Sunday, November 27, 2005
Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving Feast!!!! Now, the subject of Grimiores and your Book of Shadows.
A grimiore is a fairly high level piece of magical writing and should be used only by experienced people. This is a book that calls upon the secrets names of gods and spirits to ask them do you a service. There are several Grimiores out there. They are very difficult to follow and call upon someone who has a very indept study of symbolism, astrology, and the occult. For the beginner I suggest that they leave grimiores alone or use them as study only. Not many witches are ready to practice the rituals set down in grimiores. For those interested in seeing what a grimiore is, look up Key of Solomon, it is a very good grimiore with excellent notes and original charts for consideration. But remember, use it for study only until you are of sufficient level to use it.
A Book of Shadows on the other hand is a wonderful thing to have. It is your magik book, where you write rituals, copy rituals from other people and record results of your magikal work. Every witch has one. It is a dedicated book, meant for only one thing and that is to preserve a witches's personal learning. When you come to certain level and have recorded successes then you can share your BOS with other learners. But as in all things, remember that ours is an esoteric practice and you should be careful who you share your BOS with. Teens should keep their BOS to themselves until they find others who are of their faith. It is not something to show around and impress people with.
Now, there are a lot of commercially published Books of Shadows on the market, in any mainstream book store you can go into the metaphysical department and buy a book of shadows. There are a lot of people who do not believe you should buy a BOS. I myself, do not mind buying them and reading them and then altering them to fit my needs and I still have a lot of success with it though I do alter it to fit my discipline. A good BOS can also help you learn to think about your Craft and familiarize yourself ritual formats and to learn about ingredients and significant symbols and colors and the times of the lunar calendar and seasons. But eventually, you should seek to write your own spells and rituals.
Many BOS are written for the coven in mind but increasingly you can see BOS written for the solitary witch. There are plusses to covenry, which is that you have the opportunity to work with others, to call upon the more experienced for help and you can share what you know. But in a coven, as with all organized human groups there can be a tendency to be fixed in one system of belief and some form of jealousy and a slight disdain for people who do it a different way. This is not an indictment, it simply is the way of human kind. So, in a lot of ways, being a solitary is much better because then you can practice the Craft on your own terms and within the limits of your own discipline.
Whichever way you go, you will want to do some sort of intiation or rite of confirmation, if you will. Many covens have their own rite and if you seek initiation into a coven, then you must go along with their ceremony. Before you decide to initiate, discuss your desires with the priest or priestess of your coven. They can help you decide when to take the initiation and what are in the rites and answer your questions.
If you are a solitary, you might write your own initiation. Some covens of various disciplines believe you can only self initiate the first level, others believe you can self initiate through the second second and third levels. Others believe you can't self initiate at all. I believe you can self initiate all the way to the third level. If you are self initiating, you can write your own rite or you can find a ritual in a book or on the web and tailor it. Do what feels right to you. You should have something for each ritual, like a ring or necklace or bracelet that you can wear all the time or during rituals to celebrate your initiation.
Next time I will discuss some terms like deosil, widdershins, and skyclad!
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Hollywood, indeed any sort of media has an interesting view of the Craft and the people who practice the Craft. They are either the stereotype of the "wicked" witch, with her green skin and black clothes and cackle or they are Glinda the Good Witch, looking more like a fairy than a witch. In today's modern storytelling, witches are usually goth girls and guys with more piercings than they know what to do with and black fingernails. Or they are the girls in the movie The Craft with their modified catholic school girl clothes wearing rosaries and drinking wine from the bottle and using glamories to change their hair color.
It don't have to tell you that none of these things are the Craft. The Craft is about intensive study. I studied for a whole year before I even began working the Craft. I read a lot of books of different Craft disciplines, wrote my Book of Shadows and keep a journal of the things I read. Eventually, I plan to give you a list of books for your own research. I also reasearched the internet for sites that addressed my particular cultural, ancestoral, and religious backgrounds. I consider myself a second rite witch and am working and studying for my third rite initiation. The Craft is not just about reading a book in the school library and reading a couple of web sites and calling yourself a witch. It is about study and discipline. It is also about harmony. If you take on a percieved "witchy persona" then you are going to be faced with a lot of negative energy. If people saw me on the street or in church or anywhere else, you would never know I was a practicing witch. I am an ordinary person who has a very rich spiritual life and has a huge occult library.
Teens who become or want to become witches should spend a lot of time in study, contemplation and meditation. They should also consider the reactions of their families. You are being cared for by your parents (hopefully) and you have to honor and respect them, which is all part of being a practitioner of the Craft. This is not to say that you should not follow your heart and study what interests you. I am not advocating that you hide and study, but I do advise that you not flout your interests. You should be conscious that the Craft is esoteric, or secret, even if you are able to study with the blessings of your parents. Teens should be careful not to disclose to their friends right away and should be careful who they disclose to. Teens today can in one instant be your best friend and guard your secrets zealously and in the next instant be your sworn enemy and reveal all and set you up for ridicule. And never use the Craft for revenge or for useless reasons. I suggest any young person interested in the Craft to read The Wiccan Rede by Mark Ventimiglia. I myself am not Wiccan but I read this fabulous little book and fell in love with it. It talks about the rights and responsiblities of working the Craft and the true meaning of "An' ye harm none, do what ye will" Read this book first and then at the end of each chapter, spend some time in a journal or notebook and ask yourself questions about each part of the rede that Mark examines. It can measure the amount of dedication you have to the Craft and your willingness to practice the rede in your Craft.
Next time, I will discuss Grimiores, Books of Shadow, andinitiations either as a solitary or a coven member.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
For anyone who works the Craft, the help of Angels and Spirits are a must. Angels are the messenger of God and are often sent to earth to send messages to human beings and vice versa. They are our guardian angels and they protect us and strengthen us. In the King James edition of the Bible, there are two archangels who are mentioned: Gabriel, the messenger and Michael, the leader of the Heavenly Host, the Armies of God. In the Catholic editions, because Catholics use books that are thought of as apocryphal to the Protestant Christian and Deuterocanonical to the Catholic Christian, there is mention of Raphael and Uriel. These are the four archangels that I invoke when I work the Craft. Gabriel is the messenger and guards the western direction of the compass. Uriel is the healer and guards the northern direction. Michael is the defender and guards the south and Raphael is the bearer of wisdom and guards the eastern direction. When I call the corners and create the sacred circle that protects me and borders my sacred space, I ask these angels to guide and protect me and those for whom my work is intended.
But what of Spirits and Ghosts? While I do believe in the existence of good and evil spirits and the existence of ghosts, I do not call out blindly. God and his angels have inclined to me and there is no warrant to call on spirits that I am stranger to and risk harm to myself and others. Necromancy, the art of calling up the dead is not used by witches regularly and leave seances and ouija to the spiritualists who are different from witches. Witches feel that their divinities, whoever they call upon and the helpers these divinities have are more than enough to do their work.
Ghosts are strange things to have in your house and or your life. If you are undisturbed by them, leave them be and live in harmony with them. If they disturb you, ask them to go and perform a cleansing ritual to keep them from your house. If you have done this and are still being made uncomfortable by the ghost in your house, call in a priest or pastor or a senior witch of your discipline to perform a ritual cleansing of your home. Exorcisms may be done as well on your home that seem to be quite effective. But I quite like the ghost that visits me as he is my late husband and he only appears when I am upset and confused and often gives me warm guidance though I do tend to remind him that he has passed away and he laughs and says that he knows it.
A magikal name is a great source of protection. The name Aslinn Dhan is my magikal name and I quite appreciate it. It expresses my magikal self and it gives me a certain amount of anonymity. After all, we all take on new identities when we log on the internet and we all create our own personas when we grow older that define the way we feel about ourselves. Aslinn is an Irish name and it is the name of a faery who trapped lovers with her song, a sort of siren and Dhan is just an interesting variation of spelling of one of my real names. Witches should adopt a magikal name and you should really spend some time thinking about who you are and what you believe and find a name that suits you. Perhaps something from your cultural ancestry can help you find your magikal name. And while it is fine to have an elaborate name find a name that is not just cool, find a name that can be yours because everything you do in the Craft will be done in your magikal name and you want it to have the most power for you. You should keep this name for only your magikal gatherings or when you are doing something like this that expresses your belief system about the Craft. It should not become your nickname and teens working the craft should not use it to sign their school work or as the name under their yearbook photo. And be careful of names like Damien and Pendragon or Merlin. Unless you plan to be stage magicians and need flashy names like that, you should remember that what you are doing is real and is secret, regardless of your discipline.
Next time I will write about magik in Hollywood and how it differs from the real world of magik and how teens should handle their study of the Craft.
Friday, November 18, 2005
One of the things I suggest anyone who is seriously studying the Craft is to begin to collect your tools. The most important of the magikal tools are a broom, cauldron, wand and athame. These items have a great deal of significance to the witch.
Broom- why do witches use brooms if they do not fly on them? The broom is strong symbol of the hearth and domestic life and a tool for cleansing. In antiquity there were those who believed that witches flew on their brooms, using them as magikal conveyances to Sabats. It was also symbolic of the May Pole, a fertility symbol and is also a sort of phallic symbol among my Wiccan and Pagan friends. The broom is in reality a "woman's" weapon. It is her staff and defender and her baton of authority in the home. Modern witches use their broom to cleanse their sacred space and when used in a coven, it symbolizes the sacred circle.
Cauldron- For my Wiccan and Pagan friends, it is a symbol of the Goddess, the murturing mother providing food and medicine for her children. For the Christian witch it is the well of healing. In my cauldron, which is simple affair, I brew herbs for ointments and washes, burn incense from time to time, light the Beltaine fires from it and consume negative energies in small fires in it.
Wand- My wand is a found holly branch which has been stripped of its bark and smoothed and varnished using tung oil. It is about 16 inches long and hanging from its grip are symbols of my faith, my culture and my magik. In and of itself, it is not magikal, but used in castings, it is tool to direct my intentions. For the Christian witch it is one of my weapons, my rod, with which I protect my family.
Athame- an athame is a dagger or knife that is used very much like a wand. I use it to inscribe candles with intentions and to direct protective spells. It never tastes blood. Contrary to many people's belief, the athame is not used to kill anything. Wiccans and Pagans do not use the athame for blood rituals either. Wiccans do not have blood rituals, Pagans may, I don't know, and I invite Pagan brothers and sisters to write to me and let me know so I can up date my information.
Candles, the pentangle and other objects can be tools as well. Contrary to popular belief, the pentangle is not a sign of the Devil. Even when inverted. Wiccan and Pagan practitioners use the inverted pentangle to represent the forest god commonly thought of as Pan or the Forrest Lord. Satanists have annexed the symbol to represent a horned image they call Satan. I myself do not use the inverted pentangle, but I will use the pentangle to represent the elements, the seasons, the four directions and the spirit of God. Orthodox Christians such as the Amish have been known to use the sign of the pentangle to ward off hexes and curses. Christians in antiquity used the pentangle to represent the star of Bethlehem.
All tools should be dedicated and not used for anything else, least of all any mundane household task.
My next blog I will discuss angels, ghosts and spirits, and necromancy and magikal names.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Secrecy in the Craft has been going on for millennia, or at least as long as there were people who knew and did things other people didn't. Fortunately, the times have changed and there is more tolerance for divergent beliefs and practices. But must witches still be careful and remain secretive? Sure. And that is unfortunate. There are many reasons why. Most are because of cultural attitudes that still linger about the Craft and those who practice it. But the most important reason is that as you grow in the Craft, the more powerful you and your castings become, but public acknowledgement has the tendency to drain power from the witch and their castings.
For the Christian Witch this goes along with the idea of praying in private. Jesus said that when you pray, you should go into your closet and pray in secret, that God, who hears all in secret is listening to you. We are also reminded that when we pray, we should not stand in the streets or in the open places in the synagogue where everyone can see us so we can get the admiration of those around us. If we do that, then we have been rewarded already and God can disregard your prayer. So, if casting in a way is praying with props, then you should do all in the privacy of your sacred space.
The witch, regardless of your discipline, is still a target for derision. This comes from early writings from the Church, from history, and from social teachings that witches are evil, that they pray to the Devil and they sacrifice babies and parody the sacraments of other religions. The truth of it is, witches, while they may not be Christians, they are certainly peace loving folk in tune with nature and the supernatural and trying to do the best they can for the world. The witch whether they be Pagan, Wiccan or Christian or any other discipline seek deeper and more intimate relations with the world and their neighbors. They look to nature and the environment inside themselves and outside themselves to learn how to heal and comfort their fellows. As I mentioned before, they were the first doctors and pharmacologists and midwives in society.
The Burning Times, as many witches call the period of persecution, was a time of danger not just for witches but for Jews and Muslims and anyone else of diverse faith or no faith at all. But this was also a time of calamity! The ravages of the Plague and the wars and crusades that killed so many for useless reasons and the problems of the poor and the corrupt rich keeping them that way added to the troubles for the common ordinary witch. The Church, in her arrogance, said they had all the answers. When terrible things happened like the plague, the people asked the question why and the Church didn't have the answer. But rather than admit that they didn't, they decided to blame it on that ancient adversary, the Devil and just as there are representatives of God on earth, there are representatives of the Devil on earth and that representative was your local herbalist or midwife or wise woman or man. They were the ones to blame and blamed they were. This is where the larger chunk of the need for secrecy comes from. Witches will always be a scapegoat for the ills, physical, mental, social or spiritual of a community. That is why witchcraft is esoteric or secret knowledge and esoteric in practice.
Next time, I'll discuss magical tools!
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
As Hermione Granger said in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban "Divinations is a woolly subject." Divinations is a way to understand what may be coming your way or the way of a loved one in the future. This can be done through dream interpretation, or by premonition or by Tarot or I, Ching, or by horoscopes or scrying or palmistry or by runes, whether they be through the Celtic Runes or the Nordic Runes. Divinations is always great if you are a seer, that is working intuitively and have visions or prophecies or some psychic transmission. That is always the clearest and most personal. But most of us depend upon our props to divine the future. The Tarot is the most popular way and so is astrology. For the Christian Witch this can present some problems ethically. If you feel that you shouldn't do it, don't. Tea leaves and palmistry and crystal gazing and scrying is very intuitive and takes a lot of patience and understanding of symbols and meditation and in the end you may have only limited success. This isn't to say that you shouldn't try them, it just means that if you don't get it or ever develop a faculty for it, that's okay.
Dream interpretation is probably the least problematic for Christian Witches because it is spoken of in the Bible and has been foretold to us in scripture that there would be young men who dream dreams and old men who see visions and women who would prophesy. I suggest you collect a variety of dream oracles or interpretation books and consult the ones who are most helpful to you in every instance that you have a dream that seems prophetic or just strange enough to bother you or linger into your waking hours. Keep a dream journal of your dreams and try to interpret your dreams and record those in your journal. Many oracles say that you should overlook dreams that come after consuming a heavy meal or a rich meal, dreams that come after drinking or watching certain types of movies or programs or dreams that strangely enough seem repetitive. Repetition does not necessarily mean prophetic but it could indicate bad vibes or even someone, another witch, working against you or your conscience. Be observant about colors and numbers and the time of day.
Casting spells for healing or for protection or for love or comfort or help of any kind should be done in cooperation with the moon. Full or new moons are the best and if you are casting a spell that you have found in a Book of Shadows or have written your own, do what feels right or what has been suggested by the writer of the spell. Think before you cast. What is this spell for? What do I want to gain from it? Who is the spell for? Why am I casting? Is it for good reasons? Another rule of thumb is to never cast a spell when you are angry! It will come back to you times three. And remember the witches' rede: Do what you will; Harm none. If you are not sure, don't cast. Meditate on your intention first.
As a Christian witch, I spend time in my sacred space before I cast. This gives me time to think, meditate and pray about the intention. Then, if you are sure you are casting a spell, gather your materials together so you will not have interrupt your concentration during the casting. Purify your self and your space and always thank God for the casting afterwards. Close any psychic or spiritual doors you may have opened and eat and drink afterwards...cookies and hot tea are wonderful ways to relax yourself after a casting. Leave the rest to your casting. Eventually, I plan to include some spells and opening and closing rituals for any esabat or sabat you perform.
Poppets are touchy and some Christian witches may not want to fool with them. The only thing that a Christian might object about a poppet is the use of a graven image but that is something you will have to decide on your own. A poppet is a little human form onto which you as the witch can project a casting. This tool has been the subject of many horror movies with voudouists and witch doctors and have given poppets a bad name. I have a neutral poppet that I work with over and over and I use it project healings and bindings and blessings to someone who is not physically here and may be needing special protection. I also use it for the sake of anonymity. No one who knows me personally knows that I practice the Craft. It is not because I am ashamed or I think what I am doing is wrong it is just that I practice as a solitary and I practice the Craft as an esoteric art. Secrecy in the Craft goes back to the burning times when men and women were persecuted for their practice and blamed if there were trials and tribulations. So, to protect my privacy and the privacy of those I cast for, I sometimes use a poppet. A poppet can be made of clay or wax or wood. Mine is made of cloth and I have drawn a heart on its chest and have written words of power and healing and the name of God on it. I direct my casting on this poppet in the name of whoever I work for and leave the rest to God. It is a sort of laying on of hands by long distance.
The next time I write, I will discuss the question of secrecy in the Craft.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
One of the things that I am sure will be a question posed to me some time or another is why be a Christian Witch and not just a Wiccan and isn't that impossible for you to do? Believe me, I have struggled with that question and while I have not come up with any sort of concrete answers, I know that I have made one of the most important decisions of my life.
When I embarked on my journey, I encountered many people who call themselves Sophia Christians and Christo-pagans and I don't have a problem with their view point, it is their choice, but I decided fairly early on that I didn't feel their path was necessarily my path. For those of you who don't know what a Sophia Christian is or a Christo-pagan, a Sophia Christian believes that in addition to the male divinities of Christ and God as Christians believe, there is also a female divinity called the Sophia or Wisdom. A Christo-pagan believes in the Christian concepts of God and Christ but also embraces the divinities of the Pagan cultures as equal divinities.
Modern Witchcraft has deep feministic views that eschews the male dominated priesthood of Judeo-Christian and Islamic views of God. They believe that in order for there to be balance there has to be a feminine divinity equal to God. This Goddess is the co-creator of everything and works hand in hand with the male divinity. This, they believe, is the way to bring harmony in all things in nature and the supernatural and the various opposites that create energies that are the foundation of the Craft. They tend to overlook strong women of scripture who play important roles in the Christian faith because they see them as some how hampered by society or by orthodoxy or by modern religion.
For me, the feminine is represented by Mary, the virgin mother of Christ. She is, I feel the only female archetype. She was a young girl visited by an angel and overshadowed by the spirit of the living God and through her all prophecies were fulfilled and the promise of salvation was delivered to us. But is she a "goddess"? No, but she is blessed on earth and in heaven and she is the mediator to the world and hears the prayers of God's people. She is described in the Bible as the woman with the moon at her feet and wearing a crown of twelve stars. She is caught up in the heaven of heavens and sits before the throne of the Lord and her Son, Jesus Christ. She is the new Eve, redeeming woman for the perceived crimes of temptation.
My Wiccan and Sophia Christian and Christo-pagan colleagues see her as a defeated woman because she remained sexual virgin. But I would remind my brothers and sisters in the Craft that there are many female divinities in antiquity who remained virgins and had great power.
Because I could not give up my Christian beliefs, but believed in the power of the Craft, I began a course of study and found that though there are many things I cannot reconcile myself to, there are many things I can. And as so many of the books say that I have studied, the Craft is elastic and can be molded to accept change. But what about other Christians, what do I say to them? This is what I say. The Bible is full of the Craft. It talks about seeing angels and mixing herbs for healing and ritual cleansings. It speaks of dream interpretation and exorcisms and the laying on of hands. It contains rituals that call for cymbals and bells and incense and candles and food offerings. It has the supernatural powers of the bronze snake and it has the rod of Moses which is thought of as a wand. There are even times when women will prophesy and testify and will even act as the priest of the hearth. There is even astronomy and astrology. Astrology, for instance when the three magi went in search of the Christ Child, they followed the star. The star not only led them to the place he was born, but told the magi the type of person born under that star. That is astrology.
Does that mean that if I read my horoscope and it tells me that I will have bad day that I will cower under my bed? No, but I will be careful in all that I do. If I lay out a tarot spread and it it looks like a gloomy future ahead, will I give up? No, but I will try to avoid the things that will be obstacles in my path. The Craft isn't about calling up demons and blood sacrifices, it is about embracing the nature God gave us and the nature God lives in and understanding it to the betterment of those around me. I have heard it said thet casting spells is "praying with props" and in some ways that is true and while my colleagues who follow other magikal disciplines call upon their divinities, I will be calling on mine.
For my next blog, I will discuss divinations, spells and the use of candles and poppets in the Craft.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Here is a picture of me. No bad for a 30 something,eh? It just goes to show you that not all witches are green with warts on their noses. That, by the way, is the way my mom dresses up for Samhain. I don't mind.
Do my parents know that I am a witch? No, they do not. They are pretty open minded but I know they would not understand what I do. It is funny, but they, particularly my mom, practice some form of the Craft every day. Have you ever thought about how you practice the Craft in your own life? How about the last time you had a birthday and you blew out the candles of your birthday cake? The act of making a wish and blowing out candles is a form of candle magik and the act of blowing out the candles a form of casting.
How many of you make a wish on the first star you see in the heavens? Or feed a coin into a wishing well and make a wish? Or even throw a pinch of salt over your left shoulder when you spill some? That is a form of the Craft too!How many of you gardeners follow the almanac and plant in the signs? Or cross your fingers for luck? Or hold on to a heads up penny? That too is a part of the Craft.
The Craft has its beginnings in early medicine and healing and pharmacology. Though modern witches tell people to consult their doctors, many of the healing spells go hand in hand with modern medicine. They up lift, spiritually strengthen and calm people as they go through illness. A responsible witch would never suggest a treatment contrary to the advice of a physician though I always suggest a second opinion before undergoing any serious procedure, which is just good advice.