Category Archive for 'Paganism and Spirituality'

Pluto square natal Pluto and the Neptune-Pluto sextile

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Note for the beginner astrologer, you may need to read up on transits first and review how to interpret your natal horoscope to understand this blog entry.

Pluto square natal Pluto occurs earlier than many astrologers thought it would. In some of the older astrological texts, it is written that Pluto won’t square your natal Pluto until at least age 40. In another, it says the earliest is age 36. Well, my generation got those astrologers beat, as Pluto squared my natal Pluto when I was 32. (Astrologers are supposedly stargazers, but I’ve often thought some didn’t spend much time with astronomy. If they did, perhaps they could have predicted this early Pluto square natal Pluto.)

Pluto is currently at 29 degrees 5 minutes Sagittarius, retrograding to 28 degrees 30 minutes on September 29th this year then moving direct again. Additionally, Pluto and Neptune have been in sextile aspect since approximately 1940. Anyone born after that time will already have a Neptune-Pluto sextile in their natal horoscopes, indicating a near universal attraction to spiritual pursuits and matters of the subconscious and unconscious mind. If you were born between 1970 and 1974, you may be feeling the effects of Pluto making a square transit to your natal Pluto, also reinforcing the Neptune-Pluto sextile since this aspect is still a transiting one. In your natal chart, this means that you would have Pluto located in late Virgo to early Libra. As Pluto is currently in retrograde motion until September 29th this year, this means that the Pluto square should affect those with a natal Pluto at about 24 or 25 degrees Virgo (assuming an orb of four or five degrees for the transiting influence). For those readers who don’t know anything about their horoscope, you may get your horoscope done at www.astro.com for free and quickly look to see what degree and sign Pluto is in. Those with natal Pluto in late Virgo should be feeling the final effects of the transiting Pluto square as Pluto retrogrades and then moves direct later this autumn. For those with natal Pluto in early Libra, the effects of the transiting Pluto square are just getting started. The full effects of any transiting planetary aspect to your chart occurs when the transiting planet makes an exact aspect. The duration of this transiting Pluto aspect is roughly six years give or take a few depending on whether or not Pluto has a few more retrograde cycles. The six-year estimate I’m giving here for this transit is based on my personal chart, which shows that transiting Pluto will be square my natal Pluto for at least another three or four years (depending on the orb you are assuming for the transiting effects – I think my astrology program has set the orb for squares at 7 degrees). According to my astrology program, the Pluto square my natal Pluto started near the beginning of 2006.

What does this mean though? Pluto in the horoscope represents long-term changes, it deals with the subconscious and the unconscious mind, and it also relates to power and control. Pluto’s location in the natal horoscope shows how a person deals with change, how they view power and control, and the nature of their subconscious and unconscious mind. As I mentioned, everyone born since approximately 1940, already has a Neptune-Pluto sextile indicating a near universal attraction to spiritual pursuits and matters of the subconscious and unconscious mind. How someone deals with this natal aspect depends on if the Neptune-Pluto sextile is aspected by any of the faster-moving planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – also considered the traditional astrological planets). Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto are slow-moving planets, which is why the influences of these planets or aspects between them are considered to be generational influences.

Having established what Pluto means in your chart, the transiting Pluto making a square to your natal Pluto means that changes will be occurring during this time and you will be inclined to some inner-soul searching. What kind of changes and how you deal with them depends again on other factors in your chart, notably whether or not the transiting Pluto and accompanying Neptune sextile are aspected by any of the faster-moving planets. Some astrologers may also feel that the Pluto square your natal Pluto has no effect unless there is an aspect to any of the faster-moving planets. I am of the opinion that it affects you regardless, but that any aspects to any of the faster-moving planets will indicate how you should deal with the Pluto square natal Pluto and the reinforcing of the Neptune-Pluto sextile.

Using my own personal horoscope to illustrate, my natal chart has the generational Neptune-Pluto sextile, but this sextile is influenced by Jupiter making a trine to Pluto and a sextile to Neptune. Jupiter in my chart is in Aquarius and in Jupiter’s own house, the 9th. This very likely indicates my interest in occult philosophy and studies. Because we are dealing with Pluto making a tough transit to my natal Pluto, let’s see if there are an easy aspects in my natal chart. There is one, Neptune sextile the Sun. This would give my core personality a little bit of a dreamy quality, make me somewhat drawn to fantastical ideas. For me, this actually makes me love watching fantasy or sci-fi movies or shows. So, this is one way of coping with the Pluto square my natal Pluto. Compounding this is the Neptune-Pluto sextile because Neptune as it turns out is transiting my Midheaven (MC). In fact, it has passed my MC and then went retrograde. It’s going to retrograde and cross backwards over my MC on my birthday. (Eek!) I’ve managed to determine that Neptune’s transit has affected my career and life goals. In fact, this transit makes someone who was sure about their life path start to question everything. It may also bring to light any false spiritual teachers. Funny enough, I decided to drop my spiritual studies at a church (not that my teacher was “false” in any way, it just wasn’t for me) and I have just gone through some major changes in my life, but it is most notable that my spiritual life has changed (aside from doing things with my boyfriend, I’m pretty much a solitary pagan again). Because Neptune was causing so much uncertainty and casting some illusions in my natal horoscope and because I happen to like fantasy and sci-fi, as it turned out, I was happiest during this Pluto transit watching sci-fi shows and various movies that pulled me into a different world than this. Granted, continual escapism isn’t a good thing. All things in moderation right? Luckily for me, I was able to draw on my natal Saturn to help me through this transit too. In my natal chart, Saturn and Pluto are square to each other. This helps me deal with change responsibly. Pluto means change and Saturn means responsible. Saturn is also in my first house, which indicates that at the core, I’m quite responsible. Thus, I wouldn’t be caught in continual escapism. I would always deal with reality, but of course, on my own terms. Because of all the changes going on in my life and that I wanted to take responsibility for my life, I went through old notes and papers, and boxes of stuff that needed to be sorted through for a while now. There was a lot that was no longer needed or useful to me because of my life changes. In the end, I must have recycled 30 plus reams of paper. I also put some things away and re-organized some of my personal keepsakes. (I really need a nice chest for this stuff.) I have to say having done all this has helped me move on with the changes that have happened so far in my life. Magically speaking the physical clearing out of outdated, needless stuff helps clear things out mentally and spiritually. I felt afterwards that I was more able to concentrate and work on the things I needed to work on now. I should also note that Pluto is recently trine to my natal Mars, which explains why I would feel it is easier to take action now to help facilitate any changes needed.

Having looked at how the Pluto and Neptune transits affects your natal horoscope, you should also look at all the transits occurring. Some days I noticed it was easier to leave my “bubble” because the moon was making positive aspects to my natal horoscope that would offset the effects of the Pluto square natal Pluto and the Neptune on my MC. The moon transits really do make a difference. Pleasant Venus transits to your natal chart will help you deal with others, and easy Mercury transits will help you communicate during this Pluto transit.

So, if you’re going through this Pluto square natal Pluto thing, don’t despair, just hold on and be patient. Sometimes change is for the better. If you have to deal with other people on a day-to-day basis, let them know to be patient with you and that you may be going through a rough time (depending on whether or not this transit affects your fast-moving planets in your natal horoscope, but you don’t have to tell them that). Look carefully at your natal chart and see if there are ways to deal with the effects of Pluto in a pleasant way.

I hope this has helped clear up any anxieties about this Pluto transit. “The only constant is change.”

~~~C

The Ms. Conover issue – update #2

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Many people are still unclear about this not necessarily being a human rights issue (as posted below). Today, I posted the following comment on my own facebook note to help clarify:

The following excerpt from the OHRC website may make things clearer:

“You have the right to be free from discrimination that is:

* in a specific social area such as jobs, housing and services, and

* because of a ground protected by the Code, such as race, handicap or sex.

Your rights under the Code are not violated if you only have a social area or only have a ground. For example, the Code does not apply if a stranger on the street insults you by making a racist comment because this did not happen in a specific social area. The Code will also not apply if you feel you are being treated differently in your job due to a personality conflict with your manager because there is no ground.”

(source: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/resources/Guides/
GuideHRcode2?page=GuideHRcode2-PART.html#Heading53):

Based on this, I would say Ms. Conover only has a ground (religious practices and beliefs) and not necessarily a social area (such as employment).

Additionally, I’ve addressed the idea that since the pageant is a public event, then this is a human rights violation by not allowing Ms. Conover to be a judge. Here were my comments on this:

No one’s disputing Ms. Murray’s actions. What you have to understand is that it is not a “public service”, which is a service offered through a governmental body or agency (a few examples would be government housing and employment insurance). Therefore, it does not necessarily fall under a human rights violation. The fact that the event is offered to the general populace and takes place in a public venue does not mean it is a “public service”. (Many people often confuse the meaning of “public” as it is used to refer to some businesses – not all businesses are “public corporations” – as well as government services.)

Again, I must state that being invited to be a pageant judge is not the same as being hired. It is as yet unclear if she was being offered a job or simply being asked to attend as a “honoured judge”, the latter being cited in news sources as the case.

Here’s clarification on the meaning of the word “public” as it is used in different legal contexts:

1) public service – refers to a service offered through the government, whether municipal, provincial, or federal

2) public corporation – refers to a business that has become “incorporated” (incorporation gives a business certain rights, one of which is that the incorporation is considered a “person” under the law) and has offered shares of the corporation to public

Not all corporations are public as not all offer shares to the public. Where a business becomes incorporated and does not offer its shares to the public, it is a “private corporation”.

Non-profit organizations (NPOs) may become incorporated. They do not offer shares to the public, though they may provide services to the public. They operate slightly differently and are governed by a different statute than profit corporations . Some people mistakenly call NPOs “public organizations”, which is not a useful term.

The Ms. Conover issue – update

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

This is a follow up to “Human rights or not – reactions to the Ms. Conover issue”.

“Local witches are fired up and ready to picket
in support of Miss Toronto Tourism Pageant judge ousted for Wiccan beliefs”

Ms. Murray is going to have a rude awakening.

Though I wonder if in some way this is adding more fuel to the fire that originally sparked Ms. Murray to write a nasty mean letter to Ms. Conover regarding her hobbies, reiki and tarot card reading. While I agree that what Ms. Murray wrote to Ms. Conover was bigoted, we must realize that although the letter has been made “public”, it was a private letter to begin with. Much as I support the cause of religious freedom, a cause dear and near to the hearts of my pagan/Wiccan acquaintances, I also support all forms of human rights. Ms. Murray has the inalienable right to express her opinion, which she did (although in one of the more nasty ways possible towards a Wiccan) in her originally-private-made-public letter to Ms. Conover. If we as a society are going to vouch for one form of human right, we must also hold to other forms as well. Otherwise, why bother having them? Sadly, this does mean that in private correspondence, Ms. Murray can write what she wishes, even mean and nasty words. Had she gone and written this on a public message board forum or blog, there may have been more legal recourse possible. This is not the case. Ms. Murray’s letter was originally private. (At this point, I must ask, “How did the letter become public? Who made the letter public?”)

Returning back to the fire… clearly Ms. Murray has strong opinions against reiki (though I feel I must state here that there are Christians who also do reiki; “Ms. Murray if you happen to read this perhaps you should do some research before you start venting your views”) and tarot card reading. Clearly, she lacks knowlege of what is really involved in either of those practices. That being said, would picketing her precious little pageant change anything? Not sure. She may very well be one of those die-hard (emphasis on “die”) Christians who relish the thought of being a martyr for their god. For all we know, this is her biggest battle and it’s her chance to show her faithful duty to her god. Lovely. Then what we have is another Christian martyr for others like her to look up to. The flip side, of course, is that pagans/Wiccans and most sane people out there will think Ms. Murray is well… just a little insane (not that people don’t already think she is).

In any case, what I see here is something spiralling hopefully not out of control – yet. Let’s hope it doesn’t.

In the meantime, I choose to sit back and let my dear friends do what they must do. I must do what I must do. I believe in human rights. This means that I must see both sides of this issue and I cannot take sides. Doing so would mean that I believe that one human right (right to freedom of religious choice) outweighs another (right to freedom of opinion), which is not the case. I believe in both equally. (Think about it? I’m a pagan who also loves writing!)

Here’s hoping that something good comes out of all this and not the scenario I presented above. Mediators be ready, this is a tough one.

Human rights or not – reactions to the Ms. Conover issue

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

This is my facebook status recently, “Well, much as it sucks for Ms. Conover, being an invitee to be a pageant judge isn’t a human right like employment. Question: Were they hiring her???”

Such is the heart of the issue. Was she being hired? Sadly, many Wiccans and pagans do not understand what constitutes a human right and what doesn’t. Employment is deemed a human right because without employment a person would starve and their life would be in ruins. Being a invitee to an event, however, is not a human right. It’s a privilege. It is an honour to be invited to an event. Unfortunately, it was an honour that the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant didn’t want to bestow on Stephanie Conover because she practices reiki and reads tarot cards. As it turns out, Ms. Conover is a Wiccan. (See link at the end of the blog for the news article regarding Ms. Conover.)

Most pagans and Wiccans know that they have a fundamental freedom to follow any religious belief system they choose and have a right to practice their faith so long as it does not condone acts which infringe on others’ human rights. However, many do not know what exactly constitutes a human right, nor have they taken the time to understand human rights – something they are quite fond of talking about when they perceive an “injustice” against their religious beliefs. This is, to my chagrin, the case with many pagans I know. It saddens me in many ways. People overall have a tendency to react without thinking when something feels like a personal attack. Religious beliefs are very personal. Thus, people react without thinking when something feels like an attack on their religious beliefs. This is what I’ve observed with the Stephanie Conover issue, like similar issues – a reaction based totally on emotion without thought, one that many people simply need to “ride out”.

Then, they try to take me along for the ride. Next, they wonder why I don’t feel like it. Nope. Sorry. Much as I love some of my pagan friends and acquaintances, there’s a bigger issue here for me (as there should be for other pagans), which is representing myself as an intelligent and upstanding pagan and not making a fool of myself by reacting to something without thought. Sadly, I fear that many pagans will be seen as overly emotional and hyper-sensitive about their religion. Others will think that pagans are an overly emotional group of people, and being so overly emotional, they were clearly drawn to paganism simply due to its emotional appeal and without any intellectual basis. Sorry, that’s not me. I have a brain that I use (perhaps too much, some may say 😉 ). It has always been my goal to represent myself as an intelligent person (nevermind pagan), but being that I am pagan… Yes, I suppose I’m trying to represent myself as an intelligent pagan. Hopefully, it’s an example other pagans will follow.

It’s not my intention to give everyone a primer on human rights, but I do think people should try to understand it as best as possible. First, one should read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which governs the United Nations and all its member countries. Canada and the U.S. are members of the United Nations and are therefore governed by the UDHR. Next, one should look for the the relevant federal law covering human rights in their country. In Canada, we have the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which covers the rights of Canadians. You can also read the Wikipedia article on the Charter. Having read both the UDHR and the Charter (if you’re Canadian; I don’t know what laws the U.S. has), you may also want to research Amnesty International, which deals with human rights cases worldwide.

In regards to the Stephanie Conover issue, IF the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant had hired her and then fired her, she would have a human rights case, as it is a human right to not be discriminated against by an employer based on religious beliefs. The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) deals with discrimination and human rights cases. Information regarding religion and human rights can be found on their webpage “Religion and Human Rights”. If, however, Ms. Conover was only extended an “invitation”, there is only so much that can be done legally. Of course, that’s not to say that she may not get an apology from the Miss Toronto Tourism pageant organizers. I believe the human rights tribunal involves mediation and some things may be settled before reaching the tribunal or courts.

In the meantime, well… life moves on. I write this blog hoping that someone will actually understand the thoughts I’m conveying here. I sympathize with Ms. Conover. A snub is a snub is a snub – it stings, then goes away. However, there’s still lots of work to be done if pagans and Wiccans want to be taken seriously and thought of as intellectual and upstanding rather than overly emotional and hyper-sensitive. Understanding human rights and how they actually apply to our religious beliefs and practices is a starting point.

Links: Toronto Star article, “Not in the Cards”

http://torontoist.com/2008/01/miss_toronto_to.php

Wicca Candle Magick by Gerina Dunwich – Book Review

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

Since I recently reviewed two books on candle magic (see the previous one on Natural Magick), I thought I should review this book that I had lying around in my closet. I read this book in my early days of researching witchcraft and Wicca. For the most part, the book is in the format of a “cookbook” where you simply look up something, such as a spell, ritual, or candle colour correspondences. Written in that manner, you can’t argue with the book too much. You either agree with the way the author does things or you don’t. However, I would recommend to readers to see if they can find a reason for the way the author does something. For example, why does the “Ancient Gypsy Love Spell” involve onion or garlic? Essentially, before doing something based on this book, try to understand why it’s done the way it is. I would also recommend that readers think of their own colour correspondences and see if they fit with the author’s. (Perhaps yellow makes you think of love instead of pink?)

There some things I’d like to comment on.

On page 22, the pentacle. The pentacle is a symbol in the shape of a five-pointed star with a circle around it. A pentagram is a five-pointed star. This author makes the common mistake of calling the pentagram (the five-pointed star without a circle) a pentacle. Many people make this mistake these days because of early authors making this mistake. A pentagram is a five-pointed star. A pentacle is a a pentagram surrounded by a circle. If you study the tarot, you may recall the pentacles suit in the Rider-Waite tarot deck. The pentagram always refers to the symbol itself. The pentacle however isn’t just the symbol. The pentacle may also be a circular object with the pentagram inscribed on it, such as a dish or a coin. This an important difference. (Please see Wikipedia articles, “Pentagram” and “Pentacle”.) To further clarify things, a six-pointed star is properly called a “hexagram”, a seven-pointed star is called a “septagram” or “heptagram”, an eight-pointed star is called an “octagram”, and so on. See the pattern here? There is a consistency in the names for the various star symbols so it’s quite easy to remember what they are called. Can you guess what an eleven-pointed star is called? It’s actuallt a hendecagram!

Returning to the pentagram, the five-pointed star, it does not necessarily become a symbol of black magic or Satanism when its top point (the apex) is facing downwards. While it’s true that Satanists use the inverted pentagram as one of their symbols (they also use the inverted Christian cross), the inverted pentagram has other meanings as well. One meaning of the inverted pentagram is a mastering of the elements earth, air, fire, and water. This is in line with the idea that pentagram with its apex pointing up represents spiritual pursuits as the apex itself is associated with spirit while the remaining four points represent each of the elements earth, air, fire, and water.

On page 23, the author discusses the “Eye of Horus” symbol and says that it “represents both solar and lunar energies”. This isn’t entirely accurate. It depends on whether the symbol is the left or the right eye. The left eye of Horus was gouged out at some point. Thus, the empty socket of the left eye is said to represent the moon as the light from that eye is dimmer than the right eye, which is said to represent the sun. The “Eye of Horus” is also called the “Eye of Ra”. (However, since Ra is the Egyptian sun god, the “Eye of Ra” is properly said to be the right eye of Horus.)

Further on page 23, the author states “The triangle, equivalent to the number three (a powerful magickal number) is also a symbol of the Triple Goddess: Mother, Warrior, Crone. Inverted, it represents the male principle.” The commonly known triple aspect of the goddess was written about in D.J. Conway’s book Maiden, Mother, Crone. Maiden, mother, crone is the triplicity you will hear of the most. I have not heard of “mother, warrior, crone” as a triplicity although I suppose it’s possible. Additionally, the upright triangle does not always represent the female. Actually, the upside-down triangle more accurately reflects the female as on the female body the upside-down triangle can be seen by the connection of the female sexual organs. The male is represented by the upright triangle for the same reasons.

The swastika is a controversial symbol because of its associations with the Nazis in Germany prior to and during the second world war. The swastika is indeed a “good luck” symbol and is often considered to be a symbol of a sun wheel representing success. (Yes, the Nazis were likely using it for these reasons). Wikipedia has more information on the swastika that may wish to read about.

On page 30, the “Voodoo-Witch Oil” lists as an ingredient “powdered bat’s skull”? It’s optional for the oil, but where does one get powdered bat’s skull? The author seems to dabble a little in dark magic. Indeed, chapter 8 is “Voudoun Candle Magick”, which is known mostly for its black magic forms. (I personally haven’t worked with Voudoun (also spelt “Voudun”), so I can’t comment on anything the author has written regarding this form of magical practice. If you are drawn to Voudun, I would recommend you undertake your own research.) Additionally, I’m not sure what she is recommending if you were wanting to use animal blood in the oil. I suppose you can go to the butcher and buy some cow blood. I personally can’t prick my own finger or thumb. I’m a bit of a wuss about that. Don’t ask why. I’d much rather punch some pine boards.

Regarding the candle colours for deities listed on pages 36 to 58. I’m not familiar with all these deities, and it is a nice list. I would suggest (only because it’s what I would do!) that readers become familiar with a deity first and decide for themselves which colours to use. Sometimes the colour to use is fairly obvious as in the case of the Celtic war goddess Morrigan. The choice of colour for Morrigan comes straight out of the mythology. Yes, this means read some mythology. Reading and studying mythology is the only way to research deities. Then you can work with them and see what works for you.

Regarding the names of the sabbats, I use the following names – Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Lady Day/Ostara, Beltane, Midsummer, Lughnasadh, and Harvestide. Dunwich uses Candlemas for Imbolc. Candlemas is a conflation of the words “candles” and “mass” (as in a Catholic mass). At some point, witches adopted the Catholic term for Imbolc in order to hide their often labelled heretical practices. Imbolc may also be refered to as St. Brigit’s Day as the Irish Celts celebrated their goddess Brighid on that day. When Christianity arrived in Ireland, worship of the goddess Brighid could not be extinguished. The Christians adopted the festival and simply made claim she was a Christian saint (pretty much as a way to suage pagans to Christianity). Dunwich also uses Lammas for Lughnasadh. Lammas is short for “loaf” and “mass” and has similar origins as Candlemas.

Candle colours for sabbats (see page 33)? My recommendation is the same as for determining candle colours for deities. Research the sabbat. Then decide what theme the sabbat should have, and then decide the candle colour. If you are familiar with a deity already and that deity is associated with the sabbat, you may use the colour you associate with that deity.

On page 59 Dunwich writes, “Herbs should also be used in all homemade candles crafted especially for healing spells and rituals.” You don’t need to use herbs in your healing candles if you don’t want. It’s a nice touch. Similarly, you can anoint your healing candle or not. I like to anoint candles when I think I have an appropriate oil for the magical purpose or deity.

Regarding the list of herbs to use in candles for magical purposes on pages 60 to 63. Since this list of herbs is for using with candle magic and they are not to be ingested, a warning on potentially dangerous herbs isn’t necessary. I would, however, double check the magical purposes for each herb. Magic done with the wrong herb may not necessarily make you sick, but it can be a pain to have magic go awry.

Regarding stones for magic and healing (pages 76 to 87), again do your own research and double check the information you are given. See what works for you.

Chapter 5 is “Sabbat Candle Rituals” where Dunwich gives a ritual for each sabbat. She gives dates for the sabbats, which you may use or not. There is nothing wrong with the dates as given. I have already posted elsewhere the dates for the sabbats that I prefer based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar which is based on astronomical observations.

For you own reference, Gardner in his book Witchcraft Today lists on page 130 the following sabbat names and dates as “Samhuin (November 1), Brigid (February 1), Bealteine or Beltene (May 1) and Lugnasadh (August 1).” On page 24, he mentions Yule and says “This in theory should be on December 22, but nowadays is held on the nearest day to that date that is convenient for the members.” He is, of course, here speaking of the winter solstice, which falls sometimes on December 22. In Gardner’s second bookThe Meaning of Witchcraft, he mentions the sabbats again. On page 82, he says, “Now, the four great festivals the witch cult celebrates are Halloween, May Eve (the old “Walpurgis Night”), Lammas, and Candlemas (February 2nd).” Gardner connects the witches’ sabbats with the Druids’ by explaining some of the Druidic festivals. August 1st he notes as “Lammas” (page 81), November 1st he notes as Samhain and “our Halloween” (page 82), “May 1st was Bealteinne (Beltane)” (page 82), and February 2nd he explains is tied to the Christian festival, “The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary”. He further comments that the Christian festival “is actually derived from the rites of the Roman goddess Februa, who was worshipped with lighted torches. Oimelc, the festival of the moon goddess Bride among the ancient Celts and Gaels, was February 1st. Bride has in modern days been Christianised as “St. Bride” or “St. Briget”…” He finishes off by describing the festival on Bride’s Day (note that “Bride” is pronounced “breed”).

Thus, we have from Gardner the following as the sabbats:

Samhuin (November 1) also spelt “Samhain” and called Halloween;
Brigid (February 1) also called Oimelc, Candlemas if on February 2;
Bealteine or Beltene (May 1) also spelt “Beltane” and called May Eve or Walpurgis Night;
Lugnasadh (August 1) also called Lammas;

and one additional festival, Yule (December 22).

Of additional interest, there was a small book published in 1989 by Rhiannon Ryall called West Country Wicca: A Journal of the Old Religion where the author shares the tradition with which she grew up. In the first few pages of the book, she explains why she wishes to share her knowledge (simply because it may be of interest to those studying Wicca) and that there were only five festivals celebrated in the “West Country”, the area the author grew up in England. The five festivals and dates she lists are:

Lady Day (March 25)
Beltane (April 30/May 1)
Summer Solstice/Midsummer (June 21)
November Eve/Samhain (October 31/November 1)
Winter Solstice/Yule (December 21)

Ryall says they did not know of the equinoxes, although now we can see that Lady Day was celebrated close to the spring equinox. The reason for this she claims is that the equinoxes are supposedly Greek in origin and that “West Country people of that time knew nothing of the Mediterranean customs, and therefore did not celebrate either Equinox.” Ryall says that the festivals Lammas and Imbolg were not celebrated because those were extremely busy times of the year and the West Country folk were practical people, so those two festivals would go unnoticed.

Contrasting and comparing the information from Gardner and Ryall shows quite a difference of festivals being celebrated. It seems it wasn’t until more modern times that a “Wheel of the Year” with eight seasonal festivals was created. Combining Gardner’s list with Ryall’s list, the only sabbat you are missing is the autumn equinox (which I learned is called Harvestide, supposedly a name that came out of the Gardnerian tradition later on – this was mentioned in my previous book review). Interesting, isn’t it?

Returning to the book, Wicca Candle Magick, on page 106, the author mentions Easter Sunday in relation to the spring equinox. She states incorrectly that Easter Sunday is “the first Sunday following the Vernal Spring Equinox.” (As a sidenote, isn’t Vernal Spring Equinox redundant? It’s either Vernal Equinox or Spring Equinox as “vernal” means “spring”.) In the most simplest terms, “Easter is observed on the Sunday after the first full moon on or after the day of the vernal equinox.” This is only a rule of thumb, supposedly the calculations for the date is more complicated (see Easter on Wikipedia). Thus, Easter can actually be as early as the first Sunday after the spring equinox or as late as approximately a month after the spring equinox. (Because the full moon can be the day before the spring equinox, the next full moon will be approximately another twenty-eight days later possibly pushing the festival back another six days if the full moon is on Monday. Sorry, if that hurt your head, it hurt mine trying to write that out.)

The sabbat candle rituals in the book are nice and simple. I haven’t had a chance to deconstruct these, but nothing strange jumped out at me.

Chapter 6 is titled “Candle Magick”. Here the author gives a definition of magic and explains the reasons for spelling it with a “k”. The definition she gives is actually paraphrased from Aleister Crowley who wrote “Magick is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the will.” It was actually Crowley who popularized the spelling of magic with a “k” in order to distinguish it from stage magic. (See Wikipedia article on magic.)

On page 125, regarding “moon magick” Dunwich writes, “It is extremely important that magick spells and rituals be performed during the proper lunar phase of the moon.” This isn’t necessary, although you may find that magic timed with the moon phases to be more effective. There may be times when you feel it is the “right” moment to do magic and you should do it then. You don’t need to wait for the right lunar phase. There are other magical timing methods that will help with magic. To coordinate your magic with every timing method would be nearly impossible. So, pick the time that’s best for you to do magic. If you can wait to time it with the lunar phases, go ahead. For your reference, you may also time your magic according the astrological sign the moon is in, as well as the signs the other planets are in. (The book, Astrologickal Magick by Estelle Daniels discusses this in more depth.)

The bulk of chapter 6 consists of spells and various other ways of performing magic, such as making mojo bags and witch bottles. Some of it I consider for curiosity’s sake, such as a love philtre from the Middle Ages described on page 132. It involves the heart of a dove, the liver of a sparrow, the womb of a swallow, and the kidney of a hare – not really something I think modern witches would like to deal with or feel comfortable dealing with. Another spell is fairly simple such as the “Candle Love Spell” on page 134. It involves a candle, rose water, and honey. There is also a list of lucky birth charms, which you may use or not. A final note regarding spells, it is considered ethical to receive permission from someone before doing a spell for them and to never do a spell on or against someone. Generally, it is better to concentrate on doing spells for yourself. Yes, this means the bulk of traditional love spells shouldn’t be used (as they were often done without letting the other person know). Revenge spells are a particularly nasty business to get involved with. Remember, what you send out may come back to you greater than you sent out. (This is referred to as the “Threefold Law”, though there is no measure of how much something returns to you.) On rare occasions, binding spells may be used in the case that not binding someone will allow more harm to continue to be done. Obviously, for binding spells you do not need the permission of the person you are binding.

Chapter 7 “Magick for Hearth and Home” is a nice short chapter consisting of a “House Blessing Ritual” and some spells for the home.

I’ve already mentioned chapter 8, “Voudoun Candle Magick” earlier when discussing the “Voodoo-Witch Oil”. This chapter probably serves as a decent introduction to Voudun, but as mentioned earlier if you are interested in Voudun, you should research this more. The “hoodoo doll” mentioned in this chapter is in comparison to the “voodoo doll”. Hoodoo is another form of magical practice that can be found in Southern U.S., notably Louisiana. Supposedly, it is a mix of Voudun with local magical practices. (See Wikipedia article on Vodou.) There is a book on Hoodoo by Ray T. Malbrough called Charms, Spells & Formulas if you are interested in reading further about Hoodoo. (I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t give you any comments on it, except that it exists.)

Chapter 9, “Candle Omens and Superstitions”, is amusing. Interestingly, on page 175, “It is considered unlucky to fall asleep with a candle burning.” I have fallen asleep with a candle burning. Perhaps that might explain my strange luck and lack of fortune?? Bah, humbug!

Finally, chapter 10 is “Resources”. It is invariably out-of-date since this book was originally published in 1989 (re-published 1998). However, with the internet the way it is today, you don’t need a book listing resources. Google!!!

Overall, I thought this book was straightforward and practical. I have no major objections to the material in the book. (There’s some misinformation, but sometimes people make mistakes and learn later that the information might have been wrong.) As I said at the beginning of this blog post, you either agree with how this author does things or you don’t. It’s presented in a somewhat “cookbook” format, and like any cookbook you may pick and choose what you like. Regarding love and revenge spells, it’s up to you to decide if you will use those. It isn’t up to me to tell you what you can or cannot do. All I can say is keep in mind the Wiccan Rede and the Threefold Law (unless you think you’re invulnerable and things won’t come back and bite you in the butt).

My rating from 0 of 10 (5 is average): 7

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

Natural Magick by Sally Dubats – Book Review

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Yes, another book on “magick”. Yes, this was sent to me for free. So I read it. Now, here’s a review. (See my other book review – Exploring Candle Magick by Patricia Telesco.)

Sally Dubats is a solitary. She is likely not trained in traditional Wicca. Therefore, her practice is strictly her own, with nothing to base it on but her own feelings and whims. That’s all fine and good, but you still need to have good explanations for the way you do things, especially if your book is an attempt to teach others. I found that although her book appears comprehensive (only because of her herbal guide and stones guide, which take up nearly half of the book) and indepth, it is lacking any real (theoretical and practical) understanding of the subjects presented.

The writing is at a higher level than Patricia Telesco’s book on Advanced Candle Magick (not necessarily a hard thing to do), but this doesn’t mean the writing here is necesarily better. The writing is poor in some places. For example, on page 54 Dubats writes, “Because Sagittarius rules the thighs and liver, doing magick for these purposes is also fruitful.” Huh? For what purposes? The thighs and liver are not “purposes”. Strangely, she corrects this for some of the other astrological signs she writes about. For example, on page 57 “Because Taurus rules the throat and neck, doing magick for the purpose of healing these is also fruitful.” Unfortunately, she only uses the corrected sentence in five out of the twelve descriptions of the astrological signs. Another thing to note is the difference in meaning of “effect” and “affect”. “What affect does Air have on Fire?” (page 60) “Affect” is used in this sentence is a noun; however, the meaning of the word as a noun is “the conscious subjective aspect of an emotion considered apart from bodily changes; also : a set of observable manifestations of a subjectively experienced emotion” (http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/affect). The example given by Merriam-Webster shows the proper use of the word as a noun in a quote by Oliver Sacks “patients…showed perfectly normal reactions and affects.” Contrasted with “effect”, “effect” is a noun which means “something that inevitably follows an antecedent (as a cause or agent)” (http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/effect). You can use “affect” as a verb such as “This movie affected me strongly”, but contrast that with “What effect did this movie have on me?” The proper question Dubats is asking is “What effect does Air have on Fire?”

There were more than a few things I would like to comment on in this book.

The name of the sabbat that falls on autumn equinox has been debated. According to Gardner’s books, the autumn equinox wasn’t even a sabbat. Later on perhaps after Gardner had his own coven, the name “Harvestide” was brought to North America. “Harvestide” is notably used in the Odyssean tradition and at the WCC. The name Mabon for this seasonal festival is common in the United States (see Wikipedia article on Mabon (the festival)) although the god Mabon does not have any connection to the autumn equinox (as far as Celtic scholars know).

The author mentions “astral tools” on page 10. I have to ask why would you waste time visualizing a tool to use for magic when you can just concentrate on visualizing the magic that needs to be done? For example, Dubats says that if you don’t have a wand, you can then just visualize a wand to use for casting your circle. This is just silly. You don’t need tools to cast a circle. Period. End of discussion. The tools help you focus, that’s it. They aren’t required for you to do magic or direct energy. You are doing it. Yes, you. So don’t worry if you don’t have the “right” tools to do magic, just do it. It’s all visualization. So don’t waste time trying to visualize a wand in your hand and then cast your circle. Visualize casting a circle with your hand.

On page 11, the author says the cauldron is an earth tool??? Because it relates to Mother Earth? Generally, the cauldron relates to the womb, which is associated with water. The cauldron represents the vessel that gives birth. It is a vessel that contains water. Birth is associated with water (as in, “My water broke!”) Thus, the cauldron is associated more appropriately to water than to earth.

On page 13, the author writes “The athame is a double-edged knife or sword…” An athame is not a sword. Swords are longer. As for naming your athame? I don’t know anyone who does. I suppose maybe some people do and I just don’t know about it. I think the idea of naming your athame simply comes from the legend of King Arthur and Excalibur. I did say that the athame is not a sword right? Face it, we’re not heroic royalty in a story where we can spend time naming our tools. But hey! If I name my athame, I guess I should name my chalice as well. Then I’ll have “Dick” and “Kitty” present for their blessed union, The Great Rite.

Furthermore, why conflate the athame and the sword while at the same time viewing the cauldron and chalice as separate tools? The athame is paired with the chalice during the wine blessing (or the symbolic Great Rite). The sword and the cauldron can be substitutes for the athame and the chalice in the symbolic Great Rite when the chalice is not a large enough receptacle (for practical reasons). If a sword is also an athame, the author implies that the sword may be used with the chalice during the symbolic Great Rite. She does not mention using the cauldron for the symbolic Great Rite; thus, you would have a huge sword being dipped into a small vessel (proportionally). (Not that this hasn’t been done before, It’s been known to happen when there has been no choice, such as the athame being broken, but it is still preferable to have proportional tools.)

Imagine the following:

Goddess to God, “Where do you think you’re putting THAT?!”

or alternately, can you imagine using an athame with the cauldron?

Goddess to God, “Um, honey, I can’t feel a thing…”

Oh, and if you are a solitary like this author is, who are you doing the Great Rite with?? You kind of need a partner for it. Otherwise, you’re just blessing the wine and not performing the Great Rite.

Pink for a robe colour? “Pink-robed fluff bunny” comes to mind. I guess you can wear the bunny costume Anya wore in Buffy, but aw… pink connects with the heart. I have not seen anyone wear a pink robe. I suppose as long as it’s not “hot pink” or overly bright (unless it’s Beltane – for that sabbat, wear whatever makes you feel sexual); otherwise, it might be too distracting if you are in a group or public ritual.

By the way, a ritual broom is called a besom (beh-ZEM).

In regards to the necessity of a candle snuffer (page 19), blowing out a candle with your breath does not offend the fire element. It is said to offend fairies, so if you have a fairy shrine have a candle snuffer if you believe this. Otherwise, it’s fine to blow out a candle with your breath. Traditional Wiccans (stemming from British Traditional Witchcraft (BTW)) have been doing this for a long time now. Using a candle snuffer is handy for any candles that get a little out of hand because you don’t want to accidentally blow any embers onto something that may catch fire, but having a candle snuffer isn’t strictly necessary.

I found the candle colour associations in this book peculiar (pages 23 to 26). The author writes that “the colours of the rainbow are also the colours of the seven major chakras.” Yet, the colours she lists for the seven chakras are not all rainbow colours. She lists white as the colour for the seventh chakra, but white is not a rainbow colour. Later on in the book when discussing stones, the author returns to discusssing chakras and their associated colours. I’ll explain then why white is not a colour.

The elemental colour associations seem like an incomplete system with no real explanation. The author associates red with earth, which may be fine if you live in places where the earth is reddish. However, red is traditionally associated with fire. If you associate blue with water and the astrological water signs and green with earth and the astrological earth signs, why isn’t red associated with fire and the astrological fire signs and yellow associated with air and the astrological air signs? If you are giving colour associations with a system, please complete the system. Otherwise, it just looks like you didn’t give much thought to your colour associations but rather cut, copied, and pasted associations together for each colour. For reference here are colours and astrological signs for the elements:

Air: yellow (physical), grey (mental), violet (spiritual); Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Fire: red (physical), orange (mental), white (spiritual); Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Water: blue (physical), aqua (mental), indigo (spiritual); Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Earth: green (physical), brown (mental), black (spiritual); Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

Following are explanations for the elemental colours:

Air has the colours yellow, grey, and violet as these are the colours you see in the eastern sky at sunrise.
Fire has the colours red, orange, and white as these are the varying colours you see in a fire.
Water has the colours blue, aqua, and indigo as these are the colours of the ocean from different distances.
Earth has the colours green, brown, and black as these are the colours of a field, soil, and cold earth in the winter.

I did learn one thing! Oh my! An awl (mentioned on page 26) is normally used to punch leather but can be used to scribe onto candles. Usually I just call these “candle scribes” or simply “scribe” for one.

Here comes the fun stuff – chapter 3, “Magick and Candles”. On page 20, the author writes that “Candle magick consists of projecting the essence of an individual into a candle… ” and later reiterates on page 27, “The candle must contain the essence of the person for whom you are working magick…” Not all candle magic requires this. You may use this technique, but it is not required. Based on this, every time I do candle magic for myself, I have to project myself into the candle. (Why would I want to be in such a confined space?) Then I burn the candle down. What happens then? Am I released? Where does my essence go? And while my essence is projected into the candle, what happens to my body? Then on page 30, the author states that the person’s essence must be projected into the candle along with the essence of the magical intention, allowing both essences “to mingle together, perhaps for the first time”. She states that this is important because if the person’s essence does not contain the essence of the magical intention, then they will never experience it (the intention or goal). She then gives an example stating “if an individual has never truly experienced prosperity, there is no prosperity intention within their essence.” This is a negative perspective to explain why someone has not become prosperous. On top of things, this statement is made after her section on writing positive magical phrases to use in ritual. A little hypocritical in my opinion. If you are going to use positivity in ritual, you should try to use it outside as well. Just because a person isn’t properous doesn’t mean it has anything to do with their intention. It could be bad luck, or maybe the gods don’t think it’s time for them to be prosperous, or maybe it just isn’t meant to be. To summarize, I really don’t think putting a person’s essence into a candle is a great idea. The author does state in her book that you should ask permission before doing magic for someone, but if someone wants to put my essence into a candle to do magic for me, I’d say, “No, thank you, I like my essence where it is, and please don’t do this to me.”

Generally, candle magic involves imbuing the candle with a specially focused energy (such as energy to bring you success in your endeavours). Then when the candle is burned down, the energy is released to spirit (or deity, if you call on deities) carrying with it your desired outcome. That is at least one explanation for how candle magic works. One often recommened book is Spells and How They Work by Janet and Stewart Farrar.

On page 34 under the section “Finishing the ritual”, the author writes “Do not extinguish the candle. Allow the candle to burn and extinguish naturally.” I think she means to let the candle burn continuously until it is completely finished. This is a nice idea, and if you are a solitary, something that can be done. However, if you are part of a coven or a magical working group, this is not practical. For one thing, you are more than likely taking your candle home with you to burn down. Sometimes the candles will be lit during the ritual and each person takes his/her candle home to burn down later. There is nothing wrong with blowing out a candle and then re-lighting it later. The magic has not left or gone anywhere. Consider that the magical energy is imbued into the candle. Thus, if the candle has not burned down completely, there is still magical energy to be released from re-lighting it and burning it again. There really is no reason why candles need to burn down continuously for magic to work. Also, some candles are timed candles which means that you burn it down in sections. For example, a candle can be divided into seven sections for each day of the week. You would burn down one section for each day. At the end of the week when the candle is completely burned down, the magical energy is released and your work is done.

Chapter 3 overall is badly conceived. On page 20, the author writes “The steps to take during simple candle magick… are as follows” and then follows a complicated list of what to do – decide on magic, when to perform magic, select candle colours, gather items, have a… wait… no… luxuriate in a ritual bath, prepare the candle, create a magical phrase, perform the ritual, imprint the candle, release energy, and finish the ritual. This is simple?? Then, following this is a section called “Simple Candle Magick”. Okay… um, I thought the previous list was supposed to be simple candle magic. Did this author read her book before having it published? Make up your mind, what’s the simple method?? Page 20 should really say, “steps to take during candle magick” (remove the word “simple”) or even better yet “steps to take to do candle magic during ritual…”

Moving into chapter 4, “Divination”, the author mentions the infamous blank rune. The blank rune is, in fact, a creation of Ralph Blum, who overlays Christian ideas on the Norse runes. The blank rune is not used in traditional Norse runes, and is considered to be redundant as the meaning Blum ascribes to the blank rune is encompassed throughout the set of Norse runes. For those interested in learning more about the Norse runes, I recommend reading about runes at www.tarahill.coom. You can also buy a set of runes and a book expanding on what is written on the website. Another good author on runes is Nigel Pennick. Dubats further associates the three aettir of the runes to the trinity of maiden, mother, crone. Sorry, this doesn’t work for me, especially since some of the runes are associated with Norse gods.

Next, the author makes a serious error. She states that “the moon travels through each of the signs approximately twice per month…” Ah, no! The moon is in one sign for about 2.45 days. The moon cycle is properly 29.5 days. There are 12 astrological signs. Do the math. 29.5 days divided by 12 signs equals 2.4583 days (where the 3 repeats). The moon travels through each sign once in a month. The only sign that the moon would travel through twice in a month is the sign at the beginning and near the end of the moon cycle. For example, the new moon and waning moon before the next new moon would be the same sign. In a solar month, the moon will travel through the signs at the beginning of the month again near the end of the month. However, this is far from saying the the moon will travel through each of the signs twice per month. (Seriously wondering if the author has ever looked at a lunar calendar or an astrology book, and not to mention an astronomy book!)

In this book, the author has personified each astrological sign as a way for people to understand each sign. I don’t think this is necessary for understanding each sign. I suppose it’s cute, but whatever… to each her own, I suppose. Either way, it isn’t necessary to personify the astrological signs.

I love numerology. Unfortunately, there’s no consistency to it as there are various methods and forms of numerology. The method of calculation in this book is more difficult, although your final reduced number will always be the same. For the system I like to use, each individual number should be written as separate digits. (The reason for this is because there is a form of numerology that also interprets the final two-digit number before it is reduced to one digit.) The example in the book is January 1, 1960, which is reduced as 1+1+1960=1962, then 1+9+6+2=18, and finally 1+8=9. It is actually much easier to reduce it this way: 1+1+1+9+6+0=18, then 1+8=9. This makes a difference for dates such December 31, 1989, which is easier to calculate and reduce using the second method versus the one shown in this book. Written as 12.31.1989, reduce it by starting with 1+2+3+1+1+9+8+9=34, then 3+4=7. This is much simpler than 12+31+1989=2032, 2+3+2=7 (which by the way doesn’t give you a two-digit number before arriving at the one-digit number). Surprisingly, the author does suggest that people continue to study numerology.

I disagree with some of the meanings for numbers. For example, “Threes are excellent at manifesting through patience. In the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, the three would be the Hare.” (Yes, she didn’t put quotes around the title of the story.) Um, if I recall the Hare is not patient. The Hare didn’t finish the race because it was easily distracted. The Tortoise was the patient one, plodding along slowly until it finished the race. According to this author’s meaning for the number three, three would be exemplified by the Tortoise. However, three is not about manifestation, but about expansion and diversity, although sometimes this can become distraction as displayed by the Hare. (So, yes, the Hare exemplifies three but not because of the meaning this author gives for the number three.)

Here is a quick keyword list of meanings for numerology:
1 – beginnings
2 – partnerships
3 – expansion
4 – foundation
5 – change
6 – harmony
7 – spirituality
8 – power
9 – completion

The meanings of numbers change somewhat for the tarot as the numbers one to ten are used, not just up to nine.

This author claims the tarot deck used to have two fool cards. I have been studying tarot for almost twenty years now, and I’ve never heard or seen of two fool cards in the deck. Perhaps she means the two Joker cards in the playing card decks, but that’s not what she claims – on page 71, “At one time, some Tarot decks had two Fool cards, one at the beginning and one at the end.” (By the way, tarot is not capitalized unless you are referring to a specific tarot deck. Note also that she quotes someone near the bottom of page 71, but she does not specify who or what book she is quoting from. I guess I’m supposed to assume she’s quoting from the Robin Wood Tarot, which is the deck she seems to be endorsing.)

Chapter 5 is “Visualization and Ritual” where there are many things I simply must (MUST, I tell you) comment on.

On page 78, she writes “Even a four-hour fast is helpful.” I’ve gone without food or drink for more than four hours, believe me it’s not a fast (not unless you are used to eating all the time, like every hour or two hours). It’s actually normal to wait about four hours before eating again. Consider, we have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We have breakfast in the morning around 8 to 10 a.m. Then around 12 to 2 p.m., we have lunch. Then later, maybe around 6 or 8 p.m., we have dinner. There’s at least a four-hour gap before eating again. There are occasions where you may eat at 10 a.m., then at 12 p.m. depending on how much you ate the night before. Perhaps it would have been better to state that you don’t need to fast before doing a ritual, but it’s best not be full when doing ritual. Let’s not kid anyone, four hours without food or drink just isn’t a fast.

The author also suggests having a ritual bath before doing the ritual. This is fine, but I suggest you select your ritual location before you cleanse yourself. Actually, it’s best to decide before anything else whether you are having your ritual at home or elsewhere, indoors or outdoors. If you are having your ritual elsewhere, you can have a ritual bath before you leave, then bless (cleanse) yourself later. It doesn’t make sense to bless yourself, get yourself so relaxed, fight your way through traffic to get to your ritual location, and then have to bless yourself again because the traffic got you all frazzled. (Clearly, this author has never had to fight her way through a city’s rush hour traffic.) When indoors it also doesn’t make sense to have a relaxing bath, then have to set up the altar. When indoors, I recommend you clean up the area and set up the altar first. Then, have the bath, come out, and do the ritual – you’ll find the ritual runs smoother and you’re nice and relaxed right from the start of it. A suggestion… when indoors, consider the ritual bath as part of the ritual, not separate.

A common question for people new to the craft is “What hand do I use for magic?” The author of this book is incorrect to say on page 81, “As your right hand is the hand which sends energy, your right hand is the preferred hand to use” (regarding cleaning the area of negativity). This is fine, if you’re right-handed. If you’re left-handed, use the left hand. The choice of which hand to use for magical purposes and to send energy depends on hand dominance. The assumption that the right hand sends energy is only valid if you assume everyone is right-handed. (Obviously, not everyone is.) Since I myself am left-handed and I know another person in the craft who is left-handed, I can attest that using the left hand (if that is your dominant hand) for sending energy and performing magic is perfectly fine.

Where to place your altar? On page 81, the author writes “…due north marks the direction your altar should face” without giving a reason for this. Like with many things in Wicca, the direction your altar faces depends on many things. It depends on your tradition and most of all your perspective. Some people have altars facing the east. The Wiccan tradition I studied for the past eight years places the altar facing north-east. The reasoning is that the north is a place of endings, such as death, while the east is a place of beginnings, such as birth. As you look at the path of the sun during the day, the sun rises in the east, sets in the west and is hidden in the north. Thus, the north-east is considered the point where the transition from endings to beginnings occur, the point of conception. One reason to place the altar facing north is because it is facing the magnetic north pole. You may feel there is a connection to the earth’s energy this way. One reason to place the altar facing east is because the sun rises in the east. Perhaps if you lived in the southern hemisphere you may consider placing your altar facing south. Whatever you decide, make sure you have a reason for it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a “proven” reason, it can simply be that you feel you work better when your altar is facing one way over another. See what works for you and see if you can come up with a coherent system for how your do your rituals and perform magic.

We’re back to candle colours again on page 81. This time we’re discussing candle colours for the directions. The author doesn’t explain why she specified the colours for each direction. I suppose she assumes people know why, but if you’re a beginner to the craft, here’s the associations for the directions:

North – earth, green (as the earth is green in the spring)
East – air, yellow (a colour you see in the sky during a sunrise)
South – fire, red (as the fire is red)
West – water, blue (as the sea is blue)

There are reasons for why north is earth, east is air, and so on. The major reason is geographical location. These associations likely come to us from British witchcraft where travelling north you would see more land, more green. Thus, north is associated with earth. Travelling south there is more warmth; therefore, south is fire. Travelling west you would see the ocean (Atlantic); therefore, west is water. Finally, travelling east would bring you closer to the time of dawn where you would notice the colour of the sky (the air) being yellow during the sunrise. Perhaps you might consider how your location might change your elemental and directional associations.

On page 82 is described the circle purifications (although the author doesn’t call it purifications, but this is indeed what she is doing in this section of the ritual) with earth in the north. Again depending on your perspective, you can start your purifications in the north. In the tradition I studied, east is beginnings represented by air; therefore, the purifications start with air in the east and not with earth in the north.

On page 82 to 83, consecrating the circle and leaving a sacred space after it has been consecrated (“sealed” is the term in the book) is discussed. You do not need to “cut a doorway with your athame” in order to leave the circle and then re-enter. There really is no real purpose for doing this, and I have found that those who like to do this are drawn to theatrics and over-drama. You can safely leave the circle and re-enter as long as you do so in a quiet and smooth enough manner. It is all about intention. If you leave the circle with peaceful intentions, the circle will remain peaceful. Along this note, pets can move in and out of a circle with no repercussions. Since you created your own circle, you should be perfectly fine entering and leaving it at will. If you attend a group ritual and are concerned about the protocol for this, you should ask the group leader (usually the High Priestess of the coven or group, but it may be a student of that tradition). For public rituals at the WCC, people can leave and enter ritual space if they need to without needing to cut a doorway. The Priestess leading the ritual is quite adept at handling any energy fluctuations resulting from someone leaving the circle. Generally, it is preferred that people stay throughout the ritual instead of leaving in the middle of it, but there is never any need to cut a doorway. (I should also point out that no one but the WCC Priesthood, the Handmaiden, and the Summoner is allowed to carry an athame into public ritual. There is generally too many people enclosed in a small space.)

Regarding the visualization when “sealing” the circle (on page 83), it does not need to be a bubble going into the ground. If you live in an apartment and are doing a ritual there, you don’t want to include the people in the floor below you in your sacred space. Additionally, you do not want to include the people living above you. Thus, it is sufficient to intend that the outer boundaries (such as the walls, ground and ceiling) of your area be the limits of the sacred space if you live in an apartment and are performing ritual there. If you are outdoors, a circle with a high enough ceiling surrounding your area is fine. I note here that the sealing of the circle as done by this author is also the method normally called “casting the circle”. It seems that she has combined casting the circle with the consecration of the circle.

On page 83 to 85 we are told the “next step is to call the watchtowers.” This is technically not correct. You should be calling the “Guardians of the watchtowers”. There is a slight difference. The watchtowers are inanimate objects; however, the Guardians are entities you can call upon. It doesn’t make sense to call an inanimate object into your circle. I don’t know why the “Guardians of the watchtowers” have been shortened to “watchtowers” or changed as this author writes in her calls “Guardians and watchtowers…” You don’t have to call the Guardians for your ritual. Alternatively, you can simply call on the elements. There are creatures associated with each element. These are sylphs for air, salamanders for fire, undines for water, and gnomes for earth. You also do not need to use astrology in calling on the elements or Guardians of the watchtowers (whichever one you like), but there is nothing overtly wrong with using astrology. You may use it if you like and if it suits your purpose. If it doesn’t suit your purpose, then don’t use it. As an example, I can say with a certain degree of confidence that using (Western) astrology in the elemental calls for an Egyptian-based ritual won’t work. To keep things simple, get to know the elements well (this is Plato’s system of elements), then try writing calls to the elements. There are different systems of elements and you need to use what is appropriate to your ritual purpose. Returning to my example, the Egyptian ritual would require Egyptain elements, not the ones discussed above. Otherwise there isn’t anything terribly wrong with the elemental calls in this book (aside from the “Guardians and watchtowers…”).

I suppose at this point I should discuss a little bit about ritual and writing rituals. It’s not always easy. Sorry, that’s the truth of it. It can be made easy if you know what you’re are doing to begin with, but it isn’t easy as this book and many others make it seem. First off, you need to know your ritual purpose and make sure that the purpose of the ritual is clear. You may even write your elemental calls specific to the purpose. Secondly, if you are working with deities, get to know them and the culture where they come from. In keeping with the above example of an Egyptian-based ritual, if you are doing a ritual to… hm… let’s say Ra and Hathor, you need to get to know Ra and Hathor and what they like. You can’t just do what you like. You might just do something that will feel “wonky” because you have inadvertently offended Ra or Hathor or both. Additionally, as stated earlier, Egyptian rituals use different elemental associations. You will need to adapt to that idea. You should never mix and match your pantheons (some just don’t get along, so you’re better off being safe than sorry), the exceptions being where a deity is known by a different name in another pantheon (e.g. Cernunnos, who is a Celtic god, but “Cernunnos” is actually a Roman name for the Celtic horned god; thus, it is okay to use Cernunnos in a Roman-based ritual). You should also be aware of which deities within pantheons don’t get along. For example, Hades and Demeter might not be such complementary deities since Hades kidnapped Demeter’s daughter Persephone. Though you might get away with calling Demeter, Persephone, and Hades since Persephone is there to mitigate any conflict between Hades and Demeter. Basically, if you’re going to work with deities by name you need to get to know their myths well. If you need a starting point, Larousse’s Encyclopedia of Mythology is a great starting place. One last tip about doing rituals, you close down the ritual in reverse order of what you did to open it. In the tradition I studied, to open you cast the circle, sweep the circle, purify, call the elements, consecrate the circle, and call the deities. Then to close down, you say goodbye to the deities, say goodbye to the elementals, and de-cast the circle. The main part of the ritual is in the middle between the opening and the closing of the circle. There are various ways to handle the wine blessing and the blessing of any food in ritual. Some think the energy is different if you bless and libate the wine (offer some to deity) right after the deity calls. It is probably a good idea and good manners to do so. Think of it as something akin to inviting someone over and not offering a drink right away! (No, you don’t need to have “cakes” in ritual every time, but it’s ideal to have at least a beverage. You do not need to have wine – juice works well too and a variety of other natural beverages. No soda/pop, whatever you call soda pop. Regarding the “libation”, the offering of drink and food to the deities, if you are outdoors, you can simply leave some behind on the ground. If you are indoors, you simply use a libation plate or bowl. After the ritual, you can find a place outside to leave the libation. Finding a nice tree is a good idea.)

Returning back to this book, some comments regarding pages 86 to 88. You don’t have to introduce yourself each time you do a ritual. I don’t recall ever really introducing myself to the deities. The deities will know who you are. You do not have to raise energy every time either. (See “Raising Power in Group Rituals” on my website, which I think applies also to solitary work.) You can simply sit and enjoy the time in sacred space. The author says to bid farewell and then extinguish the goddess candle. You can if you like. I think it’s nicer just to wait until after the ritual to blow out any candles you lit to deities. Farewells to the elements should be done in reverse order as you opened. In this book, the elemental calls started in the north, the farewells then should start in the west and end in the north. In the tradition I studied, the elemental calls are east, south, west, and north. The farewells are then north, west, south, and east. (Remember to do a full circle when doing your calls and farewells. If you started in the north, you should complete a circle in the north.) Essentially, you open the circle travelling in one direction, then you close the circle travelling in the opposite direction. The reason is simply that to reverse something you would do the opposite. In this case, it’s walk the opposite direction around the circle. In general, the tradition I studied opens the circle clockwise and movement within the circle after opening remains clockwise until the circle is closed down by moving counter-clockwise. In the middle of a ritual, always walk a full circle clockwise to return to your spot. Doing otherwise disrupts the flow of the energy that is contained in the circle. (Trust me, it is noticeable when someone moves around the wrong way.) There are occasions where the circle is opened counter-clockwise, this means that movement during ritual should be counter-clockwise until closing where it would then be clockwise.

Regarding “astral circles” on page 88, see my comments about “astral tools” above. This just seems silly to me.

Okay, there are many allowances I will give to a solitary who just wants to do her own thing and what she does works for her. However, on page 94, I read “And ye harm none, do what ye will.” First of all, this is misquoted. (See the Wikipedia article on the Wiccan Rede.) Although there are two versions of the “Wiccan Rede” or “Rede of the Wiccae”, both versions do not use “And ye…” Doreen Valiente wrote “An it harm none do what ye will.” Lady Gwen Thompson’s “Rede of the Wiccae” attributed to Adriana Porter is “An’ it harm none, do what ye will.” Both versions use the word “an”, which is an archaic word meaning “in the event…” or “if”. This then translates in modern English as, “If it harms none, do what you will”, which conveys a different meaning entirely from “And ye harm none, do what ye will” as Dubats writes. Phrasing the Wiccan Rede as Dubats does, it says that you can only do something if it does not harm anyone and also prohibits you from doing something that may potentially cause harm. However, the meaning and intent of the Wiccan Rede proper, “An it harm none, do what ye will”, simply guides and advises on what to do in the case that your actions do not cause harm. It does not dictate that you should never cause harm nor does it tell you what to do in the case where your actions will cause harm regardless of which choice you make. You are left to decide perhaps which course of action causes the least harm or which course of action provides the most benefit (to you and others). The word “an” meaning “if” makes the statement conditional and provides for options. Incorrectly using the word “and” joins the two phrases in the statement and turns the Wiccan Rede into a command. In Wicca, there is no dogma (at least there shouldn’t be, there’s always someone out there wanting to be dogmatic about things). Stating the Wiccan Rede incorrectly as “And ye harm none, do what ye will” is dogmatic. “Do not do…”, “thou shalt not…” – sound familiar??

Some years ago, the Wiccan Rede came up in on a message board discussion about “harm” from a philosophical perspective. There I also had to clarify the meaning of the Wiccan Rede. I wrote:

It was not intended to be something that MUST be followed but ADVICE. The words “an’ it harm none, do what ye will” simply refer to what one should do if one’s actions do not result in harm. However, if one’s actions result in harm, the Rede does not say what one should do in that situation. It is unfortunate that human nature has lead to reversing the final phrase of the Rede of the Wiccae into “do as you will and harm none”, which in effect turns the phrase into a command. In interpretation, “an’ it harm none, do what ye will” means if one’s actions results in no harm, then you are free to do what you are intending to do, but if your actions result in harm, you are left on your own to decide what to do. Hopefully, for the most part, people would choose the path of “least harm”.

In case you might be wondering, there have been debates as to what should be considered “harm”. I shall not get into that discussion here, but shall leave it for another time.

Returning to Dubats’ book, chapter 6 is “Herbs” and provides a “Guide to Plants and Herbs”. Here she discusses the use of herbs for magic. Notably, I would like to comment on the subsection on oils and whether or not to use essential oils or synthetic oils for magical purposes. Essential oils are condensed essences of a plant. Some are irritating to the skin or may have other negative side effects when using. When this is the case, for magical purposes, it is better to use the synthetic oil. For example, cinnamon is irritating to the skin, if you are planning on anointing you should use the synthetic oil. There are also essential oils that should not be used by any woman who is pregnant as it could cause pre-mature labour. These are just some examples of how careful you need to be when it comes to essential oils. If you don’t have the time to learn about the various health warnings for each essential oil, I would recommend starting out with synthetic oils if you’re only using them for magical purposes. Additionally, some essential oils are just too expensive and the synthetic is easier to obtain costwise (athough some synthetics are more expensive because of the complicated process involved – cinnamon unfortunately is one synthetic that may be more expensive). While I agree that using essential oils for magic may have a better effect overall, it is not necessary to use essential oils. I disagree with the author’s statement on page 100, “Many synthetic oils are on the market which smell great but have no magickal value.” The magical intent is not just in the oil, but in the person. For that matter, the magical intent comes from the person. You can charge a synthetic oil just as well as an essential oil. Synthetic oils work just fine, and I have done magic using synthetic oils with good results. The reason they are called synthetic oils is simply that the scent of the oil is made up from a variety of other scents, not because the oil isn’t produced from natural sources. Synthetics are just made up in a lab rather than being found naturally in one plant. (See Wikipedia article on “aroma compounds”, the ingredients making up a synthetic oil.) However, if you are doing healing work, I would recommend using essential oils assuming of course you know enough of healing with essential oils. There are many good books on using essential oils. One good book is Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy by Chrissie Wildwood.

Regarding the “Guide to Plants and Herbs”, double check the information as you would with any guide. Do so especially for any herbs which you may want to ingest as it may not be edible! For example, I looked up mistletoe. Mistletoe is toxic and poisonous if ingested. (I happen to know this.) This author does not indicate this potential risk of ingesting mistletoe. Instead she states that “At one time, mistletoe was used as an antidote against poison.” This may possibly be true, but we now know ingesting mistletoe isn’t a good idea. Wikipedia states, “In Celtic mythology and in Druid rituals, it was considered an antidote to poison, but it is now known that the fruits of many mistletoes are poisonous if ingested, as they contain viscotoxins.” (See Wikipedia article on mistletoe.) A good book on herbs is John Lust’s book and it comes highly recommended from a Wiccan lady I know who’s been doing herbology for probably over 20 years. It’s a small paperback book, but filled with lots of information. Get it if you see it.

Chapter 7 is “Stones and Crystals” where we are told on page 136, “In order to know more about healing with stones, you must first learn the chakra system.” It isn’t necessary to learn the chakra system to use stones with healing. The system of chakras comes from East Indian spiritual practices and has been adopted into Western New Age thinking and practices. Many people use stones without any knowledge of chakras. The system of chakras is one system that you may wish to add to your practice of healing with stones if you like, but it isn’t required as this author seems to think. I might just bet ancient witchcraft used stones for healing without any knowledge of the chakras (though it may have encompassed its own ideas about the spiritual body).

The author also reiterates on page 136 (she previously mentioned this on page 23) that the chakras are “made up of colors, which correspond to the colors of the rainbow, which are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and white.” White? First of all, white is not a colour, it is light. All colours come from a beam of white light. If you shot a beam of white light through a prism, you would see the rainbow colours – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet reflected off a wall. The author is correct in saying that the chakras are associated with the rainbow colours, but the colour white isn’t one of them. I will almost bet that she read a few books on the chakras with some saying that the colours are rainbow colours and some listing the colours with white instead of violet (for the crown or seventh chakra). If the author had actually known anything about the science of colours, she would have realized that some people arbitrarily list white as a colour of the crown chakra and it has nothing to do with the rainbow. The author has listed some peculiar colours for the chakras (pages 136 to 139). This book is the only book in which I have read that black is associated with the root (base, first) chakra. I must point out here that black, like white, is not a colour at all. Black is, in fact, the absence of light. For simplicity’s sake, we just categorize black and white as colours. Dubats, like some other authors, lists pink as the colour of the heart (fourth) chakra. My feeling is in East Indian practices, the heart chakra is properly green. (No, I don’t have a source for that claim which is why I said, “My feeling is…”) I believe that the association of pink with the heart chakra comes from North American societal conditioning where anything associated with love is also associated with pink although other colours can represent love too. The author rationalizes the choice of pink because the base chakra is red and the crown chakra is white (I have already explained that the crown chakra is violet) and since the heart chakra is in the middle and white and red mixed together makes pink so the heart chakra is pink. Nice, but that’s not necessarily how the chakras work. There are, in fact, more than just the seven chakras and the heart chakra isn’t the central chakra if there even is a central chakra (there are some very important points that connect to the chakras that I shall not discuss here). I’ve actually worked with my heart chakra quite a bit (I’ve found doing reiki on it helps me sleep, and in fact, every time I try to do a full reiki session before going to sleep I fall asleep when I get to the heart chakra), and I’ve always seen green for that chakra. It’s the colour that comes to mind without even thinking about it. In addition to listing white as the colour for the crown chakra, the author lists gold and amethyst as one of its colours. Okay, amethyst is violet. Good enough. Gold? Not so sure about that. It is possible some people associate gold with the crown chakra as energy is seen entering that chakra and some people may see a gold thread. Who knows? In any case, when I’ve worked with the crown chakra, violet comes to mind. Sometimes it’s a deeper violet, sometimes it’s lighter. The author’s healing associations with each chakra seem to be accurate enough. You can read about chakras on my website, which lists the rainbow colours for each chakra as well as the sanskrit names. I would recommend reading about chakras more if you are interested in it. Just remember you don’t need to learn them if you want to heal with stones, but you can use them if you like.

On pages 141 and 142, the author tells us to charge stones in our right hands. I’ve already discussed the issue of using the right hand for magic above (see discussion for quote on page 81). You should use your dominant hand, which may or may not be your right hand. If you are left-handed, use your left hand. On page 142, she writes “Charge the stone using the visualization technique of holding the stone in your right hand…” Whatever, the right hand again. This time I’m a little unclear as to what she means by “the visualization technique of holding the stone…” This is just badly written. I think she means “the visualization technique taught above while holding the stone…”

Finally, the last chapter is a “Guide to Spells”, which lists corresondences for different magical purposes. I don’t use these generally. There are quite a lot of books with correspondence tables in them. Most of them should be used with “a grain of salt”, that is, caution. You can take the suggested correspondences if you like, but I would suggest researching it further. Rather than simply using a table of correspondences (which in some cases may not work for you), I recommend researching the associations of herbs, stones, and colours – all three have specific healing properties. I also suggest you consider what associations they have for you. For example, is red associated with love or anger? You decide. The days of the week and planet associations are standardized. They are as follows with the explanations for the correspondence:

Monday – day named for the moon; planet: Moon
Tuesday – day named for the Norse god Tyr, who is equated to Roman Mars; planet: Mars
Wednesday – day named for the Norse god Woden (Odin), who is equated to Roman Mercury; planet Mercury
Thursday – day named for the Norse god Thor, who is equated to Roman Jupiter; planet: Jupiter
Friday – day named for the Norse goddess Freya, who is equated to Roman Venus; planet: Venus
Saturday – day named for the Roman god Saturn; planet: Saturn
Sunday – day named for the sun; planet: Sun

To determine what day to do a specific spell, you would decide which Roman deity it falls under. For example, spells to do with love fall under the domain of Venus; thus, Friday is a good day to do love spells. Spells for success and happiness are associated with the sun, so Sunday is ideal. Spells for fertility are associated with the moon, so Monday is ideal.

To use spells with astrological signs, I recommend studying some astrology. Get a handle on the basics of astrology. There is a good book on using astrology for magic specifically called Astrologickal Magick by Estelle Daniels. It’s quite good.

Regarding elemental and directional associations for spells, I would recommend you study the elements and get to know them well. You may do spells pertaining to one element or you may use all the elements. Once you determine the elements to use, it should be easy to determine the directional correspondences.

The bottom line regarding correspondences – determine your own! As long as you have a good reason for what you’re doing and can develop a coherent system, you should be fine.

To summarize this review, I found this book particularly annoying because I could not read it for more than twenty minutes at a time. I would eventually come across something I had to note and make comments on. The biggest issue I have with this book is the slight dogmatic vibe, especially with this author’s interpretation of the Wiccan Rede. I truly think this interpretation of the Wiccan Rede is counter to the spirit and nature of the craft.

The lack of concern about the accuracy of the information in the herb guide is… well… a concern. If you are writing about something that deals with a person’s physical health, you are in some ways taking on a similar responsibility as a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional. Ensure that you are not recommending something that may be harmful to someone. It would have been better had the author put a disclaimer for the herb guide stating something such as, “Use at your own risk. The author makes no assertions as to the accuracy of the information presented in this guide.” Without the disclaimer, she assumes a certain degree of authority regarding the use of herbs and people will assume that what is written is accurate information. I have already shown that the information on mistletoe is slightly inaccurate and that it lacked the necessary warning.

Regardless of any other issues I have with the book, the issue of the Wiccan Rede and that of accuracy regarding herbal information are significant. They are significant enough, in my opinion, that I would not recommend this book to anyone without myself giving a warning “Read at your own risk.”

My rating from 0 of 10 (5 is average): 0 (Note: Save yourself the trouble and money, do some prosperity magic and don’t buy this book. I was lucky I got this book for free. Since it was free, I thought I’d review it.)

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

A Witch’s Curriculum of Study

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Yes, I know. It has been awhile since I last wrote on this blog. Well, at least I have something new for my dear readers. After some personal time spent on reflection, I have just finished writing a new page for my website.

While it may be that I have decided not to continue my studies at the WCC, it does not mean I am no longer a pagan. I did state that before, right? As before, my website will continue to provide information in the hopes of teaching others. Continuing with that, I have started a section called “A Witch’s Curriculum of Study”, which lists some subjects that may be of interest to others like myself.

While I do not have any time at the moment to put up notes on any of the subjects yet, I hope to in the future. For now, it is a start for others to look up and research subjects of relevance to paganism and witchcraft.

So, without any more rambling from me, please click the link above and check out the subject list. Hope this gets you on your way with your own personal studies.

Cassandrah
Your local solitary pagan
Brigid’s Flame

A sense of normalcy?

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Transitions. Change. That’s what life is about. It certainly seems that’s what my life is about. The only thing you can be certain of is that great ol’ oxymoron, constant change. My life is constantly changing. Sometimes what seems right at the time no longer fits in the puzzle of my life. Such is the conclusion I came to about two weeks before I finished my Summoner term (please see the blog entry just below this one). Letting go of something is never hard, especially when that something means letting go of something you thought was “right” for you. Thus, the past month and a half was a transition period for me. (Although I don’t think this transition has ended yet. Right now, I have Pluto square my natal Pluto and conjunct my descendant in Sagittarius – it’s been there for a while now. This transit is joined now by Jupiter conjunct my descendant – it started on September 24th this year. Eek! Can you say major change?! More on that later.)

Lucky for me, I’ve always had martial arts. Nothing is more important to me than being fit and healthy (healthy on all realms, physical, mental, spiritual). Martial arts has always been a spiritual path for me and it remains so. I have missed the do jang this past year. I’ve missed not being around for some of the changes that have occurred there. Now, I’m happy to be able to devote my time to it again.

I’m also lucky I learned to appreciate running. It’s hard at times. I admit some days I don’t want to be out there in the cold or in the sweltering humidity, but running helps me connect with nature as well as myself. It helps me focus and forget about all the silly nonsense that goes on in this world. There is nothing but just me and nature. Earth, air, fire, water, and (my) spirit.

There is no doubt in my mind that martial arts and running (and also weight training – I love it, I must be crazy, but I love having sore muscles) have kept me sane this past year. No doubt they helped ease the transitions I am going through. Below is my training log for the past few months:

August 21 – I went for a mile run. It was just about an 8 minute mile pace. 😀 After the run, I went to the gym.
August 23 – I went to the do jang
August 28 – I went for another run (15 minutes 30 seconds), then went to the gym.
August 31 – I went for a short run (5 minutes 45 seconds, 1 km)
September 13 – I went for a 1.5 miles run (13 minutes 10 seconds)
September 14 – I went for a run (didn’t keep time), then to the gym
September 26 – I went for a mile run (8 minutes 54 seconds), then to the gym
September 27 – I went to the do jang
September 29 – Nate and I went on the 5.7 km route. We ran about 4.4 km in 32 minutes 34 seconds (slow, but good to do)
October 3 – I went to the do jang and then the gym
October 4 – I went to the do jang and took two classes back-to-back (We had a schedule change at the do jang. Now that we have enough black belts, we have a separate class for black belts and colour belts – the black belts can take either class. I took the black belt class and decided to take the colour belt class after.)

The long distance run on September 29th felt especially good. Some days I need to feel like I’m “going somewhere”. On those days, running makes me feel like I have the freedom to do anything. Nothing can stop me. There are no obstacles as long as I have air in my lungs and I have two legs to move.

Taekwondo class felt good. I’ve missed it so much. It felt good to be back. Unfortunately, this past week I didn’t feel quite up to anything. I was having a bout of insomnia. I really can’t train without proper sleep and rest.

The insomnia I think I can blame in part on the astrological transits in effect on my chart. Pluto and Jupiter both conjunct my descendant in Sagittarius. Though I’m not a professional astrologer, I can say that lately I’ve been feeling out of place, like I shouldn’t be here. The past few years or so I’ve been thinking more and more about moving somewhere. In fact, I always planned on living somewhere else at some point in my life. It’s started to feel like now is the time for this. Of course, I need to make plans and deal with a whole whack of stuff. This idea is both exciting and scary for me. Though there really isn’t much keeping me tied here anymore except for the do jang (I want to pack up Master Kim and his do jang and take it with me), it’s still scary leaving. I’ve lived here my whole life. I don’t know anyplace better than here. But then there’s this part of me that’s saying “anywhere but here”. Ah, the great unknown, scary but gotta love it.

So, am I back to normal? That really depends on your definition of “normal”. Life is always changing. Buddhism teaches that nothing is permanent. Nothing is permanent and we shouldn’t make attachments because nothing is permanent. A sense of normalcy implies permanence. If nothing is permanent, nothing is ever normal. My life is constantly changing, nothing is permanent. No, my life is not normal, but I make the best of it wherever I am.

Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

“Please no tears, no sympathy”

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

I never do anything I don’t need or want to do. I never do anything for fame or glory. I do things for the experience and challenge of it. That is the reason I decided to be Summoner for the Toronto Temple of the WCC. (See previous blog entry entitled, “Change is Afoot – Something New”.) Make no mistake, I did it because there was a need for it, and I felt I could fulfill that need. Now that my term as Summoner is over, I suppose I can explain the circumstances that gave me the opportunity to become the first female Summoner for the Toronto Temple of the WCC.

As mentioned in “Change is Afoot – Something New”, the Summoner role is normally given to a male of the community and the Hand/maiden role is normally given to a female of the community. Last year, it was decided that there were no qualified female candidates for the role of Handmaiden and the role was given to a male of the community. The Handmaiden and the Summoner are required to perform ritual if there are no Priesthood available on a ritual night. As the WCC rituals generally require a Priest and Priestess, this means that the Handmaiden and Summoner must be opposite genders. Thus, as the Handmaiden role was given to a male (we were to call him the “Hand”), they required a female to take on the role of Summoner.

When I first attended the WCC seven years ago and heard about the roles of Handmaiden and Summoner, I knew I was meant to be one of them (I hoped to be both, but never expected to be). I was in actuality more drawn to the role of Summoner, as I had started training in martial arts that year. In my mind there was no reason that a woman could not perform the role of Summoner. (See “Duties of the Summoner” for more about the role.) Because traditionally only a male could be Summoner, I pretty much settled on the fact that I would only ever serve as a Handmaiden (which I actually did, for the semi-private women’s group – not for the public temple). Thus, I resigned myself to having served as Handmaiden and I never thought to lobby Priesthood for the chance to be Summoner. (Of course, for the women’s group there is an equivalent called a “Gatekeeper”, but as I said above, I do things for the challenge. Gatekeeper would not have challenged me enough.) There were apparently enough lobbyists for a female Summoner – there were both men and women who pushed for it – so I never bothered lobbying for it. Meanwhile, in the span of seven years I advanced in taekwondo because I just kept training – I loved it and still do very much – and last year I received my second dan in taekwondo. As it turned out, I received my second dan just two months before becoming Summoner.

Deciding to become Summoner was not an easy decision for me, but I already knew that I had to do it. Since they were looking for a female Summoner, I knew that if I did not try for the role I would have regretted it. I already knew that I was the only female there trained to deal with conflict and confrontations. I also knew that I had to try for it because being Summoner would be a challenge for me in many ways. As I wrote in my previous blog entry:

This is something I’ve always wanted to do for my community. I’ve been hoping for the opportunity, and now it is here. My installation ritual was last Sunday (September 17) and my term has officially started. This, however, means that I have to be at ritual every Sunday night. That is a big commitment, but one I was willing to take. I’m hoping that the year will be a positive experience for both myself and the community as a whole (there may be some people who aren’t receptive to having a woman act as Summoner). I’m relying on my experience in martial arts to help me not only in the act of defense, if required, but also in dealing with men’s preconceptions of a woman’s capabilities. I’m hoping that my experience teaching and training in martial arts will give me the ability to read people accurately and to judge their motives. The Summoner role requires someone who can welcome new people to the community (i.e, be a good PR person) as well as someone who can protect the community. It’s a big challenge and one I’m looking forward to overcoming.

I’m glad to say that I have not regretted my year. Yes, there were sacrifices. For me, it meant not just giving up sitting in Sunday circles, but it also forced me to pull back on my many projects (most importantly, this website, which will undergo some more changes to reflect my growth as a person – more on that later). Not an easy thing to do. For one thing, I’m a writer to the core. Always have been. I need to write. Although I have a blog, I keep a private journal as well. I also keep a separate book for creative writing. Let’s just say it’s been rough not being able to write some things because I was required not to speak of them as part of my Summoner duties. My term as Summoner has been a challenge, and I think I’ve overcome the challenges. There were nights when I just wanted it to be over with, but there were good nights too. Overall, I have enjoyed my term to the best that anyone can enjoy a duty, something I felt I must do. It was an honour. Below are words that I would share with each and every Summmoner who succeeds me in this role:

The Summoner’s role is not an easy one, though it offers you many rewards and personal growth. As a Summoner, you are bound by duty and honour along with the oath you shall make tonight. Duty and honour shall become a fundamental part of you. Your duty is of the highest importance – you are the High Priestess’ protector and she is your charge. You also have a duty to protect the sanctity of the circle. Ensure that no one enters who may wish to destroy that sanctity. Your honour is invested in your duty as it is a high honour to be chosen for this role. Know that the community will hear your words and see your actions. Let your words and your actions be guided by your duty and honour. Speak and act with full awareness.

The Summoner’s role may seem lonely at times. During your term, you are the one who is making a sacrifice – your self for others. Remember your duty and hold fast to your honour – this shall see you through to the end. It is only through sacrifice that you will reap the greatest rewards (even if your sacrifice may involve your death). Do this not, though, for the rewards at the end. Do this because it is the sacrifice you are willing to make to your community. Enter into this role with humility. Seek not fame nor glory. Seek only to do your duty and hold to your honour.

Keep your mind clear and unbiased in carrying out your duty, but know that your job cannot be done without heart or feeling. You must care for this duty and for the honour that comes with it. You must care about those for which you make your sacrifice for without them you would not have this duty. This role is not about the self but about all others around you. However, do not neglect your self. Let not this sacrifice and duty turn your love for others into bitterness for there is much to be gained.

The duty and honour spoken of here is to the High Priestess and your community. I shall not speak of your duty and honour to your gods – that shall be your own. No one should dare to speak of your relationship to your gods.

Prepare yourself for your duty each week. Throughout your term, remember the words I have just shared with you.

This duty and honour shall be yours.

Duty and my honour have held me through to the end of my term. Nothing more, nothing less. As I said to the High Priestess before returning to the circle as a participant, “It was an honour.”

However, in light of some of the issues that came up during my term, it was also something I needed to do in order to grow and move forward.

In any organization, there will be politics and political maneuvering – it’s to be expected. I don’t play politics and, try as people might, I refuse to be a pawn and will do only what I deem is best. After all, the Summoner must be unbiased. The politics, however, are not the main issues that came up this year. They were more of an underlying theme behind two other issues – chauvinism and manipulation.

In a religion such as Wicca that holds near enough the definition of human rights (the ideas of freedom to choose and “do what ye will” as long as it “harms none”) as a fundamental tenet, there is an underlying current of male chauvinism from a few of the men in the community. Strangely enough, although Wicca historically is goddess-centred and women are held in high esteem, Wicca has attracted men who don’t necessarily view women as equals. My own explanation for this is the obvious – where there is a large group of strong and powerful women, there will be a large group of male chauvinists who thrive on the challenge of trying to put these women “in their place,” so to speak. Of course, not all men involved with Wicca are chauvinists; there are just quite a few. The few men who aren’t chauvinists I hold quite dear to my heart. Then, of course, there will be some women around who are perfectly okay with subscribing to the ideals of male chauvinists without realizing it, as they may be desperate for the attention the chauvinists will give them in return. Eventually, this turns into a nasty spiral where the community consists predominantly of male chauvinists and women who allow such behaviour. This is a slippery slope that hopefully will be avoided.

The issue of manipulation came to my attention in a roundabout way, when someone raised the idea of using NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) in the context of public rituals. NLP is fundamentally manipulation if used on others without their express permission. Using NLP in a public ritual context leaves no room for people to give permission for it to be used on them – that is my issue with it. NLP is considered a pseudo-science by the majority of psychologists. It can be used by psychologists with their clients (who know beforehand that it is being used on them) or for self-help (which is not my issue; if you use it on yourself, you pretty much have permission from yourself). However, using NLP in a public ritual context is, like I said, using it on others without their express permission. When someone attends a public ritual, they are given the opportunity to decide if they wish to enter the circle. As Summoner, there is a Charge that is given before entering the circle. In it are conditions that one should meet before entering the circle. One of these is that the person must feel ready to enter (the state of “readiness” is described in the Charge). If not, they should not enter. There is nothing in the Summoner’s Charge that says one must enter the circle and, in fact, the last line of the Charge is, “Enter those who will.” The use of NLP removes the conditional aspect of the Summoner’s Charge and turns it into commands and an order ignoring a person’s right to decide whether or not to enter.

I ignored the issue of NLP (because the person initially promoting it had no authority nor opportunity to really use it) until I saw one person from Priesthood thinking it was a great idea to use NLP with the Summoner’s Charge (although he stopped short of saying that its use was required; in fact, if using NLP was required, I would have left my duties). I addressed my concerns to this person in Priesthood (let’s say “Person A”) as well as two others in Priesthood. Person A’s response was, let’s just say, not very receptive of my opinion. He was pretty much defensive, both of NLP and himself, although I was careful not to sound as if I was attacking him. (On a side note, I’m not sure if the lack of reception was “Oh, I’m in Priesthood and she’s not, so why does her opinion matter?” or perhaps maybe “She’s a woman; why does her opinion matter?”) In any case, I addressed the issue as a concern not just because I was Summoner, but also (and most importantly) because I am a member of the Church. Frankly, I don’t want to walk into a ritual and have someone use NLP on me without my knowledge. In the response I received by Person A, there was a statement to the effect that “leadership and manipulation are separated by very blurry lines.” My reaction to this of course is, “I see how this person got into Priesthood.” As a matter of fact, the lines between leadership and manipulation are not very blurry – not to someone who is a good leader. Good leaders, in fact, lead by example and do not need manipulation. I need only point out the many martial arts instructors I’ve had who never needed to manipulate their students; they only set good examples. I might also point out that the taekwondo Master I currently train under does not manipulate others. He asks or suggests. We listen because we respect him. Clearly, the person who feels that leadership and manipulation go hand-in-hand has some issues he needs to work out. From my perspective, if this person was able to get to Priesthood without dealing with some of these issues, I have to ask whether or not the process of deciding who gets into Priesthood is fair or just. I have to ask whether or not the process of training the public clergy there works. (That being said, there are some people I respect who are part of Priesthood. It just seems that you will always get a “bad apple” in a package.)

Like chauvinism, manipulation should not be any part of Wicca; both feel quite contrary to the beliefs of Wicca. For one thing, there is the idea of freedom of choice in Wicca. For another, there is the “harm none” principle (“‘An it harms none, do what ye will”). Manipulation, in my opinion, harms and takes away freedom of choice. One might ask, “If you don’t get this, then what in Goddess’ name are you doing as a member of a Wiccan clergy??!” The answer (if you are intelligent enough to see) is power. The position of Priesthood is that of public clergy and some people are desperate for the power that comes with being a member of public clergy. They see and envy the adoration the High Priestess receives (knowing the High Priestess well enough myself, she gets adoration because she is adorable, simply put; still, some may pretend to like her because of her position). Some people ride on the feeling of power they get when they think they know better than others or feel that they are more spiritual than others. This is not any reason to be part of public clergy. If it is, then some people have things to think about.

I started attending the WCC in 2000 at the same time I started studying martial arts. Both of these things have been part of my growth as a person. I initially attended the WCC not because I wanted to become part of Priesthood, but because I wanted to learn and grow. These are the same reasons I started martial arts – to learn and grow. I found that when you love something so much you keep doing it. You eventually earn your stripes, so to speak, and through that you earn respect. I see this more in martial arts (at least the one I train in) than I do in public clergy at the WCC. I have found that some people are advancing at the WCC only because they’ve done the homework, not because of their merits. As a matter of fact, since it was never a big priority to get to Priesthood for me, I did not get my Neophyting until last year just after I became Summoner. Why? Not because I didn’t know what I needed to know in order to be a Neophyte. Rather it was because I had not taken the time to meet with my teacher and finish up some of the work. My teacher can’t rightly make me a Neophyte if he doesn’t know what I can do. I fear I am rather the minority than the majority in that aspect at the WCC. Spirituality is not determined by your rank and how fast you can go through a curriculum of study. A person’s spirituality cannot be determined by another. It is too individual, too personal. My spirituality is my own.

It is for these reasons above (and many more reasons, including another that also goes against my belief in human rights) that I have recently decided that at this time my studies towards Priesthood at the WCC must end. I feel there is nothing more to be learned there. Spiritual growth happens in life, not through a curriculum of religious study. I may not ever do the Neophyting work (a year of rituals designed for the Neophyte), but I honestly feel I’ve learned more than some who are in Priesthood or some who are about to join Priesthood (assuming they pass Council). I am my own priestess. I speak to my gods and they speak to me. What have my gods been saying to me recently? It’s time for me to move on and to do my own thing. The Goddess of Mysteries says “Make big changes. Use your power to change now.” Such was the divination I had two weeks prior to me stepping out of the Summoner role. I was not entirely sure when I received that message, but now I am. I am done. I am moving forward and onward and returning to who I really am. My gods are still guiding me.

I am a martial artist. It’s in my blood. That is why the Summoner role was suited to me more so than the Handmaiden. It is why I feel I was fated to be the first female Summoner of the Toronto Temple of the WCC. The role itself was a challenge. On top of it, the “first female” adds a whole other level of challenge. While I may respect my predecessor Summoners, they will never truly understand what I went through, for they are men. Perhaps one day if there is another female Summoner at the Toronto Temple, I may be able to share with her my experience and my lessons. But for now, it is the martial arts where my heart truly lies. I don’t know why I ever doubted it. I’m a warrior. (Astrologically, it’s called having a Mars in Aries. Mixed with a Moon in Scorpio and a Sun in Leo, you’ve got someone who’s more than a loaded machine gun. According to Darkside Astrology, I can also start fights in “an empty throne room” – all by myself. Really, do you want me for an enemy? Do you want to stand in my way? Don’t really need the machine gun either, just need myself. Lucky for people, I don’t lower myself to vengeance.) Most people don’t realize how spiritual martial arts can be. It can be quite gratifying and when I’m training it can be quite meditative. I’ve missed it much this past year since I’ve also had to sacrifice some do jang time during my term as Summoner. (So many sacrifices!) But martial arts has never left my heart and soul this whole year.

This year has also brought to light something that I’ve always held true to – human rights. I strongly believe that if we can all see each other as equals, then much of the hurt and suffering caused by one to another would dissipate and end. I’ve held true to this ever since I was young. (Maybe it’s because I grew up during the Trudeau years – that great Liberal Prime Minister who gave Canada our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.) I still hold true to that today. It’s more important than religious views. In recent years, I’ve been feeling a restlessness in regards to human rights. I have a degree in Business Administration and a certificate as a Business Law Clerk. I wanted to attend law school — but for the tuition, I would. Were I to go to law school, I would be studying constitutional law and human rights, not just business law. However, I have found out recently that I can do something for human rights through Amnesty International. I mentioned that I am a writer, and I can write for Amnesty International. The organization relies on individuals like me to write “Letters of Appeal” in order to defend another’s human rights. This can be done simply at home in my own time. I have spent some time researching Amnesty International and will be doing more research into it. However, rather than jumping into another organization, I plan on taking my time and seeing where things lead. Writing a letter – that, I can do. (As a point of fact, I can do lots of things, such as start a corporation because it’s part of my training in business and business law.)

I know there are many people who may be concerned about my stepping out as Summoner, especially my predecessors. There is this thinking that it is hard for the Summoner to return to circle afterward the term of service, that the Summoner becomes disconnected spiritually. I disagree. Do not take my leaving my studies at WCC to be the result of some inability to return to circle. It is not. I am more than ready to return to circle – a good circle – but my spirituality does not rely on being in a circle once a week. It never has. I love the magic of ritual, but I carry my spirituality with me – and like I said, I have martial arts. In the past year, I’ve learned to love running. When I run, I think of nature since I run outdoors. It’s a good feeling, being connected that way; just me and nature. My spirituality is with me wherever I go. So to those who may worry about me, do not worry; “please, no tears, no sympathy”. I entered my role as Summoner happy to do the duties involved, and I leave happy that I have done my duty. I feel I have done all that I must and can do for the community. Dropping my studies does not mean I’m no longer pagan. It most certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t value some of the friendships I’ve formed over my years at the WCC. I do, and I certainly hope that my decision not to continue my studies towards Priesthood doesn’t affect my friendships. It’s just the way things must be. Plus, I’m really not that hard to find, really. See, there’s this blog, the Brigid’s Flame website, and email.

Having said everything I think I needed to say, I shall end this blog entry with some words that reflect everything that I am feeling. These are lyrics from VNV Nation.

“I asked myself was I content
with the world that I once cherished.
Did it bring me to this darkened place
to contemplate my perfect future…
…I can say that you’re losing me
I always tried to keep myself tied to this world
but I know where this is leading
Please
No tears
No sympathy
I can say that you’re losing me
but I must be that which I am
Though I know where this could take me
No tears
No sympathy”
Epicentre

“This world is just illusion always trying to change you” (Me!)
Illusion

“Grant me wings that I might fly
My restless soul is longing
No pain remains, no feeling
Eternity awaits”
Beloved

“I’m leaving ground, stepping into a new world
I’m leaving ground, stepping into a new world
Now I’m leaving home, leaving everything, leaving everything
I step into this new world leaving everything”
Airships

Lastly, much love and thanks to my (bitter)sweetheart, Nathan, for supporting me without being overbearingly protective. Thanks for stepping back and letting me do what I needed to do. Most of all thanks for being patient and for listening to me when I needed it so! “With you I stand in hope the gods will save us from ourselves.” “It’s just you and me now. It’s just you and me – against the world.” (Genesis and Testament by VNV Nation)

Peace and blessings,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame