We recognize the Goddess - ancient and primeval; the first of deities; patroness of the Stone Age hunt and of the first sowers of seeds; She gave birth without the need of man; under whose guidance the herds were tamed, the healing herbs first discovered; in whose image the first works of art were created; for whom the standing stones were raised; who was the inspiration of song and poetry. She is the bridge, on which we can cross the chasms within ourselves, which were created by potentials. She is the ship, on which we sail the waters of the Deep Self, exploring the uncharted seas within. She is the door, through which we pass into the future.
She is the cauldron, in which we who have been wrenched apart, simmer until we again become whole. She is the vaginal passage, through which we are reborn.
In the Craft, we do not believe in the Goddess - we connect with Her; through the moon, the stars, the ocean, the earth, through trees, animals, through other human beings, through ourselves. She is here. She is within us all. She is the full circle: earth, air, fire and water and essence - body, mind, spirit, emotions, change.
The Goddess is first of all earth, the dark, nurturing mother who brings forth all life. She is the power of fertility and generations: the womb, and also the receptive tomb, the power of death. All proceeds from her; all returns to Her. As earth, She is also plant life; trees, the herbs and grains that sustain life. She is the body, and the body is sacred. Womb, breast, belly, mouth, vagina, penis, bone and blood - no part of the body is unclean, no aspect of the life processes is stained by any concept of sin. Birth, death, decay are equally sacred parts of the cycle. Whether we are eating, sleeping, making love, or eliminating body wastes, we are manifesting the Goddess.
The Earth Goddess is also air and sky, the celestial Queen of Heaven, the Star Goddess, ruler of things felt but not seen: of knowledge, mind, and intuition. She is the Muse, who awakens all creations of the human spirit's. She is the cosmic lover, the morning and evening star, Venus, who appears at the times of lovemaking. Beautiful and glittering. She can never be grasped or penetrated: the mind is drawn ever further in the drive to know the unknowable; to speak the inexpressible. She is the inspiration that comes with an indrawn breath.
The celestial Goddess is seen as the Moon, who is linked to women's monthly cycles of bleeding and fertility. Woman is the earthy moon: the moon is the celestial egg, drifting in the sky womb, whose menstrual blood is the fertilizing rain and the cool dew, who rules the tides of the oceans, the first womb on earth. So the moon is also Mistress of Waters: the waves of the sea, streams, springs, the rivers that are the arteries of Mother Earth; of lakes, deep wells, and hidden pools, and of feelings and emotions, which wash over us like waves.
The triad of the moon becomes the pentad, the fivefold star of birth, initiation, love, repose, and death. The Goddess is manifest in the entire life cycle. Birth and childhood, of course, are common to all cultures. But our society has not, until recently, conceptualized the stage of initiation, of personal exploration and self-discovery, as necessary for women as well for men.
Girls were expected to pass directly from childhood to marriage and motherhood - from control by their fathers to control by their husbands. An initiation demands courage and self-reliance, traits that girls were not encouraged to develop. Today, the stage of initiation may develop one's creativity.
The stage of love is also called consummation, and it is the stage of full creativity. Relationships deepen and take on a sense of commitment. A woman or man may choose to mother or father children, or to nurture a career, a project, or a cause. An artist or writer reaches his/her mature style.
Creation, whether they are children, poems, or organizations, take on a life of their own. As they become independent, and their demands diminish, the stage of repose is reached. With age comes a new initiation, this one reflective, less physical active but deepened by the insights of experience.
Old age, in Witchcraft, is seen very positively, as the time when activity has evolved into wisdom. It brings about the final initiation, which is death. Notice the five stages of a pentagram is also the Sabbats we celebrate through the year, but looking more at the pentagram as a life experience rather than yearly. However, the Sabbats, in a more deeper sense, is looked at as a life-like experience rather than yearly experience as well. These five stages are embodied in our lives, but they can also be seen within every new enterprise or creative project. Each book, each painting, each new job is born first as an idea. It undergoes an initiatory period of exploration, which is frightening at times, because we are forced to learn new things. As we grow comfortable with a new skill or concept, the project can be consummated. (This is a different way of looking at how the Great Rite would fit into situations like these instead of with two people.) It exists independently; as we rest from it, other people read the book, view the painting, eat the food, or apply the knowledge we have taught. Finally, it is over; it dies, and we go on to something new.
The pentacle, all five-loved leaves, and five-petaled flowers are sacred to the Goddess as pentad. The apple is especially her emblem, because, when it is sliced crosswise, the embedded seeds form a pentacle.
The nature of the Goddess is never single. Whenever She appears, She embodies both poles of duality - life in death, death in life. She has a thousand names, a thousand aspects. She is the milk cow, the weaving spider, the honeybee with its piercing sting. She is the bird of the spirit and the sow that eats its own young. She is the snake that sheds its skin and is renewed; the cat that seeks in the dark; the dog that sings to the moon - all are Her. She is the light and the darkness, the patroness of love and death, who makes manifest all possibilities, She brings forth comfort and pain.
The Goddess is both psychological and a manifest reality. She exists and we create Her. The symbols and attributes associated with the Goddess speak to Younger Self and through it, to the Deep self. They engage us emotionally. We know the Goddess is not the moon, but we still thrill to its light glinting through branches. We know the Goddess is not a woman, but we respond with love as if She were, and so connect emotionally with all the abstract qualities behind the symbol.
The Charge of the Goddess reflects the Craft's understanding of the Goddess. In the Charge, "Need of anything" refers to both spiritual and maternal needs. In Witchcraft, there is no separation. The Goddess is manifest in the food we eat, the people we love, the work we do, the homes in which we live. It is through the material world that we open ourselves to the Goddess. But Witchcraft also recognizes that when material needs are satisfied, deeper need and longings may remain. These can only be satisfied by connection with the nurturing, life-giving forces within, which we call Goddess.
The coven meets on the Full Moon or Dark Moon, in honor of the Goddess at the height of her glory. The tides of subtle power are considered to be strongest when the moon is full or dark . The Goddess is identified with the fructifying lunar energy that illumines the secret dark: the feminine, tidal pulsating power that waxes and wanes in harmony with woman's menstrual flow.
Rituals are joyful and pleasurable. Witches sing, feast, dance, laugh, joke and have fun in the course of rituals. The ecstasy of the "spirit" is not separate from "joy on earth". One leads to the other - and neither can truly be realized without the other. Earthly joys, unconnected with the deep, feeling power of the Goddess, become mechanical, meaningless - mere sensations that soon lose and the body become equally arid and rootless, draining vitality instead of nourishing it.
The law of the Goddess is love: passionate sexual love, the warm affection of friends, the fierce protective love of mother for child, the deep comradeship of the coven. There is nothing amorphous or superficial about love in Goddess religion; it is always specific, directed toward real individuals, not vague concepts of humanity. Love includes animals, plants, the earth itself - "all beings", not just human beings. It includes ourselves and all our fallible human qualities.
The love of the Goddess is unconditional. She does not ask for sacrifice - whether human or animal - nor does She want us to sacrifice our normal human needs and desires. Paganism is a religion of self-celebration, not self-abnegation. Sacrifice is inherent in life, in constant change that brings constant losses. Offerings: a poem, a painting, pinch of grain, may express our thankfulness for her gifts, but only when they are made freely, not from sense of obligation. Any act based on love and pleasure is a ritual of the Goddess. Her worship can take any form and occur anywhere; it requires no liturgy, no cathedrals no confessions. Its essence is the recognition, in the midst of pleasure, of its deepest source. Pleasure, then, is not superficial but becomes a profound expression of the life force, a connecting power linking us to others, not the mere sensation of satisfying our own isolated needs. Paganism recognizes that any virtue becomes a vice unless it is balanced by its own opposite. Beauty, when unsubstained by strength, is vapid, lifeless. Power is insufferable when untempered by compassion. Honor, unless balanced by humility, becomes arrogance; and mirth, when not deepened by reverence, becomes superficiality.
Finally, we learn the Mystery - that unless we find the Goddess within ourselves, we will never find Her without. She is both internal and external; as solid as a rock, as changeable as our own internal image of Her. She is manifest within each of us - so where else should we look? The Goddess is the "end of desire", its goal and its completion. In Paganism, desire is itself seen as a manifestation of the Goddess. We do not seek to conquer or escape from our desires - we seek to fulfill them. Desire is the glue of the universe; it binds the electron to the nucleus, the planet to the sun - and so creates form, creates the world. To follow desire to its end is to unite with that which is desired, to become one with it (another view to the significance of the Great Rite), with the Goddess. We are already one with the Goddess - She has been with us from the beginning. So fulfillment becomes, not a matter of self-indulgence, but of self-awareness.
For women, the Goddess is the symbol of the inmost self, and the beneficent, nurturing, liberating power within woman. The cosmos is modeled on the female body, which is sacred. All phases of life are sacred; age is a blessing, not a curse. The Goddess does not limit women to the body; She awakens the mind and spirit and emotions. Through Her, we can know the power of our anger and aggression, as well as the power of our love. For man, She embodies all the qualities society teaches him not to recognize in himself. His first experience of Her may therefore seem somewhat stereotyped; She will be the cosmic lover, the gentle nurture, the eternally desired other, the Muse, all that he is not. As he becomes more whole and becomes aware of his own "female" qualities, She seems to change, to show him a new face, always holding up the mirror that shows what to him is still ungraspable. He may chase Her forever, and She will elude him, but through the attempt he will grow, until he too learns to find Her within.
To invoke the Goddess is to awaken the Goddess within, to become, for a time, that aspect we invoke. An invocation channels power through a visualized image of Divinity. For a man, the Goddess, as well as being the universal life force, is his own, hidden, female self.