I was spending some time thinking about how I
started in the world of Witchcraft as well as on my Jewish background. I spent
a long time ignoring Judaism as more pagan attitudes took over but as I got
older I realised there was so much magic in Judaism that it was foolish to
These are just some thoughts and reflections on Witchcraft, I am having to identify terms to some degree as this is very much my own experience, though I have discussed it with some other witches and found a lot of common ground and such conversations allowed me to explore these thoughts.
It’s worth noting I use the term witchcraft here
and not magic for a reason. There is something wholly distinct and I feel it’s
worth addressing; please note where I use the term distinct not difference.
When I was studying philosophy I learned the importance of distinction.
I should start by saying I am not hung up on labels, I feel language is something that allows for description rather than hard definitions. I know to many Witchcraft is a religion and/or comes with a spirituality but I would have to say that whilst you can belong to a tradition that does, this is not what witchcraft is at its bones. That is not to denigrate traditions that add this only that these traditions can exist with or without it and we can see Witchcraft exists in many ways.
Talmud and Judaic Witchcraft
I come from a Jewish background and my academic background is in philosophy and theology. The Hebrew bible being full of magic and pagan beliefs, old gods, goddesses and spirits is given deeper meaning in its rabbinical context found in the Talmud.
“The Babylonian Talmud has been described as a book of spells, which is not far wrong.
There is a report of rabbis discussing witchcraft and whilst they may disapprove of it they also are aware that their wives engage in Witchcraft to some degree (Mishnah Sanhedrin 7:4, 7:11).
Witchcraft held a common place beyond official institutions.
it always interested me that whilst Christianity used The Hebrew bible to commit atrocities in the name of Exodus, yet they have The New Testament that could have tempered this, why didn’t Jews?
One of the main reasons is Talmud, the bible was
never treated simply and was never meant to be, it was something worked with
In the Talmud there is one curse against witches (found in Tractate Pesachim) and one Story recounting that Rabbi Simeon Ben Shetah executed a coven of eighty Witches in Ashkalon. The reality of this became a very sad story and it was not just the women who suffered.
Whilst I am not condoning anything here, this is pretty much where the condemnation is at its worse and was not nearly as tragic as what we see in European Witch-hunts.
I was amused by this and intrigued by the earlier story of the Rabbis discussing witchcraft but acknowledging their wives practice it.
It felt like an old pattern as well as something that clearly had to be tolerated to some degree even if people didn’t want too. We can see this in how folk magic changes to work within the dominating religion, such as seen in the spells of the cunning craft which add Christian prayers to ‘The Father, Son and Holy Ghost’.
Whilst Witches can be men of course I do think it’s a current that flows from women mostly. This is debatable and I would be open to saying this may vary regionally, as there are places where men are more associated with Witchcraft.
In witchcraft being female current of power, or at least associated with women, sexism has caused some of its disapproval from men.
In Talmud the rabbis practice magic and it’s largely based around information, knowledge and spiritual work. Witchcraft is something more organic and the two can blur. The famous Rabbi Rashi had a daughter who practiced magic and it was said she was powerful and could work the magic of men and women; some say she was a hermaphrodie thus working the magic of men and women. This leads to understanding of the power of LGBTQ people having a potent place in magic and how they can bridge these forces.
To end with the Judaic elements of witchcraft it appears that it comes in two forms:
Folk magic: magic used in common ways for common things, to protect and heal and find love as well as counter magic. Some might split these two up as many counter magical traditions specifically oppose ‘witchcraft’ but I think most of us know that Witches cover both.
Poisoning: This is not just to refer to actual poisons though they are included but malicious witchcraft. I am not looking to focus on value judgements and morality of this, just that its something that is known to be practiced.
There is an element to witchcraft that is
generally beneficial or that was expected to go on which the rabbi ignored such
as healing. Then there was magic to harm, mostly out of malice that
vengeance,though this was rarely something discovered or punished this is where
society would take issue.
I mentioned the Judaic elements simply because it’s what got me thinking of this subject but we see this is a common pattern elsewhere.
As a quick example, the word in ancient Greek for Witchcraft was Pharmakia and is distinct from Magos and Goes (magician and Sorcerer). It is of course where we get our modern word for Pharmacy due to its use and common associations with drugs, herbs and poisons. Witchcraft was seen an illicit religion of sorts and was an ancient power that even the Gods could be affected by its power.
I think any further discussion of Witchcraft in ancient Greece and Judaism would have to be in separate blogs but the concept that this shows is how distinct such practices can be and how language is used to show this.
Following the Thread
I think few people practicing magic just use one form of magic and some magicians will work with witchcraft and plenty of witches take a formal occult approach. In magic these things bridge and blur, but the reason I feel witchcraft being addressed at times this way is because in many ways the point is not too. It’s an unspoken magic, so I would not want to overdo it and yet I think there are times when we must as discussion produces its own magic.
But in terms of simply distinguishing witchcraft
and so relatable to those who practice: I think you may agree and understand
this though my words will largely fail to do what I mean justice.
“Witchcraft does not need books and information, certainly it can help but ultimately it comes from”:
People: Our place in our community, with our families and those we meet, as though it passes between people physically and thought presence as well as states of mind through the presence, conversation and engagement with people.
Environment: our relationship with the land and on a regional level this can get interesting. It’s why magic changes by region and yet we can find common threads.
Ourselves: Witchcraft is within us, it works in our blood, mind and bone, how we live and how we treat ourselves and everything around us influences our relationship to it.
I should add that I am not trying to knock
academia it allows us to speak about a branch of magic that is largely
unspoken, witchcraft is the magic that people often do not think of as magic,
it’s part of our everyday life and resources and also something between and
beyond the hedge, eldritch and otherworldly yet familiar.
I have spoken to practitioners who eagerly try and find out more of the unspoken magic of their culture, I would not want to share that publicly as that’s not mine to share but also stories of women meeting in the evening, sitting on the porch with bottle of wine and getting out the tarot cards.
At its core it’s of the heart and blood and not something that happens in a cerebral way, yet the mind can be a tool in time. Witchcraft expresses itself in your ability to converse within yourself and the world around you, letting the plants tell you the magic they can work with you, the powers of others combining with your own, how the spirits around you will gift you in exchange for service or simply conversation or friendship and gifts of your own.
The spirituality or traditions that come from
this and really all magic are by-products and helpful ways to develop a working
vocabulary, they can also mean we lose the foundations beneath the structure
and that balance can be hard.
“Witchcraft is the union of instinct, imagination, thought, intent and environment. It is where heart and mind meet and where the wisdom of your bones and the power of your blood awaken”
An easy way to see this is how you engage with the power of plants around you: some speak the language of plants naturally as an innate power, some learn the language of plants and develop this power power by learning from how they grow and look. They will call to your blood how they can work magic with you. You find you do not need to be a herbalist because the magic is there, equally you can be a herbalist and it will compliment your craft etc. but this comes from conversation and how your instincts guide you in correlation with the land you are on.
I recommend, get some drinks and tarot cards and candles and meet with friends and see what happens, what magic is produced from your conversation and your laughter echoing into the night.
I plan to explore this subject more in two more blogs looking at:
The powers of a witches
The Craft of witches
Bridging the Gap: Exploring the Union of the Esoteric Magician and the Witch
Stories are an integral part of the practice of many modern Druids. They offer gateways to spiritual contemplation in their telling and receiving. In my studies with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) I combined my previous meditative practices with Tarot and my developing druidic path. This blog is an update of one I had previously submitted to the Tarot Association of the British Isles (TABI). I thought I’d take the opportunity to embed some further reflections.
The tale of Cerridwen and the brewing of the Awen is a classic, used in some Druidic schools to help explore ideas. I chose this story as a basis for this exercise and repeated it for this blog. I found cards I felt represented the main characters involved, others to represent the activity and how characters changed. The process of identifying the cards was important, reflecting first on the character or the event, then considering which cards would best represent them. In this process the context of the cards was set. I utilised the Druidcraft Tarot for this work.
The full spread is offered below. The characters on the left; the Death card hovering overhead, as the expected death of the King overshadows the nub of the story – Cerridwen’s desire to help her dark son become wise in a way that the meant those who mock his misshapen form would respect him. The photo below shows the characters. The story line flows from the King’s place – with the Queen of Swords representing the Queen / goddesses decision to take action. She travels to the Druids on the hill. Here the Druidcraft Tarot comes into its own, the Fferyllt demonstrating the magic brew and the very cauldron in which the Awen is brewed.
A boy (the Fool) and an old man of good standing (Two of
Wands) are hired to stir the brew for a year and a day. It all goes a bit wrong
(Three of Swords) and the boy becomes The Magician – later The Sun. Cerridwen
becomes The High Priestess. If you don’t know the story I encourage you to look
it up. It’s wonderful!
In laying out the cards I get a sense of elements of the story I am drawn to. I might lay out a different part of the tale, perhaps Cerridwen’s search for ingredients to make the magical brew, perhaps the famous shape changing chase, perhaps the very moment the cauldron cracks. Choosing the cards for each part of the tale will help me explore my thoughts and understanding.
Next I chose to “interview” the story. I ask Morfran, Cerridwen’s son, what it is he is hoping for as the story begins. Below we see the Nine of Swords: A sense of either no hope, or a need to conquer fears and doubts. I ask what the work of the boy (The Fool) and the old man (two of Wands) is: I draw Strength and The High Priest. Just what I might expect.
The meditation I engaged in whilst undertaking my OBOD studies really helped me in my journey. Stories have a myriad of tangents to travail, characters to ‘interview’, events to explore. I have gone on to use another process, inspired by this, as part of my magickal works with Tarot, something I’ll be returning to soon. Along with this came another gift. In the true spirit of the Awen I found that my meditation had planted the seeds of a song – A Mother’s Love – that tells Cerridwen’s story in searching for the Awen for her son. So as a use for Tarot I found it to be a cornucopia of great things and stuff!
Since then I have used this story setting approach to the use of tarot on a few occasions when I have wanted to reflect upon my experiences and challenge my own thinking. I often think that the main role of the tarot is to “call me out” – challenge my thinking, point out to me my foolishness. It can act as a very harsh and critical friend – but a friend none the less. I have recently received an unexpected communication from someone I had thought of as a friend / fellow creative type. It was in response to my announcing a gig I had been booked to play (I do some solo music stuff – check it out!). It would seem there were some pagan politics being experienced that, somehow (I still don’t know – or care – how) meant I was due to be insulted. However, when the person involved stated “No – I’m not abusing you – this is a discussion” I thought it might be time to step back and seek some counsel. So to the tarot I did go.
I followed a similar process to that described above –
gently meditating on the characters and the incidents involved in this
particular narrative. I set my mind to a neutral space, exploring the cards as
opportunities to consider and explore. I interviewed the story, drawing cards
and considering their potential meanings in the context of the tale. This
really helped me make some decisions and reconfigure some of my plans around my
music. Several of these thoughts were reconfirmed following further communications
with others around the incident. I also laid some cards at the front of the
story, seeking to understand where the core to the tale might have been.
Characters emerged, confusions, and I gained a thought to what might have been
an instigation. Elements of these thoughts also later appeared to be accurate.
That’s a new thing for me in this practice, to utilise the cards to seek
insights / information not otherwise available to me. Whether this is actually
what happened, or whether my brain pulled on existing knowledge and made a
lucky couple of guesses, I don’t know….. so I’ll try it again with other
This approach to meditating and reflecting with the tarot is proving to be very productive for me – leaving ideas to work on, suggesting different course of action than I might otherwise take. Is it divine inspiration? Is it the Awen in flow? Is it the sub-conscious finding a way to express itself to the conscious mind? Is it all this? More? Is this the last question? Who knows?
Paul Mitchell is a Druid graduate of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. He has a long, if intermittent, relationship with Tarot and the practices of magick. He is a musician, performing solo as well as with the English Folk group Mad Magdalen and more recently the rather splendid Dad Band – Fortunate Sons. Find him on Facebook by searching for @theragingpagan
I was inspired to write a blog about my personal and also our coven’s feelings and love for the Great Mother Goddess, or “Magna Mater” after re-reading the excellent book, “Evoking the Primal Goddess” by William G. Gray.
Many of the points Gray makes in his book match up with what I have discovered of the Great Goddess and Divine Feminine. I felt it was time to put down in an article how I feel about the Great Mother Goddess from what I have learned from my own coven, the Wolfa Coven, which is part of both Sacred Pentagraph & Horsa Traditions.
“Why should we seek a matriarchal principle of Deity anyway? No one should seek such a thing exclusively of its male counterpart, but we have already sought to exclude the feminine element of God for so many centuries that we have become unbalanced; and we now need to reestablish the equilibrium of energy by mating the polarities of Power with each other so as to cause a state of Cosmos between both conditions of spiritual being.” -this quote from William G. Gray and his book “Evoking the Primal Goddess” from Llewellyn Publications, 1989.
The first part of this brief quote applies a great deal to the practice of Wicca as I have come to learn it.
Gray was an unsung adept of the occult and although he was not a witch himself, he was an Occultist of great knowledge. He is best known for his “Sangreal Sodality” and also his excellent guide on the Qabala called “Ladder of Lights.” He was quite friendly with Traditionalist witches, Gardnerian witches and also Cochrane’s Clan of Tubal Cain and many other witches of the 1960s.
It is well known that many Wiccans honor a particular pair of gods known as the “Goddess and God.” Some may even provide worship as well in their ceremonies by virtue of the names of their chosen deities.
I can’t speak for other traditions of Initiatory Wicca, I can tell you
about my personal beliefs in this subject which has been developed on
what has been passed down to me:
In our coven that is part of Sacred Pentagraph/Horsa Tradition (covenofthewolfa.wordpress.com), I look at both the Goddess and God as a Great Mother Goddess and Great Father God. In my own Occult learnings, they are principles and not humanized or people. That is, because above all, the teachings of Witchcraft descending from Sybil Leek in the New Forest acknowledge an Ultimate Deity, Life-Force or a Supreme Being that is the spark of all things. This Ultimate Deity or Supreme Being is the source from which we have all come from and through a process of reincarnation, the source to which we shall one day return.
This can be summarized well by the following quote:
“Out of the great heart of nature all things proceed, and all things lead back there at last; all worlds and systems of worlds, from the great central sun to the smallest particle in space, must thrill responsive to the pulsation of that infinite heart of compassion. The Great Mother reaches forth to receive her own.” (2)
-quote by Katherine Tingley, published 1922
Reincarnation and the returning back to the Source of All Things, such
as through the process of reincarnation; we believe it is a
progressive-evolution that never “devolves” but continuously either
stands stationary or moves forward. (Meaning we can’t go backwards – and like nature, we can only stagnate or go forward.)
There are a number of titles or names that many practitioners may or may not call this Supreme Being, but that is not important: that which is perfection can never be personified by our own human understanding. To do so, would be to limit this Supreme Being and make it less than perfection. (This also explains why it is a possible reason why Wiccans are okay with bringing in folks of many different belief systems about the “Gods” – such as monotheists, Deists, polytheists and agnostic: for at the end of the day, a belief in this “power” or “All/Source” is considered beyond any and all religion. It also allows for an encompassing view, meaning, that whether someone is a polytheist, a monotheists or a duo-theist that I can find common ground and relate to what they are doing. My acknowledgement of a Supreme Being means we are all connected together in some way or another – however you choose to describe this one encompassing Divine Monad.)
The Supreme Being is not specifically or exclusively “Wiccan,” nor any religion. It is a simple belief that something that is much greater than us exists, somehow and in some way. This also seems to resonate with the teachings of Theosophy when trying to define what might be within the scope of an “Ancient Wisdom Religion.” (While the teachings of the Rosicrucians, Crowley & O.T.O., at least at first glance, seemed to possibly be very influential to Gerald Gardner’s branch of Wicca; it was The Theosophical Society and folk magic that was very influential in Sybil Leek’s branch of Wicca.)
Now out of this Supreme Being, as energy begins to limit itself and become “less than perfect”, this is when we come to the first primal split – which as Wiccans we call the “Goddess and God.” Typically, this pair are given names which are kept secret by the coven. Since anything less than the Supreme Being is imperfect, it is okay to name these two “gods.” It is also possible that many witch-gods may be nothing more than vivified elementals given power merely by the concentrated thought of those that work with them in ritual. Though what we can say is that Wicca teaches that our gods are not perfect and they need our help, just as we need them. One deceased High Priestess of our coven line said it like this: “We are nothing without our gods, but our gods are nothing without us!”
Many have complained over the years about the “secrecy” of the god names of the traditional covens. In my own personal opinion – call the “gods” what you wish: as the names themselves, when spoken and with certain actions, feelings and emotions, create “thought-forms.” These names in many ways are “key codes” to the coven thought-form, or the unseen presence or “Guide” of a long-standing coven. So don’t worry if you you’re not in the special club without the passwords – many newer groups today have created their own key-code locks of god-names and this is perfectly acceptable for new groups to do. If after many years calling a Stone by a particular name, that stone may gain enough magnetism to answer you back and be just as powerful as any other named witch-god, vivified by the concentrated thought of the collective wills of the coven within the Astral Light.
This above goes back to the idea of the “sacred names,” or as I have written elsewhere before on “Words of Power” which believes that names carry certain power and vibration. If you know certain words, which we know are measurable energy, that produce mental, emotional and physical stimuli and can be measured in the brain, then you can then indeed “mess” with the thought form itself… though some god names are now to the point of power that they go well-beyond what a single witch or even many, many witches could mess with since the thought-form has been built that have taken a life of their own outside of traditions and covens and create quite a labyrinth of connections from witch to witch to witch.
This above also leads to a particular teaching in the world of the occult that says that a coven can be no more than 13 members, because only 12 of them are actual human-born witches and the 13th member of the coven is the “thought-form” of the coven itself. If you quarter a circle by the directions, or cosmic-cross, three witches within each quadrant are all connected back to the unseen presence of deity that is symbolized by the baalfire in the center of the magic circle, equaling 13.
Recently, a coven member asked me why we place our altar in the center of the magic circle when we work indoors. I told them to think about the outdoor rituals we do – what is in the center of the circle? The baalfire or need-fire! In the center, eh? What does the baalfire represent? It represents the Ultimate Deity or Supreme Being, for what can be greater or more pure than fire? Fire is the only element that “rises upward” and can carry the other elements with it. The “Supreme Being” and also the manifested power of the coven thought-form is represented by that central flame. Hence, this is the central hub that covens refer to by the names they have given a particular god. It is always present. Many times, this is why a witch will always recognize another witch.
Now if we take away the thought that we are doing a ritual, and let’s just say it is one of our bonfire nights where we get together to chat, what is everyone’s natural inclination to do, whether they are a witch or not? They automatically and almost instinctively circle round the fire and make a circle, so why would doing a spell or ritual be any different? There are just some natural actions that almost seem to be “instinctual” to us in magical workings and it is our job as occultists to ferret it out and examine the reasons why.
The instinctual discoveries of what we do in our magical operations also apply to our Goddess and God. If these two beings represent a specific pair of the “prime duality,” then what makes sense to us? A Mother Goddess and a Father God maybe?
It is quite common to hear many folks talk about the “Great Mother Goddess” but when they address the “Great Father God” they typically will just say “Horn’ed God” and therefore, almost subconsciously cut out the idea that he is also one of our primal parents as well. Yes, he is a Horn’ed God and the “Lord of Death and Resurrection” to many Wiccans, but what would be wrong with also thinking of him as our “Father God” like we think about a Goddess as our “Mother Goddess?”
Why doesn’t the “God” seem to get the same amount of affection as the “Great Mother Goddess?”
I think this has a lot to do with the second part of the quote above by Bill Gray that refers to the fact that for so long, we have worked to suppress the “Magna Mater” of us all and we have entered the pendulum swing where for many of us, the Goddess receives much greater importance than the God.
There are many covens since the 1960s, 1970s and many today that honor the Goddess in Her many attributes today almost exclusively. It has given many thousands of women (and some men too!) a way to connect and uncover the far too-often neglected Goddess and help Her to reclaim Her rightful role as the Great Mother of us all. It is easy for some to criticize this approach as not being in “balance,” but the feminists who have done this have weaved a strong kind of magical web that has helped to bring Her back to us so that we one day will hopefully be able to restore the equilibrium as best as we can between the two mighty poles of power. (If the earth has been dry for far too long and has only had the rays of the sun beating down on it, then an unequal amount of rain would be needed to fall before the “sweet spot” of just the right natural conditions could occur: some folks are working their own mysteries to recover just that!)
Today, we have many types of groups that “coven” for the purposes of recovering many different types of mysteries.
In our modern day, many groups were formed to explore little known mysteries connected to the ideas of resurrecting the ancient Priesthoods of what might be called the “Ancient Wisdom Tradition” that exist within our Western Mystery Traditions. One of the first hyper-specific offshoots that found expression through modern witchcraft was Z. Budapest’s “Dianic Witchcraft,” not to be confused with the “McFarland Dianic” Line, and also not be be confused with what Sybil Leek called “Dianic.” (I think it is possible that Budapest had been inspired to call her tradition “Dianic” from Sybil Leek’s writings.)
Budapest’s Dianic Witchcraft, in which her first coven was the “Susan B. Anthony Coven No. 1”, and now today many covens have come from her first coven, was all women – straight, lesbian and somewhere in between. Budapest had a mission at the time to recover and find the Goddess wherever she could. At the time, many women identified with the message that she carried in those early years.
Men, of all genders, are also very interested in finding the Great Goddess within the many initiatory covens and systems that exist today. Most male-only covens for men of all gender identifications honor only the male end of the pole, similar to how Dianic Witches typically only honor the female end of the pole. The only All-Male covens that seem to have felt more comfortable embracing the Goddess are covens that are open exclusively to those wishing to discover and explore the gay mysteries. A wonderful all male tradition doing just that, Gala Witchcraft (www.galawitchcraft.com) (3), is finding the gay male witch & priesthood in its many forms through the expression of witchcraft. The teachings are sound, as Gala Witchcraft is an off-shoot of the Sacred Pentagraph/Horsa Traditions and still practice the Craft in our own coven’s style and methods.
Something that we haven’t seen yet, but we have reached a time where the world is most likely ready for it, is for another sub-group of Pagans to explore the Transgender mysteries within the Western Pagan traditions. I think within another 5 years’ time we will see this come about within our Pagan and Wiccan sub-culture. It is possible it has already been established and just not widely known about yet! Casey Giovinco, Chief Elder of Gala Witchcraft and author of “Garbed in Green – Gay Witchcraft & the Male Mysteries” (6) has said he hopes that someday he can offer his support in helping folks who identify as trans or currently transitioning be able to find the mysteries that resonate with them and resurrect them as he has done for gay witches.
Are all these splinter sub-groupings of sub-groupings of an already sub-culture splintering us in a greater sense? I don’t personally think it is.
think it may only be negative when we pontificate what is the only
valid and true way to go in any religion. Those that do this, seem to
eventually find themselves alone in the end within their groups because
this attitude does not harmonize well in our Aquarian Age era.
A quote about this above that I love very much is from the book titled, “The Mind of the Druid,” which is an older book by Dr. Graham Howe that says, (4)
“Follow the path, my son.”
“Your path, which is not my path.”
High Priestess of another tradition that I knew well at the time told
me that, “All things in Nature must find expression.” Her opinion seems
to carry a universal truth that resonated with me. Since Nature
Herself is imperfect and in a state of always seeking balance, but never
quite obtaining it, when you load up one side of the apple-cart with
too many apples, it is bound to tip over in order to achieve
equilibrium. Some folks might describe this as Nature’s pendulum swing.
In our coven, we call this the “Law of Compensation” and this law
itself finds expression through the Fall Festival, or the “Rite of
Autumn” – which is a time of us all getting our just desserts for our
actions, good or ill – for like nature, what we sow, we must reap.
We have now arrived at the place where we get into the description of the power and place of this prime duality:
Great Mother Goddess re-claims that which is given unto her: the
earth, the sea, etc., much like the womb, which we might describe as a
negative force and flow.
it is important here to note that “negative” flow does not mean “bad”
in ANY way, because destruction/absorption in this case refers to
limiting and therefore, giving form and growth to something. For in
order for something to be given form, it must be restricted and given a
vessel to find expression in. A saying in Wicca is that: “All power
comes from the God (Sun) and is shaped and given form by the Goddess.
(Earth).” In this way, we are saying that our “Father God” initiates,
and our “Mother Goddess” responds. It’s the celestial initiating a
response on the terrestrial. One can have no purpose without the other.
Each gives the other meaning.
like in human reproduction, the seed initiates new life when it finds
the egg, and the egg responds. One side cannot and will not exist
without the other: Without the response, there can be no initiation –
and without initiation, there can be no response.
is the great universal push and pull, and can be applied to our
practice of witchcraft. We see this in the terms “Solve” and “Coagula”
that can be found on the arms of the Baphomet dream by Eliphas Levi and
also in the style of circumambulation used within ritual:
some covens, only a sun-wise circumambulation is used in ritual. In
other covens, a widdershins method is used in ritual along with sun-wise
movements. Sometimes it may start one direction and close another
direction and other times only one direction only.
in Wicca we find taught an incomplete view or belief that the left or
widdershins is BAD, causes chaos and only used in cursing and baneful
magic. Likewise, sun-wise or to the right are made because it is “good”
Deosil, or sun-wise, is the “Path of the Sun.” It pushes or “sends out” power. It is the force of the Horn’ed God and the Sun.
Widdershins, or counter-clockwise, is the “Path of the Earth.” It pulls in. It is the force of the Goddess.
circumambulation sets up a powerful cyclotron. The best thing I can
think of is a “Hurricane” which spins and pulls in counter-clockwise.
What does it do? Yes, it pulls in. A tornado is the same. Which way
does an astrology chart move? Which way does the earth spin?
Widdershins circumabulations create a vacuum. Also, in regards to the
medieval books that do describe “witch dances” all talk about how they
“dance against the sun.”
the sun progresses forward in what seems to be a clockwise or sunwise
movement. That is but symbolic of our God. It’s interesting, that a
religion that is focused on the Divine Feminine, would reject the
leftward movements of Widdershins and relegate it to black magic and
cursing, because that is the path of the Great Mother.
You don’t find this teaching in many other paths or traditions since most known practices of Wicca has been made popular and inspired by the trailblazer Gerald Gardner.
Sybil Leek achieved the greatest world-wide fame, but the covens she started have always been very secretive, private and small. It is not until recently that many of us who have gathered together and are part of a collective group now that she helped to form have come forward to say that, yes, we are still here and yes, there are similarities even though we have a different way of doing things.
If you are interested in learning a little bit more about what we are all about, one source you will find beneficial has been written by an Elder and Philosophus V* of the Wolfa Coven, Tarostar. Check out his book “The Sacred Pentagraph” to give you an idea of what it is like in the North American branch of Horsa. You will find a photo of our coven temple here in Pennsylvania on page 46 of the text.
In regards to the Goddess-mysteries, the exploration of the “Sangreal” or “Royal-Blood” is not a new concept and is one of the great mysteries that is truly embedded into our Western Mysteries. (Dan Brown’s novel and movie, “The DaVinci Code” also re-sparked even more interest in this!)
It seems no mistake that some of the oldest known ways of tracing lineage is through the Mothers. Today, even those who are Jewish trace their ancestry through the Mother. It is possible this may extend even back to the time when people had no idea how babies were born. Sexual union was NOT for “pro-creation” at that time, and was purely for pleasure and enjoyment only. Then, as if by magic, a baby was born. It may even have been possible that many babies were all born around the same time as each other in a tribe, which, like the animals around them had their own breeding season.
May the Great Mother Goddess be always remembered!
Blessed Be to all in The Craft who remember, honor and call upon the Great Mother in all her manifold attributes and many names!
Blessed Be! Works Cited: 1. Gray, William. Evoking the Primal Goddess, 1989. Print 2. Tingley, Katherine; Theosophy: The Path of the Mystic. Print. 3. Gala Witchcraft: Gay Male Mysteries: www.galawitchcraft.com 4. Howe, Dr. Graham. The Mind of the Druid 5. Giovinco, Casey. Garbed in Green – Gay Witchcraft & the Male Mysteries. Print.
Bealtaine, You have stolen my heart away. Like the fairies of old, You have had your sway. Bonfires burning, Loved ones returning. What more could a man ask for?
Bealtaine’s Summer heat, Has us dancing, Risking fire feat. Oh for our youth, To once again know youth’s own truth, That life is for living and Loves afoot.
Tomorrow the flames burn in my heart and memory. Memories releasing smiles, stifled laughter and giggles. I have no home without all the love of those gone past. And their laughter and love makes me strong. So burn May fires burn, Even if they are only in memory. Even if they are only in Love.
In Love’s glow is the fire of the heart. The eternal bonfire of the soul. The place where all dreams begin, Die and are rekindled. In Love’s spark is the hope of the World, And the balance of all the things that are right, And beautiful.
Come dance and sing, Let Bealtaine’s Bonfire begin. Let your Love shine, And set the World on fire with your love.
‘Tween Ostara and Beltane I feel nature awaken within. Whilst there is no bee in mind for the opening petals around my heart No Ram for this ewe nor Stag for the doe, The goddess tells something inside to awaken. My lips remember the pressure of a kiss, My body, a gentle embrace And though not yet fully awakened , The sacred loins still to recall lustful desire, The goddess tells me to trust nature; The God will come to me through ‘him’. I do not need to act or seek; Just trust and rejoice seasons’ passion and once connected, explore our two worlds together as the blossom blooms and falls.
The Summer is a cumin in And every living thing can feel it The central beat of mother Earth As her heart beats faster to meet the dawn The sun in all his majesty rises up to meet her Covering the earth in golden splendour The budding branches open their flowering faces to the light Beautiful myriad hues of colour flowing over the fields The Goddess raiment dappled bright in the sunshine The deep throated laughter of the God holding Summer court And all is well with the world as the wheel turns once more All is growing all is fertile the Mother’s womb is full of promise As the days lengthen into the languid warm of Summer The Joyous months of picnics on the high hills Trips to the beach splashing in pools of coolness And balmy nights on the porch watching the sun set Glorious in the west All this and more are the gifts they give us For we are blessed
During the Occult-boom of the 1960s, in America, two individuals stood out amongst the rest: Sybil Leek of the Horsa Covenant and Anton LaVey of the Church of Satan. (1)
Unless you were heavily involved already in the Occult community, no one read or cared who Gerald Gardner was, nor who Ray Buckland was at the time in America because most Wiccans were more obscure in American culture, whereas Sybil Leek and Anton LaVey became household names appearing on national television, Time Magazine and many other national syndicated journals. Both of these individuals appeared to be the face of Occultism for the everyday American.
Gerald Gardner’s books were never best-sellers of any means, but Lavey’s book and Leek’s many published books were. No other out-in-the-open Witch to this day has ever come close to selling as many copies of books worldwide as Sybil did. She was accepted in the mainstream and was read by millions, including her syndicated and national columns. Anton LaVey had a similar story, and his book “The Satanic Bible” is still selling well wherever fine books are sold.
Both of these celebrity occultists also hobnobbed with other major celebrities, including politicians of many stripes. Even though they were both in the limelight, Sybil Leek strongly disapproved of Satanism and frequently spoke out against it. Anton LaVey was against Sybil Leek’s idea of white witchcraft as well. In LaVey’s Book, The Satanic Witch (2), LaVey writes, “Whenever a girl becomes a “white witch,” you know she is either kidding herself or has much to learn.”
The Church of Satan was born in San Fransisco on May Eve (April 30, 1966) and I think we can safely say that *almost* all the modern Satanic groups either split-off of their church or at least received a great of inspiration from them. I think we can safely say they were the pioneers of modern day American Satanism.
One such Satanic group that separated from the Church of Satan was “The Temple Of Set” (3) in 1975 which was an Occult-initiatory focused form Satanism than LaVey’s model which some might describe at the time as based on lust, materialism and indulgence. The group is still in existence as well to this day.
One Satanic group that was set apart and is said by some to have came about before Anton LaVey’s, and attracted less attention, was a group in Cleveland/Toledo, Ohio that called themselves “Our Lady of Endor Coven,” formed in 1948, (or maybe late 60s?) and was also known as “Ophite Cultus Sathanas.” It was started by Herbert Sloane, and he and the coven gained attention among the Occult communities in the 1960s through the interviews that appeared in books by Dr. Hans Holzer, Susan Roberts and many others that were all the rage in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Our Lady of Endor Coven considered themselves Satanists, Witches and Luciferian in many ways and centered on a Gnostic story of Eve and the Apple in the Garden of Eden, but they were very different from LaVey’s version of philosophical Satanism and the the Temple of Set’s occult-Satanism, as they were by belief system more “Gnostic” in ideals than they were Satanist. For example, there was a book that was a favorite of Sloane’s that was very special to their coven and they used for inspiration called “The Gnostic Religion” by Hans Jonas. (4) They called themselves witches, satanic and Gnostic all at the same time.
Now back to the disputes in Occult outlook between Sybil Leek and Anton LaVey…. Anton LaVey and Sybil Leek would often throw insults at each other. Sybil had once said on the popular radio program from Los Angeles called “Assessment” (5) that LaVey was a “jolly little man and if he stuck to playing the organ he’d do far better.” She also said on another program that she wasn’t anti-religious, she was anti-hypocrisy: “if you are a Catholic, be a very good Roman Catholic. If you are a protestant, be a very good Protestant. If you are a witch, be a good witch, and if you are church of Satan, CHANGE!” This latter statement was made on national television program called “The Amazing World of Kreskin” and you can see this episode uploaded on youtube. (6)
Anton LaVey’s famous insults back to Sybil can be summed up in a fascinating interview (7) by John J. Fritscher, Ph.D, in which Anyon LaVey says to the interviewer, “I don’t know whether Sybil Leek is as big a fool as she sometimes seems, or whether she’s laughing up her sleeve. Sybil is a good businesswoman. I don’t want to judge her–if she is a good businesswoman she knows on which side her bread is buttered!” (7) LaVey also goes on to more more harshly criticize Gerald Gardner and Alex Sanders. (The author did an excellent job detailing and preserving this great interview and it is worth the read!)
From his many books, LaVey believed that there was no such thing as white witchcraft or it was at least a term used to fool people. His descriptions in his book, The Satanic Witch (originally titled “The Compleat Witch”), might have a lot in common with the Judeo-Christian version of what a witch is: the seductress or temptress and person of a rebel spirit. I’ve heard over the years a few Christians say that “Rebellion is as of the sin of witchcraft” making the concept of any form of “rebellion” and “witchcraft” the same thing.
As the role of rebellious temptress, LaVey’s book “The Compleat Witch” was a guide of manipulation to seduce men to do what you want. For example, the Prologue of the book says, “The truly “liberated” female is the Compleat Witch, who knows both how to use and enjoy men.” (2) LaVey also provides a small section on cursing people with dolls.
Men, were called Warlocks, and did the opposite, seduce women through the opposite manipulation. Just in the last few years, a Satanic book was released to help the men do the same thing to women as the LaVey’s book taught. This book is called “The Satanic Warlock” and was written by Magister Dr. Robert Johnson and the introduction written by the current High Priest of the Church of Satan, Magus Peter H. Gilmore. One piece of “Warlock Wisdom” that Johnson shares with us in his book is that, “He (The Satanic Warlock) denies political correctness, trends and flaccid societal rules, living by his own code.” (8)
The Church of Satan’s variety of Satanism did not deny indulgence and did not recommend turning the other cheek. If someone hits you, you hit them back. In LaVey’s book “The Satanic Bible”(9) you will find what is called “The Nine Satanic Statements” which serves as a list of tenets to the Church. The Church also practices ritual magic too – instead of calling the space a magical circle, the place they meet for ritual is considered the “intellectual decompression chamber” in The Satanic Bible. That part is an actual clever way to describe it, as that is the same as a Wiccan circle should be for us as Wiccans. During the Satanic Rituals, or Black Mass, there are three types of magical workings that may be done such as lust, compassion and destruction of enemies.
There are three invocations in the Satanic Bible for these: 1. The Conjuration of Lust
2. The Conjuration of Destruction
3. The Conjuration of Compassion
You may wonder reading this why someone like Sybil Leek was so against the idea of Satanism? Well, the reason you see this is because in Satanism, one aim when it comes to ritual magic and political action is to take the ideas of someone else’s religion or belief and degrade them, reverse them, call them out and/or make fun of them. The idea of a “Black Mass” with a nude female altar mimics some of the symbolism found in the Christian Mass and does so in a sensational way.
On the other hand, in Witchcraft; the rituals & workings of Witchcraft are not used to protest or degrade anyone else’s religion. Our Seasonal Rituals celebrated four times a year and our magical spells and incantations are not taken from someone else’s religion to reverse, used for political action of any kind, or to make fun of.
Inherently, the virtues, statements and tenets of Satanism are not evil – however, most of them are opposite in many ways with what Sybil Leek described as the “Tenets of Witchcraft” which are utilized in the covens that descend from Sybil’s Horsa Coven in order to progress the soul in a progressive, evolutionary way. In Horsa & Sacred Pentagraph in particular, these tenets are something in which we strive for in order after many lifetimes, through the process of reincarnation, our souls can reach perfection.
While Sybil Leek’s Tenets that we follow in the traditions of Wicca that came out of Horsa, which has a strong Theosophical background, we have a strong focus on the ideals of tolerance, leading a balanced life, Reincarnation/progression of the soul and achieving a harmonious existence with all things around us in nature and finding our place in this world. This sometimes means compromise and negotiation to achieve our goals in an harmonious way. LaVey’s Satanic Statements were concerned with indulgence, lack of compromise, not turning the other cheek and emphasizing the animal nature found in man.
Today, one of the newest groups under the heading of Satanism that has gained popularity is called “The Satanic Temple” (10) and has gained notoriety through the enactment of demonstrations of a political nature. They also adopted the idea of having tenets (11) of their beliefs too which reminds me of Sybil Leek’s Tenets of Witchcraft.
Reading over The Satanic Temple’s Tenets, I can’t help but state that they seem perfectly reasonable!
From a great deal of interviews I have watched online given by membership in the Satanic Temple, it seems that many adherents might even describe themselves as Atheists, but they use the symbolism of Satan to represent opposition to the religious majority and to encourage support for suppressed groups. I don’t believe they are selfish or evil in any way, and in fact, many of the folks that have come out of their movement seem to be good people and fighting for political ideas that most of us would agree with. I know that I first heard about The Satanic Temple on the news because they were protesting local government bodies who were placing the 10 Commandments Statues from the Bible in front of local courthouses and/or other government buildings. They demonstrated and protested this, and even a couple times, placed an effigy of the statue of Baphomet beside the 10 Commandments! As a Wiccan, I fully support the US Constitution that guarantees the separation of church and State. As a citizen, this is not a political issue but a right guaranteed by the US Constitution. It is not a political issue at all, but some churches like to blur the line of what they deem to be “God’s Law” and “Man’s Law.” The Satanic Temple’s demonstrations seem to mainly be performed in order to call out the hypocrisy of the actions of religious folks that wanted to blur the line between church and state.
It is not just religious liberties, but the TST seem to have an interest in calling out other actions from groups that have marginalized people of color, people of the LGBTQ and other communities. What could be so terrible about that? Once again, it seems reasonable. So as you can see, the idea of Satanism has changed over the years. Some groups may have a strong Occult practice, some groups may decide to focus on carnal desires, and some base their work on fighting injustices. I’m sure there is also a bit of cross-over in folks that are interested in multiple ideas. Like us in Wicca, Satanists also have a strong sense of independence when it comes to personal beliefs and can range anywhere from being an atheist, to an occultist, to religious.
As far as I am aware, the Witch/Satanist of the Herbert Sloan/Our Lady of Endor Coven no longer exist today – but the Church of Satan does and I think it still doing quite well. The newly formed Satanic Temple, which seems to be doing quite well, sounds to have now thousands of members and is found worldwide. Other groups like The Temple of Set are also still in operation. There are probably many other independent Satanic groups as well around just like we have in our religion, Wicca, with groups that are independent and only loosely connected to other Wiccans.
Some of these Satanic groups are far more organized than we are as Wiccans, and I bet many folks who are Wiccan would be able to find some common ground with them even though our paths do have some big differences. There may not have been as healthy of respect for each other at one time, Witch and Satanist, in the 1970s, but today I think there can be some good and healthy respect for each other.
I do not believe any of the modern Satanic groups are evil or bad in any way – just a different approach to religion, as none of them are connected with any kind of law-breaking or evil as far as I have seen.
There can be found good philosophy in what many folks in the Satanic Temple have discussed. Though their approach is different than mine, I understand it, and have nothing bad to say about any of these groups. In the past, the delineation was a bit more rough, but today, personally, if I ever met anyone from the Church of Satan or the Satanic Temple or another Satanic group, I bet I would be able to engage well and have an intelligent conversation with them and probably find some common ground even though the approach is different. I’m sure there would be a great deal of mutual agreement amongst many topics.
There was a Satanic group affiliated at one time with The Church of Satan located here in my state of Pennsylvania, but I don’t believe it is in existence anymore. That particular group was run by Rev. Yaj Nomolos in Whitehall, PA. The ritual ideas and sorcery listed in one of his books, “Satanic Rites and Ceremonies,” (13) seem to have a little more in common with my own religion of Wicca since it had some similar practices such as a rite of initiation and rituals for the Sabbat festivals. Nomolos also wrote some other booklets for the Occult communities back in the 1980s that were popular in the Occult Shops because they were published by Original Publications called “The Witches Broomstick Manual” and also “The Magic Circle: It’s Successful Organization and Leadership.”
At the end of the day, there are many different kinds of modern day Satanism to choose from. I hope this article shows you how myself, as a Wiccan, has been able to open up my mind and thinking process enough to find some common group, even though at one point in our history, many of those who came before us that faced different times and circumstances may not have been able to.
Works Cited & Bibliography:
(1) churchofsatan.com – the Church is still in existence today and it’s current High Priest is Peter Gilmore who has authored a number of books.
(2) LaVey, Anton Stanford, The Satanic Witch. Feral House, 1970. Print.
I have often been asked what Druidry is about whilst at conferences, camps etc. I think "definitions" of practice are ... Read More
I have often been asked what Druidry is about whilst at conferences, camps etc. I think “definitions” of practice are all well and good, and there are plenty out there, but it is in distinctive features of practice that we might get a sense of things. So, for me, in my practice of Druidry…….
Druidry offers a framework for practice of my paganism and my own Craft. To this end it does not give a prescribed list of gods and goddesses I am expected to venerate, nor a list of ritual and celebrations that are “core” to my identification with Druidry. It’s a bit like Buddhism, in that it offers an approach. So – I’ll briefly divert here to reference a common misunderstanding of the OBOD system of Druidry (albeit with a note that I don’t speak for the Order in any way). The development materials used by the Order offer us, among other things, a common language across the membership. When we gather (which we do, regularly and frequently) we share some common prayer and practice that helps us join together in our physical and spiritual worlds. The course material is not dogma, it’s a reference point we can use to whatever degree we feel suits.
Key features of my experience of Druidic practice include:
* Each ritual / rite includes a call for peace in each quarter and across the world: We really like peace. In the finding of peace we explore justices and try to connect people with people. In living peace we find space for kindness and creativity. Peace rocks.
* The love of justice is core to our philosophy: Meditating upon justice, what it means where and when to whom…. how it might be achieved and how we might contribute is a key druid thing. Justice is at the heart of peace – and like peace it is really very hard to find.
* Recognition and engagement with the Awen: There’s a whole essay to be written about this – but put simply our willingness and ability to engage with creative processes, and to recognise these, links us to a spiritual dynamic that is amongst the very essence of ourselves as humans. Some of us feel that creativity and the pursuit of it is a rite that connects us to whatever the devine is. This isn’t just about mainstream art (music, drawing, poetry), it is as likely to be found in cooking, childcare, motorbike riding….
* Honouring of Ancestors: Often a tricky one – respect for our ancestors, through blood and through mud, connects us to history and its actors on a personal level.
* Honouring Spirit of Place: Wherever we are, particularly when engaging in ritual, we recognise that the landscape has a Spirit of Place associated with it. It’s best not to get too caught up in the thinking and logic as the experience of connecting with the Spirit of Place is often a great barometer of how things are going to work out in that space. I have a couple of relevant stories should you be interested, drop me a line or buy me a beer…
* Trees: Tree’s are great. We tend to have an affinity to them. I can imagine a Druidic practice that has a relationship with rocks, or one that is focused on clouds. There is something about a “totemic” connection to a representation of nature that is integral to much Druidry. However, on the whole, trees are the thing.
On top of all this is the concept of “service”. Certainly in OBOD, those engaged or having completed their Druid studies are encouraged to find ways to offer service to their communities. This REALLY doesn’t have to be about being a PAGAN volunteering because you are a PAGAN and everyone needs to know its about being a PAGAN!!! It’s about our roles as people who have reflected deeply upon our spirituality finding a way to use our time and personal resources to support others. As little ego as possible is best.
There are a lot of druids and druid types out there, and they might offer some different views on things I’ve suggested…. but that’s kind of the way these things go.
Paul Mitchell is a musician who enjoys a low level of notoriety on the UK Pagan scene. He also offers talks on some stuff. Check out his Facebook page, or even his music