Thursday, April 27, 2017

Book Review: Witchcraft Today by Gerald Gardner

Whether you love the book or hate the book (or the author), there's no denying that this book paved the way for modern Wicca and Witchcraft. It's one of the most well-known books published in the 20th century regarding Wicca and the Craft as we know it today. Without its publication, who knows where Wicca would stand today as it aided in drawing out those who practiced the Old Ways out of the shadows and into, well, let's be honest and just say a less intense shadow. It can't be a true Mystery Tradition without some shroud of mystery to it!

Regardless of one's feelings about the author, the book was enjoyable to read. Personally, I'm a little biased when it comes to reading about history and this book is certainly peppered with history about the Knights Templar, the Salem Witch Trials, the Burning Times, and most anything related to occultism. Granted, this book is not a history book, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about some of Gardner's research into occultist history.

In addition to historical information, Gardner inserted his perceptions and views into Witchcraft by either referencing his personal experience from an initiate point of view or his experience as being an observer. As you read, you may become slightly frustrated with how little information is actually given about his experiences within the Craft. He gives just enough information to draw you in. Almost like having an appetizer but skipping the main course. This is most likely due to his intense and utmost dedication to staying true to his Oath of Secrecy that he took when he was initiated into his tradition. He makes it clear throughout the book that he is trying to reach out to others of a like mind but inviting witches to write to him, to describe their rituals or what they are willing to reveal about their traditions, to commune with him on a personal level. I have heard that after this book was written there was an outpouring of just that!

I believe this book has earned its place on every witch's bookshelf. It is a cornerstone to our community whether you identify as Wiccan, Pagan, or a Witch. It is an important part to our history and understanding the development of Wicca and the Craft today.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Druids, Gods & Heroes by Anne Ross, Illustrated by Roger Garland

For those looking for a fun way to study Celtic and Irish lore, this is the book for you! This book may have been designed for juveniles but it certainly does a good job at retelling the myths we know and love from our Celtic ancestors. Beautifully illustrated and outlined, this book touches upon the first inhabitants of Ireland, explains the rise of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and follows our favorite heroes through their most memorable feats.

The book is divided into chapters and then subdivided by their stories. Depending on your parenting style, I would recommend reading the book first and then deciding on which stories are appropriate for your wee ones. There are some stories in this book that have adult content as would be expected from the Celts. If you plan on reading the book for yourself, it's a great start to trying to understand the rich history of Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and the surrounding areas. You will find interesting facts along with the myths and strong moral codes with an emphasis on the importance of hospitality and respect.



Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Book Review: Wicca: A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham

So this is probably the second time I've read this book. I've read it years ago but I decided to read it again because I had forgotten a lot of it and I wanted to write this review. This is one of my "go-to" books for beginners because it does have a lot of useful information and is basically a Wiccan starter kit. Not only does it have the theory behind Wicca and its many teachings but it also has practical knowledge which can be applied.

This book contains a mini book of shadows for those who may have trouble finding a teacher or coven to practice with and learn from. Cunningham is very humble in his presentation and asserts that his teachings are by no means law which is something that I really like because it's true. These are all guidelines because Wicca and its practices are completely open to interpretation and all about personal power and growth.

The first half of the book is about Wicca and what it's about, its deities, creating Circles, invocations, etc. Your very basic run through intro course. The second half is Cunningham's general book of shadows from his earlier years. Cunningham's books are generally always a pleasure to read and I admire him as a very intelligent person.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Power of the Witch by Laurie Cabot

I thoroughly enjoyed this book due to its openness about the Craft. Laurie Cabot is very honest about her feelings when it comes to her personal style of Witchcraft and her definition of what being a Witch is all about. She is a very big advocate of education and dispelling ignorance about witches which is reflected in the pages of her book. She begins by delving briefly into the history of the ancient arts and slowly makes her way to present day and her thoughts about how she foresees witchcraft to be viewed in the future.

I love reading books that reference other books and this book is filled with references. My only qualm is that there was not a book reference list in the back of the book or an Index so you have to mark the books down yourself as you read. I was quite amazed at her dedication towards emphasizing the unique balance between the spiritual aspect of the Craft and the scientific aspects of life as we know it. She used scientific research as a way to meld the two worlds together in an understandable way for those who may not be familiar with Craft workings. Her goal was to show how these two aspects complement each other without contradiction.

Once again, as you read any book, practice the techniques mentioned and see if they work for you. You may be surprised and wish to incorporate them into your own work. The book also had almost an entire chapter dedicated to Witch Children. I found this chapter to be enlightening and had some neat projects and techniques that a parent could do with their child to introduce them to the Craft.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Altar Setup

Setting Up Your Altar

There are many ways for one to set up their altar. I, personally, change my altar according to the season. The Altar in the top left picture is my current Fall altar. The altar in the top right was around Imbolc, and the altar on the bottom was during the spring/summer time. Some people like to change their altar up like I do while others keep theirs exactly the same year round. 
When you are preparing to set up a permanent altar, clean the space thoroughly – the carpet, wood, furniture, etc. You may also want to think about the direction in which your altar is laying. Generally in ritual, the altar is facing North. If you can’t face the altar in that direction for certain reasons, choose a space that feels the most comfortable to you. 
Altar Cloth – You can choose to have one or not. This is a cloth that sits under your ritual tools. You can coordinate the color and/or symbols on your cloth with your ritual or spell work to enhance your magick.
Pentacle – This is one of the main altar tools. It can be made of wood, glass, ceramic, metal, etc, and usually has a pentacle upon its surface painted or carved. Your pentacle can have any symbol that you wish upon it such as the tree of life, the triquetra, or the triskele. This tool typically represents Earth and has grounding properties. It is feminine.
Athame – Not everyone has an athame but I like to keep mine on my altar. The athame is a ritual knife used for ceremonial purposes only. It is generally used to focus and direct energy. It is also considered one of the four main ritual items to have. This item can represent Fire or Air depending on your tradition. It is masculine
Wand – Another of the main ritual tools, the wand is used similarly like an athame. I tend to use my wand when working with elemental energies and spiritual work. This tool can represent Fire or Air, and in some circumstances, Earth, depending on the tradition. It is masculine.
Chalice – This is the last of the ritual tools and usually represents Water and the feminine aspect. The Chalice is used in Cakes and Ale.
Representations of the Elements – I like to place representatives of the 4 elements around my pentacle and cauldron. I use a bowl of salt for Earth, a red candle for fire, a bowl of water for water, and an incense holder with incense for air.
Cauldron – This is probably my most beloved tool. It represents all the mysteries of the feminine divine and Witchcraft. I have my cauldron placed upon the center of my pentacle as a representation of the spirit and its fathomless depth. I burn herbs and my intentions within the cauldron during ritual and spell work.
Crystals – I like to place crystals that are representative of the season upon my altar to enhance my spiritual work. They can also represent the Earth.
Herbs – I tend to infuse my water with herbs to enhance my spell work. I also like to burn them upon coal within my cauldron.
Sage Bundle – I like to keep a bundle of Sage nearby for quick cleansing.
God/Goddess Candles – If you worship deities, you may want to have them represented on your sacred altar. I keep a God and Goddess candle – with respective colors – upon my altar. My Goddess candles lays to the left which represents mystery and the feminine aspect and my God candle lays to the right which represents power and the masculine aspect.
Charge Box – I place my Charge Box upon my altar every so often when I feel that I need secrecy and something to enhance my spell work. This box holds certain items that need to be charged with power.
Statuary – Some people prefer to have statues upon their altar that represent their deities.

Decorating Your Altar:

Here is a list of some extra decorations you can place upon your altar with intention:
  • Tarot cards
  • Rune stones
  • Candles
  • Herbs
  • Crystals
  • Pictures
  • Scrying Mirror
  • Jewelry
  • Talismans
  • Charms
  • Seasonal Decorations

Monday, September 5, 2016

Simple Banishment Ritual

I have done many Banishment Rituals on my journey and I’m not one to do the same kind of ritual twice. I’m always tweaking my rituals to fit the need of that time. I thought I’d share a ritual that I will be leading tonight with my own Grove for New Moon. This ritual doesn’t have to be limited to being done on the New Moon but I chose this particular time because I believe that New Moon’s are the best time to tie up those loose ends, release those negative emotions, and fill the void with positive energy.
Important Note: Whenever you banish energy or remove something from yourself (internal magick) you MUST FILL THE VOID. Otherwise, all types of energy will be attracted to you and fill the void for you such as that negative energy you just banished. You must fill the void with your intention so that you are whole once again.

For this ritual you will need:

  • Salt water
  • Incense (cone or stick with your preferred scent)
  • Altar
  • Cauldron
  • Coal and Herbal Mix (for deity or elemental offering)
  • God and Goddess Candle
  • Paper and Pen
  • Snappers Fireworks- found at firework shops and sometimes Party City
You can do this ritual without the fireworks but I think they add a little punch to the ritual. If using the fireworks you may want to host the ritual outdoors.

The Ritual:

  • Purify your sacred space through physical cleaning and through sage cleansing. Sage cleanse yourself as well.
  • Purify your Circle by casting the salt water thrice around the Circle widdershins (counterclockwise) to cast out negative energy.
  • Take the incense and walk about the Circle thrice deosil to charge the circle.
  • Cast the Circle by calling in the Quarters
  • Call upon your deities
  • Charge the fireworks with the four elements and then with your own spirit
  • As you throw the fireworks upon the ground, shout what you are banishing from your life. Feel the intention seep into every firework and explode with a popping sound signaling their release.
  • Once the fireworks are gone, write on the piece of paper the qualities you wish to fill the void with. These can be positive energy or attributes such as love, strength, and courage.
  • Burn the paper within your cauldron
  • Burn your offerings within the cauldron
  • Open Circle by stating your gratitude to your deities and Guardians and say farewell
  • Offer your ashes to the Earth
You may also want to participate in the rite of Cakes and Ale before opening your Circle
Remember to always ground yourself after your ritual is complete!
If you can’t find the fireworks, you can always use other materials such as soft stones that easily break apart upon impact such as typical sandstone. You can also burn slips of paper with your negative emotion or attribute.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Familiars

What are Familiars?
The concept of Familiars can be found in European Folklore dating back to the early Medieval period. Familiars have appeared throughout history in multiple forms but often being in the form of an animal such as cats, dogs, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Some cases even describe them in human form or humanoid form. Others even describe them as being faeries.
Familiars are described as being companions to witches and assist them in their magickal work. In early times, familiars were feared to be lesser demons that fed from the blood of witches and assisted in malevolent magic. They were even considered to be imps, bestowed upon witches by the Devil. Many cats were killed around the time of the Black Plague which only brought more death in Europe. The cats would eat the mice and rats carrying the fleas that spread the Plague. The mass murder of cats caused an increase in the flea population leading to more deaths. Almost poetic justice.
How do you choose a Familiar?
Familiars are not chosen; they choose the person. Typically, a strong link or connection is felt between the person and their Familiar. This can be with any animal the person feels an affinity to but in modern times, is typical a household pet. These pets are treated as a member of the family and are often considered magickal partners.
However, some people do not discover their Familiar in the physical realm but instead accumulate pictures, statuary, or other research of an animal or creature that they feel strongly drawn to. This can be a Familiar that has reached out to you from the astral plane.
You may also have more than one Familiar. It is not uncommon to have a connection to multiple Familiar Spirits as they all may have a different function in your life to better assist you.
Magickal Workings with Familiars:
As partners in the Craft, Witches tend to treat their Familiars with respect, love, and wisdom. You can learn a lot from having a Familiar, such as patience, love, understanding, partnership, respect, and gratitude. These creatures can not only teach us about ourselves and our own Craft but also about nature and the Universe.
They can assist you in ritual or with spells by bringing with them a certain mood or tone you wish to set within Circle. They are able to enter and exit the Circle without breaking the energy surrounding you. Sometimes, they allow you to use their fur, scales, and nail clippings within your magickal work.
Familiars are beneficial mentally and emotionally. They provide stress relief and help keep people emotionally balanced. They tend to know our moods and will often act on a course of judgement to put their partners (us) in the right frame of mind so that we can continue with our path.
Familiars can also assist us on the astral plane. Since they live between worlds, they can enter with us on our shamanic journeys. In this plane. They may appear in a different form or even be able to speak. They can guide us to the answers we seek in our Craft.
Honoring Your Familiar:
Familiars are our partners, not our servants. The idea of a Familiar and their role in the Witch’s Craft has greatly changed over time. At first, Familiars were believed to be servants to Witches, doing their bidding without hesitation. Since the New Age, that thinking has changed. It is accepted that we show our gratitude towards our guides and honor them. This can be as easy as giving them love and attention during the day.
I, personally, spend time with my Familiar every morning and every night. I give him love and affection, I brush his fur, I brush his teeth, I keep him fed and healthy, etc. I also keep a small statue on my altar just for him. You can even work with Familiar Magic which helps strengthen your bond. Brown is the traditional color for Familiars if you wish to use candle magic. There are also stones and herbs that show your appreciation. Go out and buy your kitty a new toy or some catnip. Or you can get your dog a new rawhide.
Protecting your Familiar:
Most people look at the Familiar as their protector. They are protectors but they also need it too. You can place protective amulets or charms on their collar. I actually enchanted my Familiar’s collar so he would be protected even when I’m not home. I also have a certain space for him in the house where he can go to a be protected. You can do this by enchanting their bed.
Protection Enchantment
Materials:
  • Collar (blank or with symbols)
  • Brown Candle
  • Salt
  • Bowl of Water
  • Incense such as mugwort or St. John’s Wort for protection and calming
  • Markers (optional)
Begin by creating a salt and water protection Circle around you (and your Familiar if present). You may cast any Circle you wish. At this time, state your intention within the Circle and light your candle and incense. If you have chosen a blank collar, you may wish to draw your own protection sigils upon it or you can simply proceed with the next step.
Pass the collar through the four elements. Sprinkle the color with the Salt of the Earth and state your intention.
Pass the collar over the flame, but not too closely, and state your intention
Sprinkle the collar with the water and state your intention.
Pass the collar through the smoke of the incense and state your intention.
The collar has no been imbued with the power of protection from the four elements and is ready to be worn by your Familiar.
I would like to introduce my own Familiar as I find him quite the character. His name is Salem, a 2 year old Tuxedo who rescued me from the animal shelter.