The practice of Witchcraft allows one to develop abilities that transcend the mundane rules of existence, and to enter realms only dreamed of by other people.
It has been said that Wicca is one of the fastest growing “religions” in the world, certainly in Britain and the United States. Whether true or not, I will try to herein clarify what Wicca actually is.
There is no dogma attached to Wicca and new adherents come in all the time, where subtle changes take place within the various Covens, thus personalizing it somewhat and make it their own. Wicca in the nineties and now, the new millennium, is different to the nineteen fifties revival when it flourished in Great Britain. Today’s Wiccan are for the most part, ordinary people who draw their beliefs from ancient beliefs and roots and apply them to the needs of modern life.
Certain Covens and many solo witches still maintain either an Earth adoring attitude to their practices and beliefs or conversely, find a definite symbiosis with the Goddess and the Moon attributes.
The roots of Wicca they say come from pre-Christian, European/British shamanic religious tradition(s), but of course I don’t think there was such a thing as an uninterrupted linage of ‘organized” group covens coming to us from ancient times. It is essentially termed a ‘pagan’ religion, or perhaps we should say “neo-pagan”, which means basically, that it is not of the normal religions practiced and this is where most people would say then, meaning mostly Judeo-Christian/Muslim in origin.
Wicca is earth, nature and fertility orientated, where its adherents worship at the turn of the seasons and at the new and full moons. They generally acknowledge both male and female Deities and Ancient Powers, (long lost to the modern day average person). They believe in magick and divination and although a spiritual and philosophical path, it is first and foremost a religion, termed the ‘Craft’, meaning the “Craft of the Wise”.
Wicca is unique as a religion in that it lacks a doctrine imposed by a hierarchical organization, does not provide a Bible, or Holy Book, to which Wiccan have to turn to for spiritual guidance and instruction, but includes a number of similar traditions, while allowing individuals to worship and practice by themselves and assumes that each person will develop themselves and continue to refine their own workings; based on practices of spiritualism and magick that actually work for them.
It is true that most Wiccan in a Coven tend to draw from practices of other Wiccan, and basic rituals and initiations are standardized and passed down from one Wiccan to another in a structured Coven setting.
There is often confusion as to the term Coven and Temples, in Traditional and Wiccan Witchcraft. A Temple is a ‘place’ where some Traditional Witches hold their rituals and a Coven is the ‘group’ of people who take part. Therefore, if one remembers that a Temple is a place and a Coven is a group of people, there should be no misunderstanding.
Thousands upon thousands of people around the world are dedicated, or are initiates of the “Inner Way” nowadays. Few of those who take their arts seriously will also ever advertise the fact. They live their lives, as you yourselves might do, in two parts, with one face for the world to see, while the other, inner, hidden face always turned towards the secret starlight and walking the rosey path.
They have learned the power of silence, of the kept word and unbroken promises. They have seen things and experienced things which few ordinary people could ever comprehend or credit as being true.
They have entered the Otherworld and returned safely many times. They have mixed with powerful forces, woven magickal spells and brought about changes in the fabric of the world in which they live……… and still they keep silent; as it should be.
Becoming dedicated is an early step. It is a genuine request for guidance, and an attempt on a personal level to connect with the Great Forces of the universe, and to gain communion with the Ancient Powers of the land.
Today, many people have lost contact with the spiritual and magickal aspects of their lives, a loss that is not usually felt, except by those who are already seeking these inner truth(s) perhaps.
Many of these people then fall prey to all kinds of offered religious dogma, or unscrupulous folk, selling some ‘philosophy’ or ‘cult’ to the unwary for a fat sum of money. Many people have also now come to see that material comfort, even great wealth, does not totally fulfill them, and that there is sometimes a ‘great longing’ for something which cannot quite be defined, so is all the harder to seek out.
Karl Yung, (the great psychologist), realized the power of this inner yearning, making the religious/spiritual impulse as important as the basic sexual impulse, as one of the great underlying ‘drives’ which direct our actions. I can see and agree with that I think….
Witches are basically termed Pagans, and the very term PAGAN comes from the Latin PAGUINI, meaning countryside, (or Paganus, meaning, ‘not of the city’ or rural). So in this sense PAGANISM is the old religion of the country folk. Of course, this definition is just touching the surface of its true meaning, because the fact that this term got used more often in the old days, it became more derogatory and insulting, meaning basically a country bumpkin. Over time this term came to mean those who lived outside and opposed the new Christian faith.
Pagan religions are mostly, (if not all) nature based, respecting the needs of the planet and Her natural systems. Pagans hold all life to be sacred and regard the human species to be Nature’s care-takers, responsible for Her well-being. The Earth is our Mother and we must take care of Her.
Pagans are aware of the cycles of nature and observe them as festivals throughout the changing year. We see and feel the magick in Nature, the magick of balance and harmony. We bring this loving balance into our lives through our worship of the God and the Goddess, not just a male deity, or trinity of all male deities, such as in Christianity.
We constantly strive for greater spiritual development. We do not attempt to confine and limit our fellow worshippers with dogma, but encourage each to find one’s own personal truth and fulfillment, both in the inner and outer worlds. We are individuals, not clones!! It is our differences that make us special….
Nor are we scared by sex or nudity. To us, sexual union is a sacrament to the Gods. As a nature religion, all acts of creation are sacred. Sexual union brings forth new life. This is as sacred to us as the new life which arises in the springtime and which we celebrate at our Sabbats.
It is only the stigmatism attached to staid Christianity and other closed mind religions that sex and nudity were basically outlawed and shunned as unnatural and abhorrent. Of course, any normal thinking person will find that backward way of thinking absurd and is actually one of the most natural instances in Living Nature and life itself.
Wiccacraeft is an integral part of the Western Pagan (Neo-Pagan) Traditions and over the centuries it spread around the world, eventually in these modern times, moving to Australia and America, as well as many other parts of the globe.
Both Witches & Druidism were heavily persecuted by the Romans as they marched northward through Europe to Britain and both have been documented as such. The Druids were treated extremely harshly by the Romans, who tried their hardest to wipe them out and nearly succeeded on the Sacred Island of Mona, (now called Anglesey, for this small island off Wales).
Most of our history of both Witches and Druids actually comes the from Roman writings, including Caesar himself. They actually seemed fascinated with Witches and Druids and their activities and beliefs, but of course, their chronicles were biased around Roman thoughts and their own beliefs.
As Druidry, like all Arcane magical beliefs, were only oral in teaching and passing from one generation to the next generation, many teachings and secrets went to the graves with the persecuted Druids of the Romans and what little was left, was again heavily and cruelly persecuted by the Christians when the Romans left.
What was left, was watered down and cloned to become Christian beliefs to keep the local folk in line. However, I believe that most probably in some secret forms, perhaps through families and traveling tribes mostly, some secret traditions survived and become the secret teachings of Wiccacraeft and Witchcraft in general and is documented by the Romans themselves.
I don’t believe that strict structured covens existed per se, but most probably like any Shamanic way of life, singletons (the old wise ones) and perhaps small family units who served the people, helped heal them and their animals, cast spells to help people who came looking. They were probably feared also, because of that very thing.
Even in today’s times in China, Malaysia and other Asian countries, there exists a strong belief in magick. the Malay and Indonesian Bomohs are the witches of Asia, as are the Taoist priests similar to the witches and Druids of millennia ago. They still do what has been handed down to them through generations of family traditions and their magick, (although much weaker and watered down than more ancient times) is still working! They don’t meet in covens or the like, but often know of each other and perhaps share a little knowledge together, but the secret information remains secret.
Not only in Asia though; we can find this sort of country folk healing/magick all over the world in small rural areas, where time more or less has stood still and such arts have and are being passed on to either family, or if the old wise one had no family, then perhaps someone that they picked out for training, knowing he/she “is of the blood”.
Traveling groups who were of the knowledge might meet other travelers, (such as gypsies do today) and there would be ritual between some of the elders and some group working perhaps, but always followed by great feasts and merry making. This might be the last of the so-called true coven groups, whereas the others who stay in one place and take over “the family business” per se, would be the wise folk reading the future, healing people and casting spells for a good crop, or casting spells to help bear a son in the next pregnancy for a desperate family. Herbs and medicines would’ve played a big part, as it does now.
So we might presume that it has survived, but not in perhaps the same way we always thought. The witches of Highcliffe in the New Forest area (who supposedly initiated Gardner) probably had a background, but had lost much of the workings and ritual over generations of time and the need for secrecy in changing times.
Perhaps they used Murray’s book for ritual ideas in the 20’s and books of Leyland. Perhaps more to the point pieces were also taken from the The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer . This massive study of the mythological cycle of the Godesses’ lover, the solar God who dies and is reborn, had a huge influence on Margaret Murray, Robert Graves and Gerald Gardner which might’ve helped to fill the gaps.
Then again Gardner in his flair for drama, probably added much Masonic symbolism and other relevant ritual concepts from the that time. This went on to become what is Wicca today, although there are perhaps a number of genuine traditional witches who keep the door to the mundane tightly closed. Traveling bands of gypsies might indeed have still an original legacy and still gets spread by the fact of the great meetings of these people.
Modern day Druids have had to follow a totally reconstructed path too, based of the flimsiest traces of evidence and chronicles of the Romans and perhaps even from traditional Witchcraft as the Druids never wrote anything down themselves.
Wicca as we have seen followed the same path in its modern day revival and a bit of mix with traditional and quasi (and often actual) Masonic and other mystical arts becoming the norm. The difference with Traditional Witchcraft is the adamant claims of an ancient linage of practices and secrets carried down through the generations by families and traveling groups, as mentioned above.
Witches actually probably fared better than Druids over history and were eventually driven underground, through one form of persecution or another, (most of which came from the Christians from 400AD until these modern times), but their core truths were never completely destroyed. Covens and/or traditions have ALWAYS existed, mostly in family or tribal units, worshipping the old Gods and Goddesses in secret.
Just as Wicca is one of many forms of what is broadly termed Paganism or Neo-Paganism, so there are (or have evolved especially recently) even different paths within Witchcraft itself. Groups that claim to trace a direct, unbroken line back to ancient times are, as mentioned earlier, known as “Traditional” or “Hereditary” witches. Traditional groups still tend to be extremely secretive indeed and do not usually recognize or mix with other Wiccan paths.
The concept of a recognized “lineage” is sometimes important in Occultism, and basically means the ability to trace one’s Initiatory line back, without a break, to a point in history that is creditable and where possible, from a magical tradition that has existed since time immemorial.
There are many questionable groups and individuals today who have no such lineage, and therefore tend to play down its importance. However, in saying this, we must also point out that there are many creditable solo practitioners and individuals, plus smaller groups that are every bit as proficient and dedicated as the so-called recognized groups around the world and should really be recognized in their own right, without recognized lineages. (After all, we all had to start sometime).
This is the freedom of magick and real witchcraft, which holds no such dogma in its true heart! For those who are interested though, the Coven of Cythrawl can actually trace long direct heritages back in Britain and are termed as officially “hiving off” to a full working and recognized Coven here in Asia; therefore this question and/or dispute will never arise with us.
Many people are drawn, these days, to the idea of witchcraft and magick. Some are seeking religious freedom, or seeking greater spirituality, while others are interested in learning to use magickal powers. Many are also interested in reawakening the ancient links with our Mother Earth, or seek particular healing of both body and spirit.
Some of these people may wish to practice alone and try to find their roots and connections within nature and the universe. They might follow the patterns of the sun and the moon, and ‘feel’ the changing energies directly.
Others may wish to be part of a coven, to share ceremonies and regular meetings with like-minded people and wish to reunite with the Ancient Powers by raising large amounts of energy within such a group. It’s entirely up to you! Both ‘solo members’ and all ‘active members’ of a recognized coven will all be properly taught in a specially scheduled and specific way (as handed down from the Mother Covens) in the old arts and will be advised by a personal teacher (Mentor) in tapping into and utilizing this awesome natural power. You may find more information from the Questions & Answers Page (Q & A) to help in matters not discussed here.
Wiccan today are priestesses and priests, initiates to the Ancient Powers and are never laity. They are secretive in their undertakings and do not proselytize, or spend constant hours ‘merely talking’ about it. The basic message is that, what is fundamental to Wicca is the ‘actual doing of it’ and no amount of theorising and intellectualisation can substitute for the actual experience!
Many people today think of Gerald Gardner as the founder of modern Wicca/Witchcraft. He might have been a power in the reformation, but not the ‘founder’ per se. Gardner’s books on Witchcraft published in the mid-twentieth century brought about a growing interest in the Old Religion of pre-Christian Europe.
However, over half a century earlier a man named Charles Godfrey Leland wrote on many of the same topics later popularized by Gerald Gardner. For example, the theme of witches meeting at the time of the full moon, being nude, calling their ways The Old Religion, celebrating with ritual cakes and wine, and worshipping a god and goddess all appear in Leland’s writings on Italian Witchcraft circa 1896.
In the book ARADIA; GOSPEL OF THE WITCHES, published in 1890, we find an interesting passage in the close of chapter one:
“…Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and when the moon is full, ye shall assemble in some desert place, or in a forest all together join to adore the potent spirit of your queen, my mother, great Diana. She who fain would learn all sorcery yet has not won its deepest secrets, them my mother will teach her, in truth all things yet unknown. And ye shall be freed from slavery, and so shall ye be free in everything; and as the sign that ye are truly free, ye shall be naked in your rites, both men and women also…”
It is interesting to note the similarities between this text and the Gardnerian version of the Charge written over half a century later by Doreen Valiente.
In chapter four of his book Gypsy Sorcery & Fortune Telling, published in 1891, Leland makes the earliest connection between Wicca and modern Witchcraft:
“as for the English word witch, Anglo-Saxon Wicca, comes from a root implying wisdom…” Leland’s footnote here reads: “Witch. Mediaeval English wicche, both masculine and feminine, a wizard, a witch. Anglo-Saxon wicca, masculine, wicce feminine. Wicca is a corruption of witga, commonly used as a short form of witega, a prophet, seer, magician, or sorcerer. Anglo-Saxon witan, to see, allied to witan, to know…”
What I find interesting is Leland’s “pre-Gardnerian” reference to Wicca and Witchcraft. Of further interest is the fact that there is no single element of the basic structure of Gardnerian Wicca that cannot be found in Leland’s earlier writings, as noted in the opening of this article.
The only exception would be the clear mention of a ritual circle. However, in the Italian witch-hunters manual (Compendium Maleficarum, 1608) we do find a woodcut of Italian witches gathered in a circle traced upon the ground. Therefore the historical support for this aspect of Italian Witchcraft may have been obvious enough for Leland to have felt no need to address it specifically.
The ancient Roman poet Horace gives us perhaps the earliest accounts of Italian Witches and their connection to a lunar cult. In the Epodes of Horace, written around 30 BC, he tells the tale of an Italian witch named Canidia. Horace says that Proserpine and Diana grant power to Witches who worship them, and that Witches gather in secret to perform the mysteries associated with their worship. He speaks of a Witches’ book of Incantations (Libros Carminum) through which the Moon may be “called down” from the sky. Other ancient Roman writers such as Lucan and Ovid produced works which clearly support the same theme.
This would seem to indicate that during this Era such beliefs about Witches and Witchcraft were somewhat common knowledge. We know from the writings of Roman times that Proserpine and Diana were worshipped at night in secret ceremonies who gather nude to worship a goddess and a God when the moon is full. Diana was a Roman Moon Goddess known earlier in Greece as Artemis; twin sister of Apollo God of the Sun.
We might also carefully consider a book written by Sir James Frazer in 1922 called The Golden Bough . This massive study of the mythological cycle of the Godesses’ lover, the solar God who dies and is reborn, had a huge influence on Margaret Murray, Robert Graves and Gerald Gardner. Of course, all these writers are accused of bias by others, but at least they did dig into this murky path to try and uncover some truths and/or tales of witches during a time when it was still quite dangerous to be tied to in any way.
However, (before I loose my track), coming back to Wicca itself, we must look back firstly, as said above, to Charles Godfrey Leland, who appeared to deeply research and then published a great work on Italian witches and their heritage and current lineage in 1891, (Gypsy Sorcery & Fortune Telling); (later books included Etruscan Magic & Occult Remedies in 1892and Aradia; Gospel of the Witches, in 1899). In fact, many people were actually shocked to find out that Witchcraft was indeed alive and well, while others said he was being joked with.
In 1899 Aliester Crowley is reported to have become a member of one of “Old George Pickingill’s” hereditary covens situated in the New Forrest, although apparently he was not welcome for long, (see ‘Old George Pickingill), who was deemed to be a genuine and powerful old hereditary witch. Once again, we have our cynics that this individual was made up and the photo of him was someone else.
It is alleged however that Crowley obtained his ‘Second Degree’ before being dismissed, due to his contemptuous attitude toward women, failure to attend rituals with regularity, his personal ego and sexual perversion (Crowley had a bias toward homosexuality and the bizarre, shocking during his time even amongst witches). The priestess of his coven later described him as “a dirty-minded, evilly-disposed and vicious little monster!”
The above mentioned great work of Leland was well known to both Aliester Crowley and more importantly in the 1950’s, another man, who claimed to have studied in a Traditional Coven in Highcliffe, (bordering on the New Forest in England), went public, and publicly declared himself a ‘Witch’ and began to gather a group of students and worshipers.
He wrote two very open, but fictional, books, (Modern Witchcraft, Rider, London, 1954 and Witchcraft Today, Rider, London, 1957). He had to write fictional books in fact, as Witchcraft was still against the law in Great Britain at that time, believe it or not. He later published his “Book of Shadows” in collaboration with Doreen Valiente.
This man’s name was indeed Gerald Gardner and the covens that follow the revivalist movement he started call themselves “Gardnerian”. My Nanna, who was of the old traditional ways, (but never ever said she was a witch) introduced me to Gardner on the Isle of Man and sealed my future as it were for always. She, bless her heart, died back in Highcliffe where she had lived for years.
In the 1960’s Alex Sanders and his wife Maxine, broke away from the Gardnerian tradition, surrounded by much controversy and extremely bad feelings. The result of this split was to become the Alexandrian tradition, who adopted a more elaborate form of ritual.
Alex had some wonderful teaching groups on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Notting Hill Gate in London, which I still think of as being tremendous first steps to greatly impact me and other new witches searching for good teaching in those days.
He truly was a good presenter and his knowledge vast. The Alexandrian tradition actually, (to my personal view), owes too much to the ritual magic of “perhaps” Aleister Crowley, the O.T.O. and the Golden Dawn, and other Magickal Societies of the late 19th and early 20th century, while somewhat ignoring the older traditional forms. It was rumoured that Alex had tried to join a Gardnerian Coven without success, but somehow managed to get a Book of Shadows and formed his own Coven. The parts of the BoS that differ are perhaps where Alex lacked the full information and ad-libbed a little, undoubtedly the same as Gardner did himself when constructing his BoS.
In 1962, two of Gardner’s students, Raymond and Rosemary Buckland, (religious names: Lady Rowen and Robat), emigrated to the United States and began teaching Gardnerian Witchcraft there. At the same time, other groups of people became interested through reading books by Gardner and others. Raymond later on went on to found the Seax Wicca.
Over time, the result of course was more and more offshoots spreading and the Traditional Witches became more and more recluse and secretative. Some of the other Wiccan paths, besides Stregheria Witchcraft, and of course Gardnerian and Alexandrian, include Algard, Celtic, Dianic, Faery, Pow-Wow, Feminist, Eclectic, Frost Wicca, Hasidic, and Seax, besides many Other Wicca paths or even as a Solitary Witch.
There are other forms too, mostly in the United States where all religious groups can register as a “church” and receive tax advantages. This has led to much more openness than in Britain and Europe, but has certianly casused discontent in other circles due to the dogma attached to it all. Certainly groups in the UK and USA have jumped on the money train and tried to make a business out of it.
However, Gardnerian Wicca is still thought of as the “original” ‘modern day’ witchcraft though and has remained somewhat traditional in itself, since Gardner introduced it, (after the Repeal of the Witchcraft Act (Law) in Great Britain in 1951).
Under the Coven of Cythrawl, we follow the basics of the original Gardnerian Wicca, as was handed down through ritual to me, so that members have a linage if they wish. It is not important to try to learn all the other different forms of Wicca, but it is good to understand who and what they are and just to be aware they actually exist. After all we are all perhaps quite eclectic when coming to practice and go with the flow. We work on many more traditional forms too and feel both comfortable and happy doing this. After all, it is the journey and results that matter – the actual doing….
As I’ve just said, the form of the “Old Ways” taught and practiced in the Wiccan group Coven within the overall Coven of Cythrawl is predominantly, although not exclusively, the rosey path of the Wiccan. Nowadays, most groups have adopted a mixture of Alexandrian and Gardnerian and perhaps many others too.
Of course, the argument still goes on as to the Gardnerian Wicca being a figment of Gardner’s imagination and perhaps more to the point, a figment of Doreen Valiente’s imagination, but a read of old books, historical findings and especially Charles Godfrey Leland’s works will quickly show that a lot of it “already existed” and certainly the roots of the Charge of the Goddess, (which Doreen Valiente elaborated and added to) have been in existence for ‘apparent’ millennia.
Others still refute that much of it was simply made up and many traditional Gardnerians have over the years, traced Gerald Gardner’s evidence as to actually originally originating and coming from an old family Traditional Witchcraft Coven, (with a history from European Ancient Witchcraft), as he said it did; and many have subsequently written about it to dispel that it was only adapted during modern times. Perhaps you may wish to read the new book by Philip Heselton, called “Wiccan Roots” for a very interesting read on this subject. It’s certainly worth the time spent.
What is extremely valuable in Leland’s book Aradia; Gospel of the Witches is that we find a very interesting view of ‘pre-Gardnerian Witchcraft’ in Italy. Leland gives an account of Witches who gathered nude to worship a goddess and a God when the moon is full. During this celebrate they enjoy cakes and wine, and they sing, dance and make love.
For those readers who believe that Gardner invented these concepts, bear in mind that this was written in 1890, over half a century before Gardner’s writings and don’t forget the ancient Roman poet Horace who wrote about perhaps the earliest accounts of Italian Witches around 30 BC doing absolutely the same !!
This goes to show that, although conflicting disputes, there there might be more than a little truth in it all. We can’t always be so negative – what’s the point? It takes away the beauty and power in out workings. But pedantics will always find some dispute and this discussion will no doubt never end, (and perhaps the truth lay somewhere in the middle), but we can still carry on in the belief that in following Gardnerian Wicca Craft, we are being inducted into one of the oldest forms of Wiccan Witchcraft and certainly the original of the modern times. (This does not count existing Traditional Witchcraft, that differs from Wicca, and has been handed down, (without break) from generations and through the millennia). All are generally called the Old Religion, whatever form of Witchcraft one follows.
It must be said though, that personal bias and beliefs must not interfere with Wiccacraeft. Many covens in fact, were spontaneously formed over this century, using rituals perhaps created from a combination of research and individual inspiration. These self-created covens are today regarded as just as valid as those who can trace a “lineage” of teaching back to England in some people’s eyes.
Paganism however, is a path for individualists, searchers after truth, delving into the Otherworlds and ‘rediscovering’ the Ancient Powers and the Ancient Ways.
We cannot be restrained by the tight straitjacket of rules and dogma that persecute and unnaturally bind adherents, as in many other religions. Basically, we are sort of free thinkers finally showing our faces after centuries of persecution and ridiculous dogma, that was perpetuated through fear and power.
In Wicca and in Paganism generally, THERE IS NO DOGMA ! Reality is too complex to be confined in simplistic rules and dogma ! All paths lead to the centre and we still do not understand most of what science sees, (perceives) but cannot yet explain.
There are as many forms of Witchcraft, as there are Witches, and the various groupings are fairly arbitrary. We each know from experience that our own particular path works. And we know from other witches that their paths work too! Therefore, so be it.
Wiccan in general, worship the sacred as immanent in Nature, often personified as Mother Earth and Father Sun or Sky. As polytheists, Wiccan may use many other names for Deity as well, more often than not always reverting to a God and Goddess as the all encompassing powers of dominion; the Yin and the Yang.
Individuals will often choose Goddesses or Gods from any of the world’s pantheons whose stories are particularly inspiring and use those Deities as a focus for personal devotions. Similarly, covens will use particular Deity names as a group focus, and these are often held secret by the groups. We all come from the Goddess.
Wiccan employ many means to reach the “cone of power” and/or a “gnosis”, or “the direct perception of the Void” for all intents and purposes, whether using the Elements and/or the Working Tools of Witchcraft. It might be thought of as the state when the discursive mind shuts down, leaving an unfiltered access to the subconscious, such as dance, chant, creative visualization and hypnosis to focus and direct psychic energy for the purpose of healing, protecting and aiding members in various endeavors. Such assistance is also extended to non-members upon request.
Actually, this “gnosis” as Chaotes define it, is one of the the authentic and pragmatic keys to making “magick” truly work and is the REAL ability to achieve an ALTERED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS and thus POWER RAISING.
But not just any old altered state will do, it is actually quite precise, yet equally difficult to attempt to imply, define and of course, teach. That is the main problem in magickal traditions, it, (the truth, secret, or whatever you want to call “it”), must come by working at “it” and when you get “it”, you will know “it”, and then find that you too cannot define or explain “it”.
This is the crux and bane of magickal tradition and expresses most succinctly the insurmountable difficulty throughout the ages in the successful transmission of the “secrets” of magick and witchcraft.
It also explains why there seem to be so many styles, forms, sects and beliefs, (in that very impossibility of explaining the unexplainable and subsequently being perceived and practiced by every individual, as they “received it”).
One can in fact, only point the direction, show the way and act as guide. You cannot be “told it”, no more than you can be shown “the” secret. No-one is “the” guru, we are all, and remain, seekers on an everlasting journey, mostly all of us at different places, different junctures and different stages in our life(s).
Wicca is a personal and very much a “participant doing” activity and is of course, a way of life. Wicca is “doing” ritual, “doing” inner workings, “doing” magick, “doing” spiritual ceremonies and “following actively” the wheel of the year. It is “not” a talkers religion, it is a “doers” way of life.
To quote a new book recently published, “Unless a witch is willing to take initiation when the “magick calls”, and to “actively”, “consciously”, and with free will, “walk across the line” to live IN the world, but not OF it, and to take the oaths of a priestess or priest, then the line is not crossed. The power will withdraw because it knows the witch is not yet ready. ‘Some other time!’ it seems to say.”
There will always be the talkers and the doers in anything in life, but who really gains the real insight and satisfaction of doing, rather than merely copying and reciting someone else’s experiences, perceptions and views. Think about it – it can’t be done!
The basic message is that, what is fundamental to Wicca is the actual doing of it and no amount of theorising and intellectualisation can substitute for the actual experience !
The beauty of Wicca, is that it allows and promotes the ‘inner journey’ to its fullest by way of ritual and magickal workings in a way of living for the moment.
So many people are driven relentlessly to a goal or nebulous tomorrow, (and there’s nothing wrong with having attainable goals in which hard work will ultimately realize), but most people are forgetting that it is often the journey that really counts and is all we’ve actually got, at the present.
Living within the arms of Mother Nature is indeed a wonderful way and there’s so many things that we don’t, and probably never can, fully comprehend, but in a personal journey; you may “feel it” deeply within yourself.
One cannot simply explain the deep mysteries that you would experience within Wicca; therefore, our rituals have always been enacted in full, so that you would actually live the experience in your own way, which is invoked and activated by effective ritual.
As in anything deeply mystical or magickal, the meaning cannot be simply communicated intellectually; it has to work through an analogous process within the individual; a stream of symbols, images and experiences, rather than a mere explanation.
This above mentioned required mental shift or gnosis, has been called many names throughout history, such as Samadhi by the yogis, jnara by the Tantrists, “awake” by the Sufi Muslims. It has been referred to as the Naugul by the South American Sorcerers, the Abyss, the crack between worlds.
The ancient Greeks and Romans used this power raising too in similar ways. In keeping with the traditions of the old Gnostic sects, this state has come to be called by many occultists as gnosis and witches can still talk about the state in many ways, albeit a definite ALTERED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS, whatever it is called.
This gnosis is also called ‘Raising Power’ and is achieved in many different ways, some better than others. When a magickal ritual is performed, regardless of `tradition’ or other variables in the elements of performance, a powerful magical energy is created and put into motion to cause something to happen.
The power of real magick cannot be found in a recipe book. If it were only that easy! Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely and a great pity that one will stumble upon the hidden grimoire or mystic amulet that will instantly grant one “magical powers”. The ability to perform real magic is attained only through diligent practice, hard work and inner inspiration”.
If you study the traditions of magic over the centuries, you might notice that certain forms and procedures appear over and over. So if you strip away the outer symbolism and only retain that which is repeated across these many systems, you might be surprised to find these “strange attractors” which point to an underlying basic principle.
It is reasonable to assume that these procedures/rites and rituals arise for the same reason that any intelligent being who uses geometry will probably stumble across the value of “pi” sooner or later. It’s something actually integral to the nature of the known and unknown forces, human mind/body and the reality we find ourselves in at the “time”.
Like many other skills, the serious art of magick skills could be construed as a “knack” perhaps. An art that is learned all in one! For instance, you cannot ‘half’ meditate, or ‘nearly’ ride a bicycle, or even ‘just about’ swim.
In each case, there is a state of “not being able to”, and then, albeit badly at first perhaps, the actual ability to meditate, swim, or ride a bike. Practice makes perfect and Wiccan Magick, like all others, takes right action, determination, perseverance, and more actual practice.
As said earlier, you will not suddenly receive this skill by the grace of a magick grimoire, or magickal passing from a magi to a student. It takes hard work – actual work being the the definitive word. This is the real secret!
The most common experience of gnosis and subsequent power raising to the average person can be achieved in many different ways and accounts for the many different styles of “bringing on this state” and in their own way of ‘raising the power’ of sorcerers’ around the world.
It can be achieved in dancing, whether in wild abandon, or in ever increasing speed of mundane dance. It can be achieved with shaking the head, the body and many other physically dynamic and oft disorientating movements, purposeful and powerful chanting and even the pointedness and pure abandon of a powerful sexual orgasm.
In other words, at the peak of the raising of power, the mind essentially stops thinking, and the consciousness is focused on a single point in space-time. This will all be of no avail however, if the magician does not then know how to properly and ‘firmly direct’ this extreme charge of dynamic power that has been charged and suitably brought to a dramatic end and then must be abandoned to do its work.
Hence when a circle of skyclad or loosely robed dancers gyrates in a Wiccan ceremony, the power flowing from their bodies, along with any power of chanting or other power raising forms, rises upwards towards the centre of the Circle forming a cone-shape, which is called the CONE OF POWER.
This power is directable by the ‘concentrated will’ of those present to carry out the object of the ceremony, by bearing its influence from the physical to more subtle planes of the universe, where the power of will and imagination can, in turn, affect the physical plane again and influence material events.
Naturally, a magician has to be able to have many other methods of achieving gnosis and raising power at their command and the development of many other techniques to attain and control the “pent up” and potential power when whatever forms are utilized.
Many ways of obtaining this Altered State and cone of power should be looked into by each initiate and experimented with, until each individual has more than a few ways to achieve this necessary gnosis and subsequently find their magick indeed getting stronger and stronger.
Another method utilized by all successful magickal systems is voice and vibration. Initiates in the Coven of Cythrawl also learn ancient “secret” exercises and sounds, or ‘vibrations’, (similar to tantric, yogic and mantra of India) from the Old Europe, where the Old Ways were being followed in earnest. This is the essence of successful chanting.
Recently, the huge earth mounds found dotted around the British Isles and Ireland, home of the Sidhi, were the focus of various experiments in sound(s) and the mound’s ability to amplify certain sounds.
The question has arisen over and over, in so much as were ancient sacred megalithic structures also designed to amplify the sound of drumming during rituals? Recent investigations suggest that these ancient structures possess outstanding acoustic properties.
Tests with audio equipment have shown that the large flat-sided stones, often chosen for inclusion in stone circles were positioned in such a way that sounds generated in the circle were reflected towards the centre. However, it is the Neolithic chambered burial mounds that have the strangest properties.
University of Reading physicist Dr David Keating has noted that despite the variations in sizes of these stone chambers their resonant frequencies are very similar. he concludes that the chambers would have amplified a fast drum beat, producing enhanced sounds and echoes during rituals.
The most effective results would have been obtained by a rhythm of two beats per second. He goes on further to suggest that the chambers were designed to generate an acoustic phenomenon called Helmholtz resonance – the effect produced by blowing across the neck of an empty bottle.
Furthermore, was the fact that the wind and other sounds outside and (perhaps inside) were being amplified also by the round shape and long entrances and other tunnels that lead to the interior, where at the exact centre of the mound, the scientist’s measuring tools picked up a cacophony of sounds and vibrations, (some out of our human hearing range), but never-the-less very much present and huge amounts of low and high frequency sounds were being vibrated and resonated exactly at the centre point.
Of course, we have known for generations that certain vibratory sounds, both audible and inaudible have a great influence on our well-being and state of mind. We seem to have lost so much over the ages of enforced zealous religious dogma that we live in and must be patient, but persistent in re-discovering and utilizing these ancient secrets once again. see http://www.leyhunter.com/new/new15.htm and http://www.leyhunter.com/new/acoust.htm
There is certainly power in the voice, or vocal sounds, and not a single religious or mystical practice throughout the world has failed to take advantage of this fact, magickal systems included.
The most famous of all meaningful vibratory sounds, being the inexplicable and mysterious Sanskrit word, “Om” or “Aum”, used by many ancient mystical schools across central and Eastern Asia. (The meaning of which is inexplicable and unknowable).
Vibrations, out of the range of normal hearing and from various sources have been the focus of many scientific research over the years and only recently, strange phenomena are coming to light, like the fascinating and exquisite geometrical shape formed by the vibrations of the word “Om”.
In fact, so many ancient, secret magical and mystical texts from around the world, one will encounter again and again the term ‘vibrate’ being used to describe some kinds of vocalization. (“Vibrate the following words of power…”, etc.)
In mundane terms, what is being described is the entire human body’s ability to actually RESONATE “sympathetically” with the voice and/or other vibratory sounds present, and the sensory effects that can be experienced by doing so is far deeper than we can ever know. Perhaps the “secret” of Magic Words is this: it doesn’t matter what you say as much as it matters, how you say it!
Let’s now look the Power of Symbols. As well as clever manipulation of symbols by one person on another, it could be argued that some symbols have an arcane power in themselves.
To speak psychology, a neat parallel might be Jung’s notion of our interpretation of certain symbols being ingrained in the collective unconscious, through repetition over generations. The issue of whether a symbol can contain some “innate power” in its form alone, could be argued at length of course.
If you get nothing more from the concepts explained in this section, than the following elucidation, it will have been worth the time of reading so far. That is; The most important thing about sigil magic is that — it works!
The conscious mind is not directly capable of performing magic in its conscious self and the truth be known, it actually INHIBITS magic. Therefore, the subconscious mind must have the magical “INTENT” implanted in it somehow, so that it can “UNCONSCIOUSLY” manipulate “aetheric” information to bring about the DESIRED result.
Not only is this the basic theory model of the function of sigil magic, but it can be used to model any form of effective magical technique. Chinese Taoist magic utilizes entirely sigil magic in the writing of their “Fu” (magic paper) and the secret, (illegible) writing in one spot to complete the spell.
South American Shamanistic sorcery also obviously involves direct interface with the magician’s subconscious, breaking down the barriers by extreme disciplines and psychoactive drugs.
Complex systems of ceremonial magic can be effective, but only if the subconscious mind is trained to recognize the symbolism of the system and act on it’s linguistics UNCONSCIOUSLY. The adept \then uses the tools of their system to formulate effective magical procedures.
This explains the long apprenticeships and intense religious instruction that characterizes many of the traditions of the world, such as Witchcraft, Druidism and many others from around the world.
There is no inherent magical “power” in these particular set of symbols; it is only the subconscious manipulation of whatever symbols are chosen that make them magical and cause the effect.
However, of course, all the various magickal systems of the world in all the thousands of generations, it was obviously more magically effective (and the only recognizable method) for the aspiring student of the system to accept the dogma of its tradition from the gurus and high priests — that their symbol-set was inherently magical — without question! Plus that it would provide the REQUIRED “belief-state” to make it work!
As Witches, we substitute “meta-belief” technique and ancient and inherited models. of Religious acceptance and carried out with PASSIONATE PERFORMANCE that taps into the “unconscious archetypes” that underlie ALL the religious symbolism of humanity.
By the use of ACTIVE IMAGINATION, and certain “slight-of-mind” tricks such as “sigils”, we are able to breach the barriers of the subconscious by ‘guile, not by force, or by siege (as in traditional ceremonial magic.)
In general terms, a sigil is a glyph or symbol with mystical or magical significance. Methods originated by many magickians over the centuries never exactly revealed how the concept of sigil magic came about, but suffice to say that is was done throughout the world from China, Middle East, Ancient Europe to South and North America and still is.
The published works of Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung might have provided the theoretical foundation for the “subliminal” nature of sigil workings; that between the conscious and unconscious (or subconscious) mind there stands a “safety valve”, a filter that suppresses all non-logical thoughts and impressions, and lends towards successful magick.
Of course, we know that the Chinese have been carrying out sigil magick for thousands of years, as have many of the Traditional Witchcraft sects of Ancient Britain and Europe. India had similar magickal practices, and to this day, remain highly secret in underground traditional sects.
Sigil Magic uses the glyphs as a means to bridge the gap between the “conscious” and “subconscious” mind. Based on ancient traditional talismans from the Ancient Witches through to the Druids practicing before Christ, it also compares in some respects to the “talisman magic” of the middle to late ages in Europe and Britain, in which predetermined symbols (such as planetary or astrological ones) were used to embellish a physical device that would encompass the “power” represented by those symbols. Generally, the talisman is subsequently carried by the user as a “charm”, much as the talismans still utilized by traditional witchcraft today.
In contrast, a sigil is a customized tool designed to bring about a specific effect, and it’s physical basis is only used once at the time of the subconscious implantation, after which it is generally (although not always) destroyed. The Chinese burn their sigils (talismans) and then will drink the ashes in a drink to ensure the spell is totally consumed.
The great advantage of sigil magic is that no particular belief-set is needed to work with it; and there are no special tools or equipment needed beyond a brush, pencil and paper, and even these can be abandoned by the adept practitioner. The final statement being once again, is that “It works!”
We also learn in the Coven of Cythrawl about other forms of mental shifting, such as by hypnosis and alpha meditation, as well as the more ancient and arcane Indian and Taoist yogic meditations themselves.
Our adepts learn in “Pathworking” to go to a secret place that they build in their minds while in a deepened and more receptive state and during this Guided Imagery, they can successfully carry out many wonderful phenomenon, such as healing themselves and others, and are also able to carry out many remarkable magical manifestations that cannot be otherwise explained.
They are able to receive answers to complex questions and see into the past and the future. A connection perhaps, with the “universal mind” and/or other realms and dimensions is achieved, yet these remarkable phenomenon cannot be put into plain words, or explained in mundane terms, now or ever.
The important factor is to know that ‘it works!’ And that… is what is important to us! ‘Pathworking’ remains an important and extremely powerful tool that all initiates learn early on in the magickal training with the Coven of Cythrawl.
Most Covens have a handwritten collection of rituals and lore, known as a ‘Book of Shadows’ and part of the tradition of Witchcraft and the religious education of a new initiate member is to hand copy this book for themselves.
Then over the years, as greater inspiration comes, they will write in new material of their own and thereby practiced; but the book will be ritually destroyed upon their death. Thus a tradition is maintained throughout time. Of course, access to these books is strictly limited to initiated members of the coven and is considered holy and secret.
Many, but not all, Wiccan believe in reincarnation. Some take this as a literal description of what happens to people when they die. For others, it is a symbolic model that helps them deal with the cycles and changes within this life. Neither Reincarnation nor any other literal belief can be used as a test of an individual’s validity as a member of the Old Religion.
The religion does not dictate either position, but requires each member to thoughtfully and meditatively examine her or his own conscience and to live by it. Social forces around the world, force covens to not yet generally advocate that their members publicly declare their beliefs, usually because of fear in the loss of jobs, child custody challenges, ridicule, etc.
Prejudice against Wiccan, a shame to say in these modern times, still do exist. Unfortunately it is usually the result of rather narrow minds, with usually a lack of freedom of choices, but in the main; it is accompanied by a particularly obnoxious and vigorous dogma from someone else’s religious or belief system, that obligatory forces its own will and perceptions upon its followers as the only truth that exists, or could ever exist.
Of course, no truly level thinking person could ever consider and condone such bigotry, prejudice and intolerance in a free and democratic society of “thinkers” of the twenty first century. But alas, it still happens.
Concealment and secrecy therefore, is a Wiccan defense against persecution of any form. It always has and probably always will. Remember this for the future.
Practices and beliefs of Wicca
Most Witches perform rituals to mark natural transitions, such the lunar phases, equinoxes, solstices, and traditional agrarian festivals. Witches use ritual to attune to natural rhythms, honor life transitions, and give thanks for the bounty of the Earth.
Rituals usually involve the consecration of space (usually a circle or sphere), honoring of the Four Elements, invocation of deities, utilizing the Tools of Witchcraft and finishing with a wine and cakes. While it was once considered essential to be initiated by and practice within a coven (a group of 3-13 members), there is now widespread acceptance of self-initiated “solitaries” in the Craft.
Within the Circle, power is raised through meditation, chants, drumming, dance, or song. This power is used for healing or other forms of magic. Additional activities in the Circle include divination, praying, the reading of poetry, or enacting dramas (often retellings of ancient myths).
Witches are initiated as priests or priestesses of Wicca; Witches participate in religious ritual without a middleman. Most Witches, to one degree or another, believe divinity resides within and can be accessed through the self, and respect one another accordingly.
Witchcraft is a dynamic, demanding spiritual path, based in personal growth, natural rhythms, and an intense relationship with Divinity. Healing the self, the community, and the Earth, Witches are making positive contributions to create a healthier world.
Wiccan celebrate eight festivals, called “Sabbats,” as a means of attunement to the seasonal rhythms of Nature.
The word Sabbat by the way, comes from the root word “sabbatu” and is derived from ancient Assyrian rites observing the New Moon, the seventh, fourteenth, and twenty-first days of the cycle, corresponding to the Goddess’ menstrual cycle. Both the Christian and Jewish terms; sabbath and the pagan Sabbat find their origins in sabbatu. Nowadays, the Sabbats represent the great fire festivals and Esbats are the moon’s.
These Sabbats are:
February 2nd [Called Imbolg or Oimelc, Brigit, or Christian – Candlemas], Birth, A Fire Festival
March 21st [Eostre – Spring Equinox], A Solar Festival (Equal days & nights) (Air)
April 30th [Beltane – Walpurgis – May Eve], Sex & Fertility, A Fire Festival
June 21st [Litha or Summer Solstice], A Solar Festival (Fire)
August 1st [Lughnasadh – Lunasa – Lammas], Harvest , A Fire Festival
September 21st [Mabon, or Autumn Equinox], A Solar Festival (Equal days & nights) (Water)
October 31st [Samhain, or Hallowe’en], Death, A Fire Festival
December 21st [Yule – Winter Solstice], A Solar Festival – Birth of the Sun (Earth)
The Solar Festivals are called the “Greater Sabbats” and the Fire Festivals are called the “Lesser Sabbats”. The Full Moon rituals are called the Esbats. Some covens will meet for worship at each Full Moon, and many will also meet on the New, or Dark Moons too. Meetings for study will usually be scheduled at any time convenient to the members, and any extra rituals can be scheduled whenever there is a need, such as the requirement for a healing, spell work or other cause, found worthy to the Coven.
Some groups find meetings within a few days of those dates to be acceptable, others require the precise date. In addition, most groups will meet for worship at each Full Moon, and many will also meet on the New Moon.
Meetings for religious study will often be scheduled at any time convenient to the members, and rituals can be scheduled whenever there is a need, (i.e. for a healing). Ritual jewelry is particularly important to many Wiccan.
Learn more about the Sabats and Pagan Wheel of the Year.
One can often recognize Wiccan by the Ritual jewelry they often times appear to wear. Many Wiccan, for example wear a simple Pentacle, or perhaps a Goddess pendant, as a token of their devotion and sometimes as a Talisman. You may find more information from the Questions & Answers Page (Q & A) to help in matters not discussed here.
It was traditional in the older days to write one’s Book of Shadows in Theban script, which became known as the Script of Wiccan, although in modern times it is far easier to write in plain language for ease of ritual and study. For anyone wishing to learn, or use Theban Script, you will find the coding here. (Theban Script).