Tag Archives: Priestessing

Coming Together: A Look at Pagan Group Structure

Humans are fundamentally social creatures: we love to get together. We are educated in groups, we work in groups and many of us worship in groups. But what, exactly, is a group? A group of people working in the same room, or on a common project, does not necessarily make a group.

When people work in groups, there are two different factors involved. The first is the task to accomplish, teaching a class, holding a ritual, or doing community outreach are examples of tasks. The second factor is process of the group work itself, the mechanisms by which the group acts as a unit. If group members don’t pay enough attention to the process, the value of the group can be diminished or even destroyed. The synergy between task and process makes group work attractive despite the possible problems (and time spent).

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The Wiccan Rede

One of the few written documents most witches acknowledge[i], The Wiccan Rede is an ethical guideline in the form of a poem.

Tracing The Influences

The first written reference to the ethics of a Wiccan is a passing reference in Gerald Gardner’s The Meaning of Witchcraft:

. . . the morality of the legendary Good King Pausol, “Do what you like so long as you harm no one”. But they believe a certain law to be important, “You must not use magic for anything which will cause harm to anyone, and if, to prevent a greater wrong being done, you must discommode someone, you must do it only in a way which will abate the harm.[ii]”

What Pausol actual said was:
“I. Do no wrong to thy neighbor.
II. Observing this, do as thou pleasest.[iii]”

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Some Thoughts on Death and Dying

I’m not a morbid person, I came to terms with my own mortality years ago. Although I am not looking forward to dying, the actual moment of lost consciousness with its ebbing spark holds no terror for me. I haven’t had many experiences with death, although I’m nearing the middle (likely) of my lifetime. The few experiences I have had have been pretty gruesome. My father’s father passed on after a seven year decline, losing his mind and then his physical control to Parkinson’s. My step-father’s father died from lung cancer. My mother’s father is dying of what seems to be old age, but he’s losing touch and interest in the world.

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Pagan Predators

I am opening the door to a closet, one full of pain and well-hidden enough that most of us overlook its entrance. Some Pagans fear for their safety, their loved ones, and their livelihood simply because they are Pagan in a predominantly Judaeo-Christian world, but I am more afraid of the beast in the closet: those Pagans who use our beliefs against us, who use us – physically, emotionally, or financially – for their own gain. Some of us had to learn the hard way that being Pagan does not ensure ethical behavior, and that many of our beliefs, if twisted, support predatory behavior.

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Magick Online: A New Perspective on an Old Tradition

The world of online magick is just about 20 years old, having begun in the ‘good old days’ of Compuserve, when BBSs were the primary mode of transmitting information. Rituals were held online as early as 1985, with participants have reported highly successful results, akin to those found arising from physical rituals. Like physical covens, virtual covens (which may also be called ‘temples, ’ ‘groves, ’ or ‘circles, ’) do not last very long. So online magickal teaching has quite a bit of history to it, but stable online groups do not.

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Things for the Younger Witch to Consider

One of the things I particularly like about the Internet is that it provides a wealth of resources for young witches. Unfortunately, the laws of the United States frequently prohibit what could be perceived as ‘dangerous’ contacts between adults and minors. The reaction to that has been a fairly consistent agreement within the online Pagan community to not teach anyone under the age of 18 (and in some cases, 21). It can be disheartening to feel the call of the Lord and Lady and yet be denied learning because of a fleeting stage like age.

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Goddess of the Hearth: Hestia/Vesta

Hestia, in the high dwellings of all, both deathless gods and men who walk on earth, you have gained an everlasting abode and highest honor: glorious is your portion and your right. [5] For without you mortals hold no banquet, –where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last. ~ Homeric Hymns (29.1)

Hestia is a truly forgotten goddess. If you search for her on the Internet, for example, you will find many hotels named after her, but very little information about her specific role in the Greek religion. She is rarely shown in art, and has virtually no mythology and iconography. Because there is little known about her tales and myths and only a few images of her have been found, one might assume that Hestia was an unimportant deity. But what little we know about her indicates just the opposite.

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Cyber Altars: Using New Technology In Traditional Ways

I grew up in a house full of altars. My nominally Catholic mother would probably dispute my calling them altars, but every flat surface in the house had a grouping of objects that were special. Candles in unusual holders sat next to the flowering violets and small portraits of family members in the hall. Pottery forms shared space with crystals and shells in the living room. Every once in a while my mother would rearrange the furniture and the altars would be changed, moved, reformed into new combinations. I feel like I learned a key lesson about altars: they have been with us for thousands of years, bringing the sacred into our homes in personal, tangible ways.

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A Perspective on the Sacred and Profane

This is a juicy topic, one I’ve been mulling over for a few weeks now. The difficulty has arisen from one thing: it’s been hard to reconcile profane acts like terrorism into my essential notion of a sacred universe. With events like 9/11 lingering in the culture and the day’s glorious rainbow after a hard rain, I’ve been stumped. Then I realized that it boils down to a simple dichotomy: nouns are inherently sacred, but verbs have the potential to profane. While this may seem a bit simplistic, it actually describes how profanity can exist in a sacred universe.

First, lets take a look at the words “sacred” and “profane” themselves.

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Witches and the Moon

Watching the moon
at dawn,
solitary, mid-sky,
I knew myself completely,
no part left out.
~ Izumi Shikibu “The Ink Dark Moon”

So, what’s the fascination that Witches have with the Moon?

Well, the Moon is one of the symbols (perhaps even *the* symbol) of the Goddess, representing the feminine aspects of the divinity (as opposed to the masculine, with its Sun symbolism). Its progress through the sky, ever changing as she moves graciously through her phases (echoing the cycle of life itself), creates a sense of wonder in us as we ponder her cycles. Casting our eyes on the world around us, we see that lots of things within nature are timed around the phases of the Moon.

There are the tides that her presence causes (helping provide a cleansing of the seashores, and provide a host of creatures with a renewing habitat), and even the timing of reproduction (just look at the female fertility cycle of approximately 28 days). Add to that the sheer beauty of the Moon herself, providing a focus for meditation, a source of inspiration and the gentle and beautiful light that the Moon provides for us, renewing the world around us by night into a beautiful place that inspires all of us! (Who hasn’t looked out upon a Full Moon with awe at how the scenery is made beautiful by the gentle shimmering light, much kinder than the harsh light of day!) It becomes easier to understand the veneration Witches (and so many others) have for the Moon.

A lot of people who keep track of the moon, keep a record of its phases, its location in relation to astrology, and even numerology. In trying to understand what the flow is, and work with it, many non-magickal people work with lunar energies, such as farmers, gardeners and hunters.

To Wiccans, the phases of the moon have special meaning, giving structure to the levels of energy available for magickal workings. The phases are modified by the position of the moon within the lunar and the zodiac years. With all these correspondences it may seem quite confusing as to when you can actually focus on any specific workings. As a general rule the phasing correspondences (Full, Dark, waxing, waning, etc.) are the strongest influences, followed by its placement within the lunar year, and lastly by the astrological month. I tend to think of it like the effects of three magnets upon a metallic pendulum, the Phase being the strongest magnet, followed by the Position within the Lunar Year as a smaller magnet, and the Astrological Correspondence being the weakest one still. All three have their part to play in deciding the position the pendulum will come to rest, but in lessening degrees, though when they all align together then it is portent of very strong energy for the task that is indicated.

“Whenever you have need of anything,
once in a month, and better it be
when the moon is full,
you shall assemble in some secret place
and adore the spirit of Me
who is Queen of all the Wise.”
~ from Aradia, Queen of the Witches

You may recognize the above lines of poetry from our Drawing Down the Moon ritual. They are attributed to the Goddess as Her words to all witches. They are probably the earliest Wiccan ‘proof’ of why we hold lunar rituals (as opposed to why our ancestors may have done so, for example). Although some people say that only Full Moon rituals are esbats, they are incorrect. Esbats are Rituals held at moontime, new, full or dark. They are rarely static rituals. In fact they probably should constantly change as they are primarily concerned with inner workings. Esbats are not Holidays (holy days), rather are designated times of the month where the electro-magnetic pull on the earth allows for greater power.

The Esbats are holy days which mark the different phases of the moon. Covens usually meet on a specific phase and important rituals are often performed on these “special” evenings. Not every Pagan or Witch holds a formal celebration in honor of every phase of the moon– to do so would be a bit ridiculous and leave little time for other pursuits, as the moon is always in one phase or another!

The eternal rhythm of the Moon exerts a powerful influence over Earth and all her creations. The phases of the Moon, along with the astrological signs she moves through, create a framework by which we can time our magical workings.

Some mythological associations are:
Diana- the virgin on Earth, the huntress rules the time of the New and Waxing Moons. She is the protectress of animals and children.
Selene- the mother in the sky, she is the Full Moon.
Hecate- the wise crone who resides under the earth, the Waning and Dark Moons are her domain. The dark of the Moon is her time of greatest power.

A note about “Void Moons”
Those of us with astrological calendars have probably noted a lunar phase note commonly seen in Wiccan literature — the void moon.

As the Moon moves through each sign of the zodiac, she makes aspects to other planets. She is called void-of-course when she has completed all the aspects she can within that sign, but has not yet entered the next. These passages can last anywhere from hours to a day or two. During a void-of-course Moon, things are in neutral so the gears can shift into the next sign, making it a time to kick back and relax. Many believe that magical workings done at this time produce false starts and error — that you shouldn’t start anything you want to have long lasting, concrete and tangible effects. However, as the void Moon is about the unconscious mind and unconscious tasks, it is a very good time for astral projection, trancework, meditation, divination and other mental workings.

Honoring and celebrating the passage of the year through each season and moon phase is an integral part of the Pagan lifestyle and spirituality. Our holy days are not based on events from the past, but on the ever present celestial events which measure our days and are the cause of the seasons.

Sunrise, Sunset, Moonrise, Moonset, and Twilight Calculator
(http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneDay.html )

Earth’s Seasons List (Equinoxes, Solstices, Perihelion, and Aphelion)

Phases of the Moon List