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The Wiccan Rede

I was really excited about the prospect that there are other Wiccans blogging here, so I went and did some perusing. And what I found was a whole community of Wiccans, Witches and several other people following different paths and it warmed the cockles of my heart. But as I started reading their blogs, my heart was sinking.

Having been able to study Wicca and living Wicca and now teaching Wicca, for the last seven years,  I would say that I know some about it.  It saddened me the more I read. There are people who truly have been living the Wiccan Rede. But most, got it all wrong. First of all, you cannot have Wicca as a religion and have witchcraft as a lifestyle.  Wicca is your lifestyle. We don’t do witchcraft. (anyone can learn a craft) Wicca is not about the spells that can be cast or how much power you can yield in a circle. It is not about being the centre of attention or even being ‘in’. Yes, they are out there, the ones that call themselves Wiccan because it is the ‘in thing’ to do.

Wicca is about living a life of sprituality. It is called a religion because we have divinity, Gods and Goddesses that we work with. You take that away, then we may as well be just pagans. Wicca is about the balance of things, not the positive and negative, yes it is important but it is not what is about.  We believe in the balance of the male and female in all things. Father sky, mother earth, Mother moon, Father sun. We believe that everything, anything and everyone has male and female.  Wicca, most importantly, is about acquiring knowledge about the self. Getting to know yourself. The dark and the light within. It is about learning to take responsibility for oneself and to understand cause and effect.

Being able to call yourself Wiccan, you must have gone through first level or first degree at a Coven.  This is because, the mysteries of Wicca are taught within these covens. It has been brought down from generation to generation.  No where in books will you find this. Even those who have written books will not add all they know. A self initiated ‘wiccan’ does not have this knowledge. How can you then call yourself a Wiccan?

The first thing people are taught in coven is that, you can read all the books you want, it does not make you a Wiccan. You need to join a coven for at least a year and get your first initiation. In doing that, you have now started learning the mysteries.  The initiations itself also prepares you for Wiccan life.  After you have done your first year, you then have a choice to either become solitary or stay to do your next level or degree.  It also depends on the coven itself. Some only have two levels, others have three and then there are those who have four.

We live by the Wiccan Rede.  Our bible if you will. We believe in not harming anything or anyone and that includes oneself.  This is where the Rede starts. Within yourself.  We believe in what you put out there is what you get back. We believe in karma.

I am proudly Wiccan..

There is nothing wrong with following a path you have set for yourself. Whatever your belief, whatever your path, it is of your own choice. Live it in truth.

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Lammas/Lughnassad


Lammas, also known as Lughnassadh is the one of the four great fire festivals of the Wheel of the year. It marks the beginning of Autumn. The beginning of the harvest season and also celebrates the decline of summer into winter.  It is also known as the first harvest festival.  It is the festival of transformation. We harvest grain and then turn it into flour that in turn is turned into bread. It is a time where you can truly go within and transform that what is needed.

Lammas is celebrated in August in the Northern Hemisphere and 2nd February this year in the Southern Hemisphere.

Lughnassadh is named for Lugh, a Celtic God, also known as Lleu, Llew and the Many Skilled. He is a druid, carpenter, poet and mason. He symbolizes healing, reincarnation, prophecy and revenge. He is a Sun God too hence the Pagan Sabbath Lughnassadh. He is associated with ravens and a white stag as his symbol. He has a magic spear and otherwordly hounds.

 

I am Lugh Samildanach
I am Lugh the Il-Dana
I am Lugh, master of the battle
I am Lugh, master of healing
I am Lugh, master of knowledge
I am Lugh, master of sailing
I am Lugh, master of sorcery
I am Lugh, master of smithing.

 

Another english folklore is John Barleycorn. Most pagans will celebrate Lammas/Lughnassadh by burning John Barleycorn.

John Barleycorn is a character who represents the crop of barley harvested each autumn. Equally as important, he symbolizes the wonderful drinks which can be made from barley — beer and whiskey — and their effects. In the traditional folksong, John Barleycorn, the character of John Barleycorn endures all kinds of indignities, most of which correspond to the cyclic nature of planting, growing, harvesting, and then death. The circle of life. Birth, death and rebirth.

 

John Barleycorn

 There were three men come out of the west

fortunes for to try

And they have made a solemn vow

John Barleycorn must die (2x)

 

Fa la la la, it’s a lovely day

Fa la la la lay o

Fa la la la, it’s a lovely day

Sing fa la la la lay

 

They plowed him in three furrows deep

Laid clods all on his head

And they have made a solemn oath

John Barleycorn was dead

 

Well then there came a shower of rain

Which from the clouds did fall

John Barleycorn sprang up again

And so amazed them all

 

Well then came men with great sharp scythes

To cut him off at the knee

They bashed his head against a stone

And they used him barbarously

 

Well then came men with great long flails

To cut him skin from bone

The miller has used him worse than that

He ground him between two stones

 

They wheeled him here, they wheeled him there

Wheeled him into the barn

And they have used him worse than that

They bunged him in a vat

 

They worked their will upon John Barleycorn

But he lives to tell the tale

We pour him into an old brown jug

And we call him home-brewed ale

The Christian religion adopted the harvest theme of Lughnasadh and called it Lammas, meaning ‘loaf-mass,’ a time when newly baked loaves of bread are placed on the altar. Columcille (St Columba) tried to change Lammas into a “Feast of the Ploughmen” with no success. The Burning Man festival, held in Nevada, has its roots in another Lughnasadh tradition, the erection of giant wicker men or smaller Corn Gods, which were then set on fire. The Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone also comes to mind at this time of year. As January and February progresses, you can see the subtle changes in tree and plants that mark Persephone’s preparations to go underground again.

 

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With true mind and heart do I hereby state that I believe:

 

  •  in a single mysterious source of all existence.
  • in the division of the one source into two equal and complimentary entities who I call Goddess and the God and whom    I honor through my deities.
  • in honoring, respecting, and revering the source of all by celebrating the cycles of nature through joyous ritual.
  • that the cycles of nature teach me about the cycles of life including the cycle of life and death. Therefore, I believe that life can be renewed through Spirit, that I can learn from the experiences of the past and that what I do now affects the future lives of myself and others.
  • that the physical world is not the only reality and that other realms may be explored and engaged.
  •  in the power to focus and direct the will in order to enact transformations for the good of self and others.
  • in free will which requires me to understand the responsibilities inherent in acting in accordance with this freedom.
  • that good and evil are the result of consequences of free will. Thus,I seek to act and lead my life in ways which, to the greatest degree possible, do not cause harm to myself or others.
  • in the application of ethical principles such as the Wiccan Rede, the Threefold Law and the Five Principles to my daily life.
  • that all sacred paths and practices which do not cause harm to others are worthy of toleration and respect and that I can learn and grow from the wisdom of the world’s religious traditions and philosophies.
  • that spiritual truth can be sought in modern as well as ancient knowledge; that the theories of quantum physics and jungian psychology are as inspiring as the ancient mysteries and the ways of magick.
  • in celebrating the solstices, equinoxes and cross quarter days (sabbats) in public ritual, the full moons (esbats) in small group ritual, and the dark moons (astors) in personal ritual.
  • that each person has the ability and the right to become a member of the clergy and that no single person has the right to dominate the spiritual life of another.

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As Wiccans we celebrate The Wheel of Year. The Wheel of the Year consists of eight sabbats that are celebrated at the change of the seasons.  These Sabbats reflect the cycle of life. Birth, death and rebirth.

Mother Earth is alive and sentient, both in matter and consciousness.   She holds out her heart to us, inviting us to deepen our partnership.    We are of the Earth, not separate from her.   Tuning to her rhythms restores harmony and teaches us to embrace the ever-turning cycle of life and death.

We are entering the coldest part of the year and as Yule also known as the Winter Solstice is traditionally celebrated in winter, we in the Southern hemisphere  join in the festivities on the 21st of June. The people in Northern Hemisphere celebrate Yule in December and this festival was later absorbed into and aquated into the Christian festival Christmas . Yule and Christmas are not so very different. Both are celebrating the birth of the Sun/Son.

Perhaps one of the oldest of the festivals, dating from when early humans lit fires from Yule logs, and hung up evergreen boughs, decorated with torches or tallow tapers to lend power to the Sun. By these gestures it was hoped the sun would not die and that the greenery would return to the trees. In other lands, too, the Sun God, for example the Persian Mithras whose worship spread throughout the Roman Empire and Christ were mythologically if not historically born at this time.

At Yule we see the battle between the Holly King and the Oak King once again. The Oak King represents rebirth and rules the warm half of the year. We see the Oak/Sun King win the battle over the Holly/Winter King and take his crown as the ruling King, whereas at Litha, Midsummer the Holly/Winter King wins the battle over the Oak/Sun King.

At the darkest time, when the Earth seems bare and forlorn, we bring evergreens into our homes, the Yule tree, a symbol of life, health and vitality. We bring in holly for protection, ivy for the faithful promise that life endures and mistletoe for fertility. In the first days of winter, these remind us that Earth will be green again. We feast to lighten our hearts and share the fellowship of others to warm ourselves from within.

Yule is a time to delve deep within and find the vital inner spark which, re-energised, will keep our spirits and our physical energy going through the winter and bring back new ideas, projects and developments in our lives.

It is a time to let go of all fears, all doubts, all outworn ideas, all projects that are finished – anything in our lives that holds us away from the new beginnings that will lead to new growth. It is a time to let go of the past and walk toward the light. Some witches light a gold candle in the cauldron and jump the cauldron of rebirth making a wish for her to be a better person in the coming year. On this longest night, we renew and rebirth our bodies and spirit self. This is when we plant our seeds of change, whether it be truth, love and friendship. It is at this time that we make resolutions or promises to ourselves for the coming year.

The night of the Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year. Now darkness triumphs, and yet, gives way and changes into light. The breath of nature is suspended. All wait while within the cauldron, the Dark King is transformed into the infant light. We watch for the coming dawn, when the Great Mother gives birth to the divine Child the Sun King, who is the promise of the summer. We call the Sun from the womb of the night. Our Blessed Lady carries in her young womb – the womb which has birthed all things into being and again Our Lady turns the wheel once more.

At Yule we exchange gifts in honour of the Sun God, we celebrate love, strengthen bonds with family, togetherness and fellowship of friends and the accomplishments of the past year  and what better way to celebrate it than sitting  by a fire and burning of the of the Yule log.

Burning huge communal bonfires was another ancient Yule custom. Pagan folk would first se­lect trees that they considered to be sacred. Each household would cut down a sacred tree and add it to the communal fire. Some of the trees sacred to the ancient Europeans included birch, oak, holly, pine, and willow. Pagan folk believed that while the wood burned, it imparted some special or magickal influence.

The hearth fire replaced the customary outdoor bonfire over the course of time. Because of this change, pagan folks typically burned only a section of the tree – a Yule log – instead of the entire tree. New magickal traditions arose with this change. For example, pagan folk would first select a tree for logging on the land of the home where it would be burned. Like other magickal tools, the Yule log was not a thing to purchase. It could, perhaps, be a gift.

Families would cut Yule logs from the thickest parts of the tree. Sometimes huge roots or giant stumps found their way to the hearth. After cutting the log, the householder would then ceremonially drag it across his or her land for luck. Once the log made its way to the hearth, family members and neighbours might then decorate it with sprigs of holly, pine needles, and berries. The master of the house would sprinkle the log with oil, salt, and cider or wassail. A young girl would then ceremoni­ally kindle the log, and attendants would keep it burning over the course of twelve nights. In other accounts, the log was supposed to last for twelve hours; it was considered an evil omen if the log extinguished before the end of twelve hours.

A family would then, customarily, preserve a piece of the log from the fire. This piece of wood served as kindling for the next year’s Yule log. In the rural parts of Europe, a farmer might attach the piece of unburned Yule log to his plough to assure a bountiful harvest. The early Europeans also be­lieved that they could bless their crops by mixing the ash from the incinerated Yule log into the soil just before seeding. Pagan folk might also keep the ash in their homes as protection from lightning, malevolent forces, or from evil spirits.

Making wassail is a favourite Yuletide pagan cus­tom. This traditionally spiced ale (or mulled wine) filled with magickal solar herbs has its origins in Saxon history. The word “wassail” was a saluta­tion for the ancient Saxons. It literally meant “be in good health.” By the twelfth century, the Danes had introduced the term to the Britons as a drinking toast. As time went by, Britons used the word in reference to the drink in which the toast was offered. The magickal spices and herbs that infuse the wassail invoke the energies of the sun in anyone who drinks it.

Christmas Eve and Twelfth Night (another win­ter holiday) became the traditional times that cele­brants would drink wassail. One twelfth-night tra­dition involved invoking the gods to bless the apple trees that would bear the crop from which next year’s cider would be made. Ancient celebrants would invoke the solar deities by soaking small pieces of bread in cider and placing them around the apple trees. They would then sing special was­sailing songs that would encourage the tree to bear fruit.

Wassail, wassail, all over the town,
Our bowl it is white and our ale it is brown
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree
With the wassailing bowl, we’ll drink to thee.

A blessed Yule to everyone!!

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Paganism


The Horned God and Mother Gaia

Paganism is diverse and personal and you will find that many people adapt this way of life to suit their own preferred system of belief… but within all this diversity, there are certain things that define our basic tenets of belief.

Paganism is a nature based spiritual system…in other words, we have a strong nature and ecological base. We do not worship nature, but rather we worship through nature. We see nature as a manifestation of Deity and we attune ourselves to this force. This alone does not define a pagan, as this nature based attitude could be applied to almost any other religion. But you will find it is a basic premise of all pagan belief systems. Nature represents the whole of divinity and gives us an intimate connection with that force.

Now within nature, you will find a polarity of all energies – there are two sides to almost everything in nature – you could label this the masculine and feminine aspects. Because we see nature as the divine, we also see our divine force as having two aspects – masculine and feminine – God and Goddess. Both are equally important to the existence of the universe and both are equally revered and worshipped within the craft. The fact that we worship both God and Goddess is very much a defining point of paganism. As everything around is energy, we are energy, all just vibrating at a different frequency, means that we are connected. There is no difference between you and the plant outside or the chair you sitting on or Divinity, therefore we are all one. We are Divinity as Divinity are us. WE ARE ALL ONE.

Another defining trait of Pagans are that we attune to nature through the ‘Wheel of the Year’. Our eight solar festivals (called Sabbats) are universally accepted as common ground between the many pagan traditions. The sun is seen as the ‘God’ energy and Solar festivals are usually ‘God’ orientated. And through the the eight festivals we see the ascend of the Sun God (being at the height of summer) to the descend into the underworld (height of winter). And the Sun God being the consort of our Mother Gaia (earth), she is always present in being, maiden, mother (pregnant with the sun just before summer starts) and the crone where she has given birth to the sun and where the cycle starts all over again.The Goddess represents all that is female and the God represents all that is male. But because nature is seen as female the Goddess has a wider meaning. Mother Earth or Gaia, she is seen as the creatrix and sustainer of life, the mother of us all which makes all the creatures on the planet our siblings.

As we attune to the solar cycle and the seasons, we also closely follow the lunar cycle. We perform our worship and practice our craft under the light (or dark) of the moon. The moon is seen to represent the Goddess.

Pagans do not believe that ours is the ‘one true’ path and do not proselytise…in other words we do not push our religion onto other people and try and convert them. We understand that each person has different spiritual needs and we do our best to respect other religious systems. Ancient Pagans would have worshipped one or a small number of Gods and Goddesses, while often recognizing the validity of other people’s deities. Many Pagans believe in reincarnation in some form. It gives Pagans a substantially different view of life. Early Christians saw Karma as a kind of treadmill, trapping people in endless reincarnations, never free. But Pagans see reincarnation as, at best, a chance to improve or to continue unfinished work, and at worst just a simple recycling of souls.

Pagans do NOT believe in the ‘devil’ (by any name). Most believe that the concept of a ‘purely evil’ deity has Christian origins…there is no mention of a devil until the New Testament in the bible. It is interesting to note that those of Jewish faith also do not believe in the concept… and that Christianity stems from Judaism. The ‘old gods’ have aspects of both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and it was only the idea of an all-good, all loving deity, that necessitated an antagonist.

This has been a very brief look at what the Pagan path encourages as a belief system.

Paganism is a philosophy… it is a spiritual system, an attitude and a way of life.

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