pagans

Go a Wassailing

December, 2018

Go a Wassailing

The ancient tradition of wassailing has pagan origins intended to bless the coming year’s orchards’ crops and protect them from evil spirits. Later, wassailers went from door to door, singing and drinking to the health of their neighbors. Wassail was the alcoholic beverage of choice.

There are many traditional carols that are clearly for Christians, but there are a growing number of songs appropriate for pagans celebrating Yule. Some are original songs by pagan and wiccan musicians honoring the winter solstice; others are new lyrics set to old standards.

Here is a sampling that you might enjoy this winter.

Santa Claus is Pagan Too” by Emerald Rose

“Wiccan Wonderland” by Karina Skye

“Jingle Bells, Cast Your Spells” by Karina Skye

 

 

Cast that Spell” by Kyrja

On Midwinter’s Day” by Damh The Bard

Hail the Holly King” by Inkubus Sukkubus

Silent Night, Solstice Night” by Karina Skye

Whisper in the Darkness” by Adala

Solstice Evergreen” by Spiral Dance

The Longest Night of the Year” by Mary Chapin Carpenter

Solstice Carole” by Wyrd Sisters

 

 

Solstice Song” by Backwater

We Three Witches” by Karina Skye

And, of course, “Here We Go a’wassaling.” This is one of many versions. Some change the lyrics to be more pagan, such as changing god to gods,

https://tinyurl.com/y942kkkg

I hope you’ll share your favorite solstice songs.

 

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About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

Notes from the Apothecary

December, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: Christmas Cactus

 Oh no, not the C-Word! That’s right, my fellow Pagans, I said it. Christmas. Love it or loathe it, come December the 25th, possible birthday of Dionysus and Mithras (but unlikely to be the birthday of Jesus) the nation, nay, the world goes Christmas mad and we shake our heads. Don’t they know it’s just another solstice celebration? Or at the very most, an adoption of the festivities of Roman Saturnalia? Well, it might surprise you to know that I love Christmas. Yeah, it’s a touch annoying when people deny the Pagan roots, but I’m a sucker for seeing other people happy. And Christmas makes people happy! It also gives its name to some amazing things: Christmas Island, Christmas Jones and of course, the beautiful and exotic Christmas Cactus.

The botanical name is Schlumbergera, chosen by botanist Charles Lemaire (1801-1871) in honour of Frédéric Schlumberger (1823-1893) who was a renowned collector of cacti and succulents.

 

The Kitchen Garden

 Christmas Cacti are generally kept as houseplants as they are native to Brazil and used to this type of climate. In the wild they grow attached to rocks and trees, but they are happy in some well-drained, good quality compost with a bit of grit or sand.

The cacti are normally grown from cuttings and their spikes are barely there, making them resemble a succulent more than a traditional cactus. The leaves are flattish pads and they form chains which eventually erupt into bright and beautiful flowers. They are normally quite happy sharing a large pot with other succulents and cacti as long as it doesn’t become too crowded.

Don’t let them have too much direct sunlight. It can damage the leaves. But too little light, and they may never flower. Many schlumbergera flower in winter, making them a wonderful addition to natural holiday decorations, whatever you celebrate.

 

The Witch’s Kitchen

Cacti in general are associated with fire and the south. They are also associated with the zodiac sign of Aries, but Christmas cactus is specifically associated with Sagittarius. Unsurprisingly this plant is associated with the month of December and the festival of Yule or the Winter Solstice. Christmas cacti make a great altar decoration for any festive period, and ones with pink or red flowers are particularly appropriate for the south of your sacred space.

The association with the zodiac sign of Aries can be expanded to include the god Aries, and Mars, Aries’ Roman Equivalent. This lends the Christmas cactus the power of strength, courage but also of conflict and success in battles.

Sagittarius is another fire sign, but one particularly associated with November and December, the signs time in the zodiac ending around the winter solstice. Sagittarius is the archer, and associated with prophecy and divination. The Christmas cactus, therefore, could be a great tool in meditative divination or prophetic spellwork.

Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, so the Christmas Cacti could also be a great addition to expansion magic, and lawfully aligned magic.

 

Home and Hearth

Collect the flowers of your Christmas Cacti before they begin to fade. Let them dry; laying them on some paper in an airing cupboard or a sunny windowsill away from damp is good for this. Place the dried and hopefully colourful flowers in a small, clear jar. Either hang the jar on a thong or chain, or keep it in a pocket when you are going into situations where you need a little more courage. This could be confrontations with friends or family that you are nervous about, or perhaps raising a grievance in the workplace. The energy of Mars will walk with you, and the balance of a very hardy plant.

 

I Never Knew…

For those who enjoy growing succulents and cacti, the adorable name for baby succulents is pups!

All images from Wikipedia.

***

About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.

A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors on Amazon

 

Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways on Amazon

WitchCrafting: Crafts for Witches

August, 2018

Claws with Crystals


Merry meet.

Bones are a type of fetish,” Sarah Anne Lawless posted on her website. “A fetish is ‘an object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency (source).’ The word fetish originates from the French fétiche which stems from the Portuguese word feitiço meaning ‘charm’ or ‘sorcery.’ Feathers, bones, crystals, and stones are all types of fetishes. Skulls and bones have an appeal to witches who perform spirit work and are a necessary and simple way to connect with spirits of the dead and of animals.

Working with bones is not just for necromancers and black magicians. Practitioners who work with bones are a wide range of healers, diviners, shapeshifters, rootworkers, witches, shamans, druids, and pagans.”

When a hunter I respected offered me wings and claws from turkey he had killed, I accepted. I covered the severed ends all with salt, rubbing in, placing them in a box and adding more salt. When more were gifted to me, I placed the fleshy ends in borax. Both were left to dry for several months. (An explanation of a process can be found on many sites.)


When I received them they were already a couple of days old, but the claws were pliable. I was drawn to having them hold crystals. The shape of some of the polished stones I chose made them unworkable. Thankfully, the pagan store I frequent did not mind me bringing in the legs and holding up crystals to determine what would be a good fit. Certain stones seemed to want certain claws, so I went with it.


There is a lot to be said for a more intentional approach, but as I sensed only one was for me, I did not consider uses and intentions that you would if you were making one for yourself.


I positioned each toe and talon to curl around the stone and then began wrapping it all in string to secure it while it dried. In one instance I used tape and while it worked, I think the string was easier to use and adjust.


After a few months had gone by I unwrapped them and found each was stone securely held.

It would be natural to use them as a wand – as is, embellished or attached to another wand – to direct power. A woman who bought one planned to tie it with a cord that went around her neck so it hung almost to her waist.


Bones carry the animal’s magical attributes which is one of the reasons I have worked with bear claws, a turtle shell and a coyote’s jawbone. Smaller bones have fit in mojo bags created to address various needs.

Turkey is considered a good omen, signaling that gifts are imminent. It’s also “a symbol of sacrifice for renewal and that generosity will open the doors to growth and rebirth,” according to a few websites posting the same information.


Turkey as a totem animal means you are “the abundance generator” for your community.

You have a gift for attracting all the bounty of the universe available to you and you are willing to share. You will often meet the needs of others in a giveaway self-sacrifice form simply because all life is sacred to you. You easily translate your life experience into growth and understanding. You recognize that what you do for others you also do for yourself,” according to spirit-animals.com and other sites.

Awareness, creation, generosity, harvest, pride, purpose, sacrifice, understanding and virility are also associated with turkey.

Knowing this, if you would like to make something similar, ask the Source and then be ready to receive what the universe brings it to you.

Merry part. And merry meet again.

***

About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self-taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.

“Pagans are Rejecting the Gods”

April, 2018

(Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash)

And so I shake my head.

The new trend, the hip trend, the “youth” trend is gender-fluid and “godless”. Well because I read, and I am both old and young for the generation I happen to have peers with I can tell you categorically and excuse me: THIS IS NOT A NEW IDEA TO PAGANS.

Pagans have always been more open to what gender and identity can mean. From the trans priests of Inanna (4000 BC) to pagan Gods like Thor dressing as a woman. In fact hard concepts of what was male and female are really a Renaissance or post-Mediaeval idea. There have always been gender fluid and trans people. Hidden perhaps, and definitely not usually written about but always there.

The idea there is one kind of “acceptable” Wiccan belief, one kind of “acceptable” paganism belief is wrong. It has never been right. In fact in books by Stewart Farrar and Lois Bourne while the ritual always included a God and Goddess or Lord and Lady there was no strict idea of what this meant. To some it was a psychological construct! That’s right! It was for some about ritualised spiritual and psychological healing. A form of catharsis based on Jungian ideas that humans contain both male and female aspects that required care. As such the female that is often extremely suppressed culturally was brought into the fore to heal and educate. It was never about having a universal meaning. The ritual was the important thing. What you did and said, how you said it, but everything else was open to interpretation.

The idea that Goddesses and Gods must mean the same thing to everyone is an internet idea.

While Wicca exploded as a concept once the anonymous online happened in the 1990’s it also allowed there to be “experts” who wouldn’t have been given the time of day in their local moot, to have an equal or even raised standing. Some of that is fine, but it tends to make folks zealous and preachy. It needed to make itself a “proper” religion and it lost some of the intellectual and gnostic meanings.

If you go back and read occult books written before we were “out and proud” there are bread crumbs, ideas about balance. Ideas about magickal, spiritual and life balance gained through ritual and through sexual relationships*.

The idea that we have to be one thing or another, believers or cynics, rational or spiritual is a false dichotomy. This ignores the complexity of the human experience. In Farrar’s work it states women could be a substitute “man” in a ritual context with the addition of a belt and athame. Men (whom were the socially privileged and dominant cultural force) were not permitted to take a woman’s place. This is often seen as intolerance but it is about the balance. The social, spiritual and ritual balance of energy. That said there were ritual where men did dress as women but it was a deep and hidden ritual about ultimate spiritual balance and enlightenment. It is also true that the Hierophant was often a role in 20th century ritual and even before that. A gender neutral older magickal practitioner role to aid, observe and conduct the balance between the male and female aspects. Sounds pretty gender fluid to me.

To recap: your personal belief in Lord and Lady was largely considered irrelevant and you could be either or both within a ritual setting for a very long time. What mattered was the ritual. The concepts of balance within and without. That female was not lesser, but powerful and beautiful. Whether you felt that the Gods were ideas, internal and or magickal concepts or living breathing beings or all of these things was not a debate. Not important at all. It was the gnostic ideas of revelation, balance and growth.

My advice, which you can of course take or leave, would be do the work. Read the older books. Look within and without and find those balances. Do a ritual that draws in or balances your energies with your opposite. Embrace those whom and different than you. Embrace the God and Goddess within yourself. It will change you. Not because you abandon reason, but because you take into yourself more than you think you can be.

*This is a complicated and often dated concept but the idea that you have lovers to learn and heal yourself and this person is a lot more modern that Dion Fortunes 1920’s Britain would have largely accepted.

 

 

She who is All – The Goddess of Ten Thousand Names

February, 2017

LIBERTAS

As I write this, it is the day after the presidential inauguration of 2017, and the day of the Women’s March(es) across the country and around the world. Millions of people, the majority of them women, took to the streets to protest what many see as a threat to the personal freedom of many communities, not only in the US, but everywhere around the globe. They see a threat to justice. They see a threat to liberty and freedom. They are afraid, and rightfully so. With this in mind, it seems a perfect time to speak of Libertas.

Libertas was a Roman Goddess; her name is the Latin word of Freedom.

She symbolized independence, freedom from restraint, and personal and societal freedoms. Her Greek name is Eleutheria. She was, and is, the personification of Liberty and Freedom.

Goddess1

(Photo Credit: insightfulvision.com)

She is depicted wearing a long, flowing gown and holding a rod, called a vindicta, and a cap, called a pilleus, which were two of Her symbols. She sometimes is shown wearing a crown of laurel leaves and with a cat at Her feet.

The reason behind Her symbols was that, within Roman society, when a slave was given his freedom, her/his head was shaved, they were tapped with the vindicta, and given a pilleus. Appropriately enough, She was honored and worshipped by all freed women and men.

Her first temple, located on Aventine HIll was ordered by the Tribune, Tiberius Gracchas and was dedicated in 238 BCE. There is smaller shrine to her located at Cicero’s home on Palantine HIll, and there is a small statue of her inside the Roman Forum. Many Roman coins and seals of the time bear Her image.

Libertas’ likeness was used many times and in many places around the world to symbolize Liberty and Freedom.

Columbia was used as a poetic name for the United States and was one of the names of its’ female personification. She became a symbol in the 1700’s when Paul Revere created an obelisk using Her image to celebrate the repeal of the Stamp Act. It is believed that the name, Columbia, originated from Christopher Columbus. It is from Her that the name District of Columbia was born.

Goddess2

(Photo Credit: Pinterest)

In France, She became Marianne, standing for reason and liberty, and a symbol of the French Revolution in the 1780’s-90’s. The Great Seal of France bears Her likeness.

Goddess3

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

It was this Great Seal of France that became the inspiration for Frederic Bartholdi, when he designed and built the Statue of Liberty, the most visual and the most famous of all depictions of Libertas, because make no mistake, the Statue of Liberty *IS* the Goddess Libertas.

Even though She was a gift from France to the US, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom, liberty and justice to the entire world. Her original name was “Liberty Enlightening the World”.

This Libertas statue wears a crown of seven solar rays, which represent the seven continents and the seven seas. This crown is similar to that of Ishtar, the Babylonian Goddess, who crown was ringed with 8 stars. She holds the Flame of Freedom, or the Torch of Enlightenment in Her right hand. Her gown is remarkably similar to the original Roman Libertas. Her feet are surrounded by broken chains to symbolize Freedom.

Goddess4

(Photo Credit: everymanempire.com)

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886. The era’s suffragettes, in a boat riding around Liberty island, proclaimed Her their symbol in their demand for the right to vote.

As a symbol of light and liberty, of freedom from tyrants and any tyranny, Her likeness abounds — on state flags, on the state seals of Virginia and New Jersey, on stamps, on both coins and paper money. She stands upon the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. When students demonstrated in Beijing, China in 1989, the Statue of Liberty as Libertas, became the Goddess of Democracy.

Many Pagans, Wiccans and Witches, invoke Libertas, in her guise as the Statue of Liberty, in their personal rituals for freedom and liberation from any form of tyranny.

Circle Sanctuary (circlesanctuary.org), located in Wisconsin, is a well-known Pagan church and community, which offers workshops, rituals, gatherings and more. Their religious freedom network is called “The Lady Liberty League”, and has done much for freedom of religion for all Pagans.

The Festival of Libertas is celebrated on April 13th, and, of course, the Statue of Liberty is celebrated on July 4th. Both of these are set aside to honor Her.

Goddess5

(Photo Credit: evilyoshida.com)

One way to honor Her is to stand up for personal freedoms, your own and others’; work against injustice, wherever you find it; fight for what you believe in, in whatever way you can, such as protesting, marching, writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper. Carry that work into the rest of the year, for liberty and freedom is hard won, but easily lost.

In personal work, place Her likeness on your altar as either Libertas, or in Her guise as the Statue of Liberty. You may ask for Her help in liberation from an addiction, from a hated job, from an unhealthy relationship, in whatever you personally feel that you need freedom from.

May we all continue to have the Liberty, Freedom and Justice that we hold so dear and is so important in a democracy.

Spiralled Edges

September, 2016

Spiralled Edges: Do Pagans Have Free Will?

Every time I think I have something figured out about myself, my Pagan practice, or the Gods something invariably happens to make me thing – do I still believe that?

Recently, I’ve been considering the idea of Free Will. Philosophers and religious scholars from every religion have been cussing and discussing it for centuries. Free Will or Pre-Destiny? Do we make the choices in our life, or are out paths laid out for us well in advance of our arrival.

Or, is it somewhere between these two extreme ideas?

spiral

 

Many years ago, I was talking to a friend (Religion and culture: Hindu) about the subject of Free Will and he shared with me something he had been taught by his father.

Free Will can be compared to a goat tethered to the ground. The goat can freely decide where it will walk, and what grass it wants to eat within the radius allowed by the length of the rope tethering it. Free Will in this example is an illusion, existing only within the limits placed upon the goat.

Likewise, as humans, we have an illusion of Free Will within the limits that have been placed upon us.

When they were young, my children liked the independence of being able to choose what they wore each day. I made my life easier, and gave them an illusion of choice, by limiting their choice. Red shirt or blue shirt, blue shorts or brown. How many of the choices that we make as adults are in their own way just as limited?

My own ponderings on this subject have been triggered as I have explored what it means for me to be a priestess of The Cailleach. For years, I have told people that they always have a choice on which God/s they might serve and how, and on what God/s may be their Patron, whether or not they choose to also dedicate themselves to that Deity. Over the years I have had Patron Gods and I have worked with them, but never had I been called to actually serve as a Priestess. Until now.

I will probably still tell others that they always have a choice, but I am beginning to question what illusions there might be between free will, and planned destinations. How much choice did I really have in agreeing to be a priestess of the Cailleach? Or was I presented with limited choices that ultimately would have led me to where I am now, regardless of which choice I had freely made.

How often as we move through life, thinking that we are exercising our own Free Will, do we discover through hindsight wasn’t quite what we thought. Free Will within the limits placed upon us by circumstance, location, and possibly even a Deity or two.

Over the past few months, She has shown me ways in which She has steered me in my decisions in order to bring me to this point in my life. Seemingly unrelated events, like the creating of my staff over 20 years ago and the move to the UK 18 years ago were each tiny links in a chain. How often, I ask myself, have these not-so coincidental occurrences steered me towards who I am today.

How often have each of us lived under an illusion that we were exercising our free will, never realising that we had been limited in the options we were given?

It is only now, looking backwards through time, that I can see the patterns and the points where The Cailleach had touched me, spoken to me, and guided me on my journey. Hers was the whisper in my ear telling me to select the sapling of a particular tree for my staff instead of a branch on another tree. Hers was the urge in my soul to move further east than I had ever anticipated from my Kansas home when I ended up in London instead of moving west to California. She is the one who led me to study the art of Soul Midwifery so that I may one day work with those who are at the end of their life.

I am still working out just what being a priestess of The Cailleach means. One thing she has made clear though, I am the one, with an occasional nudge from Her, who will be doing the working out. With or without Free Will.

Spiralled image created by Nan using WeaveSilk.com

Finding the Pagan Way

August, 2016

Why Paganism anyway?

When I returned to the business of seeking a spiritual path, – it was Neopaganism which provided the encouragement to look around again after many years of just keeping my nose to the grindstone and concentrating on work. It was lovely to meet groups of people who followed very different systems of beliefs, and yet, who managed to meet socially and prepare rituals and celebrations which were inclusive rather than divisive.
The sheer variety of beliefs was breath-taking, and many events took on a carnival atmosphere. Every festival was colourful and eccentric, – and every gathering would include mead, music and lots of laughter.

In many ways, the festivals seemed to carry me back in time to a less hurried age. Despite the modern materials and the overall cleanliness of the festivals, they reminded me of a medieval market. Each one would have its fair share of workshops, stalls, readers, healers, dancers and musicians.
Arrays of bright tents lined the meeting areas, where traders, who seemed more intent on social interaction than profit, sold crystals, oils, incense, wands, staffs, craft items, new-age clothing, books and Oracle cards. There was always a fire pit, where the noisier members of the milieu, – like myself and Tina, would be happily singing and banging our drums with the addition of an occasional didgeridoo and wood flute. Children and dogs could wander happily and safely and somehow, everyone seemed approachable. Conversations are struck up easily in the relaxed atmosphere that prevails at the smaller festivals.

I believe that festivals are a breeding ground for ‘synchronicity’. You have a question in your head, and next thing you know is that someone is randomly sharing an insight which answers your unasked query. This fact more than any other has convinced me that Spirit is very active amongst the neo-pagans, – where so many people are searching for answers in an open-minded and relaxed way.

It was my first festival as a would-be stallholder at Cabourne Parva where I met a lovely couple called Liz and Ian. Ian introduced me to the concept of the “Unsupportable Supposition” and I immediately became a member of that august group. In truth, everything we believe, is an unsupportable supposition and it pays to be tolerant of others beliefs.
At the same festival I met a lovely character named Graham, who gave me a fascinating past life reading for free. It was impossible to discount what he told me, as it explained many personality quirks of mine, – which he had no way of knowing about through ordinary means.
I had asked around the festival for anyone who had seen or interacted with the faeries. I wished to include some more personal stories in the forthcoming book by Bill Oliver and myself, – “The Faery realms”, which is still with Galde Press awaiting a final edit. Graham gave me an amazing account of the types of earth sprits and their ‘duties’ which I have included in the volume.

Again, at the Nottingham Pagan Pride gathering, I was given a reading by a lovely lady named Linda. It was a beautiful late Summer Sunday, and just strolling through the multi-coloured crowds of people brought a great sense of peace and relaxation. I was drawn to a stall with a large unicorn banner outside and went across to arrange a reading. There was just something about Linda which drew me to her and we made an appointment to call back.
I sat in a flimsy white nylon gazebo with the sun shining and music all around us. Tina stood beside me half way into the tiny stall. Having read tarot cards for over forty years, I realised that some of the deck was missing and it seemed a bit chewed. When I mentioned it, she explained that her dog had eaten some of the cards, but it was her favourite deck and she still preferred to use it.
Bemused, I allowed her to continue. She proceeded to give myself and Tina a reading which spanned the following three years and was later proved to be incredibly accurate. She also said much about our lives at the time which was uncannily detailed and again very accurate.

Even the hustle and bustle around us seemed to add to the magic of the experience. Just across the little path through the arboretum were two larger Marquees, where there was a workshop on shamanism being given by a lady named Firechild. The large tented area was filled to capacity and many more were gathered around outside as she took the audience on an inner journey. Under a large tree, a gentleman named Paul was telling a circle of entranced listeners about the time of Robin Hood. A little further away there was a circle of ladies teaching and demonstrating belly dancing. From the bandstand, which was near the entrance to the Arboretum, a wave of music washed over us from loudspeakers as a succession of heavy metal musicians blasted away with great enthusiasm.
Somehow, all the chaos and the noise blended together and it worked. To me it is further proof that when intentions are focused on a similar worthwhile goal, then all the different approaches blend together to give a positive outcome. The many facets of Neopaganism are an opportunity to explore new ideas and find what resonates with ourselves. We will benefit from the experience greatly or less so, – depending on what we ourselves put into it. If we leave our false sense of certainty behind us, we may learn much and make some great connections to help us on our own spiritual journey.

Certainty

Like a suit of armour,

Polished gold that gleams and sparkles in the light.

That Blessed Shield that keeps our ego safe.

No niggling doubts disturb us in the night.

No second thoughts to make our conscience chafe.

The Joy of never being wrong,

Those great eternal truths that beam down from above.

Our principles that keep us different from the milling throng.

When we love Certainty,

Its charms can keep us safe from any other love.

We feel misunderstood by those who do not truly Know.

Their dreadful ignorance and anarchy surrounds us every day.

If only we could set them on the path they need to go.

If only they could understand the things we try to say,

Then we could let them bask in our enlightened glow.

But then,

How can I teach the sparrow how to fly?

They seemed to know just what to do,

Before I ever had a chance to teach them how.

I often watch in envy as they dance and weave beneath the evening sky.

The crimson setting sun, that lights their antics, lights the furrows on my brow.

Streaking red and gold across the purple hills and dark green fields,

It’s rainbow glory blinds my eyes and lets me see,

This world was doing fine before there ever was a Me.

Patrick W Kavanagh

01/08/2013.

In the Words of Mama Bear

December, 2015

I had been working in a small community within the larger Pagan community when I received a very insidious Facebook message that began with, “You’re too emotional when it comes to this community. It’s not all about you, nor is it all that important”. The sender then began to question my skills as a community leader, because I was still “new” (after 10 years) and told me that the pagan community as a whole, the one I worked tirelessly for, “wasn’t that big of a deal.”
It ended with a smiley face emoticon and a message of “You know I’m only saying this because I love you right?”
It was a quick, and destructive little Facebook message, but everything about it and the situation in question was a perfect example of the quagmire of disrespect, insidious, gas lighting, boundary-pushing nature of the Pagan community (within a community)I was involved in. If I had called this person out on their emotional manipulation and denigration in a Facebook message, what would have happened? I could have screen shot it and posted it to my wall, but what good would it do? I would have been seen as a crazy troublemaker while this person was vilified as a God/Goddess (sexual identity concealed to protect the guilty) and I would be laughed at and mocked.
I was depressed. I felt powerless in a situation involving a community where bullying, slander, libel, gossip, harassment, stalking, sexual harassment, sexism, and homophobia seemed to be celebrated. I had been told that I needed to “grow a pair” and acquire a “tough skin” to do the kind of work in the community, that I was doing and that I needed to “not take it personally” when people exhibited these behaviors. When I complained about the toxicity of the community, I was told it was just the way it was for this community to be blunt and rude in order to have an authentic and truly open dialogue. This was the only way that we, as pagans could have a true authentic pagan experience.
When I was questioned about decisions I made for the position in the community that I held, I went from politely firm to loud and angrily defending myself in just a few short moments. I was told that I was overly emotional and that I just didn’t understand where the community was coming from! Talk about double standards! When I got that Facebook message, it was the last straw in dealing with the insanity in my community. I couldn’t do anything in that community without the threat of harassment or physical injury; I made a hard decision, and let my feet cast the deciding vote to leave.
I remember that day so vividly. I had gone to St. Louis with my husband for a weekend away, and as we were riding around the old neighborhoods, I received a phone call telling me that I was indeed still welcome with open arms. In fact, I was being asked to continue to be a leader. I remember chuckling and telling them “No, just give it to someone else, but you know I love you right?”
What I wasn’t prepared for was the grief I felt over the loss of my “big fish in a small pond” role I had carved out for myself in the community. I grieved hard core. People I had been friends with for years suddenly dropped me like a bad habit. Phone calls weren’t returned, people began to drop off of my friends list, and the people who had cheered me on and held me up for over 10 years suddenly disappeared.
Then came the feelings of helplessness and worthlessness. I started to doubt people and my own feelings. Whenever I met someone new, I always criticized them, wondering if they were just pleasant to my face and secretly undermining my dreams for the larger community that I’d started working on in earnest? Thankfully, my handful of longtime friends who had stuck with me showed me a way out of that dark and scary place. I still felt sad and lonely and often times avoided social situations so I didn’t have to deal with people in general.
I’m lucky, because it turned out that my core group of friends, who weren’t in that particular community supported me and my decisions. I didn’t go in to great detail about my woes with the other community, but I did tell them that I was suffering from burn out and needed a break, and a new project to work on. They understood, and supported me in several new endeavors. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how loving and supportive my entire core group was, but they cheered me on and helped me get to where I am today. I will never forget that and I am amazingly blessed by their love.
In retrospect, I didn’t leave that pagan community because there was a huge price to pay for doing so. You were cut off, ostracized, and often times your name was disparaged so badly you just left, rather than to deal with it. Paganism is supposed to be what we sleep, eat, breath and it should be our passion, something we work on even in our spare time. There is incessant talk about community, cohesiveness, unity, spirituality and working on projects for the greater good. To walk away from a community within a community for mental health reasons is considered selfish and not for the good of the greater community. Talking about why you walked away from a toxic community is also one of the largest no-no’s in the world. People don’t want to risk burning bridges and closing down the chances of keeping important relationships. The impact is that no one talks about leaving a toxic pagan community. They quietly leave and find somewhere else to spend their time and talents. When people don’t visibly leave a community, it tends to make others in the same position think that they don’t have any options either.
It is my personal opinion that when someone leaves a toxic pagan community, they need to loudly let everyone know why they are leaving, so that people in those positions know it’s ok to prioritize themselves over anything else. We need stories of people switching covens, dropping leadership roles and telling these toxic communities to “get bent”. This is the main reason that I’m sharing my story.
I don’t ever want anyone to experience the racism, homophobia, sexism, classism, ableism, ageism, and all of those other nasty –isms that are going on around the communities these days. No one should have to ever endure putting their heart and soul into a body of work for the greater good only to have it all trashed by people who are threatened by their fresh ideas, new outlooks and positivity. No one.
How do you identify a toxic community?
That has got to be one of the most difficult questions, yet one of the simplest questions to answer. The answer at its simplest form is to watch. Watch how people interact with each other. Are they assholes? Seriously? Is there lots of backstabbing and gossip? Then it’s probably toxic.
Most importantly do the larger groups value the smaller ones? Does the leadership of the larger groups interact with the smaller ones in a positive manner? Do they reach out for input on festivals and events?
How do the larger groups who run festivals and events treat people? Are they welcoming of new ideas and people? Are they a bunch of money hungry business owners hiding behind a festival or an organizational name? Do they donate money to the local community for smaller events? Are they really pagan or just using that as a mask to hide behind so people will support them?
How do the shop owners treat people? (Not the employees, but the owners) Are they welcoming, accommodating and enthusiastic about the local community? Do they think they’re better than everyone else? Do they treat their customers as important individuals or do they brush them off indifferently, seeing them as only a part of their profit margin?
Does the local community value their people? How are newcomers treated? Do they thank them for reaching out, encourage them to get involved or merely pat them on the head and tell them to “let those of us know what’s going on” do the work? Will you fit into the community? Does the leadership build up people, or does it tear them down?
In the end, you may not be able to find a good pagan community that also fits your learning interests. You may want to found your own pagan community where you can build in respect and encouragement from the start. You may decide to leave the public pagan life for a chance to develop your own beliefs and paths. You may even decide to leave the toxic community all together.
The point is you have options. You have valuable skills and the drive to help in a community you still see as new. There are good people willing to help you in the larger community, and within smaller, more concentrated groups. Just because they are pagan, don’t lump them in together with that which is toxic, because they need your help to form a healthy community.
The toxic community will survive without you, and your new community will value your skills even more.
Find a community where you can be loved, respected and appreciated, because you deserve it.

Pagan Theology

August, 2012

The Christians and the Pagans

 

Something that tends to distinguish me from my fellow Pagans is that I do not believe that “Christo-Pagans” are possible.  That goes against the general openness of Paganism.  And it flies in the face of our Pagan historical and cultural norms, which tell us to accept just about as many Gods and Goddesses as we can cram into a theology and still have room.  Thus a theological bias against Christians in general and Christo-Pagans in particular tends to irritate the Christo-Pagans and embarrass the regular Pagans (it has no effect on the observant Christians, they think we’re all crazy).   So now you are either irritated or embarrassed, and for that I apologize.

 

Unfortunately now I have to tell you I’m halfway wrong.  In considering this rather complicated problem I believe there is a place for those who follow Jesus to find a place within Paganism.   I don’t believe that makes any sense, but it is not a theological fallacy either.

 

Let me explain.

 

The biggest misunderstanding of my criticism of Christo-Pagans is the tendency to believe that I am saying that followers of Jesus cannot or should not be Pagans.  That is not what I claim.  Instead I claim that they cannot be Christians, nor can they identify with Jesus as the Christ who has fulfilled the Jewish prophecies [1].  The idea of being both “Pagan” and “Christian,” or “Jewish” or “Muslim” for that matter, just does not make any sense.

 

Of course compatibility is all in how you define things.  My definition of “Christian” is the one commonly used by those (Christians) who have large organizations devoted to the subject.  Sure, you can define Christianity as something completely different, the art of kicking a ball around a field perhaps, but then we have a disagreement about semantics and not religion.  The thing that is typically referred to with the denotation “Christianity” cannot be Pagan, not because Pagan’s won’t have it, but because Christians won’t have us.

 

The argument separating Paganism and standard Christianity can be made very quickly.  We do not have an apocalyptic eschatology, we view time as cyclical not linear, we do not believe in salvation, sin, or that the Gods and Goddesses are all perfect.

 

Most importantly:  Paganism by definition does not claim exclusivity for its Gods and Goddesses [2].  Abrahamic religions do.

 

I could also argue that we should be careful about blurring the lines between Christianity and Paganism.  But that is a political, not theological, argument.

 

The problem with Christians as Pagans is that there is a fundamental, theological, clash between the two faiths.  In fact the clash applies to any Abrahamic religion.  These religions all share a unique and radically important concept:  exclusivity.  The Hebrews first hit on the concept early in their history.  However their exclusivity was a tribal one, unless you were born as part of the chosen people, born into the tribe of God, you were not in the faith.  While this was somewhat unusual at the time it was mostly harmless as the Jews were a relatively small tribe that lacked power.  And their exclusivity meant that they would have a hard time growing anyway.

 

But in the 1st – 3rd centuries a new idea, Christianity, emerged out of Judaism.  It said that, while anyone could join, it was the god that was exclusive.  All other religions were invalidated by Christianity.  This is the Pauline interpretation of Christ’s teachings, one that eventually “won” the long (400 year) struggle between the other various Christ following sects of the time.

 

So my objection has to do with a desire not to intermingle Pauline Christianity with Paganism rather than a desire to exclude Christo-Pagans.

 

Once you break free of the Pauline concept of Christianity you can begin to see how Jesus and his teachings could be included as an element in Paganism.  An exclusive view towards Christo-Pagans is both narrow and divisive. A real Pagan (whatever that is) would ask “how do we include followers of Christ as Pagans?”  Instead of seeking to exclude, perhaps we should seek to include.  In other words, perhaps a Pagan theology could help define some elements of the Christian faith that are compatible with Paganism.  And I’m not talking about Santa and Christmas trees and candles at Imbolc, I mean real inclusion.

 

At the most basic level we have to confront the issue of magic and witchcraft.  Both modern high magic and witchcraft have been clearly influenced by Christianity.  In fact I believe one would have been very hard pressed to find anything but a Christian witch or magician in Europe between the years 500 and 1800.  Magical practices have clearly been claimed as part of the Pagan community, whether they are derived from Christian or other sources.

 

We must include the Christian Witch, and Magician, because their practices are so fundamental to ours.  That sort of inclusion goes almost without saying.

 

Moving beyond magic we come to Judaism, of which Christianity is a part and a derivative faith.  The Jewish religion grew out of the religion of the Hebrew tribe, which is believed to have been Pagan long before it went with just one god.  Remember, the admonition not to have any other Gods before me is a plural one, accepting the idea that there are Gods other than Jehovah, just that Jehovah is the most important one.  Eventually this got ground down to the idea of a unitary God, but in the early days of Judaism there was the possibility of multiple deities.  In fact the idea of Sophia, the female Goddess of the Hebrews provides a great pivot point for many Christo-Pagans to begin to explore the polytheistic aspects of both Christianity and Judaism.

 

Next comes the question of exactly who was Jesus of Nazareth?

 

Bart Ehrman in his book the Lost Christianities:  The Battle for Scripture, says that Jesus could have been many different things:  rabbi, Jewish holy man with extraordinary powers, social radial and promoter of counter-cultural lifestyles, a Jewish magician capable of manipulating the forces of nature, a feminist, or a prophet warning of a coming kingdom (apocalypse) where evil would be overthrown?   Jesus as magician, feminist, or counter-cultural rebel fits right in with modern concepts of Paganism.

 

There is also the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven in the Canonical Gospels.  For Pagans the idea of a transcendental place beyond this world is incompatible with the immanence of magic and deity.  Pauline Christianity developed the claim of a transcendental Kingdom of Heaven that we occupied after death or the apocalypse.  However much depends on which Jesus you listen to.  The radical Jesus preached the Kingdom of God was within you, and many of those at the time he preached expected the kingdom to arrive within a few years.  It was later that the idea got changed to a transcendent kingdom removed from this earth.

 

While modern Christians place an emphasis on Jesus as apocalyptic prophet and savior, we could easily change that emphasis to magician, feminist, trickster, and social radical to bring him more in line with Pagan concepts of deity.   We could see the kingdom of heaven as a place here on earth, that we create within us and around us, instead of a long-held promise that depends on redemption.

 

Instead of thinking about Pagans who follow Jesus as a thin wedge of Christianity into Paganism, we could turn this around and think of them as expanding the idea of what Jesus was and how he fits in with a radically different theology than Pauline Christianity.  When you say “Christo-Pagan” there are a lot of facile impressions and ideas that come up, such as the vision of blending Pat Robertson with Starhawk.  While that theology just won’t work, what may work is the idea of Jesus as the trickster prophet who had a vision that was both magical as well as radically inclusive.  While Jesus was clearly a Jew, there is also nothing incompatible about a polytheistic Judaism being included in the broad range of Pagan religious paths.

 

That said, I still don’t think that I’ll be calling on any Christian or Jewish deities anytime soon.  Christians have spilled too much of our blood, cut too many groves, and turned too many temples into churches.  Christians seek to convert everyone to their way, which results in their being aggressive about disrupting and destroying other religions in the name of salvation.  While our Christo-Pagans do not fall into this category, it makes it hard to fully embrace the concept.

 

The idea of a new, Pagan, interpretation of Jesus and Judaism is both interesting and something that is compatible with Paganism.  But for me Paganism is a true religion.  The Gods and Goddess are real and have been shoved aside by modern culture and Christianity before that.  We need to restore them, their worship, and their presence in our lives.  Any Christian influences corrupt that work with ideas and theologies that remove it from the magical, physical, world where our Gods and Goddesses exist.  In the future I’ll be careful to listen to the Christo-Pagans and the case they make for inclusivity, but I still may not embrace it.

 

[1]  Paganism is quite accepting of many of the parameters of early Judaism.  Monotheism has a very long history in Pagan religions, so the idea of one, overriding, God is in no way foreign (e.g. Mithras, Ra of Akhenaten).  The Gnostic idea of secret knowledge is pretty much the foundation of modern magic, and Gnostic concepts run through much of modern high magic (and Paganism, I avoid a discussion of Gnosticism because that is a book in itself).  Jesus as a dying and reborn God can also be seen as simply another version of a common Pagan concept of cycles of deity.

[2]  Though you might be able to argue that by claiming inclusivity that we subjugate all Gods and Goddesses to Paganism.  Sort of like my Catholic friends who say my Gods and Goddesses are just an imperfect manifestation of theirs, we too can claim that Jehovah, Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are all simply other Gods within our broad and inclusive Pantheon.  This then becomes essentially a linguistic/semantic problem.  It comes down to how we define what we are talking about, and how we use our ability to name things to structure and make sense out of the world.  If everything is everything else and the names we use do not distinguish one thing from another, then it becomes very difficult to have a sensible discussion.  Thus, Pagans are what we are, and Abrahamic religions are monotheistic exclusivists.  There is a difference because there is a difference.  (And I know Houston Smith’s arguments about all religions are merely branches of one root, at some level that is probably true, but here I’m working well up the trunk and not at the root).

Witches’ Paradigms: Part One

March, 2012

Whereas non-pagans are guided by sacred books, pagans are guided by nature.  Nature guides us through the course of the seasons.  We take our moods, our goals and the way we pursue them, from the seasonal round, which is called ‘The Wheel of the Year’.

Witches of our Celtic tradition follow three interlocking paradigms throughout the year.  The course of the Sun throughout the year is plotted by the Wheel of the Year.  The course of the lunar month is plotted by the phases of the Moon and their meaning.  And the sequence of lunar months through the solar year is plotted by the Ogham Tree Calendar and the Rune of Amergin, as reconstructed by the poet Robert Graves in his seminal work The White Goddess.

It should be emphasized at the start that none of what follows is obligatory for witches.  If you follow the Rede and are careful of the energy you put out, bearing in mind the Law of Threefold Return, you can call yourself a witch.  The paradigms offered below are tools.  Witchcraft is a craft, and witches make use of ideas as tools.  More specifically, skills are tools, and lore is building material, like wood or stone or metal.   What is important is what you build with them, and that is your personal Craft.  Select your tools and materials among the many available, and feel free to make a re-selection.  Eventually you will have a house to live in that feels just right.

The Wheel of the Year:

When we follow the Wheel of the Year, we invite nature spirits to contact us and become involved in our personal lives.

The Wheel of the Year is depicted as a circle divided, like the compass, into eight equal segments by radii which contact the circumference at the points of the four cardinal directions plus the directions in between.  The eight witches’ sabbats are plotted on these points.  They are as follows:

1. Yule – the Winter Solstice.  Generally falls between 20 and 23 December. The old Oak King, as his sacred bird robin redbreast, fights and kills the Holly King in his sacred bird-form, the gold crest wren, and hangs the latter from the holly bush. The Oak King is then reborn as the Child of Promise.  He rules Middle-Earth until Imbolc, when the Maiden returns to rule with him.

2. Imbolc – The Maiden returns.  The original pagan date was 1 February.  The christian church moved it to 2 February.  Many covens celebrate it on the 2nd because they are unaware of this.  The Maiden may meet with the young Oak King and they may mate at this time.  If they do, we shall have an early Spring.

3. Ostara – the Spring Equinox. Generally falls between 20 and 23 March.  The Maiden and the Oak King are mated and Spring begins in earnest. Witches send out their wishes for the year on a great solar tide.

4. Beltane – May 1st. The preceding evening is called Walpurgis Night.  The Maiden becomes the Mother. The handfasting of the Mother and the Oak King, symbolized by the Maypole. Celts regarded this date as the beginning of Summer.

5. Litha – the Summer Solstice.  Generally falls between 20 and 23 June.  The union of the Mother and the Oak King reaches the acme of power.  Then the Holly King appears.  He is like the Oak King’s dark twin, his shadow, as the Jungians would say.  He fights the Oak King for the favor of the Lady and wins.  He kills the Oak King and imprisons his spirit in the sacred oak, which is cognate with the World Pillar.

6. Lammas or Lughnasadh – August 1st. Lammas, meaning ‘loaf mass,’ is the later christian name, but many witches like to focus on baking sacred bread on this eve (July 31st), so the name Lammas is often used.  The Mother becomes the Crone.

7. Mabon or Modron – the Autumn Equinox, falling between September 20 and 23.  Initiate witches travel in spirit to the threshold of the Summerlands and there invite their ancestors and dead friends to visit them in Middle-Earth during the month of October.

8. Samhain – October 31st.  The culmination of the series of ‘dumb suppers’ held with visiting ancestors.  Now the gates of the Summerlands open wide, and Herne the Hunter (the Underworld aspect of the Holly King) leads forth the Wild Hunt, comprising human and non-human spirits.  The Wild Hunt will range the skies from Samhain to the following Imbolc.  Souls of those who have died during the year but failed to find the path to the Summerlands are gathered up at Samhain and shown the way. The Crone goes to the Summerlands to rest for the Winter. The ageing Holly King, soon to become the Lord of Misrule for the December festivities, takes over.

In general, Sabbats are celebrated on the evening before their date.  Exceptions are at the solstices and at Beltane and Samhain.  The solstices fall on the day of shortest and longest sunlight and should be celebrated on those actual days.  Beltane is celebrated both on the preceding evening as Walpurgis Night, and on the following day when the dance around the Maypole and other festivities take place.  Samhain, Hallowe’en, is celebrated on the evening of its date, October 31st.  Its name means ‘Summer’s end’. The following day is a christian implantation and is ignored by witches.

The Lady and Lord together illustrate dynamic balance.  The Lord, the god Cernunnos, is both the Oak and Holly King.  They represent opposite tendencies of his dual nature.  The Oak King is of Middle-Earth and rejoices in the outer world and its pleasures.  The Holly King is an Underworld deity who promotes inner, spiritual work and journeys down the World Pillar to the Summerlands.  Left to themselves, they would tear the cosmos apart but the Lady holds them together in harmony.  She has three visible aspects: the Maiden, Mother and Crone. (Graves in his witchcraft utopian novel of the future, Watch the Northwind Rise, names these the Maiden, Nymph and Crone.)  Unlike Cernunnos, she can manifest any of these at any time: “She is old or young as she wishes.”  But left to herself, the harmony she creates would be static.  It would be like always eating so many vegetables, or taking so many sips of wine at meals.  The extremes of the Oak and Holly Kings add passion and adventure to the cosmic harmony through their excesses, which the Lady keeps within prudent limits.  This serves as an example to witches, who seek dynamic balance in their lives.  As Lin Yutang once said, pursue moderation moderately.

The word ‘Sabbat’ means ‘restful recreation.’  The word ‘Esbat’ is from Middle French esbattier, and means ‘to frolic.’  Thus the main celebrations of witchcraft are joyous affairs, the farthest thing from the grim oh-so-solemn assemblies of some churches.  Esbats are generally held at the Full Moon.  When an Esbat and a Sabbat fall on the same date, the Sabbat is given precedence.

Ancient Ways and The Wheel of the Year, by Pauline and Dan Campanelli, are recommended guides to the Sabbats.  See also West Country Wicca, by Rhiannon Ryall, as an alternate but related account.

The Wheel and the Elements:

Witches seek a dynamic balance in their lives with humanity, plants, animals, and spirits, both of Middle-Earth and the worlds on The Other Side.  In so doing, they focus on the four ancient elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth.  These correspond roughly to the three states of matter (solid, liquid and gas), plus detectable energy (Fire).  Etheric matter or energy is a fifth element or ‘quintessence,’ that witches cutivate through achieving a good working balance with the other four, and can be understood as referring to energies not yet detectable by current scientific methods.

Each element has a power contained within it which increases through the practice of witchcraft.  Air contains the power to know, Fire the power to will, Water the power to dare, and Earth the power to keep silence.  Ether contains the power to go, that is, to conduct spirit journeys either from waking or dream, up and down the World Pillar.  Travelling to the Summerlands while in the body is an etheric goal of initiates.

While the four powers are cultivated throughout the year, the four quarters of the Wheel of the Year are each associated specially with one of the elements.  The North, from Samhain to Imbolc, is associated with Earth and the power to keep silence, that is, to keep still both mentally and physically, within and without.  It is a time favorable to meditation and quiet home handicrafts.  The East, from Imbolc to Beltane, is associated with Air and the power to know, that is, the power of understanding.  The South, from Beltane to Lammas or Lughnasadh, is associated with Fire and the power to will.  And the West, from Lammas or Lughnasadh to Samhain, is associated with water and the power to dare.  This means the power to dare to go beyond one’s limits, to reach out for new life, whether through a change of consciousness or of life circumstances.

The major Sabbats occur on the cusps between one elemental quarter and the next, because the transitions from one element to another are of primary importance.  Thus, the minor physical Sabbats occupy the cardinal points of the Wheel, while the major spiritual Sabbats are on the points in between.

Imbolc, occurring on the cusp between the power of silence and the power to know, is a time of silent intuition, when images and feelings from the dream-soul (who corresponds in some ways to the Holly King) begin to stir, like lambs in the bellies of ewes at this time of year.

Beltane, occurring on the cusp between the power of knowledge and the power of will, stands for the union not only of heaven and earth, but of theory and practice.  Witches are nothing if not practical.  The price of knowledge gained in the East is putting it into practice in one’s life in the South, cultivating the will.

Lammas, occurring on the cusp between the power of will and the power of daring, is the time when the witch applies will power to the uncanny realms of spell-casting and change of consciousness, as well as to adventures that lead to revolutionary life-changes.

Samhain, occurring on the cusp between daring and silence, is when acquired skills are allowed to sink down into the unconscious mind, there to incubate and give rise to new life.  A musician will put away sheet music and improvise quietly on his or her instrument.  The cast spell will be ‘earthed’ and put out of mind.  Problems will be set aside for the unconscious to solve.  Spontaneity will replace methods and rules, and one will be ready to join the celebrations of Yule and Saturnalia.

The power to go is cultivated through lucid dreaming, knowing one is asleep and dreaming while it is happening, and also from a peculiar state of heightened awareness while awake called lucid waking.  A few people have the knack to cultivate this power up front, but most of us need to approach it gradually, through the balanced development of the other four powers, by following witches’ paradigms and conducting sacred rituals.