‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler
Why is it that we require so much scientific proof for the most ordinary things these days, when the very fact that we lie down and close our eyes at night is the highest proof that God’s world is in order. Though perhaps our personal world may not know such sequence. There comes a time when our human limitations insist that we lay down our questions and accept by faith the only way to survive ourselves.
There are those who say they must have tangible evidence that the world and all its wonders be displayed before their eyes to see in wisdom the way things really are. And yet who said the human eyes could see or ears could hear more than one tiny bit of the wonder. Who could be so bold as to believe their senses were strong enough to know, except through faith.
Who could see with the visible eye the hand that changes the seasons, or hear Job’s stars that sang together at dawn. Who set the day at rest and brings the morning in all its newness.
Only so far…..then explanations know no more…..and though we try to disbelieve when all goes wrong, there comes a time when we want no more explanation than that God’s world is in order – and we cannot change it.
Surely if someone took our hand and asked us to walk along the world and view the wonders so magnificently displayed….If by some miracle we could see the vastness of it all at once, and still bear up under the beauty of it….
If we can see the rolling rise and fall of the land – the purple, pink, and golden hues of shadows hung along the mountain sides….If our ears could hear the music of the rippling streams, the rushing waters, the graceful falls.
If by some mere chance we could sense the ebb and flow, the push and relaxing of the tides, the rise and set of the sun, the glittering stars and soft-faced moon that ignores the fact that other worlds encircle ours…..
And as the seasons sprinkle rain and flowers, golden leaves and snowfall…..On this continuous circle…..always new…..always beautiful…..
If we can see al this, how then, can we doubt that the earth that God created and saw as good is good. This is our land, and only our own forgetfulness of its source can make it different.
Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.
Visit her web site to purchase the wonderful books by Joyce as gifts for yourself or for loved ones……and also for those who don’t have access to the Internet: http://www.hifler.com
Click Here to Buy her books at Amazon.com
Elder’s Meditation of the Day
By White Bison, Inc., an American Indian-owned nonprofit organization. Order their many products from their web site: http://www.whitebison.org
Elder’s Meditation of the Day – October 20
“As Elders, it is our place to show respect to our young people in order to gain respect.”
–Grace Azak, NISGA’A
The attitude of our leaders will be the attitude of the people. The attitude of the parents will be the attitude of the children. If respect is shown from above, respect will be developed below. If the Elders show respect, the younger people will be respectful. As above, so below. This happens because of interconnectedness. The heart of the Elders is connected to the heart of the youth.
Great Spirit, in the fall season let me respect both the Elders and the youth.
October 20 – Daily Feast
Every person’s privilege is to stand on tiptoe and take a look over the edge. What is the edge? A place where fear lurks and no one dares to get too close. Many a dream has taken us up to the edge and with quaking knees to look over the immense distance between what could be and what is reality. Most people end it right there and refuse to be scared any longer. Change is here. We can fall over the edge or we can believe in something greater than the tangible. Let go of the weak and impossible and stand in the Light that never goes out.
~ Let him be just and deal kindly with my people. ~
DEATTLE – DWAMISH CHIEF
‘A Cherokee Feast of Days, Volume II’ by Joyce Sequichie Hifler
Persistent positive perspective
If you are resentful about the interruptions, you make those interruptions last even longer. When you get angry about being hurt, you prolong the pain.
Negativity wastes your time and your life. In return, it brings you nothing desirable.
Negativity causes you to see and experience troubles that otherwise would not be there. Negativity blinds you to the goodness that is all around you, and separates you from much of life’s richness.
When you feel resentment, anger, envy, despair, anxiety or any other negative feeling coming on, quickly let it go. Make the choice to not allow a negative perspective to drain value from your life.
It can be very easy to be negative in response to life’s various occurrences. Yet it becomes extremely difficult to live with the consequences of all that negativity.
It is actually just as easy to let the negativity go. Make that choice, and fill your life with the real treasures that come from a persistent positive perspective.
— Ralph Marston
Penetrating The Darkness
Wisdom Of The Owl
For as long as humankind has recognized animals as teachers, wise men and women have recognized traits worthy of respect in both wild and domestic creatures. The cultural and spiritual significance of certain animals transcends geographical boundaries, unifying disparate peoples. Not so the majestic and mysterious owl, which has over many millennia served as the focal point of numerous contradictory beliefs. Though owls have been regarded with awe and fascination, they have also inadvertently served as agents of fear. Since owls are nocturnal, human-owl encounters tended to occur at night and likely when the bird was swooping silently down to earth to grapple with prey. Yet even as some shied away from the owl, calling it an agent of darkness, others recognized the depths of awareness in beautiful owl’s eyes.
In the classical Greek tradition, an owl could often be found perched on the shoulder of Athena, goddess of wisdom, while owls could ward off bad luck in Roman lore. It is in Native American mythos, however, that the owl attains its own unique identity. Owls are patient messengers, bringers of information and the holders of wisdom, and they are capable of seeing the unseen. With their keen eyesight, they can glance into the soul to discern meaning and motive, and they are totems of truth. Unlike our distant forebears, we may never encounter an owl in the wild, but we can nonetheless internalize the wisdom of the owl by attuning ourselves to its most venerable qualities. Fully integrating the medicine of the owl into spiritual existence is a matter of considering how we might open ourselves more fully to the wisdom that can be found in the larger universe.
Should you find your efforts blocked as you commune with the owl, remember that it was not always revered as an icon of wisdom. This denizen of the nighttime has overcome many prejudices in its long association with humankind. To reveal those hidden elements of the self that impact your life for better or for worse, you must often make your way through the darkest parts of your soul as if you yourself are the nocturnal hunter. There is indeed darkness both inside the self and outside the self, but like the owl you can transcend it by drawing nourishment from the insights you receive when you penetrate it.
Paganism 101: Basics of Pagan Spirituality
Author: Cu Mhorrigan
Paganism has received a lot of attention in recent years with the increased use of the internet, television shows like Charmed, Buffy: the Vampire Slayer, Angel and movies like The Craft, Harry Potter, as well as cartoons like Sabrina the Teen-Aged Witch.
Nowadays, it has become fashionable to announce oneself to be a Pagan, or Neo-Pagan, Wiccan or Witch – especially for teenagers, wishing to attract attention, adults trying to follow the latest fad in spirituality, or just as an excuse to justify weird or aberrant behavior.
However, calling yourself a Pagan is one thing; actually following the spiritual path is something else. It is my hope with this ‘class’ that I might explain in practical terms what it actually means to be a Pagan in our modern age and to assist those who wish to implement the following of this spiritual path.
Definition of the word “Pagan”:
The Word Pagan is derived from the Latin word ‘paganus’, which is loosely translated to mean “of the country”. It should be noted however that the usage of ‘paganus’ within the Roman Empire (Where they spoke Latin. Duh!) was always meant to be a slur meaning “hillbilly, redneck, hick, trailer trash, or white trash”. Much in the same way we would talk about guests on the Jerry Springer Show.
Later, when the Christian faith took over the Roman Empire under Charlemagne, it was used to describe those outside of the Christian faith and those in need of conversion. Not an improvement, because paganus was still pretty much of an insult.
Turning a negative into a positive:
It wasn’t until recently that the term ‘Pagan’ gained a more positive use with the resurgence of Pagan beliefs within the European and American Cultures. Those who sought spirituality closer to that of their “ancestors” adopted it. Eventually, it came to mean ‘those who follow the Old religions’ or ‘those who follow a spiritual path outside of the big three Abrahamic religions’. (What are the big Three Abrahamic religions?)
What DO Pagans Believe?:
An it harm none Do as thou wilt.
Speaking in general terms, Paganism is an earth-centered spirituality, which believes in the sacredness of all things, equality of all persons regardless of gender, sexual, and spiritual and social practices. The practices within Paganism are extremely diverse and open-ended allowing individuals to incorporate whatever rituals and belief systems they feel comfortable with.
Since there is so much diversity within our spiritual path, we stress personal liberty, and responsibility for one’s own actions. That as long as a person does not cause physical, mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual harm to others or himself, he/she is free to pursue one’s physical, mental and spiritual development as he/she sees fit.
Which brings me to my next point: Pagans, in general, do not proselytize! That means you aren’t going to get a call from us at three o’clock in the morning asking us if you are going to ritual or not. There is no High Priestess going around smacking people over the head if they haven’t worked on their Book of Shadows or if they bought the wrong candle for a personal ritual. Aint gonna happen.
Why? We are assuming that if you are here, you want to be here. We’ll give you information, let you know your options, and the rest is up to you. We aren’t going to stand on a street corner and scream at folks for not worshipping Athena nor at women/men who chose not to go around sky clad (That’s ‘nekkid’ for those of us who are really new to this).
The Law of Return (or sowing and reaping):
There are no true “sins” within our spiritual practices. There are only things that cause harm (or, as I like to call them, “Stupid Ideas”) and things that are helpful (Or as I like to call them, “Good Ideas”).
When you do good things, good things tend to happen to you (Eventually). When you do bad things, bad things tend to happen to you (Eventually). Of course, since we do not live in a static environment, and people tend to interact with one another, sometimes things get a little ‘fa-kakhed’. However, the Universe always balances Itself out in the end.
This concept is called, karma and it’s a relatively complicated matter, which I have here boiled down to its lowest common denominator. Of course, there are differing views of Karma, one of which is the Three-Fold Law What you do comes back three-fold, or three times, back at you. (If you are not sure as to whether an act will have some kind of repercussion, ask yourself, how much would I really like this done to me?)
(The self-defense caveat: Like all “Laws”, there are loopholes. If someone else is out to cause you harm in some way it would be a really STUPID (Bad Karma) idea not to protect yourself, or your family, or your friends. However, make sure you have as many facts as possible (like the guy is holding a knife and threatens to cut you up) before beating the oneness of all things back into these individuals.
Pantheons, Divinities, Spirits, Energies:
Okay this is where it gets a little tricky, but stay with me. The most common (and extremely annoying) question we as Pagans get is, “Don’t you folks worship Satan?” (Everyone roll his or her eyes here.)
The answer to that is a resounding, “NO!” For the most part, you need to keep in mind that Paganism is a separate religion from Christianity. Hence Satan (Whom I call, the Christian God of Evil and Nastiness) is not a part of our pantheon. Sorry…
For the most part (depending on the tradition you follow) the Pagan concept of Divinity falls under one of the following expressions:
Duo-Theism: (Duo=Two or Dual, Theos=Divinities):
The Worship of a Co-Equal God and Goddess, each having unlimited power, compassion, wisdom, energy or what-have-you, but maintaining different roles and functions.
The God is aggressive, powerful, sexual adventurous, skillful. He handles the Male side of fertility.
The Goddess is nurturing, passionate, creative, sensual and artistic. She oversees the power of creating life through birth and the Female side of fertility.
This belief is widely held by the Wiccans and Wicca-like factions of Paganism.
Poly Theism: (Poly=Many, Theos=Divinities) The belief in multiple Gods and Goddesses.
Many folks see these Gods as extensions of the God and Goddess (i.e. Monism) with each one taking on different aspects at the time of their encounter with the worshipper. Others (like myself) believe that They are actually separate entities with Their own personalities, quirks and motives.
Not every god or goddess is a real people person nor does every god and goddess have a laid back attitude. If you are going to get involved with a particular deity, you had better make sure you do a LOT of research as to what they like, don’t like, and if a particular god or goddess is right for you. Otherwise your life will get extremely interesting in a bad way.
The third school of though in polytheism is the idea of the gods and goddesses being archetypes within a person’s own psyche. This is sort of like a piece of our own subconscious wrapped up in a costume and a mask in order to teach our conscious minds lessons they need.
Of course, there is more than those three Schools of thought, but I’m just giving the basics here.
Simply put, this is the idea that the Divine is in everything; hence all things are a part of the energy we call god. Since all things are a part of god, all things are sacred and are expressions of the divine in some way, shape or form. When I worship a tree, I am worshipping the Divine; when I give food to a hungry stray, I am feeding the Divine; when I am hurting someone, I am hurting the Divine.
Then there is the Fourth Category:
For the beginner, this is the best spiritual idea I can suggest. The idea is essentially, “I have no friggin’ clue if there is a Divinity or not, therefore unless I am shown otherwise, I will not say that the Gods are this way or that. I will respect the Power behind the name, but I will not pledge myself to him/her/it unless I have an absolutely good reason to.”
This is actually one of the safest belief systems to take as a new student of the Pagan path because you are open enough to receive enlightenment, but at the same time, you do not run the risk of making a total, complete ass out of yourself. The Gods will instruct you as They see fit.
Now of course, Pagans will usually incorporate not only one, but perhaps two or three of the ideas listed above. This usually comes from personal experience and cannot be learned any other way.
Keep in mind that it’s okay to shift from one idea to another or even to incorporate two or more of these ideas…it’s all good. Just find out what works best for you.
So How the Hades do I Become a Pagan? (Or stupid questions that are commonly asked)
Well, for the most part, it’s a matter of doing a lot of reading and a lot of self-exploration. It took me at least two years of studying online and reading books and attending classes to even consider myself a Pagan. A lot of the traditions under the banner of Paganism will have different views on training and initiation (think of it as baptism), and how one becomes a member of that tradition.
The best way is to start out attending Pagan gatherings, visiting bookstores and such, and talk to other Pagans. Eventually, you will either find a religious path that works for you or you will throw your arms up in dismay and run screaming back to your religion of birth. And there is nothing wrong with that. NOT AT ALL! We realize that the Pagan spiritual path is not for everyone, and we will not be offended. Just make sure you don’t tell people we sacrificed your cat and you’ll be cool with us.
Do I Need to Buy Special Clothes and Dress in Black?
The answer is: Only if you really want to. Yes, there are special robes some folks wear, but unless your coven says otherwise, you can pretty much wear what you want.
Just some basic suggestions: Wear something comfortable and wear something you won’t mind getting dirty. Most of our rituals take place outdoors and, while you may look really good in an Armani suit and Gucci shoes, there is a good chance your clothes will get messed up and your shoes scuffed.
Loose, light clothes in summer and spring is always a good idea, and warmer clothes in the fall are really smart. Most winter rituals will be held indoors, depending on the weather. If it makes you comfortable to wear black Witch clothes and pointed hats and cloaks… Knock yourself out…You’ll be getting lots of stares and odd looks (mostly from us), but all-in-all, if it makes you comfortable, then that is all that matters.
Do I Need to Buy Special Jewelry?
Again, only if you want to and if you enjoy it. Jewelry is a personal matter to the people who wear it. And it’s usually best to find a piece that says, “HEY! I LIKE YOU. WEAR ME AROUND YOUR NECK!” Otherwise, No special jewelry is required to be a Pagan.
Do I Need to Kill Something (like a kitten) and Drink its Blood?
No, you don’t have to kill an animal to be a Pagan. For the most part, we are animal friendly and don’t believe in killing a critter in order to work our rituals. Yes, there are some Pagan groups that practice animal sacrifice and it is left alone…but fear not, the only thing usually killed has already been slaughtered and put on the feasting table in a sacred bucket marked, KFC.
Do I Need to Become a Vegetarian?
Nope, being a vegetarian is a matter of personal preference and what you feel in your heart. While many of us are vegetarians, a lot of us aren’t. It may be a good idea to eat a little healthier, but no one is going to come down on you for eating meat or using meat-based products. However, you might want to do your own research and come up with your own choices.
So, What DO I Need to Do?
Excellent question. One, as I suggested before, do a lot of research, a lot of reading and, when in doubt, do more research. A lot of Pagans keep what is called a “Book of shadows”, which is just a fancy name for a Journal. Write down everything you learn in that book and when you get a chance, read it. If you see a cool article on the net, feel free to print it (for your personal use only, please).
To create a book of shadows, I would suggest buying a loose-leaf binder and fill it half-way with paper. It’s also a good idea to invest in a three hole punch. That way, you can put articles that you printed from the net and use them for later reference. Do not worry about using blood and special things to “make it official”. It is your study guide — your book — and so, make sure you personalize it to suit your needs.
When you feel you are ready, and you have found a religious tradition you feel comfy with, take that Book of Shadows and attend any class you can afford. A lot of places have very reasonable rates for their classes. The Learning Annex is one source, but so is your local Pagan bookstore. Just make sure you talk to the person running the store to make sure he knows what he/she is talking about. If you are not entirely comfortable in studying there, consider looking for another teacher. Remember, this is about YOUR spiritual growth and enrichment and you need to be in an environment conducive to YOUR learning.
Holidays, and Rituals:
There are eight major Holy Days during the Pagan year that a lot of us agree upon. There are also rituals that are held on the New Moon and the Full moon depending on how often your coven (A group of Pagans you worship with) meets.
The Eight Major Holidays are listed in the order they fall on:
Spring Equinox (March 21)
Beltaine (May 1)
Summer Solstice (Litha) (June 21)
Lughnassadh or Lamas (August)
Autumn Equinox (Mabon) (September 21)
Samhain or Halloween (October 31 to Nov 1)
Winter Solstice (Yule) (December 21)
Each Holy Day represents a certain mythological event in our religion, which will be discussed by the High Priest (ess) in advance.
It’s usually a good idea to find out what you would need to bring so that you can best participate in the ritual.
Now most likely you are going to have a hard time pronouncing the names of the days when you first start out, so don’t be afraid to ask stupid questions; it’s the only way you are going to learn.
Tools For Rituals:
Energy: This is the most important, and since I am assuming people know Jack about Paganism, I’m going to make this explanation brief: When we perform rituals and cast spells, we are attempting to gather energy. This energy comes from the universe and ourselves. Depending on what we are trying to do, we use certain rituals, and tools. Think of it this way: It’s like gathering up a whole bunch of snow together. We eventually gather enough to make a snowball and then we pack it in and send it off to impact your friend. It’s basically the same thing. When we perform these rites, they help our minds to focus on gathering this energy and tell it what we want done. Energy is the most important part of any ritual, and without it, we are just looking stupid.
Cauldron: This is basically a black, three-legged pot to be used for burning incense and for other things. They range from tiny to huge and can be used to burn incense, burn paper, and make potions. Now cauldrons tend to be rather expensive, so if you are a bit “Price Sensitive” like me, find yourself one of those old fashioned iron pots that Mom uses to make rice. Make sure you clean it before and after use. If you have one of these in your own home and have had it for a long time, you are pretty much used to it and it is used to you. So, you really don’t have to “charge” it with energy.
Athemae: Essentially, this is a knife or a really small sword. This is used to direct energy raised up during rituals. THESE ARE NOT USED TO CUT PEOPLE (of any species). It can be used for cutting vegetables. Most traditions prefer a double sided blade, small enough to conceal. (You would be amazed how many cops will stop you for carrying a broad sword.) If you’re unable to get an athamae, it’s totally cool to make yourself a wand or use your index finger to direct energy.
Wands/Rods: Okay, these are wooden or crystal sticks also used to direct energy as well as to draw it to yourself. Wands tend to be no longer than your arm, while rods can be longer. Best way to get a rod is to go out on little walks in the park and look for a stick. Once you find a stick you like and that screams out for you to take it, take it home, and sand it and decorate it until you are totally comfortable with it. Viola! You have a wand or rod. If you have as much mechanical aptitude as a slug, ask around your local occult bookstores. Keep in mind they are going to be slightly expensive and you will have to charge it once you get it home.
Candles: Candles are used in rituals to help get your mind into the practice of Magic (No, I am not spelling magic with a K or a J…I’m keeping this as simple as possible. If you want to use the funky spellings in your own notebooks, knock yourself out. You’re not being graded here). Candles are lit in order to help get the mind into a state where it’s easier to put the patterns in for the energy to flow. I would strongly suggest getting candles of all colors and sizes and as many as you can afford. (Usually one of each color.) You can pick them up anywhere.
Incense: Like candles, incense helps the mind get energy together to cast spells. It’s a good idea to make your own incense or to purchase them from a botanica, or occult bookstore. Incense sticks may be colored, but it’s usually a good idea to purchase them based on their smells. Pungent or spicy incense is normally used to send stuff away. (Mainly because they are offensive.) Sweet incense is used to bring stuff to you. Earthy smells help to facilitate healing and to strengthen you.
Divination tools: Things like Tarot Cards, Runes and what not. These are mainly used to help you to make decisions or to gain some kind of insight as to what is going on around you. Keep in mind, these items themselves are not magical in and of themselves, but are based on your own intuition interpreting what you are seeing.
Books, books and more books: Like I said earlier, it is suggested you read religiously. It’s best to keep a library of things you have read or are about to read. Don’t just pick books only by one author, but of different ones. Some people may know a lot about what they are talking about; others are complete and utter horse feces. However, the only way you are going to find out is if you look for yourself and keep your Book of Shadows nearby while you read. If something sounds like nonsense, or if you aren’t sure about whether or not what is true within a book, do some research. It sounds like a lot of work, but this is your spirituality we are talking about here.
It is a good idea to question everything and find out if there is an agreement between the authors you have read. Another thing to keep in mind is that some folks are completely full of fluff and bluster while others deliberately water stuff down to keep from divulging too much about their path. And some are completely straightforward about the things they are writing about.
One of the best ways to learn about an author is find out when they are going to be doing a book signing near you. Get to meet them (Most book signings are free and most will give a short lecture about their book just to whet your appetite for it.) Some of the most intense learning experiences I gained were in attending some of these lectures; it’s also a great way to actually see the person who is writing.
Use your intuition…and don’t be shy about picking their brains. That is what they are there for. In fact, I would suggest doing the same thing at the store where you get your tools and books. It helps you learn a lot faster; especially when you ask Stupid questions. Yes you will get looks. Yes, you will even get the occasional shake of the head, But if you don’t ask, you wont know. It’s worth it.
Suggested Things to do:
Check out different groups that meet in your area. You can do this by attending open (public) circles or classes. Use them as a way to meet other Pagans and eventually find a group that you feel comfortable studying with. If you are Solitary Pagan, it helps to “meet and greet” other Pagans.
Look around for Pagan shops, botanicas and other places where you can get supplies. Most botanicas are devoted to Santeria or Voudu, but you can get some really good equipment at cheap prices.
Check out the local library, as well as the bookstore for things you can read about your particular pantheon.
Ask a lot of questions. Even stupid ones. It’s one of the chief tenets of Paganism to question everything you come across. If you get an answer that sounds like horsesh*t, then verify, verify, verify.
Things Not To Do:
Don’t panic; this seems like a lot of information, but it really isn’t. This is just the primer for your own research.
Don’t sweat if you cannot find a teacher right away, Nine times out of ten, they usually show up when you are ready to learn more about a particular aspect of your tradition.
Don’t start off calling yourself a High Something of a particular tradition. Most systems within Paganism have their own methods of teaching and credentials for clergy and what not. No faking!
Don’t be afraid of getting criticized; it’s going to happen. Learn to grow a thick skin, and if someone points something out to you, listen and check out your own motives and conscience. If the shoe fits, wear it. If it doesn’t, then don’t.
Don’t take everything at face value…Learn how to question what you hear and not be a total jerk about it.
Don’t try and convert people, It rarely works just put out information let people know where you stand and end it there.
“The Witches’ Voice” — It’s a great place to start since they have information about everything.
— A great place to learn about the Gods of your chosen pantheon. It doesn’t have all the information, but enough for you to get your feet wet and do some research.
Yahoo.com — They have a plethora of Pagan groups and places where you can talk to people of different walks of life. It’s also a great way to meet Pagans in your area.
Google and other search engines — Another great website with links to thousands of Pagan websites.
The Truth about Witchcraft Today: Scott Cunningham
Urban Primitive: Tannin Silverstein and Raven Kaldera
The Book of Shamanic Healing: Kristin Madden
The Celestine Prophecy: James Redfield (Yes, it’s a novel but it helps to get an idea about energy-work and how energy can be gathered and stolen.)
The Wiccan Warrior: Kerr Cucuhain
Witchcraft Theory and Practice: Ly de Angeles
When I see the Wild God: Ly de Angeles
Drawing Down the Moon: Margot Adler (of NPR)
The Spiral Dance: Starhawk
Buckland’s Complete Witches Handbook: Raymond Buckland
Southern Hemisphere Magick
Despite what appears to be a wealth of information available on neo-Pagan traditions, one section of the community seems to be grossly under-represented and that is those of us who reside in the Southern Hemisphere – Australia, New Zealand and even South Africa, to name but three countries. The majority of authors residing in the Northern Hemisphere seem to have little or no knowledge at all of the differences between the hemispheres. And if such a difference is acknowledged, it is usually limited to only the Sabbats. It is no wonder that endless debates occur on how to “do things” down under.
The following is a suggestion based on my own personal observances as both a Wytch and magickian who resides in the Southern Hemisphere, which may be of assistance to others.
There are at least four major differences between the Hemispheres. The first is the obvious six-month difference in the seasons. When it is Midsummer in the Northern Hemisphere, we in the South are celebrating Midwinter (the “Christmas in July” theme is becoming a popular event even amongst non-Pagans). The dates, according to general consensus, of the Southern Sabbats are:
Samhain – 30 April
Midwinter Solstice (Yule) – 21 June
Imbolg – 1 August
Spring or Vernal Equinox (Eostre) – 21 September
Bealtaine – 1 November
Midsummer Solstice (Litha) – 21 December
Lughnasadh – 1 February
Autumn Equinox (Mabon) – 21 March
If we use the astrological signs in which the Sun moves into to determine each Sabbat date as opposed to actual calendar dates, then this too is changed by six months:
Samhain – 15 deg Taurus
Midwinter Solstice – 0 deg Cancer
Imbolg – 15 deg Leo
Spring Equinox – 0 deg Libra
Bealtaine – 15 deg Scorpio
Midsummer Solstice – 0 deg Capricorn
Lughnasadh – 15 deg Aquarius
Autumn Equinox – 0 deg Aries
This means that Northern Hemisphere-based festivals appear largely out of place in the Southern Hemisphere. Our Morris Dances however still celebrate “May Day” on 1 May regardless of the fact that it marks the beginning of Winter; likewise the Christian Easter falls in Autumn as opposed to Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. However, there are specific events that do align – in particular specific Southern Hemisphere-based public holidays. One good example is ANZAC Day, the day on which we remember Australian and New Zealand service men and women that died at war. This day of remembrance occurs on 25 April, close to the Southern Samhain on 30 April.
The next major difference between the Hemispheres is the direction in which the Sun moves across the sky. As in the Northern Hemisphere, the Sun still rises in the East and sets in the West, however on its journey across the sky in the Southern Hemisphere, it travels via the North because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis. For this reason, most Pagans in the Southern Hemisphere cast their circles in this direction, via the North or in an anti-clockwise direction.
It irks me when authors refer to deosil as meaning “clockwise” and widdershins as meaning “anticlockwise.” Not only does this not apply to the Southern Hemisphere, but also it is etymologically incorrect. According to the Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, the word deosil comes from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning “sunwise” or “in the direction of the (apparent) motion of the sun,” and in the Southern Hemisphere this is anticlockwise. The term widdershins comes from the Middle High Germanic word “widersinnes” meaning “against the sun.” In the Southern Hemisphere, this is clockwise, representing the direction for banishing, winding down energies or even for darker workings. Of course, as English – as well as other European languages incorporated into the English language – stem from the Northern Hemisphere as opposed to the Southern Hemisphere, Northern associations are more dominant. For example, deosil is also said to come from the Irish word “cor deiseil” which means “auspicious right hand turn,” while widdershins is akin to the Irish “cor tuathal” meaning “the mundane left-hand turn.” To save confusion, however, for Southern Hemispheric Pagans, I prefer and recommend the first definition with respect to the Sun.
A further observance is that the energy flow of the Earth between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres is also reversed. Prior to spending time in England I was told to observe the direction in which the water drained down the plughole. In the Northern Hemisphere, energy moves in a clockwise direction, whereas in the Southern Hemisphere, it is anti-clockwise.
If we take the above information into consideration when placing the elements around our magickal circle, it then seems logical for the placement of Fire to be in the North, while Earth is placed in the South. Environmentally, to the North is the Equator and from the North come the scorching Summer winds. North is also the placement in the sky of the Noonday Sun. In the South however, where the Sun never appears in the Southern Hemisphere, are the bitter cold Winter winds, as well as the frozen mass we refer to as Antarctica. However, this goes against the directional placements of the elements in more traditional Pagan groups.
I know a number of traditional Crafters who continue to place their altars in the North because according to their tradition (despite it being Northern Hemispheric-based) this is the “dark quarter.” One reasoning behind this is that on the astral the directional placements of the elements do not matter. If this is the case, then when I operate between the worlds, it should not matter if my physical altar and circle casting reflects the land in which I reside. Surely, if the founders of Earth-based traditions such as the Craft and Wicca (for example, Gerald Gardner, Alex Sanders or even Aleister Crowley) were based, or had spent some time, in the Southern Hemisphere, would they not have taken the differences into consideration?
Some Pagans living in the eastern states of Australia not only swap the elemental directions of Fire and Earth around, but also Water and Air. When you take the environment into consideration, it is easy to see why they do this. East of Australia is the Tasman Sea or even the Pacific Ocean – large bodies of water. In the Southern Hemisphere our weather patterns move largely from the West (therefore the placement of Air).
Another difference between the hemispheres, which is often overlooked, is the direction in which the crescents of the Waxing and Waning Moons point. In the Southern Hemisphere, the Waxing Moon in the sky actually points to the right, while the Waning Moon points to the left. Therefore the symbol of the Triple Moon Goddess (the maiden, mother and crone) reflects an introverted appearance opposed to the extroverted appearance in the Northern Hemisphere. But there are times where the Moon decides to really throw the spanner into the works and the Waxing Moon can be observed lying on her back pointing upwards, and the corresponding Waning Moon pointing downwards.
For us Southern Pagan practitioners, there is more to take into consideration when we work our magick and our circles than simply swapping the Sabbat dates around. And with the varying opinions and reasons behind even basic circle casting, it is little wonder newcomers to the various Pagan traditions in the Southern Hemisphere find it all very confusing. Maybe Pagan book publishers should take this into consideration, and if anyone is interested in issuing a contract for such a book, I would be interested in writing one (shameless plug, but I couldn’t resist).
In the Southern Hemisphere not only do we appear to do things standing on our heads but also working backwards as well – or maybe it is you Northern Hemispheric Pagans who have got it wrong!
Samhain, the Time of the Ancestors
Author: Sta Muertero Steven
Although I honor and serve my ancestors year-round, All Hallows is the time when I go all out for them and prepare a large feast. However, I find little information in many of the marketed texts of Wicca and modern Paganism that deals with ancestor veneration, a practice that is a major characteristic of the vast majority of the world’s basic religions. I’d like to share my views on this and offer what I’ve found to be effective in establishing solid lines of communication with my ancestors, essentially a novena to bring them into my daily life to provide me with love, guidance, wisdom, and protection as I go about my way in this sometimes uncertain world.
In Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Scott Cunningham writes, “Many Wiccans do attempt to communicate with their deceased ancestors and friends at [Samhain], but it seems to me that if we accept the doctrine of reincarnation, this is a rather strange practice. Perhaps the personalities that we knew still exist, but if the soul is currently incarnate in another body, communication would be difficult, to say the least. Thus, it seems best to remember them with peace and love-but not to call them up” (p. 143).
Thus begins many beginning Wiccans’ view of the spirits of our ancestors, including my own in the beginning. No offense to the spirit of Scott, but I now beg to differ. Through my personal journey in ecletic Wicca, then traditional Haitian Vodou, and now Wica and Traditional Witchcraft, I have come to view the above as a rather naive and simplistic view of the soul and reincarnation. I feel the above concept of the ancestors comes mainly from a combination of a misinterpreted and simplified view of the Hindu doctrine of reincarnation and the typical Western concept of a single-component soul.
A previous co-worker of mine who is from India and a practicing Hindu both believes in reincarnation and honors the spirits of his ancestors. I’ve not asked him to explain how these seemingly contradictory beliefs are reconciled, however, I have to wonder if the explanation is in any way similar to the concepts found in Haitian Vodou, where there are many components to the soul, one of which reincarnates at some future time, one which joins the spirits of the ancestors in the waters below, while the others perform other functions and journey to different destinations. All of these components are important, and one should not be thought of as the “real” soul above the others.
In any case, I believe that one can adhere to a doctrine of reincarnation and honor the spirits of one’s ancestors, even bringing them into their daily lives for guidance and protection, without having the beliefs contradict one another in any way. This has been uncommon in my knowledge of the majority of eclectic Wicca and the modern Pagan religions, however, it seems this may be changing as more individuals and groups (re-) discover ancestor veneration. I feel this view can easily be adopted by the rest of them, giving a more solid foundation in the traditional practices found in almost all basic religions throughout the world. The eagerness with which many of the ancestors of those of European origin seem to flock to the service provided when a descendant begins the service of the Lwa Ginea, in other words, practicing Haitian Vodou, or another Afro-Caribbean tradition, is evidence enough for me that our pre-Christian ancestors possessed a tradition of honoring the ancestors that is long overdue in being re-established in some form by their descendants.
The following is a ceremony I have found effective based on my training in Haitian Vodou. I hope that by sharing this information, the long-forgotten ancestors of those who perform this ceremony will be brought back to this realm to bestow their wisdom and blessings upon their descendants to help guide them toward a more fulfilling life in every way.
The Ancestor Novena
This ritual, although seemingly simple, has enormous effect on a person in that if that person has never successfully established contact with one’s ancestors, this will allow for the ancestors to come fully into one’s life. The ancestors are how every person alive exists. We stand on their shoulders; we have their blood in our veins. Their spirits surround us through the tie of that same blood. For these reasons alone, we should honor them and invite them to be active in our daily lives. But also, they possess knowledge of ourselves and of the world and can provide protection that we would not have otherwise.
In the beginning, one should only establish contact with direct blood relatives, meaning parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. In an ideal ancestor-venerating society, all other relatives, such as aunts and uncles, would be taken care of by their descendants. However, in this country (the U.S.) and in the majority of the Western world, as you may know, this is not the case. In some cases, passed extended family members may have had a greater effect on the person than parents, and so on, and those spirits may wish to be honored in the person’s line of ancestors, as well. That is fine, however, they should be invited after the direct blood relatives. Those extended family members and even the spirits of those not related to you by blood can be included in your service to your ancestors after this novena has been successfully completed simply by calling their names and asking them to join your ancestors during one of your regular services.
This ritual is effective even if one’s parents are unknown, because we all have never met the vast majority of our ancestors (three, four, five, six, seven, and so on, generations back). This ritual is also effective, and even essential, for a person who had a negative or abusive relationship with one’s parents or grandparents. Whatever that person or those people were like during life, they are now beyond the veil and have learned many things. That’s not to say that they’re more spiritually evolved by virtue of being dead, but that they can now see a larger picture and can be spiritually elevated if they so choose and if you help them to be. They are also now surrounded by the spirits of their parents and families and are possibly being guided by them, helping them understand where they may have gone wrong in life. This is essential for those people’s spiritual evolution because the unresolved issues with their ancestors tie them to the past, preventing them from moving forward. We are never completely free of the past; we are always connected to everything and every time–we are one.
Items to obtain for the novena
- One or two white 7-day candles (large, tall candles encased in glass), or a set of white tapers.
- Cascarilla (dried and ground egg white in the form of a compacted powder), or white chalk.
- A clear glass of water.
- Perfume or incense of a soft, light nature (with an incense holder).
- A corner of your home or small space that’s not in your bedroom which can be used (at least temporarily if you can’t dedicate permanent space) to house your ancestors.
Items to have for the ninth day
- A white plate.
- White flowers.
- Food that they may have enjoyed in life, cooked by you, with no salt added (if the ingredients inherently contain sodium, don’t worry about, but do not ADD salt).
- Clean the space you have chosen for your ancestors. If you plan to have an altar table, that’s fine, but during the novena, place everything directly onto the floor. If you have pets, partition this area off somehow so they will not have access to it, at least during the novena.
- Take the cascarilla, rub your finger into it, (or use the chalk) and begin to draw an arc on the floor from one wall to the one perpendicular to it. Make it a solid arc; this will take more work if you have carpet. If for some reason, you can’t use a corner but a section of wall instead, make this a half-circle, starting from one side of the area, moving around it, and closing it in on the other. The purpose is to spiritually close off this section.
- Using the cascarilla (or chalk), make nine short dashes along the arc or half-circle. It should look like railroad markings on a map.
- Place one 7-day white candle inside the marked-off area, along with the clear glass filled with water. Also, place the bottle of perfume or the light, clean scented incense inside the area.
- Choose a certain time of the day that you are sure you can be free to talk with your ancestors at the same time for nine consecutive days, beginning on a Monday.
- When the time comes, settle yourself in front of the area, light the candle, and open the bottle of perfume or light the incense. Prepare yourself for spiritual communication and open yourself to the spiritual world, whether that is with the Our Father and three Hail Mary’s, or meditation, or a prayer to the God/dess, the Cabbalistic Cross, or whatever. Do this at the beginning of each session.
- Also at each session and after the opening part just mentioned, state your full name along with any other name by which you are known, and call to your ancestors both known and unknown. Ex: “I, Paul Michael Smith, Grey Wolf, call to all my ancestors, those I know and those I currently do not…”
- After you’ve gotten their attention, thank them for giving you life, for without them you wouldn’t be here.
- Next, talk with your ancestors the way you would family members at a family reunion, catching those up who have missed the latest bit of your life, and introducing yourself to those you don’t yet know, which of course will be the majority of them. Tell them what you’re doing (the novena) and why you feel it’s important to you. Chances are, they already know, but it’s necessary for you to speak this aloud to them; it gives purpose and power to your physical actions. Ask them to come into your life and help you do what you need to do.
- When you have said all you wish to say, thank them again. Tell them you will be back again at the same time and place to talk with them more the following day.
- Extinguish the candle, or allow it to burn the remainder of the day/night until you go to sleep, or allow the candle to burn continuously throughout the novena, which will require at least two 7-day candles. (All depending on how nervous you are about fire hazards. I allowed mine to burn continuously and asked my ancestors to guard the candle to make sure it didn’t tip over or catch anything on fire-nothing bad happened.)
On the Ninth Day
- Do your prayers as usual, talk with your ancestors, and then explain that this is the last day of the novena, and that from now on you will come to them once a week to light their candle, supply fresh water, and serve them food if they tell you they need it.
- At this time you can place the altar in the area, if you plan to have an altar. Then place all their items on the altar (this is “lifting them up”), give them the flowers you’ve gathered or bought, give them the food you’ve prepared, and thank them again for being an active part of your daily life.
After the Novena
Choose one day of the week (usually this will be Monday) that you can go to your ancestors, light their candle, give them fresh water, give them food if you feel they need it and whatever type they ask for (again with no salt added), give them flowers, alcohol, cigarettes, whatever they enjoyed in life, and talk with them. Place pictures of them and items they owned on the altar; truly make it yours.
While chatting with them share with them your good news and bad news. When you feel you need help in life’s difficult journey, ask them for support and guidance.
Once you have established a good relationship with your ancestors, let this relationship evolve as they dictate. In other words, this is only the beginning.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Author: Grey Ghost
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” … caught that old lyric as we were walking thru the mall. While the song is more in line with the winter season, I was always fond of the sentiment around the first of September when the kids would go back to school some twenty-five years ago. We in the Witch/Pagan community should be profoundly singing that lyric as Samhain approaches.
As the eve of all hallows is upon us, reflect upon the past year. The veil between Malkuth and Spheres of the spiritual realm grows thin, allowing contact made easier with those who are no longer of the flesh. Sing the praises of those past glories and rejoice upon the “good moments” spent with those now incarnate. The time is now!
Perhaps the most difficult subject to discuss is the process of passing from this reality of the body to the true nature of spiritual existence. Plainly evident from concerns spent here is the underlying preoccupation that our younger members have with the material world. They have not made the discovery that this physical world is of much less importance than their true inner nature as spiritual beings. They seem to value peer acceptance above spiritual advancement.
They appear to value a feel good spell or enchantment more than accumulation of Prana or life force. And lastly, they speak little of transferring psychic energy to heal others. While living with the reality of physical world has needs, the true power of the Witch needs to explore the spiritual realms if we are complete or even contemplate the great work.
Enough of the soap box … my purpose in this writing is to remind you that this is the most wonderful time of the year for the Witch in all of us. This is the time to celebrate the past year and plan for the next year. Now is the time to prepare ourselves for the turn of wheel, celebrating the life force around us.
One of the chief methods of focusing our inner power is the art of visualizing. Many books and speakers talk of this in a manner of fact way as if everyone can visualize without further lessons. So I will speak to especially our younger members of a simple approach to basic visualization.
Peoples all over the world of many differing religious views have known for a long time that the love of the Lord and Lady was more than asking and receiving material things. The Pagan community then must come to realize the grace and love of our Lady are the really only important gifts that She can bestow upon us.
We must first learn to manipulate the forces and forms of the Pentagram, to understand the energies and powers of the universe. Once understood, we can begin the quest to understand ourselves. By quieting our minds and subduing the unimportant thoughts, we train our minds to be fit containers to be used to hold the wisdom and love of our Lady. Only through these cleansing rituals can we become prepared.
The visualization: gaze now upon the pentagram. You must be able to see the pent alpha in our mind. When you open your eyes, the pentagram will remain momentarily in mid air. This will take practice and patience; it does not happen over night. Once you can hold the pentagram for at least thirty seconds after you open you eyes, you will be ready for the nest step.
Any visualized symbol can be use to project your personal energy. Forming the pentagram should be practiced and practiced until proficient before using this method in creation of the circle. To form a pentagram, we start by seeing the pentagram by using retinal retention (scientific term) .
This is not the same as projecting the energy and visualizing the pentagram. Using a pentagram or pentacle, look at the object with much intensity and focus under a bright light. Close your eyes tightly and you will “see” an after image or retinal retention of the pentagram in your minds eye. A bright image against the dark of having your eyes shut. This exercise creates an image that will be similar to the one you will create through visualization.
Exercise 2: This exercise will allow you, with practice, to create an image like the one you “saw” in the previous example, without looking at an example of the pentagram. By creating the image in your mind along, you are imbuing it with your personal energy.
Look at a candle, white in a dark room; then close your eyes. The bright spot of light will be seen by the mind’s eye after your eyes are shut. (Retinal retention again) Relax for a few minutes until the retinal retained image of the candle is gone. Then close your eyes, relax and let a white point of light appear. Think about it and your mind will do it.
You may need to think of the candlelight to make it appear. Do not look at a bright light to create the point of light, which is retinal retention and not creation of power. Once you can form the dot of pure white light with your mind, move the dot to create a line. Repeat this exercise until when you open your eyes, a retained image of the line remains in the air in front of you in the darkened room.
Exercise 3: close your eyes and form a line with your mind. Now form another line, whose head starts where the first line ends. Continue this process until you can form a pentagram. Once you have practiced enough to form a pentagram, open your eyes and “see” the retained image in the air.
Exercise 4: Close your eyes again and form a pentagram and then draw a circle around it forming a pentacle. Practice until you can do this with ease; then open your eyes and “see” the completed pentacle in the air.
Once you achieve this level of concentration, you start the whole process over; only this time you do it with your eyes open in a darkened room. After forming the pentagram with your eyes open, light the room and retain the image in the air.
You will need to visualize, that is create the pentagram in the air without first visualizing it with your eyes closed. This again will take practice. It is sometimes easier to do one arm at a time. Some also find it easier to begin with an all white pentagram. When performing this ritual you need to sit or lay in a relaxed, comfortable position, but not so relaxed that you fall asleep. To avoid falling asleep, you might find that it is best to perform this ritual in the morning when fully awake. Once that you can hold the pentacle for a full thirty seconds in the air, with your eyes open and in color, then are you ready to proceed to the next step. Do not proceed until you have mastered the basics.
Enter your meditative state, control breathing. Prana in, air out; Prana in, air out. Establish your pentagram in the air, in color. Start your mantra while holding the image of the pentagram. Now draw a white circle around the pentagram, just touching it at the tips. You now have the Pentacle. Look deeply at the center and clear your mind of all but the mantra.
You will now under go the “A … Ha”. Sometimes it happens the first time. Others take many times for it to occur. Eventually it happens to all who perform this ritual religiously. What you see inside the Pentacle is completely yours. I will not introduce preconceived ideas of what you will find, but I know in my heart of hearts that you will not be disappointed. This is the first stage of Illuminati. You will need to practice this for sometime to become proficient enough to proceed further. As a guide, I suggest that you be able to “see” what is inside of the formed Pentacle for at least a minute before you continue.
This, my young friends, is the basic of visualization. To be able to manipulate the mind and control your physical world with you inner spiritual being is our goal of these exercises. You must be proficient with the basics before you are able to perform the more advanced magicks.