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  1. TRADITIONAL WITCHCRAFT & RELIGION Please read carefully before posting on these TW forums What is Traditional Witchcraft? Who are you asking? Ask 100 different ‘traditional’ witches and you’ll probably get 98 different answers. But for the sake of this site, most of us choose to ascribe to an answer which is likely to be the most historically correct; that traditional witchcraft is the actual art of magic itself, its accompanying skills (such augury and the preparation of cures and banes) and the practice of traversing the spirit worlds. The practice of magic can be traced to ancient times. From stone tablets, papyri and fragments of original scrolls that still survive, we know it was practiced by our ancestors in the British Isles, Germany and Sweden; and right across to the east and beyond, including Greece, Bulgaria, Egypt and Mesopotamia - just to name a few. Roman authors and priests included magic formulae in their writings for beneficial workings. Harmful spells were usually illegal, although many accounts of curses and banes can be found in earlier Magical Papyri. Diviners (fortune-tellers, augurers, and astrologers) were actually supported by the Roman and Egyptian states. It is also likely that the practice of magic existed prior to the invention of the written word, and rock paintings across the globe suggest all sorts of different forms of magic being used to encourage successful hunts and fertility. We just don’t have any existing proof how far back the origins of magic reach. According to Bronislaw Malinowski, a noted anthropologist, “Magic never originated, it was never made or invented”. We interpret that as meaning that magic has always been in the world. Unless there’s someone who hasn’t yet come out of the broom closet, none of us can trace our magical origins back to the beginning of time. We only know one or two witches who can definitively trace their heritage back several centuries, although we have read of others. Therefore, our practices must originate with something more recent. Recent can be as early as a 16th century ancestor passing down what he or she discovered or as late as someone today thinking, ‘I can do this’ and it works. It can be a centuries-old family tradition, or a ‘tradition of one’. Witchcraft and Religion – Two Separate Entities Many of today’s practices (whether it’s admitted or not) are reconstructions of what is believed to have been done in times past. Certainly, magic and religion have crossed paths in history, and the mythology and texts of religions with magical aspects (such as the Eddas and the Mabinogion, the Greek Magical Papyri and the Egyptian magical texts) are available to be read and interpreted. Throughout history, people have combined the use of magic with certain belief systems (e.g., the Saxon Haegtesse, Norse Seidkona) merging the use of magic with a religious belief. Indeed, the gods followed by our pagan ancestors were not only invoked by magicians but were said to have magical abilities themselves. We know that the Norse gods practiced magic, as did the Egyptian, Roman and Greek deities. But despite this, the art of witchcraft and any sort of religion remain two separate entities. Whilst the coupling of Pagan beliefs together with the practice of witchcraft is very popular nowadays, discussing Pagan beliefs on this forum just isn’t relevant. But why? Because those practicing the Cunning Craft were NOT always Pagan. Like any craft, it moved with the times and was practiced by those of many different religions - and in fact during history many were Catholic (as are many practitioners of Traditional Craft today!), - and many more with no religion at all. For the non-religious witches, take your pick of kitchen witchery, folk magic, Hoodoo, chaos magic, and a score of other methods of practice. Or don’t pick, but incorporate whatever aspects of one or more interest you. Christianity, in its efforts to become the ‘big dog religion’ on the planet, killed many magical practitioners whose practices were seen to disobey the principles of Christianity. They forced many to renounce their practice – and many others simply abandoned their ways for fear of retribution. We are probably lucky in that at least some chose to pay lip service to the principles of Christianity and still retained their abilities, albeit in a much more secretive environment. So no doubt, Cunning Craft DID indeed continue throughout the Inquisition and other times of hardship; but whether PAGAN witchcraft did, is another matter. This is why Cunning Craft could continue throughout history to the modern day – it was conducive with more than one religion, and was treated as a ‘craft’ rather than a ‘belief system’ (especially in such places as Ireland, where we still see today a significant fusion of folk magic and Catholicism). There are hereditary Craft practitioners who claim they have inherited a certain set of Pagan deities, traditions which survived christianization; and this may be true - but in most cases, it is more likely that the practices themselves were being handed down, not the religion. And because most of us are ‘making it up as we go along’, it is by definition something that suits us on a personal level. Even the truly hereditary witches we know are taught the basics and then modify what they’ve been taught to suit themselves. For some, it is a spiritual practice, others incorporate deities into their work (worship may or may not be a part of that work) and yet others consider it a craft with no more connection to religion or spirituality than woodworking, pottery-making and the like. If it wasn't for this, then it’s possible that Cunning Craft wouldn't have survived. Why is Wicca not a relevant topic point on this forum? Well … this is like asking why Catholicism isn’t a relevant topic point on this forum!! Wicca has, for all intents and purposes, become a religion in its own right - and therefore whilst many of its original practices find their origins in Traditional Witchcraft, the discussion of Wicca as a tradition itself is not relevant to the discussion of magic. For this site’s purpose, Traditional Witchcraft is not Wicca. Although Wicca is now old enough to have been ‘passed down’ and as such could be considered a traditional practice, Wicca is not old - it is a magical system which was brought into conception in Britain in the 1950’s, by Gerald B Gardner. Within Wicca you will find aspects of Italian Witchcraft as defined by Charles Leland in his Aradia or the Gospel of the Witches; elements of British folk magic; Victorian ceremonial magic; the medieval Grimoire Tradition; and even some things we know about the practices of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. It is a common misconception that Wicca started off as a religion. In fact it was first designed as a magical/occult practice, and it had surprisingly very little emphasis on religion. However its sense of secrecy coupled with a sudden boom of interest made it susceptible to recycled misinformation and hearsay - and thereby we entered what some like to call the ‘fluffy era’. This new and uninformed interpretation of ‘wicca’ began to be embraced by the new age movement and left wing feminism, and thereafter, Wicca became more of a religion than it had ever been before - as well as picking up a rather unfortunate unlearned reputation. Other than the few practitioners who continue to follow Wicca as the occult practice that it was intended to be, it is hard today to differentiate between the magical practices of Wicca and the spirituality of those who follow the path. In fact many who continued to follow the original intentions of Wicca have abandoned the term all together, as the word ‘Wicca’ means something entirely different than it did when it was first conceived. Conclusion Witchcraft and religion are two separate entities, and this site is for the study of the art itself. As you enjoy this site, please be aware and respectful of the wide variety of magical practices you will encounter. Whilst we appreciate that sometimes it is hard to discuss a certain magical topic without discussing a religious or spiritual aspect, a good majority of the members here do not consider magic a religious practice; therefore religion is not a relevant topic point on this forum. If a religious aspect must be discussed (for instance, a certain magical operation mentions a deity name, or is practiced at a particular religious festival) then please be thoughtful as to how you word the post, so that it can be appreciated by all. We quote Julio Caro Baroja from his The World of the Witches, “… in general, magic is connected with man’s desire and will, and religion with feelings of respect, gratefulness and submission” (his emphasis). Therefore, if you are of a religious nature, it should stay separate from your participation on this site.
  2. In the article, I will frequently use the word "some" because of the vast amount of traditions out there of Traditional Witchcraft. What is Traditional Witchcraft? Traditional Witchcraft is not Wicca; Traditional Witchcraft is Traditional Paganism. It is the practice of pre-Wiccan and pre-Christian beliefs (or at least trying to revive the old ways). There are many traditions in Traditional Witchcraft and it should be noted that not all Trads have the same beliefs and practices, but there are basic principles that are followed. Now on to the differences: Wicca is an oath bound, orthopraxic, fertility-based witch cult and mystery religion. Gerald B. Gardner created it in the 1950s and he never actually called it Wicca, but rather "Wica". Traditional Wicca requires its members to be initiated into a coven to actually be considered Wiccan and therefore there is no such thing as a "solitary Wiccan". It is said that in Wicca, one must be initiated in order to receive the Inner Court information (such as the deities "true" names). Depending on the tradition, Traditionalists may or may not require the seeker to be initiated. Traditional Witchcraft does not follow the Wiccan Rede (created by Gerald B. Gardner) or the Threefold Law. "An ye harm none, do what ye will" is a part of the Wiccan Rede and many people refer to this as a law, when in fact the word "rede" actually means advice. We take responsibility for whatever we do, whether it be harming or healing. Traditionalists know that there is a creative and destructive side of nature; therefore there is no "white" or "black" magic. There are many Eastern philosophies included in Wicca (such as Karma), but Witchcraft originated from Western Europe and Trads prefer to stay true to the old ways which include folk magic. Traditional Witchcraft may be considered a religion to some, while others consider it just a craft, incorporating the craft into their religion. It all depends really. Wiccans write in a journal that's called a Book of Shadows. They keep their workings, rituals, and other information in it. Some Trads do not keep a journal of their workings because of the belief that one should forget about it after it is done and then some write down their workings and experiences. Personally, I keep a binder full of my own workings that I have written and other information (such as moon cycles, planetary symbols and cycles, rune symbols, herbs and their chemical uses, etc.) that I call a grimoire. Some just call their book a journal. It really doesn't matter what you call it. The land and the ancestors are very important aspects of Traditional Witchcraft. Some Trads call on their ancestors for aid in working. I call on spirits and my ancestors in my workings and in divination; I ask for their wisdom and their guidance. While working outdoors, it is not uncommon for Trads to call on the land spirits or communicate with them. Spirits are an important aspect of Traditional Witchcraft. Ancestors are very important in the Trad. Craft because we searched for the old ways, which come from our ancestors! Spirits can provide us with knowledge and power. Spirits protect us when in working; they are called upon to bring power. We are surrounded by spirits, hence why they're important. Many Traditional Witches do not believe in deities and many do. It all depends on your beliefs. I don't believe in deities and never have. I believe in and use the power of nature. We don't "worship" nature, though, as many people believe. Fate is a belief held by many. Many believe that your past affects your present and your present affects your future. I don't believe that our future has been laid out for us. This is the Way of Wyrd. Free will is also not believed in, as this is a part of Christian faith and the neo-Pagan movement. Although free will is not believed in by many, there is still common sense; if you manipulate a person's mind to love you and they do not truly do, do you believe it will actually last? Hexes, curses, jinxes, etc. are not shunned in Traditional Witchcraft. If one truly needs to perform a hex or something of the like because the individual, friends, or family were hurt badly, then one would. Hexes and jinxes can be seen as a little slap, whereas curses are more extreme in their power. I have performed a few hexes and one curse; the curse was worked because of the extreme pain it caused a certain friend and I and how badly we were hurt for multiple years. I've seen many "fluffy" sites describing how it's always better to fill a person's heart with love instead of performing hexes, jinxes, and curses and not recognizing the destructive side of nature at all! While it is better to perform "positive" workings, do you really think that filling a person's heart with love will stop them from doing the degrading things they have done? Traditionalists do not believe in the Summerlands as Wiccans do. We believe that spirits dwell in the spirit world, or Otherworld, and may return as a land spirit or in the form of something else. There are three levels of the world: Underworld, where the spirits dwell and where wisdom is kept, Middle World, what we live in, and the Upperworld, the home of the divine. The belief of afterlife varies from person to person. Hedge-riding is a practice that involves travelling to the spirit world through the use of trance work and other various techniques to alter the conscious mind (including entheogens, which are herbs and other substances used to induce trance) which allows the spirit to leave the body. Shamanic journeying is another practice involving leaving the body for spiritual growth; it is very similar to hedge-riding and is essentially rooted off of it. Common techniques to induce trance involve drumming, rattling, heavy dancing, rocking, entheogens, meditation, flying ointments, and a lot more. Books for the beginner are Hedge-Rider by Eric De Vries, Trance-portation by Diana L. Paxson, and The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak. Many Traditionalists do not cast circles and some may cast what they call a "compass round" which is basically a circle, but does not have the same use as a circle does to a Wiccan or neo-pagan. Wiccans use circles in order to keep the energy within it and then send it out to the Universe, whereas a compass round is used for protection. A circle in Wicca creates a sacred space to perform their workings, but Trads consider all land sacred and therefore do not need to perform a compass round for a sacred space. Sabbat, or festival, observations and celebrations differ from tradition to tradition. Some Trads observe four and some observe eight. Personally, I observe eight. I do not relate these sabbats to specific legends that Wiccans believe in. I observe them for the change in nature. Some Trads use the pentagram to symbolize the elements of the earth (Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit) while others don't believe in these elements because it originates from the East. Many neo-Pagan associate these elements with guardians/watchtowers to the four directions of the earth. Personally, I believe in the energy that flows from the four directions and from above and below. Robin Artisson has explained this in detail on his website. The symbol of this is called the "Witches Foot" or Hagal rune (from the Armanen Futharkh). Animism is a part of Traditional Witchcraft because we believe everything on this earth has a spirit (like plants, trees, etc.), just like Shamans. Although there are many differences between Wicca, Traditional Witchcraft, and Neo-Paganism we all believe that nature is sacred and seek knowledge of the abyss.
  3. Verbatim report of the first days of torture of a woman accused of witchcraft at Prossneck, Germany, in 1629. 1. The hangman bound the hands, cut her hair, and placed her on the ladder. He threw alcohol over her head and set fire to it so as to burn her hair to the roots. 2. He placed strips of sulphur under her arms and around her back and set fire to them. 3. He tied her hands behind her back and pulled her up to the ceiling. 4. He left her hanging there from three to four hours, while the torturer went to breakfast. 5. On his return, he threw alcohol on her back and set fire to it. 6. He attached very heavy weights on her body and drew her up again to the ceiling. After that he put her back on the ladder and placed a very rough plank full of sharp points against her body. 7. Then he squeezed her thumbs and big toe in the vise, and he trussed her arms with a stick, and in this position kept her hanging about a quarter of an hour, until she would faint away several times. 8. Then he squeezed the calves and the legs in the vise, always alternating the torture with questioning. 9. Then he whipped her with a rawhide whip to cause blood to flow out over her shift. 10. Once again, he placed her thumbs and big toes in the vise, and left her in this agony on the torture stool from 10:00 a.m. till 1:00 p.m., while the hangman and the court officials went out to get a bite to eat. In the afternoon a functionary came who disapproved this pitiless procedure. But then they whipped her again in a frightful manner. This concluded the first day of torture. The next day they start all over again, but without pushing things quite as far as the day before. -Wilhelm Pressel, Hexen and Hexenmeister (1860) I posted this word per word from one of my rare books "The Encyclopedia Of Witchcraft and Demonology", By Rossell Hope Robbins, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Second Printing, 1960, first printing, 1959. My reason to post this is to share a bit of our history with many who are new here. You see...it does not matter if you come from a family line of witches or come to the craft through way of seeking a different spirituality. Once you accept this path as your own, you then become bonded with our history. These ancestors are now YOUR ancestors. And there will be a time when WE will become someones ancestors as well. Our traditional witchcraft history is rich and filled with so much knowledge. I guess that's why sometimes when I hear or see someone tossing fairy dust and singing love blessings like some fool at a freak show, I get alittle miffed and roll my eyes. The ancestors didn't throw Fairy dust and sing love blessings. They used herbs to cure, many were mid wives, or older people who learned things from their ancestors. Many were actual witches who belonged to covens and practised in secret. I am really not trying to come off as preachy....please do not think or sense that. I just wanted to share a bit of your new history with you :)
  4. From: www.chalicecentre.net Out of the world's thread, fates' fingers spinning. Some lives are shot with gold, others with shadow. This is a tale of enchantment and exile, of four lives woven together by white swan's feather, storm and ice and the sound of a little bell. Long ago, when the high gods and goddesses known as the Tuatha de Danaan lived in Ireland, before they were driven into the hollow hills to become the faery folk, there was a great king whose name was Lir. And this Lir had four lovely children - Fionnuala, Conn, Fiacra and Aodh. Fionnuala was the eldest, and she was as fair as the young rowan tree; her brothers Fiacra and Conn were swift and strong as running water, and Aodh was a little bright-eyed baby boy. Everyone in Lir's court on the Hill of the White Field loved them - except their stepmother, Aoifa, who was jealous of their father's love for them. And her hatred pursued them as the wolf pursues the fawn. One day, she took them in her chariot to the lake of Darvra to bathe in the waters. But as they played on the shore's edge, laughing and splashing, catching rainbows of mist and light between their fingers, she struck them with a rod of enchantment, and turned them into four white swans. "You will swim on this lake for three hundred years," she said, "then three hundred years on the narrow sea of Moyle, and three hundred years on the isles of the Western Sea. This only will I grant you: that you shall still have human voices and there will be no music in the world sweeter than yours. And so shall you stay until a druid with a shaven crown comes over the seas, and you hear the sound of a little bell." The swans spread their wings and rose up, circling the lake, and as they flew they sang their sorrow in the voices of human children. When the king found out what had happened, he banished Aoifa from his court for ever, and he rode like the wind to the lake and called his children to him. "Come Fionnuala, come Conn, come Aodh, come Fiacra!" And there they came, flying to him over the lake: four white swans, and they huddled sadly around him as he knelt by the water's edge. King Lir said through his tears, "I cannot give you back your shapes till the spell is ended, but come with me now to the house that is mine and yours, dear white children of my heart." But the swan that was Fiacra said, "We cannot cross your threshold father, for we have the hearts of wild swans. We must fly into the dusk and feel the wave moving beneath us. Only our voices are of the children you knew, and the songs you taught us - that is all. Gold crowns are red in the firelight, but redder and fairer far is the dawn on the water." The king reached out his hand to touch them, but the swans rose into the air, and their voices were lost in the sound of beating wings. * * * * * * * * Three hundred years they flew over Lake Darvra and swam upon its waters. Many came to listen to their singing, for their songs brought joy to those in sorrow and lulled the sick to sleep. But when three hundred years were over, the swans rose suddenly and flew away to the straits of Moyle that flow between Scotland and Ireland. A cold, stormy sea it was and lonely. The swans had no-one to listen to their songs, and little heart for singing on the wild and chanting sea. Then one winter, a great storm rushed upon them and scattered them far into the dark and pitiless night. In the pale morning, Fionnuala fetched up on the Carraig-na-Ron, the Rock of Seals. Her feathers were broken and bedraggled with salt sea-water, and she lamented long for her brothers, fearing never to see them again. But at last she sees Conn limping towards her, his feathers soaked, his head hanging, and now Fiacra, tired and faint, unable to speak a word for the cold. Her heart gave them a great welcome, and she sheltered Conn under her right wing and Fiacra under her left. "Now," said Fionnuala, "if only Aodh would come to us, we would be happy indeed." And as the first evening star rose in the sky, they catch sight of the little swan that is Aodh paddling valiantly over the waves towards them. Fionnuala held him close under the feathers of her breast. As they huddled together, the water froze their feet and wing-tips to the rock, so that when they flew up, skin and feathers remained behind. In the morning they turned westward towards the island of Glora in the Western Sea, and settled on the Lake of Birds till three hundred more years had passed . Then at last the Children of Lir soared homeward to the Hill of the White Field - but they found all desolate and empty, with nothing but roofless green raths and forests of nettles: no house, no fire, no hearthstone. Gone were the packs of dogs and drinking horns, silent the songs in lighted halls. And that was the greatest sorrow of all - that there lived no-one who knew them in the house where they were born. They rested the night in that desolate place, singing very softly the sweet music of the sidhe. At dawn they returned to the island, and it was about this time that bless�d Patrick came into Ireland to spread the faith of Christ. One of his followers, Saint Kemoc, built a little church by the lake-shore on the Isle of Glora. In a break of day, the saint arose from his heather bed, wrapping his rough brown robe around him to keep out the chill, and rang the bell for matins. On the other side of the island, the swans started up and stretched their necks in fear. "What is that dreadful thin sound we hear?" said the brothers. Fionnuala said, "That is the sound of the bell of Kemoc and soon our enchantment will be passing away." They began to sing gladly and the sweet strains of faery music floated across the lake and in through the reed walls of the cell. St. Kemoc rose in wonder and walked down to the shore's edge, and saw them, lit by the morning sun: four white swans singing with the voices of children! They came to rest at the saint's feet and told him their story and he brought them to his little church. Every day they would hear Mass with him, sitting on the altar. Their beauty gladdened his heart and the heart of the swans were at peace. Then one day Fionnuala asked the saint to baptize them, but no sooner did the holy water touch the swans than their feathers fell away, and in their place stood three lean withered old men, and a thin withered old woman. In a cracked whisper, the woman that was Fionnuala said: "Bury us, cleric, in one grave. Lay Conn on my left, and Fiacra on my right, and on my breast place Aodh, my baby brother." So they were buried, a cairn was raised above them, and their names written in Ogham. And that was the fate of the Children of Lir. But it is said, that on windy days in the west of Ireland, by lake-shore or ocean strand, you can sometimes hear children�s voices in the air, singing sweeter than you�ve ever heard, as they play with their father at home in the blessed Summerland.
  5. Yule on or about 21 December This is the celebration of the Winter Solstice or Midwinter, the time when the light returns to the earth and often seen as the start of the light half of the year as days begin to become longer. Yule and Yuletide have become associated with Christmas, this has happened due to the early Christian church adopting Pagan festivals to celebrate their own Holy Days. The church leaders saw that their Pagan converts were still attending the old Pagan festivals and sought a way to equate the 'new' religion with the old. Our Saxon ancestors introduced the word Yule to describe their midwinter festival around the winter solstice or the full moon in December. In our beliefs this is where the Wheel of the Year has it's natural beginning. The word comes from the Nordic joi or jol, and is related to the Anglo Saxon hweal, meaning a wheel. The Saxons celebrated the winter solstice with a festival called Mother Night on 24 December. This was dedicated to the goddesses Holda and Freyja. It marked their New Year. Our Celtic ancestors also celebrated winter solstice. At Newgrange in Ireland their is a passage grave built so that on the winter solstice a ray of sunshine penetrates the inner sanctum and illuminates three spirals carved on a stone slab. The may have signified the sun fertilising the body of the Earth and so wakening her after her winter sleep to the renewed cycle of life. It may also represent the (re) birth of the sun child in the womb of the Great Mother Goddess. A similar event occurs at Maes Howe in Orkney and several other stone circles throughout the British Isles. Perhaps these places were seen as gateways to the 'Otherworld' where the dead could be contacted or the living pass between the worlds. Esoterically the midwinter and solstice period of Yule and the Twelve Days is known as 'the in-between time' or 'the time between time'. As the sun appears to stand still in the sky the old year is dying and the new year waits t be born. It is a strange and magickal time, still seen in secular society's tales of 'Christmas Magic' and 'miracles'. These are folk memories of the ancient past when midwinter was a magickal and unearthly time. Many folk rituals were performed at Yule to welcome back the sun or to encourage it's return with sympathetic magick. These often involved the lighting of fires and one custom which has been adopted by modern witches is the Yule Log. This was traditionally a log of ash or oak, the male tress of the God, it was a large branch collected from the woods on Christmas Eve and taken home. On the way home, any stranger passing it had to bow and raise their hat to the log, otherwise it was believed that bad luck would follow in the New Year. In Scotland, the Yule Log was called the 'Christmas Old Wife'; the log was collected by the head of the household and then carved to represent an old woman. When it was thrown on the fire, it represented the ritual burning of the Cailleach or winter hag goddess. In Cornwall the log was chalked to represent a male figure (the God). In some urban areas the Yule Log was replaced with a Yule Candle, this was a large red or white candle decorated with holly. This was burned for a short period each day of the Twelve Days. This has been adopted by some traditional witches today where central heating has replaced open fires in homes. The God at midwinter is represented as the sun child and in folk mythology by the magickal figure Father Christmas. In 17th century England he was known as Lord Christmas or Old Father Christmas and was an old gentleman in a furry, hooded gown. He carried a knobbly stick or club and wore a crown of holly leaves. As such he was a representation of the spirit of midwinter, or the Old God as the Holly King. In 1809 the American writer Washington Irving 'invented' the modern version of Father Christmas. He depicted him as a jolly, fat old man with a long white beard, dressed in fur, and riding a sleigh pulled by reindeer. This was a combination of the old English Father Christmas and the European Saint Nicholas. As an archetype this midwinter folk figure has links with Odin or Woden who rides through the night sky on his eight legged horse Sleipnir at midwinter. He brings gifts to his followers and is also the male leader of the Wild Hunt that rides the skies to collect the souls of the dead. The female leader of the Wild Hunt was Dame Holda or Frau Holle. She also rode at midwinter with a company of spirits known as 'Good Women' and distributed gifts. The practice of placing evergreens and trees in the house at Christmas dates from paganism. The most popular were holly, ivy, mistletoe, rosemary and box. The Holly and Ivy were seen as 'male' and 'female' trees. The practice of cutting down young living trees and decorating them in houses is a modern practice, and to our minds is a depressing and sad thing to do. So much better to have a tree in your garden, and decorate that for Yule or Christmas, leave the tree where it is, it is alive as we are and is better kept as a living thing giving us earth energy and simple joy in it's growth. This magickal time of the year is one of hope and joy, in the grip of midwinter we know that the God has been re-born and light will return t the land. Whatever your interpretation of Yule or Christmas, we wish you joy and may the magick of this time bless you and yours. © Traditional Witch 2006
  6. admin

    Yule

    Yule on or about 21 December This is the celebration of the Winter Solstice or Midwinter, the time when the light returns to the earth and often seen as the start of the light half of the year as days begin to become longer. Yule and Yuletide have become associated with Christmas, this has happened due to the early Christian church adopting Pagan festivals to celebrate their own Holy Days. The church leaders saw that their Pagan converts were still attending the old Pagan festivals and sought a way to equate the 'new' religion with the old. Our Saxon ancestors introduced the word Yule to describe their midwinter festival around the winter solstice or the full moon in December. In our beliefs this is where the Wheel of the Year has it's natural beginning. The word comes from the Nordic joi or jol, and is related to the Anglo Saxon hweal, meaning a wheel. The Saxons celebrated the winter solstice with a festival called Mother Night on 24 December. This was dedicated to the goddesses Holda and Freyja. It marked their New Year. Our Celtic ancestors also celebrated winter solstice. At Newgrange in Ireland their is a passage grave built so that on the winter solstice a ray of sunshine penetrates the inner sanctum and illuminates three spirals carved on a stone slab. The may have signified the sun fertilising the body of the Earth and so wakening her after her winter sleep to the renewed cycle of life. It may also represent the (re) birth of the sun child in the womb of the Great Mother Goddess. A similar event occurs at Maes Howe in Orkney and several other stone circles throughout the British Isles. Perhaps these places were seen as gateways to the 'Otherworld' where the dead could be contacted or the living pass between the worlds. Esoterically the midwinter and solstice period of Yule and the Twelve Days is known as 'the in-between time' or 'the time between time'. As the sun appears to stand still in the sky the old year is dying and the new year waits t be born. It is a strange and magickal time, still seen in secular society's tales of 'Christmas Magic' and 'miracles'. These are folk memories of the ancient past when midwinter was a magickal and unearthly time. Many folk rituals were performed at Yule to welcome back the sun or to encourage it's return with sympathetic magick. These often involved the lighting of fires and one custom which has been adopted by modern witches is the Yule Log. This was traditionally a log of ash or oak, the male tress of the God, it was a large branch collected from the woods on Christmas Eve and taken home. On the way home, any stranger passing it had to bow and raise their hat to the log, otherwise it was believed that bad luck would follow in the New Year. In Scotland, the Yule Log was called the 'Christmas Old Wife'; the log was collected by the head of the household and then carved to represent an old woman. When it was thrown on the fire, it represented the ritual burning of the Cailleach or winter hag goddess. In Cornwall the log was chalked to represent a male figure (the God). In some urban areas the Yule Log was replaced with a Yule Candle, this was a large red or white candle decorated with holly. This was burned for a short period each day of the Twelve Days. This has been adopted by some traditional witches today where central heating has replaced open fires in homes. The God at midwinter is represented as the sun child and in folk mythology by the magickal figure Father Christmas. In 17th century England he was known as Lord Christmas or Old Father Christmas and was an old gentleman in a furry, hooded gown. He carried a knobbly stick or club and wore a crown of holly leaves. As such he was a representation of the spirit of midwinter, or the Old God as the Holly King. In 1809 the American writer Washington Irving 'invented' the modern version of Father Christmas. He depicted him as a jolly, fat old man with a long white beard, dressed in fur, and riding a sleigh pulled by reindeer. This was a combination of the old English Father Christmas and the European Saint Nicholas. As an archetype this midwinter folk figure has links with Odin or Woden who rides through the night sky on his eight legged horse Sleipnir at midwinter. He brings gifts to his followers and is also the male leader of the Wild Hunt that rides the skies to collect the souls of the dead. The female leader of the Wild Hunt was Dame Holda or Frau Holle. She also rode at midwinter with a company of spirits known as 'Good Women' and distributed gifts. The practice of placing evergreens and trees in the house at Christmas dates from paganism. The most popular were holly, ivy, mistletoe, rosemary and box. The Holly and Ivy were seen as 'male' and 'female' trees. The practice of cutting down young living trees and decorating them in houses is a modern practice, and to our minds is a depressing and sad thing to do. So much better to have a tree in your garden, and decorate that for Yule or Christmas, leave the tree where it is, it is alive as we are and is better kept as a living thing giving us earth energy and simple joy in it's growth. This magickal time of the year is one of hope and joy, in the grip of midwinter we know that the God has been re-born and light will return t the land. Whatever your interpretation of Yule or Christmas, we wish you joy and may the magick of this time bless you and yours. © Traditional Witch 2006
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    Samhain

    Samhain 31st October (or Halloween) To the Celts November 1 was Samhain, meaning Summer's End. In Wales it was called calan gaef or the first day of winter, while Halloween was nos calan gaef or winter's night. Despite the Wiccan persistence in treating Samhain as the Celtic New Year, there is little evidence to support this idea. In fact this idea is more likely to have developed in the romanticisation of the Celts that happened in the late 19th century. To our Anglo-Saxon ancestors early November was the time when surplus cattle, sheep, and pigs were slaughtered and the meat salted to see the tribe through the winter months. Writing in the 8th century the Venerable Bede said that the pagan Saxons called November Blodmonath or blood month. In a religious sense it was when the blot was performed - the pre-winter sacrifice of animals to the Gods in the hope that the weather would not be bad and not too many of the tribe would die before spring. To our Celtic, Saxon and Norse ancestors Samhain was a festival for the dead. It was a special time when summer gave way to winter and supernatural forces were believed to be on the loose. The early Christian Church decided to move the Festival of All Saints from May 13 to November 1 in 835CE. A century later November 2 was made All Souls day when it was the Christian custom to pray for the souls of the dead in Limbo. These Church festivals may have influenced the folk customs of All Saint's Eve or Halloween, however, it is more probable to our minds that much of the older pagan customs were remembered in these folk customs. Halloween, with May Eve and Midsummer's Eve, was one of the three 'spirit nights' of the year when the veil between the worlds was thin. In the old days it was when people gathered round the open fire and frightened each other with ghost stories, tell legends and divine the future. A door or window was left open for the dead to enter and a special meal, known as the Dumb Supper, was prepared and left out for them. Outside in the countryside all hell had broken loose as the spirits of the underworld roamed abroad scaring travellers. The Wild Hunt led by the King and Queen of Elfhame rode the sky, along with the witches on broomsticks on their way to the Grand Sabbat presided over by the Devil. Churchyards, crossroads and stiles were crowded with the dead and their whispers 'buzzed like bees'. The Dark Goddess could be encountered in the dark country lanes by anyone daft enough to be out on Winter's Night. Halloween bonfires were lit at dusk in some areas and prayers said for the dead. The purpose of the fires was to scare away the powers of darkness with light. As the days grew shorter the sun was sinking in the sky and it was believed the dark powers were in the ascendant. In Christian times witches became associated with the 'evil' powers and the cry went up 'Burn the Witch' as more peat or wood was thrown on the fire. In recent years the modern secular celebration of Halloween, a commercial travesty, has become combined with Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night on 5 November. The burning of effigies whether of Guido Fawkes or an unpopular political figure may be a remnant of memories of human sacrifice at the start of winter. In Celtic mythology the abode of the dead was either underground, under water, in a hollow hill, or on an island in the western ocean 'beyond the setting sun' or rather these were the entrances to the underworld, the liminal places where contact could be made with the ancestral dead. It is interesting to note that in the Iron Age, Glastonbury Tor was an island surrounded by marsh and sea and was thought to be hollow and an entrance to the underworld. It was the dwelling of Gwynn ap Nudd, the Welsh version of the leader of the Wild Hunt. In some traditions two circles are cast at Halloween, one for the living and one for the dead. Using a circle or the act of circling to make contact with or enter the spirit world has always been a prominent feature of ritual and folk magick. It is a ritual act associated with nocturnal visits, usually at midnight or on the full moon to prehistoric burial mounds, crossroads, ancient standing stones or churchyards built on pagan sites. Once there, if you are brave, you may dance or walk three, seven or nine times widdershins, backwards, or forwards or deosil around the hallowed ground. This magickal action prompts visions of the future or a manifestation of the Horned God, or 'a Lady on a white horse', or spirits who are guardians of the treasure, faeries or long dead pagan priests who will reveal secret knowledge. The act of circling or casting the circle is a ritual metaphor for gaining access to the Otherworld, crossing the boundaries between the worlds, and making contact with supernatural forces or beings. This is a special time when the Hidden Company draw near and can be felt outside the circle. They are the spirits of witches who have gone to the Otherworld and now return to act as spirit guides to the living. This Dark season of the year which starts at Samhain is a time for planning, consolidation and peaceful contemplation. It culminates at Winter Solstice or Yule, when we should take a spiritual rest before the Wheel of the Year turns anew and the 'stag and the old woman' welcome in the New Year, so that the cycle can begin again. In the process of contemplation followed by rebirth the archetype of the Wild Hunter is important because if we can face him who carries much of our shadow and allows dark wisdom within to teach us then we can go quietly into the underworld in the winter months. By confronting our natural fear of death and the dark inherited by from our ancestors and overcome our Christian conditioning that darkness equals evil, we can discover what the Dark God and Goddess have to teach us. This is our time to undergo our own personal underworld initiation and our own quest for the vision of the grail granted to those who are worthy in heart and spirit. It is the vision of the Grail that is the gift of the Dark Lady and it is into her realm that we must descend to gain that sight at her hands. However you choose to celebrate, may you remember those who have gone before you, honour them, wish them well and ask for their guidance. May the Dark Lord and Lady give you the vision and may you find your underworld initiation. © Traditional Witch 2006
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    Ostara

    Ostara (around 21st March) This is the Spring Equinox and occurs between March 20 and 22 and is regarded by many as the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. This is a celebration of Spring and growth, the new life that springs up after the cold months of Winter. The name Ostara may derive from the Anglo-Saxon Goddess Eostra, though this is not known for sure. Spring proper is when nature begins to awake from it's winter sleep and the first green buds appear representing new life and beginnings. Animals emerge from their hibernation, birds begin to build nests and the dawn chorus gets louder as the male birds stake out their territory. Generally, people also begin to feel more refreshed and energetic as the nights draw out and the weather begins to get warmer. The Spring Full Moon has been called the Hare Moon or Awakening Moon. It is during this time that the cosmic tides change. We move from the destructive tide that has ruled the winter months to a sowing tide. It is a time for new beginnings on a personal, magickal and spiritual level as we sow the seeds that will be harvested later in the year. It is the time when the young ram-headed god is complimented by the enchanting moon maiden. It is at the spring equinox that the sun enters the sign of Aries, the ram, the symbol of the virile young Horned God lusting after life and experience. The vernal equinox was christianised as Easter which is the festival mourning and celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. The early Celtic Church originally celebrated Easter at the same time as the Jewish Passover. This reflected the fact that the first Christian Church in Jerusalem founded after the crucifixion followed many Judaic traditions. The Roman Church decreed that Easter would be on the first Sunday after the full moon that followed the Spring Equinox. Many Pagan beliefs and symbols survived in the Christian celebration of Easter (as in most other Holy Days!). The most obvious is the name itself which comes from the Germanic goddess Oestara or Eostre of the spring and dawn. She was the daughter of Jord, or Mother Earth, in Germanic mythology. In the 19th century young people in Germany were still setting up altars to her covered with flowers on Easter Day. Other Easter symbols such as the Easter Bunny or Easter Hare, the Easter Egg and hot-cross buns are also all pre-Christian. The hare was sacred to Nerthus, Freyja and Eostre and so it is not surprising that it was also one of the shape-shifting forms ascribed to witches. Today it is an important totem in some areas of the Traditional Craft. In the past at Easter the traditional dish was hare. Some people however refused to touch it as there was a taboo dating back to pagan times that it was unlucky to kill or eat hares. The Easter Bunny is of course a modern version of the hare and it is an obvious symbol of fertility and increase in springtime. It may also be connected with the Tinner's Rabbit symbol found in parts of Cornwall and linked by some folklorists with the survival of the Old Religion. This symbol of three rabbits chasing one another with only three ears between them can be found in many churches on Dartmoor which were either built or restored by the local tin mine owners. The symbol has been variously ascribed as an alchemical symbol, a pagan symbol for the Moon Goddess, and with witches. The Easter egg is another potent symbol of fertility, birth and new life which are all celebrated in the rites of spring. Many ancient creation myths feature the birth of the universe or it's life forms from an egg. The Neolithic sun bird goddess survives in folk memory as the fairy tale about the goose which laid the Golden Eggs. The egg was also closely associated with witches, as the egg yolk was used for divination from the yolk, as a sacrificial substitute and in spell casting. The traditional hot cross bun eaten in their millions on Good Friday has it's origins in the sacred cakes made by Roman bakers as offerings to the Moon goddess Diana. The equal armed cross design represented the four phases of the moon. Offerings of these buns were made to Hecate and buried at crossroads (places sacred to Hecate). Some traditional witches wear an equal armed cross within a circle instead of the pentagram. The cross is a multi faceted symbol which can represent the sun, the moon, or the four elements and all contained in a circle symbolising spirit. This is a very powerful time to do magic, not only because of the balancing of the earth's energies, but because of the way our own beings echo the earth's changes. We are literally reborn as we emerge from our winter sleep, ready to partake of all the pleasures of the earth, and to meet the challenges we will face as the world changes around us daily. As we greet and celebrate with our pagans brothers and sisters of the Southern Hemisphere (for whom the Vernal Equinox more closely resembles the beginning of autumn, in physical terms!), we remember that Spring is not only a season; it is a state of mind. © Traditional Witch 2006
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    Midsummer

    Midsummer - Litha (21st June) Midsummer, or Litha as it was known by the ancient Germanic peoples, is the period of time centred upon the summer solstice and the religious celebrations that accompany it. In the folk traditions of the British Isles Midsummer or the summer solstice in June was a time to mark the longest day of the year when the sun rose in the sky to it's zenith and was in it's full power and glory. On the other hand, as befits a belief system with a dualistic character, it was also a mysterious, Otherworldly time with a smell of death in the air and omens of impending doom. The sun may be blazing high in the sky, but from midsummer the evenings gradually begin to shorten and we begin the slow descent to the dark season. When the Church took over the old rites to celebrate the midsummer they chose June 24 as the feast for St John the Baptist and it became Midsummer's Day. In the 12th century the bishop of Exeter denounced those who practiced sorcery on Midsummer's Eve. This date along with May Eve and Samhain were the three 'spirit' nights. On these nights witches, ghosts and faeries were supposed to roam lose and the veil between the worlds was thin. In order to protect themselves from the powers of darkness, as they saw them, country folk hung St John's Wort over the doors of their houses, barns, stables and cow sheds. At midsummer the Goddess is the Queen of Elfhame or Faerie. It was believed that contact could be made with the Little People at the 'in-between times' of dusk on Midsummer's Eve and dawn on Midsummer's Day. There are a number of places where tradition states you can meet the Faery folk. These include along faery paths, at burial mounds and springs, near oak, ash and thorn, at crossroads and fords where several streams meet, near waterfalls, and 'at the bottom of the garden' where it is divided off from other land by a hedge or fence. In fact at any boundary point where Middle Earth and the Otherworld are believed to meet. These are also likely to be the places where witches meet for obvious reasons. Faeries, devas, elementals and nature spirits seldom appear to the human eye as the gossamer-winged fanciful creatures of Victorian fantasy - unless you really believe them to look like that. They are most likely to appear as points of light, or as the traditional shapes of elves, gnomes and goblins of fairy tales, or as nymphs, dryads and satyrs of classical myth, or as the great 'Shining Ones' like the Tuatha De Danaan of Irish myth. It should be remembered in dealing with the faery folk that they are amoral and not all of them are friendly or beneficial to humankind. The connection between witches and faeries is a very strong one and is well established. It is often overlooked by modern Wiccans, some of whom do not believe in faeries. In both the British and European witch trials the female leader of a coven was often called the Queen of the Faeries or Faery Lady. Some country folk and traditional witches are of the opinion that faeries are the spirits of the dead. To these witches Elfhame is the place where the souls of witches go after death to await reincarnation. A few advanced 'old souls' do not incarnate again having been freed from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth on Middle Earth. These old souls become the Mighty Ones, or 'Hidden Company', and act as spirit guides to their Craft brothers and sisters in incarnation. In British folk traditions and seasonal custom midsummer was a time for rituals dating back to ancient sun worship. A wooden wheel in twisted plaits of straw was set alight and rolled down a hillside. This was to mimic the motion of the sun in the summer sky The traditional midsummer fires, which only dies out last century in Scotland and Cornwall, may date back thousands of years to when Roman farmers lit fires in the fields to protect their crops from diseases in the summer. Theses St John fires were lit after dusk on midsummer's eve and once blazing a bone was tossed into the fire. This bone was said to be a memory of some long forgotten martyr, but probably is a folk memory of ancient human or animal sacrifice in the fires. This is where we get the modern term bonfire or bone fire. An alternative may be from the old Norse buane, meaning a beacon, or from banefire, banishing evil. At midsummer the goddess is the Queen of Elfhame, and the Enchantress. Her symbols are the queen bee, the owl swooping down on it's prey, and the lynx or wild cat who has always been untamed and independent. She represents the ageless femme fatale, the female sexual predator who chooses whatever man she wants to be her lover and makes him king. This is an erotic image of women and it is one that the patriarchy has always felt uncomfortable with. As a result it has reacted with fear, demonisation, repression and often violence. The midsummer goddess is first and foremost Sovereignty, the goddess of the land and the kingmaker. She is also the White Goddess written about by the poet Robert Graves, the muse and patron of poets, artists and writers. As the White Goddess she can inflame the artistic with the madness of inspiration, creative energy and genius. She also ahs the power to destroy, for those the Goddess loves may die young, as their creative fire flares and burns out prematurely under her touch. The goddess of the land is not the gentle maiden of springtime or the nurturing mother of Yule. Her sacred weapon is the double bladed axe and if threatened or crossed she adopts the persona of warrior woman or warrior queen. Like Boudica or Maeve she will fight to protect her young, her people, and vanquish the enemies of her land. She is both Queen and Priestess, controlling the political rulership of the land and conducting the seasonal rituals that bind her people to it. Midsummer, like Beltane, is a happy time for the celebration of life. There is rejoicing for the benefits of the summer sun, for lazy days in the woods and by the river bank, resting before the hard work of the harvest time to come. The solar disk stands high and proud in the blue summer sky, and the Sun King and the Rose Queen rule over the land in peace and harmony. All seems well with the world, but the dark shadow of the reaper's scythe is already over the fields, the poppies red a blood are ready to bloom among the corn, and the hungry land demands it's annual sacrifice. As the storm clouds of late summer gather, and prayers are offered for good weather to gather in the harvest, Fate has already selected her victim. He who would be king must die in the corn and shed his blood for the folk and the land. © Traditional Witch 2006
  10. Lughnasadh (1st August) At the Beltane and Midsummer rites the Fate goddess, as the spring maiden and Sovereignty, captured the heart of the God, married him in the greenwood, and made him king to rule over the land with wisdom and justice. The final drama in this light half of the year is enacted at this Celtic festival of Lughnasadh or in it's Anglo-Saxon form Lammas. In folk tradition Lammas Eve was when a huge cart wheel was heated till it was red hot. It was then rolled down a hillside and it's smooth passage, or not, was an omen for the harvest. While the midsummer fire wheel symbolised the motion of the sun in the sky, the fiery wheel of Lughnasadh was the sun descending from the height of the sky into the underworld. The purpose of the Lammas rites was to prepare for the harvest and perform rituals of sympathetic magick to promote a good crop and fine weather to gather it in. Three generations ago the witches of Buckinghamshire went out into the fields before the harvest was finished and sat astride a stang or horse headed stave. They then 'rode' on their magickal steeds 'though thick (the uncut sheaves) and thin (the stubble)'. The purpose of this was that the steps of the 'ride' were danced into the land in order to dispel and appease the old, the powers of decay, and thereby usher in the new, the powers of increase. Recent scientific research has shown that dancing, music and sexual activity in the vicinity of plants can induce extra growth. So there may be logic behind the Morris dancing 'to awaken the Earth', the skipping and hobby horse dances of folk culture, the riding of broomsticks in the fields and the sexual rites of spring to stimulate nature and new life. In the Christian Church of the Anglo-Saxon times, the Celtic Lughnasadh, was Lammas or a mass to celebrate the first fruits of the harvest. The first corn was brought into the church to be blessed by the priest. This was a sanitised version of more ancient blood sacrifices for both 'the killing of the God and the sacred meal, which gave natural and supernatural strength from the partaking of his blood and body, were ritual acts with a mystical significance'. The theological theory behind blood sacrifice, and especially human sacrifice, was that blood was thought to contain the essence of the life force, and by the outpouring of the divine victim's life essence, preferably directly onto the soil, the union of heaven and earth was perpetuated and the vital energies were renewed throughout the land. The blood sacrifice of animals and humans was seen as an act of life, not death, especially in the case of a human victim, whose soul was believed to go straight to heaven or to the realm of the Gods. In some cultures to be selected as the victim for sacrifice was regarded as a great honour because it bestowed divinity. Today, thankfully we have evolved beyond the crude practice of offering the life force of any living thing, human or animal, to the Gods. Now we are as likely to light a candle or incense, pour a libation, or offer something more personal to the Powers. The real sacrifice is ourselves on the Path and to the Gods and that is a daily one throughout the Wheel of the Year. © Traditional Witch 2006
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    Imbolc

    Imbolc (2nd February) This pagan festival was Christianised as The Purification of the Virgin Mary in the temple after childbirth. It is also known as Candlemass and this derives form the old pagan custom of lighting torches in honour of the winter goddess. The Church adapted the torches to the lighting of candles for the Virgin Mary, and having a special mass to bless the candles to be used in church over the coming year. Imbolc gets it's Gaelic name from the first milking of ewes which was a sign that Spring was on it's way. Some Traditional Witches call this the Festival of Lights or The Quickening. In the Traditional Craft Imbolc, or The Festival of Lights, is a time of birth, purification and initiation. It is a time for spring cleaning, both physically and spiritually, and for driving out the spirit of the Old Year. Some do this by a banishing ritual and cleansing the circle, meeting ground, or their own sacred space with salt afterwards. This is also traditionally the last outing of the Wild Hunt. If the ritual is done outdoors, then some will leave the site to the sound of a horn and making wild noises re-enacting the Wild Hunt in full cry. The festival is sacred to the Celtic solar and fire Goddess Brigid. She was christianised as St Bridget or St Bride and was said to have been the midwife and foster-mother of Jesus. In the legend St Bridget was said to have been born 'neither within the house, nor outside it' her mother having given birth to her with one foot outside the door and one foot inside. The link to St Bridget being a goddess born in liminal space is too obvious, she was the goddess of the 'in-between time' between winter and spring. The goddess Brigid had many attributes. She ruled sacred fire, healing, prophecy, poetry, childbirth and smith craft. She may be linked with another Celtic goddess Brigantia, 'Mighty Queen', who was worshiped in Northern Britain, and also with the Morrigan, the triple battle goddess of death and sexuality. To some crafters Brigid has an important role as the Bright Goddess. As such she allegedly personifies the right hand spiral. She is the female polarity of the creative energy which surrounds the Earth and is focussed at specific sites on it's surface. Holy wells and scared springs were dedicated to Brigid once it was determined they could not be contaminated by the cyclic evil which is released from Mother Earth. The Old people of our islands knew that the pure and chaste goddess was the mother of both inspiration and destruction. Love, poetry and inspiration were actively fostered and heightened by 'tapping' the 'Leys' at appropriate times. The primary symbol of Brigid is the sun wheel or fire wheel and it is a version of the ancient swastika that represents the cosmic life force. Brigid's sun wheel flows left to right in the deosil movement of the sun, unlike the reversed Nazi version. This sun wheel appears in the celebration of Imbolc and is made from interwoven rushes and is hung above doors, windows and cradles to ward off evil. In country lore it is said that the adder first stirs from it's nest on Candlemass Day. An old Scottish rhyme says: "Today is the day of Bride, The serpent shall come from the hole, The Queen will come from the mound, I will not molest the serpent, The serpent will not molest me." This symbolises the emergence of the spring goddess from the Hollow Hill of the underworld. The serpent is a symbol of the earth energy that once more starts to flow throughout the land fertilising and revitalising it with new life. In Celtic mythology the dark season from Samhain to Imbolc is ruled over by the Cailleach or Old Woman. She is said to live on Ben Nevis and on Winter's Night she washes her plaid until it is white and this act brings the first snow to the mountain. She also has a Blasting Rod, or blackthorn stang or stave, which she uses to blast the vegetation, bring the leaves tumbling down, and raise the winter storms. She and Brigid are two aspects of the goddess, the one who dwells below, the Dark Mother, and the one who dwells above, the universal Goddess of the Stars. Some traditions hold that the Cailleach and Brigid are one and the same goddess. On Imbolc Eve, the Cailleach travels to Tir-na-nog (the Land of the Ever Young) and there finds a Well of Youth, drinks from it and is transformed into a beautiful maiden and her black blasting rod turns into a white healing wand. At a touch of this healing wand the grass turns green and the snowdrops begin to blossom. Wherever you are on Imbolc remember, Spring is Coming! © Traditional Witch 2006
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    Beltane

    Beltane 30th April / May 1st Beltane is a Celtic festival properly celebrated around the evening of 30th April / 1st May. It is a Fire festival celebrating the beginning of the pastoral Summer season, fertility, renewal and purification. In the traditional craft Beltane or May Eve is the time for hand fasting and the symbolic 'sacred marriage' the between the Lord of the Greenwood and his Flower Bride. It is the time of mirth, joy and happiness because the faith is a religion of love and light. It is the festival where the Lady or Maid is crowned as the May Queen with a circlet of wild flowers. The God represented by the stang garlanded with birch, hazel, hawthorn and willow, now relinquishes his dark winter aspect. He is no longer the Lord of The Wild Hunt, but becomes the Green Man, the Lord of the Woods. In this form he will rule through to the autumn. Towards the end of April, and just a week before Beltane is St George's Day. George was Greek and it thought that the legend of St George was brought back to England by returning crusading knights. In the 13th century he replaces St Edward as patron saint of England by popular demand. In the legend St George is a brave knight who rescues a fair virgin or maiden from a dragon who is holding her prisoner in a cave. The symbolism of the legend is connected with the coming of spring; the knight as the young God fully armed in his warrior aspect, the 'virgin' is the spring goddess and the dragon is the life force stirring in the cave, or the womb of Mother Earth. This symbolism is underlined by the story that St George is martyred then, Christ-like, rises from the dead. The medieval Christian legend of St George goes back to the myth of the Middle Eastern god Bel who slew the sea beast Tiamat. In the Canaanite myth it is Baal who killed the serpent, dies, went to the underworld and was rescued by his sister-consort Anat. The Christians associated the dragon or serpent with Satan. In the Biblical myths of the War in Heaven, Michael battles Lucifer and his rebel angels. The archangel of light, first-born of God, is cast down to Earth and becomes Lord of the World. An emerald falls from his crown and is eventually carved into the cup which is used by Jesus at the Last Supper. Lucifer, wrongly associated with Satan, is described as 'the great dragon' or the 'old serpent'. This battle between a male God and a serpent (seen as a symbol of the feminine) has been taken by modern feminists as typical of the subjugation of women by patriarchal societies. As in many cases, the truth is not so simplistic. The legend of St George is closely associated with the eternal battle between good and evil, death and rebirth, summer and winter, which lies at the heart of the mythic Wheel of the Year, and the pagan drama of divine kingship and the sacrificed god. In the folklore calendar Beltane was not only a time for orgiastic revels to mark the beginning of Summer, but also a time for more serious rituals to protect the land and the livestock. Beltane was when the cattle and sheep were turned out to the summer pastures or taken up to the hills. In Irish mythology, the beginning of the year for the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Milesians started at Beltane, great bonfires would herald in the Summer in the hope of good harvest, prosperity and well being to all. Early Gaelic sources from around the 10th century state that the Druids would create a need-fire on top of a hill on this day and rush the village's cattle through the fires to purify them and bring luck. This was practice continued long after the Druids had gone, and village elders would take on the role of lighting the need fire for the village. People would also go between the fires to purify themselves. This was echoed throughout history after Christianization, with lay people instead of Druid priests creating the need-fire. The festival persisted widely up until the 1950s, and in some places the celebration of Beltane continues today. A revived Beltane Fire Festival has been held every year since 1988 during the night of 30 April on Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland and attended by up to 15,000 people (except in 2003 when local council restrictions forced the organisers to hold a private event elsewhere). Many people confuse Beltane and May Day, the two traditions are linked but quite separate. May Day derives from a Germanic festival and is more associated with dancing round the May Pole (an ancient fertility symbol), in what was once one of England's most important festivals of the year. May Day and Beltane obviously have much in common, as both celebrate new growth and fertility. Even when May Day celebrations were banned in the late 16th century for being immoral, the customs died hard and it wasn't long before the festivities were once again widespread. But long before the May Day celebrations, with their maypole dancing, garlands and dances became popular, the ancient fire festival of Beltane took place for centuries in the Celtic lands. The holiday was also known as "Roodmass" in England and "Walpurgisnacht" in Germany.On Walpurgis Night or May Eve, the witches of Europe were said to attend the Grand Sabbat of the year at the Brocken Mountain in Germany. There, it was commonly believed, wild orgies were held presided over by the Devil. In reality the Brocken is sacred to Freyja and Holda. Near it's summit is a holy well, and ancient stone altar and a dancing ground. It was probably sacred to the old time witches and it can be compared with the Venusberg ruled by Dame Venus or Holda and the Hollow Hill of Craft mythology. Beltane is said to mean anything from "Bel-fire" Feast of the god Bel" to "bright fire." Janet and Stewart Farrar, in Eight Sabbats for Witches offer an excellent tracing of the holiday's Irish roots, and particularly the European fire-god Belenus whom they believe this festival is named for (a name possibly traced back to Baal, the bible's only pagan god, whose name simply means "Lord"). Ronald Hutton states that since the Celtic word "bel" means bright or fortunate, this is adequate to explain the translation as being "lucky fire" or "bright fire." FIRE is what this festival is all about. It is one of the two great fire festivals of the wheel of the year (the other is Samhain). It also falls upon the cross-quarter days, which mark the astrological movement of the sun. In ancient times, the calendar days for these holidays would have been roughly seven to eleven days AFTER we now celebrate them (usually on the first of the month). The way to know for sure is to observe when the sun reaches 15 degrees of the zodiac sign. For Beltane, this is Taurus, the Bull ). At Lammas, Leo; at Samhain, Scorpio, and at Imbolc, Aquarius. Samhain and Beltane divide the year into two distinct halves of great importance to agricultural societies (as in Western Europe, where our Celtic calendar of eight major seasonal festivals originates). In F. Marian McNeill's book The Silver Bough, she states: "At Beltane, flocks and herds went to their summer pastures; as Hallowmas (Samhain) they returned to their winter quarters. Fire festivals in ancient times were seen as times of propitiation and purification. Propitiation means sacrifice; to propitiate the mysterious forces of nature and ensure fertility in field and fold and on the hearth. In ancient times this meant human sacrifice as well as animal sacrifice, the spilling of blood to nourish the soil, the theme of the sacrificial king to generate good harvest. We have moved on from those days, and modern witches do not indulge in human sacrifice to propitiate the land. Life energy can be given in many ways rather than ritual killing. Giving etheric energy to the Land or the Universe, pricking our own finger and giving a drop of our blood, or offering libation to the soil. As for purification, fire has always been seen as its chief agent. Traditionally, all domestic fires in Irish, English and Scottish households were extinguished on Beltane Eve, after having been kept lit continuously all year. Just before dawn, villagers would process with their animals up the hillsides to the highest point where fires would be kindled and relit for people to see for miles around. It was also traditional to build these fires out of nine of the sacred woods from Druidic folklore, including oak, ash, thorn, rowan, apple, birch, alder, maple, elm, gorse, holly, hawthorn, and others. The bonfires were lit so that a narrow passage existed between two fire, so that cattle and other livestock could be led between the fires, to purify them from disease or sterility for the coming year. Torches of dried sedge, gorse or heather were also lit and carried around remaining flocks or stables, to further purify the air. Modern Traditions Modern pagans celebrate Beltane as a festival of reawakening spring, of fertility, of the renewal of the life-force, of creativity, or rebirth, of love and sexuality, or birth and regeneration. Larger pagan gatherings may feature maypole dancing, or the relighting of the Beltane Fire as has been carried out in Edinburgh for the last 20 years or so. What a wonderful tradition to rekindle, to renew and purify Earth, beasts and Humanity! Whatever you do to celebrate Beltane, remember that Summer is a- coming in with the sun from the south and with oak, and ash and thorn. © Traditional Witch 2006
  13. Autumn Equinox (around 21st September) The festival of Harvest End or Harvest Home coincided with the Autumn equinox in September when the days and nights were equal. It is in the sign of Virgo, the corn maiden or goddess. At this period there was a feeling in the air that autumn was when the Bright Goddess of spring and summer handed over to the Dark Goddess of winter. The last sheaf of corn was called the 'Old Woman', 'The Old Witch', the Queen. In Scotland two corn dollies were made from the last sheaf of corn and called the Cailleach and the Maiden. They were dressed accordingly in handmade clothes and were the harvest of the past year and the year to come. In the Highlands the last sheaf was called the Maiden before Samhain, and the Cailleach afterwards. This sheaf was thought to contain the spirit of the grain goddess, so the maid from the farm ran to the farmhouse with it and there it was fashioned into a corn dolly and hung up over the hearth for winter. The Cailleach presided over the home, and was taken out and scattered on the fields prior to sowing time in the spring. Thus was the cycle of the Earth Goddess complete. The (usually) male worker who cut the last sheaf of corn was given the title Harvest Lord, and the maid who brought it back to the farm was called the Queen of the Harvest. They presided over the harvest supper, when these rites became too riotous and rowdy in the 19th century they were replaced by the more sedate Harvest Festival of the Church when the fruits of the harvest were offered. In some areas the person who cut the last sheaf was treated roughly by the other farm hands, and in some areas if a stranger walked into the threshing floor they were bound with a flail and a rope made from twisted corn was placed around their necks. In some areas the person who cut, bound and threshed the last sheaf was treated as an embodiment of the corn spirit by being wrapped in sheaves, killed in mimicry by agricultural implements and thrown in water. These customs all bear the hallmarks of folk memories of the older re-enactment of the death of the sacred king, or sacrificial offering at Harvest End. This time from Lughnasadh to Samhain is a time of thanksgiving, the time of mature contemplation of the past year's work. The seeds of that working should be looked at and thanks given for whatever has been achieved. It is also a time for sorrow, for the season of growth is over and the year must surely die. That is the inner meaning of Lammas and Harvest End. On a practical level the Gods will be thanked for the harvest and the story of the death of old John Barleycorn re-enacted. As the autumn comes, the leaves begin to fall, the mist rises from the empty fields and the first frost makes hedgerows white, the reign of the bright Summer Goddess comes to an end. She must become the Wise Crone, the Dark Queen and the Destroying Hag. She is now the Winter Goddess of the waning and dark moon whose gifts are visions of the future and the release of death. The spring maiden and summer enchantress hide their beautiful faces behind the grim visage of the winter Hag. She is the Old Queen who rides out from the faery mound at the head of the Faery Host at midnight on Samhain eve. Beside her rides the dark and sinister figure of the Wild Hunter with his stag skull mask and antlers. The dark season ha begun and once more the goblin dead haunt the spirit paths waiting to be invited in. A note is required at this point, we note that many Wiccans and American neo-pagans have taken to calling this Mabon. Let us be quite specific, this is NOT the name for this festival, the name Mabon is new, given to bestow an air of antiquity, and a Celtic name like many of the other Sabbats. This is not a name generally used in the Traditional Craft. © Traditional Witch 2006
  14. admin

    Our Thoughts

    Paganism is a "FREE" Religion. Traditional Witchcraft is not bound by books and laws that others have invented. It is free of made up rules, free from the hierarchical bullshit that plagues other organised religions; but with that freedom comes responsibility, you are responsible for your own actions and intentions, good or bad. Some years ago Sandy was formerly initiated into the Craft by a Traditional High Witch Priest, and although it was an extremely intense magickal experience and something that will be carried with her for the rest of her life, we actually believe that it is your own higher self that determines what you are. A "Degree" is just a name, it does not automatically mean you are accepted as a 1st, 2nd or 3rd Degree Witch wherever you go. Any covens you join will re-initiate you into their own circle and belief system no matter what degree you are somewhere else. It is false to always assume that the higher up the Degree someone is, the better they are. That makes no sense to us - you become wise through experience, not from someone else judging what you're capable of and sticking a label on you - but isn't that what a true Traditional Witch is? The "Wise Woman" or the "Cunning Man" like old George Pickingill, for example; and not a hierarchal system with one-sided rules that Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente invented much later, now known as Wicca. You are free to express your sexuality and your inner most desires as long as it harms none. You are free to do as you please as long as it harms none. However, if you follow a Traditional Witches' path, you are well within your human rights to protect yourself against the evil intentions or influences of others. One very wise man said once "It only takes one kind man to let evil succeed". This is the rule we believe in and use - we feel that it is our duty as responsible people to act upon and bounce back any harmful intentions of others in whatever ways are appropriate. Nature itself can be kind but also cruel and will defend itself if cornered, why do some people feel they need to cower away from this fact? Wiccans believe that whatever you "send out" comes back to you 3-fold, good or bad (karma). However, although we do believe in karma, we do not believe that karma always works only in this way. We believe that if you do wrong without justice then your own guilt is a negative emotion in itself that it automatically creates negative energy. This negative energy then attracts even more negative energies that are around you. It is the same if you do something good, it makes you feel good doesn't it? You will then be surrounded by positive energy which then attracts more positive energy ... that makes far more sense than thinking that someone else or something else is controlling our fate! The only other reason someone could receive a "karma bashing" is if, for example, an individual was intentionally sending out harmful negative energies in some form to harm another person - we would not hesitate to bounce it right back where it came from, occasionally along with a little something else to ensure that the individual may think twice about their intentions. The beauty of it is that we don't even need to know who is responsible - it finds its own way back :-). Once they stop their outward attacks, then it stops for them too. There is no denying it - it can be quite satisfying to see such a nasty individual get their comeuppance and watch them kick their own ass! We feel that one cannot make the world a better place by sending out loving energy to someone who is filled with jealousy and hatred; bluebirds and butterflies just wont work for these kinds of people and this is exactly what sets us apart from Wiccans. What may work for a Wicca Witch, may not work for us and visa-versa. There is no "grey" area in the Traditional Craft, it just "is"! i.e. No "Devils" or "Gremlins" to blame just your own pure self! If things are done for justice sake, then we don't feel guilty, and we shouldn't go around worrying over some Rede that was written 50 or 60 years ago. What matters is how you feel about what you have done, was it just? Was it deserved? Do you think your higher self would approve? Know Thyself, be in touch with your higher self or your True Will and you act in accordance with the Universe. Your higher self not only protects, it also teaches. If you act out of spite, then accept any negativity that may come your way. Sure we all feel ticked off by some people, but a Traditional tries to temper that with self control and ignore it and believes that such a person acting inappropriately will be back for another endurance test of life to grow. Something else that we often chat about is how many times we've heard or seen people saying 'Oh I can't do such and such a spell because I haven't got every last ingredient that's specified in some book or other'. A Traditional Witch will look around and use something else, whatever feels right, the INTENT is what is really important, not the 'props' - although for some things the props are good to help the INTENT along. This applies whether it's candle colours, day of the week, incense or anything else. True Magick comes from within, and it is your intent that makes the magick happen. A Traditional Witch, uses their own will and intent, no Athame to Hand? Then use your finger, or simply visualise your Athame in your hand! But if you have the ingredients use them if you wish to, just don't get fooled into the belief that you can't do without them! Note: Some High Magick Rituals do actually require specific items to be used but this is not what most witches should or would be practising. As to words and rhymes, we don't generally use someone else's nicely rhyming chant. We feel that you should make up your own. Your own words have far more power and as they come from your own heart will be truer to your intent. We personally can't summon up the will when chanting some of the Wiccan rhymes as we cannot take them seriously, however, if they work for you then that's fine. The aim of Magick is to find out what works for you. Allowing "it" to happen. When you open your hearts and your minds, you can be "open" to receive all sorts of messages, normally it happens when you are relaxed and not mentally "thinking". For example, we could be chatting away with someone and get a very strong sense that they or somebody close to them may have a health problem or someone who has passed over wants to give them a message. It can be quite uncanny but it feels so good to be able to help others in this way. This is something that we both are working on to get some sort of control over - we never know when or how it happens, it just does! The only way both of us can describe it is like a post-it-note being smacked on your forehead, sometimes to the point that the reaction is as though you have been hit with an invisible slap! :) Over the years, since working with each other our intuition is very strong when it comes to other people. We can see through people's facade right away and instantly know if they are genuine souls - we can usually tell which ones will be back for another life lesson and have a little smile about it. It is very rare to find others on our wavelength, but luckily the Gods brought us together, to work and try to do some good in this life. Although we are classed as "Solitary" Witches we work together on most occasions. Many people come to us asking for healing, love spells, money spells or to lift a curse they believe they have been burdened with. It can be immensely rewarding to see the positive results. It is such a satisfying sensation to know that we have helped another person that perhaps normal doctors or other religions had given up all hope. We always help others as best as we can, relying on our own Higher Self to guide us and do what is needed to get the work done. We don't do any work lightly, we meditate on it, and only undertake any work that feels right to us; remember that some things happen to people as life lessons, and sometimes the lesson needs to be learned. In these cases we shall not get involved or will work to ensure that they learn the lesson and grow from it and do what is best for their own higher self. A few people are under the impression that you have to be "born" a witch to be a witch. This is not correct at all. One does not need to come from a a line of Wicca or Traditional Witches to practise Witchcraft. The power is within all of us, it is just how you personally use it to suit your own needs and to progress spiritually in this life. However, in saying this, both of us happen to be hereditary witches. Sandy's side of the family are very psychic and that comes down the line through the female side: "I have, in the last few years only discovered that I come from a line of witches in my family. Lots of memories have come to light as many things were forgotten or brushed under the carpet in the past, mainly out of fear. Everything makes sense now, not just the memories of my Mother already "knowing" things she couldn't possibly know when I was growing up and having the nickname "White Witch" throughout her career by colleagues, no wonder she got snapped up by the secret service! And, my Grandmother, bless her soul, being feared by all her neighbours as being evil and will curse anyone that upset her, thankfully she doted on me! Not to forget countless strange happenings throughout my life and childhood memories I have that differ considerably from anyone else's; being a loner; never fitting in; being told you are too wise for your years at 6, doing things a peculiar way that seemed right to me but totally insane to others but none-the-less worked every time, and of course being labelled an eccentric weirdo as a teenager. I can honestly say I am happier now than I have ever been in my entire life - it is not that I needed a reason for my strangeness but the fact is that I AM different, I know I am different and I can finally enjoy being different". Droghon's side of the family was also very mystical, especially his mother: "My Mother was a practising solitary witch, although she would never admit to it. Being raised strict Catholic she was too set in her ways to change when she felt that she did not really "fit" into that belief system. She would know things and teach me things that seemed crazy at the time but always make sense. I particularly remember that she had me out in the garden every May dawn washing my face in the dew". End note from Sandy and Droghon: Paganism is indeed a FREE religion, it also is a religion of personal responsibility and acting in accord with your higher self. It is also a religion of LOVE, love for oneself, nature and all living things. It is a religion of balance; Male and Female, Light and Dark, Positive and Negative, Birth and Death and Rebirth. To deny one side in favour of the other is unbalanced and unhealthy. © Traditional Witch 2006
  15. Severing Etheric Cords It’s important to have a regular practice of severing etheric cords from people who may be draining your energy. It’s also not uncommon to have etheric cords attached to places, animals, and people who have died. When we think of someone, or someone thinks of us, and form an attachment, there is an energy cord created between us and the person, place or being. It’s important to recognize when a person may be draining on your energy, or leaving you feeling anxious or angry, etc. This may be an indication that there are energy cords that needs cutting. Cords are placed with people all the time, as we interact with others. So, it’s extremely important to regularly sever cords that are not in your or the other person’s best interest and highest good. We can also attach cords or have cords attached to people or situations that we are not ready to let go of. People who have died are a good example of this. People who have died are still energy beings, therefore, etheric cords can easily be run from our plane to theirs. When cords are not healthy and in our best interest, this prevents forward spiritual progress for the other person, as well as for us. A ritual of severing cords which are not in your best interest and highest good will help your energy field lift and vibrate at a higher rate. We also run energy cords between our loved ones, for instance our children, our partner, our animal companions, our family members, and this is normal and expected as long as the relationship is in balance and is in the best interest of all involved. What become harmful is when the relationship is out of balance, this is when the cords must be severed. There are many meditations to do to sever etheric cords. This short meditation is very simple and although this way is probably not practised by most Traditionals it is effective and can be incorporated by almost all religions. Severing Etheric Cords requires the assistance of Archangel Michael. Begin with sitting or lying comfortably in a quiet place, however, you don’t want to be too comfortable that you fall asleep. Begin with taking some slow deep breaths. Breathe in for a count of 7 1..2..3..4..5..6..7 hold your breath for a count of 7 1..2..3..4..5..6..7 and breathe out for a count of 7 1..2..3..4..5..6..7 Repeat this deep breathing for a count of 7 until you feel relaxed and your mind is clear. Say out loud, or in your mind .. "I ask Archangel Michael to come to me and help me now" Wait a few seconds and feel Michael’s presence. You should know and trust that Michael comes to all who call on him for assistance. Now say out loud, or in your mind, something like the following .. "I ask Archangel Michael to use your sword and sever any and all etheric cords attached to my energy and physical bodies." Continue to breathe deeply and feel the energy cords leave your energy and physical bodies. You may feel tingly all over your body as the cords are cut, a slight dizziness, or slight nausea, or you may even see and feel the cords being severed and dissipating and disappearing. A quick explanation of why you should call on the Archangel Michael may be in order. This has nothing to do with Christianity, Judaism or Muslim religious beliefs. We think of Archangels and Angels as beings that are on a higher level of existence, their task is to guide and protect us. Some may call them archetypes, an idea, but once you have called Archangel Michael and successfully severed harmful etheric cords, you will feel more positive and content in your wellbeing.
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