Just an FYI this site will be going down for maintenance in the next couple of hours. Should be up by tomorrow. I apologize for any incovenience.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Wicca 101 - Altars and Tools

Monday, February 28, 2011
By RaeVynn Sands, Flickr user cronewynd, via Wikimedia Commons
This week I wanted to talk about altars and the tools of our Faith. While tools are not necessary, it is good to familiarize yourself with them at the very least.

First a list of tools and descriptions; (Note I'm sure to miss a few tools that you may use or have heard of. This is not intentional it is simply a reflection of the different variations in the many traditions.

  • Athame - Normally a black handled dagger, the athame is used to direct energy during ritual. Some traditions associate this tool with the element of fire and others with air.
  • Bolline - This is a white handled dagger used for actual physical work. But work associated with magickal rites. For things like harvesting herbs or inscribing symbols on candles.
  • Besom - Or broom. This is used to 'sweep' out the negativity from an area. But not used in actual cleaning.
  • Wand - Used in circle to conjure or call up the different Elemental Guardians. Some traditions associate this with the element of air and others with fire.
  • Chalice/Cauldron - Both tools represent the womb of the Goddess and the element of water.
  • Pentacle Disc - Typically a five pointed star inscribed on a disc of varying materials. Represents the element of Earth on the altar and can be used as a place to ground magickal workings.

Now the most important tool is the altar. Because your family needs a place to gather together to do ritual and to do magick. There is no 'right' way to setup an altar, but here are some suggestions;

  • The family Deities should be represented. If you haven't found who those are then you can just have representations of the Goddess and God on there instead.
  • There should be a representation of the One. The principle that the Goddess and God are the two parts of. If this is not part of your mythos, then you can exclude this.
  • A spot for the Ancestors and Elders should be reserved as well. You can mark this with a candle or a small lamp and an offering plate. You can also include pictures of some of those that have passed on.
  • The family should have something to represent it. In FWTI they use the family light, which can be lit to bring the family together. But you could also use a symbol that everyone can touch as they pass by to remind them of the fact that they are connected to the rest of the family.
  • You may also want to have representations of the four elements as well. Whether you use colored candles or actual physical symbols of them.
  • Another suggestion is the Family Book of Shadows. Which should be a compilation of rituals and traditions of the family. You can also put photos of each member of the family (ancestors included) and photos of different rituals and trips that the family has taken.
  • You can also decorate the altar with symbols of each of the seasons and/or Sabbats.

Now as you go ahead with the building of your family altar. Just keep a few things in mind;

  • Put it where the most traffic is. It does no good if the family is not reminded of it.
  • Use it. Build your rituals around it. Pray at it. The more that you do these things, the more "spiritually charged" the Family Altar will become.
  • I have always found that simpler is better. The more on it, the easier it is to knock something over and the less "working" room there is.
  • Do not worry about getting it "wrong". If it "feels" right then it is "right".
Tune in later this week for the other half of this lesson. The one for children. 

Blessed Be!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ostara Crafts - Seed Paper

Sunday, February 27, 2011
I found this unique craft idea earlier today and I just had to share.

Basically all you need is colored paper, flower seeds and a blender. OK and maybe some water.

First shred the paper and then with some water run them through a blender, forming a paste. Don't add to much water you want this to come out really thick.

Next add some seeds and stir in with a wooden spoon. Remember don't blend we don't want to cut up the seeds.

Then push it out (much like dough) and let it dry overnight.

Finally cut it into designs and attach to a homemade card. This way you can share some of the gifts of spring with your loved ones.

For those of us that are a little more visually oriented here is a link to the original post that has pictures.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Goddess Eostre

Friday, February 25, 2011
There is a theory that the Christian holiday of Easter is named after this Saxon Goddess. This theory springing from the Venerable Bede's Temporum Ratione. In which Bede tells us that April as known as Eostre Month and sacred to Eostre.

So who exactly was Eostre? While little remains to us, since so much of the oral tradition was lost, is that she was a fertility Goddess and a Goddess of Spring. I found the following story out in the internet while I was researching this article and I think it sums her up quite well. Link here.

Once, when the Goddess was late in comming, a little girl found a bird close to death from the cold and turned to Eostre for help. A rainbow bridge appreared and Eostre came, clothed in her red robe of warm, vibrant sunlight which melted the snows. Spring arrived. Because the little bird was wonded beyond repair, Eostre changed it into a snow hare who then brought rainbow eggs. As a sign of spring, Eostre instructed the little girl to watch for the snow hare to come to the woods.
 So as you go forward and celebrate Ostara this weekend you may want to say a small prayer to this nearly forgotten Goddess of the Old World.

Blessed Be!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Children's Ostara Story

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
The old story teller paused for a moment to collect his thoughts and puff on his pipe. He looked around at the audience before him, all his grandchildren and he smiled. Then he said, "Now the kiss has wakened the sleeping maiden, but the Earth has been sleeping with her too long. So together the God, King of Sun and Oak and his consort the Maiden of Spring prepare to work the magick required to bring about the springtime and the growth of the plants and animals.
"After deep thought the Goddess and God gathered together the Faeries of the land and made plans to gather together all the eggs in the land. Then, the plan was, they would boil and color the eggs to draw upon the magick of the eggs. Which they would then spread among the lands, bringing new life and springtime.
"But as they gathered the eggs and colored them, they didn't realize, until to late, that the Trickster was stealing the eggs a little at a time. So before they knew it that sly fox, the cunning coyote had stolen all the eggs and hidden them all over the land.
"As often happens though, the plans of the Trickster wind up tricking and fooling him in the end. For as he scattered the eggs so did he scatter the magick all over the land. Now as you can guess this made the magick work better than the original plan. For the magick was scattered pure all over the land.
"So you see children this is why we hide the eggs after we color them to take the role of the Trickster. We help the Gods spread and work the magick of Springtime."
"But, grandfather," asked one of the the children at his feet. "Did they ever find the eggs?"
Laughing the grandfather nodded and answered, "Why yes they did. Then they had a great feast. But the strange thing was that the only people in all the land that could find the eggs were the little children and the Faeries themselves. So that is why you children look for the eggs."
"But grandfather," asked one of the children, "what happened next?"
"Well now the eggs, once lost and now found, were cleaned and polished to a high gleam. Almost like gems they looked their, laid out at the feet of the Sun King and the Goddess. Then all kinds of creatures from all across the land, from the birds that fly high into the sky to the moles that burrow within the earth, joined hands and began to dance a circle dance around the Goddess and God and the newly shined eggs. Faster and faster they spun, raising the energy of love and light and of new hope. Around and around the animals spun crying out in their voices both small and large songs of joy until at last, when they could no longer keep dancing, they fell down laughing and magickally around them the Earth turned green and fertile. The last of the snows that were upon the ground melted and finally Spring was here. And for a moment peace rested upon the Earth, the lamb laid down with the lion and was safe. And the children marveled to see all of this. Knowing that they had seen the sacredness in nature.
"Seeing them, the Sun King gathered the little children to him and blessed them and told them about the magick that they had just witnessed. That this magick must be done each year by not only the animals of the Earth but by the people of the Earth also. And if the children will look closely when they dance they may just see Faeries darting between them in joy. Then the Goddess spoke and said that if the children worked this magick, then they would receive the gifts of the season on the morning of Ostara.
"Now you see children this is why when you wake on Ostara morning that you will oftentimes find a basket with gifts of candies and the such that represent Springtime. You see the chocolate bunny represents new life and young children, the hope that the Earth will continue on. The hot cross bun represents the balance of the Seasons, for you see Spring is a midpoint between the cold of Winter and the heat of Summer. And if you get any eggs then they represent the promise of new life that comes with each new Spring.
"So be thankful on Ostara morning and dance for joy. Dance the circle round and hunt for eggs and know that if you look closely then you too may see Faeries dancing around you. Go now little children play and let me rest. I will tell you another story tomorrow."
And with this the little children went off in search of faeries in the woods around their home.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wicca 101 - Elements

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I posted this a while back but I wanted to put it out there again. This lesson is kind of universal for children and for adults, so I am going to put it there for both of you. Hope you enjoy!

Items Needed

Bowl of Earth
Bowl of Water
Tea light or votive candle
Four Candles -- Yellow, red, blue, green

Arrange colored candles in a circle around you. Putting the appropriate color candle and elemental representation in each of the quarters. Have your children sit with you and tell them that you are going to talk about the elements.

The world is made of five elements. Everything in it.

Move to the East and wave each of the children with the feather. Ask them if they feel the breeze. Tell them that is Air. Have them breathe in and out. Tell them that they have Air within them, that it is all around them. Show them the yellow candle saying that yellow is the magickal color of the element of Air. 

Take them deosil to the South and light the tea light. Now, with extreme caution, let them feel the heat from the candle. Tell them that this Fire. Have them put their hand over their heart, feel the warmth and the beating of their heart. Tell them that this is a sign of Fire within them. Show them next the red candle and say the red is the magickal color of the element of Fire.

Continue on to the West and handing around a bowl of water, let each of the children dip their fingers into the water. Tell them that this water. Then have them lick their lips. Ask them if it feels wet, say that this the water within them. Show them the blue candle, telling them that this is the magickal color of the element of Water

Finally go on to the Northern quarter. Hand them the bowl of Earth and let them feel the dirt. Tell them that this is Earth. Tell them that their bodies and the bones within are made of the element of Earth. Show them the green candle, telling them that this is the magickal color of the element of Earth.

Now take time for any questions before continuing onto Spirit.

Ask them, "Are you different then me?" They should answer yes. Ask them if they know what it is that makes us different. The answer is that it is spirit that makes us different. We each have a different spirit within us. When you talk to the Goddess and God they are spirit. Spirit is what makes us alive. There is no color for spirit because you cannnot see it, you can only feel it.

Tell them next that: When we do ritual we cast a circle made of spirit around us. It separates from our world, where we have to go to work or do chores and takes us to a magickal place. And in circle we call the Four Elements as watchtowers to watch over us and protect us while we honor the Gods.

If you feel that your children are old enough then you can take this time to continue to talk about spirit. Take their hands and create a "circuit" of energy between the two of you. In other words send them energy and then feel it return to you. Ask them if they feel anything and if so what does it feel like. Is it hot or tingly or anything like that?

Then tell them, if they can feel it, that is spirit as well. Tell them that that is the energy that we use to cast circle and to work magick and to heal. Go back to my post on ethics and tell them that this energy must be used responsibly. 

Ask them next if they would like to send you some energy. If so then let them. After you are done make sure you take some time for snack time. So they can properly ground. I am posting a grounding exercise tomorrow if you want to wait on then before teaching your children about energy.

Take a final moment for question time.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bridging the Gap - by Crystal Blanton a Review

Sunday, February 20, 2011
As many of you know, I am training in a degree system. This started within FWTI and after it's dissolution, it continued within my Mentor's family coven. Crystal Blanton(my mentor) has recently started the Rising Phoenix Tradition and she has also recently had her first book published, titled Bridging the Gap.

After much delay I was able to purchase this book. And after reading it, for what will be the first of many more times, I wanted to share my thoughts with all of you. This is because, while her book is focused on covens and larger groups, many of her lessons also apply to families as well. It is this topic, of Family Dynamics which she talks about in depth at her column on the Pagan Household.

Bridging the Gap, as it progresses diagnoses and explains the symptoms of groups that have problems. And I think we all have seen or been part of these groups. The Witch Wars and gossip and backstabbing that can be a common part of the Pagan community. 

But she doesn't stop there, Bridging the Gap, fully explores the steps that we can all take to improve and 'cure' these problems. Most of which focus on the self. This is because it is difficult, at best, to fix external problems if we cannot deal with our own problems.

Additionally she provides guidelines to help mentors and those they mentor establish solid, healthy and productive guidelines. Guidelines, which help to promote healthy spiritual growth.

With additional exercises and advice on things from building Group Mind to creating balance in groups and the self, Bridging the Gap, is a fantastic read and one that I would recommend to anyone who is part of any Pagan/spiritual group. Whether that be family, coven, grove or whatever it is called.

Blessed Be!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wicca 101- God - Kids Version

Thursday, February 17, 2011
Much like yesterday I am going to re-share some poems that do a good job of describing the different aspects of the God in kid friendly terms.
Charge of the Horned Lord
I am the Horned Lord, Cernunnos, guardian of the cycle of birth and rebirth. I am the youth of Spring and exuberant life. My breath is the warming Southern wind. I am the Oak dressed in Brown and Green. I am the protective hunter, King of the animals and I am the wild Pan. Lovemaking, laughter and feasting are all testaments to my power and might. To love is to worship me. I am the Lord of the Greenwood, The Sun King and Heaven's Lord among countless other incarnations. I give to man these gifts; little children of all ages, ecstasy of the spirit and of the body, and I provide the path to self-illumination.I am the Sun and consort to the Earth Mother and the Star Goddess. I am the priest of the Sun. I am the gnostic upon the throne at the center of all life. And I am the leader of the Wild Rade that leads to the Underworld, which is your inner self.I am the fire in every beating heart and the waters of the soul, the Earth of the body and the breath of the mind. Call on me as protector and warrior for I am the God of Battles.I bring the rain, the ultimate promise of life, hear my voice and my laughter in the sound of the falling rain and be joyous.
Rede of the Lord of the Harvest
I am the aging man toiling day after day to provide for his children. I am the Father who regardless of his worries always has a smile for his fellow man. I am the Earth aging and giving up its last crop. Yet I am also the promise of life unending even into Death. I am true love made real by a willing sacrifice. I am the yellow corn that gives life to the masses. But still I am feared because I bring death soon, robed in black I bring the scythe that cuts down the wheat. Yet do not worry for does not the wheat continue your life? See my willing death in the waning sun and the leaves turning crimson and orange. Yet remember my death is willing for in my death I end the battle between world in Summerland for I will be there to guide the souls of the dead and give them a chance at rebirth
Tale of the Grandfather
Grandchildren, grandchildren gathered around my chair. You warm my heart and keep me young. I am the storyteller and the keeper of tradition. My body won't let me dance the sacred dances and my voice is to old to sing the Holy Songs. But my mind is still sharp and I can pass my wisdom down to the next generation. What was that? Oh yeah my name, who I am. Well I have been known by many names. I have been called Hephaestus, and the Holly King. I am grandfather Winter and the Ruler of the Underworld, Hades. If you come to seek wisdom. Listen for the lonely wind rattling through the trees and rocks. Look beneath the silence of the falling snow. Come and sit by the fire and if you look hard enough you will see me smiling out at you with a glint in my eye.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wicca 101 - Goddess - Kid's Version

Tuesday, February 15, 2011
For this I wanted to share some poems that I have shared before. These kind of stories have been used for millenia to pass down information, simply because they work. But rather then talk about the Goddess as a whole I wanted to specifically address Her aspects. 

If you have read through my other post, earlier this week, then you should be able to explain any questions that your child will have upon reading this to them. You will also notice that I didn't touch on the Crone. Instead I have shown her as the Grandmother. 

Song of the Maiden

Hear the words of the Maiden:
I who am La Primavera, The Springtime. I who am the promise of Life and the hope for immortality. The one who from beneath my dancing feet spring flowers. I who am the Virgin, untameable. Robed in white, pure and untouched by the world's strife.
I bid you to be merry in all you do. When you make love be sure to think of me for your little deaths are a chance for the beginnings of a little life. And at every birth think of me. For whether boy or girl I am also born there.
Every drop of rain is a blessing falling from my lips, so rejoice in the falling rain. I represent life unbridled, untamed. So I bid thee remember to be unashamed to sing or dance when the mood takes thee.
For every dance and every song is but an expression of the Song of Creation and the Dance of the Creatrix.
Count thy blessings every day and let not sadness take thee for every ending and misfortune leads to a new beginning and greater fortune. There is no room for sadness in the worship of Me.
Also remember not to fear the night for after every night there comes a new dawn. And I promise tht if ye look careful you can see me arrayed in clours wondrous on every morn at the rise of the Sun.
Rede of the Mother

Listen close and hearken to my words:
I who am Demeter, giver of fruitfulness and abundance; I who am Arianrhod, the Turner of the Heavenly Wheel; I who am Selene, Queen of the Starlit Heavens and Goddess of the Moon; I who am Hera, Goddess of the Hearth.
As I am the Goddess of the Moon. I am the bringer of change in your life. And although you may not see the wisdom, all I do is done for the betterment of each and every one of my children. But fear not for I am also Hera, Goddess of the Unchanging Hearth and I bring that growing power to each of your ventures, if they follow the Rede.
But also remember that for each of these gifts that I offer you, you must in turn spread your gifts to the people around you. Be a light in the world to show the way of love and the way of peace and passivity. But do not think that I counsel you to let yourself be trodden upon. Stand firm in your beliefs and for your rights. Yet do this while remaining calm and loving. And I assure you that if enough of you do this then it will spread like all wondrous things will and the world will be united in peace and love.
Let each person lead their own lives. yet counsel in love if you see them doing harm to themselves or others. Also lead by example. Live these words and others will follow. For do not actions speak louder than words?
I give you all my blessings and shower you in my Love. Blessed Be!
Song of the Grandmother
Come nearer my grandchildren. Gather in close and listen to the words of my song. I sing of my life. Long has that life been yet its end is near.

My names are many. I have been called Cerridwen, Baba Yaga, Hecate, Morgana and by many other names. I am wisdom embodied and all of life's knowledges resides with me. Be heartened and know that I watch over you always.

So if you seek wisdom, advice, or knowledge come and ask. But do not mock me because I am old. For once was I young and beautiful. Once was I the Maiden daughter and the Mother. And to some I am those people still. So listen well and learn my lessons.

Listen for my stories in the wind. Look for me in the weaving of the winter bare branches and hear my ancient voice singing in the crackle of the fire.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wicca 101 - God

Monday, February 14, 2011
He is an aspect of Pagan Deity that is, most times, by most pagans, either ignored or given only a cursory reference. And even though they are jaded these people are not to blame. Most of us have grown up in a culture and/or religion that places the male god outside of us. In a society that makes him into a stern father who stands in Heaven with lightning bolts at hand to punish us if we step out of line. So it is little wonder that so many pagans who ran to paganism as an alternative to Judeo Christian culture steer clear of the pagan God. But there is no need to fear Him. For while he can be stern there is no concept of sin, no line to cross. He also does not represent the view of our culture that men are violent predators. For there is mercy in His strength and justice in His anger. His role is to protect his family and home from all that threaten it.
He is the Greenman, the Horned One. The Oak, the Holly. The Lover and Consort, opposite yet complimentary to the Goddess. He represents the lifestages that all men go through. From childhood and young adulthood into Fatherhood and then into Old Age. He is the Hunter and the Hunted. The Grain and the Scythe.
If you seek for the God look for him in Song and Dance. Hear his voice in the wind and the falling rain and the crackle of the fire on a cold night. He visits the high places and dances through the deep forests. Hear his laughter in the babbling brook and laugh with him. He can be found at lifes beginning and at the end of this life and the beginning of the next. He is the God of Life and Death. God of War and Peace. Father of us all he can be found in all things.
We have organized the God into three aspects. The Horned Lord, The Lord of the Harvest, and the Lord of Shadows. This section shall also be organized as before. First an introduction to the aspect with specific examples of Deity. Then the guided meditation at the end of each individual section.
The Horned Lord
The Horned Lord, he who is the warrior, the hunter. Lover and consort to the Maiden, While She is the rolling meadow, He is the deep forest. Gentle stream, raging river; Quiet reflection, Ecstasy of Song and Dance. He is the Oak King, the Lord of the Dance. The newborn sun rising quickly to his zenith. He embodies the dynamic power of youth. Quick to word and action not yet tempered by age. He is not violent or angry except when he has no other choice.
Many pagans will include this aspect but ignore or gloss over the essential part that includes his warring nature and his love of the hunt. This world that we live in, as much as we hope otherwise, is not a peaceful one. There is war and there is death. But the Horned Lord is not about war for war's sake or hunting just to hunt and not to eat what is killed. Hunting at one point in our history was necessary not so much now but if do hunt say the prayers to the soul of the animal that you killed and give thanks when you consume its flesh. Choose to fight only when you have no other options before you. This aspect embodies tolerance and forbearance. Be tolerant of others but do not let others tread on you.
The Peaceful Warrior. These three words sum up the definition of the Horned Lord in his warring aspect. The warrior, first and foremost, seeks to reach above himself; to overcome his false perceptions. His highest achievment is not of victory but rather of absolute truth. And it is this truth that He integrates into all parts of his life.
The lives of the innocent and the weak he places above himself. For he has banished his ego knowing that all things are transient and fleeting. He seeks to be just and honorable, taking pride only in what he does, rather than what he has done. And to those that seek to be awakened he shows the way and guides them down that path.
Try to accept these lessons in your life. Act with truthfullness, tolerance and forbearance. Live in the moment for it is soon gone and Death will be here. The Horned Lord does not seek brilliance or the void instead he focuses on living his life, thinking deeply and working hard. Seek to do the same.
The Horned God is an iconic symbol that stretches across much of the ancient world. From the Celts into Rome and even into the Indus Valley in India. There are many names for Him. The best known is Cernunnos, even though there is nothing written about him by the ancients. Yet the images of him are consistent. He is often portrayed with antlers like a stag, and older man with long hair and beard. Most often he is pictured near a stag and near a ram horned serpent. It is because of his association with animals that he is called the Lord of the Animals or of the Hunt. Cernunnos is often portrayed sitting in what appears to be a meditative posture so he is in addition to being believed to be a God of fertility often believed to be a shamanic God.
But the Horned Lord does not always need horns. A God that represents the freeing power of this aspect is Dionysus. Again the serpent makes an appearance here in addition to the bull, the vine, and ivy. All of it infused with the power of this God. An ancient God dating at least back to the Minoans he is often depicted in a chariot being drawn by panthers.
Many think of Dionysus as a God of drunkenness and excess but he is not an old fat drunkard as many portray him. In fact he is much more than that. He is a God of fertility and growth, as well as freedom. He was born to a virgin mortal mother fathered by the King of Heaven (Zeus), killed only to be reborn. Turn to Dionysos when you are looking for ecstasy of the spirit and freedom for a time from the worries that plague you.
The Harvest Lord

He is our Father, ruler of the Earth's bounty and of the High Places. That grain that grows, yet also the scythe that cuts it down. He is Life and Death and the bridge between the two. For He is the grain in life and in death he is still the grain that gives us new life. He is the provider that walks that line, willing to sacrifice all, including himself, to provide for his family.
The Lord of the Harvest is also the patron of the arts and crafts. Lugh was example of this, associated by the Romans with Mercury, because of his patronship of the arts and of all crafts and skills. He was also the god of traveling, money and commerce.
Romano-Celtic images of Lugh show a bearded, mature and handsome man, carrying the symbols of the caduceus and purse, accompanied by his totems; the ram, cock and tortoise. He was often shown accompanied by Rosmerta or Maia, representing wealth and material benefit. Such companionship parallels the old Celtic custom of the marriage of the king to the material goddess of the land.
The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus wrote of a version of the myth of Osiris. In this myth Osiris is described as an ancient king who taught the Egyptians the arts of civilization, including agriculture. Eventually Osiris is murdered by his evil brother Set who cuts the body of Osiris into twenty-six pieces. The great mystery festival of Osiris began at Abydos on the 17th of Athyr (November 13th) which commemorated the death of the god, which is also the same day that grain was planted in the ground. The resurrection of the god symbolized the rebirth of the grain. This aspect is representative of the ability of all things to be reborn. Remember all that falls shall rise again. Turn to the Lord of the Harvest when you feel you are at the end of your rope and look for the hope of rebirth, it is never that far.
The Sage or Lord of the Underworld

Anubis, the Jackal God of the Egyptians is a good example of the power of this aspect. Even though he was shunned and made fun of by the Romans his worship continued at least until the second century in Rome.
As the God of dying and later of death, he was the guide of the souls through the veil. And as such he was known and prayed to as the protector of lost souls, such as orphans. Anubis was also the weigher of souls and this makes him a god of judgement as well.

The lame smith God of the Greeks Hephaestus is another God that falls into this aspect. His lesson is that you can be unpopular and not have good looks but still be in great need. The myths tell us that he was given the hand of Aphrodite because of his great crafting skill.
In fact his skill was in such demand that he wound up making most of the necessary items of legend for the other Gods and Heroes of old. Such as Hermes' winged helmet and sandals, the Aegis breastplate, Aphrodite's famed girdle, Agamemnon's staff of office, Achilles' armor, Heracles' bronze clappers, Helios' chariot, the shoulder of Pelops, and Eros' (Cupid) bow and arrows.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wicca 101 - Goddess

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In this section I wanted to talk about Deity and It's different aspects. While I would normally include in this in the first week's lessons I wanted to spread this out rather then shove it all out there at once.

The Goddess can be found in everything in your life. From the light to the dark, from the good to the bad. This may seem contradictory, but oftentimes in something bad something good can be found. Even at the end of life, for death is not a sad time for the deceased, simply a time of rest before they are born again. So be at peace for you shall rejoin them in time.
You may find Her in the Moon in all its phases. In the arms of your lover or in the embrace of friends. She can be found in many places you have only to look and call for her.
When Wicca and paganism first began there were was the idea that to validate this new religion, we had to seek for validation in the past. We spun tales of Goddess worship unintterupted back through the centuries. Stories sprung up about covens in families that could trace the lineage back to the days of Rome or even further. Now don't get me wrong these stories may be true but for me it is does not matter for while evidence that Wicca goes back further into history than the 1940's or 1950's is lacking, there is plenty of evidence that the Goddess, in one form another, was worshipped by people in the past. Whether they called her Isis or Astarte, Venus or Ishtar, Kali or Morganna, She has been worshipped. And although many of the ancient practices are missing or incomplete, it does not make our own method of practice and worship inferior or incomplete, because in the end it is not about doing as others have done before, rather it is about our own personal connection to the Goddess; The Mother of all that is.
We can seek to unlock the mysteries of the past to better understand Her, but if it interferes with your honor of Her what good has the seeking done?


This is the aspect of the Goddess pertaining to Youth and Innocence. She is the Eternal Virgin but not in the patriacharchal sense of a woman before sex or marriage but in the older sense of the word, a woman that belongs only to herself.
The Maiden aspect has many lessons for us. To love without bounds, to view the world through the eyes of innocence and to live in the moment. Through her we learn mercy and compassion. She is also a goddess of passion and gracefulness.
But as much as the Maiden lives in the now, she does not forget her duties. Nor does she let her innocence allow her to be taken advantage of. She is the Huntress, the Warrior Queen as much as she is the Midwife and the Gardener.
There are many Goddesses that fall into this aspect. One example is Artemis who was born after a short and painless labor. After her birth she then turned around and became midwife and nurturer to her Mother, Leto, and helped her mother to give birth to her own twin brother Apollo. Because of this Artemis became the Goddess of childbirth, the protector of children, and the goddess who listened most closely to the appeals of women. This Goddess' association with the wilderness around us, symbolized her own untamed nature. Because of her independence she became the best huntress of the Gods. She was also often depicted carrying a torch to light the way for others, leading them through territories yet uncharted.
There is also the Goddess Kuan Yin who's story best tells us about her. In her youth she was Miao Shan a maiden that wanted to become a Buddhist nun but was forbidden to do so by her Father. He tried to have her married off and when she refused he sent soldiers to kill her. She was saved by a tiger but then descended into the Land of the Dead and freed the souls in bondage there. Rose again and was greeted by Buddha himself who sent her into hiding on the isle of P'u T'o Shan where she reached enlightenment. Yet her suffering had taught her mercy and compassion so that she stopped short and turned back with the pledge to save mankind. That she would not reach enlightenment until everyone else before her reached there.
The Mother is an aspect of the Goddess that at first glance seems self-explanatory. The Mother is the mother right? While she is that nurturing force, she is also self-sacrifice personified. But not self-sacrifice for its sake, rather she will sacrifice her needs and desires and even herself for her children and those she loves.
As the Maiden was the Virgin, so has the Mother commited herself to her lover and to her children. Now that she is grown older she can no longer worry only about today and how she is affected, for she has brought new life into the world and she carries that responsibility.
She is the gateway to life and the womb that grows the seed. She is the Moon and the Earth and the controller of tides. She is universal love and the path to peace.
Demeter as the Goddess of grain and fertility was an important deity to the ancient Greeks. She was the mother of Persephone who was also called Kore. And in that story we see the dedication found in this aspect. She never stopped seeking for her lost daughter and when she found her she braved all things, even death, to rescue her.
Before her marriage to Zeus, Hera was called the Queen of Heaven because she ruled over the heavens and the earth and was responsible for every aspect of existence, including the seasons and the weather. She was also known as Juno in the Roman pantheon, the Goddess of weddings. Her sacred animals were the peacock and the cow. The cow symbolizing Hera's watchfulness over her children and the peacock symbolizes her beauty and immortality. She has been called upon in olden days to bless and protect a woman's marriage. Bringing fertility and protection for her children.

Who is the Crone? She is the one who, wrapped in mystery, brings the wisdom that is key to unlock the ancient mysteries. She is blunt and sometimes harsh but that is only because she has learned the value of unfettered honesty. The end of her life draws near and she has no time to indulge people in their illusions. She can be turned to when the world has baffled you, because she has lived a long life and more likely then not she has already solved the puzzle that faces you.
See her face in the dark of the Moon and the cool night shadows and look within to know that she has always been with you from birth through death. She is the tomb that is the womb that leads from death into the rebirth and new life.
The Crone goddess of the Welsh was Cerridwen. A shape-shifting goddess of divination and enchantment. Her cauldron is a symbol of death and of life. It represents the womb and the tomb through which we have all passed and will pass again.
Her cauldron can contain the elixir of immortality that allows us to pass through death and into rebirth to live again. It may also contain the waters of Knowledge. Which would make it the Grail that Arthur seeked so long for. For a king of the Celts ruled by the will of the Goddess.
The ancient race of the Slavs worshipped a Goddess called Baba Yaga. She is the old crone that guards the Water of Life and Death. She is oftentimes represented as the wild untamed forces of nature but as we know the storm brings the water of life allowing for rebirth.
Her symbols are the birch tree, the tree of beginnings and endings. She was also known as the White Lady as she is stiff and white and carved of bone.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thoughts from the Seed

Thursday, February 10, 2011
Image: Rawich / freedigitalphotos
I've talked many times about how as Pagans that we should be looking towards nature for answers to our questions. And one of the most common questions I get is how to raise a child in Paganism. So put the two together and you get today's post.

The lowly seed. It quietly and patiently goes about its appointed task, to grow. Now of course it needs some help. Good soil, the right amount of water and then as a seedling the right amount of nurturing light. But in the end there is nothing we can do to speed or make this process happen. It is completely out of our control.

One of my mentors, schooled me in the idea of the 'organic method' that everything happens in its own time and in its own way. Exactly like that seed and exactly like our children. Our children need nurturing and a strong and spiritual family, yet they will grow and surprise us in many ways as they get older.

Basically I am saying that we as parents, myself included, need to relax sometime and let our kids have some organic time. Thoughts?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wicca 101 - What are We? The Kid's Version

Wednesday, February 9, 2011
For this topic I'm not going to make a list of things to teach your kid. What kid likes to learn lists of words and topics? This isn't school, it's supposed to be fun. Instead I want to just talk about Wicca in a more organic method.

We are a group of religious practitioners that believe that the Goddess and the God are evident in all things. I think this sets us apart from many other religions. But saying this is not enough, because like most other things in this religion, it must be experienced. So take your kids camping or fishing. Or just take them out of the city and let them experience the wonder of nature. When they ask why something is the way it is, or who makes the flowers so pretty. Then you can talk about the Goddess and the God and how they are part of all things.

Our world view is one of those things that also sets us apart from other faiths. We don't see things as necessarily black and white rather we weigh them depending on the circumstances that we are in. Now there are exceptions to this, like any other rule, but it applies to many things. As parents we are in an unique position to pass this on to our children. And through doing so, teach them about Wicca.

So I think you see the point I am trying to make here. To explain what Wicca is to our kids, all we have to do is start. We all know what we believe and why we act as we do, most of this is shaped by our faith. Pass that onto your kids and you have begun the journey of raising Wiccan/Pagan kids.

If you have anything to add, specific examples of things I missed or just input on what I have already said, it would be appreciated.

Blessed Be!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Should Health be Important to Pagans?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011
I figured I would keep in the vein of controversial posts. Let me know what you all think.

Eight words the Wiccan Rede, fulfills an' it harm none do as ye will. Yes I know that is more Wiccan and not exactly Pagan, but most Pagans I know try to follow some version of the Rede in their own personal practice.
So what does the Rede have to do with the topic question? In one word, everything. We talk a lot about harming none and many Pagans go out of their way to do right and good by others. Yet many seem to neglect themselves.
We are a nation of overweight and sickly people. In 2004 the statistics say that 66% adults in the United States were overweight and obese. (Source jhsph.edu) And the evidence is overwhelming that being overweight or obese leads to a wide range of disease. From hypertension to arthritis and you can throw in heart disease and diabetes for good measure.
Now if we are to live a life dedicated to harming none, shouldn't we strive to be as healthy as possible? For what good does it do to work to make the world a better place, when we are plagued by bad health? Whether from a life of gluttony or other bad choices. We preach to harm none but we still continue to harm ourselves. And if we have children, then what kind of example are we showing to our children? Should we not teach them to be healthy and to practice good habits in all of their life?
Now before many people get upset, I know that there are in some cases, extenuating circumstances. Their are diseases and medicines that we take, that can lead to an increase in weight. But in most cases and in many times people are to lazy to exercise and lack the self will to not eat that extra one, or sometimes two or three, pieces of pie.
But I don't want to just talk about the obese, because there are many choices that we make in Western culture that are unhealthy. We sometimes drink to excess and we smoke, when we have a history of cancer.
In addition to being a nation of obese people we are also a nation of insomniacs. We, especially you Fathers out there, run our lives entirely to fast and do too much. We cut back on eating healthy and exercising and on sleeping, just to get that new job assignment done on time. Now lack of sleep may not lead to any known health problems. But being tired all the time cannot be good for our health.
So I encourage you to take an inventory of your life and the habits in it. Are you harming yourself? If so why? Make a choice to include yourselves in the word none, when you say Harm None. And try to improve your health.
Blessed Be!

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Simple Life vs. Children

Monday, February 7, 2011
Take a moment. Breathe deeply and look at the world around you. What do you see?

When I do this I see a world spiraling out of control. A world where there is no moderation in anything that is done. Our children's and our own lives are drastically over scheduled. I think that many people do this because they cannot stand the thought of being alone in their own heads.
Many people that I have met are afraid to face themselves. There are just simply too many things that they have done that they are not proud of or that they are afraid of people finding out.
But I have always encouraged people to face this and come to terms with it. And so I urge you, the reader, to take time in the next few months to reduce the speed and complexity of your life.
I know that with children that your lives seem just naturally complex and busy but too many add to that complexity.
Here are some tips, that I have found that work for me:
  • Cut back on activities (Children don't always need to be busy and involved. Take the time saved to spend time with each other)
  • Choose jobs, if you can, that allows more time to be home with your family
  • Reduce clutter in your home and car and life (If it is broken, fix it or get rid of it. The best advice I have ever received)
I know that a minimalist lifestyle can be tough to achieve. But you will be able to reap the benefits quickly. Less stuff means less money to maintain and less time to clean. So take the time to think about these words and try to implement them. Your children will thank you in the long term.

Here is a link to an earlier post about living a minimalist lifestyle with children.

Blessed Be!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Wicca 101 - What are we?

Sunday, February 6, 2011
The first thing to do in teaching anyone about Wicca/Paganism is to explain to them what exactly Wicca is. In the class for adults that I teach, I share with them the Thirteen Principles of Wiccan Belief. This was put together by the Council of American Witches in 1974. Now this is far from a perfect list, I have found that this describes most Pagans today. But it serves the purpose of illustrating to the Student what it is that we as Wiccans/Pagans do.

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.

If you have been following this blog then your kids should be familiar with the Esbats and the Sabbats. 

2. We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibility towards our environment. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance offering fulfillment to life and consciousness within an evolutionary concept.

The Earth is a symbol of the Goddess and if we want to honor and show Her respect then we should work to keep the Earth clean and not litter. 

3. We acknowledge a depth of power far greater than that is 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 potential to all.

Now this is one that you will have to choose whether your child is ready to understand. Personally I have not talked to my youngest daughter about this. I think she is to young to understand the concepts of magick.

4. 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 of the other. We value sex as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magickal practice and religious worship. 

The same goes for the last line of this one. If you haven't talked about the 'birds and the bees' then leave it out. But they do need to understand that Deity is expressed in the Wiccan faith as Goddess and God or by whatever names you understand them by. (More on deity is coming  during this series)

5. We recognize both outer 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 two dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magickal exercises. We neglect neither dimension for the other, seeing both as necessary for our fulfillment.

To explain this one I have asked them if they can see the Goddess and God the same as she does my wife or myself. Of course her answer was no. Then I told her that this is because the Gods live on a different plane or in a different world. That sometimes if we think about or pray to them then we can hear them and feel them. 

6. 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.

Of the six posted today this is one of the hardest to explain. My daughter knows about other religions, so it is easy to show her the Pope and explain the power of the Catholic Church and then show that we don't have a Pope. I also in rituals allow her a little spontaneity so that she can understand that their is no 'Right Way'. 

7. We see religion, magick 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, the Wiccan Way.

Wicca is not about just celebrating the Sabbats and the Esbats. Rather it is how we live our lives everyday. We see the Goddess and God in all things. Whether it is a thunderstorm or a sunrise. 

8. Calling oneself "Witch" does not make a Witch -- but neither does heredity itself, nor the collecting of titles, degrees and initiations. A Witch seeks to control the forces within her/himself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well without harm to others and in harmony with Nature.

We must live a good life and be a good example to the world around us. Just like the last one this is not just about celebrating it is about Living It.

9. We believe in the affirmation and fulfillment of life in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness, that gives meaning to the Universe we know, and our personal role within it.

We believe that all things change. Some good and some bad but that is how we learn.

10. Our only animosity towards Christianity, or toward 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 religious practice and belief.

I think that this is pretty self-explanatory. We do not have any thing against other religions as long as we can practice our own.

11. As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various terms, the origins of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present and our future.

While we are not an 'old' faith we know that what we do works. And rather than focus on what came before we are focused on now and what is coming. 

12. We do not accept the concept of absolute evil, nor do we worship any entity known as "Satan" or "the Devil", as defined by Christian tradition. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor do we accept that personal benefit can be derived only by denial to another.

This reflects well the concept of the Wiccan Rede; 'If it harm none do as you will'. 

13. We believe that we should seek within Nature that which is contributory to our health and well-being.

I know that many of us use herbal teas at the very least. That may be a beginning to a way to explain this to our kids. Explain that many of our medicines come from the natural world, they have just been copied in a lab.

Let me know what you think so far. Anything I should include, or is the whole setup just wrong?

Blessed Be!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Pagan Ethics of Food

Thursday, February 3, 2011
I ran this article many moons ago so I wanted to share it again with all of you.

Let us take a few moments and take a long look at the current conditions of the food production in our modern world. From genetically modified foods to the overuse of fertilizers and pesticides. The stories of the horrors of slaughterhouses to the sometimes cruel conditions that animals are kept in. Just as a small example, remember the stories of the chickens, kept in tiny coops, not allowed room to run free. To the recent outbreaks of salmonella and e. coli. Are you scared yet? I sure am.

So scared that I decide to take another long look. This time at my diet and the inclusion of meat in it. Now don't get upset, all you non-vegetarians out there. I am not advocating the shunning of meat in your, or even my diet. In fact I love a good steak more then any one I know.

But what I am advocating is for us to think about the ethics of our diet and our moral responsibility as to where that food comes from. We, as Pagans, frequently espouse harm none but are only worried about what we directly do and not so much about what we condone by our actions or lack of actions. So what is a concerned Pagan to do? This was the question that plagued me for a long time. And after much research the answer that I came up with included a few options.

In no particular order those options are as follows; We can become vegetarians or we can look outside of our religion to the dietary rules and restrictions of other faiths. Now as you remember, I said that I was not advocating becoming a vegetarian. There are plenty of other articles floating around out there that do just that. Rather I am going to share my own personal choice.
And what is that choice? Well I have personally chosen to look outside my personal Wiccan faith for an solution to this problem.

In doing so I have come across the Halal and Kosher diets of the Islamic and Jewish religions. Which entails in great detail exactly what is supposed to be done with our food. From birth or planting to harvesting or slaughtering and even into how the food is prepared there are rules that govern each action. These rules, as I hope to show, are really the most moral ones on food, eating and diet that I could find.

But what does kosher dietary restrictions have to do with the ethics of eating? The short answer; a lot. Now I know that certain rules do not apply, for example the prohibition against milk in wooden bowls. But there is a lot that does apply. Their ideas on how to keep, house, feed animals and the appropriate ways to slaughter them, fit right in with a sound ethical system on food. One that Pagans can adopt and modify to their own needs and uses.

That being said, the question arises; What is the definition of kosher or halal? Kosher food is food that meets Jewish dietary laws, or kashrut, which comes from the Hebrew word for fit or proper. And Halal is the Arabic word for fit or proper. Essentially the same as kosher.
In one of the articles I read in researching this idea, I came across one of the largest requirements; that the animal being slaughtered must die with no pain.

"Kosher slaughter is more humane than non-kosher slaughter, as it kills the animal in a painless fashion. Although kosher slaughter does not kill the animal instantly, the animal passes out from the sudden drop in cranial blood pressure and dies in a minute or so. There is no pain."
But this is not the only reason, although it is an important one, to choose kosher meat. One of the other benefits is that cold-water plucking of poultry helps prevent the spread of salmonella bacteria, and meat from diseased animals cannot be considered kosher. Also animals killed in kosher slaughter houses die in less pain and tend to be healthier then animals in normal slaughter houses.

And kosher rules are not restricted to just the housing conditions and slaughtering practices for animals. They are also extended to include rules against pesticides and fertilizers. In other words they were the original proponents of producing organic produce.

Now compare this to the modern system found in the USA, where I live, our animals are slaughtered and then the scraps unfit for human consumption are fed to other animals. They are fed on grains covered in fertilizer and pesticides and then they are pumped full of antibiotics. This is of course before they are slaughtered cruelly. Then in some cases the butchered meat is pumped full of carbon monoxide which is to allow the meat to keep its pretty red color for sale in the big box stores. And they are even talking about radiating meat to kill off any of the bad germs, which is supposedly will make the meat safer.

I believe that these reasons alone are enough to win the argument that we as Pagans should look to buy our meat from kosher or halal butcher shops. The prohibition against animals suffering, either in life or in death, is an idea that fits in with Pagan ideals and ethics.

At the core of both, halal and kosher, outside of the part about God and religion, there are sound principles for both dietary restrictions and for food preparation that translate well into Paganism.

So take the time to research Kosher and Halal practices and see if they are able to fit into your own personal tradition. Go to local kosher butchers and ask questions.

If we are going to say, 'harm none' and hold it as the center of our ethical system then we should make sure that it extends to every part of our daily lives. And if enough of us decide that the rules against cruelty to animals also applies at the time of their slaughtering for food, then the food processors will inevitably have to change their habits and practices as well.