01-02-13 Lesson 4: Tools and Review

This Week’s lesson is a big one, with lots of reading! The end is optional, but very worth the
read! Please comment on the thread that you have finished the lesson and feel free to answer
the discussion questions on the thread as well!
Tools
Most religions use tools in their practices. Wicca is no different. Through our
touch and intention, energy may be directed through these tools to invoke the
Deities or accomplish our goals.
Tools are not absolutely necessary. The tools themselves have no power. The
power comes from within you. You need to change your mind set when doing ritual and
magickal work. These tools help to do that.
You may buy tools at an occult shop, but it is more fun to search antique shops,
flea markets, and junk shops. It may take time, but you will eventually find
what you need. Or you may make most of your tools.
Athame : (ATH-a-may) The athame has an ancient history. It is a knife, dull (usually for
saftey sake- it IS a knife after all) and double-edged, often with a black or dark coloured
handle. It isn’t used for cutting purposes, but to direct the energy raised during rites and spells.
It is seldom used to invoke or call upon the Deities for it is an instrument of commanding and
power manipulation. We’d rather invite the Goddess and God, than try to command or
manipulate them.
A dark handle isn’t an absolute must, but black absorbs power. When the knife is used in
ritual to direct energy, some of the power is absorbed into the handle and can be called upon
later. Some engrave their athames with magical symbols, usually taken from The Key of
Solomon, but this isn’t necessary. As with most magical tools, the knife becomes powerful by
your touch and usage. However, if you so desire, scratch words, symbols or runes onto its
blade or handle.
A sword is sometimes used, being nothing more than a large knife, but can be difficult due to
its size.
Because of its symbolism, a tool that causes change, it is commonly linked with the element
of fire, and is a phallic symbol which links it with the God.
Bell: The bell is a ritual instrument of antiquity. Ringing a bell unleashes vibrations which
have powerful effects according to its tone, volume and material of construction. The bell is a
feminine symbol and is often used to invoke the Goddess. It is also rung to ward off evil
spells and spirits or to evoke good energies. Hung on the door, it guards the home. Any type
bell may be used.
Besom: (BEE-som) This is the old name meaning broom. It is used in magic and ritual and is
sacred to both the Goddess and the God. Laid across a threshold the broom halts all spells sent
into the house or against those who reside within. The broom is a purifier and may be used to
begin a ritual by sweeping the area lightly with the broom. After this the altar is set up, the
tools carried out, and the ritual begun.
The broom is linked with the element of water and is used also in all types of water spells
including those of love and psychic working.
The broom used for magic, as with all magical tools, should be reserved for this purpose only.
Bolline: (bow-LEEN) The bolline is a first cousin of the athame, the magic knife. The basic
difference between the athame and the bolline is that the former is used purely for symbolic or
energy directing purposes, and the bolline is used for cutting herbs, thread, cloth, to cut
wands, to inscribe symbols onto candles or on wood, clay, or wax. Some traditions dictate
that this be a knife used only within the magic circle, but this would limit its usefulness. It
may be used, if you wish, to harvest flowers to place on the altar during ritual. Be sure that it
is new and clean, and buy it without haggling over the price.
Cauldron: This is an ancient vessel of cooking and brew making, steeped in magical tradition
and mystery. The cauldron is the container in which magical transformations occur; the scared
grail, the holy spring, the sea of Primeval creation.
The cauldron is the symbol of the Goddess, the essence of femininity and fertility. It is also
symbolic of the element of water, reincarnation, immortality and inspiration.
Ideally the cauldron should be made of iron, resting on three legs, with its opening smaller
than its widest point, but this isn’t a must. The cauldron can be used as an instrument for
scrying, or it can serve as a container to make up a brew.
Censer: The censer is an incense burner. It can be elaborate like those used in a Church, or as
simple as a seashell. Any bowl or cup, half-filled with sand or salt will serve well. The salt or
sand absorbs the heat from the charcoal or incense and prevents the bowl from cracking. The
censer represents the element of air, and is often placed before the images of the Deities on
the altar.
Cup: The cup is simply a cauldron on a stem. It symbolizes the Goddess and fertility, and is
related to the element of water. It can be used to hold water or a ritual beverage imbibed
during the ritual. It may be made of nearly any substance.
Grimoire: (grIm-wAr) Also called a Book of Shadows or a Book of Light it is a workbook
containing invocations, ritual patterns, spells, runes and so on. Some are passed from one
person to another, but the vast majority are composed by each individual. Until recently a
Book of Shadows was usually handwritten, but it may be typed, photocopied or even
computerized. All Books of Shadows are suggestions, not “holy writ”. It is a good idea to
copy your spells or rites by hand however, to ensure that you’ve read the work completely.
Ideally, however, all rites are memorized or created spontaneously. If you choose to read your
rites, be sure your copies are legible by candlelight.
Mortar and Pestle: The Mortar and Pestle is probably one of the more essential tools of the
Craft. Although it is not directly related to ritual, it is used to make all the incenses, powders
and such that we use in ritual.
The best ones are the stone type, as they do not hold onto odours like the ceramic type can.
Pentacle: This is usually a flat piece of brass, gold, silver, wood, wax or clay, inscribed with
certain symbols. The most common and the only necessary one is the pentagram, the five
pointed star which has been used in magic for millennia. The pentacle represents the element
of earth and is a convenient tool upon which to place amulets, charms or other objects to be
ritually consecrated. It is also used to summon the Goddess and the God. It may also be hung
over doors and windows to act as protection.
Wand: The wand is one of the prime magical tools. Just as the bolline is used to consecrate,
cut and perform the more lowly operations, the wand is an instrument of invocation, of
invitation. The Goddess and God may be called to watch the ritual with words and an uplifted
wand. It is sometimes used to direct energy, to draw magical symbols or a circle on the
ground, to point toward danger while balanced on the caster’s arm, or even to stir a brew. It
represents the element of air and is sacred to the Gods.
The actual wood of the wand depends on the interests of the user.
Hazel and elder are most often used as these trees make excellent all-purpose wands. Some,
however, are more specialized, such as :
Love magic- Apple
Healling magic- Ash
Exorcisms- Elder
Prosperity- Fir
Protection- Rowan
Purification and blessing- Birch
Moon magic and wishing magic- willow
Fertility magic- Oak tipped with an acorn, or Fir tipped with a pine cone
Any stick you use will be infused with energy and power, even dowels purchased from a
hardware store. Find one that feels comfortable, and it will do just fine.
Magical Properties of Trees and Specific Woods
Alder
Masculine Energy. Alder is a sacred tree of Celtic Astrology 18 March to 14 April. Druids
associated this tree with the fox. The deity Bran considers this tree to be sacred.
Magical Properties: Alder wands are used for witch craft magick rituals concerning with
charisma, journeys, self confidence, bravery, supervision skills, and spiritual growth. Also
used in shielding the astral self from unwanted intrusion from other realms.
Apple
Female energy. The apple wand is symbolic of fertility, peace, plenty and joy. A tree that is
sacred to Venus and the Celtic Goddess Rhiannon. Apple is a staple food of the elven and
fairie realm.
Magical Properties: This is a powerful wood of choice for the witch when working with the
fairie magick. Apple is a good wood for aiding in the propagation of skills, often used in love
magick. Apple wood promotes peace and harmony, magick of light and the divine, and
promotes visions.
Ash
Female and Effeminate Male energy are present in Ash 18 February to 17 March. Ash is
closely aligned to the elemental Earth. Ash is a sacred tree of Celtic Astrology. Greeks
associated this tree with Neptune and Mercury. The Druids associated this tree with the adder.
The Nordic peoples held this tree sacred to Woden (Odin), the Nordic World Tree, Yggdrasil,
is an Ash tree and is considered to be the father of all trees. The Welsh associated this tree
with the God Gwydion.
Magical Properties: The Ash wand is an excellent wood for promoting brain power, aids in
communication, intelligence, wisdom, and promotes curiosity. Use this wood to remove
mental blockages and aid in the promotion of word use and understanding. It is the wood of
the writer, poet, and scholar. Promotes spiritual love and health. Protects against unwanted
change. Brings balance to the mind. It is said that warts rubbed on the bark will be absorbed
into the tree. Use for protection from drowning, magickal effectiveness, sea power, and
healing. Ash is also used for protection, finding special roots, horse magick, enhances skills of
arts and crafts, justice, weather magick, and for working with the magick of cave and wells.
Beech:
Male Energy and because it produces nuts it is closely related to the Oak. Associated with the
Greek God Apollo and the Elves Sun Lord Obraash. The Celts used the nut of this tree to
fodder the sacred swine. Norse tradition says that tablets of Beech were used to make the very
first writing tablets for the runes, strong magick for working with the Nordic runes.
Magical Properties: Beech wands are used in the magick of divination. Reduces swellings and
skin inflammations. Helps to balance mental health. Aspiration, desire, and victory are all key
elements of this wood. Used while working with ancestors, old wisdom, and magickal
research. Beech is a sacred wood of the summer solstice.
Birch
Male energy. Birch is a sacred tree of Celtic Astrology 24 December to 20 January. One of
the first trees to naturally establish in cleared forests. It is a tree of new beginnings and
establishments. Closely aligned with the element of water. The Druids associated this wood
with the white stag.
Magical Properties: The Birch wand is used in many cleansing rituals. Birch is a symbol of
rebirth, renewal, and diligence. Some use this wood to aid in the calming of emotions. The
bark helps to heal wounds and burns. Many European communities use or have used, birch
twigs to expel evil spirits. Some cultures utilize birch rods in rituals designed to drive out
spirits of the old year. Controlled by Moon influences to include; birth, Lunar spells, healing,
and protection. Birch by tradition has been linked to youth and new beginnings. Use in rituals
that signify a new start of any endeavor.
Cedar:
Associated with the Greek Goddess Persephone during her detainment in the Underworld.
Also associated with the Celt Goddess Sezh that watches over the realm of fertility, herbs, and
trees. Used by King Solomon, one of the greatest mystics of all time, in the building of the
temple in Jerusalem.
Magical Properties: Cedar wands cleanses negative atmospheres. Used for the creation of
sacred spaces. Related to longevity, protection, and preservation. Often used to summon
helpful spirits during rituals and invocations.
Cherry
Both feminine and masculine energies. Artemis, Morrigan, Tyr, Mars, Aries, Herne, and
Ambash all consider this wood sacred. Associated with the elemental Earth.
Magical properties: Cherry wands are very centered and has very grounded energy. Earth
energy is very well grounded, unwavering, and solid. Cherry is used in ritual to stabilize and
focus. Cherry is often used for intuitive and insight and to overcome obstacles. This is an
excellent choice for divination or medium work, as well as healing and love magic. Cherry is
suited for use in hunting magick, working with animals and familiars, eroticism, unification of
covens and groups, spells of detection, and amplifying spell work.
Elder
Masculine energy. Elder is a sacred tree of Celtic Astrology 25 November to 23 December.
The Elder is also said to be the tree used in the crucifixion of Christ. Associated with the Celt
Goddess Cailleach Beara and the Raven. Some have considered this tree to be unlucky due to
its association with the crucifixion, or it may one of those nasty rumors started by the church
in order to combat belief systems outside their on scope of a limited belief system.
Magical Properties: Elder wands are most often used in Faerie Magic, banishment, magical
arts, protection from evil, imagination, change, and healing.
Elm
Feminine energy. Often referred to as the home of the fairies. It is known to for its ability to
ward away lightening. Associated with the Great Goddess in crone stage. Relative to the
elements of both Earth and Air.
Magical Properties: Use of the Elm wands is strong in magic used concerning endurance,
fertility, horticulture, passage thru death and phases of life, rebirth, and invocation of the
Goddess. Elm adds stability, grounding, and focus to spell working.
Hawthorn
Masculine energy. Hawthorn is a sacred tree of Celtic Astrology 13 May to 9 June.
Considered sacred by the Celtic summer flower maiden Olwen, also associated with the owl.
This tree is also sacred to Aquarius and the windlord Vashaan. It was often planted in the
parameters of a cottage for protection. It is believed that fairies live in the hedges of
Hawthorn especially if near ash or oak. Associated with the element of Air.
Magical Properties: Hawthorn wands open insight, provides psychic protection, encourages
creativity, used to make charms, aids in the development of self confidence, purification,
develops patience, detects magic since it is deeply magical from outer realms, used in weather
working, banishment of evil spirits, concealing magic, chastity, male potency, and fairy
magick.
Hazel
Feminine energy. Hazel is a sacred tree of Celtic Astrology 5 August to 1 September.
Associated with the elements of Fire, Air, and Water. Manannan Mac Lir, the Celtic Sea God,
considered the wood to be sacred. Druids associated with the fish Salmon. Aligned with the
Greek Goddess Aphrodite and the Celtic Goddess Danu, known by the elves and Arianrhod.
Magical Properties: Artistic ability, magical knowledge, and optimism are provided by the
enchanting use of Hazel. The energy of hazel wands promoted love and creativity allowing a
person to move beyond self-serving modes of existence. Hazel is the bringer of change. Hazel
also promotes creative expression, eloquence, and art of all types. This was the most common
wood used to create wands in the ancient Celtic traditions. Also used in magic spells for
wisdom, creativity, intelligence, navigation, inspiration, and wrath.
Holly
Feminine energy. Holly is a sacred tree of Celtic Astrology 8 July to 4 August. The sacred
spear of Odin was made of Holly. The Roman god Mars rules over this mighty wood. Related
to the elemental Earth. Associated by Druidic tradition to the grand majesty of the Unicorn.
The Smith God Govannon considers this wood to be sacred.
Magical Properties: Purity, strength, logic, power transfer, protection. Holly wands are often
used in magic concerning sleep. It is said that a man who carries the leaves and berries of
holly is irresistible to women. Since the story of the ruler ship of the Holly King and the Oak
King deal with cycles and rebirth, it is often used in magic to ease the loss of loved ones to
death. It also carries properties of the sacred, material advance, physical revenge, and beauty.
Ivy
Masculine energy. Persephone considers this wood to be sacred. Druids related this to the
Butterfly. Guinevere the fairy bride rules over this wood.
Magical Properties: Determination, strength, optimism, spiritual growth. Ivy is a fine wand
for protection, good against wayward spirits and angry elementals, ensures success in
business and all new endeavors.
Lilac
A favorite of the forest nymphs and where they are surely Pan is close. Lilac is sacred to the
Greek Twins Gemini. Associated with the element of Air.
Magical Properties: Lilac wands are good for magic dealing with romance, love, and passion.
Superb when utilizing magics for the realm of intellect, communication, mental concentration.
Enhances sexual pleasure. Lilac provides protection during travel. When dealing with illusion
magic, this wood is very adequate, as with the divining arts.
Maple
Maple has both Feminine and Masculine energy. Libra and Virgo consider this tree to be
sacred. Associated with the elements of Spirit and Water. The great horned owl is the sacred
bird of this tree.
Magical Properties: Some cultures primarily use Maple wands for spiritual healing. Maple is a
traveler’s wood. It enhances intellectual pursuits, acquiring knowledge, and communication.
Spells concerning art, beauty, binding, and abundance should consider using this wood. The
gypsies believe Maple brings gold and that eating the seeds draws love.
Oak
Strong Masculine energy. Oak is a sacred tree of Celtic Astrology 10 June to 7 July. The
Druids associated the oak with the Wren. Closely aligned with the elements Earth, Water, and
Spirit . The Oak is considered to be the most powerful and the most sacred to the Druids.
Wizards consider this the most amplified wood to use to in spells that work with time and
counter spells. Sacred to the Irish God Dagda.
Magical Properties: Truth, steadfast knowledge, protection. Oak wands bring vitality and long
life. To the ancient Celtic people, oak was the protector, provider, benevolent king of the
trees. Utilized as a healing wood, and very will grounded considering its strong connection to
the earth. This wood helps center the mind, allowing it to focus on the task at hand and ignore
distractions. Oak help promote both observation and intuition. Oak magic inspires bravery,
presence, leadership skills, prosperity, and strength.
Poplar
Masculine energy. Plato makes a reference to the use of Black popular and Silver Fir as an aid
in divination. Aligned with the elements of Spirit, Water, and Fire. Influenced by the power of
Venus.
Magical properties: Poplar wands have an incredibly diverse energy, allowing it to be an allpurpose
wood for magickal workings. The diversity of the energy in this wood makes it useful
for evocation as well as banishment rituals. It is also strong with the elements of hope, rebirth,
and divinations.
Vine
Masculine and feminine energies are present in Vinewood. Vine is a sacred tree of Celtic
Astrology 2 September to 29 September. Druids associated this wood with the Swan.
Considered sacred by the Tuatha De Danaan Gods of Irish Mythology.
Magical Properties: Vinewood wands encourage spiritual initiation, faerie work, joy spells,
excitement, rebirth., sacred knowledge, and authority.
Walnut
Feminine and Masculine energies are present in Walnut. Closely aligned with the elements of
Earth and Spirit. Walnut is sacred to the Gods Vashaan, Zues, Jupiter, Thor, and Vishnu.
Magical properties: Black walnut wands are well used in magics of teleportation, astral travel,
weather working, averting lightening, powers of the wind and breath, and motivation.
Willow
Feminine energy. Willow is a sacred tree of Celtic Astrology 15 April to 12 May. Willow is
strongly aligned with the element of water and associated with the element of spirit. The
Druids associated this tree with the hare. Diana, Hecate, Astarte, Ceridwen, Arianrhod,
Rhiannon, and Omulan all consider this to be a very sacred tree.
Magical Properties: Willow wands are strong in the cycles of life dealing with death and
rebirth, change, the will. It is a very emotional wood. Willow can add vital energy to the sick
and elderly. Some say that burning willow can soothe and guide the souls of the recently
deceased. Willow wood is the very essence of magick, not just the mere making a tool into a
magical one, willow makes the tool magickal. Willow will align itself to the inner will of the
party that shares its energy. The stronger the will, the more effective the wood. Willow is
extremely useful in healing. It is also good for love spells and rituals involving emotion. It
strengthens the third eye, and is a great tool for divination as well.
Crystal Sphere: (optional) The crystal has long been used in divination. It is sometimes
placed on the altar to represent the Goddess. Its shape is Goddess symbolic, as are all circles.
Periodic exposure to moonlight, or rubbing the crystal with mugwort, will increase its ability
to spark our psychic powers. It may be the center of Full Moon rituals.
Altar: A table, made of Oak(for its power and strength) or Willow (sacred to the Goddess)
are the ideals, but any material can be used. The altar is sometimes round, to represent the
Goddess, but it may also be square, symbolic of the elements.
The tools are usually arranged upon the altar in a pleasing pattern, and the altar is sent in the
center of the magic circle facing North. North is the direction of power and associated with
the Earth. It may also be placed facing the East, where the Sun and Moon rise.
with the Earth. It may also be placed facing the East, where the Sun and Moon rise.
The left side of the altar is usually dedicated to the Goddess. Tools sacred to Her are placed
there: the cup, the pentacle, bell, crystal, and cauldron. An image of the Goddess may also
stand there (or if you don’t desire one, a green, silver or white candle) and a broom may be
laid against the table on that side.
The right side of the altar is usually dedicated to the God. Tools sacred to Him are placed
there: a God image or red, yellow, or gold candle, as are the censer, wand, athame, and
bolline.
Images of the Goddess and God are not absolute necessities. We aren’t idol worshippers. We
don’t believe that any statue, pile of rocks, candle, or any other item actually IS the deity
represented. Its merely a matter of personal preference.
There are many other tools that can and are used. This is only a basic list. Candles, tarot or
oracle cards, runes, pendulums, offering bowls, ritual jewelry or clothing, herbs,
crystals,amulets and many other things could be added to this list. You are only limited by
your imagination. Each Priest/Priestess is free to practice as they choose!
(some information taken from the writings of Scott Cunningham, Wicca: A Guide for the
Solitary Practitioner, 1988) and dailywicca.com
OPTIONAL LESSON/
While this month’s lessons come to a close, I would like to offer a treat : one of my
favorite authors: Deborah Blake (The Goddess is in the deatils ) offeried an online class
with her freind and fellow Witch Heather Long; I decided to follow. I thought you all
might like to follow too. It’s a lot like our first month’s lesson and I thought it would
make a nice review. It IS a lot of reading and so optional. But trust me when I tell you
that it is worth it !! Separate it into days if you like and answer the discussion questions !
Welcome, Merry Meet, and Day One Lesson
Mon Sep 24, 2012 4:02 am (PDT) . Posted by:
“heathervlong” heathervlong
Good morning! Merry Meet! And welcome to Witchcraft 201! Deborah and I are very
excited about this class and we discussed it a great deal as we set up the class schedule.
Witchcraft 201 takes us deeper into the study of Wicca, that personal journey each of
takes. We chose to teach this together because we have different experiences, different
perspectives and wanted to share both with you.
So let’s kick this off with an introduction and then we’ll dive into the day one lesson. My
name is Heather, I have been a practicing Wiccan for over twenty five years and a
solitary witch for seventeen. My faith is very much my way of life. In my day time life, I
am an author and a freelance writer. If you’ve been with us before (which many of you
have), then you may have heard me talk about my books.
I am deeply happy to be hosting this class with Deborah this month, because our classes
are often populated by deeply interesting people who share their insights and
perspectives and enrich the conversation–which is often the best part! So without
further adieu, day one.
DAY ONE
Living the Vida Witchy
HEATHER:Before you can go forward, it never hurts you to look back. People choose
Wicca, witchcraft or paganism for a variety of reasons. Often we use the terms Wicca
and witchcraft interchangeably, but while all Wiccans are pagans, not all pagans are
Wiccans. It is not uncommon to hear newcomers detail their dissatisfaction and
unhappiness with another religion. It is not uncommon that some come to associate the
companionship and empowerment found amongst other Wiccans as a driving reason to
convert. It is not uncommon to hear that quiver of excitement in voices that have just
realized they found the religion that so closely identifies with their beliefs.
No matter what path you took to arrive at this point, everyone arrived. Every journey is
unique and no one’s journey is more valid than another. No one coven has all the
answers and no witch can tell you why you are here—the only one who can answer that
is you and that is as it should be.
However you arrived, at some point, the question begins to occur to us all, how can I
integrate the divine—and my faith—into my everyday life? The Christians openly
gather on Sundays, they share Bible study, they meet in public, they wear t-shirts, put
bumper stickers on their cars, and they live out loud and proud of their faith.
Why can’t I?
The answer is simple, of course you can do all of those things, but is that actually
integrating the divine or living out loud and proud?
I live in a suburban neighborhood—very Christian in a very conservative state. When I
discovered Wicca all those years ago, it was not safe to be out loud and proud—we
were—if we had something to lose. I knew many Coven members who kept their beliefs
close to their heart, lived their lives to the best of their ability in honor of their path and
shut their mouths about it to anyone who wasn’t in perfect trust and perfect love.
This is the culture I grew up in, the culture that said it wasn’t safe to be openly pagan—
to be openly different. Parents lost children in custody disputes, child protective services
would investigate, the police would harass because neighbors would complain and it
could make life very difficult for your children especially if you didn’t conform.
So to look back, for me (Heather), is to realize that much of how I honor my faith,
integrate the divine, and live a Wiccan life is deeply rooted in those days of secrecy. My
path hasn’t always been easy, it’s not always been populated by those of like minds with
whom I can share worship safely and freely, and it’s at times been difficult to remember
that perfect love means to accept a person for both their goodness and their flaws and to
trust them to be true to themselves while at the same time remaining true to myself.
Living an integrated life is something you do 24/7, 52 weeks of the year, in every season
and for every turn of the wheel. If that means you observe the eight sabbats in a circle
with your coven and perform private esbats at home, that’s what you do. But it’s more
than observing holidays and rites, it’s about honoring the Lord and Lady through your
words, your deeds, and your commitment to the circle of life you are a part of. It means
being in tune with the world, at peace with it and if necessary, making the sacrifice of
your time and energy to put right that which is out of balance.
For me, witchcraft and Wicca are not just a religion—they are a conscious choice and
way of life. Before I go to sleep at night, I often meditate on the day—it helps quiet my
mind and makes me more receptive to dreams. It releases my anxiety and tension and
helps me forgive myself for mistakes—and forgive others for theirs. When I wake in the
morning, I stumble through the house to take care of all those who are dependent upon
me and only when they have their breakfast, outdoor time, or are up and getting ready
for school do I allow myself that reflective time to greet the day.
I watch the sunrise and set every day that I am able. I call a private greeting to the
moon. I check on the life of my tree, and the plants in my garden. I stop for every single
stray animal I find or that finds me—I help those around me who need it and when it is
necessary, I refuse to continue enabling others that will never make progress as long as I
am there to pick up the pieces. I believe the Lord and Lady are with me throughout my
‘cycle of the day’ and I swear they whisper in my ears as mischievous as fairies with
their inspiration.
So the obvious questions here are, is it okay if you only honor one particular deity? Or
what if you only celebrate the god and goddess at the Sabbats? Do you really have to
celebrate esbats? Does it matter whether it’s a blue moon? Do you need to buy every
book that comes out and read it so you can figure out if you know all you need to? Is it
okay to be a weekend Wiccan?
Those answers I can’t give you. No one can. To integrate the divine into your life, to
explore what the Lord and Lady mean to you? Only you can answer that. Only you can
decide whether you have achieved the spiritual Zen you crave with your religion. You
know, you may not crave Zen at all. You may just enjoy the zest of being in harmony
with the world, the natural magical high that accompanies a well planned and thorough
ceremony—you may thrive on the companionship of your fellow Wiccans and the open
love, affection and support and those are ALL okay.
But if you are sitting there saying, gee Heather, thanks, but I still want to know more
ways I can integrate my faith—maybe the answer is you haven’t done these things
because you haven’t thought of them. The following are choices that I make in my life
and how I try to live a more magical existence:
• The phases of the moon – for several years I kept moon journals. I charted my moods,
my successes, and my most creatively fertile periods by the phase of the moon. After a
while, it became habit to know when the moon’s phase affected me and how I could live
in better harmony with the moon.
• Learning – I don’t know everything, I couldn’t possibly. I am always hungry for
knowledge and experience. I embrace change—even when it terrifies me. Because only
in change—in the passing of one to the birth of another can I accept that knowledge and
life come from all sources.
• Recycle – Too often we forget that we are still a part of the natural life cycle of this
planet and that we are the caretakers for our time on it—it is our solemn duty and joy to
care for her and keep her healthy so that we pass the earth to our children and future
generations. I recycle everything I can, I pause and pick up litter, I refuse to add to
litter, if I can condense my paper and plastics so I use fewer, I do that. I drive a car with
low emissions—if I have to drive at all—and I’m always looking for ways to conserve
fossil fuels and power. Can I eliminate them altogether? Not realistically, but by
maintaining my awareness, I can do everything that I can to maintain a balance.
• Garden – I used to say I had a black thumb, because until you’ve actually tried to keep
a garden, you have no real awareness for the changes in the seasons, how difficult it is to
cultivate and how a little love and a lot of sweat can go a long way. Now my roses thrive,
I grow tomatoes and cucumbers, I appreciate the bounty of the earth and I stay in touch
with it. It sounds a little pedestrian—but simpler can be better.
• Wicca also teaches us to empower ourselves, to take control of our decisions and our
mistakes, to admit when we are wrong and to choose whether we will allow people to
continue hurting us—this is probably one of the most difficult ways to integrate faith
into your day to day existence, but when you can do it—you create a greater harmony
• We talked a little in the Kitchen Witchery class about how you can create spells in your
kitchen, but I always cook with the intent to create harmony, bring sustenance and with
a thank you to the plants and animals that make up my meal
• Try to act with honor and intent—if you make a promise, keep it. If you make a
promise to yourself, definitely keep it
• Acknowledge the gifts in your life every day, greet the sun, hail the moon, sing a
lullaby to the stars, discover what it means to remind yourself of the bounty you have
and the goals you strive to achieve each day
• Consider always the impact your words and your actions have on others and the world
around you. We are all responsible for the choices we make—so pay it forward, and be
the change you want to see in the world
DEBORAH: I don’t have much to add to this; Heather and I are in agreement on almost
everything about the way we practice The Craft, even when our approaches aren’t
exactly the same. So, a big “What she said” from me.
I’m lucky, in that I can live my life as a Pagan openly, and out of the broom closet. In
part, that is because I live in an area where most people are a little more accepting (we
have two colleges in my town in upstate NY, so despite the fact that many of the locals
are rural—and maybe less open to alternative lifestyles of any kind—there are a
reasonable number of open-minded, funky folks, too). Also, my job running an artists’
cooperative shop gives me some leeway that not everyone has: I started the shop with a
friend, so no one can fire me, and people expect artists to be a little odd. (Har.) And, of
course, as a multi-published Pagan author, there wasn’t much choice about living my
life openly as a Witch. The cat (Magic the cat, that is) was decidedly out of the bag with
the first book.
But I actually go out of my way to be open about my spiritual beliefs (although I don’t
ever push them on anyone else). Why? Because as long as the only Witches that people
meet are the freaky, over-the-top ones (or the ones they see on the TV, who are rarely
realistic), they will continue to be afraid of what they don’t know and don’t understand.
If, on the other hand, they can meet a Witch or two and realize that most practicing
Witches and Wiccans are just like everybody else, then, we have a chance of eventually
being accepted into society. And then everyone will be free to be as open about their
spiritual beliefs as I am. And that would be a great thing.
Integrating the Divine into Everyday Life
DEBORAH: The divine (deity/god/goddess/the universal power) means something
different to everyone. One of the aspects of Wicca/Witchcraft that I most admire is that
there is no one “right” way to worship; each person can arrive at his or her own idea of
what deity is, and find the way that works best to get in touch with the divine.
HEATHER: So we’ve discussed a little about living your faith and a lot of what goes into
Witchcraft 201 is not the introduction to worship and the path or even exploring what
aspects of the path mean so much as developing your road map to the path you will
follow. It is an introspective journey, a journey of knowledge, of faith, and yes, of magic.
You have to ask yourself hard questions, and sometimes you won’t have the answers.
Many of those answers you seek, lay on the path you will choose to follow.
So let’s talk more about the Goddess, who she is, what she means, and how you define
her role in your existence.
For me, all gods are one god, all goddess are one goddess, and these two faces are merely
aspects of that which we call divine. So I may worship a goddess and call to that aspect
or those ‘qualities’ of the divine, that I need. It does not matter if I call to her Celtic
name, her Greek, her Roman, her Egyptian or even her Native American. It matters not
if I call her as a woman, or as a bear or as a wolf or a fox—it only matters that I have a
clarity of purpose, a clear view of the divine that I wish to call upon and the knowledge
for that worship.
DEBORAH: My view is much the same; that goddess and god are part of a great whole,
something that is beyond our comprehension as human beings. But I also believe that
the gods come to us in whichever form we can most readily understand and
communicate with. For me, that is the god and goddess of Wicca (whichever name I call
them by). For others, that may only be the female divine, or a god named Christ. I
believe all gods are the same gods, and that we can call them/him/her by whichever
name we are most comfortable with—and still be heard, and answered.
HEATHER: Traditionally, the goddess in Wicca is known as the triple goddess. She is
Maiden, Mother, and Crone—reflecting all the phases of womanhood from birth
through death. Others see her as having four faces—adding the role of warrior or battle
maiden to the spot between Maiden and Mother. Because a mother will do all to defend
her children and our Lady would do the same. [Deborah’s note: Donna Hennes calls the
phase between Mother and Crone—for both goddess and women—”Queen” and I kind
of like that.]
Each phase of the goddess represents different qualities, different traits, different
desires—and even different seasons, phases of the moon, and times of the day. She is all
things, so should she not represent all possibilities?
Because we cannot encompass this level of omniscience, we must worship her in all her
aspects, deriving knowledge, love, and protection from those aspects that we can
understand.
Maiden – she is the young goddess, virgin—perhaps—perhaps not. She is youth, vitality,
spring, the waxing moon, and all potential. Athena and Artemis are both aspects of the
Maiden goddess—her wisdom, her skill, her courage—and her promise.
Mother – she is the swelling womb, ripe with life, she is the lover, often full breasted,
always has a child whether it is the nursing babe or the yowling toddler or the rebellious
teen, she is the fullness of life, the consequence of the promise, the full moon, she is
summer and autumn—because she delivers the fruits of the summer. Demeter is an
aspect of the mother goddess, an earth goddess whose grief for the loss of her daughter
six months of the year turns the earth cold and barren, only to revive it in the spring
when Persephone is returned to her—for what is a mother without her child?
Crone – she is the wizened ages, the old woman, the wise one, the grandmother, the
teacher, she is the mother whose children have grown and become mothers and fathers
themselves, she is the waning moon, and winter. She is the dark of night—the stern one.
To her often judgment falls for should we not learn from our elders. She is the turn of
the wheel, the phase of the goddess that is closest to death. She can light the way if we let
her. Sophia, goddess of wisdom and Hecate, goddess of magic, are both crone goddess—
savvy and clever—quick of wit and dangerous in their own rights.
In our everyday lives, the goddess is most associated with the earth upon which we live
and to whom we refer as Mother Nature or Earth Mother and to the moon, that controls
the tides of the world and with whom, we women, share our monthly cycles. Artemis, the
Greek Maiden is also goddess of the moon whereas Demeter, the mother, is a goddess of
the harvest and the Earth—they are all descendants of Gaia—the great mother who
gave birth to Titans and Gods alike.
If you look at the geological record of when they believed all the land masses of our
planet were connected—that is called Pangaea in part to honor Gaia, the great earth
mother.
Consider, if you will, that each of these phases of the goddess is associated with positive,
but she is also associated with the negative. Kali—the Hindu goddess of death, is also the
goddess of change. Sometimes terrible change brings new life. The eruption of a volcano
can destroy all the life around it, but the ash will leave the land far more fertile and it
will recover to become beautiful again—and the goddess is like that as well. We
attribute the “good” aspects, those of caring, kindness, compassion, growth, and
nurturing with the light side of the goddess. But the harsher aspects, that of the stern
mother or crone, the teacher, the punisher, the mother who defends her children against
even themselves—with the darker aspects. In this it is important to remember that light
and dark are not “good” or “evil” – they simply are.
DEBORAH: I also believe that as Witches, we are the physical manifestation of the
goddess (and god) on earth. Therefore, it is up to us to act in the most “divine” way
possible (while still remaining flawed human beings): to help others when possible, to
share knowledge, to treat the earth and each other kindly, and to act in and with love, as
much as we can. Do I always achieve such lofty goals? Of course not. But this is what I
strive for, because with each word, each deed, each wave of energy I put out into the
world, I am channeling a little bit of goddess. And I know She expects me to do my best
to represent her well.
God:
Like the goddess, the god is also represented by different aspects. Throughout the wheel
of the year, two god themes figure prominently including the Holly King and the Oak
King. The Oak and Holly kings are representatives of the Horned God. The Greenman
or Horned one is notable for his ties to nature. Cernunnos, for example, is a Celtic god
of the hunt and often depicted as having the head of a stag or wearing a stag’s antlers.
He leads the wild hunt through meadow and dale, he is nature’s freedom, a masculine
force both divine and brilliant.
The Holly and the Oak are seen as twin figures or brother gods who share the year, each
ruling for six months—meeting at Summer and Winter solstice to battle for the hand of
the goddess. Though one is slain, they do not truly die for they withdraw from the land
until it is time to ascend again. The Oak King is the god of light – or light twin—who
rules from Midwinter to Midsummer. His brother, the Holly King is a dark god or dark
twin, ruling through the waning year or Midsummer to Midwinter. The tale of the Oak
King and Holly Kings are popular during Summer Solstice and Yule festivities with the
priest often taking the part of Oak or Holly king for the coming turn of the year.
The other god aspect that is predominantly celebrated at Sabbats is that of the Sun God.
It’s worth noting here that the Christ child was considered a representative of this
aspect as well. The sun god represents the journey of the sun throughout the wheel of
the year, the growth of the god from the infant to youth or warrior to father and finally
to sage.
• Yule – the sun god is born to the goddess, a babe, the mark of the light returning to the
world. He is perfect in his innocence, a delight in his joy. He is the new beginning, the
wheel turning.
• Imbolg – he is a toddler or young child, growing sturdy and strong as the light grows
and days become longer
• Ostara (Spring Equinox) – He is the strapping youth who catches the eye of the
goddess, promising virility and dazzling strength
• Beltane – the time when a young man’s fancy turns to love. He is grown and courts the
goddess, taking her as his bride—their marriage is celebrated in fertility for the land
and their followers
• Midsummer (Summer Solstice) – The marriage of lord and lady are consummated, he
is at his most dazzling, but this is also the end of the Sun god’s journey as the days will
grow shorter and he returns to nestle within the womb of the goddess
• Lammas – The sun god is mourned at Lammas, and the light continues to fade and the
days grow shorter
• Mabon (Autumn Equinox) – The god sleeps in the womb of the mother, the divine are
united in one
• Samhain – the sun god rests in the shining lands, waiting to return to his wife, lover,
mother, and consort when the wheel turns at Yule.
Deborah’s Note: Some witchcraft paths believe that the god willingly sacrifices himself
(sometimes at Lammas, sometimes at Mabon, depending on who you ask) for the good
of the land. This is in keeping with ancient traditions where the king of the land
symbolically (by spilling his seed, or sacrificing a bull or some other animal) or literally
(by allowing himself to be sacrificed during times of difficulty, such as famine) sacrificed
himself so that his people might prosper. So it is fitting (either at Lammas or Mabon,
whichever feels right to you—for me, it is Mabon, as we say goodbye to the bounty of
summer and celebrate the second harvest) to give thanks for His gifts to us, and mourn
His season as it passes away until the wheel turns around again.
The god is the consort of the goddess, he is the trickster who challenges us to be better
than we are, he is the horned one who runs at the goddess’ side and leads the hunt, he is
the father who gives us the firm hand and control we need. He is the sage, the wise one
who like the crone provides guidance and discipline when we need it.
HEATHER: The aspect of the god is one that I always enjoy as equally as I do the
goddess. Like Deborah I believe are living embodiments of the divine and that within us
all exists that divine spark. We share aspects with both god and goddess, we can learn
from them when we listen to those aspects, those divine voices within on their journey
throughout the wheel of the year. I have always identified most with Cernunnos or
Herne—the god in his natural state—divine, human, animal, and nature all rolled into
one.
DEBORAH: I admit that I feel a closer kinship to the goddess than I do to the god,
perhaps because of the lack of a female deity in the religion I was raised in, perhaps
because by group (all older women at this point in time) tends to be somewhat femalecentric
and female-celebratory. But I do worship them both. Why? Because all of us are
made up of some female aspects and some male aspects, and it only seems balanced and
fair to talk to, listen to, and worship both sides of the coin. At least, that’s what works
for me. Blue Moon Circle, my coven, tends to call on the goddess at full moons and new
moons, and both goddess and god during the Sabbats.
Discussion Questions: Do you follow both a goddess and a god? And if so, do you follow
specific deities or general? If not, what is your view of deity?
Day 2 online course
Day Two: Sabbats, Esbats and Every Day: Rituals
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As we established yesterday, Wicca offers adherents fluidity. Basic practice
comes in three common forms: coven, circle and solitary. Practicing with others
takes place in covens and circles and solitary is self-explanatory. In general,
all witches are solitary, as our relationship with the divine is very
individual, but when we want to celebrate with others, learn with others, share
community with others we can do this in a circle or a coven.
HEATHER: Please note I am using circle with regard to an open gathering where
multiple covens and solitaries may come together to celebrate a sabbat or esbat.
A coven is usually a closed group that requires personal invitation to attend
their rituals.
Note from Deborah: I tend to use the terms circle and coven interchangeably. My
own group is called Blue Moon Circle, even though we are technically a coven (in
part because coven just wasn’t a term some folks felt comfortable using, and in
part because the name just suited us). But I like Heather’s definition too, and
we’ll stick with that for the duration of this class.
Group Rituals
Rituals serve multiple purposes (surprise), but the greatest reason is the
connection to the divine. Ritual reminds us of the simple joys of life–whether
we are celebrating the turn of the wheel or the fullness of the moon, joy exists
in the ritual. Our spirituality is reflected in a ritual and they solidify our
connections to each other and the divine. As above, so below.
A group ritual relies on the community performing it. Again whether you are
gathering for a learning `circle,’ celebrating a sabbat, a wiccaning or
handfasting, it is the gathering of personalities in harmony to a common purpose
or celebration. When we enter the ritual, we are individuals and during the
course of it, we become a part of the whole.
All rituals, group or solitary have four primary parts:
� Purpose
� Means
� Process
� Outcome
The common purpose is what brings everyone together. We seek to create change in
the world and ourselves or to celebrate the change. The means are how we embrace
our spirituality and seek to become one with our surroundings, each other and
the divine. This can be as simple as the casting of a circle or the drawing down
of the moon. The process is the focus and energy we push into our actions. If
you’ve ever chanted or held hands in a chanting circle, you can `feel’ the power
raised. The outcome, of course, is the harmony or release of that energy, the
elevation of our consciousness to a better world–the world we share with so
many others.
Priest, priestess or both often conduct group rituals. They lead the worship,
the casting of the circle, the call to the elements and the welcoming of the
divine. Open circles will often include a story or a lesson–particularly when
marking a turn in the wheel. Singing, chanting and the sharing of wine are also
normal activities. However, as with everything in Wicca, these rituals are often
specific to the individuals conducting them
Deborah: In Wicca, the group leader is usually called a high priestess or high
priest. This doesn’t mean that this person (or people) is in any way superior to
the others in the circle. The title usually denotes advanced training or years
of practice, and in traditional Wicca paths, often meant that the individual had
gone through specific levels (1st, 2nd, 3rd, then priest/priestess). These days,
many eclectic witches do a self-dedication as a HP or HPS, which is fine. But
don’t assume that anyone calling themselves that automatically is entitled to
the name. The core “job” of the HP/HPS is to lead the group so that they can
come together as a cohesive whole, while still including everyone in the
participation of the ritual.
Practicing ritual together can be tricky, especially if you are not all on the
same page. If hosting a group ritual, it is a good idea to discuss
acceptable/expected behavior with anyone who is new to you or your circle. Below
is a list of generally accepted “what to do and what not to do” for group
ritual.
Circle Etiquette
(From Circle, Coven & Grove: A Year of Magickal Practice by Deborah Blake)
� Whenever you move around the circle, go in a clockwise direction (deosil). The
only exception is when you are doing banishing work, in which case you walk
counterclockwise (widdershins).
� Once the circle is cast it should not be broken. Once cast, the circle exists
outside of time and space, and is a safe and sacred place. If you need to leave
the circle space for any reason, you need to have someone “cut you out’ of
circle. (This is done by drawing a doorway with an athame or your finger,
starting at the ground, going up and over, then down again. To cut someone back
into the circle, draw the doorway in reverse.)
� Never touch another witch’s tools without permission.
� It is important to keep focus and concentration�there should be no “chit chat”
during the main part of the ritual. (Informal talking is okay during certain
situations that require less intense focus, like some of the craft project
sections.)
� Everything that is said in circle stays in circle. It is crucial that the
circle remain a safe place, in which all those in attendance feel free to speak
what is in their hearts. This means that nothing said in confidence may ever be
repeated. This also means that you should never tell anyone outside of circle
any specifics of what occurred within, including the names of those who have
attended ritual. Not everyone is “out of the broom closet” and some people would
rather not have others know they practice witchcraft. This is one of the reasons
that some witches use “craft names” instead of real ones.
� When the Speaking Stick is passed, only the person holding the stick may
speak. You will get your turn to talk when the Stick comes around the circle. Be
respectful of others and give your entire attention to whoever has the Stick.
� Show respect for the Gods and the Elements by standing during Quarter Calls
and Invocations, and turning with the rest of the circle to face the appropriate
directions. If you do not know what to do, you should just copy everyone else.
� Show respect for the others in the circle. Do not say negative things to
others about those with whom you practice. Try not to judge or criticize.
� Come to circle cleansed and prepared to do magickal work. It is proper to
bathe before rituals if at all possible. Never wear perfumes or colognes�many
people are allergic or find the strong scents distracting. If possible, wear
appropriate garb. (Garb is any clothing you keep for magickal work�usually
robes, fancy dresses or cloaks. If you do not have garb, at least dress nicely.
You wouldn’t go to church in a torn tee shirt and muddy jeans. Don’t show up for
circle that way either.)
� Never come to circle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is
disrespectful to both the Gods and your fellow circle members, and makes it next
to impossible to build up energy in any productive way.
� Do not ask personal questions of those participants whom you do not know well.
This is the privacy issue again. People will volunteer information (like where
they work) when they are ready.
� As it says in the Wiccan Rede�follow this with mind and heart, and merrie ye
meet and merrie ye part.
Solitary Rituals
HEATHER: A solitary witch (as we all are when we are not within a coven or a
circle) practices their faith alone. Or perhaps it is better phrase that we
practice alone save for the Lord and the Lady. There are benefits and drawbacks
to worshiping alone. One benefit is we don’t need to perform for others–I can
cast a circle from a sitting position without raising my arms. Not that there is
anything wrong with the physical actions often needed in a large group because
those actions draw the focus of everyone together.
Another benefit of solitary rituals is the allowance for spontaneity, you can
perform a ritual while cooking, while sitting at your desk–I actually have one
that I do most days when I sit down to write. It’s very simple, I’ve created a
`sacred’ space to write in because I’ve imbued that area with my creativity by
being present there when I work.
I sit down, I call up a circle, I spend a moment gathering my thoughts and my
will and I go to work. Interestingly enough, in that one space, I am ten times
more creative and effective than I am anywhere else–yet when I travel and have
to find places to work, I usually find one, and I visit it repeatedly, by the
end of that week or few days, the energy I am seeking is there.
When you call to the Lord and Lady, no matter where you are–they do hear you
and they will respond.
Another variant of the solitary ritual from a coven or circle ritual is you are
working with your own energy, you aren’t trying to condense the focus to bring
everyone into harmony. Conversely, you are one person and not an infinite
battery. For example, when I cleanse my home, it can take me repeating the steps
over several days to achieve my goal whereas if I worked with a group, it could
be done sooner.
[A note from Deborah: A group�even one as small as two or three people�can
definitely raise more energy together than one person on his or her own. But
that group doesn’t have to be large to be effective. When Blue Moon Circle
began, there were only three of us, and we did some of the most powerful magick
I have ever experienced. On the other hand, if a group is NOT working well
together, you may not generate any energy at all. I’ve been a part of circle
rituals that where the energy was so scattered and unfocused, we might as well
not have bothered.]
But I trained initially in a coven, I learned from a high priestess, I worked in
coven circles and public circles. I read many books and I think one of the
greatest steps on the journey that helps me learn is actually opening up to
teach others.
If you have never attended a ritual, I would encourage you to do so, if only for
the experience. But you can deepen your understanding alone through:
� Meditation
� Ritual
� Classes such as this one
� Community
Meeting other pagans and Wiccans allows you people to discuss ideas with and
share thoughts, that doesn’t make you any less of a solitary witch, it just
means you have developed those relationships. Also, how do you do a ritual if
you’ve never done one?
Consider for a moment, what do you do every single morning when you wake? Most
of us have a routine or a morning ritual. If you apply that understanding to an
experience with the divine, the setting aside of fifteen minutes to commune, to
light a candle, and to call on the Lord and Lady, you are performing a ritual.
The complexity of the ritual is the true variant among all of us–whether we
gather in a group, sit alone or work in a triad or duo. There is no RIGHT way or
WRONG way – as long as you keep to the Wiccan Rede:
An it harm none do what ye will
I would also like to mention specifically for the solitaries in the group (and
everyone else), that if you lack in companionship in your areas or `trusted’
pagan sources, consider finding a Unitarian Universalist Church. The
relationship between Wicca and that particular order is fairly strong and I
attend now and again and have participated in their CUUPs chapters, which is the
Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans.
Discussion Questions:
Are you a solitary or a group witch, or a combination of both? And why? Do you
have rituals you perform each day, each season, etc? And would you like to share
them?
Day 3 online course:
Day Three: Expanding Your Path
The Wiccan Path embraces diversity and every journey is an individual one. How do
you identify your path? What markers show you the way? Introduction, discussion,
suggestions, and seeking. Among those paths that may be available to you are:
DEBORAH: One of the things I love about the practice of Witchcraft is that it embraces
so many different paths and encompasses so many options for the exploration of spirit.
There is no church to attend or set of rules to follow: each Witch makes his or her own
path to suit his or her own needs, and then changes it as necessary to adjust to the
changes in life style, situations, and needs.
HEATHER: Like Deborah it is the openness that I embraced and love. It is the freedom
to be exactly who you are and the identification that your path is unique to you. While
we may share common ground and beliefs, my journey and yours remain different. The
fluidity of our worship to evolve with us as we develop personally and spiritually—I
think this is important because self-awareness is one of the greatest steps in this path.
DEBORAH:
There are endless possibilities, but among them, these are some of the more popularly
used by Pagans to help expand their pursuit of knowledge (whether it is knowledge of
self, the universe, deity), and to deepen their connection with the world around them.
Herbalism
Herbs and Witchcraft have gone together since the beginning of time. Herbs are
associated with many elements, but primarily the element of Earth (since they come
from the ground). They each have different gifts and associations, and many of them
have practical uses as well, including healing, cleaning, cosmetics, cooking, and more.
One of the easiest ways to integrate herbs into your day to day practice of Witchcraft is
to use them in one of their regular applications. For instance, if you throw some herbs
into your dinner, and add a spell to go along with it, you will have yummy food AND
magick!
Shamanic approaches
Pagan people from all over the world have used various shamanic approaches to grow
closer to spirit and to the natural world. Some of these traditional practices, such as the
use of mind-altering drugs, are not something I would recommend. Others, such as
fasting and meditation, can be done to whichever degree you are comfortable, and it is
easy to start small and work your way up. You may not have access to a sweat lodge, but
there is no reason you can’t take a hot bath with aromatic herbs, and spend the time
focusing inward. Shamanic approaches are all designed to remove the participant from
the mundane world and allow the spirit and the mind to soar beyond its usual confines.
Some of the following are ways to do that.
Trance dance
Dancing is fun and easy and everyone can do it. (You don’t have to be able to dance well,
either. Whether you are in a room by yourself or with a group of like-minded folks, no
one will be judging you—or even paying attention, in all likelihood.) Trance dancing
uses a rhythmic beat—drums are traditionally used, and sometimes flutes, for their
haunting sound. The goal is to dance without conscious intent and lose yourself in the
moment. Trance dancing often goes on for some time, so that exhaustion will help you to
move outside of your own head and out into the greater universe.
Drumming
As with the trance dancing above, the rhythmic sound of the drum is used to transcend
the everyday world and move you into an altered state of consciousness. Many witches
drum together in group gatherings for this reason. Drumming is also used during rituals
to build energy, sending the magickal working out on the waves of sound into the
universe, carrying your intent and wishes with it. You don’t need to be in a group to
achieve this, however (although it is nice during long drumming sessions to have
someone else continue if you need to rest your hands!). Solitary witches will also drum
for this same reason during their own rituals, and sometimes drum along with a CD if
working towards an altered state. In my opinion, a drum is one of the most basic and
useful witchcraft tools.
Astral Projection
Astral projection is another tool used by many Pagan cultures, although it is usually
only practiced by a select few (shamans and medicine men, not the average person).
Astral projection can be tricky to learn, and not everyone is either good at it or
comfortable with it. Astral projection is the practice of purposely separating your spirit
from your body, and sending it out—either into the higher plane, or somewhere on this
plane (usually to contact another person). Obviously, this is something that should only
be done if you feel safe and comfortable with the process, and can be certain that your
physical body will be undisturbed while you travel. Some people do this unconsciously
as they sleep, but others practice for years to be able to do it at will.
Spirit Guides
Spirit guides are also common to many Pagan cultures (you will even find variations of
them in Christianity, where they are usually called guardian angels or patron saints). A
spirit guide is some non-corporeal being that aids you in your practice of magic,
following your path through life, or with life and life’s lessons in general. Sometimes
they come to you without asking (whether you want them to or not), but often witches
and other magic users will do some form of ritual to ask for a spirit guide when they feel
the need for one, or are ready to move forward on a deeper level of spiritual exploration.
A spirit guide may come to you in the guise of an animal (the Native Americans almost
always have animal spirit guides), a person (sometimes a deceased relative), or
something non-corporeal (non-physical), like an angel, a spirit, or sometimes just a wise
voice that whispers in your ear. [Note: be sure that any voices you listen to are working
for your benefit! Not everything out there is positive or harmless.]
Dreaming
We all dream, although some people remember their dreams more clearly than others.
Witches often keep dream diaries and write down any dreams that seem meaningful or
significant. [You can probably ignore the one where you walk into a crowded room and
discover you’re naked. That’s just a sign that you’re stressed and feeling insecure!]
There is also a spiritual practice where people attempt to direct their dreams, in order to
get knowledge or answers. This can be aided by tucking sachets of certain magickal
herbs under your pillow (mugwort and lavender are popular) or taking a bath right
before bed with magickal herbs or essential oils. As with all other witchcraft, you start
out by focusing on your intent to have a meaningful dream, and concentrate on what it
is you wish to know.
Ceremonial Magic
Heather: Ceremonial magick relies on the concentration and coordination of those
practicing it. For example, the use of specific tools and items and ingredients performed
in a specific order is the practice of “ceremonial” magic. During my early studies, the
coven I studied under used ceremonial magic a great deal because it enhanced the
‘experience’ and the ‘focus’ of the dedicants. The drawing down of the moon, the casting
of the circle, the salute to the watchtowers, these had a deeply symbolic and divine
meaning, but also rigidly ceremonial. You had to do it a certain way to insure that you
honored the deity and divine properly. Some believe that ceremonial ‘magicians’ are
very different from witches and that the use of ceremonial magic relies more on the
process than the community or communing with the divine.
For me it is a dual purpose, it is intensely focused whether you are preparing a tincture
for tea or welcoming others to your circle. It puts everyone in the same ‘space’
together—but it’s also ritual show and gives others something flashy to appreciate
before they get to the actual meat of it. Now, that said, ceremonial magic is extremely
clear on what you ‘need’ to do to achieve ‘x’ results.
Discussion Questions: What do you do that expands and complements your witchcraft
practice? Are there things you would like to try that you haven’t had a chance to explore
yet, and if so, what?
DAY FOUR- Online course
Living as a Wiccan/Witch
Addressing the challenges of living as a Wiccan. Living a Wiccan Life is about more
than rituals, dancing under the moon and calling out the names of the goddess. It’s
about tolerance and acceptance in a world that is often intolerant to those who are
different from the norm. It is also about finding a way to integrate your spiritual beliefs
with your everyday life, no matter how busy, tired, or overwhelmed you are. [Deborah:
How many of you know exactly what I mean? Show of hands? I thought so.]
DEBORAH: As some of you know, this is a favorite topic of mine. In fact, I wrote an
entire book about the subject of integrating your spiritual beliefs as a Pagan with your
mundane life (The Goddess is in the Details), and it tends to show up in all my books to
one degree or another. Obviously, as with everything else we’re discussing here, this is
going to mean different things to different people. For some folks, it is all they can do to
get through the day, and it can feel almost impossible to add something else in on top of
everything they’ve got on their plates already. But I think that spirituality can be an
important tool to help us cope with all that other stuff, so it is well worth taking a
minute or two out of your day to make space for faith, spirit, and deity. And you’re
worth it, and deserve to do so.
How to use your spiritual beliefs to get through the difficult times—
Deborah: I am not a person for whom faith comes easily. I spent a lot of years searching
for (and not finding) a spiritual path that was right for me. One of the things that
brought me to Wicca was the feeling of love and acceptance I get from it; both from
other Pagans, and from the deities I now follow. Unlike some of the more rigid religions
that many of us were brought up with (in my case, Judaism, but for many, some form of
Christianity), I never feel like my gods are judging me, and that I’m not living up to
their expectations. I know they always want me to do better, but I feel loved and
accepted, no matter how many mistakes I make, or how many times I have to pick
myself up and dust myself off. All They want, as far as I can tell, is for me to keep trying
to do the best I can, and to be kind and loving as I follow my path.
When times get tough, I remind myself of that love and acceptance, and try to find it
within myself as well. By connecting with the gods’ love for me, I find it easier to be
kinder and more forgiving of my own flaws and failings. I have also (albeit slowly) come
to have faith. Faith that the gods love me no matter what, that things will eventually get
better, and that most of the (you should excuse the term) CRAP that happens to me is
actually a learning experience that will help me to grow stronger and become a better
person. (Admittedly, I think some of it is just crap. But there you are. That’s life.)
And, of course, I use magick to help when things get tough, too. Not only does it make
me feel like I am actually doing something constructive, when at times there doesn’t
seem to be much else of a practical nature left to do, but honestly, it often works. (Not
always, of course. But sometimes I think I’m probably asking for the wrong thing, at the
wrong time—then I try to have faith that the gods know better than I do. And be
patient. And then I go eat chocolate.) For instance, I’d recently been struggling with lack
of focus, and hadn’t been getting things done. It was frustrating, and nothing I tried
seemed to help. The rest of my coven was all having the same problem, so we did some
“focus and achievement” magick on the night of the blue moon. And, in fact, I’ve been
much more focused since! (Whew.)
Simple ways to integrate pagan spirituality with your everyday life
Deborah: Heather talked on day one about the way she started and finished each day by
connecting with Deity. I do that too. In the morning, before I even open my eyes, I greet
the god and goddess and ask them to grant me the strength and energy to get through
my day. I also usually ask for help with specific things I know I’m going to be dealing
with, and close by asking them to help the world move in a better direction, and to
watch over me and those that I love. At night, after I turn out the light, I always take a
moment to say “thank you” to the god and goddess, and make sure I mention specifics
(in part because this makes me take the time to figure out what I am grateful for). Of
course, you don’t have to do it either my way or Heather’s way—but making it a habit
to greet the dawn and say thank you at the end of each day, no matter how you chose to
do that, is a simple and easy way to touch base with your spirituality at least twice a day.
Other simple ways to integrate your spirituality with the rest of your life include
spending time appreciating and connecting to nature in some way (Witchcraft IS a
nature-based religion, after all). I believe that service to others (whether human beings
or animals, or even the environment) is a form of worship. You can light a candle on
your altar once a day, say a prayer, or simply talk to the god/dess of your choice. In my
book Witchcraft on a Shoestring, I have a list of 50 free or inexpensive ways to celebrate
your spirituality—you might be surprised by what’s on it.
How to bring your life into alignment with your values in and out of the broom closet
Deborah: One of the most difficult parts of following any religion is what I call “walking
your talk.” It’s easy to espouse high-minded ideals (like “do unto others as you would
have them do unto you,” for instance) but far trickier to actually stick to them 24/7. I
know plenty of Pagans who say they believe in “harm none,” but don’t always act
accordingly. I’m not perfect in this either; sometimes I find myself saying something
negative about someone who has done something to bug me, when I KNOW that putting
that negativity out there isn’t what I believe in or strive for in my own behavior.
Wicca/Witchcraft/Paganism doesn’t expect perfection from its followers. Nor can we
realistically expect it from ourselves. What we can do, however, is figure out what it is
we do believe in, and walk our talk to the best of our abilities. This means looking
clearly at our own behavior, being honest with ourselves, and working every day
towards bringing our actions into alignment with our values and ideals as Witches and
as human beings. To my mind, this is part of what spirituality brings to our lives:
guidelines to live our lives by, and ideals to aim for. And thankfully, forgiveness when
we don’t quite manage to measure up to our own goals. The important thing is to keep
trying, and to work at being our best selves, whether or not anyone is watching.
Deborah: A note for Pagans who are out of the closet—it is my personal belief (and you
don’t have to agree) that it is even more important for those of us who are living openly
as Witches to provide the best example possible. Make no mistake; all other Witches are
being judged by the actions of those few of us who are seen and heard to be
representatives of what is, for most people, a relatively unknown element. This doesn’t
mean you shouldn’t be yourself, or that you should pretend in any way to be something
or someone you are not. What it does mean, though, is that if you can demonstrate the
things that are good and true and wise about being a Witch (or at the very least, that
we’re not all that scary, or different from anyone else), it will make it that much easier
for the next Witch to come out of the broom closet to his or her family, coworkers, or
neighbors. Just something to think about.
Discussing Witchcraft with non-believers
Deborah: Discussing religion or spiritual beliefs with others is always tricky. For one
thing, people often hold very particular beliefs that they consider to be “right” and
aren’t particularly interested in hearing about ideas that might in some way contradict
their own. For another, our spiritual beliefs are a deeply personal concept, and not
always something we wish to share.
That’s okay. As far as I’m concerned, what you believe is no one else’s business. Because
I am an author, and my books are out for sale in the shop I run, people sometimes ask
me questions (and I get a lot of questions online, too). When that happens, I am happy to
talk to people about what I believe. But I don’t offer up the information that I am a
Witch to everyone I meet, and I am always willing to listen to other people’s viewpoints,
even if I don’t agree with them. As a Pagan, most of my friends and family have
religious paths that are very different from mine, and we all get along fine. The key is to
be open and accepting of others’ beliefs…and patient when they are not always quite
that flexible in return.
On the other hand, I am a BIG fan of spreading knowledge and information about
Witchcraft when people express an interest. After all, the more they know about what
modern Witchcraft is really about, the more likely they are to accept it.
Discussion Questions: Is your spiritual belief a small part of your life or a large one?
What would you like to do differently, if anything? Are you out of the broom closet, and
if so, has that effected your life in any negative or positive ways?
Day 5 online class
Good morning all!
We’ve had a great week with this class and I thought we’d go out with a bang. Today is
your big chance to ask me and/or Heather any questions you have about a witchcraft
practice. Big, small, silly…go for it! You can also catch up on the classes from the earlier
part of the week.
To finish up, I’m going to give you a little taste of my new book, Everyday Witch Book
of Rituals as well as ritual basics.
Deborah
The Beat Goes On- *** Possible New Year’s ritual ??? Or Full Moon ritual !
Pagans have been using drums since the beginning of time for connection with the gods
and with each other. Almost every culture in every country has some kind of drum or
percussion instrument, from rattles to hollow logs, to ornate carved drums with heads
made from the skins of sacred animals.
The beat of the drum mimics the beat of the human heart, as well as the living pulse of
the world around us. It can connect us with spirit, draw us deep within to help us find
the path to our inner journeying, and take a scattered group of strangers and turn them
into a cohesive and connected whole. It can sooth and create trance states or inflame our
bodies in a frenzy of passion. There is much power in drumming, whether done on your
own or in a group.
The purpose of this drumming ritual is simple: to connect us with our ancestors—the
Pagan folk who went before us—and to connect us with our own inner wisdom and the
power and pulse of the universe around us. If you chose to do this ritual with others, it
will connect you with them as well.
If you don’t have a drum, you can use a drumming recording and clap your hands or
stomp your feet instead. But I believe you will find this traditional Pagan activity so
addictive, you will almost certainly want to get a drum of your own.
Tools needed:
• A drum (any kind—you can even make your own from materials you find around the
house, although the sound from home-made drums is rarely as deep and rich as that
from a real drum) or a drum CD if you don’t have a drum
• Sage smudge stick
Before starting:
This is as simple a ritual as there is. You don’t need to cast a circle, unless you want to.
Simply sit outside under the full moon, or inside in a darkened, comfortable space if you
can’t be outside, and open your heart and spirit to the beat of the drum.
** Cleanse yourself before starting by wafting the sage over your body. You can sage
your drum as well if you wish.
**; Hold the drum loosely in your hands and close your eyes. Feel the moon overhead,
and sense the presence of the goddess. Reach back through history and think of all those
other folks whose hands beat upon a drum—hands of different colors, and sizes and
shapes, but all with the same intent as you have on this night.
**; Start beating the drum slowly (you can leave your eyes closed or open them) or start
the music and begin clapping. As you drum, feel the echo of your drumbeats in the
rhythm of the world around you. Feel your heart beating in time with the drum and
matching the pulse of the natural world beneath you. If you are drumming with others,
reach out your inner senses to feel them too. As you beat the drum faster, you can sense
the beating of the goddess’s heart, filling and surrounding you. Go as fast or slow as
feels right to you, feeling the beat of your drum carrying your spirit out into the
universe to connect with everything.
** When you are ready, slow down your drumming gradually until you are only beating
once or twice a minute, then stop and take a deep breath. Come back to the mundane
world, but take a moment to internalize that feeling of connection, so you can carry it
inside yourself from this point onward.
Sidebar: Magic’s Mischief, Meddling, and Merriment—
To go a step beyond, try attending a local drumming group. These can be found in many
areas and even those which are not specifically Pagan can help you connect with that
primal energy.

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