Living Witchcraft

Those who truly walk the path of the Witch do so with reverence and respect, knowing it is a spiritual path to be lived every second of every day. Real witches do not regard Witchcraft as a “hobby” or something one does for fun on the weekends. Witches are witches each and every moment, whether at home, at work, in the restaurant or standing in line at the supermarket. It is not something you turn off and turn on whenever you feel like it. Witchcraft is a living path that is lived through those who follow it. It is not merely something you do, it is what you are.

In this article, I will address many things that witches believe and practice, and address several misconceptions about Witchcraft. It is a many-faceted path and I will surely not be able to cover everything, but I do want to share some things that I feel are important. For some this may be “beginner” material, but there are many new people sensing the call to the Old Ways and I write for them. I have no doubt that some will read this article and will continue to believe witches are evil and satanic, because this is what they have been conditioned to believe by popular opinion, the church and mainstream media. However, what one sees, hears and reads from the mainstream media is not always truth.

Everything I share here is verifiable, one need only do further research on one’s own to see the real truth. Education is a good thing. Learn about Witchcraft from those who practice it and not from those who do not.

The Truth about Witchcraft

Witchcraft has nothing to do with Satanism. Witches do not believe in Satan or any all-evil Satan/Devil figure. Witches do not summon demons to their bidding, and Satan is not part of the Witchcraft belief system. Satan belongs to Christianity and is part of the Christian belief system. Contrary to what some may say, Satanists are not Witches. Satanists are Satanists. There are no “Satanic Witches”, though some may argue this point. Fundamentalist Christian groups link Witchcraft to Satan because Witches do not follow Jesus Christ or the Christian God, and many Christian groups view anything not exclusively Christian as “Satanic”. A recent new trend is “Christian Wicca”, which opens another big can of worms and I have strong views about, but that is for another article.

tumblr_mvveesqCrY1rj3x46o1_500Witches do use magic and cast spells. Witches work with elemental energies (Earth, Air, Fire and Water), the planets, symbols, herbs and plants, oils, crystals, cauldrons and a host of other tools to manifest change in the world. Witches typically cast a circle in which to do their work. This circle acts as an energetic boundary to keep out harmful energies and contain the energy raised within it. There is nothing “evil” about a witch’s circle. It is merely a container for energy and a protective boundary. The spell releases an intention into the universe so it can attract the energy it needs to manifest, which usually happens through a series of seemingly unrelated “coincidences”. Spells can be cast in a myriad of ways, and the practice of magic and spellcasting takes some time to learn. In real Witchcraft, spells and magic do not happen the way we see them in movies or on TV, with special effects, explosions and things moving through the air. That would sure make things a lot easier! Spells take time, and there is rarely an instantaneous visible manifestation. Witches cast spells for healing, prosperity, protection and many other things, but never for harm.

Witches do use wands. The witch’s wand does not work the same way we see in movies like Harry Potter. The wand is used to direct energy, to cast a circle or to be a tool for healing. Most wands are made of wood, and traditional witches prefer to make their own. You can also find wands made of various crystals, resin or metal, however, wooden wands are the preferred choice. I have a wooden wand that I use for circle-casting and is always on my altar, a selenite wand that I use in my Reiki practice, and another wood wand that I take along when I’m traveling. I have different wands for different purposes.

The primary role of the Witch is to be a channel for Healing. It is no coincidence that many witches work in the human services field, as nurses, doctors, counselors, herbalists, teachers, etc. Many are skilled in alternative healing therapies. Some offer services with Crystal Therapy, Reiki, Aromatherapy, Massage, Homeopathy, Herbalism, Energy Healing, Flower Essences, Singing Bowls, Shamanic Healing and many other types of alternative therapy. Many witches have unconventional healing gifts that they discovered unexpectedly and are unique to them, special gifts they did not learn in a class or from a book. As witches, we are called to be healers. One of the old words for ‘Witch’ is “Pharmakeute”, a word that links the witch with herbal healing wisdom.

Witches are devoted to a lifetime of study. Witches have a thirst for knowledge and magical wisdom, and have devoted themselves to the study of magic, magical lore, history, mythology, healing, herbs and plants, divination and other similar topics. They do not view study as a chore or “because my teacher asked me to”. Witches understand the importance of setting aside time on a regular basis to read, learn and practice! The best students are self-motivated and do not need to be hand-held.

Witches are at one with Nature. Witches work with the energies of each season, the phases of the Moon and the powers of Nature. They spend a great deal of time outdoors, among the trees and plants, or finding other ways to connect with Nature. Hiking, planting a garden, nature walks, birdwatching, planting trees, visiting a zoo, caring for animals, cleaning up litter at a park…these are all ways to form a closer bond with Nature. Donate to the Arbor Foundation or other environmentalist groups like Friends of the Earth.

Witches are advocates. As witches we are called to speak out in defense of human rights, equal rights, civil rights, animal rights and environmental issues. We stand against discrimination, bigotry and harassment. Many witches belong to activist and civil rights organizations. I personally am a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Campaign, Harry Potter Alliance, Freedom to Marry, Friends of the Earth, the Arbor Foundation and the Trevor Project.

Witches understand the importance of education. Years of social programming, popular culture, mainstream media and religious fundamentalism have given many an incorrect picure of who witches are. It is important that we educate our communities about Witchcraft and Wicca so that we can help replace the false image of the stereotypical witch with a correct and accurate picture, one that portrays the witch as healer and wise one. Let us also recognize when we should not waste our breath sharing our views with someone who refuses to listen objectively and has already decided we’re going to “burn in Hell”. There are times to share and there are times to walk away from those who are filled with hate and have closed their minds.

Witches do not proselytize. We do not try to convert others to Witchcraft, and there will be no Wiccan missionaries showing up at your door with pamphlets to read. People come to Witchcraft on their own free will, and many find they have been drawn to it since childhood. We do not consider Witchcraft to be the only valid spiritual path that all others must follow. We respect that there are many different spiritual paths, and each person must find the one that is right for them.

Witches serve the community. Whether by providing guidance and counsel with divination practices such as tarot or rune readings, offering healing services such as Reiki or Crystal Therapy, teaching classes, conducting hand-fasting ceremonies, rituals and gatherings, fundraising, raising awareness for important social and enviromental issues, collecting food and clothing for those in need, making magical tools such as candles and oils, and offering other magical services, witches have a duty to use their gifts in service to the community.


You could be living next door to a Witch. Witches come from every socio-economic background and can be both male or female. Male witches are also called ‘Witch’. “Warlock” is not a word that is used often since it has many negative connotations, and I know some are trying to reclaim the word as a positive thing, but I still prefer “Witch”. You may encounter witches every day without realizing it. A witch could be your employer, doctor, lawyer, teacher, postman, neighborhood police officer, coach, delivery driver, the guy who makes your lattes at the coffee shop, that nice old lady you always see in her garden or even a close relative. Not all witches are “out of the broom closet” and not all witches dress all in black every single day.

Witches work closely with the spirit world. Witches walk “between the worlds” of the seen and the unseen realms, and form relationships with spirit guides, animal totems, gods and goddesses of ancient lore, and interact with them on a regular basis. Witches utilize techniques of altered consciousness such as meditation, trance, dancing, singing, chanting, herbalism and incense to awaken the subtle senses, in order to communicate with guides from “the other side”.

tumblr_mqp164Mb5Z1rp21yko1_500The Pentacle is a symbol of Witchcraft. The five-pointed star in a circle is not a “satanic” symbol and has nothing to do with Satanism. The five points are the five elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit, and also represent Man, the Microcosm. The circle represesnts the Universe, the Macrocosm. Witches wear the upright pentacle (the point at the top). The upright pentacle is a representation of man’s connection to Universal Wisdom, and the descent of Spirit into Matter. The upside-down pentacle represent Matter (Man) taking dominion over Spirit. It is unfortunate that some Satanist groups have adopted the upside-down pentacle as a Satanic symbol,which has caused a great deal of damage to the reputation of the Witch. It is because of this that many believe Witches are satan-worhippers, and this is not the case. As stated above, witches do not believe in Satan. Some witches will wear a triquetra or a triskele instead of a pentacle, as these Celtic symbols, while less “in-your-face” than a pentacle, still have a connection to Witchcraft.

The word Witch means “Wise One”. The original use of the word Witch is derived from an Old English word that translates as “Wise One” or “Wise Good People”. Another word for Witch is Pharmakis which identifies the Witch as someone with a strong knowledge of herbs and plants, linking the Witch to healing.

There are different kinds of Witches. Within Witchcraft, there are different traditions and different ways to practice. There are Celtic Witches, Egyptian Witches, Italian Witches, Shamanic Witches, Druid Witches and an entire plethora of Witches whose practice is informed by specific culture or tradition. Some witches are “Eclectic”, drawing on symbolism and practices from several different cultures or pantheons. There are witches who do not identify as Wiccan, and practice a form of European/British Witchcraft (called The Old Ways or The Old Religion) that is believed to pre-date modern Wicca by hundreds of years.

Not all pagans are Witches. There are many earth-based and nature-based paths, Witchcraft/Wicca is only one. Followers of these paths may use magic from time to time, and honor the changing seasons and moon phases, but they may not necessarily call themselves witches. For some, the word “Pagan” is less threatening than “Witch” and they do not feel comfortable using the “W” word.

The role of the Witch carries great responsibility. Witches are role-models, teachers, counselors, healers, priestess, priest and wear many other hats. A Witch is a Witch every minute of every day, no matter where we are. Let us not take for granted our responsibility to ourselves, our gods and guides, and to the community.

Meditating with the Triple Goddess

The concept of a Triple Goddess figure is not a product of modern Wicca, but has existed for centuries in many pantheons and mythologies. Hecate, Diana, Brighid and Cerridwen and many goddesses from other cultures have 3 aspects. In traditional Witchcraft, these are often recognized as Maiden, Mother and Crone. In my book, Walking a Magic Path, I shared a meditation that I use with my students to help them connect to the Goddess in these three aspects. I share it with you now. Feel free to copy it down and record it in your own voice, or have someone read it to you. When doing this meditation, light one white candle and turn off all other lights. You may to wish to burn some Pine or Cedar incense.


Triple Goddess Meditation

Find a quiet place where you can remain undisturbed for at least half an hour.

Sit down, close your eyes and take several deep breaths until you reach a meditative state.

In your mind’s eye, slowly visualize the numbers 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

With eyes remained closed, picture yourself standing on a path that leads into the forest. The sun is beginning to set.

Begin walking down the path, and as you approach the forest you hear the sound of a young woman laughing in the distance. Continue walking along the path, as it winds it’s way through the trees. Take note of any animals or plants you see as follow the path.

The path takes you into a clearing, which you can see just ahead. Make your way to the end of the path, which ends at the base of a stone altar. Look around you. At your left is a pool of water. The surface is completely still. At your right is a large cast-iron cauldron hanging above the ground. It is not lit.

The sun has set, and as you look up to the sky you see the waxing moon.

You gaze at the altar in front of you, and then suddenly hear again the sounds of laughter, and someone running through the forest in your direction.

Just beyond the altar, a young woman appears through a grove of oak trees. She walks to the stone altar, and sits down upon it, facing you. She has auburn hair and she is dressed in white. She has a joyful expression, and you feel a sense of adventure and excitement. She is the Goddess in her Maiden aspect.

Take the next few moments to communicate with the Maiden Goddess. Ask for her counsel and guidance about new projects in your life, your dreams, goals and ambitions. Listen and be aware of any impressions you receive. These may come in the form of images, words, feelings or just an inner knowing. Take as much time as you need.

When you have finished communing with the Maiden Goddess, give thanks for her counsel. You watch as she rises up from the stone altar and disappears again through the trees, running and laughing with joy.

A strong wind begins to blow, and you notice that the sky above is illuminated by a brilliant Full Moon. At your left, you hear the sounds of rippling water. As you gaze at the pool of water on your left, you begin to a see misty figure rising from the surface. It rises into the air, and drifts to the stone altar in front of you. As the mist clears, you see a beautiful woman sitting on the altar. Her long hair is fiery red, and she wears a red dress. She looks at you lovingly, and you feel a sense of protection and maternal love. She is the Goddess in her Mother aspect.

Take the next few moments to commune with the Mother Goddess. Ask for her insight and guidance regarding anything that is troubling you in your life right now. Speak to her about your career, health, and particularly family. Listen and be aware of any impressions you may receive. These may come in the form of images, words, feelings or just an inner knowing. Take as much time as you need.

When you have finished communicating with the Mother Goddess, give thanks for her counsel. She then transforms again into a cloud of mist, and drifts back to the pool of water at your left, and descends into it’s depths.

You become aware that the clearing has grown completely still and silent. The sky is very dark, and above you is a waning moon. You can barely see what is around you. Suddenly, flames ignite beneath the cauldron on your right. A thick cloud of black smoke begins to rise from within the cauldron. This cloud of smoke slowly drifts to the stone altar. As the smoke clears, you see an old woman sitting there. She is dressed in black, and her hair is white. A crow sits on her shoulder. As she looks at you, you sense that she can read your thoughts, and knows your secrets. Her eyes are full of wisdom and knowledge. She is the Goddess in her Crone aspect.

Take the next few moments to communicate with the Crone Goddess. Ask her for wisdom regarding any area of your life. Talk to her about private things you dare not share with others. Ask for her guidance about those things in your life that you keep hidden, the things you keep secret. Listen and be aware of any impressions you may receive. These may come in the form of images, words, feelings or just an inner knowing. Her answers may be stern and unpleasant, yet full of wisdom. Take as much time as you need.

When you have finished communing with the Crone Goddess, give thanks for her counsel. She transforms again into a cloud of black smoke, and drifts back to the cauldron, and the smoke fades away.

You become aware that the sky is getting lighter. You can see the path behind you, and you begin to follow it out of the forest. Looking up to the sky, you see a waxing moon, and as you leave the forest, you can hear the sound of a young woman laughing…

Take the next few moments to ponder your communications with the Maiden, Mother and Crone.

In your mind’s eye, slowly visualize the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

Gradually bring yourself back to full awareness, and when you feel ready, open your eyes.


When you are finished with this meditation, record your impressions in your Book of Shadows or magical journal.

Cultivating Mystical Awareness

spiritguide1There are many different concepts of mysticism, and people seem to have different ideas about what constitutes a ‘mystical experience’. Mysticism is one of those words that, although it has many definitions, is not so easily defined. It is a multi-layered experience that is unique to the individual who experiences it. Some see it as an experience of unity with the divine, some form of enlightenment, or receiving sudden knowledge. Many link mysticism to religion, spirituality and the sacred. There are mystics in every religion, and mystical, sacred texts abound. Skeptics of mysticism claim that what people think are ‘mystical experiences’ as simply the inner workings of the brain and psychological processes.

I would define mysticism as a heightened awareness of the unseen, which could also involve the presence of deity or a spirit guide, or some transference of information, energy or healing. Psychics, spirit mediums, witches, druids and those who spend many hours in meditation are highly mystical people, as they engage in practices that increase awareness and work closely with deities and spirit guides.

It is my personal belief that the higher powers, whether one acknowledges them as God, Goddess, Great Spirit, Guide or other names will from time to time reveal themselves to us in both tangible and intangible ways. This often results in a heightened awareness of the unseen realms and things happening around us. A mystical person may see, hear, feel and sense things that others around them cannot. Their eyes and ears have been “opened” and they have an increased sensitivity to the astral realms. A mystical person understands that the reasons why things happen are not as simplistic as others try to make it seem. Mystical people tend to live “between the worlds” in a liminal state. Their lives are guided by their inner awareness, by divinity, and not always according to plan.

In my lifetime, I have been privileged to meet some exceptionally gifted mystics. The one who had the most profound effect on me was a woman I knew over 20 years ago. I knew she spent many hours in meditation and quiet contemplation. She was deeply in tune with the unseen realms and lived in union with her deities, completely immersed in her relationship with them. She often had messages for people, messages of spiritual guidance that often contained specific information about them noone else could have known. The messages were not always pleasant. Some recognized her as a gifted seer and prophetess, while others thought she was strange or on drugs. Indeed, there were times when I was at a gathering with her and she would suddenly be “somewhere else”, gazing up at the ceiling or somewhere in the room. She would mention seeing lights around people or the room getting foggy. There were times that I could see it too. She carried so much energy that at times it emanated from her. I remember leaving one of our meetings, and as I walked past her she began laughing very loudly. Suddenly myself and others around me were almost knocked to the ground by what felt like waves of electricity. I knew it had come from her. She was also the person who revealed one of my healing gifts. I was giving her a hug, with my right hand on her lower back. I was startled when she collapsed onto the floor. She told me that she was having pain in her lower back, and that she felt energy come out of my hand and into her back, and healed whatever was causing the pain. I learned that we ourselves are not healers, but merely channels for divine healing energy to flow through. When this happened, I honestly didn’t feel anything at all, but she was incredibly sensitive. One of our teachers back then told us to start asking our deities and guides to “open our eyes” so that we could see more of what was happening in the unseen realms. I think this is good advice for anyone on a magical, mystical path.

For those who feel they may be led down a mystical path, there are ways to help increase your awareness and sensitivity. You must be consistent and make them a regular part of life. If you are reading this, perhaps you do so already.

Meditation: Develop a daily meditation practice, using controlled-breathing exercises and visualizations to bring you into a relaxed state known as Alpha. Early morning meditations are helpful, I find them to be more productive than in the evening when I am tired and sleepy. Include in your meditation times a period of listening. Open your mind to receive divine guidance or psychic information. Keep a journal handy to write things down, as you may receive bits and pieces of information that may not make sense right away.

Nature: Spend time in Nature as often as possible. Go for walks, hiking, gardening, herb gathering, or sit among the trees and absorb the sights and sounds of Nature around you.

Maintain Balance: To live mystically, a certain level of detachment from earthly matters is necessary, but do not live with your head “in the clouds”. It is important to stay grounded while keeping yourself mystically aware. Live ‘between the worlds’.

Listen: If you are a ritual leader/planner, be aware that even though you have planned everything from beginning to end, your deities and guides may choose to lead things in a different direction. Be open to their guidance.

Ask: Ask your divine guides to open your spiritual, mystical eyes and allow you to see the unseen. This may happen gradually, and may be more active at some times than others.

Commune with Deity/Personal Gnosis: Spend time with your Gods, Goddesses, Spirit/Divine guides. Set up an altar for them, communicate with them. Make time for them and they will make time for you. Place photos of them or objects that sacred to them on your altar. Be open to receive information or knowledge directly from your divine guides. This wisdom may be only for you and is not meant to be shared. At other times, you may be guided to give encouragement or share information with someone else.

Mystical people live between the realms of the seen and the unseen. Humility is of utmost importance. Keep your visions private unless you are guided otherwise. This is not about power but your connection to your guides. The more you listen and learn from them, the more you will be given.

Witch Bottles

Witch Bottles, also called Spell Bottles, are an old form of magic that dates back to the 17th Century. The bottles were first made for protection, and were believed to counteract spells, protect against magical attack, or draw in and trap harmful intentions directed toward their owners. Although they were first used predominantly in England, a number of Witch Bottles have been discovered in America as well. The bottles were filled with sharp objects, such as broken glass, rusty nails, thorns, poisonous herbs, pins, needles, knotted threads, bits of bone, sand, magnets, lodestone and other protective items. They often also contained urine or menstrual blood. The bottles were then sealed and buried somewhere on the owner’s property, under the hearth, or under the home where it would absorb harmful energy to be destroyed by the contents inside. As long as the bottle remained sealed and intact, the owner would be protected. Others chose to throw their bottles into the fire. When the bottle exploded, it was believed that any curses cast on the owner had lifted and that the person who intended harm was no longer a threat.

Even though this practice of making Witch Bottles is centuries old, there are many modern Witches and Wizards who still make them today, not only for protection but also for healing and well wishes. Modern Witch Bottles for protection may still contain the same sharp ingredients mentioned above, though not all will choose to add urine or blood. They may also attach a written spell or incantation to the outside of the bottle, and then place it on a windowsill or somewhere in full view.

Witch/Spell Bottles for healing or well-wishes are made in beautifully decorated bottles of various colors, with herbs such as lavender, rose petals or eucalyptus placed inside, along with crystals, glitter, oatmeal, seeds, flower buds or other items to symbolize health, growth and well-being. A few drops of healing oils may be added and written spells for health and happiness are often placed inside the bottle. It is then sealed with a cork, colorful ribbons, pins or wax before it is given to the recipient. Healing Spell Bottles can be placed on a windowsill, a shelf, a bedside table or anywhere the recipient will see it on a daily basis.

I have made and received numerous spell bottles over the years. The magic of Witch/Spell bottles is activated through energy, intention and vibration. The very act of preparing the bottle: gathering the ingredients, choosing the bottle itself, deciding how you will decorate it, focusing on the intended recipient, writing the spell or incantation, how you will seal it…all of this activity infuses the bottle with magic. The bottle acts as a container for the spell, drawing in and attracting the energy it needs to manifest the intention (healing, prosperity, etc) into physical reality. Reiki practitioners can infuse the bottle with Reiki energy, or make a special ‘Reiki Bottle’ for those that need healing.

If I write a spell to be placed inside, at the end I will usually add something like:

If this bottle be broken, the spell is released

If this bottle be stolen, a curse on the thief

Below are pics of bottles I have made. This first one is a glass bottle that I made for protection, containing Mandrake Root and other poisonous herbs, broken glass, dirt and a written protection spell on parchment paper. I attached a metal Gryffindor crest to the outside, to draw on the strength of the Lion. It has been sitting on our livingroom windowsill for over 7 years, and I only removed it briefly to snap this photo. Look how dusty it is!


This one below is another protection bottle that was made for a local high priestess. It contained rusty nails, broken glass, poisonous herbs, thorns and needles, along with a spell for protection. I attached colorful glass pieces and a miniature Wiccan Rede to the outside, and sealed it shut with multi-colored wax.


This bottle below was given to me by the pagan group I celebrate with when my 2-year term as High Priest came to an end. Members of the group placed spells inside the bottle, and it was beautifully decorated by my friend, a very talented and gifted witch.


Your Witch/Spell Bottles do not have to be large ones like these. You can use smaller ones, and many people prefer them. I happen to like the larger ones, so that I can add more ingredients and decorate them better. You can find bottles at craft stores, antique stores or thrift shops. Before you work on them, wash them if possible and magically cleanse them of any previous energy they may have held.

Witch Bottles and Spell Bottles are a fun, creative way to use Old World magic for healing and protection, whether for yourself or for others.

Titles, Names and Labels

In many initiatory traditions, magical people are granted new names such as High Priest, High Priestess, Lord/Lady and other similar names. This is nothing new, it is a practice that is centuries old. I see nothing inherently wrong with titles, and it baffles me when people get up-in-arms about them. Perhaps it is because titles imply responsibility and expectations, and people do not want that placed upon them. Even the word “leader” makes some uncomfortable. “Why do we need a leader?”, they ask. They want the luxury of making decisions for the group, with no responsibility attached.

Sometimes leaders have to make difficult choices, such as when members of the group or community engage in harmful behavior. If someone is being deliberately hurtful or malicious toward other members, with no remorse whatosover, they have to go. There really are no two ways about it, and no amount of “discussion” or trying to “work things out” will remedy the situation.

Just because someone is called High Priest or High Priestess, or Lord/Lady So-and-So, it does not necessarily mean they have an ego problem or some neurotic need to be in control. Those who make these sort of complaints typically have issues with authority of any kind and do not like the idea of someone being “in charge”. They usually do not stay around long. Groups are not for everyone. Many find they are much more suited to a solitary practice, with no leaders “telling me what to do”. (See my article Coven Vs. Solitary). The truth is, there has to be someone, or more than one, who is designated to maintain structure and order, and assure that things are done the way they’re supposed to be, or at least in the way that was planned or agreed upon by the group. Groups without leaders will not last long. Likewise, groups who do things in an unorganized, willy-nilly ‘whatever’ sort of way will soon fall apart, or devolve into something no more than what my friend jokingly calls “coffee night”.

There are many who truly want leadership. They want someone they can look to for guidance and advice, leaders who are dedicated to their role and fulfill it to the best of their ability. Not everyone wants to be a leader or have a title, but those who do need to own it and not treat it casually. Lord and Lady have an air of royalty about them, and I happen to like the idea of witches as royalty. Laurie Cabot teaches that all witches are sovereign, that their wisdom and knowledge of the Craft gives them sovereignty.

Here in America, people are not used to being called such things as High Priest, High Priestess, Lord/Lady such-and-such, but in Europe these titles are commonplace and people do not get bent out of shape over them. Let us remind ourselves that many of our traditions and practices come from Europe, and titles happen to be one of them. There are some who do not want to be “called” anything. “I don’t want to be labeled”, they passively say. Perhaps they do not want the responsibility that comes with a label. Saying you’re one thing means you’re not something else, and many want the freedom to be that ‘something else’ as their whims dictate. (See my article Defining Your Path). Titles and labels are often necessary because they help bring clarity and definition to relationships both mundane and magical, particularly in group settings.

For others, the aversion to titles and names is not due to avoidance issues but the fact that they embrace so many different beliefs it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what path they are on. Eclecticism seems to work for some people…or does it…but I find it unfocused, scattered, chaotic. I do not believe that “all paths are one path” or that “all roads lead to center”. They do not. I do not have to respect paths that advocate beheading people, abusing women or committing acts of terrorism. Nor do I have to embrace paths that teach the concept that those who do not follow them are doomed to Hell. All paths are not one path. Sorry, no.

There are also those who do not like the words “Witch”, “Wiccan” or “Pagan” because again, these are ‘labels’. There is nothing wrong whatsoever with self-identifying as a Witch, Wizard, Wiccan, Pagan, Druid or any other magical name if that is how you live your life. If that is what you are, you have every right to refer to yourself as such. Ignore the naysayers. Some criticize what they call “rigid definitions” of words like “Pagan”. We have these words so people understand what they are and what they are not. They can’t mean whatever you want them to mean.

If you have a title, then embrace it, own it and use it proudly!

Magical Holidays: Imbolc

bannerfans_14800182The ancient Celtic fire festival of Imbolc takes place on February 1st or 2nd, and is regarded as the first of three Spring festivals. Although it is not yet officially Spring until March, Imbolc reminds us that Spring is definitely on the way. Imbolc (pronounced Im-Molk or Im-Molg: the ‘b’ is silent) is an Old Irish word that has been translated to mean “in the belly” and refers to the pregnancy of ewes. It is a fertility festival and a time of encouraging new growth to begin. This holiday is sacred to the Celtic Goddess Brighid, also called Brid or Bride. She is a Goddess of healing, poetry, fertility and smithcraft.

Brighid is a triple goddess of fire, water and light, a daughter of the Dagda and one of the Tuatha de Danaan. Celebrations of Imbolc stretch back through the centuries, and often involved the lighting of candles, along with the presence of water and fire. Some magical traditions call Imbolc the “womb of Spring”, as we begin to see the first stirrings of life, displayed by snowdrop flowers growing upwards through the snow, a sign that the end of Winter is not far off. In Witchcraft/Wiccan traditions, Imbolc is the time when the Goddess slumbers below the earth after giving birth to the God, and as his light grows she begins to awaken. Candles are lit to gently awaken the Goddess and encourage her return to the earth, which she does at Spring. Imbolc is a time to begin planning new things, making plans for hopes and dreams.

Goddess_Brigid_Cross_origIn Celtic traditions, a corn dolly and a bowl of milk is placed on the altar, along with several candles in a bowl of water. Poems and stories of Brighid are read aloud, and songs are sung in her honour. It is a time to do magic for healing and creativity. A special bed would be made for the doll, and a ceremony of inviting Brighid into the house would be enacted. In Ireland, Brighid’s Crosses (see photo at right) were made at Imbolc. They were often hung over doors, windows and stables to welcome Brigid and protect the buildings from fire and lightning. The crosses were generally left there until the next Imbolc.

The date of Imbolc is thought to have been significant in Ireland since the Neolithic period. The holiday was a festival of the hearth and home, and a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring. Celebrations often involved hearthfires, special foods, divination or watching for omens, candles or a bonfire if the weather permitted. Fire and purification were an important part of the festival. The lighting of candles and fires represented the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months.

The Goddess Brighid has quite a history. As Christianity spread through Europe, many sacred sites were destroyed or built over with churches. Celtic deities were replaced with saints. Worship of the Goddess Brighid was so widespread and ingrained in the Celtic lands that the Christians were not able to suppress it, so they made Brighid into a Saint. Although she was Christianized as St. Brighid, with holy wells dedicated to her, historians believe her to be of pagan origin, a Goddess of pre-Christian times.

To celebrate Imbolc, use a white altar cloth. Decorate your altar with snowdrop flowers, a bowl of water and several lit candles. Sprinkle pine needles, sage and holly leaves on the altar. Recite a poem to Brighid, or sing to her, and ask for her assistance in healing or creative projects.

As I look out my window here in the city, I do not yet see green growth sprouting thru the snow. It is only the beginning of February, and there is more snow on the way. Our private group has an Imbolc celebration planned for this evening, but it is threatened by a possible 6-10 inches of snow. I may end up having a private ceremony at home. However, as much as I loathe snow, I make myself walk through it, enduring the wind chill cold and paying close attention to the sights, sounds and sensations. I still see squirrels running about, a few birds in the trees, and I see the tiniest of buds beginning to form at the end of branches…winter is not yet over, but I see small signs that Spring will soon be here.

The Void-of-Course Moon: A Time to Pause

This astrological factor of the Moon is often ignored by magical practitioners, either because they do not understand what it means or they believe it is not significant enough to really make a difference. However, the Moon when it is Void-of-Course (usually shown in an ephemeris or moon phase guide as v/c) can have an effect, or non-effect, on magical workings and other decisions we make.

When the Moon is Void-of-Course, this indicates that it is between zodiacal signs: it has just exited one sign and is on it’s way to the next. The Moon does not always automatically move from one zodiac sign to the next. Many times it does, but there is often a between-time when the Moon does not occupy either sign. This time period can last anywhere from a matter of minutes, hours, or up to nearly two days.

When preparing to cast a spell or plan life events, and you are working with planetary/astrological energies, it is best not to do anything definate when the Moon is Void-of-Course. Doing so may mean that your spell will not manifest the way you intended, if at all. The planetary/astrological energies you are calling on are simply not there. This is because the planets have an effect on the zodiac signs, and if the Moon is between signs, the energies are scattered. There is the tendency to have unrealistic expectations associated with the decisions, and/or there could be difficulties from unknown factors. During this period actions can produce unexpected results, creative efforts can go into unexpected directions. Wait until the Moon has fully occupied the sign you wish to work with.

The void-of-course period of the Moon is the period of time from the moment the Moon makes the last contact with any planet in the current Sign of the Zodiac, and until it enters the next sign.

This excerpt from the website Lunarium explains it metaphorically:

Each sign is like a chapter in the book of life, and moving through it the Moon is telling a story. When the Moon enters the next sign, it starts a new story. We still remember the old one, but we are not deeply involved into it anymore. Whether we notice it or not, each time the Moon enters the next Sign of the Zodiac, something substantially changes in our life, some context, or the emotional background of events. Most of the time we aren’t aware of this change because the Moon is strongly connected to our subconsciousness, not to our consciousness. It is the subconsciousness who is deeply aware of the change.

So in each of the signs the Moon starts a new story when it enters the sign, but those stories can have different lengths. Some of them continue for almost the whole two-and-a-half-day period, others are much shorter, but always there is a pause in the end of the story. It can be short or long, but it is always there. That pause in the end of the story is the void-of-course period of the Moon.

We don’t know why it happens, this pause. Maybe the story teller gives us the time to think about the content of the story we’ve just heard, or maybe it is a chance to prepare to the next story, because it is going to be very important. We just know that the pause is there…At some point the Moon makes its last contact in the given sign. That’s the end of the story, but the new story won’t start until the Moon enters the next Sign of the Zodiac”.

You can find the Void-of-Course by looking at an ephemeris, moon phase guide or astrology website. Some of you tech-savvy types may have an app on your phone. I happen to like the Llewellyn Moon Sign Book. It is very practical, easy to read, and they publish a new one every year. The Void-of-Course is marked as (v/c) or (VoC). I had some difficulty locating a picture of their chart to show you, however, below is a similar chart displaying the Void-of-Course dates for January 2015.