it it is time to give some sort of explanation as to how you can give your offerings to the Gods and the ancestors.
So here is a very simple ritual:
Ancestral Ritual For Samhain:
Apple or Pomegranete Juice/alcohol
Red Apples or Pomegranete fruit & Seeds
As you pour your drink concentrate and think of your ancestors and the Gods and the land. Focus intently and place this light into the food and drink blessing it in the names of the spirits, the ancestors, and the Gods. You then pour two drinks one for the Spirits, ancestors and Gods and one for your self.
As you take your drink say a prayer for what you are thankful and towards any ancestors you wish to contact and communicate with. Take a moment and think of them. Then get into your trance position. For this it may be best of you lie facing down with your hands working as a head rest head in a comfortable position. After you get into position think and state to your self:
“I Vibrate in harmony with the Underworld and the Gods of the Underworld”.
Repeat this statement over and over until you reach a state where you see and become one with the God or Goddess of the Underworld. Continue the trance until you have gained all the insight you will receive. Slowly reduce your vibration into yourself. Once you are back into yourself take another drink in honor of the Gods and the lesson you learned.
Eat the red apple or the pomegranate seeds. If you eat the apple place the seeds aside till the morning. If you eat the pomegranate seeds place a few aside till the morning.
Go to bed expecting dreams based on the rite you performed. The following morning write down any dreams you may have had. When done and dressed for the day take the seeds and the same drink you had the night before and place them in a whole at the trees base.
Reasoning behind the ritual:
By taking in that blessed drink you understand that the drink is the fruits of the Gods who you worship as well as the ancestors who literally are the land. This drink is their blood after the sacrificial blood of the god had been spilled, this is their response. When you eat the fruits of the land or drink of the liquids you are taking in the essence of the land and your ancestors.
When you let a drink in a cup evaporate overnight that drink is consumed by the air and the essence of life. The ancestors who have returned to visit partake of this liquid. In the morning the seeds and the remaining liquid are returned to the ground. This nourishes the ancestors and the spirits as well as the gods. This is how we can honor and nourish them.
Part four: My conclusion:
For me this really explains a lot. Through the ritual expressed above I was able to understand the roles of the Gods and the Goddesses that I worship. I was also able to understand exactly what the underworld does to work with rebirth and reincarnation. Finally When I look at astrophysics and how the creation of new universes begin and what black-holes really are I can see how my theology and philosophy line up with science.
I really recommended that any seeker of the wisdom of the cycle of destruction, reformation, creation, growth, and development take a basic physics course. This course will explain how the various galaxies came into being, how stars and suns are born, and how new universes are created. In some ways it may also lead a seeker to see how magic could be seen to be the force that keeps all of these things working in balance. That is what Samhaintide and Hallowmas is all about.
What is it
One of the things that has often come up in any of my posts that deal with Wicca has been a mention of fertility as a focus of the religion. In many ways you could day that all forms of religious witchcraft have an emphasis on fertility. Yes. I said witchcraft in a religious sense has to deal with fertility. For many the very mention of fertility rites brings up images of mass orgies and ritual sex parties, and to be blunt yes sexuality is an important aspect of fertility. This is also a common image associated with witches and their rites due to the idea that they have sex with the devil in their rites.
Many of the books out there geared towards new witches and new pagans tell their readers to avoid covens which require sexual acts and symbolism as a part of their membership rites. Unfortunately if the seeker is truly looking for Wicca and they find out about the sexual symbolism and nature of true Wiccan rites they may decide that based on the advice of authors such as Silver Raven Wolf, D.J.Conway and Edain McCoy in their intro books that for that reason they should not inquire any further even if it feels right.
Here is the thing. With the exception of the Second and Third degree in traditional Wicca (Alexandriean, Gardenariean, Mohsian, Central Valley [a collective term for the following traditions-Silver Crescent-Kingstone-Daoine Coire-Assembly of Wicca-Majestic .] ) no imitation of elevation ritual should require sex as part of it. Sexual symbolism is another thing. Sex for a requirement simply as a requirement without any symbolism is simply not something you should do for initiation unless you are of age and you choose to. If you are not of age than any sexual rite should not be required.
Ok. So by now you must be sick of me mentioning that fertility is something to important. You may be thinking that yes I have mentioned that it was important but you (as in me) have yet to explain why fertility is so central to Pagan religions or as you have mentioned many times religious forms of witchcraft? So you are asking What the hell is so important about fertility. The answer is simple and will be explained with in the next paragraph. I was just waiting for you the reader to be asking the question.
The first thing I have to do is explain exactly what fertility is to me. Fertility to me is the ability to create or produce as well maintain or support life in some form. I leave it produce or create and maintain and support and life in some form for many reasons. The first of which unfortunately is related ultimately to the effect the popular form of feminism has had on the idea of woman required to be mothers and subordinates.
Before I continue I must say that I am a woman and I am proud to be an embodiment of feminine energy in this world. I am also a feminist and I do believe in woman’s rights. I for example firmly believe that all woman should have the same equal opportunity in the world of construction as men. If a woman can handle the work than she should be able to have as much respect and right to hold the job as a man. However she should also be held to the same performance level as men. That would go with the job. For me equality in the work place means equal pay and equal expectations.
Now that I have gotten that out of the way I can continue with my post on fertility and the first reason why I see fertility as an important part of witchcraft religions. One of the major complaints that I have seen among women when the idea of fertility rites and religions has come up is that not all women are interested in creating life and being a mother (ie giving birth). The same argument goes for the reason why the MMC is not an accurate form any longer for the roles and parts of a woman’s life. This goes into the heart of why I believe fertility comes in many forms and is important in many ways
So if I define fertility as the ability to create and maintain life of some sort how does that not relate to being a mother and having a baby and raising children?
Let’s start with the first way that I see fertility as working in my life. This is the form it takes for me. It is important for me to be fertile in this way if I am to have a successful future to be able to help provide income for my fiance and myself. That fact there is the central theme in my view about fertility, producing (productive/successful) and providing for a life of some sort (myself and my fiance).
I am not ready or in a position t have children. That doesn’t mean I can’t perform or be involved in any fertility rites. As a college student my education success is a type of fertility. This is the way that fertility in my rites for myself has primarily taken form. The idea here is that my brain and thus my mind be open to all the new information that will come my way. That I have the determination and discipline to put the time and effort into my study and education to be successful and that I be willing to ask and be open to help when I need it.
My rites have also had to deal with financial and economic fertility. This gets into the second way that I view fertility as important to pagan and witchcraft religions. Here my rites have an effect not only on my self and my family but also on the local economy and eventually the national economy which in turn will have an effect on the global economy and thus everyone in the world will have some benefit.
In my life this has involved asking that the company my fiance belongs to continues to grow and he continues to be able to expand his training and thus general availability and interest to the computer field at large. It also involves when I am looking for work me being able to find a job which will work out with me any my disabilities.
In both cases by insuring that we both have jobs, we are both able to spend more money on things that we enjoy such as videos, games, clothes, vacations, nights out, ect. In this way us having employment insures that there will be money to go to local businesses. That will encourage job growth and thus stimulate the local economy further.
With more income taxes the government has more money. They can put this money towards technological developments and other areas of interest. This again creates more jobs. The success of those developments will create more jobs which will then increase tax flow and ultimately will increase local, national and global economies.
Woman and men who are professionals that have no desire to have any children that perform fertility rites often have their rites directed in this way. For people who wonder if the seasonal sabbats performed by witches and pagans have any effect on the world at large I have just given an example that is important for the future of the world economy and thus every one in general.
The third way that I see fertility as essential is literally related to ancestral practices and the ancestral rites. Many people think that there is no reason to perform rites to ensure the fertility of the land as so much of our food these days is processed or handed to us pre-made on a plate. In that way of thinking those people are right. However it negates one important thing. The one thing that with out which we could not survive.
So what is that one thing you ask?
That one essential thing is food. With out food we can not live. I will agree that most of our food is processed. I will agree that in general in the majority of the world as individuals we do not have to work the land for food, hunt or gather food or the like. In general we do not have to kill the animals we eat (unless we hunt or fish for fun). We can go to the supermarket or local store and buy our food all gathered and killed for us and all we need to do is cook it.
Taking all of that in to consideration it is so easy to see why people in general would not understand the need for the rites of the land to be honored. For many there is no consideration as to where the food comes from. It’s just there and always has been. Why think about it? It’ll be there for me all my life right? I just need to keep buying my food items and they will always be there. This is a way of thinking I was guilty of for many years, but as a witch and as a pagan seeking to understand the ancestral ways it is a wrong way of thinking. Why I shall explain.
If the lands are not fertile than the fruits and vegetables we eat along with the grains will not prosper. If the lands are not fertile than the animals that we eat and hunt will not be able to eat so they will die and there will be no meat. That is why I see the nature fertility rites to be as important today if not more so than they were in the past.
The fourth way I see fertility rites as found in the typical 8 sabbats of the wheel of the year as important in the lives of Pagans and witches (and this is one area I have been neglectful) is spiritual fertility. That’s right spiritual fertility. If a person is not open to the presence of the Gods and the mysteries experienced through performing the rites of their path and actually communicating with deity than they will get nothing out of the rites. That is spiritual fertility.
Spiritual fertility is being open to the experiences given to us by the Gods. Spiritual fertility is practicing and experiencing the mysteries. In many ways it is continuing to practice and do the work even if you don’t feel or seem to have any deep experiences at the moment. It means working to remove the rocks in the path and working hard to keep at your path. It’s not easy to be a Pagan.
When I say I have been neglectful in this area I mean it. Every post I have written comes from what my thoughts have gathered based on what makes sense to me after reading and finding my intuition. I have not been doing the prayers and rituals that I would like to. As such I have not opened myself to the mysteries and the Gods as much as I would like. My relationship with deities is not as strong as I would like.
This means I need to work on it. I am. I am working on it. I am going to be more mindful of the esbats and the sabbats. I am going to do more meditation again. I need to get back to my schedule where I did meditate and worship on regular basis. When I did that on a daily basis I was plowing my spiritual fields and the flowers and plants blossomed better than I ever imagined that they actually would. So that is why I can say from personal experience that plowing the spiritual fields with in us is full of work, but it is worth it.
Finally we get into the fifth and last reason why I see fertility as a central and important theme for seekers to consider. I wanted to save the sexual aspect for last as in many ways this is the most important. I didn’t want to start with it as I feel the other areas of fertility are as important to consider as this one. This one is actually why all the other areas are possible to be fertile,
The Great Rite is the most important rite found within witch and pagan rituals. This rite is where the Priest and Priestess are the embodiment the God and Goddess either physically or symbolically act out sexual intercourse or the ultimate act of creation. Through the act of sex a new being is created. That is why sexuality is sacred. That is why life is sacred.
With out the male and female parts of a species (plants are asexual, but do have a male and female component) there can be no reproduction. There can be no continuation of a species. The Great Rites acts out the cosmic sexual act of the God and Goddess which ultimately lead to the creation of the universe as we know it. Sex is sacred as it is the act of creation.
I mentioned that the second and third degrees of Wicca contain the actual act of sex. This is what I have been told by elders of Wicca. These are the initiation/elevation rites that make the initiates High Priests or Priestesses. The third degree is what allows an initiate to hive off and form their own coven. Second degree I have been told can allow the new high priest and or priestess to start teaching. Because it is at the level if being a High priestess where they actually become the God or Goddess in ritual this is why the Great Rite is fully enacted.
There you have it. I have explained what fertility is in my view. I have explained why it’s important and I have gone into the roles fertility has in our life. In many ways you could say that any nature religion should have an aspect of fertility in it, but fertility cults are not nature based. They may go hand in hand but they are not the same thing.
Fairy Tales and Folk Lore
For many years my only sources for the mythology of witchcraft as a religion came from the typical Neo-Pagan Eclectic witchcraft books. I felt that they were lacking in many areas. For a time I thought I could force the myths of other deities into the 8 Sabbats I was following as a witch. While the practice worked for a while, it was unsatisfactory. I felt as if the Gods were hearing me, but were telling that there is more to do and elsewhere to look.
For a long time I had considered looking into fairy tales for the missing pieces of the mythology and lore I was looking for. At the time I was of the mindset that fairy tales were for children. After being exposed to the Disneyfied fairy tales for so long it seemed to me that the only reason an adult had to think about fairy tales was for their small children and not for fun.
A friend of mine told me that if I was interested in the path of Traditional witchcraft beyond what I had read in Artisson and other places I should look into fairy tales. He even gave me a few to look into. That was when I first started to consider it. yet at the time I still couldn’t figure out the connection myself. So I waited and the answer did come to me.
Ok. You may be thinking whats the connection? Witches in many fairy tales are nasty things. Why would looking into fairy tales and folklore be beneficial to a new witch or even an experienced witch?
The simple answer is that the lore found with in many folktales about elves and dwarves contain a lot of lore that is applicable to the understanding of the beings that traditional witches work with, as well as witches in general. Many ideas of the Witches Goddess can be found in folk lore and fairy tales. There are hints at what these beings are like, what the role of witches are and why witches do the things they do.
I have found that Robin Artisson’s The Withching Way of the Hollow Hill to be very useful in understanding the importance of reading folk lore and fairy tales. In Artisson’s other book The Horn of Evenwood he also continues to explore the importance of folk lore and fairy tales as sources of a witches knowledge and wisdom. HedgeRiderby Eric De Vres is also another book that goes into details about the importance of fairy tales and folklore.
Those were the Pagan author who have helped me to see the importance of fairy tales and folklore. Last semester in school I took a local inspired fairy tale and folklore class (New England Folklore and Mythology). That class has inspired me to learn more about folklore. I became adept at analyzing and studying folklore for any of the possible myths and fairy tales I have read over the years. This had confirmed my position on continuing the path of a philosopher, folklorist, and anthropologist.
While I am still sorting through and coming to my own analysis of various tales and folklore that I will eventually pass on to my own students, I have started to gain a deeper understanding of the path of the witch and the various roles we have had over the years.
Ok. So what does folklore entail?
Folklore contains local legends and superstitions. I can be simple things that people grow up doing because every one does it in an area but doesn’t know why. It can be legends of people that lived there who were either detested or respected. They can be practices and customs. Folklore comes in many forms.
Many people wouldn’t consider the witch trials to be a source of lore and wisdom for witches. This is actually quite far from the truth. While I have not read many of the transcripts of the witch trials, I have learned much from books which have cited trials as sources for lore and practices. While that was a dark time for witches (and most if not all of the people accused were not witches at all) and the craft, it still has rich history and events that can become a part of witch lore.
Fairy tales by their very nature are magical and thus hold keys to the mysteries of the magic out there. They provide clues to how the magic was worked and those who ruled magic. There were only a few of the adults that ever remembered their entrances into the fairyland, and these became the magicians/witches and the storytellers.
So, I see how they can be useful. What sorts of fairy tales should we be looking into?
That depends on what cultural background you are coming from. Strega witches will use Italian folklore, fairy tales, and mythology to form the basis of their practices. If you are practicing a Celtic form of Witchcraft you would work with that mythology, fairy tales, and folklore setting. If you are an eclectic witch you would work with which ever cultures you chose to work with. I myself use the Germanic fairy tales and folklore most because that is my ancestry, and those have been the tales which have given me the most insight into my own beliefs and practices.
While you should start with a specific culture in mind, that doesn’t mean it should be your only source of information. I also use English fairy tales and folklore. I also find inspiration in rewritten fairy tales and folklore such as the tale of bearskin. I just said you should have a single culture as a starting point.
I have covered why I read and adapt folklore to my path. As for when I first started to use and truly understand the role of folklore and practices in my own path, that is harder to pinpoint. I think it’s started to happen slowly over time since I took that folklore class and started to look at fairy tales in a new light. Still there is much more for me to learn and explore.
There are many great books out there. I suggest starting with Grimms Fairy tales as they are the most well known. It is in the unknown fairy tales found within those books that you might find the most interest in. Once you have done that you can start looking at any fairy tales from any culture. They may still provide you insight.
For moral and ethical tales Aesop’s fables are an excellent source of ethics and morals or important lessons that should be learned. In many ways the very first stories that children are exposed to such as fairy godmothers, and the like will come back to be the source for hidden wisdom and insight found within those tales.
While they may be dark, you should still read them. Darkness and depression are simply parts of life. In many cases in the darker tales the more important lessons are learned. It is not a requirement, but again simply advice. After all life is not all roses and sunshine. Life is confusing and painful. The fairy tales that include those aspects of human life are just as important as the ones that focus on intense happiness and joy.
For any one who has ever gone to a temple or attended a church service of any kind you are typically familiar with some sort of altar. The altar is a place where sacred texts are placed, where candles are lit, prayers are murmurer, and worship happens. In witchcraft and magic the altar can serve as any number of things. Some paths encourage and use the word altar and others prefer terms like shrine or work bench and anything in between. There are so many different concepts and terms associated with altars here that the purpose of an altar is hotly debated.
In regards to Pentalism the altar actually has three different purposes. In an ideal situation those who follow the path of Pentalism (which can be practiced solitary as I am now) will have three different types of altars. Each of the altars would serve a different purpose. So there are three purposes to an altar in Pentalism. All three of the purposes and all three types of altars will be covered here now.
The primary purpose is to focus as the center point of worship. The next part is more spiritual than religious. This is the “shrine” type of altar. The final type of an altar is that of the workbench. All three aspects of the altar come into play in ritual. Once and a while they will also work together in the form of spell craft. That however depends on the type of spell you are working. For now I am going to focus on the spells and magical practices that would use an altar and the ritual uses of the altar.
Before I can talk about the use of an altar in magic I must discuss the use of an altar in ritual. I find that before magic is practiced some sort of spiritual and religious background is required. Having either a spiritual (which does not need to be religious) background or a religious background will allow a person to have a philosophy in which to base and construct their magic. That is why the second type and purpose of the altar discussed will be that of the shrine and the final use will be that of the magical workbench.
So in ritual the altar serves as a few things. In some ways it serves as the focal point. On the altar there are two figures or representations. One for the God and one foe the Goddess being worshiped at that time and sabbat. At times there may be two Gods and Goddesses involved in which case you would need two different representations on the altar or in the center of the circle (one for each God and Goddess).
So what does the altar have on it for content?
Aside from the representation on deity, there are the symbols of the elements and the elemental guardians. How the elements are important will be discussed in the posts of elements and spirits as well as cosmology. You also have the offering bowl for the libation and the plate for the food. There is typically something in the very center to represent the ancestors. You also have the tools for the creation of sacred space (which will be covered in the circles post) on the altar which will include wands, earth, candles, incence, and the like.
Ok. That covers the equipment. So the next thing to cover is how they are used actually in ritual. The use in ritual depends entirely on what sort of ritual you are performing. Each of the traditions and types of witchcraft that form the foundation of this tradition have different styles of rituals and different tools they use in ritual. The equipment and altar set up is going to vary.
The one common practice and use of the altar in all of the rituals is the place where the offerings to deity are placed. That is why this is the primary purpose of the altar in ritual. While all the tools used in the various forms of ritual are placed on the altar, in essence it’s key role is to hold the offering to deity in the liquid and physical state as well as the gaseous state (incense burning in ritual can been seen as offerings if they are blessed and lit with that intention as part of the ritual).
There. I have covered the basic needs and purposes of an altar when it comes to ritual. The next thing I am going to discuss is the use of an altar as a shrine. While I see all shrines as a type of altar, not all altars are shrines. I’ll eventually get to the full aspect of a shrine in a later post. For now there is a basic purpose that any seeker and any beginner to any path can use.
A shrine here is a place that is sacred. It is blessed and consecrated in the honor of the beings that the shrine is for. On the shrine you can place any images or representations of the beings you like. It also holds a place for offerings to those beings and is a place that prayers to those beings can be offered.
At this moment I have two shrines. I have one for dragons and one for the ancestors and the spirits of this land. The concept of the ancestors will be discussed tomorrow in my second A post for the pagan blog project. Ideally I would have at least five more. One for each of the elements and one for the spirit of the land and the hearth/home (which in my case is the same being as I told the spirit of the land my apartment is on that she could come in to the apartment in the winter if she felt like warming up in the cold *her home is a giant oak which has scattered hair [my own] and coins around it as offerings to her*). For now the elements will have to have their small representations on the main altar and the heart/home and land spirit shrine will be shared with my ancestral shrine.
So an altar holds offerings and ritual tools. A shrine as an altar is a place for offerings to those beings and prayers. It also contains symbols and representations of those beings. That covers the first two aspects and roles of an altar. Both of those were ritual and spiritualistic based. Can we get to the workbench and magical aspect now?
Yes we can. The third role of an altar is that of the workbench. When an altar is functioning in this form it primarily has to deal with magical work. While many witches and pagans do practice magic as a form or part of their rituals, magic does not have to take the form of ritual magic or work. Right now I am going to talk about pure spell crafting and casting that would require and altar to function as a work bench.
So before I can talk about spells and spell craft and magic I should probably define what magic is right?
Um yeah. That would be helpful. So how do you define magic?
Magic for me has three distinct definitions and aspects. There is the aspect of performing an act to cause a change in the universe. There is the act of wishing and visualizing, and finally there is the aspect of energy manipulation. The energy manipulation and the act of causing a change are often considered to be the same thing. I do not see it as such. That is why I will cover all three aspects of magic separately starting with energy manipulation.
The most common definition was coined by Alister Crowley which basically is “The art and science of causing change in conformity with one’s will”. In that aspect I take it a bit further. As a practice and process for me magic is the art and science of causing a change in ones world and the universe by manipulating and directing the subtle energies that exist in this world.
There are many ways to raise and direct this energy. There will be more information on that covered in a few more posts later. For now the most typical way of raising energy is through chanting and repetitive motion. Once the energy is raised you direct the energy out to the universe to have it manifest your goal. That is an energy manipulated specific spell.
In spell crafting a workbench may often be required. This is the magical function of an altar. While you work spells you often need a place to hold the materials you are using to craft and perform your spell. The materials you use will depend entirely on what sort of spell you are crafting and performing. The types of magic worked are so various that the tools and materials found on workbenches depends entirely on the personal flavor of each witch and spell caster.
So what sort of tools or materials can we see on an altar as a work bench? That depends on the type of magic and the spell you are performing. If you are a kitchen witch (one who performs magic and spell craft through the foods and drink we ingest) then you will have spices, meats, herbs, baking and cooking supplies and maybe candles or stones. Some one who works just herbal magic will have different herbs and a candle typically as well as a censer for burning incense. Candle magic involves candles (based on color and needs) and oils. Prayers can be magical as can wishes. It all involves the type of magic you are performing.
There are the various uses of an altar in pentalism. I mentioned that they can sometimes be mixed in ritual and spiritual work. This is true. When I discuss the wheel of the year I’ll explain a bit about fertility. For me fertility takes many forms. One of them is simply the ability to provide for yourself and have all the needs you have in your life. That is where magic can be applied in rituals. When I discusses ceremonial magic there will be more information about that.
There you have it. I hope I have given you some idea as to the role and use of an altar. I also hope I have given you some idea as to what you might put on it for yourself. My personal altar changes on
So what gives about the blogs name? Forging the Pentacle?
The explanation is simple. The path I have started to develop is called Pentalism. There are five aspects to almost all parts of the practice. There are five primary influences, five Gods, Five goddesses, five parts of the soul, and more. The pentacle for me shows how while there can be five individual points, in the end they can all be connected and are always interwoven in peace. The Pentacle is an extremely sacred symbol for this path due to the importance of five. Pentalism is meant to be experienced in a group setting. However I have not really developed each of the degrees and practices (related to each of the foundational traditions of types of craft) I can’t really teach and initiate people until the first degree has been formed (I’ll develop the second degree material in my personal practice as I teach the first degree and so forth).
Ok, so that explains the name, what about content?
I already mentioned some of the content you will be seeing. There will be information on ritual content as well as some basic sabbat or holiday information. There will be some basic information about the deities involved (this is going to be an initiatory oath bound tradition). There will also be posts about failures and successes and everything in between. When I fail I want to have people laugh at it and also help me find out where I went wrong.
By writing this blog I am sharing the basic outline of what will become my tradition. I process information best when I write out my thoughts and my experiences. By putting the information and the process on a blog I hope to get input from other people in the Pagan community . I want that input to challenge me. I want people to point out mistakes in my research and logic. I also want people to tell me why they like something or find something useful. That way I can become a better writer and explore the things I write about in a different light.
This blog will also be participating in the Pagan Blog project. However all of the entries on this blog will reflect this path specifically and only this path. My other blog (Seeker sight) is more about my search for knowledge and wisdom which I can find any where. There will be some cross over as they both will cover some of the same beliefs and practices. That said both blogs should be treated as unique and individual blogs.
You said the title is “Forging the Pentacle” right? So what are your tools and what are the foundations and origins of Pentalism?
There are five primary spiritual and religious practices which form the basis of Pentalism. All of them are different forms of witchcraft as a spiritual practice. Each of them has provided me with many different ways of working my craft and my religion. They have all had an effect on how I have experienced the Gods and Goddesses of Pentalism. I don’t belong to any one of these practices, but have combined them all. Which is why I am and Pentalism will always remain an eclectic religious witchcraft tradition.
The first witchcraft path I must discuss is Wicca. When I say Wicca I don’t mean the works of Silver Raven Wolf, Edain Mc Coy, D.J. Conway, Raymond Buckland, or even Scott Cunningham to name a few. I am refering to the books by Janet and Stewart Farrar (What Witches Do, 8 Sabbats for Witches, Way of the Witches, The Witches God, The Witches Goddess), Gerald Gardner (Witchcraft Today and The meaning of Witchcraft), and some of Doreen Valientines work as well as the writings of Alex and Maxine Sanders. Those are actual Wiccan initiates who have lineage via initiation which is cross gender and that can be traces back through Gerald Gardner to the New Forest coven of witchcraft.
A brief explanation of how I define Wicca is required here. I define Wicca as an Oathbound, Mystery, Cross Gender initiatory, Orthapraxic Witchcult where every initiate is a member of the clergy That is a lot to swollow. So I am going to break it down into little bits. I’ll cover each section in it’s own paragraph. Once you’ read each paragraph you’ll see why that simple definition required extra explanation. You’ll also see why I have such a strict view on Wicca and why I am only Wiccan influenced and Inspiried.
Let’s start with the term “oath bound”. By oath bound I mean that the rites and rituals, mysteries, names of deities, and practices are known and only taught to initiates after initiation. Prior to initiation the rites and rituals a seeker and pre-initiate experience are Wiccan flavored and Inspired, but Not Wiccan. There are many religions whose practices are oath bound. In history the Eluisian mysteries come to mind as only the members of that cult ever experienced those rituals and knew what those rituals entailed. There you go. A historical reference to a religious practice and set of mysteries that are oath bound.
The next term in my definition is mystery oriented or based. So what does this mean? By Mystery I mean that there are some aspects of the religion that are based on expereince in ritual which are deeply intimate and can not truly be expressed by words. All witchcraft traditions have mysteries.
The Cross Gender initiation is self explanatory. Only men can initiate women and women can only initiate men. This goes into the power myth described in the decent of the Goddess. There is also an issue of polarity. I’m sure all the reasons for this practice are explained after initiation. It’s something I have experienced. The “public” rite I went to basically said that in their circles it’s male-female-male-female as much as possible (based on the ration of men to women). I actually think it’s a great way to raise energy.
The orthapraxic aspect of Wicca is something that many people can’t grasp coming from orthodox religions such as Christianity where having specific beliefs was the important part of the religion. In Wicca it is not the belief that is important rather it is the proper practice and performance of Wiccan rites and rituals (which can only be performed in a coven setting) that is important. It is the proper performance of these rites and rituals that allow the clergy
The witchcult aspect is important to note as well. Upon the seeker or dedicant’s initiation into Wicca they are made a witch. This is especially important if that person never identified or used that term before. All wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccan. In fact most witches are not Wiccan. Wiccans are witches because they use witchcraft in both practical day to day life and in their worship of their deities. That is what makes them witches.
The final aspect of my definition of Wicca is that they are all members of the clergy. That is right. Once you have been initiated into Wicca you have become a priest or priestess of the Lord and Lady. For this reason every one is a part of the clergy. If you are not called to serve the Lord and Lady of the Isles (the two specific deities in Wicca) then you are not a proper person for Wicca.
Ok. So you explained what Wicca is. You didn’t explain why you say you are inspired by Wicca. Can we get an explanation for that please? Afterall you even said that you aren’t an initiate. There for you don’t actually know the rites and rituals of Wicca. So how are you influenced and inspired by Wicca?
There are a few reasons why I say that. The first thing is that I cleanse ad consecrate my holy water in the same fashion, often times using the same words outlined in 8 sabbats for witches. The second thing is that part of my understanding of the deities I work with (with in Pentalism) was influenced by the Oak and Holy King battles (also described in 8 sabbats for witches). Finally there is the full ceremonial outline. When a full complex ritual is performed it often includes all the elements described within Wicca. These form the first foundation of Pentalism.
The largest element found within my path is the central fact that this path is eclectic. Generic eclectic-neo pagan witchcraft can be found in many different books. My favorites include Christopher Penczak, Laurie Cabot, Ellen Dugan, and Doreen Valientine. I have however also been influenced by Starhawk, Silver Ravenwolf, Edain McCoy, D.J. Conway, Raymond Buckland, and Scott Cunningham (you see there was a reason I mentioned them before). All of these author claim to teach eclectic Wicca. There is no such thing (as shown above). There is however essentially a core tradition of eclectic neo-pagan witchcraft loosely based on Wicca and ceremonial magic as outlined by Cunningham in his book “Solitary Wicca” and “Living Wicca”. At the end of his life he did drop the association with Wicca and simply called it a witchcraft tradition, but the publisher kept the title as is.
The books by these authors all have different views of the God and Goddess and the wheel of the year. However there are some key and central similarities in the practices that lead me to believe they are essentially practicing the same religion, but not always the same way. It is a witchcraft tradition or set of traditions and way of thinking/practicing that has it’s own mysteries and basically a freelance style of ritual. Every eclectic is different, but they are all the same at the same time. We embrace the similarities and celebrate the differences. That is what being a true eclectic is all about.
The MMC concept here is one of the reasons I came to the 5 god and goddess concept for this tradition. It seemed with in the various discussions about the forms of the Goddess with in the wheel of the year there were some things described which never seemed to fit to the MMC concept. I started to see five different Gods and Goddesses described with in the lore and the rituals. That, along with the outline in Wicca lead me to the format that became the Gods and Goddesses of Pentalism.
The ideas about experimentation and the different types of ritual and altar set ups encountered through these books gave me the foundation of how to explore and experiment. That is what has lead me to know what does and doesn’t work for me in my religion and spirituality. That is how I have been able to begin to piece together this tradition. I am very thankful to be an eclectic and to have started to form a cohesive eclectic tradition that I am going to be proud to pass on to others.
Hedge witchcraft is a practice of witchcraft that not many people are aware of. While there are more books available on the subject these days, originally there were only a few websites out there that had any information out there. I am not entirely a hedge witch, but I do embrace and participate in the practices. I say I am not a hedge witch because it is not the only practice I engage in for my craft. While it has played a central role in my access to mysteries, it is not the only or the central aspect of my practice.
So what is hedge witchcraft? Hedge witchcraft is based on the concept of the hedge representing the border between the civilized world (towns, farms, and cities) from the wild (forests, open fields and stretches of road where no one is in sight) and the practitioner being able to be in both this world (civilized) and the other worlds (wilderness and forests). This is the European native form of shamanism.
One thing about hedge witches and hedge witchcraft it is essentially a solitary practice as each hedge rider must find there own way of getting into those trance states, and they need to find their own connection to deities and the sabbats. The other thing is that often time hedge witches will celebrate the sabbats through their trances. This is where the myth of the flying to the witches sabbat comes from. I haven’t used trance as a sabbat celebration yet, but I bet it would be powerful.
However due to my use of various types of trance and trance states to acces the mysteries and to contact spirits I have to add this as one of the foundations of Pentalism. It has been a major part of my practice for years. In fact it was during a workshop on “shamanic witchcraft” that I met my first formal teacher Christopher Penczak. That is also one of the reasons I consider hedge witchcraft to be one of the points on the foundation of Pentalism.
In many ways it has been equated to traditional witchcraft in it’s truest form, but I personally think there are other things. This goes into traditional witchcraft. I had mentioned it in my foundational forms, so I will discuss it briefly here. This is an aspect of the foundation I am still developing. It is a new addition to my practice, and as such it is something that needs a lot of exploration.
So what is traditional witchcraft? I thought that Wicca was a form of traditional witchcraft? Am I wrong?
There are many definitions of traditional witchcraft. The most common definition is that of “forms of pre Gardnerian witchcraft”. By default that makes Wicca not traditional witchcraft, and there are a few reasons for this. Wicca is a more ceremonial form of witchcraft than most traditional witchcraft practices. That is the first and primary difference between Wicca and traditional witchcraft. The other is more of a focus on a personal relationship with the land. While there are some correlations and the like, there are many differences between them. I have explained why Wicca is not traditional witchcraft, but I haven’t explained what it is yet. So here goes.
For me traditional witchcraft is pre-gardnerian forms of witchcraft. There are some forms of this practice which are initiatory (The new Forest Coven for example) and there are many forms which are solitary. The sources I have read on the subject come from both solitary and coven based books. So my view has a bit of both. That still doesn’t explain what exactly traditional witchcraft entails.
Well it is an underworld tradition. The rites and rituals typically involve some sort of physical and spiritual travel which symbolically and spiritually bring us to the underworld. That is where the Gods reside in this tradition. It is also where fate is woven and where the ancestors reside. That is why I say traditional witchcraft is an underworld tradition.
Traditional witchcraft also involves a lot of ancestral worship and veneration. Who and what the ancestors are and what the ancestral worship and veneration mean will be covered in another post shortly. For now they are those who have passed beyond the physical veil and into the underworld reals and they are those who are yet waiting to come back and return (they will be future witches and will create future ancestors). The ancestors are of blood and body as well as emotional and spiritual ties.
The final difference between traditional witchcraft and Wicca is the way the rites are performed and the tools used in rituals. The rituals in traditional witchcraft are less formal and theatrical/scripted. They are more spontaneous, yet they have some structure. All of these are factors in why this form of witchcraft has become part of the spiritual foundation that is Pentalism.
The final point in the Pentalist foundation is that of Hermetic witchcraft. This is a style of witchcraft in religious and spiritual terms as well as magical practices that highly engages the mind. When the tradition will be taught this will actually be the first degree. The points and lessons of this degree are outlined in the book “The Kybalion”. There will be many more essays on the Kybalion and how it relates to this tradition.
The is also tied into the first degree of the Temple tradition. That is where I have started my official training as a witch. For the last three years my magical practices and my rituals as well as meditations have been based entirely off of the teachings in the first degree of the Temple tradition as well as the Kybalion. As I begin to develop more and develop techniques for each of the key principles I can begin to further develop this.
Ok. So there you have the foundation. This should give you a basic idea as to where the ideas and concepts in this tradition are found. Things will become more clear as I post more. Every post will add insight into this path and how it comes together. This has served as your basic introduction and foundation to Pentalism. Some of the basic practices will be covered in an upcoming post. Please enjoy!