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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Eclectic (Pagan Blog Project "E")

I chose to write about the term Eclectic in Witchcraft, as I am a Solitary Eclectic Witch; let me open with a question that Rowan Pendragon asked in her Pagan Blog Project Weekly Inspiration Email Newsletter


Question from Rowan Pendragon of Pagan Blog Project...
"Eclectic Wicca, Witchcraft, and Paganism – Eclectic practice is something that can be a big debate in different parts of the Pagan community.  Some feel that being eclectic opens you up to a whole world of ideas and tools that with the more narrow view of a specific tradition just isn't available.  Yet others feel that being eclectic equates to a practice that is lacking in structure and commitment to anything.  Are you eclectic?  What are your thoughts on eclectic vs. traditional practice and how do you feel eclectic work benefits you if that’s the path you follow?"


To me the term Eclectic in the Craft means that the Witch (or Pagan/Wiccan) is not tied to one particular Path, but instead implements practices from several different Paths into his/her personal practice of the Craft. In my case I have been pulled towards Native American Path as well as the Celtic Path, but I also have an interest in Greek, Roman and Hindu mythology, I have been taking courses in the Correllian Tradition, and I have a Christian background... I am Spiritually Eclectic.


As for Eclectic practice equating to a lack of structure and commitment, well in my case the lack of structure is essentially correct as I have never been a person of structure. I am not an organized person nor a person that abides by a daily schedule, other than getting my butt out of bed and going to work during my work week. My rituals are simplistic vs. the more elaborate structured rituals, and my Spell Work is also simple and basic, usually Candle Magick. I rarely do a full blown structured ritual, as my schedule is willy nilly. I pull from several different Paths/Traditions and use what feels right to me, when it suits me, so yes I guess you could say that I lack structure... but that falls into one of the benefits of being Eclectic and a Witch.


As for the commitment issue, yes I guess you can also say that I do lack commitment in that I have not committed myself to any one particular Path or Deity; however I am committed to respecting the Earth, acknowledging the Seasons and the blessings each of them brings, giving thanks for the blessings in my life, growing spiritually, helping others however I can, and to continue to learn.


I prefer the term Witch; I do not consider myself a Wiccan per say, and I say that because I do not follow a specific Wiccan Tradition, yes I have interest in Wicca but my Spiritual Path is more open as is my ritual style... instead, I practice Witchcraft. What's the difference? Let's see if I can explain this without making a total mess out of it, shall we...


Wicca is a religion, specifically an initiatory religion where students, or more specifically initiates (or in some cases dedicates) begin in a basic level of the religion, called a Degree, and work their way up to Clergy; they usually work in a Coven, however there are Solitary Wiccans who prefer to work alone. Wiccans worship specific deity... the God and Goddess, or the God or Goddess, either way, they also celebrate Sabbats and Esbats. The Wheel of the Year (the changing Seasons) is an essential component of Wicca.


Witchcraft, otherwise referred to as the Craft, is a skill that is learned over a period of time, and in case you are wondering, it is NOT devil worship, let's get that clear right now. The belief that Witches practice devil worship or human and/or animal sacrifice is a misconception created by the Church and fictionalized by Hollywood for its fear factor. The Craft involves spell work (casting spells) and the practice of Magick but it is not geared to any specific Spiritual Path or any specific deity; it can be practiced in a Coven or as a Solitary and is more of a generalized practice open to a variety of magickal practices. Witchcraft may also include celebrating the Sabbats and Esbats, however it is not limited to these times, as spellwork may be conducted on any day of the year.


You may be asking, what is Paganism? Paganism quite simply, is the belief or worship of other deity other than the Christian God, or more than one deity such as the God and/or Goddess. The God and/or Goddess can be of a certain Pantheon or a variety of Pantheons.


In my case I am Eclectic, a Witch, and a Pagan.  

You will note that I have linked the terminology for additional information that may aid in understanding the definition of these terms. Hopefully this post clears up any confusion, rather than generates confusion LOL 









Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dogma (Pagan Blog Project "D")


For some odd reason Dogma has been popping into my head for the past two days.... no not the movie LOL (shhh... I didn't even know what dogma really meant; in fact I had to look it up! **hangs head in shame**) You know I have never seen the entirety of that movie? I really should sometime!

Now why would a word that I don’t know the meaning to keep running through my head? Curious… so I thought to myself, hey, it’s a “D” word, I will use it for my next “D” post!

Dog-ma  n. 1. A system of doctrines proclaimed true by a religious sect. 2. A principle, belief, or idea, especially one considered to be absolute truth.  (Webster’s Dictionary)

It is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, or a particular group/organization, an undisputed belief accepted without evidence. The word dogma originates from a Greek word that means opinion, belief… or to think, suppose, or imagine. The plural is dogmata, used as a systematic theology, a discipline of Christian theology that is used to rationalize accounts of the Christian faith; however dogma is not limited to Christianity… obviously, as it is derived from the Greeks, a pagan culture, right? So essentially, dogma exists in paganism as well, right?

YES! The Wiccan Rede and the Threefold Law, the Charge of the Goddess, and the 13 Principles of Belief written by the Council of Witches are all principles of belief in paganism; they are in fact doctrines proclaimed true by a religious sect, principles and beliefs considered absolute truth!

Thirteen Principles of Belief
1. We practice rites to attune ourselves with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the phases of the Moon and the seasonal Quarters and Cross Quarters.
2. We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibility towards our environment. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance offering fulfillment to life and consciousness within an evolutionary concept.
3. We acknowledge a depth of power far greater than that is apparent to the average person. Because it is far greater than ordinary it is sometimes called "supernatural", but we see it as lying within that which is naturally potential to all.
4. We conceive of the Creative Power in the universe as manifesting through polarity - as masculine and feminine - and that this same Creative Power lies in all people, and functions through the interaction of the masculine and feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supportive of the other. We value sex as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magickal practice and religious worship.
5. We recognize both outer and inner, or psychological, worlds - sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconscious, Inner Planes, etc. - and we see in the interaction of these two dimensions the basis for paranormal phenomena and magickal exercises. We neglect neither dimension for the other, seeing both as necessary for our fulfillment.
6. We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, respect those who share their greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have courageously given of themselves in leadership.
7. We see religion, magick and wisdom-in-living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it - a world-view and philosophy of life which we identify as Witchcraft, the Wiccan Way.
8. Calling oneself "Witch" does not make one a Witch - but neither does heredity itself, nor the collecting of titles, degrees and initiations. A Witch seeks to control the forces within her/himself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well without harm to others and in harmony with Nature.
9. We believe in the affirmation and fulfillment of life in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness, that gives meaning to the Universe we know, and our personal role within it.
10. Our only animosity towards Christianity, or toward any other religion or philosophy of life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be "the only way," and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practice and belief.
11. As American Witches, we are not threatened by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various terms, or the origins of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present and our future.
12. We do not accept the concept of absolute evil, nor do we worship any entity known as "Satan" or "the Devil", as defined by Christian tradition. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor do we accept that personal benefit can be derived only by denial to another.
13. We believe that we should seek within Nature that which is contributory to our health and well-being.

Wiccan Rede
Bide within the Law you must, in perfect love and perfect trust.
Live you must and let to live, fairly take and fairly give.
For tread the circle thrice about to keep unwelcome spirits out.
To bind the spell well every time, let the spell be said in rhyme.
Light of eye and soft of touch, speak you little, listen much.
Honor the old ones in deed and name, let love and light be our guides again.
Deosil go by the waxing moon, chanting out the joyful tune.
Widdershins go when the moon doth wane, and the werewolf howls by the dread wolfsbane.
When the Lady’s moon is new, kiss the hand to Her times two.
When the moon rides at Her peak then your heart’s desire seek.
Heed the north wind’s mighty gale, lock the door and trim the sail.
When the wind blows from the east, expect the new and set the feast.
When the wind comes from the south, love will kiss you on the mouth.
When the wind whispers from the west, all hearts will find peace and rest.
Nine woods in the cauldron go, burn them fast and burn them slow.
Birch in the fire goes to represent what the Lady knows.
Oak in the forest towers with might, in the fire it brings the God’s insight.
Rowan is a tree of power causing life and magick to flower.
Willows at the waterside stand ready to help us to the Summerland.
Hawthorn is burned to purify and to draw faerie to your eye.
Hazel-the tree of wisdom and learning adds its strength to the bright fire burning.
White are the flowers of apple tree that brings us fruits of fertility.
Grapes grow upon the vine giving us both joy and wine.
Fir does mark the evergreen to represent immortality seen.
Elder is the Lady’s tree burn it not or cursed you’ll be.
Four times the major sabbats mark in the light and in the dark.
As the old year starts to wane the new begins, it’s now Samhain.
When the time for Imbolc shows watch for flowers through the snows.
When the wheel begins to turn soon the Beltane fires will burn.
As the wheel turns to Lammas night power is brought to magick rite.
Four times the minor sabbats fall use the sun to mark them all.
When the wheel has turned to Yule light the log the Horned One rules.
In the spring, when night equals day time for Ostara to come our way.
When the sun has reached it’s height time for oak and holly to fight.
Harvesting comes to one and all when the autumn equinox does fall.
Heed the flower, bush, and tree by the Lady blessed you’ll be.
Where the rippling waters go cast a stone, the truth you’ll know.
When you have and hold a need, harken not to others greed.
With a fool no season spend or be counted as his friend.
Merry meet and merry part bright the cheeks and warm the heart.
Mind the Three-fold Laws you should three times bad and three times good.
When misfortune is now wear the star upon your brow.
Be true in love this you must do unless your love is false to you.
These Eight words the Rede fulfill:
An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will!


Threefold Law
The threefold law is the law of return, basically it is the belief that whatever you put out into the Universe it will be returned to you threefold… in short, it is Karma; you reap what you sow. It is a reminder to be aware of what you send out during your spellwork (or in general) for you will get it paid back to you, thrice… good or bad.

Charge of the Goddess
Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old also called Artemis; Astarte; Diana; Melusine; Aphrodite; Cerridwen; Dana; Arianrhod; Isis; Bride; and by many other names.
Whenever ye have need of anything, once in a month, and better it be when the Moon be full, then ye shall assemble in some secret place and adore the spirit of me, who am Queen of all Witcheries.
There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all sorcery, yet have not yet won its deepest secrets: to these will I teach things that are yet unknown.
And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye are really free, ye shall be naked in your rites; and ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise.
For mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and mine also is joy on earth; for my Law is Love unto all Beings.
Keep pure your highest ideal; strive ever toward it; let naught stop you or turn you aside.
For mine is the secret door which opens upon the Land of Youth; and mine is the Cup of the Wine of Life, and the Cauldron of Cerridwen, which is the Holy Grail of Immortality.
I am the Gracious Goddess, who gives the gift of joy unto the heart. Upon earth, I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal; and beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold I am the Mother of All Living, and my love is poured out upon the earth.
Hear ye the words of the Star Goddess, she in the dust of whose feet are the hosts of heaven; whose body encircleth the Universe; I, who am the beauty of the green earth, and the white Moon among the stars, and the mystery of the waters, and the heart’s desire, call unto thy soul. Arise and come unto me.
For I am the Soul of Nature, who giveth life to the universe; from me all things proceed, and unto me must all things return; and before my face, beloved of gods and mortals, thine inmost divine self shall be unfolded in the rapture of infinite joy.
Let my worship be within the heart that rejoiceth, for behold: all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals. And therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honour and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
And thou who thinkest to seek for me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou know this mystery: that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.
For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dreamcatchers (Pagan Blog Project "D")

Dreamcatchers are an ancient Native American tradition, how old, I don't know. From my research they originated from the Ojibway (Chippewa) tribe; however many tribes use them as well. A dreamcatcher is traditionally a willow hoop with a woven web of sinew inside it's circumference. It is a Native American belief that when a dreamcatcher is hung above a sleeping child, it will filter the person's dreams. The bad dreams will be caught in the web, while the good dreams flow through the hole in the center. 


Dreamcatchers are often decorated with personal or sacred items such as feathers, stones, crystals, animal totems, and beads. They can be made as simple or as elaborate as the maker chooses, from single hoop to multiple hoops. When I worked in a Native American gift shop, I was told that the center hole should not be covered by decoration as it is this hole that the good dreams flow through, but I have seen dreamcatchers made both ways.
A Dreamcatcher with the center hole open

Chippewa Legend
While children sleep evil spirits may come visit to terrify them, then the Medicine Woman said to each Mother in fear to protect their children from evil spirits, they must weave a spiders web with love froma willow hoop, using nettle stalk cord dyed red with sacred herbs and say sacred words as they weave their web, with each weave thinking only happy thoughts and playful things. Leave in the center an opening, as your open heart, to let only good things pass. Hang from the loop the sacred feathers, in this way the Good Spirit dreams will find their way through the center hole and float down the feathers onto the sleeping ones. The Bad Spirit dreams will get caught in the web and disappear with the morning light, and so the mothers hung their dreamcatchers over the baby's cradleboard.

a more elaborate dreamcatcher with the center hole covered


Lakota Legend
A  long time ago when the world was young, an old Lakota spiritual leader was on a mountain and had a vision. In this vision Iktomi, the great trickster and teacher of wisdom appeared in the form of a spider and spoke to the elder in the sacred language that only spiritual leaders of the Lakota understood. As he spoke he took the elder's willow hoop which had feathers, horse hair, beads and offerings on it and began to spin a web. While spinning he spoke of the cycle of life... how the people begin as infants, move to childhood, then to adulthood, and finally to old age where they must once again be taken care of like an infant, completing the life cycle. Iktomi said that in each time of life there are many forces and choices to be made that can affect the harmony of nature and interfere with the Great Spirit and all of his teachings. Giving the hoop with the web back to the elder he said the web is a perfect circle but there is a hole in the middle. If you believe in the Great Spirit the web will catch your good dreams and ideas, and the bad ones will fall through the hole. He instructed the elder to use the web to help himself and his people to reach his goals and make good use of his people's ideas, dreams. and visions. The elder passed the dreamcatcher onto his people and the Sioux now use the dreamcatcher as the web of life. It is hung above beds or in homes to sift through dreams and visions. They believe the dreamcatcher holds the destiny of their future.




The dreamcatcher is not to be confused with the Medicine Wheel and Medicine Shield; these three items are totally different, which I will explain...

Medicine Wheel
The Medicine Wheel is a circle divided by a cross to create the Four Cardinal Directions, the Four Sacred Colors representing the four Elements, and the Circle of Life. Each Nation's Medicine Wheel may very slightly, for example the Cherokee's Medicine Wheel symbolism is as follows:

East- Red, success and triumph
North- Blue, defeat and trouble
West- Black, death
South-White, peace and happiness

In addition to the directions listed above , there are three more sacred directions:
Up Above- Yellow
Down Below- Brown
Here in the Center- Green

Each directions has its corresponding as shown in the diagram below (Nation unknown)....




Another representation of a Medicine Wheel... note the variation and location of the colors:


 Comanche Medicine Wheel:


Apache Medicine Wheel:




Medicine Shield
A Medicine Shield is a symbol of spiritual health and traditionally was a method of protection in battle as well as spiritually... it protects the user from evil spirits. Medicine Shields will vary for each Tribe or Nation, and the material of its construction will vary and correspond with the Tribe's location, etc. Painting and decorations have special meanings and qualities which are imparted to its owner. The symbols used on the shield represent the owner's power and/or animal totem, and/or spirit dream/vision, etc. It is a prized possession and is hung in a place of honor in a home, personal sanctuary, or in an office, etc.

Here a a few photos of different Medicine Shields:



A decorative Medicine Shield:

Here is a combination a Medicine Shield and Dreamcatcher:
Here is a combination Dreamcatcher and Medicine Wheel:


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Currants (Pagan Blog Project- "C")


Currants, small delicious berries... and a great source of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin B5, calcium, and magnesium, as well as one of the plants associated with Hecate, and are a key ingredient of Soul Cakes on Samhain.


Other Health Benefits:
According to laboratory testing currants have the potential to inhibit inflammation mechanisms suspected to in playing a key role in heart disease, cancer, microbial infections and neurological disorders.

The seed oil of the Black Currant  is also high in nutrients, especially vitamin E, and fatty acids. In herblore when a nursing mother ingests black currant seed oil it reduces atopic dermatitis in her child for a nursing period of 2 years, of course this lengthy nursing practice is highly unusual these days, at least as far as I know anyway.... I could be wrong, but in my experience the few nursing mothers that I have known don't nurse very long after their little one gets teeth.


Popular Uses:
Currants are used in cordials, jams, jellies, and preserves, and baked in scones, muffins, etc. In the UK and also used in candies, soft drinks, and Kir... a mixture of Black Currant liqueur and white wine; it sounds yummy! 


Recipes:

Black Currant Muffins
4 oz unsalted butter
6 oz granulated sugar
2 eggs
9 oz plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
8 fluid oz buttermilk
8 oz black currants

Preheat oven to 350. In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar until soft. In a separate bowl beat the eggs then gradually incorporate them into the butter mixture. In a large bowl sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Make a well in the center and add the butter mixture, buttermilk, and currants, stir gently just enough to mix together. Do not over mix! Grease the muffin tins (or use cupcake cups). Fill 2/3 full with batter and bake for 20 minutes, or until the muffins have puffed up and a golden brown. 
Serve warm with butter... yum!

Apple-Currant Tea Punch
1 liter apple juice
2 black currant tea bags
2 vanilla tea bags
Soda Water or Mineral Water
Currant berries (optional)
Mint leaves (optional)
Lemon wedge (optional)

Boil apple juice, and remove from heat. Place the tea bags in the juice to steep, until cool. 
Remove the tea bags, and pour over ice,  adding soda water to taste. 
Garnish with currant berries, mint and/or lemon and serve.


Soul Cakes (traditionally for Samhain)
3/4 c butter
3/4 c fine sugar
4 c sifted flour
3 egg yolks
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
3 tbsp currants
milk

Preheat oven to 350. In a mixing bowl stir in butter and sugar until fluffy and creamy. Add egg yolks one at a time, mixing completely before adding the next. Fold in the allspice, cinnamon, and flour. Stir in the currants. Add milk little by little until you reach the desired constancy. Roll the dough and flatten into a small cake and bake on a greased cookie sheet until lightly browned. Let cool and serve.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Cultivating Self (Pagan Blog Project- "C")

Cultivate= to improve by labor, care, study; to refine.

Cultivating yourself, your soul, is the key to finding and defining your path. You must truly know thyself, the good and the ugly… all of it… all of YOU. To accomplish this feat requires much introspection…. the act of delving deep within yourself while being completely honest with yourself.  Introspection can be done in a variety of ways:

* Meditation
* Inner child work
* Shadow work
* Hypnosis
* Journaling
* Dream work
* Questioning/Examining yourself
* Examine patterns in your life
* Self help workbooks

There are many questions you can ask yourself, here are a few to get you started:
* Who are you really?
* What are your strengths? Your fears? Why?
* What are your hopes, desires, likes? Your Goals? Your Dreams/Fantasies/nightmares?
* Who are your favorite role models, why?
* What are your dislikes, pet peeves, and why?
* What is your favorite Season(s)? What is your fave Sabbat? What part of the Wheel do these fall on?
* What deity are you drawn to and why?
* What Element are you? (your birth element isn’t necessarily your personal element)
* In what areas would you like to change in yourself and why? Are these changes realistic? Are you ready to
   take the necessary steps and do the work necessary to accomplish these changes?
* Are you organized or a clutterbug?
* Do you prefer informal rituals or more elaborate formal rituals?
* Do you follow the Rede?
* Do you believe in the Threefold Law?
* Are you basically a happy, satisfied person, or bored and unhappy? Why?
* What inspires you?
* Do you have an animal totem?
* What is your favorite memory? What feelings does it invoke in you and why?
* What was your worst experience? How did it make you feel and why? How can you or did you overcome
    it?
* When you want to escape, where do you go and why?
 
Once you have examined yourself thoroughly and honestly and having truly accepted all that you are, you can move on to strengthening your weaknesses, refining your strengths, facing your fears… and GROWTH! What does this have to do with your spiritual path?

Well for one, you have to come to know yourself, and accept, understand, and love yourself before you can find peace. Finding peace with yourself enables you to find peace in life and brings you closer to the Divine. When you are at peace you can more easily let go of the physical realm and reach your Higher Self, which in turn enables you to experience the spiritual realm, receive messages from your guides and deity, etc.

Also, while finding your true self you discover your personal elemental and magickal affinities which is beneficial in finding your spiritual path.

Here are some books that may help you along the way:
* Elemental Witch by Tammy Sullivan
* Shadow Magick Compendium by Raven Digitalis
* Life's Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest by Christina Baldwin
* Zen-Sational Living: A Simple Guide to Finding Your True Self and Maintaining Balance 
by Sheila M. Burke