Winter Solstice: Returning to our Roots

First of all, let me make it perfectly clear I’m not Anti-Christmas. I don’t mind if other people celebrate it. I don’t mind if people say “Merry Christmas”. I might even say it back. However, as a pagan, it is not a holiday that I celebrate. I know there are some pagans who celebrate a secularized version of this Christian holiday and almost begrudge other pagans who won’t join in with them. I prefer to remain true to my path and my beliefs. I do not have nostalgic, romanticized notions about Christmas that some other pagans have. I prefer to honor the real “reason for the season”…the Winter Solstice.

Unlike some other people, I don’t have warm and fuzzy, sentimental memories of Christmases from my youth. I grew up in an abusive environment that was also (ironically) very Christian. Christmas was always about the birth of Jesus Christ and a religion that was forced on me for several years. Even though it has been secularized to a degree, and many people celebrate what they call “Christmas”, by it’s very name, Christmas is inherently a religious holiday. Christmas is about Christ, after all. Even though most historians agree that Jesus Christ was not born in December, Christmas is the time when Christians celebrate his birth. To deny this is simply ignorant and foolish. Since I am not a Christian, why should I celebrate a holiday that I do not believe in?

Sometimes people who know me feel a bit awkward when this time of year comes around. They ask, “Can I tell you Merry Christmas?” or they will ask what is the appropriate thing to say. I appreciate their thoughtfulness in asking, and usually just tell them “you can say whatever you like” or “Happy Winter Solstice is fine”. I really don’t mind what sort of holiday greetings people use. I’m not offended if people say “Merry Christmas”. I know they are being kind and wishing me good will, and that is important for everyone.

Some pagans and witches have romanticized the holiday, calling to mind the feasting, gift-giving, gathering with family and friends, decorating a tree and singing carols. Perhaps they have forgotten that none of these practices originated with Christmas. These traditions are all of pagan origin that were simply grafted onto Christmas celebrations over time. This means that as a witch and a pagan, I can still do all of these things and I don’t have to call it “Christmas”. Also, just because you don’t celebrate Christmas does not mean you have to avoid family gatherings. You can gather with your family because they’re your family, and not necessarily “because it’s Christmas”. You can also have your own Winter Solstice gatherings and Yule dinners with pagan friends and do the same things people typically associate with Christmas. You’re not missing out on anything by not celebrating Christmas, because you haven’t really lost anything. All of the old seasonal traditions are yours to enjoy, because they are much, much older than Christmas.

People who know I am a Witch will often ask questions, like:

Do you sing Christmas carols?

Carols, yes. Christmas, no. The first carols had nothing to do with Christianity. They were pagan songs that were sung at Winter Solstice celebrations. The word “Carol” means ‘dance’ or ‘song of joy’ and used to be written and sung at all four seasons. Early Christians took over the pagan solstice celebrations for Christmas and gave people Christian songs to sing instead of pagan ones. Sadly, the old songs have been lost or have been given a Christian gloss, such as we see with “The Holly and the Ivy”. Even today, I still enjoy such songs as “Winter Wonderland”, “Deck The Halls”, “Jingle Bells”, “Sleigh Ride” to name a few. There are plenty of seasonal songs that have nothing to do with Christianity.

Do you decorate a Christmas tree?

Yes, but we prefer to call it a Yule Tree. We go to a tree farm just like the muggles do, and cut down a real tree to bring into our home. The practice of decorating a tree did not originate with Christmas. Dating back centuries before Christ, it was the pagans and witches who brought evergreen trees, plants, and leaves into their homes upon the arrival of the Winter Solstice. Druid priests in Great Britain also used evergreen plants and mistletoe in pagan ceremonies, and the mistletoe plant was the symbol of the birth of a god.

Do you have dinner with loved ones and exchange gifts?

Absolutely. Gathering with friends and loved ones for feasting, music, games and gift-exchanging is all part of our Winter Solstice celebrations, just as in ancient times. These winter-time practices began with the ancient Yule and Saturnalia celebrations to welcome the “return of the Sun”. Winter is the perfect time to gather with loved ones for warmth and comfort. It is the dark time of the year and we can rely on each other for strength as we await the light.

What is the Winter Solstice?

The pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (also known as Yule) is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world. Ancient people were hunters and spent most of their time outdoors. The seasons and weather played a very important part in their lives. Because of this many ancient people had a great reverence for, and even worshipped the sun. The Norsemen of Northern Europe saw the sun as a wheel that changed the seasons. It was from the word for this wheel, houl, that the word “Yule” is thought to have come. At mid-winter the Norsemen lit bonfires, told stories and drank ale. The ancient Romans also held a festival to celebrate the rebirth of the year. Saturnalia ran for seven days from the 17th of December. It was a time when the ordinary rules were turned upside down. Men dressed as women and masters dressed as servants. The festival also involved decorating houses with greenery, lighting candles, holding processions and giving presents. The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day of the year (21st December) and was celebrated in Britain long before the arrival of Christianity. The Druids (Celtic priests) would cut the mistletoe that grew on the oak tree and give it as a blessing. Oaks were seen as sacred and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months.It was also the Druids who began the tradition of the yule log. The Celts thought that the sun stood still for twelve days in the middle of winter and during this time a log was lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year. Many of these customs are still followed today. They have been incorporated into the Christian and secular celebrations of Christmas.

‘Tis the Season of Winter, and we can flow with the natural energies of the Winter Solstice in the knowledge that we are tapping into an ancient current that is centuries older than the Christian holiday. So, even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I still partake in the seasonal celebrations. I just call them by a different, much older name.

Be Defiantly Happy

If you have been watching the news in recent weeks, no doubt you learned about the attacks in Paris, the downing of a Russian airliner leaving Egypt and the suicide bombings in Beirut, all carried out by radical extremist terrorist groups. Seeing and watching all these things happening, it would appear that the world is truly a dark and dangerous place to live. I have seen and read the news stories, along with commentaries from various people about how they deal with this troubling situation. Some are saying they will never travel to Europe again because they no longer feel safe, while others say we are living in the safest times in history and that these radical extremist groups make up a very small percentage of society. Still others are accusing the media of fear-mongering. While caution is definitely necessary in this day and age, and terrorism is a real threat, I honestly worry about people who focus on all the hurt and harm they see. Yes, there is a lot of evil in the world, but there is a lot of goodness in the world too. If you spend all of your time focusing on the evil and injustice, you will turn into an angry, bitter person with no hope. But there is always hope. There are reasons to be happy.

There-are-so-many-beautiful-reasons-to-be-happy.

I am not suggesting that we bury our heads in the sand and pretend that that horrible things aren’t happening. I am merely saying that we should not allow the evil in the world to make us fearful and afraid. Be defiantly happy, live your life brave, fearless and free. I for one am not going to hide in my home, avoid travel and stop going to public gatherings. I am fortunate to live in a country where I am not forced against my will to align with any philosophy that I do not agree with. I am free to choose my own beliefs and live my life any way I please. Rejoice in your freedom, and in the freedom to find joy and happiness in a world with so much darkness. There will always be people who disagree with your beliefs or disapprove of your lifestyle, but pay them no mind. If you are seeking peace and unity rather than harm, and you are not trying to forcibly convert people to your philosophy or way of thinking, then you are on a right path. You can bring light to the darkness. How can I do that, you might ask?

When you see atrocities being committed by these evil groups, light a candle and send your wishes for peace, protection and healing for the victims and families. If you can, donate to organizations that are providing relief and support. Cast your spells and do magic to bring those who commit these horrifying acts to justice. Send strength to the military who are defending their countries from terrorists. Place your hands on a globe and visualize light and peace surrounding the whole Earth. These may seem like small things, but if we are all doing it together, we can make a difference.

Happiness-can-found-even-darkest-times-one-onlyThe times we live in may seem to be filled with fear and hatred, but we can turn it around. Pull your loved ones closer to you than ever before, and assure that they feel loved and protected. Do whatever you can to bring goodness and light to the world. Perform “Magical Acts of Kindness” every day, simple things that bring a smile to someone’s face. There is magic in every act of kindness. Pay for someone’s meal at the restaurant. Hold the door open for others. Smile. Say “Hello” and “Have a wonderful day”. Be a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on for those who are hurting. Buy someone’s latte at the coffee shop. Bake a cake for the neighbors or buy some groceries for the old lady down the street. There are so many things you can do to bring happiness and light to a world that often seems so dark.

While we should be aware and cautious in today’s world, don’t always focus on the harm and evil. Acknowledge that there is also goodness in the world, you can be part of that goodness, and live defiantly happy.

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Good Witches in the Media: At the Movies

practical-magic-109977950375PRACTICAL MAGIC is a very popular film about down-to-earth Sally Owens and her sister, wild-child Gillian Owens, both girls are witches who are raised by their two eccentric aunts (also witches) in a beautiful seaside victorian house on the New England coast. We soon learn that the Owens women are under an ancient curse: Any man who falls in love with an Owens woman will die prematurely. (There is a backstory to this, but I don’t want to give everything away). When they are still young girls, Sally vows to never fall in love, and casts a spell for a man who can “flip pancakes in the air, ride a horse backwards, has one green eye and one blue”. She does this for her own protection, as she feels this is “a man who doesn’t exist”. Gillian finds a boyfriend, and when he starts abusing her, the two sisters use witchcraft to handle the situation in a way that has frightening consequences. This is a very entertaining film. I love how the two aunts walk through the town with their umbrellas and floppy hats, blissfully ignoring the jeers and mocking of the townspeople who all know they are witches. By the end of the film, however, everybody’s happy, even the local uppities, especially when they get invited to participate in a banishing spell. Good film, fun to watch.

onesheetTHE COVENANT is the story of the Sons of Ipswich, five young men with magical ability who are all descendants of a 17th century coven of witches. Four of them are close friends, and attend a private school, while the fifth was believed to have disappeared years earlier. In this film, magic is a sort of drug, addictive, and makes the “user” hungry for power. When young male witches turn 18, they go through an experience called “Ascending”, when their power is increased tremendously. When Chase Collins, the fifth Ipswich descendant (unbeknownst to the others) arrives at the school, trouble starts brewing as he uses his magic to torment and harass the other sons. He knows that Caleb Danvers will turn soon turn 18 and “ascend”, and threatens to kill the Ipswich families unless Caleb wills to him his power when his Ascension begins. Caleb is the good guy of the story, frequently cautioning the others not to use their magic irresponsibly. The film concludes with a battle between Caleb and Chase, in a fight of good against evil. This film is rated PG-13, as there are some adult themes, partial nudity and some very quick disturbing images. This would have made an awesome TV series, a sort of male version of Charmed.

bb41e1fcc19b816c4d375d34ee3349c0c9085f50BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS is a delightful Disney musical starring Angela Lansbury as an amateur witch, as she and three orphans along with a professor try to find an ancient incantation that will save the country from invaders. This is a very British film, part live-action, part animation, with lots of great music and family fun. One of my personal favorites.

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ELVIRA, MISTRESS OF THE DARK is great adult campy fun, a story about a voluptuous rocker chick who moves to an uptight, ultra-conservative New England town to claim her inheritance of an old house left to her by her great aunt, a witch. Elvira is not afraid to flaunt her assets, which appalls the local snobs who want to run her out of town. Elvira discovers her great aunt’s “cookbook” (which is actually a book of spells), and meets her great uncle, an evil warlock who wants the book for himself. This is a totally hilarious movie, lots of great one-liners, and is not for the kids. We met Elvira in person several years ago at a comic convention in San Francisco, and she autographed my action figure of her. Some people complain about her revealing outfits, but I say if you’ve got it, flaunt it. I know I would.

beautiful-creatures-17178-1920x1080BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is an enchanting film about Ethan Wate and Lena Duchanne. Ethan meets Lena at school and the two become romantically involved, much to the dismay of Lena’s family. The other students do not take kindly to Lena as they all believe her to be a witch. And she is, but as she explains to Ethan, Lena and her family are “Casters” capable of using magical spells to change the weather or create illusions. When Lena turns 16, her true nature will steer her toward either the Light or the Dark. Lena’s family try to assure her that she is a good person and will not become dark. Her cousin and her mother, however, want her to become dark, as they foresee that she will be incredibly powerful and want her to use her power to purge the Earth of humans, leaving behind only Casters. Lena begins studying the Caster spellbook, hidden in a private chamber under the local library (the librarian is also a Caster), and with the help of her uncle, and Ethan, she defeats her cousin and her mother. I really enjoyed this movie, but it seemed like bits were omitted, and I seem to remember seeing things in the trailers for the film that were not in the movie. Still, I found it very entertaining, and Emma Thompson (as Lena’s mother) was excellent. This film was based on the book of the same name, which I have never read, and I hoped they would continue the story, but unfortunately this film did not do well in theatres.

Harry+Potter+render1HARRY POTTER is an immensely popular 8-film series about a boy wizard and his destiny to defeat the evil Lord Voldemort. The films are based on the seven book series written by Scottish author J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter is the biggest selling book series in history, and has been translated into 73 languages. (In the film industry, the Potter movies are the 2nd highest-grossing films ever. The Avengers holds the number 1 spot). Audiobooks of the series are also available. Harry Potter quickly became a world-wide phenomenon, the popularity of which eventually spawned two theme parks, fan websites, Harry Potter conventions, it’s own officially recognized genre of music (Wizard Rock), a sub-culture of Harry Potter ‘Lifestylers’, and a spin-off movie series. The first of this spin-off series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, opens in theatres November 2016. The release of the Potter books and films caused quite a bit of controversy, particularly with radical conservative Christian groups who claimed the books and films were luring children to Witchcraft, Wicca and Satanism. This is ridiculous, of course, as Witchcraft and Wicca have nothing to do with Satanism. Witches do not believe in a Satan/Devil figure. I am grateful for the fact that Harry Potter caused a lot of discussion to happen, about Wicca, Witchcraft, Mythology and the real practice of magic, which is not at all like the special effects “magic” we see in the films. (Would that were true!) Intelligent people educated themselves, while others chose to believe the lies of church leaders who condemned the books as “Satanic”. Harry Potter brought Witchcraft (a pseudo-fictional version, anyway) into the mainstream and made it normal. On the other hand, what you read in the books is not entirely fiction. Part of the genius of author J. K. Rowling is that even though these books are fantasy, there are bits of truth scattered throughout. Rowling included things from folklore and added some true magical concepts into the stories, which gave them an air of realism. There are subtle hints from Celtic mythology and if one looks a little deeper, one can find several metaphysical themes hidden between the lines. J.K. Rowling stated in a recent interview that there were no Wiccans at Hogwarts, however, I find this very unlikely due to the very subjects taught at the school (Divination, Herbology, etc). These subjects are part and parcel of Wiccan practice. The popularity of Harry Potter continues to grow, conventions are still going strong, and Rowling’s Pottermore website gives fans more details to absorb from these wonderful stories. Harry’s story has changed many lives, including my own. As a friend of mine said, “Harry has come to re-introduce magic to the world”.

So, that is my list of films that present witches in a positive light.

But what about…

The above films are about good witches fighting evil and darkness, which is why I have left out The Craft, I Married a Witch, Bell, Book and Candle, Hocus Pocus, The Witches of Eastwick and even that horrible Bewitched movie. What’s wrong with these, you might ask. Well, let’s see…

the-craft-movie-poster-1996-1020198968THE CRAFT is about goth girls who use witchcraft to hex and torment anyone who even slightly offends them. It is very unfortunate that this is the movie many people think of when you talk about Wicca, because it presents a horribly false idea of who witches and wiccans really are. We don’t all wear black lipstick and goth gear, and 99% of us don’t use magic to take revenge on people. If this film has any merit at all, it is that magic will have dire consequences if used improperly.

I MARRIED A WITCH is about a young witch who uses her magic to seduce a man away from his fiance. She and her father concoct a spell to make the man fall in love with her, and they totally play on the whole idea of witches causing havoc and mayhem. In the end, she acknowledges “Love is stronger than Witchcraft” and she loses him after all.

BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE is about yet another witch using magic to seduce a man away from his fiance.

HOCUS POCUS is a very popular Disney film that portrays witches as the stereotypical wart-nosed witches on broomsticks. I know a lot of people like this movie, and I have watched it many times, but here we are again promoting a false stereotype of witches being evil and ugly.

THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK (is it even available anymore) is about three witches who become involved with the Devil (Jack Nicholson). As much as I love CHER, this movie does not present witches in a positive light. Granted, by the end of the film they realize he is using them and they try to get rid of him, but here we have yet again, the false presumption that witches are in league with the Devil. When this movie was due for release, Salem witch Laurie Cabot launched a campaign to have it removed from theatres but was unsuccessful.

large_An2hoxmtqAuIiqmZbGf82As7izKBEWITCHED is a movie version of the TV series with a few unnecessary twists. A witch named Isobel moves to Los Angeles, and is discovered by a narcissistic actor (Will Ferrell) who wants her to play Samantha on a tv remake of “Bewitched”. He intends to overshadow her on the series and make the show about him. He soon discovers Isobel really is a witch and that’s where chaos begins. Isobel is a good witch in this film, however, she has moved to Los Angeles to have a “normal” life without magic. And, to put it bluntly, Will Ferrell was horrible in this movie. It if were someone else, I might have liked it but he was trying too hard to be funny and upbeat and you could totally tell it was fake. I was very disappointed with the Bewitched movie. They could have made a really awesome film adaptation of the TV series and they ruined it. Don’t waste your money.

Sometimes when I complain about false representation of witches in the media some people ask me, “Why can’t you just enjoy it as entertainment? You don’t have to take it so seriously”. The truth is, if we want to tear down stereotypes, we do need to take these things seriously. Many people form opinions by what they see on TV or in the movies. Would you consider it “entertainment” if something important to you was being misrepresented in a movie or a TV program? I don’t think so. If you don’t speak out about things and educate people, they will get worse.

I am always on the lookout for films and TV programs that present witches and witchcraft in a positive light. Have you seen any that I missed? I’d love to know about them.

Good Witches in the Media: Television

With Samhain/Halloween quickly approaching, and Halloween decorations appearing everywhere, I have been thinking of how witches have been portrayed in the media, on TV and in film, and if perceptions have changed at all about how the average person (not motivated by organized religion or culture) views those who call themselves witch, wizard or wiccan.

Only moments ago I was down at the corner coffee shop waiting for a pumpkin spice latte, and while I was waiting, I glanced up at the Halloween decorations. Right above the register where I had placed my order, there was hanging a green-faced, warty-nosed witch. A flood of images and thoughts ran through my head in rapid succession, the first being “How appropriate, a witch is hanging above a witch ordering coffee”, but then I caught myself. NO. Not appropriate at all. First of all, there’s that subliminal message of “hanging witches” (remember the Salem witch trials?), and then there’s the false notion of witches being evil, with warts on green faces. This stereotype is still part of the collective consciousness, especially where Halloween in concerned, due largely to the maligning of witches by the Christian church and popular media.

As much as I love the word Witch, this is a word that means different things to different people, depending on where they live, the culture and environment they were raised in, and their level of education (Education being the key word). Witch means something entirely different in South Africa than it does here in the USA. There are some places in the world where the mere suspicion of being a Witch could get you killed, because in those places Witches are associated with evil and misfortune. When bad things happen, the uneducated seek a scapegoat and the “witches” get blamed. This may sound familiar. (Again, remember the Salem witch trials?)

While other parts of the world still have a falsely negative view of witches and witchcraft, here in America attitudes are not so harsh. Well, maybe in some conservative parts of the country, but not everywhere. Most educated, intelligent people know that witches revere nature and use their gifts to bring healing and restoration. Wicca (the modern interpretation of the old religion of Witchcraft) has been legally recognized as a religion since 1972. Here in America, Witches are embraced and celebrated, both in real life and in the media.

This is the first of a two-part series of articles about witches and witchcraft in the media. This section will focus on TV witches and wizards. Wizard is a word that is not used often, and even though Witches can be both male and female, a Wizard is also a male witch. Warlock is another controversial word, which I will address a bit later.

There are many examples from television that present witches and witchcraft in a positive light. These are witches as they are meant to be, good and kind, helpful and healing. I own many of these TV programs on DVD and I think they are good for any witches’ video library. Here is my list of favorites:

bewitchedBEWITCHED is the story of a young witch named Samantha who marries an unsuspecting mortal (non-witch), Darrin Stevens. When he finds out she is a witch, he has second thoughts at first, but his love for her is priority and the two are wed. He forbids her to use her witchcraft, much to the chagrin of her flamboyant mother Endora (also a witch), who is completely opposed to their marriage. Samantha does use her witchcraft in many comedic situations that made this long-running TV series so popular. There are many colorful characters, such as Samantha’s relatives Aunt Clara, Uncle Arthur, and nosey neighbor Gladys Kravitz. The first actor who portrayed Darrin left the show due to severe back issues and was replaced by another actor. During the series, Darrin and Samantha had a daughter, Tabitha (also a witch) and a son Adam (not a witch). In the 1970’s there was a spin-off series featuring the grown-up Tabitha, but it was short-lived. Samantha Stevens was kind, caring and supportive of her community, a refreshingly positive image of the Witch. I know a lot of people think of Bewitched as “that old TV show I watched as a kid”, but I think folks need to seriously revisit this series. Both Bewitched and Tabitha are available on DVD. Incidentally, there was a movie version of Bewitched that was released in theatres, but it was absolutely horrible.

eb488bac22188ca67213eafc27a576a4CHARMED is the story of three sister witches, Piper, Prue, Phoebe Halliwell (and later, Paige) who discover their destiny to use their witchcraft to fight evil demons and warlocks. The sisters find their family Book of Shadows (with a Celtic triquetra symbol on the front) hidden in an old chest in the attic and throughout the series learn how to work the spells written inside to fight the forces of evil. At the end of the third season, one of the sisters is killed and they magically discover another sister who becomes part of the family to restore “the power of three” for another five seasons. The story is set in San Francisco, and watching the show was always nostalgic for us since we lived there for awhile, and they frequently showed clips of various landmarks around the city, places that we recognized and had visited many times. The Halliwell sisters are good witches, fighting evil and restoring peace. Some real witches have criticized the show, because the girls are often wearing skimpy outfits. I say SO WHAT. Speaking as a gay male, if I had a hot body (which I DON’T), I think I would show it off too. I see nothing wrong with that. My only complaint with Charmed (besides the entire Billie/Christie storyline) is the concept that “you can’t use magic for personal gain”. This is not true with real magic. If you don’t have your own immediate needs met, how are you going to help others? The whole banning of magic for personal gain may have been true for “The Charmed Ones” but it is not true for everyone who practices Witchcraft. There was one episode where a Wiccan was described as “Not a magical Witch but a Witch Practitioner”, also false. All witches are magical. These are minor beefs that I have with the show, which I still think is excellent. The first few seasons had many Wiccan references, Phoebe quotes part of the Wiccan Rede and you hear them using the phrases “Blessed Be” and “So Mote It Be” in numerous episodes. Throughout the series you will see both male and female witches, mythological creatures, leprechauns, faeries and the like. The Halliwell Sisters are cauldron-stirring, spell-casting, potion-making witches who use their gifts and abilities to fight evil spirits, demons and warlocks. There’s that word again, Warlock. In the series, Warlocks are evil, as that is the definition, after all. Oath-Breaker, Evil-Doer. Some people are trying to re-claim the word as a positive thing, using creative semantics and trying to spin the definition to their liking. Those who identify as ‘Warlock’ tend to do so with an air of defiance and a “challenge me” attitude, saying it “really doesn’t mean” what we’ve known it to mean for centuries. You can keep the Warlock title, I still prefer to be called Witch. There have been recent rumours of a new Charmed series, but nothing definate has appeared yet…we keep hoping!

The-Fate-merlin-on-bbc-14496723-1440-900MERLIN was a BBC series now on DVD about the young mythological wizard that lasted only five seasons. I loved everything about this show, I had grown so attached to the characters  and was very sad when it ended. Merlin was a delightful character and we especially loved Gaius, Merlin’s mentor. This is the story of young Merlin, Arthur, Guinevere, Morgana and Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon. Uther has forbidden the use of magic in Camelot, and anyone found to be using magic is put to death. Merlin takes a job as an apprentice for Gaius, the Court Physician. Gaius gives him a book of magic that contains spells, potions and how to use herbs and plants for magic. Gaius knows that Merlin is a wizard and is a father figure to him as he guides and protects Arthur on his many quests, and finally as Arthur becomes King. This series is filled with magic, mythological creatures, Arthurian legend  and adventure. A joy to watch, but with a sad ending that stays true to lore and legend.

Avalon-the-mists-of-avalon-32192811-1200-1406MYSTS OF AVALON was a TV mini-series, now available on DVD that tells the Arthurian legend from the perspective of High Priestess and Witch Viviane. This is a hugely popular program in Wiccan circles, as it portrays a line of hereditary Witches with ties to the ancient past, a concept held dear to many modern witches. Whether one agrees with this idea or not, the film is highly entertaining, beautiful music and scenery. It is rather long, just over three hours, and is based on the book by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

earthsea_cast_800THE LEGEND OF EARTHSEA was another TV mini-series now available on DVD, based on a book by Ursula K. Le Guin. It is a story of a young wizard in training who is called upon to restore peace and balance to the world when the Amulet of Peace, which has ensured harmony between humans and dragons for centuries, is broken and a piece of it disappears. This was hugely entertaining, with Harry Potter-like themes.

legend-of-the-seeker-legend-of-the-seeker-30918024-1152-864LEGEND OF THE SEEKER was another TV mini-series on DVD, a story of a young man whose father is killed by a tyranical leader. With the aid of Kahylan, a “Confessor” with the ability to recognize when others are speaking truth, and eccentric wizard Zeddicus, they fight the evil leader, and overcome dangerous situations and creatures they encounter. Filled with witches, wizards and magic in a story of good against evil. This series only lasted two seasons.

room-on-the-broom_940x528ROOM ON THE BROOM is a delightful animated story on PBS about acceptance and friendship. The witch and her cat are flying on her broom as they make several new friends who ask to join them on the broom. I love the line “Is there room on the broom for someone like me?” The moral of the story is, yes, there is room for everyone, regardless of who and what you are. A heartwarming story of tolerance and acceptance. This is not only available on DVD, it is also a book, there are plush figures, coloring books and other activities for the kids, and a live stage-play version in the UK.

halloween-town-mainHALLOWEENTOWN is the first of a series of TV movies about a family of witches who must travel to Halloweentown to fight the evil forces who seek to take over the town. These are family films, and are often broadcast in October on the Disney channel. The residents of Halloweentown are always in costume, the town is populated by witches, wizards, ghosts, goblins and all manner of typical Halloween creatures. Debbie Reynolds is the matron of the family, a powerful witch who assists her grandchildren as they use their magic to fight the forces of evil. Good family fun!

witches_of_east_end_wallpaper_1920x1080_03WITCHES OF EAST END was an unfortunately short-lived (two seasons) series on Lifetime, now available on DVD, about a family of witches haunted by an ancient curse. The Beauchamp daughters are destined to die in their late 20’s or 30’s (I can’t remember which) and then be reborn to start the cycle over and over again for eternity. Their mother and their aunt do all they can to break the curse while teaching them how to use their magic and embrace who they are as witches. I really loved this show, and I was very sad when it ended. This show had a lot of fans when Lifetime cancelled it. What were they thinking?? I hoped that another network would pick it up, but that did not happen. There was no ending episode to tie up the loose ends, viewers were just left hanging.

the-good-witch-3THE GOOD WITCH is a popular series on the Hallmark Channel. There were several movies before it became a regular TV series, all of which are available on DVD. To be honest, I had a tough time getting into this, despite it’s large fan base. In all of the episodes I’ve watched, (and I will admit I haven’t seen them all), she never actually said she is a witch. She runs a holistic shop called ‘Bell, Book and Candle’, (a nod to the movie of the same name, about a witch). I never see her touch a cauldron, cast a spell, mix a potion, etc. You know, typical things that witches do. Her magic seems to be more of the New Age, holistic, self-help/counseling variety, which are subtler forms of magic in their own ways and not as obvious as I would prefer. Maybe I just need to watch more of it…

You will notice I didn’t write anything yet about AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN. That is because I have only seen parts of about three episodes, all of which were a bit disturbing. I can’t really make an objective opinion until I watch more of it, but I have some doubts about whether I will like it. People have said to me, “yes, it’s intense but just look at it as entertainment”. It kind of hard me to do that when I know that alot of people form their opinions about witches and witchcraft by what they see in movies or on TV, and if what they see is disturbing…

Part Two of this series will be about good witches in film, there may be a few you haven’t seen…

New Items Available

I have some new items available, in limited quantities, available for purchase via Paypal. Sage and Mallowsweet Divination Incense in 4 ounce glass jars, and Samhain Ancestor Bottles. These items were made during the recent Supermoon and Lunar Eclipse. Visit the “New Items” page of my website for more details and prices.

Sage and Mallowsweet Divination Incense

Sage and Mallowsweet Divination Incense

Samhain Ancestor Bottles

Samhain Ancestor Bottles

Crystal Magic: Tree Agate

treeagate3The markings on the Tree Agate crystal resemble the branches of a tree, some even compare them to veins in the body. This stone is used for all sorts of Nature and Tree magic, and some suggest placing Tree Agate stones in the garden or in plant pots to encourage healthy growth. This is truly a stone of growth and connection. As with all crystals and stones, the powers of the Tree Agate are activated by energy, intention and vibration. Due to it’s branch-like appearance, it is often used in rituals to connect with ancestors (the “family tree”), to channel tree wisdom, or to promote the healing of veins and cell growth in the human body. Meditating with the Tree Agate can remind us of our connection to Nature, to each other and to our place of origin. Those who practice Shamanism or meditative journey work with World Tree imagery will also find this stone helpful. The Tree Agate stone can be used in Celtic or Druid magic, due to the importance of Trees and Nature in Celtic lore and the Druid tradition. It can be used in magic to discover the root of a problem or situation in order to find an answer. It can be used for Tree Divination or with Ogham staves.

treeagate1The Tree Agate stone can be used to strengthen bonds between friends and family, and to connect with neighbors or people you rarely get to see. When used for healing, Tree Agate is calming and receptive, and helps to relieve small bone and vein problems. It can be worn to encourage fertility and prosperity. Folk magicians suggest wearing Tree Agate to relieve a stiff neck and to increase physical energy. Tree Agate is associated with the astrological sign of Gemini and the element of Air. It is linked to both planets Mercury and Earth. In the Chakra system, Tree Agate works well with both the Crown and Heart chakras. When using the Tree Agate in ritual magic, use Cedar and Pine incense, oils or the bark from any tree you feel a close connection to. Place tree branches on your altar, along with pictures of trees or a small sapling in a pot if you have room. This stone can be used in any kind of magic for growth and expansion.

TreeAgatePillowI happen to like the Tree Agate “pillow” (named this because it is flat and polished, and lays flat in the hand). Many different kinds of crystals and stones are available in pillow form. They are a bit more costly at around $12 each, but I find them to be very practical and easy to work with.

Tree Agate crystals are widely available online at websites such as AzureGreen and even Amazon. Purchase a few and make them part of your regular magical practice.

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Perspective

This post will be a bit more personal than usual. In recent weeks I have been looking at where I am in my life, and all the things I do with my time, with teaching, writing and otherwise. I’ve been asking myself some pointed questions, such as, “Am I wasting my time, or am I really making a difference?” and “Do people really care what I have to share?” Where my writing is concerned, I like to think they do, or this blog would not have over 1,300 followers and it would not have won two awards. It would appear that my writing has been moderately successful, not to mention the three books I self-published. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and I think I am much better as a writer than a public speaker. I have found that the pen truly is “mightier than the sword” and sometimes even the spoken voice. When I’m teaching a public class, I often have trouble finding the right words to express things I want to say, so I try to make an outline that has as much information as I can squeeze into it! Public classes are always a bit awkward, but they are although sometimes necessary. You never really know how many people are going to attend. Sometimes it is only a few, and other times there is nowhere left for them to sit. There are advantages to both small and large classes. Another factor is that the type of paganism that I practice doesn’t appeal to a lot of people here. I’m not entirely Wiccan, and I’m not exactly eclectic. My practice blends Druidry with Witchcraft and Celtic Spirituality, (also called DruidCraft), it is very specific and it is not everyone’s cup of tea. I do enjoy teaching, but I am honestly much more comfortable sitting in front of a laptop writing than I am in front of a class. In some ways, I have felt obligated to put myself out there and teach publicly, if for no other reason than to give local people a viable alternative to certain other teachers in the area whom I consider questionable, to say the least. I do not teach from an academic perspective, but rather from a practical, real-life, everyday living approach, with a little mysticism thrown in. Some call this being “fluffy” but I disagree. I believe most people would rather have information they can use rather than some kind of arrogant intellectualism. I try to make things simple and easy to understand, and I have had many kind words from readers who say I have done just that.

Here where I live there aren’t many teachers, and classes are sporadic. Bethlehem PA is kind of a small town, and pagans of various practices are scattered all over the Lehigh Valley. It would be nice to see more people who are mature and knowledgeable, with years of experience in witchcraft and paganism step up and start offering classes. It is important for folks to have a number of options to choose from, instead of the same handful of people doing all of the classes. I only teach privately now, and my students must meet strict requirements.

A solitary path is much more appealing to me now than working with a group. Group gatherings just don’t hold as much appeal as they once did. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and less patient, but it is also because organized groups often have expectations, personality conflicts, and widely varying beliefs and practices. I don’t shun them altogether, as I have many friends in these groups, but I don’t attend them as much as I used to. Even as a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, I am still solitary as there are no OBOD groups where I live. In one sense I am quite on my own, but in another sense I am never alone. Cerridwen is always with me, as Witch, Goddess and Mother. And my partner Matthew has always been supportive of my path.

tumblr_litjumIFDa1qi8jv8o1_400He also shares my obsession with Harry Potter. This has been a matter of much confusion, and perhaps a bit disconcerting for some folks where I live, especially since my last name is also Potter. This is not my birth name, but it is the name I have used for over 10 years since I chose it as a magical name. As far as I am concerned and regardless of what anyone else thinks, it is my name. I have never used my birth father’s name except when I absolutely must. He was absent from my life and I have no personal connection to his name, or his side of the family whatsoever. For the longest time, I sought to have my name legally changed to Potter, and I even had the legal paperwork prepared, but there were other issues that made it impractical to change my name just yet. Those issues are out of the way now, and the only reason I haven’t changed it yet is due largely to my own procrastination. I can imagine what people were thinking (Does he think he’s Harry Potter?) Of course not. I just connected to Harry’s story in a deeply profound way, as his childhood and my own were remarkably similar. I have been involved in the Harry Potter fandom for over 10 years, organizing groups and events, lecturing, and even writing a book about metaphysical themes in the Potter stories. We have made many friends through Harry Potter, and have had some amazing experiences. There is not one aspect of my life that has not been touched by Harry Potter. It has been firmly ingrained into my life. Some find this extremely odd, but it is what it is.

All of this rambling brings me to this point: After my last scheduled class in August, I will no longer offer public classes, and just focus on writing, private teaching, and making my hand-crafted magical items, which thankfully have done well. My spell candles and spell bottles have done very well. They have been sold not just locally but in Witchcraft shops from Salem, Massachussetts to the United Kingdom. I did have an Etsy store, but when they changed their policy regarding magical items, (You can no longer say your items produce a result), I closed my Etsy store and now only sell magical items through this website via Paypa,l when I have them available. Many of the items I make are sold almost immediately, before I have a chance to list them. I am grateful that people like them.

So, I am doing away with those things that aren’t working and sticking with what is. What I know for certain is that my writing is making a difference for people. My spell candles and bottles, blended incense, soaps and other items are helping people. My name is Rik Potter, Druidry and Witchcraft are parts of my spiritual path, the Goddess Cerridwen is my guide, and whenever I need to get away, Hogwarts will always be there…

Herbal Magic: Rosemary

rosemaryAt our recent Summer Solstice ritual, the organizers made a pinata in the shape of the Sun, and hung it over the altar. It was filled with bags of various magical herbs, inspirational quotes on small scrolls and other fun things. When the pinata was split open, everything fell to the ground and we all quickly scooped up whatever we could. One of the things I found was a small bag of Rosemary. Someone asked me what it’s magical properties were, and to be honest, I had to think about it for a moment. Up until then I had rarely used Rosemary in any magical workings. I knew it had some properties, such as healing, but I had always thought of it primarily as a culinary herb. I’ve often used it in cooking, but never as a spell ingredient or even as an incense. After the ritual, I felt led to do more study of this particular herb.

In my studies I found that Rosemary is one of the oldest incenses, and is associated not only with healing, but with protection, love, lust, memory and purification. It is used in love spells and in magical workings to remove negativity and bring positive change. It can be blended with sage and ground into a powder to make an incense for protection. It can be used as a substitute for Frankincense.

Rosemary is a masculine plant, associated with the Sun and the element of Fire. This makes it a perfect plant for spells cast during the Summer months, drawing on the powerful energy of the Sun. Rosemary is easily grown in a container, and when fully grown to desired height it can be hung upside down to dry. The dried plant can then be ground up and placed in ritual candles and soaps, burned as an incense, placed inside healing poppets, or scattered around the home for protection.

I like to place the dried leaves in the pool of wax near a candle flame, so they can be burned along with the candle to release their magical properties. For this, I use a yellow or orange candle, as these colors are also linked to the Sun and fire.

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Here are some other ways to draw on the magical properties of Rosemary:

  • Place fresh or dried Rosemary in a sachet, along with a few drops of Rosemary oil, and carry it with you for protection and healing, or hang it somewhere in the home.

  • Place fresh Rosemary in a muslin bag, and place it over the faucet when you shower or bathe. Allow it’s purifying properties to blend with the water as you take a ritual cleansing bath.

  • Hold a fresh Rosemary plant in your hands, and meditate with it, asking the spirit of the plant to share it’s wisdom with you. Be aware of any impressions or sensations you receive and record them in a magical journal or Book of Shadows.

  • Burn dried Rosemary on a charcoal block when casting spells for healing or protection.

  • Grow your own Rosemary plants at home.

Magical Communities Working Together

I’ve hesitated to write this post for some time, but I feel some things need to be said. I even struggled with a title, because this topic intersects with so many other things, but the final title sort of sums it all up. Even though I am writing from personal observation, I’m sure that any pagan community can benefit from what I have to share. If you read this and you think I’m writing about you, then maybe I am.

I am priviledged to belong to a local community of pagans, witches and other magical folk, a community that encourages and supports other magical communities in the area. We don’t think we’re “better” than anyone else, we attend each other’s events, we share and promote each other’s events and we often participate in events together as a whole. For the most part, there is no rivalry and no “competition” between groups. We are equal and we help each other out. Most of us. Unfortunately this is not the case with every group where I live.

Years ago, our community was divided due to the actions of an alleged High Priestess who caused a lot of damage from her desire to control and dominate. Many things were said that were not true and many friendships were destroyed. The community fell apart. When she left town, time passed and people were able to heal. New groups formed and many friendships were restored. But not all. In the spirit of healing and reconciliation, myself and another leader in the community organized a special gathering that we called “A Time for Healing”. It was intended to be a time of truth and forgiveness, of letting go of the past, a time of restoration and of looking forward to new things. We announced it months ahead of time, so people could arrange their schedules. I personally invited several people that I knew had been affected by the actions of the former High Priestess. We wanted to start fresh and new, and put behind us all the drama that had occurred. When the day came, myself, my friend and other organizers of the event were the only ones who showed up. It was very disheartening. Quite honestly, I was angry. It became clear to me that people did not want healing to take place, they preferred to hold onto their resentment. They had no intention of healing the situation. The community was not as mature as I had hoped.

I find it very unfortunate that some magical groups prefer to shun all others and exist in their own exclusive bubble. Reaching out to them is not always productive, and one comes away feeling unwelcome and looked down upon as an outsider. It doesn’t have to be this way. Likewise, I am not fond of pagans who brag about their “years and years of piled on experience” and how academically gifted they are, considering themselves elitist and “better than”, and therefore expect to be placed on a pedestal and treated like a celebrity. Such arrogance. Even though my favorite teachers are fairly well-known, they don’t brag about how knowledgeable they are, and they don’t look down on others who don’t have the same training. They don’t seek the lime-light, they’re not attention seekers. They treat everyone the same and simply share what they have learned. I have lots of training too, I may not have a degree in metaphysical studies, but it doesn’t make me worse or better than anyone else. I learned many things on my own without a teacher, but I have also learned some from teachers, from personal study, and from my spirit guides. In my classes and events I share what I have learned and what has worked for me. I don’t consider myself superior because I’ve had training that others haven’t. I still have alot to learn.

There are many gifted people in the magical community. Some have more training than others and some are more gifted in certain areas than others, but they are all equally important. As a community of magical people, we are supposed to be working together, supporting and helping each other, instead of isolating ourselves or expecting special treatment. No one is “better” than anyone else.

Living Witchcraft

Those who truly walk the path of the Witch do so with reverence and respect, knowing it is a spiritual path to be lived every second of every day. Real witches do not regard Witchcraft as a “hobby” or something one does for fun on the weekends. Witches are witches each and every moment, whether at home, at work, in the restaurant or standing in line at the supermarket. It is not something you turn off and turn on whenever you feel like it. Witchcraft is a living path that is lived through those who follow it. It is not merely something you do, it is what you are.

In this article, I will address many things that witches believe and practice, and address several misconceptions about Witchcraft. It is a many-faceted path and I will surely not be able to cover everything, but I do want to share some things that I feel are important. For some this may be “beginner” material, but there are many new people sensing the call to the Old Ways and I write for them. I have no doubt that some will read this article and will continue to believe witches are evil and satanic, because this is what they have been conditioned to believe by popular opinion, the church and mainstream media. However, what one sees, hears and reads from the mainstream media is not always truth.

Everything I share here is verifiable, one need only do further research on one’s own to see the real truth. Education is a good thing. Learn about Witchcraft from those who practice it and not from those who do not.

The Truth about Witchcraft

Witchcraft has nothing to do with Satanism. Witches do not believe in Satan or any all-evil Satan/Devil figure. Witches do not summon demons to their bidding, and Satan is not part of the Witchcraft belief system. Satan belongs to Christianity and is part of the Christian belief system. Contrary to what some may say, Satanists are not Witches. Satanists are Satanists. There are no “Satanic Witches”, though some may argue this point. Fundamentalist Christian groups link Witchcraft to Satan because Witches do not follow Jesus Christ or the Christian God, and many Christian groups view anything not exclusively Christian as “Satanic”. A recent new trend is “Christian Wicca”, which opens another big can of worms and I have strong views about, but that is for another article.

tumblr_mvveesqCrY1rj3x46o1_500Witches do use magic and cast spells. Witches work with elemental energies (Earth, Air, Fire and Water), the planets, symbols, herbs and plants, oils, crystals, cauldrons and a host of other tools to manifest change in the world. Witches typically cast a circle in which to do their work. This circle acts as an energetic boundary to keep out harmful energies and contain the energy raised within it. There is nothing “evil” about a witch’s circle. It is merely a container for energy and a protective boundary. The spell releases an intention into the universe so it can attract the energy it needs to manifest, which usually happens through a series of seemingly unrelated “coincidences”. Spells can be cast in a myriad of ways, and the practice of magic and spellcasting takes some time to learn. In real Witchcraft, spells and magic do not happen the way we see them in movies or on TV, with special effects, explosions and things moving through the air. That would sure make things a lot easier! Spells take time, and there is rarely an instantaneous visible manifestation. Witches cast spells for healing, prosperity, protection and many other things, but never for harm.

Witches do use wands. The witch’s wand does not work the same way we see in movies like Harry Potter. The wand is used to direct energy, to cast a circle or to be a tool for healing. Most wands are made of wood, and traditional witches prefer to make their own. You can also find wands made of various crystals, resin or metal, however, wooden wands are the preferred choice. I have a wooden wand that I use for circle-casting and is always on my altar, a selenite wand that I use in my Reiki practice, and another wood wand that I take along when I’m traveling. I have different wands for different purposes.

The primary role of the Witch is to be a channel for Healing. It is no coincidence that many witches work in the human services field, as nurses, doctors, counselors, herbalists, teachers, etc. Many are skilled in alternative healing therapies. Some offer services with Crystal Therapy, Reiki, Aromatherapy, Massage, Homeopathy, Herbalism, Energy Healing, Flower Essences, Singing Bowls, Shamanic Healing and many other types of alternative therapy. Many witches have unconventional healing gifts that they discovered unexpectedly and are unique to them, special gifts they did not learn in a class or from a book. As witches, we are called to be healers. One of the old words for ‘Witch’ is “Pharmakeute”, a word that links the witch with herbal healing wisdom.

Witches are devoted to a lifetime of study. Witches have a thirst for knowledge and magical wisdom, and have devoted themselves to the study of magic, magical lore, history, mythology, healing, herbs and plants, divination and other similar topics. They do not view study as a chore or “because my teacher asked me to”. Witches understand the importance of setting aside time on a regular basis to read, learn and practice! The best students are self-motivated and do not need to be hand-held.

Witches are at one with Nature. Witches work with the energies of each season, the phases of the Moon and the powers of Nature. They spend a great deal of time outdoors, among the trees and plants, or finding other ways to connect with Nature. Hiking, planting a garden, nature walks, birdwatching, planting trees, visiting a zoo, caring for animals, cleaning up litter at a park…these are all ways to form a closer bond with Nature. Donate to the Arbor Foundation or other environmentalist groups like Friends of the Earth.

Witches are advocates. As witches we are called to speak out in defense of human rights, equal rights, civil rights, animal rights and environmental issues. We stand against discrimination, bigotry and harassment. Many witches belong to activist and civil rights organizations. I personally am a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Campaign, Harry Potter Alliance, Freedom to Marry, Friends of the Earth, the Arbor Foundation and the Trevor Project.

Witches understand the importance of education. Years of social programming, popular culture, mainstream media and religious fundamentalism have given many an incorrect picure of who witches are. It is important that we educate our communities about Witchcraft and Wicca so that we can help replace the false image of the stereotypical witch with a correct and accurate picture, one that portrays the witch as healer and wise one. Let us also recognize when we should not waste our breath sharing our views with someone who refuses to listen objectively and has already decided we’re going to “burn in Hell”. There are times to share and there are times to walk away from those who are filled with hate and have closed their minds.

Witches do not proselytize. We do not try to convert others to Witchcraft, and there will be no Wiccan missionaries showing up at your door with pamphlets to read. People come to Witchcraft on their own free will, and many find they have been drawn to it since childhood. We do not consider Witchcraft to be the only valid spiritual path that all others must follow. We respect that there are many different spiritual paths, and each person must find the one that is right for them.

Witches serve the community. Whether by providing guidance and counsel with divination practices such as tarot or rune readings, offering healing services such as Reiki or Crystal Therapy, teaching classes, conducting hand-fasting ceremonies, rituals and gatherings, fundraising, raising awareness for important social and enviromental issues, collecting food and clothing for those in need, making magical tools such as candles and oils, and offering other magical services, witches have a duty to use their gifts in service to the community.

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You could be living next door to a Witch. Witches come from every socio-economic background and can be both male or female. Male witches are also called ‘Witch’. “Warlock” is not a word that is used often since it has many negative connotations, and I know some are trying to reclaim the word as a positive thing, but I still prefer “Witch”. You may encounter witches every day without realizing it. A witch could be your employer, doctor, lawyer, teacher, postman, neighborhood police officer, coach, delivery driver, the guy who makes your lattes at the coffee shop, that nice old lady you always see in her garden or even a close relative. Not all witches are “out of the broom closet” and not all witches dress all in black every single day.

Witches work closely with the spirit world. Witches walk “between the worlds” of the seen and the unseen realms, and form relationships with spirit guides, animal totems, gods and goddesses of ancient lore, and interact with them on a regular basis. Witches utilize techniques of altered consciousness such as meditation, trance, dancing, singing, chanting, herbalism and incense to awaken the subtle senses, in order to communicate with guides from “the other side”.

tumblr_mqp164Mb5Z1rp21yko1_500The Pentacle is a symbol of Witchcraft. The five-pointed star in a circle is not a “satanic” symbol and has nothing to do with Satanism. The five points are the five elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit, and also represent Man, the Microcosm. The circle represesnts the Universe, the Macrocosm. Witches wear the upright pentacle (the point at the top). The upright pentacle is a representation of man’s connection to Universal Wisdom, and the descent of Spirit into Matter. The upside-down pentacle represent Matter (Man) taking dominion over Spirit. It is unfortunate that some Satanist groups have adopted the upside-down pentacle as a Satanic symbol,which has caused a great deal of damage to the reputation of the Witch. It is because of this that many believe Witches are satan-worhippers, and this is not the case. As stated above, witches do not believe in Satan. Some witches will wear a triquetra or a triskele instead of a pentacle, as these Celtic symbols, while less “in-your-face” than a pentacle, still have a connection to Witchcraft.

The word Witch means “Wise One”. The original use of the word Witch is derived from an Old English word that translates as “Wise One” or “Wise Good People”. Another word for Witch is Pharmakis which identifies the Witch as someone with a strong knowledge of herbs and plants, linking the Witch to healing.

There are different kinds of Witches. Within Witchcraft, there are different traditions and different ways to practice. There are Celtic Witches, Egyptian Witches, Italian Witches, Shamanic Witches, Druid Witches and an entire plethora of Witches whose practice is informed by specific culture or tradition. Some witches are “Eclectic”, drawing on symbolism and practices from several different cultures or pantheons. There are witches who do not identify as Wiccan, and practice a form of European/British Witchcraft (called The Old Ways or The Old Religion) that is believed to pre-date modern Wicca by hundreds of years.

Not all pagans are Witches. There are many earth-based and nature-based paths, Witchcraft/Wicca is only one. Followers of these paths may use magic from time to time, and honor the changing seasons and moon phases, but they may not necessarily call themselves witches. For some, the word “Pagan” is less threatening than “Witch” and they do not feel comfortable using the “W” word.

The role of the Witch carries great responsibility. Witches are role-models, teachers, counselors, healers, priestess, priest and wear many other hats. A Witch is a Witch every minute of every day, no matter where we are. Let us not take for granted our responsibility to ourselves, our gods and guides, and to the community.