Witchcraft


English: Lords Prayer in Aramaic(Syriac)

English: Lords Prayer in Aramaic(Syriac) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This past full moon, I found myself in a hotel room alone up north. Alone! No distractions, all evening to myself to sit in Spirit. Something moved me inside in a way that I had not felt before, something calling me back to my roots.

As I entered sacred space, I veiled my  head. I placed a bread roll and a cup of tea in front of me, which was all I had as means of offering. I lifted them up and gave thanks.

I turned to the north and I saw a huge circular stone. The stone that guarded the tomb of Lazarus. The stone of resurrection. I put out my hand and moved it and it slid open.

I turned to the east and blew out a deep breath. A warm wind arose, whipping through my hair, violent yet warm. The breath of spirit that filled the hall at Pentecost.

I turned to south and there I saw the fires where the weeds are sent to burn. It was angry and strong and purified all in its flames.

I turned to the west and I saw a rising wave: the tide of the flood, the parting of the seas, the purification of baptism.

I came back to the middle and I raised one hand to touch the sky and one hand reached to the earth. ‘As above, so below.’

Then, it dawned on me the Mystery. We are that which joins the Above and the Below. We are the meeting point which connects the two. There is no other species, seen or unseen, that can do that. There is no other species that can simultaneously live in both worlds. That is the next step of our evolution: To become Human, which means to be sentient beings that connect Heaven and Earth and walk in both worlds at all times. That is what we are meant to do. That is what Jesus was.

At that moment, I heard my Lord whisper: ‘You can be what I am. You are what I am.’

I repeated that like a mantra for a long time. It seems that anything else I could write about Christian Witchcraft would be redundant.

I closed my circle, placing back the stone as I finished. I ended with the recitation of the Our Father in Aramaic. Here is a gift of a video for the sung version, which also ends with a audible pronunciation of the prayer.

Abun d’bashmayo….

We are our most important instrument, the only tool we will ever need. I walked out of my shamanism weekend completely refreshed, full of an energy that I hadn’t felt in a long time. And even though I am quite tired today (crazy at work lately), I feel that core of energy continuing to glow softly. Taking care of our Selves is a crucial part of being a Witch and a spiritual being. There are many ways to do that. Here are a few of the pieces on how to take care of your body and your soul:

Sleep

I had one full night of uninterrupted sleep last week, courtesy of my lovely two-and-a-half-who-needs-to-sleep-anyway? daughter. It brought home the fact that our bodies and minds really need to sleep to recharge. Six hours does not always cut it!

Eat well

Make sure that you keep your body well fueled by eating the things it needs. I believe that we know what our bodies need and we should accommodate those needs. Don’t let your body run on empty.

Find your power

I came back from the weekend with a very tangible feeling of having received a gift of power. I don’t know when or how, but I felt full to the brim, as if a piece of the puzzle had been given back to me. I realized that I had probably given my power away to certain people or circumstances in my life. Take your power back into your hands. Do not let others make decisions for you that you do not agree with. Find that inner strength to take your place in the world, whatever that place may be. Feel like you are making your own choices.

Tune out the noise once in a while

We often don’t realize how much noise we are bombarded with and how many images are begging for our attention every second of the day. This is terribly apparent to me since coming back from the north. My tolerance to noise has gone way down and I realize that a lot of it is just background chatter that prevents me from truly looking in and finding better ways to live my life. So I turn off the radio in the car, I rarely watch anymore television. I take the time to look around instead and to really see what is happening in the world around me.

Look around

I get a great sense of serenity by just taking a good look around and looking at people. I feel like we are trying to avoid looking at each other, smiling, as if someone might ask us for something that we cannot offer or question us or I don’t know. Every now and then, we need to look up and SEE. When we do look around, we know what is coming, we are in a state of preparedness and a state of openness to our neighbor. There is something very calming in knowing where we are and what is happening.

Treat yourself

Every so often it just feels good to do a little extra for you. Buy that book, or sit in the coffee shop with your favorite mocha-sprinkle latte or take a second piece of pie. This is about finding pleasure in life. Usually pleasure lies in the littlest things.

Don’t forget that you are human

I think spiritually inclined people have very high expectations of themselves. We strive for that moral perfection, ideals of compassion and virtue. We have to be able to stop every so often and laugh a little. We don’t have all the answers, we learn from our mistakes and we keep going.

Re-connect

The shamanism weekend was about re-connecting: reconnecting to the Great Source, to my community, to my family, to my practice. Like our bodies need food, our soul needs connection. This can be in the form of prayer, ritual, journeying, studying, meditating, attending services, or even dancing wildly in a club. Whatever brings your soul up to connect to something bigger than yourself.

The Goddess

Image by LilithSativa via Flickr

I promised to come back on the concept of deity. It is a topic that comes back regularly on the Christian Pagan Fellowship and that evokes the most controversy. I’ve addressed this in my book ‘The Path of Christian Witch”, but surely one small book cannot cover such a wide topic. An entire library could not cover the question we are really asking: ‘What is God?’

I do not claim to have the answer to that question and will not attempt to answer it. The question that is often asked is how do we view God from the point of view of a Christian Witch. How do we deal with polytheism and how do we include biblical figures and mythological figures into our practice? Do we view God as an almighty energy or do we give It faces? Are these two views mutually exclusive? Are these faces really Gods and Goddesses?

I don’t have THE answer. But I have my answer. I see God as a multitude of things and somehow, I feel that all of these can coexist without contradiction. I see God as an action rather than a being. The ein sof, the breath, described in Kabbalah. This is the breath of life that brings things forth all there is from the great Void. But even though I believe in that Essence, I also believe that it does manifest itself to us in very real terms. I feel all representations of gods and goddesses in mythology, our biblical figures and saints and other holy people hold a parcel of that Essence. I think we all come here with lessons to learn and these figures are different ways for God to talk to us in a personal manner. S/He gives us different lessons through these Holy people. Are they gods and goddesses? They are expressions of God, so to me they are divine. Do I worship them? I do in the same measure that I also worship the divine within myself.

 

From a practical point of view, what should a Christian Witch/Pagan do about worship? She can choose to worship the essence of God, the Almighty, the Great Spirit. She may decide that she needs a representation of that Essence either in one figure or in a deity couple that represents our human polarity. She may decide to worship God the Father as we have been taught. She may also worship the Goddess uniquely or in combination with the Father. She may decide to choose one or two expressions of the Divine from any pantheon and walk her path with them to learn the lessons that she has to learn to fulfill her calling. Any combination of this is all right. We will only really know the full expression of God when we cross over, so for now, the best we can do is have a taste of Its many manifestations.

Two Candles

Image via Wikipedia

Once your circle is cast, you invite your deity figures to come in and bless your rite. The concept of deity is complex in a Christian Pagan setting and I would like to give that topic full attention soon. So bear with me on this for now. Suffice to say that you want to invite that which blesses you in your rite and in your life. You may already have a name and a face for this essence, or it might be just that, an essence. Nothing comes into being without the Great Source. This is why I always invite it to bring life to my rituals. You can do spells without invoking deity. Then you draw solely from the elements at hand in your spell (like the energy of the earth, of herbs, of a flame, etc…) I walked into Witchcraft with the intent to live a practice that honors the Divine. That is why I call on that Divine source to assist me in my rites.

Traditionally, there are two white candles on the altar: one for the god and one for the goddess. I realize just now that I did not talk about the altar at all. I’ll save that for later as well. (Please somebody remind me if I forget…) As you light your deity candles, much as you invited the quarters, you invite and honor your God and Goddess. You may wish to welcome them with any words you might see fit and that inspire you (or you may do it silently or chanting or in tongues, or any other way, for that matter) My invocations have changed over the years as my religious practice and the definition of myself changed with regards to that other realm. It is nice to keep track of these in your grimoire/book of shadows to see how you have changed over the years.

Lately, I welcome my Lord and Lady in the following way:

‘Blessed art thou, Lord of all Creation for giving us the Mysteries,

That we are made in your image, co-creators of all that is and divine in essence;

And blessed art thou, Holy Mother, Gardian of Heaven and Earth,

from whose womb all blessings flow so that we may know Life;

All glory to you Lord Jesus for giving us the teachings of the most High,

Guide me with your wisdom.

Hail Mary of Magdala, Holy Priestess of Our Lord,

Bless your servant who humbly presents herself to you.

All glory to you for thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory forever and ever.’

**Amen**

Calling quarters refers to the act of inviting entities to supply the ritual with specific life forces. They act as pillars in the four corners and help protect and structure the rite at hand. I use elemental representations to call quarters, as I have been taught:  Earth for north, Air for east, Fire for south and Water for east. I also call the archangels to aid me in my rites: Raphael in the north, Gabriel in the east, Michael in the south and Uriel in the west. I have already discussed at length my choice for assigning these archangels to these positions on a past post called Angels.

Element symbols used by the ancient philosophe...

Image via Wikipedia

Each tradition and working coven will have a standard way of calling quarters. Some witches even start their quarter calls in the East, following the sun axis. My calls may change for specific occasions. What is important in calling quarters is to really invite the element to stand in that specific spot. We have already done the elemental exploration so they should feel familiar. So when you stand in the north, you should feel the musty smell of earth, and the breeze of air and the scorching fire a

nd the spray of the ocean. At times, I did my elemental dances in each corner to summon the essence of

each element. But a standard call for me would be something like this:

 

Hail and welcome, element of Earth, guardian of the gates of the North and hail Raphael, archangel of healing. Pray bring strength and growth to this sacred rite. Hail and welcome.

 

Hail and welcome, element of Air, guardian of the gates of the East and hail Archangel Gabriel, holy messenger. Pray bring inspiration and wisdom to this sacred rite. Hail and welcome.

 

Hail and welcome, element of Fire, guardian of the gates of the South and hail Archangel Michael, holy warrior. Pray bring passion and courage to this sacred rite. Hail and welcome.

 

Hail and welcome, element of Water, guardian of the gates of the West and hail Archangel Uriel, angel of peace. Pray bring love and compassion to this sacred rite. Hail and welcome.

 

 

Cover of "Drawing Down the Moon: Witches,...

Cover via Amazon

Someone emailed me a question that I thought may be of benefit to many. I was asked the difference between the terms Witchcraft and Wicca, and between Pagan and Neo-Pagan.

Witchcraft vs Wicca: Wicca is an official religion and is usually regimented in covens, with the passing of a book of shadows between initiates. Witchcraft is an umbrella term which may refer to Wicca, but also to other forms of folk magic or traditional witches that are not necessarily structured into an organized system with initiates and a high priest/priestess. So Witchcraft encompasses everything from the cottage witch, family traditionals (passed from one generation to the next) to Wiccans of diverse traditions (there are MANY!) 
 
Pagan vs Neo-Pagan: The ‘Neo’ distinction comes from the fact that the Pagan revival is a relatively recent thing. It is a 19th century phenomenon brought about after the lift of the laws against witchcraft in England. Many Pagans claim primitive roots, as if they are resurrecting old prehistoric Goddess worship systems. The term Pagan is, again, an umbrella term to describe all practices that stem from earth-based, Goddess worship. ‘Neo-Paganism’ reminds people that this refers to the new organization of Pagan beliefs into a modern system. Its use is to distinguish between what is generally called a Pagan practice and the new way of expressing these practices in organized religions, such as Wicca. In short, Neo-Paganism has as much connection to ancient Goddess rites as we do to the chimp. People coined the term the term Neo-Paganism to really remind people that this type of Paganism is a modern expression of ancient ideas. But it is a modern practice nonetheless.

I hope that’s clear. One thing that became apparent when I attended Gaia gathering this year is that Paganism is starting to have its own history, and it is quite a complex one. There are a number of books of shadows that have been circulated, lineages and traditions branching out in various directions. It is fascinating to hear the oldest members of the Pagan communities talk about all that history. One excellent source on this topic is ‘Drawing Down the Moon’ by Margot Adler. A must read for anyone who tries to understand where Paganism came from.

When writing the book, I had numerous debates about terminology. What do I call this practice of mine? Is it Christian Witchcraft? Christian Wicca? Christian Paganism? Mystical Christianity?

You will find that at times I oscillate between Christian Witchcraft and Christian Paganism. Most often, it tends to be Christian Witchraft. I felt that this was the term that offered the most freedom, being two umbrella terms. Witchcraft, rather than Paganism, refers to an actual practice rather than a set of beliefs. That is what I was looking for: a practice to regiment my life. Also, the term Witchcraft gave me a sense of reclaiming that which the Church had robbed from me: the essence of my femininity. It was a way of saying that I would not be an accomplice to the crimes of my Church against women throughout its history. When I talk of Christian Paganism, it is in the hope that more people feel included by this even wider term. Here I refer to a common belief in the sanctity of nature, in the many faces of the Divine and in the existence of the unseen, while upholding the teachings of Jesus. The terms Christian Paganism and Christian Witchcraft are not mutually exclusive as far as I am concerned. They simply talk of different things and will suit different people on the pursuit of their own Truth.

By popular demand, I am now switching from energy work to magic. A lot of my magical work is still very much ingrained into basic witchcraft. But I do incorporate my Christian symbols here and there.
Just a note on the distinction between spell casting and ritual. A spell is a series of steps that symbolically represents your request and sends out your intent. It can also be called folk magic. A ritual incorporates a religious dimension. You usually call spirit protectors/quarters and invoke your deities to assist you in the magic that you are about to do. Both are OK. Depends on your need of the moment.
I’ve listed this before, but here is a little reminder of the steps of a basic ritual.
1)      Cleanse the space and yourself;
2)      Call quarters;
3)      Cast a circle;
4)      Invoke deity;
5)      Perform your rite (spell, celebration, main event…) This usually involves the raising of energy.
6)      Thank your deities;
7)      Thank your quarters;
8)      Take down your circle;
9)      Feast.
Step one: Cleansing
There is a multitude of ways to cleanse space. This was usually left to the level 2 students before public rituals. First and foremost, you have to physically clean the space. For a major ritual, I usually add birch leaves to the water to purify and protect the space, blow on the water in the sign of a cross and then a circle and proceed to washing the floors. For a simpler ritual, I just sweep the floor with a broom. I usually draw up energy from the earth let it flow into the broom, so that a nice wave of energy also removes discordant vibrations at the same time as the dust. Once that is done, I stand in the middle of the room, draw up energy from the earth and let it explode through the room to remove all debris of floating energy. I also like to call up a wave of each of the elements, as each one has a cleansing property.
I then proceed to cleanse myself. I find this to be an important step and often it is not emphasized in books on magic. If energy is to flow through me to achieve something, I have to make sure that I am not carrying anything that will tag on to that energy and distort it somehow. I think it is also one of the meanings of doing ritual skyclad. I have never done this myself, but I see how performing a rite in the nude might have that feeling of leaving everything behind. My way of doing that is through ritual washing. There can be many ways to do this. Depending on the ritual, it might be more or less extensive. Most of the time, like when I am about to read Tarot, I just wash my hands and wrists whispering: “Bless these hands and the work they do.” You can wash with an infusion of herbs that you have chosen, strain the herbs and wash with the water. Remember to let the water cool down before doing this (personal experience…) You can also add these herbs to your bath water and let your body and your mind release all negativity. I have used chamomile, birch, lavender, thyme, and mint. It is truly a glorious experience!
When I am about to do a serious ritual, I perform a more formal preparation. I do my ritual cleansing in the shower. I wash my body, consecrating it to my rite:

Bless these feet that walk your path;
Bless this womb, which springs forth life;
Bless this heart from which love flows;
Bless this voice that sings your praise;
Bless this mind that seeks your truth;
Bless these hands that do your work;
Bless this soul that yearns for you.

After I am dried and dressed, I anoint my feet, my heart, my third eye and my wrists with scented oil, usually myrrh in commemoration of my Lord and Lady. I am then ready to enter sacred space.

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