Where the Wild Things Are: The Whole Circle

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, March, 1, 2004.

The magic circle, sounds so mystical… But it’s like many things in Witchcraft, it’s adaptable to your own style, your whims and personal needs of the moment.

Witch/ Wiccan rituals take place in a circle. Not always, it’s not written in stone with blood or anything really dramatic. But, it does make things tidy in it’s own way. You draw in power and you keep it to yourself, out of the way of others. Then, when you’re done you release it. It goes back to nature and the powerful parts of yourself.

We draw the circle and then we close it. Some people cast the circle and banish it at the end of the ritual. I tend to think of it as drawing and closing the circle. When you draw your circle take a moment to bless each of the elements at each of the 4 directions. Yes, you might need a map to know where north, south, west and east are in relation to your location. If you choose, bless the goddess and god too. Then bless the Earth and life, those are most important to me. When you close your circle just do the steps in reverse order. Gather your pebbles, erase your chalk, whatever you used as you go around in the 4 directions again. Sounds too simple? Why shouldn’t it be simple. You’re welcome to make a bigger production out of it. I like it simple.

You can use chalk, hemp rope, embroidery thread, pebbles, sand, dust bunnies, anything really. Consider a circle of jack o lanterns for Samhain, wouldn’t that be fun! It depends on how fancy you want to be or how close to natural elements. My personal choice are pebbles. I love them. I collected them from a beach here in Ontario. Took my time to find stones I especially liked for their shape, colour or some markings on them.

The circle represents wholeness, the cycles of life and the seasons, the wheel of life to make it simple. In theory it is without beginning or ending and perfect in it’s completeness.

To draw the circle is to make a place set apart and sacred. Where ever you are- living room, backyard, beach, clearing in the woods – the circle becomes a place where we focus on magick in ourselves and the Earth around us. The circle is a pure place where we can think, make notes in our Book of Shadows, create and practice rituals, anything. It doesn’t have to be dramatic and you don’t have to feel you must do something special. It’s your circle, your dime.

This summer when I have a road trip out to the beach I want to cast a circle on the beach. Using a piece of driftwood to draw my circle and some stones to point to the directions. I don’t even know what ritual I might do. I just want to sit in a circle of my own creation and enjoy the world, life and being alive.

“In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia.” -Charles Lindbergh

I take thee, herb, to cure my ills
or perhaps while dancing pon the hill.
I’ll dip you in the cauldron fine
Then asperge a circle in the pines.
I’ll make you into teas and brews
when picked from ‘neath the morning dews,
or hide you in a pillow seam
to guard me close, come night and dreams.

– Marian Loresinger

Where the Wild Things Are: Writing for a Wiccan Topic

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, April, 19, 2004.

I have this twisted compulsion to take on more stuff than I can actually do. It’s a form of madness.

Anyway, now I am starting a new Wicca/ Witch site for a network called AIA (All Info About). Why? Because it’s there. Also, because I thought of an idea and then I had to put life into it. In other words, do it.

So, this is going to be a Witchy site for people who are Witches. Not looking for converts, going out of my way to explain or defend Witches or Wiccans. I wanted to call it “The Living Witch” but that didn’t work out with the format they use. So, I will use that somewhere else. I plan to set up a blog as part of the site. Something I can add bits of stuff to as I go along. My idea of a Book of Shadows.

The rest of the site is going to include sections like: a regional directory of Witch groups, traditions, art, career, romance and relationships, home and garden, environment, health and beauty, spiritual, holidays, and hobbies. I’m sure this will change as I actually get started and change my mind about what will work. But you get the idea, I hope.

So many sites about Wicca leave out the reality, the living of it all. How many times do you really need or want to see the same information about sabbats and rituals? Let’s see how it works together in real life.

If anyone has ideas or articles to contribute let me know. It would be nice to hear from you anyway. Later, when the site is up I will send the URL out with this newsletter. Likely this will integrate into the site too.

Take care,

Laura

How I Chose to be a Pagan Earth Witch

When I was about 20 I decided to look into religions. I knew the traditional Christian ways were not for me. I didn’t like they way these religions viewed women. I had just read a book where the women were put into isolation after having their period or giving birth, they were “unclean”. This was on top of growing up with the Adam and Eve mythology. From that point the Bible (written and rewritten by men) just goes on to look down on women, and worse. If I were a male, I would probably never have become Pagan. I would never have begun researching other religions and beliefs and looked deeper than the surface. Most likely I would have put religion behind me as not being all that important.

My Early Pagan Experience

I started with Witchcraft and Wicca because I found a book written in the 70’s. It’s a book I wouldn’t choose to read now but parts of it were enough to send me looking for more information from more reliable sources. I found a Pagan bookstore referred to in a book. I made the hour long bus trip to downtown Toronto and found the place. Entering for that first time was not easy. I felt daring and yet I also felt I was walking into a place I didn’t fully belong and might not be welcome. I wondered if they could see inside of me, my mind and my thoughts. Would they know what I was thinking, could they see my future and my past, my aura…? That was creepy.

The first thing that really happened was the smell. Ever since then I have noticed the same smell, strongly of incense over time, in every Pagan bookstore. I like pulling out a book I bought in a Pagan store. Even a couple of decades later I can smell it in the pages. If the smell ever goes away I don’t know. So far it hasn’t.

My adventure in that first Pagan store was intimidating. If I were less determined or less curious I doubt I would have tried another Pagan store. The people there did watch me and yet said nothing. Maybe they thought I was going to walk off with something, maybe they were just curious too, I won’t know and I didn’t ask then. I was already the shy type. I bought a book and a couple of polished rocks and I left, glad to be out of there. I was left with the feeling of not belonging and I never did go back to that store. Luckily there were others and more came along later.

Finding Where and How I Fit In

A few years more and the Internet came along too. By that time I was making my own decisions about what I believed and how I believed it. I didn’t accept Wicca as it came. I took what felt right to me and put it together with how I felt about the world and it’s people. I still believe this way; I’m very much an eclectic solitary type of Pagan. I gave myself the label of Earth Witch and I’ve stuck with that, to keep the explanation simple. To me an Earth Witch means I focus on the Earth, the natural and I don’t feel influenced by deities or magick. I believe we each create our own magick from ourselves and it is up to each of us to choose how to use it, or not use it.

I have written about my Pagan beliefs before but not shared much of my actual experience. I used to get email from young women who wanted to know more about being Pagan. The main thing they wanted to know was how to hide it from their parents. I was never behind this. For one thing, if you have to hide it, maybe you should rethink the whole thing.

I do understand that some families are very Christian and close minded or even afraid of Pagan ideas and Pagan ways. If that is the case and you are living at home, this is not the time for you to explore being Pagan. Wait until you can do it openly. In the meantime, there is no reason you can’t do simple things like have a collection of rocks, maybe some shells and feathers, keep a journal about your observations of nature, history and people. These are things you can do without upsetting your parents and family. You can be Pagan without having to prove you’re Pagan. Know it yourself and start there.

Nowadays…

For me, being Pagan is a personal thing. I mainly keep it to myself. I’ve found a local group with weekly meetings but I have yet to venture out and attend one. I think I will. Each time I have stepped out and met other Pagans I have enjoyed the experience and learned new things about history, religion and beliefs. But, I’m comfortable with what I believe now, the way my feelings about being an Earth Witch have evolved. So I’m not as eager to stir myself up as I was when I was younger and just starting to explore and discover.

Where the Wild Things Are: Spilling the Pagan Beans

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, April, 2, 2004.

If you read my general blabberings around BackWash you will have heard of Eric, my boyfriend. He is still pretty new but we are getting along great.

Anyway, I haven’t really talked with him about Pagan ideas and what it means for me to be an Earth Witch. That is some sort of limbo in everything. I don’t mind leaving it there, for awhile. But, I have wondered what he really thinks.

We went for a walk on the frozen beach and while he was testing the thickness of the frozen lake (testing his luck I thought at the time) I was drawing a pentacle in the sand. I used a piece of driftwood and 6 smooth stones from along the beach. I placed the stones around my drawn pentacle. It was something special for the day, for my Grandmothers and for St. Patrick’s Day.

Eric noticed it when he came back, not drowned luckily. He said something about it, nothing much. I think just noting that I had drawn it or used stones, something easy going. But I wondered what he was thinking. Anyway, I left it at that. I didn’t push it or go into lengthy explanations. It was something personal to me and though I didn’t feel I needed to hide it I still wonder what he thinks about this element of me.

How do you begin to share this with someone you care about? Is it something you leave lying on a coffee table for him to find? Is it something you bring up right away and make into a big issue? Or do you let it simmer on a back jet, there and yet not getting in the way? I’m not exactly sure how I want to handle it. So, I will do what I usually do when I’m not sure, I will ask him. Not quite yet though. There is time and space, too much of both right now. We will see.

Where the Wild Things Are: The Limits of Labels

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, June, 22, 2004.

A label is very limiting. When you label yourself a Wiccan, a Witch or even the more roomy Pagan, you are limiting yourself to certain acceptable/ acknowledged areas of belief.

I have never liked this aspect of being a Witch, Pagan, etc. There are times when I think I’m tired of being what others see as a Witch. I never quite fit in and my beliefs are definitely subject to change without notice.

But, there is no great alternative. When someone asks if you are Pagan or when you want to tell someone about your beliefs what do you say? It’s much easier to give them the known than to go into great and exacting detail about the unknown and all various details.

So, each time we call ourselves Wiccan, we limit ourselves. People take each other at face value too easily. They want to categorize everyone all neat and tidy. Perhaps it’s an organization fetish. But I think it’s something else, more selfish and primitive. When you can categorize someone you feel safe, think you know where they stand and what to expect from them.

Anyway, to myself I don’t call myself Pagan. But for others I allow them to go on believing I am. The drawback to that is that each time I say I’m Pagan I am reinforcing the idea that I actually am Pagan for myself as well as those around me. What you say will come true, one way or another. Words spoken can not be unspoken. Much like ghosts. I feel ghosts are remnants of emotions and words past. Lingering in the atmosphere, unable to dissipate once they have been created.

– Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

— Buddha

Book of Shadows

Originally written for The Crying Clown Zine (c. 1998)

The Book of Shadows could be called The Book of Life. Just the opposite of the Egyptian Book of the Dead (A series of spells to help the dead travel to and exist in the afterlife.) The Book of Shadows (BOS, for short) contains notes Wiccans have made along their journey of life and learning. Grimoire (A book of magickal spells and techniques) is more Medieval than Book of Shadows but they serve the same basic purpose.

Essentially, the Book of Shadows is a workbook containing ritual patterns, rules governing magick, instructions for circle casting and banishing, religious rituals, the consecration of tools, herbal lore, herbal recipes, dreams, divination results and personal thoughts and experiences. It is the Book of Shadows, which keeps the traditions of a solitary or coven alive. Without the Book, everything would be passed on from word of mouth with the chance of being forgotten, lost or misinterpreted.

A coven will keep a Book of Shadows so members can record and memorize the coven’s rituals in their own Books of Shadows. Some contain lists of the pantheon, training exercises and initiation ceremonies. Books can be passed from one Wiccan to another, usually on initiation. Often each individual Wiccan creates their Book and keeps it to themselves.

Until recently, a Book of Shadows was always hand written. With all the advances in multi-media today a Book of Shadows can be a Disk of Shadows. Some Books (or parts of them) are published on the Internet. Typed and photocopied Books are also common. You may choose to have more than one copy or form of your Book. One can be hand written, the other can be preserved on a disk or photocopied for safe keeping.

To make your own Book of Shadows begin with any blank book. It does not have to be something antique or beautiful, a notebook from the dollar store will do. The Book of Shadows gains its value from the amount of energy and effort used to create it and the positive energy surrounding it each time the book is used for magick and rituals. A binder with loose sheets will let you move your pages around and add new ones in the middle if you need to.

Simply write in this book any rituals and magickal information you have worked on, learned about or just read somewhere and want to remember. Keep it organized into sections for rituals, divination, herbs, and etc. Add your own personal touch with some poetry, a few pressed leaves from your first ritual, a drawing which inspired you, or anything else bookable (able to fit into a book, one way or another). Also, because this is your Book you can write any thoughts you are having at the time. You don’t have to write to impress anyone. Keep track of your feelings (both negative and positive), questions you want to find answers to, and any other personal information you would write into a journal or diary.

Keep your Book of Shadows in good repair. Some rituals may call for placing herbs in or on your Book of Shadows. Prepare for this by giving your book a fabric cover or tissue paper between its pages. Keep this in mind when or if you want to decorate your Book of Shadows. Watch for decorations that might damage your pages or make your ink run. Put some thought into your decorations of choice. Though macaroni art may have seemed “funky” at the time, it might not feel the same when the lumpy noodles won’t let you keep your book open on your altar. Remember, your Book of Shadows serves a purpose. Make sure its usable when you are trying to read it half way into a ritual and you just can’t remember the line you wanted to say as you sprinkle eye of newt into your cauldron.

Rede Magick

Originally written for The Crying Clown Zine (c. 1998)

Tis the season for ghosts to haunt, vampires to suck (blood that is), werewolves to howl,and witches to fly. Or is it? Most people have put Santa and the Easter Bunny away with the broken decorations and the egg you didn’t find till the next year. Yet the idea of a witch in black from head to toe, with a black cat, casting her spells with the twitch of an eyebrow is still around. I don’t cast spells, I don’t like to wear black but I do admit to a fondness for cats.

Oh the wonder and the power of being a witch able to whip out a spell to make your life simpler, easier and so much better… Put that idea away with dear old Santa. Wiccans do not take the powers they study that lightly. To weave your magick you have to carefully consider the many strings attached before you even begin creating neat little rhymes to conjure with.

The Wiccan Rede: If it harms none, do what you will. The Rede is the heart of Wicca, it is the theme song, the top icon on your screen and the apple of many a witchy eye. However, there are as many definitions for ‘harms none’ as there are Wiccan Paths. Harm none includes yourself, your neighbor who yells when you cross his lawn, the guy/ girl you desparately wish would give you more than a second glance, your pet lizard, the ant you stepped on last week and the planet you step on every day. It includes everything you can touch, see, feel, hear, smell and think. Did I leave anything out? It includes that too.

Harm none is a huge responsibility. At some point magick will infringe on free will. It is up to you to decide if it is harmful. Some Wiccans will use love spells. I see this as manipulation and that rubs my version of harms none the wrong way. Manipulation does not respect the free will and rights of another person and is harm to that person. Of course, the easiest harm none definition would be black magick. White magick: works in harmony with the life forces of the universe and harms no one. Its goals are spiritual such as self knowledge, and for the good of all such as healing. Black magick is: causing change (in reality or in consciousness) for the purpose of causing either physical or non-physical harm to yourself or others, and is done consciously or unconsciously.

Every action causes a reaction, a pull on the strings attached. This is the basis of the ‘threefold law’. Simply put, everything you do (negative or positive) will come back to you times three. This is all wrapped up in karma and other strings upon strings upon strings upon strings. Keep things simple with your own version of ‘harms none’. Judge carefully what strings you are pulling and tangling in the magick you choose to weave.

Black is almost considered a witch uniform but no where in any ‘rule book’ does it say Witches, Wiccans or any Pagans must wear black or be forever black balled, black listed or have their names blackened. (I just couldn’t resist). True black is a mystical colour but the wearer won’t suddenly have magickal powers or secret knowledge. Power and knowledge can be gained through study and work. As for the cat thing… I’m training him to be my familiar, of course!

Happy Halloween/ Merry Samhain!

Where the Wild Things Are: A Pagan Appreciation for History

Originally posted to ‘BackWash: Where the Wild Things Are’ newsletter, March, 1, 2003.

Do you care about history?

I love reading a bit here and there. I studied history in high school. I would have taken it in college but it wasn’t available among my optional courses.

Mostly I like reading about women in history ancient history and old cultures and customs. Being a Pagan/ Witchy type person I tend to read about superstitions and old traditions connected to nature and ceremonies too. I once spent several hours in the public library reading about wedding traditions and omens. That was long before my own wedding.

When I first heard of Wicca I went to the library to read about it. I wanted to know where it came from and who was involved. How did they feel about the things that matter most to me? That’s all history too. Most, of the people who created Wicca are no longer here to tell us their side of things. If you go even farther back, the first Witches and Pagans are hopelessly lost to us. We couldn’t even come up with a reliable source to know who the first Witch really was. Just some woman gathering herbs and helping people I would guess. But, you can’t know. That’s something lost to history.

History gives us a past, an anchor. Whatever else you learn about, it’s all current or in the future. Nothing but history teaches you about mistakes, conquests, people and possibilities that have come before you.

Not everyone appreciates history. Some think of it as just dusty old books that don’t matter any more. But, I think differently. How can you follow your path if you don’t know where you’ve been and what you’ve passed along the way?

The Endless Knot

Originally written for The Crying Clown Zine (c. 1998)

In whatever stray corner of the world you find yourself in you may have just found a Pagan or Wiccan if they are wearing a five pointed star with a solitary point up inside a circle. Being a solitary (Wiccan) myself I am partial to this view of the pentacle, I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with those nasty rumours of Satanism. Some Wiccans hang pentacles from their necks, some stab them through coats and sweaters and shirts and others go for something more permanent and painful and get it tattoed.

Pentacles should be worn on the front just before the heart, according the mystical tradition. Go all out and make your own but it should be prepared when the moon is rising in Virgo and only on a Saturday or Tuesday night in an atmosphere scented with alum, cedar wood, aloes and resinous gum.

Whatever your choice a pentacle is still a pentagram inside a circle. If it is genuine and not some factory-bred knockoff it should be one continuous line. No seams, stops and starts just one unending line. Though endless knot sounds like a great way to refer to your hair on those dreaded “hand me a hat” days it is also another name for the pentagram. Goblin’s Cross, witch’s foot, Blazing Star of White Magic are other fancy labels that could fool your friends and pester your enemies. Because I am really just a simple Dragon let’s stick with pentacle, I’m getting used to typing it now anyway.

There are endless theories and ideas of what the five points represent. Of course this is a biased article and all the following are appealing to me, there are dozens more out there in libraries and web pages. First, the elemental theory seems to be the most popular with Wiccans. Four points represent the elements: earth, air, fire and water and the fifth is the spirit. These are the basic necessities of life beyond food, clothing, shelter and taxes. The most romantic sounding idea is: a man standing upright with arms out stretched and the world behind him, a man in tune with the world around him. Some feel the pentacle represents the stages of humainty or life: babyhood, adolsence, adulthood, middle age and old age. Or birth, initiation, love, repose and death. Just about any other five things can be tossed in for consideration such as the five senses, the five fingers on the human hand…

The pentacle or pentagram is older than written characters. The five pointed star can be traced back to the Pharohs when it symbolized the rising up of the spirit to the heavens and the power of the Earth. Commonly associated with creation and spirituality, it is used as a symbol of protection and healing, considered to carry power for good and protecting not only the physical well being but the mental and spiritual too.

So much talk of the star but the circle is what makes a pentagram into a pentacle. The circle of the pentacle represents protection and is used often in magic. Inside the magic circle there is safety. The pentacle is an emblem of a happy homecoming and was and still is worn as an amulet.

The pentagram is a unicursal figure. Always drawn in one continuous unbroken line. Each of the five things represented are connected to one another, unless the line is broken. No one thing is any stronger or better or more important than the other, they are all dependent on each other. This is what the pentacle really symbolizes whatever variables are assigned to the five points. In magic the number five stands for the power of nature.

Pentacles ward off evil and you never know when you may need to do a little warding! It seems Eliphas Levi (1810 – 1875) was responisble for starting the whole upside down thing. Eliphas, drew the pentacle with two points up and added the goat’s head design denoting evil the devil and all the rest. Some Pagans believe this is the Horned God, the male God who is the counterpart of the Goddess. However all of that is kind of muddled by the Christian belief in the devil with his interesting set of horns and goatee. Wiccans do not believe in hell or the devil, though some would say we worship it. Just goes to show more people need to get to the library or at least watch less TV.

I have found a ritual called the Sign of the Pentacle, though how old this is I could not discover. Still, any ritual should not be taken at face value. Each should be screened by the user and judged according to their individual beliefs and feelings. Here is the ritual: Starting at the left breast move to the top of your head or third eye, down to right breast then up to left shoulder and acoross to right shoulder and back down to left breast again. This could have been designed as a Pagan/ Wiccan version of the Catholic signing of the cross. It is meant to be used to ward off danger, evil or whatever you feel you need to ward off.

Happy New Years to all my fellow Wiccans and everyone else who stopped to read here.