Casting the Magick Circle

Circle3Witches and other magickal practitioners do much of their work in what is called the “magick circle”. This is where spells are cast, rituals are performed, magickal tools are consecrated, and meditation and other introspective techniques can all be practiced. I use the magick circle for these purposes, and nearly everything else from personal tarot readings to Reiki treatments. By casting the circle, you are creating sacred space, a “world between worlds”. It is a space that not only contains and amplifies the energy you raise within it, it also serves as a barrier to deflect any energies that may be harmful. It is a place where the creative forces of the Universe gather with you to make magick. The circle is a microcosm of the Universe, and perfectly illustrates the concept “As Above, So Below”. Whatever is created in the circle (Below) will eventually manifest in the visible world (Above). One of my favorite teachers, Christopher Penczak, describes the circle in a beautiful way, as symbolic of the witch’s cauldron into which “we invite the powers of the universe…to create a unique stew between the worlds”.

CircleCastCircle-casting is not a product of modern Wicca, as some claim. The earliest known record comes from a woodcut illustration in 1608, depicting witches gathered in a circle traced upon the ground. Early Puritans demonized this concept by placing the Devil outside the circle, to imply that the Witches had conjured it. Even so, this image still illustrates the protective quality of the circle against harm. (The artist of this illustration also mentions in his writings that Witches work with the elemental spirits of Earth, Air, Fire and Water). The circle has been used by practitioners of magick for centuries, long before Gerald Gardner (the “father” of modern Wicca) was born.

Circle2Casting the circle is not something to be done haphazardly or with a casual attitude. I have been to rituals where it seemed people were just saying words and going through the motions. Don’t rush the words, take your time, pay attention to what you’re saying. Circle-casting is an art that requires strong focus, visualization and intent. When the circle is complete, it is no longer a circle, but a sphere. This is so that not only the circumference is protected, but also the top and bottom of the sacred space you have created. Before casting the circle, however, it is important to be in a right state of mind. Remember, the circle intensifies whatever energy is brought into it. If you are angry or tense, you are going to bring that energy unless you do some centering and grounding exercises first. Before I begin any ritual, the first step is meditation. Simply close your eyes, take some deep breaths until you reach a meditative state. Prepare yourself spiritually and mentally for what you are about to do. Put away all worries and concerns of the day. Once you have reached “ritual consciousness”, then you may begin casting the circle. Many people skip this step, and I think it has detrimental effects on the energy of their circles. Another important thing to do before casting your circle is to cleanse the area. This can be done with incense, salt water, a lit candle, or through white light visualization.

I won’t go into a full ritual outline, as these vary greatly according to tradition. In this article, I will focus only on Casting the Circle and Opening the Circle. It must be understood that this is only one way to cast a circle. There are other ways, however, this is a traditional method that works best for me.

Casting the Magick Circle

  • Cleanse the area with incense, salt water or visualization.
  • Close your eyes, put away all worries of the day, and take several deep breaths until you reach a meditative state of mind.
  • Stand up and face the North or the East (whichever direction feels right for you). Using both hands, grasp a sword, athame (a black-handled ritual blade) or wand, and point it upwards. Not vertically straight up, but in an upwards diagonal position. If you don’t have these tools, it is perfectly acceptable to use the forefinger of your dominant hand. My coven uses a dagger, my personal tradition uses a simple, unadorned wooden wand.
  • Begin walking clockwise in a circle, and visualize a blue flame coming out the end of your sword/athame/wand. You will walk this circle three times while making the following three statements, one statement for each circle. If your space is limited and you can’t walk around, you can stand in one spot and turn as you cast your circle.
  • Circle1

CIRCLE ONE: I cast this circle to protect me from all harmful energies.

CIRCLE TWO: I cast this circle to allow only the most perfect energies for this work.

CIRCLE THREE: I cast this circle to be a sacred space for the highest good, harming none.

My personal circles at home are a bit more wordy, but this is the basic idea.

  • Don’t just say the words, but think about what you’re saying. “See” it and “feel” it happening. Once your circle is created, it is not uncommon to sense a difference in energy and temperature. As you walk the circle three times, visualize the blue flame forming a circle in the air around you. You can write your own words for circle-casting, and make them as creative and elaborate or as simple as you want, but they must include the intentions that your circle is for protection from harmful energies and is a sacred space.
  • Next, point your sword/athame/wand straight up and say “As Above”. Visualize the top half of the sphere being formed by the protective blue light. Then point your sword/athame/wand down so that the tip is touching the ground, and say “So Below”. Visualize the bottom half of the sphere being formed. You have now created not only a circle, but a sphere of protection.

It is important to visualize the entire process of circle-casting as clearly as you can in your mind’s eye, with strong focus and intention. You are not just saying words. You are creating an energetic sphere of protection and power.

At this point, most magickal practitioners invite the elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water into the circle by facing their associated directions. This is also done in a clockwise direction: North/Earth, East/Air, South/Fire, West/Water. You may also invite any deities or spirit guides to assist and lend their energies to the circle. Now you are ready to do magick or anything else you have cast your circle for.

Opening the Circle

  • At the end of your ritual or magickal working, if you have invited the elements, thank them for their assistance, and gently release each one in a counter-clockwise direction with a statement like “Stay if you will, but go if you must”. Remember to thank your deities and spirit guides as well. I have special candles devoted to certain spirit guides that I light and extinguish at the beginning and end of each circle ritual.
  • Return to the same position where you began your circle (North or East), and point your sword/athame/wand upwards again. While walking a counter-clockwise circle only once, say “This circle is open, but remains unbroken”. As you walk the circle, visualize the blue flame of the circle/sphere dissolving into nothingness. When opening the circle, it is only necessary to walk the circle one time.

As I mentioned earlier, you can use the magick circle for almost anything. I cast a circle when I meditate, use my tarot/oracle cards, commune with my deities and spirit guides, for rituals to do magick, or to celebrate the Sabbats or the Full Moon and New Moon. The magick circle creates a sacred space where the only energies present are there for your highest good.

 

Simple Planetary Magick

planets2The planets in our solar system all contain their own unique energies that can be called upon in rituals and magickal workings. Each planet, including the Sun and Moon, has an ancient magickal link to certain aspects of life, herbs, colors, metals, symbols, tarot cards, crystals and many other things. The planets in our solar system: The Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Earth, Neptune, Uranus and Pluto* are used widely in various forms of magick. It is advisable to use as many links as possible when performing any kind of planetary magick. Those who work with planetary forces discover that they are more than just ‘energies’, they are spiritual entities that have assisted magickal workers for centuries.

*Pluto is still considered by many practitioners to be a planet, even though Pluto lost it’s “official” planet status in 2006. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) downgraded the status of Pluto to that of a “dwarf planet” because it did not meet the three criteria the IAU uses to define a full-sized planet. Essentially Pluto meets all the criteria except one- it “has not cleared its neighboring region of other objects.” Be that as it may, some practitioners still use the energies of Pluto with great success.

First, let’s examine each of the planets and their magickal qualities. The correspondences listed below are by no means complete, there are many more.

MOON: The Moon is considered a feminine energy, linked to the powers of divination, intuition, psychic ability and the Third Eye Chakra. Crystals that draw upon Moon energy are Moonstone, Clear Quartz and Lapis Lazuli. Herbs and flowers linked to the Moon are Jasmine, Lily and Moonflower. The metal Silver and the colors White and Silver are associated with the Moon as is the day of Monday. In the Tarot, use The Moon, The Star or The High Priestess cards.

MERCURY: Mercury is linked to all forms of communication, self-expression and travel. Crystals for Mercury are Citrine, Goldstone and Yellow Jasper. Herbs and flowers for Mercury are Lemongrass, Peppermint and Clover. The color Orange and the day of Wednesday is linked to Mercury, and the Throat Chakra. From the Tarot, use The Chariot card. Mercury is also the metal for the planet, however, real Mercury is toxic and deadly, so many practitioners use the symbol instead. (See chart below).

VENUS: Venus is associated with love, lust, romance, relationships, friendships, family and other emotional attachments. It is also associated with Women’s Mysteries and Feminine Magick. Crystals that draw upon Venus energy are Rose Quartz and Amethyst. Herbs and flowers of Venus are Rose, Lavender and Elder. It’s day for magick is Friday and The Lovers card from the Tarot can be used. Venus colors are shades of Red, Pink and Blue. The metal of Venus is Copper, and it‘s Chakra is the Heart. (I sometimes simmer herbs in a copper cauldron when using Venus energies).

SUN: The Sun is associated with ambition, success, enlightenment and achieving one’s goals. It is linked to the Crown Chakra, and various shades of Gold and Yellow. The metal of the Sun is Gold and it‘s day for magick is Sunday. Crystals for the Sun are Goldstone, Citrine and Golden Topaz. Flowers and herbs linked to the Sun are Sunflower, Marigold and St. John’s Wort. Use The Sun card from the Tarot in your Sun rituals.

MARS: The energies of Mars are fiery and masculine, primal and aggressive. Mars is linked to assertiveness, force, masculinity, Men’s Mysteries, male lust, passion, strength and power. It is very protective and militant. Herbs and plants linked to Mars are Red Clover, Cinnamon and Red Pepper. The color of Mars is Red and it’s day for magick is Tuesday. Crystals linked to Mars are Red Jasper, Ruby and Amber. Mars is ruled by the Sacral Chakra. From the Tarot, use The High Priest or the King of Swords.

JUPITER: The energies of Jupiter are associated with prosperity, money, career, growth and expansion. It’s day for magick is Thursday, and it’s colors are Green and Purple. Herbs and plants for Jupiter are Cinquefoil, Bayberry and Sage. Crystals for Jupiter are Green Aventurine, Emerald or Tree Agate. From the Tarot, use the Wheel of Fortune card. Call on Jupiter energies when looking for a new job or any kind of advancement in your career or creative projects.

SATURN: The energies of Saturn are linked to boundaries, limitations, restrictions, obstacles, protection magick, banishing and binding. It’s day is Saturday and it’s color is Black. Crystals for Saturn are Hematite, Onyx, Hypersthene and Jet. Plants and herbs of Saturn are Mandrake, Belladonna and Henbane. (These are highly poisonous, so use caution! For a less toxic substitute, use Snapdragon or Slippery Elm). From the Tarot, use The World or The Tower cards.

EARTH: The energies of Earth represent grounding, stability, health, manifestation, and life on the physical plane. It is linked to the Root Chakra, and color shades of green and brown. All crystals and herbs can represent Earth. Tree bark can also be used. In the Tarot use the King of Wands or Queen of Wands.

NEPTUNE: Neptune is associated with the element of Water, intuition, sensitivity, empathy, compassion, adaptability and imagination. It’s color is Grey. Plants and herbs associated with Neptune are Melon, Cucumber, Pumpkin, Water Lily and Lotus Flower. Neptune crystals are Clear Quartz, Smoky Quartz and Pearl. Ocean sand, seashells and sea foam can also be used. In the Tarot, use the King of Cups.

URANUS: The energies of the planet Uranus are associated with individuality, non-traditionalism, revolution, invention and eccentricity. Plants and herbs linked to Uranus are those with sharp, irregular leaves, rare herbs and plants that shock or excite the nervous system, or plants that are purple or electric blue in color. Uranus colors are bright, neon or abstract designs. Rough, unpolished stones and crystals can be used to call upon Uranus planetary energies. In the Tarot, use The Fool or the Page of Wands.

PLUTO: The energies of Pluto are linked to rebirth, transformation, destiny and the subconscious. Herbs and flowers of Pluto are the passionflower, acacia, hollow larkspur, coneflower and the male fern. Colors for Pluto are White and Black. Crystals and stones are Snowflake Obsidian, White Howlite, Hypersthene and Black Tourmaline. In the Tarot use The Hanged Man or Death cards.

It should be noted that many witches and magickal practitioners use only the seven classical planets: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, as these were the only planets known in ancient times. Neptune, Uranus and Pluto were not discovered much later, and their magickal correspondences are fairly new. Now that we know what each of the planets represent, and the energies they contain, how do we use them?

One way is through meditation and visualization. Each of the planets have a symbol. If you are doing magick to bring prosperity in your life, you can enter a meditative state, close your eyes and visualize the symbol for Jupiter with an intention for prosperity. Or, you may choose to draw the symbol on a piece of parchment paper and place it on your altar under a green candle. It is important to use as many correspondences of the same planet that you can. Carve the Jupiter symbol on the side of the candle, place Jupiter crystals and Jupiter herbs around the candle. Write your intention for prosperity on a piece of paper and light it with the candle, and drop it into a cauldron to burn.

There are many ways to use planetary magick, and this article only scratches the surface. There are planetary sigils and kameas, (these are special symbols you create to manifest specific intentions), planetary oils and even planetary hours of the day. It is also helpful to know that each day of the week is associated with a planet. It can seem a bit confusing until you get it all figured out.

How will you use planetary magick? Examine the charts below.

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magical-correspondences-to-days-of-the-week

For more information on other ways to use planetary magick, I recommend the following books:

  • Planetary Spells and Rituals: Practicing Dark & Light Magick Aligned with the Cosmic Bodies, by Raven Digitalis. 
  • Planetary Magick: Invoking and Directing the Powers of the Planets, by Melita Denning and Osbourne Philips.

 

Snow Day

SAM_0763Wow, this weather is something isn’t it? Here in eastern Pennsylvania we were just hit with a winter storm that dumped 10 inches of snow (more in other places) last Friday. It actually started here on Thursday evening, and I had to drive home from work in it. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not a Winter person. I’ve only been in Pennsylvania for six years. Snow is nice to look at, but I prefer to enjoy it from afar, very afar. Before I moved here, I lived in California where it never snowed and I never had to scrape ice off my car or drive through blizzards. There was no way I was going to work on Friday. When I first moved here, I was appalled at how many of the local businesses don’t make allowances for extreme weather. Seriously? If there’s a blizzard outside or freezing rain, don’t expect me to show up for work. There seems to be very little concern for people’s safety. It’s greedy and thoughtless. I understand the world doesn’t stop just because we’re having bad weather, but precautions should be taken and one of those should be the safety of your staff. I find it personally insulting when people say I’m over-reacting. It doesn’t matter that I’m not from here. Noone should be expected to drive on snow-covered, icy roads. Forget it. I refuse. I spend the winters here indoors as much as possible, reading, writing, studying and working on creative projects. I know some people like Winter, and others strangely prefer it, but for me Winter means dangerous driving conditions, time missed from work, freezing rain, and scraping sheets of ice off my car. When the snow melts from the roads it turns into an ugly gray slush that sometimes lingers for weeks. I’ve learned to tolerate Winter with introspection, looking within, and embracing the darkness under the warmth of blankets and cardigan sweaters. Just close the curtains so I don’t have to see the snow, although it does give me an excuse to wear my fancy Hogwarts scarves/hats/gloves, etc. I’ve tried to find some kind of deep personal meaning for Winter-time that would make it more bearable for me, but the real truth is I just don’t like Winter. And that’s okay.

I spent this 3-day weekend napping, cleaning, and working on my next book, Walking a Magick Path. There are seven chapters, as follows:

The Paradox of Magick, Magick Within, Magick Without, Magick Above, Magick Below, Ethics of Magick, and Walking a Magick Path.

I have the entire book already outlined, it is just a matter of putting it all together. The first two chapters are complete, and I will soon begin writing chapter three. I am looking forward to 2014, I have already been asked to do book-signings and classes later in the year. In February we return to Universal and the Wizarding World, with two of our good friends who have never been. It will be fun to act as tour guide, we’ve been there so many times we know it inside and out. It is one of our favorite places.

On New Years’ Eve we stayed inside. It was freezing cold out, and we had no desire to go stand among the crowds. New Years’ Day however, was especially magickal. There was a New Moon on January 1st, so I did a private ritual at home to bring good things for the coming year. I am still studying From The Cauldron Born, a wonderful book from Kristoffer Hughes, about the witch goddess Cerridwen and her magickal cauldron. Such an amazing book, I am taking my time with it. I have devoted my altar to Cerridwen until I finish this book and the exercises Kristoffer suggests in it. I have been a follower of Cerridwen for several years, and my altar always has a candle lit just for her.

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It’s now January 5, and we still have our tree up. Our tree is Harry Potter-themed. We made many of the ornaments and decorations ourselves, but some were bought, some were gifts, some are one-of-a-kind. I’ve been collecting Harry Potter memorabilia for over 10 years-I have quite a large collection. Here are a few pics.

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tree2

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Tomorrow I return to work, it’s supposed to be in the 40’s but on Tuesday it’s goes back down to single-digit temperatures.

I will keep my black cardigan sweater closeby…and the curtains drawn.

Magick by the Moon

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For thousands of years, we have been mystified by the Moon. Songs and stories have been written about the Moon, and it has made it’s way into myths and legends that stretch back through the ancient past. To some, it is merely a rock in the sky. To others, it is divine and full of magickal energy. It certainly produces energy, as it’s gravitational pull affects the tides of the ocean. Even we ourselves are affected by the Moon‘s phases, as our bodies are made of 80% water. In magickal teachings, the Moon is regarded as feminine, while the Sun is masculine. Your lunar sign (the astrological position of the Moon at your time of birth) reveals information about your shadow self, the things you keep hidden from others, your inner life, insecurities, secrets, etc.

It is a well-known fact that Witches and other magickal folk conduct their lives by the Moon. Each phase of the Moon carries it’s own unique energies that be called upon for various purposes. Let’s examine each one.

New Moon/Dark Moon: Magick during a New Moon, sometimes called the Dark Moon, is typically for introspective work, the shadow self, personal issues and private matters, banishing and bindings, inner growth. It is also a time to examine your “dark” nature, finding ways to integrate it into your life in a healthy and balanced way. What are the things that hold you back from achieving your goals? Are there things in your personality or lifestyle that you have suppressed because of the opinions of others? The New Moon is a time to allow your dark side to come forth and be examined, releasing what is harmful while retaining those things that express your true self in a positive way. There are some who warn against doing any kind of magick during a New Moon. I don’t understand this, and personally, I have no problem doing magick at this time. Some of my most powerful rituals have been during a Dark Moon. In Wicca, this Moon phase represents the Crone aspect of the Goddess. The second New Moon occurring in the same month is called a Black Moon.

We will begin 2014 with a New Moon on New Years’ Day, January 1st. Also in 2014, we will have two Black Moons. The first will occur on January 30th, the second on March 30th.

TIP: As the Moon increases in light from New Moon to Full Moon, use it’s energies to bring beneficial things into your life, such as healing, prosperity, and success.

Waxing Crescent to Full Moon: The waxing crescent occurs as the New Moon is no longer dark and begins to increase it’s light. This is a time for new beginnings, new projects, new endeavors. Starting a job, writing a book, brainstorming for ideas, or planning future events are all things that are aided by the energy of a waxing crescent moon. In Wicca/Witchcraft, the Waxing Crescent phase represents the Goddess in her Maiden aspect. As the Moon increases to Full, energy begins to build up. Use magick during these phases to bring anything you need into your life. Physical health, job success or promotion, self-confidence, romance or anything that would be beneficial to your well-being. 

Full Moon: The Full Moon is the most powerful phase of the Moon for magick that involves some kind of outward manifestation. In fact, it is a good idea to time your manifestation spells as close to the Full Moon as possible. It is also a great time to gather magickal herbs for your spells and potions, cleanse and charge your crystals, divination tools and other ritual items. In Witchcraft/Wicca, the Full Moon represents the Goddess in her Mother aspect. This is a perfect time to do rituals that honor your deities and spirit guides. The Full Moon is a time of completion, the end of one cycle and the beginning of a new one. The second Full Moon occurring in the same month is called a Blue Moon.

TIP: As the Moon decreases in light from Full Moon to New Moon, use this time to remove harmful influences from your life, such as fear, illness or harmful energy from other people.

Waning Crescent to New Moon: During these phases, the Moon’s energy aids us in removing things from our lives that are not for our highest good. It is a time to remove obstacles or anything that is blocking us from achieving our goals. It is also a time to examine our fears and insecurities, and find ways to overcome them. As the Moon begins to grow dark, we can also use this time to magickally bind and banish those who seek to do us harm. It is a time of cloaking ourselves so that we are protected as we look within.

Reminder: The Moon is Waxing (increasing) from New Moon to Full Moon. It is Waning (decreasing) from Full Moon to New Moon.

What about Eclipses?

Eclipses represent balance, change and transformation. A Lunar Eclipse is a time of increased awareness and growth on an inner, spiritual level. A Solar Eclipse indicates a powerful potential for change on an outward, visible level.

If you want an easy guide to help you keep track of the Moon Phases, as well as New Moons, Eclipses, Mercury Retrogrades and other astronomical information, I recommend the Llewellyn Moon Sign Book, which you can purchase at this link.

 

Befana, The Christmas Witch

befanaDid you know there is a Witch associated with Christmas? She is believed to be of Italian origin, yet some anthropologists have traced her origins back to Neolithic beliefs and practices. Some of their writings portray her as a figure that eventually evolved into a goddess of fertility and agriculture.

Befana is widely celebrated in Italy, portrayed as an old lady riding a broom through the air, and wearing a black shawl. She is covered in soot because she enters the children’s houses through the chimney. She is often smiling and carries a bag filled with fruits, nuts, candy and gifts for children. She is sometimes portrayed carrying a lantern in one hand, and a bag of treats in the other. The traditions of Befana incorporate many pre-Christian elements, however, there are a number of Christianized versions of her legend. Historians have suggested that Befana is a descendant of the Roman goddess Strina, or Strenia, who presided over the new years’ gifts, and were also known to give fruits and nuts. These two words sound similar to Strega, an Italian word that means Witch.

According to Befana folklore, she does not wish to be seen, and anyone who sees her will receive a thump from her broom. Being a good housekeeper, many say she will sweep the floor before she leaves. To some the sweeping meant the sweeping away of the problems of the year. The child’s family typically leaves a small glass of wine and a plate of food for the Befana.

The Christianized versions of Befana connect her to the biblical Epiphany. Epiphany is a Christian/Catholic holiday that is celebrated on January 6th, the twelfth day after Christmas. Though many different cultural and denominational customs are practiced, in general, the holiday celebrates the manifestation of God in the form of human flesh through Jesus Christ. The word epiphany means “manifestation” or “revelation” and is commonly linked in Western Christianity with the visit of the three “Wise Men“, or Magi (magician),to the Christ child. Some believe the word Befana comes from the Greek word epifania, meaning appearance. In Italian folklore, Befana delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5) in a similar way to Santa Claus. Christian legend has it that Befana was approached by the Three Wise Men a few days before the birth of the infant Jesus. They asked for directions to where the Son of God was, as they had seen his star in the sky, but she did not know. She provided them with shelter for a night, as she was considered the best housekeeper in the village, with the most pleasant home. The magi invited her to join them on the journey to find the baby Jesus, but she declined, stating she was too busy with her housework. Later, La Befana had a change of heart, and tried to search out the astrologers and Jesus. That night she was not able to find them, so to this day, La Befana is searching for the little baby. She leaves all the good children toys and candy or fruit, while the bad children get coal, onions and garlic. There are other similar versions. Even in this particular version, one can still see many pagan elements. Despite these Christianized re-tellings, several historians consider Befana to have pagan origins.

2012 Befana from Byers Choice.

2012 Befana from Byers Choice.

La Befana has been an Italian tradition since the 13th century. The arrival of La Befana is celebrated with traditional Italian foods and marks the end of the long and festive holiday season in Italy. The company Byers Choice, (located right here in Pennsylvania), regularly releases collectible dolls of Befana. They are quite beautiful. I’m not certain if there’s a new Befana every year, but several different Befana dolls have been released by this company in the past.

There are poems about Befana, which are known in slightly different versions throughout Italy.

Con le scarpe tutte rotte
Col vestito alla romana
Viva, Viva La Befana!

The English translation is:

With her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long life to the Befana!

Another version is given below in a poem by Giovanna Pascoli.

Vien dai monti a notte fonda
Come è stanca! la circonda
Neve e gelo e tramontana!
Viene, viene la Befana

The English translation is:

She comes from the mountains in the deep of the night
Look how tired she is! All wrapped up
In snow and frost and the north wind!
Here comes, here comes the Befana!

A Chill in the Air…

smallpentThe Magick is in You. Always.

 

Today is Thanksgiving Day, and in a few hours I will be going with my partner to have dinner with his family. Thanksgiving was never a religious holiday for me, although in the past some have tried to make it so. I am thankful for the special people and the good things in my life, and for the many ways the Universe inspires me. But, I am thankful for those things every day, not just on one designated holiday. I return to work tomorrow while others are out shopping during the craziness of “Black Friday”. I expect tomorrow will be slow at work.

It is getting much colder here now, and we’ve just had our first snow flurries of the year. The Great-Horned owls have returned to the oak trees behind our home. I hear them calling to each other in the darkness, quite loud, as though they were sitting on the windowsill. I didn’t hear them at all until a few years ago when I started doing rituals to invite the presence of the Owl more fully into my life. Since then, they have come back every Fall and stay through the Winter. I have a special owl-shaped candle on my altar, and I invite the presence of Owl along with my other deities and spirit guides whenever I do my private rituals.

fromthecauldronI am studying an amazing book by Kristoffer Hughes, “From The Cauldron Born: Exploring the Magic of Welsh Legend and Lore”. In this book, he shares from his personal experience with the Welsh Goddess Cerridwen. As some of you may know, Cerridwen is the deity figure I have been working with for years now, and she has been a powerful guiding force in my life. Everything I find in this book resonates so deeply with my own personal experience. I will copy much of it into my Book of Shadows.

 

 

I have started work on Walking a Magick Path. It will be a combination of the wisdom I have gained from my own personal journey, celtic lore, meditations, spells and other magickal information. Now that it’s getting dark earlier, I am so tired after work, so my writing has been sporadic, but I hope to have this work completed and ready to publish by the end of Spring 2014.

I was recently asked to speak at a local community college about Wicca and Witchcraft. It was a great experience, and the students had a genuine curiousity about my magickal path. They asked lots of great questions and the atmosphere was very positive and receptive. Who knew that I would be talking to college students about spells and witchcraft? I do hope to have more opportunities like this in the future. It is very important to educate the public about who witches are and what we believe.

I bought a new bow-tie. A Gryffindor bow-tie, to be exact. I found it at Hot Topic and I HAD to buy it immediately. I think I look like a waiter.

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My latest batch of candles are finished and are now available for sale (individually) at my Etsy store. I will be making more candles, soaps and other magickal items through the Winter, so keep checking my Etsy store for new items.

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Yule will be here soon, and we will start decorating not long from now. I have downloaded some Yuletide/Winter music from iTunes and am getting into a festive mood. If you’re looking for some wintry holiday music, I really enjoy the Celtic Christmas CD’s from Windham Hill. There are several volumes, and most of them are instrumental. Beautiful celtic winter songs, some in English, some in Gaelic.

Til next time…

Coven Witch or Solitary Witch?

Both have their own rewards and disadvantages. Some prefer one over the other. I have been both over the years, and I recommend any practicing Witch to experience both, if possible. What is the difference between the two?

covenA coven is a specific group of witches who meet on a regular basis, to celebrate the sabbats (the eight pagan/wiccan holidays that occur during seasonal shifts, solstices and equinoxes), and the full moons. They may gather to cast spells for healing and prosperity for the community. They may plan events for the public. Some covens follow a specific tradition (and there are many), others are more informal and eclectic. There are different kinds of covens: training covens, healing covens, etc. Some have strict rules for membership, others do not. Some do not seek out new members, preferring to grow organically from within. Some covens serve as clergy for a larger community. One advantage of working with a coven is that you have the opportunity to interact with the same group of witches on a regular basis. They become like a family and a support system. You learn first-hand about group dynamics, various personality types, and how everyone incorporates magick into their own lives. You learn much about each other, and about yourself in the process. When a group of witches gather together to raise energy for a common goal, it can be a powerful experience. Ritual planning becomes a beautifully creative process, with everyone in the coven contributing ideas to help make it as meaningful as possible. Some people prefer to work with a group rather than practicing alone. It is important to recognize that it isn’t something you do because you think being in a coven might be “fun”. I can tell you there are times when it is not fun. Sometimes there are personality conflicts and disagreements, and these can be very difficult to deal with. Sometimes difficult choices have to be made, and they are not always pleasant.

I was in a coven a few years ago where the High Priestess was making everyone miserable, and caused a huge amount of drama. Fun? Hardly. Also, if you are in a coven that is acting as clergy, you have a huge responsibility that must be taken seriously. It is your duty to be a facilitator of healing and restoration for those who sincerely seek it. Another thing I’ve noticed is that it seems that the larger a coven gets, the more out of control it becomes. Smaller covens are best, in my humble opinion, when everyone can share responsibilities. The traditional number is 13, but that is not set in stone. It can be more than 13 or as few as 3 members. I am grateful to be in a coven now where we are all of like mind and focused on the same goals. Another thing to remember is that being in a coven doesn’t mean you can’t also practice privately. You don’t have to do everything with the group. You can still do your own private rituals at home in addition to the coven gatherings.

OFFERINGA solitary witch usually practices alone. He/she may attend public pagan/wiccan events from time to time, but does not belong to a coven. There are advantages to this. Your practice is entirely your own, and is not under the scrutiny of others. You don’t have to deal with anyone else but your own deities and spirit guides, and you prefer it that way. Some people just don’t do well in groups, and that’s perfectly okay. One big advantage of being solitary is that you learn to rely solely on your own inner instincts rather than someone’s instruction. Solitary witches have more time to spend in Nature, forging deep connections to the elements, and recognizing that quiet inner voice. No deadlines, no planning meetings, no awkward moments with people: it’s just you, your god/desses and the Moon. For some witches, this is ideal, but for others, it can feel isolating. Many witches and pagans who live in rural areas have no choice other than solitary, because they may be the only witches/pagans where they live. A solitary practice can be rewarding, but it has drawbacks as well. By not interacting with others, you are missing out on the community experience. The wisdom shared by other witches, the powerful experience of raising energy and working magick with a group, making new friends, that sense of belonging, and knowing that you’re not alone on this path, there are many others like you. Working with a group of witches can give you a feeling of validation and stability that you might not feel as a solitary. Or, it may be that you feel perfectly whole and complete as a solitary witch.

If you have the opportunity to become part of a coven or group, I say take it. If you find it’s not for you, you don’t have to stay in it forever. Covens aren’t for everyone. Solitary isn’t for everyone, either. I am fine with both.

If you can’t find a coven in your area that is accepting new members, you can always start your own. For more info about how to do this, I recommend the following books:

Wicca Covens: How To Start and Organize Your Own, by Judy Harrow

Coven Craft: Witchcraft For Three or More, by Amber K

The Witch’s Coven, by Edain McCoy