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    A Tarot Primer One of the most popular methods of divination today is the use of tarot cards.  Commonly linked with witches and gypsies in the popular imagination, tarot has a fascinating history that some groups say can be traced back as far as ancient Egypt.  Though their exact origin is debated most tarot decks can be shown to incorporate a wealth of symbolism in their artwork that gives depth and variety to their possible interpretations in a reading.  The standard Rider/Waite deck was developed by members of the Golden Dawn in the early 20th century, and it intentionally makes heavy use of Qabalistic and astrological themes.  Other newer decks…

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    Symbolism of the Pentagram Symbols have held a special place with humankind across all cultures and ages.  Our brains are wired for language, itself a symbolic system substituting words for objects and concepts we know from experience.  The object you are sitting on is not inherently a “chair” anymore than it is a “chaise” or “silla”.  The individual words are arbitrary, but they serve the important purpose of allowing people to reference the same idea without constantly having to point to it in the physical world.  Imagine trying to have a conversation where the only things you can allude to are “this” or “that”!  Language allows us to advance from…

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    The Essence of Color Color-based magic is quite popular amongst witches, and is one of the first set of correspondences many of us study.  In a spellworking the colors may be coordinated from the candles, to the altar cloth, to any stones/crystals, etc., with all of the elements combining to symbolize the intent of the worker.  Green items may be gathered for a money-drawing charm, or perhaps red for a spell to give courage and strength.  Witches also typically use the primary colors of vision and pigment to represent the balance of the elements: red for fire, blue for water, yellow for air, and green for earth. While there are…

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    The Ritual Connection From time immemorial we have desired guidance from the God/dess, and sought ways in which we can connect with and honor those powers we hold in reverence.  Many in the mainstream find prayer or meditation to fulfill their needs in this area, or they attend services where they can participate to a limited extent in the ceremonies led by the priests of their congregation.  The purpose of such rituals is to enact symbolic events that the observers understand to hold a deeper meaning than the actions themselves.  Realization of that meaning on the mental, emotional, and spiritual levels unites the individual with the divine.  But while churches…

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    Tarot, Tea Leaves, and Crystal Balls (Oh My!) A witch can use a spell when s/he has a clear purpose and intent foremost in mind.  The focusing of the will to bring about needed change is an active use of one’s inner abilities.  But there are also times when a more passive ability is called for – when answers are needed.  Instead of speaking we need to listen.  This is when the time-honored tradition of divination comes in handy, and it is as inseparable from witchcraft as magic. With divination the practitioner aims to put aside the typical chatter of the conscious mind so that information from the subconscious/unconscious can…

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    The Magic of Herbs There has always been a natural association between the Craft and herbal work.  Before the advent of modern medicine, it was typically the village wisewoman or midwife whom people consulted when they were in need of cures for their ailments.  Witches learned the properties of the plants growing in their environments and put them to good use.  Brews and potions were used to extract the essence of each herb for consumption, while poultices could be created to apply to wounds or rashes.  Many modern Wiccans and witches draw on this tradition in their own practice, as a more earth-centered alternative to pharmaceuticals. Of course as a…

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    Concepts of Deity As mentioned last month, divinity can often be a touchy subject.  Ask ten different people what their definition of the divine is and you are likely to get ten different answers.  Is there a God?  Is there a Goddess?  If so what are they like?  Every soul will ask these questions in their lifetime and either accept established doctrine or come to their own conclusions.  Spiritual growth is our quest for understanding of that which is greater than ourselves. And while we may arrive at ideas which are universal, the journey is, by necessity, personal. Wicca is not a religion that promotes dogma or rigid notions on…

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    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…

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    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…

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    The Wheel of the Year One of the goals of any earth-centered spirituality is to attune oneself with the cycles of nature.  Before modern times this was in a sense automatic, as most folks worked directly with the earth for their basic sustenance.  The practice of agriculture demanded an intimate knowledge of the seasons and weather patterns.  To be out of touch with these cycles could mean disaster by way of starvation.  In today’s world most of us are not farmers.  Our food comes pre-packaged or processed in supermarket stores.  Those of us in urban centers are even more disconnected from natural surroundings, with little space set aside for gardens…