13 Principles of Witchcraft

I’m going to kick it back a notch. I just got my own personal copy of Teaching Witchcraft and I’m itching to read the sections I didn’t get a copy of in class. Not to mention that I’m going out of town for a House Retreat with some of my favorite people in Illinois. So today I’m going to keep it simple and short.

I want to share a few really basic ideas that every practitioner of Witchcraft should understand. It kind of goes along with one of my earliest posts, but it’s a bit more in depth.

So here we go down the rabbit hole

13 Principles of Witchcraft.

  1. We practice rites to attune ourselves with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the phases of the Moon and the seasonal Quarters and Cross Quarters.
  1. We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibility toward the environment. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance offering fulfillment to life and consciousness within an evolutionary concept.
  1. We acknowledge a depth and power far greater than that apparent to the average person. Because it is far greater than ordinary, it is sometimes called supernatural, but we see it as lying within that which is naturally attainable by all.
  1. We conceive of the Creative Power in the Universe as manifesting through polarity – as masculine and feminine – and that this same Creative Power lies in all people, and functions through the interaction of the masculine and feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supportive to the other. We value sex as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energies available for use in magical practice and religious worship.
  1. We recognize both outer worlds and inner, or psychological, worlds sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconscious, Inner Planes, etc. – and we see in the interaction of these dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magical exercises. We neglect neither dimension for another, seeing all as necessary for our fulfillment.
  1. We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, respect those who share their greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have courageously given of themselves in leadership.
  1. We see religion, magic, and wisdom in living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it – a world view and philosophy of life which we identify as Witchcraft.
  1. Calling oneself “Witch” does not make a Witch – but neither does heredity itself, nor the collecting of titles, degrees, or initiations. A Witch seeks to control the forces within him/herself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well without harm to others, and in harmony with Nature.
  1. We believe in the affirmation and fulfillment of life in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness giving meaning to the Universe we know and our personal roles within it.
  1. Our only animosity toward Christianity, or any other religion or philosophy of life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be “the only way” and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of practice and belief.
  1. As Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various terms, nor the legitimacy of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present and our future.
  1. We do not accept the concept of absolute evil, nor do we worship any entity known as “Satan” or “the Devil”, as developed and defined by the Christian traditions. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor accept that personal benefit can be derived only by denial of another.
  1. We believe that we should seek, within Nature, that which is contributory to our health and well-being.

Also, this is essentially a repost. Please thank Pagan By Design for the repost. That is where I found my digital copy of it originally. I know this is something you can find on a lot of sites, but I still feel like it has a place here just in case you haven’t seen it before.

Anyway, have a great weekend

Blessed Be.

A God for Everyone

Seem to be running a bit behind this week. He’s Wednesday’s post.

So a few posts ago I wrote about the Goddess. We talked about her many forms and roles. Today we are going to take a look at the other side of the coin, the God.  As a counter part to the Goddess, the God tends to represent strength, vitality, and courage. The God is strong caring, loving, protective and proud.

The Horned God

This is the most primal image of the God. He is an anthropomorphic stag.  He is a sage and a mystic. He is the lover and a dreamer.  He has the agility and stamina of the stag as well. He is consort to the Goddess who granted people healthy babies and successful hunts.  He was the bringer of growth upon the earth.

He is also known as Cernunnos in Europe.  He was considered the personification of the rich soil, the turbulent sky and the rushing waters. Others called him the tall trees, the howl of the wolf and the soaring eagle.  To others he is known as Herne, though some doubt he was ever a deity to begin with.

The horned God is born of the virgin Goddess.  He has no father because he is his own father. Through the year he remains close to the Goddess and the seasons.  As she grows he eventually impregnates her and the cycle begins anew.

He represents the powerful and positive male influence in the world. He is purer than what we stereotypically consider masculine.  When a man strives to emulate the horned god, he allows himself to be wild and free, but not cruel. He is angry without violence and sexual without being coercive. The Horned God is spiritual without being chaste and able to truly love. He is an image of inner power.  He is the unified self where mind, body, and flesh are one.  He is not subservient to the Goddess, but equal.  He is both internal and external. He is accessible to both male and female.

The Green Man

The Green man is like the Mother Goddess. It’s an enduring archetype.  He is the cyclic flow of the cycles of nature. He is a part of everything in nature. He represents fortitude, resilience, fertility and luck. He is a connection to the deepest wisdoms of the Earth: The cycles of life and rebirth, and the living universe.

He appears as a man with leaves for hair and wearing a cloak of leaves. Often a beard of leaves and vines flow from his mouth.  You may have even seen him in some of the older churches or abbeys from the medieval era. He is often tucked away or hidden in small carvings on the ceiling or fountains.

He is the son of the Goddess, just like the horned God. He is a symbol of fertility and luck. He is Tammuz, Dionysus, and Cernunnos. In Rome, he is Bacchus, God of vegetation, wine and divine rapture.  He has many many names. In Arthurian legend he is the Green Knight that tormented Sir Gawain. Even today he is represents a line of canned and frozen veggies.  He’s still popular today as we begin to reconnect to the natural world.

The Oak and Holly King

These are two archetypes prevalent in Europe, particularly England.  They are twin Gods, two side of the same coin, who battle each other at Litha and Yule.  They battle over the Goddess. Each time one is ritually slain.  The one that dies lies there until the next battle where they do it all over again.  Two themes run through their story.  The first is the shift from winter to summer and back. The second is the ritualistic mating and sacrificial death of each in their season.

As we turn to winter the Holly king reigns. At Yule, the Oak king wins and summer comes back into bloom.  Each rules their respective season and brings the elements of that season. Then at Litha the Holy king wins and brings his season back.  Under each the Goddess is mated with and their seed is given.  As they age, they each give their strength back to the land and await their demise.

The Oak King represents innocence, growth and vitality.  The Holly king is the darksome king of the waning year. He represents the wisdom of age, the maturity of the season. They are gods of growth, sacrifice and rebirth.  Other gods of sacrifice and rebirth include Osiris, Tammuz, Balder and Jesus.

The Father or Wise Sage

Similar to the Crone is the Sage.  He is viewed as a creator, protector and teacher.  The Sage often sacrifices himself, or a part of himself, for mankind.  Cernunnos was bound to an oak tree in the woods. He was pierced with darts and his blood was spilled to nourish the ground. Odin was bound to the world tree, Yggdrasil. He hung there for twelve days.  He gave up his right eye so that man could learn about the runes.

Jesus was nailed to the cross, a sacrifice for the sins of his people.  The cross was a symbol or extension of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.  Shiva, beloved of Kali, sacrifices himself to hunger every year so that Kali’s wrath will not destroy the world.  Tyr, of Norse Mythology, gave his hand to Fenrir so that the world could know justice and order.

Not all wise sages sacrifice of themselves however. Zeus and Dagda never sacrificed anything. Regardless, the sage or teacher provides mankind with education and wisdom.  Anubis was the messenger of the Egyptian gods. He taught man about mummification. Ogoun, of Africa, taught the use of the forge.  Belinos, of the Celts, taught farming and animal husbandry.  Many of them are associated with sage, an herb known for supposedly bringing wisdom and insight to those who partake of it.

Sun and Moon Gods

Sun gods are well heard of in mythology. You may hear people speak of Apollo and Ra. Others include Savarog of Russia.  The sun god archetypes are almost universally regarded as beneficial. They are fathers, teachers, leaders, and muses of divine inspiration.  In the old times people recognized that without the sun all life would perish, so they were also revered as givers of life, fertility and creation.  They protected humanity while chasing the harshness of the darkness away each day.

The cultures who see the moon as masculine are generally nomadic.  Fishing and trading are generally their primary concerns.  In these cultures the moon is a protector, guide and guardian as they travel the land.  Chons of Egypt lost a game to Thoth, which caused him to lose his light, waxing and waning, only showing his true face once a month.  The Coyote, or trickster god of the Americas, stole a bag of dark crystals from the Great Mystery and blew them into the heavens. This supposedly created the stars that light the night sky.  Or there is Metzli, of Central America, who grows from a butterfly cocoon.  Moon Gods represent navigation or treachery and deception, like their ever changing face.

Trickster Gods

Not all of the divine is necessarily friendly to humanity.  Some have lessons to teach while others are just cruel for the sake of their own amusement.  Nearly every culture has some sort of trickster God.  Sometimes they double as messengers to the Gods. For example, Hermes is considered a trickster God. Cupid is another. Coyote, leads men astray to let them learn from their own mistakes. Or Loki of Norse mythology who tricks both man and God alike.  Even China has Twen Change, God of Mischief and Inspiration.

To note they are often the patron Gods of fools, liars, lawyers, and politicians.

Death Gods

Death Gods are a creature unto themselves. They tend to represent either one or both of two concepts.  They either rule over the judgement or progress of the soul after death or they represent the trauma and horrors of death.  Gods representing the judgement variety are Osiris and Jehovah. In the larger category are those representing the terror of death.  Ahriman of Persia is the prince of demons. Arawn is the Celtic God of death and war.

The Hero

Sometimes it’s hard to tell where the myth of a God and the myth of a hero begin. Some men were born mortal and were turned into Gods. Generally the hero is a man who has God like powers and uses them to help others.  Due to their endeavors they are eventually elevated to God status.  Hercules, King Arthur, and Cu Chulainn are all examples of the hero archetype. While some discount this section, there are those who do worship these characters of mythology.  However, they do bridge the gap between the human and the divine.

The hero goes on valiant quests.  These are stories that have been passed down orally. Some of them are even based on real events.  Among the stories of King Arthur, there is the search for Mabon, a child God that has gone missing.  It is the child of the Lady of Winter Frost. Assisted by symbolic animals, at Yule, the return of the child brings the light back to the land. Also, did you know that the twelve labors of Hercules represent the twelve zodiac signs as well as the seasons of the year?

Conclusion

There are many faces to the God. In a way is he like a man. His archetypes are generally more straight forward and to the point. And if you noticed there is a lot more overlap here than there is in the Goddess categories. There are some Gods that fit all the categories or at least three of them. Think back to Cernunnos.

Hope you have a blessed weekend.

Blessed Be.

Building You

At some point we all grow up. We figure out at least some idea of who we want to be and what we would like to become. As we grow that image may change and evolve based on realistic expectations and goals, but we know (or at least should know) ourselves well enough to be able to choose those dreams and expectations.

It is kind of like building a house. We have the brick and mortar, our genetics and societal influences, which include, school, parents, family, peers, community and the society projected through social media.  Ideally, we would like to think that every project uses the highest quality of supplies and that all the supplies should complement each other.  We want things to happen on schedule and, in the end, have a well constructed house that is strong and able to weather the world.

However, we know that life isn’t that easy. Throughout our lives there will be communication errors. Things may not get completed on time, if ever.  When there is a problem in our growth something follows us on into our adulthood. They may be fears, insecurities, or even emotional trauma.

If we grew up with a good construction we would love ourselves and be true to ourselves. But in this world, we know that isn’t often the case. We all have problems because our parents couldn’t be perfect and neither can we.  We are the only ones who can love ourselves unconditionally in the truest sense of the word because we are the person living in this body.

Many of us develop a false self or a mask that we present to the world.  In the view of our construction analogy think of it as a façade put over a problem spot in the house.  A little hole in our perception of ourselves can, over time and without treatment, cause the whole thing to fall apart.

This false self can be brought on by any of the problems mentioned in the last two posts, leading us to have too narrow of a view of success or to put ourselves down.  We destroy ourselves when we value results over effort, demand perfection, and define our self-esteem by success or failure.  These are some of the things that drive us to put on the mask.  Others are trauma perceived to be caused by our loved ones; sexual abuse or physical abuse. The list can go on and on. What triggers one person to start to tear down their foundation won’t be the same trigger for another.

The false self is greedy. It expects way too much of us and always wants more and more, until we collapse.  Right now our society pushes us towards a false ideal of what we should be and this often harms us.  We think we have to be a certain way to be happy.  This internalizes powerful negative messages.  It doesn’t help that society’s unhealthy expectations are the hardest to overcome.

Red Flags of the False Self

1. Self-hate. When we self-hate we say that we don’t like (insert trait here) about ourselves or that we are too stupid. We tell ourselves that we cannot do anything right. It’s very depressing and often feels hopeless. It’s a battle I’ve had with myself every day due to the bullying I faced in elementary.

2. Self-punishment. To reconcile self-hate, we convince ourselves that we deserve it. Yet another vicious cycle. You may withhold pleasurable experiences thinking that you don’t deserve them. You may not enjoy the things that you used to. You may be really depressed or really angry.  We are often preempting a punishment that we didn’t deserve in the first place.  This also gives us a false sense of control, which we desire when we are having inner conflict.

3. Self-destruction. When punishing yourself and hating yourself doesn’t work, humans often seek a way to escape themselves. This may come in the form of cutting, substance abuse, or eating disorders. Once again they give a semblance of control over the issue. All of these are issues that should cause you to seek help before you seriously harm yourself. Remember as a pagan that we seek to harm none, including ourselves, and that our body is our temple.

How to Build Your True Self

Now I can’t tell you exactly how to fix your problems.  Part of that is self-reflection and part of it may require health professionals. It just depends on what issues you are having. I may have a psychology degree, but I don’t claim to be an expert on anything.  Even I have needed help on occasion to overcome the demons of my past that have created my false self.  Even I’m still in the process of dismantling years of damage.  That’s why I felt the need to share this with you.  These concepts from Positive Pushing resonate with my childhood and through it I’m learning ways to prevent my child from facing the same problems. I’m also learning how to fix some of my own.

1. Know Yourself. This goes back to the pagan concept of to know, to dare, to will, to be silent. To know is to know yourself. It also pertains to knowledge and a few other things, but for our purposes here, it is to know yourself. One way you can do this is to reflect on your day.  Are there things you have done that didn’t feel right or made you feel off? Or do you ever feel uneasy with your decisions? Better yet, do you base your decisions on what makes you most comfortable in a group? In the end you have to make the decisions that make you feel okay and not worry as much about everyone else.

For example, one time in college I let a teacher push me around when he didn’t want to do his job and answer my questions. He was a tough guy and had a reputation for taking sexual favors from students and grading harshly just because he was an old curmudgeon.  I didn’t want to push back or defend myself for fear of making it worse. He had a reputation for that as well.

By the end of the semester I was failing. I was telling another teacher about it and they reminded me that I always stand up for myself and that they were surprised I hadn’t gone to the dean or said some fairly awful things to him. Among the teachers I had a reputation for being beyond brutally honest to the point of annoyance (What can I say, I’m a rebel born and raised). I tried to get his help, but it was too late and he refused. He even locked his door on me. I took the final anyway and was ready to turn in my test without a word when he decided to say the following “I would have helped you if I thought it was worth my time.

I went off. I completely lost it. I told that man off three weeks from Tuesday and just reamed him to heck and back. He deserved it and was in shock. I had to have another teacher to get him to stop following me demanding an apology, but in that moment I was more true to myself than I had been that entire semester and I realized that I had suffered, and so had my grades, for not insisting that he do his job.  Luckily the next semester he went on sabbatical and I had a teacher who was amazing.

But know yourself, so you don’t end up harming yourself with your false mask.

2. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses. You have to embrace them before you can change or improve them. Own who you are. It may mean you have to walk to the beat of your own drum, but that’s okay, the world needs a bit of variety. If everything was vanilla, life would be boring.

3. Reject unrealistic expectations of society. It is way easier said than done and it’s not something that will happen overnight. It takes one baby step in the right direction to be able to build the strength to take that next step.

4. You may have to reteach yourself to evaluate the content surrounding your life. Do you watch a lot of negative things? Work on pushing that negativity out of your life. Kick the habit because it will only feed your problem, not your solution. If that means looking for alternative news sources that highlight the good, instead of mostly just the bad, then do that. If it means cutting out negative influences in your life, then pull out the scissors.

5. Wage war against the false self. Marshal yourself with people who share the perspective of your true self. Find people who are willing to fight beside you and help you overcome the obstacles in your life. Heck, pray to Ganesha if you need to. He is all about teaching you lessons and helping you to overcome obstacles.

6. Try to be a role model in society. Remember that what you put out there is going to affect someone else and that may eventually come back to affect you. It’s the rule of three.

A few final tips to you

  1. Negativity breeds negativity.
  2. Don’t throw stones from a glass house. Essentially don’t disparage others when you are struggling with the same or similar issues. This only breeds distrust.
  3. Be careful who, when and how you criticize. You want to get help and help others. Being too critical only breeds defensiveness.
  4. If you’re trying to help someone else don’t lecture any more than you have to. No one wants to be lectured like a child and it only makes you and them more resistant to change.
  5. Low expectations breed low performance.
  6. Lack of faith creates insecurity.
  7. Yoda said: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” While not exactly 100 percent true in every case, anger can lead to fear and fear can lead you down a dark path. See this interesting blog post (add link http://realitysandwich.com/220631/wrong-yoda-was-the-force-of-fear/)

On the other side of the coin

  1. Positive thinking brings more positivity to our lives.
  2. Positive expectations lead to fruitful achievement.
  3. Love breeds trust.
  4. Affirmation of the true self motivates us to continue growing.
  5. Success breeds confidence.
  6. Being involved leads to learning something.
  7. Faith breeds security.

Loving Your-SELF-esteem

Today I want to talk about love in relation to self-esteem. I know this is a run-off from the last post, but I really do believe that is important for pagans to both understand the craft and themselves.  Without an intimate understanding of ourselves, we miss out on growth opportunities. Without looking at our own past, we make the same mistakes. Without understanding the craft, we take the risk of harming ourselves or others (a big no no) and finally, without understanding the history of the craft, we are doomed to make the same mistakes as our predecessors.

First, I want to ask you two questions:

One, is there really such a thing as unconditional love?

Two, is there a right or good way to practice conditional love?

Love is the word of the day. It’s important to us all, but is there really such a thing as unconditional love or should we be using another word.  Every religion says something about love, from love thy neighbor to, technically, do no harm, which is love for your fellow man.   The idea is that either we should love ourselves or we should love our children unconditionally, but that’s a lot harder than it sounds.

So unconditional love was big in the sixties, but what is it really? Well it started in the post war era amidst an air of rigidity in our culture.  Unfortunately our society went too far and we became a society that showered love despite the consequences of negative actions.  Which begs the question: Does unconditional love exist?

The answer?  Theoretically yes, in working theory, no.  Yes, we love our children and should love ourselves no matter what, but the plain truth is that there are moments that we withdraw our love due to anger, frustration, sadness, or any other range of emotions. These are temporary situations, or at least they should be if you are a mature adult.  In reality, we constantly use love or its withholding to punish and reward the behaviors of others.

Think of it this way. Have you ever withheld sex from a partner because you were mad? You’ve shown conditional love. Have you ever refused to hold or talk to someone (your child or otherwise)? You’ve participated in conditional love. There are a million unintentional ways to do it, but many of us do, even temporarily, put conditions on our love. Some would call this a matter of semantics; I call it a harsh truth.

There are even those who claim that this has caused a moral deficit in our society (See Positive Pushing). I hate to admit it, but conditional love was a way that parents could control their children. Now, by conditional love, I’m not saying that we’re ignoring our children or others in our lives; I’m merely referring to those moments of extreme emotion in which we withdraw to either intentionally or unintentionally harm others in our lives. The restriction of sex is intentional, whereas saying something in haste and then kicking yourself for it later, often isn’t.

However, conditional love isn’t a walk in the park, or a perfect solution either.  There are conditions on love that are damaging. Some so serious that they could be considered abuse. The ever popular flavor since the eighties has been achievement, which caused self-esteem to be related to what we accomplished, instead of who we are as individuals.

This causes us to become disconnected from who we are, which is not a good thing for a pagan.  One of the many, for lack of a better term, doctrines, of paganism is to know, to dare, to will, and to keep silent. While we will discuss the meaning of this in a future post, I will explain one aspect of it. To know is not only to understand or to hold knowledge. It is also to know yourself. There are many who consider this a pillar of our faith.  Knowing ourselves is as important as understanding the components of a spell, or knowing our history.

The problem has never been unconditional love (as there really is no such thing), but the wrong conditions on love.  We should never use achievement as a condition for love because it teaches our children and those around us, that success and failure dictate the love they will receive.  No one in our lives should be afraid that their achievements will dictate our love from them.

For example, how many times have you heard of someone who feels that they have failed their family if they don’t keep this job or don’t maintain their family’s lifestyle?  Many of these people may be afraid that they love they receive from their family is conditional on the success of that endeavor, whether or not that is the reality.

On the other hand, to teach social morals, it is more acceptable to momentarily show conditional love when a child misbehaves.  There has to be that moment of realizing that they have done something wrong, or the feeling of momentarily losing love, to teach them that their actions are inappropriate.  This moment is one way in which society internalizes social norms.  Without this feeling of shame or fear of loss, we would never learn moral or social codes and rules.

How to Avoid Negative Conditional Love

1. Don’t get too involved in your achievements or the achievements of others. That isn’t the whole of any of us, just a part. This is particularly true in regards to our children; we never want them to feel that their achievement is what invokes our love. When we do this, we create a perception of conditional love, whether intentional or not. We should never withdraw emotional support, physical contact, and encouragement when someone faces failure. Instead we should encourage them to grow and try again.

2. Don’t judge yourself too harshly. Achievement is good, but it should not define our lives or how we perceive others. We have to give ourselves the same encouragement and love that we should be giving others when they fail. Failure is a part of life and a tool for growth. Use it.

3. Love yourself. This goes back to the last post. Now is the time to work on it. Do some soul searching and even seek professional help if you need to. You have to find satisfaction in what you do achieve. Don’t keep dangling the carrot.  No one is perfect. Not you. Not your lover. Not your child. No one is perfect.

4. Don’t be a human doing. Look at your self-esteem and make sure that is has connection to other parts of your life. Are you a good person? Not just how much have you achieved. This is a hard one in our society, which is so driven by achievement. I suffer with this one every day because the school I went to stressed success over nearly everything else. If you or someone you know is a human doing, you most likely have a list and your day is not complete or successful until you’ve checked off every single thing on it. With a human doing, failure is not acceptable and causes you great pain.

5. Unhealthy expectations. These can come from within yourself, as with a human doing, or from outside of yourself. This can harm our self-esteem or make us feel unloved. We have to realize that goals are not absolutes to be happy.  Expectations are the assumptions that something will be achieved and are sometimes not feasible. We have to evaluate our goals and make sure that they are reasonable, and possible. I’m not saying don’t reach for the stars, but realize that you may never touch the star itself.

Expectations are all or nothing.  While it is all right to hold yourself up to the expectation that you will be kind, considerate, responsible, hard working, etc., we can’t be too harsh on ourselves when we fail. On the other hand, it is unhealthy for me to expect that I will get so many thousands of hits on my blog today or that I will become rich. Those are nice aspirations, but we cannot expect them to happen. The point is to realize the difference between goals and expectations and then evaluate our own and to help others do the same.  If you want to learn more about unhealthy expectations, read Positive Pushing. It may be a parent’s book, but its spot on.

6. Accept the things that you cannot control. Yes, it’s an AA phrase, but it’s really true of anyone. There are things that we cannot control that drive us mad, but we still have to accept them. If we don’t, we take the risk of creating unrealistic expectations of ourselves or others.

7. Think about what your expectations, goals and conditions relate to in terms of your values and what is important to you. You might find that an expectation is not as important as a moral or standard you have for yourself as a human being.

Take a moment and think about what is important to you? Are you a human doing or a human being? Is achievement what you base your self-worth on or on what do you place that worth? Do you have unrealistic expectations?

Think about these things as you go about your day. Maybe you’ll find that some of the stress and distress you place on yourself and others is unnecessary.

Blessed Be.

Self Esteem and the Craft

I started working on this post for my parenting blog, but I found so many over laps to things that we forget as adult pagans. Being comfortable in ourselves is just as important as any lesson you can learn about the Goddess and the theories behind the religion. So I’m going to do a little overlap here.

The book I’m reading is called Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child.  As I noted in the original post (which will post on my other blog Mama in they Wyrd Wednesday), I really found bits and pieces of myself in this first chapter so far. Things that I struggle with myself and it’s really interesting to see where some of those faults may come from.

Aspects of Self Esteem

  1. Security and Competence

All humans need to feel loved. We need to feel important and needed. It’s like a security blanket. We feel depressed when we don’t have a purpose or aren’t doing as well as we had hoped. My years since college have been rife with moments that made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough or I wasn’t good enough.

Second, we need to feel some sort of mastery over some part of our lives. When we are young this is learning and developing through milestones, but as we get older, it gets tougher to figure out where we can play master in our lives.  For some people it is doing well at their jobs while for others, they are the masters of their own home. Without a sense of mastery in our lives, we can feel a little lost.

I personally remember several times in my life when I had no control over what was going on. It was frustrating because I was an adult or near adult age and wanted that power. Back then I would have run for a spell or ritual, but you know what, it wasn’t always the best answer.

Often our poor choices are the results of insecurities, which are related to our self-esteem. Yes, we use magick, but should we always use it? Should we try to master that particular aspect of our lives, or is there a reason for what we are going through. These are all things that we need to look at as we think about performing rituals, spells, or even praying for things to get better. Always remember….be careful what you wish for. Sometimes it might not be what you need or even really want.

We all want to win, but sometimes we have to lose for the game to be worth playing. If everything came easily, life would be boring and lifeless. So we have to master ourselves and eventually muster our self-esteem so that we can be the best versions of ourselves and do what’s best in our lives.

I know…..easier said than done.

So how do we develop competency and security as adults? It’s much harder than when we were little and had our parents to do it for us.  We can’t always expect someone other than our parents to have unconditional love for us, and that is how those who have it, gained it as children.  So we have to love ourselves. We have to forgive ourselves and remember that at the end of the day we aren’t as bad off as we could be.

Now, I don’t know how to help you if you have issues with self-love. I have a BA in Psych, but that isn’t a Masters or a PHD. I’m not qualified. So if you feel that you have issues with self-love, it may be time to find some help. That’s not me trying to be mean, but if you can’t love yourself at the end of the day then you have to find something, someone, or help to find your way to loving you.  I know I have my off days and even I need a little professional help sometimes. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Now, that I’m off the mini soap box let’s get back to it. The second thing we have to do to foster security and competency within ourselves is to let loose. We have to let ourselves take some risks and make some mistakes.  We need to know that we can push past the boundaries that we have set for ourselves or that society has set. I’m not saying rob a bank or do something stupid, but push yourself out of your comfort zone.

It may be scary, but it might be freeing as well and the more you do it the more you may realize that making a minor mistake isn’t such a big deal. And please, take your risks on your own time, just as a precaution. You don’t want to mess up your job or your personal life trying to foster a component of self-esteem within yourself.  And remember, while boundaries are needed to keep the world from being too overwhelming, if you limit your ability to take risks, you limit and make your world smaller.

Belief is another important aspect of competence and security.  We have to believe in ourselves and our abilities.  Anyone who calls themselves pagan should understand the power in those words. Ever done a halfhearted spell that made you nervous? It didn’t work at best and came out muddled at worst. Why? Because you didn’t really believe in it or knew it shouldn’t come to pass.  Everything we do is about belief, particularly belief in ourselves.

Witches and pagans believe in all sorts of things that most of the world cannot see or even contemplate as real. We believe in spirits, powers, spells, magick, and if we look hard enough we can even make connections between our beliefs and science…but that’s a message for another day.  The point is that we are power and will to effect changes in our lives because of our belief….and part of that belief stems from a healthy dose of self-esteem.

I think Henry Ford said it best “If you do or don’t think you can do something….you’re right.”

And we have to remember that we get out of life what we put into it.  While our children are learning the consequences of their actions, we have to realize that sometimes the consequences are worth the actions. For example, to build ourselves up, we have to be able to do things that build self-esteem, even if they scare us.

Often we fear consequences that put us out of our comfort zone, but part of being an adult is doing things that we are uncomfortable with. It’s amazing that where kids have to learn nearly the exact opposite, we have to make sure that we retain some of their youthful knowledge. We cannot allow ourselves to become so indoctrinated with societal norms that we forget to take a little risk here and there even when we know the consequences.

Going back to what you put into life, you get back. Think of the rule of three.  All the good you do comes back to you. Maybe not three times more, but you get back what you put in at the very least. The same thing goes for when we fail to take a risk that might better us.  We see a door close on an opportunity to grow within ourselves.

If you put out positivity and hope, it comes back into your life. No one else can fix us for us. We have to do it ourselves and the first step is positivity. We have to believe that we can fix it and then start doing things that work towards that end. And what those actions are will be different for every individual because the God and Goddess made each of us unique.

Self Reflection

This is a hard thing to do, even if you have good self-esteem. None of us want to see the dark in us. I remember talking about this in my lessons with Lady G. She told us how important it was to recognize the dark along with the light.  I remember her telling us about someone who left the class because they did not want to see the “darkness” in the craft. They wanted to be what most hereditary witches would call “fluffy bunnies”, seeing nothing but the good that could come from the craft.

Ignoring the bad in something you love can come back to bite you and so can ignoring the bad aspects of yourself.  I know it’s hard. I struggle with it every day and some days I fail….miserably. But we have to remember that the big picture of who we want to be is more important than a few mistakes.  In the long run it will make us more successful in our personal endeavors.

If you struggle with self-reflection now is as good a time to work on it as any. If you have kids they will learn from your example and even if you don’t, it can affect you as a teacher, a mentor, a friend, and just as a person in general.  We have to be able to admit our mistakes to others and ourselves if we want to become our best selves.  It’s not only mature, but I think it’s what the God and Goddess hope for us. They don’t want us to hurt others and often, when we lie about our own imperfections, feelings get hurt even if they are our own and that’s just bad karma.

So here are a few words of advice for all of us who are struggling…..

  1. Let your attitude determine your achievement. Not the other way around.
  2. Never be afraid to be a kid….have fun (This goes for adults too).
  3. Don’t let self-esteem get mixed up in achievements. Achievements aren’t your life in a nutshell.
  4. Don’t run away from yourself, embrace the good, the bad, and the quirky.
  5. Don’t ignore obstacles, overcome them.
  6. Confidence is born of patience and experience
  7. Learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes (easier said than done).
  8. Get into the process, not the result.
  9. Doubt is the number one cause of poor achievement. (If you don’t believe me listen to the Ford quote above).
  10. Follow your dreams and enjoy the trip.

If you’d like to read this from a parenting perspective see my post Esteem and Weekly Reading in my pagan parenting blog, Mama in the Wyrd.

A Goddess for Everyone

Running a bit late with this one. Had a rough day with the wee one. We had shots and blood taken today. Anyway, here’s Monday’s post enjoy.

Today I want to talk about the many faces of the Goddess. We’ve talked about how Gods are born and the creation myths attached to them, but we haven’t talked about the deities themselves.  Some Goddesses are related to protection, fertility, love, death, or even money. Others are bound to the earth.  Some are mother Goddesses, while others are maidens, crones, or even warrior Goddesses.

As a note there are many Goddesses that fit multiple categories.

So let’s take a look at the Goddess in her many forms.

The Earth Mother

This is the Goddess at her most primal.  In this form the Goddess is the living Earth. She is not only our mother, but our protector and provider. She gives us everything from the air we breathe to the food we eat in this form.  She is the embodiment of everything feminine.  She is even called the womb in some instances.  She is all knowing, caring, and loving. She is a teacher. She is also both a creator and a destructive force of nature.

People who focus on the Earth mother often describe the Earth as the body of the Goddess. The rivers are her veins, the weather is her nervous system, both nourishing us and destroying us as needed. There are even some mounds in Europe that are said to represent her womb or breast, such as Salisbury Hill. When we pollute or strip her of her resources, we harm her.  She is the ultimate immanent deity.  She is a part of us and we are a part of her.

She is often pictured as a naked rotund woman, with leaves and vines for hair.

The Triple Goddess

The triple Goddess is a three part Goddess. She is comprised of the Maiden, Mother, and Crone.  She is often depicted changing with the cycles of the moon.  The Maiden is the start of the cycle.  The Mother is the bright of the moon, and finally, the Crone is the waning of the moon.

The Maiden

The maiden is the embodiment of youth, vitality, sexuality, innocence, and purity.  She is the virgin Goddess.  She is young. She is the idealist.  She still remains hopeful.  Many young women and teens relate to the maiden.  She is often impulsive and is still the dreamer.  While there are many maiden Goddesses some of the better known are Persephone (Greek Goddess of Youth), Eir (Scandinavian Goddess of Mercy), Irdlirvirisissong (Inuit Laughing Goddess of the Northern Lights).

As a side note….virgin in this sense do not mean sexually pure. Originally the term virgin referred to a woman who was complete within herself.  (add link http://www.topix.com/forum/afam/TKOGRLKVQPTAPMJSC) This could reference a woman who has never birthed children or a girl who has never been married.  The Maiden Goddess is represented as a young woman who is often eager and flirtatious.

The Mother

The mother is the middle ground in a woman’s life.  She is the empowerment of the full moon. She is wise and protective.  She is the caring mother, the nurturing aspect, and joyful in her roles.  She is considered the representation of female maturity. The mother knows the ways of the world and the joys of childbirth.  She understands the delight and frustration of raising children and the sorrow of letting them go as they leave the nest.

Images of the Mother Goddess include: Demeter (Greek) and Eko obasi, the pregnant tortoise Goddess of West Africa.  Eve from the bible has also been considered a part of this category by some.

The Crone

The crone is the final face of the Goddess and the final face of humanity. She is the old wise woman, the grandmother, and sometimes the hag.  She can be cruel or loving. She can no longer bear children. The crone has experienced the wonders of the world, both happy and sad.  The crone lives to share her wisdom with the world.  She cannot be fooled and recognizes all falsehoods as she has been around long enough to see it all.

Some believe that she knows the bitter taste of death and others call her the reaper.  She can be either the bringer of death and solace or the bringer of wisdom. Examples of the crone include Hecate (Greek), Medusa (African mythology), and Perkuna, the Armenian Goddess of Thunder who shares her wisdom through her tears.

Love and Fertility Goddesses

Once you have covered the first two categories, we begin to see a lot of overlap in roles. As noted at the beginning, there is a lot of overlap in the categories. For example, Aphrodite can be represented as a maiden in some stories, while she is a nurturing mother in others. She is also a fertility, lust, sexuality, and passion Goddess. Freya (my daughter’s name sake) is another one who fits multiple categories. She is Goddess of love, fertility, death, war, beauty, and sexuality.

The point I want to make here is that nearly all of the love and fertility Goddesses represent duality. They give love, but can be harsh when scorned by others.  They can fill your womb and bring plentiful crops or they can bring you heartbreak and loneliness.

Moon and Sun Goddess

These are Goddesses that dominate the skies.  It really is no wonder that there are so many sun and moon deities. Both are so important to our well-being. Both celestial objects bring light into our world.  Nor is it any wonder that one is often depicted as God while the other is called Goddess. Now in most western cultures, the sun is the God while the moon is the Goddess, but that isn’t always so.  The Goddess as the sun is known more in the East and South, but the God as the moon is relatively rare. There are a few, but that is a discussion for yet another post.

The moon in Goddess mythology has come be perceived as connected to death and rebirth.  Much of this relates to the concepts of the triple Goddess, but there are other cultural reasons.  The first of these is rather obvious. They cycle of the moon can be related to a woman’s monthly cycle and even this can be translated into death and rebirth.  The menses was once referred to as the “water of death from the portal of life” according to Teaching Witchcraft (for any new readers that is the book most of these lessons are based on) .  So, based on that, it is easy to understand how the moon could be recognized as a representation of death and renewal. The Morrigan (Celtic triple Goddess), Hecate (Greek triple Goddess), and Breksta of Lithuania are all examples of this category.

While sun Goddesses are rare in Europe they are fairly common in many other parts of the world. In Japan, Amaterasu is a major figure of the pantheon.  In Egypt Sekhmet and Hathor are Goddesses of the sun. Amaterasu represents life, warmth, security and vitality. She is also the Goddess of divine inspiration.  In Egypt they represent the protective lioness, the furious mother.  Finally, there is the triple sun Goddess Brigit (Celtic), with her three faces of morning, noon and dusk. She is the principal Goddess of the Celts. She is a mother, teacher, and lover who gave fire to her people.

The Warrior Goddess

This has to be one of my favorite categories. There’s a reason my daughter is named Freya. That particular warrior Goddess just fits me so well. She is the proud warrior, strong and unafraid. She is the mother defending others under her wing.  The Valkyries and the Greek Amazon women define the Warrior Goddess archetype.  They are sensual. They are fierce. They are proud and they are defiant.  Artemis (Greek) is a prime example.  She is the strong warrior wielding a bow and arrow and yet she is also the maiden, delicate and full of mystery.  She is female potential and ability personified.

As a side note, there are some who believe that this role should be considered a fourth aspect of the triple Goddess lying somewhere between the maiden and the mother. In this case she is a defiant, strong willed woman capable of both great fury and great passion.  She would be a force to be reckoned with due to her drive and determination. This would represent the woman who is no longer a child, but is not ready to have a child of her own.

The Goddess of Death

While many view death as finality (Just imagine Kali with her skull necklace and eyes of fury here) it is often not the case with most Goddesses of death.  While Kali is widely recognized as a Goddess of death and terror, she is revered in Indian culture as a symbol of death and rebirth. Yes there is an end, but the end is just the beginning of something new. It’s like the death card in tarot. The same can be said of the Goddess Erishkagel who is seen taking in souls and returning them to the Earth to begin anew.  The Goddess of death is often similar to the crone.  She brings wisdom and guidance while carrying you through the night and into the next day.

All Together Now

No matter what face the Goddess takes in your life, of which role appeals to you, there are many types of Goddesses.  A Goddess for every personality and for every need. It is important to understand these roles and how they relate to our lives. I hope that you can now see the different archetypes when you read about a new Goddess.

While I plan on doing a similar post for the God, I’m going to take a break here to share some lessons I’m learning from my parenting blog.  Right now I’m reading a book called Positive Pushing and normally I don’t connect to these types of books, but I’m finding a lot of my past and a bit of my present in its pages. So I thought we might talk a little bit about the importance of self-esteem in a witch, and how we can foster those skills within ourselves so that we can be better witches and make wiser decisions.

Creation Myths and Theaology

Aside from basic terminology and the different little components (or facets) that make up religion, there is also the way that man perceives creation.  This time I want to take a look at the very beginning and examine how creation myths help us understand the world and religion.

Creation Myths

Every culture or religion has their own creation myth.  It helps us to explain where we come from. We’re going to look at just a few as we explore their role in our understanding of religion. I’ll try to keep it brief and summarize.

  1. I remember growing up that in Christianity, everything began as the Word and the Word was God and from him sprang all creation over six days of work and one of rest. A story most of us know very well.
  2. Then in middle school we studied Greek mythos where I learned that the world began with Chaos, the dark and formless. From Chaos grew Gaia, the mother and from them sprang night and water. Then the gods spring up through a series of events from there.
  3. In Hindu mythos, the universe began in chaos and existed as such until Vishnu (formed from will) separated the heavens from the Earth’s body and as the sun rose from a great pillar at the navel of the world the cosmos was divided into three parts. They were the Earth below, the Heavens above, and the Air between. And from there it goes on.
  4. In Japan, three nameless beings rise from the body of a carp that slept in an ocean of chaos. Those three entities gave birth to the first Gods and Goddesses, including Izanagi and Izanami. They came from the heavens on a rainbow. The brother formed the sea and land from his spear.
  5. Navaho legend tells us that there was only darkness and silence, but far off in the north there was a little cloud that sought out light. This cloud discovered a dark cloud the keeper of secrets. They fought and the rains fell, which opened up a hole in the ground from which the animals sprang. The small cloud gave them the task of finding happiness and peace which is why all animals wander.

It goes on and on. Tibetan myth claims the world started as an egg. The Egyptian’s story starts with a scarab beetle and the Goddess Nut.

A Pagan Creation Myth

Now, you might say that pagans use the deities from all these other traditions so how can they have their own myth? Well just as the tradition was passed by word of mouth so were stories of how the God and Goddess created and nurtured the Earth. Here is an example from Teaching Witchcraft with only a few minor edits to make it family friendly.

“Before space and before time, there was just the void, dark and shapeless. Into the Void came the Goddess, manifesting herself from beyond Eternity. She created herself in the Void, and was the essence of love. The Goddess, whose name is ever known yet unknown, saw her own reflection against the great mirror of space, and fell in love with the image. Focusing on the image, she became aware of the feeling of loneliness.  She used her energy to draw her reflection into reality, and then one Goddess was two equal, but opposite parts.

She made love to herself and the explosion of their union was the spark of creation. All the stars exploded from their energy, and all the matter of the Universe. Galaxies spun away on gossamer strands of reality. But in the force of the eruption, the Reflection flew away from the Goddess. As she drifted further, she began to change.  She gradually became more masculine, and when she finally returned to herself, she was in masculine form.

As the newborn God circled the Goddess, he shifted his form. He was the Blue God, the force of infinite love. Then he was the Green God, the force of infinite growth. Then he was the Dark God, the force of infinite Death and Rebirth. The Goddess saw the many faces of her Brother-Lover-Son, and loved them all. And together, they gave order to the matter of the Universe and formed the patterns of the stars and the cycles of the seasons.

They walked upon the lands of the earth, and swam in the waters, and made love. From her Womb came the fountain of all life. And since all things came from the Goddess, all living things carry within them her spark, the ability to continue breeding and growing.

All began in love, all seek to return to love. Love is the law, the teacher of wisdom, and the great revealer of mysteries.

So who was right?

The answer is that there is no right or wrong answer. These are all just analogies or symbols of meaning to help us understand the beginning. It was not a literal seven days of creation in Christianity.  They are representations to help us understand hierarchy of importance.  All of the creation myths have several things in common. The Universe generally starts as one big dark place and from it springs one being or another.  Then from there the world further divides into more specific parts. These myths were meant to be used as lessons to understand what was once unknowable and today they still help us grasp these concepts before we’re old enough to understand deeper realities including scientific fact.  In the end, you have to come to your own conclusions concerning what is what.

God and Goddess Origin Myths

While all these myths vary greatly, the myths concerning the creation of the Gods all tend to follow along similar lines.  You will find that their birth usually reflects some aspect of their roles in the world.  This lesson identifies five distinct origin myths of the Gods.  They are anthropomorphic birth, astral birth, elemental, extraction birth, and parthenogenic birth. Gods actually born from a physical union of mother and father are not as common as these options.

Let’s look at these a little closer

Anthropomorphic birth: This is where a God is born from an animal. It may have its features or some of the animal’s abilities.  For example Mehuret, provider Goddess of Egypt, was born from a cow. She has a cow’s head and several bosoms. Vasila, a Goddess from Russian myth, is a protector of horses who has a horse’s head.  They either govern something that animal symbolizes or share a power or ability special to the animal.

Astral birth: These Gods are born from the cosmos and tend to govern the stars, cosmos, heavens, etc. Gaia, the Greek mother Goddess, was born from the stars.  Aditi, of the Hindu faith, was born from the void and willed herself into being.  Ra, an Egyptian God, formed himself from sunlight when his mother was not looking and he is a sun God.

Elemental birth: These are deities that govern the elements to which they are tied or born from.  There is Pele, a Hawaiian fire God who was born from a volcano.  Aphrodite was born of sea foam and in Greek philosophy the sea was a representation of emotions.  And my favorite example, Iwa-Naga-Hima, of Japanese myth, was a protector of sailors. He was born from a stone and protected ships from crashing into the rocks along the shore.

Extraction Birth:  There are many violent and bloody extraction births among the annals of mythology.  Usually, they involve Gods or Goddesses who are associated with death and rebirth.  Kali is a great example.  She was born from a cut to the head during a warrior’s battle with demons.  In Greek myth, Zeus was stricken with a headache before Athena sprang from his head.

While I eventually want to do an entire article on this, I want to share something I learned during my own studies at this point. One might ask how Athena is related to death and rebirth. Well, Gods and Goddesses have been acquired from other religions and cultures as time has gone on.  Athena actually started out as part of an African triple Goddess. She was the Maiden and Medusa was the Crone.  See the links below for further information.

http://www.dailyoffbeat.com/articles/6243/20150203/ancient-urban-mythology-medusa.htm

http://shedrums.com/Medusa.htm

https://goddessinspired.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/medusa-the-libyan-dark-moon-serpent-goddess/

Parthenogenic birth: This is a birth without fertilization.  Of course, the most famous is Jesus.  Others include Amaterasu, who was born from only her father.  There are others, but I think these examples suffice.

Theology and Reality

Theaology and Theology are two different beasts. Theology is the study of religion, and mostly from a masculine viewpoint, while Theaology is the study of the whole of spirituality. This includes the masculine and feminine aspects.

The Gods are more than just a way of explaining creation.  They are more than just a way to explain the seasons, the cycles of the universe, and the habits of animals.  The Gods play a great role in man’s awareness of the world around him. They allow man to find a way to play an active role in their own stories and the world around them.  In some cases it has inflated our self-importance, a separation of our species from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Not only are we animals ourselves, but we are a part of the whole.  We have the primal nature of the beast, but we do have something that most animals don’t. We have logic and reason.  This gives us a unique ability to see the bigger picture.  It allows us to better understand our reality.  Just as each ant plays a role in the anthill and the planets revolve around the sun, the Gods and Goddesses play their part in the unfolding universe.

They help us to come to terms with birth, death, love, loss, war and peace. They help us to understand the importance of the animals and plants that help us to survive.  The Gods and Goddesses help us to understand that there is more out there than we will probably ever understand and that we probably don’t want to understand everything. That would just make life boring.

Some can be reasoned with while others are true forces of nature. The winds are a part of the divine and yet they cannot be reasoned with. And that is the way of the world.  The divine forces that come from mythos and history are our way of understanding the larger whole.

Where do we go from here?

Are you confused yet? I know I was when I first read this. But as I’ve studied, I’ve learned one thing.  I’ve learned that nothing is ever as simple as it seems. That the world is complicated and that trying to pull everything apart to make perfect answers only creates headaches and more problems. All we can do is figure out what feels right to us and hope for the best. If that leads you to Christianity, then that is your path and if it leads you here, to one of the pagan traditions, then that is your path.

Just as the other lessons have explained, in the end you have to come to your own conclusion. There are many ideas of what are and what could be, but no one really knows. These are all just theories of theaology.

For me, this was the point where we started having assignments in class. We had been doing readings and a few other things, but this was the first one I really remember and I want to share it with you to do what you will. We were asked to find our own meaning in the cosmos in an attempt to learn something about how we, personally, perceive the world.

I remember my experiences writing my own myth. I wish I still had it, but the next week she had us turn it in. She read them aloud and then returned them to us a few classes later. Then she told us to reflect on them. It had been a while since we’d seen them, so each of us took them home and poured over the words we had written. In my case, I learned a lot about how I conceptualize the world.  If you want to try the same thing, I recommend the experience.

But it’s just some food for thought. May the God and Goddess be with you.

Blessed Be.

The Many Faces of Spirituality

For as much as we would like to think otherwise, we are a part of the animal kingdom. We can be as much of a beast as the lion or a bear.  Religion and spirituality are just a few of the concepts that do set us apart from them, well at least as far as we know.  Still, we need to take grasp of a concept before we can understand it.

In a way religion is like the magic of a new experience. The first time we took Freya to (insert destination here) all she could do was bask in everything that was new. It didn’t matter where we took her. It could be Walmart, Bardstown Road in Louisville, the Friendship Festival, even her first time in a pool.  She sees everything around her, but she doesn’t comprehend everything around her. The same is true of our experiences in religion and spirituality. We are always working towards understanding those concepts.

We could not understand the unknown so we put it in understandable terms.  We called the womb-like caves our home and it came to represent the mother. We took the fierceness of a storm to be a male force or the father.  Understanding the forces of nature was the beginning of our understanding of the God and Goddess so long ago. We identified forces and concepts related to each by what we knew. We identified some forces as masculine and others as feminine. There were crossovers and man came to just accept them as a part of the whole.

From this we came to understand the duality of woman, man, and the whole of nature.  From this arose a concept of life. We came to mainly identify the father as a protector, fierce and strong. The mother came to be known for her nurturing aspects.  These were our first colorings of understanding of the divine.

There is still much debate however, This article will touch on some of those debates and afterwards it’s up to you to decide what you believe. I don’t think that there is a right or wrong answer. Just the answer that is right for you. The reason I say this is because I don’t think it matters so long as we truly live.  The point isn’t to be right, but to be the best we can be.

Immanent vs Transcendent Deities

If the God and Goddess are humanized aspects of nature or masks concealing what we cannot know, then where or what is the Divine? Theologians call this the debate between Immanent and Transcendent Deities.

Immanence, refers to a deity that exists within everything.  You, and I, and everything are divine and a part of the divine.  In comparison transcendent deities are ones that go beyond our world and exist separate from our world.  Transcendent deities guide and nurture, but are separate entities. They become a benevolent ruler that watches over everyone. Arguments against this include the concept that such a deity would not abandon us to mere chance events and outcomes within our lives.

The argument against Immanence is that if we are all a part of nature, then when something dies or is killed by something else, that a part of divinity is being killed. This obviously isn’t possible if a divinity exists. This would also imply that the divine is self destructive. If Immanence is the correct answer then life does indeed exist in both darkness as well as light.  Proponents of immanence say that the animal dying recognizes that they are a part of the continuous cycle of life.

Witches tend to believe that the God and Goddess are immanent, but there are others who tend in the other direction.

Monotheism, Polytheism, Animism, and Pantheism

Monotheism is the idea of a single deity who is responsible for all things. Some people even think of this as an extended “Big Bang” theory: that all matter and energy in the Universe existed in a single molecule and that molecule is God.  That molecule began the infinite cycle that continues today. That would be the more pagan concept of it, that all the Gods and Goddesses are a part of the whole.

Polytheism is the argument that there are many gods who govern different aspects of the whole. Together they show the whole of life. Some of them represent only one thing and some of them represent many things.

Animism is the belief that every aspect of nature has its own spirit, even the wind.  This is a very Native American concept.  Rather than assign deific names to aspects of life, the animist says that the aspect itself is a living thing.

Pantheism. Technically there are two forms of this. Both the West and the East had two conflicting ideas on this. For the sake of this article, I feel that the second definition should be considered pandeism. So Pantheism is the idea that all we know is an expression of the whole of the Universe. In comparison Pandeism, the second definition here would represent the idea that all Gods and Goddess are worthy of respect and honor, no matter what their origins are.

You may see one as your hard set concept of the world or you may find yourself torn. You may even find that there’s room for a bit of mixing and molding of several of them. For example, in my personal experience I find that I do believe in one supreme entity (monotheism), but that that deity chooses to present themselves according to what we need or our cultural expectations (polytheism) as a facet of the whole. I consider it similar to a diamond with many facets. I also believe that we are all a part of the divine and that everything does have a life force or spirit (animism). All the Gods do have a place in the Universe as a part of the whole.

It’s up to you to decide how you feel about it. Like I said, you may find one preferential to the rest or two that closely fit your perception of the divine. The point is to understand your stance, not to determine which one is the only correct one, because we won’t know until its all said and done….and that’s if we’re lucky.

History of the Craft Part 3: The Renaissance of the Craft

Last week I talked about the rise of the craft and the worst of times in the craft, but there were still murmurings of the old ways even after the burning times.  There’s a reason it reemerged when it was finally safe to come out.  The time between the burning times and our return are our Renaissance.

So let’s start where we left off

The Craft Underground

While the Church (notice I didn’t say Christians) thought that they had stamped out the so called evil called Witchcraft, those who were pagan continued to practice in the Shadows. This is one of the reasons many witches call their “Spell book” for lack of a better term, a Book of Shadows. Meanwhile, the church absorbed our Gods and Goddesses to rename them as saints or to ban them entirely.

However, as time went on and the fervor died down, popular opinion of the judgments against Witches began to change. People were tired of senseless death, fear and paranoia.  People began to not care. If witches existed, they couldn’t be doing that much harm, they thought. It helped that science was beginning to teach us about the world. Society learned that germs were killing people not Witches or Satanic rituals. And the population was beginning to rise again, so even if Witches were hurting people, they couldn’t be hurting too many. Others dismissed the whole thing as a fallacy.

More importantly, people didn’t think that anyone, much less Witches, could hurt the power of the church.  The church was now the strongest force on the planet.  Those in power within the church had an immense power over the people and their lives. If you weren’t following the church you were an enemy of the church, which was worse.

There were still many that regarded witches as evil. They were stories told to scare children into listening to their parents.  It was considered one of the most foul offenses to call someone a witch and it was still illegal to practice the craft.

Then in 1720, Frances Huchinson, a pastor in London, wrote a book called the Historical Essays of WitchCraft and Demonological Hysterial.  He concluded that one, all witches were female and that two, they were “women under the madness of being unwed.” He went on further to say that the Inquisition was Satan playing with the minds of men.  While the work was discredited it was the first to note how much damage the Inquisition had done.

Then in 1725, the laws changed. It was no longer a crime against God. It was simply a legal crime that made one no better than beggars or thieves.  Occasionally they were jailed or arrested and tried. Very few died however and even fewer died in witch trials, even though they still did (and still do) occur in certain parts of the world.

What Witches Were Doing

Meanwhile, the Goddess worshiping herbalist and spiritualist had gone into hiding to avoid persecution.  Hereditary covens held secret Sabbats throughout the Middle Ages. Some of them even passed through the Inquisition entirely untouched due to their secrecy. By keeping a low profile they kept their faith safe.  Many of them taught all of their beliefs by word of mouth. If they had books at all, they were deeply hidden.  It was around this time that the Ardanes were written. The ardanes were a code of conduct for witches. The origins of these are unknown.  They were also the rules to help them remain safe from the Inquisition.

While many of the innocents tortured through the Inquisition were not witches, they had caught a few along the way.  Most died in silence, but there were those who caved in and told the Inquisitors what they wanted to know.  Some even bargained for their freedom.  Those who betrayed their kind were given a new name, Warlock, and were banished from the coven.

This ties into another myth related to paganism. Have you ever wondered why so many people think that a male witch is a Warlock? Well you see, the church had taught them that all witches were evil women. Inquisitors learned that a Warlock is an anti-witch and what is the opposite of a woman? A man. It’s amusing to see how one fallacy can lead to several others isn’t it?

WitchCraft Laws Repealed

From the 1700’s to the twentieth century, paganism fell further and further into the background. The Gods and Goddesses were no longer the tools of Satan.  They were literary elements. They were in plays and paintings.  Archaeologists were discovering the lost religions in ancient Greece and Rome. More so, they were finding that the accepted history of the church was far from accurate.

In 1921 Margaret Murray published the Witch-Cult in Western Europe. In it she shared an old truth that had been forgotten. She reminded humanity through facts and findings that Witchcraft was not a product of heresy and Satan, but the remnants of a religion that predated Christianity. As she did not have a word for the religion other than Witch, she called it Wicca.

From 1825 to 1920 another movement made way in the world. The Kabbalah was experiencing a revival.  People like Allister Crowley poured over their old texts and studied the earth and astronomy.  He and some others formed the Golden Dawn from which Crowley would later break off to form the OTO, or Ordo Templi Orientis.  This was the birth of what would come to be known as Ceremonial or “High” magick.

Meanwhile, Gardner found his way to the path.  He was born to a wealthy family, but he had a thirst for the knowledge of other religions. Eventually he joined an acting troop which led him to a fellowship that performed plays based on the old legends. Through this group he met a coven. He would research the craft and then, in 1951, when the Witchcraft laws were repealed, he would write his own book and create Gardnerian Witchcraft. Essentially, he would be the father of our revival.

The Renaissance of the Craft

Our Renaissance came in the 60’s.  Between hippies, the “Age of Aquarius” and the feminist movements, minds were opening to new potentials.  And Witchcraft was being embraced once more.  There was still resistance and those who either resented or hated the old faith due to the fears propagated by the church.  Still, many were beginning to see the craft for what it really was, a nature religion and a peaceful alternative religion.

In 1964 Raymond Buckland was initiated into the craft and he would breathe a fresh air of life into it. He wrote his history of witchcraft, a book that shared this history and some of the practices of the Craft.  Others would follow him out of the closet. People like Sybil Leek, Laurie Cabot and many more.

Starhwak wrote the Spiral Dance, a feminist take on the craft that includes a number of great exercises and activities for anyone following the path.  It was originally banned in parts of the US, but is now one of the most widely accepted books concerning modern Wicca. There were many influential authors who helped bring us back into the light and helped our seed to begin to grow anew.

Witchcraft Today

Now we have many different traditions, all of them newer twists on the same path.  Here are just a few of them with a very brief explanation of their path.

Gardnerian: One of the earliest of the new traditions. It is often considered rigid and fundamentalist.  The rituals are ornate, long, and often skyclad (nude).

Dianic: Feminist and matriarchal in structure. They are led by women and usually only consist of women.

Wiccan Shamanism: It is a multi-cultural focused paganism. It is a combination of Wicca, humanistic psychology, and assorted shamanistic practices. It focuses on personal and planetary healing. Many of their rituals involve trance.

Asatru; Nordic based non-initiatory tradition. They honor the Aesir and Vanir.

Hereditary Traditions: Family paths passed down from generation to generation.  They consider themselves the last of the true witches and often resent being called Wiccan. Hereditary practices are rarely, if ever, taught outside of the family

There are many other paths and some are a mix of many of them.

Other Parties

Warlocks: Just to clarify they are oath breakers, deceivers. Like I said earlier it was a title given to anyone who betrayed the coven. Today, most people who call themselves a Warlock either are an outcast witch, a male satanist, or a playgan.

Satanist: I want to clear this up. First of all, Satanists are not Goddess worshipers.  There are actually two types of Satanists, modern and traditional.  A Modernist is one who does not worship Satan as an actual entity, while traditionalists do.  Satanists focus on happiness through the material realm rather than the spiritual.  Either way, they ARE NOT PAGAN. Pagan’s worship the Goddess and respect the earth. We aren’t focused on the material.  Satanists are a whole other can of worms.

Playgans: This is my biggest pet peeve and I love the term used in the study book we used for class. In fact, I’m going to directly paraphrase a lot of what the author said here.  Playgans are an annoying byproduct of pop culture.  They are people who think they know the craft because they saw a movie about witches or because they read the Harry Potter books. Generally, they aren’t interested in the history and philosophy of the craft. They just want magick to fix their lives.  Or they use it as the next big thing to hold their attention for five seconds. And some call themselves Warlocks because it sounds cooler than being called a witch.

Now, I can’t be too harsh because I started as a playgen, using magick to try to fix the problems in my life. That may be why it is such a pet peeve, because I now know how annoying I sounded. I hate to think of what some of the original people I talked to thought of my actions.

Conclusion

The history of the craft is a long one.  A lot has happened. A lot has been learned, but we will only remember these lessons if we continue to share them with the next generation.  History is doomed to repeat itself if we fail to learn from it.  There are many groups out there, some of them based on traditions of the past and others are entirely new.  All we can do is continue to share what we learn from others and ourselves as we continue on our respective paths.

To Be A Witch

I’m going to keep Friday simple with this little except I found in all my papers.  It’s by an unknown author. It’s just a poem.

To Be a Witch

To be a witch is to love and be loved. To be a witch is to know everything, and nothing at all. To be a witch is to move among the stars while staying on Earth. Te be a witch is to change the world around you, and yourself. To be a witch is to share and give, while receiving all the while. To be a witch is to dance and sing, and to hold hands with the univserse. To be a witch is to honor the gods, and yourself.

To be a witch is to be magick, not just perform it. To be a witch is to be honorable, or nothing at all. To be a witch is to accept others or who and what they are.

To be a witch is to know what you feel is right and good.

To be a witch is to harm none.

To be a witch is to know the ways of old.

To be a witch is to see beyond the barriers

To be a witch is to follow the moon.

To be a witch is to be one with the gods.

To be a witch is to study and learn.

To be a witch is to be the teacher and the student.

To be a witch is to acknowledged the truth.

To be a witch is to live with the Earth, not just in it.

To be a witch is to be truly free!

-Author Unknown-

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