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Role of a Mentor

April 1st, 2009

Like many others my age, the first witch I saw on TV was Samantha on the show Bewitched. But there was real life witch in my area whom I saw on TV several times. Jeffrey B. Cather RN, better known as Lady Circe of Toledo, OH, was respected by the media when they turned to her as the unofficial representative of the Pagan community. She was well spoken, knowledgeable and had an air of leadership about her. When I saw her on TV in the 70s and 80s, I was not yet studying the old ways, but it was in the back of my mind and the knowledge that such people existed kept the spark of my interest alive. When she passed away in 2004, I read she was a WW II veteran and since this was before the VA decision to add the pentacle as a symbol of belief, I’ve wondered if her headstone was ever changed.

Shortly after I was hired by the Postal Service in 1994, I saw a documentary called “Witches, Werewolves and Vampires.” It was more on the lighter side, but I was intrigued by what the Witches were saying about a magical nature centered religion which included a goddess. This was the moment I decided to see if what the Witches were saying was true and if this was something for me. Its funny how the words and attitudes of someone we never meet and who have no idea we exist can change our lives, so perhaps our words and attitudes can in turn affect people we will never meet and may not even know they exist.

I looked in the library in Port Clinton, OH where I was working at the time and found a book, the name of which I have long ago forgotten. It claimed to be about witchcraft, but with instructions to self initiate that included saying the Lord’s Prayer backwards three times at midnight and making a wand stuffed with a blood soaked cotton ball, it sounded weird even in my naiveté. Fortunately it disappeared never to return before I could check it out. Perhaps someone was keeping me from starting out with misinformation.

Eventually I found a few useful accurate books at the library and bought some at a bookstore in another town. But I yearned for contact with a like minded person, someone I could learn from, ask questions, and gain understanding. There was a woman on my mail route I wanted to talk with as she received metaphysical catalogs, had a stained glass pentacle on her door, stickers on her truck reading “witches heal” and “born again pagan” and had a banner in her window wishing “Blessed Samhain.” One day she was sweeping her sidewalk, so I stuck up a conversation, complimenting her on her Halloween decorations. She replied that it was important to her as she was a Witch. I replied that I was a newbie Wiccan and she offered to be of help.

I learned so much from Soraya. She explained the difference between Witch and Wiccan and elaborated on her path of Hedgewitchery. She was the first other Pagan I had met in person, so being a newbie, I tended at first to hang on her every word, something she discouraged. Instead, she encouraged me to listen to different views, try different things and see what worked for me. There was an author whom I idolized at the time, but my mentor had a rather negative opinion of her. I was able to step back and be objective about that author as well as any other. We were comfortable disagreeing agreeably and I never felt pressure to agree with or imitate her. I was a fan of the TV show Charmed and she thought it was stupid. She thought the movie The Craft insulted our religion but I could watch it over and over although I understood how those not familiar with our ways could get the wrong idea. Practical Magic was a movie we both enjoyed.

Soraya encouraged me to interact with other Pagans. She started a local meet and greet called Pagans in the Pub and invited me to come. I was too reluctant to do so and unfortunately after two meetings, it stopped due to lack of interest. She was a member of a Cleveland, OH based group and drove to their monthly meetings. We talked about me riding with her sometime but again I was reluctant. Considering the problems I have now finding the time to participate in Pagan groups, I wish I would have went.

I did manage to find other Pagans online and she pointed the way. She recommended the Witch’s Voice and a few other quality sites as well as setting up her own Pagan message board, Soraya’s Witch’s Tavern. I was one of the first members at her invitation and as I sat at the library internet computer pondering a user name, it came to me, Postalpagan, a name I still use 12 years later. It amused me when she said that some of the other members asked her if it was a reference to the term “going postal”, and she replied that I was her mail carrier. When someone asked her how she changed her hair color like one of the girls in The Craft did, she replied that she started by going to the drug store and buying a box of hair color. One Imbolic morning I knocked on her door because I had been feeling like I had way too much coffee since an early morning ritual. She went through a checklist of the steps of ritual and when she got to grounding and centering at the end, I realized my omission. Once I followed her advice to perform the missing step, I felt myself calm down. One thing she would not do was let me join her in ritual as she said she was strictly a solitary.

Her proudest moment during the time I knew her was the front page story on her in the local newspaper. She had called them about ten days earlier to point out the error in a Halloween article that claimed the Celtic god of the dead was Sam Hain and Samhain was named after him. After she replied yes to a newspaper staffer’s question if she was Pagan, she agreed to an interview at home. The article with a photo of her on her porch swing was published October 23, 1999 in the Port Clinton News Herald. It was spot on both in regards to her personally and our religion. Only one of my coworkers at the Post Office criticized her as eccentric and I defended her even though I was still in the broom closet. In spite of her fears, she did not receive any threatening phone calls or hate mail. I walked into the newspaper office to praise both the article and their willingness to be open minded. Sadly, I found out a few years later from another newspaper staffer, who was Pagan, that they received so many complaints that the editor decided that they would never run another piece on anything Pagan.

A little over two years later, I transferred to Clyde, OH and said goodbye to Soraya thanking her for her help which had meant so much. She encouraged me to keep learning and practicing as well as remaining active at the Tavern. But she soon closed the message board and I heard she moved to North Carolina. I saw her on the membership listing of Witchvox under that state for a while, then she disappeared and repeated web searches have found nothing. If perchance she is reading this, I would like to give her a big thank you for being my mentor and my dream is that someday I could be as helpful to a new Witch somewhere.


In the Realm of Magic

For many of us who enjoy a good Harry Potter book or the fairy tales of childhood, there is a special word that draws us to the study of Wicca: magic.  That one mysterious word conjures up a euphoria of wonder and excitement that feels alien in comparison to our daily lives.  Suddenly, anything is possible, and we become more than mere mortals bracing against the tides of fate.  These are certainly the types of emotions the idea of magic can inspire, but daily we are told to keep such notions in the realm of fiction where they belong.  There is the world of reality and the world of the imagination, through which a clear and distinct boundary is drawn.  But is this division as clear as some say?  Is there really a division at all?  These are some of the questions Wiccans open themselves to and ask, allowing for a faith which embraces what others may not even consider possible.

One way to begin to explore these questions is to establish: what do we mean by “reality?”  Many would name the physical world around us as the foundation of the real world.  This is the area accessible to our senses, and we experience it everyday in a reliable manner that gives us little reason to doubt its existence.  Not every aspect of this world can be sensed, which we know through scientific instruments that go beyond our human limitations.  This is the only way we know of ultraviolet light, microwaves, or dark matter for instance.  Even though we cannot see these things ourselves we know they are real when we observe their effects.  Before each of these things was discovered by scientists they most certainly existed, we simply did not have technology suitable to view them.  It is therefore wise to have a healthy dose of open-mindedness alongside skepticism when deciding whether magic may or may not be “real,” as today’s unknowns can always become tomorrows discoveries.

Now let us go back to the separation between reality and imagination.  We have established that reality in common thought corresponds to the material world, both seen and unseen.  Imagination is something altogether distinct.  It is the collection of our thoughts, dreams, and hopes as to what reality should or might be.  I can see a horse and imagine a unicorn.  I can see a problem and imagine its solution.  Our thoughts and mind are our primary way of creating change in the physical world by envisioning what can be instead of what is.  A thought may not be a material object in the way that a chair is, but its effects on the world around us are real and profound in the form of our actions.  This blurs the definition a bit on what constitutes reality.  Is a thought only real if I create it in the material world?  Or is it real because of its affect on my decisions and actions?  A hopeful person may in reality have nothing to look forward to based on the way events play out, but the effect the hope has on the person changes what they do and how they act regardless of the physical reality around them.  Imagination is separate from reality only in that it does not have to conform to the physical world to be real or have an effect, and this is the key to understanding what magic is.

Someone who practices magic in our world does not have lightning bolts shooting from their fingertips and may or may not wear a pointy hat.  There is a certain aspect of romanticism in modern witchcraft that plays to the fantastical and whimsical natures of many of its practitioners.  What all magic shares, regardless of the outer forms, is a disciplined focus of the mind and thoughts aimed to produce an effect.  To believe in magic is merely to believe that thoughts can affect reality, and to practice and hone the craft of doing so.  To a skeptic this may only go so far as to acknowledge that if a person focuses their thoughts with great intensity towards a goal, it would at the very least affect the actions of that person.  If my goal is to find love and I wish to use magic, all of my concentration and focus on that goal would undoubtedly affect what I do and move my actions in line with it.  Most practitioners take it a step further and say that the thoughts you put out affect the energy around you, and that true magic is when that energy is affected enough to bring about your intentions.  That is a harder gap to bridge for those new or foreign to the Craft, but as with all of its aspects Wicca values experience over belief.  It does not require you to believe in magic but rather invites you to experience it and judge for yourself.  As with hope, there is nothing to lose, and everything to gain by choosing to suspend one’s disbelief.  And that is when the boundaries to the realms of reality and imagination blur, uniting to create a truly magical whole.

Journal for the Month of November:

I cannot say that I have yet had a successful experience with a spell.  On the other hand I have had a direct experience with another form of energy work known as Reiki.  A few months back I attended a Reiki attunement for levels I and II.  During this process the student is said to be opened to the flow of universal energy in order to channel it for healing.  I went into the experience very skeptical, but with an open mind.  During one of the guided meditations I experienced a strange sensation, almost as if energy were coursing through my spine at a rapid pace.  The sensation heightened and intensified to the point where I felt as if some torrential waterfall were coursing through me unhindered.  After a time the feeling faded, and as I came back into my regular awareness I learned that our instructor had been focusing on opening our chakras during those moments before.  There was no way I had imagined the experience, and I could not explain it away in rational terms.

Why do I mention this experience here?  For me, it was pivotal in giving the concept of magic a chance.  I firmly believe in the power of the mind and that amazing things can be accomplished through its discipline, but I had a hard time accepting the idea of energy work and its implications.  Magic and Reiki are two very different things, most especially because in Reiki the practitioner never tries to control the flow the energy, and instead focuses on being a clear and open channel for it.  But I can now say that I have literally felt energy working within me, and it has opened my mind to a vast sea of possibilities I may never before have considered.  To anyone else I would say, don’t just believe in something, know it from your experience.  And at the same time you can take the knowledge from others that such things are possible, as long as we are willing to open ourselves to them.

Until next month, blessed be! )O(

It might come as a surprise to learn that ancient Christians practiced magick.  In fact, they had elaborate systems of magick ranging from healing spells, charms, amulets and erotic love spells to revenge curses as varied as separating a man from a woman and a curse against a woman’s face and work.
These were mainly Coptic Texts dating from the first century C.E. to the eleventh or twelfth centuries.  Many of the texts invoke the Archangels. They include prayers, hymns, magickal words and involve chanting sacred vowel sounds while performing elaborate rituals.  Upon studying them, the reader quickly gleans that these must have been powerful spells, indeed.
From my own life, growing up as a Catholic, I look back now and realize that we practiced our own cultural form of magick.  This was a magick practiced by my ancestors for many centuries. And, yet, I could never see it as magick, until now.
We certainly didn’t consider our pious practices as being a form of magick.  Our faith, our belief was absolute. The outcome was certain in our minds. We foresaw the end result in our imagination. Those three things, belief, direction of will and visualization are the basis of magick.
The saints were our version of the Gods and Goddesses and the Blessed Mother was our Queen of Heaven, our own veiled Divine Feminine.  A crown of stars shone above her head and her feet eternally rest on a crescent moon.
There were many spells that we Catholics practiced, not realizing that they were spells. For example, place a dollar bill beneath a statue of the Infant of Prague and you will never lack for money.  Or, pray the blessing before and after meals and nothing you eat will ever make you sick.  Keep holy water at home to bless your house against demons, storms and evil and to bless yourself for health, grace and protection.  Light a candle at church for a particular intention and leave a small offering of money for the candle. Novenas are nine days of prayer to the Blessed Mother, Jesus or to a saint or archangel, nine being a magickal number.  I’ve never, ever known a novena to fail.
Pray the daily rosary and fifteen promises would be obtained. Wear a blessed medal and you will be protected.  Go to church the day after Candlemas on the feast of St. Blase and have a priest place two candles on your throat in blessing. The candle blessing will heal and protect your throat. Bring the blessed palms home from church on Palm Sunday and place them in your home for yearly protection and blessing.
The important thing to note is that the work depended, not upon the person performing it but, upon the deity or saint invoked.
The Traditional Catholic Church has maintained a beautiful ritual that was performed each year, in every parish, before the vast changes of the council of Vatican II occurred.  Every year, on May 15th, the parishioners would form a long, out-door procession in front of the church doors. The priest, carrying a silk pillow upon which lies a crown of fresh roses, lead the way round a winding path to a large statue of the Blessed Virgin which was flanked by meticulously trimmed shrubs shading pockets of marigolds and zinnias. A troupe of altar boys, the eldest carrying the processional cross, dressed in traditional white and black flowing robes, swung their incense from side to side while chanting the prayer responses in Latin. Girls followed along, dressed all in white, their heads were draped in white lace mantillas while a basket of rose petals graced their wrists. Garlands of flowers crowned their mantillas.
A long parade of the faithful, women and girls in skirts and long mantilla veils, men and boys dressed smartly in their Sunday suits and ties, followed along behind the statue of Our Lady with deep reverence and heart-felt love.  They clutch rosaries and wear the Miraculous Medal, in honor of Our Lady.
Forming a ring around the statue of the Virgin Mary, the crowd sung sweet, uplifting hymns and devoutly recited the prayers, heads bowed low or eyes gazing hopefully at Our Lady.
Sweet, exotic smelling incense wafts towards the statue and billows over the crowd.  The priest ascends a small step-ladder and places the precious crown of roses upon the statue. Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, is now also Queen of the May, as the hymn pronounces Her.  This can be performed as a solitary within the home sanctuary.
How magickal, how Goddess-honoring, how beautiful is this ritual? It’s an ancient, yet still living, unbroken tradition held within the remnants of today’s Traditional Chapels.
Modern day Esoteric Christians (and anyone else who would find this of interest) inherit the ancient Judaic-Christian tradition of a wide array of magick and ritual.  Kabbalistic magick both esoteric and practical, kabbalistic tarot along with esoteric meditations on The Sphere, the Fiery Spear, The Grail and The Lance of Light all figure greatly in the Esoteric Christian tradition. Other Christians, including many clergy, are attracted to Enochian magick.
A potent form of healing and protection magick may be practiced by anointing the forehead with a biblical oil while praying specified psalms.  There is also the Templar Tradition and other  magickal Orders from which to choose and learn.  Mojo bags accompanied by psalms or prayers fit quite nicely within the Christian magickal tradition.
Novenas remain a powerful source of help no matter what the need.  Each saint is the patron of a certain cause. St. Lucy is the patron saint of eyes.  St. Gerard Majella is the patron of expectant mothers and young children while St. Jude is the patron saint of hopeless cases. There are hundreds of saints all with a particular area of specialty. At the beginning of the novena, one may light a blessed and consecrated glass-encased novena candle with appropriate herbs floating beside the wick.
The Element Encyclopedia of 5,000 spells by Judika Illes contains many saint-oriented spells including a number of spells invoking Mary Magdalene.
Wanding, by Evan Twede remains a form of magick that can be practiced by anyone of any faith or tradition.  The wand is named and undergoes a special consecration ritual. A few simple words invokes your spirit ally into the wand.  Sometimes, when performed against a white background, a blue aura can be seen as soon as the spirit of the wand is called into the world, the wood, the wand.  The wand becomes much more than a tool, it becomes your closest ally. Wanding is simple, easy and effective.
For those who join certain Gnostic or Esoteric Orders or schools, many powerful rituals become available.
A mystical magician is one who works in harmony with God (the Father and Mother) and is able to become a link between the outer and inner creations or worlds.  A Christian Witch strives to become the mystical magician.

Sources not cited:
Experience of the Inner Worlds,  by Gareth Knight.
Magical Christianity by Coleston Brown.
Ancient Christian Magic by Marvin W. Meyer and Richard Smith.

The Moon & Lunar Cycles

Last month I explored the function of the sabbats in attuning oneself with the rhythms of nature with the solar cycle.  This month I will turn to the moon and the significance of its phases.  This luminous body both mystifies and haunts us in the inky darkness of the night sky.  When full it gleams as a brilliant silvery-white orb which dwarfs even the brightest star to seeming insignificance.  Month after month it comes and goes from our perspective, growing to full and once again waning back to darkness.  Yet it always returns as does the sun, and for that reason becomes another powerful symbol of immortality and rebirth.  The sun is vital to life and makes sustenance possible, but it cannot be there to light the way for us in the night and the darkest of times.  That is when we call to our closest companion of all the celestial bodies – the moon.

The moon orbits our planet hundreds of thousands of kilometers away.  It is sometimes mistakenly said to be about a quarter of the size of earth when in fact its diameter is about a quarter that of earth’s.  In terms of comparing two spheres the moon is much smaller than our planet.  We can usually only see it during the night when the sun isn’t overwhelming our view.  The moon does not produce its own light, but instead reflects the sunlight it receives.  The relative positions of the sun, moon and earth are what determine the amount of the moon’s surface that is visible to us, thus creating what we refer to as the “phases” of the moon.  For instance, when the bodies are aligned in the order sun-moon-earth we experience the new or dark moon.  This is because at night we are facing away from the sun and the moon does not appear anywhere in our sky.  When the alignment is sun-earth-moon we likewise see the full moon.  Waxing and waning phases are the transitions between these alignments as the moon rotates around the earth.  Sometimes when the alignment is just right we get what is called an eclipse, when one of the bodies blocks the light from the sun in a temporary but awe-inspiring phenomenon of nature.

Those in the Craft honor the cycles of the moon in several ways.  Just as the eight sabbats mark the solar year and aid us in attuning with the sun, the celebration of what is termed the esbat brings us into alignment with lunar forces.  Esbat traditions vary from group to group and even from individual to individual.  In a lot of ways it is mostly what you make of it.  Many witches choose to do magical workings, spells, and matters of practical concern.  Others hold a special ritual to mark the occasion.  Most select the full moon as the point of the esbat but there is no rule that says it can’t be held at the new moon or even multiple moon phases instead.  Whether focused on magic or simple observance, the purpose of the esbat is attunement with natural cycles via the moon.

The moon completes a full revolution every 29.5 days and therefore esbats are typically monthly affairs.  This is a natural connection for women whose own monthly cycles mimic this pattern.  Indeed, women in particular are frequently able to harness lunar energy and use it to great effect.  The period from new moon to full is referred to as the waxing phase, and is associated with increase and growth.  The waning phase is from full to new and is used for decrease or banishing of negative influences.  Both the full and new moon are times of great power and are culminations of the energies leading up to them.  To be in tune with the moon is to know at any one moment what the current phase and energies are.  Observing and learning the moon’s phases is one of the easiest and most immediate ways to connect with nature.  It is also interesting to note that when trying to begin a new habit or replace an old one people frequently recommend maintaining the activity for about one full moon cycle for the habit to take root.  Lunar cycles and humanity share an intimate connection with deep roots in our psyche.  As the tides rise and fall from the pull of the moon’s gravity, so do our spirits feel the allure of our silent companion, and sit enchanted beneath its pale light.

Journal for the Month of February:

As I write this the new moon has arrived, and it’s time for me to commit to new goals and eliminate useless clutter and stress.  I personally love observing the moon; maybe it’s leftover from picking out constellations in the night sky as a child.  There is something absolutely mesmerizing about it, and for me it has been much easier to connect with lunar cycles than solar ones.  I think that’s partially also because a year is so much longer and a day is just too quick.  A moon cycle is the perfect length of time to plan things, work on them, and bring positive change to any area of life.  For me this month it’s going to be getting on that pre-spring cleaning that so desperately needs to be done!

In this column and the last you may notice that I haven’t really delved into God or Goddess associations with the sun and moon in much depth (or at all).  Deity is such a broad and personal subject that I would rather save that for its own separate entry to give it justice.  These past couple of months I have been giving so much thought and meditation to what God/dess means to me.  I expect it will take me a lifetime to come up with any true answers, but I refuse to take it at face value and leave it at that.  The symbols and correspondences we work with point to deeper meanings that cannot be understood by grazing the surface.  Nor can they be understood using only the intellect.  I think that all of us who began a spiritual journey started it in order to come to more than just book knowledge – we want to experience deity.  We want to awaken the deepest levels of our consciousness and feel something.  Union with the divine.  Realizing our higher selves.  God.  Goddess.  What that something is we find hard to define in words, but we seek it nonetheless.  I am only taking the first steps in that journey, but I hope that one day it will come together.  And I hope that we may all find that which we seek.

Until next month, blessed be! )O(

This month I wanted to focus of Deity. Since this is such a touchy subject for many of us as well as a subject that will start flaming wars, I will be looking at different kitchen/hearth Gods and goddesses. For no other reason than there have been so many different ones throughout history. I do not wish to annoy, anger or irritate anyone… so please read this for only the informational purposes that it was intended for.

I do not mean to seem like I am attacking before I am attacked. But recently I have been getting involved, without meaning to or having the desire to, in arguments about God, Goddess, and Deity. I personally have fairly simple views of Deity and why it is seen so many differing ways.

I see Deity as a jewel/gem. A beautiful and many faceted Jewel. If you look at this graphic you will be able to see the many different ways a stone can be faceted…

hearth1

BUT no matter how you facet it, it will always be a gem. If I see the top of the gem… and someone else sees the side of that same gem it may look like a completely different stone. If you take 1 large stone and divide it into many different many faceted stones… it will ultimately remain 1 large stone in many pieces.

THAT is how I see deity.  It may have broken itself down into male and female faceted gems. Then broken itself even further into smaller versions so that you and I may find the stone we need for that moment in our lives…or the face of Deity that someone needed to cope with whatever was in their life. BUT in the end…Deity is Deity and no matter how many times we break it down to be more manageable and easier to understand or what faceted face we see… it remains the one being in many parts.

The problems start when the human element is brought into play. When My God/dess becomes bigger, better, more, than your God/dess… once we start doing that … we draw the lines in the sand that make other want to prove to you that Their God/dess is better than Yours…so many issues could be and would be avoided if people just saw that the face (facet ) of God/dess they see is the perfect one for THEM…and no one else but them. My God/dess is awesome and amazing and all I need…but I do not want to impose my Deity on anyone else…and I try really hard not to get into a situation that others try to impose THEIR God/dess on me.

So I wanted to show that there are many different facets of Deity that many races needed for their hearths and homes…I hope that you get as much out of this as I did researching and writing it…

TSAO WANG: God of the hearth. Every household has its own Tsao Wang. Every year the hearth god reports on the family to the Jade Emperor, and the family has good or bad luck during the coming year according to his report. The hearth god’s wife records every word spoken by every member of the family. A paper image represents the hearth god and his wife, and incense is burned to them daily. When the time came to make his report to the Jade Emperor, sweetmeats were placed in his mouth, the paper was burned, and firecrackers were lit to speed him on his way. (Chinese)

GENIUS: A guardian who protects both individuals and homes. (Roman)

LAR: God of the house, a cheerful and beautiful youth.(Roman)

HESTIA: Every home had a hearth that was dedicated to the goddess, and each day began and ended with a ritual requesting that she protect and nurture the family within.
As the Goddess of Architecture, Hestia intended that homes should be built from the center out, with the center being a hearth that contained her sacred flame.  As part of the naming ritual, all infants were carried in a circle around the altar of Hestia to secure her blessings. There was an altar to Hestia in the center of every home…it was the fireplace, the hearth, where the family gathered.  Hestia’s vision of a house was that it should truly be a home, a place where one’s body, spirit, and relationships would be nurtured and replenished… a place to “come home to” after exposure to the cold and chaos of the external world.  Hestia is associated with the warmth and comfort of the welcoming fireplace. Just as the flames glowing from the hearth soothe us with their warmth and glowing light, the goddess Hestia gives us security, peace, and comfort and helps us accept the truth of our lives with inner grace (greek)

BOKAM: is the feminized hearth-flame worshipped by the shamanic Ket tribe of Siberia; they dominate the lower basin of the holy Yenisei River in Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Krai district (Siberia)

FUCHI or HUCHI: (Huchi-Fuchi (Unchi-Ahchi): (“Grandmother Hearth”) I apologies if my spelling is wrong. Japanese Goddess of the stove and thus the Goddess that heats the tea. The intricate Japanese Tea Ceremony is in part to honor her. Another one of her jobs is to intercede with the Gods on behalf of mortals. The hearth is considered the heart of a home, the vital element that keeps life flowing probably means “Fire”.
She is also a kamui [goddess] of the hearth worshipped by the Ainu aborigines of Japan; and according to one account of her mythic origins she was borne from the spark kindled by a fire drill.(Japanese)

FUJI / FUJIYAMA / SENGN-SAMA: The Japanese hearth-goddess of the native Ainu people, and personification of Mt. Fuji (an extinct volcano), the apex on which her sanctuary was constructed. Due to the predisposition of the Ainu people towards an indigenous form of shamanism, this mountain may have been regarded as an axis mundi serving to unite the “heavenly” world of the gods with the “Underworld” presided over by one’s ancestors.[Japanese)

GHOLUMTA EKE [“Hearth-Mother”]: is another identity of the Mongolian hearth-goddess.

HINUKAN
: is a hearth-goddess worshipped throughout Okinawa, Japan; she ensures the safety of each household. Her rites are conducted by the eldest female residing in the home. However, it is not deemed customary for men to pray at her hearth, probably because males have never been associated with religious authority in this region of Japan. Hinukan is esteemed as the mediator between the gods and mankind. (Japanese)

HWEI-LU or WEI: was originally a Chinese fire-goddess, but gradually came to be recognized as the spirit of the hearth (or Tsao shin) during the end of the seventh-century BCE. The caretaker of an ancestral temple at Lu is thought to have first worshipped her in this guise, sacrificing to the goddess with firewood that he had set ablaze. Her cult assumed a role of only marginal importance within native folk-religion for the next five-hundred years, until the early second-century, when an Emperor from the Han dynasty officially adopted Hwei-lu as a member of the imperial-cult; hitherto the late nineteenth-century CE, however, the presiding spirit of the hearth has come to be regarded as one of the most preeminent deities of China.( Chinese)

Bes: God of Domestic Protection, Childbirth and Family; Protection for Children, Pregnant Women and Families

Beset: Goddess of Domestic Protection and Home Security (Egyptian)

Until next time

Blessed Home and Hearth

Bridging the Religious Left and Right

As is often the case on any issue, it tends to be that the loudest voices come from the extremities. So when we see conversations on religion in the public forum it tends to be from either an extreme atheist or an extreme Bible-thumper, both of whom seem exasperated that the whole rest of the world is in the opposing camp. All scientists are not godless robots any more than all Christians, Muslims, etc are irrational father-figure worshipers; yet those are the stereotypes that tend to surface when we try to have a discussion on divinity. Science tends to ignore and dismiss what it cannot classify or investigate. No one can prove whether God exists, so science deems the issue not worth thinking about. If you’re an atheist that just can’t help yourself you label it philosophy instead to give it an air of respectability. But you certainly don’t entertain such notions as a human-like all-powerful being. Then on the other side you have those dedicated to scripture and the teachings of their religion. These folks know in their hearts that they are not alone and that miracles are possible. They cannot fathom how anyone could not understand the “truth” revealed in the doctrines they preach, and they either pity those souls, try to convert them, or condemn them to a fiery doom.

Caught in the crossfire are the rest of us whose views fall somewhere in between (or off to the side). The funny thing is this debate will never be resolved, because of its very nature. Both sides are right – and both sides are wrong. It’s like trying to think with only the left or right side of your brain. Rational thought is good for rational concerns, and trying to answer questions of faith with it is ridiculously impossible if you are using rationality alone. The same goes for using only intuitive and emotional thinking. Truth always and ever lies in between the two extremes. Once this is realized, it becomes obvious that the two sides complement each other and can work together for the betterment of both. Trying to defeat the opposition is tantamount to societal suicide.

So where does Wicca fit in to all of this? If you are like me and grew up pressured to join one group and shun the other, it is one of those paths that offer a sane and beautiful solution. Honor a God and a Goddess. Don’t believe anything; know it for yourself. Work magic. Think logically and intuitively. Open your mind. This is not to say that you have to be a Wiccan to avoid the extremes. Obviously there are people of all religions or creeds who agree with these principles. But I find Wicca to be relatively unique in that its basic symbolism expresses these concepts as no other. The God and Goddess of Wicca are archetypes predicated on the notion of balance. The focus on the elements emphasizes the need for equilibrium and symmetry. We focus our mind in magic and open our subconscious in divination. To have one without the other is to be incomplete with only half of the whole. Wicca not only recognizes this but makes it the very core of its teaching. Basically, it gives us permission to explore both sides without having to make an impossible choice. The extreme left and right may find us even more bizarre than their opponents, because we point to the possibility that you don’t have to pick one over the other. A golden mean lies between them where our minds, bodies and souls can find peace through the healthy expression of all of their faculties. Living by the Wiccan way – you can have your (crescent) cakes and eat them too!

Journal for the Month of March:

Picked up a new book this month, Witchcraft: Theory and Practice by Ly de Angeles. I haven’t cracked it open yet but I’m looking forward to it! The major thing I accomplished this past month was consecrating my first real tool – a beautiful pentacle given to me as a gift over the holidays. I had wanted to wait until after Imbolc as my personal New Year’s to start working with it, and pieced together a personalized consecration ceremony that felt right to me. It feels wonderful to use in ritual and it’s been an important milestone for me in marking my journey in the path.

Now that the weather is getting warmer I’m trying to get outside on a regular basis again. One of my new ongoing projects is learning the seasons of the constellations. I remember very basic ones from school, but I never really learned the signs of the zodiac. When stargazing I try to see the sky in perspective for a moment, gazing away from the sun to the distant galaxies encircling our solar system like a diamond-studded belt. Astronomy is a fascinating subject I wish I knew more about. Mark that down as another one to read up on!

My studies have also taken a sidetrack this month as I’ve been reading a lot more on ceremonial magic. It’s kind of like the formal cousin of witchcraft in a lot of ways. Where the Craft is spontaneous and focused on nature, ceremonial magic is more structured and philosophical. Perhaps that’s what led me to this month’s article topic on balanced paths. So far they have complemented each other very well and I think studying both can only bolster the increase of my knowledge and experience when it comes to magic. My only wish is that I had more hours in the day for all the knowledge I want to soak up! That or a photographic memory. Ah well.

Until next month, blessed be! )O(

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