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Review: The Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates

The Way of Wyrd

The book The Way of Wyrd is a fictional story of a Christian Monk who is sent to learn the ways of the Anglo-Saxon pagans. The story is rich and entertaining. The author worked hard to research and present the information in a way that was informative and entertaining. By working the true beliefs of the Anglo-Saxon sorcerers into this work of fiction the author has brought back the use of stories to transmit knowledge and information.

The book is actually in two parts. The first part focuses on the early aspects of the Monk’s training. Here the monk is very skeptical of all the powers the sorcerer claims to work with and hold. While he works hard to learn all he can learn, Brand (the name of the monk) never really believes the ways of the people or that the powers are real.

In this part of the book the author introduces the basic beliefs of the people. The story actually opens with Brand working with Wulf (the sorcerer) at a healing ceremony banishing an evil spirit. This powerful start to the book illustrates a few of the key practices and beliefs that Brand is exposed to as he begins the training. This ceremony is set after he has completed his journey so we see here that Brand has much to learn and yet he was open to them.

In this first part of the book Brand is highly skeptical of the beliefs and practices. There are some that even scare him. Though he is fascinated with the tales of the Gods and of the spirits he does not appreciate their real value aside from primitive beliefs and practices.

The first powerful ritual that Brand is exposed to is an example of his difficulty in attempting to switch worldviews to learn the beliefs and practices. Here Brand is taught about gathering power from plants and how to properly gather the plant and give it an offering.

Other powerful rituals are experienced in this section. Here the author also goes into reading the omens of nature such as the flight pattern of birds and the way fish swim. The largest concept of Germanic paganism introduced here is the concept of Wyrd and knowing how to read and work with Wyrd.

The final experience in this section of the book Brand has is watching Wulf heal an elf shot horse. When Brand declares the process a fraud Wulf knows then that he must make Brand experience these forces or the mission to learn their ways will be a failure. The experience at the farm and Brand’s declaration of being a fraud.

In the second part of the book Brand is forced to encounter the shamanic aspects of Germanic paganism. Here we learn about spirit flight, how our spirits can be stolen, and how to work a soul retrieval in the practices of the Anglo-Saxon sorcerers.

The authors use of the narrative story teaches several elements of Germanic paganism. There are tales of the Gods taught, beliefs about plant lore explored, beliefs of the soul, and much more. The book provides through the story a basic concept and outline of many main beliefs found in Germanic Paganism as well as in Traditional Witchcraft, Anglo-Saxon shamanism, and much more. This book was well researched and written allowing a student to learn concepts in a way that non-fiction books may not be able to portray them.

Pagan Blog Project: B: breath The essence of Life and much more

Breath:

The essence of life and much more

No real introduction to this post.  I am just going to cut to the chase,  This is a post I have been meaning to write for two weeks because there are essentially two key points that I wanted to make with this topic that would benefit two separate posts.  One is on the origin of it’s spiritual component and the other is on a magical aid and as a trance inducing practice.  Like I said both of these posts would be related in that they are both centered around the concept of breath and what it means.

One of the reasons I have both felt the need to write these posts and have been unable to complete or even begin starting these posts is that here in Maine its the middle of winter and that’s bad news for asthmatics like myself.  If I am struggling to breathe properly it makes sense that while I would both be in the perfect state to explain the properties of Breath as life I am also not in the best states to think of anything but focusing on my own breath.

It is with both of these things in consideration (and the personal stress I was feeling for not posting for two weeks at this point) that I have decided to write this post.  I have a lot of different sources to pull on how breath is both life and is also counted to be an aspect and an essence of the soul (though I’ll try to give enough info for you to create your own opinion).  This is a wide topic so let’s start with science and the birth of a human baby and the “actual full death” of a human.

Breath in the human life cycle

After a mother has given birth to her child the doctor slaps the baby on the ass to begin crying and thus start breathing.  A human is not considered alive if they are not breathing.  If a baby does not cry with that action they are not alive and thus need work to be able to breathe or may be considered dead.  In the elderly a person’s whole mind and spirit could be gone yet their body kept alive through food and automatic breathing considered “life support”.

The ability to breath and to have the freedom to some what control one’s breath has always been part of what makes a person alive.  So long as a person is breathing and their body can “physically” function even with the support of machines a person is technically considered alive.  This is a thought and a concept that has been buried deep within human cultures and thoughts for many reasons and a lot of it relates back to lore and mythology.

I mention that this has been buried deep and that would be correct.  There are many different mythologies around the creation of man.  There are two central themes I have found that in the creation of humanity.  One is that we have been physically created out of the earth by the hands of the Gods.  The other is that it wasn’t until the Gods gave us breath that we became fully alive, even if other Gods had contributed other factors to what made a human being, we were not alive until we were given breath by the Gods.

There are two examples that I can think of that support this though. .  While many people may not be able to understand and accept this, when it comes to the creation and what actually brought humans to life Christians and those who follow Germanic paganism have one thing in common: The breath of life from their High God.

I’ll start with the creation myth of humans from the Poetic Edda (one of the Norse and Germanic sacred texts):”

17. Then from the throng | did three come forth,
From the home of the gods, | the mighty and gracious;
Two without fate | on the land they found,
Ask and Embla, | empty of might.

18. Soul they had not, | sense they had not,
Heat nor motion, | nor goodly hue;
Soul gave Othin, | sense gave Hönir,
Heat gave Lothur | and goodly hue.”

Here Soul is often equated with physical life.  The warmth of our body and fact that it actually reflects life was the gift of Honir.  Two of the elements that make humans alive were given from one deity.   The abilities to make sense/understand the world is one of the gifts of the Gods.  That gift was given by Honir.  Finally we have Odin’s gift.  Other translations list Odin’s gift last as it is not until breath and life is actually given to Ash and Embla that the first humans come to life.

As you can see from my analysis soul and breath in Germanic lore are associated.  The breath of life is important.  It enters our body at birth and leaves at Death.  The breath can be seen as being the vessel for the soul.  It enters at birth and leave on death.  That s what the soul is.  In some ways the soul and the mind and the breath can all be linked exactly to life.  The heart starts working before the mind, and the breath.

In the book of Genisis humanity is not aware or alive until God gives them the breath of life:

5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

So that is the connection in the creation of humanity.  In both cultures humans were born from the earth in some form.  In Christianity it’s from dust.  In Germanic lore it’s from trees that we were born.  In both sets of lore it is also only through the gift of the breath of life that humanity becomes aware and able to live.

A: Altars Phase 2-specific practice and path requirements

Last week my post was dedicated to the beginner and the start of building an altar.  As I said building an altar can seem very overwhelming to a beginner.  The same problem can be seen to occur with people have have been on their path for a while or have finally chosen their specific paths after a lot of exploration.  This post here is going to address how a more advanced pagan can develop altars specifically dedicated to their paths.

Phase 2:

Path specific altars and specificity

Last week I mentioned that some paths have very specific altars and there are some times reasons why you may need to change your altar for a specific sabbat, spell, rituals or activity.  The more you read and research the more ideas and concepts you may want to try.  For this reason it’s important to understand the rituals and the magical practices you are exploring .  You may need to have different supplies from those supplies that you started with.

This post will cover a few specific points on the topic of seasonal, magical, and path specific points.  Each one of these points will illustrated why there really is no wrong way to set up your altar unless you are on a very specific path.  Like I said in my previous post exploration, trial and error are going to be all you need.

The topics covered here will be:

  • Eclectic witchcraft altars
  • Brittish Traditional Wicca altars
  • Traditional witchcraft altars
  • 8 sabbat altars (Wicca and witchcraft)
  • Ceremonial magic
  • Asatru altars and items used
  • Hellenic (Greek worship)
  • Religio Romano (Roman worship)

Each of these paths have very specific altars and ritual tools.  Each of these paths have specific ritual forums for which their altars are designed.  Each of these altars has a different use and different specific ways to be used in the altars.  I’ll start with what I practice myself.  That way I can ease into the paths I have explored but have little to no personal experience with.  I am always studying and I am always willing to try something new, but lets start with that which I know.

Eclectic Witchcraft Altars:

Eclectic altar 1

As an eclectic witch there are really no real limits and style for the altar.  However there are some common themes in the altar set up.  Ultimately each witch has to choose how to make their own altar based on what works for them and how they worship the God and Goddess or the spirits they work with.  This is where the comments of my last post and directions of my last post come into play.  I will however list a few of the common traits and guidelines I have come across for more dynamic and specific worship set up.

Altar direction:

One of the most confusing things about an altar can be what direction it’s supposed to face in ritual.  Some authors say the altar should face north.  Other say it should face east or west.  Very few authors I have encountered over my studies have suggested that the altar should face south for fire.  When a seeker or an advanced practitioner may set out to set up their altar for ritual they still may ask themselves where they should place the altar in the circle and if they want to have the altar face a certain direction.

I have found for myself that ideally my altar would be placed in the center of the circle facing no specific direction.  While yes the altar will ultimately be facing a direction I find no reason for me to be worrying about if my altar faces the wrong way.  For me the altar is the center of my worship structure.  It is there where I place my offerings and where I place my tools during the altar.  Which is why I would prefer to have it in the center of my circle.  Unfortunately that doesn’t always work when you have limited space for ritual and moving all the furniture is not a reasonable option.

One of the other reasons I like having the altar in the center of my circle is that during ritual if I am going to use ecstatic practices such as dance, scourging,  movement, or even the basic circle dance it becomes much easier to move around.  It also makes it easier for me to define a very specific ritual area and I’m able to work ritual with in that area thus creating such a special sacred space.  For many reason this makes it easier for worship and magical practices.

Elemental symbols on the altar

Most of the books out there mention that as part of ritual and practice there should be some basic symbols of the elements on the altar.  Much of the modern witchcraft philosophy plays into the thought that each of the elements is involved in every part of magic and worship.  Many witches believe in the Gods and elemental spirits that rule the winds and the powers of those elemental. This practice was firs seen in the Golden Dawn.  Since modern witchcraft as we know it has its origins with the OTO and other forms of ceremonial magic as well as the local natural magic and folk practices of the Isle of man I can understand how Gardner (father of the witchcraft renaissance) formed the practices together.  I appreciate this practice and have come to my own understanding of the elemental spirits and guides.

As a witch or magician there are many ways to work with the elements in magic and ritual.  For many people there is a red candle for fire, a bowl of salt for earth, a bowl of water for water, and some form of incense for the representation of air.  In my early days on my path this was something I had chosen to do on my own. It was simple and it was a very effective mode for my early years and some of my time when my living arrangements were less than grand for  my religious and spiritual practices.

Aside from symbols that are literal representation of the elements there have often been tools used in ritual to invoke and call in the elements during the practice of circle casting.  Sometimes the water and salt mentioned above are used in the invocation, but more often than not there are other tools involved within the rituals.  Typically these are the athame (ritual dulled dagger), the wand, a bell,  and occasionally the drums.  There will be more talk of the elements and the common elemental tools when I make my post on the elements.  For now I’ll post an altar that has the elements mentioned and get on to the next type of altar, a traditional Wiccan altar.

My semi typical Eclectic witchcraft altar

My semi typical Eclectic witchcraft altar

British Traditional Wicca Altars

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

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

    there are some very specific structures to the altar and it has to be set up this way.  One of the reasons for that is that Wicca is a tradition defined as:

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

It is the orthopraxic nature of Wicca which is addressed in this post.  The set up a BTW altar is going to be very specific.  While they may change with various rituals in general the set up of BTW altars is set up a specific way.  This plays largely into how they work rituals and how it’s vastly different than how eclectic practice rituals and use their altars.  BTW is a coven based religion as such there would only be the coven’s set of tools on the altar and personal tools would be on your person.

BTW altar

There are different set ups for initiation and different sabbats.  The Farrar’s in their book A witches Bible they had diagrams for the various altars that they were using.  While it’s true that there are oathbound practices and lore, the Farrars gave enough information to get the concepts needed behind the placement and purposes of the items that a seeker would be able to have some concepts behind what they were exploring.

I have never been initiated into a Wiccan coven.  So I have nothing more than the understanding of a seeker.  I have a few friends that are initiates and I have been seeking more and more.  While I am not specifically seeking Wicca at this point I am seeking truth and wisdom found in witchults and witchcraft traditions.

Traditional Witchcraft

Traditional witchcraft is yet another form of witchcraft.  The basic difference between those who identify as Wiccan and those who are practice the common form of Eclectic witchcraft is that Traditional witchcraft is more focused on the practices of witches that occurred pre-Gardner.  Traditional witchcraft focuses on folklore from various cultures and the central theme is ancestral worship (which is discussed in my other blog).  In many ways the tools and the actual worship is more land based and more nature oriented than the typical eccelctic path as it explores in depth all aspects of life and creation as well as death and destruction and the relationships between them.

This is reflected often in their altars.  There are two ways traditional witches can set up their altars.  The first is:

altar in a more traditional sense

altar in a more traditional sense

The second type of altar is the prefered style of many traditional witches.  Traditional witches in many ways prefer to have their worship outside as the conection the the land is much more powerful.  Even a few of their sacred space techniques would be much more powerful outside than inside.  It’s the nature of their practice:

Stang as an altar

Traditional witchcraft altar

The third image is what the second image often starts out with during the initial prep.  Instead of a table the Stang (the forked staff) when planted into the earth is used to hold ritual tools and items as well as be the center of the worship.  The stand is often associated with the world tree and thus is a central part of the worship in traditional witchcraft.

I have a stang and a staff.  One day I will use them in ritual together.  For now I have other influences from traditional witchcraft in my path which I will get into little by little in these posts or in my other blog.  My main influence from traditional witchcraft now aside from my underworld views, is having an ancestral altar:

My ancestral altar

My ancestral altar

Now I am on the last topic that is directed specifically towards the nature of witchcraft religions and practices.  This last practice is tied directly into the lore of each of the sabbats and how each witch practices those sabbats.  So here we go,

Altars for the 8 sabbats

The 8 sabbats in the various forms of religious witchcraft are one of the primary ways they connect with and worship their deities. Each sabbat leads into a key point or mystery of the nature of the universe and the cycle of life from birth to death to rebirth.   The sabbats also go over the nature of the dynamic relationship of the God and Goddess they worship.

Each sabbat will there for have a unique altar setting.  In many witchcraft traditions the winter solstice or Yule is considered to be the start of the cycle.  I however feel that the cycle actually begins with the midwinter holiday of Imbolc.

Imbolc

Imbolc has always been associated with the birth of new animals.  There is the symbolsim of milk being the first food for mammals and it’s prcesseses.  Here we are able to really plan for the start of the year and the growing season to come.  Its where in ancient times Farmers would finally start to have a source of income from the milk and cheese which would provide needed nutrition and additions to the diet that has been upon them since the last harvest.

I see this as where the God is born of the Goddess.  That is why I believe the wheel of the year starts here at Imbolc.  The altars at this time of year are decorated with signs of the light really returning and plans for the future.

Imbolc Altar

Altar 7 Imbolc& Spring Equinox Altar

Ostara: Spring Equinox

The next sabbat in the cycle is the sppring equinox.  The sun has really returned.  The day and night will be of equal length.  The light has been increasing slowly since Imbolc but now it has returned.  Here is really the symbol of rebirth.  The trees have spread their leaves and there are more buds coming from the ground.  Planting is in progress and the animals born at the time of Imbolc are starting to be more independent (baby chicks and bunnies for example).

Ostara Altar

Here at Ostara the Goddess is as a maiden young and innocent and the God is a boy of around the same age (I typically picture between 4 and 7).  They are just starting to explore and understand the world.  This sabbat is essentially about the freedom of inspiration and imagination that is often lost after childhood.  Its about growth and development hopefulness and a zest for life.

Beltaine

This is one of the highest holy days in many of these traditions.  Here sex and sensuality are explored and celebrated.  In the cycle of the year the God has reached sexual maturity and is going to be taking the maiden he met at Ostara and enjoying the nature of sexuality and sexual contact.  This is also known as May day.  Here the God will give the Goddess his seed and she will be carrying his child (to be born at Imbolc).

Beltaine Altar

Litha: Summer solstice

Litha is the height of summer. Its the summer solstice.  The light is in full swing.  Crops are starting to be grown and some are being harvested already.  The Goddess is pregnant with growth and glowing with maternal pride.  The sun gives her fertility for growth every day.  As the sun heats so do the crops grow and develop.

Summer solstice altar

Summer solstice altar

Lammas or loaf mass:

This is the first of the three harvest festivals.  The summer is reaching it’s end.  The grains of the summer are ready to be harvest at this time.  This will be ground and separated into feed for the animals and flour for bread and biscuits and the like.  Some fruits are enjoyed and loved at this time.    The rituals here are typically around harvesting the first hard work of the spring and enjoying the fruits of that labor.  There are a lot of rituals involving the sacrifice of grain and the blood of the “sacrificed king”.  It is believed that the God is sacrificed here so that the land will remain fertile between now and the end of the growing season.

Lammas altar

The lord of the grain has been given up so that the lord of the animals and winter could take over the land slowly.  The blood spilled will nourish the land.  This can also be seen in how the sun seems to be dying at this time of the year.  The difference in light has started to be more noticeable with more night starting to be more in control.

This summer I experienced that change and power during the camping trip that I mentioned in my welcome back post.  I was able to forget everything and just revel in the power of nature and the dying of the sun enjoying the last of his life before the darkness takes control and his real underworld journey to be reborn begins.

The wheel continues to turn and we turn to where the light and the dark are equal.

Mabon: The Fall Equinox

Mabon is the second harvest.  The majority of the harvest is being harvested and enjoyed.  There is plenty of food to go around.  In many ways this harvest has been described as the witches thanksgiving and I wold have to agree that that is true.  The god’s essence is being given to the people through the food they eat.  The Goddess is mourning the loss of her love and is nurturing his son growing with in her womb.  Here the focus starts to be more on the animals.  This is the time of year when hunting and gathering would truly begin.  This is why we have hunting seasons to this day.

Mabon Altar

Mabon Altar

Samhain/Halloween/Ancestor night

This is the most famous holiday of witches.  Many of the traditions associated with the Halloween stories and decorations have roots in various witch lore and history.  The green skin, the crooked teeth, the hat, and many more come from witch trails and lore as well as other folk lore.  The dressing up as goblins or other “scary” spirits was done when traveling from place to place at this time to scare away malevolent spirits crossing over.  The essence of the “haunted season” is in that spirits of all sorts are more active on this week.

This is also the last harvest festival.  It also the night where the ancestors can cross over and visit their living loved ones.  This is why there are so many traditions relating to crossing over at this time of year.  The veil between the underworld and the world of the living and life as we understand it is at its thinest.

Samhain altar

Samhain altar

As you can see the altar both represents that which is alive and that which is dead.  The seeds of the harvested plants can be gathered and prepared as the stalks and leaves fade and dye.  The  seasonal leaved trees have almost all lost their leaves while the evergrees are still vibrant.  Life and death are equal here and now.

The God has descended into the Underworld and is ready to start his journey to be reborn.  Part of his essence remains in the land and in the forest as the Lord of the wilderness and in the Goddess as the Lord of the sun and grain yet to be born).

Yule: Winter solstice

This is the final sabbat in the wheel of the year,  This sabbat is the day when the night overcomes the day.  Here we are now in a time of the underworld.  Nothing can really grow at this time of year and we are dependent on the food that was stored during the harvests.  The animals have been slain so that now only the strongest and best remain.  It is the time to reflect on everything that was done that year and to start thinking about how the new year will bring new opportunities and will be a time for changes of what will be needed.

In essence the spirit of the God is reborn with in the people.  They feel the sun and inspiration and hope for the future growing with in them.  They also start to understand that even though some real tough times are ahead until planting begins they can get through it.  It will be the last time they can really celebrate and renew themselves for the next year.

The sun is reborn on the morning after the solstice as it is from that that we know the sun will overcome the darkness.  This is how we know the God lives and will exist again.  His shadow is still slightly in power as the symbols of this time are reindeer and evergreen forests.  These are symbols of the God as the Lord of the Hunt and the Lord of the animals and how they live together.

The first altar will be one of my own Yule altars and the next altar will be one for a generic concept of the season

My Winter Solstice Altar

My Winter Solstice Altar

Yule altar

Yule altar

Now the wheel turns and brings us back to Imbolc which was the first seasonal altar I posted.  I hope this gives you and understanding of how different altars can be made and created for specific holidays and celebrations,  Now I will get into the last real magic and directly Occult type of altar I planed to discuss.

Ceremonial Magic

Ceremonial magic is one where the altar has direct symbols for the elements and is focused on a connection with the God head.  In many ways it is often connected with Christianity and Christian mysticism.  The truth is the early forms of ceremonial magic were based on Christian Occult and mystery practices.  Here was where you could find the practices of “Christian Magic”.

Many of the rituals are based on calling in the arch angles and the invocation of their power into the magical space and to help empower the magical actions being taken.   This rite can be traced back to the Ritual in short hand known as the LGBRP which means the Lesser Greater Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.  I am trained in this ritual and have used it many times. This is a complex ritual which I will go over in length when I have my post on ceremonial magic. In essence you call in the four arch angles to protect the space while vibrating the various names of Yaweh to sanctify the space and prepare it for magical ritual and practice.

I have said before that I practice a form of dragonic witchcraft and magic.  This is very true.  That practice is very ceremonial.  The opening ritual is very much designed after the LGRBP.  I call upon the dragon guardians and guides that I have a relationship with rather than angels.  The symbolsim is in the structure of the ritual, the tools used, and the altar.

The tools mentioned in the eclectic witchcraft altars can trace their origin to the LGRBP and many other rituals performed by the OTO.  Gardner who was the one who crafted the new form of religious witchcraft as we know and see it to day was a member of the OTO and other occult practices.  This played into how he crafted the religion of Wicca.

The altars I have shown above may very much resemble this altar:

Diagram of ceremonial magic altar

Diagram of ceremonial magic altar

Ceremonial magic altar

It is what I would use more often than not in the presence of a Christian friend who wished to attend my ritual.  This is also where the heremetic philosophies of the Kyballion allow for there to be witchy changes and views.  All of them are essentially the same practice, but the rituals are designed to be related to be specific to that path and that practice.

Draconic altar

Draconic altar

Finally I can start getting into some of the more path specific altars regarding more culture specific altars.  This next section is directed more towards those who have found the deities and the paths they follow.  Some of these are more recon style (recreating in modern day to the best of their ability the ancient religions of various cultures) and some are still semi inspired by previous eclectic practices.

Asatru & Other Germanic faiths

Asatru is the recon of the Norse beliefs and religion.  The focus is typically on the Aesir.  The primary sources of their lore is the poetry and the sagas of the Norse and Germanic people.  These inclde the Poetic and Prose Eddas, the Sagas of the Icelanders, The Vinland Saga, and many more.  The altars and worship style is very simple and elegent.  Their rituals are known as a Sumbel or a Blot depending on the content and the like.  Both of those are other topics I will bring up over the course of this year.

I have two sample altars to show you:

Asatru sample altar 2

This is an altar that some one shared online.  The tools are simple and the ritual is still rather joyous and intimate.  The next altar shows what each item is called and as I said I’ll be going over this in more depth when I discuss Blots.

Asatru sample Altar

The next two religions are often discussed together as they are very much associated.  The first is Greek reconstruction often known as Hellenismos and the second is Religio Romano which is the reconstruction of the Roman paths.  There are some very substantial differences between the two paths.  To be honest I haven’t explored either of these paths as indepth as I would like.  While I do have an interest in both of those as they were the first deities I met and worked and worshiped as a teen my path and practices have lead me in other directions.

Hellelnismos

Hellenic Altar

Hellenic altar 2

Both altars are dedicated to the Olympic or Cthonic Gods.  There are very interesting cleanliness restrictions of these rituals and in their worship that in some ways to me is ridiculous.  However they also had the most sophisticated sanitation and irrigation systems than any other cultures of their time.

Religio Romano: Roman Reconstruction

The altar in the traditions of ancient Rome was called the larium,  There are specific designations for what goes on the larium and in the practices of their religion.  They also have very strict cleanliness requirements.  They also hold that if there is any mistake in the performance of a ritual they must cleanse themselves and the larium and start the ritual over from the begining.    It is a orthopraxic religion much like Wicca though they focus on any and all of the Roman Gods.

Religio Romano Altar 2

Religio Romano Altar

As you can see there are some very different altar structures and set ups for the different paths one may encounter as they seek.  You may find yourself attracted to one culture and want to learn more about how they were worshiped in ancient times and then find that you may find it’s to strict for you so you do something inspired by them.  That is why the first post was about seeking and basic introductions and the second post was mostly directed at specific paths and how they are different.

Samhain and Hallowmas- The festival of the dead and the ancestors (Pagan Blog Project)

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:

Materials:

Apple or Pomegranete Juice/alcohol

Red Apples or Pomegranete fruit & Seeds

Two cups

1 tree

Ritual:”

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.

Trance work an outline and some techniques

Trance work

Part 1:

Define trance, meditation, and altered states of consciousness.

I have mentioned several times that I use trance work as part of my religious and spiritual practices. For many people this is a scary and confusing subject. A lot of people are not comfortable with sensations of being out of the body or even of being slightly out of touch with their bodies. This is a perfectly normal fear. However there are many reasons to use some sort of trance work, and there are ways of overcoming those sensations.

One of the first things that people who chose to work with trance and meditation need to know is that there are many ways to achieve these states and there are going to be ways that will work for you and ways that will not work for you. Going into trance and meditation isn’t scary or complicated. It can seem to be that way because many people associate meditation with sitting still and emptying their minds of all thoughts. I’m sorry but no. That doesn’t work for some one with ADHD. I found other methods and other ways to define trance and meditative states.

Ok. So you mentioned that there are many different ways of getting into trance, and there are many different types of trances. I’m following you so far. What I need to know now is how exactly do you define trance and meditative states? Then I have more questions.

For me trance work is essentially any work that takes place in an altered state of mind done for spiritual or religious purposes.   If a person is going for a walk along the ocean and drifts off into a space where they start to commune or have inspiration or understanding they have been in a trance state of some sort.  That’s why I say there are many ways of getting into trance.

The Temple tradition of witchcraft gives a scientific outlook on trance and meditation.  This outlook is one that states that meditative and trance states occur when your mind has reached a different brain wave state.  There is some debate about these states and the wave lengths and their importance in psychology.  Needless to say I think that there is something about brain waves shifting frequency but that may be sue to my understanding of the principle of vibration.

Wait psychology?  Brain waves?  I don’t want science I want metaphysics, and the mystical and occult.  This is after all a blog and essay on trance work and how it relates to religion, spirituality, and magic right?

Yes.  This is a blog on witchcraft, religion, spirituality, magic, and the occult.  However I am a member of the Temple tradition.  I do hold that there are some scientific possibilities that may explain why and how magic and the universe works the way it does.  As a former psychology student and a member of the Temple tradition the fields of psychology and neuroscience have been influential in how I understand the mind and trance work.  That is why I mentioned it.

Ok.  Science is important to you.  I get that, but what does that mean to some one who hasn’t studied psychology or brainwaves?

In the most basic sense it’s kinda like daydreaming and sleeping in class.  When you are in a meditative or trance state your brain is no longer functioning as if you were driving, watching tv, playing a game, ect.  It is in an altered state.  There are many different depths to the states of consciousness (psychology).

There are also many ways of altering consciousness.  There are ways to elevate your minds state (ecstatic work is common here) and there are ways to slow your mind (deep breathing, muscle relation, ect).  For some people the states that are more active and energetic are not effective for trance and spiritual work, and the opposite is true.  You also have people who find that sometimes one things works and sometimes it doesn’t (that would be me).

Ok.  So trance work and meditative work are essentially religious and spiritual work that occur when your mind is not in your normal every day consciousness right?  If I understand you a Rave might be a higher energy vibration and mental state than a countdown relaxation would be?  Sort of like chillin out or hyping yourself up before an activity or action?  So those would be altered states of consciousness right?

Exactly.  You got it.  Trance and meditative work is spiritual work that is done purposely under those states of mind.  The idea is that you get into those states of mind with the intent of doing some sort of spiritual work.  Then when you are done with the work you are able to return to your day to day consciousness at will with the lessons learned.

That sounds reasonable.  So how can we get into these states?

Part 2:

A few trance techniques

The first thing I can suggest is that you make sure you are in a place where you can be alone and quiet.  Many people set up a meditation shrine or altar where they have candles and incense and in some cases soft music that they play.  The idea is to set up an atmosphere where you will be relaxed and able to focus on your intent.

So with that in mind I am going to give two techniques for relaxation meditation and one technique for more ecstatic trance and motion.  I figure that these will provide a start.  I hope that you will take these techniques and then find some more.  There will be some recommended reading material at the end of this post.

These techniques are for your first starting into trance work.  I provide no guides for what work can be done at this point.  These are simply techniques to help you ease into trance work.  Trance work takes a lot of time and effort to get anything out of it.  The first techniques that you learn are often simply to help you train your mind into focusing at those states as they are “not normal waking consciousness”.

Yes. I said trance work is training and hard work.  In order to get the deep trance work that will lead to the unveiling of the mysteries of the universe you need to train your mind and body to be comfortable with these various states of consciousness.  How long this will take I can not tell you.  I can only tell you that it will be beneficial.

Technique 1: Breathing and focusing

In order to get the most out of this technique you should set aside 5 to 10 minutes a day for two weeks.  This should be at the same time every day.  This is done to ensure you build a practice and discipline.  The training of discipline in the mind is part of the training that is done in trance work.

Get yourself into a place where you can be alone and quiet.  If you feel that it will help light a candle and some incense and play some low soft gentle music.  Sit in a straight back chair with your feet on the floor if possible.  Sit as straight as you comfortably can, not like a board but comfortable.

Due to the nature of this technique set a timer for 5 minutes and stop after 5 minutes for first several times.  This is done to ensure that you do not make yourself dizzy.  I also suggest that there be some peanuts or cheese available after the exercise to try and bring yourself back to normal.  There will be another exercise on grounding later on.

With that said here is the material list for the exercise:

  • Note book or journal for results
  • food and drink for grounding
  • chair
  • Optional: Candles, incense, music and the like

Set up the area you are going to be doing the exercise in.  Make sure you have your chair and notebook handy.  Have some sort of food waiting for when you are done.  I recommend protein, salt, and a little sugar.  Trail mix would be ideal.

Close your eyes.  Take a deep breath and with your breath exhale all images and feelings you have towards your day and all other worries.  Do this a few times until you feel the stress of the day or the tensions of the day further back in your mind.  As you do so let your mussels relax by enjoying the air flowing through you.

Now focus.  Exhale for the count of  4 and hold for 4.  Slowly and deeply inhale for 8 counts and hold for 8 counts.  Exhale for 8 counts and hold for 8 counts.  Repeat  for a few minutes.  After a while you will find that you stop counting and your body and breathing has reached a natural relaxed deep breathing.  Keep in this state.  If you see any thoughts or images keep them in your mind.   Don;t think about the images just hold them and remember them.

Try to stay in this state until the timer goes off.  If you can’t then let yourself out of it and record in your notebook your impressions.  If you can stay in the trance and meditative state until the timer goes off do so. Once the timer goes off write in your notebook your impressions.  If you felt silly or odd or anything write it down.  This is also the place to write down thoughts you had during the exercise as well as any images.

Eat and drink.  Don’t stand or move until you know you are back in your normal conscious mind.

Technique 2: Count down with breathing

This technique comes second as in some ways it goes beyond the first and utilizes the first.  This is the technique that I use to this day when I am having difficulties getting into a trance or meditative state.

In order to get the most out of this technique you should set aside 5 to 10 minutes a day for two weeks.  This should be at the same time every day.  This is done to ensure you build a practice and discipline.  The training of discipline in the mind is part of the training that is done in trance work.

Get yourself into a place where you can be alone and quiet.  If you feel that it will help light a candle and some incense and play some low soft gentle music.  Sit in a straight back chair with your feet on the floor if possible.  Sit as straight as you comfortably can, not like a board but comfortable.

Due to the nature of this technique set a timer for 5 minutes and stop after 5 minutes for first several times.  This is done to ensure that you do not make yourself dizzy.  I also suggest that there be some peanuts or cheese available after the exercise to try and bring yourself back to normal.  There will be another exercise on grounding later on.

With that said here is the material list for the exercise:

  • Note book or journal for results
  • food and drink for grounding
  • chair
  • Optional: Candles, incense, music and the like

Set up the area you are going to be doing the exercise in.  Make sure you have your chair and notebook handy.  Have some sort of food waiting for when you are done.  I recommend protein, salt, and a little sugar.  Trail mix would be ideal.

Close your eyes.  Take a deep breath and with your breath exhale all images and feelings you have towards your day and all other worries.  Do this a few times until you feel the stress of the day or the tensions of the day further back in your mind.  As you do so let your mussels relax by enjoying the air flowing through you.

Now focus.  Exhale for the count of  4 and hold for 4.  Slowly and deeply inhale for 8 counts and hold for 8 counts.  Exhale for 8 counts and hold for 8 counts.  Repeat  8 times.

Start a count down in your mind.  Imagine as you count down the numbers in descending order this time.  Some people see it as a series flights of stairs as they walk down.  Others have their own ways.  Start with the number 13.   As you count down count at a relaxed and natural pace.  The technique will not work if you rush the countdown. Go 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0.

At this point you are in a light meditative state.  You are aware of your surroundings but yet aware of more.  This is the first trance state you get to.  Take a moment and enjoy this state.  Then count down from 12 to 1 with the same pace as before not visualizing the numbers.  Now you are at your next state of consciousness.  This is where the exercises I post with the guides post will take place.  For now keep this as your place and your trance state.

After a moment count back up going at the same pace you did before.    When you get to 12 again take a quick pause and get to know your mind and body at this state a bit.  After a moment count back up from 0 to 13.  As you reach each number your awareness comes more and more gently back to your body and your place.  It is not necessary to visualize the numbers as you ascend, but some may feel it helps.

Record all your thoughts and impressions in your note book.  Eat and drink as before and get back to your daily consciousness.

Technique 3: Chanting and motion

This technique is more about exciting your brain waves and bringing you into a higher state of consciousness where you are still seeing the world and the universe in a different view.  This technique differs in that your eyes are not closed and you are not focused on going inwards.  The idea is to go outwards and higher and inwards and lower.

This is also the first technique I will have introduced that can be directly related to magical working.

You mean we finally get to learn something that will apply to magic and spells and the like?

Yes.  However that will come later as there is another essay that needs to be written first.  The exercise here still does relate to trance work and spiritual development.  The chant I chose for this example comes from a game I played in a Theater summer camp.  That is why I see it as a perfect exercise for energy work and trance work.

Due to the nature of this technique set a timer for 5 minutes and stop after 5 minutes for first several times.  This is done to ensure that you do not make yourself dizzy.  I also suggest that there be some peanuts or cheese available after the exercise to try and bring yourself back to normal.  There will be another exercise on grounding later on.

With that said here is the material list for the exercise:

  • Note book or journal for results
  • food and drink for grounding
  • chair
  • Optional: Candles, incense, music and the like

If you have a place set up as mentioned before use that place.  This time sit in your chair comfortably.  As you sit there chant something like “Zip zap Zop” over and over again.  Start slowly but pick up pace.  As you chant rock your body back and forth with the increasing speed.  If you don’t want to rock you can stand up and move side to side or find some other swaying motion that will help you work with this.  The important thing is that you are moving with the chant.

After a while you may find yourself getting louder and louder as well as faster and faster.  That is fine.  That is what you are looking for.  These exercises and techniques are best done in a place where if you get loud it wont be to much of a problem.  The idea is that you have gone out of yourself and have become so into the motion you have lost normal reality.  Thus you have reached a trance.

Once you feel that you can’t hold the energy or the motion any more release the energy and come back to yourself.  Sit down and record everything you experience and felt in your note book.  Once you are done writing down the experience eat the food and return to your day to day life.

Part 3:

The conclusion

Ok.  There you have it.  I have given you three techniques that deal with altered states of consciousness and trance.  I have also given you a definition and an idea of what some people can mean when they say that they do a lot of trance work.  The last thing I have to say on the subject is why I ask you to record the experiences and why you may need or want to use trance in your work.

The record is simple.  It is a way for you to record your progress and see how things change.  It is something that is used for spiritual growth and development.  Many witches and pagans have these sorts of books.  Witches and magicians often call their books Books of Shadows or Grimiores.  Other pagans may call them ritual books or simply spiritual journals.  Its just a way to see what you’ve done, where you have been, and what you may yet do.

Why Trance is important?  Well it can help you contact deities, spirit guides, your higher self, gain insight into the cosmology and much more.  In the end trance work is a central part of my practice because of the versatility it has with me.  I use it in worship and I use it in communion.  I also use it to talk to my higher self and get some answers from with in.

I hope this was helpful.

May your search be fruitful

On being an eclectic witch and ecletic neo-pagan -a Pagan Blog Project responce

This week one of the possible prompts for the Pagan Blog Project for the letter E was eclectic paganism and eclectic witchcraft in the form of “neo-Wicca”. Over the last few days I have read several different blogs from the Pagan blog project on this topic. While there have been many valid insights there are some things I feel that I should say about myself.

Here is the first part of the prompt:
Eclectic practice is something that can be a big debate in different part s of the Pagan community. Some feel that being eclectic opens you up to a whole world of ideas and tools that with the more narrow view of a specific tradition just isn’t available. Yet others feel that being eclectic equates to a practice that is lacking in structure and commitment to anything. Are you eclectic?
-Rowan Pendragon

Yes. I am eclectic. I am both an eclectic witch and an eclectic pagan. I find that the two are very different practices. While I do use my witchcraft to help me connect to deity and as a part of my worship to deity, it is primarily a non religious practice a craft. The deities I worship with my craft are responsible for the core mysteries of the witchcraft tradition I am developing and sharing through these pages and writings. That being said I do accept that witchcraft is essentially a craft and a philosophy that while spiritual in nature can be adapted to any philosophy or religion.

I however say that I am an eclectic pagan because I am not limited to one ritual set or technique. I am not limited to any one pantheon or cultural way. I do not have to worship or follow the typical 8 sabbbats found in most witchcraft traditions (which I do honor as well). I can worship any deity I want with any holiday I choose.

I have used Hellenic rituals to honor Zeus and other Hellenic Gods. I have had an ecstatic ritual invoking Pan and have been in states of ecstasy and panic created from the worship of Pan that forced me to face my sexual fears and my deepest personal fears. I have also felt the caress of Dionysus while drunk on booze and enjoying liquor. While I have only celebrated one Hellenic festival and it was years ago, I still have that deep connection to Pan.

I have held Blots and Symbels in honor of the Aesir, Vanir, some of the frost Giants. I use the Nine Nobel virtues as the corner stone of my philosophy when it comes to my world view and ethical views. I have experimented with runes and the Seax worship of Odin and Freya (it didn’t work for me). I have started to explore a few Germanic holidays that might not be followed by people other than the Asatru and Heathen recons.

I have done a full moon esbat to Diana according to The Gospel of Aradia and Strega traditions. I still have a lot to learn about Strega and the other deities. However I feel strong in my connection to Diana through the Gospel of Aradia. The most recent connection I have felt to any deity was during that ritual this past summer.

While I am interested in Celtic and Native American traditions I have not pursued them. I know that in many cases those cultures are closed to outsiders. While my own teacher (Chris Penczak) has a connection to some of the Celtic deities, I am not comfortable making that connection as I am not of that blood. From what knowledge I have been able to research even with my adoption I have no connection to Scotland or Ireland. The only possible Celtic connection to me would be in England if there are any to be found with in Anglo-saxon English culture.

I was raised in the United Church of Christ. To this day I have never accepted the core trinitarian philosophy of the UCC that God, Jesus, and The Holy Spirit were one person. I do believe in Jesus and I do believe in the Holy Spirit and God. I just think that they are all separate entities. I think that they are all connected that Jesus is a Demi-God and the son of God as well as a prophet, teacher, and wise man. I believe in God. I just don’t worship Jehova/Yaweh/Allah (the God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) as my exclusive god. I worship any God I chose when I chose.

As an eclectic pagan like I said I am not limited to exploring and experiencing the rituals and celebrations of just one cultural practice. That being said if I worship a deity from the Roman pantheon I try to worship them with those rituals. In that respect I have started to answer the second question asked by Rowan which was:

What are your thoughts on eclectic vs. traditional practice ?

When it comes to my religious witchcraft experiences I can’t really explain. I have a deep interest in Wicca and those traditional rites and rituals. However there are practical issues and other things that prevent that from happening. I wish I could be a part of a traditional group of some sort. I long for the commitment of repeated rituals with mass power behind them, a community, and a set of core rituals and practices that have already been developed. I long for that sort of setting.

When it comes to the exploration of the other paths I have tried to practice in the traditional way. It can be difficult. I find that the traditional practice makes the connection with the deities a lot easier as the rites are typically found with in the lore in some way.

I find security in tradition. It helps me cement my practice and create foundations that are strong. The foundations built on tradition are stronger. I believe strongly in the power of tradition, habit, and practice. To me these help develop sign posts on the path, and tradition gives validation to personal experience.

This is why I am an odd eclectic. I have explored many paths and taken several things. When I explore I use recon methodology. I read the lore and I read academic sources if they are available. I read and research the history. I have discussions with other recons. I pray and make introduction based offerings to the Gods. I use tradition.

I find that I am going to eventually find one recon path to stick to. However for now I feel that I need to explore all paths open to me at this point in time. I will always keep the worship of the various deities separate. I do not believe that they are all the same. I do not believe that all Gods are one God and all Goddesses one Goddess. I believe that all Gods are individual entities. That is why I keep the worship of the various deities separate. I find that honors and respects them.

I find that eclectic practice where you take different deities in worship them in context that they were never worshiped in before (Hindu deities in a Neo-Pagan witch) is not acceptable. While there have been some deities that have been worshiped in the context of other traditions (The Hellenic, Roman, and Kemetic deities were all interacting via the cross-cultural worship and interaction at the time) I find that in the end, the comparisons are usually fairly off and done with little deep research into the myths and lore as well as traditions of those people.

That is why I as an eclectic keep the worship of every different pantheon separate. I find that it helps me bond with them and the culture better this way. It also helps me gain a deeper understanding of the culture through the exploration of the rituals. Plus I gain a modern understanding through anthropological research.

Now I must begin the topic of “Eclectic neo-Wicca” and my feelings about that. I do not accept people who practice an eclectic form of religious witchcraft based loosely on the teachings of proper Wiccan rites as Wiccan. I do accept them as witches. In fact I firmly believe as an eclectic religious witch there is an established traditions for us.

Wait eclectic tradition?

Yes. Eclectic tradition. My personal library contains several books on “Eclectic witchcraft”, as well as Wicca and traditional witchcraft (not even mentioning my recon sources as well). I have found that essentially if you look at the books that label themselves as “eclectic Wicca” there are essentially core rites and rituals practiced. While the individual practitioner may be a soft polytheist who uses other deities aside from the MMC and horned God (which I was when I started and I will have a post on this later at some point) in their rituals the actual content of the rituals is the same. The words may be different, but the intent and the format are the same.

That is why I see eclectic neo-pagan witchcraft to be a cohesive tradition. The various deities found in the tradition are different but the ritual format and content are the same. I have found that even when looking at the various witch traditions out there: (Cabot, Temple, Blackforest, Standing Stone, and many others) they have the same core rituals and sabbats. While the individual interpretations were different and may use different deities the overall mythology is the same.

My religious witchcraft is eclectic. I have taken from traditional witchcraft (Through Robin Artisson and a few other authors), The “Wiccan literature” out there (Gardner, Frosts, Sanders), I have taken from Hermetic literature (The Kybalion), Shamanic literature, and Eclectic Witchcraft as well as some Thelemic literature (The LBRP). My practice melds all of these together into one whole unit that works. How this is developing I am still not fully aware. Its just developing.

However none of that makes my practice in any way Wiccan. Nor does it make me Wiccan. I have not been initiated into Wicca. I have not learned the rites of Wicca, nor have I experienced the mysteries of Wicca, nor do I know the names of the deities in Wicca. I am not Wiccan. I may never be Wiccan. I am a witch as the religious and magical practice that primarily drives me is derived from various forms of Witchcraft.

In discussions I have had with other people in regards to the nature of the magical craft called witchcraft one constant comment has been that witchcraft as a craft is eclectic in nature. It is something that is going to be developed individually by each witch.

As a magical practice I primarily define witchcraft as dealing with the folk lore and folk traditions of European countries both continental (German, France, Italy, Norway, Sweden) or Island (England, Ireland, Scotland, Iceland,). This magical practice contains lore from all of these sources and have adapted to include some Christian influenced charms over the years.

It is this adaptability that has allowed Witchcraft to survive. It’s no wonder that witches are often considered to be ‘cunning”. Witchcraft has many forms from protection from witches (witch bottles and many protection charms during the puritan era in America fit into this category). Some of the practices can be traced to fairy tales, and others more to local legends and traditions. The fact of the mater is that as a magical practice witchcraft has always adapted and will always be adaptable due to its eclectic nature.

As I mentioned before essentially witchcraft as a magical practice is going to be created by each individual witch. While there may be some spells and charms passed on through oral lore or in the form of a Grimiore ( or Book of Shadows) essentially every witch must find what works for them selves. This is why constant trial and error is important. That is why constant study and exploration is important.

My witchcraft involves angelic forces from time to time. It can involve elemental spirits, dragons, other spirits, ancestors, gods or just my own energy. The spells I create can involve intense energy manipulation or little to none. They can involve manipulating physical objects or they can involve simply focusing mental energy. My magic is varied and allows for experimentation and development.

The final question asked in the prompt this week by Rowan was:

how do you feel eclectic work benefits you if that’s the path you follow?

I have found several benefits to being an eclectic pagan. One of the key benefits is that I can widen my network of contacts and I can increase my experiences. I have found that by honestly going into the various Recon and eclectic or traditional groups saying that I am a seeker who seeks genuine wisdom and experiences. I do not know if my path lies along the lines of a specific tradition or if I am suited more to always be an eclectic. For now I wish to simply discuss and learn from you about your groups practices that they will be more willing to accept me.

Another benefit has been the ability to constantly explore and try new things. As I said before in this post I am not limited to any specific holiday calendar or ritual setting. By being an eclectic I have opened myself up to the possibilities to be found in any and every path out there. I don’t have to experience the mysteries of the universe (and I believe every path to have a unique set of mysteries available to them) through just one culture. I can experience many mysteries.

The largest drawback I have found to be that I have to constantly be studying. As an eclectic I have to constantly be reading and expanding my references for various paths. I have to look into history and culture. I have to look into modern telling of myths and folk lore as well as more of the literal translations of source texts.

I have to look at personal experience. I have to compare it to lore and experiences by other people. I have to keep a record of what I have done and what I hope to experience. There is a lot of exploration that comes with being an eclectic. There are times that the work may not seem worth it, but in the end I find it worth it.

I am an eclectic because I am a philosopher in the truest sense of the word. I am a lover and seeker of wisdom and knowledge. That may explain the various deities I have connections to (Zeus, Odin, Thoth, Friga, ect). I believe that there is wisdom to be found any where. You just have to be open to the possibilities.

Could I be wrong?

Yes. However I have found that the journey is worth it. I have found that in the end I seek to find wisdom where I can. I might not agree with every practice I read, and frankly not all of the rituals I have experiences have sat well with me. The fact that I keep going shows that I have the one key virtue that all eclectics need:

Courage.

To be an eclectic witch and an eclectic pagan is to have the courage to explore, test, and question everything that is out there. It is to test your self and your practice. It is the courage to try things that other people might not. It is the courage to experiment and fail and try again.

Is it worth it?

I think so. I find enjoyment and pleasure out of reading about, researching, experiencing, and exploring various religions and philosophy. I find enjoyment out of pondering the nature of the universe. I find enjoyment out of exploring all avenues of wisdom and learning. I am in that ways happy to be a college student.

For those reasons and more I am an eclectic. I tread the border between being a traditionalist. I hold that traditions should remain in tact. I hold that traditions are meant to be done a specific way for specific reasons. In that way I am a traditionalist. In that I am open to more than one tradition or way of thinking I am eclectic. Just because it’s tradition doesn’t mean it’s the only way, but it also doesn’t mean that traditions should be discounted.

Pagan Blog Project: Entheogen and Trance work

For this weeks prompt there were several things I came up with. It was a choice between ethics, eclectic, entheogen, energy, and education. There were several blogs posted about being eclectic, so I decided that I would focus on entheogens. I am still going to post an entry about being eclectic at some point, but for today I am going to focus on entheogens.

Most of the books I read when I started out on my path said that real witches did not use drugs or drinks in rituals. As a teen I had no problem with this as I was not legal drinking or smoking age. I also had no desire to “get high” or “get drunk” at this time in my life. However it made me wonder why people would say that witches had never used substances in ritual.

I was aware that some Native American tribal traditions partook of Peyote or other substances as part of their ritual. It was a sacred practice and done to contact the deities and achieve a deep trance. I was also quite aware that in ancient Greece the Oracle of Delphi induced trance by breathing the vapors of the cave (which were hallucinogenic) and I had also heard that often times the wine drank during Hellennic rituals was laced with another substance to once again help achieve a deeper trance.

It seemed to me that if there were historical uses of substances in various cultures, why would witches be exempt from this practice? What was so wrong with using a substance blessed and connected to your Gods to not only connect with the Gods but with spirits as well? When I asked these questions it was often answered that “the experiences would not be genuine” or that “they shouldn’t be taken seriously”. I asked what made a substance trance so different from one gained by use of drumming, incense, or other practices? The answer was that the experience comes from with in and not from the substance.

My thinking was then: Wait what? Are you serious? Even if a person is using an entheogen in their ritual it’s not to “get high”. It’s to contact with deity and spirit. The tool of choice is the entheogen instead of or in addition to other “traditional” trance. The experience with the deity still would come from with in as it would be from the desire to connect that the bond was formed.

Entheogens is something I am still exploring. I typically use a smoke or a drink. Most commonly I use catnip. It has a nice relaxing sensation that helps me reach a deeper trance. The smoke is always blessed before I partake and I often take a “hit” as I praise my Gods. I often look at the smoke remaining in the room after an exhale and see symbols and get messages from the Gods that way.

I haven’t tried to use an herbal tsine blend yet, but its something I probably will look into later on. I know that the use of substances in ritual is something of debate. I also know that the practice isn’t for every one. It helps me relax and focus to connect with deity, and in the end, isn’t that all that rituals are meant to do connect and celebrate deity?

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