Friday, August 31, 2012

In the Day of a Witch: The Little Things

This morning I awoke to news that one of my Craft Elders had departed through the veil last night. He is my great-great-grandfather in lineage. Though I have never met him, I honor him; his Craft, work, time, and sacrifice contributed to forming the Craft I have received and been initiated into. So I think that I will light the candles on my ancestor altar and make an offering of wine to the Host of the Mighty Dead, asking them to share it in welcoming him to their ranks.


The last time I took my kids crabbing, for blue crab, the two of them decided that they would conspire to use magick to draw the crab to our pots. They would close their eyes, link arms, and talk each other through visualizing large crab, “As big as your head”, crawling into the pots. Needless to say my wife and I were highly amused and approved of their activities. So later today, I’m suppose to get off work early, we are all going to go out and set some pots and otherwise sit around talking and enjoying the sun and breeze. As my son has been into the Greek Gods and Goddesses lately, see my post on Percy Jackson, I think I might have an offering to Poseidon, and include my kids, asking for bounty in the catch.


According to the Gregorian calendar, tonight is a blue moon. I don’t know if it is true according to older lore; I ran across this yesterday. It doesn’t matter much to me, most of the moon lore I use in my Craft concerns either associations with trees or devotional information. Either way is good with me, for our Lady is full. What I do know is that because of the extra emphasis put on the moon being blue tonight by those within our community, it makes the night special culturally speaking. Using that bond someone magickally inclined can use tonight’s moon for extra umph in their magick or devotion via this key.

For example, one could set up a stang (or broom/staff/wand/sword/just a large stick) vertically, place a cauldron (or large bowl/chalice/coffee mug) about half full of water at its base, and when the moon is high cast a bit of silver into the cauldron. This is called Silvering the Well and draws a line between the celestial heavens and chthonic below by way of the axis, represented by the stang, and opens a portal in the cauldron by which the quintessence of the celestial and chthonic moon is simultaneously reflected into the space. At this point, a Witch could use that energy magickally to bless or charge items if they so wished; make sure to note the planetary hour. Or they could say a prayer to the Lady of the Moon and tie the symbols of womb and moon unto Her, allowing them to act as a gateway for Her presence. After which it would be an appropriate time to make offerings, chant, give prayers, or turn to divination for a lesson. Either way when all is said and done, the water from the cauldron is blessed by Her light and can be used as Holy Water for cleansings, blessings, bathing, or any number of other things.


This morning I was going through my morning devotional as is usual. I gave simple offerings and anointed Their brow upon my own. Then I started to say my morning prayer unto the Sun and our Lord, at which point the clouds parted, literally, and the Sun shown forth brightly upon me.

This instance and the rest of today’s blog is about the little things. It is in the small moments of everyday living that our Craft is a catalyst for the Eternal Now. Take a pause and enjoy them.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Song of Community: Supporting One Another

Over the past couple of days several things have transpired, in the larger Contemporary Pagan community, in the Eastern NC community (where I am), and in my personal life. All of which have one commonality—one axis round which they go. Each one of them is about supporting the community.

For those that do not remember, several years ago L. Galadriel, one of the founders of the Unicorn Tradition, was diagnosed with a failing liver. Sadly she did not have insurance and could not afford to pay for the transplant herself. BUT… then something amazing happened. The entire Contemporary Pagan community united. No arguing, fighting, or bickering; okay maybe just bit. We as a community forked up the bill, and she got her transplant. In an unfortunate turn of events, her body rejected the new liver and she departed our company for the Mighty Dead. Whereas I am saddened by the turn of events that transpired, within them I saw something that at the time I thought impossible. I didn’t think that our fledgling community, and believe me when I say we are still in the beginning phase of transforming ourselves from being a New Religious Movement into whatever is to come, but I digress. Our greater community is pockmarked with in-fighting and Witch Wars, after all we are fiercely independent and not afraid to voice our disagreements. Yet somehow we set that all aside when one of our Elders needed us and answered the call for help.

More recently Isaac Bonewits entered into a fight with cancer. For those who don’t know, the man pretty much made American Druidism into a viable and working religion. If you call yourself a Druid and use a three realm based cosmology, vice the four elemental system common to British Druidry, then you have this man to thank. Again the community at large extended what help we could in order to ensure he had a livelihood… it’s very hard to make a living off traveling to festivals as a guest speaker when you can’t travel. Isaac eventually closed his eyes and was initiated into the ranks of the ancestors.

In both these cases, any hope of success came about as a result of the community giving back to our Elders. Since then, I have seen an increase in the manners in which we support. I can say this is particularly true of my local community. Y’all got your heads on right in this thing. I have lived in several states, thanks to my employer, and nowhere else can compare.

So back to what has me thinking about all of this:

Recently a prominent Contemporary Pagan blogger, Star Foster, entered into some tough times. Read all about it on her blog. I met Star back before there was a blog, when I lived in Atlanta. She is good people and truly cares for our community. Her blog is a labor of love. I don’t know exactly how much help has been given, but I do know that when the call went out, the community responded.

Yesterday, I received an invite to attend the Wiccaning for a local couple’s daughter. The invite took me by surprise. I know the couple and have talked with them briefly at Mayfaire and Shadow Harvest, but don’t regularly run in the same circles as them. Nothing against them, our paths just don’t cross often. For those that don’t know. I am a huge fan of showing support to our community and increasing the bonds therein via Rites of Passage. This blog sums it up very well.

In Greenville, NC, where I ran a successful Coven for several years before having to move away due to employment, there is a local shop suffering from the down turn in the economy. When I lived in Greenville, the Tipsey Teapot was the hub for our community. Several groups met there. Though most don’t know it, our Coven held our interviews there. Now several years later, the community has other centers but the Tipsey is still a common stomping ground. The local community recognizing the threat towards one of their beloved establishments has united and is doing what they can to assist. I applaud them and give them my support in this endeavor.

The third thing that has my mind on this issue of communal support is the rush of volunteers. I am one of the organizers for a local festival, Shadow Harvest, and I am amazed at the offers of support and help that I have received. Unlike other festivals, Shadow Harvest (and Mayfaire, its compliment) is completely free and exists solely because of volunteers and donations.

Yesterday, this blog went up on the Wild Hunt. HERE. In the spirit of it, and having already thought a lot about supporting the community, I have decided to make a short list of ways that Contemporary Pagans can help each other out.


New Age Store: By ALL your supplies from them. Maybe it takes some creative planning but they need the support; and without these stores our community has no actual building and places by which to organize. Here is what I do. I stock up when at a store attending an event. Or I place a bulk order to be exchanged in person at a later date. Almost everything I use in my Craft is supplied this way. There are times when I see something online, that I must have, but before I buy it, I see if a shop I support can get it. Pay a little extra for what you want; you’d spend the same in shipping anyway. On that note, once you have built up some repertoire, you might even get a discount. Help them help you.

Crafts Folk: Need something made or want to learn a new skill. Support your local Contemporary Pagan crafts folk by purchasing your wares from them, or hiring them to share (even if in barter) the how to.

Festivals: Volunteer. They are a lot of work and do tremendous good for uniting our community.

Give: Sometimes the best say to support the community is to just give, whether it be time, cash, or skill. I know it’s not always possible, but when it is, lend a hand.

Encouragement: Our path is not an easy one. There is a lot of hard work and struggle that goes into it. Especially for the inexperienced and new to the path, they may be working through hardship from previous paths and ways. Offer them encouragement. If we are to grow as a healthy community, it is gonna take everyone. That whole ‘it takes a village’ thing applies here as well.

Rites of Passage: The Rites of Passage for others are yours too. They strengthen the bonds of everyone, socially speaking; also when you attend someone else’s, your re-experience the rites yourself via proxy.

Attend Events: Go to community events. Festivals, Pagan Pride Days, and those sponsored by shops.

So that’s what I got. Care to add to this list?

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Crafting Possibility and the Probable: Life of a Witch

I was thinking about the archetypal image of the Witch. I recently read about how different motifs of Paganism can act as a guide for individuals seeking which path is right for them. At this point, I would love to be able to provide a link to the article I read, but I can’t seem to find it. So if you happen to have an article talking about such, please post it in the comments.

Whereas I believe that there is some truth to this, and can very much see how a certain romanticized idea of being a Witch, Magician, or Druid could lead someone to further research that path, I can’t say it is universal. I’m not even really sure what the typical Witch is supposed to be. I guess that depends on whom you ask.

In mainstream Western society, from what I can tell, Witches fall into one of the following categories: demon seductress worshippers of Satan, harmless hippy-like nature worshippers, or poor disillusioned believers in fairytales. I fully understand these are gross over stereotyping, but I provide them because I have been accused of being each. Truth be told, I don’t think that any of these images really attract that many to the Witching Path.

I think it is the image of the Witch as being free that is alluring to so many. The new found ability to shape one’s own spirituality without the need to have validation from others, presents an almost infinite realm of possibilities. Combine that with the overwhelming control and Western emphasis on orthodox (right belief) that has been put upon the individual, and the freedom of Contemporary Paganism in contrast seems vast. Most often the first glimpse of some form of Witchcraft that new Contemporary Pagans encounter is a form of eclectic religious Witchcraft derived from Traditional Wicca. This should not be surprising since Traditional Wicca helped to usher in our New Religious Movement of Contemporary Paganism. Granted, it is not solely responsible. Also on that note, Witchcraft is not the only path that I believe offers such freedom within Contemporary Paganism, but you write what you know, so I'll leave it up to others to give discourse on freedom within other forms.

To explain the freedom of the Witch, I will use a brief and rough analogy. Think for a moment about the fairytale Witch getting ready to brew some magickal concoction in a large empty cauldron. The Witch herein is the individual and the cauldron is the life of the Witch. While still empty the cauldron is the potentiality of possibility. What life will the Witch brew for herself? Will it be a life of poison, one of magickal transformation, or perhaps just a hearty stew? At this point, no one can say for sure. Yes, there are some probabilities involved. Surely the person the Witch has been up until this point, the environment/culture, and many other things all make the likelihood of the essence of the brew more probable. Also the skill of the Witch in shaping the flavor and taste of the development is a factor. Will they add ingredients from a cookbook, pick and choice from what they think smells nice, or perhaps go by trial and error? Who can say at this point! But once the fire is lit and the work begins, the Craft takes form.

Did any particular image/archetype help lead you on your path?

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

When Myth, Ritual, and Pop Culture Combine: Musings of a Pagan Parent

Today I was going to write a bit about some of the lessons to be learned from the archetypal image of a Witch at the cauldron. I, however, have changed my mind. Maybe I’ll write on that in due time. Instead I have decided to briefly talk about some of the different books and other forms of media that as a Contemporary Pagan Parent I have found extremely useful in making the world of myth and the practice of Contemporary Paganism assessable to my children.

I got to thinking about this topic, after reading this article. I will also add, that none of these are inherently meant to be themed for Contemporary Pagan children. Feel free to add to this list.

My wife, kids, and I have a small nightly devotion ritual of giving a portion of our evening meal as offerings. We also celebrate the eight-fold year as full day events with a small ritual, occasionally have a family oriented Esbat, attend festivals, and mark significant parts of life with rites of passage. Combine all of this ritual enactment with the availability of myth in pop culture, has explained more to my kids about Contemporary Paganism than I think I alone could. It has brought the myths to life in their cultural socialization as well as their home and hearth daily routine. Just thinking about it, amazes me.

So here is the list with a bit of commentary:

The Percy Jackson Books

This is by far the biggest, in my opinion. The author, according to the introduction he wrote for the rerelease of Robert Graves’ The Greek Myths (which I am currently reading), said his writing of these stories came about as a result of helping his son come to terms with struggling with dyslexia. As a scholar of Greek mythology, he took the struggles of the myths, and his son’s problems, and related the two so as to show how myth can help, even kids, to better understand the issues of life. The resulting bed-time stories were about a modern Demi-God/Hero. Years later the author took these stories he told his son and wrote the Percy Jackson books, wherein the main character is a Demi-God, with dyslexia, and goes on epic hero journeys in the modern world, a modern world where the Gods, Goddesses, and various monsters from the Greek myths are real.

These books have turned my son into a little polytheist. During our meal devotional, previously mentioned, everyone has a part. My wife lights the candles, I light incense, my daughter offers water, and my son a small dish with a portion of the evening meal. He has never really said anything at this part, mainly because we have never instructed him to; the rest of the small rites’ format handles all that. However, he has taken up the habit of saying, “And this is for all the Gods and Goddesses.” He has, without prompting, connected the myth of the stories with our ritual life. Ask him and he will tell you who his favorite God or Goddess is, Zeus by the way, and can carry on basic seven year old level conversation about them. All thanks to Percy Jackson.

Thor and the Avengers:

With the recent making of the Thor and Avengers comics into movies, although my kids have not seen them, has put the basis of Norse mythology into the fore of pop culture. My kids have from this learned who Thor is. Though it was not intended by Marvel in anyway, they have made this recreation of Norse myth a part of modern culture and completely assessable to my kids. Whom by the way, love themselves some Thor.

Avatar (Both the Movie and the Series):

Talk about teaching the different associations with the elements. Combine this with my kids knowing the element of their astrology sign, and bam, instant teaching.


So this is what I can think of off the top of my head, but I am sure there are many more. Please feel free to add to this list in the comment below.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Cycle of Now

Life works in cycles. That I mention this is nothing new to my readers. After all, I’ve pointed this out more than once, and in all probability it is likely to be brought up many more. It is important for anyone delving into either spiritual or magickal endeavors to come to know their own ebb and flow and patterns within in life. As a Witch is upon a path that is counted as both, it is of particular importance.

Every cycle exists as a pattern whereby all cycles have a family resemblance. The most basic of which mirrors the birth, death, and transformation of the Self. It is the most basic of patterns that is observable in the world in which the Witch, and everything else for that matter, is counted amongst.

The next level down is less of a summation of one’s Higher Self, but includes the singular ‘I’ of a lifetime. At this level the pattern of life is again the same; childhood, adulthood, parenthood, old age, and once more the descent into the cauldron of death. The ‘I’ that is the ego only knows this cycle once, and as it is happening. Making informed decisions becomes much harder when there are no remembered past experiences in regards to a particular cycle. Intellectually it is known that one day the individual will grow old, but until it begins happening, it is simply a notion without the self-validation of having done it.

Becoming informed of the ‘I’ teir of the circle, happens in several different ways. Through myth and culture are individuals given the keys to the patterns of all those that have gone before them along that same mythic Hero’s Journey. The Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes that have involved themselves in a particular society demonstrate, through the actions of their stories, the nuances of living and the way unto the next step of the path.

In Witchcraft, the cycle of our Lord and our Lady, amongst others, are revealed through the ritualistic enactment of their mythos in alignment with one’s life stages, holy days, the seasons, the sun & moon, the plants and cosmos, initiations, and the everyday actions of one’s immediate life. For the Witch, studying the ritual year and attuning oneself with the seasons and continuous weave of life and death around oneself is the informant of the Witch; it speaks both logically and symbolically, intellectually and intuitively, of known and unknowns, and of the theoretical and experiential. It is the task of the Witch to learn to listen, see the cycles, and apply the lessons there from upon their own Being.

Just be. Allow the cycle in the now to open the inner doorway to the eternal knowing and the love of all existences.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Freedom of a Witch!

One of the core precepts of the theology that is prevalent in Witchcraft is that the Gods are not the drivers of our lives. This is a very important distinction as compared to other religious traditions. Don’t get me wrong, the Gods and Goddesses do influence and have an impact upon us, but we are the makers of our lives. So much so that whether or not we choose to build a relationship with the Gods is ours to make. Yes, Gods and Goddesses may call, but the option is there to refuse to answer. We are free. Whether one’s practice leads them to believe in Gods or not does not change this either.

Due to this freedom, the life of a Witch is their sole responsibility. There is no divine scapegoat upon which to place the consequence of the decisions made throughout life. Ethical or unethical behavior belongs to the Witch alone, as does the impact that behavior has. It is popular amongst new Contemporary Pagans to often cite the Three-fold Law of Return (TLR) as a tenet of reward/punishment much like karma. This interpretation is not how the TLR is used in Traditional Wicca, where this piece of lore originates.

The TLR is about metaphysics. The individual’s actions impact the world around them, manifesting affect, and this reverberates some form of impact unto the person from which the original action began. It was best put by Sir Isaac Newton, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” In other words, the Witch acts and the world around them responds accordingly, albeit sometimes in complete opposition. How the world reacts is not a part of the freedom of the Witch, it is outside of our Being. However, the manner of response is and will be influenced by the manner of the action taken by the Witch; choosing to commit theft garnishes much different worldly responses than say making a donation to a local animal shelter. Both, however, illicit reactions. The various possibilities of existence’s actions and reactions manifest in one of three ways; mentally/emotionally, physically, or spiritually. Until something has been fated to the realm of the past, freedom is ours. I will also add, choosing no action is still the exercitation of a decision unto which we were free to make.

Taking into account the level of freedom that a Witch has over their lives, the Witch becomes the master of their path. Granted, there are some restrictions upon freedom. No matter how much a Witch may desire and might make the ridiculas yet conscious decision to grow wings, it just isn’t happening. Though the decision to write that last sentence, and this one, were mine; how the world responds is not. The writing of such will have some impact upon existence, and somehow, though not necessarily directly, the result of that impact will in turn affect me. The life of a Witch is the sum total of all of their decisions and actions. They may not be able to decide for existence but they can shape it, and the responsibility of doing so is theirs alone. A Witch pays their proverbial coin for all of their decisions.

The famous eight words from the Wiccan Rede, “An it harm none, do what ye will,” also originating in Traditional Wicca, is about freedom. The most common interpretation of the Rede is that it denounces any behavior that harms. I cannot speak for all of BTW, but I’m gonna anyway. The Rede traditionally is not taught this way. It grants freedom, recognizes responsibility, and does not confine. The Rede tells the Wicca not to worry about any action that does not harm, they are free to act. Beyond that, everything is for the Witch to decide. It is their responsibility to consider potentially harmful actions. Now, there is a lot of other lore that ties in here (such as being a proper person), but I’m not going there. The complete freedom to decide and make choices can cause anxiety as a result. The Rede acts as a buffer helping to alleviate some of that from forming by creating a framework upon which to weigh our freedom.

We are free.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Naming of a Child

Names are power. They convey meaning and with it a reservoir of associated symbolism attached to that name. Not to get into too much detail but this is what I have been thinking about this morning. Yesterday, my wife and I found out that our third child will be female. Already the topic of possible names has arisen. Let’s just say I am feeling the responsibility of this task; more so than I did with my first two children.

I don’t really have much to say today. So I leave you with the thought of the metaphysical impact our naming and tying to energetic reservoirs potentially has upon others. Food for thought.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fundamentalist Politics

It has been a mainstay of politics in the US for a long time, or so we claim and would have people believe, that religion is kept separate from it and likewise politics are kept out of religion. This is one of the major dividing points between us and the Islamic world; they don’t see the two as being able to be separate, thus the whole discourse against secularism*. This same rhetoric entered into American politics in force in the early 1900s with the development of Fundamentalism, which frankly did not exist prior to then**. The attempt to use political power as a means of forcing religious behavior and conformity upon others is one of the primary tactics used by the World Conqueror motif of Fundamentalists. It is in stark contrast to that of the World Renouncer, the Amish who are clearly Fundamentalists by the definition of the word are not going around trying save the other, that being us, from damnation, suffering, un-enlightenment, or whatever the poison is, by use of force, that force being politics. More on this later, first let’s talk about what Fundamentalism is and some of how it operates.

Fundamentalism as a phenomenon has a number of characteristics that are similar amongst the range of religions in which it has manifested. These similarities have become known as family resemblances within the world of fundamentalist study. Fundamentalism is first and foremost a social reaction. It is a defensive reaction against modernization, and everything that encompasses, such as secularism and advancements in science that contradict traditional religious views. These aspects of modernization are seen as an attack on religion, and it is the duty of the chosen to uphold the purity of religion. A very real psychological, and sometimes physical, wall if built between those in the group and its enemies— everyone else. It is a wall of moral pluralism; those within its confines are the moral upholders of the faith and adherents to its correct and moral behavioral practices and those outside this realm of influence are those trying to destroy it. The foundation for this wall is built from absolutes and the inerrancy of a combination of, scripture, authority, and doctrine; all of which are carefully selected and construed so as to support their fundamentalist stance and ideology.

One of the main traits of fundamentalism is the ideology of the Other, that is the idea that the chosen few exist separate from, and must guard against, the threat against religion. Politics are used by the World Conqueror as a tactic of maintaining that wall, and pushing back. By engaging in hostility and opposition with the Other and the returning opposition is used partially to keep their own ranks in line, “Look at how they attack us and strive to destroy our lives.” This becomes a rallying point as well as a wall that keeps people within their control. Like all groups, fundamentalist groups would wither away if their membership did not stay. The wall is also used as the clear dividing line between the saved and the damned. Politics have allowed Fundamentalists to take this moral pluralism and apply it to our two party system. Voting and participation in the system then becomes a choice between which side of the line, damned or saved, upon which one falls regardless of their actual feelings and opinions on the matter.

I for one, am sick of it. I don’t express my political opinions often because of the rampant fundamentalism that has entered and taken control of our politics. I generally choose not to engage. I do, however, still vote and exercise my own morality with said vote. So if you can’t tell, the latest rampage of hate within our politics has gotten my feathers ruffled. Today’s blog is my attempt to remind myself what is happening culturally and religiously. Comment if you will, but as I know politics and religion can be hot topics, please keep it respectful.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

* For more about the relationship in Islam and politics read chapter one of: Prothero, S. (2010). God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World—And Why Their Differences Matter. New York, Harper Collins.

** For more about Fundamentalism is from a scholarly perspective read: Almond, G. A., Appleby, S. R. (2003). Strong Religion: The Rise of Fundamentalisms around the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. OR Ruthven, M. (2005). Fundamentalism: The Search for Meaning. Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

God is XYZ

It has been a constant of Western theologies for centuries to try and explain the nature of divinity. In fact, the majority of Western based religions will quickly state, “God is XYZ” believing that they have uncovered the answer. This just isn’t the case with Witchcraft, or Contemporary Paganism as a whole.

Witchcraft exists as traditions. Now, I don’t mean that in the commonly used sense similar to denomination, I mean it as in tradition as a common practice/s that exists between people. For example, the men in my family, going back to my great grandfather, carry a large coin, half dollar or silver dollar, on their person most of the time. I have one in my pocket as I type; my dad out of all the gifts he could have given my son gave him a silver dollar at his one-year birthday. It is a tradition, it is what we do. Witchcraft has at its core foundation these kinds of traditions, only a bit more engrained in folk lore and magickal ancestry (such as the earlier grimoire traditions or alchemy). Modern Traditions were born forth from these traditions. Some Traditions of Witchery may have common ideas about the nature of the Gods, but as a whole Witchcraft is mute on that front. Why? For two reasons.

As far as Witchcraft practice is concerned, the nature of the Gods is irrelevant. It just isn’t important. Nor does it need to be. Whereas Witchcraft is practiced in both groups and by individuals, there does not need to be any form of standardized legitimately correct, as decided by others, answer to belief for people to come together based on a commonality of said belief. Witchcraft’s commonality is practice, as already mentioned. It is what allows people with vastly differing ideas and beliefs to conjoin and practice together as one cohesive whole. Trying to figure out a universally correct definition for the nature of the Gods and impose it upon the whole only fragments, divides, and prevents us from working as a group. As the old proverb goes, “Ask three Witches a question and get seven different answers.”

The second reason that Witchcraft and Contemporary Paganism doesn’t bother to provide an answer to what the Gods are, is because practice begets belief. Practicing and experiencing the ins and outs of mystery religions, which we are, and whether or not anyone has issued forth proclamation or declarations of belief, the individual will develop about them their own understanding of belief, partially as a result of the common practices of the Craft. For example, Witchcraft teaching one how to engage in trance-like ritual. The experience of that ritual and what it says about the Gods and existence as a whole are for the individual; they will make realizations, draw conclusions, and have some form of belief. On that note, belief itself is not something that is defined either. An individual is equally at home in our ranks whether they believe the Gods and Goddesses to be material bodied beings, simply complex biochemical reactions in the brain, archetypes, motifs of nature, energy forces, or anything else for that matter. Personally, I may believe one thing over another and even argue my point if asked, but that personal belief is mine and not the group’s.

All of this is the reason why I have a hard time answering the question, when asked, “What do Witches/Pagans believe?” The only answer is yes, because every –ism and –ist ever defined or yet to have been defined has Witches and Pagans carrying the banner, and usually more than one. Likewise, and for the same reason, the answer is equally no.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Monday, August 20, 2012

With BoS in Hand.

I started recopying my Book of Shadows (BoS) this past weekend. As is traditional, I hand copied it from the BoS of my teacher. Normally this is something that is done over a span of time. I, however, did not have that luxury. I had to drive nine hours to their house during a four day weekend from work. Less than a few weeks later, they would be moving to the West coast, whereas I am literally 20-30 minutes from the Atlantic. So the only chance I had, without flying to the opposite coast, would be to marathon transcribe it in entirety.

I am an eighth generation Initiate and so with the traditional proclamation of being able to add to the BoS so long as nothing is subtracted in place, let’s just say there was quite a bit to copy. I did it too, in a hand numbing rushed 12 hour write-athon. The experience was very memorable and I learned a lot. Copying a BoS in the traditional manner is an initiatory experience in of itself, participating in the same process with the same material with nothing but pin, paper, and one’s thoughts, just like every initiate before. It cracks open the egregore and the bond is strengthened.

It is due to this hurry-up-and-copy that has led me to recopying. First I’d like everything to be in a slightly nicer journal that I bought a couple of years ago. When I first started training, I ran across it one day and knew it would be my BoS, the calling was answered, and so I have held it in the ready since. Secondly, after five or six hours of writing and thinking, the reflection bit is down played significantly and the writing becomes an automatic exercise of discipline. I say discipline because it takes effort to force one to keep going at that point, but one’s thoughts are mostly not on the material. The mind was in a haze, taking several days to recover.

With this in mind, I started the much slower and deliberate process of transcribing everything into what will be my working BoS. I’ll save the other as a backup. The experience has been very similar to the first and vastly different. Many of the same feelings and ideas have cropped up, especially as they are stirred up by familiar passages or wording. At the same time, I have time to pause if I so choose and think about what I am writing. I have had several important realizations as a result. It is an experience that I am grateful for.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Black Cat Appreciation Day

Apparently it is Black Cat Appreciation Day. Read about it here. Black Cats and Witchcraft have long history of being related in Traditional Lore. So I find a bit of joy in this holiday that I wouldn’t otherwise. Why single out Black Cats? What about the poor tabby or calico, where is their appreciation day? But because of the connection between black cats and Witches, I’m not too worried about it. In fact, it feels a bit like a mini-holiday in favor of Witchy Familiars. Maybe we should have a toad, serpent, or hare appreciation day too, just to round out the appreciation of Witch animals.

As you have probably heard through folk lore, Black Cats are the traditionally associated animal when it comes to portraying a Witches’ Familiar. This would take one of two forms usually. Either the Black Cat was a magickal assistant/servant, or a husk whereby the Witch could take the form of the Black Cat as if it were a permanent external vehicle. Black Cats are also associated with luck and fortune. To own a Black Cat is suppose to be very luck in parts of the U.K., but strangely to have one cross your path is suppose to be unlucky.

So, as it is Black Cat Appreciation Day, and if you own a Black Cat, as I happen to, then at some point during the day take an extra moment or two to strengthen the bond between owner and Black Cat, or you could just feed it and give it a good scratching behind the ears.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Walking the Dream Road

As a Witch I have long used other realms in my magick so as to cause effect upon this plane. In fact the methods of sending energy, thoughts, or constructs unto astral, the elemental planes, or any of the three worlds, is fairly basic in applied magickal technique. The simple spell work found in most folk magic, which 101 books are packed full with, make use of the relationship between here and astral as a reflector whereby the materia are keys to unlocking the desired effects. They are keys both symbolically and via their own inherent properties. With that said, there is one manner of inter-positional connected between the here and there that I have not really explored much. The reason is simple, I rarely recall any of my experience while there. I am speaking of the Dreaming Road.

The mind experiences existence through three states of place. These are called the Roads, and the point at which they conjoin in the Crossroads of the Mind. These three roads are respectively: the Waking Road, Sleeping Road, and Dreaming Road. I experience dreams just like everyone else. I remember having them but have difficulty recalling them. I do on occasion use a method of recording the dreams before the recall of the travels of the Dreaming Road become distant. I usually only apply this when I see some significance in the meaning of the events and any symbology therein, or if I believe some message is being given with the Dream Road being the manner of leading me to it.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to delve a bit more into what this aspect of experience has to offer, especially when it comes to magick. I have thus far purposely experimented with working with my dreams in two manners. The first, I recorded everything I could about a normal every day dream and set about using dream divinatory methods I know, via conjure, to see whether I would discover any meaning. The dream had a lot to say, and I do mean a lot. I immediately had to reevaluate a situation in my life and it instantly began to improve. So oneiromancy works, if anyone asks. I may even play in it a bit more.

The second method in which I am aspiring to, is to build myself a Dream Temple, they are akin to Astral Temples but follow slightly different rules. After all, Astral and the Dream Road are not the same place. In order to do this, I must achieve two things. One I must be able to have lucidity, and secondly I must be able to apply control upon the Dream Road so that what happens there is reflected upon Astral. Currently, I am working on step one.

I have been practicing a method of habitual reality reassessment as a catalyst for bringing about lucidity while walking the Dream Road. Twice now, since starting, I have willfully gained consciousness while walking thus. However, as is horribly common when becoming a proficient Dream Witch, I immediately step back upon the Waking Road and find myself starring at my bedroom wall. The issue is a simple one, the mind is not accustomed to maintaining the threshold balance between the two Roads and so you wake up. This is where I am at. There are methods for overcoming this tendency of the mind. First lucidity must be experienced enough that it is not quite so new for the mind. Once this is done, then in the moment of awareness of the Dreaming Road, an immersion exercise can be done. Bam lucidity! And no waking up. Then the Witch can move on to other forms of work.

Have you worked with your dreams? Is it something that interests you? I am interested in your stories, so please feel free to share.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Guest Post- Shawnus Merlin Belarion

Country and City Witches

Nowadays I see a lot of Witches buying their tools at Wiccan and New Age internet stores. There are certainly a lot of wonderful and fancy products available, and it is a temptation for both country and city Witches.

I wish that Witches would make their own instruments as best as they can, or buy magickal objects at local flea markets and yard sales to Craft into their working tools. In my tradition, one’s tools are gathered and dedicated over a year and a day. In addition to esoteric reasons, this allows an individual to take their time to shop around. Sure anyone could sit down to surf the internet and buy them all in an hour or so. I’ve bought lots of quality items on the internet myself, but what kind of Witchcraft is that? It is more credit card magick than real work. The Witch shouldn’t grab their tools, but call them. A Witch in training should put out the call to the Gods, to bring them what them need, and then patiently shop around locally and see what the Gods throw into their lap.

I found my athame on Halloween, in a friend’s barn, in his grandfather’s tool box. It has a hand forged blade which has never been sharpened. I have wondered many times what it was made for, and how could have lain unused for so many years—the Gods gave me that athame!

I found my bolline at a flea market in the form of an old butcher’s knife, which had been sharpened down very far with use, and all I had to do was engrave it and paint the handle white.

I found my cup at the local Catholic shop.

I braided my first cingulum out of red cotton yarn using an instrument you can get at a craft store. The other cingulums, I bought at a window dressing store in the form of drapery cords.

I bought the cloth at a fabric store, and sewed the sigils on it myself.

I was even forced by my Priestess/girlfriend, to buy a pattern for a robe and sew it on her machine!

I cut my own besom and wand from a branch of an oak tree in the back yard.

I didn’t buy some fancy BOS from an internet dealer for hundreds of dollars, but bought blank art books at an artist store and painted the covers myself.

I found my cauldron at a local antique mall for $20, instead of shopping online for cauldrons with pentagrams cast onto them, which were expensive, not to mention shipping costs.

Witches need to own the karma of what they buy. If they need a wood product, they should to be the one to cut that tree or branch and offer thanks. If they want a bone handled knife, then they need to own the karma of the killing of that animal, or at least the harvesting of its bone. A Witch can easily find stones out in the woods and streams to put on their altar, rather than buying expensive lapidary turned stones. Strain your back, skin your knuckles and break your nails— The gods will show you what you need to find!

Of course we can’t all make all that we need, but there is a Witch out there somewhere nearby who is a Kitchen Witch, Seamstress Witch, Blacksmith Witch, Wood-worker Witch, or Herbalist Witch. I remember a Probationer in my old Coven, who took a piece of steel and used a grinding wheel and made her own athame blade. Now that is Crafting!

Even though they aren’t Witches, there are crafts-people out there who can be outsourced to make what is needed, no questions asked. Support your local talented Witches and craft-persons! But if the Witch lives in a big city, then they may have to go to a local store, or shop on the internet, but in this it best to always choose the closest vendors. It is all about the local economy. It is the same with fresh food in the summer – don’t buy it in the grocery stores, but go to the local farm markets if possible.

Regarding oils and powders and incenses – figure out the ingredients of the formulas sold online, figure out what plants they use, then find substitutes in herbs grown here in America. Find a witch herbalist and get them to figure it out. We don’t need to buy cleansing herbs from Africa or the Middle East or Europe. Just find out what the AmerIndians used that grows here. Instead of frankincense, burn South American copal.

I have been a Witch in city, suburb, and now thankfully out in the woods. I can tell you that I have dragged along large rocks, pieces of wood, plants and such from the woods to ground myself when I was in the city; and I have brought my PC and internet connection out to the country to shop online when needed. However the longer I am in the country, the more I realize the resources out here for what I need to work Witchcraft. I can even buy my herbs from the local Amish!

- Gary Lee Hoke © 2012


Just a bit of background information. L. Shawnus is a Third Degree Initiated Witch with lineage tracing back to Sybil Leek, and he is the current High Priest for the Coven of the Catta. He also has a blog where he regularly posts about whatever is of interest to him at the time.

Thank you L. Shawnus for taking the time to put this together.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Monday, August 13, 2012

Carrying the Gods to Work

For my entire professional career I have kept my religious views and life separate from my work life. I still have my beliefs and request the Sabbats off, as well as any significant Rites of Passage for myself or immediate family, but otherwise my behavior, comments, and demeanor/appearance all present a secular face to the world.

My work has always been extremely accommodating in the practice of my spirituality; even going so far as to give me days off work for holidays without charging me leave. In the past eleven years I have only received one off-color comment from someone, to my face anyway. Early in my career there were a lot of rumors that I sacrificed animals and whatnot but that died out as people got to know me and with the individual saying such leaving. Overall for an extremely out practicing Witch, I have not had a bad time of it. On a few occasions I have even had co-workers approach me to do a little work for them. It helps that I have a government job and copies of all the rules and regulations relating to religious accommodation.

I am like most Contemporary Pagans; I generally have a bad taste in mouth when it comes to dealing with others, especially at work, in regards to their religion. The issue is that the major religious tradition of the Western world is missionary, that being Christianity. On that same note, so are Islam and Buddhism. Right there, the top three largest world religions are all missionary based. Additionally I live in a part of the United States were Evangelical Protestantism is the standard for Christianity. That they can be extra fervent in their attempts at missionary work is an understatement. Toss all of that into one pot and you can best believe that I have experienced my fair share of others attempting to convert me or simply ensure that I have heard the word. They and I, however, see very different spiritual issues at hand, have very different ideas of what our religious focus should be, have different religious goals, and ask different spiritual questions. Due to these differences, I am happy where I am and not to purposely try and force a conversion I don’t see as necessary upon myself when my needs are being met is a rational decision. Needless to say, the constant bombardment that Contemporary Pagans receive gets taxing. This exasperation combined with our Tradition not being missionary based, seeking converts at every opportunity, leads to the purposeful withdrawal from both engagement as well as attempts to not do the same out of the sheer courteousness of it.

It is out of courtesy that I have maintained an apt secularism in my duties and presentation at work. Do not get me wrong, if I had need of prayer or to ground, etc, then I did so, and no one was the wiser. After a lot of thought on the subject, I have decided that I don’t quite like it. In short, I believe that I can reframe from intruding my beliefs upon other while still having about me things in which I recognize and help to bring my own gap between my spiritually laden home-life and that of work-life. The institution of this personal bridge will be done covertly. No one need know, as far as I am concerned.

Last week, I made a trip to Georgia. Preparing for it I have to figure out what method I was going to use to continue with some of my devotionals that I have been engaging in. I did not particularly want to pack up my entire altar as I have had to do on long trips previously. While contemplating this, and standing at my altar, my eyes fell upon a small bottle of anointing oil that I use in my devotional rites and then they turned towards a necklace of the Witch Lady and Witch Lord, which happened to be on the later at the time, and in a blazing moment of correlation and revelation the answer appeared. I would use these two pendants as proxy items for my statues, and other than the bottle of anointing oil nothing else was needed. During the trip, my devotionals continued uninterrupted and without much in regards to actual materia.

Last night, I was unpacking my bags from the trip and placed my bottle of oil and the pendants upon my dresser and thought to myself that perhaps I would use them more in that regards and maybe even put them in a small corner of my desk at work. Not wanting to make a decision in that regards at the time, I decided to postpone it until the morning. I then set my alarm clock and proceeded to occupy my bed.

Upon waking this morning, I experienced the following events. First, I awoke to the horror of my alarm going off after having eight days off from work. I then stumbled to turn the hideousness off. Can you tell I don’t like alarm clocks? I am seriously convinced that we are designed to wake up naturally in the mornings. But I digress. In the moment of getting up and turning off my alarm clock, I somehow accidently knocked my bottle of anointing oil off the dresser. I then began to fumble for it in the dark and immediately an old pagan joke popped into my mind, “Athame handles are black because finding a dropped athame in an outdoor ritual in the dark is a test of loyalty to your faith.” After a minute of scrabbling on my hands and knees in the dark, still mostly asleep, I became resigned that I was just gonna have to get up and turn the light on, which I had wanted to prevent so as not to disturb my wife. In that moment I placed my forehead upon the floor, to rest for a second, cause that’s what you do in those situations with little sleep. Alas, somehow I had placed my forehead directly upon the bottle, with the rest of me in a traditional fetal position style mudra of prostrated prayer. The serendipity of the moment was not lost on me.

I quickly decided in that moment that my Goddess and my God were affirming to me that I should bring these item representations of them to work with me. My Lady and Lord have always been accessible to me at work, or anywhere for that matter without need of material items. There is, however, an important depth to the Craft and devotional work when we have physical tokens which serve are reminders, conduits, and proxies in the present and readily available to be a focal point by which to relay our prayers, blessings, and devotion unto the Gods and Goddesses.

Currently, I have the previously discussed items sitting inconspicuously next to my computer’s monitor. With only a shift of my eyes, I can have a visual reference, while at work, for any offerings of my thoughts and the moment.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Different Stories, Same Circle

One of the hardest things new Witches have difficulty with is time. The approach to time in Witchcraft, and Contemporary Paganism as well, is that time is circular. All and everything exists in cycles, and not a linear time scale that can easily be mapped on a line.
There are many things that can be taught and shown to someone training to become a Witch, but they will and can only begin to think in this manner with experience and self-discovery. If the truth of the matter was shown, even this cyclic thinking would only be the recognition of patterns of the now, for the mystery is that All Time is Now. Think of the circle as being the outer circumference of the point that is the All-Moment.

Our lives are a journey, a grand tale, where we are the Hero. It is all a divine dance, and we are its center, we are the point around which the dance circulates. Early on we struggle with the division which we perceive as separating us from the interconnectedness with the rest of everything. We struggle in that moment to discover who it is that we are, we see ourselves as as individual apart from; an individual who is like a stranger and yet perfectly us. This seeking of the Self is at the core of our Hero’s journey. No one else can walk the path of our life, but it will play out. It is our challenge to triumph. There is drama, pain, suffering, love, comfort, hate, confusion, and the rest of the crux of human experience. It is all there; all of it. No two stories are alike.

If we take a moment and look to the myths of old— to the Greco-Roman myths, to the Norse Eddas, the Irish Mythological Cycle, etc— therein we will see played out for our eyes tales of Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes. These stories inform us about the Gods and Goddesses, the cultures from which they originate, and most aptly they tell us about us and being the Hero. Around the practice of Witchcraft there is tons of lore relating to the mythos of our Witch Lady and Witch Lord. These cycles when examined are amongst other things a story about us, a modern and living Hero myth whereby the Witch has the path of the Gods and Goddesses revealed and made accessible to them. Most Witches do not solely work with one cycle, but incorporate the old cultural myths and the lore of their Tradition into their own Craft.

All of time is a circle, and the lore of the Gods and Goddesses tell the story of that circle. In practice, we are born at one point upon the circle, die upon it, and are reborn when we return to the womb again. The circle in essence is life, and it is our Hero journey. The patterns of that cycle are timeless. The day-to-day struggle we experience and the struggle of day-to-day life several generations ago are very different, and yet, the patterns of those struggles are the same. Existence is a circle and each generation tells its own tale of Heroes, and at the point in the middle we are all upon the same journey.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

All a Matter of Spectrum

In my last blog, I discussed not taking one’s cosmological map too strenuously as it can limit oneself from experiencing some things that exist outside its scope. Not everything can be fit in little rows and labeled. There are some things about the Craft and our methodology of mapping The Tree that are revealing.

The world around us and the spiritual planes in which are interacted with, whether discussing Directional Provinces, Astral, or the Underworld, all exist in a manner of a spectrum in relationship to the rest of the Manifest Tree and Un-Manifest Well. It is all a matter of extremes. All of these otherworldly places are divided by us. In truth, all of existence, even within the physical world, is one and only separated by us. It is through our experiences and interaction with these forces and places that we are able to understand some of the workings of those places, their relationships to one another, and our place within them.

Though everything is upon a spectrum, the Witches’ paradigm is a bit different than the predominant mindset in Western society when it comes to such things. For the spectrum of existence is not linear. Nope. The extremes do not exist merely upon a line of far to the left and far to the right, with everything else in the middle somewhere. The Witches’ understanding is spherical. Within that sphere there is polarity, however. Pick out any point within that metaphorical sphere and within the spectrum of its confines there will be another point related to it by its differences. Those points become like the opposite ends of a magnet; drawn together by their differences.

The model championed by most Witches’ places seven points upon and within that sphere. The use of this method is pretty universal, no matter the cosmological and theological difference between the various currents of Witchcraft. Don’t misunderstand me, not quite everyone agrees, but if nothing else, the rudiments of seven can be found in the lore and mythos of Cunning Craft, Wicca, Sabbatic Craft, and Feri. I’m not gonna debate it, champion one over another, or even lay out a comparison. Just know there is one. If you want to see it for yourself, go and explore the workings of those currents of this river we call Witchcraft. My telling you takes the mystery out of it, and the Craft is a Mystery Religion and must be experienced for one’s self.

The range of the specifics of the seven point model within Witchcraft is quite varied, often with different systems clashing on important views of cosmology and theology. It is important to realize that it is the Witch that hangs their symbols of how existence works upon the model. The Witch observes and experiences the mysteries and as best as they can with that experience, their intellect, and intuition, they pick up the pieces and hang them, much like an ornament, upon that tree. The lore of the Witch instructs them on how others traveled the path before, and where parts are conventionally placed.

A Witch whom is initiated into a particular current or Tradition inherits the basic framework for their cosmological understanding; they then add to it and begin to explore the nuances of the divisions, interconnectedness, and gateways of that basic map. The maps that are part of established Traditions have been proven to work, otherwise it would not survive. Witches use what works. Solitaires are capable of constructing such a map, but it is very difficult and takes years of work just to get it to the point of being workable. Using a Traditional mapping allows the Witch to start the journey into the deep woods with the map and knowledge of others at hand, only the Witch can make the journey but the way need not be repaved with every passing of a new Witch.

Once a workable model of existence is understood by the Witch and they delve into it, then the mysteries with which the model is concerned begin to unfold. There are mysteries inherent to the seven-fold system itself, and they are a flower whose scent is familiar to any Witch regardless of whether they are Cunning, Wicca, or Feri. Then there are mysteries that are unlocked by the specifics of the Tradition being works. If truth be told, these mysteries are still universal, just arriving at their gate and the key which is used to unlock them is different. Last, and nowhere near least, are the mysteries that exist and are unlocked by the individual Witch by working their Craft and developing their relationship with All.

Have you spent enough time sitting in the places you have hung upon the world?

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Friday, August 3, 2012

More than a Chart

Like most of the practitioners of the Western Mystery Tradition, Witches have a framework of cosmology, and hierarchies of the Beings in which dwell within that scheme. Far too often though, an individual can get too committed to that model. There is a very good reason that there are adherents to many different systems of interacting with the world esoterically. Simply, they all work. There are vast differences amongst all the various systems, and yet they work. They work because within the context of the Tradition in which they belong, their symbol sets open the pathways intended. After all, they are mystery traditions.

It is very important for an individual to immerse themselves into a system, not several, so that those keyed symbol sets can become engrained to the point that they can and will do the work they were intended to do. This cannot be overstated, as far as I am concerned. There is, however, a problem of self-defeat that can arise from this.

Yes, as Witches there needs to be a system within which is worked. Yes, the individual needs to avoid continually changing their symbol set every time they begin a working. All of this is true and important to know. There is a danger of limitation therein. This limitation is for which I speak is when the individual becomes too rigid. Everything cannot fit neatly into little boxes and charts. Parts of existence, especially on some of the other planes, just don’t work that way. I am not saying that the answer is to delve into other systems and try to fit the two. Nope, this is only another attempt to make everything fit. I am saying to wear the system loosely. Realize it is only a glimpse, a snapshot of a part, of everything that is out there. Have your charts and hierarchies, but realize that there is more to existence beyond anything you have mapped out. Delve into what you have, and when the time is right, do not limit yourself from stepping into that mysterious more.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Lammastide: Feeding Hunger

The beginnings of our Harvest is upon us. The land we wed has been tilled, sowed, and worked. In moments of strength we have found the work to be easy and invigorating. At times, the severity of the blazing sun and chill of the depth of night have been a burden whereby one can easy lose themselves into believing that the journey will never bare a yield.

The Crown upon our brow has not been an easy one to wear. Deep spiritual work is never easy. At this time of great inner hunger, if we are to be feed and find ourselves nurtured, then that work must not be dwelt upon but offered up as a sacrifice of its own. The Crown of glorious Sovereignty must be placed upon the ground in the middle of that field in which we have labored to bring forth crops.

This is a sacrifice of the false self— transforming—allowing the That-Which-I-Am to not only blaze as the Sun but with the Waters of the Mysteries of that Truth seen, the two as one bring forth the Inner Harvest.

It is Lammas, the First Harvest. There has been much work done to arrive at this point in our lives, but alas, if the Harvest is to be enjoyed then we must make a sacrifice of ourselves to the betterment of the Self. It is a bittersweet death. The mantle which must be put away has been good, and we have grown attached. However, in the same stroke which has cast it off, the sickle laid before us the grain of the harvest truth. It is Lammas and there will be bread upon our table.

Boidh se!

-Spanish Moss

"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."